"General? You wanted to see me?"
"Come in, Jack. Take a seat."
Jack hesitated just a beat as he lowered himself into the chair across the desk from Hammond.
"This isn't going to be good, is it?"
"There's a small problem," Hammond agreed.
"Define small." Jack threw up his hand. "No, wait--define 'problem' first."
"I've been ordered to send SG-1 to Pankeer again...."
"Sir, if the words 'Harry' or 'Maybourne' are soon to follow...." Jack paused to give Hammond a chance to deny Maybourne's involvement in whatever the 'small' problem was. It quickly became clear that he'd be waiting a very long time for that reassurance.
"To be fair, Maybourne isn't the center of the problem this time," Hammond finally offered as consolation.
"This time," Jack repeated sarcastically. "Let me guess: the crystals?"
"Got it in one, Colonel." Hammond shuffled a few papers on his desk, working up to telling Jack the story. "Apparently a number of parties are attempting to lay claim to the mine. Former Colonel Maybourne is just one."
"He just got out of jail," Jack said incredulously.
"There are also claims by the Tollan, the citizens of the city-state of Pankeer, and the inhabitants of the moon...who have declared themselves the independent nation of Chandre."
"Holy...." Jack shook his head in disbelief. "Sir, without wishing to appear completely ignorant, I have to ask--what business is it of ours? Even Maybourne's not our responsibility any more."
"Our government is also attempting to make a claim on the mine and its contents."
"On what basis?"
"On the basis that Dr. Jackson was the one to actually find the mine."
"What?" Daniel snapped. "That's...that's a ridiculously flimsy basis for staking a claim on foreign soil."
"Technically, it's alien soil," Sam said.
"Whatever," Daniel said. "It's still nuts. They can't make a claim."
"And yet--they're making it," Jack said. He sat back in his chair and looked around the briefing table at Hammond, Carter, Teal'c, and Major Davis. He wasn't going to be the one to explain to Daniel why this mission was going forward. Not this time.
"Then we have to stop them," Daniel said earnestly.
"This comes directly from both the Department of Defense and the Department of State," Major Davis explained. "Your personal feelings on the subject aside...."
"Since I am apparently the sole basis for this claim, I don't think my feelings should be put aside," Daniel said stubbornly.
"Daniel, I understand your reservations but we really could use these crystals," Sam said.
"To develop new technology," Sam said. "And, quite honestly, to help us keep the technology we've already acquired up and running. We have a big problem right now trying to replace damaged or burned out crystals."
"So work something out with the Tok'ra," Daniel argued.
"All things considered, we'd rather not rely on the Tok'ra," Davis said.
"And if I refuse to be a part of this?" Daniel asked.
"Dr. Jackson, I've been ordered to send SG-1, and specifically you, to Pankeer," Hammond said. "If you don't cooperate...."
Daniel sat back in his chair, blowing out a frustrated breath.
"Look at it this way, Daniel," Jack said in a conciliatory tone. "What are the odds that our claim has any serious chance of succeeding?"
"Then why bother?"
"Because even if we don't succeed, there's a chance we could reach an agreement with whoever does take control of the mine," Davis said. "Offer them technical assistance or equipment in return for a share of the crystals."
"Is it not fatal for humans to work in the mine?" Teal'c asked.
"With protective gear and appropriate monitoring we feel the risks would be minimal." Davis looked around the table, taking in the less than enthusiastic attitude. "While I agree that you may have some valid concerns about this mission, the fact is that obtaining the rights to these crystals could improve our defensive capabilities immensely."
"I think you're paddling upstream on this one, Major," Jack said.
"At least it's a job I'm familiar with," Davis said dryly.
"Colonel," Lieutenant Rodriguez said, giving Jack a sharp salute as SG-1 arrived at the Pankeer city limits.
"You're still here?"
"Yes, sir. Sergeant Cooper and I have been assigned to your delegation for the duration."
"Who'd you piss off anyway?" Jack asked. Assuming the lieutenant had been since Jack had seen him on their last visit to Pankeer, the poor guy had been stuck on the planet for months.
"The wrong people apparently," Rodriguez said.
"I thought you were scheduled to go home when the diplomatic team finished," Sam said as she and her teammates fell into step with Rodriguez and Cooper.
"I guess they figured it would be better for you to have people who were familiar with Pankeer rather than rotating new people in."
"So where are we going?" Jack asked.
"A hotel on the west side of town."
"Not the diplomatic residence?" Davis asked.
"No, sir. The Pankeeran officials want to fly this under the radar. The meetings will be taking place in a conference room in the same hotel."
"Why so secret?" Daniel asked.
"Because the other governments on Pankeer don't know the crystals have been found again and our friends would like it to stay that way," a familiar voice said.
"Maybourne," Jack groaned, closing his eyes.
"Hello, Jack," Harry said. He stepped out of the alcove where he'd obviously been waiting for SG-1's arrival. "Welcome back."
Jack threw up a hand, stopping Harry's advance.
"Fair warning, Harry. I'm armed."
"Jack," Harry said in a tone of mock hurt.
"Sir?" Rodriguez eyed Harry pointedly. Jack hesitated then shook his head at Rodriguez, motioning him back.
"What do you want, Harry?"
"I just wanted to say hello," Harry said, affecting innocence. "We are going to be spending a fair amount of time together, you know?"
"And that just makes me feel so much better about this mission," Jack said.
"Sirs, our transport is here," Cooper interrupted. Jack turned his head and saw a sort of minivan version of the hovercraft used by all Pankeerans. He nodded for the rest of his team to get in.
"We need to talk, Jack," Harry said as Jack moved toward the vehicle.
"Don't piss me off, Maybourne."
"I'm not kidding," Jack said. He got into the vehicle and looked back at Maybourne before closing the door. "Our first two visits to Pankeer have not been entirely pleasant and I haven't begun to forget that. Don't make me regret a third trip."
Rodriguez and Cooper ushered the team to their suite in the hotel. Unlike their last accommodations on Pankeer, this suite had three bedrooms: two on the left side and one on the right. The area not occupied by a bedroom on the right was a kitchenette.
"Nice," Jack said with an approving nod as he looked around the room. "So who's paying for this?"
"The DOD. And I promised them they'd get the damage deposit back," Davis said.
"Ooh, bad move," Jack said quietly as he turned away from Davis and gave Daniel a conspiratorial grin. Daniel shook his head at Jack, trying to discourage his frat boy inclinations.
"Sir, not to overstep my authority or anything but...I've got dibs on that bedroom," Sam said, indicating the first bedroom on the left side of the suite. "And I get to have it alone."
"Yeah, sure," Jack said, allowing Sam to claim the room. He waved Davis into the room next to Sam's before turning to Teal'c.
"So. Teal'c. Davis or Daniel?"
"Need I remind you, O'Neill, that I do now require sleep?"
"Flip you for it?" Jack offered. Teal'c nodded and Jack dug a quarter out of his pocket.
"Er...what are you doing?" Daniel asked. He'd started exploring the central room but turned back to Jack and Teal'c with a puzzled expression.
"Nothing," Jack said. He tossed the coin and nodded to Teal'c. "Call it."
"Don't suppose you'd want to make it best of three?" Jack said after sneaking a peek at the coin lying on the back of his hand. Teal'c smiled smugly and disappeared into the bedroom he'd be sharing with Major Davis.
"Okay, so it's you and me," Jack told Daniel, leading the way into the final room.
"I've just been insulted, haven't I?" Daniel asked, following Jack.
"Not you, Daniel. Just your sinuses."
"You're dismissed for the night, Lieutenant," Jack told Rodriguez after they'd all finished supper. They'd chosen to eat in their suite, gathered around the large coffee table in the central room. "You and Cooper better get a good night's rest--we've got hours of exciting meetings to prep for."
"Yes, sir," Rodriguez said with a smile. He nodded for Cooper to follow him. As he opened the door he nearly came face to face with Harry's fist. "Er...Colonel O'Neill?"
"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack muttered, glancing at the door. He waved carelessly at Rodriguez. "Go ahead. Let him in."
"What do you want, Maybourne?" Davis asked, closing his briefcase as Harry drew near to the table.
"I thought you might like to have a little chat."
"Sorry. Chatting is not on the agenda for the evening," Jack said.
"So change your agenda," Harry said.
"Do you have any idea what's going on here?" Harry asked Davis.
"You mean other than the obvious?" Davis asked.
"You've worked in D.C. long enough, Major. By now you should realize that what you see is not necessarily what you get."
"That's why we're here a couple of days early," Davis said agreeably. "So we can get the lay of the land."
"It's going to get messy," Harry said.
"'Messy'?" Teal'c asked, his tone demanding explanation.
"There's a fortune at stake here, and no one's going to give up on it easily," Harry warned.
"And you're telling us this why?" Daniel asked.
"You'll have to be on your toes. I could help with background information on some of the people you'll be dealing with."
"Why would you do that?" Jack asked, gazing at Harry suspiciously.
"I thought we might be able to make a deal."
"Deal?" Davis asked, instantly wary.
"Our claims to the mine are the weakest, for obvious reasons," Harry said. "It seems to me that together we'd have a better chance."
"And the nature of this deal?" Jack prompted.
"We'd have to hammer out the details, but basically I would oversee the actual mining operation. The SGC would provide technical assistance and research."
"Research?" Daniel asked.
"Someone's going to have to figure out how to use the crystals. I don't have access to the kind of facilities or scientists who can do that."
"How to use the crystals?" Jack repeated pointedly.
"No one knows how they work anymore," Harry said.
"No one?" Sam asked incredulously.
"So all this ado is about nothing?" Jack asked, glancing at Daniel. Daniel just shrugged; he certainly had no idea of how the crystals worked.
"It's not nothing, Jack," Harry said. "The crystals are powerful. We just don't know how they work."
"It doesn't matter," Major Davis said quickly. "We'll worry about figuring out how to use them after we actually have access to them."
"What do you mean--use them?" Jack asked, stuck on that one point. "Don't you just plug them in?"
"No, sir. First the crystal has to be, well, formatted for lack of a better word. Otherwise it won't store data in any useful form," Sam explained. "Once it's formatted and programmed, then you can plug it in."
"And you don't know how to 'format' these things?"
"I know how to prepare the Goa'uld crystals," Sam said.
"Doesn't work on these," Harry said.
"Are you certain?" Teal'c asked.
"Pretty sure," Harry said. "I haven't had the opportunity to try myself, but all the information I can find says that the crystals are unaffected by the usual methods."
"That could just be disinformation," Davis pointed out, apparently unconcerned as he opened his briefcase and began shuffling through his files again. "After all, if they can convince you that the crystals don't work, you're less likely to pursue your claim."
"I considered that," Maybourne agreed. "But this goes way back, even to Scarthen's day. Why do you think so many of the crystals he mined ended up in museums or as jewelry?"
"Because they could not be made to work?" Teal'c asked.
"Bingo," Harry said, pointing at Teal'c.
"Where are the aliens?" Daniel said suddenly.
"Daniel?" Jack said, glancing at the man sitting at his side.
"The aliens no longer reside on Pankeer," Teal'c said.
"Yes, obviously. But what happened to them?"
"Is that really important right now?" Jack asked.
"I think so. Maybe," Daniel said with a small shrug of his eyebrows. "The aliens who originally discovered the crystals are gone. The mine's location was lost, possibly intentionally. And no one knows how to use the crystals."
"I'm not following you, Daniel," Sam said.
"Well, to be honest I'm not sure where I'm going with it," Daniel admitted. "But I have the feeling that those things are all connected. That there's a deliberate connection."
"Such as?" Davis asked.
"Such as the aliens didn't want anyone else to be able to use the crystals," Daniel suggested.
"Why not?" Jack asked.
"I don't know. I'm just guessing."
"Regardless of what the aliens may or may not have wanted, we are proceeding with the negotiations," Davis said firmly.
"Colonel, if I could get one or two of the crystals I could take them back to the SGC and start working on the problem," Sam said.
"Good luck," Harry said. "The few crystals we know about are not available for borrowing. And the transporter platform is now guarded by the Security Force, so don't even think about sneaking off to Chandre."
"Guarded?" Daniel asked.
"What about the mine itself?" Davis asked with concern. "Is that secure?"
"Don't know. Of course, the only people on Chandre who actually know the location of the mine are the Tollan. Apparently they've given their word that they will stay away from the mine until the issue of ownership is decided."
"Sweet," Jack grumbled.
"Sir, if the Tollan made a promise, they'll keep it," Sam said.
"They've broken their own rules before," Jack pointed out.
"I think Sam's right," Daniel said. "Their self image is pretty damaged as it is. I don't think they'll risk compromising their integrity any further."
"Good morning, fellow Earthlings," Harry said cheerfully the next morning as he joined SG-1 in the hotel's cafeteria style dining room. He set down his tray and sat in the chair next to Sam.
"I don't recall inviting you," Jack said. Daniel, sitting next to Jack, looked up and then quickly looked away again before he could be drawn into the conversation. Sam suddenly became very interested in her toast.
