Summary: So, into the underworld they go, and what do they find? If I tell you here there'll be no point in reading the story, so I won't.
Thanks, as ever, to my loyal henchwoman Fabi, and extra thanks to Alph for translating the title (which means 'Bloody Furies', by the way).
Okay, this is nasty, dark and creepy. We've emerged from the gate into what appears to be a cave or something. Hang on... Nope, it's a chasm, just as described in the myth. We have to go down this to reach Hades itself. At a guess, Hades, the 'god', has kept the gate down here to keep unwanted visitors away. Hope we don't have to walk too far to reach our destination.
It would help if we really knew where our destination was, I guess.
I feel almost useless. So often what I know from myth turns out to be only a part of the whole story. And given the amount of time that has passed since the myths first emerged, any number of changes could have occurred, so what I know is rarely what is. And yet if I didn't have at least a clue from the mythology, we'd be going in blind, instead of going in myopic as we are now. At least the androids have better vision than us.
One thing's patently obvious. We have less than forty-eight hours to accomplish this mission unless we find a light source stronger than the flashlights we have with us. I don't relish the thought of carrying my other self out of here because his batteries have run flat.
"Which way?" Jack asks, pointing with his light behind the gate.
We look and see that the chasm seems to go down that way, too.
"Stop," Teal'c says, or is that Kar Shel? Of course, it could have been John asking 'which way'. Dammit, I want more light.
"Why?" I ask. Well, someone had to.
"I do not wish the ground to be any more disturbed than it already is."
"So that I may inspect the ground and see which way has been worn down the most. I would suggest that the heavier wear would be on the path that leads somewhere most important."
He's got a point. And it's as good a guess as any we'd come up with. We wait until he's waved his light around for a while and then hear, "This way."
My eyes are starting to adjust to the light level now and I can see the edges of the chasm, although they are still very dark. It's worse than Netu in a way. There isn't so much noise which is unnerving, really. Teal'c - it is him, I can see the gold of Kar Shel's tattoo glistening next to me - leads us in the initial direction we were going to go in. Guess that Hades isn't very original when it comes to hiding out.
Considering this is Hell, it's cold. Some versions of hell describe it as being a place where you burn, where it is as 'hot as Hell'. After all, the saying 'when Hell freezes over' means 'practically never'. But here, it's cold and getting colder by the moment. We're all gravitating towards each other. Even MIB are close to us, though they are on the edges of the 'pack' as if they are herding us together. I have to giggle and despite the dark, I know they're all looking at me.
"Um, nothing. Just cold," I say. "Must be getting silly in my old age."
I'm saying nothing about the thought I got about us being like penguins who take it in turns to go to the edges of the pack - flock? - to keep the others away from the cold wind. I'd never live it down.
In the meantime...
"What do you call a group of penguins? Is it a flock?"
"Why do you ask?" asks DJ.
"Oh, just wondering."
Just as well I suggested we bring a lot of climbing ropes to be on the safe side. Knowing that the myths placed Hades away from the entrance to the underworld, I figured we may have some geological features to get past. I was right. There's another chasm below us and down to it is a very dodgy-looking path.
Just as on Tiwaz' world, we're roping ourselves together for safety's sake. I'm glad that I can't see the bottom. Now would not be a good time to get an attack of vertigo.
I hope Daniel's only looking in front of him, it's a hell of a long way down. Teal'c's right in front of me, Frankie's behind me and Kar Shel is behind her as if the men are wanting to protect us from the path. I notice that John and Jack are doing the same thing with the Daniels.
It's not as if we need protecting but Daniel and I have long learned to humour the guys, and I guess that Frankie and DJ have, too, as they didn't complain, either.
Sometimes I wish my telepathy extended to Frankie as there are many observations I would like to share with her in private, which is a bit difficult to do when you're carefully picking your way down a steep rocky path which is only about eighteen inches wide.
None of us are speaking, we're all concentrating on our steps. One false move and we could pull the others over the edge.
We've been descending for ages; my ears popped a little while back as they adjusted to the changes in pressure. I don't need telepathy to know that my guys are finding this as difficult as I am, I can hear their breathing harshen. Even Teal'c seems to be finding this hard, which is unusual for him. Just as well that MIB don't breathe, I don't think I could take them struggling, too.
"Nearly there," I hear.
It's Teal'c and his voice is reassuring. I notice his choice of words, his ignoring of the words 'we are' indicates that he's having problems.
You okay, honey?
At least telepathy doesn't need any spare breath.
I am fine.
Teal'c, I can hear you panting as much as I am.
He's silent for a moment and then he says, I am... unsure as to what we are going to find here.
In other words he's as scared as I am.
Me too, hun. Me too.
Finally. We're all down. By mutual unspoken consent, we're taking a break. Teal'c and I are snuggling together for warmth, Daniel and Jack are too. The androids are all shining their flashlights onto the skin on the backs of their hands, trying to absorb any light radiation they can, I suppose. Because we're not saying anything, I can hear something.
"Can you guys hear water?" I ask quietly.
"Yeah. It's one of the springs or rivers, I suppose," Daniel answers. He sounds really tired, poor thing. Mind, so do I.
"Wonder which one," DJ muses.
"What were they again?" I ask. I really need to pay more attention to him.
He sighs and tells me, "The Acheron, which means 'woe', the Cocytus, which means 'wailing', the Lethe which is 'forgetfulness', the Phlegethon which means 'fire', and the Styx which means 'hate'. The Styx is the one which you have to cross to get into Hades itself."
"I wonder why they have these names?" Frankie puts in.
Daniel shrugs. "Probably just myth stuff. But to be on the safe side, don't drink any of them, just in case."
Must admit I hadn't intended to.
"Come on, we'd better get going," Jack orders half-heartedly.
We all get up sluggishly. Must be the cold making us like this, it's not as if we don't want to do this after all.
Well, we've found the water. Mercifully, there's a bridge going over it. The androids are checking it out, making sure that it's safe before we cross it. They're far more energetic than we are and much more enthused about our mission.
"What were the meanings again?" I ask, suddenly getting an inkling of an idea.
"Forgetfulness, fire, hate, wailing and..."
They all stop.
"No, woe. W. O. E. Sadness, right?"
"Right," Daniel confirms.
"Okay, are any of you feeling down at the moment? Because I am and I don't have any reason to."
There's silence for a moment and then I get confirmation from the others. At least the rest of MIA. MIB feel fine.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Again, they agree. Looks like we're going to get affected by the waters no matter what we do. Still, Daniel's idea to not drink from them is looking better by the moment. I'm feeling desperately sad, as if I want to cry.
"Come on, let's get over this bridge as soon as we can," Jack says abruptly.
We can't run, it's still dark. Our eyes have adjusted as much as possible and now it's like we're walking in the middle of the night with nothing more than a crescent moon for illumination. Enough to see edges and black shadows but nothing else. So we walk as quickly as we can over the bridge.
We're near the halfway mark, the depression is hitting us all like a brick wall, but we're trying to ignore it. I want to put my hand in Teal'c's but he's in front of me, staring ahead of himself as if he wants to be alone.
I don't think he really loves me, that he was lying to me when he said he wanted to build us a log cabin. I know what it is now; he wants to build it for himself, away from me. Maybe so that he could install Draya'uc there and get Rya'c back from training with Bratac. That's it, isn't it? He just lied to me so that I wouldn't see through his plan until it was too late.
Okay, so this is embarrassing. I've just noticed that I'm sitting on the floor, John next to me and I've obviously been crying my eyes out. My nose is running, my eyes are sore and I'm feeling like a prize idiot.
"So, you going to tell me what that was all about?"
I turn to look at John and as I do, I see DJ with his arm around Daniel's shoulder and the other androids with their counterparts.
"Um, no? You going to tell me what's going on first?"
He sighs. Which is kind of weird as I know he doesn't breathe.
"You guys were getting more and more miserable, but when you got to the centre of the bridge, you all broke down and cried. You wouldn't move, just dropped to the floor and held your heads in your hands. We saw skeletons on the sides of the bridge and realised that there was some sort of psychic hold on you, making you want to stay there.
"We're guessing that people in the past, if they couldn't get over the bridge, literally cried till they died, probably of dehydration if they didn't take time out to drink. So we picked you up and brought you over."
"Thanks," I whisper, then can't resist a chance to tease him. "Just as well you're a soulless bastard, eh?"
He punches my arm, which hurts a lot more than if Sam or Daniel does it, but I manfully try to ignore the tears that have sprung to my eyes.
"If I were that soulless, I'd have left your sorry hide behind."
He doesn't want a reply. This is one of the main advantages of being cloned like this, no explanations are needed. He knows how grateful I am.
"So, will you tell me what made you so sad?"
