Chapter 4 - Thor
Stargate Embarkation, ES Agency, Halo, Terra
Jana stood next to her recently expanded team, and watched through the observation windows as another Infiltrator team, all of Asian descent, dressed in traditional Mongol clothes stepped through the event horizon of the Stargate.
"What's that make now? The third Infiltrator team to leave and none yet for any ES teams," Emily groused.
"Fourth," Jana shook her head, and turned to Bratac. The Jaffa was wearing a rather snug blue skinsuit with integrated combat boots that fit him like a glove. The skinsuit was old technology, from a time when personal shields were still rather skittish inventions and prone to malfunction. It had an artificial intelligence built into it that would use all a manner of its various functions to protect its wearer from all hazards faster than Bratac could process it even happening. "Are all the planets out there filled with humans not even beyond Stage 1?"
"Of the planets the Goa'uld seeded with humans and abandoned…very few will rise to what you consider appropriate for full contact," Bratac explained, speaking in Terran Latin – it was amazing to think that he had learned an entire new language in under two days after it had been 'downloaded' into his brain. "The Goa'uld would from time to time return to make sure that the societies don't evolve to become a threat to their power. As a result most societies you will meet; will be what you call Stage 1 or 2. Some few will reach 3 and even 4, but that is the point where any Goa'uld would step in. You will only find Stage 5 Spacefaring and beyond in the far outer reaches of the Galaxy where the Goa'uld have no territory."
"Culus snakes," cussed Dante with a scowl.
Jana was about to remonstrate him for his language when she felt a mental link from ES Command. Everyone, even Bratac with the aid of his Braincap, felt it happening. Finally, she emerged and grinned at her team. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have a mission."
Jana's ES team stood in a large circular room, in the centre a truly massive holographic rendering of the Galaxy hovered in mid air. After waiting for the doors to materialize behind them, she guided her team to the pair of figures conversing in hushed tones with each other at the perimeter of the room that served as Command Information and Control (CIC) for the ESA.
One was a truly imposing man, standing at seven feet tall, extremely well built and he had no hair on his head. Bratac felt for the first time in his life, rather small, compared to this giant of a man. This was the Third Space Marshall of the Terran Fleet, Michael Dimitroff. A native of Cignus Eridani IV, a planet twelve light years from Terra. The planet had low gravity, so Terrans born there tended to be very tall and gangly, but usually bioformed themselves to be able to withstand higher gravities…the result being Dimitroff's impressive size and physique.
Standing next to him, looking rather dwarfed in comparison was the five foot five Director of the ES Agency, Delphia Gelner. Her position as Director was only outwardly shown by the fact that her DS bracelets were more ornate and covered both forearms, whilst similar ornate halfmoon decorations supported her breasts, but could be seen through. She also wore much smaller bracelets around her upper biceps, and a necklace with three halfmoons arrayed in a pendant. Her long auburn hair spilled past her shoulders, which practically glistened. To Bratac's eyes she looked practically like royalty, compared to Dimitroff who only had the DS bracelets around his wrists.
"Have the Medical teams reached any conclusions on that last planet we surveyed?" Dimitroff's stern voice asked.
"Yes," Director Gelner's melodic, almost child-like voice answered in sharp contrast. "P3X-797, quite fascinating, the planet is locked in a permanent light and day side. The disease the Infiltrators reported in the Bronze Age culture there was rather simple to cure – it fed off histamine in the blood of its hosts, in the process suppressing the higher reasoning centres of the brain. We've briefed the Infiltrators and issued strong doses of antihistamines to them...they're busy administering it to the affected native human population with a suitable cover story and disguise as we speak."
"Good," nodded Dimitroff absently staring at the Galaxy map.
"Ah, Jana, ES1, welcome," Gelner turned to them.
"Director, Space Marshall," Jana bowed her head in greeting to them. The Legionnaires on ES1 saluted the Marshall with clenched right fists lightly hitting their chests near the left shoulder. Both Gelner and Dimitroff were now the ones in nominal charge of Terran affairs through the Stargate, with overall strategic decisions going to the Commonality as a whole.
"Greetings," Dimitroff returned the salute and then turned to Bratac. "Master Bratac, it's an honour to meet you finally in person."
Bratac had learned enough of Terran culture to reply properly, "The honour is mine, Space Marshall."
"The Director and I are looking forward to working with you in the future, your help and those of any other Jaffa you can convince will certainly speed the liberation of the Galaxy," Dimitroff continued.
"Such a task is something that could extend beyond the scope of my lifetime," Bratac could not help but feel ...as a mere babe...as he was speaking to the Space Marshall. In his research of who would command him, he had discovered that Dimitroff was truly old, he was one of the Elders of the Terrans, and his life spanned back more than a thousand years, born ninety years before the formation of the Commonality and he had fought in the War of the Three Great Star Empires.
