Chapter Summary: A short break for story time exposition.
Chapter Word Count: 4,796
"Do you think you can design suits for us, or at least something a lot more protective than basic armor," Jack asked, idly watching Sam reading something on the comm tablet Janice had given her.
Sam looked up at him. "They have a number of different types of hard suits," she said. "The true combat hard suits require equipment we don't have. They have to be calibrated in a specific way that only one of the Clan armorers can do with a Fleet tech shop. And you have to have Clan DNA for them to work."
"Which we don't and can't have," Jack said. "And probably don't want."
"Nope," Sam said. "In my case, even if we had the equipment, the naquada in my blood would probably react badly with the genetic treatment. It might work for you but I suspect you wouldn't need it."
"Why not?" Jack asked.
"Remember when you had an entire Ancient library downloaded into your mind?" Sam asked.
"How could I ever forget?" Jack said, grimacing. "What does it have to do with this?"
"Joy has a genetic profile of all of us," Sam said. "She has the equipment for that, she just can't use it for anything really. But there's something special about Andy's profile. She's not actually Clan like the others, but Clan tech such as the type in her suit works for her. Your DNA profile shows some of the same markers."
"So, I'm not Clan but I might be able to use Clan suit tech?" Jack said. "Interesting. Does Joy know what makes Andy so special."
"She said it was a Clan Council secret that she doesn't have access to," Sam said.
"Something our little Clan hacker can't get into? She was even able to get into your computers in the SGC network. Which you said was impossible," Jack said.
"Well, she has some amazing tech," Sam said. "Hopefully I'll learn enough to be able to keep someone like her out in the future. But according to her, nothing can keep Lady Shadow out. If she wants to get into something there's nothing that can stop her."
"So Junior Shadows are skilled but they aren't the best there is," Jack said. "And we asked the Council to send that message for us."
Sam grimaced. "Yes, we asked someone we have no way of keeping out to send a message for us."
"Do we trust them?" Jack said. "I trust this team, though Ixchel might be an issue. But the Clan is truly alien, even if they look like us. Do we trust their motives?"
"You know what their Pan Galactic Confederation uses the Clans for, not just this one?" Sam asked.
"You've been studying them," Jack said. "You tell me."
"They're the local law enforcement. They're setting up a base on their Earth to police their quadrant. Earth is off in a distant corner of their Confederation," Sam said, "but it's apparently the perfect spot for a centralized peace keeping force for that area."
"So, we're working with the local cops," Jack said. "We need to keep our noses clean."
"Which means no indiscriminate blowing things up to solve problems," Sam said. "They are all unbelievably young to have been given this task, but someone in this universe trusts them to get the job done."
Jack nodded. "And there's that Bug war they are getting ready for. Doesn't look like this Confederation has a lot of assets to handle such things."
"No," Sam said. "The Serpent Clan started setting up their base thousands of years ago but something destroyed it and the survivors went native. It took the Confederation centuries to notice and a lot longer to decide what to do. If these Bugs weren't causing problems they might have taken even longer. The original Serpent Clan disappeared and the Confederation rebuilt them enough to kick start things but haven't given them a lot of support."
"So, this Confederation doesn't really care about policing efforts, just Bug fighting. Geese," Jack said. "That's cold."
"The Clan is just glad to exist," Sam said. "If they have to fight these Bugs and protect their Earth in order to rebuild their Clan they'll do it."
"If this is their typical age, they are still too young to be thrown into this mess," Jack said. "We help them and then someone needs to have a discussion with this Confederation about what they're doing."
"They had no choice," Ginny said, appearing suddenly next to them. "The Confederation isn't a government as you might think of it. It's really just a bunch of AI's coordinating relationships between different civilizations. All of the other Clans are already engaged with the Bugs in some way in their own quadrants. They're the only defense some of those really old civilizations in the galactic core have."
"You heard all of that?" Jack said.
"Yup," Ginny said. "We're well aware of the difficulty of the task ahead of us. And we don't want to miss it, it was what we were born to do. So we really do want to get home before the fighting happens. We won't live forever like our Council will so we need to hurry."
"Your Council will live forever?" Sam asked.
"Exaggeration," Joy said, appearing next to Ginny. "Full Clan have much longer potential lifespans than Earth natives. But there are gene therapies that can triple the natural lifespans of the Council of Nine. But that isn't forever. Just a long time."
"Okay," Jack said. "So they'll outlive us all."
"Some of them," Joy said. "But the Lady Air and Lady Q lead from the front so there's that."
"Lady Shadow and Lady Air are soul mates," Joy said. "So there's that also. They'll die together, if the myths are true."
