Stargate Intelligence Command
Directorate of Stargate Intelligence Services Building
Sub-level 4: Holding and Observation Cell 2
02:21AM Abydos Standard Time
The mind is an amazing thing. It enables a sentient being to take small threads of information and associate them in ways as to intuit a whole tapestry of a situation. However, when something so wholly foreign to the mind is encountered it often reverts to the most primitive responses: fight or flight. So it was that when Teal'c awoke to find himself in a completely silent space with three gleaming white walls and a fourth covered in a mirror he was at first stilled in utter confusion. Memory returned with a dull ache in his arm as he attempted to move, and his mind settled on a response naturally ingrained in every Jaffa - FIGHT.
Unfortunately his immediate attempts to even move were totally stymied by a set of restraints around his wrists and ankles. There was even a larger, thicker, strap over his symbiote pouch. Pain and a sudden desperation spurred his attempts to break free of his bindings. The effort was futile and only served to aggravate his injuries further. Finally, rational thought broke free of his mind's primitive responses and reason took hold. Clearly, he had been captured and he had only a pain-hazed memory of the strange Jaffa that had ambushed his column on Cartago. It was apparently not enough for them to slaughter his Jaffa; now they would humiliate and torture him.
Closing his eyes Teal'c decided to exert what infinitesimally small control he had in his situation and began to focus on entering Kel'no'reem so that his symbiote could better heal his injuries. Escape may not be probable, but it would be impossible while he was still injured. He would be patient. He would remain in control of himself as Bra'tac had taught him. Ultimately, he would either die with what honour he had left or escape to tell Apophis of his failure and die at the false god's hand. As he began to drift into the mindless state, he honestly didn't know which was the better option.
On the opposite side of the mirrored wall, a team of interrogators and a medical doctor watched closely. The interrogators had studied the prisoner's body language; some through the window and others on several closed-circuit cameras covering the Jaffa from different angles. The doctor had carefully noted the prisoner's physiological state through the small monitors just inside the restraining cuffs. The prisoner's vitals recorded both after he awoke and as he apparently drifted off again. Information would be shared, theories examined, but overall the long game had just begun.
The brief rap of a knuckle on his office door interrupted George Hammond's thoughts as he read through the various after-action reports of SG1. He put the folder down and briefly reflected that it had been a magnificent performance on the part of everyone involved; even the natives had shown their mettle. It gave Hammond heart that even in the face of a clearly superior foe they had fought back.
"Enter!" The door opened to reveal the petite frame of Doctor Janet Frasier. "Ah, Doctor. Come in."
"Thank you, sir." The Doctor took a seat in one of the guest chairs and he noted she was looking rather tired, but she got straight to the point of the meeting. "Our prisoner is recovering at a rate noticeably faster than what I'd expect to see from a similarly injured human."
"What's causing this?"
"From what we know for certain, it's a combination of factors. The immature Goa'uld parasite is actively aiding the healing process; releasing tailored biochemicals of some kind that is speeding the natural healing process. When you factor in our own efforts in surgery and supplying intravenous nutrients... he'll be up and around soon enough."
Dr Frasier shook her head at this point. "It's his DNA results and physiology that make for fascinating reading. While its clear his distant ancestors came from Earth at some point, the divergence he exhibits from an Abydonian or even a Tollan is too great given the timescale we're looking at. His ancestors were genetically engineered to be this way."
George was incredulous, "How on earth would you go about giving a man a human equivalent of a marsupial pouch, Doctor? Not to mention the fact that he has no immune system."
"With genetic science far in advance of our own," Dr Frasier sighed. "We're still busy with the Human Genome Project back on Earth, and it's still about three years until we have a rough working model of what every gene does in our body. Though perhaps they should send some of that work our way, or at least send some crystal computers back to Earth. In any event, there's less than a four percent difference between us and a chimp, and look what that four percent has resulted in. So, with enough engineering, you could conceivably do anything possible within the realm of the physical biology.
"As for their lack of immune system, it's pretty much as the Tollan told us. The immature Goa'uld the Jaffa carries acts as a functionally perfect immune system. Any germ or virus entering the Jaffa's system is recognized by the larvae and destroyed. Our prisoner has no need to worry about any disease we carry. The implications of this is huge, General. If we could artificially synthesize the smart biochemical that the Goa'uld releases into its host, anyone suffering from HIV/AIDS need not worry. We'll essentially have an immune system in an injection we can give them. Not to mention, it's the holy grail of bio-warfare protections and it'll prevent our own SG teams from having to worry about anything they pick up in the course of their mission on unknown planets."
George nodded in understanding, "What of base combat ability?"
"We'd need our prisoner in full health and willing to do performance tests for empirical study, but I can tell you now from both the autopsies of the enemy KIA and what we can deduce, that I wouldn't want to find myself in a wrestling match with any of them. There is a part of his physiology directly influenced by the larval Goa'uld's release of enzymes. This probably means, given the density and size of his musculature, he can perform and push himself to levels where our Olympic athletes operate at, if not higher into the berserker state we enter when under extreme stress - like lifting a car. Any damage this causes, the larval Goa'uld can just repair, whereas we'd be flat on our backs for hours if not days."
"So, our teams need to avoid getting into situations of hand-to-hand CQC, unless they have total surprise on their side and go for exposed weak spots." The Doctor merely nodded, and George could see the worry in her eyes for the men and women who'd no doubt come under her care in the future when they fought the Jaffa. "How soon can our prisoner be ready for an interrogation?"
"I'd give it another week or two to be on the safe side."
"Thank you, Doctor. I'll push some of those ideas of yours to the appropriate departments and Earth. Given their nature, I can just imagine some Goa'uld in the future throwing a bioweapon at us. Dismissed."
Teal'c wasn't sure when he realized that something was wrong about his situation and his theory that he was being held by Ra's forces. In hindsight, he was kicking himself for not having noticed it. At first, he had thought they were letting him heal naturally and by the efforts of the Prim'ta because Ra wouldn't deign to restore him to prime health in a single day using a sarcophagus. First Prime of Apophis or not, he was only a Jaffa and not worthy of such effort to a Goa'uld outside of "special" situations. Even the less capable handheld healing device would have had him on his feet in several days after he had sustained his injuries.
But here, there was a clear cylinder hanging out of reach filled with a fluid that was slowly draining into his body with an impossibly thin and flexible pipe, that had been pierced through his skin. There were patches stuck on his chest that had even more thin coloured pipes that led off somewhere out sight. Then there had been the occasion when he had first seen one of his captors: a human woman wearing blue clothing and vestments that he had never seen the like of.
She was rather short with styled brown hair and approached his bed with no fear. Teal'c had known better than to struggle against his bonds and show aggression - there was no point - she had touched him at various spots on his body, neck and his healing wounds, changing their coverings. Then she had pulled up her sleeve and some sort of unfamiliar piece of technology was strapped around her wrist, showing strange symbols that changed constantly. Her face was a professional mask of nonchalance, but her eyes gave her away. Teal'c could see an odd set of emotions in the woman's eyes given the situation: interest and fascination, but no negative emotion such as fear or hate. Then she had walked out, the door sliding itself open at her approach. In the brief moment that the woman spoke to one of the oddly armoured warriors just beyond the doorway, Teal'c was able to catch his first glimpse at what was beyond his room.
