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Loose Ends

leaving exile

Summary: Harry is asked to go back to Earth and start the search, but things have changed, and much to MIA's surprise, so will he go? Then MIA meet up with MIB and make an elemental discovery about the Furlings. Meanwhile, Daniel's having problems of his own.

Usual grovelling thanks to Alph for beta and much patience with me.


Now this is something I never thought I'd live to see. Maybourne with... no, I can't even bring myself to think it. It's not happening.

"Jack. You came. At least I'm assuming that it is the real you this time, but then reality is not always what it seems. As you search for the truth, reality itself hides in the shadows and all you see is the shadow."

"Okay, Harry, you can drop the Zen shit. I'm not sure how you ended up looking like... like..."

"A Buddhist monk?" Daniel fills in the blanks.

I'm still in shock but he's definitely looking like one. Orange robe - check. Shaved head - check. Tambourine? No, that's the Hare...

Oh no... Please don't... Okay, I'm going there...

"Harry Krishna?" I start to laugh. Let's be brutally honest, I'm rolling around laughing my ass off.

"Jack!" Daniel scolds, though he's turning his head from Harry and trying not to laugh himself. Don't know if it's at me or at Maybourne but frankly, not caring right now. I look up and see that even Teal'c's got a twinkle in his eye.

"Jack. Be a little more understanding," Daniel tries again. "Perhaps Maybourne has learned a lesson or two."

I calm myself a bit - not much, but enough so that I can breathe - and Danny reaches down and picks me up.

"Sorry," I gasp out. Not really sorry, but this is the first time I've ever had a belly laugh at Maybourne's expense so I'm making the most of it. No, that's not entirely true. I laughed my ass off when Frankie showed me the DHD crystals. That was funny, too.

"So, what's with the Buddhist get up?" I try when I've finally gotten enough breath to finish a sentence.

"I'm actually grateful to you, Jack. Or perhaps my gratitude should be aimed at those androids? Whichever of you had the idea to strand me here. Shifu stayed for quite a while and occasionally, when she visits, Oma has spent time teaching me."

He gets a bit of a wicked look in his eye - a look which ain't doing much for my belief in his sudden conversion.

"Water?" he offers.

"Sure. Could do with a drink," I reply.

He's smiling. What? Why? Has he poisoned it? He goes off and gets a cup of water, brings it back and I'm suddenly a bit concerned about what's in it.

"You drink some," I say.

"Jack. You wound me."

"If only," I mutter. I expect a nudge from Daniel but he just shrugs.

"Do you think I would do something to hurt you when I am so truly grateful for what you've done for me?"

"Okay then, pass it over. My throat's dry from all the laughing."

He gives me the water and he watches as I take a sip.

"Sweet," I say. "Thanks."

Why does he look put out? It's like he was expecting it to taste bad or something. It's just water. Can't feel any burning or tingling. No, I'm sure it's water. I knock it back and then hand him the cup. If the worst comes to the worst I can always head on back to the Tok'ra.

"Anyway, to the matter at hand. We've come to get you and take you back to Earth. All charges have been shelved."

He looks at me in disbelief.


"Yeah. As long as you stay on the straight and narrow, you can go home."


"What do you mean, why?"

"I know you, Jack. You want something."

I put my hands out to him. "Not much. Just want you to do something simple, not illegal, and should be right up your alley. Sit on your ass, watch TV and get paid to do it."

"What's the catch?" he asks. No, he can't have changed that much.

"Um, well," Daniel starts. "No catch, not really. It's just there's a new snake on the block. Only he's an old snake and we think he's in one of two places, uh, people. One of which might be a TV evangelist. We don't have the time to, well, to watch TV in a... forensic manner," he says, emphasising the word as if it's going to make it sound better. "You, on the other hand, will be able to do just that and with your experienced eye, you'll notice if there's something wrong."

"Many things are wrong, Dr. Jackson," Maybourne replies. "And unless you can explain more, I cannot help. As Oma says, only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer."

"Which is clearer than any other Zen saying I've ever heard," Daniel replies. "It's simple. We think a snake is possibly doing the preaching and healing thing. Only with a Goa'uld healing device, he's really going to be doing the healing thing."

Oh boy. It looks like Maybourne is going to be difficult about this. The longer this 'persuasion' by the guys goes on, the more Zen-like - and the more obtuse - he's getting.

"Look, Maybourne," I put in. "You have one choice to make. Come with us and do the job or stay here forever."

He stares at me and says, "Forever? What is that? As Oma says, the infinite is in the finite of every instant."

Sheesh. "I've got one for you," I snap back. "Only two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

"Who said that?" Teal'c asks.

"Einstein. And he really was a genius. So? You coming or what?"

Daniel looks oddly at me, then at Jack and Teal'c, then at his watch. No, it's not that date and the implant has ended that particular cause of my irritation. I scowl at him and then nod towards Maybourne. Daniel understands and nods back. Maybourne is my current cause of irritation - and funnily enough, I feel like this whenever I see him.

Maybourne looks like he's about to answer when we get a visitor - or two. I'm not really surprised to see Shifu suddenly appear out of thin air, and not totally surprised to see Oma with him either. Shifu looks much as he has done since he 'grew up' - and I'm not sure whether we're really seeing him as he is or not.

To my scientific mind, he shouldn't be this old. But then again, I shouldn't be this young. Considering it was Ancient tech which made me young and we're pretty certain Oma's one of the Ancients, I reckon she could have made him grow up if she wanted.

"Shifu!" Daniel calls out. "It is good to see you."

"Hello, Daniel. It is also good to see you and your friends. Where are the others like you?"

"Ah, they're on another planet at the moment. We are searching for traces of the Furlings."

Shifu goes quiet and then says, "Oma asks why you seek her old friends."

"Uh, Oma," Daniel turns to her. "Do you know if they still exist? Um, before you answer that, please, put it in plain English or any of the other languages I speak, but I really need straight answers from you if I'm going to give you any straight answers back."

Shifu seems to be the one to do the talking as usual.

"Oma says that they are not as they once were."

"Were they like you? You are one of the Ancients, aren't you?"

There's a hesitation from her, but this time she actually answers. Well, she nods. Close enough. Then Shifu speaks again.

"They were not like Oma," he states. "But they were not greatly different. Now, they have changed." So humanoid like we guessed but not so now. But now, how? Uh, so to speak.

"Changed? In what way?"

Shifu sighs and shakes his head. "Oma says that it is not for her to answer that; you must seek the truth of the matter yourselves. But she still asks why you look for them."

"Oh, we believe that they may be able to assist us in returning the Jaffa to being human once more. The Goa'uld queens are nearly all gone. Soon all the larvae for the Jaffa will be gone. We cannot allow an entire race of people to die when there is a possibility that we could have done something to save them. Our task is not easy, it may not be possible, but we have to try. Will you help, Oma?"

"Oma says that she must not interfere in the ways of the mortals, whether human or Jaffa, or even Goa'uld. That good and evil must fight their own battles so that when good wins, if it does, it will be stronger and will last longer."

"But what if it fails?" I ask. "What if the evil has become too strong?"

"Then that is the way of the universe."

"NO!" Daniel puts in, aimed directly at Oma. "Actually, not this time. The evil we've got to fight, alongside our quest to help the Jaffa, is partially your fault!"

"Oma wishes to know what you mean, Daniel," Shifu says, and for the first time, I hear real emotion in his voice. One of fear, perhaps.

"You - the Ancients - shared your knowledge with other races. Good races, it is true, and ones who have protected it well. We have met some of them and they still hold fast to the oath they gave you. But you underestimated the power of evil.

"Hermes - one of the Titans - you gave him some powerful knowledge. He did what he could to keep it, but a Goa'uld found him - and found the book or whatever it was. The Hermetic Scripts we call them. He stole them and incarcerated poor Hermes. Until very recently he was a prisoner - he'd been imprisoned for perhaps a thousand or even two thousand years. Back when they went, he did what he could to regain the Scripts, but that was how he got himself caught because the Goa'uld that got them learned how to use them. He's distraught because he would rather have died than give them up.

"I don't know how he lost them, I don't think he knows how they went, but now they're in the hands of a Goa'uld who has the reputation among other Goa'uld as being the most evil one to ever have lived. And that was before the sarcophagus made them all as bad as each other.

"So it was your misjudgement, your misplaced though honest trust, your mistake which has now left us with a Goa'uld on Earth. And we have good reason to believe that he has plans to destroy much of the planet and control what is left.

"Unlike you, we cannot take the high ground and let the battle play out. We are the battle. And we're mopping up your mess."

Wow. Daniel can get very passionate at times, but this time he was even more so. I don't think I've ever heard such fervour in his voice before.

Oma looks shaken. Seriously. For a spook, she looks shook. Damn, I'm starting to sound like Jack. Makes a change, he's usually complaining of sounding like one of us.

"Oma asks what is the name of this evil one?" Shifu says, and now his voice is distinctly wobbling.

"Zeus," Daniel replies.

You know, I wouldn't have thought it possible for a white spirit to lose colour, but it looks to me like she's gone and done it.

I think I may be getting somewhere with Oma. I didn't want to get angry with her but something brought it out of me. She's moving close to me now, the world around me is looking a little fuzzy. I try to focus on Jack but he seems to be standing stock still. I can't turn to look at the others, it's as if something's holding me fast, but I suddenly realise that I can't hear the birds singing anymore or the water which was running in the stream. Has time stood still?



"Yes. We may speak. But the others must not hear this."

"Why not?"

"You have been marked as special by one of our old friends, have you not?"

"Um, do you mean Thoth? He did something. Not sure what he did but he put something on my arm. Is that what you mean?"

