Chapter Five: Questions

xxxXXxxx

"No one who is curious is dumb. It is the people who don't ever ask questions who go around clueless through their lives." – Neil Degrasse Tyson

xxxXXxxx

The moment Lieutenant Polk had okayed the passengers to move around the cabin, Jack O'Neill had nodded to his team, and they began a quiet, unofficial mission: find out as much as they could about their alien visitors from the future. This mission was apparently being facilitated by the fact that these polite and very welcoming alien visitors gave the passengers access to their computers – and thus their computer databases.

O'Neill, on the other hand, joined Vice President Gore at one of the food dispensers.

The Vice President smiled at him. "I'm actually not that hungry, but the idea of potentially eating alien food is just cool." Gore shrugged. "I'm a geek, I admit it. I love science fiction, and science in general. An alien spaceship? Yeah, they couldn't keep me away from this trip."

Jack smiled at the man. "I understand, sir. I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to science fiction too. Star Trek is my poison of choice. Growing up it was Heinlein and Asimov."

Gore nodded. "Me too." He used a finger to leaf through the menu as he spoke. "There's a lot of options here, and all I did was tap on the 'snacks and appetizers' menu. "Some of these..." the Vice President tapped on one of the entries and it expanded. "This looks interesting. Its marked as being Tautiq Cuisine. Wonder who the Tautiq are."

"I think someone mentioned them as one of the member races of the ICS, but I don't remember the details." O'Neill smiled again.

"Right. Okay, this is Chorvusk... kikka? Kickya? Hmm... what ever it is, it looks like ice cream with... oh, no that won't work. Its marked 'not safe for human consumption. Let's try something else."

The Vice President continued working his way through the menu, finally settling on something. "Shvendgu," Gore said, reading the description. "Appetizer. Small bites of meat fried in oil, taken from the shvendgu, a regularly farmed animal native to Zoosh, the Pelkon home world. Shvendgu is one of the most commonly eaten foods among the Pelkons. Served with a dipping sauce. Sort of like a chicken wing, I guess." He smiled at O'Neill. "Marked safe for human consumption, so I am going to try it." As Gore finished pushing buttons, a panel next to the menu opened up and with a low humming sound, a bowlful of small yellow tidbits – probably the meat – appeared out of thin air beside an even smaller bowl containing a pinkish sauce of some kind. It smelled pretty good, in O'Neill's opinion. Gore picked it up, said, "Good luck, Colonel!" and headed back to his seat.

The alien Lieutenant, Polk, had mentioned that there were a couple of Pelkons among the survivors, and since the dish had been labeled as "safe for human consumption" on the menu, decided to give it a try too. He normally wasn't that daring eater – barbecue, steak, cheeseburgers, and the occasional burrito or taco was about his speed – but he figured just this once, what the heck. Best thing was, he wasn't disappointed.

He had managed to sit back down and take a couple of bites – it tasted a bit like sweet and spicy shrimp that the Jade Dragon back in Colorado Springs produced... but different somehow. Just a subtle difference, but it was there. But it still tasted good.

He opened the holographic interface connected to his chair and waved a finger through it, scanning right and left as he navigated an easy-to-use menu. He knew Carter was going right for the science data, and Daniel was no doubt searching through their history data banks. Teal'c was either looking through what military information was available, or was flipping through movies. For his own part, he'd gone straight to popular entertainment. A few minutes later, and he was watching an episode of Star Trek that no one else on earth had ever seen before.

It was a little surprising, a little amusing, and a little satisfying that they still had Star Trek a thousand years in the future. Granted it was definitely not the Star Trek he'd grown up with. there was some weirdness about it. O'Neil thought this understandable, given that the Trek series he was watching listed as "remake of the 24th century classic holo-series" that was apparently released in 3173. it was a remake of a remake of a remake of a remake, and probable a dozen remakes on top of that as well, given the 1100-plus years between then and now.

The episode was projected directly into the air in front of him. While this was cool, the really cool part came when he realized that no one else in the room could see what he was watching.

It also wasn't the Trek he knew. Not the original series, not Next Generation, not Deep Space Nine, and not even the new show, Voyager. The show was titled simply Star Trek and featured the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise, but it wasn't the classic Enterprise design, and it wasn't Captain Kirk in command. From what Jack gathered from the events of the first episode, this series was about pre-Federation Earth, and a smaller, less advanced USS Enterprise, commanded by a guy named Jonathan Archer.

It was still a good story. All about humanity's burgeoning relationship with the other star-faring species. And the actor playing Archer – his name was Bill Dotson, or Dobson or something like that – was pretty good. Plus the woman playing the Vulcan liaison was hot. And an alien. That came as a surprise. Her name was Tannatar Holayra, and apparently she belonged to a species called the Krinishad – he took a moment to look them up and found they were a member species in the ICS, and merely resembled Vulcans because of a coincidence in evolution.

