DON'T TOUCH

Lorraine Anderson

Jack studied the large rock. First he looked at it from the left, then he looked at it from the right. He looked at it straight on, then he moved around to the back and checked out the rear of the rock.

Daniel watched him. "Jack?"

"Daniel?" Jack almost smiled at the expression of pique on the archeologist's face. Ever since he had gotten back from being all glowy, it almost seemed as if Daniel was walking on eggshells around the team. But slowly, he was getting back to being the old Daniel. Almost. Most of the time.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to figure out why this rock is so fascinating to you. Except for the fact that it looks like the monkey monolith in 2001."

"It's not."

"So why are you staring at it?"

"It's because of what should be there."

"So what should there be there?" Jack looked confused. "There's supposed to be something there?" he corrected himself.

"There should be a symbol of the Ancients right there." Daniel poked at the rock, and his finger sank an inch into the surface. He gaped, then pulled it back out and examined it.

"What the hell?" Jack said, then he stared at Daniel.

Daniel waved at the rock. "It's a hologram." He pushed his hand in further. "There's some rock."

"Daniel … stop poking at things. We keep losing you when you poke at things." Jack smiled, but he was only half kidding.

Daniel appeared annoyed. "Jack, nothing's going to grab …" A look of surprise crossed his face. "Something's grabbed me." In a second, he was pulled in—and was gone.

"Shit! Daniel! Daniel?" Jack grabbed his walkie-talkie. "Carter, Teal'c, Daniel's been pulled into the rock. I'm going after him."

He heard a "Sir, what …" then he plunged into the rock.

His first thought was that he hadn't been brained senseless by banging into a rock.

The second was that he was surrounded, and one of the people was a puzzled looking Daniel.

The third was that it wasn't dark. He was on the other side of the monolith, but the surroundings looked—greener. How anything could be greener than the place he just left, he wasn't sure.

The fourth was that when he turned around, he could clearly see a door. He was pulled forward, then a real door was closed, but not before he saw Carter and Teal'c run into the meadow.

"What in the hell?"

A middle-aged woman grabbed at him and made a shushing noise. An older woman looked at her, amused. "Naysa, you know nobody can hear through the Door." She pointed. "The door is gone now, anyway."

Jack turned around. "What the …" He stopped. The door the other woman had just closed was gone, fused into the rock. He touched it where he thought the seam had been.

"It's gone," the older woman said, amused.

An older looking large man that had Daniel by the arm let him go. "At least we saved you from the Jaffa."

"Jaffa?"

"The big guy out there with the golden symbol on his forehead?" Naysa said. "You didn't know he was a Jaffa?"

Daniel sighed, and Jack stared at them. He really needed to talk to Teal'c about doing something about that tattoo. He supposed it was in the same category as Teal'c growing hair.

"The Jaffa was with us," Daniel said quietly. "He's not in the service of the false gods anymore."

The three backed away from them. "Impossible. Jaffa don't serve others. They only serve Gods."

"Daniel, tell me why we just don't make a recording and play it for everybody we meet." Daniel opened his mouth. "Never mind." He turned to the three. "Teal'c is a free Jaffa. He serves no one, but he does choose to help us."

"And," Daniel added, "in doing so, he is searching for freedom for all Jaffa."

Naysa closed her eyes. "They believe in what they are saying."

The older man harrumphed. "I'll reserve judgment." He extended a hand. "My name is Alamd."

Jack looked at the hand, then took it. "Colonel Jack O'Neill. And that's Daniel Jackson."

"And mine," said the older lady, "is Criz."

"What did Naysa mean when she said that we believed what we were saying?" Daniel said.

"She feels emotions." The old man said this in a surprised tone and stared at Daniel.

Daniel stared back at him. "An empath?"

"I don't know that term."

"Don't tell me," Jack said. "You were visited by Nirrti."

"Who?"

Daniel looked surprised. "Maybe she's a natural empath. Or maybe they were experimented on so long ago that they don't remember."

"Possibly," Jack said. "But what would Nirrti do with an empath?"

Daniel shrugged. "Same reason these people use one. To see if we're telling the truth."

Naysa smiled. "My people do not 'use' me." She spoke softly, but Jack could feel the sting in her tone.

Daniel flushed slightly. "My apologies. Bad terminology."

"Forgiven," Naysa said. She smiled at Daniel.

"Let's escort you to the town," Alamd said. He gave his arm to Criz. "If you would follow us?"

Daniel glanced at Jack, then where the door had been. Jack stared at the now-blank rock, then shrugged and followed Naysa. They started climbing a large hill.

