Chapter 5: Another Saturday Night
See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines
Once again…… thanks very much for the many and interesting comments, reviews and questions, keep’em coming. I hope you will forgive me for treating most of the questions, comments as rhetorical and not answering individually, but I think any substantive response would, whether by commission or omission, tip my hand farther than I want to just yet.
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover
Chapter 5: Another Saturday Night
Rome, Italy, Oct 2007
Andrew had that damn conga rhythm in his head now.Bumpa bumpa bump –PAH Bumpa bumpa bump –PAH
God, what silly bastard had started that up? And Claudio wasn’t helping, still dancing as they entered the hallway, a little tipsy but still graceful, beautiful. Bumpa bumpa bump –PAH Bumpa bumpa bump –PAH
Andrew had been worried the first time Claudio had come home with him, that it was some ploy, some attempt to get in the apartment to either attack Buffy or steal her underwear. (It had taken weeks for Buffy to forgive him for Tino. And Tino hadn’t even stolen anything, just arranged to have himself photographed coming out of their building with his arms full of cheap lingerie he’d bought at a discount store (which was, Andrew believed, what really
pissed Buffy off). Tino had slept on the pile of dainties for a couple nights to get them authentically wrinkled and then tried to sell them on the black market has having “Once caressed the delicate flesh of the Slayer Prime.” Poor Tino, thinking he was just ripping off some geeky perv’s, not really believing in vampires, or understanding the depth and precision of their olfactory capacities. Ah well, as ye sow, so shall ye reap.
That saying still bothered Andrew, just a little, sometimes. But I’ve been Good a lot longer that I was Evil, he insisted to himself and most of the time he managed to believe that it would be enough. Most of the time.
Claudio worried him because Andrew could get all spiffed up and look in the mirror and convince himself that he was a fine lookin’ fellow, but Claudio was something else, the liquid eyes, the wide-shoulders the musical movement of his slim hips… and he could be a little prima donna at times, but mostly he was sweet, bringing over the fresh pages of his truly … mundane and mediocre graphic novel for Andrew to try his best to praise and gently criticize. And spend the rest of the day reading classics from Andrew’s comics library, and, except for the one horrifying incident with the melting chocolate he’d treated Andrew’s babies with care.
And it had been three weeks now and Andrew was pretty sure Claudio hadn’t even noticed there was anything unusual about his roommates.
Now in the elevator Claudio paused his gyrations and let Andrew lean against him, the pair swaying slightly together as the old machinery clunked along, then cruelly whispered in his ear just as they reached their floor, “Bumpa bumpa bump –PAH Bumpa bumpa bump –PAH”
And ran laughing away down the hall to wait outside the apartment door for Andrew to punch in the code. When they were inside he started up again, singing and bouncing along toward the bedroom, stripping as he went. He had that tendency, to run around the apartment naked or nearly so, Andrew had apologized to Dawn profusely but she’d simply grinned at him,
“We’ll cope, Andrew, somehow we’ll cope.”
In Andrew’s room Claudio dived on the bed and stretched himself out in one of the Michelangelo poses he liked to strike from time to time. Letting the moment play Andrew took off and carefully folded his coat and started on his tie, making his habitual stop at his workstation, looked over the various diagnostic screens….
Well, now. There were always a few yellow warnings, triggered as the fools tried to challenge Andrew the Wise and find a few cheats or a secret path to the Holiest of Grail’s, Faith’s fabled nude vid, rumored to be a spectacular kata performed in its entirety au naturel
and hidden in an elegant tapestry draped dojo that moved about the various virtual landscapes, traveling either randomly or following some logic of it’s very own. Many claimed to have caught a glimpse, a flicker of flesh and then an empty room, some claimed to have seen it in detail and were widely disbelieved. Perhaps it was only rumor, perhaps it was there… Andrew the Wise when asked would only smile and look into the distance, as if recalling a fond memory, or, Faith would have it, as if passing gas.
