Comments please before I post to archives tomorrow.
Warning - spoilers for Angel S5 and BtVS S7.
By Marcus L. Rowland
"You know," said Daniel, listening to Sam and Jack question Dana and Kennedy, "We've heard a lot about the supernatural in the last few days, but we really haven't seen much. One conjuring trick and one ghost."
"You want to see the supernatural?" asked Willow. "Most people run away screaming."
"It's... different. Then there's this group memory thing you mentioned. There are so many questions that could be answered. Just the memories of ancient Egypt that Dana mentioned could solve a dozen different puzzles. And you said you have written records going that far back?"
"Sure. Mostly copies of copies, of course, and some of them are translations of translations, but we've got them. Our big problem is usually finding the ones that are relevant."
"Could they not be stored as computer files?" asked Teal'c.
"Some of them, sure, the ones that aren't magical one way or another, but unless you read every word you don't always know for sure. And spells do strange things to computers."
"Like?" asked Daniel
"Oh, say, release the demon Moloch into the internet."
"Happened in high school. Not one of my happier memories."
"Maybe we could come to some sort of arrangement," said Daniel. "Share documents, that sort of thing."
"About these Goa'uld guys?"
"Exactly. You might have information on them, we might have information you need."
"Maybe, but Dana probably knows more about them than all of our records put together. Everything we knew about them said they'd been extinct for thousands of years, so preserving what we had probably wasn't high priority. Especially when our main archive was blown up a couple of years ago."
"Blown up?" asked Teal'c.
"The thing we were fighting when Sunnydale was destroyed decided that taking out the Watchers would cripple us, it was nearly right."
"What are Watchers?" asked Daniel.
"The Watchers Council, the guys that were supposed to support the Slayer." She said it disdainfully. "Their offices and archives were in London. Bunch of jerks."
"Somewhere over the last few thousand years they got the idea that their job was to control the Slayer, that she was less important than their organisation. They had a bunch of rules and traditions, made the Slayers so inflexible they could barely function."
"But you said..."
"Buffy slipped through the net. They didn't find her until after she had the power, and she kinda took over, made them back off and let her do things her own way. When their offices were destroyed she was already pretty much running things, now she's rebuilding the organisation with the Slayers in charge. But we're really hurting from the records we lost."
"She must be a remarkable woman."
"You'd better believe it."
"Perhaps we can indeed help, WillowRosenberg," said Teal'c. "The Goa'uld repeatedly raided this world for slaves over thousands of years, and took them to many other planets. It is possible that some of those transported carried records that might be useful to you."
"Maybe. Or they could have written down their legends, even that might be useful."
At the table Sam said "I think that we might have enough to start another search. Let me type it into my laptop and I'll get it uploaded. Is there an a phone line I can use?"
"There's broadband," said Willow. "the modem's in the corner next to the TV. There's a phone line too if you don't want to use our ISP." Sam began to type in the results, asking Kennedy and Dana for clarification of some of the points as she did so.
"About the records," said Daniel, "if you can tell us what to look out for, maybe we already have material you need."
"I'll get you a list of key words; demon and magician names, the names of important magical books, things not to say, that kinda thing."
"Things not to say?" asked Jack, stretching.
"Like... well, like there are some books you shouldn't read out loud, and you really don't want to use the W-word around strange women. That kinda thing."
"Wish. Most of the creatures that grant wishes aren't friendly," said Willow. "Vengeance demons especially, and they're nearly all women. They tried to head-hunt me a couple of times."
"Head hunt?" asked Teal'c. "Why would they want your head?"
"Head hunt. Recruit. They wanted me to become a demon."
"Is that possible?" asked Daniel
"Sure. There was a woman we knew," Willow said sadly, "she started out human, used a few spells on an unfaithful lover, became a vengeance demon for a thousand years or so, then she lost her powers and became human again."
"What happened to her?"
