default style cream background and navy text

Free Spirits

fortean slime

Summary: Goo, dinosaurs and Pythagoras. An average day at the office for the guys ends up with a rather unusual outcome.
Thanks again to the gruesome twosome for the betas - much appreciated ladies.


Jack called MIB over and between us, we decided to go explore again. I think all of us are fed up of facing Goa'uld and spies and all of the hoo-ha that goes with it.

So we've done a random selection again and we got a lilac planet and they got a silver one. That means we get to look on the set of planets the Furlings were on, although we're not sure that it's exclusively them, and MIB stand a chance of meeting aliens who don't want anything to do with us. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing; it hasn't been so far.

We sent a message to Dad, telling him we're off exploring and not to try contacting us for a couple of days. He said that the move to the new planet is going well, especially as now they can trust everyone that's in the know. As each Tok'ra comes back from their assignment, they're being tested before being allowed to even enter their compound.

So far so good on that front, too. There haven't been any more spies or zaytarcs. He says they should be completely moved in the next couple of weeks.

We're off tomorrow. MIB are probably going tonight as when we went to the gate to send VCDs through to our destinations, it looked like dawn at theirs. It was dark in ours. We'll go back in the morning and try again. If it's still dark, we'll nix the address most likely.

So, now I'm off to bed with my teddy bear. He said he's considering growing a beard again. I just hope it doesn't turn out like that caterpillar he had before. And just how did he get a blond one? Without dyeing it, I mean. I'll give it a couple of days and let him know if it's starting to look silly.

Daniel admitted to me that he can't bear beards. He hates not being able to shave for more than a couple of days. I have no idea what Jack thinks about them, but I can't see him growing one as Daniel wouldn't like it. Aw, that's so sweet. Not that I'd tell him that!

"I must complete kel'no'reem, Samantha," Teal'c says as he emerges from the bathroom.

I hide my disappointment.

"Okay, honey. I'll see you in the morning."

He sits cross-legged in front of the fire, which isn't lit but there are a number of candles in the grate. As I lie in bed, he wishes me goodnight and then seems to shut his eyes, even though I know that they're not completely shut.

I watch him in the flickering candlelight, my own eyes half-shut. I don't think he has a clue how he looks to me. His skin is at once darker in the shadows and lighter where the flames dance near him, making him look bronze rather than chocolate - one as delicious to look at as the other.

It takes all my self-control to not jump out of bed and pull him up onto the mattress where I'd... Well, I'd better not even think about it.

Knowing the guys, however, they're not just thinking about it, but doing it. I have ample proof that they haven't calmed as much as they say they have. For the last week, Daniel's neck has been host to a plethora of bite marks. As there are no mosquitos or other blood sucking insects here, Jack really does have to take the blame. Lucky guy!


"Hmm, Daniel?"

"Yeah?"

He breaks off from mapping my body with his tongue. Which is kind of a shame but we do have a mission tomorrow.

"Much as I love this," I say with a sigh, "it's getting kinda late and we've gotta get up in the morning."

"Oh?"

He's trying to look like he didn't already know that. I think the answer to that is that he doesn't actually care, he's having too much fun. In fact he's gone back to what he was doing. Oh hell, what do I care? I can sleep when we get back. It's not as if we're scheduled in the same way we were at the SGC. We can start late if we need to.

"Daniel?"

"Yeah?" He looks up, a little annoyed that I've interrupted him again.

"Don't worry about it. Carry on."

He grins, I see his right hand raise and he salutes me.

"Yes, Sir," he says with a laugh, then he dips his head back down and carries on kissing every inch of my body.

-

I have no idea how long he's been at this for. Actually, I have no idea about anything. I think he has covered me with kisses and licks at least twice.

"Turn over," he orders, kneeling up and smiling kinda goofily.

"Can't. No bones."

He snickers and grabs my hips. The next thing I know, I've been flipped face down. He grabs something from the table, then picks up one of the pillows.

"Up."

"Still can't," I moan.

He's still laughing as he pulls at my hips again and then I find the pillow with a cloth on it underneath my crotch, holding me up. He pushes my legs apart, does the same to my butt cheeks and I'm glad my face is down in another pillow as I let out an involuntary scream when his tongue pushes inside me.

Bastard's still laughing.

-

That's it, I can't hold on anymore. He's fucked me with his tongue so much I think I'm being eaten alive. The rough cloth is rubbing against my dick and pushing me closer and closer...

He's stopped! WHY?

Ah, that's why. Oh yeah. Oh hell. Oh God. Oh my oh my. My honey's a big boy.

-

I'm in agony and ecstasy. Every time I get close to coming, he stops, changes his position, changes his rhythm and brings me back down before building me up again. I've got to come. It's either that or I'm going to die of frustration. Time to get my own back, so to speak. I push back a bit, squeeze my ass and...

"Nnngggaaah!"

And that was just him. I still haven't come.

"Daniel? Please!"

He's panting like crazy as he rolls me onto my back, takes one look at my dick which looks like an extra big radish, puts his hand on it, gives one jerk and at fucking last, relief!

I'm staring at the ceiling. I think it's the ceiling. I couldn't say to be sure 'cause I think I just went blind. Wha'ssa? Oh, the cloth. He's cleaning me up. Just as well, really. Now he's flopping on the bed next to me.

"Danny?"

"Yeah?"

"C'mere."

It takes all his strength but he wriggles into my arms, sticks his head on my chest and he's out like a light. Think I'll follow him.


We have dialled up the planet and are now looking at the display. Daniel says that it looks almost primordial, but at the same time, there are distinct signs of life. Samantha confirms that the air is most definitely breathable, there are many trees and other plants, so evolution of some sort has occurred.

"Do we go through?" O'Neill asks.

"May as well, Jack," Daniel replies. "There's something about the scene in front of us which is begging investigation, but I can't put my finger on what it is."

O'Neill looks at Samantha and me, silently asking our opinions.

"I see no immediate threat," I confirm.

"I'd like to take some samples," Samantha adds. "I see what Daniel means. There's something about it..." She waves her hand and shrugs.

"Okay. Go get your toys, children. Teal'c, come with me."

Samantha and Daniel don't know whether to be annoyed with O'Neill for his teasing or to play up to it. In the end, they hold hands and skip back to the house.

"One of these days, O'Neill, you are going to find yourself in deep trouble," I warn.

He shrugs. "Pfah! Like I haven't been before. Besides, it keeps things interesting."

"Things are not interesting enough without you courting pain?"

He laughs. "Probably. But I live to wind Daniel up, you know that."

"Unfortunately, I do. Please remember, however, I have to live with Samantha. I do not live for you to wind her up."

He raises his hands. In surrender? Perhaps he is telling me to relax. For his sake, I hope it is the former.

"Where are we going?" I ask.

"To get some weapons."

"We are not expecting trouble," I point out, although I heartily agree with him that we should take some.

"True."

"What do you wish to take?"

"P90s, zats, bows, your staff weapon, knives, explosives... Anything else you can think of."

"Do you wish to take the personal cloaks?"

"We could put them in our gear," he replies. "Just in case. Don't expect to use them, though."

"If there is no obvious need, I would suggest we leave them behind. There have been occasions when we have had to leave a planet without our packs. Samantha would have great difficulty in procuring the items needed to make more should we lose them."

He thinks for a moment then agrees with me.

"You're right."

"Are you experiencing nervousness about this mission, O'Neill?"

"No, it's not that," he shrugs. "Just don't like being underprepared, ya know?"

"I do indeed. However, I feel that weaponry, provisions and survival gear will suffice."

We go to the tunnels where the others are picking out the scientific things they will need. O'Neill and I pack the military things. When we are done, we will all return to the kitchen and pack food and water.

"Will we need to take tents?" Daniel asks.

"Are you planning on staying overnight?" O'Neill responds.

"Planning on it? No. But you know how these things go. Probably would be a good idea."

"Okay," O'Neill sighs. "Take two."

-

Everything is ready. We have as much as we can carry. The gate is open, a last check of the VCD tells us that nothing has changed from our previous look and we get ready to step through. I shall go first, Samantha and Daniel will follow, O'Neill shall bring up the rear. I do not think that the scientists realise quite how unsure O'Neill and I are of this place. There is, as they say, something about it which is not quite right. That makes us nervous.


Okay, primordial soup - check. Palaeozoic plant life - check. Mesozoic animal life - check. Cenozoic primates?! Where the hell did they come from?

"Daniel?"

"Yeah, Jack?"

"Tell me something."

"Anything specific or something in general?"

"How about why you're doing continuous 360s with your mouth wide open?"

I stop looking around and look at him instead.

"Can't you see it?"

"See what?!"

"Over there!"

"It's a lake. Or pond. Or something."

"It's the something that's of interest here, Jack."

"Why?"

I look at Sam and see she's as astounded as me.

"You see it, don't you, Sam?"

"Oh yeah. This isn't possible. At least, not in Earth terms it's not possible."

"Will someone please tell me what's not possible and why?" Jack barks.

"Okay, okay. The gloop in the pond," I point out. "That's most definitely not the gooey hot mud springs we've seen on any number of planets. It looks just like the amino acid-filled 'soup' that's thought to have started life on Earth, and who knows how many other planets we've visited. I've seen it before on missions with the SGC. It's what we think was on Earth during the Archaen era, about three and a half billion years ago."

