Title: Closer to Home (1/?)
Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.
Rating: Violence, harsh language. In other words, nothing worse than what's on TV today.
Disclaimer: The settings depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: In 2024, the Armies of the Southern Cross discover an extra-terrestrial threat that's a little closer to home.
Author's Note: Yet another plot bunny that refused to leave me alone.
Private First Class Dmitri Santiago was beginning to regret joining the Tactical Corps Arctic Division.
Dmitri's family was a classic example of the sort of mongrelized family units that populated Earth and her colonies after the Robotech War. Born Russian, Dmitri had been orphaned during the Rain of Death and later adopted. His adoptive father was an Argentinian destroid technician, while his adoptive mother was a female Zentraedi, a Queadluun-Rau pilot with all the maternal instinct of a bag of rocks. Somehow or other, they muddled through, as people always did.
Dmitri had always loved cold weather. He was the sort of person who would cut a hole in an ice shelf, strip to his skivvies, and take a quick swim just for the hell of it. The Arctic Division seemed like the perfect place for him. However, he was now facing a problem he could never have conceived would be a problem on deployment with the Arctic Division.
His squadron was on maneuvers on the Antarctic ice shelf, and the Fenris arctic power armor was designed specifically to protect its occupant from hypothermia and frostbite. It was extremely well-insulated and had an excellent heating system. Which was the problem.
He was overheating.
He had already shut off the heater two hours ago, but with the Fenris's remarkable insulation, the damage was done, and he was still practically swimming in sweat. The fact that he had managed to get separated from the rest of his squadron in the blizzard which was even now screwing up his long-range comm systems didn't improve his mood any. The Fenris's comm systems were supposed to be able to punch through even the worst weather, so either he had a malfunctioning comm system, or someone was cutting a few too many corners at the factory. Or both.
His nav system was a little spotty, occasionally losing connection with the orbiting satellites, but was otherwise functioning normally. If he were to get desperate, he might try bouncing a comm signal through the navsats, but he was far from reaching that point. He was trudging through the blizzard toward the secondary rendezvous point when the ground collapsed beneath his feet.
Perfect, he thought sourly, staring up at the gaping hole he had fallen through. Just... perfect.
He wasn't dumb enough to ask what else could go wrong, not even in his thoughts, but after taking a moment to rest, he sat up and pulled off his helmet. The Fenris's thrusters could easily get him out and back to the surface, but here, shielded from the wind and snow, he could risk opening up his helmet to try to make some field repairs to his comm system.
Dmitri suddenly stopped and stared at the gigantic stone ring standing nearby.
"Oh, yeah," he muttered to himself. "Definitely gonna have to call this one in."
Just as the various divisions of the United Earth Expeditionary Force were named after planets in their home system, the Armies of the Southern Cross were named for the Southern Cross constellation which marked the direction their UEEF brethren were exploring in search of the Robotech Masters. Both were attempts to foster kinship between the two forces. The ASC's charter was to defend Earth and her colonies, while the UEEF's purpose was more aggressive, designed for force projection and other foreign ventures, including exploration.
Even so, the UEEF still maintained facilities on Earth, for training, maintenance, and manufacturing, although most of that necessary support structure was slowly being relocated to the new Space Station Liberty. Overall head of the UEEF's Earth-based operations was Rear Admiral Vanessa Leeds. And she had a headache.
Her headache stemmed from a combination of three things. The first on the list was a collection of documents recovered in North America after the Rain of Death. It indicated research into a potentially alien artifact by the United States Air Force that had been shut down with the rising political tensions that led to the Global Civil War, its funding diverted to more immediate needs. Attempts to locate this so-called "doorway to heaven" had proven fruitless when it led to the Cheyenne Mountain complex, which had taken several direct hits during the Rain.
Second was the hushed-up discovery in Egypt, also after the Rain of Death. Apparently, an ancient starship had been sitting under humanity's noses for a few thousand years. There wasn't much left of the ship, and they had gone over it with a fine-toothed comb in search of any salvageable technology. The stray reflex cannon shot that revealed it had also destroyed most of it, but there was enough to identify it as a starship and get a reasonable fix on how long it had been sitting there. They knew it used a crystal-based technology unlike anything they had seen before.