"Naysa, when you passed our house, I could see you were determined about something," Criz said. "Why were you at the door?"

Naysa flushed and stared at Criz.

"Ah," Criz said. "I see."

"I felt something kind on the other side of the door. Something that wasn't Jaffa or Goa'uld. I wondered what was going on."

"That would be Daniel," Jack said.

"Something … strong."

Jack looked at Daniel, but he didn't rise to the bait. After a second, he grinned.

"Then I felt the Goa'uld and the Jaffa,"

"Sam and Teal'c."

Criz looked at Naysa. "Goa'uld?"

"Major Carter is not a Goa'uld," Daniel said. "She was taken over by a Goa'uld once, but the Goa'uld within her was … killed."

"And the host lived?" Alamd said. "I've never read about anything like that in the archives."

"It rarely happens," Jack said. "Archives?"

They were walking up to a tall fence. Suddenly, a door appeared. "Ah," Alamd said. "Here's the door." He raised his torch to look at Jack's face. "The door to our valley."

The door opened.

"This is …"

"Shangri-la," Daniel said.

"Brigadoon," Jack said.

"Actually," Naysa said. "We call our valley Stonehenge."

"Huh?" Daniel said.

"Originally from England, maybe?" Jack said.

"We're from a place called Earth," Naysa said.

Jack shrugged. "So are we."

Naysa nodded. "I thought so."

They looked at the valley. The sky was a deep blue, yet the sunshine was as warm as summer. It reminded Jack of a Midwest spring with a touch of England or Ireland. The valley was divided into uneven squares—some squares had crops, some sheep, and some cattle. The valley seemed to go on forever. The far end was hazy. Jack blinked and looked again to the side, then to the back. The whole edge was hazy. And, as far as he could see, this "valley" was ringed by a tall fence, unbroken by a door, except the one behind them. He glanced behind them. That door was gone.

"Daniel?" Jack said lowly.

"I see."

"Any ideas?"

"Thor?"

Naysa stared at them. "Who?"

"Not Thor, then," Jack said.

"The Nox?"

Daniel shrugged. "Could be the Furlings, for all I know." He turned to Naysa. "How far is it across the valley?"

"I don't know. We have not measured. Hundreds of miles."

"How long have your people been here?"

Naysa shrugged. "We don't know. We have been hidden for a long time."

"In peace?"

"Mostly. We eject those who break our laws."

Jack raised his eyebrows. "To the Goa'uld?"

"To the outer world."

"Ah," Daniel said. "We haven't encountered anyone from your valley yet."

"I doubt if you would," Naysa said. "We've only ejected three people in the past one hundred years." She seemed sad.

"Oh."

"The last one was ten years ago.'

"Do you s'pose he's still wandering around out there?" Jack wondered.

Daniel just looked at him.

"Probably not."

Sam and Teal'c were searching the clearing where Jack and Daniel had disappeared when they heard a noise like a sigh. Then a yell.

"People," said a man. "Are you people?"

"And you are?"

"I am people." The man looked puzzled for a moment. "No. I am a person."

Sam smiled at him, hoping that he wasn't unfriendly. "What is your name?"

"Name." He seemed to think for a moment. "Oh, yes, a name. I had a name." He hesitated another moment. "I did have a name," he said deliberately. "My name is Zon. I come from the valley."

"Hello," Sam said. "My name is Samantha. This is Teal'c."

"Jaffa."

"Yes," Teal'c said. "But I do not serve the Gods. I serve the Tau'ri."

"Tau'ri," he said. "I … have not heard of the Tau'ri. My … father's fathers … ancestors!" He said triumphantly. "My ancestors … come from Earth."

Sam's eyebrows rose. "As do I."

"You … do?"

"My home is on Earth."

The stranger stared at Sam, than at Teal'c.

"Earth is my adopted home," Teal'c said gravely. "Where do you live here?"

"I live—in a cave. Not far from here. I have not spoken for a long time. Please take me with you."

Sam blinked. "Where are the other people?"

"They are in the valley."

"Where is the valley?"

"I don't know."

"Where," Teal'c rumbled. "Are the other people who were with us?"

"They went … into the rock." Zon shook his head. "Into the hole in the rock." He pointed at a carved rock.

Sam knit her brows together. "I don't see—a hole in the rock."

"It's invisible."

"Ah," Sam said, trying not to let her reaction show on her face.

"I would suggest, Major Carter, that we take Zon back to Stargate Command with us," said Teal'c.

"We should really stay and search for the colonel and Daniel," Sam said. "Unless you know something I don't."

