<< Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>
Man and Machine
Daniel smiled as he watched the three grad students. They were waiting nervously while the 'gate was being dialed. He wondered if he had ever been that young, that excited. Thought back to the first time that he had walked through the 'gate. Yeah, he had been that young…that excited…that optimistic about what he would find. Deep down inside, he still was.
"Chevron Five, locked," Kyle announced.
Casey looked at Stephanie. The young woman's light green eyes were wide, and Casey could sense her nervousness. "You've been through the 'gate before," she said gently.
"That was over a year ago. I think I managed to forget what it was like," the young woman gulped.
"It's really easy. Cold for a few seconds, you might feel a bit…disoriented, I do every time I walk through it. Maybe a bit of vertigo. But it's over before you can even focus on any of those feelings," Casey assured the young archaeologist.
Stephanie nodded. "What about when we get…there?"
"Well, with so many of us going, you'll want to move away from the 'gate immediately. You'll walk up the ramp, just keep walking. That's all there is to it," Casey smiled. "Just remember that there are steps on the other side. Step, then step down. Otherwise you'll take a tumble."
The young woman nodded her dark head again. Watched as the Stargate opened with that ever impressive 'whoosh' that looked and sounded like water. When the surface began to shimmer, she swallowed hard, knowing that the time had arrived to walk through that event horizon, be hurled through a wormhole to wind up light years away on an alien planet! Okay, Stephanie thought to herself, I've done this before.
"SG-1, SG-6, Marine 2, you have a go. Godspeed," Duncan said from the control room, giving the 'blessing' that no team would walk through the 'gate without.
Casey looked over her shoulder. Todd and Ramir were looking every bit as nervous as Stephanie. She winked at Sam. "Come on, Stephanie. Let's show those men how it's done." She took the young woman by the arm, Sam on the other side, and the three women walked up the ramp together.
Daniel frowned slightly. He had to push the ATV up the ramp, meaning he had to wait until Jack and Teal'c and their ATVs were out of the way. His frown deepened. It would be quite some time before he was comfortable thinking about his wife standing on an alien planet without him, even if it was for only a few seconds. He knew just how bad things could get in those few seconds. Now that he really thought about it, he wasn't sure he'd ever be comfortable with the idea of her being anywhere without him.
A A A A A A
Stephanie was looking around, her eyes as wide as saucers. The sky above them was a pale shade of pink, and the bright lavender arcs of two planets loomed overhead. Tall dark green grass with white on the tip of each stalk swayed gently in a soft breeze on either side of a wide black road that led away from the 'gate. Low, long limbed trees could be seen in the distance, the red and gold of the leaves reflecting the sunlight, making each tree appear to glow. "It's…oh it's so beautiful," she breathed.
Sam and Casey grinned at one another. "Yes it is. And look, ruins to explore," Casey said playfully, pointing in the direction of the city. She gently tugged the young archaeologist away from the 'gate.
"We need to check the MALP, and make sure that FRED and the drone are ready to go," Sam announced. Casey walked over to help her, the two women explaining to their young companion what they were doing, and why it was necessary to do so.
"FRED will pull the drone, but it does slow him down a bit. Turk and the Marines will bring it along, while the rest of us ride on into the city," Casey explained. Sam was gathering dirt and plant samples, caching the test tubes in a waiting container.
"We leave the MALP here, because we can use it to communicate. If we don't have a MALP, our radios work fine. It's just that the SGC gets a video feed with the MALP, and it makes them feel better to see that we're okay," Sam grinned.
All of the teams were now planet side, and waiting orders. "Okay, Danny, how do you want to do this?" Jack asked the young archaeologist, looking around at the alien landscape.
"UAV showed that most of the ruins were to the south of the 'gate. I suggest we head that way, see if we can't locate a place to set up camp near the building I think is a library," Daniel replied.
"Library, huh?" Jack asked. Only his teammates could hear the grin in his voice.
"I think that's what it is. I don't know for certain," Daniel said.
"Well, let's go. Lead the way, Danny," Jack said, pulling on his helmet. "Backseat riders need to keep your eyes open and weapons ready," he told the assembled group. "Turk, I want you in that city no later than twenty minutes after us."
"Twenty minutes, yes sir," Turk replied.
"Okay, campers, let's do it," Jack said, climbing onto his ATV. The others followed suit, and were ready to leave at his signal.
Casey had her P90 in hand, her eyes scanning carefully around them as Daniel drove down what looked like a main road. It was paved, and was much smoother than asphalt. She reached out, no farther than the man sitting in front of her. Smiled when she felt his soft, gentle caress. When he was holding her tightly, she reached out farther. There was a…buzz…no… more like a hum…that filled the air around her. Her heart began to beat faster. Something was very odd about this place, and it was starting to make her nervous.
