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The Opposite of a Skeleton Key

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"You're sure about this," Marshal Pentecost said, staring down at the stone sarcophagus currently occupying one corner of the Alaska Shatterdome's K-Science Lab.

"As sure as we can be," Buffy replied. "Another bomb's not going to work; according to the experts, we'd have to wait until the kaiju were coming in twos or threes to hold the breach open enough to put one through, and by then it almost wouldn't matter. Three and a half more years of this-- the only reason we aren't losing Jaegers now is because we're triple-teaming them, and because the ISWC are funding constant improvements to the Mark VIs. You know this."

"Yes, I know this. Which is why I have to ask-- you think this is a viable alternative?" Pentecost's frown deepened. "The last remains of an Old One?"

Considering that one of the aforementioned experts was an ex-Old One aka 'precursor' herself, and another was a known 'kaiju groupie', Buffy trusted their suggestions more than the wild-assed guesses even the government's scientists were putting out as theories these days. It had been nearly a decade since K-Day, and the black marketeers still knew more about the kaiju than the PPDC. "Frankly, even if it isn't-- we'd better at least try. These monsters are literally engineered to be toxic, even after they're dead, and if even one more makes it to shore... we're good, but not that good."

Faith nodded. "Look, we know it's a risk. If this thing doesn't trigger the Breach, it'll bounce off like every other time we've tossed something at it. And even if it does, we're gonna have to fight off whatever's in range when we drop the coffin through. But if it does open-- the mystical shit Willow's tucked inside will seal the Breach up like superglue. No radiation damage, no risk of them opening a new portal for the next sixty-five million years. We pack up, go home, and throw the party to end all parties."

"And if that 'mystical shit' doesn't work?" Pentecost pressed, air quotes clearly audible.

She shrugged. "We'll have a Mark III and Mark VI with us; they've both got nuclear cores that can be set for overload. One of us'll take the jump. The bigger unknown is how many kaiju we'll face; could be none, could be the next one in the queue, could be a swarm, could be a category we've never seen before. There's just no way to know. But we'd face that even if we waited. Better now, while we're at least a little prepared."

Pentecost blew out a breath at that; he still looked extremely skeptical as he studied the heavy object, pacing slowly around its perimeter. He'd been warned not to touch any of the carvings or inset jewels, but he trailed one hand around the edge of it, as if to test its solidity. "I'd hoped to give the newer teams a little more time to get their feet wet," he temporized.

Buffy tried not to roll her eyes. He had one kid in a Jaeger, and another in training; she got the protective instinct, but this wasn't the time. "If this is about Mako's first Drift-- Herc brought her out of it just fine, and they've killed a kaiju since, in record time. Chuck and the Beckets are like peas in a pod; a little bickery maybe, but fascinated with each other. It's cute. You know us; and the Kaidanovskys and the Weis are waiting for your call. If you want one of the other Mark VIs along for the ride...."

"No; no, I can't justify that without making a full report, and on the strength of this...." He shook his head. "The committee would shut us down before we got anywhere near the Breach. It is a risk, and not one that makes a great deal of sense if you're not-- acquainted with certain realities."

"And hardly even then," Faith admitted, wryly.

People had stuck their heads in the sand for decades just talking about nukes-- how did you even begin to explain something like the Deeper Well? The scale of the thing just didn't compute, even for people who'd had their eyes opened to the supernatural. How would you weigh the odds on something like that in committee?

No-- in the end it came down to the same thing it always did. The One Girl in All the World, making a choice. They'd deal with the fallout as it happened. And in the meantime?

Buffy reached for her Drift partner's hand, squeezing tight.

Faith shot her a tired smile; then they turned back to Pentecost, together.

"No-- this is our chance. We'll buy you the time," Buffy summed up.

"Then suit up, Rangers," he replied, eyes solemn and dark. "I'll make the call."