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Man and Machine
The next morning dawned warm and sunny. It promised to be a hot day, and the thought of working in the coolness of the temple was pleasant to contemplate. Jack led the group back to the ship and its cargo of dead aliens, 'Travelers' from another planet who had not survived. But whose arrival, and presence, had brought about the deaths of the people already in residence on the planet.
Casey pulled her lip between her teeth. The spirits of those who were dead surrounded the ship, waiting…had been waiting for so long. They watched her expectantly, hopefully.
The grad students learned about placing C-4 charges, and as soon as the ship was rigged to blow, the group moved to a safe distance. Dirt, grass, rocks, fragments from the ship, all rained down and back into the crater created by the explosion. When at last the final bits of debris had settled, Casey walked back toward the smoking hole.
"Well?" Jack asked, having hurried to her side.
She closed her eyes. Daniel was already waiting for her, caressed her, held her tightly.
'Wait, not yet.' He appeared at her side, took her hands in his. "Okay, Angel," he said softly.
Reaching out slowly, tentatively, Casey was met by the same spirits that had grabbed at her before. "It's time. You can move on. You're free," she whispered. "It's all over. Just follow the light."
Daniel watched her face. Her features became softer, her smile gentle and sweet. So beautiful, he thought, so damned beautiful.
Her smile widened as her mind was touched by those wishing to say goodbye, to thank her and her companions for avenging their deaths. "You're welcome. Go in peace," she whispered. When she opened her eyes, everyone was gathered around her. "They're gone now. They wanted me to give all of you their thanks."
"Glad we could do it," Jack replied softly.
The group stood for a few more minutes in silent respect for those who had been murdered by the 'Travelers'. Each of the men had removed their caps in a show of reverence.
Jack cleared his throat, put his cap on his head. "Okay, campers. Let's go look at more rocks."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Ruins, Jack. Not rocks. And the temple isn't really a ruin, since it's all in one piece and almost perfectly preserved."
"Ruins, rocks, whatever," Jack muttered, his brown eyes full of laughter.
Daniel shook his head, fought to keep the smile from his face.
Teal'c looked around him. "O'Neill, I believe it would be wise to place a guard at the Stargate. Morrigan will no doubt be waiting for word from her Jaffa. She will be expecting a report sometime today. There is the chance that she will send others through, when her First Prime fails to do so."
Jack looked up at the tall man. "Yeah, you're right. Okay, take Turk and his boys and go keep that 'gate under our control. 6 will relieve you tonight." He turned to Major Parker. "You and your boys go get some sleep. You'll have 'gate duty dark time."
"You heard the man," the major said. "Let's go."
"Move out, Marines," Turk said.
The two groups sped up the narrow path on their ATVs.
"Okay, campers, let's go back to that temple," Jack said. He threw a long leg over an ATV, waited until Sam was settled behind him. "Let's see if we can't get it all done today, huh?"
"We still need to check out that other temple," Daniel reminded him. "You take Todd, Ramir and Stephanie, they know what to do. Case and I will check out the second temple."
Jack nodded. "Be careful, Danny."
"Always." When Casey's arms locked around his waist, he started the engine of the vehicle, and headed to where he was certain the second temple in the city was located.
A A A A A A
The second temple was located in what appeared to be a neighborhood of well-to-do homes. It was considerably smaller than the first temple, although the three columns that reached twenty feet above them, supporting the roof above the open front of the building, were covered in cuneiform.
"We'll get them after we check inside," Daniel said, leading her inside the structure. Two rows of three columns held up the ceiling, and although highly decorated, there was no cuneiform on any of them. The altar was smaller, but had the same markings as the massive stone altar in what was obviously the 'main' temple. There were no statues, but frescos depicted each of the six goddesses. The colors were as bright as if they had just been finished. Careful examination of the altar revealed no secret compartments, no drawers, nothing but the solid wood base and the smooth stone top.
The perimeter walls were covered with murals, depicting what Daniel interpreted as the 'origin' story of the people of the planet. A small handful of animal skin clad people walked through the Stargate, led by a glowing Being, surrounded by the Six Goddesses. Upon arrival on the planet, each goddess 'blessed' the people, and they began to learn and grow and mature into a great civilization.
"Holy Hannah!" Casey whispered, looking over Daniel's shoulder as he moved, his hand skimming over the mural as he 'read' it.
"Yeah." Daniel ran his fingers over the dark objects. "No way to misinterpret this," he said softly.
"I've never seen ships like that, have you?"
"Nope. Look…just before the ships attack, that glowing Being returns. That's a depiction of Ascension if I've ever seen one!" He hurried to the opposite side of the room. "Look, not everything was lost…"
"Both temples survived the attack," Casey said. She glanced around the room. Were the temples constructed of a material different from that of the buildings that had been around them? Or were they simply not targets? Or had sheer good luck kept the religious structures standing?
