Disclaimer:This is a Xover between Stargate SG1 and The Sentinel. Stargate SG1 is owned by Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Sci-fi and Gekko Productions. The Sentinel is owned by Pet Fly, UPN, and
Paramount. I haven't made any money on the story, nor have I from any other piece of fanfic I've posted. I do it out of love for the show and the characters. There are two major original characters, one male and one female and an assorted group of minor characters. The story is set mostly in the Stargate universe with the addition of Jim and Blair and an appearance by Jim's ex-wife's family.
I would like to thank my betas. Lizardbeth, a fellow Malek lover, helped me throughout the writing process by pointing out the weak spots and places to flesh out. Shallan, Cindy, and Sealie pointed out fatal flaws in my ideas, both Sentinel and Stargate related. Sorry if I didn't agree with some of them. I would also like to thank the Tok'ra-Resistance group, especially Stephanie, who helped me fine-tune the story.
Italics signify silent speech between symbiote and host
Warning: OFC romance with the minor canon character, Malek. I love idea of the Tok'ra and wanted to engineer a romance between a Tau'ri and a Tok'ra and Jack refused to let me stage a relationship between him and Anise. Can't say that I blame him.
This story takes place before Evolution but after Daniel came back to life (de-ascended), in the Stargate universe. The Sentinel show is over, but the characters linger on in our hearts and imagination.
Let me know if you liked the story at lwright3rochester.rr.com
By Lori Wright
Captain Colleen Plumber stood at attention patiently waiting for the two Tok'ra to arrive.
Suddenly, the great wheel began to circle and the chevrons clicked into place. Her breath caught, and she shifted from foot to foot in anticipation. The iris closed. Seconds later it opened once more. Through the vertical pool of what resembled water, two figures emerged. The ripples in the event horizon made complex interference patterns, which momentarily caught her eye, but her attention returned once more to the visitors. Two men walked with dignity down the ramp until they came face to face with her.
The first one she noticed was Malek. She had seen pictures of him and knew him by reputation. He had forged a friendship with Master Bra'tac when it looked as if the Jaffa rebels and the Tok'ra refuges had been ready to sink into an armed conflict. Then Malek, with the help of Egeria, had perfected the formula for tritonin and brought about a cure for the Pangarans.
The second, Gerdix, was a stranger. None from the SGC had heard of him before. His longish dark hair and very dark eyes seemed to give off an aura of malevolence, but his smile gentled his appearance.
Colleen was unsure if Gerdix was the name of the symbiote or the host. "Welcome Malek, Gerdix. I'm Captain Plumber. General Hammond has asked me to escort you up to the briefing room where he's waiting with the rest of SG4."
"Are you a member of SG4, Captain Plumber?" Malek asked.
Colleen smiled. "Yes. We're one of the engineering teams. That is what you requested?"
Gerdix nodded. "Yes. The inhabitants of Chavinde have proved to be very interested in meeting the Tau'ri and have much to offer you in terms of raw materials and crafted commodities."
"Our government is also eager to set up trade," Colleen added.
She led them up the narrow metal stairs and motioned for them to precede her into the room.
General Hammond rose to his feet. "Malek, I'm glad we finally get to meet face to face. Talking through the wormhole is not the same. Gerdix, it's a pleasure to meet you."
"Thank you for agreeing to help us." Malek went over and took one of the empty seats. Gerdix took the one next to him.
"We are always eager to participate in joint ventures," the general responded as he sat back down.
Colleen saw Malek give the other SG4 personnel a quick look as if anticipating a sarcastic comment. She smiled to herself. The Tok'ra were used to working with SG1 and Colonel O'Neill who was known for his quirky one-liners. SG4 was a team of scientists and not usually given to O'Neill's brand of humor.
"We, too, have found cooperation to benefit both sides," Malek agreed.
Colleen picked up her pencil and shuffled her papers around. Major Barth flashed a look in her direction while pointedly folding his hands on the table. She answered with a nod, acknowledging his silent reproach. Taking a deep breath, she carefully set her pencil down, then folded her own hands in her lap in an effort to appear relaxed.
"Now let me introduce you to the team you'll be working with," General Hammond began. "Major Stan Barth is the commanding officer. He has a Ph. D. in geology and his specialty has become offworld mining operations."
"I assume you have a special interest in finding naquadah on the planet?" Gerdix asked the major directly.
"Yes. Have you found any?"
"We have done preliminary scans and found areas where the naquadah had already been removed, but we have not discovered any undisturbed deposits. You may have more luck than us."
"How did you meet these people?" Alex asked.
General Hammond chuckled. "That is Lt. Alex Wick who is a mechanical engineer. This will be his first off world expedition."
Gerdix nodded and then continued, "We happened upon their world, and they invited us to stay and visit."
"So, the Tok'ra do meet and greet missions, too," Alex commented, sounding amazed.
"Not many. It was a recon to see if the world could be used as a future base. Obviously it cannot."
"You mentioned in your preliminary reports that these people are artists?" General Hammond asked.
"The Chavinde take their creative ability very seriously," Gerdix explained. "In fact I believe it is a remnant from their earlier culture where they must have served the system lords."
"You've found evidence that their world was dominated by a system lord?" Alex interjected.
"They have a gate," Gerdix answered. "It is only reasonable to expect that a culture driven to make adornments and beautify everyday items would be essential to the Goa'uld who are obsessed with vanity and self-importance."
"They weren't afraid of you because you're, ah, you carry a symbiote?" the major asked, sitting straighter in his chair, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"No." Malek answered. "They were wary at first, but did not become hostile. In fact, they seem to have fond memories of a particular one that lived among them in ancient times."
"Incredible," Major Barth exclaimed. "That Goa'uld must not have been one we've met so far."
"No. We had hopes that the one they had previously encountered may have been Tok'ra, but we can find no evidence to support this hope." Malek showed his disappointment plainly on his face. His depth of feeling and his willingness to share it fascinated Colleen. From what she had seen so far, the Tok'ra hid most of their feelings.
"Well, maybe during the mission you'll discover something," General Hammond consoled. "The other two members of your team are Captains Wayne Beaufort, a civil engineer, and Colleen Plumber, a mathematician and physicist."
Both Tok'ra acknowledged the introduction, but Colleen found herself returning Malek's look. There was something about his expression that held her spellbound. The feeling intrigued her. For a second, his eyes took on a sparkly glow, and then he abruptly turned his head. Colleen exhaled, realizing that she had been holding her breath.
"Mathematics is also a very important component of their culture," Malek interjected. "You will enjoy conversing with them. Mathematics and art blend well together. Are you also artistic, Captain Plumber?"
"No. I just like numbers." They exchanged another look, which made Colleen feel self-conscious.
Gerdix broke the momentary silence. "The people of Chavinde are eager to meet the Tau'ri and exchange ideas."
"What can you tell us about their culture?" Captain Beaufort asked. "Are they going to get mad at our poking around?"
"No. They seem to have nothing to hide. Malek spent a great amount of time exploring their data centers and collection sites."
"Collection sites?" the general parroted.
"Yes," Malek answered. "Many of the inhabitants are involved in creating art in almost all forms. They exhibit their work in centrally located buildings that they refer to as collection sites."
"Like a gallery," Colleen suggested.
Malek smiled at her. "Yes. Data centers are where they keep written records of the past. It is there that I found documentation of other Goa'ulds who have visited them."
"Does it say who?" Major Barth asked.
"Ra was mentioned by name, but he only sent representative Goa'ulds to the planet. We recognized none of their names. It was said that one of these Goa'ulds stayed for many years, taking one of their own as host."
"And they liked this god?" the major asked doubtfully.
"Yes," Malek continued. "They considered the blending a way for him to become one with them, although they have never referred to him as a god and he certainly did not rule. It is documented that he became a student and trained diligently in their arts."
"He wanted to learn how to make--"
"No," Gerdix interrupted the major. "He was already proficient in the manufacturing aspects, he wanted to learn their particular creative techniques, we believe."
"He wanted to be an artist, not an engineer," Colleen spoke her thought aloud.
"Exactly," Gerdix agreed.
General Hammond picked up a file and flipped through the pages. "The Chavin have granted us permission to come to their planet and meet with them," he began. "SG4 is allowed to explore for natural resources with the possibility of trading technology for them. They have made a special plea for help in constructing water treatment system, but are you sure that's all they want? There must be a catch in there somewhere?"
"Fresh water is becoming scarce on their planet," Malek explained. "They have large bodies of water that contain metal impurities, and they wish help in removing them. Iron, in the minutest quantity, is toxic. This is not trivial matter to them."
"What about your scientists? Can't they find a way?" Hammond asked.
"Our scientists do not have the time. The ones who might be able are working on a different problem." Gerdix and Malek exchanged looks. "We also thought you would enjoy meeting this culture for they have much to offer, and we have been unable to discern any hidden motives."
With that carrot hanging over their heads, the CO of the SGC had no choice but to agree to the mission. "Major Barth, I would like you to concentrate on building this purification device. Tell them we are doing it as an act of friendship. We expect no payment. At the same time, look for technology or raw materials that would aid us in the fight against the System Lords."
The humans around the table shifted in their seats and made a show of organizing their papers. It was clear the meeting was almost over.
"SG4, you have a go," Hammond continued. "Be ready to leave at fourteen hundred hours. Malek, Gerdix, do you plan on accompanying the team to Chavinde?"
Again the Tok'ra exchanged a look of silent communication. Malek responded first. "We do, at least for the introductions. Gerdix will then leave to inform the council of the progress, and I will remain on the planet until I get further orders."
Colleen gathered her files and began to stand. Her eyes collided with Malek's. After what seemed like an eternity, he gave her a nod and calmly walked out of the briefing room with Gerdix. Colleen glanced around at her fellow teammates, but they hadn't noticed the 'look'. That was twice Malek had stared at her. She tried to compose herself before leaving, but found her mind was now busy thinking about what it was going to be like working with Malek on this new planet.
P2X591, or as the Tok'ra called it, Chavinde turned out to be a world of glittering color. Everywhere there were clear walled buildings filled with treasure. Sunlight reflected off both the transparent walls and the intricate works of art within. As Colleen toured the large village, their guide pointed out objects the people had created, such as a mask of gold, inlaid with precious stones. Alongside were other body adornments of various sizes; one was a headdress with dangling colored stones, which resembled the crown Hathor had worn while at the SGC several years ago. Tapestries and ceramics were also included at the dazzling collection sites.
Their homes were all single story, built into a mountain with their village or city encompassing the entire valley. Lush grassland surrounded dirt roads. Everything had a mathematical order, from the grids of roads to the placement of the houses in the mountain. Inside the village proper were other industrial-looking buildings. Many were off limits to SG4, and Colleen was itching to take a look inside at least one of them. Their tour guide explained that each building had instruments and tools that were used to create specific items. One was a forge where precious metals were formed into desired shapes. Places for cutting a variety of gems were located separately. Both the men and women worked diligently at their crafts.
It didn't take long for the Stargate team to realize there were no children running about. At first, Colleen thought it was their way of keeping them from being contaminated by their alien influence, but soon she realized that even the parents weren't allowed to see the children. When asked, they were told that after the children were born, teachers took them deep within the mountain to begin their training. When they reached adulthood, they were let out into the village to begin their productive lives. Occasionally, they stayed inside the mountain labyrinth and became teachers themselves.
The tour took half the day. After a generous meal, Colleen was shown a data center where she would concentrate her efforts. General Hammond wanted to know more about the people. What did they consider important to record? How was it recorded? What was the time line of technological advances? Were there any innovations in their technology?
Lt. Wick and Captain Beaufort were in charge of setting up the water purifier. They had all the resources of the planet, plus they brought a selection of tools and parts they would need. General Hammond told SG4 to give the Chavin people both the tools and extra parts as a gift, so they could learn to fix and build more on their own. While the work on the purifier was in progress, it was decided that Major Barth would do a recon of the planet's natural resources in the company of two of the natives. In addition to soil samples, he was to construct a crude topography map. Colleen wondered what the Tok'ra were supposed to do. Malek spent most of his time with a woman who seemed to be in charge, although she denied the fact. Colleen burned with curiosity to find out what the two talked about.
On the second day, Colleen had worked uninterrupted for almost the entire day when Malek came in to visit. He asked how she was progressing, and she explained what she had learned. The stay only lasted about thirty minutes, then he left. Afterwards, her concentration was shot. SG4 got together that night for dinner and went over what they had accomplished. Colleen never mentioned Malek's visit. Alex was in his glory working alongside the Chavin and couldn't stop talking about it. The Major listened with a grin, but didn't chide him for his enthusiasm.
The next day went pretty much as the first. Colleen found records of births and deaths and how the property of the deceased was divvied out. A woman came in with a plate of fruit and some bread, which was a welcome relief. Colleen was starving by that point. After another hour of working, Malek came to visit her again.
"Adena took me into one of the restricted buildings," Malek told her.
Colleen stiffened. "Really?" she asked amazed.
"It holds weapons."
"Like an armory?"
"Yes. She told me that their ancestors had constructed them many years ago."
"What kind of weapons?"
"Some were made of metals, like steel and bronze, and looked to be similar to those used in Earth's ancient times. There were shields, spears, armor," he paused, "but I also saw Goa'uld weapons like pain sticks and ribbons."
Colleen stiffened. She didn't know how to interpret this news. They could always use new innovative weapons against the Goa'ulds, but conversely these people could also give their weapons to their enemies. "Do they use the weapons, or only keep them in storage?"
"I asked her and she replied they were for when He returns."
"He? Who's 'He'?"
"I believe it is the Goa'uld who lived here before."
Colleen shook her head in disbelief. Why would an almost perfect world hoard a large quantity of weapons? "Do you think the other restricted buildings also hold--"
"I do not know." Malek walked over to her and bent over her shoulder. "What have you learned today?" he asked changing the subject.
She could feel his breath graze her ear. Her heart thudded in her chest. For a moment her mind went blank, then it began to work, and she told him of the population records. Malek leaned in closer, reading the columns of numbers, his body almost touching her shoulder.
"It is interesting that offspring do not inherit, but rather the village as a whole gains the possessions."
"Yes," she barely got out. Her vocal cords weren't obeying her brain's commands.
Slowly he straightened and walked to the door. "There is a banquet tonight. Gerdix has returned. We are invited, as is SG4."
"Sure, see you there."
He nodded and walked out.
She slumped, resting her head in her arms. How could she be attracted to an alien? In all their encounters, she had never heard the host speak, it was always that Goa'uld voice. Did that mean she was attracted to the symbiote? It just didn't make sense. Yet, she couldn't deny her own feelings.
