Infinitas


Disclaimer: Kali & muses do not own any of Stargate; we just borrowed it for the sake of this fiction.
Warnings: The usual types of Stargate-type action, craziness, and fun; slash in the form of Jack/Daniel.
Author Notes: Takes place post-season 10, pre-Ark of Truth; also, beware of mega-spoilage!

INFINITAS

By FireKali Chaos
Big thanks to Sets for the beta!

 ~ Part I ~

Chapter I
{Daniel}
Early Saturday Morning:

          All he wanted to do was to crawl into his bed and sleep for at least a decade.

          The week had been…trying.  A perfect euphemism for the ever-increasing chaos, trials, and tribulations that was life at the SGC.  Seven – no, eight (he groaned as he noted the date and time at the bottom right corner of his computer screen) – days ago, SG1 and General Landry had returned from their close brush with the Ori ship after being gifted the total repertoire of technology and knowledge of the Asgard, and sudden absolute destruction of the Asgard race.  No one but Teal’c knew exactly what had happened during the time-dilation period he reported occurred – but apparently that had been the only thing to save them and the ship that now carried the legacy of the Asgard.  Once they’d returned home, SG1 returned to its usual mission schedule, though this now included revisiting some planets to determine if they had fallen to the Priors and their crusading armies, and to warn new allies on new planets about the danger that now threatened everyone in the galaxy from human to Goa’uld to Jaffa to Tok’ra – and everyone in between.

          The grand total of Ori planets was rapidly nearing the 100 mark.  Another seventeen had been counted this past week by the various SG teams who had ventured off-world.

          And if this were not enough, they still didn’t know if Merlin’s weapon worked or failed, didn’t know if the Ori themselves were destroyed when Daniel and SG1 hijacked an Ori ship to send the weapon to the Ori galaxy.  To do so, they’d had to shut down the Supergate, thus leaving it available for use once more by the crusading Priors and their precious Orisei – who was now Ascended herself, thanks to them.  Or perhaps she was an Ori rather than the Ascended he knew.  He really didn’t know what would have happened to Adria when she went glowy, though if he wanted a silver lining, he hoped the Ancients and the rest of the Others would have better luck convincing her she’d been deceived and was following the wrong path, hoped they would be successful where he and Vala had failed miserably.

          …Because the alternative was a powerful Ascended (Ori?) being with all their knowledge, out there somewhere in the galaxy, who was not bound by the rules of the Others.  And with no way of making another of Merlin’s weapons (which he didn’t want to use here anyway as it would result in the destruction of the Others as well as Adria – if it did work) they had no way to combat her, no allies to rely on.  As it was, he could only hope that the Others would enforce their rules if she did try anything here.

          It was nearing 0400, and Daniel had only just returned from a trip to P4X-639.  SG1 had gone to check up on Harry Maybourne and his adopted home, and to warn him about the Ori’s creepy minions and zealous armies.  They’d gotten lucky this time – Harry and his people had been blissfully ignorant thus far – but there were so many planets that the Tau’ri were having little luck contacting.  They still hadn’t heard from the Serrakins or the Langarans (meaning Jonas Quinn), though intel said both planets had been visited by the Priors and Ori ships were seen in the area.  And with the Jaffa scattered and warring amongst themselves, and the Tok’ra no longer even pretending to live up to a treaty that had always been tenuous at best, Earth was back to being relatively isolated and friendless even if they were the Fifth Race the Asgard had such high hopes for.  The sword had firmly, suddenly, been passed to them, effectively making the Tau’ri the protectors of the galaxy.

          Taking his glasses off to rub at his reddened, dry, and scratchy tired eyes, Daniel gave up working on a translation for SG23.  He wanted to get it done, but he was so tired he just couldn’t concentrate enough to remember his name let alone conjugate verbs in obscure dialects of Goa’uld.  Saving his work, he put his glasses back on and shut down his computer before closing up his lab/office and making his weary way to the elevator.  He wasn’t going home…because he no longer had one, really.  Instead, he was heading further underground to Level 25 where his on-base quarters were.

          He’d sold his house after the Osiris-dream incident, finding that not only did his neighbours wonder and speculate (and distrust) him thanks to that event, he couldn’t live in the house without feeling exposed, uncomfortable, and violated.  Besides, he wasn’t home long enough to enjoy it, and owning a house came with all those extra responsibilities he didn’t have time for (ie. mowing the lawn in summer, shovelling sidewalks in winter, gardening, house cleaning, etc.).  He honestly didn’t know how Jack or Sam ever managed to do all that with their own houses.

          Daniel used the money from the sale of his house to add to Cassie’s university fund.  He didn’t need the money anymore (the government paid him ridiculously well), and he knew Janet Fraiser would want her adopted daughter to go as far as she could in her education, in whatever field Cassie chose.  He’d moved himself into a small, decent apartment in a respectable neighbourhood after that, though he was rarely there.  Then…the final showdown with the Replicators – and Anubis on the peripheral edges – went down.  Daniel waged his mental battle with RepliCarter, though he didn’t really feel like he’d won anything with that.  He’d Ascended for the second time, finally gotten some answers out of Oma Desala that weren’t riddles or Zen-like pieces of advice, and witnessed the subsequent “defeat” of Anubis when she engaged him in what he knew would likely be an eternal fight, thus removing his threat to the galaxy.

          Somewhere in there, Atlantis was found and Elizabeth Weir took her team through the Gate to the Pegasus Galaxy – and were essentially lost for a while when no ZPMs were immediately discovered and they had no way of powering the Gate to dial home.  But, when Catherine passed away (mere months after Ernst Littlefield) and left Daniel the bulk of her estate (all the texts, scrolls, tablets, artefacts, and library, anyway), and the oddity of a video camera with a ZPM that still held a full charge was discovered among it all, the Pegasus Galaxy was no longer so far away.  Once communications were re-established, and with the newest Earth ship to roll of the factory lines – the Daedalus – now available and capable of reaching Atlantis thanks to Asgard hyperdrive technology, it seemed a new era for the SGC was at hand.

          Then the news came down that General Hammond was planning to retire from his post in Washington DC as head of Homeworld Security – and that he wanted Jack to replace him.  Jack had grumbled about it, not really liking the idea of having to dive into the muddy political waters of DC and fly a desk away from the frontlines (after all, the Goa’uld were still out there, if less of a threat than before).  So he’d given SG1 two weeks leave, and they spent the first week of that together at the General’s cabin in Minnesota – fishing.  Memories of that final team outing were both sad and bittersweet as well as happy for Daniel.  Happy because he’d been with the people he loved most, the people who were family to him.  Happy because they’d had a lot of fun that week, had laughed and relaxed as they hadn’t since…well, ever, if he really thought about it.  Happy because for once they didn’t have to run off to save the world or the galaxy from some great evil or alien threat, and they could just be normal people for a little while where their only great concern was whether or not they should BBQ or roast hot dogs, or how much money they wanted to lose to Teal’c in a poker game.

