Linguistic note: A lot can change over a hundred years. For instance, during the 'War Against Terrorism' (or WAT?), when British and American soldiers fought side by side in what then President George Dub-Yabush fondly termed Iraqistan, there was a considerable amount of linguistic cross-pollination.
For instance, the Americans picked up British expressions like: 'bloody,' 'bollocks' - along with 'bollixed' meaning fucked up and "a right bollocking" meaning a reprimand - and 'a buggerit! moment,' which usually results in the perpetrator getting a right bollocking for having bollixed the task he was charged with.
The Brits took home 'gotten,' 'absolutely!' 'a Jerry Springer moment' and a whole lot of nouns with '-ized' tacked on the end. ;-)
A big thank-you to Pepi for the Beta.
Prelude - I: Maxine
Monday, November 21st 2101
Maxine was already regretting her decision to brave the snow and visit the family home. As she cycled round the corner into Logan Street, she knew it was a mistake. She could hear the clattering signs of a blazing row already. Why should she expect anything to be different just because it was her eighteenth birthday?
As she rode up the short drive to the house, her father came flying out of the front door struggling into his parka. Rufus Pepperday - the red-haired black sheep of the family and serial philanderer. He, and Maxine, instinctively ducked the plate that flew out of the house after him.
"And don't come back!" his wife screamed as the door slammed shut.
"Sorry, honey," he said with a fatalistic shrug. "She'll soon calm down. And I'll replace the crockery - no problem."
He gave his daughter a quick hug, then climbed into the beat-up old wreck of a truck he was driving these days. It coughed a protest, then growled into life. Rufus had a way with automobiles - or anything mechanical really. Maxine didn't want to speculate about where he'd gotten the fuel from. Or how, what with rationing being so tight.
Just before he drove off - as a kind of afterthought - he lowered the window. "Oh, and Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!" A jaunty wave and he was gone.
"Typical!" she muttered under her breath. "Bloody typical! Why do I ever bother?"
Well, she was here now. Might as well say hello, she supposed and banged on the door.
"Mom! It's me!" she yelled, gingerly pushing the door open a little. The door was yanked open as her mother thrust her head out of the door, looking up and down the street.
"He gone, Maxine?"
"Yeah, Mom, he's gone, and no, I don't want to know what it was about this time."
"Oh, don't you get on your high horse with me, young lady! You don't know what it's like, living with your Dad."
"Oh I think I've gotten a good idea over the past eighteen years."
"Eightee Oh God, Maxine, I am so sorry..."
"Mom? You forgot my birthday?" She didn't bother trying to keep the whining note out of her voice.
"No, honey, I didn't forget - well, not forget forget. I we," Kim corrected herself, wishing to be strictly honest, "got you a present, and your Dad's going to fix you a motor to you bicycle too."
"Nice. And for fuel...?"
"That's ok. Your Dad can get you as much as you need."
"Riiight, and that's something else I don't want to know about. Besides, how do I explain the fact that I have a) motorized transport and b) the fuel to run it. No, don't answer that."
"I'm sure Great-aunt Claire will ok it and no one's going to question her."
"They might. And there's no way I'm going to land Aunt Claire in the shit."
"Like you don't blaspheme all the time."
"Only at home. I always watch my tongue when I'm out," Kim said self-righteously.
"Well, just make sure you don't slip up."
"I won't slip up. Anyway, come along in and give me a hug."
Maxine walked into her mother's bony embrace.
"Let's go and open your presents now while I make you coffee."
They went through into the small kitchen. There were three parcels on the breakfast table, wrapped up in cheery second-hand wrapping paper. It had been used for last year's presents too - hers and her two brothers'.
The squashy one was from Maxine's younger brother, Rusty. It was a bright emerald green woolen hat and scarf to keep her warm on her bike. She'd seen them in the goodwill store and mentioned to her mother that she liked them. Rusty's card said they were green to match her eyes. She was sorry to have missed him, but he couldn't take time off school, and it wasn't a good idea for her to be cycling the three miles back to Harrington in the dark and snow.
Once upon a time, Aunt Claire had told her, there had been lighting along every street, pretty much. It was difficult to imagine, now that all that remained were a few wrecked poles here and there - memorials to better days long gone. Of course, with fuel so scarce, one thought oneself lucky still to have electric lighting at home during the evening.
The hard, angular present was from her older brother, Felix. It contained two text books she needed for her course at Harrington, ones she hadn't been able to get hold of. She wondered who had found them, Felix or her father. If it was the former, then it looked like he was becoming worryingly like their father. Why was that a surprise? Felix was officially his father's apprentice.
Rufus could, somehow or other, lay his hands on pretty much anything. Maxine didn't like to think about his methods. For most of her life, when he'd been around, the family had lived in terror of that knock on the door that announced the arrival of the Civil Guard. So far, he'd been lucky. Yes, the C.G. had been round several times, but always, Rufus had managed to slither out of any actual charges. Sooner or later, his luck had to run out though...
Now Maxine had something else to worry about; was Felix as smart, as canny and as lucky as their father?
