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Friday, January 27th, 2006

Subject: Mission to P8Q- 465 - in trouble again
Mood: .sleepy

Well, that was interesting. Interesting in the manner of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. It had all looked very promising initially too. Guess that should've been our first clue that Fate was secretly thumbing her nose at us.

We gave the PATTs their first run. Certainly beats a ten mile hike! Sam had modified them with a small naquadah generator as their power source so we didn't need to worry about running out of fuel. It also makes them very much quieter than conventional models. At Sergeant Siler's suggestion, she'd also added roll-bars as well as additional storage capacity and a few other useful modifications..

On our way to the town, which was to the east of the 'Gate, we passed a couple of villages. The houses were made of wattle and daub, whitewashed, and thatched. It seemed to be early spring there and peasant workers were preparing the ground for sowing. They appeared to be using strip farming, and boy, I was glad Jack wasn't around to make fun of that one! I got ribald comments from Cameron anyway. He's getting more like Jack as time goes on. I still get no respect. Don't know which is worse, the groupie or the Jack-alike.

The workers were inclined to run and hide when they saw us coming, which could be a slight drawback. We therefore hid the PATTs in a small wood about a mile short of the town, and covered them with tarpaulins and camouflage netting.

We'd thought at first that the town was built on a slight rise, but soon realized from the tang in air and seagull-like cries that we were near a coastline. The town was built at the top of a cliff which cut off our view of the sea until we came close to the town.

As we drew closer, it became apparent that the civilization was a little more advanced than the villages had led us to believe. There was a stone wall, about eight feet high around the town. The tops of tiled roofs, and the upper storeys of larger brick-built buildings, could be seen above the wall. There was a small barbican at the entrance to the town - and guards.

"Interesting," I said.

"Yeah," Cameron agreed as we approached the gateway, "looks like they've discovered gunpowder..."

The guards - just three of them, but there were probably more nearby - were wearing Viking-style breastplates and open-faced helmets (no horns, that's a myth). Two of them had pole-mounted 'handgonnes' which were aimed at us - well, maybe not specifically at us, just in our general direction.

We stood aside for a moment to let an ox-drawn cart, which was leaving the town, pass by. It was piled high with bales of cloth - cloth dyed in old colors: perse, watchett, falwy, toley and murrey. If they had anything we wanted - naquadah, trinium and such like - maybe we could trade in modern fabrics.

After the cart had lumbered past, Cameron stepped forward with a hand raised in greeting. He was about to announce who we were when the gravelly voice of the guard without a handgonne barked out, "Taletath inser vorretning!"

Cameron stepped back with a nod to me, "Da— Jackson, you're on." (So it seems we're to be formal on duty and familiar in private. Okay. For now. I'll have him screaming 'Daniel!' later... )

The language drifted somewhere between Old Norse and Anglo Saxon without settling on either one. I gave it my best shot. The guards relaxed and we were allowed to enter the town. We were escorted by four other guardsmen armed with spears and short swords to the Moot Hall, an impressive building whose outer walls were faced with knapped flints.

We went to a large wooden table which dominated the entrance chamber. One of the two chairs behind it was occupied by the Theyn, a pompous official wearing a long tawny fur-edged gown. We stated our business as emissaries from another land hoping to begin trade negotiations - which took a fair amount of effort to communicate. I earn my money!

We were told that the Shire Reeve was away. He would be returning late that evening and so would not be opening any new business until the following day. This was disappointing, but gave us time to explore which, I thought, could be useful when it came to opening negotiations.

The town looked much like some of the more picturesque European towns I've visited on holidays. The buildings were made of a variety of materials - wood, stone or brick. More than a few were whitewashed. We learned that the town was called Ravenness.

Dominating the town were the ruins of a stone keep, built at the highest point. It had been an excellent defensive site once upon a time. However, the cliff that had prevented attack from the seaward side had, through erosion, been its downfall. Literally. Much of the building still remained, but was unusable. It reminded me strongly of Heliopolis. How much has happened since then!

To the north and south, the cliff - over a hundred feet high at that point - decreased in height. It curved around at the north side to form a sheltered site for the little harbor. There were several small, broad-bellied sailing ships, suitable for cargo-carrying, tied up beside the wooden wharves. This indicated that this was indeed a trading nation.

Sam made a sit. rep. mid-afternoon. This was made via a radio link with her PATT which records the report and relays the message to the MALP when the S.G.C. dials out. General Landry later relayed permission for an overnight stop. This is so much easier than having to trek back to the 'Gate. It extends the range of future missions. Not all settlements are adjacent to the 'Gate.

We considered leaving the town and camping outside, but thought this might cause problems with the 'handgonners.' While we had been allowed through the town gates with our weapons, we hadn't seen anyone else in the town with any sort of gun. Possibly the guards hadn't recognize them as weapons. Why push our luck?

So, we decided to make use of the small gold coin-like tokens which we carry for emergency use, but have never actually used before. We returned to the Moot Hall and managed to change a couple for local currency and booked into a respectable looking inn. The runes on the sign outside announced it as the 'Hyp ond Ancair' which seemed appropriate for a seaport. So far, so good. We were having a great time - like we were on holiday. We let our guard down.

The inn seemed to provide good food, judging by the aroma and the satisfied reactions of other diners.

"MRE, anyone?" Cameron asked without any enthusiasm.

He was salivating as a serving woman carried a tray of hot food past us. Hell, we were all salivating, having got by on energy bars for lunch. We decided that is was safe and soon tucked into fisc marach with vegetables and bread, and offet foca for dessert. Flagons of meodu and airloth appeared to be included in the meal. It turned into quite a merry evening.

We were all sharing a dormitory style room which had six beds, two of which were already occupied. We simply removed our equipment, laid down and went to sleep, Teal'c taking first watch.

I woke up heaving. :-( .It felt like the whole world was moving - like those 'never again' mornings-after. When I'd finished emptying my stomach contents, I found the floor was still heaving. I made several other unpleasant discoveries; there were sounds of others hurling in the darkness, there was an appalling stench which didn't equate with recent vomit, and I couldn't move my legs - much. The clanky sounds when I tried to move didn't make me feel any better, nor did the chilly dampness.

"Hello?" I mumbled.

"Daniel?" came Sam's voice. "Where are we?"

"Feels like we're at sea," Cameron groaned.

