Title: See For Yourself
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: Daniel becomes aware of suspiciously cult-like goings-on in California, and fears Goa'uld influence. Investigations ensue.
Spoilers: B:tVS mid-7.15 "Get it Done", Stargate SG-1 mid-season 8 and slightly AU
Prompt: Part 1 for SG-BtVS Ficathon Entry, for rivulet027: "Dawn/Daniel (more or less) and lots of Jack, with a kiss, a comic book reference, and a complaint." Part 2 for the August '09 ficathon.
Notes: There's one significant- and obvious- AU bit at the start of this story, a minor alternation from the SG-1 episode "Fragile Balance" (7.3). Timeline-wise, I pretended the Stargate series really did start a year after the 1994 movie instead of three years later. Also, I've added an extra 24 hours to "Get It Done", between the burial and the 'calling an emergency'.
"So what's this all about?" Jack asked, leaning back in his new office chair. It wasn't as comfortable as his old one- the one Hammond had appropriated and shipped off to Washington the last time he was on base, claiming to have missed it- but it did tilt backward to a satisfying degree without threatening to tip over.
The two who'd entered his office exchanged glances with each other. Daniel nodded his current team leader, then stepped forward, offering a thick file folder stuffed with papers of varying sizes and colors. From what Jack could see from the edge, it looked like a mixture of printed documents and yellow ruled notepaper, obviously the result of some heavy-duty research on the archaeologist's part. "Care to summarize?" he asked, as he took the folder from Daniel's hand.
"You remember when the Tok'ra came to us five years ago," Daniel replied, earnestly. He paused a moment, waiting for Jack's confirming nod, then continued. "As you know, they were here looking for a System Lord who had been missing for some time, concerned that he might have been in hiding here ever since the gate in Egypt was buried. It turned out they were right, though it took a lot of research to track Setesh down. While I was at it, I kept detailed notes on the various methods and patterns he'd used to keep himself concealed, with an eye toward uncovering other Goa'uld refugees in the future. It seemed unlikely that he'd be the only one to have tried it."
Jack digested that with a frown. "You wouldn't be reminding me about it unless you'd found one," he said. "As if we didn't have enough problems already. Who've we got this time?"
"We're actually not sure," Carter spoke up, frowning back. "None of the legends and historical information we've uncovered this time match up very well with any of the known Goa'uld System Lords and their histories, though that doesn't necessarily mean anything."
"Then what makes you so sure there's a Goa'uld involved?" Jack asked, intrigued despite himself. He leaned forward again and flipped the folder open on his desk, glancing down to leaf through a few of the sheets of paper, but no handy sketches or photographs were immediately forthcoming.
"Most, if not all, Goa'uld seem to have an inbuilt need to be worshiped," Daniel said, authoritatively. "That's what made it possible to track Seth. Wherever he went, and whatever he claimed to be at the time, a group of worshipers would coalesce around him. Most of them ended up dead, often in a mass suicide, but these groups still had enough effect on the communities around them that they ended up in the historical record. Now, there are a lot of cults out there; obviously, not every one of them is going to turn out to be headed by a Goa'uld. But I've recently uncovered some information on one group in particular, called the Order of Aurelius, that exhibits a similar pattern of behavior over the last few centuries- and which experienced a serious and ongoing upsurge in activity a little over six years ago."
Jack's eyebrows went up at that. Figure they'd killed Ra in 1994, got Daniel back a year later, fended off their first actual Goa'uld attack on the planet several months after that- which had been maybe six and a half years ago? How long did it take a rumor to filter through the galaxy, anyway? "Now that's suspicious timing," he commented.
"Exactly," Daniel said. "Now, from what the Tok'ra have told us a symbiote can maintain a single host for up to four hundred years, barring violent death, before they're forced to seek a new one. Most of the records concerning the Order of Aurelius are in the hands of a private organization and unavailable for request, but I've been corresponding with a scholar in Los Angeles who used to be part of that group and has access to a lot of information on various relevant myths and legends. According to him the so-called Master of the Order of Aurelius was a man called Joseph Heinrich Nest, who'd been around since at least the early 1600's, when his name first showed up in records from Colonial America. Over the years, several more notorious individuals have become associated with the Order- and none of them have ever seemed to visibly age, from the date they were first noticed until the last report of their presence."
