(Disclaimer: I do not own Spiderman. I do own my very awesome home-made Spiderman jeans. I do not own Doc Ock, though I'd like to. That doesn't matter because he's probably not going to be in this fic. I just like to mention him.
I do not own Stargate SG1, or Daniel Jackson, as much as I'd like to. I do own my SG1 boonie.
I do not own X-Men, either, though I would like to meet them. I do own my Kurt action figure. Well, actually, I don't. My sister does. Oh well.)
Spider In The Gate
Chapter 3: Mutation
Peter flashed his press pass at the gun-chewing receptionist at the front desk and ran up the short flight of steps to the elevator. He'd been checking on the girl again when his pager had gone off, buzzing silently against his hip and calling him away. But he'd seen that man in green fatigues talking to her kindly, and he was beginning to feel that she would be okay. There was something about him that seemed odd, off somehow, but not wrong. This Daniel Jackson was no danger, and he could help.
The page had been Jordan, urgently wondering where he was. And when Jordan barked, you jumped. Peter was impatiently pushing the elevator button when it opened, and there was Daniel Jackson, stepping off, totally absorbed in the notes he was taking on a small recorder. "... is confident in her language, indicating exposure since birth, yet her accent is subtly different than samples I have heard previously. Possible theories include human vocal production and linguistic contamination." The doors shut and Peter pressed the button for the twelfth floor. Jordan was waiting for him, pacing the waiting area at the end of the hall.
"Where were you?" she hissed, eying the guard. "I wanted a picture of this army guy who was here to go with my story. How's 'G.I. Jane Doe' for a headline, eh? They had a man up here from the Air Force or something, and he was talking to that girl in some language no one's ever heard of."
"I'm sorry, Jack," Peter said contritely. "I had to meet with the parents of one of my students."
Jordan snorted. "One of these days, Parker, you're going to have to choose which job comes first." She smiled, tousling his hair. "Have I ever told you how much you remind me of my son?"
"Only twice this week," he answered, trying to smooth down his hair again. Good thing none of his students could see him now. "You've been slacking off."
"Don't tell anyone," she laughed. It was well-ingrained, this pattern of ribbing and affection.
"No worries. I've got papers to grade tonight, Jack," he said. "So, can we call it quits for the day?"
"Yeah," said Jordan reluctantly, capping her pen and tucking it into the brim of her hat. "I heard this Dr. Jackson say that he would be back tomorrow. You don't teach on Wednesdays, right?"
"Right, but I have a field trip in the morning."
"Great. Meet me here around two in the afternoon. I know there's a story here, Parker. I just know it."
"Right. I'll see you then, Jack." He took the stairs down, two at a time to the lobby, and within five minutes, Spider-Man was swinging rapidly downtown, reveling in a mood better than he had known in weeks. He headed back for his Manhattan apartment, entering through the window. Pulling of his mask, he kissed M.J. on the cheek, and offered to make dinner.
"Mm, what's the occasion, Tiger?" she asked, kissing him back. He spun her around and slid into the kitchen, delving into the cupboard for pasta and bullion.
"My girl's going to be all right," he called back to her triumphantly, fishing a clove of fresh garlic out of the cupboard and grating it into a skillet, putting it with oil on the stove to heat.
"The girl from the kidnapping?" she asked, coming to lean on the doorframe and watch him.
"Yeah." He put the angel-hair pasta into a big pot of water on a back-burner and sliced up a chicken breast into fine strips. "The hospital found someone who can speak her language. Some guy from the Air Force named Jackson. Dr. Jackson. He met Spider-Man a couple of times today: Nice guy. A little twitchy, but nice." He put the chicken in the skillet, stirring it into the sizzling garlic oil.
"The Air Force?" M.J. asked. "What does the Air Force have to do with any of this?"
Peter shrugged and shot out a web-line to grab a bottle of rosemary from the other side of the kitchen. "That's what Jack wants to know. She overheard them talking, Jackson and the doctor. He's coming back tomorrow afternoon to take her to his base hospital, wherever that is."
"Are you going to be there when they discharge her?" she asked, pulling up a stool to the counter and perching on it.
