"We'd be colonizing space right now if it hadn't been for the Dark Ages. There was a period of over eight hundred years where science was heresy and anathema. Maybe they didn't have that set-back." – Daniel Jackson on the reason for the Tollan's superior tech.
What if the reverse was true? What if the Roman Empire had endured? What if the Renaissance in Scientific thought had occurred over a thousand years before it originally happened?
Planet Abydos, 270 light years Coreward from Earth, 1935 AD
The mammoth four hundred meter diameter pyramid stabbed out of the ever shifting desert sands that surrounded it. It was still in a near ideal condition, evidently not subject to the entropy of time; its surface was still polished, and its tip tapered to a razor sharp point. The long walkway leading up to the main entrance of the pyramid was similarly well preserved, and the two obelisks that stood guard on either side were practically untouched. Inside the pyramid itself was a large hall with pillars in a perfect alignment with the walls. Sconces that held burning chemical torches were mounted on the walls to provide illumination, but they were out, since no one was here, leaving everything in semi-darkness – the only light, coming from the large entrance.
The main feature of the room however, was the large obsidian metallic ring that everything else seemed to lead towards. The Ring had a maw of twenty two pes and was itself two pes thick; around the inner section were thirty nine divisions, each with a particular design on it to represent a specific stellar coordinate. On the outer ring were nine chevrons, with their points facing into the maw of the giant Ring. Steps led down from the maw onto the floor that was half buried in the inch thick desert sands that had penetrated into the chamber over the eons, despite its designers precautions to guard against that.
The first indication of activity was the slight rumbling that preceded the sudden sound of the nine chevrons abruptly flexing, shifting over the inner ring symbols briefly before retreating to their earlier positions, only now all nine were lit with an amber glow. In the next ten seconds, six of the chevrons lit up even brighter in sequence, until finally the upper chevron on the large Ring flexed. It lit up like the others, except suddenly in the maw with a crying screeching sound, a vortex of unstable plasma exploded into being, the artificial plasma eerily looked like water.
The vortex was seemingly sucked back into the maw to settle into a stable rippling 'pool' effect of translucent water like plasma. The sound now permeating the place was eerily like a loud trickling pond. There was a slight rippling sound and something emerged from the pool.
It was vaguely spherical, about a gradus in diameter and seemed made out of a room temperature liquid alloy that swirled and shifted in a wide variety of patterns. Around it like a second skin was a holographic projection showing ever shifting myriads of graphical sprites and patterns based on some very intricate mathematics. It wasn't a probe, in fact, had you called it that, it would not have been rather disgruntled. It was in fact a fully sentient being, 'his' original biological body having been lost in an accident, thankfully there had been enough time for his consciousness to be downloaded before death could claim him.
The synthetic being hovered forward into the room, his sensors or 'eyes' probing everything in the room; temperature, pressure, radiation, atmosphere, the structural integrity of the…pyramid and sending it all via subquantum data link back through the wormhole connected to the Stargate. Everything seemed safe.
"Microdrone survery confirmed. You may proceed," the synthetic being sent back in the link, his holographs flaring in a manner to those capable of understanding, that he was amazed and pleased at the same time.
With more slurps six figures stepped through the Stargate. Three seemingly ordinary men and three ordinary women who were wide eyed with astonishment and staring initially at the thin layer of frost that had formed on their bodies, which was already melting away in the hot dry heat.
"You can relax, it's merely a side effect of your molecules undergoing compression in the wormhole, I can find no error in your rematerilization," said the synthetic being (SB).
"Thanks for that Matty," said the tallest of the women in relief.
"You're welcome, Jana," the SB bobbed up and down in his version of a nod, and his holofields changed to show 'satisfaction'.
The exploration team sent by the Terran Commonality busied themselves first with wiping off the water and remaining frost from their bodies. It didn't really inconvenience them despite appearances – to the untrained eye, they were six humans wearing naught but their skin and bracelets around their arms and various rings around their fingers. In actual fact, to the Commonality's sensibilities, the exploration team was armed to the teeth.