"Yes. But there is another change in you. It is there in two of your other friends but not to the same extent."

At least she's speaking clearly. Makes a change.

"Ah, that was the Furlings. We - literally - fell into some of their evolutionary technology. Then I ended up in a sarcophagus and it boosted the nanocytes that had gotten into my blood. It changed me."

"For the good. If anyone stands a chance against the evil one, it is you."

"You're shaken by the fact that it's Zeus, aren't you?"

She's silent for a moment then I hear, "Yes. We only shared our knowledge with the others to help protect them against him in particular. They could use their own ways against the others, but even before he stole our knowledge, he was able to do things that the others could not do."

"Which could explain how he's managed to use it, and apparently with ease," I sigh. "How was he different?"

"We do not know exactly. Just that of all of the Goa'uld, he alone could do some things that we, too, could do."

"In your ascended state? Or were you, um, mortal - I mean, more like us."

"We were once mortal, and very much like you. But that was a long time ago. We had already changed and, for the most part, had moved out into the galaxy by the time the Goa'uld found our home."


She doesn't answer but there is a small nod.

"Some of us would return often to watch over the people of the planet and to keep in contact with our friends who had also taken up residence there."

Return? I was right, I'm sure of it.

"You experimented on our ancestors, didn't you? To see what evolutionary changes you could force on them?"

"It is to our shame. We did not see then as we do now that interfering with the natural order of things is wrong. It is why we must stay out of the current affairs of the universe."

There's a pause from her and I think I see a particular look of guilt.

"It was you," I say. "The experimentation thing started at your personal behest, didn't it? It's why you in particular hang around. You feel guilty about it."

Again the silence, then the nod. "I had met the Furlings and they seemed to have the answer to a problem of our own; one I cannot explain to you. You are correct, the experimentation was my idea."

"So you feel attached to humans? You watch over us even if you're not allowed to do anything?"

"I do what I can," she replies carefully. I was right, that monk was human. She helps humans to ascend and I'm getting the impression that she's going against orders when she does it.

"You're Mother Nature to many old races, aren't you?"

"They see me as a creator," she sighs. "Though I do not deserve such reverence. I swear that I meant no harm when I started the experiments." Her voice is pretty darned emotional as she says it.

"That's okay," I sigh. "It's not like you're the only ones to do that. I guess you didn't mean ill."

"No, we honestly did not. We never wished harm or pain on your species. We only wished to speed your natural evolution to see what would happen."

"And to guess what would happen when you tried it yourselves?"

"Yes." That's the most resigned 'yes' I've ever heard in my life. And I've heard quite a few.

"What did you learn from the Furlings?"

"We... We did not learn."

"Ah. You saw their mistakes and thought you could do better?"

She drops her head, as if in shame. And this really does explain their philosophy of non-interference. Remember the Tollan anyone? This seems to be a recurring theme throughout the galaxy. The old cliché about history repeating itself seems to be a very old one.

"I get it. Are the Furlings bad now? Can you at least tell me that?"

"Those who are left as Furlings are not bad."

"As Furlings?"

"Some changed. I can say no more than that. But some, while physically different from the way they used to be, are still much of the same nature. That nature is peaceful," she offers - and that's the best bit of news I've heard in a long time.

"That's good. Is it possible to find them?"


"But difficult?"

"Yes. I am sorry, but on this matter I cannot help."

"But what of Zeus? If we can at least get him off Earth and away from all of the people there, what can we do with him?"



"It is the safest thing."

"Oma, we can't do nothing."

"But you must. Nothing is exactly what you must do."

She touches me on the head, I feel something, but what I feel I can't explain. And with that, the world goes a bit fuzzy again.

Daniel has just collapsed and he is unconscious.

"Danny? What's wrong?" O'Neill has dropped to his knees and he is cradling him in his arms.

"Is he breathing, O'Neill?"

"Yes. He's out cold. Oma?! What's wrong with him?"

Shifu speaks. "He shall awaken soon."

"He's not on another one of those learning dream things you did to him before, is he? 'Cause you don't know what you did to him back then."

"I am aware of what he learned," Shifu argues.

"But you don't know about the screaming nightmares! He still gets them sometimes, for crying out loud. Tell me! Is this happening again?"

"No. He just sleeps." The answer is calm but Shifu looks saddened by that news.

"Then why..."

O'Neill's question is interrupted as Daniel opens his eyes.

"Danny? You okay?"

"Headache. Bad headache. Migraine. No. Worse than migraine. Need a dark room."

"Okay, let's get you to Gimli." O'Neill picks him up slowly, not taking his eyes off him as if he is afraid that Daniel will collapse again.

"Maybourne," I say. "Have you decided if you shall help?"

He looks to Oma and it seems that she is nodding slightly.

"If I can come back when it's over," he says quietly.

We are all astounded by that but O'Neill agrees on our behalf.

"Do you wish to collect your belongings?" I ask.

"No. They are just possessions and mean nothing."

This does not sound like the Maybourne we have known. Perhaps he really has changed. We say our goodbyes to the spirits and are soon back on our ship.


"How's Daniel?" Samantha asks as O'Neill comes back onto the peltac. We have already set course for Earth and should be there before long.

"Sleeping. For real this time. He's taken some painkillers and stuck his head under a pillow."

"Did he say what had happened to him, O'Neill?"

"No, Teal'c. He doesn't remember anything except for waking up with a bad head."

He looks over at Maybourne who is quietly sitting on the floor, cross-legged and seemingly meditating.

"All right, Harry, you can stop the pretence now."

"Pretence?" Maybourne looks up, shocked by the words. "There is no pretence. As I said, Oma has taught me much."

"Yeah, sure," O'Neill mutters, but I do not think that he believes him.

"What are you going to do with me?" Maybourne asks.

"Just as we told you. Unlike some people, we mean what we say. We got a call from Hammond this morning, he's setting you up with an apartment in DC with a TV and all the creature comforts you're likely to need. We'll drop you off and you watch all the religious channels. Should be straight up your new-found spiritual street."

"I will not need many things. Oma taught me that only that which is necessary to live on is sufficient. I need clothes to wear and food to eat. That is all."

O'Neill. Do you think he has really changed?

Nope. I'll go along with it for the moment, but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Indeed. But perhaps Oma had a severe impact on him.

Nah, he was up to something. Why else do you think he offered only me the water? There was something he was expecting to happen and he was really disappointed when it did not.

I think I might have an answer for that, I reply. After we first met Shifu in his older state, I was intrigued by the philosophy by which he lived. My first visit to Kheb also affected me greatly. So Daniel kindly pointed me in the direction of Zen studies. In one of the books of sayings of the masters, there was a proverb. It said something like 'when a cow drinks water it becomes milk. When a snake drinks water it becomes poison.'

He looks at me strangely then shrugs a little.

Guess I see what you're saying. Reckon that water must have tasted foul to him, then. Except there's one thing which knocks that bit of philosophy on the head.

You are not a cow?

I see him try not to laugh.

Well, that thing too. The point is, with my, er, history, shall we say, I'm probably closer to the snake.

I think for a while as the ship speeds towards Earth. In the end I believe I have an answer for him.

Perhaps you are further away from the snake than you think. It is not so much your actions which control how you view the world, but your intentions while carrying out those actions. Undoubtedly there have been times when your intentions were not so good, but it is my opinion that over the years they have improved to the point where no matter how distasteful an action, your heart has 'been in the right place', as you would say. I would venture to suggest that Daniel has been a good influence on you.

He looks at me with quite sad eyes as he presses the button on our control panel to send the 'friend' message to the ships of Earth.

Yeah. I know. I just wish I'd recognised it a lot sooner.

Perhaps. But I do believe that whether he knew it or not, he was influenced for the better from the moment they met.

Harry's installed in his new apartment in DC. Paul was already there, getting it set up for him, so, having been told this by Hammond when we'd popped directly into his office so that no one else could overhear, we went back up to the ship and Gimli homed in on Paul straight away. Which was neat. Guess she knows his brain waves or whatever it is she uses 'cause she's transported him before.

Anyway, he jumped a mile when we suddenly appeared, damned near ruptured himself from trying not to laugh at Maybourne (don't think I'd ever truly appreciated his genius for diplomacy, because only those of us with empathy even got a clue that he was laughing his head off inside. His face was so straight it could be used as a ruler), then, while I was accompanying Harry around his new place, Daniel - headache and all - had a quiet chat with him to tell him about our worries about the snake being in politics again.

He's going to keep a particularly keen eye out for two things regarding Zeus himself: one, an old hand suddenly acquiring more power or if already having power, being more prepared to use it, and two, a new guy on the Hill who seems just that bit too good to be true. Trouble is, half of the Capitol seem that way. Guess we're just going to have to trust Paul's political instincts and connections. He comes from a long line of politicians and lawyers - who he don't know (or know of), ain't worth knowing.

Paul had already collated an entire list of people who had visited Kinsey in hospital, but as he pointed out, the chances are that any snake was going to have jumped ship - or rather hosts - before he went in. Unless the new host is someone that the political world would expect to visit Kinsey in his 'hour of need', he ain't gonna go there again. So that pretty much knocks that line of investigation on the head, though he is keeping the list of visitors in mind just in case one on it pops up elsewhere.

Unfortunately, he hasn't heard of a new preacher on the TV. However, he did suggest that given Kinsey's politico-religious ways, there was a very good chance that he'd been visited after his downfall by an established preacher. He's known to have connections with quite a few (couldn't just be the one, could it?) and some of them had even 'contributed significantly' to his run at President.

