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All In a Day's Work
The sun was bright when they stepped through the 'gate, and reflecting as it was off the fallen stones. The glare off the rubble - all that was left of outer walls and buildings surrounding the large complex - nearly blinded him as his gaze moved over the ruins. Like always, when examining ruins of Ancient Egypt, or at least influenced by those from the ancient civilization, his heart beat a little faster. He could feel the excitement well inside.
His expert eye could pick out the remains of the pylon - the impressive entrance to the temple complex. He studied the fallen stone for a moment. What the hell could have brought down a pylon? Earthquake, maybe? Or was this place attacked by a rival Goa'uld?
With a silent sigh, he acknowledged the fact that what had happened didn't really matter. Not now. He could, however, envision how the pylon had looked, how it would have towered above everything around it. The outer walls of the temple were crumbling in places, and any paint that had been on them had long ago eroded away. During its use, every wall would have been painted white, with bright colors depicting scenes of the god's life. Like all Ancient Egyptian architecture, the structure would have been awe-inspiring.
Once through the massive entry of the complex, worshipers would have entered an open courtyard, with high walls around the perimeter. Normally, it would have had sphinx statues lined up in front of those walls. The courtyard would have easily held several hundred people, all who would have been dressed in their finest linen. Ceremonies would have been held there, offerings accepted by the priests from the people who had come to pay homage to their god. Priests and priestesses would have chanted blessings, and sang songs that told of the greatness of their god. The sounds of their voices certainly would have echoed against the courtyard walls.
A wide, tall opening in the far wall would have led to the 'hypostyle' hall, where only the Pharaoh and the most important of the priests could enter. Colossal columns would have lined the huge area, standing in straight lines, painted in colors of green and blue, representations of the sacred papyrus plants. The columns supported the ceiling of the structure. He could make out the roof, with the windows that allowed light into the very centermost path, where the columns would be about seventy feet tall, and would look like papyrus plants in bloom. The roof was lower on either side of that section, where the columns were forty feet tall, and represented unopened papyrus plants. The hypostyle hall would be dark; after all, it represented a marsh…the beginning of time for the ancient Egyptians. The peripheral thought that he hoped he'd packed enough batteries for his flashlight was barely noticed.
His thoughts moved on just as his gaze continued to move over the ruins. At the rear of the hypostyle hall was a tall, ornately decorated doorway. That doorway would lead to the 'most holy of holies'. The heavy, gold-plated door directly in line with the center aisle of the hypostyle hall led to the sanctuary. Only the High Priest and Pharaoh were able to enter the inner sanctuary, where the people believed the god actually resided when visiting the people. Inside the sanctuary would be statues of the god, which his or her spirit would inhabit, and once again the walls would depict every story about that god in vivid colors. Various storage rooms, accessible by the narrow corridor that surrounded the sanctuary, were open to the highest ranking priests. Everything that the god might need was kept in those rooms…food, silks, furniture made of teak and other hardwoods, piles of gems and gold. From what he could see, most of that narrow hall and the sanctuary were intact as well. Judging by the location, the small structure to one side could only be a storage room.
Climbing through and over the debris to reach the parts of the structure that remained standing would be challenging. He pushed his glasses up, squinting against the glare, attempting to identify the glyphs he could see on one of the remaining courtyard walls.
"Look, trees," Jack said, carefully surveying the area. "I say again, we live in a very green universe."
He bit back a smile. The comment was one that Jack made often. Sometimes it was a complaint, at other times it was merely an observation. He glanced around. What looked like a Montane forest surrounded the area; full of pine trees, as well as a mixture of deciduous trees. Tall plants and short bushes filled openings between the massive trunks…obvious proof that no one had been in the area for a very long time.
"How many times do we have to point out that the Ancients seeded the universe?" Casey asked. "Has anyone else ever wondered if they were trying to recreate Earth, or if they were trying to come up with something better?"
"Never thought about it," Jack said.
"Gee, there's a surprise," Casey muttered.
"You are a smartass," was the immediate response.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you keep telling me."
"MALP didn't see anything to worry about," Jack said, tossing a look at Casey. It was obvious that he was trying not to smile. "Teal'c, you keep the Jacksons out of trouble. I'll keep the colonel company while she runs her tests."
"Why isn't Teal'c just keeping us company?" Casey asked, without hesitation.
He tried to bite back his own smile, ducked his head when Jack rolled his eyes.
"Because, Radar, you and the 'Rock Whisperer' there have a tendency to get into trouble," Jack replied with exaggerated patience.
While it was a fact that his eagerness had resulted in causing trouble a time or two, for the most part, his experience as an archaeologist prevented them from walking into traps on a regular basis. Not that Jack ever mentioned that fact. Sam's zeal to examine several obvious machines that they'd discovered on three separate planets had caused them to become trapped in a maze, dropped into a pit, and nearly electrocuted. Not that he was complaining…too loudly. There had been absolutely no clue that the traps existed. And to be fair to her, traps weren't usually commonplace in areas where such devices were used. And the whole electrocuted thing…well, no one would have expected the entire damned lab to be set up like it was. That thing had definitely been a trap! He figured that neither of them felt as guilty about their missteps as Jack would insist that they should.
"If I remember correctly, you've set off a trap or two," Casey retorted.
"Not my fault," Jack immediately responded.
"Uh huh. But it's our fault if something happens?" Casey demanded.
"Yep. Because the two of you get lost in archaeological la-la-land and don't pay attention to your surroundings," Jack said.
Now it was Casey's turn to roll her eyes. "You're annoying."
"No, that's your job," Jack smirked.
His Wife looked up at him, her expression serious. "Turn away. I don't want you to see me smacking the crap out of your best friend."
"But Teal'c and Sam can watch?" he asked, unable to keep from smiling.
