Eye Opening Experiences
A/N The whole concept of these type of ghouls was from Lovecraft’s incredible stories “Pickman’s Model” and “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath”. I have modified it a bit when I realized that Ghouls and Vampires would be in indirect competition for food. The concept of 28 grams is something that has been observed by medical science, and they even made a movie from the idea. Again I modified it a bit for my purposes. As stated before, I have no proprietary rights to the works of HP Lovecraft, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1. I do have proprietary rights to an ancient Subaru that doesn’t run well, and a basset hound that runs faster than the Subaru. As always, I would like to thank the people that have taken the time to read and review my story.
EYE OPENING EXPERIENCES
Samantha Carter looked across the desk at the young man and started re-evaluating the situation. He was obviously confident and personable, with an air of confidence about him that automatically made you trust him; but Sam figured that was true of con men and used car salesmen as well. Deep down Sam knew that this had to be some kind of scam, a girl had fallen out of the ceiling for goodness sakes, and Harris was treating it as something common. “So what are they?”
“Short answer is that they’re energy storage systems or batteries.”
“That’s it, they’re batteries?”
“No, that’s not it, but the answer is gonna drift into some territory that you won’t be comfortable with.”
“How do you know that,” Sam asked with a little heat.
“Because I saw the way you reacted to Buffy showing up. You’re trying to figure out how it happened, like spotting a magicians trick; and making me out to be some academic version of a snake-oil salesman. So trying to move you out of your narrow little mental comfort zone is gonna be like dead lifting a redwood so if it’s all the same to you, let’s just leave it at ‘they’re batteries’ and end the conversation now.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Sam replied.
“Yeah, I figured as much,” Xander sighed. “But I can always hope.”
“So what about a battery is going to be so hard for me to accept?”
“Where it gets its power.”
“Oh, and where is that?”
“You heard me correctly Ms. Carter, these devices are used to collect and store the energy from souls.”
“But that can’t . . . . .”
“STOP,” Xander yelled, cutting Sam off in mid rant. “We need to get something clear right now if we’re gonna get anywhere.” Sam was fuming but silent so Xander went on, “are you a fan of Stephen King, Ms. Carter?”
“No, not that it’s relevant.”
“But it is; there’s this wonderful part in ‘Salem’s Lot; that deals with vampires you know, where the characters are talking about what’s going on. And in the course of the discussion they realize what a limiting word ‘Can’t’ is. It isn’t a word that means ‘something impossible’, it is a word that signifies something you don’t want to think about, something that will force you to re-think everything that you once thought was correct, something that you’ve never been comfortable with so you never thought about it. So if you’re gonna learn anything today, you’ve gotta keep ‘Can’t’ out of the equation. Can you do that?”
Sam looked at the intense young man in front of her; his eye was burning with an almost missionary zeal. He had challenged Sam in a way she hadn’t been challenged in a long time. Sam realized that she’d gotten comfortable with the way things were at SGC; where she was considered the brightest light in the marquee. Now someone was asking, no; daring her to try out an area where she was out of her depth. Well, she’d never been able to resist a dare. “OK Dr. Harris, I’ll try.”
“Do or do not, there is not try,” Xander replied.
Sam smiled “quoting Yoda at me Dr. Harris. OK then, ‘Can’t’ is out of my vocabulary for now. So how do these things work and how do souls give them energy?”
Xander gave her a bright smile at her reply, “well, I’ll answer the second part first, now according to Einstein, anything with mass has energy, correct.”
“And souls have mass.”
“Yeah, it kinda shocked me as well.” He leaned forward, “do you have a friend that’s a doctor?”
“Yes, I know one or two.”
“I mean a medical doctor.”
“Oh, yes I know a doctor; her name is Janet.”
“Then ask Janet about the 28 grams the next time you see her.”
“28 grams, what’s that.”
