Tidying Loose Ends
Disclaimers: Do not claim ownership. Made for fun, not profit.
They had dropped the scientist back at her hotel, ensuring to retrieve Gwen's weapon, and had driven off. “This is a mess,” Gwen growled. An American military scientist had been dropped arse first into their lives. Gwen knew about the military, they all did, but her father was ex-SAS, and a stubborn man at that. This woman was some ungodly mix of black and white science, and hard battlefield experience. Not someone Gwen wanted nosing around in their business. And she'd seen the looks the woman had given her. She had reminded Sam of someone and, knowing their luck, this was someone close, another nosy bastard to hone in on their world. Initiative Mark II, anyone?
“What's the time?” Gwen felt like she had been running since she woke up from the drugs, and she knew she wasn't in top form, and couldn't trust her usually accurate sense of time. At the moment, she wasn't even sure where her phone was, and she felt like she was about to crash. Maybe she should pull over and let Dawn drive. Yeah, that sounded like an excellent idea. Monty Burns strumming his fingers. Excellent.
Dawn glanced over to Gwen, frowning slightly. She then tapped the display above the stereo. “It's a little after one.”
“Oh,” she murmured. “Well, what do you know?”
“Okay,” Dawn decided. “How about the person not recovering from drugs take over the driving? Where are we going?”
Gwen slid out of the driver's seat and named the hotel. Dawn found it fairly quickly, and managed to park the van on the street before walking Gwen up to her room. At this point, she was pretty sure she'd seen livelier zombies, but she was not saying anything about that. Gwen had an unfortunately accurate memory, and had picked up pointers from Xander on practical jokes and other retribution.
They got up to the room without incident, and Gwen went into the bedroom to change. Dawn sat down on the couch for a moment to wait.
“Are you sure you want to come back here?” Giles asked gently.
“Hell, yeah! They can't have taken her too far, and I need to be here to talk to the police. Will's coming in today, isn't she? A locator spell is going to be about the first thing I ask for.”
He stretched experimentally. Between the drug hangover and the bruises from hitting the concrete at full stretch he was feeling pretty rotten. It was after four in the morning, and his wife had been missing since around eleven last night. His friend had been missing for over twenty-four hours, and an American major/scientist had been missing another twenty-four hours beyond that. And he had no idea where they were, and he just wanted to curl up into a little ball and scream. Or, better yet, curl up beside his wife, and let her cool fingers run through his hair and comb away all his frustrations. Yeah, that would be perfect.
“You can try the couch, if you want. Better than driving back to London now,” Xander offered, opening the door.
“Sounds good to me,” Giles agreed. “Ah, Xander, did you leave the lights on last night?”
“No.” He looked around, suddenly tense, to see Dawn curled up on the couch. Wild hope surged, and he turned for the bedroom. He entered silently, so find Gwen sprawled on the bed. His hands itched to touch her, but he knew he could not. Not yet.
“Gwennie,” he called softly. She moved like fire. In one breath sprawled on the bed, before the next, standing, her hunting knife out and ready. She blinked, and the knife was discarded, and she was in his arms, melting into him.
“You're safe,” she murmured. “You're well.”
“I'm safe, I'm well,” he assured, grinning. Yet another reason to thank her disciplinarian father – no killer hugs from his Gwennie. After a moment, he pulled back and stroked back a stray lock of hair. “We do have a problem, though. There were witnesses. I've already spoken to the police.”
“Yeah. That is a complication. What do they know?”
“You, Dawn, and the doctor-major person you were going to see on Friday. Tranqs – they know you took three.”
She smirked as she nuzzled his neck. “I think he panicked when I didn't go down. You didn't see his face, did you?” She felt him shake his head. “He was horrified. I nearly reached him. I was less than a metre away when I lost consciousness.” She laughed. “And then I met them at the door when we were escaping. I think he about pissed himself.” She felt him tilt his head, questioning, so she looked up and smiled. “Oh, they left us to get something to eat. They had the place warded, so we couldn't get out, but they didn't even bother to tie us up. I don't think I've ever had to deal with such amateurs. Dawn is quite put out,” she chuckled.
“And the amateurs?”
“Tied up in their very nicely warded house, without the amulet key. I'm pretty sure they're not going to be able to get out without help, and we took their phones. I didn't notice a landline, and didn't recover our phones, so there is a possibility of them calling up whoever built the wards, but that would be the only way for them to get out that I can see.”
Xander closed his eye. He just wanted to stand here, holding her. It was one of those perfect moments, and would end any moment, but he wanted to keep it for as long as possible. Then the door knocked. Yep, moment over.
“Xander, Gwen, is everything okay,” Giles called through the door.
“Yep,” Xander replied. “Conference time, I guess,” he muttered as he led Gwen out to the other room.
“DC Collins,” he answered. He frowned as he listened to the other party. “Uh, I'm afraid I'll have to clear this with someone higher than myself, Mr Giles. Is there a number I can reach you on?” He wrote a note. “Thank you, Mr Giles. I'll get back to you today, if possible.”
