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Man and Machine
Daniel led the way. The broad avenue narrowed to a street, and then narrowed again to a rough dirt lane, forcing the teams to travel single file. Casey's eyes never stopped moving, her P90 firmly in her hands, one finger on the trigger. If she even saw a flicker of those two androids, she was going to destroy them. Especially that lavender-eyed bitch. Touch my Husband like that! Oh, I don't think so! she thought crossly.
When they approached what looked like a small hill, Daniel stopped. He turned to look at Jack. "That's it. I managed to…sort through…some of the information I found in that computer. The Ancients did at one time live here. The people that came after them were brought here, I guess by the Ancients. About six hundred years ago, maybe a bit longer. Anyway, these people knew about the Ancients, learned and adopted their language, their…culture. These…'Travelers', as they referred to themselves, arrived about eighty years ago."
There was a collective gasp from the people around him. "That's why everything seems so well…preserved," Sam said, frowning slightly. "The weather here is fairly dry and warm, which would help keep things from rotting quickly."
"Especially anything protected inside a building where the temperature and humidity controls still worked," Daniel replied.
"So, did all of the people die?" Jack asked. "You mentioned a virus…are we in danger?"
Daniel shook his dark blonde head. "I don't think so. The naturally occurring viruses, and microbes indigenous to this planet were able to overcome the virus brought in by these…Travelers. At least, that's what I think happened."
"Don't you mean conquerors?" Casey asked.
She sighed. "You said that their plan was to take over, replace the people who already lived here. Maybe that virus was intentional. How better to get rid of the people but leave the buildings intact?"
His blue eyes studied her. "You're right. That virus-" He broke off…her green eyes were unfocused, staring past him, seeing not the hill behind him, but what had happened nearly a century earlier. "Talk to me, Case."
"The virus has a…shelf life. Once it was determined that this…place…was suitable, it was released. The…Interface…would monitor the air and water, wait until the virus had run its course. The…Caretakers…would dispose of the bodies…burn them …then, and only then would the Interface activate the systems that would…wake up…the Travelers," she said softly, 'seeing' all that had happened.
"Where did they…dispose…of the bodies?" Jack asked gently.
"Pits…large pits…they used backhoes…well, they look like backhoes, to dig them. Everyone just…dumped inside…fuel… need lots of fuel…empty all of those…machines…for the fuel…fire, so much fire…so hot…able to see it from space," she gasped, tears filling her eyes. She was becoming more agitated by the second. "Not dead! Some of the people not dead! Too ill to fight! Not dead! Not dead!"
"Oh, Christ!" Daniel muttered, recognizing the signs, fearing for his Wife. He took her firmly by the shoulders. "Look at me, Casey. Look at me!" he demanded. He cupped her chin in his hand.
She managed to drag her eyes to his face.
"Let me in, Angel," he said softly. He moved toward her, steeled himself against the onslaught of images…horrible, heartbreaking images. Could feel her being 'tugged' at by others. "Back away…nice and slow. Follow me, Casey… come with me," he said. He could 'feel' her move toward him, grab onto him. He 'reached' for her, held her tightly. "That's my girl, come on, nice and slow…that's it." He caressed her gently, searched carefully to ascertain that she was safe, and alone, before slowly moving away from her. His arms wrapped around her, pulled her trembling body close, embraced her tightly.
She shivered, tears streaming down her cheeks. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and held onto him, taking the comfort he offered. "So many people! So many…spirits! They…they want revenge…they want to…move on."
Her teammates exchanged glances. This had happened before. Except before, it had been one lonely little boy. "How many, Casey?" Sam asked.
"Hundreds…thousands," the young blonde whispered.
"Okay, honey, tell us what we have to do," Jack said gently, forgetting about the ship and those Caretakers for the time being. If those…spirits…had 'found' Casey, they wouldn't leave the young Immortal seer alone until they were dealt with.
"Make sure that they…the Caretakers…don't succeed," she replied. "Remember them…just… remember them."
"Casey, can you help them? Can you…show them how to move on?" Daniel asked.
