Chapter One: Childhood's Monsters
Author's Note #1:
A BIG thank you to KCH for her photo!manip on Twisting the Hellmouth. That image inspired this story. Full credit goes to her. Also, a giant thank you to my beta, Iroshi. Thank you, my Ro-shaped-friend!Author's Note #2:
I am not a linguist. I have never been to the UCLA campus. I don't even have my own college degree in any area. The information I present in this story is either gathered off the internet or woven from whole cloth. For instance, if something like the Special Collections I have described really exists, I know nothing about it. All errors are mine and no duplication or insult is intended.Disclaimer:
Stargate: SG-1 and BtVS belong to someone other than myself. No profit is made or insult intended.
A great big THANK YOU to KCH for making this manip especially for this story ... no one has ever made a manip for me before ... *sniff*Chapter 1
Daniel Jackson stood in the grand atrium of the UCLA Special Collections, stunned speechless.
The response was not caused by any wondrous vista on a distant planet, nor was it the result of ten darkly tanned and scantily clad California girls who momentarily blocked his path. No, this was a strictly internal epiphany--since when had he become so disconnected from academic life that a simple visit to the UCLA Special Collections made him feel ill-at-ease? One might even say he felt disconnected and unwelcome, like an unanticipated guest arriving at an awkward moment.This is silly. *I* am being silly,
Daniel reasoned with himself. I'm a scientist. I am intimately familiar with academia and scholastic life. A university campus--especially THIS campus--is not unfamiliar territory. It's certainly not as bizarre or life altering as visiting another planet. I have no reason to be ... uncomfortable.
So why do I feel like I'm trespassing on someone else's sacred land?
An email from an old colleague from his pre-Abydos days spoke of a new Mesopotamian collection being studied at the UCLA's Special Collections. According to Todd Beebe, Dr. Stuart Wilkerson, an alum of UCLA, had unearthed a collection of cuneiform tablets from an archeological dig in southeast Turkey. Naturally, Wilkerson arranged for the tablets to be sent to his alma mater for translation, appraisal, and analysis.
Under normal circumstances, Daniel's curiosity toward the tablets' contents might have remained unsatisfied. Totally disregarding trips through the 'gate, he had far too much translation work waiting on his own desk (and floor, and shelves, and storage cabinets, and around his personal quarters) to allow for any time away from The Mountain. However, a single sentence in Todd's email raised the linguist's internal alarms--preliminary translation referenced an ancient prophecy that involved "the return of the Old Ones," a probable allusion to the deities of the time.
Any suggestion of direct contact with a god-figure was, in Daniel's personal experience, an indication of possible alien intervention in human culture and evolution. Whether Goa'uld, Asgard, Ancients, or another off-world race, "higher beings" may have affected mankind's development in some form or fashion. Daniel Jackson's job was to find out what damage, if any, came from that interference and how that damage might affect present and future interstellar relations.
He checked in with the guest desk and, after flashing his military credentials, obtained permission to access the digitized archives. An undergraduate intern escorted him through the building, providing Daniel with a running monologue on the various offices and displays. Daniel smiled and nodded but said little. The over-eager young man rambled on, unaware that his companion already knew every single factoid and anecdote.
Daniel had been that enthusiastic about archeology at one time, years--another lifetime--ago. Before Academia blasted his professional reputation to dust. Before Katherine Langford opened his eyes to a universe of possibilities.
They arrived at a door midway down a long, straight corridor on the sixth floor. Daniel thanked his escort and waited until the student left before he twisted the knob and stepped inside.
Good thing he wasn't claustrophobic--he'd seen larger walk-in closets. Four computer stations sat in the center of the chamber. Recessed, lighted, glassed-in niches with statuettes, vases, and stone fragments occupied the otherwise flat, off-white walls.
Of the four stations, one was occupied.
"Hi. Is this seat taken?"
The young woman looked at him with the most intense blue eyes he'd seen in years; the overhead fluorescent lights turned them gunmetal grey. Straight, long, very fine brown hair hung from a high ponytail that whipped around when she turned her head. A heart-shaped, pixy face made judging her age difficult, but he guessed her somewhere around 21 or 22, certainly no older than 24.
