Trinity 15: Sweet Blood
Part 1 of 5
Summary: Two strange missions make the boys wish they’d stayed home in bed. The first mission brings some disgusting findings; The second mission has SG units 1 and 2 trapped with a planet’s bizarre denizens for 14 hours; Things supernatural unfold.
Warning: Bondage; coercive sex (not rape; there is a fine line here).
Late for Dinner
Two weeks after New Year’s, things in their lives were still fairly hectic, but there seemed to be a calm in the middle of the storm. Daniel smiled at the metaphor as he followed Jack into the gateroom on a Tuesday morning. The SGC was like being in the eye of a hurricane, he thought as he waited for the gate to dial P4X-666 –the dreaded designation number no one seemed to like.
“Carter, remind me again why we’re going to this planet?” Jack asked as he adjusted his cap and put on his sunglasses.
“The UAV detected possible evidence of trinium, sir.”
“Possible evidence,” Jack repeated.
Daniel was annoyed with Jack’s hesitation. Why were people so superstitious? “The latest UAV transmissions still showed no evidence of life in the immediate vicinity, though there is life on the planet judging by the upkeep around the Stargate.”
Jack turned to him, having only been paying half-attention. “What upkeep?”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “No weeds, Jack,” he replied as the corners of his mouth barely twitched in a smirk. “The area is clean.”
Jack allowed a hint of a smile. “So in other words, someone’s been cuttin’ the grass and prunin’ the hedges?”
Daniel bit the corner of his mouth. “Well, except for these odd dark stains on the stone platform around the Stargate.”
“Oh yeah, those. That’s kind of creepy.” He shouted out to Sam. “How come the MALP can’t take a reading of that stuff like it can with the environment?”
“We have to physically visit the site, sir, in order to take samples,” Sam told him. “A trinium mine was detected and sited by the UAV about 2 clicks from the gate, but we’ve no way of knowing how much is left because the new UAVs won’t arrive for maybe another year.”
“What’s the hold-up?” Jack asked.
“Funding,” Sam said with disgust.
“Right,” Jack said, his tone copying hers. “When do you think the Tok’ra would be willing to send us a few of those scanner things?”
“Multi-level On-site Recorders, sir,” Sam grinned. “Or M.O.R., for the acronym.”
“M.O.R.? As in, more?” Jack asked, making her grin wider.
“Story of our relationship with them, isn’t it? More.”
“They’re still searching for a new base, Jack,” Daniel explained, giving Sam a wink as he did it. “It’ll be a while.”
“Yeah … well,” Jack answered, not the least bit interested in giving any sort of leeway to the Tok’ra … except for Jacob, of course. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
“Sir,” Sam started to argue but Jack held up his hand.
“I know, Carter, I know,” and he let the rest of his thoughts to be reflected in his apologetic expression. He was trying. He really was.
The last chevron dialed and locked and Jack gestured up the ramp. “Well, kids, let’s go see if there’s something here on demon planet 666 …”
They exited into a sunny atmosphere, the temperature warm, the wind slightly breezy. The area was still deserted, the air silent but for a few birds in the nearby forest. As Daniel took a few steps forward, the stonework around the Stargate reminded him of the flooring inside the Mayan ziggurat where the crystal skull was discovered.
“Carter, why don’t you send the MALP back, unless you think we’ll need it?” Jack suggested.
Sam shook her head. “Can’t think of a reason, sir,” but she halted as she walked toward the DHD because Daniel and Teal had knelt, studying the dark stains on the stone. “Sir,” she said to Jack while he’d been studying the sky. She nodded at the kneeling men.
“What’s up?” Jack asked, but as he looked closer, he groaned. The dark stains were rusty in color. “Blood?”
Daniel was alarmed at the quantity that covered a lot of the surface around the DHD. He fervently hoped it was some sort of paint, but his experience told him otherwise. He looked at Teal’c. “Think so. Teal’c?”
“It does indeed appear to be blood,” Teal’c nodded. As he spoke, the wind seemed to pick up and the team looked up. Clouds that had seemed thin were now gathering quickly as the wind increased.
Turning on one knee, Daniel scanned the rest of the flat area. A lot of the Stargates they had gone through were usually situated on some sort of raised platform, set with a central stone staircase. This Stargate was ground level, sitting in the center of a circular platform of stonework that measured twenty five yards in diameter. The blood was localized only around the DHD.
“Here, too,” Teal’c pointed. The back of the DHD was covered in blood spatter.
Everyone went on full alert as Daniel and Teal’c stood up.
“Okay, this is definitely not good news,” Jack said tightly. “Can you tell how old the blood is?” he asked Teal’c, but Daniel answered instead.
“It’s been drying in direct sunlight so it’s hard to tell how old it is.”
“Teal’c?” Jack asked.
“I agree with Daniel Jackson’s assessment, O’Neill,” Teal’c put in, running his hand over the ominous stains.
Jack grimaced at the sheer amount of dried blood and when he started to ask Teal’c another question, he happened to look up at Daniel.
Something white on the other side of the DHD had caught Daniel’s attention and he’d walked around to investigate.
“Daniel, what is it?” Sam asked and after she joined him, her expression quickly matched Daniel’s.
“What?” Jack asked as he and Teal’c walked over.
In front of the DHD, lay a pile of separated, individual humanoid bones. Jack grimaced again, knowing immediately what they were.
“Carter,” Jack said.
Sam dialed up the gate, then hit the IDC code. When Hammond’s voice came over the radio, Jack keyed his mic while continuing to stare down at the bones.
“Returning the MALP, sir. We’ve found humanoid bones next to the DHD. Do you want us to investigate?”
“Yes. Check back in twenty.”
“Sir,” Jack said and the gate shut down a few seconds after the MALP had passed through.
Jack looked down at the bones and sighed. “Ideas, Daniel?”
Daniel knelt and picked up a long, narrow bone for examination. “Appears to be an ulna,” he said quietly.
“Thought so.” Jack sighed as he gave Teal’c a long look. “I’m thinking a recon at this point is a bad idea … but … we’re supposed to investigate. Thoughts?”
“We should look around, but I would not care to venture too far from here without reinforcements.”
A rumble in the distance alerted them to an approaching storm as the darkening sky approached. The wind carried warm, humid air.
“I could swear it was almost clear when we stepped through,” Jack mumbled absently, the crease between his brows deepening.
“It was,” Daniel said, mumbling his answer. “That storm is approaching fast.”
“Ya think?” Jack asked sarcastically.
Sam knelt down next to him and poked a few bones with the nose of her P-90, lifting one before letting it fall. “Daniel, I think scavengers must’ve picked these clean. Some are broken.”
Daniel examined the smashed ends of a few bones and shook his head. “No, these bones weren’t cleaned by scavengers, Sam,” and he pointed to a few striations along the length of the bone he held. “Those are teeth marks.”
Before Daniel could go into further explanation, they heard a noise from the woods directly behind the DHD. Daniel and Sam rose quickly as Jack and Teal’c pointed their P90s.
“You hear that?” Jack asked quietly.
“I did,” Teal’c agreed, frowning heavily with worry.
“I have a bad feeling,” Sam said.
Daniel looked around, his flight-or-fight instincts kicking in. “So much for checking out the mine. I think we should … ” He paused, a feeling of dread coming over him for a reason he couldn’t name or identify.
“Skedaddle?” Jack asked.
At that moment, something in the woods rustled, stopped, rustled again. Then came an odd, throaty humming. “What the fuck is that?” Jack whispered.
“Animal,” Teal’c said.
“Let’s …” Jack began as he and Teal’c took a few steps toward the woods.
“You sure you wanna—“ Sam began, but the noise stopped. Then a few human-looking natives slowly emerged.
“Daniel,” Jack began, but his words left him as he saw the distinct shape of an arm bone stuck through the ratted hair of one of the natives. “Dial us out of here, Carter,” Jack said quietly.
Sam began punching the glyphs but they weren’t lighting up. “Sir, the DHD isn’t working!”
Just then, thunder rumbled overhead and rain began pelting down. Lightning flashed.
“What do you mean it’s not working – we just sent the MALP through!”
Sam dropped down in front of the base of the DHD. She flipped up the hidden panel, cursed under her breath and went to work.
“Carter?” Jack asked anxiously.
“The crystals have come loose!” Sam shouted as another clap of thunder hammered the air.
“Fix it then!”
After another lightning flash, this one closer, the sounds the natives made suddenly changed. As the thunder rumbled again, the team members could hear an eerie keening.
“Sam …” Daniel said as fear rumbled through him.
“They’re getting closer and they don’t look happy.”
“Well, no shit, Daniel,” she said without looking up. “That noise they’re making is worse than a cat in heat!” She cursed at the crystals as they refused to seat, but a second later, they obliged. “Now, Daniel!”
He rapidly hit the glyphs and when he pressed on the activation dome, the gate flickered but didn’t turn on. “Fuck!”
“Hold on!” Sam screamed and used the small prying tool attached to her keyring to open up the dome. “Goddamn crystals!” she exclaimed and began to adjust the crystals inside.
“How could we gate here with an inactive DHD?” Jack yelled through another thunderclap.
“It wasn’t!” she reminded him as she worked as quickly as she could.
“So how can it be out now when it was working ten minutes ago?”
“How the hell should I know!”
“Well you’re the resident expert!”
Sam struggled with the guts of the DHD until a very audible ‘clunk’ was heard. “Got it!”
The rain beat down harder and heavier as she closed the device, then redialed. This time, the dome activated and the wormhole connected.
The four of them formed a circle as they began to edge around the DHD and toward the Stargate. “Daniel, the code!”
The natives sensed their guests were departing and let out screams of what seemed to be anger and charged at them, throwing thin bamboo-like spears. A few skittered across the stones and a few more reached them just as they reached the event horizon. Disappearing last, Jack ducked as one spear flew dangerously close to his head and bounced off the edge of the gate.
SG-2 was waiting in the gateroom, getting ready to head out on their own mission. They were dressed in short-sleeved forest BDUs. As Jason adjusted his black vest, he caught his 2IC reading something and then stuffing it into his breast pocket, an odd look of satisfaction covering his expression. Jason smirked, figuring it was a note from Sergeant Carmichael and was about to tease his teammate about it when the Stargate lit up and Sergeant Davis announced it was SG-1.
Jason grew worried as he looked up at General Hammond and Sergeant Davis in the control room. SG-1 hadn’t been gone for very long. His attention was diverted to the MALP that had been returned, then returned to the control room. Hammond was no longer there and Sergeant Davis gave a nod of his head that told Jason that his commander was coming to the gateroom.
“What’s up?” Alex asked, observing what was going on.
“Heads up, guys,” Jason said, alarmed and staring at the gate. SG-1 came running through, obviously drenched with water and Jason and his teammates raised their weapons in case something or someone came through after them.
“Iris!” Jack shouted.
Before the iris closed completely, a spear shot through and everyone ducked. It skidded over the top of the MALP, then slid off to hit the back wall.
“Don’t touch it!” Jack called out in warning. As he’d ducked, he’d noticed that the spear’s tip seemed to be coated with something that reminded him of curare, the substance that some of the Amazonian tribes coated their blowpipe darts with.
Just as the iris closed, multiple thuds pinged the metal and with wide eyes, Jack looked at Teal’c, then Carter, and finally Jason. When their eyes met, Jason saw a sick horror reflected back. His eyes grew wide with concern and he turned to look at Daniel, who was approaching the spear while putting on one of his gloves.
“Daniel,” Jack warned, but backed off when he noticed Daniel’s gloves. “Careful,” he said anyway.
“I am,” Daniel said, waving a hand. He picked up the spear as Hammond reached Jack with an alarmed expression.
“Are all of you alright?”
“Yes, sir,” Jack replied.
“Colonel, what happened?”
“What happened was that the intel was severely lacking, sir,” Jack complained. He traded a look with Sam. “We need to light a fire under the funding for those new UAVs.”
