"General? You wanted to see me?"
"Come in, Jack. Take a seat."
Jack hesitated just a beat as he lowered himself into the chair across the desk from Hammond.
"This isn't going to be good, is it?"
"There's a small problem," Hammond agreed.
"Define small." Jack threw up his hand. "No, waitdefine 'problem' first."
"I've been ordered to send SG-1 to Pankeer again...."
"Sir, if the words 'Harry' or 'Maybourne' are soon to follow...."
Jack paused to give Hammond a chance to deny Maybourne's involvement in whatever the 'small' problem was. It quickly became clear that he'd be waiting a very long time for that reassurance.
"To be fair, Maybourne isn't the center of the problem this time," Hammond finally offered as consolation.
"This time," Jack repeated sarcastically. "Let me guess: the crystals?"
"Got it in one, Colonel." Hammond shuffled a few papers on his desk, working up to telling Jack the story. "Apparently a number of parties are attempting to lay claim to the mine. Former Colonel Maybourne is just one."
"He just got out of jail," Jack said incredulously.
"There are also claims by the Tollan, the citizens of the city-state of Pankeer, and the inhabitants of the moon...who have declared themselves the independent nation of Chandre."
"Holy...." Jack shook his head in disbelief. "Sir, without wishing to appear completely ignorant, I have to askwhat business is it of ours? Even Maybourne's not our responsibility any more."
"Our government is also attempting to make a claim on the mine and its contents."
"On what basis?"
"On the basis that Dr. Jackson was the one to actually find the mine."
"What?" Daniel snapped. "That's...that's a ridiculously flimsy basis for staking a claim on foreign soil."
"Technically, it's alien soil," Sam said.
"Whatever," Daniel said. "It's still nuts. They can't make a claim."
"And yetthey're making it," Jack said.
He sat back in his chair and looked around the briefing table at Hammond, Carter, Teal'c, and Major Davis. He wasn't going to be the one to explain to Daniel why this mission was going forward. Not this time.
"Then we have to stop them," Daniel said earnestly.
"This comes directly from both the Department of Defense and the Department of State," Major Davis explained. "Your personal feelings on the subject aside...."
"Since I am apparently the sole basis for this claim, I don't think my feelings should be put aside," Daniel said stubbornly.
"Daniel, I understand your reservations but we really could use these crystals," Sam said.
"To develop new technology," Sam said. "And, quite honestly, to help us keep the technology we've already acquired up and running. We have a big problem right now trying to replace damaged or burned out crystals."
"So work something out with the Tok'ra," Daniel argued.
"All things considered, we'd rather not rely on the Tok'ra," Davis said.
"And if I refuse to be a part of this?" Daniel asked.
"Dr. Jackson, I've been ordered to send SG-1, and specifically you, to Pankeer," Hammond said. "If you don't cooperate...."
Daniel sat back in his chair, blowing out a frustrated breath.
"Look at it this way, Daniel," Jack said in a conciliatory tone. "What are the odds that our claim has any serious chance of succeeding?"
"Then why bother?"
"Because even if we don't succeed, there's a chance we could reach an agreement with whoever does take control of the mine," Davis said. "Offer them technical assistance or equipment in return for a share of the crystals."
"Is it not fatal for humans to work in the mine?" Teal'c asked.
"With protective gear and appropriate monitoring we feel the risks would be minimal." Davis looked around the table, taking in the less than enthusiastic attitude. "While I agree that you may have some valid concerns about this mission, the fact is that obtaining the rights to these crystals could improve our defensive capabilities immensely."
"I think you're paddling upstream on this one, Major," Jack said.
"At least it's a job I'm familiar with," Davis said dryly.
"Colonel," Lieutenant Rodriguez said, giving Jack a sharp salute as SG-1 arrived at the Pankeer city limits.
"You're still here?"
"Yes, sir. Sergeant Cooper and I have been assigned to your delegation for the duration."
"Who'd you piss off anyway?" Jack asked.
Assuming the lieutenant had been since Jack had seen him on their last visit to Pankeer, the poor guy had been stuck on the planet for months.