A battered leather shoulder bag not that much different from his own leaned against the leg of her padded chair. Three books lay open before her--one on either side of the monitor, propped against the study cube's short divider wall, the third rested across the thighs of her washed out jeans. A light blue windbreaker hung crooked over the back of her chair.
"Nope. Sit anywhere you like." Before Daniel could move toward an unoccupied station, the girl held out a dainty hand and introduced herself. "I'm Dawn Summers."
He accepted a surprisingly strong and calloused handshake. "Daniel Jackson."
The brunette's expression glazed over, a narrow frown line between her shapely eyebrows. Her face froze for a moment then her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. "Oh, oh, OH! I remember! Your '98 interview in Archaeology
where you disputed Imhotep's role in building the earliest pyramids! I wanted to use it as a ref for my diss but-"
Dawn winced and bit off her sentence.
An awkward silence fell. Daniel easily heard the remainder of her unfinished comment: "-but someone on her committee pointed out that using a discredited source would not validate her data."
"Sorry," the girl muttered. She tried to smile away the discomfort and offered him a wan smile. "Awkward much?"
With a forgiving smile, Daniel bobbed his head and said, "A little. Understandable. I mean, I understand ... the problem."
"That interview made me curious. I tried to find more recent work but there wasn't anything."
"Yeah." Daniel scratched the back of his neck and looked away. This was dangerous conversational territory. He couldn't exactly say that he was part of a military operation that explored other planets by traveling through a stable wormhole created by an alien device called a Chappa'ai, or Stargate. "I do translation and appraisal for different agencies. I get to see the world on someone else's dime and the work is interesting. What about you? How close are you to finishing?"
"I completed my BA and MA at Oxford. Here, I only have to present my final defense to get my Ph.D. I'm turning my final dissertation for committee review next month."
"Congratulations." Daniel smiled at her obvious glow of pride. "That's quite an accomplishment." Especially for someone this young. That, or she's older than she looks.
Grappling with what to say next, if anything, he pointed to the image that rotated center-screen in a lazy, clockwise direction. "Is this for your dissertation?"
"Not originally, but given my preliminary translation, I might can find a place for it. It's a letter or maybe an after-action report addressed to Hayk of Armenia. It documents a prophecy, or more accurately a threat or promise, of a catastrophic return of evil. It's one of Dr. Wilkerson's new finds. He's asked me to translate this and two others for him."
"You're in charge of translating this? Aren't you ... I mean ... a little young to ... well ..."
"Young, but talented. As you can see, it's unmistakably archaic cuneiform," Dawn said. She paused the rotation, leaving the large flat surface visible for inspection. "There's no sign of phonetic distortion into Old Assyrian. Carbon dating confirms the tablet's creation at around 2500 BC but it's definitely during or soon after 2492 BC, because it congratulates Hayk of Armenia on his defeat of Belus."
"I agree." Daniel examined the scan over the girl's shoulder. "Most examples of cuneiform that exist today are the result of an accidental hardening of the clay, often due to a common fire or destruction of a building during an attack. I don't think this one was an accidental firing. Its content is too specific, too direct, too heavy in portent. This information was meant to be preserved. But why?"
Dawn squirmed and guessed, "Umm...maybe it was their version of sci-fi?"
Daniel managed not to laugh out loud but he could not hide the smile on his face or the twinkle in his eyes. "Somehow, I very much doubt it."
"Yeah. Well, a girl an hope, can't she?" Dawn shrugged and turned back to her work. "Soooo, what brings you to our dusty little corner of UCLA?"
Daniel pointed to the image on the screen. "This, actually, and the other pieces found by Dr. Wilkerson. I think they may relate in some way to my current work. I'm hoping to examine some examples to confirm."
The girl offered a grandiose wave toward the station to her right. "Park yourself and enjoy."
"Are you sure I won't interrupt you?"
"Naw, I'm all of the good. You're more than welcome to stay."
The pair worked in silence for several hours. Computer keys clacked, accompanied by the swish and click of a mouse, the soft purr of the air conditioning system, and the occasional passage of people down the hallway. One or the other of the researchers would occasionally shift position or settle clothing more comfortably. Pens scratched across notebook paper, and pages occasionally rustled.
