The song in the car radio was appropriately corny, she thought, given her state of mind. She felt she was floating on a bubble, so happy and carefree that, for a moment, she was afraid the bubble would burst, and she would come down crashing to a different reality. But no, it was real. She was engaged to Jack. She knew she had not felt this way either time she had been engaged before, to Jonas or Pete. "This is what it must feel like when the decision is the right one," she assured herself.
She chuckled, remembering Daniel and Teal'c in Jack's office earlier, when Jack had announced their engagement. They had been so flustered and disbelieving that it had been comical. Then they had both been so happy and supportive. Especially when Jack had explained the sacrifices Sam and SG-1 had to make for Sam and Jack to be together.
"I told you this would happen some day!" Daniel had told Teal'c, giving him a light punch on the arm. Teal'c had just nodded and smiled, "Yes, you did Daniel Jackson. And, if you remember correctly, I agreed with you at the time."
It would not be easy to adjust, but everyone was willing to put forth the effort. Teal'c and Daniel would have a new SG-1 commander. There may even be a fourth member added to the team, for technical expertise. And Sam would give up being an SG team member altogether. Jack, however, had promised her that she would still be able to participate in missions when her expertise was needed.
She was actually glad that she would get to know other SG team members better and that she would have enough time, finally, to dedicate to her projects. Bless General Hammond for coming up with a solution! When she had first faced the old man after her resignation from the military, she had wanted the earth to swallow her. But he had come through for Jack and her. He had refused to accept their resignations and had figured out a way for both of them to remain at SGC and still be able to be a couple.
There was a hollow feeling in her chest when she thought about giving up SG-1, but she knew it was a small price to pay for being able to be with the man she loved. She had sacrificed her personal life for her career until now, but she wanted one before it was too late. She was counting on being able to start a family right away. The thought of having a baby with Jack made her feel warm all over.
That was still a matter she needed to discuss with him, though. She was almost sure that Jack would be willing to have more children. She knew he had been a great dad to Charlie and that he missed the boy terribly. He felt responsible for Charlie's accident. That was something he would always have to live with. But maybe having other children he could love would help him forgive himself, if not forget.
The song in the radio ended and an upbeat tune followed. She switched the station, looking for another romantic piece to suit her mood. God, she was being silly! "So what? I'm just too happy to care!" she told herself.
She had even taken special care on her appearance tonight, since she expected Jack to come over for dinner and… other matters. She had put on a red tank top and blue jeans, nothing fancy, but she had added a black beaded choker and earrings. She would put on some sexy perfume as soon as she got home. She had even applied some make up, for crying out loud! She laughed, remembering that was one of Jack's expressions. Yes, she had gone silly with happiness this Friday night.
Moments later, Sam's bubble did burst, as soon as she saw the car parked in front of her house.
"Pete!" she thought, "What is he doing here?" Her heart started to race inside her chest. She had to sit in her car for a minute to collect her thoughts. What did he want now? She had tried calling him repeatedly before the mission to Tollana, and he had never returned her calls. True, that had only been a few weeks before, but his refusal to talk to her had convinced her that he considered their relationship over.
"Oh, my God! And Jack will be here shortly! What do I do?" she thought, frantic.
Sam thought for a fleeting second how funny it was that she was actually terrified at confronting Pete, more than she ever was when confronting a gloating Goa'uld. "This is ridiculous! Get in there and get it over with!" she admonished herself, getting out of the car resolutely.
Sam took a deep breath before she opened her front door; she then stepped in, taking off her black leather jacket. Pete was sitting by her kitchen countertop, sipping a cup of coffee. He had obviously been waiting for her for a while. She could not help but notice how ruggedly handsome he looked in his jeans and black turtleneck. He half-smiled at her when he saw her. His smile could always do things to her heart, and now was not an exception.
"Pete," she said softly, hanging her jacket on a peg and walking toward him with her hands inside her back pockets. She did not want him to see them tremble. "I didn't expect to see you again, I must confess. What are you doing here?" she asked, stopping a few feet from him.
"I'm here to talk, Sam, and… to apologize. I'm sorry I didn't return your calls. I was being a jerk," he admitted with a sheepish look.
"It has been more than three weeks, Pete. Why now?" she asked, worrying about what his expectations could be at this point.
"Sam, when I left here that awful night, I was so angry and hurt that I wasn't thinking straight. I must admit I really didn't start thinking straight until many days had passed and I had ignored all your calls." Pete stood and came closer to Sam, his hands by his sides. "Then I realized that, even if my pride was telling me not to ever see you again, my heart would not let me live in peace if I didn't give our relationship as many chances as necessary. I would be a fool to just let you go, Sam."
"God, Pete, I…" Sam started to answer, but Pete interrupted, "No, let me finish. Please know that, if you need more time to be sure, I'll wait for you. We can just continue dating until you are ready for more. I'll even stay in Denver until you really want me here. And I promise I will not press the issue!"
Pete was looking at her with a measure of desperation in his eyes, expecting her to answer. He started to come closer and Sam, involuntarily, took a step back. "Pete, some things have happened during the last few weeks," she started to explain, "things that I had not believed possible at all. I'm sorry… but you and I can't continue to see each other." Sam swallowed hard once she finished talking, not wanting to elaborate.
"What?" Pete answered in disbelief. "What on earth could have happened for you to decide you don't even want to see me anymore?" Pete felt he had been punched in the stomach, but went on, "You were calling me. I assumed you wanted to make up. Didn't you?"
"Yes… and no, Pete. I was calling you because I knew you were hurt, and it had not been my intention to hurt you like that. I had not even meant to break up with you, just to postpone things. But, when you didn't return my calls, I felt that, maybe, it was for the best."
At this, Pete threw up his hands and started pacing the floor, as she knew he did when he was upset. "What do you mean for the best? For whom?"
"For both of us, Pete," Sam answered softly, trying to be convincing, "It's not fair to you, and not enough for me. You deserve someone that loves you without doubts. I can't offer that to you, ever. You were right… there has always been someone else."
Pete stopped pacing abruptly, looking at her now with anger. "So I was right? You were cheating on me the whole time?"
"No! Pete, it's not what you think! It's more complicated than that. Let me…" but Pete was not really listening. He had grabbed her shoulders, his fingers digging into her flash painfully.
"Who is it, Sam?" he asked with his face inches from hers.
"Pete, please don't… just let me explain!" Sam was begging, but he shook her, deaf with anger and pain.
"Tell me, Sam! At least give me that!" he shouted at her.
"That's enough! Let her go!" they heard suddenly, and they both froze. Jack was standing at the end of the corridor, just having come into the house. They both stared at the newcomer, who started to walk toward them slowly, a deadly serious look on his face. "I said let her go." Pete was still holding on to Sam's shoulders, shocked by the sudden interruption and too angry to comply. Sam closed her eyes in mortification. Why did this have to happen tonight? She had been so happy! Now she felt she was in hell. She felt Pete's fingers dig themselves out of her shoulders, but he stubbornly held on to her.
"This is none of your business, Jack. You should leave," Pete told Jack impatiently, wondering what the man was doing in Sam's house on a Friday night.
"I'm afraid it is very much my business, Pete. That's my future wife you are shaking," answered Jack calmly. He was still a few feet from them, but Pete could tell his body was tensed. And, wait, what had he said?
"You future wife?" Pete repeated, now looking at Sam for confirmation. She was staring at him with those huge blue eyes, a mix of emotions emanating from them. He let go of her as if she burned.
"Tell me what's going on, Sam. Please." He was deflated, no longer angry.
"I'm so sorry, Pete," Sam said, "but it's true. Jack is the one that has always stood between us, and between me and any other man I ever had any feelings for. But please, believe me when I tell you that I was never unfaithful to you while we were together."
Pete just stared at her in disbelief, his shock evident. Jack was looking at them, feeling sorry for the cop. At the end, Pete silently took Sam's front door key out of his key chain, and tossed it on the countertop. It bounced off and clattered on the floor. He then turned around, passed by Jack without looking at him, and headed for the front door. Sam could not stand it. She started to follow him, "Pete, please understand. I'm sorry!" But Jack stopped her from following him further, holding her by the arms. He looked into her eyes and shook his head. She understood. As a man, he probably knew better what Pete could deal with at the moment. He needed to be left alone.
She jumped when the front door slammed shut. She felt horrible, and did not know what to do next. Jack was standing before her, still holding her arms softly and looking at her with concern. A tear escaped her eyes, and he used his thumb to wipe it off her cheek.
"Oh, Jack! I'm so sorry!" she said, dropping her head.
"Of course you're sorry! You care for Pete, and you didn't want to see him hurt. But this is not your fault. You have done nothing wrong." He was talking to her firmly, making her look at him, but she tried to hide her face in his chest.
"Hey, come on. Look at me. No crying is allowed today. Today is a special day, remember?" Jack cajoled, holding her close.
"I was so happy just minutes ago! How could things go bad so quickly? Why can't we ever get a break?" she was complaining against his chest.
"What do you mean? We got a huge break today, didn't we? Come on, babe. Let's forget about the ugly moment and celebrate! I have beer in the car…" he tried to entice her, smiling at her.
"Babe?" she sniffled, looking at him.
"Too mushy?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders.
"No, I like that." She was actually beginning to smile.
"Then it's official, you are my babe," he declared, hugging her. "Come on, let's get the beer," he said, pulling her along.
Sam was awakened by something rubbing against her back, between her shoulder blades. That spot had always been ticklish, so she arched away and moaned in complaint. Whatever was rubbing against her back started up again, now on her right hip and making its way down her thigh.
She smiled, now fully awake, but refusing to open her eyes. "Get away from me, you brute! Let me sleep!" she groaned, slapping Jack's hand away. "Don't you ever have enough?"
"I have a lot of years to make up for," he said, now nibbling her neck and pulling her body against his. She could tell he was quite ready to continue to make up for lost time, and she felt pleasure start to unfurl in her insides. Then she opened her eyes and saw the clock.
"Oh, my God! Why didn't you wake me earlier? We're going to be late for work!" she was shouting as she disentangled herself from arms and blankets and ran into the bathroom.
"Don't worry, I know the boss! The world will not end if you are late for once…" he argued, following her.
"I don't want to begin our new arrangement by doing something I have never done before, Jack. We're going to be late as it is, so start moving!" she answered as she was pulling her nightgown off and jumping into the shower.
He really had to do something to make her relax. She had always been unforgiving with herself, but he wasn't about to be rushed every morning just so that she could be at work in time. She would have to adjust to his schedule when she slept over. And he was going to start doing something right now. He opened the shower door and jumped in to join her. She squealed in surprise, but very soon she was laughing.
Later that Monday morning, SGC department heads and other key personnel were gathered at the Gate Room for an unexpected briefing. Jack was standing at the podium, SG-1 by his side further down the ramp.
"I apologize for pulling you away so abruptly from whatever it is you do on Monday mornings, people. But there have been some recent developments that have made it imperative that we make some changes. Although these changes will not affect you directly, I'm sure they will, eventually, affect you indirectly. Therefore, I thought you had a right to know." He cleared his throat, looking at his audience. Sam was standing between Daniel and Teal'c, feeling extremely nervous.
"I regretfully inform you that Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter has decided to resign her duties in the military," a surprised reaction could be immediately heard from the gathered personnel. "However," Jack continued louder, and the audience quieted down, "she will continue to offer her outstanding technical services to SGC as an independent, civilian consultant. Effective immediately, she should be addressed as Dr. Carter."
People were looking at each other, baffled at such an occurrence, but Jack continued. "The reasons are personal ones. Instead of telling you what they are, I thought I would show you instead," Jack concluded, smiling slyly at Sam, who gaped at him in surprise and concern. What was he going to do now? Kiss her in front of all these people? She wouldn't put it past him! Jack had proven to be even more of a nut case than she ever had imagined. Over the past weekend, she had alternately accused him of being crazy, jealous, romantic, and quite insatiable. His excuse, every time, was that she was to blame.
Jack approached Sam, his right hand inside his pocket. Sam frantically looked at both exits to see which one was closest, ready to flee. But when she started to move, she felt Daniel and Teal'c grab each one of her arms softly, but securely. She looked at them, panicked, but they just smiled at Jack, obvious conspirators. What were they doing? Jack now went down on one knee at her feet, pulled out a black velvet box from his pocket and asked, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Dr. Carter, would you do me the honor of agreeing to be my wife?" A huge, pear shaped diamond on a platinum band sat on the black velvet.