Matty looked slightly wistfully at the team he was assigned to, he missed his organic body. Looking at Jana Freeman and other two women; Emily Adaway and Anona Sheffield, he was reminded of all that he had lost thanks to that bloody stupid shuttle crash. Sure he could be downloaded into a biorobot that looked human, had a heartbeat, blood, the whole works, but its nature was just as artificial as his current 'drone' form. He would never properly feel female curves like that under his hands again.
Jana, the team leader had by far the best proportions, full breasts, rosy nipples, a toned body conditioned to the peak of fitness via traditional and artificial means, smooth pale skin and shortened blonde hair. The other two were just as attractive, Anona with flaring red hair, smaller breasts, and seemingly preferred to keep a tiny whiff of hair between her legs, whilst Emily was a brunette and seemed even stronger than Jana.
The men, well, here Matty had to override his holofields to prevent himself from showing envy. Dante Belser, Julius Michlin and Horace Aurelius all stood well over six feet, with varied builds seemingly molded straight from the Discobolus statue of ancient Greece. They were the picture of athleticism. Not to mention their other characteristics, this surely kept their current partners very happy.
He shrugged off the line of thought and made sure that the signal through the wormhole was constant. It was currently providing quite handy illumination, until the team could get their bearings from that rather amazing ride through the deep kappa band of subspace.
"Matty, release the link," Jana ordered eventually after thoroughly checking themselves and their internals thoroughly.
The Stargate abruptly shut itself down with a swooshing noise that heralded the abrupt darkness that the room was plunged in. Not that it mattered to the team, as their augmented vision saw well beyond the boundaries of the old 'visible' spectrum.
"Hmm, we're still linked to the Commonality at least," Matty commented, checking his interal subquanta com system. The other members of the ES (Exploration and Survey) Team did the same check, but with their own com neurodes embedded in their spines.
"Confirmed," echoed Julius, rubbing the water out of his short black hair. "It seems we're over a hundred and fifty light years north beyond the Commonality's coreward border. Talk about walking into the unknown."
Jana nodded a grin of excitement on her face; this is what she lived for after all. She gave mental instruction to her Dimensional Storage (DS) bracelet and there was a sudden white flash of materialization around her left arm, which now sported a dark grey metallic gauntlet, she fiddled with a few settings – her mind giving direct instructions to the device and abruptly a flat hologram appeared above the gauntlet – giving a topographical scan of the area.
"Desert, desert, and yet more desert," said Emily, as the team stared at the results.
"That's going to make for a fun hike." Dante shook his head wryly.
"What do you make of this pyramid, Matty?" Jana looked around her eyes penetrating into the darkness of the room.
"Its design is similar to the Giza Pyramids," Matty reported, consulting his scans. "It is reinforced with trinium, and there are concentrations of Stargate Element 130 dotted about the place. Especially from that circular hole set in the roof above us. It has internal mechanisms similar to the Stargate, clearly meant for localized Matter Energy Displacement, but needs a receiver device…unlike our own Displacement technology."
"I've found the Stargate CHD," called Horace Aurelius, standing off to the side behind one of the many pillars in the arrival room. Jana headed over to her second in command, and gave a look at the mushroom shaped hip-height pedestal with a circular arrangement of the Stargate coordinate glyphs carved perfectly into the buttons. The large orange 'button' in the centre currently had a slight glow to it, indicating it had power.
"Identical to the one we found back home," mused Jana. Her scanner gauntlet mentally prodded her for attention and she glanced at the readings. "Exterior scans confirm – we can proceed outside. Matty, Emily, Horace, you're with me, the rest of you begin a survey of this pyramid."
The team nodded and they split up to begin their work.
Jana emerged from the pyramid onto the long walkway extending outward from it, and had to blink a few times and mentally order her second set of transparent eyelids to close to form a UV shield over her eyes and her skin altered on a molecular level to protect her from the harsh desert sun beating down on them. They continued undaunted and when they came to the end of the walkway turned to stare at the magnificent sight.
The three moons in the backdrop of the pyramid in the pure blue sky would almost certainly become a picture everyone in ES would want on their personal Padd's background. They turned back towards the endless sand dunes of the planet the cartouches found with the Stargate identified as 'Abydos'. Jana shook her left arm and the scanner gauntlet vanished back into the DS bracelet. "Matty, I want a life sign scan – maximum possible range." She asked the SB, because his sensor suite was infinitely more varied, powerful and had longer range than the gauntlet.
