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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-05-12 11:57 am
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Archaeology (1/30)

Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Pairings: Gen.

XXXXX

Chapter 1: Temptations

XXXXX

31 August 2000; Embarkation Room, SGC; 1700 hrs

Jack turned as Carter and Teal'c's footsteps joined him and the general at the ramp, watching the event horizon. "We just received the Alpha Site IDC," Hammond told them. "They're gathering a few things and are on their way back."

"Ah," Jack said. "Off-world training with Daniel."

"Poor SG-3 and -13," Carter agreed. "Two whole weeks."

Between this training session, some research trip before that, and one mission SG-1 had been dragged into during that time, they hadn't seen Daniel for over three weeks. Jack imagined that Daniel and Dave Dixon's archaeologist, Balinsky, would have driven everyone mad within a few days. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to cram the off-world orientation for new military and research personnel and the boot camp for the civilians all into one trip.

Dixon stepped out first, soaking wet but looking happy. "They're on their way, General," he said.

"How'd they do, Colonel?" Hammond said, eyeing the water dripping onto the ramp.

"Had a little too much fun with those intars, sir," Dixon said, smirking crookedly. "And fair warning--we're gonna need a few mops in here. It's been pouring at the Alpha Site for the last few days." Four scientists in ponchos followed.

And SG-3 walked out, along with someone who was so thoroughly covered in mud that Jack only knew who he was because he had glasses and managed to look cranky even through the mud. "Wow," Jack said. "Impressive. Is that your new camouflage, Daniel?"

"I slipped," Daniel said grumpily. He shook his glasses, and a clot of mud dropped to the ramp.

"There was an accident, sir," Wade explained. "A hill with a puddle at the bottom and someone falling down it."

The other four of Dixon's team stepped out, significantly cleaner if just as wet. Balinsky took a look at Daniel and snorted. Daniel glared at him.

Hammond shook his head. "All of you go get cleaned up. You're dismissed--you'll have performance reviews with Major Wade and Colonel Dixon on Monday."

Daniel caught Jack's eye, looking a little sheepish under the irritation, so Jack let the wet people pass on their way to the locker room and caught up to Dixon. "Hey, Dave," he said. "They do all right?"

This time, Dixon grinned. "Your kid tried to pull the young and clumsy routine when we ran the scenarios," he said, clapping Jack on the shoulder with a sopping wet hand before turning toward his own locker room. "Until he finally tripped on his own and rolled down the side of a muddy hill. But he did all right once his team got used to him."

Carter and Teal'c were just behind him. Jack brushed off his wet shoulder and said, "Well, as soon as Daniel's done, I'm about ready to go home."

Just then, an alarm sounded. "Unscheduled off-world activation!"

"Never mind," Jack said, running back toward the stairs to the control room to clear the corridor for the security teams. As he looked back, he saw the soaking SG-3, SG-13, and Daniel all pause and look around at each other. "Just go," Jack called to them. "We'll handle this one."

Carter was looking over the technician's shoulder. "No IDC yet, sir," she said as Jack reached the console. "No one's due back, but SG-14 and -15 are the only ones off-world--they were on P6Y-325."

"Which one's that?" Jack said.

"Lasarians," she said. "SG-15 did the initial assessment and called for SG-14 for follow-up relations and possible negotiations."

"They were supposed to be a fairly primitive society," the general said. "We didn't think there'd be any danger to speak of--they're not due back until tomorrow."

"Goa'uld?" Jack asked.

"Not that they knew of."

"SG-14's IDC," Sergeant Harriman said suddenly. "Opening the iris...we're receiving an audio transmission, General."

Jack turned back to look at the open wormhole as a voice crackled through: "...taking heavy fire! Jaffa...cut off from--"

"Security teams stand by," Hammond ordered, then, into the microphone, "Major Graham, are you able to reach to the Stargate?" The distinctive sound of staff weapons came over the speakers. "Major Tomlan? SG unit, please respond."

"This is Captain Blasdale, sir," someone finally answered. "Sergeant Lewis and I were separated from Major Graham and Lieutenant Astor. We saw...three of SG-15 go down. We're pinned down--we don't know the status of the other three on SG-15 or the rest of our team--"

A yell, and then Blasdale's voice was drowned out by gunfire.

"Sir," Jack said, "SG-1 can be ready to go in two minutes."

"Get ready," the general told the three of them.

Jack led the way out, Teal'c and Carter both behind him as they ran to their gear-up room.

Daniel was just finishing peeling his muddy clothes off when they ran into the locker room, but he looked up as they entered. "So," he started casually, "you know the thing where people--"

"Not now, Daniel," Jack snapped. Recognizing the urgency, Daniel stopped immediately and backed all the way into the shower to stay out of their way.

"Who?" he said, standing back as they changed quickly.

"SG-14 and -15," Teal'c said succinctly.

SG-15 minus three, Jack thought. By the time they were ready, there might not be anyone left to rescue. "Let's go," he said briskly as soon as all of them were dressed, zipping his vest as he went.

They arrived back in the embarkation room to find the wormhole open, though Jack couldn't tell whether it was the same incoming one or an outgoing one. "General?" he called up to the control room.

"They don't want to let the wormhole close in case they can't get to the DHD again," Hammond answered. "They think they can make it on their own. Give them a chance."

Jack was adjusting his grip on his weapon, impatient, when two men ran backwards through the event horizon, still firing until they emerged onto the ramp. "They're right behind us, sir!" Captain Blasdale called, flinching belatedly as a stray staff blast whizzed past his head.

But ten seconds passed, and then twenty, thirty, a minute...

"Captain?" Jack asked Blasdale, who was staring anxiously at the Stargate.

"I don't know, sir." The SG-14 captain made a movement as if to return back through the wormhole, but stopped. "Something must've happened. Sir, we need to go back--"

Then one more man came running through. "Where's Astor?" Major Graham yelled, moving to the side to stay out of the line of fire.

"She was with you, sir," Blasdale said.

"Come on," Lewis urged, watching the wormhole. "Where are you?"

"Major?" General Hammond said, rushing into the embarkation room.

But before Graham could answer, a woman dove through the Stargate, rolling to a stop. "Close the iris!" she yelled. "Close it! They're right behind me!"

The iris closed over the Stargate as the wormhole disengaged. The side door slid open as General Hammond walked in. "What happened?" Hammond demanded as Sergeant Lewis offered a hand to help Lieutenant Astor to her feet. "Where's SG-15?"

They hesitated too long before speaking, and Jack knew the answer already.

"Didn't make it, sir," Captain Blasdale said. "I don't know what happened--death gliders flew in while we were in the village. By the time our team got back to the Stargate, SG-15 was already under fire. We couldn't... They didn't make it, sir."

General Hammond lowered his gaze for a moment, then nodded. "All right," he said softly. "Report to the infirmary, SG-14. SG-1, stand down."

"But we weren't hurt, sir," Major Graham said, sounding dazed enough that Jack almost wanted to doubt that.

"Infirmary," Hammond repeated. "Humor me, son."

"Sir..." Astor spoke up, wiping a smudge of dirt from her face with a shaking hand. "But...when...?"

"I'll notify their families," the general said. "And I'll let you know about the memorial services."

...x...

Daniel was walking out just as they returned to the locker room, looking like he'd jumped into the shower and back out as fast as he could, his hair still dripping as he waited for them. "False alarm?" he said tentatively, hopefully.