Daniel tried very hard did not blush when his study companion occasionally glanced his direction, an appraising, approving expression on her face. He leaned toward his computer screen and concentrated on the displayed image.This is interesting.
Daniel examined the same image he'd seen on Dawn's screen. It's an accounting of the Old Ones--I wonder whether that means respected elders or deities?--and their passage to ... heaven? Otherplace? She's right, it is a report to Hayk of Armenia congratulating him on his defeat of Belus of Babylonia. The tablet confirms that the Old Ones were driven off by righteous--maybe holy--warriors led by a Chosen One. The Old Ones retreated to Heaven-slash-Otherplace but swore to return through ... the Sky Circle.
That sounds like a reference to a stargate!
Absorbed in his study, Daniel jerked in surprise when Dawn gave a loud groan. The willowy young woman stretched and twisted the kinks out of a spine that had bent over a computer keyboard for most of the day. He winced to hear muscles and vertebrae snap into place like clicking castanets.
day," she murmured, more to herself than to Daniel.Come to think of it, she's right. Up until 3 a.m. wrapping up the reports on our trip to P3E-225, an early briefing of SG-8, a 10 a.m. flight out of COS, connections in Denver and Las Vegas, FINALLY get to LAX around 3:30 and check into the Airport Weston. Drop off my luggage. Reach UCLA a little before 5 and now-
he studied his digital watch and pulled a face, -after 8 p.m. Blech! No wonder I'm wiped.
"I'm starving," Dawn said. "Are you starving? I know of a great little Thai place a few blocks from campus."
Once the subject of food arose, Daniel felt the rumblings of ravenous hunger. He'd downed four cups of military coffee during the SG-8 briefing, nibbled on a sausage and egg McMuffin on the way to the airport, and inhaled a limp, overpriced sandwich at a fast-food joint in the Las Vegas airport.
"Now that you mention it, yes. I could eat a horse. Thai sounds wonderful. Please tell me they have a decent kaeng phet ped yang."
"Roast duck in red curry? Yum, my fave!" she answered. "Though I admit their tom yam kung nam khon and kaeng khiaowan are just as scrumdidiliumptious."
Daniel gathered his notes and stuffed them into his shoulder bag. Seeing that Dawn was also ready to leave, he held the door open and gestured, "After you, fair lady."
She offered him a saucy curtsy and skipped through, her high ponytail swishing back and forth. She twirled in a circle while Daniel closed the door. As they left the Special Collections facility and headed across campus, the pair exchanged bits of archeological trivia in a delightful game of one-upmanship. Daniel was winning, but it was a near thing. Only years of experiences kept him ahead of his sharp-witted companion.
The fading afternoon warmth wrestled with the early evening chill. Daniel looked around and smiled. He'd always thought the UCLA campus one of the most pleasant campuses he'd ever visited. The trees spread around the edges of the university grounds were clad in the vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn.
"Ummm ... Doctor J?"
An unexpected tension in Dawn's voice brought Daniel out of his appreciation of nature. When he hummed to indicate he'd heard her, she caught his jacket sleeve and pulled him closer to the curb, away from a nearby alley mouth. He followed her gaze but saw nothing except dark shadows.
The naïve academic he'd once been would have stood there, doe-eyed and helpless. Years of otherworldly situations with SG-1 gave him a harder, less trusting situational awareness. Without conscious thought, he shifted his stance, distributing his weight into the balls of his feet. Muscles bunched and readied.
"How good are you at fighting?" Dawn asked.
Daniel's attention stayed on the alley even as he answered, "I've survived a scrap or two."
She shoved something into his right hand. He risked a glance down--his fingers wrapped around the wide end of a narrow, pointed, smoothly sanded stake.
"You may need this."A wooden stake? What is she expecting to attack--Dracula?
"Damn it," she muttered. "Shoulda known better than to go out after dark on a Tuesday."
Before Daniel had a chance to ask what Tuesday had to do with anything, two shadows detached from the alley and stepped into the diffuse light of a streetlight.
"Well, well, Wei, my friend. Look here what we have." The taller, pale-skinned man in a faded leather jacket, stained wife beater undershirt, and dirty denim pants grinned.
"Yeah, Per," the shorter, stockier Asian youth eyed Dawn and licked his lips. "His and her Happy Meals."