"Perhaps," Dimitroff conceded, "but you never know. The true battle in war, at its most basic, is fought in the heart. With a few powerful events and appropriate examples we could ignite a fire of revolution that would burn the scourge of the Goa'uld from the Galaxy forever and in less time than you think. Yes...we would have to still fight a conventional military war, but it can't be our sole focus. Also, despite the power of the Commonality, the Galaxy is a big place...and we've learned that while self-reliance is something to be aspired to, that it can be self-defeating...in isolation any Race is weak. Therefore, to speed the demise of the Goa'uld we will need allies..."
"...our analysis of Ra's Ha'tak gave us some intelligence on a few Races that are out there that can contest the power of the Goa'uld," Director Gelner continued, "the most powerful of which is a Race the Goa'uld know as the Asgard." She gestured with her hand and the massive Galaxy hologram changed to show a symbol of a massive Hammer, which changed to show various seemingly hand drawn illustrations of a great host of ancient warriors and the greatest of which held a Hammer sheathed in lightning. "Interestingly enough, we've made a correlation between these Asgard and ancient Terran legends...indicating that they could've visited us in our past. In Norse mythology the gods were powerful warriors. Legend tells us that the god Thor was a friend to humans and protected them from the Etins, being of great power and knowledge who were enemies of mankind."
"I have seen the Hammer sign," Bratac stated. "It is the symbol of a world called Cimmeria. All Jaffa are taught the sequence of Stargate symbols to that world."
"Why Master Bratac?" Dimitroff asked knowingly.
"To ensure that no Goa'uld goes there. It is forbidden. Something transpired on Cimmeria that no Goa'uld will speak of."
"Sounds promising, perhaps these Asgard have an outpost on that world," Jana theorized.
"That is probable," agreed the Director. "We've referenced in the Ra's databanks a Treaty that the Goa'uld signed with the Asgard that protects certain worlds in the Milky Way from Goa'uld domination and influence." The massive hologram tank now changed to show the seven symbol Stargate address in question.
"That is Cimmeria," nodded Bratac in recognition.
"Although we have the list of these Protected Worlds, we will only be sending your team Jana to attempt to make first contact with the Asgard on Cimmeria...we will consider the others off-limits for now. I can imagine how I would react if some pesky alien race was to snoop around our own Protectorate Planets." Dimitroff explained matter-of-factly.
"While your team's primary objective will be to contact the Asgard and propose an alliance, you can also take the opportunity to scout the planet and observe its human population – adjust your approach depending on their level of development."
"You leave in two hours, may Deus walk with you."
Jana and the rest of ES1 alternately bowed and saluted their superiors and left CIC.
Jana emerged from the event horizon of the native Stargate and regarded the immediate area; they were close to a mountain range towards the north, and the clearing of green foliage and forest that surrounded them was quite small, clearly showing that the Gate was seldom used as no one felt the need to ease the passage towards the large device.
The Stargate and its CHD was emplaced however, on a small island of marble tiles and facing them directly was a huge obelisk-like edifice that a Microdrone had scanned as definitely being technological in nature. The Microdrone was itself scanned by the edifice, barely a few moments after it had come through the Gate. The scientists back on Terra were still puzzling on the data the drone had sent back about that scanning beam.
There were no native inhabitants around that had witnessed their arrival, Jana noted thankfully, as it would give them time to get their bearings.
The Stargate shut down as Anona was the last to come through.
"Matty, anything to report?"
The Synthetic Being hovered steadily next to Jana as his sensors probed the area.
"I have a fix on numerous human life signs in the general vicinity, but they are scattered into small homesteads. The greatest concentration is what has to be a village of a few hundred people about eight leuga to the west..." the SB trailed off and its field flared an alarmed red, "the scanning edifice it's powering up rapidly..."
Matty's sensors were confirmed by the audible and rather ominous humming that reached the team's ears. It came from the tip of the edifice where an ornate jewel-like emitter was set into its tip and it was starting to glow from within.
"Any ideas of what it's going to do?" Julius asked urgently, as he and everyone else materialized Defensive gauntlets around their arms and stared grimly at the humming edifice.
"Besides scan us...no...the technology I'm picking up inside is highly advanced...I'm gonna need more time to make sense..."
Matty was interrupted as a visible beam of light blue energy shot out of the tip and swept out like an ancient searchlight. It swept over Horace...who was itching to activate his Barriers...
"Stop!" Jana snapped at him. "Allow it to scan you...no telling what it might do when it can't..."
Horace gritted his teeth as the beam shifted up and down his form.
"It's the same as the one the Microdrone encountered; you can relax a bit, Horace..." Matty reassured.
The beam was seemingly satisfied and moved on to Anona next, again playing up and down her form. Emily, Julius, Jana and Dante also went under the scrutiny of the Asgard scanning beam, it was rather quick about its work...and it seemed to speed up with each scan...Matty came under scrutiny next and the beam again did its work, seemingly just scanning.
The notion that it was just a scan was quickly dispelled when it finally reached Bratac. Jana felt like kicking herself when she realized how it would look when the computer controlling the beam would identify him as Jaffa. The beam started at his head and went down, but the instant it reached his symbiote pouch it flared an angry red...