"I have looked around this area," Teal'c said lowly. "The only signs are from him," he jerked his head, "our trail, and the trail that ends at the rock."

She looked around. "Do you think they went into the rock, Teal'c?"

"I have seen many odd things."

"The door is closed and the valley has moved," Zon said loudly. "There is no hole in the rock now." He sighed. "I cannot … can't catch it, or I would be back in the valley." He hesitated. "In … Stonehenge."

Stonehenge. Sam's eyes widened and she looked at Teal'c, who stared back at her blankly. Well, she'd have to explain it to him later.

"How long have you been out of the valley?" she said softly.

"Many years. Many, many years." Zon started crying. "Do you have food? I'm so hungry."

She smiled softly, while still worrying about Jack and Daniel.

"Come with us. We'll take you through the stone circle to Earth."

"Earth?" Zon started trembling.

"There are no Gods there," she said.

"Good. As long as we come back."

"We will," she said. "But why would you want to come back?"

"My wife. My wife is in the valley."

"I'm beginning not to like this valley," Sam said. "But I think we need to wait a while before we go back to Earth."

"Why?" Zon said.

"I'll get you an MRE," Sam decided. "I want to at least stay until the next check-in and ask for orders."

"Why do you need to ask for orders?" Zon asked.

She smiled at him. "I have a commanding officer."

"Not a god?" He glanced at Teal'c.

"No," she smiled. "Not a god." She continued to smile at him, but her mind was working. How desperate could this man be if he were willing to be rescued by a Goa'uld?

Zon continued to look befuddled at Major Carter—Sam—and his mind worked. His Lord Nirrti had commanded him to report to her any other Goa'uld that appeared on the planet, but she hadn't said anything about these people. It was his honor to serve Nirrti. She came and rescued him when no one else had come and had given him her ambrosia, which helped him live. But he hadn't been lying when he said he was starving. Nirrti hadn't been back in a long, long time, and the stores she had left had run out months ago. He had lived off the land ever since. In fact, if he could have figured out how to use the stone circle, he would have at least tried to go to another planet to get some food.

Or not. Lord Nirrti would not have been pleased had she come and found him gone. Her revenge would have been swift and, well, not exactly painless and would have left him different than before. He still remembered the last man who had accompanied her to this planet. She assured him that he had started human, but when she was through, he had not been human at all. Although as a humanoid lapdog, he had had his charms, for the short life he had left.

Zon shivered.

He had told them the truth. His wife was still in the valley. He hoped. Whether his wife would be his wife after what he was doing, he wasn't entirely sure, but he had done it so that he could at least get a last glimpse of her. He loved her. She infuriated him sometimes, but he loved her. And she loved him.

He did.

He waited.

"Yes, sir, I saw them disappear into a rock." Sam looked at her walkie-talkie. She didn't blame General Hammond; if she hadn't seen it, she wouldn't have believed it, either. "I have an inhabitant here that confirms my sighting."

"An inhabitant," Hammond said. "I thought the UAV didn't see any signs of habitation."

"Apparently he's been living in a cave."

Zon nodded enthusiastically.

"He wants us to bring him back with us."

"Negative," Hammond said. "Regardless of what he saw, we have only his word where he came from."

"Yes, sir." Sam actually agreed with this, although she had promised to ask. It wasn't exactly like bringing home a kitten—or a child—after all. "I would, however, like some backup here, if possible."

"Agreed," Hammond said. "I will call SG-12 back from P3X-943."

"Thank you, sir."

"Hammond out."

Sam sat back and looked at Teal'c. "Now. We wait." She sat down. "Pull up a piece of ground."

"Indeed." Teal'c stayed upright, scanning the horizon.

Sam sighed.

"I need to see the archives," Daniel said, for the tenth time. He looked at Naysa across her small common area in her house. Just off the common room, Jack could see a bed with a comforter, but the common room apparently served as kitchen, dining room, and living room. Chairs lined the walls, and Jack assumed with her apparent status in the valley, she had many visitors.

If Jack hadn't been on Daniel's side, he would've been in Daniel's face by now, but Naysa had apparently been made of sterner stuff. "And we need to wait for the council to give their permission."

"Which meets next month."

"Which meets next month," she agreed placidly. "Why are you in a hurry?"

"I'd like to go back to my friends," Daniel said.

She shook her head. "I still can't understand how you are friends with a Jaffa. Jaffa are supposed to be warriors. And warriors …"

"I'm a warrior," Jack said. "Why do you think I keep this gun?"

"Is that what that's called? A gun?" She studied it curiously, yet, looking at his face, didn't try to grab it. "What is it used for?" She looked at him. "Oh, dear."

