"Hey Harry, are you coming to lunch? It's Friday and you know what that means!"
Harry James Potter turned his bright emerald gaze to the man stood in the doorway of his office and smiled. Harry had only been here for six months but the team welcomed him and his input to their work. They were fun to be around and tried hard to make him a part of the team that had been comfortably established for years before he got here.
"Yeah yeah, I know. Burger Friday." Harry rolled his eyes slightly.
"Hey, don't be like that now." Mark Jeffs, Harry's boss, had seen the eye roll. "The place we chose does a mean veggie burger you know. We made sure, ever since you told us you were a vegetarian."
Harry closed all the work on the multiple computers in the room and locked them all. "I know and I'm really grateful to all the guys for doing that for me. I know that you are all staunch carnivores."
As they left the office and greeted the rest of the team to go to lunch, Harry couldn't help but think back over the years and remember how he got to this point in his life. The War in the wizarding world officially started a week and a half after Sirius fell through the Veil. Voldemort decided to get the 'revolution' going with a bang, and had blown up Kingscross station. It only got bloodier and more violent from there. Harry and his side of the War began to train themselves and soon found that they had to fight guerrilla style as Voldemort gained more and more power. The War finally ended just after Harry turned 17, with Voldemort attacking one of the last strongholds the light side had – Hogwarts.
Many people had died that day. Everyone that Harry had called a friend was dead and he was once again alone in the world. The devastation of the scene was horrific as Harry looked around, Voldemort's dead body at his feet. It didn't take long for the Muggle government to turn up and even less time for England's magical allies to turn up and try to smooth things over. Only hours later, as Harry was being treated for his injuries in a local Muggle hospital, the government had covered it all up (as they had done with the many attacks by Voldemort over the last two years) and was calling it a tragic attack by an extreme religious group. Harry had found a grim amusement in that at the time – it was so close to the truth that they weren't really lying anyway.
After Harry had been released from hospital, he realised that he had no idea what to so with himself. He didn't need to worry about money because the Potter family were ridiculously rich, and he didn't have anyone left to worry about. He was lost for a few days whilst he tried to decide what to do when he saw the advertisement.
About a year before, for his 16th birthday, Hermione had bought Harry a laptop. He was confused at first, thinking that he wouldn't be able to use it because magic and technology didn't go well together. Hermione had huffed and explained how that was old Muggle technology and that they were working in digital now, so the magic wouldn't interfere like it used to. A few weeks later and Harry was using the simple laptop like a pro.
Harry had always been smart but his true genius was patterns. Harry could decipher and crack codes and patterns faster than the time it took most people to decide where they should begin. He had never been allowed by the Dursleys to be anything but a low average and that habit had stuck when he was at Hogwarts. But with Hermione's encouragement and the fact that it took his mind off the War for an hour or two, he regained his love of learning that had been beaten out of him at age four by his Uncle. Together, Harry and Hermione learnt all manners of subjects together - Harry working on anything pattern based like maths, languages and computers and Hermione working on charms, science and transfiguration.
It was Harry's genius with patterns and computers that made him answer the advertisement on the internet. It was a worldwide competition to discover the best computer hacker, with the prize being a job offer at the end. Harry had entered on a whim and soon found himself immersed in IQ tests, computing tests and every other test known to mankind. It had been a month of stress and hard work until the final and his victory, but Harry enjoyed and relished the challenge. The job at the end was of little consequence to Harry – he had no need of the good wage they offered – but he needed something to do in his life. So, when he won the contest, he accepted the job. That was how he ended up working at the Cybercrimes Prevention and Protection department of the Pentagon in the USA.
Lunch went well and they were all back in their offices that afternoon to finish up their work for the weekend and to leave the weekly report for the weekend staff. Harry had just finished filing his last and rather long report on the cyber attack that he had managed to prevent a few weeks before, when Mark wandered back into his office, not even bothering to knock. No one bothered knocking in the department – most people left their office door open anyway, and banter passed between the computer techs and analysts all day long.
"What can I do for you now Mark? I only saw you ten minutes ago." Harry didn't even bother looking up from his computers, his fingers darting across the keyboard.
"There are some people waiting for you in Mr Saunder's office."
Harry's hands stilled and he finally looked up. "Really? Why don't they just come down here?"
Mark shrugged. "I don't know. They are from the air force - they are wearing dress blues and everything."
"Ok. Just give me a minute." Harry once again shut all the work on his machines and locked them before trailing after Mark to the Head of Department's office. Harry took a deep breath, straightened his shirt and composed a neutral look on his face. He sharply knocked on the door and entered immediately after.
