Crown Infernal

Burnished Copper

~ or ~ Paranoia Doesn't Always Work

Pars Secunda

As J, Luc and Theo entered through the front of the house, Falco and Daciana left by the back entrance and headed for the Capena Gate where Helena's family lived.

As Daciana expected, the door porter denied them entry, but she was ready for that. She planted a hand flat on his chest and barged in, dragging Falco behind her. A stately young lady had just passed by on the way to her room and turned back to see what was going on.

Daciana approached her. "Domina. You must be Helena Justina?"

"And you are...?" Helena asked, looking haughty and a little puzzled.

"A gift from your beloved Falco," Daciana grinned.

Falco cringed.

"I already have a maid."

"Oh, I'm not a replacement for Naissa." Daciana plowed on regardless. "I'm your bodyguard."

"Bodyguard? I don't need a bodyguard!"

"Not here and not now, Domina, but you will, and I don't want you to lose your baby."

"Ba— You think I'm pregnant?" Helena's voice went up an octave.

"I know you are, Domina. I also know who the father is," Daciana smiled, letting her eyes drift towards Falco.

Falco sent an imploring look, first to Daciana, then to his inamorata. Helena embarked on an eloquent tirade. When she finally ran out of steam, Daciana took up her thread again.

"Domina, if this gift," she indicated herself, "is not satisfactory, would you like me to turf this loutish oaf out on his ear?"


Feeling a little left out, and against his better judgment, Falco weighed in.

"She could probably do just that, and if you tell her to, she almost certainly will!"

Helena looked from Daciana's smug expression to Falco's sheepish one and cracked out laughing.

"I could teach you how to defend yourself," Daciana offered.

"Won't that harm the—" Falco and Helena began as one, then exchanged a fond look.

"Probably not, but I was planning on a demonstration anyway," Daciana said with a smile.

"I'm not going to enjoy this, am I?" Falco muttered.

"Hey, I didn't hurt you, did I?" Daciana asked, looking mildly concerned. She had inflicted a little pain, but there was no way he was going to admit it.

"Okay, come at me as if you were going to attack me with your pugio," Daciana went on, and had him pose with his right arm raised as if to strike.

"Your attacker will expect you to cringe, back away or dodge," she explained to Helena. "This gives you an advantage when you don't do what he expects."

"I don't back away?"

"No. You step forward and block his forearm with your left forearm," Daciana commentated as she did so.

"Next, you reach behind his upper arm with your right arm and grab your own left arm. Then you overbalance him by stepping forward and pushing down hard."

"Ooof!" Falco hit the ground. Again.

"One more thing, Domina," Daciana said, releasing Falco. "Don't go anywhere near your ex-husband's house on the Quirinal for any reason whatsoever, or you will surely lose the baby."

Falco decided it was time he returned to work at Pertinax's house. "I'll leave you to school your new slave," he told Helena, adding with a baleful look at Daciana and wagging a minatory finger at her, "and you - behave yourself!"

"Sir! Yes sir!" she barked in English, giving him a textbook perfect salute - longest way up; shortest way down.

Falco gave her a puzzled look, shrugged and took himself off, muttering, "iacta alea est..."

Daciana found her new owner looking at her as if assessing Falco's strange gift. She raised an eyebrow.

"Is your hair in two colors naturally?" Helena asked.

"This is my natural color," Daciana replied, pointing to her parting. "The dark part is hair dye."

"But why would you want to cover up your natural color? It must look like burnished copper."

Daciana grimaced. "Well that's fine if you want to stand out from the crowd, but my team and I were on a covert mission, so I wanted to blend in."

"A covert mission? That sounds exciting," Helena exclaimed.

"Sometimes my life can be exciting, yes. At the present time, I was kidnaped near my apartment. Some very evil men want to get their hands on a couple of powerful artefacts whose whereabouts are known only to me and the two good - very good - people in whose care I left them. When I wouldn't tell the bad guys where the artefacts are - denied all knowledge of them in fact - they sold me at the slave market at the Agora."

"The Agora? In Greece?"