The big present from her parents was a new coat - three-quarter length so she could wear it on her bike. It was copper-colored, a good match for her hair which, thankfully, wasn't the brighter red of her father or Rusty. Maxine really didn't want to stand out from the crowd that much - wished she had dark hair like Felix. She felt the fabric. It had a fine woolen texture and was lined with batting for extra warmth. And it really was a new coat!
"Mom! You shouldn't have!"
Kim beamed. "So you like it then?"
That hadn't been the meaning in Maxine's exclamation, but she went with her mother's interpretation. "What's not to like, Mom? It's beautiful! And thank you."
It was certainly something she needed in the harsh Denver winters. She stayed for an hour or so, chatting with her mother over coffee, then she packed her books and her old parka into her saddle bags and set off to visit Great-aunt Claire.
Doctor Claire Pepperday lived in fine house, almost a mansion, in Cherry Hills Drive. This property had been gifted to her by then President Melchisedec Harrington. It was partly a 'thank you' for her part in re-opening the Stargate Project which was still kept pretty much secret on a need-to-know basis, even after ninety-odd years. Mostly, it was a suitable dwelling for her post as head of the departments of Anthropology, Archaeology - Biblical Archaeology that is, which nearly choked her - and Ancient Languages/Linguistics at his new Harrington University. This had been built on the site of the old Cherry Hills Country Club and golf course, just across the road from Dr. Pepperday's residence.
She regarded it as her thirty pieces of silver; a bribe to make sure of her support. Her first instinct had been to turn down the post, but thought better of it. Here, she was potentially in a position to do some good, and better her than one of the government's own loyal followers.
She had officially retired in 2082, but was retained as an advisor to both Harrington University and the S.G.C. It was useful to have the house in more ways than one. In particular, it - and Claire - had provided a haven of peace for Maxine when the situation at home had become too unbearably tense, and Maxine loved her for it.
Maxine pulled up outside the high wrought iron gates and entered the code in the keypad in the stone gatepost. The gates swung open and she cycled up the long gravel drive, the gates clanging shut behind her. Aunt Claire had power 24/7; she had her own small naquadah generator. Maxine propped her bike up against the wall at the rear of the house, and let herself into the kitchen.
Aunt Claire was there to greet her, leaning on her ebony cane with its silver handle. It had once belonged to Grandfather Daniel and thus was one of her most cherished possessions.
"Happy Birthday, Maxine!" she beamed, giving her grandniece a hug. "Lovely to see you, darling. Come along through." She led the way into the breakfast nook. "I thought we might have a bite to eat in here. So much more cosy."
Even Dr. Pepperday's resources didn't run to much in the way of festive fare at that time of year, but there were salt beef and ham sandwiches, home-made spicy biscuits, shiny red apples and a small cake, also home-made, with butter-cream frosting and the number 18 pricked out on top.
"Now dear," Claire said when they'd finished eating, "I have something for you..." She went back into the kitchen and opened the door to the stairway that led down to the cellar.
Maxine, puzzled, followed her. The cellar was freezing, as expected; Claire used it as a cold store. What Maxine didn't expect was that the cellar wasn't just a cellar. Aunt Claire moved a couple of heavy looking boxes aside and pressed her hand against the wall. A section of it slid to one side.
"Aunt Claire?" Maxine exclaimed. She'd been into the cellar many times in her life but had never known anything about this.
"Shh." Aunt Claire held a finger to her lips, then beckoned Maxine to follow her into the hidden room, closing the door behind them and switching on the light.
The room, which was not freezing but comfortably warm, was quite large, around twenty feet by thirty. Its purpose was clearly a library-cum-study. The walls were lined, floor to ceiling, with bookshelves which were groaning under the weight of the books on them. In the center was a large desk, a map-press and a big table. There were also two upright chairs at the desk and table.
"Aunt Claire, you never told me," Maxine said, sounding hurt.
"I'm showing you now, child," Claire said gently. "I didn't tell you before because it's a big secret to keep and it could have put you in even more danger Still could, in fact. I have already told you far more than I should over the years.
"About Grandfather Daniel and the Stargate system?"
"Yes, child. Because I trusted you. And you have never let me down"
"I told Theo about Grandfather Daniel. And Zak and Dominic. About the Stargate too."
"I know, dear."
"Oh, yes. Uncle Waldo's 'birthday party." Maxine shuddered. "I'd forgotten."
"Understandable." Claire's expression hardened for a moment, then she smiled. "Besides, you did ask me first and you didn't include Marya."
"I'm not stupid!" Maxine said indignantly.
Claire laughed. "Oh, you were never that, dear! And you were a shrewd judge of character even then. I knew you would only chose those who could be trusted to share our secret and not betray us. And here we are, over four years down the line and no unwelcome 'interest' which proves that my trust in you, and yours in them, was not misplaced. Now, I was saving this for your eighteenth birthday, but this is not so much a birthday present as your inheritance. I wanted you to have it before I croak."
Maxine hugged her great-aunt with tears in her eyes. "Don't croak yet! Don't croak for a long, long time. I couldn't bear to lose you!"
"I'm eighty four, Childie. None of us goes on forever. But I'm as well as could reasonably be expected - much better than, in fact - so likely you'll not lose me for a while yet. So come on, dry those tears and let's have a look round, shall we?"
