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Mike looked around. "Now what?"
Jack frowned. "Is there any other way to interpret this thing?"
Daniel’s frown matched that of his friend. "I’m sure that the tribal leaders could weave a believable story. It could be told as a creation story, an animation of the myth of Umai-hulhlya-wit."
"What if we asked them to come up here and take a look, tell them we’re not sure what we’re looking at," Bernie suggested.
"Let’s finish looking around, make sure there isn’t anything else that can cause us grief," Jack said.
"I suggest that we take the full three weeks, find what we can," Daniel said. "We can still learn a lot about the way these people lived."
Mike looked at the sky. "We’ve got a couple of hours of light left. Might as well tarp this, and get back to the caves." He glanced at Jack and Daniel, waiting for their approval. Not even realizing that he'd willingly relinquished leadership of the dig to them.
"Better let the general know what we’ve found," Jack said in a quiet aside to Sam. She nodded, took her cellphone and wandered up the path away from all of the activity.
Daniel squinted up at the canyon wall, the sun lighting the rocks until they appeared to glow. "I’d like to get a quick look at those upper caves," he told his best friend.
"Do it," Jack said.
"C’mon, babe. Let’s go take some pictures." He grabbed his pack, slung it over his shoulder, picked up one of the large battery lanterns, and led her up the steep, broken path, picking his way carefully, holding her hand tightly.
The climb wasn’t easy...the path hadn’t been used in years...perhaps decades. The entrance to the first cave was wide, set back from a ledge at least ten feet deep. There were a few drawings on the walls, not many more than what they'd found in the lower caves. Daniel examined them carefully. Again they depicted the every day life of those who lived within the cavern. "With as many caves as there are, and the fact that they’re all looking the same, it’s possible that there were four or five large extended families that made up the clan...or tribe...that lived here," he said softly. "Let’s check out the other cave, and then call it a day."
"Sounds good. I want a bath!"
He grinned. "Want company?"
"Always," she replied.
Her smile, and the gleam of desire...and love...in her eyes made him breathless with need for just a few seconds.
They both gasped when Daniel pointed the light at the wall of the second cave. It was a bit smaller than the other. Drawings covered the stone, from floor to ceiling, front to back. He walked back into the interior of the cave. Then returned to the ledge.
"Wow," she said softly.
"Yeah," he agreed. "The style of the drawings is the same. I’m guessing that one person drew it all."
They examined each of the drawings. Man and snake. Snake and man. Struggling, fighting. Sometimes the man seemed to be winning. Sometimes he was losing. Daniel recorded every inch of the walls, Casey took pictures until she ran out of film.
"He must not have been very strong, not at first," Casey said softly.
Daniel was frowning. Something about that kept nagging at him. "Casey, you said that he took the Prim’ta from the Jaffa, and put them into the river, right?"
"That’s what I saw."
Something had been tickling the back of his mind. "That river runs straight down from the top of this mountain," he said.
"Yeah, it does. So?"
"It’s cold water. Very cold water. The river on P3X-888, where we found the primordial Goa’uld, was warm. The water in the seplica...the tank in that temple on Chulak, was warm. When Janet puts any symbiote in a tank, it’s warm water."
"They couldn’t survive the cold water?"
"I don’t think so."
"But what about all of the snakes...curling around those people?"
He put the camera on the ground beside the light. Put his hands on her shoulders. "Casey, I want you to concentrate. Look at the images again. Take your time. Tell me if you see the people near the river."
She nodded, wrapped her hands around his arms, and closed her eyes. Examined the images carefully. "No, they weren’t near the river. They were...they were looking in the ship...they were all young...well, late teens maybe. Several boys, a few girls. They...they’re certain that they’re in the...belly...of a god. There’s a...it looks like an aquarium..." she shuddered, her eyes flew open.
"Describe the...aquarium," he said hoarsely.
"It’s...well, glass sides...the lid..." she shivered again. "It has...brass...no...bronze...bronze symbiotes on it...the base...the base looks...the legs of the base look like carvings of naked humans on their knees...their arms raised above their heads...their hands make the corners that hold the tank."
"Those were mature symbiotes," he said.
"Why would he have mature symbiotes in an aquarium on his ship?"
