Summary: A big rock poses a problem and Jack has to butter Daniel up.
Many thanks as ever to Joy and Fabi for the betas and RW for helping me with some of the science (if I've got anything else wrong, it's my own cock-up).
Okay, I had to ask. I should have known better. Daniel looks back at me and rolls his eyes.
"Yes, Sam. Butter. Come on, you know how much Jack complains about not having real butter around the place. So, last trip to the Mayans I asked them if we could have a butter churn. Not only that, we've got the equipment to make cheese! All we have to do is take them a load of fish every so often and they'll keep us swimming in enough milk to go in our drinks, make cheese, butter, ice cream... If we ask George to get the starter kit, we can even make yoghurt. We've got some really nice fruits on this planet that would go well in it."
"Jack won't eat yoghurt," I say.
"So? All the more for us. Are you going to help me, then?"
Ah yes, this is where I came in. He was asking me to help by taking turns - quite literally - on the butter churn. We could do with a mechanical way of doing this. Some engine or other. Hmm.
"Hang on, Daniel. I've got an idea. I'll be back soon."
I make good my escape, hearing mutters about me not getting hot buttered toast anytime soon and head for the tunnels.
Now, how am I going to figure this out? He was going fairly slow. Maybe he needs to speed up? Maybe not. I'm not sure - so, the best thing would be? A multi-speed 'engine'. It's just going to be a matter of a few cogs driven by a sort of axle, a small motor... maybe battery operated? I've got some nine volt big rechargeable batteries here, and I've adapted a solar panel to get the power to the charger. Right, so I need some measurements. I grab my tape and head right on back to Daniel.
Typical, I ask Sam to help me churn the butter and she goes off then comes back with a tape measure. I have no idea what's going on in her head.
Still, I don't really mind. For the last few days I've been getting all I need ready for this. I've separated the cream from the milk - giving us a sort of semi-skimmed milk to drink. The Mayans gave me some huge 'saucepans' and some large containers, like the old-fashioned milk pails and when I've finished with them, I'll take them back with some more fish and exchange them for full ones.
A good few quarts of milk reside in the fridge, some more is currently in a cheesepress (straining the curds from the whey is messy, by the way) and now I'm churning like there's no tomorrow. It's thickening, it shouldn't be long. Then it's a matter of taking the solid butter from the buttermilk - which will get used in pancakes for tomorrow's breakfast, I think - and then finishing it off with the paddles. It's very satisfying. I'm only making a couple of pounds at a time, we don't need much.
The cheese will be a bit different; I'm making enough so that some of it will be eaten fresh, the rest will be given a chance to mature to varying degrees. The press is multi-layered and gives me a chance to make three whole cheeses at once. The one at the bottom will be the most squashed, and therefore, I think, the hardest. That should be good to cook with.
Since when did I become so domesticated? I have no idea. I've built the olive press, with Teal'c's help, and we have some extra virgin olive oil residing in the new amphorae that Jack made. Sam's the least domesticated one of the lot of us. Not that we mind, and not that we push her to do more around the house. She does her fair share, she just doesn't think to 'improve' on what we've got. It must be a guy thing. Constantly looking to make our lives more comfortable.
Perhaps she's okay about going without some things. Whatever. She helps us harvest fruits and nuts, helps us fish and hunt - even helps us cook occasionally.
Jack and Teal'c are off on a hunter-gatherer kick at the moment. We've got plenty of meat in the freezer, plenty of smoked fish in the fridge and so on. They're trying to find wild grains, maybe like the wild wheat that Mesolithic man found on Earth and then cultivated. Much as we can trade for bread and the like, it would be good to have our own stores of the basic ingredients. We've found some salt flats and so we have a good supply of salt.
Hmm - this feels about right. I think we're about to have some butter. Get it out of the churn, onto the table... paddles at the ready, it's time to finish it off.
Daniel grinned a lot when O'Neill and I arrived back in the ship. He then presented O'Neill and myself with a piece of warm bread covered in his homemade butter. I must admit, I have had many different greetings on my return home, but never has one tasted so welcoming.
O'Neill was most pleased, but his comment that Daniel was turning into a great housewife was not met as well as we were. Matters were not improved when Samantha teased O'Neill about wanting Daniel 'barefoot and pregnant'. Neither did it help that O'Neill did not see the warning signs and agreed with her that Daniel would make a great 'mom'.
Daniel is no longer grinning.
O'Neill, however, is now having to be very nice to him, so that is amusing Samantha and me. He is also cooking dinner. Which is not amusing us.
Dinner was edible. It is now finished. We have cleaned up and we are now sitting outside near the lake; O'Neill is drinking beer, Samantha and Daniel are drinking wine, and I am drinking a juice made from one of the fruits we have found in a tropical region on this planet. It is most refreshing.
"So, we haven't heard from Jake or George recently," O'Neill says. "Do ya think we should go off and explore again?"
"That would be a good idea, O'Neill," I reply. "I wish to continue in our quest."
The others agree that it would be a good idea. Daniel has gone to summon MIB to see if they are going to explore, too, and Samantha has gone to retrieve the computer, which is hidden in the tunnels.
Because of our security arrangements and fears, Samantha has made an interesting and most clever addition to our tunnel system. Using a small crystal supplied by Jacob, she created a 'cupboard' with shelves. All the technologies that we need to hide are stored there. The cupboard has a door, which is in turn, hidden with a cloaking device. It is not perfect, but hopefully, nobody that enters the tunnels who has not been invited will notice them.
She has returned, and Daniel is crossing the field with the androids.
"Shall we use random selection again?" she asks as she sits next to me.
"I don't see why not," O'Neill replies. "It worked for us last time."
MIB have joined us, and Daniel has sat next to O'Neill. He is, however, still making him pay for his remark. After the usual greetings have been made, we get down to business.
"Let's hope this mission will be a bit more successful than our last one," John says.
"Ah come on, John," replies O'Neill. "The last one was good."
"For you, maybe. But it took us three days to get the mud out of our clothes. And our hair for that matter."
"Was it my fault that you went there in the rainy season?"
"Hey, it seems to always be the rainy season on that planet."
"Enough!" They turn to look at me. "There is no point in arguing about things past. Now it is time to move forward."
Samantha presses some keys and shows Frankie the co-ordinates. A nod from the android tells us that she has remembered it.
"You got somewhere?" John asks.
"Yeah, it's one of the lilac-coloured planets."
"Damn," replies John. "That is so not my colour."
We got one of the lilac planets too. John's right, it's not my colour at all. Still, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and all that clichéd crap. In the meantime, I've got to suck up to Daniel. That's if I want to suck Daniel at all. Or do anything else for that matter.
"I really liked that butter," I try as we get into bed. "I mean, that was so thoughtful of you to make that. It must have been hard work, all that churning."
He looks at me in the same way he used to do when he was wearing glasses. I can almost see them sitting on his nose and him looking over the top of them. I can also see a little twinkle in his eyes.
"Not too... uh... feminine for you?" he asks, as innocently as he can.
"No, no. Of course not. Definitely not. Very masculine in fact."
"You sure? I mean, you seem to want me chained to the kitchen sink or something."
There's my cue to get myself out of this mess.
"Not the sink, Daniel. Carter and Teal'c might see us. Not that they haven't seen us before, but if you're chained up, I'd prefer to keep that in the bedroom and private."
"So... you want to chain me to something in here?" he asks, again with the innocent thing. I don't know how he pulls that off, to be honest. I know how he pulls me off, but that's something else again.
"Maybe not chains. But we've got some bandanas handy if you're interested."
I know he's not going to let my earlier comments go unpunished, but the thought of being tied up and fucked is enough to get him to give in to me for now.
"I could be persuaded," he says thoughtfully. "Do you have any place in mind?"
Ah. That means he doesn't want to be tied to the bed, he feels like a change.
"Hmm, possibly. Why don't you stand up and walk to the fireplace?"
The fire isn't lit, so I'm not thinking of doing anything dangerous. But, I think, I could warm things up a bit.
He's out of bed and I see he's already half-hard. His cock is bobbing as he walks across the room. I can tell this because I've already gotten out of bed myself and I'm looking.
"Face the fire, Daniel."
He turns away and I have to stop myself just staring at his ass.
"Put your hands on the mantelpiece."
He knows what I'm after here. We have a thick, wooden mantelpiece, underneath which, on each side, hangs a hook. Needless to say, we've done this before.
I move straight to his right side and tie his wrist to the hook, his hand above it, grasping the wood. Then I repeat my actions on the left. He's having to bend down a couple of feet so his ass is sticking out. I kick his feet apart until I get him exactly where I want him.
"Oh yeah," he whispers. "I'm fine."
"Good. You just hang on in there, Daniel. This is going to get good now."
"It's good already," he gasps. I know why.
With Daniel, everything is cerebral. He literally has sex on the brain. It's his most erotic and responsive G spot. I can actually talk him into an orgasm. Not saying he's not physically responsive - he's the most responsive person I've ever had sex with. I just need to touch him in certain places at certain moments, and I can make his knees buckle and him collapse on the floor. I can kiss the pulse point on his neck and turn him from a pissy bastard into a pliant puddle of goo in two seconds flat.
Of course, get it wrong and I can turn the goo back into the cold-hearted monster from hell. But it's his brain that's the best at getting him going.