The books were all carefully catalogued according to the old Dewey Decimal System. The archaeology, anthropology, ancient languages and linguistics sections were by far the most numerous. A stray thought seemed to whisper through Maxine's mind: 'and no budge!' She frowned and shook her head, wondering what it meant, then moved on.
There was quite a sizeable science section, mostly astronomy, astrophysics, particle physics, electrical engineering and computing - a branch of mathematics, Maxine supposed. They owed nothing to Christian theology.
"I see what you mean about this being a dangerous secret," Maxine said at last.
"Do you forgive me for not showing you sooner?"
Maxine hugged her aunt again. "Of course I do! You were quite right. It would've been a very big secret to keep and it's so much better now that I'm old enough to appreciate it fully."
"Oh good!" Claire said with an impish smile. "I suggest you leave them here for safety, though obviously you can come and use them any time. Some at least will be useful in your studies. And now, you'd better take a look at your birthday present."
She crossed the room to the book shelves opposite the door they'd entered by, removed a heavy tome on Boolean algebra from its shelf and placed it on a lectern. Next she pushed her hand into the space created. Maxine heard a number of clicks as Claire said, " 41 - 14 - 9 - 5 - 12. Commit those numbers to memory."
"Oh, that's easy. 41 is D A, and the rest are letters of the alphabet DANIEL."
"Ooh, you're so sharp, Maxine. Just be careful you don't cut yourself!" They both laughed as Claire pushed on the edge of the shelf. That section of shelving, moving on ball bearings set into the base of the unit, swung open. Beyond was another, much smaller room, about ten feet square. Maxine followed her into the room which, compared to the other was almost empty, being furnished with two easy chairs with chintz covers, on either side of an elegant coffee table.
Claire directed her gaze to the far corner. There stood a large ironwood chest, brass bound, and with three sets of locks. On top was a smaller box of carved cedarwood that was clearly of a great age. Maxine went over to have a look.
She carried the smaller box to the coffee table and sat on one of the chairs to inspect the box's contents. Inside were several artefacts: an ancient Egyptian game, a couple of ivory shabti figures, a metal scarab, an ankh and a small bronze statuette of Ptah. Underneath were several photos in silver frames. The first one she took out, faded by time, was of a young man riding a camel with the Great Pyramid in the background.
She held it up to Claire who sat down on the other chair. "That's Grandfather Daniel, isn't it?" she smiled.
Grandfather Daniel was really her great-great-grandfather, but he was generally referred to by everyone in the family who cared about their eccentric ancestor as just Grandfather Daniel.
"Indeed it is. He was such a lovely man! There are very few people in the world like him, if any these days."
"Who are these two? She looks a little like you."
"That's because she was my great-grandmother, Claire Jackson, and that's my great-grandfather, Melburn."
"The two who were killed in the museum accident?"
"Poor Grandfather," Maxine said sadly and picked up the next photograph which showed a young dark-haired woman wearing cream colored robes. "I suppose this is Sha're?"
"She was beautiful. How tragic. Grandfather Daniel had a lot of sorrow in his life, didn't he?"
Claire nodded again. "But there were good times too, and not everyone gets to save the world."
"He was a real hero, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was," Claire chuckled, "but he couldn't have done it alone."
She reached into the box, lifted out the final photograph showing four smiling people in B.D.U.s standing in front of a large dark ring, and handed it to Maxine who squealed in delight.
"This is them, isn't it? It's the original S.G.1? And that's the Stargate!"
"Well, a Stargate," Claire smiled broadly. "That picture was taken on Simarka when it was all still new to them. Grandfather Daniel got young Abu to take their picture, just before they left."
"I wish they'd taken a few more," Maxine said wistfully. "But I'm glad to have just this one. It makes it all seem so much more real..."
"It'll be even more real when you see what's in the other box. Here are the keys - little one first, big one last."
Maxine undid the three locks. But the chest wouldn't open. Claire grinned. More of a smirk actually. Maxine gave her a hard stare. "Is this one of those trick boxes?"
"Sort of. You just haven't been properly introduced yet."
Claire stood in front of the chest.
"Grandfather Daniel, this is your great-great-granddaughter, Esther Maxine Pepperday. She is now the guardian of your words." She passed a folded sheet of paper to Maxine. "Read that. Aloud."
"I am Esther Maxine Pepperday. Please open for me. Abydos."
There was a click. The lid lifted slightly and the front tipped slowly forward on to the floor on well-oiled chains for easier access of the contents.
"It's voice activated. You and I are the only people for whom the box will open. When your turn comes to transfer ownership, follow the same procedure with your successor. From now on, when you want it to open, you only need say the last word, Abydos."
"But... but how did you do this?"
"Oh, I didn't, child. Grandfather Daniel saw which way the wind was blowing so he got a friend to set it up for him."
"A friend? Colonel Carter?"
Claire giggled. "No. Braggi."
"Did I never mention him?"
"Ah, must've slipped my mind..."
"So? Who was Braggi? Ah! No. Don't tell me. Asgard, yes?"
Claire nodded. "No flies on you, child."
"He was the Norse god of poetry, wasn't he? Tell me about him," Maxine said, settling back in the comfy chair.
"If memory serves me, they met early on in 2006."
