Blair sat in the loft, his laptop open in from of him. He’d used up every resource he could at the station already, even having Rafe and H cover for him while he snuck around the warehouse looking for clues. Now he was on the Internet, searching for anything he could come up in regards to SG or SGC. Nothing. If they were part of the Air Force, they were certainly keeping a very low profile. What he couldn’t figure was Daniel Jackson’s connection to the Air Force. Blair had no trouble finding out information about his earlier career. He had been a rising star in the field until he starting giving lectures on his theory that aliens built the pyramids. He was soon mercilessly ridiculed and snubbed by his peers. Blair could certainly identify with that. Then he mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. How did he go from disgraced archeologist to Air Force consultant? And if he were just a consultant, why was outfitted in military clothes and gear? Suddenly the phone rang. “Sandburg here.”
“Robby, my favorite hacker! What’ve you got for me?”
“Not much. I don’t like this, man. What little I could get was hard to find. And I could tell it wasn’t nearly the whole story. This is big, Blair. These guys are into some majorly serious stuff—ultra top-secret.”
“Just tell me what you did find.”
“I don’t know what the initials stand for, but ‘SGC’ is linked to a base in Cheyenne Mountain, CO. It’s an Air Force base that tracks spatial bodies for NORAD. That is like, such a lame cover, man. I think they’re making new weapons or defense technology there.”
“What does that have to do with Egyptian cults?”
“I don’t know, but I can’t help you anymore. This whole thing’s freaking me out. After I started doing some heavy searching for you, these scary-looking guys showed up. I think they’re watching me. You’re on your own, man.”
“Robby, wait!” *click
He knew Robby was a paranoid conspiracy-theorist, but Blair couldn’t help looking out the window all the same. Nobody there. Maybe he should be more careful just in case.
Blair went into Jim’s room. He took a picture down from the wall. Scribbled on the back in tiny print was a phone number. The number changed every so often and Jim would hide it in a different place each time. The two of them had talked about what they would do if Jim ever disappeared under mysterious circumstances or was taken by the military. Jim had made him learn some weird code signals and would sometimes quiz him out of the blue to make sure he remembered.
Blair went over to the phone and took a deep breath. He dialed the number.
A strange mechanical voice spoke. “Rerouting number. Rerouting number. Rerouting number.” Another voice suddenly came on. “Hello.”
Sandburg remembered his lines. “Hey, Larry! How ya doin’? Sandy told me you were coming into town in a few weeks. She said you were bringing the kids. If you want, I could show you guys around. I bet your kids would love the amusement park.”
“Sure. You think we could go to the zoo, too? My son’s really into wild animals. He’s especially crazy about the big cat exhibits.”
“They used to have some lions, tigers, jaguars—but I think they got rid of that part.”
“That’s too bad. Tell you what. Why don’t you send me some brochures tomorrow of what there is to see in town, I’ll see what the kids want to do, and I’ll call you back. Then we can plan the whole week.”
“Ok. Talk to you later.” Blair hung up. That was weird.
Jim had told him about a guy he worked with in Covert-Ops whose codename was ‘Spider’. He trusted very few people—Jim was one of them because he’d saved his life when the brass had written him off as a casualty. After the government screwed Spider over on another mission and almost got him killed, he became even more paranoid. He eventually left the service and dropped out of site. He kept in contact with Jim, but Jim had no idea exactly where he was. He did know that Spider spent all his time in some secret hideaway delving into top-secret government files. Spider said knowledge was power and protection. No one could touch him if he held all the cards—the more information he had, the safer he’d be. Blair thought the codename appropriate. The guy sat in the middle of a web, tendrils stretching out to catch what he wanted.
Blair got together the scant information Robby gave him plus the copies of the police reports. In the official report, he’d made no mention of the strange mirror. If his own captain didn’t believe him… But Blair had written down every detail of what had happened in personal notes. He put everything in a package—even the strange weapon he’d picked up. He’d wrapped that very carefully and wrote “Handle with Care” on the package. In their strange little conversation, he’d told Spider that Jim was missing. He in turn had told Blair to take all the information he had to the nearest post office tomorrow. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do after that.
The next day Blair went to the post office. He walked around, pretending to look at pamphlets and read his mail. Then he got in line and bought some stamps. He was looking at the wanted posters when someone came up beside him.
“It’s amazing how criminals can just disappear into the woodwork, isn’t it? But people go missing all over the country every day and no one knows where they end up. It’s tragic.”
“Uh, yeah. Sometimes people get found, though.”
“Spider.” Blair handed him the package.
“Saturday. The park. The bench across the walkway from the gazebo. Two o’clock.”
Blair started to say something else, but when he looked over Spider was already leaving the building.
Jim could feel his senses drifting again. It was hard to keep focused. He didn’t know exactly where he was, but it was so foreign to anything he’d ever known. The stars he could see from his cell window were all wrong. The plants smelled strange. And the air…he could taste strange spices in it. What he could see from his window made him think he was in an oasis area of a desert. At least he now knew what happened to the missing people. He’d watched them out in the hot sun, building some kind of temple and statue. That was why they’d kidnapped young people—strong, resilient workers. A lot of them had also been engineering, architectural, and design students. Good choices for planning and implementing a large building project. At night they were brought back into the prison area where he was. Jim wondered why he was being left alone. He didn’t have to wonder long. Two guards came to his cell.
