Chapter 14: Bananas in Paradise
See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.
Thanks as always for the many kind and stimulating reviews.
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover
Chapter 14: Bananas in Paradise
Kas, Turkey, August 2007
Kadri was disgusted. Angry. Tired. Worried. His shop was empty.
Scratch that, his shop was full. Of rotting fruit. Wilting vegetables. Canned goods gathering dust. Only a few of the old ones came anymore, the ones who pinched every lira ‘til it screamed for mercy.
The young ones went by, laughing at him. Come, they told him, come join us in paradise, where the fruit is always fresh, the peppers and tomatoes grow up over night, the bees make masses of honey and never sting.
There were bananas, they said, which was ridiculous, no one grew bananas
Oranges. Apples. There were grapes in fat bunches, and coffee trees. Flowers perfumed the Valley of Paradise. Fish leaped out of the water into your pan. In the deep pools in the new river the girls leaped into the water to swim naked and didn’t mind if the boys leaped after, for the Goddess had decreed there was no sin in the pleasures of the flesh. The trees grew and withered and dried in a day, and fell apart at the touch of an axe to feed the fires that lit the night's revelry.
Bullshit, Kadri thought. He’d been to that valley, it was arid, and rocky, fed by dribbling brook that dried up if it went very long without rain. Paradise my slowly going broke ass.
No, no, they told him. God had returned to Earth and recreated Eden, call it a valley, call it a garden, it was paradise on earth, this time without the snake.
they told him, was a black woman.
Nonsense. Bullshit. Blasphemy.
Some charlatan, Kadri insisted. Some modern Hashshashin
cult, sitting up on the rocks eating the lotus and calling it… bananas.
They would all be back, completely fleeced. He would extend a little credit, just a little, just enough to keep their business, enough to let him rub their foolishness in their faces. But not too hard. We all long for paradise sometimes, Kadri thought. To lay on a grassy bank with a bit of fruit, watching the young people at play, there are worse dreams to make a fool of yourself over.
But at the end of the day a fool is a fool, and Kadri’s bank account was hurting. He would have a little revenge.
But day after day, a week, two, they passed him by and few came back, and no one who came back came back to stay.
Until finally there was no point in staying alone in his shop and re-reading the papers and re-watching old videos. Kadri decided he would at least go and see.
You have to bring an offering, they told him. He stood in his dusty shop and contemplated his dusty wares. What do you offer paradise? he wondered. And finally decided three cases of cigarettes was the answer to that conundrum. After a long day of lazily eating fruit and watching, maybe even playing with, a few houris
, a man probably wanted a good smoke. And there were some people, Kadri recognized, who were capable of calling a place a paradise even if there was no tobacco. There was really no help for people like that. You just had to forgive them, for they knew no better. And supply your own smokes.
He packed the boxes on the back of his motorbike and started off.
He found the turn-off from the main road easily, the heavily used footpath that ran along the narrow side road was clue enough. He rode for couple uneventful miles until he rounded a curve and the road became a long thin parking lot. With his bike of course he was able to maneuver further until he came to a man sitting in a canvas director’s chair who pointed him at the little wide area off the road already half full of parked motos. He took the hint and chained up his Honda. He held up his cigarettes, the man waved him on, upwards, and he climbed the next ridge and everything changed.
First he felt the cool of the breeze blowing through the valley, saw the verdant lushness … and the guards. Large stoic men with strange weapons, metal poles with fins at one end and …sort of a blind fishhead thing at the other. Despite the warmth they were wearing an archaic sort of chain mail uniform, the breeze no doubt did little for them but they stood blank and uncomplaining every forty or fifty feet along the ridge on both sides of the valley for as far as Kadri could see. Just a little down the path there was a guardhouse manned by four of the stoic men and a couple less dour locals who grinned, took his cigarettes, patted him down for weapons, pointed out the latrines.
And pointed out the large colorful tent a mile or so upstream where he would have to go and kneel before the Goddess and get his hand tattooed with her sign if he wished to stay.
Then they told him to have a good time.
He started down the path that wound down through the ….. grapevines and coffee trees that covered slope … and emerged next to the softly burbling river.
There was a banana plant.