Once or twice a month someone with serious skill tried to peek behind the curtain and triggered a red warning light, but tonight there were two reds and a purple blinking up at him. Still a long way from the meat and potatoes, but a good effort, worth taking at least a quick look. Before one of the assistants he had reluctantly taken on when the game had simply got too big for him to handle alone beat him to it.
He pulled his chair over, sat, began running the logs, his mind still trapped.
“Cassie Cassie Cass-EEE, Cassie Cassie Cass-EEE, what are you after, Cassie?”
And then his trace left Colorado Springs and moved up the mountain. Andrew felt his heart pick up speed. NORAD was supposed to be on Petersen now but obviously they wouldn’t just let the Cheyenne Mountain complex just sit there. “Warm stand-by,” my ass, he thought. So, was this something official or just a military geek playing with his cool taxpayer paid toys?
Oh, he thought, as he hit a firewall, think you’ve pulled your head in, do you? We’ll see about that. He started to reach for Willow’s Little Black Book, also known among the Watcher’s Council’s small circle of geeks as the Red Laxative (because, among other things, the spells collected there opened a backdoor and kept it open. Obviously.) then hesitated. He had his own tricks. No, he thought. I can do this. Oh, yes, dare to challenge Andrew the Wise and suffer the consequences….
He felt Claudio’s arms around his shoulders.
“Coming to bed?”
“Can’t right now. Working. Important.”
“More important than me?”
Andrew was vaguely aware of Claudio sitting and contemplating the concept, then felt him move away. To bed and sleep, Andrew hoped, more likely to pout and stomp out, but it didn’t matter. Andrew was busy. He was halfway up a mountain and he was going all the way.
Stargate Command, Colorado, Oct 2007
They had been sitting in the conference room for a couple of minutes when the General came in and took his usual seat at the head of the table with a heavy sigh. He rubbed his hand over his smooth pate and looked around at them, then sat back in his chair.
“We-el,” he said, the hint of Texas in his voice a little stronger than usual. “I don’t suppose an emergency meeting with SG1 on a Saturday night is likely to be good news, but I don’t mind telling you, if you’all have come up with some asses that need kicking I might welcome the change. There will be a bulletin in the morning. Captain Benjamin Werner of SG19 was found dead this morning, the victim of an apparent single car accident. And when I say apparent,
I’m afraid I mean exactly that. Deputy Sheriff Johnson and the local coroner are sure the accident was staged. They said it was made to look as if he had cut his throat going through the windshield and bled out. The sheriff said it was a good professional job and he might never have noticed anything wrong if he hadn’t been looking for it.”
“Looking for what, sir?”
“The wounds in the neck and the lack of blood. It seems there have been a number of deaths in the area recently involving odd injuries to the neck and varying degrees of exsanguination….”
“What?” Daniels said.
“Blood loss, Dr. Jackson….”
“Yes, I know the term, I was just … never mind. Sorry. You were saying….”
“Yes,” General Hammond continued, “In Captain Werner’s case the coroner is convinced that while his neck was cut open with glass from the windshield, the cut was made after death and was done to cover evidence of the original, presumably fatal wounds. And while it was impossible given the elements to make a definitive measurement, the sheriff is sure there wasn’t enough blood at the scene to explain the condition of the body. I’ll spare Dr. Fraiser her Saturday night, but I’ve had the body brought on base and I’ll ask her to have a look tomorrow, but I’ve no reason to doubt the findings. The sheriff is worried that he has a serial killer on his hands, but he did point out that the Captain’s case didn’t really fit the pattern. The other victims have all been … marginal people, transients, homeless, a couple semi-pro barflies. Also they were just … discarded, their wounds crude slashes. Obviously Captain Werner’s death may have nothing to do with Stargate Command but we certainly can’t afford to make that assumption. ….. Colonel Talbert will be heading our investigation. In the meantime, you watch your backs…. So. What brings you here on another Saturday night?”
“Sir,” Carter said, “before we get started, I would like to point out that it was Cassie Fraiser who brought this to our attention. It was heads up thinking on her part and I’d like to recommend she get recognition of some kind…”
Hammond looked over at his shoulder at his assistant who was sitting with notepad in hand and nodded. “Noted, Major,” he said, “carry on.”