          The bittersweet and sad parts came at the end of the week – when the happiness Daniel thought he’d finally get to begin to enjoy was doused by the scattering of his family.  He still – to this day – didn’t know exactly what happened between Jack (his best friend and the man his foolish heart had gone and fallen in love with) and Sam (his self-proclaimed Big Sister whom he loved as such but sometimes really wanted to hate), but suddenly there was tension and stormy clouds hovering over the cabin, and the vibes flowing between the two were enough to light up glaring neon signs proclaiming troubled waters.  At supper that fateful evening, Jack quietly announced his intention to accept Hammond’s post.  Almost angrily, Sam then declared she was going to accept a post as the new head of Research and Development at Area 51 – ostensibly to be close to Cassie, who needed her more than ever now that Janet was gone and she was venturing out into the world for university.  Stunned, Daniel hadn’t been able to say anything, not even to protest.  Teal’c remained his stoic Jaffa self, and hadn’t said anything either.  He merely gave an accepting head-bow and wished them both success before excusing himself for the night.

          Sam had packed up and left early the next morning.  By the time Daniel (and Teal’c) returned to the Springs, she was gone.  Jack didn’t waste much time getting the hell out of Dodge, either.  He was gone before their second week of leave ended.  And Daniel had never had the chance to talk to him.

          With SG1 splitting up, Teal’c was convinced by Bra’tac to return to Dakara and devote his time to helping set up the leadership and structure of the new Jaffa Free Nation.  With no one left, Daniel found himself utterly alone and at loose-ends.  The only thing left for him at that point, the only way he could still be useful to the programme – the place had people he’d given the last 8 plus years of his life for (several times!) – was to hop a ride on Daedalus and go to Atlantis.  Otherwise…he was obsolete…or at least that’s what it felt like.

          So…he started packing his bags.  His apartment was cleared out and his belongings were placed in storage.  He’d been 48 hours away from his flight, in his lab packing it all up, when Lt. Col. Cam Mitchell strolled in and tried to convince him to stay.  He offered Cam his apartment and turned him down as gently as he could.  Cam hadn’t wanted the apartment – he’d already found himself one – so Daniel simply turned in his keys and let the place go.

          But it seemed he was the universe’s favourite puppy to kick, because the next thing he knew, that deceitful, feisty wench, Vala MalDoran, waltzed back into his life and once again screwed up his travel plans.  He woke up in the infirmary ‘bonded’ to the woman and stranded on Earth.  Daedalus had left without him.

          He’d never bothered to go out and get another place.  By this time he gave up trying to find something he’d never truly had – home.  Not even Abydos (through beloved and much cherished for the brief year of happiness he’d had there with Sha’re, Ska’ara, Kasuf and the rest of the Abydonian people) had been home.  And really, he’d rationalized, why bother when he was barely Earth-side long enough to be able to leave the base for some reason that wasn’t work-related?

          Now he lived on-base, though his quarters were moved from the civilian housing on Level 15 down to the senior housing on Level 25.  He didn’t really understand why (he was a civilian and certainly not a ranking military officer) but didn’t argue with General Landry about it.  He’d welcomed the move silently, in fact, once Vala became a permanent fixture at the SGC.  As much as he liked her (and he couldn’t help but like her, despite her larcenous, deceitful predilections, because she was almost like a female Jack – minus the years of military discipline and military rules and regulations to moderate his often twelve-year-old mentality, and the home-life and up-bringing Jack grew up with), she was often a little too much, and clever enough that it took everything Daniel had to stay ahead of her.  Despite their rocky start, he did come to accept her foibles and count her as a friend – a good one.  And she became a steadfast ally, too, when the Ori became the greatest threat to the galaxy…

          For which all blame was laid at Daniel’s feet, and no one would be able to convince him otherwise.  He should have realized that the Peaceful Explorer bit wasn’t going to work, and he should have kept his mouth shut.  But…it wasn’t in him to not try to talk his way out of trouble.  Being responsible for the Priors finding their way to his galaxy, and everything that came after, was something that Daniel would never forgive himself for, and was something he would spend the remainder of his life trying to rectify.

          “Good morning, Dr. Jackson!”  A Sergeant Daniel didn’t recognize greeted him as he stepped off the elevator.

          “Good morning, Sergeant.” He returned, stifling a yawn.  He nearly collided with Vala as he turned a corner.  “Whoa!  Geez, Vala.”

          “Daniel!  There you are.  Where have you been?  I’ve been looking all over for you.”  She planted her hands on her hips, blocking his path as she scowled at him.

          “Office.  Translation.”  He didn’t try to stifle the yawn this time.  “Now bed.”

          Frowning she took in his appearance.  “You mean you still haven’t gone to bed?  Look at you!  You’re nearly the walking dead!”

          Wincing, he held up a hand then gently set her aside so he could pass by.  “Please.  Don’t even joke.  They’re not very much fun.”  Memories of Honduras flashed and he shoved them back down quickly.  Of course, Vala had no idea what he was talking about, so she merely shrugged with a confused expression and followed him to his door.

          “Don’t forget the briefing at 1100.”  She reminded him.  “We’ll find out where we’re going next, after all.”

          “Yeah, yeah.”  Daniel waved her off.  “Why are you still up?  I thought you said something about beauty sleep.”

          “I had a nap.  I’m wide awake now.  I promised Mitchell that I’d remind you that you’re scheduled for a weapons skill evaluation.”  Vala leaned against the door frame, standing inside his door and watching with unconcealed interest as Daniel stripped off his uniform BDUs until he was just in boxers and a t-shirt.  Once upon a time, he’d have been modest and chased her off, but he’d long since given up, the futility of it and the fact that he was much more comfortable in his body than he’d ever been before lending to his lack of caring.  “He wants to get it done before our next mission.”

          “Fine.  Whatever.  But now I’m sleeping, so…” Daniel pointedly put his glasses on the bedside table and shut off the lamp, crawling under the covers of his bed.  “Go ‘way, Vala.”

          She rolled her eyes and gave a mock-huff.  “Well.  I know when I’m not wanted.”  Grinning, she left.  Once the door closed behind her, Daniel let out a relieved sigh (because at least this time she didn’t try to join him in bed) and relaxed, letting sleep claim him for even the bare few hours he’d get.

Early Thursday Afternoon:

          Three days later, SG1 tromped down the ramp from the Gate upon their return from a new planet they’d been sent to check out.  At least this one had been uninhabited, and they’d all come home healthy, alive, and in one piece.  As they handed off their weapons to the SFs, Master Chief Sergeant Walter Harriman called down from the control room, “Dr. Jackson, you have an urgent message waiting for you.”

          He glanced up in surprise, nodding.  “Thanks, Walter.  I’ll be there after the post-mission stuff.’

          “Yes, sir.”

          Sam grinned at Daniel’s exasperated sigh.  “You’ll never convince him to call you just ‘Daniel,’ you know.”  She nudged him in the ribs with an elbow.  “Give it up, Daniel.”

