Crown Infernal

Prelude - II: Theo


The Bloodline of Dr. Daniel Jackson

A big thank-you to DM for the Beta

WARNING: a seasoning of salty language

On Saturday, May 29th 2094, when she was ten and a half and, according to her father, growing like a damn' mushroom, Maxine went missing.

The atmosphere at home had been tense all that week. At the beginning there was a glacial frostiness and the temperature had slowly ratchetted up from there. Grandma Cassidy had taken Rusty out to the children's play area shortly after lunch to give Kim a break and maybe tire him out a little.

When The Row finally broke out, it could have blistered paint. Felix had taken himself off to the little shed at the end of the yard and locked himself in. That left Maxine listening to the vitriolic words and clanging missiles on her own.

She'd had enough and wanted some peace and quiet to get her homework done. So she'd packed her books and pencils back into her school-bag along with her pajamas, let herself out of the house - unnoticed by her parents - and set off for Aunt Claire's. She'd previously taken note of the route her parents took for family visits, in the expectation that, sooner or later, she would need to find her own way there.

Maxine arrived outside Aunt Claire's house late in the afternoon, and, not having been able to observe the key code, had to scrape aside some of the gravel and wriggle under the gate. Good thing she was skinny as well as tall for her age. Strangely, Aunt Claire didn't seem overly surprised to see her, and listened calmly to her account.

"I see," was all she said, then led Maxine into the kitchen and gave her some fresh lemonade and cookies, all homemade.

Maxine cried a little, but tried not to let Aunt Claire see. Aunt Claire had seen but refrained from comment. He grandniece had already become quite self-contained and wouldn't have wanted sympathy in case it made her cry all the more. Some fool of a teacher had recently told her that 'big girls don't cry' when Maxine was in trouble at school and felt particularly guilty about it. It had made Claire's palm itch to slap the stupid woman when she'd gotten to hear about it.

"You can use the kitchen table for your homework. You won't be disturbed," Claire said, then went to have a word with Joel, her gardener/handyman.

She could have used the cranky telephone service but felt that the personal touch would drive the point home more forcefully. She really wanted to eye-ball her wayward nephew. It would also be easier on her temper if the 'phone system was in one of its less co-operative moods which it was more often than not these days. She sometimes wondered if this was down to covert surveillance of some sort, which was a disincentive to use the 'phone at all.

Joel, the son of the then janitor at Harrington, had been in Claire's employ for nearly thirteen years, ever since he'd left school. He had never done well there. He'd been regarded as a bit simple and tormented accordingly. Claire had given him a job which was well within his compass, and had generally taken him under her wing. Not surprisingly, he had rapidly become devoted to her.

Now, she gave him instructions to drive her car to Logan Street and to return with Rufus Pepperday. "If he refuses to come, tell him I will come to him if he doesn't come to me. No need to tell him that Maxine is here. He's smart enough to work it out anyway, but if he asks, just tell him you have no idea."

"I shall play dumb," Joel replied and laughed. "I am quite good at that!"

"So you are, Joel," Claire grinned appreciatively. She'd known for a long time that, though he was not academically inclined, he was far from stupid.

As it turned out, Rufus had come without need of coercion. Burning with resentment at what he saw as Aunt Claire's interference in his life, he strode into Claire's home loudly demanding the return of his daughter. Claire called him into her parlor and listened in patient silence to his rant.

This took him through an extensive repertoire up to and including his favorite beef about Aunt Claire, in her role of Maxine's godmother, insisting that for the child's own safety, she should have an additional, and biblical, first name. "Like you didn't think I could protect my own daughter from the fuckin' Warriors...."

"Done now?"

"I guess. So let me have my daughter."

"No." Claire held up her hand against further protests. "Do you seriously think that, having driven Maxine to leave home and walk three miles across town all by herself with your screaming and yelling, that coming here and screaming and yelling at me is going to make her want to return?"

Five foot eight inches looked up over her wire-framed spectacles and directed a piercing look at six foot two. Six foot two looked down at the carpet and shuffled his feet.

"All right. Now listen up. This is the way it's going to be. Joel will take you home where you will make your peace with Kim. Maxine - she has a name, a fine name, which you gave her - will be staying here overnight. Joel will return her tomorrow evening in time for bed. For the future, when you and Kim have a row - and I'm neither optimistic enough nor stupid enough to think that this will never happen - then before either of you says a word, you Rufus Pepperday, will take your children to a place of safety, either here or to Kim's mother or to any other place they choose. Because if I have any more of your waifs turning up on my doorstep, you will be in fucking deep shit. Do I make myself clear?"

Rufus nodded. His aunt had made herself abundantly clear and without ever raising her voice.