“Thank you, sir. Cassie and her boyfriend were playing what is known as a MMORPG, or Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game…. You may be familiar with the ‘America’s Army’
“I know of it, yes, so you’re talking about recruiting tool….?”
“Umm, well, possibly, sir, but that’s not our main concern at the moment. The game is much more… open and unstructured then the Army game, and the thing to remember sir is that it contains content that may be provided by the players. The game involves players interacting with one another in sundry virtual environments in the guise of various fantasy figures, heroes and monsters….
“Carter,” Jack said, “show him the pictures…..”
“Yes, sir.” On the big display screen at the end of the conference table she brought up the animated images of what appeared to be a Gou’ald host with glowing eyes, a similar rendering of a Jaffa, and what appeared to be photographs of a zat, a staff weapon, and a Gou’ald hand device. Carter had also found drawings of both an adult Goa’uld and a larvae, the coloring indicating the immature Goa’uld was old enough to have been implanted in a Jaffa for some time.
“Holy …!!” Hammond exclaimed. “These are just out there, in the clear…..?”
“Available to anyone with an internet connection,” Carter said.
“And a lot of free time on their hands,” Jack added.
“Do we know how?” Hammond asked,
“Not yet,” Jack said.
“No,” Carter answered, “We do have three scenarios….. I should point out that the information accompanying the pictures is either incomplete or inaccurate. In fact the text explicitly solicits anyone having more information to submit it to the site, there’s even a small reward offered. There is no mention of the Stargate. They seem to recognize the Goa’uld as parasites but only speculate as to whether they are intelligent or affect a host’s behavior. They do seem do recognize them as not being of Earth, however their speculations incline toward a magically opened interdimensional portal rather than outer space. On the whole the game and its players are more inclined to produce supernatural rather than scientific rationales….” She paused, as if to give everyone a moment to roll their eyes, then went on,
“They do seem to have accurate information about the effects of a zat and a staff weapon, but no notion of naquadah as an energy source. “
“You mentioned three scenarios, Major?” Hammond said wearily.
“Best case scenario is that someone with legitimate access to information about the Goa’uld is playing the game, wants to make an impression but lacking the imagination to create their own monster used the Goa’uld, figuring no one would notice, and disguising their knowledge by giving incomplete information….”
She paused. She thought General Hammond had …growled? Perhaps not. If this did turn out to be some game-playing Second Lieutenant there was going to be nothing left but his smoking boots when the General was done..
“More likely,” she continued, ”someone with legitimate access has told their family rather more than we would like them too about their jobs, and their children are playing the game. The child may not even realize he is divulging classified information.”
“Well, that should be simple enough to determine, we just need to get a list of the players and check it against …..”
“Uhh,” Carter grimaced, “I’m not sure that’s actually that simple, sir. I’m not sure we can count on the people running the game to be cooperative, sir.”
Hammond grinned, “Oh, I think we might find ways to encourage them…”
“With all due respect sir, it’s not run by two guys in a basement, or by a commercial US company we could pressure in the usual manner. I’ve already run into some very impressive encryption and security measures… With your permission, I’d actually like to come back to that aspect later….”
“Of course, Major.”
“The second scenario is that we’ve stumbled across another Seth, a Goa’uld playing God on a smaller scale. Someone playing the game could have first hand knowledge, or may have simply heard stories. In fact, one can even infer from the information that the Goa’uld may have run afoul of some local warlord and lost a battle, and may already be dead.”
“That’s my favorite theory,” Jack said. “And all we have to do is wait until the staff and the zat show up on ebay and we can track down the seller and confirm it.”
“Sir, the information suggests the Goa’uld may be impersonating a voodoo or animist deity, and is on an island. It’s a bit of a long shot, but I would like your permission to query the CIA regarding cults in the Caribbean, particularly cults that may have been in violent conflicts in the last year or two. I think I can word it so they will have no idea what we really after.”
“Of course, Major, write up the request and send it through my office. But won’t it be simpler to go straight to the source?”