"Barriers!" Jana snapped to her team and rushed towards Bratac, who was by now visibly in pain and the beam hissed angrily with potent energy that was clearly not just to scan anyone coming through the Gate. Her own plan was simply to put herself in front of the Jaffa and disrupt the beam with her own Barrier...but the instant she managed to intersperse herself...there was a white flash of light...
Horace and the rest of ES1 stood in mute shock for a brief moment at the empty space where Bratac and Jana had been, and looked up at the now dormant edifice, then, "Matty?"
"They're not dead," the SB's field flared with worry, "that was a highly sophisticated Displacement beam. It went through her Barriers like they weren't even there."
"They've been moved," Emily had her eyes closed and was pinging Jana through the Commonality's subquantum link..."but they're both unconscious."
"How come Bratac's skinsuit didn't raise his Barriers?" Julius asked with a scowl.
"The beam, it targeted Bratac's symbiote with so much energy it bled over and overwhelmed the AI's neural net," Matty reported. "And you saw Bratac himself was in no condition to switch it on, not that it would've helped."
"Finding the Asgard has become secondary, we must find Jana and Bratac," Horace looked at the rest of the team. "We just have to wait for them both wake up, and then Jana's active consciousness will allow us to locate her through the Link."
"You're the Second in Charge of the team," agreed Julius.
"I have a general direction for us to begin our search," Matty announced. "I was able to roughly calculate the intended direction of the Asgard Displacement beam...we should head into the mountains."
Horace nodded and ES1 fell into a standard wedge formation to begin their journey. They had barely gotten to the edge of the clearing when Matty warned them of a rapidly approaching human lifesign on horseback.
ES1 vanished into nothingness and merged with the treeline. Contact with the humans under Asgard protection was not something they could afford at present. They had no idea of what the Asgard considered to be 'acceptable levels of contact' with their protectorates. Horace felt that until it was known...that it would be best to avoid contact, and not even leave any footprints.
Jana abruptly awoke and sat up fluidly, wincing at the rough, uneven...cold cave floor that she was awkwardly sprawled upon. Taking a look around it seemed she was in a large chamber that had a single passage tunnel that radiated away from it. The place was lit with small flame torches that seemed to be almost blended into the rough walls at regular intervals. The atmosphere was rather oppressive and distinctly eerie as the dripping of water echoed through the chamber and its tunnels. Luckily she was not alone; Bratac was also unconscious not a few feet away from her.
She got to her knees and leaned over, prodding him carefully. "Bratac." The Jaffa quickly awoke and in a trice was on his knees as well, his posture alert but he visibly winced afterward. "Something wrong?"
"The beam," Bratac winced again, holding his hand reflexively over his abdomen, his skinsuit rippled from within, "it induced great pain to the Goa'uld I carry. It is rather agitated."
"I must apologize Bratac," Jana got to her feet wearily; "I did not think the Asgard would have such mindless automated defences. I thought we would easily be able to explain your defection to them."
"No apology is necessary," Bratac smiled and stood as well.
'Jana?! You're awake. Finally! Thank Deus,' Horace's thoughts came over the Link.
'Ah, you're on way already, good,' she thought back. She concentrated on the data flow, finding their relative positioning. 'You should make it here in less than a day's fast walk. I have a feeling we're going to need help from the outside to get out of this.'
Jana willed a Scanner gauntlet to appear over her left arm, which did so successfully. She let out an inward sigh of relief; she wouldn't have to put it past a Race as seemingly advanced as the Asgard to have somehow disabled her technology whilst in mid-Displacement. A flat hologram blossomed over her arm...
"We're in an extensive maze that's been cut out of the interior of this mountain," her thoughts manipulated the hologram to zoom out, "this is gonna take a while. I'm also detecting a dampening field permeating the maze."
"What does this field achieve?" Bratac wondered.
"It dampens a specific energy frequency...hmm...oh very clever, it prevents any form of naquadah from delivering any energy at a molecular level."
"Such a field would render any Goa'uld technology obsolete and useless."
"Which is very lucky for us as Terran technology makes no use of Naquadah," Jana said with a grin. "Let's see if we can't find a way out so long."
They had barely taken a step when a sudden blue light emerged from a hidden recess on the cave ceiling a few feet away. Seemingly stepping into this light a tall man emerged from the darkness; with long brown hair and beard, black jerkin, helmet, cloak and silver arm guards all in a very 'Viking' style. The 'Viking' carried a large golden hammer as his weapon. Jana looked at her Scanner, focusing it on the man and relaxed somewhat.
"It's a hologram, might be interactive," she thought towards Bratac. "Hello?" she tried.
The Viking hologram shook his head and began to speak in a deep, thronging voice in Goa'uld, "I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. The High Council of the Asgard has designated Cimmeria a safe world for developing sentient species by unanimous decree, Era 40.73.29. The Goa'uld System Lords were so informed."
"Excuse me, surely you have sensors in this place that can tell I'm not a Goa'uld," Jana stated with irritation, "Bratac here carries one inside him, be he has no choice about that. He has defected to the Terran Commonality...
But Thor ignored her and continued, "You were warned not to come here. Under pain of death."
