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Into the Looking Glass: Chapter Three

       Last updated: Thursday, December 23, 2004 00:57 EST



    “We’re going to use the junior man, rule, General,” Lieutenant Glasser said, gesturing at a schematic on the whiteboard.

    Brigadier General Hank Fullbright was the Assistant J-3 (Operations) of Special Operations Command. There was apparently a battle royale going on in Washington over who was to control the investigation of the Gate but due to proximity SOCOM had control at the moment. Fullbright had been dispatched nearly as fast as the SEAL team and now sat in a rolling chair in the command Hummer nodding at the briefing. The “junior man rule” was well known to most of the military and certainly to the guys on the sharp end. In the event that you had no way to test for, say, poison gas, the junior man was the person you used for a guinea pig.

    “Seaman First Class Sanson has been briefed for the initial entry,” Glasser added, tapping the shoulder of the young SEAL standing at his side. He was wearing a blue environment suit and carried the full-face mask under his arm.

    “Just a reconnaissance. He will enter, ensure his own environmental and physical safety, do a brief video of the far side and then return.”

    “You up for this, sailor?” the general asked.

    “SEALs in, sir!” the sailor blurted, nervously.

    “Drop the hoowah, son,” the general said, mildly. “I admit that the junior man rule makes sense, but I want to know if you have reservations about this.”

    “Am I worried, sir, yes, sir,” the young SEAL said. “But I’ve been well briefed and somebody has to do it. I’m willing, trained and able, sir.”

    “Okay, you go,” the general said, looking at his watch. “It’s 2330. You planning on doing this tonight, Lieutenant?”

    “Yes, sir,” Glasser said. “The initial entry. It’s been suggested that we do so as soon as possible due to potentiality of gate failure and to assess any threat on the far side.”

    “Other than bugs falling through,” the general said, smiling faintly. Another had fallen out of the gate less than an hour before and was being examined by Dr. McBain.

    “Yes, sir,” Glasser answered.

    “I don’t know all this science fiction stuff,” the general admitted. “You sure you’ve covered everything?”

    “Everything that we can, general,” Weaver answered. “We don’t know anything about air conditions on the far side except that the bugs have book lungs, so there is air. And they can survive for a time on this side. Sanson will be wearing a full environment suit. He won’t pop it open. We’ve come up with a very rough and ready air sampling probe. He could experience significant gravitational changes, significant light environment changes and the ground level may be different on the far side. Basically, he doesn’t know what he’ll find and we just hope he comes back at all. We sent in a roughed out rover set to roll in and roll back out. It didn’t come back.”

    “That’s not good,” the general noted. “What about just sticking a video camera through on a stick?”

    “We did, sir,” Glasser noted. “The stick sheared off.”

    “Son, you still want to go?”

    “Yes, sir,” Sanson said.

    “Well, good luck,” the general said, standing up, standing up and shaking his hand.

    The group moved out into the lights again. A platform had been rigged up under the globe. It was rickety as hell. At the base a man wearing a hard-hat was looking up at it and shaking his head.

    “Who are you?” Weaver asked when they reached the bottom of the stairs.

    “Bill Earp, FEMA,” the man said. “I’m the FEMA Safety Coordinator.” He was tall with a salt and pepper beard that had been cut back along the sides for a respirator and very heavyset; the blue jumpsuit that he was wearing made him look like a bearded blue Buddha.

    “If you’re going to tell me that platform is unsafe,” Weaver said. “We’d sort of noticed. But we’ve got to make a penetration tonight.”

    “Oh, the whole thing is unsafe,” the FEMA representative said, grinning. “I’m just here to do the required safety briefing. Who’ s doing the penetration?”

    “Seaman Sanson,” Weaver said, gesturing at the SEAL.

    “Okay, Seaman Sanson, this is your safety briefing,” the rep said, grinning again. “Be aware that the platform you are using for entry is poorly constructed and may collapse. Be aware that on the far side of the gate you may experience reduced air quality. Be aware that on the far side of the gate you may experience increased or decreased gravitational field. The far side of the gate may not be at ground level and you may experience vertical movement on exit. Upon returning you may find that you do not hit the platform in which case you will experience an approximately twenty meter fall to ground level. The gate may not return to this same location at all in which case you may find yourself in any location in this universe or in any other universe. The environment suit that you are using is not warranted by the manufacture for use in any non-terrestrial environment and, therefore, you are using it at your own risk. Do you understand this warning?”

