Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Chapter 9: The Eye of Tiamat
12 November 2000; Briefing Room, SGC; 0630 hrs
Dr. Rothman and Daniel were both in the briefing room when Jack arrived in answer to the summons. Since the two of them rarely took briefings together these days aside from planning meetings--it was an inefficient use of brainpower--Jack interpreted this as a bad sign.
"So, I'm in bed this morning," Jack said as he took his seat, waiting for the rest of his team to show up. "And I'm thinking it'll be a nice, quiet morning, since a certain alien friend of mine decided to stay on base for the weekend and isn't going to make a lot of noise bumbling around in the morning--"
"I don't bumble," Daniel retorted. "I walk around, and I don't make a lot of noise."
"You bumble," Jack assured him. "Tripping over things and--"
"I don't tri--I don't usually trip over anyth--"
"You fell down half a staircase once."
"You left a sock at the top of the stairs, Jack, and it was dark!"
"Then you admit you were noisy," Jack said. Daniel rolled his eyes. "But since you weren't there this morning, imagine my surprise when, in the wee hours of--"
"Six...okay, four-thirty, five o'clock is not 'wee,' Jack," Daniel said. "Well, not that wee."
"It's relative, Daniel. On a Sunday, five is very wee."
"Well, technically, the general called you, not me, so..."
"Oh, my god," Rothman groaned. He dropped his head to the table and covered his head with his arms, mumbling something like "shudp" into the table.
Daniel broke off and looked at the side of his boss's head. "I called and woke him up before you," he told Jack with chagrin. "Are we really that...?"
"Annoying?" Jack said dismissively. "Nah."
"Why aren't you tired," Rothman said, emerging enough to speak coherently.
Daniel picked up his mug of coffee and inhaled deeply. "Mm," he said in answer.
All hours wee and large considered, Jack decided that Daniel was probably more saturated with caffeine than he needed to be and took the mug away. Jack needed it more at this point, anyway. "What were you doing still up at that time of night--morning?" he asked, sipping the warm liquid and pulling it out of reach of Daniel's hands.
"I got an e-mail," Daniel said more seriously, giving up on the coffee and sitting back down.
Jack's eyebrows shot up. "Gonna tell the rest of the class what it was?"
"We should wait for the rest of the class," Rothman said, sitting back up with a yawn.
"Good point," Jack admitted, but, luckily, Carter walked in then, with Teal'c right behind her. He was wondering whether this was actually something important or just about the evils of spam when he remembered that Daniel's e-mail account shouldn't be receiving much of anything from anyone outside this mountain, since he didn't really exist to people without very high clearance. "Wait, Daniel got an e-mail? Who sent it?"
"Maybourne," Rothman answered as Carter and Teal'c sat down.
Carter froze halfway down into her seat. Teal'c looked very interested, in the sense that he'd been looking for an excuse to dismember the man for years. Jack took a sip of coffee, just to make sure he was as awake as possible and not just hearing wrong, then said, "What?"
"Colonel Harry Maybourne," Daniel said, giving him a look as if to say, 'aren't you glad I woke you up?' "Well, we don't technically know that. It was just signed 'Harry,' but unless there's another Harry who knows me and would send us messages from a Nellis base address and offer information in exchange for...uh...what was it..."
"He wants a pardon or a reduced sentence," Rothman said. "I read over it just now."
"Oh, no way," Jack said.
"What information does he offer?" Teal'c said.
"Coordinates, for one," Rothman said. "And information on a security threat."
"You opened the e-mail?" Carter said.
"Yes," Daniel said, avoiding her eyes. "And I opened the attached files, too."
"Because we have not yet located Colonel Maybourne, he could have contacted anyone about the nature of Stargate Command," Teal'c said. "That may be the threat of which he speaks."
"Yeah, probably," Rothman said to Teal'c, "which is why he's got something to bargain with."
"What was the subject line?" Carter asked while Jack rubbed his eyes tiredly and tried to sort out who was answering whom in the two conversations going on around him.
"Um..." Daniel said to Carter, and then ducked his head. "It said...'SGC security--let's deal.'"
She gave him a wide-eyed look. Jack caught Daniel's embarrassed expression and said, "You saw that it was from a fugitive and had to do with making deals about SGC security, and instead of, oh, I don't know, calling security, you opened the files on an SGC computer and then called an archaeologist?"
"Hey," Rothman said.
"What, you're not an archaeologist?" Jack said to him.
"I didn't see the subject until after I'd opened it and realized something was wrong," Daniel said miserably. "It was late. Early. Well, late, as in wee--"
"This is what happens when you work half-asleep! You should've just gone home on Friday--"
"Oh, but then I would've been noisy, Jack!"
"Gentlemen!" General Hammond's voice barked. They shut up and stood along with Carter as Teal'c raised an eyebrow at them. "We have enough problems right now without making new ones. Sit down," he ordered, and they plopped quickly into their seats. "Mr. Jackson, we haven't found any problems on your computer so far, but you need to pay attention before opening those kinds of files in the future. As it is, your data is now being backed up, and the system will be wiped and completely reformatted to make sure he didn't plant anything there."
"Yes, sir," Daniel said, chastised.
"We don't know where he sent it from?" Carter said.
"No, Major," the general said. "I'd like you to look over that once we're done here, just in case he left something to be traced."
"Okay, no offense to anyone," Jack said, leaning forward, "but I'll ask again--why did Daniel call the archaeologist first?"
"The attachment I opened was a picture of a tablet written in cuneiform," Daniel said.
"Wait," Carter said, "so Daniel got a cuneiform message and Dr. Rothman didn't?"
"He called partly to see if I'd gotten it, too," Rothman said, "which I hadn't. Which sort of makes sense, since I've never had personal dealings with Maybourne."
"But I'd guess all of you"--Daniel waved his hand to encompass the rest of the team--"would have gotten it, too. Just...not quite as early in the morning. The message was addressed to SG-1."
"He must have figured that by the time any of us opened it," Carter said, "he'd have had time to get away from the computer he was using so we couldn't trace his physical location. Sir--"
"Even with the early alarm," Hammond said, "Colonel Maybourne still has a few hours' head start on us. Our specialists eventually found an IP address that led to a second-hand laptop computer purchased under what we suspect was a pseudonym, which was found in a dumpster halfway across the world. By the time we had that, he was long gone. He might not even be in the same country anymore."
Jack's eyebrows rose. "So he's sending vaguely threatening messages and thinks we're going to be so pleased about it that we'll help him?"
"What exactly did it say?" Carter asked. "The tablet in cuneiform, I mean. I assume that's the other part of why Daniel called Dr. Rothman."
"Yeah, he's not great at cuneiform," Rothman explained. Daniel looked like he wanted to be offended but didn't argue, so it was probably true. "But neither am I. I'm not done yet, but the tablet seems to talk about...well. Okay. It's something to do with Marduk, a Babylonian god, who is sometimes also known as Belus. Or Bel-Marduk--you know, that kind of thing."
