Author: Chris Cook
Willow, Tara, and Buffy stepped out of the wormhole's other end to find themselves in a cavernous bunker-like chamber, with Shellbacca standing nearby facing away.
"That felt like it took ages," Buffy complained. She looked at her travelling companions. "Uh... you're kind of naked, did you know that?"
"Eep!" Willow exclaimed, covering herself with her hands as best she could.
"I hate it when teleports do that," Tara muttered, doing likewise.
"Hey, where's my armour?" Buffy protested. "I'm naked - I can't be naked! Just because stylish predator combat boots are affordable doesn't mean they're easy to find! Especially in my size, it's like they think if you're not six feet tall you don't need bonded polycarbide footwear..."
All three were surprised once more when their clothes emerged out of the gate behind them and, in various intricate convolutions of the fabric of space, wrapped themselves back around their owners under their own power.
"That was an... odd sensation," Tara said warily.
"I think I just lived a day in Faith's life backwards," Willow snorted.
"Sorry dudettes," Shellbacca said, turning around. "Forgot to mention, the, like, more remote gates are still on ADSL - Assigned Decency Standard Lag."
"Huh?" Buffy asked, her eyebrows meeting in confusion on her forehead like two cars trying to park in the same spot.
"Our PG-13 rating took a few seconds longer to arrive than we did," Willow explained. All four turned as a blast door in the side of the chamber opened to reveal a woman in a yellow jumpsuit-like uniform, accompanied by a squad of guards.
"Oh, it's you," she said, seeing Shellbacca. "Your captain isn't around, is she?"
"No problemo General, she just sent us. She's like, busy, or something."
"Better safe than sorry." The woman looked at Willow, Tara and Buffy, and extended a hand in greeting.
"Welcome to the SGC - I'm General April O'Neil. One L."
"How many O'Neils are there around here?" Buffy asked.
"You'd be surprised." O'Neil glanced at Tara. "You're with the Fleet? The silver bodysuits a giveaway; Shellie, why is Faith sending Fleet officers here?"
"Relax," the turtle said soothingly, "she's cool."
"Because you know the secondary point of this place is smuggling, which is by definition illegal?" O'Neil asked.
"Yeah. No problemo, Captain Tara and her Cutie friend are just on their way to Capsicum, no questions asked. It's, like, a 'bigger fish to fry' kind of scenario."
"True," Willow nodded. "We're not here to enforce any local laws. Uh, so long as you're not violating the big ones, that is... Wait, secondary purpose? What's the primary one?"
"Don't you know what the 'GC' in SGC stands for?" O'Neil asked. Willow and Tara shook their heads.
"It didn't really seem, y'know, relevant," Shellbacca shrugged.
"Excuse me," a man in a ridiculous outfit shouted from the back of the room, where he had set up a curious device. The gate opened with its customary elastic burp.
"Move to one side, please," O'Neil waved to the group. They watched as the man stood back from his device, which opened up to reveal a small metal ball surrounded by three spiky, spinning rings.
"Oh, does that power the wormholes?" Willow asked.
"Is that a Vega machine?" Tara wondered. "I didn't realise they came with spikes."
"Actually, no," O'Neil said. At a signal from its controller, the three rings aligned, and sent the tiny ball hurtling out, through the gate.
"Fore!" he yelled.
"It's 'Golf Club'," O'Neil explained. She turned to the golfer, who was packing up his portable tee and studying a monitor. "Looked like a good opening drive, Jack."
"Yeah, fifteen billion light-years down the fairway," he replied. "It's a par five, though. Tricky cluster of black holes just short of the green."
"Golf club?" Willow asked incredulously.
"Sure," O'Neil said. "The whole point of golf is to use the maximum amount of real estate for the minimum amount of sport. You can't get bigger than the whole universe. We're just doing the smuggling thing to keep the business running - the high-paying players aren't turning up yet. We haven't figured out a way to fit golf buggies with engines big enough to get around the course on their own."
