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Leather, Feathers, and Garters
General Hammond looked up from the report he was working on when Jack tapped on the door. "Colonel?"
"Sir, Daniel and Carter found something on the Tok'ra data crystal," Jack replied. He ushered his team into the office, followed behind them.
The team stood casually, Jack and Daniel both had their hands shoved into the pockets of their BDUs. Sam was holding the crystal, and Casey was beside Daniel, one arm looped around his waist. There were no signs of anxiousness, nothing to suggest immediate danger.
"Just what did you find, Major?" the general asked, sitting back in his chair. Whatever it was, it hadn't been expected, or his premier team wouldn't be standing in front of him.
"Three 'gate addresses, sir. Daniel had questions about how closely the translated messages followed the original, encrypted messages. We were comparing them, when we found the addresses. They weren't part of the original, encrypted message," Sam explained.
The response to his question stunned the Texan. The Tok'ra had never
willingly shared any of the 'gate addresses to which they had access! If the
addresses weren't part of the original message..."Someone placed them there
"So it would seem," Daniel said. "We're assuming it must have been Jacob."
"It wasn't," Casey said softly. All eyes swung in her direction. She looked from one face to another, heaved a pained sigh. "What did I say this time?"
"That it wasn't Dad who attached the addresses to the original message," Sam smiled.
Daniel grinned. "Not according to you. We've learned to trust you."
"It would certainly be nice to be let in on things," she grumbled under her breath, ignoring the chuckles of her teammates and CO.
"There's more, sir," Sam said, turning back to the general. "There are seven symbols."
The general frowned. "That would mean that the point of origin would make the address eight symbols long-" He broke off, looked from Sam to Daniel and back again. "Do any of these addresses match those that Colonel O'Neill added to the database when he had the Ancient repository stored in his head?"
"No, sir. We have no idea where these might lead to," Sam replied.
Hammond looked at Casey. "Do you sense anything?"
She frowned, concentrated for several minutes. Tugged her bottom lip between her teeth. "No, nothing."
"Nothing nothing, or just nothing about these addresses?" Daniel asked immediately.
"Nothing about the addresses. Although..." she paused. "There's something going on. I can feel...sort of feel...it feels like...movement."
"The daemons?" Daniel ran his hand up and down her back, gently, slowly.
"I think so." Casey shook herself mentally. "The only thing I can feel about those addresses is...far away...so very far away."
"Different galaxy," Jack offered.
"As I recall, it was necessary to have devices connected to the power couplings and the main power box, to reach the galaxy where the Asgard home world is located," the general said. "Devices that the colonel built, using the knowledge of the Ancients."
Sam frowned. "If we use the power source we found on P7X 388, it should be enough to add the boost we need. We could run a few experiments, to make sure. If we can establish a stable wormhole, we could send a probe through before risking a MALP."
"Sir, I don't think...whoever...left this message for us would've done so if it wasn't important," Daniel added. "Or at least, this person feels that it's important."
"It's possible that this is information that was located by the spy who infiltrated Ares' palace," Sam said. "If so, the addresses could be to planets in the Andromeda system."
The general shifted in his chair, leaned slightly to one side, his elbow on the armrest. He ran a finger back and forth over his chin, contemplating the information he had just received. "We have enough problems right here in our own galaxy," he said slowly. "And we don't know just how much of a drain on our power systems a connection like this could be."
"I still have the...adapter...that the Colonel built when he traveled to the Asgard planet," Sam offered. "I haven't been able to power it up again...but maybe using the power source-"
"Zero Point Module," Casey said softly, hearing the chuckle of her guide, the image of the device rotating slowly in her mind.
"What?" Sam asked.
"Zero Point Module. That's what it's called. Or so Miss Eloise says," the seer smiled shyly.
"Is that what the Ancients called them?" Daniel asked, something tickling the back of his mind...one of the more technical drawings that had been found by one of the SG teams had mentioned such a device...and the text had been Ancient.
Casey shrugged. "I guess so."
Sam smiled. "Well, with the Zero Point Module-"
"ZPM," Jack interjected. "Kinda catchy, isn't it? ZPM. Sort of like 'zoom'."
