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TITLE: The Caduceus Circle

AUTHOR: Tiv'ester

E-MAIL: tivester@lycos.com

CATEGORY: Angst, H/C, Drama

SPOILERS: Multiple

SEASON/SEQUEL: 7th-ish

RATING: PG

CONTENT WARNINGS: There's a big fight, lots of shooting, some military officers getting a wee bit out of line, a few swear words.

SUMMARY: Inspired by the legend of the Lost Battalion in WWI, Daniel leads a group of scientists on a 'peaceful' exploratory mission that goes tragically wrong

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Stargate SG-1.  Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions.  I have written this story for entertainment purposes only.  No money has exchanged hands.  No copyright infringement is intended. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story was originally printed in the zine An Ancient's Gate Special: Tribute 1 which can be found at Ancient's Gate.

Big thanks to Barb, Bri, JB, Katie, Lady Anne, Mare, Whisper and Yssy for doing a great alpha/beta job on this story. Another big thanks to everyone who’s helped me along with this story since it first started knocking around my head a couple of years ago.



This story was inspired by the legend of the Lost Battalion of World War I.

 

On October 2nd, 1918, units of the 77th "Liberty" Division from New York advanced into the dense terrain of the Argonne Forest in France. History was made over the next 6 days as this unit, the "Lost Battalion," refused to surrender even though they were completely surrounded, constantly attacked, low on ammunition and supplies, had no food, shelter and limited access to water. Of the over 600 men first trapped in the "pocket," only around 200 walked out.

 

THE CADUCEUS CIRCLE

By Tiv’ester

 

 

 

PREFACE

Green, peaceful, the planet Cyllene rotated undisturbed in the darkness of space. It was never of any strategic importance, never considered worthy of notice by the powerful beings that fought each other for galactic territories in order to expand their empires. Lost to time, it was the home of humans long overlooked by the Goa’uld. Cyllene had a slowly growing population who enjoyed a simple life without the imminent threat of enslavement or destruction.

That is not to say that all was peaceful on Cyllene. There were occasional skirmishes, the times when troubles came beckoning and force was needed to restore order, but with a small population and only one continent with environmental conditions capable of sustaining a civilization under the control of a single monarch, the need for a fully trained army wasn’t there. The lack of any insurgencies or an attacking Jaffa force had allowed the people to grow and evolve on their own terms, to settle into a life where both work and comfort could be indulged.

They had learned not only the value but also the worth of peace from their ancestors.

According to recorded belief, the god Hermes and his brother Apollo had battled Anubis for dominion of a regime. The war was devastating. Hermes and Apollo’s combined forces could not gain any advantage over Anubis’ advanced ships. In an attempt to save some of his people, Hermes took a select population from a far off war-torn planet and settled them on Cyllene, a planet far from the war zone. He gave them gifts they would need to establish themselves on a new world and have rich, full lives: basics such as animal husbandry, literature and poetry. He taught the ancestors how to bargain fairly and established the first commerce in the small villages that were scattered around the chappa’ai. He was a benevolent, cunning god. He gave them Cyllene, built a magnificent temple that magically protected them from enemies as well as housed the treasures he had collected on his previous excursions, and then, after sealing the temple mysteriously and unexpectedly, he left them to their own devices to grow and develop on their own. According to history, Hermes never returned. He had been absent for over a millennia, after his rival god Anubis was rumored to have been defeated and then suddenly disappeared.

As per their god’s will, the Cyllenians had lived in relative peace for long years. That peace was shattered when the Great Eruption buried the capitol city of Trikrena within hours, causing mass destruction and rampant loss of life. The kingdom became one of devastation and ruin. Prayers to Hermes went unanswered, and the Cyllenians faced the daunting task of rebuilding alone. One of the most lamentable items lost was the library that housed many of their historical documents. At first, the restoration of order and civilization were the priority. Some time passed before anyone realized how much of their history was lost in the Great Eruption, so the scholars mounted a quest to reclaim and record as much knowledge as possible from all corners of the land.

They built a repository for their findings, calling it the Trikrenian in honor of their lost city. It sheltered all the artifacts they discovered. The scrolls documenting their research were meticulously catalogued and referenced as each new piece of their past was uncovered.

Yet one bit of documentation that tempted the imagination was the story of the temple. If the legends were true, then Hermes placed many prized possessions and a protective weapon in the temple to defend Cyllene from his enemies. After the Great Eruption, the location of the temple was lost or forgotten and eventually became a bedtime story to tell children. When they found the first documents referring to the temple as an actual site, it was no longer the stuff of legend. It became the focal point of the scholars’ search. Even if it had been destroyed, the temple was the one place that the historians and scholars believed would hold all the answers. They mounted intense searches to find it, but when they discovered its location and began excavating it, all was not as the Cyllenians believed…


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PART 1

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


SGC

Colonel Jack O’Neill hated meetings. It didn’t matter if they were formal or impromptu – he hated them. Sit down, talk incessantly about whatever, grow bored, run out of pieces of paper to doodle on… how many meetings had he gone to that were actually interesting? He could count them on one hand. What made it worse was that he would spend most of the next two weeks in long meetings, but at least they would be about something he could relate to. After all, how hard could it be teaching The Basics of Battle Tactics 101 to some visiting alien royalty that knew absolutely nothing about organized warfare?

Maybe he should have taken up Daniel’s offer to go on his excavation. Digging in the dirt, countless hours of cataloging, getting rubbings of hieroglyphs, crawling around in dirt that kept slipping out from under you, getting said dirt inside every crevice of your clothes …

Then again…

Speaking of excavations and the people leading them, Jack needed to speak to Daniel before he left on his excursion of digging in the dirt. Two weeks. That was a long time for Daniel to be out there on his own -- without his team. Jack trusted Daniel’s ability in the field. He did, honestly, he did. Daniel had proven his mettle since that very first mission to Abydos, but after everything that had happened in just the last few months – descension, stowaways getting downloaded into his brain, getting kidnapped by guerillas in Central America -- Daniel being away for two weeks, away from SG-1, had Jack worried. If he had known that by not volunteering SG-1 to go guard the scientists on the excavation he would be relegated to teaching Battle Tactics 101, he might have reconsidered. Well, it was too late now.

A quick jaunt down the corridors and Jack was soon at Daniel’s office. He briefly glanced at the nameplate: Doctor Daniel Jackson, Ph.D. During the year-no-one-liked-to-talk-about, Jack would not allow anyone to remove it. At first, he didn’t want anyone to touch it because it was something to remind him of his friend, some remnant of his being there on the base, in that office, working until all hours translating and understanding that whole meaning of life stuff. It was his office, no one else’s so that nameplate stayed. Then, after the incident when his unwanted companion, Kanan, had gotten Jack captured by Ba’al’s Jaffa and Daniel had to come to his rescue, Jack knew his friend would be back. No one was permitted to touch the nameplate after that adventure. So what if Daniel didn’t remember what happened in Ba’al’s fortress? Jack did. Jack knew Daniel nudged Teal’c and Carter and paved the way for his escape. Daniel had danced around the Others’ rules and did the impossible once again. If Daniel was keeping that close an eye on the team, he wasn’t moving on to another level of existence – he couldn’t leave his old life behind. It was only a matter of time before he came back, and the waiting finally paid off.

There was Daniel, back where he belonged, in his office marked by his nameplate muttering to himself as he packed. Some things never changed.

Daniel moved quickly about the room getting all the items he would need on the mission: books, laptop, extra batteries, CDs, even journals. How many times had Jack seen that very scene played out time and again in years past? If Daniel were not so serious about his work, Jack would have found it comical.

“Hey,” he called out as he entered the room and sat down in the nearest chair.

Daniel stopped momentarily to nod at Jack and then resumed his packing. “Hey. How are things going with the king?”

“I think he asks more questions than you do.” Jack picked up a bowl-looking artifact and turned it upside down and around in his hands. “If he ever got in here, he’d want to know why you keep broken bowls sitting around.”

Daniel glanced up. “Uh, that’s not a broken bowl. That’s a skull.”

Jack stopped gazing at the broken artifact, quickly put it back down, and then wiped his hands on his pants. “So, Hammond’s given you two weeks to go grave robbing.”

“Yeah, he’s given me two weeks but the primary mission itself should last months, and it’s not grave robbing,” Daniel answered as he searched for another book. “In fact, we may not even find a grave. This is –”

“Yeah, yeah, a mission where you guys teach their guys how to follow the scientific method and better understand how all their stuff works, organize their findings and develop their own technology and we get to teach the king and his son all about how to organize a fighting army just in case some bad guys happen to drop by which they haven’t done in a thousand years –”

“And in exchange get access to their very rich naquada mines,” Daniel finished for him. “It’s a good deal,” he said as he stuffed a few more books into his pack.

“At least this time, you don’t have to worry about any Goa’ulds or Jaffa or Unas walking in and dragging you off or guerillas using you for target practice,” Jack pointed out.

“Actually, I wasn’t worried about that this time. There aren’t any Unas or symbiotes on Cyllene and no Goa’uld has set foot on the planet in about one thousand years if their folktales are to be believed.”

“Yes, and as we all know, folktales are always reliable,” Jack said sarcastically.

Daniel closed his pack and sat down opposite Jack. “I take it you’re having second thoughts about not volunteering to act as guard on this expedition?”

Jack shook his head. “Who, me? No. You know me; I’m not a big fan of all that shoveling dirt like you are.”

“It wouldn’t happen to be because I make you work on these kinds of expeditions, would it?” Daniel asked.

“Of course not. And it’s not as if you make me work –”

“I seem to recall the last time Hammond assigned you to an archaeological mission, you complained the entire time –”

“Because… well… you know my knees don’t like all that standing and squatting and kneeling down –”

“So you begged off this one and then got roped into teaching instead,” Daniel grinned. “Interesting trade-off for you.”

Jack leaned back in the chair. It was just like old times all over again. He had missed the banter during the year Daniel was gone. No one else would dare argue with him or tell him he was an ass. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Harry Maybourne would, only Maybourne wasn’t a lot of fun to have around. “I think you’re enjoying this.”

“I’m just sorry I’m going to miss it.”

“Miss what?”

Daniel looked at Jack over the rim of his glasses. “Jack, you need to remember that I’m the only person here besides General Hammond that knows what your college degree is in.”

Jack cleared his throat. He’d been soundly defeated in that round of words. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper. “Here’s the finalized list of your team. King Lycaeon said he’s going to have his youngest son at the dig but I didn’t write his name down. Hammond handpicked most of them. Carter can’t go. She’s still recuperating from having a foot race with that Kull Warrior on the Alpha Site. Besides, the middle son, Orestes, is interested in learning more about staff weapons and she’s giving him the lowdown on those kinds of things. You’ve got SG-14 keeping an eye on all of you.”

“No one volunteered, huh?”

“First rule in the military – never volunteer. There were a few who didn’t mind being picked. I think they wanted to get off-world for a few days,” Jack said off-handedly as he pushed the broken skull a little further from him.

He watched as Daniel scanned the paper quickly and had to suppress a smile. Jack had written it long hand on notebook paper, not on a military checklist sheet. So what if Jack didn’t like having to deal with margins and fonts and spacing when a piece of paper did a lot of the work for him?


TEAM LEADER:

Daniel Jackson

SG-14:

Colonel Joseph Weaver

Major Scott Barnett

Sergeant Wendell Morrison

Corporal Glen Newsome

Corporal Edward Mulroney

Private Thomas Henson

LINGUISTICS, CULTURAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CREW:

Doctor Lord Richard Cardogan

Assistant Georgia Estes

Doctor Russell Evans

Doctor Joshua Redding

PHYSICIST CREW:

Doctor Oscar Labinski

Doctor Bill Lee

Doctor Simon Parker

BOTANY CREW

Doctor Emily Sanders

Assistant Thomas Sellers

GEOLOGY CREW

Doctor Hugh Isbister

Assistant John S. Carr


“Colonel Weaver? Major Barnett? Uh, Jack, Hammond commissioned this team a week ago, and only a couple of them have off-world experience. The rest don’t have any at all.”

“Yeah. This should be good for them.”

Daniel’s eyes squinted. “You didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?” Jack asked in his most innocent tone.

“You’re giving me a team I have to help train in off-world protocols? Some of these scientists only have limited experience dealing with the military.”

“Hey, they know the protocols, and you’re in charge of the mission. This will be good practice for them.” Yeah, Daniel knew what Jack had done. A little one-ups-manship never hurt anybody, right? “Besides, you can make them work on your expedition. They know you’re in charge.”

“Did you give them the speech?”

“What speech?”

“The usual one you always give SG teams in situations like this.”

Jack shook his head and tried to deny it. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Jack,” Daniel’s voice had that sound that distinctly relayed the fact that he didn’t believe a word Jack said.

“All I said was that you were in charge and they were supposed to keep you out of trouble.”

“Trouble?”

“Yes, trouble,” Jack said. “Last time you went off on your own without us, you got caught and tortured by those guys in Central America. And the last expedition you went on, you ended up going on a cross-country hike with an Unas. I’d like to avoid anything like that again. That’s all.”

“So why didn’t you volunteer to go on this one if you’re worried?”

Caught! Why did Jack try to pull anything over on Daniel? “Because… ”

“I make you work on my excavations?”

“That and I think they’re boring.”

Jack almost laughed at Daniel’s expression. He was amused by that! “Look, Daniel, you can order around any colonel here when they’re on your expeditions. They know that. There’s a comfort factor involved if I’m the only one they think you can’t order around. Gives me a hand up over them.”

“And basically puts you and me in a different category from everyone else if I’m the only person you can’t order around and you’re the only person I can’t order around?”

“Yeah. Something like that. Makes the whole system work better, don’t you think?”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

General George Hammond looked over the schedule covering the next two weeks. King Lycaeon and Prince Akakos were going to be very busy with little time for rest or recreation. Prince Orestes would probably sit in on a few of the training sessions, but his time would be centered on the technology of items already recovered from Cyllenian excavations. Regardless, there was a great deal to learn and to decide on. The MALP survey results showed that the capital city on Cyllene was surrounded by a forested, mountainous area, and the king’s first priority was to learn about the best use of defensive and offensive tactics for that particular terrain. It was a wise course of study initially, but Hammond knew that this was only the beginning. Once basic defenses were set up, more training would be required to teach the Cyllenians to fight for themselves against an attacker – should one happen to drop by.

“Busy, sir?”

Hammond looked away from the paper. Jack’s head was peering around the door, eyebrows raised in addition to his question.

“Not really, Colonel. Come in.” Hammond pointed toward the chair as an invitation to sit down. “I assume Doctor Jackson is ready to go?”

“Almost. He’s chomping at the bit to do some real archaeological work for a change. I think he’s packed twice what he needs.”

“He may need all that,” Hammond quipped. “According to the preliminary background report on Hermes, he is known to travel a lot –”

“Pick up souvenirs and be a pack rat. I don’t know who was wanting to get their hands on this stuff more, Daniel or the weapons guys. In any case, there should be enough to keep them occupied for a while.”

“I understand you chose SG-14 to act as the military escort,” Hammond observed quietly.

Jack nodded. “They’re a new team, they need some off-world time to get to know how each other works, get an idea of what it’s like to have civilians off-world, it’s a scientific expedition so it should be a pretty easy first assignment for them –”

“And selecting them has nothing to do with the fact that it will be tantamount to a training mission for Doctor Jackson? You’re not playing games since you were assigned the task of teaching King Lycaeon?”

“Not in the least, sir,” Jack half-protested with a shrug of his shoulders.

“I see,” Hammond smiled. He knew his second-in-command far too well sometimes. Watching Jack O’Neill and Daniel Jackson in a full-blown game of one-ups-man-ship was fun to watch even if he couldn’t admit it to anyone. “I’ve been going over some MALP reports from Cyllene,” he handed one of the reports to Jack. “The naquada deposits north of the city look the most promising. What do you think of this deal?”

Jack took a quick look at the numbers. “We’re getting an almost unlimited supply of naquada. That’s got the big wigs in Washington running around in a tizzy. All we have to do is what we normally do in exchange. I think it’s a good deal.”

“But?”

“Sir?”

“I hear a ‘but’ in there. Look, Jack, if anything’s bothering you about this, I’d like to know what it is now instead of later.” Hammond sat back in his chair and waited.

“This is going to be a long haul, sir. It’ll be an easy one initially, but we’re committing ourselves to a long-term deal with the Cyllenians for the naquada. That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s no quick fix. Besides, it seems as if we’re getting the better end of the deal.”

Ah, so that’s what it was. A slight case of inequality in the arrangement? Perhaps Jack had spent enough time around Doctor Jackson to see things from a non-military perspective without realizing it? “You think this is an unfair deal? The naquada is worthless to the Cyllenians. They’re glad to be rid of it. In exchange, we're training them in various disciplines. After that, we’ll rotate science and military teams to assist them until they can handle things on their own. The king thinks the agreement is a good one for both sides because each is getting what the other wants.”

“What if he wants guns and grenades next?” Jack pondered. “What if he uses the naquada as a bargaining chip?”

Those were valid concerns, and Hammond had thought about them himself. “It’s a risk we’ll have to take in view of the short run benefits. The king understands that we can’t give them any advanced technology, but we can teach them how to use the weapons they already have more effectively as well as tactics they’ve never thought of before. Prince Akakos is interested in tactics and logistics and appears to be a willing student. Prince Orestes will be learning about the weapons currently used by the Jaffa since he has an interest in engineering and weaponry. Prince Telemachus is going to be the expedition’s guide on Cyllene – Jack, with the Abydonian mine gone, we’ve lost one of our main sources for raw naquada. We need them, Jack, probably as much as they need us. All we can do is hope this is a good idea and doesn’t backfire on us.”

“Good or not, it’s working out great for Daniel. This is his first real command since coming back from Omaland. I think he’s looking forward to it. I wouldn’t want to spoil his fun.” Jack said as he placed the paper back on Hammond’s desk. “So what else is on the list of things-to-do?”

“I think right now we need to concentrate on the most practical forms of defense. Here is all the information about the city and the surrounding area,” Hammond tossed Jack a large folder overflowing with paperwork, “so the first item on your to-do list is to determine where to start.”

Jack picked up the unwieldy mass and skimmed through a few of the pages. “Yes, sir,” he said unenthusiastically. “Don’t you think it’s a little strange that the king wants to learn how to fight when there hasn’t been an all-out war on Cyllene for centuries and no Goa’uld has stepped foot on the planet in over a thousand years?”

Hammond had considered that question himself. “I think they want to be prepared if an enemy Goa’uld should return there. Until they met SG-6, they had no idea that there were people living on other planets or that we’d succeeded in defeating several Goa’uld ourselves. Even if they’ve been ignored for centuries, there’s always the threat of an invasion. The king wants to be as ready as possible for anything that might happen.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Prince Orestes gently picked up the staff weapon’s glowing power cell in gloved hands. “The few staff weapons we recovered intact did not fire after we found them. Their power cells had gone dark. How long does it take for them to die?”

“It depends, Your Highness,” Sam answered as they reassembled the staff weapon. “The power cells recharge themselves whenever the staff weapon is fired. The expenditure of energy produces a chemical reaction within the cell. This reaction renews the internal chemical changes back to their original condition, which means a power cell could theoretically last forever. If a staff weapon is dormant, then the cells do have a half-life of a few hundred years. The temple was buried for one thousand years. I doubt if any of the power cells would have had any lingering energy remaining.”

Orestes nodded as they fitted another piece into the staff weapon. “Are the dead and dying cells dangerous? Our scholars took apart ones they found that were broken in half, but they suffered no ill effects.”

Sam took the power cell and balanced it in the palm of her own gloved hand. “The staff weapon itself is shielded against any residual power leakage, but the outer casement of the cell,” she pointed to the glowing greenish skin of the cell, “is constructed from a nearly impenetrable alloy that absorbs the radiation generated from the modified naquada that’s housed inside. As long as this outer shell is intact, then anyone in close proximity of the power cell should be relatively safe.”

Orestes nodded his head. “Then why are we wearing gloves?”

Sam smiled at the question. “We have a saying, Your Highness. Better safe than sorry.”

Orestes laughed as Sam replaced the cell into the staff weapon. “How long has the SGC been collecting otherworld technology?”

“We’ve been traveling through the stargate for seven years. The Goa’uld kept populations under their control from developing any type of advanced technology out of the fear that they might one day develop a weapon to destroy them, so much of the technology we bring back comes from planets where the Goa’uld haven’t had much contact. There are some cultures that have advanced far beyond the Goa’uld, but they don’t share their technology with less advanced civilizations.”

“General Hammond also told us the same thing,” Orestes helped Sam put the last bits and pieces of the staff weapon together and watched it power up then down.

“It is a situation we run into a lot ourselves,” Sam leaned the staff weapon up against a wall and brought out a ribbon device for them to study. “Societies have to develop at their own pace, and many are not ready to deal with all the ramifications advanced technologies could bring about. Individuals may have the knowledge to understand the technical intricacies, but the far reaching effects on multiple levels could be something no one has the experience to understand.”

Just as Orestes picked up the ribbon device, the telephone rang.

“Excuse me, Your Highness…. Major Carter… Hi!... Yes… No… Oh, I wish I could. My schedule is pretty busy for the next few weeks… I know… I’m sorry… I have an idea – I have some time off coming up in a couple of weeks. If we could arrange to have a few days off at the same time… Great! How’s your assignment going?... Pete, be careful. Whoever this is, he’s making headlines for not caring who gets hurt… I know stakeouts can be dangerous, just be careful, okay?... Yeah… Me too. I’ll see you then?... Okay. Bye.”

As Sam placed the phone back in its cradle, Orestes said, “From the smile on your face and the sound of your voice, I’d say that was someone particularly special to you.”

Sam couldn’t stop smiling. “Yes, he is. His name is Pete Shanahan. He’s a police officer.”

“Police officer? What is that?”

“Someone who enforces the law.”

“And he is involved in something dangerous?”

“Yes. Someone has been stealing devices we call ATMs. It’s a device that stores money. I won’t bore you with the details of it. Somehow, this thief has operated mostly without being observed, and when he has been seen, he's shot several people. Pete said that whoever it is might be a true professional. He doesn’t think an amateur would have gotten away with all this. It’s too well planned.”

Orestes put the ribbon device back down. “You sounded like you haven’t been able to see him for some time.”

“I haven’t. Our schedules haven’t exactly worked together lately.”

Orestes looked at her, looked at the telephone, then back at Sam. “Major, since we first met all of you, I’ve noticed how you and your team have been here every day, late into the night. You yourself rarely go to your home. Now, I overhear you speaking to someone whose company you seem a bit deprived of and would like to see. I hope we haven’t inconvenienced you in any way. That wasn’t our intention in coming here.”

“No, Your Highness. You haven’t. Part of our job is … your being here is part of why the SGC exists. It’s an opportunity to meet and learn from another society. This is part of my job, and I take it seriously. Pete takes his job just as seriously. We both understand that our duties have to come first.”

Orestes pointed at the picture behind Sam. It was a picture of her and a man he assumed was Pete Shanahan. “Is that him?”

“Yes,” Sam reached over and picked up the picture so Orestes could get a better view. “He took me to an anniversary dance. The couple had been married for fifty years, I think.”

“Jobs and duties fall to all of us, Major. Some we’re born with and some we’re burdened with, but we have to find a balance between and our personal lives.”

“It’s not always easy to do that,” Sam sighed. “We both have a great many demands on our time. We both have to work overtime. I’m off-world so much, he’s --”

Orestes took the picture from her and placed it on the desk. “As the royal family, many times our duties are our lives with little time for ourselves. My mother was a very good queen. She and my father ruled in such a way that there was little left over for my brothers and I to do. Everything was taken care of by the people appointed to deal with every aspect of royal life. We made our appearances, we spoke when we were meant to, but that was the extent of our duties when we were younger. Telemachus and I had no idea of the details that go into ruling a kingdom. We enjoyed hunting more. Akakos had more experience, but even he wasn’t quite as knowledgeable as you might think. When our mother died, our father was devastated. She was his life. He’d have given up then entire kingdom rather than lose her. Akakos, Telemachus and I took over as many duties as we could. I wish I could say that being born a royal gives you insight in how to behave as a royal or how to deal with all the problems of ruling a kingdom, but it doesn’t. We had to learn very quickly. For most of every single day, our time was filled with countless meetings with ministers and the cabinet. When my father had moved through his mourning and grief and took up his responsibilities again, we had allocated many of them among ourselves. We are much more involved now with ruling the kingdom that we were before my mother died. I had no idea how much went on and how much our parents sacrificed to do their jobs both as monarchs and parents. When they focused on one aspect of their lives, something else suffered.”

“You must understand, Major, that no matter how busy they were, my parents always made time for each other and us. I never saw them too busy to deal with the small things that happen to growing boys like we were. They found that balance. It’s something very important to strive for, no matter how important your job is.”

“You sound as if you’ve found some sort of balance, Your Highness.”

“I have. Somewhat. I am betrothed to a duke’s daughter. I met her a few years ago, and she was a great inspiration for me to find that balance. Despite my interest in how these devices work, no matter how much I might wish to stay here for a long time learning all I can about the technology, there are personal things just as important that I must attend to. Also, I will admit that I am somewhat reluctant to leave here to go to the temple when the science team travels there, but then again, I have much more experience than my younger brother with the artifacts found at the temple. It’s not an opportunity that I can turn down, so I must learn as much as I can here while I have the time. You must make the most of the moment, Major. That is a true lesson I learned from my parents that I try to live day to day.”

Sam nodded. “Then let’s make the most of this moment and take that ribbon device apart. I think you’ll find it almost as interesting as the staff weapon.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Teal’c helped Doctor Bill Lee and Sergeant Harriman stack the rest of the boxes in the gate room. Portable field laboratories were usually equipped with basic supplies, but the range of this particular scientific expedition suggested that two labs be set up so each could accommodate more than one field of study comfortably.

“Are there more boxes, Doctor Lee?” Teal’c asked him.

“I hope not,” Bill answered as he placed his hand against the small of his back. “I think we’ve got enough to get us set up.”

Harriman checked off a list on his clipboard. “I thought this expedition was only going to be for two weeks.”

“No, not exactly. We’re going to see what they’ve got and what they need and where to start. If that temple really is like their stories say, we’ll have a lot to look into.”

“What’s the temple supposed to be like?” Harriman asked

“Oh, the usual stuff about Hermes’ treasure is there. Different types of plants grow all around it but nowhere else on Cyllene. Strange clouds hang over the mountain. Unusual lights reported shining in the trees. That temple could be a laboratory in itself. If the legends are true, we could find a lot of interesting things on Cyllene.”

Teal’c followed Doctor Lee out the door, leaving Harriman to finish in the gate room. “Have you any knowledge of what is in the temple beyond what the legends and folklore tell?”

“Not really. Daniel’s been translating some of their scrolls, and I’ve read some of his preliminary reports, but he thinks there’s more there than what we’re reading about. I think he wrote a report about something important made out of gold. Personally, I think he wants to find something tangible like Hermes’ caduceus.”

“Caduceus?” Teal’c asked.

“Yeah. It’s a staff with snakes around the top. You may have seen some of the medical personnel wearing it. It’s a medical insignia. Hermes was supposed to have a gold one if we believe what the Cyllenian scrolls say. For an archaeologist, finding something like that might be like finding Atlantis or Poseidon’s Trident or the Holy Grail. Oh, in here.” Bill rushed into another storage room where three more crates were stored. “These should be the MREs,” he said as he tried to pry off the box lids with a crowbar to check the contents. After a few failed attempts, he handed the crowbar to Teal’c who had no trouble disengaging the lid. Bill started pawing through the metallic bags. “Yep, macaroni and cheese, beef stew, meatloaf... and they all taste like chicken.”

“I must disagree,” Teal’c said as he helped lift the boxes. “Chicken tastes a great deal better than MREs. Will this be enough for two weeks?”

“More than enough,” Bill said as he refastened the lid on the crate. “The Cyllenians are helping out with that too. A cook from the palace is coming to fix meals for us. Whatever he makes has got to be better than these things. You do know what some of the nicknames are for these, don’t you?”

“I have heard a few,” the Jaffa answered. “I believe some of the phrases are not fit to be retold in mixed company.”

“You can say that again.”

“Why would I wish to repeat the statement?”

“Uh, no, Teal’c, that’s just a saying. It means I agree with you,” Bill explained as he picked up a box. “I think we have more than enough food to last our entire trip.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hammond stood in the control room away from the bustling activity in the gate room as the expedition team readied the supplies to go through to Cyllene. It was a bit of an ordered mess: crates, boxes, a F.R.E.D., tents, equipment – it looked more like they were going to set up a semi-permanent camp rather than labs for a short term mission.

Watching the scientists, he could tell they were in their element. SG-14, however, seemed a little put off by having to ‘baby-sit a bunch of geeks.’ They were in for a big surprise, Hammond was certain of that. Once, he had visited an archaeological expedition. He wanted to know first hand what went on at a dig, not just read the details from reports. He knew that Doctor Jackson had been in charge of expeditions on earth, but seeing everything that went on during the course of a day off-world was an educational experience. Daniel Jackson might profess to be a civilian, but he knew the military mindset, and that was how he kept command of an expedition. He “ordered” without making it sound like an order. He asked no one to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. He always took care of admonishing those under his command in private, never in public. He organized all aspects of the trip, from what to requisition up to and including incorporating one group into the others’ tasks.

No one was exempt from working on an SGC archaeological expedition when Jackson was in charge – not even himself or Jack O’Neill. In fact, Jackson had put both of them to work in double-quick time. Daniel handed Hammond a sieve and asked him to start sifting dirt to see if there was anything there. He found part of a fancy wrist device that was worn by someone high up in a royal court, possibly even worn by a ranking Goa’uld. It wasn’t much, nothing more than a wide band of silver and gold with a few stones in-between, but once it was photographed, cataloged and described, he asked Daniel if he could keep it as a souvenir. Jack, unfortunately, didn’t find anything except sand in his shoes.

No, this would not be a cakewalk for SG-14, but they would figure that out soon enough once they were given their assignments.

“General?” Sam Carter approached with a clipboard in her hands. “I’ve double-checked the manifest, and they have everything. They’re ready to go.”

For some reason, she did not look very happy. “Is something wrong, Major?”

“No, sir, not exactly. It’s just that I wish I was going with them.”

Hammond couldn’t blame her. Put her and Jackson together and the ‘Science Twins’ would work their magic and find all different types of new things. “If you’d like, I could have one of the physicists trade places with you since they’re going to research any alien technology that’s there,” Hammond teased. “It’s merely a matter of what you’d rather do for the next couple of weeks. Instruct Prince Orestes in more engineering matters or march up a mountain to a temple to see what’s still there? I realize it may sound like more fun than it is –”

“With all due respect, sir, I think I’ll stay here. I’d hate to deprive one of the others for a chance at an off-world adventure. Some of them need the experience, especially the ones from Area 51.”

Hammond did not allow the grin that was threatening to form reach the surface. It was a lot of hard work, these research missions, and most of the SGC scientists had had more than their fair share of them.

“How is Prince Orestes doing?”

“He’s very smart, sir,” Sam explained. “He seems to have an instinctive understanding of the basics of Jaffa weapons. He had theorized how a staff weapon works without actually seeing one work. I’d like permission to take him to the shooting range to let him learn how to fire one. It would be good experience before he joins the expedition on Cyllene.”

Hammond considered the request. “I think that would be a very good idea, Major. In fact, I think it would be a good idea to allow King Lycaeon and Prince Akakos to do that as well.”

“General Hammond?”

Hammond turned toward the door as King Lycaeon and Prince Akakos entered the control room with their SF escorts. One of the first notable characteristics of the king was his bearing. He had a unique quality about him that expressed regality. His keen eyes missed very little, and the sharp mind behind them was interested in everything. The prince was very similar to his father in looks and manner. They made quite a ruling pair, yet they weren’t proud or overbearing. They were two men worried about the safety of their people. Just observing the activities of the base had taught them much in a short time, but they were also eager to start learning more techniques that were applicable to their situation.

“Your Majesty,” Hammond greeted them.

“We were wondering if we may watch them leave. The chappa’ai is a fascinating object to see in use.”

“I agree completely. Of course, you may watch.”

Hammond moved to the side to give their visitors an unobstructed view.

“So many?” the prince asked.

“Yes, your highness,” Sam spoke up. “Doctor Jackson is the team leader, SG-14 will go as a protective guard, and the rest are some of our scientists who have expertise in this kind of research.”

“I am impressed, General,” the king’s eyes were watching everything happening in the gate room, remembering who was going, what they were taking, all of it. “I had not thought that you would send such a great party.”

Hammond didn’t mention that sending a dozen scientists was the quickest way to get the most information in the least amount of time. “We were originally scheduling ten to go on this expedition, but we rounded it off to twelve. They come from various scientific backgrounds, Your Majesty. For instance, Doctor Jackson is our resident expert on languages, archaeology and Egyptology. Doctor Bill Lee, you can see him over by the F.R.E.D., is an expert on alien technology. Doctor Evans is a linguist with a degree in ancient Mediterranean languages. Doctor Joshua Redding is an historian with an emphasis on Greek culture and history from which your own planet can trace its ancestry. Doctor Emily Sanders is from the botany department. She’s studying the effects of naquada on certain environmental factors and how naquada affects plant growth after years of exposure. Doctor Simon Parker has recently joined the SGC and is something of an engineer as well as a physicist. We’re hoping that with this vast range of expertise, we’ll be able to establish a teaching regime more quickly than we first thought.”

Lycaeon bowed his head in the general’s direction. “I find myself quite at a loss to thank you, General. This is far more than we expected. For generations after the Great Eruption, our ancestors despaired of completely rebuilding our society. You may have given us that chance.”

“I’m glad we can be of assistance,” Hammond explained. “Many of the cultures we meet know nothing of how they came to be on their planet or even how alien technology has influenced them. It’s very refreshing to be able to share this information with a receptive group.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Jack sauntered into the gate room and called out, “Okay, everybody got everything? Backpacks? Extra socks? MREs? GPS’s? GDOs? Clean underwear? Extra quarter to call home?”

“Yes, Jack, we have everything,” Daniel said as he fastened his backpack more securely and put his boonie on his head. “And if we don’t have something, you’re just a phone call away.”

“Long distance,” Jack told him. “Might need more than a quarter. Now remember, if you see any Unas activity –”

“Unas, we run. Goa’uld, we run. Guerillas, we run. Hard work, you run –”

“Hey!” Jack gave him a playful punch in the arm, ignoring the snickering from the people around them. “Just be careful. I don’t want to have to chase you across half a planet to find you. Again.”

“You know, that wasn’t my fault last time. Chaka knocked me out.”

Colonel Weaver called over to them, saying, “Don’t worry, Colonel. We’ll keep an eye on them. Unless you’d like to come along?”

“Been there, dug that, they’re all yours.” Jack looked around and saw everyone was ready to go, and then heard the stargate start to dial.

Chevron one encoded,” Harriman’s voice boomed over the speakers.

“Weaver’s a good soldier,” Jack whispered to Daniel. “He might be a little more military than you’re used to, but he knows you’re in charge.”

Chevron two encoded.”

“Okay. And you’re telling me this why?” Daniel whispered back.

Chevron three encoded.”

“Just a word of warning, that’s all. I’ve already warned him about you.”

Chevron four encoded.”

“Me?” Daniel asked. “What do you mean?”

Chevron five encoded.”

“Yeah, you know how you can be at times. That’s all,” Jack explained.

Chevron six encoded.”

“I see. I guess it’s a good thing I told King Lycaeon and Prince Akakos how you are at times, too.”

Chevron seven locked.”

“You did?”

“Oh, yeah. I told him how much you love to be asked questions.”

Hammond’s voice followed, “Expedition team, you have a go.”

Jack and Daniel shared a knowing grin as Daniel followed SG-14 through the wormhole, the rest of the group following after.

After the wormhole shut down, Jack turned and left the gate room. He had a teaching job to prepare for and a plan of revenge to figure out.

Lots of questions, huh? He’d make Daniel pay for that one.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

CYLLENE

Prince Telemachus and the Royal Council watched as the members of the Tau’ri walked through the Chappa’ai. He’d promised his father he would be the Tau’ri guide until Orestes joined them, but he would have much rather been off hunting or fishing. Days upon days of political drudgery had been more than enough. Being a prince wasn’t always fun. Just because he had no choice – in any case, Orestes would be there in a few days. All he had to do was smile, be cordial, answer questions, work with the scientists… he could do that. Then he could go hunting.

The last of the visitors arrived. They were an impressive looking lot. The ones that came through first must have been the military personnel. There were only six of them… was that too many or two few? The rest seemed to have a different air about them. They were less rigid, less intimidating, more interested in the landscape than what was on the landscape – those must be the scientists.

As they assembled and the blue vortex ceased, one of the Cyllenian royal council stepped forward. “I am Xenocles, High Minister of the Royal Council. May I speak to the leader of your group?” One Tau’ri stepped forward. He and the minister spoke quietly for a moment, and then the minister turned and announced, “Your Highness? This is Doctor Daniel Jackson. This is the team your father sent to help our scholars.”

“Thank you for coming. You are welcome on Cyllene,” Telemachus greeted them as he approached Daniel Jackson. “Doctor Jackson, I’ve been told that you have been studying some of our scrolls. I understand you have some theories about the temple?”

“Just theories, Your Highness,” Jackson said. “We really won’t know until we go there.”

“I’m certain His Majesty is grateful,” the minister politely interrupted. “However, our scholars are quite adept at studying our own world. May I ask what new truths you hope to discover, sir?”

Jackson’s forehead furrowed slightly. “I have no idea, Minister. We’re here to help your scholars learn new research techniques. I think His Majesty is hoping that new ways of looking at old information might help discover something completely new.”

“Do you think we have not studied our own findings thoroughly?” the minister challenged.

“Quite thoroughly, sir,” Jackson answered. “The scrolls His Majesty brought for us to look at were incredibly detailed and researched. Your scholars have done a tremendous job. The drawback is that there’s always more to find. We’re here to help in any way we can, Minister. The king believed that given our knowledge of Hermes and the Goa’uld, maybe we might recognize something that your scholars are unaware of. We’re not here to challenge what your scholars have found in any way. We’re here to work with them and hopefully help them in new methods so they can make more findings.”

“If you are here to help our scholars, then why did you bring weapons?” the minister pointed to the military personnel.

“It’s mandatory, Minister,” Jackson explained. “They’re for defense, in case there’s any trouble.”

Telemachus took an instant liking to Jackson. His voice wasn’t haughty or self-righteous. It was friendly. His demeanor wasn’t disrespectful or pushy but somewhat authoritative. He was self-assured without assuming. He was also dealing with the minister in a more civil behavior than the minister was exhibiting. So what if the Royal Council didn’t like the idea of strangers on the planet? They were there to help, not tell them if their methods were right or wrong.

Another Tau’ri, one of the military, stepped forward. In a not-quite-as-polite tone, he said, “Minister, Your Highness, I’m Colonel Weaver. My team and I are here to guard the scientists.” Telemachus noticed that Jackson nudged Weaver’s shoe with his own foot and gave him a quick glance sideways. “We realize that there’s no danger here. The king and the two princes back on Earth have explained how peaceful Cyllene is, but it’s our rules that all our expeditions have a guard regardless.”

So this military colonel wasn’t quite as patient with the minister as Jackson was willing to be, so Jackson, with the merest of movements, had calmed down the colonel. It was easy to see who was in command of the team, weapons or not.

The minister turned to Telemachus and cautioned him. “Your Highness, I must once again reiterate my reservations about allowing these individuals here. Your father is a very wise man, and his invitation is an important one but to bring weapons –”

“Is their rule, Xenocles,” Telemachus sighed. “They’re here to help, not hurt. Doctor Jackson, Colonel Weaver, if we can be of any assistance --”

“Check the perimeter and set up camp,” Weaver ordered quickly. Then he added a belated, “Your Highness” with a slight bow of the head. It didn’t sound like it was a natural thing for him to say. Could it be possible that he had no experience speaking to a member of a royal family?

“We’ve set aside a place for your camp. Are you certain you wouldn’t like to stay at the palace?”

“It’d be nice,” Weaver muttered quietly to Jackson as he scanned the horizon toward the palace. “Real nice.”

“Highness!” Xenocles sounded astonished at the idea of the invitation.

“We can’t, Your Highness,” Jackson answered. “There are reasons why we need to establish a camp. Part of it is a training exercise on our part. Please don’t think we’re not grateful for the invitation. We are. It’s just that some here need to gain more experience on missions such as these.”

This was his chance. “Then I hope you’ll find the site I chose satisfactory. My brothers and I have camped there many times, and it’s close. A few of our scholars and their students to join you in your research. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to join you as well.”

“Your Highness!” Xenocles objected. “Your presence is needed at the palace.”

“Minister, I’ll be very close to the palace should my presence be necessary. I think it would be a good experience for me to work more closely with our guests.”