"There was an empty chair and it's a free country," Harry said as he started to eat his breakfast.
"Is it?" Jack asked. Harry raised his eyes and scowled at Jack before digging back into his meal.
"Actually, it is," Major Davis said.
"A free country: Pankeer is a representative democracy," Davis told him.
"Goody," Jack said, having no interest in the subject if he couldn't use it to needle Maybourne. He pushed his plate away and sat back in his chair. "Rodriguez."
"Sir?" The lieutenant looked at Jack from the end of the table.
"I want to see this conference room we'll be meeting in, get an idea of the security measures."
"Yes, sir, I'd be happy to show you."
"I'd like to see that myself. Then I need to get a feel for our fellow claimants," Davis said.
"Told you I could help with that," Maybourne said casually.
"I don't have the authority to approve any kind of deal, Maybourne," Davis told him.
"Consider it a token of good faith on my part," Maybourne said.
"Good faith?" Jack said dryly.
"You need me, Jack."
"Yeah, like a yearly colonoscopy."
Jack dismissed the issue of Maybourne, and what he might or might not know, and let his eyes drift around the dining room, gathering his thoughts for the day. His eyes widened slightly as he noticed a familiar figure standing near the entrance. He excused himself and walked across the room.
"Mays," Jack said, walking up to the Pankeeran Security officer.
"Colonel," Mays said warmly, offering his hand while his eyes went back to scanning the room.
"What brings you here?" Jack asked.
"The same thing that brings you and your team," Mays said. Evidently satisfied with what he saw--or didn't see--he turned his full attention on Jack. "I'm in charge of security for the meeting."
"We're not expecting any trouble are we?" Jack asked.
"Expecting? No, I wouldn't say expecting. Just being cautious."
"Any particular threats I should know about?" Jack asked.
"Most of the participants are harmless." Mays hesitated and studied Jack carefully. "My greatest concern is that the Association may try to infiltrate or influence the proceedings."
"Maybourne?" Jack asked, following the man's gaze to Harry. "You think he's working for the Association now?"
"I have to consider the possibility that he's been working with them all along." Mays watched Jack's eyes widen. "It all goes back to the stolen documents."
"The ones about the mine?" Jack asked.
"Those documents," Mays confirmed. "They were stolen from a Pankeeran company by a man with known ties to the Association. Maybourne was the person who discovered the link. And he had ties to the man who then stole the documents from the Association. Now he's making a claim on the mine." Mays shrugged. "You must admit it's possible."
"Possible? Yeah, anything's possible with Maybourne," Jack agreed. "Could be a coincidence."
"One connection might be a coincidence. This...this makes me uneasy," Mays said.
"So tell me--is it true that no one knows how to use these crystals?" Jack asked as he felt his team gathering behind him.
"That's my understanding."
"Hasn't anyone studied them before?" Sam asked.
"Studied them--yes. Understood them--no, not to my knowledge, Major Carter. Hello Dr. Jackson, Teal'c." Mays paused, looking at Davis.
"Major Paul Davis," Davis said, offering his hand.
"Major, this is Inspector Brenton Mays of the Pankeeran Security Force," Jack said, completing the introduction. "And the officer in charge of security for the conference."
"Very nice to meet you," Davis said.
"And you," Mays said.
"Major Davis is our chief diplomat for this shindig," Jack told Mays.
"Not you?" Mays noted the reactions of Jack's teammates. "Have I said something impolite?"
"No," Sam hurried to reassure him. "It's just that the colonel's reputation in regard to diplomacy is, well...."
"Yes, Carter?" Jack said, daring her to finish.
"Jack wouldn't know diplomacy if it bit him in the ass," Daniel said plainly.
"That's not true," Jack said. "I simply prefer to leave the brown-nosing to others."
"Brown nosing?" Mays asked.
"Daniel?" Jack prompted.
"Not on your life," Daniel muttered.
"Colonel," Sam interrupted before the conversation could deteriorate any further. "With your permission I'd like to take some time and see what I can find out about the crystals."
"Er...yeah, I don't see why not. Don't really need you for anything else today," Jack said, after looking to Major Davis for confirmation. Daniel immediately leaned in, mouth already open. Jack quickly stopped him. "Yes, Daniel, you can go play, too."
"Gee, thanks, Dad," Daniel said sarcastically.
"The best place to start would be the University," Mays told Sam and Daniel. "If you'd like, I'd be happy to take you there."
"What about security?" Jack asked Mays.
"I've completed my analysis. And my assistant is fully capable of monitoring events for the moment."
"Think your assistant could give us a run down?"
"I'll see to it before I leave."
"What about this 'Nation of Chandre'?" Jack asked, flipping open a folder.
"In some ways their claim would seem to be the strongest," Harry said. He, Jack and Major Davis had returned to SG-1's suite after touring the facilities. "Except for the fact that there was no Nation of Chandre until the crystals were discovered."
"How stable could the government be?" Davis asked.
"Not very would be my assessment." Harry shook his head incredulously. "They haven't even begun to set up a true government. Basically, they all agreed to call themselves a country in order to make a claim on the mine. What'll happen six months down the road is anyone's guess."
"That may help us," Davis said, making notes. "A venture like this is going to require stable leadership and a reliable infrastructure."
"And last but not least are our friends, the Tollan. You know as much, if not more, about them as I do," Harry said.
"Do you know who their representative is?" Jack asked.
"Does it really matter?" Davis asked, looking across the coffee table at Jack.
"Maybe. Marden is a real hard liner, like Omoc. It's hard to reason with someone like that. Arvann, on the other hand, was...." Jack stopped to think for a moment. "Well, she's still a Tollan and therefore arrogant and condescending. But she wasn't quite so...rigid."
"What about the arbitrator: Kelling?" Major Davis asked Maybourne.
"All I know is what I've heard from others in the Security Force," Harry said. "He's a retired judge. The word is that he's scrupulously honest and devoted to the letter of the law."
"A real stickler, eh?" Jack said. Maybourne nodded. "That could be a problem."
"Not necessarily," Davis said. "I'm still trying to wade through the pertinent Pankeeran law, but so far I haven't found anything that would automatically preclude Earth's claim."
"But nothing that automatically supports it either," Jack said.
"True," Davis agreed.
"Here," Mays said. The stack of books he set on the library table wobbled alarmingly and Daniel quickly reached out to steady the unwieldy pile. "These are the most comprehensive books we have about our alien predecessors. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the choice is rather limited."
"Why?" Daniel asked. He started to glance over the books, handing a couple that appeared to be more technical to Sam.
"History is not considered an 'appropriate' field of study," Mays said wryly, taking a seat across the table from Daniel and Sam. Unlike most of the buildings they'd seen, the University library lacked the clean, bright, modern lines that defined most Pankeeran architecture. The library was built of more natural materials--wood and stone. It looked and felt older, and more Earth-like, than any other building Daniel had been in.
"Not appropriate?" Daniel asked.
"Not for respectable people."
"Daniel," Sam said, showing him one of the books he'd handed over.
"I can't read this," Sam reminded him.
"Oh, right. Can't you just look for physics type equations that look familiar?" Daniel cringed a little under Sam's glare. "Okay, forget I said that."
"Don't worry, Major," Mays said. "When my government began diplomatic talks with yours, they decided that we needed a quicker way to translate back and forth between the two alphabets. Working with your people, they created a computer program that will transliterate between the two. All you have to do is scan the pages into the computer."
"Wish I could do that with every language," Daniel muttered as he tilted his head to read the titles down the stack of books.
"Then you'd be out of a job," Sam pointed out.
"Not really. It'd just give me more time to do the other parts of my job," Daniel said. He turned back to Mays. "Sorry. You were saying that history isn't respectable?"
"It's imprecise, incomplete, changeable, highly biased and at its worst--disrespectful of those whose lives are studied," Mays explained.
"That's, that's.... Okay, all those things are possible," Daniel conceded. "But the understanding of history is immensely important to the further development of a culture."
"Obviously it is more highly regarded on your world."
"Highly regarded? Er...well, maybe. It's not something to be ashamed of, but it certainly doesn't pay well." Daniel frowned at Mays. "Most people have some interest in the past, even if it's only a very narrow, very personal interest. I find it hard to believe that no one studies history here."
"Some do. And attitudes have changed," Mays admitted. "Are still changing. The fact that we have an actual history sub-department at the university is something that would've been unacceptable a hundred years ago. But even that has been confined to more recent history. Human history."
"What about the hard sciences: chemistry, mathematics, physics?" Sam asked.
"To my knowledge, those have always been acceptable academic pursuits."
"How long have humans been on this planet?" Daniel asked.
"Possibly as long as a thousand years."
"Daniel?" Sam prompted.
"Well, if humans have been here that long, and for at least part of that time coexisting with an obviously technologically advanced alien race, I would've expected Pankeer to be much further along than we are."
"They do have a few advances over us," Sam said.
"Like the transporter platform?" Daniel asked. Sam nodded. "Which was built by the aliens."
"Right," Sam said, chagrined. She paused, then shook a finger at Daniel. "But what about the hovercraft?"
"That is our invention, but based on their technology," Mays said.
"Has Pankeer ever used combustible energy?" Sam asked. "Oil, coal...."
"All of our energy is hydro-electric or solar," Mays said.
"Nuclear?" Daniel asked.
"I'm not familiar with that type of energy...so no, I don't believe so."
"Interesting," Daniel said, gazing thoughtfully at the books in front of him.
"Are you suggesting that the hard sciences were also retarded?" Mays asked.
"Um, no...more like maybe they've been channeled," Daniel said.
"That's not necessarily a bad thing," Sam said. "I mean even if the aliens did channel the Pankeerans it was to guide them toward renewable, non-polluting energy production."
"But not the crystals," Daniel said to Sam, perplexed. "Why not the crystals?"
"You're right. That doesn't make sense," Sam said. She looked at Mays. "I know the transporter is being guarded, but do you think there's any way I could study it. Just for a while."
"I don't believe they will allow you to study the technology at this point in time, but even if they agreed you wouldn't learn anything about the crystals."
"Why not? The last time we were here you told us that the transporter uses the crystals."
"I said the transporter was built with the crystal technology. But the crystals were depleted or damaged centuries ago," Mays said. "It's only been in modern times that our scientists have been able to adapt a more conventional energy source for use instead."
"Are you saying that there's nothing on this planet that still uses the crystal technology?" Sam asked incredulously.
"Not that I am aware of."
"That really makes no sense," Sam said, turning to look at Daniel.
"That's what I keep saying," Daniel said as he skimmed through the introductions of several of the books. Mays looked up when Daniel sat back in his chair, his eyes tightly closed while he thought.
"It goes against everything I know about the human race," Daniel said, opening his eyes and looking at Mays intently. "Curiosity is one of the defining traits of our species. And curiosity about the past is nearly universal. How can you not study history?"
"There's someone I think you should meet," Mays said, rising from his chair.
"Excuse me?" Daniel said, looking up in surprise.
"Please," Mays said, gesturing politely toward the door. He smiled. "I think you'll enjoy this."
Daniel was so wrapped up in studying the clutter in the small office that he didn't hear the door open. Sam and Mays, however, rose from their chairs when a stocky, middle-aged woman entered the room followed closely by a slender young man.
"Daniel," Sam said in a loud whisper, attracting Daniel's attention.
"Dr. Jackson, Major Carter, may I present Mem Suli Teggaz: my former history professor."
"Hello," Daniel said, offering his hand, nearly tripping over a stack of books in his haste to greet the historian.
"It's a pleasure," Sam said with a smile, gripping the professor's hand in turn.
"If you're here to help uncover some of our past, then the pleasure is all mine," Teggaz said. She turned to the young man, Pankeer's equivalent of a graduate student Daniel guessed, and directed him to set a box on her desk before dismissing him.
Daniel studied the professor curiously for a moment. Her chin length hair was still mostly dark, although liberally sprinkled with gray. She didn't look more than ten years older than Mays--fifty, maybe fifty-five at the oldest. Which would seem to make it impossible for her to have been the professor of the fortyish Mays.
"Excuse me, I don't want to seem rude but...you don't look nearly old enough to have been Inspector Mays' professor."
"Flattery, Dr. Jackson?" Teggaz asked as she took a seat at her desk. Hazel eyes gazed skeptically from under raised eyebrows; she was obviously amused by the idea.
"It's just Daniel, please. And no--I just.... What's the average lifespan on Pankeer?"
"Roughly ninety-five years," Mays answered.
"Ah. That probably explains it."
"I take it your people are not so long lived."
"For our generation--roughly seventy years," Sam said.
"One is just hitting one's stride at seventy," Teggaz scoffed.
"Apparently so," Daniel said, a slow grin lighting his face.
"So, what is it that you're looking for?" Teggaz asked, setting her folded hands on her desk and gazing expectantly at Sam and Daniel.
"Well, anything about the aliens who once lived here in general," Daniel said, taking a seat across the desk from Professor Teggaz. "Specifically, I'm trying to find out what the connection is between them and the Chandre crystals."