"She ended up on our team, didn't make it out of Sunnydale. But there are demons that can infect you, take over your body, that kinda thing, and usually it's permanent."
"Parasites like the Goa'uld?" asked Jack.
"Some like that, some more like diseases, some that kill you and take over your corpse, like vampires, and some that reanimate you after you're dead, like zombies."
"Nice. What about the rest of the stuff you see in horror movies?"
"It's pretty much all real."
"Freddie Kruger is real?" Daniel and Teal'c team stared at him. "Hey, I watch TV sometimes," he added defensively.
"A few years ago someone tried to kill Buffy, me, and a couple of our friends in our dreams. We got lucky, Buffy broke us free before it was too late."
"Werewolves?" asked Jack.
"Knew one in high school. He was a nice guy most of the month." Sam paused, listening.
"Don't know about the Egyptian kind, but an Incan one turned up in Sunnydale pretending to be an exchange student."
Willow shivered and said "Evil little bastards."
"You're kidding," said Jack.
"Wish I was. You name it, it's out there somewhere."
"Santa Claus?" asked Teal'c.
"Santa Claus is real?" asked Daniel.
"Sure. Of course he was more into eviscerating kids than giving them presents. Damned if I know how that story got started. Makes me glad I was born Jewish."
"You make it sound like the world's full of monsters," said Sam.
"Sure. But they're outnumbered a few thousand to one by humans. Most of them keep a low profile, even Santa probably didn't get more than three or four kids a year."
"Won't know for sure until December, but we think we took him out last Christmas. Made some fake babies, animated magically with a spell to lure him to them and packed with incendiaries."
"Nice!" Jack said appreciatively.
"But the point is you're a hundred times more likely to get killed by a drunk driver. Vampires are probably the most active predators, and even then you rarely find more than a few outside the biggest cities."
Sam returned her attention to the computer.
"What about LA?" Jack asked.
"Hundreds, same for all the other major demon species. All the night life, it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet."
"So can we see something?" Daniel repeated.
Willow gestured, and a book flew from one of the shelves into her hand. "Sure. I could summon a demon or two, if you've got a pint of goat's blood handy. Not saying I could necessarily control them once they're here, of course. Or... I know, I could turn one of you into a rat, that's a fun one for parties. Or I could destroy Los Angeles, but I'd need a few human sacrifices for that one." Her eyes were darkening, and Daniel and Teal'c watched her warily. Kennedy said "Willow, honey, calm down. He was just asking. He didn't know."
Willow seemed to relax a little, and her eyes went back to their normal green. "Yeah, I guess."
"What was that about?" asked Jack.
"How would you react if someone asked you to throw a few hand grenades or set off a nuke, just to show what they could do?"
"It's that dangerous?"
"It's worse. It's... you know what positive feedback is?"
"When a PA system howls?" asked Daniel.
"That's it. It's powerful, and it's difficult to control, and the more you use it the more powerful and difficult to control it gets. Oh yeah, and it's addictive, so the more you use it the more you want to let it rip."
"Don't worry though, I'm pretty much under control. Most of the time."
"That's reassuring," said Jack, raising his eyebrows.
"There's a lot worse than me," said Willow. "Relax, we've got more immediate problems to worry about."
"Fine. Any luck with our friends in Washington?"
"Negative so far, Colonel," said Sam. "The descriptions don't match anywhere they have on record. Not here, not Europe, anywhere there's a predominantly European population. They think maybe the USA, but nowhere seems to have the layout of streets described."
"Have they tried Canada?" asked Daniel.
"Sure, but that's much lower probability."
"Maybe it isn't a real place," said Kennedy. "Could it be a film set or something? Didn't feel like it when I dreamed it, but I could be wrong."
"What about you, Dana?" asked Willow. "Did it feel real in your dreams?"
"Konechno ehto real'noe!" said Dana.
"She said 'Of course it's real,'" said Daniel, "in Russian."