"And Lady Q and the Memory," Ginny said. "Though the UST is killing us!"
"If you stopped betting on when they'll get together," Joy said, poking Ginny on the shoulder. "Then maybe something would happen."
"I've got insider info," Ginny claimed, sitting down next to Sam.
"Insider delusions," Joy retorted, joining her. "According to Lady Shadow, nothing is going to happen between those two until we defeat the Bugs."
"Maybe you can answer a question," Sam said. "I've wondered why there are no men in your Clan leadership. I've heard the names Lady Shadow, Lady Air, Lady of the Hands, and Lady Q. Is it Lady Memory or Lord Memory?"
"Lady Memory," Joy said. "Yes, the entire Council of Nine are women. Though we don't actually have nine of them at the moment."
"No?" Jack asked. "Why call it the Council of Nine if there aren't nine of them?"
"It's all part of our Clan history," Ginny said. "I'm not sure how much you know?"
"Not the whole story," Sam said.
"Janice is a history fan and likes to share," Joy said. "Let's do this together. Hey guys," she said over the public channel, "How about dinner and story time?"
"Getting a bit hungry," Harry said. "I can go for it if I'm not the storyteller."
"I'm in," Janice said.
"And we're in," Andy said.
They gathered around the small fire pit in the community room.
"Some of you may know this story told several different ways," Joy said, "this is how I learned it, as told by Lady Shadow." She paused to take a large sip from her flask.
"The early history of the Clan of the Serpent on the planet we call Earth is shrouded in mystery. Some time around two thousand years ago, the Pan Galactic Confederation directed the Clan to set up a protectorate, sort of the equivalent of a precinct, that covered this sector. In your terms they were the local peacekeepers."
"Did anyone on this planet have spaceflight at that time?" Sam asked.
"No," Joy said. "None of the civilizations in this area had spaceflight. The Confederation was concerned that they were vulnerable to pirates and other illegal elements. The plan was to police this area. So the Clan was sent. There were early reports that things were proceeding as expected and the Clan was building a presence in this area."
"No one was checking on them?" Jack asked.
"The Confederation has always been more of an advisory committee than a political entity. They don't really have their own military or law enforcement. The Clans and several other groups provide that function for the Confederation."
"How many Clans are there?" Jack asked.
"Thirteen," Joy said. "They used to be pirates and marauders in the very distant past, but at some point the Confederation convinced them that it would be better to work with them. The Clan that came to Earth was one of the smaller ones. It disappeared several hundred years after they set up their base, but communication between the Clans and Confederation was so infrequent across interstellar distances that the Confederation didn't hear about this until approximately five hundred years ago."
"So, the law enforcement for an area measured in astronomical distances disappears and they don't notice?" Sam said.
"That's what we were told," Joy said. "Lady Shadow suspects Clan politics were involved but hasn't found any proof. That they were given this corner of this galaxy to police, when there were no spacefaring nations, seemed like an attempt to get them out of the way."
"There still aren't any spacefaring nations in this part of the galaxy, except Earth," Harry said.
"Have you contacted any of the others?" Jack asked. "The non-spacefaring ones?"
"Several of them were wiped out by pirates," Ginny said. "The remaining ones are just barely out of the trees, as the saying goes. We don't have any records of contact with them."
"The Clan carries a heavy burden for that failure," Joy said. "But first we need to be at full strength again before we can do anything."
"You were going to explain why you only have women leaders," Sam said. "Although I find it refreshing."
"So, back to our tale then," Joy said, nodding. "When the Confederation noticed that the Clan was missing, though the other Clans had been complaining about it for a while by that time, long enough for the Serpent Clan to become the 'Lost Clan', they agreed to do something. Of course, there was the added incentive of Bug attacks all across the Confederation. Fortunately they had a little time to work things out."
"So what happened? You said the Clan disappeared but here you are," Jack said.
"Well, the Confederation sent one of their AI's with enough tech and supplies to reboot the Clan, if they could find some descendants or actual Clan members in the area. And they did."
"The Clan had built its base on the Yucatan peninsula," Joy said. "After it failed, for unknown reasons, the Clan intermarried with the local population. You would know of them as the Mayans. Some of their earlier cities in that area are actually based on Clan designs."
"You're probably aware of what happened to the native peoples of the Americas, like the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans. The Spanish and Portuguese adventurers conquered them, the Aztecs and Incas, or sold many of their people into slavery, like the Mayans."
"Lady Sophia, the Weaver, is directly descended from Clan nobles. She was also the last Head Priestess of the Serpent Cult before the Clan returned. She calls it the Mayan Diaspora. There are a lot of people spread all over the world with Mayan and Clan ancestors. But we're getting ahead of ourselves," Joy said.