“We need better sensors, sir,” Sam clarified. “Despite our thorough preliminary evaluations for P4X-666, there were definitely hostile natives. If we’d only been equipped to do an in-depth survey around the Stargate, we would have been able to discern–“
Her attention was abruptly diverted as she felt something odd in her hand and found that she had absent-mindedly picked up one of the small bones that had been next to the activation globe of the DHD. She gave a disgusted noise and, without thinking, handed it out to Jack as if it were a bomb. “Here, sir.”
Jack made a face and backed up. “Give it to Daniel. I don’t want it.”
Sam held the bone by two fingers, barely, and then frowned as Daniel took it from her.
“What the hell were you doing with that?” Jack asked her.
“I … have no idea.”
“It’s just a bone, Jack,” Daniel said, examining it.
“Yeah, a human bone.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and Jack scowled.
“A human bone from someone who’d been dinner. Hello?”
Daniel jogged his brows. “Good point.”
Jason stared, his mouth agape. “Human?”
“Explain,” Hammond asked and it took Jack less than a minute to do so. Hammond sighed deeply. “I’ll see you all for the briefing as soon as you’re through in the infirmary. Welcome home, SG-1.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jack said, shaking his head at the memory of the people on that planet.
Hammond then turned to SG-2. “Major Coburn, your team will depart shortly. Good luck.”
“Yes, sir.” Jason gave a concerned look at Jack, then Daniel, Sam, and finally Teal’c. His teammates came up behind him.
Jack asked, “You’re going to that tropical planet, right?”
“Yep,” Jason told him, his worry easing somewhat.
“Well, in the immortal words of the late Major Charles Kowalsky, pick me up a t-shirt.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
An hour later, after tests and uniform-changing, the team sat down with General Hammond in the briefing room and gave their separate accounts.
“General,” Jack began, his tone serious. “The next time 666 comes up in any designation, I suggest we bypass it.”
Hammond clasped his hands together and gave Jack a sober look. “While I don’t ascribe to superstition, Colonel, it’s been noted in the computer database that this planet will not be visited again via Stargate.” When Jack looked like he wanted to object, Hammond raised a few fingers. “We’re not ignoring planets based on superstition. Period. Now …” and he paused, looking at Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c, but his gaze settled on Sam. “Major, the spearhead.”
“Sir, the science lab is testing the substance coated on the tip. As for the object itself, it’s ordinary stone. I’d say it was akin to the same stone used on Earth by various tribal folk.”
“It was composed of obsidian,” Daniel said. Everyone looked at him in surprise. “What? I know my business. It was obsidian. I’d venture a guess and say the … tribe … was early bronze-age. As for the substance, we’ll soon find out. I’d also venture a guess that it’d be something similar to Curare or some other alkaloid toxin.”
At the entrance to the briefing room, Janet began to enter but a lieutenant stopped her and handed her a folder while he held the separated components of the spear. “Put them on the table.” He did so and left. She approached and quickly scanned the report before handing the folder to Daniel.
“The team’s fine, sir,” she told Hammond. “Only elevated levels of endorphins and histamines, which is normal for high stress.” She grinned at the team. “Not unusual.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Hammond replied, and Janet nodded, gave the team a grin, and left.
Daniel tapped the table with a forefinger. “Composition of the handle was a type of oak. Composition of spearhead, obsidian. Composition of the resin … unknown. It contains alkaloids, as I suspected, but the toxin is unidentifiable. I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s from a plant that we don’t have on Earth.”
“Understandable,” Hammond said. “Their ecology would have to be different.”
“Agreed,” Daniel replied.
“Have they been able to determine what it does?” Sam asked.
“It’s inconclusive at the present time,” Daniel said, eyes on the report. “It’s probably likely meant to incapacitate or kill.”
Hammond nodded. “Is the substance worth investigating? That’s the issue right now.”
Daniel picked up the bone. “Sir, if you want a good reason to give the Pentagon as to why no one should go back to that planet, then this is it.” He placed a forefinger on one end, pointing it out to General Hammond. “This end has teeth marks, sir. Human, not animal. That society is cannibalistic.” As his teammates shifted uncomfortably, he went on. “There were other bones by the DHD, and not from one or two bodies. They were mixed. Plus, the bones weren’t cleaned by predators, scavengers, or insects.”
Jack pitched in. “Unless you consider the fact that those … people … are the predators and scavengers. The bones were practically bleached and it sure as hell wasn’t the fauna that did that, not right next to the DHD.”
“There’s also no protection against those spears, sir,” Daniel went on. “A follow-up mission would be too dangerous a risk.”
“Noted, Doctor. Can you tell me anything else?”
Daniel glanced at Jack, then back over to Hammond. “Jack said they were attacking, apparently for no good reason, except there was a reason, sir. They weren’t attacking us for violating their ground. They saw us as food, nothing more.” When Hammond wore an expression that basically intimated incredulity, he added, “Imagine you’re a Paleolithic tribesman and you come across a new animal you’ve never seen.” He looked at the others, then back to the General. “It’s on par with that sort of scenario, sir. We shouldn’t go back there except in a ship that can do a more thorough investigation of the planet and send people down only in unpopulated regions.”
Hammond nodded with a grimace, indicating that he’d already figured as much. “Anything else, people?”
“No, sir,” Jack replied.
Hammond nodded then. “Very well. I’ll expect your reports by 1600. Now … let’s move on to the next bit of business, shall we?”
Everyone gave a sigh of relief. They wanted nothing more to do with PX4-666.
“We’ll meet tomorrow morning to discuss the preliminary work done by SG-11 on P4A-211. Doctor Jackson, you said you’ve translated the text from the photos supplied by Major Caruthers?”
“Yes, sir. All I need is to go over them once more with Teal’c to be sure, but I’ll have them ready for the morning, sir.”
“Then we’re done here. Dismissed.”
Daniel was late to the briefing by a few minutes …
“Nice of you to join us, Daniel,” Jack said.
Daniel gave him a sharp glance then looked around the room, nodding to Sam and Teal’c. “Yeah, sorry, Jack,” he replied earnestly, then looked over at Hammond and nodded. “Sir. I had a last minute question on the translation and had to look something up.”
He was going to continue when they were interrupted, and surprised, by the arrival of SG-2.
Hammond gestured at Jason and his team to take their seats.
“I’ve invited SG-2 to this briefing because I’m assigning them to join you on this mission. Co-leadership, Jack. Major Coburn is technically a subordinate but he’s the leader of SG-2 and you’ll both act accordingly. Understood?”
Jack’s brows rose along with Jason’s. “Certainly, sir. But is there something we should know?” he asked slowly then gave Daniel a mildly accusing look as if Daniel hadn’t told him something he should know.
Daniel stared back across the table, his expression bland. Jack was not going to bait him. “Don’t look at me, Jack.”
“No, Colonel,” Hammond went on. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary. Most of the time, unless you’re fighting the Goa’uld, the SG teams work alone. However, Major Coburn and his team aren’t scheduled for another mission and he’s specifically requested that his team be given something to do. I’ve included them for this mission.”
“What, you don’t have weapons detail or something?” Jack asked Jason.
Jason smirked at him. “I’ve got that squared away, as you well know.” His smirk grew impish. “Sir.”
“Might just be a cake walk,” Jack said, grinning.
Before Jason could answer, Hammond said, “Perhaps that’s what both your teams need.”
Jack jogged his brows, a bit more serious. “That we do, sir.”
Hammond looked at Jason. “Major?”
Jason shook his head once. “It’s begging for trouble, sir.”
Jason pointed a thumb at Jack while keeping his attention on Hammond. “This guy just jinxed it.”
“Doctor Jackson, what have we got for P4A-211?”
As Daniel stood up and walked over to a table with a slide viewer, Jason felt a thrill come over him. He’d yet had the chance to go on mission involving SG-1 that wasn’t rescue oriented. He was loving this chance to see his lovers’ skills in action. He already knew they were very capable men; he’d simply never been able to actually work with them on a so-called ‘normal’ mission. This would be fun … though he privately hoped it really wouldn’t be a cake walk, despite his zinger aimed in Jack’s direction.
“Al, could you get the screen?” Daniel asked Jason’s lieutenant. The man got up and pulled down the viewer that was attached to the wall on the opposite end of the table from where the General sat. “Thanks.” He was about to ask him to turn down the lights but Lt. Kaufman was just now doing it.
“Thanks,” he said again, grinning. “SG-11 travelled to P4A-211. They found only a stone tablet near the gate. And I do mean nothing, except for wildlife. No other signs of intelligent life within a klick of the gate and the UAV picked nothing up. The tablet itself …” He pushed a button on the wired control panel.
A slide showed a hunk of stone with vaguely familiar glyphs on it taking up six lines of text.
“That Goa’uld?” Jack asked.
“Nope,” Daniel replied. “This contains two different languages and one of them is a Goa’uld dialect that Teal’c and I had trouble translating. But I finally cracked it. Well, all but one word,” and he sounded it out phonetically, “‘Vair-kole-sigh’. I have no idea what it is and neither does Teal’c. It doesn’t even come close to any words that I currently know in the Goa’uld language. That’s why I was late. I thought that maybe I’d seen the word, or words, before, but my hunch turned up nothing.”
Jack shot a look of surprise at Teal’c. “Teal’c, you have no idea what that word means?”
“I do not. To my knowledge, the Goa’uld dialect found on this stone does not exist any longer.”
“You mean it’s like a dead language?” asked Jason’s sergeant, Connor McCaffrey
Daniel and Teal’c both nodded.
“What exactly does the stone say, Doctor Jackson?” Hammond asked.
Daniel moved to the wall with the projected image and pointed an index finger. “This is very loosely translated. This first line says, ‘Death walks with Var-chol-si’, then on the second line, it says, ‘this world means death to all’ then it gives a Stargate address we don’t have on file, which I’ve assumed is this ‘Var-chol-si’. That’s the end of the warning.” He returned to the projector and turn it off. “Al?”
The lights came back up.
“I figure they probably travelled to that world from P4A-211 and someone or something travelled back with them.” He made a face of frustration. “Unfortunately, this is all I could get from the clues we’ve discovered.”
Teal’c looked at Daniel with pride, however, because Daniel had cracked the thing on his own, using limited available material. “Do not slight yourself, Daniel Jackson. You solved the writing without help.”
“Yes, but you confirmed it for me,” Daniel went on.
Teal’c shook his head. “I did nothing.”
Daniel gave Teal’c an exasperated look but knew when not to argue.
Jason pointed a pen at the wall, even though the tablet photo was no longer showing. “You said two languages. What were those lines on the bottom?”
“Um, Furling,” and at mention of the confirmation, mouths dropped. “Now, I can’t translate that part of the tablet because I have no frame of reference.”
“How’d you know it was Furling?” Hammond asked.
“Because I recognize the characters from the walls on Heliopolis. Despite the photos and video I took back then, we still haven’t come across more … until this. And I still haven’t found the Rosetta Stone for this language. If Jack hadn’t spoken the Ancients’ language, we’d never have been able to translate that, either. But I’ve come a long way with that. However, this … I’ve no clue. We’d have to find more of it, and some sort of frame of reference to compare it to. That goes for the extinct Goa’uld dialect.”
“Can you show us this tablet again?” Jack asked.
“Sorry.” Daniel made a face and gestured to Al. He turned the lights down and Daniel reactivated the projector.
“The Furling writing is older by a thousand years or so. See how it’s faded and there are scorings where the top section was rubbed flat so they could leave their warning. The Furling themselves didn’t leave the warning. Anyway, they aren’t relevant to this mission. This warning is.”
“Okay, so … for this mission, that warning and the gate address is all we have?” Kaufman asked as he turned the lights on.
Daniel nodded as he turned off the projector again and retook his seat across from Jack.
“That warning is pretty vague, Daniel,” Jack put in and Jason agreed.
“It’s still a warning.”
“Did you say cake walk, General?” Jack asked with just a touch of sarcasm.
Hammond smirked at him. “As old as that warning is, I think the risk is minimal. Wouldn’t you say, Doctor?”