The Colonel was amused by how the series seemed to be playing with the idea that Jonathan Archer had been an actual historical figure, sort of like how Robin Hood and King Arthur were treated in the modern day. He had to admit, it was a fun series. Maybe, in addition to the Pelkon sauce, he could get it a copy of it on CD-ROM, if the crew of the Far Traveler had the ability to record something in CD-Rom format.

He was almost done with his snack when the others returned. "So, kids..." he glanced at the other three before settling on Captain Carter. "What have we learned?"

Carter took the opening. "Sir, I went straight for their publicly available scientific database. Mostly I found textbooks, and 'why this works' style videos. The subject matter was... well... some were pretty basic. I mean, Newton's laws are still Newton's laws. But there was mountains of data in this database that I'd never even considered."

O'Neill braced himself for Carter losing herself in the glory of science. "Go on, Captain."

"I found this one book, entitled 'Introduction to Basic Physics,' printed in 3255. I could tell that the book was written to be as basic as possible, but I still missed about of a third of the concepts the book casually referenced because any man on the street in the 33rd Century would know about it already." Carter shook her head. "For example, the first chapter of this book referenced something it called 'particle triplication enhancement..."

"I get it, Carter." O'Neill nodded. "Did it feel real?"

"Real, sir?" Carter asked, confused.

"Did it feel like actual science and not technobabble. Like on Star Trek."

"Right, sir. It was absolutely real. In fact, there were multiple points where I went in confused, and the moment the book explained something that we haven't discovered yet, it made sense. Granted, there were a few things that I was lacking a step or two in between. In order to grasp the first concept, I had to already be comfortable with three other concepts, and without those intervening steps I had no idea what they were talking about."

"Okay, so they're not faking it. They're really as advanced as they say."

"Sir, they are amazingly advanced." Carter nodded. "I'd easily believe they were from a thousand years in the future."

"More advanced than the Goa'uld?" O'Neill asked. He needed to hear the right answer. "Will they be able to effectively help us?"

"In some ways, they're much more advanced than the Goa'uld. In others, they're at about the same level. And in still others, they're behind." Carter pulled out a small notepad. "They don't seem to use naqueda at all, but if what I saw is accurate, their weapons and shield technology will be able to handle multiple Ha'taks at once."

"Well that's good news." Jack sighed.

Captain Carter definitely looked like she wanted to expound at length on wonders of the new science she'd discovered. To cut that off at the pass, O'Neill smiled at her and held up a hand. He stabbed a fork into one of the the battered, deep-fried critter with the fork-like utensil that the replicator – that was what he was going to call it – and dipped it into the orangeish-pink sauce. He then held the utensil out to her.

"Try this, Carter. Tell me what you think."

Carter stared at him for a moment, looked at the fork, then took it from him. She stared at the bite of meat, looked him in the eye again, then popped it into her mouth. She handed the fork back to him while she chewed. She glanced at the ceiling as she moved the food around in her mouth, trying to maximize the flavor.

"Not bad. The sauce is better than the meat. Was that lobster?" Carter glanced at the plate as he set it aside.

"Some sort of alien shrimpazoid. Its native to the Pelkon home world; figured I might as well try something new. Turns out, humans and Pelkons can eat something like 99% of each other's food. But you're right. The sauce is amazing." The sauce that covered the meat made it worthwhile. It was made from a fruit some the same alien planet, and was described as "sweet with just a bite of spice." The description was apt. It tasted like someone had taken a pint of strawberry jam and watered it down with a teaspoon of Sriracha with just a hint of mint. It was amazing. He was seriously thinking about asking if he could get a bottle of it as a souvenir of his visit to the starship, and planned of using it as a steak sauce if he could.

Daniel cleared his throat. "So, Jack… what are you watching?"

He speared another piece of meat with his fork and held it out to Daniel. "Try one of these, Daniel. They're kind of bland by themselves, but are really good with the sauce." O'Neill paused the show. "I'm watching Star Trek. Or at least a version of it made in 3193."

Daniel took the gobbet, chewed, swallowed, and nodded. "Not bad. I might have to order those for dinner tonight on the ship." He cleared his throat again and said, "I'm surprised you're not watching a hockey game."

"Yeah, about that... apparently hockey isn't a thing anymore in the future." Jack sighed. He tapped the "screen" and the episode paused. "I'm not sure I'd want to live in a future without hockey."

"Right." Daniel rolled his eyes. There was a long pause. "Jack, I went looking for cultural and historical information in their database. History textbooks, documentaries, stuff like that. You'll never guess what I found. Or rather, what I didn't find."

Jack grinned at predicting exactly what information his friend would dive for first. "Let me guess… you found a complete lack of any mention of the Goa'uld, the Asgard, or any of the other major races we've encountered?" Jack asked, grabbing the last of what he decided to call "alien poppers" since he'd never remember the name "shvendgu".

