Jennifer & the Debriefing, Part I: Sunnydale High
A/N: See chapter 1 for disclaimer, spoilers, notes on AU, and why Xander has his eye back.
A/N2: Here’s the start of the five-part debrief before Xander re-appears. Readers familiar with the Buffy series will recognize the things the SGC discovered. Or misinterpreted.
U.S. Air Force Major Jennifer Hailey, M.S., Ph.D., didn’t like standing up in front of people and giving presentations. But she’d rather kiss Anubis on his ugly, immaterial ass than actually admit she had a fear of public speaking. Or that she had a fear of anything. And she really hated presentations where she was so much smarter than her audience that she had to spend ninety percent of the time going back and explaining obvious issues to complete idiots. Even worse were presentations like that, where the idiots were higher ranking officers, so she couldn’t even tell them they were idiots. At least, at her doctoral defense, no one in the room was unable to follow her talk. Granted, that meant she had to be ready for some highly insightful questions from Colonel Carter and Doctor Lee, and the expected ‘I’m a genius and you’re a moron’ comments from Dr. McKay. Even if Rodney had some really good points she jotted down afterward when he wasn’t looking, because they were clearly the right directions for future research.
Still, with Colonel Carter and Dr. Jackson in the room, she wasn’t overly concerned about the ‘cannot follow the discussion’ aspect. Even General Landry was a lot smarter than he looked. She tried to watch for that now. It had taken her almost a month at the SGC to figure out that Colonel O’Neill was way smarter than he acted, and then she felt like a complete idiot. She hated feeling stupid. She still looked back on those weeks and shuddered, since in retrospect it had been obvious that the rest of SG-1 had dropped hint after hint that she was being an overbearing little bitch, and the colonel had just let her dig herself deeper and deeper. It apparently appealed to his sense of humor to feed her more and more rope, until she had managed to hang herself spectacularly. Now, thanks to her arrogance, she had a Pentagon general in her chain of command who thought she was a snotty little bitch. Okay she was a snotty little bitch. She had been, ever since as a first grader she realized that the other kids in elementary school hated her for being trailer trash and being a daughter of the town slut, just as the other kids’ parents all hated her and her entire family. Her bitchiness was her power armor, even more so than her intellect.
Jennifer also didn’t like getting pulled off important tasks, like her research on the power conduction mechanisms in the zero point energy modules, since the SGC needed that knowledge almost as much as Atlantis did. But Sam had needed her to oversee this investigation on this guy Harris, and she owed Sam. Given what Sam had done for her and her career, she was going to owe Sam until well after they were both retired. Plenty of people thought she was an arrogant asshole, but she was not going to complain if Sam asked her to ramrod this task. She wouldn’t complain if Sam asked her to clean all the toilets in the whole SGC, since she owed Sam. That, and Sam always had a damn good reason for everything.
And it was a damn good thing Jennifer had overseen things, because the computer searches had hit a lot of dead ends, and she had needed to get really creative to get around several roadblocks. Harris supposedly came from Sunnydale California, but too many people were now using that sinkhole as a way around ID cards and national security traces. She knew one of the aliens at the SGC was listed as having grown up in Sunnydale. It was a good dodge, since all the paper records and simple ways of tracing backgrounds were a mile under the surface of Lake Sunnydale now. Although technically, she reminded herself, since it was an inlet from the Pacific Ocean, it was a bay, not a lake, no matter what people usually called it.
General Landry said, “Go ahead, Major. The rest of SG-1 is still off-world on assignment, so they won’t be joining us this morning.”
“Yes sir.” She clicked the control in her hand, and nodded at the airman by the door. He turned down the lights slightly as she put up the first image on the projection screen. It was two pictures, side by side. On the left was a candid picture of Xander Harris that Colonel Carter had snapped with her cellphone when he wasn’t looking. On the right was a picture out of the Sunnydale High yearbook for his senior year. It was obvious that they were the same person. Granted, the man on the left was about seven years older, and had filled out since his teenaged years. He was a lot more muscular, and there was a certain set to his jaw. But, other than the aging, it was obvious that the two pictures were of the same man. They even had the same shaggy hair, and the same goofy grin.
Jennifer started. “Xander Harris. Survivor of the Sunnydale disaster. High school slacker, construction worker, world traveler, and now the director of North American operations for the NSAWC, which is an organization so secret that we couldn’t find anyone who could or would tell us what it stands for. Although I’ll come back to that in a bit.