'I don't like it here.'
'I don't know. It's not bad…exactly. Very odd though. And there's a hum all around us.'
'Force field of some kind?'
'I don't know.'
Daniel pulled to a stop, waited until Jack, Teal'c and Major Parker had caught up and were near enough to talk. He could have spoken to them through the transmitter and receiver in the helmet, but he didn't want to make the already nervous grad students any more so, especially when there was very little information to go on at the moment.
"What's up, Danny?" Jack asked.
"Casey says there's a hum all around us," he said quietly.
"Sam?" Jack said, turning slightly to look at his wife. She was watching the display on the scanner in her hand.
"I'm not picking up anything," she replied. "There is some sort of…energy…but it's consistent with other readings for the planet itself. I think it's nothing more than just the electrical signature of the planet."
"Case?" the older man asked. One word about a bad feeling and they were going back to Gamma. At full speed.
The young blonde shook her head. "Nothing bad…just…odd."
"It's your call, Danny," Jack said quietly.
The young archaeologist looked around. They were already on the outskirts of the city, the buildings around them crumbled and falling in decay. He looked down the road, toward the area that had been determined to be the center of the city. To be this close and not go on…'If you want to leave, Case, we're out of here. Just say the word.'
'I can't feel anything bad,' she repeated. 'Just that odd feeling.' She knew how badly Daniel wanted to investigate these ruins. The clues that they had been searching for, the way to the Lost City, and the possible weapon that could help them fight the Goa'uld could be here. As long as she wasn't sensing anything specific, she wasn't going to deprive him of this chance.
"Let's go on. Case, just one poke, one bad feeling, and we're out of here," Daniel said, turning to look at his Wife.
She nodded. "I promise to tell you the second I feel something."
The group started out again, although by tacit agreement all of the ATVs were moving slower. The buildings were becoming larger now, most of them still standing, although how safe they were, was anyone's guess. All of the structures in this area had been brightly painted at one time, patches of color could still be seen here and there.
A small park, or what had once been a small park, was straight ahead of them; and just two blocks down, according to the map Daniel had, was the library. He stopped at the edge of the grass covered area.
"What do you think?" he asked Jack. Even without formal military training, Daniel had already surmised that the park would be fairly easy to defend. There was a fence that enclosed the grassy area, only one gate, and not a lot of brush. In the center was some type of shelter. The buildings around and across the streets from the park were all one story, far enough away that it would prevent anyone from shooting down at them too easily. There was also a source of water here, UAV images had shown what looked like a pond with a stream that fed into it, and flowed out of it, disappearing under the street where they now stood.
Jack's expert military eye had already taken in all of the pros and cons of the area. "Looks good to me."
With a nod, Daniel led the group into the park. The shelter proved large enough to use as a 'common area', and would protect them from the weather should it turn bad. There was a large fire pit in the middle of the concrete and wood structure, with a metal chimney that took the majority of the smoke and vented it up and out. The 'pond' turned out to be a fairly large pool, although the stream was quite narrow. The pool would be large enough to bathe in. A thought that made his heart hammer against his ribs. If she could bathe, Casey would be willing to make love.
Turk and the Marines arrived fifteen minutes later. The teams busied themselves setting up camp, getting equipment checked and ready to go.
A A A A A A
It was noon according to his watch, although Daniel had no idea what time it was on the planet. The sun seemed to be midway between its apex and the horizon, which could either indicate mid-morning or mid-afternoon. He led the way, on foot, toward the building he had determined was the library. He could sense Casey's unease. 'Babe?'
'Nothing specific. Just…this place gives me the creeps!'
Jack had noticed the look on the slender young blonde's face. "Casey, what's up?"
She shook her blonde head. "I'm not getting anything…bad. It's just…creepy."
"You can say that again," Todd mumbled.
The Marines and SG-6 had taken point and six, respectively. Everyone had weapons up and ready. Casey was not the only one who found their surroundings unnerving. The buildings were impressive. The structures were like those that would be found in most cities: tall, constructed of what appeared to be concrete, probably with steel or some other sort of metal framework, lots of glass…or empty, gaping holes where glass had once been. The city was most assuredly 'dead'. And looked it.