"When the Confederation came to reestablish our Clan, they scanned the planet for descendants of the Clan. And found there were hundreds of thousands of them."
"So, no problem, pick some of them and put them in charge," Jack said. "Though I'm not sure that's how I would do it."
"Close," Joy said. "They noticed an anomaly in the data. There was a person who was pure Clan, but not Serpent Clan. So they investigated. And this person was often in the company of others who were Serpent Clan descendants, with a really high percentage of Clan genetics. So, they kidnapped them to study."
"Not sure I like that idea," Jack said. "That's something Loki likes doing."
"Well, after some serious discussion, they decided to take these four young women, and offer them the job of rebuilding the Serpent Clan. It wasn't a perfect plan but they could see no alternatives. They took each of these women, who were in prime physical shape, and evaluated them for one of the roles they'd determined was needed to rebuild the Clan."
"So, kidnap them and offer them a job? Did they have any training?" Sam asked.
"Three of them were cheerleaders," Joy said. "But not just any cheerleader. And not the kind who sing and dance. These were some of the best athletic cheerleaders in the country. Their coach was one of the few women to ever complete Seal training, and was a former member of one of your Spy organizations. So they were tough. And scary."
"And beautiful," Janice said, sighing. "Words do not exist to describe them."
"She's exaggerating," Harry said.
"No I'm not. Right Andy?" Janice said. "You've spent time with all of them."
"No opinion," Andy said, to general laughter.
"Anyway, they started training them, in the training pods at first. They were from Ohio, in the Americas. They had no idea about Mayan or Clan culture or language."
"Not true!" Janice said. "Lady Air's family was Mayan, though everyone thought she was just Latina. Every summer she'd spend time with her mother and Mayan relatives. One of whom is Lady Sophia."
"Okay, Lady Air grew up steeped in Mayan culture, but that isn't the same thing as Clan, not really. We use the same language, have some of the same goddesses but we're different." She paused to take a drink. "So, where was I? Oh yeah training. They trained Lady Air to be a spacer. She learned everything a spacer needs to know about flying ships, preparing ships, building ships, and eventually everything she needed to know to run the Fleet, which didn't actually exist until she built it."
"And then there was the Lady of the Hands, also known as Lady Q. She'd already been a leader. She'd been captain of their cheerleading squad. She could get things done with just a look. So they trained her to lead an army."
"Us!" Ginny and Harry shouted.
"Yes, them, though most of her troopers are better behaved. They took a cheerleader and trained her to be a deadly instrument of the Clan. We haven't had any full scale wars yet but they say she's already the best Serpent Clan War Leader in several millennium. You really don't want to face her in battle if you can possibly avoid it."
"Lady Shadow was the 'ringer' in the pack," Joy said. "Clan, but not Serpent Clan. Her family had crash landed on Earth when she was very young. She was raised by her family's AI's. Before she was twelve she knew 5 different forms of Clan martial arts. And she was taught the Clan way. She went to human school to be with her friends. Lady Air calls her a scary super-ninja. You can't hide anything from her."
"The final member of the four is the Memory. She wasn't a cheerleader and at the time of their kidnapping wasn't really friends with any of the others. But she was the captain of their Glee club. She has an amazing ability to learn about cultures and she's the Clan historian. She claims to be the Clan's first bard. She's also our ambassador."
"One of the things, that I believe I mentioned, is that this clan learning happens in learning pods that exist in a separate time stream, in a manner of speaking. Between the time the four were kidnapped, and offered the job of rebuilding the Serpent Clan, was five years. They were missing for five years! But in the pods it was a lot longer time. Lady Shadow needed the least amount of time to become ready. She was already Clan trained. She knew the basics. Lady Q was in there the longest. Lady Shadow says Lady Q was a pacifist, no matter what people thought of her as head cheerleader, and it took them a long time to turn her into the warrior she is now. Lady Air and the Memory were in there approximately the same time."
"And they were offered leadership of the Clan, understanding that they would have to do a lot of the work themselves in the beginning. And they said yes."
"Okay, so those four make up the original Council of Nine, and you've mentioned a 'Lady Sophia', who if I understand correctly is actually Lady Air's cousin. So that's five. What of the other four?
"Mother was crazy," Ixchel whispered loudly. "We always kept a close eye on Mother."
"Yes," Joy said. "The Council Mother was always crazy. We don't know why, she just was. There is some speculation that the psychic powers that a Mother had drove her slightly off balance. We sort of have a Mother but not completely."