Jack glanced quickly around at his team to make sure he wasn't the only one for whom those names didn't ring a bell, but Daniel narrowed his eyes and said, "Belus. Isn't that, uh...we've read about Belus. From one of your early missions," he added to Jack. "P3X...866, I think."
"Right, the Oannes text," Rothman said. "As far as we could tell, Belus--or Marduk--was a Goa'uld. It's likely that he was on Earth, in Babylon, at some point before the Giza rebellion, and Marduk killed a bunch of alien beings who came to try to free Earth from the Goa'uld."
"They were unsuccessful, obviously, but they tried, and possibly planted the seeds of later rebellions," Daniel added. "Omoroca, the winged serpent, seemed to have been the leader. She got cut in half by Marduk, and he used bits of her to form the parts of the world."
"Ew," Jack said.
"Or so the myth goes," Rothman said. "Omoroca's also known as Tiamat, and these tablets say that the eye of Tiamat endowed Marduk with great magical abilities."
"Her eye?" Carter said doubtfully.
"Probably not literally a biological eye," Rothman said, tapping his glasses,
"It could be a Goa'uld weapon," Teal'c suggested.
"The tablets also give Stargate coordinates," Daniel added, sliding a photograph across the table to Carter. Jack and Teal'c looked on from either side of her.
"And if the message was addressed to SG-1," Carter added, "we can assume Maybourne thinks this is something worth commuting his sentence, and he wants SG-1 to check it out."
"Furthermore, this is the Tau'ri point of origin," Teal'c said, pointing to the last glyph scratched into the tablet. "This is not only a Stargate address; it is a Stargate address that was meant to be used from Earth."
"Wait..." Jack said.
"Yeah," Rothman said. "We think this means the tablet was found on Earth. But something like this...it's a piece of the creation myth that I've never seen anywhere else, not to mention the Stargate glyphs. This should've made waves. If it had been published, someone here would have picked up on it. I would've picked up on it."
"'If it had been published,'" Carter echoed. "Meaning that it never was. Someone somehow recognized the significance of those glyphs and got it classified."
Daniel nodded. "We think this is what Maybourne meant when he said there was a security issue. Someone knows about the Stargate--enough have picked out a tablet from an archaeological project and made sure no one found out about it."
"So this is just Maybourne's proof that he's not full of BS," Jack said. "He knows someone who knows something and wants to help us shut them down in exchange for lowering his sentence."
Carter made a face. "With a possible security breach, we have no choice but to contact him. He could be anywhere in the world right now. If another government or organization is keeping this as a secret to hold over our heads, we might never find out on our own."
"I'm going to have people start trying to figure this out ourselves before he contacts us again," Hammond said. "In the meantime, Dr. Rothman, I want you to finish the translation of that tablet. We've also found the address in the Abydos cartouche data. As soon as we've recalculated the coordinates, if the MALP telemetry looks reasonable, I'll send SG-1 to take a look around."
"What about me?" Rothman said. "Daniel's not an expert in this area."
"Neither are you," Daniel said. "And it could be a Goa'uld planet."
"Uh...yeah," Rothman said. "Is that supposed to be an argument for your going?"
"I want SG-1 to report back soon after arriving, anyway," Hammond said. "We'll decide after the initial assessment whether further exploration or archaeological expertise is warranted."
12 November 2000; P2X-338; 1630 hrs
"Oh, wow," Daniel said, his eyes widening. "A ziggurat! I've never seen a real ziggurat before."
"Everyone watch your backs," Jack warned, because the MALP sensors said the place looked deserted and Teal'c didn't see any tracks or traces of life, but Jack trusted Maybourne about as far as he could throw him and MALPs' data about as far as he could shove them. "You know where the entrance might be?"
"Uh...the shrine will be at the top," Daniel said, shading his eyes and peering up the long path of stairs. "It's only open up there, if this is anything like ones on Earth."
"At the top," Jack repeated, leading the way up the staircase. "Of course it is."
By the time they reached the top, it was becoming clear that they couldn't stay too long. Even Daniel, who normally liked hot, dry weather, was starting to look uncomfortable in the heat.
"This appears to be the entrance," Teal'c finally said, looking at a solid wall.
"It's not doing such a good job of the 'entering' part," Jack observed, since it didn't open.
"Maybe there's a switch to open it," Carter said, moving closer to look with Daniel right behind her. "Can you read this?" she asked him, pointing at the wall.
Daniel stared for a few moments, then admitted, "Not in the time we have before check-in. If I had some references and some time--a lot of time--maybe I could, but..."
"Is this cuneiform?" she said, wrinkling her brow. "It doesn't look right."
"It is," Daniel said, reaching out to trace the carved writing with his fingers. "What we call cuneiform didn't start looking wedge-shaped--you know, 'cuneiform'--until later. This is very pictographic, suggesting it's older than what we were looking at on base. Later civilizations tended to use increasingly abstract or phonological units, which is probably what you're--"
"Can you read it?" Jack interrupted. "Or can either of you get it open?"
"I'll look for a mechanism," Carter said, bending to examine the bottom of the door. Daniel tapped the bricks one more time and started to turn away, but then he stopped.
"What?" Jack said. Teal'c turned from where he'd been standing guard as well.
"Sam," Daniel said sharply, ignoring Jack. She looked up. "They push in."
Taking a few steps closer, Jack saw what Daniel meant: the brick he'd been touching had sunken slightly into the wall. "Should you be doing that?" Jack said.
"I have no idea," Daniel said, looking like he wasn't sure whether he should take his hand off the depressed brick.
Carter leaned forward and tapped another. "These are the same--each one is like a button."
"Whoa," Daniel said, snatching his hand away. "It just popped back out."
"Timed?" she mused, watching until her own stone retracted back into place as well. "Maybe it's like a combination lock. We have to push the right ones to make the door open."
"There appear to be many possible combinations," Teal'c said.
"There's an understatement," Jack muttered, eyeing what had to be over a hundred bricks that formed the wall. Added to the fact that they had no idea what order to go in or which ones to push, they didn't even know how many were in the combination. The possibilities were infinite.
"Let me get some of this on film, just for Robert to see a sample," Daniel said, "or have him come back with us. Whatever is written on it has got to be a clue of some sort, and it'll be faster than waiting for me to try to figure it out on my own."
13 November 2000; P2X-338; 1030 hrs
The general let them return the day after with SG-11 and a load of reference books, which was good, because Daniel was pretty sure he had no chance of translating and opening that ziggurat wall by himself before they died of heat sickness.
"Did you figure out that word yet?" Robert said, working near the top of the wall while Daniel started closer to the bottom.
"No. Yes," Daniel said. "Well...no?"