"Russia...." said Jack. "Daniel, don't they have a branch of the Orthodox church in Russia too?"
"Okay. Colonel, ask our friends to check for a match on the Charm School. They'll know what I mean." Sam nodded and typed the query into the laptop.
"The Charm School?" asked Willow.
"The old KGB spy school near Borodino," said Jack. "They had a big chunk of fake town built to look like parts of the USA. It's supposed to be closed now, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were still in business. It was a lot more authentic than any film set, real streets and real buildings. We ought to have overheads and descriptions of the place."
"Positive match," said Sam.
"Damn. I hate dealing with Russian bureaucracy."
"That part," said Willow, "you can leave to us." She got a mobile phone, pressed the speed dial button, waited a few moments and said "Dawn... the site is in Russia, near Borodino. We'll need to get in discreetly, don't want to tip off anyone that we're coming.... yeah, we're still at Cordy's old place... uh huh... okay, yeah, I know where that is... four of them, three of us... sure, I'll do that... yeah, say hi to everyone for us, talk to you soon." She pressed 'disconnect' and closed the phone. "Okay, Dawn's gonna set something up for us, but it'll take a couple of hours and we can't take much in the way of supplies. Everyone want to come?" There were six replies of "yes." She raised her voice slightly. "Dennis!" A spoon tapped against one of the cups on the table. "There you are. Dennis, Dawn says to say 'Hi', and I think maybe we could go for some more coffee and stuff if everybody's ready." There were nods, and the tray floated off towards the kitchen.
"Why does this look so familiar?" asked Daniel, as Jack parked his SUV behind Willow's car under a bridge in one of the channels of the Los Angeles River storm drain system.
"Ever see Terminator 2?" asked Kennedy, who was suddenly standing by the door, an axe in her hand.
"Uh.. yeah, I suppose."
"This is where the big truck with the Terminator crashed."
"Right. Umm... why the axe?"
"Because we're headed underground and there's some nasty things live there."
Sam, Jack, and Teal'c began to unload, and Daniel moved to help. Willow came over and said "When you're unpacked I'll cast a camouflage and avoidance spell, make sure that nobody tampers with the cars."
"Won't that be dangerous for you?" asked Jack, pulling out a back pack and strapping it on.
"Nope, it's not enough power to cause problems."
They moved to one side and Willow walked around the vehicles, chanting something softly. Slowly they began to look blurred, until he blinked, looked around, and suddenly realised that he couldn't see them any more.
"Where the hell are they?" asked Sam.
"You're kinda looking in the wrong direction," said Willow. "Squint and look off to your right and you might be able to get a glimpse of them."
Jack tried and for a moment saw the green SUV before the colour blurred into the background shadow. "That's a neat trick."
"So long as it doesn't rain. A flash flood through here could wreck them."
"I think it's safe to assume that the Air Force is insured," said Jack.
"Right. Okay, just follow Dana and me but leave the talking to me. Kennedy, bring up the rear. Okay?"
"We can take care of ourselves," said Jack. Suddenly he was rising into the air, as Kennedy lifted him by his backpack straps. "All right, so maybe you guys know the situation a little better."
"You're learning, Colonel," said Kennedy, putting him down.
"How the hell do you have the leverage for that sort of stunt?"
"And here's me without a video camera," muttered Daniel.
"Okay," said Jack, "we don't have much in the way of supplies, so what's the plan? We aren't really equipped to fight anyone."
"We'll go in," said Willow, "see what's happening, and get out again, if possible without anyone knowing we're here."
"Sounds good to me," said Jack. "But how are we going to get in."
"Through one of the demon dimensions," said Willow, leading them down another channel and into a massive tunnel.
"A demon dimension?" asked Sam. "Won't that be dangerous?"
"Not really, we're on kinda good terms with them. Oughta be fine, just don't drink the water."
"Will we turn into demons?" asked Sam.
"No, but their sanitation is lousy, you don't want the trots."
