Crown Infernal

Poles Apart

Part 5

Chapter 14 - Duet: Parlante a piacere

1. A brujo is a magician or man of mystical knowledge; the 'j' is pronounced like the 'ch' in 'Loch Ness'.
2. 'kh' in Aramaic is also pronounced like the 'ch' in 'Loch Ness'.

"And you're absolutely certain you can find a way out of that chamber without any further mishaps, Dr. Jackson?" General Hammond asked at S.G.-7's next briefing the following morning.

"I thi... ah, yes, I'm certain, General. I - er - managed to work out where I went wrong the first time. It won't happen again."

"Would you care to explain how you worked it out?"

Daniel carefully slid his pen inside one of his folders. It removed the temptation to fidget with it - didn't want any nervous gestures to convey indecision. Although he knew he was right, explaining the how and why of it could cause problems. From a rigid military standpoint, he was bluffing. Having been dismissed twice now as merely dreaming, he didn't want that bluff called.

"How much detail would you like me to go into, General?" he asked, doing his best to create the impression that he was about to shift into full-on lecture mode.

Hammond suddenly developed that glazed look Daniel had so often seen on Jack's face. For once, he was grateful for it.

"Um, well perhaps we can take it as read, Doctor," Hammond conceded.

In a spirit of mischief, Daniel switched to his hurt-and-dejected look. And instantly regretted it.

"Oh well," Hammond began, obviously prepared to make the supreme sacrifice and indulge his favourite archaeologist.

"No, no, that's O.K., General Hammond. It's - ah - it's a bit of a dry subject, really."

He was sure Hammond breathed a sigh of relief...

"Very well, S.G.-7. I suggest you go get yourselves something to eat and I'll meet you in the 'Gate Room at 09.30hrs. Dismissed."

Daniel headed for his office to drop off his folders before going to the commissary and found that Major Sanchez had dropped into step beside him.

"So how did you work it out, Daniel?" he asked as they walked.

"Er, well, like I said, it's kind of dry, and - um..."

"And you think I wouldn't understand?"

"Ah, well your areas of expertise are grounded in hard science..."

"Grounded? I like that!" Sanchez laughed.

Daniel caught on a little late that he was talking to a geologist and chuckled too. Before he could continue with his evasive tactics, Sanchez forestalled him.

"Please, Daniel, don't brush me off like you did General Hammond."

Daniel shot him a curious glance but said nothing.

"Just because I'm military doesn't necessarily mean I have the military mind-set, you know. Try looking beyond the rank. I can appreciate that might be a tad hard after all those years of consorting with Colonel O'Neill, but try it. O.K.?

Daniel gave grim little laugh as he went into his office and laid the folders on his desk.

"If it'll help, my bisabuela - erm, my great-grandmother - was a Yacqui. She had a brother called Juan Matus..."

"What?" Daniel exclaimed, giving Sanchez a startled look. "The Juan Matus? You mean, he actually existed?!"

Sanchez grinned and closed the door.

"Really, Daniel, I thought you'd have a more open mind than that. Looks like some of Colonel O'Neill's scepticism has rubbed off you."

"Oh come on, Esteban. Castaneda's been pretty well debunked," Daniel said, thinking ruefully that Sanchez was right about the O'Neill effect.

"Ah yes, it's so much easier to shoot down the messenger than to listen to the message, isn't it? Doesn't mean that everything he wrote was tonterías though. Or that Don Juan wasn't a real brujo. "

"But Carlos was out of his skull on peyote and Jimson weed half the time."

"And the pink vapour was...?"

"Ahh. So you think I was dreaming, too?"

Daniel wrapped his arms around himself in his old defensive posture.

"No, Daniel, that's not what I meant. I'm trying to tell you that I don't dismiss things out of hand just because they don't fit in with approved scientific thinking. And that I would have thought you of all people would appreciate that. Pyramids as alien landing sites? Daniel what were you thinking of?!"

Daniel laughed outright at that. He wished he'd transferred to S.G.-7 a lot sooner.

"Well, if you really want to know," he smiled. "Looking back, it seems like, while my physical body was in the infirmary, my consciousness was on Afra Shapeera— P7Y-304."

"Remote viewing? Astral projection?"

"I don't know. That's right outside of my experience. Everything seemed pretty solid though. I could feel the ground under my feet, and could touch Zohar and Raziel. They certainly felt real."

"The seventh sense, then?"

"You're really into this, aren't you, Major Mystic?" Daniel smiled.

"Only within this room, Daniel, only within this room. So what did you find out while you were 'tripping' around the universe?"

