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Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 02:48 pm
My thanks to the 25 authors who made Crossover Alphabet Soup a reality: 11am_street, Aces, Aelfgyfu, Annerb, Da_angel729, Dannysgirl, Elder_bonnie, Fig Newton, Gategremlyn, Greenbirds, Jedibuttercup, Lizardbeth, Lokei, Lolmac , Maevebran, L. E. McMurray, Penknife, Pepper, Randomfreshink, Sallymn, Sentient Citizen, Suzannemarie, Tallulah Rasa, Traycer, and Wonderland. Special thanks to the wonderful regulars who contribute time after time, and an extra welcome to our new authors!

Eras range from pre-series to post-series, ratings from G to PG-13. The complete anthology is too long even for DW's entries, so readers must follow the links to complete the two longest fics at their authors' own journals.

Story text is as written by the authors, but minor HTML coding has been changed and scene breaks have been altered to allow for more uniformity in page style.

Click on a specific fandom to jump to that crossover, or just scroll down!

Amelia Peabody

Battlestar Galactica / Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure / Bones / Blake's 7

Chronicles of Narnia / Chuck

Discworld / Doctor Who

Firefly

Gilmore Girls

Howl's Moving Castle / The Hunger Games

Inception / Indiana Jones series

Leverage / Lois and Clark

MacGyver / Magnificent 7 / The Mummy

NCIS / Nero Wolfe / Nikita

Quantum Leap

Sorcerer's Apprentice / Supernatural




A is for Another Day at the Office (Leverage)
by [personal profile] tallulah_rasa

General Jack O'Neill strode in the Cheyenne Mountain conference room, looked at the six people ranged around the table, and sank into a chair.

"You really didn't have to come all this way, Sir," Cameron began.

"Oh, I think I did," Jack said. "Start at the beginning."

"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, with a nod at Jack, "went to the Boston Antiquities Museum yesterday."

"And beyond the obvious, he did this because...?"

"He...saw something online that indicated some of the museum's recent acquisitions might be...not from around here," Sam said carefully, mindful of the non-SGC personnel at the table.

"Online?" Jack asked.

Sam winced. "Apparently Ba'al has a blog," she said.

"Of course he does," Jack said. "So, Daniel hared off..."

"He arranged to view the new acquisitions after hours," Cam said. "The curator was an old friend of Catherine Langford's, and happy to meet with Dr. Jackson. And really, Sir, it was just a recon thing; General Landry agreed it didn't necessitate a full court press."

Jack's expression said he'd be speaking to Landry about that, but he only said, "And then...?"

"Daniel called when he got a moment alone," Sam said. "He said he heard something that sounded like..." She made a gesture the SGC personnel present understood as alien tech, possibly Asgard, and Jack nodded.

"He thought the sound was coming from inside a storage room, so he went to check it out," Sam went on. "The curator swears that the door to the storage room was locked--"

"It was," a tall black man sitting across from her broke in. "Believe me, I did recon, and I had surveillance cameras all over the--"

"This is Alec Hardison, General," Sam said.

"Wasn't an Alec Hardison suspected of hacking into our...?" Jack asked her.

"I would never do a thing like that," Hardison said quickly. "But if someone did, it was probably to gain access to NORAD's Santa tracker, and fix the trajectory of the--"

"Hardison!" hissed the well-built, pony-tailed man sitting next to him.

"Santa was off course, man," Hardison hissed back. "And you do not want Santa to be late."

"Mr. Hardison and two of his partners were at the museum at the same time Jackson was. They were involved in a...redistribution of wealth," Cam said dryly.

"We're consultants. Our client had compelling evidence that several of the museum's recent acquisitions had been stolen from her, most likely by someone employed by the museum," Hardison said smoothly. "We were simply investigating."

"Right. So Daniel heard something in a locked room," Jack said. "And..."

"From their surveillance footage, it looks like he picked the lock," Vala said. "Nice job, too. He obviously learned from a master."

Cam gave her a look. "Don't worry, General. Vala and I will be having a long talk about that."

Jack waved a dismissive hand. "Daniel didn't learn that from Vala. After he..." He made a gesture his people understood as, was glowy, "He just... knew. A parting gift from Oma, I guess. He also knew how to...well, never mind." He shook his head, and began again. "So Daniel broke into this storage area, and found..."

"Parker," Hardison said.

"One of our associates," said the man sitting next to him. "She was--"

"Stealing something," Vala supplied.

"Investigating," Hardison corrected. "Merely investigating. "

"How did she get into the closet without Daniel and the curator seeing her?" Sam asked.

"Through the ventilation system," Hardison said.

"Of course," Jack said. "So Daniel broke into this storage room, found this Parker, and..."

"They disappeared," Hardison said, not even trying to pretend he wasn't wigged out by the whole thing. "Eliot -- this is Eliot -- and I were watching the surveillance footage from our van, and Parker and your Dr. Jackson both touched something, and then...poof."

"Which is when I called your people," Eliot said.

"Uh huh," Jack said. "And you knew to do that because...?"

"I'm Eliot Spencer, Sir. I worked for your people once before."

Jack looked at him. "You're the retrieval expert," he said.

"Yes, Sir."

"Honduras," Jack told Teal'c and Sam. "When Daniel and Dr. Lee..." He turned back to Eliot. "You know those weren't zombies, right?"

Hardison looked around the room with growing alarm. "Who are you people?" he demanded.

"I told you, it's classified," Eliot said. "Just think of them as...well, they're kind of like Jedi warriors."

"Seriously? Seriously? You're going with Star Wars?"

Teal'c came as close to beaming as a Jaffa warrior could.

Eliot sighed. "Okay, have you ever seen Wormhole X-Treme?"

"Now you're just insulting my intelligence," Hardison huffed.

"And that's an old version of the team," Vala muttered.

"Do we know for certain," Jack broke in, "that Daniel's not visiting Oma and her pals again?"

"There's no evidence of that, Sir," Sam said soothingly.

Jack sighed. "Okay, standard operating procedure here is--"

An SF appeared at the door. "Sorry to interrupt, Sir," he said, "but Colonel Feretti asked me to tell you that we have a D-121 situation in the commissary."

Jack checked his watch. "Anybody have 16:27 in the pool?" he asked Cam.

Hardison looked wildly from Jack to Cam to Teal'c. "Is this D-whatever situation serious? I mean, I get that you're all military and whatnot, but should the rest of us be running for cover?"

"A D-1 designation means that Daniel Jackson has appeared, unhurt," Teal'c said, as Eliot smacked Hardison in the arm. "The subsequent numbers denote the circumstances surrounding his appearance. In this case, he is with a woman who appears to be non-hostile."

Hardison's jaw dropped. "You have a code for--?"

Cam shrugged. "It saves time."

Eliot leaned forward. "Is the woman blonde?" He relaxed a bit when the SF nodded.

Jack squinted at the SF's nametag. "Thank you, Mullins. By the way, does Dr. Jackson appear to have amnesia?"

"No, Sir," Mullins said without missing a beat. "He looked around, said hello to Colonel Feretti, and then got himself a cup of coffee." He turned toward Eliot. "He got the woman a bowl of Froot Loops."

"Good," Jack said. "And one more thing -- was Dr. Jackson--"

"Wearing clothes, Sir? Colonel Feretti said you'd ask. Yes, Sir, he was. Would you like me to tell Dr. Jackson you're expecting him?"

"Nah, we'll go meet him," Jack said. "I could go for a piece of pie. If you could just take our guests to..." He looked at Sam. "Remind me; what'd we do the last time this happened?"

"Someone from Legal conducted a debriefing, explained the ramifications of revealing anything related to the SGC, and obtained signatures on non-disclosure agreement 342-b," Sam said. "In triplicate. I think they might have added a Power Point presentation since then."

"Right," Jack said. "Well, then--"

"Wait," Hardison said. "You can't just--people disappeared! And then...and then reappeared! This is all just routine to you people?"

"Hardison..." Eliot warned.

The lights flickered just then. A small explosion rattled the hallway outside the conference room, followed by a harried voice yelling, "Sorry! The alpha field is still a little unstable."

"Pretty much," Jack said when the commotion died down.

The klaxon blared suddenly, setting off a flurry of activity outside the door. With a quick nod to Jack, SG-1 rushed off. Jack sat, looking at his watch, while Hardison twitched and Eliot carefully monitored the action.

"And now," Jack said, and on cue, the klaxon stopped.

Hardison just stared at him.

"We hear that a lot around here," Jack explained.

"I'm sorry I asked," Hardison said.

"Yeah," Jack said, nodding. "We hear that a lot, too."

feedback / back

B is for The Bones in the Sarcophagus (Bones)
by [personal profile] sg_wonderland

Dr. Daniel Goodman's visiting archaeologist was on his knees, frowning as he crawled around the sarcophagus. "Dr. Jackson, is there a problem?" He finally asked.

"Well, maybe, yes, probably," came the definitive answer. "Look here, tell me what you see."

Goodman squatted and peered at where the other man's gloved finger was pointed. "Dammit," he swore softly.

"So you think it looks like the seal's been broken too?"

"It's an excellent repair, but a repair just the same." He rose. "I'm afraid I have to agree with you, Dr. Jackson."

"Is there somewhere we can get this X-rayed before we decide what to do next?"

"Dr. Brennan's lab has an excellent set-up. We can have the sarcophagus moved over there and take a look."

Daniel stripped off his gloves and stood. "Great."

***

"I don't know why I wasn't consulted from the beginning." Temperance Brennan said as she mounted the steps to the lab.

"I was unaware you had become an Egyptologist in the past few days," Goodman commented as he followed.

"You don't have to be an Egyptologist to look at a mummy. I am quite capable of determining cause of death."

"We don't really need cause of death. What we need to know is if the sarcophagus has been opened and re-sealed. Dr. Jackson believes it has been."

"Is he the Egyptologist?" Brennan watched as the sarcophagus was wheeled into place.

"Sometimes," piped up a voice from behind the artifact. "Oh, hi. You must be Dr. Brennan. Daniel Jackson."

She shook his hand automatically. "Part-time Egyptologist? What do you do the rest of the time?"

"I consult for the Air Force."

Her eyebrow quirked. "Why does the Air Force need an Egyptologist?"

"Oh, well," he looked flustered. "It's mostly, well, all really, classified." She frowned at him. "Could you just take a look at this? Dr. Goodman speaks very highly of your intellect and I wouldn't mind another opinion."

Dr. Goodman smothered a smile. Hadn't been in the room with Brennan for five minutes and Jackson had already zeroed in on her weakest spot. Appeal to her on an intellectual basis. "Well, may I just leave Dr. Jackson in your expert hands? Dr. Jackson, your ID will give you free rein here in the Jeffersonian. Dr. Brennan, let us know if there's something else you need." He left the two of them with their faces pressed against the side of the sarcophagus.

***

"See? Doesn't this look different from the rest of the seal?"

"I think you're right, Dr. Jackson. If I can get a scraping, I might be able to determine exactly what it is. They sealed sarcophaguses with mortar, right?" She grabbed a scalpel and a specimen bottle.

"Bones?"

"Hmm?" Brennan glanced over. "Oh, Booth. This is Dr. Daniel Jackson. He's the Egyptologist Dr. Goodman recruited to examine the mummy. Dr. Jackson, Seeley Booth, he's with the FBI."

Booth surveyed the large case in front of him, hands planted on his narrow hips. "I'm guessing you don't need the FBI for this one?"

"Since we believe this mummy to be several thousand years old, I don't think this case requires the FBI. Besides, don't you have plans for this weekend?"

"Yeah, well," Booth started backing away. "I'll just...you know...head out..."

"Have a good weekend, Booth." She turned back to the sarcophagus. "Let's start right here, shall we?" Brennan took a small drill and carefully began unsealing the artifact.

Several things happened within a very few seconds. A large puff of pinkish vapor escaped the sarcophagus, Daniel began coughing and strident alarms began ringing loudly.

"No, no, no!" Booth shouted as he dashed for the lab doors. Which closed firmly in his face. He swung back towards Brennan. "What the hell was that?" But she was busy trying to prevent Jackson from hitting the ground. Booth dashed back up the stairs, helping her to lower him to the floor. "What the hell was that?" He repeated.

"I don't know, something, a vapor cloud came out of the sarcophagus. Dr. Jackson inhaled it. Get me the first aid kit." She was busy removing Daniel's tie, unbuttoning his top button. "Dr. Jackson, can you hear me?"

He nodded, obviously struggling for breath. Booth helped get him in the recovery position. "Did you call 911?"

"We're locked down. Until we know what that was, no one gets in or out of here."

"This guy could be dying!"

"Here, get a mask on him and put one on yourself." She handed him a mask. "I should have insisted we mask up before we started. There's no way of knowing what that was or how much he inhaled."

"He seems to be breathing okay," Booth adjusted the mask over his own face after slipping one on Daniel. "And he's got good color."

"I'm okay." Jackson gasped.

"Stay still," Brennan commanded.

"Dr. Brennan," Dr. Goodman's voice boomed over the intercom. "What's your status?"

She reached for the phone. "When we attempted to open the sarcophagus, an unknown vapor escaped. Dr. Jackson inhaled some of it. The automatic lockdown occurred within a few seconds."

"Who is in there with you?"

"Myself, Dr. Jackson, Agent Booth. If there was anyone else here, they are confined to their office or lab."

"Okay, Dr. Brennan. We're instituting Level One lockdown. We'll have medical personnel there as soon as they are geared up. Is there anything we need to do?"

Daniel was trying to speak. "What?" Booth bent over him. "Jackson says to contact his CO."

"We're already attempting to contact the Air Force. Tell Dr. Jackson to relax, we'll have them notified."

***

Booth was nothing short of relieved when the medics showed up, even though they looked dressed for a moon landing. They brought a portable X-ray machine, which they promptly used on Jackson. "Lungs look fine, Dr. Brennan." One of them nodded at Temperance. "Don't know what it was, but it doesn't appear to be toxic. I gave him a shot of steroids to prevent any throat swelling. I'm going to leave the oxygen and an inhaler, just to be on the safe side."

"If it's not toxic, why are we still locked up in here?" Booth complained as he yanked off the facemask.

"Because we still don't know exactly what it was. We've pulled the air filters and Dr. Hodgins is ready to run some tests on the particulates, see what we can find. In the meantime, we've brought supplies. You'll all need to shower and put your contaminated clothes in a hazmat bag."

"Oh, man, these shoes are new." Booth yanked his tie loose. "I better get them back and they'd better not have a scuff on them."

"We'll do our best, sir."

Booth grabbed the bundles he was handed, helped Jackson down from the gurney, keeping a hand on him as they trudged to the contamination showers. "Bones, you take that shower over there and I'll help Jackson here."

"Daniel." The other man rasped out. "If you're taking my clothes off, we ought to at least be on a first name basis."

Booth laughed sharply. "Yeah, see if you still think that when you've got strangers analyzing your underwear."

Daniel's blue eyes gleamed. "Agent Booth, I could tell you that happens a lot, but then I'd have to kill you."

"It's Booth or Seeley. Since we're getting all intimate and everything here."

***

Two hours later, Booth was rolling around idly on a lab stool watching Brennan run some kind of scan on the sarcophagus. Jackson -- Daniel, he remembered -- was asleep on one of the gurneys. The medic told them not to worry too much about it; they'd shot him full of steroids as a precaution and he would be better for the rest anyway.

"So, whatcha doin'?"

"I'm trying to determine if it's safe to open the sarcophagus the rest of the way."

"Hasn't the proverbial genie already gotten out of the bottle, anyway? Pop that baby and let's see what's going on. If I'm gonna be stuck here for the foreseeable future, I'd like to at least know why."

Brennan opened her mouth to reply when they both heard loud noises outside in the corridor.

"Colonel, you cannot go in there! The room is sealed for everyone's protection."

"Then how'd the damned medics get in and out?" The voice was loud and irritated.

"They used the air lock." Goodman shot back.

"Then that's what I'll use."

"I cannot allow that."

"Goodman, I don't give a rat's ass what you can or cannot allow. That man in there belongs to the Air Force and is MY responsibility. I'm getting in there one way or the other." The voice ended on a shout.

"Then you wear a Hazmat suit, check on Dr. Jackson and come right back out."

"Now we're getting somewhere. Suit me up."

Bones rolled his stool over and shook Daniel's shoulder. "Get up, you got company."

"Huh?" Daniel rose sluggishly, his long hair damp and disheveled. "What?"

"Some guy out there shouting the place down, trying to get in here."

"Jack," Daniel sighed, wiping his eyes, looking for his glasses.

"Sorry, they kept your glasses, in case they'd been infected."

"Really?" He blinked in surprise.


***

Daniel was sitting on the side of the gurney when a heavily garbed person entered the first air lock, waited impatiently for the second door to open. Finally he lumbered into the lab.

"Jack?"

"Daniel? What in the merry hell have you got yourself into now?" The annoyance was clear, even through the microphone.

"It wasn't Dr. Jackson's fault." Temperance stepped forward. "I opened the sarcophagus, I released the vapor. I take full responsibility for the lockdown."

He glared at her through the glass shield. "Oh, don't you worry about that. I'm holding this whole damned place responsible." He reached behind him, fumbling for the catch.

"Jack!" Daniel slid to his feet. "What are you....?" His voice faded as Jack popped the vacuum seal on his suit. "You do realize you're stuck in here with us now?"

"Rats," he grinned as he yanked off the helmet. "Colonel Jack O'Neill. United States Air Force. Who the hell are you?"

"I'm Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist here at the Jeffersonian. This is Agent Seeley Booth, FBI."

"What's the FBI got to do with this?" Jack skinned his way out of the suit, revealing camos and a black T-shirt.

"Dr. Brennan consults with us on murder cases we investigate."

"Well," Jack ruffled his hair as his eyes slid away from Booth's to assess Daniel. "I hope you do a better job of that than you have on this one. Daniel, Fraiser is expecting a phone call. She has some concerns about your condition." He just grinned as Brennan's spine stiffened.

Daniel huffed his way over to the phone. "You didn't have to fly all the way up here and break a medical quarantine to do that. You could have just called me."

"It's supposed to rain today in the Springs," Jack leaned against the side of the table as Daniel punched in the number. "I didn't want to get my hair wet."

***

Booth decided he'd heard more than he ever wanted from Hodgins about this particular government conspiracy. "Think about it, Booth. Somebody finds this mysterious sarcophagus and, before you know it, this place is crawling with the military. I mean, we've got an archaeologist with the highest security clearance known to man and a Special Ops Air Force guy whose entire military career is classified."

Booth was inclined to agree with Hodgins about O'Neill; he recognized the type. Not O'Neill specifically, but the kind of sharp-eyed guys who were a Special Ops dream. And most of his jacket was very classified. But at least he had a sense of humor; he'd only grinned when Hodgins had been raving on the speaker.

Jackson, however, was another matter entirely. He couldn't hope to keep a secret, not with those eyes. O'Neill tried to convince them that he was only concerned about what big secrets that might have spilled after the kid got a whiff of whatever the hell it was but Booth wasn't fooled. He'd rushed to DC out of a genuine concern for Daniel. He figured Bones had been the only one fooled by O'Neill's blustering.

"So are we gonna open that damned thing or what?" Booth rolled his stool restlessly.

"Oh, we're definitely opening it," Bones stated. "I've attached chains to the lid and to the hydraulic lift."

Daniel winced. "Let's just be real careful, ok?"

"Please move to the other side of the lab. I can operate the lift by remote." They all crowded into the furthest corner and simultaneously held their breath as the lid slowly moved upward. "I did not see any further escape of vapor, did you, Dr. Jackson?"

"No," Daniel tried to ease his way around both Jack and Booth. "I'm just going to take a look..."

"I'm going to take a look then I'll tell you when it's clear." Jack pointed a finger at Daniel before he eased his way over to the sarcophagus. "Hey, Daniel, get a look at this."

Daniel hurried over and peered into the sarcophagus. "Okay, not what I expected."

Booth followed Bones around to the other side. "Hey, I've seen all those movies and that's no mummy."

"Well," Daniel donned the gloves Temperance handed him and gently touched the wrappings. "Someone has attempted to wrap him like a mummy but clearly, the organs haven't been removed and the body was not mummified. And he hasn't been dead all that long, judging by the deterioration of the wrappings."

"Hey, what's that?" Booth pointed to something crumpled in the right hand.

Bones carefully shifted the hand and eased it open. "It's.....it appears to be plastic."

"It's a sandwich bag." They all looked at Jack. "You know, like a Ziploc bag that you put your lunch in."

"They didn't have plastic bags back in the mummy days." Booth pointed out unnecessarily.

"No, they didn't." Bones carefully put the bag into an evidence bag. "Which means..."

"This isn't an Egyptian mummy. It's someone who's been buried in a sarcophagus." Daniel speculated.

"What happened to the original owner?" Jack leaned against the side of the table.

"Well, lots of tombs had already been raided when archaeologists starting unearthing them. Some were vandalized within years of the burials."

"So much for honoring the dead," Booth quipped. "So how do we find out who this guy is?"

"I don't see any obvious signs of trauma," Temperance carefully perused the body. "We can do some X-rays, see what we can find out."

Jack nodded. "Sounds like a plan. So, can we get out of here now?"

Booth shook his head. "Sorry, still locked down. I say we order some dinner. Bones' got a TV in her office. We could watch some hockey."

Jack brightened up. "Yeah?"

"You like hockey, Colonel?"

"Are you kidding? Raised in Minnesota, here." Their voices faded as they walked away.

***

The four of them were in Temperance's office, eating, with a hockey match muted on the TV when the phone rang.

"This is Dr. Brennan," Temperance answered.

"This is Zach, Dr. Brennan. I have the preliminary report on the substance inhaled by Dr. Jackson."

"I'm putting you on speaker, Zach." She pushed a couple of buttons. "Okay, what was in the substance?"

"It was a mixture of gum base, powdered sugar, corn syrup, glycerin, citric acid and peppermint."

"That's a strange combination." She was puzzled.

"I thought so too, so I did a little research. It's bubble gum, Dr. Brennan."

Jack sat up with a start. "Bubble gum? Daniel inhaled bubble gum?"

Booth was just as incredulous. "We got locked down because of bubble gum?"

"Homemade bubble gum," Zach answered. "My theory is that the bubble gum was in the plastic bag in the victim's hand. When the seal was released, the plastic bag reacted to the release of pressure, exploded and the dried bubble gum poofed out. The bag must have been right where the seal was opened."

"Far out." Jack smiled. "Wait 'til I tell Carter, she's gonna be mad she missed out on this one."

"We also have an approximate estimate of how long the victim had been in the sarcophagus. Judging by the condition of the body and the deterioration of the cloth, the body was buried no more than thirty years."

"So all we have to do is find some guy who died in Egypt in 1967." Jack looked over at Daniel.

"Well, don't look at me. I don't even know where I was in 1967."

"Possibly in high school," Jack quipped.

Daniel ignored him. "Egypt in 1967? Probably not a lot of record keeping. People were always getting killed by warring factions, desert sandstorms, accidents. You might never find out who he was." He cautioned. "I can call some people I know, see who was working around that site at that time, but it's probably a long shot at best."

***

Bones and Daniel were still throwing around theories on who was in the sarcophagus -- and how he'd gotten there. Brennan had determined the body to be that of a man of approximately sixty years with no discernible injuries. "It's possible that we'll never know." She pointed out.

"I know. That's one of the problems with archaeology. Some times it's a theory and you never find the proof."

"I think someone offed him and bid the body in the box there." Booth thumbed idly through a magazine.

"If someone killed him, then why can't we find any evidence of that?" Brennan asked.

"How many ways are there to kill someone that wouldn't show in the bones?" He answered back.

"Very few, actually. It's a very rare bullet or knife that doesn't strike some bone. Poison would leach into the bone. Asphyxiation would break bones in the throat. A fall or a car accident would leave damage."

"How about drowning?" Daniel suggested.

"If you held them down in the water, there would still be skeletal damage. Whoever it was went to a lot of effort in concealing the body." She thought for a moment. "I hate puzzles that don't add up."

Jack opened his mouth but before he could get a word out, they all heard the sound of doors opening.

Booth surged to his feet. "Yes! Lockdown is over. Nice to meet you guys. Bones, see you on Monday. I'm outta here." He charged toward the door, only to stop when he nearly mowed over Dr. Goodman and a stranger. "Listen, whatever it is, I don't need to know. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the FBI."

"Of course, Agent Booth," Goodman agreed smoothly. "I just thought you'd like to know the answer to who was in the sarcophagus and how he got there."

Booth hesitated, clearly torn between curiosity and a long-awaited hockey rematch. Then he sighed. "Okay, five minutes, then I am out that door."

Goodman led the visitor up the steps and into the lab. "Dr. Brennan, Dr. Jackson, this is Dr. Thomas Sanford. He's been telling me quite an interesting story."

The tall and lanky Dr. Sanford jammed his bony hands into the pockets of well-worn jeans. "You know, we knew this was going to come out eventually. I knew that when I read about the sarcophagus."

Brennan spoke up. "Why don't we go in my office and you can tell us what you know."
***
"We -- Bradley Offutt and me -- were college students working on a dig outside Cairo in '67. We made some friends among the locals, you know, the hired diggers. There was this old man, funny as hell, you could never tell if half the stories he told were true. We went out drinking one night, me and Brad and Omar. We all got pretty drunk and Omar drove back out to the dig. I don't know how we got there but we made it back alive. Brad and I went back to our tent and crashed. The next morning, we didn't see Omar but we didn't think too much about it."

He stopped, took a deep breath. "Later that afternoon, Brad went looking for him, found him lying beside the Jeep. Brad thought he was still passed out, you know? But he couldn't wake him up. He panicked when he realized.... he piled him in the Jeep and drove out to the far side of the dig, hid the body, then came back for me. You gotta remember, we were just kids in a foreign country and we were scared out of our minds. We thought someone would arrest us for killing the old man."

"So you put him in a sarcophagus." Daniel spoke into the sudden silence.

"We tried to convince ourselves he would have gotten a kick out of it, you know? We wrapped him up in some cloth from the market and re-buried the sarcophagus."

"What did you do with the original owner?" Jack asked.

"There wasn't one; the tomb had already been raided. No one was going to miss an empty sarc anyway so we buried him in an out of the way part of the dig, told ourselves it would be our little joke. Brad went back to Oxford in the fall and I came back to the States. When I read that the Jeffersonian had the sarcophagus and where it had been found, I tracked Brad down, convinced him we needed to tell the truth."

"Say we believe you," Booth leaned forward. "Maybe the old man did die of natural causes and maybe all you did was bury his body. Answer me one question. What was in Omar's hand?"

"Brad's mum was kind of a hippie type, you know? She was real funny about the kind of food he ate, was always worried about preservatives and shit like that. She was always sending him stuff she'd made. We figured it would freak someone out, somewhere in the future, trying to figure out why the guy had a baggie full of homemade bubble gum."

Brennan folded her arms across her chest. "Do you have any idea of the trouble your prank created? The Jeffersonian went to a lot of time and trouble to get Dr. Jackson out here to investigate. He inhaled an unknown substance that could yet affect his health and this entire building was forced into lockdown."

He hung his head. "I guess sorry is pretty inadequate?"

"Extremely inadequate." Her voice was cool.

"Listen, I'm not hurt and there was no lasting damage," Daniel said. "At least we know the truth now. That's enough for me."

"Well, it's not for me," Jack scowled.

"Me neither. I should have been playing hockey right about now." Booth pointed out.

"What if Dr. Sanford made a donation, a sizable one to the Jeffersonian and made a public confession? I doubt the Egyptian authorities would press charges after all this time but Omar may have had a family who would like some answers." Daniel suggested.

Booth tilted his head to one side then nodded. "Works for me. How about you, Bones?"

"It would depend on the size of the donation," she decided ruthlessly.

"Listen, you guys can fight that out amongst yourselves." Jack waved his hand. "Booth, did you say something about a hockey game? Could you use another player?"

***

"I fail to understand the motivations for this game. Oh, thank you," she beamed as Daniel handed her a cup of cocoa.

Daniel's eyes followed Jack around the rink. "There is no motivation. This is one of the last outlets for the innate violence in man's nature. Modern civilization demands that men like Jack and Seeley suppress their true natures and conform to expected societal norms."

Brennan smiled at him. "I like you, Daniel. How would you like to join the staff at the Jeffersonian? We could certainly use a person with your intellect and your unusual perceptions."

"That's flattering, really it is. But I'm needed where I am. And I think I'm the only thing keeping Jack from going off on some unsuspecting Marine or some poor Airman who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." He looked at her shyly. "I kind of think you might serve the same purpose here, with Seeley."

She tapped her Styrofoam cup against his. "I did say you were a man of unusual perception, didn't I?"

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C is for Cylon (Battlestar Galactica)
by [profile] da_angel729

The security detail guarding the scientists on P5R-093 sent in the SOS on day twenty seven of twenty-eight.

SG-1, on stand-down while they took their turn training new recruits, was called in for the mission, and entered the Stargate only five hours after the SOS arrived, with SG-7 along for back-up.

P5R-093 had excited the astronomers working at the SGC--and Jack, though he'd never admit it--because they'd be able to watch the process of a supernova exploding, though of course the scientists hoped to leave before the event actually happened.

Because the estimated distance engulfed the planet, and the SGC didn't really want to lose their scientists. Especially ones with field experience.

It was the hottest place Jack had been in a while, and he was glad they'd forgone the green BDU jackets as he started to sweat the moment he left the Stargate. The heat was oppressive, and the sun made the landscape look just slightly grayer than Earth's.

"Sit rep," he ordered Major Cassell, who was waiting at the DHD with Lieutenant Jameson.

"43 ships appeared in the air fourteen days ago, but made no attempt to contact us. They're harvesting the algae from the ocean, sir--I sent Sergeant Banile to do recon. She wasn't seen," he added quickly when Jack started to speak. "They're on guard, and very aware of their surroundings, but very busy with their work as well. It's a mixture of military and civilians, but there's a military guy in charge."

"Tech?"

"They've got some sort of transport shuttle that carries them to and from the ships, which are still in orbit. Pistols, semi-auto rifles and machines guns were all seen, and they look similar to our own and use standard projectiles. It looks like it could be a military camp on Earth, sir." Major Cassell had to stop and take a breath.

Jack was growing impatient--he'd read the mission reports and wanted the intel on why they'd called the SOS--but he recognized that Major Cassell needed to get his thoughts in order and Jack did need an updated, on-the-ground report.

"We've intercepted no communications, but then today--"

There was a flash of light, an explosion, and then the ground shuddered as a ship--at least, Jack assumed it was a ship--hit the ground about two clicks to the southwest, billowing smoke into the air. It was away from their base camp, and he looked at Major Cassell.

"Second part of my debrief," Major Cassell told him. "One ship showed up today, completely different technology. And apparently the two groups don't like each other. I'm assuming one of them is firing on the other."

"Jack," Daniel said. "Shouldn't we go see if whoever is in that ship is fine? We're closer than their operation."

Jack looked at Daniel, then at Major Cassell, who shrugged. "Might need our help."

He didn't really want to get involved--they didn't know who the bad guys were in this scenario, but the SGC group was closer than the other, and they could probably help the pilot of the ship, and any other passengers.

