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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-05-22 09:00 am
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Archaeology (11/30)

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

Chapter1 Chapter2 Chapter3 Chapter4 Chapter5
Chapter6 Chapter7 Chapter8 Chapter9 Chapter10

XXXXX

Chapter 11: SG-11

XXXXX

22 November 2000; P3X-888; 2000 hrs

It was night when they left Stargate Command but dawn again on the other side. Major Hawkins looked like he wasn't pleased about that but carried on nonetheless. Daniel let Robert give him instructions on what to do until he became restless standing around and waiting for his orders, and then he started setting things up without being told, starting with a tent over the main site. Robert seemed happy with that, anyway.

That was the thing about Robert. It was about getting the job done, not about power--at least, on the civilian side, where he was mostly secure in his position. He had no problems grabbing the reins when he had a chance to give Hawkins' men orders, though. In fact--

"Hawkins!" Robert yelled from the other side of the camp.

Daniel smothered a grin and took a bundle of tarp from Hawkins, who sighed but made his way over to Robert.

"I'm gonna make a water run," Captain Hatley said. "Can you handle this, Jackson?"

"Uh...yeah, sure," Daniel said, setting down his bundle and marking off the perimeter of their site, making sure they had enough material to cover it if necessary. It was cool here--not as cool as back home, with Colorado well into the cold part of its seasons, but while it supposedly didn't rain here often, in the case that it did, no one wanted their dig site to collapse in a puddle of mud.

Later, Robert's footsteps sounded behind him. "Hey, you want to see some of the partial fossils we found before?"

"Hold on, help me finish this," Daniel said, hooking the edge of the tarp onto the poles. With help, he finished quickly and followed Robert away. "How sure are you that they're actually Goa'uld and not some other organism?"

Robert gave him a look that could only be described as condescending and started toward where they'd left things from their first mission here. "I've spent the last three years of my life looking at dead Goa'ulds, Daniel. Couple of live ones, but mostly dead."

"Have you?" Daniel said.

"Well. Starting from the Hathor thing, anyway. What I mean is that I know their structure well."

"The ones from Hathor were baby Goa'ulds."

"Still," Robert said. "Same species. And we have seen adult symbiote corpses before, too. Luckily, with some of the Goa'uld people have killed, the hosts died first, or at least didn't live long enough to break the symbiote down and start absorbing it. So we've seen specimens of mature queen, male, and larval Goa'uld."

Daniel glanced at him but couldn't see anything in his expression but earnest enthusiasm for the project. "You call them male?" he asked, rather than disputing the luckiness of the Goa'uld's hosts' deaths. "Queens aside, they're gender-neutral until they take a host."

"Well, it's quicker to say than 'gender-neutral' or 'non-queen,'" Robert said easily. "Here we are." He crouched and carefully uncovered a small area of ground. Daniel knelt beside him to see part of a line of bones left behind in stone. "Okay. This is one of the most complete ones we've got so far. What do you see?"

"Um..." More used to dealing with human artifacts than with animal remains, Daniel took a few moments to orient himself and figure out what he was looking at, especially with neither end of the Goa'uld visible in the rock. There was something, though, in the way the bones became smaller in one direction, and he knew what a symbiote should look like, so finally, he said, "The tail would go out to about here." He held a finger an inch out from the broken edge of the stone. "Goa'uld skeletons have a lot of joints to be able to fold inside a host, so this one must have died outside its host, judging by how spread the bones are and from the conformation of the body."

"Or it probably never had a host," Robert corrected. "Or got squashed."

"Right. Um." He frowned, leaning lower. "Are these...those are fin bones. But...they're huge. They're practically wings. Goa'uld fins aren't usually that big, are they?"

"Not the ones we've seen," Robert said happily. "But see, think about it. As far as we know, the emergence of fins means that they're mature to take a host. But what's the point of that?"

"To launch themselves at a host, maybe," Daniel said. "More lift?"

Robert frowned. "I've never actually seen that happen. 'More lift?' How far can these guys go?"

"Surprisingly far," Daniel assured him, remembering Tanith's blending with a shudder.

"Huh," Robert said thoughtfully.

"But once they're inside hosts..." Daniel said.

"My thinking was that there doesn't seem to be much reason for them to have fins when they're riding around in a host. And so why would they have evolved with fins?"

"Because they didn't always have hosts," Daniel said, nodding. "Flying through the air isn't exactly their main mode of transportation. But they're really aquatic organisms, even now, so if they don't have hosts, they need to swim and move on their own, and bigger fins--"

"Exactly. More mobility. And when they started taking hosts, natural selection would have--"

"Smaller fins cause less damage to the host and probably less damage to the Jaffa, if it starts to mature within, which would increase the symbiote's survival. Maybe it even makes it easier for the symbiote to take a host."

Robert grinned. "This one's name is Servilius Casca," he said fondly.

"Casca," Daniel repeated. "The conspirator against Caesar? Why?"

"Because I found it and I say so."

Daniel shrugged and stood. "If you say so."

...x...

There were always so many things left uncategorized and not understood that Daniel liked things to have some sort of order once in a while. He told himself it was easier to stay organized that way, but it was partly because it was a nice change to have things make sense when he could help it.

So when Daniel found the next fossil--the first entire one they'd found, bones almost completely intact--he named it accordingly.