"Yeah. Check this out." Once again the images showed what looked like the same glowing Being, leading another group of people through the Stargate. The six goddesses were also present, but the people were dressed like those of European Earth, around the 13th century.
"Do you think…" she broke off, her fingers moving over the second group of arrivals.
"Yeah, I do. The people were brought from Earth, both times. We already know that the Ancients lived on Earth, that they considered themselves the protectors, the Guardians of the indigenous peoples they found there. Something must have happened to make an Ancient bring a group through the Stargate."
He frowned. "Possibly. But why this group?" he asked, motioning to the second group of people being led through the 'gate.
"Maybe some great disaster happened, or was happening? The city was empty, the people who lived here had Ascended."
"Well, these people are dressed like Europeans, it looks like…hmm…twelfth century maybe. So what happened during that time…? The Black Plague! It was brought to Europe from China by traders and shipping merchants. That disease killed millions of people, and it was rampant for centuries. It started in…um…" he closed his eyes, searching his incredible mind for the answer. "Twelve… no, later than that…thirteen…thirteen something…1347. It really wasn't over until the early to mid 1600's."
"Well, could it be that the Ancients were trying to save at least a handful of humans?" she asked. "Maybe the Ancients were afraid that the disease would continue to rage until no one was left."
"It's possible." Something was poking him in the back of the brain. His eyes had seen it, he just hadn't recognized the significance. He went back to the very beginning of the mural. "Look at this!" he said excitedly. In the 'background' were several spaceships. Looking up at them were creatures…people…who looked like Homo Erectus. The first of species Homo Sapiens that appeared more human than any of the other subspecies. In another 'frame', still in the background, were people dressed in what looked like white medical smocks, working behind a long table. Walking away from that table were naked humans, male and female…Homo Sapiens Sapiens in all of their glory.
"Oh, my god!" she whispered. "Look!" She pointed to a very small area of the mural, where three women, also dressed in white medical smocks... were laying on tables, their legs up as if receiving pelvic exams. A man in a white smock was carrying a tray with vials on it from the three women to those who were working behind the table. Another man was carrying a tray toward the three women, and behind him were three Homo Erectus men, their penises engorged and erect, and ejaculating, the white dots 'captured' in long narrow tubes held by yet another white-smocked person.
"We're a hybrid of Ancients and Homo Erectus," Daniel whispered.
"Looks like." She started shaking. "Daniel, we already know that most of the Ancients from that time period are dead. I've never heard Dad talk about any of this. Is it possible that he, and the other Ancients, don't know?"
"Most of what your parents knew as Ancients was erased from their memories when they chose to retake corporeal form," Daniel reminded her. "This is incredible. It explains why they could never find that 'missing link'."
"Because there was no 'link'. Homo Sapiens Sapiens caused the extinction of all…indigenous peoples…out populated them, took over their hunting and foraging grounds, literally shoved them all out of the evolutionary tree. Whether it was by design or just an unforeseen effect, it happened," she said. She rubbed her hands over her arms. "This has got to be the reason that the Ancients are so determined to protect the human race…they're protecting their 'children'."
"This is where the idea that we came from 'apes' originated! It has to be! That idea was around before Darwin developed his theory," Daniel said.
"Don't tell Darwin," Casey said dryly. While she believed that most of the controversial theory had merit, she had never believed that humans had evolved from chimpanzees or monkeys. Related to them, most definitely. She looked at the white-smocked 'workers', and shivered again. "But why? Why interfere like that?"
"I have no idea. Let's get this on film. Both cameras. You do wide angle. I'm going to do close ups of each section."
She nodded. "A key to the Lost City and the Ancient weapon, and the origins of the human species as we know it. Yep, you just made another monumental discovery, Doctor Jackson," she said, her pride reflected in her eyes and voice.
Daniel blushed. "I just happened to be the one to come in here. Anybody could have discovered it," he mumbled.
"But you, my sweet, gorgeous hunk of an archaeologist, are the one who did," she replied gleefully. "This will be good for at least one more Time magazine article," she teased.
"Daniel, what did you find?" Jack's voice asked, echoing in the stillness of the room around them, startling them slightly.
"Oh, not much," Daniel replied, winking at his wife, grinning at her beaming face. "Just an idea of how modern humans came to be."
"I'll explain later. How are Todd, Ramir and Stephanie doing?"
"They say they have almost everything recorded now," was the reply.
"Then it looks like we can probably go home sometime tomorrow afternoon. I want to make sure that we have everything we can get of that temple. This one is small, Case and I will have it recorded in a couple of hours," Daniel reported.
"Sounds good. Meet up with you back in camp."