“Well, there was a series of experiments on terminal patients and all they did was place the patient’s bed on a balance, a very good balance. Then they would monitor the mass of the patient and the difference in mass between someone alive and someone dead is always somewhere around 28 grams. Nothing was removed and all possible variables were controlled for, so the only difference in the patient at the times they were measured is that for one, they were alive and for the other they were dead. It was therefore hypothesized that the difference in mass was due to the departure of the soul.”
Sam was stunned, she’d never even heard of something like this before. “Do you have a copy of the experiment and its conclusions?”
“No, but your doctor friend ought to be able to push you in the right direction. So, to continue, if a soul has mass, then it has energy; and energy can be collected and stored, hence the objects in front of us.”
“So how do they work, is it just like a vacuum cleaner and sucks up any soul it can?”
“No, it has to be activated, to extend the analogy; you have to turn it on, like your vacuum cleaner. Otherwise it just sits there and does nothing.”
“So how do these things work?”
“They’re voice activated, you see the symbols here,” he pointed as he asked. Sam just nodded and he continued “well they’re actually words, like hieroglyphics and if you say them in the right way you can operate this thing.”
“And what can it do?”
“Well if it’s the usual model it can collect, of course; then you’ve got the controlled release and the total release.”
“So, in battery terms; you’ve got normal operation, recharging, and dumping all the energy at once?”
“And if we decided to dump all the energy at once, how much are we talking about?”
“Well, I can’t say for certain without some additional testing and research, but I’d have to say roughly as much as a hydrogen bomb.”
Sam suddenly turned very pale, “you’re kidding.”
“Nope, these things can pack quite a wallop when they’re fully charged.”
“Do you mean to tell me that I’ve been walking around with a case full of bombs that could be set off by saying the wrong word?”
“Yeah, but it’s not a typical language so the odds of inadvertent detonation were pretty small.”
“How unusual are we talking about here, Latin unusual or Basque unusual.”
“Rarer than Navajo.”
Sam was surprised, Navajo had been chosen for use as a code because it was such a rare language, and now she was being told that the language on the artifacts was rarer still. “Would Daniel know it?”
“My guess would be no, do you want me to tell Dawn to give him the basics?”
“Why don’t you just show him how they work?”
“Because I don’t want to see cities blowing up on the news because he inadvertently uttered the wrong phrase, forcing him to learn the language will also force him to think about what these things can be used for, and how dangerous they are.”
“Don’t you trust us?”
“Frankly, no. I’m doing this because I’m hoping you’ll realize you’re out of your league on this one and leave the devices with us. Honestly I believe they’re too dangerous to leave in the hands of non-professionals.”
“Non-professionals,” Sam yelled. “I’ll have you know that we employee some of the best minds on the planet and have access to resources you can only dream about.”
“And who is asking for who’s help,” Xander asked. “If what you said were true Ms. Carter, you wouldn’t be here.”
Sam had no answer to that, so she changed the subject, “and how do I know that you know anything, all I have is your cock and bull story about these things being batteries and rare languages; you haven’t proven anything.”
Sam expected the young man to explode, instead he just laughed, “you’re correct Ms. Carter, I haven’t given any proof yet, well let’s see if we can do something about that.” And before she could object he waved his hand over the objects while muttering in a language that reminded her of Klingon (not that she would ever admit to watching Star Trek); instantly the batteries lit up. They were not consistent; some were brighter while others barely lit at all. Sam looked up at the young man, her brow clouded with questions.
He just gave a feral smile and said, “level check, so any more questions.”
“Yeah,” Sam replied. “How’d the girl come out of the ceiling?”
Xander just leaned close, still grinning and whispered, “physics.”
Buffy sat down with a grin on her face. She was in Faith’s office and somehow it never failed to make her smile. The idea of ‘wild child, get some; get gone’ Faith having an office and teaching students always tickled her sense of the absurd; and gave her hope that she, like Faith, was meant for something more than just poking monsters with pointy sticks.
“What’s with the smile B?”