Working alone for the moment, he brushed away a thin layer of dirt and found himself staring at what looked a lot like bone, and he carefully suppressed the thrill of anticipation and reached for his camera and a sketchpad. Better to document now how far he was in the ground and where he was in relation to everything before he got too caught up, mixed things up, and got scolded.

When it was mostly exposed, Daniel yelled, "Robert!" Sergeant Loder, nearby, jumped in surprise. "Come here!"

"What!" Robert's voice said from the other side of a small hill.

Cupping his hands around his mouth, Daniel called, "I found Brutus!"

"Who the heck is Brutus!"

Daniel sat back on his heels, waiting for it to sink in. "Sorry," he said to Loder at a more normal volume. Loder shook his head and returned to preparing a set of vials for naquadah tests.

And then--"Brutus! You found Brutus!" Robert yelled, his head appearing over the top of the hill. "Wait, wait, don't move, I'm coming!"

"You guys've got radios," Loder pointed out as Robert climbed his way out of a hole and ran toward where Daniel knelt.

"Oops," Daniel said, remembering belatedly that he'd taken to carrying a radio in his pocket to keep it out of the way. As he watched Robert's progress, he added to the sergeant, "Are those the high sensitivity naquadah tests?"

"Yeah," Loder said, leaning over the see the Goa'uld skeleton laid out before Daniel. "Uh...you're probably gonna want the low sensitivity, wide range ones for a symbiote."

"Well...can I have one of both, actually?" Daniel said. He had a hunch, considering how completely lacking in naquadah they'd found the environment to be.

Loder retrieved two vials and handed them down to him. "Brutus?" he said. "Really?"

"It's a...a joke," Daniel said defensively as Robert came around from behind.

"Oh--oh man," Robert said, laughing aloud and plopping into the wide hole with him. "Holy crap. This must be an infant. Look at the fins--the frame is all there, but the inner spines haven't fully developed into hard bone yet. It's beautiful."

"This is Brutus," Daniel said, looking proudly at his find. "Brutus, this is Dr. Rothman."

Robert snorted and held out his hand. "Here, let me see that."

Daniel handed his brush over and watched Robert carefully clear away some loose soil, teasing away a few chunks from between the vertebra with a trowel until what looked like twice as much as before was revealed. "Animals are 3-D, Daniel," Robert said as he worked, "and you know where its bones are supposed to be. Don’t be afraid to go a little deeper and make sure you get the whole thing free, or you're gonna be unpleasantly surprised when you try to pack it up. Did you take notes, observations...?"

"I wanted to wait until you got here to make sure I didn't miss anything."

"Well, go ahead."

Taking a breath, Daniel pressed the REC button on his tape recorder and said, "SG-11, P3X-888 dig site two. Uh...subject is a Goa'uld, estimated--"

"Male," Robert added loudly.

"--a male, uh, immature Goa'uld. Preliminary estimates suggest the fossil is in the approximate range of fifty to one hundred million years old. Um."

"Name," Robert said.

"Oh, uh, it's named Brutus," Daniel said, sounding embarrassed even to himself. "As seen with Casca, the fins are significantly larger than that seen in modern Goa'uld, even when immature, suggesting decreased reliance on hosts for mobility." He took his finger off the button and leaned in closer to the head. Thinking back to the carefully preserved whole skeleton of an adult symbiote that Robert kept in their office, he began to record again. "The fully developed jaw in Brutus is in contrast to the reduced structure seen in modern Goa'uld species..."

"Yes!" Robert said, looking up excitedly. "Right!"

"What?" Daniel said.

"No, no, keep going."

"Uh...the teeth are very long in comparison to...to modern Goa'uld and even in proportion to the rest of Brutus's body. The jaw is clearly capable of opening well beyond a right angle. Contrast this with the smaller teeth in modern Goa'uld, whose angle and even position in the jaw seems better suited for...for creating a small opening in the throat tissue of a host, rather than, well, ripping pieces of flesh out for consumption."

Daniel looked for something else to notice, then noticed Robert had stopped digging at the fossilized bones and was watching him. "Are you making that up?" Robert said.

"Uh," Daniel said, taking his finger off the button. "Not--kind of. Well, I was just looking at it and thinking about... And it's just...notes. I can correct it if it's--"

"No, it's good."

"Good?"

Robert nodded firmly. "Good. The biologists mentioned things like that to me, but we'd never seen a complete fossil, so I never said. But you see something, you think about it--that's how we have to do it."

"Right, because we're not paleontologists and we don't really know what we're doing." Robert pulled off Daniel's bandana and used it to slap the back of his head. "Hey."

"We are SGC archaeologists and we are armed with lots of books," Robert said, a little giddy with the excitement of finding a whole skeleton. "Which means we never really know what we're doing, but we do it anyway and it's worked so far. Now--naquadah. Where's that balance?"

Daniel tossed his bandana out of the way as Robert set a scale on even ground, carefully leveling it before he dropped a tiny piece of skeletal remains onto the tray and waited for the numbers to stabilize. "Testing for naquadah," Daniel said into the recorder. "Sample is a bone fragment, mass...about 206 milligrams."

He uncapped one vial and held it for Robert to drop their sample into the liquid. He flicked it gently with a finger, then handed it over.

