Chapter 30 - in which something spooks Daniel
Jack could tell Daniel was deeply impressed. They'd crested a wooded rise some twenty miles west south west of Mantinea. Beyond was a wide fertile cultivated valley with a number of small townships along the river which flowed through it. Beyond that was another range of low hills. Immediately below them was the scar of an ancient quarry which nature was doing a good job of taking back to its own. But that was not what had taken Daniel's eye. At the further edge of the quarry - the entrance to it - was a pyramid, a stepped pyramid.
"It'sit's like a smaller version of the pyramid of Netjerikhet Djoser at Saqqara! That's the oldest pyramid we know of on Earth, Jack."
"So this is kinda like a prototype?"
"Um, it could well be. Let's go take a look, shall we?"
They rode around the edge of the quarry and down through tall trees to its floor. The pyramid, which was about half the size of the two hundred foot terrestrial version, was probably all but invisible from the valley. It had a small shrine, about forty feet long and thirty feet wide, attached to the center of the west face of the lowest tier. The open entrance consisted of a stone lintel with hieroglyphic carvings on it, supported by two bowed pillars whose tops were carved into the familiar shape of lotuses.
Daniel dismounted, retrieved the video cam., and went to the entrance. He scrutinized the carvings on the lintel then videoed them.
"You got anything yet?" Jack asked.
"Oh yeah. The hieroglyphs are very worn, but there's enough here for me to identify the owner, and I'd say it's a dollar to a dime she's a goa'uld."
"She...? Who she?"
"Hey, I only asked! No need to get snippy."
"I'm not. Nut is her name."
"Nut? You're putting me on! Seriously?"
"Seriously. She's the Egyptians' goddess of the sky, also of the dead. Ra, as the sun god, was said to enter her through her mouth in the evening and travel through her body during the night to be reborn via her vagina each morning."
"Euw. They didn't have much idea of anatomy then?"
"It was patchy. The mummy-makers kept the important parts of the innards - heart, liver, kidneys and such - and stored them in canopic jars"
"I've heard of them!"
"But, they had no idea what the function of the brain was, so they threw it out."
"How? How do you remove a brain without damaging the skull?"
"They inserted a metal hook up through the nostril, swished it around to break up the brain and turn it into sludge, then they turned the body over so the sludge could drain out Are you all right, Jack?"
"Er, yeah, but enough with the gruesome details, okay?"
"Oh. Okay," Daniel grinned, "but you did ask. Moving on then, Nut was also a mother goddess - mother of Nephthys, Tefnut, Shu and Anubis" Daniel looked significantly at Jack and added, "Also Osiris, Isis and Seth..."
"So not good," Jack responded with a grimace. "What wouldn't I give for a zat right now. Okay, let's go see if the bitch is home."
"Uh-uh, not you, Jack. You're waiting out here. It may well be booby-trapped."
"Oh, and you think I'm gonna let you play Indiana Jackson, do you?"
"Jack, which one of us is most likely to trigger a booby-trap?"
The tone of voice that suggested the question was a no-brainer. Daniel drew a deep breath.
"Just ask yourself which one of us has a little experience at archaeological digs. And which one of us hasn't..."
Jack looked mulish.
"Do I have to mention the 'P' word?"
"Ooh, that was low, even for you."
"Look, if I do happen to set off a booby-trap - which I won't - then I'm going to need you to go for help. Okay?"
"I guess. Wish I'd thought to bring some rope. And a full first-aid kit, and"
Daniel silenced him with a kiss.
"You worry too much," he said fondly. "Don't. I'll be fine."
He switched on his flashlight and disappeared inside whistling 'Always Look on the Bright Si-ide of Life'. Jack scowled after him. He watched the flashlight beam moving about inside with some concern, but no ominous noises came to his ears. Not that that meant Daniel wasn't in trouble. Fortunately for his peace of mind, Daniel returned quite soon by his standards.
"So?" Jack asked keenly.
"So... it's a bust, pretty much."
"Nut not entertaining visitors?"
"Any idea where she is?"
"There's a sarcophagus in there, much like we're used to seeing but smaller - less ornate - and I think she's in there"
"Then didn't we ought to do something? Make sure she stays there?"
"Oh, I don't think she'll be coming out any time soon. It's already been taken care of - a long time ago. I really think we should go home now."
"Been taken care of...?"
"There's a fair amount of damage in the sarcophagus chamber - clearly there's been a fierce fire-fight, and it looks pretty ancient," Daniel replied, packing his equipment away. "I suspect Nut's jaffa were unas, 'cos there's a kind of silhouette that looks like one of them on one wall. Looks like something from Hiroshima... Which makes me think it was hit by some sort of weapon that's wa-ay out of our league."