That night when SG4 entered the large room where the formal dinner was being held, Malek and Gerdix were waiting for them. Without any overt maneuvers, Colleen found herself seated next to Malek. Throughout the meal, he would lean over and describe what she was eating. There were at least eight courses, each one of only a single dish. It was an entertaining experience. Between Malek's attention and their very brief touches, Colleen felt the evening pass in a haze. She wished she had the gumption to purposely touch him back, but her natural reticence was too strong.
On the fourth day of their stay, Colleen found herself watching the clock, eagerly waiting for Malek's arrival. Surely he wouldn't skip his visit? Both of the previous days, he had arrived in the middle of the afternoon. Yet, as the day wore on, Colleen found herself making excuses for why he would be late. With a determined shrug, she dug into yet another book. This one also detailed births and deaths from a very long time ago, yet something caught her eye. Something wasn't right. A pattern wasn't making sense. Going back to another book, she began comparing numbers.
"How are you doing today, Captain Plumber?" Malek asked as he walked into the room.
Colleen jumped, startled. "Malek. Sorry, you surprised me."
"You were very engrossed in what you are reading." He came over and put his hand on her shoulder.
Her mind went blank as she felt his touch.
"It is time for you to take a break," he told her
"A break?" she asked, still dazed.
"Yes. I would like you to join me for a walk."
"Where?" Excitement curled in her gut.
"I have found a trail that leads up one of the mountains. I would like you to share with me a beautiful sunset and then the stars. Will you come?"
"Get some fresh air into these lungs? What a great idea. I could use a dusting out."
Malek tilted his head and gave her a baffled look. It was one that Teal'c wore occasionally whenever Colonel O'Neill used his colloquialisms.
They left the data center and Malek escorted her to a path that left the village center and headed into the trees. A basket was sitting by the side of the path and he bent down to grasp it. "Dinner," he told her. "In case we decide to stay and observe the stars' movements."
This time, Colleen was the one who wore the puzzled expression. Was this a date, alien-style? A fluttering in her stomach was telling her yes. Malek had just asked her to dinner.
She followed him along the narrow path, leaving civilization far behind. Was she nervous because they were quite alone? Hell yes, but not because she was afraid of him, rather she was afraid she might say or do the wrong thing and, pardon the pun, alienate him. She laughed weakly at her own joke.
"You like taking hikes?" she asked, trying to think of a way to start a conversation. The silence was getting to her.
"Yes. I am not one to sit still."
"Is that a characteristic of the host or symbiote?"
"Both. We do not differentiate individual preferences anymore."
"You're really just one being?" How could they were there were two brains in there functioning?
"Yes," Malek responded, moving an overgrown branch out of her way. Tiny flower petals fell to the ground.
She stepped past him, and he let the branch swing back. "It seems that I'm always talking to the symbiote. Doesn't your host have anything to say?"
"No, he is a thinker and somewhat shy. I am in the habit of speaking for both."
"What's his name?" Colleen asked. It felt like pulling teeth, getting him to tell her anything interesting.
"When did you two blend?"
He stopped walking and turned to look at her. "I'm not sure, maybe fifty Tau'ri years ago." He paused, and then seemed to come to a decision. "The Tok'ra obtained some information that Apophis was intending to conquer three planets within a particular system. As we did not understand the reasoning behind this move, I infiltrated one of Apophis' Jaffa training facilities."
"Did you see Teal'c or Bratac?"
"Yes, both. But I was with my previous host and used another name. They would not recognize me now."
"So, how did you meet Shan?"
Malek smiled, but his eyes looked sad. "The planet's natives did not relish the idea of becoming occupied by the Goa'uld and formed an efficient resistance. After several days of heavy fighting, Apophis became impatient and ordered all the people killed. He was no longer interested in slaves, only the planet."
"Why? Natural resources? Naquadah?"
"No. He wanted a base. I discovered that he had plans for a strike against Ra, and this was where he wanted to gather his fleet. Due to the magnetic properties of the planet, he could hide many ships as they were built."
"Wow," Colleen exclaimed impressed. "Did it work?"
"Yes, and no."
"That was cryptic enough."
"Sorry. The idea was sound, but Ra found out. But this is irrelevant to my story of Shan. Before the invasion, he was an engineer, and his job was to build space ships. However, they had only progressed to interplanetary flight, nothing that went into deep space. A common economy and culture linked all three planets. When the Goa'uld arrived they coordinated their fight, and Apophis almost lost. It was his violent genocide that attracted Ra's attention.
"But, how did you meet Shan?"
"I had just received orders that the planet was going to be bombed and everyone was to be killed, when three natives came upon me. One was Shan. They knew I was part of the occupation and took me into custody." Malek took a deep breath. "I knew my death was imminent, but first they wanted to interrogate me and gather any information they could."
"What did you do?"
"I told them everything they wanted to know. Something in my tone or mannerisms made them suspicious of my information and they chose not to believe me. Shan took me to a secure room, alone, and questioned me for a long time."
"Trying to trip you up, you know, catch you in a lie."
"He did catch me in something. At the time, I did not understand, but he realized that I did not include myself as part of Apophis' troops. I considered myself apart and he was able to discern this from my answers."
"You told him about the Tok'ra?"
"No, not then. However, death gliders fired upon the secure building, disrupting our talk and effectively releasing me. As the building disintegrated around us, Shan became injured. I lifted a portion of the wall from his body and pulled him from the wreckage. His two friends were also hurt and I administered first aid to them as well. I had found myself admiring my inquisitor and wanted to help him survive the slaughter. The four of us crept from the demolished government building into the city. We found more medical supplies and I further helped the three men. As they let me administer to them, I gave them a choice. I was leaving the planet by stealth; they could come with me, or stay and die. Only Shan chose to come with me, and for this his friends considered him a traitor."
Colleen's heart went out to Shan. "How terrible. Did Apophis kill everyone?"
"No. Some survived. Ra actually prevented the completion of Apophis' plans, by his arrival."
"So you and Shan left the planet, what happened next."
"Leaving was not so easy. We were under heavy fire. I was flying the glider when we were hit. I became injured. I tried to teach Shan how to fly and he was eager to learn, but I realized that he'd never make it alone."
"So, that's when you told him about being Tok'ra?"
"Yes. I told him everything. The only way we would survive was for me to leave Jos," his voice broke on the word, "and blend with Shan." He sounded so sad.
Colleen moved closer to Malek and put her arm around him trying to give comfort. "I'm sorry. You miss your previous host."
He started, and looked at her with bafflement. "You have touched me? I do not repulse you because of what I am?"
Colleen stiffened, and slowly removed her arm in embarrassment. "No. I guess I don't think of you that way. You're Malek, a person I've come to know and respect."
"Colonel O'Neill can barely stand to be in the same room, let alone within touching distance."
"That's not true. He agreed to blend with Kanan."
"He did it to save his own life."
"I don't think that was it at all. He did it for you guys, so you could get that important information you needed from Kanan. No, if he were as revolted as you seem to think, even saving his own life wouldn't be enough of an inducement."
Malek nodded, but Colleen could tell he wasn't convinced, so she tried a different tact. "Yes, the colonel does mistrust you. It seems that every mission the Tok'ra involve him
with gets screwed up because he didn't get enough information. There are apologies, and whatnot, but then it repeats itself on the next mission. He gets real tired of that."
"We do not trust him with all the information because of his aversion to us. How can he be a true ally when he does not even try to hide his own distrust and distaste for what we are?"
"No. But he is trying to overcome it. "
Malek paused, as if considering her comment. "I think we should continue our journey."
"Did Shan like being Tok'ra?" Colleen continued her questions, as they continued to hike.
The path meandered from rocky grasslands to trees with thick underbrush. Each species of tree seemed to have leaves of different colors. It appeared to be fall, with the reds and oranges surrounding them, yet the temperature was warm.
"Yes," Malek's voice changed. "It was a way for me to seek revenge."
Colleen's breath caught, realizing that Shan was talking to her directly. "Did you ever return to the planet and see what happened to them?" she asked, waiting to see if he would answer her back.
"Yes, many years later. Ra's occupation destroyed most of what I had once known. My city was decimated. My people dead. I--" he stopped and Malek took over. "We have not gone back since."
Colleen realized that this was a sensitive subject and dropped it. She really wanted to know more but was also pleased that Shan had made the effort to talk to her. As far as she knew, he had not talked to anyone at the SGC before.
"You seem to know exactly where we're going. Been up there before?" she asked, indicating the top of the mountain. It was time to stop asking about Shan's past life.
"Every night," Malek responded. "It is my relaxation after a stressful day. I can look at the stars and feel my own insignificance."
"I feel the same way at home, when I look up at the stars," Colleen admitted. "Especially since I became involved with the Stargate program and have learned what is really going on in the galaxy."
It wasn't much longer before they reached the summit. It was a flat top, with lush yellow and red grass blanketing the ground. It didn't look dead, just, not green. Malek put the basket down and took out a blanket from inside. He spread it out on the ground and sat down facing the setting sun, which was close to the horizon. Colleen meandered over to the edge, gazing down into the valley. She could see fields planted with a variety of crops, with small houses dotted around the perimeter. Dark specs which had to be people, worked the fields while others clustered around the small houses. Was this a different culture or an offshoot of the Chavin?
"Come, sit down," Malek entreated.
Colleen walked over to the blanket and sat down next to him. Malek slid his body over so that they touched from their shoulders down the length of their bodies, all the way to their feet. She forgot all about the people in the valley and became aware of only him. She felt so close to him, not just physically, but mentally as well.
"Can you feel the beauty?" Malek asked. "The seductive swirls of the clouds reflect colors that defy description. My mind tells me that I'm seeing the way light bounces off different molecules in the atmosphere, yet deep inside, all I feel is the appreciation that I am alive to experience it. Each day the pattern changes; for the atmosphere conditions are never static. Can you see the patterns?"
Colleen swallowed thickly. This man was sharing something important to him. First he told her a bit of his past, and because he knew of her affinity for patterns, he was sharing the view of the spectacular sky. "Yes," she whispered, "it's beautiful."
"Close your eyes, Colleen," Malek instructed her.
"Can you feel the heat of the sun's last rays hitting your face?"
"Yes," she responded.
"Empty your mind of everything but the sensation of heat."
She succeeded in emptying her mind, but all it did was make her more aware of her companion. The heat of the sun was subtle, but the heat emanating from Malek's body was more intense. It radiated through her clothes and spread from their contact points to her every cell. Her breathing became shallow, not relaxed.
"Now open your eyes and look."
Her eyes flew opened and a gasp exploded from her mouth. The sky was filled with swirls of colors that only came in a mythical thousand-Crayola-crayon box. Hues she had never seen before outside of her imagination filled her sight. This was more splendid than anything she had ever witnessed before.
"Can you feel the beauty, now?"
"Yes," she whispered in awe.
"This is more than just the sum of its parts," he tried to explain. "Each color is unique--"
"On my planet we have something called the northern lights. Sometimes at night, if our sun had a particularly active day, the plasma in the atmosphere causes beams of light to streak from the North Pole. The light can be white or split into some of the colors of the spectrum, like blues, greens and oranges. But this far surpasses anything I have ever seen." Over-come with emotion, she reached out with her left arm and encircled it around his back, hugging him. "Thank you for sharing this with me." Everything was heightened because they were together, because of his warmth pressed to her.
He leaned slightly toward her, and she felt something in his back bump her arm. She jolted at the strange sensation. Her arm lifted from his back so she could look at what caused the bump, but he leaned back, so that her arm didn't lose contact.
"You felt me touching you," Malek told her solemnly. "I am sorry if it disturbed you."
"No. It just startled me. I've never felt a backbone move before." Experimentally, she pressed her arm more fully into his back. He groaned with what sounded like pleasure, but it could have been pain and closed his eyes. Inside his skin, she could feel the symbiote move, almost caressing her arm in response to the pressure.
She moved her arm away and pressed the palm of her hand against the bump, which elicited another groan from the man.
"I like it when you touch me, the real me, inside Shan." He looked up at her and she could see his eyes glowing, just like in the films she had seen of other Goa'ulds. Instead of frightening her, it excited her. A feeling of power made her brave enough to move her hand in rhythmic circles on his back.
His eyes caught hers. "You are not repelled by the touch of a snake?" he asked defensively, his voice husky with emotion.
"No," she told him. "I admit it feels weird--as in different, but it's kinda cool. How long are you?"
Silently she giggled at the way her question sounded. Any man on earth would immediate puff up and exaggerate the dimensions. Malek the symbiote stretched along the backbone so she could stroke the length.
Suddenly he jumped to his feet, moving away from her. "We need to stop," he said, his voice shaking. "You may be just giving me a back-scratch, but my body is responding as if…" He let the sentence dangle as he bent over, resting his hands on his knees, breathing heavily.
Disappointment flooded Colleen's senses. "I didn't want to stop," she squeaked out.
Instantly, he straightened and stared at her. His eyes glowed for just a second, then cleared. "I want us to know each other better before we become physical. As a blended being, I am unique and very different from what you are used to." His voice deepened even further. "I need to know what you feel for us, me, is real and not because of that difference."
Her eyes widened as she realized that he wanted more than just sex. "From the grapevine, I had heard that Anise had propositioned Colonel O'Neill and didn't understand why he wasn't receptive. Something about how much freer the Tok'ra are, or something."
"Yes, recreational sex is not frowned upon. Our existence is constant warfare. We live in the shadows and usually alone. When we do come together, the need for connection is strong, but there is no time for real commitment." He came back over to the blanket and knelt. "But that is what I want; a relationship, not empty pleasure."
"Like Lantash and Jolinar?"
"Exactly. You understand," he sounded satisfied.
It humbled her to see how much emotion this man felt. It was blaring out of his eyes; their intensity was doing funny things to her stomach. She was also a bit ashamed for not considering that he wanted more from her. "Okay," she responded.
His body relaxed, as if he had been afraid she wouldn't agree. He smiled, then reached inside the basket and began pulling out food. In companionable silence they ate the strange assortment he had brought. Colleen noticed that the sun was now below the horizon and the stars were taking over the sky.
In order to get the conversation off their shared attraction, Colleen began questioning him about his impression of the inhabitants of Chavinde.
"The Chavin seem anxious to please," Malek told her.
"Yeah, I've noticed. They bend over backwards to show off their art, although I could never wear that much jewelry. It must weigh a ton."
"That is how they differentiate caste," Malek explained. "The more adornments the people wear, the more talent they have, and thus the more prestige they have in the community."
"But what puzzles me is the expectancy I sense. It feels like they're waiting for something." Colleen was having a hard time putting her thoughts into words.
"When Gerdix and I first arrived, they were very happy to see us. Then after we introduced ourselves, they acted more resigned than joyful."
"You know, I thought the same thing when we all came through the ring. They had such expectant expressions on their faces, but as we talked, the looks were replaced by disappointment. It kinda makes you wonder…" Colleen let the sentence hang as both became lost in their own thoughts.