These two together were just curiousities, though, evidence that Earth needed to remain vigilant and proof that rogue Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters were not the only potential threats lurking out among the stars. It was the third thing that was really causing her headache. Two weeks ago, a unit of the Tactical Corps Arctic Division discovered more ancient alien technology buried in the ice in Antarctica. The centerpiece of the discovery was a giant stone ring that matched the USAF records, but it also included what appeared to be a control panel and a gene-locked chair of unknown purpose.
All of this, of course, is what brought her here, to a rundown school in South America. Specifically speaking, it brought her to the office of one of its teachers.
"Doctor Daniel Jackson?"
"Yes?" the aging Egyptologist -- now teaching history -- looked up. He raised a curious eyebrow, "So, what brings an Expeditionary Force admiral here?"
"You'll have to sign an NDA for details," she replied, "but I'd like to offer you a job."
Dr. Jackson laughed, "Oh, that's rich. What do you need me for?"
"We found something," she said obliquely. "And you were right. Let's leave it at that until we get the paperwork done."
Daniel peered out the window as the plane made its final approach. The ruined wasteland made it difficult to pinpoint exactly where they were, and he honestly didn't expect to be able to identify their destination. A depressingly large percentage of Earth's surface was just as ruined by the Zentraedi bombardment. The flight had been made largely in silence. The admiral didn't seem inclined to conversation, and he saw no sign of the pilots or any other personnel.
"So," he said, finally breaking the silence, "where are we going?"
"Site One Seventeen," Leeds replied. "Northern Africa, coordinates GX-forty-two."
Daniel blinked. Site 117 at GX-42? He knew the GX sector was in Egypt. Shortly after the Rain, he had once applied for a permit to enter for archaeological research, but they'd denied it, citing extensive radiation hazards from the bombardment.
From above, Site 117 didn't look like much. It had an airstrip with several prefab hangars and a veritable tent city skirting the edge of what appeared to be some sort of dig site. The most impressive feature, however, was the wrecked remains of a crashed Zentraedi warship shielding one side of the compound from the wind.
Daniel was puzzled when the plane began its descent. It was coming in at the wrong angle to land on the airstrip, so what was the pilot doi-...?
"Wait a minute," he said, whipping his head around to look at the admiral. "We're going to land inside the Zentraedi ship?!"
"She may not look like much," Admiral Leeds replied with a grin, "but she's got it where it counts."
Daniel turned his gaze forward again, "Oh boy."
"Sorry about the mess," Leeds said as she led him through the Zentraedi ship, "but we've only had about two weeks to get this place set up. We've moved most of what we've found at the dig site to one of the onboard cargo bays."
"What did you find?" Daniel asked, dodging past a worker welding a hand rail on the human-scale catwalk which had clearly been hastily assembled.
"We're almost there, actually," she answered, ducking into a Zentraedi-scale ventilation shaft.
Within minutes, Daniel found himself staring at the wrecked remains of a pyramid. A very high-tech looking pyramid that looked like it found itself on the wrong end of a reflex cannon.
"That's a starship, isn't it?"
"We think so," Leeds nodded. "There wasn't much left, but we could tell it had most of the basic components of starship design, along with a crystal-based interface we've never seen before."
Daniel was only half-listening as he approached the pyramid. He placed his hands on it and peered behind the outer surface. "So it's not Zentraedi?" he asked, tracing his finger along some of the markings he found.
"No, it isn't."
"Osiris," he murmured, reading the markings. "Egyptian god of death and rebirth." He stepped back... and proceeded to give an exuberant victory dance that belied his age. "Take that, Rayner, you sanctimonious ass!" he cheered. He turned to look back at the admiral, "How did you find it?"
"A survey flight discovered it while mapping this area after the Rain of Death," Leeds replied.
"Wait," he frowned. "That was over ten years ago. You knew! I was right all along, and you didn't tell me?"
"So, who's the crazy man?" another voice intruded. Daniel turned to find a man roughly about his age with a tablet computer swaggering up to the admiral.
"Ah," Leeds took the distraction. "Doctor McKay, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson. We believe he may be able to shed some light on our situation. Doctor Jackson, this is Doctor Rodney McKay. He heads our scientific research into the ship and the other artifacts we uncovered that we believe may be related."