"I don't know! Destiny? It doesn't make sense. How do you create a destiny?"
"Well, if this is before the universe, then..." Robert trailed off. "There's a line like that in the creation story. This is before the universe. Marduk and Tiamat's guy--what's his name..."
"Kingu, in the myths."
"Right, they're fighting for the right to shape the universe. See if we're right, look down lower and see if you can find the whole...you know, winged serpent, cutting in half, earth, sky..."
"Right, and...okay," Daniel said, moving a little further down.
The crunch of Jack's boots came closer. "How's it going, guys?" Jack said, sounding impatient and blocking the light.
"Could you...hold on, Jack," Daniel said, raising his flashlight pointedly until Jack moved away, taking his shadow with him.
"Marduk gets the winds up here," Robert said.
"Here's a sign for deity," Daniel said, halfway to lying down now to see the bottom of the door. "More than one. The meeting of the gods?"
"That must be the part where they decide Marduk becomes...well, a System Lord, maybe, but only after he defeats Tiamat."
"Here!" Daniel said, sprawled in the dust by now. "Marduk splits the winged serpent in two...and her heart...and her belly...and her, uh...what is that?"
"I think that's 'entrails' of some sort," Robert said.
"We get the idea--she's dead," Major Hawkins said. Daniel looked up to see both SG-1 and SG-11 had gathered a little closer, watching them.
Daniel skimmed past the detailed disembowelment of Tiamat and continued, "Uh...half is a roof for the heavens...and her...I think that's 'eyes'..." He stopped, confused.
Robert was looking down at him expectantly. "...are the source of the rivers?" he finished. "Hey, you think that's what was important about the eye of Tiamat? Rivers can represent power, so--"
"No," Daniel said, backtracking and still not understanding how such an important part could have been lost.
"No, you don't think it's metaphorical?"
"No, it's not--there's nothing...no river. No water sign, nothing."
"But that's how it goes," Robert said. "It's the Tigris and Euphrates from her eyes--"
"No, it's not here," Daniel clarified. "He cuts the serpent and uses half to form the sky, and her eyes... That's where it stops."
He moved his flashlight back but still couldn't find the missing piece or, if nothing else, something to tell him why a piece was missing at all. Robert frowned, taking a step back and saying, "What kind of creation story talks about the sky being formed and forgets about the ground and...rivers and people--whoa."
"What?" Daniel said, pushing himself to his feet to see.
"I think Tiamat's skull is being crushed here," Robert said, tapping a section above his head.
Daniel squinted at it. "But...he doesn't even fight her until a lot further down on the wall. How can he crush her skull before they go into battle?"
"This doesn't make any sense," Robert said, frustrated. "It says Marduk was given the four winds...and then all of a sudden, Tiamat's skull is being crushed."
"It's...out of order," Daniel said, the answer clicking into place. He grinned. "It's out of order!"
"Yeah," Robert said, still scowling.
"No, Robert--that's it! There are pieces that are in the wrong place. Teal'c, a High Priest or other high-ranking Jaffa would be able to read, right?"
From behind them, Teal'c said, "That is likely. Only they would be able to read this wall and know which sections were in the wrong place."
"Okay, let's start looking," Robert said, turning and holding a finger on that brick as he and Daniel moved to opposite sides to look for other parts that looked out of sequence. "Um...here--the eyes and the rivers and her ribs and all of that--that's up here."
"And here's one," Daniel said, off to the side. "Tiamat creates the monsters, and suddenly the blood of Kingu is being used to create people."
"Where else," Robert murmured, scanning the wall.
"Maybe that's it, Doc--just try those," Lieutenant Sanchez said when they couldn't find anything else minutes later.
With a shrug, Robert pushed in the two blocks within reach while Daniel pressed the other. Nothing happened. "Maybe we missed one," Daniel said.
"Do they have to be pressed in order?" Sam suggested.
"Maybe, but what order?" Robert said. "Oh--chronological according to the story. So first it's the...the skull-crushing"--he waited for all three blocks to jump back out as normal, then depressed that one--"then the eyeball-piercing...then killing the guy and draining his blood..." Daniel pushed that block in.
"Geez--this is one bloody fairytale," Jack commented.
"It's not a fairytale, Jack," Daniel started--
Stone ground against stone. The wall began to rise. Daniel stopped talking and ducked as several guns swung in his general direction from behind, but he peered around the edge of the entrance, squinting to follow their flashlights as rubble crashed inside from the vibrations alone.
"God," Robert said, wincing as each rock fell. Daniel raised his own flashlight, adding to the beams of light illuminating the dark interior.
"Looks clear," Jack finally said when silence fell again.
"Hah," Daniel said, pointing triumphantly into the open ziggurat.
"We did it," Robert said smugly.
13 November 2000; Temple of Marduk, P2X-338; 1330 hrs
"This place doesn't look too stable," Sam commended worriedly as they carefully stepped in.
"Well, it's probably over four thousand years old," Robert pointed out.
"Do you think anyone's still alive in here?" Daniel asked, looking up in interest at the ceiling. "If Marduk was a Goa'uld, four thousand years isn't very long." He walked into Captain Hatley's back. "Ow--sorry, Captain. Are we stopping?" he asked as he rubbed his nose, half-blind between the dark and the close quarters.
Everyone else had stopped, too. "There might be a living Goa'uld in here?" Sergeant Loder asked, a little more quietly.
"Dr. Rothman?" Hawkins said, just as quietly.
"Uh," Robert said.
"Oy..." Jack breathed. "Daniel?"
"Well, how should we know?" Daniel said. "But this seems like a terrible place for a Goa'uld to choose to spend four thousand years."
"Oh, well, there you go," Robert said. "Did you see the way the door opened?"
"Like it had a few parts that needed oiling?" Sanchez said.
"Sure. I'll bet it hasn't been used in a long time. There's no way a healthy Goa'uld System Lord would stay in here all that time when he could be out...you know, conquering stuff instead."
"But Marduk was no longer a System Lord, Dr. Rothman," Teal'c said. "He had been severely punished in the past by Ra himself for various mistakes."
"Eh," Jack said, making the decision for all of them and continuing to march on. "There are better places to hide from Ra than inside a stinky old pyramid."
"Ziggurat," Daniel sighed.
"It's pretty stinky, though," Robert conceded.
They reached a fork, one passageway leading off to the left and another to the right. "So we don't actually know what we're looking for," Jack clarified.
"An eye," Daniel offered.
"Not a real one," Robert added. "Probably."
"Great," Jack said. "Hawkins, take SG-11 that way; SG-1, we'll go the other way. Keep the channel open, and watch out for Goa'ulds and falling rocks."
Daniel waved to Robert as the five men took the left passageway, then followed his team down the other. "This is... Isn't this amazing?" he said, imagining the secrets waiting to be discovered in here. There was a code to get in; who was to say there wasn't something like that elsewhere? He stepped closer to one of the walls and pressed on one of the bricks at random--to no effect--until Sam, behind him, gently prodded him onward.