That evening, Claire tucked Maxine up in bed in the best guestroom and brought her a mug of soothing warm milk sweetened with honey.

"Now, Childie," she said, "I'm going to tell you a bedtime story. Unlike most bed time stories, this one is true. Also unlike most bedtime stories, this one is dangerous and best kept strictly between the two of us."

"Or the Civil Guard will come knocking at our doors?"

Claire nodded.

"Oh but that wouldn't be the first time. And Daddy's never been kept in jail longer than overnight."

"Yes, and I sincerely hope he will continue to keep two or three steps ahead of the authorities. This though, could be much, much worse."

Maxine's eyes opened very wide. "Th-the Warriors of Christ?" she whispered.

"Yes indeed. That's why we all to go to all the church services, whether we want to or not."

"Or they'll do bad things to us?"

"If they come knocking on our doors, they will do very bad things to us, and they'll have the Civil Guard with them, to say it never happened or that we resisted being taken for 're-education.' I say this not to frighten you, but to warn you. It is important to know how things are. It helps us to avoid making painful mistakes."

"Maybe you shouldn't tell me Aunt Claire."

"Oh, I think you're old enough and sensible enough. And it will give you a reason to hope for better things as you pay the obligatory lip service to the barbarian religious zealots. Besides, I trust you. I know you'll never let me down."

Maxine looked very gratified. "Ok, if you think it'll be all right. I trust you too, Aunt Claire."

"Then I'll begin. This is a story about Grandfather Daniel."

"Oh. It must be a very old story then."

Claire laughed. "To you, yes. To me, not so much. In fact, when I was your age, he used to tell me his stories at bedtime too. He wasn't supposed to, just like I'm not supposed to tell you, though for other reasons. Things were much different then. Maybe, one day, rationality - sanity - will return. Anyway, this story is also about a marvelous artefact, a sort of machine, called a Stargate. There are billions of them and they were made by people called the Ancients millions of years ago."

"So the Earth isn't six thousand years old, then?"

Claire chuckled. "No it isn't. It's about four and a half billion years old and that is something else you should keep very much to yourself. In fact - basic rule - if it goes against anything written in the Bible, don't say it! Not in public anyway."

Claire went on to relate the story of how Grandfather Daniel had figured out how to make the Stargate work and how Colonel Jack O'Neill, whose name was actually Jonathan, had come on the scene.

"Jonathan? Like my grandfather who went 'missing in action' after The Great Disaster?"

"My brother, yes. He was named after Colonel O'Neill." Claire smiled sadly. "Or General O'Neill as he later became."

Maxine managed to stay awake through the tale of Grandfather Daniel's being dragged across the desert by the mastadge, but as Aunt Claire described the discovery of actual people living on the alien planet, her eyelids gave up the fight and she slipped into a peaceful sleep and dreams of distant worlds.

The next day, in between visits to church, Claire finished off the story and Maxine asked her about the things Grandfather Daniel knew - the archaeology, anthropology and linguistics, so Claire told her. She too had doctorates in archaeology and anthropology along with ancient languages. Maxine was an apt pupil and a very quick study, soaking up information like a sponge.

Thereafter, Maxine spent most of her weekends at Aunt Claire's. Joel collected her from home after tea on Friday and took her home in time for bed on Sunday evening. And so it went on until Uncle Waldo's forty-eighth birthday party on Saturday, 27th April 2097. Claire liked to throw parties, ably assisted by Joel's wife and her sister, to celebrate the birthdays of her nearest kin, having no family of her own to celebrate.

Waldo Hunter was Claire's elder surviving nephew. His birthday was actually on Sunday 28th. However, knowing that his wife, the baleful Martha-Bethany, would make his life hell - which was an appropriate metaphor, Claire thought - if she threw a party for him on the day itself, she'd organized the party for the day before.

Naturally, the party did not go without a hitch, not that Claire expected it to with Martha-Bethany and her obnoxious daughter, Marya-Mehitabel among the guests.

Marya, nearly twenty years old, was very proud of the fact that her name meant 'Handmaiden of The Lord,' a title she took very seriously. No one had ever told her that it also meant 'bitter.' Waldo had certainly kept very quiet on the subject. Like most of Grandfather Daniel's descendants, he wasn't stupid. Unlike Grandfather Daniel, he had a strong sense of self-preservation, though it had plainly been taking a nap the day he asked Martha-Bethany Barnes to marry him.

His wife made much of the fact that Waldo's birthday was actually on Sunday, and should be spent in prayer and contemplation, not in pleasurable indulgence; moving it a day forward was just plain cheating.

"And yet you came too," Claire observed mildly. "I would not have been offended had you declined my invitation."

"Oh, I haven't come to enjoy myself," Martha-Bethany informed her severely.

No, just to make sure no one else does, Claire thought.