“It’s a lot of work,” he overheard one of the scientists whisper to another. “I don’t think a prince is gonna like it. It’s boring.”

“We’d be honored, Your Highness,” Jackson said, giving a stern look to the whispering scientist.

Telemachus nodded, suppressing a bit of a smile. No matter what, helping the visitors had to be better than staying inside the palace and listening to bickering council members. He might even be able to get in some hunting.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

HYPERSPACE

 

Patience. Pan was particularly skilled with that virtue. He had waited a long time for events to align themselves in a certain way. All he needed was something unique, something unheard of to wrest power away from the System Lords, and the current rumors had to have some validity to them. There were riches far greater than naquada to be found in the planetary system he was traveling toward -- or so the stories told. His “research” and interrogations of countless Jaffa and low-level Goa’uld over the last year had led him to this conclusion.

The rumors had started just before the Goa’uld Summit of a rare piece of Ancient technology hidden on an obscure planet, a device whose real purpose lay shrouded in mystery. Some believed it was used to ward off any attacking Goa’uld forces. Even if Pan didn’t know what the device was designed to do or what it was, it was technology once used by the Ancients. That fact alone made the item priceless. The technological breakthroughs that he could possess, the advantages he could gain over the System Lords once he deciphered the device and understood its full potential were immeasurable – if he could find it. The rumors didn’t give an exact location where the item was, but they did indicate that the device was hidden in a temple that was carved from a mountain, near a city, beneath an out-cropping. A simple scan of the planet should tell him what he needed to know.

Pan had tried to get the information from his father, Hermes, but he couldn’t ask the question outright or he’d raise his father’s suspicions. He knew very little of the object itself. He had pieced together parts of the story and believed that during a battle with Anubis for control of the planet Kerykion a thousand years ago, Hermes and his brother Apollo found the device hidden on the planet. Apollo convinced Hermes to hide it away on the planet Cyllene to keep it safe from the System Lords. The power of the device intimidated both of them, but why, Pan never found out. The one fact that truly engaged Pan’s greed and imagination was that Apollo had petitioned the System Lords to have Cyllene declared a protected planet just after Anubis’ mysterious disappearance. This petition would ensure that no Goa’uld would dare trespass on the planet. Whatever was hidden there was a well-guarded mystery, but Pan felt the risk was worth taking trying to find it.

What had spurred Pan’s haste to reach Cyllene with less than complete information was that recently, Hermes had done something unexpected. He had recalled many of his troops, repositioning them in strategic locations around his regime but surprisingly leaving Cyllene unprotected. Pan heard rumors that something had alerted Hermes to some event on Cyllene. Again, this piqued Pan’s curiosity. Hermes was being less than communicative to everyone except Apollo. Messengers were being sent between the two Goa’uld, perhaps not quite as secretly as they thought. Pan didn’t know what the messages contained, but everything seemed to be connected: Hermes, Apollo, Cyllene…

Gazing out the view port at the passing stars, Pan reconsidered his options. He wasn’t considered a system lord of any caliber, he wasn’t even thought of as a low-level Goa’uld. He was merely the offspring of an unimportant System Lord who had little desire for the kinds of power Goa’ulds normally sought out. Pan himself had very little influence or wealth of his own. He had only one planet given to him by Hermes to use as a base of operations, a small contingent of Jaffa to do his bidding, a few slaves… in essence he had nothing. No power, no position, nothing. Like most Goa’uld, he craved power, but he needed an advantage. An Ancient’s device could give him that advantage if it could be used as a weapon. Soon, he would begin building his own empire starting with the planet Cyllene.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

 

From the observation room, Lycaeon and Akakos watched as Orestes took another turn at firing the staff weapon. He fired several rounds into the target; the blasts tore through the center of the circle repeatedly.

“Very good, Your Highness,” Sam praised his shooting skills, her voice sounding over the intercom.

“It’s somewhat different from shooting a bow and arrow,” he observed as he fired again.

Akakos chuckled. “He won’t want to use a bow and arrow again.”

“Wait until he shows Telemachus how to fire a staff weapon. Better yet, maybe we shouldn’t let him do that. I won’t be able to keep Telemachus at the palace otherwise,” the king joked.

“Like I was saying,” Jack continued as he got their attention again by switching off the intercom, “that’s what we mean by the term Hail Mary,” He reached for a glass of water. He hadn’t talked this much since… he couldn’t remember when, and it had been going on for five days! He had an attentive and lively audience though. That did make a difference. King Lycaeon was even more enthusiastic than Prince Akakos when asking questions. Jack had watched Daniel teach Goa’uld history/culture/language lessons for long hours without stopping, and he had no idea how he did it. All those questions got annoying after a while. He was going to get even with Daniel when he got back. He wasn’t sure how, but he was going to come up with something really good.

Of course, if Teal’c weren’t sitting nearby with that smug, self-satisfied look on his face, the entire teaching deal wouldn’t be so bad. Jack was certain that Teal’c and Daniel had a little “conversation” before the scientists left, probably talking about encouraging their guests to ask many questions. Teal’c was certainly doing that! Perhaps his revenge could include a certain Jaffa?

Another question interrupted his brief moment of peace.

“Have you ever performed a Hail Mary on the battlefield, Colonel?” The prince asked.

“More times than I care to remember.” Seeing the eager looks on his audience’s faces, he knew they’d ask for more details. He might as well head them off. “Sometimes, the maneuver can be a little different in battle than it is in football.” Yeah, right, good, O’Neill. They have no idea what you’re talking about. “Like I said, a Hail Mary in football is when someone in the last minutes of a game tosses the ball far down the field and hopes one of his team can catch it and run with it. Sometimes, on a battlefield, you have to trust that you and your team are all in sync with each other, that if one starts something, the others can take it and run with it even if no one’s said anything.”

“In what manner?” the king looked confused.

“Manner? Uh… well, take me and my team for example. We’ve been separated, trapped, fighting for our lives against the bad guys, can’t hear each other over the gunfire, but we know what the others can and will do. So if one of us does something, the other three will see it and do what they have to do. The one in trouble does whatever he can and hopes that the rest of us can get him out of it by doing something.” Did that make any sense whatsoever or was he babbling?

“So the Hail Mary works only when one can see his fellow teammates,” the king surmised.

“Uh, no, not always,” Jack said, remembering another Hail Mary maneuver he was part of recently. “Sometimes, if one of us gets captured, it’s our job to stay alive until the others can get to us even if we don’t know anyone’s coming to the rescue. Sometimes, you have to do something risky to stay alive and hope that the others can get to you in time. This one time, not too long ago in fact, Doctor Jackson and another one of our scientists, Doctor Lee, were kidnapped in another country. They had no way of knowing if anyone would find them, but they didn’t just survive torture, they escaped. I had gone down there to try to find him… them. I got there just as the bad guys were about to shoot Daniel. His escape with no weapons or food or water and bad guys with guns chasing him – that was kind of a Hail Mary maneuver on his part.”

“Would his escape have been considered a last desperate effort?” Akakos wanted to know. “If it was certain death to stay and almost certain death to escape, was that not a form of suicide?”

“No. Escaping isn’t usually considered suicide. One of your primary duties when you’re captured is to escape in any way possible. In that case, both Daniel and Doctor Lee knew their best chance was to get out of there even if they might be killed within an hour after escaping. They were pretty sure they’d be dead in a few minutes if they didn’t.”

“It was the only rational choice for Daniel Jackson and Doctor Lee at the time,” Teal’c added. “Had they not attempted to escape, they might have faced a danger worse than death. Their captors were in possession of an alien device that could have caused irreparable harm to them.”

Jack nodded. “Yeah. Lesser of two evils. Teal’c, want to take a turn here? I’ll let you talk for a while.”

“Indeed not, O’Neill,” Teal’c inclined his head to decline the invitation. “I believe the king and the prince will learn more from your expertise at this time. I will assist you when the lecture concerns Jaffa battle tactics.”

“Oookay, then why don’t we talk about –”

Akakos wasn’t willing to let the other subject go. “We have stories that speak of heroes sacrificing themselves for the many. Do your people believe that suicide in extreme circumstances is ever warranted?”

Ouch. The young man did know how to ask the difficult questions.

Jack cleared his throat. “That’s not easy to answer. It comes down to the person making the choice. I’ve known people to jump in front of a staff weapon to protect someone else. I’ve seen someone die to protect an entire planet. I’ve also known some people to hide behind corners and let others die for them. Yes, I’d say that it can be considered… warranted. It speaks more of the character of the person doing the sacrificing. Not everyone has that kind of mettle. Or honor.”

Lycaeon leaned forward, his voice rather quiet but inquisitive. “You speak from personal experience, Colonel?”

“Too much,” Jack explained. “I’ve risked my life more than once. I’m a soldier. That’s my job. Watching someone, another soldier, a friend, a civilian, die to protect someone else is something I do have some experience with. Some people can do it without thinking. Others… can’t.”

The king considered the answer. “Yet in an extreme situation, when all other options have failed, someone could willingly die to protect people he may not know. Our stories tell of heroes such as these, but they were heroes, not ordinary people.”

“People aren’t born heroes, Your Majesty. They become them. Sometimes it’s the ordinary people who do the heroic things, but it’s not an ordinary person who’s willing to die for someone else,” Jack explained. “That’s someone special, and if you happen to be friends with someone like that, well, you’re lucky. Those kinds are rare.”

“Extraordinary,” the king muttered.

“You got it,” Jack nodded his head.

“I notice, at times, you speak of civilians and soldiers in different terms, Colonel. What is the difference in regard to warfare?”

Finally! An easy question. “A soldier is professionally trained in weapons, fighting, military tactics, things like that. A civilian isn’t. They’re civilians. Everyday folks. Not soldiers.”

The king frowned as if trying to understand. “So civilians do not fight in battles? You have mentioned Doctor Jackson, and he is not a soldier yet he fights.”

So much for the easy question. “Okay, let me try this again. Uh… there’s no way to shortcut this. All right, some countries on this planet have laws that people have to join the military. Other countries have a volunteer army. People join up if they want to, it’s not mandatory. That’s what we have. Soldiers in our military are trained depending on which branch they join. For instance, a lot of personnel here are in the Air Force and Marines. We have a few Army and Navy personnel. Each one is trained differently in different forms of warfare. We work together because you never know what kind of expertise will be needed in a battle.”

“Now, we also have civilians here, most of them scientists. Most haven’t gone through the same type of rigorous training soldiers do. They’re not military, so they don’t have to. They’re here for other purposes. We do have survival classes and gun skills classes they’re required to take and they all have to be proficient at hitting a target before they go through the gate. Some do go through more intensive weapons training and obstacle courses. They’re not expected to do the fighting. That’s our job.”

Again, the king seemed confused. “But Doctor Jackson, he is on your team and is a civilian.”

“Daniel’s a little different. He’s been on SG-1 since the beginning. He already knew how to fight on our very first mission before SG-1 was established. He knew how to shoot a pistol accurately, and he’s picked up some military skills along the way. He’s learned how to handle a variety of guns. He’s gone through every training course we have for both civilians and military. He’s learned how military red tape works and knows how to get around it. You name it, he’s done it.”

“So Doctor Jackson is more than a civilian but less than a soldier?” the prince asked.

Jack blew out a breath. He had to get them back on track of Battle Basics 101. “Yeah, sure, okay, we’ll go with that definition. Now, let’s discuss troop size and provisions, and then Teal’c will tell you about the Jaffa.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Prince Orestes fired more rounds into the target. The blasts tore through the center of the circle repeatedly.

“You have a very good eye, Your Highness,” Sam praised his shooting skills.

“That’s the first time I was able to do that. It’s too bad my brother Telemachus isn’t here. He would enjoy learning about this. A staff weapon isn’t much use if you’re hunting. You’d destroy your prey. Do you think General Hammond would allow me to take a few of the staff weapons with me when I leave in a few hours?”

“I don’t believe so, Your Highness, but why?”

“A bit of a bribe for Telemachus. Try as he might, he’s not one who enjoys more learned ways.”

Sam laughed. “In other words, you think he’s bored being with the expedition and this might cheer him up a little?”

“He avoids scholars at the best of times. Being with an entire group for the last few days may have tried his patience somewhat.”

“I’m sorry he didn’t come with you. I would have liked to have met him.”

Orestes shut down the staff weapon and handed it back to Sam. “Father didn’t like the idea of all of us being gone from the palace, and like I said before, you have to make every moment count. The opportunity to come to earth was one I could not ignore. You’ll get a chance to meet him when you visit Cyllene. What small examples of technology we have may be broken and rather old, but there might be something there scientists could find interesting.”

“Well, thank you, Your Highness. I would like to see the results of the mission.”

“And did you arrange to meet your Pete?”

Sam smiled and shook her head. “No. We haven’t been able to see each other. He’s still hunting that thief, and I’m still here.”

“Don’t let the moment go by, Major. One moment passes, we think nothing of it. A second passes, and we consider it unimportant. Soon, many missed moments have passed. Don’t let your duty here stop you from enjoying your life.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PR2-759 (Cyllene)

This was no cakewalk or babysitting job, Colonel Weaver reflected.

It also wasn’t what he’d call a real “first command.” After all, when you are in command of a mission, are you supposed to actually “command?” Make decisions? Give orders? Right?

Not when he was guarding a scientific mission, no.

O’Neill had told him. Maybe he should have listened better.

From the moment they stepped foot on Cyllenian soil, Weaver felt like the odd man out. The scientists had the camp set up, the tents pitched and the labs working in record time. Since then, SG-14 had fetched, carried, moved, stacked, toted and rearranged the equipment, boxes and crates. The scientists definitely knew what they were doing, and they didn’t ask anyone for orders or directions. The botanists had already discovered new plants with medicinal purposes the Cyllenians hadn’t thought of as well as indications that something other than naquada was influencing their growth. The geologists had found more evidence of the Great Eruption. The archaeologists were poring over as many scrolls as they could before the trek to the temple. Each group had the scholars who were interested in that field of study right by their side as they showed them how the scientific method worked.

Weaver half-expected Jackson to be supervising all aspects of the operation, but for the last couple of days, he’d been engrossed in some kind of intellectual pursuit. He’d had more scrolls brought to him after they’d found some artifacts. He was zipping through those scrolls for hours and calling for one of the archaeologists to do this or that or look up some obscure story. Whatever it was, Jackson was onto something big. At least, that’s what Weaver thought. Whatever it was, he was certain he’d find out eventually. Until then, he would do his job.

Guard duty was boring. The only break in the monotony he’d seen since he got there was Prince Orestes’ return hours earlier. There were no enemies to guard against on Cyllene. Five days of this was five days too long without excitement. The only source of entertainment was the nighttime poker games. Who would have thought that some of those scientists were hustlers? Good thing they were only playing for matches. If they’d been betting with money, Weaver would have already lost four months’ pay. The team was already a few dollars behind since they were betting each other on who found what first and where – no way were they going to make bets with the scientists.

He didn’t know who suggested the poker games, but they were a good way to get to know each other. His new team had only begun to form a few delicate bonds needed to make the six of them into a cohesive unit. One point Weaver stressed on his teams was familiarity. Formality had its place, but not on missions. He believed there needed to be a comfortable rapport between team members regardless of rank. Formality sometimes got in the way of that, and when your life was in someone’s hands, who wanted something as simple as a “sir” or “ma’am” to get in the way of help?

Calling each other by first names was a stepping-stone on the road to familiarity despite the rules and regulations. He and Barnett were already at that stage, but the enlisted on the team were still mired in the “sir” salutation. They could call each other by their first names, but weren’t able to address the officers informally. Weaver hoped it would come in time. He was certain it would.

Weaver glanced at his watch. His time on guard duty was almost over, not that guard duty was a necessity on Cyllene, but regulations were regulations. The whole “guard duty” idea on Cyllene was only for show anyway, all part of learning to work as a team and delegating responsibilities and tasks. As boring as it was, the scenery was nice to look at. They took an occasional interest watching the Cyllenians drive back and forth in their carts as they displayed an equally profound curiosity in their visitors. During the daytime, that was the majority of their amusement. The nights on Cyllene were short during the spring months, so night duty really only lasted a few hours which meant a few hours of nightly boredom with little to no amusement. Overall, this was one mission that wouldn’t be listed as one of his favorites.

From his vantage point, he could see everything going on inside the camp. He watched the king’s chef walk over to a metal triangle, grab the metal bar and clang it against the sides with a loud, “Come and get it!” Doctor Evans had explained TV westerns and some of the western folklore and stereotypes to the cook, and the cook enjoyed calling everyone to eat that way. Why not? He couldn’t take that kind of liberty at the palace, so why not have a little fun with the visitors?

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Prince Orestes stacked another heavy crate of MREs inside the tent. The Tau’ri had brought an ample supply of provisions, but through the king’s generosity, they also had some “home cooked” food as Doctor Lee so colorfully said. The palace had supplied them with enough food to feed a small colony. That meant that they didn’t need the MREs, hence the stacking of MRE crates in the tent, even when they heard the chef call all in for the meal.

Telemachus lugged another box into the tent, placed it in the far corner, then stood up and rubbed the small of his back. “A day like this, and we’re stacking crates. This would have been a good day to go hunting.”

Ah, the luxury of youth, Orestes thought to himself. A time to think the day is yours to do with as you please. Telemachus did do his job as a prince of the realm, but sometimes he still wanted to be the carefree boy he used to be.

“I can’t believe they do this all the time,” he muttered. “My back feels like a rock has been sitting on it.”

Orestes smiled as he wiped off his hands on his breeches. “They’re hard workers, Tel, and they enjoy it.”

“Why did Father ask us to help?” Telemachus asked rhetorically.

“To help promote good relations, little brother.” Orestes smiled at Telemachus’ groan. Yet another indication that his younger sibling didn’t care for the responsibility connected to being born a royal. “Look, it may be that you and I will never be king, but since we are princes, we have to learn to be diplomatic and handle interests like negotiations. If Mother were still alive, she’d also be acting as a diplomatic liaison with members of the Tau’ri. Father’s made an alliance with them. If our helping them here aids in that alliance, then Father will use that as a diplomatic gesture. Besides, it doesn’t hurt you to get your hands dirty now and again, and contrary to your own belief, a little manual labor won’t hurt you.”

“But it’s boring! I mean, it’s fine when they’re finding things and translating scrolls or looking through those devices, uh, microscopes – those are interesting -- but moving boxes?” Telemachus sat down on the nearest box, noting the creaking of the lid as he did so. “Wouldn’t you rather be on Earth learning more about weapons and fighting like Akakos is doing?”

“Yes, but Akakos is the crowned prince,” Orestes explained as he sat opposite his brother. How many times would he have this conversation? “He’s doing what is necessary to help protect Cyllene as well as making diplomatic inroads with the military personnel at the Tau’ri base. We’re making friends with the civilians by being here while they teach the scholars. Father thinks it’s a good idea that we be on friendly terms with as many groups as possible.”

Telemachus took a deep breath and stretched his back again. “What do you think of them, Res?”

“The Tau’ri?”

“Yes. No. I mean these scientists.”

Orestes glanced outside the tent flap and saw people moving back and forth as they studied their findings. He saw the soldiers always on guard, always willing to give a bit of help when and where it was needed. He saw good-natured smiles and hearty laughs. He heard friendly discussions and scientific debates. He saw teamwork. “They know how to work together even though each has a particular specialty. They’re very good at what they do.”

“Do you think we can trust them?”

“Father thinks so,” Orestes answered quickly. “From what we’ve seen, they’ve given us no reason to think that they’re anything other than they’ve purported to be. They need the naquada, we don’t. We need military training, and they’re willing to provide it. Our scholars are getting much needed assistance here… I think we can trust them. Don’t you?”

Telemachus stood up again and stretched his back once more. “Some of them. They don’t treat us like royalty. They talk to us like they do everyone else. They even put us to work.”

“A lot of them come from a country that has no royalty. They wouldn’t know how to behave around us. Doctor Cardogan is the only one to hold any type of noble title. He comes from a country called England. They have a queen.”

Telemachus watched the people head towards the chef’s tent. “I’ve been watching them. Every one of them listens to what Doctor Jackson says, even the soldiers. But if they’re from a military base, why isn’t the military in command?”

That did make sense. It was a good question. However, the answer was relatively simple. “According to their rules, it’s a scientific expedition, then the scientists are in charge and the soldiers are only there for protection.”

“Doctor Jackson has a great deal to do,” Telemachus noted. “Did you know he’s been asking some unusual questions about the temple?”

“Yes, and the curators at the Trikrenian had some answers for him, but he’s curious about something else. Doctor Lee thinks that Jackson has stumbled onto some kind of mystery where the writings and the history and the myths don’t match, and that’s what he needs to find out. That’s why he’s been re-reading all the scrolls and asking unusual questions about the temple.”

Telemachus stood with a groan, stretching one more time. “Any idea what it is?”

“I think he’s wondering about the device Hermes placed here to keep us safe. Since we haven’t found it yet, perhaps Doctor Jackson has found a clue to its location and what it is.”

Telemachus wiped off his hands. “If it is a weapon, I wonder if they’ll know how to use it. And if they know how to use it, will they try to take it back with them. And if they take it back with them, what happens to us?”

“Now you’re talking more like a prince,” Orestes joked. “You’re worrying about the safety of our people.”

“Just wondering. They may try to take items we don’t want them to. What if they want to fight us for it? Res, do Tau’ri civilians command battles?”

Orestes clapped his younger brother on the shoulder and gave him a shove to get him moving again. “I have no idea, but I don’t think we need to concern ourselves with that. Let’s go eat.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

A quick jog and Weaver arrived at the mess tent at the same time as the rest of SG-14. One thing a soldier knows – eat good food when you find it because you don’t always have it. This guy knew how to cook! As usual, Morrison, Newsome, Mulroney and Henson were staying together. Barnett was with them, but there still seemed to be some sort of distance there.

“What’s on the menu for lunch?” Sergeant Morrison asked as he stood on tiptoe, trying to see what was on the tables in the tent.

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, it smells good,” Henson maneuvered himself in line. “As long as it’s hot, that’s fine by me. I like taking lunch on guard duty with me.”

Weaver smiled. “That’ll probably be all the excitement you get, Thomas. The only thing I saw for the last hour was a couple of dogs chasing something that looked like a squirrel.”

“Yeah? Hey, Colonel, the cook said those squirrel things are tasty. You think they’d let us do some hunting while we’re here?”

“Hunting?” Weaver looked back at the corporal. “You hunt?”

“Yes, sir,” Henson answered. “Hunt, fish, you name it. My dad used to take us when we were kids all the time. He had to hunt when he was a kid if they wanted any meat on the table.”

Barnett slung his rifle behind him and wiped his hands on his pants. “Prince Telemachus was talking about the hunting they have here. He probably wouldn’t mind taking us. What do you think, Joe?”

Weaver didn’t have any arguments. “We can always ask him. He doesn’t like manual labor. I can tell you that. You can hear him complaining over the entire camp.”

“He’s young,” Barnett guessed. “Besides, where would you rather be on a day like this? Working or playing?”

“Good point.” Weaver leaned forward a bit. Was he seeing what he thought he was seeing? “If I’m not mistaken, does that look like some kind of … fish?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Can I have everyone’s attention, please?”

Everyone in the mess tent stopped eating momentarily and focused on the man talking.

Daniel cleared his throat. “As you know, we’re heading up to the temple tomorrow. We already have the reports the Cyllenians have on what they’ve discovered and researched so far, but there may be something else in there. We don’t know what to expect or what we’ll find, so we need to go there with full pack and as many instruments we can carry. Yes, that also includes your knives, pistols and ammunition. It’s always better to be prepared.”

“How long will we be there?” Doctor Evans asked between mouthfuls.

“I’m not sure, Russ. A day or two. Some of the Cyllenian scholars we’ve been working with will be going with us. For some of them, it’ll be their first trip to the temple as well. We’ve got to get the broadest overview of the area and the topographical reports to decide how we’re going to proceed in the long run. The scrolls, the legends and the stories indicate that the temple is more than just a storehouse. The Cyllenians have excavated some of rooms just off the entrance, so the archaeological group will start there. Most everything they’ve found is still there instead of being moved to the Trikrenian. Botany group, the plant life in and around the temple may be far different from anything you’ve seen here at the camp, so take your protective clothing. I want a physicist with each group in case we come across some form of technology. We probably won’t be bringing anything back with us, but it should help us decide which direction we need to look next.” Daniel was silent for a moment, then, “Any other questions?”

“What time do we leave?” Weaver asked between mouthfuls.

“First thing in the morning,” Daniel said.

Weaver refocused his attention to his lunch. “Beats guard duty,” he muttered.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The sun wasn’t up yet, and the camp was already awake and readying themselves for their trip. It could be very revealing, but they weren’t deluding themselves. They knew that they might get there and find nothing of any real value to study, at least nothing much beyond what they’d already found. The scrolls, however, those could be the key to all the mysteries. The Cyllenians hadn’t translated them all. What if there was some hint about what Hermes placed on the planet? What if some new technology was still buried in the dirt?

The anticipation that something big was out there waiting to be found was contagious – for the scientists. SG-14 was helping where they could, but the infectious excitement was lost on them even if it was something different to break up the routine.

The only other person completely unaffected by the early morning exhilaration was Daniel Jackson. He was in his tent doing some last minute tasks that mystified the soldiers but the scientists took it in stride. Apparently, what was normal for one group wasn’t quite as normal for another. That was another part of the babysitting mission that Weaver had to adjust to.

“I think everyone’s ready,” Barnett reported as he walked up to Weaver. “A few more scrolls to get, and I think we can be on our way.”

“After the sun’s up,” Weaver added. “I’ve got to report to the SGC, so you’ll be leading them out. No way do I want either of us going with a bunch of civilians and locals up that mountain if we can’t see where we’re going. I’ll keep Mulroney and Henson with me and we’ll catch up with you after I check in.”

“You know, this hasn’t been a bad assignment,” Barnett mused. “It’s been pretty easy.”

“Easy, yeah. Boring,” Weaver added.

“That too. From what I hear, boring assignments are few and far between and to enjoy them whenever we get them.”

“Let the scientists have those kinds. They seem to love it,” Weaver observed. “I know this is why O’Neill didn’t want this gig.”

“I thought it was because he didn’t like scientific missions,” Barnett thought aloud.

“That, plus Jackson makes him work on the expeditions, and he’s not interested in this stuff. Well, come on. Let’s get everyone rounded up and ready to go.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The scientists’ voices arguing over inane matters were almost surprising if one didn’t know that the barbs and arguments were merely for amusement.

“John, you stuff one more book in that pack and you won’t be able to lift it.” That was Doctor Emily Sanders’ voice coming from somewhere speaking to John Carr. Perhaps speaking wasn’t the right word. Perhaps taunting would be better?

“Lay off, Em. It’s his back, isn’t it?” Georgia Estes’ answer could be heard with the sound of laughter following it.

“We may need these books!” John exclaimed. “Look, here’s one for you, Emily. See Jane. See Jane run. See Jane --

Then there was the sound of a pop – did Sanders hit Carr or just throw something?

“Hey, who’s bringing the food?” someone asked.

“Isbister,” was the answer.

“Just Hugh?”

“Yeah, what’s wrong with that?”

“There’s a bunch of us going. Will that be enough food? What if we decide to have a cookout or something?”

That followed up with another sound like someone hitting the back of someone’s head.

Colonel Weaver and Major Barnett walked through the camp, listening to the goings-on with fond amusement. There was always some good-natured ribbing going on, some disagreements about context and historical accuracy, the description of a layer of strata, even some discussion of favorite television shows, and movies – these scientists were enjoying themselves despite the hard work they were doing. Whatever SG-14’s opinions of scientists were before the mission, they developed more respect for the work the scientists did – after all the bending and shoveling and sifting and cataloging that Doctor Jackson had made them do in between their normal duties.

Weaver considered that the next time O’Neill asked for volunteers to guard a scientific mission, he’d be the first not to raise his hand.

“How far away is this temple again?” Barnett asked.

“A couple of miles. Easy stretch of the legs. I can’t believe Doctor Jackson wants to take the entire group and the scholars up there,” Weaver said quietly. Why everyone? Why not just a small party?

Barnett shrugged his shoulders. “Logistical optimization is what he called it.”

“About what?”

“They want to get as much information about the area surrounding the temple from every scientific angle they’ve got before the first two weeks are up. They’ve read over a lot of scrolls, they’ve got an idea of what’s out here, but everyone wants to get a look-see at the temple itself since it was so important to Hermes. Doctor Jackson thinks that if we take a day or two, everybody goes up there to see what’s what, get samples of whatever it is they get samples of and get it analyzed, and then they’ll decide who to put where to do the research. It also gives the scholars a chance to do put some of their new training to use with their teachers right there to help them if they need it.”

Weaver considered that for a moment. “So going to the temple is like a recon mission for Jackson?”

“More or less, yeah.”

So maybe taking everyone up to the temple made sense after all.

“Uh, is that minister whatsisname, Xenocles, tagging along?”

Barnett sighed. “Nope. He’s going to be in charge while the princes are with us.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Daniel Jackson sat back in his very uncomfortable metal chair and stretched. He had been awake for hours catching up on some notes. Alternating between note taking and scroll reading, he pored over the latest information and still the answer eluded him. He looked around the tent, hoping that some wisp of an artifact could lend him some inspiration, but none did. Nothing was hinting at the answers he was looking for.

He decided to dictate a report before they left, so he picked up his tape recorder and pushed the button to record. “Log number six, site nine. Mission recap. Doctor Russell Evans has discovered what looks like a variation of a ribbon device. That with other discoveries listed in the log manifest have lent credence to the theory that the artifacts we’ve found on this planet are representative of an earlier form of goa’uld technology which hasn’t been used for centuries.” He picked up another artifact and studied it closely before speaking again. “Prince Orestes and Prince Telemachus will be accompanying us to the temple today – to tell the truth, their knowledge of the surrounding area has been invaluable. They’re experienced hunters, and that means they know paths to locations that aren’t on any map and aren’t used by the population in general so some of the locations we’ve been researching have not been developed by any type of industry. Botanical and geological findings in the areas surrounding the palace have resulted in a better understanding of naquada’s influence on plant growth and plate tectonics as well as yielding certain clues as to how scientists can replicate some of the conditions in laboratory settings. We’re hoping that the area around the temple will have a larger variety of plant life and affected rock formations for further study of this.”

“Background information: according to the royal historians, a volcanic eruption buried the temple hundreds of years ago. It’s believed to have been built by Hermes, the Goa’uld who once ruled this planet and is rumored to have housed a certain weapon used in the defense of Cyllene and a warehouse for the items he collected on his travels. There also seems to have been a relatively amicable relationship between Hermes and the population of this planet. The hieroglyphs I translated today, uh, yesterday didn’t indicate that the population was enslaved. This planet may have been an outpost and not one that Hermes used as any type of powerbase. I have a reference about the planet being protected so it is possible that this planet is like Cimmeria and that would explain why no Goa’uld, not even Hermes, has been here in over one thousand years. I’ve also found references in one group of carvings on this tablet Doctor Evans found at dig site three that this planet was made to be forgotten and overlooked or hidden within view if I’m translating that correctly. I’m hoping when we go to the temple I’ll be able to find a translation for that… translation.”

Daniel switched off the tape recorder and put it back on the desk. His gaze never left the tablet in his hand. He had tried repeatedly to decipher it, but the handwriting looked like chicken scratch that made reading it very difficult and the words were in a very ancient code. Obviously, penmanship wasn’t a priority with some of the Goa’uld. The name Hermes was written on it alongside one of two types of caduceus seen in several carvings beside his name. Other artifacts suggested that there were occasions when Hermes would write tablets and scrolls himself instead of giving the job to a scribe. Daniel’s current theory was that when he did, he used one particular form of the caduceus, maybe a type of personal seal for a personal diary? That was very un-Goa’uld-like behavior. Normally, they didn’t go to the trouble of writing things down themselves. If it was Hermes’ handwriting, and Daniel believed that it might be, the tablet may have been about a personal matter or one of extreme secrecy. On part of the tablet and on a few scrolls that had been found, there was another handwriting that used the symbol for Anubis along with a hieroglyph he’d never seen before. Perhaps some sort of shorthand that Hermes used for his personal writings? Yet there were two handwritings – maybe he had the equivalent of a pen pal and it was a correspondence between him? Daniel didn’t dismiss the idea as soon as it popped into his head, but he was having trouble believing it. Whatever Hermes had scribbled down could be extraordinarily important. Daniel didn’t know what it was yet, but the tablets mentioned the temple several times along with a pictogram of a chest with the caduceus seal on it. The temple had to be very important for other than the obvious reasons.

Buried along with the tablet were large chests with the same caduceus symbol on the seal, locking whatever was inside away from prying eyes. Whatever was inside had to be important if they all bore the same “personal” caduceus as a locking seal. The linguists had to translate the carvings on the chest to find the code hidden in the texts that triggered the locking mechanism. When Bill Lee and Daniel opened the chests, they found nothing special, more like a small collection of Goa’uld technology resembling healing devices and previous versions of zats. So why were they all locked under a different code but all marked with this particular seal? The seal had to be important, right? Also, if there wasn’t anything of any real value in any of the chests they’d found so far, then why was a chest with the seal shown in the private correspondence? What was the significance? None of it made sense!

Other bits of evidence they found were still confusing him. Some of the older technology housed in the Trikrenian belonged to the Ancients. They weren’t powerful or significant artifacts, just simple pieces of what could be called everyday household items, but they were definitely Ancient in origin. Daniel knew what they were the moment he saw them although he didn’t remember where he’d seen them before. His time as an Ancient was still blurred in his memory.

Daniel pulled out another tape recorder, one with the label Personal Notes. “Most of the items we’re finding in the Trikrenian have been stored for years without anyone knowing what they were or what they were used for. The historians have kept them on display or boxed up for safekeeping. SG-6’s initial assessment of the planet was correct. We’ve found a treasure trove of artifacts, but few that could be considered major weapons of any kind. Most of the Goa’uld technology is familiar if a little dated. We found earlier versions of communication spheres, hand devices, healing devices, zats and staff weapons – all of them with dead power cells or crushed from the eruption. The scattered examples of the Ancient’s technology… I know what they are, I know what many of them are called but I haven’t been able to resurrect any more memories regarding their use.” The holes in his memory were a constant annoyance to him. One day, he hoped to remember all that he had forgotten.

“I don’t know exactly what we’ll find in the temple. None of the writings I’ve translated has been specific about what Hermes kept there other than some of the items he collected on his travels and a device used to protect Cyllene, and the Cyllenians haven’t excavated enough of the temple to guess at what might still be buried. I’ve spoken with several historians over the last couple of days, and they have no more information than I’ve already stated.  It’s possible that given the time Hermes built the temple, he may have stored weapons that were fairly advanced for their time to protect the planet from the other Goa’uld, possibly even modified Ancients’ devices but which are now no longer in use by anyone. If they were advanced, then the scribes might not have had any verbal or written reference to the devices and didn’t have the words to describe the technology accurately. That could be another reason for the confusion.”

“I am curious about the fabled caduceus that Hermes was reputed to have, one supposedly made of gold. I’ve found references to gold in some of the scrolls. I know that doesn’t mean there’s a gold caduceus at the temple, but it’s not a word used very often here. The only time I’ve seen it used is in what I’m currently calling Hermes’ personal correspondence with a pen pal regarding a chest with a caduceus symbol as the seal. I don’t know if that means anything yet. I’m hoping I’ll find something at the temple to help explain it.”

“I have translated part of a scroll that almost reads like the story of Odysseus and his voyage home to Ithaca. Perhaps one thousand years ago, a minor system lord named Calypso tried to gain more territories by kidnapping certain Goa’ulds and holding them for ransom in a hidden location, the ransom being planets or ships or Jaffa. The system lords were tired of her antics even if her kidnapping rival system lords made it possible for them to gain extra territories without open warfare or much interference from the reigning Goa’uld. Hermes was asked to broker a deal for the release of one system lord in particular. He did, and Calypso released her prisoner under threat of annihilation from a combined fighting group of system lords. Unfortunately, this led to Calypso and Hermes being on unfriendly terms afterwards and the Goa’ulds loyal to her began attacking Hermes’ forces. He set up several defensive positions all over the galaxy with weapons capable of destroying a ship in orbit, but how he did it remained a mystery. There are no details of the weapons he used. Oddly enough, Cyllene wasn’t one of these defensive outposts even though one legend says that the temple has a way of repelling enemy troops, but there’s no description of how it did this. It’s almost as if they fought around this planet without noticing it existed or having to put the weapon stored here to use.”

“Another mystery is the lack of technology from certain eras. The Cyllenians have found Ancient technology that can be dated back thousands, maybe even millions of years and Goa’uld technology dating back a thousand, but none from the time in-between or after. Hermes traveled a great deal and has a reputation for collecting massive amounts of technology, but the Cyllenians haven’t discovered anything other than what I’ve described. I’ve wondered if he found a small stash of Ancient’s technology, hid it here with the Goa’uld items but then forgot about it. Based on what I’ve translated so far and what we’ve correlated with the folklore, I could theorize that Hermes had no reason to come back here or perhaps forgot that this planet existed. Perhaps he didn’t want any other Goa’uld to know he’d found anything belonging to the Ancients so he didn’t return, thereby not giving them any reason to think that there was any technology here. Then again, he might not have known what he found if he found anything substantial at all. It’s like a mystery without all the clues.”

“Colonel Weaver’s been very understanding about standing guard on this expedition. I know all team commanders have a rule about finding weapons to help defend earth, but he hasn’t complained that we haven’t found any yet… note to self – buy Jack a six-pack when we get back. He must have told Weaver to chill out during the mission.” He switched off the tape recorder and placed it on the desk.

The more Daniel thought about it, the more questions arose. Hermes hadn’t used this planet as a main power base. Nothing he had read about that particular Goa'uld indicated any obvious associations with Ancient technology, but then again, the evidence didn’t support that. His reputation was that he liked to collect things and stow them away. Perhaps the planet was like a pirate’s treasure island? Somewhere, out there, there was a map where a giant X marked the spot? That would make sense, but Hermes was still alive. Why hadn’t he come back in over one thousand years? If this was where he was hiding some of his stash, wouldn’t he want it again? Some of this was, after all, Ancient technology. It could be a key to gaining more power within the System Lords, and Hermes was a rather low level Goa’uld. Why didn’t he want more influence in the ranks? Lots of questions, one of the most nagging ones was why there was a huge gap in the ages of the artifacts.

Daniel hoped the secret was in the temple.

“Doctor Jackson,” Corporal Newsome entered the tent with another armload of scrolls and notebooks, “Doctor Evans just found more information that might relate to the tablet. He says it may not be much, but it might help.”

Daniel took the scrolls from Newsome with a thankful nod of his head, spread the papers out over the makeshift desk and started flipping through them to see what new information Russ had uncovered. Comparing scrolls and notes and scanning the text quickly, he was able to decipher a few words in different contexts and relate them to the words chiseled on the tablet. Sort of. “I’ll have to go over this in detail once we get back,” Daniel muttered, more to himself than to Newsome.

“Sir?” Newsome asked quietly.

Daniel turned toward the corporal, his mind still focused on the translation. “Yes?”

“We’ve been wondering… we know there are all kinds of weird plants and rocks around the temple that they won’t find anywhere else around here, but what are you wanting to find?”

“Wondering or taking bets?” Daniel asked, smiling.

“Both, to tell the truth.”

“I’ve been trying to compare what we know about Hermes with what we’re finding here, but a lot of it isn’t making sense yet. According to mythology, Hermes was the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia who was the daughter of Atlas, one of the Titans. Hermes was the god of shepherds, land travel, merchants, weights and measures, oratory, literature, athletics and thieves, invented foot-racing and boxing, was a minor patron of poetry and known for his cunning and shrewdness. He’s mostly known for being the messenger of the gods. One part of his legend is shown here on these scrolls.” Daniel showed Newsome a cartouche with the caduceus beside it. “In our mythology, Hermes is said to have invented the panpipes and the flute. One day, Apollo heard Hermes playing the flute and traded his golden staff, the caduceus, for it. Other legends say Zeus gave the caduceus to Hermes. And this is where it gets interesting.” Daniel pointed to various places on the scrolls and tablet. “According to some of these drawings, there are two caduceuses. One is a staff with two white ribbons. The other has serpents intertwined in a figure eight shape wrapped around a winged staff. One he uses as an official seal, I think. The other is used on this tablet and on the chests. I’m thinking it may be a personal seal instead of one he used for other communications. One caduceus in particular is supposed to be made of gold, and there are some references to the word gold in a few scrolls that are talking about the temple in particular, but that’s about all. It’s what I’m not finding in the texts that has me curious.”

“You’re thinking that you’ll find something more useful in the temple?”

“I hope so. None of the scrolls has a laundry list of what’s supposed to be there. One tablet mentions making this planet ‘forgotten’ or ‘hidden’ but it doesn’t say why. There’s something about Anubis, but it’s written in a different handwriting. The fact that both writers use the same caduceus could mean that this was a letter between the two. It may mean that Hermes wrote this himself, but that doesn’t make sense either.”