The SB nodded and his holoskin showed him in deep thought as his scans swept a hundred kilometers in every direction. "I'm detecting eight thousand two hundred life signs, in two distinct groupings. Seven thousand eight hundred in what must be a city, approximately twelve leuga away relative south-west. Four hundred life signs clustered eight leuga relative south east."
"Are these life signs human?"
"They fall within norms for a pre-Renewal human," Matty replied with an astonished tone.
"Well, that at least confirms the cartouche's translation as being accurate," Emily scowled at the thought.
"We'll head for the smaller grouping of people," Jana ordered and the quintet of explorers finally stepped onto the soft sands on yet another new world to explore.
Anona, Julius and Dante had each materialized structural survey scanners, meant to precisely catalogue the dimensions of any alien building they happened upon, which had been quite frequent. She had lost count of the amount of deserted and dilapidated architecture she had seen. Commonality space was littered with the ruins of dead civilizations. Ever since Terra had mastered Faster than Light over nine hundred years ago and began the exploration of the local region, no space faring race had been found; only the Stage 1 Agrarian Xyrillians and roughly twelve other alien races, barely out of a tribal stage could be found in Commonality Space – and those worlds were considered absolutely no go, except for trained Infiltrators of the ES Agency.
Any civilization that had been found coming close to Industrial stages and even Space faring, had simply been wiped out. Those worlds had caused no small amount of apprehension for the Commonality; as evidence of massive orbital bombardment and other depredations was brought to light by the EXS. What was responsible was still something of a mystery, but some recovered records of the very civilizations facing extinction had only identified the shape of the alien ships responsible in grainy photographs.
It was what prompted a vote to be tabled in front of the entire Terran Commonality; for the sweeping reorganization and arming of the ES and their ships; in addition to pulling out the mothballed behemoth warships from the various Shipyards in Commonality space and to update them to current technological standards. When First Contact was made with the 'Worldenders', the Commonality did not want to be caught off guard.
Already the Pyramid they were surveying was beginning to steadily intrigue the team. Its basic construction seemed much more technically advanced than the ones on Giza. It was almost like it was pre-assembled into a more compact form, and then simply placed on the surface of the desert and unfolded itself. Also was the addition of a labyrinth of passages underneath the pyramid, not unlike a maze.
It would be interesting to attempt a navigation of it, the old fashioned way. But Anona resisted the impulse and remained with her colleagues and continued a methodical survey of all the side passages off the arrival room.
Jana cautiously poked her head over the dune that separated them from their destination to get a good look. What she saw shocked her greatly. It was a scene out of ancient times when all was done by hand, tools, and back breaking labor. Stretching out ahead of them was a large mining operation dug into the side of a huge outcropping. Primitive wooden and rope walkways were anchored along the side of the rockface as people carrying raw stone in slings on their backs moved along it to ground level. They were eventually bringing it to an area just about fifty passus away from her team, which had rough stone plinths jutting out of the ground and a tarp provided shade for the workers who seemed to be processing the raw stone by hand – most of whom were female and younger men still not fit enough for the heavy work in the mines.
The workers themselves were clearly of Middle Eastern or North African Earth descent, their swarthy skin and builds catered to harsh temperatures and nomadic lifestyle. They wore leathers mostly and woven materials of light colors as was typical of a scarcity based society that still had shame of body and no technology and the mental ability to bioform beyond worrying about the elements of nature.
"Matty, cloak yourself, I'd rather not startle the locals too much when we make an appearance," Jana ordered. This was going to be a tricky situation. In any other situation the Commonality would've been all too happy to send in Infiltrators and only conduct observation of the locals – but the fact that they were human, on a planet way beyond where any human should've been complicated things.
"Very well," the SB said in annoyance and his holofields vanished and abruptly his casing became photo-adaptive and using a modulated chroniton field, essentially made him invisible to both organic and mechanical eyes.
"So what do you make of this?" Jana asked her team.
"They must have been taken or gone through the Stargate at some point in the past, before it was buried," Horace shook his head, looking grim.
