Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland
ffutures

The Key to Byzantium - IV

Key part IV now posted to archives. Since I've made a LOT of changes from the first draft I'm posting it here again.


This is a crossover between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stargate SG-1. For continuity details, credits, etc. see the prologue. Characters from these series belong to their respective creators, production companies, etc., and are used without any intent to deprive them of income or otherwise infringe on copyright. This story may not be distributed on a profit-making basis. Please note - BtVS characters won't appear in the first few chapters.

The Key to Byzantium
by Marcus L. Rowland

Note: This chapter contains SERIOUS spoilers for BtVS season 6-7 and Angel season 5. Thanks to Houses and Don Sample for some important corrections.

IV

"This is the only Maclay I can find mentioned in a Sunnydale context," Sam said the following morning, in the temporary office they were using at Palmdale Air Force Base north of Los Angeles. "The Tara Maclay memorial fund for Wicca studies at UCLA. It mentions that she died in Sunnydale, California, in 2002. The fund was set up in December 2002."

"Does it say how she died?" asked Jack.

"No. I'll search on her name, see if anything else comes up.... here we go. Murder victim, aged twenty-two, shot by a Warren Mears, same age. He's still wanted by the California police. That's about it."

"Okay. I'll talk to the state police, see what else they know. Daniel, you're good with academic types, find out who set up the fund. Sam, see if you can find out anything more about Mears, Maclay, and their associates, and what actually happened to Sunnydale. Talk to geologists, that sort of thing. Oh, and Teal'c ought to be getting in to LA this afternoon, he's coming in via LAX, that's near the vehicle lab so I'll pick him up."

. . . . .

"Let's see now," said the fund administrator at UCLA, looking at his computer. "here we are. Tara Maclay memorial fund. Founded by Willow, Ira, and Sheila Rosenberg with an initial capital of twenty-five thousand dollars, we received another ten thousand dollars from Miss Rosenberg a couple of months ago."

"Had you ever met her before?" asked Daniel.

"Her father was a lecturer here at the time, I'd seen him and his wife around the campus. It was the only time I met Willow. I was a little surprised when she said that they wanted to set up a memorial fund, but it's a relatively simple procedure, we do it all the time."

"Why UCLA? There was a college in Sunnydale."

"I've no idea... although I seem to remember her being somewhat disparaging of the Wicca group at UC Sunnydale. She was a student there, I believe."

"How can a student afford to set up a scholarship?"

"Let me check the paperwork..." He went to a cabinet and pulled out a slim file. "Hmm, appears to have been paid from Miss Rosenberg's bank account, all tax formalities completed. I have an idea that she said something about royalties."

"Royalties? On a book? Music?"

"I think a patent, but I'm not entirely sure."

"I know it's been a while, but can you describe them?"

"Willow Rosenberg is a red-headed girl, I guess she'd be about twenty-three now, quite pretty. Ira and Sheila are both in their mid-forties. I'd imagine that there are photographs in some of our publications."

"Did they say why they were setting up the fund?"

"Apparently the girl was in a... a relationship with the late Miss Maclay. I got the impression that she'd taken her death very badly. I do remember that her parents seemed very concerned for her. They were pressing her to transfer to UCLA."

"Did she say anything about the circumstances of the death?"

"No."

"Has she had much input into the choice of fund recipients?"

"No, it's just split between students majoring in Wicca Studies."

"Do you have addresses for her or her parents?"

"Miss Rosenberg lived at 1630 Revello Drive in Sunnydale, at that time the parents were resident at the UCLA campus but I don't have a current address. As I said, her father is a touring lecturer, Sheila usually accompanies him. I've an idea that they're in Britain at the moment. I'd imagine the college post office will have the details."

"Thanks, that's very helpful. Umm... if Miss Rosenberg sent you more money, that presumably means she survived the disaster. Do you have a new address?"

"Let me see..." He checked the file again, then his Roladex. "Yes. Box 7297, Central Post Office, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil."

. . . . .

"Something I've been wondering, sergeant Baxter," said Jack, leaning against the battered Winnebago in the Department of Transportation garage and sipping a mug of coffee. "So far I've met a couple of dozen police officers since I got involved in this mess. Sunnydale's been mentioned every time, and nobody ever seems to know much about the place. How come?"

