At 0800, all of SG-24 was in the 'Gate Room
except Maxine. Beck was grumbling to Kern about the weaker sex. "Bet she's
in the bathroom fixing her make-up," he growled.
Kern gave him a puzzled look. "She doesn't wear
"Fixing her hair then."
Beck was right about one thing, Maxine was in the
bathroom - the men's bathroom on level 15 - trying to coax Radu to come with
her. He was sitting in a corner hugging his knees and looking totally shut
"Please, Radu, I need your help."
"No," he sniffed. "You're just going to sell me
to someone else. I won't leave Stefan!"
"Wherever did you get that idea from? Of course I'm not
going to sell you."
"The one you call Beck says you're going to take me to the
slave market and sell me."
Maxine raised her hands in the air and gave an infuriated
squawk. "Don't listen to a word that man says, Radu. He's a liar and a
"Then why does he work here?" Another one of Radu's
"If I had any say in the matter he wouldn't. I wasn't
going to tell you why I want you to come with me because I don't want to raise
false hopes, but I can see I'm going to have to now. You see, officially, I may
need your language skills. Between you and me, I have another reason. Yes, they
probably buy and sell slaves there - no, let me finish - and it occurs to me
that maybe your parents and sisters may be there, and if they are, then I won't
recognize them, but you will."
For a moment hope burned in Radu's eyes. It faded just as
quickly. "But it happened so long ago. They wouldn't be there now."
"Probably not, that's why I didn't want to raise false
hopes. But people change their slaves - at least I suppose they do, and
if they were bought from there, then they may be taken back there. Like I said,
you're the best person to recognize them. So will you come with me?
Radu nodded and the pair arrived in the 'Gate Room only five
"Problem?" J asked quietly.
"Yes," Maxine growled just as quietly, "our
One the other side, J made a bee-line for the AVCOP and
inspected the damage.
"Hello?" he called. "Anybody there?"
Maxine called the same question in Greek. A couple of the
Agora's SWAT team appeared. "We thank you for protecting our
machine," she said with a smile.
"This is yours?" the one in charge said.
"It belongs to my people. We send it through the 'Gate
before we visit, to see if it is a safe place. Watching you arrest those
thieves, we see that it is."
"In that case, this belongs to you," he said,
handing her a green velvet pouch that jingled. "We hope it will cover your
repairs. I'm afraid they did not fetch a very good price, so much of it was
taken up by the administration fee."
"Of course. I'm sure it will be more than enough, and we
"Enjoy your visit, ma-am, and don't forget to leave your
weapons at the arms store by the entrance. You won't be needing them
here," he said with a smile, then the two disappeared back into the
"What have you got there, Dr. Pepperday," J asked.
"I don't know and I'm not going to look until we're well
away from here. I don't want to look as if I don't trust them. It seems this
whole place operates on trust. We have to turn our weapons in at the entrance,
by the way."
"What?" Beck exclaimed, incredulous.
"If that's the way this place works, then you'll turn your
weapons in like everyone else. That's an order," J said, his tone
underlining that this was not up for discussion. "You and Kern take
He placed Radu between himself and Maxine to keep him out of
Beck's sights and away from his poisonous tongue. Luc and Theo brought up the
Just inside the entrance on the left was a large stone slab
with Greek lettering carved into it. It set out the basic workings of the
Agora, along with a list of dos and don'ts which Maxine translated for the rest
of the team.
Then she registered a notice board next to stone slab. Numerous
pieces of paper were pinned to it and a pane of glass protected the papers from
the elements. A quick glance showed that the pages contained translations of
rules in many languages - including English. She grimaced. Still, it was
Basically, everyone who visited the Agora was in a sanctuary of
sorts. Provided traders abided by the rules, they were free from let or
hindrance by anyone else and could come and go as they pleased. The rules were
few - no bearing arms, no stealing, no kidnaping, no wounding and no killing.
Any breaking of these laws would result in the offenders being sold on the
slave market without the option of appeal. All policing was done by the
"Presumably those are the SWAT type guys at the
'Gate," Maxine said.
"Well, you can see them coming a mile off," Beck said
dismissively. "We'd be long gone "
"We are abiding by the rules," J stated.
"That includes you, Beck."
"Just because the guys at the 'Gate, when they're not
hiding behind the bushes, are easy to spot," Luc pointed out,
"doesn't mean they don't have undercover cops here like we do. So if you
break any of the rules and get caught, we will disown you."