"Yes. Hurting people. Killing people, if necessary. But," Jack added. "Only in defense."

"We don't believe in hurting people."

"I gathered that."

"But you believe that we are hurting you by not letting Daniel see the archives."

"Can't you have an emergency council?"

She chewed her lip. "I know what you mean by emergency, but we haven't had an emergency in centuries. Stonehenge is peaceful."

"Of course it is," Jack said. "Which is why you haven't accomplished anything in centuries."

"Jack?" Daniel interrupted.

"Daniel."

"I see what you're going after, but I don't think you're going to accomplish anything."

"I can try."

"What is he trying to say?" Naysa demanded.

Daniel sighed. "That conflict is the mother of invention. So is necessity. You haven't needed to overcome hardships, so your culture has become stagnant."

"But we live in peace."

"Everybody wants to live in peace," Jack said. "But you only grow by overcoming hardship. And I don't mean physically."

Naysa sighed. "We do occasionally have hardship. My mother died in childbirth bearing my sister, who also died. My husband was one of those ejected from the valley." She looked sad. "I don't know if he's still alive or not."

"Individuals have hardship. But do you have disease? Famine? Floods? Earthquakes?" Jack asked.

She looked puzzled. "No."

"That's what I mean."

"So," Daniel said. "Jack is thinking that whoever created this valley really hasn't done you any favors."

"I don't think so," Jack said.

"But they did save the inhabitants from the Goa'uld," Daniel said, glancing at Jack. "Isn't that a worthy goal?"

Jack sighed. "And kept them from the rest of the galaxy. Maybe their contributions would have helped something. Maybe not. I don't know."

"What about us?"

"We chose this. We drove out the Goa'uld, and we're keeping them away."

"And these are our distant cousins."

"So is almost everyone we've met, right?"

"Yeah."

"Your point is?"

Daniel thought a moment. "You know, I'm not quite sure."

"I never quite thought that God did Brigadoon any favors, Daniel." Jack looked at him. "Don't get me wrong; I like the movie."

Naysa cleared her throat. "I can see how passionately you feel about this. I will gather the council."

Daniel gaped at her. "Are you the leader?"

"We don't have any leaders," she said, then grinned. "But my word does have weight."

"Huh." Daniel looked around as if just seeing the chairs in the room. Jack raised an eyebrow.

She closed her eyes for a long moment, then opened them. "They'll meet us in the center of the valley in a day."

"ESP?"

She shrugged. "I thought to them, and they responded. You don't do this where you come from?"

"No," Daniel said. "We use mechanical means."

"Or I kick him in the ankle," Jack said.

Naysa smiled uncertainly and laughed.

Then Jack looked out the window at the valley. "The—center. It'll take days to walk there."

"No," she said earnestly. "It won't."

Daniel looked at Jack. "Huh."

"In the meantime, let us find a place for you to stay," Naysa said. "I would offer my home, but, as you can see, it is small. But Alamd and Criz have a lot of room."

"I wouldn't want to impose," Daniel said. "We've slept out of doors plenty of times."

"Nonsense," Naysa said. "It rains at night, and I don't believe you brought any shelter with you."

Daniel opened his mouth, then shut it, at a glare from Jack. "Then we'd be honored if Alamd and Criz are willing."

"As I said," Naysa said. "My word has weight." They exited the house and started walking.

Jack glanced up. "Daniel," he said lowly. "Wasn't the moon a lot further away when we went into the hut?"

They shared a look.

Zon glanced over at the sleeping woman, then saw the large Jaffa staring at him. The Jaffa didn't trust him; he knew he didn't. He knew that he should have tried to contact Nirrti long before this—long before these people had come to this planet, but he had been afraid of her revenge. He got up and walked casually towards the woods, as if he were going to pee, easing his communications device out of his inner pocket. With a small gesture, he turned it on.

"Where are you going?" a deep voice said quietly.

"I'm going to …"

"I don't think so." Very quietly, Teal'c was next to him and took the small communications device from his hand. "Who were you going to contact?"

The female, Sam, had gotten up by this time and was staring at the two.

Zon blinked at the Jaffa. "I wasn't …"

"You were." Teal'c looked the man up and down. "If you were going to contact a Goa'uld, you should know that many of them are dead."

Zon looked at the man. "Goa'uld? Dead? I thought they could never …"

"They are." The quiet confidence of the Jaffa got to him. "We have killed Ra, Apophis, Hathor, Nirrti …"

Zon gasped. "Nirrti? She's dead?"

"Yes."

"Thank god." Zon collapsed, boneless.