Harry saw Saunder sat behind his desk, eyeing the two figures in front of him with weariness and curiosity. Saunder had no idea why they were here, asking to see a specific tech in his department. It wasn't unusual for top brass from all over the armed forces and US government to stop in for something of a sensitive nature, but these guys had merely said 'classified' when he enquired.
"Ah, Mr Potter. There you are." Harry nodded to Saunder and watched as the two officers rose from their seats and turned to him. Harry saw a number of medals on both of their dress jackets, but had no idea what they meant or what they were given for. Muggle awards in the armed forces wasn't something that held much interest for him, so it was something he never bothered to learn about.
"Mr Potter, it is a pleasure to meet you." Harry gave the men another look over, evaluating them carefully. He quickly shook himself out of it before they noticed. A year and a half of intense training and war had ingrained habits in him that were hard to stop. It had been trained into him to look around quickly and efficiently and to remember as many details about his environment and people around him as possible. Still, it never hurt to be curious and cautious.
Before either man could offer a hand to him, Harry stiffened his back and gave them a firm nod, an almost bow of the head. Another habit that had become ingrained in Harry from wartime. In the magical world, there was no touch unless absolutely necessary between strangers and acquaintances. It was proper to bow to one another, keeping a respectful distance. It was something that was taught to them as teenagers at Hogwarts, to prepare them for adult life in the Magical World where a mistake in behaviour couldn't be shrugged off as a child's mistake. The etiquette was the same across the magical community of the world, from the oldest settlements in England and spread across Europe. The War had spread through the entire magical community, and Harry had to learn a universal etiquette for when dealing with many foreign allies.
Glad that neither of the men tried to shake his hand, Harry gave them a politely enquiring smile. "The pleasure is all mine, I'm sure."
The officer in charge gave a smile in return and gestured that they should all sit down. Harry took a seat in the leather armchair and allowed the two officers to sit on the couch opposite him, on the other side of the coffee table. Mr Saunder rose from his chair behind his desk.
"Well, I will leave you to your discussion."
Harry remained politely perched on his chair and heard the door click quietly behind him as the Department Head left swiftly. He turned his gaze down to the table and saw that someone (Saunder's secretary most likely) had set a coffee tray down and that the two officers had already served themselves cups before Harry had got to the office. Harry ignored the black, steaming beverage and helped himself to a glass of water instead. He avoided coffee, disliking the strong and bitter taste. Give him a good cup of tea any day.
"Mr Potter, we have been sent to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime on a project by the Air Force."
"Ok." Harry took a slow sip of his drink and raised an eyebrow. "And what opportunity would that be?"
"The project is classified at the highest level and you are required to attend extensive evaluation tests. You were headhunted along with others that represent the best and brightest that dozens of nations have to offer."
Harry felt his other eyebrow rise to meet the first one in surprise. He was really curious as to what kind of classified project that the US Air Force was running that would require and allow talent from so many countries. "So, you can't tell me anything about it?"
The officer in charge shook his head. "I'm afraid not Sir. I've only been instructed to tell you that the evaluations will take place within the next few days at a base in Colorado Springs. If chosen, you will sign the nondisclosure papers and be informed about the project. I must also stress how it is a completely voluntary and at stage of the selection process you can leave any time you desire."
Harry sat back and looked away from the two officers opposite him, deep in thought. The truth was that Harry was intrigued and a part of him was dying for some adventure. He enjoyed his job, but the challenge had gone once he had begun to settle into his job. After so long in the magical world and years in a constant state of civil war, he needed something to do with himself. And he could leave this project if it wasn't to his liking. He didn't need the job or a wage.
"Ok." Harry turned back to the two men, his gaze resolute and his voice firm. "I'm in for now."
A huge frigging mountain. He was deep inside a big ass mountain. Harry looked around at the dull grey walls surrounding him in fascination. He had spent some time in other bunkers during the war, but they had all been magical, with fake windows and nice scenery. This room was boring, with only a door on one wall and a round table surrounded by chairs.
The chairs were occupied by other people and Harry looked around as he was shown inside and took the only remaining seat available, as he was the last to arrive. They had been left alone for ten minutes so far and no one had spoken a word, giving Harry time to observe the others. There were two women and three men in the room with Harry and the youngest looked at least thirty, making Harry very much visibly the youngest in the room.
"So," The women who spoke was petite and thin and was looking around the room nervously, tucking a lock of dirty blonde hair behind her ear. "Where is everyone from?"
A man across from the woman snorted and looked at her in disdain. "That is the best you can come up with after ten whole minutes thinking time?" The woman looked away nervously, a pink flush on her cheeks. The guy gave a put-upon sounding sigh. "Well, if you all must know, I'm Dr. Daniel Masters, PhD. I'm a lecturer of quantum computing at MIT. You?"
