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Hell is for Children
General Hammond smiled when the members of SG-1 began to straggle into the briefing room, all of them clutching cups of coffee. He returned his attention to the report in front of him. If Casey found nothing amiss, this was the mission that he'd be sending them on. He gathered all of the papers and the images, put them back into the folder and walked into the briefing room. "Good morning, SG-1."
"Good morning, sir," Jack said. It was obvious that he was ready to get down to business.
"Casey, this is all that the MALP and UAV have returned. Speculation is high, but we have no idea what could possibly be at this site. Doctor Jackson believes that taking a closer look might give us an idea about this Lost City of the Ancients."
She nodded, took the folder and carefully examined the contents. Sighed happily. After fifteen minutes she closed the folder. "I have no idea if Daniel will find anything in these ruins. I don't know if Sam will find anything. But it will be boring for Jack, Teal'c, and I while they poke around."
"Yes!" Jack exclaimed, then glanced apologetically at his CO. "Sorry, sir."
"No need to apologize. You deserve this mission, people," the general said quietly. "Doctor Jackson, you requested three days due to the extensive amount of ruins."
"Yes, sir. If I find anything, I might need longer."
"I'll authorize three days. I'll expect regular check-ins, SOP."
"Yes, sir," Jack said, grinning.
"Then this mission is a go. You'll leave as soon as you're ready." The general stood and left the room.
A A A A A A
Casey was humming softly as she stuffed clean clothes into her pack. She was anxious to discover if she'd learned as much Goa'uld and Ancient as Daniel was certain that she had. He'd already explained that he'd have her making rubbings of any text that he thought they'd need. This was, for all intents and purposes, her first real dig. And she was excited.
Sam looked over at her and smiled. "Do you have your deck of cards?"
The young blonde grinned. "Yep. Even brought Uno, just in case."
The major laughed. "Sounds good. Ready to go get the MREs and water?"
"Not really." She held up a large ziplock bag, filled with individual packets of oatmeal. "At least breakfast will be edible, as long as we have hot water."
"Great idea," Sam admitted. "With luck we'll be able to have a fire, and we'll have hot water."
Daniel was standing in the supply room, sorting through the various varieties of the MREs. He looked up when the women walked into the room. "Hey, babe. Anything special you want?"
"Food that tastes good?"
He chuckled. Tossed a couple of the enchiladas meals at her. She'd admitted that they weren't 'too bad'. Put two of the beef stews into his pack. He grinned when she pushed to stand in front of him, sorting through the stacks of available MREs. She found a few more that sounded promising, remembering what Sam had said about always packing for one day longer than the planned mission.
She put the food packets into her pack, moving her small, spiral notebook to accommodate them. She knew that Daniel kept a journal for every mission. The last journal entry had been very short…she'd watched him write it. Her notebook contained her own thoughts, ramblings, and the poetry that she wrote to exorcise the pain from her soul. She'd written nothing about the mission to P7Y 190, although she knew that the guilt, the angst from what she'd suffered, what the team had suffered, would most likely come out in the form of a poem.
The three team members went to the armory next, laughing and joking as they walked through the corridors. Today there were no sly glances, no speculative looks from the personnel that they passed…nothing seemed amiss. If there were any rumors going around, it was a safe bet that no one from SG-1 would ever hear them!
"Well, about time you three showed up," Jack said, looking over from the weapons locker. He handed each of them a 9mm, a P90, and extra magazines for each. Teal'c took a 9mm and his staff weapon. "Ready?"
Four heads nodded in unison. "Let's go," Sam said with quiet determination.
When the 'gate opened, they stood and looked at the shimmering blue event horizon, each heart and mind dealing with the idea of walking through it into the unknown once again.
"SG-1, you have a go. Godspeed," General Hammond said.
For a few seconds, no one moved. Then Casey slowly walked up the ramp. She stopped just short of the circle, took a deep breath, and walked through. Daniel was right behind her, Teal'c behind him.
"She's as tough as Danny. Just as annoying," Jack mumbled, not without affection.
Sam grinned, and walked up the ramp.
A A A A A A
The planet was subtropical, or at least the area around the Stargate was. The gray and black rocks and stones of what had once been a city lay around them in disarray, centuries after its hey-day.
Daniel was the first to move, stepping carefully over several large, square stones. He knelt down to examine what looked like a marker. Shook his head. "This place didn't belong to the Ancients. It's too current."
Jack looked around. "Are you saying it's too new?"
The young archaeologist nodded. "This place can't be over a few hundred years old."
"Yeah, new," Jack snorted.
The dark blond-haired man glanced up at his CO. "In the grand scheme of things, yes," he replied.
With a shake of his head, Jack stepped away from the 'gate. "Teal'c, Carter, let's check the area. See if we can't find a place to set up camp. Casey, do not let him touch anything that isn't just a rock!"