"Yes, a complete lack of mention of any of them. I find that very interesting." Daniel said. "I mean, I found a recording of Neil Armstrong's moonwalk, and the challenger explosion, but nothing about the rest of early human space exploration." Daniel looked around the cabin, and then back at Jack. "It goes directly from there to first contact with a race called the Tonalse in 2129."

Jack was silent for a moment. "The simplest explanation is just loss of records. We don't know everything that was happening back in the year 997, right? Same thing could apply here."

"Yeah. True." Daniel nodded, but he was clearly thinking about something. "You know, there's another possibility. What if something is going to happen within the next ten to fifteen years that removed both the Asgard and the Goa'uld from the picture completely, and since it happened so recently to us for the information to fall into… what would you call it… 'dark history period'."

"From your mouth to God's ear." Jack thought about it for a moment. "The Asgard said it themselves, they're dying out. But still… no mention of them at all is sort of odd. And no mention of the Goa'uld at all… that's just bizarre."

Jack looked to Teal'c. Anything else."

Teal'c nodded. "Indeed. I browsed the popular entertainment library, just as you did. I found a few remarkable things. The computer has copies of what looked like hundreds of thousands of books at hand. As might be expected, given that I am still not conversant with Tau'ri culture, I have never heard of most of the writers. And some were in languages I am not familiar with, for that matter. But some of the classics remained. Shakespeare, it seemed, is immortal. Surprisingly, so is Stephen King. Everything Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written was in their database, as well as the works of Isaac Asimov."

"Perhaps the most interesting thing I discovered," Teal'c continued, "is that the comic book superhero known as Superman is held in the same regard in the 32nd Century as your mythical King Arthur is today."

"Superman?" Carter asked.

"Yes, MajorCarter." Teal'c gave his usual slow nod. And not only the specifically titled Superman comic book, but Action Comics as well. These comic books are still being published in the year 3127. The Far Traveler carries a complete database of them, dating all the way back to the first issue from 1938." It was clear that Teal'c found it all very amusing. "They were listed under "Essential Reading'".

O'Neill was silent for a moment. "Well, it makes sense." He didn't elaborate.

"How do you mean?" Daniel looked confused, but Teal'c of all people nodded at Jack's words.

"Myths are important, DanielJackson. They inspire. They uplift. Shortly after I arrived on Earth, I read the words of a Tau'ri philosopher and found him to be very wise. He said, 'fairy tales do not exist to teach us dragons exist, they exist to teach us dragons can be beaten.' As I said, very wise. We Jaffa have our own myths, and they work in the same way." His expression shifted, slightly. "The greatest heroic myth your culture, the Americans, have ever produced is Superman."

Daniel's eyebrows crinkled. "I suppose on some level they would be..." The archaeologist faded into silence.

Jack waited a moment, then spoke. "Anyway... did anyone find reference to the stargate, or the Stargate program? I can't imagine it would still be classified a thousand in the future."

Carter looked at Jackson and Teal'c, and Jackson looked at Carter and Teal'c. Teal'c just tilted his head.

"I did not, O'Neil." was all the big man said.

"I didn't find anything about it either," Daniel said. "I did find multiple references to something called a Tonalse ring, but it didn't sound like the same thing. For one, they were described as being multiple kilometers in diameter, and being placed in orbit around a star. They were under a section of their encyclopedia marked 'popular tourist attractions.' And does that sound as weird to you as it does to me?"

"Anything else?", Jack asked. "Anyone else find anything weird?"

"All sorts of things," Carter interjected. "I don't know if someone living in the 33rd Century would find them odd, but I found some things that were downright bizarre."

Jack waited. And waited. Then, "And?"

"Well... take how the various human colony worlds were named. The crews of the various explorer ships were given the right to name habitable worlds they stumbled across while exploring space. Except where they expected to find a handful of habitable worlds, they found dozens."

"And how is this bizarre?" Daniel asked.

"Well, at first things went as expected. They named these new worlds things like New Terra, or New Texas and so on. Then they started with less formal names. One ship captain named a planet Barbara's World, after his daughter. And there's Tabletop, which apparently is just one big flat continent surrounded by ocean. But as time went on, some of the planets got named some really odd things. Like Planet Boredom, and Planet McPlanet. Apparently one of the member worlds of this Federation or Confederation, or Union is a planet called 'Shithole.' Described as a quote-unquote "useless swampy waste of a planet."

"Shithole? Really?" Jack asked, laughing.

"Yes, it has a population measured in billions. From what I read, there have been five referendums to rename the world, but each time its been rejected."

Jack shook his head. Daniel was obviously trying hard not to laugh, and Teal'c was doing that particularly stoic expression O'Neill had come to interpret as hilarious laughter.

"So what else?"

"The way the various worlds were colonized is bizarre, Jack." Daniel said. "Some colonies were the products of governmental missions, including one where it sounds like the government just rounded up a bunch of people at random and shoved them into a colony ship."