He woke up slowly. His head was on a bedroll. Sam and Teal'c were standing over him. "Nirrti is truly dead?"

Sam nodded. "She is. I saw her die myself."

Zon chewed his lip, then glanced at her, afraid. "You are not …"

She nodded emphatically. "We are not Goa'ulds. We fight the Goa'uld. There are still some out there, but Nirrti is truly dead." She studied him intently. "How do you know her?"

He chewed his lip. "She found me many years ago. She came to this planet in search of the valley. I was almost starved, and she took me in. Then she showed me some of her experiments." He shivered.

Sam glanced at Teal'c. "We know," she said.

"I was afraid that she would find the valley, but I was afraid that if I didn't give her something, she would do something to me. I didn't want to die, but I didn't want to give her anything that would help her." He turned his gaze to the ground. "She would come back occasionally, give me food to last a while, then leave. I couldn't get back into the valley, and I could not leave this place." His voice got lower. "And I couldn't kill myself. I am not brave." He looked up. "In our archives, we read about bravery, but we haven't had to face anything for many, many years."

"I think I see," Sam said. "But why did she want to get into the valley so badly?"

"You've never heard of Stonehenge?"

She shrugged. "Not associated with your valley."

"I have, I believe," Teal'c said. "But it was a story for children. The inhabitants of this valley were said to be able could read each other's minds. The Goa'uld believed that they could read each other's intentions in war."

"Really," Sam said. "Nirrti would have been very interested in this, if it was naturally occurring."

"But the valley is peaceful, and only a very few people have this talent," Zon said.

"Nirrti would not have cared," Teal'c said. "She would have been interested to the point of obsession. You should be very glad she never found your valley. You have actually been very brave, considering you came from this valley."

"I have?"

"You have."

"Oh." Zon looked at Teal'c. "I've never thought of myself as brave. I just wanted to live."

"Sometimes," Sam said gently. "Bravery is just that."

"Oh." Zon could feel tears starting. "But I still want to find the valley."

Sam sighed. "So do I," she said quietly. "So do I."

Zon gazed at her hopefully. "It's been coming back more and more often."

"How do you know?"

"My wife contacts me with her mind. She is not supposed to, but she does."

Sam stared at him. "I see."

"She is one of the blessed." Zon sighed. "It was my fault that I was ejected from the valley. But I believe she still loves me."

Sam looked intently at him. "What did you do?"

"I hit a man who insulted her."

Sam's eyebrows rose. "That's it?"

"Yes. The council determined I had violent tendencies and wished to correct others." He hung his head. "I was a teacher, but I never would have hit a student. Naysa tried to intervene, but …"

"Wow. Expulsion for that."

Zon looked at her, wondering. "You do not do this?"

Sam chewed her lip. "Don't get me wrong. It's not acceptable in my country to hit another without punishment. But we don't expel our citizens who break those rules … we put them in prison for various amounts of time, depending on the severity …" She broke off. "No, we punish and reform, we don't expel."

"If I had not been my wife's husband …"

"Ah," Sam said. "Politics. Sometimes I hate politics."

"I hate politicians," Jack said into the dark after they had gone to bed at night. "And I think we just stumbled into a valley full. We may be screwed tomorrow."

They had been talking politics at supper. Jack had been astounded to find out the offenses that caused Naysa's husband to be expelled from the valley, and he found himself at a loss to explain his guns and his zat gun. Daniel, ever the diplomat, explained that unfortunately, violence was often the norm outside of the valley, and that the guns were for defensive purposes only. The three stared at Jack and Daniel as if they were mad.

"I … hope not," Daniel said. "I'd like to see this valley protected."

"You think they're candidates for ascension?"

Jack could almost see Daniel look up at the ceiling over his head. "I … don't know." A pause. "They certainly seem like they could be, don't they?"

"Well, that would be a good Ancient type of trick. Keep people isolated; take them away from the rest of the universe …"

"You don't approve," Daniel said, in a neutral tone.

Jack sat up. The boards of the bed creaked. "No, of course I don't approve. You can't run away from problems, you need to face them and stare them down." He laid back down. "You didn't run away from your problems."

"Yes, I did," Daniel said.

Jack rolled his eyes, even though Daniel couldn't see him. "It would have sucked for us, but, Daniel, the easiest thing you could have done was to die. But you didn't. You accepted ascension because you thought it was the best thing you could do. Oma might have helped you to ascend, and you may have thought that you were doing it for yourself, but you had your fingers crossed behind your back."

"I thought I was ready."