"I am Jana Freeman from Terra," she interjected, but in Goa'uld just in case they didn't understand Latin or didn't have proper translation technology, "you most certainly spent some time there in the past."
"For crimes against the living host and all those you have murdered and enslaved, the sentence is death," Thor pronounced gravely.
"Guess it's not interactive then, just a message," Jana surmised to Bratac.
"This is your prison. Your technology will not function. There are no luxuries, no worshippers, no slaves to do your bidding, only basic sustenance and time. When you tire of this existence, go to the Hall of Mjolnir and face the Hammer," the hologram held out the golden hammer aggressively, "there is no escape. Only the host can leave this place. Alive."
The hologram vanished.
"So clearly a Goa'uld trap."
"Therefore, if I attempt to leave this place with you, the Goa'uld I carry will be destroyed."
Jana thought a moment, merging herself with the Commonality and after a minute asked, "How long can you go without it?" she asked consideringly.
"A Jaffa can survive two days, but is immediately weakened the moment the Prim'ta is removed, the strongest of us can keep walking for eight hours, but then we would be flat on our backs."
"That should be long enough," Jana mused. "We have not mentioned it to you, Bratac, but we have investigated the possibility of removing the symbiote within you, and replacing it with an artificial nanite based immune system."
"Truly?" Bratac blinked in astonishment. "Would it work?"
"Our medical researchers believe so."
"Such a thing would mean true personal freedom from the Goa'uld," Bratac said with a hint of awe in his tone, as if he couldn't believe it to be truly possible.
"Come then, Bratac, and let us cast off the chains."
Exploring what was properly termed a 'Labyrinth' straight out of ancient myth, but except designed for a Goa'uld was quite an experience. Jana could just imagine how an arrogant, egotistical snake would feel, stripped of all his 'magical' technology and left to wander here for a very, very long time. As a Goa'uld it would also have no access to a Sarcophagus and it would eventually die of old age, but it would be rare for any to survive that long without going insane and losing the will to live.
But Jana soon found that another fly was apparently caught in this Asgard web. An hour into their navigation of the Labyrinth, they detected an unknown alien lifesign.
"How can it be unknown?" Bratac queried, using his own Scanner to scrutinize the lifesign. "It's supposed to be calibrated for a blended Goa'uld. The Hammer of Thor would not snatch an unknown species. The Asgard wouldn't want to anger a new species out of hand."
"True, yet for some reason, this being was taken..."
"How far away is it?"
"Less than a stadia," Jana bit her lip in consideration of what to do. "Let's keep going for the Hall of Mjolnir, much as I'd like to think that this being got caught by accident...I doubt it."
Their first indication of the nature of this being came when they happened upon a chamber in the Labyrinth with a stale pool of accumulated water that was coming through a crack in the roof. They found several bones between large rocks at the edge of the pool. Bratac picked up one and examined it thoughtfully, whilst Jana found what had to be the small cartilage and sinuous bones of a decomposed Goa'uld.
"These Goa'uld died with their human hosts. The marks on these bones—they are from a cutting instrument. But not metal." Bratac declared after a few moments' scrutiny.
Jana gauged the distance between the marks on the bone and dropped the dead Goa'uld bones. "Teeth then?"
"Yes, large and powerful ones. These bodies did not die of natural causes. They were killed, and then eaten. Where is our 'friend'?"
Jana glanced at her Scanner, "Closer, but not close enough to know of us yet, unless it has a superior sense of smell."
"We should not discount that," Bratac stated.
The observation turned out to be quite accurate though, as in the next hour of their journey the unknown lifesign began to follow and trace their route through the Labyrinth with surprising accuracy. They eventually paused in a large room, high ceilinged with lighted lamps hanging from chains. On several walls there are carvings of runes in a circle around pictures.
"Hmmm, Norse runes, if we weren't being stalked I would take the time to translate these," Jana murmured, instead just letting her Scanner make a visual recording. "So what do you suggest? Do we confront our stalker? If he, she or it had been friendly I'm sure they would've made contact with us by now."
"Not knowing whether its friend or foe is getting tiresome," Bratac acknowledged.
"Then let us Cloak and retrace," Jana ordered. They both vanished into invisibility, Bratac using his Skinsuit, whilst Jana's Defensive Gauntlet did the same. They headed back out of the rune room, walking a minute or so to retrace their steps, squeezed themselves against the rock wall of the passage and waited.
It wasn't ten minutes later that they both saw a very tall and powerful figure carefully flitting through the shadows. Jana willed her eyesight to adjust to penetrate the darkness and was shocked enough to stiffen and gasp. Even Bratac was startled and wide eyed at the being. It was almost one point seven passus tall, walked on two legs, and had two arms, but that was where it's similarity to any humanoid form ended. It was clearly reptilian, with leathery hard patterned skin mostly a dull green-yellow in colour, and its cloths were tattered in the extreme. Its face was like something out of an ancient nightmare...high, prominent cheekbones, with a pattern of horns framing it, and the vertical slit eyes of a cat. It's clawed three fingered hands flexed almost eagerly as it passed, and a low barely audible rumble of anticipation was emitted from its throat.