"No," Jack said, pushing into the locker room and pulling his equipment off angrily. "Over."

No one said anything for a while as they stripped back out of their mission gear. "Who?" Daniel said quietly.

"SG-15," Teal'c said.

"Major Tomlan's team? All of--"

"Yeah," Carter said.

"Oh," Daniel said.

Jack slammed a locker shut. They finished changing in silence.

"Who came back?" Daniel said as they were about to leave.

"SG-14," Jack said despite wanting to go home and not talk about it, because Daniel was friends with them and would want to know. "It was a joint diplomatic mission. They were ambushed."

XXXXX

1 September 2000; O'Neill/Jackson Residence; 1900 hrs

"So what'd they make you do out at the Alpha Site?" Jack asked Daniel as the four of them gathered around dinner the next day for a somewhat subdued team night.

It took a few moments for an answer to come. Daniel might not have known SG-15 well, as a primary combat unit, but a loss was a loss, and six good men had died yesterday. Still, there was an unofficial but necessary protocol for this, too--they mourned and then had to move on, or the program would be constantly crippled.

Daniel cleared his throat and said, "Uh...nothing but conditioning and drills for the first week--Dixon was in charge of me and Cameron, the Alpha Site officers showed the non-field scientists around the Site, and Major Wade worked with the military personnel. The second week was spent in scenarios they'd set up."

"When's your next session?" Jack asked.

"I think they said around February for the second session. When Cameron and I pass that, we'll both be considered...uh, 'qualified to take part in combat situations.' Only if we're absolutely required to do so, of course."

"Because that never happens, you getting into one of those situations," Jack said sarcastically.

Daniel made a face at him. "What about you guys? What have you been doing?"

"We spent much of the last weeks in treaty negotiations with the Tok'ra," Teal'c said.

"Didn't people start that months ago?" Daniel said.

"Only on our end, on Earth," Carter corrected, sitting back and sipping at a can of diet coke. "There was a lot to go through to get the President to really agree, and at that point it was still just something we'd only mentioned to the Tok'ra. Now, we've presented it formally to the High Council and gotten an initial idea of their demands."

"Eek. That must take a long time," Daniel said, shoveling a forkful of noodles into his mouth with the absentminded impatience of a perpetually hungry seventeen-year-old boy who had just gotten back from two weeks of physical conditioning.

"You're telling us," Jack said. "You're not the one who had to sit through it."

"Are we still on that?" he asked around his food, and then swallowed. "The negotiations. Or are you passing it to another team?"

"We were about to hand it off to SG-14, actually," Carter said. "They've been reading up on the Tok'ra, at least until they went in to help with the Lasarians thing. After this last mission with SG-15...well, no one wants to draw the negotiations out, but the general's considering giving the assignment to SG-9 instead if they'd handle it better."

"You talked to some of SG-14 this morning, didn't you?" Jack said, pointing at Daniel. "How were they?"

"I only talked to Lieutenant Astor," Daniel said. "It was just, uh...before they left to go to the memorial off-base, and she was...shaken, I guess. But they seemed all right--I think they can take it if they've been preparing for it. At least the team's all together right now."

"That's something," Jack acknowledged. At least all of SG-14 had made it alive and unhurt.

They fell quiet for a moment. Jack had almost decided it was time to speak up again when Teal'c said, "Dr. Rothman has been preoccupied recently with his new project. He has asked me more than once when you would return to help him."

"Oh, yeah," Daniel said, enthusiasm returning with a snap. "He showed me this morning. He's been working with one of the evolutionary biologists. I'm not completely sure why, but he seems really excited, so it must be something interesting...but in the meantime, he's going to make me do all the translation stuff he's put aside for it."

"Oh, that's his Goa'uld evolution thing," Carter told him. "He's got this pet theory--I think he's been working with Janet and other people who know Goa'uld biology, but you should ask him about it if you're interested."

"Goa'uld evolution?" Daniel echoed, and inhaled another mouthful. "Huh."

Jack saw a sudden image of Rothman messing with Goa'ulds in the lab until he evolved one to a giant, mutant Goa'uld. He really hoped that wasn't what they were doing.

"By the way," Carter said, "there's something I wanted you to look at. It's running a diagnostic now, but if you're free tomorrow, I can swing by here and pick you up..."

"Sure," Daniel said, looking eager to be doing something that wasn't running drills for the first time in a few weeks. "What is it?"

Jack met Teal'c's gaze and shrugged. Teal'c raised an eyebrow, then dug in to finish off his dinner, and they tuned Carter and Daniel out together. "Think I should order them to get a life?" Jack asked his friend, pointing at the oblivious other two with his fork.

"I believe it would be in vain," Teal'c told him.

"Yeah, probably," Jack agreed fondly.

XXXXX

8 September 2000; Control Room, SGC; 0700 hrs

So it wasn't really a surprise to see Major Carter already in front of the control room computers when Jack went to work a week later, heard the alarms, and rushed to see what was happening.

"I still can't make it out," she was telling one of the technicians as he approached. "Try to filter out the subspace RF interference."

"Carter?" Jack asked.

She turned, startled. "Colonel! This is the fifth incoming wormhole in the last hour and a half--"

Exasperated, he said, "All right, I'm here two hours early. When did you get here?"

"Haven't left yet," she said absently. "Daniel and I were stuck in the lab."

As if summoned by his name, Daniel ran up the steps into the control room. "Just got the call," Daniel said, looking far too enthusiastic for this hour of the morning when he'd apparently been awake for hours already. "Did they really send a transmission this time?"

"What are you so excited about?" Jack asked.

"They sent a message, Jack," Daniel said, looking over Carter's shoulder. "People are trying to make contact with us!"

"How do you know they're people?" Jack said as Carter fiddled with something else.

"If they have radios and are trying to talk to us," Daniel said, "it would be pretty interesting no matter what species they are."

And then Jack found himself with the image of a monkey holding a radio, although what he'd meant was that it could be some Goa'uld trying to get their attention the way Sokar had before. Then again, if a Goa'uld was trying to get their attention, he supposed he'd want to know, too.

"...repeat," a voice crackled from the computer's speakers. "We...Euronda base. Did you reach the other side? This..."

Jack had a brief moment to register that it was some heavily accented English, which, in his experience, was usually a good time to guess there had been some non-Goa'uld influence in the last several hundred years--and then he realized what the man had just said. The man wasn't talking to them; he was talking to someone they'd just sent through the wormhole, and with the iris closed...

"Oh my god," Carter said as Daniel stiffened next to her. Turning to the technician, she said urgently, "Do we have the frequency?"

"Not yet, Major," he said, still working. "They're sending a transmission..."

Subdued, Daniel said, "I'll, uh...go look up 'Euronda.'"

"I'll get the general," Jack said. "Someone call Teal'c!"

...x...

"They've sent people through," Carter said as they sat around the briefing room. "We've registered three impact events on the iris, so we're assuming at least three dead."

"What do we know about them?" Hammond said.

"Just from their communications technology, sir," she said, "they're relatively advanced. They said their historians have developed theories about the Stargate, and they knew how to dial and which address led to the Tau'ri. I'd estimate maybe a hundred years ahead of us and definitely not under Goa'uld rule anymore."

"They themselves may be Goa'uld," Teal'c said. "Such a ruse would be consistent with their tactics."