          “I believe he refuses because he has great respect for you, DanielJackson.”  Teal’c stated mildly.  “As is appropriate and richly deserved.”

          “Maybe.  I stopped fighting the ‘Dr. Jackson’ but ‘sir?’”  he shook his head.  “I am not an officer.  I never made any of my students call me ‘sir’, so why should anyone around here?”

          “Well, we military folk tend to react to everyone high on the chain of command the same – civilian or military.”  Mitchell clapped him on the shoulder and directed the group toward the elevator to head for the infirmary.  “And fact is, you are the most senior personnel on base.  The only thing you’re missing is the commission and rank, and everyone at this command knows that, unofficially, you’re on par with General Landry, if not above him in the chain of command.”

          Daniel blinked a few times, absorbing that.  “It’s ridiculous!  I’m not in command of anything and I don’t really want to be.”

          Vala leaned in to Teal’c and said in a low voice, “I didn’t know my Daniel was such a big shot among the Tau’ri.  But why doesn’t he know that?”

          Apophis’ ex-First Prime actually quirked a small smile, watching as his other teammates were led off by infirmary staff for their post-mission exams.  “Have you not also noticed DanielJackson’s knowledge of self-worth, ValaMalDoran?  For as long as I have known him, he has never understood his value to not only this programme but to his peers here and even to us, who are his closest friends.  I have never known anyone to be as unselfish and giving of themselves as DanielJackson.”

          The dark-haired woman frowned.  “He certainly is one-of-a-kind, Muscles.  But I know what the galaxy is like, and I don’t know how he’s survived this long.  Because I’ve seen people like him eaten alive by the bad guys out there.”

          “As have I.”  Teal’c agreed.  “However…I believe DanielJackson to be a soul with a higher purpose and thus some measure of protection, whatever that purpose may be.  I have witnessed too many miracles in my time with this Tau’ri, to believe otherwise.”

          Vala nodded.  “I get that.  He certainly changed things for me.”  She beamed at him.  “And you all wonder why I want to have ridiculous amounts of wild and crazy monkey sex with the man!”

          Teal’c, had he not been the mighty, stoic Jaffa he was, might have either laughed or rolled his eyes at the boisterous female’s remark.  He was becoming quite accustomed to her ways, however, and merely tilted his head with a slightly raised eyebrow and drawled, “Indeed, I do not.”

          Mitchell and Daniel reappeared first, and the remaining two members of the team took their places.

          “I’d better go see what that message is all about.”  Daniel waved over his shoulder.  “See you at the debriefing, Mitchell.”

          “Sure thing, Jackson.”

          As he walked back to the elevator, Daniel smiled ruefully to himself.  Only Cam Mitchell could get away with calling him by his last name alone.  Anyone else tended to get a displeased frown – just as Jack was the only one who ever got away with calling him ‘Danny’ (among all the other various nicknames he’d pinned on Daniel over the years).  The smile faded, and he absently rubbed the heal of his hand against his chest, as if that would soothe the ache that always hit him there when he thought of Jack and their barely-there friendship.  Daniel actually missed those names – whether they’d been said in anger, concern, or to tease, they’d always been said with affection.

          Climbing the stairs up to the control room, Daniel shoved aside his memories to focus on the present.

          “So, Chief, what’s the message?”  He inquired, approaching Walter.

          “Ah, an email from Dr. Gardner, sir, was passed along through channels.  We received it early this morning.”  Walter pulled a page from a clipboard at his elbow and handed it to Daniel.

          “From Sarah?  Huh.  Okay, thanks, Walter.”  Daniel took the paper and began to read the short email.  For security reasons, he hadn’t been allowed to give Sarah his email address once she’d been released after her de-Goa’uld-ing.  Daniel had thought it was a stupid precaution (like she didn’t already know far worse things that were a threat than his email address), but he’d complied.  He tried to stay in touch with her, but of course it was hard to do that with his job.  This email was one she’d most likely sent via the USAF out of desperation to find him when she couldn’t get a hold of him with a phone.  He felt a bit guilty for that, as he hadn’t contacted her in over a year, which meant of course she didn’t have a current phone number or address for him – and the USAF wasn’t going to release such info to anyone thanks to the nature of his classified, ultra-secret work.

          “Daniel,” the email read, “I think you should come to New York ASAP.  Steven was on a recent dig in Southern France and some amazing artefacts were found.  However, there were some in particular that your people will be concerned about, I believe, and despite my efforts to convince Steven of this, he’s insisted on presenting them at a special presentation and lecture in New York City on October 15.  Please call me as soon as you get this.  I hope you are still in good health and doing well.  Take care.  – Sarah.”

          “Fantastic.”  Checking his watch, Daniel blew out a breath as he saw he didn’t have time to phone Sarah right away before the debrief.

          “Bad news, Dr. Jackson?”  Walter inquired.

          “Hard to say, yet.”  Daniel replied, tucking the page into a pocket.  “Thanks, Walter.”

          “No problem, sir.”  Walter replied, watching the anthropologist hurry off upstairs to the briefing room.

~*~*~*~*~

          An hour and forty-five minutes later, the debrief was over, but before everyone went their separate ways, Daniel pulled out the email and pushed it down the stable to General Landry.

          “Walter passed that on to me when we got back, sir.”  Daniel folded his hands on the table in front of himself.  “I’m going to call Sarah and get more information if I can, but I wanted you to be aware that I may need to go to New York, and that we may have a potential problem.”

          “Daniel?”  Sam asked, his name inquiring all the things she wanted to know.

          “New York?”  Vala’s eyes widened.  “I’ve heard of that place.  Shopping…”

          “No shopping.”  Mitchell cut that idea off before it could mutate.  “What’s up, Jackson?”

          “Dr. Steven Rayner is giving a special lecture and showing some new artefacts he and his team found in Southern France on a dig.  According to Sarah, these may be items that we don’t want the world to see just yet.”  Daniel explained.

          Sam frowned.  “But…he signed those non-disclosure agreements after the Egypt incident.”

          “Yes, but he doesn’t really know anything except that I was much more right about my theories than he and everyone else ever knew.  He knows nothing specific, and whatever he found wouldn’t automatically click as ‘alien’ to him.”

          “Rayner…Egypt.”  Mitchell snapped his fingers.  “Osiris!  I remember that file.  Amazing that he hasn’t learned his lesson from that.”

          Daniel sighed.  “Steven has always felt over shadowed by me and under-appreciated by our colleagues.  He really is an excellent archaeologist, he just…lacks a certain scope of vision.  He’s probably seeing this as his opportunity to redeem his name in the community after all that Osiris stuff – that he couldn’t tell anyone about – and doesn’t see the cons to what he’s doing.”  He shrugged.  “He’s doing the best he can with the information he’s got.  It’s not his fault.”

          Mitchell nodded.  “Too bad we may have to shut him down.”

          “Yeah.”

