Stargate SG-1 1.21 "Politics"
Hammond: Senator Kinsey is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He's demanded to know what is behind the line item the Pentagon refers to as Area 52.
O'Neill: The Stargate Program.
Leverage 4.05 "The Three Days of the Hunter Job"
Parker: The Loch Ness monster?
Hardison: The Loch Ness sub.
Eliot: Loch Ness waters are cold and deep. Perfect place to test subs.
Parker: Area 51?
Hardison: (at same time) False.
Eliot: It's true!
Hardison: She said Area Fifty-ONE. Fifty-one.
Eliot: Oh. I'm sorry. That's false. Fifty-two.
Hardison: Been there.
Parker stared at Eliot and Hardison, obviously trying to gauge from their faces whether or not they were conning her on the whole Area 52 thing. Hardison for his part kept his face carefully blank, not wanting to betray any further emotion the phrase had evoked. After a few moments, she stormed off.
Eliot and Hardison exchanged smirks, but Eliot's expression became a bit too inquisitive for Alec's taste. He wished the guy would just get back to chopping veggies. His nervousness increased when Eliot asked, in a dangerous deadpan voice. "You've been there?"
Hardison licked his lips, and took a sip from his glass, instantly regretting the offhand comment he'd let slip out.
COLORADO SPRINGS, SIX YEARS AGO
He shouldn't have set up the hardwire link through the electrical grid. They never would've found him if he hadn't made that connection. He knew it would be too traceable. But it was the only way he could think of to bypass some last firewalls, and what better bragging rights could there be at DEFCON than actually hacking the real "DEFCON central", NORAD? Besides, it's not like he had actually gone onto the grounds of the uber-secret military base. He wasn't crazy.
But he was on the grounds now, in the depths of Cheyenne Mountain, getting the guided tour. Well, it was really more frogmarched by a couple of very burly marines or soldiers or...anyway big scary guys, then handcuffed to a chair in a poorly lit room. The burlies had left him with two captains or majors or some such rank. All Alec knew, neither one looked like Dabney Coleman to his Ferris Bueller.
They were pulling a good cop/bad cop routine, the "good cop" was even cracking some Wargames jokes to try and amp up his cool level. Hardison wasn't biting. He was getting pretty scared they were thinking he was an actual spy rather than just some hacker. Didn't they shoot spies? So, he did what came naturally. Gran always told him he had the gift of gab.
"Whoa, hey no, man. I ain't no spy. I'm an American citizen. My taxes pay your salary. Both your salaries." Never mind he'd never paid taxes in his life. He glanced up. "And for these lightbulbs. Are these those $400.00 kind? I mean. Somebody's gotta audit and make sure you ain't wasting our money and..."
His diatribe was cut off when the lights went out in the room, making it drop into pitch blackness.
"Okay, seriously, that's a bit of overkill, man."
One of the captain twins must've opened the door because some dull red lights strobed through a thin rectangle facing Hardison. The silhouettes of both men were just rounded shadow globs blocking the clean lines of the door frame. Hardison could hear their whispered voices carrying through the gloom.
"Think it's another drill?" Hardison couldn't be sure, but he thought it was Captain Badcop. His voice sounded so much...younger now that he wasn't playing the intimidation game on Hardison.
The other one gave a short dry laugh. "Any luck, it's going to be those nuts downstairs again."
"You think it's Charlie?"
"No, not our downstairs...the people at..." There was a pause and by the movement of one of the heads, Hardison gathered they'd suddenly remembered his presence. Goodcop's voice lowered even further, his tone taking on an air of mystery. "You know...Area 52."
Hardison's ears perked up. Area 52? There was something more secret than NORAD going on here? Man, maybe those conspiracy nuts on the web were right. Like that one guy who kept insisting Cheyenne Mountain had a big stone ring sending people to other planets. Of course people later found out he wrote that "Wormhole X-Treme" show and figured he was just planting seeds of publicity. Shame that was canceled after three episodes. It wasn't half-bad. He liked Dr. Levant, and that Captain Stacy was fine.
While Hardison's thoughts drifted, his interrogators' aside conversation continued. If anything they sounded more wary than before, which just made Hardison all the more nervous. "Didn't they just pull this shit last month? Chemical spill my ass. I had..."
They stopped talking as a strange metal clattering echoed in the dark. Hardison hoped it wasn't rodents. But it didn't sound like that. More of a steady beat, very mechanical.