"The usual," I shrug. "Things past; things that could be..." I nod over at Daniel and he nods back. He understands.
Yeah, I had the usual regrets, the usual memories of Charlie, my dad, saying goodbye to my mom and so on. But then there was like a montage of the times I've lost Daniel, either to death or from my stupidity.
And then there were the things that haven't happened yet, like losing him again, in oh, so many ways. This should be my cue to pull away from him - it always used to be. Whenever he disappeared or died back at the SGC, I would pull back from him to protect myself. Not now, and not ever again.
I don't need to excuse myself, I just stand up and go to Daniel. The look on his face tells me all I need to know. He's had the usual dreams - the usual nightmares - and I guess, he had visions of losing me, too. Probably because I walked away from him. That would hurt him more than me dying, because he'd know I wouldn't leave him that way out of choice.
DJ moves away from him and I take Daniel into my arms. He's holding me closely, letting me know in his own way that he's not going anywhere. I do the same for him. The sadness is receding now, I think we've beaten it.
We got the hell out of that area, it was too depressing for words. Just hope there's an easier way to get back. I don't want to go through that again when we're going to be on the run. And we just know we're going to be on the run when we're trying to get out of here, because we always are.
We turn and look at DJ who has stopped and is listening to something.
"Can't hear anything," I say.
"I can," John answers. "It's like crying, or screeching."
"The wailing river?" Sam asks in surprise.
"Could be," Daniel answers. "Um, guys, can you turn your hearing capabilities down?"
"Not really, no. Uh, Frankie, that's going to be next on your priority list for adjustments to us," John answers, putting his hands to his ears.
Daniel has put his pack down and he's looking for something. His first aid kit? Why? Oh, the cotton. He's pulling bits off it and giving it to the androids.
"Stuff this in your ears, it may take the edge off it. DJ, if you need to communicate with me, use sign language. We're going to block our ears, too."
"We are?" I ask.
"Yeah. Don't forget, the last river hit us hard. These obstacles, if that's what they are, are designed against humans or Goa'uld, at a guess. Not androids, anyway. MIB are getting affected early because they have superior hearing to us but we'll get hit when we get closer."
He's got a good point. He can communicate with MIB for us via DJ and we can use our internal connections to speak among our own teams. No matter what Hades has set up to protect himself from outsiders, he wouldn't have suspected a joint team of androids and telepathic humans to come here, so we're going to be at an advantage over his normal invaders.
At least I hope so.
Despite the cotton in my ears, the noise of the wailing is terrible. It sets my nerves on edge. I have no idea what it is doing to my team and MIB but they must be suffering dreadfully. Just as with the river of woe, there is a bridge for us to cross and we are attempting to cross it quickly. And similarly, the noise is getting worse the closer to the centre we get. My symbiote is most distressed, possibly it is being affected by the vibrations in the air caused by the noise.
Samantha has taken my hand in hers and is pulling me across the bridge as quickly as she can go. I notice that Daniel has taken her other hand and O'Neill has taken his spare hand. MIB are holding onto each other similarly and are running. They have reached the centre of the bridge and in just the same way that we could go no further on the other bridge, the noise has penetrated into their minds and has stopped them moving.
Time to repay the favour, folks, O'Neill says. I know it hurts but we can't leave them there.
Try to block the sound out. Think of some music, Daniel suggests.
I understand what he is trying to do and let a folk song from my home spring to mind. I find that concentrating on it helps me ignore the noise outside, even though it is still obvious, it is not as painful.
We have taken the androids by the arms and Daniel's hands have quickly spelled something out to DJ. I see him nodding back and a few moments later, MIB are moving of their own accord, though still being held by us. We do not stop when we are over the bridge but continue until the sound recedes into the background and it is comfortable for us all to remove the block from our ears. Unfortunately, the folk song is not so quick to disappear.
"Dammit, I've got a really annoying tune rattling through my head, now," O'Neill complains.
"Yeah, but you have to admit, it sounds better than the wailing," Daniel replies with a grin.
O'Neill stares at him and says, "You have 'Kumbaya' on a continuous loop through your brain and then get back to me and say that."
Daniel laughs out loud but does not tell us what is in his head.
"Wonder which river is next?" DJ asks before a list of bad tunes is shared.
"At a guess it's going to be the Lethe or the Phlegethon," Daniel answers. "I'd assume the Styx will be the last one."
"How about we take a break and eat something first?" O'Neill suggests. "We've got fire and forgetfulness coming up and I don't want to burn the meal or forget to eat it."
We agree. There is a small amount of ambient light here and the androids are attempting to soak it up. As they do, we pull out the bread, cheese and fruit that we habitually carry on missions, along with our water.
"We'll have to ration the water," O'Neill cautions. "I'm agreeing with Daniel that I don't want to drink any that's down here."
We have discovered which river is the next one to cross. Fortunately, MIB are immune to its effects, or at least, we are hoping that they will be.
"Seeing as there's no sign of fire," O'Neill states, "I'm guessing that when we get closer to this one, we're going to start forgetting who we are and what we're doing here. So..." He points at DJ. "Um, DJ, you buddy up with Daniel. Er, Frankie, do the same with Sam and so on."
It is not like O'Neill to hesitate like that. Perhaps the effects are already being felt.
"Just grab us and get us over there, will ya? We'll sort out everything else later. Whatever it is we're supposed to be doing."
Kar Shel stands next to me and puts his hand on my arm. I feel a tight grip and then walk towards the bridge.
"Who are you? Um... for that matter, who am I? Where am I?"
"Daniel," I hear. So I guess that's my name. "I'm DJ, remember?"
"Ah. Well, you're Daniel Jackson, I'm DJ, the android copy of you and you've just crossed the Lethe."
"The river of forgetfulness."
"Ah. That could explain things... Um... Who are they?"
"Why don't we walk away from the river and see if your memory comes back? It'll be quicker than explaining things."
Okay, that makes sense. Sort of. Hang on; river of forgetfulness? That sounds a bit farfetched. But then he said he's an android copy of me. What's an android?
"What's an android?"
He laughs. I think that's what it is.
"Come on, Daniel. We'll explain everything if you don't remember it soon, I promise."
"Yeah. I'll do it."
He doesn't seem to be a threat. Can't be sure so I'd better be on my toes. I look at the others and see that there are three lots of people that look the same but different. Relatives? Or more androids? And who are they?
Hang on, there's something familiar about them. The big guy with the gold thing on his head. Why am I blushing? Whatever that's about, I'd be better off forgetting that, I think. The woman. Hey, she's pretty. Both of them. Hmm - that's an idea. I wonder...?
Nah, come on, Daniel, if that's who you are. You have to remember before you make a move on anyone. What about the other guys? They're hot. One looks older than the other one but they look very much alike. Now, there are two people I'd definitely happily do. At the same time.
"Paws off, John is mine," DJ says.
"Which one's John? And what do you mean?" Let's try for the indignant look here.
"I know exactly what that look on your face means. I'm you, remember? And John's the grey-haired one. Jack, the other one, he used to look like that but you guys had a coming-together with a fountain of youth."
"Oh yeah. Pity you don't remember that. You told me all about it. Three days of constant sex turned out to be a side effect of losing about a third of your age."
"Wow. Wish I could remember that. So, Jack you say?"
"And he's mine?"
He grabs hold of me and points me in another direction.
"Later!" he orders.
Okay, my memory is starting to return. Unfortunately it's hitting me in waves. So far I've had at least five memories of Jack and me... Well, let's say that walking is uncomfortable and leave it there, shall we? Seems that Jack's remembering similar things and he's feeling the same effects.
DJ is still next to me but Jack's on my other side, holding my hand. That seems to be so normal that I'm going with the flow. Even if these memories turn out to be false ones, I really want to relive them for real. Especially the one with him, me, the table and the pot of honey.
He looks at me and grins. I wonder if he's remembered that one?
"Does the word 'honey' mean anything to you?" I ask casually.
DJ stumbles as I say that so I guess that whatever, or whenever that event happened, it was before he was created and he remembers it, too. Jack looks very sheepish so I guess he's remembering that as well. Good, that's hopeful.
When can we get out of here?
Finally, I know who I am and where I am, and more to the point, what I'm doing here. Which, now I remember it, is a distinct advantage. Especially as we've reached the Phlegethon. Which isn't a river, but a waterfall. Which is on fire.
"Okay, just how in hell's name are we going to get through this?" Jack asks.
Don't ask me, I have no idea.
We all sit down, making the most of the heat that's coming from the fire. The constant cold that's been our companion since we came here has been tiring. I think that the androids are particularly making the most of the radiation to recharge themselves. At least it's giving us some extra time.
"How about throwing a VCD through it? Just to see what's on the other side?" Sam suggests.