He passed a small orange grove. A vegetable garden being idly tended by a few chattering women.
There were little gatherings of tents, every so often a rudimentary dormitory with thatched roof and open walls. Children played on the grass, a bit of football, some other games clearly only the participants understood.
Kadri walked on and was outraged by a group of young men and women sunbathing on the riverbank as near nude as made no difference. He went and joined several other men his age who were similarly angered by the display. He stood with them and was outraged for fifteen or twenty minutes before he grew bored and pushed on to the main tent. He was shown the low hole in the brightly colored canvas where he would have to kneel down and crawl through.
It was wrong in so many ways. Kneeling before false gods. Sight unseen. He was not a fanatic, but he was a religious man. Idolatry was strictly forbidden. He was shopkeeper. Always check the merchandise. Something he truly believed in. He looked around. He watched a tomato ripen. He’d come this far. He knelt, crawled.
Inside there more of the stoic guards, then there were girls in diaphanous, loose wraps that guided him around a warm pool to the base of the platform were a heavy wooden statue of a tall black woman with North African features sat enthroned, feet pushed slightly forward. One of the girls bent and wiped the, literally, ebony feet and gestured. He was to kiss the feet to show obeisance, Kadri understood. The finely polished area just above the toes marked the target clearly. He looked up, atop the platform the Goddess herself slept on a plush divan. She was indeed a fine and strong looking woman, perhaps there was even something noble in her brow, but Kadri’s ideas of divinity did not, as a general rule, include stentorian snoring. Still he really didn’t want to go back to his shop.
Just below the sleeping Goddess, luminously pale of skin, fine red hair like a fire in comparison, the second Goddess sat in the full lotus position. Kadri looked again. She was sitting in the full lotus position hovering about six inches in the air.
Kadri knelt and puckered. He went to get his hand tattooed. Sometimes, Kadri thought, a man just has to take the hint.
London, England August 2007
“I’m not sure,” Giles said into the phone, “whether to be relieved that there were so few worm cults or to be stunned that there were any. Of course we had to eliminate a lot of ’wyrm’ cults that were referring to dragons. And of course if I had anything really useful to tell you I would have done so by now. How are you, Kaitlyn?”
“I’m good. Missing my own bed a bit, but doing well. I’ve sent the girls on a little demon slaying tour of Turkey, though, they were getting terribly antsy and irritable. I actually need you to send me a couple of watchers to… you know, watch.”
“Of course. You think it’s too dangerous to make any more snatches?”
“Well, Sha… Geb
has them coming to him, her….. God, I hate this…”
“I know, Kait, I know.”
“Now that they finished their tour of Eastern Europe Geb has them coming to her now. Has them riding in on a raft up the river, bearing tribute. She’s being a bit more discreet about disposing of the bodies of the ones who don’t kowtow fast enough… brutal death messes up the whole Garden of Eden vibe.”
“I should think, yes.”
“But the ones that come, most of them are so eager to kneel down and pucker up their lips are callused by time they reach the tent. Nothing more servile than a frightened despot I guess. The ones that agree to serve get sent away under heavy guard. As much to keep them in line as protect them I suppose. We could take them, but not without letting Geb know she was under attack.”
“Yes, well, better safe than sorry. Can’t say we’re having much luck with what you’ve sent back, anyway. We’ve gathered some information, they used to pass themselves off as Gods in ancient Egypt and a few other places, and a bunch of contradictory stuff about where they came from. Dimensional portals, outer space. I’m not all that sure they know themselves anymore. And if we get rough….they know they can just let the host take the pain and we’ll stop, so… “
“What about the boring lab coat front?”
“I’ve sent a few tissue samples out to a few of the more open-minded scientists we know, but we can’t really afford to fund the research and the poor bastards are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to write the grant proposals for the study of demonic parasites so … I imagine in a couple years they’ll be coming up with some useful ideas but we can’t count on anything short term… Kait, you sure you don’t want to take a week off yourself, come on back, sleep in your bed, charge the batteries?”
“What, leave paradise for England, Giles? Don’t be silly. Just send me a couple extra pairs of eyes and I’ll be fine….”