“Yes,sir. But as I was saying earlier, simple may not be the right word. Let me explain, we’ve been talking about this as one game, but it is actually many games. Lets say you have fifty people playing bingo, they’re all playing the same game. But if you took the same fifty people and gave them ten copies of a board game, say, Risk,
with five players for each board, you still have fifty people playing Risk, but they’re not all playing the same game. This game is the set up the same way, just with servers instead of boards.”
“Okay, I’m with you so far.”
“I have been able to physically locate the nearest server, in Denver. It seems to be in a house near UC Denver, currently being rented by four UCD students. But according to the site there are additional servers in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Kansas City … Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Miami, and so on. Also in a number major cities in Europe, In Asia, a few in Africa …and those are the one’s they’re telling us about. All of which may or may not have the same maps, pictures and so on.”
“So the point is,” Jack chimed in, “if we seize the Denver server all we do is piss them off.”
“ Every time I’ve tried to access one of the other servers I’ve been re-directed back to Denver. Which… is a bit puzzling because I did make some attempts at routing through other nodes so the game should have seen me as logging in from a different location, I’m not entirely sure how it knew to throw me back to Denver…. There is a procedure where you request to log-on to a specific server… for example if I wanted to play with a friend who lives in a different area, but that is only available after you’ve been a registered user for two months….”
“They’re screening….” Jack said.
“Presumably. But it does mean that somewhere there is a master list. Now, with a bit of time we should be able to locate all the public servers, even if, as a worst case scenario, we had to do it by sending someone to physically trace the server in each area. But even if we located them all, seizing them all would be difficult and certainly illegal and diplomatically complicated in several countries at least. And still wouldn’t account for however many players have downloaded the information onto their own hard drives, just as we did. The genie is out of the bottle, sir. The only saving grace is that they don’t seem to know it. Yet.”
“So we’ve got a catch twenty-two. If we attempt to contain the breach we only draw attention to it?”
“It’s a joke,” Daniel exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said, “I’m not sure I’m seeing the humor in the situation.”
“What? Oh. No, I was, well, I knew what Sam was going to say so…so I’ve been translating this… umm, well, while I was playing… investigating
the game earlier I came across a scroll that seemed to be written in a cuneiform script, in Hittite, a language that’s more less been out of use since 1100 BC. And well, originally I assumed that it was either something copied out of a book or simply some random symbols stuck together for verisimilitude. But it’s … a knock knock joke. It’s hard to explain, it’s sort of a visual pun … since it’s written in a pictographic…” he trailed off as the stares around him grew blanker, “It means that someone is in that game is fluent in…. We could just ask them.”
“I’m sorry, Dr. Jackson, you’ve lost me,” Hammond said.
“Well, I don’t think there’s any reason necessarily to see these people as hostile. I mean the most important thing is to find out if there is a Goa’uld or even a number of Goa’uld loose on Earth, right?”
“That is a point,” Jack said.
“ I mean it’s very possible I could just call them up and say hey, I was playing your game last night and I really liked that picture of the guy with the glowing eyes where’d you get the idea for that……they might tell me,” Daniel continued. “Especially if it was uploaded by one of the players, they might be absolutely dying to tell me all about it.”
“Well, we may give that a try, Dr. Jackson, “ Hammond said, “but in the first place, I just hate the idea of the United States Air Force being held hostage and having to go cap in hand to these …..” he paused, searching for the right pejorative and coming up empty,
“Nerds…?” Jack suggested, “Geeks? Eggheads? … No offense, Carter.”
“ … people,” the general finally expelled, “and meaning no disrespect, Dr. Jackson, but if these people are as sophisticated as the Major says they are, I hate to approach them with nothing in my armory but your big blue eyes.”
“Don’t underestimate the eyes, sir,” Jack said. “The whole puppydog thing, sir, sometimes it’s quite effective.”
“I’ve no doubt.”
“Or we could offer them something in trade, sir?” Daniel continued.
“What, like a free trip through the Stargate?” Jack said.
“Well, yes. That might buy a lot of cooperation."
"I bet we could get double for the return trip, easy," Jack said thoughtfully.