"So Colonel Mitchell was leading S.G.1 then?"
"That's right. They'd gone to P8Q- 465, and went to a town which was somewhat Viking in style. It was about ten miles from the 'Gate so they'd taken the PATTs for their first run."
"The Personal All-Terrain Transporters?"
"That's right. They were an idea of Colonel Mitchell's. I don't know why no one thought to adapt 'quad bikes' before that. Once Colonel Carter had produced four, and powered them with small naquadah generators, it made life so much easier. They cut down travel time on missions, could carry more equipment and got you home quicker too. Not that it always worked out quite that way," Claire chuckled, "as in this case."
"Oh?" Maxine had always loved hearing tales of Grandfather Daniel and his friends. She thought she'd heard them all but this was a new one to her.
"Yes. They'd left the PATTs outside the town, and, as they'd had to make an overnight stay, they put up at a local inn. And let their guard down. They were kidnaped by the pirate queen, Vigdis, who was going to hold them for ransom or sell them as slaves. Then she noticed Teal'c's tattoo, so she sent them to Braggi instead."
"A goa'ulded Asgard."
"No! Surely not. How did they escape?"
"They didn't. He let them go. His story was that he had a faulty gene and it'd proved impossible to produce a healthy clone when he needed one. So Loki caught an infant goa'uld, probably on the world where the Chaka, the Unas, captured Grandfather Daniel. He operated on it to remove its capability to take control, then it was blended with Braggi. But Braggi was exiled as a security risk because the High Council wasn't convinced that he could keep the goa'uld under control. That had been fifteen thousand years earlier. He was lonely and craved news of the outside world, which was why he paid Vigdis to send certain of her 'visitors' to him.
"Colonel Carter then had a bright idea. The cloning system was breaking down and the Asgard were looking for ways to fix it. Braggi had been out of the genetic loop for so long that his genes might then be useful. This turned out to be true and so Braggi was finally accepted back among the Asgard. His gratitude led to his fixing up the voice activation unit."
"And the PATTs?"
"You said the PATTs didn't always work that well."
Claire laughed. "Oh they worked just fine. Thing was, without checking with SG1 first, Braggi very kindly transported them back to the Stargate. So they still had the ten mile hike to collect them before they could go home!"
"Only a one way hike though," Maxine observed.
"True. I still think it was funny. Anyway, have a look at what's in the chest."
It was packed with open-topped boxes each containing a dozen slim, leather-bound notebooks. Maxine's eyes opened wide. "Are these..."
"Grandfather Daniel's journals? Yes, dear, all of them! There are four layers, separated by wooden shelves - first journals on the top, last ones on the bottom. Now, I'll go and make us some coffee and leave you in peace to have a look through your birthday present."
Maxine took out the first journal and opened it. It began:
Tuesday, July 8th 1975.
CKDk. TjTTp .DdC .CDCCp,
E. CJD'O .Ydjg .ES. pjn .DkK .kKDPPp. oNKkK, .gDoANEdO .TK .PEYK .Tks. .gDPPDAK .sDps, .Jno .E'T. OjEdO .oj .akKoKdC .oNDo. pjn .DkK.
It didn't take her long to work out the code. It was only a simple substitution and cryptology was her major after all.
Dear Mommy and Daddy, it said.
I don't know if you are really there watching me like Mrs. Wallace says, but I'm going to pretend that you are. Today is my tenth birthday and I still miss you very very much.
Mrs. Wallace said it might help if I write my feelings in a book to tell you. She is the nicest foster mother I have had so far. I don't wont to leave her, but soon I will have to.
I am going to write my thoghts in code because I have no where to call my own. Other people mess with my things. I don't want them to read this. This is mine and it's privitt.
There were several places where it was obvious that tears had fallen. Two new ones joined them. Ok, her own family left a fair bit to be desired, but at least she had a family and they seemed to love her, even if they had a funny way of showing it sometimes. To be so alone, so young, and in what was to him a foreign country... well, it was heart-breaking. She closed the book and replaced it as Aunt Claire returned with the coffee.
"You've been reading the first journal, haven't you?" she said gently, noting Maxine's watery eyes and damp cheeks. Maxine nodded mutely.
"The top layer is from 1975 to 1996, the second is 1996 to 2010, the third is 2010 to 2026 and the bottom layer is 2026 to 2056."
"He kept on writing right until the year he died?"
"Right until the day he died. Obviously, his journal entries diminished as he grew older, but yes, his last entry was the day he died. I remember that day so clearly. My team was on stand down so I went to visit him and my mother. They shared a house in Colorado Springs - had a live-in carer called Jennifer... Jennifer Yates, yes, that was it. A nurse used to visit once a week - daily if either of them was ill. The family all helped out of course, so they were never short of visitors.
"After lunch, Grandfather Daniel took his usual walk in the park while Mom and I had a little 'girl talk.' He'd been gone about twenty minutes when a violent storm hit. We were naturally worried about him getting soaked and ending up with pneumonia again. He was usually home by three o'clock, so when he hadn't appeared by ten past three, I went to look for him.