In the information he'd been given about Lord Yu was a description of a ceremony he might witness...one in which Goa’uld ate the live, raw bodies of mature symbiotes. The cannibalistic rite was said to add the strength of that symbiote to their own. It was a ceremony shared when several System Lords banded together against another. They were joining together against Ra. The System Lords had started the rebellion. The human slaves had finished it. "Can you see...him?"
She searched, shook her head. "No. I can...feel him...he’s hiding. When...there’s another ship...Ra...I thought he destroyed his al’kesh, so he could hide better, but he didn’t...Ra did! And everyone here, they were taken."
"I’m thinking that everything you saw happened in a matter of days...maybe even hours," Daniel said quietly. "He was left here...lived here alone, the host trying desperately to break free."
"He'd have gone mad!" she whispered.
"Yeah. If he had the sarcophagus..." The young archaeologist was pacing. "It’s possible that the people who lived here were the only ones for miles around. They'd have seen the ship crash, would have seen the other ship arrive, and I’m thinking that the destruction of an al’kesh would have probably set fire to the forest around this mountain."
"He could have survived in his sarcophagus," she pointed out.
"Yeah, he could have. If it had been damaged in the crash, it would have protected him, but not rejuvenated him. When he...came out...he hid it...and I’m thinking he had to be very careful about letting anyone know who he really was," Daniel said. "That’s why he stayed alone...to gain full control of the host, so that there was no way for anyone to ever know who...what he really was."
"Because he had no way of knowing if Ra had spies here," she added.
"How would he explain dragging around a huge coffin?"
He grinned. "It wouldn’t be easy to move, or explain."
"If he lived here until others arrived...that could have been a very long time," she said softly.
"Yeah. We could be dealing with a totally insane Goa’uld."
"I thought they were all insane," she said dryly.
"This one is even more so," he replied.
"Jack is not going to want to hear this!"
"Hear what?" Both Jacksons jumped as Jack stepped into the cave. "This is why I can’t leave you alone," he said to Daniel, frowning at the young man. "You don’t keep an eye on your surroundings! If I'd been a snake, you’d be dead!"
"Well you aren’t," Daniel replied.
"Lucky for you. What is it that I’m not going to want to hear?"
Daniel gave Jack a rundown of what they'd learned and their theories regarding those facts; showed him the rock walls that were covered with red and black pigment.
"This snake could be anywhere!" Jack moaned. Why had he even bothered hoping that there'd be some hint as to where that damned snake had gone?
"If he did like Seth did, he takes a new host as needed."
"You think he’s been separated from his sarcophagus?"
The young man nodded. "I’m sure he’s managed to come back for it at some point in time..." his voice trailed off.
"I need to check something," Daniel said, trying to rein in his excitement. "If he did come back here, we might be able to find some record of it. A stone sarcophagus is damned big, and heavy, and moving it’s a bitch."
"Even if he killed everyone directly involved with getting it, somebody would know something," Jack nodded. "Got your laptop?"
"Back at the hotel."
"Let’s head back. It’s going to be dark soon anyway, and I’d prefer to not try driving out of here in the dark."
The three headed back down to the lower caves. Mike had called a halt to the work for the day. "So, we shouldn’t mention what we found, should we?"
"Not just yet. You found caves with some markings on the walls. That’s really all you’ve had time to discover," Daniel said quietly.
The older man nodded his understanding. "I don’t know how you do it, Danny."
"Manage to keep from exploding. My god, what you know...what you’ve seen..." Mike waved a hand at the cave behind him. "Makes this seem pretty meaningless."
"No, it’s not," Daniel argued. "We need to know about our past, to know where we came from, what our ancestors knew and learned and passed on. If we don’t know where we came from, where we’ve been, how can we as a species know where we’re going?"
Mike smiled. "Spoken like a true archaeologist." He gathered up his reference books and notes, stuffed them into the canvas bag he carried them in. "See you at Jack’s Stash in a couple of hours."
"We’ll be there," Daniel replied.
Bernie watched as he climbed into the SUV, his arm going automatically around his wife’s shoulders. She watched how he pulled the slender blonde closer. The young woman was smiling at something he'd said, looking up at him with such love in her eyes...
"He’s so in love with her he can’t see straight."