"Yes," Jack drawled in a tone that meant 'no.' "I've always wanted to be a grave robber."
"We're not..." Daniel started, and then reconsidered. "Well, I suppose we are trying to rob in this case. That's...huh. But..."
"We are attempting to steal from a Goa'uld," Teal'c said.
"Yes, thank you," Daniel said.
"Ah. So we're just Goa'uld-grave robbers," Jack said.
"I'm okay with that, sir," Sam said.
"Besides, Mesopotamian ziggurats were thought to be the house of the gods," Daniel said. "Not quite like the Egyptian pyramids--the human-built ones--which were mostly built as tombs for pharaohs. So we're trying to rob a...a temple of sorts, not a grave."
"Temple-robbing," Jack said. "Much better."
"Fewer bodies," Daniel offered.
Their radios crackled suddenly to life. "Colonel, this is Hawkins."
Jack stopped, reaching up to his radio. "Go ahead, Major."
"Sir, we've found a sarcophagus."
Daniel's eyebrows shot up. He could hear Sam's weapon shifting in her hands behind him as Teal'c turned, looking back the way they came. Immediately, Jack said, "Hold your position 'til we get there." To the rest of them, he added, "Fall back."
"Yes, sir," Hawkins said.
"Why does there have to be a sarcophagus in here?" Jack said as they made their way carefully around crumbling stone.
"House of the gods?" Daniel said. "Maybe Marduk's living in it." Sam glanced at him sharply. "Or--no, I mean, he might not be," he added.
"A Goa'uld could have been kept alive indefinitely using a sarcophagus," Teal'c said.
"'Fewer bodies' my ass," Jack muttered.
With that optimistic thought in mind, they stepped into a large chamber where SG-11 stood a safe distance away from what was unmistakably a sarcophagus. Robert was a little farther off, looking at the cuneiform writing on a nearby column.
"Okay," Jack said, sounding a little reluctant. "We should check and see if anyone's home."
"Ziggurats were said to be the dwelling place of the gods," Robert put in.
"So we've heard," Jack said sourly. "Carter, open it up. If anything comes out of that thing, shoot first."
He glanced at Daniel, as if expecting an argument. In answer, Daniel pulled his weapon and thumbed off the safety. Whatever was in there--Goa'uld or host or innocent human--he doubted it would survive the withdrawal from four thousand years of continual sarcophagus addiction, and if it was a Goa'uld, he had no problem with killing it.
"I don't see any buttons or crystals, sir," Sam said as she examined the side. "And...this is strange. It looks almost like it was welded shut, from the outside--" She stopped suddenly.
"What?" Hawkins said, shifting impatiently.
"I think I sense..." She frowned, touching the sarcophagus lightly. "Huh."
"You 'sense'--you mean a symbiote?" Daniel said, alarmed. "Like...naquadah?"
Sam looked at them worriedly. "Possibly."
"Teal'c, Daniel," Jack said tensely.
As the two of them moved to join her, Robert pointed out, "Aren't sarcophagi made of naquadah? That could be what you're sensing."
"The one I studied on base was laced with naquadah," Sam said, "but not in anywhere near as high a concentration as a Goa'uld symbiote or a Goa'ulded host. That I can sense it at all against the background of the sarcophagus..."
"I believe sense a faint presence within as well," Teal'c said.
"I don't," Daniel said. "But I don't have nearly as much naquadah in my blood as either of you." There was that faint, almost unnoticeable tingling that he would have called nothing more than nervousness from the dark, crumbling structure around them if he hadn't known better, but nothing specific to tell him there was anything more than a naquadah-based device. He moved to Sam's other side, vaguely aware of the rest of the men moving in closer around them so they'd be more easily able to fire if there was a living Goa'uld inside, and made his way down the length of the sarcophagus. "There might be a crystal at the other end," he said.
He'd just set his foot down on a step when a rumbling sound made him freeze.
"What--" Robert started.
"Is that the door?" Loder said. A rock crashed to the ground feet from where he stood. "Holy--!"
"Move!" Jack barked. "Back the way we came--go!"
Daniel backed off and found himself pulled by one arm and shoved roughly in the direction of the exit. A loose rock tumbled to the ground in front of him, and he flinched, running past as quickly as he could. Teal'c was in front of him, but he couldn't distinguish anyone else as running forms surrounded him, even with occasional flickers from someone's flashlight.
"This way!" Hawkins called, in the lead.
Another rock. Daniel stopped trying to figure out where they were and concentrated on following the mass of sprinting people and hoping fervently that the next rock wouldn't bring the entire shrine down on them. Then he remembered the pictures of ziggurats on Earth, which existed mostly in crumbling pieces, even without having door scraping open and closed all the time...
Never mind. Best not to think about that while running out of a ziggurat.
"The door is closing, O'Neill!" Teal'c shouted. Light was filtering in from the outside, and Daniel could see the opening beginning to narrow again. Through the bodies around him, he glimpsed Teal'c moving toward the doorway, hefting a sizeable chunk of rock and fitting it into the closing gap.
"Get out of there, Teal'c!" Jack yelled. "That's an order--get back here!"
Teal'c glanced upward, then threw himself out of the way. Daniel had enough time to see the rock get pulverized between the doors as they closed before a shower of stones rained from the ceiling. Teal'c rolled back farther toward the group just in time to avoid being crushed as the entrance was buried entirely.
Flashlights danced around the darkened passageway. "Everyone all right?" Jack said, sounding hoarse from the dust when things seemed to have settled for the moment. "Teal'c?"
"I am fine," Teal'c said, picking himself up.
Daniel leaned back against a wall, watching as Jack's eyes hopped from Teal'c to Sam to Daniel. "SG-11's all here," Hawkins said.
"SG-1, too," Jack answered. "No way to get to the door? Can we dig out?"
"Not easily, sir," Sam said. "And I don't think we should test the structural integrity of this place anymore unless we have to."
Jack stared at the pile of rubble for a moment. "Fine," he said at last, sharply, hopelessness in another person manifesting as irritation in him. "Back to the sarcophagus room. We'll take inventory there."
"I told you not to touch anything!" Jack snapped.
"I'm...I know," Daniel said, still feeling partly in shock from the understanding that they were trapped. Then, thinking back on it, he said, "Wait...no you didn't, and I don't even know what I did!"
"Must've been booby trapped," Robert said, sounding just as shaken.
"You probably set it off stepping up here," Sam said, examining the ground near the base of the sarcophagus. She stomped a foot hard on the stair to no effect. "Looks like this was pressure sensitive, but apparently irreversible."
