Chapter 10: It's All About Potential
I'm alternating between staring at the results, not quite believing my eyes, and glaring at the young women in front of me hoping for some sort of an explanation, even though I know chances are none is going to be forthcoming. I've known them for only a few hours but that's been more than enough for me to realize that full blown answers are something they don't seem to be particularly familiar with... in fact so far each question we've managed to get them to answer has only left us with more unanswered questions than we had to begin with.
Yes, it is true that when Willow first suggested that I test Faith for the Ancients' gene she seemed pretty sure that the results would be positive but I never really did believe it. I had been working with Sam on this one for a while now and I knew what the odds were that Faith would turn out to be a match and yet Willow was so certain.
Simply put, if the odds that a particular woman would have this gene are one in ten to fifteen million, the odds that two such women would know each other without being related are somewhere around one in ten trillion. If they were sisters that would have been one in four but that was clearly not the case here.
"So, is it positive?" asks Willow, even though we all know she already knows.
"Yes, how did you know?" asks Sam.
"It made sense... let's just say that it's all about potential," she explains before asking. "So what do we do now?"
"Now we have to inform the general... I'm sure he'll want to talk to you," I say.
"Okay, but first could we destroy the sample?"
"Destroy it?" all but yelps Sam and I can hear the disbelief in her voice, not that I blame her. We've been itching for a chance to study this particular gene, now we have a sample of it and they expect us to destroy it?
"Yups," confirms Willow. "After all, it is up to Buffy and Faith to decide whether or not they want to help the Asgard, isn't it?"
"Yes, but..." I begin but she cuts me off almost immediately.
"Are you saying that that sample couldn't be used without them being even aware of it," she asks.
"We would never do something like that!" exclaims Sam, who has had more than her fair share of people trying to experiment on her.
"Maybe you wouldn't but the Asgard are desperate and you know it. By destroying the sample we would merely be removing the temptation," points out Willow, refusing to back down an inch.
"Fine," I say, rather reluctantly. I really wish I could have studied that sample further but we really need these people's help here more than anything else and I know we are not going to get it if we try to strong-arm them now. We have to pick our battles here... besides, if we can get them to agree then we'll have plenty of opportunities to study it in the future. That's what matters here.
Handing the sample over to Willow, I pick up the phone and notify General Hammond that we are done.
A few minutes later we find ourselves back in the briefing room.
"So doctor, I take it that you have some results for us," says the general by way of a greeting.
"Yes, sir, Faith is a match," I confirm.
"That's wonderful," he says, not even trying to conceal his enthusiasm.
"Sir, if I may, I have a few questions I'd like to ask Willow," jumps in Sam, who I can see has more than 'a few' questions she's itching to ask, even if she is still trying to maintain some semblance of military decorum.
"Go ahead, major."
"First of all, how did you know that Faith was going to be a match?"
"Well, as I told you back in the lab, it's all about potential," says Willow and, even though the comment doesn't seem to make much sense, I can see by her friends' reactions that --at least as far as they are concerned-- it does have some sort of meaning.
"Are you a match?" asks Sam, obviously trying for a different approach.
"So you are sure about that?"
"Yes, neither Tara nor I are matches," she says with absolute certainty and I can't help but wonder how she knows that without a DNA test.
"And what about Dawn?" I ask, realizing that of the five of them who could theoretically be a match, she is the only one we still don't know about.
"I'm not sure, to tell you the truth," says Willow, looking rather puzzled.
"But you know what makes both Buffy and Faith matches and you know that, whatever it is, it doesn't apply to either you or Tara?"
"Do you know anyone else you think would be a match?" asks Sam.
"Do I know anyone else I think would be a match? Nope."
"Okay, let me rephrase that, do you know anyone else you know to be a match?"
"Dawn, would you let us test you?" I ask, turning to our youngest guest.
"You can't," jumps in Buffy, out of nowhere.
"Because she's a minor," she reminds me.
"Okay, could you at least tell us how come you don't know if she is a match?" I ask, turning my attention back to Willow.
"It's complicated," says Willow, trying to defuse the situation without really answering.
"So how many people who do have this gene do you know?" asks Sam, obviously trying to take advantage of Willow's attempts to divert attention away from Dawn to push for an answer to some of her other questions.
"Personally? About thirty. That I'm aware of? Well over one hundred," she says, shrugging her shoulders as if it were nothing.
"Okay, given how rare that gene is that is a statistical impossibility unless you've actively sought them out... and even then tracking down that many of them would be incredibly difficult," says Sam.
"As I said, it's complicated."
"Why? What does that gene do?" I ask.
"I already told you it's all about potential," she says, for the third time... the only problem is that as far as I'm concerned that answer makes no more sense the third time around than it did the first two.
"Potential?" asks Sam.