"When I reached the park, I noticed flashing lights of emergency service vehicles on the top of the little hill with the gnarled old pine tree at the top that's been struck a time or two. I hurried over to see what had happened. There was a young couple being interviewed by police while paramedics were wandering around looking baffled. The couple had seen a man struck by lightning and called for assistance. They didn't like to go take a closer look because there was still lightning flashing around the clouds. Just sheet lightning but enough to scare them from going up to give any assistance. When the emergency services appeared, the storm had moved on so the couple went to see what had happened."
"Ghoulish!" Maxine scowled.
"Maybe, but that's just human nature, I'm afraid. Anyway, by the time I arrived everything was very confused because although Grandfather's clothing remained - perfectly undamaged and laid out tidily, there was no trace of his body."
Maxine gasped and her eyes became as round as saucers. "He'd ascended again?"
"I like to think so, and I can't think of any other rational explanation. I identified the clothes and told the police that Grandfather, being ninety-one, had become a little eccentric and out of touch with reality "
"Really?" Maxine asked, her face falling at the thought of poor Grandfather Daniel going slowly ga-ga. Claire laughed aloud.
"Lord no, Childie. His mind was needle-sharp right up to the end. Thing was, I had to think on my feet and that seemed like the most plausible explanation. The young man said that, no, the man was fully clothed. I could've slapped him. Why couldn't he just play along? So then I suggested that, as they were some way away and my grandfather would've been silhouetted against the sky, he would've looked dark and therefore clothed, plus they would've been momentarily blinded by the lightning.
"One of the policemen was muttering something about wasting police time, so the couple promptly agreed that they could've made an honest mistake and left. I collected grandfather's belongings and the police went off to search for one naked old man. Naturally, they never found anything, and the press ran it as an 'abducted by aliens' story, which, for once, wasn't that far wrong."
Something tickled Maxine's memory. "Aunt Claire, what's budge?"
Aunt Claire frowned. "Something I've been protecting you from for many years, and thank all the gods, I managed to get it kicked out of the archaeology department, too."
"And? What is it? I can't very well avoid it if I don't know what it is," Maxine pointed out with some asperity.
"More of a 'who' really. E.A. Wallis Budge - Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, in fact. He was an archaeologist of sorts, who rose to become Keeper of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum in England. His writings were used, uncritically, as set texts, and they were so wrong in many respects. Grandfather Daniel hated his works with a purple passion... "
Her voice faded away as they both suddenly felt a warm draft across their faces and through their hair, and there was a faint smell of cedarwood. Their eyes met and they smiled.
"We're not alone, are we." Maxine said. It was a statement not a question.
"I don't think we are."
"Nice," Maxine smiled and pulled another book from the top shelf. It was written in Daniel's own version of demotic script. "I see why you taught me this."
"Well, you wanted to know what it was. I was so pleased that you shared our interests. It was just like when Grandfather Daniel looked after us after father died. He taught me what I've passed on to you. And you were a treasure to teach - not like some of the students we had at Harrington," Claire said, grimacing as she remembered the self-seeking, self-righteous toadies who'd later risen to high office. "Grandfather Daniel always wrote his journals in code or a language not generally known, initially so that his foster families couldn't read his private thoughts, and later to protect national security in case they ever fell into the wrong hands."
Maxine picked a page at random and started to read:
Friday, 14th June, 1996
Think I have just destroyed my career utterly. The lecture at the Park Plaza Hotel was such a bad idea. Everyone walked out half way through. I shouldn't have listened to Steven. Just because his audiences are made up of students - and mostly female ones if he's to be believed - was no reason to think mine would be.
If only! I might have had a chance to interest them in my theories. What do I get? All the old fogies - including Professor Thomas who tried to defend that charlatan, Vyse. Of course they wouldn't want to hear that their careers have been founded on false information for the last thirty years. What was I thinking?
Maybe I should have toned it down a bit? Left out the more controversial bits? Yet how could I compromise my principles? My honesty? I couldn't. I may find myself out in the wilderness but at least I can hold my head up high. And as Nick said, 'as one door closes, another one opens.'
Maxine knew how that ended, and gave a little wry smile. It must have been pretty rough at the time. She moved on to a journal in the second layer and again picked a random entry to read.
Tuesday, 7th February, 2000.
Sam finally got her particle beam accelerator working and Teal'c risked his life to bring Jack home. I think he should get a medal. All I did was round up our guests and get them ready to return to Edora.
Laira was happy to get her people back. Jack looked like a regular little homesteader. He also seems to have become quite close to Laira. She wanted him to stay; he wanted her to come back to Earth. In the end, both decided to put their duty to their people first - Laira stayed and Jack came home. He may need someone to talk to about that later. Just had a thought. Wonder if Laira was looking so well - blooming, now I think about it - for any other reason?
As they'd finished their coffee, Claire picked up their mugs. "I'll leave you in peace a while longer and go fix you something to eat before you go back to H. I'm sure the university canteen isn't providing you with proper food."
"It's enough to get by on, even if it does tend towards the flavorless. Proper food is always welcome though!" Maxine grinned.
As Claire left her alone again, she selected another random volume from the second layer. The entry she picked brought her to tears again. It was written in a different hand, in Ogham, an old Celtic alphabet and the ink was blotchy like it had been in the first journal. A frisson of... something or other - grim anticipation, she supposed, trickled down her spine, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. This must be the day he died of radiation poisoning...