"Colonel," General Hammond said firmly. It was difficult to keep from smiling at the group clustered around his desk, the body language belying their excitement...and the tinge of worry visible in four pairs of eyes. For just a moment he examined them, thinking about how much he had...mellowed...in the years of working in the SGC. Military protocol was important, but there were times it wasn't...necessary. The Joint Chiefs who visited the secret facility were often offended by SG-1's lackadaisical manner. Whether the team was being insubordinate, or just their usual cocky, self-assured selves depended entirely upon who was observing them. After all, beauty...or in this case, respect...was in the eye of the beholder. He knew that the four people standing in front of him respected him, their actions spoke loudly of that fact. Again, it was a battle to keep from chuckling out loud. Because he also knew in just how little esteem the four held anyone from D.C. He shook himself mentally, quickly gathered his meandering thoughts.
"Uh...sorry, sir. Please continue, Major."
Casey bit back her giggle, Daniel ducked his head, grinning broadly.
"With the ZPM," Sam cast a grinning glance at Jack, "we should be able to provide enough power to the 'gate to link to the other galaxy. I could run a few simulations, just to make certain."
Again the general took the time to consider his options. Finally nodded. "If your simulations provide enough data to make an attempt worthwhile, I'll approve the effort."
"Yes, sir," Sam said, her mind already working on the algorithms she would need to set up for the simulations.
"Keep me informed. Dismissed."
Daniel hesitated at the door to the general's office. Debated on whether to wait until closer to the end of the day to make his request, or to do so now...
Casey tugged on his hand until he followed her into the corridor. "It doesn't look as if we're going anywhere, at least not until Sam has this thing figured out."
"But something else could come up," Daniel argued.
"Maybe. If so, we'll deal with it then."
He reached out, pushed her hair behind her shoulder, gently cupped her cheek. "You need time away from the...intensity...of the mountain."
"So do you."
"I have too much to do, reports and translations..." he shook his head.
"Being here, working...it means everything is okay. That our lives are back to normal," she said softly. "I won't lie to you, I'm not looking forward to going through the 'gate again. But I'll do it. Because it's my job. And eventually, we'll get one of those cakewalk missions you guys are always talking about."
She never ceased to amaze him. He knew that she was more than 'not looking forward' to future 'gate travel. Suspected it would be closer to the truth to say she was terrified of the prospect. But she'd never let on. Her 'confession' in the elevator had been unintentional, he realized that. But he also knew that she'd never hesitate to go through the 'gate to do the job that she understood was important...and had come to love as much as he did. "What you do to me, woman," he whispered, just before pulling her into his embrace.
Safe in the shelter of his arms, she allowed herself to examine the fear that lurked so close to the surface. While it wasn't totally irrational, after all, she hadn't had the best of luck on missions so far, she knew that her teammates, and her Husband especially, would keep her as safe as possible. What they did was more important than her own fears, or her weariness. She was Immortal. When the Goa'uld were defeated, she'd have plenty of time to rest, there would be a string of simple, easy missions. Until then...she sighed softly.
"Just wishing the damned Goa'uld would be considerate for a change, and just drop dead en masse."
He chuckled. "That would be nice."
"Won't happen, though."
"Damned inconsiderate snakes."
He grinned. "Still need that piece of chocolate cake?"
"You bet I do. Maybe the database fairies will have finished up the entry for Ptah by the time I get back."
"Don't hold your breath, Angel."
She sighed again. "I was afraid you were going to say that."
"Hey, you two! How long do you expect us to stand here waiting?" Jack called from his place in front of the elevator.
"Didn't expect you to wait at all," Daniel replied, leading Casey down the corridor.
"Need to adjust your expectations," Jack said, watching the light above the doors.
Daniel smiled. "I'll do that."
"See that you do."
A A A A A A
The team sat around the table, sipping coffee, and finishing off the crumbs of the cake they had eaten. Casey had her elbow on the table, chin in hand, watching her fork as she twirled it back and forth. Jerked slightly when she realized that someone had just called her name, and three pairs of eyes were looking at her with concern. "I'm sorry...what?"
Sam reached out and put a hand on the seer's slender arm. "Are you all right?"
Casey smiled. "I'm fine. I was just wondering how far the Goa'uld have managed to spread their evil asses."
Jack stared at her for a minute, then snorted. "Not gonna touch that."
She looked at the older man, frowned slightly. Realized what she'd said. "Geez, boss, pull your mind out of the gutter."
"So mine can roll by!"
The response brought snickers and chuckles to her companions. "Seriously, Casey, that's a good question," Sam grinned.