"The aliens discovered the crystals, and developed technology to use them," Teggaz said.
"Yes, I know," Daniel said slowly. "But what happened? Where did the aliens go? Why don't the crystals work anymore?"
"I don't think the books in the general library will give Dr. Jackson or Major Carter the information they need," Mays explained to Teggaz. "I thought maybe the Patun collection?"
"What's that?" Daniel asked quickly.
"It's a regrettably small collection of books about the Praseen culture," Teggaz said.
"Praseen?" Daniel questioned.
"That's what the original natives of this planet called themselves," Teggaz said.
"Can I see them?" Daniel asked, leaning forward in his chair, the lure of new old books irresistible.
"You can, but you won't be able to do much more than look."
"They're written in the Praseen language," Daniel guessed.
"Yes." Teggaz chuckled. "Fortunately for you, I am an expert on the ancient Praseen language."
"Doesn't mean much," Teggaz said with wry self deprecation. "Since there are only about six people on the entire planet who know anything about the language at all."
"Six?" Daniel said.
"Daniel comes from world where historical scholarship is valued," Mays told Teggaz.
"If only it were that way on Pankeer," Teggaz said with genuine longing in her voice. "Your world must be quite advanced."
"It has its good points," Sam said.
"Come then, my fellow scholars," Teggaz said, rising from her chair and waving them toward the door. "I have to attend a budget meeting shortly but I can get you started with the collection."
"You have those, too?" Daniel said. "Budget meetings?"
"A universal evil, I see," Teggaz agreed.
"Um, Daniel, I'd like to get back and take a look at those technical manuals, but I need help with the transliteration program," Sam said.
"Not a problem. Kye!" Teggaz called, the sudden volume of her voice startling Sam and Daniel.
"Definitely a teacher," Daniel said to Sam under his breath.
"No doubt about it."
Jack was doing his level best to ignore the knocking on the hotel door by remaining level. He was stretched out comfortably on a couch in the suite's central room. Davis looked up at him from across the paper strewn coffee table.
"Colonel, if you wouldn't mind?" Davis prompted before returning his gaze to his notes on Pankeeran law.
"I do actually," Jack said. He got up slowly, noting Davis' utter lack of regret at disturbing him. "Mind, that is. How's a guy supposed to get a nap around here anyway?"
"The Air Force isn't paying you to nap, Colonel," Davis said distractedly.
"An obvious oversight on their part," Jack called back as he opened the door.
"Arvann," Jack said, surprised. He tugged at his shirt, trying to look a little less rumpled. "Er...Arvann?"
"It is good to see you again," Arvann said.
"Uh...yes. Good to see you, too," Jack said. "Come in?"
"I will only take a moment of your time, Colonel," Arvann said, stepping just inside the room. She nodded respectfully at Davis as he crossed the room to join them.
"Arvann, this is Major Davis. Davis, this is Arvann,," Jack said. "She's Tollan."
"Ma'am," Davis said, his tone cautious.
"So what can we do for you?" Jack asked. "I assume this has something to do with the mine."
"Yes, Colonel. I've been assigned to assist Dellan, the Tollan representative, with the negotiations."
"Dellan? Where's Marden?" Jack asked.
"Marden has retired from public service," Arvann said. "Dellan was asked by our new high chancellor to undertake these negotiations. With my assistance." Arvann paused. "The Tollan respectfully request that Earth withdraw its claim on the mine."
"Now, see," Jack said, ostensibly to himself. "Until this very moment I would've sworn that the Tollan didn't tell jokes."
"Why should we withdraw our claim?" Davis interrupted.
"You have had more experience with other cultures and other technologies than the Pankeerans. You know how dangerous it can be to attempt to use technology for which you are not intellectually prepared."
"And so we should leave it for the more advanced Tollan?" Jack asked sarcastically.
"In a word--yes," Arvann said. She at least had the grace, in Jack's opinion, to appear slightly embarrassed. "You know that the Tollan are advanced enough to understand and use the technology wisely."
"You didn't do so hot with the Goa'uld," Jack pointed out.
"Which is only your interpretation of the events."
"Oh, here we go," Jack muttered in frustration.
"With all due respect for the Tollan and their advanced civilization," Davis said, his tone just short of outright sarcasm. "Earth is not going to withdraw its claim. We have as much right to that mine as you do, and we believe we can handle the technology."
"I warned Dellan that this was likely to be your response," Arvann said.
"Then we understand each other," Jack said.
"Yes," Arvann agreed with a resigned smile. "We do."
Professor Teggaz unlocked a dark gray metal cabinet. From the shelves inside she pulled out a box and handed it to Mays, then handed another one to Daniel before taking one herself. She led them to a plain wooden table where they began sorting through the boxes' contents.
"These look...." Daniel stopped, staring thoughtfully at the book he held. After a moment he looked up at Mays. "When I was being dragged half way across Chandre, Watkins had some old documents he wanted me to translate, and some books. They remind me of these."
"What did he have?" Teggaz asked immediately.
"A map...about so big," Daniel said, spreading his hands to illustrate. "And several books. The only one I used much was a dictionary. The binding was very similar to this one."
Teggaz's lips tightened and she blew a soft snort of disgust through her nose.
"Is there a problem?" Daniel asked, looking from the professor to Mays.
"Some time ago, well before you ever came to Pankeer, several items were discovered to be missing from the Patun collection," Mays said.
"Apparently," Mays said as Teggaz gave another disgusted snort. "The collection used to be kept in an open storage area, unlocked. They're very rarely used so it wasn't possible to determine for certain when or how the books were lost."
"Not lost," Teggaz said firmly. "Stolen."
"Stolen," Mays agreed. "But when they were stolen was still a question. And why. Until Investigator Maybourne and SG-1 became involved that is. Then I strongly suspected that the stolen documents Watkins had in his possession were, in fact, the stolen documents from the collection."
"Do you know where they are now?" Teggaz asked Daniel.
"Um...well, no, I guess not. The last time I saw them they were on Chandre, in a cabin next to the mine," Daniel said. "Along with some of Scarthen's journals."
"Scarthen's journals?" Teggaz asked, her excitement obvious. "Do you mean original documents?"
"Yes. Handwritten journals."
"Where are they?"
"I don't know," Daniel repeated apologetically. "I wasn't completely coherent at the time we left.... I know Jack, Sam and Teal'c didn't bring them back. I suppose they're still sitting there, on a table in that cabin."
"Maybourne and the Tollan woman, Arvann, were there, too," Mays pointed out.
"You think one of them may have taken the documents?" Daniel asked.
"I have to consider the possibility."
"But why?" Daniel asked. "The fact that they were there means that they already know where the mine is. What would be the point of taking those documents?"
"Is that all that was in the papers?" Mays asked.
"Uh...yeah. I think so," Daniel said. "There was the map and the dictionary. And another book I didn't really have time to study, but it seemed to be something of a general history. I didn't see anything specific to the mine when I skimmed through it."
"What about the journals?" Teggaz asked. "Could they have contained information?"
"Sure," Daniel said slowly. "I mean--I don't know what all they contained so I can't say for certain either way." He gave a small, apologetic shrug. "I was pretty focused on finding a way to get myself the hell out of there."
"Understandable," Mays said. "Watkins was ruthless. He'd already killed his three colleagues. You were either very smart or very lucky to have survived the experience."
"I'd like to claim that it was purely due to intelligence, but luck was a big part of it."
"I wish I knew where those documents were right now," Mays said. "If they contain any useful information...."
"Like how to get the crystals to work?" Daniel asked. Mays nodded. "Well, if the Tollan have them they'll probably never admit it. And quite honestly, I suspect they really are smart enough to figure out the crystals on their own."
"What about this Maybourne character?" Teggaz asked.
"Harry? He wouldn't be able to figure out the crystals even with the help of the journals. I can't imagine what he'd do with them." Daniel grimaced. "Unless...."
"Unless he sells them," Mays said. "Or uses them as a bribe or for blackmail."
"Yep. That'd be right up Maybourne's alley."
"Where's Daniel?" Jack asked Sam as she joined the rest of the SGC personnel for supper.
"Here," Daniel said, hurrying into the hotel's dining room.
"Yes, and no," Daniel said, sitting down next to Teal'c. "I'm going back after dinner."
"Because there's a lot more to learn," Daniel said, as if that should've been obvious.
"I need to do some more research," Sam said, digging into some kind of potato dish.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said curtly.
"Why do you persist in asking 'why' when you do not, in fact, wish to know the answer?"
"Because...I have to have some kind of a story for Hammond?"
Teal'c sighed glumly and went back to eating.
"So...research?" Jack continued.
"Yes, sir. There are only general texts in the library. I'd like to find someone who's actually done studies of the crystals, or at least knows of actual studies," Sam said. She paused to take a sip of tea. "But I still think the best way would be to take one back to the SGC and run some tests ourselves."
"There are no crystals available for study," Teal'c reminded her.
"There has to be one somewhere," Sam insisted.
"And you accuse me of being an irrational optimist," Daniel muttered. Sam scowled and kicked Daniel's ankle lightly under the table. "Hey!"
"Is it even wise to consider taking one of these things back?" Jack asked.
"We take alien technology home all the time," Sam said, puzzled.
"Not without knowing a little more about it," Jack argued.
"Yes, we do," Sam said.
"We do it a lot," Daniel agreed.
"We do, don't we?" Jack said ruefully. "I guess my point is that those are the times we tend to get a great big bite taken out of our collective asses. Is this particular situation worth the risk?"
"Well, sir, I do agree with Daniel--there's a very important question we need to answer."
"Why doesn't anyone know how to use the crystals?" Sam said earnestly, leaning across the table toward Jack as she made her point. "Think about it--this planet has been continually inhabited for a thousand years. And those inhabitants are not, and were not, primitives."
"Except in comparison with the Tollan," Jack said snidely, still burning slightly over the tête-à-tête with Arvann earlier in the day.
"Yes, sir," Sam said impatiently. "There haven't been any major catastrophes...."
"That we know of," Daniel interrupted.
"That we know of," Sam agreed. "So how and when did a piece of technological information that important get lost?"
"I have a feeling that the real question is why did it get lost," Daniel said.
"Okay, I'll admit that sounds like something we need to know," Jack said. "So how do we figure it out?"
"I need to do more research, sir."
"I asked for that, didn't I?" Jack said to Teal'c.
"You always do, O'Neill."
As Jack finished dressing the next morning he looked over at the other side of the room. Daniel was sprawled on top of his bed, still dressed in his clothes from the previous day, his glasses tossed carelessly on the bedside table. Jack hadn't bothered to check the time when he'd heard Daniel return from the University, but he knew it had been in the wee hours of the morning. Jack walked around to the side of the bed and leaned over to shake Daniel's shoulder. A split second later his knees made an abrupt and painful acquaintance with the floor as he tried to untwist his arm.
"Jack?" Daniel blinked at him over the edge of the bed, still holding Jack's arm in an awkward position. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Trying to wake you up," Jack shot back. "Which apparently you are now, so would you mind letting go of my arm?"
"Oh, sorry." Daniel released his grip on Jack's arm and rolled back to the middle of his bed.
"Sir, if you're done bothering Daniel, the rest of us are ready to go to breakfast."
"Me?" Jack protested. He looked up at Sam, waiting patiently at the door for Jack to answer. "I didn't do anything."
"Daniel?" Sam asked.
"Go on. I'll catch up with you," Daniel said, rolling off the other side of the bed and heading into the bathroom.
Jack got up and brushed off the knees of his pants with a scowl before following Sam into the central room.
"It's hell getting old, isn't it, Jack?"
Jack's head whipped around to see Maybourne leaning against the wall just outside his bedroom. Smirking.
"Excuse me?" Jack said, straightening up to his full height.
"Well, there's you: a combat trained, special ops veteran. And then there's Dr. Jackson: a sleeping geek." Maybourne's delight was obvious. "And yet he managed to take you down."
"Dumb luck. Could've happened to anyone."
"If you say so."
"And I'm gonna tell him you called him a geek," Jack said as he followed Harry from the room.
"What did I miss?" Daniel asked as he joined the rest of the team in the conference room. He slid into the chair next to Jack, still straightening his tie.
"Nothing," Jack said, already bored. He gave Daniel a good hard look. "Did you eat anything?"
"I grabbed an energy bar before I came," Daniel said distractedly, looking around the conference room while Jack gave a pointed sigh. There were half a dozen small tables set in a semi-circle, each acting as home base to one of the claimant delegations. At the open side of the U was the arbitrator's desk.
"Dr. Jackson, what does that placard say?" Major Davis asked, nodding toward one of the delegations.
"Um.... IntelliCorp." Daniel frowned. "Who are they?"
"Fifty bucks says it's the company that had the original documents stolen from them," Davis said.
"And they're making a claim?" Daniel asked.
"Why not? Everyone else is," Jack said dryly. "I'm just surprised the snakes haven't shown up yet."