"The wrong people apparently," Rodriguez said.
"I thought you were scheduled to go home when the diplomatic team finished," Sam said as she and her teammates fell into step with Rodriguez and Cooper.
"I guess they figured it would be better for you to have people who were familiar with Pankeer rather than rotating new people in."
"So where are we going?" Jack asked.
"A hotel on the west side of town."
"Not the diplomatic residence?" Davis asked.
"No, sir. The Pankeeran officials want to fly this under the radar. The meetings will be taking place in a conference room in the same hotel."
"Why so secret?" Daniel asked.
"Because the other governments on Pankeer don't know the crystals have been found again and our friends would like it to stay that way," a familiar voice said.
"Maybourne," Jack groaned, closing his eyes.
"Hello, Jack," Harry said. He stepped out of the alcove where he'd obviously been waiting for SG-1's arrival. "Welcome back."
Jack threw up a hand, stopping Harry's advance.
"Fair warning, Harry. I'm armed."
"Jack," Harry said in a tone of mock hurt.
"Sir?" Rodriguez eyed Harry pointedly. Jack hesitated then shook his head at Rodriguez, motioning him back.
"What do you want, Harry?"
"I just wanted to say hello," Harry said, affecting innocence. "We are going to be spending a fair amount of time together, you know?"
"And that just makes me feel so much better about this mission," Jack said.
"Sirs, our transport is here," Cooper interrupted.
Jack turned his head and saw a sort of minivan version of the hovercraft used by all Pankeerans. He nodded for the rest of his team to get in.
"We need to talk, Jack," Harry said as Jack moved toward the vehicle.
"Don't piss me off, Maybourne."
"I'm not kidding," Jack said. He got into the vehicle and looked back at Maybourne before closing the door. "Our first two visits to Pankeer have not been entirely pleasant and I haven't begun to forget that. Don't make me regret a third trip."
Rodriguez and Cooper ushered the team to their suite in the hotel. Unlike their last accommodations on Pankeer, this suite had three bedrooms: two on the left side and one on the right. The area not occupied by a bedroom on the right was a kitchenette.
"Nice," Jack said with an approving nod as he looked around the room. "So who's paying for this?"
"The D.O.D. And I promised them they'd get the damage deposit back," Davis said.
"Ooh, bad move," Jack said quietly as he turned away from Davis and gave Daniel a conspiratorial grin. Daniel shook his head at Jack, trying to discourage his frat boy inclinations.
"Sir, not to overstep my authority or anything but...I've got dibs on that bedroom," Sam said, indicating the first bedroom on the left side of the suite. "And I get to have it alone."
"Yeah, sure," Jack said, allowing Sam to claim the room. He waved Davis into the room next to Sam's before turning to Teal'c.
"So. Teal'c. Davis or Daniel?"
"Need I remind you, O'Neill, that I do now require sleep?"
"Flip you for it?" Jack offered. Teal'c nodded and Jack dug a quarter out of his pocket.
"Er...what are you doing?" Daniel asked.
He'd started exploring the central room but turned back to Jack and Teal'c with a puzzled expression.
"Nothing," Jack said. He tossed the coin and nodded to Teal'c. "Call it."
"Don't suppose you'd want to make it best of three?" Jack said after sneaking a peek at the coin lying on the back of his hand.
Teal'c smiled smugly and disappeared into the bedroom he'd be sharing with Major Davis.
"Okay, so it's you and me," Jack told Daniel, leading the way into the final room.
"I've just been insulted, haven't I?" Daniel asked, following Jack.
"Not you, Daniel. Just your sinuses."
"You're dismissed for the night, Lieutenant," Jack told Rodriguez after they'd all finished supper.
They'd chosen to eat in their suite, gathered around the large coffee table in the central room.
"You and Cooper better get a good night's restwe've got hours of exciting meetings to prep for."
"Yes, sir," Rodriguez said with a smile.
He nodded for Cooper to follow him. As he opened the door he nearly came face to face with Harry's fist.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack muttered, glancing at the door. He waved carelessly at Rodriguez. "Go ahead. Let him in."