"And within the evidence observed so far," she allowed.

"But they said 'brethren' and 'kindred,' which implies that's not the case," Daniel pointed out. "And if it were a Goa'uld who knows about us, they would have known about the iris and not sent people through to be killed."

"It's in English, too," Jack said. "What's that about? Is this an Asgard planet?"

Daniel shook his head. "Euronda's not listed as one of the Protected Planets in the treaty, but we've seen hints of Asgard influence on other planets--they may have been interested in studying a relatively advanced human race but not felt the need to protect them, and they pushed language development the same way they did on Earth. Or these might be people who split off from..." He waved a hand, trailing off. "There are any number of possibilities."

"There is a humanitarian concern, sir," Carter said. "It sounds like these people are in real danger, and they sent us their coordinates, too."

"Even assuming we can trust them," Hammond said, "what kind of help can we seriously offer?"

"They're fighting a war from an underground bunker, General," Jack said. "Food, medicine, water--can't go wrong with that."

"Clearly," Teal'c said, "they seek military assistance above all else."

"It sounds like their enemy is someone we haven't had to face before," Jack said, "so we don't know exactly what we'd need to beat them."

"Alar says their weapons technology is superior," Carter said. "It sounds like they need...well, numbers, probably, possibly fuel and other supplies."

"We cannot and would not devote the resources to turn the tide of a world war, Major," Hammond said.

"Sir," Daniel spoke up, "they're descendants of Earth, and they're asking for help. Shouldn't we at least see if we can help? I mean, if we don't do anything, it sounds like they're going to die."

"I realize that," Hammond said. "All right, SG-1, you have a go. We'll start with all the food and medical supplies you can take with you. Major, Teal'c, perhaps..."

"On it, sir," Carter said, and she and Teal'c left quickly.

"Mr. Jackson, you're dismissed. I believe Major Graham wants you to look over something for his team--some wording issues in the Tok'ra treaty negotiations." Daniel's eyebrows shot up and he started to say something, but Hammond cut him off with, "It's a known war zone, son. You can stay up to speed on the Euronda situation from base and, if SG-1 thinks it would be helpful, you can join them after an initial assessment."

"Looks like we can talk to them ourselves," Jack added.

"Yes, sir," Daniel said resignedly. He turned to Jack as if to say something, then changed his mind and left.

"Colonel," the general said once they were alone in the room, "humanitarian concerns aside, we may have finally met an advanced civilization willing to exchange technology to help us defend against the Goa'uld."

Jack nodded. "My thoughts, sir."

"I've already talked to the President and the Joint Chiefs," Hammond said. "If the Eurondan government is open to trade, you're authorized to negotiate."

XXXXX

9 September 2000; Underground Facility, Euronda; 0100 hrs

Right after they'd arrived, Jack had had the horrible thought that Alar, the man who'd contacted them, was going to die of injuries before he could vouch for them. What he hadn't counted on, though, was the marvel of Eurondan medicine.

"Our betacantin gives us quick healing...Major," Alar assured Carter, standing easily a few minutes after sustaining what looked like a pretty massive concussion. "I am well."

Jack would be more than all right with getting his hands on some of that stuff.

And they'd gotten spoiled having an interpreter do their talking for them--he'd almost forgotten the way communication was often like talking with a thesaurus, hoping one of the words they said would be recognizable with the other language and tossing the others' words around to make some sense of their own. Still, they were making do.

A small commotion made them turn to see Teal'c being escorted in at gunpoint. "Alar," one of the escorts said, "we found one of the enemy among us."

Jack just stopped himself from rolling his eyes. It wasn't like Teal'c was hard to recognize or anything. Teal'c looked rather bored with it all, actually. "He's not your enemy; he's with us," Jack said. He waited for the Eurondan weapons to drop, then said very firmly, "I know you get paranoid in a war, but trust me--he's with us."

"O'Neill," Teal'c said calmly, "supplies are being distributed as we speak."

"Who is this?" Alar said abruptly, meeting Teal'c for the first time--he'd been unconscious when Teal'c had gone to start handing out supplies.

"Alar, this is Teal'c," Carter said.

"You are not of their kin?" Alar said to Teal'c.

"I am, in fact, a Jaffa," Teal'c said, "but, like you, my ancestors are descendants of the Tau'ri."

When Alar still seemed wary, Jack clarified, "Tau'ri means Earth. Us. So, in a way, we're all...kin." Alar didn't seem to find this an encouraging idea, so Jack added, "He's part of our team. A friend. Brethren."

"Is he?" Alar said, looking surprised and a bit unenthusiastic. "Then...you may come."

Teal'c seemed inured to the fact that he looked more like an enemy of the Tau'ri than a friend and only bowed politely in response. To be fair, Jack could see how someone with Teal'c's size and strength (and frown) with a gold tattoo on his head could be taken for someone to be feared.

"Come," Alar said, leading them down a corridor. Jack glanced up once, but it seemed the bombing had stopped for the moment.

"Alar," Jack said, catching up to him. "You know the Stargate goes to a lot of worlds, right?"

"Yes, that is known."

"We can give you the address of safe worlds," Carter said. "Why haven't you tried to evacuate your people through the Stargate?"

With a look back at all of them, Alar reached toward a large door. "Because of what I am about to show you."

The door opened to a large chamber. At first, that was all Jack could tell about the place, until he looked closer and realized that there were what looked like pods all around the room. "Are those...people?" he asked, thinking this was one of the creepiest and most impractical places imaginable for building a morgue.

He was only partly right, thought. "They're in stasis," Carter said, her voice awed. Jack took a second look around, started to count how many bodies had to be there sleeping around the room, then gave up and guessed 'a lot.'

"Their hearts beat once every few minutes," Alar said, gazing purposefully around the chamber. "We had little choice but to live under the ground, and we are limited in what we have. It was the only way to preserve the generation of my father."

"May they be revived again?" Teal'c said. "Will they awaken?"

"Not until the day we take our world back," Alar said.

"How many are there?" Jack asked.

"Thusents sleep here," Alar said.

Carter frowned, and then her eyebrows shot up and she turned again as if to start counting herself. "You mean--sir, he's talking about thousands of... Wow, there must be...two or three thousand here."

"And...thousands more in another room," Alar added, "awaiting the end of a war that will not end."

Jack looked past Alar to Teal'c and Carter to gauge their expressions. Thousands was as many people as existed on some entire planets, and while those were considered the smaller ones, it was still not insignificant. Letting the Eurondans get killed would be like watching as a world was destroyed.

Alar was already moving on, though, and stepped out of the room, beckoning. "Come. I will show you the rooms where we carry out the Eurondan defense."

Jack took a final look at the sleeping Eurondans and followed.

"You conduct defense for all of Euronda in here?" Carter said as they stepped into a new chamber, filled with consoles, each of which was manned by one of the Eurondans.

"Yes," Alar said. "Each station is capable of piloting a formation of unmanned aerofighters. Because of these men and women"--he gestured around at the pilots in each station--"enemy bombers rarely return to their home."

"Most impressive," Teal'c said. Jack was, impressed, too--the best Earth had in terms of things like this was a UAV that didn't always do what they wanted. Unmanned fighter aircraft...not a bad deal. Carter was examining a display on a tabletop and didn't see his questioning look, but she seemed interested enough in the technology that he assumed it was valid.