          “Dr. Jackson.”  General Landry passed the email back.  “Find out what you can from this friend of yours.  You have a go should you feel that you must go to New York, and you have full authority to do whatever you must to enforce security. I’ll clear SG1’s mission schedule until this  has been dealt with, but I want regular updates on the situation and a full report at the end.”

          “Yes, sir.  Thank you, General.”

          “Dismissed.”  Landry stood and went to his office, leaving SG1 to trail after their linguist and head for Daniel’s lab.

~*~*~*~*~

          Daniel sat at his desk and reached for his phone, pulling a rolodex over to flip through until he found Sarah’s contact information. His team found places around the room to sit or lean on while they waited and listened in.

          Dialling quickly, Daniel tried Sarah’s land-line first.  On the second ring, he realized he was calling at a late hour for her, having forgotten she was in the UK.  But, he got lucky as she answered on the fifth ring with a sleepy, “Hello?”

          “Sarah, it’s Daniel.  I’m sorry to get back to you so late.  I just got in and forgot about the time difference.”  He saw Sam glance at her watch and wince in agreement and sympathy.  “But you’d said to call ASAP, so…”

          “Oh!  Daniel, no…don’t worry about that.”  His old friend assured him.  “I was beginning to fear you wouldn’t get back to me or that my message hadn’t reached you.”

          “It did. And I’m fine.”  He smiled a little.  “It’s a secure line, so go ahead and tell me what Steven’s done now.”

          “Last year, Steven was invited to participate in a dig near Narbonne.  He joined up, thinking it was a good way to start fixing his name after the disaster with Dr. Jordan’s murder…and all that.”  Sarah swallowed audibly, and Daniel wished she didn’t have to remember any of the time she spent trapped in her mind by Osiris.  “They were expecting medieval finds, probably Roman ones also, but they found much more than that.”

          “Like what?”

          “That he told me…there’s a couple tablets with writing he’s never seen before, and some strange objects that look like jewels but aren’t.  He said the lab results are inconclusive about what material they’re made of or how old they might be.”

          “But you haven’t seen any of this yourself?”

          “No.”  Sarah made a frustrated sound.  “He won’t let anyone but the others from his dig team see any of what they found.  I tried, Daniel, but he refuses to let me near it.  I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t trust me or because he’s trying to protect me after…well.”

          Daniel picked up a pen and grabbed a writing tablet.  “He trusts you, Sarah.  He’s just being protective.  He doesn’t know what happened to you, only that you went missing for a couple years.  Listen, I have to start making plans to be able to go to New York; where’s this lecture and show at?”

          “Conference rooms five and six at the New York Museum of Art.  He’s supposed to begin unpacking and setting up the displays tomorrow.  I was going to get there the day before the lecture, but I can be there sooner.”

          “Um…I don’t know what you could do, Sarah.”  Daniel hesitated.  “It may be best if you leave this to me.”  He made a few quick notes about what she’d just told him.

          “Daniel, I’m probably the only one he’ll listen to when you tell him he’s being shut down.  He resents you too much.”

          He pinched the bridge of his nose against the headache coming on.  “I know.  Alright, I can’t stop you from being there.  But…don’t be offended if I can’t say much to you.”

          “I won’t.  I know better than anyone how important secrecy is for you.  And I’ll try to impress that upon Steven.”

          “Yeah.  He won’t get it, but yeah.”  Daniel handed the tablet of paper to Vala, who passed it to Mitchell.  “One other thing before I let you go…”

          “Yes?”

          “Do you know if he’s told others outside of his team and yourself?  Any other colleagues?  Museum people?  A significant other?”  Daniel asked.  His eyes met Sam’s and she nodded approval at the inquiry.

          “I don’t, I’m sorry.  Though I imagine he has told a few people in order to arrange this exhibition.”  Sarah replied.

          “Alright.  I’ll have to start rattling some chains but we’ll figure it out.  Thanks for giving me a heads up on this, Sarah.”

          “Anything I can do to help you, Daniel.  After everything I…saw and had to experience…anything to help.”

          “It wasn’t your fault.”  Daniel reminded her gently.  “No one blames you for any of it.  But believe me, I know that’s little comfort.  If it helps at all, this is a big help to us.”

          He could almost picture the sad smile on her face.  “A little.  Take care, Daniel.  I’ll see you in New York.”  She hung up on him., and he replaced the phone in its cradle softly.

          “Well, people, it looks like we get to take a little trip to the Big Apple.”  Mitchell declared, handing the pad of paper back to Daniel.

          Teal’c raised a curious eyebrow.  “…Big Apple?”

          “Ah…I’ll explain that later, T.  He means New York City.”  Daniel clarified.  He shoved away from his desk and went to his bookshelves to grab his pack where it was leaning on them on the floor.  It wasn’t the same pack he used for off-world missions, but another just like it that he had used for a few years now to transport work home with him.  Since he lived on base now, he rarely had occasion to use this pack anymore.

          “I’ll make travel plans, Daniel, and Cam and I will inform the General.”  Sam hopped off her stool at his workstation and headed for the door.

          “As soon as we know when we’re leaving, we’ll let you know.”  Mitchell added, following his fellow officer out.

          “Thanks, guys.”  The archaeologist said absently, already running through a list of things he might need to pack for the trip.

          “We shall leave you, DanielJackson, to attend to our own preparations for departure.”  Teal’c declared, indicating himself and Vala.  “Unless you require assistance with something?”

          “Oh, no thanks, Teal’c.  I’ve got it.  You guys should go ahead.”  Daniel looked over at them and smiled.  The big man acquiesced with a final head bow and left the room quietly, leaving Vala behind.

          “Okay, so what might I need to bring along?  I don’t know what sort of things I’m expected to pack.”  She picked up a statuette and fiddled with it.

          “Clothes for a couple of days and any…you know, girl stuff.  Ask Sam.”  Daniel hastily added with a faint blush.  “Otherwise, make sure you have your ID, your cell phone, and…” Daniel thought quickly, then shook his head.  “No, that’s it.  I’ll bring the stuff necessary for cataloguing things and a camera.  You can help me with that when we get there.”

          She made a face, but nodded.  “Fine.  I’ll go get started picking out some suitable outfits.” Vala waltzed out the door.

          “Dress warm!  The East Coast can get cool this time of year!”  He yelled after her.

          “Fine!”  Came the far away, yelled reply.

~*~*~*~*~

Chapter II
Wednesday Morning:

          The nice thing about being on such a highly classified, military team was the benefits of being number one with all the people in power.  Daniel mused, settling comfortably into his seat on the flight to New York.  We get our own jet and we don’t have to deal with civilian airport traffic and security.

          Although in this case, if he was honest about it, he almost wished they didn’t rate so highly for the sheer amount of stalling it could have provided. He had lots of reasons for not wanting to have to deal with this, not the least of which was the upcoming confrontation with Steven and the awkwardness of being around Sarah once again.  Bt even more distressing was the museum itself.  Daniel wasn’t sure how he was going to handle being there again, even after so many years.