"What the..." Robert said, swishing the mixture around. The liquid remained a bright blue. "There's no naquadah. How is there no..." He frowned and bent toward the skeletal remains, as if to make sure he'd really picked up a piece of bone and not dirt.

"Try this one," Daniel said, holding out the other vial. "Higher sensitivity."

"That test isn't as good for quantitative data at high concentrations," Robert said.

"The bones are a hundred million years old," Daniel pointed out. "And a lot of the naquadah's probably dispersed in the soil. The concentration might not be what it was when it was alive."

"But not this low. The upper limit is something like 500 nanomolar before it's saturated."

"We're not getting quantitative data if nothing happens, so..." He pushed the vial closer.

Robert took it, then held up the other one. "It's possible there's just a very small concentration," he suggested. "Too small to see the color change by eye. Sanchez has the colorimeter..."

"I'll bring this over," Daniel said, taking the vial with the piece of seemingly-inert Goa'uld bone in it. "Just try the high sensitivity test; if there's naquadah at even half the normal Goa'uld levels, the color change should be immediately obvious, and we can try again with this one."

"We're not running low on reagents, Doc," Loder added, watching from beside them. "You can repeat the test if you need to."

"Yeah, but I don't want to keep picking apart the fossil," Robert said. Finally, he sighed. "Fine, I'll try it. Daniel, take the low sensitivity test for measurement."

Daniel levered himself out of their pit and made his way carefully toward where Lieutenant Sanchez had put most of their instruments. "Lieutenant," he called as he neared the setup. "I have a naquadah test. Is this calibrated?"

"Yeah," Sanchez said, making his way back toward the colorimeter. "You're gonna have to redo the naquadah standards, though. They're in the..." He stopped when he saw the sample in Daniel's hand. "I'm gonna say that's a concentration of zero," he said.

"Robert wants to make sure it's not just too low to see by eye," Daniel said. "It's from a Goa'uld."

"That's not from a Goa'uld," Sanchez said.

"It really is."

Sanchez looked skeptical, squinting at the bone fragment, but shrugged. "All right. The standards are in that kit--just put them back according to the labels when you're done."

It didn't take very long to finish, though, because--

"Negative 0.001 absorbance," Daniel said, handing the vial back to Robert. "I didn't bother calculating the concentration."

"How can there be a negative value?" Robert said, sounding frustrated, then said, "Never mind. Effectively zero. This one, too." He held up the high sensitivity test, saying, "This test should show visible change with as low as one nanomolar naquadah concentration in a sample this size. Loder, are you sure you prepared it right?"

"Yes, Dr. Rothman," Loder said.

"Are you sure? There's no way--" Robert started.

Daniel took the vial from him, plucked out a strand of his own hair, and dropped it in. The color shifted immediately from blue to a faint yellow color, spreading as Daniel swirled it. "There's nothing wrong with the test, Robert."

"Whoa. What's your blood naquadah concentration, again?" Robert said, frowning.

"Something like 150 nanomolar the last time Janet measured. And this is hair, which I'm pretty sure should be lower than blood, too, and much less mass than that bone fragment. But even former hosts have blood concentrations about five or ten times that amount--"

"--and symbiotes themselves ten to twenty times that," Robert said. "So then...we know there's nothing wrong with the test." He sat back and stared at Brutus. "We've just found the first Goa'uld without naquadah in its body."

XXXXX

6 December 2000; Carter/Martouf/Lantash's Lab, SGC; 1300 hrs

"You should stop this project immediately," Lantash said.

Sam looked up from reading over the reports on the retrofitted death glider that the colonel and Teal'c had just come back from looking over at Nellis. "Why would we do that?"

There was a frown line between Lantash's brows. "Where did you find this vessel?"

"Uh...well, this particular one was flown by an Abydonian woman," Sam explained. "She was the host of Amaunet and escaped Heru-ur's mothership using it, and then once her symbiote was removed, she told us through Daniel where to find the ship. Why, what's the matter?"

"Apophis is known to program a trap within his...death gliders. The Tok'ra believe this was a direct result of Teal'c's rebellion; now, whenever a glider is flown, it must receive a signal from the mothership or it will be recalled, while the pilot loses total control."

"Really," Sam said, blinking. "I never knew that. So then...if someone tried to escape, like a rebel Jaffa, then Apophis would know and be able to punish the traitor."

Lantash nodded. "Yes. But if this was salvaged from Heru-ur, it is possible it will be safe to use."

Sam grimaced. "Actually..." She'd been in an Urgo-induced quarantine at the time, so she hadn't heard the story directly. "She and her brother--the host of Klorel--escaped approximately at the same time. I don't know if she took a glider from Heru-ur's or Klorel's mothership...and I think Klorel's mothership came from Apophis, too."

Lantash dipped his head, and Martouf emerged. "Is there a way for you to find out?" he said. "The program is well-hidden within the death glider's systems, and anyone who was recalled to Apophis's mothership from Earth would die in space long before help could arrive."

"Daniel would know," she said. "SG-11 is due for a check-in any minute; we can ask him then. Actually...if there were a booby trap in here, wouldn't Klorel or Amaunet have been recalled?"

"They were Apophis's kin," Martouf reminded her. "They likely knew of the mechanism, and they may have been able to send the remote signal before they launched themselves."