The room exited into a corridor coloured in grey and well illuminated. The woman spoke to one of the warriors clad in their green-tinted armour, but he could see that another stood on the opposite side of the doorway as well. A small red device of some sort was affixed to the far wall, but Teal'c could see no indication of what it might be. With little else to see, he focused back on the woman. The language she spoke... was not one he recognized. It wasn't Goa'uld, nor the other dialects of tongues that occurred in the Goa'uld domain he was aware of. It didn't even sound like any of the few words in the language of the Asgard his master had once told him about.
It wasn't until the day that his wound coverings were removed that his suspicions were confirmed. It was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.
Teal'c awoke that day to find a new feature being added to his room: a long flat table and two curved chairs. The new furniture was added quickly and silently as the Jaffa watched. The two humans, dressed in clearly utilitarian garments of identical make, wasted no time carrying in the table, and much to the Jaffa's amusement, pulling its legs out from where they had been folded into its underside. After setting the chairs behind the table the two men left and Teal'c inspected the table more closely. It was clearly of good quality, but obviously meant more for utility than presentation. It was not nearly so ostentatious as he had often seen amid opulent Goa'uld belongings. Sometime later the door to the room slide open once again and two new humans entered.
The first was a rather tall male with well tanned skin and blue eyes. He wore tailored clothes with such intricate weaves that Teal'c instantly knew that it was not made by hand, or cranked weave, but rather complex machines. The other newcomer was also a male wearing clothes of a similar style to the healer woman; clearly a uniform of some sort - implying organization. He was even taller and built much more powerfully; he had the bearing, movement and eyes of a warrior.
They both sat down behind the desk before the tall one cleared his throat and began speaking Goa'uld in a rather formal and slightly archaic fashion.
"My name is Daniel Jackson and to my left is Greg Richmond. You are a prisoner of my people, a prisoner of war. You are the First Prime of the Goa'uld Apophis. What is your name?"
Teal'c didn't answer at first; he was still trying to decide if this was some sort of ploy, but that idea was looking less likely with each new detail he found. Could it be that... they were just a human civilization albeit one advanced enough to inflict such devastation on his column of Jaffa? It was not unprecedented; the Tollan sprang to mind along with a few others. This, however, was clearly not the Tollan who were satisfied to sit inviolate on their own world. They were content to leave the Goa'uld be as long as none dared step foot in their space. These humans clearly did not share such ideology. The Jaffa gauged both men carefully, staring into their eyes. It was very odd to see such strength and will in them. Then perhaps...
"You, and the squad you were commanding, went to Cartago in order to attempt further abductions of the indigenous population for the purposes of slave labor and or later Goa'uld implantation." The warrior called GregRichmond spoke for the first time. The way the language rolled off his tongue was similarly formal though not nearly as fluent as the one called DanielJackson. "They have told us that you have raided their world so many times that even the elderly of that village know you by sight. Tell me, what happens to those who are not chosen for implantation or hearty enough for labor?"
While he presented a stoic even defiant mask to the two humans, Teal'c couldn't stop the surge of guilt and shame that welt up in his heart.
His silence caused DanielJackson to speak, "I must make you aware that as a Prisoner of War you have certain rights according to our laws. You will not be tortured."
GregRichmond nodded but his eyes hardened, "You can even refuse to answer our questions, but there will be consequences. No, we won't kill you, but we will be obligated to detain you for the duration of our hostilities with the Goa'uld. As you can imagine with the size of the Goa'uld empire, this war could, in the worst-case scenario, take whole generations... centuries. In other words, way beyond the time when that parasite in your belly matures and you need a new one."
He didn't need to continue. Teal'c would've answered anyway. He did not need reassurance; his old Master had taught him that a warrior owns the consequences of his actions and inaction. "The strongest and fittest of those not chosen to become hosts, are sent to work in the naquadah mines - to labor as you said. Women and children can become household servants. If there are no open positions, or the remaining humans are not fit enough, then they are killed and the bodies disposed of in the wrong end of a Chappa'ai portal."
The two humans looked at each other briefly, their expressions grim. They had seemingly expected that answer.
GregRichmond's eyes were now narrowed and he asked rather directly, "What is the size of Apophis' fleet of Ha'tak?"
Teal'c again weighed the question and decided to riposte, "Why do you fight the Goa'uld?"
"You do not deserve, nor are you entitled to any answers or to even ask questions," GregRichmond snapped.
DanielJackson suddenly asked a question, "What are you?"
Teal'c frowned - surely they knew already? They seemed knowledgeable already on some facets of Jaffa existence... "I am Jaffa..."
"No, that is your 'race', what are you?" DanielJackson's eyes were intense, boring intently into the Jaffa's own.
His first instinct was to answer First Prime, but again, they already knew that. The question seemed, deeper as if the human was asking him to realize something they already knew. "What am I?" Teal'c murmured to himself. It was a question that he knew the answer to, earned through the banishment and then death of a comrade and friend at his own hand. Could he be frank with his captors? It wasn't as though he had much of a choice, and it would be nice test of them... to see if they were perhaps worthy in return. "I am a slave. My very existence dependent on the creature within me."
DanielJackson's eyebrows shot up in surprise, "You don't think of them as a god?" The man did not seem shocked so much at the answer, but that he had received it so easily.
"It is actually rare for any First Prime to think of their Goa'uld master in such terms or put any faith in them. By the time we reach that rank, we have seen too much of Goa'uld fallibility to give them such blind devotion. Yet we are still trapped there, powerless to act or we merely pretend to advance in rank and privilege. There is no other choice but to serve. The Goa'uld are powerful. They've seen to it that we cannot live without them and so it may be for all time. But neither can they live without the Jaffa. We are their true power."
The room grew silent at that revelation; and it clearly was a revelation to the two humans if their thoughtful expressions were anything to judge by.
Teal'c looked at both his captors after giving them a moment to consider his statement and asked with as much sincerity and conviction as he could put in his voice. "Why do you fight?"
DanielJackson looked to the warrior next to him briefly, who merely nodded, "We fight because there are countless numbers of our race, our descendants across the galaxy, under the yoke of the Goa'uld. We fight because the Goa'uld came to our homeworld ten thousand years ago and stole our bodies. They should all still be swimming in some primordial pool somewhere, living no better than aquatic animals. They are parasites upon humanity."
Teal'c felt like the times his old Master had hit him over the head with his Ma'tok; stunned and totally off balance. "You are the First Ones?"
Shaking off the shock, Teal'c quickly replied, "There is a tale of a primitive world, Tau'ri, the Goa'uld discovered millennia ago. The First World where forms of this type evolved. It is said the Goa'uld harvested among the primitives: some became Goa'uld hosts while others became Jaffa, and still more were taken as slaves to seed among the stars to serve the growing empire. That world has been lost for centuries more myth than fact now. You claim to be from there?"
"Beings of our form evolved on our homeworld, which is commonly called 'Earth'," GregRichmond explained. "Our ancestors rebelled, forcing Ra to flee, and then they buried the Stargate."
"And since that time, you have become strong enough to challenge them," Teal'c felt a rather alien emotion within him which required a moment to identify. "You are humanity's greatest hope and mine."
She's a thing of beauty, Paul Metz thought as he gazed at the prototype XSF-24 Eagle Aerospace Superiority Fighter sitting proudly on the sun-drenched tarmac, hull gleaming in the bright Abydonian sun. He had flown a lot of aircraft in his time both back in his days as USAF pilot in the Vietnam War and his civilian career as a test pilot and all the jets he'd flown had been beautiful machines.