"Grab the first aid kit," he ordered Lieutenant Jameson, who immediately ran toward the largest tent the scientists had set up. "Evacuate the scientists, and then we'll go."

The scientists resisted, though Jack suspected it was only for form's sake, since they also evacuated rather quickly, taking down the tent and packing up equipment before sending it all through. Jack had already radioed Hammond and informed him of the rescue operation.

"Let's go. Teal'c, you're on point."

Jack situated himself in the spot he liked the best, in the middle of the group. Sergeant Banile was next to him, and he had Major Cassell covering their sixes. The group moved quickly through the sparse landscape, eyes constantly scanning the ridgelines above their heads. Jack didn't like the landscape; the sagebrush and small trees provided insufficient cover.

Teal'c held up a hand and Jack moved forward. "What's up, Teal'c?"

"We are nearly at our destination, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "The ship appears mostly intact though I am unsure how to gain entrance."

Up close, it looked like the pilot had managed some sort of hard landing, as the ship wasn't destroyed, only crushed slightly and tilted on the ground. Smoke was billowing from it, but there didn't appear to be any fire.

He caught a flash of blonde hair through the front window as he was scanning the ship for an entrance. "Carter, see if you can find a way into the ship. The pilot's still inside."

Carter quickly moved toward the side of the ship, and climbed up a short ramp. He followed quickly and watched as she ran her hands over the metal.

"There's a button here, sir," she said. "It seems to be intact."

"Go for it," he said. "If it opens, I'll go in first."

She nodded and pressed her hand to a round button on the side of the ship, and then had to quickly jump aside when it begin to open outwards.

"It opens like a DeLorean," Jack said, and Carter rolled her eyes, though with a small grin as she waved her hand toward the opening.

"After you, sir," she said, and he climbed up onto the step and peeked into the interior, P-90 held firmly in front of him.

He saw the gun immediately, as it was pointing at his face. "We're friendly," he said quickly as he saw the finger tighten on the trigger. "I'm Jack, and this is Carter. Here to help."

The pilot--the only person in the ship--was was in pain, he could see, and her hands--covered in thick white bandages--were shaking slightly, but despite the glaze of pain in them, her eyes were hard.

"You're not Cylons?"

"They the bad guys?"

She glanced at him, a confused look on her face, but she nodded and slowly lowered the pistol, so Jack lowered his P-90.

"You need help?"

She nodded again, though she didn't drop her weapon. "Broke my frakkin' ship. Got an engineer?"

"Carter," he said, and waved her inside. "See if you can help with the ship."

"Yes, sir," Carter said, and she moved forward to where the pilot was still sitting in her seat. "I'm Sam. What seems to be the problem?"

"Starbuck," the pilot offered. "And I think it's..."

Jack left them to it and stepped back onto the ramp, where Teal'c and Major Cassell were waiting, eyes scanning the surrounding area. "Her hands are hurt, and Carter's going to see if she can help with the broken ship because she can't do it herself. Hopefully someone'll come and get her. She said something about Cylons?"

Major Cassell shook his head. "Don't know. But there's some movement to the southwest."

He gave Teal'c a look, and Teal'c raised an eyebrow in return, again on the same wavelength. The military camp was that direction, and he hoped it was someone coming to find the pilot. "Set up a perimeter," he ordered.

One couldn't be too careful.

***

Dee hunkered down on the top of the ridge and scanned the valley floor with her binoculars, trying to find the best way down. She could see the black plume of smoke and the top of the Raptor, which meant she wasn't that far--maybe half a mile. And as yet, there was no sign of the Cylons.

She wasn't going to think about what she'd find. Hopefully Starbuck would be alive, and the ship wouldn't be too damaged. But if that was the case, why wasn't Starbuck answering her radio?

Sighing, she knew she couldn't put it off any longer. Dee stood up, holding her weapon in front of her, and started down the hill.

Within seconds, bullets pinged all around her, and Dee broke into a run, trying to make it to the bottom of the hill. Moving to fast, she tripped and went sprawling forward, the same time the sound of gunfire erupted from the direction she going.

What the frak? No one should be at the crash site. And if there was someone there, then why hadn't they answered her on the radio?

Dee crawled forward, until she was in an area with a bit more cover, and stood up after glancing carefully around. The firefight seemed to have stopped momentarily, so she ran toward the downed Raptor as fast as she could.

And crashed into what felt like a boulder only one hundred yards from the ship.

"Frak!" She fell backwards and landed painfully on her butt.

"I am sorry for causing you pain," a voice said from above her.

Dee looked up, squinting slightly. The man standing in front of her, looking down impassively, was huge, and he wasn't smiling. The sun glinted off the strange golden tattoo on his forehead, and he was dressed in green BDU pants with a black t-shirt and flak vest, carrying some sort of staff.

"What the hell?" A second voice interrupted her perusal of the man, and Dee looked over at the newcomer.

He was roughly the same height as the mountain she'd run into, but much slimmer, and his hair was gray.

"You're not Cylons," she said breathlessly, and stood up, noting that they both kept their hands on their weapons, though she'd lost hers somewhere in the mad dash down the hill. "You're human?"

"Last time I checked," the gray haired man said. "What are you doing here, and what the hell were those metal robots?"

Dee just stared at him, trying to catch her breath, her confusion growing. How could they not know who the Cylons were? And where had they come from?

"Cylons," she said. "I'm Dee. And I'm here for Starbuck."

She caught a hint of--relief?--in his eyes, and he nodded. "The ship's there," he said, pointing over his shoulder. "We've got things under control for now, but should we expect more of the robots?"

Dee wasn't sure. "Possibly. Their creators are looking for something they think we have."

"Great," the man muttered. "Teal'c, let's go back to the ship, regroup. And then head back to the gate."

Gate? Dee shook her head and followed them to the Raptor, which was sitting in the middle of a clearing, hatch open, with more of the people beside it.

"Starbuck?" She called out as she neared the ship.

"Dee?" The voice that answered was definitely Kara's, but it was laced with pain and drugs. "Who the frak sent you?"

"Lee," she said tightly. "You can thank him later."

Kara didn't say anything..

She ignored the questioning glances of the men--and two women--around her, and entered the Raptor, where a brunet with glasses was talking softly to Kara. Kara looked annoyed, and in pain, and her jaw was clenched, and her hands covered in thick white bandages..

"The ship's flyable," Kara said, breathing slowly. "But you'll have to do it. I can tell you how."

"Right," Dee said. "Let's get going, then. We've only got about an hour until the nova explodes, according to Gaeta." She turned to the man in glasses. "You should get your people together and leave."

Kara snorted, and laughed, a little hysterically. "They're not his people, Dee. Anyone could see the gray one's the leader."

Dee rolled her eyes, but she noticed the man in glasses nodding in agreement. "Starbuck, that doesn't matter now. What matters is getting off this frakking planet before the nova explodes or the Cylons get us!"

She walked out of the Raptor and rubbed a hand over her face. Gods, it was hot. And she had to get Starbuck lucid enough to instruct her to fly it.

"Long day?"

It was the gray haired man, leaning against the side of the Raptor. His brown eyes were inquisitive and she sighed.

"Yes. But we've got it now, and the Cylons appeared to have gone. You should get back to your ship or wherever. The nova's going to explode."

"Right. Are you sure you've got everything under control?"

Dee wanted to scream. She didn't know how far they had to go, but she did know the nova was already beginning to explode. "Yes. We're fine. I can fly it back to Galactica, since it's been fixed. Thank you for that," she added.

"No problem," he said, and jumped down. "We're heading out!"

More soldiers--they were all wearing the same outfit--joined the area in a loosely formed line and the man with the tattoo took point as they headed out. "Good luck," she offered, though she had no idea who they were or where they came from, and he nodded.

"You, too."

Dee took a deep breath and went back into the Raptor, closing the hatch and taking the empty pilot's seat. "All right, Starbuck, let's get the hell out of here."

***

They hit the gate just as the sky turned an ominous color, and Jack ordered everyone through, though he muttered, "hope you made it" before jumping into the event horizon himself.

And wondered how he could get his hands on the data about the supernova without the astronomers knowing.

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D is for Doppelganger (Chuck)
by [personal profile] aelfgyfu_mead

Colonel John Casey sat at the briefing table in Castle and waited for Chuck Bartowski to arrive. Casey liked Castle. They had the best equipment he'd ever seen in his career; most of the wall near him was taken up with computers and large monitors. Castle was clean and well-organized, with steel and bulletproof glass everywhere. Plus, well, Casey had always wanted to work in an underground lair. Not that he'd ever admit it, even on pain of death. Nor would he admit he had begun to enjoy the California weather.

Bartowski came through the secret door from Orange Orange, stumbled down the stairs in his haste to join Sarah Walker and Casey at the table, and Walker contacted General Beckman.

Casey was a little surprised when General Beckman said they had a new assignment particularly for him. He'd gotten used to playing second banana to Chuck Bartowski. He didn't like it, but it had been the story of his life for over two years now. It was bad enough after Chuck had downloaded the first Intersect. With that program in his brain, Chuck could just blink and photographically almost any information the US intelligence community held. But Bartowski couldn't defend himself, so he needed Casey then. Now, with the improved Intersect, Chuck... well, Chuck still needed Casey. He had karate skills, but sometimes they worked like a charm, and sometimes Chuck just stood there like an idiot. Bartowski's flamenco guitar skills hadn't failed since the new Intersect downloaded in his head, but that wasn't particularly useful in combat.

Maybe it wasn't a surprise the General wanted Casey to lead a mission again.

"We've recently learned of an operation that has been going on for years. I've never been briefed on it." Beckman's already-thin lips were pressed tightly together. She was really annoyed. Not many people in the intelligence community ranked higher than her. "I've been trying to get more information for months, but I was stopped every time I used official avenues. 'Need to know,' they told me." Casey had never heard the General say anything like that. He sat up straighter.

"I've had some operatives digging around, and what they've uncovered is extraordinary. In the mid- to late-90s, a program began that seems to have used huge amounts of money--over $7 billion annually a few years ago, if our information is correct, and probably well beyond that by now. We haven't been able to get an accurate count, but dozens of people are involved, possibly more."

Damn. They'd been confident they had wiped out much of the Ring; it should just be clean-up now. Sarah Walker and Chuck looked worse than he felt at the news. Walker scrunched her forehead and hitched her blond hair behind each ear nervously. If Walker's forehead was furrowed, Chuck's was corrugated.

Chuck was, of course, the one to tell the General, "But I thought we were pretty much done with them!"

The General shook her head grimly. "Our operatives suspect this is an arm of the Ring that was kept separate from the rest so that if we managed to take out part, this section could continue. It may even contain some of the leaders. We have reason to believe some people there are pretty high-ranking."

Bartowski looked horrified. "So it's like a horror movie monster. We think we've taken out the heart, and yet it still goes on! Or maybe the head. Or--"

Beckman's glare silenced him.

"Unfortunately," the General continued, "our operatives have not been able to get inside the US military base where these suspected Ring operatives work. Your mission is to infiltrate, determine whether this really is the Ring or some new organization, and hopefully bring it down."

A photo that Casey momentarily mistook for himself suddenly appeared on the screen.

"That's... Casey," said Chuck.

"No," grumbled Casey. It was obvious. This guy was a little younger, and just... didn't look right. Not tough enough.

"Colonel Casey is right, Agent Bartowski. The photograph shows Colonel Dave Dixon, U.S. Air Force," the General's voice continued while a couple more photos appeared. "He's a member of the SGC."

"SGC?" Chuck and Walker asked.

"No flashes on that, Chuck?" The photos went away and the General's face reappeared.

Casey already knew the answer: Chuck's eyes hadn't rolled up in his head as they would when the Intersect dumped information into his consciousness.

Chuck replied anyway: "No, General. Doesn't ring any bells."

"What if I call it 'Stargate Command'?"

Casey snorted. "Stargate Command? Sounds like a video game Bartowski would play." Still, he kept an eye on Chuck. Chuck's eyes didn't roll back, and he didn't blink fast. Nothing.

"Apparently it's very hush-hush," the General said, as if the fact that she didn't have access hadn't made that clear. "It took us a while just to get the name of the posting. Officially, Colonel Dixon is posted to NORAD in Colorado Springs."

Casey snorted again. Baby assignment.

"Since we have the remarkable good luck that Colonel Casey and Colonel Dixon are practically doppelgangers, we're going to be able to get a man on the inside," General Beckman continued. "Agents Bartowski and Walker, you will have roles to play, too. You will intercept Colonel Dixon on his way to work and question him while Colonel Casey uses his security pass and clothes to gain access to Cheyenne Mountain."

"Cheyenne Mountain," Chuck said, eyes rolling back. Now he had a flash. "Developed as a sheltered command-and-control center during the Cold War, becoming fully operational in April of 1966."

Casey tuned out and waited for the good stuff: the infiltration.

***

Colonel Dave Dixon kissed his wife and didn't stop until he was good and ready, despite their third son running into him and bouncing off at an angle while he finished saying goodbye. He wasn't scheduled to go off-world today, but SG-1 had a mission in the afternoon. All bets were off when SG-1 went to a new planet. There might be a rescue mission, or a lockdown, or some fresh hell he hadn't imagined yet. God knew when he might see his wife again. At last he stepped outside. The air was crisp but not quite cold. It was a beautiful day for a drive to the Mountain. He relaxed as he climbed into his truck, shut the door, and thus silenced the last remaining sounds of his tribe clustered at the door. He didn't know how his wife managed to get them to school every day on time. God, he loved Allison. Dave pumped some tunes and settled in to enjoy the ride.

Shortly after the road branched off for the base, where there wasn't much traffic, he saw a blonde looking forlornly under the hood of a sports car. Her skirt was too short and her blouse too thin to be outside a vehicle in the wind. She looked up and smiled as he came alongside. Dixon pulled off right in front of her car. It was clearly his duty to assist this woman. If she happened to be gorgeous, well, that was a nice bonus. He was married, but not blind. (Allison still had it over this woman anyway: the blonde was a bit too thin, and she looked, well, helpless.)

"Can I help you, Miss?" he asked as he approached.

She smiled tentatively at him. "I just have no idea what's wrong!" Her tone was apologetic. "It stalled, and I just can't seem to restart. I thought I'd look to see if any wires were loose, but. . . ."

"Well, I'm no expert, but I do know a few things about cars," he told her. "Dave," he added, holding out his hand.

"Julie," she said as she took it.

Then he felt a stinging at his neck. That was weird--it was way too cool for mosq--

Dark. And cold. And smelly. Dixon shivered and blinked; now the dark alternated with light.

"Wakes up worse than you," a gravelly voice said. "Damn it, I'm supposed to be there in less than twenty minutes!"

Dixon tried to keep his eyes closed to buy some time. He must be in enemy hands. What planet was he on? Wait. He hadn't had an off-world mission today. He hadn't even made it to the base!

"I think he's faking," the same voice said, now with a note of disgust. Something pinched the crook of his arm, and Dave started automatically, pulling away and opening his eyes, looking for the syringe.

A man wearing a ski mask snorted at him and pinched him again in the elbow, using his finger and thumb. "See?" he said, apparently not to Dixon.

Dave said nothing but stared at his tormentor. The brown eyes behind the silly hat looked unimpressed. He took a moment to study the rest of the room. It was small, windowless, and had cement-block walls. It seemed a little damp, like a basement. He was tied to a chair--so clich?d. Man, this would be embarrassing. He hoped his own team could rescue him. He could take the ribbing from them. He'd rather not have to put up with it from others.

A second figure in a ski mask had the pale skin and pretty eyes of the woman he'd stopped to help. She was now dressed in black coveralls that didn't hide a feminine figure. A third man, also dressed in black, stood behind the other two people.

"Let's get this party started," said the first man again, turning back to a table behind him.

"No, wait," said the woman from the car in a low voice. "We need to make sure he's fully recovered from the tranq first."

Well, that was weird. If he'd simply been captured by the enemy, it should be name, rank, and serial number. That they'd grabbed him, and the way they were dressed, meant they were enemy.

Then again, they already seemed to have dissension in their ranks. If he could gain information without giving any up.... General O'Neill had been pretty successful at that when he was still a colonel. And the situation would be less embarrassing if he could bring something out of it.

Dixon shook his head as if to clear it, but then he pretended he was still dazed. He squinted and let his head fall to the side a little. "I tried to be a good Samaritan, and I get held up by, what, Bonnie and Clyde and--sorry, what's your name?" he asked the man in back.

"Ch--" the man answered in surprise before the other two turned around and shushed him.

"He's alert enough to use the drugs," the first man said. The narrow eyes peering through him made it clear that he wasn't convincing this man. Sadly, the woman didn't look convinced either. He couldn't tell about the man in back.

"You know, you might as well take off the mask," Dave told her. "I've already seen your face. Besides, isn't it awfully hot in that thing?"

It wasn't the first tactic he'd learned at officer school for resisting interrogation, but it was the first they taught him at the SGC: delay, digress, divert. The enemy's gloating speeches, arguments with human captives, and demonstrations of power to shore up support among the Jaffa subordinates who might be surprised at humans talking back to Goa'uld had bought enough time for more than one SG team to be rescued.

The woman shook her head impatiently, but that meant at least she'd heard him.

"Look, you can tell us what we want to know without the drugs," she told him, "or we can just go with the drugs. You'll tell us in the end, but you might come out of it in rather different condition than you came in."

Okay, that was definitely strange. Why care about his condition at all? Why were they even covering his faces if they meant to kill him at the end? Were they NID?

The larger man, the one closer to him, stepped to the side to reveal what was on the table behind him. He opened a leather case containing vials and hypodermic needles. The man stroked the little glass bottles lovingly. Dixon felt really disturbed now.

"What do you want to know?" Dixon smiled pleasantly. He could keep them talking. He was pretty good at talking.

The man grunted unhappily and kept fondling the drugs.

"Are you with the Ring?" the woman asked.

Ring? Did they know about the Stargate? Was that the original translation Daniel Jackson had corrected when he joined the project? Ring of the heavens? Doorway to the heavens?

Dixon realized a moment later he must have shown something on his face. Damn! Divert.

"Only ring I got is the one my wife gave me the day we married." He bent his head to look at his hand, but of course he couldn't; his hands were tied behind him. It made a good show and allowed him to compose himself.

The first man snorted. "He knows something. Even you could see it in his face, right?" He half turned to the man behind him, but then he turned back without waiting for an answer.

"Let me try," the other man said. He has a higher, younger, more tentative voice. "Look, you're a colonel. You joined to serve your country, right?"

"That's right," Dave said, making eye contact with the brown eyes behind the mask. "It's my job to protect everyone. Even punks who kidnap officers who try to lend a hand."

The younger man winced a little. Had Dixon hit home, or was it just part of the good-cop, bad-cop routine?

"You know the Ring is a threat." The woman had taken over again. "You know you're undermining American security to get power for yourselves. If you really want to serve your country, you'll cooperate with us."

"With a bunch of thugs who kidnapped me off the road?" Dixon let contempt seep into his voice. "I don't think so." Did they really mean the Stargate project? If these people knew anything, they'd know it wasn't undermining the nation's security!

"Let's just use the drugs," the gravelly-voiced man said again.

Dave suddenly realized that the voice sounded oddly like his own. Maybe a little more nasal; maybe a little rougher. But it was strangely familiar.

That they were having this argument at all suggested they weren't sure that the drugs would get them good information--or that they didn't know if they might damage him. Dave really didn't want to find out. He must be overdue at the Mountain by now. Someone would call his house. His wife had a client to meet, and she'd probably have her phone off during the meeting. No one would tell the SGC that he'd left at the usual time. How long before they started a search?

The weird thing was that if they were NID, they should already have known about the Stargate; they shouldn't be calling it "the Ring." Not NID, then. Agents of some foreign power? Well, whatever they were, his duty was clear.

"I have drug allergies," Dave improvised. "Lots of them, actually. Penicillin. Oxycodone. Erythromycin. Nishta." Damn, why had he said that? Stick to earth drugs. "Ciprofloxacin." He wasn't really allergic to any of these, but he figured the more he could list, the more time he could buy. He continued listing the names of any drugs he could recall. "BioThrax. Menomune."

The younger man seemed to be having some sort of fit. It was pretty contained, but his eyes fluttered closed a few times, and his head jerked a little. Then he stopped.

"Guys?" the younger man asked, as if he had fits like that all the time. "Why is he listing antibiotics and vaccines?"

"They're the drugs I know I'm allergic to! Pay attention!" Dave snapped.

Both men jumped at that statement, oddly enough, and the woman snickered.

"Crap! Now I lost my place! What have I listed already? Penicillin, amoxycillin--"

"Delaying," the older man said accurately. He rolled up Dave's sleeve roughly.

"Wait, I'm not done!" Dixon frowned at the syringe with genuine conviction. "I have a sensitivity to ethanol, scopolamine, and most barbituates."

"How the heck would he know that?" the younger man asked in a high voice.

The older man actually snarled.

"I'm an officer of the US Air Force! Unfortunately, I did really badly at the interrogation part of SERE school. I had an allergic reaction when they tried barbituates--anaphylactic shock. Spent days in the infirmary and blew up like the little girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

The older man grabbed a syringe and a vial.

"Wait! I think we should wait! We don't want to put him in the hospital! Casey--" the younger man exclaimed. Hey--had he just just used his colleague's name? Who the hell were these clowns? Was the young guy really just good cop, or was he a total goofball? The signs seemed to be pointing at goofball.

Unfortunately, the gravelly-voiced man grabbed his arm and injected the contents of a syringe, although the woman had started forward to grab his arm.

"Well," Dave said into the silence that followed. "This should be interesting." He smiled, just to throw them off.

***

Casey could not believe how badly this interrogation was going. Chuck had actually said his name! Not that this Dixon should remember afterwards; Casey figured he'd injected him soon enough after that it would all be a haze.

Casey had wanted to inject their target from the get-go, but Chuck and Walker were too soft. They thought maybe he would cooperate if they appealed to 'his better nature'. If scum had better natures, they wouldn't be scum! He'd seen Dixon's surprise when they named the Ring; the man must be working for them. He'd thought Chuck and Walker were ready to back him by the time Dixon came around, but apparently he was wrong.

Damn it, though--this was costing them time. He hoped that Dixon's four kids would be excuse enough for being late. Cheyenne Mountain was a cushy posting. He'd say the oldest kid had thrown up on him in the truck, forcing him to go back home to drop the sick kid with the wife, change, and clean the truck. Too much time, though, and they'd start to question it. He needed to be able to go around the base freely, especially Dixon's own office and locker, and see what he could find.

It was better if he didn't have to go in blind. He'd already looked through Dixon's wallet, and of course there was nothing helpful there. It did help if people didn't notice you couldn't find your own office, or that you didn't know the codes to get into secure areas.

He didn't like the way Dixon kept grinning at them while the drug took effect. It wasn't one of the ones Dixon had listed--not that Casey believed him about the drug allergies anyway--but it did seem to show confidence.

"Let's start with something simple," Walker began in a soothing voice. They'd agreed she was best to lead the interrogation. Beckman said that early testing showed that subjects under 3AD were easy to persuade to trust someone, and Walker was no doubt the easiest of them to trust.

"What's your name?"

"David Dixon."

"And where do you live, Dave?"

"Colorado Springs."

She took him through a few more easy questions about where he lived, and then where he worked, and then: "And what do you do at work?"

"I'm attached to NORAD."

"What do you do for NORAD?"

"I work on deep space..." There was a hesitation there. "Deep space radar telemetry." A slight snort.

Walker had picked up on it. His cover was cracking already. He wanted to tell them the truth! "And is that exciting, Dave?"

Dave laughed. "More exciting than you can ever know."

Walker giggled a little in response. "Really? You can tell me. I won't tell anyone!" Oh, she was flirting now.

Dave snickered again. Wasn't this man married? "Nah. I--I can't really explain."

Casey snorted to himself. Walker seemed to have this effect on a lot of people. He couldn't see it himself.

"Okay. Then how about where you work? Where's your office?"

"Cheyenne Mountain."

"Where in Cheyenne Mountain? It's a pretty big base." Walker still sounded flirty.

"Level 18."

Walker glanced at Casey. He nodded. This was gold: their plans of Cheyenne Mountain didn't even show a Level 18.

They extracted the exact location of Dixon's office and the route to it from the elevator so that Casey wouldn't look suspicious. They learned that swiping Dixon's ID would get him through most things, but they'd need a palm print, too. Fortunately, Casey had brought latex to make fake fingerprints in case they needed them, and he had enough to do a palm. They learned the name of Dixon's superior, a General Jack O'Neill. They couldn't get Dixon's computer password yet; he didn't trust them quite enough for that.

Still, they had all Casey needed to get started. Walker could phone him with the rest. He left Walker and Bartowski in the basement with Dixon, sprinted up the stairs, and unzipped the coveralls he wore over his fatigues. He already looked like Dixon; now he could take his place easily enough.

A short drive later in Dixon's truck, sprayed with ammonia to help his alibi, and Casey was on base. He got through the security checks, muttering excuses about sick kids that he should probably be keeping for this O'Neill character. He changed elevators at Level 11, and the ID card worked just fine, then the fake palm print. He slipped it carefully back into plastic and then into his pocket, in case he needed it later. In the meantime, no one would notice anything odd about his hand.

Casey was a little surprised to find that his office door wasn't closed, let alone locked. The lights were on, and someone was inside!

"Colonel!" A red-haired man jumped up as Casey walked in, but he didn't salute. "Everything okay? It's not like you to be late." He looked like a geek, but he was in fatigues.

"Robbie got sick--had to clean him, and the truck, and myself." Casey made a face.

The other man frowned sympathetically. "Yuck. But I suppose you're used to it, right? Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about P3X-227. The MALP data only show old-growth forest, but the UAV shows a surprising degree of regularity in the trees a few miles west of the Gate."

Soon the man was talking so fast you'd think he had to go pee or something. Worse, Casey had no idea what he was talking about.

After a bit, the redhead came to something that sounded like English, at least: "Dr. Jackson took a look, and I should tell you, sir, that he doesn't think my theory all that likely. Still, he did say it was possible that the area was a planned orchard that had become overgrown later. The most exciting part is that we have some rocky areas where we can't get good images or data!"

It was a damned good thing that this man didn't seem to expect any feedback, because Casey sure as hell had no idea what to say to him. It was good not to have usable images or data?

"The fact that we can't get good images could mean that the UAV was just getting some magnetic interference from the minerals, but it could mean that someone went to the trouble to hide something! We could--we could be talking about another Petra! Think of it, Colonel! Imagine if we could find even the remains of a civilization like that!"

Casey would like to lock this man in a room with Chuck for a week and let them talk to each other. Which one would emerge alive? Or would they both still be going at it seven days later?

The other man grinned. "I can see I've got your attention, sir!"

Casey frowned, not sure if he should deny it or agree.

The geek looked at him funny, then grinned again. "Is this a bet?"

Casey frowned. "Is what a bet?"

The geek fumbled. "To, uh... see how long I can talk if nobody stops me?"

Casey frowned at him. He had no idea how to respond. Dixon seemed like a bit of a smart mouth, but what would he say?

The other man's eyebrows rose and the grin vanished. "This is for real? You're really interested?"

"Uh, yeah." That seemed the safest response.

"Really? Wow, that's great! So you'll support my proposal to add P3X-227 to the mission schedule?"

What the hell was the man talking about? More importantly, how could Casey get him out of the office?

The answer to the second was obvious: "Sure. I'll approve your proposal."

"You--you will?" The man's eyes grew wide and a new smile burst over his face. Oh, God: if he started thanking Casey, he might never leave!

"Write it up, get me a proper memo on it, and I'll sign off on it."

"I will, sir! Thank you, sir!"

continued here / back

E is for Earth that Was (Firefly)
by [personal profile] lokei

"What the blue blazes is that?"

Zoe shouldered past the comically staring Jayne to get to Mal. "Captain, I thought this planet was supposed to be entirely uninhabited."

"It is!" Mal threw up his hands.

"So, to be clear, sir, we have no idea why there are obvious signs of civilization on what is supposed to be an empty planet."

"It's at least reassuring to know that your sources are as accurate and forthcoming as usual, Captain," Simon's voice floated over Mal's shoulder as the doctor came up from Serenity behind them. Mal rolled his eyes.

"Well, I think it's kinda purty, in a lonesome way, that big ole ring standin' guard," Kaylee piped in from Mal's other elbow.

"Not quite as lonesome as I'd like," Mal muttered. "Zoe, whyn't you take Jayne and have a nice thorough looksee down through those ruins. I ain't aimin' for any more surprises this trip. We're here to give Kaylee'n'Wash the time they need to do their thing. If we gotta get off this rock in a hurry, I'd rather know that before Serenity's engines are all in little bitty pieces."

"That mean we've got a little time to go exploring, Cap'n?" Kaylee's face lit up, and she bounced a little as he turned towards her. Mal glanced at Zoe, who shrugged eloquently.

"You don't go alone," the captain decided, "and you stay in eyesight from the ship. Go play with your gate to nowhere if you like, but stay away from the ruins 'til Zoe'n'Jayne've done their thing."

His girl genius agreed and Mal watched in badly hidden amusement as she dragged the doctor back towards the open cargo bay door, presumably to scoop up River and Book for her little picnic.

"I take it we're not in a hurry, sir?" Zoe's patient voice did a much better job of hiding her own amusement than her face did.

Mal shaded his eyes and scanned the area, still and peaceful except for where Jayne was already poking the business end of his gun around corners and into piles of rubble.

"Be a few days yet 'til Inara's expecting us," he mimicked her shrug from earlier. "Place givin' you the itch, Zoe?"

"Not exactly, sir. But something doesn't sit right."

"I'm listenin.'"

"We're a little out of the way, but the nearest settlement's not that far. All the planets we've seen, some of 'em have been a lot worse than this one seems to be, and they still had people. Doesn't seem right this place being empty."

"Well, for our purposes, empty's a sight better than crowded," Mal nodded significantly towards the party crossing the field towards the giant stone ring, River skipping in the lead in a rare example of good behavior. "And we could all use a rest, so let's just hope it stays that way."

"Yes, sir." Zoe strode off to catch up with Jayne and Mal shook his head, turning to head back to the ship. He glanced over at the giant standing ring again and impulsively adjusted course to check in on Kaylee and her parade.

When he arrived, the shepherd and the doc were standing at some distance from the ring, pointing and frowning and generally making well-educated noises that Mal didn't really care to hear right now. He'd hear them all soon enough without going looking for them.

"River, sweetie, whatcha doin'?" Kaylee's voice carried no concern, but Mal noticed Simon's head whip around and shoulders tense regardless.

"River?" Simon repeated her name when she appeared to be ignoring them, putting her hands against the stone and then leaning her head on it, eyes closed.

"Shhh," River smiled. "Can't hear them if you yell. Their voices are tired."

"Hear who?" Mal knew he'd probably regret it, but he had to ask.

"Big damn heroes," River stroked the stone, and Simon blushed.

"She's-ah-been a little-since, you know, the fire," the doctor stuttered. Mal raised his eyebrows to keep himself from chuckling.

"Trapped," River's voice went up a few pitches. "Stuck. So long in the dark!" Simon caught her as she stumbled back, arms flailing.

"Easy, River. Nobody's trapped here. It's a wide open field. You're safe."