“It doesn’t?”

“Why would a Goa’uld write a message in longhand on a tablet where anyone could see it? Why didn’t he use some other form of communication?”

Newsome thought for a moment, his face showing his confusion. “Is that important?”

Daniel smiled. “Yes. If a Goa’uld writes something himself that might mean he was keeping it a secret. No scribe or Jaffa would know about it. There might be something either very personal in the temple or something very important Hermes didn’t want anyone to know about except for whoever it was he was writing the message to. There’s nothing about what it is exactly on any of the hieroglyphs, but that fact alone may mean that it’s something … big. Whatever we’re looking at could be something very important and personal or very secret and personal. A big mystery is why these tablets were left lying around so anyone could find them. Why weren’t they locked away?”

Daniel noticed that Newsome was shifting on his feet. That meant only one thing. “I take it you didn’t bet on that answer?”

“No, sir. But Sergeant Morrison did. I’d say you just won him the $20.”

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PENTAGON

 

General Vidrine signed his name on yet another accounting report. The costs for the SGC and Area 51 as well as the ‘rent’ on the stargate paid to the Russians had all increased. The penny pinchers in Washington were repeatedly telling the Senate Subcommittee that costs had to be defrayed or justified before any new budgets would be approved for the upcoming quarter.

His own personal project, the war game training scenario, had come under constant fire since he first proposed it. His goal was to streamline costs by not shutting down the SGC every few months to train new recruits. Vidrine’s plan involved staging realistic war games off world between SGC personnel and the Jaffa warriors, possibly even the Tok’ra. Everything from M*A*S*H units to communications outposts could be set up on an actual faux battleground. Field commanders, auxiliary personnel, munitions, everything needed for a real battle could be transported to a safe site off world and all that would be needed afterwards would be to gate the personnel there at the appropriate times.

The cost analyses, logistical simulations and budget negotiations finally won over enough of the committee for him to coordinate and schedule what he hoped to be the first of many war games. He was being allowed this one chance and the funding for one war game to prove that the cost analyses were correct, that going off world would be more profitable or, at the very least, less of a drain on monetary resources. Everything from Vidrine’s reputation to his promotion hinged on his proving his project worked and worked economically. If it didn’t work… he didn’t want to think of the damage to his career.

For weeks, Vidrine and General Hammond had ironed out a general plan to present to Bra’tac and Jacob Carter. The unrest that still existed between the Jaffa and the Tok’ra meant that tensions were riding high. No one wanted to take the chance that someone might “accidentally” forget to use a fake staff weapon or an intar and use a real one instead. The idea of each group performing a mock battle against the Tau’ri separately seemed to be more agreeable to both men.

“I do believe this plan would also help the Jaffa warriors to learn new tactics as well,” Bra’tac told them. “The Tau’ri have fighting styles far different from any encountered by my people.”

“The Tok’ra, too,” Jacob agreed. “They’re used to fighting Jaffa. They aren’t used to how unpredictable we folks from Earth can be.”

Vidrine was happy to hear this news. “How soon will it take for you to get volunteers?”

“Wait a minute, General,” Jacob held up a quieting hand. “First of all, we need to ask the Tok’ra and the Jaffa if they want to play in your war games. Bra’tac and I can sell it to our respective councils, but we don’t know if they’re going to buy it.”

Luckily for Vidrine, both groups had enough ‘volunteers’ to play in the games, and the first game (the only game if Vidrine couldn’t pull this thing off without a hitch and under budget) would be against the Jaffa.

An area about ten miles from the Alpha Site camp was everyone’s first choice. Hills, trees, ditches, boulders, tall grass – there was enough natural cover and obstacles to make war games interesting. They had the place, they had the personnel. All they needed now was the time to prepare the equipment and deploy. He had weeks before giving the budget committee the projected totals, so there was still time.

His intercom beeped for his attention.

“Yes?”

“General, the President is on line two for you.”

“Thank you.” He picked up the handset and pressed the flashing #2 button. “Mister President?”

“Alex, I was just talking to General Hammond. Looks like things are going very well with the King of Cyllene.”

“Yes, sir. I read Hammond’s morning report. Things do look promising.”

“Good. That’ll help with the budget meeting next week.”

Vidrine took a quick look at his calendar. “Next week, Mister President? Don’t you mean next month?”

There was the sound of flipping of paper over the handset. “No, it’s next week. They'll also want your numbers on this quarter's expenses and the next six quarters’ projections.”

Next six quarters? “Sir, forgive me, but are we going to budget money this far in advance given the recent situations that have occurred? I was given to understand that only two quarters at a time would be projected.”

“Yeah, that’s what the idea was, but we have to face facts, Alex. The SGC and Area 51 are huge money spenders, not big money makers. The bean counters want to tighten the reins. We’ve got the Cyllenian naquada almost in our back pockets. Now if you want that project of yours to get off the ground, make sure you’ve got some concrete numbers.”

“Yes, sir.”

“By the way, I heard your name was on the promotions list. Up for your fourth star, huh?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“I think if you pull this project off, you can pretty well bet you’ll get that star on your shoulder.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

After the President hung up the phone, Vidrine looked at his calendar. The meeting was next week? Why would he have written it down for next month? He looked into his memo file and found the one for the budget meeting. It was for the next week. He’d written it down wrong.

He was out of time.

He had to get a war game started immediately.

He pushed the intercom button. “Get me General Hammond at the SGC.”

Within moments, he was once again on the phone.

“George, I need to get the war game underway as soon as possible. How soon can we get teams to the Alpha site?”

“Sir, we can’t use the Alpha Site at the moment. They’re still recovering and rebuilding from the attack by the Kull Warrior. Now would not be a good time to even think about staging war games there.”

Blast! The Kull Warrior. Vidrine had forgotten about that incident. “We’ve got everything set up to stage them there already, George.”

“Yes, sir, we do. Master Bra’tac is here with me now discussing the conditions of the Alpha Site and Jacob Carter’s recommendations about clean-up. Both agree that no one would want to fight there. Not now. The Kull Warrior did an excessive amount of damage, up to and including the war games site. To quote Jacob, everything is in shambles.”

“Can you think of another location that would be suitable?”

“Let me check, sir.”

He heard Hammond flip through some reports when an idea struck him. “George, the Cyllenian king is there to learn about defense tactics, right?”

“Yes, sir. In fact, Cyllene has an area between the palace and the gate that could work for war games. I have the topographical report right here.”

“Can we ask him to use Cyllene? He could get a first hand look at how battles are fought. We’ll need to get our equipment, personnel and the Jaffa there in a day. If he approves, of course.”

One day there, war games are fought; cost and results would be reported back… all in time for the meeting next week.

“May I ask why so soon, sir?”

“I’m under orders, George. We have to move up the timetable.”

I’ll get my project off the ground and another star on my shoulder.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

General Hammond placed the receiver back in the handset and sat still for a moment.

“One day?” Bra’tac asked.

“One day,” Hammond answered.

General Vidrine wanted him to choose SG teams and a good site to organize a series of war games on Cyllene and he wanted to start tomorrow? The plan to have the Jaffa as opponents had been in the planning stages for months. Could they get the personnel moved from the SGC and the Alpha Site that quickly? Would the king agree?  

“This is a good opportunity for many of our warriors, but so soon after the attack on the base, the timing is unfortunate. How many teams does Vidrine wish you to send?”

Hammond looked at his team schedule sheet. “SG-1 is on downtime until Doctor Jackson returns from Cyllene. SG-2, 7, 9 and 11 are revisiting worlds. Others are on various research missions. That doesn’t leave many to choose from as far as battle teams go. We had discussed sending at least three teams in the preliminary planning stages, but changed the number to five in order to maximize the time and money expended. ”

“I can muster an adequate number of Jaffa to accommodate five teams,” Bra’tac added. “Perhaps we should make it more interesting?”

That piqued Hammond’s attention. “More interesting? How?”

“Perhaps outnumber Tau’ri forces by a small margin? That is the situation in many of your missions off world. It would add a more realistic feel to the exercise.”

“General Vidrine also believes that the king would be very interested in learning from the war games as well.”

“It would allow O’Neill a much needed respite,” Bra’tac joked. “I understand that he is not enjoying his current assignment as much as he could.”

Hammond laughed. “No, he’s not. Why don’t you and I have a little talk with the king?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Explaining the idea behind war games to King Lycaeon and Prince Akakos was easy enough. Sitting at the briefing room table with their guests, Hammond and Bra’tac went into detail about the fundamentals of pretending to fight.

“Your soldiers would fight Jaffa? Willingly?” the prince asked incredulously as he looked at pictures of previous war games conducted by the military.

“Yes, in a mock battle,” Hammond explained. “We use stun weapons so no one is injured. It’s also good practice for all of our different divisions including medical teams, communications, artillery -- we try to find any weaknesses in our defensive or offensive strategies so they can be eliminated in real battle.”

“And the Jaffa you will be fighting, they are allies?” the king inquired, his voice sounding as surprised as the prince’s. Perhaps the idea of a fake battle had never occurred to him?

“We are,” Bra’tac told him. “Many Jaffa no longer follow the Goa’uld or believe them to be gods. We have been allied to the Tau’ri for some time and are working with both them and the Tok’ra in covert operations as well as engaging in our own independent undertakings. At the moment, our three peoples are powerful allies and friends, although the Tok’ra and the Jaffa have many differences we are trying to overcome.”

“We would be allowed to observe?” Akakos’ voice was filled with excitement, not surprise.

Hammond grinned. “I think that seeing how battles can be played out would be much more informative than just explaining military theory using books and a chalkboard. You’d be able to overhear all communications, watch the team leaders make command choices, ask questions as events happen, listen as alternatives are discussed –”

“Father,” Akakos interrupted abruptly, “I like this idea.”

“As do I,” Lycaeon answered with a smile. “The royal counsel would find this very educational. General Hammond, I hope we are not inconveniencing you. I realize we’ve been overly zealous in our interest but such opportunities as you and the SGC have presented have never been offered to us before.”

“We’re glad we can help, Your Majesty, and I’m grateful to you for allowing us to use Cyllene to stage a war game. I think this can be beneficial to both of us.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Daniel’s not going to be happy with this,” Jack O’Neill poured himself a cup of coffee before taking his seat at the briefing room table. Teal’c barely nodded his head. Carter had that look on her face that showed slight irritation when military requirements intruded upon scientific pursuits. Jack used to see that look on Daniel’s face a lot – before he ascended. After he descended, the look wasn’t there as much. Daniel’s demeanor had changed. It wasn’t for the worse, it wasn’t for the better. It simply changed. He was still very much the scientist, but he had a more warrior-like edge to him. Jack wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing. “This is his first mission he’s headed up since 888, not to mention since he turned human again. He got to unpack his toys and his tools and take out his books –”

“I’m not stopping the mission, Colonel. I know the potential diplomatic and scientific significances of the dig. They’re scheduled to go to Hermes’ temple shortly, and that will take them well out of the containment area. I don’t see any conflict of interest if we have the games there.”

Conflict? No, probably not, but…

Carter spoke up, her voice sounding a bit disappointed. “Sir, this is the first time Daniel’s led a team since he got back. It would be a shame if anything went wrong with it. Can’t we wait until after this initial assessment over with or help reassemble the Alpha Site?”

“There’s not time for that, Major. General Vidrine wants these games tomorrow and he doesn’t think it would be a good idea to create more tension between the Tok’ra and Jaffa or run the risk of someone using a real weapon. I have to agree with him. Bra’tac tells me that he think he can get enough Jaffa to make the war games interesting for our soldiers. I’m hoping that if this works, we can also get the Tok’ra to agree to cooperate in multi-group war games with us in the future. It might help heal any bad feelings that may exist within the three groups if we can learn to work together. It can help bring the alliance closer, and I’m sure Doctor Jackson would agree that is a worthy undertaking.”

“I concur,” Teal’c agreed. “Master Bra’tac and General Carter are having a difficult time convincing both races that coexistence is possible.”

“They’ve become best friends,” Sam added, “but I think a few of the Tok’ra and Jaffa resent that.”

“Old hatreds die hard, Major,” Hammond said. “And we have our orders.”

“Daniel’s still not going to like it, sir,” Jack repeated as he sipped his coffee. “He’s getting to do geeky stuff and dig in the dirt. Betcha he’s enjoying himself.”

“I understand, and I have no intentions of spoiling that for him. However, this particular assignment is going to continue for quite a while. Doctor Jackson’s on-hands involvement there is only to last one more week. After that, he’ll coordinate with the scientists stationed on the planet from here because he’s too valuable to be temporarily assigned from SG-1 for too long. Look how badly the work got backed up when he was assigned to the Ascended for a year.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack sighed. “Have you told Colonel Weaver?”

“Not yet, but I have a feeling he won’t mind the idea of cutting this particular mission short. His reports indicate that he’s bored -- even though it seems that every team leader at this base has taken a personal vow to keep Doctor Jackson out of harm’s way when he’s assigned to their team since a certain colonel has read them the riot act about not letting him get hurt.” Hammond ignored the little shoulder shrug from the certain colonel. Oh, yeah, Jack O’Neill wasn’t going to take another chance with Daniel’s life. “I believe he knows that Doctor Jackson can handle any problems that may arise, so he shouldn’t have any concerns if some of SG-14 is on maneuvers. A few will stay with the scientists, so there shouldn’t be any security issues. I intend to have SG-3, 5, 10, 12 and 17 and some from SG-14 in the battle since they can give us the lay of the land better than these topographical reports.”

Jack seemed to consider the teams for a moment. “Some of those are research teams, not combat teams. Why not recall --”

“I wanted to, but they’re all the teams we have at the moment that aren’t otherwise occupied with other missions. Master Bra’tac will leave for the Alpha Site to recruit Jaffa to fight in the games and should arrive at Cyllene tomorrow morning planetary time.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Pan’s Ha’tak

 

The planet continued to grow closer each passing moment. The time to strike was close, very close, but it would be a tricky operation.


Pan continued to study the planet, his thoughts decidedly devious in nature, but his attention wasn’t so enraptured by his soon-to-be-won conquest that he didn’t hear his first prime enter.

“How shall we proceed, my lord?” Rae’D asked.

Pan’s focus never drifted from Cyllene. He had to move cautiously, carefully. He had no way of knowing if his movements would alert Hermes. The temple could have sensors that his troops might trip. If Hermes found out what he was doing…

“Send a squad. Scout the area around the temple but do not enter it. Scan for any energy signatures or any devices that would alert my father to our presence. Find out what you can. I want no mistakes. Let no one see you, and do not allow those who do to tell anyone.”

His first prime saluted and walked out.

What did you hide there, Father? Pan thought to himself.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermes’ Palace

Hermes sat on his throne, his anger seething through every part of his host body. An old plan that was once again useful -- threatened by his own offspring! Insufferable!

His first prime, Tar’ik, stood quietly nearby. He was loyal, this Jaffa. For many years, he had seen Hermes at his best and his worst and never uttered a word to anyone about what he witnessed, but Hermes knew that his behavior was confusing to the one Jaffa who knew him so well.

Another Jaffa hurried into the room, too hurried to bow or kneel. “It is as you’ve feared, my lord. Pan is approaching Cyllene. His ha’tak should be in orbit momentarily.”

Pan is approaching Cyllene.

“Leave me,” Hermes ordered him. “Tar’ik, you will stay.”

.

After the second Jaffa left, Tar’ik stood before his master. “My lord, what do you command?”

Hermes stood and then paced about the room. What to do, what to do. If he did anything, he risked everything. If he did nothing, then all plans would fail because of Pan’s interference. He had no time to consider other plans. He had few options.

He had to stop Pan.

“Fly a cohort of Jaffa to Cyllene immediately. Use the modified death gliders and the newly designed cargo vessels. We dare not risk using the Chappa’ai, and a ha’tak is too obvious. That could alert the wrong Goa’uld. Find Pan and his Jaffa and bring them to me, alive and as unharmed as possible. Do not allow them to take the planet. We want no human casualties if they can be avoided. That could draw unneeded attention and not from the one whose attention we desire.”

“It will take many hours to reach Cyllene even in the faster ships, my lord,” Tar’ik reminded him. “Pan could do great damage before we arrive. If we can’t stop him or are too late, then Apollo will have to --”

“I know. We have no choice. Take your Jaffa and go. Bring Pan to me.”

“Yes, my lord,” Tar’ik saluted and marched out of the throne room.

Hermes continued to pace. What was Pan thinking? Stupid question. Pan wanted anything that could get him power among the system lords. If he thought that anything could give him that power hidden on Cyllene, he’d defy his own father to get it. Now, when Cyllene could play a pivotal role in the balance of power in the galaxy, Pan attempts this ridiculous stunt!

Hermes walked over to a control panel in the wall, reached out and touched a hieroglyph that opened a section beside the panel. Inside was panel with a carving of his personal caduceus. The real one hadn’t been removed from its hiding place in almost one thousand years, but now there was a need for it again. Plans within plans, and already, Hermes could feel the change in the wind. The rumors had already started, the inquiries were being surreptitiously made, and the temple’s purpose was soon to be put to the use for which it was built. The plan could still proceed if Pan was stopped in time.

The question of whether or not he should contact Apollo … too much was dependent on Pan not reaching Cyllene. If he should and Pan disrupted the plan, then Hermes and Apollo would have to act quickly. He had to tell Apollo exactly what was going on.

Reluctantly, he stepped over to the communications sphere and activated the device, making certain that the transmission was encrypted and untraceable before speaking. This conversation would not go well.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Base Camp (Cyllene)

 

Daniel packed up the books he was taking to the temple and shoved his remaining few candy bars into his knapsack. He only had a week left off world, and his supply of 5th Avenue candy bars was getting exceedingly low. He’d have to ask for more for his next off-world excavation. Maybe he should cut back on his chocolate intake?

After half a moment’s serious thought, he decided that asking for more candy bars in the future was a much better idea.

Major Barnett entered the tent. “Sir, everything’s packed and ready to go. The colonel insists that we take the base radio just in case. He’s not sure that our personal radios will reach between here and the temple in case the SGC tries to contact us while we’re gone. The trees could interfere with the signal.”

“Something else to carry?” Daniel mused.

“At least it’s in something that’s in a bag and can be carried over the shoulder.”

“What about Colonel Weaver?”

“He’ll be checking in with the SGC within the hour, sir. He’s at the stargate now. If it’s all right with you, Corporal Newsome, Sergeant Morrison and I are to go with you, and the rest of the team will catch up after contacting the base.”

“That’ll leave them without a base radio.”

“Colonel says it’s nothing to worry about. Their personal radios work here in this flatland, but he wants the one with the strongest signal with us in case we run into trouble. We’re just waiting for your orders.”

That sounded reasonable and still a little strange. Here Daniel was, giving orders to high-ranking officers, and they were following them without complaint or argument? Usually, the military personnel weren’t that enthusiastic about being on non-military missions. He briefly wondered exactly what casual suggestion or bribe a certain colonel had made to them.

Daniel thought for a moment. Weaver didn’t see a problem with splitting up his team, so far the planet had been peaceful but they were heading to a Goa’uld temple. There was no way to know what was there, and with only himself and three soldiers with any real training, that left the rest of the civilians who only had target practice on the practice range at the SGC. It wasn’t standard operating procedure to split up the team like that, but it wasn’t as if it had never been done before. Once a planet was considered to be relatively safe, the protection protocols were usually downgraded. “The temple isn’t too far to travel to by foot, and we haven’t run into any trouble since we’ve been here… all right. Let’s get moving. Tell Weaver that we’ll keep radio frequencies open in case we need to contact him before he gets to us. We’ll assess the situation once we get to the temple and decide if we should wait on them or go in then.”

Major Barnett smiled. “Sir, have you ever considered joining the Air Force? You’ve got these rules down.”

“It’s just experience, Major. I’ve been on a lot of missions since I first came back from Abydos. Believe me, Jack O’Neill drilled a lot of these rules into my head.”

“I can believe it, sir. I’ve never worked with the colonel, but he’s as much a legend around the SGC as you are.”

Daniel paused, then glanced at the major. “Legends? Us?”

“Yes, sir. You’re well known at the base. SG-1 is required reading for all the teams. We don’t get to read all your mission reports, but some really show how ingenious the four of you have been to get back alive.”

Ah. The reports. “Don’t believe everything you read, Major. You know that not everything gets put in a report.”

“Yes, sir.” Barnett reached down and picked up a second pack of scrolls, notebooks and hardbound texts. “Will you be taking this?”

“Yes. I’m beginning to think we ought to ask the SGC for a pack mule for all the baggage we have to carry around on missions like this.”

Without another word, Barnett threw the pack onto his own shoulders, burdening himself without complaint. “Ready when you are, sir.”

“Thank you, Major,” Daniel said as he pulled his own pack up onto his back. Checking his weapon and then sliding it into its holster, he motioned for the major to lead the way.

Once outside the tent, Daniel looked over the group. Bill Lee, Russell Evans, Josh Redding, Emily Sanders, the assistants, the Cyllenian scholars and students – Daniel suddenly realized that he hadn’t had the time to learn all the Cyllenians’ names. They’d been in such a rush to establish what WAS known in order to determine how to proceed with the Cyllenians that he hadn’t had much time to get to know them. In what spare time he had, he was hunting the texts for any sign of the caduceus. He really should have joined in some of those poker games. Who were some of them? Cassius was the scholar in charge. His specialty was history. Thales was a physicist. Theophran was a botany student and seemed much more outgoing than Disoriden, the botanist. The geologist was named Dardanus? Daniel wasn’t sure about that. He didn’t know the others’ names. He also noticed that Prince Orestes and Prince Telemachus were at the head of the group, each carrying packs – interesting. They’d been more than helpful, Telemachus less than his brother and doing it out of obligation, but it was a good gesture.

So what did he have? Twelve civilians including himself, two princes, three of the SGC team with the other three to join them in a few hours and eight Cyllenian scholars: twenty-eight people total. This was not the largest group of people Daniel had been in charge of. He’d headed up expeditions with four times as many and led excavations with over five hundred diggers. Still, it was a daunting task to be in command of a research group on another planet, especially one going into a known Goa’uld temple.

Without another word, they walked out of camp.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Cyllenian Stargate

Colonel Weaver looked at his watch one more time. Just a few moments more. He was waiting as impatiently as Corporal Mulroney and Private Henson. Checking in with the SGC was one of those necessary evils – stop what you’re doing, trek over to the gate and dial home no matter what else is going on or how busy you are. Or in their case, how bored you are.

Another glance at his watch showed that it was time. “Corporal Mulroney, dial up Earth.”

Without hesitation, the corporal tapped the chevrons for the SGC and then placed his palm on the red crystal in the center of the DHD. After the wormhole formed, Weaver went over to the MALP, readjusted his radio’s earpiece and waited for the MALP to connect with the SGC receiver.

As soon as the indicator light glowed green showing that the connection to the base had been made, Weaver said, “SGC, do you read? This is Cyllene. SG-14, reporting in.”

“Colonel Weaver,” General Hammond’s voice came back over his earpiece, “how is the mission going?”

“No problems at all, sir. Doctor Jackson has already taken the rest of the group including the two younger princes to the temple. Barnett, Morrison and Newsome are going with them. The plan is to stay there a couple of days, set up a temporary lab so they can get some preliminary readings and then head back here to analyze them. We’ll catch up with them after the check-in.”

“Colonel, there’s been a slight change of plans. With the permission of King Lycaeon, we’ll be holding war games on Cyllene with Jaffa from the Alpha Site. The Royal Counsel is to be invited as well as the leaders in the Royal Army. I want a few members of your team to head up the Earth forces in the game.”

“War games? Sir, is that a good idea? We’ve got a lot of civilians here –“

“I know, Colonel. The temple is out of the containment area. If all goes well, we’ll be able to hold these types of war games instead of shutting down the SGC every few months to train recruits.”

“What about Doctor Jackson and the rest of his group?”

“I’d prefer this news be told to them in person.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll take care of it. I’ll leave Henson and Mulroney here at the gate. Weaver out.” He watched the wormhole fizzle out.

“Anything wrong, sir?” the corporal asked.

“Yeah. Let’s be glad that the others have already headed out. At least this will give me enough time to figure out how I’m going to break it to Doctor Jackson. You and Henson stay here in case the SGC contacts us again. It looks like the brass wants to stage some war games, we’ve got other teams and some of the rebel Jaffa coming here, and we’re gonna be the ones heading them up.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermes’ Temple

The path to the temple was a long, steep one. It wove up the mountain at sometimes perilous angles and was far more than a casual hike for anyone traveling it. According to an obscure Cyllenian legend, Hermes chose the mountain because the temple was protected from above by natural outcroppings and from below because it was on high ground. The other sides of the mountains was too treacherous for anyone to climb, so the safest path to the temple was the one they were walking. No ship could approach easily from above, no ha’tak could land and the natural structure of the surrounding cliffs helped to shield the temple from death gliders. The prudent approach was on foot, yet it was also the most dangerous. A small group guarding the temple could hold off an attacking armada by virtue of position. They would have the high ground; they could use the natural surroundings as a means of defense.

The temple itself, hewn from the natural rock, had its roots buried deep in the mountain. Tales of how deep the Temple went, if true, meant that the Cyllenians hadn’t excavated down far enough to uncover even a small percentage of the area itself. As the group approached the entrance, the impressiveness of the structure wasn’t lost on anyone. The entryway was massive with huge columns receding into the surrounding rock. The doorway stood at least twenty feet high and ten feet across with the arches above the door giving it a perceived height even greater than it was.

“Jumping Jennies,” Russ muttered as they got their first good view of the Temple. “Reminds you of Petra, doesn’t it? Only about ten times bigger?”

“A bit,” Josh answered, “but how would a structure like that be built in a Greek descended society?”

“Cultural cross-pollenization,” Russ said aloud.

Josh nodded in agreement. “Petra was built by the Nabateans around the 6th century B.C. and the Romans tried repeatedly to take it. They finally did in 100 B.C. Since the Romans loved the Greek culture and adopted it, it’s not a leap of logic to think that the cross-pollenization went both ways. The Greeks adopted some of the Nabataean architecture from the Romans. When the Cyllenian ancestors were taken from Greece, it’s possible that the some of the Roman culture had spread to the Athenians, and they’d have known about Petra due to the Romans wanting to take it over. The idea of carving a temple out of a mountain like this might have come that way.”

“You really believe that?”

“Nah, just thinking out loud,” Josh replied. “We don’t really know when the Cyllenian ancestors were taken from Earth and transported here. We don’t even know who was taken. For all we know, Greeks, Romans and Nabataeans were brought here by Hermes –”

“And the Nabataeans would have thought to build a Temple out of a mountain since they built Petra themselves,” Josh reasoned.

“Guess we’ll figure it out eventually.”

The scientists had concluded that the on-going excavations hinted that the structure had to be more massive than originally interpreted by reading through the scrolls. Maybe Hermes hid a lot of treasure and weaponry in there?

Major Barnett halted the procession. “We’ll check it out first, Doctor Jackson,” he told Daniel. “Newsome, you stay here with the scientists. Morrison, you’re with me.”

“Doctor Jackson,” Cassius, the historian scholar, asked, “we have had many excavations here. It’s safe.”

Daniel motioned for Barnett and Morrison to ignore the question and check out the temple. “It’s regulations. Part of their job, and they have to do it even when it’s not necessary.”

“Is this what your people call SOP?”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel answered. “Standard operating procedures. There are certain actions the military perform no matter what depending on the situation. Checking an area before sending in a group is one of them.”

A few minutes passed before Barnett and Morrison returned with an all clear. Eagerly, the group hurried inside.

The entry way was well lit from the sunlight pouring in through the wide door, but soon the rows of torches and lanterns encircling the inner wall were lit and the light shone across a huge room. Great circular balconies encased the room, just the few levels above and below showing any signs of being salvaged and studied. There was a stone staircase leading down from the door into a dark cavern, and an opposite doorway that led deeper into the mountain. It reminded Daniel of the Mines of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring – a vast chamber of untold size and width where the lights from the fires couldn’t reach the top of the vast dome of the ceiling. Amazingly, chests of various shapes and sizes littered the entire area, each with a caduceus symbol on the lock.

As the newcomers walked carefully around the platform, the echoes of their footsteps echoed off the walls and floated up into the reaches. The Cyllenian scholars gave them a guided tour of what had been found in the various disciplines they studied.

“Has anyone ever seen anything like this place?” Bill asked quietly, noting that his voice carried very well in the chamber.

Josh shook his head as he gazed around the room. “I don’t think anyone’s ever seen anything like this on earth. The size of this… just a guess, but it might be five times greater than the scale of the Great Pyramid. Imagine if they used every inch of space here for storage. There might be buried hallways and rooms that go on for miles.”

Daniel removed his backpack and got out his camcorder. “Okay, everyone. Let’s get to work. We’ve got a lot to do and a little bit of time to do it in, so break into your teams and find out what you can. Oscar?”

Oscar Labinski turned from the spectacular site toward Daniel. “Yeah?”

“Maybe set up the temporary lab in here first? We can move it outside once things get hopping.”

The lab was nothing spectacular -- a foldable table, a laptop, a few bits of basic equipment for easily identifying common chemical compounds, a portable hard drive library for research.

Moving quickly and expertly, the scientists started scanning and cataloging every inch of the first room in the interior. Barnett and Morrison took up protective positions at the entrance and Newsome walked the perimeter of the platform, on guard against anything. The princes pointed out certain items that they thought might be of particular interest to the scientists. Some were new, some already well known, but seeing them in this particular arena gave them a new meaning.

Emily found as-yet-unidentified types of fungus growing in the temple as well as tree roots of as-yet-unknown varieties growing through the floor.

Hugh went about studying the stone the temple was carved from. The internal walls were from a different type of stone found outside the temple. Interesting. He just didn’t know how it was interesting. Yet.

“Doctor Jackson,” Prince Orestes walked over to where Daniel was filming portions of the hieroglyphs. “There’s something here I think you’ll find fascinating.”

Orestes led Daniel to an interior room filled with chests. Writings covered the walls, but one wall in particular grabbed his attention.

The caduceus used on Hermes’ personal journals was chiseled into the walls.

“Over here,” the prince showed Daniel a particular chest the size of a sarcophagus in the far corner of the room along with a few pottery urns and other every day items that were used once upon a time.

The caduceus was on the artifacts.

Bulls-eye?

“Our historians have never been able to decipher these writings at all,” Prince Orestes told Daniel as they walked over to the chest in question. “They’re different from the carvings on the walls and the scrolls and are completely unknown to anyone. No one has found writings like them on any other room that has been excavated so far, but as you can see, there is still a great deal of the temple still buried.”

Daniel noticed immediately that the seal on the chest had the same caduceus engraved on all the others. Some of the markings were in an Ancient alphabet familiar to Daniel but the words were in an ancient dialect of Goa’uld, one no longer spoken or written. Some of the words were completely new to him, but others… they seemed to indicate that something of great importance was inside. The writing was unique compared to the writings on all the other artifacts they’d found. They details were a bit vague and lacking…

Please let this be the bulls-eye?

Daniel examined the chest carefully and noted some scratches on the bottom corners. They appeared fresh. “Was this chest in this cavern originally?” Daniel asked the prince.

“No. It was moved from a chamber much further down. Once the sand and dirt were removed from the corridor outside the chamber, the roof cracked and our historians feared that it would fall and bury it. The chamber itself collapsed not long after the chest was removed.”

“Was there anything written on the walls?”

“No. There was no writing whatsoever. Only the chest. The legend says that the chamber was sealed by Hermes to protect that which was most precious. Only a god can enter the chamber. Once the chest is opened, then any demon that dares attack Cyllene will be turned to dust.”

But no damage to the chest? Interesting. There was no sign of any attempt to open it.

“It hasn’t been opened,” Daniel muttered out loud.

“No. It must be like those other chests where you have to understand the writing in order to learn the code to safely unseal it. Also, it’s the largest chest that’s been found so far. Some think that it’s too important and that it would be a sacrilege to open this one. There’s a story, we don’t know if it’s legend or merely a child’s story that says that anyone that looses the power within the chamber upon anyone who dares to attack Cyllene will be turned to dust. No one wanted to test that legend.”

A catch-22? “Wait,” Daniel thought out loud, “Legend says only a god can enter the chamber, once the chest is open then any demon attacking Cyllene would be turn to dust but whoever looses the power within the chamber would get turned to dust as well? So the chamber had a defense system as well? Yet only a god can enter the chamber…”

“Yes,” Orestes confirmed.

They didn’t open the chamber, Daniel thought to himself. They dug through a wall; they didn’t open a door…

So…what was the “power” behind the chamber? What was the power behind the chest? Would that also be the same as opening the chest itself or was there something else in the chamber? Perhaps the chest was the power of the chamber in the story? Was there power at all? How much was truth, how much was legend? This was quite a puzzle to unravel.

Daniel glanced back into the main room. Bill was studying some instrument he’d found. Russ and Josh were looking at an altar covered with pictograms. Others were collecting etchings and botanical samples. The soldiers were doing their best to stay out of the way. Barnett was taking a turn walking through the chamber, his gun resting in the crook of his arm but his finger resting by the trigger. Apparently, he didn’t feel at ease in the temple. However, as interesting as the temple itself was, the chest needed to be one of their top priorities.

“Bill,” Daniel called Doctor Lee to look at the chest. “Come have a look at this.”

Bill walked into the interior room, leaned close and peered at the chest, even took out his magnifying glass to see the small details etched in the surface. “If I were to guess, I’d say these were similar to Goa’uld letters. Maybe one of those old alphabets you’re always working on.” Bill wasn’t a linguist, but he knew what the warning symbols looked like. “I don’t think we should open this,” he said as he backed away from it. “Does this one mean curse?”

“Prince Orestes mentioned something about being turned to dust,” Daniel explained.

“That sounds slightly cursish to me,” Bill pointed out. “These letters don’t look like the ordinary Goa’uld letters we’ve seen.”

“That’s because this is an ancient form of Goa’uld, one that uses Ancient symbols in the text. This chest itself is old.”

Bill released a surprise breath. “Ancient and Goa’uld, huh? How? We’ve found some Ancient pieces and some Goa’uld artifacts, but none that could date from the time in-between… unless –“

“Unless this is an item that might have existed in the time between the Ancient and the Goa’uld timelines. Maybe this might be a missing piece of the puzzle.” Daniel didn’t sound very sure, but he also knew that the chest was important. He was eager to decipher the writings  himself, but he was in charge and had to keep his attention on all the work being done, not just on what he wanted to work on. “I’ll get Russ to start working on the translation. Can you get a date on this? I’d like to know how old it is.”

“Yeah, sure, no problem,” Bill answered as he opened his pack and brought out some of his equipment. There was one huge advantage to being allies with alien races that were ahead of Earth technologically: some of the toys that the scientists did get to play with were an improvement over ordinary labs and Bunsen burners. The Tok’ra had given the scientists what was, in essence, carbon dating equipment that didn’t require the aforementioned laboratory or burners.

“I don’t understand,” Prince Orestes said. “Is its age very important?”

“It may be,” Daniel told him. “Hermes left older Goa’uld technology here. Most of it predates some of the items the Goa’uld are using today. He also left small pieces of unimportant Ancients’ technology. So far, we haven’t found any evidence of any technology between the two eras. We also haven’t found anything that could be considered a powerful weapon that could protect this planet. If Hermes was a bit of a pack rat, then why aren’t there more devices from more eras and why is there nothing more potent than a hand device? Your legends tell that he left a device here to protect Cyllene, some kind of weapon, and it was here in this temple, but none of your written history tells what the weapon is. If no one has robbed the temple, we can’t be certain of that, but…”

Orestes seemed to ponder the puzzle for a moment – then he understood. “The chest? It may be an important piece of technology left behind?”

“Perhaps. It seems strange to me that one legend says if you open the chest, an attacker will be turned to dust, but in order to stop anyone from attacking Cyllene, you have to open the chest by entering a chamber but the only one who can enter the chamber is a god. That might be the one real clue we’ve got about how it works. Also, your historians didn’t actually open the chamber in the conventional sense. They dug their way in through a crack in the wall. Maybe whatever it was that made opening the chamber dangerous was connected to the door itself or maybe the Great Eruption harmed whatever fail-safes Hermes designed for the temple. Also, given what we’ve found, it might lead someone to think that there’s nothing really important here or what had been here was long gone. If that was the case, then why would a chest with these warnings be left behind? All the artifacts already found could have been nothing more than a smoke screen. Maybe what’s in the chest is the one important device he hid here.”

Daniel thought the idea was a sound one, no matter how off-the-cuff it was. Between the scrolls and the evidence, there was a mystery lurking about.

“Uh, Daniel,” Bill looked up from his work, “You’re not going to believe this…”

“What is it?”

“We’re getting various readings. The chest itself is over a thousand years old, but there’s something here that’s making the indicators go berserk. There’s something really old in here. Not only that, it’s made of gold!”

Gold? Daniel’s mind was racing. Yes, there was a chance that Hermes’ golden caduceus could be in that chest, but for them to find such a treasure on their first day at the temple seemed unlikely. The chances were astronomical. That didn’t mean he couldn’t think of the possibility. The legend says that anyone that looses the power of the chamber upon anyone who dares to attack Cyllene will be turned to dust. Literal or figurative? Exact wording or is there another meaning?. It almost sounded like a mummy’s curse from a movie, like ‘Open the chest and die.’ “Get Russ and Josh. See if the hieroglyphs have any information about exactly what’s inside and if the code to unlock it is hidden in the words. We need to find out the details before we even try to open it. I don’t want to take any chances that we could get turned to dust.”

“You really think that’s a possibility?” Bill asked him.

“We have a weapon that can disintegrate a person with the third shot, we’ve seen devices that can bring the dead back to life and a big round thing two stories high that can transport a person to another planet, so I think anything’s possible,” Daniel said.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

Jack slowly walked into the commissary, got a cup of coffee, headed for the first table he could find and sat down in a huff. Laying his head on his arms, he listened to the peace and quiet of having no questions thrown at him.

The king and prince asked endless questions one right after the other about things Jack never had to actually think about. He just did them. The last hour was spent on what to carry in a backpack! Their curiosity had no limits, it seemed. They took meticulous mental notes, and then asked about how to deal with situations that lived in their folklore. At that moment, Teal’c was explaining more about Jaffa-style combat. He was teaching alone since Bra’tac had already left to get the Jaffa troops for the games. Then, the royals would be given the fifty-cent tour of the ready rooms to see the personnel going on the war games gearing up to go to Cyllene.

“Rough day, sir?” Sam sat down opposite him.

Jack didn’t lift his head. “Don’t ask me questions, Carter. I’ve talked all damn day long. I’m tired.”

“General Hammond has decided we’ll go to Cyllene tomorrow morning their time. The competing teams will go in a few hours.”

And? So? Jack didn’t care. He was tired of talking. He knew the schedule. Some of the Jaffa would be heading that way soon, so would some of the SGC personnel. The main bulk of the troops would go through tomorrow… he didn’t care. He just wanted to lay his head down and not talk for a week.

They were supposed to have an easy time of it for two weeks. That’s what down time is supposed to be, right? The whole teaching bit might be right up Daniel’s alley, but Jack didn’t care for it. Hour after hour, day after day, he was explaining the obvious and the obscure when it came to warfare. Battles he hadn’t thought about since his Academy days were some of the best examples: Hannibal’s victory at the Battle of Canai, Gettysburg, Attila’s defeat at Chalons, the Lost Battalion of World War I, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Spanish Armada, the Alamo, the Battle of Thermopylae, the siege at Troy. Every victory and every defeat held a lesson and a myriad of battle tactics that worked and didn’t work. Jack had explained every one of them in minute detail.

Sure, Jack could do that even if Daniel had outmaneuvered him. Like Daniel said, he was one of the only two people who knew what Jack’s degree was in. He was so going to get revenge when Daniel got back. He’d think of something really good to get even with him. Something sneaky. Something unexpected.

Then Daniel would retaliate, their game of one-ups-man-ship would start all over again and people at the base would be taking bets on who’d win the next round.

“The king and the prince have decided to rest,” Teal’c said as he approached the table and sat down. “They are quite pleased with the information they have obtained thus far and are eager to observe the war games tomorrow.”

“Nice, T,” Jack said, his voice muffled.

“Perhaps you should do the same, O’Neill.”

Jack turned his head, saw Teal’c almost grinning and gave him a dirty look. Working on that sense of humor, huh, T?

Jack sat up, stretched and leaned back in his seat. “Okay, let’s go over it. Do we have the complete itinerary?”

“Colonel Ferretti and SG-3 will proceed to Cyllene soon,” Teal’c said. “A troop of Jaffa will also travel there to perform reconnaissance. The remaining personnel playing in the war games will follow. We shall gate there tomorrow attended by the royal family, and the counsel and military leaders of Cyllene will join us.”