"Let me guess," Jack said. "China?"

"No. India." Daniel said, at which Jack rolled his eyes.

"It was the civilian groups." Daniel continued. "Any group that could afford to buy and outfit a colony ship was allowed to settle a world. Religious groups, ethnic groups, corporations… there's a planet out there called Disney's World that's apparently the biggest tourist attraction in all of human space. Even the SCA colonized a planet. They named it 'Gondor' after the city in the Lord of the Rings."

"SCA?" Teal'c asked.

"Society for Creative Anachronism." Carter answered. "They're a group of Medieval re-enactors. They dress up in costume and meet to practice old craft arts and fight each other with rattan swords in armor based on the stuff used by the old-style knights. What?" Everyone was staring at her. "Mark was a member for a while. He had a ball. Its how he learned how to play a lute."

O'Neill rolled his eyes again. "So what you're saying, Daniel, is that there are planets out there with pretend Medieval themes, and some that are all one religion, and some that are owned by companies. I bet those are fun places to live. Anything else?"

"Did no one else see the information about the regularly scheduled fights to the death that are broadcast for public entertainment?" Teal'c asked.

His question brought everyone to a halt.

"Say what now?" Carter asked. "What… like gladiatorial fights?"

"While I do not know the word 'gladiatorial,' Captain Carter, I can guess as to the context. If you mean two warriors entering an arena and then fighting until one kills the other, while an audience watch and are entertained by the fight, then yes." Teal'c nodded. "Apparently, these fights have something to do with becoming a parent."

"Oh, wait. Yes, I read this," Daniel had to ask. "Its one aspect of the Terran government's system of population control."

Okay, explain. How does gladiatorial combat have anything to do with population control?" O'Neill asked, his curiosity raised.

"Well, from what I read, the Terrain government in the 33rd Century maintains the population of the Earth at about 40 billion, and they do this by keeping track of who is allowed to reproduce and who isn't." Daniel answered.

"I was curious myself," Teal'c took up the narrative. "I looked up further information. Apparently, the population of the Earth a thousand years in the future is carefully regulated at just under 40 billion humans." Teal'c glanced at his companions before continuing. "Everyone on Earth is implanted with a birth control device that has to be renewed every five years. The implant releases a drug into the person's system that is 100% effective at rendering the person sterile for as long as the drug is in their system."

"Gladiators, Teal'c, not birth control." O'Neill said.

"But its connected, O'Neill." Teal'c said. "Every citizen on Earth has two breeding allotments. Those wanting to have a child must finds a willing partner. Having a child costs two allotments, one from each parent."

"Okay so far." Jack said.

Teal'c took a breath before continuing. "There are exceptions. If you're unlucky enough to carry genetic weaknesses, such as a low intelligence rating, or bad teeth, or bad eyesight, or allergies, your allotments will be revoked and you will not be allowed to reproduce. On the other hand, if you have some desirable trait like extremely high intelligence, or unusually strong bones, or natural disease resistance, you can possibly be given extra allotments. Certain individuals who possess multiple superior traits might be given an unlimited license to breed. That is the basic arrangement of the planet's population control system."

Another pause. "In addition to this base system, there are ways to earn parental allotments that do not involve genetics. Anyone – even those whose rights to become a parent have been revoked – can use these methods to become a parent."

"What ways?" Carter asked.

Teal'c tilted his head toward her. "The first method is to do something heroic that saves many lives, or creating something that contributes to the overall betterment of the entire human species. Such is often – but not always – rewarded with a parental allotment. According to the information, the last person to be so rewarded saved two hundred people on a damaged space-liner, nearly dying in the process."

"The second method is the so called Birthright Lottery. It is held at the end of each year, and the winners get an extra allotment. The third method is to purchase one; the listed price was a hundred million credits. I'm not sure how that measures up to modern day currency, but I am assuming it is expensive. But the last way to get more allotments is to win a gladiatorial battle."

"Okay, and?" O'Neill asked, not seeing the point.

"The gladiator fights are to the death. The one who loses the fight loses his parental allotments which are then given to the victor.

"That's barbaric." Carter said.

xxxXXxxx

The technology that would eventually enable casual brain-taping – as the recording of a person's memories and personality onto a computer-accessible memory chip, was invented in the early 2800s as a way to preserve the knowledge and experiences of one's loved ones.

Originally never intended to implant knowledge, brain-taping had been used for just over 200 years as a means to educate and entertain. Not only did it make training of new employees easier, it was a relatively inexpensive way for common folk to have extra-ordinary adventures.

Too poor to afford a berth on a Tonalse merchant ship, but always wanted to make the trip? There were dozens of tapes out there that would let you remember it as if you'd gone yourself. Want to learn to be a world class chef? Buy a brain-tape.