"I know it's good," I tell him. "It's gonna get better, I promise."
I start by pouring some massage oil on his bare back. It's already warm, it was sitting on the windowsill and getting all the sun during the day. The oil that is. Not Daniel's back. And why did my mind just think that? I've spent too long with him.
I use the oil, massaging his shoulders first, then adding more oil and moving my hands further down. I push from his spine, out towards his sides. He moans, pushing back and into my grip.
"God, that's good," he says, gasping as I hit what is obviously a sore spot.
He's probably aching from all that churning today. Despite my teasing, I know how hard that work is. He's loving this. My hands move down to his lower back and I continue to massage in the same way. "God, yes," he hisses.
It's time for more oil. This time it drizzles down the crack of his ass and drips onto the wooden floor as I pull his ass cheeks aside. I rub it into the muscles, then head directly for my goal. My oily fingers slip inside him easily and he pushes back onto them. I tease him, pulling them out, pushing one in, pulling it out, pushing two in... I don't set a pattern. He doesn't know what's coming next. I rub some oil on my cock and get ready to fuck him. I line it up, just start to slide inside him when he says...
"Daniel? Is something wrong?"
There's a pause. I just know that trouble's coming.
"No, but are you using a condom?"
"No. We're clean. You know that."
Another pause. Here it comes.
"Ah. Well perhaps you'd better stop."
"You don't want me to get pregnant, do you?"
I knew I'd pay. I just knew it.
Daniel's got what seems to be a permanent grin this morning, and for once, I don't think it's got anything to do with the sex they had last night. I know they had some. The house was warm and we'd opened some of the windows. Well, it's not as if we're going to have burglars, is it? Anyway, with their bedroom window open, our window open, and the house curved so that the bedrooms are closer together than you'd think... Let's just say the screams of 'God JACK PLEASE!' were enough to clue me in.
I have no idea why he's grinning though. Probably got something on Jack, but what it is...
"So, kids. Are we ready to go?" Jack asks as we tuck into breakfast - buttermilk pancakes, yummy!
"As soon as we've eaten, Jack," I say. "We've packed up, the VCD reports the weather at our destination is good, there are no aliens in sight and Teal'c's already left the 'answering machine message'."
More than likely, our pebbles and coloured disks will get a different and quicker nickname before long, but Jack's already got there with the answerphone thing.
"I'm sorry, but MIA aren't here at the moment. We have gone to the following address and will be back on the day noted by the disk. Please leave your message after the tone."
I sometimes worry about Jack's sanity. Daniel worries about it constantly, but seeing as he's the one responsible for driving Jack nuts, I guess that's only fair.
"Great. I wonder what we're going to find this time," he answers, before taking a bite out of his pancake - which is, most naturally, covered thickly in maple syrup from our stores.
"I am more concerned by who we are going to find, O'Neill."
Jack looks up at Teal'c and nods, lifting his finger as if to say 'good point'.
"I'm still trying to figure out the connection between Thoth and the Asse," Daniel mutters.
"What do you mean, Daniel?"
"Well, they were both silver planets, as was the one which MIB went to, but there wasn't anyone there that they found. I just can't connect them like I can with the other colours used."
"We can assume that the Ancients made the gates," I point out. "Thoth seemed to have known them and the Asse said they left the gate on their planets. Perhaps the silver ones were planets where there were already aliens but ones that didn't necessarily want to have contact with the outside, um, galaxy."
"Could be. It makes as much sense as anything," he concedes. "But that leaves us with the lilac. The only thing I can think of is the Furlings."
"They're just as likely to be on one of the planets that were in the Ancients' list but not on the Abydos cartouche," I say. "After all, the Nox were."
"But the Asgard weren't. They're not even in the same galaxy as us."
I shrug. "I guess we just have to go and look. I hope it's the Furlings. After all these years, it would be good to find them."
I see Daniel smile as he agrees. Jack looks over at him and smiles at his reaction, so does Teal'c. No matter how long we have been around Daniel, his enthusiasm for discovery never ceases to make us all smile. We can't help it. It's silly - he's a grown man, a strong man, but his face has a boyish look when he finds out something new, or he's off to look for it, and it's just plain infectious.
I've caught worse things in my life. This is one thing I don't mind being infected with.
We're on the planet. It's... dead. The whole planet. There doesn't seem to be any life here at all. As soon as I got through the gate, I got out my scanner and checked for radiation or any other thing that would pose a threat. I detected nothing. The air is breathable, if stale. It's like there hasn't been a wind blowing for centuries. The gravity of the planet is a little stronger than ours, not enough to hamper us, but enough to make us notice it. I feel a bit heavier. I've felt a lot worse in a roll in a fighter plane, though, so it won't be a problem. It's also cold, like a winter's day when the sun is at its weakest and hasn't had a chance to warm up the air.
"Yuck," Jack says, basically encapsulating how we all feel in one word. "This is depressing."
We agree with him, but look around anyway.
"I wonder what happened," Daniel mutters. "I mean, don't you get the feeling that there was something here before? Something alive?"
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Jack agrees. "We'll have a little look around and see what we can see. If we haven't found anything hopeful by lunchtime, we'll go back. Okay?"
"Seems good to me," I say, and Teal'c agrees. Daniel doesn't look too convinced, but agrees anyway.
"This way," he says, pointing south from the gate.
"Why?" Jack asks.
"There would seem to have been a path here at one time. Look, there is a rut in the ground."
We look down at the flat brown earth, which is bare, except for the odd patch of brown growth - now dead, but obviously once alive. There are a few trees around, but they're dead too. They look fossilised. The branches have snapped and fallen off in places, there is no green around at all. Neither is there any active decay; no rotting, no smell, no... nothing. There is no sound, either, and it's kind of eerie.
Wondering if this is the right thing to do, we head off down the 'path' that Daniel pointed out, which seems to be heading to a rocky hill.
This place is creepy. It's worse than entering a tomb for the first time. At least those places have an atmosphere, even if it's musty, but this planet doesn't even have that.
I have no idea what happened here, but I'm sure that something did. Whether that was natural or unnatural, I don't know. It happened some time ago, possibly millennia. I can't pin down an estimate, though and that's frustrating.
The sun isn't particularly bright. It looks... odd.
"Sam? What's up with the sun?"
She stops and looks up and sees what I mean.
"Um, I don't know. It looks like it's fading, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, that's what it is," I agree. "Perhaps that's why nobody's here anymore? Can a sun just do that?"
"Well, when a sun starts to burn up its fuel I guess it could look like that. Of course, a lot depends on how big the sun was to start with. Some expand, like the sun at home will. I'm not getting that vibe though. I wonder..."
She cocks her head to one side and says after a moment, "Jack, would you mind if Teal'c and I go home and get the ship?"
"It'll only take a few hours to fly here and I really want to do some scans. I've got an idea, but I don't want to formulate a hypothesis until I have some empirical data."
She looks annoyed. "Because I think that at least part of the answer to what has happened here lies in space," she answers through gritted teeth.
"Jack, it's okay. We'll continue here. As she says, it'll only take a few hours to reach this system. You and I can continue to search. First sign of any trouble and we'll go home. When they get here, if they can't contact us, they can assume we've gone back..."
"No assumptions, Daniel. We might be in trouble."
"Ah, okay, that's a good point. Um... Sam, is there something automated that we can leave?"
"The VCD," she says. "It gives off a small signal that I can pick up from the ship. I'll leave it by the gate. If you go home, you pick it up. When we get here, if we pick up the signal and aren't able to contact you, we'll know you're in trouble. Having the ship here would help if that's the case anyway."
Jack's feeling outnumbered. He looks to Teal'c, but Teal'c's doing his 'I'm saying nothing' thing. He tries not to piss Sam off out of habit.
"Fine. For the record, though, this is so not my idea."
"Thanks, Jack," she answers with a smile.
"Uh, Sam, when you're up there, see if you can do a scan of some sort of the planet. Maybe that will give us some clues."
"Will do, Daniel. We'll call you as soon as we're in range."
Teal'c bows a little and then he wanders off after Sam. Jack and I carry on walking.
"I don't like this, Daniel."
"Ah, it'll be all right, Jack. I'm not feeling like we're in danger here."
"No, neither am I, but this place is giving me the creeps."
I'd reply to him but I've just seen something.
His eyes follow my finger and he sees what looks like a doorway in the side of a... well, it's not a hill as such, it's not a rocky outcrop from a higher level of land, but it's... I know, the nearest I can think of is Ayers Rock in Australia. It's not as big as that, it's only about half of the size, but it's big enough. It's as if a huge rock has just been lifted up and deposited on the flat. Given that there's a doorway into it, I wouldn't be surprised if that's what actually happened.
"I guess we go look," he mutters.
We have to climb as the 'doorway' is halfway up the side of the rock. It's an easy climb though, there is a pathway, whether artificial or not, I don't know, but I think it is. It only takes us about ten minutes to reach it and find that the doorway is most definitely artificial and most definitely a doorway. There's some writing on the side. I know that.
"Oh my God."
"Look, Jack. The writing."
"That looks familiar. Where have I seen it before?"
"Heliopolis. We've found the Furlings."