The expression she turned on her brother was one of withering scorn. "Not me. The team in the gate. We have to open it. Let them out."

As one, they all turned to look at the gaping hole and the strange low podium beyond. No one said 'Open what?' or 'How?' but Mal could bet there wasn't a one of them not thinking it.

Book stepped closer to Mal, his voice low. "Is there the slightest possibility that there could actually be people trapped in that ring?"

"Way I reckon it, questions about souls are more your line o'work than mine, Shepherd," Mal got right up to the ring and pulled himself up and through it and down the ramp on the other side. "Can't say as I see what point there is puttin' a doorway into nothin,' but odd as that child is, she does seem to have a way of seein' what we can't." He strolled over to the podium to take a closer look. He poked at one of the strange carved symbols and jumped a little when it lit up and the stone ring started to tremble.

"Kaylee?"

"Cap'n?" His engineer and all the rest came piling around the side of the ring to cluster around the pedestal.

"You got any idea what just happened here?"

Her eyes were wide and she shook her head. "Never seen such a thing, Cap'n. What did you do?"

"What did I--? It was the--it didn't look like a button!"

Simon's lips were twitching, and so were Book's. "Because the way the symbols on the platform and the symbols on the ring match is clearly a coincidence," the doctor muttered, none too subtly.

Fortunately for Simon, Zoe and Jayne chose that moment to reappear.

"All's clear down in ghostie town," Jayne shouldered his gun. "What's with the lights and the buttons?" He reached out and pushed on the red central dome before anyone could stop him.

There was a strange grinding, clunking sound that was not unlike the sound of Serenity engaging her landing gear. Then suddenly the inner ring started to spin, and the lights flashed, and there was a gigantic splash that somehow came from nowhere and settled into what looked like a pool of water, but clearly couldn't be.

"What the?"

"Don't finish that thought, Jayne," Zoe snapped. "'Cause none of us know the answer."

"I do," River smiled and twisted a little in a sort of aborted dance move. "See?"

She gestured, and at that moment, four figures walked out of the glowing pool and down the ramp towards them. Mal blinked. And blinked again. He felt Zoe go to combat readiness beside him, which was comforting, but for himself, he only let his hand drift down to rest on the hilt of his gun, and otherwise kept loose. The four in front of him were clearly heavily armed, but they didn't look like Alliance types. Uniforms were all wrong, and the weapons weren't Alliance issue--not to mention the fact that none of the folks in front of them were carrying their weapons in an offensive position. In fact, that one in the glasses looked like he was trying to be friendly, if a little confused.

The four newcomers glanced at each other, a rapid exchange of head bobs and eyebrows and pursed lips that told Mal he was dealing with a group of folks who knew each other very well, folks who were used to ending up in unfamiliar situations and relying only on each other to get themselves out of trouble. The one in the glasses and the older man in the cap held each other's gazes longest, while the tall dark one and the blonde woman kept careful watch on Mal's own crew. The man in the cap nodded, and the one in the glasses flashed a short smile and a shrug that Mal didn't have time to decipher before the man started speaking.

"Hello, I'm Daniel Jackson. This is Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, and Teal'c. We're from the Tau'ri. We were expecting to be meeting with Abiz, the town regent. Our friend Jacob sent us a message that he was expecting us?"

Jayne muttered something uncomplimentary in Chinese and Zoe elbowed him. Mal saw the curiosity click on in this Daniel Jackson's face and stepped around the pedestal to offer him his hand, which the other man shook briefly before stepping back towards his team. Clearly a man who knew exactly where his cover was. Mal's own curiosity went up several notches.

"Not sure who you're expectin,' but doubt it was us. Just passin' through ourselves. Name's Reynolds, this is my crew. And we seem to be the only folks on this rock."

"Sir?" the blonde woman--Carter, was it?--had some kind of instrument in hand and was looking distressed. "He's right--none of the atmospheric indicators that Dad was talking about are present. Could we have ended up in the wrong place?"

"Daniel?" The colonel drummed his fingers on the gun slung across his chest. Jackson frowned.

"Jack, when was the last time I dialed the wrong address?"

"Never, Daniel Jackson," the big, silent guy spoke before the colonel could answer. "It is evident that there has been, however, some accident."

"Reynolds, right?" The colonel turned his attention to Mal after assessing his crew. "You said you were just passing through? You come through the gate?"

"What, this thing here? No." Mal crossed his arms. "Came by ship."

"Where from?"

"Persephone, few other places along the way."

The colonel raised his eyebrows. "If you'd excuse us for a moment?" The team withdrew several paces and started conversing in rapid low tones which Mal probably couldn't have understood even if he'd caught all the words, given that the ones he did weren't making much sense. When they came back, all four of them were looking decidedly tense. Mal didn't think that was much of an improvement.

"Captain, you got any idea what we're in for with these folks?" Zoe's question didn't get an answer as the colonel spoke again.

"We need to take a look around. That going to be a problem for you?"

"Long as you mean no harm to me and mine, I don't see why it should. Where'd you folks say you were from again?"
"Planet called Earth," O'Neill said casually. Behind Mal, his whole crew reeled back with gasps of shock and whispered curses.

"Is there something wrong?" Jackson asked, stepping forward and then pausing as they all stepped back again.

"Thinkin' you're further from home than you thought," Mal said with a dry mouth.

"You've heard of Earth?" Carter asked.

"Ain't a one of us don't know the stories of Earth That Was," Kaylee burst out.

"Earth that Was?" Jackson parroted. "Jack--"

"Daniel."

"I'm gonna--"

"Take Teal'c."

"Sir--"

"Go right ahead, Carter."

Mal watched, stupefied, as the woman headed straight for the pedestal, making polite shooing motions and dropping to the ground to pull at its underside. Meanwhile, Jackson and Teal'c were headed at a fast clip for the ruins at the edge of the meadow.

"Colonel?"

"Jack is fine," O'Neill said.

"Mal."

"Came here by ship, huh?"

"Serenity." Mal gestured to where his crew was gaping at Carter on the ground. "Zoe, my second in command, one on the ground's Kaylee, ship's engineer, Doctor Tam and his sister, Shepherd Book, Jayne. Ship's down the way."

Jack nodded. "Earth that was?" he said quietly.

"Got a member of my crew thinks you all been stuck in the--"

"Stargate."

"Stargate--for a real long time. Folks been out here in the colonies a long time. Big central city planets, little scrappy terraformed bits of light shining in the black."
Jack nodded, his face tight. "And how did you get us out of the gate?"

"Dunno. Hit a button or two, and there you were. Never seen anything like it."

Jack's fingers tightened on his gun. "Okay. Guess it's up to Carter and Daniel, then."

Mal frowned. "You really think you can fix this? Nothin' left to go back to."

Jack gave a thin-lipped smile. "We've gotten out of worse spots before. I'm hanging my hopes on a solar flare."

Mal looked back at the doctor, who mouthed "bu-tai zheng-chang de" at him quietly. Mal had to agree. 'Not entirely sane' seemed like a fitting description for this whole team of strangers. On the other hand, sane wouldn't likely get them out of this mess, so maybe they were better off crazy. And somehow, looking at the determination on the face of the woman at the pedestal, the confidence in O'Neill's stance, and the spring in Jackson's step as he dashed back across the field, Mal felt sure it was a good kind of crazy.

"Jack!" Daniel's voice rang out triumphantly. "Remember the temple with the time loops?"

Mal just shook his head. And he thought dealing with River was bad.

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F is for Flying Therapy (Lois and Clark)
by [personal profile] una_spectre

Daniel staggered into his apartment relieved that the day was over and he could brood in peace without any of his team hanging over him. They'd spent the last three days traipsing across a planet that they were told was under the rule of Ammonet only to discover the Goa'uld hadn't gone anywhere near the place in almost six hundred years.

Completely deflated Daniel had managed to keep himself together to get back to the base and give his report. Now he'd escaped he could let go and feel the disappointment.

"You look like you've had a rough day."

Daniel jerked round in surprise and smiled at the man standing on the balcony, "No suit?"

Clark rolled his eyes, "Every time I wear it around you I have to wait ten minutes for you to stop laughing."

Daniel shrugged, "I still say Aunt Martha's punishing you."

"So," Clark said stepping into the room, "Just how bad was your day?"

Daniel sighed leaning back on the couch, "I thought I might have found her but it was just another dead end."

"I'm sorry, Daniel," Clark said sitting at his side, "I wish I could do something."

Daniel smiled at him quickly before frowning in confusion, "Why are you here?"

"I'm going home for dinner," Clark explained, "I thought I'd see if you were here and you could come too."

"I..."

"Mom will make me come back and get you," Clark reminded him, "So make life easier for both of us and just come."

Daniel let out a long groan; he'd wanted to spend the evening alone to wallow in his misery but he knew his family wasn't going to let him so he nodded.

"Let me get changed," Daniel pulled himself off the couch leaving Clark sitting.

***

Daniel pulled on his warmest sweater then added his jacket wrapping a scarf around his neck. Once he was ready Daniel rejoined Clark, they headed out to the balcony where Clark wrapped an arm around Daniel's waist making sure he had a good grip before lifting them off the ground. As Clark took them above the clouds Daniel closed his eyes.

It was the feeling of freedom that he loved whenever he flew with Clark, he especially loved the moment were Clark let him go. For a few moments he would fall, completely free from all his worries -- it was something they never told Aunt Martha and Uncle Jonathan about though.

"Ready?" Clark asked when they were over a large lake.

Daniel nodded closing his eyes and stretching out his arms, Clark released his grip and Daniel fell for a few seconds before his cousin caught him again.

They did this three times, the final drop Daniel let out a cry releasing all the rage, anger and disappointment he felt at the moment. This time when Clark caught him Daniel had tears sliding along his cheeks. They landed in a field so Daniel could focus himself before they headed to the house.

"Sorry," Daniel whispered wiping his face, "I just miss her and I feel like I'm letting her down because I can't work out where she is. And I'm coming to have dinner with my family while she's trapped by this thing inside her that's taken her from everything she loves."

"Daniel," Clark said softly, "You're amazing. I would never be able to hold together the way you have, I know this and I may not know Sha're yet but I'll bet she knows you're doing everything you can to find her."

"You wouldn't have lost her," Daniel replied, "You're fast enough. You could have grabbed her and flown out of there..."

"I can't get Lois to listen to me," Clark cut him off; "She still thinks Luthor's a nice guy and I can't get her to see me as anything other than a friend. I'm pretty pathetic myself, Daniel."

Daniel started to laugh, a little hysterically but it was laughter all the same and Clark lifted them off the ground again so they could get to the house for dinner. As they set down on the front porch Daniel turned to the other man.

"Thanks, Clark," he gave a slight smile, "I needed that."

Clark clapped him on the back, "Anytime."

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G is for Gilmore Girls
Flight of the Brochures
by [profile] annerbhp

Emily Gilmore is in Washington DC for a Daughters of the American Revolution national summit meeting because she's seen what they laughably call their brochures (as if an organization--an institution--like the Daughters of the American Revolution need advertise themselves like a road kill lawyer looking for idiots to represent). Clearly the leadership needs to be reminded just what is expected of the women who are the backbone of this nation.

Brochures, for goodness' sake! They might as well hang some crepe paper, wear party hats, and call themselves a bridge club.

Striding down the sidewalk towards Constitution Hall, Emily Gilmore prides herself on not having to slow her step as people jump out of her way. Clearly this is a city that understands importance when it sees it.

Only then she's bumped from behind, almost stumbling into oncoming traffic--is she to be flattened by a Washington motorcade, of all things?

"Well, I never--," she starts to bluster even as her life flashes before her eyes (Richard pinning her sweater, his fingers warm and the tiniest bit sweaty as they fumble with the fabric--Lorelai with cake in her hair and the devil in her eyes--Rory in her school girl blues, face lit with passion and curiosity).

Strong arms catch her, pull her into safety and Emily spins about to give her would-be murderer a piece of her mind, only to keep looking up, up, up, up...

The culprit is perhaps the largest black man she has ever set eyes upon. Surely it isn't decent for a man to have shoulders quite that wide. She's getting a crick in her neck trying to take him all in at once.

"I apologize most sincerely," the man says, a low, cultured voice that seems to force calm down her spine despite her best intentions of being annoyed. There is the slight smoky edge of an accent, and she lets herself imagine that he is some African diplomat. She's almost been thrown into traffic by the distant son of an exiled Christian prince, like something out of those emails she gets sometimes from Nigeria that Lorelai is always replying to with nonsense and offers to sleep in their spare bedroom.

"It's quite all right," she finds herself saying even though it is clearly not all right.

"Are you injured?" he asks, and it is only then she realizes he has one enormous arm braced across her back, her body tucked indecently close to his.

She's finding it a bit hard to breathe, truth be told.

Emily shakes her head. Clearly her near-death experience has muddled her mind. Brochures! she reminds herself.

She slaps away his hand, straightening her suit. It will be wrinkled beyond redemption. "Of course I'm injured! You nearly tossed me headfirst into a Cadillac, for God's sake." She at least deserves to die by Maserati, something nice and foreign. She has standards, after all.

He takes a step away, but remains a giant bulwark between her and the rest of the bustling crowds on the sidewalk. He's a bit like a mountain, standing there over her. "I regret that I was moving too quickly to adequately gauge my surroundings," he says.

He looks a little confounded, now that she thinks on it. Like he isn't used to all the foreigners. She's annoyed to feel her anger waning again. He's a very long way from Nigeria.

"Do you require medical attention?" he asks.

"No, no," she says, waving him away. It's just a simple headache, after all. One that would no doubt improve quickly if not for the screeching noise currently issuing from a bench a few feet away.

She glares at the hooligan and his ratty violin as he absolutely murders Mozart. "Really," she huffs. In this, their nation's capital? It is almost too much to be born.

Her companion follows her gaze, inclining his head as if agreeing with her pronouncement. "I too prefer Beethoven to Mozart," he intones.

"You do?" she blurts. (And Emily Gilmore never blurts. It's undignified. Maybe she is dying after all.)

"Do you not?" he rejoinders, one eyebrow climbing calmly upwards as if only a total fool would disagree.

Emily Gilmore is no fool.

She sniffs delicately, pulling at her cuffs. Slipping her arm into the crook of the man's elbow, she says, "You will walk me to the Hall. It's the least you can do." She may still faint, after all. Or become disoriented.

He inclines his head with just the proper amount of gravity due the situation. "It would be my honor."

A perfect gentleman, she thinks.

"So, tell me," she says, eying the way the people on the sidewalk automatically make room for them as they approach. "Do you have brochures in Nigeria?"

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H is for Howl (Howl's Moving Castle)
U is for Unexpected Visitors
by [personal profile] pepper

Sophie was just about to set a kettle on to boil when Calcifer roared up from the fireplace, yelling, "Sophie! Sophie! Someone's coming!"

"Oh, bother," said Sophie, crossly. "Keep your hair on." She'd only just managed to keep out of Calcifer's way, and even then, he'd managed to singe the edge of her skirt. She eyed the front door, which was rattling in an impossible wind. If Calcifer was worried, then she needed to be, too. "What kind of someo--" was as far as she got before the door blew open, and four figures blasted into the room, tumbling to the floor like thrown ragdolls.

"Calcifer! Where did they come from?" she demanded, backing towards the nook beside the fireplace, holding on tightly to the kettle. With all the wards that Howl and Calcifer had put on the door, no one ought to be able to come through it. And if they were that powerful, the spells that Howl had been teaching her would be better than a kettle -- even her good iron one. Still, it was reassuringly heavy.

"I don't know! It felt like that wet place Howl goes to, but different," he hissed, leaning out of the fireplace to get a better view. Sophie edged sideways to look through the door, but all she could see was a wall of grey mist.

Howl's home.

The people on the floor were dressed in identical green -- like a uniform, only scruffier. One was from the Sultanates and held a wizard's staff, and one was a woman. The oldest, a grey-haired man, groaned. "Carter, what the hell...?" he said, in a strange accent. It didn't sound like Howl or any of Howl's family who lived through the mist. The man opened his eyes, and immediately saw Sophie. He sat up quickly. "Uh, hey. Hi."

"Hello," said Sophie. It was as good a place to start as any, she supposed. Calcifer had dropped back down and was pretending to be a real fire, as he always did when there were strangers around.

The man poked the nearest body, a younger man with brown hair. "Ah, ow, that was--"

"We've got company," said the grey-haired man, tersely.

The wizard sat up, and stirred the woman with the end of his staff. She opened her eyes and was on her feet in a moment, hands going to the strange, black object slung around her neck. She was tall, blonde, very pretty, and sharp-eyed. She looked around the room, and frowned. "Sir, I don't think this is PY8 93J."

"No kidding," grumbled the grey-haired man, sticking his hand out for someone to help him up. The wizard obliged. "Planets don't usually look like a mediaeval living room, in my experience. Daniel, you wanna do the whole 'peaceful travellers' thing...?"

Daniel -- the brown-haired man -- stepped forward, holding out his hands. Sophie took a firmer grip on the kettle. "Um, hi, hello, my name is Daniel Jackson, do you speak English?"

Sophie frowned at him. "I don't know," she said, cautiously. "What's English?"

"Um... never mind," said Daniel.

"How did you get in?"

Daniel followed her gaze to the door behind them. "Well, we came through the Stargate..." he began -- and then stopped, blinking at the open door. "Um. Which should be... right there. What's..." He wandered closer, putting his hand out towards the mist. It would feel, as Sophie knew, exactly like nothing. "Huh."

The woman walked over to join him. "Sir, I don't know what this is," she said, looking back at the grey-haired man, "but it's not the wormhole. Not the usual one, anyhow."

"Okay, no one walk through it," ordered the grey-haired man.

Sam pushed Daniel back and closed the door, stepping back to look at the walls on either side and above the frame, as if expecting to find something. Then she opened the door again. "What the--?"

She must have turned the doorknob so that the purple mark was at the bottom, Sophie noted, as she peered past them and saw the vast flower meadow that had once been a Wasteland. The castle drifted along a few feet above the ground, as usual, and Sophie could see the soft white and pink marsh flowers as the castle brushed gently through them, their strong perfume already creeping into the room.

The woman quickly closed the door, looked at the back of it, and then opened it again. This time she'd turned it yellow side down, and Sophie could see the familiar street of her home in Market Chipping.

"How..." Daniel pushed past the woman to lean out of the door and look back at the house. "It's just a house. How did--"

The woman was already examining the door.

"Later," said the gray-haired man, to Sophie's relief. "Priorities, okay?"

"Yes, sir," sighed the woman, obviously itching to work out the puzzle.

They seemed reasonably friendly, at least, despite their nosiness. Sophie turned to the wizard, who stood staring down at Calcifer. Sophie wondered if he was able to see the sharp features and glowing-coal eyes of the fire demon. "Sir wizard," said Sophie, bowing her head, "would you and your companions like to sit for a while and have a cup of tea? I have a feeling this is going to take some time to sort out."

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I is for Intersection Leaps (Quantum Leap)
by [personal profile] smg01

He blinked and began a swift inventory of his situation and surroundings: green military fatigues and boots, his hands shackled in front of him. A healing cut on one palm itched.

He was seated on a bench in the back of some sort of van. Looking around, he saw three men in similar attire. Across from him, a youngish man with shaggy brown hair was looking earnestly at an older man with graying hair who wore a cross expression. He looked to his right to see a formidably large black man with a gold emblem that appeared to be imbedded in his forehead.

The large man suddenly started and stared intently at the person to his left. His expression hardened. "Who are you?" he demanded.

Taken aback, Sam Beckett stared back. "Oh boy," he said under his breath.

***

Bewildered, she looked around the small, featureless chamber in which she unexpectedly found herself.

"Hey!" she shouted as she turned, looking for the exit.

She jumped as she caught a bit of a reflection of herself in the metal along the door frame. Puzzled, she walked closer and peered intently at herself. Why was she was wearing these white, loose-fitting clothes that that looked so much like scrubs? And why did she look like a man?

The door opened and a man of indeterminate age bounded into the room, nearly colliding with her. He was dressed casually in khaki pants and a bright blue jersey. He carried a colorful handheld computer in his left hand. He raised his right hand in a placating manner.

"What the hell is going on?" she demanded. "Where's my team?"

"You're perfectly safe," he said in a reassuring voice.

She was not placated. "Who are you? Where's my team?" She asked again.

"My name is Al Calavicci. I'm part of Project Quantum Leap. We'll get you back where you belong as soon as we can, but we need some information from you in order to do that. Could I get your name?"

"Captain Samantha Carter, U.S. Air Force. That's as much as I'll say."

Al lowered the computer that he had held poised for action. He gave Sam an appraising look. She would require convincing before she would be willing to cooperate, but at least she was not too terrified to interact with him.

"Captain Carter, I'm Admiral Al Calavicci." He placed a slight emphasis on admiral. His voice and stance became subtly more authoritative. He pulled his ID from a pocket and handed to Sam to examine. He was pleased to see that the rank had gotten her attention. "My partner, Dr. Sam Beckett, is the creator of Project Quantum Leap."

"Sam Beckett?" Sam repeated, her interest piqued.

Al's expression sharpened. "You know him?"

"I've never met him, but I've read his work. He's brilliant. I wanted to recruit him for my own work, but he fell completely off the grid a few years ago and we couldn't make contact."

As Al tried to decide how to respond to that, the computer in his hand beeped softly and lit up. He glanced down to read the information. He chuckled softly. "Speaking of falling off the grid, we can't find any record for you after 1996. You--oh!... this is strange. You also appear in the historical record as having been arrested as a suspected spy in 1969. Which is quite an accomplishment, considering that you had only been born the year before."

"1969. We really did travel back thirty years," Sam said to herself.

"You're taking that news remarkably in stride." Al gave her another appraising look.

"I'm not taking in stride being yanked away from from team, and," she looked again at her reflection, "apparently yanked out of my body too."

"It's a perception filter. You're still you," Al said absently as he looked again at his miniature computer. He hit it impatiently a couple of times, evidently hoping to jar more information from it.

In spite of the situation, Sam smiled at the sight. It reminded her of Colonel O'Neill and she found that oddly reassuring.

Al looked at Sam again with a renewed focus. He considered for a moment. "What do say we put our cards on the table? Your work is classified?"

Sam hesitated. The reference to Dr. Beckett intrigued her. The Admiral appeared to be a bit unorthodox, but she had become accustomed to officers who took a creative approach things. She would need more information to solve her situation. She decided to take a chance.

"Very classified. Yours?"

"Yes," Al nodded.

"What are you working on?" Sam and Al asked each other simultaneously.

"Time travel," Al answered.

"Wormhole travel," Sam said at the same time.

"Time travel?" Sam repeated.

"Wormholes?" Al asked simultaneously.

Each stared at the other incredulously.

"Is your project why my team and I were thrown back in time?" Sam asked tersely.

"Absolutely not." Al looked at his computer. "But your jump in time is probably what brought us together."

"I don't understand."

"I'll summarize as succinctly as I can. Sam had a theory about time travel within individual lifetimes. He built this facility to turn the theory into reality. After the government started demanding result,. Sam was determined to prove his theories before he lost funding. He stepped into this accelerator and activated it before it was really ready. That's when things went a little caca. He moved in time, but he did it by leaping into the life of another person. To the people around him, he still looked like the person he replaced. Meanwhile, the person that he leaped into replaced Sam here in the accelerator. Ziggy--that's the name of the artificial intelligence that Sam created--worked out that Sam needed to put something right that had gone wrong in that person's history and that once it was put right, Sam would leap out again."

"Really? Did that work?" Sam made little attempt to disguise her skepticism.

"Yes, he leaped out when that situation was fixed. But he leaped into a new person's life. Ever since then, he's been leaping from life to life to put right what had gone wrong. Whether it's God, or fate, or some other force of the universe at work, we don't really know, but we've never been able to bring him home." Al sighed. "I can appear to him as a hologram. He's the only who can see me. That keeps us linked. For each new leap, Ziggy uses the information we gather to calculate the odds of what he's there to change and then we figure out how to do it. What we need to do now is figure out what needs to be changed so that you can go back and Sam can move on."

"Sam considered for a moment. "I always believed that one of the rules of time travel would be not changing history. But if what you say is true, maybe your mission is to return my team to 1999," she said thoughtfully.

"Ziggy can determine the odds. Do you want to meet her?"

"The artificial intelligence?"

"Yes."

"I'd very much like to meet her," Sam said eagerly.

"Come on," Al gestured and led the way out of the chamber. He paused outside the entrance to pick up the cigar that he had left there.

Sam looked around the spacious laboratory, taking in computers, electronic equipment, and white boards.

"Greetings, Captain Carter," a melodic voice said.

"Uh, hello. Ziggy?" Sam said.

"Yes. I am the intelligence keeps everything running."

Sam looked at Al who shrugged back at her. "She has a bit of an ego. Why Sam saw fit to give her one, is something I'll never understand."

Sam smiled. "It's nice to meet to meet you Ziggy," she said.

"Captain Samantha Carter, U.S. Air Force. Born in 1968. You hold a doctorate and are an astrophysicist. In 1996 you transferred from the Pentagon to the Cheyenne Mountain facility in Colorado Springs. Officially your work involves deep space telemetry. I have found references to something called the Stargate Program, but I have not yet been able to access anything about it."

"You've failed Ziggy?" Al teased.

"I have not failed," Ziggy said icily. "I have not yet succeeded.

"The information is of the highest classification," Sam acknowledged. "I'm not surprised that you're having trouble."

"We will need you to fill in the gaps," Ziggy said.

"Yes," Sam said hesitantly. "I suppose so."

"You still don't trust us, Captain," Al commented.

"Well it's all a little far fetched," Sam admitted. "Of course few people would believe what I do for a living if I told them. What year is this, anyway?"

"2008," Al told her.

Sam exhaled softly.

"I should really catch up with Sam. Captain, Ziggy can give you access to information to confirm everything I've told you. The sooner you help us, the sooner we can help you get back where you belong. We need your help."

Sam looked around the facility. She turned back to Al and studied him intently. She could see that he was barely containing his impatience. She had the sense that he was of a type who typically sprang into action in an instant. She was again reminded of Colonel O'Neill. This helped tip the balance.

"It would seem that I don't have much choice. I'll do what I can, sir," Sam told him.

"Thank you. If you'll work with Ziggy, I need to get to Sam. Ziggy will communicate with me through this computer." Al indicated the device that he still held in his left hand.

"Yes, sir," Sam said again.

Al nodded and entered the accelerator.

"Shall we begin, Captain Carter?" Ziggy said.

***

"Teal'c?" the older man asked, baffled.

"Where is Captain Carter?" Teal'c asked Sam.

"I don't understand, Teal'c. She's right here. Sam?" the younger man appealed to the object of Teal'c's accusation.

I get to use my own name, Sam smiled to himself. And apparently I'm a woman. He looked Teal'c's unfriendly face and sobered instantly.

"I'm Sam," he tried to sound confident.

"This is not Captain Carter," Teal'c insisted. "Can you not see that she has been replaced by a man?"

"I cannot," said the older man.

Teal'c stretched out his shackled hands to grip Sam at the juncture of his shoulder and neck. "How did you switch places with Captain Carter? Where is she?"

Al joined Sam. He took in the sight of Teal'c's stern expression and the tight grip maintained on Sam. "Sam. Making friends?" Al asked lightly.

"That's not helping," Sam growled under his breath.

Al waved his cigar in acknowledgment. "You're Air Force Captain Samantha Carter. You're an astrophysicist and part of a classified program at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs." Al paused to look at Sam appreciatively. "And you're a knockout."

Sam attempted to glare at Al and give a reassuring look at the other three men at the same time.

"And," Al chuckled wryly, "get this, you're normal time period is 1999, but somehow you and your team got thrown back to 1969."

Startled, Sam forgot all about trying to pretend that he was not interacting with Al. "What? How?" he asked, looking directly at him.

"We're still figuring that out." Al punched some buttons on his computer and began reading new information that was being sent. "You work for a program called Stargate Command. You are part of a team called called SG-1. It's led by Colonel Jack O'Neill. The other members are Daniel Jackson, who is an archaeologist, and the gentleman holding on to you is Teal'c. You've all just been taken into custody as suspected spies."

Sam looked around at his companions, mentally matching the names to his companions. It was then that he noticed that Daniel and Jack continued to stare curiously at Teal'c, while Teal'c was looking rather fixedly in Al's direction.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"You can see me?" Al asked, astonished.

"Indeed."

"And he can see me," Sam said.

Al stared at his electronic device. "It must because he's an alien," he decided.

"Alien?" Sam said. "Like, alien alien?"

"Alien-alien," Al confirmed.

"Would someone tell me what the hell is going on!" Jack finally said impatiently.

Al and Sam looked at each other. "Based on the conversation I had with Captain Carter, I think we should tell them," Al said.

"You sure?" Sam asked.

"Yeah."

Sam turned to Jack. "Teal'c is right. I'm not Captain Carter. My name is Sam Beckett."

Jack's expression hardened. "Where's Carter?" he asked.

"It's not where so much as when," Sam said.

""When?" Daniel asked, confused.

Sam winced as Teal'c grip tightened. "She's in 2008."

"Explain," Jack said coldly.

"It all started years ago when I began theorizing about time travel. Imagine a ball of string--"

"Ah!" Jack raised his hands in protest. "Just what's relevant. Five sentences or less."

Sam exhaled and thought for a moment. "A time travel experiment went wrong a few years ago. Instead of traveling in time as myself, I leaped into the life of someone else. I stay in that person until we fix what went wrong in that person's history. My partner, Al Calavicci appears to me in the form of a hologram that usually only I can see and hear. We believe that God or some other force is what sends me from one life to the next."

All three members of SG-1 leaned back, absorbing what Sam had told them. Teal'c released Sam.

"Calavicci," Jack said. "That name seems familiar, but I can't place it."

Al had been staring hard at Jack. A look of recognition suddenly registered on on his face.

"Lieutenant Jack O'Neill was part of the escort company when I returned from Vietnam with other released POWs. He sat next to me on the flight home," Al told Sam.

"Do you remember accompanying an ex-POW home from Vietnam?" Sam asked Jack.

"Yes," Jack said slowly. "He was a marine, right?"

"Navy!" Al exclaimed.

"Navy," Sam repeated.

"I remember that he looked forward to getting home to Bess."

"Beth." Al and Sam spoke together.

"Beth. How is she?"

Al became very busy studying his computer. Sam did not reply.

"I'm sorry. I've been there," Jack said.

"I know," Al said quietly as he read his computer. "I'm sorry too." He turned to Jack. "I've never forgotten how considerate you were on the trip home."

"Al says thank you for being a good travel companion on the way home," Sam said.

Jack nodded. "Did he stay in the Navy?" he asked curiously.

"He did. He became an astronaut and an admiral."

Jack unconsciously sat a little straighter.

"So how do we get our Sam back?" Daniel asked.

"We have to figure out the wrong that needs to be put right. Al?" Sam said.

Al was reading the information that was now flowing rapidly into his computer. "Ziggy says that there's a 98.7 percent chance that you're here to make sure that SG-1 returns to their own time."

"How did they get thrown into the past to begin with?"