"That's for him to say, not you," Beck grunted
jerking his thumb at J.
"Wot he said," J growled. "Clear enough for
"Sir, yes sir," Beck muttered.
They crossed the road to the large stone building with the
word, Oplostasio over the door and went inside.
"We're new here - our first visit," Maxine explained
in Greek to the guy behind the counter. "I understand we have to turn our
"That's correct. They simply aren't necessary here, and
it discourages people from taking the law into their own hands if they're
unhappy about something. We like to keep things peaceful here."
"We will get them back when we leave, won't we?"
"But of course," the man replied, looking surprised
that anyone should think otherwise.
"So what do we do?" Maxine asked.
"I give you a numbered box. You put all your weapons in
it. I give you a token with the same number as your box, and put your box in
storage. When you leave, hand over your token to get your box back.
"Indeed. Could we have six boxes then, please. The boy
doesn't have any weapons." As the man pulled out boxes from under the
counter and placed them on top of it, Maxine continued. "You must have a
lot of weapons here, seeing how busy this place is."
"Not really, no. Just first-timers like yourselves.
People who know the Agora know they don't need to bother - and it's less to
"So it is," she smiled as she packed her weapons
away. She was glad they'd decided against bringing the zats. "Does this
The man nodded. When she'd finished, he gave her a rectangular
iron token bearing the number 79 and put the box back under the counter. The
rest followed suit.
"And your 9mil., Beck," J said, "...and your
While SG-24 were in the Oplostasio, Radu wandered back to the
notice board. Maxine went over to join him while they waited for the rest.
"It says what the big stone notice says," he said,
pointing to one page, "in my language." His voice dropped to a
whisper. "Maybe they are here," he said wistfully.
"Don't get your hopes up," Maxine warned. "I
could cheerfully strangle Captain Beck."
"It's all right," Radu said. "I'd rather know
than not know."
"Except if you didn't know, you wouldn't know you didn't
"Never mind Oh. My. God!" Maxine waved J over.
"What's the matter?"
"We need to lose two."
J waited until the whole team had gathered, Beck last and still
complaining. He led them to the beginning of the market proper. As he'd hoped,
the paths through the gridiron had signs with arrows. The paths running
north-south were numbered using triple digits, and the ones running east-west
had two Greek letters and a number.
"As this is an intelligence gathering mission, it will
maximize what we find out if we split up. Radu, as you don't have a
communicator, you'll be with Dr. Pepperday. Lucarelli, Beck and Kern, you'll be
on the other side of the river - Lucarelli, take the western bridge, Beck the
eastern bridge and Kern the central bridge. On this side of the river, Dr.
Hunter take the western side, Dr. Pepperday the central part and I'll go east.
Beck and Kern, check in with Captain Lucarelli on the hour every hour beginning
at ten hundred - unless there's an emergency. Lucarelli and the rest of you
check in with me likewise. Now off you go - scoot, and try to stay out of
As they split up to go their separate ways, J grabbed Maxine's
arm. "Give it five minutes then meet me back at the Opli-whatever,"
he said quietly, then set off after Beck.
Shortly after, J and Maxine, along with Radu, met up outside
the Oplostasio. "Okay, what's the problem," J asked.
"Radu had a look at that notice board across the road. I
didn't pay it much attention - which I should have done. Just scanned the first
couple of pages which say the same thing as the carved slab in other languages.
I didn't check out which languages were used. Some I recognize - one is
Romanian - and some I don't. The one that worries me is that one."
She pointed to the bottom left-hand corner of the board. "It's Linear A.
The goa'uld used it..."
"But they died out a hundred years ago."
"Maybe. But several years back, when they were trying to
recruit me for the ONS, Rachel King brought me some samples to decode. One of
them was Linear A, which has never officially been decoded. I figured it was a
trap for me at the time, but now I'm not so sure. It purported to be written by
Azi Dahaka-- "
"Azi Dahaka. He was probably a goa'uld. He called himself
a god and referred to a number his enemies, including Baal whom we know SG-1
came up against. As you say, the known goa'uld were wiped out a long
time ago, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few more lording it over some
backwoods planets that we don't know about. I'm just saying, it's something to
bear in mind."
"But we keep it to ourselves, right," J said.
"Well, I don't want to explain all that to Bradfield, and
certainly not Warren, so yes. Let's not go looking for trouble."
"And I won't say anything either," Radu grinned.
J and Maxine exchanged smiles. It was nice to note that he was
losing some of his downtrodden slave manner.