It did not take us long to reach the planet in the ship. Since Samantha and the Tok'ra overhauled the engine, the ship has been working most efficiently. I see that the signal is still there, so the men are on the planet. I am trying to contact them, but there is no answer. I will continue to try.
"O'Neill. Daniel. Answer me."
"I hear ya, Teal'c. Sorry about that, we were just inside a rock." O'Neill's voice starts out faint but gets louder.
"Inside a rock?" Samantha asks incredulously.
"Uh, yeah. Remember that hill of sorts near the gate?" Daniel interrupts.
"Couldn't miss it. It was the only thing there," she agrees.
"It was put there," he says abruptly. "I'm sure of it."
"I have no idea, but the rock composition is unlike that of the natural in that area. Can you do a scan and have a look to see if you can find anything out about it? Jack and I are going to go further inside it."
"Is there a cave or something?" she asks.
"Um, no. It's a doorway. Oh, by the way, we've found the Furlings."
Samantha and I were only away from them for a couple of hours. In that time they have found a doorway to a rock and the lost people, the Furlings. We should not leave them alone. We are both stunned into silence.
"Sam? You there?"
"Yes! We're just shocked. Are they still there?"
"Not as far as we can tell," he replies. "We were waiting for you to turn up before we went too far into the... whatever it is. Jack was kind of insistent," he adds.
I approve. It was a sensible course of action.
"Okay, I'll get the scans going and I'll let you know as soon as I've found anything," Samantha informs him.
O'Neill's voice comes over the comms.
"But the comms don't seem to work when we're in the rock."
"Try telepathy," I instruct. "One of you must go into the rock far enough so that the conventional communications fail. Then try to contact us."
"Good thinking, big guy."
We wait for a few moments, and then we hear, Teal'c? Sam?
We can hear you, Daniel. Can you go any further inside the rock?
No, not yet. We've got to get through another doorway. But if we can contact each other this far, I'm sure it'll be okay.
Very well. O'Neill.
We should make contact as often as possible.
Agreed. Every thirty minutes unless we find something in-between.
They disconnect from us. I assume that O'Neill has now followed Daniel inside the rock. Samantha is already hunched over some equipment.
"Samantha. Is there anything that I can do to help?"
"Uh, yes, please. I want you to monitor this scanner and tell me if there's an increase in, um, this number."
"Very well. What does this number represent?"
"Distance from the sun. I get the feeling that the sun isn't getting smaller, the planet's just getting further away."
I'd ask 'why me?' but I don't think I'd get a sensible reply. I don't think I had a past life, but if I did, I must have been really bad. With good days. After all, who else gets dragged from one side of the galaxy to the other to explore rocks? Well, Teal'c, I guess, but at least Sam's rocks are of the planetary kind. Man-sized rocks. Daniel's are just plain weird and often come with writing that I can't read.
"You figured anything out?" I ask.
"Uh, no. What little Furling writing I've seen was on Heliopolis. I was able to figure out that the writings on the wall in the four different languages were saying the same thing, because the Ancients' writing and the Asgard's did, so I assumed that the Nox and the Furlings said the exact same thing in their languages. I didn't even know which set of writing belonged to which people, though."
"So this could belong to the Nox?"
"I suppose, but I doubt it, especially as they're on a different planet and come under a different colour-coding system."
"Good point. So how much can you read?"
"A handful of words. I don't have an alphabetic equivalent, I've never heard the language spoken, I don't know if they have a language in the same way we do, Jack. All I know is that I think I can read certain groups of symbols in relation to other languages. For all I know, though, they could read their writings from the bottom to the top. Which would mean that the last word on the list of their section at Heliopolis would relate to the first of the Ancients' and so on."
"I see your point."
He looks at me and says, "I don't even have the equivalent of a cartouche to work with like Champollion."
"The guy that cracked the Rosetta Stone. You see, on that, there were three languages. It was assumed they were saying the same thing, like we assumed at Heliopolis. The languages were classical Greek, hieroglyphs and demotic script, a sort of Egyptian used on a daily basis by scribes," he explains.
"Anyway, on the stone, and in the Greek, there were some names mentioned. One of which was Ptolemy, the king. Champollion noticed that inside the hieroglyphs, there were cartouches, the oval shape surrounding a set of glyphs. He figured that they were highlighting something important and guessed, correctly as it turned out, that it represented a name. Using what he knew from the Greek, he was able to work out which glyphs represented what sound."
"I get that. So, you've got nothing like that?"
"No. Unfortunately. I think we're going to have to work on instinct here."
"What about that universal language? I mean, the atoms and stuff?"
He sighs. "I never got the chance to crack it. I did a little work on it, but time was against me. I tried to use it against what I knew again, so that it would give me a head start when I started work on the other languages."
"That makes sense. Do you have the film and the records of Heliopolis on Annwn?"
"No," he shrugs. "And somehow I doubt that much work is being done on it back on Earth."
I drop the subject as far as I'm able. I can hear the disappointment in his voice. Not to mention it's not getting us anywhere here.
We've returned to the doorway we found inside the rock. Having got through the first one, which was just a matter of turning on a big heavy handle and pulling the door out, we walked down what I guess is a corridor, though it looks like a cave or something similar. About fifty yards down it, we discovered this other door. Daniel's recorded the symbols on the side of it on his camera - for future reference, I guess - and now he's trying to figure out what it's all about. There's no handle on this one, needless to say. I'd suggest C4, but somehow I don't think that would go down well.
O'Neill. Can you hear me?
I can Teal'c. Everything okay with you?
It is. Samantha is most busy with her scans. I fear we will be here for quite some time.
Same here, pal. Daniel's trying to figure out how to open a door.
There's a silence at the other end as Teal'c's probably biting down on stating the obvious.
I see. Do you have some explosive on you?
Yeah, but I'm leaving mentioning that as a last resort. I'm thinking that Daniel would be more likely to explode than the C4 if I did.
I understand. There would appear to be no rush from our perspective. Samantha has three scans of differing kinds going at once.
Gotcha. Check in in thirty then.
I think we're going to be here for the duration.
"Look on the bright side," Daniel says as I sigh and sit down.
"Yeah. If we don't get this figured out in two days, you can pop over to the palace and go get them to come and help us. Then you and John can see if you can find something to blow up. It'll keep you occupied."
We've been scanning for ages. My suspicions are correct about the planet, though. At least I think so. We still have some more measurements to take to be sure, but the scanners on this ship are accurate to points in orders of magnitude better than anything we have on Earth.
The planet is moving away from the sun. The sun is dying, but it won't get to the point where it's critical for a couple of million years. It's just in its old age, that's all.
The rock does not belong on the planet, that's for sure. Unless it comes from far inside the planet, which is a possibility, I guess, but I don't think so. I can't see how it could be a natural phenomena. If it had been an asteroid impacting, even at the lowest velocity possible, it would have created a massive crater and wouldn't have left a huge rock there.
The only thing I can think of which is logical, yet far-fetched, is that the Furlings, if it was them, literally took an asteroid or something from space or another planet and put it on the ground. Far-fetched, it might be, but I can't think of anything else. I've told Daniel my suspicions and he agreed it was as likely as anything else.
The final scan I've got going is to discover what is going on down there. Something happened, I'm sure of it.
The more of the planet that I've scanned, the more I'm seeing nothing. No vegetation. No life, not even in the seas. It's like a bomb went off, killing all life, but not damaging the planet in other ways. No radiation signatures other than what you'd expect in background radiation for a planet like this. No unusual chemical signatures either. I suspect it's possible that if it was a bomb and that bomb went off far enough in the past that any radiation dissipated, but why would it have killed all the life on the planet?
I think I'm missing something. There's something staring me in the face and I'm not getting it. Damn, this is frustrating.
"Are you needed for the scans?"
"No, not really."
"Good. Come with me."
I put down the bits and pieces I'm holding and follow him to... our room?
"You are tense. A tense mind does not allow you to use your intelligence to the fullest. Lie down on the floor. Take off your shoes, your T-shirt and your pants."
He's going to give me a massage, I know it. I am so not going to argue. He's right. I'm tense. There's nothing I can do at the moment, either. I may as well make the most of it.
I'm on the floor in moments and lying face down as I know he wants me to be. Teal'c has the most magic hands I have ever known. I've used a professional masseuse in the past, but she wasn't anything like as good as Teal'c is. He's firm but gentle and takes away all the stress. His thumbs work down each side of my spine, pushing this way and that, separating my vertebrae and making some of them pop. It hurts a little but when he stops, I feel so much better.
I feel him unhooking my bra and can't help but smile. He's only doing it to get at all the skin. Honest.
I just tried contacting Sam, but I don't think she's in a mind to talk. I'm not sure she's in her mind. All I got out of her was a squeaky massage and that was it. If Teal'c's that good at massaging her, I think I'll get him to do me. Massage me, that is. Though... Damn it, Daniel, stop it.
Ever since I got that dildo and Jack said it looks just like Teal'c at full mast, let's just say that he's appeared in a few fantasies. Which is silly. I mean, I love the guy, and sure, I find him attractive, who wouldn't? But he's Sam's other half and I am most certainly not unhappy with my own. Frustrated and annoyed by him from time to time, sure, but I wouldn't swap him for anything.
