Author: Chris Cook
"...so then," Buffy said, while Faith leaned back a deck chair with a half-empty beer bottle balanced on her bosom, "she starts whining to mom, you know the way little sisters do, where they turn 'mom' into a four syllable word? 'Mo-oo-oo-om!' And of course she gives in, and I end up having to drag her along on my final qualification hunt, and oh my god, she just cannot shut up, twenty minutes into the hunt I had the enemy team leader in my sights, and she drops down out of the tree to ask her where she got her gauntlets from, and if they come in blue. Ah-choo! Damn, this rain's really starting to piss me off."
"I'd offer you more clothes if I had any," Faith shrugged. She glanced around, and jumped, startled.
"Oh, hey!" she poked Buffy in the side. "We're on!"
"What? Damn! Willow, Tara!" Buffy rolled around on the landing pad deck pulling her boots back on, while Faith kicked her chair over the edge into the ocean. Willow and Tara appeared a moment later, somewhat flustered, from the doorway into the dome.
"What's up?" Willow asked.
"The chapter's started," Faith said briskly.
"Where were you guys, bathroom break?" Buffy asked.
"Uh, yeah," Willow smiled too brightly, adjusting her robes while Tara surreptitiously finished zipping up her silver uniform.
"Glorificus?" Faith asked, tapping the empty holoprojector, which the lead Barbie clone was still holding out. "Yo, game on, we haven't got all day."
"Already?" Glorificus asked, sliding into view in the hologram. "But the last chapter took almost three months, how come this one's-"
"Hey, quit your yapping and give the order!" Faith snarled. "We're not going to execute ourselves, you know."
"And no meta," Tara added sternly. "Villains don't get to be meta."
"Screw you blondie," Gloroficus sneered. "Barbie Troopers-"
"Wait a sec!" Faith held up a hand, as a second phone booth materialised on the landing pad, just in front of the first one, and another set of Willow, Tara, Buffy and Faith peered out of it.
"That's us," the previous Tara said.
"This is it!" Willow jumped in excitement. "The time travel thingy, with the- okay, what did I say?"
"I think you tried to pick a number," Faith whispered, while their past selves consulted.
"Uh, three!" Willow yelped. "No! I mean not three- uh, think of a colour- blue- no yellow- no- argh!" Tara shook her head and sighed affectionately.
"Come on," her past self said to her companions, "let's try this again."
"Quickly, what did I say before?" Willow demanded.
"That," Tara shrugged. "Don't worry about it sweetie. Buffy, remember?" Buffy frowned in confusion for a second, then quickly pulled the dome key from her belt and tossed it to her other self, just as the phone booth vanished.
"Okay, that's not proof of predestination!" Willow insisted. "I had a spaz attack, that's all - there could be millions of possible futures, and a spaz attack still would have been overwhelmingly likely. Okay, how about we get back in the time machine, and see if we can- wait a second, where the frilly heck did that key come from?"
"I got it from myself earlier," Buffy said helpfully. "Ah-choo!"
"But you only had it to give to yourself because you gave it to yourself," Willow persisted. Faith snickered to herself.
"Sweetie?" Tara said softly.
"Uh-huh?" Tara kissed her on the tip of her nose.
"Not important," she smiled.
"Okay," Willow shrugged. She dug a pack of tissues out of her robes and tossed them to Buffy.
"Nice," Faith nodded, impressed. "I thought she was going to go on for ages about that."
"We've got a system worked out," Tara smiled, just a little smugly.
"Whatever," Glorificus huffed. "Barbie Troopers! Shoot them!" Tara shot a glance at Willow, who nodded subtly. Without any run-up she skidded forwards and kicked the lead Barbie's hand, causing her to smack herself in the face with the holoprojector and fall to the deck unconscious. The other Barbies all opened fire, filling the air with laser blasts, which nonetheless all curiously managed to miss their targets.
"Oh-kay," Buffy frowned. "This is odd."
