Summary: It's all Greek to Jack when Daniel's on a mythology kick. Snakes on the brain and the big sleep leading to a future for the Tok'ra? Weirder things have happened.
Thanks to Joy and Fabi for the betas.
So much for doing things our own way. We've been roped into the Tok'ra's shenanigans again. This time we're chasing a shadow - a mythological one, at that.
It all started about five days ago when Jacob came over to Annwn and started on about Greek myths with Daniel, who, naturally, was in his element with the subject.
Not sure why Jacob was talking about them, maybe Daniel started it, I don't know. Or Selmac. That snake's as bad as Daniel sometimes. Then Daniel just had to wonder if the Hydra had been a snake, if you see what I mean. That's a Goa'uld and not a nine-headed serpent. Selmac wasn't sure, but that in turn led to Daniel talking of the story of Medusa, the chick with the lively hairdo. That got Selmac's interest, and before we knew where we were, we were searching through Tok'ra records.
Ya see, if Daniel's latest theory holds true, and the myth had got mangled as they usually do, there's every possibility that Medusa was a Goa'uld queen; the snakes on her head being a metaphor for the Goa'uld larvae that she spawned. Seein' as when Hathor spawned the little bastards, she was sitting in a bathtub surrounded by them, it could be that they were slithering all over her body... you see where I'm going with this, don't you?
And when I said we were searching through the records, I meant, of course, Daniel, Selmac, Teal'c and - unfortunately - Anise. My Goa'uld isn't much good yet (there's a very good reason I haven't rushed to learn it) and neither is Sam's. We can read what we need to on the ship, but there's a world of difference between that and ancient records.
Sam and I questioned some of the older, more reliable Tok'ra as to their thoughts on the subject. One pretty ancient - and cranky - Tok'ra, called Antics or something like that, seemed to have an idea, we used the brain-sucking machine and came up with a set of co-ordinates. Which is where we are now.
Of course, in the myth, according to Daniel, Medusa was killed by some guy called Perseus. Having said that, Cronus was supposed to have killed (and eaten) all his kids, except for Zeus, yet other so-called kids of his turn up. It all depends on who's telling the story and which version they're using, I guess. At least that's what Daniel says and who am I to argue? The upshot is, we're looking for her.
"Is there anything we should know before we find the bitch?" I growl as we snake our way through some long grass.
"Uh, might be a good idea to not look directly at her," he mutters. "Just in case."
I stop dead and tell the others to stop, too.
Daniel? What aren't you telling us?
Huh? Oh, it's just part of the myth. Probably not true, you know how they go.
You sure you want to know?
I can hear the frustration in his voice. Okay, I haven't been overly patient with him over the last few days. He's spent so much time with the records that I've hardly seen him. I had to jerk off yesterday. First time I've done that since we moved off-world. At least without him watching or taking part in one way or another.
Please. Thanks Sam, that's gotten me out of the pleading. I think she missed Teal'c just as much.
Well, apparently, if you looked at her, you'd be turned to stone.
That ugly? Well, I've gotta ask.
Ew. So, how do you deal with her if you can't look at her?
I'm not really sure. Perseus, in the myth, used Athene's shield as a mirror as he crept up on her, so he could look at her obliquely.
So we need a big mirror?
It would help if we really knew if she was that ugly, Sam sighs.
We have something that Perseus would not have had, Teal'c points out. In fact, we have two.
A digital camera, and me.
You're not going to face her if there's something in the myth, I say. I don't care if you're Jaffa or not, and much as I don't think you'd be turned to stone, there's usually something in the myth that's for real. But you might be onto something with the camera. We need to get closer to the building.
We don't know if she's even there, or alive, Sam says. Antec said he was relying on information he learned over a thousand years ago. Besides, all this creeping around is getting boring. We need to get in that damned building.
It's not like Sam to get so cranky. I look at Daniel, he checks the date on his watch and shakes his head. So, not that then. Just as well, we left the chocolate behind. Which has made Daniel cranky. It's his time of the month, I think.
You know, I think that Athene was Tok'ra.
Daniel's pronouncement surprises us all and we stop. O'Neill spies a natural hiding place and points to it, so we make our way to it, then sit.
"We can speak quietly," I say. "I am sure that we have not been seen and neither are we within the hearing of anyone."
O'Neill decides that now would be a good time to eat and drink, so we do.
"Are you going to fill us in on your latest theory?" Samantha asks of Daniel.
"Oh, it's just in the various myths, she comes over as a pretty caring individual. She never had a mate, but Hephaistos tried to rape her - she stopped him, by the way."
"You go girl," Samantha grins.
We all agree.
"As part of that bit of her story, she wiped off his semen from her body onto a piece of wool and threw it down to Earth, where it became a weird creature, with a man's body and a serpent's tail instead of legs. Now, if she'd been a Goa'uld, she'd have either kept him as a curiosity or she'd have killed him. Instead she took responsibility for him, looked after him, eventually made him King of Athens, and when he died, the legend has it that she turned him into one of the stars in, er, Auriga."
"That's one of the glyphs," Samantha says. "I wonder..."
"Yeah, well, don't," O'Neill warns. "Daniel's wondering led us here. What else is there about this Athene chick, Daniel? How does she fit into the Medusa story?"
"She seemed to be a protector of heroes," Daniel continues as if he had not been interrupted. "Jason, the guy who led the Argonauts, Herakles, Odysseus, Theseus... she took care of them all. They all did good, heroic stuff, and often against the wishes of the other gods or directly against them. Perseus was one of Zeus' illegitimate kids, by one of his mistresses, which naturally pissed Hera off with him no end.
"Anyway, when he went after Medusa, she lent him her magical shield, which, as I said, he used to creep up on her. When he'd killed her, he cut off her head and put it on the shield and carried it to Athene and presented it to her. In a lot of art, Athene is represented as having an image of the head of Medusa on her shield or breastplate, so it must have been important to her."
"If Athene was a Tok'ra, and Medusa was a Goa'uld queen, then perhaps she sent Perseus to kill her to prevent further Goa'uld larva being spawned?"
"It's possible," Daniel answers me. "We can but hope."
"If that's the case, what the hell are we doing here?" O'Neill moans.
"Making sure, Jack," Daniel replies. "It's better to make sure that all the Goa'uld queens are dead, isn't it? Besides, if she isn't dead, which I'm half-hoping she isn't..."
"Shh, Jack. If you'd shut up, I'd tell you."
O'Neill waves his hand in a 'go ahead' manner and Daniel continues.
"If the Tok'ra can get their hands on a queen, then perhaps they can find out what genetic differences there are between her and an ordinary Goa'uld. Maybe they can use genetic engineering to produce another Tok'ra queen."
We have to concede his point. If the Tok'ra could do that, then Jaffa on the rebellion's side could have a long-term future without having to resort to medical intervention.
"So why wasn't Athene the mother of the Tok'ra?" Samantha asks. "Surely she was there before Egeria?"
Daniel nods. "But as I said, she didn't have a mate. She was known for her celibacy. At a guess, she wasn't a queen. Egeria had a genetic aberration, allowing her to see what the Goa'uld really were and enabling her to produce the rebellion. Like with human, and other animal breeds' genetic problems, I don't see why that would have been restricted to only one snake. There's every chance that snakes that are born like the Tok'ra are produced spontaneously every so often."
"So, the mission," O'Neill announces. "Find out what the hell is going on..."
"Which is why we're here," Samantha mutters.
"...and if this Medusa is here, and is a queen, we snatch her and head on back to the Tok'ra."
"Sounds good to me, Jack," answers Daniel. Samantha and I agree with him.
Now we finally know what we're going to do.
I have no idea what we're going to do. I mean, I know the mission outcome, but I have no idea how the mission is going to be accomplished. The building we're creeping up on is typically classical Greek. Doric columns, the first order of Greek architecture, adorn what looks like a temple and a palace complex. We have to get in there somehow.
"Daniel, what of Medusa? We know how she was supposed to have been killed, but what of her myth?"
Ah, Teal'c, you always know how to ask the interesting questions, don't you?
"I'm glad you asked that, Teal'c." I see Jack's eyes glaze over, but that'll change soon. "You see, she's known from before Greek times. She's an import, I guess you'd say. Some people connect her with Ma'at, which is the same name as Thoth's wife and which could be her." Yup, I knew that would get his attention. "But I don't. Also, she was seen as an aspect of another goddess."
I say nothing more for a moment, just pause to take a bite from my food, but I know I've gotten their attention, now.
