The ultimate truth of the universe is that it's infinite.
Infinity is a word that has comparable translations in the languages of advanced societies, but relatively few truly understood, being themselves of finite construction.
This in turn led to most races to simply shut off their awareness of the awesome and overwhelming nature of the void that existed around them, confining their awareness to the country or planet where they were they born. Or perhaps the solar system they lived in. Some more advanced races stretched out their hands to try and control the infinite in their foolish but finite way, building empires and monuments to their supposed divinity across star clusters and Galactic arms, which slowly crumbled away under the steady passage of time.
But millions of years ago, one race attempted to reach beyond their own universe to others that existed somewhere in space time. Their attempts were subtle enough, artificial gateways of a modest size. Experiments were only partially successful as it was found a door was needed on both sides to make any gateway possible without needing fantastic amounts of energy. Strangely, many of these "alternate realities" were found to be so similar to their own, that their counterparts there had in fact made their own gateways which then linked together. Contacting "themselves" was amusing enough, but not exactly useful and fraught with danger to the point that the practice was discontinued and the research forgotten.
For millions of years their civilization grew, touching other Galaxies as they expanded. But even as they gradually evolved towards undreamed of power, heated debate simmered over what to do with it. Eventually a civil war broke out that would render a terrible price on both sides of the debate, wiping an entire Galaxy clean of life. The survivors who remained true to their races original goals fled to a distant Galaxy to start over, after seeding the building blocks of life once more in the Galaxy that had been their home.
There they found a measure of peace for uncounted millennia. But a terrible price would be paid as once again the Universe they sought mastery over frowned upon them. Again their numbers were decimated, their civilization collapsed and those who remained fled back to their old Galaxy to live out the rest of their days, before they died and rose almost as Gods to a higher plain, finally having the control over the very fabric of the universe they had sought for so long, even as finally they understood they could never use it.
However some of their race refused to simply fade into the background, recalling the millions of years when their Empire spanned countless systems in breathtaking splendor. Digging into arcane research, they stumble upon the technology to rip the fabric of the universe and jump to another one separate from their own, answerable to no-one. And there, they founded a new Empire which thrived…for a time.
Chapter One. "Down the Rabbet Hole".
Battle Cruiser Daedalus.
Nevada, United States, Earth.
January 10, 2005.
"Daedalus this is Vandenberg, your corridor is clear of all traffic. SatComm is a go. You are cleared for launch."
"Vandenberg this is Daedalus actual" Colonel Stephen Caldwell replied as he reached the bridge, touching the compact headset/microphone that linked him into his ships communications system. "Do we have an update on the status of Doctor Jackson?"
"Colonel I'm afraid out last update from the SGC still has him indisposed, no indications he is going to be fit to travel anytime soon."
"Roger Vandenberg, Daedalus out". Touching the earpiece again to close the channel, Caldwell glanced around the command centre and seeing preparations for launch were well under way, turned to the very non military figure leaning against a bulkhead. Ordinarily he would never tolerate a civilian 'lounging' about the command centre but in the case of Doctor Elizabeth Weir he really didn't have that much of a choice.
Even so, she was a diplomat and a good one. She kept out of the way and didn't call attention to herself, simply watching as Earths newest Battle cruiser underwent preflight procedures. As she now had discretionary power to use the Daedalus as she saw fit while it was in Pegasus, she had reasonably pointed out that it would be advantageous to establish a friendly relationship between herself and the Colonel in front of the crew. Caldwell was inclined to agree. 'Dual' command could rapidly snowball into 'Duel' command in a frenzied situation and he knew she was smart enough to not interfere with the running of the ship…but it didn't mean he had to like the situation. Still he trusted her to respect that this was his ship there could only ever be one Captain.
The newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard on the other hand…he may prove to be problematic. On one hand, he was now officially the ground forces commander for Atlantis Base and his chain of command ended with Dr Weir. Despite that, Caldwell distinctly outranked Sheppard, making for a wonderfully muddy picture in the chain of command. Caldwell couldn't help but snort at the situation. He didn't really blame Weir for her loyalty to Sheppard but he hoped that at least she would keep a clear head.
