As usual I'd be grateful for comments, if nobody spots anything too horrible I'll be posting to archives tomorrow night. This is another of those "characters find out about each other" chapters without much in the way of action, and maybe a little too long, so I'd appreciate comments on that.
Note: This chapter contains spoilers for Angel Season 5 and Stargate episode 100.
Sam looked up from her computer, waited for Jack to finish his phone call, and said "I've found Rosenberg's patent, Sir. Not exactly what we expected."
"Not a death ray?" asked Jack
"Hardly. It's an automatic tuning device for electric guitars, patented by Rosenberg and someone called D. Osbourne in 1999. Must have been when she was in high school. Used by Gibson and three other companies in their high-end guitars."
"Anything unusual about it?" asked Daniel, from behind a stack of books about Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire.
"It's computer-controlled. Nothing too unusual, but if it does everything they say it does it must be very efficient code."
"How about you, Jack?" asked Daniel. "Getting anywhere with your contacts?"
"A few people seem to have heard of Finn, but nobody knows much about him. General agreement that he's NSA, nobody's sure what department or grade, probably counter-terrorism black ops, and there's an odd story about his wife being his superior officer."
"That is odd," said Sam, "but I guess that whoever he really works for must allow it."
"I got the feeling that they're making up the rules as they go along, like Miss Rosenberg and her friends," said Daniel. "They said that Rayne was some kind of criminal, I don't think he'd pass any normal security check."
"Did you learn anything of the young woman?" asked Teal'c, coming in from the gymnasium.
"Dana?" asked Daniel.
"Not so far," said Sam, "But I'm waiting to hear back from General Hammond. He's asking the FBI. Why are you so interested in her?"
"She appears to be our best source of information on the impending attack, it would be good to know more of her reliability. And anything that she can tell us of the defeat of the Goa'uld, of course."
"Dana escaped from an institution and tried to rip your heart out, I somehow doubt we're going to hear that she's a stable law-abiding citizen."
"What about the stuff Willow gave us?" asked Daniel. "Still no idea where it might be?"
"NSA... the real NSA... is trying to match it to a real location. It's all pretty vague, about all we can be sure of is that it's somewhere with a predominantly caucasian population and at least one shop with a Coke sign. That could be Europe, the USA, Canada, plenty of other places. They're going to fax over a list of questions that might give them more of a lead."
"What's our cover on this?" asked Jack.
"One of our pilots has a head injury and partial amnesia."
"That's a little thin, isn't it?"
"Do you really think the NSA don't know what we do?" asked Sam.
"They know," said Sam with total conviction. "Just think of all the foreign traffic there must have been about the Stargate over the last couple of years. They'd soon find out from that, if they haven't been briefed for any other reason."
"Someone in the Department of Agriculture is working on the horses. I don't think that's going to go anywhere, there are just too many moving legitimately."
The fax machine beeped then began to print a stack of pages. Jack picked up the first and read: "'What side of the cars are the steering wheels? Which side of the road do the cars drive on? What colour are the street signs...' That's pretty thorough, I guess, but it's going to take a couple of hours to ask all this."
"We'd better see if we can catch up with Rosenberg," said Sam. "See if she'll give us access to Dana and that other woman... um.. Kennedy."
"Didn't she say that they were going to take out some vampires last night?" asked Daniel, "they may still be busy with that."
"I'll call her."
"Are you sure this is the right place?" asked Jack, leading the way along a Silverlake apartment block corridor just after one.
"Certain, Sir," said Sam. "Why?"
"It looks so... well, so normal. Here we are, apartment 212." He rang the bell. There was a short pause, then they heard a muffled voice shout "I'll get it" and the door opened. Kennedy let them in. She wore casual clothes, jeans and trainers and a loose t-shirt.
"Willow's just getting dressed, she'll be a couple of minutes."
"Late night?" asked Jack.
"Late morning, we didn't get to bed until five or so. Can I get you something? Cold drink? Coffee? Tea?"
"Coffee would be good."
"Okay. Dennis, could you get some coffee please." There was no reply.
"Dennis?" asked Jack.
"He's our flatmate," said Willow, coming in from another room, "really helpful guy. Dennis, make mine a tea please." Again there was no reply. "Sit down, it'll just be a few minutes."
"I hate to have to ask," said Jack, sinking into a soft couch, "but can Dennis be trusted to keep quiet about anything he hears?"
"Don't worry," said Kennedy, "he'll be as quiet as the grave." Willow giggled, and Sam wondered what they were missing.
"Behave," said Willow. "Okay, you've got some questions for us?"
"For Dana mostly."
"Dana's exercising right now. She ought to be finished in about twenty minutes."
"Exercising?" asked Teal'c.