"Okay." Camera in hand, Daniel began recording. His heart was pounding, his mind racing at the implications. The more that they found, the more proof they had that humans were descendants…direct descendants, of the Ancients. Those Beings hadn't just protected the indigenous life on planet Earth. They had used them to create an entirely new species. The next question was…why? And the worrisome question was…who were the beings with the black spaceships?
A A A A A A
When Teal'c and the Marines returned to camp, having been relieved by Major Parker and Texas and Trenton, the team learned that Morrigan had indeed sent more Jaffa through the 'gate. They were easily taken out, and after the third group was killed in as many hours, the 'gate had remained closed and silent.
"She just lost a lot of Jaffa," Jack said, staring into his coffee cup. "I'm thinking she's not going to be happy."
"I agree, O'Neill," Teal'c replied. "It would not be surprising if she arrived in an al'kesh; I do not believe she had more than one mothership when she faced the Prometheus, after her last battle with Ba'al her fleet was nearly decimated. She will, no doubt, be interested to know what, or who, defeated so many of her Jaffa."
"Time frame?" Jack asked.
"I do not know," Teal'c admitted. "I would surmise not more than a few days."
Jack looked at Daniel. "Are you almost finished?"
The younger man nodded. "Case and I got everything we could from that small temple today. From what Todd tells me, there are only three more columns in the main temple that haven't been recorded. We can get them in a couple of hours."
"Okay. First thing in the morning we break down camp. Start getting everything sent back through the 'gate. I'll give you and the kids three hours. Then we're out of here," Jack said.
Daniel nodded. "That should be plenty of time. Casey can supervise getting all of the artifacts packed."
Jack nodded. Duncan had sent a extra FRED unit and six crates just as Daniel had requested. They were already waiting at the temple. "Okay, campers, let's get some sleep. I want everybody up and ready to break camp at first light." He assigned watches, putting Daniel and Casey on first watch together. He hid his smile when they grinned at one another.
A A A A A A
Daniel walked the perimeter, could feel her watching every step he took. 'Nothing out here.'
'I dunno, seems to be a good looking hunk out there from where I'm sitting.'
'Sweet talker.' He made his way back to the fire, settled with his back against one of the crates that held what was left of their food and water supplies, and pulled her into his arms.
"When you were…part of that machine…could you still…feel me?"
"You mean like this?" He reached out and caressed her gently, held her tightly as they stood together in the meadow.
"No, Angel, I couldn't. When you…talked to me, I could barely hear you. I tried so hard to reach you, get to you…but I couldn't."
"You sounded so very far away…and I…it was like I could feel you slipping away, and I couldn't hold on to you, couldn't stop it."
He pressed his lips against the side of her face. "It's over, Case. I'm all right. Let it go."
"Next time you want to become part of a giant computer, I'm going to let you. That'll teach you to touch stuff you don't know anything about!"
He chuckled. "You would, too, wouldn't you?"
"Yep. Pay you back for scaring me like that. I was absolutely terrified."
"I promise that I'm not going to want to become part of any giant computer."
She sighed. "Yeah. Until the next time."
Daniel chuckled again. "Love you, Angel."
"Love you, too, Stud Muffin."
A A A A A A
It was just after two in the afternoon Gamma time when the three teams walked through the 'gate, tired…but happy. Daniel was elated over the finds, and was determined to verify the coordinates of the Lost City from the tablet found in the altar in the main temple as soon as possible.
General's Hammond and Monroe were warned that Morrigan was still alive, and possibly on the move again. The Prometheus was once again stationed to protect the two military bases of the Stargate Command Colonies.
The first thing Casey wanted when she and Daniel arrived home was a hot shower. When she finished, her skin covered with lotion, and wearing comfortable jeans and a tee shirt, she searched the house to find her husband and children missing. She heard their laughter, coming from the side yard of the house.
Daniel was filling in the hole that Nicholas had dug, and the little boy was 'helping' with his little red shovel. Emily was busy telling her Daddy about the real bunny rabbit that Ms. Donovan had brought to class. He looked up when she joined them. "Hey, gorgeous. Feel better?"
"Much. What would you like for dinner?"
He shrugged. "Whatever you feel like making," he said.
"Sounds good," he replied. He stuck the shovel into the dirt, leaned on the handle. He stood and looked at her, not saying anything.
"What?" she asked, starting to blush from his scrutiny.
"Just looking, Angel. Since that's all I can do for a couple more days," he grinned.
"You'll survive," she smiled.
"I dunno, Angel. It'll totally skew all the figures on your count."
She giggled. "Or make the average drop back down."
He chuckled. "Missed you."
"Glad you're home."
"I know that too."
"Love you too." She walked over to where he stood, wrapped her arms around his neck. "Love you so much it hurts."
"Right back 'atcha, babe," he replied. He pulled her close. She was home and safe and in his arms. She had been by his side when he had discovered the tablet that would lead them to the Lost City. Life was good. He looked down at his children, who were playing at his feet. Yep. Life was really good.
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