"We think it's a whole group of them," Carter added, a worried expression on her face. "They've managed to keep their existence a secret from the general population, but any time one of them stayed in an area for very long, an unusual number of deaths were reported. According to Daniel's friend, there were also reports of unusual strength, glowing eyes, unnatural healing, and even hypnosis associated with the more infamous members of the Order."
Jack winced. "This just gets better and better," he said, disgustedly. "A whole network of them, with possible off-world support? We have enough trouble just taking these guys down one at a time."
Daniel grimaced. "I know. But it isn't as bad as it sounds. Most of the recent activity has been centered on a single small town in California, rather than spread around the globe as in previous years. We think one of them took over the mayor there about a hundred years ago; he wasn't officially associated with the Order, but after I found a reference to Nest visiting the place, I did some in-depth research on it and noticed that all three mayors- all named Richard Wilkins- looked exactly the same."
"Looked?" Jack noted. "As in past tense?"
"Yes," Daniel confirmed. "He was killed a few years ago- in an explosion that leveled the local high school and killed a number of students and faculty. But at least six other individuals known to be associated with the Order have shown up there in recent years, and the death rate is disturbing. I tried to confirm some of this information through government channels, and that's when I got really concerned; they seemed convinced that I was overreacting, and that there were perfectly normal explanations for all the irregularities, despite the fact that none of it had been properly investigated."
Carter took a deep breath and took up where Daniel had left off. "We're concerned that we might be facing another situation like the one in Steveston, only with a smaller, longer-established group of symbiotes. They could be doing anything in Sunnydale; the number of explosions, deaths, mass hallucinations, and other unexplained phenomena have always been alarming, but they worsened significantly in early 1997, and in the last few months it's gotten to the point where people are moving out of the town in unprecedented numbers without even bothering to sell their houses or find new jobs before leaving."
"So what do you suggest we do about it?" Jack asked. "You want authorization to take SG-1 to investigate?"
"Actually... no." Daniel said, then hesitated for a moment, looking down. "There's more to it than just the Goa'uld. There's evidence that there are people in the town who are already fighting back- a group of teenagers and young adults who've shown up regularly in the town's police reports for the last several years, as suspected murderers, terrorists, and so on. Some of those reports coincided with the so-far final disappearance of a known member of the Order. Since the local government seems to be mostly under the control of the Goa'uld..."
"They're probably the good guys." Jack shook his head in disbelief. What did they think they were, the Teen Titans? Corrupt government or not, they should have been able to get help from somewhere. If they truly couldn't- well, then, it was even more important that the SGC intervene. "You want to set up a meeting, then?"
"Actually... no," Daniel said again, even more hesitantly than before. "Apparently, there was a branch of the NID in control of an army operation in the town a few years ago that went disastrously wrong. These kids have been taught not to trust any kind of authority; if we try to make contact with them, or if we show up in their town unannounced, they're much more likely to see us as part of the problem than try to help us find a solution."
"Then what do you want to do, Daniel?" Jack asked, irritably.
"Send in Jon and Nick," the archaeologist replied, quietly but firmly.
Jack sat bolt upright at that, staring at his friend and former teammate in disbelief. "You have got to be kidding me," he said. "They're sixteen years old, Daniel. They're still in high school! It'll be years before they can even officially rejoin the SGC- I'm not sending them on a mission!"
"We won't be sending them anywhere," Daniel said patiently. "Just- suggesting they transfer schools. They can get to know the younger members of the resistance group in a more natural setting, do some investigating, make sure the good guys are really the good guys and that there's really a threat worth calling us in for- and then we can come in to do the clean up."
Jack shook his head in disgust and turned to Carter. "And you're supporting this? This is insane!"
Carter shrugged. "I think it might work," she said. "Jon has your skills, and Nick's got all of Daniel's knowledge; they're a lot more self-sufficient than most sixteen year olds. If we're right about what this research represents, we need a lot more information before we can try to take the Order down, and Nick and Jon will be much better positioned to get it than we would."
"You're serious," he said, staring at her. Then he turned to Daniel. "You're serious?"
Daniel nodded, solemnly. "Nick's been helping me with the research- he's actually the one that suggested the idea in the first place. And you know Jon. They've had a year of sitting around and pretending not to be the cloned copies of highly skilled adults who work at a secret military base; if you give them something interesting to do now, it might keep them from acting out in less- constructive- circumstances."