Malek escorted Colleen back to her tent, getting suspicious looks from the rest of SG4. He met each with indifference, refusing to let it anger him. Walking away from their camp, he meandered back to the village. The inhabitants who passed by greeted him profusely.
"Malek," Adena called out. "Did you enjoy the sunset this evening?"
"Yes, your sky was extraordinary in its range of tones."
"I noticed that you took the one who is studying our history. I would not have thought she would appreciate nature's grandeur. The Tau'ri seem to be focused only on their work and take little time for anything aesthetic."
"They are on a mission. It is expected that they will finish it as soon as possible. I believe they do not want to outstay their welcome."
"That is commendable, but not at the exclusion of food for the soul. Inspiration can strike at any time. Perhaps they are drones, bred only for toil."
Malek smiled inwardly. O'Neill would not appreciate the remark. "They are trying to please and believe hard work is what you require of them. A good impression is important to their leaders."
"Leaders?" she asked puzzled.
Malek didn't want to explain the concept, so he offered to walk with her. Adena was one of the more decorated people who resided in the village. There was a ring on each of her fingers and several necklaces lay upon her chest in varying length. Her hair had dangling, thin metal strands interwoven within the tresses, giving her hair a dazzling shimmer. Her clothes were also colorful in patterns of swirls resembling fractured rainbow. This was in contrast to the drab attire worn by the soldiers in SG4 and his own serviceable leggings and tunic.
They walked on the side of the dirt road, and she identified buildings as they passed.
"One thing I have noticed," Malek remarked, "is the lack of a temple. Do your people have a religion?"
"We worship only beauty. A long time ago, we had a god who walked among us, showing us the way to spiritual fulfillment. His concept of beauty and the achievement of creation surpassed us all. But he is gone, for now. We have faith that one day he will return and bring even more wondrous inspiration with him."
"Is this man you wait for a Goa'uld?" Malek asked. It seemed very doubtful that one of the system lords had conquered this planet, leaving an aura of benevolence in his wake.
Shan reminded silently, "The most successful god, is not always blatant in their power."
"I do not know that word," Adena admitted. "Throughout our history, the story has been passed down from the elders to the children that one day He would return and live among us once more."
"Where did he live? Does he have a home?" Malek inquired, thinking that maybe this home could be interpreted as a temple.
"In the mountains," she answered cryptically. "There is a fire within that he craves."
Malek couldn't think of one Goa'uld who preferred to build within a mountain. Most preferred large temples where their slaves could easily serve them. The Tok'ra fit the description the closest, since they tunneled underground. Could the inside of their mountains been carved by the same technique? Perhaps their crystals originated on this planet? "Can you take me where he lived?"
She looked horrified. "No! Our children reside there. No intruders."
Malek resigned himself to the impossibility of viewing the tunnels. He would never go against the rules outlined by Adena. Building mutual trust was more important.
"This is my destination." She stopped in front of a brick building that had several jewels inlaid into the colored bricks. Bowing his head, she thanked him for the escort, then disappeared within.
Malek continued walking. He passed buildings he had yet to enter. While gazing at them spurred his imagination, it did little to answer his questions.
"Why would a culture so obsessed with beauty also make instruments of war?" Shan asked.
"It may have been that in their earlier history the Chavin were trained to construct weapons, but at some point, when there was no more fighting, they began using their skills for adornment and decorations. It was their outlet."
"But we have seen more dangerous instruments of war--Goa'uld weapons," Shan reminded Malek. "Those are not adorned with precious gems and colorful patterns."
Malek had pried open a wooden crate and found it full of paralyzation balls. There had been Jaffa armor, large guns used on ha'taks, and two teltak cloaking devices in the same warehouse. The Chavin had no idea what their ancient artifacts were used for. They only knew the artifacts belonged to Him.
"We need more information," Malek told Shan needlessly.
The mission to P2X591 lasted a total of one week. The Tok'ra left for their base while SG4 went back to Earth. After Colleen had passed the post-mission physical, and spent another hour debriefing, she was finally allowed to go home. She rode the elevator with her teammates in silence. Her team members were just as tired as she was, and no one suggested a post-mission drink, or even lunch, since it was only two in the afternoon. Colleen got into her car, feeling empty. She missed Malek and wished he could have been in the car with her. It was going to be hell having a romantic relationship with a man who lived light years away.
Colleen first stopped by the post office to collect her mail. Her next stop was the cleaners and lastly she went to the grocery store and stocked up on perishables. No doubt her fridge was an incubator for all kinds of green growing things. Once home, she unpacked the food, then took a long, hot shower. Wearing only a long nightshirt, she stood in the center of the living room and contemplated what to do. Watch TV? No--nothing on but soaps and talk shows. Listlessly, she watered her plants. She was bored. Grabbing her mail, she withdrew a magazine and perused the pages but couldn't get into any of the in-depth articles.
Her phone rang. Jumping up, she answered it.
"Where have you been? I've been trying to get in touch with you all week!"
It was her sister, Carolyn, who lived in San Francisco. "Hey Caro, I've been away. Sorry. What's going on?"
"I needed someone to talk to. Jim's been calling me lately. I don't know what to think of it?"
"Jim?" Colleen asked incredulously. "You mean your ex?"
"The one and only. He says he only wants to know how I'm doing; if I'm happy--"
"You think he wants to get back together?" Colleen shuddered at the thought.
"No. I think, oh, I don't know. It just isn't like him to care about feelings. He doesn't say anything about him coming down here to see me or me going up there. In fact, I did ask him to come down, and he refused."
"Does he mention a woman?"
"No, only Blair Sandburg, his supposed cousin who isn't really. The two have become very close friends since I left. Blair actually moved in with him and is staying in my bookroom. I can't believe he actually let this guy move in. Jim hates clutter and is anal about 'everything in its place'. Blair Sandburg is like an accident about to happen."
"Maybe this guy is helping Jim regain his humanity. I don't think he had any while you guys were married."
There was a moment's silence. "You never liked Jim, did you?"
"I had nothing against him; I didn't know him. I just hated seeing what he was doing to you. It's good if he's really changed."
"You know, I think we've talked more in the last month than we did in the last year of our marriage," Carolyn told her. "It's kinda eerie."
They chatted about some more inconsequential subjects then Colleen took the opportunity to say goodbye. Her poor sister had a lot to think about. Jim Ellison was a tough nut and had always intimidated her. He had always been the arrogant Army Ranger but he'd combined it with being anti-social. Colleen never understood how her sister had loved such a man.
With a mental shrug, Colleen went to bed. The picture of Malek soon replaced the puzzle of Jim Ellison. He was definitely also arrogant, yet there was a softness, a vulnerability, in him that most people never saw. Colleen wasn't sure if it came from the host or symbiote, but it intrigued her. He wanted to know her better. God, it gave her goose bumps remembering how he said that.
Malek exited the cavern where he had met with the Tok'ra high council members. He had given them a detailed report, even mentioning his disquiet with the natives' sense of expectancy. They agreed with his advice to be way, yet the possibility of finding tunnel-producing crystals on Chavinde was worth the added concern. It was imperative that the Tok'ra continue a relationship with them in an effort to ascertain the truth.
As Malek rounded a corner, Selmak called out to him.
"You had a successful mission with SG4?" Selmak asked.
"Yes, we learned much." Malek tried to sound serious, but his thoughts filled with the picture of Colleen, and a smile spread across his face. "You were there at the council meeting. You heard my report."
Selmak receded and Jacob Carter came to the forefront. "I was referring to the team members themselves. This is the first time you've worked with a different group of people," he clarified, leading Malek down one of the halls.
"Colleen and I are becoming close," Malek responded, realizing exactly what Jacob was after.
"No problems with that fact you're an alien?"
"I can detect no hesitation on her part because I am Tok'ra."
"When are you going to see her again?"
Malek sighed deeply. "I do not know."
Jacob grinned. "I've been invited to give a talk to the joint chiefs on Earth on the fate of the universe. Wanna go?"
"Very much so. Will I have to contribute to your meeting?"
Jacob shrugged. "We'll see."
"Will General Hammond let me leave the SGC? I would very much like to see where she lives."
"I don't know, but I'll put in a good word for you. Teal'c has left the mountain a few times. I don't see why George would have a problem as long as you're just visiting Captain Plumber's home. It'll do you good to see a bit of American culture. It might help the Tok'ra understand how we think."
"I can learn this on one trip?" Malek asked amazed.
"No, but it'll help. Let me talk with the council. The more I think about it, the more I think it's a good idea. You'll gain insights on the human psyche that even knowing me or the other Stargate personnel can't give you. It's the people who aren't military and don't know anything about aliens that will teach you the most."
Jacob bowed his head allowing Selmak access to his vocal cords. "Yes, I do. Even though I reside in Jacob's mind, I sometimes do not truly understand the Tau'ri."
Colleen stood next to Major Samantha Carter, waiting for the Stargate to engage. Jacob Carter was going to give a report to the bigwigs in Washington explaining how vital their program was to the future of Earth. When Colleen heard that Malek was also coming, she wasn't sure whether it was because he wanted to see her or because Selmak requested his presence. General Hammond had given her permission to escort Malek around Colorado Springs. The meeting in Washington was to take place in three days, so she had the weekend, but on Monday morning she had to drive him to Peterson where he and Jacob would be flown on to Camp David.
Colleen's mind was buzzing with all the possibilities. Would they take their relationship further than holding hands and exchanging confidences? How would making love with a man who also had a separate being inside him differ? Major Carter kept glancing over at her.
Colleen looked back. "What?"
"Nothing. It's just that you're jumping around. I admit I'm pretty excited about spending the whole weekend with my father, but…" she let her sentence fall off.
"I know. I can't help it. There's so much I want to show him."
"You find him interesting?"
Colleen grinned. "Yeah. I can't help it."
"And he feels the same?"
"Definitely. Since he's coming to my house, I'm hoping that the general will let me reciprocate and visit the Tok'ra base. I'd like to see how the Tok'ra actually live."
"All of them, or just Malek?"
"Malek in particular, but scientifically, I'm curious to see what living in underground caves is like."
"Dad says it takes a bit to get used to the lack of privacy."
"But think about it. Symbiotes share their minds with a host. Their real body is buried inside. So they might not have any sense of modesty. It's not their bodies on display."
Major Carter raised her eyebrows. "I never thought about it that way. They say that they have no secrets from one another, and after having lived for centuries, changing hosts every now and then, I guess I can understand. I wonder if as a new host they feel exposed when first confronted with such openness?"
"Good question. I'll have to ask Malek."
Suddenly the gate started to turn, and the chevrons engaged. Colleen could hardly contain herself.
"Attention, Captain," Major Carter admonished quietly.
Colleen took a deep breath and stilled her quivering body. As Malek and Jacob Carter walked down the ramp, Colleen allowed a smile to cross her face, but otherwise she was totally collected and proud of her facade.
The Tok'ra went up to the briefing room where General Hammond spoke privately with them for over an hour. It was another interminable wait. Finally, they were given the okay to leave.
Colleen took him to the men's locker room and gave him a pair of jeans and a T-shirt to change into. She had bought them specifically for the occasion. General Hammond had given her a selection of boots for him to try on. She'd have to pick him up some sneakers if he actually decided to come back. For this trip, she didn't intend for them to really leave her home. "Ready?" she asked when he came out. He looked so good in tight jeans, with his arms bare.
"I am yours to command."
Her heart slammed against her chest at the thought.
They left Cheyenne Mountain, and she gave him a driving tour of Colorado Springs. The congestion on the highways and city streets made him dizzy. Not even Shan's world held so many in such a small area.
"You were not there before the invasion. Many fled the city," Shan informed him.
"How do you manage to be punctual when there are so many to impede your progress?"
"This is rush hour. It does get better. Everyone is trying to get home, after a busy day at work."
"Tomorrow morning it would be quieter?"
Colleen laughed. "Nope, then everyone would be on their way to work."
"Is it like this in all your cities?"
"Nope, many of them are lots worse."
Colleen showed him different kinds of stores, from clothes to food, even toys. Shan could recall having toys as a little boy, but Malek had no concept of the use for toys. Churches or temples to Tau'ri gods seemed to be on every corner. He couldn't believe they needed so many.
"It is common for humans to believe in a higher being for order," Shan explained. "It is something the Goa'uld have exploited with great deal of success."
Finally they pulled off on a street where there were only houses that resembled square boxes. Hers was painted white with some bricks on the front. Flowers lined a walkway, and big green bushes were up against the house. He followed her inside.
"This is my home. Kinda different from your caverns, huh?"
"What is this?" he asked, walking into a room and looking at a rectangular box.
She opened it. "It's a refrigerator, fridge for short. We keep our drink and food in here. It keeps everything cold so it doesn't spoil. Here is an oven and stove where I cook the food. Come on in here."
She ushered him into another room and showed him a "stereo" and a "television." "These are for entertainment. We watch movies and TV shows and the stereo is for music."
Malek watched her put a shiny disc into the stereo and soft tones filled the room. She took a deep breath, waiting for him to speak, but he didn't know what to say. Shan, as usual, was equally lost for words.
"Why don't we take a seat," she indicated the couch and he sat beside her.
She fidgeted, her hands clasped tightly on her lap.
Malek began to get worried. "Am I making you nervous?"
"You were much more relaxed on Chavinde."
She took a deep breath. "Half of me thinks I need to entertain you, so you won't get bored. The other half just…" her face turned pink as she looked expectantly at him.
"She wants to be close to us," Shan told his clueless symbiote.
"Oh," Malek said aloud. For a second his eyes began to glow, then Shan took over. "Come here," Shan said, and while she was off-balance, he slid his arm around her shoulders. "I have missed you since Chavinde and have longed to see you again. We are lucky that Jacob was able to produce this opportunity." He bent down and kissed the tip of her nose.
Colleen giggled. Tentatively she reached up and slid her hands through his hair. "You are so beautiful," she told him, sliding her body even closer.
Shan thought he'd burst with emotion. "No, you are," he told her, relishing the feel of her.
"On your planet, Shan. Were you married? Did you have a wife and kids?"
Shan felt sadness descend, cooling his ardor. "No. But, I had a brother with whom I lived. He was married and had three sons. My life was centered around my work. When I came home, they were there, taking care of me. It was normal on my world for siblings to live together with each having a different position in society. I contributed money for our family. My brother was a farmer, along with his two older sons. The younger was very intelligent and was destined to follow me and become an engineer."
"There is time enough to grieve when we are alone," Malek gently scolded his host."Colleen is in our arms and wants to learn more of us, but is reluctant because she can read your sorrow."
"They all died?" Colleen asked, hesitantly.