“Yeah, about that, how are the leaders going to know to meet us? The king’s here.”

“We are to arrive early enough for the king to send word to his people to meet us at the base camp.”

It sounded so simple when Teal’c said it that way, but Jack knew that every step of the way would be questioned by two very enthusiastically curious Cyllenians.

“Sir,” Sam asked, “how do you think Daniel took the news?”

Jack took a sip of his coffee before answering. “He’s probably pissed. Serves him right after that stunt he pulled on me.”

“Stunt, sir?”

“Yeah. He told Lycaeon and Akakos that I liked being asked questions. And that’s exactly what they’ve done nonstop for days!”

“Sir, I don’t think Daniel did that on purpose.”

“Oh, yes, he did. He did it because he knew I saddled him with SG-14. This is his revenge.”

Sam smiled at that. “Colonel, that means you two are even.”

“Carter, I never leave the field when it’s even. I like winning.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

CYLLENIAN STARGATE

Guard duty at the gate could occasionally be tiring, even boring. Sometimes, teams gated to uninhabited planets without much of anything attention-worthy around the gate, so it could be a tedious occupation – gate guarding.

“War games,” Mulroney mumbled.

“This time against Jaffa,” Henson reminded him. “That could be fun.”

“Wonder what job we’ll get. Probably gate guarding.”

Henson laughed. “The colonel said we’re heading it up. That could mean combat or front line action but it probably means we’ll get the observation job and stay out of the fight.”

“Yeah. I never did like playing those games at the SGC every few months. Seemed a bit stupid, if you ask me.” Mulroney looked up at the sound of a far off roar. “What’s that?”

Henson looked around, and then saw cargo ships and some death gliders fly over the horizon in the distance. “I’m guessing some of the rebel Jaffa forces are here?”

Mulroney checked his watch. “The colonel should be getting close to Doctor Jackson’s team. Better let him know in case he didn’t see the ships. That should put them on the temple’s left flank.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PATH TO THE TEMPLE

 

Colonel Weaver trudged through the woods, shoving tree limbs out of his way as he walked toward the Temple. Easy stretch of the legs, he’d said. Sure it was. Temple was just a couple of miles away, he’d said. Soldiers made it through boot camp marching miles in full gear. Two miles should be a snap. Most of it was. Most of the way was flat ground, but the path up the mountain that led to the temple wasn’t that easy to traverse. It would take longer to climb up that particular path than to walk the rest of the way from the gate.

So what was bothering him?

He wanted adventure, this wasn’t it. He wanted excitement, this definitely wasn’t it.

“Look, Weaver,” Jack O’Neill explained, “a lot of team leaders don’t get an opportunity like you’re getting here. You and your team have got a plum assignment to learn the basics of teamwork off world on a mission where your lives won’t be in any danger. You get to go through the paces without worrying if something is trying to kill you. Most of us got tossed into the fire and had to learn on the job. It’ll be boring, but this is the type of mission any team leader would give their eye teeth for as a first mission.”

Colonel Weaver nodded. “Yes, sir. I won’t let you down.”

“I’m not the one you need to worry about. You get your team working together and keep an eye on things while these guys go do their thing. You’ll be fine. Oh, you might want to take along a deck of cards. These science junkets can get boring.”

Boring was right.

Still… O’Neill had a point. He and his team had fallen into a routine, everyone had their own assignments, and they were coming together. He knew they were.

He hadn’t expected what he found when he joined the SGC. He had never worked at a base that was run in quite the same way. Civilians in charge of officers? Sure, he’d worked with civilians before, but not like this.

He remembered something else O’Neill had told him right before they left for Cyllene.

“Daniel has more off-world experience than anyone else here except Teal’c. He lived on another planet for over a year and was ascended and living on another plane of existence for longer than that. He knows the routines, but your guys are yours to command. Daniel’s there to run a research mission. He’s not going to interfere with your command, he’ll answer any questions you might have about how other teams handle situations off world as they come up,  but he’s there to do what he thinks he has to do  to get the job done the fastest way possible. They’re on a schedule. Just… don’t be surprised if you find yourself about ten steps behind him.”

O’Neill had been right about that, too.

No excitement, no adventure, but it hadn’t been a wasted mission. One more week, they’d report back to the SGC, he’d give his report and when the team went on their first real mission, they’d have all the basics down and be ready for action.

Hopefully, that action would happen very soon.

Crawling over another fallen log, he stopped when he heard the whine of a ship’s engine flying overhead. He looked up through the leaves and noticed streaks of metal growing larger in the sky, engines echoing after it. Moments later, smaller ships appeared behind it. They dipped down out of eyesight and then he heard the engines powering down. From the sounds, he guessed they landed behind him at the foot of the mountain. Were the Jaffa supposed to arrive this soon?

“Colonel Weaver, this is Corporal Mulroney. Come in.” There was some static over the communication, moments where the corporal’s voice was muffled, but he was understandable.

Weaver keyed his mike. “This is Weaver. What have you got?”

“Sir, some Jaffa ships just flew over in your general direction. Were they supposed to be here this early?”

“General Hammond said they’d have everyone in place by tomorrow, so I guess this is the first wave. I’m almost at the temple. Weaver out.”

He tried again to raise Barnett on the radio, but all he heard was static. They had expected the trees to cause some problems with the transmission, but not this much. “Barnett?” He tried again. “Scott, can you hear me?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

TEMPLE OF HERMES

“Okay, that didn’t work,” Barnett said as he tried to use his personal radio again. All he kept getting was static. Interference from the temple maybe?

“Morrison, are you getting anything at all on your radio?”

The sergeant keyed his mike. “Testing, testing, Henson, Mulroney, are you getting this message?”

Nothing.

“Newsome?”

“Not getting anything, Major,” the corporal added.

Great. All their radios were useless. Maybe the base radio with its built-in amplifier had more range. That’s why they brought it along. He adjusted a few controls then keyed the mike. “Base camp, this is Major Barnett. Can you read?”

There was static, but he heard Weaver’s voice in the garbled mess. Maybe the structure itself was interfering with the signal as much as the trees were? It was solid rock.

Barnett cleared his throat. “Ahem. Doctor Jackson, I’m going outside. I think there’s something here blocking the colonel’s signal.”

He got a cursory nod from a distracted Jackson who was videotaping some hieroglyphs in the main hall.

The static dissipated slightly as he left the structure. “Colonel Weaver?”

“Barnett… can you read me?”

“Yes, sir. Not clearly though. Personal radios are useless here. Only the base radio is getting any kind of signal.”

“… SGC… Hammond… war… Jaffa… ship landing… Bra’tac’s forces may already be forming on your left flank… ”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Daniel overheard Weaver’s message echo into the chamber. Jaffa here? Now? After all this time? Bra’tac was here too?

He walked toward Barnett, straining to hear the conversation over the noise in the chamber. He did notice that Morrison and Newsome were avidly listening as well. They didn’t like what was said any more than he did.

“Colonel?” Barnett tried again. “Joe? You’re breaking up. Repeat message.”

There was a long bit of disruption, then “I contacted… SGC… war… Jaffa are here. Cargo ship was … spotted… Bra’tac should be on your left flank… do you copy?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Barnett glanced back. All of the noise in the chamber had ceased as the rest of the group overheard that part of the message. “Yes, sir. Message received. What are your orders?”

There was a blast of noise, then a muffled sound was heard over the radio. Then silence.

“Colonel Weaver?”

Barnett waited a moment.

“Colonel? Joe? Can you hear me? Joe? It’s Scott. Come in!”

Still only silence.

This wasn’t good.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Major?” Daniel asked Barnett.

“The colonel’s not answering,” the major said. “It sounded like –”

When Barnett trailed off, Daniel said, “Yeah, I know what it sounded like.” Staff weapon fire. He knew that sound all too well.

“Sir, this was your expedition, but we’ve now entered a military situation, and –“

“Give the word, Major,” Daniel told him.

Barnett raised his voice so everyone could hear him. “Colonel Weaver’s message wasn’t clear, but it looks like we’re in trouble. Jaffa have landed on the planet. I think the colonel said that the SGC had been notified and perhaps Bra’tac and his Jaffa are already here as well and are now on our left flank. I can’t be sure because the transmission was disrupted. It sounds like they’re between us and the stargate. We can’t get trapped here, and if we leave the temple, we could be picked off or taken prisoner.”

“Jaffa?” Cassius’s voice shook. “Here? Now?”

Prince Telemachus stepped forward, trying to seem older and braver than his youth allowed. The prospect of Jaffa on his planet must have been a daunting one for the young man. “The path we took is the most direct path to the temple, but there are lesser known hunting paths through the forest. Orestes and I know them well.”

Barnett didn’t have time to think their position through completely. Time was against them, they had to move. “Let’s go then. Everyone get your gear. Morrison, you carry the base radio. It’s got more range than our personal ones but make sure the ringer is off, incoming call light only. We don’t want the bad guys hearing it ring if anyone tries reaching us that way. Your Highness, if you please, you’re with me.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PART 2

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

Hammond looked over the paperwork again. Any other time, and he’d have had more combat teams to throw into the mix, not just research teams. Not that sending in those particular teams was a bad idea. The research teams needed the practice.

A knock at the door got Hammond’s attention, and a head peeking around the door gave him the opportunity to put the paperwork down. “Come in, Colonel.”

Jack walked in, hands in his pockets and sauntered over to the desk. “The first team’s just about packed. It’ll be nightfall at the gate by the time they get there so unless we want them to set up a new camp in the dark, we could send the command and medical tents to SG-14 and let them get those up.”

Hammond had considered that. “It might be more instructive if the teams had to pitch camp in the dark, wouldn’t you think?”

“They can do that in their sleep, sir.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Hammond motioned toward the chair, indicating that Jack should sit down.

“Weaver’s had time to tell Daniel about the war games, but if we just gate over there and start setting up a war camp without an official say-so from him, it’ll look like we’re going in, taking over and saying that the expedition isn’t important. If we get some of our people over there, radio Daniel and get his okay before getting any of our tents pitched, maybe it wouldn’t like we’re stepping on any toes.”

Ah. There it was again. Concern for Daniel’s first command since he came back from being ascended. “You’d like to be as up front about what’s going on as possible and allow Doctor Jackson to give his blessing, so to speak, even though he really has no official say-so in the matter?” Hammond asked him.

“It’ll help maintain Daniel’s command credibility if it doesn’t look like we’re undercutting him and taking over. He only commands on these scientific gigs, we don’t have a lot of those, but he’s got to be seen as someone the top brass considers to be in command so there aren’t any problems with the military teams that go with them. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt.”

No, it wouldn’t hurt, and the perception would be maintained. “I think you two can stage a conversation when you arrive. I’ll send through the command tent and some of the larger pieces of base equipment. Henson and Mulroney can get the headquarters set up while they’re waiting. Gate duty on a peaceful planet can be rather boring. This will give them something to do. Tell me, Colonel, doesn’t this take you a little off-track when it comes to getting back at Doctor Jackson? He did put you in a very vocal teaching position.” He watched Jack squirm a little and had to smile. “I know, you two are back to your usual games, but with him being off-world—”

“Yes, sir, but that’s just it. He’s off world. We only play this game when we’re here on base. Besides, I don’t want anyone here thinking they can go on one of these missions and not obey orders from the scientists. That’s no place for these kinds of shenanigans.”

“I see,” Hammond grinned.

“And it’s no fun getting the best of him if I can’t be there to see it happen.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

CYLLENIAN FOREST

Telemachus walked half a step behind Major Barnett as they led the straggling group down one of the lesser-known paths just out of sight of the main path. The research team was walking in groups of twos and threes with the Cyllenian scholars in their midst, each with a weapon at the ready, all scanning the surrounding forest. With Jaffa running around, no one could be too careful. No one was talking, each walked as quietly as possible in order to hear any incoming troops. How well they paid attention in those survival classes was being put to the test.

This was not how a scientific expedition was supposed to go.

Noises were coming through the trees from the main path. Barnett stopped, raised his hand to indicate that everyone should halt, crouch down and be still. He motioned Daniel to follow him into the woods toward the main path, leaving Morrison and Newsome to guard the scientists.

Moving carefully and as quietly as they could over scattered leaves and fallen tree branches, they made their way closer to the noise. Through the brush, lying on the path was Colonel Weaver’s body with a gaping hole in his chest, smoke still smoldering from the open wound. Jaffa were standing nearby, speaking in the Goa’uld language that Daniel roughly translated in hand motions for Barnett.

“The rest of our troops will be landing momentarily. Should we proceed to the temple?”

“Yes. Leave a scout behind to lead the rest once they are assembled. Hide this body in the woods. He is Tau’ri, so there will be others. Send out a search group to find them.”

“What are our orders?”

“Kill all who see us, but we are to find the temple and determine if we can access it without alerting Hermes. Move quickly.”

Daniel watched two of the Jaffa move Weaver’s body out of their line of sight. He motioned to Barnett that they had to go back, and they crept as quietly as they could to the others.

They were trapped.

Too many of them. Barnett hand signaled Daniel.

Proceed back to temple or go on to gate? Daniel signaled back.

They reached the others, and Barnett placed his finger over his lips to indicate to the group that they had to keep quiet. He looked at Daniel, looked at the scientists, looked back into the woods, hand motioned which direction they should go….

Daniel looked around him, into the woods, into the shadows. There… just beyond a clump of trees… movement, just ahead of them on the path, through the leaves…

Staff weapon blasts shattered the silence, firing from the front and the side into the group. “Take cover!” Barnett yelled as he shoved a few scientists back into the trees. Bill Lee was shouting for people to run as the shots blasted all around them. Geology student Laomedan stood from where she had crouched in order to run but was the first to go down as she tried to reach the safety of a large tree trunk. Her teacher Dardanus reached down to help her, a staff weapon shot took him down as well.

“Cover fire!” Barnett yelled. SGC personnel fired into the general directions the staff weapon blasts were coming from, hearing the sounds of yells as their bullets hit their targets but there was no way to tell how many were there. No one was sure if they were hitting anything. Others crouched behind whatever they could find to avoid getting shot.

“Move! Everybody run!” Barnett yelled, waving his arm in an effort to get them further up the path and put some relative distance between them and their attackers. Opposing fire shot down Thales as he rushed up the trail. Hugh Isbister’s backpack tangled in some tree branches. As he paused only long enough to jerk himself free, a single shot hit him in the chest. Several shots blasted the ground in front of Carr. He fell, rolled over, aimed his gun to shoot back in the general direction of the incoming fire and was summarily shot as well.

“This is no good,” Daniel shouted to Barnett.

“And it’s not even all of them! Back to the temple!” Barnett yelled as he fired again. Newsome took the lead and Morrison helped Barnett and Daniel lay down a suppression fire as their team fled back up the trail. The staff shots were wild, erratic and many, wounding some of the scientists...

As they ran into the brush, Daniel glanced back at the bodies they were forced to leave behind. They were in more trouble than they wanted to be in. The Jaffa’s’ symbols indicated they were in the service of Hermes, and the temple belonged to Hermes... 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Tent duty,” Henson complained. “First it’s gate duty, next it’s tent duty. Then we’ll be on latrine duty.”

“Hey, would you stop it already?” Mulroney told him. “This gives us something to do.”

“How many times are we going to get to do nothing?” Henson asked. “I was enjoying that.”

Mulroney set up the large table and hoisted the newly arrived long-range radio up on it. After a few minutes, he had the generator hooked up, the radio/radar/recorders ready to receive.

“We still haven’t heard back from Weaver. I’m going to try contacting them with this radio. Maybe it’s got the range,” he told Henson. “Colonel Weaver, this is Corporal Mulroney. Do you read?”

Silence.

“Major Barnett? Sir? Do you copy?”

“Maybe there’s some interference at the site?” Henson suggested.

A burst of static followed. Finally, Sergeant Morrison’s voice peppered its way through, but his message was choppy. “… attack… Jaffa… cornered…”

“Henson, listen to this.”

Mulroney tried to get a better lock on the signal as Henson walked up beside him. “Have the games already started?”

“I guess so.” Mulroney changed the settings on the radio, then, into the microphone, he said, “Wendell, this is Ed. I’ve amplified the signal. Repeat message. We’re not reading you.”

Another voice was heard over the receiver. It sounded like Daniel Jackson, but there was louder noise in the background covering his words. This is …Jackson. … attack… Jaffa…temple…” Then, after a moment, they heard, “Can anyone hear me…. under…”

“Doctor Jackson? This is Mulroney. Do you read?”

Another burst of static with a voice sounding intermittently in the noise was their only answer.

“I guess the games have started early. Doctor Jackson didn’t sound too happy, did he?”

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be the colonel when he told Doctor Jackson about the games. O’Neill won’t be happy if we don’t have a clear signal. They wanted his okay on setting up the base camp.”

“Looks like he’s involved in the games too. I guess that’s his okay?”

Mulroney shrugged. “Guess so. I’ll go get the extra chairs in here. You keep trying to get through.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Morrison laid down more cover fire as Daniel tried to get through to the base camp. This is Doctor Daniel Jackson. We are under attack by Jaffa! We’re heading back toward the temple. We’ve lost six! Weaver, Carr, Isbister and three of the Cyllenians.” His radio crackled with static in response. “Henson, Mulroney, can you hear me? We are under attack!” Mulroney’s reply, if there was one, was interspersed with the static and impossible to hear over the staff weapon fire.

“We’re almost there!” Barnett shouted as he fired off several more volleys to try to dissuade the oncoming Jaffa. “Everyone take cover!”

The sight of the structure gave them a fresh burst of energy as they sped through the final few yards to the safety of the temple area. Blasts to their right flank took down Thomas Sellers. He lay where he fell with a burning hole through his midsection. Barnett collided into him as he was falling and hauled his body behind a log, realizing almost immediately that he was dead.

In moments, all were hiding behind rocks or fallen trees or in the structure and were able to defend themselves more readily.

Daniel squatted behind a fallen log with Morrison and Lee. Morrison punched a few buttons on the base radio with a whispered, “Keep trying to contact them. I’ll try to get a clear signal.” Daniel grabbed the microphone and tried to contact the base camp one more time as Morrison adjusted the controls. “Base, this is Jackson. We are under attack at the temple. The Jaffa have us completely cut off. Do you read?” Again, no voice answered him. “Too much static. I don’t even know if we’re getting through.”

Another staff weapon blast shattered the ground next to him as Bill pulled him out of the way, debris ricocheting onto the radio, tearing through the carrying case and damaging parts of radio’s exterior.

“Oh, no,” Morrison muttered. “We’re screwed.”

“There’s too many of them!” Lee shouted. “Evans, on your right!”

Russ fired at a lunging Jaffa as he broke cover. The rest of the attackers took refuge in the trees once they realized that they couldn’t reach the temple without being exposed to weapons fire.

Barnett kneeled beside Daniel and Morrison and motioned Newsome to join them.

“Doctor Jackson,” Barnett said as he reloaded his rifle, “We’ve got I don’t know how many dead and plenty wounded. We don’t have food since it was in Isbister’s pack. No water except what each person is carrying and not enough ammunition for a long siege. The Cyllenians aren’t armed, and I don’t know if giving them our knives would be any use. These are your civilians, and I’ll need all the help you can give me with them. A lot of them haven’t done anything more than shoot at a paper target on the firing range.”

“They’ll hold their own,” Daniel assured him, not sounding very sure himself. “They’ll have to. What about the princes?”

Barnett glanced over his shoulder. The princes were crouched behind a boulder with Cardogan as he and Orestes explained to Telemachus how to fire a pistol. There was nothing like on-the-job training when it came to survival. “They’re all right for now, but if anything happens to them –“

“I know,” Daniel told him. “And not just them. We’ve got…” he counted the other Cyllenians, “six scholars here, and none of them have a clue about fighting Jaffa. We can’t get a clear signal with base camp and now the radio’s damaged. The Jaffa may be blocking transmissions or there’s geological interference. It could be that the Jaffa are trying to take the gate. If that’s the case –”

“Henson and Mulroney are good as dead,” Morrison said flatly. “If they’re not dead by now.”

“We might have heard Mulroney’s voice, there’s just too much static… but anything’s possible,” Daniel told him. “We can’t rule anything out yet.” Then, something else occurred to him, “How many fights have you been in, Sergeant?”

Morrison sighed. “With Jaffa? None, sir. This is only my second trip through the Stargate.”

Not good. “Newsome?”

“None. We’ve both been through the simulations, sir. Just never the real thing.”

Things were starting to look a little worse. “Major? How about you?”

“Two fights.”

Bill groaned at that news.

Newsome shrugged, then said to Daniel, “Looks like you’re our seasoned veteran on this trip, and everyone here knows that. Sir, I think everyone would feel a little better if you were to tell them what to expect in a battle. They’ll believe it easier if it’s coming from you. We can fight but they know we’re rookies even if we are in charge. They probably won’t listen to us like they would you.”

The seasoned veteran? Him? Jack would love to hear that if he ever got to tell him. How was he supposed to fulfill that obligation?

As best he could, that’s how.

“He’s got a point, Daniel,” Bill told him. “Everyone else here is pretty green.”

Daniel closed his eyes. He didn’t want this, but what choice did he have? He’d lost count of the number of battles he’d been in over the years. “All right.” Daniel raised his voice just enough for everyone to hear him, but not loud enough for the Jaffa to overhear. “From what we heard back down the path, we’ve got a scouting party out there right now. The main group isn’t here yet, but it won’t be too long before they show up. It sounded like they’re under orders to get something out of this temple and they’ll keep attacking until we’re dead or they are. They’re just as easy to kill as anyone else, but their symbiotes heal them faster if they’re wounded. We’ll have to shoot to kill, so look for the normal weaknesses in their armor. You’ve all been briefed on that. Also, when the Jaffa dies, sometimes the symbiote is mature enough to leave the pouch and look for a host.” Images of Kawalsky entered his mind.

Hosts. That was not a good thing to contemplate.

Barnett checked his ammunition, slapped the clip back into his rifle and said. “It looks like they want this temple, so we have to make sure they don’t get it. The big problem is that there’s not many of us and most of us are wounded and we don’t have a lot in the way of ammunition. We’ll have to try to get staff weapons from the Jaffa."

They were in trouble.

Cassius spoke up. “Major, we know nothing of weapons.”

“Staff weapons aren’t difficult to use,” Orestes told him. “They showed me when I visited Earth.”

The scholars muttered something that sounded like a protest. “Cassius, we have to fight. We’ve got no choice.”

“What do you want to do, Major?” Daniel asked, making sure every one of the scientists could hear him. Experience or no, Barnett was next in chain of command. They needed to believe that he could get them home alive.

Barnett looked around, assessing all options. What experience didn’t give the scientists, common sense did. The surprise from the ambush was gone, and the SGC personnel were in survival mode – that was evident although it was clear they were scared and unsure. The Cyllenians were following their lead. Everyone had taken some sort of cover whether it was being crouched behind some sort of barricade or inside the temple doorway itself. No matter which way the Jaffa came, they would be under Tau’ri guns so they had a good, solid defensive position. Their biggest problem was lack of food, water and medical supplies. Yet all they had to fight with were civilians, some wholly untried in battle and some of them complete greenhorns when it came to shooting at an enemy.

“They won’t be able to flank us without actually coming up the path itself. They’ll have to get up here and then move to the flanks. That puts them in our field of fire for a few seconds. That might give us some kind of advantage…”

Sensing a little hesitation, Daniel asked, “Can I make a suggestion?”

“I wouldn’t mind if you would, sir.”

“The Jaffa are here, they want that temple, and that chest would be my first guess since we’ve found nothing else of any extraordinary value. Let Bill and Russ try to figure out exactly what’s inside it and if we can open it safely. If the legends are true, it may be something we can use against them if we can learn how that curse really works. The rest of us will have to defend the position until help can get here.”

“If help gets here,” Morrison said. “We can’t be sure that much of the signal got through and if there’s anyone left able to hear it. We don’t know if Henson and Mulroney are still alive.”

“But we don’t know if the interference goes both ways. They might be receiving our transmissions -- if they’re still alive,” Daniel added. “Right now, it looks like our base radio isn’t going to get through the interference even if they were reading us because it’s been damaged. Chances are, we won’t be able to pick up their signals. Doctor Parker’s an engineer. He can try to fix the damage to the radio and maybe rig up some sort of signal booster. When we don’t check in when we’re supposed to, the SGC will try to contact us,” Daniel told him. “Standard operating procedure. We wait until Hammond sends a MALP through. We try to send a signal to the MALP and hope they can pick it up at the SGC.”

“It’s a plan,” Barnett agreed as the Jaffa started firing their next volleys.

Any other conversation was forestalled by the need to fire back.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Anything?” Henson asked.

Mulroney tried one more time. “Doctor Jackson, do you read?”

Still nothing.

“No. There’s got to be interference between here and there. I guess the Jaffa started the games early. Hammond won’t like that very much.”

The sound of engines echoed from the other side of the mountain. More Jaffa? How many were supposed to come to the games?

The stargate’s chevrons began to light up and the wormhole formed. Moments later, SG-3 came through.

SG-3’s team leader, Colonel Ferretti, looked over the camp. “Good work, guys. Got the big tent up! Supper cooking? Coffee on?”

“Almost, sir,” Mulroney answered. “We’ve been trying to reach Colonel Weaver and Doctor Jackson. We’re not having much luck. It’s a lot of static with a few words here and there. From what we heard, it sounds like the games have already started where they are.”

“Practice runs?” Ferretti asked. “The games don’t start until tomorrow.”

“Could be. Some death gliders and cargo ships landed over near the temple where Doctor Jackson and the others are. We just heard a few more fly over in that direction.”

Odd, but not unexpected. Colonel Ferretti looked back in that direction, seemingly unconcerned. “The Jaffa are supposed to be arriving over the next few hours. Sounds like some got here early. Have you heard anything out of the ordinary?”

“Sir, this is one of our first trips to another planet,” Mulroney pointed out. “Everything is out of the ordinary for us.”

“Good point,” Ferretti said. “Keep an ear tuned to the radio and keep trying to reach Daniel. O’Neill won’t be happy that the Jaffa started playing early. Everybody else, let’s finish setting up the camp before it gets dark.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The staff weapon fire slammed into the boulders above their position, sending shards of hard granite over them. Several Jaffa stormed their left flank only to be turned back by rapid P-90 fire. Several staff weapons soon changed hands as the former owners fell in a barrage of bullets as they charged the Tau’ri position.

Prince Orestes rushed from barrier to barrier, clumsily firing a “borrowed” staff weapon in the enemy’s direction, explaining how to fire the weapons to the Cyllenians and seeing how the survivors were before he ran to Daniel’s position.

“Your Highness, you need to stay under cover.”

“We’re all in danger, Doctor Jackson. At least I can do this. Doctor Parker asked me to tell you that he is having difficulty repairing the radio because some of the wires have been damaged beyond repair. Major Barnett wanted me to tell you to conserve your bullets and use staff weapons if possible.”

At that moment, a Jaffa rushed Daniel’s position. Daniel fired his 9mil, hit the Jaffa in the forehead and he fell on the other side of the barrier. Daniel reached down for his staff weapon, and the symbiote crawled out from its hole and flew toward the prince. Daniel grabbed it mid-flight with both hands, the impetus throwing him to the ground, and gave its neck a quick yank. He dropped the dead symbiote and rolled away from it. Yelling over the noise, he said, “How are you?”

The prince stared at the dead symbiote for a moment, then turned back toward the trees and fired at another moving object, his own staff weapon barely heard over the din. “I’m doing well, Doctor. I have never before seen fighting such as this. To witness it as we are – ”

“You’re not witnessing it. You’re trying to survive it!” Daniel said as he saw more Jaffa try to rush them on their flank, and they turned to fire on them. “The object is to not die in the meantime.”

“I have no intention of dying,” Orestes told him.

He saw Daniel look at him, saw the truth in his eyes. Daniel Jackson was scared. Scared for him, scared for the others, scared for the lives of the people around him.

“It doesn’t matter what you intend,” he told the prince as he fired again. “If you’re hit in the right spot, you’re dead no matter what.”

Life, death, this wasn’t a game. This was real, people had died, more would die, and he was in the middle of it. This is what his father wished to learn and protect them from? This is what they wanted to know? Orestes realized that this was no longer some academic pursuit. This was death and dying.

“How many are there?”

Daniel fired again. “Too many. Get back to Barnett. Ask him what he wants to do since the sun is going down. He’ll understand.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ferretti entered the command tent and noticed that Mulroney was again trying to raise SG-14 or the expedition team.

“Colonel Weaver, Major Barnett, Doctor Jackson, does anyone read?”

He was only answered with static.

“Nothing?”

“There’s got to be something interfering with the signal.”

“Maybe the mountain itself?” Ferretti suggested.

“Maybe, but I’m thinking it may be something in the temple. According to Doctor Jackson, the legends say there’s supposed to be something there.”

Another burst of static came over the receiver. “… nett… Jaffa at the… “ and then nothing.

“That’s all we’re getting, sir,” Mulroney told him. “That might have been Doctor Parker’s voice. Are we supposed to do anything before the start of the games?”

“Not that I know of. Keep an ear out for them. I’m going to contact the SGC.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

“Daniel’s group is not supposed to be in the games, Lou,” Jack said over the radio. “They’re at the temple and out of the containment area.”

“That’s what I thought, but we’re getting some strange messages from them. Seems like some of the Jaffa have landed in that direction and are setting up some early runs.”

Jack looked over at Hammond and shrugged. “So either the Jaffa weren’t clear on the battle zone or maybe Daniel didn’t find anything at the temple and decided to join in?”

“Perhaps,” Hammond said. “Colonel Ferretti, the war games are set to start tomorrow. Perhaps what you’re hearing is the Jaffa setting up a base on the mountain?”

“There’s no way to tell with the interference. We need a signal booster for the games tomorrow if we want to communicate with them. It’s nighttime, and getting up that mountain in the dark to see what’s going on would be pretty hard to do.”

“Do you think there’s any trouble?” Hammond asked.

“With rebel Jaffa? I don’t think so, sir. They like Daniel.” Ferretti sounded rather sure of the fact.

“Keep communications open and monitor the situation, Colonel,” Hammond ordered. “If it sounds like things are getting out of hand, Colonel Weaver may need some assistance. If the Jaffa are setting up and Doctor Jackson’s expedition is still going on, there might be some, well, let’s just call them jurisdictional problems.”

“Yes, sir.”

As the wormhole shut down, Hammond looked over at Jack, puzzled. “What do you think?”

“The Jaffa like taking the high ground. It makes sense that they’d set up base on the mountain.”

“What about the research mission? Doctor Jackson wouldn’t just cease operations.”

“Maybe the temple was a bust?” Jack suggested. “Or, since Orestes and Telemachus are with them, maybe Colonel Weaver thought that showing them a fight up close and personal would be a good thing to do.”

“That’s possible. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Telemachus is more interested in fighting that Prince Akakos.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

TEMPLE

Parker tried once again to rewire the connections on the base radio when the Jaffa made another sweeping move and ran from the trees firing their weapons. He saw a Jaffa rush the right flank.

“Parker!”

The scientist heard his name, saw Barnett motion to something behind him, he let go of the wires, turned and fired a staff weapon at the oncoming enemy. The blast hit the Jaffa squarely in the neck, and he fell to the ground. The symbiote squirmed its way from beneath the armor, took flight, aimed for the scientist –

And was blasted apart by staff weapon fire before it could reach its intended target.

Parker looked around and saw Barnett lowering the smoking staff weapon. Another glance, and he saw that the major was already firing at another target. He glanced down at the now dead symbiote lying in two pieces.

How the hell were they going to get out of this mess?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“We’re not getting anywhere,” Russ said over the sound of shooting outside as he tried to decipher the writing one more time. “We need Daniel in here. He reads Ancient and ancient Goa’uld better than I do.”

“Barnett needs Daniel out there more,” Bill told him as he gauged the readings on another sensor. “I’m getting the same readings as before. Something old and gold inside, the chest is younger and I’m reading a low grade power signature inside the chest.”

“It could be Hermes’ gold caduceus then.”

“Could be. Any luck on deciphering the words?”

Russ stood up and tried reading the words again. “It’s like reading stereo instructions backwards and in reverse. If I’ve got the syntax and the context right, I think it says the chest lies within the chamber that only a god can enter. Only a god can pass through the portal to reveal the power residing … inside?. Once the power is revealed, any demon that attacks Cyllene will be rendered to the dust of mortal flesh.”

“Same story we’ve already heard,” Bill commented. “Everything you guys have deciphered so far gave us a code that let us unseal the chests. There’s got to be one on this one. Somewhere.”

“The other chests had the code hidden in the text. I’m not seeing anything like that on here. The words are straightforward, I think. The letters aren’t in any sequence. There aren’t any numbers or drawings that indicate any kind of unlocking sequence.”

They stared at the chest for a moment as the shooting outside died down in a brief lull.

“All right,” Russ said, his voice determined. “Let’s try reading it backwards and see if there’s a code… wait a minute. Let’s get Josh in here. Maybe the code isn’t literally written in the words. What if it’s in the story instead?”

“That would be different from the other chests,” Bill observed quickly. “The others –”

“Exactly. What if it’s a trick? The other chests all followed the same rule of having the instructions in code written on them. What if this one is different so it’s harder to open?”

Bill thought for a moment, then “Okay, I’ll buy it. I’ll go get Josh.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rae’D regrouped his forces. The Tau’ri were well established and more entrenched than his forces could overcome, and most of his forces were marching toward the temple. His scouts were nothing more than targets. He had to get someone inside the perimeter of their defenses.

He turned to his subordinates. “Find our best runners. I want Jaffa in their midst.”

One subordinate, a Jaffa who had seen battle with the Tau’ri before, answered, “The Tau’ri have fighting skills few of us have ever encountered. They have surprised the Jaffa time and again. Should runners be able to breach their defensive line, they may have no defense themselves. Also, we could attract attention if we annihilate them by unknowingly triggering a security device. Our master does not wish that.”

It was a practical observation. Their numbers were shrinking in direct proportion to the attacks, time was growing short and Pan would not wish to wait. “Night is approaching. We can use the cover of darkness to mask our movements.”

“Our vision will also be impaired,” the Jaffa stated.

“So will theirs.”

The Jaffa saluted and moved off to find runners to charge up the hill and into the Tau’ri camp.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Now what are they doing? Daniel thought to himself. He could see movement all around in the darkening woods; the quiet coming from the Jaffa was unnerving. He looked around… their own numbers were dwindling, the dead were propped up on logs and rocks to make it appear that they had more to their number than were actually alive. The ruse might work in the dark. It wouldn’t work if the Jaffa got up close or when the dawn came.

Looking around, Daniel noticed how the others were handling the situation. For some, they were in a daze but still functioning. Others were scared but fighting back, firing back in the general direction of the Jaffa but Daniel doubted their aim was in any way accurate. The princes were a little more the worse for wear, their injuries minor compared to others. Barnett, Newsome and Mulroney had shouted orders during the attacks, directing the fire at times, warning of dangers at others.

Parker continued to work on the radio but they were still only receiving static. There was no way to know if anyone had heard them, and if they did, if they had understood the messages clearly. The damage was structural as well as in the wiring.

Morale was still good, sort of. Hope hadn’t died out yet even with all the deaths.

The people they had to leave back on the path… no, no time to think of that now. The rule of never leaving anyone behind wasn’t absolute. Sometimes, a body had to be left behind when survival was at stake. They’d go back and get them after all this, if there were any still alive to do so.

Why weren’t the Jaffa attacking in their full numbers? They could easily overwhelm them and gain access to the temple. Something was ensuring their attacks were in small groups. The temple itself, perhaps? They wanted something in the temple, perhaps they were under orders not to do anything to harm it or disturb it?

Of all the battles he’d been in, all the times the team had been cornered and fighting for their lives, this was the first time the Jaffa had behaved this way.

Movement. Quick and fast. “Incoming!” Newsome yelled as three Jaffa rushed up the path. Cover fire shattered more rock and shot up more dust at the temple, obscuring their vision. They fired back in the Jaffa’s direction.

Daniel saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Jaffa were attacking on their flanks! “Look to the sides!” he yelled at the civilians as several Jaffa jumped into the center of the camp.

One Jaffa shot Cassius at point blank range but only hit him in the shoulder as Cassius tackled him. He fired his pistol directly at his head and jumped clear. The Jaffa rolled down the hill as his symbiote flew out of its pouch and toward the first human it could find.

“Doctor Estes!” Antonetti yelled over the din.

Georgia Estes heard her name but didn’t turn in time to see who called it before the symbiote slammed into the back of her neck. A moment later, glowing eyes stared back at Cassius, then the newly made goa’uld shot him in the chest. She rushed into the center of the crowd only to have Morrison shoot her down.

The surviving Jaffa running up the path catapulted into the center of the group. As he whirled around to find a victim, he was caught in the crossfire between the flanking Jaffa and the Tau’ri.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Josh stared at the chest and mentally repeated what Russ had translated.

The chest lies within the chamber that only a god can enter. Only a god can reveal the power residing in the chest. Once the power is revealed, any demon that attacks Cyllene will be rendered to the dust of mortal flesh.

It wasn’t a direct translation, but the gist seemed to be that if the chest is opened, someone would be turned to dust, and only a god was supposed to enter the chamber and open the chest?

He agreed with Bill that perhaps Hermes’ gold caduceus was inside – at least, he believed it to be a good possibility given the private correspondence between Hermes and his pen pal and what was written on the tablets.

“What do you think?” Bill asked him. “Any ideas?”

“Nope. I think if we open this chest, we’ll get burned.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The scientists were holding their own somehow, but it couldn’t last. Barnett knew that. Every Jaffa he shot down, another took his place, and Barnett was reaching the end of his endurance. The scientists had to be tired as well. These skirmishes were quick, intense and unending.

Another cursory glance showed the remaining personnel firing at anything that came in their field of vision. All the staff weapons were being fired at full speed – clumsily, missing their marks too many times, but they were fighting back. Maybe they had a chance.

“Barnett!” Parker’s voice came from behind him.

A quick look and Barnett saw a Jaffa fire his weapon directly at him.

The last thought that went through his mind before the blast reached him was that his first command ended rather quickly.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rae’D watched as his troops were taken down one by one.

Tau’ri scum.

“Call them back,” the First Prime ordered his officers. “We will wait for daylight.”

“Our master will not wish to wait that long,” a fellow Jaffa said.

“No, but we have no choice. I will make my report to him. Where are the rest of my Jaffa?”

“Coming now,” he said.

Rae’D turned to see his remaining troops rushing up the path. “Daylight. We will have the numbers to stop them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Darkness only hid the lie. The lull in the fighting was deceptive. The Jaffa were regrouping, and the humans were taking stock of their situation. The intense fighting had done more damage. Things were looking grimmer by the moment. Still, they had lost no ground and the Jaffa had gained no ground. Stalemate.

The moonlight gave them just enough illumination to see clearly a few feet in front of them. The Jaffa’s movements were hidden in the shadows. Luckily for them, their movements were just as hidden from the Jaffa. For a few moments, they could rest.

Daniel heard his stomach growling and remembered his Fifth Avenue bars. He’d completely forgotten about them. He reached into his pack and pulled out every one of them, broke them into pieces and distributed them among the group. It wasn’t much of a last meal if they didn’t make it, but there was nothing else in the group except perhaps a few power bars stuck in some pockets. Maybe if they could reach Bra’tac, let him know where they were, but surely Bra’tac already knew something was happening on the mountainside, right? All the noise would alert him, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t he be there already?

Daniel pulled out the personnel list that Jack had given him and wrote down when the deaths occurred. Even if they didn’t make it out of there, the people at the SGC would know when they died if their bodies were ever recovered. Squinting in the pale moonlight, he scratched through the names of the dead and wrote out the information to the side of the name. He added the names of the Cyllenians that accompanied them.


TEAM LEADER:

Daniel Jackson

SG-14:

Colonel Joseph Weaver – found dead on path

Major Scott Barnett – killed during one of the initial skirmishes

Sergeant Wendell Morrison

Corporal Glen Newsome

Corporal Edward Mulroney

Private Thomas Henson

LINGUISTICS, CULTURAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CREW:

Doctor Lord Richard Cardogan

Assistant John S. Carr – killed during first attack on path

Assistant Georgia Estes – killed during initial skirmish after being taken host by a Goa’uld

Doctor Russell Evans

Doctor Hugh Isbister – killed during first attack on the path

Doctor Joshua Redding

PHYSICIST CREW:

Doctor Oscar Labinski

Doctor Bill Lee

Doctor Simon Parker

BOTANY CREW

Doctor Emily Sanders

Assistant Thomas Sellers – killed at Temple after first attack on path

Prince Orestes

Prince Telemachus

Eight Cyllenian scholars
Cassius – Historian/archaeologist – killed during initial skirmish by Georgia Estes who was a Goa’uld

Parminedes – History/archaeology student

Thales – Physicist – killed on path

Menelaos – Physics student

Disoriden – Botanist

Theophran – Botany student

Dardanus – Geologist – killed on path

Laomedan – Geology student – killed on path


Not many SGCers left plus the two princes, too many wounded… things did not look good.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Anything?” Ferretti asked as he walked into the communications tent.

