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There were six young people in the cadet group, all of them from planet Earth, and each of them eager to prove their worth to the famous SG-1. The scaffolding was erected in less than an hour, looking like an exoskeleton against the yellow-white stone of the temple wall. Careful measurements had been taken so that the platform would be at the same height as the floor inside the temple.
Daniel stood on the platform, and carefully tapped the wall from one side to the other, seeking any spot that might be weaker than the rest. Only one stone offered any promise of being easier to break through than the others, its face pitted and roughened from numerous sandstorms. He took his hunting knife, carefully inserted it between the stone and the one beside it. The mortar gave way easily. He grinned at Casey, who was practically bouncing beside him. "We have a winner," he announced.
Pulling her own knife from its sheath on her thigh, Casey began to carefully dig at the mortar on the other side of the stone. She moved to do the lower edge, Daniel did the top. It took thirty minutes to have the stone ready.
Mike stepped up beside Daniel, holding the two pry bars that had been taken from the tools brought by the geologists. "How do you want to do this, boss? We can't let that thing come down on the platform."
"When we can get it out far enough, we wrap rope around it. Use the scaffold frame as a hoist, and lower it to the ground. That's where we'll need the most muscle, because we can't let the frame bear the weight," Daniel replied. "I think if we can get two of these out of here, Case can squeeze inside."
The older Immortal nodded with approval.
Daniel carefully explained to the cadets what would be required of them. Teal'c offered to stand as the 'anchor man'. The offer was quickly and gratefully accepted.
The Marines shifted into position to continue guarding the archaeologists who worked on the temple. By now Sam, the geologists and the metallurgist were watching the work as well. Those scientists had found a rich vein of Orrinite, as well as the unknown ore that was possibly the 'source' of Orrinite. Sam had sent her report, and preparations for setting up a mining camp were already being undertaken back at the SGC.
Mike and Daniel carefully, slowly pried the stone loose...eased it from its place on the wall.
"Hold up," Daniel grunted, using his hip to keep the stone steady. "Rope!"
Casey handed the rope to him, watched as he tied it around the block.
"Get ready," Daniel called out. The cadets and Teal'c prepared themselves for the sudden weight that would hit the rope the instant the stone was pulled free. Several groans of exertion filled the air as bodies balanced and pulled against the weight as the stone slid from the hole.
Marcus watched with fascination. These people were tenacious, inventive...not once had he heard anyone utter the phrase 'it can't be done'. They had decided what they wanted to do, and they had set out to do just that. When the first stone was lowered to the ground, two of the stronger cadets rolled it, freeing the rope and tossing the end back up to the waiting archaeologist.
With a grin, Daniel wiped his face with the back of his arm, looked at Casey. "It's your find. Take a look."
So excited she could barely stand it, Casey stepped up to the hole in the wall. She turned on her penlight, stuck it into the opening, crouched down and looked. Gasped out loud. It was a very narrow room, not more than five feet wide. It looked like a laboratory!
On the far left was a cabinet with glass shelves and doors...filled with bottles of colored fluids. Next to it was a long work table, the top cluttered with various tools of the trade...what looked like it might be a microscope, that had to be a Bunsen burner...even a small sink with taps for running water. Next to the work table was some sort of console, she recognized it as being an Asgard computer system. Beside it was a tall metal cabinet. The poking in the back of her mind began to get stronger. Something very, very important was in that cabinet. It seemed that on the far side of it, hidden from her view, was an open space. No doubt the door to the hidden room.
She backed out slowly. "Wow," she said softly. She handed the penlight to Daniel, waited until he had surveyed the room.
"Wow," he agreed. He looked down at Sam. "Better get Thor here," he said quietly.
"Message is on its way," Sam replied, her hand shading her eyes as she looked up at her friend.
"Let's get this opened up a bit more," Daniel said. "Sam, when we get a couple more stones out of the way, you should go in with Casey. You'll have more of an idea of what we're looking at."
The tall blonde nodded. "Got it."
A A A A A A
An hour and a half later, the two blondes stood inside a room that had been sealed off for at least a sixty thousand years.
"Whatever this is," Sam said, standing in front of the metal cabinet, "I'm getting a power reading off of it."
"As in it's working?" Casey asked, her eyes wide.
One trembling hand reached for the mechanism that would unlatch the two doors. Casey took a deep breath. Glanced over at Daniel, who was leaning into the room, his arms folded on the stones in front of him. He nodded at her. She closed her eyes for just a second, opened them, and then touched the latch.
The sound of a lock activating filled the air. All three observers waited, each of them expecting an alarm of some sort to go off. Instead, one of the cabinet doors opened slightly.
