Author's note: A few people noticed a mistake that I made in the previous chapter. During the altercation in the storage room, I mentioned Anders as one of the four Cylons present there. Well, it appears that in my long hiatus of this story I forgot that I already placed Anders on the Cylon ship with the other models. So, keep that in mind and try to forget that I mentioned it in the previous chapter, as he couldn't be on the Galactica. Sorry about that. I may change it soon, but for now, this will have to do.
Thanks to my beta, and I hope you all will enjoy this latest chapter as well.
Jack stood in the starboard hangar of the Odyssey, waiting for a tardy Jackson. This was to be the first formal meeting between Earth and the Colonials, and even though it was not expected to be anything special nor a meeting where anything would be signed, it would still be proper to show on time.
A few wars have finally been concluded. The most important among them was, without a doubt, the end of the Ori terror, both in this and in the Alterran galaxy of origin. Without that threat hanging over their collective heads, like an axe ready to fall, the Terrans were now in a condition to turn their attention to other troubling situations in the galaxy that had previously been deemed somewhat less of a priority. Namely, the Colonials and their creation, the Cylons, as a prime example.
"Finally!" Jack shouted as he noticed Daniel walk through the hangar doors.
"Sorry, Jack. I got into a discussion with the captain," Daniel replied.
"Yeah-yeah, I don't care. Just get in," Jack said, motioning with his hand for him to speed up and finally enter the puddle jumper.
Daniel increased his pace, quickly entering the flying vehicle. Jack followed, pushing the button that closes the rear hatch as he went deeper inside towards the pilot seat.
"What is this doing here?" Daniel asked, pointing at the vase that was carefully placed inside a box meant to prevent it from breaking by a fall.
"This is something I'm gifting the Colonials with," Jack replied.
"Jack! This amphora is a more than four-thousand-year-old archeological find of great importance!" Daniel shouted, incredulously.
"I know, Daniel. If it wasn't, there would be no point in gifting it to them, would it?" Jack added, smartly.
"We can't give away an archeological find in such pristine conditions. This amphora is priceless."
"Daniel, stop being so stingy about your pots. If it helps to get through these people's thick skulls the point that we are not the Thirteenth Colony, its value will increase tenfold, I assure you," Jack said, watching as Daniel was mumbling something he couldn't hear, but certainly wasn't anything praiseworthy.
Jack sat in the pilot's seat while Daniel remained standing, which wasn't strange at all when you flew on a craft that negated any feeling of acceleration. As Jack touched the controls, the frontal panel obediently lit up. The engines followed suit only seconds later. Since he had turned into a full-blown Alterran, driving this thing had become a breeze.
The nimble puddle jumper rose from the floor of the hangar bay, turning slightly in order to point straight at the middle of the exit. It sped out of the Daedalus class cruiser for the short trip that would take it closer to Picon's orbit. Now that they weren't under the cruiser's cloaking field, the Colonials would be able to detect them soon enough.
"Better contact them before they start on us with some target practice," Daniel said, almost as if he read his mind.
Jack tapped a few buttons on the console, "This is Terran spacecraft PJ-0037 carrying two Council members from Earth for the agreed upon meeting. Please acknowledge receipt of this message and give final instructions for landing."
It took a while for the reply to come back. "PJ-0037, this is Picon aerial control. We acknowledge receipt and instruct you to land as scheduled in front of the Presidential Palace. Landing pad three is available."
"Acknowledged Picon aerial control. We will do as you instructed… just how am I to distinguish landing pad three from, let's say landing pad two? I wouldn't want to cause an interplanetary incident because I landed on the wrong pad, you know, simply because I didn't know how you write the number three," Jack asked, quickly seeing the dumbfounded expression on Daniel's face. "What?"
"Are you seriously asking that while I'm beside you? Do you really think that I don't know how their number three looks like?"
"Daniel, it is the job of Colonial aerial control to think in advance that a visitor from far away may not use the same alphabet or numerals as they do. We need to teach these people from the start," Jack replied.
"Okay, that actually makes sense," Daniel replied.
"PJ-0037, this is Picon aerial control. We apologize for the vague instructions. If observed from above the Presidential Palace, landing pad three is the one on the left, landing pad two is on the right, while landing pad one is in the center."
"Picon aerial control, thank you for the clarification. PJ-0037 will begin its final approach in approximately five or six minutes," Jack said as he dived towards the planet's atmosphere. He just needed to cross the two hundred miles in around five minutes.
"You're pushing it, aren't you?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm pushing it," Jack replied. "I've been cooped up in my office for too long. Let me enjoy this rare occasion of flying something for a while, even if it is just this brick."