"That's right. And there's no way to remove the trap?"

"I am sorry, Samantha," Martouf said, looking regretful. "The Tok'ra have heard of this twice. The first time, the operative simply could not be saved. The second time, two died attempting to dismantle the mechanism."

"Damn," she said. "We thought we could just fix a few parts, replace the navigational computers, install a few upgrades, and..." She sighed.

"It is better to know before you tested it, is it not?"

"Oh, well, of course--thank you for telling me, Martouf," she assured him. "I'm just disappointed that we might have to stop the project. Why didn't the Tok'ra ever tell us about this?"

Martouf looked almost amused. "The Tok'ra discovered this less than a year ago. Why did the Tau'ri never tell the Tok'ra of such a project?"

Sam made a face, imagining what the colonel would have said in response to that. "Well, it's a good thing you're here, then," she decided.

"I am glad, as well," he said, smiling.

She smiled back. "I'll ask Daniel about the exact circumstances of his sister's escape, and if it's one of Apophis's ships, we'll put a stop to the X-301 project immediately."

"However..."

"What?"

"Even if you cannot use the ship itself," Martouf said, looking over the reports with her, "you can study it in order to learn how to construct one of your own, using Earth's materials. Perhaps I can be of use in that, particularly when you encounter Goa'uld technology that you do not recognize."

"That would be...really great," she said, shaking her head in wonder.

"I have grown to like the Tau'ri--even Lantash has. Your people have been good to me, and we would repay by helping to fight the Goa'uld with you."

Sam laughed. "Are you kidding? You've done a lot for us already. I've never in my life worked with someone like you. Do you know how long that program last week would've taken me on my own?"

He gave her one of those uncertain looks, the ones he'd never really worn until some Goa'uld had programmed part of his brain and then they--the Tok'ra and the SGC--had carved it out. "Should--is that something that I should know?"

"N-no," she said quickly. "I mean--it was a rhetorical question." She winced and decided to push the science temporarily to the side. "How are you doing these days, Martouf? I'm sorry it's been so busy, but I noticed you've been finding your way around better. Your coordination's coming back, too."

Martouf's lips quirked in a not-quite-smile. "Lantash is the one who finds our way. We have learned the color-coding of this base's layout. And I have become more proficient at disguising when Lantash leads without taking complete control of this body."

"Oh," she said stupidly. "Um. The--well..." She stopped, lacking anything to say.

"It is my brain--Martouf's--that is more severely damaged," Martouf said matter-of-factly. "I find myself relying heavily on Lantash's superior cognitive and processing abilities."

"You...you're doing a lot better," Sam said awkwardly, not knowing how to answer that. "I mean...you're still you, which is--"

"I do not wish to complain," Martouf assured her. "But..." He paused, narrowing his eyes. Sam recognized the look of an argument with Lantash and waited. "If there are those at the SGC willing to become hosts, I--and Dr. Fraiser--believe a blending with Lantash could provide a much more useful and more complete agent."

"What?" she said when she realized what he meant--that Martouf was the one with the more serious cognitive damage, that Lantash was compensating for him, and that another human host could compensate for Lantash's deficiencies the way Martouf's brain couldn't... "Are you saying Lantash wants to leave--"

Immediately, Lantash took over, his eyes flashing angrily. "No," he snapped. "Do not listen to Martouf."

"Um," she said. Martouf and Lantash were very different personalities, with very different methods, but she had rarely seen them truly disagree on an issue. Usually, it was just that Martouf was better at couching the opinion more delicately. "Is he..."

"We are both adjusting to our role," Lantash said, frowning deeply. "I have no intention of leaving Martouf before I must."

Martouf returned with a jolt, looking flustered. "I--" He chuckled uncomfortably. "Well."

"You're adjusting, that's all," Sam said. "You don't actually want Lantash to leave and find a new host, do you?"

"Of course not," Martouf said. "I merely... It would be a sound strategic decision."

"You're helping us plenty as you are," she said firmly. "Are people treating you okay on base?"

"Very well," he assured her, pulling his composure back. "I think some of them are frightened of the idea of Lantash, but they have been courteous. I have found that the friendship of SG-1 is sufficient protection."

"Protection from whom?" she demanded immediately, pushing away from the lab bench and ready to stalk out and remind anyone who needed it about the differences between Goa'uld and Tok'ra and the wisdom of staying out of Martouf's way.

Martouf was giving her a real smile now. "Precisely," he said.

Sam deflated. "I hope you don't feel like you need to help us in exchange for being treated well," she said more calmly. "You're our friend, Martouf. Lantash, too."

"We have come to see you as friends, as well," he said quietly, something odd in his tone. "Particularly you, Samanth--Sam."

Sam looked away and picked up a pair of forceps, cleaning them unnecessarily. "Good." Part of her wished she had the courage to ask whether he meant he liked her as a very good friend, or if he was still seeing echoes of Jolinar in her, or if saw her as Sam and still saw her as more than a good friend. The rest of her didn't want to ask or to know.

Teal'c's appearance at her door spared her from having to find something to say. "Major Carter. Daniel Jackson has returned briefly for a scheduled report."

"Thanks--I'll be right there," she said, equally eager to see Daniel and to put a stop to this conversation. Teal'c glanced at Martouf and nodded to them both, then left. "Uh, Martouf, I should go and--"

"Of course," Martouf said, smiling again. "I will speak with you later, then."