Jack groaned and lowered his forehead to the desk, closing his eyes against pages filled with Daniel's scrawl. "You're serious," he groaned, and started trying to figure out how on earth he was supposed to explain the situation to Hammond.
The first few weeks Nick and Jon spent in Sunnydale were remarkably normal, for all their research had turned up about the place. They got an apartment near the high school without much trouble, and made sure to get all the same classes; the principal seemed a little concerned that a pair of emancipated minors had actually chosen to come to Sunnydale in the middle of a school year for no particular reason, but accepted their enrollment without any great hassle. Jon slipped out of class several times in the first few days, scoping out the school and its surrounding area, though he was careful not to do it too often in any one class; Nick, for his part, took notes for both of them and asked vague questions of the other students under the guise of being new to the town.
The kids seemed to fall into two distinct groups- those oblivious, almost defiantly so, to the danger surrounding them, and those who walked around darting wary glances at every shadow from the corners of their eyes. The former group gossiped about the popular kids and invited him to the local dance club, the Bronze; the latter also shied away from any suggestion that something sinister was going on but invariably warned him not to go out alone after dark. Two of them, Kit Holburn and Carlos Trejo, were especially untalkative but told him he should make an appointment with the school counselor if he really wanted to know what Sunnydale was like- and both of them glanced over at another student before even saying that much.
More careful inquiries turned up the fact that the unnamed student was Dawn Summers, and that the counselor was her sister Buffy, a prominent figure in the police reports he and his elder self had turned up in their earlier investigations. They'd found their "in"- if only they could make use of it.
Unfortunately, most of the classrooms had assigned seating, and whether they were allowed to choose their own seat or were assigned alphabetically, being new and nowhere near "S" in the alphabet meant Jonathan O'Neill and Nicolas Jackson were invariably placed several seats away from Dawn. She skipped classes or cut out of them early about as often as Jon did, and even when she stayed the whole day she regularly disappeared the moment the bell rang. She ate with Kit and Carlos or a girl named Janice at lunch, when she actually managed to eat at the school, and was picked up most days by one of her sister's friends. It was several days before Nick found an opportunity to finagle an introduction, and even then barely got a "hello" out of her before she had to run off again.
He'd been a teenager for more than a year, but he still had thirty-eight years of memories in his head from before that, and half the time he still thought of himself as a nearly middle-aged scholar, not a gangly high school geek. That half of him felt uncomfortable with the whole thing- with all the time he spent paying attention to the girl's every move, he might as well have been a stalker, and she was young enough to have been his- or, rather, the original Daniel's- daughter. The other half, however, had far different things in mind.
She had brown hair- long brown hair, which she regularly tucked back over her shoulders or behind an ear- and her eyes were a particularly arresting shade of blue. She laughed at the same stupid conversational topics as all the other students, but when she thought no one else was paying attention she looked more serious and world-weary than any normal sixteen-year-old should. She daydreamed through half of her classes even when she was there, but her grades- what he could see of them as teachers passed tests and assignments back to the students- were routinely in the top ten percent for everything she actually completed. She was fascinating, and clearly troubled, and- made him very aware that his body was only sixteen.
Jon teased him that he was developing a crush. Nick wasn't sure he was far wrong.
Two weeks dragged by at a snail's pace. Jon had borrowed a pair of night-vision goggles from the SGC and had caught glimpses of some baffling and very interesting movements of teenage girls out at night, almost none of whom he recognized from school and all of whom were traceable back to the Summers residence on Revello Drive. He thought they should try to "accidentally" run into one of the groups and strike up an introduction that way, but after all the warnings not to go out after dark Nick wasn't sure that was a good idea. He was still hoping to get more than a "Hi" or "Did you get the answer to that problem?" out of Dawn, but was having very little luck.
They'd even made appointments with the elder Summers sister in the counselor's office in hopes of a lead, but neither was productive. Jon came away loudly impressed that someone had managed to perfect a better dumb façade than his elder self, and Nick somehow ended up the recipient of vague threats involving shovels rather than getting any answers or advice out of her. It was puzzling, and frustrating, especially when every bit of additional research they managed to do in the town ended up somehow or other leading back to Buffy and her friends, and they were five years too young to socialize with that group directly without raising suspicion.
Nick was becoming less certain by the day that whatever they were facing had anything to do with the Goa'uld- but whatever it was, it was at least as important as egotistical, galaxy-conquering aliens. He just couldn't quite lay his finger on what.