Jack pursed his lips. "And one of the first things you did when you got there was try to help us. I don't think so, Daniel. The Ascended are a bunch of self-righteous lotus eaters. You aren't. And, much as she drives me nuts, Oma is the exception." He paused. "The sad part is that these people didn't even choose this for themselves. It was forced upon them."

Daniel was silent. "I don't see that they're unhappy. In fact, they all seem quite content. Weren't you saying the other day that you wanted to retire?"

"Daniel," Jack said. "We were being chased by a Jaffa. That doesn't count."

Daniel snickered, then was silent for a time. "Jack?"

"Daniel?"

"I'm not sure we can change them."

Jack was silent for a beat. "All I want to do is leave."

"Bullshit."

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Daniel?"

"You don't believe in the 'non-interference directive.' "

"Well, no."

"So?"

Jack sighed. "I'll try to be quiet tomorrow while you talk our way out of this. I don't believe they're dangerous. Take the lead."

"Promise?"

"Of course."

Daniel was silent.

"What, you want to pinkie-swear?" Jack asked.

He could hear the amusement in Daniel's voice. "Go to sleep, Jack."

"I'm the colonel, and that's my line."

Daniel sighed and turned over.

Zon looked at the other two in the campsite. He had had a horrible thought in the night—what if Nirrti was not dead, and these two were just tricking him? After all, Teal'c was a Jaffa, and Jaffa were not good. Not good at all. And Samantha Carter, while seeming to be kind, somehow gave him a strange sort of feeling. As if she knew too well about the Goa'uld, maybe? She gave him a strange sort of feeling down his spine and up and down his arms.

He still needed to escape. If Nirrti was still alive, he really, really needed to contact her.

They had left him his contact device, probably supposing he was convinced and that he wouldn't try it again. Trying to act as if he were just turning over in his sleep, he activated it again. It went off, silently.

Sighing, he went to sleep without dreams.

Jack watched the council, sitting at a long, wooden table, look at each other. If the man in the middle had been bearded—hell, if any of them had had beards—he would have thought he was looking at a painting of the last supper. They were gesturing at each other, but Jack didn't think they were using sign language.

"Telepathy," Daniel murmured.

"How," Jack said loudly, "Can we object to the proceedings if we can't hear what's going on?" The council members all stared at him. "See? I can't tell if you are shouting at us or not."

A young blonde woman stared at him.

"Do you have a question?" Jack said. "Not connecting here. I don't know you well enough to read your facial expressions."

A black haired woman blinked. "We were talking loud enough. You should have been able …"

A distinguished white-haired man raised a hand. "Naysa," he said. "Didn't you realize that they couldn't understand mind speak?"

Naysa blushed and lowered her head. "I did not. As was polite, we always used mouth speech. I could tell what they were feeling and assumed when they were looking at each other, they were using mind-speech."

Daniel looked at Jack. "I really don't want to read his mind."

Jack rolled his eyes. "And I'd fall asleep reading his mind."

"We've been teammates for a long time," Daniel explained. "I can usually tell what he's thinking by looking at him." He looked around at the council. "I thought Naysa was unusual in this valley. Does everybody here have telepathic and empathic abilities?"

Naysa looked at him. "I have explained empathic to them … We have varying abilities. The council members are the most powerful of the mind speakers, and everyone can understand them. Only one in a generation or two can actually read minds and feelings, and that is me," she said, matter-of-factly. She looked at them with some consternation. "I am sorry. I didn't realize …"

"We know that," Daniel said.

"I thought you were joking when you said about kicking him and the 'mechanical means.' "

"Oh, no," Jack said. "In fact, one of these days, I'm going to need a hearing aid."

They looked uncertainly at him.

"You know, in …" Jack pointed at his ear. "Never mind. Hey, that was a sweet transport system. How …?"

Daniel kicked his ankle. "That's not important now," he said. "We'll ask about that later."

"Daniel?"

"Like many things about this valley, we don't understand our transport system," Naysa said. "Except …" She looked at the rest of the council.

They stared hard back at her.

"We have decided to trust you." She turned to face Jack and Daniel. "Except that it seems to be failing. As is the mechanism that causes our valley to shift from place to place." She looked at the floor. "Forgive me. Under certain conditions, I am able to see images in your mind, but my interpretation is often uncertain. While I did not detect that you could not use mind-speak, I get the impression that you are far ahead of us technologically. I thought maybe you would be able to fix …"

Daniel was shaking his head at Jack.

"No, Daniel," Jack said. "I will have my say." He looked at the council. "Your valley is what we call a Brigadoon—or a Shangri-la—in our culture. You have been protected from the universe so much, that you eject those citizens who do not match your ideas of peace. Now the universe is about ready to intrude on your little paradise—your little jail—and you want us to enable you to keep withdrawing while we fight your battles and defend you."

