Rumors and Discoveries
Kakashi walked through the crowded streets of Konoha with both of his hands shoved deep into his pockets. He'd spent the better part of the last week being poked and prodded and run through every test known to man only to have no more answers than he'd had a week before. No one could find a single valid reason for how he was suddenly exhibiting traits which, up to now, had only ever been categorized as the side effects of carrying a demon within. After he had read Tsunade's notes on his chart after that last ANBU mission he'd been certain that the woman had simply been joking. But now, after being wide awake during the many practical tests the medical staff had performed on him, he was starting to understand just why the Hokage had phrased it the way she had.
Although, in his opinion, he'd healed at a much slower rate than someone like Naruto, he'd had to admit to himself that it was still far quicker than any other shinobi in the Konoha forces. Add to that the fact that his jutsu were far less taxing to his chakra stores than they'd ever been in his life, and it was no wonder that there were whispers of an other-wordly possession being to blame for it all. And those whispers were no longer just heard within the halls of ANBU, or in the Hospital. No, they now followed him throughout the streets of the village, reminding him far to clearly of similar whispers in the months following his father's death, and then again after losing Obito during the Kanabi Bridge mission. All in all, it left him feeling on edge more often than not. And when Kakashi was on edge, he needed something to distract him, for the safety of everyone around him.
Normally he'd find a quiet spot and immerse himself into one of the many Icha Icha volumes in his possession, but lately Jiraiya's tales did nothing to calm his frayed nerves. Meanwhile, Gai was out of the village on an extended mission, so there was no hope for an impromptu challenge to save him either. He'd already run through every basic kata he knew, plus a handful that he'd made up on the spot, but with strict orders from the Hokage to not use any of his chakra until they sorted his 'issues' out, he was officially out of ideas.
"Oi! Kakashi!" Genma's voice rang out from the rooftop. "Need some help here. You available?"
He looked up to see the man dressed in his normal jonin uniform, with his senbon dangling from between his teeth. This was exactly the type of distraction he needed. He was just about to channel a bit of chakra to his feet to join the special jonin on the tiled roof when a warning tingle up his spine made him frown. Tsunade had made sure to place a special seal on him that would provide the not-so-subtle reminder to keep him from using his chakra. He sighed and slouched a bit further in frustration, stepping forward to continue his walk. His friend jumped down to street level once he'd figured out that Kakashi wasn't going to join him above.
"Since when do you pass on helping me out?"
He sighed. "Since the Hokage put me on a shorter leash than usual."
"Give me a break. You're still the same lazy-assed, pervert that you've always been."
Kakashi turned to face his friend. "Gee...thanks for the vote of confidence."
Genma frowned at him. "Dammit, Kakashi...that's not what I meant! All I'm saying is that they're insane if they think that you aren't loyal to Konoha just because you heal faster than the rest of us."
Now it was Kakashi's turn to frown. "When did this become a question of my loyalty?"
"Shit! You mean you didn't hear about it yet?"
He shook his head and started walking once more, knowing that Genma would soon fall in step with him. Once they were in a slightly less populated portion of the village, Kakashi side-stepped into an alley and waited for the special jonin to join him. Once the other had stepped into the area, he'd grabbed hold of the man's vest and pushed him up against the wall.
"Who is spreading lies this time?" It came out as more of a growl than he'd intended, and once it registered in his head, he quickly released Genma and hung his head. "Sorry about that. Guess I'm more on edge than I'd thought."
"Hey, I'd probably do the same thing if I was in your shoes."
Kakashi raised his head and sighed. "So fill me in. What's the rumor, and who started it?"
He watched Genma scratch under the edge of his bandana, obviously not wanting to speak about it. But after a few awkward moments the man sank into a crouch and leaned his head back against the wall. Realizing that this meant he probably wasn't going to like what he was a bout to hear, Kakashi crossed over to the same wall and slid down next to his friend. A few more moments went by before Genma finally spoke.
"You know that none of us believe any of it, but it's just too far-fetched not to want to hear it...or tell it to others, for that matter."
Kakashi leaned his head against the wall. "Great. So it's already made the shinobi gossip chain."