Sam moved to stand at Casey's shoulder as she pulled the door fully open. "Holy Hannah!"
"What?" Daniel demanded.
Casey shook her head. "Slides, glass slides. There must be...god there must be a couple thousand of them," she breathed, opening the second door.
"I'm not sure, but these could be DNA samples," Sam said, staring at the contents of the cabinet. "This is some sort of...freezer...and these samples have been here all of this time!"
"Are any of them still viable?" Daniel asked.
Sam shrugged. "I don't know. If the environment has remained constant, I don't see why they wouldn't be."
Casey frowned slightly. "Astrild was upset when we found her," she mused softly.
"Yeah, she was," Daniel agreed.
"Her laboratory seemed...empty," the young seer continued. "She was upset because something was missing. More than just her research notes."
Sam was frowning now as well. "Loki cleaned out her lab after she was put into the cryogenic chamber?"
"They were under attack," Daniel reminded his wife.
"Yes, they were. Didn't mean that Loki didn't have the means to beam himself and this stuff from Astrild's secret lab to this one," Casey replied.
"Let's leave this alone," Sam said softly, reaching past Casey to close the door. "It belongs to Astrild...and the Asgard."
Casey nodded, closed the other door. "I agree."
The two women crawled out of the room. Gave their reports to those who stood waiting, anxious to know what had been discovered.
Marcus frowned. If there was no treasure to be had...surely there was something in that room worth selling! He was not surprised when General O'Neill insisted that the Marines stand guard at the hole in the wall. And he was well aware that the order was given because of him. He sighed. Not every trip was successful. Or profitable. This was one that was neither.
He was taking down his tent when Casey approached him.
He smiled up at her. "I think it's time."
"You should stick around," she said, her green eyes twinkling. "We might find old tax records in that civic building.
He laughed. "I don't think those would go for much on the open market."
"Even less on the black market," she countered.
He finished securing his belongings, stood to his feet. "It has been a great pleasure meeting you, Casey Jackson," he said. He took her hand, lifted it to his lips. "Say the word, and I'll stay."
"What you want from me, I'll never give you," she replied softly.
"It could be beautiful...special," he said, his voice husky with emotion.
Casey shook her head. "What I have with Daniel is beautiful and special. Anything with you would be...wrong."
"You almost make me think that there is something to this 'love' business," he said, smiling at her through his disappointment.
"There is something to love, Marcus. Something wonderful."
"Last chance," he whispered, hoping against hope that she would beg him to stay, would sneak away with him for a few hours of bliss.
"Goodbye, Marcus," she said firmly.
"Goodbye, Casey." He started walking toward the DHD.
Heart pounding, he turned to look at her.
He managed to smile, winked at her, and gave a salute. "You too...Mrs. Jackson."
She watched as he said his goodbyes to the others. As he keyed in the 'address' for wherever it was he was going. Watched as he disappeared into the event horizon. "I hope you find whatever it is your searching for," she whispered softly.
Daniel stepped up behind her, barely heard the comment. "Babe?"
She turned around. Wrapped her arms around his waist. "I'm fine. I just hope he finds what he's looking for."
He smiled, his arms pulling her closer. "And what would that be?"
"Someone to trust. Someone to believe in him. Someone to love him."
He stared at the empty circle within the Stargate. Had never considered that the man's behavior hid what amounted to a empty, broken heart. "He'd have more luck if he stopped chasing married women."
Casey smiled. "But if he fell in love, he could be hurt. Married women don't hold any threats, because he knows going into the relationship that it's not serious, and won't last."
"Well, that's his problem," Daniel replied. Still miffed that the man had had the arrogance to flirt with Casey, and in front of him, no less!
"I still wish the best for him." She glanced up at him, watched him from beneath her lashes. "He was cute. And charming. Very charming."
Had he not seen the hint of a smile on her lips, felt her mirth, he would have been pissed. Instead he let his fingers find all of those ticklish places along her sides, her squeals of surprise, then laughter, filling the air as she tried to get away from him.
Jack looked over, grinned as the two continued to wrestle. "Looks like everything is okay on that front."
Sam smiled. "Looks like."
"Daniel is one hell of a man."
She looked up at her husband. "What makes you say that? Not that I disagree," she added.
"I'd have decked that slimy son-of-a-bitch if he had been flirting with you like that!"
She couldn't help but laugh. "Who says he didn't?"
"Who said that Marcus didn't flirt with me?" Sam had to admit she had been flattered...at first. But it had been obvious that the Terran had been looking for a good time, and any woman would have sufficed. He focused on Casey because she seemed so innocent, so oblivious. The young seer had been oblivious to his advances, but not to the kind of man that Marcus Tiberius was. Her best friend had called him a pirate. Which was a very apt term, she thought.