"I thought golfers used metal sticks," Buffy said. "What's with the ring thing?"
"Yeah, we have some rather large and powerful members," O'Neil said, wincing. "The whole 'golf club' thing got to be too much of a problem after Galactus misunderstood the rules and used the whole club - as in this entire facility - as a sand wedge. Hence the automated system. Now, are you ladies going straight to Capsicum on foot, or would you prefer we send your ship along? I assume you have a ship?" she added to Tara.
"Yes, but they're not with us at the moment," she admitted.
"Not a problem, we'll use the big gate. Follow me please."
"Dudettes, it's been totally real," Shellbacca smiled. "But I gotta head off, Faith needs me to keep her cargo moving."
"Goodbye Shellbacca," Willow said, shaking the turtle's three-fingered hand.
"Here's Faith's payment," Tara added, programming a data chip and handing it over.
"Thanks dudette!" Shellie grinned.
"And don't worry," Buffy proclaimed, striking a heroic pose. "We'll save the galaxy, no matter what tries to stop us!"
"Uh... okay," the turtle nodded, bemused.
"You know you're just tagging along, right?" Willow asked Buffy.
"I don't mind keeping a low profile," she nodded. "But at the crucial moment, I'll-"
"Are you coming?" General O'Neil called from the corridor.
"Oh, whatever," Buffy grumbled as Willow and Tara headed off.
"Alright, what's your ship's name?" O'Neil asked, standing by the gate controls.
"The TCS Kitten's Paw," Tara replied.
"With or without italics?"
"Okay, I'll tell you what," O'Neil said. "As a favour to Faith for not screwing with causality again, I'll authorise a super-gate deployment. That'll get you, and your ship, to Capsicum right away."
"Oh... uh, thank you," Tara smiled, surprised. "That's very generous."
"I just don't want her to turn up in person again," O'Neil muttered. "You have no idea how much work it is rebuilding the time-space continuum before anyone notices it's broken. It was just lucky for us she launched her little self-love experiment on a Friday evening, so we had the weekend to fix it. If it'd been a weeknight, everyone would have shown up to work the next day to find their Tuesdays stuck sideways through last month, and the cretaceous age wedged upside-down in the garage."
"These gates can really do that?" Willow asked.
"Flying through wormholes ain't like dusting crops," O'Neil nodded. "For one thing, there's not a lot of insecticides involved. And propeller-driven aircraft don't play a major part in it, except that one time we accidentally scooped up that Earhart woman and couldn't figure out how to send her back. We ended up setting her up running a bar in a space station and pretending it never happened - it was that or a guest role on Voyager, and she said she'd rather have a steady job. Okay, the Kitten's Paw... looks like they're out in the Mylanta Nebula, keeping out of the way of a Republic flagship."
"Are they alright?" Tara asked quickly.
"Doesn't look like they've taken any damage. We're just about ready to bring them in now."
"Bring them in?" Willow asked. "You've got a spaceport in this place?"
"No need," O'Neil shook her head. "We can bring them in here."
Willow, Tara, and Buffy all looked around the nondescript concrete chamber, which was roughly the size of a shipping crate, with varying degrees of disbelief.
"I know what you're thinking," O'Neil smiled to herself. "There's not enough space. That's why the first thing we do-" The nearby gate burst into life, and disgorged something like a bubble of heat-haze, which filled the centre of the room with a slightly eye-watering optical effect. "-is gate in a hell of a lot of space."
"That's... implausible," Willow nodded, staring around at the room, which was now somewhat larger than a decent-sized moon.
"But effective. I mean, there's plenty of space out there, no-one's going to miss a bit for half an hour, are they?"
The Commander glared around in unspecified dissatisfaction as, over the noise of spacecraft hulls scraping together, the tactical display showed the Battlestar, its subsidiary fleet, and the swarm of Xylon raiders - all previously spread over several hundred thousand cubic kilometres - now tightly packed into a very confused mass twenty metres wide.
