Summary: And so it continues. And will continue on... With so much on Daniel's mind, will he be able to use it? More to the point, will he ever get to the point. And if he does, will he figure out the point of it all? There's trouble on the horizon, or rather it's underground.
Mega apologies for the delay. Lousy time to have a case of writer's block, not to mention a rather difficult year of study. Now I have a more difficult year ahead and the stories have started to come again. Bloody typical if you ask me. Anyway, as usual, grovelling thanks to Alph for alpha/beta... omega ideas and checks and apologies for driving her up the wall.
Oh, and it's the return of the Evil Cliffhanger Writer. Tee Hee.
Daniel's totally freaked. This time it's not because of any superpowers or suchlike, it's just that he's got his mind on so many things at the same time that he can't settle.
Problem one: is the Furlings' planet really millions of years old? Or rather the experiment on it.
Problem two: he wants to go over all the data from the ship so that he can get clues about where they went and hopefully later on, what happened to them, but can't find the ability to settle down to it.
Problem three: is there really a snake in the grass back home? And if so, how the hell do we find it?
Problem four - and this is the one that's upsetting him the most for some reason - which freaking snake is it?
You'd think that as there's two of him, he'd find it easier to settle, but it's not happening. DJ's just as frantic. Unfortunately that's got the effect of a feedback loop of panic, one setting the other off, the other getting just as bad and then freaking the other out...
John and Jack have had their hands full just trying to get both to rest and I have lost count of how many mugs of coffee Daniel's gotten through and how many meals he would have missed if Jack hadn't pushed him to eat. Though as he eats, we can all see how he's forcing it down his throat, as if it's choking him.
Frankie and I had an idea about dating the ship and returned there yesterday to take samples so that we can date them using carbon14 isotopes, or any other techniques we can think of.
The one they use on Earth for dating rocks, radiometric dating, won't be of much use, because the only rock was the ship itself and from what we can tell, that's about five billion years old - really speaking just a bit older than Earth's solar system. So our idea that they literally built the ship from an asteroid of huge size would seem to be accurate.
That doesn't help in any way at all.
The problem we've come up against is that nearly every single thing we've found on (or rather in) the ship is 'man-made' and we don't know all of the ingredients of their construction; in fact many are unknown to us. Because of that, we don't know what the half-lives are of the various elements. You have to know those to date things and not all elements are suitable for that technique.
So despite trawling through the entire ship, we're no better off than we were unless we can find something in the samples which can at least give us an educated guess if not an accurate date. If we could find just one it would help. So far, no element that we've found that we know of is the sort that allows for dating. Some help then.
I'm not sure why Daniel's so frantic about problem four. Okay, it might give us a clue as to the nature of the Goa'uld, but that's all.
Perhaps he just wants to know what he's up against. We all want to know that. The trouble is, every time he starts to settle on thinking about one thing, another problem pops up and takes his attention away from it. He wants to get on with his dictionary of the gods, but he can't settle to type a word and that's also frustrating him.
When we told him about the possible age of the experiment he was shocked, naturally, but there was something there in his eyes which told me that he wasn't surprised. I suppose it's to do with his theory that aliens have been around on Earth for a long time.
The Earth is just over four and a half thousand million years old. It makes eleven million look pretty small in comparison: having said that, the whole atmosphere of both ship and settlement seemed distinctly younger than that. After all, would they even have still existed in the form they did after all that time? Especially the settlement which was exposed to the elements and therefore would have been prone to erosion.
Getting back on track; we think that hominids have been around for about five - six million years (depending on the level of evolution at which we define hominid as opposed to ape). Three is probably closer to the mark where it comes to recognisably human-like, but genetics tell us that we only split from the chimpanzees about five million years ago and we share 98.4% of our DNA with them, making them the closest related animal to us.
According to a book I read, it's thought that a weakening of the jaw muscle was the major trigger for the change; it allowed for the growth of the skull, and therefore the brain, and without the strength in the jaw for eating tough things and biting (when fighting) with any significance, the hominid brain was forced to evolve to allow for 'thinking' (as we would recognise it today), leading to talking, the building of human societal structures and so on.
I'm getting off track again.
Anyway, the whole point is - what if there had been a previous evolution of hominids, one which left no real trace? Is it beyond the realms of possibility? I'd have to say 'no' to that, although as I'm not a biologist, I couldn't say with any level of certainty.
The point Daniel made the other day, however, was this: if, in three million years, we changed from hairy ape-like creatures living in small family groups in the wilderness, to the city-dwelling, space-faring 'hairless apes' we are today, what is there to say that it couldn't have happened twice? Or maybe even more times than that? Three million years, even in evolutionary terms, is nothing whatsoever.
Of course we have to take into account the factor of changes being made generation by generation, with tiny 'mutations', if that's what it is that causes evolution, appearing every so often. The likelihood of these mutations happening in every single generation is small.
It's more likely that it's a small change every so-many generations. If that's the case, it actually limits the amount of time for the evolution to take place. Which in turn, actually makes evolution a bit quicker if, for some reason, the mutations did happen on a more frequent basis. Things like rapid, regular climate change, even temporary increases in solar radiation might make enough of a difference.
Like I said, I'm not a biologist.
The last mass extinction happened at the time of the dinosaurs. 65 million years ago. With the earliest (known) hominids appearing something in the region of five million years ago, that gives us getting on for 60 million years during which mammalian life evolved.
Mammals were around during the time of the dinosaurs, but from what we can tell, they were pretty small and insignificant. Only after the atmosphere settled after the extinction event did they grow and expand.
Daniel's question is; why did it take 60 million years for us to appear when all signs show that when we did, we evolved really quickly? The Neogene, the current Period, is about 23 - 24 million years old. Couldn't hominids of different form from us have appeared at some point early on during this time?
How about during the Paleogene - the Period which started at the end of the dinosaurs' reign? The Eocene, the Epoch just after the Paleocene Epoch, about 55 million years ago, saw large tropical jungles and (and this is the important bit) the start of large modern mammalian life, though in what we would call 'primitive form'. Could they not have evolved then?
And one other major point; who is to say they were even mammals? Or that if they were, they evolved from apes? Could they not have been reptilian like the Unas? I wish I could answer him.
He told us, too, that genetic research has shown that today's humans have descended from about 5000 females and this dates back to another major event - a rather ironic (given our previous home's fate) supervolcano in Indonesia, which possibly 'hurried up' the start of an ice age which (combined with the immediate effect of the volcano) wiped out about 90 - 95% of all human life at the time. This happened only 75,000 years ago which is a blip, even in hominid time.
Look how we've diversified physically since then. We have tall, slender, very dark-skinned peoples from East Africa; short, paler-skinned and stocky peoples from the Arctic regions; the tall but stocky blonds from Northern Europe; and the various Asians who go from quite pale to very dark, short to very tall, virtually hairless to those who can grow extraordinary beards!
And those are just a very few of the many forms of humans throughout the world. Each 'design' is best-suited to the region of the native race you find there (to deal with the climate for the most part), sometimes down to a very localised 'speciality' of looks.
Yet our DNA, whether we're Native Americans, from Central Africa, Northern Europeans or even Native Australians - who if I remember correctly are one of the oldest extant identifiable races on the planet - is apparently more identical than that found throughout a typical chimpanzee group. A single group, that is. They have a greater genetic diversity than can be found between even the most extremely different human races.
Something weird's going on with human genetics if you ask me. But then no one does, for which I'm grateful.
Going back (yet again) to Daniel's thought about an earlier development, Jack pointed out that there was no sign of civilisations being millions of years old on Earth. Daniel then pointed out that during that time, just in this last two Periods of the current Quarternary sub-era, the Pleistocene and the ongoing Holocene, a time covering less than two million years, there have been any number of events such as ice ages and tectonic activity which could have wiped out any significant information.
He also added that just because we haven't found any evidence of civilisation during or even before the time of the dinosaurs is no proof that they didn't exist at all. As he says, in his line of business they have a saying: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
An entire civilisation from 100 million years ago could quite easily have vanished without a trace given the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) climatic and geological circumstances. It could have been totally subducted into the earth if it were on the edge of a tectonic plate, for example, or have been completely covered by ice or lava in one of the massive eruptions such as happened at the Deccan traps, which, curiously enough, has been given an approximate date of 65 million years ago.
Sounds familiar? Hey ho, I'm not a geologist either, but it does look suspicious to me. Anyway, apparently the whole lava flow is estimated to have covered a range of about one and a half million square kilometres. Could a civilisation be under that rock, perhaps? It doesn't sound impossible to me.
Many scientists theorise that the dinosaurs' asteroid was simply the final straw, and that the long-term eruption of the traps (from about 30,000 years according to some estimates, up to about 6 million years according to some others) was the initial starting point for the climate change. There is good evidence to show that the reptilian and some sea life at that time was already in the process of extinction, and had been for a good few million years before the asteroid finished them off.
Couldn't it have done the same to even a thriving civilisation?
Dinosaurs to one side, I think he thinks that there could well be something left, but that we have no idea where to find it and more to the point, what to look for.
"Okay, Daniel, tell me what's on your mind," I order as we gather around the dinner table.
I had to drag him up here again 'cause he's been plastered to his computer along with being buried under heaven only knows how many books. Between him and DJ, I'm thinking they've read every one in the hope of getting even the slightest clue.
He swallows his food, but looks pretty sick as he does. I know it was Sam's turn to cook, but it's not that bad. Honest.
