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The Price of Peace
The shutters on every window, on all three levels, were closed and locked. So was the door in the room Jack and Sam had chosen to sleep in, which led to the balcony. The men traipsed back down to the parlor. Jack dropped down onto the chair he had been sitting in earlier. "You realize that we have to get out of here, get our wives, and then get to that elevator."
"I know, I know," Daniel mumbled. "I never would have thought that a society could be so…twisted. After all we've… experienced…I should have known better!"
"I know, Space Monkey. They seemed normal enough to me, too," Jack sighed. He had been…uneasy, but nothing he felt would have prepared him for this unexpected turn of events.
They could hear a commotion outside. Looking to see what was happening through the slats of the shutters, they could see a crowd gathering.
The door opened, and five men in brown clothes, armed with what appeared to be semi-automatic weapons stepped into the room. "Your presence is required for the punishment."
The men of SG-1 exchanged looks. "I didn't notice any place that looked as if it could produce those," Jack said softly.
"I'm thinking they do some trading with someone through the 'gate," Daniel replied in a whisper.
"That would be my guess." Jack said, also whispering. "Those look Russian."
Daniel almost moaned. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"They've set up some colonies somewhere, and have found a way to keep them supplied through the 'gate," Jack said. "And now they're dealing arms."
"Or they located another 'gate. Remember, we didn't know about the one in Antarctica, and the Russians didn't know about ours until they found it when they swooped in before our people could retrieve it," Daniel said.
"Swell. Think the EDA will do anything about it?"
Daniel snorted. "Nope."
The men who had been waiting for them ran out of patience. "Stop your whispering at once, and come with us!" They roughly shoved the visitors out the door and onto the street.
A platform on wheels had been rolled into the center of the main boulevard, and a crowd of people was gathered around it, shouting with anger at the two women who stood on it. Half a dozen tall posts were attached to the platform, and it was facing two of these that Sam and Casey stood, their arms tied above their heads with heavy rope. Several men were shaking their fists in the air as they yelled at the prisoners.
"Oh, hell no!" Daniel whispered. 'Angel, hang on, I'm coming to get you.'
He paused. She sounded…drunk. Or drugged. "They've been given something," he whispered to Jack.
Jack nodded his understanding. "Let's go. No way are they going to beat my wife. We'll go low. On the count of three. One…two…three!"
The SG-1 team members dropped to their knees, shoved against the legs of their guards, taking the men down and grabbing at their weapons. Teal'c managed to take out two, and Jack took out the fifth one by hitting him across the face with the butt of the gun he was now holding. They raced through the crowd, pushing people out of the way, bounded up the steps of the platform. Jack and Daniel planted themselves in front of their wives, effectively blocking them from the two men who were readying whips.
"You dare to interfere!" Brim Yardley shouted. His round face was beet red with anger.
"Damn straight I do! That's my wife, and you aren't going to touch her! They didn't hurt anybody, they didn't know they were breaking some stupid, dark ages law! Now, we're going to go get our gear, and we're leaving," Jack shouted back. He was angry, too.
"Get them!" Wilson ordered. Nearly a dozen men surged forward.
Jack fired the weapon above the heads of the crowd. Everyone dropped to their knees, covered their heads. Including the men in the brown shirts. "Daniel, is your gun still on safety?"
"They don't know how to use them! They look dangerous, and I’m thinking they use them more as clubs than anything else."
"Makes me wonder what else they have that they don't know how to use," Daniel replied.
Brim Yardley peeked up at the men, his eyes wide, his cheeks pale. "How did you make those clubs do that?"
Jack gave Daniel an 'I-told-you-so' look. "Because we've used weapons like these before. What else did Russians give you? And what did you give them in return?"
Teal'c untied Sam and Casey, then stood between them and the crowd that was now getting back to its feet. Both women shook their heads slightly as their Quickening dealt with the residual traces of the drug they had been given.
"Only those. We allowed them to examine our tunnels. They never returned." The heavy man replied.
Jack, Teal'c and Daniel exchanged worried looks. "Okay, tell us about these tunnels," Jack said.
Now that it was clear that these visitors would not willingly harm them, Brim Yardley stood up, pulled himself to his full height. "We will hold negotiations tomorrow." He turned and waddled back up the street.
No one stopped them as the team made their way back to the blue building. The shutters were open again, although they never saw who opened them.
Casey dropped down onto a wide sofa beside Daniel. He handed her what looked, and tasted, like a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich, took one for himself and took a bite. "Okay, so what are these negotiations about?" she asked.
"I guess we're going to work out a treaty to establish relations between us and them…and hopefully get mining rights," Daniel replied around a mouthful of sandwich.
"I'm thinking those Russians were after the naquadah, too," Jack said quietly.
"So did they really get lost in these tunnels that Yardley mentioned, or did something else happen to them?" Sam asked.
Daniel shrugged. "I have no idea."
Jack glanced at Casey. "Do you think Yardley is going to expect you to do that wife-swapping thing?"