Teal'c concurred, then an unfamiliar male voice asked tremulously, "Hwair beo wit?"

"In ormord," whispered a young male voice closer to me. This elicited a girlish sob from roughly the same direction.

"I don't think we should despair quite so soon," I said.

"Nah. Wit beo in the Ormord," the boy - Havlok - said. The girl was his younger sister, Mildri. They were fourteen and twelve by our reckoning. The other captive was a wool merchant named Asfrith.

It seemed we had all been drugged. When will we learn that even the most apparently benign and law-abiding places still have their hazzards? Teal'c had managed to stay awake throughout his watch, but when he bent to wake Cameron, someone hit him on the back of the head, possibly the sixth man, the fifth being Asfrith.

Havlok, and later Mildri, the innkeeper's children, had been dragged off when they tried to raise the alarm. A gang of strangers had crept into the inn in the early hours, presumably let in by that sixth man, and if any of us get out hands on him— But I degress.

The ship on which we were passengers was called 'The Despair' - as in the despair of all who crossed her path. It belonged to a fearsome woman called Vigdis who styled herself Leccan Cween,or Water Queen. Her domain was a couple of islands some way off the coast called Ravenser and Ravenser Odd.

Her ships were involved in piratical activities to the south and across the Sheerleccan, a small sea. She usually refrained from attacking the nearest shores - didn't want to attract reprisal raids. Instead, she collected 'niedgyld' from Skarthi, the Shire Reeve. This was a tax on trade goods passing through 'her waters' to Ravenness. It was effectively a protection racket.

If Skarthi failed to deliver on time, she took her tax in people who would either be ransomed to their next of kin or sold as slaves. Her preference seemed to be for out-of-towners; locals tended to 'cry havoc,' demanding action against Vigdis. Other tradesmen's families were more inclined to pay up and cut their losses, knowing Skarthi wouldn't go out on a limb for them. This was so not looking good.

But it's getting late, so I'll finish this tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Subject: In reality, things don't go all that smoothly...
Mood: .reminiscent

Mission to P8Q- 465 - continued

Where was I? Oh yes. Shackled in the damp, dark, vomit-strewn belly of a pirate ship. Remind me again why I do this job...

"Ideas, people?" Cameron asked.

"As O'Neill would say, 'what do we need and what do we got?'" Teal'c said.

We had very little. We needed our weapons, utility vests and comms. units which were still at the inn - probably. Good thing we slept with our boots on. I found a somewhat deformed bar of chocolate in my pocket.

"I'll pass it round," Sam said, close by my ear.

"Sam? You still got your lock-pick kit?"

"No, but I keep a couple of tools down the side of my boot. Never know when you're gonna need one."

Did I say it was a good thing we slept with our boots on? Had we not been drugged, we might've thought to take them off out of consideration for the innkeeper's bedding. The next step was to find some way out.

"D'Jackson, you know anything about boats?"

"Strangely enough, I'm not an expert on everything."

"So that would be a no."

"Not entirely. I did take note of the ships tied up in the harbor but I'm guessing that, as this is a pirate ship, it's probably configured differently."

"So still a no, then?"

"Since Havlok knows the name of this ship, might he not be able to provide information about it?" Teal'c asked.

"Good thinking. Dani-er-Jackson, just do your thing, would ya."

According to Havlok, the Ormord was built for speed. Whereas the cargo ships had one mast with a single square sail, Ormord had two masts. The main mast had a smaller square sail above the main one. The shorter foremast had a triangular sail attached to the prow of the ship and a second triangular sail attached to a bowsprit.

Ormord had two cabins on deck, one fore for the captain and one aft for the crew - about a dozen, Havlok thought. She also had six cannons on deck which fired through gun ports in the ship's sides. Havlok thought there was a single hatch aft of the main mast. Sam had freed us all of our leg-irons by this time.

We explored the confines of our prison, trying to avoid the mess on the floor. This would've been difficult enough in the dark without having to adapt to the bucking of the ship through the waves. Teal'c could just reach the ceiling with his fingertips, and managed to locate the outline of the hatch. Cameron let out a squawk at one point. He thought a rat had run over his foot, the wuss.

"Hey, they carry disease, Daniel!" he protested, forgetting formalities for once.

We still had our chronometers. Presumably, our kidnappers were concentrating on getting us aboard ship. Sam calculated that it was probably the Earth equivalent of 0400, so it would probably be dark outside too which would be advantageous when we broke out.

We didn't have much of a plan for after that event which was just as well. Cam, sitting on Teal'c's shoulders, could reach the hatch cover but couldn't shift it, not even an inch. We came to the conclusion that it was battened down. :-( ....All we could do was wait.

The sounds of seabirds indicated that we were approaching one of the two islands. Shortly after, the hatch cover was raised. The light of dawn dazzled us after the hours of darkness. A rope ladder was dropped and three of the crew descended.

They were now at a disadvantage before their eyes adapted to the darkness. Before they discovered we were free, Teal'c and Cam took out two in short order. The third managed to cry out a warning before Sam and I subdued him. The hatch cover was slammed back. On the plus side, we now had three daggers and a couple of short swords.

A little while later, the hatch was opened again, and we were ordered to come up on deck. So we did. At least we were armed, in a manner of speaking. Cameron went first. As his head appeared above the coaming, he muttered, "Oh shit! They've got a fucking blunderbuss!"

As we had three innocents among us, this was no time for heroics. Those things may not be accurate but the scattergun effect would more than make up for it in these circumstances. A guy whom I took to be the captain looked us over, lip curling. He barked out orders. The crew disarmed us, then tied ropes to our ankles.

"Clane hiay uppeh!" was the next order and we were thrown overboard.

The shock of the cold water made you breathe in sharply which was not good. After a couple of minutes thrashing in the water, we were hauled back over the side like drowned rats. Yes, that's a chiché but it's totally appropriate!

We were next loaded into a horse-drawn cart like French aristocrats in a tumbril and driven off to Vigdis's base - a fortified stone manor house. We were marched inside to the main hall and presented to her. This was a very large woman, about my height. She was wearing what looked like a brightly colored turban over a helmet, and a female-shaped bronze breastplate over baggy wine-colored pants gathered at the ankle.

She stood on a daïs and cast a sneering eye over us. The attitude she struck reminded me forcefully of Hathor when she was threatening to snake one of us. Only Vigdis didn't have the looks, her face being marred by a broad scar running from above her right eyebrow, across her bent nose and ending to the left of her chin.

