Summary: So, it's start to work time. The guys have one thing to investigate, but surely there are more? Perhaps it's time to start asking questions, but this time, to start getting answers, too.
Many thanks to Alph for the beta :-)
MIB are here with us as we discuss how best to go about investigating the power sources of the sarcophagus as well as the machine that was brought from the Furlings' planet. Samantha is frustrated because she undoubtedly wishes to be involved in the investigation. However, as has been gently pointed out to her, at some point the Furlings' machine will need to be turned on again. If she were to be present, then the effects suffered by Daniel would affect her also.
He has spent some time trying to persuade her that although he might seem to be benefiting from the evolution, the effects are in fact most difficult, if not painful. None of us wish to deny her the ability to choose for herself, neither do we wish to deny her the opportunity to learn. This is, after all, what she is. An engineer, a scientist - a learner. So she is not being forbidden to go. It must be her decision to stay.
"Believe me, Sam," Daniel pleads. "You don't want this. You know how it has affected me, my life. You know how hard it was for me to even leave this planet. You don't want that, do you?"
Eventually we believe that she will relent. We know that she academically understands all of the implications and why she should not be a part of this. We also know that it is hard for her to effectively walk away from such discovery.
"We'll take all of the readings and then bring them back for you to assist us in understanding them," DJ offers.
In the end she nods. "Yeah, that would probably be the best thing."
As MIB stand up to leave, Daniel puts his hand out onto DJ's arm. DJ looks at him with curiosity.
"Don't take them anywhere that the Goa'uld can find them," he says. Then he looks a little pained. "And whatever you do, don't tell me where the sarcophagus will be."
DJ stares into his eyes and then nods. "Sure. I know somewhere that we can go. It's off the Abydos cartouche, is currently unoccupied and will probably remain so..." He shrugs. "Guess it's as safe as anywhere."
"Good. Remove the co-ordinates from Gimli's log, too," Daniel states. "I know that I never want to see a sarc again, but given the wrong circumstances, I might be tempted to..." Like DJ, his voice trails off. Then he states, "You cannot under any circumstances tell the others where it is, either. Teal'c is the only one here who is allowed anywhere near a sarc, no matter how sick we are. We have to rely on the Tok'ra's machine."
We understand his pleading. He is afraid of both the addiction and of what the sarcophagus could do to Samantha and O'Neill. They do not argue with him, but O'Neill gets a curious look on his face.
"We never did start to look for the origins of that machine, did we?"
"The Tok'ra have stated that there was no trace of the makers on the machine," I remind him. "Only a few small marks, which may or may not be the writings of its builders."
"Writings?" Daniel states suddenly. "They never told me about writings."
"Pop over there and have a look," O'Neill suggests. "Can't see them stopping you doing your own investigation."
He looks at O'Neill and frowns. "Think of something else, too," he orders. "I'm sure you will."
With that, he stands up, picks up a VCD and leaves the house. We see him enter the rings and disappear.
"Any ideas of what he wants from you?" Samantha asks O'Neill.
He shakes his head in bewilderment.
"Perhaps it is a tactical plan that he requires, O'Neill."
"Good a guess as any," he sighs. "Guess I'd better get my thinking cap on."
"Tell me where it is and I shall retrieve it for you."
He looks at me, rolls his eyes and says, "I was going to say it's just an expression, T, but you knew that, didn't you?"
Writings indeed. There were possible writings on a machine that they're desperate to find out more about and they didn't tell me? WHY? Fucking Tok'ra. Think they can do everything by themselves. Where the hell is that camera? I'm sure I put it here. Ah, there it is. What's it doing up there? Who cares.
It's not that I think I'm better than the Tok'ra, it's just they think they're better than us. For all they know I might have been able to identify the writings immediately. And if not, what if we'd come across them on another planet, on a mission or one of our explorations? By not seeing them, I wouldn't have known to connect the two things. They could have shown them to the SGC so that their people could have looked out for them. Damn them. I'm furious!
Hell, the card is full. Where's that other card? It should be in this drawer. No, not under that... nor that. Dammit I need it!
Whoa! Okay, I most definitely did not pick that up. So why is it in my hand now? Can't think about that right now, have to check to make sure it's empty. Next time remember to download all pictures immediately so that all memory cards are empty. Scribble a note on our notice board to that effect so that DJ is reminded to do it, too.
Get back to the rings. Should take someone with me. I know, I'll take Sam. She's annoyed because she can't go play with the machines.
Stop it Daniel, that's cheap. She doesn't 'play', she does serious scientific work. And this is serious. If it turns out that the Furlings created the sarc, then we have to know it. There is always the possibility that they turned bad, too. Of course, they may not have, so we still have to find them no matter the outcome of the investigation, but, we'll be a bit more on our guard if it's the case.
Another 'of course' is the vague possibility that they got hold of a sarc, or invented it first and converted the power to evolve the life on the planet. Sam said that when she went back there, they had a quick look around when they were in orbit and there was indeed land over the entire planet. Yes, there were oceans, but they were not connected to each other. That goo could have travelled (and probably did given the timeframe we're looking at) over the entire surface and had 'come home' around the time we'd arrived.
Which is freaking typical. Shit like this only happens to us.
Anyway, mental ramblings back on track. The whole planet was full of life and only the final bit that we were on was in the early stages of evolution. So at a guess, the goo had gone all the way around from the far side of the outpost and was heading back to it. Makes sense that they'd send it in the opposite direction to the gate, which would be their escape route if things had gone bad early on in the experiment.
Second thought. How did I know the outpost was there? As I near the rings, it dawns on me. I could feel it. Not like in an empathic sort of way, though. No, there was that tingling sensation near the back of my neck that I get whenever a sarc is switched on. Why didn't I notice it before? I wish I had. I really wish I had. Then we wouldn't be going through all this. I wouldn't be going through all this. Anyway, that explains how I knew, I guess. It was only after the first 'pulse' that I even thought to look in that direction.
I'm back up now. Better find Sam. Ah, there she is, sitting at the table and looking pretty down. MIB aren't here. They must have gone. Might be gone for days. They've taken Gimli - Jack insisted that they had the best protection, just in case. Just in case what, we don't know. But just in case. None of us argued, not even MIB with their android superpowers. It's a sad state of affairs when we've all become so accepting of the fact that shit not only does happen, it happens to us on a regular basis. And it's not even regular shit. It's weird shit. Galactic diarrhoea.
The others look at me oddly when I start to giggle at that thought, then, I think, all decide not to ask what's set me off this time. It's probably just as well. Don't want to explain the thought of an intergalactic case of the runs aimed directly at us. They think I'm flaky enough as it is.
"Sam? Want to come with me?" I ask.
She shrugs in an 'I haven't got anything better to do'-type of way.
"Cool. Let's go. We should be back soon," I tell Jack. "Shouldn't take long if the Tok'ra agree to me filming whatever they've found."
"Okay, perhaps when you get back, you can give me a clue as to what it is I'm supposed to be thinking about," he grumps.
"Where to find the makers of the machine," I reply. It's obvious, isn't it? "Maybe we can get another one. Possibly even a second one for the SGC."
"No pressure then?"
I look at him and say, "No, Jack, there isn't any pressure. It would just be a good thing to do, that's all."
"Oh. Okay then."
That's his, 'I haven't got anything better to do' thing. Whatever, I'm off to the Tok'ra.
Daniel's in a weird mood. He's half-excited, half-furious I think.
"Daniel? What's up?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're angry. Have we done something...?"
I don't think we have, but sometimes that's the easiest way to get a straight answer out of him.
"No! Of course not. I'm just annoyed that the Tok'ra didn't share the information about the writing with me."
"Marks," I correct. "We don't know that it's writing."
He looks at me and sighs. "But how in hell's name are we supposed to find out if it's one or the other if they don't share it with us? It could be some maths for all we know. Something to do with how the damned thing works."
We're at the DHD and he's dialling. I can tell from the way he's punching the symbols that he's feeling pretty manic.
As the gate engages and we step towards it, I take his hand in mine. He stops, looks at me, then I can see him desperately trying to make the effort to calm down. He gives me a small smile, squeezes my hand, then lets go. He throws the VCD through and when we see that it's clear, we step into the wormhole.
"Dad!" I'm glad he's here. This should help matters.
"Hey Sam, Daniel, how's things?"
"Oh, not so bad," I reply. "We were wondering if we could have a look at the healing machine. Don't worry," I put in quickly, "we don't need it for anything and we won't touch it. It's just that there are supposed to be some marks, maybe writings on it. We'd like to look at them, that's all."
He looks at us curiously.
"The Tok'ra scientists have been going over them for ages, Sammy. They can't even begin to guess what they are."
I can tell that he's trying to keep one phrase to himself; 'what in hell makes you think that you can do anything?'. It's written all over his face.
I sense Daniel tensing up again, so I reply, "But what if, when we're on one of our expeditions, we come across the same writings? You know we have a habit of finding strange things. It can only help in the search for the originators of the machine, can't it? It certainly can't hurt."
Dad mulls that one over, then his head drops.
"That would be a good idea," Selmac says.
We both greet her, then get her permission to go down to see it. They accompany us, which is probably just as well because I don't think that Daniel's likely to be at his most diplomatic today.
When we emerge from the rings into the tunnel, I see Daniel's face suddenly light up. Ah, I can see Apollo and Philipos. He lengthens his stride and the two - three, rather - of them meet up and greet each other with a hug. By the time I catch up with them, they're chatting away nineteen to the dozen. Apollo sees me, greets me, but his eyes keep turning back to Daniel.
I tug Daniel's sleeve. "I'm sorry to break this up," I say, "but we're here for a reason, remember?"
"Of course. Sorry," Daniel replies. Then he turns to Apollo. "Look, I've been mulling a few things over recently, about Goa'uld history. I was wondering if you could come over at some point and discuss them with me?"
"I would like that very much, Daniel," he replies. "At the moment, we are busy assisting the council with some plans, but when we are free, we shall go to Annwn. I - we look forward to it."
"So do I," Daniel says with a sigh.
They embrace again - and seeing Daniel willingly hugging someone who isn't one of us is weird - then we start off down the tunnel. Dad steps next to Daniel and as I'm about to take my first step, I feel Apollo's, er, Philipos' hand on my arm.
"Is something wrong with Daniel?" he asks quietly. "He seems..." He does not have the words to describe it.
All I can do is say, "He's still coming to terms with all the changes. At the moment, he's in mad-scientist mode. That's far more normal than you probably realise," I add with a grin.
"Good. I should hate to see him hurting."
"He isn't hurting. He's just still confused. Give him time and he'll be back to normal. And please come to see him. He misses you."
"As I miss him," Apollo murmurs.
I chase after the others before they realise that I'm not with them, but not before giving Apollo an understanding smile. I was with Jolinar for such a short time that I should never have missed her. But even now...