"Aspect? And which goddess?" Sam asks cautiously.
"The destroyer aspect, and the goddess was Neith, or Athanna, depending on where you're talking about."
"Yup," I say with a grin. "Aka, Athene."
"I'm getting a headache," Jack says.
"Don't worry about it, there are so many of these connections, Jack, it confuses the fuck out of me."
"So she's supposed to have supported the guy that killed her and then bragged about it?"
I laugh. I can't help it.
"Uh, no. Look, the Libyan Amazons, er, don't ask, thought of one goddess as having different aspects and gave each aspect a different name. Think of it more like one name being the mother and the 'split' names being the kids. It's probably as close to the truth as anything, especially where the Goa'uld are concerned."
"Amazons?" he squeaks.
I just shrug. "It all depends on who you read and which source they used as to what you believe," I say. "Think of this. There are three sources of the same myth, each one different. Take three mythologists and get them to read all three sources. Each mythologist will have his or her own view as to each version. So, now you have nine versions of the same story. If there are three mythologists that read them..."
He nods, bending his head and waving his hand in a 'I get it, so shut up' movement.
"You see why it's so difficult for me to give you anything definitive about anything?" I prompt. "I might have read something which has been recycled a thousand times or more. It's not like Sam's subjects. Yes, she can develop new theories, but each one will be based on something she knows for a fact. I don't deal in facts, at least when I'm talking about mythology. With archaeology, I can be more definite for the most part, but even some of that is educated guesswork."
"I thought that archaeology was a precise science," Jack says.
"It can be, depending on what you're doing. For example, we know the dates to the Roman emperors' reigns, and so any archaeology which we can tie to a specific emperor can be given an almost precise date, usually correct to within a few years.
"But with some digs, we find rooms in a building or bits of pottery, and based on experience and things we know, we can make an educated guess as to the purpose. Sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes we get it right. The point is, we have to acknowledge when we're making assumptions when we make the reports. That way, the interpretation of the finds is left open until further evidence turns up.
"In some parts of Earth, we can date the building of a wooden structure to the year, even if it's a couple of thousand years old, because we have a continuous record of weather patterns and ring growth of certain tree species in certain areas. That record's kinda patchy, but it's improving with each find."
"How?" he asks.
"Well, the dendrochronologists started with the more modern wood, trees they knew the dates to felling, and then made records of the ring sizes and shapes. Then they worked backwards, with some years overlapping. So, if you have one oak tree that started producing rings in 1960 and was felled in 1990, another oak tree from the same area, and therefore the same weather patterns, which grew between 1945 and 1975 would have a fifteen year overlap of identical rings."
They nod, seeing what I'm getting at.
"Dendrochronology is just one aspect of archaeology. There are countless specialities in the field, covering everything from the position of the stars in the sky at any time in any place, to bone specialists, fossil specialists, industrial archaeologists, or, like me, archaeolinguists. Um, the mythology thing is a bit of a sideline. I have field training for digs, of course, but ancient languages are my main speciality."
"A bit like the Air Force, then," Jack says. At my confused look, he says, "We have engineers, pilots, parachutists, navigators..."
"Got you. Yeah, everyone with their own speciality, which when combined bring a whole body of expertise to a given situation. Like us." I point to us all. They all nod in reply, understanding what I'm getting at. Which is, of course, completely off track as usual.
"So, what about these Amazons?" he asks with a grin.
We've packed up our food and we're heading back to the palace or whatever it is. We haven't seen any life-signs yet, but we're not taking any chances. We've been led into false senses of security before now.
I must admit to being intrigued about what we're likely to find. Will Medusa be there? Will she have snakes in place of her hair? How much of the myth is true? This is always our problem, as Daniel says. So many versions of the same stories, and then Goa'uld intervention, it always ends up screwing up the myth. I feel for Daniel. We depend on him and his encyclopaedic knowledge of mythology, as well as everything else, and the Goa'uld keep messing him about.
We can't use the cloaking devices unless it's absolutely necessary. On doing some more research, Frankie and I discovered that the power source isn't reliable and is likely to wear out - which could be awkward in the middle of a mission. So, while we look for a more suitable power source (Frankie's looking into developing a version based on the same power sources that the androids use), we're limiting their use for essential times. We have them on us, but they're not on at the moment. Which is why we're creeping around. Basically doing things like we always used to.
We've reached the entrance and now it's time to creep inside. There's still no sign of life and there's something really spooky about the place. I mean there's no dust, but no sign of anyone to do the dusting.
"What if someone comes now and then and 'does'?" Jack wonders.
"You know, a 'woman that does'," he says. Then he shrugs, "It's what my Irish grandma called women that would go to some wealthy person's house to clean. 'Does' meaning cleaning."
"Ah, I see."
Daniel starts to snigger.
"Daniel? What are you thinking now?"
He projects a mental image of a short, late-middle-aged plump woman, wearing a skirt and blouse but covered in a bathrobe-style polyester wrapper. She has a cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth and a feather duster in one hand, a rag in the other and a bucket and mop by her side. All inside the temple complex that we are now in. Jack's right, Daniel's mind is a very strange place. Of course, we're all giggling now - even Teal'c.
"Shh," Jack scolds. "We're supposed to be being careful."
We apologise insincerely then make our way up to what Daniel says is some sort of altar. Jack and Teal'c stand guard, watching our backs and any possible entrance and I watch Daniel, just in case he touches something that could hurt him. He's not going to touch anything deliberately, I know that. He's not careless; but we know from experience that there are such things as booby traps and other surprises.
He sees some writing on the back of the altar, on a marble slab. All the letters, which seem to be Greek to me, run into each other, so I can't see where one word stops and another one starts.
"Daniel, that's either one long word or..."
He shakes his head. "No, it's typical of the time, Sam. Spaces between words are a comparatively recent invention. A lot of languages didn't have spaces for a good few hundred years after they started being written down."
"How can you tell what it says?"
"I just read until I find the end of a word. Uh, think of this. If I wrote..." He gets out a piece of paper and writes, "MYNAMEISDANIELJACKSON". Handing it to me, I read it out loud.
"How did you know what was said?" he asks.
"I just do," I answer. "I recognised the words, um, could tell where one stopped and another one started because I know the individual words..."
He nods. "It's the same here. It takes some practise, and you need to know the language, but when you do, spaces are fairly irrelevant. With some languages, you get obvious endings on words, too, which helps."
"I get it. So, what does it say?"
"It talks about Medusa, so Antec was at least right in the sense that this is one of her places. Not sure if there are more places, by the way, but this is her temple. It tells of how she was worshipped - in contrast to the Greek myth, earlier stories have her as a much-loved goddess, this would appear to be emphasising that. Uh... oh yeah, Jack?"
Jack walks backwards to us, not taking his eyes off our surroundings.
"This bit talks of her as 'mother to the gods'. Seeing as she wasn't known as a mother to the gods in Greek mythology, I'm taking this to mean that she was a Goa'uld queen."
"Okay. That's what we came here to find out," Jack acknowledges. "Does it say where she is?"
"No. Not exactly."
"Daniel?" Jack growls.
"It says 'katheudei', uh, 'she sleeps'. It talks about her waiting for her to be worshipped once again. Ouch."
"Daniel?" He's definitely got my attention.
"Well, it talks about her being betrayed. At a guess, it's her version about how she fell out of favour. I think..." his voice trails off. "I think she's in some sort of stasis. Waiting until her worshippers find her and come to get her when the time's right."
"So her head wasn't cut off?" Jack prompts.
"Even a Goa'uld couldn't survive that. Hang on... theion. Her godhead!"
"Daniel?" We're getting repetitive but this happens a lot when he does this.
"It wasn't her head that was removed. It was her godhead. You know how myths get mangled, guys. Perhaps Perseus was the guy that was behind her downfall, not her death."
"If he was prompted to do that by Athene," I say, "then that would suggest that Athene was a Goa'uld. You know what those snakes are like."
"Not necessarily. If Athene was the first Tok'ra, at least the first Goa'uld with the genetic... twist for want of a better word, then maybe she was trying to get the humans to start some sort of revolution."
"This is all very well," I point out, "but it's not helping us to find her. Where should we look?"
Daniel shrugs, then points to the main building next to this temple. I guess that's as good a place as any to start. At least we have some sort of clue now.
"What about the myth of her hair, Daniel?" Sam asks as we start towards the building. We're still creeping around, but to be honest, I don't think that anyone's here. Lack of dust notwithstanding.
"Well, in the Libyan images, she had dreadlocks. Combine that with the fact that we think she's a queen, and it's so easy to see how the two ideas got mixed up."