"It's early yet," Sam said.
"Thank you, Little Mary Sunshine," Jack said.
Jack shook his head and continued to study the people gathering in the conference room. He caught sight of Inspector Mays, standing quietly by the main door and nodded an acknowledgement. Mays made a slight nod in return, and Jack continued his perusal of their opponents.
"Maybourne's table is looking a little empty," Jack observed.
"Surely even if he is in league with the Association he would not be foolish enough to make the connection publicly known," Teal'c said.
"Yeah, but without any obvious support he's going to have a tough row to hoe," Jack said.
All conversation ceased as an older man entered the room. Jack studied him carefully as he approached the arbitrator's table. Superficially he wasn't very imposing. Jack estimated him at just under six feet in height with a lean build, although a bit jowly. The narrow fringe of hair encircling his head was completely gray, and his eyes were a washed-out blue. But the sharpness of his gaze as those eyes swept the room suggested to Jack that this was a man who was not to be taken lightly.
"If we're all ready to proceed?" Kelling said in a dry voice. Jack found himself unconsciously sitting straighter, like most in the room. A slight smile crossed Kelling's face. "Very well. I will not insist on the full adherence to the rules of negotiation...."
"Rules? What rules?" Jack whispered at Davis. Davis gave Jack a distracted shake of his head. "Do we know what the rules are?"
Davis impatiently pulled a folder from his briefcase and shoved it at Jack. Jack opened the file to find the "Rules of Honorable Negotiation" before immediately flipping it closed.
"However," Kelling said, looking at Jack. "I will insist that all parties behave with respect for myself, the proceedings, and for their assembled fellow claimants." Kelling paused while he took his seat. "For the official record I would like all claimants to state their name and the basis for their claim. Let us begin with our off-world visitors."
"Major Paul Davis, United States of America of the planet Earth," Davis said crisply, rising from his seat and nodding his head respectfully at the arbitrator. "Our claim...."
"Forgive me, Major Davis," Kelling interrupted. "But according to the documents submitted to me a Dr. Daniel Jackson is the claimant from Earth, is he not?"
"Um...yes, he is," Davis agreed, thrown off stride by the interruption.
"Where is he?"
"Right here, sir," Davis said, gesturing toward Daniel.
"Can he not speak for himself?" Kelling asked with a pointed look.
"Yes, sir, I can," Daniel said, rising from his seat.
"Then may I ask why you haven't?"
"Major Davis speaks on behalf of my government," Daniel explained.
"But your government has no right to make a claim, nor does Major Davis," Kelling said. "Only you do."
"I understand that," Daniel said.
"Then is this your claim or not?"
Jack glanced at Sam. She was looking back at him with the same apprehensive look that he knew was on his own face. Then Jack noticed that Davis had his own anxious look, obviously fearing that Daniel would inform the entire gathering of his reluctance to pursue the claim.
"It is," Daniel said finally. "However, the claim isn't a personal one per se. I'm not interested in owning a mine or developing technology. I'm an archaeologist. I don't truly understand how crystal technology works, and I'm not all that interested in learning. But I do understand that this could be very important to the people of my world."
"I see," Kelling said, making a notation on the paper in front of him. "Well, if the findings of this arbitration were to be in your favor, you may do with it as you wish...within reason. But, I repeat, the claim must be yours."
"Would it be possible for Major Davis to speak on my behalf?" Daniel asked. "He understands process and the implications better than I."
"He functions as your counselor?"
"Lawyer? Yes, that's exactly what his function is," Daniel agreed.
"That is acceptable," Kelling said. Daniel quickly sat down as Sam, Jack, and Davis all let out a sigh of relief. "Would the Tollan delegate please state his or her name and the basis for the claim.
"Yes, by all means, let's hear from the brain trust," Jack muttered. Davis just rolled his eyes and went back to his files.
"Mays? Mem Teggaz," Daniel said with surprise as he opened the hotel room door.
"Forgive us for intruding," Mays said.
"No, no--please, come in." Daniel led them to the couch. "I'm afraid I don't have long; I need to catch up with the rest of my team before the conference reconvenes for the afternoon. What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to show you this," Suli said, holding up an aged envelope.
"What is it?"
"A document. A letter, I believe. Written by one of my predecessors and sealed. It has been passed down from one historian to the next for generations. Each chooses the person they think will be the next generation's most dedicated historian." Suli gave Mays a reproachful look. "At one time I thought I would be passing it on to Brenton. Until he decided that protecting the public was a 'better' use of his skills."
"It takes all types," Daniel sympathized, thinking of his teammates. Mays simply shrugged good-naturedly.
"It's a moot point now, I suppose," Suli said. "The time has come to open it."
"Do you know what it is?" Daniel asked.
"I can only guess. But Patun lived at the time of the last aliens."
"Really?" Daniel dropped into a chair facing Suli and Mays, his eyes wide with excitement. "He knew them?"
"He was the man who gathered the collection you looked at yesterday," Suli said with a nod.
"And the letter?"
Suli handed Daniel the envelope.
"'You will know when the time is right'," Daniel read from the front of the envelope. He looked at Suli. "What makes you think now is the time?"
"I feel it," Suli said with a shrug. "Go ahead--open it."
"Ah...no, I shouldn't," Daniel said, trying to hand the letter back to Suli. She gestured impatiently. He looked to Mays for support, but Mays simply shook his head, deferring to Teggaz's authority. "Okay...."
Daniel carefully opened the time-brittled paper and pulled out a single handwritten sheet.
"Well?" Suli asked as Daniel's eyes scanned the page.
To my successor--
My name is--or perhaps I should say was--Armen Patun. And for many long years I hated the Praseen.
Daniel looked up at Suli, but she gestured for him to continue.
The Praseen have, for all my life, sought to bury Pankeer's past. The past I have sought to know. I know now that I was wrong to hate them. In fact, I--who for so long fought the actions of the Praseen--now help them to obscure and mislead. A traitor to my own academic discipline perhaps, but I understand that it is necessary.
The Praseen did not bring humans to this planet, others did. But they were entrusted with our care. It is out of loyalty to this obligation that they now seek to destroy the evidence of their involvement with us. Destroy their own past. For you see--many years ago something happened. Something terrible and frightening. It is the reason that the Praseen fail now even to the point of extinction. And in an effort to avoid a similar future for humans, they have erased all knowledge of this event. Even further, they have attempted to block any interest in the study of history--theirs or our own. They have caused it to become not just meaningless, but reviled. I understand now, and I forgive them.
But I know there will always be others like me. And in time the stigma will lessen, and natural curiosity will prevail. I have convinced the Praseen of this. I have made them understand that eventually humans will find the knowledge, by design or by accident. Thus, a legacy of sorts has been prepared. To answer curiosity. And avoid doom.
The answer is in the Maze.
Daniel stared at the letter a moment longer, before looking to Suli, herself lost in thought.
"What does it mean?" Mays asked.
"I don't know. But I'm afraid it may have something to do with the crystals," Daniel said.
"I agree," Suli said with a firm nod. "We must find this legacy. Soon, before the mine is reopened."
"I'm gonna go...," Daniel said slowly after explaining his reason for being late in returning from lunch.
"Where?" Jack asked.
"You can't," Davis said.
"Yes, I can," Daniel told Davis. He turned to face Jack. "I'm not sure exactly. Some ruins of the alien civilization. Mays said he could take me there."
"Why?" Jack asked.
"Because I think it's important."
"This letter said that something terrible happened. I think we need to know what that something was. This place is the only significant ruins ever found of the alien civilization."
"But does it have anything to do with our current mission?" Jack persisted.
"Maybe. The reason the Praseen suppressed the study of history was to prevent anyone from finding out how to use the crystals."
"I don't think you can be sure of that, Daniel," Sam said. "If they were trying to prevent the use of the crystals, why didn't they suppress the study of chemistry or physics?"
"I don't know," Daniel admitted after a nod acknowledging Sam's point. "Admittedly I'm connecting some widely scattered dots right now, but I think we need to fill in the blanks. We need to know."
"I need to talk to a geologist," Sam said.
"Well...I need to start at the beginning. I want to find out what they know about the geology of that region of Chandre. How were the crystals formed? What are they made of?"
"Can you do that now?" Jack asked, glancing at his watch.
"Yeah, sure," Sam said, nodding. "Inspector Mays gave me the names of a couple of people at the University who might be able to help."
"Do it," Jack said. He turned to Daniel, waving his hands to cut off the protest he knew was coming. "No, Daniel. Let Carter find out what she can. Depending on what she learns, we'll decide whether to proceed with these ruins. In the meantime, your presence is more or less required at the talks."
When they finally returned to their hotel room that evening, Daniel tossed his files onto the bed with a look of utter disgust.
"Daniel...," Jack began, not entirely happy with the situation himself.
"It's a joke, Jack. That's not negotiation, that's petty jealousy and snide superiority," Daniel said. He yanked his tie off and tossed it on the bed. "I hate diplomacy."
"I thought that was just me," Jack said, sprawling back on his bed and sighing as his vertebrae slowly, painfully, clunked back into alignment.
"We've been here before, Jack. A mad race to get our hands on something without really understanding what that something is," Daniel said, sitting down on the bottom corner of his bed.
"Carter says these crystals would let us have a big honking space gun that isn't quite so big and honking," Jack said.
"So...a little, weeny space gun?" Daniel asked.
"Size isn't everything," Jack said, provoking a laugh from Daniel. "You have to admit--those crystals do sound like a good thing."
"Sound a little too good to be true?" Daniel asked pointedly.
"Yeah," Jack said reluctantly. "I was kind of thinking that myself."
"Come in, Carter," Jack said, waving to her from the bed.
"Are you okay, sir?" Sam asked as she pulled up a chair from the corner of the room.
"Just old," Jack mumbled. "What's up?"
"Well," Sam began hesitantly.
"Spit it out, Carter."
"The more I find out, the less sense it makes," Sam said.
"How so?" Daniel asked.
"Some geological studies have been done of the Vasuman area," Sam said. "When they got the transporter operational again and were looking to colonize the moon, they did a basic survey. They had no idea the crystals were out there so their studies weren't aimed at trying to explain them in particular, but what they found just doesn't fit."
"How so?" Daniel asked.
"It's the wrong kind of rock."
"Wrong kind of rock?" Jack said.
"It appears to be igneous. I noticed that when we were in the mine, but at the time I didn't really think about the significance."
"The fact that it's igneous is significant?" Daniel asked.
"Generally speaking, you don't get that kind of crystal formation in obsidian," Sam explained.
"Generally speaking?" Jack asked pointedly. "It's an alien planet, Carter."
"Isn't it possible that the processes that formed the crystals are different here than they are on Earth?" Daniel asked, following Jack's line of reasoning.
"Well...yes," Sam conceded. "But we normally find that the natural physical processes are the same on every planet; it's just the ingredients that vary."
"Maybe the aliens did something to it," Jack suggested.
"Like what?" Sam asked.
"I don't know, but it wouldn't be the first time we've found some alien whammy at work," Jack said with a wave of his hand.
"Right. Well, I took the liberty of forwarding what information I was able to gather back to our geophysics people at the SGC, along with a sample of the obsidian. It's not the same as studying the crystal, but if we can determine the exact composition of the surrounding rock it just might give us an idea of what the crystals are made of," Sam said. "Anyway, I'm hoping that one of our people will have an idea."
"Daniel, I know you're just itching to get out there and dig something up," Jack said, putting up a hand to forestall the argument he knew was coming. "But you don't even know where to dig yet."
"We're working on it," Daniel said stubbornly. Then he sighed. "Well, Suli is working on it. Mays and I are tied up with this conference most of the time."
"Let's all just get a good night's sleep and reevaluate in the morning," Jack suggested.
"Good night, sir," Sam said getting up from her chair. "Night, Daniel."
"Night, Sam," Daniel said as Sam left the room, closing the door behind her. He turned to stare at Jack, still lying flat on his back. "You're a real wet blanket sometimes, Jack."
"It is my honor to serve," Jack said with a snide salute.
"Oh," Sam said softly, startled by the call. "Sorry, Inspector, I didn't notice...."
Mays put a finger to his lips and motioned her away from the conference room door. Inside a heated debate between the representatives from Chandre and the Tollan was still going on. Sam closed the door again and moved toward Mays.
"Would you please give this to Dr. Jackson?" Mays asked, holding out a folded piece of paper.
"Er...sure," Sam said, accepting the note. She frowned slightly and looked at Mays. "Why don't you just give it to him yourself?"
"I'm not staying," Mays said, gesturing at his clothing. Sam realized that he was dressed in civilian clothes rather than his uniform. "Please tell Daniel I'll be in touch."
"Right. Okay," Sam said with a nod.
Mays smiled and offered a small bow before walking away down the corridor. Still slightly puzzled, Sam slipped into the conference room. Her absence and reappearance had gone unnoticed in the midst of the debate. She slipped into her chair before sliding the paper down the table past Jack to Daniel. Daniel frowned slightly at her before picking up the paper and reading. His frown deepened as he stared at the paper.