But the XSF-24 left all of them in the dust.
So far, they'd only tested her atmospheric capabilities and boy had they blown his mind. He'd never flown anything like her, anything that could accelerate so easily, travel at such high speeds, perform turns that would have torn any other human made aircraft apart after killing the pilot from the excessive gee-forces. All of it made possible by the fusion of Earth technology with those systems they'd so far reverse engineered from the Goa'uld death gliders – though they still had a long way to go if they wanted to fully surpass the acceleration and manoeuvring capabilities of the Goa'uld fighters. But the Eagle was a good start.
That's if she performs as expected in space, he thought as he walked up to the prototype and began the normal pre-flight visual inspection pilots everywhere conducted on their craft before a flight. As he'd expected there were no obvious problems with the fighter even though they were rushing somewhat to get ready for the test as orbiting meteorological satellites had picked up a low-pressure system approaching this part of Abydos, which would arrive in another day bringing with it the certainty of a massive sandstorm. A sandstorm that experience had taught the SGC personnel would last anywhere from two or three hours to three or four days. And shut down the complex for a few days afterwards as bulldozers cleared the freshly deposited sand off the tarmac and concrete and engineers repaired any wind or sand inflicted damage.
Unfortunately, the meteorologists were never able to tell exactly how long the storms would last as Abydonian weather patterns could be fickle, especially over the desert regions. As a result, Lockhart and the SGC wanted to get the spaceflight test of the XSF-24 done before the storm arrived and put them potentially days behind schedule at the very least. He could understand the logic of wanting to get the test done as soon as possible, hell he couldn't wait to try it.
Finishing his visual inspection, he was satisfied that everything seemed to be in order for the test flight. He just had to have a few words with the scientists and engineers now to let them know he was happy and go over their last-minute diagnostic results with them. Provided no problems were detected there then the test would be carried out as planned.
Ten Minutes Later
Dressed in a heavily modified version of the LECU armour worn by the off-world teams Paul made his way back onto the airstrip. He was somewhat thankful that the version that had been developed for Eagle pilots was lighter and much more flexible than the LECU with less of the tough carbon-ceramic panelling that the front line armour had as pilots wouldn't be expected to engage the Goa'uld on the ground, the panelling thinned out and replaced with layer filled with a gel that was based off some of the science the eggheads had picked up from the Tollan teachers. It was a light material that was designed to be able to repel radiation should a pilot be exposed – which was all too possible in space – while also acting as additional protection from the high-gees that pilots could be expected to pull in combat. High gees that according to simulations wouldn't entirely be cancelled out by inertial dampeners.
He would be glad to take it off though as the designers hadn't exactly factor comfort into the equation when designing the pilots armour. While light and flexible in most areas it pinched others uncomfortably and he made a mental note to have a word with the eggheads afterwards – point out the flaws so they could be ironed out before the armour was put into mainstream production along with the Eagle.
After all a pilot couldn't hope to completely focus on giving the Jaffa – or any other enemies they encountered in space – a thorough pummelling if they were distracted by their own protection pinching parts of their anatomy that nature had meant to remain unpinched.
Approaching the Eagle prototype, he pushed the discomfort out of his mind and focused on the task at hand. Nodding politely to the ground crew who'd just finished prepping the fighter for launch he climbed into the waiting cockpit and began the slightly fiddly process of attaching the armours connection points to the fighter's life support systems, especially the all important air hose. Planners had already decided that while the cockpit of the Eagle would be fully pressurised at all times Eagle pilots would still use a closed air system separate from the cockpit itself in combat conditions. While he would hardly be flying into combat on this test flight he would keep the hose attached and running just to test the system was working as it should.
With the connections in place he made himself comfortable and strapped in before tripping the helmet radio. "Eagle One to control ready to close cockpit and commence power up operations over," he said calmly masking his natural butterflies with practiced ease.
"Roger Eagle One," a controller responded immediately. "You are clear to close cockpit and commence power up over."
"Roger," Paul acknowledged before flipping the control for the cockpit canopy. Immediately two lights came on one green the other red as with a humming of hydraulics the canopy closed and with a whirring sound locked in place. Instantly the second of the lights turned green as the Eagles computer confirmed that an air tight seal was in place. Okay time for the most critical bit, he thought flipping another switch that should turn on the prototype power plant. Should being the operative word as in one or two of the other test flights the power plant hadn't started up as it should and been scrammed by automatic safety systems. Which was always nerve wracking as they then had to trawl through a ton of data to determine just what had caused the start up failure in the first place, though the scientists believed that they ironed out the problems now certainly no emergency shut downs had occurred in the last two or three weeks. Hence why they all felt confident enough to go for gold and run the space trial.
Immediately – and to his and the whole teams relief – the power plant hummed to life. TFT screens - that took the place of traditional instrumentation – flickered to life around the cockpit all of them awash with data as the many different computers the Eagle needed to fly went through their boot up procedures.
After a moment the boot up completed and the normal screens appeared.
"Eagle One to control. Power up completed all systems nominal," Paul reported into the radio "requesting launch clearance."
"Confirmed, Eagle One stand by for clearance," control responded immediately. "Launch clearance granted on runway two."
"Roger that control," Paul replied as he carefully taxied the XSF-24 Eagle to the head of runway two, they'd been expanding the airbase here recently both in preparation for the production models of the Eagle but also to house a number of other aircraft – many of which were used in their ongoing efforts to survey the whole planet of Abydos as there was still so much they didn't know about this world. Of course until recently that work had been on hold as SGC personnel had all been too busy with the Tollan Relocation.
In moments he reached the head of the indicated runway. "Eagle One to control. Am in position and proceeding to launch," he reported into the radio.
"Acknowledged, Eagle One good luck."
After taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, a habit he'd long had to calm his nerves, he pushed the throttles forward. The Eagle's advanced engines roared to life and with a sudden surge of acceleration – as expected the inertial dampeners weren't quite able to completely cancel out the sudden surge of gee force – that pressed him back into the seat the prototype hurtled down the concrete and asphalt surface of the runway.
In seconds he had passed the point of no return, V2 in pilot's parlance – meaning he had to now take off or crash and burn. Pulling back on the control column he brought the nose up and with a roar the prototype fighter shot off the ground into the sun-bleached Abydonian sky. Paul carefully checked his instruments, pleased to see everything was working exactly as it should though he was still below escape velocity.
"Eagle One to control," he said into the radio "I am airborne and climbing. Request permission to increase to escape velocity."
"Roger, Eagle One. You are clear to proceed to escape velocity."
Here we go the acid test of these engines, Paul thought mentally crossing his fingers before pushing the throttle all the way forward tapping the full power of the engines for the first time outside of lab tests. The XSF-24's engines roared louder than he'd ever heard them before, the sudden power surge sending a slight, but noticeable jolt, through the whole fuselage and airframe even as – with another surge of acceleration – the fighter shot forward aiming towards space.
He felt more than a few stirrings of awe as he accelerated to escape velocity but felt almost nothing beyond the slightest of pressures. Pressure that felt more like driving down an interstate at seventy miles an hour than travelling at many times the speed of sound. Truly if it wasn't for that slight pressure, the deep throaty roar of the engines and the way the heat-bleached sky of the Abydonian atmosphere was changing around him he wouldn't have even realized that he was moving. Man, these inertial dampeners are some incredible pieces of kit, he thought not for the first time since he'd begun testing the XSF-24. And it was true but then everything about this fighter from its avionics to the advanced alloy of its fuselage – alloys composed of elements nobody on Earth had ever heard of until a few short years, that felt more like a lifetime, ago – to the engines themselves, based as they were more on gravitic principles than traditional rocketry, were incredibly advanced.