Dawn rolled her eyes, heaved a melodramatic sigh, and whined, "Oh, come oooon!
Can't you guys come up with anything original to say? I've heard that same ole saw since I was a kid!
Taunting two thugs bent on ... whatever they were bent on ... might not be the smartest idea. Before Daniel could share that caution with Dawn, the angry muggers' faces shifted. Brow ridges stretched and hardened. Fangs extended and eyes flashed.
Daniel had just enough time to think, Shit!
The nearer, taller thing
attacked faster than a Jaffa could say kree
. Reacting on instinct, Daniel tucked and rolled. A snap kick caught Per's left knee. The blow should have dislocated the joint or torn tendons. Instead, it staggered the thing
but little else. By the time Daniel recovered his feet, so had his attacker.What the devil is it!
rushed forward. Daniel twisted and ducked. When Per stumbled over Daniel's outstretched leg, the archeologist pierced the thing
in the back with his stake. Whatever the thing
might be, a direct kidney shot would put it down.
Jackson shoved his mortally wounded opponent away and turned toward Dawn. The Summers girl nimbly danced around a mailbox, keeping it between herself and Wei. An unholy gleam lit the girl's eyes as she pulled faces and taunted her attacker.
Movement caught the corner of his eye. Something slammed into his side. Daniel grunted and fell over. His left shoulder plowed into the sidewalk, ripping cloth and abrading skin. Cold fingers grabbed at his short hair even as fetid breath hit his exposed throat.Ow! Okay, that's it. The next time I leave The Mountain, I'm insisting Jack let me take a zat!
Desperate to protect his younger, much smaller companion, Daniel wrenched around and bell clapped his attacker. The thing
roared as the pressure from Daniel's cupped hands hit sensitive eardrums. It reared backed enough for Daniel to roll the rest of the way onto his back.
Shoulders braced against the sidewalk, he kicked the thing
in the stomach and shoved with every bit of strength in his body. The motion carried his attacker up and over, where it slammed into the other beast. The two things
fell to the ground, tangled together.
In that brief second, Dawn struck the nearest thing
in the chest with her stake. She yanked the wood free an instant before the thing
growled a cuss word and dissolved into a cloud of silvery dust.
Daniel blinked. Had he just seen--he blinked again.
"Pay attention, Doctor J." Dawn's yell broke his daze. "There's still one left."
"Perry! Bitch! You killed Perry!"
Dawn shrugged and replied, "Shame on you, bitch. Didn't your mother ever tell you it's not nice to call someone names?"
Daniel waved toward the dust wafting away on the breeze and gasped, "How ... how did you--"
"Duh ... wooden stake to the heart?"
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes and muttered, "Of course."
The furious thing
yelled obscenities and charged forward. Daniel powered off the ground, desperate to shield his new friend. Before he took a second step, Dawn jabbed her stake into the thing's chest.
More dust floated away.Okay. I can deal with this. It may take a little while, but I've handled worse. There is a logical explanation. I just have to find it.
Jacket ripped and filthy, Daniel shucked it off and let it fall to the ground. Examining his left arm, a finger-long friction burn near his elbow seemed to be the extent of his injuries, though he'd certainly feel the aches come morning. He looked up, half expecting to find Dawn either energized or ready to collapse into relieved tears.
Knuckles white around the wooden stake, expression hard and suspicious, Dawn Summers took a deliberate step back. Her stance screamed battle ready
. Daniel looked back to see if another thing stood behind him.
"You're not an archeologist, are you."
"What makes you say that?"
She leaned in long enough to finger-tap his beefy bicep like she'd check a melon's ripeness. Quick as a snake, she snatched the stake from his hand and stepped back.
"Muscles much? Not to mention the way you fight." She pointed to his hair with the business end of her stake. "The regulation haircut-" to his well-worn service boots, "-and those are military surplus at the very least. I don't know a single academic that can do what you just did. Are you even who you say you are?"
"If you mean, am I really the archeologist-linguist named Dr. Daniel Jackson, yes I am."
"Our meeting today. Was that planned?"
Daniel met her gaze without hesitation, even as his mind worked the question of why a simple grad student would think a military man would manufacture their meeting.