She was starting to think the smiles and the unusually mild nature, even for Martouf, was something the zatarc device had done to him. There was a voice in her head that whispered that Martouf had lost his edge--not his skill, per se, but the hardness that came with millennia of fighting and had made his firm politeness seem a strength as much as it had been a courtesy. It wasn't that Sam minded that he seemed more relaxed now, most of the time; she just found herself missing the part that had made him a warrior, too, and wondered if Martouf missed it just as much. No one should have part of himself taken away.

"Definitely," she said, starting to leave. "I'll be right back."

He was still Martouf, though, and her strongest memories of him now were her own and not Jolinar's. She'd get to know him again and befriend this one, too. And damaged hippocampus or no, he knew a lot that she didn't.

She reached the 'gate room to see Teal'c, the colonel, and the general all talking to Daniel, who didn't seem to notice a smudge of dirt on his cheek. He was in that kind of mood, wearing an expression that said he'd be waving his arms and babbling if he hadn't been talking to the general.

"--coming through now," Daniel was saying, pointing back toward the Stargate just as a FRED wheeled its way out. "There it is. They should all be labeled already, so--Sam! Hi!"

"Hey, Daniel," she said. "If those are more samples, I'll make sure they get to the right labs."

"Thank you," he said. "Dr. Lee wanted the mineral samples, but Nyan and Dr. Reeve can probably sort out the rest. Oh, and here..."

Sam accepted a box from him and looked inside to find a rack of carefully labeled vials, each containing what looked like a piece of bone. "What's this?"

"Can you ask one of the chemists to test these samples for..." Daniel started, then stopped and pulled up his sleeve and squinted at something he'd written on his arm. "Hemo...I can't read this. Hemo...cyanins. Is that right? The thing in the blood that makes it blue?"

She frowned, then realized--"Oh, that's right. Goa'uld blood uses a form of hemocyanin with copper to transport oxygen instead of hemoglobins and iron. I have doubts about whether a protein would have lasted that long in a fossil..."

"But the copper?"

"We...can probably test for that," she said. "Yeah, we'll take a look."

Nodding vigorously, Daniel said, "We just want to make sure, because we've seen a few anomalies. Um...otherwise...we're okay with supplies. I just wanted to bring Julius--"

"Julius?" Colonel O'Neill repeated.

Daniel pointed back to the FRED. "Julius. He's Robert's. The second complete, primordial Goa'uld fossil we've found. There's some...there's something very, very interesting about these Goa'uld--well, a lot of somethings, actually, but it's really...uh...there's so much to tell you, I don't know where to start."

"It might be easier to tell us all at once when you get back," the general suggested. "It's going well, then?"

"Yes, sir, it's going well. And, actually..." Daniel started moving toward the DHD. "There's so much to do--we're never going to finish. I should get back--"

"All right, son," the general said, chuckling.

"Hey," Daniel said, looking at their DHD setup. "This is new. A shield?"

"It won't stop everything," Sam said, watching him touch the surface of the shields they'd built around the DHD to make sure it stayed relatively safe. "But stray staff blasts or gun shots--it should at least stop most significant damage to the DHD."

He hesitated, looking back at the control room. "Do I just dial, or...?"

"There's an automatic feedback to the control console for records," she told him. "But it's best to announce it, anyway, just in case there's a malfunction."

"P3X-888," Daniel called back up, receiving a thumbs-up from Sergeant Harriman. As he began to dial the address, peering around the shields as if to make sure the DHD actually made the Stargate light up, he turned back and said over his shoulder, "How's SG-4?"

"Last orientation mission with them is today," the colonel said, looking very happy that they were almost done with training the Russian SG team.

"Where have you been taking them?" Daniel asked, pressing the central DHD crystal and grinning when the unstable vortex shot out. Sam grinned, too. It really was pretty cool, having their own DHD.

"To P5S-381," Teal'c answered.

"Oh," Daniel said knowingly, pushing the unloaded FRED to the bottom of the ramp. "You're making them help the Enkarans rebuild. You should be nice to them, Jack."

The colonel shrugged innocently. "We're just giving them a chance to meet some friendly aliens. And besides, they're gonna be doing stuff like this eventually. Might as well give them a taste."

"That's true," Daniel acknowledged, then hovered at the top of the ramp.

"Wait, don't go yet," Sam said before he could disappear. "I need to ask you--when Sha'uri escaped Heru-ur, did she use one of Heru-ur's ships or one of Apophis's?"

Daniel frowned. "Uh. Let me see. She...went from Heru-ur's ship to Klorel's and took a glider from there. There's a report of mine on file if you want to check, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Heru-ur's glider. Why?"

Sam sighed. "There's a booby trap on those ships. We're going to have to scrap the X-301 project."

"What?" the colonel said.

"The udajeet project?" Daniel said. "Aw...really?"

"I am not aware of such a trap, Major Carter," Teal'c said.

With a shrug, Sam said, "The Tok'ra found out about it a while ago; they think it probably happened shortly after you left Apophis's service, Teal'c. And Martouf just found out about the X-301 project now and told me. Anyway, Daniel--we'll handle that. You should get back."