"'Other artifacts'?" Daniel perked up, then looked at McKay. "You didn't take them apart, did you?"
McKay gave him a puzzled look, "Well, of course, we did. We can't exactly research something by staring at it all day, now can we?"
Daniel let out a strangled groan.
"He's the best you could get?" McKay asked the admiral, clearly perplexed and oblivious to the murderous looks the archaeologist was giving him.
"You mean you took ancient, priceless artifacts and took them apart like a Lego set?!" Daniel exploded.
McKay looked back at him, "Hey, we're scientists here, trying to unlock the secrets of an unknown technology we've never seen before! What do you think we're going to do?!"
Vanessa sighed and let the two rail at each other for a few minutes, rubbing her temples, until finally, she let out an ear-piercing whistle. "Both of you! Calm down! Now! Rodney, take your notes and put them back together. We can worry about how they work after we figure out what they do and how to use them."
"All right, fine," Rodney nodded. "Anyway, I was just coming by to tell you, Jennifer... I mean, Doctor Keller just got the genetic analysis back on those bodies. They're mostly human. They're only slightly more different from us than the Zentraedi, even if the two deceased have larval pouches."
"What?" Daniel asked, confused. "Like kangaroos?"
"I guess," Rodney shrugged. "Except the larvae aren't the same species. I'm a physicist, not a biologist. Oh, and that unidentified element the big ring's made of, Admiral? Doctor Keller's found trace amounts of it in the two deceased."
"And how would something like that happen?" Vanessa frowned.
"I don't know," Rodney admitted. "Like I said, I don't go for biology and those other lesser sciences. Maybe it was due to the presence of technology with that element. Maybe it was a gift from the gods. Maybe they ate a lot of it in their diet as part of some bizarre ritual. I don't know."
Vanessa sighed, "Have Doctor Keller look into it. I'm taking Doctor Jackson to see the doorway to heaven."
"The... what?" Daniel asked.
A pregnant silence reigned in the cavernous cargo bay where the stargate stood after Dr. Jackson detailed his theory. It had been two weeks since his arrival (and quick correction on the translation as to what the big stone ring), and he thought he'd cracked it: a six-point destination coordinate followed by a point of origin, which he identified as the one glyph that did not match between the stargate the USAF was working on and the stargate they had now. He theorized that the large red button in the center of the dialing device might serve to tell the device to send power to the stargate to activate it.
"There are so many things wrong with that theory, I don't know where to begin," Dr. McKay finally said, breaking the silence.
"Meredith!" snapped his sister. Dr. Jeannie Miller had taken considerable convincing to participate in the program, but she was absolutely brilliant when it came to applying the few secrets her brother's team had unlocked. Her team was currently exploring the dynamics of the crystal interface found in the pyramid ship and adapting them for human use.
"No, seriously, Jeannie," Rodney waved her off, then looked at Daniel. "Did you fail geometry or something? You don't need six points to identify another point in a three-dimensional space. Four points work just fine. Two lines in space will either intersect, or they won't, and if they don't, adding a third line isn't going to do any good."
He got up and paced, "I mean, have you even taken a stellar cartography or astrophysics class, crazy man?"
"No," Daniel snarked back. "I was a little busy mastering over two dozen languages and getting my doctorates in archaeology and linguistics."
"Well, good for you," Rodney said condescendingly. "I'll explain it to you in small words. The stars in a constellation look close together from Earth, but they're really light-years, sometimes thousands of light-years apart. Sometimes, they're not even in the same galaxy! Never mind that stars move. It's called stellar drift. Back when this thing was built, the constellations didn't even look like they do now!"
He strode over to the dialing device. "Finally, crazy man, there are nine chevrons on the stargate, not seven. You're telling me that if I just hit the six symbols we found in the Air Force documents, followed by the one symbol that doesn't match," he said, pressing them as he said it, "and then hit this big red button in the middle to power it, it'll... YOW!"
Rodney jumped and shrieked like a little girl, fully aware of what an unstable wormhole -- his current theory as to what the stargate created -- could do to a person... or any form of matter that got in its way.
Jeannie stared, and suddenly, it all clicked, "It makes sense now. It's like a telephone system, except backwards. With our telephone system, we have standard number lengths, but we can enter in prefixes so the system knows when we're dialing a longer number. With this one, instead, we dial it in and then press the point of origin and the red button to tell it we're finished. It's brilliant!"