"Sunnydale... it was kinda odd," said the grizzled sergeant. "You'd hear odd rumours, stories of people who just vanished there, but apart from that the place was a black hole."

"Didn't your patrols go into the town?"

"The way it works in California is that the state police are part of the highway patrol, and the towns and cities handle their own policing, unless we're called in to help. Add to that, they say that the old mayor there was connected some way, certainly seemed to have a lot of influence, our orders were always to keep clear of the place unless we were called in, that didn't change after he died. Sunnydale just never called for help. Oh, we got a few 'wanted' notices from them, but a lot less than you might expect from a town that size."

"What happened to the Sunnydale police after the town was destroyed? Any ideas?"

"I heard a couple of the younger ones applied to join the patrol. Didn't make the grade. Most of them just retired. There were stories that some of the older cops were loaded, had a lot more money than you'd reasonably expect on police pay, but I wouldn't know if there was any truth in that."

"When you say the Mayor was connected, what do you mean? Politically? To the mob? Big business?"

"Politically. I heard that he and Senator Bruckner were pals, Sunnydale voted pretty solidly for her at the last election."

"Wasn't she assassinated?"

"That's right. Some whack job bust into her campaign headquarters and took an axe to her. Still unsolved. Shame, she was real strong on law and order issues."

"Something I've been meaning to ask. Who organised the evacuation of Sunnydale? The police? The National Guard? Red Cross?"

"Try none of the above. The way I've heard it happened, over the course of a few days everyone in that town seemed to get kinda frightened, started evacuating the place by themselves. Eventually there weren't enough people there to keep the power and phones running, and that spooked the rest."

"Some scientists think it was caused by low frequency sound," said one of the crime scene investigators working on the Winnebago.

"Sound?" asked Baxter.

"Ever been at a rock concert or a political rally, stood close to the speakers when they were playing a low note?" asked the scientist.

"Sure. What about it?"

"If the note's loud but too low a frequency to hear it can still affect your body and your inner ear. Some notes can make people feel dizzy, nauseous, even paranoid, depending on the frequency. It's one of the things they have to watch out for when they're designing cars and concert halls."

"What's that got to do with Sunnydale?" asked Jack.

"The theory is that there was a natural resonant chamber, part of the cave system under the town. As a prelude to the collapse steam or escaping gas made it vibrate in a really low note, just loud enough to affect people throughout the town. Once a few people started to react to it there could be a domino effect, ending up with a total stampede."

"Any proof of that?"

"Zilch, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions, like why they didn't all feel ill first. But it's the best theory I've heard. Oh, by the way, I've matched four of the holes in this baby to the swords those guys were carrying. I think you can assume that they're the ones that attacked it."

"Thanks, it always helps to be sure."

When he was finished Jack found a quiet corner and got out his cellphone. "Sam... remember those plants with the sound attack on.. um.. PJ whatever it was, about four or five years ago? Any way to check if the NID or any of our other friends have been developing sound weapons?"

. . . . .

"This can't be right, airman," said Sam, looking at the safety barriers.

"It's the only address I've got, major," said her driver. "Maybe part of the building is open, or they've got temporary offices somewhere else."

"Circle the block, I'll ask at the site office."

Sam climbed out of the car and went towards the only opening, noting signs for a leading construction company. A burly construction worker stood at the entrance. "Yeah?"

"I'm looking for the offices of Wolfram and Hart."

"Somewhere under this pile of rubble, lady."

"What the hell happened?"

"You tell me. The foundations collapsed overnight about a month ago, place went down like a stack of cards. Took out the building, all their records, everything. They think there might be some bodies under there too, but we haven't found anything yet."

"Is there another office? A temporary one, maybe?"

"Nope. Company's out of business, as far as I know, at least in LA. They've got offices in other cities, I guess, maybe you could try calling them."

"Damn, I was hoping... Never mind. Thanks for your time, you've been very helpful."

"Pleasure, lady."

As Sam walked back to wait for the car her phone beeped. It was Jack. "... Any way to check if the NID or any of our other friends have been developing sound weapons?"

"Someone told you about the Sunnydale theory?"

"You already knew?"

"Yes, I found out about it this morning, it's generally considered the most likely hypothesis for the evacuation of the town."

"So could the NID have been the real cause?"

"It's possible, not very likely. You'd need an incredible amount of power to pull it off."