Let's not think about that; not while we've a mystery to solve.
Okay, so he wants a plan. I dare say that the Tok'ra have done everything they can their end, so we have to do something that they can't do. What would that be?
I pose that question to Teal'c and see him take on his 'thinker' expression. Rodin would have loved having him as a subject for his sculptures, I'm sure. All of a sudden, I see a look of dawning recognition on his face. It's subtle. Few others would even notice the difference between his normal expression, his thinking one and his 'I think I'm getting an idea' one. We do.
"Big guy? You thought of something already?"
"Perhaps," he concedes. "You were originally sent on that mission because at that time, the Tok'ra had few humans working with them, and those that were there were probably not equipped to deal with any trouble that might have arisen."
"Granted," I reply. "And that means?"
"I could not accompany you, and as you are aware, we are suspicious about the nature of Samantha's illness. That might have meant that the Tok'ra either believed that she might not have been safe on the planet or without her illness as 'encouragement', the three of you would have been reluctant to go on a mission without me. They would have found it difficult to make me ill, and of the three of you, Samantha's presence on the planet was the most likely to have caused trouble.
"So what we had that they did not have was two people who were fit to travel, were desperate to do the mission, did not carry Goa'uld or the remnants of one, and were capable of fighting."
"And perhaps none of the Tok'ra's current humans are trained by the military. You said that no ships were allowed in the system, so the Tok'ra would not feel that they could 'visit' there and ask permission to land. They still might feel unable to go to that planet to ask the sellers where they first encountered the machine. They might not wish to risk any of their human helpers by sending them into a potentially hostile situation. After all, those people were driven by greed. They may not take well to someone asking 'awkward' questions."
"I think you're onto something, Teal'c," I say, my own mind now running at a hundred miles an hour. "By the way, can you detect the naquada in Sam's blood?"
"I can indeed. It is faint, but it is there."
"Does Daniel now have any?"
"He does not. I understand that was why both he and Apollo were so desperate for a new host to be found. Apollo stated that he was doing everything in his power to not blend with Daniel so that leaving him would be easier on them both."
"Do you believe that to be the real reason?" I ask him, curious as to his tone of voice as much as to his choice of words.
"Apollo has done nothing to belie his statement of intent. I am sure that if he had passed on the information about the extra gates and the evolutionary slime, we would have heard of some repercussions by now. If nothing else, Jacob would have been angry with Samantha for withholding information about the unlisted gates, especially as all the Tok'ra have now been cleared of spies so that there should be no reason for mistrusting them."
"Fair enough. I know Daniel still believes him to be honest, so we have to go with that. So, does this mean that he and I should return to wherever the hell that planet was and ask?"
"I would be reluctant to allow just the two of you to go this time," he says. "What if you turned up at the time of another auction? There might be further agents of Goa'uld there, ready to capture you if you were recognised."
"At least we don't look the same as before," I offer.
"But Yu has seen you as you are. Undoubtedly his Jaffa and agents also know that you have been changed. Given that it was he that was behind the original theft of the device, I would wish to err on the side of caution."
"So we can't go through the gate..."
"And you cannot take a ship," he reminds me.
Then I get a wicked thought. "I can't take a Goa'uld ship, that's true. But what about an Asgard ship?"
"Gimli and the al'kesh were both built by a Goa'uld."
"But now they have Asgard shields, cloaks, weapons... They may not be seen."
O'Neill is getting his 'I am going to break the rules' look on his face. I do believe he wishes to take one of the ships to that system.
"O'Neill. May I make a suggestion?"
"Suggest away!" he says with an expansive wave of his hand.
"Wait until MIB have returned home. If you are to take one of the ships, then perhaps it would be safer if you went in the largest one. Taking the androids with us could also give us back up. Samantha and I could remain on board, but there would then be six of you. Between you and Daniel, the answer to the origin of the machine could be telepathically 'picked up'. The androids would not be detected as ever having Goa'uld connections, despite Kar Shel's tattoo, and you would have four, extremely powerful 'bodyguards'. A little intimidation can go a long way."
He looks at me and grins. "Ya know, T, there have been many times that I wished you were on my old spec ops team. This is one of them."
"Indeed. I am well-trained for such covert insertions."
"That too. But you're pretty devious when you want to be."
He laughs, looks at his watch and announces that it is nearly lunchtime already. I hope Samantha and Daniel come home soon.
O'Neill is making lunch, but I believe that he is also thinking of something.
"O'Neill. What is concerning you?"
He looks up at me and frowns. "Ah, it's just this naquada in the blood thing. You know, rewinding what we were just speaking about."
"If Sam has naquada in her blood, like you, how did she get the nanocytes in the first place? And then how come Daniel got hit the second time?"
"I have no naquada in my bloodstream as such," I inform him. "My blood is as yours. My symbiote acts as my immune system, as you are aware. We assume it is that which prevented the nanocytes from entering my blood."
He waggles his head around in an 'It's possible' way. Eventually he says, "Yeah, guess that makes sense. So how come you can detect naquada in others?"
"I get a sensation directly from my symbiote. It is that which informs me of the presence of a Goa'uld, for example."
"Okay. At least that explains that one."
He continues to cut some slices of bread, ready to put them into the basket for the table. He also continues to think.
"Ya know, I reckon that there are lots of these little questions that need answers."
He looks at me curiously, but I say nothing as I do not quite understand where he is going with this.
"Stuff we've just accepted." He puts the basket of bread onto the table, then turns to the fridge and gets out some things to go into some sandwiches. "It's like this," he finally explains.
"All this time we've been travelling through the gate, meeting and greeting, discovering weird science and so on, but we've rarely questioned it. We've just accepted it. Like the fact that you and Sam can detect the presence of Goa'uld or rings but we can't."
"Perhaps the questions have never before been deemed important enough to be posed?" I suggest.
"Could be. But now, I'm thinking that we should."
Before he can continue, the gate alarm goes off but we immediately hear from the others. We await their return to the house before the discussion can carry on.
"I was right. It's definitely writing."
Jack looks at me suspiciously.
"Yes. No. Well I'm almost sure."
"Just as long as you're positively equivocal about it, we'll go with that," he says. "Sit down and eat."
Eat? I haven't long had breakfast. Have I? I look at my watch and realise that he's right. Not that I'll tell him that, I'll just eat.
"So, while you two were seeking out new write-forms," he teases, "Teal'c and I were doing some actual thinking."
"Hang on, I think we've got some Tylenol in the medicine cabinet."
"I do not need any medication, Daniel," Teal'c says, but his eyes are twinkling.
"Yeah, but undoubtedly Jack's got a stinker of a headache."
He throws a bit of bread at me in response. Against my better judgement, I ask, "And what were you thinking of?"
"That we should ask questions," he says.
Second shock of the moment here. Honestly. I'm stupefied. Whether he's ever been dumb or not, and despite his newly exposed (and I choose that word deliberately) intelligence, he's still pretended to not be interested in anything outside of fishing or sex. Or preferably a way of combining the two at the same time.
I did put my foot down about dangling my own personal 'tackle' into the water as some sort of bait, no matter how much he promised to kiss it better if I got a bite. Sam's nearly choking on her sandwich. Ah, I said some of that out loud. Hey ho, it was worth it to see the colour he's gone.
"What sort of questions?" she finally asks.
"Any and all," he replies a little grumpily. "All the little shit that has been bothering us over the years but that we never got around to asking."
I notice that the 'little shit' comment was aimed at me, but I'm trying not to take it personally.
"You want me to ask questions?" I push. Okay, so I like living dangerously. "What brought that on?"
He ignores my sarcasm and tells us of his question about the naquada in the blood thing. Then he says, "Surely you must have had similar, not very important questions that have niggled at you?"
"Like 'why does Jack O'Neill insist on playing the dumb fuck?'," I ask innocently, blinking as I do.
"That's an easy one to answer," Sam says. "It gives him a sense of superiority over anyone who tries to dumb down explanations." I already knew that, but it's taken her till recently to get it. Jack doesn't answer it 'cause he knows I'm just winding him up.
"I've got one," I say. "Where do the Goa'uld go shopping?"
"Huh?" I knew that would stump him.
"I just can't see it somehow. You know, Mr. Goa'uld being dragged along to the local snake boutique to buy the latest in bad fashion. Mrs. Goa'uld insisting on trying on this, then that, then the other before deciding on the first dress... Nope, can't see that. And who the hell gives them fashion advice for their homes? It sure isn't Martha Stewart."
"I was thinking along the lines of more serious stuff," he replies with a sigh, but even his eyes are twinkling. "But coming to think of it, I can't see that either."
"We could use it as a weapon," Sam says thoughtfully. "Next time there's an attempted invasion of Earth, we find the snakehead's mate and invite them to the world's largest shopping mall. Give it a few hours and they'll run off screaming."
Even Teal'c's chuckling at the imagery. Now we're all joining in. I haven't had a good laugh in ages, so this is doing us good.
"Okay, here's another one," Jack says. "Why is Yu called that? Surely he must have known it would cause confusion. I mean, when someone shouts 'hey you!' he must be turning around all the time."
The conversation, such as it is, goes on like that throughout the meal. It's the most light-hearted one we've had in a long time.
I've been dragged down to the tunnels. Not allowed to get on with looking at the markings yet, I've been forced into explaining just how we're supposed to sort out the gems quickly. Jack's explanation is that he doesn't want to keep having to sort through each box, bit by bit, every time he wants to go get something from the masons. Knowing him, that probably is the reason, too.
Anyway, I've instructed them to get out a few things, and now I'm heading back to the workshop to finish off what DJ and I started. All I need is a few bits and pieces from the things we bought at the home store, a little time and it's going to be done.
Daniel? You ready yet?
Jack, I told you I had to finish building the thing. Have a little patience please.
Well, we've gotten everything ready this end. Some boxes are open, the plastic sheeting is on the floor - and what in hell's name do you want that for anyway?
To catch any gems that fall out of the...
The 'what' I'm building.
He cuts our link. He's just too damned easy to wind up some days.
We'd already done the most of it. The chicken wire turned out to be too large in the, er, 'hole department' by itself, so I needed to get a little something different. Wire cutters out, let's snip it to the right size... thus. Get the frame, bend the edges over with a hammer, staple them into place like so. See if the inner frame still fits into the outer - it does, good - and now check that we got the right sizes. Small gem goes through just right. Take out the second frame and the middle-sized gem goes through. Large stone stays in it. Perfect!
Jack, nip up to the al'kesh and beam me and the equipment that I'm holding onto right down to the others, would you please?
Sure. Hold on.
I'm holding... Gah, I really hate being transported. A moment later and the other three are looking at me a little suspiciously.
"Okay, now it's time to explain," Jack orders.