She turned to find Alley standing beside her, watching the tail lights disappear into the trees, heading for the logging road. "I know."
"You’re wearing your heart on your sleeve," Alley reprimanded gently.
"I’ve loved him for such a long time," Bernie sighed. "I can’t just stop overnight."
Alley shook her head. "You’ve loved a memory, the man you dreamed of. Reality is seldom like our dreams."
"Maybe. When I saw him standing in the hotel-" her voice caught, she blinked back her tears. "He looked so good...and all I could think of was the fact that I was being given another chance...and that this time I wasn’t going to blow it. Except...except I’m not getting another chance. When I hugged him...god, I didn’t even think about it...I was just across the floor, wrapping my arms around him, waiting to feel him hold me after all of these years..."
"But he didn’t," Alley said intuitively, after a few minutes when the young woman had gone silent.
"No, he didn’t." She reached up, wiped a tear from her cheek. "He was moving away from me before I'd even started to let go...and reaching for her."
"I know. I’ve never seen him smile like he does around her. He was always so serious when I knew him. I mean, most of the students were; grad students are a very serious bunch," Bernie said, trying to joke. "But he always had this...wall...around himself. That wall isn’t there now...at least...not with her...with them."
"It still hurts, I know. But it’s all been just a dream, Bernie. You said this is the first time you’ve seen him since you left Chicago."
"It is." She was beginning to wonder why she'd ever confided any of this to the Alley! The woman could be a royal pain-in-the-ass when she wanted to be! If this was her idea of comfort...
"Why didn’t you try harder to contact him? Why didn’t you keep trying?" Alley pressed.
"Because the memory of being with him in Chicago, and the dream of how you wanted it to be, might not have matched reality. I think you were afraid that he'd take you up on your offer," the older woman said.
"That’s exactly what I wanted! I wanted him to come in and sweep me off of my feet and into his arms and take me to bed and make love to me until I couldn’t think..." Bernie stopped. "But he was never going to do that."
Alley shook her head. "No. Not as long as he thought you'd rejected him. You knew that. You knew that you'd have to be the one to make the first move. And you never did. Why do you suppose that is?"
"Because I didn’t want to know just how bad it feels to be rejected...didn’t want to know that he'd...moved on," she said softly. She moaned, slapped a hand to her forehead. "And like a fool, the first thing I do is hug him...in front of his wife and friends; then, before he can even get his luggage to his room I’m dragging him out on the porch and handing him the letter that I wrote eleven years ago, that I'd added an ‘I love you’ to the night before. God, I’m such an idiot!"
"This too, shall pass," Alley grinned. "I know Mike isn’t Mister Romance. But he’s a good man. And he’s crazy about you."
"I know," Bernie replied softly. "Guess I’ll go see if he’s ready to leave."
"Don’t let the memories...the dream...of an old love destroy the desire and the chance for a new one."
"I won’t...at least, I’ll try not to let that happen." She gave the older woman’s shoulder a gentle squeeze, and turned to walk back to the cave. What she'd told Alley was true. She'd loved Daniel Jackson for a long time. Even knowing that nothing would ever happen between them, that he was head-over-heels, crazy in love with his wife, didn’t stop that love. She'd nurtured it for a long time. It would take time to let it go completely.
A A A A A A
Casey slid down into the warm water, sighed contentedly. She closed her eyes and relaxed, letting the soft scent of jasmine, from the bath salts she'd added, ease away the tension of the day.
"We could have our dinner here," a voice said softly from the doorway.
"I like that idea," she replied.
Daniel rubbed the towel over his hair. He'd taken a quick shower to wash away the grime of the dig, so that she could take her time...relax...enjoy her bath. "How about I go over and get something?"
She opened her eyes. "I think that sounds great."
"I don’t suppose they’d have burgers and fries?"
"I’ll bet they do. Coffee?"
He leaned over and kissed her. "I’ll be back shortly."