"We found an old Clan ship, and she was in it in stasis," Ginny said. "I was on that mission."
"Rumour has it that the Council has her stashed away somewhere until she can recover from her craziness. She wasn't the Mother of the original Serpent Clan when it came to Earth. Her mother was, and there was some sort of fight between that Mother and the rest of the Clan Council. It didn't go well for any of them. And it drove her really mad with grief."
"So, six then, what about the other three?" Jack asked.
"We have people fulfilling the roles of the other three but none of them are qualified to join the Council as a full member, for complicated reasons," Janice said. "
"Okay, that explains the Council. How did you go from four recruits to a full Clan?" Sam asked.
"We don't actually have a full Clan," Joy said. "We're almost at quarter strength now but we can't grow any faster given our resources."
"So are all of you descended from the Lost Clan Mayans? You don't really look like it, no offense," Jack said.
"No, the four of us are full blooded Clan," Janice said. "Just as the Council of Nine are full clan, though they had a little help initially to get there."
"It's the answer to why we have no men in the Clan, except for those who are descended from the Mayans. We said we don't believe in clones," Janice said, "But not because we hate the technology or can't get it to work. It's a philosophical issue. But we will use cloning tech if necessary. And rebuilding the clan? It was."
"But you're not clones," Sam said, clearly puzzled.
"Not a bit, but we were 'grown' in test tubes, using genetic material from the four original Council of Nine."
"I think we came out okay," Ginny said. "In theory it was all random. But some of our people share really distinctive traits with the Council, even though the technique used simulates a five generation separation between them and us."
"So, they're your great-great-great grandmothers?"
"That's one way to look at it, but we don't. We grew up in the learning pods and had ordinary Clan childhoods, even if they happened faster than someone who didn't grow up that way.
"So, you are all test tube babies," Sam said.
"Not me, or Miranda, and certainly not Ixchel," Andy said. "And it wasn't something the AI's in charge of this revival project took lightly. Thousands of new Clan members, all women, and all actual Clan members."
"The cloning technique they used has several drawbacks," Joy said. "The only genetic material that seems to survive the entire process is Clan female. We have no men because the situation required a technique that male genes could not survive."
"Huh," said Sam. "That's unexpected."
"It makes some things more difficult," Joy said. "We have no men, though they would't be in leadership roles anyway, but we're building our base on a planet dominated by men. Some of them don't take us seriously."
"I can see that happening," Sam said, grimacing. "So, you're rebuilding your population of Clan using virtual reality. How long will that continue?"
"Only the Council really knows," Joy said. "We'll keep growing until we are at least full sized. But even with the time dilation techniques we're using, it does take time for each generation to go through the process. When the Bugs show up we should be almost at full battle strength."
"So, we know about the Council, we know how your population has grown from nothing to quarter of a Clan in strength. But how did the whole arriving on Earth happen? Did you just show up one day and say 'We'd like our land back and by the way we're the new cop on the beat'?"
"It was a little more clever than that," Andy said, after the others stopped giggling. "Does your world have legends about a Mayan apocalypse? Some sort of world ending event?"
"Yes, we do actually, though that seems to be mostly due to a mistranslation of some ancient Mayan carvings," Sam said.
"Well, we had the same thing, and the Council of Nine decided to use it to their advantage. They planned everything to happen the night of the supposed apocalypse. They set up a force field around the entire peninsula and reclaimed it for their use. Everyone outside freaked out. Suddenly there was this huge, kilometers high silver bubble where one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Americas used to be."
"We were too young to participate," Joy said, "but watching it was very entertaining. Nobody inside or out knew what was happening. And the Council said all communication with the outside had to be in Classical Mayan. The expert in that Mayan dialect thought everyone was crazy and didn't quite believe them. And there were spies running around trying to sneak in, or out if they were already there."
"They started clearing out all of the drug dealers, and Lady Shadow started buying out all of the hotels and casinos owned by non-local companies. She likes buying property," Janice said.
"She could have just taken it," Jack said. "Why pay for it?"
"Good public relations," Janice said. "If they'd just taken everything we wouldn't have found it easy to get allies."
"A little bribery helped," Joy said. "Some of our tech was shared with companies in several countries. Not a lot of it but enough to advance scientific research substantially, and to jump start some of the tech we'll need before the Bugs come."
"So, use existing planetary resources to fight the Bugs?"
"That's one way of putting it. We do have nanite based facilities out in the asteroid belt and a few other places for manufacturing thing this Earth can't produce yet. But local tech helps the economy."
"So, that's an interesting story," Jack said. "Anything else we need to know?"