Sunday, May 12th 2002.
Maxine translated it with a little difficulty. She hadn't appreciated the usefulness of Ogham till now:
Daniel died yesterday. It was a horrible death. He refused to let us contact our allies to save him - if he could've been saved. Jacob tried, but Daniel appeared in my mind - sort of - and asked for him to stop. He was going with Oma, he said, and maybe he did. I don't think radiation deaths usually result in the victim turning into a glowy squid and floating away. We don't even have a body to bury.
All I could do was try to clear his name. I wish now that I'd decked that sniveling little creep. Ethicist? I don't think so. Still, maybe it's as well I didn't. If I'd gotten started, think I would've beaten him to death with my bare hands and I don't suppose that would've sat well with the powers that be. Nor would it be a fitting tribute to your memory - oh Peaceful Explorer. Fondest regards, Jack.
A second entry was made in Linear A. The writing was in a bold strong hand, yet there was the occasional tremor in it:
You have ascended to a higher plane of existence, Daniel Jackson. Many Jaffa have dedicated their lives to achieving this goal, and I salute you, my brother in arms. It has been an honor to serve with you, and I mourn your passing. Teal'c of Chulak.
A third entry was written in English:
Maybe you have achieved something of great cosmic significance like Teal'c says. I don't know, Daniel, and right now, I really don't care. I just want you back. Love, Sam.
Maxine was surprised to find that there were further entries in the weeks that followed. It seemed like they were following the advice of Mrs. Wallace, for one or other of the three continued to record their exploits as if they were telling Daniel what they had been getting up to in his absence. Sam, not being a linguist, had devised a code for her entries. Maxine thought it might take a while to crack that one.
She spent another couple of hours browsing through what she was rapidly coming to think of as her treasure chest. Sometimes, she lingered over accounts of certain events. Some of these were old favorites, like the arrival - no, make that eruption! - into Grandfather Daniel's life of Serena, his unknown daughter (then seventeen years old) and subsequently, Claire's mother. She enjoyed Grandfather Daniel's account of the marriage of Serena Jackson to Colonel Thomas Pepperday on June 21st 2012.
Others that she spent time on were ones which Claire hadn't mentioned before, particularly a certain other event of 2012...
Thursday 1st November, 2012.
We are now officially in mourning for General O'Neill, who will laugh his socks off when we tell him about it! I think we all deserve Oscars. The plan worked perfectly for once. General Thornley fell for it hook line and sinker, to borrow one of Jack's fishing expressions. We wouldn't have gotten it past General Landry and certainly not past General Hammond. Actually, looking back, I think General Hammond would have been complicit in it.
General Thornley? Ah yes, he was General Landry's obnoxious and none too bright successor as head of the SGC. and generally a pain in the collective ass of SG1, among others. He'd almost prevented Grandfather Daniel attending his own daughter's wedding. No wonder Daniel was exultant at pulling the wool over Thornley's eyes. She read on:
We had set up the barren, uninhabited, mineral-poor world, P7U-1320, perfectly thanks to Sam and her team. They'd created 'MALP footage' from videos shot by Lieutenant Marks on a holiday in British Columbia - including Ksan Historical Village and even Stanley Park in Vancouver, and the idiot didn't recognize any of it! Unbelievable! They also spliced in some of my old video footage of Tonani and some of his people on PXY-887. Sam doctored the UAV's mineralogical survey report to show large deposits of naquadria. That made Tits' little piggy eyes light up!
Tits? Thorn-in-the-side, Maxine surmised.
He was very disappointed that the 'peasants' would only negotiate with the highest official of the Tau'ri people, and was happy to accept that it was purely co-incidental that Jack just happened to be visiting and was willing to represent - or even pretend to be - the President.
We argued for a mission today 'to give us more time to prepare,' so naturally, just as we wanted, he scheduled it for yesterday on the grounds of 'strike while the iron is hot.' Jack did not appreciate the comparison with himself on the cliché front! We also maneuvered Tits into having Sam and SG2 go with us to make the 'Tau'ri delegation' look more important. As if!
We set off at 0900 in high spirits. Jack especially was in a good mood. He's missed the off-world excitement, stuck in the Pentagon. Well he does get some excitement there, he says, but the wrong sort of excitement.
Sam had tampered with the MALP so it showed Stanley Park on a loop to coincide with the day's length on P7U-1320. I thought that was a bit risky, but Tits is too unpopular for anyone to betray us deliberately. And then we dialed out to Edora.
Maxine skim-read Daniel's descriptions of the meetings with people she didn't know, the decorations and food for the party and so on until she got to the short speech that General O'Neill had made. That really caught her attention.
"This is both an ending and a beginning. It's the beginning of a new life for me, here on Edora. (Everyone cheered.) I've always regretted that my duties have made me - mostly - an absentee father, especially so over the past eight years when I've had to rely on SG-1 to act as my go-between (There was an even bigger cheer at that point. Nice to know that some of our allies like us, even if they can't provide us with 'honkin' big space guns!') to keep in contact with my two wonderful sons, Adam and Brendan, and their mother." (More cheers.)