"Yes, and?" he asks, a bit more impatiently.

"Jack, the first plants didn't evolve on Earth until the Silurian age, about 430 million years ago. That's an aeon later. Quite literally!"

"So, we have gloop and trees and that's a problem?" he asks.

"Yes! It's a problem. And that's only the beginning."

"Why?"

"We have Mesozoic animal life here, Jack. The sort that turned up in the Jurassic age except they're a lot smaller than the dinosaurs we're used to..."

"DINOSAURS?!"

"That was only about 200 million years ago." I continue as if he hadn't interrupted me. "And yes, dinosaurs, but if you look over there," I point at a swampy area about a half mile away on the other side of the gloop, "they're only little, as if they haven't had the time or the environment to grow big."

"So life evolves here pretty quickly?" he tries.

"Quickly?! That's impossibly quick. But the icing on the cake is the evidence of Cenozoic primates from the Tertiary period. In other words, just before human timescale. That's a moment ago in geological time."

"Are you telling me there are humans here?" he asks, his fingers reaching for the trigger of his gun.

"Well, apes, for sure. Look over there in that area. If that's not a great ape, I don't know what is."

He looks where I'm pointing and sees it. The primitive orang-utan-like ape is looking at us and is now retreating to the forest next to the fern 'field'. But there are no flowers and there are birds but few insects. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

"Right, pack it up," Jack orders. "We're going home."

"NO!"

Both Sam and I yell at him and he looks a bit shocked.

"We can't!" I say. "We have to find out what's going on."

"No we don't. We can let the SGC know."

"Absolutely not. This isn't on the SGC's list, Jack, and no way am I sending someone else into a situation I wouldn't deal with myself."

"They've got more people and more equipment," he argues, ignoring the location issue. "We give them everything we've got on this place and they'll be as ready to deal with it as we are. Better even."

Sam?

Yeah?

Do you want to go home?

No.

Me neither.

Jack looks at us again and I can see frustration in his face. Right, time to revert to toddler time.

"You can go, I'm staying," I say deliberately. If he pushes it, I'll stamp my foot.

He's looking at Teal'c now, I dare say trying to persuade him to be on his side. If Teal'c's got any sense, he'll stay out of this one.

"Fine," Jack snaps. "But when things start going wrong, don't you dare complain. I warned you."

Is he going home? I don't want him to. But I can't back down now.

"I won't. Besides, if you're not here, you won't hear me complain," I snipe back at him.

"I didn't say I was going, did I?"

"You don't want to stay. I won't make you."

"Don't you want me to stay?"

"Did I say that? No, I didn't. I just said I wouldn't make you stay. I'm staying. It's up to you whether you stay or go."

I don't let the conversation continue. It's getting too close to a fight for comfort. Instead, I walk towards the gloop. I think we need to take samples. Sam's right next to me as we walk.

"That was a close one," she whispers.

"Yeah. Don't know where that came from."

It only takes a few minutes and we're at the edge of the pool.

"Uh, Daniel," she warns, "don't touch anything. I have no idea what's in here and I don't want to take any chances."

"Okay. Do you have anything to hold a sample pot?"

She laughs, puts on a pair of disposable gloves and digs out a pair of short barbecue tongs from her pack and takes the lid off the pot. Using the tongs, she scoops some goo up and carefully puts the lid back on it.

To make sure no goo from the outside of the pot touches anything, she puts the pot inside one sealable plastic bag and then that inside another. Then she takes the gloves off by peeling them downwards, and puts the inside-out gloves into another couple of bags. We can't be too careful, especially as we know that something odd's going on here.

"Neat," I praise. I'm not surprised, though; many a scientist's bag contains strange household items. One of my archaeology friends used to have a car radio speaker in hers, because it contained a huge magnet. Great for finding small iron items in long grass or mud.

She puts the sample in her box and then we look around.

"Want to go to the forest?" I ask.

"Let's go!"


Jack and Teal'c are following us. Jack isn't saying a word, which is unlike him. We're walking around the pool and towards the forest, taking our time as Daniel and I keep spotting things that just look out of place. Sometimes it's finding small mammals where reptiles should be, other times it's finding a deciduous tree in prehistoric ferns.

Teal'c?

Samantha. Is anything wrong?

Lots of things are wrong, honey, but nothing personal.

Then what is it?

Is Jack all right?

He is just worried, my love. He is afraid that something will happen to you both.

Ah. Well, despite nothing being right here, I don't think there's any inherent danger.

Neither do I. If, however, I feel that something is wrong, I will say. I will also expect you to support me.

I agree - what else can I do? But I really don't think there's anything dangerous here. Maybe something... curious? Perhaps that's it.

"Daniel, what do you feel about this place?"

"Curious," he replies without thinking.

"Yeah. Me, too. Do you think we're being watched?"

"No, I don't get that feeling. Do you?"

"No. But there's something I can't quite put my finger on."

Just as we reach the edge of the forest, we hear a rumble.

"Thunder?" Jack asks.

I look up at the sky and shake my head.

"Not near..." I'd continue but I've just realised what's going on. "The pool! Look!"

The pool is moving. It's literally just shifted about twenty yards away from us. I can't be sure from over here but I'd say it went over where we were standing near it. As we watch, we see grass start to pop up from the mud it's left behind. Where the grass had been - on the previous edge of the pool, small ferns seem to take over.

Right next to us we hear more animal noises and turn and see small mammals, more evolved than before. I look up into the trees and notice that the ape looks more like an orang-utan than before; less primitive, more like it's reached its maximum evolution. However, it's still about as small as a gibbon.

"I... I..."

We look at Daniel and see that he's getting that expression he makes when he's figuring something out.

"Daniel?"

"It's the opposite of the fountain of youth thing on Remoc," he says suddenly. "Look. The soup or gloop or whatever you want to call it, seems to be passing over the planet's surface. But instead of regenerating cells, this time it's encouraging rapid evolution. I wonder how long it's going to be before it moves again?"

We all shake our heads as we haven't got a clue.

"Do you think it was here when the Ancients put the gate here?" Jack asks.

Daniel shakes his head this time.

"I don't think so. I'd guess that the pool was thousands of miles away. This place was probably only a rock."

"So why would they put a gate here?"

"I don't know."

Daniel's as confused as the rest of us. I don't know if that's comforting or not.

"Can we learn anything?" Jack pushes.

"Lots of things," he replies. "But..." He starts to walk back towards the pool.

"DANIEL?" Jack calls as he picks up speed.

"I think we'll find out this way!" comes the reply.

Jack looks at us and we shrug. I guess we're going back where we came from.


I do not like this place. It's giving me the creeps. Even I know evolution takes many, many thousands of years, but here it's happening before our eyes. What's comforting me a little is that none of the animals are any bigger than a large dog - though large dogs can do a lot of damage so my finger is most definitely on the trigger.

"Whatever you do, stay away from the goo!" I call out to Daniel. "I don't want you evolving into something else!"

He stops, looks at me with his face screwed up, then he smiles a bit and nods sharply. Okay, that means he's figured me out and agrees with me. That's a relief.

Dammit, he's jogging. It's as if he knows there's something on the other side of the pool. We can't see the far side of it, the side that wasn't yet touched by rapid evolution, it's around a huge pile of rocks.

"Come on," he calls. "What if the pool moves again?"

"Stay at least forty yards away from the edge!" I order. "Just in case."

He moves further away and we follow him, just a few feet behind him now. It reminds me of boot camp, all this running with full gear. I need a rest.

"Up here!" he calls, pointing to the rocks. "I think we'll find what we want to know at the top of it."

"Daniel, hold up," I call back. "We need to take this carefully. Don't want any accidents."

I see him counting to twenty in his head as he stops and looks at me but he does back down. I understand. He's excited and curious, and that often pushes him to rush in where angels fear to tread. But he also knows that I don't want him, or any of us, to become "angels" in our quest for knowledge, so he'll allow me to guide him up.

Just as well we brought our climbing gear. Some parts are steep. It's not a cliff face, thank God, but I want us all roped together and gloves on our hands to stop us tearing the skin to shreds.

-

It's taking an age, but we're nearly there. No one is talking, not even mentally. I don't think we really know what to say. This place is too weird for words.

Finally, we're there. Oh my God. What the hell?

"Uh... It's not a mirage, is it?" Daniel asks quietly.

"I don't think so," Sam replies. "I mean, if you're seeing what I'm seeing."

"If you're seeing what looks like the ruins of a settlement, then yes," Daniel answers.

I guess that answers that, then. That's what I'm seeing, too.

"But HOW?!"

He looks at me with a stunned expression.

"How the fuck should I know?"

"I suggest we descend and survey the ruins," Teal'c says. "Perhaps there will be a clue there?"

I guess that's as good a plan as any.

Before we can answer him, though, there's another rumble. We look down and see that the pool has moved about another twenty yards towards the ruins.

"How much time was there between this movement and the last one?" Daniel asks.

I check my watch. "Two hours."

"Any idea how far those ruins are from it?"

I get out my binoculars and check with the range finder. It's about 355 yards to the ruins. I dig out my old, unusable digital watch which has a number of great features for a flyboy and a quick check on it says we're at 260 yards altitude. The edge of the pool is currently in line with where we are now, so it's making a right-angled triangle, give or take.