"Are you not aware, that although today is a Saturday, it is also St. Theophilus' Day, St. Floribert's Day and St. John of Constantinople's Day."

"Martha-Bethany!" Claire exclaimed in feigned horror, "You haven't turned Catholic, have you?"

The unwelcome guest's jaw dropped. "I most certainly have not!"

"Oh, I do apologize! I should have remembered. The Catholics call them Feast Days, don't they?"

Martha-Bethany gave a deeply offended sniff and strode off towards the dining room with her nose in the air.

"Oops," Claire murmured to herself, "shouldn't have done that."

She noticed that two other guests were missing and had a good idea of where to find them. Collecting some peppermint drops from the kitchen, she went out into the yard and headed for the little summerhouse. When the sun was on it, it was pleasantly warm inside even on cold spring days. Sure enough, the curtains were pulled too and voices were coming from inside. As she came closer she heard Rufus' voice.

"How on earth do you put up with the woman?"

"Long years of practice," Waldo replied ruefully. "She wasn't always like this you know - only since her cousin came to visit a coupla months after we were married, and brought this hell-fire preacher with him - Pastor Jeremiah Phelps, may he burn in hell for all the trouble he's caused!"

Claire knocked lightly on the door and entered. The two men, whisky glasses in hand, had turned to the door, aghast, but relaxed when they saw who it was.

"God, Aunt Claire!" Rufus exclaimed, "Give a man a heart attack, why don't you?"

Claire handed them a couple of peppermint drops each. "I just came to warn you, actually. Martha-Bethany is on the warpath."

"Tell me something I don't know," Waldo grunted glumly.

"So I suggest you put the whisky bottle back under the floorboards - the glasses too. Joel will fetch them in later when everyone's gone. Then you'd better come back inside before Martha-Bethany misses you, and make like you're having a really miserable time."

Waldo chuckled, appreciating the mordant humor, while Rufus stashed the whisky. He'd just replaced the loose plank when the lady in question arrived, barging in without warning.

"I thought so! And what are you up to in here, as if I couldn't guess?" she said, sniffing the air suspiciously.

"Just havin' a little man talk, Martha-B," Rufus said, deliberately needling her with his unwelcome familiarity.

"Actually, they were just discussing what to get you for your birthday next month," Claire said.

Martha-Bethany jumped. "Oh, Doctor Pepperday! I didn't see you there," she said disapprovingly, as if Claire had deliberately concealed herself behind the door. Turning back to the men, she asked, eyes full of distrust, "And what have you decided on?"

"Aw, now Martha-B, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if you knew in advance, now would it?" Rufus drawled. There were times when Claire really liked her troublesome nephew.

Meanwhile Maxine, who had willingly been co-opted into sharing hostess duties, was circulating among the other guests, passing round plates of cookies and cakes and collecting empty cups and glasses. Passing the door to the breakfast room, she heard her cousin, Zachary Ward, talking in a low voice.

"I swear, Theo, there's definitely something fishy going on up in Cheyenne Mountain."

"Just because a guy goes missing, doesn't mean it has anything to do with the mountain."

"Yes. It does," Zak said more forcefully. "You don't know the whole story."

"Do I want to?" Theo asked. He sounded unhappy, Maxine thought.

"Yeah, it's dead weird!" The third voice belonged to Zak's eleven year old brother, Dominic.

Maxine had to go in. As she entered, three heads turned towards her, wearing much the same expressions as Rufus and Waldo had when Claire arrived, though this time, there was no whisky involved. There was a collective sigh of relief from the three boys when they saw who it was.

"Yees," Maxine said with a knowing look. "I suggest you keep your voices down. Or find somewhere really private. You never know who might be earwigging..." She thought for a moment. "Alternatively, you could change the subject to something safer."

An hour or so later, Maxine came across Theo on his own. He was sitting on the floor in the nook under the staircase, with his arms wrapped round his knees and his head resting on them, looking towards the wall. He was a picture of abject misery. She got down on hands and knees and moved into the space beside him. He didn't seem to notice, so she gave him a gentle nudge.

"Go away, Marya," he growled.

"Not Marya," she murmured.

He raised his head and gave her a slightly watery smile but said nothing. Neither did Maxine for a while. Just let him get used to the company. She nudged him again.

"What?" he scowled.

"I think we ought to talk," she said, "but not here."

"You don't want to have anything to do with me," Theo responded, and added with a slight crack in his voice, "I'll only drag you down with me."

"Yes I do, and no you won't, so come on. I know somewhere where the Malevalent Marya can't creep up on us."

She grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the nook, sliding him across Aunt Claire's well-polished wood floor. Theo gave in to force majeure and got to his feet. Looking round and seeing no sign of either Marya or her mother, Maxine dragged Theo behind her through the kitchen and out into the yard. Joel was busy raking a seed-bed in the vegetable garden. Maxine went up to him.