Makes as much sense as anything else in this screwed up universe. Seein' as it's Daniel that's thought of it, the chances are it's right, too.
So, now we've found what seems to be her homeworld, all we have to do is find her, find out if she's a queen, then kidnap her and take her to the Tok'ra. Not sure if they'll want her; they're usually stunned when we bring them a snake. Guess that's not surprising really. Personally, I'd rather be brought a bunch of flowers.
There are no doors on this building. Daniel's muttering something about Minoans and labyrinths, but I'm not really getting it.
"What are you talking about?" I ask eventually. Knowing him, it's usually to my benefit to find out what's going on in his head.
His voice low - we're all whispering when we talk out loud anyway - he says, "Well, you know the Minoan palace at Knossos?"
"Not personally," I snipe, then shrug. "Yeah. Go on." Damn, I had to admit to knowing something.
"Well, when it was built, there weren't any doors. The whole complex was built symmetrically, in a rectangle around a huge courtyard. If you didn't know where you were going, it would be easy to get lost. Hence the myth of the King Minos' labyrinth."
"Wasn't he the guy with the Minotaur?" Sam asks.
"Yeah, but again, that's one of those myths mangling the truth again. The Minoans loved bulls, they worshipped them and played with them, in fact. They weren't hurt - it wasn't bull fighting," he adds. "Trouble was, the Minoan civilisation was as near perfect as could be in those times. The king was loved, in fact he was a really good king from all accounts. Women had more or less equal status which, when the Greeks owned their women, was really unusual in the area at the time.
"The Greeks were jealous of them and so made up the story of the Minotaur to make the Minoans sound evil. It couldn't have been further from the truth. The bulls were in the centre of the palace complex, so add that to the labyrinthine structure of the palace and snarky Greeks, you get the myth of the Minotaur."
"Interesting," I say. "What's it got to do with us now?"
"Nothing really," he shrugs. "It's just the size of the building and the fact that there are no doors that brought it to mind. I guess I'm thinking about Greek mythology... One thing leads to another... You know how it goes."
I'd agree to that except it would mean that I'd have to admit to knowing what goes on in Daniel's head. Some things are just too much to admit to.
"Should we split up?" Daniel asks suddenly. He's surprised when the three of us say 'no' in unison.
"Too big, Daniel, and too easy to get lost in. No, for now, we stick together. If it comes to it, we'll rethink, but for now, we don't split up at all."
"Oh, okay. I guess we keep looking, then."
We have walked for at least a mile as we have doubled back on occasion. Corridors here lead to many places. Daniel, after a few turns, took out a piece of chalk from his pack - we are not sure why he had one in there, but he did. Then he marked the wall, pointing in the direction we came from with two lines, and one line with an arrow pointing in the direction in which we are going. This is sensible. We should be able to find our way out now.
Each room is decorated with paintings on the walls. Some are just pictures of Earth structures, which Daniel assumes are places that Medusa had something to do with when she was there. Others seem to be abstract, making it difficult for Daniel to understand what they mean.
We have entered another room. This time the walls are a deep-blue and the ceiling is even darker. However, on the ceiling would appear to be stars. Daniel surprises us by lying on his back on the floor.
"Guys, get down here and look up. Tell me what you see."
We do as he says, and stare at the silver and gold star representations.
"I see an image of the sky," I say.
"Okay. Sam? Jack? You two should get it."
As they study the ceiling art, Daniel retrieves his video camera and starts to film it.
"Constellations," Samantha says. "They're constellations."
"Scorpio," O'Neill announces, pointing to one. "Libra, Triangulum, Canis Minor..."
"Auriga, Sculptor, Perseus... They're all on the DHD," Samantha adds.
"Perseus?" I ask. "Is that not the name of the human supposed to have killed Medusa?"
Daniel finishes filming, then he stands up.
"Yup," he answers with a smile. "And did you notice something else?"
"What?" asks O'Neill, as he, too, arises. Samantha and I do the same thing.
"All of the constellations were in silver, except for six of them."
"An address?" I enquire.
"Looks like one to me," he replies.
"What are you saying?" O'Neill demands.
"Not sure," Daniel admits. "But if we don't find Medusa here, we have another place to look."
"Perhaps that was a special address for another reason?" I point out. "If I were to note down an address, it would be either because it meant a great deal to me for good reasons, or else, it could be the home of my enemy."
"Athene's place?" Samantha suggests.
"Might be. When we get back to Annwn, we should look up the address on the computer. See what comes up."
In the meantime, we must continue our search here.
We have searched at least thirty rooms and seem to be getting further into the building. There are no windows, but light is provided by holes in the roof which are continued down through the floor above us. Daniel says that these light shafts are similar to those found at Knossos. This planet would appear to be fairly dry, and each shaft ends in a pool.
According to Daniel, the shafts were also water traps at the palace on Crete, another fairly dry environment. The more I hear about Knossos, the more fascinated I become. The people of the Land of Light are descendants of the Minoans so the information does not surprise me. They are an inventive people.
"This must be the centre," Daniel announces as we come upon a courtyard.
"Looks like it. What's that?" asks O'Neill.
We walk carefully to the middle of the courtyard and see what looks like another marble altar. This time, it has something on top of it. It is covered by a silk cloth, coloured a deep purple with gold thread embroidered over it, depicting what can only be Goa'uld. In human terms, they would be frill-headed lizards or serpents.
Carefully, Daniel lifts the edge of the cloth and using his camera, looks underneath it through the viewfinder. He quickly puts it back down. I see a carving in the altar. QEAMEDUSAKAQEUDEI. I have no idea what it says.
"Daniel? What does this mean?"
"Goddess Medusa sleeps," he replies with a shrug.
"Why did you drop the cloth so quickly?" O'Neill asks casually.
Daniel does not answer, he just lifts the edge again and indicates that we should look. A large, hostless Goa'uld is inside what looks like a glass coffin. It does not move.
"Now," O'Neill says, "I don't think that the cloth is there to put it to sleep, like a parrot or something."
"No," Samantha agrees. "I'm thinking some sort of stasis field."
Daniel puts the cloth back down and sighs.
"So guys, what are we going to do? I mean, we were prepared to maybe wake up a human host, zat her and carry her off. I don't know about you, but I'm not keen on the idea of waking... that up."
For the record, that thing's gross. It's huge - bigger than a normal snake. Not surprising, really. Queen bees and ants and so on usually are, too. I'm not letting it anywhere near anyone of us. Whether it will save the Jaffa or not, I'd rather zat it three times than let one of us be snaked. I guess Sam would be the target.
I look at Teal'c and see that he's thinking the same thing, he's surreptitiously putting himself between the sleeping snake and Sam.
With a sigh, Jack pulls the cloth off so we can look at the container. We all have to fight down a shudder when we see the snake clearly, though. I mean, just yuck.
Sam gets to work, using her scanner and trying to determine the power source for the stasis field.
"It's inside the coffin," she says in amazement.
"Why? That's unusual, isn't it?"
She thinks for a minute, then says, "Maybe it's security. Think about it. You've been removed from your host - and now we can assume that this is where the beheading comes in."
We all agree with that, it makes sense.
"So, you've obviously got some big time enemies. We can also assume you've got some big time friends, or else this," she waves her hand around, "wouldn't be here."
Again, we have to agree.
"Your friends might not be Goa'uld, though, maybe they're Jaffa, so they know they're mortal and they're going to die. Using the Goa'uld technology, they create this box and put the stasis-field power source inside to prevent Medusa's enemies coming back and switching it off. At a guess, if you put your hand inside the field, it will literally freeze in time."
"Thereby stopping you in your tracks. Good point. But what about when your friends come to get you out? How would they do it?"
"That, I'm not sure about," she says. "Perhaps there's a specific sequence of things to do?"
"Yeah, well, let's not worry about that now, shall we?" Jack snaps. "There's no way we're taking that thing out of the box. Next question, can we take the box with us?"
We look underneath it, Jack, Teal'c and myself lifting one end and Sam ducking to look. Then we do the same with the other end.
"Nothing there that I can see," Sam announces.
"Maybe not, but there's no way we're going to be carrying that back to the gate. It weighs a ton. Plan B?"
Teal'c and I agree with Jack. Considering it looks like it's made of glass, it is heavy.
"We need to go home and get the ship," Sam sighs. "This courtyard is big enough to land it. I'm sure we can use the tractor..."