Casey smiled, having heard all of the tales of Daniel's exuberance, and the trouble to which it sometimes led. "I promise." She knelt down beside her husband. "So, anything interesting?"
"It's all interesting," he mumbled, carefully turning over a rather large stone. Yep, the markings seemed to be on all sides. He brushed the dirt away, carefully put two earthworms out of harms way, trying to ascertain whether the markings were decoration, or some form of writing.
She sat quietly. If he needed her help, he'd tell her. Until then, she was going to do exactly what Jack had instructed. She was going to keep her gorgeous hunk of an archaeologist out of trouble.
Daniel shrugged his pack off, opened it and reached for his dig kit. He situated himself comfortably on the ground, and began to carefully remove the dirt that was imbedded in the markings. "Latin," he murmured, moving the soft-bristled brush a bit faster. One hand searched beside him for his pack, and his ever-present journal. It was within those pages that he'd make his first guesses, his conjectures.
Casey found the journal, placed it in the groping hand.
He took off the rubber band that held the book closed, looped it absently around his wrist. Searched his pocket for a pen. Began to copy the marks onto the page. Looked up when he realized that she'd given the journal to him. "Thanks, babe," he said softly.
She smiled. "You're welcome. So what does it say?"
"I don't know yet," he grinned. He went back to his task. Frowned slightly. Having copied everything from the stone, he began to examine the others nearby. None of them had markings of any sort on them. With very deliberate movements, Daniel began to examine the fallen walls of what had once been a large room. House maybe? Or perhaps a shop of some sort? He found two more stones with markings. He checked their position with the first one he'd found. Closer examination led him to believe that the three stones had at one time sat side by side. He counted the other stones, took measurements of the sizes. Grabbed the journal. Temple. These particular ruins had been a temple. And the altar had been deliberately destroyed. He frowned.
"We're in the middle of what was once a temple. The altar, those stones there, there and there," he said, pointing to the various square blocks of stone, "was destroyed. Someone didn't want it left standing."
"Any guesses as to why?" she asked.
He frowned, studied the markings he'd copied. "According to this, great power lays beneath the altar. Only those worthy can find the door…no, not door. Entrance. The gifts within are both a blessing and a curse."
"That sounds ominous," she said, shivering slightly.
Daniel noticed the tremors that moved over her frame. "Case?"
"Nothing…well, it feels…" she broke off, searching for the words. "There is a lot of power here."
She shook her head. "No, this is more…spiritual," she said at last. And wondered why she hadn't noticed it before.
Jack led Sam and Teal'c to where the Jackson's stood. "Well?"
"This area was part of a temple. The altar was completely, intentionally destroyed. The inscriptions talk about great power, and that the gifts within are a blessing and a curse."
"Doesn't sound so good," Jack said.
"Casey is picking up a lot of spiritual power here," Daniel added.
"You forgot to mention the part about the entrance beneath the altar, and that only the worthy can pass through," Casey said softly.
Daniel jerked, looked hard at her. "I said only the worthy can find the entrance. I never said it was beneath the altar, or that only the worthy can pass through."
She didn't reply. She was staring at a spot in the grass that seemed to be darker green that what was around it. A rectangular area that measured approximately six feet by ten feet.
"Whoa!" Jack said. "That wasn't there a few minutes ago!"
"Casey?" Daniel was watching his Wife. He'd glanced at the rectangle, knew for certain that it was where the altar had once stood.
She cocked her head to one side, nodded, as if she were listening to someone speaking. She walked to the narrow edge of the grass, then turned around and looked at her husband. "You have the key," she said softly.
He looked at his notebook. Hastily read through the words he'd copied. There! That group of phrases right there! He shuddered slightly as he read the words. The implications were…worrisome. He shrugged off the sudden feeling of unease. Casey hadn't 'seen' anything when she'd done her 'search'. She hadn't said anything about any bad feelings in the past few minutes, only the power that she felt. He looked up at her. There was nothing but love in those deep green eyes. No fear, no worry.
"Danny?" Jack asked, a frown on his face.
"I think I know how to open that…door," He said softly. He stood up and walked to where Casey waited. She smiled at him, took his hand, kissed his knuckles gently, then held it over the dark green grass. She stepped back. Daniel took a deep breath, blew it out. Then began to recite the words he'd copied earlier. "Expositus ut iussu dignus palam viscus. Instruo enim ritus minuo itaque ignis. Profero iussu omnipotens Deus ut fortuna hoc vir cum aeternus eternus vita. Fatear obviam celebritas ut incipio," he intoned quietly, his voice firm. [Open to the worthy of heart. Prepare for the ceremony of blood and fire. Bring forth the Almighty Gods to bless these heroes with everlasting life. Allow the celebration to begin.]
Before anyone had a chance to ask him what he'd said, the grass seemed to melt away, and exposed a stairway that led down into the darkness.
Daniel started down the steps; Jack rushed forward and grabbed his arm. "Just where do you think you're going?"