"SG-1 is an elite team with Stargate Command." He paused to give the computer a frustrated slap. "They travel to planets throughout the galaxy using an ancient device known as a stargate. The stargate is a portal that creates wormholes that allow for instantaneous travel from one planet to the next."

"Wormholes?" Sam asked with interest.

"Hold on a second," Al said, cocking his head and listening. He walked out of view. A few seconds later he reappeared and placed a holographic sheaf of papers on the floor in front of Sam. "Ziggy and Captain Carter put together a tutorial for you on stargates and the program."

Sam quickly read through the information while the others traded confused looks. "Wormholes only go one way," he said. "Interesting."

"Yes, fascinating," Jack said dryly.

Sam finished reading and looked at SG-1. "You were using the stargate when you went back in time?"

"Yes," Daniel said. "We stepped through the gate and instead of traveling in space we traveled in time. For a minute we were in both 1999 and 1969, and then we were just here."

"And it's important that they get back," Al said. "When they went back in time it changed the entire course of the program. You read that General George Hammond was the commander, and that in the early days of the program SG-1 met Teal'c, who joined them and began a rebellion against the Goa'uld."

"Yes," Sam said.

"When they went back in time, all of that history changed. They met Lieutenant George Hammond who they managed to convince to try to help them. He was caught and discharged from the Air Force. SG-1 never made it home." Al gave an annoyed sigh and hit his computer again. "Teal'c sacrificed himself by removing his larval Goa'uld and killing it so that it could not take over anyone here. Since Hammond wasn't there, a different commander oversaw the start of the SGC. When SG-1 and SG-2 were overdue in their return from their joint mission to Chulak, he locked them out and the program was shut down. The Jaffa rebellion against the Goa'uld ended before it could begin."

Teal'c, who had been listening intently dropped his head as Al finished his recitation. Jack and Daniel watched his dismayed reaction curiously.

"What?" Jack asked.

"If we do not return, it will be as if everything that we have done never happened," Teal'c said.

"Then let's get back," Jack said. "How do we do that?"

"Captain Carter believes that there was a solar flare at the instant you used the gate," Al said, still reading from his computer. "She says that she theorized at one time about using the gate for time travel and that one of the theories involved solar flares. Stepping through the gate again at the precise instant of another flare should get you back home."

"Great," Jack said sarcastically when the information was relayed to him. "All we need to do is find a gate and arrange for a solar flare. Piece of cake."

"Captain Carter and Ziggy have located the gate in storage at an armory in Washington, D.C. According to the record of your arrest, it's August 4. Ziggy will look for any solar flares that will be occurring soon."

"All right, then," Jack said when Sam repeated Al's news. "All we need to do is escape, make our way to DC, find the gate, and go home."

"Piece of cake." Daniel echoed Jack's earlier comment.

"Indeed," Teal'c said.

"It gives us a chance," Jack told them. "I'm not sure where we're being taken, but they're probably going to try to split us up when we get there, so we're going to have to act fast," he speculated.

"He's right," Al said. "You're headed toward Cannon Air Force Base." He checked his watch. "You're still a few hours away, but there'll be pit stop soon. That's going to be your best chance."

"Will they let us out when we stop?" Teal'c asked.

"No," Al said, checking the computer. "But Lieutenant Hammond will be watching you during the stop. According to the historical record, that's when you took your chance to escape."

"We must again somehow convince General Hammond to help us," Teal'c said.

"Yes," Al agreed.

"We've got to make sure he doesn't get in trouble over it this time," Jack said.

"How do we do that?" Daniel asked.

Jack thought for a moment. "Is our gear going with us?" he asked.

Al checked the computer. "It's in a second truck following behind."

"Yes, it's following behind," Sam said relayed.

"If we can get ahold of a zat, we can incapacitate them long enough to escape. We need to make it appear that Hammond is as a victim along with everyone else," Jack said.

"And then we head for DC?" Daniel asked.

"That's the idea," Jack told him.

"Are we even going to be able to get to the gate if we make to DC?" Daniel wondered.

"We'll worry about that when we get there," Jack said.

"And will it power up? It won't have been used for centuries," Daniel fretted.

"One thing at a time, Daniel," Jack told him.

"From what I was reading, there should still be a residual charge within the gate itself, even after all this time," Sam said. "If we can find a way to introduce a strong enough charge of electricity, it'll be like priming a pump. It should be able to produce enough of a charge to engage once."

"I believe Sam Beckett is correct," Teal'c said.

"There you go," Jack said.

They fell silent for a few minutes.

"Hey," Daniel said suddenly. "How come Teal'c can see Sam and Al and we can't?"

"Yeah," Jack agreed.

"Probably because he's an alien," Sam said. "Al's and my brain waves were incorporated into the computer program that powers the Leap project. Because our brain waves are tied into the computer, Ziggy--the computer--was able to create the hologram of Al that I can see. We've also had the experience of animals or very young children being able to see him. Since Teal'c isn't human, his perception field must also be just different enough to see past the filter that makes me look like Captain Carter and allows him to see Al."

Daniel nodded.

"How do you intend to persuade General Hammond to assist us?" Teal'c asked.

"Talk until we convince him that we're legit and worth the risk," Jack said

"If we did it before, I guess we can do it again," Daniel said.

"We have to make the most of it this time," Jack said.

The van decelerated and came to stop. A few minutes later the back door opened and a young officer stepped in. He wore a nameplate that identified him as Hammond. He closed the door and took a seat.

Jack, Teal'c, and Daniel all looked at him eagerly. He looked back warily.

"No funny business," Hammond said briskly.

"We wouldn't dream of it," Jack assured him.

"It is an honor to meet you as a young man General Hammond," Teal'c said gravely.

"Teal'c--" Jack made an involuntary gesture, then subsided.

"You must not have gotten much training if you think I'm a general," Hammond said sardonically. "You'll have to do better than that if you're trying to flatter me."

"But you will be a general and we'll know you when you are," Daniel said.

"Sure," Hammond shook his head and chuckled mirthlessly.

"We will," Jack told him. "In about thirty years."

"What?"

"That's about how far back in time we've traveled," Jack explained.

"You're not spies. You're lunatics. Or you just think I'm stupid enough to believe this nonsense." Hammond looked disgusted and stood up.

"Wait, please," Daniel pleaded. "We can prove it."

"This should be good," Hammond smiled wryly.

"It's 1969?" Jack asked.

"August 4th," Hammond confirmed.

Jack looked at Daniel. "What happened in '69?"

"There was the moon landing. That was just a couple of weeks ago, right?"

"Everyone knows that!" Hammond said, unimpressed.

"But not everyone knows that you watched it at your father's bedside in his hospital room a couple of days after he had a heart attack," Jack said.

"How... how did you know that? Hammond wanted to know.

"Because we know you. And you'll know us in thirty years. Please, sir. We need your help. I promise you won't regret it." Jack was at his most pleading and earnest.

Lieutenant Hammond stared at him for a long moment. He looked at Daniel, Teal'c, and Sam who also wore expressions of entreaty. He hesitated. Then he came to a decision. He took the keys from his pocket at leaned over to unlock Jack's handcuffs.

"I don't know why I'm doing this. I hope I'm not making a mistake," Hammond said softly.

"You are not," Teal'c said.

"What are you going to do?" Hammond asked.

"I think it's best if you don't know," Jack told him. "Let's just say that we're trying to get back to where we belong."

"Or when we belong, as the case may be," Daniel chirped.

Sam smiled at him. Jack grimaced.

"We don't want to hurt anyone, but we've also got to incapacitate the guards," Jack said.

Hammond hesitated and held up a zat. "We were passing this around earlier. Would it help?"

"Perfect." Jack said, taking it in hand.

Hammond peeked out the back door of the van. "They're all coming back now," he said.

"Okay," Jack said. "Call for help."

"What?"

"The dangerous foreign agents that you guard have inexplicably freed themselves," Teal'c said.

"Got it." Hammond jumped out of the van. "Help!" he shouted.

The other guards ran toward the van. Jack shot each of them with the zat as they approached the van. Soon SG-1 and Hammond stood in the midst of several unconscious men. Quickly, Teal'c and Jack placed the personnel in the back of the van.

"Is our gear in that other truck?" Jack asked Hammond.

"Yes," Hammond confirmed.

Jack trotted to the other van and jumped into the back. After breaking the lock on the metal box inside, he retrieved another zat and their GDO. He fired a zat at the box three times, disintegrating it and its contents.

"That takes care of the physical evidence that we were here," Jack said as he hopped out of the van.

"Sam!" Al said. "Ziggy says that there are two solar flares coming up. August 10th at 9:15 am and August 11th at 6:03 pm."

"O'Neill. We need to get to the gate by August 10th or 11th. Al says that there will be a solar flare on each of those days," Teal'c said.

"Understood," Jack nodded.

Sam turned to Lieutenant Hammond. "Do you have a pen and paper?"

Curiously, Hammond dug a scrap of paper out of his billfold and handed it to Sam along with a pen.

While Sam scribbled the dates and times that Al had provided, Jack turned to Hammond.

"Do you have any money?" Jack asked.

Hammond looked inside his billfold. "Some," he admitted, fingering it.

Jack did not give him time to think. "Thanks," he said taking it out of Hammond's hands. "I'll pay you back, with interest. You have my promise."

Sam added an IOU to his note and handed it and the pen to Hammond. "You must remember these dates. Here's a note for reference." Sam held up his left hand. "Years from now, you'll see us leave for a mission when my palm looks exactly like this. When we do, we'll need to know these dates. You'll have to decide how best to send that information with us, but it's crucial that you do it."

"Send these dates with you when you have a healing cut," Hammond sounded dazed. He folded the note over twice and tucked it into his sock.

"That's it. I know it doesn't make sense now, but it will. Everything is going to be all right," Sam reassured him.

"And you've got to keep everything you've seen and we've said a secret," Jack added.

Hammond gave a bark of laughter. "Who would believe me?" he asked. "I'm not sure I believe any of this. I do like the sound of General Hammond though."

"As do I," Teal'c told him.

"Anything else?" Hammond said.

"Nothing. We're out of here. And I'm sorry for what I'm about to do, but it's to keep you from being court-martialed."

Jack raised his zat and fired. Teal'c caught Hammond as he collapsed and laid him gently in the truck with his fellow officers.

They looked around. As improbable as it seemed, no one was in sight or appeared to have seen anything that had just transpired.

"Now what?" Daniel asked.

"We get to DC," Jack said.

"How?" Daniel wanted to know.

Jack set a brisk pace away from the scene of their escape. "We could always hitch," he said.

"Hitch?" Teal'c questioned.

"It's a way of getting rides when you don't have transportation of your own," Daniel explained. "You hold out your thumb as you walk along the road to signal that you're looking for a ride and sometimes people stop and pick you up."

"That does not seem very reliable," Teal'c commented.

"It's chancy, because if someone comes by who discovers that we're wanted we could end up right back where we started," Sam cautioned. "But I don't have a better idea."

"About ten miles to the northwest, there are are railroad tracks. Ziggy says that you could stow away on an eastbound freight train," Al suggested.

"Riding the rails, eh?" Jack said when Sam had relayed Al's information.

No came up with an idea that they liked better so Al, who had already been so essential to their escape, continued as their guide as they pressed on.

continued here / back

J is for Deja Vu All Over Again (NCIS)
by [personal profile] greenbirds

A long time ago in a place called Russia (the locals called it Rossija, and sometimes he called it the ninth circle of Hell; it was certainly cold enough. He's been worse places since then), Jack O'Neill learned to tell his life in stories.

(If you could start out with "once upon a time," you could sometimes pretend it had happened to someone else).

Once upon a time, a young Air Force captain had a wicked stepmother (only she wasn't really wicked at all, for all she sent her little ones to do deadly things in secret places). She was tiny and dark-haired and dark-eyed and fierce and dangerous like the sparrowhawk. Her enemies and some of her admirers called her the Duchess of Deception. Her friends called her Hetty Lange.

Her little ones (her ducklings) called her tyotia. It was Russian for Auntie.

Jack (he was the only one who could ever get away with it) sometimes called her Auntie Em.

Once upon a time, Auntie Em had two darling boys, and their names both started with 'J'. Jack. Jenny. Jethro (actually it was Leroy Jethro, but Jack knew all about not liking one part of your given name or another, so he let it pass). In Russia (in Rossija, in Tartarus) they all answered to different names (Vanya and when Auntie Em wore her Russian face -- sometimes Jack thought it was her true face, she was Aunt Anya) and they gave gifts at New Year's instead of Christmas.

They had been a funny little family, they three.

Once upon a time, the two boys (how good and how pleasant, as the saying went) had been as close as brothers and they had talked about wooden boats and clear blue seas and endless summer days and what they would do After. (After was whole worlds, strange as storybook land: after was pale American beer and wearing your own name and your own clothes and listening to whatever you wanted on the radio. After didn't involve secrets. After didn't include sniper rifles).

After was a gingerbread house with gumdrop trim and a witch with an oven lurking inside. After was the yellow brick road, complete with flying monkeys and poppies. After was, as it turned out, Baba Yaga's skull filled with fire.

After was too good to be true.

Once upon a time, the Duchess of Deception (Auntie Em, St. Hetty, and their names for her were as numberless as the names of the stars) sent her darling boys to a place called Poland. It was summer and the light shone bright green through the leaves of the trees, and Jack and Jethro knew they were probably going there to die.

Jethro thought their tyotia had betrayed them. Jack knew better. Jack knew she had no choice. Jack knew the work needed doing.

The game, as Auntie Em always pointed out, was worth the candle. (On the white nights, she said something else entirely: God hates a spy).

Once upon a time, two boys named Jack and Jethro had gone to Poland to die, but they didn't, and Charon waited by the river unpaid.

Once upon a time Jack made a promise to a Polish girl named Maria, and Jethro broke it for him (Jethro saved Jack's life in so doing, but that wasn't the important part) and pretty Maria with her sweep of blonde hair died with a bullet through her heart and a look of faint surprise on her face.

Once upon a time, two boys named Jack and Jethro made their way home from Poland, but the story didn't end in "happily ever after." They were no longer Jack and Jethro, but O'Neill and Gibbs, and St. Hetty looked at them like her heart was breaking, and they never again talked about After.

Once upon a time (not long after Poland, not long after he forgot about After) the Air Force whistled Jack home again, and he was no longer Auntie Em's little Vanyeshka. He learned to wear a different name.

They called him Batshit Jack, and he did dark things in dark places where the eyes don't go, and his secret treasure was the names of missions that hadn't killed him: East Fly and Chile and Argentina. He married and divorced a girl named Sarah (she was blonde like Maria and had almost believed that he loved her) and he had a son (a beautiful son; he had named him Charlie) and then his son died.

(Batshit Jack wasn't supposed to know, wasn't supposed to care, but he knew -- never mind where he found the information because it didn't matter -- that Jethro had married a girl named Shannon, and Jethro's marriage had also ended with a child's funeral, and no amount of 'once upon a time' could ever make that go away.)

And for awhile there was nothing but despair and a sense that there would soon be no more stories to tell then two men in dress blues came to Jack and called him Underhill and he stepped through a ring of stone and quantum water into another world (the first of so many other worlds; you never forget your first time).

Once upon a time, a man named Batshit Jack went Underhill and changed one skin for another and became just Jack and wore a patch on his shoulder that meant home in a secret language and met a man with glasses and a warrior who battled false gods and a woman who was as tough as she was brilliant as she was beautiful, and they sang him back into life.

The stories always said you shouldn't eat of the fruit of the Underworld or you might never return (thus was pretty little Persephone trapped), so Jack took a big bite and filled his senses with it; he never wanted to go back. He didn't even mind that his life was hemmed round in secrets and every day brought a new world waiting to kill them, because he had come home.

(He'd lost Britain, and he'd lost Gaul, but he found his soul again, and it didn't seem like such a bad trade, the Legion's road for the yellow brick one).

Once upon a time, the man named Jack and the man with glasses and the warrior and the brilliant woman mostly saved the universe.

And now it is a bitter early-spring day in Colorado and the wind is howling and nothing is green yet, and the man named Jack hasn't thought of the old stories in years (the ones that begin "Once upon a time two boys went up to Baba Yaga's house to learn the secret ways") but he's standing out on the tarmac in BDU's watching man get off a plane (shoulda worn more clothes, O'Neill), and he's thinking of them now.

Once upon a time, a Marine (one of Jethro's people, before Hetty's darling boy had become a civilian) who lived Underhill had gone out into the Real World and committed a terrible crime and (God hates a spy and Joyce said -- though he used bigger words -- that the end always comes back to the beginning) brought Jethro Gibbs through the mists to Jack's doorstep.

Their eyes meet and for a moment it's Vanya and Zhenya and the heavy gray clouds of a Leningrad winter and dreams of sailing the sea with the sun overhead and then it's too hard not to think about summer in Poland, about Maria (about Jethro's choice and Jack still can't bring himself to thank Jethro for making it.)

(We Do Not Talk About Poland).

Jack forces a smile to his face (he knows it looks fake; Once upon a time Auntie Em's darling boy had worn a thousand guises, each as familiar as his own name, but that was a long time ago), holds out a hand, tries to sound merry. "Jethro," he says, "talk about a blast from the past. How long's it been?"

Jack's a liar: all Cretans are (which he supposes is better than being Cassandra; no one ever listened to her): he could count off the time between then and now (the time since green trees and a pretty dead girl) almost down to the day, but the forms must be followed.

"Since Poland," Gibbs (Jethro, Zhenya, once a brother-in-arms) says unnecessarily. "Two ex-wives ago, if you're curious." (Jack shouldn't be but he is). "We're here about Sgt. McAvoy."

Jethro's gotten old. Time has laid its slow heavy hand on all of them, and these days, every morning, Jack's knees sing a song of two many trips to too many worlds. (Here they are in the middle way, having had twenty years).

"This way," Jack says. "I'll introduce you to my team."

(O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark.)

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K is for Khan (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure)
by [livejournal.com profile] 11am_street

It was a beautiful dagger with a fine curved blade that once must have been very sharp. The blade was encased in a bronze scabbard encrusted with garnets, amber and onyx that matched the tang. Based on the style and the accompanying artifacts which were found, Daniel placed the fine weapon around the late 12th early 13th century Mongolia. The dagger must have certainly belonged to a soldier, a magistrate, dignitary or an attendant of high station. There was a great chance it belonged to a member of Genghis Khan's court, or perhaps even to the Mongolian conqueror himself.

Taking a sip of water from the glass on his desk, Daniel mused on the potential tales the dagger could tell, of the blood it may have shed. Had it seen service in Khan's first campaign against the Xi Xia Dynasty in 1205? Or perhaps it saw use in the campaigns against the Western Xia dynasty or the Mongol-Jin War? Daniel would most likely never know, but it never stopped him to speculate. Upon a closer inspection of the darkened blade, Daniel noticed an inscription on the wrought iron. He leaned in closer and began to translate the words. His eyes widened in surprise when he finalized the script on the blade.

"That can't be right," he said to himself before reading the inscription and comparing his notes.

"What can't be right?" Daniel's head shot up towards the sliding metal door, shedding light into his dusky office. A dark shadow filled the doorway, the figure unmistakably that of his teammate, Samantha Carter.

"Oh, hey Sam," he said distractedly as the major entered his office. "The translation of the inscription on this Mongolian blade," he said.

An involuntary shiver ran up Carter's spine and rippled through her shoulders. Daniel could not help the tiny smile from the corner of his mouth. Simarka was one of their first missions as a team and was not one of Sam's fondest memories. The SCG received frequent updates from the Shavadai, a people Daniel theorized were most likely descendants of Mongolians known as the Chagatai. The Shavadai and the other tribes of the planet had progressed remarkably since SG-1's initial visit.

"Oh, did you find it on P3X-593?" Carter asked, using the designation for Simarka.

"No, it was found in a dig in Northeast Asia. It's funny the inscription says: 'In the name of Wyld Stallyns of red and white, most excellent friends.'"

"So what's wrong about that? Other than the fact it does sound odd."

"Well, it's just that these very specific terms with this very specific spelling, 'Wyld Stallyns of red and white' have come up several times throughout history between figures that have never been connected. See, Socrates makes reference in his later texts of 'wyld stallyns'. In his letters, Abraham Lincoln mentions 'two most excellent friends, Wyld Stallyns' as does Freud, using the exact same terminology. It's even believed that Richard the Third wrote about 'Wyld Stallyns of white and red' and claimed they were responsible for the fate of his nephews, Princes Edward and Richard who mysteriously disappeared in 1483. It was rumored that when Joan of Arc was imprisoned in Rouen just before her execution, she spoke of 'wyld stallyns' and kept drawing on the walls of her cell a rectangular box. If I didn't know any better, it sounds like she was drawing a telephone booth."

"Telephone booth?" Carter repeated skeptically. She glanced at her friend worriedly. "Daniel, are you alright?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Never mind, I was going to get some coffee, interested?"

Daniel waved her off. "No thank you. I'd like to keep working on this."

Carter nodded and left Daniel to continue his train of thought.

As the archaeologist continued to catalogue the dagger a low rumble erupted causing the water in Daniel's glass to waver. Perplexed, Daniel raised his gaze in time to see blue electrical currents bounce off his bookshelf. The rumbling noises escalated, causing the artifacts littering Daniel's office to cling and clang against one another, reminding him of the gate's earliest activations before the installation of the inertial dampeners in the gate room. The books in his bookshelf began to fall to the floor when a blur of white and red flashed before him, causing Daniel to shield his eyes from the brightness.

Daniel removed his hand from his eyes and gasped. A white telephone booth with red trimming now stood in the middle of his office. The pencil Daniel was holding fell from his hand and landed on the floor, the clatter breaking him from his stupor. His mind reeled in the appearance of the impossible; the events he had just mentioned to Sam not moments earlier bombarded his brain, making insane connections.

It couldn't be!

He looked around to see his there was anyone else nearby who may have noticed the sudden appearance of the box in his office. Daniel was certain he had heard excited exchanges coming from the booth and several exclamations of "excellent!" and "whoa!"

Daniel wondered why strange things always seem to occur when no one was around to witness such unusual occurrences. He used to wonder in his first years with the SGC when Jack and General Hammond would begin to question some of the insane accounts he'd recounted. But in all the years SG-1 had been out in the field, they've seen more than enough to take every seemingly tall tale and strange event as not only possible but plausible. This though, he thought, might take the cake, so to speak.

The door of the booth opened with a hiss; releasing a steady stream of smoke. Two beings walked out from the box, coughing and waving the smoke from their faces.

"Dude, that was a most bodacious trip through the circuits of time!" A young man with short curly blond hair exclaimed.

"Yeah! Let's do it again!" The taller, brown shaggy haired companion gave a thumbs up.

"Uh, Ted?" the blond man said warily as he took in their surroundings.

"Yes, Bill?" Ted responded.

"I don't think we're in San Dimas."

"What do you mean, this isn't the Circle-" Ted' voice trailed off as he too noticed the office.

"K," Ted finished at last, before gulping audibly. "You're right, Bill, but where are we?"

"Dude! This is so non-non-heinous!" Bill exclaimed waving his hands in the air. "You totally didn't punch the right number!"

"What? Yes I did! I dialed the number Rufus gave us!"

"No you didn't!"

Ted looked around, while his companion settled on the sole occupant in the room.

"Excuse us, dude! Where are my manners!" he said.

"It's all right," Daniel spoke softly shrugging. This was a dream, it had to be, and it was far too strange to be real or make any sense. That or he was having the mental breakdown Dr. Mackenzie was expecting.

"How's it going bespectacled dude?" Ted asked extending his had to Daniel who winced.

"Bespectacled?"

"Uh, you know!" Bill pointed to his eyes, like he had an invisible pair of glasses himself. "What my most outstanding companion means to say is--"

"It's ok, I get it," Daniel offered a small fleeting smile.

"Excellent!" Bill grinned widely before placing his hand above his heart. "I am Bill S. Preston Esquire and this is my most excellent friend Ted Theodore Logan," they both raised their arms to their chests and shouted together:

"And together we are-"

"Wyld Stallyns," Daniel finished for them nonchalantly. Bill and Ted dropped their arms to their sides and exchanged glances.

"Whoa!"

"Dude, how did you know?" Ted exclaimed, clearly amazed.

"Just a guess," Daniel responded quickly. "Pleased to meet you. I'm, uh, I'm Daniel Jackson."

"Excellent! So Daniel, where are we, dude?"

"We're in Colorado Springs."

"Oh," Bill replied with disappointment. Both he and Ted spent several minutes circulating in Daniel's office, shuffling papers and touching artifacts. Daniel cringed as they nearly shattered a priceless pottery vase dating from the Republic of Rome. He could see now that the two men were in fact, adolescents, most likely between 16 and 18 years old. Their hair and clothing were grungy and eclectic. They didn't appear to be very bright or very conscious of their actions.

Daniel intentionally cleared his throat, holding up a single finger to attract the two men's attention. "To ask the obvious question, how exactly did you get here?"

Bill slammed the clay pot he was holding, making Daniel wince. "Oh, we met this most outstanding dude, Rufus, right in front of the Circle-K."

"Dude, strange things are afoot at the Circle-K," Ted added.

"Right," Daniel replied.

"Anyway, he came from the future to help us with our history report, because we were totally gonna fail, which would have been most bogus."

"Yeah, totally bogus," Ted agreed, picking up the dagger Daniel was cataloging earlier. Bill exchanged a glace with his friend and grinned.

"Anyway, y'see he showed us this booth and how to travel through the circuits of time and we met some most unprecedented dudes."

"Oh? Such as?" Daniel asked his eyebrows rising. He decided he would keep them talking while he quietly fingered the alarm trigger under his desk.

"Yeah, we uh, met So-crates, Beeth-oven, Bill the Kid and-"

"Dude! This totally looks just like the knife Bob Genghis Khan had!" Ted exclaimed as he showed Bill the dagger.

"No way!"

"Yes way, Bill!"

"Wait! Wait! Wait!" Daniel waved his hands in the air. "You've heard of Genghis Khan?"

"Yeah, dude! We totally met him." Ted exclaimed happily. "He's a most excellent dude. Likes Twinkies and baseball bats."

Daniel repeated his words, trying to digest them. "Twinkies and baseball bats. Right."

By then, he had triggered the alarm and it would only be a matter of minutes before his office was flooded with SFs and most likely the rest of SG-1.

"Yeah, when we took him to the mall he totally ravaged Oshman Sporting Goods."

"Yeah, it was heinous, dude."

"So then you've also met Richard the Third."

"Who?" Bill asked, perplexed.

"Richard the Third, he was King of England in the late fifteenth century," Daniel explained.

"You mean like medieval England?" Ted asked, interested.

"Yes, you see he referred to Wyld Stallyns in connection with the disappearance of his two nephews, Princes-"

"Princes?" Bill repeated. He looked at Ted and whispered, "I think he means the Princesses."

Daniel looked from Bill to Ted, clearly not following. "No, no, I'm referring specifically to the Princes in the Tower who disappeared right after Richard the III took the throne."

"Dude, they totally weren't princes, they were Historical Babes, uh I mean Princesses."

A thought occurred suddenly and Daniel recalled a brief entry in one of Henry Tudor's final letters before his death referring of Richard the Third's daughters who were hastily married off and banned from court. Henry VII had written of his good fortune at this turn of events as the princesses were the rightful heirs to the throne, and their disappearance had left little challenge to the crown when he defeated Richard at the battle of Bosworth Field. It is quite possible his daughters were sent away around the same time the princes had vanished, as a direct result and Richard the Third had chosen to blame the princes' fate on the two teens perusing his office.

"Or perhaps," Daniel thought as he heard Ted, "they were never married off."

"Now they're our girlfriends!" Ted said just as a group of SFs entered Daniel's office. The teen's eyes widened as he saw their uniforms and their weapons trained on them. He raised his arms and backed away to stand next to Bill, who was closest to the telephone booth.

"Dude, I think we're in a military facility," he whispered to his friend. He half shouted to Daniel, "We're not in Alaska are we?"

"No, this is Colorado Springs," Daniel replied.

"That's not in Alaska, right, Bill?"

"I don't think so, Ted."

"That is most outstanding," Ted blew out a long sigh of relief and grinned just as Jack, Sam and General Hammond ran into the office.

"What's going on here, Daniel? We heard the alarm," Jack asked just as he halted to Daniel's left and then noticed the full size telephone booth that previously was not part of the decor.

"Whoa!" he exclaimed.

"I know dude. I said the exact same time when we first saw it!" Bill said. He and Ted exchanged glances and together their raised their hands to their chests and fingered the air.

"Air guitar?" Jack sarcastically questioned.

"This military dude is most excellent!" Ted said. "For a military dude."

Jack didn't know whether to be pleased or insulted, but gave his quirky smile to the two teenagers before eyeing Daniel, wondering how the hell he got himself into these situations.

"Yeah," Bill agreed. He looked around and he too noticed the SFs aiming their weapons at them. "Uh, Ted, my friend?"

"Yes, Bill, my friend?"

"I think it's time for us to make our most triumphant exit."

"I think you're right, Bill." Together they turned toward the group gathered behind Daniel.

"Well Military Dudes, we've had a most triumphant time. But I think its time for us to go now."

"Yeah! Be excellent to each other," Ted agreed as they quietly sneaked back into the booth.

They closed the door, lifted the receiver of the phone and began to dial. Carter jumped back and her eyes widened when the antennas on the top of the booth began to sizzle with blue current. A thrumming sound emanated from the booth and increased in volume to a high pitch. The SFs still kept their weapons on the booth, but a few of them shielded their ears. Just as the current began to envelop the booth, the door opened and Ted popped his head and waved to Daniel.

"Daniel, don't forget! Joan of Arc is not Noah's wife!" he shouted before waving to the other officers in the room. "Catch ya later, dudes!" He grinned before slamming the door shut and the telephone booth disappeared into the floor, leaving an orange current outlining the square shape of the booth.

Jack turned to Daniel and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Do I want to know what that's about?"

"Ah, no." Daniel replied.

"Didn't think so."

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L is for L-Space (Discworld)
by [personal profile] fignewton

Daniel ran reverent fingers along the the shelf of scrolls, each rolled tightly in its own niche. The library here on P2X-518 was bigger than any other he'd seen off-world. He'd found parchment scrolls, wax and stone tablets, massive leather-bound volumes with metal clasps, modern books bound in a slick, plastic-like material, and even a few Goa'uld tablets with automatic page-turners. Happily, Sam's meeting with this planet's scientists to discuss their intriguing research in perturbative quantum field theory promised to keep her busy for hours. Jack had grudgingly allowed Daniel to spend the time browsing until it was time to leave.

As he turned into the next aisle, he saw the head librarian, a short woman with intelligent eyes peering out of a wizened face. She wore the same quasi-uniform that most people on the planet seemed to prefer, but oddly enough, her feet were encased in the local equivalent of carpet slippers. She had just finished easing a heavy volume back onto its shelf, but now she turned to Daniel with a pleasant smile.

"Did you want something specific, honored patron?"

Daniel considered this. "I know your planet has had dealings with the Goa'uld in the past. Do you have any reference works that describe that era?" That should make Jack happy, anyway.

The librarian rolled her eyes ceiling-ward, finger tapping on her chin as she considered. "Yes, honored patron, we do. One moment, and I'll retrieve them for you."