Daniel shrugged. “The warning was etched maybe … a hundred years ago. I’m guessing. It’s hard to tell due to weathering. We won’t know if it’s a cake walk until we go, sir. But I’m a bit curious. I’d actually like to find whoever it is that scares the Goa’uld and scare them enough to take the time to carve a warning.”
“Yeah, but we got a warning like that before, didn’t we?” Jack asked and looked at Teal’c. “On that planet … something 333? The one where Daniel found that attack message from Apophis?”
Daniel winced. “And the discovery of a quantum mirror, never mind a universe.”
“That was a different sort of warning, O’Neill. It was a message to Jaffa from the Goa’uld.”
“Oh, right. Forgot. Never mind. Anyway, UAV analysis wouldn’t be complete enough,” then he made a circle in the air with his pen, “as that Hannibal Lector planet has taught us.”
“Have we sent a MALP to this unknown world yet?” Jason asked.
“I was about to, Major,” Hammond told him, “but I wanted this preliminary meeting first. We can send a MALP, and the UAV would have to wait because we haven’t one to spare at the moment. Let’s see what we can find out before anything else is planned.” With that, Hammond and the teams left for the control room.
With the two teams, plus General Hammond and Master Sergeant Davis, the extra personnel usually manning the room made themselves scarce for the time being. While a technician was double-checking the MALP’s systems to make sure everything was functioning normally, the gate was programmed to dial the unknown planet.
“What designation did the computer give this world, Carter?” Jack asked as he stood behind her seat at the console.
“Thank Christ.” The remarks drew grins from those around him including General Hammond.
Daniel sat next to Sam and behind him, arms folded, was Jason. He nudged Jason without looking and Jason, in return, bumped him with his knee. There was a bit of excitement being able to work together again.
Jason glanced beside him, at Jack, and winked. Hammond was standing on Jack’s other side so he hadn’t seen. Behind them, Captain Wagner was reading yet another note, smiling to himself. Jason leaned to Jack and whispered, “He’s due for a good round of teasing. That’s his second note in one day.”
“Who’s the note from?” Jack whispered back.
Jack raised his brow, then remembered that Sergeant ‘Cari’ Carmichael and Captain Wagner had been seeing each other since the masquerade ball. Another thought occurred to him and he whispered back,
“So, when am I going to get to see Ares again?”
Jason sighed, a private smile on his face, and said, “Someday.”
Daniel heard him and sighed at the plan he and Jason were making for Jack. He couldn’t wait for the 29th of January. Jack was going to get one hell of a birthday.
Jason nudged him in the back, bent down, and asked in the barest of tones, “Did you get your present for him?” Daniel smiled and nodded slowly.
“I’m gonna smack you two,” Jack said, leaning down. “Pay attention.”
Jason nodded with a very sneaky smile and resumed his stance. “So, what’s new?” he asked … rhetorically.
After the gate finished dialing, the wormhole established itself and the MALP was sent through. When it was through the gate, Sam enabled the camera and hit buttons for the array of sensors. Seconds ticked by and then the atmospheric readouts were showing Earth-like conditions and weather. The season appeared to be Autumn-like, and the day’s current reading was of partially cloudy skies and a temperature of 65 degrees.
Without prompting, she guided the MALP to examine the gate area. It stood on a similar layout as that of their recent mission. A flat, circular staging area that appeared to be constructed of bricked granite.
“God, don’t tell me there are stains on that,” Jack said.
Sam panned the MALP and from what could be discerned, the area was only dirtied by sparse plant debris, such as grass, dirt, and twigs. “No sir,” she said. “Nothing but the usual outside detritus.”
Jack joked, “Is any of it moving?”
She chuckled quietly and continued with the readings, adjusting the camera angles for several close and wide shots. To the right of the gate sat the DHD, just on the edge of the circle. Extending from the circle lay grassy land, but directly out from the gate, a cobblestone path about twenty feet wide extended outward five hundred feet or so until disappearing into a forest.
To the right of the path and the DHD, a small lake appeared but its circumference was blocked by more trees. Sam set the camera to panoramic as she pulled back the view. Tilting the camera up to scan beyond the forest, it showed that the ground rose to a colossal hill. On top of that hill sat an impressive, and imposing, black fortress (Daniel was thinking ‘mansion’) with spiked tower tops and surrounded by what appeared to be a formidable black fence perhaps twenty-five feet in height.
“Whoa!” was Jack’s first response. The mansion’s steep, angular towers, or gables, sent a chill through him.
“That thing looks positively Gothic,” Jason remarked.
“Gothic?” Jack asked.
Jason pointed. “Wide arched doorway and windows.”
Jack looked down at Daniel. “How could there be something like that on another planet?”
Daniel shrugged. “I don’t know, but it definitely means that there’re humanoid people there.”
“How’s that, Doctor?” Hammond asked.
“It’s a structure built to accommodate humans, sir. Doorways, fences, roadways. And the fact that there’s a gate there. The Ancients put it there for a reason.”
“Maybe,” Jason said, frowning.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Jack suddenly said and Daniel frowned at him.
“We haven’t even checked it out yet, Jack. I don’t see the threat.”
Teal’c stepped up, shooting a glance at Jack. “Is there something that bothers you, O’Neill.”
“No. Just a feeling.”
Daniel pointed at a section of screen. “Sam, zoom in the front door.”
She shook her head. “It’s at least a mile from the gate, maybe a little less. We need a better lens on the camera.”
“Add that to the list, Carter,” Jack cracked.
“Okay, Major, Colonel,” Hammond interrupted. “Let’s head out. Take a preliminary survey and stay close by. The next available UAV is tomorrow morning.”
“I wish we could determine if there is anyone left on the planet,” Daniel remarked as he tried to catch more glimpses of the architecture, but the distance made it hard to see it clearly.
“I’d say someone’s home,” Jason said. “That house … or fortress … or whatever you want to call it looks maintained, as does the area around the gate.”
“Agreed,” Jack nodded.
“Plus there isn’t any overgrowth on that path,” Kaufman said. “Weatherization wouldn’t stop it.”
Jason turned, grinning at his Lieutenant. “I knew those science classes would pay off.” Kaufman withheld the urge to give his commander the middle, albeit friendly, finger.
Jack was still wearing a distrustful frown and Hammond asked, “What is it, Colonel?”
“I don’t know. It just looks like a feature for ‘Home and Dungeon Magazine.’ If Martha Stewart were a member of the Collins family, that is.”
“You watched ‘Dark Shadows’?” Jason and Sam asked at the same time and the look Jack gave told them to move on. They both smirked. It might end up being a fun day if this kept up.
Daniel cleared his throat, itching to stop talking and start ‘doing,’ and got up. “Let’s go find out if these people are still home.”
“Sir, look,” Sam almost shouted, pointing at the screen as two figures exited the woods along the pathway. They appeared to be young male human adults. They approached the MALP and looked straight at the camera lens, acting curious but keeping their distance.
“Well, well. Someone’s home, Daniel,” Jack said.
“Yes, there is,” Daniel said quietly as he peered at the screen, concentrating on the design and decoration of the young men’s clothing. They wore black coatdresses, buttoned to the top with high oriental collars. The sewing designs could barely be seen, but they looked embroidered. Jack nudged Daniel to get his attention and Daniel almost scowled at him. “What?”
“Studying the clothing,” Daniel said, turning his attention back to the screen. “The cut resembles the Chinese frock or coatdress, but the designs are different, as is expected.”
“Get going, people. Clearly they expect guests.”
The two teams, dressed in light weather forest BDUs, assembled in the gateroom and the planet was dialed up one more time.
Jack looked around him. “Ready to party, gentlemen?”
Jason snorted. “Absolutely.”
Daniel rolled his eyes, though in fondness.
Up in the control room, Hammond turned on the microphone. “SG units 1 and 2, good luck. Report in one hour.”
Jack gave him a two-fingered salute and the group marched up the ramp and disappeared.
Soon after they exited the wormhole, the teams found the two young men standing nearby, looking worried and rapidly becoming agitated. They kept wringing their hands and scanning the wooded area surrounding the Stargate.
Daniel cautiously walked up to them and gave a short bow. “Hello.”
The two strangers responded with animated smiles, but their eyes still marked their wariness as they kept scanning their surroundings. One of the young men, the taller of the two, had slightly long brown hair an inch past his collar and very light hazel eyes. When he smiled, he white teeth with just slightly longer canines than a normal human; just an oddity, but not enough to raise any alarms. He bowed at Daniel while casting wary glances at Jack and the others.
“My name is Tan,” he said, surprising everyone with knowledge of English.
“Daniel,” Daniel replied, and pointed out everyone else, giving their names.
Tan’s companion seemed too shy to speak up, so he gestured at him, pulling the man next to him. “This is Rone.” Rone smiled and Daniel noted that his appearance, including his teeth, were similar to Tan’s; he could be a brother. They were obviously human, Caucasian in skin color, though the eyes were so light they appeared almost golden, like an animal’s. Daniel wondered where their ancestors came from, and when.
“How is it you know our language?” Jack asked, careful not to frown. These two already looked to be on the verge of bolting for some reason.
Tan shrugged. “We just do. Why should we not?”
Daniel knew Jack was about to launch into a conversation but he gave him a look. Taking the cue, Jack subsided and gestured at the two men. “Go on, then.”
“You keep looking around, Tan,” Jason said, his instinct going on alert. “What’s wrong?” With the quick flick of his thumb, the safety catch on his P-90 was switched off.
“It is almost sunfall. We must leave the circle and retreat behind the protection of the fence.”
Daniel’s brows perked up. “Why?”
Tan didn’t answer and instead nodded his head toward the hill and gestured them to follow him up to the large black mansion. “You will meet The Residents, and share their evening meal, if you are hungry. You will not be able to look around much, as night is descending, so you will have to stay the night.”
Jack shook his head. “No, we’re just here for a visit. I don’t think we’ll be staying the night.”
“But you will have to,” argued Rone, suddenly speaking up, clearly scared. He began wringing his hands. “It won’t be safe soon.”
Tan looked just as agitated, even though he cast an extreme look of annoyance at Rone. “If you do not come with us, go back where you came from and return at daybreak.”
“Why?” Jack asked demandingly.
“Beasts come,” Tan said. Without another word, the two of them turned and began walking away very quickly.
“For fuck’s sake,” Jack growled to himself. He looked at Jason. “Stay or go?”
“If we stay, we’re taking a leap in trusting these people.”
Jack narrowed his eyes because Jason only repeated what was in his own head. “Stay or go?” he repeated.
Jason sighed and looked at Daniel. “Stay. You?”
“It isn’t a democracy,” Daniel hedged, but only out of respect for his own commander.
“Daniel?” Jack asked.
“Because you’re curious,” Jack interpreted.
“Well, partly. But I could also be curious in twelve hours. Assuming that’s enough time.” He looked into the surrounding sky and pointed at seven moons about the same size rising over different parts of the horizon. They were rather large, in varying phases; one was full.
“First,” Jack said, flipping the safe switch on his P90. “Lock and load.” Everyone did. “Next, let’s get authorization.”
Sam went to the DHD and the teams moved behind her to avoid the wormhole explosion. As the gate connected, Jack turned on the MALP’s outgoing comm system. “Stargate Command, this is SG-1.”
“What is it, Colonel?”
Jack apprised him of the situation and Hammond thought about it for a moment.
“I see. Do you think the situation is safe enough for you to stay?”
Jack looked back over his shoulder and found that Tan and Rone were waiting halfway to the forest. “It’s a risk, since we don’t know whether these people can be trusted.”
“What exactly is it that you’re in danger from?” Hammond asked.
Jack beckoned Tan. “One moment, sir,” he said while the young man ran back to them. “Tan, describe these beasts.”
“Large four-footed mammals, much bigger than you, and covered with thick, dark fur. They have long teeth and claws. They emit frightening howls and they eat everything they come into contact with, no matter what it is as long as it has flesh.”
From that description, everyone became a lot edgier.
“Did you hear that, sir?” Jack asked.