"Well it looks like Doctor Jackson won't be joining us…again" the Caldwell commented as he stepped around the weapons console and made a beeline for the Captains chair.
"That's disappointing" Weir noted with a sigh as she levered herself up from her improvised seat. "This is what, the third time he's missed out getting to Atlantis?"
"Forth actually" Caldwell corrected as he sat down. "He tried to get General O'Neill to let him go when we were sent to defend the city from the Wraith a month back; he didn't have a hope of course with the ship going into a combat situation. Add to that the initial expedition and Prometheus's failed attempt…well that's four in a row".
"You think the he'll ever reach Atlantis?" Weir asked with a wry smile. Despite all that her people had learned about Atlantis and the Ancients, Jackson was still by far the foremost expert on them that Earth had. His written and spoken Ancient was superior to anyone else on her team, having been working on the language for close to five years. He had even met more then a few of them over the years before and after he had ascended to the plain of existence that the last of their race now occupied.
Elizabeth had only worked with him for a short time when she had taken command of the SGC and later the Antarctic research program, but in that short space of time she had started to see just how critical he had been to Stargate Command and SG1. He worked effectively in a predominantly military establishment, tempering the often rather direct instincts of Jack O'Neill, complementing the intellectual gifts of Samantha Carter and bridging the gaps earlier on between Teal'c and the SGC as well as many other alien cultures encountered over SG1's eight near legendary years of operation.
Jack O'Neill of course would have absolutely none of Daniel heading off to the Pegasus Galaxy and had vetoed every attempt but the failed attempt by Prometheus.
There was an amusing irony she thought, that the same women who had derailed the attempt by Prometheus to reach Atlantis last year had also just derailed Daniels most recent attempt …though apparently not completely deliberately this time.
"Alright we're all on board, lets get the party started" Caldwell said as he eased himself into his command chair. "By the numbers people, let's make it just like the last time". There was a shift in the sound the ships power plant was putting out as the antigravity wave generators came online, a deep humming more felt then heard started to permeate the air. The concrete/steal mesh roof above the starship jolted, then steadily retracted to show the twilight of the Nevada sky as the dry-dock illumination wound down. The docking bay emergency personnel scurried into thickly shielded emergency bunkers, ready to respond if something catastrophic happened and the ship came crashing down before clearing the hanger bay.
Idly, Caldwell wondered who they had annoyed to get assigned to that posting on the base.
"All flight systems nominal go for Launch"
"Pilot, up and out" Caldwell ordered, trying not to wince at the thought of over ten billion dollars worth of taxpayers property the size of a skyscraper being suspended by physics he only understood in the most abstract sense.
His fears proved foundless as the ships pilot carefully raised the Daedalus out of her hanger (or more actually the ships sophisticated autopilot raised it under guidance from the pilot) and with a steady grip on her yoke, she throttled up and climbed, accelerating rapidly into the orange/pink dusk which steadily faded to the black of space.
As Daedalus broke orbit, Weir took a final look at her home, thinking of the man who had missed the trip, yet again and wondering if he would EVER get to Atlantis.
She also thought of the poor Vala Maldoran, thinking of what Daniel would do to her when he woke up.
"Colonel, sensors are recording an energy surge along our path, approximately sixty light years distant, ten degrees off our current course" Lt Dave Kleinman spoke up from the ships weapons station, raising his voice just loud enough to be heard over the low level chatter of the dozen or so personnel on the ships bridge.
Daedalus's mission clock read just over four hours now, with over seventeen days left before the navigational software estimated they would reach Atlantis. The Pegasus Galaxy was unfortunately situated on the far side of the Milky Way, meaning that Daedalus had to cut across a good chunk of the Galaxy to get clear for her run to Atlantis. Theoretically it would be easier to simply head straight 'up' from Earth into inter-galactic space, then speed along the top of the Milky Way until they had a clear shot. But it was considered safer to stay inside the Galaxy along a path that took the Daedalus through charted space…just in case early on 'something important happens to blow up' as General O'Neill had put it.
Turning away from the simulation being run at one of the secondary consoles, Caldwell strode around the command center to the console ahead and right of his own station, running an eye over the sensor readouts.