"We wanted to be sure that she wouldn't freak out and attack you again, so she's going through some relaxation katas. You must have made good time on the freeway, we thought she'd be done before you got here." There was an awkward silence, then Jack remembered something and reached into a bulging pocket, pulled out Mister Gordo, freshly washed, and offered him to Willow.
"Hey, Gordo," said Willow, "missed us much? Soon gonna be back with Buffy." She plopped him down in the centre of the table.
"This is a nice apartment," said Sam. "Renting it?"
"A friend of mine from Sunnydale used to live here," said Willow, "but she.. well, she died a few months back. When I checked a couple of weeks ago it was vacant again so I've got it on a three month lease, that ought to be time to clear up this mess."
"Why would it be vacant?" asked Daniel. "It's a nice apartment, and an excellent location."
"It's kinda haunted," Willow said casually, "and he drives off tenants he doesn't like."
"Haunted?" repeated Jack.
"Yeah." A tray floated in with cups and saucers, jugs of milk and cream, some slices of lemon, sugar, and a plate of cookies, landing on the coffee table. "Thanks, Dennis."
"What the hell?" said Jack. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Sam and Daniel looked as surprised as he felt, while Teal'c was as impassive as ever.
"Don't worry," said Kennedy, "he's a good guy." A sheet of newspaper floated in, and Jack felt his feet lifting from the floor as the newspaper went underneath them. "Maybe a bit too house-proud. Dennis," she said reprovingly, "his boots aren't even dirty!"
"I have read of ghosts," said Teal'c, "but I have never seen one before."
"You won't see one now," said Kennedy, "he's invisible and intangible except he can move things, not quite sure how he does it."
"I'm thinking of taking out a long-term lease," said Willow. "He seems to like us and it'd be a shame to leave him on his own again."
"I think he likes watching us," said Kennedy. "I'm pretty sure he's come into the bedroom a couple of times."
"And that doesn't bother you?" asked Sam.
"For a few months before Sunnydale was destroyed there were about twenty of us living in one house, think we got over worrying about privacy."
"I thought you lived in Rio," said Sam, "Why keep an apartment here?" An insulated coffee pot and a china tea pot floated in and landed on the table. Willow thanked Dennis and Kennedy began to pour.
"We're in LA often enough that it might just about work out cheaper than hotels," said Willow, "Besides, there are plenty of friends that can use it when we're not here."
"Won't Dennis scare them off?"
"Not our friends..." She sipped her tea.
"More Slayers?" asked Jack.
"That's right, and the people who work with them."
Dana came in wearing training clothes, said "I need to shower," and walked out through another door.
"Um," said Willow. "I guess that's a good start."
"Really?" asked Daniel.
"She didn't hit Teal'c," said Jack, "I guess we can call it an improvement."
"So tell me, Colonel," said Willow, "how does someone like you get assigned to work on a TV show?" The coffee Jack was swallowing went the wrong way.
"TV show?" Sam asked as innocently as she could.
Jack spluttered then said "I think I pissed my general off, so he gave me the worst job he could think of for a couple of weeks. How did you happen to hear about it?" He tried to keep the question casual.
"We like to know who we're dealing with, and the geek we asked to check you out remembered seeing your name in the credits for a couple of episodes. Tell me, what was Yolanda Reese like to work with?"
"Yolanda Reese?" asked Jack.
"Plays Stacy Monroe. The scientist. She's kinda hot." Kennedy looked slightly annoyed at that.
"Oh, right, her." Jack searched his memory, then said "She seemed pretty bright, from what I saw of her. Kept asking questions about the science of the show, made a lot more sense than the guy directing it."
"That wouldn't be hard," said Willow, "fifty-odd episodes, and they still haven't worked out that a wormhole would have to be one-way."
Jack shrugged and feigned casualness as he said "Far as I'm concerned they can go any way they like. It's their show. All I was there for was military advice."
"I'm sure that Major Carter could have set them straight," said Willow.
"You have an impressive resume, Major," said Willow.
"You've been checking us out, of course," Sam said calmly.
"Well yeah. Same as you've been checking us out. Nice try on Dana, but you won't find the records."
"Some evil lawyers pulled them, thought they could use her for their own purposes."
"Wolfram and Hart?" asked Jack. Anything to change the subject.
"You've heard of them?"
"We've heard of one of their clients. Warren Mears. When he vanished after the death of Miss Maclay they tried to get the warrants cancelled, we think he had them on retainer."
"Oh.. I wish I'd known that, I would have helped to bring them down."
"We were thinking you might have," said Sam.
"No... missed my chance to get involved in that one. It was some friends of ours, did a Sampson act, brought them down from within. Literally, as it turned out. They had us completely fooled, we thought they'd gone over to the dark side. It's too late to apologise now."
"When you say evil lawyers," said Daniel, "what's your definition of evil?"