While they were together, Maxine fished the pouch out of her
pocket, undid the drawstring and reached inside. There was one gold-colored
token or coin with 'A - '' stamped on one side and '5' stamped
on the other. Two smaller gold coins were stamped with a '2.' There were a
number of silver coins of assorted sizes totaling 36 units and 25 in copper
coins. They had no idea what the units represented, but would no doubt find out
before too long.
"I think we'll keep quiet about these too," Maxine
suggested, "especially the goldie ones."
With that, they went back to their mission plan and split up
The Agora was an amazing place. Apart from the numbering and
lettering system of the broad paved paths of the gridiron, it seemed totally
disorganized. Booths selling pieces of mediaeval armor - but no weapons -
rubbed shoulders with fruit and vegetable stalls, which were next to purveyors
of materials from buff-colored homespun to finest silk and satins dyed in
brilliant colors, followed by futuristic devices sold by the next one along,
and so on.
There were also people selling cooked foods like burgers from
mobile units, and every so often fixed, brick built cafés could be
visited. Many had pictures of the cafés' cuisine displayed outside. Some
of them made Maxine think of Grandfather Daniel's first mission and the chicken
flavored Abydonian creature. She was glad they'd come well equipt with energy
She was particularly impressed by the number of public rest
rooms. They were very well-kept with floral decorations inside and showers. Of
course, a place that size didn't want an outbreak of dysentery or some such, so
she supposed it was a logical thing to do.
Radu kept pestering her to visit the slave market - a bit like
Rusty when he was little and nagging for ice-cream. She blamed this on Beck.
Otherwise, it was turning out to be a pleasurable day out.
Shortly after, she'd checked in with J per orders at 1000, she
found something that she absolutely had to buy. As she and Radu were
passing a drapery booth, her attention was caught by a wooden ladder-back chair
at the back of it. There was the ladder-back clearly visible. It was about in
the position it should be, but it seemed to be floating there. It had neither
seat nor legs.
"What's that?" she asked in Greek, pointing at the
The young man, clad in silver lamé, who was in charge of
the booth did not speak Greek. It took a while, but finally they found a common
tongue - Romanian. This lead to a three-way conversation with Radu.
The rest of the chair was invisible because there was a bale
of material laid on the seat of the chair with some of the material hanging
down in front of the chair's legs. Radu had some difficulty in expressing the
information that it had negative refractive properties and a multi-layered
"fishnet" structure which was transparent over a wide range of light
"Basically, it makes things invisible, yes?" Maxine
managed in Romanian.
The stall-holder nodded. He then demonstrated that it also had
velcro-like properties; press two edges together and it formed a seam. It would
be ideal to make covers to hide the zats in, Maxine thought. Now came the
ticklish bit the haggling...
The whole bale would cost her a hundred and fifty golds. She
asked how much she could buy for four golds. This was about half as much as she
figured they'd need. By dint of batting her eyelashes and looking helpless,
aided by Radu looking at the guy with big puppy-dog eyes, she managed to coax
the seller into giving her twice the length he'd initially stated for just
seven golds. She couldn't help wondering, as her purchase was being wrapped in
brown paper, who'd got the better side of the deal. Oh well. She stashed the
parcel in her backpack.
A little further along, she found another 'must buy'
opportunity. This stall sold an assortment of technological devices. Maxine
hadn't a clue what most of them were, but one little group of three looked
familiar. When Ash had removed the housing of her computer to check for the
bug, she'd seen similar boards with a pattern of wires, and small bead-like
things and little black squares with silver legs that were stuck into the
wires. It would be nice to take him a souvenir as compensation for being stuck
at home most of the time.
The stall-holder spoke English - sort of. English was clearly
the root language, but it had apparently developed along slightly different
lines. Fortunately, it was close enough for communication. More or less.
"Dez serky-bods," the middle-aged man behind the
counter told her. "Seckinan, so A'm seln nemoff chip."
"How much do they cost?"
He pointed to each on in turn. "De forgig's ta siller, di
aygig's for siller and de ferrytagig's twenny siller - twennisigs siller ferraw
Maxine looked doubtful. This was largely because, even in plain
English, most of it went over her head. The tradesman took it to mean that she
thought he was overcharging - which he was.
"Tellya wuh - less drop de sig siller. Mekkit wun golt.
Maxine was still working it out. It seemed that twenty silver
pieces made one gold.
"Ah, ya drava ard baggen. Sistin ferralot. Dill?"