"We think there must be a Greek connection somewhere down the line, but no. The next thing I tell you will be hard for you to believe—"

Daciana stopped as a sudden thought struck her. Where exactly was the Agora? Not on Earth certainly, given the need for a Stargate. And then there was the time travel element. She'd found physics fascinating, but at school, her math had let her down.

Differential calculus was okay; it was reasonably logical. Integral calculus on the other hand... It seemed like you had to be a magician to conjure the final factor out of thin air! Maybe the Agora's planet was a scientific anomaly - a nexus where many universes could safely interact...?

"Well go on," Helena demanded, poking her in the ribs with a sharp finger.

Daciana shook her head and zoned back in. "Oh, er, where was I?"

"Somewhere I'm unlikely to believe..." Helena prompted her.

"Ah, yes. I come from the future - around two thousand years into the future."

Helena's jaw fell open.

"I did warn you that you wouldn't believe me," Daciana sighed.

"No. You said it would be hard for me to believe - and it is. But it doesn't sound like something you just made upon the spur of the moment either. So how did you get here?"

"Initially through a Stargate, then Falco brought me here using a Chronokinaton, or 'time machine'—"

"Wait! Falco's been to the future?!"

Daciana giggled. "Yes, though I don't think he realized it."

Helena laughed too, then said, "Come to my room and tell me all about your adventures."

"Well, I shouldn't really, as they're classified, but what's a poor slave to do?"

"Exactly as she's told, of course," Helena grinned, leading to way.

Daciana began by telling her mistress about her team, SG-24, and how they traveled through their stargate to stargates on other planets. This meant explaining what planets and stargates were. Then she moved on to recount some of their actual missions: how they'd nearly lost J, then met Eneas and the Contra-Bruxai; their visit to Persulis and how they'd over-turned the tyrannical régime there, omitting the fact that she had personally consigned two men to oblivion.

Instead, she went on to tell how they'd visited an apparently primitive world, only to find that the 'natives' were modern young people acting out adventures in their spare time just for fun.

Daciana didn't mention their run-in with the Warriors, and Ash's 'near-death experience,' nor her supposed marriage to Ash to thwart Kyros. Those were just way too close to home for comfort.

Instead, she moved on to their unscheduled trip to the Dignity and meeting her crew, one of whom was Eneas' nephew. Next, Helena was highly entertained by the tale of J the Samurai warrior.

By now, it felt like she'd been talking for hours and she was very thirsty. However, her audience of one seemed fascinated by her escapades, and didn't look inclined to take a break any time soon.

She sighed and said, "Right now, domina, I could kill for some steaming hot coffee!"

Helena looked baffled. "What is 'coffee'?"

"It's a refreshing hot drink, made by pouring hot, but not boiling, water on to ground coffee beans."

"Oh. I should like to try this coffee. Where do we get coffee beans from?"

"We don't. Coffee won't reach Europe for about another fifteen hundred years when Arabs will bring some coffee beans from Ethiopia to trade in Venetian markets."

"Oh." Helena looked disappointed, then she sniffed the air. "Can you smell that?" she asked.

"Yes. Yes, I can," Daciana said , sniffing and looking around room the room suspiciously.

"Do you know what it is?"

"I certainly do! That, domina, is the smell of freshly brewed coffee, which suggests that my great-great-grandfather is here!"

"Your great-great-grandfather? How is that possible?"

Daciana ignored her and growled - in Latin for Helen's benefit, "You might share, rather than just tantalize, Grandfather!"

A disembodied voice responded on a whining note and in Latin, "I'm not supposed to interfere..."

"We won't tell if you don't. Besides, what harm can it do?" Daciana asked.

"Apart from giving some poor archaeologist of the future a real headache when he finds coffee grounds in an ancient Roman spoil heap?"

"Oh, he'll just put it down to contemporary contamination of the site. It'll be fine. So come on, Grandfather, be a sport..." Daciana pleaded. "You never liked being deprived of your coffee either, from what I've been told!"

There was a grunt and a profound sigh. "Oh, all right."

A mistily glowing, silvery-blue sphere appeared above a small table between the two women. Within the light, ghostly hands could be seen carefully placing an equally ghostly silver tray with two steaming mugs of coffee on it, on to the table. Unlike Daniel, these rapidly coalesced into reality.