She nodded. "When it's done."
"When what is done?" Jack asked.
"When that ship is destroyed."
The general grinned. Well now, that was handy! Not only did he want to destroy that ship to prevent its occupants from ever waking up and taking over this planet, and then possibly choosing to take over another, it would be helping a group of people, okay…ghosts…but still, it would help them move on to the next plane of existence…next stop on their journey…next step in the evolution of the spirit.
"We must gain entrance to this ship, and plant explosives," Teal'c said.
"I agree, Big Guy," Jack said. "Okay, let's look for some way in there."
Casey began to walk toward the back of the 'hill'. More exchanged glances, and the rest of SG-1 and Marine 2 followed her. She closed her eyes, reached out for Daniel. Felt his gentle presence again. Held tightly to him. Began to search. There. Right there. She opened her eyes and pointed.
"Okay, let's start digging," Daniel said quietly. He walked back to the ATV, opened the dig kit, and located the collapsible shovel that he had packed.
The Marines were also carrying dig equipment. The four men pulled their shovels from packs and joined the young archaeologist. Sam and Casey were already moving rocks out of the way. Jack and Teal'c stood guard, knowing that the 'Caretakers' were sure to show up.
Her spine tingled, just as it had in the basement of the library, just before the two Caretakers had appeared. Her head jerked up, her fingers immediately closing around her P90, which had been hanging at her side.
"Casey?" Turk asked, having seen her reaction to whatever it was that had caught her attention.
"They're here," she whispered.
All eyes began scanning the area carefully, looking for the slightest distortions. When Jack fell to his backside, from an obvious shove, Casey opened fire, aiming just a few feet to the side of him, where it 'felt' as if one of the Caretakers was standing. She had been correct. The android, the male that they had seen in the basement room of the library, was lying on the ground, sparks moving through the chest, which lay open from the multiple bullet holes. The limbs twitched for several seconds, then stilled. All activity seemed to cease.
"Nice placement," Franklin grinned.
She allowed herself a smile. "Thanks." 'That' feeling washed over her. She scanned around them, letting her other senses see what her eyes could not. Again she fired, this time just inches from where Daniel stood. She was not surprised to see the raven-haired, lavender-eyed android dropping to her knees. Daniel was backing up, not paying attention to the fact that his wife was walking ever closer to the 'woman'. "I should have warned you…nobody touches my Husband like that and gets away with it," she hissed softly. "Not even a machine!"
The android looked up at her. "You will not succeed. We have already begun overriding safety protocols. The Travelers will awaken soon!"
Casey shook her head. "Your programming wouldn't allow you to do that," she replied.
Lavender eyes narrowed, red lips curled into a sneer. "Do not be so sure about that. We are very advanced. Able to make decisions and act accordingly. As long as the primary objective remains the same, we can achieve the results by whatever means necessary."
She pulled her lip between her teeth. Unlike a human, or humanoid, it wasn't as easy to detect deception in this robot. She glanced at Sam. Her best friend was shaking her head slowly. "Ya know, I think you're full of shit. Well, not exactly, since you're a machine and all. But you're lying. Here's a news flash for you. Doesn't matter whether those…Travelers…wake up or not. We're taking this ship, and them, out. Completely. We have enough trouble with parasites without allowing more to run around loose. Say goodnight, Gracie," she mumbled, just before she fired again, effectively blowing the head of the android into pieces.
"Damn, Case!" Daniel muttered. 'Jealous?'
She looked at him and grinned. 'Nope. Just defending what belongs to me.'
Jack was laughing. He didn't know what the two were talking about, but the grin on Casey's face was enough. He'd seen the way that Casey had looked at the female android. Hate was too tame a word to describe what had filled those green eyes. "I take it you didn't like her?"
"Nope. Bitch annoyed me," Casey replied. Which only served to make her CO and friend laugh harder.
"There is one android left unaccounted for," Teal'c pointed out.
She closed her eyes, Daniel was already holding her. Nothing. He was no where near them, at least, not now. "Better warn Major Parker. That one might try to attack them."
