Oooh, Stargate note... it's BJ--before Jonas.
Also, don't forget that Dawn was kidnapped by Harley Quinn in a previous episode....
"Oracle?" I ask tentatively, frightened that this may be some twisted dimension where we don't belong.
"Here Buffy. You guys have been gone for three days. What happened?"
"Can I tell you later? It was weird."
"Sure. Glad you made it back ok."
Impulse drops Willow, Dawn and me off on the balcony where Nightwing also alights. We wave goodbye before entering the apartment. "Alfred?" I call out.
"It is good to have you home Miss."
"It's good to be home Alfred and fantastic to see you," I grin at him.
"Master Bruce is also here. He has a parcel from Gotham for you Miss."
"Thank you Alfred. Hello Bruce."
"Hello Buffy. It arrived two days ago at the Manor and is address to you. It bears a Los Angeles postmark." I tear the brown wrapping off an open the letter attached to the top of the parcel inside.
'I know that the Batman doesn't approve, and I don't approve either but I feel that you ought to have this as a precaution. The army don't use fancy spells or weapons designed simply to disable. It isn't much but it may give you enough time to come up with a plan. Angel.'
It was a small, wrist holstered pistol and a box of ammunition. They're so tiny...
"Hi Bruce. Um, it's the parcel that you brought with you from Gotham. Angel has been updated about the army situation and has sent this," I held it up in my open palm to show him.
"Will you use it?"
"If they start shooting at me though I'm not sure how much damage it will do but as Angel says it may buy us enough time to get a plan together."
Bruce nodded. "Any word on the portals?"
"No though both Giles and Babs don't think we'll see another. At least for a little while."
"Alright. I suggest we go out to dinner."
I raise an eyebrow. "You are suggesting we place ourselves in the open?"
"I'm suggesting we go out and have dinner. Everyone has to eat."
So we go out to a small but justifiably well-reputed restaurant tucked away in a respectable area of Metropolis and take the opportunity to relax. It was nice while it lasted.
"They're gonna make their move tonight," Oracle intoned ominously in my ear as we followed Bruce away from the table and out of the restaurant. There are very few people on the streets. It's too late for the pre-theatre dinner-goers and too early for the criminal element to be in public. "I've got the usual gang with me so I'm not anticipating being taken on my own and certainly not without a fight," I reply.
Tim and Dawn walked in front, I'm beside Dick and behind us Willow and Bruce ambled along chatting about computerising his factories. Willow, Dawn and I were on the shop side of the pavement while the men were closest to the curb. Alfred would have been proud.
A van rounded the corner, its tyre's squealing with the high-speed effort. "Here we go," I muttered.
"Geez, you think they'd do something original wouldn't you," Willow mumbled as she moved closer to Bruce who chuckled, the ring adorning her finger beginning to glow faintly.
I heard Dawn scream as the van pulled up beside us and the doors slid open allowing fatigue clad men to lean out. Their tazers connected first with the men then with us and that's all I remember until the dark cell like room. Bruce was already awake and trying to figure a way out of the room.
"How is everyone?" I asked as I sat up and felt my head to make sure it wasn't actually ten times larger than the last time I checked it.
"Dawn isn't doing so good. I don't know how to wake her and she keeps whimpering," Bruce replied with a sad look at the youngest member of our group.
"The others are sleeping like babies."
"Am not," Dick grumbled.
Tim groaned and sat up quickly then groaned again. He spied Dawn and moved again, to her side. "Dawn? Come on, you gotta wake up."
"I think I'm gonna be sick," Willow wailed softly. "This is too much." She sighed. "What do we know?" she asked as she sat up slowly and rubbed a hand across her face. She looked surprised when the green ring rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Now why didn't I use you?" she asked it.
"These are the guys the Oracle collective intercepted that message from," I whispered, knowing they'd be listening and not wanting to give away any secrets.
"Mom?" Dawn mumbled in her near-wakefulness. As her eyes fluttered open she sobbed and cried out for Tim. He enveloped her in his arms and just held her till she calmed down.
"I think it's gonna be ok Dawny, but we'll have words with them. They could have just asked for help. No need to go covert," I growled.
The door clicked open and Bruce, Willow, Dick and I turned to face them standing up and shielding Tim and Dawn from whoever was coming in.
"I'm so sorry," the blond man gushed as he came through the doorway, pushing his glasses up in a way that made me want to relax. "I had no idea they'd do this. I just wanted to talk to you and... the military," he grumbled. "My name's Doctor Daniel Jackson. We have a unique situation that we think you can help with. Please come with me and we'll tell you more. Just Miss Summers."
"I'm not going anywhere on my own Dr. Jackson. I'm sorry," I said, feeling some pity for this obviously distressed young man. He can't be much older than Dick.
He sighed. "They aren't going to be happy but I guess you'd all better come with me."
Willow and Dick led the group, Willow's jewelled hand unconsciously clenching into a fist causing the faint glow to pulse. Tim acted as Dawns crutch and I followed them with Bruce. "What do you make of this so far?"
"I think he's sincere. If this is what Oracle talked about... this is a large installation Buffy but I don't think they mean us any harm. Besides, you're the one they want."
"Yeah, thanks for the confidence boost."
He smiled at me. "It'll be ok."
"My biggest concern is Dawn."
"Hmmm," Bruce agreed his expression turning grim. We fell into silence as we followed Dr Jackson through the dull-coloured walls. By the time we reached our destination Dawn seemed to have regained some of her strength but she was still shaky and every opening door made her jump.
