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In Your Own Backyard
Casey had drawn last watch. She woke her teammates up as soon as the sun began to send fingers of light across the sky. Water was already hot and waiting, and the ziplock baggie full of instant oatmeal packets was nearby. A fresh pot of coffee filled the air with its rich aroma. Breakfast was eaten quickly, and the team spent a few minutes washing at the edge of the lake.
Duncan watched, aware that this was routine for the people he was with. Sam and Jack were kneeling together near the water, washing quickly. Teal'c was actually in the lake, bathing in the cold water. Casey and Daniel had wandered in as well, and Daniel used his body to block her from the view of his teammates as she washed. She then did the same for him. He hurried through his own morning routine, happy to note that none of the men of SG-1 were bothering to shave. He had always hated shaving with cold water!
Daniel looked around as he pulled on his clean clothes. He and Casey would begin digging at what he had marked as the first site of possible ruins. Jack and Teal'c would accompany Sam as she returned to the cavern room with its control consoles. Duncan would remain with the Jacksons, standing guard duty as they worked. He frowned when Casey shivered. "Cold, babe?"
"No. I just hate the feeling of being watched. You would think whoever it is would have figured out we're not a threat, and would come out and introduce themselves," she complained.
He smiled. "Maybe they haven't realized we're not a threat."
"Well, we aren't!" she huffed. She looked around. "Hear that? We're not a threat! Just curious!"
The quiet laughter of her teammates filled the air behind her. "You tell 'em, babe," Daniel grinned, as he tied a do-rag over his head.
"Maybe they know the difference between curious and nosy, Case," Jack called.
"Bite me, Jack!" she retorted.
More laughter filled the air. Duncan couldn't help but grin. They were facing an unknown enemy. But they were carrying on as if they were on a mere camping trip. George Hammond had told him about the 'SG-1 attitude'. That their cockiness was probably what had kept them alive when by all rights they should have been dead. Not being a career military man, he knew that their attitude didn't bother him as much as it had occasionally bothered General Hammond. Although that man would never admit as much.
Teal'c and Jack helped drag the heavy boxes of dig equipment to the first 'site'. Casey was already setting string out in a grid formation. Within thirty minutes, neither Jackson even noticed when their three teammates disappeared into the cave. Communication between the two groups consisted of Jack shouting down from the mouth of the cave, and Duncan shouting back up to him. Not the most technologically advanced method. But it worked.
Casey was sitting comfortably, sifting yet another frame full of sand. Three small pieces of glass, each appeared to be part of a larger piece, glittered in the sunlight. "Daniel, I think I found something!"
The young man pulled himself to his feet. "What?"
"Look!" She held the glass fragments in her palm for his inspection.
He frowned, picked up each piece, examined it carefully. "These almost look like pieces of a data crystal," he said. Having seen enough of both whole data crystals, and what was left after those crystals had been destroyed, he was fairly certain of what he was looking at.
Her frown matched his. "So were they broken on purpose, or by accident?"
"I dunno. Let's keep digging and see if we can find the answer to that question." Daniel was doing most of the digging. Going deeper than six feet wasn't necessary, not for the first step of the excavation. They would go down farther when the entire area was a consistent six feet deep. His heart nearly stopped when the metal shovel in his hand reverberated against another piece of metal.
"Did I just hear…?" Casey asked, looking up at him with wide eyes.
"Yeah," he replied. "You did."
She jumped to her feet, grabbed a shovel and hurried to his side, began to dig beside him. "Duncan, grab a shovel. We've found something!" she called over her shoulder.
For two hours they shoveled dirt and sand away from an every growing pit. And at the bottom of it was black metal. They were into hour three when Daniel found the edge. A sloping edge that went farther into the ground.
Duncan wiped his face his arm. "I'm not an expert, but this is looking a hell of a lot like a ship of some sort."
"Yeah. It is," Daniel agreed. "Let's see how big it is."
Casey stopped long enough to grab three bottles of water. "Here. You need this," she said softly, forcing the bottle into her husband's hand.
Daniel smiled, dropped a kiss on her cheek. "Thanks, Angel."