"Yeah, sorry. Anyhow, like I said, nobody really believes it. It's just that when somebody says that the great Copy Ninja was abducted by aliens and implanted with a demon that now controls what he thinks and says, you just can't help but listen to the tale."
A humorless laugh escaped Kakashi's lips. "Well, they do say that the best rumors always have at least two-third's of the truth in them."
He felt Genma's eyes on him and turned to see a look on the man's face that was somewhere between doubt and concern. "Are you saying that these rumors are close to the truth?"
Kakashi had to be careful about how he phrased his response, knowing that he was walking a dangerously thin line between telling his friend the truth, and going against the Hokage's orders to keep this all classified. Still, considering Genma's clearance was far higher than most in the village, it wasn't as great a risk as it could have been. He kept his gaze locked on the man's eyes and spoke words that even he couldn't believe were true.
"I was abducted and implanted, but I managed to destroy the creature before it did more than change my hairstyle."
He watched Genma's eyes narrow to slits, likely a result of him trying to tell if this was just a joke or not. So Kakashi turned his body away from his friend and pushed the hair at the nape of his neck out of the way. He heard the air pushed through Genma's teeth, and he knew that the man was looking at the rather nasty scar that had been left behind by the Goa'uld. Although not his largest scar by any stretch of the imagination, he knew that the mass of scar tissue was more than enough to give the man an idea of just what he'd gone through.
"Damn, Kakashi! That had to hurt. Couldn't Lady Tsunade get rid of the scar?"
He self-consciously rubbed his gloved hand across the knot of skin, and turned back around to face the jonin. "It goes too deep to ever heal fully. Let's just say that it'll be a long time before I forget this particular captivity."
"Okay, so that much was right...you were abducted. But seriously...you don't expect me to believe it was aliens, do you?"
He crossed his arms in front of him and shrugged. "I suppose that would depend on your definition of 'alien.'"
Genma just stared at him for a moment before he seemed to realize that Kakashi was actually waiting for him to provide his definition. "Right...'alien.' How about this; an entity from another world. That should wipe out the rumor mill once and for all."
Kakashi scratched at his temple. "That would be right."
A huge smile crossed Genma's lips. "I told them it was all a pile of crap! Glad to know I was right."
"Mah...I think that you misunderstood me. Maybe I should have said; That would be right. It was aliens."
He curled his eye into a smile and had to hold back a laugh as Genma's jaw opened wide enough that his senbon actually fell from his mouth.
Daniel reread the scroll three times before he allowed himself a glimmer of hope. But the characters hadn't changed, and the meaning was clearly what he'd been searching for all these long days. Deep in the mountains of Snow Country sat a cave where the local shinobi found a ring of stone carved with unknown characters.
Still, he couldn't help but think that he was just setting himself up for disappointment. The writings he uncovered didn't have any examples of these unknown characters. And, even if this did turn out to be a Stargate, there was no mention of a DHD anywhere in this account. On top of that, what if he got to this location and there was no power source to drive the mammoth stone rings? It wouldn't be the first time that he and Jack would have run into such a thing, but this time there was no naqahdah generators or staff weapons to tap into.
Looking across the table at where Shizune was once again catching a much-deserved nap, Daniel pushed his fingers through his hair before staring down at the notes he'd taken. What worried him more right now was the fact that, even if they found a fully powered gate, it still wouldn't get them back to their SGC. He had to accept that this was not his dimension. The only thing that this latest finding brought him was the hope that if they confirmed the existence of a gate in Snow Country, then maybe, just maybe, it meant that a dimensional mirror might exist somewhere too. And if he was to be completely honest with himself, that truly was the only way he and Jack would find their way home.
He was pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of angry voices in the hallway. And, unfortunately, he recognized one of those voices all too well. Daniel moved to the door and opened it in the hopes of ending the tirade before it grew in volume to be loud enough to wake the Hokage's aide.
"There you are, Danny! I told these idiots you were in there."
He sighed and stepped out into the hall, pulling the door closed behind him, and hopefully securing Shizune a few more moments of sleep. He found Jack being physically restrained by the ever-present ANBU guard for this room.
"I don't supposed you happened to use their language when you told them that, Jack?"