A roar could be heard from the audience. The women were squealing, the men laughing and clapping, and a low chant was started, "Say yes, say yes, say yes!"
Sam was staring at the ring with her mouth open, not able to move. She was also having serious difficulty breathing with her heart about to pop out of her chest. She heard the chanting, but kept staring at the ring, until she felt Jack pulling at her right hand.
"Well?" Jack was saying, smiling at her from below. "Remember I have a bad knee here."
Sam finally broke out of her spell, chuckled at him, grabbed the ring from its box, and shoved it on her finger. She then lifted her left hand in triumph at the audience, smiling brilliantly. Everyone hooted and clapped even louder. Jack looked at the audience and shouted, "I guess that means yes!"
Later, in his office, Sam complained to Jack. "How could you? I thought I was going to die out there!" She still did not know if she should kill him or kiss him. "And you two…! You knew what he was going to do!" she was pointing at Daniel and Teal'c, who were extremely amused with the whole thing.
"I have not had this much fun in a long time. Sorry Sam! You should have seen your face!" Daniel was laughing, unable to help himself.
"I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the episode," added Teal'c with an unusual broad smile. "So did the SGC personnel, from what I could gather."
"Yeah, well, everyone had a laugh on me," pouted Sam with her arms crossed, glaring at Jack, who was leaning back in his chair, very pleased with himself.
"You did accuse me of not properly asking you to marry me. To have a good marriage, I thought I should try to give you satisfaction, in every way possible," he added with emphasis and a wink.
"Ooh, you… just wait until we get home!" she turned to leave, but was unable to hold back a smile. "Traitors!" she threw at Daniel and Teal'c as she left.
The three men just continued to enjoy themselves.
On her way to her lab, Sam could not act angry any longer. She was smiling like an idiot the whole way there. She met a few people in her way and everyone made it a point to congratulate her on her engagement. The women wanted to see the ring up close, and Nurse Cline even got a little emotional, "You are meant for each other. You don't know how happy I am for you!" The woman had hugged her and had continued on down the corridor wiping her eyes. Sam thought it was funny. She had been a little worried about the SGC personnel's reaction to the engagement. There had been no need.
Once in her office, she sat in front of her microscope to continue doing some analysis on the replicator cells. She had not made much progress on that due to lack of time, and ideas. But her mind was not cooperating. She kept remembering scenes from the past weekend, her first weekend with Jack. She had to admit it had been better than she had ever expected, in every way.
It turned out Jack was more sentimental and romantic than she had ever given him credit for. He had opened up to her a side of him she had only had glimpses of before. The first time they had made love, late on Friday, after Pete had left and they had managed to eat something, it had been almost magical for her.
He had not rushed things. After dinner, he had held her for a long time on the couch, listening to jazzy music, letting her sip her wine as he drank his beer. At the beginning she had been so upset that she did not think anything would happen. But, as she had relaxed with the wine and Jack's arms about her, listening to the soft tunes, she had begun to feel aroused by his nearness. Jack had sensed this immediately, and had set his beer aside. He had looked into her eyes, and had proceeded to kiss her, softly at first, then more urgently. Before she knew it, the rest of her wine had spilled, her red top was on the floor and Jack was on top of her, his hands hot on her body, all restraint forgotten. What had started with soft kisses had developed quickly into a wild frenzy of need and long denied passion. Sam had never experienced something as intense and wonderful.
Afterwards, they had held each other lying on the couch for a long time, and they had had their first intimate talk. She smiled recollecting his response to her question, "Jack, how do you feel about us having a baby?"
She had tried to listen to his soul. She wanted to be sure his answer was honest.
"Only one?" Jack had asked in turn, and she knew she had nothing to worry about.
Then she had told him, for the first time, "I love you, Jack." His response had been to kiss her, all over.
They had later moved over to the bathroom and soaked in the tub, sipping their drinks and talking about everything. They had had so much catching up to do. There had been so many things unsaid over the years, so many emotions that had not been allowed to show. Finally they could discuss situations during their many past experiences together, and had been able to really express their feelings and opinions without censure.
Later, on her bed, they had taken their time, exploring each other's still damp bodies. She had found that Jack was a sensitive lover, and that his weight on her had made her feel safe and protected. Afterwards, she had wrapped her arms and legs around him and had kept him close, holding on to him, somehow afraid of letting him go.
The next morning he had awakened her with kisses, and more lovemaking. They had lingered in bed, not wanting to end the intimacy. But duty called. After they had showered and eaten a quick breakfast, they had gone, as she did every Saturday, to pick up Cassie from her boarding school.
The sixteen year old had refused to accept another adoption or foster care arrangement after Janet had passed away. She did not want another family. She had begged Sam to take her in, and at the end, Sam had agreed to be her legal guardian. However, because of Sam's work, they had agreed that a boarding school was the answer. She was already on her senior year, and then she would go on to college, or join the military.
Sam and Cassie still did not see eye to eye on that one. Cassie wanted the military, and to be able to join SGC as soon as possible. Sam wanted Cassie to explore other options, such as college, first. Cassie had a bright mind, which had allowed her to catch up with and then pass up her classmates in school. She was graduating early, and Sam wanted her to mature and experience other things before she committed herself to a career.
When Sam had shown up with Jack at the boarding school, Cassie had been thrilled. She had not seen him in a while. They had gone canoeing at the park, something she enjoyed immensely. Then they had taken her out for pizza, her favorite meal. Over dinner, Jack and Sam had told Cassie the news.
The girl had been beside herself with joy, jumping up and down on her seat. "I knew it, I knew it! You two just had to get together! Mom kept saying you couldn't, even though you loved each other, but I kept saying it would happen some day. See Mom? I told you!" she said looking up to an imaginary Janet.
"The two of us were a topic of conversation?" Sam had asked surprised.
"Oh, yes! But just between Mom and I. It was our little secret. We both knew how you felt for each other." Cassie had not stopped laughing and chatting excitedly for the rest of the meal. She then surprised them by refusing to go to Sam's house that night, as she usually did.
"Oh, no! No way! You two need to be alone together this weekend. I would not dream to interfere. Are you kidding? I'd be afraid of catching you kissing, or something grosser, every time I turned my back!" she laughed, teasing them.
"Cassandra!" Sam had blushed, embarrassed. Jack had laughed.
"Oh, isn't she cute when she does that?" Cassie had asked Jack, laughing ever harder.
"She's definitely cute, and not only when she does that," Jack had agreed, joining Cassie in the teasing, and giving Sam a flirty look.
"OK, you two… stop it!" Sam had begged, still blushing.
"Ahh! Revenge is sweet! You always tease me about my boyfriends. How does it feel, huh?" Cassie had been relentless.
They had finally dropped Cassie back at the boarding school, promising to pick her up next Saturday. Then they had gone back to Sam's house, and had jumped in bed as soon as they arrived. They could not have enough of each other, and they had had a lot of fun that night, and the next day.
The phone almost made her jump out of her skin; she was so far gone in her memories. It was Jack. "You need to come to a briefing on P4X-874 right away. You are going to love this."
She almost ran all the way to the briefing room.
As she entered the briefing room, Sam noticed SG-13 seating around the table. Colonel James Dixon, SG-13's commander, had a Jack-like look of mixed exasperation and patience on his face. Dr. Balinsky, the team's archeologist, was talking excitedly to Daniel, sitting across from him. The two men were like kids discussing a new, fantastic toy.
"I'm telling you, I'm positive it has to be the Furlings," was saying Dr. Balinsky. "The writing I found on this monolith matches the only writing in Ernest's Planet that we have not been able to match. The other three belong to the Nox, the Asgard and the Ancients. The fourth race is the Furlings." He was grinning from ear to ear.
Airman Simon Wells was smiling at the two men, "They are more excited than I was when my little Janet was born!" Lt. Bosworth, sitting next to him, just chuckled.
"Sam, how are you?" greeted Colonel Dixon as Sam took a seat, "I heard the news. Congratulations! I already told Jack what a lucky bastard he is!"
"Thank you, Jim. I'm glad you reminded him," responded Sam smiling, at which everyone chuckled. "What is this I'm hearing? We finally found something related to the Furlings?" she asked.
"It looks that way," Jack responded. "Dr. Balinsky here thinks so, anyway. We are trying to determine what to do next. They found the ruins of a city in P4X-874, and they ruins are extensive; so more than one SG team will be needed, as well as support personnel. Teal'c has asked for some leave until we decide on SG-1's new commander and he is getting ready to go visit his son. But Daniel is chomping at the bit to go to the planet to look at the writings himself. And Colonel Dixon has requested technical expertise. There seems to be some kind of machine inside one of the ruins, but no one knows what it could be for." He then smiled at her. "Interested?"
"Of course! I can be ready within minutes. Just say the word." She smiled enthusiastically.
"No rush. SG-13 just came back and they need to rest. They will be going back tomorrow morning. We need some time to gather up some personnel and equipment; we'll probably be there for a while." Jack concluded, "At 800 hours tomorrow, people."
The next morning, Sam was one of the last people to step through the stargate. She turned and gave Jack a little smile, and Jack winked at her, remembering the feel of her soft body under the manly uniform earlier in her lab. She then disappeared through the puddle, followed by a few airmen carrying heavy equipment.
On the other side, P4X-874, now being called the Furling Planet, looked like most other planets they had visited. Far from the stargate, next to the side of a mountain, on a little plain, the ancient ruins of a small, walled city could be seen. Other than that, there were a lot of trees. The temperature was 78 degrees Fahrenheit, per the M.A.L.P.'s readings. At least their stay would be pleasant.
Sam joined the rest of the people hiking toward the ruins, leaving a two-man team behind to guard the stargate and relay communications back to SGC. When she got to what looked like the entrance to the town, Daniel was already standing in front of a twelve-foot tall, oblong rock filled with writing. He was looking at some photographs in his hand. "Hey, Daniel. What is this?" asked Sam as soon as she joined him.
"I think Balinsky is right!" he answered, looking at a grinning Dr. Balinsky. "I brought the images we took from Ernest's Planet along," he said, pointing at the photos in his left hand, "and they are a match. No idea what it says yet, but definitely a match," he said smiling at her. "The city ruins look Celtic to me, though."
"Celtic? That's odd. Does that mean that the Furlings came from Europe?" asked Sam a little amused.
"Or that they had something to do with the Celts. Remember we found Thor's Hammer in a planet populated by Vikings. Something like that could have happened here." Daniel was obviously excited, speaking really fast.
"Great! Looks like you have your work cut out for you. I'll go see what is waiting for me. See you later," she slapped his back and she continued up the hill, deeper into the ruins.
At the top of the hill, Colonel Dixon was giving orders to a large group of soldiers to search and secure the city when Sam approached him. He was standing by the entrance to what looked like a tumulus, a large structure built of rocks and covered by earth. "This is the building I told you about," Colonel Dixon told Sam when she approached. She followed him inside, passing through an entrance formed by three huge rocks. The two on the sides were about ten feet tall, and rectangular in shape. Another, similar rock sat on top of the other two, forming an archway. The rocks were sculptured with weird designs, weaving lines and concentric rings that looked like fingerprints.
The inside of the chamber was large, about eighty square feet, and had a high ceiling of maybe twenty feet. It was lit by four powerful lamps placed by SGC personnel in each of the four corners. Nothing looked alien, except for a striking looking piece of machinery sitting against the opposite wall to the entrance. The machine was narrow and tall, and it was placed smack in the middle of the wall, about eight feet behind a large rock table. The table reminded Sam of an altar, and there was a symbol, similar to a cross, and some writing, sculptured on the rock. The writing was different from what Daniel had just shown her at the entrance of the town.
Although it felt cool inside the chamber, Sam was overheated from the hike, so she shed her cap, pack and jacket and dropped them by the entrance, on the ground. Her attention was riveted on the strange machine. It was made of some kind of dark metal, perfectly smooth, except for some crystals slowly blinking on its surface. The machine only reached half way up the wall, so it looked to be about ten feet tall, and about four feet wide.
"What do you think?" asked Colonel Dixon looking at her.
"Well, this isn't the first time we find an advanced piece of technology in what looks like a primitive town. The one I'm thinking about ended up being a powerful weapon. I wonder if this is something similar." Sam was slowly walking toward the altar, looking at the machine carefully. "I can't see any access points; it seems perfectly sealed."