"Uh, well, we've been thinking about how Earth has changed since the end of the dinosaurs," he states. "Even though plate tectonics have changed the face of the planet, for example India didn't join up with continental Asia until about 55 million years ago, and it is still moving further north as I speak; Australia was closer to the South Pole, Antarctica itself was further north than it is now and wasn't completely covered with ice..."
All of a sudden his face registers something, but he seems to file that and carries on.
"...It hasn't changed hugely in that time. The plates only move about one centimetre a year on average. Some a little faster, like the Pacific plate, some a little slower, but that's a reasonable estimate. 65 million centimetres is 'only' 650 kilometres; about 400 miles. Not all plates have moved that far, but it shows how comparatively small that movement was - is, rather.
"About the time of India becoming part of Asia, Greenland and some parts of the British Isles were still attached to each other. Um, the Antarctic ice cap didn't start to develop until about 40 million years ago, but it wasn't until the breakaway from Australia and the opening of the Drake Passage which gave the circumpolar current about 23 million years ago that the ice really became a factor. It took until about 15 million years ago for it to become more or less as we know it now.
"Actually, it was only about six million years ago that the present-day ice cap size was reached. That's next to no time ago when you're talking geological time."
He thinks a bit more and then says, "Other, fairly major events happened in what we know to be, uh, you could call it 'hominid time', I guess. Things like the Panamanian isthmus reconnected North to South America only about three million years ago, changing the flow of the oceans, giving us the Gulf Stream and today's recognisable weather patterns. It took a while for it all to settle down but what we call the ice ages started about two and a half million years ago. Even then Antarctica wasn't completely ice-covered."
"And this effects us how?" I ask.
He eats a little more and frowns. "We found a gate in Antarctica, remember?"
It's my turn to frown. "Never forget it," I mutter. I'm wondering if he's ever going to stay on track 'cause I can see that he's going somewhere other than where he started. Somewhere fucking freezing.
"As I said, it took quite some time for Antarctica to become completely uninhabitable," he states, his face looking just as it did when he was onto something back at the SGC. I can see links appearing in his head and he's just going to pour out facts until they make sense.
"The genus Homo, which gave us Homo habilis - the hominids we're most likely directly descended from as opposed to the australopithecines, like Australopithecus afarensis which were their forerunners - only appeared about 2.4 million years ago. The first hominid to migrate from Africa was thought to be Homo erectus..." he glares at me and I say not a single word. Though I'm thinking it and he knows it. "...Emerged about 1.9 million years ago. They think that the absolute ancestor, so to speak, was Homo heidelbergensis, and that only evolved in Africa between four and one hundred thousand years ago.
"That's nothing in geological time. But even then we weren't alone. There were the Neanderthals and other, similar - and some quite different hominids all over the place less than 100,000 years ago. But the important thing is that by 40,000 years ago, modern humans were all over the world - at least the bits they could get to."
"What has this got to do with Antarctica?" Sam asks.
"I... I'm not sure," he murmurs, but then I think the link strikes him. "The fossil record is the only proof we have of earlier hominids. They were found in Africa. If you look at where Africa is, the climate record over time and so on, it's a logical place for them to have evolved. The climate and geology there also give us the opportunity to discover these fossils.
"But what if... What if another hominid species had evolved elsewhere? Somewhere that the preservation of fossils is either impossible or very difficult, or which is no longer accessible to us for us to find them, such as being under ice or even under water. At one point Antarctica was more than habitable. During the time of the dinosaurs it was still attached to Africa and was pretty much tropical. We have fossil records. There is distinct evidence of plant life at the very least."
He frowns as if he's angry with himself. "Can't remember if there were fossils of animal life, though. I'm pretty certain there were some Antarctic dinosaur fossils which would date back before the ice, but I can't remember if there were any other, more modern faunal fossils." Ah, that's why he's not happy. He hates not knowing with certainty. Undoubtedly he'll go look it up later.
"You're suggesting that an older human species developed on Antarctica what, 20 million years ago? Maybe more?" Sam suggests.
"Wouldn't say human, Sam. Hominid is probably more accurate. Although you must accept that that is only a loose description that I'm using for convenience and which encompasses any creature we would recognise as such, even including such beings as the Unas which were obviously not descendants of apes."
He looks at her as if he's decided something. "There's got to be more evidence than just the gate there," he states. "We need to go look."
"For the record," I put in. "I've done the popsicle thing once. Ain't gonna rush to do it twice."
He rolls his eyes. "That's what scanners are for, Jack," he sighs. "Gimli can scan through to the core."
He eats a little more and then his eyes bulge out. "We need to get to Earth asap."
"Can't it wait?" I ask, wanting to finish my food at least.
"Uh, well, you can eat," he tries. "But we've gotta go."
"Naquada," he says with a grin, then eats more before expanding. In fact he's eating with more gusto than I've seen in days. Pity I've got to ask him why, eh?
Daniel is apparently happy. Why he is happy at the mention of naquada, none of us knows, however I do believe that we shall soon find out.
"Danny? What's with the naquada?" O'Neill asks after allowing Daniel to eat some of his food.
"Well, in theory, there isn't any on Earth, is there?"
"Not naturally occurring, no," Samantha agrees.
"So how did the Ancients build the first stargate?"
His question leaves us astounded. If he is correct that the Ancients came from Earth and that they truly were the first builders of the stargate network, then they must have found naquada somewhere. If not on Earth, then where?
Naquada, as Daniel now reminds us, is also at the heart of the technology used to drive the Goa'uld ships. A different element but similarly-structured technology powers the Asgard ships. There must be something in the design which allows for hyperspace travel.
Hyperspace travel would also have been a necessity for the Ancients or else they could not have travelled from Earth in a reasonable length of time. It would have taken practically the entire length of the Ancients 'human-form' existence, for want of a more accurate description, just to visit a few planets without it. They possibly might not have even been able to visit one planet given the time it would take a ship without hyperspace engines to travel from one system to another.
"The only alternative I can think of," Samantha says thoughtfully, "is that another alien species maybe stumbled upon Earth when the Ancients were living there. If they had access to the naquada, then perhaps they shared it?"
"It's possible," Daniel agrees. "Though it makes me wonder two things. One; who the heck were the other aliens? The Asgard called the Ancients 'the Ancients', so it couldn't be them; the Nox don't travel and we know the Furlings were not as advanced at the beginning of the gate system. The Asgard haven't mentioned anyone else and Arawn's people said nothing about myths or legends of even older peoples than the Ancients. They called them the 'Oldest Ones', suggesting that they really were the first to get out and about, so to speak.
"Two; if even older space-faring aliens did exist, why didn't they use the naquada to build their own version of the stargate system?"
"Perhaps they hadn't thought of it?" I suggest.
"True," he says. "Maybe their minds just didn't go there. I was just thinking that if they were the sort to travel, to explore, then they'd likely be the sort to consider something like wormholes. After all, physicists on Earth think about it all the time. They don't know about the power ratio of naquada allowing us to convert 'our' energy into enough energy to establish, and more to the point, keep a wormhole intact for a significant length of time.
"But, even without that knowledge, they still accept that travel to and from other planets is at least theoretically possible using them."
He eats a little more and then elaborates on this thought.
"What I mean by this is that if our scientists are thinking that, even knowing that they can't do it, then a civilisation which had access to an element which could make the wormholes, and was sufficiently curious enough about extra-planetary life to build ships - and take the risk of using them - would more than likely be a civilisation which could put the two ideas together. I mean, I can't see how they couldn't at least think about it. What do you think?"
I think that I am very confused. There are times when Daniel just says what is on his mind and it does not always make a great deal of sense until we have given his words some serious consideration. However, I am beginning to see his point. The others agree with mutters rather than words. This means that they, too, are trying to understand him.
"So," O'Neill says. "This means what to us?"
"Assuming that there was no other alien species then the chances of the Ancients finding naquada on Earth have just increased significantly." Then he smiles his more wicked smile. "And," he states, "we can scan for minute quantities of any element, can't we?"
"We can," Samantha says cautiously.
"Well, we know that we're going to find some if we go to Earth and scan it; the largest quantity at Cheyenne, tiny amounts in Cassie, for example, but also as part of the dog tags for one of the ships..."
Of course, one of the alloys made so that Earth's ships could recognise its crew contained naquada.
"And there should be a fair bit up at the glider base in the Arctic. But, there should not be any that we don't know about. If we go to Earth and do a thorough scan, we can discount what we know, perhaps trace the origin of the ore the Ancients must have used and..."
His voice trails off and he smiles.
"And?" O'Neill prompts.
"And we find our missing snake."
Okay, so it took a little persuasion, but we're in Gimli and just entering Earth's solar system. MIB decided against coming this time - they feel like doing something a little different. To be frank, I think that John was bored and wanted to get DJ away from the computers and books, so they've picked the first destination on our list of lilac worlds with the first three co-ordinates (we haven't yet found the destination in the records that were downloaded; there was so much there that it's taking a long time to even trawl through the basics), and they're off to see if they can find the Furlings. I wish them luck.
In the meantime, we're coming into orbit. Jack's said 'hi' to the ships on patrol and to the SGC, but he hasn't yet let on just why we're here. He just said that I'd had an idea and we'd let them know if anything comes of it.
I hope we can find that snake on the loose, but I'm not totally convinced. There is the possibility, now that it has gone from Kinsey - assuming that there was one, of course - that it made its way into someone with access to the gate. Once we've done our scan, we're going to beam George up and let him in on our thoughts. If we can't find one, then we must assume that there was one and it's gone through the gate. All codes and so on will need to be changed for safety's sake.