“Confirmed. Since we need to know why the Goa’uld were afraid of these people, I suggest you stay. However, remain vigilant at all costs.”
“In six hours, we’ll dial the planet for sit rep. Copy?”
The gate shut down and Jack swore under his breath. He turned to Tan. “You had better be friendly,” he said and tapped the P90 with a finger.
“We are,” Tan replied, antsy now, and he turned and began to jog.
Jack scowled and shook his head. “Get the MALP moving. I’m not leaving it here to get torn up.”
“Why didn’t we send it home?” McCaffrey asked as they made their way over the stone road.
“Because it contains supplies as well as technical equipment,” Jason said, smirking at him. “You know that, Connor.”
“Sorry, sir, but I tend to think of MALPs as one big sensor. I forget they carry those dreadful MREs.”
Jason’s smirk turned into a grin. “It’s better than not having it.” At McCaffrey’s grimace, he added, “Oh, come on, don’t you like Jamaican chicken?” Connor made an appropriately disgusted snort.
“I think the questionable word there is ‘chicken’,” Daniel said. “God only knows what it really is.”
Kaufman laughed. “I think this is one of those times, Doctor Jackson, where we can’t say something tastes like chicken.”
Daniel shoved at him. “Funny, Al. Funny.”
They continued their slurring remarks about MREs as the Sam directed the controls, guiding the MALP as they entered the sparse forest. In front, Jack was on the right, with Teal’c and Sam behind him, and Jason was to his left with his team behind him. Daniel walked between them. Tan and Rone walked to Jack’s right.
“What are MREs?” Tan asked as they went.
Their manner was more relaxed, now that they were heading toward the house. Daniel felt there was something odd about the young man but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He attributed the feeling to the nervousness about the beasts and the strange house they were heading for.
Answering Tan’s question, he said, “MREs are what we call field rations, food supplements we carry with us when we visit other worlds. We can’t always find food.”
Tan inclined his head in understanding. “Before the beasts moved into this region, I used to hunt far beyond here, taking food supplies with me.”
“It’s like that,” Daniel went on, “only these are … well, you’d have to see to truly understand what I mean. The MREs come in kits, packages, and there are different kinds, different foods. Some taste okay and others are just … well, you wonder about the sanity of those who were thinking these meals up.”
Tan smiled. “You will like our food then, Daniel. We never prepare anything that isn’t delicious to all.”
Jack snorted but Daniel ignored him. “Like what?”
“You will see,” Tan smiled, and to Daniel, it was almost shy and flirting. Was the young man flirting, or was he just being friendly? It was hard to tell because Daniel was trying to get used to the color of his eyes. Tan’s smile brightened as he noticed Daniel studying him. “My eye color interests you?”
“It’s unusual. Is it a family trait or do all the people here have the coloring?”
“My people … ” he mused, then cast a soft smile at Rone. “We’re all the same, but different than our relatives, The Residents. We are called The Brethren.”
“Are The Residents the Var’chol’si?”
Tan’s eyes widened in surprise. Almost alarm.
“What?” Jack asked.
“You know of that name?” Rone asked, his voice soft, almost reverent.
“It is only a shock to hear it from an alien’s tongue,” Tan said in a clipped manner and glared at Rone, who abruptly shut his mouth. “Our master and leader of the Residents will tell you all you need to know.” He increased his pace to make it clear he no longer wanted to answer questions. Rone was at his heels.
Daniel thought he’d been establishing a rapport, but it appeared that Tan didn’t feel free to talk and that put him on guard. He looked at the others around him, knowing they’d been listening and saw by their puzzled expressions that they too were on their guard.
They soon exited the patch of forest and twenty yards ahead was the exceedingly high, spiked fence with an ornately designed double gate. It looked similar to wrought iron and was very intricately decorated between the narrow posts. Each closely tied iron post was topped by an eight-inch thin, sharp spike. It would rip anything that tried to scale the fence. However, nothing could possibly scale this fencing.
Tan pulled out a key from the pocket of his coatdress, unlocked the gate with a loud click, and shoved both gate doors open and gestured inside. After the group passed, Tan locked it back up and headed up the much narrower stone road that led to the house. The ground sloped upward for roughly fifty yards to level out before the main door.
Examining the structure, Daniel also could have sworn he saw someone looking through one of the tall windows but the increasing darkness and clouds made him unsure.
Adriann looked out from one of the second story windows and watched the visitors approach. His sister, Talen, walked up behind him to peer over her shoulder. They spoke in a language no one from the human party could have understood, not even Teal’c. It was a dead dialect of Goa’uld.
“So, you did sense their presence,” she said, teasing.
“Of course. The moment they stepped through the gate.”
“Their minds are amazingly open and their language is curious. A lot of nuances.”
“I will use it, to ease their distrust. It is understandable.” He thought a moment as he stared out the window. He then cocked his head to one side. “They have something called contractions. Funny. But short and efficient. I like it.”
Talen cocked her head, as if listening to something. “You are … you’re right.” She smiled as if she’d just mastered something remarkable.
He smiled at her, then shrugged. “Actually, I would not have thought to have bothered if I had not latched onto the mind of that interesting male with them. He is extraordinary.”
“Adriann,” she admonished.
“Hush, Talen. I cannot help it. It has been so long and his mind … as I said, extraordinary. I read their feelings, just as you did.”
“It’s not like we can block them out, unless we’re sleeping.”
He grinned sadly, then gestured out of the window. “They have made me acutely aware how much I miss joining with, well, you know. And then I felt his mind. I cannot help but want him.”
She tried not to smile, then sent him a playful look. “I suppose his looks are not part of the reason?”
“Talen … .” he warned, then closed his eyes. “He is nice to look upon, but it is his mind.” He opened his eyes again, staring outside once more. He gave a deep, wistful sigh. “But … he is not mine … not ours. We cannot keep him, nor any of the others.”
“The code pops up at the most inconvenient of times, it seems,” she replied, almost sullenly.
He sighed again, though this time it was edged with irritation. “If it were not for our need, I would have had Tan send them away.”
“In that case, I am glad you did not … glad you didn’t.”
He turned to her and cupped her face briefly, levelling her with a caring but stern gaze. “Do not get any ideas, Talen, I mean it.”
She sent a defiant look back. “A long time ago, we would have kept them with us.”
“That was a long time ago. Things change. Evolve. We are not our ancestors.”
“No, we are not,” she said, suddenly sad.
He ran his fingers comfortingly through her long black hair. “Shh, do not think on it.” He closed his arm around her shoulders and turned back to gaze at the approaching strangers. “Yes, we could keep them forever. But it is no longer our way, despite the need that consumes us all. Morally, it is the right thing. I could not keep them here, Talen. I could not keep him. He loves them all, but two of them, males, are special. They are his mates.”
Her eyes widened, then narrowed abruptly. “Are you going to interfere with that?”
“Maybe … just a little.”
She sighed with understanding. “It will be nice to have human blood for a while. Seeking it off planet is tiresome and risky.”
“Yes,” he said, momentarily angry. His countenance subtly changed then as he looked at her. “Their lives will be held in highest regard. That means no long draws and no unnecessary trips.”
“I mean it!” he said, his voice becoming almost an animal growl. “We do not need that much! Hear me, do as I say!” and his voice softened from its rough tone. “Shallow only, my sister, or we will kill them. I will not allow that. I will tell the others but I want you to remind them and enforce this rule with all due diligence. I am counting on you. Obey me in this.”
Her mannerism seemed to change as the strangers drew nearer. He could see her hunger and he grabbed her arm like a steel vise and she winced, even though it wouldn’t have caused her damage. “Talen, take care.” She tried to wrench free but his grip on her arm was secure. “Come on, when’s the last time we got this many?” he said soothingly, his manner misdirecting her hunger. “When’s the last time we could dip so freely. They have such erotic dreams.”
His idea suddenly changed her sour tone and she brightened. “I forgot about that. We haven’t had that in a long, long time.”
He gestured at the people outside. “Can you sense their protectiveness for each other?”
She nodded. “They would die to protect.”
“As would we. We have something in common. I hope we have more. It has been a long time since I have felt such strength.”
Again, she nodded, but her calm expression quickly turned to a scowl. “Look at Tan.”
He looked and saw that Tan’s eyes never wandered far from Daniel. His bottom teeth worried at his lip.
“He has always wanted what you want. He will ruin everything if you do not put a stop to him.”
“Tan has been trying for a permanent place in this house – and my bed. He knows I do not love him.”
She shook her head. “You would have, but his dark side has ruined it. He is jealous, so only his feelings matter to him. As leader, Adriann, you will have to put him down.”
Reluctantly, he nodded. “After the visitors have left.”
“He will not make you wait, Adriann. Look at his face. His hunger has taken him over.”
“I’m sorry, my brother, but stop yourself. Listen.”
They both did and Adriann’s pupils dilated to cover the entire grey of his eyes.
“You can feel what he’s thinking,” Talen warned. “He will go after the one you want.”
Adriann watched as their visitors neared the house and his heart pounded as more detail of the man in question showed. Talen started to leave, but turned around, put a concerned hand on his arm, and squeezed.
“Adriann. You have a good heart, but Tan will use this situation to his advantage. His lust will override his common sense and you will have no choice.”
He narrowed his eyes and turned to look at her. “Have you had a vision?”
“No,” she replied slowly, “I rarely do these days. But I know him, as do you. You especially know how brutal he can be so that should be all the warning you need.”
“Yes, I know,” and his memory flashed quickly to the blood lust. “I am capable of the same thing.”
“Yes, but you are not the bloodthirsty beast, Adriann. It is not who you are, but it is who he is.”
“I have had my moments, Talen. I am sure you remember.”
“Do not worry, my sweet,” and he pulled her into a hug. “If it happens, he will suffer the consequences of his actions.” She nodded with enormous relief, then left to tell the others of their discussion.
Adriann turned back to the window, staring out, watching the man of his desires approach. He barely whispered, “Daniel.”
The teams made their way up to the house, looking around to catch what information they could. Most of the ground just outside of the fence was scrub grass, but inside, it was lush with thick grass scented with a curious lemony fragrance.
“Nice layout,” Jack commented, motioning at the flower shrubbery surrounded the periphery of the house. What they could see, at any rate.
“The Brethren cultivate our land,” was all Tan said.
His voice seemed just a bit sarcastic and Jack didn’t know if that was good or bad. The young man he’d met at the gate had seemed so harmless but the man Jack now saw and heard was sending off red alerts. First, the frightened attitude had made him look smaller, thinner, than his well-built, 5’10” frame. But now he was giving off a … proprietary manner? Jack’s eyes narrowed, wondering at the cause, then decided to leave things alone for now. Time would reveal what he should know. He’d better be armed when it did.
“Does the fence go all the way around the house?” he asked.
Tan nodded. “It does.”
Daniel spoke up. “How many people live here?”
“My people, the Brethren, number fifty-three. Our kin, The Residents, number eighteen.”
“What?” Daniel asked, alarmed. “That’s all?”
“Yes,” Tan said with a frown of puzzlement. “Come see,” he said and walked off toward the left side of the house.
Everyone followed and came to a stop past the structure as Tan pointed to another, longer, hill just within the fence perimeter. “My family lives there,” and he pointed to the wooden homes literally built within of the hillside.
“Hobbit homes,” Jason quipped with amusement.
“So you live separate from those in the main house?” Daniel asked, frowning at the inequality.
Tan smiled gently. “Do not worry yourself, Daniel. It is our home. We can live in the house with our kin, but it is not our way. We prefer that made from the land.”
Daniel had figured that maybe they were servants or former residents, but now he wasn’t so sure. “So, your family and the residents of the house are all that’s left here? On the whole planet?”
Tan studied him. “That bothers you?”
“Well … that number is genetically unsustainable.”
“Those words make no sense to me. If Adriann wishes to explain, he will. Let us return.”
Daniel frowned at him, quite sure that Tan was now evading the answers. Like Jack, he now saw someone different than the man they’d met. Perhaps because the fear was gone, but he was starting to think that the earlier fear had partly been an act.