Haiti, October 2007
The smell hit them first, a ripe mix of oily auto exhaust and the varied sweetnesses of rotting plants and living plants, odors of cooking meat and an undertone of the inevitable result. There was sound too, now, voices, a bit of shouting, engines, honking. And then the heat hit them like wet blanket.
One moment they’d been standing a bit chill in their light clothes in the cold Colorado warehouse with Harris spouting nonsense, now they were in what looked like a rather bare, dimly lit schoolroom… somewhere else. With Harris staring intently back forth from Teal’c and Carter.
At the front of room three people seemed to be waiting, a tall very tanned white man in a cream linen suit and shorter black man in slacks and white shirt, and a black woman in colorful dress who seemed to be the only one of the trio to be a bit taken aback by the sudden arrivals.
“No,” Carter said, and Jack saw Harris sag a little with relief.
“Indeed, I sense no goa’uld presence,” Teal’c said.
“T…. Murray,” Jack hissed, “Need to know.”
“Xander, what exactly has……errp,” the black man started speaking, then succumbed to Harris’ sudden bear hug. The other man backed away, grinning as Harris turned toward him then, but succumbed to a back-slapping hand-shake.
Harris stepped back, grinning, “Andre, Jean-Luc, I’m so sorry, I know things have been a bit weird, but you remember those freaky snake things we ran into in Zombieland? Turns out they’re intelligent alien parasites from outer space….”
“Mr. Harris,” Jack said sharply, “I thought we had thirty days before you started telling the world….”
Harris looked back him, seeming to be genuinely surprised, he said, “First, please, it’s Xander, or at least drop the mister. And I thought you understood, thirty days before we decide whether to tell the world. I’m not holding anything back from my people, in fact Andre and Jean-Luc here are probably the only ones who haven’t been fully briefed by now. And that’s only because we were afraid one or more of them might have been snaked….”
“What?!” Andre said.
“Jean-Luc,” Harris said, “Did you set up the house or the hotel for our guests?”
“The hotel, I wasn’t sure…”
“That’s fine. Faith, why don’t you and the girls take Jack’s little group here over and get them set up. We’ll do the whole meet and greet over dinner. Right now I’m going to brief Mutt and Jeff here and try to convince them not to kill me for not just having their heads examined…”
heads examined?” Andre said. “Who is talking about space aliens
here, I want to know?”
The small restaurant had gone quiet. Jack could feel the sudden tension in the air, could feel all the eyes staring at him, and not a friendly pair in sight. Jack leaned over toward Jean Luc.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“She says that you are a very bad man,” Jean-Luc translated.
The girl spoke again, pointing at Jack in a full j’accuse.
“What now?” Jack asked.
“She says you did not let her finish her sweet and you owe her seven dollars.”
Jack glared back at Renee. “No way.” He held up his hand, fingers a half-inch apart in demonstration of a small amount, “you had this much left. Fifty cents.”
There was a momentary lag as Jean-Luc translated for the audience at large and then the tension dissipated in a burst of laughter.
The waiter passing by tousled the blonde girl’s hair and shook his finger at her and she laughed.
“Nice try, kid,” Jack said.
She glared back and pointed, “You will
pay,” and then someone called her name from the back and she bounced out of her chair and went running off, again.
“She speaks Creole?” Jack asked Jean-Luc.
Jean-Luc smiled, shrugged, “Enough to get around. Enough to gossip with her friends. The young, they learn so fast, she was here a month, maybe two. She picked it up.”
“She seems very popular here.”
“Of course. She’s young, pretty, completely natural with everybody, interested in everything. It is a gift. Of course they love her. To be sure, she helped kill the demons who were collecting protection money from everybody in the district.“
“Of course so did Faith and Jun. Xander, Andre, and myself too for that matter. For which we are welcomed and treated with respect. But they love Renee.”
Halfway through the meal the power went out. Without missing a beat candles and small oil lamps appeared and the evening went on. Jack took advantage of the relative dimness to lean back and once again reassess the vampire hunters.
There were four who had made the trip, Harris, Faith and two of the girls, Renee and Jun. Jack was still adjusting. Last night the girls had been efficient, lightning fast killing machines who apparently could witness horrors that Harris deemed inappropriate for a special ops veteran, and still go for sandwiches after. And now Jun was this quiet shy girl with delicate table manners who answered politely when spoken too but said little otherwise, Renee now the giggling teenager, a social butterfly gadding about collecting gossip to retell earnestly, all wide-eyed, “You won’t believe
what Eugenie just told me!!”