"It's simple, Jack. You know that when an archaeological dig is taking place, to one side there are usually a few people sifting through the dirt, sand, whatever, to make sure that nothing small has been missed, right?"
I get three mute nods back at me.
"So, it dawned on me that we can use a similar strategy here. DJ and I built this A-frame thing to swing the 'sieve' back and forth. This inner sieve," I take it out, "will stop the medium gems going through. This one here, will stop the big ones. Uh, could someone scoop out a quantity of gems from one of the boxes and I'll show you what I mean."
Teal'c gets a plastic container and does just that.
"What's the hammock doing underneath the sieve?" Sam asks.
"That'll catch what falls through. Didn't want to be diving over the floor to pick them all up. The plastic sheeting underneath is a 'just in case' thing. When we've finished, we can each pick up a corner of it, and if any gems have fallen onto it, they'll roll to the centre. Then we can pick them up and put them where they're supposed to be."
I spread the stones across the main sieve - the one that sits on hooks which are attached to ropes which in turn go up to the top of the main frame. Before I even move the sieve, any number of small and medium stones fall through. With a gentle but firm action, I swing it back and forth and more and more of the gems drop into the 'hammock' sitting underneath it all.
It takes only a minute before I'm almost certain that all we're left with in the sieve are the bigger stones. To be sure, I run my hand over them, giving them a good 'ruffle' and making certain that nothing smaller is jammed up.
Now positive, I pick up the sieve with the big stones in it, take it over to one of the open boxes and tip them in. Then I take it back, put it back on the hooks, then put the other sieve inside. This one has a different pattern of wires - square, not diamond-shaped - and because of the position I've set it in, it allows all of the small ones through. That's the theory anyway.
I unhook the hammock, point out the spare one I brought and ask one of the others to put that in its place, then when it's there, I pour the stones into the sieve once again. This time they see the smaller stones being separated and falling out and the medium ones left in place.
Now they get my idea, and having double-checked that there are no stones where they shouldn't be, are more enthusiastic about actually getting on and doing, instead of standing there and watching with rather large quantities of scepticism.
Teal'c is pondering something, then he asks, "Do we have any other hammocks?"
"Sure. I saw them in the store yesterday and figured we might want them for the summer. It's late spring back on Earth, so they must have been getting them out ready for the summer sales or something. I got eight. I was fortunate that these have metal rings at each corner so that they can be hooked onto the A-frame. Why?"
"Would it not make sense to build another of these devices?" he asks. "There is enough room down here for two to work side-by-side and it would speed up our work."
He looks at us and we all shrug. "Don't see why not," Jack agrees.
"Then I shall go to the workshop and make one. Are there sufficient other supplies for this, Daniel?"
"Sure. I had to buy way more than I really needed."
"I shall return as soon as the second one is completed."
Personally, I think he'd rather be doing that than this. I'd rather be looking at the markings, but at least something is being done.
Daniel's gone up to cook dinner. It's supposed to be my turn, but when I realised that I should go, he offered to do it instead. He's either bored with sorting out the gems (and I can't blame him) or he couldn't face my cooking (another possibility).
Either way, it got me out of it. Teal'c's still building the other frame. Somehow I think he could have already had it finished by now, but if I know him, he wants to build a better one then the 'rough and ready' one the Daniels made. It's a matter of pride for him that his woodwork is the best. Typical man. So that leaves Jack and me doing this.
Actually, to be fair to Daniel, it's working. We've been going through the opals and sorting them out in record time. It's just a shame, in a way, that the caskets that originally contained them are so damned big! I worked out the size of them and nearly had a fit.
They were built using the measurements of the Goa'uld, naturally, and are one and a half shalmits deep, the same high and three wide. In metric that's about 1.55 by 1.55 by 3.3 metres, give or take a couple of mills. That means it's just shy of eight cubic metres. That might not sound like a lot, but in reality, that's BIG. Especially given the value of the contents of each box. And each box was full to the brim.
Add to that the value of the various precious metals that we kept and we could be considered to be multibillionaires. Funny, though, we don't feel rich. Don't feel poor for that matter. We are what we are. And what I am now is bored and hungry. Hope dinner's ready soon.
There's a flash of light next to us and when my eyesight returns to normal, I see that Teal'c has indeed built his own frame. And yes, it's a fancier version than Daniel's, but - and I won't tell Teal'c this - I doubt it'll work any better.
"Nice job, T," Jack says. "When we get back down here we can work twice as fast." He gives it a good look over, sees that there are smooth edges instead of rough ones, handles on the top of the inner sieve and so on, then he looks at me and grins. "Very nice," he finishes.
"Thank you," Teal'c replies - not a little smugly. Then he asks, "Why did you say 'when we get back down here'?"
"'Cause any minute now, Daniel's going to be calling us for dinner."
"Already?" Teal'c says as if he's surprised. If I didn't know better, I'd say that he got his timing just right...
"It's a pity we can't sort out the gems by colour," Daniel muses over dinner.
"What do you mean, Daniel?" I ask him.
He looks for a moment like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Oh... uh... it's just the opals are all different colours," he stumbles. "You know, reddish ones, darker-blue, green-blue, pinkish, orange... I was just thinking that some people might like certain shades over the others. That's all."
Daniel was not lying to me as such, then, but I know he wasn't telling me the whole truth. And, dammit, I somehow know he's not going to tell me either. Not yet, anyway. He certainly looks a little guilty. I see Jack looking over at him, but whether they're communicating telepathically, I couldn't say for certain.
"I guess you... we'll just have to pick each colour out by hand should the need ever arise," I say, trying to get a little more out of him. He doesn't say any more but nods as enthusiastically as he can. Yup, he's hiding something.
"Getting back to something a bit more practical," Jack puts in, probably to change the subject and save Daniel's blushes, "have any of you given any thought as to any reasonable questions that we want answered?"
"Yes," Teal'c replies. "I would still wish to know how either Hera or Morrigan got hold of your DNA. We at least know the reason behind the cloning of yourself, but somehow it strikes me that Hera would not have had the facilities or the technical expertise to do it. She was a forgotten Goa'uld, and had not been a System Lord for many millennia.
"But even though Morrigan was known to be interested in research, all of the blueprints found at her weapons factory would suggest that her interests purely lay in military hardware or such devices as the personal cloak. She showed no interest even in phase-shifting, as had Nirrti."
Daniel seems to be thinking about this, then his face drops with horror.
"Don't you see? She must have been behind it."
He stands up and paces, then we hear him mutter something about connections, Hera, Argos being the 'hometown' of Hera, then he stops dead. "ARGOS!"
No, I'm not going to say his name again, it gets repetitive.
"Not getting you, buddy," Jack takes over.
It's probably just as well. When Daniel's on one of his mental walkabouts, Jack's probably the only one he hears. Coming to think about it, they've been like that ever since I met them. I should have guessed about them years ago.
"Pelops. Nanocytes. Evolution controlled by a power source. The planet was called Argos but Hera was the city goddess of Argos. They must have had some connection."
"And if they did...?"
"They must have been in contact with the Furlings, or at the very least had met up with someone who had been affected by the bionanocytes. We know that the Goa'uld aren't particularly original and that they steal ideas from others. However, apart from the changing of humans into Jaffa as a race, we know that they've had little else to do with genetic engineering."
"Are you saying that a Furling engineered a clone for Hera?" I ask, unable to keep out.
He blinks wildly. "I... I hadn't gone that far but you have to admit it's possible."
"Ok-ay," Jack drawls. "So what's the connection with Nirrti?"
"Two, maybe three Goa'uld could have had access to your DNA. Okay, four. But two of them are dead. The others are Yu and Nirrti. I just don't see Yu getting involved.
"We know Hera was one of Morrigan's minions and you can believe me when I tell you that Yu and Morrigan were not bosom buddies. I can't see him working with anyone unless it was to benefit himself. He's shown no interest in capturing Teal'c, so no, I can't see it would be him.
"BUT. Morrigan was a war goddess, among other things. Hera was just a nasty piece of work. Apollo told me that according to Goa'uld legend she was a spiteful bitch before the sarc was even on the scene. Those two I can see wanting to capture the most famous 'shol'va'," he finishes, spitting that last word out like it tastes bad.
"You think that Morrigan might have been pulling Pelops' strings?"
Daniel shrugs. "I need to see Apollo."
"He said he'd come over as soon as he was free," I remind him.
"Yeah. But I need to see him now."
Jack stands up, puts his hands on Daniel's shoulders and says quietly, "Why don't you sit down and finish your dinner first, eh? There's no rush. Now you've put these things together, we're not going to forget them."
Daniel looks like he's biting back an answer, but in the end he nods, sits down, then finishes his food without another word. I'll bet anything that his mind is running at the speed of light, though.
I'm taking Daniel back to the Tok'ra. There's no way he's going to settle until this question has been at least partially answered.
"Uh, Daniel, didn't Apollo tell you about Pelops before? I mean when you were doing the family tree thing."
"Didn't come up, Jack," he shrugs as he dials up. "We were concentrating on the major players. Guess it didn't enter my head to ask him, either." He sighs as the wormhole bursts into life.
"It's like it is with Athene. Unless someone asks her a specific question, she doesn't think about what she knows. Because she knows so much and because it all happened so long ago, it's in the far recesses of her mind. Apollo didn't have all the information he needed at his 'fingertips', as it were, because he was so young. Only things which were relevant to his own life were foremost, and only by delving into his genetic memory to answer questions which were put to him specifically was he able to give us any answers. We can't blame him for this."
His voice is a little hard as he says that, and as he throws the VCD through and checks it, I put my hand on him and say, "No blame, Daniel. I promise. I don't blame Apollo for anything anymore."
"Not even for choosing me?"
We step through the gate, then as he picks up the VCD, I reply.
"No. Not even for that. As you said, if he hadn't, all three of you would be dead. And whereas if he had been a Goa'uld, it would be a different kettle of fish altogether, he's Tok'ra and that's okay. I don't want him dead any more than I want Selmac or Antec or any of the other Tok'ra that I've grown to like dead."
He stares into my eyes as if he's trying to work something out, then he gives me a brief but sharp nod which tells me that he believes me.
We go down the rings and ask the first Tok'ra we see if Apollo is available. While we wait, Jacob turns the corner, looks a little surprised but then grins.
"Figured out the marks already?" he asks Daniel.
"Uh, no, haven't looked at them yet," Daniel replies a little distractedly.
"Oh?" Guess Jacob must have thought that he'd have been stuck to his computer until he'd figured it out. "So... why're you here? Have we suddenly developed a magnetic attraction for you?"
I'm standing behind Daniel and give Jake the 'quit it' signal. Daniel's mind is currently working and things like his sense of humour tend to be the first casualties.