"As you know, this brick if pushed can achieve Mach 4 inside a planet's atmosphere at sea level. Not many Earth fighters can achieve that speed, and higher it flies, greater the speed it can achieve. After all, it is space capable and a lower pressure doesn't negatively affect its engines. However, this is not my point. I'm more concerned about you terrorizing the Colonials for no good reason. Once you reach lower altitude, especially above urban areas, please slow down to below the speed of sound, okay?" Daniel pleaded.
"Yes, Daniel, I'm not crazy. I don't want to pull people's roofs off of their houses," Jack replied, a little peeved.
"Just making sure."
The descent was quick and uneventful. If the Colonials were planning to have some kind of escort for them, that must have changed when he had decided to push the bird to above Mach 4 for the better part of the atmospheric reentry. As promised, once he neared the ground, he slowed down to below Mach 1. He was coming from the side that faced straight at the landing pads and the Presidential Palace behind them. It meant the landing pad he needed to land on was on his right instead of left. He slowed down until he stopped right above pad three. Then he turned the ship by a hundred and eighty degrees so that the ramp would open directly facing the palace and the people that were already waiting. To his surprise, one of those waiting was President Nagala.
It was a good sign.
Nagala watched as the strange craft made the last few corrections before touching the ground. Without any doubt, this was the strangest spacecraft he had ever seen. Why would anyone make it rounded and tubular was beyond his understanding. He made a mental note to ask whoever piloted that craft for some explanation on the craft's design. The same as asking them who gave them a flying license. Even at full throttle, the two Vipers were still too far out to ease into the same trajectory as the Terran craft.
There simply wasn't enough time.
The ramp was slowly lowering, with two people standing just inside and waiting. One was pushing some strange vase in the hands of the other, while the other was pushing the thing back at the first man. They were apparently arguing about something concerning that vase. As they saw the ramp lowered, they must have quickly come to a satisfactory compromise, since they stopped arguing. They came out of the rear, quickly approaching him and the rest of the entourage. At the beginning, someone else should have greeted them, as his security had stated that it would be too dangerous for the President to wait outside when an alien craft was landing. However, he was adamant that showing fear was disrespectful and cowardly – the cowardly part was bothering him even more - so he decided to storm outside to great dismay of his security detail. Of course, since he went outside, the other twelve people, the members of their Quorum, had to do the same because they didn't want to look bad in the eyes of the Terrans and of the rest of the Colonials, especially since everything was being recorded for posterity and in time it would be shown to the public. This, after all, was a monumental occasion, and the people who were there when it all went down would be immortalized.
Nagala stepped in front of the two people. "I'm President Nagala of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. I'm glad that we are finally able to meet."
"I'm Daniel Jackson, a member of the Terran Council. This is Jack O'Neill, the presiding member of our Council. It is a pleasure to meet you President Nagala," the man said, proffering his hand in greetings.
He shook the man's hand, before doing the same with the other man. "Hello, nice to meet you."
"The pleasure is all mine, Mr. President," Jack added.
Nagala glanced above the man's shoulder, trying to look inside the craft. Something that apparently hadn't gone unnoticed by the man called Jack.
"Care to take a look inside? We don't mind," Jack asked.
"I really would like that, yes. As you probably know, I'm an Admiral in the Colonial Space Navy and am not estranged to spacecraft," Nagala replied.
Jack motioned to follow him, to the utter dissatisfaction of every member of his security. Without thinking twice, Nagala followed inside.
"As you can see, there isn't much to see here. It is a pretty utilitarian design after all," Jack explained.
"I see that, yet I don't understand the tubular design, with the retractable engines. It must be ten times more difficult to build something shaped like this and with a variable configuration than, let's say something more akin to our raptors. I simply don't see the point,"
"Well, the only reason why it looks the way it does is because this craft must be able to go through the Stargate."
"Stargate?" Nagala wasn't privy of the term.
"Yes, you probably know it by another name. Chappa'ai or Ring of the Gods. Admiral Cain must have sent you a report of the one she found on an inhabited planet, and by now you must have realized its function."
Nagala remembered instantly. Although, the fact that this man knew about their classified reports was of some concern. On the other hand, maybe the man didn't know about their classified reports. No, the man phrased it like a question, saying that Cain must have sent a report. He didn't know if Cain did or didn't, but he was guessing that it must have been normal procedure to do so after such a find. This meant that the information he had about Cain's mission must be from first hand. He must have spies on board her ship or they have ships following Cain's fleet. This could be a good thing. He could probably pry some information out of the man regarding Cain and maybe even Adama's whereabouts and conditions. However, this was something he would like to ask inside, or maybe that wasn't a good idea either. Maybe he should ask such questions when there weren't any Quorum members anywhere in earshot. There was also something else that was bothering him at the moment while standing inside this weird vessel.
"I understand the design now, yet there's one other thing that is bothering me?"
"What is that?"
"Where's the pilot? The lunatic who flew on an inhabited world for the first time, at Mach 4 no less?"