And hard-ass Harris, standing with a good-natured grin, allowing the three old women who hovered around the till at the front of the restaurant to pinch his cheek and poke his belly and tease him about his sex life until Faith went back to rescue him, with a salacious smile and some no doubt off-color remark that sent the old women into knee-slapping gales of laughter.
And Faith herself, Jack wasn’t sure he would have recognized her on the street without the leather. He fancied, despite the très femme
light cotton blouse and skirt, that he could still see the latent power in her lazy sprawl at the table, see the predator’s glint in her eye… of course in the base it had been a confrontation and last night she’d had a point to make, and now she was on home territory with nothing left to prove and it was natural she would dial the aggression down a notch or two…. Still Jack had to admit he had not expected the laughing woman who sat across the table and teased Renee and bantered with Jean-Luc and Andre, and the people at the next table, and occasionally gazed at Harris with a look in her eye that reminded Jack of long ago better days when he and Sarah were young together.
He felt a wave of sadness. There were so many things they had never done together. Never would.
Of course the candlelight wasn’t helping, Faith was luminous, Carter, sans
the usual cap and uniform had her own soft glow as she chatted with Andre at the far end of the table. He glanced over at Daniel and Teal’c, wondered if they felt the same pang of absent loves, lost lives, but he saw nothing… as he was sure they would see nothing if they’d looked at him. Damn, Jack thought, we’re a sad lot of stoic bastards, aren’t we? No wonder we live for the mission and the next one and the one after that.
Happily the power and the relatively harsh lights returned before the mood came on too strong, he remembered where that kind of thinking had once led him and he had no need or desire to return there. He shifted his chair forward, waved at the waiter for another beer and turned to Jean-Luc with a question and entered back into the conversation.
Later Jack and Teal’c followed Harris, Faith, and Andre out the back door of the restaurant to find a black SUV waiting. They rode for some fifteen to twenty minutes, a winding route on dark streets and Jack soon gave up trying to keep track and settled for simply being lost and hoping Harris knew what the hell he was doing…
Eventually they stopped outside an open-walled bar where the men lounging and drinking uniformly wore brightly colored shirts and assault rifles. The music came from an over-sized boombox and kept pounding but all conversation stopped and all eyes turned to watch as Andre led them past a ragged selection of pool tables and ancient arcade games out into a hidden courtyard where more men with rifles slouched in attendance on a game of dominos proceeding at a table in the courtyard’s center, beneath a dangling collection of loosely connected lightbulbs, a sort of poor man’s chandelier.
Harris took the lead then, twirling his cane in one hand as he crossed to peer down at the tiles for moment.
“They’re letting you win again, Charles,” Harris said.
“Of course they are,” a slim young man answered, “they are not fools. What do you want Harris? There are no more devils here, we are all angels now.”
“Of course you are Charles, who could ever doubt it?” He turned and looked at Teal’c who shook his head slightly, no. “Well, we’ll leave you in peace. Gentlemen, bonswa.”
They were nearly back to the bar when the young man rose and shouted, “Harris!” and there was a chorus of metallic clicks as rounds were chambered and safety’s clicked off. Jack felt his hand automatically reaching for his absent P90, not at all happy not to find it.
The boss man left his game, picked up a pistol and came striding forward to stare Harris in the face.
“Why did you come here?”
“I heard you were possessed by an evil spirit, Charles. I am pleased to see it is not so.”
“And if it was?”
“I would have cut your head off and saved your soul. Be good, Charles.” He turned and walked then, Faith pushed Andre then Teal’c and Jack after him, Jack assumed she was coming behind but knew better than to look even as he could all but feel the bullets in his back…. And then they were out in the SUV and moving away at speed and Harris was grinning back at him,
“Well, strike one. Having fun yet, Jack?”
SG1, all packed up and ready to leave, were sitting in the hotel’s small patio, at a table with a plate of fruit and heavy pastries and some promise of forth-coming caffeine when Andre and Jean-Luc came in to join them, sitting at the next table.