A quick calculation (admittedly using the calculator which is also on the face of the watch) and I announce, "It's roughly about 240 yards. We have just under twelve hours from now, assuming it's always going to move in this manner."

When I see their stunned faces, I have to say something.

"What? You think I can't do a simple calculation?"

"We didn't think that at all," Daniel soothes. "Just you were so quick with it, that's all."

Yeah, right. Well, I was a pilot for crying out loud! Besides, you don't get a masters degree in aeronautical engineering without being able to use Pythagoras. Sheesh.

"Well? You coming?"

I start off down the other side of the rock face. Reckon we should get down quicker than we got up. The path looks a lot easier. When we come back, we can go the long way round and stay on the flat - assuming the gloop doesn't get in the way in the meantime.

Pythagoras, Jack?

I hear Daniel's voice in my head. He sounds amused.

You think I didn't know it?

I know you know it. It's just not like you to admit to knowing things like that.

I have to look at him and I can see his eyes twinkling.

Tell you what, I tease as we descend further. When we get home, I'll tell you all about the Gaussian theory of curvature and the differential geometry of structures if you like.

He stops dead and grabs my arm.

"YOU KNOW HOW TO MAP?!" he screams.

Well, duh. Lesson number one as a pilot. Never, ever, trust a navigator. Especially one who can't tell his ass from his elbow. I learned to map early, not long after I found myself running out of fuel somewhere over Arkansas. I should have been over New Mexico at the time. I knew I should have turned left over Oklahoma, but he did insist...

"Not map per se," I shrug, lying through my teeth. "Just a bit about the theory of curvature. It's not the same thing."

"But..." He glares at me. "You know how to do proper projections, don't you?" he accuses.

I shake my head. "Hell no. I can read maps, I can draw up flight plans..."

No way am I telling him that I got into the theory of global map projection and worked out how to draw proper maps. Not after all the hours he spent doing his own maps of Annwn. Well, I wanted him to enjoy himself!

I turn and carry on down the hill, rocks, whatever. I'm not sure if he's unhappy because I know more than I admitted or happy because I know more than I admit to.


O'Neill seems to be pushing his luck again. None of us have ever taken his 'dumb' act as seriously as others do, we know he is highly intelligent. However, knowing what he knows is difficult, even for us. Daniel knows more about his knowledge than us, but even he doesn't realise just how far it extends.

I am not sure why Daniel suddenly shouted about O'Neill's mapping ability but undoubtedly they had had a private conversation. I look at Samantha and she grins as we hear them bickering during the descent. I, however, am tiring of it.

"Enough! If you wish to argue, you can do it when you get home. For now, we need to concentrate on our mission."

They say nothing but continue descending in silence. Perhaps they are arguing telepathically. I do not know and neither do I care, as long as I do not have to listen to it.

-

We are at the bottom of the hill of rocks. It took us a lot less time to go down, fortunately, and it will only take us a matter of minutes to reach the ruins.

These ruins bother me as much as they bother the others. There is something not right. Why should they be there? The rest of the planet, at least the part where we are, seems to be primitive. These are most definitely ruins of buildings built by advanced beings, of at least twentieth century Tauri level.

Daniel is practically running up and down the ruins, looking at each wall and pillar, for what reason, I am not sure.

"Daniel!"

It would seem that O'Neill is equally unsure.

"WHAT?"

Daniel is perturbed at being called to stop.

"What in hell's name are you doing?"

"Looking for clues! What do you think?"

"At that speed?"

He stops and stares at him.

"Do you want to hang around here longer than necessary?"

O'Neill stares back.

"Well, no! Of course not. But what's running got to do with it?"

"There's a lot of ground to cover," he looks at his watch, "and less than eleven hours to cover it, if you want to get off this planet before the goo reaches us. I'm looking for something with writing on it, or pictograms, or anything like that! You guys could help, you know."

I do believe we have been given our orders.

"Daniel. What do you want us to do?" I ask.

"Just look for what I said. If you see anything, call me," he taps his head and I understand. He would like to see it for himself so we can send the images telepathically. "I'll let you know what to do then."

"Very well. O'Neill, perhaps we should spread out?"

"I don't want us to separate," he replies. "Fan out, but stay in sight of at least one other person. That's an order, Daniel," he growls.

Daniel looks like he is about to argue when he suddenly stops and nods.

-

We have checked many walls and pillars but so far, we have found nothing. Since we started, the pool has moved once more and is due to move again soon.

"Dammit, Jack, we have to get inside one of the remaining buildings," Daniel argues.

This argument has been going on for some time. O'Neill is distinctly disturbed by this town, if that is what it was. I cannot say that I blame him. It disturbs me. Junior is also disturbed. Perhaps I should mention this.

"Daniel. My symbiote is becoming most distressed."

"Oh? Do you want to leave?" he asks.

Perhaps if I say 'yes', he will be encouraged to leave himself.

"I think that it would be better for me to go sooner rather than later."

"Okay. Why don't you take Jack with you?" he prompts. "Maybe then I'd get something done here." With that, he turns back to one of the complete buildings and looks for a way in.

That did not go as planned.

He is being most stubborn, O'Neill.

Ya think?

I do.

He looks at me as if he wishes to hit something. I should advise him that I do not make a good target.

What do you wish to do, O'Neill?

I'm thinking of shooting him. Maybe that'll get him away from here.

Perhaps. But I think that he would make your life a misery if you were to do that.

I get a look without further thought from him that suggests that Daniel is more than likely to do that anyway.

I suggest you let him look inside one building. If he finds nothing, then deployment of a zat could be considered more safely.

Okay, okay. One.


I don't know what the hell is up with Jack. He's been acting strange ever since we got to this planet. He's finally conceded that looking in one building is a good idea. Teal'c's standing guard at the door, Sam's with me and Jack's looking over our shoulders driving us insane. Just like the good old days, eh?

"Daniel, I think I've found something."

I move to where Sam is and see what she's found.

"Writing?" she asks.

It's familiar. More than familiar.

"The Furlings," I say with a grin.

"But... The writing isn't the same."

"It's very similar, though. But the writing is less angular, more cursive. That's a natural progression for writing systems. They start out with more straight lines. Um... Think of how Latin was written. Block letters, easy for carving into stone and marking on wax tablets. With the development of simpler writing tools, we got the more rounded writing we have now.

"Look at this character here," I point out a single character I recognise. Instead of four straight lines with right angles, it's more like an elongated 0. "I'd say the sound of it but I'd probably need castrating to be able to say it accurately."

"I can arrange that for you," Jack mutters.

"Cut off your nose to spite your face, would you?" Sam teases.

"Perhaps I'd rather have him home and safe. Perhaps his dick means a lot less to me than you think it does and I'd go without that just to have the rest of him," he spits.

Ouch.

"Hey! I'm fine, we're fine, there's no hint of a threat here and no one's castrating anyone, thank you very much. But if you don't stop bitching at me, Jack, I may well reverse that."

I put my hand out to him, trying to make up.

"Jack, what the hell is wrong with you? We've been in many more dangerous situations than this. And before you say, 'how do you know?', I'll say that we've also been in situations where we've known less than we do now.

"We have a timeframe, I'm trying to work as fast as I can to accommodate that. We're not under fire. There was no threat apart from failing technology on the Furlings' ship, so I'm not anticipating any threat here. Having said that, my eyes are well and truly open. So please, stop it. Let me do my job and we'll be home before you know it."

"There's something wrong here," he says, looking at his boots. "I can feel it."

"Okay, fine. I'll be as quick as I can. But we are looking for these people, Jack. We might get a clue where they are. Or even if they've disappeared completely."

I get out my camera and record all of the writings we find. Sam's looking at the desks. There seem to be scientific instruments here but we can't work out what they are.

As I look around this room, I see why it's one of the few left standing. It was built to last in a way the others weren't. Having looked at the other structures, I'd say they were living quarters and this - and probably the others that are more or less whole - were laboratories, deliberately made stronger in case something went wrong.

Which I don't point out to Jack because it'll make him even more nervous than he is already.

"Ooh!"

I turn and look at Sam and see she's opened a drawer. I hadn't even seen a drawer there, so it must have been hidden.

"What's in it?" Jack asks.

"I'm not sure," she replies. "Data crystals?" She takes out a crystal from the drawer and holds it up to the light.

"Probably. But unless we find something to put it into, we won't discover what's on it," I point out.

Jack finally gets involved in the search and starts to look for something which a crystal could go into. Sam's taking them all out and putting them in a bag. If we can't figure it out here, perhaps the Tok'ra or the Asgard - probably more likely the Asgard - will know what to do.

I leave them to it and record every single word I can find. The more I can find, the better the translations will be. I've completed the translations of what we have from their ship, but language progresses and this could be as different as Old English is to modern. That means I'd have an idea, but not a great deal more than that.

There's another rumble. Time is moving on.

"How long do we have left?" I ask.

"Six hours," Jack replies.

"Where the hell has the time gone?" I mutter, continuing to record.

Jack's still jumpy, but he's keeping quiet, letting me get on. I still don't get it. I can't see anything here that poses a specific threat, except for that goo.

"O'NEILL!"

The three of us run outside at Teal'c's voice and see why he is so worried.


The pool moved again. But it's closer than we expected.

"It's downhill!" Daniel shouts and we all look at him in amazement that we were so damned stupid. Of course it was going to go further downhill!