Of course, the system wasn't perfect. Several early experiments led to the body's original personality being overwritten involuntarily (while modern brain-taping technology has automatic safeties to prevent such total replacement, the side-effect did lead directly to "rebirth" being used as a form of capital punishment... the dangerous criminal was erased and his body given over to whichever upstanding citizen had created the recording). Also, downloading the skills and knowledge of a gold-medal acrobat (for example) would not make you the original acrobat's equal without practice honing the body's reactions and physique to the skill.

Some member planets outlawed the technology, while others embraced it. A religion even arose, the deity figure for which was the amalgamated gestalt personality formed by dozens and dozens of individuals "going to join the great mind" as they were dying. This religion, Digitalism, is known to have no more than a million followers total within Terran Space.

XxxXXxxx

Newly minted Midshipman Cordelia Chase pulled down on her uniform's formal jacket for the third time in as many minutes. It didn't need adjusting, but it gave her hands something to do. The holo-window in front of her showed a blue-toned version of the shuttle carrying the various diplomats assigned to work out a treaty with the Far Traveler's captain and crew. It was still too far away to be seen with the naked eye; space was a vast and empty place, after all.

She took a deep breath and pulled on her jacket once more. The stars visible through the hangar's open hatchway were beautiful. Majestic even. It made Cordelia's decision to stay on the ship even easier. If her daddy got his way, she'd be married off to the son of one of his business associates. The perfect trophy wife. The thought made Cordy want to vomit.

She watched the shuttle get closer in the holo-window. No, this was much, much better.

Next to her, a glowing blue presence spoke. "You all set, Cordy? You ready for this?" Jonathan was with Xander in the observation gallery, making sure everything was ready for this big meeting. That he had taken the time to talk to her before Cordelia's first official act as one of the Far Traveler's officers... albeit the lowest ranked officer... was kind of nice.

Jonathan's hologram wasn't looking at her as it spoke. Instead, it was paying attention to things that Cordy couldn't see, no doubt directing out-of-sight service drones in the transformation of the huge room into a usable conference room.

"I'll be fine, sir." Cordy replied, and then winced. Her basic training as a crewman, and then the introductory officer training, was accomplished through a technology called "brain-taping." The information had been fed directly into her brain, and her mind was slowly assimilating it. Midshipman Melissa Subasi had been the most junior member of the ship's Diplomatic Corps – she was a Fleet Academy student on her training cruise – and had died in the line of duty. As per her Digitalist beliefs, her memory was stored until it could be returned to her home planet, Strawberry Fields, for upload into the Great Mind.

Dawn, the ship's artificial intelligence, had pointed out to Xander that this sort of "training" for new officers was specifically forbidden by regulations. As the highest ranking officer present in the entire galaxy at this time, Xander waived regulations and offered Cordy the procedure, which she accepted.

As a result, Cordelia was basically in the same place as the rest of the transformed crew now: faced with being two people at once. Calling herself "Cordelia Subasi" was the easy part. After all, it gave her cover if anyone tried to search out her original identity. But the rest... well... the most visible effect was that she'd immediately picked up Subasi's habits in regard to her superior officers. As such, she occasionally responded automatically without thinking as dictated by the training. For example, being formal with Jonathan because of his higher rank despite the two of them having known each other since kindergarten. "I mean... uh... Sorry about that, Jonathan." That felt weird to her, just calling him by his name like that. "Sir."

Jonathan's hologram chuckled. "Don't worry about it, Cordy. You'll figure it out. Besides, if you call the rest of us by rank, or sir or ma'am, it reinforces the cover story."

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "I bet the rest of you are just loving this."

"If its any consolation, we're doing it, too. I haven't called Xander 'Xander' in days. Its been yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir the entire time." Jonathan looked down at his wrist, and then straight into her eyes. "Okay, two minutes before the shuttle lands, according to Willow. Good luck, Midshipman Subasi. You can do this."

Cordy pulled on her uniform jacket for the fourth time. "Yes sir. Thank you, sir. I'm sure I'll be fine. Is it true one of the people we're meeting is the Vice President?"

"Yep. No pressure at all." Jonathan gave her little wave, and his hologram winked out. Cordelia nodded to herself, took a deep breath, and then tapped the holographic display in front of her off The shuttle was now a mere kilometer away from the ship, and she could see it approaching through the pressure screen that kept the hangar form being exposed to space with her naked eye.

The craft swiftly grew as it approached, penetrating the energy screen that kept the air and heat inside the hangar easily. Once the shuttle was entirely within the airspace of the hangar, the massive hatch began closing over the entrance. The low metallic thump of it fully closing also signaled the pressure screen being turned off.

"Midshipman Subasi?"

Cordelia managed to not jump when Dawn's voice sounded in her ear. "Yes, Dawn?"

"Iris is reporting that several of her passengers are carrying personal sidearms," Dawn said, relaying the information the shuttle's onboard AI gave her. "Likely the armed personnel are security officers for the delegates. Should I disarm them?"

