Chapter 12: Goa'uld, Asgard and Vampires... Oh My!
I am wondering just how am I supposed to handle this situation and the truth is that, even if Willow's spell does work, I am not entirely sure. Everything I have heard about the Asgard up until now has sounded good --perhaps even a little too good-- but that hasn't really set my mind at ease. After all, I am well aware that what we've been told hasn't just been positive, it has also been heavily edited.
I know the Asgard are not a hostile race --and that is definitely an advantage-- but that doesn't mean they are harmless... in fact they seem to be anything but. What I do know is that our hosts are in awe of their power and that they are feared by the Ghoa'ul. That in itself is telling enough. The Ghoa'ul themselves were described as mighty in the old records so I'd hate to see what an enemy they fear would be capable of.
In addition to that there's also the fact that the one we are now waiting for is Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet... in other words we are essentially waiting for a very high level military representative. I can certainly understand why that wouldn't be an issue for Major Carter and the rest of the SGC's personnel but our own past dealings with the military have left much to be desired and that is not exactly helping matters here... and on top of that I have to come to terms with the fact that both the Asgard and the Ghoa'ul are aliens. I may have been fighting vampires and demons in one way or another for most of my adult life but this is a bit much, even for me.
The truth is that up until two days ago I was convinced that the Chappa'ai was a portal to other dimensions --to dimensions inhabited by demons-- not a gateway to distant worlds in our own reality, and learning that that assumption was mistaken has been quite a blow, one I'm still trying to overcome. All my life I have relied quite heavily on my training and I have assumed that the Council's sources were reliable, even if that couldn't necessarily be said about the Council itself. Now it seems that that wasn't necessarily the case and I can't help but wonder what other mistakes could have been made along the way.
Of course, in hindsight I guess it was a mistake that was easy enough to make under the circumstances. All of the Council's records concerning the Ghoa'ul dated back thousands of years and back then mankind's understanding of the universe was rudimentary at best. It was a mistake to assume that the shadowmen were an exception in that regard, to assume that their understanding of the world around them exceeded that of their contemporaries and that it was sacrilegious to question their perspective.
The shadowmen may have been powerful and wise but they also inhabited a world controlled by magic, a world where it was far more logical to assume that the Ghoa'ul were demons than to try to imagine their level of technology.
In addition to that, mankind's limited understanding of outer space at the time basically blurred the differences between different worlds and different dimensions to the point of rendering them meaningless, as was the case with the difference between aliens and demons . That is the root of a misconception that was passed down the generations without ever being questioned, a misconception we are now suddenly being confronted with.
Knowing that I need to gather as much information about the current situation as I possibly can before the Asgard get here, I ask:
"So, how long will it take for Thor to arrive?"
"One or two hours tops," says Colonel O'Neill. "After all, he is countless light-years away."
"I see," I say, taken somewhat aback by how casual he sounds when talking about the Asgard's technology.
"Could I ask you what's bugging you?" he asks, all but glaring at me, and I decide that maybe providing some sort of explanation here may help these people understand my misgivings a little better.
"The problem is that you want our help to keep the Asgard from becoming extinct and the truth is that I'm not sure that is even possible... that and the fact that by helping them we could well end up creating a new threat," I say, not quite knowing how to explain some of the details in terms the military can possibly hope to understand but knowing that I have to try.
"Believe me, the Asgard are no threat. They could wipe us out without a second thought but they have never made any hostile moves against us," reassures me Colonel O'Neill.
"Besides, the legends..." starts Dr. Jackson but I decide that now is not the time for that particular conversation, after all we don't have that long.
"I am familiar with Norse mythology, Dr. Jackson, and I am well aware that up until now the Asgard have not made any hostile moves against our world but I'm afraid that the current situation would cause a major change in the relationship between our peoples. From what you've told me, up until now they have always treated us as children or even pets so what would happen if they were to find themselves in a situation in which their very survival were in our hands?"
"You are still worried that they are going to try to force Buffy and Faith to help them, that the girls will be harmed somehow, aren't you?" asks Colonel O'Neill, suddenly sounding far more understanding.
"Among other things, yes," I say, even though I'm still not ready to reveal the depth of my concern.
"Because I'm afraid that by helping them we could be putting them on the path to become like the Ghoa'ul and that could easily turn out to be deadly."
"WHAT?! That's crazy!" exclaims Colonel O'Neill and I'm not particularly surprised by his reaction.
"Why?" I ask, even though I'm fairly certain I know where the man is coming from.
"Because the Goa'uld are creepy snake-like thingies that like to control our bodies, that's why!"
"And that is different from what the Asgard are asking us to allow them to do exactly how?" I insist.
"Well, for starters, they are asking," he reminds me.
"I see. So if the Ghoa'ul were to ask nicely, you would agree to become a host?"