    “Yes, sir?” the SEAL said.

    “Has your mask been tested for fit?” the FEMA representative asked.

    “I did a breath check,” the SEAL said.

    “Not good enough,” the FEMA rep replied. “Come with me.”

    From the trunk of his rent-a-car the FEMA rep produced a mask-fit tester. He plugged the nozzle into the mask, hooked up the breath pak, then spent a few minutes ensuring that it was a perfect seal. Then he helped Sanson get the hood on. The hood was integral to the suit and flopped down in front when removed. The zipper was up the back of the suit. They got the hood on, sealed it then zipped up the back. The FEMA rep ensured the seal of the zipper, put on the breath pack harness and then tapped him on the shoulder.

    “That’s better,” the rep noted. “You had a fifteen percent leakage before; if there’s anything harmful in the atmosphere on the far side you would have gone down in a heartbeat. Good luck.”

    “Thank you, sir,” the SEAL said, his voice muffled. He kept his mask on as he went to the platform.

    Glasser handed him an M-4 as he reached the platform and then buckled on a combat harness – which fortunately fit over the breath-pak - and looped a video camera over his shoulder.

    “Repeat your orders,” he said.

    “Start camera. Step through in tactical posture. Ensure my footing. One spin to check security. Drop weapon, pick up camera. One slow spin with the video camera. Return.” Sanson dropped the magazine from the weapon, ensured it was clear then locked and loaded and placed it on safe.

    “If you don’t return, we won’t be going in after you for at least an hour,” Glasser noted. “If it’s due to being unable to reach the globe on the far side, assume a tactical posture and wait; we will send someone else through.”

    “Yes, sir,” the SEAL answered, knowing he only had 45 minutes of air. They’d been over that and as many other contingencies as they could imagine. “Can I go now?”

    “Yep,” Glasser said, gesturing up the rickety scaffolding stairs.

    James Thomas Sanson had wanted to be a SEAL since he was seven years old and saw a show about them on the Discovery Channel. As he got older he studied everything he could find on the SEALs and what he needed to know before he joined. In high school he had played football and been on the track and field team. His high school didn’t have a swim team but he went down to the river, winter and summer, and swam as much as he could. He would sometimes lie in the water in winter, training himself to ignore as much as possible the cold. He’d come near to dying one time from hypothermia but he considered that just “good training.”

    He’d also been a good student and an avid reader. He had graduated high school with a 3.5 GPA after having read every book of military history and fiction in the library.

    He thought that he had prepared as well as he could for the SEAL course and with one exception Hell Week, while bad, had not been as horrific as it was for many of the other ///(nuggets? Tadpoles?)///BUDS?/// The exception had been fatigue. He had ignored the fact that SEAL students were kept awake for the entire period of Hell Week and that had almost finished him. But he made it. And he’d kept his head down in Phase One and Two and done pretty well, finished near the top of his class. When he got to the Teams he knew he’d face some harassment, nothing personal just making sure he was adequate SEAL material. When they sent him out for flight-line he came back with a roll of climbing rope. When they sent him out for prop-wash he came back with a bucket of same, a civilian brand of aircraft cleaning solvent. He’d prepared and thought that he was ready to face anything that the SEALs could throw at him.

    Until this.

    He realized, as he reached the top of the platform, that instead of reading military fiction he should have been reading science fiction. For all his briefing he realized he had no clue what they were talking about. Different atmosphere? Different sun? Different gravity? And then there were those stinking, unworldly, bugs.

    This could really, really suck.

    He started the damned video camera then prepared to step through. At the last moment he stopped. If there might be a drop he wanted his feet together. He placed them side by side, held his weapon at high port in tactical position, and then jumped into the Globe.

    There was a moment of disorientation, like being on a roller-coaster upside down in the dark and then rather than falling his toes caught on something and he tripped. He automatically rolled on something soft, hit something hard and came up in a crouch with his weapon trained outward.

    Orange was his first impression; most of the environment was orange. There wasn’t a lot of sunlight, it was cut off by overarching vegetation. The “trees” seemed to be giant vines that twisted together to reach upward for the light.

    It was something like triple canopy jungle. But instead of the vines and moss equivalent being green, they were orange. And they were everywhere. He’d hit a small patch of “soil” (orange) but it was a small patch. Most of the ground was covered by the roots of the vines.