“Nothing really, it’s just the thought of you teaching, it’s nothing I ever would have pictured you doing, well except for teaching slaying.”
“You and me both; every now and then I’ll look around the lecture hall and see all those kids looking back at me and wonder, ‘how the hell did I get here’?”
“And then you remember that you’re here because of Xander; so how’s that going?”
Faith blushed, which was something Buffy had never expected to see, “good, I mean you know I’d never done the dating thing; but after the last month I wish I had. He’s a great guy and we have fun and it’s completely different from anything I’ve done before and I’m so scared at times that I’m gonna fuck it up somehow . . . . . . .” She stopped because Buffy was laughing out loud, “so what’s with the laughter,” Faith asked with a little heat.
It took a few seconds, but once Buffy had herself under control she blurted out, “you sounded like you were channeling Willow there for a second and it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard.” She got herself further under control and continued, “you shouldn’t worry about that kind of thing Faith, you won’t screw it up, and neither will Xander; if for no other reason than you would have to deal with Dawn if either of you did.”
Faith just nodded her head at that; Little D was a force of nature when she wanted to be. “Ya got that one right B,” then her eyes focused on the blond slayer. “So why did Jeaves want ya to drop by, I figured this isn’t just a social call?”
Mentally Buffy shifted gears, she had wanted to dig a little deeper into the relationship but she let it go for now, “he was wondering if you’d figured out the differences in vamp activity and if it’s permanent.”
“Yeah, we have; and it’s something you’d never expect.”
“What is it?”
“Ghouls, what the hell are Ghouls.”
“Well from what we’ve been able to piece together, Ghouls start out as human, but then they get interested in death, and eating the dead. Once they start this they seem to change, kind of evolution in reverse; and turn into these kind of sub-human creatures that live underground and eat dead people. We figure there’s some kind of ritual or rituals that they go through, but we haven’t gotten that much yet.”
Buffy was looking a little sick. “EEWWW, with a side of Yuck; why would anyone decide that eating dead people was a good thing?”
“No idea, but there are some benefits that we’ve figured out; they don’t age, or if they do it’s at a fraction of normal aging, they’re immune to possession and they can jump dimensions; well a few dimensions at least.”
Buffy looked thoughtful, “so you think that the no dying feature is what appeals?”
“No idea, but if you’re gonna get a benefit from lunching up a corpse, I guess that’s a good one.”
“And you said that they were behind the differences in vampire activity, how?”
“Well they hate the bloodsuckers, X figures it has to do with competing for food, the more vamps the fewer corpses that stay put if you know what I mean. So wherever these things are, vamps aren’t.”
Buffy looked distinctly ill now, “great, just when I think things can’t get any grosser.” She took a couple of deep breaths and got herself back under control. “OK, so I get the whole competing thing, but how do they make such a difference in vampire activity?”
“Well, they’re immortal; vamps can’t kill em and can’t turn em, so they’ve got nothing they can do to these things.”
“So why aren’t these ghouls everywhere?”
“Well they don’t have little ghoul kids, they only grow by . . . . . recruitment I guess you’d say. And you can probably figure that they don’t get a whole lot. But once you get a sizable colony of ghouls, then vamps just leave the place alone. Most of the colonies are in older, long settled areas cause that’s where they’ve had enough time to build up some numbers.”
“Which explains why Western Europe and the East Coast of the US is almost vamp free.”
“Yep, and why South America is so jumpin, along with the West Coast and Australia. There are a few conditions, like hellmouths and permafrost; that change the rules some.” She handed a map across to Buffy, “but we’ve taken them into account.”
Buffy opened the map and gaped, it had everything, where heavy patrols were needed, where there was only light activity, what kind of other demons were found there, the works. She looked up at her sister slayer, “thanks Faith, this’ll help a lot.”
“No sweat B,” then she looked aghast. “Shit I forgot the best part.”
“I forgot to tell ya that X is negotiating with a couple of these colonies so they’ll help us out if we need it.”
