Chapter 5

Catherine Langford watched with twinkling eyes, her expression just shy of smug, as Dr. Daniel Jackson connected the dots. Everyone else watched with bewildered confusion, their own carefully organized notes scattered beneath the awkwardly strewn star chart. Dr. Jackson's own notes were displayed in an ungainly heap, set aside in favor of his visual aides. It didn't seem possible that this man with his barely contained enthusiasm bubbling over into a mess of paper and nerves, this shy, anxious man with glasses askew and his hair tumbling down his face, could possibly have just done what he seemed to have done.

Oblivious to the bewildered stares, Dr. Jackson continued his crude drawing of a cube around six points that criss crossed over a single point in the center. He had already explained that the symbols on the cover stone were, in fact, constellations, and was now trying to explain what he thought they meant. They were a map.

"So as can see," he finished, "the six symbols represent six points in space, which of course are what you need to define any point in three-dimensional space."

"But you said there are seven symbols," someone protested.

"Right," Daniel said, adding a final dot some ways away from his cube, "There was a seventh symbol, in fact, below the others, which I believe must be the point of origin." Finally, he connected the final dot to the first. Then he sat back and waited for questions. At least half his audience, most notably the scientists, had already grasped the implications. The other half were still gawking, trying to catch up.

"Look," someone said at last in a slightly disgruntled tone, "This is all very well but that symbol isn't on the ring."

"Ring?" Daniel asked, latching onto the word, "What ring?" But the man shut up quickly, glancing towards the two men at the head of the table where General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill were watching the proceedings with ill concealed amusement. The colonel looked to the general, awaiting his decision, but Hammond still hesitated. Officially, he had not been given permission to reveal anything beyond the cover stone. Unofficially, he had been given some leeway in the case of Dr. Jackson's unexpected success. The higher ups were desperate for any show of progress. Still, he hesitated.

"General Hammond," Catherine admonished, waiting hopefully. She had said from the beginning that he should be shown. The general considered his options, then glanced towards the colonel giving an almost imperceptible nod. It was time Dr. Jackson saw the stargate.

Samantha Carter silently fumed as she calculated another complex problem in her head. Before her was the ring, the great and mysterious puzzle that it seemed no one had been able to figure out in all the years since it had been found. Even more vexing, Sam could not figure it out. She could untangle years worth of computer bugs, realign and recalibrate systems, increase the power, and improve dampening fields...but she could not actually make the device do whatever it was meant to do. She had been shown the six symbols found on the cover stone. When the six symbols were dialed, using her program, she could read the power fluctuations, make adjustments as needed, but she could not say why, in the end, nothing happened. It was like there was a short somewhere; it powered up, got ready to go, and then powered down again. It was enough to drive anyone insane, especially when she got the very strong feeling that she was missing something incredibly obvious.

"Dr. Carter," someone called, getting her attention and she lifted her head to see people standing at the observation window. There was another reason to fume. She hadn't been invited to hear Dr. Jackson's discovery. She told herself she was too busy for secret meetings and that it wasn't anything personal, that the infamous Dr. Jackson couldn't possibly have discovered anything too important; he hadn't even seen the stargate so how could he possibly have uncovered its secrets? Well, he had seen it now.

Dr. Jackson was staring at the ring in open awe, his blue eyes sparkling with the thrill of the unknown. He descended to Carter's domain, rapt enthusiasm painted across his face. And then he did it. Dr. Samantha Carter was showing him a basic scroll through the ring's symbols, and he called for it to freeze. With a marker that Sam swore had better not be permanent, he drew directly on the screen, adding to the picture. It was the seventh symbol.

Understanding hit Sam like a ton of bricks, even as she and her crew scurried to start up the dialing sequence. There were seven symbols. That was where the short was; they had never dialed far enough. Now, too excited to even feel bitter that it was Dr. Jackson's discovery, she watched as the ring began to spin.

"Chevron one locked." One by one, the symbols were entered. Just like always, the energy spiked, the entire monstrosity trembling with barely contained, phenomenal power just waiting to be unleashed. They could feel it beneath the very soles of their feet. Absently, Sam was already considering what they would need to do to fix that, but most of her concentration was centered upon the impending realization of years and years of work.

"Chevron six locked."

"That's as far as we've ever gotten," she whispered, almost bouncing in anticipation as the ring spun for the final time, finally stopping upon the symbol Daniel had indicated.

"Chevron seven is locked." Everyone held their breaths, waiting expectantly.