It was truly a great time to be both alive and a test pilot.
An alarm from the consoles instantly dispelled his euphoria and his attention to the screens though he could tell already that something was wrong with the engines as the rumbling of the drives had died back somewhat. Oh, the engines were still on, he could hear and feel that, but they'd clearly automatically throttled back for some reason. He carefully scanned the screens as a simplified schematic of the fighter's propulsion system showed up on his screens with the field regulator for the port engine flashing a frantic red an error code indicating a critical failure with it. As a result, to prevent the sudden instability in the gravity fields that ultimately pushed and pulled the Eagle along from ripping it – and him – apart, the flight computer had automatically reduced power to stabilize the drive field as it was designed to do as all simulations showed that such a failure would have destroyed the fighter faster than a pilot could react if it happened when, as now, the drive was active at full power.
While relieved that the safety system had functioned as designed, he couldn't help but feel a flash of annoyance that the systems failure had occurred in the first place. Especially as it meant he wasn't going to get to see Abydos from orbit today as with the reduction in the drive fields strength the planets gravity was once again starting to affect the Eagle reducing his airspeed down to below escape velocity.
Oh well such teething troubles are bound to happen on a craft as experimental as this one, he thought with a sigh before calling the tower. "Eagle One to control," he said into the microphone.
"Go ahead Eagle One," the tower controller answered immediately.
"Control we've got a problem here," he reported, "the port field regulator has failed, drive field power has auto reduced to fifty percent to compensate. I cannot maintain escape velocity request instructions."
"We see it Eagle One stand by," the tower answered after a few moments, moments in which he knew that the technicians had checked their data feeds to determine the nature of the problem with the fighter's revolutionary propulsion system. "Alright Paul bring her back to base. We'll have the techs waiting to pull the port engine."
"Roger that control coming back," he replied as he brought the fighter around and began descending back towards the SGC located slap bang in the middle of the Abydonian desert, a place so vast that it made even the mighty Sahara – the greatest hot desert on Earth – seem small. It was beautiful to look at in a bleak, harsh sort of way. And from here he could see the blurred edges of the cold front that would in another twenty-six hours bring a large sandstorm down upon the SGC. He could see the huge brownish mass of the distant storm from here.
Mentally he shook himself, he could always admire the aerial views of Abydos another time and focused on his current task.
Guiding the ailing Eagle back to a safe landing.
He was cold and wet, that was the first two things Daniel Jackson realized as he returned from the oblivion of unconsciousness. Then, judging from the pain in his back, lying on a rather hard floor. An attack of coughs hit him at that moment, expelling residual water from his throat, and it let him realize two alarming facts, his helmet was gone, and he was somehow out of his LECU, clad only in his underwear, exposed to whatever wonderful array of alien bacteria was on this new planet.
He opened his eyes to regard his surroundings. It was room with a lot of windows and was underwater - there was veritable jungle of sea fauna and flora beyond that was lit up by artificial lighting. The structure he was in seemed a blend of stone, alloys and even some form of seaweed that grew through it. The greenish blue colours of everything and the angles of the structure was distinctly weird to his eyes and alien.
How did I get here? he thought. He tried hard to remember; yes, he had been assigned to SG1, a recon milk run to a world that had been by all appearances a near untouched paradise - or at least the island that the Stargate was on was a paradise, if a little volcanic. The beaches were heavenly white and the ocean around it the clearest you could ever imagine. The team had been walking along one of these when... they all had just collapsed for no reason he could discern and then he had woken up in this large underwater room.
A civilization that lives underwater perhaps? That was likely, though the Predator drone would've surely spotted any structures in the shallow water around the island, so the structure had to be much deeper - unless it was visually camouflaged as well from the air. Daniel wearily stood and tested himself - yes, he had full mobility and no injury. The room didn't look like a prison, given the wide-open space and it even had decor - a globe of bubbling water with some form of aquaculture going on inside.
With nothing better to do for the moment he began a methodical investigation of his surroundings, as only an archaeologist could. His search was rather fruitless besides concluding that he had to get a sample of the material the walls were made from for Area 51. He estimated the room he was in was below crush depth for most of the military or research submarines on Earth, that he knew of at least.
Daniel Jackson was so invested in his examination of the structure and his own thoughts that he didn't even notice he was not alone anymore until he almost bumped into the being. His mind was assaulted with image of a tall bipedal alien, with bluish mottled skin and elaborate coloured reedy clothes. Its dark black eyes combined with a naturally fierce expression and sharp teeth in its mouth. It amazed him that he didn't jump into ceiling and scream with fright, as it was, his heart felt like it wanted to jump out of his mouth.
Moments passed as they just stared at each other, and when it was apparent that the alien wasn't going to attack, Daniel Jackson let out an explosive breath he didn't even know he was holding. He backed away slowly to a more respectable distance.
'First Contact, Daniel. Get a grip.' he furiously thought to himself.
He put his palm on his chest and said, "Daniel. Daniel Jackson." Then gestured with an open palm to indicate to the alien that it was his turn. Though whether it would understand was something that was clearly a gamble, and he dearly hoped he had not shown the alien its own equivalent of the 'middle finger'.
The alien didn't respond and just continued its glarish stare.
"My friends, the…the others who came here with me…"
At last, the alien did something and simply pointed its web fingered hand at a non-descript section of the wall. Daniel heard grinding behind him and whirled to regard a section of the wall sliding apart. 'There was no way I could've missed those seams!' he thought. A sort of display screen emerged that seemed to be made of crystalline sheet and formed lines of symbols. He turned back to the alien and shrugged. The alien just pointed at the screen of symbols again.
Daniel sighed and walked over for a closer look, since his glasses were nowhere to be found, but making sure to keep the alien in the corner of his eye. When the symbols came into focus...
"Aha, it's a very old writing. It's Cuneiform. It's the first kind of writing we ever found on…on my world."
He looked at the alien for some form of sign that it was understanding. It only pointed back to the wall.
"Okay. It's Akkadian, not Sumerian, so… It's a tough one. Let me think. 'Reveal…Fate…Om..more..ocka.' Reveal fate Omoroca. Reveal fate Omoroca? Omoroca, what is that?"
The alien walked closer and this time Daniel could see the first recognizable expression in its eyes, intent and... hope?
Daniel continued the best he could, but it was slow going at best. He could count the number of people on Earth who could speak and read from this writing on his left hand, and he was one of them. But as he translated and reasoned it out it became somewhat clear what the alien was showing him.
"'If a free man…accuses another of murder, and fails to prove, the accuser shall be put to death.' Okay. That's interesting, but what the hell does it mean? The context?" The alien unrelentingly pointed, telling him to continue. Daniel let out a frustrated groan. "Yeah, yeah. I…I know, I know what it is; it is…it's the legal code of some ancient Babylonian king, probably 2000 B.C. The question is—what does it have to do with me or you for that matter?"
The alien didn't answer, and it was at this point that Daniel threw up his hands. "I want to see my teammates. I'm not…I'm not going to translate another word of this..."