"Is she a goa'uld?" I murmured to Sam.

She shook her head. "I'm not getting anything like that."

Now, translating: "You have lost me two of my men," Vigdis growled. "Your people will either pay weregild on top of the ransom, or two of you will take their places."

No one said anything. She stepped down from the daïs to inspect her 'wares.'

"My family will pay your ransom," Asfrith said. "I had nothing to do with your men."

"Fine," Vigdis said, taking in his heavy build, "you look wealthy - a hundred gold shiels."

Asfrith turned pale, but Vigdis had moved on to Sam. She took her firmly by the chin and then snorted. "Good teeth, but too old for men. Can you cook?"

I smothered a laugh and was about to translate the question for Sam, but Vigdis had already interpreted my reaction and assigned Sam to 'washing, in default of twenty gold shiels.'

Cameron was ear-marked for one of the replacements in the event of fifty shiels plus hundred shiels as weregild not being forthcoming, then she moved on to Havlok and Mildri.

"Pretty. The men will enjoy you two!"

"No!" I yelled, "you can't do that! They're only children!"

"Then their parents will pay the ransom. You will join him." She indicated Cameron.

She moved on to Teal'c. She looked at his tattoo with deep interest, ran a finger over it, then turned away, thinking. She paced up and down for a while then came to a conclusion.

"You four are together, yes?" she asked me. I nodded. She summoned her captain. "Take these four to Braggi."

More anon.

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Subject: Mission to P8Q- 465 - Braggi's tale
Mood: . accomplished

Music: 'Riders on the Storm' - The Doors.

So we found ourselves back in the hold of Ormord. At least someone had sluiced away the vomit, but that hadn't gotten rid of the bad smell. We seemed to be getting used to the pitching of the ship. That, or the empty stomachs - we hadn't eaten since the previous night - reduced the nausea considerably.

The Flotafreyer, or Ship's Captain, refrained from shackling us, accepting that we could get out of them without difficulty. He asked how we did it.

"It's easy - magic!" Cameron smirked when he understood the question. I could've smacked him.

"Will-power," I 'translated' quickly, not that the word 'magic' is likely to have found its way into a Nordic culture, but still. Until you know whether or not 'magic' is a capital offence, it's as well to keep quiet about anything that might be deemed magical by less advanced cultures.

That's the trouble with working with people of a military mindset; they don't accord adequate respect to anything they ascribe to ivory-towered academia. As a result of this, trouble is what they end up in. And I get dragged along willy-nilly. Jack used to criticize me for 'blithely walking into trouble,' but at least I knew what trouble I was walking into. Mostly.

The sea journey was pretty tedious as might be expected. I thought about trying to get Cameron to open up about himself but figured, from past experience, that I'd probably have to get him pissed for that to happen. We ended up filling in Fanboy about some of our earlier exploits which we thought might be useful in the present circumstances.

The planet's sun was low over the horizon by the time we arrived. It looked like Braggi lived on an island too. We were unloaded at blunderbuss-point - er, mouth - again and had about a half-mile hike to Braggi's... dwelling, for want of a better word. I don't know quite what we were expecting - something like Ravenness, I guess.

As we approached the entrance, Cameron looked at the edifice with its gently inward sloping walls. "A bit out of character with the rest of the buildings on this planet, isn't it?" he asked.

"I suppose that's not altogether surprising," I said. "If we let aliens loose in Colorado Springs, they'd see people living in good homes with clean water on tap and plenty to eat, heat and light at the flick of a switch, computers, cell 'phones, automobiles and airplanes... They'd think we were a reasonably advanced society, wouldn't they?"

Cameron agreed.

"But," I continued, "if we had a Stargate in, say, one of the famine areas of Africa, then someone coming through the 'Gate there would think we hadn't developed much beyond the Stone Age."

"Unless they were waving AK47s," Cam suggested. I swear, I despair of the military!

As we went up the main steps, Sam wrinkled her brow. "Looks kind of familiar," she muttered.

We were led along wide passages by the pirates, and into a reception hall where the single inhabitant came to greet the captain. He wearing a fur-edged blue-gray gown over a knee-length gray tunic.

"He's Asgard," Sam gasped, "he has to be."

He was about a foot taller than the Asgard we'd met previously, and although he had the familiar large skull, his eyes were smaller and slightly more human-looking.

"Maybe not," I muttered. "Could be a different race."

"Oh, I forgot, you were... dead... when we met Heimdall. I saw the preserved body of a Asgard from thirty thousand years ago. He was about as tall as me—"

Then our attention was taken by the meeting between the captain and Braggi.

"Ah, Captain Thorgrim, welcome to my hall.
I trust you did not meet with storm or squall?
Now what is this that Vigdis sends to me
And you have brought across the Brightling Sea?"

This is just a rendering of the way he spoke - in verse. It reminded me that in Norse mythology, there was a bard with a name something like Braggi.

"I think you're right, Sam," I said. "He either is Asgard, or closely connected."

As he came towards us, I felt Teal'c stiffen beside me and on the other side, Sam breathed in sharply.

"What?" I asked.

"He's a goa'uld."

"What! A goa'ulded Asgard?"

"There is no one else here that it could be," Teal'c growled, scowling at Braggi. This made Braggi's next remarks even more confusing. He looked up at Teal'c and spoke in something surprisingly recognizable as English:

"I see from your golden badge of office,
You're a servant of the god, Apophis.
Tell your master his power may be meaty
But this world's protected by our treaty."

We all started talking at once.

"The Protected Planets Treaty?" - me
"But you're a System Lord!" - Sam
"So what are you doing here?" - Cameron
"Apophis is dead." - Teal'c - with grim satisfaction.

Braggi stared at Teal'c. If it could ever be said of an Asgard, Braggi's jaw dropped.

"Lord Apophis is dead? How can this be?
The Goa'uld Lords live eternally.
When one host dies, they just take another,
And - should it be, they're killed by a brother -
Their First Prime will carry them from the strife
A sarcophagus brings them back to life."

"Believe me, Apophis is indeed dead. S.G.-1 crashed his ship into Delmak, his home planet. He could not have survived the explosion," Teal'c assured him. "Cronus, too, is no more."

"We've also killed Ra and Hathor," I added with relish.