The adrenaline rush that was fueled by the excitement of their find kept them digging through lunch and well into the afternoon.
When Jack, Sam and Teal'c finally left the cave late in the afternoon, they were greeted by a hole twenty feet wide, nearly forty feet long, and eight feet deep. Visible at the bottom of that hole was the top of a small ship. Unlike anything any of them had seen before.
"Holy Hannah!" Sam exclaimed. She jumped down beside her friends. "I guess you had better luck that I did!"
"Nothing?" Casey asked.
"I was able to locate repair panels for every one of those consoles. But I've never seen circuitry like that before. It uses crystals, but they're so tiny! And there are…wires…except they don't feel like wires. More like…spider webs. The strength is amazing, I couldn't cut any of them, not even with the diamond cutters!" Sam told her.
"Wow!" Casey replied. "Well, in a way, it fits with this find. Want to bet this thing is empty?"
Daniel looked up at her, pushed his glasses up his nose. "Why?"
"Because what was in here," she said, pointing to the ship, "is up there."
He grinned. "Okay, Mrs. Jackson. You're the expert on Cardorians. Extrapolate."
"Well, we know that the Cardorians left the warning on that cliff. It's pretty general. 'Stay away'. At first I thought maybe there had been a settlement here, and there had been a disease or something that swept through the area. Now I'm thinking that they found this, and that it's possible they're the ones who buried it. And they didn't want anyone finding it," she said.
Daniel frowned. "That's a pretty big leap. What makes you think that?"
"Because he told me," Casey shrugged.
"He? He who?" Daniel demanded to know.
"He who what?" Casey asked, confusion written on her face. "What are you talking about?"
Daniel dropped his shovel, strode to where his wife stood. Gently took her shoulders in his hands. "Look around, Casey. Tell me what you feel…or see."
Eyes wide, she nodded. Met him in the meadow.
"You said 'he told you' about the Cardorians burying this ship," he said softly.
"Yes, you did."
"Oh, swell. Not only can't I see anything, I'm going nuts, too!" she groused.
He smiled. "I have you, Angel. Take a look."
She wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'll be right back," she whispered. She closed her eyes, and began to scan the area around them. She could 'see' the ship. It was larger than they thought. And it wasn't the only ship that had been buried. The one that they had uncovered was still in working order. The other one had been cannibalized, every control console stripped from it and moved into the cavern. Pieces of the hull had formed the roofs of shelters hurriedly built by the occupants. Who were not Cardorian. She caught a glimpse of pale skin - pasty white and unhealthy looking. Yellow eyes - eyes not accustomed to the sunlight after centuries in the dark confines of the ship and the journey through space. Legs and arms extreme in length, fingers that had four joints rather than the three that humans had. She continued to look, trying to find any clue as to who these people were, where they had come from, why their ships were buried on Gamma, obviously by Cardorians.
Nothing. Absolutely freaking nothing! No cuneiform. No glyphs. No runes. No writing of any sort! She was about to give up when she felt a shiver move up and down her spine. She turned slowly. She suddenly wasn't where she had been! She was standing in a desert. Nothing as far as the eye could see but burning, yellow-gold sand.
The man was short, not even as tall as she was, probably five feet, five inches at the most. His hair was black, his eyes dark brown, his skin bronze in color. He looked like an Egyptian, just an ordinary Egyptian! He smiled at her. "You are quite strong."
She knew immediately what he was referring to. "Is it necessary to block me from seeing?"
The man laughed. "I do not block you, I protect you!"
Her heart lurched in her chest. "From whom…what?"
"From they who would destroy you."
She shivered. "I'm Casey Jackson. Who are you?"
"My name is Sabni. I was a scribe of the New People."
"New People…the Cardorians! Of course! Carda is the root of the 'beginning' words in Terran!" she said excitedly. "I was right, wasn't I? The Asgard did rescue you and the others, and put you together on a planet, didn’t they?"
Sabni smiled again. "Yes, Casey Jackson, you are correct. You are quite astute. The Asgard rescued us from the Ti-hem. Our numbers were small, each group had no more than thirty people. Not enough to be able to protect ourselves. We understood that only by working together could we defeat the Ti-hem."