The young man blinked in surprise, pulled his arm from the older man's grasp. "To see what's down there," he replied.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Of course. Teal'c take point," he said, knowing that the large Jaffa would be much better at facing anything…unpleasant, that might lurk in the shadows. When Daniel was in his 'archaeologist mode', nothing else registered.
With a nod, Teal'c took a large flashlight from his pack, flipped the switch, and slowly started down the steps, Daniel on his heels. Casey followed, completely secure in the fact that the two men in front of her would let nothing happen to her. Jack sighed, motioned that Sam should go next, then, with a quick glance around, followed his team into the unknown.
It seemed that the stairs went on forever. They'd turned at least twice now, and as close as Jack could figure, were going down directly below the first set of steps they'd traversed. They turned again, and a faint glow could be seen at the bottom.
Teal'c moved cautiously onto the marble tiled floor. His dark eyes moved around the massive room. This was a temple. He did not recognize any of the markings on the walls, or the columns.
The structure was impressive in its size. A dozen columns lined the structure on each side, holding the massive roof in place. Every inch of the round supports was covered with colorful hieroglyphs. The walls were painted with murals. Their boots echoed against the floor as they slowly made their way toward a large stone altar. A pool, the full width of the room, and at least fifteen feet across, separated the main section of the temple from the small area at the back where the altar stood on a raised platform of solid rock. Torches flickered at regular intervals along the side walls; two tall, brass torchieres stood on either side of the altar, flames dancing and casting shadows around them.
Casey gasped. "I've been here!" she whispered hoarsely. Her hands closed around Daniel's arm, held tightly.
He could feel her fingers trembling. "When?" he asked softly.
"Dream…I was here in a dream," she replied, pulling her lip between her teeth. "I can't remember exactly when."
Teal'c studied her for a moment. Recalled her sudden awakening when the team was resting in preparation to find and enter the temple of a god named Anwaw. "I believe it was during the mission to P7X 388," he said quietly.
The young blonde looked at him, searched her memory. "I think you're right. It was so…strange." She led the way toward that wide pool, looked around expectantly.
"So what happened in your dream?" Daniel asked.
"I had to offer my life for yours," she replied simply.
The color drained from his face, he could feel his heart drop to his feet. "No." He reached for her, took her arm, already turning and heading for the stairs.
"Who are you?" The voice seemed to come from all around them. Deep, resonant.
Casey smiled. "I am a seeker of knowledge."
Daniel glanced at her, then around the room. "I too, am a seeker of knowledge," he said.
Jack glanced at Sam and Teal'c. "Uh, we're with them. Bodyguard sort of thing," he said.
"Step forward, into the light," the voice instructed.
A bright light began to shine just in front of that pool of water. Casey and Daniel stepped forward, the rest of the team joining them a bit hesitantly.
"Hearts entwined. Great sacrifices. Much pain," the voice intoned.
"They are worthy," another voice, feminine this time, said firmly.
"Do you accept the gift of which we are about to bestow upon you?" the male voice asked again.
Casey smiled again. "We accept it."
"Whoa, wait a minute here," Jack said, stepping in front of the young woman. "We all like presents, nothing against that. It's just that I'm not so crazy about surprises. Too many of them have bit me in the butt."
"Has anyone noticed that…'they'…are speaking English?" Sam asked nervously.
"Knowledge taken from the young one on her first visit here," the voice replied casually.
"Do you accept the gift?" the feminine voice asked.
"What is this gift?" Daniel asked. "We do not wish to seem ungrateful, but knowing what this gift is will better prepare us for receiving it."
"Do you accept the gift?"
Daniel sighed. "Yes. We accept the gift."
The light went out, leaving them once again in the dim light of the torches. It took several seconds for their eyes to adjust. They unconsciously shifted closer to one another.
"Only the worthy of heart may enter here," the male voice intoned solemnly.
"Only the worthy of heart may seek the gift," the female voice said, with the same reverence.
"Behold, the worthy of heart. Accept now this gift of eternal life," the male voice said.
Daniel had been listening carefully, trying to determine the meaning of the 'blessing' as quickly as he could. "Oh, crap," he hissed. Just before five beams of light flashed from the altar.
The light impacted on them, went through the five SG-1 team members, leaving gaping holes in their torsos. They began to cry in pain as their bodies dropped to the floor. They'd been standing close together, they fell literally on top of one another, their blood flowing and mixing in an ever growing pool on the marble tile.
With the last bit of strength he had, Daniel reached for Casey. He felt her fingers wrap around his. He squeezed as much as he could. "Love you, Angel," he whispered.
"Love you, Sweetheart," she replied. Her eyes closed.
"Forever," he whispered, before his eyes fluttered shut.
Sam and Jack had reached for one another as well, together in death, having been denied the chance to be together in life.
Teal'c closed his eyes. He was dying with friends. One could not ask for a better death than that.
To be continued...
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