“The usual Sunnydale websites that we might check were all lost when Sunnydale collapsed, and there was a suspicious lack of archival information in the state records, but we found some websites that were using webservers in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and some other cities, so we do have some intel on Harris and his town. Bob found some personal webpages with Sunnydale High School memorabilia, and we’ve pulled details from there.” She saw Colonel Carter’s eyes light up, and she knew what Sam was about to ask. “And yes, colonel, we were able to verify that these are the original, untouched webpages. We went through the long-term memory storage at Google and also at the NSC, just to check.” She looked at the expressions on half the faces and explained, “After all, you can always change an old webpage to make it look like your brand-new false information is long-established truth. But we have these webpages showing Sunnydale High yearbooks and school newspapers and school awards going back about thirty years. During the years when Harris was at Sunnydale High, the school papers and such were uploaded roughly twice a month, so we have confidence these are real. That means we have a little scholastic intel on Harris going all the way back to his graduation from junior high, plus a lot of other computer files.”
She clicked her control, and the next image appeared. It was a full page from the Sunnydale High Gazette. She frowned, “Alexander Harris was indeed a graduate of Sunnydale High. But there was something drastically wrong with that school. We scanned everything in and ran it through OCR with some fast verification…” She saw the hand, and since it was General Landry, she forced herself to be polite as she explained, “Optical Character Recognition. Computer scans of images and reconstructing what the words actually say for the computer to use in data mining. OCR tends to be problematic if the words aren’t in a simple typeface in a clear image, but this was newspaper print, and really high-quality scans, and we used Colonel Carter’s scanning programs, so we ended up with about a 99.97% success rate on correct word translation. The few losses tended to be proper names, since there were some students with some very odd names. I still find it hard to believe they had students named Cordelia and Aphrodesia.”
Colonel Carter smiled, “Well, it is California.” Several people snickered. Jennifer just nodded. Sam Carter had grown up in San Diego, among other places, and could get away with that kind of joke. Jennifer knew that if she tried it, people would just think she was being snotty again.
Jennifer pointed at the header of the page. “The bi-weekly school newspaper had an obituary and missing persons page. I don’t mean a tiny rectangle when someone died. I mean that in every single issue there were enough deaths and missing persons for an entire page or more. And this was every other week! This page was from 1991, years before Harris ever got near the high school. This particular week, there were two and a half pages of notices about deaths or people gone missing. Two and a half pages
“And the listed causes of death? Now it begins to get really bizarre. Any normal high school, if it had a death notice, the cause would be suicide. Or a traffic accident, possibly drunk driving. In some high schools in urban areas, it could possibly be a drug overdose, or a knife fight, or a drive-by shooting. That was what we were expecting to see.” She clicked the control, and yellow ovals appeared around select passages in the paper. “No, the most common causes of death in Sunnydale were ‘barbecue fork accident’, ‘gangs on PCP’, and ‘wild animal attack’.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Most peculiar,” said Teal’c in his usual deadpan way. Jennifer liked him. Not only was he excruciatingly hot in a Playgirl centerfold way, but he never treated her like she was just an arrogant little jerk or a useless egghead.
Colonel Carter just asked, “And these deaths are verified intel?”
Jennifer nodded. “Yes ma’am. As verified as we could make it. Every one of these people has a birth certificate on file with the state and federal archives. Sunnydale had state-level permission to file all death certificates locally with no copies in the state archives – we don’t know why this one city had an arrangement like this, but state records indicate it was set over a hundred years ago and never changed – so we can’t check whether there’s an official death certificate filed for any of these people. But every one of these people that we checked has fallen off the radar. No use of Social Security number, no job record, no credit cards, nothing. We ran computer checks on two hundred supposedly dead names, and we came up with two names with some current activity, one of which was being used by a convict from Pennsylvania who was recently arrested for several hundred counts of identity theft, and the other is being used by the Federal Witness Protection Program for someone other than the original person. About sixty percent of the names we checked did have records we found where at least one of the following happened: their bank accounts had been closed, their health insurance had been canceled, and/or their life insurance had been paid out. As far as we can tell, these people all died when the papers say they did.”
The General frowned. “But how can this many people – this many children – all die or vanish, with no outcry? This should have made every newspaper and news program in the country!”