Between us, we listed all the System Lords we'd killed and others whom we knew to be dead like Heru'ur and Nirrti.

"And we'll kill any more we come across," Cameron said stepping forward threateningly.

At which point, Braggi's eyes flashed golden and he pulled his hand out from his gown. It was sheathed in a ribbon device.

"Shit. No!" I yelled as Cam launched himself at an apparently vulnerable target then dropped like a stone under the weapon's ray. It was over in an instant, then the angry glow died along with the beam, which was kind of surprising.

"I apologize. He gave me no choice,
I wish you to join me as I rejoice."

"We didn't kill the System Lords just to make way for a new tyrant," I said as Sam bent over Cameron.

He came to almost immediately. "What was that?" he groaned.

"Consider it your baptism into S.G.-1" I muttered. "You can't say you're a full member of S.G.-1 until you've been ribboned. Now you have!"

Braggi had stepped back.

"I am not a System Lord," he said. "I am here as protector of this planet." (I'm getting fed up of trying to remember the verse version of Braggi's speech, so I'll stick to prose from now on.)

"Why should we believe that?" I asked with extreme scepticism. "Your eyes glowed."

"It is true that I have a goa'uld within me to sustain my life and health, but I am in control, not the goa'uld."

"Well, you would say that wouldn't you?" Cameron grunted, dragging his arm across his forehead.

"Yes, because it is true."

He beckoned Thorgrim and handed him a leather pouch. "You and your men may return with my thanks. Take this to Vigdis. I am sure it will compensate her for her trouble."

As they left, Braggi touched the crystal and a force field shimmered around him. "There. Now there will be no need for any of you to hurt yourselves again. You will join me in my evening meal and we will exchange information."

"There see," I said. "That wasn't an invitation, that was an order. And you expect us to believe you're not a System Lord."

"If I were, I would not tolerate your insolent manner." Well, actually, that rang true. And the Asgard could throw their weight around on occasion, too. "Very well. Please join me for dinner."

He led us through labyrinthine hallways to a room facing west. A large window - force field? - provided a beautiful view between a couple of low hills on to the setting sun playing on the sea. A purplish-gray line along the horizon suggested mainland beyond.

Sam was pleasantly surprised to find real food on the table, not the food cubes she'd been offered by Thor a few years back. The only missing ingredient was meat, but we were hungry enough not to let this bother us.

After we'd eaten, Braggi asked us to account for our presence on 'his' world if we were not bent on conquest. We kept it short, including some of our contacts with the Asgard, but the sun had dipped below the horizon before we'd finished. Lights set in the walls began to glow as the outside light faded, indicating, if we hadn't already guessed, that Braggi's level of technology was pretty close to the other Asgards'.

He thanked us then embarked on his own tale. He had been there for about fifteen thousand years, keeping a benevolent eye on life on the planet - maintaining a balance.

Cameron asked why he'd been here so long when the indigenous population must have been fairly primitive. It made me smile, remembering the number of superior races who'd dismissed us as primitive. Cam still has a lot to learn, even if he has read all our mission reports like a good little groupie.

Braggi had been exiled, he said, which made us very concerned. This was because he had a faulty gene. We must have looked a little skeptical at that.

"You know that we developed cloning techniques to prolong our lives. When I was in need of a new body, it proved impossible to produce a healthy clone. One of my brethren, a geneticist, came up with an alternative solution. We went to a world where goa'uld live naturally in lakes. We caught one and he operated on it to remove its capability to take control, then it was blended with me.

"Whenever I need another goa'uld, he brings me another one that he had modified. Unfortunately, Freyr, the head of the Asgard High Council, felt I was a security risk and I was exiled, as was my colleague, despite his assurances that the goa'uld I was blended with was safe."

"W-w-w-wait a minute, back up a bit. Just who is this geneticist?" I asked, feeling I already knew the answer.

"His name is Loki."

"And you let him stick a goa'uld in you?" I squawked.

"What other choice did I have," he asked sadly. "And he has been right. I control the goa'uld; it does not control me."

"So what was with the glowy eyes?" Cameron demanded.

Braggi sighed. "Mostly I am in control. If we are— if I am threatened with danger, he— it takes over until the danger is passed. It has a good sense of self-preservation which I do not—"

"Obviously," I scowled.

"So I let him— it have control just for that short time. If he shows any sign of doing irreparable damage, I take over and stop him."

I thought about it. When he - or his passenger - ribboned Cameron, the beam stopped the instant Cam was out. The goa'uld usually enjoy inflicting pain for as long as possible.

"Supposing there comes a time when you can't retake control?" I asked gently.

"Loki will make sure that never happens."

"And you trust him..."

"Of course. He would never let me fall into enemy hands."

"Have you seen any other Asgard since you came here?" Sam asked.

"No. I do not think they know where I am."

"But, didn't they exile you here?" she asked.

"No," Braggi said. He seemed a little uncomfortable as he admitted he'd been exiled to a world no human life. "But I was lonely, so Loki found this world. I have not interfered," he finished very quietly.

I could Sam's ready sympathy spring into her eyes.

"I thought you said, you keep the balance? Isn't that interfering?" Cameron snapped. (Doesn't seem to be the forgiving type.)

"I have never hurt anyone," Braggi said indignantly.

"Ya hurt me!" (Definitely not the forgiving type.)

"Not permanently."

Sam jumped in to smooth things over. "A lot of things happen in... fifteen thousand years. They are having troubles too. The cloning system is breaking down and they're looking for ways to fix it. Maybe you could help. You've been out of the genetic loop for so long, your genes might be useful to them now. "

Braggi looked thoughtful. "Loki never said anything about this."

"Yeah, well, he tends to go his own sweet way," I said.

It ended that we'd try to make contact with the Asgard and try to broker a reconciliation. In return, he would assist in any trade negotiations.

"Wouldn't that be interfering, Cam?" I teased.

We stayed overnight and Braggi said he'd return us in the morning. This seemed like a good idea - no more dark smelly ship's hold. That was what we expected. What we got was instant travel back to the 'Gate. Which left us with a ten mile hike back to Ravenness to collect the PATTs and our gear. While we were at the 'Gate, we dialed the S.G.C. to assure General Landry that we were safe and well and just had a few loose ends to tie up.

There was a bit of a contretemps at the town's gate when we arrived. Apparently, several people had been kidnaped from the Hyp ond Ancair two nights ago and they thought we were the kidnapers!

