Paul and the Girls’ School
A/N: See chapter 1 for disclaimer, spoilers, notes on AU, and why Xander has his eye back.
A/N2: some minor corrections, thanks to the sage observations of khagler, Speakertocustomers, CattyNebulart, clei, Kremer, and Bill.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Davis checked his rental car’s GPS as soon as it began to flake out on him. He should have been about four hundred yards out from the main gate of the Joyce Summers School for Gifted Young Women. He still didn’t believe that an international NGO so secret that no one at the Pentagon could – or would – tell him what NSAWC stood for could be co-located with a girls’ school. That only happened in bad movies. Bad movies in which the girls’ school was a cover for espionage training, or assassins, or child prostitution, or something even stranger.
On the other hand, given how strange his life had been since the Stargate had been opened, it was really only to be expected. For all he knew, this was going to turn out to be another cult run by a secluded Gou’a’uld, or a bizarre foothold situation, or some new plot by the NID or The Trust, or a new invasion tactic from the Lucian Alliance, or…
Or maybe a miracle would occur, and this would be a simple meet-and-greet with nothing going wrong and half a dozen people happily signing NDAs so he could go home.
Nah. Who was he kidding? When had that ever happened if the SGC was involved? By the way that Sam Carter had described the assignment, he was there more as a ‘hostage trade’ than as a standard military assignment. This Xander Harris had offices on the ‘campus’ and the NSAWC call center was apparently on the campus as well. If the NSAWC was using high school girls in a call center for a secretive international organization, there was automatically something peculiar going on. And, as Sam had pointed out, his job was to pretend that he hadn’t spotted every one of the peculiarities he found around the school.
Even though the car was a rental, it had been checked by the airmen who met him when he stepped off the plane. And he knew that the GPS in the car had been swapped out and replaced with a state-of-the-art mil-spec GPS. There was supposedly no way to knock out a multi-spectral GPS without blasting enough energy in the bandwidths to set off the warning lights on the box. And yet it was crapping out on him just as he got near the school. Okay, he couldn’t be any more suspicious if there were billboards up for Apophis brand soft drinks.
He pulled off to the side of the road and turned around. After about thirty yards, the GPS came back on-line. It still said the school was roughly four hundred yards south of his position. He followed the map on the GPS monitor and drove west for a minute before driving south and then east, so he was coming in toward the school from another direction.
The same thing happened to the GPS. He clenched his jaws and pulled over to the side of the road. This was really advanced technology. Something was interfering with broadcast information from multiple GPS satellites, without setting off the warning systems. He knew that Colonel Carter could rig up something to create an effect like this if she wanted to, and Rodney McKay could, but he didn’t know of many humans who could. None of the people at a girls’ school should have tech like this. He wasn’t even sure the Gou’a’uld had tech like this. After all, they’d just blow up the satellites instead. Subtlety wasn’t a Gou’a’uld strongpoint, unless Ba’al was behind this set-up. And Ba’al’s idea of subtlety was still a long way away from building a quiet girls’ school in Cleveland. No, Ba’al’s idea of subtlety was wiping out an entire city with a bioengineered plague, instead of bombing it from space.
He quickly checked his cell phone. He could see that the GPS signal was off-line, and the cell signal was fluctuating oddly between full strength and minimal signal. He tried backing up about twenty yards, and the cell phone came back at the same moment the GPS did. This was really not a good start. He drove forward until the signal began misbehaving again, and he tried making a call. Not anything classified, since he suspected that anyone who could block GPS signals could eavesdrop on cell phones and satellite phones with little trouble.
Since he had to assume his call was being tapped, he called his wife. Despite the odd way his phone was behaving, the reception was excellent. In fact, he might have said it was an unusually
clear signal. That thought made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Just what had Carter and Landry sent him into this time?
“Hi, Paul, what’s up? You don’t usually call during the day,” his better half checked. She’d played this game before when he called, and she knew the rules.
He put a smile on his face in case someone had a camera on him. “Hi, Trish. I just wanted to check on things. I have no idea how long this is going to take. Maybe an hour, maybe two days. And I have no idea when I’ll get a chance to call next. But give Sammi and Danni my love, and tell ‘em I’m still going to take ‘em camping on the 23rd. Okay?”
“Gotcha,” she said. “Kiss kiss.”
He teased her a little, now that he had the ‘secret code’ part of the conversation out of the way. “You’re not worried about me hanging around a school full of teenaged girls? Probably wearing naughty Catholic schoolgirl outfits?”
She giggled and said, “Smart aleck. I’ll see you when you get back. Love ya.”
He said, “I love you too. Should I grab a brochure for Erica? She’s twelve, she’s got high school ahead.”