Captain Goodcop gasped. "What was that?"
"No idea. Anyone there?" Captain Badcop called out into the hall, devoid of the confident bombast he'd been portraying while interrogating Hardison. The guy turned on a flashlight--looked to be more of a penlight--its thin stream weaving erratically before the doorway blocked its light from Hardison's view. Hardison could only see two heads, so the burly guys that brought him in here weren't around anymore.
Captain Badcop unsnapped the holster for his sidearm and started to leave the room. "I'll try and get on the horn and find out the scoop, you stay and babysit Wargames here."
The door closed again, blocking out that eerie red light. He and Captain Goodcop waited in the darkness for several minutes for who knows what. No power, no noises, except for that odd intermittent clanging sound.
"So, uh...does this happen often?" Hardison finally ventured.
"Just sit there and stay quiet."
"Dude," Hardison rattled his handcuffs against the chair. "Where would I go?"
"Quiet!" It wasn't the sudden transformation of Captain Goodcop to Major Hardass that got to Hardison, it was the tremor in the voice when the guy muttered, half to himself. "C'mon, Sean, you should've been back by now."
The next thing Hardison heard was the sound of gunfire in the distance and...whoa, was that screams? "Uh..."
More gunfire. Another scream, suddenly muted. More metal clattering drawing closer and closer. A snap Hardison now recognized as the unholstering of a weapon. The door opened again, silhouetting Captain Goodcop in the red strobe. "Just stay put and, whatever you do, stay quiet."
"But..." Hardison rattled the handcuffs again. "Shouldn't you...or..." Hardison jumped at seeing the flash from the guy's gun firing out into the hall just before the door closed. There were several more shots but then...nothing.
And he was alone.
Hardison had to admit, if this was just a way for them to scare the crap out of him, they were sure succeeding. He wanted to shout out "very funny, guys", but Goodcop's last instruction to stay quiet rang in his head. The room was getting stuffy. No power meant no air circulating. He just had the dark for company. The eerie silence lasted for several minutes. Hardison was about to try and shuffle his chair around when all of a sudden the strange click click sound started up again. The loud clickity click going down the hall past his door.
Except it didn't all seem to be going past. Hardison would swear he was hearing it nearby, in the room, but the door hadn't opened again. He thought again about trying to move, just to have his back against a wall, chairbound though he was.
That was when the lights turned back on.
Hardison blinked a few times, his eyes watering from adjusting from pitch black to sudden brightness. As soon as he could focus, he saw it, sitting on the table in front of him. It looked like one of those magnetic sculptures bored executives had in their offices, except much bigger. A big metallic spider, clicking across the surface of the table.
Hardison did the only thing he could do when faced with some sort of sci-fi nightmare. He screamed bloody murder and tried to get away. Since he was handcuffed to the chair, he only succeeded in knocking himself backward onto the floor, still in a seated position.
Clickity clack. The metal spider peered over the edge of the table, then hissed. It sprang forward and Hardison winced, closing his eyes. He felt the rain of metal fall around him. Cautiously, he opened one eye. He was surrounded by individual chips of metal. The spider had apparently collapsed mid-spring and pieces of it were now scattered all over the floor and Hardison.
What the hell was this place?
He had no idea how long he'd stayed there without moving. Finally curiosity won out over shock. Some engineering experiment gone wild? He tried to handle one of the pieces. It felt cold, but slightly malleable, not enough to change its form, but there was something to this metal. What happened to it? A self-destruct? A timer? Hardison hadn't encountered anything like this before. He went cross-eyed trying to look at the pieces on his chest. The mechanics of it were ridiculously small. Even the most advanced current microchips couldn't handle something like this.
He heard movement out in the hall. Voices. Human voices. Thank God. "Hey, in here! Help!"
The door opened, and two men peered down at him. Not his old guards. These guys were loaded to the gills with rifles and ammo, but the tall one with glasses looked more like a janitor than a badass infantryman. They stared down at him in shock.
Finally Hardison broke the silence. "A little help? I've been stuck like this forever. I know this kinda stuff has to be violating some kind of constitutional protection. I want Al Sharpton, and Perry Mason down here and and...whoever I should get as a JAG lawyer too. Oh yes, I saw that Tom Cruise movie. Demi was hot in that. But I didn't sign up for some bad robot movie. Uh-uh. Who always gets killed first in those? The Brother, that's all I'm sayin'."