There is also the possibility that it went to a 'visitor' of Kinsey; in other words, someone close to him. That's exactly the sort of person who might have the NID contacts - and therefore exactly the sort of person we do not want to get snaked. That lot are slimy enough as it is.
"Okay, scans are set, we're on a fast polar orbit with wide scans so we'll do a quick recce in a matter of minutes," Sam announces. "It's looking for trace elements of naquada. We know that one of the US crews has the alloy with naquada, but I've put in the parameters to exclude a naquada/neutronium/tin alloy, so we shouldn't, in theory, pick up the innocent, as it were."
That's good, it should limit our targets significantly.
Or not. What the fuck?
"I..." She shakes her head, resets the scan's parameters and tries again. Just like it did a moment before, it starts flashing up sources of naquada seemingly over the entire planet. Um, but we haven't quite covered it. Yipes!
"HOW?!" Jack demands.
He gets silence as his answer. Then I get a thought. I wish I hadn't.
"Sam, can the scanners tell if the sources are mobile?"
She nods, brings up a holographic display of the Earth, taps some more instructions into the computer and then says, "Purple patches are the larger quantities. They're static. Blue are also static, but there are only traces, or just smaller amounts than the purple."
"And the red?" Teal'c asks, probably already knowing the answer and wanting to hear it as much as the rest of us. In other words, not at all.
In a quiet voice, she says, "Amounts large enough to account for that found in a symbiote..."
She pauses for a moment and looks at us, but we're looking at the readout. She says what isn't necessary.
"How many?" Jack asks in not more than a whisper.
Sighing, Sam looks at the figures on another display and says, "872."
"There are eight hundred and seventy-two Goa'uld on the planet?" Jack barks.
"So far. We're nearly all the way around, but we're going over Antarctica at the moment. Let's wait until we're up and over the Pacific before we get a more accurate total."
That is not reassuring.
"Some might be Tok'ra, like Apollo," I offer. "There's a fair bet that if not all the bad guys managed to get off the planet after the gate was buried, then at least some of the good guys might have stayed too."
He looks at me in disbelief. To be honest, unless one of us becomes a willing host to one, there would be no way of proving beyond all doubt that that was the case. Apollo let me into his thoughts, his emotions. I knew he was Tok'ra from the moment we joined. I wouldn't want to do it again, though.
"How do we find them?" Sam asks. "I mean, we can see where they are, but we can't just go around beaming up sources of naquada willy-nilly. We'd have to make sure that whoever was there was on their own, unable to be seen by anyone else..."
She's got a point. Besides, having one Goa'uld around is bad enough. 872...3...4... oh shit, even more of the bastards isn't something I want to deal with.
How? Just how are there so many?
"Daniel? What is it?" Jack demands.
"How would there be that many active, alive snakes on the planet, Jack?"
"There are some static sources of naquada near to some of them," Sam tries, but then her shoulders drop. "But not near anything like all of them."
"So how?" I push.
It takes them a moment, then I see that Teal'c has it.
"There must be a queen."
"And a very clever one at that," I put in.
"What do ya mean?" Jack nearly shouts. I can feel near panic setting in.
"One that's probably been on the planet for a minimum of 2,500 years and hasn't been even suspected?" I try. "She must have trained her offspring well. Uh, Teal'c," I say, as something dawns on me. "Does a larva have to be in a Jaffa to mature?"
"It does not. It could, over time, mature in an incubation chamber. The Jaffa were only given symbiotes to ensure loyalty."
"So they forcibly took the original humans' immune systems away, made them dependent on the damned creatures, and got themselves a whole bunch of captive but devoted followers who were strong, long-lived, able to fight for them, and to cap it all, a slightly safer way to incubate their young," I reply, nodding back at him.
"What?" Jack asks. "How do you mean, 'slightly safer'?"
I shrug. "What damage can be done to a chamber, Jack?" I see the light dawn. "A queen would have to have all of her Jaffa lost in a battle, for example, to lose all her offspring. But one, even faulty chamber, let alone an attacked one, could kill off an entire brood. It must have been seen as a better bet when they first thought of it."
There is a stunned, almost scared silence on the bridge. Jack's the first one into action and he's called up George. A minute or so later, he's on our bridge and looking at the display.
"Can you explain?" he asks, seeing that none of us are happy.
"Naquada," Daniel says. "Lots of it. Some possibly actual sources of it, but..." He falters, so I take over.
"The rest look like they may well be the readings for symbiotes."
It takes him a moment and then the full-scale of the horror hits him. When he asks how many, Jack tells him with as resigned a voice as I've ever heard.
"Nine hundred and thirty seven."
George goes pale at the thought.
"We can't search for them all," Daniel sighs. "Some are in countries that just won't let us in. They probably wouldn't let the Canadians or Russians in either, at least not to search for an unknown element inside what they would see as one of their citizens. Unless, of course, the gate becomes public knowledge."
And I can't see that happening for some time. Much as there are times when both Daniel and I think it's a good idea, there are others when we realise how much harm could be done. That is something that has to be handled very carefully indeed. We don't say that to George. He already understands the arguments for and against because some time back we had a proper debate back at the SGC about this very thing.
Paul Davis came down from the Pentagon with the Chief of Staff, some other brass and some politicians; the highest-ranking military and civilian personnel at the base were all there and we all gave our pro and con ideas and hashed them out. Some things which were seen as bad were eventually turned around; but other things, the pros, then seemed not so good after all.
It was decided at that point that unless there was an immediate, identifiable threat from a Goa'uld or other alien species, which the planet at large would discover whether we were successful in battle or not, the secret would be kept for now.
What this means is that we're in it up to our necks. I'll be honest, I was expecting to find a few snakes in the grass, especially as we'd already 'found' Hathor, Osiris and Seth on the planet. A couple more wouldn't have surprised me. But this many? What on earth - quite literally - are we going to do? I was prepared to beam down and tackle one, the one we're specifically looking for, but now I'm feeling overwhelmed.
"Uh, Sam, look down here," Daniel says, pointing at two areas at the same time with both his hands as the areas are a long way from each other.
"Large trace amounts at this location," I say indicating one in the middle of the Sahara, "and... Wow! Another large amount at the other."
"In the Antarctic," Daniel mutters, but he gives a sort of a smile as if to say 'told you so'. "It's static, so we don't have to worry that there's anything living down there..."
"Unless a symbiote could get into a penguin, I doubt we'd ever see a snake down there," Jack puts in. Daniel pokes him in the arm.
"As I was saying before I was interrupted," he continues. "It could be the original home of the Ancients." Then he frowns - his 'uh, I think I've got something but hang on a moment until I can figure it out' frown. So we hang on for a moment.
"What does that shape remind you of?" he asks, tracing the outlines of the furthest edges of both areas.
I stare hard, then I get an idea, too. I tap some instructions into the computer and 'strengthen' the scan to look a little further into the crust of the planet in those regions. As soon as the results come up I look at Daniel and we both grin. Who needs telepathy when you're on the same wavelength?
"Kids? You going to let us in on it?" Jack demands.
Daniel shrugs. "Asteroids."
Now where have I heard that one before?
"You're saying that a snake hit the planet with an asteroid in the past?" I ask.
"No, not that." He frowns again then he smiles. "Sam, what was the main factor delimiting the KT Boundary?"
It takes me a moment to remember what the hell that was, and just in time, too.
"What is the KT Boundary?" Teal'c asks.
I'm glad I remembered, 'cause now I can answer him.
"Basically, it's the point where the dinosaurs ended," I say. "There's a distinct boundary in the rocks beyond which no dinosaur fossils are found." I think for a moment and see what Daniel's getting at. "Wasn't there something which was in the asteroid that was in a layer marking that boundary?"
"Iridium," Sam says with a smile, getting where Daniel's going with this, too. She looks at Teal'c and George and says, "Um, it's a particularly heavy element, uh, metallic, steel-grey and has a high melting point." Now why does that sound familiar? "The iridium found in the boundary rocks only occurs in asteroids and not as a naturally-forming element on Earth."
"And if it can happen once?" Daniel says.
"There's the possibility that some asteroids had naquada in them in this solar system," she finishes for him.
"But how?" George asks. "Surely we would have noticed others?"
"Not necessarily," she says. "Remember that the various elements come from supernovae. The remnants of the explosions are thought to go on to form nebulae and then stars and that which is left, the more solid stuff, goes on to form the asteroids and planetary bodies. These elements are formed in the explosion as a result of the extremely high temperatures and pressures. But, the elements are not formed in the same amounts. Some are particularly rare, some are particularly abundant.
"It could be that very little naquada was formed and none of it made it to Earth or even any other of the planets as part of the elemental makeup; after all, not all asteroids contain iridium, but all of that particular form of iridium is found in asteroids, and as we said, no iridium of this type is found on Earth so it's likely that none of the iridium that was floating about the proto-solar system collided with the planetesimal which became Earth."
She stops and thinks for a moment, then she says, "It's also possible that they were far out in the Kuiper Belt, knocked out of their orbits, probably by other asteroids or comets, and then came in and hit the Earth."
To be sure of herself, she turns the scanners towards the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and says, "I've set it to look for any traces of naquada in the local asteroids. I doubt we'll find any, at least not in the larger ones."
"Why not?" Teal'c asks.
I can answer that one!