"Nah, I've seen this plenty of times," Faith smiled. "We're lead characters, they're nameless background drones - they'll never hit us."
"So what was with knocking out just the one of them?" Buffy asked, as the four of them strolled through the hail of laser fire.
"Just being thorough," Tara said.
"She'd done something vaguely noteworthy," Willow clarified. "So there was a slim chance she could have done something to alter the outcome of all this. These other girls, no way, we're perfectly safe."
The rate of fire slackened somewhat, as in lieu of hitting their intended targets, most of the shots fired had ended up hitting other Barbies and knocking them into the ocean as their chestplates took the brunt of the blasts. The remaining Barbies whittled each other down until, with convenient precision, the last two blasted each other into the ocean to join their soaked and unhappy comrades. Faith picked the lead Barbie up over her shoulder and heaved her over the side.
"What was that for?" Buffy asked.
"Just being tidy," Faith shrugged. "Plus, I got to feel her butt."
"Hey!" Buffy protested. "That's my cloned butt!"
"The cloning process might have changed its shape," Faith said reasonably. "I could do a comparative study if you'd like-"
In orbit of Kaminouttatherain
"-no possible argument you can make, logical, emotional, or otherwise, that will convince me to sleep with you. Ah-choo! Dammit!"
"Sex with me might cure the common cold. You'll never know unless you try."
The phone booth finished materialising at the back of the ship's bridge, and Willow and Tara emerged, followed by Buffy and Faith, still arguing. Tattoo quickly vacated the captain's chair and Tara seated herself, with Willow standing at her customary position beside her.
"Got here as fast as we could, boss," Tattoo reported.
"Where's the rest of the Fleet?" Tara asked.
"Fashionably late," Sixty-Nine said, reaching around Mzkyti, who was sitting in her lap and purring. "They should be here any minute now."
"Hi again," Faith winked at the science officer. "Cute pussy."
"You too," Sixty-Nine replied with a smirk. "My quarters, after the inevitable space battle finale?" Mzkyti purred louder.
"It's a date," Faith nodded.
"Reading one vessel approaching from the far side of the planet," Adequatus Integer intoned. All eyes, aside from Mzkyti's which were busy hungrily traversing the length of Faith's body, turned to the viewscreen, on which a huge black sphere with a giant '8' on it loomed into view from behind the curve of the planet. As it neared a circular window in its surface became visible, at the centre of which was the barrel of a gigantic cannon.
"Outlook not so good," Tattoo read off the front of the giant space station.
"Red alert!" Tara ordered.
"Power on," Pilot reported from her console. "Engines on standby for warp speed Better Part of Valour."
"Destroyer droids ready to transform and roll out in the event of boarding," Adequatus Integer added. "Shields and weapons primed."
"Reactors at full capacity, lassie!" Connery put in via intercom from the engine room.
"Willow?" Tara asked. "Do you recognise that weapon?"
"It's nothing the Cutie Order's familiar with," she replied apologetically. "It must be something Glorificus came up with on her own."
"Send an encrypted transmission," Tara ordered. "Sector zero-zero-perfect-ten, codeword: babealicious."
"Transmission sent," Sixty-Nine said. "Captain, incoming vessels astern!" she added in a worried tone. In quick succession the Republic fleet arrived, inadvertently blocking the Kitten's Paw's escape, followed by the Kilkrazi armada behind them, intentionally blocking their escape. Barely a second later yet another fleet of starships - all painfully bright pink, identifying themselves as Barbie vessels - rose from the planet and spread out in front of the confused mess of fleets.
"Hang on, how come all the ships just showed up for a battle at precisely the same moment?" Buffy complained.
"One mega space battle, just in time for the finale," Sixty-Nine concluded glumly.
"That's right!" a gloating voice echoed across the bridge. "And now that this battle station is fully operational, you and your friends are doomed!"