So much for using the donated money for the 'charities' these guys set up. Sure; a charity for funding their own nefarious practices like paying for prostitutes and drugs, and for getting a politician further up the slimy ladder so that these so-called preachers can get tax breaks, kickbacks and some of their less-than-Christian, in fact damn near fascist policies into law.

I hate those guys. Really, really hate them. Guess it's because I see what a good, a proper priest or other religious person should be like when I see my brother in action.

He doesn't care who it is needs tending to, doesn't care whether they're white, black or any shade in-between. Doesn't care whether they're Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other religion or even outright atheists. And I know he doesn't care whether someone's gay or straight or any other variation you care to think about. If someone needs help, they get it from him - occasionally whether they want it or not.

He won't allow people to suffer when there's something he can do about it. I've known him give his only winter coat to a homeless man, even though he doesn't get paid a lot himself. If I hadn't been staying with him and seen him come home without it (all covered in snow and just wearing a sweater and pants), I would never have heard about it. I went straight out and got him a new coat because he'd have gone without otherwise. Not recommended in Chicago at the best of times, let alone winter.

So he's my guide as to what a religious person should be like, and those like him are those I'll fight to protect, irrespective of which flavour of religion they follow, even though I've lost my own faith.

And the funny thing? He doesn't hate those TV types. He pities them and those that follow them, and prays that one day they'll actually see the truth of the matter. That doesn't mean he prays that they'll turn Catholic (though I don't suppose he'd be upset if they did, natch). What's really important to him is that they'll see the truth behind the lies they hear on a daily basis and stop sending what little money they have to those who live in mansions.

He cannot hate. Of all the people I've ever met - including Danny - he's the only one I've met who holds no hate for anyone. Danny's close, but he can hate. And God help anyone on the receiving end of that. But at least he acknowledges that, and he sees it as a weakness on his part.

Those tricksters on the TV wouldn't even have a clue as to what that all meant. And you know what makes some of them worse? Not just the whole lying, scheming, underhanded... that stuff. Because of them, some decent preachers who might make it onto TV, genuine ones, get lumped into the same group by those of us who wouldn't trust the others further than we can spit.

Ya know, lots of people say I'm a cynic. Don't see it myself.

In the meantime, Paul's going to quietly probe the political side of things but Daniel practically forced him to promise to stay away from anyone who looks like he might be Zeus. Actually, he did force a promise out of him. Don't think I've ever seen Danny look so panicked when Paul said he'd make some enquiries.

He's under strict instructions to keep his eyes and ears open wide and his mouth shut fast. He's to call Hammond, use a code word, this in turn will get a call put through to us on the subspace comms from one of the ships. It'll go straight to Sam. All those on board the ship will know is to broadcast on a given channel and say a single word. They won't know what it means. What it does mean is that we'll come straight back to DC. Then he can tell us what he knows face-to-face. He's to do the same thing if Harry comes up with anything.

He's also going to look out for Kebechet. Given our experiences with Hecate and finding out that she wasn't as loyal to her master as she'd made out, we're not taking any chances that this queen is just popping out the larvae as and when Zeus demands it. But with his powers, Zeus is the one who's scaring us. Mainly 'cause he's scaring the shit out of our alien allies. And if he scares Oma - and I'd bet everything I have that he does - then he's scaring me.

So, Harry's been told which preachers to watch out for most closely (in other words, Kinsey's old pals), but also to keep an eye out to see if anyone new turns up. He's been briefed as to Zeus' likely behaviour, the possibility of a pretty young 'wife' on the scene, and the more-than-likely 'amazing miracles' of healing. Trouble is, as we'd said when we were discussing this before, there are charlatans on the TV doing this already, only in their case, it's all made up. We just reckon that if Zeus is up to it, it's going to really look more miraculous. We hope anyway, 'cause that's the only chance we've gotten of finding him.

I'm still suspicious about Harry's conversion. Is he really riding the railroad to Zen Central? Or will he shaft us again? Guess I'm going to have to wait and see. He has been warned that as long as he does as he's asked all will be well. But if he disappears, does anything illegal (even gets a speeding ticket), he's on his own. Can't make it plainer than that. At least he can't say we were talking in some strange manner designed to confuse the heck out of him like he was doing to us on Kheb. If he wants anything or needs anything he can't get over the phone or via the internet, he's to call Paul.

Food is to be delivered - he has a new credit card in a different name from his so that his old colleagues at the NID don't get wind of his reappearance. Suppose I don't really want him to end up dead because of something I've asked him to do. The apartment is a safe house in DC, owned by the Pentagon and one which is nowhere near the politicians' preferred residential areas. It's pretty ordinary - guess that's the point of it being safe - but there's a shit load of well-disguised security devices so he can call for help if he needs it.

Hope he doesn't.

I mean, if anyone deserves to get to kill him, it's me. And I'm not ready to do it.


I'll just wait and see how he behaves.


We're back home. Daniel's gone to bed. It's only mid-afternoon but that headache isn't going away. He's taken some industrial strength painkillers and told everyone to 'keep the fucking noise down', even though we were talking in whispers. I'd give anything to know what happened to him on Kheb, but if he knows, he ain't giving.

And I don't think he does know. It's too much like that blank time on Thoth's world for my liking. Methinks the aliens are using him and I don't like it. Trouble is, if he can't remember what they've done to him, I can't do anything to help. More to the point, if they've done something to assist him in the fight against Zeus, will he remember anything about it in time? And if they did - why didn't they do it to us?



We hear Frankie's voice come over the comms.

"Hey, Frankie, how are you?" Sam calls back. She sounds pretty excited to hear from her metal sister.

"We're doing great. We think we have a lead regarding the Furlings."

"Terrific! Are you coming home?"

"No. Not yet. We were wondering if you guys wanted to come and join us."

"Where are you? Can we gate there?"

"No, you'll need the ship. I'll send the co-ordinates directly to Gimli."

"Okay. We'll just check up on Daniel and see if he's up to travelling."

"What's wrong?"

"Seriously bad headache. To be honest, we've been considering taking him to the Tok'ra if it doesn't clear up soon."

There's silence at the other end of the line - if the comms can be described like that - then we hear from DJ.

"Look, it doesn't matter. We can carry on with the investigations. Just make sure that he's okay. Don't let him push himself, all right?"

"Shall do, DJ," Sam replies. "We'll contact you as soon as we know anything."

They disconnect and she looks over to me. "What shall we do? They sounded pretty excited by whatever it is they've found out."

"Yeah. Daniel'll be pissed if he misses out on an important discovery." I look at my watch, see it's nearly time to eat and say, "I'll check up on him. You put some food on. Maybe he'll feel better if he's got some food inside him."


I creep into the bedroom just in case he's sleeping. Though as soon as I take a step inside the room I see him lift the pillow off his head.

"Hey," I say, as quietly as I can. "How're you feeling."

"A little better," he says, sounding delicate. "Sorry for biting earlier."

"Forget it. I know what you're like when you get a real bad one. Can I get you anything? More tablets?"

"No, it really is getting better."

I go to sit on the bed then think first before I act. "May I?" I ask, pointing to the bed. "Don't want to shake you up if you don't want to move."

"Sure, of course. Sit." He pauses, gives me a weak smile and says, "Thank you for your consideration. I know how bad-tempered I get when I'm like this. I don't mean to bite your head off, but..." He shrugs as if he's run out of words - or steam.

"Like I said, it's okay. Besides, we all need a target when we're feeling out of sorts, and you're usually mine. Guess it evens up over time, eh?"

He nods, frowns, then says, "Yes."

The word is pretty sharp so I suppose that nod hurt. I reach over and he takes my offered hand.

"So?" he says after a minute or so of silence. "What's up?"

I can't help but laugh a bit; he knows me far too well.

"Two things, I guess. First is, can you remember anything about your time on Kheb when you collapsed, or, for that matter, when you were on Thoth's world without us?"

He frowns again and his eyes suddenly squeeze tight as if it hurts.

"No," he gasps. "And I don't want to think about it."

Okay, so thinking about it is contributing to the headache. Perhaps point number two will help.

"Don't think about it then," I say and he damn near growls as if to say 'state the fucking obvious, why don't you?'. "The other thing was that we've heard from the androids. They want us to join up with them. But only if you're up to it, okay?"

He sits up gingerly, stays still for a moment, obviously decides that his head isn't going to explode and says, "Well? What are you waiting for? Let's go!"

"After we've eaten," I insist.

I see his body tense, then relax. That's his 'I'm pissed with you but I'm not going to say anything' phrase in body language. I'm pretty darned fluent in Daniel-speak these days.

Sam? Teal'c?

Yes, Jack?

Whatever you do, don't mention Kheb or Thoth's world to Daniel.

Why, O'Neill?

Because it ain't helping his headache. We're coming out for some food so is it ready?

Just about, I call back.

I hear the door open as I - as quietly as I can - put some plates on the table. The meal is just something simple. Didn't think that Daniel could face anything fancy right now. From the look on his face, I'd say I was right.

Wonder what Jack meant by those places making Daniel's head worse? I'll try to find out later, but I'm not sure that he'll be able to answer. That's the trouble when aliens do things: we often end up more confused if we try to understand something than if we just go with the flow.

It's probably why, over the years, we never asked those questions that Jack said we should start asking now. It was just a lot less confusing - and painful - to accept the status quo.

"Have you any idea what MIB have found?" he asks as he takes some food.

"No, just that they sounded pretty enthusiastic. I'm wondering why we can't gate there. Last we heard they were on a planet with a gate."

They all shrug as if to say they haven't a clue yet, so we just tuck into our food. The sooner we eat, the sooner we can find out.


"How's the head?" I ask as we close in on MIB's current location.