"What about ground attack?" Jack said, trying to estimate how big a facility like this should be and how difficult it would be to defend it from attack on foot. If they were as outnumbered as Alar had implied...

"The fighters are capable of turning such attacks," Alar said absently, looking at a map next to Carter, "but the enemy has not risked such an attack in several years."

"For what reason?" Teal'c said. "You are both outnumbered and surrounded. Why would they not press their advantage?"

Alar's second, Farrell, replied, "The atmosphere of Euronda has been poisoned since the war began. The surface is unlivable, leaving aerial attack as their only possibility."

Jack frowned, but before they could ask anything else, an alarm sounded.

"A single enemy drone approaches our territory," one of the technicians called.

"I see it," Alar said, focused on the map. To SG-1, he added, "Would any of you care to attempt to shoot it down?"

Jack looked up, alarmed at the prospect of shooting down an enemy in a war that wasn't theirs, though he couldn't help being a little interested nonetheless.

"The target is an unmanned reconnaissance drone sent for bomb damage assessment," Farrell assured him.

"Unmanned?" Jack clarified.

"Think of it as a demonstration," Alar said. "Are not your people more likely to be forthcoming with assistance if we have something to offer in exchange?"

Well, when it was put that way... Carter looked up at him as well in question. "Sure, I'll try it," Jack said, and took a seat at the console.

...x...

"To friendship!" Alar pronounced, raising his glass of what seemed to be wine.

"To friendship," Jack echoed gamely along with the men and women around him, raising his own glass.

Teal'c, he noticed, didn't.

Alar noticed, too. "You did not join in the pledge," he said coolly.

"I do not consume alcohol," Teal'c said.

Jack replaced his glass on the table and tried to figure out what that was about. Not drinking alcohol was one thing; Teal'c could have at least acted like he was playing along--saying the words wouldn't hurt anyone, especially given that they were trying to establish a friendship here. The alcohol was just an excuse, then, which meant Teal'c had a problem with something. A sideways glance at Carter showed her examining her wineglass while peeking up at Teal'c in mild consternation, having apparently come to the same conclusion, and since Teal'c had more life experience than the two of them combined...

Crap. This was why he hated negotiating.

He forced himself back to professionalism, though, when Farrell said, "Were you impressed by our weapons system, Colonel O'Neill?"

Now, that one was easy. "Oh, yeah," he said honestly. "We'll take a dozen."

Fortunately, this seemed to diffuse the tension that had settled around the botched toast, and the Eurondans chuckled appreciatively.

Carter's smile, however, became a little strained, reminding Jack that the chairs worked by some method that eventually turned pilots into vegetables. He didn't like the concerned look she'd given him after he'd taken one of those things for a test drive, and he had a problem with putting Air Force pilots in those things, too.

Still. The technology was still worth looking into, he decided, quashing a spark of unease.

"This food you brought is most flavorful," Farrell added, an MRE open before her.

"Oh, we can do better," Jack said, thinking that she was being tactful, until she added--

"You must understand that we have survived on hydroponically grown yeasts for many years."

Jack smiled and put down the spoonful of yeast he'd been about to eat.

Picking up the conversation, Carter said, "This place is really incredible. Your power generation requirements must be enormous."

"Do you not utilize controlled fusion on Earth?" Alar said casually.

The word fusion caught Jack's attention, and he could see from Carter's expression that it had caught hers, too. He cleared his throat. "Controlled...?"

"It is a most efficient means of power generation," Alar explained. "Unfortunately, the deuterium oxide fuel we require to operate our reactors is now in short supply."

"Heavy water," Carter said excitedly. To Jack, she added, "It's like regular water, sir, except the hydrogen nucleus contains two--"

"I know what heavy water is, Major," Jack snapped. She stopped, looking embarrassed at the assumption, but he also knew that heavy water was something that wasn't in short supply on Earth, so he added, "And if that's what the Eurondans need, we'd be happy to provide."

Surprised smiles broke out, and two of the people at the end of the table began whispering excitedly. "In return," Alar said, looking satisfied, "we can teach your people how to construct weapons systems such as ours. Aerofighters, what you call 'stasis devices,' fusion reactors."

In exchange for some heavy water, from a planet like Earth covered mostly with water, not to mention a couple of abandoned watery planets they'd found? "Sounds fair," Jack said, careful not to sound too excited. "Carter?"

"Medicine," she reminded him.

"Oh, yeah, right--we were very impressed with that beta-con--candi...stuff," he said, wishing he remembered the word.

"Betacantin," Alar corrected. "Of course."

"We need to confirm this with our superiors," Jack said. "We'll--"

A technician ran into the room. "Alar, enemy bombers have penetrated the outer perimeter!"

Farrell surged to her feet and snapped, "Defense stations!"

Which reminded Jack of just how much time they didn't have to futz around. "We'll go and see what supplies we can bring back for now before we finalize things," he decided. "Carter, Teal'c, let's go back and talk to the general. Alar, we'll be back as soon as we can."

"Hurry," Alar urged.

XXXXX

9 September 2000; Embarkation Room, SGC; 0800 hrs

Jack stepped out of the wormhole and called up toward the control room, "We need to talk, sir!"

"Come right up, Colonel," Hammond said into the microphone. Jack glanced at the briefing room window, where he could see Daniel apparently stuck in a meeting with SG-14--the Tok'ra treaty, probably--and trying to catch his eye. Jack waved once to tell him they were all right and hurried up to the control room.

"Sir," Jack said, "we've negotiated access and availability to just about every advanced Eurondan technology."

"In exchange for an unspecified quantity of heavy water," Carter added.

"That's all?" Hammond said, surprised.

"That's all," Jack confirmed.

"What do they want it for?"

"As you probably know," Carter said, "heavy water contains deuterium."

"Which can be used to make nuclear weapons," the general said, his expression unreadable.

"Yes, sir, but they use it to fuel nuclear fusion generators."

Hammond's expression became interested. "Fusion?"

"Alar says that bit of extra power could stave off total defeat," Jack said. "They're under attack as we speak."

"They're willing to share the technology as well?" Hammond said.

"Yes, sir, everything," Sam said, "and it is incredible. They're at least a hundred years ahead of us. Maybe even more, but if we don't act soon, they're going to be overwhelmed."

"Sergeant Siler," the general said, gesturing to the sergeant.

"Ill get right on it, sir," Siler said, moving quickly away.

"Well done," the general told them. "Return as soon as you can. We have a deal."

...x...

9 September 2000; Underground Tunnels, Euronda; 0900 hrs

"This is all you were able to bring?" Alar said, looking dismayed at the small container of heavy water they had with them.

"On short notice, yeah," Jack said.

"This much will not last a day!"

"There's more coming," Jack said. "We thought you'd be happy to get at least this much as soon as possible."

This seemed to have restored Alar's hope, and the man said, "More will come, you are certain?"

"Much more, yes," Carter assured him.

"Add the fuel to the reactors immediately and set the defense field to full power," Alar ordered as two Eurondans came to take that container away. "A demonstration to the enemy--we must show them that we are strong once more!"

As they spoke, a loud boom sounded from overhead, and the walls shook around them. "I take it this isn't the safest place to be," Jack said, looking up warily and half-expecting the ceiling to cave in on their heads.

"No, Colonel--this way," Alar said, beckoning them back toward the chamber that served as a dining room.

As they ducked in, there was another impact above them. Jack flinched reflexively as Carter said anxiously, "That sounded close."