"Oh, I can get them myself," Daniel assured her. He enjoyed wandering past the different aisles; looking for the books would be part of the fun. "If you could just direct me to the right shelf...?"

She looked a little dubious, but gave him rapid directions to a section of the library. He repeated them aloud, thanked her, and headed off.

Daniel tried not to get too sidetracked as he passed by enticing shelves of massive tomes and tiny pamphlets. The white noise of heavy silence reduced itself to a vague hiss after a while, although he sometimes thought he could hear the faint sound of rustling and scratching somewhere in the distance. He stopped at one point to listen to something that sounded very much like an irritated rattle, but when it didn't repeat itself, he continued on his way.

After nearly ten minutes of walking, Daniel began to feel a little concerned. Surely the building wasn't this large, was it? Perhaps he ought to go back and ask the librarian to help him after all.

When he stopped and turned around, though, he stared. The library appeared to have changed. Instead of slightly threadbare carpet, the floor had somehow morphed into gleaming marble, shot with red and yellow veins. The shelves were suddenly towering high over his head, the heavy books firmly chained into place. How could this be? He broke into a run, anxious to find his way back to the library entrance.

But when he rounded the corner, he skidded to a halt and gaped.

A large, red-haired ape was balanced high on a shelf, thoughtfully eating a bag of peanuts as it ran a leathery finger along the parchment it was clearly reading. It looked down at Daniel with a polite, inquiring expression, although Daniel was not quite sure how he could tell.

For long moments, man and ape stared at one another. Finally, Daniel said, "If you're a Furling, Jack is never going to let me live this down."

"Ook," the creature replied sympathetically.

***

He'd been worried about trying to explain the odd turn of events to the natives, but it had turned out to be easier than he'd expected. As soon as he mentioned that his friend had been studying quantum field theory, the frowning expressions turned from hostile doubt to airy dismissal.

"Oh, quantum." Arch-Chancellor Ridcully waved a hand. "That explains it. You should have said."

Oddly enough, despite the pointy hats and long robes, Daniel felt at home in Unseen University. The squabbling, petty sniping, and rambling irrelevancies took him right back to his days in academia. Wizards or professors didn't really make much difference, although this preoccupation with magic was rather...

Daniel bit his tongue to stop himself from quoting Arthur C. Clarke. He was used to human slaves mistaking Goa'uld technology for magic, but the emphasis was clearly different here. And since he had just seen Ridcully idly conjure a fireball and hurl it at the Senior Wrangler in order to shut him up, he wasn't really sure it would be safe to challenge the concept. Besides, the Librarian of this university was an orangutan. (Not a monkey, he'd been quietly advised by no less than three of the wizards.) Considering that Daniel suddenly found himself oddly capable of understanding a language that seemed to consist entirely of Ook, he felt that it might be best not to argue.

The most practical wizard seemed to be the youngest faculty member, a thin-faced, bespectacled fellow with a very earnest stare. If anyone here was actually going to help Daniel get back home, it would probably involve Ponder Stibbons and something he called Hex. Daniel was sorry he couldn't somehow introduce Ponder to Sam; the two of them would either get along splendidly or blow up random planets... or possibly both.

When it became apparent that it would take Ponder some time to find a solution to the problem, the wizards invited Daniel to lunch.

"Feeling a mite peckish," the Dean confessed. "Been almost an hour since our last meal, dontcha know."

Daniel eyed the Dean's massive form, built along the same lines as the rest of the faculty. He was used to sampling native cuisine, of course. Now, though, he thought of the apparent reality of magic on this planet and wondered if he should take the common myths of consuming fairy food in enchanted lands a little more seriously than usual.

"I have my own food, thank you," he said politely, although he supposed that the wizards wouldn't consider ration bars to be more than a minor snack. "Perhaps just a glass of water?"

"Certainly!"

What they brought him was... wet. Daniel could say that much with certainty, even if he couldn't say anything else. It did slosh a bit when he cautiously tipped the glass, although some of it clung to the side. He eyed it carefully, wondering if he was imagining that some of it was trying to climb over the rim.

"I, ah, have these tablets I need to add to my drinking water," he murmured diplomatically. "A sort of.. vitamin. For my health." Under the circumstances, it wasn't even a lie.

"Vitamins," Ridcully nodded wisely. "Smart chap."

Daniel fished a water purification tablet out of his vest pocket and dropped it into the glass.

It went gloop.

Then it exploded.

When the excitement was over and the last bits of glass had been cleared away, the Chair of Indefinite Studies kindly offered a handkerchief to dab at the shallow cuts on Daniel's hand. He didn't seem to mind that Daniel preferred his own sterile bandages, with that particular emphasis on sterile.

The sun was slanting toward evening (or the Rim, as the Dean had casually mentioned, and Daniel had very deliberately decided not to ask) when Ponder returned, looking a little embarrassed.

"I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson," he apologized, "but Hex says that the Librarian is the only one who can get you back home. I was hoping we could try a little directional magic, but there's too much quantum involved to risk it."

"I... see," said Daniel, who didn't. He turned to the Librarian, who had largely ignored the proceedings. "Librarian, can you help me find my way back to where I came from?"

The Librarian gave an elaborate shrug. With his shoulders, it seemed to be the only shrug he knew how to make. "Ook," he replied.

"Oh, good," Daniel sighed. "Thank you. Ah... No time like the present?"

The Librarian nodded and took Daniel by the hand. It felt like a very soft, very old glove.

"Goodbye, then," Daniel said over his shoulder as the Librarian led him deeper into the stacks. "It was very nice to meet you."

The wizards were already arguing about something else and barely gave him a distracted wave.

As the Librarian guided him through dim aisles lined with angrily-rattling grimoires, Daniel said, "You could've taken me home anytime, couldn't you? But you had to go along with them and wait until they admitted it themselves."

The orangutan curled his lip back from impressive yellow teeth in a disdainful smile.

"I've had to deal with faculty members like that myself in the past. Some of my current colleagues can be a little blind about the important things, too. How do you manage to cope so well?"

The Librarian rolled his eyes. "Ook," he said emphatically.

Daniel considered this. "Huh. Good point."

Things got a little blurred for a while, but the Librarian finally stopped and pointed to a branching aisle. Daniel peered ahead and smiled. Faded carpet, cherry-red wooden shelving. Yes, that looked right.

"Thank you," he said warmly, shaking the Librarian's hand.

"Ook," the ape returned, and pressed a small token into Daniel's hand before swinging away.

Daniel looked down at the parting gift. It was a slightly overripe banana.

He walked back into the library on P2X-518. After half a dozen steps, he glanced back. He was unsurprised to see that only regular shelves stretched behind him, with no sign of any mysterious kinks in space to lead him to another world.

He reached the end of the aisle and found himself near the reference desk. Jack was there, talking to the head librarian and looking irritated. Daniel glanced at his watch and saw that he'd been gone for just over four hours.

"There you are!" Jack exclaimed, catching sight of him. "Carter finished that meeting half an hour ago. Where were you?"

Daniel licked his lips and mentally cataloged all the possible answers, trying to ignore the librarian's faintly knowing smile.

"I got a little lost among the shelves," he said finally, hoping that Jack wouldn't question the banana.

It was technically true, anyway.

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M is for Magnificent 7
Not the Nine O'Clock Meeting
by [livejournal.com profile] sallymn

"Fecaloid, criminally deficient imbecile with not a atom of so much as sub-standard intelligence between the...."

O'Neill blinked. After several years of listening to Doctor Daniel Jackson when in a full-flown snit, he would have sworn he'd heard all the words that could and couldn't hurt you, but this Ezra Simpson certainly had a way with the vocab...

"You don't talk about Charlie that way," he growled.

Simpson, the shady, slippery, over-educated but still small-time criminal who they had been sent to ask a few discreet, 'friendly' questions, glared at him. "Ah'm not," he snarled in a molasses-thick Southern accent. "Ah'm talkin' about you, sir." His glare shifted to Makepeace, who looked like he'd give up his P90 to be able to throttle the man. "Sirs."

"Oh."

Now that, Jack thought, was pretty damn unfair. It hadn't been any of SG1 or SG3's plan (or Hammond's when he insisted that two highly trained units could handle one second-rate shyster) who to start an all-in fight in Charlie le Gurch's roadside bar just off the Denver-Colorado Springs highway - they'd just wanted to ask a patron a few friendly questions. Nor had they started the shooting when the police turned up. In fact, he had a hazy idea that Simpson had been involved in all of this... but he'd been too busy trying to haul Carter and Daniel out of the whole mess, and then bolting for the door, to worry about that.

He was planning to blame the jarheads anyway. And the locals.

Oh yeah, and Simpson.

Now the four of them were stuck out here in the decaying half-shell of an ex-hotel, with the sounds of a full-scale riot in the carpark over the road - and the really, really bad country music from inside - still echoing through the evening air. Makepeace was concussed and furious, Daniel had been nicked in the leg by a random slug, Carter and the rest of SG-3 were god knows where (and had better be sending for backup), Ezra Simpson was making their lives hell...

And what the hell did 'fecaloid' mean? He'd have to ask Daniel.

Sometime.

Right now he was more interested in trying to stop Daniel's leg bleeding, and wondering how the hell the guy had gotten hold of what he damn well knew was an SGC-issue gun.

Or guns. He was holding two, both Berettas, and had a Sig tucked into his belt. The man was a pickpocket as well, it seemed.

"Look, Simpson, this would never have even happened if you had just listened -"

"The dead - unsanctified or not - will rise from their graves before Ah cooperate with the ephemeromorphous likes of -"

"Look." From behind a wall of Colonels in rather battered mufti, Daniel spoke up, shakier than usual but still with that patented tone of sweet reason that almost always worked miracles... well, except against NID. And Goa'uld. And the odd stinky monster. And lowlifes at Charlie Le Gurch's. "You may not believe it, but we're trying to help."

"Really." Okay, so it didn't work on lowlifes here, either.

"Honestly." Realizing that that was not going down at all well, Daniel hurried on. "And we do realize that we may have interrupted your, umm, business dealings," such as they were, Jack thought, nice way of putting it, "but as Jack said, we just need to know where your friend Maude de Saussure is. Urgently. Really, really urgently."

"As Ah told the noxious creodonts you call your acquaintances -"

"Hey!" Maybe he should let Makepeace throttle the man.

"- I know no one of that name. So why the hell are you still hounding me?!? "

"I vote for Plan B," Jack grunted as he wrapped the makeshift bandage around Daniel's leg. "let's just shoot him till he talks."

Daniel gave him a fuzzy but sarcastic look. He didn't have to say it, Jack already knew.

Simpson had most of the guns.

***

It happens, Jack knew that all too well. But this time, he grumbled to himself, it was all the Tokra's fault.

And Daniel's. And some idiot friend of Catherine Langford's named Wingo, who had an obsession for antiquities and apparently an even bigger one for blondes. And the blonde, Maude... de Saussure or whoever she really was, because Ezra Simpson wasn't admitting anything.

And the goddess Muffie ("Mafdet", he could almost hear his archeologist murmur) whose name was apparently on the Ancient Egyptian jewelry Wingo had bought - probably illegally, according to the SGC's outraged archeologists - and this Maude de Saussure had then acquired from Wingo.

By acquired, Jack meant swindled.

By Ancient Egyptian jewelry, Daniel meant "a pectoral and two bracelets, gold and inlaid stones, probably 18th Dynasty or earlier going by the iconography and stylistic variations," and so on and so on at the usual appalling length, "oh, and the Goa'uld writing on it says something about wrath of the goddess and... I think, no, definitely bringing an eruption of death and fiery despair to worlds without end. Yes, that's probably Goa'uld for a bomb."

And by "the goddess" the Tokra mean... "a minor Goa'uld, scarcely a footnote in their history," in the usual droning, superior way that made his teeth ache, "and probably long dead, but it appears that she was another who did not leave Earth before the Stargate was buried, so the Tokra believe that you must investigate and recover what may only be decoration but may be some form of disguised technological..."

Crap, the stuff wasn't even nice-looking.

So they'd put the Air Force's second-best geeks onto finding the woman. They'd been remarkably unsuccessful until one of Wingo's people recalled a phone call they'd overheard, to someone called "mah darlin' boy." Someone else had managed to unearth the call records to a cell phone bought by a two-bit criminal on the very edges of a drug and guns supplier in Denver - the same two-bit criminal named Simpson who the geeks had located and they'd followed to what had turned out to be a dive to end all dives twenty minutes out of Denver.

They could now hear sirens, the sounds of the brawl over the road breaking up, more shooting.

Nice people this guy spent time with, but that wasn't his problem, he had enough already.

***

"She rang you."

Pale, simmeringly hostile green eyes stared at him unblinkingly. "Must have been a wrong numbah. Ah told you, ah don't recall it."

Jack guided Daniel's hands to held the rough bandage in place, and rose to his feet... slowly, carefully, shielding the younger man as best he could and trying not to spook the crim with the guns. Not much point in spooking him (fun as though it would have been), even if Simpson seemed aggravatingly unspooked by everything, just irate. He didn't bother going for his own weapon, as even the lousiest of shots would have had him and something told him Simpson was a better shot than they would have guessed.

Simpson was a better everything than they would have guessed. Except as a source of intel.

"Look, Maude was overheard. She called you darlin', Simpson."

"She called the wrong numbah darlin'."

"We don't believe you."

Simpson sighed, rather theatrically, and spread out his hands. "Then - with all due respect -" and oh yes, Jack could hear loud and clear how little that was, "- screw y'all."

"She could be in danger, you know," O'Neill said carefully. Not that - as far as they knew - there was anyone else looking for the woman, and even if the damn jewelry was explosive, it was unlikely to go boom in the next few days.

He hoped.

And at least Simpson was here, was still here, and was listening, if only for the excuse to argue and insult them. If they could keep him talking till Carter and the others showed up...

"I've little doubt of that," Simpson did seem to like talking. "I'd be profoundly concerned for my own wellbeing if I were her, given the cretinous amateurs after her." He leaned back against the wall and glared at all of them impartially, his opinion on which cretinous amateurs insultingly obvious.

"And okay, you don't believe it, but we are here to help."

"What makes you think I care?"

"She could die, Simpson." Okay, that was a reach.

"I repeat, what makes you think -?"

"You're not a heartless man." Daniel spoke up, faintly but with the usual annoying certainty. "I don't believe you'd want even a stranger to be hurt when she doesn't have to be."

"Really."

"Yes, really. I know and you know that you're lying, you know the woman and I don't think you want her to pay for your mistake."

"Mistake -?"

The drawl and cocked eyebrow were... promising. The man seemed to be cooling down a bit. So Jack put on his best "friendly" face and kept going. "Yeah. Mistake in question being to stonewall when it could cost this Maude big. Look, we're not asking for much - just a contact, a phone number, anything."

Simpson smiled, one of those slow, menacing, wildcat-got-the-cream grins that said the friendly face wasn't working. "I told you, I. Don't. Have. Anything." He glanced down, maybe thinking, maybe... then up again, his green gaze suddenly flat and calculating. "The woman can probably look out for herself, after all, like we all do. But tell me, gentlemen... what danger?"

Jack should have known that would be next. Hell, he had known... "Sorry, can't tell you."

"Because -?"

"It's classified." He saw the look Simpson gave the three of them in their jeans and leather (and yeah, plaid. Daniel. Only Daniel.) and went on doggedly. "Yes really. I could tell you, then I'd have to arrest you and the paperwork's a nightmare."

"You're Federal agents -?" Oh, the derision in the smooth (and now he through about it, less thickly accented) voice hurt.

"You don't think we look respectable enough -?"

"No."

Jack felt he should be vaguely insulted, and knew damn well Makepeace was,

"Forgive mah bluntness, but I've seen third-rate blattoid gunrunners who looked more reputable."

"Blattoid?" This was from Daniel, weak and hurting and a little out of it, but still able to be entranced by a single new word. Jack couldn't decide if he wanted to bang their heads together (without getting shot, not an option) or encourage anything that might distract the lowlife with the gun and the vocab.

"Absolutely no question, young man."

"That's... that's rude. Good but rude."

"No, rude would be a definite improvement," Simpson said casually. "Blattoid, that's truthful. And reluctant as I am to drag this delightful distraction back to the subject at hand -"

Damn.

"But I do have to congratulate y'all on sheer gall. You came here, interrupted my impeccably legal -"

Read, Jack thought, totally illegal, but he kept his mouth shut - it wasn't as if he could couldn't be tactful, after all, at least for a few minutes.

"- engagement with a business acquaintance -"

Shady meeting between criminals in a lowlife hangout.

"- and destroyed several months' arduous work -"

And screw up their disgusting little plans before they even got going, god only knows how.

The other, less tactful but somewhat addled Colonel spoke up. "Yeah like we're really worried about ruining whatever illegal -"

"Makepeace, shut up," Jack would have kicked him if he could. Not that he disagreed, but hell, even a jarhead should have known that wasn't the way to make friends and influence people they needed intel from.

"And that's your idea of helpin'?"

"Umm... well, to be honest," Daniel had that "going to admit to something Jack will wish I hadn't" look on his pale face, "we actually want to help Maude de Saussure."

"I... see."

Jack sighed - that look of Daniel's was never ever wrong - and decided to see if maybe barefaced flattery would work. "You're a bright guy." That and lying, of course.

"Unquestionably." The man still looked pissed, but there was a glint at the back of those eyes.

"And maybe we could cut a deal." And even greed, if it would work. "You tell us a simple phone number, we'll pay you."

"Congratulations - you now do sound like a federal agent."

Jack was now definitely insulted, and this wasn't getting anywhere. Except... except Simpson had the drop on them, and was nearer the door, and was definitely still pissed at the way they'd screwed up whatever he was planning that night (which was probably a good thing, law and order wise, but O'Neill had more important things than law and order to think about. Like Goa'uld necklaces. And bombs). And Simpson hadn't just up and left them, or shot them, or something. He seemed to be waiting.

Jack couldn't help feeling it was because of this Maude de Saussure. The damn man knew who she was, all right. Probably worked with her and no, the Air Force didn't need to know the grimy details.

Stalemate, one of his least favorite games.

He looked down at Daniel, willing his usually oh-so-persuasive linguist to get in and work his oh-so-persuasive skills again, but while Daniel's wound wasn't dangerous, it was bad enough to make him rather unpersuasive... and to suggest that this whole fiasco needed winding up.

Even if both Colonels, even the concussed one, were mentally wincing at the thought of explaining to their General how a few discreet questions had turned into an ex-bar, an all-in-brawl, and a visit to the infirmary... and no answers.

Slippery little lowlife, he was. Way more slippery than he had any right to be...

***

Simpson lifted his head suddenly.

There was someone new out there. Jack felt it, and a small part of him noted with cold calculation that Simpson did too. Most of the shooting - and the godawful music - had stopped, so the Colonel guessed the local cops were into their clean-up. With luck Carter and the others would come around, before Simpson could do a -

"HEY!"

Ah, crap. That bellow definitely didn't sound like Carter.

He didn't jump. Daniel did, Makepeace (concussed, some excuse but not much) sort of did. Simpson merely tensed.

"THIS IS THE ATF -"

ATF? No time to wonder what the hell they were doing involved in this mess instead of - or alongside - the cops.

"YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT, FEDERAL AGENTS. NOW THROW OUT YOUR WEAPONS AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!"

Jack saw the man straight from his slouch against the wall, bringing up the guns to bear on them, and spoke up quickly. "What now, Simpson?"

"I rather think they're bellowing at the establishment across the road," Simpson said helpfully, "but I also think, gentlemen," he went on with that grin and a quick, slippery two-step backwards, weapons aimed straight at O'Neill and Makepeace as he did. "That's would be my cue for a dazzling escape, gentlemen."

"Wait!" Jack tried once more. "Look, okay, we screwed this up a bit -"

"A bit? Try utterly, totally, comprehensively, exhaustively, inimitably un-"

"A bit. But we're serious, just tell us where the woman is and -"

"I REPEAT - COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!" Someone outside sounded as pissed as Jack felt. "WE DON'T HAVE TO COME IN SHOOTING BUT WE SURE AS HELL DON'T MIND!"

"Cowboys," Simpson murmured. "Always cowboys. But nevertheless, I believe I need a pressing engagement somewhere else, as it were. Good evening, good sirs, and in the future may I suggest that if you want to impress new acquaintances, you should attempt diplomacy." He paused. "Or email."

Daniel said shakily but doggedly. "Simpson, that is the, uhh, Feds."

"I did gather that."

Makepeace gawked (there was no other word for it, at least none that Jack knew) blurrily at the man who was still subtly edging toward the gaping hole in the wall that had once been a door. "You wanna be arrested?"

"Occupational hazard, but no, and I don't envisage it this time." Simpson smirked. "Well, gentlemen, don't think it hasn't been a charming experience meeting ya'll -"

"It hasn't." Jack simply had to get it in.

"- Because it -" a flash of irritation, "hasn't."

And he was gone.

Crap. Absolute total crap. Or as Daniel would put it, "that went well."

O'Neill knew he could go after the man, but he'd be better off getting out there and throwing some classified, top secret Air Force yadda, military weight around at everyone in sight - then collecting up his people and getting Makepeace, Daniel and anyone else who'd been injured back to the mountain and Fraiser's less than tender care.

And they'd just track Simpson down all over again, he knew. Even a small-time hood like that couldn't vanish forever. But explaining this night to the Feds - the cops - and worst of all, the General, was going to be such fun, and they had absolutely nothing to show for it.

Nothing at all.

Well, maybe not nothing.

He looked down at his injured linguist. "Daniel -?"

Makepeace looked across, somewhat less alertly but doggedly "Jackson?"

Daniel looked up. "Uh, yeah?"

The two Colonels spoke almost as one. "What the hell does fecaloid mean?"

***

Outside, in the warm evening air, the godawful music was muted but still set his teeth on edge.

"Ezra."

The voice was soft. He sighed. "My apologies, Chris. It's all blown to hell, isn't it?"

The lean blond in kevlar shrugged. "It happens, Ez. We'll think of something."

"Too many people saw... ah hell, it'll get back to Denver before midnight. And anyway, those people -"

"Who the hell were they?"

"I've no idea, Mister Larabee. But given they were looking for Ezra Simpson, I think it best he departs this or any other life." ATF undercover agent Ezra Simpson rubbed his face, trying to shed the small-time loser he'd been for several months. "And I'm sorry, but all this may be necessitate contacting Maude... at once. If, of course, I can even find the dear woman."

"Maude -? What the hell has she done now?"

"As always, Mister Larabee, I'll be the last to know, but those... whoever they were, the ones who ambushed Simpson, they're lookin' for her. Or at least one of her less-than-fondly remembered aliases from my childhood, which I admit I was happily unaware she was recycling." Ezra shrugged. "And much as I am tempted to throw them to the wolf called Maude, unfortunately...."

"Yeah, I know."

"She is mah mother."

M = Maude, Makepeace, mistaken identity, and Mafdet.

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N is for Nikita

by [personal profile] lizardbeth

Malcolm Barrett got his coffee and started for the train station, keeping his head down and wishing he'd brought a scarf. The clouds promised snow eventually, but for now the storm was bringing an icy wind that cut through his trench coat as if it wasn't there.

There was a woman in a long, puffy black coat, leggings, and boots to his left, in the alcove of the stationery store entrance. He started to pass her, thinking of his meeting later, when she spoke in a dry voice, "You should try shaking up your routine once in a while."

He automatically reached for his weapon, though it was holstered under his suit jacket, even as he started to turn to face her.

But her gloved fingers had a hard grip on his, holding his hand still. He looked into her face - she was almost as tall as he was. Her face was Chinese, framed by long black hair and punctuated by fierce dark eyes.

"Don't," she warned quietly. "I'm here to talk."

"About what?" he asked. He remembered seeing that face from somewhere. Inter-bureau announcement maybe. CIA? State Department? Something not his department, and not something to do with his work.

"You've been cleaning up NID," she said. "Which is way overdue. But you're also pushing parts of it deeper into the shadows."

The Trust, in other words, he thought, and nodded. "I know. But I can't get them all."

"No. And some parts won't let you get them."

"Are you threatening me?" he asked, keeping his voice level. "Because I'm not going to back off."

She gave a little smile and then let go of his hand. "Neither am I. We have something in common. I'm going to take down Division."

He started in surprise. Now there was a name to bring a chill to the heart of anyone in the business. "Division?" he repeated. It didn't need another name-- it had started as the Black Ops wing of NID, but been formally disbanded even before his tenure. "It still exists?"

She nodded once, not taking her eyes from him.

"How do you know?" he demanded.

"Because I used to work for them," she answered, not surprisingly, then gave a little chuckle. "They're not happy I escaped."

"No, they wouldn't be," he agred and couldn't help a glance around, looking for anyone observing them. There was no one in view, but he moved deeper into the alcove. He already knew, but had to ask to confirm it, "Assassinations? Black Ops? All that?"

"All that and worse," she confirmed. "No accountability, services for hire."

His mouth twisted in disgust. "They've gone rogue?"

She nodded and flicked her gaze to the reflection in the window, checking behind her. "Percy's got so much dirt on various power brokers, the government will likely collapse before he goes down. That's what makes it ... tricky."

He nodded. Division was where the Trust was getting their murder squads, he would bet. And if there was a connection, then there was at least one Goa'uld involved in Division. "More of these bastards," he muttered.

She flashed a smile, amused by his surly comment. She was beautiful when she smiled. And he suddenly remembered where he'd seen her before. A bulletin with her picture had crossed his desk about six months ago.

She said, "I knew I was right to approach you. But just like that? You believe me?"

He shrugged under his coat. "It's another piece of the rogue op I'm already tracking, I think." He paused and said deliberately, "Nikita."

Her smile widened, pleased, not worried that he knew. "You did recognize me."

"I saw the kill order. It claims you're a traitor, a terrorist, a spy for the Chinese, plus murder, kidnapping and probably something about overdue library books; I didn't look at it that closely," he told her mildly, and made no move toward his weapon, so she would know he had no intention of trying anything.

She tensed only a little, but then relaxed again at his little joke. "Wise of you not to buy it."

"I'm sure some of it's true," he countered, "I'm not that na?ve. But I don't take orders from shady organizations. What do you need?"

She answered promptly, "Surveillance packages. I can't cut off the head of the snake yet, but I can disrupt their ops if I have equipment."

He was relieved she didn't ask for weapons. "I can do that. But I want to know who you're working for?"

"No one," she answered. "I'm on my own."

He didn't quite believe that, since she had to have some support, but he also knew her support couldn't be large, not with a national security level kill order on her. But it didn't matter, since he believed the part about Division. He was going to look into it. "Not anymore. Give me a week, I'll see what I can do."

"Good. I'll get in touch." She glanced over her shoulder then back to him. "I should go. If they find out you're helping me, you're a dead man."

He gave a little shrug. That was nothing new, not after fighting traitors and Goa'uld infiltrators all these years. "Watch your back, Nikita."

"You, too, Malcolm," she wished him, making it clear she knew him, too, and walked away, heading back to the coffee shop.

He gave her two minutes to clear out of the area and then continued toward the station. His coffee had grown cold, but that didn't matter.

He had plenty to think about.
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O is for Off Hours (Nero Wolfe)
by [personal profile] randomfreshink

"A detective?" Jack said, managing to make the word an insult and an issue, as if he hadn't already been doing that the entire trip up from DC. "We're spending down time stopping by to see a detective?"

Daniel winced, knew he shouldn't react, couldn't stop it. He put a hand up to lift the brass knocker of the brownstone on West Thirty-Fifth. "It's not...we're not. I...look, just, think of this as...as...as I need a consultation. You know, you didn't have to come." But he was relieved Jack had insisted. Who knew what radar Jack had for sensing trouble, but something had set him off and he wouldn't be talked out of it.

Leaning back to glance up at the brownstone, sunglasses in place, Jack said, the words thrown away so they wouldn't cut sharp, "Like any of us are letting you out on another auld lang syne after Chicago?"

Daniel's frown tightened. "Two years, Jack. Two."

"And...consultation? As in for...?" Jack wobbled a hand left and right, left the sentence hanging, meaning for something wooby. Daniel didn't finish the thought, and Jack's frown deepened behind the aviator shades. He stuffed his hands in his pockets--never a good sign because it meant he was missing a gun to cradle. "Just who okayed the paperwork for this little field trip anyway?"

Jack already knew that answer, which meant he was fishing, and Daniel opened his mouth to tell Jack a few things he wouldn't want to hear. The door swung wide on oiled hinges, saving Daniel from having to do more than turn and smile. He knew the man in the doorway from a meeting that had been a few years back. Shockingly, the man hadn't changed--not a bit. Daniel stood there, opened mouth, trying to put together scattered thoughts. He'd expected....well, not this. The man was tall, slim, looked to be mid-thirties, had a face kept carefully blank.

Eyes narrowing, he stared at Daniel. "Don't I...?"

"Daniel Jackson," Daniel said, getting the words out before anything else slipped. He held out his hand. There was such a thing as TMI--and there was one more little thing buried here that Jack really was better off not knowing. He couldn't do anything about it now, so it would only irritate.

The man took his hand, his eyebrows lifted, but the frown didn't, so Daniel added, "My grandfather was a friend of...."

The light went on, and Archie Goodwin snapped his fingers. "Ballard. Nick Ballard. You're that Jackson. Come on in."

They stepped in, and Daniel shot a nervous glance over to Jack, who was eyeing the place with a combination of deep suspicion and too faint curiosity. "Nice joint," Jack said, and Daniel knew the slang was being laid on in compensation for the surroundings. Jack could behave himself, but something about luxury inevitably set off his defenses--Daniel wasn't sure if it had gotten worse from too much Kinsey, the Trust, or the Goa'uld. Or maybe just DC. At least there wasn't an excess of gold showing, even if the there was a clutter of antiques.

The man who'd let them in struck a pose that was a little too like Jack's, feet spread, hands in his pockets, that empty goodwill stare that meant nothing--god help them all if these two got off on the wrong foot--and asked, "Is he...." He pulled out a hand and thumbed over his shoulder to a study off the entry hall. "...expecting you?"

"I telephoned," Daniel said, nodding, and still needing the reassurance of a face-to-face meeting.

Telephoned? Jack pulled off his sunglasses and mouthed the word, eyebrows rising with even more questions, and Daniel stared at him to get the message through that he was not going to get into that right now. He turned back, knew he'd better get introductions out of the way before they tangled in too many memories--and, dammit, there was no reason Jack had had to come along on this trip. But maybe he'd just needed to get out of DC.

"Mr. Goodwin, this is General Jack O'Neil."

The title didn't seem to impress, but then Jack's uniform hadn't done that, either. "Oh? Army?" Goodwin asked. Deliberate provocation since the wings on Jack's coat weren't difficult to spot

"Air Force," Jack said, his tone flat.

"Flyboy," Goodwin said with a smile. It didn't take out the sting and Jack stiffened, looked ready to trot out the big bad General attitude. Daniel had already noticed these two hadn't bothered to shake hands. Ah, yes, the famous O'Neil charm hard at work--Jack could use it like a club.

Jack turned to Daniel. "Are we done now, because I know a--"

A voice boomed out of the office, froze Jack's words. "Is it your intention to keep my guest at bay in the vestibule?"