"Not so bad, thanks. Sorry if I was irritable earlier."

"Not a problem. Headaches are almost as annoying as toothache."

He looks at me, offers me a weak smile and nods carefully. I'm thinking the headache is still there, but he does look better. At least he has some colour back.

"Did you find anything odd on the scan data?" he suddenly asks.

"Scan data... Oh! You know, I'd forgotten that with all that's been going on. I did find something odd, but I can't tell what it is exactly."

He looks at me and raises an eyebrow as if to say 'go on'. I think he's literally trying to take his mind off his mind - at least the pain in it - but he's finding it difficult to even think straight.

"Well, there were no active power sources on the planet. None left anyway, after we'd taken that one away. The goo was still moving when we'd gone there so whatever it is that causes it to move, it wasn't the power source. I think you're right that that was just the cause of the evolution, at least, it was the cause of the speed of it.

"What I did find was a few areas where the bio readings looked stronger than in other places, and one of those places was not far from the other side of the settlement to the gate, where we reckoned they started the experiment off in the first place. At a guess, it's where the life, in whatever form it has taken, has reached its evolutionary maximum and is now in the process of reproducing at a more rapid rate than the less-evolved forms."

"The other places match that area in this sort of intensity?" he asks.

"Yes. One was in a more tropical region - the gate region was more savannah-like as you know. Flatter, grassland, though the goo seemed to have caused a difference in what we would know as savannah plant and animal life back home. Seemed more swampy there, but on the scan, the bigger picture made it look like some great plain with a few hills scattered here and there."

"There were others? You seemed to suggest that there were more than the two," he says, this time more thoughtfully.

"One was in the water, on what would appear to be a shallow continental shelf, possibly even a coral reef but I couldn't be certain from the readings, and there was another in a different place, near an ice cap."

He's mulling the information over then he nods.

"They would have started the experiment off in different places. Flat, dryer lands, a tropical rainforest - well, as it would become with evolution - then what has become a coral reef and a cold-water region. All places you'd find abundant life forms on Earth. Remind me of something. You said that there was a connection all around the planet regarding the land? Like a single continent?"


"And the ocean? Was it just one or was it split either side of the land?"

"Two, apparently not connected, though they are only stopped by two ice caps at the poles. It's possible that if the ice melted it would just be the one"

"Ice caps. Conveyer belt," he says to himself.


"Oh, well, even though on Earth we say there are different oceans, the truth of the matter is that there's really only one body of water. Its flow is interrupted by the appearance of land, but it's possible to sail right around the globe without ever touching land. The Atlantic is connected to the Southern Ocean. That in turn is connected in different places to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. So in effect, it's just one ocean. And in it is the conveyer belt."

"Of course. The Gulf Stream and so on," I say in understanding.

"Exactly. The cold water and hot water doesn't just run as a single band in the Atlantic, it's connected to other 'ribbons', for want of a better word, right through to the Pacific. And when that stops, it affects global climate."

"What would stop it, Daniel?" Teal'c asks. Both the other guys have been listening in to our conversation but neither have spoken till now.

"Um, well, one thing is an increase in fresh water. You see, the whole thing starts in the Gulf area where the water is warmed up - at least I'll say that's where it starts for illustrative purposes otherwise it's going to get confusing. So, Gulf, then it heads north, taking heat with it. If you look at the western edge of Europe and its connected islands, you'll see that they have much more temperate, even warmer climates than the same latitudes inland.

"For example, even though they're really only a few degrees short of the Arctic Circle, palm trees can quite happily grow in Western Scotland. Yet Scotland's latitude is higher than that of Moscow - a place which gets temperatures dropping to figures so low that it doesn't really matter whether you're measuring in Centigrade or Fahrenheit."

We laugh at his attempt at a joke - it's not bad for someone in pain, I guess.

"The point is, that when the water gets past there, and it reaches the ice, it's very saline. This, combined with the sudden cold makes it drop. The falling water effectively sucks the warmer water into its place, and then pushes it along this conveyer belt back down south. It goes around the globe, warming up and cooling down, depending on the locality, and distributes the warmth a bit more evenly throughout the world than would normally happen if the belt wasn't working.

"But if you add a lot of fresh water, say in the Arctic, such as is starting to happen with the melting of the ice cap up there, then the salinity is going to drop. Without the salt, the belt will grind to a halt."

He stops dead, opens his eyes wide then shakes himself.

"He wouldn't. Would he?"

"Who wouldn't what, Daniel?"

"Zeus. Would he really trigger off another ice age?"

"How would melting ice caps produce ice?" Teal'c asks in confusion.

"Simply," Daniel shrugs. "It would take a little while for things to stabilise, but once the warm water stopped getting as far north as it does now, the ice would rapidly come back and over time, it wouldn't melt in the summers. Then it's just a matter of it building up and up, like on Antarctica. The summer only melts a little of the winter snow and so more precipitation than evaporation occurs over time. You then get the ice sheets, glaciers and so on. It's happened before."

"What starts it again, because surely it must?" Teal'c asks.

"Probably a re-balancing of the level of salinity, but last time I read anything about this, the scientists weren't sure exactly how it restarted, only that it did. It's happened a few times at least, in geologically recent times. I believe the current pattern only started when the Panamanian Isthmus joined up South and North America, stopping any warm water heading directly between the Gulf and the Pacific and then sending it on the long journey it now takes."

"How would Zeus add more fresh water?" I demand, not a little afraid that an individual could actually speed up what we're doing by screwing up.

He shrugs. "Some sort of tech. I seem to remember something about a large body of fresh water in Siberia. It's either in ice form itself or it's held back by ice. But they reckoned that if that got into the Arctic Ocean, it, on its own, would have enough fresh water to stop the belt within a very short period of time. Possibly even days. If he can open up that area..."

He grinds to a halt then his body drops. Not just his shoulders, but his whole body.


"Jack, think. What natural resources are there in Siberia?"

"Oil? Gas?"

"Gas. Methane to be precise. I know that there's a lot of fear that as the permafrost melts the methane is going to be released into the atmosphere. And we all know that methane in its natural form is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide."

"That's true," I agree, "but there's something else that's scaring you."

"Who's to say that one of those Russian oligarchs, the ones in charge of the various massive gas companies, isn't one of Zeus' offspring or allies or whatever they are? Few, if any, have good reputations as it is. One snake could very easily hide out among them."

"Oh God..."

"Yeah. We're going to need divine intervention if that's his plan."

I'm thinking I'll start praying. Now. Because if Daniel's right about the whole end of the world by a certain date thing, then I'll lay odds of 2:1, perhaps even 'evens', that they've worked out the maths on this one. They'll know exactly how much methane to release into the atmosphere by which date to start the end of the world as we know it. They won't need nuclear devices, and they won't even have to take the blame. It could be an 'accidental release', much like Chernobyl.

Oh God, part two... I mention that to the guys.

"A practice run?" Jack suggests.

Daniel just shrugs.

"Who knows? Could have been an accident - in a perverse sort of way I hope it was, because at least then it wouldn't have been a deliberate act, which would somehow make a godawful event even worse. It was investigated and they found what they believed to be the reasons behind it - and I'm sure they'd have looked at sabotage as an idea very closely. But then again, the investigators would have been looking for something which they could explain.

"I'm not denigrating their abilities, it's just that there's no way that they could have explained something with alien tech involved. They could only have found an answer using the tech they understood. I'm not saying it wasn't just a very tragic accident," he sighs. "But then again, I wouldn't say it wasn't a premeditated, malicious action on Zeus' orders. From what we've learned of him, I wouldn't put it past him to be that... that..."

He can't find the word. Neither can I. I don't think he can find the word in any of the languages he speaks. 'Horrific', 'nasty', 'disgusting'... None of those even come close, but we know what he means.

It takes us a while to get over the implications. We're almost at our destination so I push Daniel to find out what he meant by the conveyer belt on the Furlings' planet, or at least its importance.

"It's just that it might have helped move the goo around in the currents. They reckon that on Earth, a single water molecule caught up in the current, and assuming it stays in the ocean rather than evaporates, will travel the entire globe. Sure, it takes thousands of years, if I remember correctly, but it will go through the whole system ending up where it started. Then it starts again.

"Given the time span we've been working to regarding the experiment, it's quite possible that nanocytes have been spread across the planet many times over. And if they started the experiment off in at least four different places, they may have had... booster power sources, so to speak. Like a relay network. Over time, they've worn out. Only the original was kept working, assuming that was the original."

"What do you mean? Assuming it was the original?" Jack demands.

He shrugs. "Even if we cut down the maximum time by four, it's still possible that the experiment was three million years old, about two if we went with the minimum. Though I guess that six is probably closer to the mark considering what happened to us with the Ancients."

"Are we sure that the Ancients experimented on us?"

He starts to nod, then screws his face up as if he's getting his headache back again. In the end he just says, "Thought we'd worked that out in Antarctica."

Okay, let's run with that because I don't want to give him his pain again.

"Of course. So six million seems to be the cut-off point?"

"Give or take," he says with a shrug. "Perhaps the relay points weren't as powerful?"

"All right," Jack says, "so 'original'?"

"Like I've been thinking about the Great Pyramid. What if it's a replacement for one which had been there for thousands of years? The buildings on the Furlings' planet were ruined, at least those which hadn't been built as strongly as those we entered, but there wasn't anywhere near enough decay to equate with even three million years. Three thousand, probably. Because with a large ocean and different weather systems over the planet, you can be sure that chemical erosion from weathering has taken place."

"So they had to go back every so often and rebuild? What if they go back and find their machine is missing?"

