It seemed like he was standing in the middle of a travel brochure for some faraway national park: blue skies with only a hint of cloud overhead, odd dusty ground intermixed with scrubby not too green plants sprouting tiny flowers, dusty hills in the distance, heat enough to feel like a blast furnace.
"And you wouldn't believe the sunsets out here." Xander spun around as an almost familiar voice spoke behind him. Frizzy hair, glasses, a sweatshirt with Halloween pumpkins on it.
"Vikkii? What the hell are you doing here? And where is here anyways?"
"Here is western Australia. Would you believe it gets hotter in Alice Springs in the summer that it really is in Hell on a regular basis? Anyways we need to talk."
"Talk about what? And why are you here with me? I'm supposed to send you an e-mail every six months saying 'haven't gotten kicked out of the USAF yet', and that was going to be it. No Christmas cards or anything."
"It's not the messenger that's important here. It's the message that counts. But would it make it easier for you if I looked like someone else? I can do Joyce Summers if you prefer. You always did seem to have a bit of the Mrs. Robinson vibe going on with her."
"Um, I guess you're fine like that."
"Good. Let's have a walk then. We're not too far from what you need to see." She grabbed him by the elbow and they started walking toward the hills. Time blurred, jumped a bit, and distances were covered before he could say anything more.
"Here." He looked where Vikkii pointed. A high chain link fence stretched from center to left to right in a line as far as he could see, almost like some sort of cut rate discount version of the Great Wall of China.
"It's a fence. A Really long fence. I think I'm missing out on the message here," Xander said. Vikki said nothing to him, but instead crouched down, making chirping noises at something in the brush.
"It isn't one of those big scary snakes the crazy dude on tv likes to grab and torture, is it?"
"Definitely not that," she said as something hopped into her arms. "Just the reason for the fences they built all over the place here and the source of more trouble than you could ever imagine." He blinked and got a good look at the furry animal in her arms.
"A bunny? Did Anya send you here after me?"
"No your ex-girlfriend didn't. But she was right in some ways." Vikki stroked the bunny down its back and it went limp in her arms.
"What do you mean?"
"The rabbits don't belong here. They crowd out the local wildlife, eat everything in sight, and in general overrun a place that's extremely fragile as it is. And they breed too fast for people to just kill them all. So even though they never should have been brought here, even though some things should have just stayed buried, they fence off any try to contain the areas of infestation and do the best they can. There's a road over the next hill, and every truck that goes through the gate, they go over thoroughly."
"To keep the rabbits from expanding?"
"Because that place is defenseless against what they can do." The rabbit twisted in Vikkii's arms, it's face contorting into a snarl, then going into full game face mode. Xander took a step back from it, grabbing for a sidearm that wasn't there, and then everything faded to red.
It was Movie Morning in the Stargate conference room, and Jack O'Neil didn't even think to joke about bringing the popcorn. At one end of the room, a civilian tech named Emily Ramsey sat, remote control in hand, sending a movie cobbled together from a dozen or more security cameras in the mountain through its paces. The group big enough to overflow the room had watched it straight through the first time; this run would a slow progression of freeze frames and slow motion with Sam Carter providing the color commentary.
"The predator from PX-782 came through the gate directly behind SG-5. It was close enough that we couldn't get the iris in place to block its arrival. It went down the ramp, striking Sgt. Ramirez from behind and knocking him to the ground. SG-5 fired on it, but our weapons had no effect on it." Frame by frame showed the brief gun battle before the predator charged out of the room, through the closed blast door, and into the maze of the mountain's hallways.
"From there, it went through two other sealed blast doors before ending up in 3 Blue Charlie. Airman Williams opens fire." The video showed the predator's fatal attack against Williams. "And unfortunately, the bullets have the same effect on it that they did earlier. Airman Harris sees what happens, and decides to try a different weapon." Harris drew a decidedly non-regulation knife from a sheath along his back.
"And he gets lucky and hits a vital organ." General Hammond said.
"Actually, he didn't. Cause of death for the creature is best described as anaphylactic shock," Dr. Frasier answered. "A sudden instant allergic reaction to the blade of the knife."
"So what you're saying is that the predator went through three blast doors, killed four people, and put six more in the infirmary, and then buys it because it runs into PX-782's version of a bad peanut allergy reaction?" Jack asked.
"Pretty much that," Sam said. "We've run some tests on the knife blade. It's an alloy of silver and steel that's unlike anything else I've ever seen. Right now, we can't say for certain if the blade is of terrestrial origin. I asked Daniel to have a look at the markings on the hilt of the knife to see if anything looks familiar."
"I did a quick check," Daniel said, taking his cue from Carter. "Preliminary research on the hilt markings suggest it came from a Romanian monastery. The brothers of St. Istvan of the Sunlight are known in the weapons collectibles market for manufacturing a small number of knives and short swords every year, and for some reason, even Nicolae Ceaucescu left the monks in peace during the Communist rule years. There is mention about the purity of their blades, but I haven't gotten much further than that so far."
"Thank you. We'll have someone else continue that research," Hammond said.
"Any ideas if our Airman Harris was lucky or good?"
"Sir." A personnel staffer looked up from her seat in the corner. "We pulled his file as requested. AFVABs just barely high enough to get him into the Air Force. Good service record, nothing unusual turned up when they did his security clearance last year. Only odd thing was that he was originally supposed to be assigned to NORAD Continental out of Tyndall in Florida instead of here, but as far as we've been able to track down, got sent to Colorado because of a paperwork snafu."
"And any explanations from Harris himself?" Hammond asked.
"Sir, Harris came into my infirmary with a punctured lung, six broken ribs, and an ankle injury. Since the attack he's either been unconscious or on heavy enough painkillers that his grip on reality is not too steady," Dr. Frasier said. "For one, he keeps calling me a vampire."
"Sounds like he knows what he's talking about there, Doc." Jack said. She shot him a look, and Jack worried a bit about what was going to happen the next time he was at her medical mercy.
"Either way, I'd say you couldn't expect a coherent conversation out of him until tomorrow morning at the earliest."
Appointments to visit the sick were made, and the debriefing continued on.