"Right, pack it up," Jack orders. "And I don't want any arguments from you, Daniel," he warns.

"You're not going to get any," Daniel replies. "I was working on the fact that we had time, but we're out of it. I'm not stupid, you know."

He turns to go back into the building.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Jack yells.

"To get my stuff," Daniel replies, still going in. "I'll be out in a moment."

Jack looks like he's going to blow his top so I step in.

"It's not moving much," I point out. "We have time. Not much, admittedly, but let him get his things and we'll get out of here." I'm just glad I still had my gear on my back and that I'd put whatever I could pick up in it.

"Right, got it," Daniel announces as he comes back out. "Now we have to find our way past that." He points to the pool which seems to have spread even wider.

"The gate is in that direction," Teal'c says, pointing towards the hill we climbed earlier. The pool is already in front of it and seems to be spreading wider and wider, following the contours of the land.

"Do we go on the gate side of it?" Daniel asks. "Or the opposite side of the pool? I only ask because the long way round is on higher ground. It could be safer, if more time-consuming."

Jack stares at the obstacle, then he looks around at the ruins. We watch as he scoots up some rubble and gets as high as he can. He's got his glasses out and he's surveying the area.

"Daniel's right," he calls. "That way."

He points to the high ground and we wait for him to descend, then we start for it.

I think about what we saw in the room as we walk as briskly as we can towards safety. Despite the technology being totally alien to me, there was something most familiar about it. Parts of it reminded me of...

"A biology lab!"

They continue walking but I get questioned none the less.

"A biology lab?" Daniel asks.

"Yes. I'm sure that's what it was."

"That could make sense," he replies. "Some of the words looked like older Furling words for 'life' and 'evolution'."

He stops dead, then shakes himself and continues walking.

"Daniel?"

"Um, sorry. I just wondered..."

"What?" Jack asks in frustration.

"I'll get back to you on that one, when I've had a chance to look at the recordings. But I'm getting an inkling."

Which is more than I've got, so I'm glad someone has a clue.

It's going to take hours to get to the gate. We have to climb to the top of this hill as the side is just too slippery. We could stay lower but it would take just as long and in the end would prove more dangerous. The only way we can be safe is to go up and over the hill, then come down it on the easier side well past the gate, almost as far as we went earlier this morning. Which could prove interesting as we have no idea what has evolved there since we left.

I'm getting the feeling that things get to a certain maximum evolution and then stop, but then what the hell do I know about evolution maxima, especially alien ones?

What's surprising me is that we had an Earth-like structure. We've found prehistoric landscapes on a number of occasions in the past, but we have no idea how old the planets actually are - they may have reached the most optimum animal life stage for them whereas dinosaurs died out millions of years ago on Earth.

And who's to say that on some planets, dinosaurs didn't take over from mammalian life as the 'ruler' of the planet? I certainly wouldn't dream of saying it and I doubt most scientists would, either, as it's not something we could prove easily, one way or the other. So why is this planet going the same way as Earth?

None of this makes any sense.

-

Great. Just great. Now it's getting dark.

"What are we going to do?" Daniel asks, obviously picking up on the fact at the same time as me.

We're near the top of the hill but it's a long way down and not something I want to do in the dark.

"We should reach the top and then make camp for the night," Teal'c says.

I look at Jack and see he's not happy but that he's going to agree.

"Yeah," he says, sounding pretty ticked. "Better get there quickly."

We pick up our pace and move as fast as we can up the hill.

"We should be safe up there, Jack," Daniel encourages. "The goo isn't anywhere near us."

I'm not sure Jack is convinced that it won't change direction. I can't see it happening, somehow, it's seeming to follow the shape of the land, like any liquid. But then why is it moving every so often? Like I said before, none of this makes any sense whatsoever.


I'm liking this place less and less. I can't say why, which is driving the others nuts. I can't blame them. If I had a good reason, if there was something I could put my finger on, they'd understand me and listen to me. I'm hoping that my sense that something was wrong has already been played out with the time thing going wrong. I've been kicking myself for not noticing it before. I mean, why didn't I notice the land sloped?

There's another rumble and I get out my glasses and look down at where the pool has moved.

HUH?!

Okay, that is not possible. It's just moved sideways and it was definitely not downhill or flat. It was uphill.

"Right, that's it, we're out of here!"

"Jack, I see why you're worried, but we can't. It's getting dark quickly. We don't know the terrain. We could slip or fall and it's far enough down and rocky enough that one or more of us could get killed or seriously injured. We have to stay."

I listen to Daniel and know he's speaking sense, but I want out of here.

"Fine. But we set up watches. As soon as we're at the highest point, set up camp, make something to eat, then get some rest. I want us packed up and moving at first light."

They all agree with me then we finish our walk in silence. We have to walk single file, there's enough space to safely walk like that but not in twos or more.

I get out the burner and light it as soon as we arrive at our destination. The others get the tents up as I start to cook. Don't know what made me bring MREs on this mission, but I raided our store of them. They don't take up as much room as our usual food does. It doesn't take me long to boil up some water for drinks and so on.

Daniel sits next to me and reaches out tentatively. Can't blame him. I haven't exactly been very friendly today. To try to make up for it, I take his hand and squeeze it for a moment. I know I've made a mistake when I let go.

"Daniel, I'm not mad at you," I say, trying to get him back on my side. "I'm just on edge, that's all."

I see him trying to calm himself, to not snap at me. I guess he's on edge too, but for different reasons.

"Why?" he finally asks.

"I wish I knew. There's something about this gloop. It's like it's got a mind of its own. You saw it. It went uphill. I mean, why is it moving all the time?"

The others have joined us now and we start to eat our rations and Daniel makes the coffee.

"You know, I've had a thought," he says. "I think the goo was created deliberately."

"WHY?" Okay, I've heard some weird things in my time, but this takes the cake.

"Just because none of this makes any biological sense and because of the words I was able to read in the lab, if that's what it was. Of course, they could have set up a lab to study a naturally occurring phenomenon, but we know the Furlings were into genetic engineering. I'm wondering if this was an experiment that got out of hand."

"Could this have been their main settlement?" I ask.

He shakes his head.

"Way too small. At a guess, I'd say it was something like the Alpha site, or a scientific outpost. That's the feeling I got when we were there." He sighs, then says, "I wish we could go back. There are a couple of other buildings that I want to look inside. They were still more or less in one piece. If the one we were in was a lab of some sort, they might have been, too. We could learn a lot if we could find a way to access the information on the data crystal."

"What if we go back to their ship with a naquada generator?" I suggest. "You could put the crystals in the readers there."

Sam shakes her head. "I don't think it would work. For a start, I'd have to interface two completely different technologies. Now, I know I've done it before, but this one is completely alien to me, there's no help for me - because without the power, Daniel won't be able to access any technical data which would tell me where to connect things."

"And besides," Daniel sighs, "what's on this is what I assume to be modern Furling - or more modern than on the ship. There's every chance that the technology changed, too. After all, it was only a matter of a few decades really between the wax cylinder and the DVD."

I could point out that it was a good hundred years, but that would be pointless as I know what he's getting at. Even in the short human timescale, a hundred years is a blip.

"So you want to go back?" I ask, dreading the answer.

"When the goo has moved on," he replies with a grin.

"If it moves on," I point out. "After all, it moved sideways this time. Up the hill." It doesn't hurt to remind them of that fact. "If you're right and the Furlings were behind this shit, perhaps it's gone around the planet and has come home."

Okay, I know that sounds kooky, but all of this sounds odd, so why saying anything else that's crazy should be odd I don't know.

What makes it worse in a way is that the others see my point and agree.

"Well, at a guess, the goo is going to move three to four times before it's light enough for us to move," Daniel says. "We'll have a good idea which direction it's going in by then."

-

I've done my watch. Daniel did the first one. He needed time to think and I know he looked over some of the recordings he'd made. Can't wait to find out what he found out in the morning.

I watch him sleeping the sleep of the innocent. Ha! Innocent. That's a joke. And yet...

Daniel has an inbuilt na´vetÚ, kind of like a mental safety blanket. He knows that there's a lot of evil out there. Knows it better than most. He also doesn't trust easily. But he's always the first to give the benefit of the doubt to people he's just met, hoping against hope that he won't be let down. No matter how often he's let down, he continues to do that, wanting to be proved right. So, yeah, he's innocent in that sense of the word. The question is, would I want him to change?

He'd probably be safer if he did. But do I want him to be as jaded as me? Probably not. He wouldn't be Daniel if he was. So it's up to me and the guys to let him believe the best of people and watch his back.

I lie down next to him and even in his sleep he turns to look for me. I can't help but smile and reach out, pull him into my arms, and for the first time today, I relax as he snuggles into me, completely obliviously as he's out cold.

-

"Did you discover anything last night?" I ask as we sit eating breakfast.

"Yes and no," he sighs. "I'm pretty certain that we're right about it being a lab and it having something to do with biology and evolution, but it's going to take me a while to work out exactly what they were working on. Given the position of the goo this morning, I'm more at a loss than I was last night."

Ah yes, the goo. Not only did it start to go uphill yesterday evening, it continued to climb. We're eating fast. If I didn't know better, I'd say the goo was heading in our direction. I know better than that, though, don't I? Huh?

"Clear up, let's go. Maybe we can come back in the future. Even in a couple of days. Give the gloop time to move on," I say.