"No," I say. "We need to be really careful. What if we crack the glass or do something to damage the stasis field? We can't drag it. Carrying the box to the ship won't be so bad. We can do that. We just can't get it back to the gate."
"Okay," Jack agrees. "We go get the ship. How long will it take to fly here?"
"Not sure. We need to check that out," Sam shrugs.
"Right," Jack drawls. "Pack it up, we'll go home and come back here if it's flyable. If it's not, we'll have to come up with another plan. Maybe by bringing the Tok'ra in on it and getting them to retrieve the damned thing."
"We can't leave," I say. "Uh, at least, not all of us."
He looks at me. It's that 'Oh fuck, he's at it again' look. He hates it when I do that.
"Why ever not?" he asks patiently. It's that forced patience. Kind of like 'the look'.
"Well, what if there is a 'woman that does'? Or a whole bunch of Jaffa? If they detect that someone's been here, they might do something. What they might do, I don't know. There's something about this place that makes me think that there's more to this than meets the eye."
The others see what I'm saying. We don't want to come back here and land in the courtyard, only to discover that there's some party going on.
Jack lets out a big breath, then he picks the cloth up and puts it back on the case. We make sure it looks just as it did before we moved it.
"What about a VCD?" Teal'c suggests.
"If we leave VCDs in strategic places, we can watch for any sign of life from the ship. Or from the receiver through the gate if we have to come back that way."
"Good thinking," Jack acknowledges. "I want one watching the snake, one at the temple and one near the gate. Can you set them to record any movement?"
Sam says she can. Since she was able to get her hands on the recording devices that we use at home, she's been fiddling with our VCD supplies and building her own version. They spy and record, triggered by movement if she switches that particular switch on, or just scan if that's what she wants. And they can be switched by remote through the gate if necessary. She and Frankie are a danger to technology when they are let loose on it.
Not only have they done this, they've miniaturised the actual VCD casing as best they can, so they're easier to hide.
As soon as we're sure that we haven't left any evidence that we've been here, we leave the courtyard. I wipe out the chalk marks on the walls as best I can and we make good time as we're not stopping to look in every room. I can't help but wonder what else I'm missing.
You've got that 'I want to stay' look on your face.
You've got to admit, this place is fascinating, Jack.
Fascinating and potentially lethal. We've been lucky. Possibly too lucky.
What do you mean?
Come on, you know what I mean. Nothing ever goes right for us all the way.
Well, we do have to come back again, I say, hoping that Jack hasn't put the kiss of death on us.
Yeah, he agrees unconvincingly. Maybe that's the only thing that's going to go wrong.
Great. Now he's got me wondering.
Jack and Daniel are looking at each other and grimacing. I think I know what's going on. From the look on Jack's face, he's convinced something's going to happen and now he's convinced Daniel, too. Knowing them, something will. Jack should have been Murphy, not O'Neill.
And I was right. No sooner do we leave the temple area, having hidden the last of the VCDs, and get into the long grass, does the gate start to fire up. Without words, we all head to the same raised clump of grass and dive behind it. I get another VCD out of my pack and put it on the highest point of the grass and aim it roughly in the direction of the gate. It takes a few moments, but eventually I see a whole bunch of people walk through it. Nudging Daniel, I show him the image.
Well, he says. I think there's going to be some sort of ceremony going on.
Why do you say that?
Look at that woman there, he points at one of the crowd. If I'm right, she's some sort of priestess.
We hear a mental groan from Jack.
Looks like we're going to be here for the duration, kids.
We agree with him. We can't leave, even when they all go into the complex. The gate is noisy and they'd know that someone was here.
Wait until they're inside and out of sight, then we go over to where we ate earlier, Jack instructs. We can keep an eye on whatever it is they're doing. Maybe it will give us a clue.
So we do.
Because they aren't sneaking about, it doesn't take the people long to get to the temple, only about ten minutes. Ten minutes of us lying flat and trying not to make any noise whatsoever. There are times - like now - that we're really grateful for the telepathy.
We can hear the women in the group singing and some guy's playing some pipes or other. Looking at them, we see that they're dancing as they make their way up the steps to the altar. We won't be able to move until they go inside the palace, though, as we can be seen from the temple. Fortunately, the VCD has sound, so Daniel's able to tell us what's going on as we listen into the one I planted in there. He says that they're worshipping Medusa, and singing her praises. I look at him and see that he looks confused.
Daniel? What's wrong?
Well, the people that really worshipped Medusa weren't Greek. She was vilified in Greece. So why are they speaking Greek and not Arabic?
We all shrug, then Jack says, Who's to say that all the Greeks were against her, Daniel? I mean, not all Egyptians are Muslim, are they? Some are Christian. Just because you associate one religion with an area doesn't mean that all the inhabitants are part of it.
True, Daniel concedes, not a little proudly, that's very true. Back then, it wasn't so normal to deviate. But if she was a big time Goa'uld, I guess it's possible that she had devoted followers who didn't desert her.
Daniel watches the images of the dancers and the priestess do their thing, taking in the movements. Some are strange. One of the dancers puts her hand out, just like a Goa'uld with a ribbon device. When she does that, the others freeze. The priestess moves and stands in-between them, holding what looks like a mirror, or a piece of silver, it's hard to tell. As soon as she does that, the dancers start again.
What are they doing? I ask him.
He keeps watching them then he grins at the same time that he smacks his head on the grass.
I think I've got it, he finally says. I know how we're going to wake the snake and where to go to get the device we need to do it.
Oh yeah? Jack says. Are you going to fill us in?
With a bigger grin, he does.
The dancers and others went not long after they did that dance that triggered Daniel's thought processes off. We called up Dad as soon as we got home and now he's on board Mia with us, and we're aiming for the address on the ceiling.
Daniel's convinced that Athene will be found there. Using my thought that her original Jaffa and followers were behind her presence on this planet, he went on to think that they built the palace for when she was awoken.
He's convinced that Medusa didn't turn people to stone when they looked at her, but she had some sort of stasis device, like a ribbon device, that helped her freeze her enemies, allowing her to kill them or for her to leave safely. Athene's shield either protected Perseus from the stasis device, or it turned the effect back on her.
Knowing that they couldn't leave the information for just anyone to get, the Jaffa put the address of Athene's homeworld on the ceiling, so that a future 'hero' could go and retrieve Athene's shield to reverse the effects of the device on Medusa. Over the years, the chances are the address was forgotten by her followers, or it drifted into myth.
When the priestess was chanting, Daniel gave a running commentary. One of the lines was something like 'and the answer will be found in the stars'. Hence, the ceiling.
Dad's with us because if Athene is still alive and does turn out to be a Tok'ra, then maybe talking to Selmac will persuade Athene to help us out. Selmac can be very persuasive. Daniel's explained his idea about using Medusa as a test subject to see if we can find out how to produce a Tok'ra queen and Selmac's thrilled with the idea. Now all we have to do is get there.
We've been awake for nearly twenty-four hours, what with all the creeping about and flying and so on. Dad's taking over on the peltac and the rest of us are off to bed. We won't arrive at Athene's place for another day, so we're making the most of some rest time.
When Teal'c took my hand to lead me to bed, Dad couldn't help but grin. He's known about Teal'c and me virtually since the two of us got together and he's as happy as he could be for us. He's grown to love Teal'c as a son over the years, and knows that I couldn't have chosen anyone that would protect me better or love me more.
I'm so relieved that Dad's happy about us, it makes the best relationship I've had even better.
We won't make out with Dad on board ship, though, that would just be too damned weird. Instead, I'm lying down, my head on Teal'c's chest, his arms are around me and I'm feeling very sleepy.
Daniel's shut the door to our room and he's looking kind of predatory.
"We have to keep quiet, Daniel. You know how sound travels throughout this ship."
He nods, slowly. Just as he strips. Slowly. I strip, too, but a lot quicker. Who said I did subtle? I didn't.
I'm naked before he's even got as far as undoing his pants. I'm hard before he's got them off. I'm lying on the floor before he's got his boxers and socks off. Eager beaver? Ya sure, you bet'ch'a.
Next thing I know, he's crawling across the floor and up my body. Our mouths say 'hello', then our tongues. This is the sort of 'meet and greet' I can do for hours on end. Don't think we'll be too long with this, though, we're tired.
Uh oh, he's broken off.
Quiet, eh, Jack?
Uh, yeah. Quiet.
Whoo ya, he's turned himself around and now he's lying on his side. Time to join him, methinks.