Jack, looking very interested now, opened his mouth to speak.
"Don't say it, Jack," Daniel interrupted in a curiously subdued voice. "I don't think this is the time or the place."
Daniel mounted up and began cycling away, leaving Jack little choice but to follow. When Jack caught up, he tried to re-open the conversation.
"Is there something you weren't telling me back there? You seemed a little spooked, by the way, which is not usually your style."
"Not now, Jack," Daniel grunted, focusing on the uneven terrain through the wood. "And you'd do well to watch where you're riding. Don't want any accidents..."
"Oh, now who's a worry wart!"
Chapter 31 - in which Daniel finds a novel way of sharing information
They slowed down then and rode away from the low undulating hills in a slightly uncomfortable silence. The woodland gave way to shallow slopes clad in short sheep-cropped pasture that was dotted with copses which gave shade in the midday heat.
They'd covered some two-thirds of the distance homeward and the sun was low over the hills behind them when Daniel began to drop back. Jack didn't immediately notice, still wrapped up in his own ruminations about Daniel's uncharacteristic unwillingness to discuss what had happened back in the pyramid, not to mention his failure to launch into full lecture mode but dragging him away instead. Something had happened back there, and it didn't seem likely that he was going to spill till he was good and ready.
"Come on, Daniel, keep up," he said once he had noticed. "All this partying - you're getting unfit."
Instead of replying, Daniel veered off to his left and rode around the eastern side of a sizeable copse. Puzzled, Jack rode to join him. Halfway along the eastern edge, Daniel stopped and dropped his bike. Jack dismounted too.
"Leave it, Jack," Daniel said, seizing Jack's hand and pulling him after him into the copse.
Jack didn't argue - just went with the flow. He'd no idea what Daniel was up to but didn't think any amount of interrogation or argumentation would get him anywhere with his favorite pissy geek. Maybe wild card would be a better description, he was thinking when Daniel turned, grabbed Jack's face between his hands and planted a blistering kiss on him.
Jack's arms flailed as he tried to break the kiss to draw breath. Daniel let him, sliding his arms around Jack's slightly expanded waist. Overhead, several birds clattered away to find a higher roost.
"Fuck me, Jack," he growled softly into Jack's ear. "Fuck me here and fuck me now."
"Oh, definitely a wild card," Jack murmured, wondering but willing.
Behind him, something - some small furry animal probably - rustled in the undergrowth and leaf litter. Jack hardly noticed it - hadn't seen anything to threat-assess since they'd left the pyramid. Daniel, on the other hand, was fumbling with his fly buttons in his haste. Jack, going slower, made quicker progress.
Daniel was still smiling - brightly - but Jack sensed a hint of - what? Panic? Daniel? He was bending over a low branch now, with his ass in the air. Make that his delectable ass... Jack's dick was having no trouble getting with the program, so who was he to quibble.
He fished his sun-block out of his pocket, spread a generous squirt over his fingers and went in search of Daniel's joy button. Daniel howled out his approval when he found it, sending the birds in search of a quieter copse.
Jack wasted little more time in preparation as they were well accustomed by then. He coated his dick with the sun-block then placed its head against Daniel's anus. He leaned slowly forward until it popped past the double ring of muscles. Both men groaned in appreciation.
"Oh, love you, Daniel," Jack breathed in his ear. "You're so"
But Daniel never found out what. They were both too busy focusing on other feelings by that point. An oily hand had slid round his waist and was sensuously working his dick in time with his thrusts. Jack had Ravel's 'Bolero' playing in his mind as he gradually speeded up. Daniel had a bizarre collection of images flashing past his mind's eye - carrot- Bugs Bunny-Egyptian obelisk-Saturn V lifting off-the Stargate-train in a tunnel- banana- piston pumping, armored tank... Then a shell burst meeting Ravel's final fortissimo chord
They spent several blissful minutes draped over the branch, hot, sticky and panting.
"Jet d'eau..." Daniel muttered as his breath returned.
"Oh yeah!" Jack grunted in agreement, sliding non too gracefully to the ground where Daniel joined him.
He was about to say, 'Care to share...?' when Daniel pushed him down by the shoulders and pinned him, carefully, to the ground. Which was rather damp, he realized. What the hell had gotten into Daniel? No way was he going to be up for
Daniel kissed him then laid partly across him and nuzzled his ear.
"Guess you're wondering what this is all about?" he murmured softly.
"I just figure they aren't voyeurs."
"Are you kidding?!" Jack squawked. "Who wouldn't watch two hot guys Wait a minute. 'They'?"