If it was only Teal'c and me around, I wouldn't say no, though. There was a time I would have, given our pasts and Junior and so on, but now, I don't think I would.
I hate this fantasy. Most of my fantasies don't bother me, but this one does. I feel like I'm cheating on Jack. I've had other ones, where other people appear - often anonymous faces. One is when Jack is doing his NeanderJack thing; stalking me, 'forcing' me to surrender to him. I love that.
What I don't tell him is that part of my mind pretends it's someone I don't know. I don't feel like I'm cheating on him then, probably because the fantasy man doesn't exist. There's no real face, it's just a shadow, a shape. There's no name, no voice, so it's not real. Teal'c's so real though. I'm terrified that one day it's going to come out, that they'll find out. Jack will be so hurt if it does.
I'm sure he has fantasies of his own, I'm not bothered by the thought, either. I think I'd be hurt if he was dreaming of Teal'c or Sam though. Probably because it's the one fantasy that is within reach. It is possible.
Damn it! Stop it, Daniel. Concentrate on this door.
I've read the whole thing and I'm no further forward than I was before. I can't find a way in. I've run my hands over the writing and didn't find any hint that one of the symbols was a way in, like on Thoth's planet. The door itself is smooth.
"Time for a break, Daniel," Jack calls.
I don't see why not. I've been at it for hours. He hands me a coffee from a flask we made up this morning and I sit on a rock next to the door.
Well, would you look at that!
"Uh, Daniel? Did that just open the door?"
Of course it did. Why does he insist on asking the obvious?
"Sure looks like it, Jack. The question is, do I stand up again? If I do, will the door shut?"
"Try it and find out."
I stand up, and we watch as the door stays open for about thirty seconds and then starts to shut slowly. I sit on it again and the door reopens. Something else we notice is that the door to the corridor that we first entered, shut before this one opened the first time.
Jack uses his flashlight and we see that there's another corridor behind it.
"Shall we go in?" I ask.
"Just wait a moment." He switches to telepathy. Carter, Teal'c.
We are here, O'Neill.
Have you finished with the scanning?
Good. Land the ship next to the rock and come inside. Daniel's got the door opened.
He was able to deduce the method? Teal'c asks.
Jack looks at me and grins. Yeah. His brains were in his ass again.
They've turned up in the rock with us and Jack's explained what happened, about the 'front' door and checking that there was a way out before we reopen the second door. Apparently the big heavy handle is working on both sides of it. We've had a look inside the next corridor and discovered that there's a lever on the other side of this door.
"I'm going in there," he says. "You guys wait here. I'll try to open the door from the other side. If the lever doesn't work, sit on the rock and get me out of there."
I'd argue with him, my natural tendency to protect him coming to the fore again, but I keep quiet. It makes sense.
I sit on the rock again and he goes in. My heart in my mouth, I stand up and watch as the door shuts.
O'Neill disappears as the door shuts and we wait for it to open most anxiously.
Jack? How's it going? Daniel calls out within seconds.
Uh, hang on. You'll never believe what I've found in here.
Just wait. Here, let's try...
The door starts to open again and we see that a light is dimming as it does. As soon as it is open, Daniel puts his hands out and pulls O'Neill back out to his side.
"Do you wish us to remain out here, or do you think that it would be safe for all of us to enter?" I ask O'Neill before we all proceed.
"Well, the lever works," he replies. "And there's a hell of a lot to explore in here. I think I'm going to need all of you. I'd suggest we keep the door opened permanently, but if we do, you won't see what I did. We should take a chance. Make sure we've got all our gear, though. If it comes down to it, we'll blast our way out."
I pick up his pack and hand it to him, then Samantha and I return to the ship to pick up the equipment that we left on board. Samantha picks up some scanning equipment and we go back to the others. As soon as we are all ready, we step through the door and watch in amazement as the door shuts.
A light goes on and gets brighter as the door closes. I must assume that it is connected somehow. We now see what O'Neill was so enthralled with. It is not a corridor, it is a walkway. The entire inside of the rock appears to be hollowed out. The walkway appears to be made of the same rock that is on the outside, but Samantha says that it is in fact metallic. To either side of it, there is a drop. It appears to be a long way down. I look up and see that the distance is similar to the top.
Both below, to our sides and above us are what appear to be buildings.
"They're upside down," Daniel says, his voice confused.
"They're sideways," O'Neill adds.
"No they're not," Samantha says. "This isn't a rock."
We look at her in surprise. She gets a rope out of her pack and drops her bag onto the floor. We watch as she secures the rope around herself, tugging on it to make sure it is tied correctly, then she hands the other end to me.
"Hold on, I'm going down."
"WHY?!" Daniel is horrified by her suggestion.
"'Cause I want to see what's underneath this. I need to know. Just hang on. Literally!"
I wrap the rope around my own waist and secure it, before holding on to the rope tightly. O'Neill has taken hold of one of my arms, Daniel is holding the other. Samantha slowly lowers herself, and I release more and more of the rope as per her instructions. We hear her muttering to herself, then we hear, "Pull me up! I was right."
We do as she asks, the others steadying me as I pull her up.
"What did you find?" Daniel asks as he drops to his knees and pulls her back onto the walkway.
She smiles broadly.
"There's a walkway underneath this one, too. This isn't a rock," she repeats. "It's a spaceship!"
"Well of course it's a spaceship. What else would it be? At least that explains the housing or whatever it is all round the inside of the walls. Either they had no gravity here, or some sort of alien technology making an artificial one, possibly caused by spinning the ship. A centrifugal force of some kind."
Sam looks at me oddly. I don't know why.
"You did turns in the centrifuge in training to be a pilot, didn't you?" I point out.
She nods, realising that I did too. A big damned pod of a thing on a giant arm that spins you and spins you until you pass out from the G force.
"Yeah, it probably was something like that," she agrees. "Um, but if it was that, there might not have been sufficient gravity to hold people to the walkway. If it's focussed on the edges of the ship, I mean."
"Did you not say that the walkway was made of a metal?" Teal'c asks.
"Yes, I did."
"Perhaps it is magnetic?"
"Could be, or..."
"Putting that fascinating subject to one side for a moment," interrupts Daniel. "The real question is why? And of course, where?"
"Why and where what?"
"Why did they come here? And where in God's name are they now?"
"Let's find the command centre or the engine room," I suggest. "We'll get more answers that way."
"But where are they?"
Sam thinks and points in the direction we were going in.
"Behind us is the air lock," she says.
"Think about it. Two doors. One of which can only be opened if the other one is shut."
We see the logic in that, but there's something nagging at me.
"Why did the light only go on when I stepped in here?" I ask. "I mean, we opened the door and there was no light. We reopened it, I come in, the lights go on."
"There was nobody home," Daniel suggests. "Energy-saving measure?"
"Could be," Sam says. "Which could mean that the ship has internal scanners. It could be waiting for its crew and passengers to come back."
"Cool," I say.
"Maybe. Maybe not. Don't touch anything unless you're sure what it is," she warns.
She's got a point.
We walk along the walkway. Daniel's looking directly ahead of himself, trying to look nonchalant, but I know his heart is racing. At least the walkway's wide, so it's not pushing his vertigo too much.
I'm lucky that I've never suffered that. It must be awful. He says that with bad attacks he gets sick, dizzy and sweaty, a real fight or flight reaction. He also gets a lot of 'falling' dreams, ones where he's suddenly in mid air with nothing beneath him. He wakes up in a real state when he gets those, literally shocked out of them. I have to hold him tight when he gets like that, he shakes so hard it makes the bed vibrate.
He's fine as soon as he's realised where he is, but he doesn't usually go back to sleep. He says that every time he shuts his eyes, the image is there, no matter how hard he tries to actively dream of something else. Not even sex takes his mind off it. Doesn't stop me trying to distract him like that, though.
I'm walking to one side of him, Teal'c's surreptitiously sneaked to his other side, just slightly forward, the same way I am, to block his field of vision. Sam's in front of him, giving him something close to focus on. Not that we'd admit that's what we're doing. It's not his fault, after all, and it's not like he'd let us down over it. He never does. We just like to make his life a little easier, that's all.
It's taking a while, though. It's a long walk. Must be the best part of a klick. Halfway down it we come across a crossroad of sorts. This must be the centre point of the whole ship. Each path leads to the buildings on the sides. We see that there is another path on the wall itself, going a whole 360° around it. I'm guessing, but I think that in space, people were able to use any of the paths as it wouldn't matter if they were 'upside-down' in it.
Anyway, we're chatting away, making comments on the ship, wondering about the reasons for it and so on. It's certainly getting us thinking.
"I think it's a colony ship," Daniel says as we near the end. "It's the only thing that makes sense."
We have to agree. It doesn't look like a warship. The buildings sticking to the sides all look domestic.
"Probably doesn't have FTL engines," Sam says thoughtfully.
"Faster-than-light. We use that to describe any engine which works in a way that to the outside observer, making it look like the ship is travelling faster than light speed."
"Outside observer?" Daniel asks.
"Yeah, well, hyperdrive doesn't make us go faster than light - one theory goes that that's actually impossible without turning us into grease spots at the back of a long, stringy ship. It takes us through a different sort of space."
We all stop dead and look at her in confusion. Relativity fries my brain. It does that to the others, too.