"What do you want, Maybourne?" Davis asked, closing his briefcase as Harry drew near to the table.
"I thought you might like to have a little chat."
"Sorry. Chatting is not on the agenda for the evening," Jack said.
"So change your agenda," Harry said.
"Do you have any idea what's going on here?" Harry asked Davis.
"You mean other than the obvious?" Davis asked.
"You've worked in D.C. long enough, Major. By now you should realize that what you see is not necessarily what you get."
"That's why we're here a couple of days early," Davis said agreeably. "So we can get the lay of the land."
"It's going to get messy," Harry said.
"'Messy'?" Teal'c asked, his tone demanding explanation.
"There's a fortune at stake here, and no one's going to give up on it easily," Harry warned.
"And you're telling us this why?" Daniel asked.
"You'll have to be on your toes. I could help with background information on some of the people you'll be dealing with."
"Why would you do that?" Jack asked, gazing at Harry suspiciously.
"I thought we might be able to make a deal."
"Deal?" Davis asked, instantly wary.
"Our claims to the mine are the weakest, for obvious reasons," Harry said. "It seems to me that together we'd have a better chance."
"And the nature of this deal?" Jack prompted.
"We'd have to hammer out the details, but basically I would oversee the actual mining operation. The SGC would provide technical assistance and research."
"Research?" Daniel asked.
"Someone's going to have to figure out how to use the crystals. I don't have access to the kind of facilities or scientists who can do that."
"How to use the crystals?" Jack repeated pointedly.
"No one knows how they work anymore," Harry said.
"No one?" Sam asked incredulously.
"So all this ado is about nothing?" Jack asked, glancing at Daniel. Daniel just shrugged; he certainly had no idea of how the crystals worked.
"It's not nothing, Jack," Harry said. "The crystals are powerful. We just don't know how they work."
"It doesn't matter," Major Davis said quickly. "We'll worry about figuring out how to use them after we actually have access to them."
"What do you meanuse them?" Jack asked, stuck on that one point. "Don't you just plug them in?"
"No, sir. First the crystal has to be, well, formatted for lack of a better word. Otherwise it won't store data in any useful form," Sam explained. "Once it's formatted and programmed, then you can plug it in."
"And you don't know how to 'format' these things?"
"I know how to prepare the Goa'uld crystals," Sam said.
"Doesn't work on these," Harry said.
"Are you certain?" Teal'c asked.
"Pretty sure," Harry said. "I haven't had the opportunity to try myself, but all the information I can find says that the crystals are unaffected by the usual methods."
"That could just be disinformation," Davis pointed out, apparently unconcerned as he opened his briefcase and began shuffling through his files again. "After all, if they can convince you that the crystals don't work, you're less likely to pursue your claim."
"I considered that," Maybourne agreed. "But this goes way back, even to Scarthen's day. Why do you think so many of the crystals he mined ended up in museums or as jewelry?"
"Because they could not be made to work?" Teal'c asked.
"Bingo," Harry said, pointing at Teal'c.
"Where are the aliens?" Daniel said suddenly.
"Daniel?" Jack said, glancing at the man sitting at his side.
"The aliens no longer reside on Pankeer," Teal'c said.
"Yes, obviously. But what happened to them?"
"Is that really important right now?" Jack asked.
"I think so. Maybe," Daniel said with a small shrug of his eyebrows. "The aliens who originally discovered the crystals are gone. The mine's location was lost, possibly intentionally. And no one knows how to use the crystals."
"I'm not following you, Daniel," Sam said.
"Well, to be honest I'm not sure where I'm going with it," Daniel admitted. "But I have the feeling that those things are all connected. That there's a deliberate connection."
"Such as?" Davis asked.
"Such as the aliens didn't want anyone else to be able to use the crystals," Daniel suggested.
"Why not?" Jack asked.
"I don't know. I'm just guessing."
"Regardless of what the aliens may or may not have wanted, we are proceeding with the negotiations," Davis said firmly.
"Colonel, if I could get one or two of the crystals I could take them back to the SGC and start working on the problem," Sam said.
