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The Price of Peace
They took off their ski masks, goggles and gloves; the elevator was cold, but not as cold as being out on the ice had been. Pockets in their heavy thermal coats were filled with the removed items, and carefully zipped closed so that nothing was lost. Jack had been counting the seconds out loud, wherever they were going, it was deep underground. When the door slid open, they stepped out carefully, weapons ready, senses alert, eyes scanning.
Their arrival went unnoticed for several minutes, allowing them time to unobtrusively observe their surroundings. They were indeed in a cavern, one of immense proportions. They could see mirrors, dozens of them, high on the rocky ceiling some one hundred or so feet above them, reflecting light that came in through several small openings in the mountain itself, making the cavern daylight bright. Buildings…none over three stories tall, all built flush against one another, and painted in bright colors…lined wide, cobblestone paved streets. Baskets of flowers hung from tall, black lampposts, and all of the windows had flower boxes, as well as elaborately painted shutters, but no glass panes of any type. Gaily decorated signs hung above the doors on the ground floors of the buildings. At the four corners of each intersection were what appeared to be small vegetable gardens. They counted five streets that intersected the wide, main avenue. It was absolutely amazing. It was a village, settled in the belly of a mountain.
It was warm in the cavern, and they were starting to feel overheated in their coats. They carefully removed their winter gear, their weapons staying within grasp the entire time. There were several people on the street, although the visitors had yet to be seen.
When a group of women finally noticed them standing beside the now closed elevator, the team smiled and waved, wanting to appear friendly an non-threatening. The women smiled and waved in return, one of them hurrying up the street and into a building near the middle of the block. The women and the team stood and looked at one another, neither group sure as what to do next. Daniel advised against moving until they were certain that they wouldn't be breaking any sort of taboos or laws.
A tall man with thin, brown hair and a wide smile hurried toward them. "Welcome! We have been waiting for you!" The language was not one that they had encountered before.
Daniel smiled. "Do you speak any other language?" he asked in Goa'uld. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, most of the human civilizations they encountered spoke at least some Goa'uld.
"Yes, yes, we understand you perfectly!" the man responded, his Goa'uld accented but understandable. "Welcome, welcome! We've been waiting anxiously for your arrival!"
"Thank you for your welcome. You say you have been waiting for us?" Daniel said.
"Yes, from the time we first discovered your amazing machine beside the Great Eye. We make pilgrimages to the Great Eye four times a year, in the hope that someone will have sent a message through, to tell us if it is safe to venture forth again. When we made our pilgrimage for the Fifth Day of Astur, we saw your wondrous machine. You are from the Assemblage, yes?" the man said, barely taking a breath as he spoke.
"Assemblage? No, we're travelers, explorers, from a planet known as Gamma. Our home world is known as Earth," Daniel said.
The man frowned. "We were certain that the machine was from the Assemblage, and that you…er…they would be sending Ambassadors to meet with us."
Daniel and Jack exchanged looks. "Sorry, we're not from the Assemblage. But we are interested in learning about your people, and your customs, and perhaps exchanging technologies," Daniel said.
Sam had been unobtrusively scanning the area. "I'm getting readings for naquadah," she said softly.
"Perhaps we would even be able to obtain permission to do some mining," Daniel added.
The man studied them closely for a minute, then nodded slowly. "I am Emil Wilson. I am the Speaker of the People."
"I'm Daniel Jackson. This is our leader, Jack O'Neill, Teal'c, Casey Jackson, and Samantha Carter-O'Neill," Daniel said, pointing to each member of the team as he introduced them.
"You are the Speaker for your People?"
Daniel smiled and glanced at Jack, who nodded. "Yes, I suppose that I am."
"Well then, Daniel Jackson, we welcome you to The Place of the Old Ones," Wilson said smiling once again.
"Thank you. If this is the Place of the Old Ones, did others leave here through the Stargate…uh…the Great Eye?" Daniel asked.
Wilson nodded. "Centuries ago, before our city was a grand as what you see before you, there were those who wished to escape the Great Ice Age and go to other places, warmer places. They formed the Assemblage, and they left together to start a colony on a distant world. They would send messages, during certain festival times each year, to let us know how the search for a suitable world progressed. Over time, we lost contact with them. We were so hoping that your machine was first contact from them in nearly four hundred years."