"What the hell just happened?!"
"And here comes your ship," O'Neil continued, working the controls. The gate opened again, and through a rather severe twisting of several laws of physics disgorged the Kitten's Paw, intact, through its five-meter-wide circumference, and into the suitably-enlarged room. The ship landed with a loud 'clang' on the concrete floor, making Tara wince.
"Sorry," O'Neil said bashfully.
"I just got that aqua paint job done, too," Tara muttered. They looked up as, far away - according to the convoluted physics of the room - a hatch opened on top of the ship's bridge module, and Tattoo's head poked out.
"It's okay Tattoo," Tara called up to him. "We'll be going to Capsicum now."
"Ah... okay boss," he shrugged.
"Via a panel-beater," Tara added, frowning at the damage to her ship's hull.
Tara looked out of the airlock warily.
"Okay, I think we got it right this time," she allowed. "Tattoo, keep the engines running in case we need to make a quick getaway." Willow and Buffy followed her out onto the landing pad.
"Why'd we have to leave so quick?" Buffy wondered.
"Think how long it took to draw and colour that one page," Tara pointed out. "If we stayed a comic, this chapter would be even later than it is already."
"I wouldn't have minded staying there a bit longer," Willow grinned. She added, whispering in Tara's ear: "Your bottom is really cute." Tara blushed, and bumped her hip into Willow's
"I never realised how much I'm wearing practically nothing!" Buffy complained. "Mum was right all those times she told me I wasn't allowed to go out looking like this... who knew?"
"So, how come you're out, looking like that anyway?" Willow asked.
"Uh, invisibility field?" Buffy said. "Makes it kind of difficult to ground me. So, this is Capsicum, huh?" She looked around at the horizon-to-horizon city. "Is there a planet somewhere underneath all this, or it is just skyscrapers all the way through?"
"No-one knows," Willow replied, while Tara flagged down a taxi. "They sent an expedition down to the lowest basement anyone could find last year to figure it out."
"Their last transmission was 'My god, it's full of Starbucks,' then they were never heard from again."
The trio made their way stealthily through the throng of senators, aides, sycophants, and assorted hangers-on. Luckily the escorts on the arms of most of the senators were exotic enough that no-one paid the three of them any attention. Until someone shouted at them at the top of her lungs.
"Willow! Tara! Uh... scantily-clad stranger!"
"Oh no," Willow shook her head, as Faith elbowed her way through the crowd, wearing a Navy uniform that had been substantially cut down from its original size. "We're trying to be inconspicuous. We were trying, I should say."
"Oh, sorry," Faith shrugged. "No biggie... Hey, everyone! Get a load of these!" The pirate turned back to the crowd and pulled her top down.
"How does that help?" Tara asked sceptically.
"They're not looking at you anymore," Faith grinned. "How've you guys been? Who's the blonde? You promised if you were gonna have a threesome it'd be with me!"
"No we didn't!" Willow exclaimed.
"You did in my imagination," Faith smirked.
"I'm Buffy," Buffy introduced herself. "Saviour of the Universe."
"Does it need saving?" Faith asked.
"Well, yes-" Tara said.
"And I'm the girl to do it!"
"-but only coincidentally. What are you doing here? We left you half way across the galaxy."
"Are you kidding?" Faith laughed. "The amount of time it took for you to get to this chapter, I've been from one side of the galaxy to the other, and added another digit to the number of people I've slept with."
"That's... great, Faith," Willow sighed. "But we kind of need to be low-profile here..."
"Oh, sorry. I'll ditch the uniform, it's probably drawing attention."
"Is she always like this?" Buffy asked, as Faith quickly disrobed in front of everyone.
"We haven't really known her that long," Tara shrugged.
"But the smart money is on 'yes'," Willow added. "I'm not so familiar with the upper echelons of government... Anyone have any ideas how we get into the senate itself?"
