"What do you mean it won't open?" Daniel stood with SG-1 in disbelief at the words he heard Harriman say: "Chevron seven...will not lock." That meant only one thing: Hra's gate was no longer accessible.
General Hammond came over the intercom. "I'm sorry, Dr. Jackson, there's nothing we can do."
"Sorry, Daniel," Jack said, patting him on the shoulder. "I guess they didn't want us anyway."
Just as he was about to walk away from the gate, the alarm sounded and Harriman said, "Unscheduled offworld activation." The iris closed and Daniel headed up to the control room just as he heard, "Receiving a transmission, sir. Audio only."
"Put it on speaker."
Daniel listened as Aza's voice came over the loudspeaker in her native language. "Dr. Jackson, can you understand any of this?"
"Yes I can," he replied.
"Were you the ones that dialed in just now?"
"Yeah, we were."
"What's she saying?" Hammond asked.
"She asked if we tried to contact her," he translated as she continued to talk. "She says they obstructed the gate so that...Pele couldn't dial in again. Who's Pele?" He cleared his throat and listened again. "She wants an iris."
"We'll see what we can do. Maybe that could be what we trade. Can you talk to her?"
"Aza?" he asked.
"Yes?" she replied in English.
"Will you let us through?" he asked in hra'anh.
"You got my gift," she replied. Daniel translated everything she said. "I was hoping that it would help our relations."
"Who is Pele?" he asked.
"I was hoping you could tell me, Daniel. Come back to Hra and we'll chat."
"All right," he replied in English. The wormhole deactivated. "Go ahead and dial again," he said. "They're wanting us to visit." As Harriman dialed the gate, he went back to the gate room with SG-1 and prepared to step through to Hra once again.
"Pele?" Jack asked.
"She was the Hawaiian goddess of fire, among other similar things. I can only assume a goa'uld found the planet...But I don't know any from Hawaiian mythology. She must be a nobody."
"Then we won't have a problem."
"Maybe the tok'ra know about her," Sam suggested. "It's worth a shot."
"Well," Daniel said as the wormhole opened, "here goes nothing."
They stepped through the event horizon to a much friendlier welcome than before: Aza, Liasi and Edan were there, along with two other hra'vakh. One was a deeply azure-skinned woman, and the other was a man of about Edan's height and build with slightly lighter skin.
"Welcome," Aza said as Daniel translated. "We are the royal family."
"Really?" he said, intrigued. "So who is whom?"
"I was queen of the underwater realm," Aza replied, "until my daughter was old enough to take control." She put her hand on the azure-skinned woman's shoulder. "You know Liasi and her son Edan, but you still haven't met Drak, Edan's father."
"So you make up the entire governing body?"
"No. I'll explain it to you later. But first, come with me."
As they walked, Daniel asked again, "Who exactly is Pele?"
"She came with several shafa-"
"Don't you mean jaffa?"
"The depiction we found in the ruins undersea clearly said 'shafa'. It's possible the ancients mispronounced it." She took him into a tent where a hologram of a video feed hovered a foot and a half above the table. "This is footage of the incident."
"She's a goa'uld," he said in English after seeing it. Then he explained to her in her native language who the goa'uld were and what their purpose was. He asked whether the hra'vakh had a religion.
"Yes we do," she replied. "We are monotheistic, worshiping an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity, Akh. He is our creator, our protector, and our provider."
"Is there any evidence of the goa'uld or jaffa here before?"
She nodded. "We found some carvings in a ruined, ancient undersea city that depicted several of these...Jaffa. It told how they came through the stone ring that the sons of the gods brought to Hra. They started massacring the people, and Akh Himself stepped in and saved them."
"Perhaps Akh is an Ascended being."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Maybe he's a being of pure energy that-"
She cut him off, shaking her head. "No. None can see him without risking instant death. These 'Ascended beings' as you call them, I have seen. We call them Ghosts. They are what became of the ones that brought the stone ring."
"Okay, so if Akh isn't an Ascended, what is He?"
"God. That's what He is."
"Okay, new topic. You said that there are ruins undersea. Is there any way I can have a look?"
"Not without gills." She lifted the hem of her shirt to show him the slits on her side.
"Surely you must have some submersible craft."
"If I took you down in a boat, you wouldn't be able to get as close a look as you would want. Know that I'm not trying to keep you from the ruins; I just know that it would be incredibly hard for me to show them to you."