“No, sir,” Henson answered. “Nothing more than static and a few bits of words.”

I’ve asked for the SGC to send a signal booster tomorrow,” Ferretti said. “That should cut through the interference. Anyway, it’s dark so the Jaffa should be bedding down for the night for tomorrow’s games. Why don’t you two do the same?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Newsome did a last check on the survivors. They didn’t train soldiers for situations like this. When he got back to the base, he was going to request that no-win situations with civilians be included in the simulations.

Emily Sanders was sitting nearby, her gaze almost riveted to the direction of the woods. He could see she was scared.

He crept over to her, keeping low so he couldn’t be shot at if the shooting started again. “Hey,” he said.

She jumped, startled even though her senses were as alert as they could be. “Hi.”

“How are you doing?”

“A few flesh wounds, nothing serious. You?”

“Nah, nothing to write home about.”

She looked back at the woods. “What do we do now?”

“Do you want the truth or do you want me to tell you something that’ll make you feel better?”

Emily smiled, almost chuckled. “We’re in trouble, I know. I’ve been through two of the simulations, but I have no idea what to do.”

“You’re doing fine,” Newsome assured her. “We fight, we stay alive and we do everything we can to stay that way.”

“What does Major Barnett say?”

Newsome shook his head and shrugged. “Major Barnett was killed.”

Sanders’ shoulders dropped. The thought that the major was gone… “Daniel?”

“He’s alive.”

That seemed to help. “Good. He’s been through things like this before.”

“He knows how the Jaffa work, but I don’t think he’s been through anything like this.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

Silence.

Blessed quiet.

The sound of no noise.

Jack leaned back in his chair and basked in the moment.

He knew it wouldn’t last long. In a few hours, he’d be gating to Cyllene and the questions would start up again.

Unending curiosity, he understood. Hell, he even accepted it as an everyday part of life whenever Daniel found anything new scribbled on some walls on some planet, but Lycaeon and Akakos gave a whole new meaning to the words, and it was mostly directed at him!

How many questions can one person ask? And not just one! There were two of them asking those never-ending questions.

He was SO getting even with Daniel when he got back.

Speaking of which, Jack picked up his telephone. “Siler? Make sure we’ve got a signal booster in our gear, will you?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SAM’S OFFICE

“This allows us to record events so we can analyze our actions later,” Sam showed the king a video recorder. “There are many different types and styles. This is one of our hand held recorders. It’s compact and easily carried in our packs.”

The king took the object as if it were a precious jewel. “Extraordinary. Is it devices like this that are used for those battles General Hammond showed us of your simulations before?”

Sam smiled and pointed to the security camera above her head. “Not quite, but it’s the same principle. These security cameras are in every room of the base. They record the daily activities in case we need to review anything that happens. The general showed you some of the staged events we’ve held here at the base in the past. The war games are often recorded by MALP cameras and stationary cameras that we set up on the field.”

“So the war games will be recorded on Cyllene?”

“Yes. Even though we’ll be on Cyllene observing the games, we can’t watch everyone at every moment over the entire battlefield. Video recorders placed at strategic locations recording the event will allow us to analyze what happened, see where errors are made so we can correct them and not make similar mistakes during a real battle.”

Sam poured herself another cup of coffee. She was beginning to understand why the colonel was more than happy to foist the king on her. She had been answering questions almost nonstop about everything from the inconsequential to the incredibly astute. Her throat was beginning to hurt and her voice was starting to crack. How did the colonel manage this for days?

“Will Colonel O’Neill also instruct my military leaders in these analyses so that they may better understand battlefield maneuvers?”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Sam smiled again. Yes, Colonel O’Neill would love to explain battle analyses to an entire tentful of inquisitive Cyllenians. “Once your leaders have learned several of our basic tenets of warfare, we can instruct them in various methods of defense and how to devise a variety of tactics based on the geography and natural resources available, how to train your troops in these tactics, coordinate support efforts and—”

“So much,” the king muttered. “How is it possible for one person to learn it all?”

“One person can’t, Your Majesty. That’s why we have military personnel from various backgrounds and experiences working together,” Sam told him. “In this manner, it is possible to have many options available to the commanders because of the specialties of the varied personnel.”

The prince asked, “These personnel perform the same function in each battle?”

“Not quite, Your Highness. Sometimes, regardless of conditions, a soldier is asked to do something far removed from his own expertise. There’s no hard and fast rule; it falls more under the logic of ‘it depends on the situation.’”

Prince Akakos looked puzzled. “Then is war not fought under certain rules? A manner of cause and effect? Would not a person’s actions have similar results in battle?”

“Not necessarily. Perhaps one of the most important lessons is that the actions performed in one battle may have little or no effect in another.”

The prince shook his head. “This is quite confusing. If an action can have little to no effect, then what is learned from watching the recordings of your simulations?”

Good questions, Sam thought. “We can learn technique, Your Highness. We can learn about broader issues such as where our strengths and weaknesses are. Sometimes, a situation may occur where a battle tactic can be repeated with the same effect, sometimes it will have the opposite effect. We can determine what aspects of our offense and defense need further training. We can also see how well we work as a fighting unit in a battle -- that is very important. Knowing how to work as a team may be the one thing that allows you to survive. You see, a battle isn’t fought by only a small group of people on a battlefield. There is an army of support personnel as well. If the support structure isn’t there, the battle would be waged only by the soldiers in the midst of the fighting. There would be no backup, no reinforcements, no extra ammunition, no help coming from any quarter and the chances of that small group fighting alone surviving the battle is diminished. The chances of victory are slim.”

“Has this happened to you, Major?”

Sam thought for a moment, and then said, “Personally, I have been with SG-1 when we’ve been cut off from assistance, but we always knew that help was there and would come if we needed it because of the military structure we’ve established at the base. There have been missions where we deliberately cut ourselves off from any help because it could endanger any team if they came. There have been missions where we couldn’t help a team at all. One in particular was when a spatial anomaly called a black hole came in close proximity to a planet an SG team was exploring. The increased tidal forces were, in essence, ripping them apart. They dialed the SGC, but time was elongated for them. General Hammond ordered us to shut down the wormhole.”

 The king sat there, stunned. “These men were expecting to escape? To get help but none came?”

“None could help, Your Majesty. The anomaly’s effect was translated through the vortex to Earth. We were experiencing time dilation and a warping of space/time. Our perceptions of the passage of time –” Sam noticed that the king was frowning. He had no idea what she was saying. “The Earth itself was at risk if we left the stargate open. We couldn’t save them at all, but we could save the Earth.”

“You mean you had to choose. The life of one team over the life of everyone on Earth and even with your training, there was nothing you could do...”

Sam nodded. “The choice was taken out of our hands. They were in danger, we knew it, but we can’t stop a black hole.”

“I see.” The king placed the recorder back on the desk. “Have you had missions where you didn’t know a team was in trouble? Where they were expecting to escape or to get help?”

Sam thought for a moment. “There have been a few instances, but we’ve been very lucky in that respect. We’ve usually known where our people are and what’s happening to them.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Bill quietly crept to Daniel’s position. What he and Russ had found out could be significant if they could figure out exactly what it meant and how to use it. They were at a loss about what to do next, but Daniel might be able to figure something out.

Barnett’s death in the last barrage effectively left Daniel in complete command of the little group. Morrison and Newsome were going through the motions of being in charge, but even they were looking to Daniel to tell them what to do next. This was a time when Bill had no qualms about being told what to do by someone sort of “military.”

Ever since their kidnapping and subsequent escape from the kidnappers in Central America, Bill had noticed how the personnel at the SGC regarded Daniel. He’d seen it before, but he’d never realized the extent. The soldiers didn’t treat Daniel like a civilian scientist. The scientists didn’t treat him like a soldier. Daniel had found that balance between the two disciplines that allowed him to traverse the two usually diametrically opposed worlds and function quite well in both. Bill reflected that Daniel was the only person he’d met at the SGC who had that unique quality. That was one reason why everyone trapped at the temple was letting Daniel make the decisions.

Bill saw Daniel sitting behind the boulder he was using as a small barricade, his eyes occasionally scanning the darkness for any movement as he helped Parker attempt another hodge-podge repair on the radio. Daniel gripped a small penlight in his teeth as he held the wires for Parker to re-align and reconnect them once again. One of the wires had been singed by a close staff weapon blast, and they didn’t have any replacements. All of Parker’s efforts seemed to be wasted on the radio.

He watched them for a moment, then looked into the distance. There was no movement. That meant no advancement by the Jaffa either. That was good, right? He waited until Parker got the leads straightened out and plugged into the radio before interrupting them.

“Daniel?” he whispered, “Russ and I think we finally figured out what that thing is. We used some of your notes and Russ did a rough translation. Then he switched places with Josh so he could double check things since he’s the Greek expert and if they got the contexts right and they conjugated the verbs correctly and got the spelling –”

“Bill,” Daniel said. Bill could hear the tiredness in his voice.

“We think it’s Hermes’ caduceus, but we don’t know how to open it without frying ourselves into toast. We can’t find any instructions anywhere that tells us how to open it...”

“A piece of Ancient technology,” Daniel stated, “and we can’t use it.”

“Yeah, but why a Goa’uld-built chest? I don’t get why –“

“I don’t know why either. It’s almost like…” he stopped talking.

“Daniel?”

Daniel thought for a moment, as if trying to find some long distant memory. “Hermes was a pack rat, but there’s not much here. We’ve found what could be a correspondence between Hermes and someone else mentioning Anubis and using what may be a personal caduceus seal. Then we find a caduceus seal on a Goa’uld chest that isn’t following the same rules as the other chests. The instructions aren’t there, so this chest must be different somehow… local legend says that only a god can go into the chamber and open the chest and once the chest is opened, anyone attacking Cyllene would be turned to dust.”

Bill couldn’t put the pieces together. “And? If a god is the only one who can go into the chamber, it still means he would get toasted if he opened the chest. Right?”

“Maybe that is the code?” Daniel said more to himself than anyone else. “Maybe there is no code and the answer is pretty straightforward.”

“What do you mean?”

“Hidden in view….” Daniel’s voice trailed off.

“Daniel?”

“What if the words on the chest are step-by-step instructions to tell a Goa’uld how to open it?”

Bill shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t get it.”

“Only a god can go into the chamber. Goa’ulds think they are gods. A Goa’uld goes into the chamber and opens the chest. Whatever power that’s there turns anyone attacking Cyllene into dust. It’s a warning as well as instructions?”

“Okay, possible, but why—”

“The tablets mention Anubis specifically, the caduceus is an Ancient device, and Anubis wants as many of those he can get his hands on. Once he knew about it, he’d come to get it, go into the chamber, open the chest and … maybe destroy himself in the process? Maybe he’d get turned to dust too? What if it was a trap that Hermes set up for Anubis?”

“Isn’t that stretching just a bit?” Bill knew Daniel was well known for leaps of logic, but this? Then again, why not? “We don’t have any proof –“

“No, no proof. I’m tired and I’m grasping at straws. Start over. Get Russ to start comparing the writing in the temple with the writings on the scrolls. According to the prince, there was no writing in the chamber the chest was in. Get Josh to double check anything you find with Greek history and myth. There has to be something somewhere that tells us how to get in that thing without killing ourselves.”

“Right,” Bill agreed. Then, looking off into the forest, “What do we do now? Everyone wants to know.”

“We wait,” Daniel whispered back. “Jaffa may have better eyesight, but they can’t see in the dark. There’s just enough light for us to see them if they break cover and charge, but we’re hidden in the shadows well enough so they can only see the weapons fire. We can’t get through their lines. We have the high ground. Even with all the wounded, we don’t have much of a choice but to stand our ground and hope someone gets here soon. Maybe Bra’tac’s heard the fighting… if they’re close enough.”

Bill looked out toward the trees again. “When will they attack?”

“In a few hours. When there’s just enough light.”

“How do you know?”

Bill could see a slight, sad smile on Daniel’s face. “Experience.”

“Okay,” Parker said, “Maybe that has it. Let’s see if we can get through.” Parker flipped a switch, saw the main radio power up and the gauges indicate that power was getting to the circuits.

“This is Doctor Parker with SG-14. We are cut off. Jaffa have us surrounded at the temple. We need help. Can anyone hear me?”

No answer.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Pan stared intently into the communication sphere. Rae’D was looking rather worn, his armor bloody and in various degrees of destruction, but he was intent on persevering.

“There has been resistance,” Pan stated, knowing the answer before he even spoke.

“There has, my lord. I regret that we have been unable to take the temple before nightfall. We have only one maneuverable direction in which we may attack, and darkness has forced us to withdraw momentarily.”

Pan sat back on his throne. Each moment passing was a moment he didn’t have to lose. “Is there any possibility of gaining access to the temple at night?”

Rae’D shook his head slightly. “We were attempting to do so by sending in small groups to break their defenses, but it has proven futile at this time, my lord. The humans have entrenched themselves in the main path leading to the temple. We would be caught in the crossfire and unable to see our enemies. We would not reach it without being shot down.”

“How did the inhabitants learn of your presence?”

“They were on a lesser used path leading from the temple when we arrived. They are determined to engage us in battle to keep us from reaching it.” The Jaffa became silent, waiting further instructions.

“Can you create a diversion to lure them away from the entrance?” Pan asked.

“We have limited options and few resources if we do not wish to attract attention. Any ruse including setting fire to the forest would draw that attention.”

“How much longer?” Pan sighed. This was not going as planned.

“We cannot attack at night, my lord,” was the answer. “The humans defending it have Tau’ri weapons, and we cannot advance until sunrise which will come soon. Nights on Cyllene are short during their spring months.”

That one word got Pan’s full attention. If the Tau’ri were there, then there was something of even greater value hidden there. The Tau’ri were known for seeking out advanced weaponry to use on his people and his troops. “Tau’ri? They are there? Or is it merely their weapons?”

“I saw Tau’ri uniforms, my lord.”

Pan became angrier each passing moment. The Tau’ri could seriously jeopardize his plans. “You cannot see at night and would be killed during any attack, I cannot allow the rest of the population to be alerted to our presence…” he thought for a moment, and then said, “There is no choice in the matter. At dawn, no matter what the consequences, destroy the Cyllenians and the Tau’ri with great expedience. I want that temple in my possession, but do not enter it until we are certain that my father will not know that we have arrived.”

“As you wish, my lord,” Rae’D saluted before the communication sphere went dark.

The Tau’ri were at the temple where the Ancient item was hidden. If they’d already found it and discovered how to use it…

Pan would think no more about it.

He would have that device, no matter what the cost.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sergeant Morrison crept along the defense line, keeping his eye on the dark border beyond them. The Jaffa had made small charges, but they’d gained no ground. Then again, neither had they. About half of them were still alive, and of those, few were unharmed. The wounded had been tended to as best as could be managed, and they could still aid in the defense, but it was futile. They could withstand one, maybe two charges, but they all knew the inevitable would happen.

Still, they’d held off the Jaffa for a couple of hours even though the odds were against them. If they made it out alive, Morrison was going to ask General Hammond to give every civilian a commendation for their bravery. They’d fought against the Jaffa with little to no training, scared as they were, but they hadn’t run or fallen apart.

He tried not to think about how he’d explain things to General Hammond. Would the general approve of Daniel being in command now that the major was killed? Did it really matter? As long as the scientists were listening to him, Morrison and Newsome could relay orders through Daniel… but he did seem to know what he was doing. Rules and regulations though… the debriefing would be interesting. He didn’t want to think about how the presence of the Cyllenian scholars would affect that conversation.

He found Daniel at the radio. Their attempts to raise someone, anyone, hadn’t availed them anything. They needed help, and all they could hope for was that the SGC were aware of their situation by some miracle. Morrison sat down on the other side of the radio and listened to Daniel.

“This is SG-14. Does anyone read?”

Daniel had the volume down as low as he could, but they could still hear the static.

“This is Doctor Daniel Jackson. We are trapped at the temple by the Jaffa. They’ve got us cut off. We will not be able to hold this position for much longer.” Static was the answer. “Is anyone out there?” Again nothing.

Daniel dropped the mike, his shoulders slumped. Morrison could tell he was as exhausted as the rest of them.

“Maybe they can hear us, we just can’t hear them,” Morrison tried to be positive, but his voice didn’t convince even him.

“Possibly,” Daniel agreed. No, even he didn’t sound positive. They were in trouble. Big trouble. “Parker was able to jury-rig a connection but so much of the wiring is fried, I don’t know if it’s working. He’s been trying to repair it nonstop since we got back here. I told him to take a break”

Morrison reached into his pocket, pulled out a power bar, broke it in half and handed one to Daniel. “Here. I think you need this more than I do. Besides, you don’t have any more candy bars. This may be our last chance to get anything non-chocolate to eat, not to mention maybe our last meal.”

“If the Jaffa have the gate, then the SGC won’t be able to get anyone through to help us,” Daniel told him.

“I know.” The Jaffa would try to secure all possible escape routes. He looked at his watch… the sun went down a few hours earlier, but there had been no major nocturnal attacks, just a few simple attempts. The only thing he could think of was that the Jaffa were waiting until sunup. “Do you think the Jaffa… I mean, you know some of the things they do. Think Henson and Mulroney are dead, sir?”

“There’s no way for us to know. We don’t know what’s going on ten feet past the Jaffa, much less at the base camp. If they are alive, then they might be prisoners and the Jaffa are listening to us. If they got away, maybe they took the radio with them and if they did, they may be picking up our transmissions. Bra’tac may be our last chance of getting out of here.”

“We haven’t heard any fighting from our left flank,” Morrison said. “Bra’tac may have moved by now if he was ever there in the first place. Would he have stayed there this long?”

“Parker tried the frequency the rebel Jaffa use, but no one answered. Maybe there’s interference between us and him. We’ll have to find another way to contact him,” Daniel said, his attention on the darkness. “Someone’s going to have to go find him.”

“With all the Jaffa in the woods? It’ll be suicide,” Morrison told him.

“I know.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I didn’t think it’d end like this,” Russ said as he stood up. He has quickly scanned the writing on the walls in the main chamber, but trying to figure out anything about what was in the chest and how to circumvent the “curse” was proving futile. It was also proving to be very painful to his back as stretched out his muscles. “We’re going to die on an alien planet.”

“No, we’re not,” Bill told him flatly. “We’re going to get out of here.”

Josh shook his head.

“Yeah? What makes you so sure? We’re outnumbered, outgunned and in case you haven’t noticed, no help’s coming,” Russ pointed out the obvious. “We’re going to die here.”

“No, we’re not,” Bill said again.

“How do you know?”

“Because if we start to believe that, we will. I learned the hard way not to let bad thoughts creep in when I’m in situations like this.”

Russ sat down on the ground. “The hard way?

“It was when Daniel and I went to Central America after Telchek’s device and got captured by guerillas. They tortured us, did a real number on Daniel, did a lot of the same to me. I talked, he didn’t, but he wouldn’t let me feel guilty or give up. We didn’t have a chance in that jungle, but we ran. If Colonel O’Neill hadn’t shown up, we’d be dead. Thing is, no one was expecting the colonel to come. We knew we had to get out of there on our own, so we did.”

Russ sat back down on the hard stone floor. “Power of positive thinking, huh?”

“Whatever works,” Bill agreed. “Okay, let’s go over this thing again.”

“It’s going to say the same thing,” Russ protested. “Open me, turn to toast.”

“Okay, okay, we’ve got that. One of the scrolls mentioned protecting that which is ‘most precious.’ That could be this temple, this planet, these people. Any hint about that in the stories?”

Russ picked up on set of notes and read them aloud. “Then did Hermes or it says Hermes’ soldiers bring or invite death and destruction… there’s something here I can’t make out… maybe it reads by loosing the power on their enemies. The … I think it says soldiers were turned to dust by the light of the weapon. Obviously, I still need to work on it.”

Bill sat still for a moment, and then rushed out of the entrance only to return dragging a tired Josh Redding behind him. “We’re back to that weapon, and we don’t even know if this is the weapon. I need you to go over the story of Hermes. Russ, Josh, put everything you’ve got together. Let’s go over it again.”

Josh took a deep breath. “Okay, Hermes is the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, the daughter of Atlas and one of the Pleiades. He’s the god of shepherds –”

“Yeah, yeah,” Bill interrupted. “Big, bad god. What about the caduceus symbol we keep finding everywhere? How does that fit in with Hermes again?”

“One legend has it that Apollo traded a gold caduceus for Hermes’ pan pipes. It’s a symbol that you see with representations of Hermes. It’s also used as a symbol for the medical profession. It could be a wand or staff used by heralds in ancient times. It’s primal power was to heal or harm. With Hermes, it was a sign of heralds and commerce. Later on, another form of the caduceus was used by the god Asclepius who was the god of medicine.”

Bill paced as he interrupted. “Two different kinds…and Daniel’s translations show Hermes having a pen pal with someone and they’re talking about Anubis. Hermes used two different symbols for a caduceus, one with his pen pal, the rest for his regular correspondence…”

“Where are you going with this, Bill?” Josh asked him.

‘Don’t know. I think we’re missing something here. We’re all pretty much thinking that there’s a caduceus in this chest, that it’s the weapon that protects Cyllene or something from other Goa’uld, but if you open it, you get turned to dust so that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. Daniel said that Hermes used two different forms of the caduceus on his letters with his personal ones being the same symbol that’s on the chest… did you say that the caduceus could heal or harm?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Let’s assume this is the weapon. That it is THE caduceus.”

Josh and Russ said nothing.

“Legend says Apollo traded a gold caduceus for Hermes’ panpipes. That’s what you said. We know that whatever is inside that chest is made of gold. The symbols—”

“Wait a minute,” Josh held up a silencing hand. “We’re assuming that the gold whatever inside the chest is Hermes’ personal caduceus.”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“Why? Why would a Goa’uld leave his most personal and prized possession buried in a temple and not come back for over a thousand years? There’s no real proof that that’s what it is. None of this makes any sense!”

“We walk through a two story high round rock and end up on another planet. How does that make sense?” Bill took a deep breath. “Look, I’m tired and scared too, but if there’s any chance that this is THE caduceus and it’s THE weapon that Hermes placed here to protect Cyllene, then we’ve got to figure it out. Put all the little clues together. This chest has different writing on it. It was in a chamber. The warning says only a god can enter the chamber. Open the chest and get turned to toast. There’s got to be something somewhere that tells us how it works or how we can get around the whole toast issue. We’ve got to make some assumptions here.”

“Assumptions?” Josh stood up. “We’re scientists. We don’t assume. And with this, assuming could get us killed.”

Bill shook his head. “We assume all the time. We just don’t assume our assumptions are correct. We’re on a schedule here, Josh. We’ve got to start making some wild guesses, so start putting history, myth, the writings and the readings I’ve taken together and start jumping to conclusions. I don’t think we’ve got time for anything else.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“They’ve got us cut off.”

Corporal Mulroney had dozed off while sitting at the radio but woke to hear that one sentence more clearly than others as the static dissipated momentarily. Just guessing, but maybe part of the war games was not only to hold the gate but to also get through a Jaffa blockade to the scientists’ location as well as hold off several flanking attacks all while not letting the other side get any sleep. It looked like the top brass was going all out on the games and creating several situations all at once for the soldiers to deal with. Yeah, just like real life.

Private Henson walked into the tent with two cups of coffee in hand, one of which he handed to Mulroney.

“Static woke you up too?”

“Not this time. It’s a voice. I think. I heard something a little while ago, I thought it was Parker but until we get that booster, we’re sunk.”

“How are things looking out there?” the corporal asked.

“More SG teams just showed up, and Bra’tac showed up about five minutes ago with around fifty more Jaffa. Everyone’s getting ready to bed down for a few hours. Looks like tomorrow’s… well, today’s going to be busy.”

Mulroney fiddled with more dials, trying to get through the static. “Doctor Jackson?” he spoke in to the microphone. “Colonel Weaver?” Still nothing. “Major Barnett?”

“Nothing, huh?” Henson asked.

“I think it was Jackson saying they were cut off, but that was all.”

“Did he sound convincing?”

Mulroney sipped his coffee. “Oh, yeah. Sounded real enough. You know, these games may be better than our usual ones. Got a chance for lots of surprises here.”

“Okay. Hey, SG-10 brought some real food instead of MREs. They’re cooking hotdogs over the campfire before they get a few winks for the night. Want any?”

“Sure,” the corporal answered happily. “Good nighttime snack. With mustard and ketchup too.”

Hot dogs instead of MREs? Anytime!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PRE-DAWN

The night was almost over, and that meant that their cover was about to be gone. The Jaffa would attack as soon as they could see well enough to gauge their positions and affect a pre-emptive and surgical strike to get to the temple.

The real battle was about to start.

Parker was making another attempt at calling for help on the radio.

“This is Parker. We are surrounded. The Jaffa are at the temple. We think they’re searching for something in the temple. If you can hear this, yes, we are in trouble. Prince Orestes and Prince Telemachus are still alive, but the Jaffa are about to attack and we have a lot of dead civilians here. Do you read? Major Barnett is dead. We are waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Please send help immediately. The Jaffa are coming.”

Still no answer.

Daniel motioned for everyone to draw close, to get an update on everyone’s condition and see what their situation was. Everyone was tired, no one had gotten any sleep, everyone’s nerves were on edge. He also knew that any of them could be dead within minutes.

Bill whispered his findings to the group. “We’re guessing and still working on the translation, but we think, I mean, it’s possible that the chest has THE caduceus in it. There’s nothing new telling us if it is or what it does. It might be what legend says is supposed to protect that which is most precious. Some of the writings are talking about letting loose the power and turning demons to dust. Supposedly, Hermes left it here to keep bad guys from Cyllene.”

“That doesn’t help us now,” Josh added. “We still don’t know how to use it.”

“No. It didn’t come with an instruction book,” Bill said sarcastically. “Whatever’s in there could be dangerous to us.” He emphasized the word ‘us.’

“How does the translation go so far, Russ?” Daniel asked.

Russ cleared his throat as he pulled out his notebook and read aloud, “Then did Hermes or Hermes’ soldiers bring or invite death and destruction… I couldn’t make out the next passage, it was worn away… it might say by loosing the power on their enemies. Then there’s a passage about the soldiers being turned to dust by the light of the weapon.”

Daniel heard a noise behind him, turned and looked but could see nothing but the still moon shadows. They didn’t have much time. “We’ve got maybe a half hour before the Jaffa attack. We have a lot of staff weapons, so we’ll use them as long as we can. Barnett said before he died to preserve the bullets. Weaver said that Bra’tac and his people were somewhere on our left. If they’re still there and if we can get help from them, then they can flank the ones trying to kill us. I’m going to try to find Bra’tac. Even if they’ve moved, Bra’tac would have left a couple to guard their six.”

Bill shook his head. “No way, Daniel. Uh uh.” Bill grabbed Daniel’s arm and wouldn’t let him go.

Newsome quietly but steadfastly agreed with Bill. “No way, sir. I can’t let you do that. You’re the only one here with Jaffa battle experience, and if Wendell and I have any chance of keeping these civilians alive, we’re going to need you. I’ll go.”

“Corporal –“

“Doctor Jackson, you’re not expendable and going off into those woods is suicide!” Newsome was adamant. This was one time that the famed Jacksonian self-sacrifice was NOT an option. “Not that staying here isn’t suicide too, but I’m a soldier, sir. This is what I signed up for. I’ll go.”

“You can’t,” Josh spoke up. “We need you here as much as we need Daniel. The fact is that one of us will have to go.”

There was an uncomfortable silence as each thought about what was being asked of them. To go in search of Bra’tac meant leaving the slightly protected area and delving into a Jaffa-filled forest to try to find other Jaffa somewhere on their flank – and no one knew where they were. It would be suicide, but it was a chance.

“I will go,” Prince Orestes volunteered.

“No, Your Highness!” more than one Cyllenian scholar objected.

“Your Highness,” Menelaos said calmly, “you are a prince of the realm. You can’t be risked.”

“I can’t let you do that, Your Highness,” Daniel objected.

“I am the obvious choice, Doctor Jackson. I know these woods, as does my brother. One of us must go. We will have the best chance of finding our way to your friends.”

There was sense in that, but the risk…

“I’ll go too,” Emily Sanders said. “I’ve met Bra’tac before. He may remember me.”

“No,” Menelaos interrupted again. “Neither prince can go. It cannot be permitted.”

Daniel looked at the prince and the scientist. There was no choice. They knew what was being asked of them, and both were willing to risk it. “All right. We’ll try to keep their attention on us for as long as possible.” He looked at Menelaos and the remaining Cyllenians. “If we’re going to survive and keep them away from this temple, we have to have help.”

Daniel heard another noise and looked over his shoulder. The moon shadows were moving. “The next round is about to start.” He turned back to Orestes and Emily. “Good luck.”

As the two brave souls crept toward a dark, secluded area in which to make their way into the woods, Daniel picked up a nearby staff weapon. “Get back to your positions,” he told everyone. “Russ, keep thinking about that translation, try to break the code and make it fast. Here we go again.”

Just as a few Jaffa left the safety of the trees, Daniel tried contacting anyone who might be listening. “Base, they are advancing on our position.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

BASECAMP

Jack stepped through the wormhole ahead of SG-1 and their guests just before sunrise and could see the light from the campfires flickering off the pitched tents. MREs warming over an open fire, a gentle breeze playing at their noses… and they only had to observe. Well, observe and explain to the king, the prince and their leaders the whys, hows and wherefores of the battle. It was going to be a piece of cake.

For once.

“When will the games begin?” King Lycaeon asked, the excitement clear in his voice. He was like a kid with a new toy.

“Very soon, Your Majesty,” Sam explained. “Since we had an abbreviated time schedule to implement these games, we’ve had to improvise a great deal. Under normal circumstances –“

“Carter,” Jack stopped her mid-explanation. “Hammond explained it all in the meeting.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam said.

“Your Majesty! Your Highness!” An older man rushed up to them, his breathing heavy. “Thank Hermes you’ve returned! So much has happened and – ”

“Xenocles, please, calm down,” the king suggested. “What’s wrong?”

“First, Prince Telemachus joined the scholars and the Tau’ri scientists for days. Then he and Prince Orestes went with them to the temple. I truly do not believe that all this was necessary, Majesty. There has been no need for battle in long years. We waste time with the Tau’ri. Also, we have several resolutions we must have signed in order to be enacted and without a single member of the royal family here, we –”

“We’re here now,” Lycaeon reminded him. “We’re going to watch the war games, have my military commanders brought here immediately along with the Royal Counsel. I wish them to observe as well. Afterwards, Akakos and I will see to the resolutions. Orestes and Telemachus are doing exactly as I ordered them to do. Their knowledge of the area and Orestes familiarity with the temple may have proven useful to the Tau’ri.”

“But, Your Majesty,” Xenocles began.

“Now, Xenocles. My Counsel? My commanders? Please bring them. I know you don’t like the idea of our acquiring outside help, so I won’t ask you to join us. I will ask you to have all the resolutions ready for my signature as soon as the war games are over with.”

Xenocles sighed. “Yes, Your Majesty. At once,” and he scurried away.

“Who’s that?” Jack asked. “Look a bit like Severus Snape.”

“Xenocles is my High Minister. He doesn’t like the idea of our having an alliance with you or allowing you access to the naquada deposits. He prefers our society to remain untouched by outsiders. But please don’t misunderstand me. He’s very good at his duties, but sometimes I think he focuses too much on them. He needs a personal life.”

“Colonel O’Neill,” Corporal Mulroney rushed over to greet the new arrivals. “I’m sorry, sir, we’ve just received the booster and I’ve been hooking it up or I would have been here sooner.” The corporal looked toward the king. “Your Majesty, that minister, Xenocles, he was looking for you earlier.”

Lycaeon bowed his head in greeting, his eyes almost dancing with excitement. “Yes, I’ve already spoken with him.”

“Where’s Weaver?” Jack asked.

Mulroney glanced behind him, toward the direction of the temple. “He hasn’t come back yet, sir. He went to tell Doctor Jackson and the rest of the dig team about the games yesterday, but we haven’t heard from him. I guess he stayed there?”

“Has Master Bra’tac arrived?” Teal’c asked the corporal.

“Yes, sir. Last night. He and the Jaffa who came with him are already setting up on the other side,” Mulroney pointed to the horizon, on the opposite side of the camp from the temple. “I think they want to flank us on both sides.”

“Both sides?” Jack asked. “Bra’tac didn’t bring THAT many with him, did he?”

“About fifty came with him last night, sir. Another thirty or so came later, but we had some others show up long before anyone else got here yesterday. They’re closer to the temple. We haven’t picked up any transmissions from them, and we haven’t been able to get a clear transmission from the rest of the dig team. It sounds like the Jaffa have them holed up at the temple. That’s probably why Colonel Weaver didn’t come back.”

“A rescue then,” Teal’c confirmed. “You must guard the gate, defeat the Jaffa attacking on both flanks and still come to the aid of Daniel Jackson and SG-14.”

“I think so, sir,” the corporal agreed. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to the command tent.”

As they walked through the base camp, Jack asked, “So Daniel didn’t find anything to amuse him at the temple?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Mulroney explained. “We’ve had communications problems with the group since yesterday. Colonel Weaver’s transmission was staticky, and he was about halfway there. We’ve heard a few words occasionally, but nothing more. What we’ve been able to piece together is that the group is under siege and calling for help.”

“They must not have found anything,” Sam suggested to Jack. “Daniel wouldn’t have stopped a scientific expedition to help with a war game if he had.”

“Too bad,” Mulroney added. “I know they were hoping to find some clues to all those scrolls they’ve been working on.”

The command tent was also the communications tent. Henson was sitting at the radio. “Colonel Weaver, do you read? This is base camp. Over.”

Static.

“Major Barnett, Doctor Jackson, does anyone read me? Over.”

No answer.

Then, “… Parker… The Jaffa are at the temple… searching for …”

“Doctor Parker?” Mulroney began focusing the amplifiers in the direction of the signal. “Doctor Parker, this is Corporal Mulroney. Do you read?”

“…We are in trouble. Prince Orestes and … the Jaffa… dead… read?”

“We’re not reading you clearly, Doctor,” Mulroney tried again. “You’re in trouble? Over?”

“… arnett…Daniel is commanding… help… Jaffa…”

Then nothing more.

The private looked at the newcomers apologetically. “Sorry, sirs. I can’t raise any of them.”

“Is this part of the games?” the king asked Jack.

“Looks like,” was the answer. “So, Corporal,” Jack turned his attention to the soldier, “when do we start?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Orestes and Emily kept to the shadows as they sped as quickly and as quietly as they could through the trees. They could hear the sounds of battle, the shouts of the combatants on both sides echoing behind them.

Orestes led them on a zigzag path through the trees, running on tiptoes to try to keep their footfalls as quiet as possible as they stepped on twigs and fallen leaves. They could hear movement all around them, both animals and reinforcing Jaffa as they mobilized and reformed lines to attack the lone defenders.

Orestes suddenly stopped, listened, then grabbed Emily’s arm and they both hid behind some brush. They watched as several Jaffa ran past them, each wearing the same Goa’uld’s insignia.

Orestes motioned that there was no one else approaching, and then waved his fingers for her to follow. Emily readied her staff weapon, rose and followed.

They saw the field that lay beyond the forest, just below the tree line. Once there, they would be able to see the entire area and perhaps discover which direction Bra’tac had taken.

Orestes leaned over so he could whisper to Emily. “Will you be able to contact your base with your radio once we are in the open?”

“Perhaps. If the signal isn’t blocked.”

“Then we must hurry."

They ran flat out, no more tiptoeing, straight toward the clearing.

Neither heard the sound of rapidly snapping twigs behind them or heard the echoing thunder of a firing staff weapon until the blasts shot them down just a few yards from the edge of the forest.

The Jaffa lowered his smoking staff weapon and sneered at his handiwork. He withdrew a knife and approached his fallen prey with a more sinister message in mind.

It wasn’t long before he returned to the battle.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

BASE CAMP

“Your Majesty, if you’d like to sit here, you’ll be able to hear everything that happens today more clearly,” Sam found a metal chair for the king to sit in next to the radio.

“How long will the games last?” the king asked as his leaders also sought out suitable vantage points. Each was handed a pair of binoculars.

A new voice entered the tent. “Not long,” Bra’tac told them. “I have no doubt that my Jaffa will be able to defeat the Tau’ri within a few hours.”

Jack looked at the older Jaffa, noticing the smirk on his face as an invitation to a challenge. “How much you want to bet,” he asked. “We’ve done pretty well, you know.”

“The fact you are still alive is pure luck, Human. Not skill,” Bra’tac said, his voice slightly taunting. “We Jaffa train from infancy for battle, be it real or staged in a war game.” He looked around the room and saw the amused looks. “However, a wager is not unheard of even among the Jaffa. What do you propose?”

Jack hadn’t expected a real bet, but once there, he didn’t have a choice but to come up with something to use as ante. “Well, let’s see…”

More static over the receiver interrupted the small bit of banter. Carter adjusted the booster signal but Daniel’s voice was barely understandable. They could make out most of one sentence. “Base, they’re advancing on our position.”

“I would say the games have begun,” Bra’tac stated. “By the end of this battle, Human, you will see that the Tau’ri way of fighting is inadequate against the Jaffa.”

The taunts didn’t deter Jack’s sarcasm. “Yeah? Looks to me we’ve been beating Jaffa and Goa’uld professionally going on eight years.”

“Luck, Human. Luck.” Then Bra’tac turned to Teal’c and said, “I’m sure you will instruct O’Neill on shortcomings?”

“Hey!” Jack yelled as both Jaffa smiled and Bra’tac walked out of the tent to join his troops. Oh, Bra’tac wasn’t going to get away with that. Jack walked toward the commanding officer of SG-17 with a plan in mind. “Hey, McAndrews, I’ve got a job for you.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The shots came faster as the Jaffa advanced. Menelaos took quick aim with a staff weapon and fired at the closest Jaffa. Nearby, one Jaffa fell next to Josh who glanced over as the body hit and saw no further movement from it. He kept returning fire at the oncoming force. He saw Daniel come under heavy fire, so much so that he had to pull out his P-90 to fire back, using precious bullets to stop the attack. Daniel turned the barrel of his weapon toward them and started to fire at their flanks –

A sharp pain slammed into the back of Josh’s neck.

He heard Menelaos yell, “Josh!” as he felt the symbiote take control of his body, of his hands – of his weapon.

He saw the staff weapon aim at Daniel. From his prison, he could hear the muffled echoes of voices yelling at him, yelling at Daniel – he saw Daniel turn, look at him in horror as the weapon fixed on his position, as it fired at Daniel, hitting him in the shoulder, as Daniel aimed his P-90 at him and fired point blank --

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PAN’S HA’TAK

A Jaffa warily marched into the throne room. He waited until Pan inclined his head, giving him permission to speak. “My lord, Rae’D has sent a message. The attack has commenced.”

“How long?”

“He did not say, only that they are starting their attack.”

Pan slowly paced the room. The attack was starting, the temple was built from a natural defensive position… his troops might not be able to take the temple quickly. The longer the siege, the more chance of being discovered. If Hermes learned of his plans… Pan didn’t want to think of the consequences.

There was only one strategy his troops could follow. It wasn’t what he wanted, but what choice was there? “Inform the troops to proceed cautiously but continually. My orders stand. They are to take charge of the temple and destroy all who stand in their way. Do not enter until –” Alarms blared in the distance.

Pan rushed to a console and watched the view screen in utter disbelief.

Fighters.

His father’s fighters.

The remodified cargo vessels following in close formation.

They were prepared for a battle.

“My lord?”

Pan thought quickly. If he fired on the fighters, Hermes would unleash an Armageddon on him. If he didn’t, his father would punish him severely for what he had tried to do. If he ran, he’d be an outcast without power or possessions…

“Do not fire. Allow them to board. I’m certain Tar’ik is leading them. Bring him to me here.”

If the Jaffa was confused, he didn’t show it. He saluted and hurried out of the throne room.

Pan watched the ships come closer. Hermes knew. He had to. Why else would he send that many ships?  Tar’ik would undoubtedly have orders to take him to Hermes. If he could convince Hermes of the ‘innocence’ of his actions, maybe, just maybe, he could abate his father’s anger and punishment. He could also buy time for his troops on the surface to secure the weapon. It was still possible to take possession of it without Hermes’ knowledge. Of that, he was certain.

He was a Goa’uld. He would behave as one. He walked back to his throne and sat down, watching the entryway for the Jaffa to return with Tar’ik. Countless moments passed before he heard the measured step of a heavy armored boot coming closer.

Quickly, the footfalls stopped, and the entryway slid silently open. Tar’ik stood there alone.

“I sent you an escort, Tar’ik,” Pan said, his voice calm and somewhat annoyed.

