Crown Infernal

Burnished Copper

~ or ~ Paranoia Doesn't Always Work

It was bound to happen eventually; one of them would slip up, and then...
None of them expected it to be Dr. Pepperday.

Author's Notes

This, episode 14, is a time-travel episode which goes back to the Roman Empire. It is also a cross-over with the Falco detective stories of Lindsey Davis, also set in the Roman Empire. They are crackin' good tales - highly recommended! 8-) All you need to know is that Falco is working for the Emperor Vespasian, one of the better emperors, and father of Titus.

He, Falco, has the hots for senator's daughter, Helena Justina. This is a mutual attraction, more or less. She is not a conventional member of the upper class, having divorced herself from her husband, Pertinax. [ No real spoilers here. ]

Yes, I could have written this in Latin, but you'll be relieved to know that I haven't. ;-) Well, actually, there is a little Latin, but the guys don't understand it, so you don't have to either. 8-)

Grateful thanks to amatus meus - R.M. - for the Beta reading. 8-)


The characters of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina (plus Momus, Anacrites, the maid Naissa, Barnabas and the door porter) all belong to the afore-mentioned Lindsey Davis. I am making no money out of them, just borrowing them to entertain my friends - and to show that writing science fiction is not a get-out-of-doing-research-free card.

The usual disclaimers re Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill still apply. Yes, they have cameo un-appearances. ;-)


"Then Aurel flew us back to the Agora," J continued, "and left the ship where they'd found it. He said he'd use the ship's 'Gate to go back to the world where the rest were and we parted company. Dr. Pepperday got the Astunomia to place a guard on the ship so it won't be stolen again before our European allies go and collect it. They also gave us a receipt to show that we've fulfilled our part of the mission."

"Oh, and here's the remains of our money, sir," Theo said, producing his money pouch. "I'm afraid there isn't much left."

"We had to pay a few bribes," Luc explained.

"I see. Well that all seems in order, SG-24. Dismissed."

Maxine couldn't help thinking that Warren wasn't going to be too happy with their very sketchy reports, especially when their supposed allies found that the ship had been stripped and trashed. Strangely, she didn't receive an urgent summons to explain herself. Maybe Warren was beginning to realize that he wasn't going to get very far with her?

Or maybe he was just giving her enough rope...?


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 days.

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 fire?"

"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 dourly.

"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 off!"

"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 squawked. "Impossible!"

"Whatever. Just give me what I want, and you're free to go."

"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 Noucincu."

"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 garage sale."

"It was not damaged. It cannot be damaged."

"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 you want?"

"Oh come on, Dr. Kirkwood! We both know that's not true."

"Well, that makes one of us then."

"You're not doing yourself any favors by your intransigence."

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 thereof.

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 steps.

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 the bidders.

"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 eye.

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 silver coin.

"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 Latin.

"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.

"Where's that?"

"Nowhere near the Roman Empire - not in distance nor in time."

"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 Falco?"

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?"

"Yes, why?"

"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."

"Another woman?"

"Yes. Tell me, are you still shagging Helena Justina?"

"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."

"'A fan'?"

"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 her."

Daciana chuckled. "Had another argument? You may have bitten off more than you can chew here, Falco, given that Helena isn't stupid."

"To you, the name is Dominus, not Falco," the Roman grunted.

"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?"

"Shut up!"

"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 you."

"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?"

"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 that...?"

"I'm a hero?"

"Well, more of a lovable rogue, actually."

"Oh." Falco sounded a little disappointed. Daciana laughed.

"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 much anyway."

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 didn't.

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 story."

"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 for— "

"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 in for.

"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 years."

"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 about it.

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.




Crown Infernal