"Good luck," Harry said. "The few crystals we know about are not available for borrowing. And the transporter platform is now guarded by the Security Force, so don't even think about sneaking off to Chandre."
"Guarded?" Daniel asked.
"What about the mine itself?" Davis asked with concern. "Is that secure?"
"Don't know. Of course, the only people on Chandre who actually know the location of the mine are the Tollan. Apparently they've given their word that they will stay away from the mine until the issue of ownership is decided."
"Sweet," Jack grumbled.
"Sir, if the Tollan made a promise, they'll keep it," Sam said.
"They've broken their own rules before," Jack pointed out.
"I think Sam's right," Daniel said. "Their self image is pretty damaged as it is. I don't think they'll risk compromising their integrity any further."
"Good morning, fellow Earthlings," Harry said cheerfully the next morning as he joined SG-1 in the hotel's cafeteria style dining room. He set down his tray and sat in the chair next to Sam.
"I don't recall inviting you," Jack said.
Daniel, sitting next to Jack, looked up and then quickly looked away again before he could be drawn into the conversation. Sam suddenly became very interested in her toast.
"There was an empty chair and it's a free country," Harry said as he started to eat his breakfast.
"Is it?" Jack asked.
Harry raised his eyes and scowled at Jack before digging back into his meal.
"Actually, it is," Major Davis said.
"A free country: Pankeer is a representative democracy," Davis told him.
"Goody," Jack said, having no interest in the subject if he couldn't use it to needle Maybourne. He pushed his plate away and sat back in his chair. "Rodriguez."
"Sir?" The lieutenant looked at Jack from the end of the table.
"I want to see this conference room we'll be meeting in, get an idea of the security measures."
"Yes, sir, I'd be happy to show you."
"I'd like to see that myself. Then I need to get a feel for our fellow claimants," Davis said.
"Told you I could help with that," Maybourne said casually.
"I don't have the authority to approve any kind of deal, Maybourne," Davis told him.
"Consider it a token of good faith on my part," Maybourne said.
"Good faith?" Jack said dryly.
"You need me, Jack."
"Yeah, like a yearly colonoscopy."
Jack dismissed the issue of Maybourne, and what he might or might not know, and let his eyes drift around the dining room, gathering his thoughts for the day. His eyes widened slightly as he noticed a familiar figure standing near the entrance. He excused himself and walked across the room.
"Mays," Jack said, walking up to the Pankeeran Security officer.
"Colonel," Mays said warmly, offering his hand while his eyes went back to scanning the room.
"What brings you here?" Jack asked.
"The same thing that brings you and your team," Mays said. Evidently satisfied with what he sawor didn't seehe turned his full attention on Jack. "I'm in charge of security for the meeting."
"We're not expecting any trouble are we?" Jack asked.
"Expecting? No, I wouldn't say expecting. Just being cautious."
"Any particular threats I should know about?" Jack asked.
"Most of the participants are harmless." Mays hesitated and studied Jack carefully. "My greatest concern is that the Association may try to infiltrate or influence the proceedings."
"Maybourne?" Jack asked, following the man's gaze to Harry. "You think he's working for the Association now?"
"I have to consider the possibility that he's been working with them all along." Mays watched Jack's eyes widen. "It all goes back to the stolen documents."
"The ones about the mine?" Jack asked.
"Those documents," Mays confirmed. "They were stolen from a Pankeeran company by a man with known ties to the Association. Maybourne was the person who discovered the link. And he had ties to the man who then stole the documents from the Association. Now he's making a claim on the mine." Mays shrugged. "You must admit it's possible."
"Possible? Yeah, anything's possible with Maybourne," Jack agreed. "Could be a coincidence."
"One connection might be a coincidence. This...this makes me uneasy," Mays said.
"So tell meis it true that no one knows how to use these crystals?" Jack asked as he felt his team gathering behind him.
"That's my understanding."
"Hasn't anyone studied them before?" Sam asked.
"Studied themyes. Understood themno, not to my knowledge, Major Carter. Hello Dr. Jackson, Teal'c." Mays paused, looking at Davis.
"Major Paul Davis," Davis said, offering his hand.