"Yeah. When I was in the sarcophagus chamber," Daniel whispered, "I just got this uncanny feeling that I wasn't that we weren't alone."
"I thought you said this Nut had been taken care of?"
"Shh, keep your voice down."
"Daniel, you're getting paran"
Jack's protest was smothered by another searing kiss.
"Mmmphh... Daniel! I think you chipped one of my teeth!"
Daniel ran his tongue over his own teeth.
"No, it was one of mine," he sighed. "Now would you please just shut the fuck up and listen. I do think Nut's no longer a threat. The sarcophagus has three seals on it, and the opening mechanism looked like it'd been disabled. Not that I was going to try it."
"Three seals?" Jack hissed.
"Yes, each with different writing and, I think, added at different times. I've videoed everything so you can see when we get home," Daniel said, adding sotto voce, "assuming it hasn't been erased."
"Uh, probably been watching too much 'X-Files'.
"You watch the 'X-Files'?"
"Well yeah. Fox Mulder's "
"Fox Mulder? You... you... groupie!"
"So? Anyway one of the seal is written in Ancient Greek, one in the Furlings' script and the other... is goa'uld. The Greek one looked the most recent."
"Any idea what they say?"
"I think they're all variations on one message. The Greek
one was fairly easy -
"Er, Daniel - not Ancient Greek here..."
"Sorry. It translates as 'Stop! Nut, an evil goddess, is a prisoner within. Do not touch.'"
"Oh. Bit basic isn't it?"
"It gets the message across."
"I guess. And you reckon the Furlings were behind it? That why you got spooked back there?"
"Yes. Remember how the Nox could creep up on you without you being any the wiser?"
"Ah. So you think the Furlings are"
"Keeping an eye on us? Yes. That's why I felt safer here. Like I said, I don't think they'd take advantage of that ability to spy on two hot guys"
"Two very hot guys," Jack leered.
"making out. They seem pretty reticent."
"Not all of them," Jack muttered, recalling what he'd seen through Sam's window at their wedding celebrations, "but you're probably right. Is that it?"
"I think so."
"Good. Can we go now?" Jack asked, unable to keep the whine out of his voice. "Bare-assed here and my butt's getting numb."
Chapter 32 - in which some questions are answered
On their return to Mantinea, they hit the public baths, showering first before a leisurely soak in the large pool which they had to themselves. Afterwards, they rolled up their muddy and grass-stained clothing and donned hired tunics and robes before rejoining the celebrations. If they were hoping to pass unnoticed among the taller revelers, they were out of luck. Eldred saw them almost immediately and made a bee-line towards them.
"I think we should talk," he said, and led them into a quieter antechamber.
"Fear not," Eldred began. "You have shown yourselves to be trustworthy more or less. Your Tau'ri fyrwit"
"Curiosity," Daniel interpreted.
"could have made you burdensome to this world and its folc."
Jack and Daniel exchanged worried looks.
"Henceforth, be so good as to ask first. We are not fiends and will give you such answers as we can."
"Sorry," Jack muttered. "We're more used to
people - folc - trying to stop us finding things out, including you superior
beings. We may be 'young' in your terms, but our young are endlessly
"It's how we learn," Jack concluded.
"Then I will help your leornung," Eldred smiled.
He explained that countless thousands of years ago, before the Alliance of the four advanced races had been set up, each race had had its own territories. Wars of attrition, using ships and technologically advanced weapons had been fought, lasting centuries in Tau'ri chronological terms.
Daniel was amazed that Jack managed to keep stumm about that. He was looking wide-eyed but all he said was, "Holy Moses, you had to've been doing the 'Star Wars' thing when we were still living in caves"
"Long afore that," Eldred smiled and continued with his account.
Salsus, a bright spark among the Ancients, or G'naree as they called themselves, having reached a position of some power, made a strong case for working together rather than wasting resources trying to wipe each other out. They'd been doing that for generations with no great success. How much more could they accomplish if they applied themselves more positively?
It had seemed obvious once it had been pointed out and there followed a period of metaphorically beating swords into ploughshares. From then on, the Alliance had hit its stride, advancing by leaps and bounds. They took on the care of worlds instead of dominating them.
Arcadia was originally an outpost of the G'naree empire and designated Sid.Gilv.27zm88:st.er.3. by the G'naree senate. After the Alliance had been established, it was transferred to the care of the Furlings whose own home world was closer.
"Hey, perhaps that's why Arcadia wasn't on the list you fed into the base computer," Daniel exclaimed.