"Maybe the NID have some other way to get the effect, like force fields to shake things directly, rather than using sound. Maybe something like that caused the collapse."

"It's just about possible, I suppose... in fact right now I'm looking at a pile of rubble where Mears' attornies used to have their offices. Something like that with enough power behind it might just have brought it down. But you could get the same effect a lot more easily and predictably with a few blocks of C5."

"Damn. Okay, I'm heading for the airport to pick up Teal'c. See you back at the base."

Moments later the phone beeped again. This time it was Daniel. "...So I checked out the SAT scores for California, they're filed centrally, and Rosenberg was in the top two to three percent for her year."

"For Sunnydale?"

"For all of California. I wouldn't be surprised if she could give you competition, Sam."

"And?"

"I'm wondering what she patented. If she's as smart as she sounds, it could be important."

. . . . .

"Sorry you had to come in to LAX," said Jack, leading Teal'c to the SUV he was using, "Palmdale's involved in an air defence exercise right now, all non-essential traffic is banned."

"There is no need to apologise, Colonel O'Neill. It was a comfortable flight." He climbed into the seat and sat back, his woolen cap covering the seal on his forehead.

"It's about eighty miles. The commute shouldn't be too bad this early in the afternoon."

"Very well."

"Did the General have any more information from the Pentagon?"

"None was vouchsafed to me, Colonel.

"So... anything from the Jaffa rebels or the Tok'ra?"

"There is nothing. The patterns slightly resemble those of various system lords, but deviate from the normal designs to an extent that would never be tolerated by the Goa'uld."

"Did you have a chance to see your son and Bra'tac? How are they doing?"

"Both are making excellent recoveries."

"Did Hammond brief you on the Knights of Byzantium? Daniel's theory that they were founded by a Goa'uld but lost contact somewhere along the way?"

"I read Doctor Jackson's notes on them during the flight. If he is correct, they might be formidable warriors."

"Someone massacred them, Teal'c."

"Yet some returned to bury their dead, and possibly disposed of whatever killed them. These are not the actions of cowards. We must determine if they are now allied or opposed to the Goa'uld."

"Or have nothing to do with them. It could still be just a coincidence."

"Indeed, Colonel O'Neill."

"This is going to be a long drive."

"Indeed, Colonel O'Neill?"

"Never mind."

. . . . .

"Excuse me..."

Daniel looked up from the computer he was using in UCLA's library, and realised that it was getting dark. There was a man in his late twenties standing by the desk, waiting patiently to get his attention. He wore casual civilian clothes but there was something about him, his posture and seemingly casual watchfulness, that made Daniel guess he was military. He wore a canvas belt pouch in the small of his back, which Daniel suspected was a gun.

"Sorry, what can I do for you?"

"Doctor Jackson?"

"Yes?"

"I hear you're interested in a friend of mine."

"Which friend would that be?"

"Young lady, redhead, used to live in Sunnydale."

"Maybe."

"No maybe about it. My advice, stay out of it."

"Stay out of what?"

"Sunnydale, and anything that has anything to do with the place."

"And if I can't?"

"If you're lucky you'll live to regret it."

"And if not?"

"I hear heaven's kinda pleasant, unless you're headed for the other place."

"Is that a threat?"

"I don't think you were born stupid. Of course it's a threat. But not from me. You're headed into a whole world of hurt, and it's one that you're not ready to handle. Not you, and not your friends from Colorado."

"How did you...?"

"You have your sources, I have mine. Now, I know I'm not going to convince you on my own, so I'd like to set up a meet, you and your team, me and a couple of friends that have actually been in Sunnydale. An unofficial exchange of views, strictly off the record. How does that sound to you?"

"Incredibly stupid."

"You're a fast learner." He tossed a card onto the desk. "Okay, I know you can't agree to this without the Colonel, so here's my cell-phone number, call it after twenty-two hundred and I'll answer. We'll meet tomorrow, any reasonably public place you like, no more than three or four of you, there'll be three or four of us. No tricks or we just won't show."

"And if we don't want to?"

"Your funeral. Take it or leave it."

"One last question. Are you NID?"

"Those bozos? Get real." He turned and walked out, leaving Daniel looking at a card that read 'Graham Miller - Consultant - 1-555-555-5325'

TBC

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