"Major, this is Inspector Brenton Mays of the Pankeeran Security Force," Jack said, completing the introduction. "And the officer in charge of security for the conference."
"Very nice to meet you," Davis said.
"And you," Mays said.
"Major Davis is our chief diplomat for this shindig," Jack told Mays.
"Not you?" Mays noted the reactions of Jack's teammates. "Have I said something impolite?"
"No," Sam hurried to reassure him. "It's just that the colonel's reputation in regard to diplomacy is, well...."
"Yes, Carter?" Jack said, daring her to finish.
"Jack wouldn't know diplomacy if it bit him in the ass," Daniel said plainly.
"That's not true," Jack said. "I simply prefer to leave the brown-nosing to others."
"Brown nosing?" Mays asked.
"Daniel?" Jack prompted.
"Not on your life," Daniel muttered.
"Colonel," Sam interrupted before the conversation could deteriorate any further. "With your permission I'd like to take some time and see what I can find out about the crystals."
"Er...yeah, I don't see why not. Don't really need you for anything else today," Jack said, after looking to Major Davis for confirmation.
Daniel immediately leaned in, mouth already open.
Jack quickly stopped him. "Yes, Daniel, you can go play, too."
"Gee, thanks, Dad," Daniel said sarcastically.
"The best place to start would be the University," Mays told Sam and Daniel. "If you'd like, I'd be happy to take you there."
"What about security?" Jack asked Mays.
"I've completed my analysis. And my assistant is fully capable of monitoring events for the moment."
"Think your assistant could give us a run down?"
"I'll see to it before I leave."
"What about this 'Nation of Chandre'?" Jack asked, flipping open a folder.
"In some ways their claim would seem to be the strongest," Harry said. He, Jack and Major Davis had returned to SG-1's suite after touring the facilities. "Except for the fact that there was no Nation of Chandre until the crystals were discovered."
"How stable could the government be?" Davis asked.
"Not very would be my assessment." Harry shook his head incredulously. "They haven't even begun to set up a true government. Basically, they all agreed to call themselves a country in order to make a claim on the mine. What'll happen six months down the road is anyone's guess."
"That may help us," Davis said, making notes. "A venture like this is going to require stable leadership and a reliable infrastructure."
"And last but not least are our friends, the Tollan. You know as much, if not more, about them as I do," Harry said.
"Do you know who their representative is?" Jack asked.
"Does it really matter?" Davis asked, looking across the coffee table at Jack.
"Maybe. Marden is a real hard liner, like Omoc. It's hard to reason with someone like that. Arvann, on the other hand, was...." Jack stopped to think for a moment. "Well, she's still a Tollan and therefore arrogant and condescending. But she wasn't quite so...rigid."
"What about the arbitrator: Kelling?" Major Davis asked Maybourne.
"All I know is what I've heard from others in the Security Force," Harry said. "He's a retired judge. The word is that he's scrupulously honest and devoted to the letter of the law."
"A real stickler, eh?" Jack said. Maybourne nodded. "That could be a problem."
"Not necessarily," Davis said. "I'm still trying to wade through the pertinent Pankeeran law, but so far I haven't found anything that would automatically preclude Earth's claim."
"But nothing that automatically supports it either," Jack said.
"True," Davis agreed.
"Here," Mays said. The stack of books he set on the library table wobbled alarmingly and Daniel quickly reached out to steady the unwieldy pile. "These are the most comprehensive books we have about our alien predecessors. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the choice is rather limited."
"Why?" Daniel asked. He started to glance over the books, handing a couple that appeared to be more technical to Sam.
"History is not considered an 'appropriate' field of study," Mays said wryly, taking a seat across the table from Daniel and Sam.
Unlike most of the buildings they'd seen, the University library lacked the clean, bright, modern lines that defined most Pankeeran architecture. The library was built of more natural materialswood and stone. It looked and felt older, and more Earth-like, than any other building Daniel had been in.
"Not appropriate?" Daniel asked.
"Not for respectable people."
"Daniel," Sam said, showing him one of the books he'd handed over.
"I can't read this," Sam reminded him.
