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This is something of a filler chapter, in some ways, but it provides an important bridge to get me to when the action picks back up, and I, personally find these kinds of 'filling the characters in' chapters interesting in crossovers. And I tend to write what I like to read. But, anyway, I promise things will pick up again next chapter.Old Friends
Chapter 4October 8th, 2001
Angel Investigations, Los Angeles, California
“So, uh, what exactly does Phoenician have to do with anything?” Daniel had to admit he would have expected that sort of question...well, been less surprised by it, anyway...if they were talking about some other planet that had been forcibly settled long ago by people from the Iron Age Levant, or the ancestors to those peoples, at the behest of some megalomaniacal interstellar parasites masquerading as deific beings.
Of course, that's not what they were talking about. They were talking about “demons”, which lived on Earth in the here and now, where Phoenician was a dead language known only to a handful of scholars. So...what the heck did that particular ancient tongue have to do with anything, in this context?
Fortunately, Wesley came up with an explanation fairly quickly. “The demons that attacked us, as I said, are known as Slarn demons. They were first recorded by demonologists living in Tyre and Sidon during the mid-900s B.C. Unfortunately, while those records have been copied and preserved by various archivists within the Watchers' Council, and even some unaffiliated scholars...they haven't been translated. And while I may be fluent in many languages, human and demon, dead and alive...my knowledge of Phoenician is limited, at best. But all the best records regarding Slarn demons are written in Phoenician, so...”
“Alright.” Daniel nodded slowly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone coming down the stairs, as Gunn and Angel started taking a body each down into the basement. The new arrival was a woman, roughly in her mid-twenties, petite with brown hair. She saw the dead demons and looked over to Wesley - speaking in a slight Texas drawl.
“I thought we were working for these ones?” she offered with a tentative half-smile. Wesley turned back to her, but, seeing Daniel, she spoke before Wesley could answer. “Oh, is this your friend from Oxford?” She hadn't been downstairs at the time when Wesley had explained that his friend Daniel was coming over to visit, but he had been up to speak with her later that day and mentioned his friend was coming.
Wesley nodded, a slight smile on his face at the sight of the new arrival. “Yes. Daniel, this is Winifred Burkle; Fred, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson.” He gestured from one to the other.
“Call me Daniel, please.” Daniel offered with a smile, extending a hand. Fred looked at it a moment, as if confused as to what she was supposed to do with it, before a quick look of recognition passed across her face and she shook his hand. She had a pretty tight grip, actually...and she kept shaking his hand as she started to talk. First at a normal, reasonable pace and in a normal reasonable tone, but then speeding up – still comprehensible, but faster than he would have thought someone could talk.
“Doctor? So you have your PhD and everything, then? I was a PhD student too – I started in History, but then I took a class with Professor Seidel – well, that doesn't matter, but when I was taking it I decided I wanted to do physics and I had my Masters, working in the public library...” She went on and on for a bit, before saying, “So I found the book and fell through a portal into Pylea. I would been stuck there forever if Angel and Wesley and everyone else hadn't come through looking for Cordelia. And then-” Portal?
Daniel couldn't help but interrupt. “Excuse me, but portal?”
Daniel blinked at the look the Texan woman sent him. This really was all too much at once. Now he had some idea of how people who were brand new to the Stargate program had felt as they jumped right into a world that they hadn't been part of just then, surrounded by things that seemed impossible, but surrounded also by people who had been part of that world for much longer, and treated it like it was normal, just part of daily life.
Which, really, it was. For all the people who worked at the SGC – himself included – things like the Stargate, the Goa'uld, traveling to other planets, DHDs, and so on, such things really were just part of the daily life. When you worked around something day in, day out, it just sorta faded into the background, losing any sense of being strange, or new, or noteworthy. Daniel was somewhat astonished to find that such things no longer inspired any sense of awe in him – after five years, the Stargate...it just didn't fascinate him in the same way that it had back at the beginning.
The same, then, Daniel supposed, was true here, for these people. Wesley, Fred and the others clearly had been around this sort of thing for so long that they'd just acclimated to it, internalizing it as normal to them. They had been immersed in a world containing demons, and vampires, and so forth...it all just seemed normal to them. Including, it seemed, portals.
Still, the fact that they took it so casually was difficult to process. Even if he knew full well why he found it so hard, and they took it all as so much normal.
“Portals. Inter-dimensional tunnels through the universe. They're like Einstein-Rosen bridges, but only, you know, not, since they go between dimensions than between specific points in time and space. Like the one that took me to Pylea. I still don't have all the math worked out, but I've been trying to -”
Daniel tried, but he just couldn't follow what came out of the woman's mouth after that. What he could figure out was that at some point, he needed to get Sam and this Fred Burkle woman into the same room together. Then he would need to leave, because otherwise he'd be completely lost from the word go. Wesley seemed to be following the babble-fest a little bit better, but only just.Yeah, definitely need to make sure I'm not in the same room as Sam and Fred if they start talking physics.
Then, one of the words that she had said – had said twice. Pylea? She said it like it was a place, in relation to these portals that...went from one dimension to the next.