"Yep. That will keep me from hitting him again," Casey explained.
"You wouldn't strike a superior officer!" Jack countered, feigning shock, the twinkle in his brown eyes revealing his amusement.
"One, I'm not in the Air Force. Two…superior, my ass. Three…in a heartbeat!"
Jack made a show of ducking behind Sam. "I could have you brought up on charges."
"Go for it. After five minutes in a courtroom with you, no jury in the world would convict me," Casey retorted.
Jack gave in and began to laugh. He reached out with the hand not holding his P90 at the ready, and tugged Casey close for a hug. "I just want to know that you and Danny are safe. I can't be in two places at once. So, Rocco draws duty to keep an eye on the two of you."
Casey hugged her CO in return, even planted a kiss on his cheek. "Just make sure your mind is on keeping Sam safe, not getting her naked." Her teammates burst into laughter at the look of shock on Jack's face.
"I wouldn't…I mean, I'm a professional…I know how to keep my mind on the mission," Jack sputtered, his cheeks turning red.
Giggling, Casey patted his shoulder. "You're a better man than I, Gungha Din. One look at Daniel's ass when he's bent over, and it's all I can do to keep from jumping his bones on the spot."
Jack looked over at him, and began laughing loudly. And his friend was probably amused by the blush he knew was covering his face; he could feel the heat in his cheeks. He was probably blushing as furiously Jack had been. Perhaps he should be upset at his Wife for such a personal confession, but his heart was pounding his pleasure at being so attractive to her against his ribs. Even his brain was pointing out the amount of love her proclamation revealed. And, he knew that his friends were aware of not only the love between him and his Wife, but the mutual desire as well.
"Okay, Rocco. Keep Radar from jumping Danny's bones so he can get some work done."
"I will attempt to do so, O'Neill," Teal'c deadpanned.
"That's all I can ask," Jack chuckled. He looked over at Sam. "Do you need this stuff right now?" he asked, nodding toward the two boxes Teal'c was still holding.
"Just a soil analyzer," Sam replied. She waited until Teal'c had set the plastic crates on the steps in front of the Stargate, then lifted the lid off the top box. She gave a smile when she found what she was looking for. "We can come back for this when I've made certain we'll actually need it."
"Works for me. We keep in visual range," Jack said to Teal'c, who nodded his understanding. "Radio contact every fifteen minutes. Let's go, we have work to do."
The team split up, Jack and Sam following what appeared to be a dry river bed; and he, Casey, and Teal'c moving toward the buildings in the distance.
He was actually surprised that Jack hadn't teased him about Casey's comment. Hadn't made comments about 'that groping thing' as Jack called it; the insatiable need to touch one another if they were in close enough proximity. Maybe, he thought, being married was making Jack a little less obnoxious. No…not even marriage can change Jack, not that much! Maybe Sam would have given him hell while they were alone - something that she'd not been able to do before they were married, what with rank and all. Maybe, now that they were able to be together, openly, Jack understood that burning need. He wasn't as concerned with why it hadn't happened as he was relieved that it hadn't happened.
"I'm sorry," Casey whispered, slipping her fingers against his hand.
"For what?" he asked gently. Trying, through his response, to let her know that he wasn't upset by her comment.
"I've just never seen Jack so…speechless…before, and I wanted to…well…I shouldn't have said what I did to him…and he was so shocked…and I felt guilty…it just sort of slipped out."
It was impossible not to smile. Casey had a wicked sense of humor. Jack seemed to trigger it randomly, usually with his own teasing comments. "I don't think I've ever seen Jack looking so disconcerted," he replied. "And…to be honest, it makes me feel good - special - that I can affect you like that."
"I was serious, you know," she said, holding his hand tightly as they began to move around large blocks of stone.
"I know." His attention was diverted by the piles of rubble off to one side of what had once been a wide avenue. It was traditional to line the street that approached a temple with statues. During the Egyptian dynasties, it had been those of the Pharaoh. This wide avenue, or what he could see of it anyway, had been lined with statues of the god the temple was dedicated to, although only a half dozen of the statues remained intact. Of those, only three were upright. And those were nothing more than torsos. So what the hell happened here? Just the passage of time wouldn't cause this much damage. There had to have been an impressive earthquake. Or a really pissed off enemy.
"You really do keep me turned on. It's like I'm always on the verge of spontaneous combustion."
He stopped, her comments bringing him out of his contemplation about the state of the ruins. He glanced around, and realized that Teal'c was a few yards ahead of them. Even if he could hear their softly spoken conversation, the Jaffa was the epitome of discretion. He held up their entwined fingers. "Just this simple touch has me burning for you," he whispered. "One touch from your soft hand and I'd have an erection so hard it would ache."
She cocked her head sideways as she studied him.
For a moment, he was afraid she was receiving a download. He was ready to drop his pack in order to hold her.
"Destiny," she whispered. "It's because we're destined to be together…created for each other."
His response was to lift her fingers to his lips, and gently kiss them. The fleeting taste of her skin against his tongue had his heart pounding harder.
"We'd better get busy. Jack will get pissy if we don't manage to get something done before the sun goes down. A few snapshots, a couple of minutes of film, at least," she said, her eyes twinkling at him.
"Right. Work first. Then we'll play." The shiver that moved over her was visible, and pleased him. It did incredible things for his ego to know that he could arouse her with just a few, simple words.