"Dill," Maxine said fishing one 10 and three 2 silver
coins from the green velvet purse.
She was just adding the parceled-up boards to her backpack when
J called her up.
"I'm across the river - the east bridge - and I need you
here a.s.a.p. I'm at a sort of police station"
"What?!" Maxine exclaimed. "Oh. Don't tell me.
This is Beck, isn't it?"
"Oh yeah! Got it in one. Sorry to drag you away, but I
want to - strike that - I need to know what's going on. This place is on
the corner of paths 294 and ay, squiggly-letter, 6."
"Which squiggly letter?"
"The Greek one."
"There are two squiggly Greek letters, J. Zeta looks like
- um - the profile of a face looking left, and xi looks more like a coiled
"Um, the second one. I think."
"Okay, we're on our way."
When Maxine and Radu arrived nearly half an hour had passed.
The stone building only had two rooms, an office and a cell with bars
separating the two. Beck, looking grumpy, had his hands cuffed behind him and
was in the cell.
J was looking much grumpier. Two granite-faced members of the
Astunomia and a third person were keeping them company.
"Boy, am I glad to see you!" J said. "At first,
these guys thought I was in on this too."
"Beck put out a distress call, and spite of what I said,
I answered it..." J said with a scowl in Beck's direction.
"But they realized you're not actually involved?"
"They called in an interpreter," J gestured towards
the SWAT guys' companion, "and I persuaded them to hold their fire till my
own interpreter arrived."
Maxine turned to one of the SWATs and asked in Greek what the
problem was. There followed quite a long and involved conversation.
"So?" J demanded as the discussion wound down.
"What's happened exactly?"
"In the first place, Beck stole an apple and the stall
holder cried 'Thief!' She pointed out Beck who was trying to escape under the
"Hey, I was hungry and it was only a fucking apple!"
"Yeah? That's what Eve said," J responded,
"--paraphrasing. If you were hungry, you should've eaten one of your
Beck glowered at him.
"Anyway, when Beck called you, they assumed he was one of
your slaves rather than a free man. His attitude when you arrived caused them
to re-think that idea, at which point they called in Nikos to translate. Bottom
line, while you are exonerated of all blame, Beck is to sold on the slave
market this afternoon."
"No!" Beck exclaimed, as he looked the consequences
of his actions in the face. Then a glimmer of salvation dawned in his mind.
"Wait a minute, you could buy me! You got the money from the sale of those
two guys by the 'Gate. That has to be enough."
"I'm sorry, Captain, but no-- "
"Wha'dya mean, no?"
"I mean we don't have enough to buy you. We'd need at
least three times what we were paid. When a thief is sold, part of the money
goes to the victim to pay for loss or damage. The rest goes in administration
"What? You mean they keep the profits for themselves?
Isn't that a tad hypocritical?" Beck demanded.
Maxine replied sternly, "Not really. They have to pay the
wages of the police. You knew the rules. You knew the penalties
for breaking them, yet you went ahead and broke them anyway. I hope you're
satisfied! Oh, and I'll have your token back for your weapons, seeing as they
belong to the S.G.C."
Beck pulled the token out of his pocket and handed it over. He
looked as if he was watching hope trickle away with it.
"But on the bright side if, in future, we return with
enough funds, we may be able to buy you back. If we can find out where you've
Beck, face suddenly grey, sat down on the concrete-like floor,
his legs apparently incapable of supporting him. "It was only an
apple," he whined.
Maxine exchanged a few more words with Nikos, then turned back
to Beck. "We can be present at the auction and see who buys you, but
that's the best dill - er - deal I can get."
At that, Radu went over to the bars. "Who did you say was
going to be sold at the slave market?" he crowed, then stuck his tongue
out at Beck. Maxine tried really hard not to laugh as they left the
building but Schadenfreude is so hard to resist, especially when the pain is
Outside, Maxine said, "one thing I didn't want to say in
Beck's hearing is that we are going to get a cut of his sale price."
"What?" J growled. He was wearing That Face again.
Maxine scowled back and drew an exasperated breath. "I
have not said or done anything that will affect Beck's fate in any way -
certainty not adversely. I merely pointed out that you, too, were a victim of
his theft - the embarrassment, the humiliation and so on - so after the
stall-holder gets her compensation for the apple, you get fifty per cent of the
remainder. I thought, if we have some of the local currency, maybe we can find
some way of increasing it and then - maybe - we can buy him back."