Jack grabbed his radio. "This is 1-niner to 6-niner, come in Parker."
"This is Parker. Go ahead, General."
"We just had a little run-in with the androids. Two down and out. One still active. Keep your eyes and ears open."
"Roger that, one android still active. Keeping eyes and ears open," Major Parker's voice replied.
Digging resumed. It wasn't more than ten minutes later when the distinctive sound of metal striking metal filled the air. The hatch was carefully exposed. Sam and Daniel puzzled over the controls.
"This is a language I've never seen before," Daniel admitted. It was the same language that had covered the keyboards and monitors in that basement room.
"No clues?" Sam asked.
"Not even a guess."
She nodded. "Okay. Well, there are certain constants in the universe," she murmured as she pulled off the panel that protected the circuits from the elements. She studied the circuitry for a few minutes, then gingerly began to pull wires loose. She twisted two together, touched a third one to them, and the door slid open.
"Now that's what I'm talking about!" Jack crowed delightedly. "Nothing my gizmo guru can't do!"
Sam blushed prettily, grinned at his praise.
"Talk to me, babe," Daniel said quietly to Casey. He reached for her, met her in that sunny meadow, held her gently, firmly.
She reached out. Sighed. "I don't think we have to worry," she said softly.
"Why?" Jack asked.
"I'm not picking up anything…nothing at all," she replied.
Daniel, Jack and Teal'c exchanged glances, then cautiously led the teams inside. It took several minutes for their eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness. Red lights lit the narrow corridor. Senses alert, eyes moving, they moved slowly down the passageway. When they came to the first door, Sam moved forward. The door was easily opened. When they stepped inside several lights came on. They all gasped at what they saw.
Three levels were visible in the immense room. The top two levels came to within eight feet of the wall behind them. Narrow metal stairs led to the two upper levels. Each level had a small console, the main level had a second, larger console. Sam could only guess that the control consoles on each level monitored and regulated that level, the larger one, she thought, connected the three individual monitoring stations. Cryogenic…tubes…standing side by side, as closely as they could be packed, filled each level, row after row of them.
Casey walked toward the closest chambers. Wiped away eighty years of dust from the first one. Bit back a scream. Whoever was inside had been dead for some time. There was very little flesh left on the skeleton that gaped at her. "Well, here's why I couldn't feel anything," she said, her voice trembling.
Daniel looked over her shoulder, wiped the dust off of the tube beside it. And then a third. "Looks like they're all dead."
"So why didn't those androids know that?" Jack asked.
Sam was looking around. "From what I can tell from these readings, everything appears to be functioning normally. It's possible that these particular chambers were damaged when the ship crashed. It's also possible that there are still…um…'Travelers'… who are alive."
"Only one way to know for sure," Daniel said.
"Yep," Jack said grimly. "It's a big ship. Let's get started."
Three hours later the teams walked back outside. The sun was beginning to set, sending rays of dying light that turned the sky crimson above them. None of the 'Travelers' that they had checked were alive. There were still four rooms to be explored, but Jack insisted on calling it a day.
A A A A A A
Tired, dusty, and hungry, SG-1 and Marine 2 returned to camp. The cheery blaze of a fire met them, and the aroma of cooking food greeted them like old friends.
"Parker, you're a good man," Jack sighed, accepting a cup of hot coffee.
"So what did you find?" Tony asked Casey.
"Big ship. Lots of dead aliens."
"From what we could see," she replied. Several 'rows' of the chambers held well-preserved specimens. The faces appeared human enough, but without further investigation, they wouldn't know for sure. She didn't care about investigating them. Not with what they already knew about them.
"They're all dead," Jack said, carefully peeling the foil back from the entrée of his MRE, steam rising and taking the aroma of the contents to his nose. He blew gently on the food before taking a bite. "Most of them have been since that thing crashed here."
"There's still a chance that we'll find some alive," Daniel reminded his CO. "Four rooms left, top of the ship, most protected area."
"I know, Danny," Jack admitted. "Probably the freakin' politicians."