Goodwin didn't seem bothered by that voice--but, then, he never had that Daniel could recall. He gestured for them to go ahead, and Daniel started for the study, turned to glance back at Jack--he'd give anything to get Jack into the kitchen with Goodwin (and beer). But Sokar's hell had a better chance of reassembling itself from the atoms they'd blown it into.

He let out a breath, pulled it in again. And walked into the study.

The man he'd met years ago, after his parent's death, and then years later, sat behind a carved oak desk that filled the room. Both were larger than life, but the man glanced up, heavy jowls pulled down and eyes narrowed, and Daniel knew he was being sized up. He came forward. "Mr. Wolfe, I don't believe we've formally met--" That part was true. "I'm Daniel Jackson." He stressed the words, and Wolfe's mouth twitched--irritation or something else? Daniel wasn't sure.

"'Cunning leads to knavery. It is but a step from one to the other, and that very slippery. Only lying makes the difference...'"

"'Add that to cunning, and it is knavery,'" Daniel said, finishing the quote. And he knew how he was making that step more and more often these days.

This time Mr. Wolfe smiled. "You know your Ovid."

"My grandfather's influence." Daniel flashed a tight smile. He'd caught the warning in the words--but he couldn't say anything in front of Jack. Since Mr. Wolfe didn't rise from behind the desk, and it would have been awkward to reach over and rude to come around and intrude on his space, Daniel simply gestured to Jack. "This is General O'Neil."

Wolfe glanced at him. "Mr. Goodwin, please take the good general to the kitchen for refreshments. Dr. Jackson and I have matters to discuss."

Expecting some quip, or insult, or something, Daniel glanced over to Jack. He'd almost expected slack-jawed shock--that had been his own initial reaction when he'd seen the file and that photo. Instead, he caught worry from Jack--worry directed at him. He gave back a shrug. Yes, okay, so...you can see why I had to come.

And how had Jack known about the resemblance between this man at the desk and the host of Nerus?

Daniel turned back to the man he'd come to see--his grandfather's friend, the man who'd helped him financially through college. Nero Wolfe. He'd wanted to make utterly certain Wolfe had not been goa'ulded. He hadn't, thank everything--not if that file was right, and it had to be. That would have made Nerus more than dangerous. But Wolfe also hadn't aged a year since Daniel had last seen him--and this time he knew he wasn't remembering this man with a child's memory. Nineteen sixty-nine stood out in his own mind.

It'd taken him the better part of an hour to convince Sam that they should stop by the brownstone on West Thirty-Fifth before heading over to Catherine's. Daniel had wanted insurance that if anything went wrong, someone would be around to maybe fix things. He'd left a letter with Wolfe, had said that if he didn't come back for it, and news didn't show up of him in the papers, it should be destroyed. He'd known he could trust Nero Wolfe's discretion and his promises.

One of those still held now, for Mr. Wolfe said nothing of that visit. But he glanced at Jack and back to Daniel. "You said this matter required utmost discretion."

"We..." Daniel checked the lies that came too easily to him. He'd been warned once--there would be no tolerance for anything else that would smack of what Wolfe would call chicanery. "I'm sorry to intrude, but we happened across someone who...well, you might say it's uncanny." He pulled out the photo from the file--the one he hadn't seen until much later, and Daniel still wasn't sure if he was glad that he hadn't known more sooner. "He did look like you."

Wolfe glanced at the photo and pushed it away. "Past tense and therefore no longer a matter of urgency. It is nonsense as well. Beyond a superficial similarity, I see nothing remotely the same. To judge by his expression, his slack mouth, the small eyes, his man lacks even rudimentary intelligence."

"Got that right," Jack muttered, and Daniel shot him a look. Jack just shrugged. He'd regained his balance, but Daniel still had another puzzle on his hand. He turned to face Wolfe. "There is one other thing--you haven't aged." Daniel glanced from Wolfe to Goodwin. They were both sharing their own looks, and even from five feet away Daniel could feel Jack tense. He stepped forward before anything escalated. "So my grandfather's stories were true."

He made it a statement, though he wasn't sure. He was guessing.

However, Wolfe nodded, and Goodwin moved smoothly to a bookcase. He put his back to them, did something that opened a section of the wall. He came out with what looked a carved wooden cup. Daniel could feel the age of the thing vibrate in his bones, echo in his chest and he pulled in a sharp breath. This cup mattered--a great deal. And he shook his head, could not believe what must be the truth. So all his grandfather's stories did have some fact in them.

"Okay, if someone doesn't start talking soon, I'm having the NSA put all of you under arrest--and don't think..."

"Jack..."

"...I won't."

"Will you show some respect?" Daniel muttered, voice loud even though he tried to keep it down.

Wolfe gestured to Goodwin, and the man put the cup back behind the bookcase, sealed it again. He came out and a clock struck--half past six. Wolfe pulled out a pocket watch, checked it and announced, "Dinner. You will stay. We will discuss this after a decent repast."

Jack looked ready to argue, but Daniel shook his head. They ate, and Daniel kept kicking Jack under the table to make him behave because he knew Wolfe's habits. Thank god Jack and Goodwin got into the topic of sports and that dragged them through to desert. Daniel couldn't have said afterwards what he'd eaten. He knew Wolfe didn't approve--neither did the thin-faced elderly cook. But once they were back in Wolfe's study, Goodwin poured brandy for everyone and Wolfe started the story.

"You've heard about the Jones, senior and junior. Professors of Archeology, though some would say they used such a title as loosely as they used their academic accreditation."

Daniel nodded. "Senior published extensively, but junior didn't."

"Junior?" Jack said, and Daniel frowned at him, but food and the choice of beer with dinner had mellowed Jack's mood. Jack only gave back a blank stare and settled deeper into his leather chair, muttering, "Why do I now know this is where the evening gets weirder."

Daniel turned back to Wolfe. "I wasn't aware you knew them."

"Your grandfather introduced us. I'd met your grandfather during the war...."

"The war? As in..."

"Jack!"

"Just askin'. Look, shall we, as they say, cut to the chase here?" Jack stood up, spread his hands. "You guys have something you've been given for safe keeping. Am I off the track so far?" No one said anything, but Wolfe's several chins lifted and interest sparked in his eyes. "It's that plain something you keep in the cupboard, and the Joneses had something to do with getting it to you, and we are not going to get into the how or why of that because my thinking is that's going to take us through to breakfast. But, ever since, you've been, shall we say, not exactly in line for Social Security--am I getting close?"

"Kind of makes us knights," Goodwin said, sounding pleased.

Wolfe scowled at him, Daniel nodded because he'd already pieced together what Jack was now making official with his words. He also bit his lower lip because he wasn't sure what he'd have to put into any kind of an official report. Technically, he was on vacation. Jack was on leave. They were both off the clock, and off hours, but did their work ever end?

He looked up at Jack, who was glancing around to make sure he had everyone's attention. "Knights? Already got one of those back at base, thanks. All I really care about is anyone here got a snake in your head making your eyes glow, giving you bad taste in clothes, and an urge for universal domination?"

Wolfe and Goodwin exchanged blank looks and Jack nodded. Daniel frowned because both Goodwin and Wolfe dressed well, in old fashioned suits that wouldn't have looked out of place in Jack's DC. There wasn't an ounce of bad taste in this house that he'd seen.

Jack nodded and smiled. "Good 'nough. Just keep it that way. Daniel has a habit of losing old friends. You're acquaintances, so you might want to stay that, too."

Daniel stiffened, but Jack was already waving him up and out. Truth was, he wouldn't be sorry to go, despite the itch to hear what stories might be had from Wolfe. The house, grand as it was, had an oppressive air, as if time had stopped here, and he wondered suddenly what it would be like to go on, forever on, caught at one age, one time of life, the world around you forever changing. Everyone else moving on.

He wasn't sure he wanted to know about that, but he turned and asked Wolfe, "You're okay. You'll be okay? With...?" He gestured to the bookcase, had no idea what he was asking, had no idea what he'd say if Wolfe said he needed help with the responsibility he'd undertaken and the trust he held.

Mr. Wolfe steepled his fingers before him. "You know your Ovid. This takes little courage."

Daniel nodded, relief washed through him, and he thought he understood.

Goodwin stood, offered to show them to the door. On the steps, he paused, asked, "Didn't we meet before? Back in sixty-nine or..."

"We all have our doppelgangers, Mr. Goodwin." Daniel said, breaking into his words, offering a smile. "Good night. And please thank Mr. Wolfe again for his hospitality."

"Sure...sure."

The door shut on them and Daniel turned to find Jack already on the street, rocking forward onto the balls of his feet. He burped, tapped his hand on his chest. "Spiced stuff. Gives me gas these days."

Daniel came down the steps, put his hands in his pockets. "You don't want to know why Goodwin thinks he knows me?"

"Oh, he does. And I already knew." Jack reached out, pulled Daniel's coat collar straight. "Never leave something out of a report when Carter puts it in."

"Sam?"

"Yes, of course, Sam. If you'd written up your little detour here I wouldn't have thought twice about it, wouldn't have remembered it sticking out."

"So you knew I knew him?" Daniel straightened. "You've been keeping tabs on him. You knew Nerus didn't...hadn't..."

"Daniel, I make it a habit to know people you know because those people seem to make it a habit to get snaked. Now, if you don't mind, that quail wasn't what I came to New York for, but I know this great little Irish pub downtown."

"Where they always have a hockey game on?" Daniel asked, wary now.

Jack put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, started him down the street. "Come on. You're on vacation. I'm on leave. You're old friends have their mysteries buttoned up. And what was with that bit about Ovid?"

"'Courage conquers all things.'"

"Yeah, 'cept maybe heartburn. Thought that was supposed to be love, anyway, and ain't that's a crock?"

"Jack, we probably..."

"Should leave things as they are. Your pals back there have it buttoned up, which these days is not such a bad thing. Time for us to forget that we came here for anything except good stew that'll warm your bones. And a couple of pints of local brew, though what Wolfe served wasn't half bad."

Daniel nodded, shrugged, thought this probably wasn't the best idea ever, but then, what the hell. "I thought it was the pizza you liked here?"

They settled in to argue the point, and Daniel decided it wasn't like they needed more secrets locked up at the SGC. Behind them, the lights from the brownstone on West Thirty-Fifth shown out onto the city street, bright and steady.

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P is for Physics (Chronicles of Narnia)
by [personal profile] sentientcitizen

When Ernest dies, Catherine copes in the way she knows best: she keeps busy. There's a funeral to plan, and his (quite small) estate to deal with, and when she writes the final thank-you-for-attending and finds herself with nothing to do she takes the wedding money and Ernest's savings ("It should be yours, dear," his tearful mother had said, "Ernest would have wanted it to be yours") and enrols for courses at Lamar Community College.

She tries a bit of everything; they've no anthropology courses at all, no language courses worth bothering with, and so remembering Ernest she begins to take math, biology, physics. It's physics that captures her mind, in the end, although she can't explain why even to herself. What they teach her is so painfully simple, but she thinks she can see something grander hidden within it, lurking behind the equations in her books.

At the end of her first term, she sends off an application to Cornell's undergraduate physics program.

She picked Cornell more or less on a whim, because she likes that it has women's dormitories and no denominational ties and, more importantly, it's across the country, as far away from Colorado Springs and Ernest's ghost as her limited funds will take her. And she gets in, even wins a scholarship, because there's a war on and the boys in the trenches are in no position to be studying, and besides, her marks are excellent.

Father makes vague noises about being proud of her, but doesn't she really think this is a little drastic? But Father's mind has been a million miles away since Ernest's accident, and in the end she leaves home with relatively little fuss.

And then the war is over, and suddenly the boys from the trenches have plenty of time to study. She doesn't have the scientific background that most of the boys -- men, now, really -- have, and it only takes her a term to realise that she doesn't even have the brains that all of them have. And that's a bitter pill to swallow, to realise that her mind, which had always carried her so easily wherever she wished to go, would never be able to leap as lightly through numbers as her classmates' can.

But if they could run faster, she'd run harder. Late nights in the library, early mornings pacing the paths as her mind chews over some particularly hoary bit of math, and at the end of her first year she surprises them all by taking fifth in her class. Next year, she's third. The year after, she slips to fourth, but she doesn't mind ceding her place to smiling, round-faced Owen. The grade on her papers matters less than the knowledge in her head.

In her fourth year, Dr. Walter Morrison, who helped her fight her way through his class on special relativity and then began making pointed noises about graduate school, hears that her money is all but gone and promptly hires her on as an assistant. And so she finds herself in front of his first year Physics class, delivering a stern speech on academic integrity and walking them through the syllabus.

Automatically, she looks for and finds the rare few female faces in the crowd. Three this year, not a bad number, although she's not certain they'll all last out the term. Catherine hates to admit it, but there's a certain type of girl that tends of succeed in these classes: quiet, bookish, with a hint of steel beneath their skin and something burning in their eyes, driving them onward. Tiny Doris Daugherty, with her dowdy clothes and grim-set jaw, fits the image perfectly. Doris will go far. Lillian Mullins has the bookish part down, but there's no passion in her eyes, and Catherine mentally writes her off.

And Susan Pevensie... Susan Pevensie is a mystery, one that half her male students can't seem to take their eyes off. Dr. Morrison has warned her about Susan in advance, in his clumsy but well-meaning way. Lost her family, he says. Terrible accident. Using the inheritance to put herself through school. Thought you two might have something in common, yes? And because Dr. Morrison has been kind to her, Catherine agrees to try to... she's not sure what. Guide the girl? Comfort her? Deliver some kind of speech about pluck and integrity and oh, by the way, the pain will never go away, but I recommend studying until you're so tired you can't think about it even if you want to, that's what always worked for me...

Her eyes drift back to Susan time and again as the class drags on. The girl meets no one's gaze, but instead sits straight and proud, and takes meticulous notes. Catherine catches a glimpse of her tidy, well-formed handwriting, and thinks it belongs in a love letter, not a notebook of equations. When Susan speaks, it's in a soft, accented voice, and her hair is pinned up in the latest style. There's an uncertain look about her, with maybe just a hint of fear, as if she isn't sure what she's gotten herself into.

Catherine doesn't know what to make of her.

Class is over, and her students are filing out, filling the air with bright excitement and complaints, murmured where they think she can't hear, when Catherine realises Susan is standing here with arms wrapped tight around her textbooks.

"Can I help you?" Catherine asks, automatically.

Susan clutches the text to her chest, knuckles white with nerves. There's a faint indent on her ring finger, where an engagement band might have sat. "I was wondering... I was wondering if you knew anything about the multiverse theory."

"Parallel universes?" Catherine asks. "Are you looking for me to recommend some books, or do you just want my opinion?"

"Either," says Susan. "Both. All of it." And there, gleaming behind her eyes, is something hard and fierce. A haughtiness like a queen's. A courage like a soldier's.

"I'm heading back to my office," says Catherine, after a moment, mentally placing Susan with grim-eyed Doris on her list of students worth watching. "Well. It's more of a closet, but - we can talk there."

It's the first of many conversations, and soon Catherine finds herself at the limits of what she can teach the girl. Susan's obsession is with other worlds, worlds so close one could reach out and very nearly touch them, and the intensity with which she pursues every new scrap of knowledge would put Catherine to shame if she didn't know that Susan's coursework suffered for it. She suspects that her own coursework, on the other hand, may be improving, the inevitable result of trading off the last of her leisure time for afternoons spent in the library with Susan, bouncing ideas off one another.

Catherine graduates, and those afternoons with Susan must have been worth something after all, because she's second in her year, so close to taking first that it drives her to distraction wondering if just a little more work might have won her the number one spot. She'd have been worlds less frustrated to find herself resting comfortably at fifth or sixth, she confides to Susan, and the two of them celebrate - and commiserate - over drinks that night.

Catherine is amused to discover that with three glasses of wine in her, the infamously poised Susan Pevensie fully reverts to the vacant, wide-eyed flirt she'd sometimes lapsed into during that first term at Cornell. At five glasses of wine, the wide-eyed flirt gives way to a clever, sharp-tongued young lady who curses like a sailor and feels no apparent need to conceal her contempt for the intellect of those around her. The gaggle of young men who'd been drawn in by her fluttering disperse with all due haste.

At eight glasses, Susan grows quiet, gains a calm collection that Catherine isn't used to seeing in drunks. She sips her wine with dignity, and continues sipping until, with very little fuss, she tips sideways and slides to the floor. Catherine hauls her home and puts her to bed, feeling protective and put-upon in equal measures. "We were queens, once," Susan slurs, as Catherine pulls her shoes off. "They gave up on me, but I - I - God, Lucy, why did you have to go?"

Catherine wants to ask, the next morning, what Susan had meant - but she sees the shame and pain and pride in Susan's eyes and has to look away, words unspoken. She goes home and works on her application for graduate studies instead; she wants to research wormhole theory with Dr Morrison. The idea is one she stumbles across during a long night in the library with Susan. The other woman scorns wormholes for not fitting her own strange rules of the right ways to reach another world, but the idea appeals to Catherine's imagination, sinks its hold into her endless curiosity. Idle sketches begin to appear in the margins of her notebooks, and it will be nearly a year before she realises how much they resembled the stone ring Father had uncovered at Giza.

And somehow, when Catherine isn't paying attention, Susan becomes... not exactly what Catherine would call a friend. The younger woman is too strange, even by the standards of physicists, too fixated on her multiverse experiments, too aloof even in moments of emotion. But in time they become something more than just colleagues. Compatriots, perhaps - fellow citizens of the mad world in their heads. Two wild-eyed women with tragic pasts and pet theories, prone to dropping by each other's homes at preposterous hours of the night, dignity dropping away in favour of debating physics with such gleeful volume that Catherine is surprised the neighbours don't complain.

"Am I crazy?" Susan asks one day, as they sit on Catherine's ancient sofa, sipping coffee.

"If you are, we all are," Catherine replies, automatically flip.

Susan doesn't seem to hear her. "It's just that some days, I wonder... because when the accident happened, I lay down in bed, and I didn't move for three days. Sometimes I wonder if I'm still just lying in a white room somewhere. The poor mad girl who couldn't cope."

This time, Catherine does her the courtesy of answering seriously. "Why? What makes you fear it?"

Susan laughs - a short, unhappy sound. "The things in my head, Catherine - the things I believe, they're..."

Catherine thinks of Ernest. Of Father. Of her own mad wormhole theories, slowly taking shape in her mind and haunted, ever haunted, by the ring from Giza, dribs and drabs of overheard childhood conversations beginning to coalesce in her head to form something so grand she hardly dared think it. "I'm starting to wonder," she says, after a long moment, "if 'crazy' is just another word for 'genius'. If you're wrong, they'll say you were mad. But if you're right..."

Susan smiles a funny smile, and then says, as if quoting someone, "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either she's lying, or she's mad, or she's telling the truth."

"Who said that?" Catherine asks, curious.

"A very wise man," Susan answers, and then stands. "Enough chit-chat, Cat. Time for us to get back to work."

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Q is for Quest (The Mummy)
by [profile] traycer_

This had to be a dream, Jack thought as he stared at the creature heading his way. He and his team had come to look for an artifact rumored to hold the symbiote of a Goa'uld, but they ended up stepping through the Twilight Zone and facing a creature that shouldn't exist.

"What is that thing?" he shouted to be heard over a particularly loud roar.

"I think it's a mummy," Daniel yelled back.

"A mummy?" This was from Carter, who looked like she had seen a ghost. Jack could certainly relate to that. That thing scared the heck out of him too.

"The Goa'uld speak of such a creature," Teal'c said, his staff weapon primed and ready. "They believe it has regenerative powers. It was considered bad luck to try to find one."

"Gee, I wonder why," Jack said dryly.

"Perhaps it was because the creature was extremely dangerous," Teal'c said in response.

The creature stopped at the edge of a crevice left over from a prior disturbance. Jack didn't know what caused the crevice, but he didn't care either. As long as it kept the mummy over on the other side, he was happy.

"Now what?" Carter wanted to know.

Jack didn't answer right away. He was trying to calculate how much time they would have if he just went ahead and destroyed the chamber they were in, and hopefully annihilate the mummy while they were at it.

"Daniel," he said. "What will happen if we drop the ceiling on top of that thing? Will that kill it?"

"I don't know," Daniel said with a resigned sigh. "The only mummies I ever heard about were products of someone else's imagination."

"Well, we're about to find out," Jack said, having made the decision. He reached down, pulled out a grenade and yelled at his team to run. They took off, while the creature roared, the sound seeming to make the whole room tremble.

Jack didn't wait around to see what would happen next. He tossed the grenade and ran. He nearly made it to the door before the explosion knocked him into the wall. He looked back in time to see a huge slab land on top of the mummy. More slabs and pillars were falling everywhere and Jack didn't wait around. He took off after his team, racing through the corridors they passed through earlier, dodging bricks and everything else that was hurled at him. He made it outside just as the whole structure collapsed.

"Did we get it?" Carter asked, as she tried to see past all the stone and mortar lying in a heap.

"I hope so," Jack said with feeling. He didn't even want to think about the consequences.

"We did not retrieve the urn," Teal'c said quietly. Jack couldn't tell if Teal'c felt bad about that or not. He was so hard to read.

"Well, that's probably good news," Jack told him. "It's trapped in there with that dead mummy. Let them duke it out."

Teal'c nodded, but didn't respond. Daniel, on the other hand, had his own theories.

"You know, the Goa'uld may have found its way into that mummy which is what brought it back to life."

It was a far stretch as far as Jack was concerned, but entirely possible. So much so, that he decided that was the case and both were dead. Things were much easier when put that way.

They drove away in silence. No one had anything to say. The roar of the engine was the only sound, although Jack thought he heard something else in the desert air. Something that sounded almost inhuman.

It was just the wind, he reminded himself as their vehicle took them farther away from the ruined temple. Nothing but the wind.

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R is for Resisting the Darkness (The Hunger Games)
by [personal profile] dannysgirlsg1

Daniel watched the pair of men from the opposite cave wall, contemplating them and the current predicament he now found himself in. He still hadn't quite grasped how he'd managed to get mixed up in another fine mess before he'd been thrown for a loop by people he'd felt he could maybe trust.

"So what did you call it?" He questioned, rising to his feet gingerly. He favored his right leg, sporting its latest gash. Just another scar to add to the ones already obtained over the years.

Grey eyes glanced over a shoulder as he moved towards the pair slowly. They seemed unsure by Daniel's silence-breaking question.

He pointed to the other man, unconscious against the cave wall. "With him," Daniel swung a hand out towards the mouth of the cave. "Out there."

"Hijacking," Gale answered. "Peeta's been hijacked."

Daniel awkwardly placed himself down next to the pair, watching as Gale meticulously cared for the superficial wounds scattering Peeta's arms. His eyes lingered on the handcuffs binding the unconscious man's hands together.

"It's a mind altering thing?" He questioned.

He got an incredulous glance for it. "You saw what happened."

"I did..." Daniel drew out, hoping Gale would elaborate. When the silence stretched on, he sighed. "Look, I'm trying to understand how a guy like Peeta, who I'd thought I'd come to know well enough since we found ourselves stuck here, could flip like that."

Daniel closed his eyes and dropped his head. "I'm just looking for a reason to trust here."

"Then you picked the wrong people." A slurred voice answered. Daniel and Gale turned their attention on Peeta, who was now gazing at them with half-lidded, pain-filled blue eyes.

"Peeta," Gale's response was a mix between greeting and admonishment.

Peeta grabbed Gale's hand between his cuffed ones. "We can't be trusted, Gale." He mumbled, his face a contortion of sadness. "We break promises."

Daniel watched Gale's face pale. It took him a moment before he found the right words to answer with.

He pulled his hand from Peeta's and placed it on his tear-stained cheek. "You haven't broken any promises, Mellark."

Lips trembling, Peeta whispered. "I hurt her."

Gale shook his head. "No, you didn't."

Daniel frowned when Peeta frowned in confusion. "Not real?" Couldn't he remember what had transpired just before they sought refuge in the cave? Peeta had suddenly seemed to lose his mind, trying to attack the woman Daniel had seen he cared about deeply. He and Gale had subdued Peeta before that could happen, but not before Peeta's knife had found home in Daniel's thigh. Daniel was confused about the sudden shift in personality then and the lack of memory now.

"Not real." Gale confirmed. He brushed back the sweaty blonde hair hanging in Peeta's eyes. "I'd never let that happen."

"You should've been the one." Peeta mumbled, a resigned look in his troubled eyes.

Gale shook his head. "See, I did break a promise, remember?" Peeta's eyes closed. "The one promise that never should've been broken. I failed. I always would've failed. But not you."

Peeta shook his head this time. "I'm a monster."

"No," Daniel finally broke in, gaining a surprised glance from Peeta and a wary one from Gale. "You're not a monster."

A shaky, cynical smile is what Peeta offered in return. "No offense, but you've hardly known me long enough to decide, Daniel. You don't know all the things I've done."

Daniel shrugged in return. "I know enough from what I've seen, including whatever just happened out there." He pointed toward the cave mouth. Peeta glanced that way before finding his eyes once more. "That, whatever it was, wasn't natural. Any darkness inside you, it's forced. I could see that."

"How do you know?" Peeta whispered, his lucidity having slipped back into uncertainty.

It was Daniel's turn to offer a cynical smile. "Just take it from someone who's seen enough personal darkness to know."

Peeta accepted this response, seeming to see the truth in Daniel's words. He then looked at Daniel hesitantly.

"I stabbed you?"

Glancing at his bandaged wound, Daniel couldn't help but wince. "Yeah."

Peeta looked truly pained when Daniel's attention returned to him. "I'm sorry."

"That wasn't you." Daniel offered an understanding smile. "And I've gotten a lot worse, believe me."

Peeta grew silent after that, his gaze falling to his shackled hands. Daniel watched him wring his hands together on an endless look, occasionally pulling tight on the bindings around his wrists. It wasn't too long before Gale was finished cleaning up Peeta's arms.

"Okay Mellark," Gale sighed. "Time to rest."

Lost in his own thoughts, Peeta merely nodded. The motion of his hands continued as he shifted into a lying position and closed his eyes.

Daniel lingered a moment by Peeta as Gale made his way over to the meager fire they'd coaxed into existence when they'd first gotten in the cave. When Daniel finally limped over that way, Gale immediately turned his attention on him.

"How do you seem to know so much about personal darkness?" He questioned suspiciously as Daniel placed himself down by the fire.

Staring into the flames, Daniel's mind wandered back to an instance when he was shown just what lingered deep inside his heart. "I've had some experience a time or two."

Gale gazed at him intently. "And?"

"And..." Daniel squinted, unable to find the right words to say. "And...I just know what it's like to have evil inside you." He couldn't help the slight sarcastic laugh that escaped. "Literally and figuratively." He glanced up to find Gale giving him an uncomprehending look.

"I've dealt with many demons, and not all of them were flesh and blood type monsters."

Gale nodded slowly, understanding. Daniel watched him carefully, his thoughts lingering on something Peeta had said.

"When you two were talking about promises..."

It seemed Gale had been expecting the inquiry by the sad smile that came to his lips.

"You're not the only one with demons." He looked at Daniel, who lifted his eyebrows in a 'carry on' gesture.

Gale sighed and sat back. "I made a promise to protect someone...someone special." He shrugged, feigning nonchalance. "And I couldn't keep that promise."

"It's never that simple." Daniel replied.

Shrugging again, Gale looked at him. "It isn't." He glanced over his shoulder back at Peeta. "But I'm doing what I can to make up for it."

Daniel took in the way Gale was looking at Peeta. "You care about him a lot."

It surprised him when Gale answered in the negative. "No, I don't." The look on Gale's face when his grey eyes returned to meet Daniel's blue was one of pained acceptance. "But she does."

Understanding dawned, though Daniel still doubted his outright denial of caring. "Ah."

Gale shrugged for a third time. "Plus," He sat forward again. "Mellark is the best out of all of us." He poked at the fire with the tip of an arrow he had pulled from his quiver. "He's overcome something that nobody else ever has. He's stronger than me. Better than me."

Clearly he cared more about Peeta than he was letting on. A strange feeling spread across Daniel's chest. He felt as if he was gazing upon someone he was more than familiar with. It hit him hard that he could imagine the very man in his mind saying the same things about him. He felt an ache of loneliness, the long weeks of being stuck in this future catching up to him.

He scooted closer to Gale, the need to provide comfort prevalent. Though it was born of a desire to provide comfort to a friend that wasn't there, Daniel felt it would be enough.

"You're not a bad person." He said softly. "You've just made bad decisions."

Gale snorted and looked at him. "Voice of someone who knows again?"

Daniel smiled gently. "What can I say? I'm experienced."

Gale watched him for a moment before laughing lightly and rolling his eyes. "You know, you're just like Mellark." He shook his head and clasped his hands together. "Too charming to dislike."

Leaning back on his hands, Daniel winced as he stretched out his injured leg. "I don't think anyone is as charming as Peeta."

Gale laughed again. "It's not an easy task to convince Katniss Everdeen to fall in love with you." He shot a sideways glance to Daniel, defeat in his eyes. "Like I said -- better than I ever was or could be."

Daniel tilted his head in acquiescence. He understood the throes of jealousy that could only be brought on by a woman cared about. His mind drifted to Vala, out in the woods with the woman who had captured the hearts of both the men he now found himself with.

It seemed Gale's train of thought had followed his. "You think Katniss and your crazy partner are giving them trouble?"

He laughed. "Vala? She is trouble incarnate."

"Sounds like Catnip."

Daniel shared a look with Gale and they both laughed again, their conversation reducing into better understanding each other. And Daniel began to think that he could trust these people, the future Earth's rebels and fighters for freedom, more than just maybe.
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S is for Sufficiently Advanced Technology (Sorcerer's Apprentice)
by [personal profile] jedibuttercup

"Remind me why we're here again?" Daniel asked, eyeing the non-descript door with lifted eyebrows.

Sam sighed and threw him a long-suffering look. "Because this is the address of record for the people questioned after the disturbance in Bowling Green Park two nights ago," she said. "225 Washington Place."

"...Right. And we expect them to actually be here because?" he replied.

He exchanged unimpressed glances with Vala; on the other side of the former galactic thief, Mitchell offered him an eloquent shrug. Nominally, Mitchell was the leader of their motley crew as he had a few months' seniority over Sam in their respective lieutenant colonelcies, but given that Daniel was a civilian, their other two team members were aliens, and Sam had far more SGC experience, he usually let whoever had the most knowledge in any given situation have their head. Today, that was Sam.

"I read the police reports on our way over," she replied, as she pulled a palm-sized device from her jacket pocket and aimed it toward the building. "They were uploaded this morning. There's no mention of the energy burst the Odyssey picked up, which isn't really a surprise, given its unusual nature. The local authorities only became involved after reports started coming in about a disturbance in the park-- several people running around, someone yelling in the fountain, and then what looked like a lightning strike before the power went down briefly throughout the entire financial district. When they arrived, they discovered the Charging Bull statue knocked off its pedestal, and two people on the ground: a man suffering from the aftereffects of what appeared to be a heart attack, and a woman wearing, quote, some kind of fancy party dress, tending to him."

"Lightning strike?" Daniel asked, skeptically.

"Fancy party dress?" Vala echoed.