"I did step on it," Daniel admitted. Part of him wanted to say that it was a stair, and how should he have known it was a trap, but it was still his fault and he didn't want to whine. Jack exhaled sharply in frustration. "I'm sorry," Daniel said.
"Any of us could've triggered it," Sam said. "I was a step away myself."
Jack gave Daniel one last glare, then walked up to the sarcophagus himself to give it a few knocks with his fist. "Major Hawkins, check our supplies. Teal'c, you and Carter take a good look at the sarcophagus and see if we can get it open or if we want to get it open. Captain Hatley, Lieutenant Sanchez, Sergeant Loder, go do some exploring--watch your step and don't split up. Dr. Rothman, Daniel, see if that writing over there says anything about a back door."
"Nothing in this part," Robert said, pointing to the section he'd been looking at before. "This is about the final fate of Marduk. His own priests sealed him in his sarcophagus with...something."
"Something?" Jack repeated. Daniel forced himself to stop sulking about trapping everyone in a four thousand year old ziggurat and moved toward the wall. He didn't recognize the word, either, though, so he unclipped his pack and handed a textbook to Robert.
As he paged through, Robert said, "Well, apparently, the priests didn't like him very much, so whatever they sealed him in with can't be anything good."
"I think it's a creature of some sort," Daniel said, joining him.
"Probably," Robert said a moment later, "but I don't have a direct translation for what it is. It could be something we've never even heard of on Earth. I think it says...well, this is 'mouth,' or 'eat,' so...I think the thing ate him."
Sam straightened from her perusal of the sarcophagus and turned around. "Ate him?"
Horror flowed over Daniel as Jack said, "But the sarcophagus keeps you alive..."
"Like Prometheus," Robert said. "He gets his liver eaten out, and then it grows back and gets eaten out again, and again..."
"Aw, Doc," Hawkins groaned.
"So...there's a Goa'uld being eaten to death and healed...right now? Right here?" Sam said. She pointed at the sarcophagus, inching away from it even as she spoke. "There are limits to a sarcophagus, though--Marduk might have died eventually..."
"We'd hear...you know...screaming, right?" Robert said.
"It probably depends on how fast the thing was eating him, or where it started," Daniel said, gesturing to his vocal tract. Flesh did grow back on its own; he supposed the creature could have eaten just enough to keep itself satiated and the Goa'uld incapacitated and quiet but still alive enough for the sarcophagus to heal him and provide more food.
"Aw, Daniel," Jack said, looking disgusted. "Okay, that's officially the worst way to go."
As sometimes happened to him, the image of a Goa'uld being eaten slowly, starting at the larynx, entered Daniel's mind only after he'd said it, and he willed himself not to feel sick at the thought. "It might still be alive, then?" he asked. "Can we zat it?"
Sam glanced at him, then told Jack, "The electricity might burn out the device and stop the sarcophagus from healing him. The inner layer of the sarcophagus might shield Marduk from the zat, but at least he won't be revived anymore. That'd be a mercy at this point."
"A Goa'uld such as Marduk does not deserve mercy, Major Carter," Teal'c said.
Daniel was pretty sure there was no way to atone for what someone like Marduk had done over millennia, but being eaten alive constantly for eternity wasn't his idea of a fitting punishment, either. Before he could say anything, though, Jack said, "Any chance zatting it'll set off some other trap?"
"I doubt it, sir," Sam said. "But I can look around to make sure."
"You do that, Major," he told her. "If it looks clean, then we'll zat it, but that doesn't solve our problem of getting out, so...?"
"Right," Daniel said shining his flashlight around the room to see where the writing seemed most likely to be useful.
"You start over there," Robert said, steering him toward a thick pillar wrapped around with writing. "I'll start here."
"We've got extra batteries, but don't use your flashlights more than you have to, or we might get stuck in the dark," Jack warned everyone. "When you're in this room, only Daniel and Rothman use lights--and Carter for now, until we figure out the sarcophagus. Everyone else walk close to them if you need to see something." He moved away toward the SG-11 leader to see what supplies they had between them.
Daniel scanned the pillar, hoping he'd see something easy--like 'door' or 'exit' and 'that way'--but knowing even before he failed at that that it was unlikely to be so simple.
"Any luck?" Sam asked him as she examined the sarcophagus from beside him.
"Uh," Daniel said, struggling to remember what the next sign might mean, much less put it together with the previous ones. "I'm not very good at cuneiform yet," he admitted to her.
"Well, I think we brought about a few days' worth of water," she said in a tone that he thought was meant to be encouraging. Daniel sighed. "It's not your fault," she said quietly. "If worse comes to worst, we can try to brute force our way out."
He winced at the image of setting C-4 around the crumbling foundations. He wasn't keen on having their crushed bodies join that of the Goa'uld being devoured. Then he imagined the Goa'uld being devoured again and quickly focused back on the wall. "Eye," he said, pointing at the symbol, then shook his head. "That doesn't make sense... Wait."
"What?" Sam said.
"Robert, isn't this 'eye?'" Daniel said. "This says there was an eye buried with Marduk, and this is the sign for...serpent...Tiamat?"
"Yeah, that's Tiamat," Robert said, examining it with him. "That's the winged serpent. The Eye of Tiamat must be sealed inside the sarcophagus with Marduk."
"The Eye of Tiamat...is the creature eating Marduk?" Sam said. Daniel imagined an eyeball with teeth and then wished he hadn't.
"No, it's a different word, isn't it?" Daniel said, comparing the two sections. "Maybe the creature is guarding the Eye of Tiamat as well as eating Marduk."
He looked back at Sam to see what she thought. "It's possible," she conceded, looking wary. "Except that it means we'd need to open that sarcophagus..."
"No," Jack ordered, returning toward them. "No one opens the sarcophagus and lets out a flesh-eating whatever until we have a way out. Come on, back to work. Carter?"
"Doesn't look like there's anything to be tripped, sir."
"Teal'c," Jack said, holding out his hand, "give me your zat."
Daniel heard it being handed over, concentrated on what he was trying to read, and tried not to think about the fact that being eaten alive just one more time was the best mercy they were hoping to offer a man.
13 November 2000; Temple of Marduk, P2X-338; 2300 hrs
"Go to sleep," Jack said, tapping him on the shoulder.
"We've got a long way to go," Daniel said, not looking away from the wall where he was standing. A glance to the side showed that Robert was still working, too, though Hawkins was making his way toward the archaeologist.
"And we can't do it by never sleeping," Jack said. "Finish tomorrow."
"I'm not sure we can finish by tomorrow, Jack."
"Then you'll finish the day after. We've got enough water for about five days--maybe a little more than that if we stretch it. At this point, you're just losing efficiency trying to stay awake."
Robert was waving Hawkins away. Hawkins rolled his eyes and didn't move. The other three members of SG-11 were setting bedrolls while Sam and Teal'c did the same a short distance away. "Did Hatley, Sanchez, and Loder find anything?" Daniel said quietly. "Another exit?"
