Disclaimer: see Ch1
Author's Notes: Sorry about the long hiatus. A bit o' writer's block and RL interruptions. I did post two other nifty little pieces though, check 'em out if you have the time. Mourning After wasn't planned as a full series the way Jurisdiction was, so I'm going to have to wait on my muse for updates for that.
Carter had a mini-tool clenched her teeth as though it were a toothpick, as her two hands were entirely occupied and the abbreviated workbench she had cleared in the van was rapidly running out of free space. After removing yet another panel from the blaster, she was able to free a hand to hold the mini toll, and used it to prod aside the wires behind the panel. Carter frowned, and the shifted the tool down in her hand, grasping it with her lower three fingers while her thumb and forefinger grabbed a pen and she added to the diagram she was drawing of the Blaster's internal components.
The door behind her opened and O'Neill leaned in. "Any progress Carter?"
"Well, I can now report a security breach with a fair degree of certainty, except It'd be closing the barn door long after the horse has fled.
"So it is
based off of a Zat?"
"No, it’s built around a crude device the team at Area 52 created based on the energy projection system used in a Zat. Which, incidentally, is still highly classified. This weapon is home-brew American, and at least two years old at my guess. Which means that someone leaked our design at least that long ago."
O'Neill sighed. "Does it being two years old that mean we don't have to file paperwork on the cheap pirated version?"
"Hey, be careful with that. That Sculpture is worth at least five grand."
Daniel shot the woman who had identified herself as 'Alex Roivas, formerly of the antiquities trade'
an annoyed glace. "Are you helping me search for contraband, or are you looting the place."
"Both," The young antiquities dealer turned federal agent said. "We have to make up our funding deficits somehow, you know." She casually liberated a fine mahogany carving of Bast from the display case it was in. "Figure we can make maybe half a mil off of what's in this room alone."
"Please tell me you're joking" Daniel pushed up his glasses, breaking his gaze away from the engraved metal plate he was holding look up at the woman. "I’d like to think that an organization run by the Federal Government wouldn't need to resort to petty larceny to fund it's self."
"We don't steal. We seize potentially dangerous occult-related contraband. It just so happens that dangerous contraband occasionally includes artworks that museums pay handsomely for- and it’s not like we can give it back to the original owners," Alex's happy monologue went on as she appropriated more carved figurines. She looked up and laughed at the expression on Daniel's face.
"I really don't see how artwork constitutes dangerous contraband," Daniel said stiffly. "A policy that allows you to seize property from someone you investigate can lead to a lot of abuse."
"We only take things that may be cult related- if we were really trying to profit we'd grab the real-estate," Alex pointed out. "Besides, our cover story involves a suspected biological or chemical agent, so we'd be expected to de-tox everything in the compound anyway. And we do have funding shortfalls, because we're deliberately under-funded. We have to get our discretionary funds somehow, you know."
"Deliberately under-funded?" It certainly wasn't beyond belief. Fully a third of the personnel in the Paranormal and Occult Investigation and Neutralization Group lacked uniforms, and they seemed to have no sense of standardization in equipment, with each member choosing weapons and gear that suited them; quite possibly they were self-owned.
"To prevent abuse, naturally," Roivas snarked. "Apparently there was a massive blow-up due to funds being funneled into unauthorized research projects back when this was an Army operation."
"Your organization -Daniel refused to say POING in any serious manner, it was simply undignified- does research?" Major Finn had described agency as being a watchdog group for cults with jurisdiction over occult related crimes, but had not gone to mention anything about research. "Like trying to see if psychic phenomena really work or some such?"
"Not any more we don't. When I said it blew up in the Army's face the last time, I was being quite literal. Some things are best left well enough alone." For the first time since they'd met, Roivas had lost her cheerful demeanor. "My Grandpa didn't leave them alone. The cleaners had to scrape his remains off the floor."
"I'm sorry," Daniel said awkwardly.
"Not your fault," Roivas's cheerful demeanor, which Daniel belated realized was largely forced, returned. "Don't let me depress you with the family history. You find anything of interest over there?"
Daniel squinted at the plate again. "No."