Daniel blinked in shock at the clear intelligible sounds of English coming from the alien.
"That was fast. You understand me? Now?"
The alien hissed, "Yes. I, Nem. What speech?"
"Nem is your name?"
"Yes. What speech?"
"Uh, this?" Daniel pointed at the writing. "it's Akkadian."
Nem stepped up and tapped Daniel on the shoulder. "What speech?"
"Oh, English. It's— it's much more modern. And you must be quick study to learn the basics so quickly just from listening to my rambling?"
"What fate?" Daniel was puzzled initially before he got it. "Omoroca? Is that a name?"
"What fate Omoroca..."
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Who is Omoroca then?"
Nem growled in either frustration or anger and didn't answer. He stalked over to the other side of the room where the doorway was pulling a small lever. An opening appeared the size of a bread loaf with a container inside. The alien took it out and opened it partially before putting it down on the floor.
"Nourishment," the alien pointed. "Safe for your kind." Another button was pressed, and a soft human sized surface slid out of the wall. "Rest, sleep. Think... what fate Omoroca."
"Look, I - I don't know who Omoroca is... if you don't give me context, I can't help you. Look, my friends and I, we came here in peace. We're—we're explorers. If we have historical information of some sort, we'll share it." Nem merely walked towards the newly revealed exit. "Look, um, I can't…I can't tell you what I don't know. Where are my friends?"
The aquatic alien didn't answer and simply declared ominously. "You know. You will tell."
Daniel felt like punching something in frustration as the alien vanished beyond the door that immediately and seamlessly closed.
Throughout his life Teal'c had seen many things that seemed magical, but in reality, were merely the product of advanced technology he had little hope of ever understanding. He knew, as most Jaffa of his rank and position knew, that the Goa'uld "magic" was merely scavenged technology that even they barely understood. It had desensitized him in a way to seeing displays of great power that awed most lesser Jaffa or Human slaves. Perhaps it was this normal state of affairs that made him all the more susceptible to quiet awe at the technology before him now.
Two human warriors had earlier entered his cell; one watched him closely, armed and ready, while the other aided an un-armoured female move a large, wheeled stand into the room. Upon the stand sat a strange black box with a glass surface which was connected to another black box by a series of cables. After configuring the devices to some standard Teal'c had no way of understanding all three exited the room. A moment later a flicker in the glass of the larger device on the stand captured his attention before an image appeared filling the entire surface. A voice began to speak from the device in the human language for a moment before a second, different, voice began to speak in the primary Goa'uld dialect.
The images and voice detailed the wildlife of a land referred to as "The Amazon". While the material held little interest to Teal'c it was the delivery method as well as the implied technology behind the videos that held his attention. It was simplistic when compared to Goa'uld communication methods, but it was beyond anything he had personally seen from a human civilization. His attention eventually began to turn away from the device and its images as his thoughts turned inward, but then the commentary shifted to a new line of discussion that immediately captured his attention.
"The recent Tollan learning expedition into the..."
Teal'c mind froze on the revelation of the Tollan relationship with Earth. Scenario after scenario began to run through his mind as he considered the implications. Despite a strong cynical streak Teal'c began to fill the stirrings of a most dangerous emotion for a Jaffa: Hope.
He didn't know how long he had slept for since Nem had taken anything remotely resembling technology from him, including his simple and sturdy quartz wristwatch, but when he awoke on the 'bed' - which was utterly too soft for his back - it was to regard said aquatic alien standing over him hovering an odd handheld device over his head. He couldn't stop the startle of fright and the reactions of his left arm, which knocked the device away from his head and out of the equally surprised Nem's grip - sending it scattering across the floor.
Daniel winced at seeing the anger in Nem's eyes, but the alien didn't respond or retaliate further. "What was that?"
Nem growled, "Device to see structure of thinking organ. Test compatibility with other device to help you, help me."
Daniel thought a moment then said, "You're testing my brain to see if it can be interfaced with... a type of technology?"
"Yes, bring the past back to you."
"It's going to help me recall memories."
"Your control of 'brain' is still natural, ineffecient and unreliable."
"That would be really useful if it works," Daniel mused. Nem returned with the scanning device and resumed waving it up and down until it finally gave a high-pitched chime.
"It can be done," Nem declared, "but a risk remains, damage may occur."
"That... doesn't sound good. Let's give the old way a chance first, perhaps if you can answer some questions it will clarify things. Omoroca... who or what was Omoroca?"
Nem was breathed rather heavily and answered, "Mate."
"She was your mate in Babylon? She looked like you?"
"Yes! Four thousand revolutions of your planet around your star ago."
"So much for homeworld security," Daniel muttered under his breath. "Look, that is a really long time ago."
"Knowledge. You have most knowledge of those among you."
Daniel shook his head, "Only a small amount of knowledge has survived from that time."
"The knowledge is there," Nem tapped Daniel's temple with a webby finger.
"Do you now how much has been lost? Great libraries burned to the ground, cities destroyed by wars. Most of my people's history is buried in time. Tell me of others Omoroca spoke of? A name, anything."
Daniel focused, not trying to wrack his brain, but just letting his mind work on the problem. "Belus...Belus...yes, in the writing of Berossus, a contemporary of Alexander the Great. He studied some very old, ancient Babylonian text. Pre-flood. I need more..."
"Omoroca feared Belus."
"Yes, he... was a conqueror...crap..." 'C'mon noggin, don't let me...down. '"Uh, can you let me think for a while?"
Daniel paced back and forth, fighting to remain patient and let the knowledge flow naturally. Finally, nearly twenty minutes later he threw up his hands, "No, I can't remember every book or text that I studied ten, fifteen years ago in detail. So... I guess we're going to have to try your brain machine."
Nem looked at Daniel gravely for a moment, "I will prepare."
He had imagined many things this 'brain device' could be or look like, but the eventual reality had Daniel nearly shaking in apprehension as he approached it. A circular machine, easily over two meters in diameter, with a clear-cut space within it meant for the humanoid body to lie in. Like most of Nem's technology it was colored in blue and green, with a distinct 'alien' feel to it. No human mind had designed this thing. Daniel took a deep breath and lowered himself into the machine and tried to get comfortable. Right above his eyes there was a crystalline window that occasionally blinked with an inner light of yellow and white.
Nem himself stood a meter or so away at a podium with a control panel that had recesses shaped in it that fit his aquatic hands perfectly.
"The memory of your history, your race, is within you. Beneath the surface."
Daniel nodded, "I hope so."
"This may be painful, device is designed for my race, have modified it to compatibility, not sure without actual test."
"I understand, but we really don't have a choice if you want an answer and for me to go home."
"Remember Omoroca," Nem said and briefly Daniel saw bright light that seemed to lance into his brain before the world was drowned in a white fog.
He focused as hard as he could, only vaguely aware that he was breathing heavily. It was both like and out of body experience yet not. "Omoroca...Omoroca..." he spoke the name as if in a mantra and used it as vessel to transport him through his own mind. Then words and images came forth... he saw himself emerge from the ghostly fog, then a slice of reality, a library, perhaps in Cambridge. "And in that place there was Omoroca... a woman who came forth from a heavenly egg. Who walked among men by day, but at night, she would retreat to the great sea to sleep."
The memory vanished and fog grew thicker. "More!" shouted Nem's voice.
Another slice of reality, but a spear of pain as well. "One of the beings called Oannes..."