"I need to see Apollo. Maybe Athene, and any and all Tok'ra who would know anything about Hera and Pelops."
Daniel doesn't even ask, his voice is practically demanding access to them all.
I see that Jake's picked up on this so he says, "I'll gather those that I can."
Five minutes later, and we're all sitting around the council's table. Apollo is there, as is Athene. A few other Tok'ra that we don't particularly know well are also there, but I'm thinking that they won't have as much to contribute as Daniel's first choices. Jacob's still here, wanting to know what's up, I guess.
"So, what is it you wish to know that's so urgent, Daniel?" he asks.
"Right," Daniel replies. "We've been trying to work out how Pelops developed nanocyte technology."
This isn't going to be easy for him to explain totally, because we can't connect what we're thinking about to our Furling search, for obvious reasons. Not unless we want the rest of the Tok'ra to know about the slime, that is.
"I was just trying to make some connections. It's to do with who was behind the cloning of Jack," he adds, bringing the subject back into the realms of what the Tok'ra know about.
"Could you explain further?" one of the other Tok'ra asks.
"Uh, yeah. To clone, Hera needed DNA from Jack, right?"
He doesn't wait for any answers but ploughs on, pretty much the same way he used to do in briefings when he was desperate to make his point.
"But, we know she couldn't have gotten hold of it because we'd never met her. Of all the Goa'uld out there, now and in the past, who would have been able to get a bit of it, two - namely Apophis and Hathor - are dead. That leaves Yu, who for any number of reasons we're discounting, or at least leaving to the end of our investigation, and the most likely candidate, Nirrti. We know she was into some form of genetic engineering because of what happened to the children on Hanka."
A few murmurs of agreement come his way and he feels a little more emboldened.
"Anyway, it dawned on me that this wasn't the only time we'd come up against Goa'uld and genetic engineering. During our first year as a team for the SGC, we went to a planet called Argos. They worshipped the 'god' Pelops. He hadn't been around in ages, from what we could tell, but, all of the people there were infected by tiny computers. Nanocytes. These were powered by a source within a statue of Pelops. On that planet, the people lived for one hundred days. They didn't get ill, they just effectively evolved rapidly."
A look at Apollo tells me that he's worked out the connections already. He catches my eye and blinks slowly, as if to inform me that he's got it but won't say anything out loud. I acknowledge him with my own blink and then look at Jake. He gets it too.
"Anyway. As I was saying, the place was called Argos. Hera was the city goddess of Argos, wasn't she?"
Further murmurs of agreement come back to him as a general dawning starts with the others.
"Now, we know that Hera was attached to Morrigan, but I was wondering, can any of you remember if Pelops was also connected to her?"
There's silence for a moment, then a light seems to go on in Athene's eyes.
"I do believe," she says slowly, "that I can remember something. Pelops... Now, let me place him in my mind."
Despite the fact that she's changed hosts, into that pretty blue-eyed girl we met before, she's still old in herself and as they say, the memory is one of the first things to go.
"Ah, yes. A creepy individual if I remember correctly. One of Hera's devoted followers when she herself was a System Lord."
"Was Hera into genetic engineering?" I ask.
"She was most certainly interested in experimentation, but what it was all about, I do not know," comes the apologetic reply.
"So, it's at least possible," Daniel replies. "And we know that Pelops had taken the Argosians to that planet a very long time ago, so he must have been experimenting like this..." He shrugs his shoulders. "I'd say for at least two and a half thousand years. Possibly more."
"Why do you say more?" I ask him.
He looks at me as if it's obvious. It probably is to him.
"How many experiments work first time?" he asks simply. "Given the state of dress, the nature of the people of Argos, I'd say they were his last experiment. There are any number of myths about disappearing tribes from millennia ago. Cities or towns that just ceased to exist, without any apparent reason. Not just in the Mediterranean area, either, but all over the place. My guess is that he tried this out on a few occasions at the very least."
That thought sends a shudder through everyone present.
"So where does Nirrti come into this?" Jacob asks.
Daniel shrugs. "When she was cast out from the System Lords, we thought that would be the end of her powers. I mean, without ships or Jaffa, how could she become powerful? But, after that, she turned up at the SGC having developed the phase-shifting device. She also continued to return to Hanka and had a lab there. Somebody had to be helping her. If not Morrigan, then who?"
There's a silence at the table at that. Without proof one way or the other, we can't tell. And as soon as the Tok'ra had everything they thought they were going to get out of her, they killed her. So we can't ask. Dammit.
"We need to look out for her," I put in. "If Nirrti is out there, possibly with at least some of Morrigan's resources, then she could become dangerous again. Going on Daniel's logic, I'd say that she was working either at Morrigan's behest or at the very least, with her knowledge. She is probably the one behind my DNA turning up and therefore she could have engineered any number of SGC members. After all, we know she was in the medical labs there. God alone knows how many blood samples were sitting in there."
This time it's more than a shudder that goes through everyone, it's downright fear.
"We shall take this seriously," Selmac says. "Some of our intelligence will now be diverted towards tracking Nirrti down."
"Pass the information on to George," I say, "but be very careful. We've only just found an NID spy there. Who's to say there aren't any more?"
It's Jake that speaks this time. "Thanks for the warning," he says with a moan. "I'll get George on his own. He's going to have to take the chance on speaking to at least some of his teams about this."
We thank them for their time, I'm thinking it's time to go home. But just before we leave, Apollo speaks.
"Was it this that you wished to know from me?" he asks Daniel.
"Oh, er, no. Actually, this only struck us over dinner. Uh, could you come with us?" he asks as sweetly as he can. "It's just some general things I need to know. Connected to the 'family tree' that you helped me with. Not worth bothering an entire group of people when I'm sure you'll have the answers," he adds with an apologetic shrug.
Apollo looks to Selmac for permission, which is granted.
"I shall accompany you then," he says.
O'Neill and Daniel have returned with Apollo at their sides. Instead of heading down to Daniel's study, we have retreated to the living room and wine is being shared by those that partake.
"So, Daniel," Apollo states. "Did you really wish to discuss only the family tree?"
"Initially," Daniel replies with a sigh. "I mean, that's still important, but at least now you understand why we need to find out about the whole DNA thing."
"You suspect that perhaps a Furling was involved at some point?"
Daniel once explained that the 'god' Apollo was renowned for his philosophical understanding and great intelligence. It would seem that this Tok'ra has some of the original's traits.
"Exactly. And it's not something we can discuss with anyone that isn't you or Jacob. Oh, by the way, should you ever be in talks with the SGC, we have finally told General Hammond and Doctor Frasier about our 'abilities'. Just in case it is necessary..." Daniel says, trailing his voice off as his mind already goes elsewhere.
"Actually, now that you understand where we're coming from, there is something that I want to know and in a way it's related. It is to do with the 'family tree', but in an indirect sort of way."
"Go on," Apollo states, then he sits back on the sofa and sips his wine.
Daniel is sitting on the floor near the fire, near to O'Neill, but for some reason seeking some sort of solitude.
"Well, according to Hesiod, the 'original' Apollo and Hecate could at best be described as cousins. Both were descendants of Coeus and Phoebe, with Apollo being the son of Leto and Zeus, and Hecate the daughter of Asteria and Perses; Asteria and Leto being the children of Coeus and Phoebe. What I want to know is, how has the genetic memory of Apollo been passed down to you? Or did you just choose the name?"
"Ah, I see where you are going with this. Firstly, you must remember that much of what was written so far back was based on conjecture and often, misunderstanding. If I remember correctly from your own knowledge, Hesiod was a poet of over two and a half millennia ago."
"Yeah, it's generally thought he lived about 700 BCE, that would be 2,700 years ago," Daniel agrees.
"And as a poet, even though he would have been considered a great scholar among his people, his 'knowledge' would have been that picked up from the oral tradition. As you well know, that is easily twisted."
"Tell me about it," Daniel moans. "The more I learn about those times, the more confused I get."
Apollo chuckles. "I shall let you into a secret, Daniel," he states conspiratorially. "When I try to tap into my own genetic memory, the further back I go, the more confused I get."
That makes Daniel laugh, and, I believe, makes him feel a little better.
"The Hecate you came to know was indeed the original," Apollo continues after a few moments. "However, she was not the cousin, but the sister of the original Apollo. They were not alike. In fact, you would, to use the Tauri expression, describe them as 'chalk and cheese'. The difference was, however, that Hecate was the younger of the two - they had same Goa'uld mother, but different human fathers - and despite their very different characters and apparent hostility toward each other, she looked up to him. They both had powers - the powers of technology, of course.
"To the humans of the time, they appeared magical. Apollo used his powers for the good of mankind whenever he was able, but Hecate was as evil then as she was when you were unfortunate enough to meet her."
Daniel looks and gives him a small smile. "Not so unfortunate," he says. "I wouldn't have met you otherwise."
I do believe that Apollo is shocked, but pleased by that. He smiles warmly in reply.
"It is surprising, given the circumstances, that she was so fond of him, but then Hecate was always attracted to great intelligence." He sighs then adds, "The original Apollo died; murdered by his own kind, as so often happens with the Goa'uld."
"So he was a Goa'uld?" Samantha puts in, trying hard to connect a 'good god' with what we know.
"He was indeed. But, like Athene, with whom he had a great deal of contact, he rejected the use of the sarcophagus when it became available."
"Who brought the first one?" O'Neill asks.
"Ra, as you already believed. Where he got it from is unknown. But he had the only one for quite some time; then eventually, the design was made available to all. Perhaps it has something to do with the illness..."
We see Apollo's mind drifting away so Daniel brings him back into the present.
"Illness? Is that what was meant by the glyphs on Abydos? That Ra was a member of a dying race?"
"I believe so. Early on in the Goa'uld's travels throughout the galaxy, they suddenly started to become ill. Queens became less available. The only way to overcome it was to change hosts regularly, so that the original hosts would bear the brunt of the illness. You could say that the symbiotes were 'carriers', but, I believe, they themselves were not quite well.
"Anyway, at some point, Ra became the owner of the sarcophagus. He kept it to himself, but was eventually persuaded somehow to share it, and then share the design. By then, many of the very old Goa'uld had died.
"Those who were not ill saw what regular use of the sarcophagus did to those who needed it. Initially, it saved them from the illness, but they felt good when it was used, their hosts did not age... It meant that they did not need to change hosts so often. That in itself is something which benefits a symbiote. As I explained when we were together, Daniel, changing hosts takes much from us."
"Of course," Daniel replies, as if it is all suddenly beginning to make sense to him.
"Those who did not use the sarcophagus were, in a short time, very worried by the actions of those who did. Some took their followers and left Earth to keep them safe."
"You mean Jaffa?" Samantha asks.