"Carter?" Jack whispered. Sam just shook her head. "Daniel?" Daniel responded by waving his hand as if brushing away a gnat.
"That's enough." Kelling's voice carried authoritatively over those of the arguing claimants. Only Daniel seemed unaware. "This is neither the time nor the place for arguing Chandrian constitutional affairs or Tollan history."
"Your honor," Dellan began.
"Not. Now," Kelling enunciated precisely. Discomforted, Dellan sat back. "For those who have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, this is an arbitration to determine who has primary right to the crystal mine under Pankeeran law. All other matters are secondary and as such will not be discussed at this time.
"You've all submitted claims, some of which are rather feeble to say the least," Kelling said, looking at Maybourne. Disconcerted, Harry leaned forward as if to argue, then shut his mouth and sat back. Kelling's gaze traveled to SG-1's table. "It is genuinely unprecedented to have aliens making a claim. But we must proceed in an effort to expeditiously resolve the issue so that mining operation may commence as quickly as possible."
"Uh oh," Jack muttered under his breath when Daniel suddenly tuned back into the discussion.
"Dr. Jackson? Are withdrawing your claim?" Dellan asked eagerly.
"Uh...that's not really up to me," Daniel admitted.
"It is your claim, isn't it?" the Pankeeran delegate asked.
"That's...not really the point," Daniel said, evading the question of 'his' ownership of the claim for the moment. He stood up, looking around at the other delegations. "That's not what I'm talking about anyway. I was referring to reopening the mine. It's a bad idea. That mine should be left alone. At least until we know more about why it was abandoned."
"You can't be serious?" Maybourne said.
Sam looked at Jack with a puzzled frown. Jack shrugged back. He had no more idea of where Daniel was headed than she did.
"Look--you all want these crystals for technology. Weapons. I hate to admit it but I think maybe we shouldn't be trying to jump ahead like this."
"Something we have tried to tell you repeatedly, to no avail," Dellan said. Arvann stared fixedly at the far wall, obviously knowing the reaction that statement would bring.
"You," Daniel said, shaking his finger at the Tollan delegation. "You really don't have anything to brag about. Yes, you developed a technologically advanced society but what good did it do you? You still got wiped out by the Goa'uld.
"The thing is--there is no evidence that building more advanced weapons will help any of us," Daniel said, ignoring the indignant glare from the Tollan man as he rose to his feet. "Even the Asgard, as incredibly advanced as they are, are not immune. They're on the run from the Replicators, and the Goa'uld have found ways to fight them, too."
"What are you suggesting?" Kelling asked, his attention fixed on Daniel.
"The four greatest races in the galaxy, the most advanced--where are they?" Daniel asked.
"Dr. Jackson," Major Davis tried to interrupt.
"The Asgard are embattled, and dying. They can't solve their own biomedical problems for all their great knowledge. The Furlings, well, at the moment they are still an enigma. The Nox.... Isolated. Yes, they seem to live quite contentedly, but they have no contact with the rest of the universe. And I can't help but think that they may fall victim themselves if they continue to deny the evil that exists out there," Daniel said, waving his hand skyward.
"And then there are the Ancients. Smart enough to figure out how to transform themselves into an entirely new form of existence...and they do nothing. Worse than nothing, they've allowed one of their own to wreak havoc on innocent people, to destroy entire worlds." Daniel looked around the room, frustration plain on his face. "What makes you think that crystals or technology or weapons is going to help you?"
"And what about the Goa'uld?" Harry asked.
"What about them?" Daniel tossed back. "The Goa'uld are scavengers. They take anything and everything they can. They've done it to the Asgard and the Ancients. So--just for argument's sake--let's say we figure out how to build some nifty new weapon with these crystals. Then what?"
"We could try kicking some Goa'uld ass," Jack suggested.
"Maybe. For a while," Daniel agreed. "Until they do what they did to the Tollan and figure out how to steal or subvert our shiny new technology. And then we will have handed our greatest enemy its greatest weapon."
"So you think we should just ignore the crystals?" the IntelliCorp representative asked with a patronizing sneer.
"No," Daniel said. "I'm just saying we should wait until we know exactly what we're dealing with."
"Okay. What's up?" Jack asked when he found Daniel pacing back and forth across the tree lined walkway outside the hotel. He leaned against a pillar and waited for Daniel to unload.
"Them!" Daniel said, agitated.
"No, Daniel. What's up with you?" Jack said, keeping his voice low.
"Me?" Daniel asked, finally stopping his pacing and looking at Jack with a puzzled frown.
"You don't normally get so worked up. Not like this."
"I don't know," Daniel said, running a hand through his hair. "I don't know. I just know this is wrong."
"Yes," Daniel said, not sounding entirely certain. "I think this is bad, Jack."
"An entire alien race is dead," Daniel pointed out.
"And you still think it's tied to these crystals?"
"Yes. Professor Teggaz has been digging through all the knowledge that has survived about this alien race," Daniel said, waving the note from Mays at Jack. "The answer is in those ruins. And it is what killed the Praseen."
"Go," Jack said after a slight hesitation.
"Go find out," Jack said. "Take Teal'c with you."
"I don't need a baby sitter."
"I know. This isn't for you. It's for Teal'c. He's not into diplomacy like we are."
Daniel nodded and walked away before Jack could change his mind. Jack turned back toward the hotel to see Paul Davis hurrying along the walkway, trying to catch Daniel before he got away. Jack stuck out his arm to halt Davis' progress. Davis gave Jack an exasperated look as Daniel disappeared around a corner.
"Let it go, Major."
"I know it's difficult under the best circumstances to get Dr. Jackson to obey an order...."
"And this time I'm not going to try."
"Sir, Daniel is the embodiment of our claim. If he doesn't cooperate...."
"You knew from the get-go that Daniel's 'cooperation' in this affair was reluctant at best," Jack said.
"And you know that the Goa'uld are not going to wait around for us to advance on our own."
"Yes, I do. And so does Daniel. There is no one on Earth who hates the Goa'uld worse than Daniel Jackson does."
"I realize that, sir," Davis said.
"Daniel thinks there's a problem," Jack said, offering Davis an explanation. "And Carter's not entirely copasetic with the situation herself. This tends to give me a bad feeling. Now that could just mean that I need to lay off the Szechwan, but it could also mean that they're on to something."
"We can't withdraw," Davis said.
"I'm not saying we should. But Daniel's right. We should be absolutely certain about what it is we're getting into."
"Wow," Daniel said softly, looking at the verdant mounds before him.
"These aren't hills," Mays said. "They are actually the remains of the city, now overgrown."
"Yes, I've been to similar places on Earth," Daniel said. He walked slowly along the closest mound, mentally calculating its size. "How...how big?"
"The entire area? Approximately 30 lineans."
"That's big," Daniel said, quickly converting the measurement into a rough metric figure. He pulled out a small notebook and starting making a rough sketch of the mounds. "But not as big as I would've expected if this was their main population center."
"I don't know that they were ever an especially populous race," Mays said. He followed Daniel as he walked along the base of the largest mound. "And we know that their numbers had decreased severely before the end."
"What did happen to them?" Daniel mused, turning to face Mays.
"If Patun was correct they were destroyed by the 'accident' he wrote of."
"But how?" Daniel asked. "An accident--an explosion or something--that could kill a lot of people, but enough to end their civilization?"
"Suli said that what little we know of the end of the Praseen indicates an illness of some sort."
"Illness. Accident," Daniel said thoughtfully. "Maybe they were developing a biological weapon of some kind?"
"For what purpose?" Mays asked, clearly skeptical.
"You tell me," Daniel said.
"The Praseen had no enemies," Mays said.
"Can you be sure of that?"
"No, I suppose we can't be certain," Mays agreed. "There's too much that we don't know. But what we do know doesn't support the idea of warfare on this planet."
"On this planet.... Even if you're right that doesn't mean they couldn't have had enemies on another planet." Daniel stared off into the distance for a moment. "Do you know if the Praseen used the stargate? Or ships? Any method of traveling to other planets?"
"Not that I am aware of, but again, it's impossible to say for certain," Mays said. Daniel grimaced and turned back to the silent mounds.
"An accident," Daniel said with a touch of exasperation.
"One that, whatever it was, I'd prefer never happen again."
"Then I guess we'd better get to work."
"Carter?" Jack slowed his pace slightly so that Sam could catch up to him. She'd disappeared right after the conclusion of that day's meetings, planning to check in with SGC. When she missed supper, Jack had begun his evening walk wondering if he needed to track her down. Having one scientist wandering around the planet unsupervised was bad enough. He didn't need two.
"I was right, sir," Sam said, a little breathless after her jog back from the gate.
"And that's news?"
"I just finished talking with Dr. Scott," Sam said, trying not to roll her eyes at Jack.
"The head of the geophysics department," Sam reminded him.
"Right. Tall, skinny guy with a comb-over?"
"That's him. He agrees that the crystals most likely didn't form in this rock."
"So...how did they get there?" Jack asked.
"Well, they didn't 'get there.' I mean--they weren't moved or anything like that."
"Maybe you should start at the beginning," Jack suggested with a sigh.
"Dr. Scott thinks that the crystals formed by processes that we're familiar with. And in a type of rock that we would expect. Now, there was probably something unique about the surrounding rock given that these crystals haven't been found anywhere else. But we may never know what that unique ingredient was."
"So normal crystals, normal rock...what happened?" Jack asked.
"Something changed the rock."
"Changed it? What could change rock?"
"We don't know. Heat, maybe. Very intense heat," Sam said.
"From where? Volcanoes?"
"I didn't see any evidence of volcanic activity," Sam said.
"There were those big cones of rock," Jack said. "The ones right over the mine."
"Yeah," Sam said thoughtfully. "I suppose those could be the remains of ancient volcanoes. Or maybe...maybe not true volcanoes, but if there were intense heat underground, intense enough to melt the surrounding rock, it might have extruded through weak points in the surface."
"Isn't that what a volcano does?" Jack asked.
"My point is that it never developed that far. I think this was a one time occurrence. Something happened that changed the rock. And then it stopped."
"Okay, it changed the rock. Did it change the crystals?"
"I don't know," Sam admitted. "I suppose it could have."
"Can you find out?"
"I'm guessing that this will involve more research?" Jack asked.
"Yes, sir," Sam said with a smile.
"Teal'c's right," Jack said, shaking his head. "I've got to stop asking questions."
"What's going on, Jack?"
"You know--all this lurking about in the shadows does not make for great confidence building," Jack said, turning on Maybourne with an exasperated scowl. Harry leaned against the doorway leading from the stairwell to Jack's floor. And he didn't look inclined to move anytime soon.
"What are you up to?" Harry persisted.
"Don't play dumb with me, Jack. Your team has been sneaking off right and left. First it was Major Carter. Now it's Dr. Jackson and Teal'c. What are they doing?"
"Not that it's any of your business but they're doing research."
"Pankeeran history, I believe."
"I believe I mentioned that this was none of your business," Jack said.
"Jack, you have to help me out here."
"No, I don't."
"If you don't work with me, I'll have no choice but to accept a less than attractive offer."
"The Association?" Jack asked. Harry's silence was all the answer he needed. "There's always a choice, Harry. You may not like the alternative, but it is an option."
"It has nothing to do with whether I like it or not. I either do as they want or...it gets nasty."
"So walk away. If you're not involved in the mine, they have no leverage."
"Walk away? What kind of choice is that?" Harry asked angrily.
"In this case, I'd say it was a wise one."
"Get real, Jack."
"I am getting real, Harry," Jack said sharply. "The first time we came here was at your request. What you didn't tell us is that you were looking for a way to eliminate your former co-workers."
"That's not true."
"The next time we came, also at your request, you'd already eliminated part of the problem...."
"I didn't do it," Harry said indignantly.
"But somehow it was tied into alien technology and an organization operating on the darkside," Jack continued, ignoring Harry's protests. "And like a fungus, you, too, work best in the dark."
"Forget it, Harry," Jack said. "Fool me once--shame on you. Fool me twice...shame on me. Fool me three times--we're just not going there."
"I asked for your help. I don't deny that," Maybourne said. "But I didn't knowingly try to involve you in anything underhanded."
"Even if you weren't trying to screw us over, the fact is that you never give us the full story," Jack said, exasperated. "I'm getting a little tired of having to drag the truth out of you one piece at a time."
"Oh, please," Harry drawled. "You love playing the hero."
"Do not," Jack refuted.
"Do," Harry insisted.
"Even if that were true--so what? There's nothing wrong with being one of the good guys," Jack said. "You should try it sometime, Harry. Just for a change of pace."
"Daniel?" Jack asked, speaking through a radio relay to Mays' hovercraft. "What's going on?"
"Hey, Jack." Daniel's voice sounded positively electric. "We found something."
"The ruins of the ancient city. I mean I know that's what we came out here to see, but it's so much more than I expected. It's amazing, Jack. These aliens built into the ground. The ruins on the surface are just the tip of the iceberg."