"Because astronomers on Earth have been charting the asteroid belt for a long time and the biggest ones at least are well known. Thousands of them have been identified individually. Now they don't know what they're all made up of, some are too small to work it out, but the bigger ones give off, uh, signals I guess, telling what their composition is. That's right, isn't it Sam?"
"Yes," she agrees. "Though as Jack says, it's not so easy with the asteroids as the planets as they're so small. But they were able to determine that certain elements do not exist on Earth and only exist in extra-planetary bodies, such as the asteroids and comets, so there's a fair chance that they'd have picked up on naquada if it exists in any decent enough concentrations."
"Fascinating as this is," Daniel interrupts, "it does explain how the Ancients first got hold of naquada. Assuming that there is or at least was some out here," he says, waving his hand around himself, "and that over time two asteroids hit the planet, they must have found it, worked out what they could do with it and then started to build FTL ships and the stargate network."
"There must have been a lot of it to begin with," Teal'c puts in.
"Uh, no, not necessarily. They would only need enough to make a ship with hyperdrive crystals."
"Because they would have known that if the element had formed once, it would have most likely formed many more times. As Sam said, it could have been a particularly rare element in this solar system, but that wouldn't mean it would be rare elsewhere. Somewhere closer to a certain type of supernova, for example; it might be that only stars of particular size will produce such rare elements." He looks to Sam and she gives an 'it could be' shrug.
"Anyway, as I was saying, if they believed that it might be in bigger concentrations elsewhere, and if they realised that it was worth the expenditure to go look, they would have gone looking for planetary systems where there was a large, naturally occurring source, like the Land of Light or Abydos."
He hums to himself then does his 'annoyed dance', but it's one which is mixed with his 'I've got it!' expression.
"They evolved in Antarctica. Possibly long after the impacts. We've had to scan pretty deep into the crust to find the remains of the impacts after all, suggesting a lot of time has gone past since the initial contact. Then, when the Ancients were sufficiently evolved, they found the naquada and built the gate; the one Sam and Jack ended up at."
As he finishes that, he taps something into the control panel. What? I don't know. Guess I'll find out sooner or later.
"But what about Egypt?" Sam asks.
He smiles at her. "Remember the thing about climate change? Antarctica became too cold to occupy. Either they moved out or they moved up," he says, pointing to the centre of the Saharan sands. "They would have had the ability to find the other source which could have aided them in building more ships and so on."
"But that's in the middle of the desert!" I point out helpfully.
He shakes his head. "The Sahara is a geological baby," he corrects. "As it stands, it's only about 6,000 years old. During the timeframe we've been working to, it would have been more than habitable. Over the last few million years it's more or less come and gone and come back again. It all just depends on the climate.
"Besides, these people were technologically advanced enough to make the most of even desert conditions, possibly by converting salt water into fresh, for example. It just makes more sense to me that they'd 'set up camp' as it were, near the source of the naquada to save them having to go a long way to get it."
"And that could explain why, once they had gone and the other aliens had come, the gate probably got moved closer and closer to where it was finally found as the desert grew," Sam puts in.
This is all very interesting, I am sure. However, it is not helping us solve the problem of so many Goa'uld. I remind them of that fact and get sighs coming back to me.
"I don't know what to do," Samantha says sadly.
"Neither do I," Daniel adds.
O'Neill just shrugs, lifts his hands in the air as he does when saying 'who the hell knows?' and strides over to the command chair before sitting down with a bump. I do believe that he is not happy.
"General. Have you any ideas?" I ask.
He shakes his head. "I'm afraid not, Teal'c. What can we do? There are so many and they're all over the place."
Daniel paces up and down, then he turns quickly on his heel and raises his finger, telling us that he has an idea.
"Okay, well, it's obvious that we, uh, I mean the four of us, can't get involved in the search for the snakes. We have other things to do. You're going to have to set up some sort of task force."
"Task force?" Hammond replies.
"Yeah. Multinational. At least some Russians and Canadians as well as some SGC staff. That way they can go places, take on one snake at a time..."
"But how would they identify them?" Samantha asks.
He blinks at her. "They have ships in orbit which can scan. There's no reason they can't be directed there." Then he frowns. "Anyway, didn't you build a handheld element scanner which can detect naquada?"
"Yes, but not in such small quantities."
"I'm sure someone could tweak one to work." He turns to the General and asks, "What do you think?"
"You could be onto something," he agrees, a little more enthusiastically than before. "I shall speak to the President about it. But what are we going to do about looking for the Goa'uld you suspect was inhabiting Senator Kinsey?"
Daniel shrugs. "I guess that one will have to be your first target. Perhaps someone could question Kinsey? Find out which one it was? Get some clues that way?"
"From what I have heard, he is in no fit state to be questioned, but I shall see what I can do about that. What will you do in the meantime?"
"We're going down to Antarctica," he says firmly.
"WE ARE?!" O'Neill howls.
Daniel turns and smiles at him. "Don't worry, I packed some warm clothes."
I've had to make a decision and it's a tough one, but given the overwhelming odds I can't see how else we can cope with everything. The parameters of the decision were easy enough to define: check out the Ancients' previous home, if we can find it, or look for the snake that was in Kinsey.
Given the not so good chances of finding Kinsey's snake - and again that's an 'if', as in 'if there was one to start with' - I'm going with the one which gives us the best chance of a payoff.
Besides, I get the feeling that knowing more about the Ancients will help us find the Furlings. Find them, we stand a chance of helping the Jaffa. With no armies, the Goa'uld will cease to be any sort of real threat beyond the scope of a local criminal, the sort that gets dealt with by local police forces. It's only when they have backup do we have real problems with them.
Not to mention it's much easier to defeat even a technologically-advanced individual than a couple of thousand superhuman warriors who believe completely in their 'god'.
Having said that, they're much easier to find when they have those warriors. An individual can easily hide out in a galaxy - or even on a planet, as we can see right below us. The fact that there seems to be the best part of a thousand snakes on the planet and no one's spotted them as such would back that supposition up. Concealing a honking great army of honking great soldiers is a tad more difficult.
Still, I'd rather free the Jaffa when all is said and done.
Jack hasn't said all, that's for sure. He's still complaining about going down to Antarctica, but I'm ignoring him and playing with one of the scanners. There has got to be some sign that they were there. Hasn't there? If we can't find it with Gimli, though, I'm thinking it's gone forever, at least until global warming gets so bad there won't be any ice left on the continent. And despite the rapidity of the ice-loss, I'm thinking it'll take more than our lifetimes for that to happen. At least I hope so.
Sam's joining me. George has gone over to one of the other ships before he goes off and starts discussions regarding the possibility of starting up a task force. Jack, despite his moaning, actually came up with a good tactical idea.
He reckons that one of the ships should continually monitor the 'mobile naquada'. If it seems that a whole bunch of what we assume are snakes are getting together, then some sort of action can be taken against them. If however, as it seems they're doing now, they stay as individuals, in hiding possibly, then they're not doing much damage, except perhaps in more localised ways such as in cases like Seth's 'cult', and a little more time and care can be taken.
I mean, it's a great shame for any individuals and their families who are suffering at the hands of a snake like Seth, but, and taking the military line for once here, better a comparative few in anguish than an entire planet, or worse - the whole galaxy.
George said he'd arrange that the sources in the US, Canada and Russia will be looked into as a matter of priority, mainly because nobody will have to worry about extradition and suchlike. Following the tracks of those below without letting on that they're known might also give us clues as to what they're up to.
Wish I knew.
One thing I do know is that the thought of nearly a thousand snakes on the planet is giving me a case of the screaming heebie-jeebies.
So, after a little fine-tuning regarding the plan - in-between Jack's still loud moans regarding Antarctica - George went off. They reckon that one ship watching the western hemisphere and another watching the eastern should have the planet under constant surveillance. There will still be three ships available for patrols, exploration and so on, so it's not hurting Earth's defences. If necessary, even a couple of al'keshes could take over the watch duties.
Sam said that each mobile signal can get its own 'tag' on the computer and that each ship's computer can monitor the behaviour patterns. If anything seems off, it'll alert the ship's crew. Damned clever these Asgard computers.
Ah ha! I think I have it. There's a massive gap in the ice, about a mile, maybe more, below the surface. It's not too far from where we found the oldest gate, but if it is what and where I think it is, there is no way on, well, on earth that even an extensive survey could have found it. It's more inland than before, and, it appears, underground. That's under the rock, not just under the ice. Why would they have done that?
Hmm... Perhaps they decided to go down when the climate started turning cold. Some 'patches' of some of the ice-ages had so much ice and snow in so many parts of the planet that it might have looked at times that the planet was going to do its 'snowball Earth' thing again so they went down below to ride it out.
"Sam, look here!" Daniel calls out, not a little excitedly.
I look at what he's pointing out and let out a whistle. That's got to be worth investigating. Teal'c and Jack have surrounded us and now Jack's demanding to know what's there.
I focus the scan a little more, get the element part of the scanner concentrating on that area, even use the ultra-sensitive X-ray scanner, and soon we come up with a set of blueprints to the 'hole in the ground'. It's not really X-rays but that's Jack's nickname for a much more technical and brilliant system way beyond that of any Earth technology, able to look inside a planet as far as the core; and one whose Asgard name he can't pronounce. Neither can I for that matter, which is beside the point.
All that matters is that we can see what no one else can, including the remnants of asteroid strikes so old and deep that a normal radar scan, whether on an aeroplane or one of the super-dooper spy satellite types, doesn't see a single trace of it.
