It wasn't to be hoped for that Maxine would not be
summoned to Warren's presence sooner or later. It did seem a little odd,
though, that the summons didn't arrive for nearly a month. Maxine made her way
to the new White House on Washington PX in much trepidation, trying to
anticipate what pitfalls lay ahead. Warren had to know by now the state that
Dignity had been left in. Didn't he?
As it happened, it was the most casual meeting she'd ever had
with the President, with absolutely nothing to alarm - which, in itself, was
alarming. Until she was preparing to leave, he even refrained from commenting
on her black hair and its roots, which were now showing a broad copper stripe
along her parting. Then it was merely a compliment on her exotic new look.
There followed a number of profitable, though uneventful,
reconnaissance missions to SG-24's by now trademark 'Wildcat Worlds.' Life
seemed to have settled into a comfortable routine, and Maxine's paranoia radar
went into sleep mode.
It roused slightly one evening as she returned from a short
shopping expedition on foot for groceries, with the vague feeling that she was
being followed. As she turned into the narrow alley that led to the entrance to
her apartment, it awoke completely. Too late.
Ahead of her was a group of four men. At the back of the group
was a familiar face - Dougal Drake, or whatever Kyros was calling himself these
She turned to flee but sank into darkness as a hypodermic
needle slid into her neck and discharged its contents.
When J returned to the locker room, after giving a hand-to-hand
combat training session to a bunch of rookies, he found an envelope in his
locker. Puzzled, he ripped it open and took out the single folded sheet of
paper it contained. He read it in disbelief, then re-read it in horror.
J immediately paged the rest of the team to meet at Ash's pad.
Stat. When they were convened, Theo demanded, "Okay, where's the
"They've got Maxine," J said grimly and passed round
the ransom note.
"No! Not our Bambina! If they harm her, I'll
seek out every one of those bastards and kill them!"
"So, does anyone know where the crown and the book
are?" J asked.
"No idea," Theo said, "but I do know she'd flay
us alive if we handed either of them over!"
"So it's a rescue mission then," Luc decided.
"But where do we begin?" Theo asked.
"I think the Agora would be favorite, but the writer says
they'll be in touch, so I guess we really have to wait for more
intell.," J said with great reluctance in his voice.
When Maxine regained consciousness, she was in total darkness;
no spark of light anywhere. She was seated on a wooden armchair and securely
tied to it. She wasn't gagged which suggested that there was little point in
screaming. As she'd just been out to the local shops, she had none of her
useful little gizmos on her. Uncharacteristically thinking positive, this was a
good thing as they would no doubt have been purloined while she was
unconscious. At least she still had her brain. So far.
The silence was beginning to get really boring when she heard
footsteps overhead. Perhaps she was in a cellar? It smelled musty enough. Some
distance away, above and in front of her, a faint light out-lined a door. As
the door opened further, the light fell on a flight of stairs. What now?
Two men came the stairs. One was Dougal Drake. The other one
switched on a light. "Welcome to my humble abode, Dr. Kirkwood,"
Drake began. "No doubt you can guess why you're here..."
"Sorry, no. You got me there," Maxine responded
"It seems she's planning on being awkward. In the first
instance anyway. All right, Ferka, you may leave us."
"So far as I'm concerned, the pair of you can ferk
"And leave you to starve to death?" Drake said as his
henchman took himself off upstairs. "Oh, dear me, no. I have something far
more creative lined up for you... But you're a smart woman. Maybe you'll
wise-up and give me what I want."
"Contrary to popular opinion, I am not psychic and I
don't know what you want, Mr. Drake."
"Oh, why don't you call me by my real name?"
"You mean your name isn't Dougal Drake?" Maxine
said, assuming a look of surprise.
"No, it's Kyros, as I presume your meddling grandfather
has already found some means of telling you."
"My grandfather disappeared in the Great Disaster, nearly
twenty years before I was born, so I've never even met him," Maxine said
with a doleful sniff.
"Then obviously I don't mean him, but that interfering
idiot, Daniel Jackson."
"My great-great grandfather?" Maxine
"Whatever. Just give me what I want, and you're free to
"But I don't know what you want."
"Look, let's pretend I'm not stupid."
"Okay, then let's assume I am, 'cos I don't have the
remotest idea what you're talking about."
"Firstly, the crown which you fetched back from
"What? That battered old relic? I tossed it in the trash.
With the big dent in the side, I doubt I could've got fifty cents for it at a
"It was not damaged. It cannot be
"Well something had given it a hefty whack on one side!
Couldn't knock the dent out though... Maybe it's a different crown from the one
"Oh come on, Dr. Kirkwood! We both know that's not
"Well, that makes one of us then."
"You're not doing yourself any favors by your
Naturally, Maxine didn't say so, but she would die before
putting either the crown or the book - which hadn't been mentioned yet - into
the hands of the bad guys. Looking death in the face was strangely liberating.