While he'd been babbling nonsense to cover his panicked relief, they'd helped him back into an upright position.
"Are you all right?" the soldier asked.
"Am I all right? Am I all right? Do I look all right? I've been stuck on the floor. My hands are numb, and I'm covered in metal blocks. These aren't toxic are they? I could call OSHA and the EPA and and and..." Hardison looked out into the hallway and saw some people wheeling a gurney with a man going past. He couldn't tell if it was one his cop captains or not. The bombastic protests died out of him. "I...I...are they all right?"
"Maybe...it's...pretty bad out there." The soldier's face softened for a moment, then hardened as he saw the handcuffs. "So, what's the story here?"
Gran didn't raise no dummy. He didn't wish anything bad for the guards, but if this was his ticket outta this looney bin, he'd take it. He shook his handcuff lightly. "Oh, this? This was just a misunderstanding. We were working it all out, starting to laugh about it when all the lights went out and..."
He couldn't continue. His mouth went dry thinking about that odd clickity clack sound.
"What department are you with?" the janitor guy asked.
"Department, uh... I'm uh..." Hardison couldn't think fast enough. The soldier was already looking at the file the guards had left on the table, brushing away more of the metal chips.
He grimaced and sighed as he looked at Hardison again, then clicked his radio. "General, this is Reynolds up on Ten. We've got a civilian here who's been exposed to the situation."
"Injured?" came the clipped reply.
"No, but...I think you better come up here."
Hardison was so surprised that his experience warranted a general coming to see him it took a couple moments before he realized his hands had been freed. He saw the janitor putting back a small screwdriver. Had the guy picked the lock?
"Siler is a man of many talents." The soldier–-Reynolds smiled. "Getting into trouble is usually the biggest one."
The man opened his mouth to say something, then apparently decided against it. Hardison could usually get some sort of a bead on people, but this janitor guy was like the Sphinx. The Sphinx with a pocket for everything it seemed because the next thing he knew, the guy produced a water bottle out of nowhere.
Hardison sipped at it greedily in thanks before a thought struck him. "This ain't drugged, is it? I don't want to wake up naked in the desert or something."
"There's an idea." The comment came from the new person entering the room--tall fella, white like the other two, with silver hair and a casual saunter to his bearing. Like the others, he too had a big gun strapped to some kind of kevlar vest. Reynolds handed him the file. Between that and the star on his shoulder, Hardison guessed this was the General from the radio. Funny, he didn't look like a general. Did generals usually smirk at reading potential felon's criminal files? Maybe they did.
The General meanwhile had closed the file and looked at Reynolds. "Status, Colonel?"
"Reports are they're finding remnants as far as Eight. Most of NORAD evac'ced too, but with power losses, some pockets didn't get word. Some casualties, but some survivors. Our guest here," he gestured to Hardison, "was handcuffed to the chair. He had a...close encounter but, well, his lucky day. Bogey dismantled before it could hurt him. Looks like standard security breach interrogation protocol. No idea why these guys didn't get word. Siler's already gone to check out the intercom in this section."
Hardison had somehow missed the janitor guy slipping out. Usually he was more observant of people. He needed to pay attention. He wasn't out of the woods yet, but not being cuffed was definitely a big improvement. He could now use his fight or flight instinct...which for him meant flight. Definite running away flight.
The General looked at the detritus scattered around and brushed a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up in odd places. "Send the injured to Twenty-One. Brightman and Warner are already on their way back down, and Carmichael's been called in."
Reynolds nodded and left Hardison alone with the General, who took a seat across the table. He placed the file carefully and deliberately between them. Licking his lips, Hardison decided to go with contrite and polite and hope to get out of here before more killer robots showed up. "Look, sir, this is all just a big, terrible misunderstanding."
"I'm sure it is, Mr...Donnie Crease." Hardison had forgotten the I.D. he'd used until the General smiled again. "Teal'c just rented this movie. Poitier, huh? I would've gone with Redford myself."
"Bishop was too obvious." Hardison admitted before he realized he'd just insulted the General. He looked up, seeing the guy quirk an eyebrow. There was a scar bisecting the brow. Hardison decided he didn't want to know how he got it. He had a feeling this guy didn't work his way through the ranks by being a techie.