"Cheers! Thanks, Grandfather!" Daciana said, raising one of the mugs in the air as Helena picked up the other.

Her mistress first inhaled its delectable aroma, closing her eyes as she did so and murmuring appreciatively. Next, Helena took a delicate sip and let it swirl around her mouth. She took another mouthful then said, "Mmmmmm, co-ffeeee..."

Somewhere nearby, someone snorted then chuckled. Daciana thought it sounded like Jack O'Neill.

Then a voice - definitely Jack's - said, "Oh Daniel! What have you started?!"

Helena looked around, startled, and seeing no one asked, "Is that another of your ghosts?"

"Sort of," Daciana nodded. "Do you like your coffee?"

"Like it? I love it! It's divine and I want more!"

"Unfortunately..." Daciana began, then slapped her forehead, exclaiming, "and I'm stupid. Of course we can get more coffee! They're bound to sell it at the Agora. They sell pretty much anything there."

Helena gasped. "Travel into the future?"

"Yes. Why not?"

"Is it safe?"

"Is anywhere safe, Domina?"

Helena seemed to be thinking it over, so Daciana reassured her. "The authorities don't allow weapons at the Agora. Those have to be handed in at the entrance, then you reclaim them as you leave."

"What about money?" asked Helena, the ever practical.

Daciana explained the financial system.

"Oh. All right. Let's go to market then," her mistress said, standing up. "I'll just leave a message for mother and collect something to use for funds, then we'll be off."

Her wayward slave hoped she could find her way back to the warehouse.

Meanwhile SG-24 had entered Pertinax's mansion where they were stopped by Momus along with Anacrites, Vespasian's chief spy.

"Desisite!" Anacrites growled, "et mihi dicite qui estis."

J raised his eyebrows and looked at Luc. "I think he told us to stop and tell him who we are," Luc responded and gleaned a glare from Anacrites.

"Noi cerchiamo Daciana e Falco," Luc tried and was pleased to see a flicker of recognition at the name of Falco. Maybe this Falco was a member of the upper class?

Anacrites and Momus conferred quickly, then Momus beckoned them to follow him to the back of the mansion. There they drew a blank. It was apparent that Daciana had covered the skimpy attire which Theo had first seen her wearing.

The up-side was that it was probably less revealing, which reflected well on Falco. The down-side was that they had no idea what she might be wearing now.

Momus was still keeping an eye on them, but they didn't fancy their chances of getting any information out of him. They were thinking of giving up and moving on when Falco arrived to carry on with his work at Pertinax's house. Anacrites told him about the visitors and sent him to see what they were up to - and to get rid of them.

As soon as he entered the back room, Theo recognized him as Daciana's companion whom he'd seen through the bug glasses.


Falco, much disconcerted, nodded. "Amici Dacianae estisne?"

J lurked behind Luc, looking menacing.

"Daciana. Dove é lei?" Luc demanded, also looking menacing. Momus decided to leave Falco to it and quietly sneaked away.

Falco decided to play dumb and shrugged.

Theo wasn't buying it. He might not speak or understand Latin, but felt he could get his point across without. He stepped in front of Luc and stabbed a finger into Falco's chest.

"You!!" he barked. "Take. Us. " - he indicated the three of them - "To. Da-ci-a-na. NOW!"

J leaned around Theo with raised finger and added, "Stat!"

Falco sighed, wondering what other odd things were going to happen that day, and how Helena was going to react, given it seemed likely she was going to lose her new slave. Make that, serva nova difficilis. To whom Helena seemed to have taken a liking.

"Statim," he muttered and gestured for them to follow him.

Daciana managed to find her way back to the warehouse with little difficulty. Just as when she'd anticipated running away to Aunt Claire's house all those years ago, she'd made a mental note of significant landmarks en route. Then there were the signs she'd left for her team.

She wondered where they were and what they were doing; didn't think they'd find her here. Still, she seemed to have landed on her feet. So far.

Then there was Grandfather Daniel, though she didn't think he'd interfere to the extent of playing 'deus ex machina' for her. She really hoped not. It wasn't like she was totally out of options - not just yet anyway - and she didn't want him to bring trouble on himself for her sake.

