Gods Among Us
Doctor Daniel Jackson sighed and resisted the impulse to roll his eyes as the plane from Colorado Springs touched down on one of the runways of New York's JFK Airport with the familiar gentle bump. He couldn't help but wonder how he had let himself be talked into this; he had much better things to do back at Stargate Command.
Things like translating an Ancient tablet brought back from P5X-232, a tablet that in a roundabout, typically cryptic way promised to lead them to a hidden Ancient base. A base where the Ancients had supposedly docked their remaining warships after they retreated from the Pegasus Galaxy. If they could find the base and get the warships to fly it would go along way towards equalling the battle with the Ori. Even though the Ori themselves were almost certainly dead after he'd sent the Sangraal into their galaxy they were still facing an uphill battle against the Priors and the armies of fanatical followers they commanded.
But instead of being at the SGC Daniel found himself arriving at New York's main airport, in the company of none other than Vala Mal Doran. Vala had been nagging for months to see more of Earth than the SGC and the occasional trip to Colorado Springs, General Landry had given in and secured permission from the IOA for Vala to be allowed to see other places on the planet. But only on the condition that someone from Stargate Command accompany her as a guide, which was a polite way of saying someone to make sure the ex-Goa'uld host, thief and all round rogue behaved herself. But why does that someone have to be me, Daniel thought with an inward resigned sigh, why couldn't Cameron or Sam play tour guide for once. At least we're not travelling via commercial aircraft but a private air force chartered plane.
"Why do you sound so resigned, Daniel," Vala asked from where she was sitting in another nearby seat. Inwardly she knew the reason, Daniel would have much rather been buried in translations in his office back at the SGC than here with her. Why that was she really didn't know, surely seeing one of this planets many cities was much more fun than translating obscure Ancient tablets.
"Nothing, Vala," Daniel replied. "Now you do remember our cover story don't you?"
Vala sighed. "Yes," she answered.
"Repeat it to me."
Vala rolled her eyes. "Fine, I'm supposed to be your cousin visiting from Australia and you're showing me the sights of New York," she said.
"Good. And the rules General Landry laid out for you."
"That I am to stick close to you at all times and not ask too many questions that would give away I'm not from this planet," Vala replied.
"Good make sure you follow them," Daniel replied as he felt the plane taxi to a stop. After a moment an airman appeared near his elbow.
"Excuse me Doctor Jackson we're at the private aircraft terminal," the airman said. "A car has been arranged and is waiting outside."
Daniel smiled. "Thank you airman," he said, releasing his restraints and getting up. "Come on, Vala. Where do you fancy going first?"
Vala considered that for a few moments, mentally referring to what she knew about New York, knowledge that mostly came from television travel shows. There were a number of places that she wanted to see in this city, just where to start. Finally she smiled and spoke up.
"I would like to see this Statue of Liberty that I've heard so much about," she said.
"I'm afraid that might not be possible, Miss Mal Doran," the airman said. "It is extremely windy outside as a storm due to come ashore from the Atlantic in around an hour's time; the river might be too choppy for the ferries to the island to sail." Vala scowled and was about to give a caustic reply but Daniel spoke before she could even open her mouth.
"We'll go to the ferry terminal and see if their running," he said. "If there not then we can go somewhere else in the city."
"Fine," Vala muttered undoing her own restraints and getting up. Daniel smiled and led the way out of the jet to where a simple looking black car with a plain clothed airman sitting in the driver's seat waited outside.
Despite his ongoing inward annoyance at being here in New York, with Vala of all people, Daniel remembered his manners. Politely he opened one of the cars rear doors for Vala and mentioned for her to get inside. Vala gave him a confused look – not understanding why he was holding the car door open for her, but then she shrugged and climbed in the vehicle. Daniel closed the door and her and went around to the other side.
"Where to Dr Jackson," Airman Dave Turner who was their driver for the day asked.
"The terminal for the ferries to Liberty Island," Daniel replied, getting into the car.
"Yes, sir," Dave replied and started the engine. As soon as Daniel had secured his door the airman started the car moving, heading for the nearest way out of the airport onto the bustling streets of one of the biggest cities in the world.
Twenty Minutes Later
Daniel watched with well concealed amusement as Vala tried her level best not to fidget as the car made its way into New York. Traffic was extremely heavy and slow moving even though morning rush hour had long since passed. Damn I'd forgotten what traffic can be like in this city, he thought, before glancing out the windows at the sidewalk which was surprisingly empty of people. Though Daniel could well understand why considering the dark clouds that had filled the sky, ominous, brooding monstrosities that had blotted out the sun and cast a terrible twilight down on the city that never slept. Almost everyone with an ounce of sense would be indoors out of the deluge that was going to come, when the storm coming in off the Atlantic Ocean unleashed its fury on the city. Even in the car he could feel an eerie, oppressive calm in the air, like the world was holding its breath waiting for the storm to begin.