As they made their way over, around, between, and in one case, under, the large stones that had once been walls, he replayed the conversation beside the 'gate in his head. Couldn't help but chuckle silently at the memory of the look of shock on Jack's face. Which, in retrospect, had also resembled a guilty expression…at least a little bit. Which made the entire exchange even more humorous. Jack had met his match in Casey. She was just as apt to say something totally inappropriate as he was. And for the exact same reason. To tease teammates. The difference between the two, he thought, with a hint of pure pride, was that Casey would never do so unless it was just the team - she'd never say those things if the team wasn't alone. However, he couldn't count the number of times Jack's very warped sense of humor and annoyingly quick wit had left him fumbling to either explain or apologize to whomever they were talking with at the moment. How many times had Jack embarrassed him because he just couldn't keep quiet? Too many to count. Although, he admitted to himself, Jack had never…would never…say or do anything that might threaten treaty negotiations. At least, not out loud. His best friend would, however, lean over and share those thoughts in a whisper. For the most part he was able to ignore the interruptions. There had been times, however, that keeping a straight face had been the best he could do, and even that had been a struggle. Memories of such moments brought a smile to his lips.
Teal'c's voice cut through his private musings. "Daniel Jackson, I believe I have found something."
He let go of Casey's hand, and hurried to where the Jaffa stood. "Where?"
Pointing toward the ground, Teal'c indicated that the archaeologist should look down.
"Whoa." Exposed by the collapse of the building around it, a wide stone stairway led down to a shadowy landing. It looked as if another set of steps went down even further.
"I do not believe we should attempt to investigate this until O'Neill and Colonel Carter are with us," Teal'c said immediately, holding one arm out as if to prevent the archaeologist from sprinting down the visible stairs.
He looked up, toward the remainder of the temple. It would make sense to find out all he could about the complex, who it had been built by, and which god it had been dedicated to. Knowing that would give him an idea what, if any, traps might be hiding in the subterranean rooms. "I agree. Let's get in there," he said, pointing to the center of the temple complex. "I'm betting text somewhere in the temple can explain this."
"Any chance this," Casey pointed toward the stairs, "is connected to at least one of those buildings?"
"Most probably," he replied. If that were the case, there should be a hint at such hidden tunnels somewhere among the text written or inscribed on the walls. "It'll be safer to find out about any secret passages before we attempt to investigate them. If there are traps down there, I'll find warnings about them."
With a nod of satisfaction, Teal'c once again began to lead the way, his head swiveling constantly as he continued to watch for any threats.
He knew that the Jaffa would continue to monitor the area where the stairs were located. Even though he doubted that there was anything hidden in the ruins that surrounded them, it was possible that something just might be hiding within subterranean rooms.
It took another fifteen minutes before they were actually standing in front of what remained of the pylon. He carefully led the way around the massive stones that littered the ground. Piles of rubble near the falling down walls of the courtyard were all that remained of dozens of statues. In the very center of the courtyard, which was clear of debris, was a stele. Normally temples didn't have stele - obelisks weren't unusual; stele, however, were. The stone slab was at least eight feet tall, and probably four feet wide. He studied the marks for a moment, trying to identify the language. It appeared to be an ancient version of Greek. It took him several frustrating seconds to identify the dialect. Greek? In an Egyptian temple? Taking note that the stele seemed to be simple lists of rules, the 'do's and don't's' for the temple worshipers, he opted to leave the translation for later. When he found a section lower on the stele in Goa'uld, he decided to have Casey work on it while he worked elsewhere.
Hurrying forward, he stepped into the hypostyle hall. Amazingly, the ceiling above them was completely intact. The columns stood in the huge room like giant sentries. The paint on the columns was faded, time and weather had seen to that. He was already trying to decipher what he could see. He ran his finger along the wall near the doorway, reading as quickly as possible. "In the year thirty-seven of the reign of our Lord Zeus, he commanded that a great temple be erected in his honor. Workers were brought from all corners of his kingdom to carry out the work," he murmured out loud. "Well, shit."
"What?" Casey asked, lowering the video camera.
"This is a temple to Zeus."
"So why does it look like an Egyptian temple complex?"
"That's a good question," he admitted. He turned around, carefully examining the ruins he could see through the doorway. Based on the photos the MALP had taken, he'd speculated that the ruins were Egyptian. The layout was typical for such a complex, recognizable even in the disrepair in which it laid. The buildings left intact confirmed that hypothesis. The Greeks had adopted Egyptian building techniques, their buildings reflecting the symmetry of the Egyptian architectural style. But the Greeks didn't build temple complexes, complete with pylons and courtyards.
"Maybe," Casey said softly, "Zeus and the others were all part of the Egyptian pantheon. Then either Ra got pissed and kicked them out, or they decided playing second-fiddle wasn't good enough, and so they all wandered out to carve out their own empires."
There were times his Wife's observations bordered on brilliant. "That's an interesting theory," he replied. He checked facts in his mind, examining tidbits of information he'd collected over the years. "And…I think you're on to something. It would certainly fit in with our theory of the Goa'uld on Earth. It makes perfect sense that Ra would set up his 'brothers and sisters' and keep them subservient to him."
"And if those Goa'uld found out about other primitive tribes of people, why be a lesser god to one civilization, when you could be the top dog to another group?" she mused.
"Which would explain why every pantheon remained the same, in civilization after civilization," he said. He looked back at the wall. It seemed that the more they found, the more pieces to the puzzle they had. Putting those pieces together wasn't always easy. The picture being presented wasn't always pleasant. Being accurate was more important than placating their own need to keep the Goa'uld in a neatly wrapped box labeled 'The Enemy'. Being accurate afforded them an understanding of their enemy. "Each group of Goa'uld who spread out, finding other primitive people, would have adopted the local language, taken on the names of the gods of those people…assuming the 'duties' of those gods. They would have recreated those gods to fit their needs and plans."
"You've already theorized that every pantheon is based on the earliest known gods…those worshipped by the first humans," Casey pointed out.