The viewscreen switched to the interior of the Death Ball, where Glorificus was standing back and brooding. Front and centre was a feminine android of some kind, with a variety of battle arms, claws, lightsabres and blasters attached to her chrome body.
"Who the heck are you, lady?" Faith demanded.
"I am General Devious!" the robot cackled. "The most feared warrior in the galaxy, right hand of Miffed Cutie Glorificus, and-"
"Never heard of you," Faith snorted.
"I thought Harmony was Glorificus's right hand lackey?" Tara asked.
"What the hell kind of name is 'Devious' anyway? Buffy put in. "Do you want to maybe grow a moustache so you can twirl it, just so we're sure you're evil?"
"Silence!" self-proclaimed-General Devious shouted shrilly. "Harmony was... well, she didn't... see, she was really just someone in a robe, and-"
"Not selling well as a toy, so they replaced her with some half-assed robot?" Willow guessed.
"Ye- no! Well, yes," General Devious sulked. "But I can still kick all your butts from here to... wait, is this a cartoon, or a movie?"
"Movie," Willow and Tara said at once.
"Oh." Devious's face fell. "Well then, I guess I can't really... y'know, do anything intimidating... so... um, I'll just be going. Bye."
"Madam President," Tara said with quiet sarcasm, as Devious slunk off the bridge and Glorificus took her place.
"Quit gloating," Gloroficus snapped. "So you escaped my Barbie Troopers on the surface, but this is different! The Barbie fleet can destroy unnamed, unimportant ships like your Republic fleet, and once they and the Kilkrazi have finished killing all of them, the Barbies will turn on them, wipe them out, and I'll rule the galaxy!"
"Thank you," Willow nodded. "Very succinct plot summary. One slight flaw, though..."
"...you forgot about us kicking your sorry ex-Presidential ass," Tara finished.
"You're all big with the butch," Willow whispered to her, grinning.
"I had to listen to her crazy orders for years," Tara whispered back. "This is very cathartic."
"You won't be kicking anyone's ass, blondie," Glorificus snarled. "Not after we blast you and your girlfriend there with this fully operational Cliché Cannon!"
"Confirmed," Sixty-Nine reported. "Reading a field of over seventy mega-Independence Days from that weapon, and rising."
"Cliché what now?" Buffy asked.
"We're in serious trouble," Willow paled.
"We're lesbians," Tara said grimly. "If she hits us with that cannon, we'll either die, or turn evil."
"Probably both," Willow added.
"What about me?" Faith asked. "I'm not technically a lesbian. I could sleep with a bunch of guys right now in fact, if it'll help."
"You're notably promiscuous, and wearing next to nothing," Tara pointed out. "If you get hit, you'll probably get attacked by half a dozen slasher movie monsters." Unseen, Buffy snuck off the bridge.
"Toodles, lame heroes," Glorificus smirked. "I'd say it's been nice knowing you, but it... hasn't. What with you being good, and me evil... so, no."
"Couldn't you have come up with a better final taunt than that?" Willow demanded.
"Hey shut up! You think it's easy engineering galactic domination and coming up with one liners? Gunners, prepare to fire!"
"Cliché field passing one hundred mega-Independence Days!" Sixty-Nine warned.
"We're boxed in," Pilot reported. "Too many ships on all sides, we can't warp out!"
"Tactical?" Tara asked.
"Their shields are too strong," Adequatus said. "No way to do sufficient damage to shut them down in time."
"This looks pretty bad," Tara admitted quietly. Willow reached down and held her hand.
"When we first met," she said softly, "you were standing there in the doorway looking at me, and obviously the first thing I thought was 'Oh wow she's beautiful,' but the second thing I thought was 'There's no way she'd be interested in me'." She looked down at their joined hands, and smiled. "This... is pretty good."
"Yeah, it is," Tara agreed.
"Captain, someone's launching from the shuttle bay!" Sixty-Nine interrupted.