"Oh, that would have been me. I apologize, but I spend most of my time inside an office dealing with paperwork that threatens to bury me alive. This was a rare occasion when I can fly something, even though this craft here is not what I would have preferred. After all, before taking office, I was a general in the air force."
"You're military?" Nagala asked.
"Oh, yeah. I would venture and say that our situations are very similar, yours and mine," Jack explained.
"Does that mean that you became the presiding member of your Council unwillingly?" Nagala asked.
"Need, Mr. President. Need has forced me to, and I suppose that need has forced you as well to take the position you're currently holding."
Nagala felt strange. He was actually seeing a kindred spirit in this man. They were both military men, and they were men of action rather than of politics. "I did. The situation was such that I didn't have a choice. However, now is not the right time to discuss such matters. Let's get inside the palace so that we can begin the first in what I hope will be a series of productive meetings between our two people."
"I agree, Mr. President," the other man interjected. "There are many things that we need to discuss today."
With a nod, the three people began their trek toward the conference room, with the twelve members of the Quorum following closely behind. By chance, his eyes connected with the representative from Tauron, Mr. Cyrus. There was animosity in his eyes, he was certain of it. He only hoped the man wouldn't do something stupid in front of these people, their guests, just to spite him. He had hoped that he wouldn't need to call the Quorum for this meeting. However, the situation with the members had already been strained because of the actions of one of them. He had then promised to help the others in whatever way he could, even by doing more than what Cyrus had promised them to do after somebody from Tauron became the new president. This set of events had forced him to call them to this meeting. It would be catastrophic for their relation, one that he was trying so hard to mend when the Quorum learned about the meeting with the Terrans and wasn't told about it. He didn't need the others in the Quorum to side back with Cyrus, ever again, which simply meant no hiding of important meetings from them under any circumstances.
They had reached the large conference room with a hexagonal table placed in the center. The table had six sides, with three seats on each. He would sit on one side, while the two people from Earth would take the opposite side of the table. The remaining four sides would be filled with the members of the Quorum, all twelve of them filling all of their seats.
Everybody waited until he sat down first. Only Jack O'Neill looked unsure about why they were all waiting. More and more he was certain that that man was no politician or diplomat of any kind. He was who he said he was. A man of action who was like a fish out of water whenever in a situation such as this one.
Everybody was seated, with the two very important people staring at him to begin. That strange vase was unnerving him to no end. Why did these people bring that old piece of junk?
"Are you perhaps interested in learning the reason why we brought this artifact with us?" the man called Daniel Jackson asked.
And to think that Nagala was careful about Jack O'Neill, a man he perceived as dangerous. Maybe Daniel Jackson didn't give off the same dangerous aura as O'Neill did, but the man was dangerous in other ways. "You're very perceptive, Mr. Jackson. I barely gave a glance at that vase, yet it was enough for you to understand that I was interested in knowing why you have it."
The man smiled. "Actually, that's the fourth time I observed you looking at it since we came out of our spacecraft. Also, I think most people in a situation such as this one would be interested in knowing what we are doing with an old amphora of all things. Well, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't have brought it here since we treasure our archeological findings very much, but my colleague here said that I was too stingy when artifacts like this one were concerned. You see, this artifact, this amphora, was found in Mesopotamia, a place on our home planet Earth. Carbon dating shows it was made during the time of the Akkadian Empire, around 4.300 years ago. I guess you're beginning to understand why we want to gift this priceless artifact to you, Mr. President."
Nagala understood, and apparently, some of the members of the Quorum who have a little of gray matter somewhere in their skulls understood as well. At least that was if their shifting uncomfortably in their chairs and giving strange looks at each other was any indication. Still, too few of them understood the significance, in his humble opinion.
"I don't understand," Cyrus said.
One thing was to not understand – not a good thing for sure, but not the end of the worlds either – and another was to tell everyone in the room that you didn't. Nagala faced Daniel Jackson, completely disregarding the moron sitting on his left. "The Akkadian Empire you said?"
"Yes, Mr. President. They were a primitive civilization to our current standards. They were still in the Bronze Age. Also, they were not the first or the only civilization in that region either."
The man was beating around the bush on purpose. He knew that it would have a better effect if he weren't the one coming out flat saying that this was proof that they are not the Thirteenth Tribe. The meeting had barely begun, yet with these people, he was already sweating bullets. If he makes the wrong move, this meeting could go in the wrong direction very fast.
"Why are you beating around the bush so much, Daniel?" Jack O'Neill suddenly spoke, looking annoyed. "Just tell them that it means that 4.300 years ago there were numerous civilizations everywhere on our planet and that that contradicts their theory that their Thirteenth Colony arrived – what? - almost a thousand years later and colonized our planet?"