Cordelia thought about it for a moment. "No, but monitor them closely in case you need to intervene, and inform the Captain of the situation."

"Very well. Thank you, ma'am."

Dawn signed off with a low beep. Cordelia took a deep breath, and one last time pulled on her formal dress jacket.

xxxXXxxx

Jack was the first person out of the shuttle, not just from the Americans, but from the entire Earth delegation. Before opening the shuttle's drop ramp, Commander Rosenberg, and Lieutenant Polk had explained that they specifically needed to complete shut-down procedures on their transport, but that an escort had been arranged.

Vice President Gore took being abandoned by the the shuttle crew in stride. His own team and Colonel Davis did the same. Senator Kinsey, on the other hand, looked pissed off. Probably thought he was being disrespected or some such. Jack shook his head. If it was true that the Far Traveler currently had less than a skeleton crew, not rendering honors for a visiting dignitary was utterly understandable.

He took a quick glance around at the hangar before turning his attention to the young woman in uniform who stood near the shuttle's ramp. The ship's hangar was huge, and clean. It had the same color scheme as the transport's interior. He took the hangar's size in once more. It was only fitting that the Far Traveler had a hangar the size of a cathedral, given that the ship itself was two kilometers long.

There were several other small craft present in the hangar. Most were secured to the ceiling, walls, and floors. A double-row of what looked like aerospace fighters clung to the ceiling above them like Spider-Man; for a moment he wondered how pilots would enter their planes like that until he realized that they probably just walked to them. If the Far Traveler had artificial gravity, there was no reason why the "ceiling" he was looking at couldn't also function as a floor. Same for the walls, which were also covered in small, one-man craft. Most of those, though, looked like utility craft of one type or another.

The deck he was standing on featured another five transports like the one he had disembarked from, and two honking huge craft that were both about the size of one of the US Navy's destroyers.

While taking the entire hangar in, he happened to glance back toward the hangar's entrance-way. He did a double-take. A huge hatch, perhaps five stories tall, was closing over the opening through which the transport had moved. That was interesting, but not what shocked him. What shocked him was the fact that the hangar appeared to be open to space. At least as far as he could tell. The fact that they weren't all dying from the lack of oxygen and pressure told him that there was something blocking off the open hangar hatch.

"Carter," he said, nodding toward the hangar's massive hatchway. She turned, looked at him, then shifted her gaze toward where he was nodding. Her eyes went wide for a moment as she stared.

"Its likely some sort of force field technology with selective permeability. Keeps air and heat in, allows the shuttles and other craft to come and go." Carter said quickly. She seemed excited.

"Should I take that as being a bit difficult to pull off?" Jack asked, only semi-snarky.

Carter responded with a look that Jack had started interpreting as her "you're an idiot even for asking that question." Some officers would take that sort of thing as insubordination, but Jack had always found that giving his junior officers a certain leeway always bred superior results. If they weren't afraid to speak their opinions, they wouldn't be afraid to think outside the box. Plus, he found it pretty amusing.

"Right." He grinned back at her. "Difficult to pull off." He watched as the gigantic hatchway sealed over the hangar opening. "A thousand years of technological progress, they're bound to have a few neat tricks."

Carter snorted but didn't say anything.

Finally Jack's gaze landed on the young woman. She had dark hair and eyes, and skin that was subtly tanned, which was likely her natural coloration given the realities of living on a starship full-time. Her uniform looked freshly pressed. Her shoulder tabs showed a single gold chevron and a gold-colored circle. Rank insignia, obviously, though he wouldn't know what it meant. At least not yet. She stood in front of one of the oddest vehicles Jack had ever seen. It had no visible means of propulsion, no visible windows, and was shaped like a pill of some kind, like a Tylenol gel cap. A single large open hatch was open nearest where the officer was standing.

Jack took a step toward her. "Should I salute you and ask permission to come aboard?" Jack asked with a small smile.

She returned his smile. "Normally that would be protocol, sir, but since we don't have any deck officers anymore..." She clasped her hands in front of her. It was a nervous gesture and the Colonel could tell. "I think we can let it go this once." Jack immediately noticed that her words didn't quite match the movement of her mouth, and that her voice seemed to be coming from the center of her collar. More evidence of translator technology.

"I won't tell anyone if you don't." Jack smiled again, and it was met by the woman's own smile. "You okay? You look nervous." Jack asked, kindly.

"Between you and me Colonel, " – while Jack couldn't read her insignia, she clearly knew about his – "While I have been trained in how to receive and interact with high-level diplomats and their entourages, I've never actually done it outside of training. I'm Midshipman Subasi." She saluted the superior officer and held it until the man returned it. "Permission to come aboard granted. Welcome."

"Midshipman is what we call the students at our Naval Academy. Should I assume you're still in training to become an officer?" Jack tilted his head at the woman.