"Nope," Jack said. "But who knows. Hawkins and I got some sleep during the day; we're about to take a look around this place to see if we notice anything they missed. And then Carter and Teal'c will do the same in the morning. But that's tomorrow--time for bed."
Daniel looked toward Robert again and met the man's eyes. Robert shrugged and switched off his flashlight, following Hawkins back to the clump where SG-11 was staying. "Okay," Daniel agreed reluctantly. "Jack, there might not be anything. It's possible--"
"Teal'c thinks there's gotta be a back entrance," Jack interrupted, walking toward Sam and Teal'c as he spoke so Daniel had no chance but to follow. "And remember Seth last year? You guys knew there just had to be a back entrance. It's a Goa'uld thing. We just have to find it, that's all."
"And if we don't find anything before we die of thirst?" Daniel said, and then, "Teal'c can go over a week without drinking in deep kelno'reem, did you know that?" Jack gave him an odd look. "Which is not of any use to us now," he added. "I was just reminded about it."
"Carter," Jack said instead of answering directly, "do we have the necessary explosives to blast our way out of here?"
"Almost certainly, sir," Sam said, sitting with a blanket--it was much cooler inside the temple than outside, to the point of being cold. "I wouldn't recommend it except as a last option, though--it might bring the walls down."
"See?" Jack said. "We've got a way out."
"Uh-huh," Daniel said, not finding that quite as comforting as Jack seemed to. "What about the Eye of Tiamat?"
"We should find a way out of here first, in case we end up needing to get away quickly from whatever's inside the sarcophagus," Sam said. "We can try laying some C-4 along the welding--just enough to blast it open but not enough to cause a real tremor."
"We may also be able to break the sarcophagus open by force alone," Teal'c added, eyeing some of the larger fallen rocks speculatively.
"Or we can get out of here, go back to the SGC for supplies, and come back with the proper cutting tools," Sam said.
"Okay--point taken," Daniel said, clearing away a few pebbles from an area of floor and taking time only to take off his vest before lying down, too tired to pull out his own blanket.
"Goodnight, kids," Jack said, then waved a hand at the other group, calling, "Hawkins! Let's go take a walk."
"I will take the first watch," Teal'c said.
"I'll take second," Sam said.
"Then I guess I'm third," Daniel said, because there wasn't much to guard against when they were trapped in here alone, but there was a Goa'uld who was being eaten to death for the last time by some unknown monster only a few paces away.
"No watch for you, Daniel," Sam said. "We need you and Dr. Rothman to be working on translation as much as possible while you're awake. You sleep--I'll wake Lieutenant Sanchez when I'm done with my shift."
Despite that, however, Daniel discovered later that he'd inched close to Sam for warmth during the night and stirred when Teal'c shook her awake for her watch.
"Go back to sleep," she whispered to him, tossing her blanket over him. Only the very outline of her body was visible by light of the flare they'd left for a bit of light.
Instead, he looked around to see SG-11 all sleeping while Teal'c was settling into kelno'reem and whispered back, "What do you think is going on with Maybourne?"
He couldn't see her face in the dark, but he saw her shrug. "Honestly, I have no idea. If I were on the run from death row and no one knew where I was, I'd stay on the run and offer information as a trade only if someone caught me."
"Yeah, it's backwards," Daniel said. "Maybe he's afraid someone's going to turn him in, and then that information won't be secret and his to trade for freedom anymore."
"Maybe," she agreed. "But we're a field team, Daniel--while we're off-world, our first priority is to deal with problems off-world. We've got people on base who can worry about Maybourne for now. Okay?"
"Okay," Daniel sighed, then rolled back toward Teal'c, the other source of heat while Sam was walking around, and tried to fall sleep. Some time later, footsteps heralded Jack and Major Hawkins' return, and Jack's form sandwiched him in from the other side.
14 November 2000; Temple of Marduk, P2X-338; 1200 hrs
"I think I found something," Robert said.
Daniel abandoned the section he'd been trying to read and joined Robert on the other side of the room. "This?" he said. "God: that's Marduk. Marduk...exit--"
"Enter," Robert said.
"I don't think so," Daniel said, reaching for one of the dictionaries.
"No, look," Robert said. "He exits this temple and enters another one a few...I have no idea what that length unit is. Another temple. And he's riding a beam of light."
"Rings," Daniel realized.
"Got something?" Jack's voice said from behind them.
"A god coming and going by beam of light," Daniel said, dropping to hands and knees on the floor. "That sounds like rings."
"What are you doing?" Robert asked, nudging him with a foot.
"Stop kicking me." Daniel batted the foot away and continued brushing dirt away. "If there are rings, we have to find the platform. It's probably covered in four thousand years of dust."
"Let's start looking," Jack ordered. "You three, start right here and make your way toward those walls. Loder, take Rothman and start from the other side of the sarcophagus. Teal'c, Carter, find the control panel." Jack himself dropped to his knees next to Daniel and started sweeping the ground with his jacket. Following his lead, Daniel pulled off his jacket as well and continued clearing the floor.
With all of them working together, it wasn't long before Hawkins called, "I got something. Looks like...yeah, this is a ring platform, all right."
"Nice work," Jack said. Daniel brushed off his hands as he stood and followed the others toward the partially-revealed rings under the soil. Sometimes it was a good thing that the Goa'uld were paranoid as well as fond of god-like displays, like exiting a temple on beams of light.
"Well, now we know there's a way out," Daniel said when they'd finished brushing the rest of the dust away.
"Move away from the platform," Teal'c said suddenly. Daniel scrambled back, and a series of rings shot up from the ground before falling back into place amidst the familiar beam of light. "We now have a means of escape."
"Sir, should I try to get the sarcophagus open?" Sam said.
"Get that started," Jack said. Sam began pressing a line of C-4 along the welding in the sarcophagus. "All right. Once she sets the detonator, everyone but Teal'c get to the rings, weapons ready. Teal'c, anything goes wrong--and I mean collapsing buildings or flesh-eating monsters--you hit the controls and get over here, and we bail."
"But, Jack," Daniel said, even as he put his dusty jacket back on and shouldered his pack. "What about the Eye?"
"No one's being eaten alive on my watch," Jack snapped, racking his weapon and holding it out of the way until Sam finished with the detonator. "That's an order, Daniel. Stay down. Weapon at instant. We're crowded on this platform--everyone make sure you have a clear line to the target."
"What's the target?" Robert said, crouching next to Daniel, in front of the men standing behind them. He pulled his own pistol as Daniel did.
"Anything that moves once that sarcophagus opens, Doc," Hawkins said.
"Anything inside might be dead already," Sam said as she worked, "but we can't be sure. All right, almost done...and...ten," she said, running back to the ring platform. "Niner..."