I finally managed to convince them that we were the ones who'd been kidnaped along with three others, and that we'd been released as a result of Braggi's intervention - a slightly amended version of the facts, but the mention of Braggi's name did the trick.

The innkeeper and his wife, being honest folk, had kept our equipment safe. They were also going out of their minds with worry about how they were going to find ten shiels apiece for Havlok and Mildri. We asked if they knew who else had shared our room besides Asfrith. They did. His name was Folc and he was a sailor from Tattar's Island who often stayed there when his ship was in port. It was still there, and would sail on the next tide.

We went down to the harbor and found his ship, the Brimfugol. Cameron and I went on board. He was very surprised to see us and tried to escape by another gangplank, only to run straight into Teal'c. On his own, he was no hero, and soon gave up the information we needed.

Messages were sent to Ravenser Odd by carrier pigeon, so we sent our own message offering to trade Folc for the two children. We figured Asfrith could look after himself. He'd certainly been keen enough to dissociate himself from us earlier on. Of course, it meant hanging around for another day, but it wasn't wasted time.

We left Teal'c with Folc at the inn and headed for the Moot Hall. There, we finally got to meet Skarthi, the Shire Reeve. He was a fat and pompous little man who deflated pretty quickly when we asked if he'd paid the town's niedgyld to Vigdis yet. Apparently he was having trouble raising the money - or more likely, had squirreled it away somewhere. Whatever, he was willing to open trade talks, and mention of Braggi suggested that he would deal straight with us.

"Non-interference, my ass," Cameron muttered. So still nursing a grudge then...

When we returned to the inn in the evening, Havlok and Mildri had been safely delivered and Folc collected. The grateful parents waived all charges. We said our farewells and came home.

Friday, February 10th, 2006

Subject: Catching up
Mood: . concerned

Music: 'I Predict a Riot' - The Kaiser Chiefs.

Don't know where people find the time to keep up with these Live Journal things. I seem to be way adrift, but here goes with the charrette - not that I'm working to a deadline, but the feeling is much the same.

I remember the debriefing was necessarily lengthy and Colonel Kovacek sat in on the meeting at our suggestion. As the meeting broke up, we were in the usual post-mission mood - too tired to go out and celebrate a job well done (i.e. without any serious injuries) - minds too active to consider giving up and going home for an early night. So we went round to Teal'c's to catch up on Wormhole Xtreme.

The previous get-together had been fun so we decided to repeat it and all headed for his apartment including Sam. I think she goes along with the whole W.X. thing in the same way that she reads those Iron Mary fan stories with the poodles in. It's that train-wreck syndrome all over again. We had a couple of episodes to watch: The Triple Effect and Fortress.

The first one had three sets of doubles appear through the Stargate into the S.G.C. as the result of some sort of convoluted pseudo-science that had Sam laughing her socks off - then asking darkly, "Can't anybody there be bothered to do any research?"

Various other people - popular characters whom their P.T.B. had unjustifiably killed off over the years - also arrived. I guess the P.T.B. were just trying to show that, as they say, 'Nobody dies in sci-fi.' Except that they did die; these weren't the originals but totally different people from other universes.

The beginning gave us a real laugh though. Their S.G.-1 had left on a mission in green B.D.U.s. When 'S.G.-1' returned ahead of schedule, they were dressed in black and no one noticed, or at least, nothing was said.

"Typical!" Sam muttered.

She still hasn't forgiven them for making Steph Carpenter - their Sam - look like an unobservant idiot. This was when they had Steph deny the existence of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. She's been driving past the turning on her way to and from work for the last nine years and she'd have to have been driving with her eyes closed to have missed it!

We were all a bit irritated by the way their S.G.-1 was so easily bamboozled. Looked at objectively, although we have the best of intentions usually, we're all potentially extremely dangerous people. Confronted by an alternative version of ourselves, we would've been far less trusting of them.

They weren't us - weren't the W.X. version that is. Each group was working to its own agenda and would do its utmost to achieve its goals. While we might not 'stop at nothing' to do this, there was no guarantee that the other S.G.-1s hadn't become like me in the dream that Shifu gave me. We all know this and would've been much more circumspect.

Sam was spitting bullets about the way poor Stephi was shown as a needy teenager again, seeming more interested in whom her - um - triplets had been fucking than concentrating on the job in hand.

"Huh! My— Her fault again!" She growled.

There was one very interesting scene though. The Denzil in black gave Callum from the home team a suggestive look and said he could just fancy some hot 'n' spicy kung po beef from the Red Pagoda. Although the restaurant was made up, this is actually one of my favorite dishes at the Peking Garden in the same street. Which is a little worrying...

Callum hadn't a clue so Denzil in black said, " You know— the Red Pagoda off South Tejon Street? Your favorite Chinese restaurant? The first place you and I— " [dot - dot - dot]

I'd actually just been listening to the T.V. and covertly watching Cameron - he's more interesting than the show. {g} At that rather surprising little exchange, (the show exhibits homophobic leanings) he shot me a distinctly speculative look— which I pretended not to notice, but filed away for further consideration.

We had a break between the two episodes while Teal'c went and rustled up some snacks and drinks, assisted by Sam.

"So, this Red Pagoda is good?" Cameron asked slily.

"I couldn't say," I said. "I've never heard of it."

"Really?" He looked satisfyingly disappointed. "You don't go for the hot stuff then?"

"Oh I love the hot stuff," I grinned and ran my tongue over my bottom lip in the way that turns Jack into a quivering jelly. Well, not every part of him, obviously. That would defeat the object.

It seems to have a similar effect on Cam. He swallowed, murmured, "'Scuse me," and headed for the bathroom. He may be very self-assured - no, let's say cocky - but he's playing with the master here.

Hm, did that sound smug?

The second episode, Fortress, focused on Callum and Tella'c. Teal'c was certain that Baal's clone - and how did Gephura Studios find out about that, I wonder? - wouldn't allow himself to be brainwashed. Certainly not after his experience with Apophis and the ritual of m'al sharran. He was serenely pleased to be proved right.

Cameron couldn't place anyone like the dying friend in the story, so we assumed that it had just been put in to pad out the main plot or to make Callum seem a little more interesting, or both. Maybe Cameron has been flying under Gephura's radar?