"Jack wants me too," he conceded, stirring the browning meat. "She wants some pictures to go with her article. I just don't think that there's really much news here. Not unless the girl's a misplaced spy or some sort of secret weapon, which I really doubt. At most, I think she's maybe a mutant of some sort." The pasta boiled over and he jumped to turn down the heat. "I would at least like to find out her name, though."
"So go," chided Mary Jane. "But remember, you're taking your students to the museum tomorrow morning. Myers called today..."
"Argh!" Peter winced as if struck, grimacing. "That man exists solely to be a fly in my ointment. Did you have to mention him while I was in a good mood?"
"I'm sorry, Tiger, but you're really on his black list. Today was the third time this semester that you've missed your classes."
"It's not like there's anything I could do about it," he said, shrugging. "I'm not going to miss tomorrow, not even if Doc Ock and Gobby both show up doing ballet on Ground Zero." He pulled the chicken off the burner and added the crushed rosemary. "My historical science class has been building up to this trip for a month."
"Don't jinx it," M.J. warned, stealing a noodle while Peter drained the pasta through a web sieve over the sink. "Mm, this is good. You should cook more often, Pete."
This is what he hated. Daniel stared at the ceiling for a long time, trying to decide whether to remember or forget the dream that had woken him. Then reality came in, like the early morning sunlight through the curtains: he couldn't forget. He never forgot anything, unless he was under outside influence. Disentangling his fists from the hotel sheets, he ground the heels of his hands into his eyes and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. A head-ache was throbbing dully above his eyes and his mouth tasted like yesterday's rice pilaf gone horribly wrong.
He lingered in bed as long as he could stand, then got up, got dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, and wandered into the bathroom to brush listlessly at his teeth. The light was too bright in the room, aggravating his head-ache, so he dug the most improbable comic book that he had out of his duffle bag and brought it down to the main lobby. Within ten minutes, he had set the comic aside and sat, watching the light increase in the city outside.
Coming back to New York was a mistake. This was the city where everything happened. Seventy percent of all mutations in this country happened in this one state. People who had never shown any sign of abnormality came here and grew wings or scales. Mutants in the same situation experienced secondary or even tertiary mutations. There was something about New York, and he shouldn't have come. Bad things, strange things happened here.
When morning travelers began to crowd the lobby, Daniel rolled up his comic book carefully, stuffed it into his back pocket and headed out. Almost unthinkingly, he hailed a taxi. "The New York Museum of Art," he directed the driver absently. He couldn't come here and not visit the museum, even though it was the last thing he wanted to do. Sitting back, he leaned his head back and shut his eyes, trying to ignore the incipient migraine. Bracing himself against the erratic driving of the cab, he tried to decipher the presence of Asa here in New York. Starting with the assumption that she was one of Loki's clones, he still had a host of questions. Why was she in New York? Why did she still exist? What went wrong with her 'construction'? Why did Loki have sustained contact with her and Mia Thompson? Where had Mia gone? And who had kidnapped her, and why? This last might be the easiest to answer. Asa herself had identified them, as had a witness at the kidnapping. The NID. Daniel knew that sects of the rogue operation were still at large, still dedicated to their unethical cause. They would certainly have been interested in her, but her kidnapping had been so public. Not exactly typical NID mission operation.
"Oy, we're 'ere," grunted the cab driver. Daniel jerked, startled. "Eight-fi'ty," he elaborated, looking at Daniel through the rear-view mirror. Daniel got out and handed him his cash, then looked up. The museum stood tall and imposing against the graying sky. Long posters hung to either side of the entrance, each displaying a cartouche in poorly translated Egyptian. Stuffing his hands deep in his pockets, Daniel got in line behind a class of high school kids waiting for entrance. Their teacher, a harried-looking young man in a cheap suit, was trying to do a head count, but the students were milling around excitedly in pairs and cliques, making accuracy difficult. Daniel watched with mild interest as the teacher shut his eyes, counted silently, then opened them and shouted, in a humorous voice, "All right, everyone. Anyone who's not here, raise your hand!" The class laughed, but they stayed still long enough for a count. With that, the class filed into the museum. Slowly, Daniel followed.
Inside, Daniel had only time to pay his admission before a familiar face accosted him.
"Danny!" said Professor Camen, one of the museum's oldest curators. "It is you, Danny?"