A soft breeze made its way between the buildings, often moving debris and causing a rustling sound around them. Casey felt her flesh crawl. She couldn't sense anything bad…or dangerous…anywhere, at least…not yet. But the entire place made her more nervous than she had been in a long time. When Daniel stopped to check the image map in his hand, she took the chance to look into one of the empty windows. This part of the building had been a shop, it appeared to be a clothing store of some sort. Racks and display counters were still full, although most of the material had rotted to little more than colorful strips of cloth, and clumps of multi-colored rags. She thought she saw a shadow move, but when she looked again, nothing seemed amiss. Just my imagination, she thought, scolding herself for being so jumpy. When Daniel put a hand on her shoulder, she jerked, her heart pounding against her ribs, her eyes wide and frightened.
"Case?" His eyes showed his concern, his hand was moving gently over her shoulder, down her arm and back up.
She shook her head. "Sorry. Guess I'm just a little uptight. Maybe it's just because of the way it looks. No real damage…I mean, nothing that looks like there was an attack or battle of any sort. Just…abandoned. Why would the Ancients…or whoever lived here…just walk away?"
"I don't know. That's what I hope to find out."
"No bodies, either," Jack said, looking around. He was nervous as well. Anyone, or anything, could be hiding in any of the tall buildings around them, and they would never know about it. They could be taken out easily where they stood. "Okay, I want us on the sidewalk. Spread out. Keep your eyes open," he said, moving from the wide street onto the narrower walkway.
The building that they were heading for was impressive, made of large yellow stone blocks. The other buildings seemed to be situated around it, as if this library had been the very center of the city. Six stories, that they could see; they had no idea how many levels might be below ground. Deep steps the width of the building led up to a massive double door. Eight large columns supported the roof of an impressive portico, and all of them were covered with writing. The UAV had been able to fly close enough to get fairly good pictures of several of the columns, as well as those of two buildings Daniel believed to be temples. It was on these columns that references to the Lost City had been located.
"Reminds me of the museum in New York City," he muttered under his breath. That place always made his heart pound and his stomach twist as well. He led the way up the steps. Hesitated for a moment when he put his hand on the ornate doorknob. "Case?"
She took his other hand, closed her eyes. Then shook her head. "Nothing. It's empty, there isn't anyone…or anything in there… at least nothing that shouldn't be."
Daniel frowned. "Anything…alive?"
"No. But…there does seem to be…well…this is going to sound so weird," she said softly.
"Tell me," he said just as softly.
"It's…it's like the building…maybe it's what's inside the building…is glad we're here. Like… sort of like it wants to tell us about the people who lived here." She opened her eyes. "I know that sounds silly."
He smiled. He had often felt the same way when investigating pyramids, or some of the temples they had discovered over the years. That…connection…to an inanimate object, or place. Perhaps, he thought, all archaeologists experienced such feelings. "No, it doesn't. Makes me know that…it…will be willing to let me search."
He opened the door slowly. Turk and Meyers stepped inside first, their flashlights illuminating the dark foyer.
When Daniel and Casey stepped inside, lights began to flicker on, until the entire first floor was completely lit.
"Sensors of some sort?" Daniel asked Sam, as soon as she had entered the building.
"I think so. Probably set to detect movement," she replied.
"I'm not going to complain," Jack said quietly, looking around. He signaled to the Marines and SG-6, sending them on a silent perimeter search. "Okay, Danny, do your thing."
Daniel turned to the three grad students. "You know the symbols that we're looking for. Let's see if we can't find some sort of cataloging system. Hopefully they used computers that we'll be able to access, we'll search for that first. Then we'll see if they had any sort of newspapers or other periodicals. That will be a start."
The three young people nodded, and followed him to the large, 'o' shaped counter in the very center of the immense room. Rows of shelves surrounded them, and the walls were lined from floor to ceiling with book-filled shelves.
He wasn't surprised to see a dozen integrated computer terminals in one section of the counter. He examined one for a few minutes, located what could possibly be a power switch, and turned it on. He didn't actually expect anything to happen.
"Greetings, Citizen." the computer intoned. "Please state search parameters."
"Cool!" Todd whispered. "What language is that?"
"Ancient," Daniel replied. "List all references to the 'Lost City'."
"Searching." Several minutes passed "Search complete."
The screen flashed with nearly a dozen located references. Daniel sat his pack down, took out his writing pad. He copied the references down. "I don't think any of you read Ancient, do you?" he asked the students. All three shook their heads. "Okay, I'm going to try and locate these. When I do, you'll search each one for the symbols of the Lost City. When you find them, let me know."
They nodded, then followed him as he moved among the multitude of shelves that filled the room. It didn't take him long to locate the items for which he sought. Arms loaded, he led the students to a grouping of long tables. Ramir, Todd, and Stephanie sat down, and began their search for the symbols that meant 'Lost City' in Ancient.