"Some," he agrees, "but also humans. You see, not all of the humans that ended up out here," he waves his hands vaguely in the direction of the sky, "and which were taken by Goa'uld, were taken for bad reasons. Some genuinely wished to save them from the horrors that might be inflicted on them by the Goa'uld who had turned bad."
Daniel is considering this and then he asks, "Like Athene? She must have had help in building the palace she lived in."
"I believe that to be the case, Daniel."
"It explains why in some cases, the humans that we have met have had no fear of their 'gods'," O'Neill states.
"And why those 'gods' have disappeared over time," Daniel agrees. "They weren't necessarily killed by other Goa'uld, who would have most likely taken over their territory, they just died of old age."
"Again, I believe that to be true," Apollo states.
That is one of those questions which O'Neill wished to be answered, I think. It certainly explains a few anomalies of this nature that we have encountered.
"What of Apollo?" I ask. "And what of your name?"
"Of course, I must have lost my train of thought. Please forgive me."
Daniel waves his hand to say 'it is nothing, go on,' so Apollo does.
"As I said, he was killed. In fact, he was killed when he was attempting to stop the one that he loved entering the sarcophagus. His lover was so angry at being prevented from entering it that..."
He shakes his head, not saying any more.
"Anyway, Hecate was more upset about the loss of her brother than any of the myths and legends could ever describe. One thing a queen can do is choose to spawn a single larva, one with particular memories. So, she chose to do that. A new Apollo was born; one which remembered everything Hecate knew about her brother, and with her own memories."
"What happened to him?" O'Neill asks.
"Seven years ago, according to your method of timekeeping, Alecto killed him. He was not what you would call a 'nice guy' and had attempted to rape her."
"Which would explain why Hecate turned on the Erinyes?" Daniel asks.
"Exactly. She took her revenge on the enactors of vengeance."
"What happened next?" Samantha asks, enraptured by his tale.
"Hecate searched one of the twin worlds for a suitable 'father' for her next Apollo," he says with a grin which, I believe that Daniel would describe as somewhere between wry and wicked. "She wanted one who was beautiful, courageous, intelligent and strong. As I told you before, she was not as intelligent as she led others to believe, and her eventual choice was perhaps not what she had imagined.
"One day, a prisoner was brought before her. He was caught attempting to lead a rebellion against her on the planets. He had worked out that when she was in residence, in the old palace which no longer exists, the peoples of both planets were absolutely devoted to her. But, if she went away for longer than a few weeks, trips to the temples started to peter out, offerings were nothing like as generous and so on.
"Instead of thinking that they were losing faith because of her lack of presence, he thought that there must be a more fundamental reason. So, unbeknown to her, he set up a small laboratory. He understood that whatever it was that was affecting the peoples of the planets must be something so basic that all would need it.
"There were only two things that could be. Air or water."
"She put something in the water?" Samantha asks.
"Exactly. But if she was not there, the water weakened the effect of the drug. Hecate trusted no one, not even her priests. She, herself had the secret to the drug and she, only, administered it. The drinking supplies of water on both planets were extremely heavily policed. It was that which gave him his first clue.
"He devised a plan, and during the time when the effect was at its weakest, he collected together as much water as he could. He knew that Hecate would not stay at the palace for more than two weeks, so for those two weeks he drank only the water he had stored, observed the people and their actions, and tested with whatever equipment he could find the contents of the water during the time of her visit. He had his proof that she was drugging them."
"What did he do?" O'Neill asks.
"He persuaded a small group of his friends to collect water in the manner in which he himself had done, and over time, proved to more and more people that he was right and that Hecate was no goddess, but a wicked being who drugged her people. When he thought he had enough people on board, he led a rebellion against one of the Jaffa strongholds."
"What happened to them?" I ask.
"They were betrayed," Apollo sighs. "He was taken to her as the ringleader. Before he was executed, however, he was forced to father me." This time he smiles. "It is to my benefit that he was chosen."
"Can you remember all of this from him?" Daniel asks curiously.
"Some of it. Very little of the 'father' is ever passed on, but I remember this about him, from Hecate and his..." His voice trails off and his face drops. He forces himself to continue and spits out the word, "Interrogation."
We all understand that he means torture. Then he straightens himself up, and Philipos' face looks very much like Daniel's when he is being stubborn.
"I am proud he was my father," he says. "When I killed Hecate, I can admit here and now that part of it was to protect you," he states, looking at Daniel, "a small part to protect myself. But the rest was vengeance. Justice was served, I believe."
Daniel reaches over and takes his hand, squeezing it tightly. "Believe me," he says quietly. "I understand that better than most."
"I know. And may you forgive me for saying this, Daniel, but I am glad that you were my first host. I can never be sorry enough for forcing you into it, but I am still glad it was you. I know you understand."
Daniel is still holding his hand, more tightly now. Tears are running down both their faces. I look at O'Neill and Samantha and see that they, too, are close to tears. Finally Daniel answers him.
"I'm glad, too," he says. "Do not feel guilt for choosing me, Apollo, I would not have had it any other way." Then, in a sympathetic, but choked voice he adds, "And I wish I had met your father."
Apollo looks at him gently, then leans over and hugs him. "Look only in the mirror. You are so very much like him, my friend. There is no one better."
Even though we don't seem to have accomplished more than setting a few records straight and sorting out some gems, today has been exhausting. Emotionally, more than physically I guess. My heart was bleeding for Apollo, but it goes a long way to understanding how he became Tok'ra among so many Goa'uld. We worked this out over more wine when Apollo was feeling a little less fragile.
Despite the fact that the queen can block out the genetic memory of the father, something of him must remain. It is a distinct possibility that finding the 'right' father can give the genetic twist which turns Goa'uld into Tok'ra. We know that that is only a theory, but it could explain why some suddenly turn up.
It could explain also why there were so many 'good gods' before the Tok'ra became an organisation, too. He is going to explain this theory to the Tok'ra council tonight - or maybe tomorrow, when he has rested.
Going back to the origins of the Tok'ra, Egeria was a water goddess; consort and adviser to the early Roman leader, Numa, who was in fact supposedly their second king from the years around 700 BCE, which would fit in with a lot of what we know, including Hesiod's work on the Greek gods. She might have been one of those 'good Goa'uld', like the original Apollo or Athene.
Anyway, Numa was supposed to have 'tidied up' Roman laws, improved agriculture... he effectively 'civilised' them. Sounds like a decent guy. With him as father, and with her not being one of those who were ill and therefore in need of the sarc, Egeria's offspring stood an excellent genetic chance of being different from the rest of the Goa'uld who were already becoming, if they hadn't already become, evil.
Dates for these events are so difficult to pin down. The Egyptian mythology takes it further back and we know that they'd been on Earth since around 8,000 BCE, if the dating of the 10,000 year-old amulet is correct. Given what we know, that's a distinct possibility.
Of course, the whole Egeria thing might go further back than the records state because we have to take anything written at that time with a whole bucketful of salt.
"You okay?" Jack asks as he gets into bed.
"Yeah. Tired, but okay."
"It wasn't too much for you?"
"You mean the whole Apollo choosing me thing?"
He looks a little suspiciously at me before shrugging as nonchalantly as he can and says, "Yeah, I guess."
"I'm fine, Jack. Actually, now I understand him more, I'm even more fine with it."
"So, what's up?"
I can't help but laugh a little. In the end I say, "Next time you see Jacob, take him to one side and warn him about Apollo."
He looks at me oddly. "I thought you said he was Tok'ra."
"Oh, he is, Jack. Believe me, he detests the Goa'uld as much, if not more than we do."
"If you were him, and I'm guessing that his memories of his father are fairly new to him by the way and therefore he's probably at his most... well, vulnerable I guess, what would you want more than anything?"
"Revenge." He frowns. "He's done that. I mean, he killed Hecate. Didn't he?"
"Yup. I was there. It was my hand that did it. And you can believe me that I didn't put up a fight. He actually asked me if I minded before he stabbed her, by the way."
"Told you. He's a good guy. Now, put that together with his story. What else would he want to do?"
Jack frowns again, this time in thought. Then the light goes on.
"To finish what his father started. He said there were more Goa'uld on that ship." He looks at me oddly and asks, "You know who they were?"
"No. He didn't know for certain. As he said, he was literally born on his own. The others would have been spawned separately, in the same or different groups.
"When we were walking back to the gate, he told me that while he was born with the knowledge of his name, the others would have been born with the knowledge of the Goa'uld. Some of those might choose the names of long-dead Goa'uld, others will make up their own names. Without staying on the ship, he couldn't know. And even though that was Hecate's ship and those that were there would have been 'her' crowd, so to speak, he was only aware of anything that had happened up until he was conceived.
"We know Hecate was a spiteful bitch. There's every chance that all the minor Goa'uld that he was even aware of as being connected to her are already dead. Bratac once said that a Goa'uld fears its own offspring more than any other snake. Apollo knew that she'd killed off any number of her own 'kids' when there were sufficient others ready to take their places."
"I see. So one of those that were left could well have taken over?" he asks thoughtfully.
"I'd say so, Jack. And I get the impression, now more than ever, that Apollo wants nothing more than to finish the job, as you said. He wants to free his people."
"Not take over?"
"No. It's not in his nature. Short of someone kidnapping him and forcing him into a sarc time after time..."
I say nothing more, we know that's possible after all.
"Then we'd better make sure that doesn't happen. I'll talk to Jake in the morning."
I love being woken up by Jack. It's not the waking up thing, per se, it's how he does it. First, there was the distinctive smell of the Mayan's coffee. Which was rapidly followed by my nose homing in on it and then my hands and mouth following suit, natch. By the time I'd finished, he'd come out of the bathroom, ripped the bedding off me, and now he's sucking my brains out via my dick. Yup, this is good.
Trouble is, I want to do the same. Not that semen tastes anything like as good as coffee (although Jack insists that mine does taste of coffee...), but hell, it's Jack. And as soon as I've finished, I'm going to get my dessert.
OH yeah. Hmm.
Gimme a moment, Jack, I'm gonna return the favour.
Wasn't doing it for that.
Oh? Want something else?
NO! Just wanted to do it.
I look at him with a wicked grin.
"So do I, Jack. So do I."
He gets it, so now he's getting it. I've pushed him to lie on the bed, his head on the pillow, my mouth on his mouth and I'm reaming it out. You know, he's not really wrong about the coffee flavour. There is a hint there...
Forget it. I'm going down. Not going to hang around, not going to detour or wind him up, just going to bring him off. Much as I love spending the night making love, much as I relish being pushed up against a wall and fucked, and much as being tied up, teased to the point of insanity and then nailed to the bed/wall/table/wherever has more than a planet-full's worth of appeal, there are times when all I want is his dick in my mouth and it to be over and done with.
There's a lot to be said for morning quickies. If nothing else, it puts him in a good mood for the rest of the day.