          Mitchell was stretched out in his seat catching a power nap while Teal’c and Vala sat at a table in one corner of the cabin where the Jaffa was entertaining her with the Tau’ri card games he had learned over the years.  Sam sat near Daniel with her laptop, working away on…whatever projects she had going.  But after a while she shut down the computer and set it aside.

          “Daniel?” she reached out to pat his knee.  “Hey.  You look thoughtful.  Penny for them?”

          Dragging himself out of his memories, he glanced over at her and managed a faint smile.  “They’re not worth that, Sam.”  At her expression he just shook his head.  “I’m fine.  Just tired and hoping to get this over with quickly.”

          Sam nodded and leaned forward, speaking quietly.  “Listen.  I know this will be difficult.  It didn’t click right away, but I did remember the significance of that Museum.  It is the same one from the Gamekeeper’s simulation, right?  The one where…”

          “Where my parents died?”  Daniel finished softly.  He looked out the window at the topside of the clouds.  “Yes.  But I imagine it has changed a lot in the thirty-odd years since then.  I’ll be okay, Sam.”

          “You will.”  Sam smiled.  “Because you know we’re there with you, right?  If you need to…escape at all, or just want to talk…”

          “Thanks, Sam.”  He gave her a grateful smile.  “I appreciate the concern.”  And he did.  Maybe he had most of his family back again, but the most important member was still beyond him and would probably stay that way, and as much as he appreciated Sam’s concern for him (and the others’, since he had no doubt she was their appointed spokesperson), Daniel didn’t feel like talking about it.  Discussing his emotions was one of the few things he and Jack always had in common – they didn’t like to do it; oddly enough, they’d always been comfortable doing so with each other.

          Just another aspect of their weird relationship that was a paradox to everyone around them – not to mention themselves.

          In the corner, Vala eyed Teal’c’s cards and quickly nabbed one, letting out a huff.  “Damn.  I don’t think I’m going to like the outcome of this… ‘Old Maid’ game.”  She pulled the joker.

          “It is better than ‘Go Fish.’”  Teal’c replied, disliking anything that had to do with fishing, even the card game.

          “Why couldn’t we play poker?  I was getting really good at that when we played at the cabin.”  Vala affected a pout and held out her cards for Teal’c to choose from.

          “Because it is less entertaining with only two participating.”

          “Hmph.  The bunch of wet blankets!”  Vala sent an ineffectual glare toward the dozing Cam, then looked over at her Daniel and the perky blonde head of Sam Carter.  She noted how they sat together, how they were deep in quiet conversation and looking a little sad.  Frowning with irrepressible curiosity, the dark-haired reformed thief leaned across the table closer to Teal’c and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper.  “What’s that all about?”  She asked with a head jerk in their direction.

          Teal’c raised an eyebrow and calmly snagged a card from Vala’s hand (not the joker).  Tossing his pair down, he simply said, “If they wished for us to know, they would include us in the conversation.”

          “No, they wouldn’t.”  Vala scowled to herself. “Daniel tells me nothing unless I drag it out of him with promises of sex and/or extreme bodily harm.  And even then he usually just ignores me.”  She studied her opponent’s cards.  “The only time he ever volunteers information is when he thinks it will help someone feel better, and when he does, it’s still vague.”

          Nodding, Teal’c waited for her to choose another card.  “This is not a reflection of his relationship to you, ValaMalDoran.  Daniel Jackson has never spoken of himself to others easily.  Other than O’Neill, of course.”

          Vala took a card and tossed down her pair, holding up her hand for him.  “Yeah, why is that?  I noticed their ways with each other during the ride home from the whole Merlin’s weapon thing.  But I didn’t really get the chance to get to know the guy.”

          “O’Neill and DanielJackson were the original Tau’ri that went through their Stargate once DanielJackson correctly interpreted the symbols on it and what it was for.  They defeated the supreme System Lord, Ra, together.  However, even I do not know the details of that first mission; I know only that a bond formed between them that surpassed that of two warriors or that of two brothers.”

          Saying nothing, Vala let the subject drop.  She had her suspicions about them – a girl doesn’t get refused this many times without a good reason – but she wasn’t quite ready to call Daniel on it.  Even if it did hurt that he continuously turned her down though he obviously thought enough of her to believe she was capable of redemption, of reformation.  She’d also heard plenty of rumours around Cheyenne Mountain concerning Daniel and the absent General O’Neill.  After a couple more hands, her game with Teal’c ended and by silent, mutual agreement, they put the cards aside.

          “Well if you won’t tell me what they’re getting all cozy about over there,” Vala declared slyly, “At least give me something of a hint.  A warning.  Because if I don’t know what to expect, I can’t help properly, can I?”

          Teal’c smiled his small, enigmatic smile (which was, on the Jaffa, the equivalent of a huge, bright, and happy grin on any human).  He understood her curiosity, but he also knew that it was born of her fondness for Daniel, and the innate need to protect that the man’s existence evoked in everyone around him.  Still, it was not for him to speak of his brother’s past (for that is what Teal’c considered the linguist).  He could, however, tell Vala enough to satisfy her and allow her to be there should Daniel need it.  Although he tried to fill the empty hole left in Daniel’s life by O’Neill, always looking out for him and protecting him, there were some things that even Teal’c could not provide that his brother needed.  Vala has seemed to do what he could not, to an extent, and he would help her to help Daniel if he had the power to do so.

          “DanielJackson may experience a particularly unhappy memory at the place we are to visit, ValaMalDoran.  One from his childhood.  ColonelCarter merely wishes to reassure him.”

          “I see.”  Vala turned to watch the two again for a moment.  Sam went back to her laptop, and Daniel had his nose buried in a book.  Turning back to Teal’c, she eyed him suspiciously.  “And how do you know of this bad memory?”

          “Indeed.  Daniel Jackson may never have spoken of it to any of us had not the Gamekeeper allowed us all to see and experience it through his simulations.”

          Vala raised an eyebrow of her own, not knowing what the big guy was talking about, but she didn’t inquire further.  Teal’c wasn’t looking particularly talkative any longer, and getting information out of him was even harder than it was from Daniel.  She supposed that she would live with what he told her, and simply keep an eye on Daniel while they were in this place called New York.  After all, she knew how traumatic childhoods could be.

~*~*~*~*~

Thursday Morning:

          SG1 and the six SFs that were assigned to assist them by Generals Landry and O’Neill (Jack had insisted on a little extra help when he heard what was up) spilled out of the two military Hummers in the loading bay area at the side of the New York Museum of Art.  Mitchell looked around, taking in the scene quickly and assessing the area for potential problems and, if necessary, escape routes.  Slipping on his sunglasses, he joined his teammates and the SFs, who stood nearby awaiting their orders.

          “So, Jackson…where’s this curator guy who’s supposed to meet us?”  He inquired.  Daniel shrugged, his own eyes busy assessing behind his own sunglasses (Jack would have been proud).