Daniel groaned inwardly. He hadn't thought that the old man would still be here, let alone recognize and remember a boy he hadn't seen for almost two decades. "Hello, Professor Camen. It's been a long time. I go by Daniel now." He turned a weary smile to the old man.
"Nonsense, nonsense. You'll always be little Danny Jackson to me," assured the white-haired man bluffly. "Why, I remember when you were smaller than a canopic jar. Always covered in dust, rooting through the storage rooms looking for anything Egyptian. You were born there, weren't you?" He smiled, patting Daniel's shoulder avuncularly. "Only child I've ever met who's first languages were Egyptian and archeaologian."
"That was a long time ago, Professor Camen," demurred Daniel, embarrassed.
"Too long," agreed the curator. "I haven't seen you since the, since the accident. Oh, I am sorry, Danny. I didn't mean to bring up unfortunate memories."
"No, it's all right, Professor." Daniel smiled lopsidedly. "I've been busy, or I probably would have come back sooner."
"Ah. Busy," said the old man, his eyebrows climbing. "Yes, the mysterious career of Dr. Daniel Jackson. What is it you are doing with yourself these days? You haven't published in years, and no one's seen you since your lecture in San Francisco on the origins of the pyramids. Rumours are, you were working for the military, or possibly dead." The statement wasn't a question, but Camen was clearly waiting for an answer. Daniel stuck his hands in his pockets again and scuffed his foot.
"I can't talk about what I do now."
"Ah," said Camen opaquely. After an uncomfortable silence and some even less comfortable small talk, Daniel won his way free of the old acquaintance and began to wander aimlessly around the museum. This had been his second home for years, from the time he was six, when his parents decided that a home school in a dusty dig in Giza wasn't the best environment for an obviously gifted child and took positions here and at the nearby university, right up until the accident. This was his first visit back since that day.
He meandered through the exhibits, noting what had changed and what had not in the intervening nineteen years. Eventually, he fell in behind the class he'd seen earlier while their teacher explained ancient Babylon's understanding of physics and human physiognomy. The teacher was progressive and well-spoken, as well as obviously intrigued by his subject matter, and Daniel found himself listening as he followed them from one exhibit to another. It even distracted him from his head-ache, which had evolved over the morning from irritating to nearly unbearable.
He got so involved in the man's lecture that he didn't even notice as he followed the class into the Egyptology room.
"In Egypt," the teacher was saying, "by the time of the pyramid builders, mathematicians had refined the concept of pi to three and one eighth, which is amazingly close considering the tools of the day. No more-accurate estimates would be made until the Renaissance, which I'll get to later.
"In biology, the Egyptians were also relatively advanced. Who can tell me why? Melissa?"
A young black girl near the front of the group put her hand down. 'Mummification, Mr. Parker?"
"Exactly. They dissected dead human bodies, with a great deal of surgical precision. There is also evidence from the era that they knew about issues like infection and sterility, all the things that are at the roots of modern medicine.
"Now, as for astronomy." The teacher turned and indicated a large exhibit behind him. Daniel stopped hearing him, hearing anything. How dare they keep that? Three standing slabs of yellow sandstone supported a fourth, heavier slab, all thickly decorated with inscribed hieroglyphs. The top slab was cracked through, held together by a framework of metal bars bolted to the top. The last time Daniel had seen this exhibit, aside from the Gamekeeper's twisted revision, was the morning his parents died. His head-ache pulsed fiercely, driving him to his knees. Around him, the world dissolved into a cacophony of voices and a rumble of ancient stone.
"What's wrong, man?"
"Lower it just a little more on this side."
"Just a little more this way."
"Hey, where'd they come from?"
"Where'd Mr. Parker go? He was just here!"
20 Minutes Earlier...
With relief, Peter ushered his second period class into the museum. They were an unruly lot on the best of days, all bright kids, but heady with it and more than willing to test the limits of the new teacher. Field trips were an opportunity that no one would pass up.