It's as good an idea as any so Teal'c takes one to the edge of the waterfall, switches it on and throws it through, studying the picture on his receiver as it travels through the fiery water. The effect is weird. It really is water and it really is on fire. As if there's something in it...
"Sam? What would make water catch fire?"
"Oil? Gas... um, methane would be a likely candidate. We have methane stores in the oceans on Earth. When they get disturbed, they rise to the surface and it's like the sea is on fire. It literally boils, or looks like it. There's a theory going around that when the massive quantities get released as they will do when the water warms up, there'll be a huge increase in greenhouse gases..."
"Can we leave the environmental discussion till later?" Jack interrupts. "T. What have you found?"
"There is nothing on the other side of the water. At least, nothing more than there is on this side. A path with the chasm walls either side, but that is it."
"So, can we get through this without burning?"
We don't know. Teal'c says it shouldn't take long if we jump through it. The thing is, there's a huge drop below us. The waterfall falls down to a fiery river which is about a hundred feet further down. It isn't a great width for us to jump through, but none of us are long jumpers and if one of us misses, it's certain death.
But if we don't go through it, and now I'm thinking about it, I'm really sure this is the way to go, all that we've been through to get here will be for naught and we'll have to retrace our steps. I'm not sure I can go through that again.
"How hot is it?" I ask.
DJ puts his hand near the fall and shrugs.
"Hot enough to burn if we hang around. At a guess, if we're quick, and I mean quick, we shouldn't be more than singed and a bit uncomfortable. It's going to be a matter of faith that we can do it, a bit like the fire-walkers."
Jack's getting the ropes ready again. That's a good idea. We should be able to do it like this. That's assuming the ropes don't burn. They're nylon climbing ropes so there's every chance that they may melt.
"We'll go first," John says. "Then throw the end of your rope through, we'll catch it and hold on as you guys take it in turns to come through. Make it quick, no hesitations from any of you. We'll try not to keep any part of the ropes in the flames for more than a second or so."
I guess that's how we're going to do it. The four of us hold on to the end of the rope that MIB use to bind themselves together. The ropes are long and we've estimated the distance over the drop and through the flames and they're leaving double that gap between each one so that when one has landed, he or she will have a chance to stand up freely before the other one jumps.
This is going to be the quickest set of long jumps in history, I think. Before they go, we take off our rucksacks and give them to the androids to throw through the flames. They can throw more accurately and further than we can, so it makes sense. Jumping with them on doesn't.
John's going first. The others are ready and they're going in order, each one ready to follow him. He's starting to run towards the gap from half his rope length away. As soon as he reaches the gap and he jumps, DJ takes off and runs towards the gap, then Frankie, then Kar Shel.
We watch, hearts in our mouths as we see each one take off and disappear through the flames and we let go of the rope as soon as Kar Shel has completely gone through the fall.
A noise crackles on our comms bracelets.
"We're through, all of us are okay. You'll have to be that quick if you're not going to be burned, though. It was close."
"Okay. Good to hear you're all right," Jack replies. "We'll send the rope through in a minute."
He turns to us and asks, "You guys ready?"
Nope. Absolutely not. That, however, does not mean I'm not going through with this. I'm never going to be ready for it, though.
We've tied ourselves up in the same way as the androids, except our 'spare end' is in front of Jack. I found a small rock and secured it to the end to give it some weight and now I'm handing it to Teal'c. There's plenty of rope so it's not going to pull Jack over the edge. We've all moved to our starting places, ready to move as soon as Teal'c throws the rock.
"No matter what," Jack says, "if you're on the edge you must jump. If I make it through and one of the next two don't, the others must continue so we'll all be on the same side. It'll be safer when it comes to hauling the one that falls up. If it's me, though, I guess you'd be better off not jumping unless you're going to fall if you don't."
He's rambling. We all know what we have to do but he's scared for us. He wants to tell me to make it across the gap, with or without him. I glare at him to tell him the same thing. Then I grab him and kiss him briefly but really hard to underline that. I see Sam hugging Teal'c. We're ready.
Teal'c's thrown the rock, it's gone through the flames and Jack's running to the edge. Three, two, one... time to go.
Daniel's gone, I'm running. I've got to make it, I've got to make it. Oh God... here I go! Don't look down, get ready to grab the first thing that comes to reach. OUCH! Shit, shit, I'm under the flames. What the hell was that? ARRGH!
They're hitting me, what's going on?
"LIE STILL SAM!"
Who was that? Jack?
"Sam, hang on. We'll have the flames out in a second. There. It's all out. Here, drink this."
Daniel hands me a flask and I take it. Then I notice that my hands are shaking hard.
"You landed a bit closer to the edge than planned," Daniel says gently. "Teal'c landed on you, tripped up over you, I guess. Anyway, we dragged you out quickly, you were only there a matter of a few seconds. Your clothes caught light but you don't seem to be burned. Unless you're hurting somewhere we can't see?"
"Not hurting. Well, my back hurts a bit."
"That must be where I landed on you. I apologise, Samantha."
"Don't be silly, Teal'c. It wasn't your fault. Give me a few minutes and I'll be okay."
Frankie's handing me some painkillers. Do I need them? Um... yeah. My back took a good whack.
"Is everyone else okay?"
"All of us are a bit singed around the edges, but it's nothing serious," Jack informs me. "That was one hell of a ride. There had better be an easier way out of this place."
"There has to be, Jack," Daniel soothes. "Come on, how else would the Goa'uld do it? No way would Minos have gone through all this to get to the space station."
"So, you think there's a place to land a ship?" Jack asks, too calmly.
He's silent for a moment, then asks, "So why in hell's name did we have to come this way?"
I think I'll let Daniel off the hook. "Because we only had a week, well, I'd say five days now, to complete the mission and it would have taken us six months to fly here in the teltac."
He looks at me for a while and then nods. "Okay. I'll give you that one. We still need to get to the gate to get back though."
"We'll borrow a ship and fly us to them," Daniel says.
"The gate is underground."
"We'll blast our way down to it."
"We could cover the gate!"
I notice that Daniel isn't stating the obvious. This could be because of self-preservation.
Daniel? Why aren't you mentioning it?
Um, because I want to live?
Okay. Same here. We should have thought beforehand, shouldn't we?
Oh yeah. I mean, I wasn't expecting there to be rings there so I wasn't looking for them. Not that I'd know where they were anyway.
But I would. I'm in big trouble.
Nah. He forgets that you can detect them. Teal'c, however, is in it up to his neck. Whatever you do, don't mention the rings until it's absolutely necessary.
Gotcha. You think I should warn Teal'c?
No, he's a big boy, he can take it.
"Kids? What are you conspiring about?"
Oh shit, Jack's noticed.
"Um, just sharing a few memories that came back after the river, that's all," Daniel lies.
He doesn't have to look that smug, does he? He's getting around Jack now by whispering something in his ear and kissing his neck. But why did he just call Jack 'honey'?
He had to mention the honey, didn't he? I'm feeling really sticky now. Still, Sam seems to be recovering. Just as well she wasn't burned on her skin. We'll need to get new black gear, though, I think. At least we can ask George to send us some now without it being a problem.
I look at my watch and see that it's late. We have a choice. We can sleep now, God knows we could do with the rest as we've walked miles, let alone had to deal with all that we've dealt with, or we can go on and try to battle through the tiredness. I guess I'd better ask.
"Do you guys want to make camp or go on?"
"Go on," Daniel says firmly. "MIB can only stay underground for two days. We've been here for the best part of one. I know you guys have been recharging yourselves as best you can but I don't know about you, but I'd rather err on the side of caution."
"We're okay to go on, but we're prepared to watch if you want to sleep," John replies.
"I'm too wound up to sleep at the moment," Sam says.
I know what she means. My adrenaline is surging at the moment, but I'm afraid it's going to let go when we need it the most. The last thing I want is for us to drop when we need to run.
"Okay. We'll take a break, it's been a few hours since we ate. We'll eat then make a decision. Maybe by sitting for a while, we'll find we can sleep. Will you guys be able to use the light from the waterfall to recharge yourselves?" I ask the 'droids.
"We will. It's not as effective as sunlight, but it's better than being in the dark. It'll basically keep us at the level we're at at the moment," Frankie says.
"Fine. We won't be any worse off than we are now then."
Teal'c, I know you want to move on, but look at the others. They're going to be hyper if they don't rest for a while. Me too.
I understand. We should rest.
I think that Teal'c's feeling bad for landing on Sam. It's not like he even knew she was on the floor when he jumped, he couldn't have seen her.
She's okay, T. There's no blame here.
Dammit, Teal'c, cut it with the guilt trip already! It's not your fault, it's not her fault, it's fucking Hades' fault for creating this stupid obstacle course. Take it out on him when we meet up, will you?