"Owned by various demonic forces, actively working to bring about the apocalypse, that kinda thing."
"The whole company, or just the LA branch?"
"As far as we can tell it's all of the Wolfram and Hart group of companies, and most of their clients. They're big-time evil, branches in hundreds of dimensions. We're lucky that this isn't one of the ones where they run the government or the religions. Not yet anyway." For a moment she looked pessimistic.
"It's hard to believe," said Jack.
"Oh, they're not behind everything evil," said Willow.
"Just the really profitable parts," said Kennedy. "Corporate crime especially. They represent most of the tobacco companies, the big polluters, hospitals with dubious medical ethics, stuff like that. And organised crime, of course, but that's just small change to them."
"What do they gain from it?"
"Power, mostly. They had a couple of dozen senators, we're pretty sure that sooner or later they would have gone after the presidency. Hopefully what happened here might slow them down."
"That could explain Kinsey," said Jack.
"Don't think so," said Willow. "He's big industry, the whole military-industrial complex thing, but for some reason they don't seem to have tried for him yet. Campaign contributions but no other links, and believe me we've checked. My guess, he's doing the kinda thing they want anyway."
"That or he's already on their team," said Kennedy. "They wouldn't need links if he was... oh, I dunno, a demon or something."
"I'm sorry," Willow said apologetically, "this is an old argument, comes up every election, we shouldn't bore you with it."
"It's interesting," said Sam. "We've had our own problems with Kinsey, wouldn't have thought he was a demon though..."
"After Agnew anything's possible."
"Agnew?" Jack asked cautiously. "Spiro Agnew?"
"Grathnar demon. Not the worse by any means."
Dana returned as they were still digesting that, and stood watching Teal'c impassively.
"Dana," said Willow, "better sit down and grab some coffee before it's all gone." She patted the couch beside her.
Dana sat and poured a cup, still watching Teal'c, almost without blinking, and with her other hand picked up Mister Gordo and put him on her lap.
"Miss Dana," said Teal'c, "I know that you remember the actions of my ancestors and those they served. I and others like me have rebelled against the..."
"Enough lies, Jaffa," Dana said in ancient Egyptian. "Betray us and I will send your head to your demon masters."
"He's telling the truth," Daniel said in the same language. "The rebel Jaffa no longer serve the Goa'uld." Switching languages, he added "Perhaps we should continue in English. The others don't understand what we're saying."
"Oh," said Willow, "Dana kinda gave us the background. Except we thought those Gold.. sorry, Goa'uld... guys had been chased into another dimension until we took a look at your resumes."
"What do you think now?" Jack asked cautiously.
"That Wormhole X-Treme isn't just fiction. What happened, you had a security leak and decided to cover it by pretending it was a TV show?"
They stared at her.
"C'mon, guys, it isn't hard to figure out. Whatever those Goa'uld guys were, they were bad news. They made it into some of the demon guides and our oldest records. They killed a few Slayers, there's reason to believe that they wiped out a couple of demon races, ones that weren't good enough at covering their tracks. Then some kinda rebellion drove them out. Then nothing, but a few thousand years later you guys are still looking out for them. An archaeologist, an astrophysicist, special ops guy, and someone who matches the servitors mentioned in our records. My guess, reading between the lines, is that the Goa'uld are still out there somewhere on the other side of a wormhole."
"Um..." began Jack.
"It is pointless to lie," said Teal'c.
"Okay. Yeah. They still exist."
"They are false gods," said Teal'c, "and they enslave many worlds."
"Holy crap!" said Willow.
"Why are you so surprised?"
"C'mon, guys," said Kennedy, "did you think it was the only explanation we thought of? All sorts of other possibilitities. I was rooting for time travel."
"But you said..." began Daniel.
"I was bluffing," said Willow. "Thought you'd deny it and tell us a little more."
"Oh crap." said Jack. "Do you realise just how much trouble we're in?"
"Don't be silly," said Willow. "This is barely a five on the weirdometer, and we're not exactly advertising the stuff that scores eight or nine. Your secrets are pretty safe with us." Jack didn't look convinced.
"How high does the scale go?" asked Daniel.
"Spike always said eleven."
"Spike?" asked Sam, noticing Dana tense again.
"Long story, and we've got work to do. Dana, are you okay to answer some questions?"
Dana put down the cup, and began to stroke Mr. Gordo. "Yes."
"Okay," said Sam, pulling out the questions and a pen. "Our guys have tried to come up with some questions that'll help to pin down where the attack will happen. There's a lot of them, so please be patient."
"Patient?" said Dana, seeming to consider it. "Yes."
"Okay, the first page or so concerns things you mentioned as being around in your dream. Now the first thing is the cars. Can you remember what side of the road...."