"This is boring," Vala moaned from her seat. "How much longer till we get to the terminal?"
"At this rate another hour," Daniel answered, "the traffic is heavy today. Everyone trying to get wherever it is there going before the storm starts."
"The storm can't be that bad surely," Vala objected a moment before a flash of light caught her attention. "What was that?" she said a moment before a deep, ominous rumbling sound filled the air for a moment, a sound that seemed to resonate in her bones. Thunder, she thought a moment before something hit the car. It came again, and again and again.
Looking forward towards the windscreen Vala saw spots of water appearing as raindrops began to fall, big drops from the size of the splatter. Daniel glanced out the window and looked up at the sky, visible above the artificial canyon created by the towering buildings on each side of the road. A thick grey haze was starting to descend from the clouds, even as the occasional bolt of lightning began to fork through the dark, broiling mass of the storm clouds. Here we go, he thought as the heavier raindrops began falling, first in the odd handful but rapidly changing into a torrent that was so powerful that it obscured the world from clear view and produced a roaring sound inside the car.
Daniel glanced over at Vala. "Well were not going to be able to get on a ferry in this, Vala," he said even as he felt the car slow down some more.
"I guess not," Vala admitted, hiding her disappointment. "Hey why are we slowing down?"
"Traffic ahead is slowing down Miss Mal Doran," Airman Turner replied from the driver's seat. "There's road works about two miles up ahead that have closed a carriageway." As the driver spoke he brought the car to a complete halt as the traffic ahead stopped moving.
"Just what we need," Daniel mused, "a traffic jam."
Vala frowned at him. "A what," she asked.
"A traffic jam," Daniel repeated as the car crept forward a metre or two then stopped again. "It's what the road works up ahead are creating with the volume of cars and other vehicles on the road. You better make yourself comfortable; we could be here for awhile."
Vala looked carefully at Daniel to see if he was joking, but he wasn't. With a sigh of resignation she sat back in the seat to wait, wait and watch while they crept forward a metre or two at a time. Hopefully we won't be here to long, she thought.
An Hour Later
Vala felt like screaming in frustration and boredom. They were still stuck in the stream of slow moving traffic, they had barely gotten a mile or so in the last hour, the car was just creeping along at a pace even slower than a brisk walking pace. She was more than a little fed up by now; sitting still with nothing to do was not one of her strong points and never had been. The view out the windows was boring and it was almost impossible to see anything through the heavy rain. It had been a very long time since she had seen rain this heavy.
"Daniel," she said in a whining tone of voice. "I'm bored."
"I know, Vala," Daniel replied looking over the rim of his glasses – which had slipped down his nose – at Vala. "But there is nothing we can do until we can get out of this traffic jam."
"There has to be something we can do to liven things up a bit. The last time I was this bored I took hostages," Vala answered, and then smiled suggestively. "That could be fun to try again."
"Don't even think about it," Daniel warned, he wouldn't put it past Vala to take someone hostage just for fun. It was something the beautiful former host, ex-thief and general all round rogue would do.
"Spoil sport," Vala shot back. "Come on there has to be something we can do? Somewhere close by that we can go."
Daniel considered for a moment, it had been a few years since he had last spent anytime in New York. And the last time had not gone well, though the ending had got him into the Stargate program when the then project director Catherine Langford had approached him for help. He tried to remember if there was anywhere in this part of the city that they could go to, but try as he might he couldn't remember.
"It's been awhile since I was last in this city," Daniel admitted. "Almost ten years in point of fact, I can't remember. Airman?"
"Yes, Dr Jackson," Dave asked keeping his voice calm when inwardly he was resisting the impulse to laugh his head off. Listening to Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran bickering as they had been doing on and off since the airport was amusing to say the least.
"You're from this city, correct?"
"Yes, sir, I only transferred to the Stargate program last month."
"Good then you should be able to answer Vala's question. Is there anywhere close by here that we can go to?"
"That depends on what you want to do, sir."
"I just want to know a bit more about this planets culture," Vala said before Daniel could speak. "And I want to see the sights, if I can though I don't fancy getting soaked in the process."
Airman Turner considered for a moment. "There is a gallery about two blocks down and three blocks over from here," he said at last. "It's the only thing like that in this part of the city."
"That will do," Vala replied, excitedly. Even though galleries sounded like quite boring places from what she had heard about them, anything would be better than being stuck here in the car, trapped in a traffic jam. "Can we go," she asked.
"I don't see why not," Daniel replied, eager to get out of the traffic jam himself. Major traffic jams like this one were one thing he hadn't missed about New York. "Take us there, airman."
"Yes, sir," Dave replied.
It took them another twenty minutes to fight there way through the snail like traffic and get to their destination. The rain pounding the city had not eased up, if anything it had gotten heavier. The pavements and roads were all slick with water and the drains had become almost like small whirlpools as more water was coming down than the storm drains could quickly carry away.