He says nothing but I see him nodding slightly. Sheesh - and I thought that I could go on a long guilt trip.
I was right. The adrenaline wore off when we were eating. Sam's out cold, she nearly fell asleep in her food. I'm guessing she hurts more than she's letting on. Teal'c has picked her up and put her on his lap. He's determined to stay awake and watch over her, even though Kar Shel has told him to rest. He's shut his eyes but he's fooling nobody.
I've propped myself up against the chasm wall and Daniel's lain down on the ground, his head on my lap. He loves his creature comforts and I guess I'm better than the rock as a pillow.
"Shut your eyes," John orders quietly. "We'll call you when it's time to wake up."
"Give us six hours max. We should get enough rest from that. And make sure you get as much light as you can, okay?"
He grins and nods so I guess I should shut my eyes. I get the feeling I'm going to need all the sleep I can get.
Gah. We've just been woken up. I check my watch and see that six hours have passed so at least John stuck to my orders. We'll eat a bit more and then it'll be heads down and away to go, this time possibly without stopping. I'm still not sure what we're going to find when we get there, and more to the point, what we're going to do. I hate this not knowing shit.
Daniel's looking very sleepy but he's trying to shake that off. Sam, on the other hand, is looking very stiff and painful. I don't want to check out her back but I'm betting it's covered in bruises. I'd like to know what's wrong with it, but I get the feeling that she doesn't want anyone to know how much it really hurts and she certainly doesn't want Teal'c to see.
I got the impression that he'd convinced her that he wasn't going to leave her before we set out on this mission, but any guilt trip he goes on now is going to bring back the doubts. She'll think he's pulling away from her again, just as I used to do with Daniel when he got hurt. The physical pain they can deal with, it's the emotional hurt that really causes the problems later.
The last thing I want them to go through is what Daniel and I went through. It took ages before he finally trusted me. In fact, I think it was only after we had that big fight and when I let him go off with Sam on Anat's world to prove that I trusted and respected him did he realise that I felt so deeply about him. Forgiving him without making a fuss for sleeping with her helped, too, I think.
And not blaming him when things have gone wrong. I used to do that a lot. Can't say I'm a saint when it comes to this relationship, but I try and he appreciates that. It's not like he's a saint, either, but accepting that of both of us helps us get over any glitches. Teal'c has to know that he's not perfect and neither is Sam. That's not going to be easy for him to accept, I think.
Samantha has taken more painkillers so I know that she hurts more than she will say. I cannot help but feel guilt for this. I would feel bad if I had caused pain to the others, but knowing I hurt her hurts me. Rationally, I know that I am not to blame, that it was but an accident.
She knows I would never physically hurt her intentionally. However, I know that I have emotionally hurt her in the last day or so, so perhaps, underneath it all, she thinks that I may physically hurt her. I could not blame her for thinking that way.
We have restarted our journey and I took Samantha's pack from her. She complained but I would not allow her back to become more painful. When the others saw that I was carrying two packs, they stopped me, took out her gear and shared it among the seven of us. I appreciate what they are doing, showing that they all wish to help her. Samantha is accusing us of fussing over her, but we are ignoring her complaints. I hope she knows that we only wish to spare her more pain.
You are welcome. I do not wish to see you hurting.
I know. And you know something?
What is that, my love?
If you don't stop feeling guilty I'm going to kick your ass from here to Netu when this is all over.
I cannot help but smile at her. I cannot help the guilt, but I will endeavour to not show it.
We have reached the River Styx, or so Daniel says. Unfortunately, it is dark, wide and there is no apparent means by which we can cross it.
"So, what now?" O'Neill asks.
Daniel sighs and looks at DJ who shrugs.
"In myth, there was a ferryman, Charon. Remember?"
"That's the myth, Daniel," O'Neill growls. "You see a ferryman anywhere?"
"Um, no. Sorry. Come on," he encourages. "There has to be a way to cross it. We just haven't found it yet."
We split up into our teams, MIB taking the right and us taking the left, but the Daniels swap teams so we can contact each other silently. We search the bank of the river for signs of any bridge or boat and find none.
"Dammit," O'Neill spits. "We've been walking for about a mile."
"Then we should walk further," I say.
As we continue to dispute this, we hear a call from Daniel.
We've found what looks like a raft, he says. It's about a mile upstream from where we separated.
Stay put. We'll be with you in ten, O'Neill calls back.
Without saying another word, we all turn and make our way as quickly as we can up the bank. It takes us longer than the projected ten minutes but finally, we arrive at the raft. I do not like the look of it.
"That doesn't look very stable," Samantha complains.
"Nope, but unless you found anything else...?"
"No, 'fraid not," she sighs.
"How wide is the river?" I ask.
Frankie, John and DJ all spread out and look across the river. Kar Shel, who has remained with us, looks across and says, "It is approximately one hundred and fifty feet wide."
O'Neill looks at John when he returns and asks, "Don't tell me, you've got trigonometric eyesight?"
"Something like that," John shrugs. "Our vision and telepathy, or whatever you want to call it, allows us to triangulate a point in the distance."
"Cool," O'Neill replies. "If you've got any other nifty gadgets, feel free to let us know in advance, won't you?"
"How is the distance going to help us, Teal'c?" Daniel asks, obviously wishing to get the conversation back on track.
"If we have enough rope, we could take it in turns to cross the river more safely."
DJ, Daniel, Samantha and Frankie get together and we see them plotting and planning something, throwing a piece of cotton from Daniel's pocket into the water and then drawing in the dirt. Finally, they come back to us.
"Okay, we think we know how we're going to do this," Samantha says.
We all gather round and listen to their idea.
"Right, there's eight of us and that raft, at a guess, is only going to hold three of us at a time," Daniel announces. "So, we need to do multiple crossings. However, the river flows quickly and it's not going to be an easy task. Teal'c's idea about using the rope is a good one. If we need to, we can tie two or three together to give us the right length.
"The girls have calculated that if we set out on the first trip from about two hundred yards upstream, the first three can go over, taking one end of the rope with them and the current will then take them to where the path continues on the other side. The only thing we need to do is find a means of paddling the raft across."
"What happens then, assuming we find a paddle?" O'Neill asks.
"Well, two of the passengers on the raft get off and secure their end of the rope over there. Whoever was left on this side of the river will have walked downstream as the raft has gone down so that we end up opposite each other. With the rope secure on either side, the other person - um, we suggest an android because this is going to be tough and you are, as you keep reminding us, the stronger ones..."
"Remind me to keep my mouth shut in future," John mutters.
"Promise I can?" DJ asks.
I do not know what John has replied to him but DJ is now laughing.
"Yeah, well, can we get back to the plan?" Daniel prompts. "Thank you. The android, whichever one it is, pulls on the rope and uses it to haul the raft back over to this bank. Then we take another two over, come back and so on."
"What about the last one?" O'Neill demands. "I don't want to leave the ropes behind."
"We could do one of two things," Samantha answers. "Either one person goes over there and unties the rope, leaving the rest of us to haul them upstream, because without the rope acting as a break, the raft is going to be taken downstream, or we can do what we did on Tiwaz' world and get someone to shoot the rope where it is secured and pull back the rest of it."
"Don't like that last option for two reasons," O'Neill says firmly. "One, it could leave us without enough rope in future and two, which is more important, is we could attract attention with a shot."
"We could use a silencer," Samantha argues.
"Yeah, but I get the feeling that there's more to this place than meets the eye," comes the cryptic reply.
"Jack?" Daniel takes over the arguing with him. It is usually safer for that to happen.
"Look, Hades has got to know we're here, right?"
"I'd say there's a good chance of that."
"Right. If he doesn't know, maybe he's got scanners of some sort. If I were scanning for intruders, and I had the technology available, I'd scan for two things. One would be life-signs, the other would be weapons capabilities. Now, if he's scanning for life-signs, we're already one up - assuming he hasn't got visuals. If he's scanning for weapons, then it could just be that he'll detect the actual capability if they're used."
"There's a lot of guessing and supposition there, Jack."
"True, but I'm trying to figure out why we haven't been stopped yet."
"Could be he thinks we'd get stopped by the natural obstacles. If I were scanning, I'd have visual records where possible."
O'Neill nods. "We still might need all the rope we can get. We've needed it a few times already."
"Okay, that's an argument I can live with," Daniel replies. I think that we all have to live with that one.
"If by some stretch of the imagination he does only have a life-signs scanner," Samantha suddenly says, "we're going to have to make sure that on each trip across, there is at least one human. Otherwise he'll wonder how the raft has been returned without someone there."
"Do we seriously believe that to be the case?" DJ asks.