That seemed to be all Daniel needed to forget all talk of death gliders and perk up again. "I'll talk to you at the next check-in, then. 'Bye!" He disappeared through the event horizon.

Sam watched the wormhole wink away. The colonel was shaking his head. "I will never understand," he said, "how much Daniel likes digging holes in the ground. Where did we go wrong with the kid?"

"I'm sure it's more than the digging, sir," she said.

"And this X-301 stuff," he said. "You trust Martouf?"

Suppressing some annoyance, she said firmly, "Yes, sir, completely. If he says it's too dangerous, I believe him, but he's volunteered to help us build a new death glider from scratch."

"Well, okay. Guess that wouldn't be too bad." O'Neill glanced at his watch and tapped it. "So while Daniel's having his fun, we've got an appointment with our friends the Enkarans. Carter, want to go tell Lt. Colonel Ivanov and his men to get ready?"

"Yes, sir," she said, heading off to find the new leader of SG-4. The Russian team had been polite and efficient so far, but she was more than ready to put that part behind her and go back to SG-1's regular duties.

XXXXX

8 December 2000; P3X-888; 1700 hrs

Daniel poked his head inside the tent, saw Robert taking off his boots, and ducked back out. "Are you sleeping outside again?" Robert said once the flap had fallen closed.

"It's nice out here," Daniel insisted. "I have reading to do--I don't want to disturb you."

There was the sound of rustling inside the tent, and then Robert crawled out. "I'm not going to sleep yet. It's brighter outside."

Robert leaned back against a tree and opened his journal to write by lamp- and flashlight. Daniel kicked off his own shoes, moved to share one side of the tree, and opened his book as well.

"So what's up with the naquadah?" Robert said a minute later.

"It's not there," Daniel said. "And it's not anywhere in the environment, either--the soil, the water, the--the plant life..."

"Yeah. What's up with that? I mean, that's a thing, isn't it? The Goa'uld had naquadah in their blood, so they go looking for naquadah to build things out of naquadah."

"Apparently not," Daniel said, looking up from his book, "or at least not at first."

"And I don't get it," Robert said, putting down his pen. "How did the Goa'uld know they needed naquadah in their blood to get naquadah-based devices to work?"

Daniel started to say, 'why wouldn't they have known?' but then...why would they have known? If the Goa'uld had first been born on this planet, even with genetic memory, all they would have known was this planet and their lives here, and without naquadah anywhere, they would have had no way of knowing how important it would be to their descendants. Even if the primordial Goa'uld had had some other, innate attraction to naquadah, the only source of it on the planet was the Stargate and the DHD, both of which were probably out of reach for an aquatic organism, and a symbiote without a host wouldn't be able to dial.

"Are you still listening?" Robert said when he'd been silent for a while.

"Maybe it was an accident," Daniel said, a thought teasing at his mind.

Robert raised an eyebrow in the dim light. "The Goa'uld accidentally, what, injected themselves with naquadah and found out that, whoops, powerful technology works for them."

"No, no, no," Daniel said, closing his book and setting it down so he could turn and face Robert, excited now. "Not injected. That's our problem: we've always assumed the Goa'uld did it to themselves, knowingly--purposefully. But how did I get naquadah in my blood?"

"Uh...just...heavy metal accumulation from...contaminated water, probably," Robert said. "Or animals or...maybe you ate rocks as a kid, I don't know."

"But it was by an accident of...of diet and environment, like all Abydons and other people on naquadah-rich planets. Yes?"

"So...wait, let me think. So the primordial Goa'ulds are swimming around here, someone walks through the Stargate, a Goa'uld takes a host, and they go to a naquadah-rich planet..."

"And over time, naquadah accumulates--maybe it accumulates better in symbiotes than in humans, because symbiotes have that marker protein, and it doesn't get excreted from the body as quickly in the bound form--"

"How fast does it get cleared in humans like you?"

"Um..." Daniel scratched his head. "My blood levels have decreased over ten percent in the last three years, but apparently it sticks in bone, too, so--"

"But the point is it's very slow but measurable," Robert said. "So a Goa'uld might absorb it faster, first of all, and then accumulate it faster and keep accumulating it over generations, especially if they're living a long time..."

"And then they're attracted to naquadah--"

Robert blinked at him. "Are you? Attracted to naquadah?"

"Well, not attracted... Okay, they can sense it and they recognize it's different from other metals. Maybe they happened to have built something with it, or they found some other Ancient, naquadah-based device, and they started using them and realizing they could improve on them now they had hosts with opposable thumbs and...and engineering knowledge--"

"--and so they kept going to naquadah-rich planets and using slaves to mine naquadah, which they used for devices and accumulated in their bodies at the same time--maybe there's even some reproductive mechanism that allows it to be passed from queen to spawn, so that now the larvae start with naquadah in their bodies, or they just figured it out and started injecting themselves..."

"And that's it," Daniel said. "It's an accident, but only partially, because after one accident happens to get naquadah in their blood, everything follows. And that's how we get from here"--he waved his hand toward the dig site--"to System Lords."

"Whoa," Robert said.

"Yeah?" Daniel said.

"Whoa," Robert repeated. He stared wide-eyed at Daniel for a minute, then said, "You just made that up based on no concrete evidence whatsoever."

"Yeah, but it sounds good," Daniel said.