Daniel realized he finally had a 'name for Nem's race.
"The god Belus came down unto Babylon, onto the place of Omoroca, and cut the woman asunder with light! Oh God... he killed her."
The fog thickened again, threatening to white out the entirety of his mind then it suddenly retreated, and Daniel felt himself behind his own eyes again staring at the interior of the memory machine with the biggest migraine he could ever recall having in his life. He groaned and rolled out of the machine... not feeling well enough to even stand. He eventually managed to pull himself in sitting and leaning against the machine to look at Nem with sympathy.
The aquatic alien was shell shocked, or at least Daniel thought so.
"Unh…I'm…I'm sorry, I'm sorry. That's all I ever knew."
"Belus." Nem growled the name with such anger that he seemed like a titan of old pronouncing vengeance.
"He was a Goa'uld," Daniel declared with certainty.
"Yes, he murdered my love!" Nem's hands were clenching and sharp teeth bared.
Nem left to grieve and allowed Daniel to explore more of the underwater complex where he lived. It was truly huge and he imagined that it could support many thousands of Oannes in absolute comfort with no crowding at all, but sadly, it seemed that Nem was truly the only being here. The corridors and rooms were like the room he had been kept imprisoned in, but with varied functions. It felt like it would take years to explore the place and its marvels.
He found a large warehouse like room with one whole wall made up of water that was somehow kept at bay, probably with a shield of some sort. The place was stacked with what had to be small submarines of some type shaped like remora. A way out? Though he knew he wouldn't be getting out of here without Nem's help - piloting a submarine was something he wasn't even remotely qualified for, never mind using an alien one.
It was nearly two days of this wandering exploration before he woke up one morning to find Nem in his room and patiently waiting.
"I will return you to surface today," Nem gestured behind him and there was Daniel's LECU and backpack waiting, though his Z1 was nowhere to be seen. "You can return to your people."
"What will you do?"
"I will hunt Belus, determine if he still lives."
"He could be a System Lord by now," Daniel pointed out.
"We are a very long lived and patient race, Daniel Jackson. A starship and his armies can only protect him from overt threats. Not from the threat that I bring."
"So, your people are still out there?"
"Yes, we have moved ourselves where no Goa'uld would walk. I alone remained on this ancient colony world of ours with what you call Stargate to carefully seek what I have now found. Now at last, I will go forward."
"Can I request something?" Daniel said very carefully.
Nem regarded Daniel for a long moment. "Speak."
"Would you be amenable to myself and others like me to return here, from time to time, to learn from you."
"What would you do with what I can teach?"
"What all children do," Daniel quirked his mouth in a half-smile, "grow, become strong, and eventually stand as equals."
"You fight the Goa'uld?"
Daniel nodded, and it wasn't a hard assumption for Nem to make, from just a cursory glance at how the LECU was made, you could see it was designed with Goa'uld and Jaffa in mind. Not to mention the Z1 itself.
"Then send those who are worthy among you. Now come, Daniel Jackson."
SGC Gateway Centre
Thursday, September 24th, 1998
…the indigenous people clearly relocated the Stargate to an indoor facility not unlike our SGC. Visual indicators reveal the location to be unpowered and most likely abandoned…
…a "totem" which did not fit with the rest of the technology or designs of the facility was located approximately fifty feet due north of the Stargate's position. A closer inspection revealed Goa'uld symbols which could not be identified immediately. Consultation with the Jaffa Prisoner, Teal'c, revealed the "totem" to be the symbol of Korosh-ni; a "turn back" warning to Goa'uld announcing a dead and/or contaminated world…
Hammond read through the initial report for P3R-233 diligently. This was the first time they had encountered a world devastated by the Goa'uld to such a degree. While they would need to verify that the world was indeed "irradiated" as the Jaffa had suggested, there were plenty of visual indications that the area was at least abandoned and had been for quite a while. His eyes skimmed further into the report to confirm what he believed to have heard during the initial debriefing.
…all environmental readings indicate that if the planet is, in fact, contaminated that the building is shielded and/or contains an environmental scrubbing system which is still active…
Nodding to himself the general closed the report folder and set it back on his desk. His bald brow furrowed slightly as he considered the situation. Clearly, the alien world contained technology that could be valuable to examine. Likewise, contaminated or not the world could prove a valuable intelligence asset. If the contamination of the world did not somehow exceed their ability to protect against then the SGC could learning a great deal about how the Goa'uld went about dealing with worlds they saw as a threat.
Tapping his fingers against the surface of his desk Hammond considered the planet and the logistics of a mission. They would need to proceed with caution and get a better feel for the condition of the facility the Stargate was in first. Decision made, the general picked up his phone and began issuing orders when his aid answered.
Thursday, September 30th, 1998
A dozen figures stepped out of the shimmering surface of the stargate and into the dark expanse of the building which housed it. Flashlights swept over the area as SG team began to disperse into a formation around the gate and the nearby D.H.D. Several moments passed before the leader of the group was satisfied that the area was as it was meant to be.
"SGC Actual, SG-1 Actual: We're clear," Jack O'Neill reported into his radio.
"Understood SG-1. Stand clear," responded Hamond's Texas accident.
A moment later and the surface of the stargate once again rippled as several more SG teams and a half-dozen motorized supply sleds crossed arrived. The newcomers immediately proceed to spread out and off-load the supplies while SG-2 moved to join SG-1 in maintained a careful watch of the area. In a short time a half-dozen tripod lampposts were erected, portable generators setup and flood lights powered on. Now, standing in a well-lit facility, the SG teams felt considerably more at ease.
"Alright campers," Jack began, "we all know how this is going to work. SG-2, you keep the gate secured, SG-4 you're clear to go find the door out of this place. Try not to turn glow-in-the-dark while you do it."
Lt. Colonel Greg Cayston of the US Army Corps of Engineers smirked at O'Neill. "No promises Colonel."
O'Neill rolled his eyes and waved off SG-4 as the fell into formation and moved off on their assignment. He then turned to the commander of SG-3 and waved them off, "Shoo. Go find something interesting Ferretti."
Responding only with a jaunty salute, Ferretti turned to his team, "You heard the man. Let's move out SG-3."
Satisfied that things were well under way O'Neill turned to his own team. "Alright folks; Ferretti's off on that side of the place, we'll take the other."
Jack Ryan, former Captain in the Marine Corps and now C.I.A. analyst, couldn't help but wonder once again how his life had led him to another world. His eyes shifted to the right slightly and took in the appearance of the nearest of his teammates. Daniel Jackson, civilian archaeologist and linguist, and Captain Samantha Carter the resident tech guru were both odd-ducks for a unit like this. However, throughout their SG team training both had more than proven their ability and usefulness. That was something he wasn't entirely certain he could claim.
Behind him, he could hear Colonel O'Neill and Lieutenant Valeford, one of the team's two marksmen, discussing the latest episode of the Simpsons. The young Lt. was almost as green as you could find anyone at Stargate Command, but he was also one of the single best Marksmen in the program. The best, hands down, was Master Sergeant Collin Moore – SG-1's other Marksman. The Master Sergeant was the Dark Horse of all the marksmen in the program. He hadn't been a member of any elite teams or programs; hell he hadn't even been qualified as a sniper until O'Neill convinced him. Still, he was absolutely frightening in skill.