We all look at each other and shrug. When it comes to the point that one of us comes up with a 'far out' idea, as O'Neill would say, we usually find that that idea is correct. In other words, we now have to solve the puzzle of the missionaries and the cannibals.
According to the date thing on my watch, it's Sunday. I can think of at least a hundred better ways of spending a Sunday than this. We figured out that getting an android to the other side initially would be the best thing, and after scouring the bank, we came up with a pole - or at least a long, thick branch which seems like it will do.
This takes me back to punting when I was at Oxford. However, that was on a very calm, beautiful river - this is shallow but a raging torrent in comparison. Seeing as DJ and I are the only ones who know how to punt, it's been left to us - or rather, him - to act as Charon.
I've got the rope tied around my waist and I'm lying on the raft and clinging on for dear life, while Kar Shel sits next to me and holds DJ's legs to stop him falling overboard. The others are holding onto the other end of the rope, letting it out slowly as we make our way across the river and further and further downstream.
"Nearly there!" comes the call and I look up and see the bank approaching rapidly - sideways!
There is an almighty bump as we crash into the bank. Kar Shel has jumped off and now it's up to me to do the same. We've ended up a little further down than expected so DJ puts the pole onto the raft and catches a bit of the rope as he kneels down to hold onto the raft. I undo the rope from my waist, and between us, Kar Shel and I haul DJ and the raft back upstream to where we want it. He has to stay on the raft while we secure the rope to a convenient rock.
When we get the call that the others have secured their end of the rope and as soon as I jump back on the raft, DJ pulls on it and hauls us and the raft back to their side. I join in as both of us pulling will get us across as quickly as possible.
Finally, we're there. I get off the raft and watch as Frankie and Sam get on it. The three of them pull on the rope and the raft moves faster than before.
"Tired?" Jack asks.
"Oh yeah. Can't wait to get home."
Jack pulls me to sit on the ground and we rest against each other, never taking our eyes off the raft ahead of us.
We're all across. When they got across, Frankie took over from DJ and dropped him off, then the two girls came back and took Teal'c. Then Sam got dropped off and Frankie and Teal'c picked up John. Then Frankie got dropped off, John and Teal'c picked up Jack and finally, DJ and Jack came back for me. I undid the rope, tied it to me, then held on it as DJ punted us back across as the others pulled us upstream.
We're all tired. I think that the effort took a lot out of the androids and frankly, that's worrying me.
Not that they're letting on, of course.
"What next?" Jack asks.
"Well, the only other things we're likely to come up against - at least from a mythological standpoint - are Cerberus and, given what we know about this Hades, Hecate. And maybe the Furies - depending on what position they have in his life."
"Cerberus? Wasn't that a dog?" Sam asks.
"Yeah. Only it wasn't a pooch."
"Go on, Daniel," Jack growls. "We want all the details. Just in case."
"Okay, you asked for it," I say with a grin. "Don't worry, there's not much in the way of information. He was supposed to be a three-headed dog, but in some stories, he has dragon heads sprouting out of his back and necks and a serpent's tail."
"A Goa'uld?" Frankie asks.
I shrug. "Seeing as on so many occasions, we've come across Goa'ulds where a serpent has been mentioned, it's a possibility. If they can inhabit humans and Unas, why not dogs? Even the three-headed variety."
"Is there any way past it?"
"Um, only twice does myth tell us how people got past it. Once, in the Aeneid, a Sybil drugged it so that Aeneas could pass through. And..."
"Lyre music," Jack says. I grin back at him. I knew his love of opera would come in useful one day. "Orpheus played his lyre and the music was so sweet that he tamed the beast and it let him through to get Euridyce."
"Got it in one, Jack. Look, I'm doubting that Cerberus even exists. After all, Persephone doesn't, or rather didn't exist, so why such a fanciful monster should exist, I don't know."
Okay, there are more weird things in the universe than even I can guess at. We've walked along the path for a while and now, near what can only be described as a city wall and the gate into it, is a fucking huge hairy beast with three heads. At least there aren't any dragon heads sticking out of its body and the tail seems to be hairy not scaly, so that myth was false.
"What do we do now?" I ask, as it's obvious the others want to know the same thing but aren't likely to ask it.
"I have no fucking idea," Jack sighs.
"We should reconnoitre the rest of the wall and see if there is another way in," Kar Shel says.
As none of us have a better plan, we do. As usual, we split up into teams, this time with Sam and Frankie switching teams to keep us in silent contact. I think we'll always take it in turns unless we have a specific reason for one or another to go.
Nope. There was no way in. We walked around the whole wall, meeting the others halfway and continuing around just in case we'd missed something. Now we've met up where we started and we're no better off than we were before.
Short of trying to kill the beast I don't see there's any way in. The walls are massive and sheer and we can't climb up them. Blowing a hole in the wall would be a sure-fire way of attracting unwanted attention. Having said that, shooting the dog will, too.
"Didn't you say that someone was supposed to have drugged the beast?" John asks.
"Yeah. But that was just in a story, John. I have no idea if that had a basis in myth or was just invented."
"It's got to be worth a try," Jack answers.
No matter that it's got three heads, it's a dog. No way does he want to kill it.
"How in hell's name are we going to drug it?" I ask. "Anyone got some spare chloroform?"
"We've got morphine in the first aid kits," Sam answers.
"Got a clue as to what dose it's going to need?"
"Absolutely not," she sighs. "But given its size, it'll take a hell of a lot. Probably all we've got. If nothing else, it's likely to knock it off its feet for a while."
"And how are we going to administer it?" Jack asks, afraid of the answer.
"I think that's where we come in," John replies with a groan.
My heart is in my mouth. We've filled up three syringes with all the morphine that we have. Now MIB are making their way directly to the monster. Plan A is that John - who has some food in his hands - distracts at least one of the heads while the others creep around it and simultaneously inject the morphine into it. Plan B is that they stab the beast as and when they get the opportunity and then run like hell. I hope plan A works for once. It would make a lovely change.
The three are trying to look innocent as John holds his hands out. Cerberus isn't taking his eyes off him - any of them. It really is a pooch, it's sniffing the air and its damned tail is wagging! I hope we don't permanently damage him. Despite his size and extra heads he's cute. Kind of like a mutated Irish wolfhound. On steroids.
Okay, it likes ham sandwiches. Very much indeed. Just as well that John took three of them as each head wants a taste. The others have their syringes ready. I have no idea if they're communicating with each other or not but all of a sudden, all three raise their hands and within moments, they plunge the needles into him. It. Mustn't get so damned attached! It belongs to the enemy, for Pete's sake.
Oops. The dog isn't happy and is now chasing John. Just as well the androids are the ones doing this as they can really run fast. The four of them have got its attention and they're all running in different directions. It's confused, poor thing. And now it's dropped to the floor. I guess it's time to make a move.
We pick up MIB's packs - Teal'c automatically takes the one that I've picked up, shaking his head. I wish he wouldn't fuss, but at least I don't have to bump the bruises on my back. I just hope we don't need any morphine before we return home as we now have none. I'm making do with the Tylenol for now. When I get home - and I can lock myself into the bathroom - I'm going to allow myself to cry a bit, I think.
MIB have joined up with us and we're all rushing to the wall of the city or fortress or whatever is behind it. The 'gate' is just an opening. There doesn't seem to be the usual physical barrier you'd expect.
"Does that seem a little too easy to you all?" Jack suddenly whispers as we walk through it, sticking to the edges and shadows as we do.
"Easy?" Daniel squeaks.
Jack says no more but we're now even more on our guard than we were before. P90s are in our hands, staff weapons for the Jaffa, of course. Jack signals for silence and he gets out his scope and looks around the corner of the thick wall before we emerge.
My heart is in my mouth again. It's beating hard and fast. He signals to keep low and to the walls, so we do, crawling out of what is in effect a tunnel and into what seems like a courtyard.
It's dark, dreary. No fountains or anything like that. To one side there is a large building that reminds me of a two or three storey barrack building and on the other side, what could possibly be the 'palace' complex, for want of a better word. This guy has obviously not been keeping up with Goa'uld fashions. The whole building is like the courtyard. Lifeless and dreary.
Are you getting a bad feeling about this? Daniel asks, speaking to DJ in sign language as he does. DJ nods as we all reply in the affirmative.
Which way should we go? I ask.
I'd say that way, he replies, pointing to the larger building. I'm getting a really bad feeling that I know what's going on here and I don't like it.
Do you want to share with the class? Jack asks.
Jack, look over there. What does that building look like?
He points to the smaller building and Jack confirms my thoughts that it could be barracks.
But there's no sign of life, Daniel continues.
Perhaps nobody's home?
Daniel nods that we should continue to the palace building and we all go, somehow knowing we're not going to like what we find when we get there.