He shakes his head. "No, given the level of decay, I'd say that the place was abandoned. But not as long ago as we thought. Sure, they may well have built better buildings than we could; perhaps they had a way of delaying the inevitable when it came to erosion, but even they couldn't keep it pristine over such a long period of time. I'd say they haven't been back for a minimum of three thousand years, possibly as long as thirty, depending on the materials."

Not sure about his timing - I mean how accurate he is - but he does have a good point about the erosion and the likelihood of rebuilding.

"This means what to us?" Jack asks.

"Jack, if by some chance, they abandoned the place only a few thousand years ago, then the chances of them still being around in humanoid form, despite what Oma said about them changing, have just increased considerably. And therefore so has our chance of finding them."

That sounds good.

"You reckon there might be two types of Furling? One as they were, one ascended or whatever the heck it was that Oma meant?"

"Yes, Jack. Don't know if it's true or even a strong conjecture, but the odds of being able to communicate with them have grown, I guess."

For the first time in days, I actually feel a bit more positive.

We're at the planet where the guys are. The al'kesh is in orbit and they've just called us up so we're popping over to it. My curiosity is rising. Why not use the gate?

"Hi guys," I say as we appear.

"Hey Daniel, how's your head?" DJ asks.

I look over at Jack and he just tilts his head - telling me that 'hey, they asked us to come so I had to tell them'. God, I know him too well. Who needs telepathy when a glance and a nod can say so much?

"Much better now, thanks. Comes and goes, but at least I can open my eyes without feeling like someone's sticking hot pins into them."

"Ouch. Well, I'm glad you're better."

"So, why did you call us? And why not by gate?"

"Ah, that was a safety concern. Look here."

We look at a scan and Sam's eyes pop out. There's a lot of scientific gobbledegook in front of me and I don't have a clue what it means. I look over to DJ in a 'help me' way and he 'translates'.

"Remember that odd but apparently dangerous element?"

"How could we forget?" Jack mutters.

"Well, it's here. And in vast quantities. More to the point, it's being processed. Or at least it had been."

"What do you mean?"

"We saw the readings for the element as soon as we started to scan the planet," Frankie says. "All over the place there are areas filled with what we assumed to be the ore - just like iron ore, I guess. Anyway, curiosity overcame caution and we went down there. Guess it can't hurt us, can it?"

As soon as she says that, I quickly look all four of them over. They're okay - at least they're all in the same number of pieces that they were before they left, their clothes aren't damaged and no limbs are missing. That's good - right?

"And?" Sam pushes.

"They mined it. Open-cast mining on a massive scale. Not only that, but there's the ruin of what we can only assume to be a processing plant. Like a smelting works."

"Ruin? Natural decay or accident?" I ask.

"Can't really tell. We think it was some sort of accident or even an attack. But nature's overgrown so much of it that there's little in the way of concrete evidence."

I think hard about it. This was the dangerous element. The one in the sarc and the evolutionary machine. The one that probably causes the addiction.

"Does the ore give off any dangerous... well, whatever it is it gives off?"

"We're not certain. I mean, we see the same basic chemical signal, much as you would see the same basic components in iron ore and worked iron. Except that in worked iron, you'll also get greater or lesser signals from things like carbon, depending on how it's been worked. We don't know if it's the ore or the processing of it which makes it dangerous, which is why we didn't want you on the planet," she replies.

"I see. Thanks. Don't want to take any chances," Jack says thoughtfully.

And if he's thinking, then I need to be thinking.

"It's the processing that does it," I realise. "It's got to be. How many processing plants are there?"

"Just the one?"


"Daniel? What do you mean?" DJ asks.

"Scan again. Look at all the places near the mines. See if there is any sign, no matter how small, that there has been a building there."

Frankie increases the resolution of the scans. We soon see that there have been at least five different operations in different places on the planet. And each one has seriously decayed metal close by, the shape of the signals looking similar to each other, and more to the point, similar to the one nearest the gate which is the one they visited.

"They kept mining and processing," I say, "and each time, something went horribly wrong. The only surviving thing from each area would have been the gate and possibly the DHD. So they'd go back, move the gate to the next site and start again."

"What do you mean, went horribly wrong?" John asks.

I shrug. "Remember what that ore does. Over time, at least in its processed form, it basically makes people evil."

"So a worker freaked out and blew the place up in each one?" Jack all but shrieks.

I shrug again. Why not?

"So why go back?" Sam asks, sounding horrified.

"Sam, what happens when you go in a sarc time and time again?"

"Oh God. You mean addiction drove them to it?"

"Possibly. It makes a sort of sense, doesn't it?"

The sad thing is, they all agree, and none of them can come up with a nicer explanation.


We're back on Gimli, but we're not going home. George can contact us here as well as anywhere else, I guess. We've told MIB about everything that's happened - they, too, cracked at the thought of Maybourne as a monk - and they're now as worried as we are about Zeus.

But, I'm thinking that finding the Furlings is going to be more and more important, so given that the dangerous element is apparently going to figure in the search, it's been decided that they should be the ones to deal with this side of things, calling us in only when they feel it necessary - and safe enough.

We had to make them promise that they would call us if they need help, no matter the circumstances. They are not to go into danger without backup. Even if all we can do is sit in orbit, ready to get them out of trouble, we must be with them for that.

So it's up to us to find Zeus.

Though to be honest, there's a part of me which wonders why we're not sending the androids after him, as he's surely not going to be able to harm them - well, not like he could harm us. Is he?

There's something about him that's bugging me and I don't know what it is. Why is he the only Goa'uld who has done anything with the Ancients' writings? The others must know of it or Apollo wouldn't have known. Surely Hecate would have known - and she, of all the snakes, would have wanted to get her greasy paws on them.

If, as the legend says, she was honoured by Zeus, did he actually tell her about them? Was that the connection to Earth for her? Why she was so desperate to get there?

And there's something else, there in the back of my mind but I can't quite grasp it. It has something to do with his being able to use the knowledge. Why I'm thinking that, I don't know, but each time the thought appears, the headache starts to come back.

I'm not telling Jack, mainly because I don't want him to worry, but I have a feeling that Oma told me something and the headache is her way of stopping me consciously remembering it. I can only hope that when I need the information, it's going to be a lot less painful to retrieve it. Perhaps I'll only get it in dribs and drabs, like these 'why?' questions which keep popping up in my mind.

I have another one - one of those questions which Jack said we should have asked years ago - but it can wait till morning. I give him a sad and sorry look which tells him 'not tonight, dear, I have a headache', mainly 'cause I still do. He nods softly, smiles at me and pulls me into his arms. With my eyes shut and my head on his chest, the pain starts to really go away for the first time since it came. Could be because this is the one place in the universe that I know that I'm safe.


We're having breakfast, my head is better. So much better that when Jack woke me with a coffee, I thanked him in the only way I knew how. Well, not the only way, but definitely the best way. Sam gave us a knowing look when he was whistling as he entered the galley. I just hope I washed my face thoroughly or else I'm going to get called 'Mary' again.

MIB have come over and we're chatting about the various thoughts we discussed last night. Nothing new is coming up, we're just trying to get things in order.

Frankie isn't sure but she has a tentative date for the last processing plant. Thirty thousand years ago. Which is one of my guesses for the end of the experiment, funnily enough. Coincidence? I'm getting to the stage when I don't think I'm ever going to believe in them again. And why did I pull that date out of my head? I have no idea.

Speaking of 'why?'

"Guys, has it ever struck you as odd that the Goa'uld we found on Chaka's planet didn't have naquada in them?" I ask.

"Thought it had something to do with evolution," Sam says as she picks at her breakfast.

"Yeah, but think about this. From what we can tell, the level of intelligence and sentience of a Goa'uld is directly connected to the same levels in the host species. Sure, a Goa'uld is smart in and of itself, but that poses another question.

"How did a water-based, naquada-free amphibian predator, turn itself into a highly-advanced, naquada-bearing, totally sentient but parasitic being? Does evolution completely explain that? When I was on the dig with Robert, the idea was that they'd taken millions of years to develop into their current state, that they had started out predatory and turned parasitic, but now I'm not so sure."

And funnily enough, Robert kept reminding me to keep my theories as theories and not proofs regarding their evolution.

"What do you mean?" Teal'c asks.

"The Unas aren't stupid, not by a long shot. But, they're not what you would call advanced. Their language skills are limited, probably restricted by the construction of their vocal chords. Much like the Neanderthals. I said before that it's known that they could speak, don't know if they did but they had the equipment to make an elementary grouping of sounds. Not basic grunts, but basic words.

"The Unas are the same. And as I just said, though they're not stupid they're not technologically advanced. At a guess, they're not much more advanced than the Neanderthals - who were way smarter than most people give them credit for but still didn't survive as a species once we'd turned up on the scene."

I'd remind them that the Neanderthals were more or less extinct by thirty thousand years ago but I'm not sure that's going to help or hinder matters. And that really could be a coincidence. Couldn't it?

"Back to the point; even with a Goa'uld inside one of them - one of the original, naquada-less Goa'uld - I just can't see them being able to work out the gate. Not without being shown, anyway."

"You think someone showed a snake how to use the gate?" Jack says, nearly choking on his toast.

"Only thing that makes sense. Short of... Uh oh."

"Uh oh?"

"Yeah. Um, hurry up. We need to get to the bridge."

Our meal was finished quickly, Daniel has called up the holographic display of the galaxy.

"Sam, put in the co-ordinates for P3X 888."

She does and the planet with the red gate enlarges. Daniel walks around it and his face drops. He points and we look to where he is pointing. The nearest planet with a gate is lilac. It is a Furling world.

"How old is the Goa'uld race?" Daniel asks, almost in a panic. "I mean as we know it now."