I still have this need to get away from here. It isn't right - nothing is right.

A roar in the distance reminds us that this place is full of strange animals and I see the others move slightly faster than they were moving before.


We are descending the hill, moving towards the gate. Between the hill and the gate appears to be a swamp in one part and grasslands in the other. We are heading to the grass, even though that side is closer to the pool, which looks to me like it is doubling back on itself.

"Is it moving towards us?" Samantha asks as we reach the bottom of the hill.

As she speaks, there is a rumble and the pool moves again. We see that it is most definitely closer.

"Er..." Daniel says. "I think we need to get out of here, now!"

We speed up, starting to run towards the gate, but find that the going is slow. The grassland is wetter than we expected and the mud is sucking us in. We cannot slow down, if we do, we will sink.

I grab Samantha's hand and pull her along with me. I see O'Neill do the same to Daniel. This is a good idea. If one of us starts to get stuck, the momentum of the other may well stop any further sinking. I am pulling Samantha as hard as I can. I need to get her away fast.

We overtake the men and I call out to them, "Hurry! We must reach the gate before it touches us."

They do not answer, but I hear their breathing get harsher.

Get out of here! O'Neill calls. Whatever happens, get the hell out of here!

We cannot leave them. There is no reason we should.

Move faster! I call back. Daniel, do not let yourself get stuck.

I'm trying! he returns. Get Sam out of here!

I'm not leaving you guys, she cries out.

None shall be left behind, I insist.

There is a distinct air of panic, now. We are closing in on the gate but the ground is starting to rumble yet again. This time it is more violent and Samantha loses her footing. I bend down, lift her up and as I do, I see behind me that the pool is getting closer still. O'Neill has fallen, too, and Daniel is pulling him out of the mud, getting more covered in it himself, as am I. I am also getting a bad feeling about this mud. Why, I do not know.

-

Finally, we are at the gate. Daniel is slamming the address into the DHD and we all mentally count the chevrons as they engage. Three... Four... Five...

The ground shakes again and the pool moves yet closer. One more move and we will be covered by it. We instinctively know this would be a bad thing.

Six... Seven...

At last, the gate has engaged. The ground is continuing to shake as the wormhole forms and we all stumble as we dive through it.

-

It is with a great sense of relief that I realise we are all home and that the gate has shut down.

"Well," O'Neill states. "That was unusual."

We all look at him in shock. Unusual is an understatement.

"Fucking strange," Daniel mutters, then he stomps back towards the house, shouting that he needs a shower, as do we all, and that O'Neill should get his ass in gear and accompany him towards theirs.

"Samantha. I do believe that Daniel is right. As we all need showers, it would be most sensible for us to share, don't you think?"

She looks up at me, her face covered in mud, and smiles. I cannot help but think she looks most beautiful like this.


Jack seems to be relieved that we're back. I can tell this because having scrubbed me, he pushed me up against the wall, lifted my legs around his waist and now he's fucking me insensible. Oh yeah, hear me complain. Not.

The only downside to this position is that we can't kiss easily. I need to kiss him.

"Jack, stop."

"Huh?"

"Just a minute. Please."

He reluctantly pulls out of me and I grab his face in both my hands and kiss him, eat him more like. To underline how much I need this, I push him up against the wall and hold him there, kissing him and kissing him, not letting him go for a moment.

Eventually, I think we need to get back to what we were doing before and I break away, grinning hard. Then I turn around and face the wall, then look over my shoulder and say, "Well, what are you waiting for? I said I wanted to stop for a minute. You can go back to what you were doing."

He growls - a noise which never fails to make me shudder - and then I feel him kicking my legs apart and moments later, he's pushing his cock inside me again, not taking his time but fucking me hard.

Oh yeah, so damned good.

-

I've spent a good couple of hours working on the recordings. Sam's gone up to the big ship to see if she can find any hint of technology up there that will allow her to interface with the crystals. I'm really hoping that I find some hint of where the Furlings went. The more I find out about them, the more I'm convinced that they can help the Jaffa. But the more I find out, the more confused I get, too.

I'm sure that this is 'modern' Furling, at least more modern than the first version we are more familiar with. I'm trying to reconstruct the old letters from the new, so that I have a more rapid 'conversion chart' ready, to help me read this new form more quickly. As I'm working, I see more words that convince me that the goo we encountered was man, or rather, Furling-made.

The more I think about what happened there the more I'm sure that it was no coincidence that we were followed by the gloop. But why? The only think I can think of is...

Daniel? Dinner time.

But...

But nothing. Get your ass up here now.

Okay, I can always try my idea out on them over dinner.

-

Jack cooked. I'm usually suspicious of that, but not this time. Teal'c has been with MIB, reporting on our mission and enlisting their help in figuring it out. They'll be over later and Frankie will assist Sam with the crystal problem. DJ can help me with the translations. We really should get that done twice as fast.

"So, how's it going?" Jack asks as we eat.

"I'm getting more convinced that the goo was made by the Furlings, that's for sure. And I think I have an idea about why it followed us."

"Oh?" Sam looks up at me, her eyes open and sparkling as if she's really excited by the prospect of me having a clue.

"I'm wondering if it was made to look for new life. Or perhaps, and I know this sounds a bit crazy, but all of this is crazy anyway, there was some inbuilt intelligence in it."

"Intelligence?" Teal'c asks, sounding shocked.

"Yeah. The goo was moving steadily, every two hours it went twenty yards in one direction. But, when we went in front of it, and it landed on ground we'd walked on, it suddenly changed direction as if it was looking for us. Being a liquid, it shouldn't have had any ability to move uphill, but it did. However, it still had problems following us when we were up the hill.

"When we descended, though, we were back in its range. It moved further and more rapidly, directly at us, as if we were prey. If we hadn't had the gate to escape through, I think it would have literally chased us all over the planet. We have no idea if there would be oceans in the way. There could be a land path completely encircling the globe, for all we know."

"I'd like to take the ship back to the planet and scan it from space," Sam says. "I looked at the address and we could get there on Mia in a day. I'd use that ship because frankly, I'm not used to the scanners on the big ship yet. I know what I'm doing on Mia."

"Don't we have the scanners on the big ship?" Jack asks.

"We have mapping scanners and technology scanners, but I don't know if we have bio-scanners like the ones on Mia."

"Okay, I don't see why we can't do that," he agrees, surprising us all. "You, Teal'c, Frankie and Kar Shel can go over there. I'd prefer it if you took the big ship, though. Put Mia in the cargo bay. You'll get there quicker, you'll be better protected..."

He stops talking and concentrates on his food. I think he's feeling a touch embarrassed about being so protective, but after what happened, we're not surprised at his attitude. It's a mark of how much we were all thrown by the idea of intelligent goo that none of us is arguing with him.


I've never seen Jack so damned quiet. I don't know what it is. We're home, we're safe - I know he and Daniel did whatever it is they do after a scare. I mean, I can imagine what they did, but the details aren't clear. The only thing that is clear is that Jack hasn't gotten over it, yet.

Dinner is over, MIB have arrived. I've gone back up to the big ship with Frankie and we're searching through the Asgard technology, desperately searching for a way of reading the crystals.

I've told her about the mission, and Daniel's ideas, and she's as stunned as I am. As Daniel said, sentient goo - or at least goo with intelligence - is pretty strange, even for us. But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced he's right. I want to get to that planet and find out more. If only we could...

"WOO!"

Frankie looks at me in shock and I have to laugh.

"Sorry, I've had an idea, that's all."

"Oh? Are you going to share?"

"Yes, but whatever you do, don't tell Jack. He's shaken enough by this as it is."

"Okay, promise. What's the plan?"

With a grin, I tell her.

-

We've decided to go tomorrow morning. The area around the gate on that planet is working at a similar timeframe as our home on Annwn, so if my plan is going to work, we'll have light to work by. As an excuse not to go now (because it will only take a matter of a few minutes to get there in this ship), I've told Jack that I'm feeling tired and want an early night. He's accepted that, wanting me to be alert when I'm away from home.

Frankie is going to tell Kar Shel our plans and I'll tell Teal'c later, or even tomorrow. I don't want Jack getting wind of it because I don't want him to say 'no'.

I'm feeling excited. I've just said goodbye to MIB at the gate and I'm walking back to the house. Tonight, everything seems a little bit clearer than normal, as if my senses have woken up. I'm aware of the animals in the woodland in a way that I usually am not. I think that's because I'm looking forward to tomorrow. It's normal to see more and hear more when your mind is active, and mine is very active at the moment.

Daniel's sitting out on the grass, which is a surprise. I'd have thought he'd be back down in the tunnels, working on the translation.

"Hey, Daniel." He looks up at me and smiles. "What's up?"

"Nothing," he shakes his head. "Just thinking."

"What about?"

I sit on the grass next to him and enjoy the remains of the evening sun.

"Oh, the Furlings," he says, picking a blade of grass and twisting it through his fingers. "I mean, I feel like I'm getting closer to knowing them. They're curious people, the lab is confirmation of that. They're risk-takers. Again, look at what happened on that planet, and the fact that they were prepared to build a generational ship to look for a new home. They're probably brave. Most likely peaceful."

"Why do you say that?"

"We didn't detect any weaponry on their ship, there were no booby traps on the planet..."

"Ah. But that could mean they're na´ve, too."