Robert laughed and picked his notebook back up. "And...geez. You could be right. It's at times like these I really wish we could publish some of the stuff we slave away writing up. You think they'd let us name the animals? They can be...Goa'uld..."

"...praedatorius," Daniel suggested. "Or maybe Goa'uld rothmanensis."

"Oh, thanks. Put my name on the predator snake with fangs, why don't you."

"You wanted the parasite snake with floppy vestigial fins?"

Robert made a face. "Let's stick with Goa'uld praedatorius for these guys. And the System Lords can be Serpens foedus."

Daniel snickered.

Finished with their nightly ritual of spitting out whatever was left on their minds after the day's work, he picked up his book again but didn't open it, still thinking about how a host would have gotten to the Goa'uld or how a Goa'uld would have known to take a host, or--

"You're always studying," Robert said while he was still distracted with thinking, looking at the cover of Daniel's book. "Some catch-up course or language certification test or whatever. But nowadays it's all Air Force stuff."

"It's--it's from an Air Force affiliated institution, that's all," Daniel said, hating the defensiveness in his tone and the way his hand moved on its own to cover the title of his textbook, because they were fighting a war and his job was on the front lines, and he wasn't usually ashamed of it except with Robert. "It's still an anthropology course."

"With emphasis on using anthropological skills for the sake of military intelligence."

Which wasn't completely true, but it wasn't enough of a lie that he could argue. He took a breath, then deliberately opened the book to where he'd left off. Nothing he studied seemed to be military enough for Jack's liking, and at the same time, it was too military for Robert.

"I-I'm sorry," Robert said. "You're trying to learn stuff and you don't even have to. That's...that's always a good thing." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.

"Hm."

"Really, it is," Robert insisted. "You've basically got a job set for life and you still want to study, even more now that I'm not making you. So...you know. Not the books I would've picked, but I’m not...judging, or..."

"I'm not who you thought I'd be, am I," Daniel said.

He couldn't tell without looking up whether Robert's silence was because Daniel was right or because he was surprised or both.

"Well, I'm not who I thought I'd be, either, if that makes you feel any better," Daniel said, staring at the words 'cultural values' on the page and not really wanting to look away. He didn't think he was who his parents had thought he'd be, either.

"It doesn't, really," Robert said.

"I'm sorry."

"No--Daniel, geez, you don't have to be sorry," Robert said immediately. "You just came up with a theory about Goa'ulds and...and naquadah and Stargates in, like, thirty seconds. Just like that. In the middle of reading about...whatever that book's about."

"A theory based on no concrete evidence."

"But see, that's--stop reading for a minute," Robert said, placing a hand over the page until Daniel was forced to look up. "I can't make someone think like you. You can get the rest from books and classes, but... Okay. I don't care how you study--you're gonna know twice as much as anyone on base by the time you hit thirty. Don't roll your eyes--it's not that old."

Daniel rolled his eyes.

"I wish you weren't running around trying to get yourself killed most of the time," Robert said, picking up the argument they seemed to have at least once a month these days. "I want you to make it to thirty. That's all."

"I'm not trying to get myself killed."

"All evidence to the contrary. You're seventeen and you've been this close"--he held up his fingers next to each other--"to dying...how many times now? In the last couple of years?"

"That's not my fault," Daniel said.

"Well, sometimes it is," Robert snapped.

And that was true, too.

"I'm getting better about that," Daniel said. "Teal'c says it's a...discipline thing."

"Yeah, well, Teal'c does stupid things sometimes, too," Robert said. "You know the difference between SG-1 and the primary combat teams?"

"If this is one of those jokes about us," Daniel said testily, "I think I've heard them all."

"Combat teams go looking for fights," he continued anyway. "SG-1 accidentally walks into them, and half the time, your enemies are immune to bullets."

"Well, you forgot the part where we get out of the fights, too!"

Robert sighed. Daniel didn't mention that, a lot of the time, he was surprised when they managed to survive. "I like to read," Daniel said quietly. "And...stuff. I really do."

"I know," Robert said. "Sometimes you get so caught up in books you even forget the Goa'uld."

"But then...I don't..." Daniel started, then huffed. "I don't know what you want me to say."

"Okay. You like it here," Robert said. "Right? The research missions." Daniel nodded, thinking of Casca and Julius and his very own little Brutus, and the way he could spend weeks here looking at dead Goa'uld and not think about living Goa'uld. "And you're good at it. So I don't get why you refuse to join a team like this fulltime--or at least more often. A little more experience, and you could practically lead a research team. You love this stuff."

There were easy answers to that. It was about the people--Daniel would do almost anything for SG-1 and knew they would do the same for him, but it wasn't that simple; he'd fight just as hard for Robert if he had to and knew that he was one of the few people on base Robert called a good friend. Then there was the fact that he liked exploring--new planets and lands and peoples--but that answer would be cheating, too, because exploration downward into the soil and back through history, like they were doing here on '888, was just as important as exploration outward. Research teams explored, too, just in a different way.

It was what he usually told people, though, because he wasn't completely proud of the last part of the answer.

"But I hate the Goa'uld," he said, "and it's...not enough to know that what I learn might help other people defeat them. I hate that I hate something that much, so I want to kill them so I can stop hating them. That's illogical, isn't it? But sometimes it feels like that."