"I guess I'd always assumed that they were everywhere," Daniel said, frowning. "I hadn't even considered that there might be places...galaxies, that are Goa'uld free."
"Here's another question," Casey said. "Do we have any idea how many new hosts are taken each year? I mean, there don't seem to be any 'new' System Lords popping up, at least, not that we're hearing about. There are minions who try to take over when a System Lord is killed. But we aren't hearing about 'gods'...at least, none of the names we'd recognize are popping up. Why?"
Sam and Daniel exchanged a look. "I guess I'd never thought about that," Sam admitted.
"Me, either. We know that the System Lords have their...I suppose you'd call it their 'court', those Goa'uld who serve them," Daniel said.
"But why aren't those Goa'uld trying to become System Lords? Is there a hierarchy...are they born to their positions, like in the old feudal kingdoms?" Casey asked.
Daniel sat back, crossed his arms over his chest. "There must be, or there'd be far more System Lords."
"Which means if we wipe out the System Lords, there might not be Goa'uld to 'take over'," Casey suggested.
"Don't count on that," Jack warned. "If...when...we wipe all of the high ranking snakes out, the others will just slither up to take their places."
"But they might not be as...aggressive, or even as capable of leading," Daniel mused.
"Genetic memory?" Sam asked.
"Makes sense; we know that breeder queens can control what the prim'ta know."
Jack frowned. "Look, you all know how much I love these deep philosophical discussions. But can we just focus on the problem of the day?"
Sam smiled. "I don't know how long it will take to set up for the simulations. I'll ask Dr. Lee to help me."
"Let us know when you're ready," Daniel said, preparing to rise to his feet. "I have translations to get finished up if I don't want to be here this weekend."
Casey stood up. Heaved a sigh. "Database. Next time I have a stupid idea like that, someone shoot me."
Snickers moved around the table. Daniel and Casey led the team out of the commissary. Within minutes they'd all returned to tasks interrupted by the results of Jacob's surprise visit.
A A A A A A
Teal'c had been busy with cadet training, and thus missed the meeting with the general, and the agreed upon results of that meeting. Casey sent him an email, detailing the discovery that Sam and Daniel had made, the discussion with General Hammond, and the fact that Sam was, at that moment, setting up for the first simulations.
Because of the 'heads up', he entered the major's lab a matter of minutes after Casey and Daniel arrived, having received word that Sam was ready to give the first simulation a try.
With an exact replica of the Stargate and the full parameters required to fabricate an 'artificial' wormhole on the computer, Sam carefully entered the first of the three addresses. Given that she'd set the computer up to believe that a Stargate was accessible on the 'receiving' end, and had added the variables for what was known about the Zero Point Module, including the energy readings that had been determined by Dr. Lee during experiments run soon after the module had been discovered, Sam would be able to tell whether or not attaching the ZPM to the 'gate would offer enough additional energy to reach whatever galaxy was being dialed.
The last keystrokes of the final command were entered. "Here we go," Sam said quietly, as she pressed 'enter'.
Her teammates moved in close behind her, to watch the monitor as the virtual 'gate began to spin, each of the eight chevrons locked into place. "So far so good," Daniel murmured as the last chevron 'locked'.
When the virtual 'gate opened, the event horizon looking on screen as it did in the 'gate room nine levels below them, Sam manipulated a 'probe', and 'sent' it on its way. Exactly zero point three two seconds into the transfer, the 'traveler' was lost. "That's what happened when the colonel went through to the Asgard planet," she said quietly. "So we know that our signal will be lost."
"Is there some way to put a tracking device halfway through?" Daniel asked.
Sam frowned, then shook her head. "I don't think so."
"What if we each wore a tracking device, and entered the wormhole at pre-established intervals," Jack suggested, proving once again that he was much more intelligent than he liked to let on. "The device of the first traveler could report back to the second, back to the third, et cetera. There would at least be record of the first two travelers arriving." All eyes focused on him, looks of surprise on each face. "What? It was just an idea."
"One that might work," Sam said slowly. "I'll need to play around with frequencies and timing. I'll run a few simulations and see what happens."
"If O'Neill's idea is proven valid, will probes be sent first through the Chappa'ai?" Teal'c asked. To anyone who didn't know him well, he looked as unflappable as ever. To his best friends however, his unease was plain to see.