“Well, I’ll take that idea under advisement, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said skeptically. “Still, I’d like to know whole lot more about this situation before taking any precipitate action. Carter I want you to keep digging, find out just as much about these people, who they are, where the money comes from, where it goes, the whole nine yards. You need any help, equipment, warm bodies, you just ask. We’ll start round the clock surveillance on this server in Denver …and anywhere else you think appropriate. Now, anything else you need to tell me?”
“Um, well, yes sir, one or two things,” Jack added reluctantly. “For one thing, Carter, I don’t think you told the General the name of this game yet, did you?”
“Well, Carter, I think you should tell the General the name of the game. And maybe that other little theory you….”
, sir,” Carter said.
“Allright, but if we’re all
locked in the loony bin who’s going to bring us candy on visitor’s day, Carter, did you think of that? Fine, the other little theory we
Jack watched the General’s head turn from dull pink and move upward towards a fine crimson glow. He’d seen the General’s head that red once before. Christmas, he thought it was, the General had been playing Santa Claus. And wearing a hat.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, October 2007
Leticia looked in the last cabinet, stood hands on hips and hmmphed. “He’s not here,” she said.
“They must have taken him to the base,” Ardyce said. She walked down to the end of the morgue to the coroner’s office, reached up and took the spare key off the ledge above the door, undid the lock and put the key back. She went inside and flipped through the log. “I’ll be damned,” she said. “A general came and signed him out. You don’t suppose all that, ‘Sorry, I can’t talk about that, it’s classified,’ stuff was true do you?”
“May be. this could be interesting. Where’d did they take him?”
“Oh. Well. Oh. That’s … I don’t know, Ardy, I think it might be way too easy to get trapped in there.”
“Don’t be silly, Let. We’re not going in there. If he’s so secret agent man he’ll find his own way out. You know where he’ll be. But I have had it with these Denver punks. Look at this,” she waved a pair of photographs under Leticia’s nose, “sloppy, sloppy. Look, that one, you can see the fang marks. Idiot.” She carefully put the papers back where she found them and the two vampires slipped silently back out of the familiar confines of the county morgue. They were using Ardyce’s jeep since Leticia’s truck was too distinctive for anything remotely covert. Leticia pulled the map out of the glove compartment.
“Okay,” she said, “there’s the Mexican group in the old Mcartner place. Those Bloods, or Hoods or Spuds or whatever they call themselves in the warehouse on sixth.” She check off a couple more items in a little notebook. “Really all we need to do is find the Lakewood group and we’ve got the full set located.”
“Fine, let’s take an hour to look around, then go see if lover boy made it out. What’s in the basket?” She added as the engine started up.
“Let’s see,” Leticia opened the woven willow top and peered in, “I’ve got two bratwurst and mustard, two bacon and egg, one PB and J. A couple Heinekens, a Brown Cow and two Dr. Peppers. Two bags O-pos and one B-pos.
“Gimme a brat and a beer then. You can have the B if you want it, I’m a little off B at the moment, for some reason.”
Rome, Italy, October 2007
Dawn pushed the door shut behind her and sagged against it, the music still ringing in her ears. It had been a good party. She’d filled her Saturday night. She missed Tippin. She understood, he needed to make his own place. He was a Watcher now, if he’d stayed in Rome he’d never be more than part of Buffy’s entourage, or, at best, Mr. Dawn. Maybe a couple years down the line, when he’d seen his slayers through a few battles on his own they could try again. Maybe. Unlikely. He’d meet someone. She would.
In the meantime it was important to fill her Saturday nights, with noise and fury if nothing else. She heard the TV in the livingroom and was surprised to find Claudio there asleep on the couch, stretched out in his tiny red briefs. Dawn allowed herself a lascivious moment of art appreciation before moving on. Such a waste, she thought. On Andrew,
of all people. Then chided herself, that’s mean. Andrew works hard. He deserves a bit of fun. If he could pull a piece of eye candy like Claudio without using a love spell (he hadn’t, she’d checked) more power to him.
It was just that, no matter how hard he worked, he was still Andrew.