"Above us in the old city," Alar confirmed. "Let me show you another of the wonders we will share with you for all you have done." He moved to one of the walls and brushed a hand against the side. Running feet distracted Jack into turning around to see a few Eurondans heading toward the war room.

"Should we help..." He started, then turned back around. "Whoa."

The wall had become a transparent window, giving them a full view of some kind of generator, spinning slowly in place.

"The field generator is capable of repelling the force of many bombs like a great shield," Alar said. "It has saved our people from destruction my entire life." As they watched, the generator began to turn faster. "You see--the fuel you brought has strengthened it again."

"How long will that last?" Carter said.

Alar sighed. "Several hours."

"I'm sure we'll be able to send more fuel by then," Jack said with a twinge of...

Well, their mandate was the get technology, and they were saving these people's lives in the process. They were strengthening shields. Nothing wrong with that.

...x...

"He is remembered," Alar said, raising his glass at their next gathering, once the bombing had stopped. Jack automatically raised his glass in response.

"For whom do you pledge this remembrance?" Teal'c said. His glass was, again, untouched.

"My father," Alar said. "Through his vision, Euronda has survived."

Something about this wasn't sitting well with Teal'c. Jack wished he knew what the hell was going through his friend's head, because now something wasn't sitting right with Jack, either, and he wasn't sure if it was these people, or the idea of being constantly bombed but for the grace of water, or the suspicion that Teal'c managed to lace into his voice when he said, "I see."

Dammit. He really hated negotiations under fire.

Speaking of, Alar turned back to Jack. "It is customary among our people to formalize new alliances such as ours. In exchange for all our knowledge, technology, and medicines, Earth will provide us with however much heavy water as we require to end this war once and for all."

Whoa.

Jack took a quick look at Carter to see how that added up, only to find her already looking at him. "Do not be alarmed, Colonel," Alar assured them. "Merely three or four times that which you have just provided on a daily basis."

"That adds up to several metric tons a year, sir," Carter said.

"It's a small price to pay for what we offer in return," Alar pointed out.

"Right," Jack said slowly.

And all of a sudden, he remembered that they had this rule that said they weren't supposed to stick their noses into human disputes unless they were willing to pick a side and defend it. He didn't think 'they had cooler technology than the other guys and the Stargate was on their side' counted as a good defense.

Still. Apophis and the other Goa'uld were out there, and they needed the technology. More than that, they were saving the Eurondans' lives from the...the...

Huh. Saving their lives from The Enemy. Which was...

"Alar," Farrell said suddenly. "Listen."

"What?" Jack said when he couldn't hear anything.

Alar smiled. "Silence. I barely recognize it. Are we agreed, then?"

"Sir," Carter said, "if you're going to go back and tell General Hammond, I'd like to stay here and take a look at the fusion technology."

"It would be my pleasure to show you the process," Alar told her, gesturing all of them out of the meeting room. "Colonel, if I may speak with you...?"

Jack pulled ahead of the group with Alar as they made their way down the corridor. "What's up?" he said.

"I look forward to your return," Alar told him amicably. "But perhaps it would be best if the Jaffa did not return next time."

Surprised, Jack said, "Teal'c? Why? He hasn't said a word."

"It is not what he said," Alar said. "It is what he is."

And now those alarms that had been lurking in the back of his mind were jangling away, because he still wasn't sure what the hell was wrong, exactly, except that he didn't like people telling him not to bring his team with him. And plenty of people didn't like Jaffa, but Teal'c had been unhappy with something for a while, which usually meant something was up...

"Well, he's different, I'll grant you that," Jack allowed.

"Not...like us," Alar said, smiling.

But the Eurondans didn't even know what Jaffa were, except that Teal'c was one. Jack was pretty sure he could assume Teal'c hadn't shown them his stomach, so whatever this was, it wasn't about Goa'uld. He stared at the Eurondan's smiling face--and then he realized there were other things about Teal'c that could be considered different. "Right," he said.

Still wearing a friendly smile, Alar pulled back and gestured Carter away down one of the corridors.

Jack nodded to her to go ahead, then waited for Teal'c to catch up to him at the DHD but didn't dial. "What's your impression of Alar?" Jack said quietly.

Without hesitation, and looking a little relieved to have been asked, Teal'c said, "That he is concealing something."

"Like what?"

"I am unsure. He is concealing it." Jack rolled his eyes--he'd walked into that one. "What do you propose, O'Neill?"

"You go back to the SGC," Jack said. "Tell Hammond what's going on--what they've said to us, whatever thoughts you have on this. Have those heavy water shipments ready, but don't send any more until I report back. I'm going to have a look around."

Looking satisfied, Teal'c turned and began to dial the DHD. Jack took a look around to orient himself, then headed in the direction of the stasis chamber. There were many things that made a man like Teal'c different from the people they'd seen here so far, and with thousands of people in stasis, there was an easy way to find out.

XXXXX

9 September 2000; Briefing Room, SGC; 1100 hrs

Daniel glanced out the window toward the Stargate and forced himself to stop thinking about SG-1 on Euronda for long enough to get through this seemingly endless meeting. He swore silently that he wouldn't tease Jack anymore for having to sit through talks with the Tok'ra.

"I don't see what the problem is," Major Graham of SG-14 was saying. "The President was careful in ensuring that clause would be mutually beneficial to the Tok'ra and Earth."

He wondered how the negotiations were going on Euronda. He supposed he shouldn't complain; he and SG-14 weren't even in negotiations in this meeting. They were just preparing a document with which to negotiate with the President, with whose approval the SGC could then negotiate with the Tok'ra. This must be easy in comparison to--

"Jackson."

"What?" Daniel said, tearing his attention back. "Oh, uh...the problem is that it could be interpreted as a contradiction of Section 176 of the Protected Planets Treaty we have with the Asgard and the Goa'uld." He flipped to the relevant section. "Sorry, I mean, 178." He passed the open book to the major. "Or am I reading that wrong?"

A moment later, Captain Blasdale, looking on with Graham, made a face and said, "Yeesh."

"At the time, it was either sign the treaty--the whole treaty--or be destroyed, Captain," General Hammond pointed out.

"Yes, sir," Blasdale said doubtfully. Daniel knew what he meant--it was one of the many sections that they would have removed or changed if they and Thor had had enough time and clout for it. They didn't actually have to worry about the Protected Planets Treaty most of the time, but reading it over only reminded Daniel that Asgard Protected Planets--like Cimmeria--could be free of the Goa'uld and still be handicapped in technological development.

"I don't think it contradicts, Jackson," Graham said.

Lieutenant Astor had opened her own copy of the Asgard treaty and was reading it with Sergeant Lewis. "Actually, due respect, sir, I think it does," she said. "Or, rather, it could, in the Goa'uld, especially if they use a more formal dialect for things like this. Is that what you mean, Daniel, that it doesn't translate well?"

"Yes, it depends on how it's interpreted by a Goa'uld-speaker," Daniel agreed. "The Tok'ra might think this means something slightly different from what we mean. Or...uh, what I think we think it means," he amended, wishing formal documents didn't have to be so indecipherable.

"Right," Astor agreed. "So unless we clarify it with the Tok'ra to make sure there's nothing lost in translation, if the System Lords find out about it somehow and decide to nitpick about the Protected Planets Treaty, we could potentially be in a lot of trouble."