There was a flurry of noise behind them, and the SG-1 team turned to see Kennedy fighting two men... no, two vampires, their faces were distorted, their mouths sporting huge fangs... in ragged clothes. While Jack was still drawing his gun she dodged a blow, feinted to the left, and plunged a stake into a vampire's heart. It seemed to explode into dust. Jack put two .45 rounds into the other's chest; it staggered, but didn't seem to be slowed. Then Dana used her axe to decapitate it and the fight was over.
"Should have warned you," Willow said over the ringing in their ears, "guns aren't much use against vampires. They must have been down a side tunnel, or Dana would have felt them coming."
"We'd better get moving," said Kennedy, "that kinda noise attracts attention."
"Is it far?"
"About a quarter mile."
They walked on in silence, eventually taking a side tunnel and climbing slimy steps to a steel door. "More vampires in there," said Dana.
"I know," said Willow, "but you'll have to leave them be. This is neutral ground, there's an anti-violence spell. Okay, everyone, just follow my lead."
Willow knocked on the door, and a small hatch opened. A blood-shot eye looked out at them, and a muffled voice said "We're closed."
"No you're not. Rosenberg, party of seven. We have reservations."
"Sorry, sorry, sorry..." There was a clatter of bolts and the door swung open. Standing there was something that looked vaguely like a man with mantis-like arms and claws. It bowed respectfully as they passed.
"They know you?" asked Jack, following Willow along a carpeted hall.
"Never been here before," said Willow, "but word gets around." They came to another door, which swung open as they approached, revealing a tastefully-decorated waiting room with soft Muzak playing. Several demons sat in the chairs, all of different species. Dana growled softly, and Willow quickly said "Take it easy. They can't hurt us, we can't hurt them."
"What happens if we try?" asked Daniel.
"You get back the injury tenfold."
A door at the far end of the room opened, and a blonde woman came out, saying "Frotsnig Glunt? Your portal's ready." One of the demons scurried towards the door, plainly anxious to put distance between itself and the Slayers. The blonde ticked something on a clipboard then looked up and shrieked "Willow?" and rushed towards them.
Willow hastily stepped back, and said "Hi, Harmony."
"You know this bitch?" asked Kennedy, stepping forward with a stake in her hand. Harmony stopped hastily.
"We were at school together," said Willow. She didn't sound very happy about it.
"That'd be before she was turned, I guess," said Kennedy.
"That's right," Harmony said happily, "only I'm totally like reformed these days. Only drink pig's blood."
"Really?" asked Sam, "Why's that?"
"All that chasing people around and biting them is so... icky." She seemed to shudder. "I got tired of killing guys I never would have even dated when I was alive, and having to dump the bodies afterwards."
"I heard you were working for Angel," said Willow, "didn't he kill vampires that tested positive for human blood?"
"Well yeah," Harmony said defensively, "but I was on the wagon before that."
"Well good for you," Willow said insincerely.
"That's what Cordy said," said Harmony, looking sad. "Anyway, according to this," she pointed at the clipboard, "you have a priority booking. Want to come through?"
Ahead was a long room, at the far end a swirling vortex of white light. "Just walk into the light," said Harmony, "and try not to throw up on this side, I'll have to clean it up."
"Thanks," said Willow. Kennedy took the lead, followed by Willow, then Sam, Daniel, Jack and Teal'c. Dana took the rear, backing away from Harmony and only turning when they were about to walk into the portal. There was a brief moment of nausea, and they stumbled forward into a forest glade. A green-skinned demon with red eyes and horns, wearing a smart yellow suit so bright it hurt Jack's eyes, was sitting on a rustic bench and seemed to be waiting for them. It said "You the guys from Earth?"
"Lorne?" said Willow, hastily adding "hold it, guys, he's a friend." Several weapons went back into sheaths and holsters.
"That's right, sugar plum, heard you were coming through so I thought I'd meet and greet. Welcome to Pylea."