The General smiled. "What's your name, son? Your real name?"
Hardison opened his mouth and closed it again twice before looking down at the table. "Alec."
"Well, Alec, judging from this file you were poking in places that you shouldn't have been. Got more than you bargained for, I bet."
"Oh, hell, yeah." Hardison nodded, then wondered if swearing was allowed in front of generals. The General snorted. Banking on the guy's sense of humor, he decided to pry. He gestured to the metal pieces still scattered around the room, "So...um, what was...that?"
The General's expression closed down fast. The smile was still there, but it was now flat, the eyes hardened. "What do you think it was?"
"That's the thing. I dunno. It's mechanical, but its motor control was off the charts." Hardison was able to admire its design better now that it was in pieces and not about to eat him. "And those wires. The circuitry for wireless and to break down into..."
The General waved his hand and put the other to his forehead. "Ach, ach! I've had enough of machines and tech–stuff for one day."
"Oh." Hardison looked at the pieces scattered about, inert. He picked up a few and let them fall again, hearing the dead clatter, so different from that vibrant click. "How'd it...what happened to it? I mean to go apart like that?"
The General cocked an eyebrow again. It was enough to shut Alec up, but this time the General's attention didn't seem to focus on him. He was looking up, as if pondering the same question. But shouldn't he already know the answer? When his eyes met Hardison's again, he shrugged with that same wry smile. "Pest control."
Hardison didn't know how to respond to that. He couldn't figure out this strange man who wandered from clown to steely eyed missile man and back in the blink of an eye. He gathered the General was sizing him up as well. He stared at Hardison for seconds that seemed to stretch into minutes, drumming his fingers over the file. Hardison was ready to say something, anything to break the silence first, when the General spoke. "You're a smart guy, Alec. I may be able to help you, or to be more specific, we could help each other."
Hardison leaned back in his chair, trying to match the General's casualness. He looked down to see his hands were still shaking--had to be shock, wasn't nervousness or intimidation. Just shock. Hardison thought it was a bad sign he couldn't even con himself with that one. He folded his hands in his lap, out of the General's eyeline. Making a point to clear his throat, he replied, "I'm listening."
"You, through no fault of your own, witnessed some...weird stuff and lived through it. If you forgot about what happened here this afternoon, I could...forget about this file I've got here. You could be back home for supper with no one the wiser about your little...felony attempt."
This sounded like some kind of deal with the devil. "Or...?"
"Or, I could turn you back over to NORAD with this evidence. Looks like they've got you dead to rights with it. But if we go that route, I'd have to slap down lots of Secrets Act and national security over tons of stuff for sealed testimony and records. That involves paperwork." He leaned forward and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "I really, really hate paperwork."
There had to be a catch. "And all I have to do is not say a word about..."
"Big metal bugs. Yeah. Well, say nothing and don't try and crack Cheyenne Mountain's computer systems again. I'd say for you to go forth and crack codes no more, but I want you to be able to keep your promise, so I'll settle for your word you'll curb any curiosity you've got about this place. You know what they say about curiosity." The General swiped away some of the metal chips, seeming to take satisfaction from watching them scatter to the floor. "Next time neither I nor NORAD will be so nice about it."
Alec was confused. "You're not NORAD?"
The General shrugged. "Me, nah, I'm just the downstairs neighbor."
Area 52. Hardison gulped. "How do you know I won't just tell everyone what happened when I get outside?"
The General shrugged. "Call it instinct. Besides, that would also cause questions of how you got in here, and make us track you back down again. You're not the first internet geek with a conspiracy theory. What would happen if you said you were attacked by killer alien robot spiders in Cheyenne Mountain?"
"It's alien?" Hardison didn't think he could get more shocked about today.
The General never missed a beat. "Alien. Experiment. Tinkertoy. I'm just weaving hypotheticals."
"But you're the one who brought up aliens...."
"Okay. Yeah, sure. Try. You can even quote me. Just tell 'em you heard it from the military consultant for Wormhole X-Treme." He grinned again. "I'm sure that'll get you far."
"O'Neill. Two "L"'s." General O'Neill leaned back in his chair, musing. "That Yolanda Reese was pretty. Kinda reminded me of a young Mary Steenbergen."
"I...you..." Hardison had enough. He stood up. "All you people...you-you're crazy."