"What? Who?" The bridge crew watched as one of the Kitten's Paw's tiny shuttles raced ahead of them, heading directly for the Death Ball.
"Hey guys," Buffy's voice said from the speakers.
"Buffy?" Tara exclaimed. "You're right in the path of the cannon!"
"Get out of there!" Faith insisted.
"Don't worry," Buffy chuckled. "I'm the chosen one, remember?"
The screen whited-out for a second as the Cliché Cannon fired, Buffy's tiny ship taking the full blast head-on. Everyone on the bridge leaned forward, nervously waiting for some sign of what had happened to her.
"See?" Buffy said, untroubled. "Nothing to it. Ah-choo!"
On one the Kilkrazi warships, which had been listening in on the subspace signals, a communications officer was startled by Buffy's sudden sneeze, and jumped out of his seat, knocking an ensign carrying coffee behind him over, who in turn spilled the coffee in the lap of the pilot, who accidentally hit the afterburner pedal. The warship lurched ahead, hitting the ship in front of it, which spun around and struck its neighbour, and so on through the entire Kilkrazi, Republic, and Barbie fleets, until a Barbie Holiday Fun Dreadnought collided with the Death Ball, the impact of which caused one of the Cliché Cannon gunners to drop his clipboard into the main Contrivance Generator, which overloaded.
"What the heck was all that?" Faith wondered, as the Cliché Cannon exploded, leaving a gaping hole in the stricken Death Ball.
"She's the chosen one," Willow grinned.
"The best cliché you could ask for" Tara explained. "So she went from being a... somewhat self-absorbed teenager into a true heroine, just in time for the finale. And after that mega-cliché blast, anything she did was guaranteed to save the day. Good thinking, Buffy," she added.
"Is that what happened?" Buffy asked, steering her shuttle back to the Kitten's Paw, as the Death Ball began to break up. "I just thought I was being heroic."
"That's why it worked," Willow told her.
"Fine!" Glorificus shouted, reappearing on the viewscreen, amid her wrecked bridge. "I can still take you all out the old-fashioned way! Barbie fleet, prepare to open fire on the Republic fleet!"
"More ships incoming!" Sixty-Nine reported.
"They're friends," Tara smiled.
"Glorificus would do a lot better if she didn't keep preparing to fire," Faith sniggered. Around the various confused would-be combatants, an armada of gigantic starships appeared, each one a perfect sphere with a nodule protruding from its centre.
"Babe Collective Boobships!" Willow gasped in surprise.
"Oh that's just not fair!" Glorificus protested, over the din of her battle station falling apart around her.
"Hey, you're the one who broke out the clichés," Faith shot back.
Simultaneously on all the Barbie vessels, women in silver uniforms much like Tara's materialised, put their hands on either side of each Barbie's head, and spoke in unison.
"WE ARE THE BABE COLLECTIVE. SHALLOWNESS IS FUTILE. YOU WILL BE INDIVIDUALISED."
"What are they doing?" Buffy asked, arriving back on the bridge.
"The Collective records and catalogues the hotness of every species they encounter," Tara explained. "And hotness is, of course, all to do with personality. They're downloading individual identities into the clones' minds."
"WHAT?" Glorificus shrieked. "But they're my clones!"
"Actually they're my clones," Buffy objected.
"Now they're their own clones," Willow finished smugly. "Uh, figuratively speaking."
"But-" Whatever Glorificus was going to say was interrupted by the gratuitously pyrotechnic final destruction of the Death Ball. The various watching space fleets backed off as bits and pieces of battle station tumbled away into the void, while those on the Kitten's Paw watched with some satisfaction as the bridge module - attached to a piece of the giant window, displaying 'Reply hazy; ask again later' - plummeted down into the planet's perpetually-storm-tossed ocean.
"Open a channel," Tara said over her shoulder to Sixty-Nine, before standing and facing the front of the bridge. "This is Captain Tara of Nine, of the TCS Kitten's Paw. All Barbies who still want to follow ex-President Glorificus, signal your intentions now please."