"Well, if the knowledge of the Ancients that you had downloaded into your brain was compiled after Arcadia was transferred to the care of the Furlings, that could explain why it was missing."
At the time that the Alliance was set up, Sid.Gilv.27zm88:st.er.3 had had a small fledgling population of primitive hominids living along the shores of number of lakes to the south west of the Stargate. The Furlings kept a fairly casual eye on their development, not perceiving any threat to the native communities.
Then Nut and her horde of Jaffa had come through the Stargate. Yes, they were unas. Jack was amazed that Daniel didn't demand to know if they'd come from P3X-888. This was first goa'uld incursion on to an Alliance planet and began a very steep learning curve about these new kids on the block.
The influx occurred when the Furlings were occupied elsewhere. Nut found the planet ideal for a new power base, away from the bickering between her fellow System Lords. She transferred most of her Jaffa and slaves to this fresh new world, leaving only a token force behind, or so the survivors had said.
When the Furlings returned some years later, they found that Nut's Jaffa had laid waste to much of the land around the 'Gate. Of the indigenous population, she had enslaved those who could be worked to death and killed the rest. They were horrified.
Shortly after the discovery, they arrived in force, cutting Nut off from the Stargate. They had no alternative but to slay all the Jaffa who were wiping out the slaves and refusing to surrender, having greater fear of disobeying Nut's orders.
The survivors, both the Egyptians and the primitive slaves, had been taken to Earth where they'd been resettled well away from goa'uld territory - a place Daniel identified as the northern Mediterranean coast.
"And that could be why Arcadia isn't on the Abydos Cartouche," he suggested. "If no one returned to Nut's base in Egypt, the goa'uld would have thought Arcadia was a place of ill omen and removed it from their list, like Kheb."
"Makes sense," Jack agreed. "Another mystery solved!"
Nut herself, fatally injured, was carried to her pyramid where the final battle occurred. When the dust settled, she was discovered in the sarcophagus. It had not had time to complete its regeneration cycle and the host's body was too badly damaged to survive. Nut therefore took a new host, Sunniva, sister of Atheling Torin, Haih-Waird of the Furlings. It was disastrous. The Furlings, lacking adequate knowledge of the goa'uld, could neither rescue Sunniva, nor kill Nut.
All they could do was imprison them in the sarcophagus and seal it. The second seal in goa'uld was added shortly afterwards and the third seal in Ancient Greek was added when the Arcadians had been brought to sanctuary on Sid.Gilv.27zm88:st.er.3. Nature had by then repaired the damage caused by Nut's short tenure on the planet.
"Do you know the Tok'ra?" Daniel asked, ignoring Jack's rolling eyes. "They can take a gou'uld out of its host."
"We have heard of the Tok'ra but have never met them and know little of them. I will pass this knowledge on to the Witan. Thank you," Eldred smiled. "One last thing. You are indeed, as you say, 'two very hot guys...'"
He doubled up laughing as Jack and Daniel, slack-jawed, slowly blushed to the roots of their hair.
"Jeez! A Superior Being with a sense of humor. There's a novelty!" Jack said sourly. "'Not voyeurs', my ass!"
Chapter 33 - which sees the arrival of unwelcome visitors
The following day was Christmas Day, which Jack and Daniel decided to spend in Tegea. Daniel had returned for a little late Christmas shopping between the handfasting and New Life celebrations. Presents had already been exchanged, decorations had been put up around Izmini's house, and General Hammond had supplied a Christmas tree, fully decorated, which they could plant outside come twelfth night. They were well set up for a cosy first Christmas together.
Sam and Jacob had gone to spend the two days' down time with Mark, Teal'c had gone to the Land of Light looking like he was going to a funeral and the S.G.C. was just ticking over with a skeleton staff in charge.
"Well, if anyone wants to invade Earth," Jack had commented over supper the previous evening, "now would be the perfect time."
In the event, the 'invasion' came from Earth...
"You know, Jack," Daniel said over breakfast that morning, "we really need to think of a better cover story for why we're not going back to Earth to live. So far, we've been okay with me doing research and you getting 'treatment' for your knees and so forth, and most people seem to think the media were sold a pup, but you're not going to be able to hide it for much longer. You're too fit and active to pass it off as a beer gut."
Jack considered it for a while.
"You're right," he agreed. "Think we should get Janet to sign me off on medical leave from now until... um... until ?"
"Probably," Daniel cut in to save him floundering any further. "The fewer people who know the truth the better, I think. The thing is, it does look a little odd, just the two of us living off-world."
"Think Sam and Teal'c might like to join us?" Jack suggested. "It would like a team thing then, and we could - I don't know - sell it that we're considering setting up a settlement here."