"Can you identify the contact?" Kleinman poked at his console, then shook his head.
"Negative. It's not even showing up on the primary sensor array, just the passive Asgard systems as some kind of energy surge right here" the Lieutenant said, tapping the touch screen upon the blinking yellow icon that had just appeared. The screen expanded into a system view, showing a half dozen planets circling a G2 type star along with the sensor contact, which was clearly nowhere near any of the systems planets. "Sensors indicate its approximately twenty light minutes away from P4X-221."
Caldwell frowned as he studied the icons. A tingle of curiosity ran through his head as he noted the icon was in fact directly opposite the star from P4X-221 on the same orbital inclination...meaning if this sensor contact was being generated by an installation or ship, it was taking great pains to keep the systems primary between the only planet with a Stargate and itself. And the fact that the Goa'uld inspired sensor systems built into Daedalus couldn't see a thing there…
"Who owns that system?" Caldwell asked, his curiosity now officially piqued.
Kleinman touched a hyperlink and brought up the planetary listing page. "It was an outpost of the Ancients, but it's been abandoned for eons. Several SG teams and some of Anubis's Jaffa had a scuffle there a few years back, back. But no-one actually owns the planet or claims it according to the current SGC records".
"So what was so important about that particular planet?" Caldwell asked, an uncomfortable feeling starting to work at his mind as Kleinman worked the console. "According to the logs, the clash was in the middle of that period when Stargate Command and Anubis were turning the Galaxy upside down to try and find the Lost City of the Ancients. The place was an Ancient Outpost. But ultimately it turned out to be relatively low tech; its construction was more in line with the Stone Age rather then Atlantis".
Unless of course the technology the planet was there to support was elsewhere in the system the Colonel thought to himself. Ordinarily he would simply log the sensor contact and when they dropped out of Hyperspace at Atlantis, pass the information back to Earth for Prometheus to go take a look.
But on the other hand…
"…now less then ten light years away" Caldwell finished up his summery of current events to the trio of figures who had arrived on the bridge. Dr Rodney McKay was barely listening, standing next to the status display window on the port side of the ships bridge and studying at the sensor readouts duplicated on the large screen. John Sheppard was sitting next to Dr Weir, adjusting his flight suit in a vain attempt to straighten up the loose material into something approaching neatness. He had in fact been in the middle of his qualification tests for the F-302 interceptor when the call had come, but had lacked the time to get changed back into his normal duty uniform before reporting to the bridge.
Elizabeth Weir was in fact grateful for the summons; she had been board out of her mind for the last four hours. Although she had two weeks of somewhat important staff meetings scheduled with the new personnel the Daedalus was shipping to Atlantis, they weren't due to start until they cleared the Milky Way. Meaning she was nothing but a glorified passenger…and was going stir crazy with cabin fever.
"The question is" Caldwell continued as he stepped away from the main sensor display, "Do we stop and take a look or do we just pass the information back to Earth?"
"I say stop and take a look" Sheppard spoke up, glancing towards the Canadian scientist who was still intent on the sensor readouts and tapping furiously away at a modified graphics tablet linked into the ships computer networks. "Prometheus won't be able to get here for a few hours at best and it's hardly much of a delay to at least take a look".
Weir spoke up next, her opinion echoing Sheppard's.
"Well if it is some kind of fancy technology and Samantha Carter is busy at area 51, Rodney is by far-" "
"We really need to take a look at this" McKay broke in suddenly, then looked around. "Sorry, did I interrupt there?"
Weir resisted the impulse to roll her eyes and end her statement with the most irritating person to hold a conversation with. Instead she simply raised an eyebrow. "Not really, what have you got?"
Touching his pen to the tablet he switched the main screen from a long range sensor readout to a pair of sensor waveforms. "This thing" he started, "is Ancient".
"And you know this how?" Sheppard asked, wondering if he was going to understand the explanation.
"This energy signature that Daedalus is tracking" Rodney said highlighting the top one, "is a Zed-PM".
THAT got the undivided attention of the three people listening to him.