"Say planet A is ten light-years away from planet B. If you were travelling at light speed you'd take ten years to get there. But, according to Einstein, the faster you go, the slower time goes, and the closer to light speed you get, the nearer to actually not going through time you get. So, if a ship travels at almost the speed of light, the clock on board will be almost at a stop compared to those clocks on the planets.
"As an example, the distance between Earth and the Andromeda Galaxy is about two million light-years, so travelling at light speed, it'll take a ship two million years to get there. However, for the people on board the ship only twenty-eight years would have past from the start to the end of the trip!"
I look at her in bemusement. Okay, I admit it, this is a normal state of affairs. Having said that, her eyes have lit up like a beacon, so we're letting her continue.
"So you can't use normal space-time if you want to get to your destination in 'real' time. We use hyperspace, which is like the wormholes. A shortcut if you like. From an outsider's perspective, if they could see us leave planet A and arrive at planet B a year later, it would look like we'd travelled at ten times the speed of light, when in fact we wouldn't have travelled as far in actual distance as it would seem."
Clear as mud. But we all nod as if we understood it.
"Why did you say they don't have it?" Daniel asks, changing the subject a bit.
"The homes, if they are homes. It implies that they weren't expecting to reach their destination within a generation."
We see what she's getting at.
"I wonder if they had a destination in mind or if they were just looking for somewhere to live?" Daniel queries.
"Probably the latter. If they didn't have the technology for FTL, they might not have had the technology to look for another habitable planet, or be able to discover if one was already inhabited. Which could explain the look of the ship."
Ya know, for a literal thinker, Sam's brain often does impressions of Daniel's lateral thinking.
"I know I'm gonna regret this, but why?"
"It's simple," she says as we get to the end of the walkway and discover what looks like an escalator. "It looks like a rock."
"And, so, but, therefore?"
"If you were wanting to check out a solar system without alerting any inhabitants that you were coming, wouldn't it be safer to look like you were some major asteroid? If the people on a planet weren't technologically advanced enough, they wouldn't even see it. If they were technologically advanced, the chances would be they'd be advanced with their weaponry, too. Maybe shoot first, ask questions later.
"If you don't look like a colony ship, and you just look like something that belongs in space, then you'd stand a better chance of being ignored as you go on to your next system to explore."
I don't know what scares me more. Sam's brain or the fact it makes sense to me.
This ship is so cool. It's huge!
We've arrived at the end of the walkway and there are two moving walkways now, one going up and another going down.
"Which way?" Jack asks.
"We could do both," Daniel suggests.
"I'm not so sure I like the idea of splitting us up," Jack argues. "Besides, if you and I go down and discover the engine room, then Sam and Teal'c will have to come and find us 'cause they're the ones that will be able to figure something out there. Same if they find the control room, or a library or something - you'll stand a better chance of figuring out the people. No, we'll stick together. Let's go up first and see what's there."
We all take a chance and jump onto the escalator and start to ascend. I'm trying to figure out this ship and its construction. I would guess that the bridge and other rooms like that will not have things like desks stuck on the ceiling. If I were designing this ship, then using the main chamber to its fullest extent by using all the space available makes sense.
But the ship obviously landed and was designed to, so there has to be an 'up and down', so that when gravity on the planet took over, you wouldn't have people falling off the walls. Which explains why the air lock was so huge. It was about fifty yards long but in places, it was twice as wide. They must have used it to congregate in for safety's sake before landing and then leaving the ship.
"The question is," Daniel says as we slowly ascend. "Did the devastation happen to this planet before or after these people got here? I mean, there was a pathway of sorts, which suggests that there was a fair amount of traffic from here to the gate."
"Or did they land here and just use the gate to get to another planet a lot quicker?" I put in, seeing where he was going.
"I doubt they'd know what a gate was... unless..."
"Unless?" Jack prompts.
"What if they met the Ancients? Possibly in space? The Ancients weren't warlike and they were highly advanced. If they had detected the ship, perhaps they directed them here? They could have told them where there was a habitable planet - because I'm sure this planet was habitable at one point - and also about the gate and how it worked."
"There was no sign that the people had lived outside," I point out.
"So... the Ancients hadn't been here in a while. When the Furlings arrived, they realised that the planet was no longer habitable and they used the gate and left. Given the number of buildings inside the chamber, there must have been many people here. Just by carrying their possessions, possibly making numerous trips back and forth to the gate, they'd have created a rut in the ground."
"That's all speculation, Daniel," Jack argues.
"Of course it is. I'm just taking what we see and trying to make some sense of it all. After all, if the people weren't told what the gate was, and without some clue or other, how would they know what the gate did?"
"You did," I say.
"I had a clue. The cover-stone and the writings with the address to Abydos. If I'd suddenly been dropped on a planet with a gate with no such clues, I wouldn't be able to figure it out."
I'm not so sure that he'd never do it, but I think it would take a while. However, I see his point.
We've got to what looks like the end of the line, so we all get off. Looking around, we see a large pair of doors in front of us.
"Gotta be worth a try," Jack shrugs, so we head for them.
As soon as we step onto a mat, the door opens. It makes sense that the airlock doors were manually operated, but any civilisation capable of making this ship was sure as hell capable of making automatic doors.
We step inside and see that we've hit pay dirt. This has got to be the bridge. There is still no sign of the makers of the ship, though. It's like the Marie Celeste, except there are no half-eaten meals.
The four of us search to see if we can find anything recognisable. I think I've just found the comms panel.
"Daniel, come here. I wonder if we can get something out of this?"
None of the buttons look familiar, but there is something that looks like a microphone, hence my assumption as to its purpose. With a shrug, Daniel presses a button. Some symbols flash up on the screen in front of us. He presses another one and we hear some weird noises.
"Hush," Daniel says as the rest of are about to speak. He presses it again. "That's the sound of the Furlings."
"If it is them," I remind him.
He shrugs again.
The voice is strange. It's high pitched, squeaky and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
He presses a few more buttons and then gasps.
We all gather around the screen and see exactly what he's on about. The symbols in front of us have just changed into the same as the Ancients' language.
"It translated it!" Daniel announces.
"What does it say, Daniel?"
"Uh, basically 'opening communications port' or similar, but that's not the point."
"The point being?" Jack pushes.
"The point being I was able to get some of the symbols translated, Jack. It also means I was right, at least they had contact with the Ancients."
"This is true."
"And because I can read the language of the Ancients, even if it does take me a while, it will mean I can figure some of this..." he waves his hands around, "place."
Okay, I'm happy. I've finally gotten myself a clue. I've discovered that I can pull up an instruction in the Furling language and by pressing another button, it changes to the Ancients' language. I've dug my video camera out of my pack and given it to Teal'c, and he's now filming the screen as I try to bring up more and more information. Hang on... what's this?
"I think I've found a log of some sort."
"Yeah?" Jack asks. "What's it say?"
"Uh, something about communications records. They spoke to... yeah, I was right. They met the Ancients in space. This is going to take a while, Jack. I'm not going to be able to give you an accurate translation quickly, but I can give you the general gist as it goes along."
There's a few moments of silence, then he says, "Okay. I'll get something to eat ready. Sam, give me a hand, will you?"
"Of course," she says, then I tune them out and start to pull up the next record.
I'm exhausted. We've been here for many hours. There's got to be an easier way.
"Sam, is there any way that you can use Mia's computer to tap into the memory of this ship? Maybe there's something in the memory banks which will allow me to spend time at home working on it in comfort?"
She screws up her face, then gets on her knees and pulls the cover off the bottom of the comms panel. I guess she's looking for a way 'in' to it. We don't disturb her and finally she says, "I'll need to tap into the comms and literally broadcast the information. Teal'c, if you go back over to Mia, I'll tell you what I need you to do."
"Sam, I don't just want the comms logs," I put in. "If it's at all possible, and if one exists, I'd like something like a captain's log, too."
"Chances are, all the information's stored on the same computer," she points out. "And given that I can't read what's what, I'm just going to upload whatever I can."
Teal'c's left the room and he's heading back to the ship. It will be a while before he reaches it, so Sam's using the time to explore the workings. I have no idea if this is going to work, but I can't wait to get at the information if it does.
"Daniel, come on. I think that Sam's going to be busy here for a while. Come with me, we'll go find the engine room."
"Jack?" His voice has told me that he's got something on his mind.
"Okay." I'll find out soon enough.
"You okay, Sam?" he asks, to be on the safe side.
"Don't touch anything that could hurt you, and make sure that anything you do upload is kept separate from our main computer," he warns. "We'll be back here as soon as possible. I just want to go check something out. Daniel, have you got a spare memory card for that camera of yours?"
"Good. Put it in. We'll need it."
I still have no idea what's going on in Jack's head. Undoubtedly it'll be worth finding out. There are times that we have to sit and wait - pretty much in the same way that we have to sit and wait for each one of us when we're like this. Jack doesn't do it often, he tends to think out loud, letting his mouth run away with himself, but when he does, it's never been to think about something simple.
We've gotten on the escalator and we're going down, past the walkway and to the 'ground' level. We're guessing that the engine room is here. At least I hope so. I don't like the idea of leaving Sam on her own for too long.
"In there, I guess," Jack says as we see a pair of identical double doors to the ones to the bridge.
I follow him inside and he starts filming.