O'Neill quirked a wry smile, but instead of the coldness, Hardison could see sadness in his eyes. "I wouldn't argue that, especially after the day I've had. What do you say, Alec? Do we have a deal?"
The sadness was gone now, blinked away as if it hadn't existed. Instead the calculating military man was staring him down. Even though the General had remained seated and Alec standing, Hardison found himself quailing under O'Neill's steely gaze. He nodded to the man and put out his hand. "What big metal spiders?"
"Excellent." O'Neill grinned and shook Hardison's hand in a strong grip. He didn't think the General noticed when he'd slipped one of the chips into his pocket while the General's radio chirped.
"General O'Neill? Colonel Carter has been in contact from Dakara."
O'Neill grabbed the transmitter. "Unsecure transmission." He warned, then paused. "Walter? Is that you?"
"Where are you?"
Even over the radio, the insulted tone came through. "The control room, of course, sir."
"Already? Radar O'Reilly." O'Neill muttered this last to himself. "What's Carter... and..." He seemed to struggle to find words to say in front of Hardison, who didn't know what to say or do.
This mysterious Walter seemed to know the unasked question. "She and Teal'c are fine, sir."
There was no mistaking the slump of relief in O'Neill's shoulders. The General keyed the radio again. "I'll be right down, Walter. O'Neill out."
O'Neill pulled the yellow pad up off the floor and scribbled a note, tearing it off with that disconcerting smile as he herded Hardison down the hallway. "I'll be able to escort you to the elevator, and the SF at the top will get you the rest of the way with this. No problem."
Hardison looked down at the note as they entered the elevator. It read. "Civilian visitor. Escort out of mountain. No clearance. No questions asked. Brig. Gen. Jack O'Neill."
Hardison looked over at the General. The man looked tired, but there was a...something different. A lightness to him since that radio call from Walter. Hesitantly, Hardison offered. "I'm glad your friends are okay."
At the General's raised eyebrow, he continued. "Your movie pal and Carter. I'm glad they're okay."
"Yeah," O'Neill nodded running his hand through his hair. "Two out of three ain't bad."
Hardison didn't know how to respond, and was happy when the elevator doors opened, but the General held him back before he could exit. Instead O'Neill backed out himself, hitting the 1 button on the panel. Hardison looked up and saw the "11" was shining overhead. Hadn't he been on Ten? Downstairs...
O'Neill was smiling at him. "This is my stop. Oh, and one more thing..." He held out his hand expectantly. Hardison blinked at him.
"The chip. Can't let 'em out of the Mountain. Not even in accidentally in the pockets of people who were never here."
"How did you...?" God, did this place produce mind readers as well as robots? No way the guy saw him palm it. Hardison fished in his pocket and pulled it out, placing it in the General's hand.
"You just remind me of ..." O'Neill grimaced, "an old 'friend' of mine who played your game. He wasn't as honest. Take care of yourself, Alec."
The elevator doors closed with Hardison still blinking at the General's disconcerting smile.
BOSTON, PRESENT DAY
Hardison licked his lips, trying to remember the question. Oh yeah, "had he been to Area 52?" Eliot's grin could've been the twin to the one of O'Neill now ghosting his memory. He grinned back at Eliot with a lightness he didn't feel.
"Nah, man. I was just messin with Parker some." He held himself tightly not to give the lie away by any body movement. He had to down the rest of his orange soda and clear his throat before being able to speak further. "What-what about you, man?"
Eliot stared at him for a few moments, blinking. Finally, he shook his head, evading Hardison's eye as he went back to chopping vegetables with renewed vigor. "Yeah, man, me neither."
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Character Study, Crossover, Drama, Humor, Missing Scene/Episode-Related|
|Summary:||In the midst of a base crisis, Gen. O'Neill has to handle a hacker in the wrong place at the wrong time. Crossover with Leverage (Alec Hardison backstory).|
Hopefully the fic speaks for itself as an "other character" even if you don't know Leverage. Thanks to ultranos_fic for some computer culture advice and annerb for alpha/beta duties. Any errors or inaccuracies remain my own.
Spoilers through end of Season 8 of SG-1; 2.05 "Three Days of the Hunter Job" of Leverage.
Spoilers through end of Season 8 of SG-1; 2.05 "Three Days of the Hunter Job" of Leverage.
Chapter End Notes:
* If you didn't already realize, this is intended as a Reckoning Missing Scene