"Yes. We found a way in and.... God, there's so much to study."
"Underground, Daniel?" Jack repeated loudly.
"Is it safe?"
"Yes. Probably. I mean...."
"Put Teal'c on."
"Daniel, put Teal'c on now." Jack could almost see the exasperated roll of Daniel's eyes.
"Teal'c, what's the situation?"
"The ruins are completely buried," Teal'c reported.
"It is impossible to say at the moment. We have gained entrance to part of only one building. It appears to be stable. I cannot say what the rest of the ruins may be like."
"He's doing it again, isn't he?" Jack said, rubbing his forehead.
"He never stops doing it, O'Neill."
"Daniel Jackson!" Teal'c called.
"Here." Daniel's voice was no more than a muffled echo.
"Where, precisely, is here?" Teal'c said, aggravated by Daniel's all too frequent tendency to disappear from sight.
"To your left. Right! I meant right. Just follow the hallway."
With a deep sigh, Teal'c ventured into the dim corridor. He played his flashlight over the walls and ceiling of the ancient building looking for signs of damage or stress as he went. Mays and Daniel had found a sort of sinkhole on one of the mounds, a place where a section of an ancient structure's roof had collapsed. After a brief reconnoiter, Daniel had assured Teal'c that this small area of the ruins was safe. Teal'c remained skeptical. Although he had great faith in Daniel's archaeological skills, he had less than great faith in Daniel's sense of self preservation.
"Look!" Daniel said excitedly when Teal'c reached the chamber he was in. Teal'c looked at the arched doorway on the far side of the chamber, now blocked by rubble. "We're going to have to do some major excavation to get any further."
"Is that necessary?"
"If Daniel's right, that's the direction we need to go," Mays said. He was kneeling on the floor, making notations of what they'd found and correlating them with the sketches they'd made of the surface mounds.
"It's an educated guess," Daniel admitted in response to Teal'c's questioning look. He gestured around the room. "Semi-educated anyway."
"I do not believe that would be wise, Daniel Jackson."
"What?" Daniel turned to Teal'c, surprised. Teal'c took in the bright eyes behind dust-coated lenses and feared that he had a fight on his hands.
"This area may be unstable."
"Teal'c, I've been working on archaeological excavations almost my entire life."
"I am aware. Still, we do not have the proper equipment or the necessary manpower with which to do it safely."
Daniel drew in a quick breath, opened his mouth...and then let the breath out again.
"He's right," Daniel told Mays reluctantly. "We're going to need help."
"I know where I can find a few volunteers who'd be willing to help with the manual labor. But I don't know about the equipment."
"Ground penetrating imaging," Daniel said absently.
"That's what we really need," Daniel explained. "GPI would allow us to map the ruins. Then we'd have a better idea if this really is the right direction to go."
"I don't know if we have anything like this GPI."
"I'll talk to Jack," Daniel said, heading back down the corridor Teal'c had just traversed. Mays looked up at Teal'c, a question plain on his face.
"And so it begins," Teal'c sighed.
"Daniel...." Jack trailed off, unable to fight the fast flowing current of Daniel's words. He glanced quickly at his watch, knowing Davis expected him back at the conference ASAP.
"...and we can narrow the search area down considerably until...."
"Daniel!" Jack said more forcefully.
"Is this necessary?"
"That's it? Just yes?"
"What were you expecting?" Daniel asked.
"An explanation, a theory, an excuse?"
"Which you wouldn't listen to anyway. Thought I'd save some time."
"Put Teal'c on," Jack said.
"No," Daniel said flatly.
"Jack, the answer is here."
"The answer to what?"
"What happened to the Praseen. What happened to the crystals. It's here. We just have to find it."
"How do I get there?"
"I'm coming out there to see where this 'answer' is."
"You don't have to," Daniel said. "I can handle it."
"I know you can. But I'm a hands-on kind of guy."
"You'll get the equipment first?" Daniel asked.
"Daniel, are you trying to blackmail me?" Jack asked, amused.
"Do I need to?" Daniel shot back.
"Honestly, Jack, there's nothing to see right now. Give me a couple of days with a decent team and I'll have something for you."
"All right," Jack sighed. "I'll talk to Hammond."
"Dr. Jackson, we've got company," Sergeant Chu called out. Frowning, Daniel turned from the computer screen to look to the far side of the camp where a small hovercraft had just arrived.
"Mem Teggaz?" Daniel said as the woman climbed from the craft. She hurried toward the central tent which Daniel had designated as their center of operations.
"What?" Mays asked, looking up in surprise. He'd been working on correlating their rough surface map to both the GPI images and a very simple map of the ancient alien city. He climbed to his feet, brushing grass and dirt from his slacks.
"I think I've found it," Teggaz called excitedly as she bustled into the tent. Daniel and Mays stared at each other, stunned, before following her to a table.
"You found the maze?" Daniel asked.
"I believe so," Teggaz said, practically bouncing with anticipation. "Brenton--bring over that map of yours."
Mays hurried to lay out the city map, weighting the corners with stones.
"The key was realizing that it wasn't a formal name," Teggaz said as she consulted her notes. "The Maze was a colloquial name used by the local inhabitants."
"And you know where it is?" Daniel asked again.
"I have an idea. I've only found a few references to the maze, and none that specifically give its location," Suli said, peering at the map. "But...ah, yes--here."
"That's...." Mays paused a moment as he translated the words in his head. "It's an auditorium of some sort."
"Yes, on the surface level," Suli agreed. "The Maze is, I believe, on the next level."
"Below the auditorium?" Daniel asked. Suli nodded.
"It's in the general direction you thought we should go," Mays observed.
"Lucky guess," Daniel said absently. "Do we have a map of the lower levels?"
"I've been unable to find any maps that show anything other than the surface level," Suli said. "Just a few descriptions of some of the city's layout. I brought the translations I've made so far, though I don't know how much help they'll be."
"Any information is more than we had," Mays said. "But...."
"But we don't have enough surface landmarks to pinpoint the area," Daniel said, waving at the overgrown mounds in front of them. He studied the map intently, glancing periodically at the preliminary GPI scans. He tapped his finger on Mays' sketch of the surface topography. "Okay. I'm going to move the team over to concentrate on this area."
"I think that's about as good a guess as any," Mays agreed.
"You should've seen his face," Davis said, leaning in close to Sam as he finished his story.
"I would've liked to have seen your face," Sam said with just a touch of nostalgia for her D.C. days.
"You have no idea," Davis agreed. "I was dumbstruck. That jerk's been throwing his weight around the Pentagon for years. Decades. And to see someone finally call him on his sanctimonious bullsh...."
Sam looked up to see Jack winding his way through the conference room. Most of the participants were slowly returning from the midday break, impeding Jack's path to Earth's table.
"Colonel?" Davis turned in his seat to face Jack.
"Look--you'll be okay here if I'm not around for the next twenty four hours or so, right?"
"Sir?" Sam said, puzzled.
"I think I should go check on Daniel," Jack said.
"Is something wrong?" Sam asked with concern.
"Teal'c said Daniel's a little...excitable."
"Oh," Sam said with a knowing nod.
"Excitable?" Davis questioned.
"It's a Daniel thing," Jack said dismissively. "So if I leave, you can handle it?"
"Frankly, sir, I think I could handle it better if you weren't around," Davis said.
"Okay," Jack said, trying to decide whether he should be insulted or not. He decided on not. "I'll be going then."
"Sir, if I may...?"
"I don't know," Jack told Davis, leaning across the table and lowering his voice so that he couldn't be overheard. "I just know Daniel thinks it's important and when he thinks it's important I've found that I usually need to pay attention."
"Okay," Davis said slowly.
"Carter agrees," Jack said, nodding hopefully at Sam.
"Well...there's still a lot we don't know," Sam said.
"See?" Jack said, clapping Davis on the shoulder. "Stay in touch!"
"Hey, Teal'c. How's it going?" Jack asked, taking a look around as he approached the campsite.
"Daniel Jackson appears to be pleased with our progress."
"You're being watched," Jack said almost casually as he drew even with Teal'c.
"I am aware."
"Shortly after the team from the SGC arrived," Teal'c said.
"Someone's been monitoring our communications."
"So I suspected. That is why I did not contact you with the information about the surveillance."
"Probably a smart move," Jack agreed. He let out a long breath. "If Maybourne's behind it I'm going to kick his ass."
"You'll have to wait in line for that," Mays said, walking up to greet Jack and Teal'c.
"Uh uh," Jack said firmly. "I've been putting up with Harry a lot longer than you have. I got dibs."
"I guess we'll have to see who gets to him first," Mays challenged, a slight smile on his face.
"Should we not wait to determine if Maybourne is, in fact, responsible?" Teal'c asked.
"Do we have to?" Jack asked. Teal'c merely shrugged and began walking toward the open front tent in the middle of the camp. Jack saw Daniel talking to a woman, leaning over her as they both studied a book.
"Daniel," Jack called. Daniel looked up, startled, before giving Jack an offhand wave.
"Daniel, they've finished the next section," Bill Lee said, appearing from around the far side of the tent.
"Great!" Daniel said, hurrying over to a small folding table where an SGC tech sat analyzing the data.
"We'll want to see this, too," Mays said, his footsteps quickening as he headed toward Daniel.
"We will?" Jack asked Teal'c.
"So it would seem."
Jack and Teal'c closed on the small group of people knotted around the computer screen. Daniel was pointing to the image on the screen, talking to Dr. Lee.
"Can we see this overlaid with the last two sections?" Daniel asked. The tech nodded and started tapping keys.
"Daniel?" Jack prompted.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel said absently, his eyes glued to the screen. "Wow."
"Wow what?" Jack asked.
"Wow this," Daniel said. "Mays, do you see this?"
"I'm sorry, Daniel. I'm not sure I understand these images."
"Explain, young man," Teggaz said, using her shoulder to nudge Jack out of the way so that she could observe the screen.
"Right. Okay, well these are images of the buried structures. This here," Daniel said, drawing his fingers along one side. "This is the outer walls of the building we were in. And this area here is just beyond the last doorway we were able to clear."
"Looks like a mess," Jack said.
"Yes, it does," Daniel said, frowning.
"I'm right?" Jack said with surprise.
"Yes. You can still make out the basic structure here and here."
"I see," Mays said, crouching down, entranced by the image.
"But...." Daniel leaned back, tapping his finger against his chin. "This is the area we think the legacy is. It appears to be relatively intact." Daniel shook his head. "I don't understand why the rest of the area appears so much more damaged."
"Damaged like collapsed?" Jack asked.
"Maybe. But why would this part be relatively intact and everything else so...."
"There's only one way to find out," Teggaz said firmly.
"And you would be?" Jack said.
"Oh, sorry," Daniel said, looking over his shoulder at Jack. "Suli, this is Colonel Jack O'Neill, my...boss." Daniel ignored the surprised look Jack threw at him. "Jack, this is Professor Suli Teggaz. She's been doing the translations."
"She's the top expert on the Praseen language. Of course, that's not saying much given that there are only six other people on the planet who've studied it."
"That's a bit rude, isn't it, Daniel?"
"The young have no respect for their elders," Suli said with a disdainful sniff. Then she offered Jack a wry smile. "Unfortunately, he's right."
"Oh. Well, nice to meet you," Jack said. "Now, about this 'only' way to find out?"
"We dig," Suli said.
"I was afraid you'd say something like that."
"We think we know roughly where the 'legacy' is. Suli's been working through the documentation, and she's got it narrowed down to this area," Daniel said, tapping his finger against the screen. "And at least one story underground. We'll use the GPI scans to guide us. It's perfectly safe."
"Safe? Define safe," Jack demanded.
"Well, there won't be any Goa'uld down there," Daniel said flippantly.
"Maybourne," Sam said, turning around to find Harry hurrying down the hall toward her. She was on her way back to SG-1's hotel room planning to take a fifteen minute power nap before rejoining the conference.
"What's going on?" Harry asked when he drew even with Sam.
"I don't know what you mean," Sam said, keeping her expression bland.
"Let's not play games, Major."
"The colonel's whereabouts aren't really your concern."
"I happen to think it is," Harry argued.
"You're entitled to your opinion."
"If something's going on I have a right to know what it is," Harry persisted.
"A right?" Sam said incredulously. Then she gave an exasperated shake of her head. "The fact is that you know as much as we do. Possibly more."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You live here, Maybourne. And you have...connections."
"Connections? You mean to the Association?" Harry shook his head. "I'm not connected to them."
"Whatever," Sam said dismissively, pulling out her passkey and preparing to escape Maybourne.
"Major," Harry said sharply, grabbing Sam's arm. She glared at him and he quickly released her. "I'm not connected to the Association, and I'm trying my best to keep it that way."
"All we're doing is trying to find something about the history of the crystals," Sam said, relenting.
"That's it?" Harry said skeptically.
"Then why all the secrecy?"
