With a rush of energy, the Stargate activated, a column of pseudo-water rushing out from the surface before settling into a rippling pool within the circle of metal. For a moment, almost anti-climatically, nothing happened. And then one by one, SG-1 stepped out of the gate and onto the world that they had designated as P4F-117.
"Well at least there aren't any trees," Jack O'Neill observed, looking around the rocky hollow that surrounded the Stargate and it's DHD. The set up was fairly typical for the many worlds that SG-1 had visited, the Stargate standing on a dais with a few steps leading up to it and the DHD off to one side, placed so whoever operated it would be facing the Stargate. However, the hollow was surrounded on three sides by steep slopes a dozen feet high and in the fourth direction, a paved road lead away from the gate.
"This looks like Roman work," Daniel Jackson mused as he stepped onto the slabs. "Someone made it to last."
"Sure doesn't look like it's been very thoroughly maintained," Jack pointed out, indicating one of the places where greenery was poking its way through the cracks between the slabs. "So you think the people here could have been Romans?"
"I thought Rome post-dated the Goa'uld presence on Earth," Samantha Carter asked curiously.
"Aw don't tell me you're joining the rocks and ruins crowd," Jack complained.
Sam rolled her eyes. "Some of us stayed awake in history class, sir," she pointed out. "If you'd like I can start talking about the interesting astronomical date the MALP picked up."
"Pass," the Colonel grumped. "Alright Daniel, do you want to stop and dig this up or shall we go look at the other rocks that were reported?"
The archaeologist frowned and shook his head. "It's an interesting anachronism – you're right Sam, even the earliest estimates for when Roman roads were first made would put it hundreds of years after the Goa'uld left Earth, so it's likely that this is just a parallel development -"
Daniel blinked. "Jack?"
"Are we going?" Jack gestured down the road. "I know it's not made of yellow bricks or anything but…"
"Ah, right." Daniel joined the other three in walking along the road. A few hundred yards from the Stargate, the road bore around to the right.
"What would be the significance of a road made of yellow bricks, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked just before they were out of earshot of the Stargate.
In the end it took the team most of the day, marching steadily, to reach the ruins that had been spotted by the UAV. It wasn't hard to find – the road lead directly to them, which was what had led Stargate Command to locate them in the first place. As far as that initial survey had revealed, the Stargate was located on an large island, perhaps two hundred and fifty miles long at its longest, and the ruins were on the coast, not quite thirty miles away.
"We really should have thought to bring bicycles," Daniel noted as the ruins finally came into sight. "It's not like they wouldn't fit through the Stargate and this road would be perfect for them."
"It's a thought," Jack conceded. "We'd have to teach Teal'c how to ride one though." A wicked look crossed his face. "I'll see if I can talk General Hammond into shelling out for a bike when we get back – all that paperwork has to be good for something – and show him at the weekend."
"What is this bicycle?" Teal'c asked. "Is it similar to Sergeant Siler's motorcycle?"
"Yeah, sort of," agreed Jack. "Except lighter weight because there's no engine, and you have to pedal it."
Teal'c frowned. "I do not see the advantages of such a device."
"It's about two, three times as fast as walking," Daniel explained. "A road like this would be ideal for them and we'd have saved hours."
"And with no fuel there would be no logistical burden," said Teal'c thoughtfully. "This sounds very useful."
"And here we are," Jack noted, pausing at extreme range for his P90 from the buildings. "Anyone see any signs of inhabitants?"
Sam lifted her binoculars and scanned the buildings carefully. "Nothing moving, sir. None of the usual debris I'd expect of anyone's living there."
"So either it's empty or someone's lying in wait," Jack sighed. "Same old, same old. You've got point, Teal'c."
"Understood," the big Jaffa agreed and advanced slowly towards the small building complex, staff weapon held ready in both hands. Behind him, the rest of SG-1 fanned out, P90's at the ready.
Nothing disturbed them as they approached but a small flock of birds exploded up from one of the side buildings as Teal'c pushed open the crude door that still covered the entrance to the largest building with a creak. When nothing else happened, the team swept through the building thoroughly but found no inhabitants or signs that anyone had lived her for a number of years.