"Thousands of years on another planet, the gravity here is slightly higher, not to mention different ambient radiation, to study the genetic drift over such a period of time should be very interesting," Emily, ever the medical specialist, opinioned.
"Making First Contact will be delicate; everything we know of it is pure theory. Thankfully, they're human so we at least have body language going for us," was the invisible Matty's comment
"All right, we'll enter visual and make no move towards them, let their own curiosity bring them forward," Jana met the eyes of each her team, earning ready-to-go nods from each of them. She straightened and began the last few steps which would take them over the dune. The team walked forward and came to a halt barely fifteen passus from the closest workers bringing minerals to the shade covered area and stood with arms and hands at their sides and plainly visible.
It didn't take long.
One of the younger workers after having delivered a load of ore, caught them out of the corner of his eye, stopped, and faced them. The expression on his face was rather laughable; his eyes wide and mouth gaping for a few brief moments, clearly not knowing what to make of the sight. Finally, intelligence seemed to return to his features and he declared in his native tongue: 'Chien pe-ow. Mieu."
"Matty?" Jana prompted.
"Attempting to translate, but I'll need more…their language will have evolved from the classic Ancient Egyptian." The invisible SB replied.
Another young worker, this one distinct because of his dreadlocked dark hair, also spotted them. "Chien pe-ow. Mieu. Mieu. Mieu, shien mow." The call had caught almost everyone's attention to them now and soon a small crowd had gathered to stare in awe, astonishment, incomprehension at the clothless strangers. There was even a few nervous titters, but that soon settled down as a slight staring match began.
Jana decided to begin with a greeting in the oldest known dialect of Egyptian, that Earth still remembered. The entire team had downloaded the knowledge a week before embarking through the Stargate.
"Hello, we are travelers, my name is Jana," she spoke fluently. The small crowd began muttering amongst themselves, but it was clear that they didn't understand, though some of them did seem to sense that their language was similar. "Are you getting it, Matty?" she asked in an undertone. The hidden SB's audio sensors could pick up the sound of an ant rubbing its feelers against each other, if he was so inclined.
"Yes, language programs are working on it, start with this…" Jana felt the information flow into her mind over the Team Link.
"Hello, we are…travelers, my…name is Jana," she said, the knowledge came in stuttering bursts, since it was so freshly downloaded.
"You – nudah – people – not met past," said the dread-locked haired worker, uncertainly.
'Keep going,' Matty encouraged.
"We come from far…away, far beyond you have ever traveled…" Jana explained. "We are the…descendants…of your ancestors on the world…from which we all came."
One of the other workers hearing that suddenly declared to the crowd, "Chappa-ai. They come from the Chappa-ai. They are…(garble) from the (garble)!" That worker suddenly bowed to them, and suddenly everyone genuflected.
"Merda," cursed Jana, scowling in frustration. "What were those last words?"
'I don't have enough of a lexicon yet, but it seems clear they believe we are either royalty, or a physical representation or representatives of a deity." Matty observed.
"Ra, the ancient Egyptian Sun god was mentioned on the cartouche," Horace pointed out. "
Jana cursed again and stepped forward to the worker. "What is your name?"
The worker kept his head bowed and said, "Na'Ara."
"Then, Na'Ara, do not…bow…before us," she said strongly. "Stand."
Na'Ara hesitantly did so but kept his head bowed and did not look Jana in the eye. The others remained kneeling. "We are here to learn about you, do you have an…Elder, a leader?" The young man nodded. "The we must speak with him."
He nodded and bolted away. Horace walked over to a stone bowl of sorts that contained a large portion of obsidian ore, a scanner gauntlet appeared on his arm as he took readings. "They're mining element 130."
"Why? They couldn't possibly be using it for anything; it would require a Stage 3 or higher level civilization to even begin understanding how to utilize it." Emily looked at the people, a concerned expression on her face.
Na'Ara returned before they could further speculate and he was accompanied by several others including a large beast of burden that was similar to a Terran elephant, but had no trunk and a strange rounded head and a hairy body. It was clearly domesticated, with a harness and even a rickshaw tent on the tall beast's back. "Come see." The young worker repeated to the one in the tent when the beast had halted. The curtains were parted and a robed elderly man emerged.