"I hope so. I can rig up five probes with a simple tracking device. Once I have the details worked out, we can send them through. I don't know that we'll be able to receive any sort of telemetry after the third traveler arrives."
Jack could feel the tension. "No one says we have to do this."
"What if the addresses are for the Andromeda galaxy?" Daniel asked quietly. "They could have been taken from Ares. They could be for planets that he held. It would give us a glimpse of what's there."
"I hate to be a downer in all of this, but has anyone considered just how we're supposed to get home? I mean, if the ZPM is going to be needed here to get us there..." Casey let her voice fade.
Sam frowned. Her annoyance filled her sapphire eyes. "I have to admit, I hadn't thought that far ahead...and I should have."
Jack squeezed her shoulder. "We're still operating in a bit of shock, Major."
"Wow, I actually managed to think of something before Sam!" Casey teased gently.
"Mark the day, Angel. It doesn't happen often," Daniel smiled.
The blonde major flashed a bright smile at her friends. Leave it to them to find a way of making her glaring omission seem like nothing more than a simple case of temporary oversight. "Unless we can take along a portable power source, and have a way to connect it to the 'gate on the other side, we'd be stuck."
"Two words, girlfriend. Wedding anniversary," Casey said dryly. The comment brought chuckles from her teammates.
"Can we not simply send the probes, and collect whatever data possible during the trip through the wormhole?" Teal'c asked.
Sam nodded. "I think that's all we'll be able to do. Whatever probes go through will be there until we can figure a way to get there, and back again."
"Let's go tell the general," Jack said. "Considering our findings, he might just put the kibosh on the whole thing."
Daniel was frowning at the monitor, arms crossed, tapping his lips with the tip of his index finger. "How long would it take the Prometheus to get to the Andromeda galaxy?"
Jack and Sam both jerked. "What?" Jack asked hoarsely.
"What would happen if we pick up a 'gate and DHD from some uninhabited desert planet that we've already surveyed...put them in the hold on the Prometheus, and then went to the Andromeda galaxy?"
"I don't know. It would take a few days to get there, even with the hyperdrives," Sam replied.
"What would the address be for getting back to the Prometheus?" Casey asked, more than a bit nervously. The idea sounded good, but it was those details that could bite them in the ass!
Sam smiled. "From what we've observed and experienced, the DHD has a built in GPS unit...or something like it...that calculates its position. As long as you know the star map position of the 'gate, you can calculate the address. Usually, it can be taken from the stored memory of the DHD data crystals themselves."
"I take it you've done that before?"
"Not exactly," Sam replied. "But we know that 'gates have been moved by the Tok'ra, and are still accessible in the 'gate system. And we've had experience with Goa'uld who keep a 'gate on their pyramid ships."
"Even if the Prometheus just got as close as they could to the Andromeda galaxy, it might work," Daniel theorized.
Jack was frowning. "Look, I'm as curious as the rest of you. But I'm not about to take any chances of stranding ourselves somewhere in a galaxy far, far way. Which could happen if the Prometheus has to return to Earth orbit for some reason...such as a snakehead trying to attack or some such emergency. Unless we find out there's something pressing wherever this might be, I think we should just put it on the 'to do later' pile. We have enough to deal with right here."
"I'm with Jack," Casey said quickly. "Let's just stay home until we've worked all of the kinks out. It's too risky otherwise."
Daniel could hear the slight quaver in her voice. "We can put the addresses on the list with the others like them, that Jack put into the computer. We'll figure out a way to deal with the problems of getting to another galaxy later...maybe we'll stumble on some technology that will help us."
"I concur," Teal'c said.
Sam nodded slowly. Understanding that for the moment the team, and Casey especially, was too weary emotionally and mentally to deal with the possibility of another tragedy. They were all still dealing with the emotions of their last mission...they just weren't ready to face becoming stranded in another galaxy. Sometimes magic and good luck were results of using common sense in the first place. "Let's go tell the general."
General Hammond listened carefully. "I can't say that I'm disappointed
in your findings," he said. "I agree with Colonel O'Neill's
assessment. For the moment, dealing with the Goa'uld threat in our own galaxy is
our primary concern."
Casey breathed a quiet sigh, not even aware she had been holding her breath. Her hand reached for Daniel's, the warmth of his fingers as they closed around hers sent messages of love and safety straight to her heart.
"Casey, there are a few mission reports I'd like for you to look at," the general said. "The rest of you are dismissed."