"Theorized, yes. I mean, it makes sense, because every pantheon is the same," he replied. "And we theorize that the Ancients might have been the basis of those gods." How many times had he and Cam discussed the issue, after going through those ancient scrolls Selmak had given them…given back to them, or back to the Tau'ri, technically. Each time they'd agreed that when the Goa'uld had arrived on Earth, they'd found people already starting their journey as a true society, not just random groups of hunter-gatherers. In fact, Cam had been convinced that the Sumerians were already building their first cities when the Goa'uld arrived on Earth. His heart clenched slightly as he dealt, once again, with the loss of his friend and colleague.
"And, you also theorized that the Goa'uld didn't split up until Ra had killed Daddy El, and moved the Stargate to Egypt."
"I don't believe the Goa'uld had actually thought about playing the role of 'gods' before they arrived on Earth. If they had, we'd be finding more evidence of that…we'd be finding other groups of humans, or humanoids, who have knowledge of the Goa'uld, not just transplants from the First World. It's possible that every group of humans we've met have ancestral and DNA ties to Earth, and some just aren't aware of it." He ran his finger over the wall again, re-reading the phrases that identified Zeus as the god to whom the temple was dedicated. "Once they did pick up the idea of playing god, they spread out, possibly were responsible for the locations of so many civilizations. But at first…I think they remained in the same area, the 'Cradle of Civilization."
Casey nodded. "That would definitely explain the reason for so many myths being nearly the same, and the god pantheons being so similar."
He squinted at the top of the stele. "I think they were also starting to build up their empires throughout the galaxy as well."
"Which would explain an Egyptian-style temple complex on an alien planet, dedicated to Zeus."
He smiled. "Let's not jump to conclusions. We might find something inside that will indicate that Zeus just erased someone else's name, and put his in."
"True." She resumed filming, then lowered the camera again, a frown on her face. "This place would have to be pretty damned old…Zeus and company were tossed out long before Ra met his match in a group of disgruntled slaves."
"I agree," he replied, carefully studying the text he could see. There were three sections that had been damaged. The question was whether it was intentional damage, or simply the result of time as the complex crumbled into ruins.
While the back of his mind tried to extrapolate the reason Zeus would have for building a complex such as this one, he continued to translate the text. It was typical in that the praise for the god was profuse. And probably a complete pack of lies, he thought. There were references to the fact that the Chappa'ai had been utilized in bringing laborers, slaves for the most part - although a list of skilled workers was included. It seemed odd that the planets, at least he assumed that the names were those of the places from where the slaves had been taken, were listed. The surrounding text confirmed his supposition.
He paused for a moment. How terrified must those people have been when armored Jaffa had shown up in their villages, selecting the strongest of the men for the back-breaking work of dragging stone blocks, each weighing several tons. How many women were taken, to become whores for the Jaffa - and possibly even the workers? He knew it had been a common practice to keep the testosterone levels among the slaves low enough to prevent them from rebelling.
I hate the Goa'uld. I really, really hate the Goa'uld.
The thought was one that crossed his mind so often, he didn't always notice it. He noticed this time, and clenched one hand tightly in response to the hatred that washed over him. Every negative aspect of civilization had been a 'gift' from the Goa'uld. Slavery, in every form known to mankind, had been visited upon the people of Earth. Their peaceful lives disrupted, destroyed, when the Goa'uld had arrived. Life probably hadn't been easy for those who had barely moved out of caves…given the secrets of planting and harvesting crops and of domesticating certain animals by the Ancients, for whatever reason those Beings might have had. But the arrival of the Goa'uld… He shuddered imperceptibly. Life must have seemed nothing more than a burden when every human on the planet had been enslaved.
I so hate the Goa'uld.
When the quiet sound of movement caught his attention, he looked over at his Wife. Watched her for a moment as she carefully recorded the interior walls, which were covered with hieroglyphs. He smiled at the complete focus with which she worked; knew for fact that any footage she took would be crisp and clear, and he'd be able to translate the text in the images with ease. His fingers uncurled. His heart beat his love, and the dark thoughts that had filled his mind were pushed away.
He'd barely returned his attention to his own work when the radio on his shoulder crackled to life.
"Talk to me, campers," Jack's voice commanded.
"Busy," he responded immediately.
"Me, too," Casey said, tossing a wide smile at him.
"All is quiet here, O'Neill," Teal'c reported.
"Good to hear. Again in fifteen."
"I'd get more done if he wasn't constantly interrupting me," he grumbled aloud.
"Stud Muffin, you do what you need to do. Rocco and I can keep the general mollified," Casey said.
With a grin, he lifted his hand, found the spot where he'd left off, and began to read again. Okay, so far, there were twelve planets listed. It was possible that some of the slaves and skilled workers were taken from other Goa'uld.
The next section of text seemed to corroborate his theory. Another line…well, maybe not. Apparently a group of skilled laborers were purchased from Cronus. The cost was steep, lots of gold, gems…even naquadah.
He stepped back from the wall, one arm around his waist, the elbow of the other resting on it, as he tapped a finger against his lips. He was aware that the Goa'uld did trade. Casey had told him of the deal struck between 'Osiris' and Ba'al while they were on Anubis' ship. It was possible that the only reason for the 'bargain' was because Anubis was sitting there, in a ship large enough to destroy either of them, and their entire fleets. Or…was it more common than they…well, he mostly…had ever considered?
He glanced over to where she was squatting, taking photos of the lower half of the adjacent wall. It was impossible to miss the concern in her beautiful green eyes. He took just a moment to lose himself in those warm emerald depths. "Nothing, really."
"Okay." She didn't sound, or look, convinced.
"There's a list of the goods that Zeus gave to Cronus in exchange for nearly one hundred skilled laborers."
She snorted softly. "They must have been where he couldn't just raid the planet for them."
It was impossible not to chuckle. His first thoughts concerning the trade had been identical.