They returned to the front and Tan opened the high, arched door and showed them in. Sam moved the MALP easily inside and shut down the power to the remote control once the MALP was parked by the door, out of the way. The first thing the teams felt was the temperature. It was unusually warm for an extremely large room.
They stood in a hall the size of a ballroom. Before them in the center of the room was a long and wide dining table made of something resembling oak and would have comfortably seated thirty people. If what Tan said was true, the Brethren would have to join them for dinner and Daniel had a feeling that they were rarely invited.
To the left was the source of the heat. Three immense fireplaces as tall as Jack bracketed by overstuffed chairs with small round side tables. To the right were smaller tables that Daniel judged were perhaps meant for serving stations. Over their heads were a dozen elaborate chandeliers that hung from a cathedral ceiling.
Beyond the dining table was a wide staircase that fluted at the bottom and spread out in both directions as you climbed to reach second floor walkways that ended in unseen hallways. The walkways were dotted with doorways. Bedrooms? Above the back of the staircase were tall, sectioned windows with tapered crowns and multi-colored glass that reminded him of stained glass.
Everything appeared to be purposely immense. The front door, the living room, the vaulted ceiling, the wide double staircase, the windows, and the massive open pit stone fireplaces. The floor was hardwood and decorated with woven rugs that matched the theme of ‘overly huge.’
“Wow,” Sam said.
“Ditto,” Jack replied.
“Please wait here,” Tan said, making a sweeping motion to include the entire room, before turning toward the staircase and locking his fingers together in front of him. Rone ran to a door seated to their left, flush with the front of the mansion.
“Uh huh,” Jack mumbled. He’d decided that he didn’t trust Tan. The man was sending up even more red flags. Jack looked over at Teal’c and saw the same wariness. Teal’c inclined his head, then nodded. Jason walked around them and ran his fingers over the surface of the dining table while his teammates examined the hall. Sam walked about ten feet away, looking around, but went no further. Jason’s boys didn’t do the same so he said, “Psst.” He twirled an index finger and they returned within acceptable distance.
“I’m not liking the feel of this,” Jack said in an undertone.
“Yep,” Jason said.
Unconsciously, both teams spread into a half circle while facing the staircase, Jack, and Jason in dead center. Battle prep.
To lighten the moodiness of the moment, Jack said, “I’m gonna lose it if the last name of the people who live here is Collins.“
“I know how you feel,” Jason quietly replied. “Remember I used the word gothic in describing the house. I’m getting more of that. If a wolf howls, I’m finding garlic.”
Daniel snorted. “If we have some of that orange chicken MRE, you’ll have plenty there.”
Jason jumped on the distraction. “I know, right? What’s up with those people? Haven’t they ever heard of moderation?”
Folding his arms, Daniel looked up, absently examining the second floor while he quietly said, “This place is old, Jack.”
“Hundreds of years.”
There was a pregnant pause while Jack wondered what Daniel was getting at. When Daniel didn’t explain, he said, “And?”
“It doesn’t look like it’s been used by a lot of people for that length of time. I’m gonna guess that the people who live here have unusually long lives.”
“Where do you get that?” Jack asked, looking at him.
“Aged wear and tear shows, Jack, no matter how well kept meticulously maintained.”
“My symbiote would agree with your assessment of this place … or maybe the beings that live here.”
“Junior restless?” Jack asked.
“Well, that would make sense, Teal’c,” Daniel told him, “going by that Goa’uld warning.”
Teal’c nodded with understanding.
Daniel turned to Tan, who remained quiet. Waiting. Almost like a servant. Daniel started to ask him further questions but was interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming from the staircase.
“I believe Doctor Jackson is quite correct,” came a mellifluous voice.
A tall Caucasian man with thick, dark blond hair that flowed over his shoulders descended the stairs and approached them. In Daniel’s estimation, he was perhaps 6’5″ or 6’6″ and built like a swimmer, which made the rich clothing he wore look somehow more elegant. The fabric looked like velvet and silk, made up in vivid dark colors and designs. He was imposing, and even from a distance, Daniel knew this was their … host.
Following behind him were four others, almost as tall. Their hair too was long, but instead of dark blond, it was dark brown, almost black. Behind them lingered others who remained on the stairs, watching the visitors with wide, curious eyes.
“How’d you know my name?” Daniel asked as they crossed the hall to meet them. As this Adriann grew closer, Daniel felt intrigued by the striking grey eyes, very long lashes, and a rather long, aquiline nose, almost Patrician.
“I can see your mind,” Adriann replied.
Next to him, his sister said, into his mind, I thought you were keeping that a secret? Her voice wasn’t heard by anyone but Adriann.
I will keep some things secret until it is time reveal them. But I just couldn’t resist.
Shame on you.
Be nice, my sister.
Adriann came to stand before Daniel but Daniel took a step back and gestured at Jack and Jason. “They’re the leaders of our group.”
A corner of Adriann’s mouth twitched. He turned his attention likewise and held out a hand. “Welcome to Var’chol’si.”
Jack hesitated, but traded grips. “Jack. You know this custom, it seems.”
“Only after reading you. I am Adriann.” When he smiled, brief but warmly, it showed large and very, very white teeth.
For some reason he didn’t question, that made Daniel relax. Adriann’s voice went from mellifluous to nearly hypnotic. There was a strangely soothing sound to it and it intrigued Daniel so much, he wanted to hear more. Somewhere inside, alarm bells were ringing but they just didn’t seem important.
Adriann exchanged greetings with Jason, regarding him carefully. He decided he liked the man; liked his protectiveness. The love Jason felt for Daniel was so easily readable. Adriann felt the same from Jack. He admired anyone willing to be forward and risk insult, and neither was he one to stand on ceremony. Though Adriann already guessed that Daniel didn’t stand on ceremony, either, he felt that Daniel was just a bit more polite about it. In Adriann’s opinion, that made him more dangerous, maybe even untrustworthy. But from Daniel’s mind, he knew he could trust him and because of that, he liked him even more.
“This is Talen, my sister. Derra, our cousin,” he said, pointing to the women, then at the two men, “and this is Zeph and Keshan.” All four stayed where they were and gave short bows. Like Talen, Derra had long, thick, black hair, but Zeph and Keshan bore striking dark auburn brown. Their eyes matched the grey of Adriann’s, which told Daniel they were related, but not how closely. Wary but pleasant expressions covered their faces.
“It was nice meeting you,” Keshan said quietly, then turned to Adriann. “We shall see you later. We are having our evening meal upstairs. Have to finish our game.” Zeph smiled at the two teams, then bowed and followed Keshan and Derra as they disappeared upstairs.
Adriann turned, his eyes following their progression. He looked at the unnamed others remaining on the stairs, staring in fascination at SG-1 and SG-2. “Hmmm,” he said, then glanced at Talen, who shrugged noncommittally. Adriann looked back at Daniel and Jack, then quickly glanced at their teammates.
“Apparently my kin are not too interested in conversation,” and he frowned in irritation and raised his voice so his people could hear him. “Unbelievably rude,” he drawled, making Jack smirk. “But they wanted to see you, so I guess I have to give them that … barely. We are not used to visitors so I think we are out of practice. I guess that includes the others, hanging about on the stairs or hiding in their rooms,” he enunciated slowly to show his disappointment, not bothering to look back on the stairs. “Well, their loss. I am thrilled you are here.”
Jack introduced Sam, Connor, Al, and Alex, and lastly, Teal’c. None of them came forward to shake Adriann’s hand, but they gave him a cordial nod instead. Except Teal’c.
“First Prime,” Adriann said, bowing slightly with a slight turn of his head. “It is well that you arrive with humans. You dress like them. This is unusual.”
“He’s the first,” Jack said in Teal’c’s place. “He won’t be the last if we have anything to do with it.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said.
Adriann gave an amused smirk. “How may I help you?” he asked Jack.
“We’re here because we found a warning leading us here.”
“A warning?” Adriann asked, surprised. “And you ignored it?”
“It was to the Goa’uld. Kinda like to check out who scares the snakeheads.”
Adriann smiled again and after a second, he laughed lightly and bowed a bit. “Ah. Well, any enemies of the Goa’uld are welcome at my table.” He gestured for all of them to sit down. “Tan told you that you cannot return to the Stargate until after full dawn tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, we were told,” Jack said, irritation plain in his voice.
“My apologies for the inhospitality of the planet. Not exactly something we can control, though we have tried.” He gestured again for them to sit and waited at the end of the table whose back was at the stairs. “The Brethren will serve our evening meal soon. Please, join us.” Without waiting, Adriann sat at the head of the table and his sister sat down to his right.
With a bit of hesitation, Jack nodded to the teams and took a seat to Adriann’s left. Jason sat across, with Alex, Al, and Connor beside him. Daniel took his place next to Jack, then Sam and Teal’c took their seats last.
“So,” Jack drawled out, but was distracted when newcomers came out of the door that Rone had disappeared through, carrying platters, and pushing carts. Plus, Tan was nowhere to be found. He required watching. “Whoa,” he then said as a woman set a rectangular plate in front of him, forcing him to get his hands out of the way.
“Reni!” Adriann said and spoke in another language to the small woman. She bowed and responded and Adriann’s tone softened as he spoke to her again. The other servers had all frozen in place.
“What was that?” Daniel asked.
“She’s scared of you,” Adriann replied, watching her as she retreated the way she’d come, through that side door. “I understand. You’re quite astonishing to her,” Adriann answered, then gestured the others come forward. They bowed at the newcomers before continuing to set the table.
Their clothing was like that of Tan and Rone and Daniel wondered if they were the people Tan spoke of. He looked at Adriann, the question apparent on his face and Adriann held up his hand.
“Yes, they’re the Brethren. They’re here to prepare the table and serve the meal. They’ll have their own meal separately.” He slipped easily into using the colloquial speech, and for the moment, Daniel, and Jason, the two most familiar with speech patterns, didn’t notice.
“Separately?” Daniel asked, then suddenly frowned, and looked around. “Where did Tan go? I didn’t even see him leave.”
“I was just wondering that,” Jack added.
“He has duties,” Adriann said matter-of-factly as he was handed a glass and a large carafe of a blood-red beverage. “He waited until we came down, then left to see to them.”
“And those duties would be? Tan wasn’t too forthcoming.”
“Ahh, so I take it that Tan would not answer your questions to your satisfaction?”
Daniel cleared his throat after nudging Jack in return. A silent ‘stop that’. “No, he said you would be better at answering.”
Adriann snorted. “Well, I’ll try. Would you care for some wine?” then took a sip from his glass and offered it to Daniel to smell.
“No,” Jack said, waving it off so that Daniel wouldn’t taste it. “If it’s wine, it has intoxicating properties and we’re on mission. No relaxing our guard.” He paused, amused at Adriann’s brow of surprise. “I’m sure you can understand that.”
Adriann snapped his fingers and the servers who were pouring stopped. He made a beckoning gesture as well as one that clearly stated to take the wine away. Servants moved smoothly around, switching out glasses for mugs filled with clearer, yet slightly golden, liquid.
Daniel lifted his mug and sniffed. It had a hint of honey. “Mead?”
“Mead?” Adriann asked, meeting his gaze a bit too long. “Ah, no. No alcohol. It’s called shu’sa.” He pronounced it shu-sah.
Before Jack could authorize it, Daniel tasted it and was pleasantly surprised at the blandness of the liquid. It was like water with a sweetener. “It’s okay, Jack.”
“Thanks,” Jack said with sarcasm and Daniel made a “well, I did it, no use getting after me about it” look.
Candles were set down in the center of the table, then flowers, quickly followed by small plates, large bowls, and ceramic utensils resembling spoons and knives, both slightly curved.
“Well, what did you want to know?” Adriann asked as he turned his attention to Jack. Although he wanted to give his undivided attention to Daniel, Adriann felt that Jack, as leader, deserved proper respect and equal attention. One thing he didn’t want to do was insult the man. The same went for Jason.
Jack looked at Daniel. “You’re the resident anthropologist. You want to take it?”