With a gentle squeeze of her fingers, and a smile that had her knees shaking, Daniel gave her a subtle 'see you later' wink, and followed the rest of the team out of the office.
The general studied the slender seer for a moment. "Have you sensed anything about these mysterious 'gate addresses?"
"No, sir," she replied truthfully.
"Very well." He handed her a stack of folders. "Shall we begin?"
It was the last folder that caught her attention...and caused that familiar poke in the back of her mind to prod at her. She closed her eyes. It was an old temple...it had been abandoned for millennia. But there was something about it...a hint at what might be. She sighed. The 'clue' made little sense to her, but that wasn't unusual. What looked like a horned man wearing a kilt was the clearest image, but it was what he was holding in his hand that had her baffled. Something that Daniel would probably understand. She could sense Ba'al, she was certain that it was a temple that had been built to worship that particular Goa'uld. "There might be something here that would help us predict what Ba'al's next move is. If he's staying true to form," she added dryly.
"The Tok'ra are reporting that so far their embedded spies within Ba'al's ranks haven't been able to make contact. Our own spy network has indicated that at the moment, no one seems to know where he is."
"He's not on his home planet?"
The general shook his head. "As far as we know, construction is still underway on his new palace, but little else has been built."
Green eyes went wide. "Not even a temple?"
"Not that we're aware of," was the reply.
Now that was odd. The Goa'uld typically built their palace and a temple deifying themselves at the same time. That Ba'al hadn't started a temple, given that his most prestigious complex had been destroyed by Olokun, was an oddity. What was that bastard up to? "Sir, I think we should check this temple," she said, holding up the mission folder.
"You say there might be information that would be pertinent to dealing with him?"
"I'm guessing that there must be something...perhaps in one of the stories told about him. Or praises to him," she replied. "I can't tell exactly what it is that he...I'm assuming it's a representation of Ba'al...is holding. I'm certain that Daniel would recognize it, or at least have some idea of what it is, and what it means. He can take the scarcest of facts and come up with a precise prediction."
Hammond smiled at the pride in her voice. "Yes, he can. Very well, I'll schedule a briefing for tomorrow."
"Since this is something that Doctor Jackson would need to see, I'll send SG-1."
Her stomach knotted slightly. She wasn't sure she was ready to go through the 'gate again. Nor was she ready to watch Daniel walk through that 'gate, either. She'd just gotten him home, alive...safe...healthy. He still needed to put on weight, although the way he'd been eating, that wouldn't take long. She pushed her fears aside. "Yes, sir."
"Sometimes getting back in the saddle right after being bucked off is the only way to tame that horse," the general said gently.
"I know. Doesn't make it any easier to do," she replied.
"No, it doesn't."
"I guess I'm just a little...battle weary," Casey admitted, using the term that Daniel had to describe the feelings she wrestled with; emotions still raw from the days spent grieving his loss, the days that passed as they had searched, her hope waning a bit more with each passing hour as the magnitude of the search for him settled so heavily upon her shoulders.
His voice was gentle. Kind. And she knew that he did understand. But then again, no one knew exactly how close to the edge she walked on a good day...how far she'd begun sliding when Daniel had been declared dead. No one knew just how desperately she'd struggled to regain...and retain...her sanity. How she'd forced herself through each day, an achievement possible only due to the fact that she'd pushed down every emotion she had...feeling anything, but particularly the heart wrenching pain of Daniel's loss...was more than she could bear. She damned her inability to hide her tears when she felt one slide down her cheek. She brushed it away quickly. "If we're finished, sir, I'd like to get back to work."
"I believe we are. I'll send out the memo about the briefing."
"Casey, I know it won't be easy. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it will become."
Taking a shuddering breath, she nodded again. "I know. If anything happens this time, you'd probably better find a good...facility...for me."
The simple comment gave the general a peek at just how broken the slender seer had been. "Do you see anything? Are you being blocked at all?"
She reached out tentatively, then with more assurance. The darkness that had enveloped her so completely seemed to have vanished as soon as she'd spoken to Miss Eloise. She hadn't stretched far enough to encounter the black wall that still lurked around her. The 'blanket' was still there...just not as close as it had been. Those who controlled that barrier were attempting to remain unreachable, and undetected, for the moment. Which meant that they were limited in how much interference they could safely conduct in what the seer could sense. "Not being blocked at all. I can't see or feel anything..." she cocked her head sideways. "Pineapple upside-down cake."