"Erm, I'm Dr. Ann Craig and I'm a forensic computer technician for a private security company." The woman refused to look at anyone and tucked another strand behind her ear.
Harry only half paid attention to the others' names and job titles until it finally got around to him. "I'm Harry." He gave them all a nod and a friendly smile. He saw the sneer on Masters' face as he gave only his first name and saw him looking him up and down. Where all the others were wearing work and business clothes, Harry had decided on jeans and a t-shirt. He may wear suits to his day job, but he wasn't going to bother for some top secret job interview that he wasn't even sure he wanted.
"Are you sure you're in the right room kid?" Masters' gave an unfriendly smile. "Because you look like some high school student who has just wandered into a top secret military base by accident."
Harry sat back in his chair and gave the man a cold, unfazed look. Harry didn't care what this utter tosser thought of him. Harry knew he was good at his job and was confident in his abilities. He had met a few people like this in the past: just because he didn't have a piece of paper from some university to say he was good at something, people seemed to think that he couldn't do his job.
"I actually work at the Cybercrimes Prevention and Protection department of the Pentagon. I beat over two thousand people for my job. So, yeah, I'm just Harry." Harry gave the man a cold grin and was saved from the startled reply by an officer entering and asking them to follow him. Harry shoved his backpack over his shoulder and casually followed the man out of the room and down endless corridors.
They went down a couple of floors in the elevator (at least, Harry thought it was down but he wasn't sure. They were underground and he had no way of judging because he couldn't see the panel indicating the floor) and were shown down another corridor that looked exactly like all the others he had walked down. This time though, they were each show into individual rooms.
Harry was the last to be shown into the room at the very end of the corridor and he looked carefully around as he entered, the officer following him with his instructions. There was a work bench with various pieces of equipment scattered across it and a table right in the centre of the small room. Upon the table was a small and innocuous looking piece of equipment.
Harry wandered closer to the strange piece of technology and leaned closer. It was made of metal, and round in shape. There were symbols decorating its sides. Harry had never come across anything like it before.
"You are to determine as much as you can about this piece of equipment in two hours. It has been tested already and isn't dangerous, so you needn't worry. A scientist will be come back in a few hours to see how far you have got."
Harry absently thanked the officer as he left the room, silently closing the door behind himself. Harry walked around the object again, marvelling at it. Harry had to admit he was excited. He loved a challenge. Determination running through him, he pulled his backpack off and pulled out his tablet PC.
Harry was so engrossed in his work, his tablet clutched in one hand and his other hand buried among the delicate crystals that made up the inside of the device, that he almost missed the people entering the room through the door behind him. But he had survived a war where he was one of the prime targets, so as soon as he sensed that he wasn't alone he carefully pulled his hands out of the device and pulled out his earphones.
He set down his tablet down and turned to great the people that had entered. It was a woman and a man, and Harry felt himself automatically looking them over and memorising the most distinguishing features of them both. The woman was tall, with short brown hair and warm eyes. The man was slightly shorter, with light brown hair that was just starting to thin and had the most intense blue gaze Harry had ever seen that shone with intelligence. Harry had found during the War that the most individual part of a person was their eyes and you could tell a lot about what a person was thinking, feeling and even what they may be about to do from their gaze. The gaze flicked between Harry and the device, an incredulous look plastered across his face.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Weir and this is Dr. McKay. I'm in charge of the project and Rodney is the Head of Science and Research." Harry gave them both a smile and inclined his head at both in turn. Rodney had wandered closer to the device and was gazing at it in surprise.
"I must say that we have been impressed with all the other candidates so far, but none of them have gotten as far as you have."
"None of those morons thought to actually open the device up and see how it works on the inside." Rodney turned his searching gaze on Harry. "What have you managed to discover about the device then?"
Harry couldn't help but smile at the haughty man in front of him. He had a pompous air about him and virtually screamed 'arrogance', but Harry could see that he was all hot air. And just by looking the man in they eye and seeing the glint there and the way the woman was deferring to him and treating him with respect let Harry know that the man in front of him was very intelligent.
"Well," Harry wandered over to his tablet and picked it up. "I had to take apart some of the equipment on the bench and I kind of patched it together and MacGyvered a kind of connecter together so I could attach my tablet. Once I did that, I wrote a quick interface program."
"You did all that in two hours?" Harry could tell that Rodney was impressed, despite the grumpy look on his face.
Harry gave a nonchalant shrug. "Yeah. After that I found out that it is some kind of music box." Harry tapped a couple of buttons and a tune came out of the device. Another tap stopped the tune. "Once I knew what it was, it was easy to access the device's small database and find the stored music. The one I played is called 'Ode to the Stars'."