He's taken me in his mouth, I'm doing the same for him. First the head, then slowly swallowing him whole, then backing off, then licking... He's copying my actions, using our mental connection so that the precise moment that I do something to him, he does it to me and it feels like I'm doing it to myself. Which is weird and should have me deflated, but doesn't. It's way hot. So hot that I have to back off for a minute or else it'll be over too soon.
I start up again, and this autofellatio by remote gets me wound up again real soon. I'm not backing off again. I put my hand between his legs and stroke the skin behind his balls. He jerks further into my mouth at the same time that I jerk into his. I pull my hand back and stick a couple of fingers in my mouth next to his cock and feel fingers brushing my own.
We get our fingers soaking wet and then return them to their appointed task. In moments, we're pushing inside each other's ass and thrusting our hips into each other's mouths. I find his prostate as I thrust my fingers inside him and feel mine being stroked. That does it for both of us and we come at the same moment, swallowing furiously to stop ourselves choking.
We're flat on our backs now, panting and staring up at the ceiling.
Quiet enough for you, Jack?
Oh yeah. Definitely. We'll have to do that again some time.
I hear him laughing in my head. We haven't got the strength to laugh out loud.
So you like this mirrored action, then?
Sheesh, Daniel. What's not to like? It's kinda weird, but in a cool way.
Cool? Personally, I thought it was hot.
You're right. It was hot. Hot and cool.
Now he's giggling out loud. He makes an effort and soon I find him right next to me on the mattress. I grab a hold of our blanket and pull it over us. I think we need to sleep.
"We should be there before long," Jacob says as he looks at the screen. "How do you want to play this when we get there?"
"I have no idea, Jake," I say. "For a start, we don't know if this Athene chick is there. Then we don't know if she's alive. She could be a Goa'uld. Primary objective has to be finding this 'shield'. Secondary objective is finding out if she's a Tok'ra. If she is, you can either bring her with us on the ship, or you can take her to the Tok'ra with a gate."
"That's assuming she wants to go, Jack," Daniel puts in.
"Why wouldn't she?" Jake asks.
"She's been around a long time. Somehow I doubt that she hasn't heard of the Tok'ra. There's always the chance that if she'd wanted to talk to you, she would have by now."
"Not necessarily, Danny," Jake answers. "We don't exactly advertise our whereabouts."
Daniel doesn't dare look at me or the others when we hear that. There are more leaks from the Tok'ra camp than the White House during a badmouthing campaign.
"You've got a point," I say diplomatically. "However, so has Daniel. We play that one by ear, which is why it's not the primary objective."
"Do we call or drop in unannounced?" Sam asks.
I think for a moment and then say, "I think we're better off surprising her. If she does turn out to be a snakehead - no offence, Selmac..."
"None taken, Jack."
"You're all heart. If she does, we won't want to clue her in on what we want."
We drop out of hyperspace and Jacob flies us to the only planet in the system that looks habitable. Not to mention that that's the one with the gate on it. Guess that's a bit of a giveaway, huh? He scans the area and points out a building near the gate, so I give the word to put down out of sight of it. We need to scope out the opposition before we knock on the door.
Jake scans the building intensely as we fly over it, then he puts the ship down a couple of miles from it.
"What'ch'ya got, Jake?"
"It's pretty small... for a Goa'uld," he says. "Doesn't look overly-well fortified. I guess that because she doesn't have Jaffa, she's dropped out of sight and out of mind of the others."
"None that I can tell from the scan," he informs me, but his voice also tells me that he has no idea how many there are that the scan doesn't tell him.
"Suggestions? Ideas? Plans? Anyone?"
"Until we get there, we just don't know, Jack," Daniel sighs. "But Athene was a warrior as well as being known for her intelligence and wisdom. Perhaps a show of force, at least a show of potential force might help us."
"You two've got the brains, Teal'c and I will provide the brawn and Jake and Selmac can do the wisdom. It's an age thing," I say, grinning at Jake. "We outnumber her two to one on each front. Can't be bad.
"Okay," I snap quickly before the others can disagree. "Get your gear together. We'll fly the ship right up to the building and march straight out of it. How many life-signs did you see?" I ask, thinking that we really should know that.
"Just the one, Jack. But you know as well as I do, that proves nothing."
Don't I just. Still, we need to get going or else we're never going to get home. I've got myself a fishing trip planned and I don't want to miss it.
Daniel suggests that we take weapons that Athene will recognise as Earth weapons. So, the four of us sling our bows over our shoulders. Teal'c and I have leather straps that hold the crossbows to our backs, as well as a quiver for our bolts. Sam and Daniel have their quivers on their backs, full of arrows, and their longbows are carried in the old-fashioned style over their shoulders and across their bodies. Much as Teal'c doesn't like the idea, I've nixed him taking his staff weapon.
If she's a snakehead, she'll recognise him as a Jaffa from a mile away. I don't want to put her off. Besides, if she has a similar personal shield, an arrow or bolt will stand a better chance of taking her out if it comes down to it. I managed to persuade him by deliberately leaving my P90 behind.
Jake's going in unarmed, on the grounds that it will help us to show that we mean her no harm. I'm not totally convinced by that, but I'm prepared to go with it. For now.
The ship's back up in the air, we're flying to right next to the building and now we're down. It only takes a minute and we're at the door and ready to step out. Sam says the air's good to breathe and gravity's about that of Earth's so out we go.
We step outside the ship and immediately see a problem. There is a large wall with a gate, behind which is a path. This leads up to the building. However, there is no way to open the gate that is apparent.
Daniel stares at the top of the gate, above it is the word PARQENOS which means nothing to me.
"Daniel. What does it say?"
"Uh, Parthenos," he replies distractedly. "It was one of Athene's names. From the Greek for virginal."
"Which would tie into her celibacy," I say, glad to be able to connect to something within Daniel's field.
"Oh yeah," he says. O'Neill sniggers.
"O'Neill? What is so funny?"
"Ah, just doing a Daniel," he replies. "Thinking how this gate has never been opened, what with it being virginal and all."
Daniel turns and looks at him, his mouth open wide.
"By George, I think he's got it," he mutters.
"I HAVE? What did I do now?"
O'Neill would appear to be surprised.
"The gate can't be opened. It's not the way in. We have to find another way to get inside."
"I knew that," O'Neill says, but we do not believe him.
"How will we enter?" I ask, determined to make O'Neill think.
"We can't take the ship inside the gate, the ground isn't suitable to land on, there isn't enough room. Too many obstacles."
"Back to the ship," Daniel orders. "I want to look at the scan again."
We are back outside. Daniel has discovered a part of the wall on which is the image of a man, with the word ZEUS above it. There are other images, with other words, but this is the one that seems to have Daniel's attention.
"Daniel? What's that say?" O'Neill asks.
"Zeus," he replies. "Athene was supposed to have been born from his head. Uh, long and weird story," he adds dismissively. As he does so, he runs his hands over the head of the man in the carving and finally pushes, pulling his hands back quickly as the panel with the image in slides to one side.
With a shrug, he steps through the gap before O'Neill can stop him. We are all quickly on his heels.
Inside the wall, there is a garden. Some of the garden away from the house is raised into a small, terraced vineyard.
"That reminds me, Jack," Samantha says. "I've discovered something which looks like a natural vineyard back home. Might be worth checking out."
Daniel smiles at her, O'Neill does not. He had asked her to find the ingredients with which to make beer or whisky.
From where we stand, there are some paths. Each one marked by a hedge of some sort either side of the path and each has a statue in the pathway's centre; each statue is of something different.
"Which way should we go?" I ask.
Daniel stares at the statues, moving around from one to the other and deciding on something. One is of a man, who looks heroic and strong. He has two serpents in one hand, a sword in the other. Another is of a hybrid; man and serpent. Perhaps that is the man which Daniel told us about earlier. Yet another is a representation of the front of a Greek temple; three pillars wide with a plinth across the top, sitting on some steps. The final one is a horse.
"That one," Daniel informs us, pointing at the horse.
"Why?" O'Neill asks. "I'd have thought that it would have been the snake-man. Didn't you say she cared for a creature like that?"
"Erichthonius," Daniel acknowledges with a nod. "Yes. But no, not that path."
"What of the other man?" I suggest. "If she is testing us somehow, your intelligence has already been confirmed as we have entered the garden. This statue looks like a hero. Perhaps she wishes to test our bravery?"
"I see what you mean," he concedes, "but no. That's Herakles, by the way. The two snakes are what he killed when he was just a baby. Hera hated him like poison because Zeus, her mate, was his father. His mother was a mortal. He had extraordinary strength and..."