Jana could see a light of astonished and almost fearful recognition in Bratac's eyes.
'Bratac, what in Deus' Creation was that?!'
The Jaffa couldn't take his eyes off the being as it continued into the distance, but eventually he mentally replied in the Team Link, 'It's a First One. An Unas. I thought it but a mere myth. In legend they evolved from the same primordial waters as the Goa'uld, they were the First Hosts of the Goa'uld and initially carried the parasites to the Stars via the Stargate."
"If that was the First Host, how come it's still alive? Ra and the others found and switched hosts with Humanity precisely because the Goa'uld were apparently dying in the Unas."
"I do not know, perhaps this one was merely lucky enough to escape that fate."
"How long could it have been trapped in here?"
"Perhaps a thousand years. It is said that Unas can utilize long periods of hibernation to survive, especially with a Goa'uld within."
"That just leaves the question what do we do to it? Leave it here so it can 'snack' on the next Goa'uld to stupidly get caught in this trap and just leave, or...?"
"To do battle with such a creature of legend would be glorious, however, I doubt I could win in a fair battle, the Unas' power and savagery is great, and would be more so with a Goa'uld," Bratac thought with grimness colouring his mind.
"There are worse things than mere death, killing it would be a release from this torment...it will die eventually, but with the death of hunger...as long as no more Goa'uld get trapped in this web."
"Then let us remain concealed and leave it to its fate."
With the Unas completely bewildered after losing track of them, Jana and Bratac still under Cloak finally entered the room their scans indicated would be the exit of the Labyrinth, and it also properly fit the bill for being the Hall of Mjolnir. It was a large open room, lit by candles in bowls hanging from the ceiling (the candles were fake of course; the illuminating flames were artificially generated by a power source her scans indicated made use of an advanced Neutrino based reactor buried deep in the mountain). There were carvings around the walls...of snakes and Goa'uld writings...it was made by those who had been trapped here over the eons. She made sure to make visual recordings for later analysis.
At the other end of the hall, was a doorway shaped in a form of a Hammer. Jana paused just before the threshold and glanced at her scanner, after passing the Gauntlet over the doorway.
"The technology here has similar components to the Hammer near the Stargate."
"Then the time has come," Bratac said stoically.
"Horace, are you ready?"
"We're just outside the cave entrance, an Icodron is standing by to Displace Bratac the instant he leaves the cave."
Bratac took a deep breath and his Skinsuit responded to his will as it parted and folded back partially from his abdomen, exposing the x shaped pouch scar of a Jaffa that housed the Goa'uld larva. Jana winced at the slightly sickening sight as the Jaffa, his eyes alight with determination reached into the pouch, his hand fiddling as he tried to get a proper grip on the squirming larvae. His jaw flexed and with little fanfare simply jerked his hand out.
In his grip was a squealing slimy dark grey Goa'uld. Jana had seen computer enhanced holograms of both Bratac's and the Ra symbiote, it did little to prepare one for the truly ugly reality of the parasite; the sharp four pronged mandible mouth, the tiny crystalline eyes on either side. It was hard to imagine that something so small could be the cause of so much death and suffering across an entire Galaxy.
Bratac dropped the larvae to the ground and stepped on it powerfully, resulting in a wet squishing sound and purple blood exploded from underneath his boot.
"I will die free," Bratac gasped, his legs becoming wobbly. Jana rushed over to support him and carefully helped him across the threshold of the Hammer doorway...
No energy beam appeared.
In fact, once they were in the chamber beyond the Hammer, a massive stone doorway swung open and they saw the fading daylight at end of another tunnel.
"Let's get you back to Terra," Jana grinned and they walked into the fresh outside air. The rest of ES1 was there and waiting, grinning in relief at the sight of them both.
'This is Icodron Gamma 12, please stand clear."
She made sure that Bratac could at least stand on his feet and took a few steps away. "See you soon, Bratac."
The Jaffa nodded with a light of relief, dignity and pride in his eyes she had never seen before...then he was encased in a sphere of white energy that abruptly contracted and vanished, leaving behind only empty air. She looked up to where the invisible and silent Icodron hovered above them...and it abruptly shot off into distance towards the Stargate.
"Well, we still have to find the Asgard, any ideas anyone?" Jana queried as she regarded her still 'invisible' team mates.
"I took the liberty of linking up with the Icodron's sensors while it was here, and had them perform a more extensive scan than I alone am capable of," Matty reported. "I looked for technology similar to the Hammer edifice near the Stargate and found twenty similar but smaller devices scattered about all four continents of this planet."
"More Goa'uld traps?" Julius queried.
"I doubt that," Anona shook her head. "The locations of these smaller Hammers make for poor traps; they're all in the least populated areas of Cimmeria. And it's a poor defence against the Goa'uld if they decide to come in ships...they could just blast the Hammers away from orbit."
"We don't know that the Asgard have Cloaked orbital defense satellites up there that we can't detect," Horace pointed out. "Their technology is thus far more advanced than our own."