“You are waiting for coffee, yes?” Andre said. They nodded. “I hope you like it sweet and with cream. This is good hotel, very clean, but a very limited kitchen. In most hotels and restaurants you have a choice of three kinds of coffee. American, French and Haitian.”
“Oh no,” Jean-Luc said.
“Now, if you had gone to, say, the Hotel Montana, you would have had such a choice. I imagine Jack would naturally order the American, Samantha is refined lady and would order the French, and Daniel is the adventurous type, he would have ordered the Haitian. And the waiter would have gone away and come back with a tray with one pot of coffee and two cups, one big one and one little one. He would put the big cup in front of Jack and fill it from the pot. He would put the little cup in front of Daniel and fill it from the same pot. And then he would take Daniel’s cup and give it to Sam, and then he would give Mr. Teal’c the bill. That is the usual way to have coffee in Haiti.”
“You feel better now?” Jean-Luc asked Andre, then turned to SG1. “I apologize for my friend. I cannot convince him that political allegory before breakfast is uncivilized.”
“It’s the truth,” Andre said.
“Which is also uncivilized,” Jean-Luc replied.
Faith and Jun came in moments later, Faith paused, looked at Andre and Jean-Luc for a moment, said, “Oh, good, he’s already told the coffee joke. Did he tell the one about the three missionary ladies and the dancing goat?”
“No, and don’t tempt him,” Jean-Luc said quickly.
Jack possessed himself of patience. Hurry up and wait was a battle mode he was fully familiar with. Daniel and Carter joined in the idle morning chatter. A boy came by selling newspapers and went away happy with his sales. Jean-Luc and Andre argued over the headlines and the by-lines, Daniel translated the French for Carter, Faith and Jun went off to do some tai chi on the roof.
Eventually there was honking and shouting in the street and Jack went out to look and discovered Harris and Renee had returned with a banged up, brightly painted pickup truck that was to be their transport. Jack wasn’t sure he followed the logic of teleporting across continents and then driving the last seventy miles, but it was, he supposed, better than doing it the other way around.
Jean-Luc and Carter ended up sitting in the cab with the driver, everybody else piled in the back. The girls quickly claimed the area just behind the cab where a ragged strapped-in car seat served as the first class compartment. Jack found himself sitting next to Harris, both leaning back on their packs to cushion the metal edges.
“Our GPS phones seemed to have disappeared,” Jack said.
“Really? Cool, I wasn’t sure that would work,” Harris answered.
“I thought you said you were okay with me spying and reporting back.“
“I said I expected you too. And I’m not at all pissed that you tried. But I didn’t say I wouldn’t interfere.”
“Ah. So where are they?”
“Well if the spell worked right they’re in Hawaii. But most likely they just ended up on the floor in the warehouse.” He dug in his pocket a moment, pulled out his cell, offered it, “Here, you can call Hammond and tell him where you are if you want.”
“With you recording everything I say?”
“Oh, that would
be sneaky,” Harris said. “We can probably find a working phone in Saint-Marc if you want.”
“I used the hotel phone earlier this morning,” Jack said. Harris laughed.
"Collect, I hope," he said.
The hotel was in a sort an interface zone, the poorer dwellings squatting in between the mostly older buildings that had seen better times but still had sound structures and residents with enough money to keep them clean and secure. But now a few blocks down the street they were moving into the slums proper, the taller buildings falling behind, no longer blocking the view of the hills covered in an endless maze of cement block hovels with tin roofs.
Moving slowly in the chaotic and jammed traffic the truck jockeyed for position trying to move out onto what looked to be the first of a two or three steps necessary to access main thoroughfare. It was, Jack realized, going to be a long seventy miles.
“You ever wonder what the world would be like without concrete?” Harris said, as the truck wheezed another six feet forward and stopped. “If we could only really build with natural stone and wood and maybe steel?“
“No,” Jack said, “can’t say I have.”
“Look at the European cities …the old parts anyway, they can be just as harsh but they have something a city like LA doesn’t. I don’t know. I suppose places like this would be even worse without it…. But there’s just something so soulless about concrete ….. I guess I’ve just come to associate cement blocks and serious poverty. Hard to believe it’s only been around, in a mass production sense for what, a bit over a hundred years? But then I guess you’ve been there.”