Jack's eyes narrowed. "You didn't tell me."
"Nothing to tell. He flirted. I flirted back. It was all just innocent fun," she said, not looking at him. If she did, she'd start laughing. And Jack wasn't in a laughing mood at the moment.
"You flirted back?"
"Why shouldn't I? You flirt all the time!
"I do not!"
"Jack, you flirt with anything in a skirt," Sam said, sighing dramatically.
He stared at her. Opened his mouth to argue. Closed it. "That is so not true!"
"I believe that Samantha Carter is correct," Teal'c said, from his place beside the fire. "I have observed you behaving much the way that Marcus Tiberius did."
Sam hooted with laughter.
Jack glared at the Jaffa. "Just whose side are you on, anyway?"
"I was not aware that I must 'chose sides'," Teal'c replied.
Daniel and Casey approached the fire. "What's going on?" Casey asked.
"Teal'c just informed Jack that he flirts as much as Marcus," Sam explained, giggling as her husband rolled his eyes.
"Oh, and how," Casey agreed.
"I do not flirt!" Jack growled.
"Actually, Jack-" Daniel started.
"So help me, Daniel, if you say one word about me flirting, I'll deck you!"
"But you do!" Daniel insisted, grinning as broadly as Sam and Casey.
"You can all just bite my ass!" the general exclaimed. He grabbed his P90 and headed toward the temples.
Sam continued to giggle. "I'd better go soothe his ruffled feathers."
Casey nodded. "Probably. He'll be a pain in the ass until you do."
The blonde colonel rolled her eyes and grinned broadly. "Yeah, he will."
When Jack and Sam returned to camp thirty minutes later, they were holding hands and smiling.
A A A A A A
Casey and Daniel were working in what they had dubbed "city hall" when Thor made his appearance. Astrild was at his side. It was difficult to tell whether or not the two were still...uncomfortable...around one another.
Thor examined the hidden lab. "It is obvious that Loki intended to continue following his on path of research, using the work Astrild had completed as the basis."
"Just what exactly was Loki trying to do?" Casey asked.
"He was trying to perfect the process of cloning a human body for each of us," Thor replied.
"Whoa," Jack said softly. "Why?"
"Because of all the species we have encountered, for all of their frailties, humans are the most...versatile. You can adapt to various climates with ease. You are also..." In a very uncharacteristic move, Thor turned away from his Tau'ri friends.
"Humans are very beautiful as well," Astrild said softly, when the silence stretched to become uncomfortable. "So much variety, from eye color to hair color to skin color, and all of the variations therein."
"So that's what he was trying to do, by taking all of those people," Daniel said softly.
"At first, yes," Thor acknowledged. "However, as the...flaws...of our cloning process became more apparent with each procedure, he determined to find a way to correct those flaws, using human DNA."
"But it didn't work," Sam said.
"No, it did not," Thor replied.
"Will all of those DNA samples help you?" Daniel asked.
Astrild shook her head sadly. "They are human samples. Taken from the humans we brought here from the slave camps of the Goa'uld."
"Damn!" Jack said softly. There had been hope that this discovery would help the Asgard, prevent their species from dying out.
"Do not despair, O'Neill," Thor said. Casey was certain that if the being could have smiled, he would have been. "Astrild, one of our greatest scientific minds, has been returned to us. There is great hope that she will be able to solve our dilemma."
"I shall do my best," the female Asgard said, lowering her eyes demurely.
"Your best has always been far superior to the attempts of others," Thor said.
It was difficult to tell for sure, but each of the team was certain that a bit of color rose in Astrild's cheeks.
"We will take the equipment that is here," Thor informed them. "As well as that of Astrild's hidden laboratory. Once again the Asgard find themselves in debt to the Tau'ri, and SG-1 in particular."
"Glad to help out," Jack grinned.
"Not too bad for a primitive species," Casey couldn't resist adding.
"No, Mrs. Jackson, not too bad at all."
Now she knew that Thor had been hanging around humans...well, Tau'ri, for far too long. She smiled. "I hope you can find the answers you need, and soon."
Astrild smiled, bowed her head slightly. "As do I. The crisis is quite severe. I fear that as a people, the Asgard have little time to solve this problem."
Daniel frowned. The Asgard were part of the First Four. A powerful, intelligent species of beings. It would be a shame...no, it would be a great loss to the entire universe if they were lost! "If we can help in any way, please, let us know."
"Your offer is quite kind, Doctor Jackson," Thor said. The small being turned to the much taller Asgard. "We must leave, and you must begin your work immediately."