"It's a city!" Daniel gasps.
Jack frowns, turns his head one way, then another. "Nah, I'd say it's a town. Too small to be a city."
Daniel pokes him. "City, town, what difference does it make?"
Jack pokes him back. "Lots. As in lots of people. Cities are big, towns are..." he describes with his hands, "medium-sized. Villages," he states in his most condescending voice and putting his hands close together, "are teeny-weeny compared to cities. I'd have thought that you would have known the difference, seein' as you study people and all."
Daniel just hits him. "Jack," he drawls, "look at the life-signs scanner. You see any people?"
I see Jack raise his hand, and before this can turn into a boxing match I put mine out and grab it.
"Uh, Daniel, remember Annwn?"
He frowns, probably wondering what our home has to do with anything, then I see the light dawn.
"You think that there may still be Ascended Ancients there?"
I shrug. "No idea. But as with Arawn, how the hell would we tell if they didn't want us to see them?"
"So," he says, looking at Teal'c, then Jack - with more than a little frustration as he looks at the supposed light of his life - and asks, "are we going down then?"
Jack looks at Teal'c who looks at me. He sees that I want to go so he shrugs. Jack gets the message.
"Guess we're going. Where are those warm clothes, Daniel?"
We've put our 'warm clothes' on; actually, they're proper sets for going to places like Antarctica. We ordered some when we were getting all our 'bits and pieces' just in case we had to explore an ice-planet. We've had to in the past, so we figured it would be possible we'd do it again in the future. I don't think any of us had Earth in mind when we thought of it, though.
Knowing that he wanted to look there and there was at least the possibility of a visit, Daniel fortunately had the presence of mind to pack the clothes. Although I can't see him enjoying himself down there. He hates the snow back home, and it's a lot warmer there than on our massive icy continent. On a warm day. Here, that is.
"Ready kids?" Jack asks as we congregate on the bridge.
We acknowledge him, and I see him put his hand out to Daniel.
"Shield up full, Danny?" he asks quietly.
Daniel nods, but still has that look of uncertainty about him. He's getting better control over his empathy, day by day, but when he goes into unknown situations he has no idea if that control is enough, so each new experience is one filled with an initial sense of dread, not awe as it used to be. The more I think about it, the more I'm glad I took his advice and didn't go help MIB with the sarcophagus investigation.
There's that sudden flash of light, the momentary sense of being scattered to the far corners of the universe, and then I'm whole again and underneath the Antarctic ice cap.
Being transported is one of the weirdest things; second only to gate travel. Transportation gives you the sense that you're being sent everywhere and nowhere at the same time; that you're in billions of pieces but still just one. It's almost as if every single molecule of you has senses of its own and each one can see, hear, even touch, smell and taste the universe. That sounds barking mad, but it's the only way I can describe it.
It's giving me a sense of how hard it is for Daniel to describe what effects the changes have had on him, because there literally are no words in English - and quite possibly any other Earth language - to actually describe the sensations.
I'm not even going to try to describe gate travel, because that's even weirder.
Anyway, we're inside a structure. It's dark, so we flick on our flashlights and do our best to look around. Daniel's fidgeting, looking around himself quickly and anxiously.
"Spidey-senses tingling?" Jack asks.
"Uh, not in the life-form sense," Daniel replies distractedly. "But..."
He stops talking and starts walking. Guess we're going to follow our leader, just as we always do.
You know, when we were at the SGC, Jack was officially our 'leader'. And in our eyes, he was. Teal'c, Daniel and myself would state as passionately as was needed that he led us, that we chose to follow him, and that no one could take his place.
But thinking back, we were wrong. Daniel has, in so many ways, been our leader since day one. He wouldn't acknowledge that, I'm sure. He'd say that Jack's in charge, and on the odd occasion, he's even followed Jack's orders. When he thought they were right, of course. But how many times has Jack been 'persuaded' to do things Daniel's way? Orders of magnitude more than the other way around, I'm sure.
I look up at Teal'c and see his usual almost-impassive face; almost because there's a touch of anxiety there as there always is in all of us in a new situation. But there's also a touch of amusement as he follows Jack, who's following Daniel - and calling out to him to slow down. I think he's seen what I've just realised. Knowing my Teal'c, however, he probably had it figured out years ago, and enjoyed keeping the knowledge to himself.
"Daniel, wait up, will ya?"
He turns and frowns at me. "Come on, Jack. It's important."
I'm nearly at his side now. Considering he's only walking, you'd think I'd be able to keep up easily, wouldn't you? But his legs are longer than mine and I am not running to catch him. I need to keep hold of one of the few threads of dignity that I have left. I don't have many, sure, but what's still there is staying there.
He's doing it again. In other words, he knows something's somewhere, but he doesn't know why. Pretty much like on the Planet of the Goo where, he's since told us, he was able to detect that power source because of the... oh hell.
At least he's stopped. "Are you getting that same feeling? The whole power source, unknown element, sarcophagus thingy...?"
He frowns, then gets what I mean, which is a relief.
"Uh, no. Not exactly."
"What'dya mean? Not exactly."
"It's not exactly the same," he states in a voice that sounds like he's talking to a five-year-old.
"In what way?" Sam asks.
Oh, nice of you to join us, Carter. And Teal'c. Good to see my backup is finally near my back!
"There's something over there and I think it's important, but I'm not getting the same sensation that I do when I'm near a sarc. We've just gotta go..." He stops again and waves his hand towards an area in the shadows. Guess where we're going to go, eh?
"Okay, fine," I say. "But take it easy. Don't want anyone slipping on ice and breaking legs." Jeez, being here is bringing back some weird and very bad memories.
"Uh, Jack," Daniel says, putting his hand on mine. "What ice?"
His question brings us up sharp. I move my light around and see what he means. Despite us being under a mile or so of ice, and a fair bit of rock, and despite there being no apparent central heating system, there's no ice. My breath isn't even going misty as it does on a chilly day.
Cautiously, I take off one of my gloves and my hand doesn't start to chill off. I take off the other and put the gloves in my pocket. Then, I push the hat bit of my suit down. This should be the acid test 'cause heat escapes from the head real quick. Everyone is quiet as I wait to see if I notice any difference, but to be honest, I'm more comfortable than I was before.
I'd figured the whole hot'n'sweaty thing I had going on was a reaction to chasing after Daniel in the many thermal layers of these suits. Now I realise that it's 'cause I'm wearing it where I don't need to. It's not cold. It's not warm for that matter, but it's not cold. Pretty much the same temperature as a Tok'ra tunnel if I think about it.
The others copy me, then Daniel shrugs and we head off - a bit more slowly and thoughtfully - in the direction he wants us to go.
We are all quiet as we walk, considering the fact that whilst there is no apparent heat, there is definitely no cold where there probably should be. Samantha is thinking about it, I can tell, and she may have an idea for us soon. It takes only about a minute before she does.
"Thermal energy?" she suggests.
"What do you mean, Samantha?"
"Well, the further you go down under the surface of a planet, the higher the pressure. That in turn increases the temperature. For example, some of the deep caves that have been explored are uncomfortably warm. If you go further, only really a relatively short way compared to the depth of the whole crust, mantle and so on, the first processes of rock metamorphosis can take place. It isn't as far as you'd think."
"Could there be some sort of hydrothermal vent?" O'Neill asks, surprising us all with use of such a technical term.
"I doubt it," Daniel mutters. "They're usually found in seismically active areas, such as plate boundaries. Isn't the Antarctic plate one single, large plate?"
"Doesn't mean there couldn't be internal hot spots," Samantha argues. "There are intraplate earthquakes after all, and hot spots are thought to be weak areas within a major plate. That's how Hawaii and its sister islands were formed after all."
She thinks for a moment then says, "Besides, even though we're not really close to it, the Antarctic mountain range is volcanic, isn't it? Extinct or dormant, I think; at least the big range is. There is one active volcano on the continent, for sure, not that far from McMurdo and that's not really very far from where we are; and there are volcanic islands. Not to mention that underwater volcanic activity has been monitored in recent years.
"I remember checking this out when we were setting up the second gate site's base. Okay, the vast majority of the volcanic rocks that are found on the continent are ancient, but can't we be near to a weakened area of crust?"
"True," Daniel agrees. "Maybe whoever built this found a way of using the Earth's natural resources to power it?"
"Whatd'ya mean? 'whoever built this'," O'Neill demands. "I thought it was the Ancients."
"Thought being the operative word," Daniel replies. "I think it was the Ancients. The evidence would seem to point to it being the Ancients. But until we find something definitive, I'm not going to say it is, or rather was the Ancients."
"Scientists," O'Neill mutters as he walks alongside Daniel. "It's like trying to get a straight answer out of Oma. Maybe this, perhaps that, it could be the other. All you want is a 'yes' or 'no' and what you get is a long-winded hypothesis of all the possibilities. I mean, ask a scientist if it's raining, and by the time you've finally gotten a 'yes' out of them, you're soaking wet."
He continues in this vein, but we let him. I do believe that Samantha and Daniel are rather amused.
We have arrived at Daniel's preferred destination. Why he wished to visit a wall is beyond my comprehension, but I shall keep quiet because on many occasions it has been proven that his intuition was highly-developed, even long before his abilities were enhanced. He is running his hands over a part of it, but it is not clear to me why he is doing so.
"Uh, Jack?" he says, beckoning his mate to his side.
"What is it, Daniel?"
"Put your hand on here." He points to an area on an otherwise apparently blank wall. A rectangle has been marked out.