"Yo," Faith said, dropping her skirt on the tray of a passing waiter. "Not a problem, I'm in and out of the senate all the time. Because there's a bunch of cute senators who are in and out of-"
"Yes, Faith," Willow frowned, "we all saw that coming."
"That too. Can you get us in the senate? By which I mean," she added, as Faith opened her mouth, "can you implement some means of the four of us being able to enter the senate, not anything else you might be about to suggest based on the phrase 'get us'?"
"Oh, fine," Faith crossed her arms. "Okay, follow me."
Tara pushed the door to the President's office open and strode through, with Willow at her side, and Buffy lagging behind, peering over her shoulder to where Faith was making out with a squad of presidential guards.
"What the- guards!" Glorificus shouted.
"They're busy," Tara snapped.
"All twelve of them?"
"Afraid so," Willow grinned.
"Wow, they didn't teach that in high school sex ed," Buffy mused, staring through the side door to the restroom Faith had dragged the guards into.
"Okay," Glorificus nodded. "In that case... It's so good to see you Captain Tara, I'm immensely relieved you survived that unfortunate and entirely nothing-to-do-with-me incident in the Neutral Zone."
"Uh-huh," Tara said flatly.
"I don't suppose," Glorificus continued, "that you're so overwhelmed by my being pleased to see you that you'd overlook that uncharacteristic attempt to have my guards shoot you just now?"
"No," Tara frowned.
"We've got evidence," Willow said. "Scans of the stealth ship your sidekick used to attack the Kilkrazi ambassador's vessel, full sensor logs of Admiral Shatner's attempt to blow us up, and the ambassador's daughter is ready to testify about the deal you made with her father to start a war between the Republic and the Kilkrazi."
"Can it coppertop," Glorificus snarled, before snapping back to a sickly-sweet smile and approaching Tara. "Tara, honey, you know I've always wanted nothing but the best for you..."
"Keep your distance," Tara warned. "Willow's told me all about Miffed Cutie mind-wiping powers, you're not getting your hands into any part of me."
"If she's not interested, I'll give it a go!" Faith called from the other room.
"The idea never crossed my mind," Glorificus protested, quickly discarding her black leather mind-wiping gloves. "No, see, this is actually all for the good of the Republic. The Cuties aren't any use anymore, they're old and stale-"
"Hey!" Willow protested.
"-their ways aren't up to keeping the peace, and they're not willing to consider alternatives. Miffed Cuties aren't evil, we're just different to them - it's not our fault they consider us 'unnatural' after all. And I know I've had to be manipulative, and not reveal everything right away, but in fact, you see, everything I've done has been to make the galaxy a better, safer place. Especially for you, Tara - in fact, I want you to be my new apprentice. Huh? How does the title 'Luxury Bath' sound? You could help protect the galaxy, and all the Cuties, including Willow, wouldn't have to endanger themselves ever again."
"So you've been trying to help me all along?" Tara asked.
"Yes, of course."
"Even though you're trying to start a war that'll wipe out half the galaxy, just to keep yourself in power?"
"Uh, yes... can't make an omelette without breaking a few... solar systems, you know..."
"And you've directly tried to have me killed several times?"
"Well... not a lot..."
"And you've tried to kill Willow too?"
"Uh... see, I can explain that..."
"In fact, if everything had gone your way, Willow and I would both be dead by now," Tara finished.
"Um... well... okay, I know it looks bad..." She suddenly flung out her hand, sending a bolt of lightning shooting towards Tara, but Willow intercepted it with her toast knife.
"You mean, evil person!" Buffy shouted. Glorificus looked nonplussed.
"Do I know you?"
"Buffy Summers, chosen one."
"Who chose you?"
"Uh... I did?"
Glorificus gave up, and sprinted back behind her desk.