Cameron was a little put out by the suggestion that his alter ego was boring. "Nice that the guy was given special security clearance to see what Maxwell was doing before he died, though," he said with a smile. He has a v. nice smile, I noticed.

Sam snorted. "It's a moveable feast," she scowled. "Steph's father - whom they killed off a few years later" (the scowl deepened) " - was denied the security clearance to know what his daughter did, even though he was a general - and dying. Yet, when they gave Steph a boyfriend in the police, he was given clearance straight away despite not being either a blood relative or dying— or even engaged at that point." She knocked back a slug of vodka tonic then added, "And they had her dump him practically at the altar... "

"Well you know why that is, don't you, Sam..." I said.

"Only too well!" She grimaced and knocked back the rest of the vodka tonic, adding under her breath, "Fucking 'shippers."

The party broke up soon afterwards. I'd designated myself driver and had stayed off the alcohol. I dropped Sam off first then went on to Cam's house.

"Coming in for a nightcap, Daniel?" he asked, trying to look seductive. I was tempted but decided it wasn't the right time.

"Ah, no thanks," I said. His look of disappointment was comical. I softened the blow with a smile. "Another time maybe. I've something to do when I get home." Which I had.

With the time difference it was too late to call Jack, but I wanted to e-mail him to let him know we were home safe. I suspected someone would've passed on that we were overdue from our last mission. I suppose I could've e-mailed from my office but there were things I wanted to say that I felt I should keep for our super-secure system. ;-)

As we had the next couple of days as down time, I decided to fly over to D.C. and surprise him - a kind of early Valentine. He'd been sounding - I don't know - off somehow, lately, and I wanted to find out what was going face to face.

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

Subject: Big Trouble!
Mood: . horrified

Music: 'Warning Sign' from 'A Rush of Blood to the Head' - Coldplay

His response to my e-mail was a little lukewarm. He was glad to know we were all back safely - he had been kept in the loop about the mission. Said he missed the excitement. This all rang true.

However, his replies to my account of what I'd be doing to him if it weren't for the distance in between sounded half-hearted. He's usually an enthusiastic partner - or was over the 'phone. ::sigh:: What have we lost? Is it irretrievable?

I took the first available flight out to D.C. arriving mid-afternoon E.T., and booked into the Ritz-Carlton. Damn the expense. It's not like I have time to squander my money usually. I left my flight bag in my room - not 'our' suite this time; it wasn't available - and went straight to the Pentagon.

Jack's secretary said he was out so I was left kicking my heels in the outer office for almost an hour. When he finally showed up and saw me, his jaw dropped, and not in a good way.

"Surprise?" I said, my enthusiasm suddenly draining away.

He grabbed my arm and practically dragged me into his office.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" he growled in a low voice like he was ashamed to be in my company. There was something so wrong there.

"I was worried about you," I said. It probably came across a lot sharper than intended but I was also ticked off at his reception of me.

"I'm fine. There was no need to come all this way. Think how it looks."

"Well, fuck you, too, Jack."

"That it?"

"No, it isn't! Don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to know there's something wrong - very wrong."

"There's nothing wrong, Daniel."

"Oh? Then why the reaction? You got a new squeeze, closer to— home?"

"No! I don't do that sort of thing."

"You think I do? I haven't fucked Cameron, if that's what's rattled your cage," I scowled and, pissed, added, "Yet..."

"That's enough, Daniel. You'd better go."


"I think we're done here, so if you don't mind, I've got work to do even if you don't."

And that was it. I walked out stunned. I must've walked around D.C. for an hour or more, not really knowing where I was going, trying to make sense of the way he'd just brushed me off. The main thing - painful thing - my thoughts kept leading me back to was Jack's house, years ago, when he told me there was no foundation to our friendship. It was almost comforting to think that maybe this was something work related rather than personal.

That conclusion raised the specter of another player in that game - Maybourne. I hated to think of it, but it seemed likely that he was the only person here who could shed some light on what was going on. He'd mellowed over time and seemed to have some concern for our welfare. As Jack said, he and Harry went back a long way. Not that that endears him to me...

I went back to the hotel, took out my tablet P.C. to leave a message for 'Rick Deckard 2019' on the board. This took a while as I figured he'd expect something cryptic. I wanted my message to be urgent without sounding desperate. Maybourne would so love that! Eventually I came up with:

'Having general problem with laundry. Please arrange to check it out a.s.a.s.p' and sent it under the moniker, 'Rick O'Connell1923' as instructed. I could imagine the amusement on his face as he read it. Then I sent down for dinner. Didn't feel like eating alone in the dining room. Didn't feel like eating period, but it passed the time.

Didn't expect a speedy reply, so was surprised that he got back to me about half an hour later. "Usual place at nine - Rick Deckard 2019."

I presumed he was referring to the brasserie where we'd met before. I confirmed the arrangement then took a cab from the hotel. Under the circumstances, I thought it would be wise - I could see Jack grinning and mouthing 'cloak-and-daggery' at me - to have the cabbie drop me off a couple of blocks away. I was in plenty of time and fancied a breath of fresh (?) air after the air-conditioned oppression of the hotel.

Maybourne was twenty minutes late, making me wonder if I'd gotten the right place and time - or if there was some serious danger that I was being kept in the dark about. He sloped in, looked around, acknowledged me with a cheery wave and headed for the bar.

It suddenly occurred to me that maybe he had something to do with Jack's strange behavior. That thought put me in pissy mood. Whatever, I intended to get the truth out of Maybourne. He stopped and had a word with a couple of other patrons before joining me.

"Maybourne," I said curtly as he came over and sat in my booth, "What's going on?"

"Shh," he warned as the waiter came over with the drinks, then smiled and said aloud, "Glad you could make it, Steve."

This did not help my temper. I'm normally a fairly patient man but I was getting fed up with being kept waiting around and fobbed off. It had seemed like a very long day with nothing to show for it except aggravation and heart ache.

"Quit stalling and talk," I hissed as the waiter walked away.

"Someone's gotten to Jack," he said quietly.

"You?" I accused.

"No!" he said indignantly.

"D'you want my help or not?"

"Yes," I sighed, "please. And sorry. Jack's been behaving so out of character lately that I don't know what to think— And I know you and he..."

"Yeah well, we were both a little down at the time. Jack thought you and Cameron—"

"There is no me and Cameron," I snapped.