"Joel, you know Marya don't you?"

Joel nodded, making a sour face.

"Well, if she comes out here looking for us, could you tell her you haven't seen us? The same goes for Aunt Martha-Bethany."

Joel rolled his eyes. "It'll be a pleasure, Miss Maxine." He gave her and Theo a speculative grin. "Are you off canoodling?"

"Certainly not," Maxine said.

Joel's face fell. "Sorry Miss Maxine, I didn't mean t—"

"No, I'm the one who should apologize. I didn't mean to snap. Must be The Marya Effect." She shuddered.

"Oh. I see," Joel said, giving Maxine a relieved smile and a thumbs-up. "Ok then. I haven't seen you. Right?"


Maxine led Theo to what had once been a stable, but now housed Aunt Claire's car, and the old 'people carrier' that Rufus had restored so that Joel could drive the Hunters and the Wards between Denver and the Springs. The old stable also had a hayloft.

Maxine and Theo climbed the ladder and pulled it up after them. They lay on the floor where they could see anyone coming in, and duck out of the way so as not to be seen themselves. Maxine didn't bother wasting time on small talk.

"Ok, what's Her Awfulness done now?"

Theo gave a morose sigh. "It's more what she said and she's probably right; I shall burn in hell for all eternity..."

"That's bollocks! She's just trying to get under your skin - and succeeding by the sound of it. Don't let her get to you."

"That's easy to say. You don't have to live with her."

"Look, Theo, have you ever done, or would you ever do, anything that would make your Dad dig a deep pit in your yard, fill it with kindling, set fire to it then throw you into it?"

"No! Of course I haven't! He— he wouldn't!" Theo spluttered, horrified.

"And even if you'd done something really bad, he still wouldn't do that, would he? Because that would be an evil and cruel punishment for a father to impose, right?"

"Well, yeah!"

"So you think God would do something to you that's so evil and cruel that your own father wouldn't even consider it?"

Theo looked thoughtful.

"'Cos either your Dad's waaay better than God, or you're in no danger of going to hell."

"Isn't that kinda blasphemous?" Theo asked, wrinkling his nose.

"I think it's blasphemous to make out you're speaking for God - to use God to make people do what you want them to!"

Theo gave her a reluctant smile. "I guess." He seemed relieved if not entirely convinced.

"So what brought all this on?"

"My birthday last October."

"What? We had a great time," Maxine exclaimed, puzzled.

"Well, actually, it all started the Sunday after. Mom sent Pop off on some wild goose chase, then Uncle Ezra came round with my cousin, Reuben. They said that now I was fifteen, it was time for me to join The Young Warriors."

Maxine was horrified. The Young Warriors were the youth branch of The Warriors of Christ. They were basically 'saintly' young thugs in training to persecute those who weren't totally dedicated to Christ as their savior, which in reality meant anyone they took a dislike to.

"Shit! We got Warriors of Christ in the family?"

"Not on Pop's side, thank God! But on Mom's side, I think the family's riddled with 'em pretty much. Uncle Ezra is obviously, and Reuben, and I wouldn't bet against any of his brothers being in either the Y.W.s or the W.o.C.s."

A sudden thought struck Maxine. "Fuck! I wonder if they had anything to do with Uncle Philo's death."

Theo's jaw dropped. Uncle Philo was the second of Rosa and Cosmo Hunter's three children. He was born two years after Waldo. His death at the age of twenty four had never been adequately explained. Waldo and Dido always believed that their brother's death had caused their father to die of grief.

"Well, I wouldn't put it past them!" he said, his voice laden with venom.

"So what happened when you said you wouldn't join?" Maxine asked, certain of Theo's response. He gave her a wry grin, acknowledging that she was right.

"They said it was my duty. That The Rapture wouldn't come unless I joined and did my bit for The Lord - hallelujah! It's been delayed because of too many people whose faith was weak. It was my duty to make those people believe and keep them true to The Lord - hallelujah! If I didn't, and The Rapture didn't come, it would be all my fault. I said I wasn't a warrior and that I believed Jesus preached peace and love, not war. Then they said, we have to fight for peace and that I was born on St. Amicus' Day."


"Apparently he was a French knight who worked for some guy called Charlie Main. He took part in a campaign in Italy and got martyred for it. So I said I wasn't aiming to be a saint."

"God! I bet that went down well! Not!"

"Oh they didn't get chance to react to that, because Pop walked in then. He said he didn't want any child of his joining up with that bunch of troublemakers."

"Wow! Go, Uncle Waldo!"