    He automatically stood up and did a slow turn, checking for anything hostile. There didn’t even seem to be any large bugs around although he saw a small beetle-thing in the “tree” behind him. He also saw what the globe looked like from this side. Instead of being a globe it was a mirrored circle. It was almost hard to spot, except that it was actually in the tree itself, like some sort of looking glass embedded in the bark. Half in, half out, he decided. And not perfectly straight to local gravity, either, more at an angle, lying partially on its side and tilted a bit.

    Gravity. Heavier than earth’s. It hadn’t hit him at first, he just felt a little weak. But it was definitely the gravity. It felt like he was wearing a big pack but all over his body. He completed his first turn then whipped up the video camera and did another. No hostiles, no signs of civilization just these big honkin’ trees.

    It hit him, then, another wave of disorientation, not externally derived but internal. This wasn’t earth. This wasn’t anything on or like earth. This was an alien planet, completely and utterly different. For a moment he felt unbelievably frightened. This was like some hell; if the gate didn’t work he might be stuck here and he really didn’t want to stay here the rest of his life.

    Training, again, saved him. He’d done his mission. One turn for security, one turn for video. And now…

    “I am so fucking out of here,” he muttered. He turned off the camera, checked his weapon was on safe and then turned to the gate.

    “Shit, which way did I come in?” He wasn’t right in front of the gate. If he went back at the wrong angle he might fall to his death. “Why couldn’t they have put up a safety net?” he muttered. Finally, he looked at the marks from where he came through, spread his arms wide in case he missed and might be able to grab the safety poles on the platform, and jumped.



    “We’ve put the full team through at this point and it appears to be a triple canopy jungle,” Weaver said over the videophone. He was half amazed and half amused by the military’s efficiency in setting up a headquarters around the Hole. First there had been just the command Hummer and now there were tents, generators, a field kitchen, desks, computers, a video uplink to the White House, all in just the few hours since the general had arrived. “I’ve been through as well. Definitely an alien world; initial studies of the biology of the bugs that came through indicate that they don’t even use DNA, at least Dr. McBain hasn’t found any. They do have proteins, but they’re like nothing we’ve ever seen: no terrestrial amino acids at all. Higher levels of carbon dioxide, much lower level of oxygen, other than that pretty much an oxy-nitrogen atmosphere. Gravity is one point three standard, pretty heavy but survivable. Frankly, strip out the biology around the entrance, wear some sort of breath mask and you could live on the other side quite successfully. It’s all very interesting.”

    “That’s great,” the National Security Advisor said. “But I’ve really got to make sure; there is no sign of a threat from the far side? Either biological or military?”

    “Not so far,” Weaver temporized. “From the biology of the organisms I’d be surprised if they could even interact with our biology. Not impossible but very unlikely and Dr. McBain concurs. We’re definitely going to have to get some good biologists down here including molecular. Or we need to send organisms to them.”

    “I’m working on that,” the Science Advisor said. “We want samples for the CDC and the Emerging and Infectious Diseases Department at UGA. UGA’s got an excellent molecular biology department.”

    “On the military threat, Ma’am,” the general interjected. “So far there’s no sign of civilization on the far side.”

    “No sign as we define it,” Weaver pointed out. “I’m not trying to disagree, general, but for all we know those lianas on the far side are their civilization. Not likely from the looks of things but don’t get the mistake that you’re looking at earth.”

    “A point,” the general admitted. “But if anything hostile comes through we’ve got a company of infantry and a SEAL team around the site. That should at least slow them down.”

    “Now, what about this little girl and the other ET?” the National Security Advisor asked.

    “Well, ma’am, that’s a puzzler and no mistake,” Weaver said, grinning wryly.

    “She’s definitely who she says she is, the local police contacted her school and pulled the files they have on her. Mimi Jones, from Mendel Road; there was even a picture. That’s right in the totally destroyed area, practically ground zero. And the ET, initially, does not look as if it’s from the same biological framework; we haven’t seen anything with anything resembling fur on the far side so far. We sent some of the national guard over to Mendel Road, using GPS there’s no way to tell where it was before the explosion. And they can’t find anything resembling another gate. And let me point out that we’re not sure we’re looking at an alternate universe or another planet in this universe. There’s no reason, frankly, that any gate should have opened on a habitable planet. It’s much more likely to have opened into vacuum. Having two separate ET species turn up from one event is just mind-boggling.”

    “I see,” the National Security Advisor said. “That’s a very good point. Any theories, Doctor?”