          “He said he’d be here, though to be fair we’re a little early.”  The archaeologist replied.  “I still don’t get why we have these guys along.”  He jerked a thumb at the SFs, who regarded him impassively.  “No offense, guys.”

          “None taken.”  One answered tonelessly.  “Sir.”  He added at the dark glare he received from both Sam and Teal’c, and the frown from Mitchell – not that Daniel noticed.

          “We don’t know exactly what we’re going to find in there, Daniel.”  Sam pointed out, her hands slipping into her leather jacket pockets.  “Even if we don’t run into any situations, we may just need the extra muscle for moving stuff.”

          “True.”  Daniel looked down at Vala, over the top of his sunglasses, with a serious threat of bodily harm in his azure blue gaze.  “As for you, hands to yourself.  I will happily have you strip searched before we leave if I even suspect you’ve been tempted and fallen back into your larcenous ways.”

          “Why, Daniel!  I am shocked and hurt.  Deeply hurt.”

          “It won’t be me stripping you, but I will be watching – along with everyone else in the Museum.”

          Pouting, though not offended or even surprised by the threat, Vala crossed her arms and huffed with mock indignation.  “You are absolutely no fun.  Don’t you trust me at all?”

          “No.”

          “And neither do I, so make that threat double.”  Mitchell added, though it wasn’t entirely true.  They’d all come to trust Vala a great deal, just not when she was around valuables or things she felt could be profitable.  “While we’re waiting, let’s go over a few things.”

          “Hold off, Mitchell.”  Daniel raised a hand.  “Here comes Dr. Glasser.”

          A short, balding, middle-aged man in a grey suit came bustling towards them from the service door next to the big bay delivery doors of the museum.

          “Daniel Jackson!”  the man declared, smiling in genuine welcome.  “It’s good to see you again, young man.”

          “Hello, Dr. Glasser.  Thank you for meeting us like this.”  Daniel stepped forward and shook the curator’s hand.  “We really appreciate both your assistance and that of the Museum’s Board of Directors on the matter I discussed with you yesterday.”

          “Yes, of course.  I must say, I wasn’t expecting to hear from the military about anything, and I was even more surprised to learn that you were currently employed by them.”

          Daniel smiled a little, shrugging.  “Civilian consultant, sir.  It pays the bills.  But seriously, the work I do is extremely important.  I wish I could tell you all about it, but…for now it’s classified.”

          Mitchell coughed behind the linguist and Daniel took the hint to move along.

          “Anyway, this is my team.  Lieutenant Colonels Cameron Mitchell and Samantha Carter, Murray,” Daniel didn’t even pause to consider the use of Teal’c’s Tau’ri name, “and Vala MalDoran.  Guys, this is Dr. Henry Glasser.  I took several courses with him during my graduate studies, and he was a good friend of my mentor, Dr. Jordan.”  He introduced the curator to his friends.  They greeted one another and Daniel gestured at the SFs.  “Did you find the security uniforms I requested?”  He asked Henry, who nodded.

          “Yes.  I have them just inside, if they would like to change.”

          Mitchell gestured for the SFs to do so and they saluted, leaving SG1 behind.  “You boys know what to do and where to be.  Move out!”

          “If you’ll follow me,” Henry suggested, “I’ll show you to the conference room where Steven’s team has all their discoveries awaiting the exhibition.”

          “Lead on.”  Daniel nodded, walking alongside the curator.  SG1 fell in behind them, letting their linguist take point.  As they walked, Henry spoke in low tones to his former student.

          “I have to admit I’m quite curious, Daniel, about these artefacts you’ve come to inspect as a matter of National Security.”  The older man rubbed the back of his neck ruefully.  “I know you can’t tell me anything, but…”

          “I know.  I don’t blame you, sir.  I’d be curious, too.”  Daniel sighed.  He hated this aspect of his career with the programme. “And honestly, I wish I didn’t have to be here, doing this.  Covering up discoveries goes against my nature, but…on the other hand, I know why it’s been deemed necessary, and I have to agree.”

          “Daniel, my boy, you were one of my brightest students.  And I always knew you would go far someday.  If you say it’s necessary, then I believe you, because I know it’s against your nature, and because you wouldn’t allow it to happen otherwise.”  Henry shook his head.  “However, I’m not so sure Steven will understand – nor his team.”

          “I know.”  Annoyed by that fact, as well as sad and resigned to the upcoming confrontation, Daniel scowled to himself. “Just another reason for him to hate me.”  He glanced at the curator.  “Is Steven here?”

          “No.  He and his team were returning sometime this afternoon.  I believe they left yesterday to do some last minute research and make final arrangements for their artefacts for after the lecture and exhibition.”

          “Well, I won’t know for sure until we’ve looked through everything, but he may still have enough to show.  Just…not the most exciting parts.”  Daniel winced a little internally, knowing how he would have felt if someone did to him, what he was going to do to Steven.

          “Here we are.  I see your military people are frighteningly efficient.”  Henry drawled, spotting two of the SFs (now dressed as museum security) guarding the doors to the conference room.

          “Report, Airmen.”  Mitchell stopped and inquired in a low voice.

          “We’re in position, sir.  Johnson and Locke are in the security room on the second floor.  Whyte and Montoya are inside here at the doors joining this room with the other.”  One soldier reported in equally low tones.

          “Good.  We’re all on channel three on coms.  Shout if there’s a problem.”  Sam gave them a quick salute.  “As you were.  Lead the way, Dr. Glasser.”  She invited the curator.

          Henry pulled out a key-card and swiped it through the security scanner next to the doors.  “Certainly.”  Once inside, he flipped on the lights.  “Well, here it all is.”

          “Thank you, sir.”  Daniel scanned the room as the others moved to beginning the search.  “I have no idea how long this will take, and I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

          “Oh, it’s no trouble, Daniel.”  Henry smiled and patted the younger man on the arm.  “However, I’ll make it easier for you to keep your secrets and leave you all to it.  I may have seen nearly everything here, but I don’t know what some of it may be nor do I remember exactly what everything else is that’s here.  Therefore, I don’t know enough of anything that could be bad.”  He winked.  “Let’s keep it that way.  If you need anything at all, just call.”

          “We will.  Thanks again, Dr. Glasser.”  Daniel watched the curator leave the room, then turned to take stock of the crates, boxes, and display cases set up everywhere.  This, at least, was a familiar sight.

          “Where should we start, Daniel?”  Sam asked, coming to stand next to him.  “It looks like we may be here a while.”

          “Yeah.  I think you and Vala could start by scanning things for power sources or radiation.  Each of you start on opposite sides of the room and work your way to the middle.”  Daniel made his way to a long table that had yet to be laid out with artefacts, setting his backpack down on it and opening it to take out a notebook and a pencil.  “We’ll start with the stuff that’s already out and unpacked.”  He gestured at the room in general, speaking to Teal’c and Cam now.  “If you see anything even remotely…otherworldly, yell.”

          They began the search, splitting up as Daniel directed.  They’d only been at it for nearly an hour when one of the SF ‘security guards’ radioed in about someone wanting into the room.