"Because Colonel O'Neill doesn't really trust anyone to tell us the truth. You said it yourself: there's a fortune at stake here." Sam shrugged. "He doesn't want us to get caught flat footed if things are not as they seem."
"I can understand why the Praseen chose to live here," Mays said thoughtfully, staring into the quiet twilight.
"A nice lake, a few fish, and it'd be paradise," Jack agreed, tossing a small branch onto the campfire. Teal'c and Sergeant Chu were officially taking the first watch, but Jack, Mays and Suli were sitting up late, too keyed up to sleep just yet.
"I think there's a lake...," Mays said, turning slightly to point away from the mounds of the ruined city.
"Don't encourage him," Daniel said firmly, taking a seat on the ground next to Jack. Mays smiled at Jack's thwarted look.
"So tell me," Jack said, turning back to Mays when Daniel refused to look the least bit apologetic. "How do you manage to take a vacation when you're supposed to be working?"
"I am working."
"I thought your assignment was conference security," Jack prodded.
"My job is to protect my people," Mays said calmly. "I believe that goal will be more fully served by focusing my attention here."
"Interpretive compliance," Jack said with a nod. "I like it."
"You would," Daniel said with amusement.
"Says the man who taught me what interpretive compliance is," Jack accused.
"I want to start digging tomorrow," Daniel told Mays. "We should be able to get through to the Maze within a day or two. If we're lucky, enough of the architecture will be intact so that we won't have a lot of debris to clear."
"Excuse me," Jack said, cutting Daniel off. "Not to rain on your parade or anything but...even if you find this 'maze' place, what makes you think you'll be able to find the legacy?"
"Patun's letter says it's there," Daniel said.
"But how will you know what it is? What it looks like?" Jack persisted.
"Well...it must be identifiable," Daniel argued.
"To whom?" Jack asked.
"Patun was a historian," Suli said.
"He would've understood the process of cultural evolution," Mays said. "And he expected that it would be a long time before anyone looked for the legacy. He surely would've taken into account the need to make it identifiable."
"Okay," Jack said slowly. "So this Patun made some kind of...thing that would be easily identified and put it somewhere easy to find and then...what? He turned off the lights and the entire population left town so that the legacy wouldn't be disturbed?"
"Um...yes?" Daniel said.
"Carter's right--you are an irrational optimist," Jack told Daniel.
"Daniel, you've had some experience with other aliens. Have you met any others who have shared their home worlds with humans?" Suli asked.
"Certainly some races have been known to protect humans," Daniel said, staring into the campfire. "The Asgard, for example."
"Who are the Asgard?" Teggaz asked.
"Little gray fellas. Big eyes," Jack said. "Nice guys."
"Um, yes," Daniel agreed. "But although they've protected humans, to my knowledge they've never lived with them."
"What were they protecting the humans from?"
"Well, the Goa'uld mostly," Daniel said.
"Goold? You mentioned them earlier."
"Your people don't know about the Goa'uld?" Jack asked Mays.
"Our government decided not to make it common knowledge," Mays said.
"The Goa'uld aren't public knowledge on Earth either," Daniel said.
"What are these Goold? Ga-oold? Goa....?" Teggaz asked.
"Snakes," Jack said helpfully. "Slimy, sneaky snakes. With really bad taste in clothing."
"The Goa'uld are a parasitic life form," Daniel said with an exasperated look at Jack. "They choose some humans as hosts and enslave the rest."
"I think it's safe to say that our aliens were not the Asgard or the Goa'uld."
"No," Daniel agreed. "I think we can rule out the Ancients, too."
"Ya think?" Jack said sarcastically.
"The Ancients?" Mays asked.
"Ancients. Ascended. Bunch of glowy good for nothings," Jack said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Jack," Daniel chided.
"Trust me," Jack told Mays and Teggaz. "If you're drowning and they're standing on the shore holding the only life preserver... you're as good as dead. Just ask Daniel."
"You're familiar with these aliens?" Suli asked, turning her attention to Daniel.
"You could say that," Daniel admitted reluctantly. "I was temporarily ascended."
"Big glowy good for nothing," Jack said. Daniel shot him a dirty look. "Maybe not good for nothing."
"You actually became one of these beings?" Mays asked Daniel, fascinated. "How?
"It's a long story. And it didn't work out," Daniel said uncomfortably. Mays shot a questioning look at Jack. Jack gave a small shake of his head, warning Mays away from the subject.
"Could it have been the Nox you spoke of at the conference?" Mays asked.
"The Nox really don't get out much," Jack said.
"But that may not have been true a thousand years ago," Daniel pointed out. "We know that at some point they interacted with the other three races of the alliance at least."
"True," Jack admitted. "But this place just doesn't have a Nox-y feel to it."
"The problem is we've got two alien races involved with the Pankeerans," Daniel said. "The race that brought them here and the race that actually lived here. And while the race that brought humans to this planet could conceivably be one that we know of, the other is not one that we've likely ever encountered."
"Can't you tell from...stuff?" Jack asked, gesturing vaguely.
"Stuff?" Daniel asked.
"Stuff," Jack repeated. "You know--architecture, artifacts.... Stuff. You usually know which aliens have been involved based on the stuff we find. If it's Norse, then the Asgard have probably been around. That kind of thing."
"Stuff," Daniel said, nodding his head slowly, amused by Jack's interpretation of his work. "Well, that's true. But the Pankeeran culture isn't like anything I've ever seen before. Presumably it's been heavily influenced by the Praseen, and most traces of whatever Earth based cultural tradition they started with have been subsumed."
"Until recently we didn't even know the name of the planet of our origin. And now...what I wouldn't give to know what our specific Earth origins were," Suli said with regret.
"It might be possible," Daniel said. "A thorough analysis of your earliest known history, your traditions and religious practices.... I might be able to find a clue or two."
"No, you're right," Daniel said, apparently missing the point of Jack's interruption. "We might want to start with a DNA analysis, narrow down the possibilities...."
"But I probably won't have time to do the research any time soon," Daniel admitted at Jack's prompting. Daniel looked at Suli. "We'll work something out, though. I can send back information about some of our oldest known cultures for you to compare to your own history."
"Guess I know what I'll be doing for the next six months...or years," Suli said, looking pleased at the prospect.
"At least that's one grant request you won't have to worry about the University board of governors rejecting," Mays said. Daniel and Suli both stared at him.
"He obviously hasn't spent much time in academia," Daniel told Suli.
"Too busy saving the world," Suli agreed.
"And they say that as if it's a bad thing," Jack said to Mays.
"Sergeant?" Jack asked, walking over the entrance to Daniel's 'test' hole...which now led into a tunnel.
"I'm not sure but...."
At that moment, Jack felt it. A tiny, almost imperceptible, momentary trembling of the ground under his feet.
"Teal'c!" Jack said, grabbing his radio.
"The area has become unstable," Teal'c responded immediately.
"Get out of there."
"That is precisely what I am attempting to do."
"Damn it," Jack spat. "Daniel!"
"Just a minute, Jack," Daniel answered, sounding distracted. "We almost have it."
"Now, Daniel." Jack turned back to the sergeant as a more distinct tremor shook the ground. "What kind of gear do we have for SAR?"
"Standard issue equipment, sir."
"Okay, I want...."
At that moment the ground not only shook, but gave way. A hole opened up about fifteen yards from the entrance to the test hole as hundreds of pounds of earth and debris collapsed inward.
"Whoa! Everybody back," Jack ordered unnecessarily. The small group had already instinctively edged carefully away from the unstable area. Seconds later, as Jack stared at the pit, Mays scrambled up out of the tunnel entrance, closely followed by Daniel and Teal'c, all of them coughing and coated with dirt.
"Well, that was close," Daniel said casually as he coughed again, trying to clear the dust from his throat.
Jack just shook his head and looked at Mays, who had an almost beautific smile on his dirt smeared face.
"You're enjoying this?" Jack asked.
"I haven't felt this kind of excitement in far too long," Mays told Jack.
"Are you nuts?"
Mays glanced over to Daniel, who was drawing Suli along in his wake as he walked to the command tent, talking excitedly, his hands flying.
"Is Daniel nuts?" Mays asked.
"Yes," Jack said without hesitation. Mays' smile grew even bigger before he turned and went to join Daniel and Suli.
"I'm surrounded by crazy people," Jack told Teal'c.
"As am I."
Jack gave Teal'c a warning look before wandering over to the open front tent. Daniel, Suli, and Mays were all babbling over the object Daniel had just produced from under his shirt.
"What's that?" Jack asked.
"If we're lucky it's the information we're looking for," Daniel said, still making little coughing noises as he talked through the dust irritating his throat.
"That?" Jack asked, nodding at the flat black box.
"It's a memory module," Suli told him. "Archaic but, as far as I can determine, undamaged."
"I think it must be like a removable hard drive," Daniel said. "Or maybe a zip drive...."
"Yeah, I got that," Jack said. "Do you have the right kind of machine to retrieve the information from this kind of...module?"
"I'm not certain we have anything as old as this," Suli said. "But we do have a few restored computers at the University that may work."
"Give it to me."
"Jack?" Daniel said quickly.
"We're being watched," Jack reminded him. "They may realize that you found something. Slip it to me and I'll take it back to the city."
"Why you?" Daniel asked.
"Because they won't expect me to have it. And it won't be particularly suspicious if I leave. I haven't done much more than hang around since I got here...."
"Complaining about how long it's taking," Daniel interjected.
"Exactly," Jack agreed. "I'll make a fuss about being back at the negotiations since you obviously don't need or want me here."
"Take it to my assistant, Kye," Suli said. "Tell him to put it my office safe."
"Will he? He doesn't know who I am."
"Sam," Daniel said abruptly, looking at Jack.
"Kye's seen Sam. He knows she's working on Professor Teggaz's project," Daniel explained.
"So I'll give it to Carter."
"Where's Sam?" Daniel said as he burst through the door looking dusty and disheveled.
"She said was going to catch forty winks...." Jack said. He looked up from the solitaire game he had laid out on the coffee table in time to see Daniel rush into Sam's room. Jack looked back at the door where Teal'c stood, looking nearly as dusty as Daniel.
"Daniel seems excited," Jack observed.
"Indeed," Teal'c said sourly.
"Should I be worried?"
"In my experience that is usually the safest response."
"Great," Jack sighed. "Any trouble getting the site packed up?"
"None. Sergeant Chu is returning to the SGC with the equipment as we speak."
"No trouble from our watchers?" Jack asked.
"Not really. Picked up a tail as soon as I got back to the city," Jack said. "But he got bored and gave up when I didn't do anything more exciting than veg out in the hotel room."
"These people seem remarkably...restrained."
"Yeah, it worries me, too," Jack said. "Although they wouldn't need to be aggressive if Harry really is working for them. They can afford to sit back and wait for Harry to feed them information."
"But Maybourne does not know anything," Teal'c pointed out.
"You think he's going to let that stop him?"
Moments later both Sam and Daniel exited her room, talking at each other a mile a minute.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Jack said.
"Sir?" Sam said, surprised by the interruption.
"Care to share the excitement?"
"You usually don't like it when I share excitement," Daniel said, frowning at Jack.
"Just give me the Reader's Digest version."
"I don't have it." Daniel sighed at Jack's raised eyebrow. "Yet. I don't have it yet. But Suli's working on getting the computer to read the module. We're going to translate as we go."
"We may need her help interfacing the computer and the module," Daniel said. "And Sam's got the background in hard science we'll probably need to understand any data on the crystals."
"Okay," Jack said, casually dismissing them.
"That's it?" Daniel asked, regarding Jack warily.
"You were expecting more?"
"I'm feeling generous today. Don't pass up such a rare opportunity."
"Going now," Daniel agreed, pointing at the door. Jack and Teal'c watched the door close behind Sam and Daniel before turning to stare at each other.
"Right," Jack said, getting to his feet with a sigh. "You go ahead and clean up, get something to eat. I'll keep an eye on the Bobbsey twins."
"Hey, Teal'c," Jack called, looking over his shoulder. "Feeling better?"
"I have eaten and bathed," Teal'c said as he gazed around the empty university library. He turned to Jack and smiled. "My mood is much improved."
"That'll do it," Jack agreed, feeding another sheet of paper into the scanner. He finally took his feet off of the desk and turned to face Teal'c as the computer slowly processed the document.
"What are you doing, O'Neill?"
"Carter got that module thing jiving with the computer," Jack told him. He picked up a sheaf of papers. "These are some of the documents. I'm translating...literating them for Daniel."
"Daniel Jackson is capable of reading the Pankeeran writing," Teal'c pointed out.
"Yeah," Jack said slowly. "But Carter can't and they want her to go over the technical stuff."
"He could read them to her."
"Are you implying that they gave me busy work?" Jack said, eyeing Teal'c suspiciously.
"Not at all."
"Good. Take over for me then."
"I think not."
"How long since a perimeter check has been made?" Teal'c asked.
"Um...." Jack checked his watch. "Mays and I did a sweep about half an hour ago."