"I know, it sounds weird to me too. But that's what I see. Pineapple upside-down cake...and a bowl of cherry pits."
He couldn't hide his grin. "Are you perhaps a bit hungry?"
"No sir, I just had a piece of chocolate cake. Maybe whoever sends the intel is hungry," she guessed, still frowning. It was always so annoying to get such random images, and not have a clue how to reference them. She doubted seriously that they were to be taken literally. Which left her struggling to interpret those images.
"Well, if you get anything other than that, let me know."
She wandered down the corridor toward the elevator, her brow knit into a frown of frustration. Just what the hell did pineapple cake and cherry pits have to do with anything? "I'm so not amused," she grumbled out loud.
A A A A A A
Daniel was lost in his own world, studying the photos of the temple that he'd been working with all day. She tossed an indulgent smile in his direction as she settled herself in the chair behind her desk. Sighed softly as she focused her attention back on the interrupted task of cross-referencing every myth pertaining to or that held any mention of Camulus.
After twenty minutes, she gave a huff of aggravation, crossed her arms over her chest. "Not funny!" she said, staring at the ceiling. "Either give me a freaking clue, or leave me alone!"
He glanced up. "What's wrong?"
"I am so having a talk with whoever is in charge of my downloads. All I keep seeing, over and over again, is a pineapple upside-down cake, and a bowl of cherry pits! Now, I ask you, what in the hell does that mean?"
"I have no idea," Daniel admitted, chuckling softly.
"Neither do I. I'm so not amused!"
"Maybe if you meditate, you'll find the answer," he suggested.
Casey tugged her lip between her teeth. "It's worth a try, I suppose. I'll do that later, I really want to get this finished." She looked over at him, saw that he was sitting back in his chair, his arms crossed over his chest as well. "Hit a wall?"
"Huge wall," he admitted. "There are references to Ba'al and to Moloc in these photos. I need to find out exactly where they're placed, and whether there was more that wasn't recorded, or if these vague passages about the 'great gods' are all there are."
"Maybe you should work on the other translations for awhile. Give yourself a break from this."
"If I can ever get this entry on Ptah completed, I think I'll see what Teal'c is up to. Maybe a nice rousing ass-whipping with the basha'ak will help."
"Him or you?"
"Who will be the recipient of said ass-whipping?"
She rolled her eyes. "Me. Teal'c. Figure it out."
Daniel grinned. "Be gentle with him, Angel. A Jaffa has a very fragile ego." The unladylike snort, followed by her soft giggle, brought a chuckle to his own throat. He gathered his notes and the photos, shoved them into a folder, and reached for one of the translations that awaited his attention.
By the time he was ready to begin, the clicking of the keys on her keyboard filled the air. Often, just a minute or two, a few comments, a laugh shared, and they were able to return their full attention to their work. He still lost himself for hours at a time in his work. But when he found himself frustrated, her soft voice, her gentle teasing, her often unintentional insights helped him to move past the frustration, to see the problem from a different angle...all of which served to keep him calm, focused, and happy. Very damned happy, he thought, grinning again. He pulled another folder forward, opened it, and lost himself in the translation of the images contained therein.
A A A A A A
It was nearly five, according to the clock on the wall, when Jonas poked his head into the room. "Hey, Doctor Jackson. Hi, Casey."
Daniel looked up. "Hello, Jonas."
"Hi, Jonas," Casey smiled.
"I have that translation for SG-13 that you wanted," he said, holding up a folder.
"That's great!" Daniel declared.
"I just have a couple of questions, if you have a minute," Jonas said. "I'm not completely certain about the syntax of two phrases."
With a smile, Casey returned her attention to the computer monitor, and the final entries for one Goa'uld known as Ptah. If she never saw the name again she'd be happy.
"Let's have a look," Daniel replied. He accepted the folder. The carefully typed notes were clearly marked. He glanced at the original text, taken from a rubbing of two clay tablets. He checked the passages that Jonas had marked in red. "Your translation is correct. That's a very confusing phrase, though," he admitted.
Jonas frowned. "I thought so, too. Almost as if whoever wrote the tablet wanted whoever read it to pay close attention to what was written."
