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Chapter Data

Posted July 25, 2006

Fan Fiction: Uncle John

6: Dangerous Secrets

Buffy stared at her email window in puzzlement for a moment, wondering who on earth [Dr_MmmKay] might be. If it hadn't been for the subject line-- "Re: Wormholes and Time Dilation"-- she might have been tempted to delete the newest message without reading it. Willow had always told her not to open anything from an address she didn't recognize, as it might contain a virus that could crash her computer. The subject suggested it might have something to do with the problem the Cleveland crew had faced a couple weeks ago, though, something a malicious emailer surely couldn't have known about.

Thinking about the latest demonic attempt to access the Hellmouth-- by more creative means than usual, this time-- reminded her of the reason they'd been able to solve it, and she abruptly realized who her correspondent had to be. Her uncle's best friend, the scientist on his team at whatever base they were stationed at, was Rodney McKay; this had to be him. He knew all about the kind of theoretical physics Willow had been forced to dabble in to take care of the minor apocalypse; Buffy had passed him a few "hypothetical questions, just for research" in one of her emails to Uncle John, and Rodney's answers, delayed though they'd been by the twice-weekly upload limitation at their base, had been invaluable to containing the problem.

She clicked on the link, curious about what he might have to say, and smiled at his salutation.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Rodney McKay, chief scientist at the base where your uncle, Colonel Sheppard, is stationed, though I'm sure you know that already. He made sure I heard all about the romantic advice you passed on in your last letter; I'll have you know, I have yet to date a woman that's actually tried to kill me. I'm pretty sure Sheppard already has that particular market cornered out here. But I didn't email you to discuss your uncle's love life.

"First of all, I'm writing to say you're welcome. I was glad to be of help, though I have difficulty imagining what kind of research a psychology student would be doing that would lead to an urgent need for that kind of data. And secondly, if you have any more questions along those lines, please email them to me directly rather than relying them through the Colonel. We aren't exactly on social terms at the moment, as you may have heard.

"By the way, whatever he's told you about what happened, I honestly didn't mean for things to turn out the way they did. I never would have asked him to trust me if I hadn't been positive I could do what I said I would, and my failure caught both of us off guard.

"Anyway, I wish you luck with your project. Could you remind me what topic you were researching? I'm sure I could be a lot more helpful to you than the most of the textbooks on the subject; many of them are years out of date and hideously inaccurate.

"Sincerely, Dr. Rodney McKay."

Buffy's smile had faded by the time she finished the message. Her first reaction had been amusement; her uncle really wasn't kidding when he said Rodney had been born without a verbal filter. His style of blunt commentary made her nostalgic for Anya's brute-force approach to conversation. Her second reaction had been concern; she'd wondered just what he could have done that would upset her uncle that much. For him to have invoked the trust card and for it to have failed meant something vitally important must have been going down. From what she'd seen of her uncle, he wasn't the type to flip out over anything minor.

But thirdly-- and probably most importantly-- she'd noticed that Rodney had finished off the letter not with the reference to the problem between him and John, something she would have expected from an ego-driven scientist trying to get on the good side of the niece of the man he'd pissed off, but with another reference to the questions he'd answered for her second-hand, weeks ago. To Buffy, after years of evil-plan-foiling and psychology classes besides, that suggested the friendlier parts of his email were actually only in there as filler, inserted to justify the fact that he was emailing her at all and to distract her from the real issue at hand.

If she'd still had any doubts that her uncle was involved in something highly classified, this message would have convinced her. Dr. McKay's studiously off-handed questions weren't the comments of a genuinely curious, or helpful, scientist; they were the paranoia of a government employee sitting on a dangerous secret. She'd known something was off about her uncle's job when they'd met, but she'd had secrets of her own to cover up; after they'd danced carefully around several different topics of conversation they'd kind of come to an unspoken understanding that their fledgling family relationship was more important than prying into details neither side was ready to discuss.

She just hoped the whatever-it-was that Lt. Colonel John Sheppard was guarding wasn't anything like the "wormhole weapon" on that sci-fi show Andrew had gotten Dawn addicted to. Buffy had been forced to watch a few episodes the last time the geeky Watcher-wannabe had stopped by, and some of the details had stuck in her brain. Like the fact that the American military guy on the show also had the first name John. That had to be a coincidence, though, right?

She closed the email, feeling distinctly unsettled, and pondered whether she should ask Willow to do a detailed hack into her uncle's files and those of his teammates. The last time the government had sat on something really big, a demon/human/machine hybrid had nearly taken over Sunnydale as its first stop in ruling the world. What were the odds that world-threatening circumstances weren't involved in whatever was going on now?

Best not to take chances. Buffy dashed off a quick email to [Witchy_Willow], then, after some thought, another to [Captain_Finn]. Her old boyfriend had been assigned to a new classified project after Sam's condition had prompted them to resign from their roaming demon-hunting team. Little Graham Finn's birth announcement had come from Colorado-- and, if Buffy remembered right, that was where her uncle had been staying when her letter had finally caught up to him.

Riley probably wouldn't be able to tell her much, but at least she'd be able to get an initial idea of how bad things were, based on what he didn't say.


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