"'They who move in the darkness'," the man replied.
"Will you wait just a minute, I want to bring my Husband here…he's an archaeologist…his specialty is Ancient Egypt, although he's the leading expert on Terra and Langara, at least from the human…er…Tau'ri, perspective." She realized she was babbling…couldn't seem to stop.
"Yes, I would quite enjoy the honor of meeting The Chosen," Sabni replied.
She wouldn't even bother asking. Instead, she 'tugged' at Daniel, until he was standing in the desert beside her.
Daniel looked around. "Where are we?"
"Beats me," she admitted. "Daniel, meet Sabni. Sabni, this is Daniel, The Chosen."
The man lowered himself to his knees, then touched the sand with his forehead. "Your coming has been foretold for many centuries. Your power is that of the gods."
Cheeks red with embarrassment at the response, Daniel reached down and pulled the man to his feet. "I'm no god," he grumbled. "Just a man. An archaeologist."
"So your wife tells me," the man replied, standing once again.
"Sabni says he's not blocking me, he's protecting us."
"From whom?" Daniel asked.
"They who move in the darkness?" Daniel asked, immediately understanding the meaning of the odd sounding name, a mixture of Terran and Langaran.
"Okay, I'm a bit lost here," Daniel admitted. He was frowning by the time Casey had told him all that she and Sabni had discussed. The description that Casey gave him of the 'Ti-hem' left him worried. "What danger to they pose to us?"
"They delight in…torturing…humans. It is a game to them. Those who survive these…games…are allowed to go free, to return to their homes. Very few survive."
"Where do they come from?" Daniel asked.
"I do not know," Sabni admitted. "They have been here from the beginning of time. It is said that only the greatest of The Chosen can defeat them."
Oh, hell, Daniel thought. That didn't sound good. He hated being tossed into the middle of a battle he had no clue how to fight! He looked at Casey. Her eyes were wide…full of worry, and fear. Together they could not be defeated, rang through his head. He unconsciously shifted closer to her, put his arm around her slender shoulders and pulled her tight against his side. "I suppose that's what I have to do?"
"If they choose to test you."
"I still don't understand why these ships are here," Daniel said.
Sabni settled himself on the sand. "Three ships of Ti-hem appeared in our sky. Took many of our people. We had ships of our own, and gave chase. For weeks we followed them, always just behind. We caught up with them in this solar system. We fired on them, and one of the ships crashed here. It was destroyed, and what remains lies at the bottom of the lake near your camp. The other two landed in order to try and save their brethren. This planet was deserted. We thought it would be an appropriate place to…imprison them. So their ships were disabled. Our people were already…dead…we buried them according to the laws of the Pharaohs. They did not disturb us as we worked. Perhaps because two of our ships were guarding us. When we had finished, we placed a warning on the face of the cliff, and returned to our home."
Daniel had sat down in front of the small man. "So they died here?"
"Yes. Or so we believed."
Casey shivered. "Wait a minute. How can…your entire civilization seemed to disappear…" she broke off. "Ascended! All of the Cardorians are Ascended!"
Sabni smiled. "It is as you say. One named Oma Desala offered us this escape when the ships of Dagon filled our skies. We had ships, we had weapons, but not in the number needed to protect us. Our numbers were once again small because of the Ti-hem, and then Dagon's repeated attacks on us."
"Well, he's dead now," Casey said grimly.
"Yes. And he suffers now in that place where all evil ones must go when their time has come."
"Hell?" Casey asked incredulously.
Another smile. "Of a sort."
Daniel was frowning again. "Holy shit!" he muttered. He looked at Sabni. "They are the keepers of that place, aren't they? And a few of them…escaped…or at least left. They only know how to torture, to torment. So that's what they do! If a soul…a person, is able to prove themselves worthy, that soul is allowed to leave."
"Does everyone go there?" Casey asked nervously.
Daniel shook his head. "Only those who have been…evil. Anyone who hasn't proven their worthiness in life. Those are the souls who are given a second chance, who have to face tests."