"Are you sure about that Doctor?" Caldwell asked his tone not quite on the verge of glee at the thought of being able to get to Atlantis in two days rather then two weeks. "We already ran the sensor data through the ships database and it didn't match anything, including"-
"-a Zed-PM yes yes" McKay jumped over the Caldwell, either not noticing or ignoring the Colonels irritation at being anticipated and interrupted. "That's because your sensor profile for a Zed-PM's energy signature is based on one in real space". Taking a second to gather his thoughts, McKay then plunged ahead trying to simplify theoretical astrophysics no-one on the ship (excepting Hermiod), would probably understand. "A Zed-PM isn't a simple energy storage medium, like say an Earth battery. It's well…a doorway if you will, to an artificial region of subspace and THAT'S where they store the energy. It's how the Ancients can store huge amounts of energy in such a compact form…because the energy doesn't actually exist inside the Zed-PM, that's just the access point for it.
"So are you saying that as we're in subspace now, we're about to collide with the stored energy of a ZPM dead ahead?"
McKay simply rolled his eyes.
"It would be kind of stupid for the Ancients to store the energy in hyperspace when they used to fly around it all the time, don't you think? No it's simply a lensing effect on the Asgard sensors through the subspace domain the ship exists in. Sort of like a sensor shadow I guess you can call it".
Sheppard took a few seconds to digest the information, then turned to Caldwell.
"Well it can't hurt to take a quick look Sir" he shrugged. Weir digested the data for a few seconds.
"Anything else you want to tell us about the readings?"
"Just one thing" McKay said, tapping his portable computer again, bringing up a bar graph. "This is the kind of signature I would expect your typical Zed PM to generate in this kind of situation. And this" he tapped and a second series of bars appeared, matching the previous graph but with much higher peaks "is what we're detecting".
"And this means…" Weir asked, waiting for the explanation. McKay frowned.
"I don't have the first clue. It's just…weird"
"Ah" she responded, not quite sure what to make of this statement, then turned to Caldwell. "Colonel, take us in please".
A hole was wrenched open in the fabric of space, blossoming into a swirl of blue light and a spike of EM radiation. Through this rift, Earths newest Battle Cruiser jumped back into the starlit darkness of realspace, closing the gateway behind it as the ships Hyperdrive powered down to standby mode. Her grey hull was lit by the nearby star, but her running lights defined her shape. Bulkier then her sister ship Prometheus, Daedalus was the next generation of USAF Battle Cruiser and carried more firepower then had ever been dreamed of during the 58 years of the US Air Force. Much smaller then most Starships used by the major powers in either the Milky Way or Pegasus Galaxy, only the foolish or stupidly overconfident would dismiss her based on her size. The US (and Earth for that matter) might be relatively new on the interstellar stage compared to some of the races around, but what the humans from the backwater planet lacked in maturity, they made up for in shear ability to cause destruction and chaos. In the eight years of the Stargate program, Earth had smashed empires and destroyed a half dozen alien races that had been founded when Earths population had thought hitting each other with sticks was an awfully good idea.
Victory is a weakness in itself Caldwell thought to himself as the ships primary sensors came back online. We've known nothing but victory for the last the last eight years out here, punching way above our weight. It would be all too easy to become as overconfident as the Goa'uld if we loose our perspective. Taking a glance at Colonel Sheppard, now dressed in full field kit, he felt his gut tighten slightly at the opportunity for chaos he saw in the man. Overconfidence in our abilities and skill led to the Wraith being awoken and the forfeiting of millions of lives across the Pegasus Galaxy. He didn't really blame the Colonel for his attempt to rescue Colonel Summoner and the men taken with him. But the sloppy execution of the raid had lead inexorably down a chain of events to the situation the Atlantis expedition now found itself in. His 'damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' attitude had gotten Daedalus beaten up at the hands of a Wraith fleet. His antagonizing of races like the Geni had simply lead to further conflicts down the line.
Sighing inaudibly and turning back to the forward window, he tried to push all thoughts of Colonel Sheppard from his mind. He didn't doubt for a second the mans courage or honor. He just needed to find a way to curb his somewhat…enthusiastic…approach to situations before he ended up insulting a high ranking Jaffa's mother.