The Colonel looked between the ANBU and him before frowning. "You can't tell me these masked freaks haven't figured out what we're saying yet."
Daniel shook his head slowly and moved over to where the man was still being held in check. "Seriously, Jack, sometimes I wonder how you've managed to survive this long."
He turned his attention toward the ANBU and bowed slightly before speaking. "I'm sorry if my friend caused any problems for you. If you will let him loose, I will take him back to our rooms."
Silence reigned for more than a few heartbeats. Even Jack seemed to understand that he needed to stay quiet for a change. Still, when the low voice came from behind the tiger masked ANBU, it startled him just a bit.
"Your friend has not learned his place, Daniel. You will not be there one of these times."
He glanced up to see that they hadn't released Jack yet. But, although the words spoken would have been taken as a threat by the very man they were talking about, Daniel knew it as the warning it was. He stood up and faced the ANBU.
"Thank you for your concern. I will try, once more, to remind him that we are guests here."
At that point the two guards let the Colonel loose, and for a change Jack didn't make a scene about it. Instead, he took hold of Daniel's arm and started pulling him toward the stairs that led out of the tower.
"Come with me, Danny, and we're halfway home!"
He tugged his arm free, nearly causing Jack to stumble down the stairs. "Jack, stop it! I need to get back to work!"
"Aren't you listening to me? You can stop searching through that crap. I'm pretty sure that I found us a way outta this place."
Daniel frowned and took a closer look at the Colonel. The man's clothes were disheveled, and his hands were filthy. "What's gotten in to you, Jack?"
He watched the man push his hands through his hair and place a lopsided grin on his face. "You must be wearing off on me."
Daniel took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose to try and push back the headache that always seemed to follow having discussions with the older man. "You're making no sense. But I take it that you aren't going to just let me go back to my work until you show me whatever the hell it is that you're so excited about. Am I right?"
Before Jack had a chance to answer, one of the ANBU flickered into view next to where they were. "Shizune wanted to know if you are done for today."
He sighed and put his glasses back on. "Please offer my apologies to her. It appears my afternoon will be spent with Colonel O'Neil."
A simple nod of the ANBU's head and he disappeared as suddenly as he'd appeared. Daniel turned back toward Jack just in time for the man to grab hold of his arm again and pull him toward the stairs once more. Rather than waste his breath asking for any details, he concentrated on not breaking his neck as they careened down the flight of stairs. Thankfully the various people in the way had enough sense to move to the side before Jack could do more damage, and before he knew it, they were out of the tower and running at breakneck speed toward the outskirts of the market district, dodging puddles from a rainstorm earlier in the day.
He'd never seen the Colonel like this before. Usually the man was relatively level-headed. Okay, maybe not level-headed, but certainly not this...boisterous. Daniel frowned. Perhaps Kakashi had been right when he'd warned that Jack shouldn't spend too much time with Rock Lee or Gai. Because, let's face it, those two were the only ones in this village that he'd ever seen wearing the strange grin that seemed plastered to the older man's face.
Before he could put too much more thought into it, Jack skidded to a stop in front of a wall that was overgrown with vines and moss. It was such a change from the neatly kept buildings that he'd grown used to within Konoha that, for a moment, he thought that they'd actually run to another village. But when he took a closer look behind some of those vines he saw the familiar swirling lines that made up the insignia that graced the headbands of every shinobi in the village. He was about to pull his hand away when a glimpse of faded red paint caught his eye. His curiosity piqued, Daniel pushed a bit more of the leafy green away until he uncovered another symbol painted onto the wood. This one looked like nothing he'd seen up to this point. It seemed to be a stylized round paddle fan. The upper third was red, while pale white paint was chipping off the bottom section.
"I didn't bring you here to look at the wall. What you need to see is in there." Jack was pointing with his thumb toward large wooden gates set within the walls.
Daniel moved closer and saw that those gates held the same faded fan symbols, only much larger. He tipped his head back and marveled at the height of the gates, curious about just what might lie behind them. But there were large crossbeams securing them in place.
He turned his head at the sound of Jack's voice to see the man holding a loose plank aside that had previously been hidden by the overgrown vines. "Seriously, Jack? This is how you've been spending your days? Trespassing?"