"At least with regards to Displacement technology, yes," Jana agreed thoughtfully. "All right, we'll go to the closest of these devices and see what we can make of it."
It was well over five hours after nightfall that ES1 reached one of the smaller Hammer devices. It had the same neo-Norse style and was just over three gradus in height, and also had another Displacement array jewel mounted in it. Horace stepped forward and hovered his Scanner near it. "Hmmm, I believe this is just a Displacement array, it's lacking quite a few components in comparison to its big brother at the Stargate."
"Could it be part of a point to point Displacement network?" Emily wondered.
"I believe it can serve as that, but it is not its main purpose," Jana stepped forward and looked at the runic writing inscribed on it. "My ability with ancient Norse has never been that great, but this is a warning...it's saying...to not touch the Hammer...unless...proceed...something...and then knowledge...oh, and at the bottom it says Hall of Thor's...strength, no, power. This is a message to the people of Cimmeria..." She tapped a finger thoughtfully against her chin. "We touch it and then it takes us to another area the Asgard set up."
"Hopefully not a Labyrinth," Dante said wryly.
"No," Jana shook her head. "I believe this is a First Contact setup...left behind by the Asgard for when the Cimmerians reach a certain level of development."
"That's disappointing," Julius sighed, "That could mean there are no Asgard on this planet."
"All right, myself, Matty, Horace and Emily will touch the Hammer," Jana ordered, "Julius, Dante and Anona, you three will go on an Observation mission of the local human population, stay Cloaked at all times until we get the Asgard's permission to interact."
ES1 nodded in understanding, that latter half of the team swiftly vanishing into the night, whilst Jana and her companions dropped their Cloaks. Not wanting to risk being seen for long, Jana swiftly placed a hand on Matty's smooth surface through his holoskin, before the three Terrans reached out to touch the Hammer.
The reaction from it was swift. A bright beam of white energy snapped on and swirled over all four of them...Jana felt herself being smoothly dematerialized...it was rather more comfortable than their own Displacement...and abruptly she felt herself materialized again and standing on a smooth, cold distinctly artificial surface...there was not a single source of light in the...large rectangular smooth grey walled room they had appeared in.
"That's the most pleasant Displacement I've ever felt," Horace grinned, looking impressed.
Light emerged from the far side of the room, backlighting another Hammer edifice that leant against the wall. More light shot down from the ceiling in front of it and once again the burly Viking visage of Thor stepped into it.
"I am Thor," it spoke in Norse, "you (unknown) brave to come (unknown) me. However, only the worthy may (unknown) Thor's might." The hologram vanished.
"Translator's going to need more to work from, but it was understandable...now we'll probably have to prove it in some way," Matty muttered. The room abruptly began to shake in a massive earthquake. "Oh I had to open my mouth!" Those on two legs struggled to remain upright, whilst Matty hovered higher and reached out with graviton beams that swiftly pulled his teammates from the rapidly crumbling floor. Just as quickly the earthquake stopped.
All that remained of the floor was an island where the team had been standing, and a thin beam barely five digitus wide that stretched out across a newly created chasm in the room that led deep down into a never-ending abyss. The beam ended in another island around which the Hammer was.
"Oh, this is definitely a test," Jana stated as Matty lowered the team to stand on their own feet again.
"Do we play along?" Emily asked with smile. "Matty can hover us over to the other side easily."
"This test was meant for the Cimmerians, if we 'cheat' as it were, I doubt we'll get to the next stage."
"Stage?" Horace frowned.
"Yes," nodded Jana. "Do you think this will be the only test? All this does is testing our willingness to take risks and our sense of balance. If I wanted to test a Race's readiness for First Contact I would set up much more than just this."
"It's a little too hands off for my taste, we actively look after and observe our Protectorate races, we'll know when they're ready," Emily pointed out.
"We have no way to judge the Asgard yet on their policies, we don't know their circumstances," Jana sighed. "We play along."
Matty promptly flew ahead over the abyss, and reached the other island without fanfare, though his holofields radiated smugness. "Come along."
Jana glared at the SB and carefully centred her focus on the other end and walked forward steadily over the beam with perfect balance, not pausing or stopping at all. Emily crossed in the same way after Horace gestured for her to proceed ahead of him. When his time came the expected twist to the test came...halfway across another earthquake rocked the room.
Horace swiftly dropped to the beam in a push-up position, lowering his centre of gravity and gripped the beam so hard that Jana could see dents being pushed in it.
The earthquake stopped.
"That was fun," Horace quipped, he moved to stand again, but yet another earthquake rocked the room, forcing him back into his prone position. "Merda! Will you let me across already?" He cursed to the room itself.
"Hmmm," Jana frowned. "Perhaps...they're testing..." She turned to Emily and Matty. "Remain here, no matter what." They nodded wearily looking uncertain about what she had in mind. She walked back onto the beam and stopped just before Horace. "Give me your hand."
'I hope you're right about this, Jana,' he thought.
He wearily put his feet under him again, reached out his hand, but before Jana could clasp hands with him, the room shook yet again, the most powerful jolt yet...it might as well have turned upside down with the power of the earthquake. Jana managed to grasp Horace hand in monkey grip but it was too late...both fell into the abyss...