"But we … we don't fight."

"Tough rocks."

Daniel sighed. "Jack is right. And—I doubt that we'll be able to fix your machinery. Like you, we just use the advanced machinery left to us. We understand some of it, but not enough. We invented these—" he held up his walkie-talkie "—which use something called batteries for power, but we are only just beginning to understand how the power system works on the devices the people we call 'the Ancients' left us. And we're not certain that your power system is created by the Ancients, so we may not be able to fix anything." He looked around. "I say again. Jack is right. Like you, I did not want to fight. But after my wife was taken by the Goa'uld, I needed to search for her, and in order to do that, I needed to defend myself and the team." He looked at Jack. "In order to fight, you do not necessarily need to be the aggressor. But you do need to learn how to defend yourselves, even—" he stared at Jack, "—even if you just hide yourself in the hills or in caves. But we can't do it for you."

The room was silent. Jack had the feeling that they weren't even talking mind-speak to each other.

"Some of us have known for years how to make the valley stop disappearing," the white-haired man said. Naysa looked at him sharply, and Jack had the feeling that this was news to her. "But we were afraid."

"Man up!" Jack said.

Daniel stared at him. "What he means is that we will help you defend yourself. A team will come through the gate to teach you."

They all looked at each other and nodded. The white-haired man looked at each council member in turn. When it came to Naysa, she raised her eyebrows, nodded, and they each closed their eyes.

Jack felt a slight jerk, then another, larger one. The council nodded again, in unison …

It was morning. Zon awoke to find himself—and the other two—surrounded by Jaffa—and being poked in his side by a staff weapon. A bearded man in a robe was standing over him. The man's eyes flashed. "Nirrti?" Zon said.

The man cocked his head to one side. "Really?" he said, his voice odd sounding. "Do I look like a female?"

The three of them remained silent.

"I am your god."

"I know who you are," Teal'c said. "You are the false god, Ba'al."

"And you are the shol'vah, Teal'c." Ba'al stared at Teal'c hard for a second. "Well, now that we know each other," Ba'al said. "Where is O'Neill?"

Sam shrugged. "He's not here."

Ba'al looked vaguely disappointed. "Ah. Indeed. However, one of you was attempting to contact Nirrti," he said. "And since our dear departed sister cannot come, here I am." He looked the three over. "I'm suspecting that you contacted me," he said to Zon. "Now," he said, clearly not expecting an answer. "Why would he do that?"

Zon made an abortive sound. "I …"

"You were her spy. Clearly, she found something interesting here. I had heard that she was trying to find the valley of the telepaths in this area." Ba'al laughed. "I had told her it was a myth. Apparently, she did not believe me."

"I …" Zon flushed. The others stared at him.

"Are you a telepath?" Ba'al asked Zon. "No, you wouldn't be, or else Nirrti would have taken you with her for her little—experiments. But I suspect you told her you knew of a telepath, hmm …" He leaned down and raised the man's chin. "And then these people would have taken you away." He straightened up and looked at Sam and Teal'c. "O'Neill and his boy Daniel must be missing, or you would not be here." He smiled. "You're waiting for the valley to reappear."

He waited, staring at them.

"You're not going to get applause," Sam finally said.

"No?" Ba'al sank to the ground. His Jaffa guard stood over him. "I just thought I would wait with you."

Zon was suddenly very, very tired. Maybe it was just that he had been waiting so long, maybe it was the food, maybe it was the revelation that he should have trusted Sam and Teal'c. "It won't do you any good," Zon said to the ground. "You won't get in." He looked up and glared at the Goa'uld.

"And why not?" Ba'al looked at him with disinterested surprise.

"Because …" Zon looked past Ba'al, and his eyes widened.

"Because," said Jack O'Neill. "We won't let you." He stepped forward, out of the woods, followed by Daniel and a whole group of people who were dressed like peasants from a medieval village.

Jack stared at Ba'al steadily. "C'mon, give me a reason to shoot."

Ba'al raised his eyebrows, and a shimmer of light surrounded him. "O'Neill. We missed you from the party."

O'Neill looked at the Jaffa, then at Sam and Teal'c. "I didn't think I was invited." He gestured forward. "Now this, campers, is a Goa'uld. Can you read his mind?"

"No," Naysa said, looking at Zon. "I can feel a lot of hate, but I can't read his mind."

"So—if you can't read his mind, no one can."

"Of course not," Naysa said. "I am the most powerful telepath in the valley."