Maybourne raised a placating hand. "Okay." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a brown envelope. "Don't ask me how I came by this, but it was in Kreutzmeier's possession. Well, the original still is. And I still haven't been able to find out who's pulling their strings. Sorry."

I opened the envelope and gasped in horror as I looked at the black and white photograph it contained. It must have been taken early in my first stay at the Ritz-Carlton in December and before Harry alerted us to the potential - now clear and present - danger. And it was very compromising. I suspected there would be plenty more like that one.

"Oh god," I groaned. "What are we going to do? Jack's not talking. At all. What a mess..."

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

Subject: Worse than I thought...
Mood: . v. disturbed

Music: 'Under Pressure' - Queen and David Bowie

It ended that Maybourne would keep working on the problem, and I kept the picture. Hell, under different circumstance, it would've been a real hot souvenir of our time together. I hate to admit it but I'm wondering if maybe I've been misjudging Harry. His motives seem good even if his methods are execrable.

We both thought that National Security was being compromised, and that Jack was being used as a tool. This seemed hard to believe, but that was the way the evidence was pointing. I had an idea. The following morning, I booked out of the Ritz-Carlton - figured Jack might check up on me - and booked into the Cherry Blossom Travelodge. I looked for a suitable meeting place and found a pretty little park with a cascade water feature and trees around but not too close. I'd heard it mentioned that in East Germany during the cold war, dissidents avoided trees in the belief that the Stasi had them bugged.

Don't know if this was the O'Neill effect or the Maybourne effect - or probably both - but I seem to be getting paranoid. Whatever. I bought a pack of envelopes and stationery then went back to my room. I wrote a message in block capitals, spelling Jack's name with one 'L' (paranoia rules here!) instructing him to meet me by the cascade in the park at 2100, to come alone and unarmed and not to be late.

I put the message and the photo in an envelope and addressed it to General O'Neil, then went to his apartment block and posted the thing. Jack would've been highly entertained, no doubt, by my antics in making sure no one followed me or saw me leave the envelope. Didn't want that photograph to fall into any other hands but his. Locking the stable door a little late maybe, but there could be other players in the game.

Returned to my room and stayed there. I was keeping a low profile and trying to concentrate on a translation without much success. It was difficult to focus on it. Later it occurred to me that maybe Jack would let his goons follow at a discreet distance, or maybe they were working for whomever was employing Kreutzmeier and Todd. See. I'm definitely getting paranoid. Erm, make that gotten paranoid.

Reluctantly, I contacted the only person I knew I could trust - sort of - and sent a message to Rick Deckard 2019: "Sixes need pupils at out-of-school visit. Can you supply?"

He replied almost immediately: " Optician understand twenty one of visitors have cataracts. Jane in need, so will park close by."

I stared at it for quite a long time before the penny dropped and when it did, I was dumbfounded. How the fuck did he know? All the details of our meeting were there - 2100, cataract for cascade and 'Jane in need' was an anagram of the name of the park. Was I really so transparent, so guileless, so - so innocent?

I arrived at the park half an hour in advance of the specified hour and lurked under cover of the trees. Where Harry nearly gave me heart failure. He'd arrived some time before me. Seems I really need to practise my lurking skills...

While we waited for Jack's arrival, we talked under a tree which Harry said he'd already scanned for bugs. Ho-hum. Following his lead, I kept my hand over my mouth as I asked how he knew about the meeting. This was to thwart anyone using night sights trying to lipread . Paranoia?

"One word - palimpsest."

"You broke into my room?"

"Just keeping a weather eye open for you. What I found out, so could anyone else." He thought for a moment then added, "Well not anyone else, but anyone as good as me. Of which there are few. But they do exist."

"So what else have you been doing?"

"I went to Jack's apartment block and intercepted a guy on his way out with an envelope addressed to Jack with one 'L'.


"Don't worry I relieved him of it."

"But what if he'd read it?"

"I don't think he had, but it doesn't matter. I took care of it."

Harry is a lot scarier than he looks - and a lot less of an idiot. Don't know why I should've been surprised to realize this having known Jack for so long!

We agreed to meet up again at 2055 then split up to check out the perimeter. It seemed we were alone except for a dog-walker and a couple of joggers taking advantage of the recent thaw. I was glad there was no lying snow - I hate the cold. Harry was pleased too but for a different reason.

"You would have stood out against the snow in your dark clothes," he said. It sounded part rebuke, part acceptance by a superior of a lesser mortal. "You might like to make a note of that for future reference. Next, those joggers you saw - what were they doing?"

"Just jogging," I replied. "Why?"

"Don't you think it's an odd time to go jogging?"

"I don't know. I think jogging's a bit odd in the first place."

Harry gave a despairing sigh. "Did you notice if they were armed?"


"Is that no, they weren't, or no, you didn't notice?" It was the latter which made me think that I haven't arrived at Paranoia Central just yet.

Just then, Jack broke cover, walked smartly to the noisiest part of the cascade, avoiding the pools of light from the lamps along the main path, and crouched down by a boulder so he could hardly be seen. I was about to join him when Harry held me back.

"Are you packing?" he asked.

"No. I came here on a hunch that something was wrong. It never occurred to me that it was this far wrong."

Harry put something cold and hard and heavy in my hand.

"I don't need this," I protested, giving it back.

"You're sure that was Jack then?"

"Sure I'm su— It looked like him."

"In the dark?"

"It walked like him."

"Okay. But take the gun - just in case."

"What about you?" I asked. "Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself."

By which I presumed he meant I couldn't. Jack would have agreed with him once upon a time. Not so much now. I took the gun and realized that in finding somewhere that we were least likely to be overheard, I'd picked a rather exposed location. I jogged over to Jack's position, aiming for casual, and bobbed down beside him.

"Daniel! I thought you'd gone back home," he said, looking more relieved than pissed at my subterfuge.

"Whatever made you think I'd give up that easily?"

Jack snorted. "Yeah, I guess I should've known better, at that."

"Why didn't you tell me you were being blackmailed?"

"Walls have ears, Daniel, walls have ears."

"Surely you could've found some means of tipping me off?"

"I didn't want to involve you."

"You were protecting me?"

"Trying to."

"Well, I am involved as that photo shows only too well. So what's the damage?" I asked.

"What do you think?"

"National Security?" I said, going for the obvious.