"True." He looks at me and grins. "What do you think about them? What do you think they look like?"

"I'd say they're humanoid, if only from the way they built their technology. It's designed to be used by beings with hands."

He nods.

"Makes sense. Their living quarters on the ship looked like basic houses we've seen on many planets, whether populated by humans or aliens. So they're humanoid," he reiterates. "What colour will they be?" he asks. "One of the human shades? Or something else? Green? Grey? Pink?"

I laugh - I can't help it. Joking, I say, "Purple."

"Purple?"

"Yeah. With green stripes."

He starts chuckling, then he laughs out loud. "And I thought I was strange!"

There's no answer to that, so I just join in with the laughter. It feels good to laugh.


I hear the kids laughing and can't help but smile. I was so damned scared back on that planet... No, don't go there, O'Neill. It's over and done with. We're home. They're safe. That's all that matters.

"O'Neill."

I turn and look at Teal'c and wait for him to speak again.

"Will you now tell me why you were so anxious and why it is still affecting you so?"

I let out a deep sigh.

"Ah, Teal'c, I don't know if I can."

"You can. If there is a reason, you can."

I smile at him, trying to work it out for myself. The thing is, I'm not really sure what the answer is. I haven't been so scared since...

Dammit, that's it!

"O'Neill?"

"Uh..." Do I tell him? Ah, what the hell. I don't have anything to prove to the big guy. "Let me get a beer," I say, heading to the fridge. I pop the cap off one of the precious beers I brought from Earth and then sit down at the table. Teal'c sits across from me and waits patiently.

"It was a mission, years ago. We were in the jungle, looking for a bunch of guerillas who'd taken some civilians hostage. Man, it was hot. Sticky. I didn't like it, I kept getting rashes from the sweat. But we needed to move, those people's lives depended on it.

"I was leading. We didn't have a local guide because a lot of the locals were in league with the guerillas. Those who weren't were too scared to get involved. So we had a rough location from intelligence pictures, compasses and maps, and that was it. It was before GPS was used a lot."

He says nothing, just listens to my words. It's good to tell this story, I think. Maybe it'll stop the nightmares.

"Anyway, I was watching around me, looking for signs of guerilla activity, wild animal tracks, listening out for snakes and so on and I missed something important."

"What was that?" he asks when I stop.

"Quicksand."

"Quicksand?"

"Yeah, you know, really watery earth. You step in it and next thing you know, you're up to your neck. It caught me off guard and I forgot my training for a moment, started to panic. Of course, that's the last thing you should do. Instead of remaining calm and trying to lie down, to bring my legs up so that I could float, I tried to 'swim' back to the solid ground. It seemed to be alive.

"Every time I moved, it dragged me further down. I guess my team were with me in seconds, but it seemed like an hour. They got a rope around me, pulled me out and that was it. We found a river, I got cleaned up. When my clothes were clean and dry... well, dryish, I put them back on and we carried on with the mission."

"You took no time to think about what had happened to you?"

"There wasn't any time," I shrug. "The mission was successful, we took out the guerillas, rescued all the hostages... By the time I got back, I'd more or less forgotten about it."

"Until you saw the pool on the Furlings' planet."

"What do ya know?" I say - trying to sound light-hearted but probably failing. "I didn't even think about it when we were there."

"Yet your previous experience told you that something was not right and your insistence on constant vigilance quite possibly saved our lives. For that, I thank you."

I raise my beer to him, acknowledging that.

"You should tell your story to Daniel. He will understand."

"Nah, he's got enough on his mind."

"Do you not trust him?"

"What's that got to do with it?"

"You do not wish to appear weak to him," he states. "You feel that by admitting to a fear of such ground conditions, you will not be the man you are."

"No way."

He looks me in the eye - and I think I detect a bit of a twinkle when he says, "Way."

Way? Where did he get that from? Never mind.

"Daniel will not think any less of you, and you are fully aware of that fact, O'Neill. I do not think less of you, so why should he?"

I shake my head, not sure how to answer that. He's right. And I guess I do owe Daniel an explanation for being such a pain in the ass out there.

"Fine, I'll tell him. Happy now?"

"I will be. I will check with him in the morning."

-

Okay, I told him. We're in bed, he's now cuddling me close. I'm so fighting him - not.

"Thanks for telling me," he whispers, kissing my ear. I guess that's the closest bit to him. "It must have been terrifying for you."

I'm not sure if he means the quicksand or the goo. Whatever.

"Yeah. It wasn't a walk in the park, that's for sure."

He hugs me again and then tips me onto my back. "Want me to take your mind off it?"

Oh, decisions, decisions...

-

I have never once come with just the tip of a tongue touching the head of my cock. Not that I came the moment he touched it, I hasten to add. He spent ages, just tickling it, dipping his tongue into the slit, licking gently around it. He did nothing else. Didn't have to. Shit. I'm never going to live that one down.

He's still laughing. Bastard.

Time to get my own back, I think. I wonder what the tip of my tongue can do to him?

-

Heh, heh, heh. He's not laughing now.


We are on the large ship and flying towards the planet. It will not take us long. Samantha has told me her plan and I do not like it, but I do understand it. We have Asgard transporters on this ship. It is time to make use of them.

She has scanned the sample of the goo and we are awaiting the results. It would seem that the Tok'ra scanners have never seen anything like it.

"We're there."

Frankie has called out and we all prepare to do our jobs. Firstly, we must scan the area near the ruins. We are using the bio-scanners on Mia for this purpose. To allow the small ship to do its job, I am flying it out, Samantha by my side. Frankie and Kar Shel are remaining on the other ship, acting as protectors in case of trouble. Not that we are expecting any, but it does not hurt to be overcautious.

"The goo has moved past the labs," Samantha calls out. "It's only about a hundred yards further on, but if you keep a lock on us, I don't see why we shouldn't succeed."

I fly Mia back inside the ship and then we head for the peltac.

-

Kar Shel is reluctantly staying behind. The two women are needed down there, as they will know what to take. I am going with them because I have been there before and know what to look for. I will remain on guard outside the laboratories, watching out for any hint that the pool will return for us.

The transporter acts and moments later we find ourselves on the ground. Samantha rushes into the laboratory she had previously visited and, if all is going according to plan, she will use her location to tell Kar Shel which items to transport back to the ship. Frankie has entered one of the other buildings to do the same.

I am watching the pool avidly. It does not seem to have noticed us. If it could. Daniel's thoughts that it detected us only when it reached land touched by us make more sense than it being able to 'see'. Having said that, it knew which way we were going. Perhaps it has some ability to 'smell'. If that is the case, we need to move quickly.

If it appears to detect us, Samantha and I will have to retreat. I surmise that Frankie and Kar Shel will be safer as they are not living organisms in the same sense that I am one. Although, I do not understand their make-up, so perhaps even they would not be safe.

Samantha has emerged from the laboratory and she is smiling.

"All of the tech has safely got up to the ship," she announces. "Which way did Frankie go?"

"In there," I point out. "You should hurry. I do not trust that pool."

"Agreed. If it comes to it, we could try to use the tech scanners on the ship, but I still don't know my way around them well enough. We could end up with things we don't want or need."

She takes off quickly and follows Frankie into the other building. I am glad she has company. I do not like her being on her own.

-

They are in the final laboratory. I am getting a sudden feeling of uneasiness.

Samantha. You should move more quickly.

Why? Is the pool moving?

No. Not yet. But I am... It is moving! In this direction. Near to you!

They are in the laboratory closest to the pool. I start to run in their direction, wanting to hurry them up. I do not think the pool will wait for two hours to move again.

"Samantha! Frankie!"

"In here! Come look at this."

I run inside a second room in the last building and see what they are staring at. It is a large machine, the purpose of which is unknown to me.

"Indicate its location to Kar Shel," I order. "We should get out of here now."

She sends up the signal and the machine disappears. Frankie calls out that she has finished filming and as we prepare to transport up to the ship, we hear another rumble.

"OH MY GOD!"

Samantha's voice attracts my attention and I see why she is calling out. The liquid is pouring inside the building.

"KAR SHEL! NOW!" I shout into my communicator.

The liquid gets closer and closer...


Poor Jack. No wonder he was so stressed out on that planet. At least today he's a little more relaxed. Not totally, though. He won't be relaxed until the others are home.

The world looks cleaner this morning. That sounds weird, doesn't it? But it's like I'm wearing glasses after years of myopia. I wonder if I need my eyes checked out again. Perhaps they're playing up again. Maybe they were going short-sighted and now I'm getting used to the range of vision. It could be that I'm not looking far enough ahead. I should try that.

But then that wouldn't explain how I know where all the local wildlife is. Weird. I guess I'm as on edge as Jack. Yeah, that's it.

"The gate!"

DJ shouts out and we all go to the woodland to our vantage point. We're not expecting anyone.

Daniel, can you see anything?

I look at the gate and realise that despite my fears, I can see all the way over there.

The gate's open but... hang on... it's...

I break my cover and run to the gate, grinning like a moron. Paul is astounded when he is greeted with a huge hug, but he returns it.

"Are you on your own? What are you doing here? Is everything all right? Oh my God. Is Hammond okay?"

"Daniel, whoa!" he shouts, putting his hands up and laughing. "I'm on my own, the General's fine, everything is great and you're about to find out why I'm here."