Distracted as he was, he hadn't missed the familiar face on the front steps. He had been able to stifle any hint of recognition at Daniel Jackson's appearance, but only barely. He knew that Jackson hasn't seen him yesterday at the hospital, though Jordan had filled him in on the man over the phone that night, after she'd done some research. Apparently, this Jackson guy was a name among language circles. Young, gifted, speaks at least thirty-seen languages. And his name had shown up in the Bugle before as well. Seven years ago, he had disappeared after a conference in San Francisco after being approached by a known affiliate of the Air Force. One year later, he's back. No explanation. Another year passes and he's reported dead, for a single week. Then he's back, again with no exclamation. The pattern had continued like that ever since, but very few details were available, which made Peter slightly anxious. This mystery man would be taking his girl away to who knows where.
He caught himself staring at the linguist as he was approached by a genial old curator. Shaking his head, Peter recalled his scattering class and began his itinerary, leading them from one exhibit to another, expostulating on the scientific sophistication of various ancient peoples. When he was up to early Babylon, he noticed Jackson again, wandering casually around the exhibits and apparently listening intently to his lecture. He trailed behind the class as Peter led them from room to room, paying as close attention as the best of Peter's students. Occasionally, an absent sort of amusement crossed his face, as if at some private joke.
When Peter reached the Egyptology room, his spider-sense tingled, but once again, there was nothing there. Staying alert, he launched into the next part of his tour. At the edge of his vision, Jackson watched him patiently. But when he reached the topic of astrology, his spider-sense screamed just as Jackson froze, his face paling instantly to dead-white. He fell to his knees, his face contorted in anguish and then the students noticed him.
"What's wrong, man?" asked Jacob, a sophomore, kneeling to check on the prostrate man. He jumped back when Daniel went into a spasm, falling onto his side and convulsing. "He's freaking!"
He spun around then when Melissa, his honors bio project, pointed behind him. "Hey, where'd they come from? They just appeared, Mr. Parker!"
Up on the dais of the exhibit behind him, a man and a woman had appeared, apparently directing the assembly of the exhibit. He could hardly hear them over his spider-sense, but it looked like they were directing the placement of the large cover-stone. Sensing impending disaster, Peter ducked behind a large menhir and shucked his street clothes, changing into Spider-Man with lightning speed. He traded floor for ceiling just as the students began to scream.
"It's falling!" one kid shouted as the giant stone teetered above the man and woman. Spider-Man tried to web them out of the way, but he was too late. The slab crashed down, sending a cloud of dust and chips in all directions. Still on the floor, Jackson screamed hopelessly and stared disbelievingly at the wreckage.
Hoping against hope, Spider-Man leapt down to pull the rubble off of the hapless couple, but his hands went right through the broken stone, encountering invisibly intact walls instead. Behind him, Jackson groaned faintly, and the rubble and the corpses under it faded away, leaving the exhibit exactly as it had been when they arrived, standing solid and venerable under its soft spot-light.
"What... what happened?" Spider-Man asked, echoing the sentiments of everyone else in the room. "It wasn't... real?" He jumped off the dais and knelt next to Jackson, who was staring at the stone slabs with a lost anguish. "Are you okay? What was that?"
Jackson twitched all over, once, and shook his head as if to clear it. He looked up at Spider-Man with blue, watering eyes. "I think that was me," he said tensely, sitting up and touching his temple gingerly. He looked around at the crowding students. "Was anyone hurt?"
"No," Spider-Man assured him, helping him to his feet. "It was just an illusion, I think. Are you okay?"
"I'm, yes, I think I am. Did... did everyone see that?"
"Yeah!" volunteered Jacob enthusiastically. "You a mutie, man? Who were those two people?"
Blatantly ignoring the first question, Jackson blinked and answered the second in a hollow voice. "My parents. They were my parents. I've got to go." Pushing his way through the class, Jackson stumbled away through the labyrinthine exhibits. Spider-Man watched him go before disappearing into the shadows.
Daniel stumbled blindly away from the Egyptology room, his head oddly light and heavy all at once. Your parents, said the young voice in the back of his mind, appalled. Daniel missed a step and grabbed a wall for support, sliding down to rest his forehead against the cool marble. What was happening to him? His mind threw out incoherent theories and denials. He was a mutant. Impossible. Someone else nearby was a mutant, a mind reader. Why would anyone else do this to you? He was going mad. It wouldn't be the first time. Another of Machello's devices? A dream? Was he a mutant? The younger voice offered a sympathetic silence and for the first time, Daniel became aware of the other presence in his mind, a cool, quiet consciousness. "Who are you?" he asked aloud, trying not to panic. What if it was a Goa'uld? How long had it been in his head? What if- I am not a threat. You have known me for a very long time.