"I am aware of his story, Daniel. I have seen every episode of both his legendary journeys and those of Xena."
He starts to laugh out loud. "Of course. Sorry, Teal'c."
"What about the temple front, Daniel?" Samantha asks. "Athens was named for her, wasn't it? And the Parthenon is there, this could represent it..."
"Absolutely," he agrees. "In fact, you each have a really good point, but I still think it's the horse."
"Are you going to explain why?" Jacob asks impatiently.
"Uh, yeah. Another one of her names was 'Hippia', or horsewoman, as she was the one who was supposed to have taught mortals how to tame horses. Seeing as we used one of her names to direct us to get in in the first place..."
"How many names does this broad have?" O'Neill asks in exasperation.
"A few," Daniel replies. "But some of them are named for places where she was worshipped, like Sais, so I don't think that will come into it. Uh, Coryphagenes we've already used - 'born from the head'. There's only one more that I can think of right now and I can't even see how that will be used. At a guess, we walk up the path and we arrive at her house."
For now, we accept his word. However, we are all on guard.
I'm a bit on edge. I mean, it's a hell of a responsibility for me. Sure, I had a one in four chance of getting it right, choosing the correct path and all, but if I've got it wrong... No, I haven't. Twice the way in has been marked by her names; this has to be the right one.
And of course, there's my assumption that Athene's a Tok'ra. She could be a snake. After all, Yu wasn't a bad guy on Earth - at least in comparison with other rulers at that time and in that region, or pretty much any other region come to think of it. Not all Goa'uld are one hundred percent evil. Some are far, far worse.
Damn it, another crossroad, another four paths. Jack gives me the 'which way now?' look. Okay, Jackson, think.
Four small statuettes, each of birds. Athene had two birds associated with her. My ornithology isn't up there with the best twitchers, but even I can tell what these are. A duck, a goose, a swan and...
"Dare I ask why?"
Jack does the 'speaking for the others' thing very well. He's the only one that can get away with dripping sarcasm or impatience in his voice. The others are too scared of me to do that, so they let Jack get it in the neck instead.
"Remember what I said about Sais?"
"Uh, one of the places that she was worshipped?" he tries.
"Ten out of ten, Jack. In Sais, which is in Egypt, by the way..."
He waves his hand in a 'get on with it or die' manner.
"... her emblem is a cockerel."
"Any particular reason why?"
There are times I wish I still wore my glasses. Tipping my head and looking up at him without them doesn't look as threatening.
"You really want to know?"
"If it's relevant."
"Then don't bother."
"Fine. Should we?" he points to the path.
"We should. The sooner the better."
"I'm hungry and I want my own bed tonight."
"You're not going to get that anyway, it'll take another day to fly home."
He doesn't think I've remembered the stargate, does he?
We could be walking in circles. We can't see where we're going at all, the hedge is too damned high. My mind keeps drifting back to the labyrinth idea. Come on, Daniel. Trust yourself. If the worst comes to the worst, we can backtrack. We've walked a lot further than the distance between the gate and the house, that's for sure. Think.
We started by taking the second path, not quite in the house's direction, but away from the gate and westerly - where west is my left, north is the house, south is the gate and east is, er, my right. Then the third turning at the second crossroad, which was north-easterly...ish. So that means we're kind of going towards the house. Doesn't it?
It's been ages. Okay, possibly not, but it seems like it. We're not really talking, either, so that's making it seem longer. Oh fuck, another crossroad. This is getting boring.
"Daniel? Which way now?"
More birds. A sparrow of sorts, an eagle, a seabird, maybe a seagull, and an owl. Of course.
"The owl, Jack."
"It was her emblem when she was known as Pallas Athene. She got that name after beating Pallas, son of Gaia and Uranus."
He's hiding a snigger when I say that. Considering he's an amateur astronomer, you'd think he'd be over that joke by now.
"The path would seem to take us away from the house," Teal'c says.
Damn it, he's right. But I'm sure...
"Don't ask me to explain, Teal'c, but I really think that it's the right way."
"Come on," Jack urges. "We need to pick a path. We'll go Daniel's way for now, but if it looks like we're getting nowhere, we can always turn back."
I don't know why I remain surprised whenever Jack backs me up. He does it pretty much most of the time these days, especially since we got the telepathy. It still shocks me though. I guess it's just something that I need to get used to.
We make our way in trepidation as we go down the path. It seems to be getting darker as we go along. I'm starting to doubt my judgement but continue anyway. I must be right. I must be.
Keep at it, Daniel. We'll get there.
Jack's voice breaks through my concentration and he gives me the strength of my convictions.
We will, I agree. We have to. This is the biggest chance we have to give the Tok'ra a future, and with it the rebel Jaffa. We can't fail.
He says nothing to me, just puts his hand on my shoulder and gives it a squeeze. What could he say anyway?
Jacob stumbles, Teal'c catches him and keeps his hand on his arm to protect him. We all move closer together instinctively as if to ward off any danger. Trouble is, we're still not sure what the danger is, if there is any.
Finally, we've reached the end of the road. Or the path, rather. This one twisted and turned and to be frank, I've lost all sense of direction.
In front of us are three doors. Makes a change from four paths, I guess. On each one is an image of what I assume is Athene. She's in warrior robes in one, in ordinary Greek everyday clothes in another, and a goddess' garb in the third. So, which one?
It's like a bad TV quiz. What's behind door number one, two or three Doctor Jackson? Behind one could be the answer to your prayers. Behind the others are... Who the hell knows what is behind there? I haven't told the others but Athene could be a bit of a whiny, nasty bitch from time to time. Just ask Arachne.
Lifting my flashlight, I look at the faces a lot closer. I can hear the others muttering, "What's he doing now?", but they leave me alone to think.
There's something odd about the images. One has green eyes, one has brown eyes and the image of the ordinary 'gal' has blue... eyes...
"Bless you," Jack says. "I thought you'd gotten over your allergies."
"No, no, no, no! Glaukopis. It was one of her names. The blue-eyed one. Behind door number two, I'm sure of it."
"Not the warrior nor the goddess?" Teal'c asks. "Surely she would want to be associated with either one of those, and not a common mortal woman?"
"Hey!" Sam says. "What's wrong with being a common mortal woman?"
He looks at her sheepishly and replies, "Nothing. If you happen to be one. However, if you are for all intents and purposes an immortal goddess..."
She harrumphs, but I ignore them. They bitch at each other a lot more since they got together, kind of like Jack and me. I think Teal'c enjoys the hell out of it because Draya'uc wouldn't really do that.
"Teal'c, you saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, didn't you?"
I should know, he watched it with me about five of them. What can I say? The guy thinks Indy's great. So do I, but probably for different reasons.
"Remember the choosing of the Grail?"
"The wooden one, suitable for a carpenter," he intones.
It's not the same, but at least he understands my reasoning now. Athene's put this door here to test us - maybe we'd think she'd want to be behind the other doors.
"Try it," Jack says with a shrug, but I notice he's slipped his crossbow off his shoulder and he's got a bolt in his hand. Teal'c does the same, Sam half-prepares her own longbow. I'm not going to get mine ready yet, I need both my hands free.
There's no obvious place to open the door, nothing apparent to push or pull. What's that? An olive tree to her side. Why didn't I notice that before?
I put my hand on it and the door slides to one side.
"Daniel? Why did you put your hand on the tree?" Sam asks.
"Well, you see, there was this competition..."
"Daniel, can we save that till later? It's a long way home after all."
"Oh, okay. Well, I suppose we'd better go in."
Jack's such a party pooper. I love Daniel telling me his stories. But I guess Jack's right, we need to be on guard now.
There is light in this corridor, but it's not too bright. Not sure where it's coming from, it's just there.
We make our way silently down it, Daniel and Jack leading us, Dad in-between us all, with Teal'c and me bringing up the rear. Teal'c and I would have led but Daniel said he needed to look out for any signs that we'd need, and of course, Jack won't leave his side for a moment.
I'm not surprised that we seem to be on the right track. At least I hope we are. I get the impression that we're underneath the building, in some sort of basement. Daniel always has these wonderful bursts of inspiration when we're stuck.
I'd never have thought to look in the wall for a second way in; like the others, I'd probably have tried to work out how to blow the damned thing up. Then we probably wouldn't have found the first choice of paths, probably would have gone down the wrong one and ended up horribly lost. If we'd even found this planet in the first place, which I doubt.