"I’ll be here," she replied. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back. All the way back into town Jack, Sam and, Daniel had complained about their vacation being ruined by the ‘damned snakes’. She had to smile. By now they should be accustomed to having evidence of the Goa’uld popping up in the most unexpected places. In the six years that the SGC had been in existence, more and more proof appeared that all of the ‘gods’ who had been worshipped by the people of Earth...the Tau’ri of the First World...were aliens. As strange as it sounded, it also made perfect sense. Not all of those aliens had been hostile toward the humans...the Asgard, for example, basis of the Norse gods and mythology, had been rather benevolent, protecting those who worshipped them. Daniel suspected that the Ancients had a lot to do with the fact that the humans had crawled out of the caves and began building cities.
She cocked her head sideways as a strange feeling washed over her. The feeling was cold...dark. "Miss Eloise?" she whispered.
She was standing outside of the caves where they'd spent the day. The old woman was looking out over the valley, spread out before them, the weak light of the moon shining down, the tall pines dark and menacing.
"Hello, Sunshine," Miss Eloise said, without turning around.
"Hello. I...I’ve never had a feeling like this before," she admitted.
The old woman shuffled to turn around, raised a gnarled hand and touched her cheek. "You’re sensing danger."
"I’ve sensed danger before, and it hasn’t felt like...this."
"Tell me what you see."
Obediently, Casey closed her eyes. Concentrated on the images that began to flood her mind.
"Wait..." Miss Eloise said softly. "Let the scenes end before trying to focus on them."
She nodded. Tried to relax as images she couldn’t understand flashed in front of her. Just as suddenly as they'd started, it all stopped.
"Now, look," the old woman instructed. "What do you see?"
"A tall building...it’s in a city somewhere...lots of glass...a large room...conference room I think..." Casey murmured, ‘sorting’ through the images, trying to put them in logical order. "There are men around the table..."
"Look at them."
Casey watched...in horror...as the Armani suits began to fall away, revealing naked bodies...which were covered with scars...so many deep, bleeding wounds! Suddenly she was on the table, on her back, being groped, raped...someone so roughly grabbing her legs and pulling them apart, shoving his cock into her ass...someone else was forcing his cock into her mouth...can’t fight, mustn’t fight...god it hurts!...do everything they ask... just want to die!...no, don’t fight...let them do this...just a pet...
She gasped, took a step backward. Hesitantly, she touched each mind...found the same brutal memories. The ‘wounds’ weren’t physical, but mental, emotional...The man at the head of the table turned sharply, stared at her. Cold...empty...cruel... Goa’uld! He was Goa’uld! She backed away, her heart pounding against her ribs.
Miss Eloise reached out and cupped her cheek. "You’re safe, Sunshine," she said softly.
"Oh, god...he’s...he’s an animal...no...worse than that! He degrades them...dehumanizes them...then...then..." She shivered. "He breaks them down, and when he gives them back their...humanity...they’re blindly loyal to him."
The old woman nodded. "He must be stopped, Sunshine. He wants the Stargate, so that he can return to that place where he has a fleet waiting."
"It’s been thousands of years," Casey protested. "Surely by now..."
"The people he ruled have not changed their ways. When he returns, they will be ready."
"He’ll enslave Earth."
"So he plans, yes," Miss Eloise nodded. "Daniel has the strength...the power. He could be forced to call upon it."
She sat up so quickly that water sloshed over the side of the old, clawfoot tub. She stood up, grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her slender frame, tossed another one on the floor to absorb the mess she'd made. Daniel had to know...
If she could only determine which city...Daniel’s laptop was on the antique desk that sat in one corner of the room. Damn it! Internet access wasn’t available here...he'd bemoaned that fact when he'd wanted to do that search to see if there were any clues about the sarcophagus being taken from the area. She sat back in the chair and crossed her arms over her chest. She needed to get online! If she could search through photographs of city skylines, she was certain that she'd recognize the city she'd seen...maybe even be able to locate the building she'd been in.
The face of the man who was now Goa’uld danced in front of her eyes. Something told her that the snake wasn’t opposed to moving to a new host if necessary, to remain...anonymous.
She jumped slightly when the sound of key in the lock filtered through her whirling thoughts.
Daniel stepped into the room, a bag containing two hamburgers, two orders of fries, two large cups of coffee...and two chocolate shakes in his hand. He took one look at her wide eyes and knew that something had happened. "Casey?"
"He’s in a city. And he’s...he’s an animal, Daniel. You were right...he’s so...insane!" she managed to gasp.
