Title: Hypothetically Speaking
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: Greg stared at the earnest guy with the scholarly glasses and intimidating biceps, trying to make sense of what he'd just been told. 2400 words.
Spoilers: Vaguely post-season 5 for CSI and post-season 8 for SG-1.
Notes: For idontlikegravy, who asked for Daniel and either Grissom or Greg. Set in the same 'verse as Collateral Damage and Bigger Worlds.
Greg stared at the earnest guy with the scholarly glasses and intimidating biceps, trying to make sense of what he'd just been told.
"Okay, let me get this straight," he said. "You want me. To go to another galaxy. To do DNA work on the genome of a predatory alien race. And help your field teams with the occasional forensic investigation."
Dr. Jackson thought that over for a second, then nodded. "Yep, that's about it," he said. "We have a lot of scientists on Atlantis, and a lot of soldiers with scientific specialties, but very few in either of those specific disciplines. Jack thinks you'd be a perfect fit, at least for a tour or two."
Greg just about swallowed his tongue as he tried to respond. "Are you kidding me?" he blurted.
Jackson raised his eyebrows incredulously. "I'm sorry, is that a 'no'?"
Greg waved a hand as he struggled to pull his scattered thoughts together. "No, no. Sorry. I mean, I knew there were going to be aliens and extra-planetary travel involved; Colonel Carter hinted as much. But. Space vampires? Atlantis? Excuse me if it takes me a second to adjust."
The scientist smirked a little at that. "Imagine being a member of the first team to ever step through the gate," he said. "It is a little disconcerting, to discover just how much larger the universe is than you ever could have imagined. But once you realize that most of the races you meet and most of the planets you set foot on aren't much different from what you'd find at home, it gets a lot less disorienting, I promise."
"Right," Greg said, still dissecting the contents of the guy's introductory lecture. "Because of these... Ancients. They terraformed most of the worlds they put gates on and seeded life all over the place, you said. So most of the aliens we'll meet, even the ones that weren't stolen off Earth in the first place, are pretty humanoid or at least based on macromolecule building blocks a whole lot like ours."
Jackson blinked at him, wrinkling his forehead a little. "Macro- you know what, biology was never my forte. I'll make sure Dr. Lee introduces you around that department before the Daedalus ships out with your group. But basically, that sounds about right."
"And... what is your forte, exactly?" Greg asked, curious about that, too. It didn't seem likely that a base this size would have just one administrator doing orientations; wouldn't they split new hires among the relevant departments? So if this guy wasn't a biologist or geneticist, there had to be some specific reason he was the one Greg was sent to talk to. "The guy who brought me down here said you were the one who figured out how to open the gate; are you an astrophysicist like Colonel Carter?"
"Ah... no." Jackson seemed amused by that. "Actually, I'm an archaeologist by training. I also have doctoral degrees in anthropology and philology; I was hired to decipher the markings on the gate. And once we realized just how many of the worlds out there were forcibly colonized by offshoots of various ancient Earth cultures..." He shrugged. "We were fortunate to discover the translating function embedded in the gates; we can talk to almost everyone we meet, unless their brains are wired significantly differently from ours or their gate has been off the network for a long time. But that doesn't carry over to written scripts or divergent cultural cues."
"Wow." Greg's eyes widened. "That's- how does any of that make logical sense?"
"The translating function?" Jackson guessed.
Greg shook his head. "Well, yes, but you're probably going to tell me it's sufficiently advanced technology that our scientists can't explain yet, and leave it at that, right?" From Jackson's raised eyebrows and expectant expression, he knew he'd hit it on the nose. "I meant, why so many cultures? Why put the tech in the gate, so it would affect everyone, including enemies? How can it alter the language center of the brain at all without including visual input? I mean, it's not like you hear a translation echo or anything, right?"
Jackson's eyebrows lifted still farther. "No; and those are good questions. You're right, we put Clarke's Third Law through a good workout around here, and Sam despairs that we'll ever find true answers to the mysteries of crystal-based technology in our lifetime. But what do you mean, why so many cultures? I did mention that the Goa'uld used humans as a source of slaves and hosts, and that they deliberately chose low technology cultures in order to keep them easier to control, didn't I?"