And then one day Dawn came to school with a sheaf of papers tucked into her book- papers covered in scribbled Sumerian, which she was laboriously and hesitantly translating in the margins in the five minutes before the bell rang for their history class. Nick saw the writing as he passed by and stopped, transfixed, frowning down at the words. Even he had trouble translating Sumerian; it was a shock to see someone her age attempting it.
"You can't just watch, you have to see?" he murmured, reading the first line over her shoulder.
Dawn froze in her seat, then turned to look up at him, eyes wide in surprise and suspicion. He felt her gaze like a brand, searing into him; her attention was fully on him for once, and it made his breath come unexpectedly short. Stupid sixteen-year-old body. "Um, it's Sumerian, right?" he fumbled, awkwardly.
"You speak Sumerian?" she asked, eyebrows raised into two delicate arches over her blue, blue eyes.
"Um, some," Nick replied, all too aware of how damned awkward he was at that state of his development. His hair was still shaggy around his face, more blond than the brown it had become with age and too much time spent indoors, and despite the exercises Jon made him do he had only a fraction of the impressive musculature he'd worked so hard to develop over his time at the SGC. He was a certified geek- but maybe that would come in handy now-
"My, um, uncle Daniel speaks about thirty different languages; he's an archaeologist, and I stayed with him a lot when I was younger. Some of it rubbed off on me, I guess." He shrugged and offered a sheepish grin.
She bit her lip, studying him a moment more, then lifted the sheet of paper she'd been working on and handed it to him. "How much of the rest of it can you read?" she asked, intently.
He scanned down the page. It was some kind of origin story, the story of a warrior- a girl? "Men took the girl to fight the demon?" he murmured, frowning. The demon part could easily refer to a Goa'uld, but the rest of it... "Why a girl?" he wondered aloud.
Dawn's face lit up, and he cursed himself silently as his pulse kicked up a notch. "You can read it," she said. "That- that's great! Do you think you can meet me at lunch and help me with the rest of it? There's something- there's a project my sister's busy with, and I tried translating some of this for her last night, but I know I missed things the first time and she needs as much information as she can get."
He handed the paper back to her, grinning almost as widely as she was, half of him jumping up and down with glee at the chance to spend time with an intelligent, pretty girl, and the other half jumping up and down with glee at finally making headway with his assignment. "Sure," he said breathlessly. "I'd be happy to."
The bell rang, forcing him to his seat, but his mood was much brighter for the rest of the morning, enough that Jon raised his eyebrows and made snide remarks about cradle-robbing as they walked the halls between classes. Nick just grinned back, refusing to dignify them with a reply, and promised a full report after school.
They made significant headway on the rest of the translation at lunch; Nick sat next to Dawn, on the other side of her from a disgruntled Kit; she'd made notes in erasable ball point pen, and he filled in the gaps of what she knew with his mechanical pencil. Some of the characters were a little iffy, as she'd clearly copied it by hand out of a larger text, but they were able to make a fairly complete translation. There was a lot of ominous language in it- "See for yourself, but only if you are willing to make the exchange"- and it seemed to mean a lot more to Dawn than it did to Nick, but it was clearly important.
She gave him an earnest, assessing look as they finished. "I'm gonna have to see if my sister will let me invite you over. We have a lot of old books kicking around that I can't make heads or tails of, and Giles is gone so much lately he doesn't have time to translate them either. Would you mind? I- I don't know if we could pay you, but maybe with dinner? And bring your friend, too?"
She seemed so sincere, and appealing, that Nick almost didn't care that the invite was exactly what they'd been angling for since the moment they'd set foot in the town. "Only if it's not too much trouble," he demurred, basking in her gratitude. "I mean, you haven't seen Jon eat."
She laughed, then did something totally unexpected- she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you so much!" she said, throwing her arms around him, then let him go and stood up, grabbing her tray and her notes. "I'll ask her before I leave today, and let you know," she said, tossing her hair back over her shoulder before walking away to dispose of her tray.
And then she was gone.
"Did she just ask you for a date?" Jon murmured, teasingly, from behind him.
"Only if the definition of a date includes you and her sister," Nick snorted.
Jon grinned and clapped him on the back. "Good going, Danny Jr. Just wait 'til I tell Jack."
Nick groaned, imagining the ribbing he was going to get for the next eternity. "Do you have to?"
Jon just laughed and steered him toward their next class.