"That pretty much covers it," Joy said. "In broad outline. I'm sure there were a lot of details that I missed or that were kept a secret by the Council."
"Like Lady Sylvester," Harry said. "I worked with her for several months. A very scary woman, even though she's non-Clan."
"Who's Lady Sylvester," Sam asked.
"She was their cheerleading coach," Harry said.
"The Seal?" Jack asked. "I've heard of several women surviving Seal training, but they were transferred to one of the alphabet soup agencies before we could recruit them to the SGC."
"She runs our internal police force," Harry said. "Very tough, very no-nonsense. Rumour has it they want to elevate her to the Council but the AI's won't allow it. She has no Clan blood so some things wouldn't work for her. But she's awesome. "
"Sounds like there's some friction between your Clan and these AI's," Jack said.
"Because we aren't at full strength, there are some rules we have to follow that a fully functioning Clan wouldn't be subjected to. But there are work arounds," Joy said. "Lady Shadow is really good at that."
"Time to call it a night," Jack said, yawning. "These old bones need some sleep."
"You're not old, sir," Sam said, helping him to his feet. "Just well preserved."
"Gee, thanks Carter, you know how to make a guy feel better," Jack said. "Just dig a hole and roll me into it."
"We still like you Colonel," Harry said. "You don't get a blacked out service record because someone spilled a bottle of ink. You have to be pretty hardcore for that to happen."
"It's all fake, kid," Jack said. "They use it to scare the recruits."
"Don't believe him," Sam said. "I've seen the un-blacked out version."
"That was in a time that didn't exist," Jack said. "Time travel can play tricks on reality and memory."
"You've got experience with time travel?" Joy said. "Did you try to kill Hitler?"
"No," Jack said. "We tried to avoid paradoxes like that. No matter how horrible things under a tyrant might be, we don't have the right to change the past."
"You could make things worse," Sam said. "Too much of time and history is interrelated. Small changes may have very negative effects."
"Like that story were someone killed a butterfly millions of years ago and when they got back to their time everything was different," Andy said. "The Confederation bans time travel for a reason. Though Lady Shadow found a loophole when we came to rescue Miranda."
"Really?" Sam said. "A loophole in your Confederation's time travel rules or a loophole in time travel."
"The portal connecting our worlds had temporal effects. Sort of like Loki's lab problem, but on a smaller scale. We had to modify our tech to travel through the portal and not be affected by any temporal energy and to insert us into the correct time," Andy said. "And no, I can't say more about it than that, the science was way beyond me."
"How do you know there were temporal issues?" Sam asked.
"What year was it when Loki kidnapped us?" Joy asked.
"Two thousand ten," Sam said.
"In our universe, Lady Miranda's plane disappeared in two thousand nine. The Mayan apocalypse, the one the Clan used to repatriate the Yucatan, occurred in two thousand twelve. When we went to rescue Miranda, it was two thousand seventeen, five years after we arrived. And only five more until the predicted appearance of the Bugs," Joy said. "The timelines don't quite match."
"Do you have an explanation?" Sam asked, resisting Jack's attempt to get her to go with him. "Stop it," she said, swatting him.
"It's late, talk about all this timey-whimey stuff tomorrow," Jack said.
"Ha! I knew you watched something other than the Simpsons," Sam said.
"The Simpsons are cool," Jack said. "Though I don't agree that bow ties are cool."
"Jack!" Sam said, "stop it!"
"He's funny," Janice whispered loudly to Harry.
"What was the loophole," Sam asked, trying to steer the conversation back.
"The portal is a naturally occurring phenomena," Andy said. "The Confederation time manipulation edicts didn't cover that because they'd never seen it happen naturally."
"Bet they will now," Joy said, grumbling.
"How does this affect how we got here through the Gate?" Sam asked. "How did the Ascended, that we believe sent us here, know to watch out for the time difference?"
"Can't answer that," Joy said. "I can theorize but you aren't going to like it."
"How so," Sam said.
"They must have used our time signatures to direct the Ring to a specific time," Joy said. "To send us to the right time."
"Time signature?" Sam said.
"Oh yeah," Joy said. "That's something the Confederation did share with us. It's possible to pinpoint the time origin of a time traveller. The energy of a specific time permeates your energy core. Sort of like rings on a tree. But you can also use it to detect the places in time someone has been. Comes in handy. Or not in this case."
"So, if you changed time…" Sam said.
"You'd get lost because the time signature wouldn't be valid," Joy said.
"So, no messing with time, kids," Jack said. "We want to get back to the right place."
"Definitely," Andy said. "But we can adjust for the time difference. Lady Shadow's techs have it all figured out."
"So, no worries," Joy said. "Really."