Tar’ik, his staff weapon held level in his hand, walked menacingly into the room.  “The escort you sent and your entire complement has been taken prisoner. Your father has ordered you to return to his palace.”

Pan’s voice, surprisingly sounding with more courage than he felt, said, “Of course. Inform Hermes that I will attend him as soon as I am able. I am currently—”

“You will return now. My troops have control of your ha’tak.” Two of Tar’ik’s Jaffa followed him into the throne room, each taking position on either side of the Goa’uld.

“You will leave my ship immediately,” Pan ordered, his eyes glowing in anger.

Tar’ik stood his full height. “You will be silent.” Then, to the guards, “Secure the rest of the ship and escort Pan to a cell. What news of the fighters?”

“They are approaching the atmosphere,” one Jaffa answered. “They await your orders.”

“Tell them to approach from the opposite side of the temple, away from the chappa’ai to avoid detection. Hold until I arrive to take command.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

BATTLEFIELD

“Okay, everybody ready?” Jack watched as the troops checked their intars and their packs then get into formation for the games. They were going to have fun, and where was he going to be? Stuck in the command tent watching. It was more fun to play war games than just sit back and do nothing.

Ferretti did a quick head count. “All present and accounted for. We’re good to go.”

There was a distant boom, the sound of thunder perhaps? There weren’t many clouds in the sky. Then, up above them, were dots of lights streaking across the sky.

“What is that?” Jack shielded his eyes with his hand against the glare of the morning sun.

“Meteor storm?” Ferretti suggested. “That might have been what that sound was, a meteor hitting the atmosphere.”

“It broke into a lot of pieces if it is.” Jack watched the trail of lights disappear behind the mountain. “Hey, tell you what, Lou, there’s a sawbuck in it for you if let me lead your team in the games,” Jack held out a ten dollar bill to back up his offer.

“Sorry, Jack. I’ve already got my team situated and everyone knows what to do. Tossing you in this late could throw them off their game. Besides, you’d miss explaining all this stuff to the royals. I mean, you do love being asked questions, don’t you?”

Jack stared at Ferretti for a moment. “You didn’t. Did you?”

“What?”

“So help me, Lou, if you –”

“Hey, it’s not my fault you’ve been such a good teacher. I just told them that a play-by-play commentary and a bit of a narration during the games would go a long way to help their understanding of basic warfare.” Ferretti smiled a chow-eating grin in Jack’s direction.

“Remind me to get even with you too, Lou. You and Daniel and Teal’c. I’m going to severely harm all of you for this.”

Ferretti laughed. “Famous last words. Okay, we’re outta here. Troops, let’s move. And remember, we’ve got an audience this time, so let’s put on a good show.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Jack’s entrance into the tent didn’t go unnoticed.

“Sir,” Carter called from her seat next to the king, “His Majesty was very interested in the various confrontations in Russia during winter.”

Russia? Okay, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, who knows how many czars -- all that would ultimately lead up to the Cold War and how was he supposed to explain THAT? That had nothing to do with battlefield warfare. “We’ll have to table the whole Russia issue until later, Carter. We’re about to go to war.”

“Now?” King Lycaeon asked. “What will happen first?”

Jack motioned for everyone to pick up their binoculars. “All right, if you look off to the left, you’ll see where some of the Jaffa are entrenched. The others are a bit further out. Our guys are here at the gate.”

Once Jack was certain his “students” were all on the same page, he explained further. “This first war game is relatively simple. The Jaffa are going to try to take the gate from us. It looks like Bra’tac has maneuvered about one-third of his Jaffa toward the base camp’s right flank. Uh, that way, Your Majesty,” Jack pushed the king’s binoculars over in the direction of the right flank. “Maybe there’s one-third on the left flank. That leaves the remaining third to make a frontal assault on our guys.”

“How do you know Bra’tac will attack like this?” Akakos inquired.

“I don’t,” Jack confessed. “It’s just a guess given what we’ve seen the Jaffa do before.”

The king lowered his binoculars. “How often do you guess correctly, Colonel?”

“More often than not, Your Majesty, but I wouldn’t bet my spare change on these fights. Bra’tac can get a little sneaky at times.”

While everyone was intent on watching the battlefield, Jack glanced around the tent.  Mulroney and Hansen had opted to operate the communications equipment instead of guarding the gate with SG-3. Jack guessed it had something to do with their team not all being there with them but up on that mountain surrounded by rebel Jaffa. Maybe it was their way of watching their six as well as participating in the games. That would mean they were coming together as a team. This trip really had been good for them.

All frequencies from the SGC radios were coming in at the command tent, and the Cyllenian leadership was alternately listening to what was being said over the radio, to what Jack was explaining and what they were watching on the battlefield. Jack thought it felt like a three-way tennis match.

“The gate is in the open field,” the king pointed out. “The Jaffa will have to traverse open ground to reach it. Isn’t that dangerous?”

“And not too bright,” Jack added. “Usually, everywhere we go, the gate is out in the middle of some field or out in the open like here.”

“This has happened to you before on a mission?”

“Oh, yeah. Both ways. We’ve had to hold a gate and try to take it from the bad guys.”

“And when fighting your friendly Jaffa, you may determine new ways to defeat the non-friendly Jaffa in similar situations.”

“Exactly.”

Someone from SG-3 called over the radio, “We have spotted Jaffa. They’ll be at our position in less than a minute. Calling reinforcements to guard the gate and guard flanks.”

Prince Akakos watched intently through his binoculars. Jack thought he was as happy as a kid in a candy store. From the command tent, they could see the advancing Jaffa coming straight to the gate. SG-3 took up defensive positions and fired at the oncoming enemy. As they did so, more Jaffa came from the left but were ambushed by SG-12.

“Where are the rest of your teams, Colonel?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the battle.

“They’ll show up. This first war game is pretty routine. Everyone’s trying to figure out what the other side is going to do. Now the next game will be a little more interesting.”

“How so?”

“The Jaffa will be guarding the gate and we’ll be the ones trying to get it back.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

More were dead. Everyone was sporting some type of wound. Their staff weapons were hot from being fired repeatedly, some of them now spent and worthless except as a quarterstaff or a walking cane.

The smoke from the battle settled over the dwindling group, just enough so they had momentary cover and a brief rest.

Newsome almost crawled to where Daniel was sitting behind a fallen log, holding his wounded arm to him, Morrison bandaging it with a torn shirt. The wound hadn’t stopped him from firing. If nothing else, it had spurred him onto more action. Newsome quietly made his way over the dead and wounded to see what last ditch effort they could pull off.

“Doctor Jackson? How are you holding up?”

“I’m fine.”

“Two of the Cyllenians were killed,” Newsome said, his voice low and tired.

“Which ones?”

“Parminedes, the history student and Disoriden, the botanist. They got hit by flanking fire.”

He’s anything but fine, Newsome thought to himself. Looking down at the wound in his own leg, he thought, you’re anything but fine too.

Looking to Sergeant Morrison, Newsome asked, “Now what, Sergeant?”

“I have no idea,” Morrison muttered.

What could they do? Even if they had one hundred more weapons, there weren’t enough of them now and there was no help in sight.

“They’re going to win, aren’t they? We did all this for nothing.”

“Not for nothing, Corporal. We did what we had to do.”

Newsome noticed the smoke was starting to thin, but they had a few more minutes before they’d be in view of the Jaffa again.

Without looking at Daniel, Newsome asked, “Is it scary to die, sir?”

“Newsome!” Morrison scolded. “Do NOT start thinking like that. We’re not gonna die. Hell, we’ve been through too much already.”

He heard rather than saw Daniel chuckle. “Dying’s not the problem. It’s how you die that scares you, I think. I think that when people think of…”

Daniel’s voice trailed off. Newsome could see a glint in Daniel’s eye; something was going through his mind. “Sir?”

“That’s it. Get everybody out here. Tell everyone to play dead. Make a foxhole, lay down behind a tree stump, anything. Pull a dead body over you to hide under. Get down and stay down. Let the Jaffa get up close. We’ll have to take them down in close quarters.”

Morrison sat back on his heels. “Play dead?”

Newsome was equally dumbfounded. “Sir, we don’t have enough people. These civilians can’t –”

“They can. They will. They have to. Even if our staff weapons aren’t used up, we don’t have enough people to fire the ones we’ve got for long. We’re almost out of ammunition. We’ve got enough for maybe one more stand. We’re out of options. We can’t survive another full-scale attack, so we’re going to have to get them up here. We’ll have a better chance if we can surprise them.”

“How do you expect us to fight them hand-to-hand? We have knives but they have strength and symbiotes. How are –”

“We take the symbiotes from them if we can.”

Newsome stared hard at Daniel, not believing what he was hearing.

“Corporal, they will get up here during the next attack. We’ve got very little left to fight with. Maybe if we can surprise them, we’ll survive the next attack. We’re buying time for Orestes and Emily to get reinforcements here.”

He was right. The Jaffa had almost breached their perimeter on the last charge. This time, nothing would stop them. “I’ll spread the word, sir. I hope this works.”

Newsome sneaked back to the others, thinking that this was a plan worthy of Colonel O’Neill himself.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rae’D led the charge. Two Jaffa deep and seven Jaffa wide, the attacking force ran up the path directly into what they expected to be a fatal field of fire –

Only nothing happened.

They reached the area the humans used as a defensive position and found only bodies. Jaffa, symbiotes and humans were scattered among the foliage and fauna. Rae’D motioned that they should scout the area, but he sensed that there was something not right.

“There’s no movement,” another Jaffa whispered.

Rae’D walked close to a body, shoved his staff weapon under it and pushed it over. He found himself the focus of glaring dead eyes.

“Investigate the bodies. See if any are alive.”

Bodies, bodies trapped under bodies, blood covered dirt and leaves, the sight was gruesome. The first prime watched as the other Jaffa checked for possible prisoners, still, something wasn’t right. The smell in the air was wrong. It didn’t feel like –

Rae’D moved toward a particular body. With his boot, he kicked the body onto its back and received a belly full of P-90 ammo for his trouble.

“Now!” Morrison yelled as he leaped to his feet and fired his rifle into the group of Jaffa.

The “corpses” jumped from their hiding places under dead bodies, behind rocks, from holes, under logs and fired very weapon at the Jaffa in their camp. The Jaffa, outmaneuvered and surprised, attempted to fight back but were caught in a deadly crossfire.

More Jaffa rushed forward, trying to help their comrades. Daniel and Bill laid down cover file and held them back. A Jaffa sniper took a flanking position, and Daniel caught a blast in his leg. He fell against Bill, but managed to keep them both upright for the moment.

“Take them!” one of the Jaffa called out.

“Pouches!” Daniel yelled back.

Pouches. The symbiotes were in the pouches. The reminder was all some needed to grab the primtas if they could.

Oscar Labinski’s staff weapon ran out of power. He grabbed the end like a bat and swung it at the nearest Jaffa.  The firing end cracked the Jaffa’s skull, but Labinski didn’t stop. He pushed the warrior over, reached inside his pouch, pulled out the symbiote and promptly ripped it in two.

“Ah, disgusting,” he muttered as he rushed to help some of the others.

Again, the Jaffa regrouped, this time splintering into smaller groups to try to rush several positions. Newsome fired a staff weapon at the base of a boulder on the hillside, forcing it to topple over and crush a few Jaffa that were using it as a shield.

Morrison concentrated his fire on a group trying to rush his position. He slammed his final clip into his rifle and fired into them, they fired back with deadly accuracy. A blast caught Morrison in the chest and he fell hard to the ground. He aimed his P-90 toward the group of Jaffa, his now dead finger still depressing the trigger.

Cardogan and Telemachus shot over Morrison’s body, into the Jaffa that had killed him. One Jaffa took deadly aim at Telemachus, but Cardogan shoved the prince out of the way but was too slow himself. He caught the staff weapon blast through the midsection. His body shielded Telemachus as the Jaffa kept firing on their position.

One of the attackers realized they had no good ground and made the call to retreat. Their numbers reduced by the ambush, they ran back down the hill into the woods.

For the moment, they could take a breather. Daniel saw Morrison’s body. They only numbered… how many? They had no chance even if Orestes and Emily were successful. They were out of time. This was their last ditch effort. He limped over to the radio, and in what he knew might be his last transmission, said, “We can’t hold off another attack. We need reinforcements!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The king and his coterie sat enraptured at the goings-on around them. Soldiers running to-and-fro, reinforcements moving into position as each Jaffa attempt to take the gate was underway. They listened in awe as the commanders radioed in their movements. They listened intently as each maneuver was explained not only for itself, but also as a defensive/offensive tactic to best the enemy.

It was quite an educational experience.

They were continually asking questions. Some questions were simple, others were extraordinarily complex, or so Jack thought, but they were quickly learning the basics. Whether or not the basics would work against an army of enemy Jaffa attacking them was another question altogether. The Cyllenians were completely untrained without even a real history of organized warfare. Still, if the Abydonians could fight off Ra’s soldiers with no training, then the Cyllenians had as good a chance as they did should the event ever become necessary.

No training hadn’t helped the Abydonians in the end though. They were killed by Anubis, ascended by Oma Desala, floating around in a realm that no one could touch. Jack doubted that the Cyllenians would be given the same courtesy as the Abydonians if they were attacked by a Goa’uld. No, the Ancients were very particular when it came to the people they ascended. They only took the best.

“Father, did you see?” Akakos’ voice broke into Jack’s thoughts.

“Yes. Bra’tac’s Jaffa have taken the gate. Remarkable.”

Jack looked down at the battlefield, saw the SGC personnel as the Jaffa took them prisoner. “That was only the first round. We’ll win the next one.”

Akakos momentarily looked away from his binoculars. “Is that certain, Colonel? The Jaffa have the superior numbers and strength. How can SGC soldiers best them?”

“Sometimes, you just have to outsmart them, Your Highness. We’ve done that lots of times.”

“But if war games are to teach new tactics, what did we learn from this first game?”

Jack pointed to the area below them. “See that spot where the Jaffa flanked them? There was no way to defend it. It was at an angle; the Jaffa had the high ground on that point and had a good place to fire at the soldiers. The soldiers on the right were pinned down by that position, so they couldn’t assist in the defense. That side fell and gave the Jaffa an opening. Once they had that, they won the battle. Now, the next time we see something like that, we’ll have better ideas how to handle it.”

“How?”

“Get the high ground first, put people in position there, blast it to pieces so it can’t be used as an offensive position for the enemy. It all depends on the situation.” Jack looked through his binoculars and saw Bra’tac giving him a mock salute. Oh, yeah, the SGCers had better win the next game or he’d never live it down. Bra’tac would remind him. A lot. And enjoy it. “You see, Your Highness, part of a battle is improvisation. You think on your feet. If you can do something unexpected, you’ll keep your enemy off guard and have a better chance of beating him.”

“And your soldiers will do this in the next game?”

“Yeah. Sure.” They’d better, Jack thought to himself.

“Major Carter?” Henson called from his position at the radio. “We’re getting something. I can’t get a lock on it.”

Sam took the seat next to Henson. “Record it. Boost the amplitude, and replay.”

Henson’s hands moved quickly over the controls. “Got it. Replaying now.”

There was static and the sound of muffled words seeping through the noise.

Sam adjusted a few controls. “I’ll filter the transmission, sir. Private, double the power to the booster.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

In moments, Sam replayed the message. The voice was clear and concise and Daniel’s. “We can’t hold off another attack. We need reinforcements!”

Teal’c stepped forward, a smug look on his usually stoic face. “It would appear as if there are now two victories for the Jaffa forces.”

“It’s still early, T,” Jack cautioned. “Don’t start counting your battles before they’re hatched.”

The prince abandoned his viewing position and joined the group around the radio. “Colonel, when will you attempt a rescue of the people at the temple?”

Jack put a finger to his lips and did the shushing motion. “We don’t want the Jaffa to overhear this, but Colonel McAndrews and SG-17 are on their way to the Temple. We won’t know anything until after it’s over with.”

“A sneak attack!” Akakos shouted.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“We have a message from Tar’ik, my lord,” the Jaffa announced.

Hermes leaned forward and watched the communication sphere as the face of his first prime appeared above it. “What news?”

“We are approaching the temple, my lord. I have been unable to obey one of your commands. While climbing the path to the temple, we came under attack by a small group of Tau’ri soldiers. They had ineffective weapons but –”

“What of Pan?”

“We have taken his ha’tak and he is being held prisoner on board.”

“I understand. Send his ship here immediately. Do what is necessary, Tar’ik, but make certain that the temple is unharmed and its contents undisturbed. Under no circumstances are any of you to open any chests or containers. Is that understood?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Tar’ik’s face disappeared and the sphere went dark again.

So close. His Jaffa were so close. The deaths of a few humans would be overlooked and ignored by the System Lords. The only thing that mattered was that certain contents of the temple remained undisturbed. Everything hinged on that one fact.

He leaned back on his throne and stared out at the expanse of space. Keeping the universe safe from certain evils was a daunting task.

Then, to the Jaffa, “I want to know the moment Pan’s ha’tak is sighted. I will speak to him then.”

“Yes, my lord.”

The communication sphere dinged for his attention. Impatiently, Hermes walked over to it and placed his hand over it. Apollo’s face appeared above him.

“Nothing new to report,” he said.

Apollo frowned. “Cyllene is protected. Pan has violated that agreement,” his emphasis on the word was more than obvious to Hermes. “The System Lords will not tolerate any Goa’uld not obeying a protected planet treaty. It would be best if this was kept quiet and you dealt with Pan on your own terms.”

“I agree. I see no reason to bother the System Lords with this,” Hermes said quickly. “Pan is my son. I will punish him according to the rules the System Lords established. There will be no need for their involvement.”

“It will have to be reported, unfortunately…” Apollo mused quietly. “I will make the report myself. A willful Goa’uld, mere boredom prompted the act, it was not meant to violate any treaty…”

“I think that would be a good idea,” Hermes moved back to his throne. “And as his father, it is my responsibility to ensure Cyllene protected status and to punish Pan. Please emphasize that to them.”

“Yes, yes, I will,” Apollo relaxed somewhat. “I see no reason why any of this should go any further. The fact that Pan has attempted to go to a protected planet cannot be hidden… it will be known that a Goa’uld went there… Yes. I will emphasize all this to the System Lords.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Bill knew that their luck had run out. They were wounded and tired -- the Jaffa would be able to walk right up to them this time and claim the temple for themselves.

Beside him, Daniel cradled a staff weapon and an empty 9-mil in his lap. A P90 lay empty and useless at his side. They’d fought as best they could, but now, they had no defense left. No matter how many guns they had, how many among them could physically fire another round?

Daniel pulled out a piece of paper and began scribbling on it.

“What’s that?” Bill asked.

“Crew list. If we don’t make it out of here, I want whoever finds us to know who died when.”

They were quiet for a moment. Then, “I never thanked you,” Bill muttered.

Daniel looked at him, confused. Maybe he wasn’t sure if he heard him. “What?”

“For Central America. You saved my life, and I never thanked you.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Daniel whispered.

“You did a lot. I wish I could have done more.”

“We stayed alive until help came. That’s what we did then, that’s what we’re doing now.” Daniel couldn’t reassure him. There was no need to keep anyone’s spirits up, but that didn’t stop Daniel from trying.

“I talked, you didn’t. Even here, you not quitting.”

“It feels like I’m quitting now, Bill.”

“No, even now, it looks like you’re still trying to think of a way to get us out of here.” Bill looked back at the forest. The remaining Jaffa were moving. “We’re not gonna make it, but thanks for trying.”

Daniel closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the log. Maybe Daniel thought it was strange thanking him? “It’s not scary to die,” Daniel told him.

“Good. I was wondering,” Bill answered. “Think Orestes and Emily found Bra’tac?”

Daniel was silent for a long, tense moment. “Bra’tac would have been here by now. Whatever happened must have been bad for our side or something stopped them from finding Bra’tac. It was a long shot anyway.” The soldiers at the gate couldn’t abandon their position to help them or the Jaffa would take the gate. Bra’tac and his Jaffa weren’t coming – they’d have been there long ago if they were.

They had tried to stop the Jaffa from getting to the temple.

“They’re coming again,” Bill said as he turned and aimed his staff weapon down the path. Daniel followed suit as did the remaining defenders. It was a moot point, but they would go down fighting. A moral imperative perhaps? Bill didn’t know, but he knew that they had to – no matter the consequences.

Near them, Parker made one final attempt at repairing the radio. “Daniel, I’m getting something. It’s not just static. I think I’m getting feedback of some kind.”

Daniel crawled over to him. “Think it’ll work?”

“I figured out that if I put the gum wrapper around these two leads, hold these two wires down, here, and this wire, there, and try to keep all of them pressed down --- take the mike. Call base camp again.” 

Bill saw Daniel try the radio one more time. “Base, we cannot hold our position any longer. The Jaffa are coming.”

Moments passed. Finally, Jack’s familiar and very welcome voice came back over the radio, barely cutting through the static. “Daniel, maintain radio silence. A surprise is coming.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Jaffa charged up the hill in one last desperate attempt to take the temple – maybe they thought it was their last attempt? Several of them fell as the Tau’ri fired on them, but … staff weapons shots came from behind the Jaffa, felling them in mid-charge!

More staff weapon blasts, the Jaffa turned and focused their weapons behind them!

“They’re here! Bra’tac’s here!” Bill yelled out. Relief swept through the small band as they watched the reinforcements fight the Jaffa. Jack’s surprise had shown up!

They watched in hopeful silence as the newly arrived Jaffa began shooting their attackers from behind. They saw them carrying earth-made weapons… intars? What were they doing with intars? Those were stun weapons used at the SGC, how did these Jaffa get them? Then they saw the symbols on their foreheads – no! 

“Those aren’t Bra’tac’s!” Daniel yelled. “They’re Hermes’ Jaffa!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Base, we cannot hold our position any longer. The Jaffa are coming.”

Jack was going to have to talk to Daniel about his method acting. Yeah, he was good at pretending, but if Jack didn’t know these were war games, he’d have taken gun in hand and ran to Daniel’s position. He sounded like he was really in trouble and really tired.

Knowing Daniel as well as he did, he thought maybe he was bluffing. Make the Jaffa think the humans were in trouble to draw them in closer and then bam! They’d get the drop on them and their part of the games would be over. He wondered where SG-17 was.

“If the interference is as bad as we think, is there any way to get through it?”

Carter stared at the radio for a moment. “We’ve done everything we can, sir. There’s no guarantee we’ll get through the interference.”

Didn’t matter. Jack keyed the mike and cranked up the booster. “Daniel, maintain radio silence. A surprise is coming.” Reinforcements were coming, no sense in tipping their hand.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They watched as Hermes’ Jaffa fought each other. What the hell was going on?

Daniel thought fast. There had to be a way. There was always a way to escape. There were no no-win situations. That meant that all hope was lost…

He mentally ran through everything he’d heard about the temple, about the weapon, about the chest… everything…

One legend has it that the Temple has a way of repelling enemy troops.

The legend says that the chamber was sealed by Hermes to protect that which was most precious. Only a god can enter the chamber. Once the chest is opened, then any demon that dares attack Cyllene will be turned to dust

Legend tells us that any defender can loose the power of the chamber upon anyone who dares to attack Cyllene and be turned to dust.

Russ said, “Then did Hermes or it says Hermes’ soldiers bring or invite death and destruction… there’s something here I can’t make out… maybe it reads by loosing the power on their enemies. The … I think it says soldiers were turned to dust by the light of the weapon.”

Enemy troops…

Turn to dust…

Invite death…

Only a god can enter the chamber…

SOLDIERS turned to dust!

Wait a minute!

ONLY a Goa’uld could go into the chamber, but the chest wasn’t in the chamber – like he’d said before, it had been moved through a gaping hole in the chamber!

Enemy troops and soldiers from a Goa’uld’s point of view would be a rival Goa’uld’s Jaffa! Only Jaffa would be killed!

Jaffa!

Could it be that simple? That straightforward? He didn’t have a choice now but to take the chance. “Bill!” Daniel shouted. “Inside the temple. Smash the seal and open the chest! Just… open it!”

Bill’s look of utter confusion was matched by the others. Open the chest?

“Do it! Just open it! It won’t kill US!”

Bill didn’t ask, he took off and ran into the temple.

It would take a few moments for Bill to run in and get the chest open, but did they have that long? The newly arrived Jaffa made a hole through the opposition’s lines and made a final rush on their position, staff weapons firing...

A bright light came out of the temple; a scream like the wail of a banshee screeching down the mountain enveloped the Jaffa. They were stunned for a moment, and then the smell of burnt flesh permeated the air. They fell to the ground, writhing in pain as the caduceus’ power enveloped them…burned them…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermes waited impatiently as his son’s ship flew toward his planet. He tracked its progress on the view screen, watching as it came closer.

Hermes ordered all Jaffa from the throne room. This was one conversation he did not want overheard.

He walked to the communications sphere and waved his hand over the controls. The sphere shone, and then showed Pan sitting in an empty room, sitting on his knees, his hands bound behind his back. The cell was sparse and bare; a far cry from the luxury a goa’uld was accustomed to.

“You have betrayed me.” Hermes said.

Pan’s head jerked up at the voice, obviously saw the sphere sitting on a pedestal above him and then bowed. “I am sorry, Father. I did not betray you. I was merely seeking – ”

“Something you should not have been. Cyllene belongs to me, yet you insult me by trying to steal something of mine.”

“It is an Ancient’s weapon, Father. It’s power –”

“Silence!” Hermes’ voice thundered through the control room. “That device was placed there for a reason, one which was not your concern.”

“But with such a powerful weapon, you could rule the System Lords!”

Hermes leaned toward the sphere as his eyes glowed in anger. “You have no idea of the power I wield now. Your betrayal will not go unpunished.” He waved his hand over the controls again and the sphere went dark.

A moment later, he passed his hand over the controls again. “Tar’ik,” he said.

He waited a moment for an answer. “Tar’ik, respond.”

Again, no answer.

Hermes knew his first prime too well. This was the one Jaffa he trusted. If Tar’ik wasn’t answering…

He hurried to another console, one installed beside the caduceus. He depressed several controls – no. The readings were wrong. They had to be. A quick verification proved the readings correct.

The caduceus on Cyllene had been activated.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I am very much impressed, Colonel O’Neill,” King Lycaeon said. “We have learned a great deal thanks to you.”

“Well, I’m glad we could be of service, Your Majesty. These games were new to us too.”

Corporal Mulroney waited a moment for them to stop talking. “Colonel O’Neill? We can’t raise Colonel McAndrews on any frequency.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack complained. “Carter?”

“Yes, sir,” Sam went over to the radio and tried a few adjustments to the amplifiers. “The signal is at full strength, sir. It could be that their radios are too weak or there’s still something interfering with our transmission. They may not have received it at all. We have the amplifiers to boost theirs.”

“So Daniel and McAndrews may not know the games are over?” Jack asked. “Or are we supposed to hightail it up there for another round?”

“It’s possible, sir. We may have to send a messenger to see what the situation is.”

Bra’tac entered the tent, a self-satisfied grin on his face. He placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Well fought, human. You held the gate well. However, we bested you in two engagements.”

“Yeah, so… call it a tie?” Jack joked.

“You will not get off so easily. We have a wager.”

Nope, there was no getting off easy with Bra’tac. He’d remember a debt for years; he certainly wouldn’t let anyone forget they owed him.

“Yeah, well, it’s not over yet. Looks like we’ve got one more skirmish to fight, and I don’t think your side is gonna win.”

Bra’tac looked perplexed. “All of our patrols are accounted for.”

“Not the ones at the temple,” Mulroney spoke up. “They still have Doctor Jackson’s group under siege, and they’re still fighting. We think.”

The look went from perplexed to concerned. “We sent no one to the temple. That is outside of the boundaries.”

Mulroney looked at the officers in the tent – “Sir, begging your pardon and not meaning to argue with you, but Jaffa were showing up here right after we got the word about the games. They flew here in cargo ships and some death gliders, landed over at the temple where --.”

“We did not arrive in ships,” Bra’tac stated, the look turning to dread rather than concern. “We came through the Chappa’ai.”

The silence spoke for itself.

Jack grabbed his gun and headed out the tent flap, yelling at Mulroney as he went. “Keep trying to raise them. Contact the SGC and let them know what’s happened. Take care of the king!”

The rest of the team and Bra’tac followed quickly.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Daniel, come in.” Jack waited a few moments, still no answer. “Daniel, do you read?” Nothing. “McAndrews… This is SG-1-niner calling SG-17-niner. Do you read?”

He glanced back at Sam who was trying to get a reading on the frequency. “There’s nothing, sir. Whatever is here may still be jamming the signal.”

“They were talking to us earlier,” Jack commented, his voice almost a whisper.

“But they never answered us, sir, and their transmissions were intermittent. It is possible that they could only transmit. If their receiver was damaged in any way, they may not have had the necessary equipment to repair it. If that’s the case, then they don’t know we’re on our way.”

“We have not yet found SG-17,” Teal’c reminded them, “nor have they answered our hails.”

Bra’tac stopped, listened, looked, smelled… “Teal’c?”

Teal’c stopped for a moment, tilted his head as he listened. He seemed to hone in on something…

“What’s up, T?” Jack asked. “Hear something?”

“No. We smell something.”

“Staff weapon fire,” Bra’tac told them.

Jack sniffed the air and smelled nothing. “And there’s no chance that SG-17’s intars hit something that made a stink.”

“No. This is staff weapon fire. No Jaffa used a working staff weapon in this war game.”

Without orders, Teal’c took off at a dead run toward the temple, the others following close behind.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Bra’tac knelt by the first body. Colonel McAndrews body lay face down in the dirt, a gaping hole in his back. “Many Jaffa came this way,” Bra’tac told them as he studied the clues around them. “SG-17 was taken by surprise.”

“Their weapons are gone,” Teal’c pointed out.

“Taken by their attackers,” Bra’tac added. “These Jaffa did not realize that the weapons were not real. We must make haste.”

Leaving the bodies of SG-17 behind, they hurried up the path toward the Temple.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dead bodies.

Lots of dead bodies.

A few burned Jaffa bodies. Piles of dust scattered across the field. The stench of dead, dying and burned flesh was unmistakable.

“What the hell happened?” Jack asked as they brought their guns to bear and walked carefully through the carnage. “This was supposed to be a war game.”

Jack whispered into his microphone. “Daniel? Can you hear me?” No answer.

“Spread out,” he told his team. “Keep your eyes open.”

They made their way up the path, the ground burned and pot marked with weapons shot. Jack saw something under a fallen log next to a dead Jaffa… crept up… gun ready… was that part of a symbiote body? Two parts of one? What the hell had happened?

“These are Hermes’ Jaffa,” Teal’c said quietly. “They may have been in the service of Pan, Hermes’ son. They bear the same symbol.”

“What were they doing here?” Sam asked.

Jack saw something move and carefully made his way to the spot. He cautiously walked to the moving body and saw the camouflage BDUs. He turned the soldier over. He’d been shot, but Jack didn’t think that any vital organs were damaged. His exposed skin was red, like he had been sunburned. “Newsome?”

Newsome opened his eyes and tried to talk. Words didn’t come out of his mouth, then, he took a deep breath and tried again. “Colonel.” His voice was a rough whisper. “We held them off… we didn’t let them get the caduceus.”

Caduceus? “Carter!” he called. “We got a live one.” Then, “Newsome, they were after the what?”

“Caduceus. Ancient’s weapon Hermes hid here. It was in this chest…it made this light… it hurt when it hit,” Newsome took another breath, each one causing him pain.

Jack was confused. “Newsome –” but stopped when the corporal’s eyes closed.

“Sir, he’s unconscious,” Carter told him as she checked the corporal’s pulse. “I think he’ll be all right. His wounds aren’t fatal. I think it’s mostly loss of blood.”

“T, keep looking,” he yelled to the Jaffa. “Newsome can’t be the only survivor.” No way, Daniel. No way in hell are you dead again. “Carter, keep trying to contact base camp. Get help out here.”

They zigzagged their way across the battlefield, the tree-covered hillside now firmly called a battlefield in Jack’s mind. Dead and burnt bodies littered the terrain, some of them SGC personnel. Some of the civilians had been shot with bullets. A closer look showed that there was no help for it, at least, not in Jack’s opinion when he saw the marks on the back of their necks. All looked like they’d been in the sun too long. Had there been some kind of explosion? From a quick glance, Jack could see that the SGC team had dug in and put up one hell of a fight, even when they’re own people were used against them.

“They’ve got us cut off.”

“They’re advancing on our position.”

“We can’t hold off another attack. We need reinforcements!”

“Base, we cannot hold our position any longer!”

Daniel’s calls for help weren’t part of the war game. This had been no game. This had been real. Daniel had been calling for help and was ignored. Jack couldn’t think of that right now. He had to assess the situation, find the survivors, find Daniel. They couldn’t lose Daniel again.

He found Sergeant Morrison’s body propped up against a fallen tree. His P-90 was still grasped in his hands, the trigger depressed. He’d kept firing until the magazine was empty, even after death claimed him.

Several bodies were scattered around, lying in a pool of blood. From further up the hillside, Jack got a better view of the grounds. It hadn’t just been a defense. It had been a last stand.

“Sir, I found their radio. Our amplifier might have had enough power to penetrate the interference, but the damage to their receiver was severe. It may have been damaged during the fight. I’ve found a couple of survivors, all SGC personnel. Doctor Lee is inside the Temple. I think they will make it back to the gate,” Carter’s voice sounded over the radio. “They’re hurt pretty badly. I’ve also found more dead symbiotes. I still haven’t been able to contact the base.”

Bra’tac called out, “I have found two survivors , O’Neill. They require medical assistance.”

So few? Against how many Jaffa? How did they manage that well? Mostly civilian scientists with little to no battle experience, and they’d held off a Jaffa army.

“O’Neill!” Teal’c’s voice echoed. Jack saw the Jaffa kneel down by a boulder, saw the look in Teal’c’s face and then he took off at a dead run. No, no, no, no, he did NOT find Daniel’s body. He just didn’t.

Teal’c couldn’t.

He hadn’t.

Teal’c had found Daniel.

Living, breathing, bleeding, sunburned Daniel.

Jack squatted next to the barely conscious man. He had a staff wound in his shoulder, blood seeping from the multiple scrapes and abrasions, a wound in his thigh – he had to be in pain. Jack pulled his med kit out of his pack and grabbed the bandages. Daniel didn’t flinch when Jack applied pressure to the shoulder wound and Teal’c tied off the leg wound. It wouldn’t do much to help him, but he wouldn’t bleed to death.

“Daniel?” Jack tried to rouse his friend. “Come on, buddy. Look at me.”

With effort, Daniel’s eyes blinked open, and then tried to focus on them. His hand reached out and grabbed Jack’s arm. Maybe convincing himself that they were actually there? “’Bout time,” he murmured. “This time, you didn’t have to chase across a planet to find us. Did you hold the gate?”

Hold the gate? What was he talking about?

“What happened here, Daniel?”

“Held them off as long as we could,” Daniel’s voice rasped. “We didn’t let them get in the temple or the caduceus. What about the gate? You held it? What about Mulroney and Henson?”

Held the gate? Damn, Daniel. This wasn’t supposed to be real! We thought we were listening to war games!

“That’s a long story,” Jack said. How was he going to explain this? Yelling across the field, he shouted, “Carter, did you contact the base?”

“I don’t know if they received the signal, sir. I believe that whatever is interfering with the transmission may be in the temple.”

Shit! “Teal’c, you head back down until you can get a clear signal. Get medics and body bags here fast. Carter, do what you can with the rest of the wounded.”

“Yes, sir,” Carter said.

Alone, Jack did what he could for his friend. A quick glance and he saw that Daniel was trying desperately to stay awake and that he’d lost a lot of blood, but there was something else. The sunburn worried him. What had Newsome said? It made a light that hurt? What the hell happened here? Jack could feel the exhausted tremors radiating from his friend’s body. Then he noticed something in Daniel’s pocket, a piece of paper. He reached over carefully and drew it out, seeing the bloody fingerprints over the surface. It was the crew list that Jack gave Daniel before he left on the expedition. He felt his face pale as he read their names and saw that Daniel had listed how they died.


TEAM LEADER:

Daniel Jackson

SG-14:

Colonel Joseph Weaver – found dead on path

Major Scott Barnett – killed during one of the initial skirmishes

Sergeant Wendell Morrison – killed during attack

Corporal Glen Newsome

Corporal Edward Mulroney – unknown

Private Thomas Henson – unknown

LINGUISTICS, CULTURAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CREW:

Doctor Lord Richard Cardogan - killed during attack

Assistant John S. Carr – killed during first attack on path

Assistant Georgia Estes – killed during initial skirmish after being taken host by a Goa’uld

Doctor Russell Evans

Doctor Hugh Isbister – killed during first attack on the path

Doctor Joshua Redding – taken host by a symbiote, killed by Daniel Jackson

PHYSICIST CREW:

Doctor Oscar Labinski

Doctor Bill Lee

Doctor Simon Parker

BOTANY CREW

Doctor Emily Sanders – left with Orestes to find Bra’tac on our left flank. Never returned.

Assistant Thomas Sellers – killed at Temple after first attack on path

Prince Orestes – left with Emily Sanders to find Bra’tac on our left flank. Never returned.

Prince Telemachus

Eight Cyllenian scholars
Cassius – Historian/archaeologist – killed during initial skirmish by Georgia Estes who was a Goa’uld

Parminedes – History/archaeology student – killed after dawn

Thales – Physicist – killed on path

Menelaos – Physics student

Disoriden – Botanist – killed after dawn

Theophran – Botany student

Dardanus – Geologist – killed on path

Laomedan – Geology student – killed on path


“The gate?” Daniel asked again.

“Don’t worry about the gate,” Jack said, unable to meet Daniel’s eyes. “I’ll tell you all about this later.”

Maybe it was something in Jack’s voice, but the wounded man picked up on something that Jack wasn’t telling him.

“What?” he asked Jack.

Jack finished tying off the shoulder wound and sat back. This time, he did meet Daniel’s eyes. He saw the shadow of battle in there, the tiredness of seeing too many people die around him. He also saw Daniel fighting off unconsciousness, his need to take care of his team still prevalent.

“Trust me,” Jack said. “Later would be better.” He waited a moment, and then said, “You don’t have to worry about the gate. Nobody got it. Go ahead, get some sleep. We’re here now.”

That seemed to content him somewhat because he stopped fighting his eyelids from closing. His grasp on Jack’s sleeve didn’t lessen. He was holding on for dear life.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Carter tended to the rest of the survivors’ wounds before approaching Jack and Daniel. She’d seen the colonel despondent, depressed, even demoralized, but this was different. He was absolutely deflated. She had learned more from a few of the scientists who were conscious enough to answer questions, and they didn’t supply answers the colonel was going to like.

“Sir?” she whispered as she approached. She noticed that Daniel had a tight grip on Jack’s sleeve, and the colonel wasn’t moving his arm.

“What?”

“I spoke to a few of the others, sir. They’re responding somewhat to questions, but their answers are a little confusing. I believe I’ve pieced together some of what happened here.”

Jack looked at her; she could see how angry he was. He had a piece of blood stained paper clenched in his hand. “This is the personnel list I gave Daniel before he left. He marked through the names of the dead and wrote in how they died.” He folded it back up and put it in his jacket pocket. “What did they tell you?”

“The scientists were here at the temple when Major Barnett received a message from Colonel Weaver about Jaffa landing on the planet. According to Colonel Weaver, Bra’tac was on their flank. They lost contact with the colonel then. As they tried to return to the base camp, they found Colonel Weaver’s body and were fired on by newly arrived Jaffa. They retreated back to the temple and were soon under siege. Prince Orestes and Emily Sanders were sent to try to make contact with Bra’tac and bring help. They haven’t returned.”

Of course not. Why would they? Bra’tac wasn’t there. Bra’tac was involved in the war games. Why would Weaver tell them any different? There were only bad guy Jaffa creeping around the woods, and those two probably walked right into them.

“They kept trying to contact the base camp, but they weren’t sure if the signal was getting through. They knew there was interference, but ...”

They had tried contacting them, and they’d ignored the calls for help. Daniel’s team was being killed, and no one did anything to help him.

“What else, Carter?”

“Sir?”

“What are you not saying?”

“The fighting deteriorated from utilizing explosive weapons to hand-to-hand combat. I didn’t understand everything Doctor Labinski said, but it sounded like symbiotes were removed from the Jaffa’s pouch. I didn’t quite –“

“They had no choice,” Jack said. “Look around you, Carter. They were outnumbered. This got brutal. They had to pull every trick out of the book to survive this.”

A few scattered remains of symbiotes could be seen. Brutal. It was obvious.

“Some of the bodies have bullet wounds, sir. At first, I surmised that they were caught in a crossfire, but --”

“No, they weren’t,” Jack said quietly. “I saw one myself. He’d been taken as a host. They didn’t have any choice but to kill them.”