    “Not what you could call theories, ma’am,” the physicist admitted. “We don’t know a thing about the other side of the gate, really. There could be a reason it opened there. Some sort of alternate similarity that attracted the gate opening. Or it might be that there was once a civilization on the far side that opened a gate and the…resonance remains. Still doesn’t explain Tuffy.”

    “Tuffy?” the National Security Advisor asked, smiling.

    “That’s what the girl, Mimi, calls the ET that turned up with her,” the general interjected.

    “Right now, ma’am, nothing’s making a lot of sense,” Weaver said. “We’ll figure out what’s going on, ma’am, in time. But right now all we can do is collect data and try to come up with some theories.”

    “Okay,” she said, pinching the bridge of her nose and yawning. “What else do you need?”

    “I’ve got a call out for some measurement devices, ma’am,” the physicist said.

    “Long term we’re probably going to have to set up a lab right here. We need to clamp down on the biological protocols…”

    “Definitely,” the Science Advisor said.

    “And we need to find out if this is a Higgs boson or not and if so if it’s stable, increasing or degrading. And if it’s degrading, what the secondary effects are.” Weaver shook his head. “Lots of questions, not many good answers. Sorry.”

    “No, you’re doing a good job,” the Security Advisor said. “Keep at it. General, on my authority get a company or so of marines up there as well. But don’t just kill anything that comes through; it might be their equivalent of a young SEAL just having a look around.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” the general said dubiously.

    “Put it this way, general,” she said, smiling faintly. “We really don’t want to start an interplanetary war on the basis of one itchy trigger finger. We’ve got enough problems in the Mideast.”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    “And get some rest,” she added, yawning again. “It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

    Weaver nodded as the transmission ended but he didn’t say he would. He’d be surprised if he could sleep for a couple of days; there was just too much to do, see and think about.

    He nodded at the general and then walked over to the lab that he had set up in a tent. Garcia was there, nodding over the instruments, half asleep. They’d gotten laser measurement gear so far and set up a slightly more precise radiation counter but so far that was it. He hoped that by the end of the day tomorrow he’d have some way to really measure emissions. He’d be surprised if the particle wasn’t giving off something, even if the radiation gear they had didn’t detect it. The gear was standard military stuff, designed for detection of alpha particles and maybe beta. It wasn’t set up to detect quark emissions.

    “Any change?” he asked Garcia, punching up the program to the lasers.

    “Nothing?” Garcia said, startling out of a half doze. “Not the last time I looked.”

    “Go get some sleep,” Bill said, waving him out of the chair.

    “Thanks,” Garcia said. “See you in the morning.”

    Weaver didn’t mention that it was already morning, about four AM. He didn’t really care. He just wished he had some half way decent instruments. He wanted to understand this particle, if particle it was, completely. He needed more precise size measurements. He wanted to know if it had a mass. He wanted to know what it was putting out, if anything. He wanted it folded, spindled and mutilated.

    But for now all he could do was watch it in impotent fury. It should be doing something. Not just sitting there, a big, black enigma. If this was proper science fiction it should be making a flashy light show. There should be electricity crackling over its surface. Not just this nothingness. He snarled at his instruments and then stood up, walking out of the tent. He headed over to where light was coming from McBain’s lab and knocked at the door.

    “Mind if I come in?” he called.

    “Come on,” McBain answered, wearily. When he walked in she was bent over a table looking through a microscope.

    “Got anything?” he asked.

    “Strangest damned physiology I’ve ever seen,” McBain answered. “Of course, you’d expect that. Some similarities to terrestrial. Book lungs, something that works for a heart, musculature, exoskeleton. But other than that, it’s just weird. No visual sensors I’ve been able to find, no audio either. Something in the region of the head that I think are sensors, but of what I have no idea. Mandibles for eating. The book lungs look scarred, I’d say that this thing is extremely sensitive to additional oxygen and that’s what killed it but it’s just a guess. The next live bug they bring me I want to put it in a reduced oxygen environment if I can figure out how to rig one.”

    “Makes you wish Spock was here, don’t it?” Weaver said, looking over her shoulder.

    “Or Bones,” she answered, looking up and grinning. “He was always my favorite. ‘Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a mason!’ Well, I’m a terrestrial biologist, not a xeno-biologist.”

    “You’re one now,” Weaver pointed out. “The only one, so far.”

    “There will be more,” she said, darkly. “Get what you can while you can, you know this is going to be taken away from us.”

    “Oh?” Weaver said. “Why?”