An airman was filming the inside of the structure, obviously part of the archeology team, and was focusing on the writing on the altar.
"Has anyone touched it?" asked Sam, looking back at Colonel Dixon.
"The machine? Yeah! I ran my hands all over it trying to find any kind of opening, but I didn't find anything. I even pushed some of the crystals, but nothing budged. It is definitely working, though. The crystals are blinking and the metal felt pretty warm."
"Really?" asked Sam absentmindedly. They both looked thoughtfully at the artifact for a few moments longer. "OK, let me get my diagnostic equipment and we'll see what this thing is made of," said Sam, going to her pack and extracting a sensor unit. She then approached the altar, smiled at the still filming airman, and walked around the rock table to approach the machine.
She stood for a moment between the altar and the machine, turning on her sensor when, suddenly, a humming sound came from the artifact and the crystals started to blink faster. Sam turned to Dixon, surprised, but he just stared back at her, not knowing what was going on. The airman automatically shifted his camera to the machine, backing away from the altar. Sam started to back off, but she had not taken two steps before a high-pitched sound enveloped them and everyone automatically covered their ears.
Dixon saw, horrified, when Sam was suddenly surrounded by what looked like an energy field. She realized this too, and looked at him with panicked eyes. Before he could do anything, she disappeared in a blinding flash, and the machine went quiet again. "Oh, shit!" he exclaimed. His first thought was how the hell he was going to tell Jack about what had just happened.
"Simmons! Did you get that on film?" Dixon asked the flabbergasted, still frozen airman holding the camera.
"I… I think so," answered Simmons, still in shock.
Dixon grabbed the camera and ran out of the structure, yelling into his radio.
Jack sat, not moving a muscle, as he viewed the film for the third time in the briefing room, his back to the rest of the people sitting around the table. At the beginning of the briefing there had been a lot of talk, explanations given, theories thrown around. Then everyone, one by one, had quieted down, watching Jack press buttons and replay the tape, over and over, not saying a word.
He kept seeing Sam's last look of panic before she disappeared. He kept trying to see if there had been any pain in her face. Is she dead? Could she be dead? Could life be that cruel? Then he remembered Charlie, and he knew life could definitely be that cruel.
Daniel was the first one to address him, "Jack, are you OK?" But no answer came, not for a few moments. Colonel Dixon, Dr. Balinsky, and Daniel looked at each other in concern. Then they heard him answer.
"I'm fine, Daniel." He turned off the video, turned back to them with a stony look on his face and said, "She is alive, and we are going to find her and bring her back. Is that clear?" His voice was low, but firm.
"Yes, Sir, we will," answered Jim Dixon immediately. "We just started looking at these ruins. We will figure out how the machine works and we will make it work again." He sounded like a man with a mission.
Daniel added, "I already started to make some progress on the translation. Just looking at the video I can tell the writing is definitely ancient Celtic. At least, the writing on the altar is. The writing at the entrance of the town I'm still…" but Daniel could not finish.
Jack stood up abruptly, started to head for the stairs, then hesitated and turned to them, "I want to know the second you translate the writing and whether it can help us find her. I'll try to contact the Asgard. They may be able to help." He then left for the command center.
Earlier, millions of light years away, Sam had not felt anything at all. One moment she was looking at Colonel Dixon, thinking she may be killed, and the next she was standing there, alone. The place was a replica of the structure she had been transported from. She knew she had been transported because, although similar, this was definitely not the same place.
The energy field still surrounded her. She tried touching it and felt a painful electrical shock. She could not get out. She looked carefully at her semi-dark surroundings. The same type of room, the same altar, the same dimensions. But this place was decorated. There were tapestries on the walls depicting scenes of battle, of daily life, and of what looked like rituals.
The altar was bare, except for an embroidered scarlet cloth that did not cover it completely. She could not be sure, but she thought the gold embroidery represented a type of snake… or a Goa'uld symbiote.
She was startled by noises coming from the entrance to the structure. She could hear people approaching, voices talking excitedly, but trying not to be loud. She was feeling helpless and vulnerable without a weapon, not knowing where she was or whom she was going to face. Not enough light came in through the door for her to see everything clearly, and she waited tensely in the semi-dark interior.
Finally she could see one, then two, then five more people enter the structure. They came in slowly, carrying torches, seven people in total. They stayed by the entrance until all of them were inside. They gaped at her in disbelief, muttering to each other, as if afraid of her. Could these be the Furlings?
They looked like tall, fair skinned humans under their plain, white tunics. Although the garments had hoods, she could tell there were people of both sexes in the group, some much older than others. There were five young and old men, all of them bearded. There were two women, one middle-aged; the other one was very young. They kept whispering to each other, not taking their eyes off of her, until she could not take it any longer.
"Hello!" she started clumsily, trying to remember what Daniel usually said when he greeted aliens, "I'm Samantha Carter, and I mean you no harm." The small group looked at each other and still did not respond.
"I think I was transported here by mistake," Sam continued, not knowing if they could understand her. "You do not need to fear me, I am unarmed," she opened her hands to show them. She was hoping they could not see her sensor unit on the floor. They might think it was a weapon. "If you know how to turn off the energy field keeping me here, please do so."
At this, the older woman said something urgently to the oldest looking man, but he rebuked her, explaining something to her as if to a child. He then turned to Sam and said something to her in a language she could not understand.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand you," responded Sam, beginning to get desperate.
"I said, the doom of the wicked is annihilation," the older man repeated. "You have come here to meet your doom, demon. You will be tolerated no longer."
Sam realized she was in deep trouble.
"That is not an answer I'm willing to accept, Thor. Try a better one!" Jack was pacing the briefing room, looking at his alien friend impatiently. Thor sat at the end of the briefing table. He had just transported to the room, just hours after Jack had contacted him.
Daniel was also in the room, as was Teal'c, who had promptly returned from Chulak when notified of Sam's disappearance. Daniel was stuck on the translation. The words he had been able to translate did not make sense. He was familiar with the modern Irish language, but not so with ancient Celtic. He and Teal'c were both looking at Jack in concern.
"I am sorry, O'Neill. We are clearly bound by our agreement with the Furlings. We were prevented by this agreement to share any information about them with you before. That has not changed." Thor spoke as calmly as ever.
"But things are different now. We have an important reason to try to find out more about them. Sam is missing. Her life is at stake!" Daniel argued.
"I realize it is, and I sympathize," Thor responded, "but we cannot help you."
"Yes, you can, Thor! Please, don't do this…" Jack was now leaning close to Thor, his hands on the table, begging, "not this time." There was more he wanted to say, but could not get it out. His alien friend looked at him for a long time, not responding. Jack kept begging with his eyes, until Thor finally relented.
"I will have to consult with the Asgard High Council. I will also have to consult with the Nox. They are party to the Agreement. That is the best I can offer at the moment," Thor told Jack, then promptly transported back to his ship.
"Well, at least that's something…" muttered Daniel. Teal'c nodded gloomily. Jack closed his eyes and thought, "Please, God."
In the meantime, in another galaxy, Sam was trying to save her own butt. "No, you have it all wrong. I'm not a demon, I'm human, like you!" She was trying to explain. The group of people was now standing in a semi-circle around the altar, holding their torches. She could tell they were getting ready to do something, and she did not think she was going to like it.
"Your words mean nothing, demon. Like others before you, you will be silenced forever, your evil ways will end, and you will cause no further suffering," the older man replied.
"What can I do to prove it to you? You have to believe me! I am no demon!" Sam pleaded, her apprehension increasing when she saw two of the older men approach the altar and place their rights hands on two handprints clearly delineated on the surface of the stone, one at each end of the table.
"Please, don't hurt me! I'm not a demon!" Sam shouted, now scared, seeing the oldest man approach the center of the altar as the rest of the group started chanting something.
"If you were not a demon, you would not be here, and you would not be confined," the oldest man replied, as he lifted his right hand to place it on a third handprint on the rocky surface, between the two others.
Sam braced herself, thinking she was now going to die. The old man touched the surface, a deadly look on his face. She first heard a change in the humming of the machine, then immediately felt heat envelope her. Sam screamed in agony. She thought she was burning alive, fire running through her veins. She screamed again as she collapsed on the floor, "STOOOP!" She then screamed one final time, "PLEEEASE!" as she curled up into a fetal position, trying desperately to escape the pain. Then she could not feel anything anymore.
"I understand, Jack; that's why I'm here. There is nothing you need to apologize for, believe me," General Hammond was telling Jack.
"I don't want you to think that my relationship with Sam is clouding my judgment. If Teal'c's, Daniel's, or any other team member's life was at stake here, I'd be doing the same…" Jack was saying, but Hammond interrupted. "I know, Jack! Really!"
"Thank you, Sir," Jack said, truly grateful to the older man.
"I'll be taking care of things from here. Dr. O'Malley just arrived to assist with the translation. He is an expert in ancient Celtic languages and cultures. Dr. Jackson is free to accompany you, as well as Teal'c. And Colonel Dixon is already driving the whole technical team crazy in the planet, trying to figure out why the machine did what it did. We'll be watching your back, Jack," Hammond said, a hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"We'll be in touch, Sir. Thor wants us to leave immediately to meet with the Nox in their planet. Something about a technicality in the Agreement…" Jack was clueless, but eager to find out what his Asgard friend was referring to.
"Godspeed, son," Hammond said, praying that Jack could come back with Sam. If not, he was not sure the SGC leader would be able to cope.
While Jack got ready to come to her rescue, Sam awoke shaking violently and drenched in sweat, laying flat on the rock altar. She was in pain, as if her bones had been crushed. Her throat was so dry that she could hardly swallow. She could not move much, but her hands reached out to try to figure out where she was. She was blind.
She heard voices arguing softly around her. God, she felt miserable! She tried to speak, to ask for help, but her voice failed her. So she kept reaching with her hands, not being able to do anything else.
A soft, feminine hand grasped hers, and Sam gripped it in desperation, still trembling. "PPPlease… help me!" she managed to say. Another hand lifted her head from the other side, and a gentle female voice hushed her, "You will be all right, love. Be still. Drink this," the voice said soothingly. Sam clutched at the woman's robe with her free hand as she felt a cup being brought to her lips. She drank the liquid they offered, so thirsty that she did not care what it was. It tasted almost like wine, but sweeter. She swallowed a few sips, but she then started to cough helplessly.
The young woman holding her hand looked at the High Priest accusingly. "You said you were sure she was a host. You said she would be saved. But look at her! What happened to her? What is she still doing here?" She was angry.
"This has never happened before. There is always a demon in the end, and the host is returned to where it came from. I do not understand; but I will go into the forest and consult with the Sidhe," the old man replied, a look of concern and puzzlement on his lined face. "Tuan, Fothad, come with me." He turned to leave, and the two older priests followed him out of the tumulus.
Sam understood the words and could tell who was talking. She turned to the young woman on her right, a death grip still on her hand. "I… am not… a demon…" Sam said with difficulty, "I was… host… once… but no more," she managed to explain.
The two women tending to her looked at each other in understanding. They felt terrible for not being able to prevent the men from acting so quickly. They had tried to convince them to investigate further before trying to do the cleansing. They had not sensed any evil emanating from the woman, but the High Priest had been adamant.
"Try to rest, love. We will take care of you. No more harm will come to you, we promise," the older woman said, pity in her voice.
"Thank… you!" Sam gasped, still shaking miserably, but feeling a measure of relief. Minutes later, she fell into a drugged sleep, still holding on to the helpful hand.
Jack was in Thor's ship, sitting by himself, looking at the alien stars fly by. They should be there soon, he thought. Maybe then he could get some answers. Daniel and Teal'c had given up trying to engage him in conversation. They were quietly talking to each other, and occasionally to Thor, on the other side of the bridge.
What could he say? How could he act? He did not want them to see his sanity hanging by a thread. He had to keep his wits about him. He could not fail Sam. Somehow, he had to convince their allies to help them.
"Here, Jack," he heard Daniel say behind him. He was handing him a sandwich and a bottle of water. "I thought you'd prefer to eat rations instead of what Thor is offering. It doesn't look very appetizing."
"I'm not hungry, but thanks," Jack responded. Eat? He'd probably puke. He had been carrying a rock in his stomach since he heard Colonel Dixon's voice over the radio. "She just disappeared! I'm positive she triggered the machine somehow! I'm sorry, Jack. I don't know where she is!"