"It is possible that they went to a place that was dangerous, and didn’t survive?" Daniel said.
The older man shook his head. "That is not possible. Our greatest seers chose the symbols that were selected on the Altar of Signs. They would not have made such a mistake."
"Right," Jack muttered under his breath.
"Come, let me take you to your chambers. Then we shall discuss negotiations."
"Of course! We will negotiate a treaty between your people and mine, and we will negotiate equitable trade," the man explained patiently. "Please, this way." He led them down the street, townspeople smiling and nodding at them as they followed.
"Friendly enough," Daniel said, smiling at a group of men and women gathered at one of the street corners.
"Maybe too friendly," Jack replied. His eyes were constantly moving, taking in every detail around him. His instincts were telling him that something about this place wasn't quite right.
"Jack, relax! They're just nice people who are willing to discuss trade with us. We'll probably even be able to get permission to mine the naquadah," Daniel replied.
"Hmmph," Jack retorted. "Casey, can you feel anything?"
She shook her head. "I'm not feeling anything bad, just that weird…odd thing. It's like…like these people are just very… strange."
"I'll agree with that," Jack declared quietly.
"Strange how, Case?" Daniel asked.
"I think they have some very…odd…belief's, very odd customs. Odd to even some of their own people. There isn't any overt tension here, but I'm picking up that there are those who would like to see some changes."
"Well, let's just talk a bit, get a treaty and some mining rights, and go home," Jack said.
Wilson stopped in front of a bright blue building. The bright color contrasted sharply with its neighbors, one of which was deep orange, the other vivid green. "This is the Resting Place. It has not been used in awhile; we have not had visitors in a…uh…er…uh…very long time. But it has been kept ready, for we knew that someday the Assemblage would send Ambassadors to reopen relations with us." The thin man led them inside. The room was narrow, but comfortably furnished. "Up those stairs are rooms in which you may sleep. I will leave to you to decide which room each of you will use. Please, be comfortable. I will send someone with refreshments right away." He was gone before Daniel could reply.
"Okay, campers, let's check out the accommodations," Jack said.
Daniel and Casey chose the narrow room on the third floor, it had a bed large enough for both of them to sleep in. A narrow, small bathroom of sorts was also on the third floor, although the lack of 'indoor plumbing' was apparent. Jack and Sam agreed on the long narrow room on the second floor, and Teal'c opted to sleep on the wide couch on the first floor, the tiny room on the second floor nearly too small for the man to enter. From the second floor balcony they located what appeared to be a communal "latrine" behind several of the neighboring buildings.
By the time they were all back downstairs in the 'parlor', Wilson had returned with two other men, and two women who carried trays - one bearing food, the other a tall pitcher and a dozen glasses. The men were dressed the same as Wilson, in brightly colored trousers and long, wide sleeved jackets, their shirts contrasting sharply. The women wore simple black smocks and white blouses.
"Please allow me to introduce our Prime Minister, Brim Yardley. And the Deputy Prime Minister, Garret Marshall," Wilson said. The two men bowed graciously.
"We're pleased to meet you," Daniel replied. He once again introduced the rest of the team. He was watching the women…noted that they didn't even look up at the visitors…and missed the look of raw lust that flashed through the Prime Minister's eyes as he watched Casey.
The women had unloaded the trays, covering the low table in the middle of the room with food and drink, then quietly slipped out. Casey and Sam exchanged a look. Something told them that women had very few rights in this society.
Brim Yardley confirmed this suspicion when he smiled at the two women of SG-1 and summarily dismissed them. "I'm sure that your travels have made you weary. You are excused to rest, while we speak with your husbands."
Sam looked as if she were about to say something. Casey put her hand on her friend's arm. "Thank you. That's very…uh… kind of you. Come, Sam, let's go…uh…rest."
'Casey, what are you up to?' Daniel looked at his wife. He hadn't missed the look that passed between the two women. He'd seen them in action, he knew from experience how…inquisitive…they could be. Their…curiosity…could cause problems in a male dominated society, as this one seemed to be.
