Chapter 20: In a Maze Without a Thread
I have to admit that this encounter is not exactly going as planned... not that we had much of a plan to begin with. The problem is that what I knew of the Chappa'ai before today was limited, tainted by the perception of those who fought the Ghoa'ul thousands of years ago... and even that picture was a partial one at best.
In those records the Ghoa'ul are described as demons and there are no references to the Nox or the Asgard at all, though in a way that is hardly surprising. Even when dealing with more familiar --and fully documented-- foes such as vampires and demons, the information that was collected by the Old Council had a tendency to focus on those fiends that presented some sort of threat. Non-hostile demons were seen as mere curiosities and as such they warranted little more than a footnote in the Council's records.
The thing is that that lack of information has left me scrambling to come up with even the most basic facts needed to try to devise some sort of strategy in terms of how this particular encounter should be handled. I know the Ghoa'ul represent a threat and now that I am aware that the Chappa'ai has been unearthed, they are not a threat I am prepared to ignore... not when the New Council might be able to help. After all, we have enough slayers to lend a hand here without compromising the fight against our more traditional enemies. In addition to that there is no denying that there's a lot we could learn here and --considering the scope of some of our recent losses-- that is not something we can afford to turn our backs on... regardless of how nervous some aspects of this possible collaboration might make us.
Sure, after our experience with the Initiative the idea of having to cooperate with the military is not something I'm particularly comfortable with --and I know I'm far from alone in that regard-- but at the same time there is no denying the fact that so far we've seen no indication that this is the Initiative Take Two. In fact, considering what these people have been facing --and facing successfully-- these past few years there is even a chance that we may have found ourselves some reliable allies and that is something we desperately need, especially now that the system that had supported the slayer for millennia --or rather the system that was supposed to have supported the slayer for millennia-- is in shambles.
Sure, the Old Council had plenty of flaws, I'm not denying that, and their handling of the slayers themselves left much to be desired but the bottom line is that they did provide some support in terms of structure. It's true that we have the resources to do our work without too much trouble, especially now that we've managed to get access to their accounts, but there was more to the role of the Old Council than that and I know it.
Of course, when it comes to one of our most pressing needs, these people are unlikely to be much use. Right now what we are resenting the most is the loss of the Council's library and in that regard they are unlikely to be able to help us replace what we've lost. The one thing they may be able to provide, however, is structure. Yes, the Old Council was far from perfect and I'm determined to make sure that the same mistakes won't be made twice, but the bottom line is that for thousands of years we had a large organization that was supposed to support a single slayer, now we have over a hundred slayers but the organization backing them up has been decimated. Since the First attacked I've been able to track down less than a dozen fully trained watchers and former watchers, plus a dozen 'dropouts' who may be willing to lend a hand. That might have been enough to back one slayer in an emergency but under the current circumstances it is nowhere near enough.
We are trying to cope as best we can and in a way the fact that the number of slayers has increased dramatically does help keep matters under control, but when confronting a major crisis, one that requires the watchers' active support, I'm not sure whether or not we'll be able to cope... especially because --unlike what was the case in the Old Council-- slayers are no longer considered disposable... and that is where these people may be able to help us. Or at least they might be able to help us if we were to figure out a way to keep things limited to these people.
That is the problem.
The problem is that while helping them and establishing some sort of permanent relationship with them could prove to be beneficial, I am still not entirely comfortable with the kind of help they are asking us to give in terms of the Asgard. I remember something Buffy said after Spike had his chip removed: she said that you don't fight evil by doing evil... and that is exactly what we are running the risk of doing here.
I know that the end does not justify the means and I know we have to be careful. Yes, what they do here in terms of fighting the Ghoa'ul is something that could be described as common ground, something we could definitely help with but at the same time I am almost painfully aware of the fact that the SGC is not an isolated operation. The SGC is part of the US military and that is not an institution I'm prepared to trust... not with the kind of power a slayer or a witch can wield, and certainly not after what they tried to do in Sunnydale.
Yes, back in England the Old Council had some ties with the Royal Family that dated back to the Middle Ages and those ties enabled them to operate outside the law whenever necessary --as was the case when it came to 'removing' potential slayers from their families-- however one critical element of those ties was a clear understanding that the Council, or rather the slayer, could not get directly involved in human conflicts.
That was a 'gentleman's agreement' that had been in place since the beginning and it is also one element I suspect we may have more than a little trouble trying to recreate here, especially now that our headquarters are located in Cleveland and therefore theoretically under the jurisdiction of the US government.
The good news is that, if the SGC has found a way to work with the Nox, there may be some level of hope for us. The bad news is that, unlike the Nox, we can't just abandon earth if someone were to get greedy. We are stuck here, the military craves power, and slayers have it, it is as simple as that. That makes any possible association with the SGC inherently dangerous but at the same time I'm not sure we have much of a choice in the matter, not now that --whether we agree to help them or not-- they are already aware of our existence.
Knowing that there's only one thing for us to do I swallow hard and say...