“Anthropologist?” Adriann asked, though he knew exactly what Jack meant. However, Jack and his people didn’t know that and he preferred to keep it that way.
Daniel cleared his throat. “Anthropologist. Someone who studies anthropology, which is the science of studying human social relationships.”
“Ah, I see. So you are delegated the job of speaking to new people so you can ask the right questions … or is it more as the keeper of civility?”
Jason coughed to stifle a bark of laughter. Daniel sent him an icy warning, then looked back at Adriann with a pleasant expression.
“Okay, first. Why the warning? Second, are these Brethren slaves, servants, or hired help?” He moved his arms as a woman resembling Rone filled his bowl with what appeared to be a thick vegetable soup. He looked about and discovered everyone else’s bowl was being filled as well. Except for Adriann’s and Talen’s.
Adriann smiled. “The second question is easiest so that shall go first. I don’t recognize ‘hired help’ but I’ll assume you mean workers. No. They’re our relatives. Their purpose here is to raise livestock, grow the fruits and vegetables, see to the land, and help us take care of the house.”
“What do you do?” Jack asked as he smelled the soup, which woke his stomach up slightly. It definitely smelled better than the MREs, which didn’t appeal at the moment.
Jack was in the middle of a spoonful of soup and he paused. Daniel stifled a laugh as he saw Jack look down into his spoon, as if he’d find something freshly killed sitting there.
Adriann smiled. “There is nothing freshly killed in the soup, Jack.”
Jack looked at him and frowned. “Stop doing that.”
Adriann had the grace to look chagrined. “Of course. I apologize. It’s who we are and it’s habit.”
“So’s this pick up of other races’ traits,” Daniel remarked. When Jack gave him a puzzled look, Daniel said, “He’s using contractions, Jack.” To Adriann, he asked, “How long did it take to learn our language?”
“And how did Tan know? Is he telepathic, too?”
“No. I sent the language into his brain.”
Everyone human froze. The power it implied made him a potential threat. Jack wiped his mouth with a cloth that had been provided and sat back.
Adriann closed his eyes and sighed. “Humans.” It sounded almost derogatory. And familiar. “You have nothing to fear from me or anyone of my kin. I promise you.”
“You’ve met our kind before?” Daniel asked as tensions abated.
“A long, long time ago.” To assuage concerns, he took some of his soup. “It was a tactless remark. Apologies.”
“Accepted,” Daniel said when he saw that Jack silently did so.
“As for the answer to what we do, we hunt wildlife outside the fence. We’re good at it, so, it’s our task.”
“You only hunt? Nothing else?” Daniel asked as seasoned bread was set down on the small plates.
Adriann shook his head. “No. Am I supposed to do something else, Daniel?”
“If that’s all, you must grow extremely bored,” Daniel said. He cleared his throat. “Which tends to make unexpected company something akin to a miracle. But …”
Jack raised a brow, met Daniel’s eyes, then got his drift. “But if what Daniel suggests is true, and we’re a welcome sight, then why aren’t your people a lot more excited?”
Next to Adriann, Talen had been studying Teal’c with a curious expression, but she interrupted their conversation.
“Adriann,” Talen said. “Let us get this warning message business out of the way. The Jaffa here is having a hard time resisting the urge to kill us.”
“His name is Teal’c,” Jack said, his own warning in his tone. He turned to Teal’c. “What’s up?”
“I am not resisting any urge to kill,” Teal’c said. “It is possible that it is the symbiote who wishes it. Naturally, it can do nothing.”
“Baby needs a pacifier,” Jason said, rolling his eyes. “Honestly, Teal’c, haven’t the Goa’uld ever developed some sort of trank for the damn things?”
“They have not,” Teal’c said with a sigh. “And imbibing your wine would not help because I cannot get drunk.”
“Maybe junior can.”
“It is of no consequence,” Teal’c said, reminding Jack exactly who was in charge. “It will not be time to seek out a new larva for years. This one causes me no discomfort. It is our hosts who find it so.”
“Talen has an ability to sense things I can’t,” Adriann said as he turned to her. “Ignore it, or perhaps you will need to reorient your thoughts.”
“Of course,” she said with a deep sigh. “I apologize, Teal’c. And your parasite will need killing in two years.”
Teal’c’s brow rose. “Two years?”
She nodded. “I sense its thought patterns. It is more advanced than you thought.”
“Shit,” Jack exclaimed quietly. “I hate hunting down those stupid casks.”
“Perhaps you should keep them on hand and in stasis,” Adriann suggested.
“We don’t have that tech,” Daniel replied, exchanging looks with Sam.
“Stasis techniques,” Sam clarified. “We need the appropriate chemicals and frankly, when we run into the Goa’uld, we’re not terribly interested in saving anything.”
“Understandable,” Adriann said. “As for the warning, we found them an annoyance. We were never scared of the Goa’uld. We used to battle them, but they haven’t interfered with us for a very long time. You see, we do not receive visitors anymore, except by accident.”
When Adriann let his gaze into Daniel’s eyes linger, Daniel started to fidget uncomfortably. Jack and Jason frowned and looked at each other. They were about to get Adriann’s attention when Daniel cleared his throat.
“Adriann? Something on my face?” Daniel asked.
Adriann blinked. “I’m very sorry for staring. No one here has eyes your color.”
Now Jack became annoyed. “Oh, well, that’s nice. So, how come the Goa’uld don’t bother you?” he asked then, taking the subject of Daniel’s eye color off the table.
Adriann looked over at Jack, and his demeanor was slow, focused. “Because they’re not a threat to us,” was all he said. He pointed a finger to his own eyes and looked at Daniel’s glasses. “You need them?”
“Yes. They’re meant for sight adjustment. You don’t have sight problems I take it?”
“Must be nice,” Daniel said, a little envious.
Adriann responded with a warm, sympathetic smile. “Was the warning the only reason you came here?”
Jason answered instead. “Maybe eight percent. We explore, looking for allies and ways to defeat the Goa’uld. If you have methods that would be of use to us.”
Adriann liked that answer and smiled again, then looked down at the bowls of barely touched soup and bread. “Aren’t you hungry?” he asked, looking at each of them.
They weren’t really, Jack thought, even as he, Sam, Alex, and Connor were sampling the soup.
“On our world, it’s morning, or first rise,” Daniel told him. “We’d already eaten before we came here so, no, we’re not all that hungry.”
Adriann sighed, then snapped his fingers. Rone came out of the side door and walked over to him.
“Where does that lead to?” Daniel asked suddenly.
“The kitchen,” Adriann answered, then looked at Rone. “I’m sorry, Rone. They’ve already eaten and it’s my fault for not asking before you brought everything out.”
“I understand, Adriann,” Rone replied quietly, then snapped his fingers and several men and women came out and began to pick up the bowls and plates.
Daniel noticed they were picking up Adriann’s dinner, only just touched. “Aren’t you going to eat?”
“It is rude to eat when the guests are not. Would any of you care for fruit or a sweet concoction?” he asked before he sent Rone away.
“Anyone?” Jack asked around. No one did. “Maybe we’re all a little on edge. First contacts can sometimes be like that.”
“Pity,” Adriann said. “How can we calm things down?”
“Tell us about this world of yours?” Jack asked.
But Daniel couldn’t focus. Adriann’s voice became intoxicating all by itself. Plus there seemed to be a change the atmosphere. It was subtle, like a slowly rising humidity. He felt as if he had something to ask, that inner alarm bell returning but his concentration kept slipping. One second, his mind cleared enough to be certain that Adriann and his sister were taking control of the conversations with their automatically disarming manner, using melodic, calming tones, convincing himself and the others to relax and be at ease. The next second, time seemed to slow. Adriann’s voice almost seemed to purr.
Daniel wondered why no one else seemed to notice, including Jack and Jason, and that bothered him. His own practiced ear was accustomed to discerning dialects and new languages, attuned to changes in speech, but so was Jason’s, and Jack wasn’t exactly deaf, either. What the hell was going on?
Daniel realized that Jack had been asking questions and Adriann was providing answers. Trouble was … the seductive tone was still there … just under the surface. Daniel shook his head, several times, making sure the clarity was still there.
“Daniel? What’s wrong?” Jason asked. Everyone at the table perked up, worried.
“Nothing. Barometer rising or falling or something. My head felt foggy, now my ears popped.” No one understood what he was talking about, or if they did, nothing was said.
“Are you okay now?” Adriann asked, touching Daniel’s arm. Daniel looked down, feeling the warmth of the man’s hand, and idly wondered at the seemingly manicured nails.
“Yes, I’m fine.”
Everyone relaxed, but only slightly. Jack touched his elbow. “Are you sure?”
“Good,” Adriann replied. “You looked to ask a question. Did you have one?”
“Yes. Do you have any idea why the Goa’uld would leave a warning about your planet?” He caught an actual look of annoyance from Jack. “What?”
“He already answered that, Daniel. Weren’t you listening?”
Daniel frowned. Now what the hell’s going on? he asked himself. He looked into his mug, then smelled it. It had seemed okay, but he was now suspicious of it.
“Daniel?” Jason asked, his alarms going off when Daniel didn’t like something. On a mission, that meant trouble.
Daniel started to say nothing was wrong, then dismissed that. “Something’s wrong. I didn’t hear him explain. There’s something in the air, it’s … hypnotic.” He looked around at the others, his eyes widening as they stared blankly at him. “Don’t you guys sense it, smell it?”
Jack exchanged glances with Jason, then with Sam and Teal’c. He concentrated, then realized that Daniel was right. He shot an accusing look at Adriann.
“Daniel’s right. It’s so subtle I didn’t pay attention to it. What the hell’s going on here?”
Daniel sighed with relief then looked at Adriann indignantly. “I knew I wasn’t imagining it. What’s going on?”
Adriann had been studying him, realizing that Daniel’s awareness seemed to have been heightened and not subdued – as the liquid in his mug had intended – and had just made the others aware, as well. He shook his head, amazed at the power the young man held. Adriann gave an apologetic smile to Daniel, then to Jack, Jason, and the others.
“My apologies. It has to be the incense we burn. It has a relaxing effect. As it is close to our retiring time, we burn more of it after sunfall. I do not notice it anymore.”
“Is it narcotic?”
Adriann frowned, pretending not to understand.
“Does it alter awareness?” Daniel elaborated.
“Ah. No. It is merely a kind of … sedative.”
“That’s a narcotic,” Jack argued.
Adriann raised his brow. “Is it? Well, then I misunderstood.”
“So, this … incense,” Jack said. “It’s a what, a sleep aid?”
“It’s called tak’ana, and it’s taken from the flowers and leaves of a purple plant with black flowers. It’s properties are mainly relaxation and sexual stimulation.”
Jack coughed. “What?”
Adriann winked at him, and it was disconcerting. “Relax, if you’ll pardon what you call a pun. It’s currently being used only as a relaxation incense. The other kind is a paste. We need the relaxation incense so that we can sleep with so many of the moons out.” His voice held a subtle seductive quality to it as he spoke. “Our cycles are guided by them. Please don’t take this the wrong way, and I mean no offense, but our sleep is extremely important to us and I cannot change our custom because it bothers you.”
Daniel frowned. “We weren’t about to ask you to, Adriann. I just didn’t like the foggy feeling in my head. It’s unnerving.”
“It’s something slightly … cinnamon in scent,” Jason interrupted, concentrating on the air.
“Really?” Jack replied, then inhaled slowly. “You’re right. Daniel?”
Daniel still looked annoyed. “I’ve been smelling … well, no not smelling, just noticing the effect for a while. Thought I was imagining it.”
Adriann affected an air of worry and alarm. “I’m so sorry it’s worrying you so.”
“No, it’s not … well, okay, it is a little, but I’m okay, now that I know what’s going on.”
“Do you wish for me to repeat what you missed?” Adriann asked.
“I was explaining why you have to stay until the sun rises.”
“Very well. To the best of my knowledge, the beasts have been around for as long as my family can remember. According to a few surviving legends, our people were brought to the planet a millennia ago and they learned to co-exist with the beasts. But over time, that changed.”