"Yes. The Jaffa burned the land. I miss them, but my life now is fulfilling. I have purpose, a mission that is more important than just my planet. And now I have you."
She gave him a tremulous smile in return. "You definitely have all of me."
For the next month Colleen was able to see Malek only twice. The first time was on another planet, where the Tok'ra weren't supposed to be, but Malek showed up anyway. Colleen told herself it was to see her, but common sense told her that Malek wasn't in a position to plan his own missions.
The second time, Colleen was invited to the Tok'ra base where Malek currently resided. She went there with Dr. Fraiser and Teal'c, but was allowed to stay for a few days. Some of her time was spent with their scientists learning about their cave producing crystals, but a majority of her hours were spent with Malek on the planet's surface. They hiked and swam and made love under the stars.
"Do you mind if I ask you personal questions?" she asked him, lying in the sun, drying after a dip in the ice-cold lake.
"You mean me," he corrected.
"Yeah, do you move around inside the host's body or do you pretty much stay still?"
"I'm able to move. I like to feel your hand when it rests on my back."
She propped herself up on her elbow so she could look at him as he answered. "Can you come out of the body or do you have to stay inside?"
"For short periods of time I can exit, but there is no reason to leave except to enter a new host."
"But could you come out so I could see you? Touch you?"
"I do not think that would be wise. I have seen the way humans recoil when viewing symbiotes. I would not want to see repugnance on your face."
"Can you see my face if you aren't in a host's body?" This was so exciting, getting him to answer such intimate questions. Humans really didn't know very much about how the symbiotes interaction with their hosts.
"Yes. I have eyes independent of my host, but they do not have the same acuity."
"Oh. It's too bad I can't feel what it was like to have you inside me without having it become permanent."
"You would let me enter your body?" he asked, sounding incredulous.
"You already do in one way, but I'm really curious to know what it feels like to share a body."
"We cannot, although the thought is very seductive. I would love to enter your mind and truly become one with you, but in a way it is an abomination."
"Really, why?" she sat up, crossing her legs, peering down at him.
"Because of love. It is frowned upon for lovers to blend. It becomes too much of a temptation to forget the real world and only live within the mind. The Tok'ra are wary of such a situation."
"I suppose that makes sense, in a way." She scratched her head, separating the strands of hair as they dried. "I can't help that I'm curious though. You're outside anything I've ever known."
"Is that why you love me?"
"No. I'm curious about the Tok'ra, but have never felt an attraction for anyone other than you. It was instantaneous and quite overpowering. I've never felt this way over someone from my own planet, either."
Malek smiled at her. "It is the same for me. You have many women serving in the SGC. I have met many Tok'ra and other females from different cultures. I only feel for you. You are the first since Shan became my host."
"How does Shan feel about me?"
"You are his first love, even from among his own people."
Malek's head bowed and when he looked up, Colleen could tell that Shan was now in control. "I may not talk, Malek is much better than I. But I feel." He sat up and grasped her face. "You are my first and only love. May the Goa'uld never separate us."
"Amen," Colleen whispered as she lowered her forehead so it rested on Shan's.
Jim hung up the phone, staring at the empty table, still in stunned disbelief.
"What's up?" Blair asked, as he walked past Jim, entering the kitchen and then pouring himself some juice.
"That was Scott Plumber," he stated, and then exhaled deeply.
"Plumber? As in Carolyn's father?"
"The one and only."
"What did he want?" Blair asked as he took a seat at the table.
"He invited me to his 65th birthday party." Jim still couldn't believe it, even though he suspected an ulterior motive.
That was the million-dollar question. "He says that he wants to see me. We always did get along. You see he was in the military, too. It gave us something in common."
"I bet," Blair said, jokingly. "But you suspect something else?"
"Yeah, I do. I think he's hoping to get me and Carolyn back together, if only he get could get us in the same place--"
"Like his party," Blair finished. "What did you tell him?"
"I said we'd be there."
Blair's eyes widen with surprised pleasure. "What did he say about me coming?"
"No problem. He's looking forward to meeting the man who's actually willing to be my partner."
"Do you think he'd mind if I brought some of my work along?"
"Naw, I'm sure there'll be time where the family is bustling around getting ready. He tells me he's got a wonderful library. You might have fun poking around in there."
Later that night, Jim took his portable phone up to his bedroom and punched in Carolyn's number. Blair was in his room going over a new set of pictures his friend Victor had sent from the dig in Peru. That would keep him busy for hours.
"Hello, Carolyn? It's Jim Ell--"
"I do recognize your voice."
"Oh--yeah--well--I--uh just wanted to let you know I've been invited to your father's birthday party."
"I know. He thinks I robbed him of a best friend when we got divorced."
Jim swallowed thickly. "Really?"
"He misses talking to you soldier to soldier."
"Didn't one of your sisters--"
"Yeah, Colleen. She joined the Air Force, but she's a mathematician, not a 'real soldier.' He asks her a question and she responds with this complex, detailed explanation that glazes his eyes. We've all learned not to bring up anything to do with her work."
"Is she going to be there?"
"Yep, plus she's bringing her new boyfriend. I can't wait to meet him. So, are you bringing anyone?"
"Well, I'll see you then."
Jim disconnected and stared at the wall. It was going to be an interesting weekend.
"Colleen is very nervous," Shan commented.
Her hands were white from clenching the steering wheel.
"She's not very good at hiding her emotions," Malek responded. "Not that I mind. I enjoy reading the love in her eyes when she looks at us."
"I wish you weren't so anxious about my meeting your family," Shan told her. "I am not."
"And I thought you were the one who didn't like to talk?"
"That is correct, but it is the price of getting out of the mountain. Malek has promised to only talk with me and I will tell you what he says."
"But that's not the only obstacle. You met my Dad once, briefly, and he looked at you with suspicion. I hope the cover Colonel O'Neill created for you holds during this weekend. I just wish he had picked a different last name."
Malek took over, talking in his Goa'uld-sounding voice. "Jacob Carter tells me that all fathers are suspicious of their daughter's men friends. He has no reason to question my identity. I promise not to refer to you as my mate. Jacob says the word has a negative connotation in your culture."
"That it does," she agreed with a smile. "What did you do, sit down with General Carter and ask for advice?"
"His 'words of wisdom,' as he calls it have been very informative."
"Now my sister, Carolyn, she's going to be easy to win over. But, her ex-husband's another story."
"What is 'ex'?"
"It means that they were married, but changed their minds and now they aren't."
Malek was concerned. "In your culture pledging yourself to another can be transitory?"
"People change. Their circumstances change, and sometimes outside influences break up couples."
"How sad." Malek watched the scenery rush by the window.
"You better let me take over," Shan reminded. "You must become used to being silent."
"What happened with your sister's marriage?" Shan asked, as soon as Malek had retreated.
"She just married an asshole. He never smiles, never talks and looks down on you like you're beneath his notice."
"You don't like him." Both Shan and Malek found her dislike fascinating; another faucet to her personality.
"Not at all. I can't blame Carolyn for divorcing him, I just don't understand why she married him in the first place."
"When did you see him last?"
"Five or six years ago."
"Maybe he's changed since then."
Colleen smiled. "I doubt it. He's a detective with the police department. That means he's like security for a city and goes out and catches the bad guys and puts them in jail."
"Dangerous job. Not unlike fighting against the System Lords."
"Yeah, but Colonel O'Neill isn't a hard ass," Colleen responded.
"I don't know. I think I've heard some refer to him as that."
Colleen laughed. "I can't believe anyone would say something against Colonel O'Neill in front of a Tok'ra."
"It was Jacob Carter," Malek interjected before Shan could quiet him.
Colleen laughed, her tension eased.
A man looking suspiciously like a butler opened the door. "Mr. Plumber is in the sun room."
Jim glanced back at Blair and saw the amazed look on his face. "Pretty wild, huh?"
"Yeah, I didn't know Carolyn came from money. Have you been here before?" Blair asked as they entered the front foyer.
"No, but I've seen pictures. Carolyn didn't grow up here. Scott bought it after he retired from the Army."
They were led down a long hallway, then cut through a family room of sorts that led to still another room that had three of its walls made of glass. Outside the large windows were the mountains. Large snow-covered peaks punctuated by valleys of green. The scene was so breathtaking Jim almost missed the man sitting on a recliner.
"Scott?" he asked, although he recognized the man immediately.
Scott Plumber set his newspaper down and stood. "God, Jim, it's great to see you."
Jim cleared his throat and walked over to the chair. "Hello, sir," he said with genuine warmth. "It's great to see you."
Jim stuck out his hand but the older man grabbed a hold of it then yanked him into a bear hug. After the burst of affection, Jim stepped back. "This is Blair Sandburg. And this is Army Colonel Scott Plumber."
"Retired, Jim. I decided to enjoy life for a change. Welcome to my humble home. Claire is off doing something for the party."
"Carolyn's mother," Jim whispered to Blair, who nodded in understanding.
"But, she'll be back for dinner."
"This place is fantastic," Blair commented, walking over to the glass so he could get a better view.
"I spent most of my Army days fighting in the desert. Now all I want is trees and the occasional snowstorm. Carolyn tells me, Blair, that you study anthropology."
Jim caught the fleeting look of regret that passed across his partner's face, and then it vanished as his upbeat personality surfaced.
"I love studying ancient cultures and seeing both the similarities and the differences between theirs and ours."
"Which cultures are you the most interested in?"
"I love reading about all of them, but my main focus has been in South America."
"Like the jungles where Jim was lost?"
"Yes, especially there."
"I bet it's given you two a lot to talk about," he suggested, giving Jim a curious look.
Jim's eyes narrowed slightly. That was an especially odd statement to make. Did the old man know something about his senses? Colonel Plumber had not been involved in his debriefing when Jim had returned to the States, but that didn't mean the man hadn't read the reports after Jim and Carolyn had gotten together.
The colonel continued, "After all, you spent all that time with the natives who probably still live the same way as they did five hundred years ago."
Jim didn't buy the innocent act. Scott Plumber was up to something, or at least trying to insinuate that he knew something. Jim's internal radar told him that much.
The click of heels on the floor heralded Carolyn's arrival. Jim looked at her fondly as she hugged her father.
"Happy birthday, Dad." She released her father and walked over to Jim. He felt awkward, but he gave his ex-wife a hug too.
"Good to see you, Jim." Then she turned to Blair. "It's nice to see you again as well. I know I didn't get a chance to get to know you before leaving for San Francisco, but maybe we'll get that chance this weekend." She glanced quickly at Jim before turning her attention back to Blair. "I know that Jim talks about you all the time. Seems he can't do without you, and that's saying something."
Blair shifted on his feet, obviously feeling uncomfortable with Carolyn's compliments.
"Honey?" Scott asked. "Why don't you show Blair the library? He was telling me how much he likes reading about other cultures, so I think he'd enjoy viewing my rather large collection."
"Sure Dad." She looked at him funny but dutifully led Blair out of the room.
Jim caught the look of appeal Blair sent him as they rounded the corner out of sight.
"Have a seat, Jim," Scott insisted.
Jim had to obey. He felt like his tongue was caught in his throat. This was it. Maybe nothing as dramatic as a dying man's wish for his daughter's happiness, but there was going to be emotional blackmail in the appeal all the same.
"What's going on? You were kind of obvious," Jim nodded towards the disappearing figures of his partner and ex-wife.
Scott seemed oblivious to Jim's meaning. "I wanted to talk to you alone, without Caro listening in." His face held a serious expression. "It's about Colleen's new boyfriend, Malek Godleisky."
The statement was so unexpected that Jim felt his jaw go slack. "Malek God--what?" Jim repeated, unable to comprehend that Scott wasn't going to complain about the divorce.
"I've met the man once, briefly when we went down to Colorado Springs to visit Colleen."
"I take it you weren't impressed?"
"No, not at all. There's something not quite right about him; something foreign."
"Colleen is in the Air Force. She may have to work with foreign nationals."
"My daughter says he's with the Canadian Air Force," Scott conceded. "He works with NORAD, in Cheyenne Mountain with her, but he sure as hell isn't an astrophysicist. That man has seen action. I'd bet my life on it."
"So, what do you want me to do?"
"Watch him. Find the discrepancies and tell me about them."
"Does your daughter know how you feel?"
"Of course not. She doesn't notice anything but his back."
"His back?" Jim repeated, still confused.
"She is constantly rubbing her hand up and down his back. It's quite nauseating."
"I'll do my best, but I'm just not sure what I'm looking for."
"He keeps throwing off mixed signals. You're a very discerning man. I want you to figure him out."
"I'll do my best, but don't blame me if I don't find anything."
"You'll see what I see. I'm just hoping you'll be able to define it for me. Now, not another word. Let's join Carolyn and Blair."
Jim waited for some comment about a possible reconciliation.
The old man chuckled. "Don't worry, Jim. I won't bother you about Carolyn. I know if you really wanted her, you'd have already taken her back. You're not one to sit around and wait."
Jim looked shocked, but his ex-father-in-law was already heading out the door.
Blair felt nervous leaving with Carolyn. He hoped she wasn't going to quiz him about his relationship with Jim. She wasn't acting funny, but you never could tell with women.
"My Dad was stationed in the Mediterranean for many years," Carolyn told him as they walked into the library. "He picked up all kinds of nick-knacks. Most of the stuff he keeps in here."
Blair looked around in awe. The term nick-knacks didn't begin to describe the treasures housed in the room.
"Sometimes Dad's unit helped the natives and they repaid him with gifts of tribal crafts."
"I could spend weeks in here looking at everything," Blair told her as he walked over to one of the display cases and peered inside. Delicate ceramic beads strung on appeared to be hair from a horse's tail lay in pools of color on the top shelf.
"That's probably why he asked me to bring you in here."
Blair glanced at here, waiting to see if she was going to imply anything else.
She intercepted the look and responded, "I just want this weekend to run smoothly so Dad'll know that even if Jim and I aren't married, it doesn't mean that they can't be friends."
Blair released a sigh of relief. "I think Jim still cares about you, it's just that he has trust and commitment issues."
"Yeah, you're telling me," she retorted."
Blair wanted to change the subject. The last thing he wanted was to have Jim to hear them discussing his faults. He'd be furious. That was a major problem with having a best friend with enhanced hearing: nothing could be said without the possibility of Jim overhearing it, even from 500 feet away. "Can you tell me about this bracelet?" Blair
asked, pointing to a piece of jewelry in the case. Blair relaxed as Carolyn began describing the circumstances around her father acquiring it from a marketplace in Tunisia.
Malek followed Colleen into the foyer. A man wearing a black suit tried to take the cases he was carrying, but he refused to relinquish them. The abode was huge, with numerous windows that let in the sunshine. As a being used to underground tunnels and small, enclosed space ships, the openness of the house was disturbing. Wings of the house seemed to disappear into the side of the mountain and Malek hoped the room assigned to him would be in such a location.