"Yeah. Uncle Ezra took the huff at that and they left saying I'd regret my decision but that there would be rejoicing in the presence of the angels of The Lord - hallelujah! - when I changed my mind. Which I would. There was a kind of silent 'or else' tacked on to the end of that. Of course, Pop got it in the neck from Mom when she found out."

"Jesus, poor uncle Waldo."

"Yeah," Theo sighed. "Still, he manages to spend most of his time at work, for which Uncle Barney is very grateful. Anyhow, ever since Uncle Ezra came round, the efforts - mostly from Marya - to make me change my mind have been unceasing."

"Huh? Marya's a Y.W.?"

"God no!" Theo rolled his eyes. "They don't allow 'wimmin' in the warriors - well, not as warriors anyway. Their job is just to make themselves useful to the men - mostly supplying 'information' to their menfolk for them to go sort out, and adding their 'encouragement' to backsliders like me."

"Oh great, so we have a couple of spies in the camp?"

"Marya certainly is, but Mom knows which side her bread's buttered." The cynicism there was palpable. "She wouldn't do anything to land Pop in the shit, which kinda extends to me. But Marya hasn't let up since Uncle Ezra's visit. 'The Rapture isn't coming and it's all your fault, Theodore. You are so gonna burn in hell for all eternity... Yadda, yadda, yadda..."

"Well, at least we've cleared up that misapprehension. We have, haven't we?"

"I guess so." Theo gave her a world weary smile. Maxine appreciated the effort. "Thing is," he went on, "when you keep hearing the same thing over and over and over again, day in, day out, you kind of get to believe it. It seems easier that way."

Maxine shuddered. "Yeah. That's called brainwashing, Theo." She had an idea. "Ya know, Your brain needs to have a new direction."

"Ok, let's hear it."

"Erm, I need to get clearance first."


"Oh, by the way, what were Zak and Dom talking about when I, as in not-Marya, walked in on you all?"

"Well, it's not a secret particularly," Theo conceded and told his cousin the salient features of the weirdness of Cheyenne Mountain.

Waldo and Barnaby Ward - Zak and Dom's father - ran a road haulage business together, the Hunter Ward Trucking Company. This was not only a profitable business in hard times, but also meant they got business allowance fuel coupons - highly desirable when rationing was the order of the day.

One of their clients was the S.G.C. up in Cheyenne Mountain. No one knew what the letters stood for, and no one went up there unless he had a really good reason. Snooping was rigorously discouraged by extensive amounts of razor wire, or at the business end of a rifle if need be.

The way the system worked was that the S.G.C. delivered their cargoes to various warehouses and depots in the Springs during the night. Their trucks were unloaded and the goods re-loaded on to the trucks of their various haulage contractors for shipping out across the country. Where possible, the cargoes went by freight train, but a lot of places still hadn't been reconnected to the rail network since The Great Disaster of 2064.

In the October of that year, a massive subduction earthquake along the Juan de Fuco fault line under the Cascades had registered a magnitude of 9.7 on the Richter scale. It had set off quakes along the San Andreas and Hayward Faults, a blind thrust fault on the San Gregorio, plus a minor movement of the Calaveras Fault among others. The ground movements also triggered eruptions of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood, with lahars and pyroclastic flows laying waste to a sizeable area of the states of Washington and Oregon.

Hell on earth was how survivors described it. Those accounts had been grabbed joyously by the Warriors of Christ as proof manifest of the anger of God at the growing religious apathy, and tolerance for sinners and non-Christians in the once great U.S. of A. Clearly this could no longer be accepted by The Righteous. If The Rapture was to come, action must be taken now! What came instead was a close approximation to a nuclear winter for several years.

"The strange thing is," Theo went on, "that no one's allowed to look under the hoods of the trucks that come from the Mountain. Not that they ever break down or anything. Which is kinda odd in the usual way of such things. Anyhow, Simon Breckenridge, one of the drivers from Turner Transportation, reckoned he was going to have a look while the S.G.C.'s drivers were taking a break during the unloading."

"So what did he find?" Maxine asked, suspecting that she already knew the answer to that one.



"The hood was welded shut. They all were."

"So why make a big fuss about not looking under the hood?"

"Quite. Besides, if you've got a secret you don't want people to find out about, you don't let on that you're keeping anything secret."

Maxine shot him an approving look. Yes, her idea was a good one. "Go on," she said, feeling that there was more to come.

"Well, the next night, Breckenridge didn't show up for work, though his car was found in the parking lot. A couple of our guys lent T.T.'s a hand with the transfer to their trucks, which is how come Zak and Dom knew about it. Mr Turner went round to Breckenridge's house. Not only was there nobody there, but the house had been completely emptied and there was a 'To Let' sign up outside."

"That sounds bad."