He was pretty sure the silence was surprise, this time, or maybe disgust, because he'd come to terms with himself and what he did and why, but learning for the sake of war or killing was just about everything that Robert hated about working for the military. Daniel was falling easily into the role of civilian scientist with Jack and SG-1, but when Robert was there to play that part opposite him, he found himself remembering defensively all the reasons why it was a good idea to understand weapons along with books.

"That's healthy," Robert finally said.

Daniel grimaced at the grass under his bare feet. "Not exactly what you were looking for in an academic protégé."

"Not that you don't have...reason to hate them, obviously," Robert said, sounding awkward.

"It's not just that," he added lamely. "We're still hoping to find Shifu. And I'm good at what we do. And SG-1 does research sometimes--Sam and I, we push for it as much as we can. I do want to learn, and not just to kill. But then I remember what Apophis did to...so many people, and...it's not enough. I want to be there, looking for...you know."

"On the front lines," Robert said.

"Yeah," Daniel said. "I need to."

"Well," Robert said, "since I thought at first you were going to transcribe stuff for me and do easy translations, not...all the... You've got stuff to learn, but you're pretty much our best all-purpose interpreter in the field for unknown situations, everyone knows that. And--"

"You're just too impatient with people, Robert, or you'd be better at it, too," Daniel said. "It's almost never exactly the same as any language you know, so it's almost all gestures and body language at first, and people forget that. If you'd just--"

"Daniel."

"What?"

Robert shook his head. "I thought I was getting an assistant and now I've got a colleague. I'm okay with that." He stood up, tapping Daniel on the head with his notebook as he passed. "We've got less than two weeks left--I want to make the most of it. Don't stay up too late."

Before he could disappear into the tent, Daniel called, "I'm glad you brought me."

"I'm glad you're doing half my work," Robert retorted, crawling his way out of sight.

...x...

14 December 2000; P3X-888; 1000 hrs

"I think I found a queen," Daniel said, standing over where Robert was labeling a crate and carefully preparing something for transport.

Robert's eyes popped wide open. "Really? Where?"

"Back there," he said, pointing. "I left her--"

He'd never known Robert could run so fast.

By the time Daniel caught up, Robert was already cleaning up the fossil with gentle, precise strokes of Daniel's brush. "Look at this," Robert said.

"I know," Daniel said, stepping carefully in next to him.

"She's beautiful." And then he looked up. "Why did you say she was a queen?"

"The size, first--she's much bigger than the males. And," he added when Robert frowned disapprovingly at him, "this structure on her back doesn't--dorsal!" he corrected when the frown was joined by raised eyebrows. "The, uh...that dorsal structure is different in queens and not-queens to allow for the internal...spawning...stuff. Reproductive organs. There's more severe curvature here and a larger pectoral arch compared with the males. And compared with the modern Goa'uld, obviously--"

"--whose pectoral arch is practically nonexistent or reduced to some vestigial structures. Wow. A whole queen."

"This one's Cleopatra," Daniel said.

"Nice," Robert said, sitting back and looking down at the curving lines of the primordial Goa'uld fossil. He tilted his head, then suggested, "Cleo?"

"Cleopatra," Daniel repeated firmly.

"Okay, okay," Robert said. "Uh...I should run a quick naquadah test, just to make sure we still get zero. Start taking notes in the meantime."

"SG-11," Daniel said into the recorder. "P3X-888, dig site five. Subject: queen primordial Goa'uld, as evidenced by the dorsal structure and prominent pectoral arch. Again, the subject appears to have been primarily a predator, rather than a parasite--"

"And HSLR test shows zero naquadah for a bone fragment--sample mass: something small," Robert added, then handed him the unchanged, bright blue vial. "All right, finish up here and help Loder pack her up. I've gotta put stuff away at site four, and I'll be back."

"Okay," Daniel said, stuffing his recorder back into his pocket as Robert scrambled out and headed in the opposite direction. "Sergeant Loder!" Loder turned. "We need to put this one away. Her name is 'Cleopatra'...uh, hold on..."

Daniel stepped out, as well, moving to the nearby table where he could bag and label the latest naquadah-less bone sample. Beside him, he could hear Loder preparing the container and the tools they'd need to pack the fossil away--Cleopatra, his queen--and focused on getting his pen to write. Of course, this pen would have to be one that had run dry, so he dug around in his pockets for another, hoping he wouldn't have to walk all the way back to camp just to write 'no naquadah in this one' on a plastic bag--

Gunshots made him whirl around.

One hand reached down to his thigh for his pistol, but it wasn't there, because there was nothing to shoot; this was a research trip and there were no enemies here, but nataru, there it was, what in the name of the gods was that--?

A creature barreled into Loder, ignoring the bullets, and Daniel had time to think that this was what an Unas must look like before it slammed into him, too. His head cracked backward onto the table, ow, gods, stay awake, get up get up...

Somewhere in the distance, Robert's voice screamed, "Daniel!" and Daniel tried to call back, but his head hurt and his eyes wouldn't open, and his ears were buzzing, and it went black.


From the next chapter ("The Unas"):

The Unas growled again. Daniel growled back. The Unas reeled backward in shock.


Note: Rothman's (facetious) suggestion for the scientific name of System Lords is 'Serpens foedus,' or 'ugly/vile snake.'