The man smiled at him. "You're the one who told me to find something to keep me busy. C'mon, already."
With that said, the Colonel ducked into the opening and the plank fell back into place behind him. Daniel cast a wary glance around him, but this area was eerily empty. It only took him a moment longer to allow his curiosity to convince him that he really needed to see just what could make Jack O'Neil act so...so...un-Jack-like. Once he made up his mind, it was child's play to find the loose plank and follow through the opening. That was when everything turned a bit surreal.
Jack stood in the middle of an empty street. Each side was lined with shops and houses that looked like they hadn't seen life in far too long. Faded flags and pendants hung limply from poles and rafters; each bore that same round fan that was emblazoned on the gates. There were clumps of grass pushing their way through the cobblestones lining the street, and the same type of vines that had covered the entry gate were silently staking their claim on each and every vertical surface he could see. It was strange to see such complete desolation in such a vibrant village as Konoha, and Daniel felt that he and Jack were somehow trespassing on sacred ground.
"Over here, Danny! Come on!"
The words nearly echoed through the empty street, adding to the feeling that this was somehow wrong, and so Daniel moved quickly to the man's side, if for no other reason than to keep him from disturbing that silence again. Surprisingly, Jack didn't enter any of the buildings. Instead, he led him down a narrow alleyway until it reached a dead end. The buildings on either side were tall enough to block out most of the day's light, but there was still enough to see Jack step through a gap in the wall. Taking one last look toward the vacant street, he pushed down his uneasiness and followed into the gloom to find a narrow stone staircase leading down into the unknown.
The passageway felt eerily familiar to many of the Goa'uld strongholds from Daniel's past, especially when he passed one after another flickering torches mounted to the wall. He expected to run into Jaffa at any moment, but none appeared by the time they'd reached the bottom step. A banner emblazoned with that same fan design was on the wall directly in front of them, and a long corridor stretched off to either side. He was about to head down the hallway to the left when Jack's hand on his shoulder caused him to pause.
"Not much down that one except some writing on the wall and a couple of candles. We need to go the other way."
He followed the Colonel silently, but after they turned down two more corridors, his curiosity was too great to ignore. "Jack, how did you even find this place?"
"I was on my way back from one of my fishing trips. It was raining. I was cold and wet. I stumbled on a cave stuck out in the woods and ducked into it for shelter."
Daniel shook his head. This wasn't making any sense. "How does you ducking under cover lead you to this part of the village?"
Jack turned to face him with a grin plastered on his face. "You're the one who keeps telling me that anyone making a place like this always has more than one way out. It just so happens that it led into that alleyway upstairs."
He stayed silent for a moment as he ran his friend's words through his mind. He chuckled and shook his head at the Colonel. "You got lost, didn't you? That's how you found this exit."
The frown on the man's face gave Jack away long before his words could. "You just couldn't let me have my moment, could you?"
Daniel laughed and walked toward the hallway the Colonel had pointed out earlier. "Don't worry about it. I promise not to tell anyone. So what exactly did you find?"
A grin soon replaced the frown, and Jack moved to his side. "Hopefully our way home, Danny."
With that said, he was led toward an alcove about a hundred feet down the hallway. When the contents of the alcove came into view Daniel couldn't believe what he was seeing. Standing within the recess was a dimensional mirror in all its glory. A grin, very similar to the one still plastered over Jack's face, now graced his lips as well. He stepped closer, taking a moment to wipe his palms on the legs of his pants. Then he reached out to run the tips of his fingers along the top of the device, avoiding the surface of the mirror as he examined the Goa'uld markings etched into the frame. Even though this device was not switched on, as was evident from the darkness of the mirror, he didn't want to press his luck and be pulled into some other dimension.
"So is it what I think it is?"
The hope that he could hear in the Colonel's voice was undeniable, and he turned back to face the man who'd managed, in one aimless moment, to find exactly what he'd been searching for days for in the archives at the Hokage Tower. He was just about to confirm it for him when he noticed the hallway just behind Jack had filled with shinobi. Most of them were ANBU, but a few were dressed in what Daniel had come to recognize as jonin uniforms. One of those men stepped forward and shoved his hands into the pockets of the trench coat he wore over his uniform. Dark eyes narrowed below the bandana tied , making the man's severely scarred face look even more sinister in the shadows of the torchlight.