“What changed exactly?” Daniel asked, all earlier questions seemingly forgotten as Adriann was finally giving him answers about his people and his world … that he was paying attention to, that is.
Adriann gave him a sober expression. “Evolution.”
“Meaning that we soon became rival predators. The beasts saw us as a threat.”
“They’re sentient?” Daniel asked.
“No. They’re instinctual creatures only. But like any predator, when another is in its range, it feels threatened.”
“That’s a universal constant,” Daniel remarked dryly, feeling just a bit more at ease, as if everything he’d been worrying about suddenly evaporated. “So, do these beasts have a name?”
“Our ancestors used to call them Kash-tole.”
“And that would mean?”
“Beasts of enormous size. We now call them Bor’cha, which means ferocious killer.”
Daniel frowned. That was just about as helpful as before. Well, onto the next question.
“And who or what is Var’chol’si? You said that was the name of your planet. Is it or is it you? Tan and Rone were startled when we used the name.”
Adriann smiled. He’d been wondering when Daniel remembered to ask. “That would be both, Daniel.”
“And what does it mean? It’s a Goa’uld dialect that neither Teal’c nor I could translate.”
“It is not Goa’uld.”
Daniel’s eyes went wide in surprise and he looked at Teal’c before asking Adriann, “How’s that possible? The message was clearly a dialect.”
“Yes, I’m sure it was. But Var’chol’si isn’t. It’s our language and no other race shares it.”
“So again, what does it mean?”
Another enigmatic smile came from Adriann when he said, “It means Blood of the Kin, Daniel.”
Daniel arched a brow. “Blood of the Kin?”
“Kin, as in our family, our race.”
Daniel frowned again. “But you’re human, aren’t you?”
“A bit more advanced,” he said. It was sort of the truth. He tapped his temple. “Obviously.”
“We have a few telepaths on our planet,” Jack said, surprising every member of his party. Jack was not someone who openly talked about paranormal anything.
“Do you really?” Adriann asked, and for once his attention strayed from Daniel. “What constitutes ‘a few’?”
“We really don’t know,” Daniel said. “Tell a person about your gift and they’ll either openly scoff, want to use you for personal gain, want to inform on you to the government, or kill you.” His teammates took on guilty expressions. What Daniel said was true, whether they liked it or not. “Very few will openly accept you.”
“How unfortunate,” Adriann said, frowning.
“Have you ever heard of the Furling race?” Daniel asked, changing the subject.
Adriann frowned. “No, why?”
Jack replied, “The warning was written on a large stone tablet that was found on a planet we were surveying. There had already been etchings from a language that Daniel recognized.”
Daniel clarified. “We discovered a planet a few years ago that held key genetic information about four races. It was meant to be used as a library. Unfortunately, the building was stationed along a rocky coast and the foundation failed, dropping most of it into the sea, Stargate included so we can’t go back. One of the races was called Asgard. Have you heard of them?”
Adriann shook his head. “I might have but I don’t recall. I’d have to search through our records.”
“You might look up a race we simply call The Ancients. They’re the ones who built the Stargates and spread them throughout the galaxies.”
Pleasantly surprised, Adriann smiled at him. “You are a font of knowledge, Doctor Jackson.”
“You have no idea,” Jack murmured, half to himself and in warning.
Adriann surprised him by chuckling, which served to knock Daniel out of his impending annoyance at his lover.
“I have my uses,” Daniel said, preferring to rise above Jack’s inadvertent baiting. “Anyway, the Furling was one race. The Ancients and Asgard were two others. We don’t know the fourth one.”
“One of the Asgard called us the Fifth Race,” Jack offered. He wondered what Adriann would make of that, but he was disappointed in that the man—if he was a man, and the jury was still out—didn’t seem all that interested.
“Interesting.” Adriann stood. “It’s time for us to retire soon. I’d ask you to join us for our traditional evening drink, but as you say, you don’t care for mind-altering substances while you’re on duty.” He paused and looked around. “Unless you’d like to consider yourselves … how do you say it? No longer on duty.”
“Off duty,” Jack said. He exchanged a look with Jason. Both were rather interested and it wouldn’t hurt to have a small amount out of courtesy. “And we’ll join you.” Adriann’s brows rose again as Jack looked around the table. “It’s not an order.” When he looked at Daniel, the man shrugged.
“Um, sure,” Daniel said, looking at him, then at Jason.
“Just don’t drain the mugs, people,” Jack cautioned. “We’re offworld. This means we can’t be off duty. Technically. It is an unusual circumstance and I’m willing to forgo the restrictions.”
“You won’t be using mugs, as you call them,” Adriann said.
Tan soon appeared and Jack and Jason watched him like a hawk as he and Rone passed around blue cocktail glasses no larger than a cordial. Jason was thinking of those Pontellier Reservoir glasses used for absinthe while Jack thought of sherry. Daniel went for cordial.
Adriann took a fluted glass jug from a young Brethren girl, smiling at her with a nod. “This is trai. It comes from a blue flower the, how do you say it … the distillation process turns it into a nearly colorless liquid with just a hint of color.” He motioned at the table and the two poured the liquor.
Daniel picked up his glass and sniffed. It smelled like brandy but when he took a sip, he found to his astonishment that the liquor was very mild and somewhat sweet, unlike brandy. The others, except Teal’c, took tentative sips, and at the apparent mildness, took larger drinks.
“Not bad,” Jason observed.
“It’s an extremely mild intoxicant,” Adriann said, and raised his glass. “I believe you have a tradition called a toast?”
Since he was still standing, Jack and Jason shrugged and got to their feet, followed by everyone else.
“To a long-lasting friendship,” Adriann said, “and if not that, than a profitable alliance.”
Jack blinked at him. It was exactly what he’d been thinking. With a frown, he looked at everyone raised his glass to them, then to Adriann. “The alliance,” he said.
“The alliance,” said the other members of the two teams.
But Daniel waited and though he didn’t understand why he said it, he added an extra ‘raising’ of his glass to Adriann and murmured, “And to friendship.”
The glasses were easily drained.
“It’s time to show you to your rooms,” Adriann said. “How long until you are due to check in with your home?”
Jack looked down at his watch. It was now 11:45. An hour had passed since their last talk with Hammond. “Five hours.”
Adriann shook his head, not understanding. “That time reference means nothing to me.”
Jack shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. In a little while, our commander will open the gate and contact us via our radios,” and he tapped the radio on his field vest.
“Ah, good. That means you won’t have to go outside. However, because it’s early on your world, I’m afraid you will be up all night, so the intoxicant might not be a bad idea. If you wish more, the rooms contain bottles of it. I feel like a horrible host, not giving you a chance to visit better or be able to show you around. I can do that in the morning, if you wish.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jack said, waving off his apology. “We’ll have questions tomorrow, but I’ll check in with our boss first to see if they’ll even be worth it.”
“Worth it?” Adriann asked, though he knew what Jack meant. “Ah, yes. Profitable.”
“One of our purposes of exploration is to accrue technology in our fight against the Goa’uld. I’d still like to know what the Goa’uld are so afraid of here.”
Adriann inclined his head in understanding. “And see if it could be of use to you?”
Jack grinned mildly. “That’d be it, Adriann.”
Jack seemed just a bit clearer in his thinking, Adriann thought. Not so different than Daniel, but different in complexity. “Possibly,” Adriann answered slowly, then bowed. “Talen, Tan, and I will show you to your rooms where you can relax. There are baths and other amenities. If you can’t sleep, you may take a look around. Just don’t go too close to the fence. I warn you. You won’t like what happens.”
“I thought the fence protected us?” Daniel asked as they walked away from the table.
“It does. But the beasts hunt around here, unnecessarily. They can’t get in, but I’ve learned never to underestimate the intelligence of a predator.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Jack commented.
Adriann grinned and he and his sister, accompanied by Tan, led them to the right-hand side of the second floor to four consecutive rooms. Jack hesitated.
“We don’t need four rooms.”
“It’s for your comfort,” Adriann told him. “If you feel you must remain together, I understand, but they’ll be assigned to you nonetheless.”
Pointing at the first door, the one closest to the stairs, he said, “Jack, Daniel.” The second door was for Sam and Teal’c. The third was given to Jason and Alex, and the last, to Al and Connor.
Adriann suddenly yawned, then apologized. “I’ll be checking security around the house and the perimeter, then in a little while, I’ll see that your needs or wants are being provided for before I retire. Will that be satisfactory?”
“Quite,” Jack told him. “We won’t bother you for anything to drink or eat so–“
“If you find yourselves hungry or thirsty, then feel free to visit the kitchen. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something. Talen or someone will help you with anything you need.”
“Not you?” Daniel asked.
Adriann gave him a smile that made the backs of Daniel’s thighs tingle. It was exciting but uncomfortable because he couldn’t figure out why he was reacting this way. What the hell was going on with this alien?
“How long till sunrise?” Jack asked.
Adriann sighed and bit his lip. “Describe that time device?” he asked, gesturing at Jack’s watch. Jack took it off and handed it over, explaining each tick mark as a minute, each number as an hour.
“Ah,” Adriann said, nodding. “In eleven hours.”
“Thanks,” Daniel replied.
“You are very welcome, Daniel.”
Talen said, “I shall return to assist anyone who wishes.” She left with Adriann and they disappeared down a back hall to the left of the stairs. Tan bowed to them and departed downstairs without a backward glance.
“Everyone,” Jack said, opening his proffered room’s door. “Conference.”
“Daniel?” Sam asked.
“Adriann’s been flirting with you.”
“Yeah, Sam, I’m not that dense.” Jack growled. “Jealous?”
Jack paused, staring at him for a moment. “Let’s scope out the amenities, people.”
What they found was that each room was almost exactly alike: richly furnished with large beds, a type of sofa called a tête-à-tête, chiffoniers, dressers, several lavishly overstuffed chairs, and very large fireplaces. All the beds were king-sized, with wooden four-poster frames, and were decorated with dozens of plush pillows and thick quilts.
Inspecting the bathrooms, they found that each had sunken, circular baths, with hand-held nozzles in place of faucets. The toilets and sinks were immediately recognizable, albeit different enough to look strange, with intricately carved, ceramic vanities and large oval mirrors. The open shelving underneath the vanities held the same items: bath oils and sponges. Returning to Jack and Daniel’s room, they gave their reports.
“Okay, settle in,” Jack said, his mind on security. “One sleeps, the other stays on guard. I’m only half-way comfortable with this situation. Carter, was the MALP left on?”
“At ninety-eight percent, sir. It will last for another twenty-seven hours if not shut down.”
Jack nodded. “When the SGC calls in, I’ll answer, but each one of you make sure that your IDFs are online. Check now.”
Everyone did so, making sure the radios and hand mics were turned to the same channel, as set by the MALP downstairs. When contact came, they would all hear.
Jack sighed and looked around the room, then looked at everyone. “Okay, anything on your minds?”
“I’d like to take advantage of the bath, sir,” Sam said. “Are we authorized for that sort of settling in?”
Jack nodded. “Get comfortable but stay vigilant.” That meant keeping you weapon at hand, even while bathing. “Also, when you can … snoop.” He drew amused faces. “We were given permission, but you know what we need as well as what’s not right. Anything that looks off, outside of being alien, radio me or Jason.”
The team members split up, going to their own rooms.
Talen went around and asked if they wished to take baths, and Sam was the only one who had said yes. Teal’c asked for more candles so he could meditate, so Talen opened up a massive chiffonier and removed half a dozen beeswax candles and informed him that should he wish more, there were some in one of the kitchen’s compartments. Teal’c placed them around the room and lit them with a lighting stick from the now-roaring fireplace, then checked with Jack to make sure things were fine before he returned to his and Sam’s room.