"Yeah, you did. But think for a second. What was the population of Earth a thousand years ago? Five thousand years? Ten? And what's it like now? A little medical care and reliable food production, and shazam. Surely these Goa'uld could have provided all that without giving the colonists themselves access to technology," Greg reasoned out. "Feed 'em, indoctrinate 'em, take the ones you need and tell the ones left it's their duty to be fruitful and multiply. Like we haven't seen cults like that here even without alien involvement. As long as you start out with a large enough gene pool, why would they ever need to come back? And if they're that terrible at logistics, how'd they ever rule the galaxy in the first place?" He frowned at the archaeologist. "It doesn't make any sense."
Jackson's surprised expression shifted to thoughtfulness, then an acknowledging nod. "They really were that short-sighted, yes," he replied, "and- badly. The smart ones came to power relatively late in the war, by which time it was largely too late for them to salvage. How do you think we managed to dismantle a galaxy-spanning empire in only eight years from a standing start? We had a lot of luck, yes; but it was more than that. You'd be surprised how few people ever think to ask those questions, though."
Greg sat a little straighter in his chair, most of the nervousness he'd entered the room with long since evaporated, replaced by his usual energetic inquisitiveness. "Well, I am a trained investigator," he said, a little smugly. Now he got why they set him up with this guy: they were testing the way he thought, not his skillset. It implied good things about his future work environment; he'd seen what a universally bright, skilled team could do in the Vegas crime lab.
"And Gil Grissom is one of your mentors," Jackson nodded. "We've consulted with him before, though he's not fully read into the project; he has a very logical perspective."
"That's an understatement," Greg snorted. So that was how they'd found him in the first place. He supposed he was lucky they hadn't scouted Nick or Sara; both of them had even more field experience than he did. Luckily, the DNA expertise was all his. "So that's this galaxy," he said, determined to continue with the 'orientation' instead of chasing his own nerves. "But you said villages are mostly the same size and tech level in Pegasus, too. Are the Wraith as dumb as the Goa'uld were?"
"Collectively? More or less. We believe they did keep an eye on sustainable population levels, at least until a few years ago. But since most of them were asleep at any given time, and they're fiercely competitive, not to mention virtually immortal as long as they harvest enough energy, they didn't see any reason to allow populations larger than absolutely necessary to support them. And they were even more vicious about suppressing technology than the Goa'uld.
"The Goa'uld tried to cut things off at the root by forbidding writing; the Wraith, on the other hand, were completely hands-off in their management, allowing worlds to develop on their own between cullings. But if one recovered even as far as steam power in the interim? They'd scorch the earth. They didn't care how much 'food' they wasted, so long as the 'herds' got the message. By the time we arrived, the galactic population curve had largely stagnated. And now that all the Wraith are awake..." He shrugged. "Don't think that makes them softer targets, though. One on one, their commander class and Queens have proven to be more intelligent and dangerous than the average Goa'uld."
Greg flexed his fingers a little, thinking. "Which, again, doesn't make any sense. The Goa'uld were an active culture for the same amount of time the Wraith mostly spent hibernating, and they've got that racial memories thing going for them. So why'd they stagnate? You think it has anything to do with heavy metal poisoning from that mineral they all carry around in their bloodstreams? They didn't, like, evolve with that or anything, right?"
"Naquadah? How'd you- oh." Jackson chuckled. "Yeah, I heard about your call to Sam. I'm not aware of any harmful long term effects in human hosts; naquadah's remarkably stable for a mineral with such a high atomic weight. Then again, we do have a relatively limited sample set, and I'm not sure anyone's ever tested a Goa'uld directly for toxicity levels." He smiled darkly at that. "We have seen a senile Goa'uld before, though, and it's possible their near-constant use of the sarcophagus may correct the gross physical symptoms but only mask a degree of neural impairment. It would be... poetic if their attempts to secure their technology had only resulted in their own downfall, and it might explain a few things about the Tok'ra, too. Bring that up with Dr. Lam sometime; she'd be better able to fill you in on our body of knowledge on the subject."