"Come on, you have to eat something! Do you want to drop from fatigue while you are trying to convince the Nox and the Asgard to help us?" Daniel was trying to be convincing, but of course, he did not know about the rock in the stomach.
"Later, Daniel," Jack replied a little impatiently.
"OK…" Daniel sighed, turning to look at Teal'c with a helpless look on his face.
Teal'c looked back gravely, understanding in his black eyes. However, he stood up and approached them. "It will do you no good to starve yourself, O'Neill. You have not eaten or slept in many hours. You must keep up your strength." He was talking to Jack firmly, almost as an admonishing older brother.
Jack looked up at both of them, realizing that, one, they were right; and two, they were not going to leave him be. He reached for the sandwich and water with both hands, took them, and gave them an exasperated look. They still stood there, looking at him. He then took a big bite out of the sandwich and started chewing it, as if it was straw. They still stood.
"What? I'm eating!" he told them, hoping they would go away and he could spit the damn thing out. Instead, they sat down next to him. They stubbornly waited for him to finish the sandwich. Then they looked at the water bottle. He drank half the content in one big gulp, he then said, "Happy?"
Daniel smiled. "Happier," he responded, "but not quite. Jack, what are you so afraid of? If Sam wasn't alive, I think Thor would have told us. I believe he knows she's alive," Daniel argued.
"I know," he replied, as if any other thought was ridiculous. "I'm not afraid, I'm… a little concerned, I guess," he admitted.
"A little?" Teal'c asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
"OK, a lot, but I know we'll find her. I just… I don't know what's happening to her while we find her. I have… this feeling… this awful feeling that… she's suffering. I can't shake it!" Teal'c and Daniel looked at each other, not knowing what to say. Then Daniel decided to change the subject.
"Jack, I've been looking at the images from the altar and the machine, trying to translate the ancient Celtic. I'm afraid I'm not sure what the writing says, but I do recognize this symbol," Daniel told him, pointing at a strange cross in a photograph. It looked like a regular cross, except that the top part looked more like a long loop. "It is an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of resurrection."
Jack did not like the sound of it. "What's an Egyptian symbol doing in a Celtic ruin?" he asked.
"Actually, this symbol has been found in megalithic carvings in Europe. The ancient Celts, or megalithic people, who flourished in the area of the Danube about four or five hundred B.C., are believed to have originated from Northern Africa. This symbol probably came with them."
"How does this help us, Daniel?" asked Jack impatiently.
"Well, it doesn't… yet," Daniel admitted, "but I think the symbol is encouraging, don't you?" he was looking at Jack hopefully.
"No, Daniel. You have to die in order to resurrect! It is not encouraging!" Jack responded, dread in his gut.
Hours after losing consciousness again on the altar, Sam woke up to unfamiliar sounds. She tried to remember where she was, and why she was feeling so achy and groggy. She could tell she was in a warm and comfortable bed, and she was definitely naked under the covers. Then she heard someone come closer to where she was laying. She turned her head to the sound and opened her eyes, but she had to close them, moaning. The light was hurting her eyes and making her head hurt horribly.
The person next to her placed a cloth over her eyes and stroked her head, as a mother would a child. "Try not to move, love. There is no rush. Here, try to drink more of this, you need more rest." The woman placed a cup to Sam's lips and she tasted the same drink she had been given before. Sam avoided the cup and pulled the cloth from her face.
"No, please, I don't want to sleep any more, I want to go home." Sam tried opening her eyes again to look at the woman, but everything was extremely blurry. She had to close them again, pain piercing her scull. Her bones ached miserably.
"It will be some time before you are able to walk, let alone go home. Please, do as I ask, and drink the medicine. It will help you get better." The woman brought the cup again to Sam's mouth, quite insistent.
Sam realized she was too weak to resist, and drank. She soon slept again, and dreamed of her mother.
Lya was there, waiting for them in the middle of the clearing. Thor had warned them that no one but the Nox or their allies were allowed in the Nox city. The petite woman was pleased to see them, a gentle smile illuminating her fairy-like face.
"It is good to see you again, friends," she said as they approached. Jack found himself smiling again for the first time since Sam had disappeared. Lya had a special place in his heart since she had helped them save Skaara from Klorel.
Daniel and Teal'c also expressed their pleasure at seeing the Nox woman, each in their own way. Daniel took her hand in both of his, while Teal'c bowed to her with a warm smile in his dark face.
"I'm glad that you're the one we're dealing with, Lya", Jack admitted. "Have you been told about the circumstances?" Jack asked looking at her, then at Thor.
"I have," Lya replied, "and I have pleaded your case to the Nox Council. I am afraid they are not convinced that we have grounds for disregarding the Agreement, Thor," Lya told the Asgard. "The Agreement clearly stipulates that the only reason for disclosing any information about any of the four participating races, the Furlings, the Ancients, the Nox, or the Asgard, to any other race, must be for the purposes of survival or well being of the allied races."
Lya looked at them apologetically, then she continued to explain, "Although Samantha Carter is a valued friend, she does not belong to any of the Four Races. We could have made a case for General O'Neill, since he possesses the Ancient gene, but such is not the case with Dr. Carter."
"Yes, all that is true. But the Agreement does not prevent us, the Nox and the Asgard, from ever including other races in the Agreement without consulting the Ancients or the Furlings. The Ancients are beyond our reach, no longer participating in events in our realm. We have not had any contact with the Furlings since they departed, many centuries ago. It is up to us to agree to include a Fifth Race into the Agreement." Thor had spoken to Lya in a conspiring tone.
Lya smiled, then she said, "I see your point. The Agreement was originally reached, in part, to cooperate with each other in the protection of the Four Races. The humans from Earth have done much recently; enough to be considered a strong ally in this endeavor. But you realize that this is a major change you are proposing." Lya did not want to get their hopes up.
"The Asgard Council officially requests the inclusion of Earth in the Agreement as the Fifth Race. We argue that the humans from Earth have proven to be valuable allies in the survival of the Asgard race. Please submit our recommendation for consideration and approval by the Nox Council. If the Nox approve, we then will be able to share any information we deem necessary with the humans for the purpose of protecting their well being," Thor concluded.
"I will submit your recommendation to the Nox Council. Please return to your ship and I will contact you when they have reached a decision." Lya smiled at them one last time, and disappeared with a wave of her little hand.
Once in Thor's ship, Jack turned to his little friend and asked, "OK, if I understood correctly, you have asked that we be included in some important treaty we know nothing about, just so that you can help us find Sam, right?"
"Correct," Thor answered.
"Don't take me wrong, I appreciate your ingenuity on this one, but I'm not authorized to negotiate a treaty with anyone," Jack was uncomfortable with the idea, if not terrified by it.
"Your negotiating skills will not be necessary at this stage, O'Neill. What we have proposed will serve only for us to be able to share some information with you as an acceptable potential fifth party to the Agreement. The negotiating will come later, and take a long time. There are many parts to the treaty, and many levels of cooperation to be considered," Thor reassured him. "Not all races are or ever were at the same level of development, which made the Agreement difficult to complete. However, I am confident that your race's participation is achievable and will be of benefit to all other races involved."
"Thank you, Thor," Daniel interjected, "whatever the response from the Nox. We really appreciate your help on this one. You know Sam is very important to us," Daniel concluded.
"Yes, I know that," he said, looking up at Jack.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and smiled at Daniel, who was smiling at Jack's guilty look.
Much later, Jack was startled awake by a light touch on this shoulder. He had lain down on a surprisingly comfortable bed provided by Thor. He had only meant to rest while they waited for the Nox to answer, but a number of hours had passed and he had fallen deeply asleep.
"Thor!" he said, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. "Did they give us an answer?" Jack asked; he then realized that Daniel and Teal'c were standing behind Thor with smiles on their faces. "I take it went well?"
"Correct, O'Neill. The Nox have agreed to accept your nomination as the Fifth Race in the Agreement. They have given their consent for us to assist you in trying to find Dr. Carter." Thor did not seem excited, but sounded pleased.
"Great! Now what?" asked Jack.
"A small formality, O'Neill. Dr. Jackson and you will be the first representatives of the Fifth Race to enter the Nox City. They are waiting for you now. They wish to provide you with the basic sections of the Agreement so that Earth's treaty negotiators can begin to work on them. Your presence as Earth's ambassadors need to be duly recorded in the Nox records," Thor explained.
"Do bureaucrats exist everywhere?" asked Jack, rolling his eyes. "Then we can go to the Furlings for help?"
"Not exactly," Thor responded.
"What do you mean? The machine that took Sam has to be a Furling artifact. They would know how it works!" Jack argued, dread worming itself into his gut again.
"That is possible, but you see… we don't know where the Furlings went." Jack felt his world crash on his head… again.
Sam was looking through the stone window at a beautiful view. Her eyesight was back to normal, although a bothersome headache remained. She was very weak and her bones still ached terribly, but she had managed to sit up and walk over to the window without falling. She had gratefully sunken into a comfortable high seat, her legs shaking in weakness. From there, she could see part of the city, shining white under the midday sun.
It all seemed to be built of the same white rock. It looked like granite, or marble, quite spectacular. The buildings were simple, and no more than two stories high. Plants and flowers were everywhere, as were large trees. Sam could tell that the dwellings were built around the trees, as were the streets, which curved and, in some cases, stopped abruptly in front of one.
There were a lot of people about, quite loud and boisterous. They seemed like a healthy, happy bunch. Most of them had red or blond hair and seemed quite fair and tall. Contrary to the seven people she had seen in the tumulus, these people were dressed in a variety of colors. The women seemed to like showing off quite a lot of cleavage, and both sexes seemed to prefer trousers. No machines of any kind were in evidence. Theirs was apparently a primitive society.
She had only sat there for a few minutes when she heard the door open and she turned to see Telta come in. She was the middle-aged woman who had taken care of her for the past few days. Sam had confused her with her mother during her drugged state. The woman was still beautiful, with blond hair streaked with white, and large, kind blue eyes.
"Oh, you should not have done that, love! You could have fallen and hurt yourself!" she admonished. "If you wanted to get up, you should have waited for me to help you." Telta was still dressed in her white tunic, and her hair was braided to one side, the long tress falling over her left shoulder.
"I'm alright, thanks. I needed to get out of bed. I had been laying there long enough," Sam responded with a little smile. She was very pale, and her hands were trembling. She could not remember ever feeling so sick before.
"What did that machine do to me, Telta? Why am I so weak?" Sam asked for the first time. During the past few days, she had not been able to talk for more than a few minutes with the woman before she would pass out again. She vaguely remembered Telta bathing her, singing to her, feeding her, and finally helping her into a white tunic, like her own.
"We don't know, love. Nemed consulted with the Sidhe, but they did not give him any answers. They want to talk to you when you are well enough," the woman answered.
"To me? Who are the Sidhe?" asked Sam, wondering if the Sidhe were Gods to these people and, therefore, no one she could really talk to.
"They are those who protect us," Telta replied, "the beings that always surround us."
"And you… talk to these beings?" asked Sam, incredulous.
"Oh, yes! But not everyone can. Only the chosen seven can. Those would be Nemed, the High Priest, and the rest of us druids." Telta was tidying up the bed as she spoke. "Nemed feels terrible about hurting you, child. He is still quite confused as to why you did not return to where you came from, as the others always did."
"The others?" asked Sam, hoping for the woman to elaborate.
"Yes, you are not the first to come; although we were quite surprised to see you. You were the first in years. The last ones to be cleansed came many, many years ago. I had never seen a Cleansing before. Only Nemed had, when he was a young man."
"What is a Cleansing?" Sam asked her, turning completely away from the window and giving the woman all her attention.
Telta sat on the bed, facing Sam, and settled for a long explanation.
Similarly, millions of light years away, Thor was addressing his friends. "The Furlings moved on to another galaxy many centuries ago," Thor was explaining to the three men sitting around him in the bridge. "They originated in your galaxy, in the planet you know as P4X-874, many millennia ago. They were an advanced, peaceful race. When we first contacted them, they were even more advanced than we were. They probably still are."
"Why did they go to another galaxy?" asked Daniel.
"Because of the Goa'uld. Their race abhors war or any other kind of conflict, but they were faced with a hard choice when the Goa'uld inadvertently transported abducted slaves from Earth to the Furling Planet. The planet was, and still is rich in naquadah, and the Goa'uld had failed to sense the Furlings' presence in the planet. While we, the Asgard, chose to confront the Goa'uld, and tried to protect as many planets in this galaxy as we could, the Furlings decided to avoid confrontation, and depart for another one."