Casey sat up, eyes wide, stared at Jack, then turned to look at Daniel. "Say what? Wife-swapping? Are you out of your mind?"
"Don't worry, I was never going to go through with it," Daniel replied.
"How on earth did it ever come up?" she demanded to know.
"Well, apparently, marriages are arranged here. Based on political and economic status. It sounds to me as if very few of them ever have any sort of real feelings for one another. Not any more than you would have for…say…a business partner. Men have mistresses, and I suppose women just…deal with it," Daniel explained. "Yardley said that wives were exchanged between diplomats because they understood their world better, and were better able to explain it. And that basically that was all they were good for."
Sam shook her head. "I would love to go somewhere and find that women aren't chattel, second class citizens or otherwise abused and ignored!"
"Amen, sister," Casey exclaimed. She thought briefly of P3X 441. The women had been in charge there, and with the exception of the whole Nergal thing, the place seemed to run quite efficiently. "If you think that I'm going to let that fat bastard come near me, you're crazy."
Daniel put his arm around her. "I'm not letting him anywhere near you, Case."
She shivered suddenly, and then shook her head. "Famous last words," she sighed.
He looked at her sharply. "What?"
She shivered again. "I don't think we're going to have a choice now. You and Jack and T just showed them how to use those guns. And those guys with the brown fetish aren't going to hesitate to use them."
"Shit!" Jack swore. "Okay, campers, let's get our gear and head for that elevator. We're getting out of here."
The words were no more out of his mouth than the door opened, and half a dozen armed men entered. A small woman with auburn hair and wide green eyes stood with them. She looked absolutely terrified.
"The Prime Minister sends his wife with most felicitous greetings. We are to escort your wife to the Prime Minister's abode," one of the men said.
"No, I don’t think so," Daniel said, pushing Casey behind him. "My Wife isn't going anywhere without me. I'm willing to meet with the Prime Minister, and my Wife will accompany me."
"That is not acceptable," the leader replied.
"That's the only way it's she leaves here," Daniel said.
The men aimed their weapons at the team. "You will comply, or we will kill you."
"How dangerous do you think it would be to let them find out we're Immortal," Jack asked quietly.
"With this group, probably pretty risky," Daniel admitted.
"Look, he just wants to know about my world, right? Okay, I'll tell him about Gamma, and Earth, and then I'll insist that he let me come back here," Casey said, her hand on Daniel's arm. She couldn't sense any danger. Although she was…uncomfortable…about the entire situation.
Daniel nodded. "Pay attention to where they take you, so you can get back here," he said softly. His way of telling her to escape if need be.
"I'll be right here for you, Angel," he said, kissing her gently. The action brought looks of disbelief, and disapproval, from the brown clad guards.
"I know." With a sigh, she followed the brown clad men into the street, and allowed them to escort her toward a group of buildings at the far end of the town.
A A A A A A
Daniel smiled at the woman that stood beside the door, her eyes wide with fright. "It's okay, we aren't going to hurt you. I’m Daniel. These are my friends, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c."
"I am Elana. Wife of Brim Yardley, Prime Minister of The Place of the Old Ones."
To say that her marriage was the most miserable existence she could imagine would have been an understatement to Elana Yardley. Her family had chosen Brim because he was already the Prime Minister, and was looking for a wife to replace the woman he had been married to for nearly thirteen years. Officially the record stated that she died from a sudden fever, but rumor had it that she had committed suicide, unable to take one more day with the pompous, arrogant, and often cruel Brim Yardley. Elana was pretty, and young, and her family owned the printing press. So the arrangement was made.
She studied the handsome man who stood before her. His eyes were so blue, his face full of kindness. She could easily love a man like this, she thought. If only he would find her pleasing enough to take with him, when he was finally allowed to leave, if he was allowed to leave. Perhaps his people wouldn't mind him taking her as his mistress! I must please him, she thought desperately.
"Would you sit here with my friends and I, and tell us about your people?" Daniel asked quietly, still smiling at her.
"Whatever you wish, I shall give you," she replied, trying to tell him with her eyes that she did indeed mean anything. She would do anything this handsome man wanted. She had seen what pleased her husband when he brought whoever his current mistress was into their bed. She also knew from…experience…how to please a man. Brim Yardley would never admit to taking his own wife repeatedly, when he was in between mistresses. Which happened quite often of late.
Daniel frowned slightly. He understood exactly what she was trying to tell him. "We would just like to talk to you, ask you a few questions," he said firmly.
"If that is what you wish," she said. She only hoped that they would decide to retire soon, so that she could show this man just how well she could satisfy him.
"It is," he said. He smiled again, and led her to the chair beside the table. He was careful to sit across the room, next to Teal'c, leaving no room for misinterpretation. "How long have your people lived in this cavern?"
"Nearly four hundred and sixty years," was the soft answer.
"Wow, how do you deal with population control?" Sam asked.
Elana looked at Sam, then at Daniel. "Forgive me, I do not understand these words, 'population control'."