Daniel heard guns moving into position behind him and raised his handgun as several flashlights focused near the sarcophagus. He reached back for his own light and held it in line with his gun. "Hey," he said as a thought struck him, "if the thing ate Marduk's host, how do we know Marduk won't just take the thing that ate him as a host, too?"
Sam faltered in her countdown, then continued, "...five..."
"Don't care," Jack said. "Keep shooting it until it stops moving."
Daniel turned his head away for a second and only heard the explosion. And then he turned back around to see something long and thin reaching its way out of a smoking hole at the top of the sarcophagus.
He took aim quickly and fired. Several others did, too, so he didn't know whose bullet had hit, but someone's must have--a loud squeal sounded, and the appendage retreated into the box.
"I think it's still alive," Robert said shakily.
"What the hell is that thing?" someone else said.
"Are we going to cave in?" Jack said tensely.
Daniel didn't dare look away from the sarcophagus, where there was a wounded something and possibly a half-eaten human and a Goa'uld weapon inside, so he only heard Sam's voice as she said, "I don't feel any tremors or hear anything, sir."
"What are we doing about the...the Goa'ulded, flesh-eating monster?" Daniel said.
"Maybe it's dead now," Robert said.
"My team, with me," Jack said. "Daniel, get the Eye." He and Sam stepped off the platform. Daniel waited for them to pass him, then stood and followed as Teal'c readied his zat gun and watched from the side, still manning the control panel.
As they neared, he could see that the C-4 had left quite a bit of the top of the sarcophagus in pieces surrounding the line where it had been welded shut. At a signal from Jack, Sam moved to one side of the sarcophagus while Jack took the far side, leaving Daniel closest to the rings. Daniel stood back and shifted his hands until his flashlight shone directly into the open crack.
He only had time to see a flash of bone and a blur of movement before something launched itself out of the sarcophagus and toward Jack.
"Whoa!" Jack ducked as the something flew past him. "There it is!"
Daniel heard the sound of gunfire and the same squealing sound as before. As Teal'c's zat sounded, he turned away from the fight, trusting someone was watching his back, and aimed his light into the narrow crack in the sarcophagus.
The man inside was definitely dead, some of the bones picked clean while blood was still visibly oozing elsewhere. The crack was too narrow for him to see clearly, though... "Naturu," Daniel said, wincing, then set down the flashlight and plunged his hand into the box and felt around inside, suppressing the urge to gag when his fingers brushed something that felt and smelled far too much like half-rotted flesh.
"The Goa'uld is inside the creature!" Sam was saying.
"O'Neill!" Teal'c yelled, and then a zat'nik'tel was fired again.
Something hard stopped Daniel's hand when he reached the far corner of the box. He started to dismiss it as a bone until he felt deep grooves cut into it and a surface that extended too far to be any human bone he knew--
"Nice shot," Jack said, and then someone fired a continuous burst of bullets. Daniel peeked out at them and saw something bloody and tentacled on the ground, the rest of them arrayed in almost a circle around a floppy form as Sam poked her boot at it.
"Is it dead?" Robert's voice asked when silence fell again.
"Oh, I'd say so," Sam said. "The symbiote, too."
Daniel grabbed the object and extracted his hand, knocking into the skeleton unnervingly as he did. "I've got something," he called. "Circular metal frame, possibly naquadah, delmak core, uh...uh...writing--it's too dark to see it--"
"That might be it," Robert said. "Is there anything else in there?"
Daniel realized he was gripping what looked like a toe bone along with the strange artifact and quickly dropped it with a silent apology to the man whose tomb he was desecrating. "Uh...yi shay," he said, not wanting to touch the dead man again. He braced himself and reached inside again, quickly sweeping the part of the sarcophagus that he hadn't searched before. "No, nothing but the corpse," he said, pulling his hand out and backing away with relief, wiping his hand on his leg. He carefully set the stray toe bone back inside with the rest of the body.
"Ding, dong, the Goa'uld is dead," Jack said. "Everyone to the ring platform. Time to click our heels and go home."
15 November 2000; Briefing Room, SGC; 0900 hrs
"So what is this, exactly?" Hammond said, turning the whatever-it-was in his hands.
"Apparently, it's the Eye of Tiamat," Jack said.
Hammond nodded, still examining the device. "Is this writing up here?"
"Yes," Rothman said, leaning forward. "It's not...well...it's kind of a mix between Goa'uld hieroglyphs and cuneiform, which, as you can imagine, makes things a little complicated. But we think we have the general idea. It says that this is the Eye of Tiamat. And the source of power, but the problem is that we don't--"
Jack glanced at Hawkins, who seemed to have developed the strategy of letting his eyes glaze over at times like this rather than interrupt. "No, sir," Jack said loudly to cut the archaeologist off, "it doesn't tell us more about what the device does."
"Per se," Daniel had to add, looking annoyed at the interruption. "Now we know it...conferred power of some sort on Marduk."
"Which we knew from that tablet thing Maybourne sent us," Jack pointed out.
"Do we know what kind of power?" Hammond said, turning pointedly to Carter.
"If Colonel Maybourne is correct that it is a weapon," she said, "then it's something we've never encountered before. We've run tests, and honestly, we're having trouble. It's crystal technology; not the same as the Goa'uld technology we've seen before, but, just like a Goa'uld crystal...well, we think it needs something to plug into. It looks almost like something's missing."
Jack turned to Daniel, thinking unhappily that they could always make the hike back to the temple and try looking harder. "What?" Daniel said warily when he noticed others, not just Jack, staring at him.
"Are you sure there was nothing else in the sarcophagus when you found this?" Hammond said, handing the Eye of Tiamat back to Carter.
"Yes, sir," Daniel said.
"How sure?" Jack said.
"I think I touched every bone and intact organ in there, Jack; I would have noticed," Daniel said with a grimace. Apparently, he wasn't yet experienced enough of a grave-robber to be comfortable groping dead people to steal their stuff. "Do you want to go back and look again?"
"No," Teal'c said succinctly.
"Actually," Sanchez spoke up, "Major Carter, don't Goa'uld crystal systems usually require a lot more than just one crystal to function?"
"Yes, Lieutenant," she said, looking pleased that someone around the table would understand what she was talking about for once. "In fact, that could well be the problem. We'd like to continue taking measurements on the Eye of Tiamat and examining its structure in an attempt to determine what is specific function in a larger circuit would be."
"Is it dangerous?" Hammond asked.
"Potentially, sir, if we're not careful with it," she said, "but no more than any other device. It doesn't seem to be a...a bomb of any sort, and there are no detectable energy emissions."
"What if it needs naquadah in the blood to work?" Daniel said. "It's a Goa'uld device."
"Martouf was helping me run experiments last night," she told him. "Neither of us triggered any sort of reaction. He says Marduk was before his time--before the Tok'ra--but the older System Lords might know how to use it, which means we should definitely keep it away from them."