"How could the Goa'uld not have noticed an advanced race already living in the planet?" asked Jack, incredulity in his voice.
"The Furlings lived underground, deep within the planet. The only structure on the surface was the stargate, which they had used in their dealings with the Ancients, even before we ever met them. They can also live under water. They had built a beautiful city under one of the planet's two oceans. Their race does not thrive on sunlight." Thor checked his control panel and announced, "We will be arriving at the Furling Planet within a few hours. Maybe you would prefer to sleep the rest of the way."
"No, we don't," Jack replied quickly, "You said the Furlings were faced with a choice. What happened?"
"They observed the Goa'uld for some time. As you know, they are brutal in their ways. They abused and killed many enslaved humans in the Furling Planet while they were mining the naquadah. The Furlings could not tolerate this kind of treatment for very long. They also knew that, eventually, their presence would be detected through the mining efforts. Therefore, they decided to leave the planet and save the enslaved humans. They departed, taking some of the humans with them."
"They took them where?" Daniel asked.
"We were not told. The Furlings did not agree with our methods of dealing with the Goa'uld, and our communication with them had broken down. They are extreme pacifists," Thor explained.
"They didn't tell any of the other allies where they went?" asked Teal'c.
"The Ancients had already ascended, for the most part, and had stopped communicating with us centuries ago. The Nox were somewhat in the middle, agreeing with the Furlings, but not condemning the Asgard solution, which the Furlings did not particularly appreciate. They just left, and we never heard from them again." Thor sounded regretful.
"Did they leave through the stargate?" asked Jack hopefully.
"They did not. They left through transporters they built themselves for the evacuation. They went to another galaxy where there are probably no stargates. We have found no trace of them through the stargate system in this galaxy, and the only other stargate system we know of is in the Pegasus Galaxy, where the Ancients had made their second home."
"So how the hell are we going to find them?" Jack shouted, standing up, frustration written all over his body.
"I believe the answer lays with the machine in the Furling Planet. It is the only link to the Furlings left behind. We know what the machine does." Thor then looked at Teal'c. "You have probably heard of it. This machine removes the Goa'uld symbiote from the host body, the symbiote never to be seen again."
"Yes, I have heard of such a machine through Jaffa legend. It is supposed to exist in a planet where many Goa'uld perished during a confrontation with a powerful race. But I thought you said the Furlings were pacifists," Teal'c responded.
"They are. If the Goa'uld indeed perished, it was not at the hands of the Furlings. Many Goa'ulds and jaffas attempted to follow the Furlings and humans through the only transporter they were able to find. They disappeared, and the human hosts were returned to the planet later, unharmed." Thor was still looking at Teal'c.
"Legend does not mention surviving hosts," Teal'c replied.
"Jaffa legend would not, I am sure," said Thor.
"I do know that this planet is off limits to the Goa'uld and their jaffas," remembered Teal'c.
"That is because no Goa'uld that ventured there ever returned," explained Thor.
"Right! OK, but where did the human inhabitants and the city come from? I thought you said the Furlings took the humans with them," asked Jack, sitting down again.
"I said they took some of the humans with them. Once the Furlings liberated the humans on their world, they gave them choices. They could leave with them, they could remain and live in the planet, or they could return to the home they had been taken from. A large group of humans chose to leave with the Furlings, not feeling safe from the Goa'uld otherwise. A second group chose to remain in the Furling Planet, and built the city. You have seen what a beautiful place the planet is. These humans were left with the machine that you found. They also had their own ways to defend themselves. This second group had no pacifist tendencies whatsoever. In fact, they seemed to enjoy conflict. A third group returned home through the stargate, to a place on Earth called Gaul." Thor now looked at Daniel, whose face lit up immediately.
"Of course! They returned to the home they had been taken from in Europe. The ancient Celts used to live in the area the Romans called Gaul about five hundred years B.C. These people then moved on to other areas, including northern Spain, Italy, and the British Islands, including Ireland."
"Thanks for the history lesson, Daniel, but how does this help us now?" Jack asked impatiently.
"Well, maybe we can find some clues from Celtic mythology and history…" offered Daniel. Jack looked like he was about to smack him when Thor interrupted.
"I believe we need to concentrate on the artifact the Furlings left behind. The Asgard never felt a need to investigate this artifact. We respected the Furlings' wishes to be left alone. Maybe we will be able to determine how it functions. I am fairly certain that Dr. Carter has been transported somewhere, not harmed. Harming others is not the Furlings' way," Thor concluded.
"Yeah!" Jack said pessimistically. He was suddenly feeling exhausted.
"A Cleansing is the ritual we use to remove a demon from a host," Telta started to explain to Sam. "The Sidhe provided us with the means to do this through the object you saw in our Most Sacred Place. It is called the Ankh. It was built by them and placed there, for us to use when needed."
"Why do you say the place is sacred?" asked Sam, still quite confused.
"The Sidhe brought us to this planet many centuries ago through a doorway opened by the Ankh. The doorway was where our Most Sacred Place is. They saved us from the demons that abused us in the Sidhe's first home planet," Telta told Sam. "This was our new beginning, our resurrection. That is why it is sacred to us."
"You know about other planets?" Sam asked, surprised. These people looked fairly primitive.
"Oh, yes! The Sidhe have taught us about many things. We know about planets, stars, galaxies, comets, and such. It is all very interesting, but only to a few of us. We don't have much use for astronomy here." Telta then paused, looked at the door, and said, "Eri is coming."
Sam could not hear a thing, but looked at the door, waiting. A few moments later, Eri entered the room with a tray of food and a smile. "I sensed you were awake, Samantha. I brought you some soup and bread to eat, I hope you like it."
"You sensed I was awake?" asked Sam.
"Yes, we can sense many things others can't," Telta told her, smiling at her confusion.
Eri laughed at Sam's expression, she then placed the tray on a little wood table next to Sam. "We are druids, Sam. We are chosen to be druids because of our abilities to sense things in nature and in other people. But don't worry, we would never use our abilities to pry." She sat next to Telta, on the bed, and then leaned to Sam asking, "But could you tell us who Jack is?"
Sam involuntarily blushed, wondering what the women could sense or read. The two druids laughed at her reaction, and Eri reassured her, "Don't worry, we would never read your thoughts without your permission. But you did call to him when you were dreaming."
"Oh… well… he is the man I'm going to marry," Sam responded, suddenly very interested in the food.
Eri and Telta looked at each other knowingly, and did not relent, "Is he handsome?" Eri's green eyes were teasing.
Sam nodded, stuffing herself with bread so that she did not have to talk. Her face felt hot, and she was sure it was redder than Eri's hair.
"Well? Tell us about him!" insisted the young woman, not giving Sam any breaks.
"Are druids supposed to be so interested in the opposite sex?" asked Sam, avoiding the questions.
"Why not? Telta is married, as are the other older druids. I still have to choose my husband. I can't decide between Kian, a fellow druid, or Carell, my childhood sweetheart." Eri sounded like every other teenager Sam had ever met.
"The poor souls have been suffering over Eri's indecision for almost a year now," informed Telta. "I think Eri is having too much fun making them grovel, that is why she can't decide," Telta said giving the girl a stern look.
"That's not true! You know I am truly confused!" Eri argued; she then looked at Sam. "How can I decide? They both are handsome, strong and smart. But Kian is a druid; he knows what I know. On the other hand, Carell is fun; he makes me laugh. What would you do, Samantha?"
"I'm afraid I'm the last person you should be asking for advice," Sam admitted, now drinking a sweet tasting drink from a beautiful, enameled cup, "It has taken me many years to finally get my love life straight, and that is only a recent development."
"And as interesting as your love life is, my dear," Telta told Eri, "Samantha and I were in the middle of an important conversation when you arrived."
"As I was saying, Samantha," Telta continued, ignoring Eri's frown, "the Sidhe brought us here from another planet. They saved us from the demons, and gave us this beautiful place to live. They still protect us. When the demons that pursue us try to reach us, we use the Ankh to remove the demons from the hosts, and the hosts are returned to where they came from. You did not have a demon within you. We think that is why the Ankh did not work properly."
"What we don't understand is why you were brought here in the first place. If you did not have a demon inside of you, the Ankh should not have brought you here," said Eri.
"It is possible that the Ankh could detect the protein marker, or the naquadah left in my blood by Jolinar," Sam was thinking out loud.
"Who is Jolinar?" asked Eri.
Sam looked at the two women thoughtfully. How could she explain? To them, Jolinar was a demon. She then reached a decision. "If you really want to know, feel free to read my thoughts. I think it would be the best way for you to understand," Sam told them.
The two women looked at each other, surprised at Sam's willingness. They then nodded and closed their eyes, holding Sam's hands. And they understood.
Lieutenant Jennifer Haley was punching some numbers into her computer and frowning at the results when Jack entered the tumulus, followed by Colonel Dixon and what remained of SG-1. She immediately stood up to salute her commander.
"At ease, Haley," Jack told her. "What do you have? Colonel Dixon said you figured out how this thing works." He looked exhausted, she thought, but responded immediately.
"Not exactly, Sir. I have been able to determine that the altar here," she said, pointing at the surface of the rock table, "contains some kind of control mechanism. I noticed electromagnetic readings coming from it, purely by accident. The table looks like any other piece of rock, but notice this."
The Lieutenant got closer to the middle of the table and delineated an indentation on the surface of the altar with her index finger. "This looks like a hand, and there are two more, here, and here," she pointed to two other handprints at the extremes of the table. When I put my hand on top of one of the handprints, I can feel a slight vibration."
"But there was no one was touching the altar when Sam disappeared," observed Daniel.
"She probably triggered an automated response from the machine, but that does not mean these handprints couldn't be the control mechanism," Haley suggested.
"Don't be surprised to find hand symbols there," a loud voice could be heard approaching them from the entrance of the tumulus, "they are everywhere in the ruins. The hand was a symbol of power for the Ancient Celts."
The man talking was a round, middle-aged man with a contagious smile. "If you notice," he said pointing at the carvings on the front of the altar, "these look like fingerprints. Very common in megalithic ruins, yes, very common."
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, Dr…" Jack hesitated, forgetting the man's name.
"O'Malley, Sean O'Malley, at your service, Sir," said the rotund man extending a hand.
Jack shook it, "O'Malley… Sean! Tell me, Sean, have you been able to translate the writing on the altar and found an instruction manual by any chance?" Jack asked patiently.
"A manual… no. But I have indeed been able to translate some of the writing. There were quite a few differences from Earth's Ancient Celtic, but basically, it is the same language. Quite fascinating!" the man was obviously thrilled. "Excuse my exuberance, but please, understand. I found out a few days ago that there are other planets we can go to. And not only that, but now I find out that Earth's ancient Celts populated these planets!"
"What does it say?" replied Jack, enunciating every word carefully, trying not to yell at the man.
"Oh, yes! Of course! Well… here it says, `The Doom of the Wicked is Annihilation'," he translated, looking at the altar. He then looked at his audience and could not understand why they looked as if someone had just died.
At the same time, in another world, Sam was still too weak and achy to walk fast, but she was able to stroll through the garden surrounding the complex she had been confined to for the last few days. She figured it must be about Friday. Tomorrow she was supposed to pick up Cassie. She wondered what explanation Jack would give the girl for Sam not being there.
Her thoughts kept dwelling on Jack. They really could not get a break! They had just found each other, and now, she did not know if she would ever be able to see him again. What state of mind was he in right now? Was he suffering, thinking she was dead?
No. Knowing Jack, he was moving sky and earth trying to figure out where she was. He never was one to give up easily.
She looked up at the blue, cloudless sky. There had been a little rain earlier that morning, but now the air felt dry and cool. The sun felt good on her skin, but she suddenly felt a little dizzy and nauseous, and sat down on a stone bench, under a small fruit tree.
"You should not over do it, love. You are still too weak, and you need your strength for tonight's walk," Telta was telling her as she approached her with another beautiful cup. She handed the cup over to Sam, who drank the sweet liquid with relish.
"Why? What is going on tonight?" asked Sam, licking her lips, her left dimple showing.
"You are meeting the Sidhe tonight. They wish to talk to you," Telta said simply, as if it was an every day occurrence.