Sam looked past both of them to Mitchell, smiling wryly. "Aht! Don't say it-- yes, someone made the inevitable Highlander joke. But there weren't any swords around, or severed heads-- just a fancy lacquered cane, some shattered concrete, and a bunch of electrical wires wrapped around lampposts. Kind of a lot of effort to go to for a prank, or some live action role play game."

"Unless it wasn't a prank, or a LARP...." Mitchell drawled.

"But some kind of Ancient technology," Teal'c continued.

"Especially if they gave this as their address," Vala added, skeptically.

Daniel conceded the point with a sigh. "Why is it always warehouses?" he groused.

Sam glanced up at the building, then back down at her palm-top Asgard-tech enhanced computer again. "Not a warehouse, exactly. Not residential either, though; the building goes down a few stories. It's an old abandoned subway turnaround, currently leased to a student at NYU for lab space."

"What manner of laboratory?" Teal'c asked, furrowing his brow.

Sam smiled at him, eyes brightening in that expectant way that meant she knew something they didn't. "Physics," she said.

"Physics?" Daniel blinked at her, trying to piece that together with the rest of the scant facts at their disposal. "Let me guess, you think it's related-- and that the student's involved somehow."

"Considering that he-- Dave Stutler, a twenty-year-old undergrad-- is currently writing a thesis paper on Tesla coils...."

"The electrical display in the park!" Vala exclaimed, snapping her fingers.

"Exactly," Sam replied. "And I'm also detecting trace amounts of the same energy the Odyssey's sensors reported-- much fainter, but the frequency is nearly identical. This is the right place."

Daniel sighed, turning to glance up and down the street; it was fairly clear at that time of the morning, just a few pedestrians minding their own business and a handful of cars parked along the curbs. One of the vehicles on their block was an older model, a thirties-era Rolls Royce with a foreign license plate, and he frowned at it as he considered. "Have we tried to contact Mr. Stutler?"

"He's not responding to the phone number at his apartment," Sam said, then raised her hand to knock. "And according the university, he's not in class at the moment, so I'm guessing he's here."

"Sounds like you've covered all the bases," Mitchell nodded. "Ancient tech in New York-- I guess it's more surprising that it took this long for something to turn up, than that it happened at all, considering. You think it's from some kind of cache, like the one we uncovered in England?"

"I guess we'll find out," Daniel mused, as the sounds of someone fiddling with a lock carried through the door. Since the end of the Ori war and SG-1's final contact with the Asgard, it had often seemed as though all the wonder had gone out of the legacies left by the four founding races-- that the Milky Way galaxy had been left with only the dregs of the Alterans' long-ago failures. Atlantis had been repeatedly put beyond Daniel's reach; it would only be fair if the Earth still held other Ancient marvels to find.

The door finally moved, jerked sharply open by an eager hand. "Becky!" a young man greeted them, looking out through the gap toward Sam. Daniel got a quick impression of pale skin, short dark hair, typical t-shirt and flannel college student wear, and a smile bright enough to light up one of his Tesla coils on its own, before the kid registered that she was a stranger and his face fell dramatically.

"Wait, you're not Becky," he corrected himself, frowning. "I'm sorry, who are you?"

Sam smiled blandly back at him. "Dave Stutler, I presume? I'm Dr. Sam Carter; I'm here with my team to talk about the disturbance in Bowling Green Park a couple of nights ago?"

Dave's jaw dropped as soon as she spoke the park's name, and the color drained out of his face. "I, uh. Why-- why would you want to talk to me about that? I heard someone trashed the place, and the power went out for a couple of blocks there for a while, but-- um. Why would you think I had anything to do with it?"

Behind her, Mitchell chuckled. "Did the lady say we were here to talk to you? We actually wanted to speak with Balthazar Blake and Veronica Gorloisen-- the cops told us this was where we could find them, and they're the only witnesses on record. But you seem remarkably informed-- maybe you can help us, too?"

Dave gulped, staring at him like a deer in the headlights. "It was just... I..."

Daniel was sure he'd been that young and transparent once, once upon a time more than a decade and several lifetimes in the past. Back when this job had still had shocked and surprised him every other day. He felt old just looking at the kid-- who was, after all, about half Daniel's age. It was obvious that he was involved somehow, and just as obvious that he had no talent for lying. Maybe they would get out of this without tripping over the Trust, for once; maybe the strange pentagram-shaped image the Odyssey had resolved from the odd pattern of electromagnetic energy sketched over downtown New York was more innocent than it seemed.

...And maybe not. Daniel frowned past the young man's shoulder as footsteps echoed up a metal staircase, and a guy more in Daniel's age bracket with longish, curly sun-bleached hair and a distinctly unusual fashion sense came into view. He had the scruffy start of a beard, a woolen vest with silver accents, some kind of long-sleeved shirt obscured by fuzzy maroon over-sleeves, and very sharp pale eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. Daniel couldn't see his hands, but he could see his own teammates shift their stances at the guy's approach.

"Visitors, Dave?" the newcomer prompted the younger man in a mild, dry voice.

Dave turned, shuffling immediately to the side, and gestured spastically from his friend to Sam. "Balthazar-- this is Dr. Sam Carter. Dr. Carter, Balthazar Blake. I'll just-- let you guys talk, shall I? I think I'll go catch Becky on her way over and hang out at the cafי for a while."

Nothing wrong with the kid's instincts, at least, Daniel noted with interest; Dave had neatly removed himself from any potential line of fire and was edging his way out of reach even as he spoke. Blake's eyes followed him a moment, then snapped back to Sam, before flickering over her shoulder at the rest of the team. His gaze stopped short, though, when he finally got to Daniel-- then moved to Cam again, and finally backtracked to Sam, a pensive frown building on his brow.

"No-- I think you might want to hear this, Dave," he said, gesturing back down the stairs behind him. "Go tell Veronica we have guests, would you?"

Dave's eyebrows shot up, and he made a vague gesture between himself, Balthazar, and an indeterminate point between all of the others. "Seriously? You don't think I should...?"

Balthazar snorted, but seemed more amused than disgruntled. "No, no, it'll be all right. We'll just be a minute."

"I'll have to take your word for it, I guess-- just don't get yourself arrested, okay?" With that parting remark, Dave vanished back inside, passing Blake on the internal stairs.

All the warmth drained back out of Blake's features once Dave was gone, and he crossed his arms over his chest, frowning at Sam. His hands were visible now; he was wearing half-gloves that exposed his fingers, several of which glittered with gold and gemstones. It was almost as ostentatious a display as one might expect of a Goa'uld-- but only if you discounted all the rest of his clothing.

"One of you I might dismiss as a coincidence," Blake said, voice low and suspicious. "Even two. But three?" The creases in his forehead deepened. "Though this is a little soon to be Horvath's work."

Sam shook her head, then cast a glance back to check with the rest of them; Daniel shook his head, too. "We don't know any Horvath," he said. "I'm not sure what you think's going on, but we're just here about the witness statement you made regading the disturbance in the financial district a couple of nights ago."

"Really," Blake drawled, skeptically. He glanced between the five of them again, then stepped closer to Mitchell, eyeing him intently. "And I don't suppose the name Percival means anything to you?"

Mitchell started at that, then threw a raised eyebrow Daniel's way. "Other than a name out of Arthurian myth...?" he said, casually. "'Fraid not."

First a sigil drawn in the air that only Asgard tech, not human satellites, could pick up, and now a man recognizing in Mitchell the same name Merlin had called out before he'd left his memories for Daniel to download? Surely this guy couldn't be...?

Daniel was stepping forward almost before that thought reached its inevitable conclusion, drawing Blake's attention to himself. "And what name would you give me, if you had to pick one...?"

"Jackson...!" Mitchell hissed. None of the others chimed in-- but he knew they were probably thinking much the same thing.

Blake's eyebrows shot up at the question, and his manner changed-- his back straightened, and he lifted one hand up and slightly to one side, one of his rings catching the morning light with a yellow-green flash. "I think you know," he said.

"Enlighten me," Daniel replied.

Something beeped from direction of Sam's computer, and she swore under her breath. Blake's gaze switched to her-- then back to Daniel, and his eyes narrowed further. "Galahad," he said, challengingly.

Daniel drew a deep breath, then let it out again. "I've heard that before," he replied, cautiously. "Maybe we could come in, and discuss the wheres and whens in detail?"

He was rewarded with a speculative look-- and Blake's hand dropping back to his side. Sam's computer beeped again in sync with the gesture, and Daniel made a mental note as the timing added confirmation to certain growing suspicions. He'd have to approach the subject carefully....

"Oh, I see," Vala said suddenly. "You think he's like Merlin?"

Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course, they could always try the direct approach.

"Maybe you had better come inside," Blake said, eyeing them all warily. Then he stepped out of the way, gesturing Sam in toward the staircase with an incline of his head and shoulders that almost amounted to a bow. "After you?"

Sam took it with aplomb, and an eloquent glance at Mitchell. "Don't mind if I do," she said, then started down the stairs, Vala close at her heels. Daniel glanced at Mitchell, then Teal'c, then nodded at Blake and followed after the pair of them, trusting the other guys to make sure one of them was last so Blake couldn't trap them inside.

The stairs inside were metal, narrow and steep, and almost made him wonder just how desperate Dave was for lab space that he'd pick such a place-- but then they hit bottom and caught a better glimpse of the airy, arching ceilings, towering metal equipment, and comfortable furniture situated along the walls. He'd have killed-- well, no, not killed, those instincts had taken a few more years to develop, but at the very least committed academic fraud for a place like this all his own when he was an undergrad.

"Nice place," Sam said, echoing his thoughts.

At the sound, a woman stood up from her seat on a couch where she was speaking to young Mr. Stutler and gasped audibly, covering her mouth with one long-fingered hand. She was pale-skinned and dark-haired, with a naturally regal bearing despite her obvious surprise; she too wore a gaudy ring, though just one rather than the several sported by Blake upstairs. And from the rich fabric and flowing skirt of her dress, he guessed that she was the Veronica Gorloison Sam had mentioned earlier.

"Guinevere," she said in shocked tones, staring directly at Sam.

...And there was the third name. It had been the three of them-- and Ba'al, though the remnants of Daniel's borrowed memories were a little vague on that point-- that Merlin had claimed to recognize, when they'd found him in the chamber where Ganos Lal trapped him for more than a thousand years. Were both of these people Merlin's contemporaries-- perhaps Ancients themselves?

Daniel wasn't sure whether to hope for that outcome, or dread it.

"Actually, my name is Sam Carter," Sam replied, smiling at the other woman. "And this Vala Mal Doran, Daniel Jackson, Cam Mitchell, and--" She glanced up, face falling a little as Teal'c descended last of their party, ahead of Blake. Daniel wouldn't have predicted Teal'c losing that battle of wills, and wondered just what had happened up there. "Teal'c. We're here to ask about what happened in the park."

Blake descended the last few steps slowly, pointy leather shoes clanging on the rungs. "No, you're here about Morgana. Aren't you? I'm not sorry to have to tell you this, but she's gone. Utterly and irrevocably. The Grimhold is empty, and she's not coming back."

Daniel traded glances with Sam again. Definitely dread; that wasn't what they'd expected to hear. "Ah-- yeah, we were aware of that. Only, I thought it was more like a couple of years ago. And I should know; I was there."

"Wait, what?" Dave said, shooting to his feet off the couch and following Ms. Gorloisen over to the group.

The elegantly clad woman gestured quellingly in the young man's direction, but never took her eyes off Daniel. "But that is impossible," she said, staring at him in alarm.

"And Veronica would know," Blake said, grimly. "She was there. For all of twelve hundred and seventy years, trapped in that thing with Morgana until two days ago. I don't know who you thought you saw, but she didn't believe in serving anything other than her own personal goals." He'd raised his hand again, ring glinting-- and this time there was definitely a glow, no excusing the yellowish light as a trick of reflected sunlight.

"Then maybe we're talking about two separate people here?" he suggested, cautiously. "Though I find that a little hard to believe, considering that you recognized us the same way Merlin did."

Ms. Gorloisen's eyes widened again, and she exchanged a look with Blake. "Balthazar-- if they ran into Morgana's mentor-- could the legends have drifted while we slept? You said Ganos came for Myrddin's body after he fell. If she still lives...."

"Lived," Teal'c corrected her. "Ganos Lal fought most bravely, but her light was extinguished in battle against Adria of the Ori."

Ms. Gorloisen flinched at that, looking slightly stricken, and Daniel's hard-earned skepticism wavered a little at her pain. She had known Morgan-- well, Ganos Lal; Daniel wasn't sure what to make of the idea that the legends had potentially lumped the actions of two very different women under one title, especially since Ganos had never bothered to correct him when he called her by that name, but it wouldn't be the first time that had happened in the historical record so he couldn't discount it either. "Did your Myrddin also have a mentor?" he asked, cautiously.

Blake cleared his throat, walking slowly past them to slide a comforting arm around his companion's shoulders. "No," he said, curtly. "He had apprentices. And if you were who you look like, you'd know that. So who are you? And who gave you those names? Was it Ganos?"

"Actually, she was rather unhelpful all 'round, right up 'til the end," Vala informed him, arms crossed in front of her. "It was Merlin himself, right before he died and hijacked Daniel's brain for one last adventure. Rather selfish of the guy, even if he did give him back in one piece when he was done with him."

"Merlin himself?" Dave blurted, squeezing around the older couple as they stiffened where they stood. "As in, frozen in the cave where Nimue trapped him, Merlin? Yes, I do read sometimes," he added, with an eye roll toward his eclectically-clad friend. "As in the same guy Morgana stabbed when Horvath betrayed him, and you told me he was dead?"

"He was dead," Blake replied, affronted. "Do you think I would have spent all that time scouring the world for his heir if I didn't have to? She said she would lay him to rest, and I believed her."

"Oh, he was resting all right," Mitchell spoke up. "Though more like suspended animation than buried under the ground."

"Gentlemen! Enough," Ms. Gorloison said, stepping slightly away from Blake to approach Daniel. "If what you say is true... And I feel that it is... David, do you have Merlin's ring?"

"Uh, yeah? Not like I need it now, but I still feel better if I have it on me."

"Might I see it for a moment?"

Dave stared at her briefly, features twisting with indecision, then glanced at Blake as if for approval. Finally, he sighed and took what looked like a twist of silver cable out of his pocket and held it out, resting on his palm.

"Thank you," she said, smiling gently at Dave, then stepped closer to Daniel again, holding it out toward him.

"Veronica...." Blake said, a note of caution in his voice.

"Hush, Balthazar. I think you will want to see this," she replied, sharply.

"You want me to...?" Daniel eyed the thing she held-- which did look like a ring, if a tiny, sculpted metal dragon shaped in a finger's-width coil could earn that title. He glanced at his teammates, then shrugged and held out a careful hand palm-up before her.

She tipped the dragon onto it. And the moment the metal touched his palm-- he knew.

Daniel stood transfixed as the dragon uncoiled a little, stretching its tiny neck and turning one winking jewel-set eye up to examine him. Then it shook its wings a little and retook its shape, not bothering to try to curl around any of his fingers. Which it wouldn't. Because it wasn't. His.

"Well," Veronica said, as he stared at it. "That settles that."

He knew what it said without even looking at the words carved into the band: Take me up. Cast me away.

Merlin hadn't needed it. And he wouldn't, either. Not this ring, anyway; he was no Prime Merlinian, but Merlin had left behind more than he'd let Daniel remember earlier.

And why not? Why couldn't he have triggered any of this-- towers and swords, circles burned in stone, the fact that the Ascended defied so much of what humans knew about physics because science was only half the equation-- when it might have been useful in the war against the Ori?

"Daniel. Daniel!" A strong hand gripped his shoulder, and he found that he'd clenched a fist around the ring without even realizing it.

...Because he would have used it for war, he realized. And that's not what the gifts borne by certain Earthbound descendents of the Alterans were meant to be used for.

We are but servants.

His eyes burned, and he nodded, as much to reassure Sam as to acknowledge the remembered message. "It's okay."

He unclenched his fingers and extended the ring toward a wide-eyed Dave, offering him a bitter smile. This college kid-- this descendant of Merlin-- had nearly as much power as Oma Desala; more than the healing Jack demonstrated when he'd experienced his second Ancient download, or the psycho-kinesis Anubis' half-clone Khalek had exhibited, or the telepathy and other gifts McKay reported when he'd been affected by the Ascension machine on Atlantis. And he was still just a kid-- a human being, with all the attendant flaws and strengths, plus nearly the power of a freshly descended Ancient without the Alteran non-interference rules and regulations.

Well. Daniel had been hoping to find some left-behind Alteran marvel... and he certainly had. He should have learned by now to be more careful what he wished for.

He met Veronica's dark, knowing eyes, and inclined his head in respect.

"Well," Balthazar said, clapping his hands together sharply. "It looks like we have a lot to discuss."

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T is for Time (Doctor Who)
Non-Encounters of the Deeply Weird Kind
by [personal profile] wishfulaces

1997

Mission report from P3X-376, excerpt

When interviewed, locals indicated that a tall man with curly brown hair, wearing strange clothes that included a long, multi-colored scarf; and a violent female associate in leather skins arrived on their planet and helped them defeat the Goa'uld Apophis and his guards. Locals don't know how these two strangers arrived--apparently not through the Gate--nor did they catch their full names (man introduced himself as a doctor; woman was Leela something). Locals could not explain how these two people defeated Apophis without more help. "Words and magical devices" were all they would say. Suggest SGC keeps an eye out for these two individuals, see if they would be willing to help us in the fight against the Goa'uld.

***

1998

Transcript from security camera footage, interrogation # 1998_06_23_DOCTOR_c

O'NEILL, COL. JACK: How did you find out about this place?

DOCTOR [no name provided]: Bright lights in the sky, strange readings from numerous amateurs on their telescopes, all at the same time a few months ago? Did you think nobody would notice? [pause] Look. I have no memory about who I am, where I came from, why I'm here. But I know I don't belong here, and I think--I think you can help me.

O'NEILL: [snort] Look, mister, we've had more quacks and loonies showing up knocking at our front door than--than times you've been asked if you're any relation to Oscar Wilde.

DOCTOR: Oh, Wilde, I met him, lovely man, very witty.

O'NEILL: Yeah...sure. Why the hell should we tell you anything?

JACKSON, DANIEL: Jack, you heard what Dr. Fraiser said about his cardiovascular system, his DNA, practically everything about him--

O'NEILL: Daniel, you're not helping.

JACKSON: Maybe we should trust him, that's all I'm saying.

DOCTOR: I think you should, if my opinion counts for anything.

O'NEILL: It doesn't.

***


1969

Sam Carter was high.

"Holy Hannah," she sighed, putting a hand out on Teal'c's arm to steady herself in their booth; it was either that or fall over into him. "This is bad, Teal'c. This is really bad."

"What is the matter, Captain Carter?"

"The colonel's gonna kill me when he sees me like this," she said sorrowfully. "Killl me. Also, I'm starving."

"Why did you ingest that substance if you knew it would cause you trouble?" Teal'c asked.

"Because I haven't gotten high since college," she confessed. And then only a couple times, during an experimental phase that had also involved mixing various alcoholic beverages together. (That phase had not ended pleasantly.) "And if I'm gonna be stuck in 1969? I want to enjoy at least some of it." It had been a moment of weakness with Michael and Jenny, while the colonel was off reconnoitering; but then, she was pretty sure O'Neill had also imbibed a little himself on the sly yesterday in the van, when he was up front in the passenger seat keeping Michael company. She leant over to poke Daniel, who was happily curled up and snoring in the other booth at their table in a Chicago diner. "At least I stayed awake long enough to get our pancakes."

"Daniel Jackson appears not as capable of handling this substance as you," Teal'c observed.

"Nah," Sam said, sitting back on their side of the table and closing her eyes. "He just had a lot more than me. I think the last time he got high was in grad school. Unless it was with Skaara on Abydos." She shook her head and stood up. "I need air. Maybe that'll clear my senses." She knew it probably wouldn't, but if it gave her the semblance of some sort of control before the colonel showed up, she would be happy.

She left the diner and walked around into the alley next to it, taking deep breaths of the humid summer. Not nearly as clarifying, she thought wryly, as a cold December wind would have been. There was a big blue box at the end of the alley. She wandered toward it out of a faint sense of curiosity.

Clattering noises, and Sam turned around to find three people barreling toward her. She had a confused impression of a middle-aged man in a bowtie with sad eyes, a young man in a kilt, a girl in a startling silver catsuit. "Excuse us, so sorry, do pardon!" the older man called, the two younger people chiming in their own apologies. They sounded English, the young man in the kilt Scottish. They threw themselves into the blue box, slamming the door shut behind them, and then--

"Oh boy," Sam said, staring in wide-eyed shock as the box made a strange elephantine noise and disappeared.

She held onto the brick wall next to her for a moment, staring hard at the empty space where a blue box had been just a moment ago. And then she shook her head, straightened up, dusted down her jacket, and turned back to the diner entrance.

"Pancakes," she said decisively, "the only thing that will solve this is pancakes."

***


2000

Unpublished article by Dr. Daniel Jackson, PhD

Illustration 6
. Close-up of left-hand figures from previous illustration, found in a wall painting in building 35a at townhall site on P5X-894. First figure wears colorful clothes of non-matching patterns; next to him is a young woman in a revealing outfit. Both appear human, or at least humanoid. As noted in the above illustration, these two seem to be arguing with the ruling council; later illustrations in the set suggest they won their argument and the council prepared their people for the coming invasion. Is this perhaps a myth, such as that related to the dream-interpreting Joseph of the multi-colored coat in the Bible?

***


2001

"Teal'c!" O'Neill yelled from across the bridge of an abandoned spaceship that had been overrun by Replicators. "Cover fire for Carter, now!"

The former First Prime obliged him. It was a futile effort, he knew, unless some form of backup arrived; but what was the point in living if not to fight for the hope of another day?

Major Carter was working at the ship controls, carefully but quickly, in an attempt to divert power from the Replicators and destroy them; Daniel Jackson was next to O'Neill, also firing his weapon. And then the viewscreen behind Major Carter flickered into life, and a tall, pale man with white hair and what Teal'c recognized as a velvet smoking jacket appeared. He was standing at a many-sided console in the middle of a white room.

"Give me two minutes," he snapped, apparently at them, "and I should be able to disrupt the signal holding these Replicators of yours together."

"Not to sound ungrateful or anything," O'Neill called over the sound of his, Daniel Jackson's, and Teal'c's gunfire, "and if you can actually stop them, you really will have our undying gratitude and all that, but who the hell are you?"

"A friend," said the other man, working feverishly at his controls in a manner eerily similar to Major Carter's. "You get yourselves into the most terrible trouble, don't you?"

"I don't know what you mean," O'Neill hollered.

And then suddenly every Replicator on the bridge disintegrated. Major Carter jumped up from her hunched position over the controls and whirled on the viewscreen. "How did you do that?" she demanded. She almost sounded angry, or indignant. "How did you do that?"

The man on the screen turned away from his console to come closer to the screen. He smiled at them all--a trifle smugly, Teal'c thought privately, and he heard O'Neill mutter from across the room, "Jimi Hendrix wannabe."

"Sonic vibrations," the man said. "Quite simple, really; I applied the theory behind my sonic screwdriver on a larger scale."

He grinned again. "And you're welcome," he said, just before turning and hitting a control that made the viewscreen go dark.

***


2002

"I can't believe how much they refuse to see," Jonas repeated to himself, striding back and forth through a small strip of grass on a planet in a galaxy far, far away from either home he had made for himself. "They refuse to understand how much danger they're in, or to put aside their petty squabbles--"

He stopped, glanced over at the other man, sighed. He sat down on the ground and pulled up a blade of grass to finger. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment, with a wry smile and a glance up at the only other person within eyesight. "I don't even know you, and here I am lecturing you about an entire world's problems..."

"That's quite alright," the young man, with too-long blond hair and pale blue eyes, smiled amiably. He wore a sweater with red stripes along the v-neck, a beige coat over that, striped trousers, a green vegetable on his coat lapel. Jonas had found him on this hill while scouting the terrain, standing at the top and staring distantly into nothing, and somehow he had found himself sitting down in the grass with the man, talking.

Jonas was fairly sure if this was a first-contact situation, he was going about it all wrong.

"I know how foolish and blind those we know best can be. I also know what it's like to abandon my home planet in favor of other possibilities," the other man said softly, with a direct look of those pale blue eyes.

Jonas looked down again, quickly. He had shredded his blade of grass; he dropped the bits to the ground. "Did you ever go back?" he asked after a moment. "Go--home?"

"I have," the other man said, shifting his legs so he now sat cross-legged. "More than once, even. I never stay, of course; one planet is far too confining. And those who think they know you best, who remember you when you were so young and still going to school--well. They do rather think they have some claim over you, don't they?"

"Don't they?" Jonas shot back. "To my people, it looks like I turned my back on them. Left them, betrayed my heritage."

"Do you believe that?"

"Of course not!"

"Well, then," said the young man, "why does it matter what they think? You can't control that, you know. You can only control your own thoughts and actions."

They sat, and argued some more, and Jonas searched his soul. And eventually Colonel O'Neill radioed in, demanding to know where the hell Jonas had got to, the rest of the team were back at the Gate and ready to go, and the young man laughed and stood up, brushing off his striped trousers. "It sounds like your friends are waiting," he said in amusement, "and one should rarely leave one's friends waiting. They might not stay."

Jonas looked sheepish and stood up as well, holding out his hand to shake the other man's. "Thank you," he said. "I'm sorry I--sometimes I can talk to Teal'c or Sam, but sometimes--"

The other man shook his hand vigorously and then took a hat out of his coat pocket, unrolling it to put it on. "Good luck, Jonas Quinn," he said and, with another pleasant smile, turned and walked away.

"Wait, I never even--" Jonas ran after him, down the hill, but there was nobody there, nothing but trees and grass and a very strange, echoing sound.

"Huh," said Jonas Quinn, bemused.

***


2003

Footage from a Goa'uld laboratory, grainy and staticky on Carter's tiny laptop screen.

A man, tall and thin and pale and wearing a brown suit--and sneakers of all things. "I used to have so much mercy," he was stating. "I'm not sure anymore that people--things like you deserve mercy."

"How exactly do you think you can stop me?" Black smear in an elaborate robe; only Anubis would look like that.

The man in the suit nodded behind the Goa'uld-slash-Ancient. "You shouldn't have underestimated my friend Martha," he said. "It's amazing what she can do with chemicals; she's going to be a doctor, you know." Something about the man's face shifted--it was hard to tell on the image, as it faded in and out of color and focus, but he seemed to stiffen. "If any of your people want to survive, I suggest they leave now."

The sound of Anubis roaring, and then blackout.

Jack blinked his eyes away from the screen, then looked around the rubble of the lab in which his team stood. Carter disconnected her laptop from a piece of Goa'uld tech; Daniel began poking around. Teal'c met Jack's gaze.

"One less thing for us to have to deal with," the colonel said with a shrug.

***


2004


"Daniel!" Jack is yelling over the phone line before Daniel can even say hello. "Carter still with you? I need you both back at the mountain, ASAP."

"Jack?" Daniel glances at Sam, gestures for her to restart her car. She's dropping him off at the car dealer; his car has been in all day for repairs, but apparently it's going to have to wait a little longer for him to pick it up. "What the hell is going on?"

"There's a box, Daniel. In my control room."

Daniel blinks a lot. "Does it hold bread?" he asks eventually.

"Not.funny.Daniel," the general grounds out, and Daniel rolls his eyes while Sam throws him a strange look. "It's big, and it's blue, and it just suddenly appeared 15 seconds ago and now--what the hell!"

"Jack!" All Daniel hears are crashes, and Jack demanding that somebody tell him who the hell he is, and other muffled noises, but Jack has apparently put the phone down or stepped away from it because nothing is very distinct. Sam keeps glancing at him, worried, even as she navigates the Colorado Springs rush hour traffic. "Jack, what the hell is going on over there? Jack!"

"Belay that, Daniel," Jack's voice abruptly sounds over the line again, and he seems tired and annoyed. "You and Carter don't need to come back after all."

"What happened?"

"Somebody stepped out of the blue box." The general sounds unnaturally calm now. "A small Scottish man, who took off his hat, apologized profusely for interrupting, and immediately went back into the box. And then it disappeared again."

"...oh." Daniel puts his hand over his cell phone and tells Sam, "A large blue box just appeared and disappeared in the control room. Have you heard of anything like that?"

Sam's eyes are wide, and she slowly shakes her head. "Noooo," she says, "though--well, a disappearing blue box does sound familiar, but why..."

Daniel uncovers the phone. "Maybe it's somehow related to Thor? Or Loki? From what you've described, it seems similar to beaming technology," he says for both Sam's and Jack's ears.

"Yeah, maybe," Jack doesn't sound very interested now. "Daniel?"

"Yeah, Jack?"

"Remind me tomorrow that I need to take some vacation time."

***


2005

SG-1 hovered at the back of the crowd, wearing heavy cloaks, hoods over their faces. They had been on the planet for only an hour or so, gathering intel. They'd heard from a Tok'ra ally about the Ori Prior who had shown up on P7X-659.

They hadn't heard about the other stranger who'd also shown up.

"It's your sort that makes me sick!" the man in the black leather jacket was raging in the center of the crowd that had formed at the village well. The Prior stood still, his staff pointed upward, a distantly amused smirk on his face. The man stalked right up into the Prior's face, wiping the smirk away as he stepped back hastily in surprise. "Fanatics only get everyone killed!"

Sam and Daniel blinked under their cloaks, Teal'c's eyebrow shot up to his hairline. Mitchell turned to Sam and muttered, "Think we could get that guy on our side?"

The stranger in black leather didn't kill the Prior. But he did manage to run him off the planet without causing any further damage to those who lived there, and SG-1 never did find out his name or where he came from.

***


2006

"Oh no." Vala pushed her chair back from the conference table so hard she almost flew out the window into the Gate room. "No, no, no."

"What?" Daniel stared at her like she had grown an extra limb. "What's the matter with this guy?"

"The locals call him a wizard," Sam said, with a little smile. "Maybe because of his white hair?"

"Or maybe the walking stick," Cam added, smiling back at her. He sobered abruptly. "Crap, he's not some other version of Merlin or something, is he?"

"He's no wizard," Vala said, standing up with her arms folded in front of her. They all looked at her, away from the image on the screen of an older man with white hair in what most of the team considered old-fashioned clothes. He had three people with him, a teenage girl and two adults, the man in a cardigan and the woman with classic 1960s hair. The SGC had heard about the group through their contacts on one of their trading partners' planets; the group had arrived on the planet a couple weeks ago and showed some signs of staying for a while longer. Their contacts had mentioned the group to the SGC because they were so...odd. "But he is most definitely a mean old man."

"In what capacity have you had contact with this man, Vala Mal Doran?" Teal'c asked.

Daniel had his eyes narrowed. "What did you try to steal from him?" he specified.

"Nothing!" Vala glared at Daniel in righteous indignation. He glared back. She rolled her eyes and flopped back into her chair again, rolling it back to the table to join the rest of the team. "He caught me trying to steal something from somebody else."

Sam and Mitchell exchanged glances. Teal'c's eyebrows shot up, but he didn't really look surprised. Daniel sighed. "So what did he do to you?" he asked their teammate.