“Really,” Buffy exclaimed. For a moment her thoughts drifted to what it would be like to have immortal, vamp unfriendly; allies. But then she remembered how they got that way and felt sick again.
“Yeah, but that’s still iffy,” Faith replied, then she leaned forward. “Now that work is out of the way, what’s up with you and Al?”
Now it was Buffy’s turn to blush.
The debate (such as it was) had been raging for about ten minutes. Actually it wasn’t so much a debate as it was the clash of two very strong wills with egos to match. The repartee had quickly turned vicious and the volume had escalated steadily.
Daniel Jackson’s world had been fundamentally shaken so many times he was immune to its effects, or so he thought. But less than five minutes in the presence of Dawn Summers and her quiet companion had shown him that he could still be profoundly shaken by events of great import. He tried to put it off to the whole ‘getting chewed out’ part, but that wasn’t the truth. The truth was that he had kind of gotten used to being the foremost Egyptian scholar in the world and his work with the Stargate program had just reinforced that feeling. New he was coming to grips with the fact that he might not be, and what’s more was the notion that the person making him realize this was under thirty, a girl and virtually unknown in the academic community. It was a lot to take in, and it made concentrating on the fundamentals of pronunciation just that much harder.
“Did you follow all that?”
“What,” was his less than stellar reply.
“The whole bit about the diphthongs, did you follow that or do I need to repeat it,” Dawn asked in a rather condescending tone.
“No I didn’t understand it because they’re all over the place. I’d pay a lot more attention to it if you showed me that they’re following a rule. There are rules after all; this is a language not art.”
Dawn face turned nearly purple in anger, it looked like she was about to stroke out but she managed to reply, “There are also exceptions. This is a language after all, not math.”
“Then go over the regular ones first so I can see what the rule is,” Daniel suggested. “And if you want me to pay attention, you might try cutting back on the sarcasm.”
“And the volume,” the laconic young man added; surprising Daniel.
It finally sank in, and Dawn dipped her head in embarrassment, “sorry about that, I’m just used to everyone pronouncing things the same way.”
“That’s OK, it’s just that I’ve never heard of a lot of these rules you’re telling me about. It makes the pronunciation something very different from what I’m used to.”
“Really, just about everyone I know is familiar with this stuff.”
“CSU wasn’t,” the quiet young man put in. When Daniel turned to look at him again he just gave a small smile and said, “Oz.”
“Oz is his name, Dr. Daniel Osbourne officially but we all call him Oz. And he’s correct, none of my professors at Cleveland State were familiar with this either.” Dawn looked surprised for a moment, like something obvious had occurred to her. “I guess I never bothered figuring out why, Xander, Giles and all the others knew this stuff so I figured that most everyone did; and if they didn’t it was because they had their own theories and systems.” She reached for a slim book on a shelf behind her and handed it to Daniel “here’s the pronunciation guide that the organization we used to work for puts out. I know you won’t buy into it completely, professional egos and all that. I wouldn’t either if I were in your shoes. But it should help out in some of the grey areas you talked about.”
He looked at the book; it was so slim it almost qualified as a pamphlet. The cover was standard blue with white writing that said “A pronunciation guide: Egyptian”. It was obviously part of a set; Daniel looked at the publisher, and aside from the fact that they were British; he couldn’t ever remember seeing anything of theirs. “Thanks, I’ll take a look at it and see where things diverge, then I have no doubt we’ll talk again.”
“I’m looking forward to it Doctor Jackson.” Then she leaned forward, resting her arms on her desk and looking at Daniel with a predatory gleam, “how about we knock off this boring Egyptian stuff and discuss something fun, like Sumerian.”
BACK AT THE MOUNTAIN
“General, can I ask you a question?”
“What’s on your mind Colonel?”
“You recognized that place when Jacob mentioned it, I know you did; and Carter was right, having her and Daniel check in everyday is overkill. You said you had your reasons and I believe that,” Jack paused, “care to share what they are?”