"If the System Lords can find a way to meddle in our signing a treaty with the Tok'ra," Graham argued, "I don't think the Protected Planets Treaty is the first thing they'll bother with."

"You're right, Major," the general said. "But just in case, let's keep as far away from potential complications as we can. You don't have an opinion about the correct translation, Mr. Jackson?"

"I do," Daniel said, "but the point is that there are other possible opinions. Could we just change the wording altogether to make sure there can't be any ambiguity?"

"I'll work on that, sir," Astor said, making a note. "Daniel, I'll check with you or Teal'c before we finalize--"

"Off-world activation!" the technician called.

The general sighed, then stood up and headed toward the control room. Daniel looked anxiously toward the Stargate, then said hopefully, "You guys don't need me for anything else, do you?"

"Anyone got a translation issue?" Graham said. "Wording, interpretation..." No one spoke up, so the major said, "I think you're done, Jackson. Is SG-1 coming to Vorash with us next time?"

"I think so," Daniel said as the iris closed over the active Stargate. "The Tok'ra don't like people they don't recognize walking around their planet. We might end up escorting and introducing you and then leave."

From the control room, the technician announced, "SG-1's IDC."

"Major...?" Daniel said anxiously.

"Go ahead," Graham told him, nodding toward the control room, and Daniel gratefully stood and hurried to see what was going on.

Teal'c stepped through first, and then the wormhole deactivated behind him. Before Daniel could start to worry about the other two, Teal'c said, "Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter have both remained on Euronda to continue gathering information."

Daniel frowned. The last he'd heard, they'd had a good deal in the works, though he didn't know the details except that it involved advanced technology.

They waited in the control room as Teal'c made his way up the stairs. "General Hammond," he said, "we have reached an agreement with the Eurondans that requires only your approval."

"Well, unless something's changed since the last time you were here," the general said, looking confused, "then you already have it."

"O'Neill believes it necessary to learn more about the Eurondans," Teal'c said. "It is for that reason that he did not return with me. Moreover, Alar wishes for us to provide them with sufficient heavy water to enable them to defeat their enemy."

At first, Daniel didn't see the problem, because that was what they'd set out to do. Then he remembered that saving the lives of one side wasn't the same as taking the lives of the other. There were strict rules about their involvement in disputes unless one side was clearly the aggressor. "Who's their enemy, again?" Daniel asked. "Sorry if I missed--"

"We do not know," Teal'c said.

"You...don't know?" Daniel repeated. "Couldn't you just...you know...ask?"

"I believe," Teal'c said, "that the identity of this enemy is a part of what Colonel O'Neill is attempting to discover."

The general looked down at the console for a moment, as if to digest that. "What's your take on the situation?" he asked Teal'c.

"Something is being concealed from us," Teal'c said promptly. "However, it is possible that it appears so to me because their leader dislikes me." Daniel's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"Because you're Jaffa?" the general said, though he was frowning.

"I thought we decided they weren't a Goa'uld planet," Daniel said. "That they didn't seem to have had any Goa'uld contact."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "Alar knew immediately that I was not their kin, but he was not aware of what a Jaffa was before I informed him."

"Well, if it wasn't because you're Jaffa, why did he think you were--"

"I am uncertain. General Hammond, I do not wish to impede an alliance. But if O'Neill also believes further investigation is warranted, it does not seem wise to agree immediately to provide the Eurondans with what they require to win a war. O'Neill requests that the heavy water fuel be prepared but that we wait for acknowledgement from him and Major Carter."

"All right," the general said. "I'll do that. Are you going back?"

"The Eurondans have requested that I not return," Teal'c said.

"Huh," Daniel said aloud. Disliking a man wasn't unheard of, but for a people so desperate for aid as the Eurondans to decline help from someone like Teal'c...

"We'll wait for word, then," the general said. He looked for a moment like he was considering staying in the control room to wait for the other two to arrive, then remembered SG-14 was waiting for him in the briefing room. "Mr. Jackson, are you done in there?"

"They said they don't need me anymore, sir," Daniel said.

With a nod, the general returned to the briefing room. Left in the control room to wait with Teal'c, Daniel found a clear spot to stand and watch for SG-1 without bothering anyone.

"You think something's wrong with these Eurondan people?" Daniel asked Teal'c.

Teal'c tilted his head, considering. Finally, he said, "I cannot be certain."

Daniel made a face. "I didn't realize it would be so complicated," he said. "Someone asks for help, you help them. Right? But then we're not supposed to meddle in disputes--"

"It is as you said yourself," Teal'c told him, still standing stiffly and watching the Stargate for any sign of incoming travelers. "Upon receiving the message from Alar, we could no longer completely remove ourselves from the dispute. Our action would most likely win the war for the Eurondans and condemn their enemy to defeat. A lack of action would be the same as to condemn the Eurondans to death."

"So you're saying," Daniel said, "that once we received that message, our only options were to ignore it or to pick a side. And by ignoring it, we would have been picking a side anyway."

Teal'c glanced at him. "Indeed."

"I suppose the technology we'd get out of this deal with the Eurondans had something to do with that choice," Daniel muttered.

With a sterner look this time, Teal'c said, "The Eurondan lives we witnessed being lost had much to do with the choice, Daniel Jackson."

"Right," Daniel said, chagrinned, because his perspective was that of someone who hadn't seen the situation firsthand at all. He supposed it looked very different from within the underground place where the Eurondans apparently operated. "There's no chance of a diplomatic solution? Helping to find a peaceful end to the conflict?"

"I do not believe it to be possible," Teal'c said. "The war has continued too long, and each side is too distrustful of the other. Moreover, the surface of their world is poisoned, and the only way to reach one nation from the other would undoubtedly result in the death of the negotiator. They do not appear to have established other communication with their enemy."

"Oh," Daniel said. He hadn't heard about the poisoned air before. "That's why they live underground, then? Because the air was poisoned, and they had no choice but to...build..."

He frowned, thinking over that again. Teal'c turned sharply to him, perhaps thinking the same thing. "Their facility is constructed to withstand not only aerial attacks but also the toxic atmosphere," Teal'c said, sounding thoughtful. "They have lived there for a generation or more. If they had been attacked and the air poisoned as suddenly as they claim..."

"Then how did they survive long enough to build a technologically advanced war bunker where they seem to be trapped and running out of the supplies they'd stocked up?" Daniel finished.

"Perhaps they built it in response to the attacks and it serves only coincidentally as protection from the air."

"If they're underground, they have to get air from somewhere, right? Doesn't the SGC get air from pipes to the surface or something like that? If they've been fighting a long war, they must have some..." Daniel waved a hand.

"A system for the purification of heavily poisoned air," Teal'c supplied. "Perhaps some large store from which they can draw, or a chemical reaction like that used by the Tok'ra."

"Which would take time to set up, which suggests they were expecting it," Daniel said.

Teal'c nodded. Daniel had the feeling that was significant. He just wasn't sure exactly what it signified--or, rather, a suspicion was blooming, but it was something he didn't want to consider without knowing the facts first. "Or they built in that precaution to begin with and it's not an indication of anything," he added to be fair.

"That is possible," Teal'c said neutrally.

The Stargate began to turn.

"Incoming traveler," the technician announced. Within moments, the general had rejoined them at the control room console as the technician added, "SG-1 remote signal."