"He whacked my hand with that cane," Vala muttered, rubbing at her knuckles. Daniel muffled a snort. "What?!" She kicked at him under the table but missed; he'd been prepared for the move. "It hurt!"

***

1927

"Doctor Langford!" said the garrulous young man with the strange hair and startling bowtie who categorically refused to leave the professor alone. The young man leant in the doorway of Langford's study and grinned, ducking his head to the side. Langford sighed heavily and waited for the man to continue; there was no point in attempting to hush him, as the professor had already found to his irritation. "Professor Langford, I happen to know the most perfect excavation site for your next dig in Egypt..."

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U is for Under (Inception)

The sound of rapid staff weapon fire seared the air behind Jack as he ran, eyes raking the gold walls around him for any sign of an exit. The hallway seemed to stretch on forever.

THERE!

Jack ducked, threw himself toward the open doorway, diving into an empty room. He had only seconds to cock his P90 before the first prime came thundering into the room after him, staff weapon still smoking. Jack's bullets shredded into the jaffa's armor before the warrior had a chance to fire. The jaffa clattered to the ground.

Jack's fingers clawed the black beanie from his head, the hat sweaty in his fingers as he turned and scanned the room closely, looking for...

And there it was nestled. The door to the system lord's vault, a two by two square of smoky obsidian set halfway up the back wall, no distinguishable interface at hand, no way to open it.

Jack slid his hand gun from its holster, fired two shots at the glass. It shattered.

And inside... it was there, the object of his mission. But as his fingerless-gloved hand reached for the communication orb, Jack heard an unmistakable laugh behind him. The deep-chested chuckle of a Goa'uld. He lifted the orb from its tiny pedestal and turned to face the system lord with a half-cocked smile that came no where near his eyes. He quickly and silently registered the fact that the orb sat dead in his hands; his touch hadn't initiated anything. The orb contained no information.

"Was wondering where you'd gotten off to," said Jack as he rolled the orb in his fingers.

The system lord chuckled again, his long black hair shifting as his head tilted. He reminded Jack of a slightly older, Hawaiian-surfer version of Ra. "You have failed," he said to Jack with a low, dual-toned voice.

"Don't count your eggs..." Jack warned.

The system lord gave a long-suffering sigh. "The information that you seek is not here, O'Neill. It never existed. You have been misinformed, your mission was doomed from the beginning."

"I beg to differ."

"You are worthless, O'Neill. Useless. You and your band of friends are pitiful, and I look forward to the-"

He didn't have a chance to finish. The skipping blue energy of a zat weapon encompassed his body and accompanied him to the floor where he lay unconscious, revealing Daniel Jackson behind him.

"Nice timing," Jack snapped, angered to see Daniel there. "But I don't believe this to be the plan we agreed on. You're not supposed to be here, Daniel. This is a bust, by the way," he added, tossing the orb to Daniel who lurched to catch it.

"I know," Daniel said, lifting the zat again. "There was a hiccup."

Jack didn't have a chance to comment before the zat discharged, twice in succession.

***

"Son of a bitch!"

"Sir, please calm down. There's no need-"

"Where the hell is he?! Where's Daniel, I need to talk to him."

"SIR! I need you to lie still and allow for the protocol-"

Jack shoved past Fraiser and stood, yanking the injection line from his wrist and disconnecting himself from the machine. The system lord was lying on a nearby bed, restrained, and Daniel was sitting on the floor, propped up agains the wall with his head on his chest, an IV running from the machine to his wrist. He was still in the dream.

"Get him out," Jack commanded. Fraiser came up beside him, hands raised imploringly. "Sir, please sit back down. I will debrief you as soon as you've allowed me to check your post-fatuus brain activity."

"You mean you knew about this?"

"About what, sir?" she replied, none too patiently.

"About Daniel's little change in plan! He's in that dream by himself, he intentionally shot me out, I want to know what the hell he thinks he's doing!" Without waiting for an answer, Jack gave Daniel a shove. The younger man jerked to just before hitting the floor, but not soon enough to prevent his head from cracking against the tiles.

"Give me answers, Daniel," Jack said in a semi-singsong voice. Daniel was wincing in pain, his hands hovering around his head. He cracked an eye open and looked up at Jack with undisguised impatience.

"I finished translating the transmission just after you both went under," Daniel said. "The Asgard were right, he's not a part of the new system lord alliance. There was nothing for you to find."

"Then answer me this," Jack said, crouching down next to the doctor as he gingerly pulled himself upright and slouched against the wall again. "Why didn't you just wake me up from out here? Why did you enter the dream yourself, Daniel?" A pause. "What were you looking for?"

Instead of answering right away, Daniel slowly and carefully pulled himself to his feet, gripping the IV line with one hand and sliding it out of his wrist. "I acquired some new intel," he offered unhelpfully.

"Too ambiguous," Jack said, standing as well. "You gotta do better than that."

Daniel only gazed at Jack, his eyes uncharacteristically cold. It was his silence that unnerved Jack the most.

Fraiser came up behind him, slipping into his line of sight. "The orders came from higher up, sir, after Daniel reported the translation."

"Orders?" Jack repeated, incredulous as he gaze shifted from Fraiser back to Daniel. "Since when do you follow orders?"

Daniel set his jaw. "Since it means saving thousands of lives. Look. Jack. After the new intel, we just needed a name. A name that only he," Daniel gestured toward the still dreaming system lord, "could tell us. I was told to get it out of him. And to get you out of the dream."

"Why get me out?"

"Because your mission was null. The information you were looking for really wasn't there. And.... you probably would have made my own mission more difficult than it needed to be."

Jack regarded Daniel, his thoughts drifting in and out of different emotions, unsure which to go with. What Daniel said - what he had done - it made sense. Yet at the same time, it made no sense whatsoever.

Everything lately. It seemed off. But Jack couldn't put his finger on why.

Nothing else was said. Fraiser pulled Daniel off to check his vitals, leaving Jack with those indecisive thought patterns. After a moment, standing alone in the corner of the lab near the bed of the still-sleeping system lord, he pressed his hand into his right pocket, searching.

His fingers closed around his totem and he slid it up and out of his pocket, lifting his closed fist level with his face. He opened his fist, middle and forefinger pinching the end of a silver chain. At the end of it, swinging back and forth like a pendulum, was a small sundial made of pewter that had belonged to Charlie. It continued to swing. Back, and forth. Back, and forth. Slowly decreasing momentum, until it came to a stop. Until it told him that this was reality.

There were some times - some times that were most times - when he wished it would keep swinging.

***

There was no sound except for the comforting pattern of beeps coming from the heart monitor and the steady shush of Jack's breathing. Daniel sat in a chair next to the older man's private hospital bed, watching Jack sleep away the end of another week. Daniel was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his mouth resting on his interlaced fists.

A tentative knock on the door and Sam appeared, slipping inside the room with a small lunch bag in hand.

"Have you eaten yet?" she asked Daniel in a hushed voice as she came near, holding the bag out to him. He took it gratefully with a shake of his head.

"I swear his fingers twitched just before you got here," he said, leaning back in the chair. He spoke equally soft, not so much out of necessity as habit.

Sam smiled a rueful smile. "I sometimes forget he's not just sleeping."

"Can you dream while you're in a coma?"

Sam's eyes moved to Jack's still form. "Not really. Your brain isn't in a sleeping state when you're in a coma. I don't think it's physically possible to dream."

Daniel watched Jack's face intently, but it remained as lax and as immobile as ever. The lines in Jack's forehead and around his mouth were the smoothest Daniel could remember seeing them. They hadn't creased in almost three months.

Sam slid a hand over Daniel's shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. "I can watch him for a while if you want. You've been here since Monday."

Daniel shook his head sideways and pursed his lips. "Nah, it's... I don't mind. We've actually been having some really good conversation."

"Oh?" Sam smiled softly, turned and setting her things on the side table. "Well, I brought some cards if the conversation gets dry."

"I don't think that's such a good idea."

"Why not?"

"Jack clearly has the best poker face. I don't see how either of us could beat him at this point."

Sam actually had the grace to laugh, pulling up a chair and scooting the rolling table stand nearer to them. "What time is it?" she asked.

In answer, Daniel stretched one arm over and behind him toward the nightstand, fingers grasping at the silver chain gathered near the edge. He held it up, the sundial dangling loosely from the chain, and then brought it up to the window, letting the sunlight fall through it. It hardly swung at all. Jack dreamed on.

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V is for V_la (Blake's 7)
by [personal profile] lolmac

"You don't have to act like it's so funny."

"But it is! I mean – of all people – you got robbed?"

"Not robbed! Robbery is, you know, I'm armed, stick 'em up and hand over the pretties. If he'd tried that, I'd have handed him his head on a stick."

"On a platter."

"That too."

"I didn't know the terminology was so specific."

"Well, you all have lots of really specific terms for things you do. I do too. You should be able to understand that."

"So you weren't exactly robbed."

"No. I had my pocket picked."

"And now we have to go back to the Stargate, dial home, and admit to them that we need a new GDO because you let some low-life steal ours, and we can't exactly go back home without one."

"What did he look like?"

"Oh, you know. Not much. Not very tall, not very short, not dressed fancy. But he had the prettiest brown eyes and a really sexy accent. And he couldn't hold his booze. Well, I thought he couldn't. Maybe he was holding it better than I thought."

"Wait, you were drinking with him?"

"Well, yes. We started talking shop. That's how I knew he was a thief. He told me."

"He what?"

"He did! He said 'Other people's property just comes naturally to me.' I liked that. I think I'll use it someday."

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W is for Wait (Amelia Peabody)
by [personal profile] gategremlyn

Dear Daniel,

You asked about your godfather, Walter Peabody Emerson. I'd be glad to tell you all I know about him.
Daniel smiled at the fine script. Catherine, a consummate scientist and professional, always wrote her personal letters by hand, much to his delight. In this ever mechanized age, it was still nice to get a letter and not an e-mail.

He'd asked Catherine to help him sort through Nick's papers after his death, and the discoveries they'd made surprised him. Nick, who'd turned away a bereft boy of eight, hadn't always been so distant and self-absorbed. As a matter of fact, he'd been a young and enthusiastic archaeologist once--as Catherine had found out. He'd studied in Egypt one summer under Walter Peabody Emerson, a linguist and scholar, and a man Daniel knew mainly by reputation.

I was a little girl when I met my friends the Emersons. My own father, a taciturn man at the best of times, ignored them, but I thought the Emersons a delight. The two children, David-John and Charla, while several years older than I, became my steadfast companions when circumstances allowed us to be together. Their father Walter--or Ramses as everyone called him--terrified me even as he awed me. I'd never met a man more competent or more kind. Mr. Emerson would not allow me to call him anything but Ramses: "A perfect name for a pharaoh like me, don't you agree, Katie." I was always Catherine, even then, except to Ramses Emerson. He was everything my father wasn't; scholarly, thoughtful, and perceptive. His love of languages fueled my own, and when I was of an age to study, I added my father's love of science to Ramses love of languages. It was he who first spoke to me in German and Arabic, telling us, Charla, David-John, and I, stories of the Old Kingdom at bedtime.

His mother, a formidable and rather alarming woman whom I was told to call "Aunt Amelia" even though she was no relative of mine, welcomed my into her family as readily as she did everyone who came her way. Even as a little girl, I could tell she was the center around whom everyone else revolved. That Ramses loved her (even as he balked at her mothering) was apparent. Her husband, known as "The Father of Curses" for very good reason, should have terrified me as well but didn't. His bellow could be heard from across a courtyard or across an excavation. He was even warmer and more generous than his son, and after a few visits, I would scream with glee when he came to take me and his grandchildren to visit their current dig. I didn't know until much later how distinguished an archaeologist he was.

Daniel, I'm sure you remember Professor Emerson from your years at the Oriental Institute--that was Ramses. He and Doctor Jordan were colleagues and friends long before you came to study there. When you arrived, they immediately saw a talented and promising young archaeologist. Long before you ever crossed my path as a candidate for the Stargate program, Ramses said he knew of you as a gifted young man. I wasn't aware that his tenure had overlapped your studies at the Institute until I noticed that one of your scholarships had been awarded in his name. As an archaeologist and linguist himself, he delighted in encouraging new talent. I believe you were the last student to actually receive the scholarship from his hand before his death.

Daniel, of course, remembered the illustrious and celebrated Professor Emerson. As a student, he'd often studied and referenced the professor's works. Along with his skill as a linguist, Emerson was a noted historian, in some cases a first-hand contributor to many of the significant archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century. Like Catherine, Daniel had taken his inspiration from Walter Peabody Emerson--but "Ramses," he hadn't known that. Nor had he realized that Professor Emerson was his godfather until he'd gone through Nick's things. Why, Daniel wondered, did it always take someone's death for him to find family?

Ramses was one of the few people with whom I could share, in however limited a fashion, my knowledge of the Stargate. He was there the day my father unearthed the big ring from the sand--although I didn't know that until many years later. As a matter of fact, he arranged to transport the Stargate to the Achilles and hence out of the country just before the outbreak of World War II. Until his death we talked of the "ring" we'd sent to the United States. "Have you had a chance to wear your ring yet, Katie?" he'd ask me. "I sent it to you in the post." And each time the answer was no--because I knew so little and because I was unable to tell him what I did know. After Ernest disappeared... after I thought him dead.... Well, Daniel, the Stargate remained in storage for many years; neither Ramses nor I could discover what happened to it. I've often wondered if he came to Chicago after the war in an effort to find the Stargate and return it to Egypt. He felt strongly that Egyptian treasures belonged on Egyptian soil. Only because of the war did he agree to send it away. I think even then he knew it to be a artifact of power. Still, he was the one who assured me that someone would decipher its mysteries within my lifetime. He was right, of course.

After a young man with slicked-back hair and rose-colored glasses came to visit me, I sought out the proper governmental authorities (stubborn, short-sighted authorities) and worked for many years to rejuvenate the Stargate program. Your accent, Daniel, was abominable. And I am sorry it took me so long to realize it was you. If you can, you'll have to explain to me just what you were doing in 1969. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.

But to get back to Ramses. He met Nicholas Ballard in Egypt one summer when your grandfather came on a student visa to work for a neighbor and fellow archeologist, Cyrus Vandergelt. Mr. Vandergelt "loaned" your grandfather to Ramses and they became friends. I don't know how they stayed in touch, but they did, sharing letters and photos over the miles and over the years. Your mother and father both studied under Ramses in Chicago. When you were born, your mother insisted that Ramses, as a teacher she admired and as a friend of your grandfather's, be your godfather even though he was long retired by then.

So there you have it. Walter "Ramses" Emerson is your godfather. I'm sorry you didn't know before, and more sorry I didn't know. Ramses was a special person in my life. I feel that in some odd way we share a relative; not a real one, perhaps, but a relative of the heart. I wonder why he never told you that you were his godson, unless he felt it would remind you of the loss of your parents? It's disappointing you didn't get to know him better. The two of you had so much in common.

Don't forget that you're coming for tea on Wednesday, providing you're in town. Ernest is looking forward to it as am I. I'm sure somewhere I have photo albums from my childhood that will have pictures of Ramses in them. And Ernest, the devil that he is, always enjoys the opportunity to make fun of the gangly "Katie." Perhaps in your grandfather's things we can find some pictures of Ramses with your parents.. Would you bring those papers with you when you come?

Until Wednesday,

Catherine

Sometimes things came full circle, Daniel thought. A man he'd met only once... only once that he remembered... who knew his parents and his grandparents and Catherine; an archaeologist like himself. He wondered what else he'd learn about his godfather--or his grandfather, for that matter. Perhaps he would find a piece of himself in Catherine's childhood on the sands of Egypt. Wednesday couldn't come fast enough.

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X is for X Marks the Spot (MacGyver)
by [personal profile] lolmac

It seems like some folks never do get a break -- or when they get one, they're so used to it not working out that they let it slip right outta their hands. My buddy Jack Dalton's like that. He's tried more new schemes and made more fresh starts than I can count, but the only ones he sticks with are the ones that don't go anywhere.

He turned up one day with a treasure map. Well, not exactly a map; he'd been hanging out online with the nutjobs on Usenet, and something he picked up on alt.conspiracy.area51 led him to meeting some shady type in a bar on the bad side of LA. Okay, one of the bad sides of LA. I never did get the details straight, but I know money changed hands more than once, and Jack talked to a whole string of people whose names all seemed to be Smith, and next thing you know he was at the marina, hammering on my door, too excited about his great scheme to answer questions about where he'd been, why he smelled so bad, and who had messed up his face and given him a black eye this time.

What he had was an old handwritten journal, which was supposed to have a map in it. We worked our way through the entries that were supposed to be clues, solved the puzzles, and ended up with nada. No map. Jack handed me the journal and went back to Usenet hoping for a new golden goose, and I gave the journal to my archeologist friend Dr. Lacie Najjar.

Two weeks later, she was pitching an exploratory mission to the Phoenix committee for Research Funding. Six months after that, Pete was helping her patch together enough grants for a dig in the hills inland from Palaepaphos, in southwest Cyprus -- the Greek side of Cyprus, that is, not the Turkish side. By early 1997, she'd got the first reports published on their finds, getting funding for the next season was a heck of a lot easier, and her professional cred had hit the stratosphere. Jack Dalton was mentioned in the footnotes with having 'provided invaluable assistance leading to the original discovery', but since they weren't finding gold coins or jeweled doodads, he wasn't real interested any more.

By the fall of '97, when Dr. Najjar cabled me asking me to come right now please, Dalton had gone back to doing his stage magician act, which gave him plenty of time to hang out online. I didn't tell him I was going out to Cyprus. I didn't think he'd want to hear about it.


The first thing MacGyver noticed, waking up on his fourth day at the dig, was that it was quiet. As in, way too quiet. Empty quiet. Bad quiet.

He stumbled out into the bright October morning sunshine, blinking and running a hand through his already wild hair. The night before, Lacie had started dropping hints that she was really glad to see him, and that she thought friendship wasn't at all what she had in mind, and Mac had decided it would be safer not to go back to his tent. Some hints get dropped lightly, others land like a bowling ball on the toes. Harry hadn't said that, but he should have. The temperature at night was still mild, so he had snagged a spare blanket to pad the hard ground, wadded up his unneeded jacket for a pillow, and found a nice quiet corner well out of the way.

Mac shook his head, trying to clear it. It was a shame that the dig site was up in the hills, miles away from any body of water. If they'd been working in Palaepaphos, the ocean would have been nice and handy. A quick swim would've been nice -- although, the way this trip was going, he'd probably end up with mermaids or sea-borne nymphs or something like that.

The camp was still completely quiet, and there should have been noise. There should have been activity: with the tourist season over, Lacie had hired help from Pachna, the nearest town. It was too early for the local help to arrive, but they were expecting supplies to be delivered that morning. At the very least, the graduate archeology interns -- three Greek Cypriots from the University of Cyprus in Nicosia -- should have been getting breakfast ready and grumbling.

MacGyver was beginning to wonder if he'd stumbled into a Twilight Zone episode when he spotted Lacie, the only other person in sight. She was sitting at the foot of the escarpment that bounded the camp to the north, in front of the passage that opened into the hillside, the heart of the dig. She didn't seem to be doing anything: just sitting and staring at nothing, her hands hanging slackly in her lap.

Behind her, the passage was swallowed in darkness after only a few feet, the bright sunlight ending in a sharp line of shadow where the passage seemed to end. It was a false wall, concealing an abrupt turn that opened into a whole series of chambers, passages, and twisting corridors: that had been the critical discovery, much bigger than any unlikely artifacts they'd found, the one that had lifted the obscure site from a minor spot on Cyprus' crowded archeological map to a 'potentially major find'. The tomb -- if it was a tomb -- was a complete aberration: in the wrong style for the locale and the era, and in the wrong location, miles from the ancient capital city and seaport of Palaepaphos, off into the twisty hills beyond the cultivated areas, even beyond the ever-spreading tide of development that was beginning to turn Cyprus into a shallow, glossy imitation of every other resort haven in the world.

Mac looked hastily around the dig. Nothing seemed to be broken or missing; even the tools were still where they'd been left at the end of the previous day. They hadn't discovered anything that could be stolen, anyway, not unless there were antiquities thieves capable of stealing an entire hill.

He hurried over to where Lacie was sitting, his shadow falling across her face and etching a dark line on the light stone and earth of the hillside behind her.

"Dr. Najjar? Lacie? You okay? Are you hurt?" She didn't look hurt, just dazed. She shook her head and blinked at him, her eyes coming into focus. "Lacie, don't you think it's about time you filled me in on what's goin' on?"

She looked around and frowned.

"When you sent that cable, you said it was important. You asked me to come right away. Then, when I got here, you said it was 'hard to explain'." Best not to mention the previous night's awkward exchange, unless she brought it up.

"MacGyver -- " Lacie stood up, shakily; he caught her arm and steadied her. "What the hell am I doing out here?"

"You don't know?"

"A minute ago, we were cleaning up after that awful dinner Ioannis made, and you said something about the moon rising." She scowled at the sun. "It's morning. Where is everyone? What the hell happened?"

"You don't, um, remember?" Mac felt his neck reddening. He told himself it was relief.

Lacie narrowed her eyes. "Is there something I should be remembering?"

The question was unanswerable, and Mac felt a new wave of relief -- cooling instead of warming this time -- at the sound of a Jeep approaching at the highest speed the dirt road could manage safely.

The driver wasn't a local; he was a massively tall black man with an impassive face and an incongruous straw hat pulled low on his forehead. The passenger was anything but impassive; he peered around at the trenches, the worktables and sieving station, and the passage opening, as if familiar with the sights of an active dig. He hurried up to where Mac and Lacie stood and held out a hand.

"Hello, I'm Doctor Jackson . . . " his voice trailed off as he peered up at Mac, seeming suddenly confused.

Lacie broke in. "Dr. Jackson -- as in Daniel Jackson?" He turned to her and held out his hand; she folded her arms. "I'm Dr. Najjar. What the hell do you think you're doing on my dig site?"

Dr. Jackson shifted from gaping at Mac to gaping at Lacie. "Excuse me? I didn't think we'd met."

"We haven't. I read part of one of your so-called papers, a few years ago -- although that was probably the last time you published anything, right? Unless you've found a good agent for fantasy novels. If you're barging in on my dig looking for evidence for your so-called theories -- "

"Whoa!" MacGyver broke in. "Wait a minute, awright? Lacie, who is this guy, and what's the problem?"

"You don't know? Well, you never did get into the Egyptology side of the field, did you? Daniel Jackson here is the Erich von D?niken of the new generation, except he actually reached a respectable academic height before falling into a vat of alien Kool-aid. He had all these crazy ideas, which he managed to publish, about space aliens building the pyramids to use as spaceships . . . "

"Excuse me." Jackson seemed to have snapped out of his bemusement; he was suddenly focused, gesturing emphatically and speaking rapidly. "You can laugh at my theories, but that doesn't mean you should misrepresent them. I never implied that anyone but the Egyptians built the actual pyramids. The Egyptians were a wonderful race with a highly advanced Bronze Age technological culture, fully capable of building megalithic stone monuments with basic tools alone, but yes, some of the pyramids were landing platforms for spaceships. You could at least entertain, in theory, the possibility that both of these things might be true."

Lacie looked on the edge of an explosion that might have buried the camp deeper than Pompeii. Jackson interrupted her before she could even start to speak.

"Anyway. I'm not here because of any academic theories, okay? And, if you don't mind my asking -- well, even if you do -- it seems to me that your camp's awfully empty. It's not Sunday. Today isn't a holiday. Where's your staff?"

Lacie looked too angry to reply coherently, so Mac stepped in. "Fact is, we're not sure."

Jackson studied him with a strange intensity. "I'm, um, sorry -- what was your name?"

"MacGyver." Mac shook the man's proffered hand.

"Daniel Jackson. And this is Teal'c." Another handshake, and Mac braced himself for the kind of brutal squeeze that usually came from men with something to prove to strangers. When the grip was a precisely measured firm clasp instead, he was startled but relieved; 'Teal'c' looked like he could do some real damage.

"So what brings you out here, Dr. Jackson?" Mac asked. "We're kinda out of the way."

"Yeah, no kidding. It wasn't easy to find you out here, you know . . . "

"Oh, give me a break," Lacie snapped. "All you had to do was ask for directions in Limassol and then ask again in Pachna. For a few lira, you could even have hired someone to drive you. Or are you too hard up for that?"

The black man spoke for the first time. "We were unable to secure a local driver. They refused to assist us. They seemed frightened to approach this place."

"Oh, give me a break already!" Lacie snapped. "This isn't some damned clich? of a benighted backwater where the locals are supposed to be wallowing in superstition. This is Cyprus. My graduate interns are locals, for god's sake!"

"And they're gone, too," Mac said slowly. "It looks like they ran away in the night."

Daniel Jackson was staring at MacGyver again. "This is really hard to take in," he murmured. "Um, Mr. MacGyver -- "

"Just MacGyver."

"Okay. MacGyver. I don't suppose you have any -- relatives -- in the military?"

"Me?" Mac blinked in astonishment.

"He hasn't got any relatives at all," Lacie interrupted.

"Um, well, I do, kinda. I've got a cousin who's in the Air Force, or who was. I haven't seen him in years." Mac shrugged. "We never had much in common."

"Make that never had anything in common."

In the heat of discussion and frayed nerves, none of them had noticed when the second Jeep had arrived. Mac whirled and stared at the man in BDUs who was now sauntering towards them. Behind him, another figure in field uniform, a woman, was clambering out of the vehicle.

"Hiya, Mac. You still goin' by 'Mac'?"

MacGyver found his voice. "Hello, Jack. You still goin' by 'goon'?"


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Y is for You've Got to be Kidding Me (Supernatural)
by [profile] maevebran

Dean and Sam pulled into the parking lot of Sol's Diner just outside of Colorado Springs. They parked the Impala and went in. Dean looked around and noticed the black haired waitress with the pig tails.

"I hope she's our waitress," Dean said as he pointed to her. "She's kind of hot."

Sam looked where his brother pointed, "Isn't she a little old for you?"

"Nahh, " Dean said. "She's more experienced."

Sam shakes his head. They both watch as the raven haired waitress finishes taking the orders of the family she's talking to.

A couple shady guys come in.

"All right, wallets and purses on the floor," the first guy yells.

Before Sam or Dean could react, the waitress had kung fu-ed the guys down and had one of the guys' own gun on them.

"You've got to be kidding me," Dean said as he and Sam walked out of the diner, not wanting to get involved.

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Z is for Zombies (Indiana Jones series)
by [personal profile] penknife

Daniel attends Professor Jones's guest lecture mainly out of a sense of morbid curiosity. Nick has told him on many occasions that he admires the man, which doesn't predispose Daniel to liking him. It's probably not fair to actually blame the man's wild stories about his archaeological discoveries for pushing Nick over the edge, but he isn't expecting to have much fun hearing about crystal skulls and marauding zombies.

Instead, it's a surprisingly sensible discussion of defenses against tomb robbers in the Egyptian pyramids, although some of the things Jones claims to have seen sound under-documented and frankly a little unlikely. Still, if there were anywhere that he'd believe the improbable, it's in Egyptian archaeology; there are so many puzzles there, so many things that he's beginning to think don't add up without a leap of faith that he's still afraid to make.

He lingers afterwards until the little knot of people around Jones thins out. Jones is packing up his briefcase, his hands steady but not quick. He glances up as Daniel approaches, his remaining eye sharp; the eye patch makes him look more piratical than fragile, for all that the man must be in his eighties, his face weathered with age and his hair steel gray.

"Have a question?"

"You didn't mention the Well of Souls," Daniel says. "At Tanis--"

"That's a myth, kid," Jones says. His mouth twitches into what might be a smile. "There's no proof there was ever a chamber at Tanis containing the Ark of the Covenant, if that's what you're asking about. Real archaeology isn't all romantic adventure."

"I know that," Daniel says, stung. "My grandfather is Nicholas Ballard. He told me you'd made a fairly unbelievable find there."

"Nick Ballard has a big mouth," Jones says. "Or he used to. If he's dead, I'm sorry to hear it."

"He's in a nursing home," Daniel says, because it's easier to say than mental institution.

"He can't be that old," Jones says.

"He's had some problems," Daniel says. "I'm sorry, it's possible he was just confused. He, ah, that wouldn't be out of character for him these days."

"I'm sorry to hear that, too," Jones says. He seems to be considering Daniel. "Does it matter whether we found anything at Tanis or not?"

"Yes," Daniel says, more hotly than he means to. "Of course it matters. If you found something that would revolutionize our understanding of what ancient people were capable of, evidence of technological abilities far beyond even anything we can do today ... well, that would change everything."

"Don't be too sure about that," Jones says, going back to packing up his notes. "In my experience, most people don't want their world changed."

"So did you find anything?"

"You don't give up, do you?"

"Not very easily, no."

"Good," Jones says. "Ninety percent of archaeology is crushing disappointment, and most of the other ten percent is boredom."

"I didn't come here for advice about the profession."

"It wouldn't hurt you to take some," Jones says. "And if we found anything -- which I'm not saying we did -- talking about it would be bad for my health. There's top secret, and then there's 'forget you ever heard of it, if you don't want to wind up under the jail.'"

"That's convenient," Daniel says. Of course he can't ask for proof if there's some kind of secret government conspiracy to hush things up. The man's as bad as Nick, he thinks, or worse, a con artist rather than genuinely ill.

"Not particularly," Jones says. "If you ever make a find you can't talk about, you'll understand that." He closes his briefcase and looks up at Daniel. "Do you want to believe we found something, or do you want to believe I'm full of crap?"

"I want to know what's true," Daniel says.

"Even if that shakes up your ideas about how history happened?"

"Especially if it does."

Jones smiles, then. "Keep that open mind," he says. "You'll need it."

"Yeah, I'm just not sure where to draw the line between having an open mind and being ..."

"Confused?"

"Crazy," Daniel says flatly.

"It's not crazy to believe in things that really exist," Jones says.

"There's still a line. There's a reasonable theory, and then there's ... I don't know, aliens ate my cat. Zombies in South America. The Ark of the Covenant not just actually existing but having mysterious powers that are kept secret by the CIA. You have to admit it's a stretch."

"Army intelligence," Jones says. "No CIA in those days. Not even OSS."

"Come on, though."

"I don't know about zombies," Jones says. "But there's stranger things out there than you know. You're not after aliens or zombies or the Ark, right? But there's something. I can see that regrettable gleam in your eye."

"There is," Daniel admits.

"So go find your own grail. It's out there somewhere."

"Or else it isn't."

"Something's out there," Jones says. "We left some mysteries for you kids on purpose, you know. It wouldn't have been fair to figure out everything and not leave any archaeology left to do."

"You mean you didn't actually manage to do everything?"

He's afraid for a moment he's gone too far, but then Jones smiles sideways. "Not everything," he says. "Wait and see. I'm not dead yet."

Daniel watches him go, lingering in the empty classroom. He still doesn't know what if anything happened in Tanis, but maybe that's the point; the only way to find out what's out there is to go do the research he already knows he needs to do, the research he's been hanging back from because he suspects the answers he'll find won't be comfortable ones. But he'd rather be right than comfortable.

"Not a romantic adventure, my ass," he says, and heads off to get to work.

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