With Helena at her stateliest, there was no trouble gaining admittance to "my warehouse." They went through to the back room where Daciana perused the instructions for use of the Chronokinaton. As she had surmised, it was fairly straightforward. With Helena sitting on her lap, Daciana activated the machine, explaining what she was doing so that Helena would be able to use it herself if she wished.

Very soon, having given their names and home date to the woman on the desk, they were strolling around the Agora. First they found a 'bureau de change' where Helena swapped her Roman coins for Agora gold pieces. Then Daciana bartered a good deal for the sale of a number of pieces of jewelry that Helena had never really liked.

Their next port of call was a coffee bar. Daciana ordered two coffees for which Helena happily paid. While their drinks were being freshly prepared, Daciana asked for directions to stalls which sold both ground coffee and cafetières, or coffee presses, to brew it in.

Helena was in seventh heaven, investigating sacks of coffee beans from places she'd never even heard of: Java and Santos, Sumatran, Pico Duarte, Monsoon Malabar, Jamaican Blue Mountain, Colombian, Kenya Peaberry, Mocha, Guatemala Elephant whose large beans looked like elephants' ears, Kopi Luwak from Indonesia, Old Brown Persulian and several that Daciana had never heard of. Presumably these had come from other worlds.

Helena decided against the Kopi Luwak on being told that it had passed through the innards of a civet cat.

Daciana laughed. "It's quite safe, but the flavor isn't all that strong."

"You've actually drunk some?" Helena looked aghast.

"Yes, but I only ever bought one packet as it's very expensive, all things considered. It was rather disappointing in fact."

Helena selected small quantities of half a dozen different varieties. Daciana had the stall holder grind them for her, then pack them in hermetically sealed packets, clearly labeled. Added to these were one large cafetière, two small ones and a hand-operated coffee grinder.

Again, Daciana's guile, with Helena looking on haughtily from behind her, secured a fair deal for the goods. Helena was having a great time and was disinclined to return to Roma immediately. The pair therefore spent the afternoon wandering around the Agora, sightseeing and window-shopping.

Naturally, it didn't end there. Helena bought a new bucket which she knew Falco's mother wanted, and some spoons which Falco needed. Daciana was stuck with the task of carrying all Helena's purchases of course, but at least the bucket came in useful for carrying everything else in.

Finally, Helena decided it was time to go. They would stop at that coffee bar for another drink on their way back to the chronokinaton though.

When Falco and SG-24 arrived at Helena's home by the Capena Gate, it seemed they'd drawn a blank. The door porter took one look at Falco and was initially inclined to deny them entrance. He recalled Falco's previous visit with the new female slave who'd nearly knocked him off his feet.

Now, Falco was back with three tall - very tall and powerfully built - men. He let them in.

Falco asked to see Helena.

"Domina Helena non hic est. Illa Dacianaque mercaturam ierunt."

"What?" Theo demanded.

"They've gone shopping," said a voice close to his ear.

At this point, Helena's maid, Naissa came through, carrying a silver tray with two modern-looking mugs on it. A distinctive odour made Theo take one of the mugs from the tray as she passed him.

He inspected the mug and the remains within it. "I think I know where they are," he said. "The Agora."

Luc gasped, looking horrified. "You mean this Helena's taken her back there to sell her again?" he asked, his voice catching in his throat.

"No, I think they've gone to buy coffee."

"What?!" J exclaimed, dumbfounded.

"Well these two mugs once contained coffee."

"And...?" J scowled, unable to see the logic behind the statement.

"And the Romans didn't know anything about coffee, so I'm told. Though I suspect one of them does now..."

The door porter had been having a bad day; it was about to get worse. A voice behind him said, "Ohh, Daa-niel... Time to 'fess up don'tcha think?"

He looked over his shoulder, found no one there, and gave a terrified shriek. He ran out of the door and up the street still screaming. Falco's face had Schadenfreude written all over it.

"Um, Grandfather...?" Theo prompted.