"Open the iris," the general ordered. "Sergeant," he added to Siler, at another part of the control room, "have the heavy water prepared for transport upon my order."

Sam walked through first, with Jack behind her, both of them aiming their weapons toward the wormhole. The security team on the floor of the 'gate room snapped into position as Jack called, "Close the iris!"

"Do it," the general told the technician, then hurried to the stairs. Teal'c and Daniel both followed him into the 'gate room. The iris closed just as they entered the room. "Colonel--"

A thump sounded from the iris. Daniel flinched. The wormhole disengaged.

"We were unable to obtain advanced Eurondan technology, sir," Jack said, and then stopped--no embellishments, no jokes, nothing.

The general must have sensed it as well and said only, "Very well. We'll debrief in an hour."

As he left, Daniel turned to Jack and Sam. "What happened?"

"The Eurondans started the war," Jack said.

"By poisoning the atmosphere?" Teal'c said.

Sam seemed surprised that they'd guessed it as well, but said, "Yes. They were trying to exterminate the other side."

"Exterminate them? For what?" Daniel said, confused.

Jack stalked angrily down the ramp and past Daniel and Teal'c. "For being different," he said, and left the room.

"We'll explain," Sam said. To Siler, she added, "We won't be needing that water, Sergeant."

XXXXX

9 September 2000; Gymnasium, SGC; 1400 hrs

Daniel found Jack punching things in the gym.

"You know," Daniel said over the sounds of impacts, "Teal'c likes me to train with more mobile opponents. So I've seen this used, but somehow, I've managed not to find out what it's called."

Without looking away, Jack said a little breathlessly, "What are you talking about?"

"The bag you're punching."

"It's a punching bag, Daniel."

"Really," Daniel said, amused despite the grim situation SG-1 had just left behind. "But the bag doesn't punch you. Shouldn't it be a...a punched bag? If you're making an adjective of a verbal participle to modify a direct object, you'd think the passive one would be used, right?"

Jack paused but didn't answer. After a moment, he started again.

Eyeing the older man, Daniel said, "Is this where the phrase 'knock the stuffing out of' comes from?"

"Daniel!" Jack said, stopping and turning around, looking annoyed.

"I know," Daniel said, nodding, "I should pay more attention to prepositions and the clauses they come at the end of."

Jack blinked, then accused, "You do that on purpose."

"Only when I'm talking to you," he admitted.

"Wasn't talking about your grammar."

"I know."

"So what do you want?" Jack said, adjusting the padding he was wearing on his hand.

"Are you okay?" Daniel asked.

Scowling, Jack said, "Why?"

"Because you're turning the punching bag into a killing bag."

This seemed to confuse Jack momentarily out of his annoyance. "The bag's not killing anyone."

"Exactly," Daniel said triumphantly. "You wouldn't call it a killing bag because you're killing it; so why do you call it a punching bag because you're punching it?"

Jack stared at him for a moment, then squeezed his eyes shut. "All right. You're starting to make sense. I obviously need some sleep."

Daniel grinned but let it disappear by the time Jack opened his eyes again. He took a seat on a nearby bench. Jack considered the punched punching bag and reached out to stop its gentle swaying. Instead of starting again, though, he joined Daniel at the bench.

"It was tempting, wasn't it," Daniel said more seriously. "The Eurondan technology."

Jack gave him a suspicious look, as if he thought Daniel might be accusing him of something. Daniel raised his eyebrows. "Pretty tempting," Jack admitted.

"Yeah. Sam said there was some...miracle medicine, and some neural-interface-something weapon...something..." Jack snorted. "Okay, I don't know what it was, but it sounded really good, so I guess I understand."

"You didn't see it, Daniel. This stuff the Eurondans had--with the right planning and a little work...we could've done so much. Not only that; this is the kind of thing our scientists have been trying to do for years. And it was almost ours for practically nothing."

"Nothing but lives, yes?" Daniel said. "We can't fight an enemy by becoming them, Jack. There are choices that--"

"Apophis is alive," Jack interrupted, because when it came down to it, that was what they were facing. Apophis had a massive fleet of Goa'uld and Jaffa servants and was gaining more even now. He'd clearly progressed past the point of caring whether other System Lords agreed with him, and he hated the Tau'ri, perhaps more than any other Goa'uld did. And there were certainly enough other threats even without Apophis. "Remember that guy?"

Daniel stared at the crack at his feet where two mats didn't line up perfectly and said evenly, "Do you think I would ever forget about Apophis?"

Jack sighed and leaned back on his hands. "Guess not."

"Teal'c said there was no good choice for you, on Euronda," Daniel tried. "I didn't see what it was like, but it sounded like you made the best choice possible."

"Do you have any idea how many Eurondans are probably dead in that bunker right now?" Jack said.

"Sam said you saw about one to two hundred people--"

"Yeah, and--"

"And perhaps five to six thousand more in stasis, just in that bunker. She told me."

Jack clenched a fist and released it. "So how's that choice sound now?"

"It's what would have happened if we hadn't interfered," Daniel said, wishing there were something better to say than 'they would have died anyway.'

"You know what I keep thinking?" Jack said, standing up abruptly. Daniel leaned away, surprised at the sudden movement, but kept silent as Jack crossed his arms and looked down at him. "Alar downloaded the information and designs, and he was gonna give it to us. If we'd kept up the game a little longer--another day, maybe even another few hours--we could've had it."

"That would have been cheating," Daniel said without thinking.

"Cheating?" Jack echoed dangerously, looming the way he tended to do without noticing it when he was angry. "We lost six men last week, Daniel. That's the second entire team we've lost in two months, along with two others from other teams and a man from our security force who'll never walk again. In the last two months. And you think it would've been cheating to find a way to win this war?"

Daniel held his seat, knowing very well that Jack wouldn't hurt him for all he might bluster and loom. "I understand, Jack," he said tightly.

"The Eurondans are getting killed whether they gave us those plans or not, and we're sitting here empty-handed because we didn't want to cheat," Jack said sharply.

"Well, I'm glad you didn't," Daniel said just as sharply, standing as well, "because I wouldn't have been able to look at you if you'd done something terrible for it. That's the...the 'technology at all costs' idea you went undercover a few months ago to stop."

Jack looked thunderous for a moment, then deflated. "You're not really glad that we didn't get those plans," he said.

"No, not...really," Daniel had to admit.

Silently, there was a part of him that wished SG-1 had kept up the act, just long enough to get weapons technology that the Tau'ri would need decades to develop on their own. It would almost certainly have meant more of the Eurondans' enemies' deaths in that time, but it was tempting to turn a blind eye to that when the victims were faceless entities.

He was ashamed enough by the admission, though, that he looked back down. "But I am glad, a little," he said. "At least, I'm glad you weren't a liar and a thief and a...an accessory to genocide."

"Much good that'll do us," Jack sighed, but in resigned acceptance, so it was all right. Daniel was sure there weren't many at the SGC who'd never been tempted, at least once, to be a liar and a thief or even a murderer for the sake of something that could save their lives and their planets. There was nothing wrong with temptation, per se; what mattered was what they did in the face of that choice. He wondered if part of what bothered Jack was how close they'd come to accepting the Eurondans' offer.

"You know what's interesting?" Daniel said.

"The fact that our death toll has tripled since we got our best piece of healing technology chewed up by Replicators?" Jack said, too bitingly to be anywhere near a joke.