“Doctor Labinski told me that Daniel had to kill Doctor Redding himself.”

Daniel killed one of the scientists under his command. Jack could almost see the scene play out in his mind. Jaffa firing from one side, friends turned hosts shooting from behind – Daniel did what he had to do when there was no choice. Jack shook his head and whispered, “But he couldn’t kill me.”

“Sir?”

Jack looked up. “When Ba’al had me prisoner, Daniel was the one who got me out of there. He wouldn’t kill me even after I begged him to. He kept saying that there were other options. He fought me all the way until he could set up that diversion so I could get out. Do you have any idea what was going on here if he thought there were no other options but to kill one of our own?”

Carter knelt down beside Daniel. “Sir, Daniel wasn’t there. He was ascended at the time.”

“He was there. He left me one time to go to earth to nudge Teal’c into contacting Yu and get you to realize that Kanan had a girlfriend. Leave it to him to find an off-hand answer to a problem. He’s always done that.”

Sam shook her head. “I don’t see how that’s possible, sir.”

“Carter, he kept Teal’c and Bra’tac alive when they were ambushed by appearing in their hallucinations and keeping them going. If he could do that, believe me, he was there at Ba’al’s palace. He bent every rule the Others had to get me out of there. If he’d lifted a finger against Ba’al personally, the Others would have snatched him away and I’d be dead. He tried everything else he could think of instead of killing me. You know him as well as I do. He killed Redding, then it was the only option he had.” He looked at his unconscious friend, somewhat relieved that his pulse was steady and his breathing was even. “He’ll never forgive himself for that.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The solemn procession walked silently down the mountain path as Telemachus directed them tiredly from his stretcher. Both the Jaffa warriors and the Tau’ri soldiers and medics carried their burdens with a depressed air. When they saw the bodies, the shot marks, the destruction… It didn’t take a genius to figure out what happened.

“This was not your fault, O’Neill,” Bra’tac said quietly, his voice barely above a loud whisper. “You did not know.”

“They knew,” Jack answered back. He adjusted his grip on Daniel’s stretcher. Teal’c carried the other end, his shoulders knotted up from anger as he walked. “They must have thought we were coming to help. We didn’t. They’re dead. I sent McAndrews out here with intars, and his team was massacred.” He didn’t want to think about it. “Carter, any luck on raising the base camp? Do they know we’re coming?”

“The transmission is broken, sir,” she answered back. “I’ve repeated the message several times, but I can’t be certain of the response. The interference is too great.”

“Great,” Jack muttered.

Teal’c shifted his grip on the stretcher. “We must reach the bottom of the mountain before we can send a clear signal.”

They walked silently afterwards, each step taking them closer to the base camp.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

BASE CAMP

“FERRETTI! We’ve got the wounded! Dial Earth! Now!”

Jack’s shout roused the base camp. The mere sight of body bags and wounded on stretchers kicked everyone into immediate action.

So many body bags…

And it wasn’t pretend wounded from war games.

Ferretti ran to the DHD and dialed earth quickly as the medics rushed to take charge of the wounded. Jack joined Ferretti moments later.

“Where’s the king?” he asked.

“I sent them all back to the SGC right after you guys left,” Lou explained. “I thought it was safer for them.”

“Good thinking.”

Ferretti watched the chevrons light up. “What the hell happened up there, Jack?”

“Hell,” Jack answered. “Let’s get them home.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC GATE ROOM

“Incoming wormhole, SG-3,” Davis said loudly. Then, “Code red! Medical teams to the gate room!”

“Code red?” King Lycaeon inquired. “Are the war games not over?”

“I’m not certain what’s happening, Your Majesty,” Hammond said as he moved quickly to the gate room. “Colonel Ferretti wasn’t completely forthcoming in his previous transmission before you came back. All I know is that there might have been trouble at the temple. Perhaps this is part of the war games Colonel O’Neill wished to show you. Sometimes, we bring back wounded and dead.”

Medical teams rushed in behind them. The king stayed respectfully out of their way so he could observe.

Within moments, soldiers carrying wounded on stretchers came through the wormhole. Others were carrying body bags.

There were more body bags than wounded.

Jack and Teal’c returned carrying Daniel on a bier between them, Sam walking at his side, and a medic keeping close watch on his vitals. They transferred Daniel to the care of the medics and watched as he was wheeled out on a gurney. The same scene followed for the others, both the living and the dead.

“Telemachus?” King Lycaeon watched in horror as his youngest son was carried down the ramp.

“Father, I’ll be all right. Has Orestes come?”

“No, he hasn’t.”

A medic kept the stretcher-bearers moving. “Your Majesty, we have to get him to the infirmary. You’re welcome to come with us.” The king walked beside the stretcher as it was carried out of the gate room, the medic explaining his son’s condition.

“Colonel,” Hammond asked once the immediate necessities were dealt with, “what happened?”

Without skipping a beat, Jack answered, “War games for us, real war for them.”

“What do you mean?”

Jack sat down on the ramp, took off his hat and ran his fingers across his hair. “They were under attack by Hermes or Pan’s Jaffa. They were after something in that temple Daniel’s team went to. Only thing is that none of us knew about it! We thought they were involved in the war games.”

“Jaffa haven’t been to that planet in over a thousand years,” Hammond said aloud.

“Well, I guess they thought it was time to drop by and check up on things.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

PART 3

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

George Hammond had written countless mission reports over his career. It was part and parcel of being in the military. Red tape and paperwork were the lifeblood of the military, and he had contributed more than his share to the massive pile of papers during his career – much of it since he had been at the SGC.

He thought he’d seen almost everything imaginable over the last seven years: aliens, foothold emergencies, his people under the influence of alien technology, body switching, body changes, black holes, government conspiracies and close calls. There were successful missions, disastrous missions, missions that fell in-between – he’d written up the reports for every single one of them. Some were ridiculously easy to write, others cumbersome and difficult, but all were complete with the correct fonts and bullet points, typed up in triplicate in a neat, crisp military style.

This report was unlike any others in his experience. It was one foul-up after another, one huge mistake after another, and he had been party to some of those mistakes. He refused to use the word misunderstanding. That word didn’t come close enough to the unmitigated disaster-that-became-a-bare-survival-story that this last mission became.

He saw the stacks of personnel files sitting on his desk, files of the members of the expedition. A single sheet of paper giving a preliminary medical report lay on top. There were going to be far too many autopsies. He’d been briefed on the minimal facts by Doctor Fraiser after a cursory examination of the survivors by the medical teams, but that was all he had asked for at the time. He heard very little about what happened from those survivors. That information told Hammond some of what he needed to know.

He wanted to postpone the formal debriefings for a few days at least. Emotions were running high, they’d run even higher once the survivors learned the truth about what happened so a calm, rational conversation would be unlikely. A few days would allow some recuperation to take place.

What happened had been bad. He’d seen the evidence of it in the survivors’ eyes, had heard it in their voices. He saw the pictures the UAV had taken. He knew what the full debriefing would entail.

The sheer magnitude of what those brave men and women did could not be understated. They did what few military personnel had accomplished in their careers, and they had done it without the experience of years in the service. There would be commendations and medals awarded – many posthumously, but even these trivial rewards couldn’t make up for what they lost, what the SGC lost. Trust was a fragile thing, and these individuals had spent horrendous hours watching their trust be kept alive by the barest thread but would see it dashed when the truth was learned.

He picked up one of the folders. This man… he’d been the key to snatching life from the jaws of death or who at least turned certain defeat into a bittersweet victory of some measure. The verbal reports from the conscious survivors were unanimous about Doctor Jackson’s actions.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The infirmary was filled with wounded, the morgue with bodies. Janet called in every member of the medical staff to deal with the emergency. Staff weapon wounds were the most prevalent with a variety of other wounds scattered among the patients. It was the “sunburns” that concerned her; sunburns caused when Doctor Lee opened the chest and a bright light shone out of the temple, according to the reports. Janet believed that this was the reason for their slight disorientation and near unconscious state they seemed reluctant to wake up from. When they were awake, they were tired and hurting. Janet heard quite a bit of what happened, but not in a complete series of events. Mostly, it was a smattering of this happened then, then that happened after followed with some I’m not sure what happened next. All she could positively tell Hammond was that there was no radiation poisoning – not this time.

Janet had tended to the most seriously injured, taking only a moment every now and then to check on other patients and read their charts.

Then there were the autopsies. Three were completed and the results on her desk:

Doctor Joshua Redding: killed by P-90 fire after being taken host by a goa’uld symbiote.

Sergeant Morrison: massive blood loss from shots received by staff weapon fire.

Colonel Joseph Weaver: killed by staff weapon fire

The few Jaffa bodies brought back for study were charred almost beyond recognition, but they had no symbiotes in their pouches. Janet guessed that those with the symbiotes were the ones turned to dust; the ones without the symbiotes were badly burned by the device they encountered. A weapon with the power to stop an advancing army in their tracks had to have the top brass already chomping at the bit to go back to Cyllene to retrieve it – if they knew about it yet. Live human troops being “sunburned” would mean nothing to them if there were no lasting damage. Janet hadn’t heard any news concerning that.

Janet had work to do. She didn’t have time to wonder about what the military was going to do with a weapon that seemed only lethal to Jaffa.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Do we know anything new?” Hammond asked the rest of SG-1 as he joined them outside the infirmary.

“Not yet, sir,” Carter answered quickly.

“Prince Telemachus?”

Carter shuffled a bit on her feet. “He’s resting. He wasn’t badly wounded, but bad enough to warrant a stay in the infirmary. The king is with him now.”

“And Doctor Jackson?”

“He hasn’t said much since he’s been here, sir,” Sam told him. “Doctor Fraiser has him sedated, so he’s been rather… quiet.”

“Too quiet,” Jack added. He leaned against the wall, willing the cool metal to try and take away some of his red-hot anger. “He woke up for a while, but he didn’t say anything. Doc kicked us out so they could do some tests. She’s worried about that sunburn they’ve all got.”

“I’ve ordered an investigation into the incident –“

“Sir,” Jack interrupted him, “right now, I don’t think calling what happened on Cyllene an incident is going to go over very well with any of them. We were having war games, they were fighting for their lives and we didn’t help them. And when they find THAT out --”

“We didn’t know they were in danger, Colonel,” Hammond reminded him.

“Do you really think that’s gonna matter to them?” Jack was teetering on the edge of insubordination, but the situation allowed Hammond to give him a little leeway.

“At this moment, no, I don’t. It’s too early for any of them to be able to look at this objectively, and it’s far too early for me to try to force the issue,” Hammond took a breath and glanced into the infirmary. The nurses and doctors were moving quickly, trying to get as many of the tests run as possible. “We have a bit of damage control to do. Every one of those scientists and soldiers were valuable assets to the SGC, and we’ve lost them. Their families will be screaming for explanations and I’m sure the survivors will want answers for our actions as well. Several of the Cyllenian scholars were also killed. Washington has informed me that the trade agreement with Cyllene must be maintained at all costs regardless of what happened, and we are to do anything and everything necessary to see that happens. General Vidrine will be here tomorrow, so I’ve asked Doctor Fraiser to see if anyone from the temple would be able to give us an overview of what happened before we have a formal debriefing in a few days.”

“Will the king be there?” Jack asked.

“No. Prince Telemachus is stable, so King Lycaeon will return to Cyllene to make funeral arrangements for Prince Orestes. We’ve been informed that Minister Xenocles led a search part that found Prince Orestes and Doctor Sanders near the edge of the woods. They’d been shot by a staff weapon and dismembered. They’ll bring Doctor Sanders’ body back here as soon as they can.”

Jack leaned his head back. “Dismembered,” he muttered. “Do we know the story behind that?”

“It’s been suggested that they were ambushed from behind,” the general answered sadly. “They were shot first, that much is certain. We’re not certain that they had died before…” He turned to Teal’c who had been standing as if on guard by the infirmary doors. “Teal’c, is this behavior usual for Jaffa?”

“It has been known to be,” was the answer. “This method has been utilized to strike fear in the hearts of enemy combatants if such a method is deemed useful in an offensive maneuver. It is possible that the Jaffa responsible believed that anyone seeing the bodies would either surrender or flee in terror.”

“In other words, do anything to undermine the enemy’s resolve?” Hammond added.

“Yes. There have been instances in which a Jaffa will behave in such a manner without provocation.”

“Psychological warfare,” Hammond stated flatly.

“I don’t care what you call it!” Jack verbally exploded as he angrily paced the corridor. “That bastard butchered them after he shot them. That’s the type of Jaffa they were up against, and we sat back at the camp drinking coffee and talking about Alexander and Napoleon and --”

“Colonel!” Hammond raised his voice to get everyone’s attention, not loud enough to alarm anyone in the infirmary. “You. Did. Not. Know.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jack said. “Daniel just pulled off the biggest Hail Mary we’ve ever had and no one was there! He was calling for help. They were in trouble. We didn’t go. It won’t matter a damn to any of them that we didn’t know.”

Ahem. Sirs?”

Hammond turned at the sound of Janet’s voice. “Doctor?”

“I have a little more information. My guess is that they are suffering from, well, the closest definition I can come to is a form of radiation sickness but not a type that is fatal or harmful in any way. The device they used at the temple emitted a form of light that has affected them temporarily.”

“Temporarily?” Jack asked quickly. “You sure?”

Janet shuffled her feet a little. “No, sir, I’m not 100% certain. I do know that the effects are wearing off. Their skin is returning to its normal color. Some are more awake than others and staying awake longer so I’ve been able to ascertain more of what happened there. It’s my preliminary diagnosis that the device’s effects might wear off in a day or two. Their other wounds are, well, more treatable.”

Sam shook her head. “Will they be okay?”

“Physically? I believe so. General, I haven’t told them yet about the war games going on. I didn’t know how you wanted to handle that.”

Hammond took a deep breath. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle that either.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t, sir,” Jack told him. “Maybe you need to let me talk to Daniel before telling the others what happened? It was his command, his mission, and he deserves the right to know the truth and how badly we screwed up.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mutterings and sideways glances were becoming the norm that day. The doctors and nurses were being very cryptic and changing the subject whenever any of them asked about the battle. Just earlier, they’d heard Hammond and O’Neill’s outside in the hallway, their voices raised but their words were unintelligible.

“What do you think?” Parker whispered over to Labinski who was in the next bed.

Oscar shook his head carefully. That headache was still pounding in his ears. “Dunno. They’re worried about us, but they’re acting … strange.”

“Very,” Parker yawned. “I think something else is going on. Look over there,” he pointed his finger toward Daniel’s bed. Jack was sitting next to him, his face set in a frown – and something more. “I’m telling you, if half the stories I’ve heard about SG-1 are true, then something else was going on to make O’Neill that pissed off. He’d be worried about a teammate in trouble, but why is he angry? And look at everyone else.” He waved his hand around slightly. “Those are some strange expressions. And tie that in with who’s here in the infirmary.” This time, he pointed out the patients. “It’s just us.”

“So?” Oscar asked.

“It’s only us. Us from the temple. Where’s everyone else? Mulroney and Henson? What about Bra’tac and his Jaffa? What about the rescue team Hammond would have sent out? There’s no such thing as a battle going on without someone getting hurt, and we can’t be the only ones who got hurt.”

Labinski gazed around the room as he found a more comfortable position to lie in. “Maybe there were no other survivors.”

Parker didn’t answer that. The idea that they were the only ones to survive… that was not something he wanted to think about.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

THE NEXT DAY

Corporal Newsome sat on his infirmary bed waiting for Doctor Fraiser to tell him if he could leave. He’d had about all of the poking, prodding and IVs he could take. He didn’t care if he was exhausted and shot. He was patched up and given painkillers that didn’t make him feel like he was walking in plastic. Now, he wanted to leave the infirmary, climb into his on-base bunk and sleep for about a week without any nightmares or nurses waking him up every few hours to take his vitals.

Other survivors were in various states of recuperation and consciousness. Bill Lee had been released earlier and was back for a follow-up test the doctor wanted to run. Doctor Jackson was dozing off, unable to carry on a conversation with Major Carter who was sitting beside him. Others… well, they were alive and the doctors were nailing them back together.

Something was up though. No one was talking to them, not really. Even Colonel O’Neill hadn’t said anything of any real importance to Daniel since they got back to Earth. Sure, they were telling them some things about the temple siege, but then they would only talk about stuff that was unimportant and conversational, very light and about anything other than what happened. Was it taboo to discuss the slaughter? Was the brass giving the survivors a brief break before questioning? Maybe something else was going on?

“Corporal?” Doctor Fraiser approached, clipboard in hand. “All your tests came back. Your wounds aren’t bad enough to keep you cooped up in here. That’s good. However, you didn’t get off lightly. The transfusion helped, but I want to keep an eye on you. I’m not going to keep you here in the infirmary because, basically, we just don’t have the room, but I would like you to stay on the base in one of the infirmary’s VIP rooms and come back tomorrow to let me do a follow up. I’m a little worried that there might be aftereffects of the device at a later time. Right now, no one seems to be suffering from any negative symptoms, but that’s just something I want to check.”

Infirmary VIP room? No problem there. The beds were more comfortable than the bunks. They had built in monitors to keep track of vitals so no nurse had to come in every few hours to check them. He could get some real sleep. “Yes, ma’am. What about the others?”

Doctor Fraiser glanced around the room, then focused on her clipboard. “They’re improving.”

She didn’t say more. Medical protocols dictated that some things couldn’t be discussed with anyone else. But, “Everyone’s gonna live though. Right?”

“Yes. Everyone that made it back is going to live.”

The doctor was being too evasive. Something was happening. Or was it about to happen?

“General Hammond would like to talk to someone who was at the temple,” Fraiser continued. “I need to know if you feel strong enough to give a statement.”

“I think I’m good to go,” he told her. “I feel fine.”

She looked skeptically at him through squinted eyes for a moment. “All right. I’ll inform the general that you’re on your way. In the meantime, you’re not to move until I get you a wheelchair. I think you’d fall down if you even tried to stand.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A medic rolled Newsome’s wheelchair into the briefing room. The slight exertion moving from infirmary bed to wheelchair proved to him that he was more hurt than he thought. He knew he looked bad; certainly, he wasn’t presentable enough to talk to generals. Since he could put one proverbial foot in front of the other and could speak coherently, he wanted them to know what happened, so he resolved to do his best. Hammond was seated at the table, General Vidrine and Colonel O’Neill sitting on his right. The general indicated that Newsome should move to the spot on his left and even had a pot of coffee sitting on the table.

They wanted this report to be informal? No problem. He could handle informal for once. He nodded at the medic who turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him.

Hammond cleared his throat. “Corporal, I know you’re exhausted and hurting. We’re going to hold off on the full debriefing for a few more days, but we would like to have a brief overview of what happened on the planet. That is, if you feel strong enough to make a statement.” The general’s voice was very calm and reassuring. Newsome didn’t know what to think. Looking at the others in the room, he thought that General Vidrine looked annoyed and Colonel O’Neill – the colonel looked annoyed and a bit angry. Still, he didn’t get the impression that the anger was directed at him.

No, O’Neill was angry at something else.

Or someone else.

“Corporal?” Hammond prompted him. “Can you tell us what happened the day you encountered the Jaffa?”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir,” he said as he allowed himself to relax a little. “We went to the temple early. Sergeant Morrison, Major Barnett and myself were assigned to go with the scientists first. Colonel Weaver, Corporal Mulroney and Private Henson would follow later after they contacted the SGC with the morning report. Once there, the scientists found all sorts of things to keep them busy and Prince Orestes showed Doctor Jackson this huge chest. Doctor Jackson and Doctor Lee said the chest was rather remarkable and started to work on deciphering the text with Doctor Evans while the others were searching through the rest of the entry chamber.”

Vidrine interrupted. “Is the chest important?”

“Very, sir. I’ll get to that. Later, Major Barnett got a radio call from Colonel Weaver about Jaffa being on the planet, he’d contacted the SGC already and said that Bra’tac was already there on our left flank.”

“You heard him say this?” Vidrine inquired sharply.

“His transmission was broken up, sir. We only got a few words but he repeated them. That’s what we were able to piece together through the distortion.”

“I see,” Vidrine waved his hand. “That explains a great deal. Go on.”

“We knew we could be cut off and the gate could be taken if we didn’t get back, so we left the temple and started back for the stargate using one of the paths the princes’ knew. We found Colonel Weaver’s body and that was when we were first attacked by the Jaffa. We lost several people there. We retreated to the temple and made our stand. It was good ground for a defense.”

“Did you try contacting Mulroney and Henson?” Vidrine asked.

“Yes, sir. We’re not sure if any message got through though. Our radio got shot. I think the wires got burned through and the receiver got wasted, but Doctor Parker could tell you more about that. He kept trying to fix it. We couldn’t hear anything from the camp. We weren’t expecting to because there was interference, but we were hoping someone heard us. I think we did get one transmission back saying something about keeping radio silence, but that was it. Colonel Weaver’s message had been broken up, but we could receive some of what he said since he was closer.”

Vidrine nodded his head slightly. “So the closer the source of the transmission was to the temple, the clearer the signal. Please, continue.”

“That evening, there were a few skirmishes by a few Jaffa here and there, but no outright charges from all the Jaffa at one time. I still don’t understand that. We held them off as best we could, but we lost more people during the fighting.” He noticed that Jack was looking at a piece of paper – he’d seen Doctor Jackson with that same piece of paper on the planet. “We kept trying to radio for help. When night fell, the Jaffa made a camp of their own because I think they knew they didn’t have any way to advance in the dark. They couldn’t see where we were. Before dawn, Doctor Jackson suggested that it was just light enough for someone to see, so he thought we needed to try to reach Bra’tac who was supposed to be somewhere on our flank. Jackson was going to go himself, but since he had the most experience fighting Jaffa, we couldn’t risk him. Prince Orestes and Doctor Sanders volunteered. We drew the Jaffa’s attention while they made their way into the woods. The attacks became more fierce, ended up being hand-to-hand combat at times. Some of the symbiotes of the Jaffa we killed took a few scientists as hosts who turned on us. We had to shoot them.”

O’Neill leaned forward, his hands clasped on the table in front of him. “You didn’t have a choice, Corporal.”

“No, sir, we didn’t. That doesn’t make it any easier though. Anyway, we were able to kill a few symbiotes from Jaffa who fell near us to keep that from happening. At some point, more Jaffa showed up. At first, we thought it was Bra’tac and his people, but they weren’t. They were Hermes’ Jaffa as well, but they were fighting the ones that were attacking us. I think some of them tried taking our attackers prisoner, don’t hold me to that, and the fighting got pretty fierce between them. I think some got away, but I wouldn’t make any bets on me remembering that part correctly.”

“What about this caduceus thing I’ve heard some of you mention? What was that?” the colonel asked.

“I’m not sure about all the details, sir – ”

“That’s all right,” O’Neill said quietly. “Just tell us what you can.”

“It was in the chest, we think. From what I heard, I think Doctor Jackson thought that it might have been a trap set up by Hermes. That if you open the chest that had the caduceus in it, it would kill all the Jaffa and Goa’uld but then Doctor Jackson yelled that it wouldn’t kill us. I don’t know how he came to that conclusion. Doctor Jackson had Doctor Lee open the chest, there was this light that lit up the entire hillside and that pretty much incinerated the Jaffa that were left and knocked us on our – uh, knocked us out. I think the ones without the symbiotes just got burned, the ones with them got turned to dust, but I’m really not trusting my memory on that. I may have dreamed that part.”

Vidrine sat back, his mouth pursed in a thin line. “What happened then?”

“I’m not sure, sir. The next thing I remember clearly is Colonel O’Neill and the rest of SG-1 being there on the battlefield. We were brought home after that. It seemed like it took a long time to get back to base. I slept most of the way back. Or I was unconscious. I don’t know which.”

There was a heavy silence from the three officers that Newsome didn’t understand. What else was going on?

Whatever was wrong, Vidrine seemed the most confused. “At no time did you receive a clear radio message from the base camp?”

“No, sir. I think the signal was being jammed or there was some kind of other interference.”

“So you heard nothing of what was going on at the base camp?”

“No. We figured if the Jaffa did what they normally do, they’d try taking control of the gate, so I assumed that any reinforcements the SGC sent were trying to hold it. That’s SOP. Once they defeated the Jaffa, then they could get to the temple and help us.”

Newsome couldn’t stifle a small yawn, and luckily, General Hammond had enough information at the moment. “Son, why don’t you go get some rest? We’ll need you to speak at the full debriefing as well.” He motioned for the guard to call the medic back in and assist the corporal.

Newsome nodded his head. “Yes, sir. Thank you sir.”

Just as he was being wheeled away, General Vidrine asked one more question. “Corporal, it seems that Doctor Jackson had command during this incursion. Why is that?”

Newsome thought that was a strange question. “He had more experience than the rest of us put together. Major Barnett himself said that the scientists would listen to him better than they would to a soldier they knew was an off-world rookie, more or less, and since it was mostly scientists doing the fighting, it made sense that Daniel was helping Barnett. After the major was killed, Daniel was in charge.”

“You saw nothing wrong with this?” Vidrine continued.

Was that what was wrong? Were they upset that a civilian was leading the defense? “No, General. I didn’t. Doctor Jackson knows his job and ours, and he knows how to fight. If his being in charge is what kept as many of us alive for as long as we were, I’m all for putting him in charge of any SG team we’ve got. I know this is just my opinion, sir, but if Doctor Jackson hadn’t been there, none of us would have made it out alive. The scientists followed his lead, and they were the main source of our defense.”

“I understand your feelings on this, Corporal –”

“Do you, sir?” Newsome interrupted. “Begging the general’s pardon and meaning no disrespect, but you’ve never been through the gate or battled the Jaffa. Doctor Jackson has, lots of times. He’s died protecting people – Colonel O’Neill can vouch for that. Daniel’s died more than once protecting him. He may be a civilian, but he’s the highest-ranking civilian at the base and any soldier here would follow him into a battle if he called it, sir. He’s earned that kind of respect because he’s got the credentials. He doesn’t give up, he doesn’t run from a fight and he won’t stand by and watch good people get killed when he can stop it. He’s earned his reputation the hard way, General.” Newsome couldn’t control his temper at that moment. He knew, suddenly, he knew that they wanted to blame Colonel Weaver or Doctor Jackson for something.

“We know, Corporal,” Hammond said in a tired but gentle voice. “You’re right. Doctor Jackson is a credit to this base. The fact that as many of you survived is testament to his leadership skills and experience.”

Newsome’s voice came fast, the words tumbling one over the other as he explained again to Hammond. “Major Barnett asked him to help -- help, sir -- get the scientists to work together and defend themselves. Give them the ‘how-to’s’ and ‘here’s how’ about the Jaffa. Help them since they didn’t have his experience. The major didn’t ask him to take command of the defenses, just help him lead the scientists because he knew that was the best way to get the scientists to fight together. They’d listen to Jackson, sir. Like I said, he’s a big reason we’re alive.” Newsome was adamant. They did what they had to do when they had to do it. It worked. “When Barnett was killed, the scientists were looking to Daniel, not us. I don’t even think he wanted to do it, but he did and he did a good job, sir.”

Hammond stood and placed a hand on Newsome’s shoulder. “Of that, I have no doubt. I think that’s enough for today, Corporal. Why don’t you get some rest?”

“Yes, sir.” Newsome saluted and left.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hammond sat back down at the table, the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders. He felt far older than he was. His people, mostly civilians, alone, fending for themselves against incredible odds, most perishing while holding their position and keeping a weapon away from their enemy. He could guess what was going through their minds, how the unfortunate ones spent their last moments. Barnett had done the right thing, the only thing to get the civilians to fight together without any argument. Daniel Jackson had what it took to pull them together.

But not one of them knew that there had been war games going on.

“Tell me, General,” Vidrine sounded very officious at that moment, “is it customary for your officers and enlisted personnel to turn the command of a military operation over to a civilian?”

“No, sir, it isn’t, and that’s not what happened at the temple. Had this been a military operation, something very different would have happened. We would have had more experienced personnel who have fought Jaffa armies guarding them. This expedition was a civilian undertaking under the command of Doctor Jackson on a planet where no goa’uld has set foot for one thousand years. If Major Barnett believed that their best chance of survival was in obtaining Doctor Jackson’s assistance in leading the scientists, then I’m not going to second-guess a command decision during a battle. From what we’ve heard, Doctor Jackson wasn’t in command initially. Major Barnett was every step of the way until he was killed. No, General. It is not customary to turn command of a military operation over to a civilian, but if that were to happen, there is not another civilian at this base more qualified to command than Daniel Jackson.”

“I’ve read the mission reports, General. Doctor Jackson is an exceptionally qualified archaeologist and linguist; however –”

“Sir,” Hammond took a breath. He was not going to let any of his people take the fall for this debacle, “I have no doubt that Doctor Jackson handled himself in an exemplary fashion, one that would make any member of this command proud to say they served under him in that fight. I also have no doubt that the survivors will agree that Doctor Jackson did a soldier’s job of leading the defense of the temple, protecting the artifact the Jaffa were trying to apprehend and the lives of the people on his team. I also have no doubt that after the debriefing, you will agree.”

“I can understand loyalty toward those under your command; however, we are talking about a situation that brought about the deaths of many scientists and SG-17.”

“Situation, General?” Hammond said, his voice edged with controlled anger. “I don’t call what happened a situation. This was a tragedy. We lost valuable people on that planet. Finding an Ancient’s weapon does not in any way mitigate or eliminate that fact. Doctor Jackson did something I doubt very many people here could have done and survived – he helped lead civilians against a trained army of Jaffa. My report to the Joint Chiefs will include commendations of bravery and extreme heroism for those involved, both those that survived and those who were killed.”

Hammond stared directly at Vidrine, knowing he was showing all his cards. There was no way he was going to allow Vidrine to railroad one of his best people just so the brass could have a scapegoat. No way. The blame would fall on the heads that it belonged on.

O’Neill broke the silence. “Sir, I’d like to head back to the infirmary. I’ll have my letters of commendations and letters of recommendation on your desk by morning. I’ll see to it that the posthumous medals paperwork is finished too. I sent SG-17 to that temple myself… with your permission, sir, I’ll write up the paperwork on that.”

“Of course, Colonel. Dismissed.”

Once Jack was gone, General Vidrine sat back. “General –”

“If you’ll excuse me, sir, I have a great deal of paperwork to start before the debriefing, and the president has asked me to call him with any information we learned from this preliminary meeting.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Alone for the moment, Vidrine tapped his fingers on the table in disgust. The entire scenario was making more sense. Henson, Mulroney and Weaver got the news about the games, Weaver went off to tell Jackson at the temple, his transmission wasn’t clear and he was killed before he could get there. When the soldiers guarding the gate saw the ships fly in, they didn’t think anything of it. They thought it was rebel Jaffa getting there early.

There was no blame to be placed anywhere. It was bad timing. That’s all. Just plain bad timing.

It had all been a misunderstanding.

The written reports would reflect that. He would see to that. There would be no blame assigned to anyone. This was only a setback. It wouldn’t stop future war games. The project was still operational.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Inside the base, there was no way to tell if it was day or night except for the very small a.m. or p.m. on the digital clock on the wall. When Daniel woke, his glasses were nowhere to be found, so he couldn’t see the time at all, a.m. or p.m. notwithstanding. Whatever sedative he’d been given had worked its way through his system, and he felt the lingering disconnected feeling that accompanied it as it slowly receded.

A quick glance around the infirmary showed him that every bed was taken, but not everyone that had survived was there. Some must have been released he thought, but how many? Certainly some of the soldiers defending the gate were wounded? Daniel didn’t want to think of how many were killed. His own group –

“Hey,” he heard a voice beside him say.

He turned his head a bit more and saw Jack sitting next to his bed. That was a bit surprising given how much paperwork and follow-up the second-in-command of a base had after a major battle, but there he was, nursing a cup of coffee and munching on a Twinkie.

“Hey,” Daniel said, clearing his throat a bit. “Breakfast or dinner?”

“Neither. More of a snack while I was waiting for you to wake up again. Doc’s happy juice had you asleep for a while. She said you needed to heal up a bit.”

Daniel nodded his head, not really understanding his friend’s nonchalance about recent events. “What are the final numbers?” he asked.

Jack finished off the Twinkie and put down the coffee cup. He picked up Daniel’s glasses and handed them to him, then, he leaned forward… Jack was stalling. Something worse was wrong than Daniel had suspected.

“What?” Daniel asked.

“Five of your people came back alive, that’s including you. Plus Newsome, Telemachus and two of the scholars, Menelaos and Theophran.” Then Jack fell silent.

Daniel didn’t have the strength to sit up, but he did have enough to turn more toward his friend. “I knew it wasn’t many. What about the people defending the gate?”

Jack looked around the room, looked at the clock, looked at his watch, glanced at the other patients – anywhere but at Daniel. More evasion. More stalling.

“Jack?”

Jack tapped his fingers on his leg, blew out a breath – what was going on? “No one was defending the gate.” Jack took a breath and then looked Daniel straight in the eye. “At least, not the way you think. The fact is that we were having a war game against Bra’tac and no one knew you were in trouble.”

What?

War game?

No one knew?

“What do you mean, a war game and no one knew?”

Jack scooted his chair closer to the bed and said in a low voice, “It all started a couple of months ago. Remember when Vidrine wanted to have a series of war games off world instead of shutting down the SGC every few months? Well…”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The next morning came soon enough, and with it, the terrible news of the truth behind what had happened on the planet had spread throughout the base. All the survivors of the temple had been told officially about the war games, the base camp hearing some of their calls for help but thinking they were involved in the games, not coming to their aid and what happened to SG-17.

Word that the survivors would be needed in a formal debriefing hadn’t helped anyone’s mood. The wounded were to be wheeled into the briefing room, give their statement and then be taken back to the infirmary or released if they were physically able.

Daniel didn’t feel stronger than he had when he first woke up. Still, he told Janet he thought he could sit through a debriefing. Jack wheeled him into the room and helped him into a chair. He sat beside Daniel in case he needed anything from a cup of coffee to a helping hand. Hammond had given him the option to be interviewed first or last and in private given the fact that there were issues with his being a civilian and ultimately leading the mission, but he didn’t want to lose the raw anger he’d built up since hearing about what happened. Being utterly and thoroughly pissed had its advantages if that anger could be channeled and focused. He chose to be interviewed first and under the same conditions as everyone else.

General Hammond and General Vidrine sat across from him, a few other generals and high-ranking officers, some individuals dressed in suits. That many ‘important’ people hadn’t been in that room since Daniel explained how seven points in space charted a course...

Repeating basic facts seemed easy enough once Daniel put his mind into lecture mode. He spoke dispassionately about the attacks. He didn’t leave out a single detail, didn’t stop speaking until… staring directly at General Vidrine, he said, “I understand we have you to thank for this little incident.”

Vidrine shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “To tell the truth, Doctor, this was a tragedy of errors, miscommunications from a number of factors. These war games can be a vital tool in training our personnel to fight Jaffa. I don’t have to tell you the dangers the Goa’uld present.”

“No, General. I’ve seen first hand what they’re capable of. My wife, my brother-in-law, Abydos -- would you like a list of what I’ve seen? Alphabetical order? Numerical order? Order of importance?”

“That won’t be necessary. The reports SG-1 turn in are more than complete. Your accomplishments are well known.” Vidrine was grandstanding? People were dead, and he thought singing praises was going to sweep it all under the rug? “Protecting and securing an Ancient’s weapon –”

“Isn’t the point,” Daniel interrupted. “A lot of good people died out there, and you get to share the blame for it. If I had my choice, I’d destroy that caduceus before letting anyone like you get their hands on it.”

“King Lycaeon may agree to let us study the caduceus, Doctor. Surely you don’t think –”

“He wants the damn thing off his planet only he can’t just hand it over, can he? When or if Hermes goes back to Cyllene, he’ll want his caduceus there, untouched or he might wipe out the entire population. You won’t get within ten miles of that temple now. They’ll probably seal it back up.” There was that edge to Daniel’s voice, the one that always told Jack that the anger that sometimes lurked just beneath the surface was under precarious control. He saw Jack shift in his seat. “He doesn’t have a choice. Hermes has to know the caduceus has been used since his Jaffa didn’t make it back to his ship or from sensors that were tripped when the Cyllenians first went into the chamber. It’s not coincidence that the Jaffa came just at that time. If Hermes has sent anyone else down there, they’ll find out that there’s nothing left but charred bodies and piles of dust. And if those writings we found are accurate, that caduceus was put there to trap Anubis. Do you think Anubis will fall for that trap now that we’ve tripped it? He could show up and destroy the planet. He doesn’t care if it’s protected by a treaty or not. We’ve put the Cyllenians in a great deal of danger because of what happened at the temple.”

“But you did a good job, Doctor Jackson,” Vidrine said, a proud look on his face. “Had it not been for the war games –“

“Had it not been for the war games,” Daniel interrupted him, “a lot of people would still be alive and Cyllene wouldn’t be in danger of a goa’uld attack.”

To anyone who had seen Daniel angry, they knew it was a terrible sight to behold, but this wasn’t anger. This was utter contempt. That meant a direct and vicious surgical strike.

Perhaps a strike that Jack could mitigate? He leaned over and whispered, “Uh, Daniel, he IS a general –”

Daniel didn’t bother to whisper. “Who jeopardized the lives of a lot of innocent people by his decision.”

Vidrine cleared his throat. “General Hammond did choose Cyllene as the site for the games.”

“No, he didn’t,” Daniel told him bluntly. “You did. You pushed it. The king wanted to learn about military tactics, so you were the one who decided that Cyllene was the place to stage the games like the king’s own personal half-time show. General Hammond only told the king what the games entailed. You’re not going to put the blame on him when you were the one who decided what to do. Those deaths rest on your conscience, if you even have one.”

Oh, yeah. Utter contempt.

Vidrine looked uncomfortable, but only to the practiced eye. He was a veteran soldier who knew how to make himself look like he was calm, cool and collected on the outside while in a stressful situation, but when Daniel went for the surgical strike, that ability fell by the wayside.

“I’m certain that it may seem that way to you, Doctor,” Vidrine explained. Was there a tremble in his voice? “However, military practices can seem unusual to an outsider.”

“And who would that outsider be, General?” Daniel countered. No tremor in his voice. It was strong and steady. “I’ve been here long enough to know all your military rules and regulations. I’ve read your rulebook. Would you like me to quote it to you? By the number?”

Jack and Hammond glanced at each other. Neither said anything, neither stopped Daniel from stepping over that invisible line of disrespect which was unusual for them, but then again, maybe not. Maybe insubordination from a civilian would give them a bit of vicarious satisfaction.

“No, Doctor Jackson, that won’t be necessary.” Vidrine had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of being a general – the arrogance of being in a command position for too many years had let him forget that rank didn’t equal knowledge or experience. More to the point, Daniel Jackson could play the game on Vidrine’s ground without the obligatory military protocol, and he could play it well. Vidrine wasn’t going to come out of this conversation without a blemish, but he might come out of with some shred of dignity. “The truth is that decisions were made and the resulting conflict was unforeseen. The military deal with situations like that every day. We did what we thought was necessary and warranted. I’m certain that once you consider all possible –”

“Consider?” Daniel muttered loudly. “You screwed up and now you’re embarrassed. You’re wondering how badly this is going to affect your record and how bad the punishment’s going to be.” Daniel stood, O’Neill grabbing his arm to keep him steady. “Now you’re trying to worm your way out of taking responsibility for your own actions and putting the blame on someone else. I think it’s obvious just how honorable a general you are.” He turned, shoved the wheelchair away from him and left but not without one final remark. “Tell us something, General. Are you embarrassed because you screwed up or because a bunch of civilians did something that only a trained group of soldiers is supposed to be able to do? Humiliated at the mere thought that we survived while the military personnel sat back and did nothing?” He didn’t wait for an answer. Daniel limped out of the room, leaving the wheelchair behind.

O’Neill looked to Hammond, raised an eyebrow and Vidrine saw Hammond jerk his head to the side, an unspoken order to follow Jackson.

As soon as the two men were gone, there was a long silence. Finally, Vidrine spoke to the assembly. “I believe Doctor Jackson to still be under a great deal of stress and in some pain from his wounds. His anger needed a target, and I was the most convenient one.”

“I have no doubt that the other survivors may feel the same way,” one of the suits said. “There will be a thorough investigation, General. The president is very interested in the outcome as well as the events leading up to it.”

“Of course,” Vidrine readily agreed. Now that he was able to talk without confrontation, he could spin his own tale. “The preliminary reports are all pointing to a miscommunication starting with Colonel Weaver’s alert to Major Barnett. It had a domino or rather a snowball effect afterwards.”

There were a few nods of heads, a few scribblings of pens on paper. Vidrine watched them, gauged their reactions. Miscommunication. He could sell that idea to the president.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

One by one, each survivor made their report to the investigators.