J thought about it. "If Beck behaves like he usually
does, maybe they'll be willing to sell him back to us at a loss, plus we have
the nine golds we got from the-- What have you done with it?"
Maxine bit her lip. "I'll show you when we get
"Well it'd better be good!"
"Ohhh yeah!" Maxine grinned.
They didn't tell the rest of the team about Beck's fate. They
thought about it, particularly the likelihood of Kern's wanting to say farewell
to his erstwhile colleague, but figured it would probably just cause more
trouble, as if it wasn't bad enough.
Beck was the seventh piece of 'merchandise' on sale in the
afternoon. Maxine was no longer laughing when she saw him paraded along the
catwalk wearing nothing but a loincloth.
"I know we wanted him off the team, but not like
this," Maxine said, her voice tinged with some distress.
There was a sign around his neck that read "Item 271 -
Peter Beck." Underneath was written 'KLEPHTES' in large letters, meaning
thief, and below that, 'Oplites' meaning soldier. The bravado had gone now and
despite his fine physique, he looked an abject specimen of misery.
This did not suit the sellers. The slave master gave him a
sharp thwack across the buttocks with a metal switch to provoke him into a more
soldierly bearing. The three watchers winced in synch.
The bidding, which had been sluggish, picked up after that, and
the hammer fell at 42 golds. The buyer looked like an ancient Greek with his
wavy black hair and crimped black beard.
The three followed him to the equivalent of the cashier's
counter. There was no bulletproof glass between the two grey-haired clerks and
the customers. There was no need with the example of the slave market before
The buyer gave his name as Stelios, representing Leonidas of
Maxine gasped, wondering if this was some distant echo of
Earth. If so, she knew how it played out and tapped him on the shoulder. When
she had his attention, she said in her best Greek, "Beware of Ephialtes of
Trachis, son of Eurydemus of Malis. He will betray you. And put no faith in the
Stelios gave her a hard look. "You are a sibyl?"
"Something like that. Heed my words. They may save your
life - many lives..."
Stelios nodded. "Ephialtes of Trachis. I will remember and
thank you." He took a heavy gold ring from one finger, took her hand and
laid it on her palm. He folded her fingers over it and said before the clerks
as his witnesses, "this is my gift to the sibyl." Then he turned back
to the cashier to complete his transaction.
They waited until Stelios had finished and was walking away.
Then Maxine explained that they had come to collect damages from the sale of
While the clerk checked his register of out-going payments, J
asked, "What was all that about?"
"I'm not entirely sure, but I think I might have just
saves Beck's life. I'll explain later."
Maxine realized that both the clerks were staring at them with
mouths hanging open. She stared back, head tipped to one side. "Is there a
problem?" she asked in Greek.
"No problem, ma'am," the nearer clerk replied in
English. "Just haven't heard that language in a long time, is all."
Maxine and J exchanged surprised looks. "Where do you come
from?" Maxine asked.
"We don't know. It seems like we've been here
forever," he said, under cover of counting out the money. "Sometimes
we have dreams of being elsewhere. Now and again, we have flashes of - well,
it's like another life."
"What are your names?" J asked.
"We don't really know. I call myself Noah and he's
Jethro," was the reply. "We don't know if that's right, but we had to
be called something and those names sounded, well, not familiar exactly, but
like they fitted somehow."
"Are there any more of you here? I mean more who speak
The two men exchanged glances. "America!" they said
in unison. "That name does sound kinda familiar," Noah
"But we're the only ones here that we know of,"
Maxine asked, almost timidly, "Does the name, Jonathan
Pepperday, sound in any way familiar?"
"Now you mention it," Jethro nodded, "it does
have a ring to it... Can't place it though."
"Colonel Pepperday?" she tried again. Both of them
looked like they were straining to remember, but the memory, if such it was,
was clearly elusive. They looked quite old, mid-sixties possibly. Old enough to
be survivors of the Disaster, but equally, old enough to be forgetful or
"Are you... erm, are you slaves here?"
"We were once," Noah said, "but when they found
we could be useful with the math and all, they gave us our freedom."
By now, there was a bit of a queue building up behind them and
grumbling about the wait, so J pocketed the four gold 5-unit coins, thanked
them, and shepherded his companions away before the team got into more trouble.
"So what do we do know?" Maxine asked.
"I think we go home - before Kern can get himself into
trouble as well. It's going to be a long enough debriefing as it is."
"Oh god!" Maxine exclaimed, taking a second look into
her crystal ball. "I am so not looking forward to explaining all
this to Warren!"