"Yeah, and we know how damn hard it is to get rid of them," Casey muttered, to the amusement of her companions.
"Casey, any sign of that android?" Jack asked.
She put her meal down, took Daniel's hand, did a quick search. "He's out there…watching. He's…afraid. Alone." She shook her head. "He doesn't know what to do, especially since we killed…destroyed his…counterparts. The woman was the…leader. This one isn't as… advanced."
"So, he's basically without someone to give him instructions," Sam said.
She nodded. A thought flittered through her mind. "I have an idea," she said softly. She tightened her fingers around Daniel's. Reached out…searched…there! 'It's all right. You won't be harmed. We just want to talk to you.' She opened her eyes.
"What did you just do?" Daniel demanded softly.
"Gave him instructions," she replied, shrugging slightly. "I suggest holding fire, unless he threatens us," she said.
"What?" Jack asked, his eyebrows going up.
Before she could respond, movement in the bushes near the park entrance pulled all attention there. The android moved forward slowly, tentatively, almost shyly. She rose to meet it. Held out her hand. "It's all right. I won't let them hurt you," she said softly.
The android looked at the faces around him, then put his hand against her fingers. Registered her body temperature. Her features were…pleasing. This…unit…was kind. Much kinder than R9721.
"Come," Casey said. The android followed her, then sat down beside her next to the fire. "I'm sorry that you're alone."
"It is not…pleasant…to be alone," the android replied.
"I know," she said. "It can be frightening."
"Very frightening. My programming does not assist me in this…situation. I obey the orders of R9721."
"R9721? The female android?"
The android nodded.
"Were you aware that the…Travelers…were dead?" Casey asked gently.
"Not dead. Sleeping. Cryogenic sleep," the android responded firmly.
"No…what's your name?"
"My designation is R7721."
"Hmm…R…can I call you Robert?"
"If you wish."
"Okay, Robert. The 'Travelers' are not just sleeping. They're dead. They have been for a long time. I think they died when your ship crashed here," Casey said softly.
"R9721 says they are sleeping," the android insisted.
"Case, he might not understand the concept of death," Daniel said.
"Okay, you explain it to him." She was certain that the linguist in him was certain to do just that.
Daniel nodded, sat down opposite of 'Robert'. "Hi, Robert. I'm Daniel."
The archaeologist smiled. "Greetings, Robert. The 'Travelers' that you are to protect have…ceased functioning. The chambers where they were sleeping were damaged."
Robert shook his head. "This is not possible. R9721 reported no such malfunctions in the systems."
"All of the Travelers that we saw today have…ceased to function. They're dead," Daniel repeated. "Now, we're going to check out the rest tomorrow. There might be a few still alive. If there aren't, what would your directive become?"
The android looked confused. "My directive is to protect the 'Travelers'. To insure the safety of the Interface."
Daniel studied the android for a moment. A thought occurred to him, he examined it, approved it, gave it voice. "What if I gave you new orders, a new directive, a new…function?"
"I am capable of accepting new programming to my internal hard drive," Robert replied.
"Robert, accept new programming," Daniel said, searching his mind for what he hoped would be the correct terminology.
"Accepting…please continue." The android was staring, looking every bit the robot that he was.
"Your function will be to protect the woman sitting beside you. Her name…er…designation is Casey Jackson. You will protect her. Confirm."
"Protocol override complete. Protect woman, designation Casey Jackson. New programming accepted. Confirmed." With a blink of his eyes, the android appeared to be a man once again.
"Damned sneaky, Space Monkey," Jack chuckled.
"Hey, I'll do whatever it takes," Daniel grinned unabashedly.
Casey shook her head, a smile on her face. "Robert, accept additional program parameters." Watching a marathon of robot movies on the Sci-fi channel had its upside, she thought, giggling to herself.
Once again the robot stared into space. "Accepting…please continue."
"Your function will also include the protection of the man known as Daniel Jackson. Confirm."
"Function modified. Protect man designation Daniel Jackson. Parameters set. Confirmed." Another blink, and Robert looked at the faces around him.