Any other result had to be a plus. Didn't it?
Kyros left, but returned with another of his henchmen.
"This is where you kiss your old life goodbye," Kyros
smirked, "unless you're prepared to see sense?"
Maxine gave him a blank look, wondering what Kyros was up to.
He was happy to tell her.
"Unless your teammates are more co-operative than you
have been, you will be taken to the Agora and sold as a slave."
He got no reaction, so gave his henchman the nod and Maxine
slid into unconsciousness again. Once she was asleep, Kyros had her transferred
to the S.G.C. and hidden in a storeroom near the 'Gate Room.
In anticipation of Major Mitchell's failure to come up with the
crown and the book, Maxine was then whisked away to one of Kyros's off-world
bases during a shift change.
Several days later, negotiations having failed even to get off
the ground, J was told he would never see his team member again. At that point,
J went into the S.G.C., and had an urgent discussion with General Bradfield
about the kidnapping of Dr. Pepperday.
By dint of stressing not leaving a team member behind, he was
able to get him to okay a trip to the Agora to look for her.
"But it'll have to be logged of course, so you'd better
not hang about," Bradfield muttered, shielding his mouth with his hand.
The three remaining team members set off post haste before
Warren could get wind of the rescue mission and veto it. It seemed likely that
he was in on the kidnap in the first place, if not the actual organizer
They took the gold from the PATTs' trunks, and the bug glasses
but no weapons. Naturally. There was no time to collect anything else. They
didn't know where the other gizmos were anyway. Then they were hot-footing it
through the wormhole.
When Maxine, who'd been sedated again for the trip to the
Agora, regained consciousness, she was lying outside the back entrance to the
slave market. Kyros was looming over her and leering.
"Welcome back to the real world, Dr. Kirkwood. Actually,
that is no longer your name - if it ever was. So unless you have a last minute
change of heart...? No? Well then, your new name is Daciana which, I am sure
you are aware, means 'She-wolf.' You are Lot 27. Have a nice life..."
With that, Kyros nodded to two hefty members of the Slavers'
Guild and disappeared into the crowd. Maxine was still a little woozy when the
heavies grabbed an arm and a leg each and carried her to the 'backstage' area
of the slave market, where they dumped her.
Two beefy looking women then stripped her naked and hosed her
down with cold water which all but took her breath away. A third woman passed
her a towel and stood back, assessing her.
She came to a decision and handed her an orange and black
tiger-striped 'bikini,' along with her own socks and boots; didn't want to
cripple the merchandise.
"Put these on," she ordered, then fastened an orange
leather dog's collar round Maxine's neck. Maxine/Daciana awaited her turn on
the catwalk, much as Peter Beck must have done on their first visit to the
Agora. How long ago was that? She was wondering where he was now, and how he'd
fared after Stelios had taken him to Sparta, when she was given a shove up the
She stepped through the curtains and stalked majestically to
the far end of the catwalk, then, as ordered, she strode back and stood on the
star painted on the floor to mark the center point of the catwalk. There she
stood, feet planted firmly apart and arms folded, glowering defiantly around at
"Go ahead, punks - make my day!" she growled, then
repeated the message in Greek, Latin, Romanian and several other languages most
of which no longer existed.
The auctioneer started the bidding at ten gold pieces. People
started drifting away. With no one willing to offer ten gold pieces, the
auctioneer dropped the price. Then dropped it again. And again.
She was eventually sold for a mere ten silver pieces to a
gentleman with dark curly hair. He was dressed in the apparel of Ancient Rome,
and looked to be neither patrician nor plebeian. He had an amused glint in his
He collected her, to the relief of the auctioneer who fastened
a leash to her collar and handed it to her new owner. He took her to the
cashiers' desk to pay. By good luck, it was Noah who collected the one small
"Please tell my friends where I am when they come looking
for me. Lot: 27 - Daciana. We're going to Ancient Rome."
"What language is that?" her owner demanded in
"English. Anglicus est ad te," Maxine replied.
"You are Brittuncula?" the Roman asked, leading her
away from the slave market.
"Hell no! I'm an American," Maxine answered in Latin.
It which was pretty much her second language anyway.
"Nowhere near the Roman Empire - not in distance nor in
"But you know of the Roman Empire?"
"Well, I'm a scholar, so yes, I've studied it."
"A scholar? But you're a woman!"
"What's your point?"
The Roman shrugged. "So your name is Daciana?"
"My name is Esther Maxine Pepperday, but you can call
me... Hm, I guess you can call me whatever the hell you like."
The Roman laughed. "So I can, and I'll stick with Daciana.
It suits you - 'She-wolf.' My name is Falco, but you can call me Master."