"Yes sir, sir." Cordelia blushed a bit. "I was on my one-year training cruise when the accident hit. I'm the only member of the ship's Diplomatic Corps to survive."

"Well, I wouldn't sweat it too much. You'll do fine, I'm sure." Jack turned around to watch the other members of the delegation came down the ramp behind Jack and spread out around him. Teal'c, Daniel, and Sam collected themselves around him, while the other delegates clumped into their own respective groups. The higher ranking members – the actual diplomats in the group – lined up in front.

The young officer stepped forward. "Can everyone see me and hear me okay?" The delegates all nodded or smiled or otherwise waited for her to continue. "Good. Welcome to the Far Traveler," she said. "I am Midshipman Cordelia Subasi. I've been assigned by Captain Samson to act as liaison officer while you're here. The Captain acknowledges that guests of your esteemed positions and ranks are usually met by a senior officer, but given the fact that we have less than ten crew-members left, those senior to me are needed elsewhere. We mean no offense."

"Of course, Midshipman, Perfectly understandable. In a crisis, you do what has to be done and leave the unimportant stuff for later." the Vice President of the United States answered. The senator was bristling at the presumed slight of having such a low-ranking officer greet the diplomatic party, but Gore's curt look his way kept him from commenting.

The Midshipman smiled and continued, saying "If you need anything during your stay, or have any questions not answered during your meetings with the senior officers, I would be glad to help you. I may not be able to answer every question, due to security concerns, but if I can answer I will, or at least I'll let you know where to direct your question."

She paused for a breath, then gestured behind her, toward the vehicle. "If you would all please board the deployment tram. Find a seat and buckle yourselves in, as we've got a bit of traveling to do to get you all to Observation Gallery, which is in the operations dome and where the Captain will be meeting you all. Its a bit of a ways away, and we will be moving pretty fast once we get started."

The jostling for position, who would sit where, begun.

xxxXXxxx

It turned out that the big silver Tylenol was a combination passenger train and high capacity elevator. When they started moving, Midshipman Subasi had tapped on the wall, making a holographic interior view of the Far Traveler appear on one of the elevator's walls. The tiny yellow light, according to the Midshipman, was the current location of their transport as it moved. While O'Neill never felt any motion at all, the light did change position at a pretty constant rate, and did so in both the horizontal and vertical directions.

A little less than ten minutes after their journey began, Midshipman Subasi again tapped on a control and the ceiling of their car suddenly became transparent. At first it didn't show anything but a gray metal ceiling. "In a moment, you'll see one of the best parts of using the ship's tram system to move around. Just keep looking up."

One second they were in a dull gray tube, and the next they were in full sunlight. Above them hung the Earth in all her glory. The Pacific Coast from Alaska all the way down to Panama could be clearly seen below a thin layer of cloud.

He could hear some of the dignitaries oohing and ahhing, this being their first time off planet, and he grinned. If you didn't have this sort of reaction the first time you saw the Earth from space, you had no soul.

"Hold on." It was Senator Kinsey. Trust the man to prove Jack right about not having a soul. "Are you telling me part of this tram line of yours is in open space? Isn't that dangerous?"

"No, sir. We're just traveling through part of it that's, well, see-through for a lack of a better word."

"So a glass tunnel? That would still be a dangerous thing to have on the outside of a spaceship, especially a warship." Kinsey continued.

Jack found himself nodding internally. The Senator was a bastard, but he wasn't wrong. A glass tunnel on the exterior of a warship was dangerous. Jack suspected, though, that they were all missing something.

Their shuttle moved back into a dull gray tunnel. Subasi tapped the control again, and their ceiling returned.

"Don't worry, Senator," she said. "These tubes aren't made of glass. They are a single-piece exuded diamond a little over thirty-eight centimeters thick. In addition, there is retractable armor covering these tubes when the Far Traveler enters battle. They are opened when we're in orbit around a friendly world, to give the crew a view of the outside. Keeps up morale."

"That much diamond must have been horrifically expensive to manufacture," one of the other diplomats – a Chinese deputy minister of something or other,- said. It was an implied question.

"Not at all, Mr. Deputy Minister." Subasi replied. "Carbon is literally the fourth most common element in the universe, and all fusing it into a diamond takes is heat and pressure. Our society has used artificial diamonds in hundreds of ways for centuries." She looked confused. "Diamonds are cheap and plentiful in the 33rd Century. Just like gold."

Several of the delegates looked offended. Jack suddenly realized that the coming of the starship from the future would inevitably overturn the global economy if they were talking about diamonds and gold being cheap and plentiful.

Carter was nodding. Jack leaned toward her. "Carter?" he asked quietly.

"It tracks. They've got easy transmutation technology, not to mention free access to the asteroid belts of who knows how many planets. Their economy can't be based on rare elements, since to them none of the traditional elements would be rare. I mean, maybe if they based their economy on Astatine or something equally rare..."