George Hammond sighed, thought for a moment then straightened, “come to my office Colonel.” he said. Then turned and headed off trusting that O’Neill would follow.
When the two got to his office Hammond sat down heavily, “close the door and lock it Jack, I don’t want to be disturbed.”
Silently Jack did as he was asked and sat down, his manner subdued by the fact that Hammond had used his first name.
“Did you know my Dad was in the 4th infantry division?” Jack just shook his head. “He was there from D-Day to the armistice; he was the captain for a squad of specialists, demolition, snipers, that kind of thing. One of the men in his squad was a Sergeant Evan Whately. The man was from Massachusetts and he had strange eyes, that’s all Dad would usually say about him; where he was from and that he had strange eyes. Once I asked him what he meant and all he would say were that his eyes were almost yellow, like they were too old. Anyway, one night after seeing something I wish I’d never seen, I asked Dad what the strangest thing he’d ever seen was. The old man thought for a moment and said that a few days after D-Day his squad had been detailed to destroy this block house that the Germans were using as an anchor for their entire defensive network. Dad said he looked it over for almost an hour and decided that the only way to do the job was a nearly suicidal frontal assault. He was ready to give the order when the sergeant stopped him and asked permission to try something. He said if it didn’t work then they’d only be out about half an hour, but if it did work then they’d destroy the thing without losing anyone. Dad told him he had half an hour but not one minute more. The sergeant then went off by himself and started setting up some stuff that Dad didn’t recognize. Then he started chanting something in a language Dad didn’t recognize from a piece of paper he had in his hand. The observation crew then called Dad over because something was happening in the block house. When Dad got there he could hear the Germans inside screaming and saw several of them trying to get away, but without any success. Finally the screaming stopped. No one knew what was going on then a voice behind Dad said "they’re all dead". Dad spun around and there was the sergeant, looking old and worn out. Dad and two other men went to the block house to make sure and said that it was the sickest thing he’d ever seen. Body parts everywhere, the walls almost painted in blood and not one living thing in the whole place. Dad said he walked outside and puked his guts out. Then he found Whately and asked him what had happened. Dad said that the man just stared at him for a minute and would only say that it was something his Uncle had taught him. Dad asked who the Uncle was and he answered that the man was a Professor at Miskatonic University. Dad said that nothing else he’d ever seen scared him as much as what happened that day; so when Jacob told Sam about going to the school, I remembered what my father had told me.”
“Do you think they’ll find out anything,” Jack finally asked after a long period of silence.
“I don’t know Jack; all I know is that I’ll feel better once they’re both back here.”
The conversation had been going on for some time, without any give on either side, “so you refuse to believe me?”
“No, I’m asking for something other than your word that it operates the way you say it does.”
“So we’re back to calling me a liar.”
“Listen Dr. Harris, you may be used to things that are a bit off the beaten track, but in the world I’m familiar with, physics cannot accomplish what you’ve claimed. So I am suggesting a demonstration with a neutral as well as a hostile observer.”
“You and Dr. Jackson in other words.”
Xander just rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair, he thought for a moment then, “Fine, we’ll do it your way.” Then picked up his phone and hit a speed dial, all the while muttering some very unflattering things about his guest. After a couple of rings, Dawn picked up, “what’s up Xander”?
Shooting a look at his guest, Xander slipped into another language and replied, “give him the basics and get back here, we’ve got a field trip to do.”
“We’re not taking these two on patrol are we,” Dawn responded in the same language.
“No, just a little jaunt around the block.”
“Fine, we’ll be there in ten.”
“Cool, could you pick up Faith and your sister on the way?”
“Sure, but what’s Buffy doing here?”
“Ask her yourself,” Xander replied then hung up the phone. “Alright Ms. Carter; if you would help me clear out the corner of my office, we can get started.”