"Oh yeah. Most of the neighbors claimed not to have seen anything, which seems unlikely, but one kid said he'd seen a big dark car pull up outside. There was a full moon that night, otherwise he couldn't have seen anything. Two men got out, ran up the steps, got the door open somehow and went inside. About five minutes later, Mrs. Breckenridge came out carrying the baby while one of the men dragged the older child along by the arm. They were bundled into the car and driven off at high speed. Then a big truck arrived, all the furniture and belongings were loaded into it then it drove off too. I suppose the 'don't look under the hood' thing was a test with some sort of alarm rigged somehow. Guess Breckenridge failed the test."

"That is diabolical!" Maxine exclaimed, "Both deceitful and scary." It also made up her mind that Zak and Dom had to be included; they needed to be protected. "Look stay here. There's a couple of things I need to do, then I'll be right back. When I've gone, pull the ladder back up and keep quiet, ok?"

Theo nodded but said nothing. The effect of having his life run for him by the females in his family? Maxine hoped she wasn't included in that undesirable category of manipulative and overbearing women.

Maxine slipped out of the side door of the stable which was unsighted from the house, first checking that the coast was clear. She hurried back to the house to find Aunt Claire, brushing the dust off her clothes as she went. Passing through the kitchen, she ran straight into Marya - almost literally.

"Esther, have you seen Theodore?" she demanded.

Maxine paused as though in thought. "Er, yes. He was sitting under the stairs last time I saw him. Is he alright? It's not like him to hide himself away. I mean, he's never been the 'life-and-soul-of-the-party' type, but he usually joins in with everyone else."

"Must be his guilty conscience," Marya said in a manner that could only be described as snide.

"Oh? How come?" Maxine asked, all disingenuous innocence.

Marya, who would usually launch into a lengthy diatribe about her latest victim's shortcomings with the minimum of invitations - or none at all - was strangely reticent this time. "Oh he's just being his usual obdurate self, but he'll soon see the light," was all she said in her irritatingly supercilious manner, then she whirled away on her quest. Maxine thought it was just as well. She'd felt an overwhelming urge to throttle her.

Maxine took a little more care and managed to avoid both Aunt Martha-Bethany and Marya. When she spotted Aunt Claire, she strolled casually towards her, collecting empty plates as she went. As they passed, Maxine said softly, "I think we need some more lemonade. Could you give me a hand?"

Five minutes later, Aunt Claire joined her in the cellar. "What's the problem, Maxine?" she asked looking concerned.

"We have problems - well, Theo certainly has. They're pressuring him to join the Y.W.s - have been doing since last October - Marya especially. She keeps on and on about him delaying The Rapture and burning in hell for it. You get the picture? And it's worse. Aunt Martha-Bethany's brother and his family belong the W.o.C.s."

Claire inhaled slowly. "Yes, I suspected as much."

"So I want to tell Theo about you know who and you know what. I want to give his thoughts a better direction - something to hope for. And I want to include Zak and Dom in that too."

"Well, Theo certainly. He's a good boy - trustworthy. But Zak and Dom? Dom especially. He's only eleven."

"Which is older than I was when you told me."

Aunt Claire still didn't seem convinced. She looked long and hard at Maxine. "There's more, isn't there?" she said at last.

Maxine nodded. "Yes, there is." She went on to outline the disappearance of Simon Breckenridge after he'd tried to break into the engine compartments of the trucks from the Mountain. "I'm guessing they have naquadah generators, but why tell people not to do something they probably wouldn't even think of doing without being led to believe there was something of interest to investigate. It's... It's..."

"Entrapment? Sounds suspiciously like it."

"So that's why I want to include Zak and Dom. Felix and Rusty aren't in the same danger, so I'm not asking to tell them too, but Zak and Dom - and Uncle Barney - already know enough to get themselves into serious trouble by the sound of it. If they know a little of the truth about what's going on under the mountain, a) they won't be tempted to do something that could get them into bigger trouble, and b) they'll know how very careful they have to be. Like Theo said, the best way to keep a secret is not to let anyone know you have any secrets to keep."

After a weighty pause, Claire nodded. "You make a good case, Maxine. I trust your judgment. Tell them. I'll have a quiet word with Barney, too. Waldo already knows how to keep his mouth shut." She rolled her eyes. "Now, we'd better take some more lemonade up to the kitchen."

It didn't take Maxine long to find the two Ward brothers. Aunt Claire had in her study a computer game console that still worked, so they were playing a game with a little blue hedgehog in it. Maxine joined them.

She waited until the little blue hedgehog impaled itself on some vertical spikes, ending the game, then said seriously, "I want the two of you to come with me now. It's very important."

"Deadly important?" Dominic demanded, unwilling to leave the game.

"Yes, Dom, deadly important. And you can come back here very soon."