"I, what?" Daniel stopped, suffering a flash of insight. It took his breath away to remember all the arguments that he had had with himself in his life, that other cool, logical voice that had always been his inner skeptic. "You?" Yes. "Why?"
"Hey!" intruded an outside voice, loud and belligerent. "Hey, mutie! What are you doing here!"
Daniel looked up to see a security guard with a crew-cut and a gun looming over him, scowling hatefully. "Me?" Apparently.
"Yeah, you, ya freak. What was all that about? You getchyer kicks off seeing people snuff it?"
"What?" Daniel gaped incredulously. "No! Those people were my parents!"
"Whatever. Who are you?" demanded the guard. "You one of those X-creeps?"
'What? No!" Daniel said again. "I'm not anybody. Look, no one got hurt, why won't you just leave me alone?"
The guard smiled nastily, clearly possessed of delusions of righteousness. "'Cause you're a mutant, moron. And I'm your worst nightmare."
The younger voice burst out laughing, so forcefully that Daniel couldn't resist chuckling himself. Your worst nightmare? We should show him your worst nightmare.
"What're you laughing at?" demanded the guard, aiming his gun at Daniel. "Answer me, freak!"
"No," Daniel muttered, but not to the guard. Yes. "No!" He clutched at his pounding head. The younger voice hissed within. I won't We will.
The guard shrieked and fell to his knees, scrabbling futilely at the snake-like creature suddenly biting into the back of his neck. "Get it off! Get it off!" he howled desperately. Daniel froze, seeing his own worst fear projected onto this man as the Goa'uld took him, feeling for himself the pain as the parasite brutalized its way into his spinal cord, insinuating itself into his very thoughts. "No!" he and the guard cried simultaneously, and then it was gone. Worst nightmare indeed.
As a crowd of people rushed up, drawn by the screams, Daniel knelt by the guard. "Are you okay?" he began to ask, only to be forced back against the wall by a gun in his face.
"What the hell was that, freak?!" screamed the guard, scrambling back, still aiming the gun with a shaking hand. "What did you do to me?!"
"I'm sorry... It was an accident!" It was not.
"You know, chief, harassment's against the law," came a clear voice, and the teacher from earlier, Mr. Parker, pushed to the front of the throng. "Nothing was damaged, no one was hurt. This is a public place. This guy has a right to be here, no matter what his genetic make-up is."
"Who asked you? You some sort of mutant-lover? Muties ain't got rights," scowled the guard, lunging to his feet to tower over the relatively small teacher.
"According to the American Constitution, yes, they do. They have exactly the same rights that you do. And you can be charged with attempted assault for threatening him like this. Also," he added quietly. "I am not aware that security in this museum is licensed to be lethally armed." He held out a cell phone, his thumb on the call button. "Do we need to involve the police?"
Two more guards arrived during the tense moment that followed, and Daniel was slightly startled to see the small teacher edge unobtrusively between him and them, as if he intended to defend him physically, which would have been funny in a less un-funny situation. Daniel himself probably had a good fifty pounds of muscle mass on the slight Mr. Parker, and the guards were even larger.
But one of the newly arrived guards, the one with an extra chevron on his sleeve, out his hand on the first one's shoulder. "Come on, Bryson. I need to have a word with you." His voice held a quiet, no-nonsense command. Bryson glared at Daniel and Parker for a moment longer, then allowed himself to be led away and relinquished the weapon. Watching them go, Parker shrugged and turned to Daniel, offering him a hand up.
"Than you," Daniel said, taking it and standing up. "I'm sorry for... all of this. I'm just going to leave."
"Don't let him get to you," said Parker quietly with a supportive half-smile. "Jerks like that aren't worth listening to." You should listen to him. "You seemed pretty interested in my lecture. Why don't you stick around and hear the rest of it?"
"Thanks, but I'm quite obviously not welcome here." Daniel looked around at the gathered crowd, where expressions ran the gamut from helpful to hostile. Oh, stay. "No!" Daniel whispered fiercely to the younger voice. Without another word, he turned and ran from the museum.