There was a murmur around the table, with Lira from Geminon turning completely pale. Yet, this was not what was troubling him the most. Why did Jack come out with everything the other was slowly building up to and just blurted it out? Were these two planning all this? Some sort of plan to unnerve them or throw them off with their strange ways of conducting this meeting? What was it?
"I was beating around the bush for a reason, Jack. One you ruined." Daniel replied to his colleague, angrily as it appeared.
"Oh, sorry about that, Daniel. You were building up the suspense before the great revelation. You know that I don't get this subtle stuff. I'm a simple man. Say what you mean; mean what you say, that's how I roll."
These two were arguing. The quorum had also begun arguing among each other. About what, he wasn't sure. Was it about these two people, or was it because of what they said? What was he supposed to do? Did he need these two to stop bickering or let them finish? Ah well, he was a soldier after all, and soldiers were not known for their diplomacy.
"Are you two done?" Nagala said loud enough for everyone to hear clearly.
Everybody in the room stopped talking, with all eyes now turned towards him. He didn't care about the eyes of the members of the Quorum. All his attention was on those two. How would they react? Did he just make a mistake that will cost the Colonies a lot of blood? They were both silent, then both spoke at the same time.
He didn't expect this kind of answer in a million years. They were apologizing for their bickering. It was incredible. They were possibly the most powerful people on a planet that by all indications had technology far ahead of the Colonies, which should indicate that they could force the Colonies to do whatever they wanted, yet they were standing in front of him and apologizing because they were bickering about a stupid vase. These people were definitely weird.
Yet, he couldn't say that he disliked them.
"No harm was done. Let's just proceed with the point Mr. Jackson was trying to make, shall we?"
"Of course," Jackson continued. "As you just heard, on Earth there were civilizations prior to the time you think the Thirteenth Colony left Kobol in order to reach Earth. We also told you we were bringing a data disc compatible with your systems, Yes?"
"Yes, we have prepared everything you need to show us the content of the data disc on the view screen behind you." While Nagala was explaining, his assistant was already lowering part of the wall that uncovered a large 80-inch screen behind. He brought a small flat and squared device no more than three inches in size and put it on the table in front of the two dignitaries from Earth. "You can place the disc you brought inside."
Daniel gave Jack a look. "Jack?"
Jack gave a look at Daniel. "Daniel?"
"The disc, Jack," Daniel said, with a hint of frustration.
"What about it?"
"You have it, Jack," Daniel answered, with an angry, thin smile forming on his face.
"No, I don't," Jack disagreed.
Daniel waited while taking a long breath. "Check your pockets."
"Oh, for the love-" Jack was tapping his pockets, probably in search of the device. "Oh, here it is. I forgot I've had it."
He put the device inside, and almost immediately, the screen came to life. There was a directory with what were probably pictures if he could tell from the small thumbnails. The assistant pressed the button and the first picture enlarged.
"Oh, yes, this is the first picture that I wanted to show you. As you can see, this is a list of sovereign countries on our planet."
Nagala was looking and if he wasn't misinterpreting the data, there were more than two hundred names. "Are you telling us that there are more than two hundred countries on one world alone?"
"Yes, Mr. President. And that is not all. On Earth, there are around 7.500 spoken languages. If the past is not enough to convince you, as it wasn't for Vice President Roslin when I tried to explain the same thing, then maybe the current situation on Earth can. Mr. President, on Earth there are so many civilizations because humans didn't start from one colonization group that landed on our planet at a certain point. Our planet has such diversity because from ancient times civilizations sprang into existence without knowledge of one another. This is also why we have so many languages. From this, you can see the clear difference between you and us. You don't have so many countries and languages because you all came on these twelve worlds together, and you all already talked the same language, wrote with the same alphabet and most importantly you already knew about each other's existence even though you landed on different planets.
"On Earth, our shared history with other living beings takes us back millions of years into the past where we can still find traces of our ancestors with whom we share more than 99% of our DNA. Even though we are not descendants of animals like the chimpanzee," the man said at the same time as the next picture showed some animal with two legs and two arms, the first being Nagala has ever seen that wasn't a human, yet that had hands. "We share more than 98% of our DNA with that…"
The man kept talking, but to him, it felt like he was in a daze. He understood that the man was now talking about the variety of humans on Earth by showing some pictures, but many were with facial features the likes he had never seen before. The man was explaining that, as continents on their planet drifted apart, some humans became isolated and consequently differences arose between the various groups, sometimes even up to .1% of their DNA. Even Nagala, a simple soldier, knew that continental drift didn't occur in a matter of years, or thousands either. Here, they were talking about millions of years.