Casey was wandering up and down the aisles, looking at the collections of books, letting her fingers trail across the backs of them. She stopped, jerked her hand away when one of the books, bound in what looked like black leather, seemed to give her a slight electrical shock. Carefully, she pulled the book from the shelf. Opened it. There were several illustrations. All of them dark and horrible. Drawings of Goa'uld infesting human hosts. She began to run toward the counters. "Daniel! Daniel!"
He met her there, took in the wide-eyed look of apprehension on her face. "What?"
She handed him the book. "I guess they knew a lot about the Goa'uld," she said softly.
Jack had heard her cry out, as had Teal'c. Both men had raced in her direction, and now stood looking over the young archaeologist's shoulder. Daniel frowned, skimmed the pages. "This tells about the suspected origins of the Goa'uld. I'd say they had visited the planet with the aboriginal Unas…uh…P3X-888, at some point in the very distant past. This chapter describes the river that we saw there, and the abundance of the creatures in it. It also says that only half of the creatures captured were parasitical. I'm guessing that whoever went there, and then wrote this book, was there a hell of a long time ago. Had to have been several million years ago. The book wasn't written too long ago, though," he admitted, examining the pages and binding carefully.
"So why didn't they do something to destroy them?" Casey asked.
Daniel continued to leaf through the pages of the book. "According to this, there was debate on whether or not they had any right to interfere with the 'natural progression' of another species." He closed the book before reading that the entire contents had been based on information found in scrolls hidden in an ancient temple nearby.
"Bet now they wish they'd interfered," Jack muttered.
Casey shook her head. "Dad says that debate is still going on. There are those among the Ancients who see the Goa'uld as nothing more than a species doing what it must to survive."
"Yeah, bet they're the same ones who thought the Immortal nursery was a good idea," Jack snorted.
She grinned. "Probably."
"There are some interesting notes about the physical characteristics, some break down of the Goa'uld physiology," Daniel said. "Let's take this back with us. We might find something useful in it."
"Where did you find this?" Daniel asked his Wife.
"Over there." She pointed to one of the stacks of books.
"Show me." He followed her to the section of the library where she had located the book. Found five others that dealt specifically with the Goa'uld. "Good work, Angel. We'll take these with us. I don't think anyone will mind," he grinned.
Four hours later all of the references to the Lost City had been located. Daniel closed the last book, sighed with frustration. "Everything so far refers to a city already considered "lost". And…" He hesitated, sucked his lower lip.
"And what?" Sam asked.
"Not 'lost' as in misplaced. 'Lost' as in hidden. At least, that's the context of these references," Daniel replied. "These people were looking for the Lost City as well."
"Now that just doesn't make sense! These people were the Ancients, right?" Jack asked.
"I guess so." Daniel pointed to what seemed to be a newspaper. "Everything is written in Ancient."
"Maybe they weren't the Ancients that built the Lost City, and they weren't told where it was?" Major Parker suggested.
"The Lost City is supposed to have a weapon, some incredibly big weapon, right?" Casey asked.
"From what we've found so far, yes," Daniel replied.
"Maybe these people are just…descendants…of the Ancients, and they needed that weapon," she said.
"Possibly. I don't see many references to any sort of military apparatus."
"No military?" Jack asked, surprised.
"Apparently these people didn't feel a need for any sort of military," Daniel replied. "At least, the majority of them didn't. But several articles," he tapped the pile of now folded newspapers, "are pushing for more funding toward the search of the Lost City."
"Something tells me that they weren't worried about Goa'uld," Jack said, a frown on his face.
Casey shivered. "Ever wonder why the whole damned civilization decided to Ascend, all at once?"
Everyone stared at her.
"Like, there might be, or was, something out there even worse, something - or someone - that the Ancients, with all of their knowledge and ability, couldn't defeat? Maybe these people met up with the same threat…the same enemy?"
"Talk to me, Case," Daniel said softly. He reached for her hand, laced his fingers with hers, squeezed them gently, reassuringly.
She felt him hold her tightly. She reached out, searched, listened…waited. She shook her head. "I can't 'see' anything," she said after several minutes. She didn't voice her unease over her inability to find even a scrap of information. Nor did she mention that the 'hum' around her was becoming extremely annoying.
Daniel lifted her hand to his lips. Smiled when he tasted dust as well as her sweet skin. "That's okay, Angel. We'll get it figured out."
Jack looked at his watch. "We'll work on it tomorrow. Let's call it a day."
Once again the Marines took point, leading the group back to the park, and their camp. And once again Casey was flooded with unease. She continued to look around, trying to find the source of her discomfort. Was unable to do so.
<< Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>