"Actually not so much. I would've resigned straight away if that was the problem. It's more... commercial... than anything, and thus far I'm in a more useful position where I am now than if I were out of the picture. I would just be replaced by a puppet head of Home World Security."

"They want you to put Government contracts their way? Look away when they do something... unethical? Something off-world?"

"Not they, Daniel... He."

"He? Who he?"

Jack told me.

"Fuck no!"

"Fuck yes..."

There was a flurry of shots from near where I'd last seen Harry. A brilliant light pulsed rapidly through the trees then silence. We zigzagged towards the site of the commotion and found Harry leaning against a tree, breathing hard.

"You okay?" we asked together.

"More or less. I got careless. They winged me," he grunted, looking down. At his feet were two guys whom I assume were the two joggers. They wouldn't be jogging any more. Blinded by the strobe function of Harry's flashlight, it had been easy for him to knife them. Or so he said.

"Kreutzmeier and Todd?" I asked.

"Nah... but I've seen these two around."

"I recognize them," Jack said flatly. "They worked for Home World Security. Guess we'd better get you to hospital - have that bullet wound seen to."

Harry declined. "It's okay, I know someone. And the less we're seen together, the safer it'll be for all of us."

As we helped him back to his car, Jack told him who was behind the whole thing.

"You're kidding?" he said, shocked.

"I wish."

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Subject: Nearly died again...
Mood: .exhausted

Music: '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' - Blue Öyster Cult.

Will I ever catch up here? I feel like I've been in one of those 'Denny-Whumping' stories that Sam likes.

It's puzzling. Denzil seems to be quite a popular character. There was even a campaign set up for him to return when the actor who takes the part left the show for a year. So why do these— fans, for want of a better word— want to batter him to the point of death? Beats me. Sam says it's a genre called Hurt/Comfort, and the greater the hurt, the greater the comfort. I can't see it myself.

But I digress. The day after my last entry, we went on what was a simple, straightforward mission to P9Z-336 - an Abydos-like planet, apparently uninhabited and with promising signs of naquadria. Simple and straightforward? The next time I hear those two word used together and applied to a planned mission, I swear I'll resign.

It was a very short mission, and very nearly a whole lot shorter - terminally so. :-( The 'Gate was surrounded by dunes and looked pretty dead. We were half-way between the 'Gate and the crest of the nearest dune when I put my foot in something.

It seems there is some sort of fungoid life form which lives just under the surface of the sand. When something - or in this case, someone - steps on it, it explodes throwing millions of spores into the air.

I wasn't the only one. Teal'c did the same thing but he doesn't suffer with allergies - fortunately for both of us as he had to carry me back to the 'Gate under fire. I felt my throat constricting almost immediately and was rapidly moving on to lightheadedness, when I was hit a glancing blow on the head by something like a discus which took me out even quicker. Seems the world wasn't uninhabited after all.

And so I ended up in the infirmary - yet again - with concussion complicated by anaphylactic shock, and nearly died. Again. Am now home on med. leave and will finish account of the trip to D.C. when I feel a little less washed out.

P.S. Would you believe that, several years ago, 'The Powers That Be' on Wormhole Xtreme (namely Ron C. Coxall) blew up Amarna - their version of Abydos? Not only that, but they made Denzil instrumental in the destruction. Think Sam has a point in her criticism of the cavalier way they dispose of people and things that the fans love about the show.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Subject: Getting better
Mood: . warm fuzzies

Music: 'City to City' - Gerry Rafferty

Feeling a little stronger today but still a bit woolly-headed. Janet banned me from coffee, but I might treat myself to just one cup later on. Can't think it would do any harm. So back to D.C. then:

Maybourne claimed he was okay, but he didn't look too good. Jack drove him to the 'someone' he knew. I followed in Jack's car - he still had the truck but he'd gotten himself a Subaru Imprezza for town driving. Harry had him park up in back lot in a seedy part of town and insisted on making it to the guy's place on his own. We caught sight of him entering a side door a block along as Jack drove me back to the Travelodge. At least, we hoped it was Harry.

We were both quiet for a while, then I turned on the CD player. It was something operatic.

"I don't think the car's bugged," Jack muttered.

"Just trying to be careful," I said. "So what are we going to do about Baal? For a start, do we know how many clones he has?"

"Haven't a clue."

"Do we know if he still has the means to make more clones?"

"I don't know."

"This isn't very helpful, Jack."

"Look, I don't know who I can trust any more."

"And you didn't think to call me?" I said.

"I wanted to— "

"Protect me. Yes, you said. It didn't occur to you that maybe I neither need nor want protecting? Have been managing without for most of my life?"

"Fuck," Jack sighed. "I've hurt you, haven't I?"

"Damn' right!"

I think I might have heard a very quiet 'sorry' under the strains of 'ridi Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore in franto!'

"I'm thinking Maybourne may be our best shot," I said after a while.

"Really? I thought you didn't—"

"Yeah well. He just took a bullet for us, so I guess I'm reviewing that opinion. But that doesn't mean I'm up for a threesome..."

"Would you just drop that. And as you pointed out, he's injured which leaves us back at square one."

"Maybe not. How about Paul Davies?" I suggested. "He's always looked out for us."

"That would mean exposing ourselves."

"Not necessarily. In any case, we've already exposed ourselves. Besides, we really need to know where Baal's hiding out and Paul could help us."


"Yes, Paul," I snapped. "I think I know him well enough to know that he wouldn't— expose us. Not that he needs to know the details of our problem."

"Define 'well enough'."

I think I ground my teeth at that. "Not as well as you seem to know Harry..." That shut him up. :-)

"Talking of Harry," I continued, "you might like to check out the MBC Corporation. That seems to be the top of the food chain that he's been following." I filled him in on the details. "Actually, I'm wondering if it might be an idea to contact Thor."

"Oh come on, Daniel, we can't keep calling on our allies every time we have a spot of bother."

"This is more than a spot of bother, Jack. Besides, this time, we may be able to help them too."

"Oh. You mean Braggi?"

"What? You actually read my report?"

"Yeah," he mumbled. "I like to know what sort of trouble you've been getting into."

I laughed. "You do still love me then?"


Go earlier

Part 1 December 2005

Part 2 2nd - 22nd Jan 2006

Go later

Part 4 22nd Feb - 24th Mar 2006

Part 5 25th Mar - April 2006

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