"You'll never defeat me!" she boasted. "I don't care if you've uncovered my fiendish plot to create a huge army of clones on the ocean planet Kaminouttatherain and then goad the Kilkrazi into declaring war on the Republic so that the senate has no choice but to authorise the army's use, so that it can then turn on the Cuties and wipe them out and leave me as unopposed Empress of the whole galaxy!"
"Well," Willow admitted, "we'd figured out the bit about starting a war... the rest is new though."
"Oh?" Glorificus's face fell.
"Thanks for filling in the blanks."
"Uh... sure. Anytime." Glorificus looked around desperately, then flung herself into her chair, which shot up through the ceiling. Willow and Tara ran to the office's windows to see a Miffed Cutie stealth ship take off from the roof and cloak itself.
"Whoops," Tara cringed. "Do we have a Plan B?"
"Senate chamber," Willow said.
A hooded and cloaked figure stood on the central dais of the huge Senate chamber, addressing the various senators moving here and there in their senatorial travel pods on the polished floor.
"It is im-per-a-tive that we declare war now!" she shouted, surreptitiously reading from a notebook. "I therefore put forward the motion that this senate au-tho-ri-se the Random War Act, and fur-ther-more also authorise the act to legitimise any secret armies that may or may not have been built without anyone's approval or knowledge, no matter how suspicious the whole things sounds! All in favour!"
"Hold it!" Willow shouted, as Tara drove her towards the dais in a spare travel pod. "The Cutie Order objects on the basis that the President is evil, and also you're not the President anyway!"
"Am too!" Willow grinned.
"Are not, and I can prove it!" Harmony shouted back, pulling back her hood.
"What do you know, it worked," Faith chuckled from the travel pod's back seat, where she was crammed in with Buffy. "Guess I owe you five bucks Red."
"O-okay," Harmony stuttered over a chorus of jeers from the senators. "Well... actually I am President Glorificus, yeah! Except I was attacked by Cuties, and their evil nasty magic made me look... you know, younger and hotter... Evil magic does that, you know. And coincidentally the security tapes from the President's office were mysteriously destroyed, so there'll be no record of her, I mean me, doing anything suspicious like using Miffed Cutie lightning powers, or stuff-"
"Uh, no, the security records are intact," the Senatorial secretary pointed out.
"Shut up!" Harmony hissed, as the video footage appeared on the Senate's jumbo-big screen. The senators booed and jeered as Glorificus tried to fry Tara with lightning, then went silent as the footage switched to events in the restroom, featuring Faith and the Presidential Guards.
"Oh - hey!" Faith shouted, getting to her feet. "I'm pay-per-view, that'll be twenty bucks each from all of you!"
"I... propose," Admiral Shatner said, getting to his feet in the Navy delegation pod, "thatweignorethese... farcicalallegations..."
"And we can prove you're part of the plot too!" Tara glared at him. "You tried to destroy my ship!"
"That'sa... lie!" Shatner shouted, grabbing the wheel of his travel pod and accelerating towards his accusers.
"I'll handle this," Faith said, stepping out of their pod.
"Faith, be careful!" Buffy warned.
"Oh come on, it's just a dodgem car."
"Hey," the secretary protested, "you're not allowed to leave your pod while the senate is in session-"
"Oh kiss my ass," Faith sneered. "On 5:30pm Tuesday, if that's good for you." She jogged over to Shatner's pod and smacked him on the head with an impressively large dildo, knocking him out. His pod ground to a halt up against the central dais, which Willow and Tara were clambering to the top of.
"Hey!" Harmony protested. "This isn't fair - you can't treat the President like this-"
"You're not the President," Willow snapped.
"Yes I am!" Harmony retorted. "Aren't I? Who won that argument?"
"We did, you're not the President," Tara said, shoving her aside. "Everyone, listen up! Glorificus has confessed to high treason, and is escaping to Kaminouttatherain where she's been building a clone army. We need the whole navy mobilised right away - except Admiral Shatner - to stop them from completing their preparations for war. Are we all agreed?"