Daniel began to frown as well, as he re-read the text from the tablets. "I wonder...do you think that whoever created that tablet, was using a double meaning for this? Written as it is, the syntax is correct, it makes sense, and fits in with the rest of the text. But what if...what if it was symbolic?"
Casey's head came up. She hadn't even been aware that she was listening to the men as they talked quietly. Symbolic. Well of course what I saw was symbolic! But...she examined the images of the cake and the bowl of cherry pits. Nope. Nothing. Except that they were making her hungry. The interpretation seemed to come from nowhere. "Out of order!"
Daniel and Jonas looked over at her. "What?" Daniel asked, frowning slightly.
"Out of order! A pineapple upside-down cake is made out of order...the
topping first, then the cake. But when it's finished, the order is reversed, and
Ah, the images that had been plaguing her, he thought. "Okay. What about the bowl of cherry pits?"
"Annoying. No...no...hidden, something hidden...the outside looks good, the center isn't..." she paused, closed her eye. "Isn't acceptable."
"Now if you can just figure out what that refers to, you'll be set," Daniel said.
She frowned slightly. "I'll be right back. I know exactly which mission it refers to." Jumping to her feet, she paused long enough to drop a kiss on Daniel's cheek, flashed a smile at Jonas, and dashed out the door.
The mission wasn't going to be life-or-death. But it would be important, especially if the people who lived on the planet were to become allies; and anything that gave Major Farnsworth and SG-9 an advantage was a plus. The message was simple...accept the procession of things, even if they seemed 'out of order', and that what might appear to be a good thing, even a pleasing thing - wasn't. There would be a 'pit' in the first agreement that was reached. With the heads-up, the major would be able to renegotiate for a treaty that would actually be beneficial to the SGC. And now that she had it figured out, she thought, giving an audible sigh, she wouldn't be tormented by the images of a cake and a bowl of cherry pits.
A A A A A A
For three weeks the team had been able to postpone the mission to exam the ancient temple dedicated to Ba'al. General Hammond had understood that the seer wasn't the only member who was still dealing with the emotional fallout of Daniel's apparent death. And given that, for the moment, Ba'al wasn't a direct threat, anything pertaining to him wasn't high on the priority list. Especially when there wasn't a guarantee that the mission would garner any more information on the Goa'uld than was already available. While Daniel was curious about the 'thing' that Casey could see, but had difficulty describing, and had been unable to draw 'correctly', according to her, he'd had no idea what it might be.
But the day of the mission had arrived. Casey walked into the 'gate room, stared at the huge stone monument and the spinning of the inner ring. With luck, this mission would prove to be that 'cakewalk mission' that she'd heard so much about. There was no annoying poking. Nothing to indicate that the team would face anything dangerous. She was a bit...frustrated...but she figured that had more to do with the fact that she and Daniel were scheduled for three days of down time, starting the following day, than anything to do with the mission. The only thing 'mission' related, she supposed, was the concern that something could delay their return, and interfere with her days off. That 'something' would probably be her husband, and an old temple. She had no doubt that if he found anything, just one little bit of text, just one hieroglyph that sparked his imagination, set off that curious streak, he'd enter 'archaeologist la-la-land', and she and her teammates would be stuck watching. Nope, she thought determinedly, if she had to whack him over the head, render him unconscious, and drag his ass through that 'gate, they would be home for dinner!
The final chevron locked into place. The event horizon opened with all of its customary splendor. General Hammond gave his 'blessing'. Casey took a deep breath. For a moment wished she was anywhere but getting ready to walk up that ramp. She'd even work extra hours on the database; she'd finish up Nirrti's entry...no matter how much it made her stomach turn, knowing that the Goa'uld had been responsible for so much pain and heartache in Cassie's, and Janet's, life.
Daniel's fingers closed around hers. Tugged gently as he moved forward. "I'm right here, Angel," he said softly.
She smiled, laced her fingers with his. Followed her teammates through the shimmering blue of the event horizon. Closed her eyes, waiting for the second or so it took for her senses to stop reeling, the sensations the same as she experienced each time she took a trip through a wormhole.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding!"
The tone of Jack's voice had her eyes snapping open. The hill had to be over a full mile away. And on top, in better shape than the MALP had indicated, was the temple. The city that surrounded it lay in ruins; vines, grasses, weeds, flowers...all were encroaching on what had once been a road, covering most of the paving stones, bringing down brick walls that had crumbled with age. "Looks farther than it did in the MALP images," she said softly.