“What's going on?” his partner asked, worried.
“I'm not quite sure, but we may have just lost the case.”
“How the bloody hell did that happen?”
“Who knows? MI-bloody-6, some super secret spook squad? God, Himself, may not even know. I've got to talk to the Inspector on this one. Bloody hell!” he grumbled as he stalked off.
Sam reached out to kill the alarm, but it kept making noise. She looked around, and realised it was the phone, instead, and scowled at it for a moment before answering.
“Carter.” God! Was that her voice?
“Hey, Sam, it's Daniel. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, fine. Just...” How was she supposed to explain this? “Bad night.” Yeah, that would do.
“Must have been a late one. It's nearly lunch time. Want to join Jack and me for something to eat?”
“Ah, yeah. That sounds great. Just give me, um, half an hour to get decent?”
“Okay. Hey – what happened to your cell? We've been trying it, but it's not answering.”
“Oh, lost it. Yesterday.”
“Okay then. Well, we'll be downstairs.” Daniel paused for a moment, then continued. “Jack says he thinks there's a place that might sell real burgers, and he's kind of itching to get there.”
“Well, I'd better hurry then, hadn't I?”
She groaned as she got up off the bed. She looked down at her clothes, and decided that they could get tossed. Three days in the same outfit pretty much did it for her. Not to mention anything else that had happened. Kidnapped. By people using magic. Really? Magic. She rubbed her butt, remembering the hard floor. No, it had to be a shield. Something. No matter what that girl had said, magic wasn't real. There was no such thing. She lived her life by the laws of physics, and they made no provision for that. More than that, she battled things calling themselves gods, and they were no more than mortal beings using technology. That's all it was. Maybe she could get away with not mentioning it at all. That would be the best option. She considered it for a moment. She hadn't sensed any Goa'uld. Everyone had seemed human. They were determined it was magic. Could she take the coward's way out?
She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the way to the shower, and noticed the necklace she still wore. Dawn had called it an amulet, but it looked like a polished black stone on a cord. There were some symbols etched onto the surface. She took it off to look at it properly. She thought they were runes, but it looked vaguely like it said 'hma'. If she were careful, she could probably get Daniel to translate it. Maybe if she said that she had picked it up on the street? That might work. Or, she could explain it all. Unexplained technology, kidnapping of a foreign national who was an important part of a highly sensitive military operation. The fallout from this could be incredible. She sighed, and set it aside. Shower now, think later.
“Okay, Carter, spill.”
Sam coughed. “Uh, what?”
“You've been nervous all through lunch. What's the deal?”
She rubbed the smooth stone pendant in her pocket. It was real, it had happened. Not really sure how to explain it, though. Deep breath. “I was kidnapped.”
There was a brief moment when both men tensed, almost exploding from their seats, but they forced themselves to be calm. “You got out,” Jack commented. “How?”
“Ah, yeah. Well, that's where it gets weird. They... uh, the other two women that were kidnapped with me... They insisted it was magic. The men that grabbed us, well, they used tranquilliser guns to actually abduct us, but when we got to the house, all the windows and doors were shielded. I don't know how, but we couldn't get through. Things could go through, but not us. Ah, there was definite air flow, and Dawn and I threw some bits of bread out of the window, but we couldn't get out. I couldn't even close the window – the latch was the other side of the shield. Dawn and Gwen said that it was warded, it was magic.”
“Yes, Jack, magic. I didn't believe it, of course. Magic doesn't exist. But they had a spell book, and they could talk without talking, and they took necklaces of the kidnappers that let them walk straight out, but when I tried it was like walking straight into a brick wall. Then Dawn threw a necklace back at me, and I put it on, and the shield... ward... whatever it was... was gone. I went straight through, no problems.”
“Do you still have the necklace?” Daniel asked curiously.
“Oh, yes. It has something engraved on it, which I was wanting you to look at. It's runes, I think.”
Daniel looked at it, and grinned. “You're not going to believe this. It translates as 'key'. I guess you need the key to get out.”
Jack held out his hand for the amulet, and inspected it. “What do you think, Sam? It looks like a stone, but I can't see any kind of seam where it was put back together.”
“I guess it could have some kind of circuitry covered in some kind of stone like polymer. Something like a proximity pass. But it's the actual shield technology that I'm having a problem with at the moment. And the idea that the three of us were kidnapped so that the men could use our blood to gain power. Gwen said that that was what the spell was for, and Dawn, the other woman, took her word for it. She seemed very accepting of it.”
“Did you get to see this 'spell'?”
“No. It had been ripped out of the book, and Gwen had to use her eidetic memory to know what had been on that page. And even as I'm saying that I can't believe I'm saying it.” She took a breath. “Oh, and the book was in Latin, anyway, which both of them seemed right at home with. Dawn even said it was easy.”
