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

The Key To Byzantium - V

Here's the first draft of next part of The Key to Byzantium, my BtVS / SG-1 crossover. Previous parts are at:

First drafts are in my livejournal, but omit numerous changes that are in the archived versions. I should warn you that this is the dreaded "SGI get told about the supernatural" chapter.

Serious spoilers for Angel S4 and BtVS S5-6. Some quotes have been copied from episode transcripts at


"Do we know anything about this guy?" asked Jack as he, Sam, and Daniel crossed Griffith Park towards the picnic site where they'd agreed to meet Miller.

"We found records for dozens of people by that name," said Sam, "but none of them are a good match for his appearance. The cell phone was sold a couple of days ago, the buyer paid cash. The only fingerprints on the card were Daniel's."

"I think he must have handled it by the edges," Daniel said defensively.

"So he's the invisible man. Okay, let's all be on our toes, whatever he's selling probably isn't what we want to buy."

"There he is," said Daniel, spotting Miller about fifty yards away in one of the picnic areas of Griffith Park.

"Okay," said Jack, "Everyone ready?"

"I guess," said Daniel.

"Yes," said Sam, resisting the urge to salute since they were wearing civilian clothes.

"Sound check?"

Tealc responded over the earphone Jack was wearing; "We are ready, Colonel O'Neill, and hearing you clearly." He was waiting with a squad of military police in a truck parked on the edge of Griffith Park, ready to intervene if there was any trouble, listening to the transmitters all three wore under their clothing.

"Okay, let's do it." Jack led the way towards Miller.

"Glad you could make it," said Miller, gesturing towards a picnic table where two other men were sitting. "Won't you join us, Colonel?"

"Don't mind if we do," said Jack, leading Sam and Daniel towards the table.

"Colonel, Doctor O'Neil, Captain Carter..."

"Major Carter," said Sam.

"Sorry, Major Carter. I'd like you to meet Riley Finn," he gestured towards another man around his own age, "and Ethan Rayne," a pale man in his fifties.

"You might as well sit down," Rayne said with a British accent, "less conspicuous, and the food's actually reasonably good."

"Okay," said Jack. They sat on one of the benches, Sam and Jack flanking Daniel, with Finn opposite Jack and Miller opposite Sam.

"There's tuna salad, eggs, some quite good rollmop herrings, ham, and so forth," said Rayne, "Also some cheese and vegetarian quiche."

"Fine," said Jack, a little impatiently. "Now would you mind telling me what this is about? And who you guys are?"

"Moi?" said Rayne, "I'm not in charge, but I'm sure our gallant leader will explain things."

"That would be me," said Finn. "Okay, officially we're a counter-terrorism unit loosely attached to Homeland Security. Dig deeper and we're covered as an NSA covert counter-terrorism black ops unit covered as a Homeland Security counter-terrorism unit."

"Your cover is NSA?"

"That's right. It saves a lot of awkward questions. Everyone knows that the NSA doesn't answer them."

"And you can prove any of this?"

Finn pulled out a leather wallet and showed him a Homeland Security ID card. There was no indication of rank.

"And the rest of it?"

"Isn't available at your security clearance."

"So what are you really? NID?"

"No. Some ex-SEALs, a proportion of people like me that came into SpecOps straight from college, and a couple of civilian consultants like Ethan here. We've managed to keep NID out of our operation."


He smiled. "We have a second unit with the same cover that really does does very boring Homeland Security intelligence evaluations. Once they're in we load them with work and make it really hard to quit."

"And what exactly do you really do?"

"About the same thing you do, I think. We're trying to prevent the destruction of the human race."

"Us? Save the human race?"

"Remember a guy called Seth Fargough, ran a doomsday cult?"


"We were getting ready to take him out when you did it for us. After that we started to ask a few questions, ended up with a lot more."

"Which you know we can't answer," said Jack.

"That's okay. The word is you're fighting a bunch of false gods, guys running weird religious cults and faking supernatural powers. That's one of the signs of a Foothold, whatever that means. That about right?"

"Something like that," Jack said cautiously.

"Then we're in more or less in the same business. The big difference is that we work with the real thing."

"The real... what?"

"Gods and supernatural powers. Ever hear of Jasmine?"

"Some sort of charismatic religious figure?" asked Sam. Finn nodded, and Sam added "She seemed to be in the news every day a year or so ago, then she just vanished."