Back at the hotel, Daniel locked his door, shut the blinds, reached for the phone and froze. His fingers were inches from the receiver, but he couldn't bridge that last space. He'd been planning to call Jack, but something was stopping him. Not me. What would he tell him? "Hey Jack," he murmured to the silent room, sarcastically rehearsing the call. "Um, I've been having a great time here in New York. Oh, and I found out that I'm a mutant, I have this awful, sarcastic, voice living in my head (actually it sounds a lot like you), and I think I might have single-handedly declassified the existence of the Goa'uld today, but no one will believe me. Oh, and I saw my parents die. Again. So, did you catch any fish?" Don't forget that he doesn't believe that mutants exist. Well, Jack didn't believe in ghosts either, and Daniel's been that too. He rolled his eyes, falling back onto the bed with a sigh. "Yeah. That will keep my life from being ruined." Taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose, he reached out anyway and picked up his cell phone, hitting the second number on the speed dial. Jack picked up on the second ring with a busy-sounding "General O'Neill here."
"Jack, it's me. Sorry I didn't call last night. I'm definitely going to need to bring the girl back to the mountain. The girl Captain Reels told me about. Did you get the notes I left you?" Automatically, he lowered his voice. "She's speaking Asgard, Jack. And she's a clone. Yeah. Of someone named 'Mia Thompson.' Her name is Asa, by the way. There's something very unusual about all of this.
"What? Yes, I do think that Loki's involved, but she says she's been left her for about five years, with this Mia person taking care of her. We need to find her too, and soon.
"No, Asa doesn't know where she is. She left her in a dumpster sometime the day before yesterday, saying that she was going to get help. When she didn't come back, Spi-, er, someone found her and brought her to the ER." Daniel found himself with the typical reluctance to name a superhero in serious conversation. "She did spend an extended period of time with an Asgard, probably Loki. She only knows him as 'Father.' Well, as Postos, which is Asgard for father. They're both security risks, especially Mia, since she also speaks English. But I have no way of finding her." Daniel took a deep breath while listening to his friend's reply. "No, I don't know what the NID found. I didn't get a chance to ask her. Yes, it was them. Asa knew the name of the organization. She said that Mia got her out. Yes. I'll see you tonight."
He hung up, letting his hand linger on the phone for a while. You didn't tell him. The younger voice did not sound surprised. Daniel rolled his eyes and went into the bathroom to wash his face. He felt gritty, contaminated somehow. "No," he said at last while he dried his hands on the white towel. "Happy?"
Now the voice sounded surprised. I don't know. Are we?
"No," Daniel said sharply. "No, we are not happy. No, I am not happy. I'm a..." He couldn't say it. The voice could. A mutant. Helplessly, he nodded. He sat in silence for a long time, until at last his archaeologist's curiosity got the better of him. "So," he asked again, calmly. "Who are you?" I don't know if there's an answer to that. Dr. Mackenzie would name me schizophrenia, or possibly a severe disassociate syndrome. I am neither. I am a small, undetectable anomaly in your hippocampus, caused by the presence of the X-gene in your genetic make-up. Technically speaking, I am your primary mutation.
"What did you, did we do at the museum?"
Let me ask you a question, Daniel. How far back can you remember?
Automatically, Daniel started to say since he was two, maybe three, but the voice's invisible presence made him actually try. Sitting on his bed in the empty hotel room, he closed his eyes and probed his mind. "I think," he said slowly, feeling a vague echo of pressure and a burst of light. "I think I remember being born." The voice said nothing, skeptically. Daniel tried harder.
Suddenly, he found himself a helpless observer as the world spun backwards. The city he was in faded in a breath's time and he found himself seeing a greater picture. Cities, nations fell and rose. He saw the ancient Egyptians bury Ra's gate, he witnessed the Asgard visiting the neophyte human race, and then it stopped. He sat on his bed in his empty hotel room, blinking as his eyes readjusted to the dim light. "I, I..." he stuttered. "I can't be remembering that."
You can. Because of me, you remember everything you've every learned as if you were there. And you can learn anything, even if it's hidden. And now, you can bring other with you into those memories. You stand witness, Daniel. And if I could truly feel sympathy, you would have it.