"Really? Why tonight? Why not now?" Sam asked, suddenly feeling energized.
"The Sidhe can only commune with us at night, Samantha. Just as we thrive in light, they thrive in darkness." Telta looked at her thoughtfully. "I should tell you more about them before you meet them."
"I would appreciate that. I don't know why you have been so mysterious about them so far," Sam said gratefully.
"I guess you could say it is a matter of tradition. The millions of people who populate the four cities in this planet have never seen the Sidhe, although they are very much aware of their existence. We, the druids, only speak about them when it is absolutely necessary. Our planet, Noviobriga, is a sanctuary from evil, generously given to us by our protectors. The least we owe them is respect for their wishes."
When Sam looked at her puzzled, Telta continued to explain, "The one thing they asked of us was for us to keep our distance. They are a very peaceful and shy race. They have not interfered with our culture in any way, and they have kept theirs a secret from us. They only communicate with us through the chosen druids. You see; we do not speak the same language. We are not even capable of making the sounds they make in order to speak. Therefore, we communicate through signals, and our senses."
"I see. That is why only empaths are chosen to be druids," Sam observed. "But, where do these beings live?"
"They live in great, underground cities. They also dwell under the ocean, far away from here. Our city, Falias, was the first one to be built. As our population grew and our young people were struck by wanderlust, a second and a third city were built, Gorias and Finias, farther away in opposite directions. The last city, Murias, is far away, by the ocean. We trade with each other and get together in the different cities for various celebrations during the year. We are a very fortunate and happy people," Telta said with a smile.
"But we can't cross the oceans to seek more land," Eri's voice interjected, joining them in the garden. "The Sidhe have forbidden us from trespassing in their domain, the water and the deep entrails of the planet." Eri did not sound bitter, just informative.
"Don't you feel captive here?" Sam asked, knowing she could not be as limited as they seemed to be.
"Not at all. Those who do, are free to go," Telta said simply.
"Go where? How? Do you have a stargate?" asked Sam hopefully.
"Oh, no. We know about the stargates," said Eri. "They are what the demons used to steal our people long ago. There are no stargates in this galaxy," Eri told Sam.
"In this galaxy?" Sam repeated, "W…What galaxy are we in? I assumed we were still in my galaxy!" Sam was starting to feel a little faint again.
"Oh, no, dear! We are very, very far away from your home galaxy. The Sidhe made sure we could not be reached by any other threats. The only intelligent life in this small galaxy, as far as we know, are we."
Sam felt she was going to pass out. "But, you just said that if someone wanted to leave, they could just go!"
"True, although I don't know of anyone who has recently left. The last group of us to leave left centuries ago," Telta answered.
"Oh, my God! What if there is no way for me to go back?" It was a rhetorical question, but Sam was still hoping someone could give her a positive answer. She was now taking deep breaths, trying to get rid of overwhelming nausea.
"Only the Sidhe can help you, Samantha. We would not know how to send you back," Eri told her. "But don't worry, you just have to convince the Sidhe to let you return; just as some of our people did, all those years ago. We know that the Sidhe helped them return to our first home."
"How am I going to do that if I can't even speak their language?" asked Sam.
"We will be there to help you communicate, Samantha. We have to take you to them anyway," smiled Telta reassuringly.
Dr. O'Malley was feeling very uncomfortable with the sudden silence in the group. Everyone was looking at him as if hoping he had more to say. "That… that is all it says, really."
"OK, listen, we don't need to jump to conclusions. Remember what I told you on the ship about resurrection," Daniel was talking to Jack. "If this was just a killing machine, it would be much more straight forward, don't you think? I mean, why envelope the victim in an energy field and make it disappear. Why not just kill the victim and leave the body right there? Besides, Thor told us that the Furlings did not harm anyone."
"I have to agree with Dr. Jackson," Lt. Haley said, "The machine is more complicated than that. Look at this!" she waved them closer to the altar. "When I put my hand here," she said as she placed her hand on one of the handprints, "you can hear the machine hum, which you could not hear at all before. If I put my hand on this other handprint, listen to the humming change," she observed, looking at them to see if they could hear the change.
"There are different tones to the humming," observed Teal'c.
"Exactly! I think you can operate the machine with different people putting their hands on the handprints in different combinations," Haley suggested, "kind of like the stargate."
"Do you know how many combinations there are?" asked Daniel.
"Well, if we use three people, three handprints…at three different times or together… well… a lot! And who knows what we would be telling the machine to do!" Jack answered, frustrated. They were no closer to getting Sam back.
At this point, Thor appeared in the structure amongst them. "O'Neill, I am glad to report that I have been able to translate the writing on the monolith using my ship's records of the Furling language," the little alien said, handing an electronic pad to Jack.
"You are entering Noviomagos, a city protected by the Furlings. Friends are welcome; enemies will be repelled. All newcomers are to provide the Ankh with symbols of gratitude to nature for its blessings. Be warned: The doom of the wicked is annihilation," read Jack. "Not very poetic, but it seems to direct them here, right?"
"Noviomagos means New Field, obviously the name of this city," observed Dr. O'Malley.
"All newcomers had to bring an offering here, probably as a test of some kind," Daniel said thoughtfully.
"Of course!" Haley exclaimed, a look of enlightenment on her face, "that is what this is for. It is a Goa'uld detector!" she smiled.
"It is more than that," Thor responded. "This machine detected and retrieved Goa'uld symbiotes from their hosts."
"You knew this?" asked Colonel Dixon.
"Thor kind of explained that on our way here," Jack answered.
"Now I understand why the machine did not work automatically again." Lt. Haley said. "We had all kinds of people prancing about with different instruments in their hands, trying to trigger something, but nothing happened."
When she saw everyone's puzzled looks, she explained, "I noticed in the tape that the machine reacted to Dr. Carter when she approached it and turned on her sensor unit. I thought the unit had done something to activate the machine. But it was not the sensor unit, it was Dr. Carter herself!"
"But Sam does not carry a symbiote," argued Daniel.
"No, but she did. Maybe the machine is also sensitive to the naquadah in her blood, or the protein marker she still carries," Haley hypothesized. "The only person I am aware of that may be able to trigger the machine again is… Teal'c."
They all turned to look at the former First Prime hopefully.
Sam had slept most of the afternoon away. Telta had drugged her again. She had insisted Sam was too unsettled, and that she could relapse if she did not rest. Now they were walking through the trees, deep inside the forest on the north side of Falias. Sam was still dressed in the white tunic, soft sandals on her feet, but the night was warm and she did not feel cold.
Despite of two moons in the night sky, it was very dark under the canopy. The seven druids carried torches. The two young men, Kian and Morc, were walking on each side of Sam, holding her arms for support. The three older men were leading the way, and the two women were walking behind her. They were walking slowly due to her weakened state and she felt they had already walked for miles, although it was not that far at all.
They finally reached a large clearing in the woods. Sam was reminded of one her visits to the British Isles. There were seven tall, rectangular rocks forming a circle. They were about twelve feet tall, with markings on them. She recognized the markings. They were similar to the ones she had just seen on the altar in the Furling Planet.
The seven druids placed a torch on the outside of each of the boulders, sticking them in the ground. They then proceeded to sit in front of each set of rock and torch, facing the middle of the circle. Sam was told to sit slightly towards the middle, in front of Telta. The light from the torches provided enough illumination to see what was going on, but they were still in semi-darkness.
The druids then started chanting softly, something that sounded like a mantra. Sam felt exhausted after the walk, and the chanting started to make her drowsy despite the pain in her bones. They must have been doing this for maybe five minutes when the chanting suddenly stopped, causing Sam to open her eyes. Sam saw the High Priest, Nemed, arise and walk up to one of the boulders. He placed his hand on the boulder, and the handprint under his hand started to glow. He then sat back down and everyone waited.
Sam had closed her eyes again, trying to rest, when she heard the others move. They had all placed their hands on their eyes, covering them lightly, still sitting on the ground. Something was approaching from the darkness.
Sam could not believe her eyes. At first glimpse, she thought she saw children. She then realized these were not children, but very small people, emerging from the woods. They immediately reminded her of fairies. They were small boned, with delicate faces and huge, almost round eyes. It was difficult to determine the color of the skin in the darkness, but she thought they looked almost translucent. Their hair was dark, thick and long. They were dressed in short, ethereal looking little tunics tied at the waist by a jewel-encrusted belt, and they seemed to be wearing little snug boots. Other than that, they looked almost human.
There were three of them, a male and two females. One of the females seemed to be the leader. She walked slightly ahead of the other two and was looking at Sam with interest. Sam did not move; she just stared back, in awe. The little woman made some gestures with her arms, still looking at Sam. She was wondering what the little being was doing when she heard Telta's voice behind her.
"This is Dis. She is the Sidhe representative. We know her well. She welcomes you to our planet, Samantha," Telta was saying, "and she begs your forgiveness for your bad experience with the Ankh."
"Please tell her that I don't hold them responsible for what happened," asked Sam, still looking at Dis, who had not stopped waving her arms and fluttering her hands and fingers. Sam was reminded of butterflies.
"She thanks you. She says her people would never cause you harm intentionally. Even the demons are shown mercy. Once removed from the hosts, they are taken to a far away lake, protected by the Sidhe, where they are able to survive without causing harm to anyone." Sam did not think having Goa'uld living anywhere was a good idea, but she said nothing.
"She believes the Ankh hurt you when it tried to find a demon within you, and could not find one. It kept trying to find the foreign body that triggered the mechanism, and in doing so, caused harm to your blood," Telta continued to explain.
"My blood?" Sam wondered aloud, "What does she mean?"
"She believes important parts of your blood were destroyed." Telta sounded unsure, obviously not knowing what the little woman was talking about.
"My God!" Sam thought, "What happened to me?"
"Please tell Dis that I want to go back home and get help from my people. Please, tell her to send me back," Sam asked, now looking at Telta pleadingly.
"She says that you may die," Telta responded immediately, sounding sad. It was evident that Dis could understand Sam, even if Sam could not understand her. "Dis says that if this happens, your people may try to reach us to seek retribution," she concluded.
"No! We would never do that! Look, it was an accident. I triggered the machine because I was a host once. Now that we know that the machine works that way, we can prevent this from happening again. And we could continue to use the machine to free hosts from the Goa'uld. It is a good machine! Maybe Dis and her people could teach us how to use it properly," argued Samantha passionately. "Whatever happens to me, meeting you is important to my people."
The little woman had stopped communicating. She was looking at Sam thoughtfully, then turned to the other two little people behind her and Sam could hear them talking. It sounded like chirping.
Suddenly, the whole group turned to the rock with the glowing hand. The hand was blinking blue. "The Ankh!" Nemed exclaimed, "It has been activated again!"
The three little people chirped something at Nemed, who bowed respectfully, and they disappeared in a flash of light. Telta turned to Sam, "They want us to go to the Ankh, and they will be observing."
"All right," said Sam, getting up painfully, but swooned as soon as she was on her feet. Her legs were almost completely numb, unable to hold her up. She was caught by two sets of strong arms, Kian and Morc's, before she fell.
"You need to carry her. We must hurry!" Nemed ordered. Kian picked her up, just as Sam lost consciousness.
Jack had been adamant. Teal'c would not go alone. "Listen, if he triggers the transporter, I am going along. No one else!"
"But Jack, you may need a translator. Thor, here, is willing to go. If the Furlings are there, he is the only one that may be able to communicate with them," Daniel had argued.
At the end, Jack had ordered them to remain. He was still not sure that the machine was only a transporter, and he was not willing to endanger any more lives.
Jack and Teal's had stepped in front of the machine and, just as it had happened with Sam, the noise, the blinking lights, and the energy field had followed. They both had disappeared in a flash of intense light.
Now they were standing, still surrounded by the energy field, in the same spot where Sam had appeared days ago. They realized they had to wait for someone to get them out, so they did. Jack and Teal'c had not waited for more than thirty minutes when they heard footsteps approach. They got up and prepped their weapons, just in case.
Nemed was the first one to enter the tumulus, carrying a torch. He approached the altar without hesitation, followed by four of the druids. "Hello," Jack started to say tentatively. "We don't mean to barge in, but we are looking for someone. She's a blond, pretty woman… about this high…" Jack was saying, his hand indicating Sam's approximate height, when the last two druids came in, one of them carrying Sam's inert body.