"I've got it!" he proclaimed. "SCUBA!"
"SCUBA?" she asked quizzically.
"It stands for 'Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus'. Basically, it's a tank I hold on my back that lets me breathe underwater. Either that, or I could use a rebreather." He made a face showing he disliked that prospect.
"I can take you to Vi'aka, though."
The name translated to "city of water". "Where, exactly, is that?"
"Beneath the surface of the sea. We can get there by boat."
Jack bounced a tennis ball against the wall. "Any news from the tok'ra?" he asked.
"Not yet," Sam replied. "Sir, is something bothering you? You're acting a bit…strange recently."
He caught the ball and shrugged. Nothing was wrong. It was perfectly right. He was in love with her. Plain and simple. But heck, there was nothing he could do about it; he was her direct superior, and it was taboo. But it didn't change his feelings. What made it worse was that she seemed to be oblivious to his attraction. He wished they could be together, but no. Procedure and the conventions of the US Air Force prevented them.
"Unscheduled offworld activation," Harriman said over the PA system. Jack hopped over a room to the gate control room just in time to see General Hammond hovering over the gate operator's shoulder. "Receiving IDC, sir. It's the tok'ra."
"Open the iris," the general ordered. The barrier slid away and an individual stepped through. Jack recognized her as Anise the tok'ra, somebody whose host was attracted to him in a way he didn't particularly welcome. Jack went down and welcomed her.
"Anise," he smiled. "And Freya."
"Yes, Colonel," said the host, Freya, with a smile. He had to hand it to Anise for choosing a host who was incredibly attractive, but Freya didn't hold a candle to Sam.
"Do you have any information for us?"
"Yes, we do," replied Anise. They walked up to the briefing room and joined General Hammond and the members of SG-1 who weren't offworld. "Where is Dr. Jackson?" asked the tok'ra.
"He's on P6X-556 trying to learn a new language. We have a world potentially untouched by the goa'uld."
"Really?" Anise said inquisitively. "I would like to meet these people."
"Not quite yet, Anise. We're still trying to find out more about them and whether they'd welcome somebody so closely related to the goa'uld. No offense."
"I suppose I could overlook it. But I really would like Dr. Jackson to be here before we begin."
"I could recall him," the general suggested.
Jack sighed. While Freya was attracted to him, the tok'ra symbiote she carried was equally attracted to Daniel. It was quite unlike a tok'ra to put the desires of her heart before the pressing issues, but he tried to dismiss it as the general excused himself and left the room. Daniel would benefit greatly from this information.
Half an hour later, Daniel was sitting in the briefing room, Anise doing an unusually poor job of hiding her emotions. "So," he asked, "did you find out anything about Pele?"
"We did, actually," Anise replied. "You guessed that she was a nobody, and you were right for the most part. Pele is a smalltime goa'uld in charge of several worlds. We have a loyal jaffa in her ranks. He reported to us that she is of no threat on her own; her ruling style is less oppressive and more…well, like a tok'ra would be. It has been since before he joined her ranks."
"That's weird," Jack commented. "So she makes people love her instead of fear her?"
"That makes no sense," Sam added. "Aren't the goa'uld genetically wired to be aggressive?"
"We are not," Anise said, taking offense.
"But I don't consider you goa'uld anymore," Daniel came back, stroking Anise's ego. "So you say that Pele's subjects respect her instead of being afraid of death."
"Yes. From Esili's reports, she holds massive banquets and parties, inviting all of the people from the planet she is on at the time. The societies thrive and are healthy."
"So we don't have a problem, then," Jack shrugged.
"Actually, we do."
"I knew it."
Anise continued, "Pele is a nobody because of her unorthodox methods. The System Lords see her as weak, too young to know how to control large populations. In order to gain more favor among the System Lords, her First Prime, Jin'tec, encouraged her to be more assertive and forceful. When she failed at that, he sought Ba'al to help teach Pele to be more like a goa'uld."
"Yeah, that'd be a problem," Daniel sighed. "How do we fix it?"
"I honestly don't think Pele will change unless she's under duress. But Esili also reports that Pele is attracted to Ba'al and that she believes following his advice, no matter how uncharacteristic of her it may be, will bring the two of them closer together."
"Good God, everybody's falling in love," Jack groaned. All eyes turned to him. "Did I say that out loud?"
"Yes, Jack," Sam replied. "You did."