"Looks safe to me," Jack observed. "Probably because there's jack all here."
"There were hieroglyphics around the walls of the main courtyard," Daniel observed, "But someone's been fairly thorough about defacing them."
"It is possible that this was once the private retreat of a System Lord," Teal'c theorised. "Somewhere to rest when they desire privacy. It is rare and such sites are usually secret and well defended. Apophis maintained such a location where he could grow familiar with a new host body."
"Sort of like Jack's cabin?" Daniel asked innocently.
"Hey!" Jack protested the analogy.
"The principle seems similar," Teal'c confirmed with the slightest hint of amusement. "However, since the buildings are in ruins, it is likely that their owner has abandoned them."
"So he's an ex-Goa'uld?" Jack asked.
"It is possible, O'Neill. However, he may have simply believed that the location had been determined, in which case he would have no further use for a place were he might be vulnerable to rival System Lords."
"I'll have a look over the ruins," Daniel suggested. "Whoever defaced the hieroglyphics may have missed some clues about whoever owned the place and it'll give Sam a chance to check those astronomical anomalies that were picked up."
"Right," Jack said, watching as the team's two scientists began to get their nerds on. "I'll, um, set up camp then. Say Teal'c, do you think there might be some fish in that sea?"
"It seems unlikely that there would be fish suitable for human consumption, O'Neill," Teal'c replied as he shrugged off his backpack and indicated one of the outbuildings that could be quickly weather-proofed using the tents that they had brought with them.
"Sir," Sam called from outside, "I think that you want to see this."
Jack and Teal'c exchanged looks and picked up their weapons before leaving the building. Sam had set up an optical telescope in the middle of the courtyard and was crouched over it, looking through the eyepiece. "What do you have Carter?" Jack asked seriously.
"Big bad mojo," she reported. "There's some serious hardware in orbit, sir."
"Goa'uld?" asked Jack, glancing up at the sky concernedly.
"Nothing that I recognise, sir. A -" Sam moved away from the telescope and shook her head before looking again. "Huh. For a moment there something looked like that ship from Star Wars. But no, nothing that's obviously Goa'uld."
"Uh, which Star Wars ship did you think it looked like?" Jack asked. "Death Star? Millennium Falcon?"
"That big one at the beginning," Sam clarified. "The star destroyer. But it's probably just something triangular that caught my eye – there's a lot of different things up there."
"Hmm." Jack ran his hand through his hair. "Okay, let me have a look."
First Jack and then Teal'c took a look, neither recognising anything up there as distinctively Goa'uld but two things were for sure. Firstly there was one hell of a lot of material in orbit, and not all of it was debris. Secondly, someone was active up there – one of the objects visible was manuvering under power.
Jack rubbed his chin. "Alright campers, time to pack up. We've either hit the jack pot or we're in a lot of trouble and I don't know which. Either way, we'd better get back to the Stargate and call it in. Did anyone see where Daniel was last?"
"DanielJackson was investigating the outbuildings behind the main structure, O'Neill," Teal'c replied. "I will seek him out." The big Jaffa departed quickly towards the back of the complex, already familiar with the general layout, while Jack helped Sam break down the telescope.
He found Daniel examining the wall of a kitchen with a handheld torch. "Oh, Teal'c. Looks like whoever went after the hieroglyphics in the courtyard didn't care enough to check for the graffiti in the servants' areas. There's no writing of course but someone's done this little set of carvings, looks like they were depicting Jaffa and the helmets of elite guards..."
Teal'c gave the carvings a quick glance. "A serpent guard, a hawk guard and a… I do not recognise the helmet of the last Jaffa, DanielJackson. Three Jaffa serving different Goa'uld is not uncommon in Jaffa jokes however."
"It looks like the third Jaffa is getting the better of the other two," Daniel pointed out. "That might mean whoever carved this was a servant of the same Goa'uld."
"There is no time for further study, DanielJackson. A vessel has been detected in orbit of this world and O'Neill has decided we will return to the Stargate to report in."
Daniel blinked. "A vessel? Is it, uh, is it the Goa'uld?"
"Unknown," Teal'c replied, picking up Daniel's backpack from where it was leant against the wall.