"Of course not but that's not the point," he says, barely able to contain his frustration. "The point is that the Asgard don't want to take the girls over, they merely want to create new bodies for themselves based on their DNA!"
"So they want to breed new bodies?" I ask.
"I wouldn't exactly say 'breed' but basically, yes."
"And don't the Ghoa'ul breed hosts almost like cattle?" I remind him.
"Yes, but those are people, these would only be bodies," insists the colonel.
"And that is probably how the Ghoa'ul see the bodies they are about to take over," I point out.
"But the bodies the Asgard would create for themselves would be adult and they wouldn't have any memories at all, they wouldn't be individuals with pasts and families. The bodies would essentially be blanks... and they have already been cloning themselves for thousands of years," he insists.
"With the difference that the DNA they've been using up until now was theirs to begin with," I remind him.
"Are you saying that you fear that even in a body that has been artificially created, the Asgard would still be suppressing some sort of personality? That's nuts!"
"Well, it still sounds way too vampiry for my liking, it's creepy!" pips in Buffy, who had been remarkably quiet up until now.
"'Vampiry'? Is that even a word? And what do vampires have to do with anything?" asks Dr. Jackson.
"Oops," she says, throwing an apologetic look my way and I let out a resigned sigh. I guess a few more explanations are going to be necessary here and that is something I had been hoping to avoid.
"What do you mean 'oops'?" he asks.
"I guess we never mentioned that after the Ghoa'ul were defeated, the slayer kind of became known as the vampire slayer, uh?" she says.
"But vampires aren't real!" exclaims Colonel O'Neill.
"And here we go again, another wonderful trip to denial-land," mutters Xander.
"Hate to break it to you, but they are," adds Buffy.
"You are kidding me, right?" asks Dr. Jackson, looking rather pale.
"Nope," says Buffy, showing the side of her neck as proof and I see everyone look at her curiously and then take an almost instinctive step back. It may not have been the most subtle way in which she could possibly have made her point but I have to admit it was an effective one... besides, subtlety has never really been Buffy's strong suit.
"Okay, so even if vampires are real, what do they have to do with anything?" asks the colonel.
"Well, for starters vampires take hosts," I point out.
"Like the Goa'uld?"
"In a manner of speaking, though obviously there are some very important differences between them," I explain.
"What kind of differences?" asks Dr. Fraiser.
"Things like the fact that the Ghoa'ul have physical bodies of their own --even if those bodies are not really self-sustaining-- or the fact that the Ghoa'ul enslave their living hosts whereas vampires must take the hosts' lives and release their souls before they can claim their bodies as their own."
"Take the host's life?" asks Major Carter.
"Yes, that is the reason why not all vampire victims die or become vampires themselves, thank goodness," I explain. "For someone to be turned the vampire must first drink the person's blood until he or she is on the brink of death and then the victim must complete the circle by drinking some of the vampire's blood, only then can the demon take over."
"Okay, that is disturbing," says Colonel O'Neill, visibly shuddering at the thought.
"It is," I admit. "The point is that even though both vampires and Ghoa'ul must take hosts in order to survive, there are some noticeable differences in the process and before we can agree to help the Asgard we have to be absolutely certain that in doing so we would not accidentally be creating a new threat --one that would pray on slayers and potential slayers specifically-- especially because if that were to be the case, we would find it incredibly difficult to fight the Asgard. If the Asgard were to become reliant on slayers and potential slayers for the ability to perpetuate themselves that could easily turn them into a major threat somewhere down the line and --to be perfectly honest-- I'm not entirely sure that is a risk we can afford to take. Not even if, as you say, up until now they have been one of mankind's most reliable allies in the fight against the Ghoa'ul."
"Okay, I guess I hadn't really seen it from that perspective," admits the colonel, rather reluctantly.
"Yes, well, that is part of the problem," I say, knowing that even if I don't entirely trust these people, we really need to get them as close to our side as we possibly can before the Asgard arrive and that is going to entail having to take some chances here.
"And if that is only part of the problem, the other part would be?" asks Dr. Jackson.
"Well, the other part would have to do with the fact that even though I don't doubt that the Asgard have mastered the art of cloning, I'm not so sure they fully understand the complexity of the human soul. That means that --even if they have the DNA donor's consent-- they may still find themselves unwittingly taking over the clones by force. After all, we do know that our DNA does not define who we are and we also know that the fact that a pair of twins shares the same DNA does not really mean they are identical or indistinguishable from each other. Identical twins still have distinct personalities and those personalities can be recognized from the moment they are born. There is no reason to believe that clones would be any different, yet we would expect the original donor to consent on their behalf. Do you really believe the donor has that right?" I ask, hoping almost against hope to get these people to understand.