"I think I will. By email, probably, while I'm gone," Greg added hastily. As interesting as the possibilities were, he hadn't signed that confidentiality agreement just so he could hole up under a mountain six hundred miles from home. Now that he knew he was headed for Atlantis, he didn't want to risk getting snared back somehow. "You said we get one download a week, right?"
"With the current system, yes; unless there's an urgent situation. Messages build up in the buffer, and we open the gate in microbursts just long enough to send an information stream through."
"I'm guessing the power requirements are kind of obscene otherwise?" Greg guessed.
"Enough to brown out the entire Midwest if we keep it open any longer," Jackson nodded. "So stock up on coffee and snacks in your personal package, and have your books and other entertainment media sent via transmission. Don't waste space packing game consoles or CDs."
"Speaking of coffee," Greg perked up a little at that. "Is there some kind of expedition-wide supply? Or do we have to all bring our own? And how secure are the personal packages? 'Cause I have a supply of Blue Hawaiian that I used to bring into the lab sometimes, until my boss started stealing cups out from under me. That stuff's forty dollars a pound."
"I'm probably not the best person to ask; I'll drink anything put in front of me," Jackson said, amused. "All I care about is the caffeine content. But I think it's a little of both. Email Dr. McKay- no, better try Dr. Zelenka instead, before you ship out. They'll fill you in on the current luxuries market."
"Oh, hey, that's right; if currencies are based on something rare..." Greg trailed off, wondering how many chocolate bars he could pack along with his coffee before he hit his weight limit. "Hmmm. I don't suppose you have betting pools, too?"
"Well, not officially..." Jackson spread his hands.
"I bet," Greg grinned at him. "What kinds of things, hypothetically, would you bet on?"
"Naquadah mines, presence of evergreen trees, whether the next culture that attacks us will have spears or energy weapons, how long until a particular team member loses his pants again..."
"Not so very different from the crime labs, except the topics are usually a little more morbid," Greg chuckled.
"Oh, I don't know," Jackson replied matter of factly. "I'm pretty sure there's still one on the books for how long it'll be until a member of SG-1 dies again; but Walter's refused to let me see it since the last time I came back."
That one caught Greg up short. "...Hypothetically?" he choked out after a pause. Was the guy joking?
"Ah, right. Hypothetically," Jackson bared white teeth at him. "Having second thoughts?"
Greg swallowed. He'd been getting the impression that for all the length of his introductory lecture, Dr. Jackson had barely scraped the surface of what Greg might run into out there. Maybe it was a joke... and maybe it wasn't. But then again, that wasn't so very different from the crime lab, either, was it? He'd seen things while working with CSI that he'd have sworn were not humanly possible, both gruesome and amazing. This would just be more of the same, on a grander scale. Which was why he was here in the first place, right?
"Ah, no," he said. "I am going to get a lot more reading material before I actually ship out, though, right? I'll need to be a lot more familiar with the settings, the tools, and the personalities I'm going to be working with before I get there in order to make a favorable impression."
"We've pre-loaded most of the Atlantis files onto a laptop in your quarters," Jackson replied. "And please, ask questions if you run into anything you don't understand; lack of preparedness kills more SG team members than any other single factor."
"I think I'll take you up on that, after I've had a little more time to digest," Greg replied.
"Anytime," Jackson nodded. "I look forward to hearing more about your work; I'm sure you'll make an impression out there."
"You bet," Greg said, picking up the cue that the interview was over. He stood, marveling again at the impressive physical shape Jackson was in as the guy echoed the motion; if that was the standard around here for even the soft sciences, he was going to have to spend a lot of time in the gym. Nick would have been right at home.
But he'd been the one to get the invitation, not Nick.
Greg's grin widened at the thought as he shook Dr. Jackson's hand.