"Sam!" Jack shouted, automatically lifting his weapon at the sight of Sam's obviously unhealthy appearance. "What's wrong with her? Let us out of here, now!"
"If you are here and still confined, one of you must carry a demon," Nemed answered instead, ignoring Jack's concern.
"The machine was triggered by my presence. I used to be a jaffa. But I harbor a demon no longer," Teal'c explained sincerely.
"You must be Jack!" the youngest woman in the group said, approaching the energy field and looking at the general. "I sense your feelings for her. Are you the man she is promised to?" she asked him for confirmation.
"Yeah! That's me. Let me out of here." Jack had been surprised by the woman's recognition, but was still firm about his demand.
"Please, you must understand that we have done what we could for her. It was never our intention to hurt her. It was a mistake. She assured us that no one from your world would seek retribution for a mistake," an older woman told him, joining the other woman on the other side of the energy field.
"Do we have your assurance that you will cause no harm?" Nemed asked imperiously from the altar.
"I won't hurt anybody, but get me the hell out of here!" Jack demanded looking at Sam, who seemed to be awakening.
Telta turned to Nemed and told him, "They are speaking the truth. Their only concern is for Samantha. Let them out, Nemed."
Nemed nodded, and turned to Fothad and Tuan for their assistance. The three of them approached the altar and placed their hands on the handprints drawn on the surface, consecutively from left to right. The energy field immediately ceased to exist, and Jack ran to Sam, who has being deposited on the floor by Kian, shakily on her feet. Teal'c remained close to the rest of the druids, warily watching them.
"Jack!" Sam exclaimed in relief when she saw him. Jack wrapped her in an embrace and held her body tightly, deeply relieved to see her alive. He then pulled away to look at her by the light of the torches. He could tell she was not well, her face and lips deathly pale. He could feel her shaking weakly in his arms. "What's wrong? What happened to you?"
The druids were still nervous, wondering what would happen, but Sam's introductions relieved the tension. "These are my friends, Nemed, Fothad, Morc, Tuan, Kian, Eri and Telta. Telta and Eri have taken care of me since the accident with the Ankh. It was all a mistake, Jack."
"How?" asked Jack, not completely appeased. He looked at Nemed, expecting an answer.
"The Ankh had never brought anyone not possessed by a demon before. In trying to purge the demon out of Samantha's body, it hurt her. We regret that this happened. We would never intentionally harm anyone." Nemed was trying to explain, regret on his voice.
"I think I met the Furlings, Jack," Sam switched the subject, a smile of awe on her lips, "I'm positive they must be the Furlings!"
"That is the least of my concerns right now. We have to get you home." He turned to Nemed as Sam was starting to complain, "But, you need to meet them; we need to establish relations with them!"
"We will, later!" he assured her. "Can you send us back? We need to get her medical help." He was expecting Nemed to answer, when the druids seemed to sense something. They all started to douse their torches soundlessly inside buckets of sand, until the tumulus was pitch black.
"What the…!" started to say Jack, and they could her Teal'c prepping his weapon again. But Sam restrained Jack with a hand on his chest, "Wait, Jack. It must be them!"
A blue, shining orb entered the tumulus through the entrance and made its way to the altar, hovering there. The orb produced enough blue light for everyone to see clearly when the three little people appeared in a flash of light. They were standing in front of the altar, facing Jack and Sam.
Jack saw a little woman approach him slowly, waving her hands and looking at him with enormous eyes that covered one third of her face. He was mesmerized, watching her, when he heard Telta's voice coming from the altar.
"Yes, we are the Furlings. How do you know who we are?" the female voice asked.
"We have… mutual friends," Jack answered, looking at both, the little woman and Telta, in turn. "Thor sends his regards and hopes to see you again."
"You have met the Asgard?" asked the woman again.
"We have been friends for some years, now. We are about to be included in your very exclusive Agreement, as a matter of fact. The Nox are also friends." Jack was still holding Sam by the waist, fearing she would drop. "I am sure they all would love to see you. But my main concern is to get Sam some help. Can you send us back? Maybe you can come along," he suggested.
"This is… agreeable!" Telta said, incredulous.
"Then, shall we?" asked Jack, lifting Sam in his arms, ready to depart.
In the Furling planet, Daniel and Dr. O'Malley had settled in one corner of the tumulus where the jovial little man had set up his desk, now full of books, drawings and notes. They had been discussing the contents of the ruins for some time, while the rest of the people in the large chamber continued with their own work.
Lieutenant Haley was working by herself, completely immersed in her calculations, having set up her equipment close to the altar. She had taken readings of the three handprints when Teal'c had activated the machine. She was analyzing these readings meticulously, when she heard the machine start to hum again. She immediately activated her sensors again, hoping for more readings.
Colonel Dixon had been ready for this. He yelled an order and twelve soldiers immediately took positions around the machine, weapons ready.
Thor, who had returned to his ship, transported back to the tumulus, and stood behind the line of soldiers to wait. He had evidently been waiting for this too.
In a flash of blinding light, five beings appeared in front of the machine. They all immediately recognized Jack carrying a very pale Samantha, Teal'c standing next to them. A beautiful, older woman was standing on the other side of the couple, dressed in a hooded white tunic. But everyone was staring agape at what stood at their feet. It looked like a child, no more than hip high, completely covered by a shimmering, blue robe.
"All right, everyone, stand down. No need to panic; these are friendlies. Dixon, have everyone dim the lights as much as possible for our little friend here." Jack was stepping away from the machine as he gave orders.
Thor slowly approached the little figure wrapped in blue. The lights were dimmed, and Dis took off her hood and looked at her old friend again for the first time in centuries. Thor placed his slim hands over his closed eyes in salutation, and Dis did the same. They then started to converse with hand signals and an occasional chirping sound from the little woman. They were obviously happy to see each other.
The only one not mesmerized by the view of the little being was Haley, who was engrossed again by the readings from the altar. Daniel and Dr. O'Malley were now in the middle of the room, smiling at the newcomers. "Sam! Welcome home! We missed…" started to say Daniel, when he noted her condition. "What's wrong? Are you OK?" he asked, losing the smile. Sam was feeling dizzy and nauseous again, unable to respond, still in Jack's arms.
"No, she's not Daniel. Please get a medical team in here, stat!" Daniel did not have to be told twice. He pulled out his radio and called one in. They came in a minute later and laid Sam on a stretcher. The medics started taking vital signs immediately by the light of the entrance, and proceeded to hook her up to an I.V.
Sam was sleeping peacefully on a hospital bed back at Stargate Command, hooked up to an I.V., monitoring machines, and surrounded by her loved ones. Jacob had been finally reached and extracted from a mission, and had come running to his daughter's side. His hand held hers, his face a mask of anguish. The news was not good. Sam was dying.
Jack had received him at the Gate, a grim look on his face, and had informed him immediately of the prognosis. Hammond had sent for specialists the moment the doctor on duty had revealed to him the test results. An MRI had revealed extreme bone damage and a number of bone tumors throughout her body. A bone marrow biopsy had also been done, which had revealed myeloma cells, and that some of her bone marrow had been destroyed. Her immune system was compromised, she was producing no red blood cells, and there was imminent kidney failure.
"It's called Multiple Myeloma, a type of cancer that affects plasma cells, and she is at a very advanced stage. It's too late for any kind of treatment. She may only have days, or hours, to live," Jack had recited all this to Jacob as if in a trance on the way to see her. Now Jack sat quietly by her bed, giving Jacob some space, staring at his beloved Sam's sleeping face. She had regained some color thanks to a blood transfusion and looked almost healthy.
Telta was also in the room sitting in a corner, despair clear on her countenance. Why had she not insisted further? Why could she not stop Nemed from activating the Ankh? What had they done?
Thor and Dis had transported to Thor's ship from the Furling Planet. They were still there, waiting for news. Jack had asked Colonel Dixon to contact them and brief them, not wanting to deal with them at the moment. He had to admit to himself that he felt angry. He could not help it.
The Furling called Dis had explained that she could not help Sam. They had never become familiar enough with human physiology to be able to cure such an advanced stage of a disease. Thor could not help them either. The Asgard were quite familiar with human genetics, but not with much else. Jack had held on to the hope that the sarcophagus that had saved Sam's life last time could be used again.
But Jacob had dashed that hope when he explained that it was currently in Ba'al's former mothership, deep in Goa'uld territory, being used in a Tok'Ra mission. Jacob had been extracted from this mission with difficulty, and the ship would never be accessible in time to save Sam. Not without risking the lives of all the Tok'Ra and rebel jaffas currently involved in the mission.
Sam had been informed of her condition and of their alien allies inability to help her. She had accepted all this with equanimity, partly because Jack had told her they were trying to contact her father and obtain the sarcophagus. He dreaded having to tell her that no help could be had from that side either.
Jacob was also drowning in despair. There were no Tok'Ra symbiotes available for Sam. He had argued with his own symbiote, Selmac, trying to have the Tok'Ra leave him and cure her. Selmac had refused. "We have been together too long, my friend. If I leave you now, we both may die, and I would not be strong enough to save your daughter. You know this."
Daniel and Teal'c had gone to retrieve Cassie from her boarding school. Sam had asked them to do so. She did not want the girl to worry when she did not show up to pick her up. Jack suspected she also wanted to make sure she was able to say goodbye to her dear young friend before it was too late.
Sam made a sound, and everyone in the room became alert. She opened her eyes slowly and looked at her father, "Hi, Dad. It's good to see you," she said, smiling at her old man. She sounded weak, but Jack knew the drugs were doing a good job of keeping pain at bay. "Hi, kiddo. Wild horses could not keep me away," managed to answer Jacob in a strangled voice.
"I'm very thirsty," Sam said, frowning. "Where are we?" She was looking around the room as if she had never seen it before. They had been warned that she could get confused due to her condition and the drugs she was being treated with.
Jack grabbed the cup of water by her bedside and gave it to Jacob, who helped his daughter drink a few sips. Telta had stood up and approached the bed from the other side. She took Sam's other hand, unbearably sad. The woman was feeling all the pain contained in the room, Sam's father, Sam's lover, and her own. "Mom?" Sam said when she saw the woman, "you are still here. Please tell Dad not to be sad," Sam asked, "tell him everything will be fine."
Telta turned to Jacob, who looked stricken, then answered Sam softly, "Yes, love, don't worry, just rest now," she told Sam stroking her hair.
Sam's peaceful gaze suddenly turned urgent, "We can't leave him like this. Tell them we need to find a way to help him!" Sam was becoming agitated. Telta held her hand in both of hers and concentrated, trying to understand. She then turned to Jack, "She is concerned about you, Jack. You are frozen, and she does not want to leave you." Telta did not know what the memory meant, but hoped Jack could reassure Sam.
Jack got up and Jacob moved aside to give him room next to Sam. He took Sam's hand and turned her face toward him gently. "I'm here, Sam. I'm all right. It's OK." He was very close, looking into her confused eyes, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "I love you, Sam." He then realized it was the very first time he had said that to her, and he wished he had not waited so long. He buried his face in the crook of her neck, finally broken, as she drifted back to a drugged sleep.
Outside the room, Cassie had arrived. She had been silent during her trip to the base, afraid to ask for details. Daniel had just told her that Sam was sick and wanted to see her. The girl could not imagine what could have happened to Sam in less than a week, but she sensed it was serious.
Teal'c was leading her by the arm into Sam's room when she stopped, unwilling to go on. She had seen Sam laying unconscious on the bed with Jack holding her close. She could read what was happening, she could tell. Sam was dying.
"No! I can't! Get me out of here, please," she had turned to Teal'c and was begging him. "I can't lose another mother, Teal'c. Tell me it's not going to happen!" Tears were now in her eyes, and Teal'c was at a loss.
"We never really lose our loved ones," he started, but Cassandra did not want to hear it. "No! No!" and she turned to run away. Daniel was behind her, and caught her in a hug, trying to console her. She busted into tears and moaned into his shoulder.
Suddenly the alarm blared, "Unscheduled off world activation!" Teal'c and Daniel looked at each other, not knowing what to do. They felt the need to see what was going on, but did not want to leave Cassie. As if on cue, Telta stepped out of the room and took over. Daniel and Teal'c ran to the Gate room.
Hammond was wondering what was going on, waiting for some kind of signal when, right through the iris, a group of people stepped forward and stopped at the top of the ramp.
"Stand down!" he commanded when he recognized them, and he ran to meet them. Daniel and Teal'c joined him as he entered the Gate room. He felt, finally, hope start to take hold in his chest.