"Anyone?" Willow asked, as the comms channel remained steadfastly silent.
"In that case," Tara continued, "as a formal representative of the URP, I'm declaring this climactic sequence complete. Stand down, everyone. Good work." She resumed her seat and let out a long sigh, while Willow perched on the arm of the command chair and ran her fingers through Tara's hair.
"I meant to ask you," Faith interrupted, "why 'Tara of Nine'?"
"Nine was my mother's name," Tara said.
"Because my grandmother had a lot of children, and not much imagination," Tara answered before Faith could finish asking.
"Oh, okay," Faith shrugged. "I was just wondering if there were eight more of you around somewhere... hey, that gives me an idea. Hey Buffy! Sex?"
"No," Buffy snorted, crossing her arms.
"No problem," Faith laughed. "I happen to know where there's a whole bunch of clones of you, and what with the individuality, I bet some of them feel like having their minds blown right about now."
"I'd estimate somewhere in the region of one hundred fifty-seven thousand," Sixty-Nine added.
"Hot damn!" Faith punched the air. "That's my weekend taken care of. Is my ship in that big mess out there? Can you find the Clitoral Hood?"
"Can I?" Sixty-Nine asked incredulously.
"Heh, okay," Faith snickered. "Send Shellie a message to get my quarters ready for between one and two hundred thousand guests - we'll need the special queen-sized bed with the extra dimensions built into it. And contact the clones, tell them anyone interested in finding out what Special Order 69 feels like can drop by any time." Faith chuckled to herself, then winked at Buffy. "Sure you won't join us? Or I could just watch, while you and they... you know, technically that'd just be masturbation. You do masturbate now and then, don't you?"
Smiling at Buffy's exasperated eye-rolling, Tara quietly turned command over to Tattoo, and led Willow by the hand off the bridge towards her quarters.
TCS Kitten's Paw
"So we saved the galaxy," Willow sighed, leaning back into Tara's embrace. "Now what?"
"Are we still rated PG?" Tara smirked.
"Afraid so. You really think I'd ask 'now what' otherwise?"
"That's okay... I only have to wait until the end of the scene."
"You love it."
"Uh-huh. Oh hey! I bet Faith could have a word with Master Osca - you know, in her Presidential capacity - and get my qualification for permanent field status moved up to right about now. If you'd like?"
"'If I'd like'?" Tara chuckled. "Let me see, would I like my wife to be by my side as we explore strange new worlds and so on with the Star Trek opening spiel? Hmm, difficult decision..."
"Take your time," Willow teased.
"Oh look at that," Tara said, as if vaguely surprised at something. "Someone must have ordered ship's services to expand my quarters to double-size and stock it for two people. You'd almost think I'd been looking forward to having you here with me all along."
"Yeah," Willow agreed, "funny that."
"I suppose, in that case, it'd be easier if you did move in," Tara suggested.
"You're probably right," Willow grinned.
"You, uh," Tara said, "you know I was joking, with the non-committal thing, and-" Willow confirmed that she did indeed with a lengthy kiss.
"Wow," Tara breathed, once Willow came up for air. "I love you."
"Love you too," Willow murmured.
"I like how you say 'yes', too."
"I have all kinds of ways of saying 'yes'. Wanna try out some more?"
"Here, let me try," Tara whispered, gently rolling Willow over and crouching over her.
"Mmm," Willow sighed as Tara began massaging her shoulders. "Oh, while I think of it... I got a bulletin a while ago, they're holding the inaugural Galactic Space Race soon, and I was thinking, what with you having this lovely starship, and you know how much fun it is when we go on adventures together-"
"Space Race huh?" Tara grinned.
"Let's do it," Tara agreed. "But not right now. We'll save it for the sequel. Right now... I have other plans for you..."
"Ooh! Oh, that's... wow... mmm yeah... uuuuhhh..."