Talen was showing Sam some long silk robes that hung within the chiffonier if she wished to utilize one after her bath, then noticed Sam’s chiffonier was without towels. Once her bath had filled with hot water by a handheld hose within the wall, she left Sam and called down for Rone to send up towels. Sam found the bath oil in a compartment within the bathroom and waited for Talen to leave before she settled into her bath. When Rone knocked on the door, he was greeted by a stoic Teal’c. He handed him the towels, then hurried off, not wanting to linger too long in the Jaffa’s presence. Teal’c pondered his behavior for a moment, but then dismissed it for the time being. Right now, he’d see to Sam’s needs, then his own. Very often now, they were one and the same.
As Jack went to check on Jason and his teammates, Daniel paused in the hallway.
“Didn’t Adriann mention a library?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Yes, I think he did, although if he hadn’t, I think you’d have sniffed it out eventually.”
“Very funny, wise ass. I think I’ll have a look around. What are you going to do?”
“Well, first watch is ours – although there’s no real need for one. All the same, I’ll check on Jace and Wagner, then check on those scallywags at the end of the hall,” and Daniel grinned at that. “Then probably settle down and spy through your journal.” Daniel smirked at him.
“You could start your own, you know.”
“I’ve an extra one.”
“I know. I watch you pack the damn things,” but he softened his words with a grin. “I wish I’d brought something to read.”
Daniel snorted. “If I find a copy of Dracula, you want me to send it up?”
Jack shook his head as he made his way to Jason’s door and knocked. “Sure, what the hell. I could use a little comedy.”
“Speaking of both, does this still feel like an episode of Dark Shadows to you?”
Jack paused, considering, then shook his head. “Not really. Not gothic enough.”
Daniel snorted. “The chess game’s in my pack, Jack. Jace should be up for a game or three.” With a smile at his lover, Daniel walked away and made his way for the grand staircase.
“Daniel?” Jack called out.
“Yes, Jack,” Daniel replied with a sigh and disappeared from Jack’s sight.
After checking on Jason and his team, Jack didn’t bother checking in with Sam and Teal’c. He had a feeling they were just fine, anyway … and he really didn’t want to interrupt. He went back to his room, took his boots off, and laid down on the bed. A knock on the door sounded and Jason walked in without waiting for a reply.
“Well, come on in, Jace,” Jack said sarcastically, noticing that, like himself, Jason had quickly discarded his field vest and jacket.
Jason paused, then gestured at the door. “You want I should go back and knock?”
“Yeah, do that,” Jack said, pretending to scowl.
Jason turned around and started for the door but Jack tossed one of the bed pillows at him, neatly hitting him on the ass. “Don’t bother. You’re already here.”
Jason grinned as he picked up the pillow and walked over to the bed. “Alex is settling down for a nap. He’s such a light-weight when it comes to hard alcohol.”
Jack smiled. “So, feel like a game then?” and he pulled out the travel chess case from Daniel’s pack. Jason smiled back.
“Eventually. I can think of a better one right now, though.” He sat down and began to unlace his boots.
“What if I don’t want to?” Jack asked, trying not to smile, but when Jason shot him a heated, sexy look over his shoulder, he couldn’t help it. He started to reach for him but another knock came at the door. It was Rone.
“I have just seen Daniel downstairs and he said that you might change your mind about enjoying a bath,” the young man said nervously. “I can show you where to find what you need.”
“It’s unnecessary, but feel free,” Jason said and gestured for him to enter. Rone moved over and opened the chiffonier, showing them where the bath accessories were, along with the robes and towels. After he left, Jason went into the bath and eyed it as he took off his boots. He took the controls down and started to fill the bath with very hot water, then poured in some of the available bath oil.
Jack poked his head in the bathroom and shot Jace a questioning brow.
Jason gave him a filthy grin as he backed Jack out of the bath and toward the bed. “For after.”
Jason pulled off his black tee and tossed it onto the foot of the bed, then quickly removed his trousers and shorts. “Get your ass undressed and find out.”
Jack quickly threw his clothes on top of Jason’s, then laid down on the bed with such an inviting look that Jason’s partial erection was hard by the time he laid himself over Jack.
“Nothing to find out,” Jack replied quietly before pulling Jason’s mouth to his in a hungry kiss. Jason wound his fingers through Jack’s hair and began to thrust his hips, rocking quickly to get their cocks in tandem. He gasped through his nose as the friction sent delicious sparks through his body. He felt Jack’s do the same, followed by Jack opening his legs to wrap around his thighs. Moving faster and more desperately, their need was quickly reached as they came close together.
“Wanna share that bath now?” Jason asked when he finally broke the long, slow kiss they shared.
“Sounds like a plan,” Jack replied breathlessly, then rolled them over and off the bed in one easy movement, pulling Jason into the bathroom. Neither of them noticed the faint incense in the air that exited a grille over the hearth, or the effect it was having on them. Once they sank into the filled bath and began to wash each other, they began to yawn and both attributed it to afterglow nap time. A few minutes later, Jack rested his head easily over the lip of the bath and Jason leaned back against him. In seconds, they were fast asleep. It was then that a hidden door opened within the wall and Talen walked through with Derra.
Downstairs, after sending Rone up with bath supplies, Daniel found the large room that Rone had pointed him to. It was clearly a type of study, not a library. Several scrolls were haphazardly strewn on a shelf, and when Daniel opened them up, he saw that their language symbols were illegible. Tan found Daniel examining them.
Daniel looked up and found the man staring at him. His clothes had changed to white silken pants and a matching sleeveless, buttonless vest. Daniel blinked for a moment, finding the man extremely attractive, but he still made him uneasy. He took a breath and looked down at the scrolls.
“These appear damaged, Tan. Are there any others? Adriann told me that–“
“Yes, I’m aware, Daniel. I’m sorry, but the main library was damaged by fire and these tomes are all that remain. We had a flood a few years back and Adriann has been attempting to recover the writing. He can tell you more about what he’s learned.” He paused then and affected a look of disappointment. “I’m very sorry that I haven’t been of much help.” He took a step forward and touched Daniel on the arm. Daniel wanted to pull away but didn’t want to be rude.
“Don’t worry about it,” and he patted Tan’s hand instead, then turned away, setting down the scroll he’d been holding, and in so doing, removed Tan’s hand from his arm. It looked like a natural motion, so he hoped that Tan wouldn’t take offense. “You mind if I go outside? I remember the warning.”
Tan shook his head, then returned to the doorway and pointed in the direction of the entranceway that led to the back of the house. “There’s a garden there. The moons are rising fast so you should be well lit.”
“Thanks. Where’s Adriann? Has he gone to bed already?”
“No, he’s making his security checks.”
Daniel winced. “That’s right. He told me and I forgot. Thanks, Tan.”
Tan left him alone then and retreated to a room off the kitchen. He sat down on a stool and took a deep breath. Reaching down inside his pants, he slowly stroked his stiffening cock to full hardness. His stared through the window at one of the moons and his eyes changed from a golden amber color to an eerie animal yellow. They also seemed to reflect, like a cats. His hand quickened and a low growl rose from his throat.
“Before the night is through, you’ll be mine, not his.”
Daniel made his way out onto the back courtyard and looked up. The moons did indeed illuminate the yard and he could see things fairly well, but the phases of the moons, with only one full, left odd shadows everywhere, caused mostly by the strange spires that jutted out from the top of the mansion. He backed up, trying to see what their purpose was, and ran into an edging of stone that ran around the courtyard. The edging itself surrounded raised flower beds, holding a variety of strange yet colorful flowers, mostly resembling bell flowers and what might pass for orchids on Earth.
The evening wasn’t that chilly so he remained outside for a few more moments, choosing one of the young trees that dotted the flower beds to lean against as he listened to the strange sounds of foreign insects, some of which were reminiscent of crickets.
Another noise startled him and he stood up quickly and turned. It was Adriann, coming around the corner of the house.
“Daniel?” he called out.
“No, the Count of Monte Cristo.”
“What?” Adriann laughed. “I didn’t catch that,” he added as he neared.
“Never mind,” Daniel laughed. “Earth reference.”
“Ah. I should have known. Nice wit, however. You didn’t show much of it during that disaster of an evening meal.”
“What? It wasn’t a disaster. We just happened to gate to a world whose time zone is opposite ours. It’s like that on Earth actually,” Daniel continued after further thought. “Some continents have opposite time zones to the one I live on.”
“Sounds fascinating. I should love to visit it. But … ” and he looked around with a heavy sigh. “This is my home and I know I’ll never leave it. So … what are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be in your room?” Adriann reached him and stopped, wiping some dirt from his hands.
Daniel was momentarily taken by surprise and didn’t realize that he was staring. Adriann had changed his clothing and now wore something similar to Tan’s wardrobe, only the color was a vivid dark red. It was very flattering, the vest showing off the firm musculature of his biceps and forearms just as the flowing pants revealed the hint of strong thighs.
“That’s uh,” he said pointing, “very attractive. You certainly like the bold colors.” Adriann looked down at himself, and to Daniel it was comical. He smiled, almost laughing, then collected himself. “There’s nothing wrong, Adriann. You look fine. And um,” and he pointed to his arms, “for someone who doesn’t do much, you’re certainly fit.”
Adriann smiled widely. “Thanks. I try.”
“You’re finished with your patrol?”
“I am. What are you doing? Stargazing or just checking out the sights?” and he grinned, showing he was kidding.
“Um, a little of both, though I have to admit, the sights just don’t hold a candle to daylight.”
Adriann gave him a sly look. “Ah, but the moonlight is so enchanting, don’t you think?”
He caught Adriann staring at him, his body, and he quickly looked away, almost with embarrassment. He shouldn’t be, he figured. After all, hadn’t he just checked out Adriann? He may have Jason and Jack, but it didn’t mean he was blind … or dead. “I was, um, in the library, and Tan came in.”
“He didn’t bother you, did he?” Adriann suddenly asked, interrupting.
Taken aback slightly, Daniel shook his head. “No. Nothing like that. I asked about the scrolls and he said that you’ve been trying to repair the water damage, restoring what was there. I was wondering if you could tell me what information those scrolls might provide, what you hope they will provide?”
Adriann started to talk, and Daniel heard the lulling, soft, seductive tones again. This time, they seemed deeper, richer, and he found himself lost in the sound; mesmerized. Then Adriann said something that amused himself and he laughed. Daniel watched, fascinated by the whiteness of his teeth. Then suddenly, something changed.
Daniel had no idea if it was a trick of the moonlight, but the man’s canine teeth … grew. They elongated to twice their length and tapered to fine, needle-like points. It was like watching some sort of science fiction special effect. The effect was so startling that he took an involuntary step backward and tripped, falling onto his ass within the flower bed.
Adriann leaned over and held his hand out. “Daniel? What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Daniel looked again and Adriann’s canines were back to normal. It made him question whether he’d seen what he’d seen. He started to reach for Adriann’s hand, then hesitated.
“What is it? Are you okay?”
He berated his own foolishness and took the man’s hand, letting him help him to his feet. Adriann then reached around him and with a few long swipes of his hand, promptly dusted the dirt and crushed flowers from Daniel’s legs … and ass. Despite himself, Daniel shuddered … and not in a bad way.
“I’m fine, Adriann,” he said quickly, finishing the dusting off job himself. “A trick of the moonlight. For a moment, I could’ve sworn your teeth grew to fangs.”
Adriann smiled at him, not letting go of his hand yet, as if making sure Daniel were steady on his feet. “The moons often play tricks on the eyes.” He stared at Daniel for a long moment, then tightened his hold on his hand. “For instance, right now, the blue of your eyes seems to glow,” he whispered, his voice becoming hypnotizing once more. “I could fall in love with those eyes.”
Daniel blinked in surprise at the compliment, especially as it had taken him off-guard. “Um, thanks. I think I’d better be … “
He suddenly became dizzy and Adriann’s arm wound around his waist to steady him. “You don’t seem fine.”
“No, I am. I guess it’s the alcohol.”
“I’m afraid it’s the incense, Daniel. I’m sorry.”
“What do you mean?”
“The incense? I told you it has sedative properties.”
“Oh, yeah. I guess it does.”
They turned round and entered through the back door, making their way upstairs. All the while, Adriann kept his arm around Daniel’s waist and Daniel didn’t even notice.