Why aren't they at home? Daniel poses. The way I see it, there are two possible explanations.
As he speaks, he continues to sign to DJ and I see DJ answering him, at a guess the conversation we're having is being relayed and agreed with given the expressions on the androids' faces.
Go on, Jack instructs.
Either they all died out, that the Furies either didn't exist or weren't queens, or...
He pauses as we reach a doorway. Jack looks in before giving us the all clear to enter. The eight of us creep in as silently as we can, still sticking to the edges, taking it in turns to cover and lead, search and clear as we move along the corridor. It's got to the stage that we can communicate in our minds and do this without thinking or missing a step.
Or? I prompt.
Or what we feared has already come true. Hades has left the building.
Oh shit. If he's gone and taken his Jaffa with him... We need to warn Earth and the Tok'ra as soon as possible!
We can't do or say anything until we've found out what's going on. We need to know how long this place has been left empty. If indeed it is empty. There may still be others here.
Daniel's passing on a message from DJ, letting us know what MIB are thinking. They're right, of course. We need information and fast!
Priorities have just changed. We still want to find a larva, but we need to know what's happening here. Daniel's letting me know John's thoughts and he and I are in agreement. We have to split up, yet again. I hate this, I hate one of my kids going with him, even if he will treat whoever it is exactly the same as one of his own, as I will with his team, but I still hate it. However, none of us dare make a sound so this is the only way we can communicate.
Teal'c has gone with them. I think they've worked out a rota or something. We're heading off towards what Daniel says looks like a temple. If there is a stash of baby snakes here, that would be where it is. We hope.
MIB have gone to find any information that they can. They're looking for Hades' quarters as there may be some data there. Again, we can but hope.
Like Daniel, I'm getting a really bad feeling about this. If Hades has decided that now would be a good time to take over the universe, we need help. And the only help we can get is from Yu. Who is otherwise occupied with Svarog. They're not fighting yet, but they are most certainly not playing footsie, either.
We have to nip this in the bud; stop it before it starts. The sooner we get the information and get out of here the better. At least we've arrived at the hall at the end of the corridor which Daniel pointed to.
The temple? I ask.
Don't know till we go in, Jack. I'm only going on size. This door was the biggest one in the corridor and temples, or other 'holy' places - if the Goa'uld really go in for that sort of thing - tend to be fairly grand. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing before I actually look.
Then what are we waiting for?
Um, for you to clear us to go in? he grins.
Fine. Wait there.
I get the scope out again and open the door slightly before sticking it in. It's dark, so I can't see a great deal. Wish I had night vision on this thing. So far, so good. I pull it out, indicate to Kar Shel to come close.
"Can you hear anything in there?" I whisper.
He stares at the door as if that's going to help him. Who does he think he is? Superman? If they've got X-ray vision and John hasn't told me, I'm going to... Hell, no, I'm not going to smack him. That would hurt me more than it would hurt him.
While he listens in, I check in with Teal'c.
T, buddy. You found anything yet?
We have arrived at what appears to be Hades' quarters. Or at least the quarters of a Goa'uld, given the sarcophagus in one room. So far we have found no information but we are still looking. I will call you if we find anything.
Call me if you find an easier way out of here, too, I order.
He's broken the link; his way of signing off, I guess. Kar Shel has shaken his head, so he doesn't hear anything in there. That doesn't mean there isn't anything there, of course. Just that he can't hear anything.
It's as good as we're going to get so I put off putting things off and let the kids know it's time to go in. We open the door slowly and then fan out down the sides of the dark room.
We can only see about twenty feet ahead of us, but I get the impression - from the fact that I can't see a wall ahead of me and neither can I see the ceiling - that it's a lot, lot bigger than that. If there is anyone in here, and unless they've got night vision glasses or X-ray eyes, they're not going to see us, either. Sam's behind me, Kar Shel is with Daniel. Not sure how it worked out like that but it just seemed to happen.
Oh shit. Oh, good, and oh shit.
We've found the larval Goa'uld. That's the good bit. The shit bit is that it's being guarded by what looks uncannily like Daniel's version of a Fury. To paraphrase the immortal Timon and Pumba - man, is she uuugly!
Teal'c. Good news, pal.
What is it, O'Neill?
We've found the baby snakes.
There's a silence and then I hear:
That is indeed good news. What, then, is the bad news?
Did I say there was bad news?
You did not have to.
Damn, he knows me too well.
Yeah, well, we have a little incy wincy teeny weeny small problem to surmount before we get one.
What is that?
Oh, just a Fury on guard, that's all.
I see, he says after another pause. He's good at those, I've noticed. Do you wish to have any assistance?
Not just yet. I haven't figured out what we're going to do. But should the need arise, we're in the room with the big door at the end of the long corridor on the ground floor.
I shall bear that in mind.
Somehow, for a buddy, Teal'c doesn't sound so reassuring.
Anyway, can't concentrate on that, I have to concentrate on the fact that she's realised that she's no longer alone.
What are we going to do? Sam asks.
Jack, let me talk to her. I can distract her. You guys keep your guns trained on her. And a knife, just in case she's got one of those shield things. If Minos really was one of Hades' sidekicks, we have to assume that they've been keeping up with technological advances, so a knife would be really good.
Oh no, you're not going to talk to her.
Jack, we have no choice, especially not if we're going to find out what's going on. Kill her before questioning her and possibly our only chance to find out what's happening is gone!
Dammit! Why does he have to be so fucking logical?
Fine. Let Kar Shel know what you're up to. Carter, point your P90 in her direction. Preferably at her head. I've got my knife ready.
Kar Shel's aware of what's going to happen and he's going to have his staff weapon ready, too.
Take your weapon.
Jack. How stupid do you think I really am?
I am so not going to answer that.
We have discovered what appears to be an office, or centre of operations. There were some Jaffa here, but interrogating them proved impossible so we had to kill them. One was most surprised to find that he could not choke John. However, his surprised was short-lived... as was he.
The Jaffa all had a tattoo on their heads, as do all others, but it is not a tattoo that I have ever seen before. There are three wavy lines going horizontally and two crossing them vertically. They must represent the five rivers. I should mention them to Daniel.
We are trying to find data, but there are no pads or crystals apparent. DJ is touching some buttons on a panel, John is searching in the same manner that O'Neill does and Frankie is opening panels to look at the technology. Some things do not change.
I am watching the doorway. Where there were some Jaffa, there may well be more. I have passed on this information to O'Neill but he seems to be otherwise occupied. He has not yet called for assistance so we are continuing to look.
"Oh boy, it looks like Daniel is right," DJ suddenly announces. "Look at this."
Still watching the door, I make my way to the panel that he has been studying. It is difficult, but I have to read the words and watch at the same time. John notices my dilemma and indicates that I should concentrate on the information as he cannot read it.
"What does it say, Teal'c?" he asks.
I stare at the information and impart it.
"It is most definitely Hades," I say. "He has been building ships. It would seem that there is a moon orbiting this planet which is full of naquada. Or was. He has had a mining operation there for many years."
"How big is his fleet?"
"Larger than Anubis' fleet," I reply. "And it would seem that the mother ship is, as O'Neill would say, one big mother."
They laugh for reasons I am not sure about.
"I think we're in trouble," DJ finally says when he composes himself.
"I concur. What should we do about it?"
"Well, first of all we'll get every bit of information we can, then get the others, then get the hell out of here and talk to the Tok'ra. It would be a good idea to let the SGC know what's going on, too."
We all agree on this matter and continue to search for information. John has taken over sentry duties so that I can use my own expertise and look. However, I have my link open to Samantha so that I can keep track of my comrades in arms.
Okay, why do I let myself get into these situations? The Fury, for that is surely what she is, had called out to us to come out from where we were. I've emerged from the dark and now I'm standing a few yards from her, pretending to be on my own. I'm trying to work out why she was standing in the dark. To shed some light on the subject, if the pun is forgiven, I've switched on my flashlight and now I'm pointing it at her.
Now I see why she was in the dark. She's blind. Dammit. Logically I know that she isn't any less dangerous. The blood-red robe and the whip she's carrying which is, like in legend, shaped like a scorpion's tale, are a reminder to me to not let my guard down. And I dare not feel sympathy because she's blind.
I'd say I was curious as to how a Goa'uld would be blind but it's patently obvious. Her eyes were cut out. Whoever did it is someone I don't want to deal with.
"Who are you?" she demands.
"Oh, no one in particular. Who are you?"
"I am Alecto."
Ah, the relentless one. The others' names mean 'resentful' and 'avenger of murder'. Nice. Not.
"Where are Tisiphone and Megaera?"
"You have heard of us?"
"Oh yeah. Let's say your reputation precedes you, shall we?"
"Then you know that I am not as feeble as you may think."