"We got lucky that time," said Finn. "Take a look at this. The local TV station had a crew at her last press conference, they didn't air the tape but we managed to get hold of it." He produced a portable DVD player and pressed 'play'. It showed a beautiful black woman, Jasmine, speaking at a press conference. A reporter asked: "What can we do to show our love for you?" Jasmine replied "You don't have to do anything except love one another. Although, a temple would be nice. Something massive and awe-inspiring - yet warm and nurturing!" There was an odd noise, and the camera swung round to show a dark-haired man stagger out of a bubble of blue lightning, clutching a monstrous-looking head. Jasmine screamed "Kill him! All of you, kill him now!", and the crowd surged toward him. He held the head out threateningly, then said "I'm sorry" and cut threads that were holding its lips closed. Impossibly the head seemed to say something, a sibillant hiss, and the crowd started to scream. The camera swung back towards Jasmine, showing that the beautiful woman was replaced by a rotting corpse, crawling with maggots. She seemed to glow, her face and skin shifting back to a slightly more normal appearance, crying "No! Please. Pay no attention. It's a lie. See? I—I'm not— Wait! Please! Don't leave me!"

Riley pressed 'stop'. "That was Jasmine."

"What the hell was that?" asked Jack.

"A god. A real one. We think she must have killed three or four hundred people before that happened, but since there was nothing left of them there's no way to be sure. We were still trying to think of a way to take her out without falling under her power when that happened."

"What exactly did happen?" asked Daniel.

"We weren't exactly in a position to ask questions. We think that the head spoke her true name and broke the spell that made everyone love her."

"Spell?" asked Sam.

"Here we go," said Rayne, in bored tones. "This is the part I hate. Magic is real, spells work, there are gods and demons and monsters, no we haven't been smoking anything... well, not recently anyway, worse luck... and no, we're not joking, and no, it doesn't obey scientific laws."

"And we should believe this because...?" asked Jack.

"Show them," said Riley.

"Bollocks," said Rayne.

"Show them or we re-think your parole. Please."

"Threats, is it? All right, since you ask so nicely. This'll take a minute or two, do talk amongst yourselves." Rayne picked up one of the hard-boiled eggs, cut it in two and showed them the two halves, then put them back together on a paper plate and carefully emptied a plastic film can full of grey powder around it, forming a complex braided pattern. He began to mutter something in Latin, Daniel thought he recognised an invocation to the gods, then touched a match to the powder. Fire rapidly spread around the plate then vanished, leaving the pattern as a tracery of blue light around the egg. Impossibly the egg seemed to be whole again and covered with shell. There was a tapping noise and it began to rock, cracks appearing at one end, and the head of a chick emerged.

"That's..." began Jack then stopped, lost for words. The chick continued to break out. There seemed to be something odd about it, eyes filmed with grey and a putrescent smell, the smell of rotten eggs. Rayne picked up a knife and cut the lines, which vanished. The chick fell over, decomposing, and slowly crumpled to dust.

"You can't bring something back to life that easily, especially when it's been cooked," said Rayne, "but it takes a while for the universe to notice. Someone get rid of this, the smell's putting me off my food." He was sweating and pale. Miller picked up the plate and dumped it in a trash can.

"So you're a.. a wizard?" said Daniel.

"No, that was all done with mirrors, you twit. Of course I'm a bloody wizard!"

"What was that about parole?" asked Jack.

"So I like a little fun. Not that many people got hurt..."

"Ethan likes chaos," said Riley, "but he likes prison a lot less. That's where he's going if he tries any of his little games again and we know how to make sure he stays there."

"Okay," said Jack. "Magic. Takes a little getting used to." Sam seemed to be in a state of shock. Jack shook his head and said "So what's this got to do with Sunnydale, and those dead guys in chain mail?"

"I'm getting to that," said Finn, "but you need to know some of the background first. First thing is that magic exists. Second, there are various supernatural creatures, most of them pretty nasty, including demons, vampires, werewolves, and so forth. With me so far?"

"I hear what you're saying. I'm not sure I believe it."

"Good enough. We're in the business of taking out the dangerous ones, the ones that want to eat people or destroy the human race."

"Aren't all demons dangerous?" asked Daniel.