“What were they like? The women you were with?”
“Dawn seemed nice enough. A bit, um, scatty. Actually, she sounded like she was from California, and I don't just mean her accent. Gwen, the other one. Actually, she reminded me a lot of you. She was wearing a Glock when she was kidnapped in the middle of Oxford. She picked me for military with field experience. She took out the two kidnappers within minutes of them arriving back, and then tied them up without any help. Just so much about her reminded me of you, including gratuitous Simpsons references.” Daniel sniggered at that comment. “I kind of wanted to find out where she was from, because she would probably fit in with us. Apart from the whole magic-is-real thing she had going.”
Jack nodded, and thought about what Sam had revealed. “So do you think you could take us back to where you were held?”
She shook her head regretfully. “I was unconscious when they drove me there, and kind of zoned when Gwen drove back. Plus it was dark. It was in the country, maybe half an hour out of the city? And that's night driving. I'm sorry, Jack, but I have no idea where we were.”
“Plus, it's not exactly our turf,” Daniel reminded gently.
He sighed. “There's nothing we can do except write up a report when we get home. Good luck explaining this one.”
“Oh,” Sam jerked up in her seat. “They might be at my lecture.”
“Who? Dawn and Gwen?”
“Yes. They had planned to come to my lecture. Well, Gwen had planned to come, and was dragging Dawn along to listen.”
“Well, then. You give us their descriptions, and we'll see if we can have a little chat.”
“Well, that was a bust,” Jack complained as they wandered along the street. “Didn't see anyone even remotely like them. His gaze flicked around the well-lit street. Up ahead lounged a small group of disaffected-youth-of-today. Three women and one man. 'Lucky guy,' he thought for a moment. The girls were certainly eye-candy. All three wore tight black leather outfits, painted-on pants for two, and a tiny skirt for the brunette. He wondered how they could wear clothes like that. The girl in the skirt had a corset that looked like it would restrict breathing, not to mention the ridiculously high-heeled boots she was wearing. Compared to the women, the man looked very comfortably dressed. The pants may have looked like leather, but they also looked loose enough to move in, while the shirt was of a normal fit. Apart from the head-to-toe black, he looked almost normal. Except for the eye-patch. Is that what it took to get girls like that? A pirate motif?
The girl in the skirt sauntered? Slunk? Daniel couldn't quite figure out what to call it, but it was sinuous, and headed their way. Jet black hair fell around her face, framing it, almost falling into dark brown eyes. Her skin was pale, her eyes heavily lined black, and her lips had been painted blood-red. She walked straight up to Jack, and walked her fingers up his chest. She was mesmerising, he decided.
She spoke, looking up at Jack through her eyelashes, and Daniel felt himself blush as he choked with laughter.
“Danny, translation?” Jack demanded, worried.
“Oh, um, she's speaking French. She said you looked like a soldier, and wondered if you were, ah,” he blushed again, “as stiff as a soldier should be.”
The girl smirked up at Jack before turning to Sam. Sam's eyes widened, and she wanted to step back away from this strange woman, but felt compelled to stay in place. Delicate hands ran over her shoulders and along the neckline of her shirt, then fluttered up to touch her hair. She again spoke in French, and Sam darted a nervous look at Daniel to translate. “Oh, she thinks you need to relax. Take time out to explore the other sides of life.” Again the girl smirked and looked sideways up at Jack, before moving to Daniel. Reaching up, she twined a lock of hair around her fingers. She said something, then looked over shoulder back to her group. One final comment was uttered before she turned, and sauntered... slunk... swayed? back to her friends.
“Oh. She likes my hair. But she prefers her pirate.”
They watched as she returned to her friends. The man pulled her close for a searing kiss. When they were done, he nodded to Jack, Sam and Daniel, then escorted his harem away. They blinked as if to shake off the brunette's lingering influence, then walked on in silence until they got to the restaurant.
Sam rubbed her shoulder. Something was bothering her, but she couldn't figure out what. She scratched under her shirt, and felt something. She pulled out a folded piece of paper and opened it.
“What's that?” Jack enquired.
“A note.” Sam looked around. “She must have slipped me a note when she was touching me.”
“The French girl?” Daniel confirmed.
“Yes. But I didn't even see anything. And I certainly didn't feel her do it.”
It was enough to send chills through all of them. “What does it say?” Jack demanded.
“Two things. The first is 'Clarke's Third Law,' while the second is 'More things in Heaven and Earth.'”
“What's Clarke's Third Law,” Jack asked.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It's from Arthur C Clarke, a writer of science fiction.”
They just stared at the note. This was going to be one hell of a report.Fin
Note: Well, that's it for now. I have started on a prequel, and a follow-up. Actually, I started on the follow-up some time ago, but couldn't get it to behave, so did this one instead. Hopefully I'll have the prequel out soon-ish.
Again, many thanks for the wonderful comments. I hope this has been resolved to the satisfaction of the vast majority ;)