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Time for the Fireworks

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In the summer of 1996, Buffy Summers had been a brand new Vampire Slayer, doomed to fight demons for the rest of her likely-to-be-very-short life. At sixteen, she'd already buried one Watcher, defeated her first major villain, and spent time in a mental hospital for telling the truth; a traumatic series of events by anyone's measure. If someone had stepped in then to help her out, or even offered the slimmest hope that she might still have a chance at normality-- she probably would have clung on as hard as she could, obediently wiping small-scale evils off the map until the ticking clock of a Slayer's expiration date finally caught up with her.

Instead, aliens had invaded, and the Watcher's Council had thrown her to the government.

It was an even bet whether that gaggle of short-sighted old Brits had really thought she could make a difference, or if they'd taken one look at her already-rocky record and simply expected her to die on the battlefield. Scratch one troublesome young American, start over with a brand-new Slayer. Sucked to be them, if so; she'd fit right into the colorfully-nicknamed Team Up Yours as if she were everyone's daughter or younger sister... except when they were in the thick of it, in which case she became their pocket-sized goddess of War.

She'd gone back to Sunnydale maybe a handful of times a year, and managed to get a GED and later a Bachelors' in psychology along the way... but she never went through a Council Cruciamentum, and her sister was the one who got a chance at normality in her stead. It might not be what Buffy had originally expected out of life, but it was her life, and she owned every minute of it.

By the summer of 2016, she'd set a record as the longest-lived modern Slayer; she was the badass Big Sister of the current iteration of the Team; her face was on monuments all over the country, after President Whitmore, General Hiller, and Dr. Levinson; and she'd presided over both the last battles of the alien ground war and the final fight against the demon organization known as Wolfram and Hart, who'd fled through the Hellmouth and then pulled it in after them. Scavenging alien tech to power up humanity had had the fun side-effect of shining a light in the shadows all the things with fangs and tentacles needed for cover, too; it hadn't been easy, but they'd finally won.

Funny thing about winning, though; too much of it, and people started to forget that they could lose. Desperation wore away into rosy hindsight; people forgot just how bad it could really get. For all Whitmore's warnings that it wasn't if the aliens would return, but when... even when you see 'em coming, you're never ready for the big moments when they hit. Saturn base, Moonbase, defensive satellites, antigrav fighters... it all came down to one more sacrificial Hail Mary pass, once again on the brink of utter annihilation.

The difference was? This time, she was on scene to do something about it.

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest as David tried to explain the zombie guy's idea to General Adams, her eyebrows rising higher with every word out of his mouth. Maybe, maybe Dr. Okun deserved a pass for coming up with it in the first place, because he'd slept through the entire Agent Winter era when she'd shown the world just what a Slayer could do. Mister Earth-Space Defense Force Director, though, really should have known better.

"...So if we hide the real Sphere inside the isolation chamber, and pack this decoy transmitter, so to speak, onto a tug filled with cold fusion bombs...."

"...Or how about," she interrupted, approaching from behind the hand-waving scientist, "you give the transmitter to the woman armed with a Scythe that can cut through alien energy shields, and send her in to do what she does best?"

David froze at the sound of her voice, then spun around to greet her, carefully scanning her from disheveled hair to bandaged shin. "You made it! Not that I wasn't rooting for you-- I'd have been a fool to do otherwise-- but I heard you went with President Lanford?"

Buffy winced. She had; but the President hadn't let her stay. Okay, so maybe he deserved a pass, too; there weren't exactly any other Slayers around waiting to take up the Scythe if she had died in the Cheyenne bunker. They had a pretty good idea where all the Potentials were at this point-- the Council hadn't got more subtle with time, and most of the girls were sent either into ESD or one of the attached science bases as soon as they were old enough, a few even with her sponsorship-- but there wouldn't exactly be time to bring a hypothetical successor up to speed.

"She sent me back with one last order right after we got there, just in case the base was breached," she explained. It had galled her to leave, but the odds had been as obvious to her as they were to the Commander in Chief, and she hadn't made it to thirty-six by throwing herself on every grenade when there was no way it would make a difference to the ultimate outcome. A Slayer might have been able to survive there, bulldozing her way out alone-- but she couldn't have made a stand before an entire invasion force, or brought a normal human being out alive, and there were other places she could make a difference in the endgame of the fight.

General Adams stiffened at her comment; which, right, he was probably the closest thing to a successor they had left. Buffy pulled the little flag pin Lanford had pressed into her hand from her pocket, and tossed it to him in a quick underhand throw. "Which was, survive, whatever it takes, in case you were wondering," she said, offering him a crooked smile.

"That is the plan," he nodded back to her. "Agent Winter. I know your reputation, and I was there for some of the tail-end of your career with the ground troops-- but this Harvester Queen is like nothing we've ever faced, and we're on a very short schedule with very limited opportunity to get the upper hand. This Scythe of yours-- it was the weapon you used to seal the portal in Sunnydale in '04?"

She nodded. "Slices, dices, and makes short work of anything nonhuman. Doc here tested it back when we found it; it vibrates on some weird frequency that can go right through the aliens' energy shields."

"Catastrophic resonance," David murmured to a wide-eyed Dr. Okun. "Though we never had the chance to test it against their own live technology."

"Close enough," she scoffed. "We tested it against your replicated tech, and it worked. I can do this. You know with the satellites down, some Russell Casse wannabe is gonna have to volunteer if you go the bomb route. Send me in with the transmitter, and I have a chance of making it out alive."

"The queen's ship's not exactly small," Adams cautioned her, though she could practically see a spark of hope igniting in his eyes as he talked. "We've already lost a lot of people going up against her today, and we can't spare much in the way of backup to send with you."

"Which is another reason to send me in," Buffy continued. "Those kids who went in are bright; I've known most of them for half their lives. And the Moonbase commander's niece, Rain Lao-- she's one of mine. Trust me, I know she isn't dead, and if she isn't, she'll have some of the boys with her. If I get out there soon enough, they can be my backup."

"And me...." David began, then spread his hands wide at her scornful look. "If nothing else, behind a radar screen or a comm station giving directions. If you're going to do something this insane, then of course I'm going to be there. For old times' sake."

"Is that the excuse you've been using for risking your neck all day," Buffy parried, then gave in with a nod. "Just remember Rule One while you're out there."

"As long as you do," he replied, pointedly.

"I'm sorry," Dr. Okun finally spoke up, glancing back and forth between them and General Adams. "I know I missed a lot in the last twenty years, here. And a tool that can pierce the queen's shielding-- that increases the odds a lot. But you're talking about a melee weapon, versus the power of cold fusion bombs. You're just one person. How is that even close to an equivalent exchange?"

"You ever heard the phrase 'one man army'?" David replied, dryly. "It turns out, that isn't always hyperbole. At least, not with certain one woman armies."

Adams blew out a breath, nodding. "All right, then; we'll make the tugs Plan B. You'll have to move quick, though, in case something goes wrong in there and we do need to use the bombs. We're not going to get more than one good shot at her, either way."

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall," Buffy quipped, then smoothed her expression. "Trust me; this is my job. I'll get the Scythe, David and Dr. O will do their thing, and she's as good as gone."

"Then Godspeed," Adams said, and reached out to shake her hand.

"Get the fireworks ready," she replied. Time to show the latest Big Bad the door.