"No, there's plenty that just want to live like anyone else. Quite a few of them pass for human, others live where they don't have much contact with people. Our policy is to leave them alone unless they're hostile, we learned that the hard way. Now, you might be wondering where all this stuff comes from, and the best explanation I have is that some of it seeps in from alternate worlds with different physical laws, the rest is part of this world but a part that most people seem to be incapable of seeing. I've seen someone knocked over by a demon and get back up swearing that it was a mugger. The tape we copied to make that DVD was abandoned by the camera crew, afterwards they all swore something had gone wrong with the camera."

"Sunnydale?" Jack asked again.

"Sunnydale was a Hellmouth, a place where the demons find it unusually easy to get into our world. Towards the end of 2000 someone called Glory, AKA Glorificus, arrived in Sunnydale with some demon minions and started sucking the sanity out of people. Left them disturbed, trapped inside their own heads."

"Was Tara Maclay one of them?" asked Sam, remembering the pills found in the Winnebago.

"Yes," said Finn, looking a little surprised.

"Why Sunnydale?" asked Jack.

"She was looking for something she called the Key."

"The Key?" asked Jack. "What kind of key?" He wondered if they knew about the Knights.

"I've heard it described as a ball of green energy, but that's about all any of us know. It could be used to rip a hole in our universe and all the other parallel worlds, let her get out of our world and back to wherever she came from."

"And that would be bad because..?"

"Because the holes would stay there and spread like a cancer," said Rayne, "mixing them until nowhere was safe. I'm an anarchist at heart, but even I rather like living in a world where I can be reasonably sure that gravity works and it won't rain acid or frogs."

"So Glory wanted to destroy the universe, and needed the Key to do it. Who had it?"

"Some people in Sunnydale," said Finn. "You already know about Willow Rosenberg. I'm not going to name anyone else involved, because most of them are my friends." Rayne snorted, seemed to be about to say something, then noticed Graham's glare and closed his mouth.

"Okay," said Jack, wondering where Finn was going with this.

"To cut a long story short, this ended up as a three way fight between Glory, my friends, and the guys in armour, who belonged to a group called the Knights of Byzantium. They were killed by Glory. All of them, in about thirty seconds. Then she somehow got hold of the key and took it back to Sunnydale and cast the spell. My friends caught up with her there, killed her, broke the spell, and closed the hole again."

"That's an interesting story," said Jack, "got proof for any of it?"

"We had a few cameras planted around Sunnydale, I could show you Glory in action. I'm not going to because it would show my friends too."

"Your loyalty is touching," said Jack, "but if that's the case why are you even talking to us?"

"It's very simple," said Miller. "This investigation you're running is taking you on a collision course with Willow Rosenberg."


"Remember the Titanic?" asked Finn.

"The Titanic?"

"Willow Rosenberg and a few friends killed a god. Since then she's got a lot more powerful. You saw what Ethan just did?"


"This is what Willow can do." He pressed play on the DVD and showed them a silent clip of a dark-haired woman with dark veins on her face, floating in mid-air, bricks flying from the wall she was facing. "This was a few hours after Tara Maclay was killed. Two of Warren Mears' accomplices were in the cells in that building. We think that they managed to get away, but we still have no idea what happened to Mears. My guess is that we never will."

"What the hell was that?" asked Sam. "Wasn't she a redhead?"

"Dark magic," said Rayne, "as black as it gets. I hear she's pretty much over it now, but I really wouldn't want to be the one that got her annoyed."

"So what happened to the key?" asked Daniel.

"No idea," said Finn, "but we're pretty sure it's in good hands."

"And Sunnydale?" asked Jack.

"The best intel we have on that is that Willow closed the Hellmouth permanently."

"By destroying the town?"

"I think it falls under the heading of unintended side-effects."

"You said you kill gods." Daniel said slowly. "Is she a god?"

"That's an interesting question," said Finn. "Right now she's probably the most powerful wicca in the world. Give her a few more years and she might just qualify. Fortunately she's pretty much on our side."

"And you think she has this key?" asked Jack.

"Forget the key. As far as we know it was a one-shot deal, couldn't be used again."

"So why are you so worried?" asked Sam.


"You've told us a lot, and the only thing I'm getting out of it is that you don't want us near Rosenberg. Why?"

"Because what we want isn't really relevant. Willow wants to talk to you, and I want to be damned sure that you don't piss her off when you meet her."


Comments, please, before I post this to archives tomorrow.

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