Daniel lifted his hands up in the universal sign of surrender and took a step back. It was clear by Jack's expression that he'd figured out that they were no longer alone, and thankfully, the man had enough sense to join him in front of the mirror. Once he turned around as well, his hands were held in a similar position even as he whispered toward him.
"What the hell's going on, Daniel?"
"I don't know. Maybe we tripped some kind of alarm?"
"It is time for you and me to have a talk, Daniel Jackson."
The English words were spoken with a thick accent, and it only took a moment for him to realize that he'd heard this man speak before. Of course the last time he'd heard the voice it had been muffled by an ANBU mask. If his suspicions were right, this was none other than the head of the T & I division. And although this knowledge did nothing to ease his anxiety, Daniel swallowed down his growing apprehension and bowed slightly to the man towering before them.
"As you wish, Ibiki. I'm sure this will all just turn out to be a misunderstanding."
Jack had to admit that the gaggle of freaks standing in the hall was enough to make even him a bit on edge. But the walking pile of scar-tissue that was currently intimidating Daniel was getting on his last nerve...especially after hearing what the kid had just said.
"You're not going anywhere with that guy, Daniel. No way in Hell!"
To emphasize his point, Jack stepped in front of his friend and glared at the man in the trench coat. He made it a point to never trust anyone who dressed like an extra from a Terminator movie, and he sure as hell wasn't gonna start now. He just wished he still had his P-90 to even the score a little.
"Jack, what are you doing? Have you lost your mind?"
He glanced over his shoulder and met Daniel's eyes. "You're not going with him. Not now...not ever. See if you can get that thing working already!"
The shock showing in the man's eyes would have made him laugh under other circumstances, but he ignored the look and turned his attention back toward the hallway. None of the freaks had moved an inch, and he wondered just what their game-plan was. He knew that he was grossly outnumbered and, unfortunately, outclassed, but the way they kept interfering every time they'd managed to find something that might lead them home was starting to get on his nerves. And as anyone who knew him could tell, he was finally at his limit.
Keeping his eyes on the crew in front of him he asked Daniel for an update. "So was I right about it?"
"Yeah, it's definitely what we were looking for, Jack..."
Something in the tone of the kid's voice made him recognize there was more. "But...?"
A sigh proceeded the next words. "But there's no sign of the controller. And without it, it would be too dangerous to use. I'm sorry, Jack."
Dammit. He should have known this wouldn't work out. So now he'd have to deal with whatever was in store for them, knowing it was entirely his fault for not thinking to check for the damn remote before going to get Daniel in the first place. And, if he was in the freaks' place, they'd probably be confined to a room again and never given access to the mirror again. He let out a frustrated puff of air and shook his head as Daniel moved to his side.
"You will both come now."
The thickly accented words left little room for argument, and the pleading look he got from Daniel made it clear that his rebellion was at an end. "Fine."
A subtle movement of the Terminator's head was all that was needed to direct his goon-squad to take them both into custody. Sure, they weren't put into handcuffs, or anything like that, but with two of them stationed in front and behind of both him and Daniel, it was clear to him that their relative freedom of movement throughout the village had been taken back. Still, considering they could have done much more, he grudgingly had to admit that it could have been worse.
When Ibiki received word that someone had accessed the deserted Uchiha complex he just knew that he'd end up with a headache before all was said and done. Then, when the ANBU team assigned to keep tabs on the Colonel reported back to him that the man went into a cave during a rainstorm and had yet to reemerge, the promised headache made its presence known through a pressure building at his temples. And finally, when word reached his ears about the Colonel miraculously appearing in the Hokage Tower and pulling Doctor Jackson into a wild run through the Market District it didn't take him long to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.
He had quickly assembled a group of ANBU and jonin and headed toward the Uchiha complex. As usual, upon reaching the deserted streets, he had to push down the feeling that they were being watched. He knew that the entire area was devoid of life, having been one of those unlucky enough to have been assigned to clear out the bodies of the slaughtered Uchiha clan all those years ago. Still, something about this area always made him think that some of the spirits of those taken before their time might still be inhabiting these desolate streets.