"You going to let me in on what you're thinking about now?" I ask.
"I'm not convinced that they stopped here just because the Ancients said they should," he replies. "I wouldn't."
"Why not? If you'd been flying through space all your life - and if this was a generational ship, chances are you'd have been born on it - why wouldn't you take a chance like that?"
"Perhaps I'm too suspicious," he answers. "Something else would have to push me into landing here. After all, it could have been a trap. The Ancients could have been too good to be true."
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it. You're on a ship - as you say, you've been on it all your life. Chances are, you're not going to see a planet before you die. Then all of a sudden these aliens turn up, download some translating programme into your computer and offer you the dream of your lifetime. You'd be grateful, but surely you'd be suspicious?"
"I might be," I concede. "So, what else do you think was wrong? What pushed them into accepting the offer?"
He opens up what looks like a huge cupboard door, and what in actuality is a sort of panel covering, behind which is what looks like the engine. Even in my humble opinion, this engine is fucked. There's no sign of life in it at all.
There are some crystals such as we have on Mia and they're burnt out. Jack films the workings, knowing that Sam's going to want to see it one way or another. Given the amount of time we've already spent on this planet - which is over twenty-four hours now, without sleep - Jack's going to want to head back home, soon.
"Where's the power supply that's operating the lights and escalator and computers?" I wonder.
We look around and discover another 'cupboard', in which is a similar-looking but much smaller engine. This time it's glowing in parts.
"That's not going to last long," Jack says. I see what he means. Even though it's working, the crystals are starting to look old.
"Getting a bad feeling about this?" I ask.
"It's not a good one, that's for sure."
"Okay, let's get the hell out of here."
Our trouble radar has just gone off - klaxons blaring.
Sam, wrap it up and get the hell out of here.
Just do it. The engines are fucked and the life-support systems look like they are going to die any moment now. Which means things like the automatic doors...
Okay. I'm uploading. We can break the link from Mia if we have to. I'll meet you on the walkway.
Don't wait, just go!
Bad feeling time. Bad, bad feeling time.
I'm on the escalator, we hear as soon as we reach the doors out of the engine room. They open, thank God. We step out then we hear, OH FUCK!
I'm okay. Just.
The escalator just stopped.
Get there and look!
We run to the escalator and see that without the power, the moving steps flatten.
Sam? Sit rep! Jack orders.
I'm hanging on, she replies. Literally. When the steps went, I started to fall but I managed to catch hold of the handrail. I haven't got enough rope to lower myself all the way down to the walkway, but I think I can work my way down without too much of a problem.
Take it easy. Then he calls Teal'c and lets him know what's going on. Come back into the ship and bring two lots of very long rope.
"Why are you asking Teal'c to do that?"
"Two reasons. One, I want to make sure that he can get back into the ship. He should be able to, the doors seemed mechanical. And the other is we need rope."
"How else are we going to get up there?"
He points up the flattened escalator and my heart sinks. How indeed? I was so concerned with Sam's predicament I didn't notice ours.
I'm keeping in a subtle contact with Sam, trying not to put her off her task, but watching her every move. I think she's glad of the moral support. It's hard work. The handrail only has a bar connecting it to the 'steps' every ten feet or so, so she can't use them like steps down the side. And because they're there, they're interfering with her potential to use the handrail, which is almost vertical, as a fireman's pole and slide down it.
She's slowly sliding for ten feet, stopping herself, passing hand-over-hand as she goes over the bar and then slides again. It's a bit of a strange rhythm, but she's managing okay. God only knows how we're going to get up there. It's over a hundred feet.
I cannot leave them alone. I know this now. I have only been gone for a short while. In that time, I have started to upload the information being broadcast from the Furlings' ship and now I am about to start a rescue mission. Samantha informs me that she is close to the walkway. I have told her to remain in place when she reaches it.
I have the ropes that I will need, and have packed some explosives into a bag just in case I will need them later on. Now I must get back inside the ship.
It has taken me a while, but I am finally inside the ship. Fortunately, the doors to the airlocks are still working. For now. I am running across the walkway.
Samantha is down from the escalator but I fear that she is very tired. We have had no sleep in over a day, and despite her military training, and though she has taken rest breaks, she will still be feeling the effects of the lack of sleep. As will O'Neill and Daniel, and they have yet to climb up to the walkway.
"Samantha. Are you well?"
"I'll be better when we get home," she replies. "But I'm okay."
"This is good news. Now we must assist the others."
O'Neill. We are ready.
Great. Thanks, buddy. Send down the ropes. We'll tie our packs onto them first. If you can haul them up, then send the ropes back down, we'll use them to help us climb up.
Very well. Look out below.
I give one of the ropes to Samantha and she copies my actions, tying the one end to one of the bars on the escalator, to ensure security, and then we drop the ends. After a minute or so, we get the message and, sitting on the walkway to aid our grip, haul them up.
It does not take me too long to pull mine, but Samantha is feeling the strain. She does not complain, she continues to pull until the bag appears. I assist her and pull it onto the walkway, then we drop the ropes again. This time, we can do little. Pulling them both up all that way would be too much for us. Perhaps we can assist them towards the end of their climbs.
I'm sending Daniel up first, O'Neill states. We hear Daniel arguing with him, but O'Neill insists. Daniel, you're going up first and that's that. Now, shut your whinin' and get the fuck up that rope!
I do believe that Daniel has been told off.
I know Daniel doesn't want to do this, but hell, he's got no choice. It's not that he's complaining about it, he's just complaining about going first. I got the usual 'Why must you always put yourself in the most danger?' speech. He got the usual, 'Because I'm in charge' one back. He's still muttering to himself as he goes up.
I'm going up behind him, I won't be far away. He's scared that he's going to slip and fall and hit me. We don't have the right climbing ropes to ascend as if we were going up a mountain, so this could be precarious. There isn't anything to grab onto except the bars which are about ten feet apart. Every time we reach one, we put our feet on them to take the weight off our arms for a moment, then use them to push us up.
It seems to be taking for ever. Daniel's looking up, he's not saying anything, not that he has the breath to. Neither do I. I'd say I should have made us have a sleep earlier but then the power would have started to go before we'd found out what we did. I'm guessing that restarting after so long in some sort of sleep mode has drained the remaining power in the crystals.
Great - one minute I'm sounding like Daniel, now I'm sounding like Sam. If this mission goes on too much longer I could find myself saying 'indeed' and raising an eyebrow. If that happens, I'm retiring.
Oh fuck. The lights just went out.
Keep going, Daniel.
I am. Did you happen to notice how far we have to go before the lights went out? I wasn't really looking.
Do I tell him the truth or lie like a rug? We've still got about fifty feet to go. Dammit, I can't lie to him, so...
Still got a way to go, buddy. Just keep on climbing. CARTER! TEAL'C! Switch your flashlights on!
We have, Jack!
Oh fuck. I look up and see two tiny lights. We can't stop to put out own flashlights on, so we're going to stay working in the dark.
Aim for the lights, Daniel.
It's not a problem, Jack. If anything, it's easier.
I can't see what's around us.
That makes sense in a Daniel sort of way. I say nothing more, just keep on climbing. He hasn't stopped, hasn't slowed down. I don't know where he gets his energy from. My own energy is fading fast, so his can't be on top form. Stop it, O'Neill. Just keep on climbing, like you told him to. One arm after the other. Left, right, left...
The lights are getting brighter.
We're nearly there, Jack. Come on, don't give up on me.
I realise that I'm falling behind him, he's close to the top. I can see his shadow in the flashlights. He spurs me on and I try to move faster. My hands are hurting like hell, my legs are aching from inching up the rope.
Move it, O'Neill! Don't you DARE slow down now. Do you want me to come back down and get you?
I'm getting there, for crying out loud. Stop your nagging, will ya?
When you get up here, I will. Come on, I've already got there.
My teeth are gritted so hard my jaw is throbbing. I won't stop, Daniel. I just won't.
Hold tight, O'Neill. Teal'c's voice breaks through my concentration. I hold onto the rope tightly and feel it being pulled up. I don't dare try to continue climbing now, it could all go horribly wrong if I do.
"Don't let go of the rope, Jack. We'll pull you onto the walkway. Teal'c and Sam did the same thing for me when I got near the top. We know what we're doing. Just trust us."
Trust them? I can so do that.
I'm up. Thank God. I've made long climbs before, but never one quite so bad for some reason. Daniel's got his arms around me and he's hugging me close.
"Come on, Jack, let's get out of here. Don't know about you but I want to go home."
"Me too. Thanks, guys," I offer weakly.
"It is of no consequence, O'Neill. Surely you would have done the same for us?"
"Any day of the week, big guy. Anyway, get your packs on and stick very close together. We'll walk slowly, keeping to the middle of the walkway as best we can."
I feel Daniel shudder when he's reminded that we have edges and a long way down. At least he can't see the edges this time. The power outage is actually doing him a favour.
It's taking us a lot longer to get to the end than it did coming over. We're all tired - well, maybe Teal'c isn't, but the rest of us are. Since the climbs up and down, we're also coming down off the adrenaline high. I'm starting to feel really cold. I have no idea what I want to do when we get out of here. We have a choice, a few minutes' walk to the ship and a few hours' flight home, or a half hour or so walk to the gate and home in minutes. Question is, could we actually do the walk home?