Speaking of power, walking down the hall toward her room she noticed there was a suggestion of incense in the air, a reddish light under the crack of Andrew’s door.
She knocked lightly , then peered in. He was sitting at the workstation, bathed in the mixed glow of light, cool and blue from the computer screens, red and warm from the candles, the incense aroma no longer a mere suggestion but a physical presence in the room, his flute was sitting on the desk. He was rocking back and forth, almost autistically.
Oh boy. She walked carefully up beside him, he was singing softly to himself, she listened, puzzled,
“Chappa chappa ai-AI, chappa chappa ai-AI, wormhole wormhole worm-HOLE wormhole wormhole worm-HOLE….”
“Andrew?” she said carefully, he turned to face her grinning madly, the tears running down his cheeks.
“Dawnie,” he said, “it’s real. It’s all real. I’d heard stories, rumors, but you always do. But it’s real. We’re going to need more storage space, there’s masses and masses of data….
“That’s an alien,” he pointed, she looked, on one of his screens a picture of a wormlike creature rotated slowly, “That’s an alien from outer space,” he said, and then the rarely profane Andrew, his voice deeply bitter, added, “I’ve never been so fucking disappointed in my life.”
Stargate Command, Colorado, October 2007
Major Samantha Carter shook the aspirin bottle over her palm without result, she held it to her eye and peered in. Yep, empty. She leaned back, massaged her tired face with the back of her hands, allowed her self a brief moment of self-pity. She had the sneaking suspicion that the course of her career in the Air Force was going to be depend on the existence of vampires. Or at least Goa’uld pretending to be vampires.
Given the enormity of what she did, she traveled to distant planets, saved the world, for God’s sake, it seemed silly to think about career. And most of the time she had more important, more interesting things to think about. But she had given her life to the Air Force, a decision she had never regretted, or never for long anyway. And so long as she was going through the gate rank didn’t matter so much, she really didn’t envy the decisions the Colonel had to make sometimes. But when the day came that they decided she was too old to go through the gate, well the stars in the skies weren’t the only one’s she wanted.
A lot of things had to go right to make General, when you got to the rarefied levels any blot on your record could make all the difference …. And all through one’s career there were turning points…events that marked a ceiling or propelled you onward, marked for promotion. She figured she’d have to screw up pretty badly to lose Hammond as an ally, and a powerful one, but he was not all-powerful and not without enemies. Chasing around the planet searching for invading aliens, running a massive surveillance operation…. Only to discover the whole situation could be traced to a loose-lipped Second Lieutenant’s geeky brat… There would be no punishment, no reprimand, just that fatal mark in her file… Whereas if it was all true, and they managed to uncover, and destroy, a Goa’uld run cult with plans to take over the world, then she emerged a hero marked for (secret) glory.
Strange to find herself half-hoping for an alien invasion.
God, she was tired. She had been able to penetrate the Denver server, locate the files she was sure held the registration information, usernames and passwords, another file she thought probably held the ip addresses of the current players, which might be of some use.… but she just couldn’t break through the encryption. Strange things were happening, every time she did poke into the restricted area, sooner or later she would suddenly find herself ejected, find herself not exploring a game server in Denver but a bank in Las Vegas, an insurance company in Chicago, a rather specialized porn site in LA, as if she’d just been randomly redirected against her will. Her two assistants weren’t faring any better and were beginning to grow irritable in their own rights.
And paranoid, twice her monitors detected activity that seemed to indicate someone had unauthorized access, which was impossible given all the firewall and security protocols and of course when she went to check the logs they were clean. She was seeing things. And so was her nervous assistant who thought she had seen a similar event… with the same results when they checked.
“Hey, better safe than sorry, Mike. I’m seeing things too. Take fifteen, clear your head a bit.”
It was good advice, she thought. Ought to take it herself. She had been about to call an airman to get coffee and aspirin delivered but decided she could use the walk. She stood, stretched and headed down toward the infirmary.
In a bag on a shelf in a rather chill cabinet deep under a mountain in Colorado, Captain Benjamin Werner, (deceased) opened his eyes and began to assess his situation, calmly and methodically, like the true professional explorer that he was.