“Well, well. Tough-guy cop. Not so tough now, huh? We heard what you and your partner did to Tony and Ray, so we’re not taking any chances. The Boss wants to see you.” He pointed his staff at Jim. The end opened up, crackling with energy. When he woke up later, he was chained, on the floor, looking up at the old man, Kuk.
“Detective. So glad you could join us. You came around sooner than expected. You must be very strong, very resilient. That’s good. I’m going to need those qualities in my host.”
One of the guards spoke up. “You want him to join us? Boss! He’s a cop! He’ll…”
Kuk turned to look at him, his eyes glowed. He held up his hand. The guard dropped to the floor, cowering.
“I didn’t mean it! I’m sorry! Whatever you say goes, Boss.” Kuk’s hand crackled. The guard corrected himself. “Master.”
Kuk lowered his hand. “See that you remember. I will not remind you again. Get out of my sight.” He turned his attention back to Jim. “You’ve caused me a great deal of trouble. You forced me to leave Tony behind. He was one of my most devoted followers. He was also the one I had chosen to be my next host. I have never taken an unwilling host before, but this body is nearly finished. I have no choice. And you owe me for the inconvenience. It is only fitting you take his place. You should feel honored. You will be host to the God of Darkness as I go forth to destroy my enemies and build my new kingdom.”
“Are you insane? Host? What are you talking about?” Then Jim heard it again—the second heartbeat. This was wrong. This was all wrong. He could hear something crawling around inside the other man. It was so unlike anything he’d ever heard before that he couldn’t help himself. Jim was drawn with horrid fascination into that sound until he zoned on it.
Kuk, thinking the man was just in shock, called for his guards. “Take him to the implantation chamber. I will be there in a few moments.” Kuk went to the window. He could see the statue his slaves had begun. “Naufri. We could have built this kingdom together. Now it shall be a memorial to you. When your monument is finished, your countenance will give me the spiritual strength I need to destroy the Goa’uld and anyone else who stands in my way. And this detective with give me the physical strength I need to begin.”
Blair waited on the park bench. He could barely sit still. He hadn’t been able to sleep all night because he had this terrible feeling something bad was happening to Jim. He knew he was alive. After all they’d gone through together, the bond they shared, Blair would know if he were dead. A man sat down next to him. Spider.
“I thought you were crazy at first, Sandburg. Disappearing mirrors? But when I started investigating this SGC… Well, I believe vanishing mirrors to be a small idiosyncrasy in a much larger, much stranger picture. Everything I’ve researched on you says you’re very open-minded. I hope that’s true. I would never have believed this stuff if I hadn’t seen crazier things in my research of secret government projects.” He handed Blair an envelope.
Blair read everything carefully several times, not sure if this was some kind of joke. “Aliens?”
“Officially, the base tracks spatial bodies for NORAD. That’s a cover story that no one gets past. Well, almost no one. I’ve been keeping tabs on all these secret projects for years. If I can’t find information on it, it doesn’t exist. And that weird weapon you gave me? I can’t figure out what kind of metal it’s made from. I don’t think it’s from around here—and I don’t mean the United States.”
“So these guys at SGC, Stargate Command, have an alien device that allows them to transport soldiers to other worlds? And they’ve been fighting alien parasite invaders who use humans as hosts and slaves—aliens who’ve been here before? Yeah, I’m open-minded, but this is too much.”
“Believe it. This is real. Ellison’s life depends on you dealing with this and going to get him. This Kuk you tried to arrest is probably one of these Goa’uld aliens SGC is fighting. Everything I’ve found suggests the Stargates are bigger than the mirror you saw, but I’m willing to bet it’s another type of gate.”
Blair was about to say something smart when he realized he was doing what he’d accused Simon of—not believing something because it didn’t fit into his world. Jim trusted Spider with his life or he wouldn’t have set up this whole secret-code thing. Blair would have to trust that Jim knew what he was doing.
“So where is Jim now?”
“Kuk could’ve taken him anywhere—another country, another planet. SGC doesn’t seem to have him from all I’ve heard. If on the outside chance they do, they’re not even mentioning it internally. I’ve picked up the name Esmus a few times. I think it’s another planet. I’m sure SGC knows where it is. That’s probably where Kuk and Jim ended up.”
Another planet? “I’ve got to get to Colorado!” Blair sprung up to leave. Spider grabbed his arm.
“Already taken care of. I can’t go with you. As far as the government is concerned, I’m dead. I intend to keep it that way. Information is all I can give you—but there’s plenty of that. Besides, sneaking into a military base is a stealth job. Stealth is always best done by one person. Here.” He handed Blair a package.
Blair opened it to find a plane ticket, fake Air Force ID’s, a military uniform and regulation sidearm, and diagrams—diagrams of every inch of SGC. “How did you...?”
“That’s not important. We have some work to do.” For the next few days the two of them met to go over every detail. Spider drilled him mercilessly until he could recite military jargon in his sleep.
When Spider thought he was ready, he gave him one more piece of advice. “Lose the hair, kid. It’s not military.”
Blair went home and headed straight for the bathroom. He cut off the long hair in back and trimmed the rest with an electric razor. He looked at the stranger in the mirror with absolutely no regrets.