"How do you keep from outgrowing the cavern? How do you keep from having too many children?" Daniel explained.
Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. Discussing such things was not done! Not in polite company! She looked again at Daniel. Anything to please him, anything, she reminded herself firmly. "There is a lottery each spring. Ten women are chosen, and they are taken to the Temple of Life. There the priests pray over them, and perform the Ceremony of Life, and they are…filled…with the essence of life. With luck, at least half of them will conceive, and have a child. Once a woman gives birth, her name is withdrawn from the lottery."
The group exchanged glances. "Are you saying that these priests impregnate the women?" Sam asked.
"It is a very solemn ceremony, and only the husbands are allowed to observe, to see that all is done correctly," Elana replied.
Jack couldn't help but snicker.
Sam shook her head. "I'm thinking artificial insemination."
Daniel nodded. "Probably. They'd have to do something like that if they don't…uh…sleep with their wives. For these priests to…um…impregnate the women would narrow the gene pool too quickly." He turned to the young auburn haired woman. "Elana, who are the fathers of these children?"
Her face turned beet red. "Only the priests know, so that any joining of siblings can be avoided."
"But how do they get…the…uh…" Sam looked at Daniel.
"Where do they get the man's…uh…" he broke of, blushing now himself.
"Whose sperm…seed…uh…'essence of life'…do they use?" Jack asked bluntly. "What?" he asked, when Sam and Daniel glared at him.
"Each man…gives…of himself…once a year, just prior to the lottery," the young woman stammered. She was staring at the floor, her face burning; her embarrassment so great that she was nearly ill.
"Okay, they're advanced enough to have artificial insemination," Sam said, "but they don't have electricity or running water?"
"Maybe there was an advanced civilization here before this ice age started. They probably chose the brightest, or the richest, or however the determination was made, and they came to this cavern, knowing they could warm it using heat from the molten core of the planet. There are probably lava chambers in this mountain range, they knew about them and tapped into them," Daniel hypothesized. "Through the years some knowledge was lost, for whatever reason. I'm thinking that they don't know what naquadah is, or they'd already be using it as a power source."
"I agree," Sam said, nodding. "Obviously they've figured out a way to grow at least a few staple crops," she said nodding at the tray of food. There wasn't a lot of variety, but there was certainly seemed to be an ample amount. "I wonder how they keep any…unwanted… pregnancies from occurring," she murmured.
"It's possible that any 'unsanctioned' pregnancies are terminated," Jack replied.
"Probably," his wife agreed. The idea of no choice at all was repugnant to her.
"We should find out if the Russians are the only ones to have come here," Jack said.
"Elana, how often do people come through the Stargate…uh…the Great Eye, to visit here?" Daniel asked.
She heaved a silent sigh of relief that the subject was being changed. "You are the first since those who became lost in the tunnels," she replied.
"How many came before they arrived?" he asked.
"I do not know of any others who have ever walked from the Great Eye," she replied. "It is the custom to go there four times a year. To see if our brethren, who left through the Great Eye before the ice covered all, have found a place safe for all of us."
"So they're still waiting word from a group that left what, five hundred years ago? That means that ice out there built up pretty fast," Daniel said.
"Nuclear winter," Jack said quietly. "Sam, didn't you say that the radiation levels were a bit high, not dangerous, but higher than normal?"
"Yeah, they were," she said.
"What if the people who went through the Stargate had no intention of ever coming back for this group of survivors?" Daniel said. "Wouldn't it be easier to control a group by telling them that scouts were looking for a better place, and they just had to hang on until a new world, a new Eden, was found?"
Jack nodded. "Not to mention delegating women to such a low status."
"That could be because women were involved in the nuclear war, perhaps women were leaders of the countries that fought…or started…a nuclear war," Sam said softly. "It's possible that this society was much like ours…before…" her voice trailed off.
"Before they blew themselves to kingdom come," Daniel finished. He smiled at the young woman. "Thank you for answering our questions. I realize that we embarrassed you. That was not our intention. We just want to get to know about your people."
His smile was so beautiful, she thought, her heart hammering against her ribs. She smiled shyly in return. "I will answer any questions you ask of me," she replied.
"You mentioned a temple, and priests. What god do you worship?" Daniel asked.
"The great god Kingu," was the quiet answer.
Daniel put his fingers against his forehead, searching his mind for the identity of this god. "Sumerian, um…he was a general in the war against the gods, keeper of the plans of destiny."
"Rather odd that a society like this, on a different planet, would worship an ancient Earth god, don't you think?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, unless he's a Goa'uld, and at one time ruled here. Look at all of the 'gods' of our history. It could be that he's come down in their history the way Jehovah, and Jesus, and Buddha, and Mohammed did on Earth," Daniel replied.
Jack gave a yawn, and then stretched. "Okay, I think we've learned enough for tonight. Let's get some sleep."
Elana felt her pulse begin to race. Soon she would be alone with Daniel, and she would make him fall in love with her!
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