"Because I just touched it and nothing happened. So I want you to try it."
"GAH! Just touch it, will you? You were the one to get zapped by the Ancients, so if any of us stands a chance of operating something down here, it's you. And before you go on about me not knowing if it's the Ancients behind this, I'm trying to find out."
I do believe that Daniel is a touch frustrated.
"Okay, okay. But be prepared to beam me up to Gimli."
"Well, what if this is a 'do not touch the wall' sign? If I'm designated zappee, then I want you guys to be ready in case the zapping takes me to a whole 'nother level."
Daniel, even in this dim light, can be seen rolling his eyes. He just points at the wall and waits for O'Neill to touch it.
Cautiously - and fairly reasonably so - O'Neill puts his hand on the wall. Surprisingly, his hand seems to bounce off it. Only when his hand has moved away do we realise that it did not bounce but was repelled. The 'rectangle' was, in fact, some sort of door which has 'pushed' back to open, much like a cupboard which opens with a push against it rather than with a handle.
"Ah, thought so," Daniel mutters. He runs his light over some markings, ones I recognise as the language of the Ancients, but it seems to be technical rather than general language so I am unable to translate much of it. He reaches in and simply flicks a switch.
"Doesn't that seem a little convenient?" O'Neill asks as the whole complex is now flooded with light, making us blink until our eyes adjust to it.
"In what way, O'Neill? It is not as it was on Thoth's world, with the voice-activated light. Daniel did at least have to do something to make the lights work."
"But power sources built millions of years ago shouldn't just switch on like this. I mean, shouldn't they take time to warm up or something?"
"Only if it's been millions of years since they were last used, Jack," Daniel says, then beckons to us all as he heads towards what looks like a control centre.
I must admit that I'm relieved that Jack didn't get 'zapped' again, but he really was our only hope. It was only a hunch I had, but I wondered if his previous encounter with Ancient technology had left behind a 'marker', just as Jolinar left one behind in Sam's blood. It would seem that my hunch has played out.
Not that it's ever been apparent in the past, really, and when blood tests are done, nothing unusual comes up. I'd wonder how it's even there, but now isn't the time for that. Although as I think of it, it does strike me that perhaps his brain chemistry was altered slightly, to cope with the knowledge that he was given. It may be worthwhile someone doing some really intricate tests: what those tests would encompass is beyond my imagination. As Sam has said a lot recently; don't ask me, I'm not a biologist.
Anyway, this definitely seems to be some sort of control place. There are lots of switches, buttons and other, interesting-looking devices. Before I touch anything, though, and to deny Jack the pleasure of saying 'don't touch anything Daniel', I'm trying to work out what's what. I'm pretty certain that this panel here is some sort of life-support control system.
I call the others over, make Jack and Teal'c confirm my translation and let Sam do her thing regarding looking at the actual technology. Jack's moaning that he's not a freaking linguist. I'm telling him that I'm not a freaking soldier but that doesn't stop me having to fight so he can damned well shut up and help me out.
He's nervous. He's always nervous before he goes on a mission - we all are. Being nervous keeps us alive, so it's a 'good thing' in my book. However, there is usually a settling of the nerves on arrival, especially when we don't find people at the other end of the gate/transporter/whatever, who are pointing weapons in our direction. But this time his nerves haven't dissipated. He prefers his 'enemy' out in the open, even if said enemy doesn't turn out to be hostile in the end. I think he's convinced himself that the Ancients are still here.
"Jack," I say, putting my hand on his arm. "I don't detect any life-forms."
"Is that a guarantee that nobody's home?" he asks.
I shrug. "There are no guarantees in life, you know that. All I can say is that I felt Arawn and his people, I don't feel anything here. I haven't been in contact with Oma or Shifu since I was..."
I wave my hand about in an indistinct way because it's hard to describe what I 'was'. Was enhanced? Was changed? Improved? Evolved? I just don't know. I continue, knowing he understands.
"Because of that I don't know how - or even if - an Ancient gives off a signal. I just get the feeling we're alone at the moment."
"You think they may come back because we're here?"
I shrug again.
"I haven't a clue how these beings work. I don't know if Oma was already on Kheb when we went there or she just sensed that she was needed. Or, indeed, if the monk was able to contact her. I just don't know. I guess all we can do is carry on with our investigation and hope."
"Hope for what?" he asks. "That they turn up? That they don't turn up?"
All I can do is shrug yet again. After all, I have no idea what would be the better thing.
In the meantime, the others agree that we've found the life-support systems and with not a little nervousness of my own, and with Jack's permission, natch, I switch it on. Surprisingly, the switches are responding to me; it only seems to be the sort of 'touch technology' - like fingerprint sensors, I guess - which need a hint of Ancient DNA, or whatever it is.
More lights on other panels flicker into life, but what they mean is beyond my comprehension. I start to search for something familiar and the others do the same. It would be good to find some sort of history or other databank, but nothing looks like one just yet.
"Guys, look over here," Sam's calling.
We go over to where she's standing and look at where she's pointing. Below the control room (we're calling it that now because it seems the most likely explanation) is another, vast space. In which would seem to be dwellings. Perhaps it's some sort of lost city, town, oh hell city - despite what Jack says. Could it even be Atlantis? I wonder.
Let's think about this logically. Plato talked about the legend of Atlantis, describing it as an island beyond the Pillars of Herakles. That is usually taken to mean the two 'edges' of the Mediterranean, with Gibraltar on the one side and Morocco on the other.
However, he would have been writing many millennia after the Ancients had disappeared, ascended or whatever it was they did. So it could just mean somewhere other than the known world of the Greeks. That makes more sense to me than an island somewhere out in the Atlantic, which most of the Atlantis hunters seems to think is the location. Given that we've done complete sea-floor maps of the Atlantic and nothing even remotely looks like Plato's description, I reckon that the vast majority of what he wrote was crap based on stories passed down through endless generations.
Of course, following my own reasoning regarding the disappearance of an ancient civilisation, what's to say it wasn't in the Atlantic and subsequently subducted? Although I dare say that would put a good few noughts on the end of the 'thousands of years' that that story is supposed to have been in existence.
Let's assume, then, that they first lived here. If the Ancients did indeed move up to the Mediterranean area, then it is distinctly possible that they passed on their own stories to the humans that fo..ll..owed... or perhaps not.
Followed? Or lived alongside them? Or did some of the Ancients become human? That's human as we are, not as the many species we were. Was it their influence that made Homo sapiens the greatest hominid species? Their technology that pushed the others into extinction? It's a thought, I guess.
Back up there, mind. The story was originally said to have come from Solon who had been told it by Egyptian priests. The 'Atlanteans' ruled from Libya to Egypt - in other words, pretty much North Africa as we know it today, and all of Europe as far as Etruria. Did Solon just mean the Europe known to the early Greeks; that is the southern, coastal part rather than the entire continent? Etruria is in northern Italy today. Home of the Etruscans. Who seem to have links with the Ancients... My brain hurts.
Were the Atlanteans yet other aliens? Or were stories of the ancient Etruscans mixed up with those of Atlantis. As I've thought to myself, the story itself is thousands of years old; probably about two and a half thousand if not more. As I well know, time screws with the facts in a painful way. Anyway, back to the evidence. If the people who built this moved north for the winter, so to speak, they should have taken their technology with them.
But where is the evidence of that technology?
Okay, the Mediterranean is also a geological baby, along with the Sahara, so it is possible that that evidence is now beneath the seabed there: possibly below the ground and utterly destroyed. I know that some parts of the eastern Med are sinking - parts of Greece and Turkey are getting, uh, wetter by the year and it's got nothing to do with increased rainfall or global warming and everything to do with the collision of the African plate into the Eurasian plate.
Maybe that could explain it. Maybe those that became human, if they did of course, lost their technology and its use just passed into legend, because it would have to have been many thousands, if not a few million years after settling on what was then the coastline, that that part of the coast ended up underwater, if not underground.
As they became more and more human, their stories became more and more like the myths I deal with today. They themselves would have forgotten what was actually there and only remembered the fragments passed down to them with each new generation. They would also have forgotten what they were, or rather, had been.
Stories of 'giants' are manifold throughout the ancient world. Does that mean physically big in reality? Or was it just an impression that a race of technologically advanced people must have been 'bigger' than humans? The classical Greek word for 'big', megas, is also the word for 'great'. Did they just mean that they were 'greater'? More advanced? Before the Goa'uld arrived and took over the names of the gods, were they the gods? The Titans or the original Olympians, perhaps?
I should stop thinking. I have work to do. Jack's found a way out of this room and down to the city. If that's what it is.
Daniel's in his own mind again, we can tell. Jack's had to hold onto his arm to stop him colliding with a pillar. He hasn't even gotten the excuse of being short-sighted and missing his glasses anymore, so we know he's somewhere else mentally. Every so often, we hear words being muttered. Atlantis, Etruscans, Titans... Heaven only knows what he's thinking about. Hope someone does 'cause I haven't a clue.
There doesn't seem to be anything down here. The place looks abandoned. But the weird thing is, like the Furlings' ship, it doesn't seem to have deteriorated in any way, either. It can't be the cold because as we've established, it isn't. Cold, that is.
I run my scanner over one of the walls of one of the many buildings and try to work out if the materials are familiar. It seems that some of the elements are but yet again, there are some which are not. And that is odd. Why would there be elements which are not found on Earth, or at least not known?