Trish said, “Eri would kill us. Taking her away from Bree and Jenna and Maureen? And I think she’s got a crush on Mickey Sandstrom’s older boy.”
He laughed and hung up. He made an effort to keep the smile on his face, just in case. He assumed the call had been monitored, and he would be assessed as ‘unaware of the threat.’ He was sure they wouldn’t be able to identify the code intel among the family information. ‘Give Sammi and Danni my love’ meant to call the SGC. ‘Camping’ and ‘23’ together meant that GPS and cell reception were interfered with up to at least four hundred yards from the perimeter. The SGC would be able to backtrack his call and tell that he had made the call inside that perimeter, so they’d know that normal calls would probably be tapped. He wondered if satellite phones would be knocked out too, if these NSAWC people could handle GPS satellites so easily.
He put his phone away and drove as casually as he could, up to the Joyce Summers School for Gifted Young Women. He idly wondered what sort of ‘gift’ the school founders had in mind, and how it tied in with Xander Harris and the NSAWC. He drove up to the gate and buzzed in. He could see that the gateway arch and the gates themselves were ridiculously overbuilt. He would have expected gates that thick and hinges that massive if this were a top secret installation that might have terrorists in armed pickup trucks crashing into the gates to blow them apart. But a girls’ school?
A cheerful girl’s voice came back on the speaker beside the buzzer and codepad. “Hi, and welcome to the Joyce Summers School for Gifted Young Women! How may I help you?”
He said, “Hi. I’m Colonel Paul Davis. I’m here to meet with some of the NSAWC call center people. I was told to ask for Rona Jeffries.”
The voice said, “Oh! She’s waiting for you. Just drive on in, and take a right where the road splits, and follow the signs to the NSAWC offices. It’s the four story office building-looking thing over by the gym. Just park in one of the spaces out front and go on in. She’ll be there. And have a nice day!”
“Thank you,” he replied. He had to admit, the perky girl on the intercom didn’t sound abnormal or mind-controlled.
The gate swung open, and he drove through. The wall around the school looked a lot thicker than a normal masonry wall, and it was unusually high. Plus, the ornamental spikes atop the wall didn’t look ornamental in the least. No, they looked very businesslike, to someone who knew the difference. Were they trying to keep someone out, or were they trying to keep someone in
? As it was, the wall and the gate looked like they were prepared to stop a horde of Unas.
As he followed the road to the office building – it wasn’t hard to spot a four story glass-and-steel office building in the middle of what looked like a normal school full of two-story buildings – he couldn’t help noticing another odd feature. It was the arrangement of the buildings and trees. There were open lines of fire from the buildings toward the walls. This place wasn’t set up like a girls’ school. It was set up like they were preparing for an invasion. An invasion on foot with no air support and no air attacks. Okay, they weren’t preparing for an assault by the Air Force, or even Army Rangers parachuting in. So… what were they preparing for?
He parked in the first space marked for visitors, and he adjusted his cap before grabbing his attaché case. He didn’t know how this meeting would go, but he wanted to have his NDAs handy no matter what. Plus the gear hidden in the false bottom of the case. Just in case. His ‘go bag’ was in the trunk, in case he was here for more than the day, but he was hoping he wouldn’t need that either.
He walked into the building and found a receptionist sitting in a sunny room. She was sitting talking to a pretty black girl who definitely had a slight Southern accent. She looked like she was not much older than his oldest daughter. The black girl turned and smiled, extending a hand. “Hi. I’m Rona.”
“I’m Colonel Davis. Call me Paul. Because nobody wants to talk to someone called ‘colonel’.”
The receptionist grinned, “Not even Colonel Sanders.”
Paul said, “I thought he was dead.”
Rona smirked, “Her point exactly.”
He took off his cap and said, “How would you like to do this? I was told I’d get a tour of the campus, but that’s not necessary if it’s an inconvenience. All I really need are some signatures. I have non-disclosure agreements for all the people who heard Anise and your friend Xander Harris. Once everyone reads them over and agrees not to talk about what they heard, they just sign the papers and we’re done. It’s that simple.”
Rona frowned at him and asked, “In blood?”
Paul stopped at that. Wow, Sam had warned him they were weird, but in blood? “No, just ordinary ink. You can even use your own pen. We’re the Air Force, not the Ministry of Magic.”
She laughed and said, “Oh yeah, those Brits. How much stuffier could they get?”
Hmm. Did this girl have a lot of experience with the British? If so, then in what capacity? He decided not to ask, because it might tip his hand. Instead, he casually said, “Oh, I don’t know, the British officers I’ve met have been pretty relaxed. Not at all stuffy.”