"P-please, have a seat," Dr Jackson smiled and pointed to the oval table. He moved across the room to another set of doors.
Tim helped Dawn to a seat and I went to kneel beside my sister. "Will you be ok?"
She nodded mutely.
"Are you sure?"
She shook her head no. "I'm still a bit shaken you know... and you guys are all unarmed. What if they do pose a threat?"
"Hey! I'm never unarmed," I grinned and pulled a stake out from my waistband. "And we've got Wicca Lantern girl over there."
Dawn smiled weakly but it did manage to reach her eyes.
"That's better. We'll either get you home soon or have an adventure to take your mind off it," I said looking around the room and moving toward the panelled walls.
I turned to the doors that Dr Jackson had gone through when they opened again and Dr Jackson returned with 4 other people.
"My name is General Hammond, this is Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter and Teal'c. You've already met Doctor Jackson. Daniel?" The bald man said as they all took seats.
Daniel took a deep breath. "Thank you General. We need your help. We've exhausted all other avenues and think something er... demonic went through, um--here. We know where they went but we didn't want to go in unprepared so we were hoping..."
"We need more information," the Colonel said bluntly, interrupting the younger man.
Willow and I laughed. "We can give you information but there's no way you'll get through reading it in time to find and stop whatever came through. We've studied for six years and our tutor has studied all his life and none of us know everything," Willow said, twisting the ring on her finger.
"We could come with you if you'd like," I suggested.
"You can call me Buffy, General Hammond. Everyone who's about to reject me does," I said dryly.
Daniel and Major Carter smothered smiles by looking at the table, Teal'c raised what I think was an amused eyebrow. Colonel O'Neill smiled at me then at the General and said, "I like her."
"So, General? Are you going to give me the speech about it being to dangerous or the speech about my identity as NightStalker not preparing me for what's on the other side of this facility? I'd be interested to hear anything else you have to say but I've heard several versions of those ones already. If they're all you have to say just send us home now because we aren't what you need."
"Perhaps the General has something else to say..." my sister says, holding my arm and preventing me from standing. "I'll be extremely unimpressed if he kidnapped us just to send us home again considering I've already had the kidnap experience and have the trauma scars to prove it."
"We're sorry about that... uh, Dawn," Major Carter said with a small, tight smile. "We didn't mean..."
"There are a lot of people who don't mean ma'am."
"Call me Sam."
"I'd rather go home thank you all the same," Dawn said quietly, "unless you have decided to send us through whatever the demon went through," turning her steady gaze on the bald man. She's changed so much since mom passed away. She's quiet and steady, strong but without pretense or bravado, and I know that Babs introduced her to Black Canary for more than computer contingency plans. I'm beginning to see grace in her steps that come with long term martial arts training. I'll have to have another chat with Dinah. I think it's good that Dawn is learning to protect herself, at least that's what I'm assuming is happening, but I want to be sure Dinah isn't taking it all too far.
"You are a General in the United States Air Force with a direct line to President Luthor judging by that red phone in that office behind you. You *can* anything General," Tim said, anger creeping into his voice. He's more obviously protective of Dawn everyday. It's so *cute*.
"Now people, I know you're all upset..." the General tried to placate.
"UPSET!! Do you *KNOW* what I thought was happening when your people took us General? Do you know the sorts of fears that that sort of experience leaves in you? Do you know what sort of dreams I have? How often I relive my previous experience?"
"I..." the General floundered. I feel kinda sorry for him. He seems a bit out of his depth with us.
"We aren't unwilling to help you General but perhaps you should have thought more carefully about your method of bringing us here," Dick says quietly.
"We are sorry... we hadn't anticipated that you wouldn't be alone and the teams leader got a little carried away when he saw you with all these people. He has been reprimanded," Sam said, "But we have an obligation to stop who ever went through the 'gate."
"What information do you have on them?" Bruce asked filing away Sam's use of the word gate. If only they knew that that gravely, dark nightmare voice was the Bat. They're in trouble now.
"Information?" Daniel asked blankly.
"Video footage? Eye-witness accounts? New inhabitants of the morgue?" Dick suggested.
"Oh. Yeah we got that."
"Not mortuary inhabitants, Jack," Daniel corrected the Colonel.
"Can we see it?" I pressed.
"Why?" General Hammond asked.
"Do you have any idea just how many demons there are General? You want information from us we need some from you to narrow the search. It's a two-way street thing," I explained.
"You'll help us?" Daniel asked, sitting up from his slouch in the chair.
"We might not be able to but we'll do what we can. I'll need a computer and internet access," Willow said.
"We'll need a phone line and a fax machine..." I continued.
"A printer and some space," Dawn finished.
"You can't contact..."
"We can't carry this sort of information everywhere you know. There are books and people who can help, and a database. If you want our help this is how we work," Willow said stubbornly.
General Hammond made an 'I give up' gesture and said, "Between these girls and you three," he pointed at Jack, Sam and Daniel in turn, "There is no such thing as security here. Get what they need and find them the equipment and clothes they'll need to go through the gate."
"Woohooo!!" Dawn cheered and started chanting, "Going through the stargate, going through the stargate." She stopped suddenly when the soldiers turned to look at her.
"How did you know that's what it's called?" the General asked suspiciously. We live with suspicious. We can convince you of anything to reduce your suspicion matey.
"Cause it says Stargate on that wall," she pointed out.
Jack shrugged and waited for the General to lead them out.