He crossed the room, put the bag on the table between the two chairs. "C’mere," he said, holding out his arms.
She moved into his embrace, took comfort from the strength of his body, the familiar scent that filled her nose and mouth. "I’m pretty sure I can recognize the skyline," she said softly.
"There isn’t anything we can do until tomorrow," he said gently. "Let’s eat."
She took a deep breath, nodded. "Let me get my robe," she said softly.
His arms tightened around her. "I dunno. I kind of like that towel," he teased.
She pulled back and glanced down. The towel had slipped, one breast was completely exposed, most of the other uncovered as well. "Gee, I wonder why," she retorted.
With a laugh, he let her step away from him. "You could just drop it, wouldn’t bother me at all."
"Yeah, well it'd bother me. It’s cold!" she replied. She found her robe, slipped it over her arms, tied the belt securely around her waist. She opened the bag, began to pull the food from it. Found the shakes. "Oh! Chocolate!" She located a straw, hastily tore the paper wrapper away, jabbed the clear plastic into the precut hole in the lid, and took a deep sip. "Oh, that’s good!"
He grinned. "Alley was drinking one when I got there, she said it was the best shake she’d had in years."
Dropping down onto one of the chairs, she nodded. "It’s delicious!"
"Now, tell me what you saw," he said, popping a French fry into his mouth.
It wasn’t easy to put into words what she'd seen...experienced...felt. She did her best, knew that Daniel ‘had the picture’ by the look of utter disgust in his eyes. "Did you see Kinsey?"
She shook her head. "No. Doesn’t mean that the Goa’uld doesn’t have him. I’ve heard of sick and twisted..." she shuddered. "This guy...this snake...I’m not so sure even his fellow snakeheads could handle what this one does!"
"Don’t bet on it," Daniel snorted. "They’re all pretty damned twisted."
"Not like this!" She took a bite of the hamburger. "Why is it that places like Jack’s Stash make the best burgers?"
"I have no idea," he replied, taking a bite of his own.
"I've got the feeling that we need to be careful," she continued, wiping her mouth on a napkin. "This snake isn’t opposed to body-hopping."
He nodded his understanding. "Which means he doesn’t have a sarcophagus nearby."
"It’s not near those caves. But I know I saw him take it from the ship...that’s what piqued the curiosity of those teenagers...they saw it being moved...wanted to know what else was inside," she said.
He glanced at her. A Goa’uld sarcophagus was large, had a stone exterior, which made them heavier than hell. "I’d still like to know how he managed to get it out, alone."
"I don’t know...but he did," she replied. "He moved it...at least once. I...it’s like...I don’t think he knows where it is."
"He lost his sarcophagus?" The very idea of a Goa’uld losing track of the device that kept him...or her...alive was downright amusing, and he couldn’t stop the laugh that erupted. "No wonder he’s so pissy!"
She frowned. "You told me that Hathor...sensed...the Stargate, as soon as she was released from her sarcophagus, right?"
"Then this guy has to have known that the Stargate was unburied in 1928...he knows it’s in Cheyenne Mountain, he wants it...yet he hasn’t made a move in all of this time," she mused.
Now Daniel was frowning as well. "He’s been here for several thousand years...I can’t believe he’s been running, hiding...all of that time."
"Unless he was hiding from another Goa’uld."
"Well, Seth was here, too," he admitted. They ate in silence for several minutes. "Seth’s compound was here in Washington-" he broke off. He'd found proof that that particular Goa’uld had lived on nearly every continent of the globe during the thousands of years he'd been more or less a prisoner on the planet. Hathor had told him...told General Hammond...that she'd ‘felt’ the Stargate. What if she just happened to have wandered close enough to sense the naquadah...on her way to another destination. What if...He reached for his cell phone. "Pull on some clothes, babe," he said softly. "Jack? We need to talk...Yeah...no, not yet...okay, see you in a few."
Twenty minutes later, Daniel and Casey were sitting cross-legged on the bed, Jack and Sam were sitting in the chairs, and Teal’c was standing beside Jack. "What’s up, Danny?"
The young man glanced at Casey, then told them what she'd ‘witnessed’. Faces paled as he described the depravity of the Goa’uld who was loose on planet Earth.