Daniel chuckled. "Well for one for one thing, I made a really stupid mistake. I missed the plural. The translation should have been 'speak the words', not 'speak the word'. It's not 'shibboleth' at all."

"So what should you have said?"

"Tara'a ptheekha. It just means 'Open door!' As simple as that."

"Erm, forgive me, Daniel, but isn't that just a little too easy?"

"Well no, not really. The 'booby-trap' isn't a booby-trap as such. The arrapila - the vapour - establishes a link between whoever wishes to enter the Melpusah Breekha - or Blessed Realm - and the chief brother. That's Zohar. He can determine whether that person is a 'rukha kayna', or honest spirit. If we hadn't run away, the effects would only have lasted a few minutes - as long as it takes to explain how to get out of the chamber after we'd been 'vetted' and found acceptable. We could've continued our mission the same day."

"How come the rest of us were unaffected? Apart from feeling a little sleepy."

"You left too quickly, before the arrapila could take hold fully. It caught me, but as I fell through the 'Gate - literally - Zohar had to find me first before he could check me out and impart the information we need. They're a very advanced race - on a par with the Nox, I'd say."

"Will we get hit by the fog again next time we go through?"

"No. I vouched for you - and Alli and Leo - and Zohar seemed happy to accept my word."

"So no problems then?" Sanchez grinned. "Come on, let's go get something to eat."

Chapter 15 - In Paradisum

All went as Daniel had foretold. On speaking the correct words, two large wall panels adjacent to the ceiling pivoted open about their vertical axes leaving an opening some six feet tall by four feet wide. Daniel could see pale blue sky outside. With a faint hum, an elegant flight of steps made of some light gold-coloured metal extended down to the floor. Presumably it worked on a hydraulic system.

Daniel laid his P90 down on the Stargate platform along with his other weapons. Major Sanchez watched him with raised eyebrows. Daniel, accustomed to O'Neill's almost paranoid anticipation of threats behind every rock or bush, returned an almost defiant look.

"Guess we won't be needing guns, huh, Daniel?" he asked, laying his own weapons next to Daniel's.

Daniel was quite taken aback. It was such a refreshing change not to have to fight every inch of the way to be taken seriously. Alli and Leo followed suit. With a light heart, Daniel set off up the steps.

When he reached the surface, he saw what he expected to see - an arid, savannah-like world with nothing whatsoever to recommend it to any predatory races seeking new worlds to conquer and add to their empires.

"So what happened to Paradise, Daniel?" Sanchez exclaimed, stepping out off the chamber behind him.

"Oh, it's right here. We just can't see it yet, that's all," Daniel smiled, looking down the shallow valley in which they were standing. He waved.

Some distance away, shimmering slightly in the heat-haze, were two figures. They were wearing long robes of some material light enough to flutter with the movement as they walked towards S.G.-7. Daniel identified the one clad in pale turquoise as Zohar. Raziel was dressed in a buttery yellow.

As they approached, Sanchez noticed that, although they looked otherwise human, their skin had a kind of individual pie-bald pattern in several shades of light brown. Their heads were shaven, giving them the appearance of Buddhist monks.

Zohar and Daniel lightly clasped each other's forearms and gave a polite inclination of their heads, much as Teal'c was wont to do.

"Greetings, Daniel," Zohar smiled. "Welcome to Afra Shapeera, and to our Melpusah Breekha. It is a pleasure to see you again."

This was repeated with Raziel, then Daniel performed the introductions.

"You wish to see this land as it really is," Zohar stated calmly to Major Sanchez, although the latter had said nothing.

Sanchez was somewhat surprised at this, but nodded vigorously. Zohar described an arch in the air with his out-stretched arm banishing the illusion within a quarter mile radius around him. It was as though they were standing inside a bubble and within it, the valley was carpeted with grass so vivid that it seemed to glow under the planet's sun. Swathes of flowers swept up the valley sides between blossoming trees and shrubs.

"Wow!" Alli exclaimed, "It's beautiful."

Daniel smiled and began discussing with Zohar what SG-7 would be allowed to do. Zohar's people were quite happy to permit academic research, but anything of a destructive nature, such as mining would not be allowed. Major Sanchez was a little disappointed but not surprised. He went back to the M.A.L.P. to send a sit. rep. and to request that the equipment which his team had packed on the transport buggy be sent through so they could begin work.

