Chapter 24: To Old Friends and New Friends... Maybe
I look at the people --the beings-- around me and I instinctively know that the time for games is over. I turn toward Tara --well aware that she is the one with the most experience when it comes to reading auras-- knowing that she'll understand. She nods and then I turn to Buffy. She still seems to be somewhat reluctant but at the same time she appears almost resigned. Whether we want to or not, it seems like we've been dragged into yet another war and she knows it... and one way or another we are going to have to help the Asgard.
In that regard the compromise of helping them ascend is much better than the alternative, not to mention that it could also turn out to be a deeply enlightening experience, though that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. We are going to be mediating between two races that are far more advanced than we are and that means that more often than not we will be completely out of our depth. There is no way around that. Besides, we can't afford to fool ourselves or let our guard down.
This may be a wonderful opportunity for us but, even if it weren't, the truth is that we really don't have much of a choice. We can either help the Asgard willingly and in our own terms or run the risk that they'll try something desperate... and I suspect that no matter how powerful Willow may be, we would still have a very hard time trying to fight them off.
Considering the fact that the ones the Asgard would be coming after if we were to push them would be the slayers themselves, that is not a chance I'm willing to take.
Of course, that doesn't mean we are about to lay all of our cards on the table here, far from it. There are plenty of things these people don't really need to know about us just yet and that means we'll have to watch what we say for a while... at least until we can get a better idea of just where we stand.
One of the most important things we are keeping from them so far is what our real numbers are. They think there are only two slayers and that is not a misconception I intend to correct any time soon. It is definitely safer for us this way. Unfortunately keeping our secrets will have some unpleasant consequences because it will place some serious constraints on any possible arrangements we could make. That is far from ideal but it is still the lesser evil.
The fact that they believe there are only two slayers means that, if we can manage to come to some sort of an agreement, Buffy and Faith are going to have to be the ones working with them... and the rest of us are also going to have to stick around in some capacity, if only because they are going to need someone they can trust to watch their backs. What can I say? Our track record with the US military leaves much to be desired and as a result we are more than a little wary but at the same time that wariness does nothing to change the fact that this is indeed our war... even if it is a war we had won many thousands of years ago.
Simply put, the risk to this world from what these people are doing is too great for us to turn our backs on what's going on here, even if they do seem to have matters under control... at least for the time being.
Well, that at least is a source of some comfort. It means that we may be able to get away with a reasonably minor commitment... though I wouldn't necessarily bet on it. We are talking about the military here. They like to be in control, they like to be free to exploit and deploy every asset in 'their' arsenal as they see fit --regardless of whether that 'asset' is really theirs or not-- and somehow I don't think they would be particularly thrilled if we were to wish them luck and tell them not to call unless the Gho'aul are literally knocking on the door. That means we are going to have to come up with a working compromise we can all live with... and yes, that does mean preferably without killing each other.
The problem is that even though the military likes being in control, there's no way I'm placing the girls under their thumb. If Buffy and Faith are going to be collaborating with these people in some capacity then I'm going to have to act as a shield and our organizations are going to have to find some sort of balance that goes beyond a simple personnel exchange.
The good news is that at least this particular lot seems to be --for the most part-- fairly reasonable and open-minded. The bad news is that they are nothing but a very small part in a much bigger machine... a machine I know to be far less reasonable than they are. Sure, with a little luck we will be able to get some backing from their off-world allies --and that in itself will probably be enough to give some of their superiors pause-- but the stakes are incredibly high here and we certainly can't afford to take chances.
I am confident that, even in a worst case scenario, we are more than capable of defending ourselves from any human threat that might present itself, I just hope it won't come to that. We have enough with the things that go bump in the night, we don't need to go looking for new enemies... especially not among those we are sworn to protect. That is the real problem here.
Could we slap these people down without even breaking a sweat if they were to be foolish enough to try anything against us? Undoubtedly. Are we willing to pay the price such an action would entail? Only if there is absolutely no other way.
I wish I could say that this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship but the truth is that I don't think we are quite there just yet, not by a long shot.