The man had a paler look to his skin than the others, and seemed in his late forties, according to ancient human standards; with rapidly balding grey hair that only grew around the sides of his hair and were cut short. He peered with the eyes of wisdom at the ES team after he slid off the beast carrying him and came to stop a mere two gradus away from Jana. In his right hand he held an ornately carved wooden staff and after speaking to Na'Ara in a low voice…turned to the team and held his staff horizontally and bowed his head slightly…A clear gesture of peace if I ever saw one, Jana thought.
"Please tell your people to rise Elder, there is no need for this," Jana gestured to the prostrated crowd.
"I am Elder Kaelu, I speak on behalf of my people to the gods." The old man lowered his staff back to his side. "It's unusual for gods to ask us not to prostrate before them."
"Let us make one thing clear Elder," Jana spoke flatly. "My companions and I are powerful and would have what you may consider magic, but we are not gods."
"You walk without coverings or even shoes in the blistering heat of the desert, and are not parched or burned by the sun. You have perfect appearance. You came through the Chappa'ai, and only gods can do that."
Jana sighed trying to think of a way to impress on Kaelu the truth, but resolved to think on it later when she had a better idea of the overall situation. Truth of the matter she had no ready way to do that. If she cut herself, it would heal in moments…if she let Kaelu or one of the workers hit or punch her, that wouldn't work either…and the bruise would vanish in seconds too. It would only further convince the Elder. "Your people may go back to work."
Kaelu rapid barked out commands to his people faster than Jana was able to follow. They immediately got up and started to the toil of work again. The Elder next called out another order.
"You tried your best, Jana," Horace lamented.
"Not good enough apparently, we are just too far ahead of them to find any common ground, ES Command is going to skin me alive," Jana said darkly.
Kaelu's last order became apparent when four women came forward, bearing bowls, and offered them to the team to drink. Jana smiled and accepted it. "Matty?"
'Scanned it, it's safe to drink, just water,' replied the SB into their minds.
"To a desert culture, we have just been given something very precious," Jana remarked to her team. "Drink only one mouthful, give the bowls back and bow in thanks."
The team did as she ordered.
Jana winced as she knew what had to happen next, and the only way to achieve it would only further solidify them as gods in the minds of the Abydonians. She held out her hand, sending a mental command to her DS bracelet and with a small flash of white light, a purified water bottle appeared. Kaelu and his entourage gasped. She undid the seal and offered it to him.
The Elder hesitantly took it and Jana said, "It is water, in thanks for that which you have offered us."
Kaelu looked into the transparent composite bottle and hesitantly raised it to his mouth and drank. After a long pregnant moment of silence, a delighted smile broke across his face.
"Amazing, I have never tasted water so clear!"
"You may keep it. We would like to hear of you and your people in your own words."
"Of course, come, come," Kaelu gestured for them to follow.
The survey of the pyramid continued and they found their way down to the underground maze, at one point they had to use a particle beam drill to get in as it seemed something had subjected the pyramid to periodic seismic stresses. That confirmed what their structural survey had found so far. Every year, something massive impacted the pyramid, and this was the strangest thing…the micro stress fractures in the structure were everywhere…as if whatever it was, hit it perfectly on all sides, all at once.
"There's no way that's natural," Dante said as the beam drill compacted itself into its storage form, it was barely the height of their knees now, and less the half a passus in width. It vanished into the Engineer's DS bracelet.
They proceeded into the maze. Anona used their scans to project a hologram above her palm, by which they navigated to the largest chamber. It surprised her that there were no traps in it, but clearly the builder only wanted to get anyone hopelessly lost in the labyrinth, and it was impressively constructed to do just that. No unique passageways, no marks or distinguishing signs…of course, it had the one weakness all mazes had, it's walls eventually led to its destination…it would take a long time to get to the centre, but it was easily done.
The central chamber was large, rectangular and positively festooned with remarkably intact hieroglyphs that would have Terran historians practically picketing the Agency, to demand a trip through the Stargate to examine it in person. The three Terrans spread out again and began their scans.