“To worlds without concrete. The whole pre-industrial thing.”
“Yeah. Always kinda glad to get back home.“
“Must be interesting though, to compare… I mean, you think this shit….” He gestured at the hills, “is inevitable. Human nature. But now … assuming the goa’uld don’t blow us up I guess, we get a chance to see, all these different worlds right at that point … maybe some of them can get it right…. Find a way to make mod cons without the dark satanic mills….”
Jack looked across the truck’s bed at Teal’c sitting quietly next to Daniel, taking in this new view of his adopted home in observant silence.
“So, been to any planets where you really wanted to just stay?” Harris asked.
“No, not really,” Jack answered.
“I imagine there wouldn’t be any trouble getting volunteers, but I guess you’d almost have to keep that gate open twenty-four seven to make a difference to this world, but some sort of colonization……” Harris continued.
“Hey Daniel,” Jack said, “Trade places?”
They had passed Saint-Marc and driven inland for awhile before turning off the main road onto a dirt track that led back toward the water and soon dwindled to what Jack thought of as a glorified goat trail. Bumping and bouncing along the truck finally descended a long slope to park in the center of a small seaside village. They stood and stretched and settled down at a sort of al fresco
restaurant featuring burnt meat and lukewarm beer to wait while Harris and Andre went off to hunt down the local houngan
to make arrangements to join the night’s service.
Before he left Harris grinned and told Renee to tell Jack why they were here.
“This is the closest village to where we fought the zombies,” she said, dropping into the seat beside him.
“Tell him what you think of zombies,” Harris said and turned to hurry after Andre.
Renee leaned forward, giving Jack the wide blue eyes, “Oh, I hate fucking zombies,” she said, ”I mean I really hate the fucking things, the fucking smell, jeezus, make you want to puke and then their eyes are all runny and they’ve got this pus that oozes….”
“Kid, kid…Kid!” Jack said, “I think he was kidding.”
“No, I really fucking hate fucking zombies.”
“No. I mean about telling me all about it.. I think he was kidding about that.”
“You think so?” Renee said innocently, “’Cause I’m not kidding, I hate the fucking things.”
“Well,” Jack said, “That’s ….sweet.”
“Mingle,” Harris told Teal’c and Carter. “I think we’re looking for a girl in her late teens, but that’s just a guess. If you spot her, him, it… back off a little, but I’d rather you get made than we lose her. If you need to, just point and shout.”
There was, Jack noted, a sad lack of half naked women writhing in mystic ecstasy, but Faith and Renee were getting down to the beat.
The night had come, they had walked out of town just a little to the tent peristyle,
the voodoo temple. There were drums. There was blood, there had been chickens sacrificed and their blood sprayed about. There were dancers, and most were indeed female and some were young, but most were middle aged and all were fully clothed. Many of the women in white outfits that, despite being a bit bespattered with blood, more closely resembled nun’s habits than breechclouts, dancing with a steady rhythm around and around a pole in the center of the not-all-that-big tent.
“Faith is a believer?” Jack asked Jean-Luc.
“In the loas? Of course. She is a slayer, she has spoken with them. You may see her bow from time to time, it is a matter of courtesy, they come to greet her. She is, in a way, one of them,” Jean-Luc said. “She believes in them like you believe in the postman and the fireman. If you mean does she worship them, no, shouldn’t think so.”
“So she’s dancing because….”
“She likes to dance.”
“The believers don’t mind?” Daniel asked, “I always understood genuine voodoo practitioners discouraged outsiders.”
“They make allowances for people who wipe out zombie armies, and behead oppressive sorcerers,” Jean-Luc explained with a smile. “We are welcome here, and you are our guests, feel free to join in if you like.”
“Oh, I don’t know…” Daniel said but Jean-Luc was waving to Renee and pointing at Daniel and the blonde girl grinned and came running over to take Daniel’s hand and drag him into the circle.
Jean-Luc turned back to Jack.
“Don’t even think about it,” Jack said.
Carter came rushing up then, she took Jack's arm and pulled him aside, said quietly,
“Found her.” -30-