"When we get out of this ship, how do you guys want to go home?" I ask. I might as well put the question to the floor.
"We'll need to take Mia home, Jack," Sam says sleepily.
"I know. But we can always come back and get her if we need to. Don't worry about that. I just want to know if you'd rather spend a few hours on the ship or a half hour walking?"
"Let's wait and see how we feel when we get down to the ground, Jack," Daniel says quietly.
"Fair enough. We'll do whatever you guys decide. I'm easy."
Daniel laughs, as do the others.
"Tell us something we don't know, Jack," Sam howls.
"I'm not as easy as Daniel," I complain.
"Right," she drawls. "Like I said, I'm open to learn something new."
There's no point in looking to see if Daniel's put out by this. He's never...
Oh! Nah, he couldn't be embarrassed, could he?
Daniel? You okay?
Uh, yeah, Jack. Just tired, you know?
Oh, I know. Me too. Not long now though.
Thank God. Let's get out of here.
And so say all of us.
We were worried when we reached the first door to the airlock, just in case there was some sort of power connected to the lever, but we were lucky. It opened. A little slower than before, possibly, but that could have been in our minds. We were really glad when we got out of the second door.
Daniel went to open the handle but a loud, sharp intake of breath told us that he was hurt. Teal'c did it instead - he's been a rock, as usual, guiding us all, shepherding us out of the ship. When we got outside, we saw that Daniel's hands were covered in blood from the climb. Jack went to tell him off for not saying anything when we discovered that his hands were also torn to shreds. He hadn't noticed. Daniel said that he hadn't noticed until he'd tried opening the door, either.
This answered our problem, anyway. We went straight to the ship, I cleaned up their hands and bandaged them, then Teal'c flew the ship to the gate, dropped the three of us off with strict instructions to go home and go to bed. He'll be with us in a few hours.
I wanted to argue with him, I don't want him to be alone, but he said that he didn't want to have to carry me out of the ship when we arrived on Annwn. He's right, I'd have been asleep the minute we'd gotten into space.
We made it through the gate, were relieved to see that we hadn't been called on when we were away, somehow found the strength to sort out the answering machine code and fell through the house's door. I don't care if we've had unwanted visitors. I'll find out tomorrow. Or the day after. When I've woken up.
"You okay, Sam?" Daniel asks as I head towards my bedroom.
"Yeah. Teal'c'll be home before we know it. In fact, I doubt if we will know it."
He laughs hollowly, wishes me goodnight and follows Jack off to bed.
I can just about throw my clothes on the chair near the bed, make it to the bathroom and get ready for bed. No matter how tired I am, I can't go to bed without washing and cleaning my teeth - I can't sleep if I do. It's different if we're off-world, but at home, I can't. I just don't get comfortable.
God, that bed looks big without Teal'c. He doesn't always sleep in the bed with me, sometimes he sits on the floor by the fire, but having him in the room helps me settle.
My mind is starting to wander. I'm tossing and turning under the covers. I need Teal'c here. I can't sleep. I'm too tired to sleep. Okay, perhaps I'll get up and have something to eat.
Jack's sleeping. I can't. My arms keep wanting to raise as if I'm still climbing and my legs are twitching. Hell, I'll disturb him if I stay here. Maybe some hot milk will help me calm down.
I ache all over, but I can't have a bath. Both my hands are covered in bandages - they're a hell of a mess. I really didn't notice what was happening when I was climbing that rough rope, which is probably just as well. I thought my hands were just sweating. They were stinging a bit, but I thought it was just some light blistering. I must have blistered them badly and then cut right through the blisters. The same for Jack. Neither of us have climbed like that for a long time. Usually climbing is more like rock climbing, with the ropes being used to stop us from falling rather than to get us up.
Leaving the bedroom as quietly as I can, I head directly for the kitchen. Fuck, I have to get the stove heated and get the milk out of the fridge. That's going to be awkward.
"Daniel, what are you doing?"
Shit! I nearly jumped out of my skin!
"Sam? What are you doing up?"
"Too tired to sleep."
"Me too. Um, I was going to warm up some milk, but..."
"Sit down, I'll do it. I could do with something, too."
I smile in thanks and sit at the table.
"I was too restless in bed," she says with a sigh, getting some Tylenol out of the cupboard and handing it to me. Maybe that will help.
"Yeah, me too. I was afraid I'd wake Jack up."
She thinks as she puts the milk away, then says, "I think I need Teal'c to give me a massage again. You should ask him to give you one."
I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything as she said that. I can't look at her. Her unintended double entendre nearly makes me blush.
"Uh, I think I'll ask Jack," I say with a grin, hoping that she doesn't notice my discomfiture.
"Probably a good idea." She sits next to me as the milk heats, looking over to the saucepan to make sure it doesn't spill over. "So, what do you think about the ship?"
"I'll be a lot happier when I've got some information in front of me, that's for sure. What little I did find out didn't really tell me a whole lot."
"I wonder where they've gone?" she muses.
A bubbling noise has her up on her feet and lifting the saucepan, swirling it around for a moment. A little light seems to go on in her head and she opens one of the cupboards. Ah. Cocoa powder. In moments, she's got the cold milk back out of the fridge and she's mixing a little with the powder in our mugs. By the time she's done that, the warm milk is ready. A little sugar stirred into each mug and we have hot chocolate to drink.
"Comfort food," she says with a grin.
"Can't beat it," I agree. "As for where they've gone, I have no idea. Maybe there'll be a clue in the information we picked up. I only hope that it uploaded quickly."
"Because I'm sure it would have stopped either when the escalator cut out or the lights did."
She nods, understanding my meaning.
"You scared me," I tell her. "I couldn't bear to see you get hurt."
"I scared me, too. I was lucky that my reaction time is really quick. As soon as my feet noticed that something was amiss, my hands grabbed for the rail."
I laugh. "You make it sound like they've got a mind of their own."
"Not far off," she agrees. "When you're driving, for example, do you actively think about what your hands or feet are doing?"
"Um, no. You start off doing that when you learn..." I smile broadly as I remember something. "I learned to drive in a stick shift. There was this amazing moment when I realised that I'd changed gear without thinking which one I wanted to be in beforehand. I'd just done it. A smooth change, no crunch of gears, no jerky clutch movements... I knew at that moment that I could just pay attention to what was going on around me instead."
"At which point you stopped being scared out of your mind every time you took the wheel and really started to learn how to drive," she agrees. "I had a similar 'eureka' moment. It was way cool."
We're giggling now, remembering something that happened to us both, independently and many years ago. But at least now I get what she means about her limbs reacting.
Her training over the years has led her to learn to trust her body's reactions, and her body reacts to any danger it perceives. Whereas those of us who haven't been trained might take a moment to drop to the floor at the first sign of a gunshot, her knees will have buckled before her brain has even informed the rest of her that a shot has been fired.
We chat about our thoughts of the Furlings and the ship. She's still trying to figure out why the planet is moving away from the sun.
"What about another planet in the system?" I ask.
At her confused look - well, she is tired - I elaborate. "Was there a big planet, maybe like Jupiter or something on the opposite side of it to the sun?"
She thinks and then gets annoyed. "You know, I didn't look. How stupid is that?"
"You didn't look because you were looking at other things. Then you got distracted. Anyway, if there is one, is it possible that the planet we were on is being pulled towards it?"
"That would depend on a lot of things - how close they are, its mass and so on. It's not beyond the realms of possibility, though, that's for sure. How likely it is, I don't know." She thinks again and then says, "Remember the last planet in our system?"
"Uh, the ice planet?"
"Yeah. Well, I've always had this niggling feeling that it doesn't belong here. That it was somehow brought here."
"You think the two things could be related?"
"Who in hell knows?" she sighs. "This is a weird galaxy filled with weird aliens, and sometimes even weirder physics. I've come to the conclusion that more or less anything is possible. If it turned out that someone had stuck an engine inside the planet we were just on and had started to drive it out of the system, I doubt somehow that it would surprise me."
Our conversation is ended when we hear Mia landing.
"I think I'm going to be in trouble," she says, taking our mugs and washing up.
I wonder about going to bed, but I'm still not going to settle and I know it.
"What are you doing out of bed?" I ask as I enter the kitchen. "You should be asleep."
"We were too tired to sleep," Samantha tells me. "We're both too stiff and painful, too. We've taken something for it but it hasn't kicked in yet."
"Do you wish to have another massage?"
"Ooh, please. I think that would help a lot. Thank you."
Her thanks are not necessary. It is a pleasure.
"Daniel? Would you benefit from a massage?"
He looks at me in panic, then shakes his head.
"Uh, no thanks, Teal'c. I'm fine."
"You are quite obviously not fine."
He ducks his head and then replies, "I'm a bit too sore to be touched, to be honest. If you touch my arms now, I'm likely to yell loud enough to wake Jack. I doubt he'd appreciate that, somehow."
Possibly, possibly not. I fear that there is something else bothering him, however, I also know that he will not tell me. I have a plan.
"Very well. Samantha, come with me. Goodnight, Daniel. Please try to get some sleep soon or you will become ill."
He gives me a weak smile and then wishes us both goodnight. I can see the exhaustion in his eyes, but I also know that he will not even try to sleep yet. I am worried.