"Sorry," I say, letting him go. "Sam, Teal'c and their MIB counterparts aren't here, but DJ and John are with us."

"Oh good. It's actually news for them as much as for you guys."

Hang on, something's wrong.

"Paul? Something's up. What is it?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You're hiding something from me. There's someone... You're seeing someone?!"

"Are you suddenly a mind reader?" he asks, astounded.

He's not the only astounded one. I look into his eyes and all of a sudden, I get his thoughts, his emotions... He's glad to see me, misses this guy terribly, wants to tell me all about him but I already know. Oh fuck. I'm totally telepathic.

"JACK!"

"I got it," Jack says, sounding shaken.

"You too?"

"Yeah. Great. Not."

"How in hell's name?"

"That fucking GOO!" he screams, kicking a piece of wood. "DAMMIT!"

"Jack, calm down. We dealt with it before."

"But that was just us, dammit."

"I know. We'll learn. Why didn't we pick it up before?"

He looks at me as if I'm stupid. "Because we already had it with each other and they," he points to a stunned-looking DJ and John, "aren't human."

Crazy as it sounds, I keep forgetting that. The magnitude of this dawns. "Oh fuck. It's not going to be limited, is it?"

He shakes his head.

"Will you two please tell me what's going on?" Paul begs.

"Oh, yes, sorry. Come on, let's get to the house. I need a drink. A large one."

With a sniff, Paul shrugs. "Seems like some things never change," he says, and wanders up to the house.

I look at Jack, he looks at me, then he preens. Sheesh. One track mind.

-

"Um, Paul, what I'm going to tell you now is a total secret. Jacob doesn't know, George doesn't know. In fact, outside the eight of us, Thor and another Asgard, you'll be the only one to know."

He looks at me and I can hear in his mind, Well? What the fuck is it? although his face gives nothing away. Just as well I already know that his outward demeanour is usually nothing like what's going on inside him.

I tell him about the quest. He already knows about the mission, just not what happened at the end.

"You're telepathic?"

"Until now, we were only connected to each other. We've been around loads of people and there hasn't been a single thought from any of them. I'm definitely thinking it's the goo," Jack answers.

"The goo?" Now Paul looks very confused, poor thing. "What is this goo?"

I give him a quick rundown of the latest trip and let him know what we think about the intelligent slime.

"Ew. Sounds messy. And you came into contact with it?"

"Not directly," Jack says.

"We fell," I point out. "Into a muddy section which the gunk had been on before."

"There must have been some left," DJ states.

I don't need telepathy to know that Jack's thinking 'congratulations Einstein. Get a Nobel prize for stating the obvious.' DJ doesn't, either. He pokes Jack in the arm, then, to be sure, does the same to John.

"How are you going to deal with this?" Paul asks, trying to get us back on track.

"When it hit us the first time, it took us about twenty-four hours to adjust. I mean, I'm not listening to Jack's mind all the time..."

Probably an act of self-preservation, Paul thinks.

I fight down a laugh, praying that Jack didn't hear that. Paul picks up on my amusement and starts to blush.

"But I can contact him with a thought," I continue, trying to keep my face straight. "Same with the others. It's like switching a radio on and off."

"So you're doing that with me now?" he asks, staring into my eye.

"I'm trying," I say, shrugging. "Like I said, it takes time. I'm sorry, Paul. I had no idea this was going to happen."

He lets out a deep breath.

"It's okay. It's not like you're going to spill my secrets to the universe, are you?"

"We're not?" Jack asks. "Damn."

This time Paul pokes him. I think Paul's glad Jack's no longer a colonel.

"Come on, tell us why you came here. I haven't actually picked that thought up," I encourage. I got an idea, but not all the details. Better to let him think he has some secrets.

"We've found what looks like a shipyard," he says, getting an envelope out of his bag. I see he has some clothing in there. I say nothing for the moment, but I'll wait until we get some time together. "The problem is, it's in space. The only way to it that isn't from space is via the gate and some transport rings."

He shows us a MALP picture of a Jaffa heading towards it, ready to shoot. There's what looks like a naquada mine in the background and definite ship-type parts being manufactured on the ground, ready to be transported up to a big one.

I look at the Jaffa's head and see a symbol that looks familiar and I point it out to the others.

"Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle," Jack mutters.

"Wouldn't that be a touch incestuous?" Paul asks innocently.

Jack does a double take and I try not to laugh. Nice one, Paul.


For the record, that was close. Too close! We were nearly swamped with the sludge before Kar Shel was able to beam us up. Apparently the transporter has to be reset. You learn something every day.

It'll only take us a minute or ten to get home and I, for one, can't wait. Frankie found a lot of writing on the walls and she filmed it all for the Daniels. I found what looks like a data crystal reader. If I can interface it with the Asgard translation technology on this ship, it'll save a lot of Daniel's time. I mean, it's one thing translating everyday words, it's quite another translating technospeak.

I'm sure I can manage it. Thor did say that there was a manual with this thing. It can't be that hard, can it?

-

"We have arrived."

Kar Shel's voice comes over the communicator. Teal'c and I are going to fly Mia down, they're going to ring down. We don't need to use the rings anymore, what with the Asgard transporter, but we're kind of used to them. And truth be told, the Asgard transporter always leaves you feeling like part of your stomach has remained behind. Even the androids feel like that!

We have a ton of tech on the big ship... Dammit, Daniel's really going to have to think of an appropriate name or I will. And I don't think they'd appreciate it being named after my first motorbike, either. Ethel got her name from the license plate letters, honest.

-

On the way down, I got a call that I should stay on the ship. Teal'c, too. I wonder what the hell is going on?

-

I'm telepathic? Oh boy. Oh hell! I mean, I don't want to be. I work with my dad! I don't want to know what he thinks.

"Sam, calm down," Daniel says, putting his hand on my arm. "It'll be okay. We'll learn to control it. Paul isn't freaking out about having his mind read, but you have to promise him that you'll keep your mouth shut. Better still, don't even mention that you're hearing anything you do hear."

"Of course. Poor guy. I mean, how embarrassing."

"Fortunately, Paul is hard to embarrass completely. He's tough, he can take it."

"Yeah, well, he went out with you. He'd have to be."

"Hey! That's not nice."

He's laughing at me as I leave the ship, a very pensive Teal'c on my heels.

-

Paul's shown the rest of us the pictures from the MALP. He's right, it does look like a shipyard. Teal'c and Kar Shel have confirmed it, too. And confirmed the others' thoughts on the Goa'uld behind it.

Hades.

This could be just the place we were looking for. If we can find other ships being built that are like ours before Thor got hold of it, then MIB, Earth, the Tok'ra... Maybe we'd all be able to have one.

"What do you want us to do?" Teal'c asks Paul.

"Do? Check it out. Take it out. Slow up his production..." he starts.

"Take it out?" Jack interrupts. "Not yet. Eventually, sure, but not yet."

"Until when?" he asks.

"Until they've built enough ships for us to... purloin," he replies with a grin, looking at the rest of us.

Paul shakes his head in bewilderment when we all grin back.

"How many?" he asks.

"At least two. That's if Earth wants one?" Jack offers.

"You think I need to answer that?" Paul replies. "But promise us, promise me you'll be careful. The mission brief is to acquire intelligence and to stop Hades building more there. If you can do more than that, then great. If you can't, don't worry about it. We're better off with him not having them, whether we get any or not."

"Understood," John replies for all of us. "Trust me, Davis, our number one priority is us."

None of MIA say anything, but I know we all heard, Thank God in his mind.


Daniel's starting to think that this telepathy thing may become useful. After all, he speaks many languages. If he can get into people's heads, listen to what they think, even if they think in some weird tongue, he can pick it up. He'll need to practise.

I think there's more to this telepathy than meets the eye, too. Or rather, there's more than just the telepathy. All day, I have been feeling stronger, more alert. I'm wondering...

"Guys, how have you been feeling today?"

"Great," says Daniel. "Terrific," adds Sam. "I feel no different," says Teal'c. "And I do not believe that I am telepathic as I cannot hear Major Davis' thoughts."

"You can't?"

"I cannot."

"Wow. You know what this means, don't you?" Daniel says.

"That he didn't get slimed?" I say. Well, someone had to.

"I did," Teal'c replies. "Most copiously."

I really have to stop that word of the day thing Daniel does with him.

"Junior," Sam shrugs. "Junior stopped any of the effect. Teal'c probably only got the initial telepathy because Tiwaz specifically wished him to. We didn't try the fountain of youth thing out on him because he didn't need it so we don't know if Junior would have affected his age being reversed. Perhaps it's stopped him..."

"Stopped him what?" I call. "I mean, what the hell is happening?"

"Evolving," DJ calls out. "You're evolving. You weren't there long enough for it to go too far, so this is as far as it goes. Extra telepathy, maybe a bit stronger. Shouldn't be more than that."

"I wonder," Daniel mutters. "We were communicating telepathically when we got covered. I wonder if that had anything to do with it?"

There are shrugs all around.

"We may be able to find out," Frankie says, a bit sheepishly.

"Frankie?" John growls. Then he looks at the others. "Oh, you didn't, did you?"

"We weren't there long," Sam puts in. "Just enough to pick out which tech we wanted."

"Sam, what about the pool?"

I'm getting a bad feeling about this.

"It came after us but we didn't actually touch anything this time."

"But you stood on ground where it had been?" I push.