"I know. I know... So? Where are they?"
"Here? On this planet? Or with Hades in his ship?"
She pauses as I drop that snippet of information. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that, but I know that the only way to deal with a Goa'uld is to appear to be in possession of more knowledge than them.
That's a thought...
Sam? Are you close enough to detect whether she is a snake?
Not yet. I'll let you know as soon as I find out.
Be careful. I don't want her to know I'm not alone.
"Why are you here?"
"Just looking around. You know how it goes. Exploration, finding out new things... we humans are curious like that."
"Human? From which planet?"
She freezes. Good, I've caught her off guard.
"Gaia? It has been many years since I was there. Are we still feared?"
"No. Not really. There've been a few changes since you were there. No one believes in the old gods anymore."
"Then they are fools."
"No, they're not. You're no gods, you're just aliens able to prolong your life with the aid of technology. Please don't pretend to be something you're not."
She's a snake, Daniel. I can feel it.
Thanks. Now get away!
"Who blinded you?"
Again, she freezes. Finally she spits out, "Hecate."
"I heard she's Hades' henchwoman."
"Henchwoman, whore... it is a matter of interpretation."
I try not to laugh but I fail. I can't help it. Infighting between the Goa'uld always makes me laugh for some reason.
"I take it she's not your favourite person?"
She says nothing but her facial expression speaks volumes.
"Is Hecate with Hades?"
"As ever. Stupid creature fawns over him, as if she believes he cares for her. All she wants is his power."
"So, she's going to kill him when he's defeated the remaining System Lords?"
"Are you always this perceptive?"
"It's been known."
Guys, I've got an idea. Don't shoot her unless things turn bad, okay?
Daniel? What in hell's name are you up to?
Just going to turn on the charm, Jack. Give me a chance, will you?
Let's just hope that Kar Shel gets the message via Teal'c and one of the other androids.
"I believe that she has that in mind," she purrs.
"It's not fair, is it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's obvious to me that you've been the loyal servant of Hades for all this time. You and your sisters. You've served him well, haven't you?"
Again she doesn't answer but her back straightens, as if she's proud of that.
"And when she kills him, what she's already done to you will be as nothing compared to the tortures she will put you through. I saw what happened to Apophis when Sokar had got through with him. It wasn't pretty. Hecate's got a worse reputation, hasn't she?"
For a moment, there's a frisson of fear across her face, which she then replaces with a smug look.
"She will not succeed."
"Ah. Your sisters know what she's got planned and intend to stop her, eh? Before or after she kills Hades?"
Yet again there is no answer, but I don't need one.
"Don't tell me. They'll kill her in 'revenge' for killing your lord and master, thereby gaining the gratitude and undying loyalty of his Jaffa."
She actually snorts. No, that's not a pretty sound coming from her.
"Tell me something. Which one of you is the queen? One of you Erinyes? Or Hecate?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, if it's Hecate, you're going to be in big trouble if you kill her. Within seven years, when all the Jaffa's larvae have matured, if you have no one to replace them they'll all die. The rest of the galaxy only has to wait until your forces are depleted and then it will rebel and the time of the Goa'uld will be over."
She's thinking about that. In a moment, if my prediction comes true, I'll get my answer.
"The larvae will be implanted. Another queen will rise."
"Possibly. If we let it happen. You see, the Tok'ra have a Goa'uld queen. You may know of her. Medusa."
"They have her?"
"Oh yes. And before too long, they will know what it will take to make a Tok'ra queen. There will be thousands upon thousands of Tok'ra Jaffa. The whole rebellion will have a future. Your Jaffa will die."
Daniel! What the hell are you doing telling her that?
JACK! Dammit, will you just trust me?
You know I do. I'm just confused.
That's the idea, Jack. Except it's her I want to confuse. Before long, you'll get your wish. Just wait till I give the word, please.
Okay, okay. Just hurry it up, will ya? I'm getting nervous. What if she's called in some Jaffa?
I don't answer that. I have to ask her a few more questions. You can usually get lots of information from a snake if you pander to their ego.
"Of course, if you or your sisters are the Goa'uld queens, then you're going to be okay. You won't have to wait for another queen to turn up, will you?"
"We will succeed," she snaps back.
In other words, Hecate's the queen, not them.
"Okay, I'll take your word for it. Right, it's time for me to go. By the way, getting here was a pain in the ass. Is there an easier way to the gate?"
She answers before she thinks.
"The ri..." Then she stops. Now I'm in trouble as I think she's just figured out what I was up to. I see her getting ready to act. Her hand twitches - the one with the whip in it.
I dive to the floor, just to be on the safe side. A staff blast, a shot from a gun and a knife fly through the air at the same moment. She didn't have a shield. Guess she thought she was safe here. Ew.
As I get up, Jack finishes her off with a zat so she doesn't get revived.
"Now, we move," he growls.
My gear is on the side of the room, I put it down before going to see her. In it is the flask we're going to use to take the snake. There is one of those glass aquarium things with all the squealing larvae in it. I put some of the liquid inside the flask and Kar Shel, the only one who can't get hurt by them, takes one out and puts it inside the flask. Jack, meanwhile, is up to something.
I was right. I can think of many different and better ways to spend a Sunday.
I don't know how Daniel does it, but he always does. If any of us were to question her we'd have got little or nothing from her. I think it's the quiet way he speaks, it lulls the listener into a false sense of security. Whatever it is, we have to move.
The sound of our attack on her has stirred up whatever Jaffa were left behind to do whatever it is they do here. I guess Hades wasn't thinking that there would be an attack from the inside.
Just as we get to the door the unmistakable sound of marching Jaffa comes our way. We hide in the shadows, weapons drawn, able to see the doorway and little else.
I hear some shouting, possibly the Jaffa is shouting for the snake but I can't understand a word of it. As the source of the voice steps through the door. We wait, just in case there are more. I think, I'm sure I heard more than one set of footsteps.
He shouts a one word order and... ow! He switched the lights on! Dammit. My eyes have grown so accustomed to the dark.
Don't put your weapons down! Jack orders. Teal'c, get someone to tell Kar Shel to be ready. We're going to get seen in a moment but we'll have a distraction. You guys, get ready to run. Find the rings. She said there were rings to the gate.
Come up to the second floor, O'Neill. God, it's good to hear Teal'c's voice in my head.
Okay, will do. Wait for it, kids. He's going to look for her.
Damn. He's spotted some blood near the tank. One finger runs through it and he sees it's still fresh. He turns around and we've been spotted.
"YOU! What have you done?"
Of course, he could be saying, 'Hey, do you want a drink?' but I don't think so. Besides, I've learned enough spoken Goa'uld to hear that while this isn't the same dialect that Teal'c speaks, kree is pretty much kree in any one of them.
Daniel's stepping towards him, his hands up. Why? Ah. He's blocking the Jaffa's view of Jack. There are three more at the door. I can't see any more than that. As surreptitiously as I can, I signal to the others what I've seen. I get a small nod from Jack and then he looks at the tank, looks at his hand, puts one hand on Daniel's back (Daniel is, of course, talking to the Jaffa and trying to placate him) and...
Kaboom! Yet another tank of larvae gets blown to kingdom come. Along with the mouthy Jaffa.
Of course, we can't stop and watch, we have three more to fight. Kar Shel and I shoot two of them with our respective weapons as Jack picks his up again and takes out the last. Just as Daniel hits the deck to avoid a staff blast.
"Daniel? You okay?"
"Oh yeah. Just love being the target."
"That's okay then. Just love keeping you happy."
For two guys that are supposed to be very much in love, sometimes I despair of them.
For the record, that was close. Too damned close. As in Daniel's gear got singed by the blast as he dived to the floor. Haven't got time to fuss over him now, that will have to wait until we get home. Where I fully intend fucking him so hard he's not going to be able to sit for a month.
Right, up the stairs. We're not looking for an elevator, we don't have the time. I tune into Teal'c and use our connection to help me find him.
T? Any more Jaffa I should know about?
That's good. You got all we need?
Good. So have we. Now all we have to do is get home and Draya'uc gets a new snake.
I know without getting an answer that he's relieved. We all are. But I'll be a lot more relieved when we get home.
Fuck it. Three sets of rings? WHY?
"I believe they go in different directions, O'Neill."
Thanks Teal'c. Stating the obvious seems to be something you excel at.
"The question is, where do they go?"
"How about sending a VCD in them?" Sam suggests.
"Good thinking. Do it. One at a time. I want to know where all three go."
"They will not go far. There is a limit to the range of transport rings. From a planet to a moon is about the maximum distance," Teal'c says.
That's good to know. What it means is that wherever they do go, it won't be outside this solar system.