In the meantime, I take Samantha to our room. She is in obvious need of some attention.
My Samantha is finally asleep. I notice that there is no sound from the living area so I could presume that Daniel has gone to bed. However, my gut feeling is that he has not.
Making sure that I do not disturb Samantha, I creep out of our room and, having made sure that Daniel is not asleep on the couch, go to the men's room. Again, I make sure that I do not make a sound as I look inside the bedroom. I was right. Daniel is not there.
He will be on the ship, I fear, studying the transmissions. Using skills honed over many decades, I silently make my way to the ship and see that he has left the door open, most likely to let some of the warm evening air through to where he is working. That is working to my favour. I am barefoot, so I make no sound as I enter the ship.
I see him hunched over a computer, his eyes fixed on the screen, his fingers tapping blindly on the keyboard of another computer, a pair of bloody bandages dropped onto the floor next to his seat. Using his touch-typing skills, he is taking notes without even looking at them.
I must do something about this.
I leave the ship and return to the house, then I go back into the men's bedroom.
"O'Neill. You must awaken."
He opens his eyes and takes a moment to focus on me. Then his hand flails to one side and he looks annoyed.
"He is working on the ship. He has been unable to sleep. He claims that he is too sore and too tired."
"Probably scared about the nightmares, too," O'Neill mutters. "Uh, he might get one of his vertigo ones. Sometimes even guessing he will get one can put him off sleeping."
"I understand. Perhaps you can aid him?"
"I'll try. Thanks for waking me."
"You are welcome. Goodnight, O'Neill. I, too, will go to get some rest."
Perhaps now Daniel's jumpiness is explained. Perhaps not. I will consider this as I meditate.
Ah, Daniel, you just had to have one of your freak-out nights, didn't you? I should have seen this coming.
I see it's still fairly light outside when I get there, late evening, I guess. I haven't got my watch on. Daniel hasn't slept in about thirty-six hours, though, I know that much.
Entering the ship, I hear the tapping of his keyboard. I stand and watch him for a few minutes and can tell from the manner in which he is typing that he is feeling a bit frantic.
"What's so important that you have to leave our bed?" I bark.
He jumps a mile and looks furious as he turns to me.
"What the FUCK do you think you're doing?" he snarls.
"I was asking you the same thing. Switch that off now, Daniel and come back to bed."
"I'm not tired."
"You fucking ARE!"
"I... I'm too tired, I won't sleep. I didn't want to disturb you by tossing and turning."
"Then go to sleep on the ship if you really want to sleep on your own, but please, go to sleep," I plead.
He doesn't move, I can see his mind is working overtime again. I take matters into my own hands, save his work and then shut down his computer. He's too tired to even complain and I can see his hands shaking a little.
"Come on, let's get back into the house. I'll re-bandage your hands if you'll re-bandage mine."
I show him that the blood has seeped through my bandages as well and he nods. Making this into him doing something for me will help, I know.
I can tell he's not really with it in his mind. One minute he's biting me, now he's like a lamb. He is so not himself. Somehow, we get to the kitchen and I fumble around and get the bandages out. Some more antiseptic cream on the cuts and I cover them up, this time only covering the palms and leaving his fingers free - they're not so badly cut. I stick some band-aids on his worst fingers and let the air get to the others.
Then I hold my hands out for him and it's his turn to fumble around. My fingers aren't as bad as his but the palms are more badly shredded. We made a real mess out of ourselves on those ropes. When we're recovered I'm going to insist on us carrying climbing gloves in our pockets on all missions. We live and learn.
He's still not in a mind to go to sleep - part of his mind is asleep, but the rest of it is bouncing around like a flea on speed. As soon as he's finished with my hands, I use them to hold his head in place and lay a big kiss on him. He freezes for a moment, then he gives in, kissing me back with all his remaining strength.
We break apart and catch our breath.
"I thought you wouldn't do me in the kitchen," he whispers.
"Nah, I said I wouldn't chain you up in the kitchen. Didn't say anything about not doing you."
I don't let him answer, I kiss him again and pull his shorts down. I'm still kissing him when he steps out of them. I reach for something on the counter top behind him and find what I'm looking for. Still kissing him, I grease up my fingers, kick his legs apart and then plaster his ass with said grease.
This is frantic, no finesse in it at all. He's moaning into my mouth as one of my feet hooks one of the dining chairs and moves it away from the table. I'm still kissing him as I turn him so that his back is to the table, then I lean him onto it, pull my own shorts down and in moments, I'm fucking him hard.
He likes it like this. Almost anonymous, no love in my actions - at least on the surface, there's plenty in reality and he knows it. Despite his tiredness, he's hard and desperate. His back arches off the table when I hit the spot, his eyes screw shut and his moans get louder.
"Hush, Daniel. You'll wake the others," I warn.
He must have heard me because he's clamped his mouth shut. I use my bandaged hand and take his cock in it and jerk him off in time to my fucking of him. He's not thinking of anything now, I can tell. All he wants is to get there. Me too. I'm tired and I want my bed - preferably with Daniel in it. In the meantime, I'll make the most of being in Daniel.
He always feels good - so hot and slick, yet tight. My spare hand takes his balls, prompting him to clamp his legs tightly around my waist. His balls are heavy in my hand and I massage them gently, knowing that he's going to come as soon as I feel the change in them.
I squeeze his dick a bit tighter, not to hurt, but to encourage him, the rough bandage adding to his sensations. It does the trick and the next thing I know, he's plastering his T-shirt with semen and wringing mine out of me as his ass emulates his legs and clamps down on my cock so hard he forces me to come.
I know he's the one with a dick up his ass, but I'm fucked. I open my eyes and look to see if we've left any incriminating evidence. I don't think we have, so reluctantly, I pull out of him and haul him to his feet.
"Come on, bed. We'll scrub the table when we wake up," I tease, picking up his shorts.
He nods tiredly, and I lead him to the bedroom. A quick wipe down with the cloth in there will have to do. We can clean up in the morning. I pull his T-shirt off him and dump it on the floor. That's something else we can deal with later. By the time we're in bed, he's actually asleep. Mission accomplished.
A noise wakes me again and I realise that the sun is high in the sky already. Daniel's eyes are open but unfocussed.
"I think it's time to get up," I yawn.
We get up and get dressed, then head out to the kitchen. Sam and Teal'c are already up and it would seem that MIB have turned up. A coffee is thrust into both our hands and we sit down with the others.
MIB give us a rundown on their mission. They met a bunch of weird aliens who were nice, but in other ways unremarkable.
"They gave us this," DJ says, handing Daniel a small statue of what looks like a pregnant woman.
"They were surprised that Frankie hadn't got kids. Despite us explaining that she didn't want any and couldn't have any anyway - uh, we didn't say we're not human, of course," he adds with a grin, "they said that it wasn't 'normal' to not want them and she should have as many as she could. They said this would help."
"Ah, a fertility statue," Daniel says sleepily.
"We figured it makes more sense for you guys to have it," John teases.
"No thanks," says Sam. "I don't want any kids. Besides, I'm not even sure that Teal'c and I could have any."
Teal'c shrugs - he doesn't know and we know he's not bothered about having another one anyway.
I start laughing and Daniel looks at me, then hits me.
"Just don't, Jack. That joke's worn thin."
"I'm not saying a word," I reply, taking the statue off him and putting it on a shelf in the lounge area. Well, it's quite cute, I guess.
"So, what about your mission?" John asks as I sit back down.
We give him a rundown and then Daniel adds, "I found out a bit more last night. We were right. They were a generational colony ship looking for somewhere to live. They started to have engine problems, and at that time, they were fortunate enough to meet the Ancients, who directed them to the planet we went to.
"Unfortunately, as they entered the atmosphere, something happened with one of the engines and it did something to the atmosphere - I'm not sure what, they were using terms I haven't been able to translate, yet. Whatever it was, it literally killed all the life that was there. By the time they'd landed, they knew they couldn't stay, but they couldn't fix the ship either.
"The Ancients had given them some gate addresses, but what they were, I don't know. They might be in the information we were able to upload, I might not have gotten to that bit yet, or we didn't get it. So, basically, they decided they were going to use the gate and get off the planet."
"So the Furlings..." I start. "We are sure they're the Furlings, are we?"
"Uh, yeah. Pretty sure," he agrees.
"So they're still out there?"
"Could well be. I think they'll be worth finding, Jack. They weren't extremely advanced mechanical engineers, but their records talked of medical advances and genetic engineering. They were of the opinion that genetic engineering might be necessary if they landed on a planet unsuitable for long-term habitation by their people - that was before they met the Ancients, by the way. If that's their strength, then they might be able to help the Jaffa."
"Okay. When you're feeling up to it, carry on with the translations. DJ, perhaps you could help him?"
"Sure. I'd enjoy that."
Sam gets up and heads for the coffee pot, then I see her stop dead.
"Uh, guys, can one of you tell me why there are fingermarks in the butter?"
Daniel raises his head slowly and looks at me with evil in his eyes.
"You used BUTTER?" he squeaks.
It was the only thing to hand! I get the feeling that I'm in trouble. Again. The others are laughing out loud, Daniel looks murderous. I think I'm going fishing. Now.