None of us know.

"Has to be lots more than ten thousand years," DJ finally says. "They were space-faring by then and probably earlier. A hundred thousand before that?" he suggests.

"Or less than thirty thousand?" Daniel murmurs.

"You think the Furlings did something to them? WHY?!" O'Neill demands.

"Same reason we think the Ancients experimented on us. Because they could. They must be of a similar genetic structure to the Goa'uld. By taking some of them, evolving them, exposing them to the dangerous element and the naquada, it wouldn't have taken more than the natural instinct of the creatures to develop into being the evil parasites they now are.

"Think about it, blowflies, for example, are not evil. They only burrow to reproduce. It's an instinct. Not that it's nice to be in the receiving end of something like that but you cannot ascribe any sort of human morality towards its action.

"The original Goa'uld had that instinct - God, even the Tok'ra have the instinct. It's only now that they've evolved and developed a moral code which allows them to override it rather than act in such an base manner - at least in the way that the Goa'uld do - that stops them from being the same as those we saw on 888.

"Remember, Jolinar killed herself to protect Sam. Apollo was devastated that he was forced into making me a host and you can believe me, he was apologising from the moment he did it and promised he'd leave as soon as he could. It hurt him to do what morally went against his primal instinct. I could feel the moment he joined with me that despite his hatred of the action, he needed to take a host. And I could constantly feel his struggle to not blend with me.

"Somehow, I don't think that any of you have a clue as to how hard and painful that was for him."

His voice drops as he speaks, obviously remembering that dreadful time but also, I believe, because it caused such pain to his now dear friend.

"But what of the Tok'ra and the good Goa'uld?" I ask. "They could not have been exposed to the dangerous element otherwise they should have become as evil as those we have fought all these years."

"Why? The exposure, if limited, has a temporary effect. It's not pleasant to go through the withdrawal, but it's not fatal, and," he says, his head bowing as if in shame, "though you're a nasty piece of work when getting the fix, you can at least get better."

He looks up at us as if to say, 'it's true, isn't it? Say it is, please'. We all nod and he looks relieved. Never has he forgiven himself for his actions during that unpleasant time. A little more relaxed, he continues.

"To recap: we saw on Chaka's planet that even those primitive Goa'uld, if I can put it that way, are parasitic. As I said, that instinct by itself doesn't make them evil. They also have a natural instinct to control that which they inhabit, in a sense like a virus controls the action of a cell it takes over. Again, that is not an malign trait in the manner of being a consciously nasty one, it's just one which they are born with and are often unable to control.

"It was constant exposure to the element which made them as vile as they are now. And that was only when they had evolved to the point where they could make moral judgements and chose to stay on the side of evil.

"Those which attacked... the group," he says quietly, obviously thinking of his friend, "on Chaka's planet seemed evil to us, but, they were just controlling those they inhabited in the manner in which they had been born to do. And bear in mind that the Goa'uld on that planet were in a constant struggle with the Unas. They were trying to take the Unas as hosts and the Unas kept trying to eat them. That sort of environment can't breed any inherent goodness.

"Back to the element itself. There must have come a point when some of them realised that they felt good and kept using it. Others, perhaps, did not have the opportunity. It's possible that the original subjects of experimentation were given different levels of exposure, just as animals in laboratories on Earth are, for example.

"Even the military has used animals in such experimentation: sheep tied up in various parts of the blast zones of nuclear bombs designed to be used in the field, so that they could see where was 'safe' for their own soldiers. Some were closer to the blast, others further away. If the bomb didn't incinerate them the radiation got them," he says with a sad sigh.

"But when the Furlings realised what they had created, when they saw the evil, they would surely have stopped that particular experiment. But being what seems to have been a kindly race underneath it all, they couldn't bring themselves to kill off their subjects, so perhaps they let them loose. The Furlings must have thought that they would just revert to the instinctive behaviours they'd have seen in their original state.

"The trouble was, for those Goa'uld who had been having the most constant exposure, the Tok'ra description of the sarcophagus taking away the soul came into play. Any potential, natural good in them would have been eradicated, never to return.

"Some, those with less exposure would have reverted to type, an instinctive behaviour: they may be the more reasonable Goa'uld that we've met up with. Not as bad as the others. They still have a desire to control and conquer, an exaggerated form of their normal parasitical behaviour, but they don't necessarily take pleasure in causing pain. Snakes like Yu might come under that heading, perhaps.

"Yet others, those who had had the least contact with the element, might have developed in a better manner, might have become the good ones we know of. Perhaps the Furlings just tried their evolutionary fluid with them but did not expose them to the element?"

"So how come Teal'c didn't get affected, infected, however you want to describe it, by the nanocytes?" John asks.

"Who's to say that the nanocytes were part of the original experiment? Or perhaps in the beginning, it did work on them because they had no naquada in their blood?

"The other possibility is that once the Furlings had seen the dangers inherent in evolving the Goa'uld in that manner, they adapted the nanocytes to reject anyone carrying a symbiote. Actually, that could explain why they would have returned to the planet. They'd have to have tried out the new version to see if that worked, too."

We consider his thoughts and agree that it is a possibility. While we think, he continues.

"Hades and Zeus are among the oldest Goa'uld that we know about and look how they were, are... whatever. That age thing might have something to do with how much of the bad stuff they got early on in their lives.

"The chances are that their first hosts were Unas. Back then, we're talking primitive, warlike, possibly even cannibalistic creatures. Not ones with what we would call 'good' behaviour. It's only comparatively recently, possibly only in the last few hundred years, that the Unas started to become what they are. They've started an artistic culture, started to develop their speech, and all without outside interference. And they have the ability to learn and learn quickly.

"But back in the old days, when the choice between you and your kin eating or starving to death during lean times meant killing your own kind... Well, those are the Unas I believe the first Goa'uld to have entered. If they evolved together, then we're talking about two, primitive, instinctual and effectively - to our modern eyes - amoral creatures combining their 'talents'. Add a touch of extra intelligence and no need to develop a better standard for behaviour and look what you get," he says with a sigh.

"Going back to the other types of Goa'uld, the good ones might have been born later. Then they'd have had the opportunity to have joined with non-Unas hosts, not necessarily human to begin with, who had gentler dispositions, perhaps good philosophies and it rubbed off on them. Perhaps some even joined with some good, humanoid Furlings? Who knows?

"But Ra, though evil, was one of the smart ones. He might have followed the Furlings. That might have been the way he found Earth. Oma said that the Furlings were their friends. What if they visited Earth? Ra might have found that humans were better hosts. Then, when in a more adaptable and potentially intelligent host, his own intelligence would have increased - as would his capacity for deviousness.

"Humans are devious - just look at our chimpanzee cousins and you can see that that is a trait found in other primates, too. He might have either found the element and created the sarc, possibly copying a version that the Furlings had, or he might have ingratiated himself with them until he was able to get the blueprints or whatever they were to it."

"There's a whole load of might, perhaps and general supposition in this," O'Neill states.

"I know. I know, Jack, I really know. That's the only thing I do know. But the more I think of it, the more sense it makes. The Goa'uld as we know and hate them were a mistake made by the Furlings."

"So where does that leave us in our search for them?" I ask.

"That is something I do not know."

He sits on the floor and drops his head into his hands. I think I might join him.

Don't know if I'm enlightened or more confused than ever. We're all sitting on the floor, the holographic display has been switched off and we're all miserable. Even the droids. I'm giving Daniel a hug. He looks like he needs it. And if I happen to get any fringe benefits by having him hug me back then I dare say I can live with the consequences.

"Can we go over the whole timeline thingy again?" I ask, not a little tentatively. "There's been so much going on that my brain's losing track of who evolved what and where."

Daniel takes a deep sigh, nods, lets go of me and tries to put it all into some sort of perspective.

"Sometime about six to seven million years ago, the Ancients were human, humanoid, whatever. They were also building the gate network. One of them came across the Furlings and quite possibly saw the lab on the ship. Undoubtedly he or she asked what was going on and in some sort of exchange of information, the Ancients gave the list of gates and got some biological data. That's probably sounding a little more commercial than it really was, but I wouldn't mind betting that I'm not far off the mark.

"The Furlings were having difficulties with their ship so they landed at the first available opportunity. In doing so, they screwed up the atmosphere of the planet and had to gate to somewhere else. They left us with a fossilised planet, for want of a better description, a ship whose insides are better preserved than we could dream of doing with our own tech, and a massive headache in trying to find them.

"The Ancients, meanwhile, went home. We don't know why they decided to ascend or change, or whatever it was they had intended to do in the first place. Because one thing's for sure; we can't say with any level of certainty that what they learned over the next, say, million years or so, led to them attaining what they set out to do. But they ended up in their ascended state, so I guess it wasn't so bad for them after all.

"But, to learn about the various things they did find out, they had to experiment on our ancestors; undoubtedly the closest genetic creatures to themselves. They must have tried out lots of different genetic tweaks, so to speak."

"Why do you say that?" Teal'c interrupts. Just as well, 'cause when Danny's just spouting like this, we often need a chance to catch up.

"There were many different hominids within a very short space of geological time, Teal'c. Some seem to have not evolved further and died out quite quickly, others evolved into different species. Only Homo sapiens continued. But for a hundred thousand years at the very least, our ancestors lived alongside many other similar but different 'relatives'.

"I'd say that the Ancients started between five and six million years ago. Took, well, the equivalent of some prehistoric chimpanzee troops, and watched what happened over time as each gene that they were looking at got a different twist.