"Radar contact, bow, ten degrees port" Lt Dave Kleinman spoke up as the ships forward phased array radar started to sweep space in front of the ship. It only took a few seconds for the computer to isolate the contact dead ahead, steering the beams electronically back and forth several times a second as they mapped out its shape. The algorithms called up by the sensor process decided the location of the passive Asgard contact matched the hard radar target to within six significant figures, which was good enough to change the icon from a yellow question mark to a yellow diamond, signifying a hard unknown contact.
"Pilot, bring us in at an oblique angle, ahead standard. Guns, pipe the sensor readouts to the main display."
"Roger that" Kleinman said, and worked his console. A few seconds later, the display next to McKay shifted to a wireframe view of the sensor contact as the sublight engines rumbled slightly through the deck plates. Caldwell looked at the first synthetic pictures coming up on the screen…and frowned. Something about the design clicked in his head, but Sheppard got it first.
"It looks just like that Ancient defense satellite that the Wraith destroyed a few weeks ago" the Colonel said as the image slowly rotated in front of everyone.
The station looked almost like a huge asterisks in space. Towers that would have blended in well with Atlantis's cityscape poked out almost randomly in all directions. Unlike the model seen in Atlantis, a central 'core' cylinder ran through the stations centre, defining a 'North' and 'South' pole that rose perpendicular to systems plane.
"Is there any indication its weapon is armed?" Weir asked, her voice somewhat subdued in volume, almost as if she was afraid of waking the sleeping giant. Or regretting her decision to stop and 'take a look'.
McKay walked across the bridge to a row of LCD displays mounted down from the ceiling and ran his eyes over them.
"No…no….and no. It looks completely powered down, assuming it is a weapons satellite".
"Well what else could it be?" Sheppard asked, not taking his eyes off the image as Daedalus slowly drew closer and the wireframe was joined by magnified visual images.
"Maybe it's a Zed-PM powered coffee peculator, how should I know?" McKay sighed as he turned back to the senior staff. "The point it's not necessarily a weapons platform. Why would you place a defensive weapons platform with a limited range on the other side of the star your planet orbits?"
Silence greeted McKay's question as the senior officers mulled over the rather clear problem with its orbital placement.
"Because it is not actually a weapons platform" a new voice joined the conversation from the side of the bridge. Everyone turned and saw the ships resident Asgard stroll onto the bridge. Caldwell acknowledged the aliens presence with a nod. Weir smiled in greeting. McKay raised an eyebrow at his intellectual nemesis and Sheppard simply stared.
"Ok then, what is it?" Weir asked.
The Asgard didn't answer at first, instead simply narrowing his eyes and returning Sheppard's gaze until McKay poked the Colonel in the ribs and he got the point. Caldwell worked to keep the grin from his face. He had met over a dozen Asgard during the construction phase of his command and almost all of them had been softly spoken, enlightened beings who tried their best to fit in with the humans at Area-51, while taking in stride the fact that it took a while for humans to get used to their presence. Some were a little excitable in their own way, but still overwhelmingly curious and enthusiastic about their collaboration with Earth.
Hermiod on the other hand…well it wasn't fair to say he was the opposite of the 'typical' Asgard. But he wasn't shy about letting everyone know what he felt about…well…anything.
Including humanities relative intelligence and maturity for that matter.
"There is an interior area which my scans can not penetrate that appears shielded, but there are no external weapons of any kind, or the large directed energy weapon the Atlantis platform was equipped with. As to what its function is, I could only speculate as to its purpose. Suffice to say, much of the extra technology installed while it is Ancient, is not standard to a station of this design".
The Asgard turned slightly and glanced out the window at the station, now within easy visual range. A pair of bow mounted fifty million candlepower spotlights were playing over the station, illuminating the strangely chaotic design as they moved to within two hundred meters. The close range was actually quite deliberate, the idea being that if the Platform was a weapons station, Daedalus could better evade a single main weapon at close range rather then at long.
"Well we're not going to figure anything out standing around" Sheppard spoke up, still unable to stop staring at the Asgard out of the corner of his eye. Hermiod glared at him for a few seconds, then turned and walked off the bridge, muttering in Asgard as he went, probably making uncomplimentary comments which were almost certainly directed at the Lt Colonel. Caldwell's stoic demeanor cracked and he joined Dr Weir in smirking at Sheppard, who simply looked confused.