"Yes, it's not so much what the gene does but what it makes possible," she explains... not that that explains anything.
"What it makes possible?" I ask.
"Yups, it's like a plug," says Willow and I can see that she is struggling to come up with a way to phrase it.
"Like a plug?"
"What do you mean?" asks Sam.
"Well, think of it as an appliance that needs to be plugged in in order to work. The first thing you need if you want to plug it in is a plug. No plug, no chance to plug it in, it really is that simple. The thing is that even though the plug itself doesn't really do much, it does allow the appliance to do stuff. This gene works in a similar fashion. By itself the gene doesn't really do anything, but it makes a number of things possible."
"But if the gene doesn't do anything, if it is invisible, how come you've managed to identify over a hundred women with it?" asks Sam, looking rather puzzled.
"I could tell you, but somehow I don't think you'd like my answer," says Willow with a smile.
"Let me guess, magic?" asks --or rather groans--Sam.
"You are not going to get me to believe in that nonsense!" she snaps.
"Okay, then you tell me, how have I managed to identify over a hundred women with this gene --all over the world-- without a lab, without meeting them and without even leaving the country or using a sample," she challenges and I can see that Sam is not happy.
"I don't know, though we only have your word when it comes to that figure of more than one hundred," Sam reminds her, not willing to renounce the scientific approach.
"Fine, then let's keep it simple: how did I know that Faith would be a match?" challenges Willow, bringing her back to the undeniable scientific evidence.
"I don't know," growls Sam, who I can see is growing increasingly frustrated. Nothing like a little scientific mystery lacking anything remotely resembling a scientific explanation to get to her.
"This isn't going to get us anywhere. Major, could you accept that we believe there's such a thing as magic and leave it at that... at least for the time being?" asks Dr. Giles and I am deeply grateful for his intervention.
"Yes, but how did she know Faith would be a perfect match? That's what I don't understand."
"As Willow said --while the gene itself doesn't really do anything-- its presence makes certain things possible. That led my people to figure out a way to recognize that gene thousands of years ago... and it also led them to figure out a way to use it to their advantage."
"Back when the stargate was buried?" asks Sam, narrowing her eyes.
"Before that," says Dr. Giles.
"By the way, what do you mean your people wrote the warning on the cover stone?" asks Daniel and I realize that Sam is not the only one with a long list of unanswered questions... and that means that chances are we are going to be here for a very long time.
"One thing at a time, people," jumps in General Hammond, who seems to be determined to keep things from spinning totally out of control here, though I'm not too sure how successful he is going to be in that regard. Our guests' half answers are clearly driving Sam crazy and I suspect Daniel isn't really doing that much better.
"It is one thing, general," points out Dr. Giles, who is clearly not intimidated by General Hammond's rank.
"Care to explain that?"
"Well, there are a number of aspects I'm not at liberty to share with you, just as I understand that certain aspects of your work must remain classified," says the man, with a remarkable nerve considering the fact that --as far as we know-- they've already hacked into every single file they could get their hands on, "but the bottom line is that I am a member of an organization that has been around for thousands of years, since long before the Chappa'ai was buried. It was our people who figured out a way to manipulate the gene you are currently interested in to give mankind an advantage that made the defeat of the Ghoa'ul possible in the first place."
"Manipulate it how? And how did that gene give us an edge over the Goa'uld? Does this have anything to do with this 'slayer' you mentioned earlier?" asks Sam and I can almost see her putting the pieces together.
"Yes, the slayer is what gave mankind the edge it needed to defeat the Ghoa'ul."
"And this slayer is a woman who has this particular gene? Are both Buffy and Faith slayers?" prods Sam.
"Yes, but it is far more complicated than that," warns Dr. Giles, sounding rather nervous and looking at both Faith and Buffy.
"Why don't you tell us what you can," says General Hammond and it is clear that that is not a request.
"The problem is that there's too much I'm not at liberty to explain and what I can explain... well, let's just say that it is not an explanation you are likely to accept."
"Let me guess, more magic?" asks the general, sounding almost as frustrated as Sam with that particular aspect of our guests' explanations.
"I'm afraid so."
"Please explain what you can anyway," says the general, letting out a resigned sigh.
"Well, there is a fairly long explanation but it probably won't make much sense to you... in fact, now that I think about it, we are probably going to have to make some major changes to that explanation ourselves. The bottom line is that the slayer is the chosen one, the one girl in all the world with the strength and speed to keep the monsters at bay... or at least she used to be," says Dr. Giles, turning toward Willow, and I can barely keep myself from sighing as I realize that the only thing we've managed to do here is add another explanation that doesn't quite make sense to our already exceedingly long list of explanations that don't quite make sense.
Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder if we are ever going to get anything remotely resembling a full answer out of any of these people.