The man was now talking about apples. How there were around 7.500 different types of apples on Earth. This apparently was also meant to somehow show them how they all didn't originate from Kobol. He glanced at the other Kobolians in the room, trying to gaze into their minds. He wanted to know what they were thinking at this exact moment. And the worst part was that he thought he had succeeded. They all probably thought something like, what was the crap these two people were spitting at them. None of them cared about apples, animals with hands, ancestry, and much less about continental drift. Maybe if the room were filled with anthropologists, this would turn into the greatest success ever. However, these people were far from being anthropologists, or scientists of any kind. To these people, what was written in the Scrolls told the truth and the whole history of humankind they would ever need.
This wasn't going the right way.
"I'm sorry for interrupting, but I think that I heard quite enough about the history of your planet and even some facts of your present. However, I fail to see the point of this lecture," he said it and thought that Daniel Jackson would give him a lengthy explanation. However, that wasn't what happened next.
Instead, the other one responded.
"I completely agree, Mr. President. This was one of the most boring lectures I had the displeasure of attending to in my entire life," Jack O'Neill said and strangely, the other one didn't say anything this time, which was very strange. "Yet, it was necessary. It was necessary because we needed to give you indisputable facts that Earth isn't the Thirteenth Tribe and while we did that, to watch your reactions to what we were telling you. I must say, from your faces I can tell that some of you were probably asking themselves what kind of drug we are on, while others hoped we would soon stop spitting such sacrilege that is clearly against anything the Scrolls from Kobol tell on how humanity began and where."
'These people are not stupid, not in the slightest!' Nagala said to himself.
They started with their little bickering, by apologizing, and with O'Neill having trouble finding the disc with the data, even though now he was certain he knew exactly which pocket the disc was in. Then, they proceeded with a lengthy and boring presentation in order to loosen up the people in the room, as if suddenly they were not attending a very important meeting anymore, but rather some informal lecture of no consequence. All this so that the people in the room would begin showing what they truly thought through their body language. Nagala had to admit, he missed it too, the fact that while Daniel was speaking incessantly and showing them pictures, the dangerous one was watching them all, every reaction and every movement they would make, like a hawk.
These people were not weird, not weird at all. These people were dangerously smart and…
…he missed seeing it in time.
"I see," Nagala said a little deflated. From the expression of the other twelve Kobolians in the room, they still didn't get what had just happened. "I must say, this was masterfully played."
"Thank you," Jack replied. "And I am sorry we had to do it this way, but we really needed to know. When we meet new people, people that want something from us, they usually cheat, hide facts, embellish things or do whatever they have to in order to achieve their goals. With this, we now know where we stand."
"And where is that exactly?" Nagala asked.
"Well, for one, we are glad that you're the current president of the Colonies. We believe that in time a dialog can be established between our two people, with you or someone as open-minded as you are in charge," Jack answered, pausing for a moment. "That's the good part. The bad part is that most of you are still unable to understand the one important truth that is vital if our two people are to have any kind of relation. The Earth has its sovereignty and that should never be put into question. We never were and never will become one of your colonies. Without understanding that, all we can achieve is to send postcards on important dates on our respective calendars to each other and that is it," Jack concluded. "Now, I think that our little meeting is over for today, so, Mr. President, I believe you would like to accompany us to our shuttle so that you can ask us a few more questions in private before we leave."
Nagala jumped at the opportunity. This meeting was a bust, but it appeared that this man had understood that he wanted to ask him a few questions concerning the people traveling to find Earth. "Of course." He got on his feet before turning to his fellow Kobolians in the room. "Please wait for me here. I'll be back shortly so that we can discuss things further."
Walking briskly, he was leading the way out of the palace. It would take them around five minutes to reach the landing pad, so he had that much to ask the right questions. "How are my people?"
"Uh, good choice of question, Mr. President," Jack replied while smiling. "They are mostly fine."
"Yes, mostly. In my opinion, Cain should be shot for incompetence - but hey! - that's just my opinion."
"May I ask why?" He wasn't sure if he should be asking. He knew Cain well, and he knew what a walking disaster that woman could be sometimes.
"First off, while chasing Admiral Adama's fleet, she engaged several basestars and lost four ships in the process. This alone should have put her on trial for negligence. However, if that was all I wouldn't be angry at her so much beside the anger every commander feels when another gets people under her command needlessly killed."
"So, what is the reason you're angry at her?"
Jack sighed. "A few months ago, the combined fleets, Adama's and Cain's, encountered an opponent that was far more powerful than they could have imagined at the time. They would have ended up being shredded to pieces, which was why the commander of the Prometheus decided to go against his orders of only monitoring them without interfering. Anyway, to make the story short, the battle was fierce, but eventually, the Prometheus won. Although, not before sustaining crippling damage."
"I am sorry to hear that. Were there lives lost?" Nagala asked, genuinely worried.
"There were, unfortunately. Three people died and more were injured, but that is the price of war. It also isn't the reason why I was angry at Cain."
"What was the reason then?" Nagala asked, hoping the Gods would hear him and even if they never again listened to anything he had to say, to at least this one time grant him a wish. Simply for Cain to not have done something stupid.