Daniel glanced out of his window at the entrance to the gallery, amazingly it looked to be still open for business, he could see people moving about inside and as he watched a woman came out, unfolded an umbrella and walked away.
"Looks like there still open for business," he said.
"Great, let's get in there," Vala said. "Even though we'll get wet in the time it takes to get from in here to in there."
"Not necessarily, Miss Mal Doran," their driver said from the front. "If you and Dr Jackson look in the pouches on the backs of the front seats you'll find there are folded up water proof cagoules for you. I put them there when I heard the storm was coming."
Daniel smiled. "Excellent thinking, airman," he said even as he reached into the pocket and took out a blue cagoule that was folded up surprisingly tightly. Carefully he unfolded it and put the thing on. Before glancing over at Vala and seeing that she had just done the same thing.
"Come on then, Vala," he said opening his door and climbing out and almost being blown over by the strong gale force wind that was tearing across the city, propelling the sheets of raindrops with stinging force. Whoa, Daniel thought, damn I forgot how strong the winds from Atlantic storms can be. While closing his door he glanced over at the other side of the car to see how Vala was faring getting out, just in time to see her stagger in surprise from the force of the wind.
After closing her door, with difficulty as the wind was gusting and swirling around the block did its best to hold the door open, Vala made her way around the outside of the car. Despite the gusting wind blowing her thick black hair, that peaked out from under the cagoules hood, around all over the place Daniel could clearly see the scowl on her face. Vala clearly did not like the strong wind and stingingly heavy rain one bit, not that Daniel could blame her. Atlantic storms were never the best things to be out in, though the one currently battering New York was mild by the standards of the Atlantic Ocean.
"Come on," Daniel said, having to raise his voice slightly to be heard over the howling wind. Without waiting for a response, and not wanting to stay out in the rain any longer than he had to, Daniel led the way to the front door of the gallery. He pushed open the door and led the way inside, sighing in relief as he entered the warm, dry environment of the gallery.
"Blah what awful weather," Vala complained as she came in behind Daniel. Then she glanced around the first of the galleries many show rooms and a smile played on her lips. There were expensive looking paintings in lovely looking frames against all of the walls. In addition exquisite looking statues and ornaments in glass display cases stood here and there in the room. I could make a fortune in here, the thief part of herself told her greedily.
"It is bad," Daniel agreed, "though believe me that storm is tame compared to the kind of monsters the Atlantic can spawn when it really wants to."
Vala nodded but did not answer; instead she started forward looking at the paintings with intense interest visible on her face. Recognising the look of avarice in her eyes, Daniel made a mental note to keep a very close eye on Vala while they were in here. Though to be fair to her Vala was getting better at controlling her thieving instincts, and it would be difficult to steal something from here as Daniel knew all the paintings and display cases would have alarm sensors monitoring them. Still he would keep an eye on Vala to make sure that she wasn't tempted to try and steal something as there was no doubt in Daniel's mind that Vala would be quickly able to bypass any alarms this place had.
Carefully Daniel began moving around the gallery himself while being sure to keep Vala just in his line of sight, ready to intervene if she were to be tempted. Despite his intentions however he soon found himself being distracted by the artwork displayed on the walls, the more modern pieces didn't catch his interest, but the ones that were inspired by classical styles did. One lovely painting showing a sunrise over Yosemite National Park caught his attention and he could tell it was a real painting not a photo print. What a lovely painting, Daniel thought, pity I have nowhere to hang it at home or in my office, I would be tempted to buy it otherwise.
Pulling himself away from the painting Daniel looked around and noticed that Vala had disappeared. Oh great where has she disappeared to now, he thought beginning to look around for her. But he couldn't see her in this particular room, muttering potential recriminations to himself about letting Vala out of his sight for a few minutes, he moved into the next room of the gallery, this was a bit smaller than the first main room and the paintings had a altogether different character to them. Most looked like they had been painted by a gifted comic artist, they all had the feeling of stark, surreal realism to them that was all the rage in modern comics.
"Cant account for bad taste," Daniel said to himself giving the images a quick scan and finding them starkly different to the bright, cheerful comic images he remembered from his own childhood. Ignoring the images he made his way into the next and last room of the gallery. And sure enough there in front of him was Vala Mal Doran.
"Ah Vala there you are," Daniel said, and frowned when Vala did not answer him. Looking at Vala he saw that she was standing stark still like a statue, staring at something on the far wall a look of complete and total shock on her face. "Vala," he said, "Vala what is it? What's wrong?"
"Daniel look at the wall," Vala said her voice thick with disbelief and keeping her eyes focused on the far wall. "Tell me that I'm seeing things."
Frowning in confusion Daniel followed Vala's gaze and the frown on his face melted away into a look of complete and total shock. The paintings on the wall were impossible, they should not, could not, be here, but they were. As incredible as it seemed, the paintings were devastatingly, impossibly real.
The paintings were of Atlantis.