"I still think the only reason Ba'al bothered to make a deal with Karinda…er…Osiris, was because Anubis would have whipped his ass on the spot if he'd have tried to just take me."
"I was just thinking the same thing." He could feel her eyes on him.
"You don't think that's it."
"No, I don't," he admitted. "I think in the early stages of the Empire, the Goa'uld were more…civil…to one another. There was more cooperation between them. They were still struggling for supremacy, but I don't think any of them aspired to be more than the System Lords they were, not until Ra was defeated by the slaves. I think that might have caused the empire to shift. If Ra wasn't as powerful as he'd been perceived, then the others could have started viewing themselves as far more powerful than they actually were."
"His death probably helped break things down even more," Casey said.
"Probably." He took a moment to savor the fact that he had personally been responsible, well, he and Jack, for that Goa'uld's permanent demise. He reached out, and ran his fingers over the symbols engraved on the stone of the ancient temple wall. "When I talked to Ra the first time…when we confronted each other," he amended, "I can remember thinking I'd never met a more arrogant being in my life. I was actually disappointed, because I'd always believed…always hoped…than any intelligent life out there," he waved his hand toward the sky, "would be benevolent. I mean, superior intelligence would dictate a more peaceful, benevolent society. Or so I thought."
"You were shocked, too, weren't you?" she asked quietly.
"Yes, I was," he admitted. The sting of that disappointment had never completely disappeared. "Here was this being…he looked human enough, but I could tell he wasn't. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense."
"It makes perfect sense. Humans lack the coldness, the brutality that's the basis of the Goa'uld character," she said, shifting slightly. "I realize that humans can be brutal to one another. But I don't think they come close to the brutality…the cruelty…that Goa'uld possess."
He took a deep breath. He'd learned about the alien beings who took humans from Earth; the hieroglyphs on the wall Sha're had shown him told the story. So he'd known that the aliens were parasitical. But he hadn't understood how alien, how - evil - the beings were until he'd spoken with Ra. "They're convinced of their superiority. That the universe is theirs for the taking. That humans were created to serve them, in whatever manner they deem fit," he agreed. "I've never hated anyone…or anything…as much as I hate the Goa'uld. And that hatred was born when I met Ra. Before he'd threatened Jack's life, I hated him. I hated how smugly arrogant he was. I hated hearing how he viewed humans as a commodity. I hated the way he hid behind children when his life was threatened, and in spite of my willingness to…" He stopped, shook his head slightly. "He just…he was going to kill Jack. I couldn't let that happen."
Even now, years later, he could recall that moment with crystal clarity…watching the being known as Ra aim that strange looking weapon at the man he was slowly learning to respect…perhaps even like, just a little bit. The split second decision to push Jack out of the way. The pain of being hit…being surrounded by darkness. Thinking it was a hell of a thing, dying just when he'd proven his theory correct.
"At least you know there are benevolent beings out there," she said softly. "Or at least, not determined to destroy or enslave humankind."
Her attempt to cheer him brought a smile to his lips. "True."
"Now…other than the usual bullshit, do you think we'll learn anything about Zeus from this thing?"
The smile became a grin. "Maybe."
"Then I suggest we keep working." Green eyes twinkled at him.
He chuckled. "Right." He reached for his pack, and dug inside for his journal. He opened the new red-bound book to the first page. Fished in his thigh pocket for his pen. He found the place on the wall where he'd left off, and began translating in earnest. Carefully listing each planet, he hoped that he'd find other clues that could lead them to the places where the Goa'uld known as Zeus had either raided for slaves, or traded for them. If they were lucky, SG-1 would be able to help any of the villages that had survived the passage of time. Freeing humans from Goa'uld tyranny was one of most important reasons for going through the Stargate. Topped his list of 'things that make me happy'. His eyes went to his Wife. At least in the top ten, he thought, with a silent chortle.
Once again he began to translate. Time seemed to stop around him, as he was transported into the past, to the days when the temple complex was being built - he could almost hear the clank of hammers against rock…the sing-songed chants that kept dozens of men pulling huge stone blocks in steady movement…smell the dust stirred up by hundreds of feet, the sweat of the workers as they toiled beneath the blazing sun…
And so it was, that the people labored, and the great god Zeus was much pleased. He walked among his workers, blessing them, laying hands upon their heads. And lo, a man, crippled when a block of stone had fallen on him, beseeched the god for a blessing, dragging himself to where Zeus stood. And Zeus demanded to know what had happened, and was told the story of the day the huge stones had tumbled from the wall being raised. And Zeus knelt down beside the man, and said unto him, 'I am your god. You will walk again.' And then the god bade his own servants to bear the man up, and carried him even into his chariot of fire. And when the time of two sunsets had passed, the man returned, walking on two new legs. Tears of joy ran down his face as he sang the songs of Zeus, declaring that the god had healed him.
Casey looked up from where she sat, taking photos of each individual section of text on the wall. "Stud Muffin?"
He hadn't been aware that he'd spoken out loud. "Do you remember telling me…the team…that you thought Zeus was 'different'? Not as brutal?"
Casey nodded, readjusting her cap. "There's something about him. I can't put my finger on it. His eyes…there's actually something there, more than just the usual arrogant asshole-ishness."
A smile tugged at the corners of his lips at her description. "I might have proof of your feelings."
"Really. Listen to this," he said, then read the section of text that had caused him to pause in surprise.
Her green eyes were wide. "Wow."
She cocked her head sideways.
Responding automatically, he stepped toward her, ready to hold her for the duration of any information dump she was about to experience.
"Daniel…what if Zeus was tossed off the First World because he was too…beneficent? What if he treated those who worshipped him better than Ra and the others treated the people who served them?"