"And you know this because…?" the young blonde asked, one eyebrow raised.
He grinned. "The story is actually part of every religion on Earth. And Langara, and Terra, even the Tollan and the Nox have similar myths."
"I don't think they're myths," she replied.
"Apparently not," Daniel agreed.
"You, Chosen, must defeat those who still roam free. When you do so, the threat of the Ti-hem will no longer haunt the universe."
He moaned mentally. That's right, no pressure here. Just the fate of the freaking universe! How could he defeat these …creatures? They were all-powerful, and according to every legend, myth, and story he had ever heard about 'demons', they cheated a lot. Swell. Just friggin' swell!
Casey watched him, understood his frustration. "Together, always, Beloved," she said softly.
Sabni shook his head. "Each of you will face the demons alone. All of you must survive. Or all of you will die."
She shuddered. That didn't sound promising!
"I take it that a few Ti-hem have survived here all of this time?" Daniel asked.
"There are only five of them. Do not believe that their small number will make them easy to defeat," Sabni warned.
"Of course not," Daniel grumped again.
"They are the ones who have been watching us?" Casey asked.
"You said you've been protecting us…why?" Daniel asked.
"For a very selfish reason, Chosen One," Sabni said. "My family was taken from me, they were among the those buried in the caves above you. I was not with them. Thus, when the others Ascended, I did also. They now reside on the plane of those who have passed. I cannot be with them."
"Wait…wait…wait…wait," Daniel said, holding up one finger. "I was dying, and Oma Desala offered Ascension to me."
Sabni smiled. "Yes. You were dying. You had not already passed from the mortal realm. Once that journey has been made, there is no choice, no chance of Ascension."
Casey nodded. "I get it. I think. Won't you get into trouble for…interfering?"
Again the small man smiled. "I have waited for centuries for my revenge. Whatever punishment I must bear, I will bear lightly." He turned to Daniel. "Please, Chosen, you must defeat these demons!"
"I'll do my best," Daniel replied. He looked at Casey, then back at Sabni. "Knowing what is about to happen will help us, won't it?"
"Yes. What you must endure will seem real to you. But you must never forget that it is only a test," Sabni said. "They can only use what memories they find, the fears that they can locate in your mind."
Casey nodded. "Same as we went through with Rheda," she said softly.
Daniel nodded his agreement.
"I can stay no longer," Sabni said sadly. "I have done what I can. Now, you must defeat the Ti-hem."
Casey opened her eyes. She and Daniel were standing in the meadow. "I have the feeling that I'll continue to be blocked until this is over."
Daniel nodded. "Angel, we might not be able to…communicate. Don't you dare forget that I love you, do you hear me?"
"I hear you," she replied softly. "Don't forget me, Stud Muffin," she whispered.
"Never, Angel," he promised.
"Guess we'd better let the team know. I'm glad we got the kids out of here!"
"Me, too. Okay, if we have to do this, let's get it over with." He held her tightly. Kissed her thoroughly before letting her go. "Only you, always you, forever and ever," he whispered.
"Only you, always you, forever and ever," she whispered in reply. Nearly cried out when he slowly moved away from her.
"Took long enough!" Jack exclaimed as soon as he saw their eyes open.
"Listen carefully," Casey said. "We're about to go through hell on earth. It's a test, don't forget that, no matter how real it may seem. They'll use your memories against you. You have to win, you have to survive, or we all die."
Sam moaned. "Oh, crap!"
"Yeah," Casey agreed.
"So when does this happen?" Jack asked.
Daniel shook his head. "I don't know. Soon. We need to get this ship buried again. Now."
With nods of understanding, the team began to toss shovels full of dirt and sand back onto the black hull. A roar of displeasure filled the air around them.
"Don't stop!" Jack yelled. "Keep shoveling!"
Their movements were frantic, filled with the panic that each heart felt. Keeping the ship buried was the single most important thing to all of them in that moment. Daniel looked around. Felt the darkness surround them. Oh, hell. "Love you, Angel!" he shouted.
"Love you, too!" she cried in return.
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