The ring's interior exploded into a billowing whirlpool of blue, before it fell back into itself, finally settling into a strange, almost liquid surface; like a lake somehow turned upon its side. For one moment, all anyone could do was stare.

"The probe, where's the probe?" Hammond demanded, staring right over Sam's shoulder and she jumped, suddenly remembering her job as she started to take readings. Any anger she had been feeling had vanished in the light of discovery. Someone else had taken up the general's command and soon a gainly wheeled monstrosity was rolling its way with slow precision up a metal ramp towards the blue field emitted within the ring.

As someone else operated it, Sam continued to take readings, oblivious to the speculating conversation that surrounded her. Now it was Daniel at her back, naturally gravitating towards the only person in the room who's delighted curiosity approached his own. He may not understand what all those readings meant, but he could get a feel, through her, of their significance. Then the probe reached the stargate and lightly sent out an electronic arm. It passed into the blue field as though it were water, stayed poised momenterily just under its surface, then the entire machine went rumbling the rest of the way over the ramp and disappeared into the blue.

"It wasn't me," the control operator exclaimed, "That thing just...sucked it in!" Nobody answered as they waited, watching the screens. Computer systems that had made no sense when Sam was first asked to design them now took on meaning as information was processed. In a moment, a basic map was being sent back, the final results shocking.

"It's...this is incredible!" Sam exclaimed, looked down at the readings, "It's on the other side of the galaxy!"

"Getting a visual," the controller commented, and a moment later everyone could see a fuzzy, dark picture.

"The place has an Earth-like atmosphere," Sam continued, her voice filled with amazement as she continued to study the readings the probe was sending back. She finally took a moment to consider the picture. Despite the obviously bad lighting and poor quality, she made out a stone column. Whatever it was, it had been made not grown. On the other side of the galaxy there was not only a planet with a livable atmosphere, but there were obvious signs of a higher intelligence. Finally, the blue field cut off, disintegrating and leaving the ring bare once more. Everyone continued to stare at where it had been in stunned silence.

"I told you so," Catherine Langford whispered, her voice heavy with awed tears, "I told you so."

Colonel Jack O'Neill sat through his private briefing with icy detachment. Dr. Jackson had succeeded. He had opened the gate. He claimed he could do it again when they reached the other side and take his men home. Pandora's box was opened. Now it was time to make sure the ills within were contained.

It is a strange fate to be human. Equally terrified and thrilled by the unknown; they might find an unparalleled threat to all humanity or they might find a way to save the world. Jack shivered, feeling the ice to the depths of his soul. He had been given a chance to die, if need be, by saving the world. Daniel Jackson had succeeded. It was Jack's job to make sure Earth did not regret that success.

Daniel Jackson was sure he would shatter into a million pieces at any moment. They had been reluctant to send anyone through the stargate. They didn't know for sure that they could bring them back. Daniel swore he could. On his head lay the fate of a dozen people. He thought he might be sick.

"Dr. Jackson," a voice called from the door, and he turned away from his rummaging through old books. Catherine Langford stood in the doorway, radiating confidence and excitement. He had given himself into the hands of the military based upon the reassurance of her aura.

"I wish I could be going with you," she commented, eying his mess of papers and dusty tomes.

"There is a lot to do here," he reminded her, referring to the still developing school. Daniel himself had already been approached, to teach calculus of all things. He had to point out that mathematics had never been his strong suite. Catherine nodded, but it was obviously poor consolation when compared to traveling to other worlds. Daniel sneezed suddenly, that anxious, crawly feeling coming back. He was traveling to another world!

"Allergies," he mumbled when he sneezed again, "Always happens when I travel." She simply gave him a knowing look.

"I want you to have this," she said, holding out her hand. In it lay a golden necklace with a round amulet at the end, portraying the eye of Ra. Daniel took it up, a look of rapture coming over his face as he held it in his hands.

"This came from the same dig as the stargate," Catherine explained, "It has brought me luck. Perhaps it will do the same for you." Daniel didn't answer, feeling the weight of ages that rested within his hand. He got a sudden, jarring vision of leaches and cold, malicious eyes that glowed white, but just as quickly the vision vanished into sand.

Several floors down and behind locked doors, Colonel Jack O'Neill stood staring at another artifact uncovered at the same time as the ring. Locked in stone were the twisted, masked remains of some strange caricature to a man. Sharp edged and dangerous looking, there was something distinctly alien about the figure trapped within the stone. Tomorrow, he would lead a team through the stargate. Tomorrow he would stand upon another planet. There was no real way to be ready. But he would be prepared.