"Falco?" Maxine mused, "as in Marcus Didius
He grabbed her arm and pulled her round to face him.
"How in the name of Jove do you know my name?"
"You mean that really is your name?"
"Because I thought Falco was a fictitious character - an
imperial agent working for the emperor Vespasian in a series of detective
stories by Lindsey Davis."
"This Lindsey Davis - is he a spy?"
"No, she's an author - and a scholar too, I guess,
given she obviously did a lot of research about the Roman Empire."
"Yes. Tell me, are you still shagging Helena
"What?! Please, she's a senator's daughter!"
"Daughter of Decimus Camillus Verus. Yes I know."
"You know far too much about me," Falco said,
shaking his head.
"That's okay. I'm quite a 'fan' of yours."
"Yes. That means I'm fond of the character. I like your
Helena too," Daciana smiled.
"Oh. Well that's good, because I bought you as a gift for
Daciana chuckled. "Had another argument? You may have
bitten off more than you can chew here, Falco, given that Helena isn't
"To you, the name is Dominus, not Falco," the Roman
"Sorry, Dominus Falco," Daciana grinned. "Being
a slave is an entirely new experience for me."
"I would never have guessed," Falco said drily.
"And you such a hot-shot investigator too!"
Falco chuckled at that sally. By now, they had reached the
chronokinaton, where Falco handed in a token and recovered his weapons - a
gladius and a pugio or dagger. They then had to queue to use the Chronokinaton.
This consisted of four modules. One had a seat for one person, another for two
people, the third seated four and the fourth would take six people.
Falco steered Daciana to the single-seater, and had her sit on
his knees, as the Chronokinaton at the other end only seated one person.
"Where do we arrive?" his slave wanted to know.
"Well, that's a given. Whereabouts? Somewhere around the
back of Vespasian's quarters, I'm thinking."
"Well, you're thinking wrong."
"Titus' quarters then?"
"Is Titus still chasing Helena by the way?"
"Oh, he is..."
"Keep your mouth shut, woman!"
"It's okay. It's you she wants, not him."
"Don't you ever do as you're told?"
"Sometimes - when it's a reasonable order."
"And you have to admit, you wouldn't have gotten me so
cheap if I'd been, well, more slave-like."
"Don't you dare tell Helena how much I paid for
"Wouldn't dream of it. Do you visit the Agora often?"
"No. This is only the third time. I'm on a case and I
found this thing in a locked room "
"In a pepper warehouse?"
"Yes. How do you know?"
"I've already read that story. It's the second year of
Vespasian's reign, isn't it? And you and Julius Frontinus were disposing of a
rotting corpse, weren't you? Then you got jumped by a man in a hooded cloak of
a rather revolting viridian green? You think it's the freedman, Barnabas, don't
"You seem to know more about this case than I do!"
"Well, I told you, I've read the story."
"So how does it end?"
"I can't - well, I shouldn't - tell you, because to tell
the future may well change it. For better - or for worse..."
"Couldn't you just give me a clue?"
"Well, that would spoil the fun now, wouldn't it? But.
You're the hero in these stories, so can't you work something out from
"I'm a hero?"
"Well, more of a lovable rogue, actually."
"Oh." Falco sounded a little disappointed. Daciana
"And slaves do not laugh at their masters," Falco
grumbled, shoving Daciana off his knees as they'd arrived in the warehouse.
Daciana took the opportunity to unclip the leash from her
collar. As soon as they'd left the module, there was a blue glow around its
interior as it set off back to the Agora, leaving the outer casing, the seat
and the mechanism behind. Daciana wandered round to the back of the
chronokinaton trying to figure out how it worked.
"Come on, time to go. Slave!" He dropped the now
disconnected leash; it wasn't like she had anywhere to go anyway.
Daciana held up an imperative hand. "Just a moment. I want
to figure out how this works."
"No! Slaves don't give the orders here."
Daciana shrugged. "Oh well, you must've figured it out, so
it can't be too difficult," she grinned.
"You know, you're going to have to learn a slave's place
in Roman society - and quickly - if you want to survive more than a couple of
days here," Falco said crossly. He'd learned all about being a slave
himself, in that silver mine in Britannia. The abuse, the pain not
something he would forget in a hurry...
"That's okay, I can look after myself. Even unarmed, I
could kill you where you stand if I so chose."
"Oh, very funny!"
"It's true - and, I regret to say - you wouldn't be
the first... If you don't believe me, draw your pugio and come at me. Don't
hold back. You won't hurt me."
"Crazy She-wolf," Falco muttered. "Come on,
I've had enough of your little games."
"Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you either. Well, not too
Falco had really had enough by now. He needed to tame this
uppity wench before he handed her over to his beloved Helena. He drew his
dagger and lunged half-heartedly at her, expecting her to jump aside. She
Came towards him. Deflected his arm. Slapped on a painful wrist
lock. His pugio went flying out of his hand. Suddenly he was on his knees
before her, gasping like a gaffed fish, and wondering how she'd taken him down
so easily. Granted she was taller than him, but still...?
"Now, you're going to find me some respectable
clothing," Daciana was saying as she let go of him, "or Helena is
going to think I'm one of your cheap meretrices that you got tired of. See, I'm
on your side really, so could we please lose the collar?"
Falco shrugged and unfastened it.
"I don't know where you think I'm going to get fresh
clothing from. I've hardly got enough left to live on after I bought you."
"Oh come on, Falco, you live over a laundry and I suspect
you're cataloguing the contents of Gnaeus Atius Pertinax's mansion on the
Quirinal at the moment."
Falco rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me - you've read the
"Alright, I won't. See, I told you I could obey orders.
When I choose to."
"And I'll put you right on one thing. I don't pay
"Sex? I imagine not. Not when a lady like Helena throws
herself at you in that stable on the way back from Britannia..."
Falco gave a strangled squawk and led his latest acquisition to
Pertinax's manor on the Quirinal, wondering what in Tartarus he'd let himself
"I will give you a heads-up about one thing though,"
Daciana said seriously. "Keep your romantic nephew, Larius, well away from
Pompeii - and Oplontis and Herculaneum too - for the next - ooh - ten
"Why would he want to go to Pompeii?"
"Apart from the obvious?" Daciana grinned. "He
wants to paint frescoes there."
"What harm can he come to?" Falco asked, puzzled.
"Painting frescoes isn't inherently dangerous."
"No it isn't."
"So I'm going to tell you something I shouldn't."
"About the future?"
"Yes. In the next year or two, there will be a major
earthquake at Pompeii. It'll be caused by Mount Vesuvius. And that isn't the
worst thing. Seven or eight years after that, there will be a cataclysmic
eruption of Vesuvius. No survivors."
Falco whistled. "Won't the people all run away?"
"Okay, very few survivors. Gaius Plinius Caecilius
Secundus took to sea in good time and survived. Well, will survive."
"So why not everyone else?" Falco wanted to know.
"They didn't - won't - appreciate the danger until it's
too late. If I remember correctly, that's all down to something called a
'pyroclastic flow.' It's an immense cloud of super-hot steam, ash, and pumice.
It travels a hundred times faster than the fastest war horse you can imagine.
And it can travel across water too, so Pliny was damn' lucky. Will be..."
"How do you know all this?"
"When I was a child, I learnt Latin, among other
languages, from my Great Aunt Claire, and she had me translating Pliny's
account that he gave in his epistle to Tacitus."
"Thanks," Falco said, escorting her into Pertinax's
mansion, and fending off a ribald comment or three from Momus, a slave
overseer. At the back of the mansion, Falco and Daciana hunted through a heap
of clean clothing and found an off-white tunica suitable for the new slave.
Theo, J and Luc arrived at the Agora not long after Maxine's
purchase and headed for the cashiers' bench. Noah waved them over and told them
that her new name was Daciana, that she'd been bought by a man called Falco
who'd taken her to Ancient Rome which suggested the use of time travel.
The three thanked him, then headed for the Chronokinaton
wondering how they'd manage without Maxine to translate. Luc spoke a little
modern Italian that he'd learnt for fun from his Nonna Ferretti, but that was
That and the fact that a lot of Latin words had found their way
into English - via, alibi, stadium, arena, terminus, creditor, formula and
matrix, for instance. Moreover, a lot of 'English' words like promise, reign,
rude, June, July or parent, were derived from Latin; not to mention Latin
phrases like 'carpe diem,' 'prima facie,' 'quid pro quo,' and 'persona non
grata,' and the motto of the U.S.A., 'e pluribus unum.'
Surprisingly, use of the Chronokinaton was free - if you were
prepared to wait in line.
"We don't want to discourage trade," the man on the
desk said, thankfully in English. "I'm afraid you'll all have to travel
separately though, unless you're prepared to double up, as the Roman machine is
only a single seater."
For one Agp., the team moved up to the front of the queue. They
felt that speed was of the essence. The operator asked where they wanted to go.
J said they were with Falco and Daciana, so the operator checked the record and
set the co-ordinates into the machine. J and Theo went together first, followed
soon after by Luc.
They arrived in the warehouse and looked around. Luc almost
cried when he found the leash and collar. Maxine had used a sooty finger to
draw an arrow on the door, and another into the street, bent to indicate that
they should turn left.
Theo, as the least military of the team, activated his bug
glasses and had the bug fly over the city in search of someone with dark hair
and a copper-colored parting. Eventually, as they were still following
occasional arrows, Theo's bug spotted Maxine with a curly-haired man entering a
good sized mansion.