"Oh. Is it something to with the Mounmph—" His eyes widened as Maxine clapped a hand over his mouth.

"Sh. Yes it is, so keep your voice down. You don't know who might be listening."

They made it safely up into the hayloft and pulled up the ladder.

"First off," Maxine said to her two younger cousins, "if Marya or her mother come in and realize there's someone up here, Theo and I aren't here - never have been. You'll have to get rid of them, and whatever you do, don't let them bully you into letting the ladder down."

"Ok," Zak nodded, pleased to be involved in thwarting the Hunter women. "I'll say we're playing hide and seek and tell her not to tell Theo or she'll be a rotten spoilsport and Aunt Claire won't invite her any more."

Maxine grinned. "Yes, that should work." She became more serious. "What I'm going to tell you now is, as Dom said, deadly important. It must stay between the four of us. And to keep it secret, as Theo says, you mustn't let anyone know that you even know anything secret."

"I wouldn't tell, even if someone found out I had a secret," Dom declared, full of naïve confidence.

"How about if you refused to tell, then you heard your Mom screaming in the next room, then they gave you one of her bloody fingernails with the promise of more to come from her if you won't talk?"

Dom looked suitably shocked. "They wouldn't do that— Would they?" he said in a very small voice.

"That and worse probably. That's the trouble with secrets - everyone wants to know them."

"Like Mr. Breckenridge, you mean?" Zak said.

"Exactly like Mr. Breckenridge. Whatever's happened to him, you can bet it isn't good and the same goes for his family," Maxine said seriously. "So if anyone - anyone at all - knows you know anything about the Mountain and what goes on there, you could 'disappear' too."

"So no 'I-know-something-you-don't-know,'" Theo chanted then continued quietly, "or we could all be up shit creek."

"Ooh, you swore!" Dom feigned shock and horror.

Theo got right in his face. "Yes, Dom, that's how bad it is, so if Maxine says to take it seriously, that's what you have to do."

"Ok," Dom said, suitably chastened.

"Right, let's move on," Maxine said. "I have a good idea of what's under those hoods, and I'm going to tell you and you only. Not Felix or Rusty because they aren't in the same danger you two are."

Two pairs of very round eyes focused on her. Yes, they'd got the point, she thought with relief.

"Next is kind of a history lesson." There were groans. "It's family history that you need to know. I'm sure you've all heard of Grandfather Daniel. He was Aunt Claire's grandfather, which makes him your great-great-grandfather, but you don't need to know about that. Just call him Grandfather Daniel, ok?"

There were nods.

"He was a great man - a hero - though very few people knew about it - still don't because it's a government secret, even though he saved the world."

There was a voiceless, "Wow!" from all three.

"And yes, Dom, there is some serious weirdness going on under the mountain, where the S.G.C. is based. That stands - or stood for - Stargate Command, and Grandfather Daniel's involvement with it began a hundred years ago."

"Stargate?" Theo said.

Maxine nodded. "There are Stargates on billions of planets like ours all over the universe and - don't correct anybody on this or you'll be in real hot water - they are millions of years old. It's true!" she stressed as all three stared at her in disbelief.

"So these... Stargates," Zak said, scepticism patent in every word, "they go to other planets, right?"


"How?" Theo asked.

"I don't fully understand the science of it, but the Stargate creates what's called a wormhole - a kind of tunnel - through space to another Stargate."

"On another world?" Dom asked, his imagination captured. "And Grandfather Daniel went to another planet?"

"That's right. Lots of other worlds actually, like Abydos, which doesn't exist any more, Chulak, Cimmeria, the Land of Light. Mostly they're only known by coded 'Gate addresses like P3X-774."

"How did he get involved?" Theo asked.

"Well, he was the first person to work out how to make the 'Gate work."

"So he was a scientist?"

"Not exactly, Zak - not that sort of a scientist anyway, but he found out how to... to turn it on, sort of. Like, you and Dom know how to make that hedgehog game work, but you don't know what's going on inside the box."

"I get it," Zak said.

"How do you know all this?" Theo wanted to know.

"Aunt Claire told me."

"Oh. How does she know all this?"

"Grandfather Daniel told her himself when he was looking after his grandchildren after their father died - on P7C-124, I think."

All three boys sat up sharply at that. "He died on another world?" Dom asked, eyes like saucers.

"Yes, and Aunt Claire herself has been to other planets too. She joined the S.G.C. in twenty-forty-something and worked under the Mountain right up the Great Disaster."

"Really? How come she survived?" Theo asked.

"She just happened to be on vacation that week. Sadly, her brother was off-world at the time. She never saw him again."

"But... but if he was off-world, he could've survived?" Zak suggested.