"She ordered the captain of our crippled little ship that risked destruction for them to surrender because, in her head, she saw how powerful enemies in this galaxy are and the only way to survive was to get the technology needed to fight them on an equal footing, by any means necessary."
"Frak indeed," Jack responded. "Anyway, Cain and the captain of the Prometheus came to words. She threatens to fire on them, our captain tells her that he would show everybody how Icarus felt in his last moments by launching a last resort one gigaton nuke that would have sent everybody in the vicinity to the afterlife rather than to surrender."
"Gods have mercy," Nagala replied, with his heart already in his throat.
"Adama tried to convince here to stop, he even ordered his ship to stand in front of ours to shield it from Cain, but he was too distant to reach it in time. Cain fired once, then again… and then the Asgard came."
"The Asgard?" Nagala asked uncertainly.
"Yes, Mr. President. They are allies of ours who heard our distress call. By the way, they are not human. They are also not the best people to have on the bad side if you know what I mean."
"I think I do. What happened next?"
"Well, the Asgard ship is ten times stronger that the Prometheus on a bad day. You can imagine how badly the table had turned for Cain. The Asgard wanted to blast them all to the afterlife. I think the Asgard commander wanted to test a new weapon they just installed the other day. However, the captain of the Prometheus pleaded with him to let your people go in peace, rather than in pieces. They did, with the stipulation that the people responsible for such a vile act, as attacking a crippled ship that saved them all was, need to be punished."
Nagala finally took a breath. He really thought that Jack's next sentence would have been – 'unfortunately, as a result, many of your people were righteously killed.' However, that hadn't happened. Instead, they were all still alive. "Did they?"
"Did they what?"
"Did they punish Cain?"
"Daniel! Did they?" Jack asked.
"No, the judges found her not guilty for reasons of temporary insanity," Daniel explained.
"Oh, I didn't know that," Jack responded. "Then I suggest you stay clear of the Asgard for the time being or like… ever. They have very long memories."
"When she comes back I will personally shoot her myself. I know Cain very well and she's a hothead that's for sure, but she wasn't insane, not even for a moment. She probably fooled some shrink and the judges."
"If she comes back. Emphasis on if," Jack added.
"What?" Nagala asked.
"You said when, and I said if because as things are right now, I'm not sure they will make it back. After that incident, they came in contact with yet another hostile human race. Thankfully, we informed some friends of ours to keep an eye for your people, so they did and they ended up helping them escape. Actually, scratch that. It was mutual. Your people inadvertently prevented their people on the surface of a planet from being nuked, so our friends said that they owe you one now."
"How many races are out there flying through space?" Nagala asked. This was sounding much worse than in their wildest dreams. He knew from the Tok'ra scientist that humans are out there on thousands of worlds. However, since he mentioned that they were transplanted humans from Earth that had been taken by the Goa'uld as slaves, he thought that space travel was only a distant pipe dream for them.
"Dozens for sure," Jack answered. "And they all have shields."
Bad news all around. Not only did this meeting go badly, but also the situation in the galaxy at large was even worse. They were nearing the landing pad, which meant their little talk was coming to an end. "I'm sorry our people created so much trouble for yours, and I'm sorry how this first meeting went."
"As I said, Mr. President, we like your open-mindedness and we see someone with whom we may work together. It's just that, too many people here have this strange notion that we are the Thirteenth Tribe and they simply can't shake it for some reason. Why is that?"
"It is written in the Sacred Scrolls that the Thirteenth Colony went to Earth. And what is written in the Scrolls, to the majority of my people is the word of the Gods."
"Even if that is true, there is a fundamental flaw in your thinking," Jack replied.
"Let's hear it then," Nagala said. After the lecture Daniel gave in the palace, this one should be a breeze.
"Daniel! How many worlds did we visit that told us their world was named Earth? Three or four?"
"I think four. Of course, they all use their own word that translated means the planet's soil, just like in our case, and in yours. We all have a different word that means soil, dirt or earth. This is what they all have in common," Daniel explained.
"How these other worlds came to call their planet Earth, I have no idea," Jack added. "However, why do you think that our Earth is THE Earth and not some other… Earth? Also, your scrolls say that the Thirteenth Tribe went to Earth. Does it say if they reached it? Also, how do your Scrolls know the name of the planet the Thirteenth Colony is going to colonize, even before they went? I'm a little confused by a number of inconsistencies we have here, for your people to with such certainty come to the conclusion that we are the Thirteenth Tribe. With no room for error whatsoever."