Four shafts of brilliant white light illuminated the pitch black interior of the stations airlock accompanied (if anyone had been around to hear it), by the almost musical chime of an Asgard transporter beam. The light faded leaving four figures encased in the blocky, armored white space suits of Stargate Command teams, back to back with their weapons at the ready. Helmet lights popped on, partially illuminating the darkness as the four men slowly looked around.
"Well I didn't think I'd ever be back here" McKay muttered, just loud enough to be heard over the open comm frequency".
"Cheer up Rodney" the Sheppard's voice crackled back over the helmet speakers. "There aren't any Wraith inbound this time".
"There isn't any Peter Godden either" he replied, an unhappy tone in his voice causing the two Atlantis veterans to pause for a second in sober memory of the British scientist who had given his life to slow down the Wraith heading for Atlantis, buying enough time for reinforcements to arrive from Earth.
Predictably, it was Weir who gently broke the moment.
"So what does it look like?" she asked, carefully steering their thoughts away from the past to the present.
"Dark. Its completely powered down in here. I'm going to try to…oh hell"
"What?" Sheppard demanded.
"Uhh for the record, we're floating in microgravity here. Artificial gravity is offline…and I don't have anything I can grab onto. Remind me to thank Novak for beaming us into midair."
"Hang on Doctor" a new voice interjected into the conversation, Weir recognized him as Sergeant Fontaine, one of the marines who had beamed over with McKay and Sheppard to round out their party. "I'm close enough….ok I'm on something like a ladder on the side wall here".
"Oh, good, can you anchor yourself to it?"
"Sure, just give me a second…"
Each team member was carrying a length of tensile cable mounted on their suit with a multi-clip to tether the user. The Sergeant anchored himself to the wall then pushed back off and helped McKay, Sheppard and their last team member, a Marine named Eustace secure themselves. The two marines secured their lines to the airlock interior then McKay and Sheppard linked themselves to the two men directly. Carefully, the four men manually cracked open the inner airlock hatch and floated down the long drop to the floor, spooling cable as they went. The two marines secured their lines to allow easy access back to the roof (and provide something to grab onto if anyone floated away), then everyone floated off to investigate the structure.
Looking around, McKay instantly saw the stations configuration was somewhat different from the weapons satellite back at Atlantis. Instead of a bare floor with a couple of panels built into the walls, the central area was dominated by three full sized consoles similar to those in the Atlantis control room. Each formed one side of an equilateral triangle; each faced its own holographic view screen apparently floating in midair. There was also a pair of doors the defense satellite had lacked which clearly led to other sections of the station.
"Ok, so now what?" the Colonel asked as he floated up to the nearest console.
"Don't touch anything" McKay warned as he looked around the walls trying to place which side of station he was on. "The last time I was here Groden decided to start pressing buttons at random and he activated the artificial gravity when I was in midair."
"Ouch" Sheppard responded as he gripped the edge of the console and maneuvered around the side towards the Marines who were studying a control panel on the wall.
"You REALLY don't want to know" the Canadian responded. Yes, here it was he thought as he finally found the control he was looking for. "Ok everyone stays on the ground" he said, then tapped the small screen built into the wall.
Air hissed into the tall room with enough momentum to actually push the four man team around slightly. They tightened their grips on their chosen handhelds and a few seconds later their wrist mounted atmospheric analyzers blinked green, followed by the stations internal lights activating and illuminating the huge room quite adequately.
"Nitrogen oxygen mix, it's safe". With relief, McKay broke the seal on his helmet and took a deep breath of the air, glad to be out of the claustrophobic helmet. "Activating artificial gravity" he added, and tapped a second icon.
Sheppard felt his lunch slam into the bottom of his stomach and focused on trying not to throw up all over the interior of his helmet. He succeeded, then relaxed his grip and straightened back up, unbuckling his helmet and starting to strip his EVA suit.
"Sheppard, Daedalus. We show the stations systems are coming back online. SITREP?"
"Daedalus this is Sheppard. McKay has life support and gravity restored, situation is clear so far".