Jack raised his eyebrows at her happy expression. "Marty's sticking around?"
"It seems like it, sir. He knows a lot more about Goa'uld history than any of us and more about Goa'uld technology than I do. I'm not sure how much we can discover about the Eye of Tiamat in a short amount of time, but if someone can do it, he'll certainly be able to help."
That was a pretty enormous asset to have. Daniel knew a hell of a lot of Goa'uld history from Teal'c's lessons and things he'd found scratched on Abydonian walls, and Teal'c knew a hell of a lot more. A Tok'ra probably knew a hell of a lot more than Teal'c, and someone who knew more about any kind of technology than Carter did...well, that couldn't not be a good thing. If Martouf still needed to follow (and sometimes draw) landmarks through the base to find his way around, and if there were some gaps in his memory he and Lantash couldn't fill in even together, they could deal with that.
"You can continue working on it over the next week, Major Carter," Hammond said. "If you can't figure it out by then, I'll recommend shipping it to Area 51 for study."
"Yes, sir," she said.
"Does it seem to anyone else," Jack said, "that we almost got killed in an old pyramid--"
"Ziggurat," Daniel said.
"Step-pyramid," Rothman said.
"--and ended up with something that might or might not actually do anything?" Jack finished. "Maybourne thinks this is worth trying to extort a life sentence after what he's already done?"
"Maybourne thinks this is proof that he knows someone who knows something," Daniel corrected.
"What?" Jack said.
"Right?" Daniel said.
"Here's the good part, people," Hammond said. "Colonel Maybourne's on his way here now."
"Sir?" Jack said.
"Shortly after SG-1 and -11 left for P2X-338, I received a call from one Colonel Nikolai Sokolov," Hammond said.
Jack frowned. "Sokolov," he repeated. "Russian?"
"That's right--Sokolov is the ranking officer overseeing research out of Kuybyshev Airbase. It seems Maybourne has been staying at their facility and earning his keep by telling Russian officials about the Stargate program."
"What?" Carter exclaimed. "Then--sir--but--"
"Interestingly enough," Hammond said, "it seems Maybourne was about to turn right around and tell us about the research going on in Russia, too. Colonel Sokolov seems to think it's highly relevant to our operations here at the SGC."
"Uh..." Daniel said, holding up a finger, "why does he think this?"
"The archaeologist who found the tablet leading to P2X-338 is named Dr. Alexander Britski..." Hammond started.
"He's a Russian archaeologist," Rothman said. "An expert in Mesopotamian archaeology and philology. Well, it makes sense that someone like him was the one to find a cuneiform tablet."
Hammond nodded. "He found it over a year ago, but for some reason, never published it. And soon after that, he began working as a researcher at Kuybyshev."
"An archaeologist working for the Russian Air Force," Jack said skeptically.
"I work for the Air Force," Rothman said.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Then perhaps we should be extremely curious about the research taking place on this Russian base."
Hawkins made a face. "Then they really have known something about the Stargate for over a year; they just didn't know--until Maybourne told them--that they knew."
"Okay," Daniel said, squeezing his eyes shut, "sorry if I missed this, but what is it that we think that they don't know that they know?"
"We don't know," Hammond said. "They're reluctant to tell us, in case Maybourne's been feeding them bad information. Frankly, I think they do believe it, but they're holding it back as leverage."
"All right, let me get this straight," Jack said. "Maybourne double-crossed us. And then he went to Russia to...trade them information about us in exchange for asylum. Then he tried to double-cross them by selling Russian secrets to us for a lowered sentence, but they beat him to the punch and they double-crossed him and are selling him to us for...what, confirmation of the Stargate, and to make sure we're not double-crossing them using him?"
"I think some of those are only single-crosses," Daniel said thoughtfully.
"One might be a triple," Rothman offered.
"Well, Colonel, you know nothing's ever that simple," Hammond said dryly. "We don't know exactly how much Maybourne told them, what they're offering, or what they want, but that seems to be the gist of it."
Jack looked around the table. "I hope you all got the gist, because I lost it somewhere."
"Here's the deal," the general said. "Major Carter, Major Davis from the Pentagon will be meeting with you, and the two of you will meet the chief science officer working on this project in their base. You'll see exactly what they have going on there. At the same time, Colonel Sokolov and Dr. Britski will be coming here to meet with us, to verify that their information is correct and to bring Maybourne to us."
"Uh, sir," Hawkins said. "By 'meet with us,' you mean...do you mean us?"
With a grim smile, Hammond said, "You're safe, Major Hawkins."
"Ah, crap," Jack muttered. "You mean us."
"Yes, Colonel, you and your team, with the exception of Major Carter, who will be meeting with Dr. Svetlana Markova in Russia."
"Svetlana Markova, that's who I'm meeting?" Carter said. "I've read her work. She's a brilliant theoretical physicist."
"Great," Jack sighed. So Carter was going to be geeking out with a physicist in Russia, and the rest of them would be stuck playing nice with the Russians who were coming to the SGC.
"So SG-11's...not dealing with this, right?" Rothman said. "Because we had a follow-up mission postponed to help out with P2X-338, and it was rescheduled for this afternoon."
Hammond nodded. "SG-11's mission to P3X-888 is still on. Major Carter, your flight leaves in an hour; you'll meet with Major Davis at the Pentagon and continue together. I will speak with Colonel Sokolov's team with Colonel O'Neill. Until we have a better idea of what exactly they know, Teal'c, I'd like you and Mr. Jackson to stay away from them unless I say otherwise. Talk to Maybourne and see what you can get out of him before he's taken to the proper facility."
"We will do so, General Hammond," Teal'c answered for both of them.
"Then let's get to work," Hammond said, standing up. "We've got a lot of things to do before they arrive this evening. And keep in mind--this is a delicate political situation. The President wants to keep relations as friendly and low-tension as possible."
"Well, then why don't we just give them a tour of the old place?" Jack said sarcastically. There was a pause. Jack raised his eyebrows. "We're...not giving them a tour?"
"We'll determine what they already know first," Hammond said. "Depending on that and what they think they can offer us--"
"Or hold over our heads," Jack interrupted.
Hammond scowled. "That, too, Colonel. Depending on all of that, and what the President says when I call him later today, we will decide what we can show them. But keep in mind that all they can do to us is leak information that we'll immediately deny, anyway. It could be messy, but we have the Stargates--we will stay in control of this situation."
Jack sighed. "Yes, sir." Unless it becomes too politically delicate, he thought sourly.
The general's office door opened, and he stepped out. "They've arrived," he said. "Colonel, we'll meet them on the surface and bring them into one of the rooms in NORAD. Teal'c, Mr. Jackson, Colonel Maybourne is being examined right now; it might take some time before they're done searching him, but you can meet him at the isolation cells on level 16."