'Hey, you talk, we'll look around. Women do shop here, I already noticed that.' She smiled sweetly at him.
'Uh huh. Stay out of trouble.'
'I always do.'
'Love you, Stud Muffin.'
He grinned. 'Love you, too, Angel.'
She led Sam up the stairs, and directly onto the balcony, which had a stairway to the street below. Before the men were even seated comfortably, the women were walking the street, looking and listening. They wandered down the sidewalk, looking in windows at the goods displayed, taking note that color was used extensively in all of the goods, except the food. They smiled and nodded to each person they encountered. While the women seemed friendly enough, the men gave them stern looks of disapproval. One thing stood out; the men wore brightly colored clothes, the women wore gray, black, or dark brown. There seemed to be little choice of style for the women as well, they were either smocks with white blouses, or simple straight robes. Definitely a male dominated, oppressive society.
"I'm getting the feeling that we're not supposed to be out alone, unless we have a specific task," Casey murmured.
"Me, too. I haven't seen signs of any type of military or police force. Although those men over there might be some sort of enforcement group," Sam said, nodding toward a group of five men, all wearing brown trousers and shirts. Black boots that went to their knees were highly polished.
"Maybe we should just head back," Casey said, suddenly uncomfortable with the way the brown clad men were staring at them.
Sam nodded. "I think you're right. Let's go."
A A A A A A
"So, Daniel, tell me why you wish to open negotiations with The Place of the Old Ones," the Prime Minister said, settling his impressive bulk onto a chair. He reached forward and grabbed what looked like a small cake. He took a huge bite from it, the icing ringing his mouth as he chewed.
"We seek peace with all the people we meet," Daniel replied. "We have also found that your planet has an ore that we use, and we would like permission to mine for that ore."
"And what would we receive in return, hmm?" The Prime Minister looked at Daniel, a wide, fake smile on his face, a predatory look in his eyes.
"I’m sure that we could find something of value to trade," Daniel said elusively. "How do you heat this cavern?"
"Deep within the planet are fires so hot, that it melts rock. We run pipes from holes near this melted rock, around the city."
"What if we were able to offer you a more suitable way to heat this cavern?" Daniel asked. One of the naquadah generators that Sam had just designed would be perfect for the job. "We could give you electricity, running water-" he said, having noticed the large wells at either end of the main street.
"E-lec-tri-city?" Wilson said carefully, his eyebrows going up slightly.
"Yes, it can run machines, lights, heating sources," Daniel tried to explain.
The Prime Minister nodded. "Then we agree to open negotiations."
"I…uh…thought we were already negotiating," Daniel said, slightly confused.
The rotund man laughed with genuine amusement. "No, my young friend, we are merely becoming acquainted. We are discussing the opening of negotiations. Do you accept our terms to negotiate?"
Jack and Daniel exchanged a puzzled look. "What are the terms?" Daniel asked.
"That all our laws and traditions be honored while you remain in the city. That you will negotiate in good faith, in trust, and with no deception."
Again the two men looked at one another. "We accept," Daniel said.
"Danny, maybe we should find out what their laws and traditions are first," Jack said quietly.
"Jack, in a society that lives this closely, there can't be too many laws that would be… unacceptable."
"What about traditions?"
The young man shifted nervously. "From what I've seen, I would place this civilization at about the same level as our industrial period. A bit heavy handed toward women, but I don't think we have anything to worry about."
The three men had watched the visitors carefully, listening to the tone of voice; they didn't understand the words being used. "Do you accept?" the Prime Minster asked again.
Daniel looked at Jack. The older man shrugged. "We accept," he replied.
"Good. We will meet first thing in the morning. Emil will send for you, and bring you to the Council Chambers. Now, you are married, to that lovely young lady with the long hair the color of the sun, correct?"
Daniel nodded, not sure he liked the look in the man's eyes at the mention of Casey.
"Good, good. I will send someone for your wife, and mine will arrive shortly."
"Excuse me?" Daniel's eyes narrowed slightly.
"We will exchange wives for the night, Daniel. Your wife will explain your world to me, my wife will explain my world to you."