Newsome: “Even if there were war games, I stand by my previous testimony. We were under attack by the Jaffa but we were prepared because of Colonel Weaver’s transmission. Colonel Barnett set up a defense at the temple after we were cut off and he asked Doctor Jackson to help organize the scientists. When Colonel Barnett was killed, Doctor Jackson was in charge. I am well aware that I was next in chain of command and was, militarily speaking, in charge, but Doctor Jackson has much more experience than I have fighting Jaffa. I’m not one to dismiss experience even if it is a little beyond protocol, rules or regulations. We’re alive, and it’s because Doctor Jackson knew a lot more than I did about how Jaffa fight and had some ideas about how to fight back.”

Bill Lee: “We got to the temple, looked around, found the chest and then Colonel Weaver called us to tell us about the Jaffa. He said he’d already contacted the SGC and Bra’tac was there on our left. We tried to get back to the gate but we found the colonel dead on the path. We ran back to the temple and had to fight. They kept coming, we kept dying then Daniel told me to open the chest. He’d figured it out. I did, and it barbecued the Jaffa.”

Simon Parker: “Everyone was shooting at the Jaffa and I was trying to repair the radio. It had got hit. We weren’t receiving anything but static, and I had no idea if it was transmitting very well. We could only hope. We did hear Colonel O’Neill tell us to keep radio silence once, so we thought help was on the way.”

Oscar Labinski: “I thought we were dead. None of us had a clue about what we were doing. Daniel told us to try our best to not get killed. That’s what we did. Every time the Jaffa rushed us, we fired back. Then that second group of Jaffa showed up and fought with the first. Bill opened the chest and there was this light. Whatever happened next, it burned the Jaffa.”

Prince Telemachus: “I was afraid. I have never seen such… I have never experienced anything like that before. My brother and I were handed weapons and Doctor Cardogan and Orestes instructed me in their use. We fought as well as we could, but I fear we may have been more of a hindrance than a help. Even in the face of so much death and destruction, your people continued on. Bravely. They did not give up. When Doctor Jackson decided that our hope could reside in finding this Bra’tac and getting his assistance, he was going to find him. I understand now that going into the woods was very dangerous because of all the Jaffa and Doctor Jackson was needed more at the temple. My brother and Doctor Sanders went. I think my brother knew what he was risking, but I think he believed we had no choice. We weren’t helping much at the temple. Perhaps he could be of more help trying to find your allies.”

Russell Evans: “We deciphered the writings about the chest but we still didn’t know how to open it without getting vaporized. The Jaffa kept coming and shooting at us and here we had this weapon that we didn’t know how to use. It turns out that it was a trap Hermes set for Anubis. He said only a god could go into the chamber and if he opened the chest, the enemy would be turned to dust. That was a lie to get Anubis to open the chest himself. There’s no telling how many booby traps set by Hermes are out there, and we tripped one.”

One by one, the whole story was pieced together, the bits and pieces of eyewitness accounts, what happened from their point of view… it was more than a miscommunication, but who would ever know that? The real truth would get spun into a more mission-friendly story that skirted the real events and relayed a fantasy tale. A half-truth sworn to secrecy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Jack looked in Daniel’s office and saw his friend sitting at the desk, folders and reports in front of him untouched. Daniel was just sitting there. So what if Jack hadn’t taken him directly back to the infirmary. Jack thought that it would be a better idea to let him calm down a little first. After hearing about the other reports, he had a better idea of what happened on that mountain, but what was happening at the SGC concerned him more at that moment.

Jack tapped on the door. “Can I come in?”

Daniel didn’t react, so Jack walked in anyway. He knew his friend too well to think that what happened was just another bad event swept under the rug. Daniel was taking it personally.

“Vidrine was right, you know. You did real good out there.”

“They’re still dead.”

Command school didn’t teach you how to deal with someone who wasn’t trained for command to face troop losses that died under his command and certainly not catastrophic losses. No, that only came with experience, and Daniel’s experiences hadn’t been of this sort before. Yes, there was the occasional loss of a soldier or scientist, perhaps even two, perhaps an entire team, but this was different. These were under his command in a battle.

“I know. But look what you did. You took on the bad guys at maybe 5 to 1 odds, and you didn’t let them get the caduceus. You were in command of civilians, scholars, a few soldiers, and you won. Daniel, that’s a huge accomplishment. Newsome wrote out the details of some of the defenses you set up. The brass will be talking about that for years.”

“No one came,” Daniel told him. “We called for help even if we weren’t sure anyone could hear us, but no one came. Then we find out that all of you heard us and ignored us. Trained soldiers whose job it is to protect the civilians.” Daniel looked at Jack squarely in the eyes. If looks could kill… “I’ve noticed that no one has been punished for dereliction of duty.”

Daniel wasn’t just angry at what happened, he was angry with him! He had good reason to be. Hell, Jack was angry with himself. “No, no one’s been punished for anything. Everyone thought that you were involved with the war games. We didn’t know it was for real.” How was he supposed to apologize for letting Daniel down when he didn’t know he had? “I wish I’m sorry could make up for it. I know it won’t.” There was more, but Jack couldn’t figure out what yet, and Daniel wasn’t talking. He did what came naturally. He kept talking and hoped he stumbled onto whatever else was wrong. “I wasn’t there, but I’ve got a good idea what you went through –“

“No, you don’t.”

Daniel sat silently for a moment, as if trying to decide what to say. “I signed up for a job to translate an ancient artifact. I did it in two weeks and it took over a year to get paid for it. I never thought I’d have something like this land in my lap.”

Keep him talking, O’Neill, Jack thought to himself. “It was a rough gig.”

“It wasn’t going in. I’ve been in charge of expeditions over the years. Some of them in some unsettled areas. There was this one time when I was working a dig in Syria and we were attacked by guerillas. We lost three of our people to them, four more to friendly fire when the army arrived.”

Daniel slump back in his chair. “The military did a background check on you before you got hired, but not everything’s in there. That incident got mentioned though. It said you were able to get your people out of the line of fire by taking them through some tunnels in the city you were excavating. You used the chambers as decoys and ambushed the guerillas when they came after you. The colonel in charge of the excavation’s security praised your actions.”

“Did the report mention that the colonel in charge was the one responsible for letting the guerillas into the area in the first place?”

Jack shook his head. “No. It didn’t.”

“He thought they were reporters and didn’t do a background check on them. There was a cover-up.”

Daniel relaxed slightly. The tension felt somewhat less than it had. “I’m not condoning whatever it was he did, but sometimes things happen and you know the old saying. Hindsight is 20/20. He might have done something that made sense at the time but later on got you into that mess. You’ve seen that happen here a few times. That colonel probably didn’t mean for anything to happen, and it came back to bite him on the ass. He took a shortcut.”

Daniel sat quietly for a little while. Jack felt like he needed that quiet time, but it was an eerie quiet. Finally, when Jack felt that Daniel was able to talk more, he asked, “I know you’re not upset about the mission.”

“No,” Daniel answered, “forget about that being disrupted. I know the Air Force isn’t really interested in our academic or scientific pursuits unless it’s going to get them more weapons. I’m used to that.”

So it was something Daniel wasn’t used to. Something else…

“And you’ve been shot before. I know it hurts like hell, but –”

Daniel’s voice was low. “No, I’m used to getting shot at and having people die around me. Hell, I’m even used to dying myself. That’s nothing new.”

“I know a lot of people died, but it wasn’t your fault.”

Daniel looked at him, really looked at him as if his gaze could blast Jack through the steel walls. “I killed one of my own people because he was taken over by a symbiote. There wasn’t any other choice. He turned his weapons on us.”

“It still wasn’t your fault,” Jack said again, but that wasn’t all of it. This was guilt. Survivor’s guilt. The guilt one felt when they pulled the trigger on someone innocent. “That was the goa’uld, not the host. You had no choice.”

“I sent two people to their deaths. I sent Orestes and Emily out there into that forest to try to get help, and they were cut to pieces. I gave that order. That’s not what I signed on for. Maybe you can live with results like that, but I can’t.”

Jack closed his eyes. That was part of it. Daniel did what he had to, but he also had to make the one decision no commander wanted to make. He had to sacrifice a few to save the many. “You thought that help was there. You made the right call.”

“There was no help, Jack, don’t you get it? We thought that Bra’tac was somewhere out there and all we had to do was hold on until reinforcements arrived. Maybe we would have done something else if we’d know no one was out there!” Daniel’s voice got a little emotional, but then he stopped as if to get control of himself. Finally, he spoke again. “When no one came, we had to try to make contact, only there was no one to make contact with, was there? Orestes and Emily died because they tried to reach a group of Jaffa who weren’t there. They died because I made the decision to try to locate Bra’tac.”

“You made the right decision for the right reasons under combat circumstances and you had bad Intel. I would have done the same thing,” Jack assured him.

“I sent two people to their deaths because of what we heard from Weaver and what we thought was happening. We were on a scientific expedition. The plan to have war games on the same ground where we were working after making a deal with the king about helping him and his scholars – where’s the logic in that? There was no reason to think that anything else was going to happen. There’s no way we could have known to prepare for it. Instead, Vidrine orders the games, and you guys came in and took over our campsite. Didn’t anyone even think of holding the games at a different location on Cyllene? Or waiting until everyone was accounted for and knew what was going on? The games weren’t our idea. They were Vidrine’s. It wasn’t just a case of miscommunication. It was his rush to get people to Cyllene and not giving anyone the time to do what was needed ahead of time. It was his call, and I haven’t seen anyone in the military taking responsibility for any of it, have you?”

That’s what Daniel wanted? Accountability? That, Jack could handle. That, Jack could agree with, even if it probably would never happen. “No, I haven’t, but there will be an investigation and someone will be held accountable.”

“Yeah, someone who didn’t make the call,” Daniel said in a low voice, “like me or Weaver or Barnett, not anyone who staged the games or set up the situation.” Daniel leaned his head back against his seat and folded his arms over his chest. “Someone will have to be the scapegoat, and it won’t be Vidrine, will it?”

“I wouldn’t think so,” Jack muttered. “Weaver was ambushed and Barnett died defending all of you and the Temple. I know it won’t be you, I can promise you that. They’d have to run over me and Hammond and that ain’t gonna happen. You’re getting a couple of medals career Air Force officers would give their eyeteeth for.”

“I don’t want any medals. I don’t deserve them. Let the others have them.”

Exasperated, Jack said, “Daniel, right now, you’re a hero for what you pulled off back there.”

“I’m no hero.”

Jack wanted to laugh at the absurdity of that comment, but the situation was too dire. “Don’t think so? A hero is just someone who does a suicidal stunt in an extreme situation. You’ve done that so many times, you could help write the book.”

That didn’t help.

“Look, I don’t know if the right someone will be held accountable or responsible, but we know what happened and Hammond is hopping mad. A lot of things happened to get things so screwy even if no one was legally at fault.” Jack hoped that his explanation helped, but he knew it wouldn’t. It couldn’t. A lot of good people were killed, two of them died on a mission Daniel had no choice but to send them on, and no one was to blame? That was the crux of the problem -- too many bad things happening in concert to create the situation that Daniel and the others barely walked away from. “We got a message from King Lycaeon. He wants to give all of you the highest award Cyllene can give to anyone. He says thanks to what you and the others did, you kept the temple and the caduceus from Pan and kept their planet safe until Hermes’ Jaffa joined in the fight.”

“I got his son killed.”

“No, the Jaffa killed his son. You helped save his planet.”

Jacksonian guilt was an almost insurmountable emotional wall. How was Jack supposed to help his friend deal with it? Guilt was also a double-edged sword. It kept you from becoming a monster but could hamper your ability to do your job. All of the survivors were going to have to undergo the mandatory shrink sessions, maybe Jack could get Daniel to deal with the situation before then?

“You got into hand-to-hand combat.” Jack knew the answer, but this was as good a place as any to start.

“No choice.”

Okay. The normally garrulous Daniel Jackson was not talking. Bad sign. What to do…. Nudge him again?

“Daniel –“

“What do you want me to say, Jack? Yes, we got into close quarters combat. We took symbiotes from the Jaffa’s pouches and ripped their heads off. I had to shoot Josh because he was taken as a host and he was about to kill a few of us. I sent two people on a suicide mission. I told Bill to open that damn chest and it flash fried all those Jaffa and knocked us out. Maybe you can deal with things like this during the course of a day, but this is a little out of my job description.” Daniel’s voice was getting faster and louder, and quite probably, it was the first truly emotional response he’d had since the battle.

“And you kept as many of your people as you could alive, you included, saved a planet and stopped the bad guys from getting a pretty powerful weapon.”

“And you think that makes things even?”

Sacrifice was part of the military life, but to Daniel, the sacrifice of a life was too great unless it was his own. That’s one reason Daniel’s “soldiering” was respected by the military personnel – he didn’t risk anyone needlessly.

“No, it’ll never be even, it’ll never be fair, and it’s something you damn sure shouldn’t get used to.” Jack leaned forward, and this time, he put all his military experience behind his words, hoping beyond hope that Daniel understood. “You’ve been there when other people have made the same decisions, and I know you didn’t like them. The only reason you accepted them was because it was military personnel who gave the orders and military personnel who carried out those orders, and that’s part of the job. You accepted that a long time ago. No team leader has asked a civilian to do the same thing because it’s not their job. That time you had to give the order to have the submarine torpedoed when Teal’c and I were on board fighting the replicators? That was an isolated incident, but it’s one you handled with a hell of a lot more skill and nerve than most officers I know. But back on Cyllene, you were put in a situation where you had no choice. You didn’t order them to their deaths and you damn sure didn’t get them killed, and I know that’s EXACTLY the way it feels right now because I’ve been in the exact same situation with you.”

That got Daniel’s attention. His head snapped up, his eyes boring into Jack’s. “What?”

“When we dealt with Ra, on Klorel’s ship when you were going to watch our backs after you got half your chest blown off, on Kelowna – look, you’ve been willing to sacrifice your own life too many times to count, and I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve been kept alive and you were the one to risk it all. The guilt doesn’t go away, it never will, but when you look at the greater good, you have to keep the details in perspective or it’ll drive you crazy. One may have to die for the majority to live. You know that. You’ve done that.”

Maybe it was the heartfelt honesty that reached Daniel, maybe it was the fact that the prince and Emily only did what Daniel himself was willing to do and had done on numerous occasions, but Jack could see the anger lift a little. Just a little.

“I can’t make what happened not happen, but I can tell you here and now that if I’d known what you were going through was real, nothing this side of the grave would have stopped me from getting there to help you.”

“I know,” Daniel said.

Time to throw in the clincher. “You still like old movies, don’t you?”

Daniel looked straight at Jack, confused at the question. “What?”

“Old movies. Like Clint Eastwood westerns.”

Daniel shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve watched a few.”

“Clint did this movie called The Outlaw Josey Wales and it pretty much described what no one can teach you. When things look bad and it looks like you’re not going to make it, then you’ve got to get mean. I mean plum mad-dog mean because if you lose your head and you give up, then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.”

Daniel looked as if he was considering what Jack said, but Jack had to press the point home. “You did the right thing. It got bad, and no matter how bad some of it was, you did good. You survived. You kept as many alive as you possibly could against unsurvivable odds, and that’s saying something.” Jack needed Daniel to believe that. Daniel needed to believe that.

“I didn’t get mad-dog mean,” Daniel said in a low voice. “I got desperate.”

“You were out of ammo, most of your people didn’t have your battle experience and a lot of them got killed, all of you were hurt and tired and scared -- you did what you had to do. That playing dead trick worked. You broke one of the biggest rules and it worked for you because you had no choice but to break it.”

Daniel’s forehead wrinkled into a frown. “What biggest rule?”

“You had to let the enemy in your perimeter. It was a last ditch effort to survive. I don’t know if I’d have the guts to give that order myself,” Jack commented. “It’s too ingrained in me to keep the enemy at arm’s length as long as I can. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to do that, but it was the right call.”

Daniel sat back but stared at his desk as if it were the enemy.

“I might make one suggestion though,” Jack added.

“What’s that?”

“When a general is praising your work, it’s a good idea not to cuss him out.”

“I’m not apologizing.”

“No, I don’t think you should either,” Jack suggested. “Hammond probably already did that, but we both think it’s a good idea for Vidrine to realize his little pet project cost too much, and I don’t mean in dollars.”

Jack thought over the conversation as he helped Daniel back to the infirmary. It had meandered a bit, but they had managed to dance around the points that were bothering Daniel as well as talk about some of them head on. Words weren’t going to help much, not yet. It was too soon. The survivors from the temple would have to deal with exactly what had happened and how and why and that anger would explode a few more times once they learned of all of the foul-ups and miscommunications and, yes, betrayal. A lot of trust was lost on that hillside, and it was going to take time to try to rebuild it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The throne room was intensely quiet. Hermes, not quite alone, sat on his throne, gazed out at the mountains outside his windows. He had ordered Pan to be brought to his palace and forced to kneel before him.

All the planning – had it been for nothing?

The telecommunications device sat silently to his right on a tall pedestal. He wasn’t expecting any information that way. The system wasn’t secure, and the entire plan hung on secrecy. His information would come by way of another source, and the code words they normally used in their conversations could be relaxed...

The waiting was interminable.

“My lord?” his new first prime, Sod’ar entered, an object that looked like a flat brick of naquada in his hands. Sod’ar had been trained by Tar’ik and recommended by him to be the first prime of one of Hermes’ offspring. Given Hermes’ trust in Tar’ik, he would trust that his estimation of Sod’ar could mean that he could be trusted to be his new first prime. Time would tell if he was correct.

Hermes took it from him, then nodded. “Sod’ar, I wish you to stay for a moment.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Hermes waved his hand device over the stone, and like a page tuner used on a reading device, words appeared. Hermes read the words once, then again.

Apollo’s correspondence had much to say, but a small fragment of the message was of utmost importance.

This event may work in our favor. If Anubis hears of this incident, then there will be proof of the rumor of an Ancient device on Cyllene. The information will prove the myth true, and Anubis will come to Cyllene. You must move the caduceus into a new receptacle and place it in its chamber. Information must say that all who did see it perished. Anubis must believe that only he can open the receptacle and that it will destroy any attacking Jaffa army. Ascertain if there were any survivors and if they pose a threat to our plan. If so, do not send any Jaffa to eradicate them. That could bring unwanted questions which we would wish to avoid. Send someone less obvious.  

Our trap is still viable. Rumors of Pan’s actions have already reached  the System Lords. I suggest we proceed as we discussed and you deal with Pan in your own way.  I believe that any news of the caduceus will work in our favor in convincing Anubis of its existence.

Apollo seemed confident that there was still hope, but Hermes could read the doubt in the words. Their timetable had just been accelerated. It hadn’t all been for nothing.

Now, what to do with his recalcitrant offspring? Pan’s quest for power and recognition among the System Lords could have triggered disaster. No one could know what he did specifically, but his disobedience against his father could not go unanswered. “What to do with you? Your actions have brought about the deaths of many of my Jaffa, Tar’ik included, my trusted first prime. You betrayed me. You disrespected me. You endangered a protected planet that is in my regime…Sod’ar, Pan is to be restrained in the prison here in the palace. In the deepest, darkest dungeon we have. Chain him to the walls, and he is to remain there under guard until such time as I think him fit to stand before me again. See to it personally.”

Sod’ar bowed his head in acknowledgement and waited behind Pan until he rose from his kneeling position.

“Father –”

“You disobeyed me. For that alone, you should receive a much harsher sentence. Be grateful that you are only to be kept in a cell and aren’t being sentenced to something far worse.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

SGC

Hammond read the completed report.

Death due to Jaffa attack, aided by miscommunication.

It all “looked” clean on paper. Everything had to “look” good on paper, right? Make sure all the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted and explained in that impersonal third person style with bullet points, all signed in triplicate and filed with the requisite departments.

Hammond closed the folder, noting the lack of thickness of it. Had more survived, more eyewitness reports would have been included.

The red phone rang, interrupting his thoughts. He picked up the handset. “This is General Hammond.”

“George, I just read the preliminary report on Cyllene.”

Hadn’t the president already read it? Hammond closed his eyes and sighed. “Yes, Mister President?”

There was a moment of silence before the president said, “I mean the unofficial version. I know this has to be rather… discouraging for the base.”

“It is, sir. Feelings are still running very high at the moment.”

“I have no doubt. Is there anything that can be done in your opinion? Some way to help?”

Hammond had been wondering the same thing. “I honestly don’t know, sir. I was thinking perhaps honoring the expedition team members in some way at the memorial service day after tomorrow. King Lycaeon would like to give the survivors Cyllenian medals as tokens of gratitude for what they did. Also,” how could he broach this subject? “I think some acknowledgement by us of what they did when no help was coming would be in order.”

“I’m of the understanding that we’ve attributed what happened to miscommunication?”

“We have, sir, but even if it’s only for the survivors, I think it may go a long way in trying to deal with what happened and move past it.”

There was silence on the other end. “We’re dealing with some political delicacies here. A civilian leading a battle even if his actions secured the trade agreement with Cyllene, probably losing access to a weapon that could save our collective asses, I’ve got the IOA and Senate Sub-committee breathing down some necks for answers – the only way to salvage it is to say no one will be held publicly responsible for this, George. It’s not going to happen.”

“I know, sir. I also know that right now, those that survived want someone to admit that there was a huge misunderstanding and not sweep it under the rug. I think they want someone to look them in the eye and say ‘we screwed up.’”

Again, silence. “If you think it’ll help, then do it. Don’t admit responsibility, but do admit that the whole mess happened. I have Colonel O’Neill’s letters of commendations on my desk. I’ll have them ready for the memorial service so all the team members can have them, even those who will receive them posthumously.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“They did one hell of a good job, George. I’m surprised any of them survived.”

“I agree. They were very lucky, sir.”

“In any case, I’m ending the investigation. We’ve got all the eyewitness reports, and everything seems to point to the same thing. Unless you have anything new to add?”

“No, sir. The paperwork’s clean. You’ll have the completed version on your desk tomorrow.”

“Good. I’ll tell the Joint Chiefs.”

The call ended, and the general replaced the handset. He took a stamp out of his desk drawer and stamped the folder.

MISSION COMPLETE.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sam stared at the phone. She kept hearing Orestes’ words. Don’t let your duty stop you from having a life. Yet his duty cost him his life, just as duty could cost any military person their life. His duty also cost him a life with his fiancée, the duke’s daughter. She’d only known the prince for two weeks, but his remarks had made her think, especially after his death.

Duty should be a part of life, life shouldn’t be only about duty. That was what Orestes meant. For too long, she’d let her job become her life instead of being a part of it. It was just so easy to fall into that hole. It would be an insult to Orestes’ memory if she didn’t try to take his advice.

Daniel did his duty, so did Weaver, Barnett, all of them…

The phone rang, and Sam immediately picked it up.  “This is Major Carter.”

“And this is Detective Shanahan.”

Sam’s smile was a happy one. “I knew I wouldn’t catch you sleeping before midnight.  How’s the stakeout going?”

“Over and done with. We got the perp. Would you believe he had a partner who knew how to trip security systems? That’s why we couldn’t catch them in the act. How are things there?”

“Bad. Very bad. Look, I’m sorry about everything that’s been going on lately. I know our schedules have been so out of sorts and we haven’t even had time for a cup of coffee –”

“Sam, what’s wrong? What happened?

“Some people were trapped, we didn’t know it and some died. We almost lost Daniel because we didn’t know what was going on. A new friend was killed, and he gave me some very good advice that I want to take. Are you free tonight?”

“Yeah, I’ve got to go home and get some sleep though. I’ve been up over forty-eight hours. How about if I pick you up at your place about 5:00 tonight? We’ll get dinner. Something simple. Nothing fancy. How’s that sound?”

“Wonderful. I’ll see you then.”

She felt a little better, then the phone rang again. “This is Major Carter.”

“Carter, have you seen Daniel?” Jack’s voice was almost angry.

“No, sir. Not since he went back to the infirmary.”

“Damn. I’ll get Teal’c. Meet us at the infirmary. Doc’s on a rampage because Daniel’s gone AWOL.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The pounding on his door and the incessant ringing of the doorbell finally woke Daniel up. Ignoring aching muscles, he managed to sit up, then stand and limp his way across the house to the front door. Someone was trying to turn the doorknob, but the muffled cursing outside indicated they weren’t having much luck. A quick look through the peephole showed him his team waiting impatiently outside.

“Don’t you have a key, sir?” Sam asked. Daniel could hear them through the door.

”Yeah, somewhere. I just have to find out which one it is. I haven’t had to use it since he got the house.”

Daniel could hear Jack fumbling with the keys again and trying various ones in the lock. With a weary sigh, he unlocked the door and headed off toward the kitchen. They could let themselves in.

He needed coffee. Mechanically, he went through the motions of spooning in the coffee, filling the cask with water, ignoring the sounds of people behind him…

“Daniel?” Sam walked up beside him. “Are you all right? Janet called. She said you left the base –”

“I’m fine.”

“We were worried about you. You –”

“I’m fine,” he repeated, unable to stop a very big yawn. The water started to filter through the coffee, the aroma slowly filling the kitchen. He glanced at the clock – no wonder he needed coffee so badly. It was only 5:00 in the morning. He had “left” the infirmary a little after midnight. “What are you doing here so early?”

Jack took Daniel’s arm and pulled him away from the counter. Sitting him down in the closest chair, he said, “Because you sneaked off the base against Doc’s advice and when she wasn’t looking. She’s a little upset about that. They searched the base, couldn’t find you so she was going to call out the guards but called us instead. She volunteered us to find you. And she’s going to be extra pissed at us if you drink coffee. It doesn’t play well with your meds.”

“I didn’t need to stay there, and I want some coffee,” Daniel muttered as the others puttered around his kitchen getting coffee cups from the cupboards. He wasn’t in the mood to play host but knew they weren’t going to leave.

“You need sleep,” Jack commented.

“I was sleeping until someone started banging on my door and woke me up.”

“I couldn’t find the key. Besides, you didn’t answer your phone.”

“That’s because I was sleeping.”

The coffee was ready, and they sat at the table with Jack doing the honors of pouring. The uncomfortable silence that settled on them wasn’t helped by the squirming or finger tapping on coffee cups. Daniel wasn’t interested in easing their awkwardness – he was hurt, tired and still angry. Let them be the ones to try to smooth things over. He just wanted his coffee and for them to leave so he could be alone and maybe go back to sleep.

“What about some breakfast?” Jack finally asked.

Daniel took a sip from his cup, his motions still somewhat sluggish. “It’s only five in the morning. I haven’t gone to the grocery store yet. I wasn’t supposed to be back for another few days. Besides, I wasn’t expecting to be stuck in the infirmary.”

Sam put her hand on his arm. “What if I go get something for us –”

“I’m not hungry,” Daniel stopped her as he moved his arm away. “Side effect of the meds.”

Again, they were silent.

Jack quit staring at his cup and propped his elbows on the table. He cleared his throat, then said, “Hammond got a phone call from the White House last night. They’re pulling the plug on the investigation. The official record states that the tragedy was due to interference in communications and lack of communication before the war games started due to the location’s geography and interference from alien technology.”

“So it’s no one’s fault?” Daniel didn’t really ask. He already knew the answer.

“Not really, no. They’re not going to pin the blame on any one person.”

“It’s only half the story,” Daniel muttered.

Sam sighed. “It was a terrible thing that happened, Daniel, but it is the truth.”

“Yeah? Is that some kind of warped military logic? I don’t call half the truth, the truth. Besides, I’m not… inclined to make anyone feel better by saying it wasn’t their fault with half the truth getting tossed out while the other half gets mired in red tape and cover up.” He wanted more coffee. He wanted a lot more coffee. He wanted them to leave. He wanted to go back to sleep. He wanted to change what happened. He wanted someone to jump up and shout, “It’s my fault they’re dead!” He knew he could want all he wanted to, nothing was going to change. Deaths were being swept under the rug, people written off as if they never existed. He reached for the coffee pot, but Teal’c moved it away from him.

“Doctor Fraiser was adamant in her instructions that you were to have no coffee,” Teal’c reminded him. “She will be understandably upset that you have had one cup.”

Ah, and no one wanted to upset Janet. No one wanted to upset the “natural” order of things. No one wanted to upset Vidrine. No one wanted to look at the truth. No one wanted to tell the truth. No one wanted to accept responsibility for anything. Nope. Just hide the truth in a mass of military jargon that barely touched on the facts of what happened and then classify the mission and forget it existed by hiding it in a filing cabinet in an unused basement somewhere. Daniel had been dealing with the military for enough years to know what was written, what was told and what actually happened were different things; different enough that the stories could be diametrically opposed to one another. The natural order be damned. Daniel grabbed the coffee pot and poured himself another cup, ignoring the others’ looks of concern. Concentrating solely on Jack, he asked, “What are the families being told?”

Without hesitating, Jack answered, “That the scientists were sent on a joint research expedition to a politically unstable area and were ambushed by insurgents. Some were killed before ground troops could reach them.”

“Half the truth,” Daniel repeated.

“And all we can tell,” Jack told him.

Jack understood, Daniel knew that, but that didn’t make things any easier.

“What’s the unofficial version?” Daniel wanted to know.

Again, without hesitating, Jack told him, “Vidrine got a slap on the wrist for not giving Hammond enough time to set up the games and for not getting a topographical report beforehand because they want to focus on the geography and not the caduceus being the reason the signal was jammed. They’ve removed Vidrine from the whole war game project and they’ve decided to let Hammond have control of the next one so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. They’re taking away one of Vidrine’s stars so he’s just a major general. They’re letting the war games project go through. The Senate Sub-committee approved the funding for it.”

“This kind of thing? That’s a very euphemistic way to gloss over more than twenty deaths, isn’t it?” Daniel sighed and shook his head. “So… that’s it?”

“Pretty much,” Jack said reluctantly. “Look, I know you’re angry. We’re angry. A lot of good people died, we didn’t lift a finger to stop it but a lot of it does boil down to… miscommunication, and that’s how it’s going to be on official record.” Jack took a last sip from his cup. “I’m sorry,” his voice was low. “I wish we’d known what was really happening. We’d have been there for you. And that is what I put in my official report.”

Official. Right. They had to make everything official so it looked good on paper. “I know,” Daniel said, his voice low. There was nothing he could do. He knew that.

“You did the right thing, Daniel. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Blue eyes looked up and saw sad brown eyes looking back at him. Daniel knew that look, and it was the one that said “I’m sorry” when words just weren’t enough.

A few years ago, Daniel might have argued the point. Now? No, Jack was right. Extreme decisions to take extreme measures in an extreme situation were sometimes the only option. Everyone did what they thought they were supposed to do, and no one knew the difference until it was too late.

A less uncomfortable silence settled on them, but perhaps the anger had abated somewhat into sadness? It was too early for acceptance; it was too early for forgiveness. Maybe it wasn’t too early for understanding?

Daniel sat quietly listening to the others discuss unimportant things, their words becoming a low buzz as his own thoughts started to muddle and fuzz and drift…

Somewhere, someone’s watch beeped on the hour. Was it early or late? He’d gotten home late, had only a few hours sleep and was still recuperating. He needed to go back to bed. He closed his eyes for a moment, wishing for the caffeine to kick in a little so he could stay awake just a little longer…

“Daniel?”

He was being helped to his feet. Looking around, the table was clear, the cups were in the sink and everyone was standing. Jack had one of his arms, Teal’c had the other and they were helping him stand. “Come on, back to bed.” Jack called over his shoulder, “Carter, call Fraiser. Tell her Daniel’s fine. One of us will stay here with him, and we’ll drag him back in to the infirmary later today.”

“Yes, sir.”

Daniel heard Sam pick up the phone and press the buttons, but he didn’t listen to the conversation. He almost fell asleep walking down the hallway.


***** EPILOGUE*****

SGC GATE ROOM

King Lycaeon stood before the assembled audience of SGC personnel, Cyllenian nobility and Washington representatives. Princes Akakos and Telemachus stood to the side of the ramp, both having left their brother’s funeral just hours before. The survivors of the battle sat in the front of the group.

Dressed in his most formal regal finery, the king stood his full height behind the podium.

“We have all lost. It is through loss that we recognize the value of life. When the Great Eruption took much from us, it was only then we realized what we had. We learned that all life is precious because a life cannot be rebuilt in the way a society can, yet it is to life that we can express our admiration, respect and gratitude.”

“I do not have the words at this moment to fully express that gratitude. The actions of a small group of individuals saved Cyllene. How does any one person thank another for the survival of their world? I cannot. I haven’t the ability to say what I wish in words that can ease our pain. I do not have the words to thank those who fought. I do say this. Many were lost in the battle. They gave their lives trying to protect themselves. In doing so, they also protected our planet. To them, I say thank you with a grateful heart and a debt that we will never be able to repay.” He didn’t stop a tear from falling from his eye. “To those that survived, I cannot thank you enough. What happened at the temple, your sacrifices, your fears, your courage and your determination all served you and brought you alive through the fires of battle. I have nothing to offer as a means of gratitude that is not inadequate for all you gave. I offer my eternal friendship and alliance, but these intangible things do not in any way ease the pain or express gratitude.”

A Cyllenian noble handed Lycaeon a small wooden box with the Cyllenian royal seal.  Inside were medals, one for each person at the temple. “Although I cannot repay you for all you sacrificed and lost to keep my people and my planet safe, I ask that you take these humble offerings as symbols of all that I do not have the words to say, of the gratitude I feel and indebtedness I know we can never repay. These medals are mere tokens. They are royal medals awarded to those leaders who have given a great sacrifice to the kingdom. A life is precious, it is sacred, and it was life that was sacrificed.” His voice broke on the last sentence, another tear slowly slid down his cheek as he gave the small box to Colonel O’Neill and moved to stand beside his sons.

In the silence that followed, General Hammond walked behind the podium, looking out at everyone in the gate room. He could almost feel the anger in the room, the remorse, the sadness. The memorial service was almost complete, the medals and commendations yet to be given, but there was one thing that Hammond needed to do.

“As with His Majesty, it is with gratitude and heartfelt admiration that I say this. I am proud to have commanded such gallant men and women. What happened on Cyllene should not have happened. A great many things went wrong which has led us here today. Yet, despite all that went wrong, a small group of people stood defiantly against almost insurmountable odds. They fought off an overpowering enemy. Their ammunition low, no medical supplies to speak of, no food and little water, they fought off attack after attack using methods and tactics that experienced soldiers might not have considered. I do not know what they felt that day nor can we understand the desperation that they themselves felt. Like many soldiers here, I have been in situations that I thought I wouldn’t survive. I do understand desperation and fear, watching comrades die beside me, not knowing if I’d be alive the next minute. However, I was trained to be a soldier, and this is a case of a group of people, mostly civilians, who survived a battle that I don’t think I would have. The bravery with which they met this task is of the type not often seen.”

“Apologies will not atone for what happened. I cannot say ‘this is the way it is’ or ‘this is all part of war’ and have it in any way lend comfort. Nothing can do that. I can say I wish everything had happened differently and believe it. I can say I wish I could change the past, but it wouldn’t mean much. What I do know for a fact is that I feel such respect for what the expedition team did that I can’t adequately put it into words. The selflessness, courage and determination to not only survive but also keep a powerful weapon out of the enemy’s hands is beyond mere description. Medals of Valor and commendations may only be symbols of gratitude for what was experienced, accomplished and even lost, but they fall far short of what is deserved. However, it is through symbols that we express emotions that cannot be expressed adequately in any other fashion.”

“In remembrance of those who were lost, a plaque will be placed in the Hall of Names which lists all those of this base who have fallen. It is not to memorialize their deaths or how they died but to acknowledge their lives, their accomplishments, their contributions, and their bravery. To them, I say Godspeed. May we never forget them.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Hall of Names was not a large room by base standards. Muted gold plaques lined the walls, engraved with the names of the fallen. The newest plaque had not yet been hung in its allotted spot. For the next few days, it would sit on a shroud-draped table so everyone could read it easily.

SG-1 walked into the room, Daniel limped due to his wounded leg, Jack beside him to give him a helping hand if needed. Carter and Teal’c walked behind them. They passed by the plaque that was engraved with Daniel’s name – the first time it was placed in the Hall of Names was when Nem had convinced the team Daniel was dead. The plaque was removed but then re-engraved and replaced when Daniel ascended. No one had remembered to take it down. Jack reached up and corrected that oversight before anyone else saw it.

How many times they’d come into that room to pay their respects to the dead, they hadn’t counted. Sometimes, one visit would be made and then the room was conveniently forgotten. This time, it was more than just a visit.

Jack waved away some non-existent dust on the frame. “They did a good job on it,” he said quietly.

Daniel nodded. “I’m glad the general put the scholars’ names on there too.”

“They fought and died there,” Sam agreed. “They had every right to be listed.”

Teal’c picked up the plaque, and in his deep, resonating voice, read the words clearly. “On this date, twenty-five brave souls defended the Great Temple of Cyllene against a Jaffa army seeking an Ancient weapon. History was made over the long hours as the group refused to surrender even though there was no means of escape, little ammunition, water, food and medical supplies. They defended the temple, repelling several attacks by the invaders. Of the twenty-five trapped and fighting, nine survived. All showed remarkable courage in the face of an overwhelming enemy and incredible strength of character as they refused to surrender.”

“Godspeed, fallen comrades. May you rest in peace.”

He placed the plaque back on the table, and the four of them stared at the names. No one knew what to say, because what more could be said?

Finally, Jack put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Truer words, huh?”

Daniel could only nod his head. Words failed him.

Sam touched Daniel’s arm as she turned to leave. Teal’c did the same. They waited outside the room.

Jack asked, “Are you coming?”

“Yeah, be there in a second.”

Jack patted Daniel’s shoulder and walked outside.

Daniel stood there for a few moments longer. He picked up the plaque and read the words again, then he took something out of his pocket and placed it with the plaque, with a whispered, “You deserve this more than me.” Then he turned and joined his friends. Many had died in the cause of the SGC, many more would die. Yet like always, respects were paid and honors were given to the fallen. Then, in the world of the living, everything and everyone went back to their normal lies and routines and memories would begin to fade.

Yet, for that moment in time, in the darkened room that housed the names of the fallen, a plaque sat alone and forlorn on a shroud draped table. Hanging on the plaque was the Cyllenian Royal Medal and an Air Force Medal of Valor.


The End



HERMES
Hermes, the herald of the Olympian gods, is son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, daughter of Atlas and one of the Pleiades. Hermes is the god of shepherds, land travel, merchants, weights and measures, oratory, literature, athletics and thieves, and known for his cunning and shrewdness. Most importantly, he is the messenger of the gods. Besides that he was also a minor patron of poetry. He was worshiped throughout Greece -- especially in Arcadia -- and festivals in his honor were called Hermoea.

 

According to legend, Hermes was born in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. Zeus had impregnated Maia at the dead of night while all other gods slept. When dawn broke amazingly he was born. Maia wrapped him in swaddling bands, then resting herself, fell fast asleep. Hermes, however, squirmed free and ran off to Thessaly. This is where Apollo, his brother, grazed his cattle. Hermes stole a number of the herd and drove them back to Greece. He hid them in a small grotto near to the city of Pylos and covered their tracks. Before returning to the cave he caught a tortoise, killed it and removed its entrails. Using the intestines from a cow stolen from Apollo and the hollow tortoise shell, he made the first lyre. When he reached the cave he wrapped himself back into the swaddling bands. When Apollo realized he had been robbed he protested to Maia that it had been Hermes who had taken his cattle. Maia looked to Hermes and said it could not be, as he is still wrapped in swaddling bands. Zeus the all powerful intervened saying he had been watching and Hermes should return the cattle to Apollo. As the argument went on, Hermes began to play his lyre. The sweet music enchanted Apollo, and he offered Hermes to keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre. Apollo later became the grand master of the instrument, and it also became one of his symbols. Later while Hermes watched over his herd he invented the pipes known as a syrinx (pan-pipes), which he made from reeds. Hermes was also credited with inventing the flute. Apollo, also desired this instrument, so Hermes bartered with Apollo and received his golden wand which Hermes later used as his heralds staff. (In other versions Zeus gave Hermes his heralds staff).

Being the herald (messenger of the gods), it was his duty to guide the souls of the dead down to the underworld, which is known as a psychopomp. He was also closely connected with bringing dreams to mortals. Hermes is usually depicted with a broad-brimmed hat or a winged cap, winged sandals and the heralds staff (kerykeion in Greek, or Caduceus in Latin). It was often shown as a shaft with two white ribbons, although later they were represented by serpents intertwined in a figure of eight shape, and the shaft often had wings attached. The clothes he donned were usually that of a traveler, or that of a workman or shepherd. Other symbols of Hermes are the cock, tortoise and purse or pouch.


PAN
Pan, the god of all things wild and untamed, is the ugly-faced child of Hermes. A shepherd and a musician, his pipes can cause insanity when he plays them (thus the origin of the word "panic"). Depicted as a satyr (half-Human, half-goat), Pan can be found in the wild woods, either dancing to his own music or chasing after the latest nymph to catch his eye. His symbol is a set of panpipes.


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