"Like the Alpha Site? Maybe, unless it becomes generally known that the Arcadians have pretty strict limits on the size of their population. And imagine Kinsey trying to move in here..."
"Euw! I'd rather not," Jack said, pulling a face. "Are you trying to put me off my food?"
But Daniel had a faraway look.
"I could be continuing my research into Arcadian history with respect to the development of our own civilization," he mused, "Or we could be acting as liaison with the Furlings. Come to that, who's to know we're living together here anyway? We're not telling, and if Hammond thinks it's okay, who's going to ask?"
Six men in dark suits and carrying briefcases arrived at the entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex shortly after midday. They presented official papers to the guard and were allowed through.
Sergeant Davis was leaning comfortably back in his chair in the control room, deep in a Harlequin Blaze novel that promised 'Steamy stories so full of scorching hot passion, you're liable to singe your fingers just turning the pages!' when the men walked in.
"Oops, sorry sir!" he exclaimed when he realized he wasn't alone.
He sprang to attention, giving a slightly haphazard salute while kicking the book under the desk.
"At ease, sergeant," the leader said, showing his I.D. "All I require is that you dial up P2X-269."
"I'm sorry, I can't do that, sir."
"Oh but you can. I have full authorization. All the relevant paperwork's here," the man said, dumping an official looking file on Davis's desk.
"I don't doubt it, sir," Davis replied, looking unimpressed. "Then dial it up, sergeant! We don't have all day."
"I'm sorry, sir. No one goes through the 'Gate without General Hammond's say so."
"My authorization comes from much higher than Major-General Hammond," the man snapped.
"Very well, sir," Davis sighed and reached for the 'phone.
"What are you doing?"
"Calling General Hammond to notify him of your request, sir," Davis said primly.
"That won't be necessary, sergeant, and I gave you an order, not a request."
"With respect, sir, no one goes through the 'Gate without"
"So you said, and you're disobeying a direct order from a superior officer. Now dial P2X-269 right now, or I'll have you busted down to Airman Basic."
"Sir, yes sir!"
Sergeant Davis put down the 'phone and fed in the co-ordinates for Arcadia. He watched the six men go down the spiral stairs into the 'Gate room with an inscrutable expression. As they passed through the event horizon, he rang General Hammond and updated him.
"Sounds like we've got another mole, sergeant," Hammond responded acidly. "Who were they?"
Davis opened the file and checked the photo of the officer in charge.
"The guy who gave the orders was a Lieutenant-Colonel Simmons, sir."
"Hm, don't think I know him."
"Er, I don't want to spoil your day, sir, but he's from the N.I.D."
"Damn! Don't those people ever take the day off?" General Hammond was silent for a few seconds then said, "Tell me, sergeant, were they armed?"
"I believe so, sir. The bulge rather spoilt the lines of the colonel's jacket."
"Then likely the rest of them are armed too. Obviously our mole is pretty low down in the pecking order. That or they don't pay full attention to our mission reports. I don't think we have too much to worry about but keep me apprized. Oh, and Merry Christmas, Sergeant."
"Thank you, sir, and the same to you," Davis said with a smile.
He retrieved his book from under the desk and his smile widened. His unwelcome visitors were in for a shock.
Jack was engrossed in a book of crossword puzzles - a present from Cassandra - when his radio crackled into life. It was Demris.
"Jack, we have a problema," she said, inadvertently slipping into her native tongue.
"Problem? Just a minute, I'll call Daniel," he responded, thinking it would speed up the communication. "Daniel! Oh sorry. Didn't mean to deafen you, Demris. Anyway, he's here now."
"Daniel, we have six men here. Thou saidst once that there are still bad men in thy land. I think these men are some of them. They have gunnen like thine."
"So they are... asleep... now?"
"Can you keep them asleep till we get there?"
"Good. We'll come straight there."
"Shit!" Jack exclaimed. "Can't they fucking leave us alone?"
"Apparently not," Daniel replied drily. "It has to be the N.I.D. doesn't it?"
"Guns like ours? Has to be."
"Er, Jack, what are we going to do with them when we get there? I mean, we can't very well kill them," Daniel said, adding under his breath, "much as I'd like to."
"Hey, who are you? And what have you done with my lover?"
Daniel laughed. "We do need a plan though."
Wearing a meditative frown, Jack looked around for a moment at the traditional Christmas morning wreckage. Daniel followed his gaze and an idea came to mind. Their eyes met.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked.
"I'm thinking that would be a yes," Jack replied, a wicked grin spreading across his face.
"Then you've got a really evil mind."
"And you first noticed this when?"