"Oh, right. Can't you just look for physics type equations that look familiar?" Daniel cringed a little under Sam's glare. "Okay, forget I said that."
"Don't worry, Major," Mays said. "When my government began diplomatic talks with yours, they decided that we needed a quicker way to translate back and forth between the two alphabets. Working with your people, they created a computer program that will transliterate between the two. All you have to do is scan the pages into the computer."
"Wish I could do that with every language," Daniel muttered as he tilted his head to read the titles down the stack of books.
"Then you'd be out of a job," Sam pointed out.
"Not really. It'd just give me more time to do the other parts of my job," Daniel said. He turned back to Mays. "Sorry. You were saying that history isn't respectable?"
"It's imprecise, incomplete, changeable, highly biased and at its worstdisrespectful of those whose lives are studied," Mays explained.
"That's, that's.... Okay, all those things are possible," Daniel conceded. "But the understanding of history is immensely important to the further development of a culture."
"Obviously it is more highly regarded on your world."
"Highly regarded? Er...well, maybe. It's not something to be ashamed of, but it certainly doesn't pay well." Daniel frowned at Mays. "Most people have some interest in the past, even if it's only a very narrow, very personal interest. I find it hard to believe that no one studies history here."
"Some do. And attitudes have changed," Mays admitted. "Are still changing. The fact that we have an actual history sub-department at the university is something that would've been unacceptable a hundred years ago. But even that has been confined to more recent history. Human history."
"What about the hard sciences: chemistry, mathematics, physics?" Sam asked.
"To my knowledge, those have always been acceptable academic pursuits."
"How long have humans been on this planet?" Daniel asked.
"Possibly as long as a thousand years."
"Daniel?" Sam prompted.
"Well, if humans have been here that long, and for at least part of that time coexisting with an obviously technologically advanced alien race, I would've expected Pankeer to be much further along than we are."
"They do have a few advances over us," Sam said.
"Like the transporter platform?" Daniel asked. Sam nodded. "Which was built by the aliens."
"Right," Sam said, chagrined. She paused, then shook a finger at Daniel. "But what about the hovercraft?"
"That is our invention, but based on their technology," Mays said.
"Has Pankeer ever used combustible energy?" Sam asked. "Oil, coal...."
"All of our energy is hydro-electric or solar," Mays said.
"Nuclear?" Daniel asked.
"I'm not familiar with that type of energy...so no, I don't believe so."
"Interesting," Daniel said, gazing thoughtfully at the books in front of him.
"Are you suggesting that the hard sciences were also retarded?" Mays asked.
"Um, no...more like maybe they've been channeled," Daniel said.
"That's not necessarily a bad thing," Sam said. "I mean even if the aliens did channel the Pankeerans, it was to guide them toward renewable, non-polluting energy production."
"But not the crystals," Daniel said to Sam, perplexed. "Why not the crystals?"
"You're right. That doesn't make sense," Sam said. She looked at Mays. "I know the transporter is being guarded, but do you think there's any way I could study it. Just for a while."
"I don't believe they will allow you to study the technology at this point in time, but even if they agreed you wouldn't learn anything about the crystals."
"Why not? The last time we were here you told us that the transporter uses the crystals."
"I said the transporter was built with the crystal technology. But the crystals were depleted or damaged centuries ago," Mays said. "It's only been in modern times that our scientists have been able to adapt a more conventional energy source for use instead."
"Are you saying that there's nothing on this planet that still uses the crystal technology?" Sam asked incredulously.
"Not that I am aware of."
"That really makes no sense," Sam said, turning to look at Daniel.
"That's what I keep saying," Daniel said as he skimmed through the introductions of several of the books. Mays looked up when Daniel sat back in his chair, his eyes tightly closed while he thought.
"It goes against everything I know about the human race," Daniel said, opening his eyes and looking at Mays intently. "Curiosity is one of the defining traits of our species. And curiosity about the past is nearly universal. How can you not study history?"
"There's someone I think you should meet," Mays said, rising from his chair.
"Excuse me?" Daniel said, looking up in surprise.
"Please," Mays said, gesturing politely toward the door. He smiled. "I think you'll enjoy this."