Nagala was feeling dizzy. He was still trying to process the fact that there were possibly four or more other planets called Earth somewhere out there. And what about the rest? Did the 13th Tribe tell the others that they were going to look for a planet where they could plant new roots in its soil, and then somehow it became the journey to find the planet called Earth? Then it could have very well came out written in the Scrolls that they went in search for planet Dirt, Mud, Soil, Clay and of course Earth as it indeed had happened. Variations of the same thing where only one could be chosen. The last fact the man from Earth told them was that nowhere in the Scrolls had been written that the long lost Tribe had found Earth. They could have perished, or maybe even have colonized a different planet and called it Earth. How would they even know they found Earth? Planets don't tend to have plaques with their names engraved on them for humans to know which planet they reached.
He was gaining a massive headache out of this meeting, and he would still have to spend more time with the Quorum to discuss what the aftermath was going to be.
"Mr. President, I think that the sooner you start thinking about this galaxy as a very large place, filled with wonders you don't know or understand, the better. There are many human and nonhuman races in this corner of the universe and all have the intention of staying," Jack said as he pushed some button that forced the ramp to begin closing the rear of the strange ship.
"Yes, human and nonhuman. That is yet another reason why we humans should stick together rather than being apart," Nagala added, half absentmindedly.
"Yes! Togetherness! That's a very good thing. However, your argument doesn't really work on me," Jack said.
"Why not?" Nagala asked, already having trouble seeing the man because of the ramp rising higher.
"Because I'm not human!" the man shouted as the ramp closed the small craft.
It didn't take long for the craft to begin buzzing. Some strange sound Nagala couldn't identify. It wasn't the sound engines usually made, yet in this case, it seemed that was what the sound was. The craft slowly rose from the ground and turned by hundred and eighty degrees. The two very strange people were waving at him through the glass window, just before the craft flew over him.
He waited a little longer, not moving.
"WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?" Nagala shouted as much as his lungs allowed him to, trying to vent some of his quickly building frustration.
He turned and began walking back inside the palace and towards the conference room. What a clusterfrak this meeting had turned out to be. The only thing he was now certain was that these people were dangerous to deal with, and not just because of their superior technology. What worried him, even more, was how they had completely owned the meeting. They got everything they wanted, while the Colonials got confused. That was his summation of the meeting they just had. They were now more confused than before. At least he was.
Nagala entered back inside the conference room, immediately assaulted by the sound of bickering among the various representatives. They were probably trying to compare notes on what had truly transpired here today. He sat, waiting for the other people in the room to notice his presence. It took a few more moments, yet once they did, they must have realized how worried their President was.
"Mr. President, you seem disturbed," Lira, the representative from Geminon stated.
"That's because I am, very deeply," Nagala replied, still very much thinking about what to do concerning the people from Earth. "I think we need to reevaluate how we deal with these people."
"I agree, Mr. President," Cyrus added. "Such blatant lies told in the Presidential Palace. The gal of these people."
"Were they what, sir?" the representative from Libron asked.
"Were they lying?"
"Mr. President! Are you questioning the words written in the Sacred Scrolls?" Lira asked, almost sounding scared.
"I'm not, Lira. And if you think about it, the people from Earth didn't either."
"I don't understand," Lira continued.
"They just told me that during their voyage around the galaxy, they met people from four other worlds who all call their planet Earth," Nagala stated, seeing the puzzled expression on the other people in the room. "Then they asked me if our Sacred Scroll says if the 13th Tribe found Earth or if it only states that they went in search for it. They also asked me how the name Earth is even written in the Scrolls. The 13th Tribe never came back. So, how did we learn of that specific name? Was it that the 13th Tribe told us how they were going to search for new soil where to plant roots and then somehow that turned into the word earth instead of soil, and then suddenly we have the 13th Tribe flying to a planet called Earth, the Promised Land. Do you people get what I'm trying to tell you?" Nagala said, giving them a worried look.
Weren't they all just making too many assumptions about these people with no real foundation? "If I remember correctly after we found out that someone helped us beat the Cylon virus, we automatically jumped to the conclusion that it couldn't have been anyone else other than the fabled 13th Tribe since we thought that there was no one else in the galaxy beside us. At the time, we thought the Colonies were alone in the universe. However, we now know of the existence of more worlds inhabited by humans and even of nonhuman races that the Expeditionary Fleet met during their voyage. As far as the Earth is concerned, they confirmed of several instances in which the Fleet met other races."
"Mr. President, the first thing we need to decide is if we believe these people or if we think that they have lied to us," Cyrus responded. "It is clear to me that they are telling us anything that would force us to rethink or current standing towards them."
"You know, Mr. Cyrus, maybe I might think the same thing if I didn't ask myself one question first," Nagala responded.
"What question?" Cyrus asked.
"Why would they bother lying?" Nagala asked. "They are technologically more advanced than we are. They don't fear us and frankly have no reason to since we don't even know where their world is, much less have the capabilities to threaten them in any way."