"I wouldn't mind a room with a view of these mountains," Shan told Malek. "Now remember, I have to do the talking."
"It feels good to let you have more control," Malek replied, amused. "Colleen is a good influence on you."
"Come on," Colleen urged. "I want to know if Carolyn's here. I can't wait for you to meet her."
"Carolyn is your sister?"
"Yes. My closest. I have two others, both married with kids."
"Will the children be here?" Shan asked eagerly.
"Tomorrow," she replied as they rounded a corner.
Malek was looking forward to seeing the children. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen any. Fighting the Goa'ulds didn't leave any opportunity for family life, even if his host had been amenable. The Tok'ra existed for only one reason, to fight the oppressors. This saddened him when he thought of all he could have experienced. Even the System Lords had progeny.
"War is no place for children," Shan reminded Malek.
Malek agreed, but felt the loss none-the-less.
"I hear voices in the library," Colleen told him as she quickened her pace.
Malek followed sedately behind her. Anticipation sang in his veins. He was going to experience what it felt like to be part of a family.
"Caro!" Colleen screeched as the two women ran up to each other.
"I can't believe--" Carolyn started.
"Let me introduce you to Malek," Colleen overpowered her.
Malek felt Colleen grab his arm and propel him further into the room. "I am very happy to meet you," Shan told her as he reached out to shake her hand. However, the sister hugged him instead. He felt awkward with the touching, but Colleen had stressed that he was to relax and enjoy himself.
As Colleen continued with the introductions, Malek noticed two men standing off to the side. The shorter one had long curly hair and seemed to vibrate with energy. He wore an open smile, while his companion was straight-backed and serious. Colleen led him over to the two.
"This is Jim Ellison, my, uh, ex- brother-in-law. I'm sorry, I don't know--"
Carolyn interceded. "Blair Sandburg. He's a consultant with the police department Jim works for and is also an anthropology student."
Malek saw the younger man shift feet.
"This one is uncomfortable with the introduction," Malek observed to Shan.
"I am pleased to meet you both. Do you like being a police officer, Jim Ellison?" Shan asked curiously.
"It has its moments," Jim Ellison replied. "Please, just call me Jim."
"What does an anthropology student do with the police?"
Blair Sandburg gave him a wide smile. "I give them an alternative way of looking at crimes. Most of the time the clues aren't as straight forward as they wish and I suggest historical facts and give them insights that shed light or at least make them think in a different direction."
"Yes, I understand." Shan smiled, thinking how Daniel Jackson also served in that capacity.
While Shan continued to contemplate Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison, Malek glanced back at Colleen who was conversing with her sister and father. The man looked up at him, but his eyes were not friendly. Malek was used to recognizing mistrust. Not many of the Tau'ri liked him because he was Tok'ra. However, Colleen's father did not know about that. Colleen turned and gave him an encouraging look.
"Sir?" Jim Ellison spoke up.
"Yes?" Colleen's father replied.
"Carolyn tells me that there are paths that lead from the house up the side of the mountain to a breathtaking view. I'd like to stretch my legs. Would you mind if Sandburg and I--" he paused, "would you like to join us, Malek? Colleen? Carolyn?"
"Yeah, Jim. That sounds great." Blair Sandburg agreed. "Do we have time before dinner?"
"That sounds like a splendid idea for you young folks. I'll just sit in my chair and finish up my paper."
"I need to change my shoes," Carolyn remarked.
Shan looked down on his new sneakers. Colleen had told him that Nikes were the perfect footwear for any occasion, so he probably had no need to change. It was agreed that they'd all meet at the back door in fifteen minutes. Shan was anxious to talk more with Blair Sandburg. The younger man intrigued him. Malek on the other hand was intrigued with the other one, Jim Ellison.
While Jim absently tied his hiking boots, his mind was busy analyzing Malek. Scott was right; there was something odd about the man. He had short wavy hair and was only about two inches taller than Colleen. Yet the man had presence, not one to be lost in a crowd. Jim also agreed that the man was a soldier; it was in his eyes. They showed that he had been in hellish situations in his past.
"So? What did he say? Was it as bad as you thought?" Sandburg demanded to know as he walked into Jim's room.
"He said nothing about Carolyn," Jim answered. "What do you think of Malek?"
"Kinda quiet. His name sounds Slavic in origin, but his accent doesn't jive with it. Why? Do you sense something?"
"He didn't seem strange to you?"
"No way. He's a little shy, and trying to be nice. Maybe he's trying too hard and it appears forced. Don't forget he's meeting his girlfriend's family for the first time. Talk about stress, man."
Jim purposely didn't say anything else. Sandburg was a pretty good judge of character. He wanted an unbiased opinion of Malek, not one already clouded with suspicions.
They met up with the other three at the door. Colleen and Carolyn were talking up a storm while Malek, hung back listening with a slight smile.
"Shall we?" Colleen entreated, opening the door and heading out.
Blair charged ahead while Jim hung back hoping to walk next to Malek.
"Have you ever walked these paths?" Malek asked Jim.
"No. This is my first time here. When Carolyn and I were married, they usually visited us, because it was too hard for both of us to get away at the same time for any extended time."
"You have a lot of crime in your city?"
Blair turned around and replied jokingly, "I think Cascade is the crime center of the whole world."
"He's exaggerating," Colleen was quick to add. "I thought Cascade was a quiet mountain town."
"Perhaps it is something in between," Malek remarked.
The path came to a steep incline. Carolyn began to slow as they trudged up the mountain. Malek quickened his pace and caught up to Colleen and the two headed the group.
"I never realized Colleen was in such good shape," Carolyn commented as she began to breathe faster
Blair also was finding it difficult to catch his breath. Colleen's heart was beating fast, but what surprised Jim the most was that Malek wasn't out of breath and his heart didn't appear to be working any more than when he was standing still. Jim began counting the man's heartbeats and came up with around fifty beats per minute. His own had exceeded eighty beats and he also was breathing heavier. Between the thin air and the incline, it was truly amazing that Malek's body didn't have to work harder.
The path leveled off, giving them all a chance to catch their breath. Malek kept up a steady stream of conversation. He asked Colleen about the trees and plants that grew beneath them. He seemed fascinated by the different insect species that irritated their faces as they climbed. Gnats flew in their eyes and deer flies found any exposed skin. Malek loved their triangular shape, but Jim did see him swat one as it bit. He suppressed a smile.
They came to another incline, and this time Jim made sure that he caught up to Malek since they were nearing the top. He needed the time to make conversation. "So you work with Colleen?" Jim asked.
"On occasion. Not as often as I would like."
"Do you see a lot of combat?" Jim asked slyly, listening carefully to the man's heartbeat.
"Working in Cheyenne Mountain does not expose me to those situations. However before my associations with them, I was involved in undercover operations."
Jim couldn't hear any changes that would indicate that Malek lied, yet Jim didn't quite believe the story either.
"Colleen tells me that you too, were in the military. Were you involved in a war?" Malek asked.
"I was an Army Ranger."
"I am not familiar with the term Ranger, but I have met some Marines. Did you work with them?"
Jim blinked. A Canadian who'd never heard of the Rangers? He looked over at Malek who was gazing at him with open curiosity; the same kind he used on the insects. "No, I didn't. Have you worked with the Marines?"
"At times we are in the same location, but we seldom work together."
Jim heard Colleen stifle a giggle as the two exchanged a look.
Suddenly they walked out from under the tree's canopy to see a vista of unbelievable proportions. Jim heard Malek gasp in appreciation.
"It is magnificent," Malek remarked with a curious rasp to his voice.
There were snow-capped mountains to the west and north. A large waterfall descended into a valley of green. Rocks jutted out of the water, exposed by the water's erosion. Colleen slid up next to Malek and Jim heard her whisper, "Not as breathtaking as the sunsets on Chavinde, but--"
"It is different, but worth seeing," Malek responded just as quietly. "I am glad your ex-brother-in-law suggested this walk."
Jim walked closer to the edge, wanting to see down to the bottom. His eyes focused on a bird as it floated on air currents, gently turning one way and then another, until it dove beneath the foliage. A rabbit squealed as large talons bit into the fur, then silence.
"What kind of bird was it?" Malek asked, as if he too had witnessed the bird's flight.
For the first time, Jim realized that the other man was standing very close to him. "Peregrine falcon," he answered, shocked. Could Malek have really seen the bird? Most people couldn't have seen it without binoculars. Then reason reinserted itself. Maybe he just guessed it was bird, which Jim had confirmed. That unsettled him even more, since Jim shouldn't have been able to see the bird either.
Malek was eyeing him curiously. Jim couldn't look away, not wanting to show weakness. One of the women laughed, breaking their locked gaze. Malek gave him a last smile, nodded and returned to Colleen's side. They all stood for several more minutes, looking around before Colleen suggested that they return to the house.
Again Jim took the lead, but Malek hung back with Colleen. "Let's come back tonight," she suggested quietly to her lover. "You'll want to see the stars."
"Yes," he replied. "That would make me happy."
Both Shan and Malek thoroughly enjoyed dinner. Colleen's mother went out of her way to include him in the conversations. Shan thought he acquitted himself nicely. Not once did he make a comment that was out of place or receive a shocked look.
The food was unlike anything he had tasted before; porterhouse steaks on the grill--Colleen said that the grill was a must. Accompanying the meat was a pasta salad. Malek didn't understand pasta, until she said it was made out of the same ingredients as spaghetti. They had corn on the cob, which was similar to a grain he had eaten on other planets.
After dinner they all went to the glass room and watched the sun set. It reminded him of their first sunset on Chavinde. Malek clasped Colleen's hand in his own and she squeezed his, giving him a knowing smile. She too was thinking of their time on that mountain. He leaned his head back and enjoyed the nearness of friends and family. It was quite a comforting feeling.
Colleen squeezed his hand once more, bringing him back to the present. "Dad," she said. "We're going outside. I want to show Malek the stars without the city lights ruining the effect."
"Do you like astronomy, Malek?" Colleen's father asked.
"Very much," Shan returned. "But doing computer simulations and math calculations are not the same as seeing them first hand."
Colleen pulled him to his feet and ushered him out of the room. "God, that was close," she whispered as they went outside.
"Why do you say that?" Shan asked affronted. "Were you afraid I would--"
"No. I thought he was going to come with us and point out constellations."
Malek laughed, while Shan felt relieved that he hadn't made a slip. "I wouldn't have minded. I need to get to know him better." Both agreed with the sentiment.
"I'd mind. I want to be alone with you."
He took her hand and quietly they walked the path they had taken earlier. At one point during the climb he thought he heard a twig snap, like they were being followed, but when he heard nothing further, he dismissed the suspicion.
"Come on, let us run," he urged, wanting to be at the top.
Still holding her hand, they began to jog. When she began to tire, he scooped her into his arms and completed the last part of the journey carrying her.
"This is beautiful," Shan said as they reached the top, turning around in a circle staring up at the sky.
"Lay down," she urged.
He dropped to his knees and both slid onto their backs, holding hands and staring up. Again, he thought he heard a noise that didn't belong, but then questioned his ability to recognize whether a sound belonged or not.
"What do you see when you look up?" Colleen asked him. "Do you see sign posts or--"
Malek answered, purposely not using his Goa'uld voice. "I see constancy. The stars are in a different arrangement, yet they are always basically the same. In our life, things change so rapidly. Our bases destroyed, our comrades killed; yet the stars are always there to guide us. And yes, I do recognize places."
"Point some out to me? It just isn't the same as looking at the star charts."
He pointed south. "I believe Tollana was, or is in that direction."
"Do you think they're all dead?" she asked, softly.
They spent the next few moments in silence contemplating.
"Pangara is that way," Malek pointed to another part of the sky. "Did I tell you that I made a return visit to them?"
"No, really? Were they friendly to you?"
"Some were. They are very grateful for the new Tretonin, but I believe they would have preferred a new queen. When I think of what Egeria did to her offspring to prevent the substance's efficacy, I cannot help but think what a Goa'uld queen could do in the same situation. That is, however, something they refuse to consider."
Malek was serious about his misgivings. "They were lucky the queen was Tok'ra, and didn't desire their death, despite her captivity," Malek commented to Shan.
"Could a Goa'uld queen have found a way to mutate her children so that the substance the Pangarans produced had a more fundamental change to their psyche?" Shan asked.
"Defintiely." Colleen began stroking his arm. Their thoughts returned to her and the surroundings.
"Now, that I've shown you the mountains, I'd like to take you to see the oceans. Would you like that?"
"Yes. I also would very much like to visit Egypt. It seems to have been the start of everything; the Tau'ri's rebellion against Ra, the burial of the gate, and all the legends that were born as a result."
"I don't know that General Hammond would let you leave the US. Here you're protected. If anything happens, the president can intercede. In a foreign country, it would be difficult."
"But since the disclosure--"
"No. Egypt was not represented. It would be too great a risk."
Malek contemplated the intricacies of her warning. Earth was not united and that was a fact the Tok'ra needed to be constantly aware of. They dealt with only the United States and occasionally with Russia.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you," she whispered. "I wish things were different. Maybe in another year?"
"There are places I'd like to show you," he returned the gesture. "Places so different from Earth they would make your head swim."
"Like what?" she asked.
Shan propped his head onto one of his hands so he could gaze down at her. He remembered what it was like to see strange planets for the first time and wanted to share some of his unique experience with her. "There are worlds with moons that are always overhead, adding texture to the sky. Seas so buoyant, you can almost walk on them. Mountains like these with blue and purple caps, not ones of white. Trees so tall, that in the morning their top-most branches are coated with ice, so that the rising sun causes tiny bands of color to drop to the ground. I've seen caves with rock and crystal formations that defy description."
"Is that where you get your tunnel-making crystals?" she asked, sleepily.
"No," he thought sadly. "We have a supply kept hidden, and it is dwindling. Someday I will show all these to you."
"Pipe dreams, Shan," she said absently, with a wide yawn. "Pipe dreams in the sky."
Her breathing slowed as she fell asleep. All the love they felt rushed to the center of their being. Malek brushed a curl of hair out of her eyes then lowered his head and gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead. With a sigh, he rose to his feet and bent down to pick her up.
"She is as unique as the places you described," Malek told Shan as he carried her down the side of the mountain and back to her father's house.
"Yes," Shan agreed. "Quite unlike most of the other Tau'ri."
"They do not trust us, but she does."
"She loves us, and with that love comes absolute trust."
Malek hugged her a little closer to his chest.
"Jim! Where have you been?" Blair asked as he followed Jim into his room.
Jim smiled and closed the door behind them. "I followed Colleen and Malek up the mountain."
"What? Why?" he asked, looking puzzled.
"Remember when Carolyn's father wanted to speak to me alone?"