He's moaning and groaning, trying to hold back but I'm using every trick in the book and inventing a few more on the spot to make him surrender. Won't be long now, I can sense it.
Let go, Jack. Let me taste you, please.
The only reply I get is him giving in and my sweet - well, salty - reward. I'm thinking of putting him on a sugary diet.
As I crawl back up the bed, he grabs hold of me, yanks me up to him and then kisses me the way I kissed him. Now that's a great way to wake up.
It's been three days since MIB left and we're starting to get a bit itchy. Daniel's spent an age going over the marks from the healing machine but says he can't even think straight at the moment; Jack and Teal'c have worked out, reworked and worked again on the plan to get the I'krell to tell all about its origins, I've been working on the al'kesh to learn more about the workings of the ships - can never do enough of that - and when we haven't been doing that, we've been separating the gems. At least we're making some serious headway with them.
On the grounds that we want 'funds' available as soon as possible, we took quantities of each type of gem and sorted them out. Given the sizes of the original boxes, Daniel had bought more than thirty containers in case the new ones weren't big enough. If nothing else, as and when some of them are empty, they can be used for other things. So now we have thirty boxes which are slowly but surely being filled with different coloured stones, each of a different size.
When one or two of us have nothing to do for a while, we pop down there and sort some more. I love the emeralds. They're so deep in colour that they remind me of Tiwaz' planet. Some of the trees had leaves this shade. It's peaceful, just staring at them. Green is supposed to be a restful colour, I suppose.
The others are just as fascinating. The diamonds don't twinkle as much as we'd expect. Daniel reckons it's to do with the cutting. Yes, each stone has been polished till it shines like squeaky-clean glass, but none have had facets cut into them. They're all cubic in shape, with the edges smoothed off, probably to avoid the handler of them being cut to ribbons. I doubt the Goa'uld would want to have to keep repairing their own hands after all.
The paler-blue sapphires are almost exactly the same shade as Daniel's eyes; but I won't tell him that. Jack's already noticed, I think, and I reckon he's trying to work out a way to make him a birthday present with some of them in it. That man is such a sap that if he was cut open, you'd be able to age him by the rings inside him, just like a tree.
God, where are MIB? We need to know they're okay. We haven't been separated from them for this long in ages and it's starting to tell on our tempers. Even Teal'c is grumpy. Not quietly stoic, actually bad-tempered. What if something's happened to them?
What's that? Oh, Daniel's calling us all up for lunch. I'm not hungry, but I suppose I'd better eat. I make my way up from the tunnels, wash my hands, sit down and look with as much enthusiasm as I can muster at the food in front of me. Not that it doesn't look good, it does. But my mind is elsewhere; as is everyone else's. We start to take the food, put it on our plates, eat without thought and barely speak except to thank Daniel for making it.
"Sam, didn't you say you and Frankie had come up with an idea to find the Furlings?" Daniel asks after about five minutes of silence.
Oh, of course. We'd vaguely mentioned it after Daniel's revelations about the power source. If we hadn't had all of the 'excitement' I dare say it would have been discussed in detail, but even the androids looked like they needed a rest. Emotional exhaustion is far harder to deal with than physical.
"Yeah. We reckoned that no matter where they ended up, the lilac worlds had to contain the first destination. So we called Thor..."
Oh, hell, wasn't going to say that in front of Jack, but it's too late now.
"Uh, we asked him if the lilac worlds were purely Furling, and he said that was the case. At one point, all lilac worlds were theirs. However, he did say he didn't know where they now were, that they did have a complete list of all the gates and could have left their own domain."
I put that in to stop Jack from wondering why we didn't do this in the first place. Given the information, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. He does, however, say (through gritted teeth);
"So we needn't have gone to Pan's world?"
I don't reply. Fortunately for me, Daniel does.
"Doesn't matter, Jack," he says. "At least there we got some information about Hades. It might not have helped with the search for the Furlings but it did prepare us for what we came up against."
"I guess," Jack mutters, then he eats so that he doesn't have to reply further.
Teal'c's gotten one of his 'I'm thinking' faces.
"Teal'c? What is it, honey?"
"I was just considering a small part of what you said," he states carefully. "About the whole list of gates."
"As the Asgard gave us the entire list of gates, did they do the same with the ships that went to Earth and the Tok'ra?"
I'm about to say as much when Jack shakes his head.
"Don't worry. When MIB were delivering them, they had words with Thor. They specifically asked him to only put the gates belonging on the Abydos cartouche and the extended list that I downloaded, on them. They even gave him a copy of Mia's old list so that he'd know which ones could safely be entered into their computers.
"And they did one more thing," he says, looking at Daniel specifically. "They pleaded with him to leave our gate off the list. George has removed it from the dialling computer at the SGC. He knows it off by heart, as does Sergeant Davis. Whenever anything has been sent here, whether it's a person or stuff, he's ordered everyone bar Davis out of the control room so that they don't even see the co-ordinates. So it's all organised."
Daniel offers him a grateful smile. "Just as well you were copied," he says softly.
"Whatd'ya mean?" Jack asks, but his tone is more query than demand.
"I'll bet anything that it was John's idea to organise that."
Jack blushes a bit. In other words, it was.
Teal'c went to the Land of Light the other day. They're really good at leather-working, so we decided we'd ask them to make 'purses', basically just pockets of leather which can be tightened up at the top with a leather 'thong'. We only want to give our presentation boxes to those aliens/humans that we think would appreciate them as a gift. When we want to bribe or just spend, the purses will be more useful.
The reason I'm thinking of this is that if we're going to get any worthwhile info from the auction people, then a bribe or two won't go amiss.
The news there is that things are almost back to normal. They're very grateful that we rescued them again. So grateful, in fact, that Teal'c had to do some serious persuading to let us trade with them for the purses and not to be given them. After all, they've done so much for us, but they don't see it that way.
In the end, we shot a couple of buffalo, skinned them and Teal'c took the skins to them so that they could turn them into leather. It was the nearest thing to a compromise that they'd let us come up with. Of course, the leather stuff they've given us comes from their own supplies; it takes quite a while to turn skin into leather, apparently, but at least we've replaced more than we've used. Well, that was the theory.
As gifts, which Teal'c could not turn down, they gave us leather, well, vests I suppose is the best description. They saw one of the miners wearing something similar and designed their own versions. They're really cool. Even Sam was given one, but they shaped hers so that it's pretty feminine for such a masculine-looking garment.
Because they're such nice people, they even made them for MIB (who've been explained as elder siblings - just couldn't even attempt to describe androids to them. The good people there didn't even question it, they just took them to their hearts, too).
They're dyed into different colours; uh, the vests, not MIB natch. Teal'c's is a sort of bronze, Sam's is a bright-blue, Daniel's is a darker-blue and mine is black. The moment I tried it on, Daniel's eyes went the same colour. Let's just say we wore them in an unconventional place (and I mean in the bedroom, not somewhere weird on our bodies), and a fun time was had by all. Nothing else was on, just the vests. There's something about the smell of new leather that does it for both of us, I guess.
We've planned our trip to the auction planet; planned expeditions to the Furlings' planets. Sorted, schemed, studied and, well, other things got a look-in, too. Few of which are repeatable.
It's snowing, today. Our first snows. We had a serious think about our calendar a while back and Frankie and Sam did some calculations. It turns out that the day that's going to be our shortest day is the equivalent of this year's May 31st on Earth. So June 1st will be our New Year's Day.
Daniel said we should have some sort of midwinter celebration. I like the sound of that. Given that Christmas day is going to be somewhere near our midsummer, it'll be like we're living in the southern hemisphere back on Earth. Christmas on the beach with a barbecue, methinks. It's just as well I have a devious plan cooking.
There was a very good reason for me to want that steaming chest, and it had nothing to do with doors. More to do with the great outdoors. More specifically, me, Daniel, a lake about a hundred miles south of here, a little something I have on order from the masons and some hard work on my part. It's gonna take time, but it'll be worth it.
THEY'RE BACK! At last. Daniel's just rushed out with Sam on his heels. The androids are looking a little surprised but happy to be hugged. By the time Teal'c and I get to them, they've been let go and the questioning is starting in earnest.
"So? What did you find?" Sam's demanding. "Were they the same power sources?"
"Sort of," Frankie replies.
"Folks, why don't we sit in comfort and then they can explain. And then, Sam, you can go and look at the data till your heart's content, okay?"
She smiles at me, nods, takes Frankie by the hand and practically drags her to our house. DJ's connected himself to Daniel and they're walking, a little slower but still with purpose. Teal'c and Kar Shel have acknowledged each other and I hear Teal'c reporting on his visit to the Land of Light; ah, of course. Draya'uc. Kar Shel would want an update on her.
"So?" It's my turn to ask as John strolls to the house with me. "Everything okay? Nothing hurt you guys?"
He looks like he's going to give a flip reply, then shrugs. "We're fine. Found out some stuff. Took a while to get into the workings of the machines, but Frankie found something particularly interesting. She'll explain it all in a minute."
"Good. We've come up with a plan or two ourselves."
"Can't wait to hear them," he states, then we lengthen our strides and catch up with the others.
"Come on, tell us," Samantha urges. "Was it as we thought?"
"Well, there are definite connections between the Furlings' machine and that of the sarc," Frankie states. Before she can continue, DJ interrupts.
"Uh, by the way, neither machine is now working," he says, mainly aimed at Daniel, I believe. "We had to take them apart to get to the mechanics of the things. Under the circumstances, we felt it better to not try to put them back together again."
That news is greeted with relief, especially the news of the sarcophagus. I do think that Daniel will sleep better for knowing that there is one less temptation out there for him.
"Thanks," he replies quietly, but his gratitude is plain to all.
"Well, we looked at two different types of things," Frankie continues. "The method of construction and the underlying technology - such as the things used. The ingredients, so to speak."
"And?" Samantha pushes.
"They're powered by the same source. Naquada plus an unknown element. We've taken readings so that should we come up against it, we'll know what it is."
"Is it on the extended list of elements that Ernest found?" Daniel asks.
"No," DJ replies. "I can remember that list easily, and the atomic structure is beyond even that. If it wasn't for the fact that we're absolutely certain that it's an element, we'd have said it had been manufactured."
"Some elements have been, sort of," Samantha puts in. "I mean ununbium, which was given the atomic number 112, is a radioactive element which is artificially produced. Similarly ununquadium is an artificial element, which is expected to have similar properties to lead and tin. It was made out of plutonium-244 and calcium-48 isotopes. Okay, that had a very short life and broke down into other elements, such as hassium and darmstadtium, but still, it was made. All of the elements with the un- prefix at the high end of the table are similar."