"But you could sense him coming."

"Of course." She examined Ba'al with wide eyes. "I have never felt so much hate. And self-hate. There are two minds, and both hate the other. The one is in agony."

Ba'al stared back at her. "I don't believe you, and nothing remains of the host," he said, flatly. Jack could see his Jaffa look sideways at each other. Ba'al's eyebrows furrowed. "How did you know we were here?"

"You see, Naysa can read the mind of her husband without his detecting it. We knew you were here, why you were here, and went for reinforcements." At his gesture, two dozen armed SG personnel surrounded the three Jaffa and the Goa'uld. "Your forces must be spread thin—nobody was guarding the gate. Hmm." Jack scratched his head. "Now, since what you want isn't here, I suggest you leave."

"Why don't you just kill us?" Ba'al spat.

"She," Jack said, gesturing to Naysa, "has begged for mercy."

Naysa glanced at him, and he thought hard at her—say nothing.

She nodded slightly, then looked sadly at Ba'al.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to kill you, so I would suggest you leave. Now."

Ba'al stared at O'Neill, his face filled with hate. "This is not over."

"It is, for now."

Ba'al walked off, dignified, his Jaffa following. His Jaffa looked at the escort following them, various looks of concern on their faces.

After they left, Teal'c raised his eyebrows. "Those are not true Jaffa. Only one was Jaffa. Those guards were human."

Sam looked at Teal'c, then at O'Neill. "Yes, sir," she said slowly. "But they were still heavily armed. Thank you, sir."

"Aw, shucks, ma'am," Jack said. "You'd do the same for me." He looked puzzled. "Already have, as a matter of fact."

"Where is the valley?"

Jack gestured vaguely back the way they came. "Over that way." He looked at Naysa, then at Zon. "I swear I don't know what you see in him."

"You're—you're so thin," Naysa said to Zon. She looked unsteadily at him, then, at Daniel's nudge, moved toward him.

"What happened, sir?" Sam said, as she took the hand he offered her to help her up.

O'Neill moved away. "I'll tell you at the debriefing. Let's give the lovebirds a little room."

"So," General Hammond said, leaning back in his chair, "You believe that protecting and studying these peoples may benefit us in the fight against the remaining Goa'uld."

Sam nodded her head. "Possibly. I believe that the technology used to move this valley may have been developed by the Ancients, possibly in tandem with the Asgard." She looked intently at Hammond. "But I won't know for certain until they trust us enough to show us their archives."

"And that will be …."

"They believe that we are incredibly violent, and they are not certain about us," Daniel interjected. "They will allow us to help them with various technologies and will accept our protection until they learn to defend themselves. Naysa believes in us, but this is an incredibly democratic and free society." He shook his head. "They do not believe in keeping secrets such as the Stargate, and they can't understand us. And until they understand us, the majority is hesitant to let us look at their only means of escape."

"Which is, in fact, a secret they want to keep from us," O'Neill said.

Daniel smiled, acknowledging the double-think. "But they don't see it that way."

"So, we're not talking about a short-term benefit here."

"No, sir." Sam said. "Possibly a benefit down the line."

Hammond sighed. "I'll attempt to sell it to the White House that way. We're going through another set of budget setbacks. Dismissed."

"General," O'Neill said, getting up.

"Yes?"

"I would certainly hate to break my promise to Naysa." Jack hesitated. "I could bring our friend Naysa through to get some dirt on …"

"O'Neill, that thought is unworthy of an officer and a gentleman." Hammond smiled. "But I'll think about it if my lobbying doesn't work." He hesitated. "Are you all right?"

Jack sighed. "I do believe that they can't run away from the universe."

"But?"

"Daniel made an off-hand remark that we brought the Garden of Eden down to Earth."

"And that bothers you, son." It was not a question.

"I do not double-think my decisions. My decision was right."

"But you are wondering whether it was a good or a bad decision or just the right decision?" Hammond stared at the gate. "I know. I think about that every day. Then I talk to my grandchildren, and I stop thinking about these things. You can not worry about good decisions or bad decisions—just the right decisions."

Jack got up. "Thank you, sir. I think I've been around Daniel too much."

Hammond snorted. "You want to transfer to another team?"

"No, sir!"

"I didn't think so. Now, go join your team."

"Thank you, sir." Jack looked at the Stargate. "I'm glad they can't read my mind," he said, grinning.

"You would never hear the last of it," Hammond said. "Well, Jack, your secret is safe with me."

Jack grinned at him.

"And please keep Dr. Jackson from poking at more rocks."

"Impossible, sir. Impossible."

Hammond grinned at him.