Sam gets the VCD out and puts it down where I assume the first set of rings are. We're all on high alert, just in case there are more Jaffa here. I'm really hoping the theory that they didn't expect anyone here is going to hold out.
We look at the receiver and realise that this one is lost for ever. Just as well we have another. Only one more, so let's hope that it doesn't end up in space, just as this one has. As we watch, though, we see the familiar docking ports that orbit Goa'uld planets. So this one, I guess, goes to the mother ship when it's at home. It's not at home.
"What's behind door number 2, Sam?"
She shakes her head and puts down the last VCD. She steps back, flicks on the switch on her bracelet and operates the rings. This time, we get something far more interesting.
"Well... what do we do now, folks?"
"I guess we go look," Daniel shrugs.
"We must return to the Tok'ra," reminds Teal'c.
"Yeah, but if we can, um, borrow this ship, we can check it out and then fly it to the gate and go home."
"Assuming it's ready, doesn't have hordes of Jaffa... is fuelled up and raring to go..." I point out.
"The VCD indicates that the air is breathable," Sam puts in.
I look at John and he nods. Guess we're going up.
All eight of us are in the ring. It's a tight squeeze. Even though we didn't see any Jaffa on the VCD we're all standing in a circle, face out, guns et cetera at the ready. It's time to go.
Just like on the planet, this ship seems to be abandoned. It's as creepy as the palace, anyway. We waited for a minute or so near the rings but so far, we haven't come across any Jaffa or heard any footsteps.
Normally, Goa'uld ships follow the same sort of pattern, but this one looks different. There are no Egyptian hieroglyphs on the walls, it's not the usual gaudy decoration, but more functional, as if built by us.
"Anyone got a clue as to which way to go?"
They all shrug their shoulders.
"How about we split up?" John suggests.
"Oh no, I'm not going anywhere without my team."
Not this time. This swapping team members is all well and good but there are times that I just want them right next to me. Besides, I get the feeling that I'd end up without Daniel for some reason and at the moment, I want him where I can keep an eye on him.
"We can go in our own teams," he concedes. "There doesn't seem to be anyone around so we can use our comms units."
"Okay, I guess we can do that. You guys go that way, we'll go this way. Check in in every five."
I don't give him time to argue and lead my guys off to the right. I guess MIB are okay with that because John's taken them to the left. Got to love co-operation.
We must be on the bridge, or whatever it is they call it here. There look like control panels and so on. I leave it to the kids to play with the instruments to see what's what and keep an eye on the corridor outside.
"Jack? You hear me?"
"Sure John. We've found the bridge, I think."
"Is it clear?"
"Yeah. Nobody's home."
"That's because they're in the engine room."
"Ah. How many?"
"You can take them out, can't you?"
"Sure. No problem. But we're going to wait. DJ and Kar Shel are listening into the conversations. They say that these are engineers, finishing off some technical bits and pieces. From what they can hear, as soon as they've finished they're going to take this ship to meet up with Hades at a secret rendezvous."
"Dammit, there's always a secret rendezvous. Any clue as to where it is?"
"Uh, that would be a no. It's a secret."
Sometimes talking to myself is a pain in the ass.
"Okay, listen in, let them finish then kill them. I'll get the kids to look at the records. Hopefully there's a destination pre-programmed or something."
"I'd wait a while if I were you. Just in case their searching sets off an alarm."
"Good point. We'll wait up. Don't get caught, okay?"
I hear him laugh and then he signs off, telling me not to contact him unless it's an emergency. I dare say they can creep around well enough, so I agree.
"Okay kids, don't touch anything yet. Or rather, anything more."
They look at me in bewilderment, then annoyance. They've just found a new toy and I've told them they can't play with it. To stop them being too mad at me I explain why and they see my reasons. It helps that I've blamed John for not allowing them to touch things, too. They can take it out on him later.
"What have you found out so far?" I ask them.
"This is a ship like no other, Jack," Sam replies. "If what we did pull up is the whole story, this is going to be a formidable ship to come up against."
"Not if we steal it, it won't," I reply with a grin.
"Jack, we're six months away from home. We can't steal it and get the larva to Draya'uc in time."
Sam shakes her head.
"I think that this ship is a lot faster than that," she says. "A lot faster."
I'm getting a sinking feeling.
"I know where I've seen this technology before."
"And? So? But? Therefore?"
My blood freezes when she says, "The Asgard."
All of a sudden, the threat that Hades poses is far, far greater than we had previously assumed. While he was just another Goa'uld we knew we had a good chance of defeating him. But now, against Asgard technology, we will have much difficulty.
"We can contact Thor, can't we?" Daniel asks.
"We will," O'Neill confirms. "As soon as we get this ship away from here. Do you think that this is the only one?"
I shake my head.
"When we were in the room on the planet, we downloaded many different specifications, including those of the mother ship. Or mother ships. There was, unfortunately, no information as to how many ships there were."
Daniel smacks his head and does what O'Neill calls his 'annoyed dance'. I understand why it is so described. One of his feet is stamping and he is most cross.
"Daniel? What have you figured out now?"
"I know why this place has been more or less abandoned."
"What blueprints?" O'Neill's voice is full of frustration.
"Daniel, you are not making any sense."
"Remember I told you about the blueprints we copied for the Tok'ra? An unknown Goa'uld, building a new palace... It's got to be Hades, hasn't it?"
"None of the others are really going to be in a position to do anything, Jack. Hades is known to be rich and powerful. This new palace is going to be extremely expensively decorated. The only other two Goa'uld it could be would be Svarog and Yu, unless, of course, there's yet another up-and-coming Goa'uld... But there couldn't be. Could there?"
He looks at us as if to say, "Please say 'no'." I understand why.
"What you say makes sense, Daniel," I say in comfort, rather than in belief. I do believe that what he says makes sense, but I am not sure that there is no other Goa'uld ready to take power.
"We need to find his new base."
"Why would he be leaving this lovely place?" O'Neill asks sarcastically.
"It's a long way out of the way," Daniel sighs. "And he's always had this rep for staying underground and away from the action. If he could have found a planet which he deemed safe enough from the others, he could well have decided to move. If Hecate's been working on him, as it would seem she has been, then perhaps she wanted them to move above ground and away from the Furies."
A silence falls, O'Neill keeps looking at his communicator.
"Oh, um..." He looks at it again. "I'm just waiting to hear from John, that's all. It's taking a lot of time. Look, in the meantime, let's go check out the rest of the ship. We need to make sure that the Jaffa in engineering are the only ones left."
Reluctantly, we all pick up our weapons and start to search and clear each room that we come across. O'Neill is right. We do not want any further surprises.
I am frustrated; as frustrated as O'Neill. We have checked every floor on our side of the ship and now we are checking every floor on the opposite side, where MIB are still watching the Jaffa. John has contacted us once in that time and we informed him of what we are doing. He says that they seem to be finishing up, so we are awaiting his next call. They will attempt to eliminate the enemy without damaging the engines, as there is no way that we could repair them if we did damage them.
Samantha has informed them of the Asgard connection. I wish to know just how it was they got hold of Asgard technology. I pose the question to my friends and they wish to know the answer, too.
"The only thing I can think of is that they captured and extracted the information from one," O'Neill sighs.
"When we get control of this ship, we will have to see if we can scan the planet for any Asgard life-signs," Daniel adds.
"We will. Then we must return as quickly as possible to the Tok'ra," I remind them.
"Don't worry, T. I haven't forgotten that," O'Neill answers. "I never forget we're carrying one of those damned things."
This is all starting to make sense. At least to me. It's a pity that I don't seem to be able to totally convince the others yet, but that will happen. It always does.
We've finally got the call to get going. After sweeping the entire ship, we discovered only two more Jaffa in the galley area, who were putting away the last lot of supplies, by the looks of things. Needless to say, Jack and Teal'c took care of them. DJ and John are meeting Jack and me on the bridge; Teal'c and Sam have bolted down to the engine room to check over the technology first-hand.
The plan is that while we fly out of here as quickly as we can, DJ and I will go over all the information we can find as Sam and Frankie try to figure out how the hell the engines work. Before that, though, we'll scan the planet and the nearby moon to see if we can find the Asgard. If there is one, of course.
"No Asgard life-signs," DJ says after about ten minutes of looking. I've stored all the information about Hades' palace complex that I can get, and all of the mining operation on his moon and now we're ready to leave the solar system.
To be on the safe side, I've helped Jack plot a course which goes via gated planets - at least as best we can tell they're gated. If it takes longer to get to the Tok'ra than we suspect, we'll drop Teal'c and the snake off so that he can gate there and tell them what's going on.
"Everyone ready?" Jack asks.
We all report in that we are. My heart is in my mouth as I wait for the order. It comes all to soon.
But I can't help but smile as he points to the view screen and says, "Engage."