S.G.-7 would remain on site for three days, camping out not far from the entrance to the Stargate chamber. Although there was apparently no threat from the peaceful Akhay - the brotherhood headed by Zohar and Raziel - it seemed sensible to keep risks to an absolute minimum. Esteban and Leo were to set up their equipment nearby while Daniel and Alli would go with their new companions to the Vayrah, a collection of buildings rather like a university campus further down the valley. This was out of sight beyond the range of the 'bubble' of reality which Zohar had set up and thus something of an inconvenience.

Before they split up, Zohar went up to Daniel, removed his glasses and stared into his eyes. It lasted only for a few moments from the point of view of the assembled party. To Daniel, the experience was long and deeply emotional.

"You are a true Rukha Sarpya," Zohar pronounced at last. "If it is your wish, we will admit you to the Akhay when we reach the Vayrah.

Daniel was silent. It was a lot to take in, even for him. To be examined so gently yet so thoroughly and to be declared a 'Pure Spirit' was quite humbling. He wiped his hand across his eyes and replaced his glasses.

"Um, thank you... thank you, Zohar. You do me great honour," he said at last. "I would be most happy to join the Akhay. Thank you."

"After the ritual, you will see our world as we do and no longer as a stranger," Zohar smiled and moved on to Alli.

Dr. Kahanamoku was pronounced a Rukha Mak-keerkhta - Gentle Spirit - and was offered admission to Ahuartha, or sisterhood, which she accepted with tears in her dark eyes.

Chapter 16 - Dies Irae

It was late afternoon and time to start packing up ready for the walk back to camp. Alli had been having the time of her life studying her new colleagues among the Ahuartha. This basically meant having a good gossip over a cup of the local tea. Nice work if you could get it... Daniel felt that he had never been happier than here in the library of the Vayrah. It truly was paradise for an academic. Sadly, happiness in Daniel seemed to trigger the unwelcome attentions of an unkind Fate.

He and Alli were already half-way back up the valley when he realized that he'd forgotten a volume he'd intended to bring with him to study during the evening.

"You carry on, Alli," he said. "I'll just go back to the library. Tell Leo, he's cooking!"

It was about this time that the ha'tak of Var'ek, First Prime of minor System Lord, Sebek, dropped out of hyperspace. The battle against Anqet had gone particularly badly. His ship was badly damaged and he needed repairs and reinforcements. However, when he left hyperspace he was nowhere near where he expected to be. Clearly the navigation system had been hit. He was further surprised to find that he was in orbit around a planet that, according to the computer records, didn't exist. Well, he knew the consequences of failure for a Jaffa - even a First Prime - but if he could take something back with him - slaves - a new world to add to the Empire...

Daniel was within sight of their camp when the first group of Jaffa ringed down a couple of hundred yards away. He could hardly believe his eyes. He hastily hit the deck and opened a channel to Major Sanchez.

"Incoming hostiles!" he yelled. "Get back through the Stargate! Alert General Hammond. I'll try and draw them away, then circle back."

"Negative, Daniel, keep out of sight. We'll hold them off till you come."

"No, there are too many! Oh-oh, they're heading your way. Go! Now! Out."

He was gratified to see them flee to the stairway - horrified to see the Jaffa running towards them. A staff weapon fired. Alli dropped.

"Hey! It's me you want!" he yelled, jumping up and waving.

More Jaffa ringed down. Daniel gasped in alarm and ran - ducking and weaving - hoping they'd follow him - hoping they couldn't shoot straight.

Sanchez, already at a sprint, slid down the stair rail. Grabbed his P90 and scampered back. Leo had snatched up the fallen Alli and hoisted her over his shoulder. Ran towards the stairway. Sanchez ran out at a crouch, laying down covering fire. The Jaffa were rapidly closing on them.

"Leo, get her home and send the marines!" he yelled. "I gotta stay or Danny can't get back!"

He took out the two leading Jaffa. Saw the next group of Jaffa ring down. Saw Daniel running - dodging left, right - left again. A Jaffa stood still. Took aim. Fired. The blast hit Daniel's left shoulder. Like a scarlet flower, flesh and blood exploded.

As if he were watching a slow-motion replay, Sanchez saw Daniel propelled forward with the force. Saw his knees buckle. Watched him pitch forward on to his face. And lie still. No need to hold on. One last rapid fusillade and he slid down the stair rail again. Leo had already dialled home. Sanchez grabbed the other P90s. Couldn't let them fall into enemy hands.

The first Jaffa reached the top of the stairs as the event horizon stabilized. Sanchez diving for the wormhole last, felt a searing pain in his thigh. Then he was tumbling down the ramp.

"Close the iris! Close the iris!" he yelled.

Shortly afterwards, several satisfying thumps were heard against the titanium-trinium shield. Then he passed out.

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Crown Infernal