          “Col. Mitchell, come in?

          Cam set down the box he was carrying and pulled out his radio.  “Go ahead.”  He replied.

          “Sir, there’s a woman insisting she be allowed inside.  She claims to have been invited.

          Cam looked around for Daniel and shot a questioning look at him.  Daniel blinked at him and pulled out his own radio.

          “What’s her name?” He asked.  There was a pause, then, “Dr. Sarah Gardner.

          Sam came up next to the archaeologist and set a hand on his shoulder.  “Daniel…you know she probably shouldn’t be here.”

          “Why?  She’s the one that tipped us off about this lecture.”  Daniel argued.  “Not to mention that she’s already mostly in the know about us, the programme, etc.  If we find anything, we don’t have to tell her what it is, what it’s for, or anything.”  He gave an exasperated eye-roll at Mitchell’s raised eyebrow.  “Okay fine.  I want her here because sooner or later Steven is going to show up, and Sarah was always the best at running interference between us.”

          Cam studied him for a moment, then spoke to his radio.  “Let her in, Airmen.”

          “Yes, sir.

          “I’ll hold you responsible for her, Jackson.”  Cam warned.  “No info leaked to her, understood?”

          Daniel just waved agreement at him, already walking toward the doors that had just admitted his former colleague.  “Hey.  Glad you could make it.”  He greeted her.

          “Daniel!”  Sarah Gardner gave him a big hug and smiled up at him.  “It’s very good to see you again.”

          “You, too.  How are you doing?”  He asked, concern colouring his tone.  She squeezed his hand, her eyes reflecting a sadness that would never really leave her and knowledge beyond her age.

          “I’m well.  Things are…getting much easier every day.”  She said softly.

          “Dr. Gardner.”  Sam interrupted, holding out a hand.  “You may not remember me…Samantha Carter.  I work with Daniel.”

          Sarah  shook her hand and nodded slowly.  “Yes.  Yes, I do remember you.  And you.”  The former host to Osiris looked up at the towering bulk of Jaffa just beyond Sam.  “Teal’c, was it?”

          “Indeed.”  Teal’c gave her a head bow in greeting.

          “And this is Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell.”  Daniel introduced the man who stood nearby, leaning on a stack of crates with his arms folded across his chest.  “He’s new to the team, but he fits right in.”

          “And I’m Vala.”  The energetic woman herself declared, stepping around Daniel and insinuating herself between him and this red-haired woman that was far too familiar with her Daniel for Vala’s comfort.

          “Yes, well.”  Daniel hastily moved onto the subject at hand, deflecting any ideas the dark-haired ex-thief might have had about staking a claim on him – no matter what Daniel thought of it.  “We haven’t been here long ourselves, and we haven’t found anything extraordinary yet.”

          Sarah nodded.  “I wish I could point you in the right direction, but I don’t even know what the things Steven found look like.”

          “Let’s get back to it, people.”  Mitchell motioned for the others to go back to where they’d been searching, pulling Vala away bodily.  “I’d like to be out of here before supper tonight.”

          “I’ll help.”  Sarah offered, following Daniel to the crate he’d been unpacking carefully.

          “Thanks again.”  He said after a few minutes of silence as they worked.  “For letting me know about this, and for coming all the way out here.”

          “As soon as Steven told me what he’d found, I knew you had to know about it.”  She shrugged, repacking the crate now that they’d found nothing unusual amongst its contents.  “He knows you were right, Daniel, but he’s still jealous and resentful of your brilliance and success.”

          “Ah, but no one amongst our peers but you know how successful I was in my theories.  And they won’t for a long, long time because the world’s not ready.”  Daniel stated firmly, making notations in his notebook.  “I haven’t published a thing since I joined the project, and likely never will.  As far as academia is concerned, I’ve disappeared off the planet.”  He smiled wryly.  “They’ll never know how true that is.”

          “Doesn’t that bother you?  Even a little bit?”  She asked, watching him closely as he carefully closed up the crate.  “The one thing you were ever ambitious about was proving your theories, Daniel, and proving to all those who criticized and maligned your work that they were full of crap and far too staid in thinking.”

          Daniel paused in his hammering.  “Not this again.  Sarah, you and I will never agree on the subject of career ambitions.”  He went back to hammering the lid to the crate down, perhaps a bit more forcefully than before.  “And yes, for a while it did frustrate me that I couldn’t tell people everything. But that didn’t last long.”  The galaxy-hopping linguist set aside the hammer and met her gaze with fathomless blue eyes that held not just knowledge but the wisdom of ages.  “The reality I know and deal with every day is infinitely more important than my academic ego.  None of us fight the battles we do for personal gain.  We fight for survival.  We search for knowledge and explore because we seek to better ourselves as a race and to understand how we come to be and why we’re here.  There’s nothing more important than that.”

          Stunned by the vehemence with which Daniel spoke, Sarah stared at the man she thought she knew and understood.  “I didn’t mean, Daniel, to…”

          “DanielJackson!”  Teal’c’s voice cut across her words and she snapped her mouth shut.  Daniel turned to see what the Jaffa wanted.

          “Find something, Teal’c?”  He called back.

          “Indeed.  Many somethings.  Perhaps you should inspect these, DanielJackson.”

          “Be right there.”  Daniel glanced at Sarah.  “Look, I’m sorry I went off on a tangent like that.  I know you, better than anyone, understand the reality I live with.  But even you, Sarah, don’t know half of how bad things really can be, or the true evils that exist out there.  The Goa’uld are only the tip of the iceberg.  And until my dying breath – the one where I truly die, permanently – I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make certain the people of this planet are given the chance to reach the point where they can deal with the things I know.”  Picking up his notebook and pencil, Daniel left Sarah to see what Teal’c had discovered.

          “Hey, T, what’d you find?”  The linguist strode up to Teal’c and peered into the open crate.

          “They appear to be those stones that were used by the Ancients as communication devices.”  The Jaffa replied, holding one out to his friend.  “In this crate, I also discovered these stone tablets.”  He indicated three slabs of rock on the table next to the crate.  “The writing appears to be of Ancient origin, though I cannot read it.”

          “Huh.  Yeah, you’re right.”  Daniel set the little polished jewel-like stone aside and picked up one tablet, studying the text.  “Well, just at a glance, this one appears to be instructions for the stones.  I’ll take a closer look later, but this stuff is definitely what we were looking for.”

          “What shall we do with these items, DanielJackson?”

          “Set it aside from the other stuff, for now.  Once we have everything and know what all we have to pack up and ship home, we can ask Dr. Glasser for some proper packing materials.”  Daniel looked around the room, searching for Vala.  “Vala!”

          “What?”  She popped up from behind some crates in a far corner.  Cam was with her, digging through open boxes.

          “Bring my pack and come over here.  Time to earn your assistant credentials.”

          Perfectly happy to leave Mitchell to his own devices, the former host to Qetesh weaved her way over, stopping to grab Daniel’s pack.  She flashed a bright, completely smug smile at Sarah before swaying over to join Teal’c and Daniel.