"Right. I got it Carter, thanks."

xxxXXxxx

It took them a little less than twenty minutes total to reach their destination, which turned out to be an otherwise featureless room with four doors, one on each wall, and six elevator tubes. "This is the main bridge transport point," explained Commander Rosenberg. "Follow me, please. The Captain is waiting in the Observation Gallery, which thankfully is on this deck and only a short walk away."

Jack continued to take in all the small details he could. The ship's corridors were high enough for even their shuttle pilot, Commander Rosenberg, who was easily seven feet tall, to pass through without once ducking. Everything was touch control. Everything was spotlessly clean.

When they entered the Observation Gallery, they were presented with an enormous floor to ceiling display of what looked like the entire solar system, as seen from a point somewhere "above" the sun and planets. There were seven people – three men and five women - waiting for them. Presumably, it was the remaining survivors of the Far Traveler's crew.

Jack recognized Captain Samson the moment he walked through the Observation Gallery's door. The commanding officer the Far Traveler was short. No more than 5'1" or maybe 5'2" tall at most. But Samson was easily the same in width at the shoulder, and he was clearly heavily muscled. Competitive body builder muscled. Schwarzenegger-and-Ferigno level muscled. The man looked like someone had taken a brick, and slapped arms, legs, and a head onto it.

Next to the Captain stood the first true alien Jack had seen on the ship. Sure, SG1-1 was referring to the entire crew as aliens because they weren't from Earth – or at least, weren't from Earth of this time – but this was the first true non-human they'd encountered. She was golden-skinned, with spots. Her eyes were slitted, like a cat's, and her face had a slight distension, as if her ancestry involved animals with muzzles rather than faces. Her hair was a lighter gold than her skin and worn in a 'Mohawk' style that trained down her back. And –Jack couldn't help but notice, though he tried not to stare – she had four tits, one pair placed on top of another on her chest.

Jack then and there decided to only look this woman in the eyes when he spoke to her.

There was a second alien of the same sort standing behind the uniformed officers. The second alien was dressed in obvious civilian clothing. It was alien clothing, but still clearly civilian. Next to the second alien was a middle-aged man, also in civilian clothing. Their presence puzzled Jack, but he shrugged it off. There were dozens of reasons why civilians might be aboard a naval vessel. This was true of every navy on Earth, why wouldn't it be true of a navy operating in Outer Space.

The other true oddity was one of the other woman. She was semi-transparent and glowed a light blue. She also appeared to be maybe fourteen years old. O'Neill figured her to be the AI that Carter had told them about meeting. Dawn.

The rest of the crew seemed to be normal human beings.

Their escorts waited for everyone to enter the room before moving to join their crew-mates. Captain Samson stepped forward bowed slightly at the waist. "Mr. Vice President, honored delegates, welcome aboard the Far Traveler. I am Alexander Samson, commanding officer of this vessel and its surviving crew."

He then gestured to the rest of his people. "This is Commander Cooling Breeze on a Summer's Day, my executive officer." He indicated the cat-like alien standing next to him. "Next to her is Lieutenant Jonathan Brandenberger, my operations officer. Lieutenant Commander Jennifer Blaylock, my chief engineer. Doctor Amy Gibbs, my newly promoted Chief Medical Officer. Chief Petty Officer Andrew Caster, one of the ship's fire control technicians. You've already met my pilot, Lieutenant Commander Rosenberg, as well as her co-pilot Lieutenant Polk, and of course Midshipman Subasi."

The captain gestured to the two civilians. "This is Joyful Laughter on a Summer's Day, a civilian cultural attache, and Dr. Rupert Giles, a civilian historian. And lastly, this is Dawn, the ship's artificial intelligence." The Captain pointed to the transparent woman, and she nodded. Samson turned back to the diplomatic party. "We are all that's left of a crew of just over ten thousand people."

"We sympathize with your loss, Captain." Vice President Gore said, sincerely.

"Thank you. Please, everyone, be seated. We have a lot to talk about." The Captain gestured to the large table that appeared to have seats for all the diplomats and crew. The secret service agents took up positions around the room. Dawn remained in place, but everyone else found a seat, the ship's crew on one side of the table, the diplomatic team on the other.

"Yes, quite a lot to talk about. So let's get this meeting started." Vice President Gore said, nodding.

XxxXXxxx

Author's Note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Warner Brothers in conjunction with Mutant Enemy Productions. Stargate SG-1 is the property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in conjunction with Double-Secret Productions, the Gekko Film Group, Sony Pictures Television, and the Showtime Network. The Hundred Worlds novels and roleplaying setting are both the property of Passionate Worldmakers, Incorporated in association with Bard's Tower Media. All elements derived from The Hundred Worlds is used here with permission of the author.

Author's Note the Second: I'm sorry this took so long. You know me and my writing speed. Its mostly exposition, and I'm sorry about that, but I needed to get the information in before the SG-1 crew start asking the crew of the Far Traveler difficult questions.