"I will perform another one."
"Wait up, I'll go with you."
"I can manage. I do not wish to take you from your important work."
"It is important," Jack insisted to Teal'c's retreating back.
"Indeed." Teal'c's voice carried back in from the hallway.
"Everyone's a wiseass," Jack muttered, turning to put the next document in the scanner and putting the transliterated version of the previous page onto the slowly growing stack.
"I must leave," Mays said, walking quickly across the library.
"There's been an attempt to use the transporter without authorization," Mays explained quickly. "My men were attacked. One was able to fight the attackers off long enough to set off an emergency signal."
"Who?" Jack asked. "Why?"
"The crystals, I'm sure," Mays said, the clipped words indicating his anger. "And while there are any number of 'whos' as suspects, at the top of my list is the Association."
"They suspect we've found something. Perhaps they're afraid to wait any longer." Mays shrugged. "I really must go."
"Yeah, go," Jack agreed. "We got it covered here."
Jack sat thoughtfully for a moment after Mays left, absently feeding in the next page.
"Nope," he said, getting to his feet. "This does not feel right."
Daniel skimmed the page as he entered the stairwell. He wanted to get a rough translation in his head before handing the papers over to Jack for transliteration. He was tired enough that the effort of going back and forth between the Pankeeran and Roman alphabets was giving him a headache. He flipped the folder shut as he rounded the landing, just before a sudden shove sent him tumbling down the next flight of steps.
"What the...." Daniel grabbed his ankle which had smacked against the edge of a step during his fall. It was like hitting his funny bone, except that in this case it was his foot that was both numb and painful. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of someone moving down the stairs toward him. He continued holding his leg, moaning loudly for effect, until the man stood just one step above him. Then he kicked out, knocking the man's feet from under him.
"Ow," Daniel muttered, rubbing at his ankle again as his attacker tumbled down the next flight of stairs.
Startled, Daniel looked down to see Jack coming up the stairway. He stopped to stare as Daniel's attacker landed in an unconscious sprawl on the landing in front of him.
"Daniel?" Jack looked down at the man again. "You do that?"
"Uh...yeah," Daniel said, starting to gather his papers and shove them back in the folder.
"Any particular reason?"
"He pushed me first."
"Well, he had it coming then." Jack pulled his belt from around his waist and rolled the man over, securing his hands behind his back. "You okay?"
"Just a few bumps and bruises," Daniel said as he got to his feet. He tested his ankle; it still had that unpleasant pins and needles sensation, but it wasn't disabling. Jack quickly patted the unknown man down, pulling a small device from his pocket. Jack wasn't sure what it was but he'd seen the Pankeeran Security Officers with them so he tucked it away in his own pocket.
"Who is he?" Daniel asked.
"Don't know for sure, but I'm betting there's more of them," Jack said. "Carter?"
"Sam's still in the lab with Suli," Daniel said, jerking his thumb up the stairway.
"Let's check it out," Jack said, waving at Daniel to lead the way.
"Sam?" Daniel said as he and Jack entered the lab. Sam had a strange man face down on the floor. She was practically sitting on him, her knee positioned right between his shoulder blades as she wrenched his arm up to her knee.
"Hey, guys," Sam said, sounding a little breathless. "I could use a hand."
"Daniel, belt," Jack said as he crossed to Sam. Daniel slid his belt off and tossed it to Jack. A minute later Jack had the man firmly trussed. He offered Sam a hand up.
"Thanks," Sam said, hopping to her feet. "Too bad you missed all the excitement."
"No, not really," Daniel said, looking around the lab. "There was another one in the stairwell."
"Really?" Sam said with a frown.
"Where's Dr. Teggaz?" Daniel asked.
"Right here," Suli called, rushing back into the room. "I've notified the Security Forces. They'll be here shortly. But I don't know where Brenton is."
"Somebody staged an assault on the transporter," Jack told them. "Mays was called away."
"A distraction," Sam guessed. "Figuring we'd be defenseless as a result."
"By now they ought to know we're not exactly sitting ducks," Jack said as he searched the second man. "But they probably thought they'd evened up the odds a bit."
"If they really knew what we were looking for they probably wouldn't want it," Daniel said.
"What do you mean?" Suli asked.
"The Association probably thinks we've been looking for the secret to making the crystals work," Sam said.
"Ah," Suli said, nodding. "That would be very valuable to them."
"It'd be very valuable to anyone," Sam admitted.
"Unfortunately, I don't think it exists," Daniel said.
"What's this?" Jack asked, pulling another of the strange devices from the second attacker.
"It's a weapon which creates an electrical discharge and renders the victim unconscious," Suli told him.
"Stun gun. Sweet," Jack said. He tossed it to Daniel, keeping the other for himself. "You stay here with the professor. Carter and I'll go make sure there aren't any more bad guys."
A strangled squawk coming from behind a closed door halted Jack and Sam in their footsteps. Sam quickly took up a position opposite Jack, nodding to him when she was ready. Jack kicked the door open, holding the stun gun steady in front of him.
"Hey, Teal'c," Jack said, lowering his weapon. "Carter, come see what Teal'c found."
Cautiously, Sam moved into the doorway, then shook her head at the scene that greeted her.
"Maybourne," she said.
"Should've known," Jack agreed.
"Jack," Harry complained. He tried to turn to speak to Jack, but Teal'c's hand on his throat remained firm. Harry glared at Teal'c. "Do you mind?"
"I do," Teal'c said.
"Let's make this quick, Maybourne: we've got two of your associates. What I need to know is how many more are there?" Jack asked.
"They're not my associates and I don't know how many," Maybourne said. He appealed to all three. "I came here to warn you."
"He came here to help us," Jack said to Teal'c.
"So he says," Teal'c answered. He studied Maybourne for a moment. "I do not believe him."
"Tell me, Harry. How did you know there was anything to warn us about?" Jack asked.
"What?" Harry asked.
"If you aren't working with the Association, then how did you know what their plans were?" Sam clarified.
"Bit of catch-22, isn't it?" Jack said with mock sympathy. "No matter what you say you're in deep doo-doo."
"I knew because they came to me wanting to know what you'd found," Maybourne admitted.
"What did you tell them?" Sam asked.
"The only thing I could tell them--I don't know," Maybourne said.
"But you decided you'd help them find out," Jack said.
"No. I overheard their plans and thought I might be able to get here first and warn you."
"Think about it, Jack. If I wanted something you had wouldn't I just take for myself? Why would I involve them?"
"Because you like getting others to do the dirty work."
"I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty if the need arises," Maybourne argued.
"Strangely, that's not reassuring," Jack said. He waved Harry toward the door. "Come on, let's go round up your buddies."
"So what's going to happen to them?" Jack asked. He looked over at Mays, sitting in a folding chair across the hall. The door to the lab where Daniel and Suli were still working doggedly to decipher the legacy was directly across from Jack, and immediately to Mays' right.
After the previous evening's excitement, Daniel, Suli, and Sam had worked through the night, translating and interpreting the data as fast as they could. Sam had finally left early that morning, accompanied by Teal'c, taking pages of technical data for analysis.
"Very little," Mays said ruefully. "We're unable to charge them with anything more than simple assault. A good counselor will be able to keep them out of jail. And the Association can afford good counselors."
"At least we stopped them from getting what they wanted," Jack said. He slumped back in his own folding chair.
"They'll try again," Mays said. Jack nodded thoughtfully.
"Maybourne?" Jack asked after a moment.
"He can't be charged with any crime," Mays said. "Teal'c interrupted him before he could do anything. And technically the University is public property; we can't even charge him with trespassing."
"He's good," Jack said, thinking of all the times Maybourne had weaseled out of trouble. Jack sat silently for a moment, tapping his foot restlessly. "You think he's telling the truth?"
"You know him better than I. You tell me," Mays said.
"Harry'll do whatever is best for Harry," Jack said.
"Which is not necessarily the Association," Mays pointed out.
"Nope," Jack agreed.
"So he could be telling the truth."
"Could be. Not going to count on it."
Jack and Mays both looked up as the lab door opened. Daniel appeared, looking distracted.
"What?" Daniel said, looking at Jack. "Oh. Hey. You been out here all this time?"
"Yeah," Jack said. "And I have to tell you--my butt went numb an hour ago."
"Oh, well, we're done. It's done. We can go."
"Done?" Mays questioned.
"That's it, that's all. It's a bust," Daniel said with an agitated wave of his hand.
"Er.... Do I need to call the men with butterfly nets?" Jack asked apprehensively. Daniel just looked at him with a rueful grin. "Daniel?"
"Let's go home."
"Really. I'll explain when we get back to the hotel. With a little help from Sam."
"Daniel.... Colonel, there you are," Davis said, sticking his head through the door to their hotel suite. "I could really use some back up."
"Nope," Jack said cheerfully as Sam and Teal'c joined them. "We're going home."
"No, we're not," Davis said, entering the room with an alarmed expression.
"Yes, we are."
"But the mine...."
"Is worthless," Daniel said.
"What?" Jack and Davis both exclaimed.
"It's worthless," Daniel repeated. "Let them fight over it."
"Would you mind explaining that a little more?" Davis asked.
"Jack was right," Daniel said.
"I was?" Jack said.
"The last of the Praseen did turn off the lights and leave town."
"Why?" Davis asked.
"They were finished," Daniel said simply. A brief smile crossed his face at the puzzled looks of the others. "There were very few of them left. So they put the legacy in place and retreated to another, smaller, town to live out the rest of their time. No, I don't know where; that'll be something for Pankeer's historians to discover. But before they went, the Praseen destroyed this city."
"Most of it. The surface level. They left only a small section intact."
"So it was big time bad?" Jack asked.
"Very bad," Daniel agreed.
"You said the crystals are useless?" Davis prompted.
"They are," Daniel said firmly. "The Praseen did something. I don't know what. Sam's still working on that."
"The Praseen apparently caused some kind of reaction that rendered the crystals inert," Sam said. "I don't know whether it was chemical or thermal or even nuclear, but they found a way to alter the crystals in situ."
"That's why the Vasuman plains are so different from most of the rest of Chandre," Daniel added.
"Exactly," Sam agreed. "We knew that something, some process, had probably changed the rock. Turns out it was the aliens who did it, but that wasn't their intent. They meant to destroy the crystals, and the surrounding rock was affected by the process."
"These aliens destroyed part of the moon's surface?" Teal'c asked.
"Yes. Vasuman wasn't the original name of that area. In fact, there was no specific name for that region until after they did...whatever it is they did," Daniel said.
"What's the significance of 'Vasuman'?" Major Davis asked.
"It means born of fire," Daniel explained.
"What ever they did caused a huge release of thermal energy," Sam said. "There's no question about that. We just don't know if that was the means to destroy the crystals, or simply a by-product of the process."
"Is there no way to undo this change to the crystals?" Teal'c asked.
"I don't think so," Sam said. "Certainly not with our level of understanding."
"The point is that we shouldn't even try," Daniel interjected. "The Praseen destroyed them because of an accident. They were working with the crystals, trying to boost their energy capacity, and something went wrong. Very, very wrong."
"My suspicion is that they triggered some kind of nuclear reaction," Sam said. "I could be wrong about that--they were very careful to not leave any specific data behind. But the accident was devastating."
"Ultimately that's what killed the Praseen," Daniel said. "Some died as a direct result of the accident, from an illness that sounds a whole lot like radiation sickness."
"Ouch," Jack said quietly.
"Yeah," Daniel agreed tersely. "And the ones who survived, who were not obviously or directly affected...they were left infertile. Or worse. The few children who were born in the years after the accident were often affected by physical and mental abnormalities."
"An entire civilization destroyed," Teal'c said soberly.
"Yes, but if we know what they did and can figure out a way to avoid...." Davis began.
"They destroyed all the data to prevent that," Sam reminded him.
"I know, but...."
"Major," Jack interrupted. "The Praseen are dead."
"Yes?" Davis said.
"And they were a lot smarter than we are." Jack nodded to the rest of his team. "Pack it up, kids. We're out of here."
Harry hurried down the sidewalk toward the hotel entrance. Jack finished stretching, enjoying the feel of the morning sunlight, before turning to acknowledge Maybourne.
"Top of the morning, Harry."
"What are you up to?" Maybourne asked, taking in the fact that Jack looked far too cheerful to be preparing for another day of diplomatic negotiations.
"Harry, I'm going to do you a favor here," Jack said. He gestured back toward the hotel and the conference hall within. "Walk away from this."
"Jack," Harry groaned. "We've been through this before."
"Fine," Jack said, throwing up his hands in a casual dismissal. "But don't say I didn't warn you."
Harry watched, at first surprised, then suspicious, as the other members of SG-1 and Major Davis filed through the door. They were dressed in BDUs and carrying full packs.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked Jack, eyeing the team warily.
"Walking away from this," Jack said with a grin before turning to follow his team.
Harry looked toward the conference hall, and then back at SG-1, retreating steadily in the direction of the stargate.
"Oh, for crying out loud."
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