"Uh…why can't we just explain our worlds to each other?" the young man asked. He had no intention of letting his Wife leave his side. Besides, Casey would shoot him if she had to go through with some sort of 'wife-swap'.
"Because women, as uneducated as they are, have a much better…feel…for what goes on around them. They're useless in the Council Chambers of course, but they are quite useful in other ways, yes?"
Daniel shook his head. "My Wife stays with me."
The Prime Minister frowned. He had already seen what a beauty Daniel's wife was. He was looking forward to an evening with her…and hopefully a night of passion as well. He was…in between…mistresses at the moment.
"You accepted the terms," Wilson said firmly.
"You never mentioned that wife-swapping was part of the deal!" Daniel replied, obviously agitated.
While he had on occasion used his young bride as a source of physical relief when he was temporarily without a mistress, he had no feelings other than acceptance for the woman. She was his wife, nothing more. The heavy Prime Minister smirked. "You behave as if you have an…emotional attachment…to your wife!"
"I do! I love her very much!" Daniel declared.
The three men looked at one another, their eyes wide. "Explain how this can be," Wilson said, his voice hard. "You have such…feelings…for your wife?"
"What do you mean? Of course I have such feelings for my Wife!" Daniel replied. Okay, this was getting weird!
"How is it that you love your wife? Do you not have a mistress for that purpose?" the thin man asked.
"Uh…no. My Wife and I met, fell in love, and were married. We have two children," Daniel explained.
"Strange, very strange indeed!" Wilson exclaimed.
"Don't you love your wives? How do you choose them?" Jack asked. He was starting to feel as if he had fallen down a rabbit hole. He wondered if he needed to beware the Queen of Hearts, and should look around for a grinning cat.
The men laughed. "We do not choose. Our parents, our families, make the best arrangement possible, both politically and economically. The ceremony is very sacred, and the bonds may not be broken. While it isn't unheard of for a man to bed his wife, it is frowned upon; we choose a mistress to take care of those…needs. Certainly emotional attachments aren't formed with the woman to whom we are wed. It would be… unacceptable," Wilson revealed.
Before any more could be said, three men wearing brown shirts and pants, with knee-high black boots burst into the room, holding Casey and Sam between them. "These…women," the spokesman spat the word, "were wandering the streets alone, looking like…this!"
"We were just doing some window shopping," Casey replied, yanking her arm from the grasp of the man holding her. "What a lousy way to treat guests!"
The Prime Minister looked at Daniel. "It is a crime for women to dress as men, nor are they allowed to walk the streets alone, unless they have permission."
"Oh, puhleeze," Sam muttered, rolling her eyes.
"No offense was intended," Daniel said quickly. "Our world is much different than yours. Our women are treated with respect, as equals. As for their clothes, they are dressed as we are because we're all doing the same job."
"No wonder your heads are so muddled," the Deputy Prime Minister muttered.
"Okay, I think we'll just get our stuff an head on out," Jack said, standing up.
"You would leave your women here?" Wilson asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
"Why would we do that?" Jack asked suspiciously. He didn't think he liked the looks on the faces of these men. No, he knew he didn't like the looks on their faces. He was equally sure he wasn't going to like the answer to his question.
"They have broken the law. They must be punished." The thin man replied calmly.
"What is the punishment?" Daniel asked. He glanced at Casey, who was still being forced to stand beside the men in brown, as was Sam.
"A public whipping, then three days incarceration."
Casey rolled her eyes. "What did I tell you…strange…odd…freaking crazy!"
Jack shook his head. "We didn't know your laws. No offense was intended. I can tell you right now you won't be whipping these women. We're going to get our gear, take our wives, and we're leaving!"
The three leaders rose to their feet. "You will be going nowhere. And these two…women…most certainly will be punished, according to the letter of the law!" the Prime Minister declared. He stomped out of the house, the Deputy Prime Minister behind him. Wilson stared at them for a few seconds, then followed the other two.
The three brown clad men pulled Casey and Sam with them, and the door was slammed closed behind them. And locked. The shutters were then closed and locked as well. Daniel, Jack and Teal'c looked at one another, exchanging looks of utter shock, then raced up the stairs.
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