"But this isn't like those," Frankie insists. "It's stable. Permanent. As permanent as gold, doesn't appear to tarnish or oxidise. It's as stable as those at the beginning of the metal elements on the table. And yet its isotopic qualities are like nothing I've seen."
"I want to look at it!" Samantha demands.
"I've brought the data. We weren't sure, but we think that this element is the dangerous one. Looking at the placement of the naquada, we're pretty certain that that's only been used as, well, effectively the 'battery'. You see, it's not the power source per se that's doing the damage, it's what it goes through."
"How do you mean?" O'Neill asks.
"The power sources themselves appear to be purely naquada," John replies. "In effect, they're naquada generators. But, in-between them and the mechanisms which 'drive' both the sarcophagus and the other machine, is this other element. From the way it was configured - and this is still supposition, of course - we think that the power makes this element do the whole cell-regeneration thing.
"Or rather cell generation. Having given the whole thing some serious consideration, we're of the opinion that the Tok'ra's machine regenerates but these don't. They cause new cells to grow rather than dead or dying cells to come back to life."
"Which explains why the Tok'ra's machine didn't cause any nanocytes to grow. Because they're bionanocytes, they must be cellular. The sarc and the Furlings' machine must cause them to replicate," Daniel muses.
"That's what we thought," DJ replies.
"In which case, a) did the Furlings build the sarc and b) we need to find the makers of the Tok'ra's machine because it's always going to be safe for us to use."
Daniel suddenly frowns, then hits his head.
"We don't need the Furlings if this is the case."
"Whatd'ya mean?" O'Neill demands.
"Think about it. When you got turned into a Jaffa and then got put into the sarc before you could be implanted, it generated new cells, including that of your immune system. When Draya'uc went into the Tok'ra machine, it only regenerated the cells which were dying because she had no immune system. It didn't give her one back. All we need is another sarcophagus, and then we can turn Jaffa into humans once again."
"I understand what you are saying, Daniel, and to a point that is true," I feel I must say. "However, as I once discussed with Samantha, and apparently you all discussed among yourselves, we need to offer the Jaffa as a whole more than just a return to human life.
"Whereas if I could be assured that I, without my symbiote, could live a life as long as my Samantha, I should be glad to step inside the sarcophagus, I do not think that I could convince many others to do the same. Especially those, such as myself, who have lived past the normal human lifespan. I do not think that they would believe that they would continue to live as healthily as they do now.
"Only if they were desperate, with no prospect of a new larva to sustain them, would they even consider it. They would not only give up the lifespan of a Jaffa, but would be weakened, in their eyes. Their physical strength would not be the same. To some, the lure of being freed from the slavery of the symbiote would be enough; to others, however, it would not.
"If we are to persuade those still loyal to their masters that there is an alternative, that alternative would have to at the very least be equal to that of the slavery. They would not see freedom in and of itself as enough compensation for having lost their strength and long lives."
"Of course," he sighs. "Sorry, just getting carried away again."
"It is not a bad idea as such, Daniel," I say, "but it could only be offered in extreme cases."
"I'm not even sure it would work, anyway," Samantha states. "After all, as you said, Daniel, when Jack was put into the sarc, he'd never received a symbiote so one had never taken over the function of his immune system. I just get the feeling that even if Teal'c was put in one, without a snake, it wouldn't do anything other than cure him of whatever immediate illness he'd contracted," she finishes with a sigh.
"So, back to the questions," O'Neill breaks in. "Did the Furlings build the sarc?"
"Possibly," Frankie replies. "The elements are the same, but the 'style' of building is different. Of course, there were no markings other than those of the Goa'uld on the sarc, so we couldn't be positive either way. We know the Goa'uld steal and then cover up the theft," she shrugs. "My gut feeling is that the Furlings built something along the lines of the sarc which was then discovered and taken over by the snakes."
"Okay, that's good," O'Neill says thoughtfully. "At least it gives us the hope that the Furlings didn't go nutso in the end. So, what of the other question? Are we going to get out there and find the makers of the other healing device?"
"We could go ask them tomorrow," Daniel answers with a shrug. "Got nothing better to do."
With that, O'Neill grins broadly at him.
"Cool, it's a date."
You can take the Air Force away from the man, but you can't take the man from the Force. He's itching to get on with a mission, that's for sure. Not that I can blame him.
The last few days have been hard on us all. Even though we believed we understood how close we'd gotten to MIB, it was only this enforced separation, with us figuratively sitting around and twiddling our thumbs while they were in a potentially dangerous situation that really brought it home to us. Possibly less to me, because I'd already had that panic moment with DJ and the glider, but the others... It's interesting.
Jack had already stated how he loved John like a brother, Sam and Frankie have become almost as inseparable as DJ and myself, but both of them were aching to have them back in a way that hasn't been so obvious before.
Teal'c and Kar Shel are the most surprising pairing. Teal'c's mood over the last few days has been as bad as I've ever seen it. Only when he set eyes on his mechanical sibling did those eyes soften and a look akin to total relief seem to flood them.
All I can do is hope against hope that we never get permanently separated from them. And hope that when old age finally catches up with us, MIB find a way to go on without us.
Note, I'm not even allowing myself the thought of old age not being the end for all of us. It's not going to happen. I just won't let it.
"You're thinking again," Jack accuses as he tries to pull me down under the covers.
I shrug. "Everything and nothing."
He gets it. I see a small smile and nod, then he wraps me up in his arms and holds me close.
"Want me to take your mind off it?"
"Oh, I think that's possible," I agree.
I'm wondering exactly what he's got in mind. It's not easy to work him out, even now. Occasionally, there'll be times, like this, that the man I know best in the entire universe, the one I have the closest telepathic and empathic link to, is a total enigma to me. I look into his eyes, realise he's decided on something and so I lie still, awaiting either instructions to move or for a recognisable clue.
He's knelt up, picked up the jar of oil we used most for lube (we have a variety of substances, but our home-made variety is our general favourite as it works even better than 'shop bought'), then he moves, tugs at one of my legs and I get the message. My legs are now open in invitation and his face has a dirty great smirk plastered over it.
Oh yeah, baby, do your worst. Please. I mean it. As bad as you want to get, it can't be anything like as bad as I'd be for you. Only for you, though.
My left foot is in his right hand and he's kissing the inside of the ankle. Just briefly, but my cock hardens quickly at the touch. He tips the jar and some oil pours onto his hand. I watch as he slowly but surely rubs it over his dick and that responds by getting as big and as hard as it ever could get. I am so going to enjoy this.
Now two oily fingers are pushed inside me, just for a moment, purely to get some grease there, but, as ever, it's too soon when he removes them. He could do that all night and it would be too soon when they went.
He's leaning forward over me, reaching to the table to put the jar down, and finally, he lifts my other foot up and kisses that ankle too. It goes the same way as my other, over his shoulder then he shuffles forward on his knees, lines it up and - oh God, yes - he's in with just the briefest of pauses. My back arches up as if to say More, but there is no more.
Sometimes there is just not enough of him. Sometimes, just sometimes, I need every inch of him inside me, as if I could wear him, or rather he could wear me. Sometimes I need that, to feel him on every single nanometre of my skin - on it, in it, doesn't matter.
Good, this helps. Connecting like this gives me a little of that feeling, but it's never enough.
No, I'm hating every second of it. Can't you tell?
He laughs at me, out loud, which is a touch incongruous because he's now fucking me hard. Didn't wait, didn't build up, just went for it. Like the other day when I was face down, he understands now what he understood then. I need this sometimes and I can't explain when, where, why or how. I just do. I don't have the words to describe this sensation, all I can do is project the feeling. He gets it, because there are times when he needs this too.
Oh my, this is good. Better than good. He hasn't touched my cock, probably won't need to. He's gotten the angle just right and my button is well and truly being pushed. Make that battered. Who cares? I don't. Yes, I do. I care that this is right and it is right. So right.
Oh fuck, no, I can't hold on. Want to. Want this to carry on forever. Don't want it to stop.
I call out to him in some sort of desperation but I don't even know what that desperation is. He responds by going faster, and now he's wrapped his fingers; his strong, calloused fingers, around my cock and he's tugging at it hard. No finesse; not wanted, not needed. Just him.
FUCK! It's over. I feel my climax rip his out of him and he calls out to me as I call out to him. It's really over. Damn.
He's collapsed onto me, my legs splayed, my chest heaving, my arms feel deadened and I can't even lift them to hold him. I imagine holding him and project the image so that he knows that I would if I could. I feel him smile against my chest, but he doesn't go. All I can say is I'm glad I'm not particularly hairy there or else I'd get a good waxing tomorrow.
I finally get the energy to reach over to the blankets and tug at them, covering him up to his neck. Then I wrap my real arms around him. I don't want him to move ever again.
"Is everything and everyone ready?" John asks as he meets up with us on Gimli.
"Yup," Jack replies. "We picked out some gems ready for a bit of bribery and I'm thinking that it's time to go."
The planet is a long way from Annwn, halfway across the galaxy if the holomap is anything to go by - and I don't see why it shouldn't be. Sam says it's going to take getting on for an hour, maybe more to get there.
I've brought my laptop with the images of the marks from the machine, and now DJ is sitting with me as we look at them. I tried to work on them while they were away, but it wasn't easy. I couldn't concentrate. But now, with my brother right next to me and my family surrounding me, concentration becomes easier.
The marks are familiar. There's something about them that's shouting out at me, but I can't put my finger on it. I look at DJ and realise that he's thinking the same.
"I think that this amount of marking, assuming it is writing," he starts, "could only describe the machine. Possibly either the name of it, or even a maker's mark."
"Something along the lines of 'made in China'?" Jack teases as he comes to sit near us.
DJ chuckles, shrugs, then says, "Guess it's possible, but not China. Or anything Chinese."
"Having said that," I point out, "there is a distinct... No, it's not a link to Chinese calligraphy as such, it's just the lines..."
Ach, this is so frustrating. I can see it's not Chinese or any Asian writing of a similar nature. It's simpler than that. I don't think it's pictographic, either, because it's literally a series of lines. But...
"I know what you mean," DJ sighs. "There's something familiar about it. The trouble is, we've gotten so few marks that pinning it down isn't easy. And of course, we have no idea about the age of this thing. It could be that what we're seeing is only part of a mark, the rest of it being worn away."
"That's possible, but I did the old 'find the writing under the surface' trick when the Tok'ra weren't looking," I state.
He grins at me, then shakes his head to stop himself laughing.
"The old 'find the writing under the surface trick'?" Jack asks.
"Uh, yeah. Um, think of what happens when you use a ballpoint pen on a piece of paper which sits on a pad of paper itself. When you remove the top layer, the one that's been written on, you can sometimes work out what's been written by covering the next layer with a fine powder.
"Uh, I believe they do it with some sort of magnetic powder in forensic labs. Then put the paper into a machine, switch on a magnet, and all the powder gets drawn into the dents left by the pen as it pushed down. Or something like that, anyway."