It's just not my line of work, inspired guesses. Give me some tech to work on, or an engineering problem and I'm your woman. I've made the butter churn's automated handle-turner - I need to give that a better name, I think. Daniel's thrilled to bits with it. Even though he's good at making things, he wouldn't have thought to come up with an engineering solution to the problem. Then again, he didn't even see that as a problem, just as a bit of hard work.
That's where we differ, and complement each other. It took me a while to realise that. I used to get jealous that he'd be the one to figure stuff out, now I'm just glad of it.
The corridor has come to an end in a large room. There's nothing in here. Or is there?
"Dad? Can you sense...?"
"Transport rings," he agrees, walking towards them.
"WAIT!" Daniel yells. "We don't know if that's a good idea just yet."
"Daniel? It's the only way out of here."
"Says who? Think Sam. If Athene is who we hope she is, she won't want any old Goa'uld going to her side, will she?"
I have to acknowledge that, and so do the others.
"If you were Athene, and in the position we think she's in, what would be your last line of defence against someone that had figured out your maze?"
I think for a moment and then smack my head. "A set of transport rings that go somewhere we don't want them to go to. Only a Goa'uld or Tok'ra could detect them."
"And as she probably doesn't know about the Tok'ra, we can assume she's thinking snakehead here," Jack mutters. "So, book boy, where do we go from here if we can't use the rings?"
"I'm not sure," Daniel admits. "Just wait a moment, will you?"
Even though there's light in here, some parts of the room are in shadows. Daniel uses his flashlight and scans the walls. The rest of us assume we're going to be here for the duration as his 'scans' tend to be a lot deeper than most people's. However, he surprises us with a yelp, and then he puts his hands on something that I can't see.
"There's an image of a weaving of the gods," he says. "It's what she beat Arachne with in the weaving competition."
"The same competition with the olive tree?"
"Uh, no, a different one. Athene's very competitive. I'll tell you later."
In the meantime, we all follow him as quickly as we can. There is a set of steps in front of us, and as we go up them, the light gets brighter and brighter until we end up in a huge room with marble, well, everywhere! The floor, the ceiling, the walls... pillars holding up the ceiling in strategic places...
"Hasn't that gal heard of Ikea?" Jack mutters. "Sheesh, all she'd need would be lots of chintz curtains and she'd be competing with Apophis for 'overdone room of the millennia' award."
"Jack! Hush!" Daniel scolds, then he calls out, "Athene? Are you here? We come in peace. We need to speak with you."
There's no sign of life so we wait for a few moments, then from behind a curtain comes an old woman, who looks nothing like the images on the door.
"Are you Athene?" Daniel asks gently, making to move nearer to her, but Jack stops him.
"This close, no closer," he warns.
I see Daniel tense up, then relax in surrender. At least for now.
"I am she," the old woman replies. "Who are you?"
"Uh, my name is Daniel," he starts, then points to us all in turn. "These are Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Jacob. We've come a long way to find you."
"Just what would you want of an old woman like me?" she asks suspiciously.
"Would you believe, your help?" he asks back, in a really gentle voice. "First, though, I need to know something and it's really important or I wouldn't ask."
She stares at him for a moment and he returns the stare, his eyes pleading with her. If she has any heart at all, I give her no more than five seconds before she caves. That's as long as even the General held out.
"Ask. I cannot promise to answer."
Daniel rewards her with a huge smile and I see a small one crack her lined skin, even though she tries to hide it.
"Are you a Goa'uld?"
I know she's got a snake in her. I can feel it. A quick nod from Teal'c and Dad tell me that they sense it, too.
"To my eternal regret," she admits. "As is at least one of your friends. I must admit to feeling a little confused. Are you here to kill me?"
"Oh no, absolutely not. Have you heard of the Tok'ra?"
Her eyes light up. Daniel is right, they are blue. She must have picked blue-eyed hosts deliberately over the years, either that or this is the same one, in which case, she'll be using the sarc a lot.
"Before I decided to end my time on Gaia..." Gaia? Of course, Earth. "...I heard something of a movement against Ra. A queen led a rebellion. Now, what was her name?" We don't prompt her, we let her give us the information. "Erina? No, not that. Something like that. Egeria! That was it. Some Roman Goa'uld's wife."
Daniel nods. "What did you think of the rebellion?"
"Doomed from the start," she sighs. "Unfortunately. The gods were no gods and I knew it. I always felt that we were using the people of Gaia."
"So you'd support them and their actions?"
"You must understand, I was already under pressure and out of favour when this happened. As they would say then, my star no longer rose high in the heavens."
"Now? If you could?"
"Is there still a threat from the Goa'uld?"
"It's not as bad as it was. You see, the Tok'ra are still around."
He looks at Dad and Dad does his head dip thing. Selmac's voice rings out.
"My name is Selmac. I am one of Egeria's children. It is my honour to meet you."
The old crone looks like she wants to cry. I'm getting the feeling that she's been alone for a very long time. She and Selmac are chatting - Athene's voice has become like that of the snakes instead of sounding human as she did initially. However, these pleasantries aren't going to get us anywhere.
"Look, much as this is nice," I break in when they take a breath, "and much as I don't want to spoil this chat of yours, could we get to the matter in hand? If you want, Athene, we can take you to the other Tok'ra so you can chat as much as you like."
"You must be a warrior," she says in amusement. I shrug in reply.
"Jack is," Daniel answers for me. "As is Teal'c. You've probably sensed that he's a Jaffa, but he's on our side against the System Lords. It's for him and the rebel Jaffa, not to mention the future of the Tok'ra that we're here."
"Please, explain yourself."
Daniel tells her that we found Medusa. I see her tense up.
"That bitch was supposed to be dead! Damned Perseus. Nice boy, but couldn't organise a party in a vineyard. This is what happens when you send a boy to do a woman's job."
She's stunned when we burst out laughing.
"Actually, it's a good thing," Daniel interrupts her tirade. "She's in stasis of some sort. She's also in her natural form. No host. We can tell she's a queen and what we want to do is take her to the Tok'ra so that they can study the difference between a queen and a normal Goa'uld. Maybe one day they'll be able to trigger a Tok'ra queen.
"We need more Tok'ra larvae. The Tok'ra have been badly hit. Even though most of the major System Lords have been killed, there are still some left, and new minor Goa'uld are getting ready to take the place of the dead ones."
"Who killed the others?" she asks suspiciously.
"Oh... well... us for the most part," Daniel replies casually. "With help, naturally. Some of the help comes from Jaffa who have left the service of the Goa'uld and now aid the Tok'ra. The Tok'ra do not ask to be worshipped as gods and the Jaffa are enjoying their first taste of freedom. However, that comes at a price.
"The Goa'uld are not reproducing at any great rate. Given time, they will die out anyway, but with the continued use of the sarcophagus, that will take millennia."
I notice she shudders when Daniel mentions the sarc. Pretty much in the same way he does.
"You don't use one?" I ask.
"I have never used one. I saw what it did to my friends and family. It turned them from kind and sane individuals into bloodthirsty maniacs."
Daniel doesn't look surprised, but then why should he? Apart from the obvious, there has always been a discrepancy in the myths of the gods. A lot of them start out good and turn bad over time. This could explain the change.
"I'm glad to hear it," I say sincerely. At her confused look, I explain. "I mean that you haven't used the sarc, not that your family went gaga."
She nods slowly at me then turns back to Daniel who continues as if I haven't spoken.
"If the Tok'ra can produce larvae, then the Jaffa have the chance of a future. We're searching out people to help us try to genetically alter them back to humans, but that will take time - generations in fact. We don't have that. Teal'c has a son. We recently were able to acquire a baby larva for him. We have seven years to find both Teal'c and Rya'c a cure, or a new symbiote. Without either one, they will die. This is not acceptable for us.
"We're hoping that triggering an existing Tok'ra to become a queen will be a lot simpler. Then those Jaffa who wish to will be able to carry the future of the rebellion, instead of the future of slavery. We are hoping that you will be able to help us in this quest."
She looks at Daniel for a while, then says, "How would I be able to help you?"
He smiles back at her. "You wouldn't happen to have your shield here by any chance, would you?"
Then he does that innocent blinky eye thing and gets the first genuine smile back off her. Daniel's done it again. Houston, the ego has landed. He's going to be impossible to live with for days!
So, we're on the ship, going home in a roundabout route. Daniel tried to head for the gate, but I wouldn't let him go. Athene's come with us. I think she's glad for the company. Turns out she's been in automatic stasis. Her stasis field - pinched from Medusa, no less - is set to switch off every time the 'Zeus gate' opens. She hides out until she's sure she's safe, then goes back to beddie-byes till next time.