And Maxine's eyes bugged out like organ stops. Wow! She'd noticed the names, Adam and Brendan, mentioned more frequently than any of the other Edorans except perhaps Laira, and had thought they didn't sound particularly alien. No doubt that was what Grandfather Daniel had had in mind when he'd wondered if there was another reason for Laira looking 'blooming.'
"It's also a farewell to some of my dearest friends, especially Daniel, Teal'c and I think I can now call her Sam. I hope they'll all manage to call in and say hello now and again like we used to when I was leading SG-1. In conclusion, I'd like to say, raise your glasses for a toast to Adam and Brendan on their twelfth birthday and to SG-1 and SG-2!"
Maxine's eyes bugged out again. Twins!
And the feasting began! We - Sam, Teal'c and I - found it a little sad, well, a lot sad. It really was the end of an era. But there was still more 'fun' to be had...
Thanks to the time differences on the three planets, which aligned brilliantly from our point of view, we'd arrived on Edora in the late afternoon and could stay until late into the night. It would then be the middle of the night on P7U-1320 too, which would help - I should say, was necessary for - the rest of the plan.
As the party-goers drifted off to bed, Jack came and helped us to prepare. A couple of pigs had been slaughtered for the feast and the Edorans had kept the blood aside. We slashed and ripped our BDUs quite creatively. Then we had a blood fight... It was quite fun actually. That probably had a lot to do with the amount of Haynan's gut-rot that we'd consumed during the feast. We certainly looked like we'd been in a battle!
While we were doing that, Laira was making the Edoran equivalent of coffee to sober us up a bit. We didn't think that would be too much of a problem; the 'peasants' of P7U-1320 would, of course, have supplied us with their local beverage which it would have been rude to decline. After goodbye hugs all round, we went back to P7U-1320 or Planet Useless as Jack named it. We left our P90s, 9 mils and knives behind as a leaving present. We figured they might come in useful if Edora had any unwelcome visitors.
Teal'c went through first and shot up the MALP's camera before discarding his staff weapon. We didn't want anyone examining the footage since there was nothing to see - nothing like hordes of savages chasing us anyway. Then we tipped the MALP on its side, the way the 'peasants' might reasonably have done. We really didn't want it going anywhere. It helped having eight of us. We were shrieking with laughter until we realized the mic. could've been open, but figured it might just be passed off as hysteria, which it pretty much was at that point.
We tried to calm ourselves a little before the final act of Operation Retirement Party. I dialed Earth , fed in the GDO code, and waited for the green light while everyone waited for the off some twenty yards from the 'Gate to help us acting breathless. Then Cameron yelled. "Go!"
With that, we all charged through the 'Gate, Graham - Dr. Fuller - was first through. He'd been a sprint champion at University. Sam brought up the rear, screaming like a banshee, "Close the iris! Close the iris!" as she clattered down the ramp where we made a gory sight. We went into a huddle in the 'Gate room, generally wailing and gnashing our teeth and trying not to laugh too obviously while we waited for the medics to arrive.
Unlike in the days of Generals Hammond and Landry, TitS was late on the scene. We had already either been loaded on to gurneys or were limping off after them by the time he showed his face.
This was good from our point of view as it gave Cam time to order Sergeant Davis to lock P7U-1320 out of the dialing computer. TitS naturally countermanded the order, but not before Walter had carried out Cam's order - or so he said. His apologetic demeanor nearly cracked us up so we made haste to the infirmary before Tits registered that none of us was actually injured. As expected, he didn't follow us to the infirmary to check that we were ok as his predecessors would have done, and I don't think he even noticed Jack's absence.
Dr. Lam and her team happily connived with us. They bandaged non-existent injuries - Cam insisted on having a Band-Aid just above one eyebrow like he was in a movie - and supplied a couple of us with crutches, then signed us off on medical leave until such time as our injuries, had they been real, would have healed. Then we all went home without seeing any more of Tits. The man really is a moron.
Monday 5th November, 2012.
I've finally faxed my report into the SGC. Only Cameron has been contacted by our esteemed commanding officer. He just said that the whole mission had turned to shit and that Jack was dead. Then he burst into tears and hung up. He came closer than any of us to sustaining a real injury after that, as he doubled up with laughter and nearly strained something, he said!
Copy of my Report on Mission to P7U-1320
Major General Jack O'Neill, Homeworld Security
The purpose of this mission was to set up a trade agreement with the indigenous Wappechi* peoples to mine the substantial deposits of naquadria on the planet. General O'Neill led the mission because of the refusal of the Wappechi leader, Bezhik-nini,** to deal with anyone other than the leader of our people. General O'Neill who, by coincidence, had a meeting scheduled at the S.G.C., volunteered to represent the President.
We were initially made very welcome with a feast laid out in our honor. This included a ceremonial wine which was a required part of the proceedings. The wine was poured from the same vessels for us as for our hosts, so we had no reason to be suspicious. With hindsight, it would seem likely that the goblets from which we drank already contained a strong sedative drug.
We awoke several hours later in a stockade. General O'Neill was not with us, neither were our weapons. Bezhik-nini, accompanied by a large contingent of warriors armed with primitive but very effective looking weapons, appeared and informed us that General O'Neill was being held for ransom.