"He thinks there's something going on with Malek. He's not what he appears to be."
"Really? I don't get that feeling. Do you?"
"Yep. My instincts are telling me that, uh, I don't know what they're saying. I don't have enough facts, yet. I just know he's different."
"I'm different, but that doesn't make me bad."
"Scott isn't saying that Malek is bad, only that he's giving off mixed signals, which makes Scott not trust him. On one hand he tells us he's Canadian military working at NORAD. That means he deals with satellites, both spy and commercial, plus deep space telemetry. Yet, he has no idea what a Ranger is. He looks at the trees and bugs as if he's never seen them before. His body is in perfect, if not better than perfect, condition. Despite the fact that he says he's a desk jockey, he's still mentally a soldier. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, I guess so. So, did following him this evening reveal anything new?"
"Oh, yes, more mysteries. First his heart beat. It doesn't change. If he's sitting down it beats about fifty times a minute. Jogging up the mountain, it's fifty beats a minute. That isn't normal; I don't care what kind of shape you're in."
"Is that what you mean by better than perfect health?"
Jim nodded. "This afternoon, before dinner, when we were looking at the scenery, I saw a falcon about a mile or so away, maybe more, flying though the air. A normal eye wouldn't have been able to see it, but Malek did."
"You think he's got enhanced senses?" Blair asked with wide eyes, "on top of perfect health?"
"It's possible. He heard me following him. I know I didn't make a lot of noise, but he paused twice, listening carefully."
"Wow, two senses, sight and sound."
"The most interesting, was the stuff the two were talking about." Suddenly Jim's attention was caught by another conversation. Malek and Colleen were in the kitchen. "Wait, Sandburg," Jim held his hand up.
"Colleen, can I ask you something?" Malek was asking.
"Sure, what?" Jim could hear a bag crunch.
"I have seen the vision tests that Dr. Fraiser gives the personnel at the SGC. Everyone has to pass this test in order to serve. Is that not correct?"
"Yeah, military rules."
"Is there a small portion of the population that can see much better than the chart would reflect?"
Jim heard Colleen pause. "I don't understand. The chart is made for people with twenty-twenty vision. That's the best."
"Cannot Teal'c see objects smaller than what's written on the chart?"
"Well, yes, but that's different."
"But are there some Tau'ri with the same acute vision as Teal'c?"
"If there are, I've never heard of them. I can't rule it out, anything is possible when it comes to human genetics, but I highly doubt it."
"I see." Malek sounded reflective.
Jim felt a lump lodge in his throat. He looked back to his partner. "They're talking about me and my enhanced vision."
"That falcon you shouldn't have seen?" Blair guessed correctly.
Jim nodded. "I guess he did notice and now he's asking Colleen about enhanced senses in general. At least he hasn't mentioned me to her by name." Jim focused to hear more of what they were talking about, but they had switched topics.
"This is bad." Blair paused, and then asked, "So what did they talk about that's weird?"
"Colleen made it sound like Malek was new to the country and needed the President's approval in order to leave. I couldn't catch everything, the wind sometimes picked up and carried their voices away." Jim paused, trying to remember everything. "He said something about wanting to visit Egypt to see where the legends had come from, or something like that."
"Egypt, huh? Maybe I'll bring out those pictures Victor sent me."
"You mean the ones of the pyramids in Peru?"
"Yeah. They have writing that looks Egyptian, but isn't. He might find them interesting."
Jim didn't respond. He was too busy considering the pieces of other things he had heard but didn't quite believe.
The next day, Saturday, was the day of the party. All the Plumber relatives descended upon the house in waves. Both Malek and Shan were entranced by the chaos that surrounded them. Malek was commandeered into helping set up tents and tables. While the others moaned and groaned, Malek volunteered for endless jobs.
As the party started in earnest, Colleen's nieces and nephews introduced him to the sport of softball. A sixteen-year-old boy took his tutelage in hand and showed him how to hit and throw. Shan had to be careful not to swing or throw too hard. His symbiote gave him an advantage he did not want to explain. Several times he intercepted odd looks from Jim Ellison, but he seemed friendly enough whenever they conversed. Blair Sandburg was energetic and his enthusiasm for games smoothed any rough edges that Shan inadvertently exposed.
Just after sunset, Colleen's father lit a huge bonfire and the whole family sat around drinking, eating cake and telling funny stories.
Malek heard how Colleen, from the age of three could count to a hundred. How she could find her way to the mall because she had memorized the left and right turns before she started kindergarten. Each story accentuated the way she had with numbers and patterns. Then the stories took a surprising turn. Her favorite sister, Carolyn also had the same gift with patterns, which was why she ended up in forensics. According to Colleen, her sister saw patterns in evidence that gave her clues to the crime. Many of the words were foreign to Malek, but he found the idea interesting.
When the party finally was over, they retired to bed, exhausted. Malek had a hard time falling asleep, thinking and analyzing everything he had experienced. If he began to relax, Shan would come up with a memory to discuss and vise-versa. "This day has been the most wonderful of my life," Malek told Colleen with awe. His voice deepened with Goa'uld emotion.
Colleen rolled over into his arms. "Are you talking in your long lifetime or Shan's?"
Shan responded, "My memories have become misty. I remember so little of before." His eyes closed and then Malek added, "I have been fighting all my life against an enemy force far more numerous than our own. Sometimes I weary of it all."
"How sad. Everyone gets tired. That's why we have vacations, to recharge our batteries. Don't the Tok'ra take vacations?"
"No. Our hosts tire and the symbiotes take over and vice-versa. But we never rest at the same time."
"But I thought you live as one? When one feels an emotion, the other one does, too. If one is tired, doesn't the same hold true?"
Malek considered her question. Shan thought silently, "You symbiotes believe you take care of us hosts, so she is correct. You never rest."
"It should," she continued, interrupting the internal conversation. "If happiness and joy are shared emotions, so should fatigue and depression."
"Yes," Malek agreed. "One should naturally follow the other, but there isn't time."
"You live for hundreds of years, of course there's time."
"There is always one more mission, one more System Lord's ship or base to infiltrate. We are too few to waste time 'recharging batteries'."
"But, you're here with me now. Consider this your vacation."
They were silent for several moments, but he still couldn't sleep. "In all of my life, I have never considered happiness, either. It has been constant war. If I had to remember if I have ever felt happy, I would think of stolen moments, like the view on top of your mountain." He hugged her closer. "Or the look on your face when I asked you take a walk with me on Chavinde."
"You were asking me on our first date. Before, we had just talked about the missions. It was the first time you opened up with me, you know, told me personal stuff about Shan. Why did you?"
"Tell you things? Because I wanted more--"
"No, I guess I mean, why me? There are other women in the SGC."
"It's your eyes. The way they light up when you solve a problem. The way they lit up whenever I walked into the data center. And there was no revulsion. Not once did you ever show a prejudice because of what I am, like I have been used to with O'Neill and the others."
"Believe it or not, he looks at me the same way."
"Because you sleep with a snake?" he asked derisively, hating the description, but having heard it spoken of at the SGC he couldn't forget it.
"No. Because I love a snake," she countered. "Well, also because I'm a scientist."
He hugged her close. "Well this snake loves you, too." This time there was no mocking in his voice. The insult no longer festered.
Sunday morning, Scott Plumber woke Jim reminding him of their agreement to play a round of golf. Blair had declined his invitation, both because he had no interest in the sport, but mostly because he wanted to take out his notes and work on them. He was also curious to see if Malek showed any interest in them.
After breakfast, Blair made his way to the library, backpack in hand. A large walnut table sat in the center of the room, so he removed the file of notes and pictures and spread them over the surface.
One pile contained overview pictures of the site. Two pyramids dominated, with workers busy digging around the structures looking for other buildings of interest. Amazement, yet again, filled Blair's mind as he stared at the Egyptian style pyramids amid the cleared vegetation. The sides were crumbling from the moisture; much of the earlier writing was turned to dust, but enough of its style remained to confound an observer.
With a shake of his head, Blair turned to the next pile. This contained notes and pictures of the first and largest pyramid. All three walls contained writings that comprised both glyphs and single letters or numbers. It was hard to tell what it was saying because so much of it had crumbled and only parts were still legible. The characters themselves resembled early Egyptian, but they weren't the same. Almost like they were a dialect or a precursor to Egyptian. The floor had a series of circles, positioned in the center, directly beneath the peak of the pyramid. No one at the dig had seen anything similar to it before.
Into the third pile, Blair placed the pictures and notes on the second pyramid. This one was quite a bit smaller than the first, and Victor believed that there were underground chambers, but they hadn't found a way to access them yet. The walls inside this pyramid were better preserved and showed rows of seven glyph cartouches, although there were places where the glyphs had decayed. On one wall, the seventh symbol was always a triangle without the bottom line with a circle at the top. The second wall also had the same pattern but the seventh glyph was lines that resembled a prehistoric bird. The third wall had cartouches that looked nothing like what was on the other two walls. At the top of these lists was the eye of Ra. At least that's what it looked like to Blair. Victor was sure that the natives in South America, who also worshipped the sun, just happened to choose an eye to pictorially represent their god.
It was in this building that Victor spent most of his days, trying to interpret the meanings behind the different cartouches. There were many similarities, for instance the glyphs were sometimes repeated in a cartouche several lines down. Blair tried to make a list of the different glyphs. He had found his twenty-seventh original one as Malek walked into the room. He carried two mugs of coffee.
"Would you like one?" he offered.
"Yeah, man," Blair answered. Malek handed him the mug and went over to the shelves and removed a large picture book of Cairo.
"Where's Colleen?" Blair asked, since it was rare to see Malek wandering on his own.
"Upstairs with her mother and two sisters. They informed me that gossiping was not an occupation I would enjoy."
"Take it from me, when females get it into their minds to talk about us guys the last place you want to be is within hearing distance. Man, can they rip us to shreds."
"Colleen would never say anything negative about me."
"I was joking," Blair countered, realizing that Malek took him seriously. "I'm sure she's not saying anything nasty."
Malek gave him a calculating look then went back to flipping pages in the large book. Blair turned his attention back to the different glyphs and copied another one into his notes--number twenty-eight.
Getting nowhere towards understanding what he was writing, he turned his attention back to the new pictures Victor had sent just before they had left Cascade. Inside one of their tents, Victor had placed a small collection of artifacts they had found. Some were tools that might belong to an Egyptian artisan or tradesman. A few were native to Peru and easy to identify. However, two of the artifacts were as foreign to either location as was the language on the walls. Victor had included close-ups of those.
Blair released a sigh as he studied the pictures. While at first glance they looked like jewelry, something to adorn the fingers, hand and wrist, it appeared too unconventional to be worn regularly.
Blair glanced at his companion. Malek was totally engrossed in the book. Jim had suggested that Malek might have one or more enhanced senses. Blair's glance turned speculative.
Suddenly Malek tossed the book aside.
"What's the matter?" Blair asked, curiously.
"The defilement of a particular creation offends me."
"The lion. They took his face and whittled it away to a human face. Why do humans want to be worshipped as gods? I do not understand. I find the concept repellent."
Blair laughed. "Luckily, us ordinary mortals don't have to worry about it." He stood up and walked over to where Malek sat, stretching his legs, still carrying the picture of the artifacts. He glanced down at the book, curious to see what had so upset Malek. The great Sphinx covered both sides of the page. "This statue was a lion?" Blair asked, trying not to sound as shocked as he felt.
"Yes. A magnificent beast. What is your picture of?"
Blair sat down alongside Malek. "My friend is on a dig and this is a photo of some of the artifacts he's found."
Malek took the picture and gazed at it. His hands began to shake, then ceased abruptly. Blair saw his face drain of color.
"Do you know what this is?" Malek asked, his voice raspy.
"Not exactly. I think it's a piece of jewelry."
Malek took several deep breaths. "Not exactly."
"So, what is it?"
"It should not be there."
Jim selected an iron and lined up his shot. Much to his surprise, no matter if he used his expert eyesight, his shots were the same--lousy.
Scott patted him on the back with mock sympathy. "So, what do you think of Malek?" he asked as Jim watched his ball disappear into the rough.
"I agree that he wasn't born and raised in Canada."
"Did I tell you I did a background check on him and didn't find a thing?"
"That isn't surprising--"
"No," Scott interrupted. "I mean the man doesn't exist anywhere. I came up with a phony birth certificate and Canadian Air Force ID, but no current address, except the base at Cheyenne Mountain. He didn't graduate from any high school or go to college. At least not under the name Malek Godleisky."
"If Malek's his first name, then maybe you could find a different--"
"Tried that. I used a star with Malek, so the search would include anything with the name, first or last. Colleen is too comfortable using the name Malek for it to be false." Scott pulled out his putter and sunk his ball in the hole. "That's par, Jim," he gloated.
Jim took another shot and then a second. Three over par for the hole, he shook his head in disgust. "I don't think Malek will hurt your daughter. She seems to know what she's doing."
"Have you over heard any of their conversations?"
Jim thought back to Friday night and their walk up the path. They had mentioned places he'd never heard of and people who had strange names. Since he couldn't make sense out of it, he was reluctant to mention it at all. "Some, bits and pieces--nothing incriminating. They act like two people very much in love."
"Exactly! I think Malek is acting."
"No, his emotions are genuine."
Scott snorted with blatant disbelief, and teed up for the next hole.
Malek stared at the picture Blair Sandburg had given him, still trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
"This is not good," Shan stated the obvious. "We must tell Colleen immediately."
"I agree, but we must gather more information," Malek insisted.
"Why shouldn't it be there?" Blair asked. "What is it?"
"May I see your other pictures?" Shan asked, knowing that Malek was right. It would be better to find out as much as they could first before sounding the alarm.
"They're on the table."
Shan went over and perused each pile, his breath catching as he saw the transport rings in one of the pyramid and a listing of gate addresses in the other. "You said earlier that the dig was in Peru?"
"Yeah, in the jungles. You can see--"
"Tell me more about the site. Your friend thinks there is a mystery here, right?"
"Oh, yes. Most of the writing resembles ancient Egyptian, but Egypt is on the other side of the world."
"The language is Goa'uld," Malek could see instantly.
"I know; I can read. Now, shush, I need to think," Shan told his symbiote. "Have you been able to translate any of this, Blair?"
"I haven't, but Victor says it's something about trade. He thinks the pyramids were like a port, where raw materials were brought in and something was exported, although he can't tell what."
Blair's friend was surprisingly close to the truth. Several walls told of shipments of metals like gold and silver and materials like naquadah and diamonds. What they manufactured was weapons--Goa'uld weapons like ribbons.
"Except that really doesn't make sense. I mean what is a port doing in the middle of the jungle?" Blair continued thinking aloud.