"Configuration is somewhat different from the station back in Pegasus Colonel" McKay jumped in as he struggled out of his space suit which back in real gravity suddenly felt bulky and clumsy. "I'll need some time to bring the stations mainframe online".
"Roger that" Caldwell responded. "Be advised we've signaled Stargate Command, Prometheus will be here as soon as they finish their current activities at Earth in a few hours, then they'll take over".
"Oh? What's happening at Earth anyway?" McKay asked. They had only left a few hours ago after all and everything appeared normal…as much as normal could be attributed to Stargate Command anyway.
"You're not going to believe this" Weir started…
Battle Cruiser Prometheus.
United Kingdom, Earth.
January 10, 2005.
"Its just ONE little thing!"
"Oh come on WHO is going to miss it?"
"Well you have to agree it looks good on me"
"….well there is that. But NO!"
Vala Maldoran sighed theatrically as she followed Daniel away from the Transport Ring room on the ship orbiting high above the English countryside. Toying with the delicate tiara she had 'liberated' from the underground treasure trove, she wondered if he knew that the diamonds supported in the lattice of crystal were in fact highly prized and absurdly rare Goa'uld stones each worth as much as a fully outfitted Al'Kesh.
She doubted it. But she doubted he would let her keep it. Pity.
Behind her, the rings activated once more bringing Colonel Carmon Mitchell up from the underground vault along with Teal'c, the famous (or infamous depending on who you talked to) Jaffa warrior and now a leader of the Free Jaffa nation.
"Hey Doc, you want to put the encyclopedia Alterian down for a minute?" Mitchell called as he stepped off the ring platform.
"Are you kidding?" Jackson answered, without even looking up. "Do you have any idea what kind of a find this is? I mean it's a chronicle of the history of the Ancients FROM an Ancient! I mean, it's priceless!"
"When you say priceless…" Vala started with sudden interest, but was cut off by the ships intercom echoing through the metal passageway.
"Colonel Mitchell, this is Prendergast, please report immediately with your team to the bridge".
Mitchell who had served on the Prometheus for many months before jumping to Stargate Command knew his way around the large ship and even with Daniel still completely engrossed in the old leather bound book and Vala trying to read over his shoulder every step of the way, managed to get the quartet to the ships command centre without running into too many people.
"Hey Shaft, welcome back!" Colonel Lionel Pendergast smiled as Mitchell led Jackson almost like a blind man onto the bridge…then carefully placed him in a corner where he would be out of the way. THEN he was able to turn around and exchange salutes with the superior officer who in the rush to get into the underground vault, he hadn't actually seen when he came on board.
"Colonel, always a pleasure" Carmon smiled as he looked out the windows at the softly lit planet sedately rotating under them. It was still one HELL of a view out of the bridge view port, with Earth hanging suspended sedately under the Battle Cruiser and it still gave a secret thrill to him knowing he was really out in space…and it was about now that he noticed Earth was falling away as the ships bow came out and up to point away from the planet. "Uhh…Sir?"
"Afraid we have new orders Colonel. A cargo ship is on its way to take over ring access to the underground vault and the turnover to the UK Ministry of Defense. Teal'c, you of course are more then welcome to beam back down to the SGC before we leave orbit…"
Teal'c inclined his head in a slight bow out of respect for the Colonel. "I would remain on board Colonel Pendergast, I am not due back on Dakara for several days yet".
"Always good to have you aboard. Dr Jackson?"
"Humph?" Daniel said, finally tearing his attention away from the book in his arms.
"I have some good news for you. Daedalus was outbound to Atlantis but they appear to have stumbled onto some kind of Ancient Space station. Since they have specialists in Ancient technology on board, they're staying to look the place over until we arrive".
"They're staying!" Daniel asked his eyes going wide. "Then-"
"Your bags were already packed, we beamed them up a few minutes ago" Pendergast anticipated the next question, then looked at Vala. "Assuming your Girlfriend here is willing to let you go of course".
Daniel slowly turned to face the women next to him, who was now grinning cheerfully.
"Well. I would say negotiations have been re-opened", Vala said, fingering the pearl colored tiara once again.