The earthquake ended, the room was abruptly rebuilt as if it had never fallen apart and both Jana and Horace were lying side by side on the floor again. They both got to their feet and stared at their teammates.
"Looks like you were right Jana," Matty's holofields reflected his satisfaction.
The hologram light reappeared and Thor the Viking spoke again, "You have shown true selflessness and bravery. (Unknown ) to sacrifice oneself to save another is an (unknown) trait. I salute you. Now you must (unknown) wisdom to courage. Solve the riddle of the runes, and I will show you my true might."
"Although we know nothing much about the Asgard, I doubt a Race that goes to these lengths to protect the humans on this planet would kill them for simply attempting First Contact."
"So now what?" Emily thought.
Their answer came from the Hammer, when another white Displacement beam swept over them.
They appeared now in another large room, octagonal in shape, in the centre burned a fire in a kettle like pit. Each wall had large groups of large, prominent writings carved into them and to one side again was another Hammer with another Hologram podium.
"We solve the riddle of the runes," Jana shrugged.
Despite being octagonal, only three of the walls held and form of marking. One had pictographs, showing a crude representation of a battle scene. The next had five large Norse runes on it. And the last had of all things simple geometric shapes – a circle, square, triangle and rectangle.
"You're our archaeologist Jana, what do you make of it?" Horace asked staring at the pictograph with interest.
"Well," she sighed, "I can tell you now those pictographs are just there to confuse us. They have nothing to do with the riddle in this context." Jana stood in front of the Norse runes with a frustrated look on her face. "Merda, Matty scan these runes and run them through a translation matrix."
Matty bobbed up and down in acknowledgement. "Translating now. Uh, I have multiple results."
"I was afraid of that," Jana sighed. "Runes were originally ideographic, but later they become letters and then most recently numbers. So which does Thor wants us to use?"
"He wants to test if the Cimmerians are advanced enough for Contact," Horace reasoned, "so I'd say the numbers are what he's after...to see if they've developed mathematics..."
"In that case, the runes translates to three, fourteen, fifteen and nine," Matty replied.
Horace, the engineer that he was grinned, "All too easy, three point one four one five nine."
"Pi," all of them chorused as one.
He walked over to the wall with geometric shapes, examining the circle very closely. "Ah, the circle's surface is porous like sand." He took a finger and drew a radius. The sand was abruptly sucked into the circle itself, leaving a round red stone with the gold symbol of a Hammer on it. "Now what?"
"Push it, it's like an ancient activation button," Matty declared.
Horace did so.
Abruptly the hologram projector in front of the Hammer came to life. The big burly Thor Viking stood there again, but then the image wavered and fell like sand to the floor before turning into another shape.
"By Deus!" exclaimed Jana in astonishment, and her team mirrored her expression.
The alien form that now stood there was barely a passus in height, with grey skin and thin, spindly arms and legs, huge almond sized head and large black eyes and wearing no adornment or cloths. The alien's small mouth spoke with an odd resonance...
"I am the actual one…whom you know as Thor."
'Matty is this hologram interactive?' she thought.
'Yes, I'm detecting a subspace transmission.'
'We're talking to an actual Callisto Grey,' Emily thought in astonishment. "The last sighting was more than a millennia ago..."
"Greetings Thor," Jana stepped forward and bowed her head slightly. "Can you understand our language fully?"
Thor turned to regard them. "Fascinating. Yes, my computer has locked onto your language and compensated for linguistic drift. You come from the world known as Terra in your language? The true homeworld of Humanity?"
"Yes, we recently discovered the Stargate our ancestors buried, and discovered the truth of what the Goa'uld did and are doing at present. We are mainly explorers, but unfortunately that must take a sideline now to free our younger cousins from Goa'uld domination and slavery."
"It's surprising that your civilization has survived," Thor eventually said after what seemed like a thoughtful silence. "Our last reported observation of Terra, was when your three dominant Stellar Imperial factions were about to engage in hostilities. With your ideology and the weapons in your employ at the time, the High Council felt it unwise to initiate contact with you, despite your level of development."
"We endured and learned from it, all Terrans became one with each other, we formed into a merging of minds, the Commonality....that endures to this day," Jana explained.
"So, as I speak to you, I am actually speaking to every Terran in existence..." Thor's head titled back rapidly and his eyes blinked.
"To those paying attention at least, yes," nodded Jana with a grin. "We maintain our individuality, and can isolate ourselves if we wish privacy."
"Fascinating," Thor murmured again.
"I am Jana Freeman, leader of Exploration and Survey Team One or ES1, this is Emily Adaway, Horace Aurelius, and Matthew Antonius. The Terran Commonality greets you in peace, and hopes that you will consent to a diplomatic, trade and eventually a mutual defence relationship between our peoples."
"On behalf of the Asgard High Council, I can say that it would be a pleasant surprise to welcome you as allies amongst us. The Council will have the final say, but I suspect they will not have much objection, especially given your apparent level of development as a civilization."