Weir started slightly. "You can read the language?"
Harry rubbed his neck slightly. He had never been under such intense gazes, even during his hacking competition. "Yeah. I'm good at patterns and codes. This was just like cracking another code."
Rodney gave him a really intense and evaluating gaze. "I like this one Elizabeth."
Elizabeth sat at the briefing table at Stargate Command, folders scattered over the surface in front of her. She took a sip of coffee and continued to read the file in her hands. She had to admit, she was impressed. No matter how many people she had seen, this one person impressed her more than any of the others she was considering. Harry James Potter had certainly made his impression on her.
He was only seventeen and a half and yet he outshone all the older candidates by miles. The others came with a pile of degrees, masters and doctorates, but none of them had even managed to get Rodney to acknowledge them as anything more than incompetant minions to be berated and shouted at. Harry had managed to get that acknowledgement and more. He had worked his way under Rodney's prickly exterior and actually seemed to like the grumpy Canadian, which was something Elizabeth hadn't seen in all the months she had been working with the standoffish scientist.
"He is impressive, despite not having any qualifications." Elizabeth mused, glancing at Rodney and watching as he devoured a donut and coffee. "He beat thousands of people in the FBI hacking contest and has stopped some of the worst cyber attacks in the six months he has been with them. And the initial testing they did on all the candidates in the first stages shows he is incredibly gifted with patterns – languages, math, computers – and that his IQ is over 180. He is a genius." Weir gave a small frown. "But he is only seventeen and that worries me. This mission is essentially one-way and has the potential to be dangerous."
Rodney swallowed his last gulp of coffee. "He is emancipated, so is legally an adult and can make the choice himself, and by the time we actually leave he will be eighteen. It is his birthday in two months." Rodney looked Elizabeth in the eye. "I am hard to impress, as you like to joke about all the time Elizabeth. This kid is the best I've ever seen and I want him as my Computer expert. I've never seen anyone have such an affinity with Ancient technology before. And," Rodney slid a piece of paper over to her, "the lab is done with his DNA sample. He has the ATA gene."
Elizabeth sighed, but nodded. "Ok, but I want to make sure he fully understands just how dangerous it will be."
Harry continued working on his tablet, frowning when he tried to type one handed. He was trying to finish up a programme and eat cupcakes at the same time. He had been left in this room for just over two hours now and he was getting seriously bored. And he was running out of cupcakes. Harry hadn't seen any of the other job candidates yet and he wasn't sure if that was a good or bad sign.
Harry was just finishing up his programme when the door opened and Rodney and Elizabeth walked in. Harry smiled at them and set his tablet aside. He saw Elizabeth look at the pile of cupcake wrappers and give a small smile and he quickly brushed any remaining crumbs off himself.
"Before we start, you will have to sign this nondisclosure agreement. It basically says that you can't talk to anyone what we will discuss because it is classified at the highest level and if you do you will be put into a federal prison."
Harry signed the agreement and silently slid it back to the smiling woman. "Talk away. I can't wait for some answers to explain all this cloak and dagger stuff."
"First of all, here is general description of your role and wage and some other stuff."
Harry looked quickly through the sheets of paper and felt his eyebrows rise. "That is an impressive wage that you offer, especially considering that this states that living arrangement will be provided. And," Harry paused and looked at them incredulously. "It states that I will be the only computer expert working on this project."
Rodney cleared his throat. "All of the scientists have knowledge of computers, obviously, but anything to do with new technology, like you worked on today, will be your job. You are the best I have seen and I want you as part of my department and team."
Harry swallowed and looked back at the papers in front of him. He was now utterly focused on finding out what this project was about. "How dangerous?"
Harry met both Rodney's and Elizabeth's gaze. "To offer a wage like this, it must involve some danger. How much are we talking about here?"
"I won't lie to you." Elizabeth sighed. "It could be life threatening. We don't know. It could also be a one way trip for all of us."
Harry nodded, processing this information. Harry was no stranger to life threatening situations and this job was sounding more and more interesting. Elizabeth's voice broke into his thoughts. "It is completely voluntary and you came back out at any time right up to the moment of departure."
Harry took a few minutes to calm himself and really consider his options. He loved a challenge and danger had never put him before. And if they were recruiting the best and brightest that the world had to offer, then he was sure the project was something amazing. And he didn't really have anything tying him into the life he had managed to find himself in after the war ended. Harry looked up and grinned at the two anxious people in front of him.
"I'm absolutely in."
Elizabeth gave him a bright smile and Rodney nodded in satisfaction, a smug tone in his voice as he spoke next. "Do you believe in aliens Harry?"