He paused where he was, just a foot or so from the wall he'd been working on. It was possible, he supposed. Ra had been arrogant. Brutal. So damned sure of his 'godhood'. So certain that humans were no different than any other animal on Planet Earth. That the creatures known as 'man' existed solely to serve the Goa'uld. Every other Goa'uld they'd met, or knew about, exhibited the same arrogance. The same mindset. To find a Goa'uld who behaved differently, one who perhaps took his role as 'god' seriously, one who believed in looking after those who worshipped him. Yeah, that could have caused a few problems for Ra, particularly if Zeus had been viewed as his equal. Ares had obviously not been so inclined. Myths about him told of his brutality, his treachery. Worshipping Ares had actually been prohibited in every Greek city but Sparta. But what about the other Greek gods? Had the entire House of Zeus been exiled because they were of his house, or because they followed his example? Almost certainly Ares' part in the conspiracy against Ra had been a major factor in his banishment. But what if Ra had used Ares as a convenient excuse for getting rid of all of the Greek gods?
The earliest myths of Zeus portrayed him as a 'father figure'. Was it possible that the description was meant to depict a god who was more than just the creator of mankind, and the literal father of so many other gods, but also to illustrate a god who cared for those who served and worshipped him, as a father would do?
"He's a Goa'uld," Casey continued. "And if I ever run into him again, I'll slit his throat for what he did to you and Jack."
He shivered slightly as the memory of the hours spent being tortured by Zeus - or rather Zeus's First Prime, while the snake sat there and watched - danced through his memory. He firmly pushed those thoughts away. "Tell me about that dinner…when we were on Ba'al's ship."
A slight frown creased her forehead. "Okay…let's see…the tin men escort me into the room. Have I ever mentioned that Goa'uld have absolutely no taste when it comes to decorating?"
He snickered. "I think you've mentioned it a time or two."
"Well, Ba'al is totally over the top. Gold leaf on every freaking thing. Wall hangings that depict him in war, for the most part. Always defeating his enemy, of course."
"There was so much food on that table…it could have fed every slave on the ship!" She huffed a sigh and shook her head. "The table was set up so that I saw Ba'al immediately. But I had to look over to see who was sitting at the foot of the table. Zeus was so freaking surprised! Ares was already there, and was screaming about me being a wild animal or something, and that I needed to be disciplined. Zeus spouted off that I was to be handed to him for punishment for causing so much damage to his ship. Ba'al was laughing his ass off."
He could picture the scene. "Ba'al set it up."
Casey gave an un-ladylike snort. "Of course he did. He learned a lot in those few minutes, that's for sure. But I was in a pissy mood, so I was going to make certain Ba'al knew I wasn't going to play his game."
Again it was impossible to hold back his smile. His wife, when pissed off, was a force to be reckoned with.
She closed her eyes for a moment. "I said something about the empty chair across from where Ares was sitting…assuming that was where I was supposed to sit. By that time Zeus had managed to regain control of himself. He stood up, followed me to the chair, and held it for me. I remember leaning forward slightly to scoot closer to the table-"
"You were wearing that green gown," he added. The memory of which was causing his nether regions to stir with interest.
"Yes," she replied.
"When you leaned forward, he was able to see straight down the front of that gown." Not an idea he wanted to contemplate for long. The thought of a Goa'uld ogling his Wife was enough to piss him off.
Her cheeks turned pink. "That rat bastard. When he cut off that strip of meat, and offered it to me, he pulled it just out of reach, and I had to lean forward. I knew he got a peek then."
"Okay, what else?" He didn't want to dwell on the part of the evening where Zeus was catching clandestine peeks at Casey's beautiful breasts.
"There was something in his eyes. They're dark…very dark brown. But there was something there…" She shook her head again. "It was different from every Goa'uld I've ever met. Even Ba'al, when he was looking at me, and the love was-" She broke off.
"I know Ba'al loves you," he said softly. Another unpleasant thought. How many times had Casey suffered because of that 'love'?
"Even if he does, the look in his eyes wasn't like what I saw in Zeus' eyes."
"Can you describe that look?"
"Well, let's see…" She closed her eyes again. "Lots of amusement. I think he was totally entertained to know that Ba'al was…is…in love with me. There was one moment when I'd been pushing Ba'al, and for a few seconds, I thought maybe I'd pushed to far. There was a look…gentle, almost protective. Zeus looked as if he were about to intervene, but I managed to soothe Ba'al's ruffled feathers." She opened her eyes. "I'd forgotten about that. It was such a brief glance…I hadn't actually remembered until just now."
"Which is why you knew that if we had to choose between Ba'al and Zeus, the latter would be our best choice."
"I guess so," she said, with a slight shrug of her slender shoulders.
He motioned toward the text that had surprised him so. "He healed a man. Just an ordinary slave. But when that man asked for a blessing, he had…must have been his personal guard…carry him to his ship. Either the ship was on the planet, or they carried him to a ring transport. And then Zeus put him in a sarcophagus. For no other reason than to be kind."
Casey wrapped her arms around her waist. "Kindness? From a Goa'uld?"
"Maybe it's nothing more than just good fiction," she suggested.
"I don't think so," he murmured. Gut instinct told him the text had been written by someone who had witnessed the events being described.
"Are there any more references to his benevolence?"
"Let's find out."
Forty-five minutes passed. And in that time, he located two other stories telling of the love of Zeus for his people. Bringing food in for the entire population of the city…no doubt ruins of which laid outside of the complex. Simple mud-brick homes wouldn't have lasted more than a few years without proper maintenance, so there would be little hope of finding more than bits of pottery or foundation stones to prove the existence of such a city. The second story spoke of Zeus providing shelter when a storm blew up, and threatened those who lived in tents outside of the city.
"Ya know, if I didn't know better, I'd say these stories were the basis of some of the stories told in the Bible," Casey mused.