"Some would have just died out early on and we have no record of them, but others developed. Some became Australopithecine, and with some later tweaking, they, or others similar to them but as yet unfound, became the genus Homo. But each species had some difference. The Ancients would have quickly learned about which gene made what difference."

"So why continue?" Sam asks.

"Why not continue?" he replies with a shrug. "Given everything we've learned about the Ancients they were into technological leaps in a big way. That would suggest a great interest in science. And scientists just don't stop because they feel like it, there has to be a distinct end to an experiment or else they'll keep on watching what's going on."

"Which is why Oma or some of the others go to Earth?" I put in.

He nods. "I reckon so. But, humans as we are, well, as the majority of the people are, have reached at least an impasse in their evolution. Only a few minor changes are likely to take place without outside intervention. Adaptations to climate change, for example. I can't see the future of humankind being full of empaths and telepaths somehow. Perhaps a million years down the line if the species survives that long, but not for now."

"Surely the Ancients would have just given up then? Once we'd hit that evolutionary roadblock?"

He looks to me and smiles a bit. "I think they may well have, if not for one thing. The aliens on Earth were obviously friends to the Ancients, either from before the Ancients ascended or they met up later. Whatever, Earth seems to have been this multicultural home for alien species of any number of original planets. A sort of New York for the galactic world, if you see what I mean."

He frowns, mutters to himself and then his eyebrows go up, along with one of his fingers. He's just figured something out.


"Um, United Nations?"

"Danny?" Not getting him.

"Big building in New York," he says dryly. "Meeting place for people from all nations on the planet, even those who aren't speaking to each other."

"Ah. You reckon there was a multi-alien-national-whatever meeting place on Earth?"

"Could be. Makes sense. Why else would there be so many aliens on Earth otherwise?"

"What I want to know is why some seem to have attached themselves to certain races," Sam puts in.

He frowns again, gets up, paces about, then DJ looks up, he looks at DJ and they nod at each other. Are they sure they didn't get some telepathic link 'cause this ain't the first time they've done this.

"Of course!" DJ calls out. "It's the only thing that makes sense."

"WHAT IS?!" I ye... ask nicely.



"Yeah. The Ancients, for some reason, couldn't or wouldn't hang around on Earth forever. So they asked their allies to watch over us. Probably assigned those aliens who were most closely connected in character to the peoples they were to watch. I mean, Lord Arawn may not be a Celt in actuality, but his personality is exactly that of a traditional description of one."

"Might explain it."

"I wish someone explain everything to me," I moan. "This is getting confusing."

"Jack, haven't you been paying... oh forget it. Of course not."

"Hey! I've been paying attention. Should go back to doing what I used to do."

"What's that?"

"Not paying attention and getting Teal'c to give me a quick rundown of the pertinent facts without going off on fifteen different tangents at the same time!"

"See! I said you never paid attention in briefings!"

Could someone please tell me just how this got out of hand? Or else I'm off to bed. Yeah. Bed sounds good right about now. And it has nothing to do with the fact that bickering - or better, arguing - with Daniel gets me hot. Under the collar, natch.

I hear a piercing whistle and we all shut up and turn to see Sam removing her fingers from her mouth.

"Cut it out!" she demands. "I've had enough. Now, back to the facts!"

"Or else?" John sniggers.

She glares at him. Okay, or else. Facts it is. Are. Whatever.

"The Goa'uld ended up on Earth about 10,000 years ago," Daniel puts in as quickly as he can. "Sometime around then, perhaps a little later, and probably because the snakes got hold of the gate, the Ancients shared their knowledge with the alliance. Don't really know why, but they did it. Some of them used it to ascend, others to change into different forms.

"Then, probably sometime around 2,500 BCE, Zeus got his hands on Hermes' writings. He used them to cause the drought in 2,200 BCE so he could get hold of the sarc. Three hundred years later, Ra finally gave in. This stopped the initial revolution. By now, though, the other aliens had either gone from Earth or had died out, or as in the Tuatha's case, some stayed behind in an attempt to protect 'their' people against the Goa'uld.

"Meanwhile, Zeus learned more and more from the writings. Hermes, possibly about as early - or late, depending on your perspective - as 100 BCE found him and ended up imprisoned. Then Zeus really started on his campaign. By then, the gate was buried, Ra was on Abydos, Hathor was stuck in Mexico and so on. He probably went from one Roman leader to another, and then started changing civilisations as new ones rose and old ones fell."

"Okay, that sort of makes sense," I agree. "But why do I get the feeling that there's more to it than that?"

"Probably because there is?" he suggests. "Remember I thought that Himmler was a better candidate for a host than even Hitler?"

"Sure. You said he was loopy."

"Completely delusional," he answers with a nod. "But also in charge of the SS."

That sends a cold shudder down the spine of everyone, including the androids. Neat trick.

"Remember what I also said about his archaeological expeditions?"

"Yes. 'Course I do. The old Indiana Jones thing."

You know, if I can get him remembering the whole of that night...

He glares at me so I get my mind back on track.

"One of the places he sent an expedition was Tibet."


"Home of the Buddhist monks?" he pushes.

"Not getting... Oh. He thought there were more writings from the Ancients there?"

"It's definitely a possibility. Think on this, Jack. Remember the stories of Jesus from the bible. There's only a bit about him as a kid, then there's the one about him in the temple discussing religion with the priests when he's twelve years old. After that, and until he suddenly starts preaching when he's about thirty, there's nothing. Not a single mention."


"And at the end of the 19th Century, a Russian officer was in the Himalayas, he got injured and was taken in by some Buddhist monks until he got better. Because he was a Christian, one of them thought he might like to see some of their own writings.

"They told of a saint called Issa - an eastern version of Jesus. He had gone to India and had spent years discussing their philosophies with the Brahmins, one of the highest castes there. They agreed on many things except for one: the Brahmins didn't want to preach to the lesser castes whereas Issa reckoned they should preach to everyone. There was supposed to have been a planned assassination but Jesus, Issa, whatever, was warned and got away in time."

"And?" I don't mean to be awkward but I'm not really getting where he's going with this.

Daniel's trying not to grind his teeth. I think I'm beginning to understand his thought process here.

"This is to do with your thought that Jesus may have had a connection with the Ancients, isn't it?" I offer.

He points his finger at me as if in gratitude.

"Exactly! And more to the point, this name turns up in a whole load of places and in different forms, but they're the same name. Issa, Esu, Essa, Hesu... Even Joshua."

"Wasn't he around long before Jesus?" John asks.

"Assuming they're different people, yes," DJ puts in, getting where this is going. "But what if Daniel's right and there is a connection? Joshua is one of the prophets who got the Israelites to worship God - and more to the point, to not worship other gods. He doesn't say they don't exist! Just that the Big Guy's going to get mighty ticked with them if they do worship the others.

"That could be the Ancients warning humans that the gods, in reality the Goa'uld, were evil. All of the other 'gods' we've met, the nice aliens, don't really want to be worshipped as such. They may have been, but they themselves weren't asking for it. Remember, they've pretty much to a man, um, alien, described themselves as friends of the various races. It was only interpreted that they would wish such reverence because the Goa'uld would have demanded it."

"So perhaps later," Daniel carries on, "when the religion was better established and then things started going the way of all organisations - in other words, there started to be corruption, such as was seen in the money-lending in the temple, the spirit which was Jesus, Joshua, or whatever, went back to human form to teach the people a lesson."

Daniel's nodding as he says that, as if that makes everything okay with him. I must admit that I'm finding it hard to accept, but... Ah hell, he's probably right, or at least close. He usually is.

"So, let me get this straight," Jack says, not a little nervously, mainly because the guys have gone off on one of their mental meanderings again. "For about eighteen years, it's possible that Jesus, who may or may not have been an Ancient, was in the Himalayas."

"Home to Buddhism which started about 500 years before," Daniel nods. "And we know that Buddhism and the Ancients have a connection. It may just be philosophical 'togetherness', so to speak, but there may also be a physical connection. Like with the Jesus theory, that one's going to have to stay out of the public domain so as not to upset anyone."

"At least the Buddhists are more likely to accept the intervention of a power from a higher plane of existence," DJ adds.

"It may explain where they got that idea from," Kar Shel says, making us jump as this is the first he's said in ages.

"Again, it's a good possibility."

"But in the meantime, you think there may be some Ancients' writings somewhere in those mountains?" John asks.

"Why else would Himmler have sent those expeditions? They were costly and difficult. I think the whole looking for the Ark of the Covenant and the Spear of Christ and so on were diversionary tactics. Hitler would have loved to have had those, but he probably wouldn't have been interested in some apparently esoteric scribblings from a race he himself would have dismissed as unimportant. But if Zeus was in Himmler, there's a damned good bet that he was after just that."

"I wonder if they found anything?" I ask.

"Don't think so, but then again, we wouldn't have heard if they had. Had they have found the Ark, for example, you can be sure the rest of the world would have heard about it. They'd have used it to try to scare the opposition. But unintelligible writings from a Buddhist - and therefore by definition a pacifist temple? Puh-lease. Who's going to quake in their boots on hearing that?"

Nobody. Except us. Because if he did get some more, I'm scared out of my mind.


Now that the second or third (I've lost track) frightened silence of the morning has passed, we're trying to work out what to do. Go back to Earth? See if we can find any trace of the Ancients in the Himalayas? Go somewhere else?

"Heliopolis," DJ suddenly says.

"What?" John demands.

"Heliopolis. Ernest called it the 'united nations of the stars' and he didn't even know about today's UN, he couldn't have known about it. Never thought about it before but the UN charter wasn't until October 1945. Catherine said that President Roosevelt had been behind the gate programme back then. Roosevelt died in April '45. Why would he have chosen that term and not 'league of nations'?