"No, Dawn, it wasn't. I really am here to study Dr. Wilkerson's collection." He stared nervously up and down the otherwise deserted street. "Look, I don't know about you but I feel a little exposed out here, especially after ... er, whatever just happened ... happened. Can we go somewhere ... a little more lighted and ... well, public?"
Dawn glowered at him for changing the subject but waved him up the sidewalk. Daniel eyed the stake still in her hand. Hoping she wouldn't be sticking it in his back the instant he turned away, he shouldered his bag and moved in the indicated direction.
The hairs on the back of his neck tingled and his spine itched, but within five steps, Dawn walked beside him again, though she kept careful distance between them. The stake disappeared back into her bag, along with her hand.She'll draw it and bury it in my chest the instant I give her the slightest hint of threat.
The strained, silent walk to the Taste of Thai was the longest three blocks Daniel Jackson had endured in quite some time. Considering his many adventures through the Stargate, that was saying quite a lot. By the time they reached the restaurant, his shirt was damp with nervous sweat, despite the fall chill in the evening air.
At a few minutes shy of 9:00 p.m. on a weeknight, they were the only customers. A hostess escorted them to their table. Within five minutes, a waitress brought their drinks and took their orders.
Hoping to fill the painful silence, Daniel tapped his fingertips against the paper placemat, sighed, and faced his suspicious companion.
"Can you explain what happened out there?"
Dawn met his gaze and counter-questioned, "Are you able to listen? To believe?"
"I have been known to accept strange or unlikely explanations."
"Those were vampires."
Daniel blinked. Well, that definitely fit the definition of 'strange.'
"You don't believe me."
Daniel grimaced and hunched his shoulders. "It's not that ... exactly. I--I mean, most legends have some basis in fact. Not always this literally
but ... *ahem* I mean, I am willing to consider the possibility that vampires exist."
"The monster that hid under your bed? Real. Werewolves? Real. The boogeyman? Real. Demons owned this world long before man dreamed up the story of Adam and Eve. Some of them are willing to live and let live, but some want the world back, and they'll do whatever they have to do to get it."
When the waitress brought their food to the table, Dawn requested, "Can I have my in a to-go box, please?"
Daniel echoed the request and passed over his credit card to cover the bill. Neither said a word until the waitress brought their boxed dinners and accepted his signature on the charge slip.
"Thanks for the food," Dawn said as she rose from the table. "There's a shuttle stop outside. I'll catch a bus back to my apartment."
Before turning away, Dawn gave him a final piece of advice.
"Be careful walking the city after dark, Dr. Jackson. I recommend you take a cab back to your hotel. Get a good night's sleep. Forget everything that happened tonight. You'll live a longer, happier life that way."
Daniel closed his hotel room door, sat on the foot of the king size bed, and stared at absolutely nothing. His mind struggled to process all that he'd seen that night. His right hand absently rubbed the scabbed-over scrape on his left arm.
Demons. Vampires. Undead creatures of the night existed in film and fiction, not on the streets of Los Angeles, California. They weren't real. They could not be real.If not real, what did we fight? A rare mutation? Radiation poisoning that leaves a man's cellular structure so unstable that any injury dissolves the body to dust? Use of hypnotic suggestion or hallucinogenic drugs to confuse victims and promote compliance? Genetic tampering by alien visitors?
Daniel snorted at his own reasoning. Before Katherine Langford brought him into the Stargate Program, he'd lumped alien abduction and experimentation in with sea monsters, dragons, fairies, demons, vampires, and other supernatural mythos.
After tonight, he didn't know what to think.It's like the day I learned that life existed on other planets. That first contact might not be a good thing for mankind.
The monsters of my childhood are real. They're under my bed or in my closet and will kill me when I fall asleep.
Cell phone in hand, Daniel Jackson hit Speed Dial 2 and waited for an answer.
"Hey, Sam. It's me. ... Later for you than for me. ... Yes, I should be in bed, but need I mention that you're still in your lab? ... Yeah. Something happened, something--bad. Do me a favor? Find out all you can about a UCLA grad student named Dawn Summers. ... No, I'm not hurt, and yes, it's very important. Either there's a Foothold situation in LA, or there are more dangerous beasts on Earth than we ever dreamed."