Ahead of the team, Ryan could spot the other members spread out in a standard formation as the building was cleared. He didn't know them that well; they were latecomers to the team and temporary too. Jack O'Neill was not an easy man to work with, but he was a scary judge of character. He could tell you who a solider or civilian consultant would be best assigned with after a single training exercise or mission. More importantly, he was almost never wrong. These newcomers would no doubt find their permanent assignments shortly after returning to the SGC.
"Sir," called out one of the young Lieutenants he had just been considering, "got something Captain Carter should see up here."
"Well by all means. Let's all go take a gander."
While the team followed the Lieutenant into what appeared to be an over-stocked museum souvenir shop, Ryan considered his own spot on SG-1. It had come as just as much of a shock as his inclusion in the Stargate Program had. He had barely completed his training at the Farm when the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Admiral Greer, had introduced him to Craig Vandermill, the Deputy Director for Stargate Intelligence Services. How the Admiral knew who Jack was remained a mystery, much less why he personally introduced him to Vandermill.
When he was briefed on the truth behind the Stargate, the SGC and everything else his first inclination was to decline the invite to the program. He was newly engaged wasn't at all interested in working, much less living, on another planet. Vandermill had just smirked at him and said, "Ask your fiancé before you make up your mind."
Cathy Muller, brilliant recent graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and his fiancé, had received a similar invitation. She had also, much to his chagrin, received her invitation a week before his came. They had discussed the issue thoroughly, and decided to take the opportunities being offered. Though, he would admit to himself it had been Cathy who was excited about the experience and had pushed most of the "pros" in their "pros and cons" discussion.
It had literally been at the end of his first day at work on Abydos that he met Jack O'Neill. The Colonel had been in meetings at the SGIC all day, and had apparently been unhappy for most of it. Then, without a bit of warning O'Neill had popped in to Jack's small office and told him he was expected for SG Team training the next morning at zero-six-hundred. Vandermill, who had been standing behind O'Neill when the message was delivered, just gave him the same smirk he had seen before.
He really didn't like that smirk.
His thoughts were disturbed from the past when he heard Jackson ask, "Well, apparently I'm a vampire. Why didn't anyone tell me?"
Silence filled the room.
Jack Ryan blinked at the asinine statement and question. Turning he spotted what had prompted the bizarre line of conversation – a mirror reflecting everything except the people in the room. As he took a closer look at the oddly shaped mirror he couldn't help but think, "Yeah, I really hate that smirk."
Greg Cayston followed the mental map (and the fluorescent paint markers left on the walls as backup) he had made in order to return to the team's staging area. Once the Gate was back in sight, he followed the primary trail left by SG1. It was to some slight astonishment that he found them all congregated around a... mirror?
It stood nearly two meters tall and laid into a somewhat stylized thick frame that was clearly made out of gravicite alloy. Not to mention stencilled with writing that everyone was trained to at least recognize at first glance.
"Cayston, what you got?" O'Neill purposefully stepped away from the mirror putting as much distance as he could from it, while at least staying in the room.
"Found the exit of this facility. It's got a hardened airlock style system but we're not getting out that way without at least getting into the guts of it to create a bypass and providing localized power to it. My team's working on it now."
"Not enough juice left in this place?"
"My readings of the power system elsewhere show there is power flowing, but nothing is getting to the airlock and the lights," Cayston shone his flashlight beam up onto the ceiling to show where the strips of lighting in question was. "No firm idea yet what power source this place is running on. EMF readings are still quite high and indicate there is power generation going on deeper in the facility. Also given from what I could see through the airlock's 'windows'. this facility is partially subterranean and the small picture I got of the outside world is not promising. There was also a clear spike in radiation levels near the airlock."
"I'd suggest a rad hardened MALP go first to find out for sure, but I'm not seeing us going out there with at least full CBRN."
O'Neill winced and Cayston didn't blame him. CBRN gear was heavy and uncomfortable to say the least and potentially fighting whilst wearing them was the stuff of nightmares.
"Daniel, anything further on that mirror?"
Jackson was rather intently scribbling in a little notebook and at first Cayston thought the man was lost in his own head, before he absently replied, "Nothing on why it doesn't reflect us unfortunately. It's definitely a device made by one of the four Heliopolis Civilizations, however."
Cayston blinked in bafflement, at first not sure he had heard the archaeologist correctly and then curiously moved forward to stand in the mirror's field of view and sure enough... the room around them was reflected but absolutely none of the equipment or SG team members were reflected.
"Also it's definitely more than just a selective mirror," he pointed at a portion of the mirror that was at hip height and shone his flashlight there. There was a just barely visible seam in vague oval shape along one side. In the center of the oval a visible piece of raised metal, shaped as a stud, glinted there and was surrounded by very dusty glass-like sheen. "That is detachable," he raised his hand as if to pull it but was stopped by the only female member of SG1. Captain Carter's hand struck out as fast as a snake and halted Jackson's own.
"I'd rather you not touch that, Daniel."
"Carter, anything to share with the class?" O'Neill pointedly asked.
"Two possibilities, sir. Either we are dealing with something as benign as an screen and attached computer that for some reason is actively editing out our presence in the room or... this device is actually reflecting the room, just not the room we are actually in."
Cayston balked as his mind instantly cottoned on to what Carter was getting at. He, like all scientists or anyone with an engineering or scientific background had their own personal copies of Area 51's Neophysics - which was already needing a 2nd edition, just with the new breakthroughs the Research Complex was making and what was being learned from the Tollan mentors. Just staring at this mirror and what it represented made him feel like... for that matter would even make the Tollan feel like they were poking at the equivalent of Monolith with a stick.
With O'Neill's permission to demonstrate, she had everyone leave the room. Then from outside the room she pulled out a ration bar from her LECU and with a deft underarm, threw the food item to hit the surface of the 'mirror'. Everyone felt a shiver run down their backs when a slight electric crack echoed from the room.
Carter then stared back in the room and nodded that it was safe. Carefully everyone followed.
Common sense would say the ration bar should've bounced off the mirror and be lying on the ground in front of it. What their eyes were telling them was a totally different story.
The ration bar was gone.
The mirror was still reflecting the room as usual... with none of the SG personnel... except now for the rectangular plastic shape of the ration bar was reflected in the room..
"Sir, this mirror is a gateway of sorts, to another room identical to this one, but one in which we never arrived on this world. We are looking at the first empirical proof of the multiverse theory."
Jack O'Neill was still bouncing around the idea in his head that someone had built something that let you essentially jump universes with a switch and touch. He had thought that the Stargate itself, which let you traverse thousands of lightyears in a step was mindboggling enough, but this was on a whole other level. Trying to comprehend and imagine an ever-expanding universe and your place in it was headache inducing enough, now multiply that infinity with, yet another infinity of potential universes and you just had to stop before potentially giving yourself an aneurism.
Thankfully his thoughts was wrenched away back to the mere point of view of his eyes as the staircase they were descending ended after nearly ten minutes of walking. The landing opened up into a cracked open wall of solid rock, where Team 3 was waiting and pointing their flashlights into.
"What you got, Lieutenant?"
"More of the facility, sir, but I don't think it was built by the same guys."
Jack could see instantly what he was getting at. The architecture was way different. The hallway beyond was definitely made out of gravicite alloys and the engineering at work way more intricate and advanced, with symbols etched into the walls and trusses that was from the same Heliopolis Civ as found on the Universal Mirror.
He took a subtle deep fortifying breath and led the way into the corridor.