I pose this question to the others and get the normal silence coming back at me, then Daniel throws an idea over his shoulder as he carries on along the path.
"They found more suitable elements elsewhere."
"Where?" Jack demands.
He just shrugs. "Pick a gate address."
I see what he means so I keep on with the scanning. In the end, I actually find something with an element I can date. WOO HOO!!!
"I've got a date for you."
He turns and says with a wicked grin, looking at Jack as he does, "Uh thanks, Sam, but I've kind of got my hands full as it is."
I just answer that with a roll of my eyes before getting the 'go on, tell me' look back from him.
"Between six and seven million years. That's the newest thing I can find. There might be something newer, but it's not here."
"That could explain a hell of a lot," he says with a shrug.
"Well, I told you, I've been wondering about the whole evolution thing. If the whole human kick-start did happen about six million years ago or later, then it shows that the Ancients could well have been out of here by then and probably moving northwards to where the other source of naquada was.
"Remember, I said it took till six million years ago for Antarctica to become as we know it now - in other words, really, really uninhabitable. If they were in Africa, for example, there is no reason for them to have not gotten involved in the human development. Especially if, by then, they'd met up with the Furlings and seen the whole experimentation thing."
"You think that humans were kick-started by Furling nanowhatsits?" Jack asks.
Daniel frowns. "Uh, I hadn't gone that far. Just thinking that if the Ancients saw that tube of goo in the lab on the ship, it might have gotten them thinking about their own genetics. And if that were the case..."
He pauses, goes quite white and says, "Uh oh."
"Uh oh?" For once, it's Teal'c who responds. Which is quite unsettling for some reason.
"What's with the 'uh oh'?" Jack demands. That's better, we're back to normal.
"Um, what do our scientists do to find out what each gene does; specifically the biologists who are working on our genome? Experimentally, that is."
"You're thinking of the lab rats?" I ask.
"What, you mean like the 'glow in the dark' rats and mice with ears on their backs? What's that got to do with your 'uh oh'?"
"Think Jack! If you're a people who, for whatever reason have decided to 'move on' by eventually evolving into the ascended state they're in now, are you honestly going to try it on yourself first? Wouldn't you find the nearest animal genetically to you and try each stage of the process on them?"
"But... but... We're sentient beings!" Jack complains.
Daniel looks sad but resigned. "So are chimps, and all the other primates. Not to mention dogs, rabbits, et cetera. Some people might argue about the level of sentience, but in my book, anything which is self-aware enough to want to run away from something that would otherwise kill and eat it, for example, is sentient.
"And even right at this moment, even though we know that pain and suffering is being caused, all in the name of science and advancement, these sentient beings are being experimented on; kept in cages, fed by people in masks, given no comfort in many cases... and often given diseases.
"We say it's for the good of mankind. That by giving our closest relatives our incurable diseases we can try to find those cures. And it's worked, I suppose. Some will argue it wasn't necessary, but I don't know enough about the facts to argue for or against the need to try out the cures on primates.
"All I know is that we have some cures which were first tried on chimps, for example. Without them, we may or may not have them and thousands, if not millions of people could now be dead. But I also know that the thought of injecting one single animal with one disease is abhorrent to me," he adds with yet more sadness.
"My point is, the Ancients were the advanced ones on the planet before we were. And if our ancestors were the nearest living creatures to them genetically, they were going to try out any experiments on them long before they did it to themselves. And we cannot complain about it because we do the same damned thing day after day after day and have done for many years."
He's angry, I can tell. So can Jack, so he just hugs him. We're silent; after all, what can we say? That we agree? Of course we do. The thought of experimentation on another being does fill me with horror. The thing is, like so many people, I just don't usually think about it. After all, who does? Other than those who campaign against it or work in the labs that is.
But as soon as we mention the whole 'humans have been experimented on' thing, then it really gives us the creeps. I could see that Jack was going to come in with some sort of 'BUT...!',
...But what could he say? Daniel's right after all. How can we get angry with the Ancients for experimenting on the most basic hominids who were probably no more intelligent/sentient/use-what-term-you-will than a modern-day chimpanzee, when we do precisely the same thing?
I'm still shivering at the thought though.
A light has seemed to go on in Daniel's eyes.
"Daniel? What's up?" I ask, only half-wanting to know what he's thinking about now.
"Uh, just that it could explain why Oma is so interested in humans now, and why uh, Orlin came back," he says, looking at me apologetically.
"What do you mean, Daniel?" Teal'c asks.
"Pretty much how it seems. Remember Pelops? How he was supposed to go back to the Argosians to check up on their progress?"
"You think they're seeing how we're doin'?" Jack asks, his eyes wide open.
"In a manner of speaking. I think we've pretty much reached whatever stage of evolution they expected from us, uh, Furling intervention not included, but some of them maybe got fond of us."
"Like a lab worker becoming attached to one of the sweeter-natured rats?" I suggest.
"I wouldn't put it quite so crudely," he shrugs, "but it's a pretty good analogy under the circumstances."
"What circumstances?" Jack demands.
"The one we find ourselves in right now," Daniel replies nodding over towards an area behind Jack, Teal'c and myself.
Ya know, there are many days I wish I'd never got out of bed. This is one of them. After all, I could be sitting in front of a roaring fire, drinking something hot, eating good food, and with any luck I might even have a good-natured honey snuggling up to me. But then that last thought is something not so much rare as freaking unusual. However, I can dream of it, can't I?
Typically, though, I'm somewhere else which is supposed to be freezing, except it's not; supposed to be looking for a snake, which I can't because there are so damned many of them that it's making my skin crawl, and now I'm in a lost city, town, whatever, which is supposed to be uninhabited.
But it isn't.
And I don't know who the hell it is that's looking at us, but it sure ain't Oma.
"Uh, hello?" Daniel calls out to the, being, creature, um, thing that's just appeared.
It's pretty tall, looks Oma-ish but is golden rather than white, and it's staring at us. It's also sending a shiver down my spine. Daniel tries contact again.
"Um, my name is Daniel," he says, pointing to himself, then, "Sam, Jack and Teal'c," pointing to each of us in turn. "Who are you?"
We have to wait a while but eventually we hear, in a voice which sounds like it hasn't been used in a long time, "My name is Hyermehs." At least that's what it sounds like to me.
"Hyermehs?" Daniel says. Asks. Asks himself? I have no idea, but I can see that his mind is working overtime. "Hy-er-mehs, Hyermes... uh, would you have been better known as Hermes?" he tries.
The thing shakes his head. It's kind of like Thoth in that it leaves bits of it behind and then reforms. Shakes his head, so that's a no.
"Hermes. It's, uh, good to meet you," Daniel says with a smile.
Daniel? Didn't it just shake its head 'no'?
Uh, not necessarily. In some cultures, that actually means 'yes'. I'm going by the look in his eyes to confirm my assumption.
I'll take his word for it. Hang on, Hermes. Messenger of the gods? That Hermes? I ask it and eventually get a reply all to myself.
Well, it wasn't a long answer, but it makes a change for an alien to speak to me before anyone else.
"What do you call your species?" Daniel asks. "Um, we've met some peoples similar to you but not the same."
Hermes looks interested and doesn't take so long to reply.
"My people were known as the Teetanehs," he says.
"Teetanehs... Titans?" Daniel asks.
Again we get the shake of the head. For a messenger, he's not particularly communicative.
"Um, the Hermes of mythology wasn't directly one of the Titans, was he? I mean, Zeus was supposed to have defeated them and..." Daniel trails off as Ghost-Boy seems to wince.
All the guy says is, "I know."
"Did you have anything to do with the Ancients?" he tries again, waving his hand around the city.
"We knew them once. Many years ago," Hermes says sadly.
"Were your people part of the Great Friendship?"
"You know of that?" This time Hermes' answer is pretty rapid.
"Yeah. Uh, we recently met what we call the Tuatha dé Danann. The people who watched over the Celts. Lord Arawn told us about it. We've also met Thoth on his home planet. Uh, that's the Ka Thoth, not the Goa'uld. If there is one," he adds with a frown.
Hermes' face takes on a distinct frown of his own.
"There was one," he says, almost growling. "As there were many of the Evil Ones."
Before he can do the 'I sense one among you' thing, I put in, "Teal'c here is on our side. Against the Goa'uld. He wants to free his people. So do we," I add, not wanting to leave my buddy sounding like he's on his own.
"Indeed?" Hermes says, sounding more like Teal'c. "I wish you success."
"What happened to your own people?" Daniel asks. "Are there any more on Earth?"
It would seem that Hermes is prepared to take O'Neill's explanation of me at face value. It makes a nice change. He is now answering our questions with a little less reluctance as well, and so we may actually find something out.
"My people left, or died," he says quite sadly it seems.
"Were they killed by the Goa'uld?" I ask.
"Some were. The Evil Ones took our place. They took our names, our identities and made them wicked!" His words are filled with venom and so his hatred for the Goa'uld would seem well-founded.
"We know," Daniel says quietly. "We have met others in your position. Similarly, we have met some of the Goa'uld from that time. You will be pleased to know that Teal'c here, in a manner of speaking," he adds, smiling wryly at me, "killed the Goa'uld Cronus."
Hermes looks at me and I am sure I see gratitude in his eyes.
"You have taken revenge for my people. I thank you. He was amongst the most evil."
"It was revenge for the killing of my father," I admit. "He served Cronus and was murdered for losing an unwinnable battle. However, it pleases me greatly to know that his death will avenge more than just my own family."