"Jesus!" Jack whispered softly. "You said that you figured living alone had made him crazy ...but this...this goes beyond that!"
"I know," Daniel nodded. "I have a theory..." He glanced at the faces of his teammates...his friends. They waited patiently, their faith in his knowledge, his ability to use what he knew, and extrapolate a viable theory plainly visible in their eyes. "We assumed that when Hathor told us that she ‘sensed’ the Stargate, that she meant as soon as she'd been released from the sarcophagus," he said slowly.
"That’s what she said," Jack replied.
"What if she had to be...close...within a few miles...to sense it. She'd been...buried...in South America. Seth was here in Washington, had been here for at least a thirty years. What if Hathor was on her way here?"
"Seth was looking for the crash site!" Sam gasped.
"And Hathor was on her way here, passed close enough to the Mountain to sense the ‘gate, and decided to take it over," Daniel said. "It’s possible that her finding us...it was...it might have been purely coincidental!"
"You think they were together when that ship crashed?" Jack asked.
"Casey didn’t see that...but I think Seth and Hathor knew that a Goa’uld...an ally most probably, had gone down here."
"What did he have...or know...that’s so damned important? Do you remember the maps that we found in Seth’s quarters?"
Daniel nodded. "Old and new maps of Washington state. He was looking for the crash site. Hathor was probably going to do the same thing."
"And in that self-serving Goa’uld way, when she found the ‘gate, she decided to screw over her buddies," Jack mused.
The young archaeologist turned to Teal’c. "Do you know if there is a written history of the battle against Ra?"
"I do not, Daniel Jackson. Apophis would not speak of him," the Jaffa replied. "However, if the Tok’ra were...born...with the purpose of defeating Ra, would they not have word of their victory against him?"
"I’m not sure...it was the human slaves who managed to defeat Ra and drive him from the planet," Daniel replied. "We know that much from what I found on Abydos."
"That’s why he was so...strict...with the slaves he took there," Casey said softly.
"Exactly. That’s why those who were taken, who remembered, hid that wall where the story was written. Ra wasn’t going to take a chance of it happening again," Daniel nodded. "There was more to that...war...than we realized...than we know. And we have to find out what happened. So far we’ve stumbled on three Goa’uld who were left here: Hathor, Seth, and whoever our mystery guest is. We find out the details of the war against Ra, we’ll find out who we’re dealing with."
Jack heaved a sigh. "So much for our vacation," he groused.
"He has Kinsey," Sam said, "So we can assume he knows the exact location of the Stargate."
"Yes, we can," Daniel agreed. "It’s been almost a month. I have the feeling he’s going to strike soon."
Casey shook her head. "He’s not ready," she said softly.
"What?" Daniel asked, his gaze focused on her.
"I...I just...it just...it feels like he’s not ready. He wants control of the Stargate..."
He closed his eyes. "Control! He doesn’t want to leave...at least, not yet. But he needs to control the ‘gate."
"The Russians have a ‘gate," Jack mused.
Sam shook her head. "After what happened...it’s been sealed," she replied. She looked at her CO and lover, then smiled. "General Hammond sent out a memo about it. It was sealed up before we were back in the States."
"Ah," Jack said. "Memo. Yeah, I didn’t get it."
Daniel chuckled. "You didn’t read it," he corrected.
"Couldn’t read it if I didn’t get it," Jack argued. He looked at his ‘scientists’. "Tell me there aren’t more ‘gates here."
"I don’t think there would be," Sam replied slowly. "They could only be used to leave. Anyone dialing in wouldn’t know exactly where they'd...emerge."
"Okay, so we don’t think this snake had a ‘gate, right?" Jack asked, looking from Sam to Daniel and back again. "Right?"
"I don’t know," Sam admitted.
"It might explain why Seth and Hathor were interested in searching the area," Daniel added.
"Oy!" Jack rolled his eyes. Looked over at Casey. "I don’t suppose you could...take a look...and figure out what they were looking for?"
She smiled. "I don’t know. I’m willing to try."
Jack nodded. "You be careful...out there," he said, waving his hand in a circle.
"I’ll do my best," she grinned. She closed her eyes. Went into that place where the images that had filled her mind earlier in the day waited. She had pieces, was it possible to see...to find...more?
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