"Of course," Astrild said, once again bowing her head. "I wish to thank you for...saving me. Had you not found me, I would have perished alone in that chamber."
"We're glad we found you, too," Casey said softly.
"We shall be in contact with you again," Thor said.
"We're always around," Jack replied.
Two flashes of light signaled that the Asgard were gone. It took only a few seconds for Thor to empty out the hidden room.
Casey carefully climbed down off of the scaffolding. "Now that's a bit anti-climactic, isn't it?"
"Just a bit," Daniel agreed.
"So, campers, how much more time do we need to spend here?" Jack asked.
"Another day and we'll have everything in the 'city hall' recorded," Daniel informed him.
"Mining operations will be set up next week," Sam reported.
"Okay, tomorrow we head home," the general announced.
"Sounds good to me," Casey murmured.
"Me, too," Sam agreed.
Everyone but the team went back through the 'gate, and on to the new missions that waited for them. SG-1 settled in for the night.
A A A A A A
It was just after four Gamma time when the team walked down the ramp. The mission had provided a bit of new information about the Cardorians, and how the people had come together to form strong, vibrant society. It was apparent that they had learned much from their exposure to the Asgard. And that the link between the two was a carefully guarded secret, one most probably at the behest of the secretive Asgard.
Casey dropped down onto the sofa.
"A little bit," she admitted. Allowed him to pull her close, rested her head on his shoulder.
"I think Thor still loves Astrild."
"Does she still love him?"
"I don't know. I do know that seeing him was a...shock...for her."
"No doubt. That's their problem to work out," Daniel said softly.
"I know. I just hope they can work it out." She sighed. "Poor Astrild."
"She's basically alone...her own people are strangers to her now...as alien to her as they are to us."
"Wow. I guess I hadn't thought about that," he admitted.
"I hope that she can save them...all of them."
They sat in companionable silence, waiting for Erin to bring the kids home. A note on the refrigerator had informed them that she had taken her grandchildren to the lake. No doubt Emily and Nicholas had begged to go until she had been unable to resist any longer.
Casey checked one last time on her babies. Her body was satiated from making love, her mind at ease, no fears or doubts or 'feelings' to deal with. She snuggled close to Daniel's side when she returned to bed.
Daniel held her close. Wondered what it would be like to lose her, only to 'find' her again...sixty thousand years later. It was difficult to even wrap his mind around the concept of that much time passing...of being alive for that long. Oh, he knew that as long as his head remained on his shoulders, he had every chance of living that long, or longer. But so much would have changed...could love survive that long? Survive so much change? He smiled when she moved closer, as if she were trying to crawl inside his skin with him. Pressed a kiss to the top of her head as it rested on his shoulder. No matter how long it took, if anything happened to Casey, if she was taken from him, he would search for her. And his love would be as strong, his need for her as great. No matter how much time passed. His heart assured him of that.
Astrild. Norse Goddess of Love. Frozen in time for nearly sixty thousand years. The 'Ice Queen' who had once held Thor's heart in her hand. And perhaps still did. He couldn't help but smile. Appearance meant little when two hearts, two souls were meant to be together. His smile widened. Good luck, Thor, he thought, just before sleep softly claimed him for the night.
A A A A A A
Marcus downed the drink. Tossed a few coins on the bar, and started to walk away. His attention was caught by the sound of laughter, he turned to look toward the table where the happy group was seated. And walked into a young woman who was just entering the tavern.
"You make a fine door. Now get out of my way."
His head whipped around at the sound of the soft voice. "Forgive me, I wasn't looking..."
Her smile brightened her face. "That's quite obvious."
Green eyes. He had always liked green eyes. "How about you buy me a drink and tell me what a woman as beautiful as you is doing in a place like this?"
"I have a better idea. You buy me a drink, and explain why I should pay any attention to a scoundrel like you."
He offered his arm. Led her toward a quiet table in the far corner. Signaled to the waitress. "And just what will you be drinking?"
"I don't suppose you'd be willing to open a fine bottle of wine?"
"I don't suppose so. But an ale I can offer."
"Ale it is," the woman agreed.
Marcus grinned. He wouldn't be sleeping alone tonight, he could feel it. Another glance into those green eyes had him hoping for more than just one night...more than just a few nights of pleasure. He refused to acknowledge the hope that began to flare in his heart. One day at a time, my boyo, he told himself. Just one day at a time.
A A A A A A
The ship orbited above the dead, desert planet. Sensor scans were repeated twice, three times. When the results remained the same, proof that what they searched for was no longer there, the ship moved away. The quest remained the same, even if the prize had been snatched away from them. Silently the vessel moved deeper into this new galaxy.
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