Jack nods, getting at least the drift of what I'm saying.
"So, what did you do?" he asks.
Daniel's doing his cute head-dip thing, blushing a little and catching the tip of his tongue between his teeth.
"That's where I came in," I say. "He got me to distract the scientist who was nervously hovering over us, then he did his thing."
"His thing? Just what is his thing?" Jack demands.
"Thought you'd know all about Daniel's thing," John teases, making Jack harrumph and Daniel go a little red, but more from the fact that he's trying not to laugh than anything else.
"Okay, I'll tell you, but don't tell the Tok'ra," he states. Getting everyone's agreement, he explains. "I took some chalk out of my pocket, crushed it against the floor where I was sitting - uh, I was on the opposite side of the machine to the scientist," he adds to help the others picture the scene. "Then I got my brush out..."
"Brush?" Jack puts in.
"Sure. I always carry a few things on me. You never know when you're going to need one."
He pulls out a small brush, like a particularly hairy, but soft paintbrush and shows him.
"Anyway, I picked up the chalk dust, rubbed it over the whole area of the markings, then gently brushed the dust away. Any dents left by marks were then filled with the chalk dust. If you look at this picture here," he says, pointing to a particular one on his computer, "you can see where the lines are a different colour. However, it wasn't successful because as you can also see, when comparing it to the one next to it, there was no difference."
John stares at the images and frowns. "Where have I seen marks like that before?" he asks, probably to no one but himself.
The marks are a series of lines, etched into the side of the 'pole'. Some are either side of the centre, others heading 'up' and the others 'down', at least using the centre of the pole as a sort of starting point. The centre of the pole is marked with a line. Some marks are perpendicular to the line and some diagonal.
At first I thought that line was a join, like a weld mark, but having run my fingers over it and consulted with the Tok'ra who is now in charge of studying it and looking at his results, there is no variation in thickness or composition of the material at any point in its entire circumference (except for the area where the markings are, naturally, where the material is a fraction less dense).
"John, do you think you're onto something?" DJ asks curiously.
"I... I don't know," he states. Then he looks at Jack. "You've seen it too, haven't you?" Jack nods very slowly. "Okay, so that means you saw it before I was created, or else we've seen it since but only at a time when we were together. Let's go with the 'since'. What markings have we seen when together?"
"Asgard - on the ship, Greek Goa'uld at Hades' place and on the ship, and the writings of what that water thing called the 'Others'. Ya know, Pan and all that. But this doesn't look like anything we've seen in those places."
"So it must have been before," John states rather obviously. "Okay. Daniel couldn't have been with you because otherwise he or DJ would recognise it, or at least remember seeing it with you. You don't, do you?"
He looks at them and they shake their heads.
"Daniel's right. Both of them are right," Jack sighs. "I need to see more of it. There's only a handful of marks here, couldn't be more than a name, could it?"
"We can't see how," DJ answers for them both. "It's definitely not Asian, it's too, well, it just isn't," he almost growls as he can't find the right words.
"It's not from the Middle East, either," Daniel agrees. "Hieroglyphs are far more pictorial and cuneiform is a series of lines, but with wedges. And they go off in different directions... No, definitely not that."
"Further west?" I try. "Americas? We know that North American tribes were taken away."
Daniel just shakes his head. "No, definitely not. Doesn't look right."
"Africa?" Frankie tries, getting herself a shrug back from both of them.
"There's a distinct runic feel about them," Daniel sighs. "But they're most definitely not Asgard or Viking or Saxon or anything like that."
"Hang on, you said it might even be mathematics," I put in. "I remember after the whole Tobin debacle, I did some reading on ancient mathematics. I'm sure I saw a picture of a bone with markings on, slices into the bones which were interpreted as either some sort of 'money', as if to say 'I owe you three goats' when there were three marks, or else they were used for counting something like the success of a hunt. Which hunter brought down how many deer, or something along those lines. Could this be mathematics?" I try again.
"Could be, Sam," Daniel agrees. "Can't see why, but I'd be an idiot to say it isn't." His head shoots up, he glares at Jack and says, "Don't say it!"
"Gah! Don't start you two!" I order, then see the two of them exchange mischievous glances. I'm thinking it's going to be a long trip.
I was right, it was a long trip. Punctuated only by looks between Jack and Daniel which kept changing from the mischievous glances to what could only be described as hot and horny looks. I reckon the two of them can't wait to get home! So much for wanting a mission.
Not that this is a mission, yet. Not as such, anyway. We've arrived at the co-ordinates and are now sneaking quietly into the system. We see how most ships are kept out of here; there are a few ha'taks, pretty big but also pretty old by the looks of them. Our guess is that they were stolen by these people at some point and patrol the system as if to ward off any attempts at invasion.
Mercifully, Goa'uld ships - at least the ones we know about - can't see through Asgard cloaks. The ships up here aren't showing any signs that they've seen us, but to be on the safe side, we're attempting to not leave a trail. Hence the extreme quiet on the bridge as Teal'c pilots us through a pretty dense asteroid belt. The last thing we want to do is disturb any of them, because they could, just possibly, be watching them as signs for the entry of a cloaked ship.
At least that's one of the things we would do, so we're going with that as one of the I'krell's lines of defence, just to be cautious.
The plan is that when we get to the planet, Teal'c and I will remain on board - just in case they do have the ability to detect naquada - and the others will beam down to a place just outside the settlement so that they're not seen. Then, using the gems as bribes (given the guys' experiences here before, that's probably going to be necessary), they're going to find the man in charge. If there is one, of course. We have a plan B, but we're only going to use it if it becomes necessary. Let's hope not, eh?
These people do not change. It took a few bribes before we managed to get to see the head honcho, and now we're with him, let's say he's not being particularly co-operative. I'm thinking 'good cop, bad cop' might work here. I give the look to the others, and they blink back at me to say they agree.
"Okay, the way I see it is this. You can either benefit by telling us where you 'found' that machine, or you and your entire planet will go 'bang'."
He looks at me in shock, then disbelief. "Bang? What do you mean?"
Daniel gets out the bag of gems. He made sure that he put a couple of the small opals, the most valuable stones, on top of quite a few of the other, less valuable stones. Then he puts it down on the table in front of the guy with a bit of a thump. He opens the top a little way, enough for the greedy creep to see inside. His eyes light up like a pair of LED bulbs when he sees the contents.
"All of this is yours," Daniel says. "If you co-operate."
We're not explaining the 'bang' yet. Soon, though...
The bozo's weakening.
"Of course, if you get the idea of double-crossing us," Daniel continues, in that seductive, purring voice he gets, "then it's bye-bye time, I'm afraid. You see, we don't like swindlers and liars."
The chump now swallows hard. He jumps when Daniel suddenly sweeps the bag back into his hand and away from him.
"I'll give you to the count of, say... twenty. I'm feeling generous," I interrupt. "If you don't give by then, you don't get."
Daniel dangles the bag from its tie over one of his fingers and swings the bag back and forth, almost hypnotising him.
"One... two... three..." He's definitely weakening. The further I go, the further away the bag gets. "Ten... eleven..."
"Very well," he caves. "I must find the details. Stop counting!"
He's going through a list of things, opening a drawer in what looks remarkably like a filing cabinet and pulling out file after file. Someone's going to have to do some serious filing when this is done.
"Seventeen... eighteen... nineteen..."
"I have it!"
It's amazing what a little incentive can do, isn't it? Or as Teal'c put it - a little intimidation can go a long way. Didn't I mention that the droids were slowly surrounding him and closing in? Oops. Must've forgotten.
"How do we know it's for real?" I ask, taking the bag from Daniel and now dangling it in front of the man's nose.
"It is! I swear it!"
"This is coming from a liar, thief and cheat," Daniel sneers. "Ya know, I think we'd better make sure he doesn't palm us off with some crap."
"Okay. Gimme that file," I order.
"The gems," he states.
I hold them out, he's about to take them when I snatch them back. My other hand is open, waiting for the file. He sees it, picks up the file and we do one of those 'I don't trust you' exchanges. Which is accurate, I don't trust him further than I can throw him, even though I can detect that he's actually telling the truth. But still, it won't hurt to reinforce this. The last thing I want is for his people to come after us.
"Time for a beam up, I think," I say into my communicator.
A moment later, and we're all back on Gimli. The bonehead is shocked.
"You dare have a ship in our system?" he shouts.
"We dare," DJ shrugs. "And if you notice, not one of your ships has seen us. So, you'd better be telling us the truth or else..."
"Or else what?" he demands.
"Or else we come back and blow your insignificant little planet into molecules," Kar Shel joins in, removing his hat and exposing his 'tattoo' for the first time.
That's cool. Now the creep thinks we're snakes, or at the very least, here on the behalf of snakes. Kar Shel's voice was doing its 'I am the First Prime of the most powerful Goa'uld in the galaxy' thing and it's working. Oh yeah, I love it when a plan starts coming together.
"You... you wouldn't!"
"Oh yes we would," I say with as sweet a smile on my face as I can manage. Oh no we wouldn't, but he doesn't have to know that, does he?
"Uh, we could," Daniel sighs, almost, but not quite apologetically. "Which would be a pity, because then it would mean that I couldn't come here and buy any more things."
He's appealing to this man's lowest instinct, I think. Profit over preservation. Sheesh.
"The information that I gave you is correct," he insists.
Teal'c's hand hovers over a button. "This is the weapon which could disintegrate your planet," he intones slowly. "Are you sure?"
I look at Daniel and hear; I think this is the most honest this guy has ever been in his life. By the way, these people are pretty amazing explorers, as well as thieves.
"Send him back," I order. "But before you go, remember this. You don't know who we are, you don't know where we live. You do know that we have an extremely powerful ship and are completely capable of coming back and slipping through any security system you have. Do not send anyone to this planet," I say, waving the file around. "If we see any of your people, it's molecules in space time. Get it?"
"Yes. Now please, send me home!"
I give Teal'c the nod and he presses the button that he threatened the guy with. A moment later, and he's back in his office.
"Got the co-ordinates?" Sam asks.
I hand her the file.
"Ooh, look," she says. "There's more than just co-ordinates here. There's a whole load of information about the place. Uh, Daniel? DJ? You want to look at this."
They go to the file, stare at some images that are in it, then grin. Daniel nods at me, grinning more madly by the moment. "We've got to go there, Jack, and the sooner the better. I wouldn't trust that creep to not send someone through the gate this minute."
"How far away is it?" I ask Sam. She taps the co-ordinates into the computer and says, "We can be there in five."
"Can this ship do a hyperspace jump from cold?" I'm only asking because I don't want to have to tiptoe through the asteroids again.
She shrugs, so I say...
"Make it so."