She just shrugged and said, “Haven’t met any Brits who were soldiers. Least, I don’t think so.” She said to the receptionist, “Okay, go ahead and tell all the call center people on the list to be at the upstairs conference room in an hour and a half. I’m going to give the colonel the grand tour.”
Paul smiled and said, “That would be great. The campus looks beautiful.”
He locked his attaché case and cap in his car. Then he waited until they were walking away from the building. He said, “Why don’t you ask me what you really want to ask?”
She frowned. “I don’t trust you. And I don’t trust that Carter chick.” He snorted in amusement. “What’s so funny?”
He said, “I’ve known Sam for years, and I just can’t see anyone calling her ‘that Carter chick’. I’m sure your friend Harris will come back with plenty of stories about her and her team.”
She finally asked, “Will Xander be safe? Will they let him go?”
He nodded. “Sure they will. This is the U.S. Air Force, not the KGB.” He glanced at her face to make sure she even knew what the KGB was. When he saw that she recognized the term instead of looking confused, he went on. “They really need to give him a physical exam, but that won’t take long. Colonel Carter said Anise had some technology we didn’t know about, and we want to make sure your friend doesn’t have any exposure effects. Right now, we don’t even know if there are
exposure effects. Then she needs to know what Anise said last night.”
Rona snorted with laughter and said, “We all
heard that part. It was mostly ‘oh oh OHOHOHOH’ and like that. That boy’s gonna get teased bad when he gets home.”
Paul didn’t say anything, but he wasn’t comfortable talking about sexuality with a girl around his oldest daughter’s age. He knew his girls weren’t saints, but he didn’t like to think about that part of his oldest daughter’s life in college.
After a few seconds, Rona said, “We got the whole thing on tape. Well, recorded, anyway. Andrew’s cuttin’ you a CD of the whole thing, so you don’t have to interrogate Xander on all this stuff. That Anise is kind of a blabbermouth for a demon.”
Paul said, “She really isn’t a demon. She’s not Miss Congeniality, but we know all about her.”
Rona stopped and glared at him with a look that would have cowed a lesser man. “Colonel, if you don’t know what you’re lettin’ in through the astria porta
, you’re a bigger idiot than the last bunch of military types whose butts we had to run in and save.”
Paul let that slide, as if he was too busy looking at the buildings to notice just what she had let slip. But if these people had been called in to save some military project from their own stupidity – a certain rogue NID group or five came to mind – then there might be no way to get them to trust him. On top of that, no normal person on Earth should know about the Ancient phrase for the Stargate. He was going to file those bits of intel away, along with everything else he was learning.
But he noticed a lot of peculiar things. Like the emphasis on martial arts, including training gear that was appropriate for a squadron of fully-grown Jaffa warriors, not for little high school girls. Or the fact that inside the buildings were decorations: crossbows and swords and battleaxes hung expertly on the walls. Only those weren’t display pieces. They were real weapons. Who fought in today’s world with battleaxes? It was as if they were preparing for a zombie apocalypse instead of a modern assault. Did girls’ schools in Cleveland get many attacks from Viking marauders? He pretended he hadn’t noticed the weapons either.
Then Rona introduced him to a dozen of the girls who were on their way to a class. Not one of the girls was afraid of a large military man in dress uniform. No, they looked at him like he was a mouse and they were cats. Really large cats with really sharp claws. No one other than a Gou’a’uld had ever looked at him like that before, and that Gou’a’uld had been fully armed with a squad of armed Jaffa around him. These girls were all looking at him like that. He pretended he hadn’t noticed it.
And there was an obstacle course off toward the back section of the property. But he knew about obstacle courses. You didn’t get through the Air Force Academy without running a military obstacle course over and over. Rona didn’t take him over to the course, but he could see the problem from where he was. The obstacle course was too large. The jumps were too high or too far, the climbs were too hard, and in general the whole thing was orders of magnitude harder than even the standard military courses. Who could use a course like that? Spiderman? Suddenly, a shiver ran down his spine. He could think of one answer. An entire school full of hok’tar… Were all these schoolgirls – or most of them – hok’tar? Were they prepared for an assault from another gang of hok’tar? That would certainly explain the arrangement of the buildings, and the outer walls, and the weaponry. But if there were halfway competent people training these hok’tar, then why were they training them for an invasion of armed foot soldiers with no air support and no long-range weaponry? If he was assaulting this campus against these girls, he would use one A-10 Warthog and destroy all the buildings. If he was restrained to ground tactics, he would go with a couple tanks. If he had to stick to pure infantry tactics, he would pick out a couple vantage points several hundred yards out and lob mortar shells in or fire RPGs until he could force the defenders out into the open for sniper teams. Anybody would know that, even the lowliest soldier on the streets of Somalia.
So what was he missing here? It had to be something drastic…