"They do have a familiar ring, don't they?" And the first texts of the Bible were written thousands of years later… He paused, pursing his lips slightly in thought. "For that to have happened, someone from here would have had to have returned to the First World."
"Well, Daniel, for this temple complex to be here, and dedicated to Zeus, it had to be before he and the others got the old heave-ho," she pointed out.
In a sudden flash of understanding, it hit him. The possible answer to a question that so many had asked before…where did the Bible truly come from? "Holy shit!"
"Think about, Case. We already know that the Old Testament is a combination of Sumerian and Babylonian myths, along with the oral history of the Hebrews…or the Semitic Israelites, who were a nomadic people among the Phoenicians. There was one group…" He paused, searching his memory for the names of the pre-monarchic tribes of the Phoenician civilization. "Damn it, I know it…"
"Is it important?" she asked softly.
He glanced at her. "I don't know." He frowned slightly, then smiled triumphantly when the name he sought came to him. "The Shasu of Yhw. Anyway, Phoenicians originated from the Caananites, or so it's theorized. And the Hebrews could trace their roots back to the Caananites; who in turn could trace their ancestry to the Babylonians. The myths of the Babylonians are the same myths that the Sumerians told, and which the Hebrews kept alive. Well, with a few name changes."
"Okay, name changes would be a given," Casey allowed.
"What if the New Testament is based on ancient stories told among the common people: the slaves, the servants, the workers. The first writings of the New Testament weren't created until at least forty years after the death of Christ, or so the scholars claim. Most of what has become the New Testament were letters written by the apostles and the disciples. But…what if the stories told, which were supposed to be about Christ's life, were just older stories, ancient myths, reworked to suit their needs? This story especially," he said, tapping the text that told of Zeus feeding the workers who toiled on his temple complex, "could be the basis for the story of Christ feeding the masses."
"But those stories would have had to have existed at the same time as the Old Testament," she said, "because the Goa'uld had been kicked off the planet at least five thousand years before those civilizations were even rising."
He shook his head. "The myths started in Sumer. Human history, what's written anyway, can be traced back to Sumer. When the Goa'uld were on Earth, the Sumerians were just beginning to build cities. Same as those who occupied the Nile Valley. Ra founded Egypt, yes. He built temples, yes. He built a palace, yes. The same as all the other Goa'uld did in each civilization they found. Almost certainly there were cities, of a sort, that surrounded the temples and palaces. Sumer wasn't the empire it became until after the Goa'uld had left. Egypt wasn't the empire that it eventually became when the first Dynasty was established - and that was about seven thousand years after Ra and the others had left." He paused and frowned at the markings on the wall. "We date the civilizations according to records and artifacts that we've found. Those dates were established before the more accurate dating methods were available."
He shrugged slightly. "It means that we could be off…I don't think we're off much, but…what if everything that the Goa'uld built was destroyed…every building, every statute, everything. What if the slaves didn't want anything left that their enemy had constructed? What if those slaves wanted nothing of their enemy left behind? What if we don't have records before ancient Sumer because it took them that long to recover from the battle of overthrowing Ra, and that long to learn to live on their own? What if it took several thousand years to reach the point of being able to build their own cities? Sumer was built…and only the barest hints of the Goa'uld remained. Mostly in myths. Then the people of the Nile Valley came together…or maybe they came back together, and created the most incredible civilization that ever existed on Earth, one that lasted for twenty-five hundred years…longer than any other civilization existed, to date. They built that empire using ideas from myths. It's possible that all that the Goa'uld had taught the humans about building had been carefully retained, for the time when they'd be ready to rebuild their world."
Casey's brow wrinkled slightly in thought. "That would certainly fit in with the timeline we have now. Pissy slaves would have revolted, and burned down or destroyed everything that symbolized their slavery. That…'step back'…makes sense, too…because we know that after the Black Plague, there were a couple hundred years or so when just survival was the best that people could hope for. There was a 'step back' in both culture and knowledge during the Dark Ages…because much of the knowledge that the ancient civilizations had left behind was lost during that time."
"Right," he nodded. Smiled mentally at the wave of excitement that rushed through him. Being able to discuss…debate…talk out his ideas and theories with his Wife was one of his greatest joys. "There are several theories on how or why that happened," he mused.
"Yeah, mostly religious bullshit."
He couldn't help but grin. Casey's opinion of 'man-made' religions wasn't much different than her opinion of the Goa'uld. "Christianity certainly played a large part in that step backwards," he agreed.
"So, humans have either taken a huge step backwards in their development at least twice, or have stagnated drastically."
"That's the theory, anyway," he acknowledged.
She squinted at the temple wall for several seconds. "Stories like this could be a PR disaster for an arrogant asshole like Ra," she said, motioning to the text.
"So, whoever worked here, whoever wrote…well, carved…these stories, was sent back to Earth?"
"Maybe Ra had lent some of the skilled workers to Zeus," he mused. "Everything I'm finding here indicates that the empire wasn't as…there wasn't the fighting that we see now. There was cooperation. It's possible the Goa'uld were actually…well, friends."
"With Ra in charge?"
"Maybe Ra wasn't always an arrogant asshole. Maybe there was more cooperation because they'd just discovered humans, and human hosts."
"I do not want to think that those damned snakes could have been…nice," she growled.
He laughed. "I don't know that I'd go that far. I doubt that any of the people who served the Goa'uld would ever call them 'nice'."
She waved a hand at the temple wall. "Somebody thought that of Zeus."
He frowned. "True."
"Maybe Zeus understood that kindness would net him better results, and loyal followers."
"Maybe Ra's slaves were already grumbling. Maybe the rebellion among those slaves was already beginning, and Ra's arrogance prevented him from seeing it. And Zeus was smart enough to add two and two and realized that he'd better follow a different path if he didn't want to suffer the same thing."