Jana and her team accompanied Kaelu in the long caravan of people and Mastadges 'the Abydonian beasts of burden'. They were clearly heading to the expansive mass of lifesigns that Matty had detected. A hundred people had remained behind to continue the mining. The arrival of the ES team had thrown the Abydonian 'schedule' off, apparently, but since they were 'gods' it was deemed okay.
In her conversation with the Elder, Jana tried as much damage control as she could, but it wasn't very successful. She also learned that the Abydonians mined the 'Naquadah' - the name of the Stargate element in their language - for their 'god', and brought it as a tribute, because 'Ra' arrived in a chariot of the heavens every year.
"When is…Ra, due Elder?" Jana asked as the caravan snaked up another large dune.
"We expect his chariot to appear very soon."
'Anona, you're going to have a visitor apparently,' she broadcast mentally over the team link.
'Really? Tell me the details.' The team in the underground maze's thoughts was coming in clear through supraspace.
Jana filled her in as they struggled to crest the dune. When they were finally there they lay their eyes for the first time on the Abydonian city of Nagada. It was an expansive stone city, which looked like it had been taken straight from ancient Egypt and built on a flat stone plateau.
"Okay, if there was ever any doubt, this just dispelled it," Horace shook his head. "They were definitely taken from Earth."
They eventually entered the large wooden doors of the city, the people eagerly appearing the in the streets and watching through windows as the caravan returned. Word also quickly spread of the 'gods' that had come through the Chappa'ai and whom were accompanying the caravan. In the main street, Kaelu gestured and shouted an order. People pulled on ropes that led up to a tarp covering something the span the street…when it fell away it revealed a symbol that had the ES team reeling in shock at the familiarity of it. It was a bronze disk with the Eye of Ra, molded in relief on it.
Kaelu prostrated himself before it and everyone followed his example, Jana and her team just stood and stared.
'The Eye of Ra, I do not like where this is going,' Matty grumbled darkly to his flesh and blood teammates.
"Neither do I," Emily frowned as the Abydonians raised themselves and got back to their daily work and unloading the caravan. There was a sudden horn call in the distance, and people started to move about even more hurriedly.
'Matty, full scan for whatever has them agitated,' Jana ordered.
'Scanning…there is an unusual weather system that has suddenly appeared. It has thrown up a sandstorm that has already engulfed the pyramid and is rapidly closing the distance to the city.'
'Wait one…oh, it's due to the localized atmospheric disturbance of a six hundred passus diameter space craft beginning its descent. The displacement and ionization caused a minor low pressure system to form under it. Its propulsion emissions are adding to the intensity.'
'What is its arrival time?'
'Estimate ten minutes, but its pace seems leisurely…I don't think whoever this is, is in any hurry.' The team turned around to face the now closed main doors of the city and sun was suddenly blotted out as the sandstorm was deflected over the city by its walls. Gravity however, caused some of the sand to fall into the city and the Abydonians took cover in their homes and the roar of the storm drowned out voices.
Kaelu gestured for them to follow him.
'Relay that data to Anona, she is to attempt peaceful contact with 'Ra' if it is him.' As they entered what seemed to be Kaelu's house. It was characteristic of such a less advanced environment. Pots, bowls, tapestries, and curtains, were well arranged around the main room on the lower floor.
'I rather doubt that contact will be peaceful.' Matty said dryly.
Matty didn't answer and only sent a data stream from his sensors directly into the team link, which via retinal imaging, directly appeared as an overlay in their vision. When they saw it…Jana, Horace and Emily stiffened before they could sit down at Kaelu's invitation on a beautifully crafted rug.
The three looked at each other incredulously. A day had arrived that the Agency and the Commonality had been dreading.
Jana sighed, shook her head and said the word that all of them were thinking.
A/N: This AU popped into my head recently and just didn't want to let me go. Commonality units of measurement are based on old Roman units. (1 digitus – 1.8cm ; 1 pes – 29cm ; 1 gradus – 0.74m ; 1 passus – 1.48m ; 1 stadium – 185m ; 1 millarium – 1.48 km ; 1 leuga – 2.2km) The History of the Commonality will be unveiled as I go along with the story. Speech in'abcdef' is a modern Terran Latin. 'abcdef' is mental link communication. 'abcdef' is Goa'uld or Modern Egyptian.