Back in her office Dawn put the phone down and looked at Jackson with a malicious gleam in her eyes. “Doctor Jackson, brace yourself because I’m gonna rock your world.” She reached for an ancient book on a shelf behind her. When Oz saw what she was reaching for, a smirk crossed his face at the thought of the brain-fryage that was about to occur. For his part, Daniel just looked scared.
Ten minutes later the office was a bit crowded, Sam was working on the diagram under Xander’s supervision; that way there couldn’t be any accusations of trickery, while Buffy and Dawn grilled each other over their respective love lives. As for Daniel, Faith and Oz; they were talking baseball, specifically the prospects for the Red Sox, White Sox (Oz’s team) and the Rockies in the upcoming year. Finally it was done as Sam stood up and looked at what she’d drawn. The pattern made her head hurt, as the combination of angles seemed to defy what she knew of Geometry.
“Alright everyone, grab hands and let’s go,” Xander said with fake enthusiasm.
“Where we off to X,” Faith asked.
“It’s a surprise,” Xander replied then turned to Sam and Daniel. “You’ll probably want to keep your eyes open just so you don’t have any questions about the trip.” Then without hesitating he grabbed Sam’s hand and headed towards the corner and vanished.
Daniel couldn’t believe what he’d just seen, “where’d they go”?
“No idea,” Dawn replied, “why don’t we go see.” She proceeded to take Daniel’s hand as Oz took the other one, and before he had time to think about what was happening they were headed towards the corner. For Daniel, there was a flash and then they were walking out of a corner and towards a large plate glass window that opened up onto a beautiful harbor. Xander was standing there with a smug grin on his face while Sam looked as though she’d been hit on the head by a rubber mallet, disbelief etched into every line of her body. Daniel saw Xander shoot a grin at the two with him and then gave a mocking bow and said, “welcome to Australia.”
Three hours later, two very confused people left the grounds of Miskatonic University. Neither spoke; there just weren’t words for what they’d just been through. Silently they flagged down a Taxi and headed towards their hotel; both of them hoping that a good nights sleep would help clear the cobwebs, but neither actually expected to sleep much for quite some time.
Buffy and the Miskatonic crew were watching two very confused people leave.
“I think ya broke em X,” Faith observed as she watched the two leave.
“Nah, I just altered their realities a bit, that’s all.”
“It was harsh,” Oz observed.
“True,” Xander said, turning to face the man. “But do you think anything less would have worked?”
Oz thought for a moment, then just shook his head.
“How hard do you think they’ll dig,” Dawn asked, still watching to two head off the grounds.
“Very, tell Andrew to step up security and expect some very good hacking in the near future.”
Dawn nodded at this, then after a moment added, “you think it was smart, giving them the language?”
“Well between that and the book on Egyptian, they’ll have enough clues to open some pretty big doors. We know they’re in a secret operation, so they’re used to being discreet. If it all goes as I hope, in less than a year we’ll have a part of the government that is familiar with the hidden world. This will make the whole acceptance of non-humans easier.”
“And if they decide to go ‘Initiative’ on us,” Faith asked
Xander turned back to the girl that owned his heart, “we’ll have plenty of warning and can take steps to ‘discourage’ research in that direction; so no worries there. I’m just wondering how long it’ll take Carter to figure out how to harness the energy of those things.”
“Six months, easy,” Faith said.
Xander grinned at her and pulled a ten, “six to nine.”
“You’re on buddy,” Faith replied, digging in her pocket for a bill.
“Under three,” was all Oz said as he added his ten to the pile; and Dawn chipped in with, “nine to twelve.”
“Hey, can’t I get in on this,” Buffy asked.
“Sorry sis, unless you think it’ll take a mega brain like Carter more than a year to figure things out?”
Buffy thought for a moment or two, “pass,” she finally said.
“Regardless, once they have it we can finally utilize all the damn things we’ve got,” Xander said, turning away.
“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it when I found out we’ve got 6 dozen of the things, not counting what the Air Force just left with us.” Faith looked around at everyone, “I’m starved, anyone for pizza?”