"Noticed that, did ya?"
"At least we'll have a road to follow. No fighting through a forest," Daniel offered.
"I am still so not amused," Jack grumbled.
"Relax, you'll get to see your hockey game," Sam said. She started walking. "If we're going to do this, we'd better get started."
Jack heaved a sigh. "Since you're already there, Carter, you're on point. I'll take the six."
Casey, Daniel, and Teal'c exchanged glances. Was something wrong between Jack and Sam? Had they had a disagreement...a fight?
Daniel held back, walked beside Jack. "Is everything all right?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" Jack asked.
"Between you and Sam," Daniel clarified.
"I repeat, why wouldn't it be?"
"Just wondering," Daniel asked. He glanced over at his friend. Bit back his grin. Jack's head was tilted slightly to the side, looking past Teal'c. And if he didn't miss his guess, those brown eyes were focused on the rear-end of one Major Samantha Carter. "So, nice view, huh?"
Jack jerked slightly. Gave a look around. "It's all right, I suppose," he replied, intentionally misinterpreting the question.
Daniel's grin broke free. "Needed a little space between the two of you?"
The older man's cheeks turned ruddy. "You don't know how lucky you have it, with Casey not doing that monthly thing."
"Oh, yes I do," the archaeologist countered. "Of course, just before her shot is due, she's bitchier than hell."
"I'll take bitchy to blue balls any day."
Daniel snickered. "So, Sam doesn't offer you a hand job, or a blowjob, during that...uh...time?"
"Daniel, when Sam's riding the cotton pony, I don't want her hands or teeth anywhere near my manly parts. She's just too damned moody. She's liable to jerk it off or bite it off."
"Yeah," Daniel nodded sympathetically, although he was still grinning broadly, "those mood swings are hell."
"Tell me about it."
"It's only for what, three or four days?"
"Four. I know, it's not that long. But it's like she goes out of her way to turn me on, and then she just walks away."
"Payback. She's pissed because she's having a period, and you're a man."
Jack sighed. "It's just damned cruel."
"You could always just take matters to hand."
"It's not the same," Jack complained.
"True. But it beats blue balls."
The two walked in companionable silence, their teammates engaged in a conversation of their own. Jack glanced sideways at his friend. "When Casey and you first got together, and she...you know...did she...well, you know?"
Daniel smiled. "Are you asking if Casey got me off while she was on her period?"
"Damn it, Daniel!" Jack's ears turned red.
He snickered. For a man who liked to listen to the 'conquest' stories of the other men in the locker room, had a few of his own tales from times long past to share, Jack O'Neill could be a bit of a prude when conversing on a subject that dealt with women or sex outside of that locker room...especially if it was of a personal nature. "It's really none of your business. But...yes. She did."
"Lucky little shit," Jack muttered under his breath.
He grinned from ear to ear. "You have no clue," he murmured.
"Can I ask you a really personal question?"
"Won't promise I'll answer," Daniel replied honestly, wondering just how much more 'personal' the question could be, regarding what he'd already been asked.
"Fair enough," Jack said. He took a deep breath. "Have you and Casey ever...well...done any role playing?"
His mind went immediately to the night he had worn the leather chaps for Casey. He'd been her 'bad boy biker'. "Yeah, why?"
"You don't think it's...weird...or kinky...or...or...weird?"
Daniel smiled. "Jack, what two consenting adults do behind a closed bedroom door is no one else's business. If they enjoy it, and they're okay with it, then it's okay."
"You've really done that?"
"You didn't feel...well..."
"Daniel, sometimes you worry me," Jack said. He hastened his pace. "Let's get a move on, campers."
Daniel grinned. While he knew that Jack and Sam were happy together, what they did in their bedroom was their business. Daniel watched Casey for a few minutes...that heart-shaped derriere and that sexy sway...shivered slightly. Depending on how it went with the very long, very soft, very pink feather he'd ordered from a specialty site online, he might tell Jack about the idea that the Daniel from the other reality had shared with him. He hadn't found a way to ask Casey about wearing a French maid's outfit; he figured just tying her down, and having his way with her...after driving her out of her mind first...was going to be mind blowing enough. He wondered briefly if Jack would be as eager to 'receive', as he probably would be to 'give'. Then decided just as quickly that he really didn't care one way or the other. With luck, he'd be doing both over the weekend.
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