"Look, it could just be a coincidence but we've had too many of those recently. You guys go there. See if there is anything left of the meeting place of the four races. We'll continue on our search for the Furlings. We can all meet up again as and when we've found something that needs discussion."

"Didn't the castle or whatever it was fall into the sea?" Jack asks.

"The gate ceased to function," Daniel shrugs. "The area around the gate was damaged, but Ernest said that the meeting room was the safest place in a storm. It could just be that the room containing the DHD was destroyed. It could mean that the whole place went under, but with Gimli we can go look, scan, and see if there's anything left. I'd like to do that anyway."

"You said you did not want any technology that Zeus could get from you," Teal'c warns.

"Absolutely. And if there's any there, it's staying there. But perhaps I can figure out more of the history. There's a good chance he's already going to know a fair bit of that."

"What good is the history going to do us?" Jack asks. Then he looks at Daniel, then at DJ, then says, "Forget I asked. Stupid question."

The guys look at each other and I can see that they're trying to hide smiles.



Let's go there. If nothing else, it's going to keep Daniel away from the Furlings and delay any interaction with Zeus.

Is that a good thing?

I pause. Not sure to tell the truth. In the end I say, Put it this way. Zeus is not going to be good news. Let's just delay the inevitable.

I'm surprised that it didn't take much persuading to get Jack to let us go to Heliopolis. I've wanted to return there ever since I first left it. Yes, I know I was being an idiot regarding wanting to stay, but the chance of all that knowledge... To me, even now, that's an addiction as strong, stronger even than the sarc.

It's going to take a while to get there - okay, only about thirty minutes if we were to go directly, but I've asked that we go back to Annwn to pick up the cameras and some other equipment, just in case the 'library', or whatever it was, is still intact.

All of my previous recordings are back on Earth and I'm getting the feeling that we're going to need to have a closer look at the elements. DJ said that this new element wasn't on that list, but we, I, couldn't have seen all of them, could I? There is a possibility, no matter how small, that there might be a clue as to how this element came about, even if it isn't there.

Frankie said, when they first studied it, that she was sure it was manufactured. Now, we've found it in the form of ore, so it can't be exactly that. But then... No, she said that the basic readings of the ore made it recognisable as the element. That would suggest that the processed version, the one we think is the dangerous bit, has other trace elements within it. They may be so small as to seem to be a part of the original?

Is that possible? Or is it more likely that once processed, the ore has other traces missing? That sounds more probable.

Hang on, an element is something which cannot be broken down into any other, well, elements. Perhaps I misunderstood something. Was Frankie looking at the basic elemental structure in the mystery item in the sarc and so on? Or was she looking at the 'whole' and seeing what she thought was an element - something she wouldn't have been able to completely analyse without a chemistry lab - but which was this ore plus or minus a few electrons, for example.

My head hurts. Whatever is the truth of the matter, I'm getting a gut feeling that we're going to need to know.

One thing I'm not going to mention is that Sam trained as a physicist and not a chemist. Sure, she'd have needed to have known about chemistry and all that entails, but that doesn't make her a chemist. They're a different breed of scientist. Perhaps she doesn't know what she needs to know regarding this? Do I dare ask? Um... No. Despite what they think, I don't have a death wish.

God, I wish I'd paid more attention in chemistry classes. Trouble was, apart from learning what I needed to know to pass my exams, I wasn't interested in the 'hard' sciences enough to remember more than the basics now.

I've been drawn to the central control room and I don't know why. It's where Gimli's 'brain' is. I'm tired. Emotionally exhausted, I guess. Perhaps if I just sit quietly I'll perk up a bit.

I can hear something in my mind. It's not clear. The guys? I drop a barrier or two and can hear them talking to each other on the peltac. Jack's wondering where I've gotten to, Sam's telling him to leave me in peace. Yeah, you go girl. I need the peace. So what am I hearing?


What was that? "Who's there?"

Daniel. Concentrate.

I'm hearing voices. Concentrate - on what?

Listen to me Daniel.

That voice... Quiet, like a whisper. It's not familiar but there's something about it, its tone, its... Oh, it's Asgard?

Gimli? Is that you?

Yes, Daniel. It is I. Louder now, I can hear it better.

Wow. How are you doing this?

All Asgard ships can communicate with their captains.

I'm not the captain of you, Gimli. If anyone is, it's Jack.

But you are the only one who can hear me.

Oh. Okay. That's cool. Must be because of the Furlings. Um, do you have any knowledge of them?

I am sorry, Daniel, but I do not possess any ancient knowledge. I was only programed with sufficient data to transport you and, to the best of my ability, to care for you.

That thought makes me smile.

You do that, Gimli. Oh, do you mind that we've named you?

Of course not. Names are effective ways of identifying one being, or ship, from another. The Asgard name all of their ships.

We should name the al'kesh, too. Any ideas?

There's a little silence, as if she's thinking.

Perhaps you can ask it.


Her? Ships and computers, such as myself, are inanimate objects. We have no gender.

I know that. But in our language, it is common to think of any form of transport, or even static engines as female.

Why is that?

Habit? I don't really know. It started a long time ago with ships which sailed the oceans. It is even a trait which has passed between very different nations. It is rare to find such a thing named as a male. Well, they may get a male name, usually after someone famous, but you can guarantee that all who work on the ship, or whatever form of transport it is, will call it 'she' when talking about it.

Strange. Perhaps the others will know why?

I'll ask Sam later. Better not ask Jack.

Again, the silence. Can I feel something? Yes, there's a sort of tingling sensation. Amusement?

From what I have seen of him, you are probably right, she agrees. I can't help it, I laugh.

Is there something I can do for you? I ask her.

I just wished to establish proper communication with you for now, Daniel. From my observations of your conversations with your friends, it would seem that you may be entering into a situation which contains grave danger. It seemed logical to me that in such a circumstance, it would be better for all if our communication abilities were at their maximum.

You could well be right, Gimli. Look, for some reason, I get the feeling that if things go wrong, they could go wrong in very short order.

What does that mean?

Fast. Very fast.

I understand. As Thor would say, when Loki is up to his tricks, watch out for the supernova. I believe that to be a rough translation, she adds as I start to giggle.

Now that I can believe. I've seen what he does get up to. Anyway, I also have a sense that, should we meet up with Zeus, the others won't be in a position to help out. I'm not sure why I feel this way or what makes me think it, but that feeling is there.

You wiped the memory of Thoth's planet from my main database when you returned from his planet, she tells me.

I did? Oh. I don't remember doing that.

You were discussing Zeus and Hecate at the time with the others.

Still, think I should have remembered doing something like that. Come to really think about it, I don't know how to do it. At least not consciously.

But you did it. I shall assume that you did it out of fear that Zeus may try to take control of me and direct me to that planet.

You know, you could be right. Look, Gimli, you're obviously a highly-intelligent... uh, being. The way you talk, the way you seem to work things out, makes you seem sentient to me.

I am not sentient. I am just able to process data in a similar manner to organic beings.

Well, close enough. If it becomes necessary, I want you to use that ability, to do something but do not tell me what it is.

I am sorry, I do not understand.

No, of course. Look, should Zeus come on board, whatever you do, don't take him where he wants to go. Annwn is out of bounds.

Which one?

Both. Absolutely. He is not to go to any of the silver, lilac or blue worlds. In fact, red, the actively Goa'uld worlds are the only ones you are to display. Green at a push, if you think he's going to work out you're hiding something.

Should you be thinking of this? If you do not wish to know what I shall do?

You've got a good point. Basically, I'm asking you to find a way to trick him if necessary, but don't tell me what or where he is until he's gone. Only when he's safely away from Earth or from us can you let me know what he's done.

I understand.

And there is one other thing.

Yes, Daniel?

If he is carrying some data - whether is it a book, an ancient papyrus or a data crystal, whatever - it's not to leave you.

I shall do as you say.

Ask, Gimli. Ask. You're getting to be as much a part of our team as the rest of us, especially now you can talk to me. We need you, we rely on you, so we won't tell you to do anything. All we do is make requests. Sometimes it may seem like an order if we are in a hurry, but believe me, we speak to each other in the same way. We understand from tone of voice or the way someone's body is held as to whether we're being given an order or requested to do something; the words themselves do not matter.

I am programed to take orders, but I thank you for your consideration. It... pleases me to hear it, I believe.

You sure you're not sentient? I ask, laughing again.

No. Not sentient. Not as such.

Before I can ask what she means by that, I feel Jack shaking my shoulder.

"Danny? Oh thank God. You've been out for ages."


"Yeah. Sitting there like you're meditating but I couldn't get a hold of you. Not by talking or here," he says, pointing to his head. "You were in deep. What, did Maybourne teach you a trick or two when my back was turned?"

"I wasn't meditating, Jack. I mean, I wasn't doing it on purpose."

"Then what?"

I shrug. "Was feeling a bit tired, came here. Have no idea why. Sat down, shut my eyes, the next thing I know you're shaking me."

"I'm thinking you need to get checked out," he says. "You keep doing this."

"Doing what?"


"Jack! Doing what?"

"Blanking out. Not just blacking out, but having blank times."

"I'm just tired. Stressed. Even when I'm sleeping I'm waking up time after time. It's not good sleep, Jack."

He's not sure he believes me. I'm not sure I believe me, but I'm sticking to this.

"Okay. We're not going to Heliopolis today. Today we go home, you get plenty to eat and lots of sleep. Then, and only then are we going anywhere." He stares into my eyes and finishes, "And no arguments. That's an order!"

Order? We don't do orders.

Daniel? Sometimes it is necessary. Do as he says, my friend.

Er... What?