"It's possible. Aunt Claire campaigned for over two years to have the 'Gate reopened. Cheyenne Mountain contains lots of offices, science labs, accommodation, and so on, going down 28 levels. A lot of that collapsed during the Disaster. The Stargate is right at the bottom, so it took a while to clear the rubble - and the bodies - and get it back into use. That was three years after the Disaster. Anyway, immediately after the Disaster, the people who were off-world couldn't get back. The Stargate has a sort of cover that stops people - enemies specifically— "

"We have alien enemies?" Dom exclaimed.

"Well we had. But with the cover in place, they can't come through. Well they could but they'd get splattered against the cover and die."

"Isn't that very messy?"

"No. The Stargate changes your body into a stream of millions of tiny particles and the Stargate at the other end changes them back into you. If they hit a solid object, all the tiny particles just - well - kind of evaporate, I guess, like steam. Or something."

Dom got the wide-eyed look again. "I am never going through a Stargate !" he declared, shuddering.

"Of course not," Zak reassured him. "How can you go through a Stargate when you don't know it exists? Right Maxine?" He said with a grin. Everyone chuckled, Dom a little belatedly.

Theo looked serious then. "Does that mean our guys got splattered?"

"I don't think so. They could communicate with the S.G.C. and when it was safe, they got a green light. If they didn't get a green light, they wouldn't go through the Stargate at the other end. Aunt Claire thought they would stay at the Alpha Site— "

"What's that?" Dom. Again.

"Long ago, in Grandfather Daniel's time, they set up an Alpha Site on a safe planet so that if Earth was invaded, all the important people would have a safe place to go to till the danger had passed."

"Politicians, you mean?" Theo said cynically.

"Some. Mostly scientists and other useful people, I think. Anyway, Aunt Claire thought it was probable that the off-world teams would use the Alpha Site as their base until they could get home, and pitched for a visit there. Her boss thought that if there had been anyone there, they would probably have made contact already, but seeing as my grandfather was leading the SG-4 team, he gave in. Aunt Claire was one of the rescue team that went." Maxine gave a sad little sigh. "All they found was destruction and devastation. One of her team found a handwritten log in the Command Post. Several teams had gone to the Alpha Site, and their activities were recorded."

Maxine paused in sorrow. Theo gently prodded her to continue. She took a deep breath. "The record broke off abruptly in the middle of an entry in August, 2066. When Aunt Claire's team extended the search around the site, they found the remains of eleven humans."

"Aunt Claire's brother?" Theo asked.

"So far as she could tell, he wasn't there. What had happened to him and the other sixteen missing personnel, no one knows - probably never will. Whatever it was, I doubt it would be good."

There was a long pause. Finally, Zak said, "What about the truck hoods?"

"Oh yeah. Well, the Stargate is made of a mineral called naquadah."

"Never heard of it!"

"Hold that thought." Maxine sent a mock scowl Zak's way. "One world that Grandfather Daniel went to was called Orban. The people there taught our people how to make small power generators out of naquadah. I'm pretty sure that's what under the hoods of those trucks."


"Dom! How old are you?" Zak exclaimed, playfully batting the back of his brother's head.

"No, it's a fair question," Maxine said, suddenly thinking so Dad can keep secrets too. "I think those trucks are powered by naquadah cells because that's what Aunt Claire's vehicles have."

Three jaws dropped in unison.

"Guess it's all true, then," Theo finally said.

"And we are all in danger," Zak agreed in a subdued voice.

"But now you know the score, and you know how to keep out of the really serious trouble."

"Yeah. Thanks, Maxine."

"Thanks for trusting us too," Theo added.

"Well, I hope it'll give you something to hold on to when Marya's bugging you."

"I think so," Theo smiled.

Basic Information

Stargate: the Fifth Generation - Home Page


Dramatis Personnae + Glossary.

Timeline and 'Future History'

The Preludes

Prelude - I: Maxine

Prelude - II: Theo (Flashback)

Prelude - III: Coming Together

The Episodes


SG-24 Part 1
SG-24 Part 2


Crown of Steel - Crown of Night: Part 1
Crown of Steel - Crown of Night: Part 2


More Questions than Answers: Part 1
More Questions than Answers: Part 2


The Mirror Cracked: Part 1
The Mirror Cracked: Part 2


Perdition, Catch My Soul: Part 1
Perdition, Catch My Soul: Part 2


The Storm is Come Again: Part 1
The Storm is Come Again: Part 2
The Storm is Come Again: Part 3


All That Glisters: Part 1
All That Glisters: Part 2


Heirs and Graces: Part 1
Heirs and Graces: Part 2


Hitched: Part 1
Hitched: Part 2


Chaosium: Part 1
Chaosium: Part 2
Chaosium: Part 3

by Hatshepsut

Crown Infernal