Chatter erupted in front of him. Many were simply rehashing the same old mantra, not actually attempting to engage their brains at all and instead think what he had said to them in the last five minutes. Apparently, using gray matter wasn't as easy as some may think. Also, trying to talk to twelve people at once, thinking that anything useful could come out of it was a little too optimistic on his part.
He coughed in order to make the people in the room stop bickering and turn to listen to him instead. "I would like for you to take these facts I just told you and then spend a few days thinking about it with an open mind," he said, turning to Lira, the representative for Geminon. She was the most devoted follower of their religion in this room. "Lira, without infringing on anything that is written in the Sacred Scrolls and by taking into account what the Terrans told me while I walked them to their craft, is there a possibility that we made a mistake and that they actually are not the 13th Tribe? Please don't answer right away. Take a few days to think about it. We already have a scheduled meeting the day after tomorrow anyway."
She was thinking about it. "I will, Mr. President. I'll think about everything that we learned today, and without going against the Scrolls, I'll give you an answer. But, may I ask why, sir?"
"Well, as you know, our public is getting a lot of information through the news about the Terrans. They already know that the Expeditionary Fleet is searching for Earth, as the planet where the 13th Tribe went. They also know that, during some of our greatest time of need, Earth covertly helped us. Everybody in the Colonies knows that the aid we received on the nuked planets was a gift from them. Somehow, even the top-secret information that our warships were infected by a Cylon virus and were saved only through outside help also found its way to the public. I must say, our security is truly pitiful. News reporters are better spies and have a better network of informants than any of our agencies with the same job description," Nagala said, stopping abruptly. He was digressing, which was apparent on the faces of the other people in the room. "Anyhow, my point is that we need to first establish if we made a mistake with these people, and then somehow inform the public without enraging the masses. To achieve that, the minimum is to explain our mistakes without saying anything that could be construed as blasphemy. Something that goes against the written text in the Sacred Scrolls."
"Mr. President, from what you've just told us, I gather you believe that we indeed did make a mistake," Lira said.
"I think a correct way to phrase it would be, a wrong assumption at a time when we thought that the only living beings were us and the 13th Tribe," Nagala explained. "Now we know better."
Lira was thoughtful. "So, where is the 13th Colony then?"
"Not worth losing time thinking about that. Anyway, my point is that as one of our first steps, if we decide that we may have jumped the gun with the labeling of the people who helped us as the fabled Thirteenth Colony, we should hint that in the news."
"Why?" Cyrus asked. "There is nothing conclusive yet. They could still be lying about who they are."
"That possibility will exist until the day when we can walk on their planet Earth and check all these facts for ourselves. Yet, I believe that will never happen if we don't befriend them first, and we won't accomplish that if we keep calling them the 13th Tribe, of that I'm certain. Through our media, they need to see that we are contemplating the possibility that they are not who we thought they were. Then, they might decide to come back and talk to us again. As I've said it once before, when information is a concern, our security is mighty pitiful. I'm sure the news will eventually learn everything we discussed today. Also, the Terrans are not stupid. Them wanting to have our first meet in the Presidential Palace was for another reason. They wanted to fly their alien-looking craft above our city. They even agreed to fly a craft that didn't have any weapons in order to achieve their plan. No way our people missed seeing that flyer or maybe even catching it on film. Not while that man flew it like a lunatic. The public will soon know that somebody came to us. People who aren't from our world. I must admit, these people think several steps ahead, and everything they did today, they had planned. They are forcing us to rethink our current standing and they want us to do it publicly so that they know we are not simply telling them what they want to hear behind closed doors." Nagala was a strategist, and from what happened today, Jack O'Neill was a good strategist too.
"Going public with some of the information you're proposing we divulge may cause unrest," Lira said. "Is it now the right time to do it? Now that people are focused on rebuilding our worlds?"
"It is true that some revelations might have a detrimental effect on the efforts currently being done to restore the Colonies. However, we will always face this problem. We always postpone telling people things, but we all know that it will never be the right time to do it. Not today, not tomorrow and not in a year's time. In the meantime, the Earthers will stop communicating with us.
"Gentlemen, we must decide. I personally believe that we can benefit a lot from these people if we are open-minded enough and willing to concede that they are a separate race. The same way as we would want others to treat us, as our own people," Nagala replied. He was thinking about the alien currently working in the underground lab in this very building. He was thinking about what the man had told them about the Terrans, and more and more he didn't agree with him. Somehow, the story he told didn't fit what his gut was telling him about these people. He could be wrong, and if he was, the consequences could be catastrophic. However, he thought that they weren't the warmongers and ruthless schemers the Tok'ra told them they were.
"Let's decide if we want to have a relationship with these people, or if we want to isolate ourselves and even bury our heads in the sand, desperately trying not to hear or see anything that isn't agreeing with our vision of the universe," Nagala concluded, trying to open the minds of the others to other possibilities not yet envisioned because of their narrow view.
Only time would tell if he had succeeded.
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