"Oh all right. But I wasn't interfering." Daniel sounded defensive and remained incorporeal. "I was just keeping an eye on Maxine. Erm, 'Daciana.'" he added for Falco's benefit. "I was enjoying a mug of coffee and she could smell it; they both could. Eventually, I gave in to Maxine's blandishments and provided each of them with a mug of coffee. Helena seemed to take a liking to it—"

"Seemed to take a liking to it?! She had a full blown Homer Simpson moment there! And I quote: 'Mmmmmm, co-ffeeee...'"

"Thank you for your contribution, Jack," Daniel said, sounding anything but grateful. "So then Helena wanted more coffee. It didn't take Maxine long to realize that, while you can't buy coffee in Roma, you can probably buy it at the Agora."

"Oh great!" J exclaimed. "So now we have to find two women in an intergalactic marketplace!"

"Don't exaggerate— Jefferson," Daniel muttered. "You're only looking for two sets: the set of females, which probably reduces the search by at least a half, and the set of outlets selling coffee, which will reduce the search far more."

"And are you coming with us to help?" J asked.

"I'm coming with, yes, but only to translate for Falco. I'm not interfering."

"Much— Ouch! What was that for?"

"You have to ask? Jim..."


"Right," Daniel said. "Heus, Falco, ad mercium receptaculorum duc, si places."

Falco sighed then gestured for the rest to follow him. He led the visitors back to the warehouse as requested by the polite but ghostly voice.

As they arrived, there was the clank of chains and the screech of an ill-fitting gate scraping along the ground. Falco and the Americans pressed themselves back against the wall as someone wearing a hooded cloak of an unmistakable green looked out into the alley.

"Barnabas!" Falco exclaimed, running towards him.

The other man pulled out a pugio and lunged towards him. Falco dodged, blocked and dumped the attacker on the ground. The Americans applauded and cheered.

"I think we know who he learned that move from," J grinned.

"Whom," came Jack's voice.

"Whatever," J said.

Daniel translated as he continued, "She dumped me on my ass the first time we met too." Falco laughed then noticed that Barnabas had taken the opportunity to sneak away, except...

"Sed non Barnaban erat," he muttered to himself, shaking his head and leading the rest to the chronokinaton.

At the Agora, Falco handed in his weapons as they gave their details to the desk clerk. She confirmed that Helena and Daciana were still at the Agora.

As they walked away, Theo pulled his bug glasses out of his pocket.

"I wouldn't do that," Daniel's voice warned. "You really don't want to be arrested as a spy. Worse than being taken as a thief!"

"Much worse," Jack agreed.

"Oh great!" J grouched. "I mean, look at the size of this place! We could still be searching at Christmas!"

"Christmas next year..." Theo added.

Whether Daniel - or Jack - was interfering was not obvious, but a couple of hours later, they arrived at the stall where the two women had bought Helena's coffee and equipment.

The stall holder recognized their descriptions, but couldn't otherwise help. He was very apologetic about this, presumably hoping for their custom. Oh, on second thoughts, they'd come from that direction - he pointed - and might have gone back that way. They thanked him and set off back the way they'd come.

Mistress and slave were enjoying yet another mug of coffee. Helena's eyes opened wide as she looked over Daciana's shoulder.

"Falco!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, Fruit, time to go home," he smiled.

"You, too, Maxine," J said, as his linguist's head whipped round in disbelief.

"What? You've bought me back from Falco?"

"No. You were never truly for sale."

"But—" she protested, "Falco paid good money for me. It's hardly fair that he should lose out. I mean, you did bring some money with you. Didn't you?"

"Of course!"

"Give!" she said, holding a hand out. J handed over his money pouch. Maxine delved around and came up with a twenty Agp gold coin, then returned the pouch.

She grabbed Falco's hand and pressed the coin into it. He looked at the coin and gasped.

"Sed est non—" he began.

"Falco, nihil dic!" she ordered.

Falco looked at the ex-slave and back at his hand, and smiled. "Tibi gratias do," he said softly.

"All right, now let's all go home," J said as Luc and Theo both gave Maxine hugs.

"Oh, we can't go back home yet!" Maxine objected.

"What now?"J growled.

"We have to go back to Roma so I can teach Helena - or rather, Helena's maid - how to make coffee. Obviously."

"Obviously," J groaned.




Crown Infernal