"I'd like to study him when we get back," Sam murmured, watching one of the most advanced pieces of technology she had ever seen as he sat beside her best friend.
"Do you think it will be possible to create more…Roberts?" Casey asked.
"It would be great if we could. But that day is a long way off," the astrophysicist sighed.
"I’m sure he'll be able to tell us more about his people…er…the people who created him," Daniel said, the archaeologist in him excited at the prospect of getting to know a people so advanced. It would be interesting to learn if they were indeed as heartless as they seemed, or if they were driven by factors not yet known and considered. To know if these Travelers were related to the Tau'ri of Earth, as most humans seemed to be.
"I can tell you much about my people, Daniel Jackson," Robert said.
The young archaeologist smiled. "Just Daniel will be fine," he said.
"Yes, Just Daniel."
Casey burst into giggles. "Robert, you can call him 'Daniel'. I'm Casey."
"Yes, Casey." Robert turned back to Daniel. "I can tell you much about my people, Daniel."
"I'd like that, Robert," Daniel replied. "We'll talk when we get back to Gamma."
"The planet where I…we…all live. It will be your new home."
"This is acceptable," Robert replied.
The three grad students, who were sitting together on one side of the fire, watched with open-mouthed astonishment. Not only had Dr. Jackson and Mrs. Jackson calmly reprogrammed an android, the others sat around as if it were a daily occurrence! Had they seen so much, done so much that there wasn't anything that frightened them, worried them? Did nothing faze these people?
A A A A A A
When Daniel and Casey slipped into their tent for the night, Robert quietly positioned himself in front of it. The others chuckled. Nothing, and no one, would be able to get anywhere near that tent. Jack sighed with relief. If the Jackson's were safe, then the rest of them would be also, just by virtue of proximity.
Casey snuggled against Daniel, her body pressed against his. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Reprogramming Robert to protect me."
He grinned into the darkness. "You're welcome. Thanks for that additional programming."
She pressed her lips to his bare chest. "Anything to keep you safe, my Heart."
He hissed a breath when her hand slipped inside his boxers, wrapped around him, began stroking him. "Don't tease me, Case."
"I'm not teasing. I'm very serious about what I'm doing." She slid down, pushed the underwear away from his body, wrapped her mouth around him, her hands moving over him, touching him, pleasing him.
"Oh god," he moaned quietly. He filled his hands with long silk, wrapped it around his fingers, brought it up to his face. Her tongue was doing amazing things to him, for him. When her hand pushed against his thigh, he moved his leg, affording her the access to his body that she wanted, demanded.
She sighed mentally. God, she hated 'that time of the month'! Daniel didn't know yet that 'hell week', as she called the week during which she menstruated, had started. She wasn't going to tell him until she had made sure that he had been thoroughly pleased. Another mental sigh as the cramps began. At least he could rub her tummy for her, which he was always willing to do. She returned her concentration to the man lying beside her. Every lick, every suck, every movement of her hands and tongue were given with the sole purpose of pleasing him.
He could feel that incredible feeling moving up from his belly, into his aching cock. She resisted when he tried to pull her toward him, eager to taste her. Then she was distracting him, sucking him hard, taking him as far into her throat as she could. Sweet Jesus! His hips were pressed up against her as he came, his heart pounding in his chest. When at last the throbbing had subsided, his body relaxed. "Your turn, Angel," he whispered, reaching for her.
"Sorry, Stud Muffin. Not for about four days."
He moaned. Shit! Four days without tasting her, feeling himself buried in her sweet warm body! Could be worse, his brain informed him. She could still be dead. Good point, he conceded. If she had just started her period…"Cramping?"
"A little bit."
"C'mere." He waited until she was settled beside him, then gently began to caress and rub her lower abdomen. She snuggled closer. He must have found the right spot. He continued to gently massage her, until he felt her body completely relax against him, her breathing slow and steady. His own body satiated, thanks to the amazing woman in his arms, he allowed sleep to overtake him as well.
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