Vanessa Leeds was having doubts. Today would be the first mission through the stargate, and there were far too many things that could go wrong. The stargate itself was under 24/7 guard by a pair of Tomahawk destroids the newly-christened Stargate Command had saved from the scrapyard, and the cargo bay they had taken to calling the "gateroom" was officially considered an unsecure location in which sidearms were required. As long as someone else could open the stargate from the other side, it wasn't secure.
She looked at herself in the mirror. The reconstructive surgery after she had been pulled from the wreckage of the SDF-1 had done wonders, but she could still spot each and every one of the minor scars and other signs of injury that marked her. The scars didn't bother her so much as the muscular tics did; virtually invisible if you didn't know what to look for, they were where the surgeons hadn't been able to completely repair the nerve damage, even with advanced tissue cloning technology gleaned from the Zentraedi cloning chambers.
She liked the Quiltra Queleual they had turned into SGC headquarters. Its interior was nice and large, built to Zentraedi scale, even with the adaptations they had added for human use. After the Battle of New Macross, she had developed a deep sense of claustrophobia; tight spaces just reminded her far too much of the hours she had spent trapped in what was left of the SDF-1's bridge. It wasn't something she spoke of with anyone, though she was pretty sure Lisa understood when she refused a fleet command. Her banter toward Dr. Jackson on the flight from South America had been as much to cover her own nerves as to reassure the archaeologist.
She shook it off and straightened her uniform, brushing an invisible piece of lint from her blouse. Squaring her shoulders and giving her reflection a stern look, she left her quarters and made the fifteen minute walk to the command center, nodding a silent greeting to Brigadier General Rolf Emerson as she entered. Emerson was her liaison with the ASC, from which she was drawing most of her personnel and equipment. The command center itself was really just a prefab building dropped into the cargo bay where they had put the stargate. She looked out the viewport toward the stargate, focusing on the TaC-Recon platoon making ready to march through the stargate.
In First Lieutenant Alan Shun's considered opinion, the Tactical Corps Reconnaissance Division -- aka TaC-Recon -- was the finest division in the Tactical Corps and the best branch in all the Armies of the Southern Cross. Let the other branches boast about their hovertanks or veritechs. TaC-Recon did more with less; their battloid of choice didn't even have so much as a head laser. Naturally, the fact that he was part of TaC-Recon had absolutely nothing to do with his assessment. Of course not. Not one bit. Ridiculous.
He gripped his Mark VI Owens anxiously. The select-fire particle beam gun was fully decked out with barrel extension, stock, and extended magazine, turning the pistol into more of a submachine gun. The Owens wasn't a popular weapon among the ASC, but TaC-Recon had a much more flexible TO&E than the other branches. Most of the rest of his platoon of twenty-seven favored the rugged and reliable FA5 5.56x45mm assault carbine instead, with one fire team preferring the heavier 7.62x51mm AR-25 Wolverine assault rifles. His support team, of course, carried RL-6 missile throwers; with the advent of mecha, the concept of the squad automatic weapon had fallen by the wayside.
No one in his platoon quite trusted the new LR-20 laser rifles just yet.
Among other mecha, they had ARR-15 Monocle battloids on standby, but the data feed from the probe nixed the original plan of sending them through. While the Monocle could fit through the stargate, the room on the other side of said stargate didn't appear to have enough maneuvering room for battloids to be effective.
They were going to be the first to step through the stargate. Even in a space-faring society like the post-Robotech War Earth, being on another planet was still a big deal, as transit between planets was far from common, and most of those who had left Earth were colonists (who probably never expected to see Earth again) and the UEEF (who spent far more time on ships than on planets). This "stargate" could change that completely.
He tried not to flinch as the stargate engaged, the unstable wormhole swooshing out in a disintegrating splash.
"Recon One, you are free to proceed."
Daniel's method of figuring out how the stargate works in the movie always bugged me. As Rodney here said, there are so many things wrong with it, I wouldn't know where to start. Daniel got lucky.
For those wondering about the title and summary, basically, in this continuity at least, the Zentraedi, Tirolians, and Invid are from another galaxy, hence why the Stargateverse stuff is "closer to home."