“Pylea?” Daniel interrupted the babbling Fred – it has only been a minute, maybe two since he'd lost track of what she was saying. Then, apologetically, he added, “Sorry.”
“Pylea is a hell dimension.” Wesley supplied. “Inhabited by a number of species of demons and demonids, such as the Deathwok and Gathwok clans; and what's apparently known as Drokken Beasts.”
“Hell dimension? A? As in, there are more
than one?” The questions popped out of Daniel's mouth. “Wait, what?” That was a question that was starting to get too repetitive, but he had to keep asking it.
“Well, perhaps describing Pylea as a 'hell' world is a bit misleading. The differences between that realm and this one aren't all that great, I suppose; like two suns there instead of the one here, for example. But such dimensions are inhabited by one or more native demon or demonid species. They're called hell dimensions because - well, either by differences in natural physics, terrain or inhabitants, if not two or all three of those, they are inimical to human life. Perhaps a subjective system of labeling, but one that is functionally effective nonetheless.”
“Native demon species. So all demons are from these other dimensions?” Daniel asked.
“Many can trace their origins to other dimensions, but some can trace themselves back to the demons native to this world – even some in other dimensions. The demons were in fact here first, but tens of thousands of years ago, the human animal – us – drove the last of the Old Ones out as they lost their purchase on this world.” Wesley confirmed. He then shrugged. “That is neither here nor there at the moment, however.” He noted. Seeing the look on Daniel's face, Wes added, “We can discuss such things later, but it would be more helpful to focus on the issue at hand – the Phoenician writings.”
Reluctantly, Daniel nodded. This really wasn't what he'd expected when he'd decided to catch up with an old friend, and maybe recruit him for the Stargate Program. Still, after all these years, he was nothing if not adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances. “Alright, so where's the stuff you need help with translating, then?”
Wesley showed him back into his office and retrieved the books from where he'd put them. After Daniel sat at the desk, Wesley set them down in front of him.
“The codex on top of the pile should be the most useful – they all deal with more than just Slarn demons, which has made it more difficult to find what I need.” Shuffling through the papers on his desk, Wes found a pad of legal paper and handed it to Daniel. The archaeologist saw it covered in Wesley's familiar and distinct handwriting, translation notes and Phoenician letters. Wesley pointed to one set of letters. “I can't pronounce it for the life of me, but that is the Phoenician word to describe Slarn demons. So that's the word you're going to want to find. I've noted some pages which I think
have more in the way of information we're looking for as well.”
Daniel looked at the codex, slipping into his professional persona without even realizing it. “Hmmm. This is going to take time.” Translations were never easy, and never as quick as you needed them to be in his line of work, and he imagined the same was true here. “What am I looking for, and what kind of time pressures do I have? A day? A couple of hours?”
“No, about a week. And you're looking, mostly, for any information about how we might be able to find them.” Wesley explained. Still standing, he started to elaborate on the specifics of the situation. “Daniel, there are demons that are perfectly content to live alongside humans without any difficulty...but there are those that are not, and sometimes that division exists within the same demonic species. Slarn demons, are, largely speaking, harmless to humans, unless attacked or something similar. However, there is a splinter group, and they've stolen a magical idol created in the image of their god, Krijlark'clu'zara.” The name rolled off of Wesley's tongue with ease.He can't pronounce Phoenician, but he can say that without tripping over his tongue?
Again, it was probably just a matter of what he was used to. Daniel couldn't pronounce every word in every language perfectly – after all, he didn't know all of them.
Wesley continued. “The idol, under the right circumstances, allows for an acceleration of entropy in the surrounding area. If this anti-human splinter group is able to use it, they could collapse a building, kill dozens of otherwise healthy people with old age, and so on.” Daniel nodded, understanding what Wesley was saying. Even if the whole idea was still just...Never mind, just go with it. Besides, is it really any stranger than what the Goa'uld can do? I imagine this is all going to really hit me in a rush later tonight, but I can deal for now.
“And so you want to find the idol, and to do that you need to know where this species tends to live?”
“Yes.” Wesley confirmed. “There are also contacts we can ask, and Gunn and Angel will, in due course, go and ask them. Gunn is going to set out to ask them now, but Angel will have to wait until dark.”
“Obviously,” Daniel considered. Vampire and all.
“Unfortunately, our best contact into the demon community in Los Angeles was killed by a group – well, gang, really – of overzealous demon hunters that refused to make the distinction between demons that are a threat to humans....and demons that are not.” Wesley frowned. “Just recently, in fact.”
There too was another concept Daniel found familiar in his line of work, in terms of rebellious Jaffa, or the Tok'ra, or various aliens he and his group had encountered. It wasn't always there, and in the case of Teal'c, basically everyone at the SGC had accepted him. But he still understood the concept.
Whatever the situation, people were xenophobic and exclusionary, in many ways, excluding the 'other' from the realm of the acceptable. They allowed to exist, or at least exist on a co-equal status with the group the self is placed in, only certain individuals under certain circumstances.
The Nox and Tollan were, in their own, very annoying and self-superior way, right about how young the people of Earth were.