A slight hum suddenly seemed to pulse throughout the walls and the area lit up with illumination strips that he hadn't even guessed were lights at all.
"That's helpful," Jack mumbled.
They soon came up to a branching path, with the facility illuminating their way. Jack decided to take his team left and Team 3 went right. Then things went weird.
"Guess the place respects rank," Jack chuckled as Team 3 was forced to switch their flashlights back on as the facility didn't switch on the lights in that direction.
"Any ideas, Captain Carter?"
Sam fiddled with a control on the latest exploration tool that Area 51 had cooked up for SG Teams - a handheld RF mapper - that essentially scanned and modelled their surroundings in its memory, which also doubled as an inertial navigation device in maze like areas such as this - which would allow any person using it to always find their way back to the initially programmed reference point.
"My first guess, a research facility of some kind, then a later culture discovered it and built on top of it, to in turn research the facility itself."
Jackson nodded in agreement, "I just wish we had some kind of workable Rosetta Stone equivalent from the Heliopolis archive for this language. It's so frustrating to just be surrounded by all this and not know or comprehend."
Sam could feel herself empathizing with the frustrated archaeologist. The Heliopolis Archive was something she had also taken a crack at, especially for its scientific aspects and also hit her head against a metaphorical brick wall. The only comfort she had was that the Tollan research contingent was in the exact same boat, despite being able to add a few extra pieces to the atomic language that it used.
She saw that the hallway was now ending into prominent thick door. The large two button controls to the side were showing that the door had power though, so it was a simple matter to open. The gravicite alloy door split open smoothly and even that amazed her - how many thousands of years had it been since these mechanisms had been used, yet they still worked with an efficiency as if they were brand new.
The room beyond was a vast darkness and their flashlights struggled to pierce the inky blackness. The RF mapper showed it was easily the volume of a large indoor sports arena. Five meters away was a pedestal marked with more blocky writing, with seams in it that looked almost like a keyboard or control panel.
They had barely walked up to it when the sound of something that triggered the primal hindbrain of her mind to ratchet up the fear all the way up. It was a deep, guttural growl, that rumbled through the air with such strength that she could feel her own lungs vibrate in sympathetic response.
In the darkness two points of distinct orange light appeared and in sheer disbelief she comprehended that they were impossibly large eyes with slitted pupils that was glaring through the darkness at them.
The arena room was also slowly being lit with yet more orange light, and then she realized that it more that the utterly gigantic creature in the room with them was providing that light from within it's scaly hide. She imagined her brain was probably throwing a tantrum at what her eyes was telling it - when training kicked in at last and she grabbed Daniel by the back of his armour. "MOVE!"
Sam only had eyes for the door and had barely turned around to run, dragging Daniel along with her as a guttural roar blasted them with so much raw sound volume, that had it not been for the inherent protection of the LECU armour against the sound of the Z1 rifle fire, that their ear drums would've burst right there.
Daniel was finally pulling his weight and beginning to run when out of the corner of her eye she spotted the... the... the gigantic DRAGON rear back and blast fire from its mouth into the air above it in apparent anger due to the intruders in its domain. The temperature of the fire was such that she could feel it radiating uncomfortably hot despite the relative distance.
Then it lunged forward impossibly fast for something of that size and mass, seemingly putting it's glowing maw nearly on top of them, to bathe them with another impossibly hot blast of fire.
They sprinting stride had carried them nearly to the door and Sam knew that they wouldn't make it.
Even if they were beyond it, the fire would blast into the corridor beyond and roast them instantly in flame.
They bowled into Colonel O'Neill who appeared to be running in the opposite direction - clearly coming to help his team.
Sam despaired in that moment. Was this really the way they were going to die? Burned to death in an awkward tangle of limbs with her teammates by...
The noise, the heat, the dragon... vanished.
"Oh, for crying out loud!"
General Hammond's Office
Stargate Command Building
He carefully placed the rather thick manila folder back onto his desk and folded his hands together. The gesture was the only outward allowance he made to express his disbelief at the words that adorned that report - given the fact that he was in the presence of two subordinates. He shoved his emotions into the appropriate box in his mind, which he would later open and address in private.
"You may begin, Captain Carter."
The Captain coughed awkwardly, thumbing a small remote that controlled the computer projector in his office and began displaying photographs and general renderings of the facility that had been explored so far.
"What we have here General, is essentially a large, hardened bunker that is dedicated to research the more advanced facility that the natives of the planet discovered. It's clear though that these research efforts were interrupted when a nuclear war erupted on the planet. Decay readings of the radioactive fallout products outside the bunker indicate this war occurred roughly fifty years ago, with CBRN gear we can generally explore safely for a day before we'd have to pull back."
Hammond internally winced. This was the second civilization that they had found that had killed itself in a nuclear inferno in a short time. How many more? He dearly hoped that this was just a statistical anomaly so to speak. "I want all exploration to be done via remote drones. No need for our people to soak up rads when it's not mission critical."
"Understood, General," Carter nodded.
"Now, this Universal Mirror, what is your assessment, Captain?"
"Well, we should definitely bring it back for study General but treat it as we would a Stargate. There is no telling what kind of universe is on the other side and experimentation with the Mirror must not involve changing its 'destination' so to speak. There is no way we can understand what the device would be telling us with its interface and given the sheer nature of the multiverse and the cosmos... there's no telling if we end up connecting to a universe that is utterly hostile in ways we can't begin to predict. Of course, it's incredibly exciting from a theoretical standpoint and the idea that we could one day explore other universes but... we're barely keeping up with just this universe on our plate."
"I'll definitely make that clear in my report, Captain. What have you concluded about the facility and its selective reactions?"
"There is clearly some form of localized scanning field throughout the facility that only reacts to Colonel O'Neill and Airman Bradman from SG1 Team 4. The facility lights come on for them, it automatically opens doors for them - whereas others need to use manual controls and then there is the... dragon arena." She was clearly visibly disturbed even just thinking about it. "If either of them enter the arena, the dragon doesn't appear at all... anyone else enters by themselves in any combination or alone and they're treated to a visit from Smaug."
"Smaug?" Hammond couldn't help but chuckle.
"It seemed a fitting name," Dr. Jackson winced.
"At first we thought it must be a defence mechanism of sorts," Captain Carter explained further, "but further exploration with Colonel O'Neill, show no other hallways beyond the arena itself. It's lined with devices embedded in the walls that we can't make heads or tails of beyond that it produces a hyper accurate facsimile of a dragon that actually produces flame and sound to lethal levels. In light of that, I wouldn't be surprised if the entire thing is just an entertainment venue or a giant simulation machine."
That was interesting thought, Hammond mused. He imagined loading a hyper accurate simulation of an F-24 in the arena and being able to do very inexpensive testing work without risking the real thing. That would make sense for why the place existed and the dragon was the last operator's flight of fancy.
"Very well. Solving this mystery is clearly not going to happen immediately, so it'll have to go the R&D Complex. Dr Jackson, anything about the human civilization?"
"I've got samples of their writing from the bunker facility, but time has unfortunately degraded a lot and I'm not confident we're going to learn much from just the bunker itself. We'd need to wait for the drones to hopefully find a nearby settlement or city."
"I'd conservatively estimate their level of technology being about where we were in the 1970's, General," Captain Carter remarked.
"So not really a priority to investigate."
"Understood, Captain. Dismissed. Thank you, Dr Jackson."