The chamber filled with murmurs as the senators began to bicker with each other.
"Can we do a popularity poll first?"
"How's this going to affect my voters?"
"What about the allegations that the Kilkrazi have WMDs?"
"Can I try?" Faith asked, tossing the dildo to Buffy. "Hey, hold this for me."
"Where'd you get this from anyway?" she asked.
"Three guesses," Faith grinned.
"Here, let me," Faith said, climbing to the top of the dais. "I know how to handle politicians. Hey everyone! Vote for me and you can define 'sexual relations' any way you want! All in favour?"
"AYE!" the entire Senate shouted.
"There you go," Faith grinned at Willow and Tara.
"This isn't doing wonders for my belief in the democratic process," Tara muttered.
"At least we got the result we wanted," Willow shrugged. "What say we sort this out, then take a couple of weeks off, then reform the political system of the galaxy?"
"Alright," Tara smiled. "Just so long as we've got a schedule set out. I'm worried though - we don't know how close Glorificus is to having her army completed. What if they're ready to fight by the time we arrive? We'll have the fleet at our backs, but-"
"-better to stop the battle than have to win it," Willow finished. "Well... do you suppose under the circumstances we'd be allowed to use some highly unauthorised technology?"
"I think Faith just got herself elected President," Tara shrugged. "Under those circumstances, who knows?"
"Come with me to the Cutie temple," Willow said. "I think I know a way we can beat Glorificus to Kaminouttatherain."
"Where are we going?" Buffy asked. "Did we save the galaxy, or are we still working on that? Can I come along?"
"Me too," Faith added. "As your newly-elected President, I insist. It's fun hanging around with you guys." She turned back to the assembled senators. "Okay people, I'm off for a bit. Uh, be awesome to each other until I get back, that's an order. And have tribute ready for me - studly guys and comely lasses. Or vice versa, I'm not fussy."
"What is it?" Buffy asked, looking at the tall blue box stuffed inelegantly one of the Cutie Temple's dusty storage rooms.
"It's a spatio-temporal transport capsule," Willow said.
"It's a what now?"
"A mobile phone," Willow explained, opening the door. "Everybody get in."
"It'll be kind of a tight squeeze in there," Buffy pointed out.
"All the better," Faith smirked at her.
"Oh for the last time - I'm not bi!" Buffy protested.
"I've got a Buffy the Vampire Slayer season three DVD set that says you are," Faith shot back.
"That's subtext," Buffy argued. "It might be attraction, if you look at it that way, that's not the same thing as confirmation!"
"Yeah yeah, and Xena and Gabby were just 'friends', sure," Faith laughed, taking Buffy's hand and dragging her into the phone box. "You keep telling yourself that... Wow."
"It's... bigger on the inside than it is on the outside," Buffy said, looking around the cavernous control chamber.
"Oh, no," Willow shook her head, fiddling with the central console. "No, that'd be breaking all the laws of physics. You can't have something bigger on the inside than it is on the outside."
"Oh," Buffy said. "But... how?"
"It's smaller on the outside than it is on the inside," Willow smiled.
"Uh... but that... hey, hang on a minute!"
"Are we ready to go?" Tara asked, closing the door behind her as she entered the chamber. "The Kitten's Paw is leading the fleet, they'll be there in thirty-six hours."
"Alrighty, let's get this show on the road!" Willow said excitedly. "Course laid in, coordinates set, and here we go!" She flipped a lever, and the console's central column began pulsing up and down.
"Heh," Faith chuckled. "Has anyone ever noticed how phallic that is?"
"I'm sure no-one but you thinks of things like that," Buffy pouted.
Pray! as Willow and Tara try to foil Glorificus's evil scheme!
Fantasize! as Faith engages in more lewd conduct!
Um...! It's not easy coming up with three new adjectives every time, you know...