"It wasn't wet!"

I can only hope that that's what was behind it. Please, God, let that be behind it.


We have all gone back up to the ship. Major Davis has come with us and he is looking around in awe. Daniel has taken him by the arm and is showing him around.

In the meantime, we are all heading to the technology we took from the Furlings' planet. Samantha and Frankie are looking forward to studying it.

"Sam, has the scan finished on Mia? I mean, the scan of the goo?" O'Neill asks.

"I'd forgotten about that!" she exclaims. "I'll go back down. I'll come straight back."

She takes off back to the rings and I go with her. I do not want her to touch anything. If it appears that I am immune to the effects, then it would be better that I dealt with it.

As we step inside the rings, she grins at me expectantly. I nod, press the button and we go directly to Mia.

-

"It's finished," she says as she looks at the readout. "Um, Teal'c, is that saying what I think it's saying?"

"If you think that it says nanotechnology, then you are correct."

"That could explain it," she states. "But look at this. They're not like the ones we saw on Argos."

"They are not?"

"No. They're not like mini-computers, they're biological."

"Biological? Is that possible?"

She looks at me in astonishment. "Not with the level of technology that we're used to, but apparently, that's what they are. I knew the Furlings were ahead of the game when it came to this sort of thing, but bionanocytes are something else! Do you know what this means?"

"I do not." I rarely know what she means, but also I rarely admit to it.

"It means that these are definitely the people we need to look for. If they can programme living organisms to evolve other living organisms, recreating immune systems will be a piece of cake."

I am most comforted by this information.

"Then we should step up our efforts to find them."

"Oh yeah. I can't wait!"

Neither can I.

-

We have rejoined the others and have informed them of Samantha's discovery. She has also reassured O'Neill that the sample is safe behind a force-field. He is insisting on the sample either being "zatted into oblivion" or returned to the planet. He does not wish there to be even the slightest chance of it escaping. I must admit to agreeing with him. Samantha is not happy with the idea, but she is not arguing.

Frankie has managed to connect the crystal reader and Daniel is reading it out loud in English.

"Daniel," I call out. "I did not realise that you were so fluent in Furling as to be able to read it so easily."

"I'm not," he says, stopping suddenly. "But..." He smacks his head. "I'm recalling what I've written. I mean, I can do that anyway, but normally, it takes a moment. This time it's even faster. More fluent."

"You mean you're even smarter than you were before?" Major Davis asks in shock.

"Well, I don't know about smarter. Just more able to recall details." He looks at Samantha. "What's the atomic weight of ununquadium?"

"289," she replies straight away. Her eyes open wide. "Okay, that's odd. That's something I knew because I've read it, but I've never once said it."

"I've never heard of it!" O'Neill states in frustration.

"Element 114 on the periodic table," Daniel mutters. "But that's not the point. The point is, our recall is phenomenal."

He screws his face up, then asks O'Neill, "Right-angled triangle. One side is 14, another is 25. What's the hypotenuse?"

"28.65 to two decimal places," O'Neill snaps back. Then he looks at us. "Wow. I just..."

Daniel looks at him and then at the rest of us. "I guess we are getting smarter," he mutters.

"Hey! Don't you think I could work that out in my head?"

"Well, yeah. But not that fast. I mean, none of us could do it that fast. Apart from that lot," he says, pointing at MIB.

Major Davis still looks astounded. Then he asks with a grin, "Hey, got any of that slime stuff going spare?"


It's been a long day. The information I was able to read was so full of technical blurb that it's going to take us a while to figure out. When Sam told us that she believes it's bionanocytes that caused this, Jack made us go back to Mia to get checked out. We seem to have some in our systems, but Sam says they're not replicating. It looks like we'd have to stay on the planet, which could mean there was a power source down there that prompted the change.

Sam promised that they didn't take anything that looked like one, but high on the priority list tomorrow is checking out what's on the big ship. We've checked Teal'c and Paul for them, too, to see if we've affected them at all. Neither of them seems to have picked any up. Yet. I did point out to Teal'c that Jack got attacked by the ones on Argos after having sex with the teeth on legs. Yuck. He's going to have to be careful when he's with Sam.

He promised to check out the effects tomorrow morning. I'm thinking Sam's in for a good night!

Jack's talking tactics with John, and DJ and I have kidnapped Paul and we're finally getting a chance to talk to him alone. I have no idea where the others have gone and at the moment, I don't care.

It's early evening and the sun is still up but starting to go down. We've got some wine and we're lying on the grass.

"So, tell us," I say. "Name, details, how did you meet? Is he hot?"

Paul laughs out loud. I think he's happy that I'm happy for him, without even knowing all the details. I only got a few things earlier.

"His name's Anthony, we met at the Pentagon, he's a sailor..."

He starts to laugh as we tease him about that.

"Bet he's got a boy in every port," DJ says, getting a kick on the ankle for his troubles.

"He's land-based now," Paul continues.

"At the Pentagon?"

"Yeah." His smile is infectious.

"What rank is he?"

"Same as me, only he's a lieutenant commander." He says that in such a proud way that it's obvious how he feels.

"You're serious, aren't you?"

"Very."

"I'm so happy for you." I look at DJ and add, "We're so happy for you."

"Thank you," he says, smiling broadly.

Oh fuck it, I'm gonna...

"Dan? What are you doing?"

"Giving you a hug," I say, pulling him into my arms and holding him tight. When he looks at me oddly, I say, "Hey, can't I miss you?"

"I..."

He's surprised. I can hear his thoughts. He missed me so damned much that I feel even more guilty than I did before.

"Paul, I never stopped loving you." Again, I look at DJ. "He feels the same way, you know."

He does. His memories are mine. Mine are his. We feel the same way about everything.

"I didn't stop, either," he whispers.

"I know. And I'm so sorry."

"What for?"

"For hurting you."

"Dan, I knew what I was letting myself in for," he replies, not trying to escape my hug.

"I know. In a way, that makes it worse. I feel like I used you, but..."

"I never felt like that," he insists.

Because I can feel his emotions, I know he's telling the truth. That makes a huge difference.

"Thank you," DJ whispers. He feels the same guilt I do.

"I didn't mean to," I say. "You have to know that."

"I knew it then, I know it more now," he asserts.

Thank God for that.

We're silent for a moment, then DJ asks, "Well? Are you going to tell us more about this mysterious Anthony?"

Smiling really broadly, Paul wriggles until he is completely settled in my arms and then he tells us all about him.

-

Jack and John came over to us and neither of them blinked, which is good. Paul had moved so that they found him lying with his head on my stomach, his legs draped over DJ's legs as we look up at the stars that are out now. We've chatted a lot, laughed even more. It's been wonderful having him here.

"Are you staying tonight?" Jack asks of him.

"If it's okay with you," Paul replies, looking like he's going to move but I grab him and keep him in place.

"That's fine. We don't have a spare room as such, but there's a sofa in our room, in the living room or you can use the quarters in the tunnels or in either of the ships. Your choice," Jack says with a grin.

"Thanks," Paul smiles. "I guess the tunnels will be most comfortable?"

"Probably," I agree. "Here. I'll need this back tomorrow, but press this button to operate the rings."

I take my bracelet and put it on him and he takes it off me with a wistful smile. I guess there had been a time when exchanging jewellery would have been more normal. Much as my feeling of guilt has lessened, I think it's going to take a while for it to go completely.

"Time to go," John tells DJ. "We'll come back tomorrow."

-

I've borrowed Jack's bracelet and I'm accompanying Paul to the tunnel to settle him in our room down there. The more I see him, the more I feel like I missed him.

Daniel? Whatever you need.

Jack?

I mean it. Whatever you need.

Jeez, Jack...

Daniel. Just... Whatever, okay?

There's a pause before I answer.

Thanks, Jack. I'll be up soon.

Whenever.

He breaks our link and I feel like shit.

"Dan? What's up?"

I shake my head. "Nothing."

"Yeah, right. Come on, I might not be able to read your mind, but I can read your face."

I have to laugh, but there's no humour there.

"Listen," I say. "Jack doesn't understand. He thinks there's something still between us."

"Oh? What makes him think that?"

I pat the bed and he sits next to me.

"I guess because I still do love you and always will. Paul, you have to understand, my tendencies have been to never stop loving anyone. Having said that, I've been able to say goodbye to those in my past. All except for you. You didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to talk about it. I felt like shit because I loved you and yet I was desperate to get Jack back."

He puts his arm around me and holds me close.

"Don't feel bad," he whispers. "I knew. I knew you'd go back to him. I don't regret what we had. We're still friends, aren't we?"

"Oh God, yes. Always."

"Then that's all that matters."

I relax a little into his arms. I always felt safe here.

"Go on," he says. "Go to him. I'll be here in the morning."

I can't just go. I need to say goodbye. I know Jack won't mind so I kiss him. Not too long, not too deep, but I have to do it. He lets me, holding me close and kissing me back. Then he breaks away.

"Go to him," he whispers.

"Love you."

"Love you too. Now go."

So I do.

-

"We didn't do anything," I say as I get into bed.

"I know."

"Well, I did kind of kiss him."

"I know."

"Huh?"

"Red lips," he offers.

I laugh. "Thank you."

He shrugs. "I love you," he says, like it explains everything. I guess it does. "Come on. Go to sleep."

I snuggle down, next to him.

Always next to him.