"We can exchange Cultural databases when we finally meet in person, so we can see where we stand and how we can possibly help each other."
"That will be acceptable," nodded Thor. "Forgive me if I offend, but you introduced...him as a person...yet what I see before me is an artificial construct."
"Well he is a person," Jana grinned at Matty, whose holoskin flared an indignant red. "He lost his biological body in an accident, and we managed to save his consciousness. Matty resides in this synthetic shell instead of a human bioform because it allows him access to abilities, tools and technology a normal Terran wouldn't ordinarily have on their person. It's a sacrifice he and others like him makes for the benefit of the Commonality as a whole."
"I can already see we will have much to talk about," Thor droned. "I am currently in my quarters on board the Asgard ship Beliskner; in the Galaxy you call Ida. I can be in orbit of Cimmeria in ten hours."
"I look forward to meeting you in person then," nodded Jana. "I must also mention that we have prevented ourselves from being seen by the Cimmerians, since we do not know what your policy is regarding interaction with them."
"I thank you for your circumspection," Thor tilted his head. "Given your technology, clothless appearance, and abilities they would perhaps mistake you for gods. To interact openly would be...awkward..."
"...we understand full well, and will continue to remain hidden from them then in the future."
"I will have the Hammer in this room transport you back to the surface," Thor tilted his head again, a flash of light appeared on the floor and a rounded crystal jewel with Norse runes appeared next to Jana's feet, which she picked up interestedly. "This will allow me to contact you directly."
"See you in ten hours then," Jana bowed and they were all engulfed in white energy and vanished from the room.
ES1 reunited the next morning just beyond the clearing that surrounded the Stargate.
"The Ida Galaxy is roughly two point six million light years distant from Terra," Horace shook his head incredulously. "If the Asgard can traverse that in ten hours...their FTL makes ours look like we're practically standing still. Thor's ship will need to travel in excess of seventy two light years per second to make it here in ten hours. That's a near ludicrous velocity. Not even Goa'uld Hyperspace FTL comes close to that."
"I wonder if the Asgard also uses Hyperspace or some other form of FTL-technique," Julius mused.
"We'll just have to ask them ourselves when the time comes," Jana shrugged. "I'm more excited to actually meet the Race behind the Callisto Grey mythos. If they had us under surveillance during the pre-Great War period I would love to go over their observations of us during that time." The Asgard communicator in her hand abruptly lit up with an inner light. "Right on time."
"Jana Freeman," droned Thor's voice. "I'm in orbit of Cimmeria. I detect seven of you, do you all wish to be displaced aboard?"
"Yes, ES1 nominally numbers eight, but one of us had to return to Terra."
"Understood, stand by."
Jana took a last look at Cimmeria before the world turned into a blur of white and the smooth sensation of Asgard displacement took hold. Barely a moment later her vision returned to normal and the seven of them stood on a large obsidian deck, facing a huge open viewport looking out over the blue, green and cloudy white planet surrounded by the black void. They turned from the hypnotic view to regard what had to be either a Bridge or a large Observation deck; it had two mezzanine levels that looked out over the deck they were standing on. On each level here and there were what looked like comfortable seats, with thick rounded sides and holograph displays hovering in front...seated on each was an Asgard who looked down at them with their big black eyes and they could hear them speaking in an odd resonant language. Jana could hear tones and sounds well outside of the normal human spectrum being spoken between these Asgard, but their Translation matrix didn't have a clue.
There was a sudden musical thrum through the air, a point of white light appeared a passus in front of the team, which seemed to building in size, until a throne-like chair seemed to unfold into existence and normalize. Yet another Asgard was seated in this more ornate chair, which Jana guessed was clearly just as technological as the others on the 'Bridge'.
"Welcome to the Beliskner," said Thor's familiar voice. Jana bowed, taking in the fact that Thor seemed to be virtually identical to almost every other Asgard in the room.
"It's a pleasure to be here, Supreme Commander."
"I have been in contact with the Asgard High Council, and they have authorized me to undertake an exploratory mission to your homeworld."
"Very well, I trust you still know where that is?"
Thor tilted his head, "yes. Are there any preferences for where in the Terran System we should exit Hyperspace?"
"Just beyond the orbit of the fourth planet, as long as we're on board the System Defences will not activate, from there you can move into standard orbit at sublight speeds."
A change in the ambient light showed that the Beliskner was moving, no longer was its giant forward viewport pointed at the planet. ES1 turned around to watch as stars began to appear as the ship rapidly sped away from Cimmeria. Then in the near distance a dark purple cloud of energy suddenly opened up against the backdrop of space as the ship tunnelled into subspace...then the could abruptly swallowed them whole in a blur of distorted starlight, before the view was dominated by an infinite, swirling purple tunnel of subspace passing the ship.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed. I know it's nitpick; but I've always been irritated by the way Language was treated in the SGverse. How does a culture like the people in the (P3X-797) Land of Light (and a whole galaxy full of others), separated for thousands of years from Earth,...speak modern English that SG1 can understand? Anyone have any theories?