"Over here, Sir."
One of the rookie jonin was pointing to a narrow opening between two of the larger buildings within the complex. And, once he'd joined the dark-haired man, it was clear to see what he'd discovered. The plant-life that was steadily laying claim to the road around them was noticeably trampled just in front of the alleyway. Giving the jonin a grunt of approval, Ibiki motioned for the ANBU to take point and enter the darkened space.
As they moved down the length of the passageway, they could all notice the faint glow coming from an area off to the left side. Ibiki frowned. He knew the men which had combed every crevice of this place after Itachi had slaughtered the clan, and he was certain that they would never have missed this entry. Which meant that it must have been concealed in some way back when the initial searches were performed. And, now that he was thinking about it, it could explained just how Itachi had managed to disappear from the village without a trace as well.
Still, it worried him more than a bit that such a place had been lying under Konoha without anyone else knowing about it. How many other clans might also have similar catacombs on their lands? And how might they discover such places without causing those same clans from feeling oppressed or otherwise targeted? Because, when it came down to it, the last thing he wanted to do was create the type of tension that had driven a wedge between the Uchiha and the remainder of Konoha.
At a silent surge of chakra from the ANBU that went down first, the rest of the group followed, knowing that the way was safe. At the bottom of a set of stone steps Ibiki sent half the group to the left and the rest, himself included, down the right hallway. Before they'd gone more than a few hundred feet the sound of soft voices could be heard, and once he recognized who exactly had managed to discover this hidden area, his headache doubled. How, by Kami, did two civilians manage to uncover something like this? Obviously there was more to these two men then any of them had thought...with the exception, perhaps, of a certain silver-haired thorn in his side. Perhaps when this was finished he'd pay a visit to the Copy-ninja to see what else he may have forgotten to share about these visitors.
Once he saw that the two men noticed they were no longer alone, he stepped forward from the group, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He narrowed his eyes as the foreigners lifted their hands into a neutral position. The two were whispering to each other, and Ibiki was frustrated at the fact that he didn't quite understand all the words they had used. Which, of course, would be one more reason the bring Kakashi into his office. He drew in a slow breath and pushed unfamiliar words out of his lips.
"It is time for you and me to have a talk, Daniel Jackson."
He was sure that he had pronounced the cumbersome words correctly, and was pleased to see that the younger of the two men seemed to understand him. That is, until that same man spoke.
"As you wish, Ibiki. I'm sure this will all just turn out to be a misunderstanding."
He knew that no one under his command had told the Doctor his name, and based on the last conversation on the subject that he had overheard between the younger man and Kakashi, it had been clear that the silver-haired man had no intention of sharing that bit of information either. So how, exactly, had his name suddenly become common knowledge?
Before he could worry too much about it, the other man stepped between him and Doctor Jackson. The tone of the words from the Colonel's lips made his anger clear even without Ibiki understanding every word. There was a moment when he considered knocking the fool out to make this easier for him, but the other man's voice held a fear in at as he questioned his friend's move, causing him to decide to watch for a bit longer before making his next move.
Ibiki allowed the two to continue whatever it was that they were doing, and a few more moments resulted in disappointment radiating off the pair. He was not surprised in the least once the two faced him with defeat reflecting in their eyes. He lifted his head slightly and spoke a few more words that he'd learned in the past few weeks.
"You will both come now."
The look of resignation on the older man's face made it clear that Ibiki shouldn't be having any more difficulty with the two. He let them pass him into the hallway, making sure to keep them centered within his men as they moved to return to street level. Once there, he sent one of the ANBU to inform the Hokage of this development, and another to bring the Copy-ninja back to Headquarters. Before he started the interrogation there were several questions he'd need answered by the elite jonin. And, beyond that, as much as he hated to admit it, he'd need to rely on that man to act as translator.
The remainder of the shinobi that weren't directly guarding these men were sent back down into the newly discovered catacombs to begin the task of exploring and cataloging of every nook and cranny. If he was very lucky, he'd have enough time to pop a few pills to ward off his headache before having to deal with Kakashi and these two civilians. But the way today was going, he didn't count on it.