"The slave rebellion started with other Goa'uld," he replied absently.
"So we think. And look at who those Goa'uld were. Minor Egyptian gods. Under Ra's thumb," she pointed out. "How do we know they weren't going to try to take advantage of a slave rebellion?"
He studied the column. "This," he tapped one of the symbols with his finger, "could be what started the bad blood between Ra and Zeus. The people who worshipped Zeus really did worship him. He probably wasn't facing the minor slave revolts that Ra had to contend with. Every revolt had to be squelched…that took Jaffa. Which would have prevented Ra from being able to send those Jaffa out to subjugate other planets. Possibly even prevented him from being able to conquer other human settlements on Earth. Which left the door open for the other Goa'uld to do so."
"So it wasn't necessarily Ra's benevolence in 'giving' the other Goa'uld their own little empires, as much as it was his inability to stop them from doing so?" Casey frowned slightly. The idea had merit…and fit in with what they had come to see as typical behavior for the Goa'uld. "That would have made his anger toward Zeus all the stronger."
"Absolutely. I don't know if any of that ire would have been vocalized, or if Ra would have kept his feelings about the matter to himself. After all, if he said anything, it would be admitting that there was someone better than he…and Ra was the most arrogant bastard I've ever encountered."
"What if…what if the slaves of Ra had started praying to Zeus, even if it was in secret? If slaves who worked here went back to Earth and told the stories about how Zeus had taken care of the workers, that would have spread like wildfire among all of the slaves," Casey mused. "And if Ra was as iron-fisted with the slaves as he was with the other Goa'uld, those humans would have hidden their worship of Zeus."
"No matter how well the slaves had tried to hide their worship, even their admiration of Zeus, someone, somewhere would have reported it to a Jaffa, or a priest…probably hoping for a reward of some sort," he theorized. "It would have totally pissed Ra off to find out that he was being usurped among his own slaves."
"To the point of doing something that pissed the slaves off enough to toss his ass out."
The thought came out of nowhere. He'd always assumed that it was just the sheer desperation of slaves, weary of the heavy hand of Ra that had resulted in the slave rebellion. But slaves, especially those who had been slaves for generations, wouldn't be so easily organized…not without a single, unifying event. History had proven that time and again. Before any major uprising, there were a series of incidents that riled tempers, caused thoughts of revolt to be vocalized; but always, always, it was one single act that was the catalyst for action. "That was the reason for the rebellion! He exiled Zeus!"
Casey tipped her head to one side once again.
Her eyes were slightly unfocused. Whatever she was seeing, it wasn't the wall behind him. He automatically stepped closer, ready to hold her if necessary, to help her deal with any download that might occur.
"He…Ra…was furious. He'd been hearing whispers…he suspected several of conspiring against him. He didn't want to believe it was Tem…he had him followed. Found him with Ares and Hathor. They were…they were having sex…he was furious that Tem was being 'used' by Ares…and that they were plotting to overthrow him."
"What about the slaves?"
"He didn't know or care about slaves…Ra had given this planet to Zeus. It was rich in minerals…he allowed Zeus to build a temple complex…sent three of his most trusted stone masons. Goa'uld…they were minor Goa'uld. They had a dozen personal slaves. Zeus…Zeus wouldn't let them mistreat the slaves while they…the Goa'uld…were here. When the stone masons returned, they told Ra that Zeus was a weakling…that he treated slaves as if they were actually worthy of respect. Ra…" She frowned. "I can't see any more. Just Ra having a total meltdown over that."
"We can speculate that between the way Zeus was treating his slaves, and demanded that other Goa'uld treat the slaves, coupled with Ares' conspiring with Tem and Hathor, was enough to have Ra sending Zeus and company into exile. And the slaves who had returned with those minor Goa'uld, and had seen how much kinder Zeus was, would have been telling everyone that Ra wasn't such a great god if he couldn't or wouldn't even take care of his own slaves. So, resentment that was already there, and building, escalated. The defining moment for the slaves was when Ra exiled Zeus."
"Which resulted in Ra getting his ass kicked. Wow," Casey said softly, her green eyes wide as the implications set in.
"You know…it almost makes me wonder if we should approach Zeus," he said quietly.
"Approach him?" Casey squeaked, her eyes going even wider. "For what?"
"Maybe we could make a deal with him. He leaves us alone, and we leave him alone."
"Zeus is a Goa'uld. No matter how well him might treat his slaves."
"I know. But…the enemy of my enemy is my friend. He's most certainly an enemy to every Goa'uld in the Milky Way galaxy."
"Yeah, but sometimes those 'friends' can be more deadly than the enemy," she said.
"It would at least give us a bit of breathing room, not having to worry about Zeus showing up to attack us."
"I hate it when you make sense like that," she complained, although she was smiling.
The radios on their shoulders crackled once again. "We're coming in. We'll set up camp and have lunch," Jack's voice said.
"Right," he responded. He glanced around. Teal'c was standing nearby. He'd been peripherally aware that the Jaffa had walked the perimeter of the ruins at least three times, keeping watch as he and Casey worked. "Is there somewhere nearby to pitch the tents?" he called over to the Jaffa.
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "There is a barren section near the entrance to this complex. It would serve well as a campsite."
If tents were set up now, he could make certain there was no sign of anything that might creep or slither in the night. There had been no sign of life, other than the abundant plant life that surrounded the ruins. Odd that there aren't any signs of plants in the ruins. That thought had him glancing out toward opening among the stones, where there were stairs that led down. Was there something inside the complex that prevented the forest from encroaching…from taking completely over? What that something might be, he had no clue.
Experience had the camp ready when Jack and Sam arrived half an hour later. Jack and Sam set up their tent, a fire was started to heat water for tea and coffee, and to warm the entrees of the MREs that were opened.
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