"My sympathies to you and yours," Hermes says with genuine tone.
"As are mine to you. Tell me, is there anything else we can do to help you?"
I see O'Neill look at me in shock and he says, "Before you answer that, tell me what you were doing here in the first place. I mean, it's not exactly Maui, is it?"
Hermes looks confused at that.
"Uh, a very beautiful island," Daniel explains. "Used as a vacation destination by humans."
"I see," Hermes says slowly, not convincing us that he does indeed see. "I was here in search of the tothromatastrasi."
"Tothromatastrasi..." Daniel is obviously running the words through his head; his lips move as if to say the words more slowly and with gaps in them, yet no sound emerges until we hear, "To thuroma tois astrasi? The portal to the stars? The stargate?"
"Yes. But it is not here."
"Nah, it's kind of a long story," O'Neill states. "Why were you down here looking for it anyway?"
"I wish to go home," he replies sadly.
"Couldn't you have come here a long time ago? When the gate was here?" Daniel asks.
He says something which despite the lack of cold here chills us all to the bone.
"I was only recently released from my prison."
"Prison? Who held you? HOW?" Jack demands. "Surely you could have just disappeared?" he asks, waving his hand at the ethereal body in front of us.
"The technology was able to confine me," Hermes replies.
"Uh, technology? What technology?" Sam asks.
"The technology of the Evil One who had imprisoned me," he says as if it's perfectly obvious. Which it probably is. To him.
"Which Goa'uld?" I ask with a sinking feeling. "And more to the point, why were you held?"
Hermes looks like a very defeated, um, being as he replies.
"The one which impersonated my father," he all but spits. Guess that explains why he wasn't happy when I questioned him regarding the Titans.
He just shakes his head.
"We'd heard that he had last been seen as badly injured. The one who told me was not sure he had even survived."
"He had been taken in by another Evil One, though it seems that that one was not quite so evil after all. She had great kindness for her own kind and other peoples, including humans. She healed him and he swore to serve her for eternity."
"What happened?" Jack asks.
Hermes just looks at him.
"Don't tell me," Jack sighs. "He waited till her back was turned and then killed her?"
"Yes. But I believe it took many years before that happened. In the meantime, he was building a position of power once again. However... the stargate, you called it?"
"Yes, that's what we call it," I say, trying to get the conversation back to me because I have an important question to ask.
"The stargate was no longer available. It had gone missing. Some say the people of Egypt overthrew the Evil One Ra and buried the gate in the desert sands. I do not believe that he or the other Evil Ones knew of the original gate so he did not come here to look," he adds, explaining how the Goa'uld that were stuck on Earth never went 'home' - they couldn't.
"That rebellion did happen," I confirm for him. "It freed Earth from the Goa'uld. At least that's what we thought," I add with a shrug.
"You did not rid yourselves completely of them."
State the obvious, why don't you?
"No, we know that. But at least they are not in power."
"Yet," he warns.
"What do you mean?"
"The one called Zeus craves to be all-powerful once again. I believe he may well succeed."
"Why do you say that?" I ask with a sinking feeling. Hermes seems reluctant to answer. "Uh, before you do answer that," I put in, in the hope that that will actually prompt him to do so, "can you tell me the name of the Goa'uld he killed?"
"Daniel? Why is that important?" Sam asks.
"Uh, she?" I throw back at her.
Put two and two together, Sam. If it turns out that this 'she' was a queen then there is a remote possibility that she was the one behind most of the thousand snakes on the planet. And if she were a good snake, there is also the remote possibility that we have a planetful of Tok'ra, not Goa'uld. And of course, my middle name is Pollyanna.
"Her name was Gula, I believe," Hermes replies.
"Daniel?" Needless to say that's Jack asking.
"Uh, Gula, a Mesopotamian goddess of healing, funnily enough. Not a mother goddess, though, if I remember rightly." And there's no reason I shouldn't these days. Although as I think of it, "Some commentators think she may be synonymous with Nin'insinna."
"Who is that?" Sam asks.
"A fertility goddess," I say, more in hope than in conviction. "Uh, Hermes, you wouldn't know if she was a Goa'uld queen, would you?"
"I do not believe so," he replies, "but I am not sure. Why do you ask?"
"Uh, well, we've discovered that there are a lot of snakes, um, Goa'uld on the planet and we were wondering if there was a Goa'uld queen on the loose, so to speak. If Gula had turned out to be a queen, then it's possible that those that remain were her offspring."
My heart sinks when he shakes his head, this time in a distinct 'no' direction. No matter how often I see these wispy aliens do it, it's still pretty freaky when they leave parts of their faces behind for a moment.
"I believe that his current consort is a queen," he says, putting the nail in the coffin of my optimism. RIP Pollyanna.
"Who is she?" I ask, not really sure if I want to know.
"I believe you know her as Kebechet," he replies.
That figures. I get the look from Jack that says he's confused.
"That doesn't sound Greek to me," he says.
"Jack, remember that these creatures take over identities from already extant beings. Perhaps not so often in the case of the Egyptian ones, given that they were, it would seem, the 'first on the scene' so to speak, but we have already found that Thoth's identity was stolen, remember?"
He grunts a 'not likely to forget it, am I' back at me.
"Given his not-so great chances of finding a queen, he's going to have to take what he can get. And if that means crossing cultural borders, I don't really think he's going to care one way or another, somehow. The Kebechet of myth is not a mother or fertility goddess," I say, "but that probably doesn't mean anything if this one took over from the original underworld goddess."
"Underworld?" Teal'c puts in.
I nod. "Yup. And, weirdly enough, a snake goddess. Snake-worship is widespread but during the time of the Minoan civilisation, for example, the Mediterranean area and as far as the areas of Mesopotamian influence, the cult of the snake was pretty big. In Mesopotamian culture, the snake represented wisdom and, get this, was supposedly a master in the use of 'miraculous' herbs which granted eternal youth and immortality. In Minoan culture there is a myth about Glaukos, a fisherman who, according to some sources, was led to or given a magical sea grass by a snake. And that snake knew of the herb of rebirth and resurrection."
"Sarcophagus?" Sam asks.
I shrug. Could well be. "By the way, Kebechet was represented by a coiled cobra, possibly with a human head and arm."
"Ew," she says.
"Yeah, but think of it. A snake - a real snake - with human parts? Could that not reasonably describe the possession of a human by a Goa'uld? Kebechet was part of the cult of the dead, a protector of dead pharaohs and a daughter of Anubis," I add wryly.
"Yeah, well she'll get a bit hacked off that her dad is dead," Jack puts in.
"Anubis died many years ago," Hermes states.
"No, he didn't. Only about a year ago. He'd gone into hiding and then decided he was going to be the meanest System Lord in the galaxy."
"What happened to him?"
Jack laughs. "He got his snaky ass kicked hard by a couple of other System Lords, mainly after we'd taken out a heck of a lot of their opposition."
"You really do fight the Goa'uld then?"
"We would not state something only to lie," Teal'c replies, sounding quite hurt.
"I apologise. I meant only that it is easy to be in opposition to an idea or even a force, but it is quite another to take action on a regular basis."
Teal'c is looking slightly less hacked off now. He hates it when his honour is impugned. Anyway, I believe Daniel is desperately attempting to get back on track.
"So, you believe Kebechet is a queen, she is the current consort of Zeus and they have many offspring on this planet?" he tries.
"That is what I understand to be the case."
"Uh, Daniel? Doesn't that mean there'll be a whole load of Harcesis children around? I mean, if the two Goa'uld, uh, get together..."
He shakes his head. Of course, when he does it, it means 'no'. At least I think so. These days I'm starting to wonder if anything means anything at all.
"Not necessarily, Sam. A Harcesis is, to all intents an purposes, a human child. Just one with the memories of the Goa'uld. Zeus can use the, well, the human part of his anatomy to father larval Goa'uld in exactly the same way a non-blended male can. The two Goa'uld have to choose to become 'actual' parents for a Harcesis to be born, or so I believe."
There's a lot of believing going on here. Not sure if that's reassuring or not. Especially as Daniel isn't exactly renowned for his faith. But he looks at Teal'c and gets a sad nod in reply.
"Why did you say he may well be in a position to take power?" Teal'c asks, getting Hermes back to where we wanted him to be in the first place.
"Because he has the writings."
"The Hermetic Scripts?" Daniel asks.
Hermes frowns. "What do you mean?"
"Um, well, there were a whole load of writings supposed to come from you. They dealt with alchemy, magic, writing... It's said that they're the equivalent of the Book of Thoth."
Hermes shuts his eyes and then shakes his head.
"It's the writings from the Ancients!" Daniel suddenly exclaims. "That's what all the magic and so on is all about, isn't it? It's the writing which the Great Friendship swore to protect and not let the Goa'uld get a hold of it because if they learned how to change shape, evolve..."
Uh oh. I look at the others and see that even Teal'c has gone pale. A neat trick if you can do it.
"We're in deep shit?" Jack asks.
"Remember you were concerned about going grey again?" Daniel asks wryly.
Jack looks at him with a raised eyebrow and a cocked head.
"Ain't gonna happen anytime soon, eh? I'm going to have a whole heap of the brown stuff dumped right on my head."
"You and the entire population of the galaxy if we don't find Zeus pronto," Daniel says. Then he turns to Hermes and asks with a sigh, "You wouldn't happen to know where he is, would you?"
"I understand that the place is called America."
Jack is now hitting his head on a wall. Think I'm going to join him.