    “The military is all over it,” she sighed. “SEALs doing the biological collecting, which could be done better by grad students. Soldiers on your instruments…”

    “I asked for him,” Weaver said. “He used to be a physics masters candidate.”

    “Yeah, but some Beltway Bandit corporation is going to take all this over and bury it deep, you know they will.”

    “Well, as long as it’s Columbia I’m safe,” Weaver said, smiling. “Where do you think they found me?”

    “Really?” she asked. “You work for the Man?”

    “Most of the time,” the physicist replied. “And it’s not like a social disease or something. Sure, some of your work gets classified, but most of the time you can publish. And the pay is a hell of a lot better than working for a university. Mostly I wear my engineering hat, anyway.”

    “Well, you’re safe I guess,” she muttered.

    “So are you as long as you don’t get all upset at what’s going on,” Weaver pointed out. “Some of this stuff is going to be classified. But I’m going to argue for declass of most of it. The classified community isn’t large enough to handle the data we’ll be getting and most of the world class people we’ll need to analyze it and make sense of it aren’t prone to working with classified material. It makes sense to classify some of it, though. You don’t want everyone and their brother making Higgs bosons if a nuclear bomb is the result.”

    “That’s a point,” she admitted.

    “And they’re already talking about bringing in the Tropical Disease people at UGA,” he noted. “I don’t think any of them are cleared for TS work. So don’t worry about it for now. Have you been able to take a good look at Tuffy, yet?” he asked, changing the subject.

    “A small one,” she said. “Mimi was getting tired, no surprise, so am I. Just before she nodded off I got her to let me hold him for a moment. I was worried but he didn’t do anything. He’s decally symmetric, covered in fur and has a mouth on the underside. That’s about all I could tell. I got a small piece of fur on my hand and I ran it through what I’ve got as an analyzer. It’s got proteins and some dense long-chain carbon molecules in it. No DNA again. That’s all I could get from it. And none of the molecules looked like what I was getting from this mess,” she added, gesturing at the dissected bugs on the work-table.

    “Where is she?” he asked.

    “Bedded down in one of the officer tents,” Susan said. “We’re going to have to release her to her next of kin sooner or later.”

    “Only if they’re in here,” Weaver pointed out. “They don’t want anything going out unless it’s been decontaminated. I think it’s a bit late; we had soldiers going in and out for a while. If there’s going to be a purple plague, quarantine has already been breached.”

    “Let’s hope not,” McBain said, shivering. “But I’d be really surprised if this biology could interact with ours. I’m done in. I’m going to go get some rest.”

    “Go on,” Weaver said. “I’m not tired.” He headed back to his tent and started making notes of everything they knew, not much, and everything he wanted to know. A lot. But Tuffy kept coming back to mind. If another gate had opened during the explosion, it wouldn’t be a limited event. He suspected that they weren’t anywhere near the end of the surprises.



    “A closed world has opened,” Collective 15379 emitted. “Intentional Boson formation from far side.”

    “Reconnaissance?” Collective 47 asked.

    “Already ordered,” 15379 answered. “Four gate parallels so far and expanding on available fractal line. Wormhole opened at one of the proximate parallels. Reconnaissance team entering now.”

    “Report back on viability for colonization.”



    “911 emergency services,” the operator said, noting the time of the call on a pad. “Police, fire or medical?”

    “Police!” a female voice answered. The display read 1358 Jules Ct. Eustis. So far all normal, except for the boom of a shotgun in the background.

    “Is that firing?” operator asked.

    “Yes! There are demons attacking my house! My husband’s got his shotgun!”

    “Ma’am, just calm down,” the operator said. She tapped her computer, dispatching a patrol car. Possible crazy person, guns fired. “You’ll be okay.”

    “No I won’t,” the woman sobbed. “They’re coming in the back door! Don’t you hear them?”

    It was then that the operator realized that she did hear something in the background, a strange ululation like an off-tone fire engine. It was…unworldly. She tapped the computer again and keyed for home invasion and multiple response.

    “Ma’am, the police are on their way,” she said as calmly as she could. “Is this 1358 Jules Ct.?”

    “Yes, they’re…” there was a scream in the background. “Please hurry! They’re coming…” the call cut off.



    Lieutenant Doug Jones was chief investigator for the Lake County Sheriff’s department. He had gotten that position, and his promotion from sergeant, when the sheriff and his ex-boss agreed that it was unlikely the ex-boss, who had been called up in the National Guard, was going to be coming back for more than a year. Right now he regretted the promotion.