"The fact," Daniel countered, "that any rise in the death toll has little to do with the sarcophagus." Jack narrowed his eyes. "There's a list in our office of the people who have died since the program started. You can count on one hand the number of people in the past several months whose bodies were retrievable."

"Thanks for the statistics."

"And using a short span of time like that is not an accurate way to calculate statistics."

"So it has nothing to do with our healing technology," Jack said; "we're just getting better at getting our asses kicked out there. Gee, a fleet of remote fighter planes powered by nothing but water might come in handy there, don't you think?"

Daniel sighed and sat back down. "That's what the Eurondans were offering?"

"Pretty much," Jack said, and then, "You keep a list of the dead?"

"Well...it's become a habit for Robert and me. He used to write them down and pretend it was to keep track of the translators, but...well, everyone's name goes on there."

"That's kinda morbid," Jack said.

"It's his way of keeping track, that's all."

"We're getting our asses kicked," Jack repeated.

Daniel chewed his lip but didn't answer, knowing it was getting too close to being true for comfort. "So what happened? You said at the debriefing that the Eurondans were prejudiced against people of...of what they considered impure, uh, genetic...appearance, something like that, and that they started the war, but...what exactly happened?"

Jack shook his head. "Carter was looking around in their control room, checking out their technology, the plans for their facility... She found pipes. At first, she thought they were for air from the surface."

"Which was poisoned," Daniel said.

"Yeah. It wasn't their air source; it was how they poisoned the air to begin with. They'd built their bunker in preparation for the war long before they started it. Alar told us himself that they wanted to stop the spread of the breeders, that they were spreading like a plague."

"The...'breeders'?" Daniel repeated. "'Spreading like'...you're sure they meant humans?"

"They thought Teal'c was one of them, Daniel," Jack snapped. "So, yeah, I think we can assume they were human. Apparently, the 'breeders' reproduce with no regard for genetic purity."

"Oh. Oh. I've read about this," Daniel realized. "In your history books--wars fought over...the same thing, really. Exactly the same thing. Thousands and thousands of people killed..."

Jack glanced at him, then away again. "It's not a part of our history we're proud of."

"I can see that," Daniel agreed, thinking he understood now the strength of the disgust--from Jack and Sam but also from the general--once they'd found out what the Eurondan war was about. Abydos wasn't free from prejudice, but since most Abydons' ancestors were from a small area of Earth, and since they'd spent most of their history without enough freedom to start wars between humans, what he'd read of Tau'ri history held much more of that type of dispute than Abydonian history did. Wars were about power or ideological differences or both--they shouldn't be surprised to see parallels in planets' disputes.

"Anyway," Jack finished, "the bree--the other side launched the first attack on the Eurondans as a preemptive strike to try to stop them from poisoning the..." He made a motion with his hand like something floating into the air and dispersing.

It struck Daniel that they didn't know anything about the so-called breeders, either. The Eurondans may have been the ones trying to kill all of them, but for all the SGC knew, the other side's morals were no better. He supposed that was why they were supposed to avoid interfering in conflicts of this scale. They couldn't know, and if they didn't know, they shouldn't judge.

As if to end the discussion, Jack moved to the middle of the mat and gestured Daniel to join him. "Come on, let's spar. I feel like hitting something."

Daniel folded his arms, not moving. "You should really work on your persuasive skills, Jack."

"I can make it an order."

"So?"

Jack rolled his eyes. "You're in your workout clothes. You're here for a reason. Come on, warm up, stretch--I wanna see what they managed to pound into you at the Alpha Site."

Daniel stood and joined him on the mat, jumping in place a few times to warm himself slightly. "The civilians' physical requirements are different, you know, even for those of us on exploration teams."

"Y'think? I made up those rules for you, and then we made the rest of the scientists meet them."

"Oh. Right."

"But please tell me you managed to take down one of the Marines, at least once."

"Why, did you bet on it?" Daniel said, and then, "Jack. You bet on me against a Marine?"

Jack raised an eyebrow. "Who says my money was on you?"

Daniel stopped where he stood and crossed his arms. "With whom?"

"Teal'c," Jack said unrepentantly. "So? Did you ever take down one of SG-3?"

Shaking his head, Daniel said, "Once. It was one of the new members. He thought he should go easy on me, and I learned from Teal'c how to deal with people stronger and more skilled than I am... They stopped going easy on me after that, so I stopped winning in free sparring."

"You only won once?" Jack said, his tone dismayed, but his expression was pleased.

"I'm not actually trying to get into MARSOC, you know," Daniel pointed out. "A lot of it was structured drills, anyway, not...trying to win or lose. So which one of you bet against me?"

"I'm not telling you," Jack said.

"I'll ask Teal'c."

"Yeah, and I'll bet you he won't tell you, either."

Daniel rolled his eyes but thought it was the better part of valor to say, "No bet."

Jack shrugged. "Warmed up? Let's go freestyle. I want to see what you need to work on."

"Want to hear something that'll make you feel better?" Daniel said as he finished a quick stretch. Jack raised an eyebrow. "SG-14 is about two hours from Washington D.C. to discuss the newest draft of the Tok'ra treaty with the President and his advisors."

Frowning, Jack said, "Why the hell would you think that makes me feel better?"

Shrugging, Daniel said, "I don't know. I just thought...schadenfreude or something."

This time, Jack laughed, so he settled into a stance and prepared himself.

"How's that treaty looking, by the way?" Jack said as they circled each other.

"Uh--oof." Somehow, he was flat on his back with Jack's weight pressing him to the mat.

"For cryin' out loud, Daniel!" Jack said in exasperation, standing up. "What the hell did I send you to boot camp for? You should've been able to take that, easy."

"You were...talking about the Tok'ra!" Daniel said, grimacing as he pushed himself to his feet and caught his breath.

Jack threw up his hands. "What, should I have--"

Daniel took the opening to kick Jack's legs out from under him and pull him to the mat. "Hah," he said triumphantly, holding Jack's shoulders pinned down. And then one of Jack's hands gripped his arm and twisted sharply, and almost before he registered any pain at all, their positions were switched. "Yi shay," he sighed.

"Don't just lie there!" Jack barked, not moving. "Throw me off, get up."

He could do this one--he reached around with a leg and twisted to liberate an arm enough to use, knocked one of Jack's arms away, and he was almost out--

Jack threw him back down, and after a short struggle, Daniel found himself facedown with one arm twisted just enough to incapacitate him.

"So what'd we learn?" Jack said, though at least he was breathing hard this time.

Daniel tested Jack's grip, winced, and stopped before he hurt himself by resisting too hard. "That...I can't get up once I'm down," he panted. Also, that Jack wasn't going to hold back with him anymore, which might have made him feel pleased if he weren't lying flat on his stomach with Jack's knee in his back.

"Then don't go down in the first place."

The weight pinning him disappeared. Daniel rolled over to see Jack backing off. "Right," he said, standing up more warily. "Do you feel better now?"

"Little bit," Jack admitted. "Still got some life in these knees."

Shaking his head, Daniel raised his guard.


From the next chapter ("Anise and Freya"):

"Welcome," the general said, then gestured as he said, "I'm General Hammond. Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter, Teal'c, and Daniel Jackson."

"This is Marnon," the woman said, and, to Daniel's chagrin, it was only then that he realized there was another Tok'ra who'd come through with her, holding a box. "You may call me Anise."