A few minutes later, Jack turned his attention from Sam when he heard what sounded like a large group of people entering the room. Jacob was also startled, but smiled when he saw who it was. Telta and Cassie, who were sitting together in the corner of the room, just stared in perplexity.
A smiling Hammond headed the group, followed by Lya and four other Nox men and women. Thor and a heavily wrapped Dis were behind, followed by Narim, the Tollan. Daniel and Teal'c were last.
Jack stood up, never having been so glad to see anyone as he was now to see the Nox woman. Of course! Why had he not thought of them? Maybe they could help Sam. The Nox had brought SG-1 back from the dead once, for crying out loud! He turned to Thor, whom he assumed to be the one responsible for their other alien friends being here and said, "Thank you, buddy!" Thor just bowed his head in acknowledgement.
Lya looked at Jack seriously, "General O'Neill, we can give you no guarantees, but we are here to try to do what we can for Dr. Carter." Lya knew they may fail in trying to save Sam, but she was hopeful that they could, at least, stabilize her enough so that the Tollan could treat her.
Everyone got out of the way as the Nox group took places around the bed. Sam was oblivious, deeply asleep. Lya turned to Jack once more, "This may take a long time. It would be easier for us if we were the only ones in the room with her," she requested.
Jack quickly got everyone out of the room, and turned to look at Sam one last time before he too left the room, closing the door behind him. Hammond led everyone to the briefing room where they all settled to wait. Jack, however, sat in a chair right outside Sam's room, trying to listen to what was going on inside. His attention was diverted by a sound down the corridor. It was Cassie, who had escaped the briefing room and was approaching him silently, hoping not to be sent away. He extended his hand and she took it, seating down next to him to wait.
Meanwhile, in the briefing room, the group was brought up to speed on recent events. Narim reported on the progress his people had achieved since the Prometheus had left Tollana. He also explained how Thor had gathered the Nox and himself in the Furling Planet by contacting them from the Asgard ship. Narim had immediately gated to the planet from Tollana III using their newly built stargate. The Nox had used their stargate as well. They had decided to put it back to use when it was evident they would be negotiating a treaty with Earth.
"We were fortunate that the Nox did not still have their stargate buried," said Thor. "Otherwise, it could have taken days to bring them here. But, contacting the Nox was really her idea," Thor interjected, pointing at Dis.
They had dimmed the lights to the point of almost complete darkness so that Dis could pull her hood back. Telta sat by her side and served as interpreter when the tiny woman started waving her arms and hands, "Dis says it is our last hope for Sam. No other race is as advanced as the Nox in medicine. They are deeply spiritual people with mysterious, but effective, means for healing."
"We may be able to help her as well. But I agree with Dis. The Nox can do things we still consider impossible in Tollana. We are lucky to have such friends," asserted Narim.
"General Hammond," said Thor, changing the subject, "I have brought Dis up to speed on our recent agreement to negotiate the inclusion of Earth as a fifth party to our previous Agreement. I gave her access to all the information I had on file on Earth's contributions to the survival of the Asgard and your struggle against the Goa'uld."
The little woman now addressed Hammond, Telta translating, "We do not approve of some of the means you have used in order to prevail against the Goa'uld. However, we do understand why a civilization less advanced than ours has no other choice. This is something some of us always understood, but our leaders did not want to accept." Dis was looking at Thor, who understood she was referring to the break down of their relationship centuries before.
"It has been too long since we have had contact with our friends. I, for one, am extremely happy that Dr. Carter was brought to our planet, and that we are now here, together. Our leaders approved of my decision to come here, and try to reestablish relations with our old allies; and to get to know more about our new friends." Telta was smiling. She felt as if a rock had been lifted from her chest. The air in the room was now filled with hope and good will.
"All is well that ends well," Hammond responded to the tiny being. "I would not sacrifice Dr. Carter's life for any reason, and I hope we can look back at this someday and be able to say that her ordeal was worth it. The cooperation of our other friends here has been invaluable to us in our struggle to liberate humanity from the Goa'uld. There are also other threats out there that you probably know about by now." Hammond was referring to the replicators, the Asgard nemesis. "Together, we have more than a fair chance at surviving these threats."
As he was completing his last sentence, they all heard Cassie at the top of the stairs, calling to them excitedly, "She's going to be OK! Come on!" and she ran back downstairs without waiting for them. Everyone got up to follow.
Daniel was in his element. He felt they had really hit the mother lode this time. Not only were they establishing a relationship with a very old, advanced and interesting race; they were also learning huge amounts of information regarding the ancient Celts.
Thor had warned Daniel not to expect too much too soon from the Furlings. Theirs was a very cautious, reclusive race. Dr. O'Malley had speculated on how old Dis must be. He had reminded Daniel that Dis was considered to be the God of the Underworld in ancient Celtic mythology. Unless there was a long line of Dis in their history, the little woman could be more than twenty five hundred years old!
"You do know what the Sidhe are, don't you?" he asked Daniel, challenging him. Daniel thought for a moment and said, "Of course! The Little Folk of Irish legends!" Dr. O'Malley had been thrilled to spend some time with Telta, who had told him about her planet, Noviobriga, and the cities there. He had practically run to Daniel to tell him what he had found out. The four cities in Noviobriga, New Fortress in ancient Celtic, were the same cities in Celtic mythology that the ancient Celts claimed they had come from, Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias.
Telta had not been surprised at this, explaining to a very excited Dr. O'Malley that there had been groups of her people in the past that had returned to the Furling Planet, and eventually back to Earth, seeking their roots. This had happened a number of times during the past centuries. Therefore, the Earth Celtic mythology was a combination of legend and history brought back with these peoples.
Telta was not sure, but she surmised that the Celts living in the Furling Planet had, for some reason, abandoned Noviomagos, and had all returned to Earth in the past. Dr. O'Malley was determined to find their history buried in the ancient city, which was now a huge archeological dig.
Another person in her element was Lieutenant Haley. She had spent two days with Dis in the tumulus, in almost complete darkness, learning from the little alien woman the capabilities and operation of the Ankh. It had turned out to be an extremely powerful transporter, not much more. It created a subspace wormhole, much like the stargate's, directly to the new Furling Planet. It also had sophisticated sensors built specifically to search for Goa'uld DNA in a host. Once the sensors detected the Goa'uld, the Ankh retrieved the being from the host by simply transporting it out of the host's body, without hurting either being.
Telta explained to Haley that one of the druids' jobs was to transport the symbiote to a particular large lake in Noviobriga, where they released it. The Furlings carefully guarded this lake.
Telta and Dis had been surprised and amused to find that Lieutenant Haley had already been experimenting with the Ankh. She had already transported some empty containers back and forth, using the controls on the altar. She had figured out the combinations for sending and bringing back items from the sensor readings she had obtained when Jack and Teal'c had gone to the planet, and then returned. Telta was having fun imagining what the other druids were thinking and doing when they kept seeing the empty containers appear and disappear.
Yes, everything was going smoothly. Lya, Thor and Dis had spent some time together before the Nox had had to return home. The five people had been exhausted from their efforts to heal Samantha, but were relieved and happy that she was now on her way to recovery.
Many hours earlier, Sam had awakened to find the five Nox people standing around her bed, their eyes closed and their hands extended over her. One moment she could see them clearly, the next they were almost gone, as if covered in mist. She had initially thought she was dreaming, but then she became fully alert, and the five people solidified again. Lya had then opened her eyes and smiled at her in greeting, "Welcome back, my friend."
The door had then opened, and Jack had poked his head in, looking anxious. "Jack!" Sam had said, giving him one of her radiant smiles, and he had come straight into her arms. "Hi, babe," was all he had said, but his arms were tight around her and his eyes had told her everything he felt.
Cassie had followed Jack into the room and come running to hug her from the other side of the bed. The Nox had stepped back, looking tired, but pleased. Then Cassie had run out of the room to let the others know that Sam was going to be OK.
Lya had thoughtfully ushered the other Nox out of the room to give Sam and Jack a few minutes of privacy, which had turned out to be exactly two. Jack had kissed her hands, her face, and then her eyes saying, "You can't keep doing this to me, you know."
Sam had kissed him back, seeking his mouth. "I'm sorry, I'll make it up to you, I promise," she had responded in between kisses.
"Yes, you will," he had answered, and then Jacob and the rest of her friends had busted in.
Sam was reclining on a lounge chair in her backyard, sipping a beer and watching Jack barbecue some steaks. It was a week after her close call, and she felt almost healthy. Her color was back and she only felt weak if she exerted herself. Her body was mending, and no sign of cancer remained. The Nox had been successful in their efforts; and the Tollan had supplied some medications that were helping Sam to regain her strength rapidly.
Jack turned to look at her and she smiled at him, thankful to be alive and to have him near. He was able to spend some time with her while she recovered because he had asked Hammond to stay in command at SGC for a few more days. She had refused to stay at the hospital the moment she felt she could walk around. She had wanted to be home, alone with him, but Cassie had other ideas. The girl was also here, helping to look after her, which Sam thought was overkill. But she was thankful nonetheless.
"What did Hammond say today about your recommendation to have Jim Dixon be the new commander for SG-1?" asked Sam.
Jack covered the grill, picked up his beer and came to sit next to her. "He agreed that he was the toughest and most experienced SG Team Commander we have. That was not a hard sell. He was surprised, however, by your recommendation for technical expert for the team. He agreed in the end, leaving the decision up to me, but he thought Lieutenant Haley may not be experienced enough."
"Maybe not, but she is the most brilliant mind we have," Sam argued, sipping her beer. "Can you believe she had figured out how to use the Ankh to transport stuff back and forth by the time Dis got to her?"
"Well, second most brilliant, maybe," Jack responded, taking Sam's hand and kissing her neck.
"Hmmmm, flattery will get you everywhere, Sir," she teased, "but not while Cassie is here."
"HEEY! You lovebirds are letting the steaks burn!" screamed Cassie coming out of the house and running to the grill. She opened it up and started fanning at the smoke coming out of it.
"We are not burning anything, for crying out loud!" Jack was getting up in a hurry. "Don't try to teach an old dog new tricks. I've been grilling steaks waaay before you were born."
"Oh, yeah? Why do they look black, then?" Cassie had her hands on her waist, looking at Jack as if she was his mother.
"I'm making them crispy on the outside, juicy in the inside," he was arguing, waving her aside.
Sam was laughing, wondering who would win this bout. They had been at it the whole week. They both had been jealous of each other, trying to spend time with Sam and get rid of the other one. Cassie kept yelling "Gross!" every time she caught Jack kissing Sam, and Jack kept calling Cassie "Stinker", which drove the teenager crazy because he was referring to her new, and very expensive, perfume.
Sam's mind wandered back to SGC. She knew Haley was green, but she was truly brilliant and she had matured immensely since the first time she had stepped through a stargate. She remembered the obnoxious, know-it-all, competitive young woman from then, and had to give her credit for how she had shaped up. The insatiable curiosity and unwavering dedication she brought to every project would prove to be even more valuable than her brain.
She was also pleased about Jim Dixon's appointment as SG-1's new commander. She knew Teal'c and Daniel respected the guy, which had to be the main consideration. And he was tough as nails, which he attributed to having four kids. "Once you've had to deal with four wild teenagers, nothing else will scare you," he had told her once.
Negotiations for the Agreement were scheduled to commence in a month. The negotiating team had been selected, Daniel being part of it. He had suggested to Thor, Dis and the Nox that the Tollan were worth considering as a sixth party to be included in the Agreement.
Narim had been grateful. He had not dared to suggest it because he felt his people had been greatly weakened by their last confrontation with the Goa'uld. He thanked Daniel profusely, to which Daniel answered, "I just don't want to have to negotiate two separate agreements, Narim."
Thinking of Narim, Sam remembered all the changes her love life had gone through during the last few weeks. She had been engaged to be married to one man and broken up with him; she had found an old love after thinking him dead, then had broken his heart almost immediately; and finally, she had become engaged to the one man she thought she could never have.
But she would not be here to reminisce if it wasn't for the help of their Nox allies. She smiled remembering Lya's response when Jack and Jacob had hugged her, thanking her for Sam's life.
She had smiled at them and shrugged her shoulders, saying simply, "What are friends for?"
The End of the trilogy "Relationships". Hope you enjoyed it! Feedback is more than welcome.