Shan went through some of the other pictures and then saw something that made his blood run cold--both his and Malek's, who practically shrieked within his head.
"What is it?" Blair asked, with concern in his voice.
Shan was looking at a picture taken inside one of the pyramids. There was a primitive wooden table set up next to one of the walls. The archeologists had some equipment on the table, but next to a camera, was a stasis jar. The seal looked untouched. "What is this?" Shan asked, pointing to the jar.
"Victor thinks it's a canopic jar, of sorts. Part of the burial practices in ancient Egypt was to remove the major organs and put them in special jars for the afterlife. The only problem with that theory is there's usually more than one jar, but Victor can't find any more. There's a bunch of writing on this jar, but he can't translate it."
"Do you have a close-up of the writing?"
"Sure, it's here somewhere." Blair began rummaging around in the piles. "Here it is," he handed it to Shan.
"This is very interesting. Tell me, Blair Sandburg, can anyone go to this place?"
"You want to go?" Blair sounded incredulous.
"Someone must." He swallowed thickly.
"We must tell Colleen now," Malek insisted.
"Excuse me," Shan said, and quickly made his escape from the room. Blair was looking at him oddly, but there wasn't time to worry about it. The SGC needed to know about this now.
Colonel O'Neill had just changed his clothes when he heard his name paged over the speakers. He was ordered to General Hammond's office immediately.
"I was just about ready to leave, General. What's happened?"
"Sit down, Colonel."
Jack felt a pit form in his gut. This was bad. He was off duty and the general was calling him Colonel, not Jack. Obediently, he sat down.
"Okay, Malek, go ahead now that Colonel O'Neill is here."
The pit deepened. Malek must have gotten himself in trouble at Captain Plumber's house. He had told Hammond that the visit was a mistake, but Jacob had interceded and said that it was important for future Tok'ra Tau'ri relations. Jack had snorted at the idea. Malek was really spying on the way humans lived.
"I am sorry to bring this type of situation to your attention," Malek spoke over the speakerphone, "but I feel this situation needs to be rectified immediately."
"What needs to be fixed, Malek?" Jack asked sourly. The Tok'ra were always asking for help when they got in over their snaky heads.
"One of the other guests, an anthropologist, has pictures of a dig in a place called Peru. There are two pyramids, one with transport rings and underground storage facilities and the other has three walls of gate addresses. One wall lists the worlds where Ra had exported humans to work naquadah mines. Another was where his Jaffa trained. The third were the planets with whom they traded--"
"Go back," Jack demanded. "Are you saying Ra's been in Peru?"
"Yes, most definitely. But, what is most troubling--"
"You mean there's something worse?" Jack asked incredulously, standing up and beginning to pace.
"Let me continue. The Goa'uld who ruled this base was named Hephaestus. He is the only Goa'uld who created. He made ribbons, the long range communication device, the palm device that is used for healing; anything that can only be used exclusively by Goa'ulds came originally from him."
"Hey, I thought only the ancients invented things?"
Malek responded, "I didn't say he was the first with the ideas, only that he was able to manufacture and improve the design on these weapons and Goa'uld devices, and in large quantities."
"Where is this Goa'uld now?" General Hammond asked.
"I believe he is still there, trapped in a stasis jar in the hands of the archeologists at the dig."
Jack groaned aloud. Damn, another snake-in-a-jar put on Earth just to torment him.
"Tell us about this Goa'uld," Hammond requested.
"He loved making things, anything and everything. He had no special allegiance to Ra, but was willing to work for whoever gave him autonomy to build and the materials necessary. He did not like to waste time procuring his own raw materials."
"Great, a mercenary scientist. Just what our world needs is a Goa'uld willing to sell to the highest bidder. So, what, Ra gave him the best deal?" Jack asked sarcastically.
"That is correct. It made Ra the most powerful of all the System Lords at the time."
"So, what happened to him? How'd he end up in a jar?"
"I do not know. If I go to this Peru, I might be able to decipher the writings. However the pictures have shown there to be much decay. The humid nature--"
Jack interrupted, "You think there are any weapons still there? Any chance of that?"
"I believe there is a significant number of Goa'uld specific property stored there."
Jack could feel the excitement building in his chest. A cache of alien technology was there for the taking. All they had to do was secure the stasis jar and the treasure would belong to Earth. Minus anything Malek would try to claim for the Tok'ra. If they were so advanced surely they could get their own stuff?
"Start packing, you're leaving early," the General brought Jack back to the conversation at hand. "I'll have a transport ready to retrieve you--"
"General, I'd like to go up there and bring Daniel," Jack requested. "It would be a good idea to have him look at these pictures. He might be able to tell us more." Jack waited for Malek to take offense that they doubted his story, but the Tok'ra remained silent.
"If you think it's necessary, Colonel," Hammond consented.
As Scott pulled into the driveway, Jim could see a late model SUV parked by the front
door. Two men were getting out. The driver was older, perhaps in his fifties, had graying hair, but the movements were of someone in shape. On the passenger side, a younger man, with light brown hair and glasses got out, then shielded his eyes as he gazed at the house.
"Wow, what a beautiful house? Colleen was lucky to grow up here," the younger one spoke, and even at the distance of several hundred feet, Jim could hear him clearly.
"She didn't," the older man responded. "Her father was military, so they traveled quite a bit. This is a retirement home."
The younger man turned as he saw the car Jim was in driving up. "Jack, someone's--"
"I see, Daniel."
Jim turned down his hearing and let his eyes focus normally. "Do you know them?" he asked Scott.
They parked behind the SUV. The older man, Jack, came immediately over to Scott. "Hello, I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill. I work with your daughter. Can I see her?"
"Scott Plumber," he answered gruffly, as he shut the car door. He pointed at Jim, "And this is Jim Ellison. Colleen's in the house."
The younger one cut in. "I'm Daniel Jackson," he said holding out his hand. Scott reluctantly grasped it. Jim wasn't sure why his father-in-law was acting so cold to the newcomers.
"I assume you're planning on taking my daughter back with you. Is there a national emergency?" he asked with sarcasm.
Aha, that was why Scott was acting sulky, Jim thought to himself. Scott knew the colonel was here to escort Colleen and her friend back; it wasn't anything personal.
"Not exactly," O'Neill responded.
"Tell me, does Malek really work with you, Colonel?" Scott asked.
Jackson and O'Neill exchanged looks, and then O'Neill answered, "Yes."
Jackson added, "He's with the Canadian Air Force."
"So he said," Scott admitted.
Jackson smiled. "Can we see her now?" he asked politely, yet Jim could detect the impatience in his voice. His heartbeat was slightly fast and there was a slight tremor in his hands.
"Come in," Scott invited reluctantly.
Jim followed behind the other three as Scott led them into the house. "Colleen?" Scott bellowed when he entered the front foyer.
Her head popped out of the library door. "Yeah, Dad?"
"There's a Colonel O'Neill here--"
"In here, Colonel," she urged.
Again Jim followed the other three as they walked to the library. Blair was inside with his notes and pictures strewn all over a huge table. Malek was busy poring over them. The Colonel glanced first at Blair and then Colleen.
"These the pictures?" the colonel asked, as he walked over to the table to take a look.
"Yes, O'Neill," Malek responded.
The Colonel looked over Malek's shoulder and Daniel Jackson, who looked even less Air Force than did Malek, went over to stand next to Sandburg. Jim saw O'Neill's eyes widen, then he turned away from the table abruptly. "I need to ask you all to leave."
Scott grunted and immediately left the room grumbling under his breath. Jim followed, but noticed that his partner didn't move. Colonel O'Neill noticed, also. "Mr. Sandburg, I need to talk to Captain Plumber and Malek in private."
"Sure, let me just gather my stuff and I'll get out of your way."
"No, leave them there. I promise we won't take anything. Dr. Jackson just wants to look at them. If we have any questions, I'll send Captain Plumber out to find you."
Blair took a last look at his stuff and joined Jim at the door. Scott had already disappeared from the hallway. Jim led his partner to a room that Scott had referred to as his game room. A large pool table dominated the center; an air hockey table and foosball table were set up beneath two windows. Several elk heads decorated the walls and a gun cabinet sat against the third wall. Jim closed the door and turned on Blair.
"Tell me what happened?"
Blair looked confused. "I don't know man. He took one look at the pictures of the pyramids and went white as a ghost. It was like he was horrified or something. Something bad is going on. He refused to answer my questions and practically ran out of the room to find Colleen. Both came downstairs a little later and she went through them too."
Jim tried to digest what Blair had said when Colonel O'Neill's voice caught his attention.
"So, these are the pyramids?" the colonel asked. "They look just like every other pyramid we've seen."
"That's just it, Jack. This is Peru, not Egypt. The very materials these were made from are not native to South America. See, no steps leading up to the top. These are shorter than their Egyptian counterparts, but the sides are smooth and symmetrical, and--"
"I get the picture." The colonel sighed.
"What are they saying?" Sandburg asked, breaking his concentration.
"The pyramids are Egyptian not Peruvian. I just can't believe a mystery like this would bring a full bird running to see it. Shhh, I want to hear what else they're saying."
"…Hephaestus," Daniel said, his voice tinged with awe. "He was the god of metal work. After his birth, his mother, Hera, reportedly threw him off Mount Olympus because he was disfigured. He landed on an island where he built a forge and began fashioning weapons, jewelry, musical instruments--"
"Jeez, now he's giving them a mythology lesson," Jim told his partner. "Something about Hephaestus--"
"Yeah, that's what Victor said. There was one place that talked about a god and it described him as a fire-lover, and creator of powerful weapons. The cartouche was unknown, but it described Hephaestus or maybe Vulcan, the Roman god. But now were mixing cultures. Hephaestus was a Greek god, this is Peru."
"Couldn't it be that parallel evolution like you said before? I've heard you say that lots of cultures worship the same figures, like a god of fire, god of war, and stuff like that."
Malek's voice brought Jim's attention back to the library. "I do not believe it was Hera, but rather Ra, who banished Hephaestus."
"Yeah, but what if Hera and Hathor are the same? It would fit both the history and the legends. Was Hephaestus a system lord?" Daniel Jackson asked.
"Hephaestus was a minor Goa'uld who is said to have betrayed Ra. In anger, Ra banished him to a volcanic island where he began fashioning weapons to free himself. When Ra saw his usefulness, Hephaestus was reinstated in power and given autonomy over weapons production."
"Sounds like the mythical island is really Peru," Jim heard the colonel say with sarcasm in his voice.
"What are they saying?" Blair asked in a whisper.
"Something about how it was Ra and Hathor who banished Hephaestus to an island that might actually be Peru. Shh, Malek is talking. He seems to be an expert in the weird stuff while Daniel Jackson is the mythology expert."
"…As we do not know for sure the identity of the Goa'uld in the stasis jar it would be best if we retrieve it before it is accidentally opened."
"God, how many of these snakes are we going to find on our planet!" O'Neill complained sounding thoroughly irritated.
"Jack." Jim could hear the warning in Daniel's voice. "You're both rude and getting louder."
Jim heard footsteps heading toward the door and it was thrown open. "Guess they're not listening in," Daniel Jackson replied, and then the door closed. Jim was glad he was hiding in different room, focusing his hearing once more on the conversation between the Air Force personnel.
"…That's impossible, Malek," the colonel spoke forcefully. "It's a matter of national-- hell it's a matter of global security."
Global security?! Jim was taken aback. "Chief, as soon as they leave, I want you to contact your friend and tell them we're coming down."
"We're going to Peru?" a wide smile spread across his face. "I can't wait to see the biggest mystery to hit the archeological world this century."
Jim could hear footsteps walking down the hall.
"Mr. Ellison? Mr. Sandburg?" Daniel Jackson called out.
Jim opened the game room door. "We're in here," he answered.
"Ah, Blair? Could you come back and give directions to the site?"
Blair looked at Jim, and he nodded. "Sure. You guys going there?"
"Possibly," Daniel Jackson replied cryptically.
When the three reached the library Jim caught a strange look from Malek. It was kind of appraising, or maybe the word was calculating. Jim couldn't tell.
O'Neill handed one of the pictures to Blair. "What has your friend told you so far about the dig? Have they answered any of their questions?"
"Ah, no. Every time they find something, it creates more questions. Victor can't understand how an Egyptian pyramid ended up in Peru. Some of the glyphs on the walls appear to be Egyptian and have been translated, but others only resemble the written language as we know it. The artifacts are mostly Peruvian in origin, but there are several pieces that are completely foreign to the time period and location. In fact, they don't even look like anything that's been found in Egypt."
"What about a time period?" Daniel asked. "Has any of this been dated?"
"Not yet, but Victor thinks it's at least two if not three thousand years old."
"If it's that old, how did they find it? I imagine it was covered up by a lot of--ah--jungle?" O'Neill asked.
"Victor was on another dig and while they hiked out, they became lost. For over a week, they hacked their way and then stumbled upon the first pyramid. A rescue party found them, and Victor rounded up funding for another expedition to this site. He kept the location a secret because he didn't want anyone else beating him to it."
"Did he tell you where it's located?" the colonel asked.
Blair went over to a map and put it on the table for all to see. "Victor told me it was around here. He pointed to a large area that was deep within the jungle. "It's at least a three day hike from the nearest road, through here," he pointed.
"Malek? Is this enough information for you to pinpoint the exact location with your instruments?"
"Yes, Colonel O'Neill."
"Mr. Sandburg, what's the name of the archeologist in charge of the dig?"
"Dr. Victor Jensen."
Jim noticed Daniel Jackson stiffen at the name and look quickly at Blair. "How long has the team been there?" Dr. Jackson asked.
"A little over a month. There was a lot of clearing that had to be done first. The pyramids are disintegrating. Moisture has fractured the rock, and much of the writing has crumbled away. Inside is in better shape."
"Do you know how many of these canopic jars he's found?" Daniel asked, pointing to a piece of pottery that was sitting on the artifact table in one of the pictures.
Jim could hear the underlying tension in the words and felt how everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath as Blair answered.
"Just the one, which is unusual." There was a collective sigh of relief from the military, even Colleen. Blair continued. "You'd think if the person was buried according to Egyptian custom, there'd be one for each of the major organs, yet they've found only the one."
"Is it sealed? Have they tried to open it?" Malek asked, still sounding worried.
"Victor said he was going to wait and X-ray it when they got back to civilization. They don't have many of the modern conveniences. Most scientists don't consider this a major find."
"Well, that's a relief," O'Neill commented.
"We should begin this journey immediately, O'Neill," Malek did more than suggest.
"Go get packed, we'll leave immediately."
Suddenly Scott Plumber burst into the room. "Leave? Already?"
Colleen stepped forward. "I'm sorry, Dad. The weekend is going to have to end a little earlier. We're needed back at Cheyenne Mountain."