This ransom was eventually translated to mean General O'Neill's weight in gold, a metal much prized, especially since their mines had been worked out. It soon became obvious that this was the Wappechis' sole method of 'trading.' Failure to pay the ransom would result in the death of General O'Neill. We were then left to consider their 'offer.'
We made good use of the time to scale the rear walls of the stockade and escape while the warriors guarded the front gate. We found General O'Neill trussed up in a deep pit several yards away from the stockade and had managed to untie him and haul him out of the pit when our escape was discovered and a hue and cry set up. General O'Neill's order was to return a.s.a.p. and to lock P7U-1320 out of the dialing computer. We were also ordered to leave him behind as he would only slow us down, his legs being numb from being tied up for so long.
We attempted to make our way back to the Stargate under cover of darkness, with Teal'c and myself half carrying General O'Neill. However, our pursuers were too many and we were made, a couple of hundred yards short of the 'Gate. Doctor Fuller sprinted to the D.H.D. under fire from Teal'c's staff weapon, which they somehow knew how to operate, he opened a wormhole and sent the G.D.O. code. Fortunately, the only staff weapon damage was to the M.A.L.P.
We were now having to dodge a barrage of thrown missiles - javelins and daggers mostly. General O'Neill took a javelin through the thigh and went down, taking Teal'c and myself with him. This gave the fastest warriors time to catch us. We fought off several but O'Neill was rapidly losing blood. He clearly thought he was done for and ordered Teal'c and me to leave him.
We did not immediately obey that order until one of the warriors grabbed him from behind by the hair. As General O'Neill yelled at us to "Run!" the warrior severed his throat removing all doubt that he could survive. Colonel Carter held the 'Gate open until we arrived and we made it back with seconds to spare.
On our return, Colonel Mitchell ordered that P7U-1320 be locked out of the dialing computer per General O'Neill's order.
*This was Jack's bright idea. It's an anagram of Chippewa, the Native Americans who once lived in the vicinity of his cabin. Hope this does not prove to be our undoing!
**Rolling with it... Ojibwe for #1 Man.
Hope I haven't over-egged this.
Aunt Claire called down then that the food was ready. Maxine considered grabbing another volume to take back to Uni to read later, but thought better of it. She couldn't bear the thought of losing even one volume, plus that could really let the cat out of the bag if anyone translated it. No, best to leave them here for safety. One thing was certain, Great-aunt Claire was going to be seeing even more of her grandniece from now on.
Tea was very tasty - two fried eggs from aunt Claire's own hens, more of the ham, and potato fries. After the flavorless porridge and stews at college, it was sublime.
Too soon, she had to leave. She gave Claire a big hug. "Thank you soo much, Aunt Claire. Today has been the best day of my life!"
Claire gave her a fond smile. "See you tomorrow, Maxine," she said. It was not a question.
Maxine was surprised to find that it was already nearly dark when she left the house. Fortunately, her father had fixed up a dynamo-powered light on her bike so at least she could see a little of the road ahead though, by now, it was very familiar to her. She gave a little wave and cycled off.
The ride was uneventful, despite the darkness and the remains of the snow which, having melted a little during the day, had re-frozen into ruts left by the day's traffic.
She dismounted at the guard-post at the University entrance, wheeled her bike through the half-open gate and propped it against the railings. She pulled her student ID out of one of her saddlebags, noticing that one of the guards was new. He was looking her over in a slightly disturbing way as she stood under the light and handed her ID to the elder of the two officers.
The younger one leaned forward and fingered her hair sticking out from under the green birthday hat. She jerked her head back sharply.
"Back off," she snapped.
"I'd do as she says," the elder man said as the younger one's hand reached out to fondle her breast.
"A redhead. Bet you're hot stuff in the sa" he began then found himself on his knees, his hand in a painful wrist-lock. Rufus Pepperday hadn't entirely neglected his children's education...
"Don't ever try that again," she growled. "Not to me and not to any of the other students."
"Or what?" he sneered, then winced as she tightened the wrist-lock.
"If you do, I will get to hear about it and you will be very sorry!"
"Like I said, Pete," the older guard put in, "I'd do like the young lady says. She's Dr. Pepperday's granddaughter Sorry, I didn't recognize you under the hat, Miss Pepperday."
Maxine didn't bother to correct him about the relationship. Claire had never married, but she was pretty much a surrogate grandmother to Maxine. She had certainly been more of a grandmother to her than either of her real ones, though Grandma Cassidy did make the effort occasionally. The once flame-haired Granny Seraphina, on the other hand, had tended to the neurotic and had been a totally self-obsessed control freak in her later years. Maxine really couldn't blame her father for running away from Colorado Springs to escape her influence.
"So she's this doctor's grandkid. So what?" Pete said, the surly pushiness of the young Civil Guard officer reasserting itself as she let him go. He leaned forward, trying to loom over her, but found this difficult, given she stood five feet ten inches tall in her stockinged feet.
"So... Dr. P's influence still reaches way up high - up to where the air is extremely thin, if you take my meaning?" he said, returning Maxine's ID.
"Thank you," Maxine said with a beguiling smile at the older man.
She replaced her ID and cycled off to her dorm, aware that she'd just made an enemy.