Don't know about the others, but I get the feeling that she was waiting for someone, then just got into the habit of doing this when he didn't turn up. Or she, of course.
Fortunately, Medusa's planet is more or less on our way. More or less. We'll have to detour when we've picked up the snake and drop it off with the Tok'ra, then we get to go home.
Daniel's in his element again. He's getting to talk to someone that he only ever read about in mythology and history books. She's telling him what Greece was like back then and he's absolutely enthralled. Somehow, I doubt he's going to notice the sixteen hours it's going to take to fly to our first destination and then the six hours to our second. Let alone the day it will take to get home from there. He'll be writing up notes after notes on that last leg. I'll let him. He's happy. And a happy Daniel isn't annoying the crap out of me.
Much information has been exchanged between Athene, Daniel and Selmac. I do believe that Jacob was bored. At one point, she questioned me deeply as to my decision to leave the service of Apophis and I took my time to explain the reasons.
When I had finished, she put her hand on my arm and said, "It gratifies me to know that such wisdom resides in the heart and head of one so young. For the first time in my life, I truly believe that a rebellion will succeed. I was only able to do small things to help. I was one among many enemies. Now, I am one among the few friends, but a strong few and a determined few."
Selmac asked to speak to her host, but her host's mind is long gone. After being alive for so long, they became as one. Athene is not keen on the idea of taking a new, younger host, but Selmac explained that the Tok'ra never take an unwilling host permanently. Given someone willing, there is the possibility that Athene will live a lot longer. Away from her stasis field, she will not survive for very long without a new host. As she is full of knowledge, that would be a tragedy.
We have arrived at Medusa's palace. Samantha has checked the VCDs and discovered that no one has been there since we left. She and I are going to collect the VCDs and then we will all, except for Athene, load Medusa's case onto the ship. From there, we will take it to the Tok'ra. Athene is not too pleased about sharing a ship with her so Jacob is currently giving her a choice.
"Look, Athene, you can come through the gate with me to the Tok'ra homeworld. These guys will bring Medusa back. It'll give us a chance to prepare a safe place to hold her anyway."
She looks relieved at that idea, so we change our plans and all escort her to the gate.
O'Neill speaks to Athene as Jacob dials the DHD, thereby distracting her. She is not completely trusted yet, so we do not wish her to see the co-ordinates.
"We'll see you in a few hours," O'Neill says. "You'll be okay with the Tok'ra. They're pretty good at taking care of their elders. Just look at Jacob," he adds.
The gate bursts into life, which is probably just as well. We watch them depart, then Samantha picks up the VCD and we walk back to the temple to pick up the one we left there.
"You think this is going to work?" O'Neill asks as we get closer to our destination.
"It's got to be worth a try, Jack," Daniel replies. "We have to try every angle. Like I said, failure isn't an option."
He is correct. If not for my sake, then for my son's.
It was with difficulty that we carried the case to the ship, but now it is in place. We have set it inside the rings, so that when we arrive at the Tok'ra homeworld, we can ring it down and they can lift it up. We will not stay when we get there. We are all tired.
"Are you sure you won't stay?" Jacob's voice comes over the comms.
"Nah, we need to get home, Jake," O'Neill replies. "We'll come visit in a couple of days, okay?"
"Sure thing. Thanks a lot for all you guys did. We're feeling really positive for the first time in ages."
"No probs. Just do me a favour, will ya?"
"Name it, Jack."
"Make sure you don't lose the damned snake. The last thing we need is another queen out there."
Jacob laughs and promises that they will take great care. This does not fill me with hope.
Home at last. We slept on the ship, as best we could, but we're all still tired. It's been a busy few days. I've made a quick meal, we're celebrating with some beer as we eat it and chatting fairly nonsensically as we go.
"What was that about the olive tree?" Sam asks.
I think for a moment then remember.
"Right. It was a fight over Athens. The city had been created by King Cecrops of Attica who'd encouraged some of the tribes in the region to join together to create a city state. Strength in numbers and all that.
"Anyway, each city had a god as a patron, and as the gods knew that this city would become a great one, there was a lot of competition. In the end this boiled down to the two with the best claim. Athene, because she was a goddess of the arts and civilised life and they knew that the city would embody those aspects, and Poseidon, god of the sea, because the city was right next to it.
"Both gods were important and none of the other gods wanted to offend either one, so they set them a competition. They had to create something that wasn't on Earth but would both amuse and be useful to the inhabitants. Poseidon went first, and striking the ground with his trident, he caused a great big black animal to appear. It had four legs, an elegant shape, a mane down its neck which it tossed around and it pawed at the ground."
"A horse?" Sam asks.
"Got it in one. In the horse, you have a beautiful animal - and let's be honest here, have you ever seen an ugly horse?"
They all shake their heads.
"And a strong and useful one. It can be ridden to entertain yet it can be worked to help plough the land and any number of other jobs. The connection between man and rider is one which is virtually symbiotic and a skilled pair are a joy to anyone who watches them. As you can imagine, the gods were highly impressed by this beautiful creature, and so was Athene.
"She went a different way, and from the rocky soil that covers that area, she caused a new tree to grow, and on it were these small, oval fruits. She demonstrated how the olive could be used; to cook, to burn, for sacrifices..."
Jack starts to snigger, then the rest of us join in. We have other uses, too.
"It can grow in harsh soil with precious little rainwater. But, as Athene pointed out, the olive represents peace. There is nothing more useful to man than peace, and nothing that will allow him to be entertained more, either.
"The gods had to agree. Much as they adored Poseidon's 'invention', they knew that Athene was the winner. So she was given the city and it was named for her in her honour."
We're going to bed. Probably for a long sleep, though we're only admitting to a nap. Jack's got something behind his back.
"Jack? What's up?"
He pulls out a small bottle of olive oil and puts it on the bedside table.
"Inspired by my storytelling, eh?" I ask.
"For once," he shrugs. "It certainly gave me an idea or three."
Laughing, I strip off and get on the bed. I'm wondering just what he has in mind as it's rarely what I think it's going to be.
He joins me, and to start with, he kisses me. I yawn.
"Sheesh, way to go to make a guy feel wanted, Daniel."
"Sorry, Jack, I'm just tired, that's all."
His lovely eyes twinkle and he says, "You just lie back and let me do all the work, then."
I can so do that.
He's poured some oil onto his right hand and he's taken my cock in it, stroking it up and down and making it get harder by the second. The oil starts to warm up as he goes. Oh God, I hope he hasn't got the bottle of the oil with the chillies in it! A quick glance at it tells me that it's not, it's just the virgin oil. I have to fight back the obvious laugh that comes with that old joke.
Now he's pouring some more on his fingers. I open my legs wider, expecting him to use it to lube me up, but he shakes his head. Oh God, he's doing himself. I prop myself up on my elbows and watch him. I'm watching his face as much as anything as he screws his eyes shut when his fingers sink inside him. I'd take over, but I think he wants to do this.
This isn't something that Jack does. Oh, he likes to watch me do it. I like to do it, too. I guess I'm a bit of an exhibitionist on the side, but he isn't. Fuck, this is hot. He's slowly jerking himself off as he fingers himself. A gasp from him has me squeezing my balls to stop me going off.
"Jack," I croak. "PLEASE."
He opens his eyes and stops what he's doing, seeing for the first time what it's doing to me.
He takes a few deep breaths to calm himself, then he gets himself into position. A few seconds later and he's lowering himself down my cock. Think Akkadian verbs. Think working out pi to fifteen places in Roman numerals. Think...
Oh fuck it, I can't think. He's all the way down.
He sits for a moment, then he starts to move. It heats up again. I heat up again. The more he moves, the greater the temperature. If it's true that a guy's brain resides in his dick, my intellect is fried. And quite possibly boiled, roasted and chargrilled. I look into his eyes, he's staring at me, hardly breathing as he concentrates on his actions. I push up as he comes down and I fill him totally. I hear a 'GAH!' from him, unexpected, it makes me jump a bit.
"Fuck, Jack. Move it!"
He speeds up, slamming down to me as I jerk up to him. I grab his dick and start to pump it. It doesn't take us long from this. He starts to come, just as he lands right down on my balls. That does it for me. Between his face, his noises, the semen spouting over my stomach and the contractions around my cock, I come too.
We lay together, plastered together to be honest. Reluctantly, he moves, then grabs a cloth and cleans us up. It's time to sleep. We say nothing more, he's in my arms, his head on my chest, his eyes shut. Time to call it a day.