    Generally he was in charge of investigations into burglaries, fairly frequent, rapes, not too frequent, murders, infrequent and, most of all, drug dealing and drug running. Lake County was at the crossroads of several major highways and drugs flowed up from the south, coming from Miami and Tampa, and often were distributed or transferred or dealt in Lake County.

    What he wasn’t used to was investigating home invasions by demons. He looked at the patch of…what did the forensic tech call it? Oh, yeah, “ichor” on the ground and shook his head.

    “This truly sucks,” he said, looking over at the first in officer. “And you didn’t see anything?”

    “No, lieutenant,” the deputy said. “When I got here there were neighbors out in the street. Based on my information I went to the back of the house. The rear door had been busted in, it was on the floor of the kitchen. There were shotgun shells on the stairs and upstairs landing and a twelve gauge pump shotgun. Blood patch on the landing, blood patch in the upstairs bedroom, wireless phone on the ground. And…” he pointed at the patch of drying green stuff. “That on the stairs, the landing and a trail going out the door. Also blood mixed with it in places.”

    “So, what we have here, is demons coming out of no-where, invading a house, killing or injuring two retirees, dragging them out of the house and…” he looked at the hummock of oak and cypress behind the house. It was much the same as dozens he had walked through before but at the moment it was a dark and ominous presence. “And dragging them off into the darkness. I really don’t like that.”

    “Neither do I,” the cop admitted, gulping. “After I did an initial survey I called in and requested back-up and investigators, secured the area and waited for response.”

    “Must have been fun,” Jones said. He looked over at the head of the SWAT team and gestured with his chin. Like most small departments the SWAT team was a secondary duty for regular deputies. And, also like most small departments, it was made up of guys who were willing to shell out for their own equipment rather than being picked for being SWAT potential. But the Lake County squad was pretty good, all things considered. Most of the deputies were good old boys who had grown up with a rifle in their hand and knew how to shoot. That might help.

    “Hey, Van,” he said to the SWAT commander. Lieutenant VanGelder was six feet six of muscle and bone and a crack shot. He’d gone to every training course the department would pay for and many that he paid for out of his own pocket. On the other hand, “fighting on the fringes of hell” wasn’t one of the courses that was available. “I want to find out where the blood leads.”

    “Yep,” VanGelder said. “I was just waiting for your okay; we’re going to mess up any evidence going in.”

    “Well, I somehow don’t think we’re going to be standing any of the perpetrators up in court,” the investigator said, wryly. “ ‘Ma’am, do you recognize any of the demons that you saw on the night of the 26th in this line-up?’”

    “Yeah,” VanGelder said, waving at the rest of the team. “Okay, I’m going to take point. We’ll follow the trail to wherever it goes.”

    VanGelder pulled down his balaclava, put on his helmet and hefted his shotgun. He’d considered using an MP-5 but the shotgun just had more authority. You hit something with a shotgun and it stayed hit.

    He followed the trail, it was as clear as day, into the hummock. It curved around the cypress and oak with some side trails, moving in a generally northerly direction. Then, as he cleared a section of dense undergrowth, he saw it. A large, shiny, mirror sitting in the middle of the small forest. It extended from right at ground level up to about ten feet and was perfectly circular. And the trail went right up to it and disappeared.

    “Son of a bitch,” one of the team muttered. “Hellmouth.”

    “What?” VanGelder asked, turning around.

    “Hellmouth,” Knapp repeated. Knapp was, by nearly a foot, the shortest guy on the team. The rest tended to be over six feet but Knapp was five foot two inches tall. On the other hand, not only was he hands down the best martial artist he was really useful for second story entry; when the team competed five of them would just grab him and throw him through a window. Now he was pulling back his balaclava and shaking his head. “It’s like Hellmouth, sir. They’re saying there’s a gate to another world at that ball in Orlando. I bet anything this is another one. Those weren’t demons, they were aliens.”

    “Alien Abduction In Lake County,” one of the squad muttered. “I can just see the headlines now. Just fucking great.”

    “Okay,” VanGelder said, keying his mike. “Dispatch, this is SWAT One. We have what looks to be a teleportation gate in back of the incident site on Jules Court. Perpetrators appear to have escaped through the gate.” He paused and was unsure what the hell to say after that. Fall back on the oldest call in police history. “Officer requests back-up.”

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