"I see," everyone heard the incredulous note to his voice. "I suppose you're the only physicist they could find at such short notice," he added sarcastically.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I know you're disappointed. But, this is important."
A resigned smile flitted across his face and he gave his daughter a quick hug. "Then you better get packed."
Jim waited for the Air Force officers to leave, and then he told Scott his plans. "We're leaving, too."
"What?" Scott bellowed.
"Colonel O'Neill said that they're going to Peru. They will still have to get to Colorado Springs, get briefed, packed and fly to Peru. It will take them twice as long on the military aircraft, with all their refueling stops. Sandburg and I plan on beating them to their destination."
"Good," he said with satisfaction. "I suggest you get started."
Jim and Blair exchanged a look, both eager to begin their journey.
Malek stood in the gate room waiting for Selmak to arrive. Colleen had left him alone realizing that he needed the time to converse alone with his fellow Tok'ra. The implications of finding this particular Goa'uld were enormous.
"He is a danger to the Tau'ri and Tok'ra alike," Shan insisted.
"But he could make a powerful ally, if we approach him correctly," Malek countered.
The Stargate began to turn which was soon followed by the klaxons ringing loudly. Several members of the staff were talking in the control room, and then the iris opened. Malek walked over to the ramp and waited, knowing that Selmak would soon come through.
"Greetings, Selmak," Malek spoke in Goa'uld.
"You have uncovered something potentially very dangerous," Selmak responded, also speaking Goa'uld. "We must proceed with utmost caution. Do you think the seal has been broken?"
"No, I do not. At least the photographs indicate that it has not been tampered with. However, the archeologists may try at any point."
"Understood. Do you think the Goa'uld is really Hephaestus?"
"The Tok'ra council has asked that we take control of the symbiote. If this particular Goa'uld can be convinced of our ideology, he will make an excellent ally. If he declines, we are in a better position to terminate him."
"Shan believes he is too dangerous to even attempt communication."
"We will use extreme caution," Selmak promised.
Shan was not appeased, but didn't speak his misgivings aloud. Malek had let Selmak know his concerns.
"General Hammond is waiting for us in the briefing room," Malek informed his Tok'ra comrade-in-arms. "We are to join him as soon as you arrive."
"Don't forget Jim Ellison," Shan reminded Malek.
"Selmak, do you recall the legend of Aparna?"
Selmak paused mid-step. "Was she not the Goa'uld queen who was destroyed by Ra because he feared her enhanced senses?"
"Yes. I believe I have discovered a Tau'ri who possesses enhanced eyesight. Does Jacob believe this could happen naturally within the human population?"
There was silence while Selmak communed with Jacob. Selmak finally spoke. "Is this person here at the SGC?"
"No. He is Colleen's ex-brother-in-law. I met him at the party."
SGC security walked up behind them, and their conversation ceased. "We will discuss this later," Selmak promised. "Jacob needs to think about it."
Malek could see his friend was just as intrigued.
As Malek and Selmak entered the room, all of SG1, Dr. Fraiser, and Captain Plumber were sitting at the large table. General Hammond had yet to make an appearance. Jacob Carter took control of the body and greeted his daughter with a hug. Malek smiled indulgently and took his normal seat across from O'Neill. Teal'c gave him a slight nod and Daniel Jackson gave him a careless wave, keeping his eyes on the papers in his hand.
The door opened and Hammond entered, closing the door firmly behind him. He took his customary seat at the head of the table.
"Hello, people. Dr. Jackson, will you start?"
Daniel stood and dimmed the lights. "This is an overview of the dig taken using one of our satellites. Dr. Ben Hultz coordinates the dig from the University of Chicago."
"Hey, isn't that your old stomping grounds?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
Daniel shuffled his feet. "Yeah, it is."
"Does he know you?"
"I haven't met Dr. Hultz, but I'm sure he's heard about me and my wild ideas. It's a small world."
"This is going to be fun," O'Neill added sarcastically.
The next slide came up. "This is the front view of pyramid number one. It's about thirty feet high, which makes it smaller that the other pyramid, and different from the typical Egyptian kind." He clicked again. "Inside we see a ring platform. On two of the walls there are records of trade." Daniel pulled out a laser pointer. "This area talks of exchanges directly with Ra. For example, this wall shows an inventory of ribbons and other weapons that went out and a short description of what was traded for them." He pointed to one line. "This says 26 ribbons, 112 staffs and a teltak in exchange for naquadah and two slaves."
"Who ordered all that?" O'Neill asked.
Malek responded immediately, "Sokar." As the rest of the people looked at him, he continued. "Sokar was in charge of the naquadah mines for Ra. A continued supply of weapons was needed to keep the slaves in line. Most likely Sokar would gate to Ra, offer the exchange and take a scout ship to this Peru."
General Hammond posed his own question. "Why would Sokar offer slaves, if they were needed as workers in the mine?"
"As a tip?" O'Neill suggested.
"They were most likely female," Malek informed them, ignoring O'Neill. "Hephaestus was reputed to keep a large number of them for personal enjoyment. The other gods rejected him, so he found companionship and --"
"You mean sex," Major Carter snorted.
"That too. But he had other uses for them. He didn't like male slaves in his home because he didn't wish to compete with them. Only women saw to his every need, from food to cleaning house, to adorning him with his jewelry. Sex and physical gratification were secondary."
Daniel clicked to the next slide. "Behind this wall is a stairway leading to an underground chamber. Malek suggests that it's a warehouse, storing merchandise for future trade. I can't tell how large it might be." Daniel shined his light on a particular star imprint in the wall. Several ahs echoed in the otherwise quiet room.
"A Goa'uld locking mechanism," Teal'c announced. "It is a common way to keep the slaves out, but still allow the Jaffa access. Apophis used several at his palace on Chulak."
"Malek?" Major Carter spoke up. "Do you know which system lords generally traded with Hephaestus?"
"Only those who served Ra. Hathor, Sokar, occasionally Osiris and Isis," Malek informed them.
Daniel clicked to another wall. "It says here that Set, Cronos and even Yu, traded for weapons. There are two others that I can't make out because of the condition of the wall."
The room was silent as everyone stared at the remnants of the two cartouches. After waiting a few more minutes, Daniel went on. "We'll come back to this. The next pyramid is even more shocking." He clicked slides and the other pyramid blazed across the board. He clicked again and the next one showed a close-up on one of the walls. Those who had not seen it beforehand gave collective gasps.
"This one as you all see lists gate addresses. Most have missing symbols, because of the decay of the walls, but undoubtedly this wall functioned as an address book. I can't even begin to tell you where they all go."
"Could this be a list of all the powers at the time?" O'Neill suggested. "Think about it. Ra learns of other system lords' home worlds and uses these walls to keep track of their Jaffa training worlds, naquadah mines, and other important stuff."
"Major, give copies of these addresses to Major Johnson," General Hammond ordered. "Let him cross-reference to the addresses already in our possession."
"Yes, sir," she responded.
Daniel clicked on the other four walls. "I believe there are more hidden chambers in this pyramid also, but I have no idea if this was a home for Hephaestus or maybe a workshop."
Malek was eager to find out. Many of the chambers would be inaccessible to humans; only someone carrying a symbiote would be able to unlock the doors.
Daniel clicked to the next slide. "Blair Sandburg was kind enough to give me a copy from the photographs his friend sent him. This is a collection of artifacts already gathered by the archeologists. Some are priceless works of metal and precious stones used primarily for adornment and decoration. Most are native to the area and of no concern to us, but there are a few here that are Goa'uld." He clicked again and showed a close-up of two items. Daniel used his laser pointer and flashed on one particular jar. "We need to get our hands on this canopic jar before anyone tries to open it. Malek agrees with me that it hasn't been tampered with yet, at least not before this picture was taken. What its state is now, I can't guess. I tried to use the satellites to get a newer image, but the tent roof is in the way." Daniel took a deep breath. "I think that's all."
"Any sign of a gate or if one had previously been there?" Major Carter asked.
Daniel answered. "From all the different views I've been able to see, I don't think so. It would not have been in Ra's best interest to have enemies able to access his weapons manufacturer. Plus only one gate can be used at a time and we assume the one in Egypt was still operational." He shrugged his shoulders.
"Thank you, Dr. Jackson." Hammond took control of the meeting. "I have split the mission into two parts. Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson will accompany Malek and Jacob to Peru."
"What!?" Jack exploded. "It was bad enough allowing him to visit the captain's family party, but now he's going on a mission on Earth? Sir, I don't advise--"
"I know, Colonel." General Hammond flashed Malek an apologetic look. "However, since we're dealing with a possible Goa'uld threat, I believe it would be beneficial to have two Tok'ras present to help control the symbiote in case he has already taken a host."
"This is because we let Osiris escape. I'm telling you, Malek and or Jacob couldn't have stopped her, either." Jack sat down with a disgusted plop.
Hammond cleared his throat. "The Tok'ra council has demanded custody of the symbiote if found. They have promised that we can keep anything else found there."
Jack looked ready to explode again when Jacob interrupted. "Jack. This threat is real and places Earth in a dangerous situation. If Anubis finds out about this particular Goa'uld, he'll make a bee-line here. We need to get the symbiote off Earth."
"Are you speaking as a Tok'ra or as an Air Force general?"
"Both," Jacob admitted.
"So, you're saying that the Tok'ra don't have designs on anything but the snake-in-the-jar?"
"And we get to keep anything we find?" Jack reiterated.
Jacob nodded again.
"Well, that might be worth letting Malek tag along."
Malek found himself ready to jump up and scream at O'Neill. Earth was in danger, yet he still found himself able to insult a powerful ally. If it hadn't been for Colleen, Malek would never voluntarily wish to deal with the Tau'ri again. Their manners resembled the unas.
General Hammond replied with a tinge of sarcasm, "Glad you agree, Colonel."
Shan sniggered silently. "You see," he told his symbiote, "even the man's commanding officer realizes he is being rude."
Malek was not mollified.
General Hammond continued, "The four of you are going to have to hike in, since it wouldn't be safe to ring you down or take a teltak. Once in, assess the contamination and then confiscate anything Goa'uld. If you need to bring the whole dig under military control, report back and we'll send in SG3 and 5."
Jacob added, "The Tok'ra have two teltaks on the moon. We'll ring up anything Goa'uld. One teltak will be exclusively for the artifacts and the other for the stasis jar."
Hammond nodded to Jacob. "I'll send Dr. Fraiser up with the Tok'ra medical team in order to examine the stasis jar and determine if the symbiote is still alive. Teal'c will be with her. Captain Plumber and Major Carter will be on the other ship, inspecting the artifacts with the Tok'ra scientists."
Malek realized that Jacob Carter and General Hammond had already worked out the details; they were just informing the rest of them. By the look on Colonel O'Neil's face, he must have come to the same conclusion.
"After everything has been removed," Jacob continued, "and the archeologists are occupied elsewhere, we'll ring up to the teltak and travel to the Tok'ra's current base."
"Does that mean we'll have to carry everything we find back through the gate? Wouldn't it be easier to ring it down to the mountain before you guys leave for your base?" O'Neill asked suspiciously. "Or is it a way for you to keep some of the stuff and renege on your promise?"
"You're right Jack," Jacob agreed. "We'll ring it all down to the mountain."
Malek had listened to the exchange, still ready to explode. Shan kept his temper in check, but Malek hated the way O'Neill cast aspersions on their character. Hadn't they proved themselves time and time again?
"So, what do you guys intend to do with the stasis jar?" O'Neill questioned.
Selmak answered. "We intend to question the Goa'uld and ascertain its intentions."
"You mean you intend to keep it alive?" O'Neill asked incredulously. "Let it take a host?"
"Yes. He could be an asset to the Tok'ra," Jacob responded. "If he turns out to have Goa'uld ideals, we will terminate him. Happy?"
"No," O'Neill responded with a frown. "Reluctantly agreeable." He paused then blurted out, "I just see problems with your scenario, but who am I to question you."
Malek smiled without humor. Although O'Neill was sarcastic, Malek agreed completely with the last thing he said.
"Do we all understand our individual jobs?" Hammond asked.
Blair and Jim took a quick shopping trip and bought all the necessities for their trip to Peru.
"Good thing you made us bring our passports," Blair commented as he assembled the clothes in his pack. The communicating door opened from his room into Jim's. "Did you have a premonition or something?"
"I know you, Chief. Even the most simple of vacations ends up going haywire. This minor trip to Colorado is no exception, rather the rule," he sighed, closing his pack. "Have you heard from your friend yet?"
"Yep. He's going to meet us at the airport with a helicopter and fly us in. We'll arrive days before the others."
"Isn't that just another thing that doesn't make sense?" Jim asked, as he paused mid-stride by the door. His clothes bunched in his arms. "I mean who ever heard of a dedicated plot of land that was graded and reinforced back in the olden days, that's damned near perfect for landing an aircraft?"
"I admit, it's got me puzzled too, but Victor hasn't mentioned that as one of the many mysteries. Maybe they're the ones who made it. I can't tell from the pictures he's sent."
"That would make more sense. Didn't he tell you that it took two weeks just to clear the undergrowth from the sides of the pyramids?"
"Yep. They also found a village. That's where I want to spend my time. I'm not much of an Egyptologist; I want to know more about the ancient Peruvians who lived there. Who were they and is this the first time we've found any traces of their society?"
"Listen, I know this Victor is an old school buddy--"
"We did our undergrad together," Blair explained, as he zipped his pack closed. "He went on to Chicago for archeology, and I came to Rainier for anthropology. We're two sides of the same coin."
"I know you trust him, but something is going on at that site that's raised the hackles of the military."
"You don't think Victor's done anything illegal?" Blair asked, sounding shocked.
"No. But, there's something fishy about the site itself. We know there's a mystery about finding Egyptian pyramids in Peru, but I think the mystery runs deeper and may turn out dangerous."
"And that's what's aroused the military's interest," Blair concluded.
"Right. We'll let Colonel O'Neill handle it, but there's something fishy about his group, too. I mean have you ever heard of an archeologist working side-by-side with the Air Force?"
"Not really." Blair had finished so he walked into Jim's room and asked quietly. "You having any Sentinel visions?"
"Nothing. Everything's quiet on that front." Jim closed his own case, and heaved it off the bed.
"They're going to be pretty pissed when they find us there."
"Oh, yeah," Jim agreed. "But we'll stay out of their way."
"But, I'm gonna help Victor. I won't let Colonel O'Neill run roughshod over him. I can't see how the American military has any jurisdiction in South America. I'm sure Victor had all the legalities taken care of."
"I agree. He doesn't sound sloppy. Ready to head out and solve this mystery?"
Blair returned to his room and grabbed the full pack and threw it across his shoulders. Scott Plumber was waiting outside the front door to drive them to the airport.