          “Assistant Vala reporting for duty, Dr. Jackson.”  She announced blithely, giving him a sloppy salute.  Teal’c raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

          “Cut it out.”  Daniel chided, pointing at the stuff Teal’c continued to unload on the table.  “My camera’s in my pack.  Take pictures of everything you see here, and make sure that these tags are visible in the pictures.”  Daniel showed her the archival tags each item had from the dig team.  “Then re-tag them with ours and make sure you record which became what in the log.”

          “Right.  Got it.”  Vala was already pulling out the camera and necessary items from Daniel’s pack. “Wow.  So many of those little communicators.  Is there one of those big devices they go with, too?”

          “I don’t know yet.”  He shrugged.  “Keep looking, Teal’c.  Now that you found this stuff, if there’s anything else, it’s likely to be in the same area.”

          “Understood.  I will continue my search and assist ValaMalDoran, also.”

          “Thanks, T.”

          “Daniel!  Got something here!”

          This time it was Sam calling for him.  He hurried over, Mitchell not far behind.  “What is it, Sam?”  He asked.

          “I’ve got a faint energy reading here.  I don’t think it’s from any of the buildings’ wiring, either.”  Sam frowned as she scanned the pile of crates and boxes.

          “Maybe it’s whatever is hidden under that tarp behind all this stuff.”  Cam pointed out the canvas.  “Help me move these crates, Jackson.”

          Together they began clearing aside everything in front of the covered object.  Sam scanned each crate and box they moved, just in case, but in the end it was the object under the canvas.  Cam yanked it off and all three let out a low whistle.

          “It’s a big hunk of rock.”  Cam decided.

          “With Ancient text all over it.” Sam agreed.  “But why the power source?”

          “It’s a broken obelisk, with Ancient writing that once I translate will hopefully explain why it needs power.”  Daniel was already crouching down to study the base.  “Not here through.  I think this may be a bit more than we were prepared to crate up and take to go.”

          “Well, if Odyssey’s out and about, we could always ask them to beam it to the SGC labs for us.”  Sam pointed out.

          “Good idea.”

          Mitchell called out to the others.  “Hey guys!  Y’all need to see this.”

          Teal’c, Vala, and a hesitant Sarah gathered around the obelisk that was missing a large chunk of its top.

          Vala whistled.  “Wow.  I wasn’t expecting that.  How are we getting that back home?”  She inquired.

          “Asgard beams, probably.”  Cam answered, watching as Daniel brushed away dust, dirt, and debris from a spot near the top of the base that the obelisk sat on, which was right at the height of about Daniel’s stomach when he was standing.

          “We have seen many obelisks in our travels.”  Teal’c said, also watching the archaeologist work.  “And many of those had some form of Ancient writing inscribed upon them.”

          “My scans showed a power source, Teal’c.”  Sam informed him, answering his unspoken question of ‘what is so special about this one?’

          “I see.  That is, indeed, unusual.  I can think of only one other such case.”  The Jaffa looked meaningfully at Mitchell.  “The Sodan.”

          Mitchell’s eyes widened slightly and he nodded.  “Yeah.  Maybe.”

          “Ancient?”  Sarah asked.  She wore a slightly puzzled expression.  “I remember a lot of things, but all I remember of that is that the name referred to a race of beings that Anubis seemed quite obsessed with.  I don’t remember ever meeting one.”

          “We don’t know much more than that ourselves.”  Cam replied easily, shooting the others a warning look.  “And I’m afraid we aren’t allowed to share.”  It was still classified information, after all.

          A faint flash of disappointment crossed Sarah’s face, for the archaeologist in her.  That much of herself she had not lost to Osiris.

          Daniel, already gaining some suspicions from his cursory exam of the obelisk, dusted his hands and looked over at his team.  “Well, I’ll study this more later.  Let’s just get everything else.”

          Vala held up the camera.  “Want me to get a few shots?”

          “Yes, please, when you’re done with that other stuff.”

          At that moment, SG1’s radios crackled.  “Col. Mitchell, come in.

          Cam pulled out his radio.  “This is Mitchell.  Report?”

          “Sir, there are several people outside, here, demanding to be let in.  They claim this is their exhibit.  Orders, sir?

          “A moment, Airman.”  Cam glanced from Daniel to Sarah and back.  “Friends of yours, Jackson?”

          “Friends?  Highly doubt it.”  Daniel’s reply was snarky, but truthful.  He held up a hand when Mitchell looked like he was going to start a lecture.  “However…I may as well get this over with.  I’ll go see if Steven is out there, and if he is, I’ll bring him back in here where we can argue without our colleagues listening in.”

          “Fine.”  Cam agreed, a moment of sympathy showing on his face.  “Just…keep the info classified, alright?”

          Daniel nodded absently, his mind already a million light years away as he turned and began weaving through the room to the doors.

          “I’ll come with you, Daniel.”  Sarah hurried after him, determined to help in any way she could.

          Sam watched her ‘little brother’ sadly, exchanging a look with Teal’c.  “I think it may be time to bring both Steven and Sarah into the programme.  The SGC could always use more minds, and it would relieve Daniel somewhat, I think.”

          Vala crossed her arms, leaning on a crate.  “So why haven’t they before now?”

          “SarahGardner was taken as host by Osiris many years ago.  Once we were able to capture her and the Tok’ra assisted in the removal of Osiris, SarahGardner was in no fit state to lend her knowledge to the SGC.”  Teal’c explained.  “She did not seem to want to have any further contact with anything or anyone associated with such a traumatic experience.”

          “Hmph.”  Vala tossed her head in disdain.  “Although I sympathize with the whole host aspect, she’s a fool.  Running away won’t make her feel any better and she’ll never forget entirely.”

          Cam squeezed the feisty woman’s shoulder.  “You’re right.  But…cut her some slack, Vala.  You grew up with hardship and you know how things are out there in the galaxy.  Dr. Gardner didn’t.  And some people just don’t have the strength of spirit people like us seem to have.”

          “She’s still a fool.”  Nothing anyone said would change Vala’s mind.

          “We’ll ask Daniel what he thinks later.”  Sam sighed.  “He pretty much oversees the civilian aspect of the mountain – the linguistics, anthro-archaeology parts at least.  He might have some positions that they could fill.”

~*~*~*~*~

          Daniel pushed open the doors and stepped out into the brightly lit corridor that was occupied by several annoyed social scientists and two stoic SFs in their museum security disguises.  Sarah stood quietly to his side and slightly behind him, willing to let him take charge and only speak up if Daniel needed assistance – though she had begun to think he probably wouldn’t.  He had changed so much from the Daniel she’d once known.  This Daniel Jackson commanded a presence and respect he’d never had before, and she wasn’t entirely sure how to deal with that.

          Stepping forward, the SFs flanking him subtly, Daniel raised his voice and spoke in a tone he’d perfected in lecture halls and classrooms.  “Attention, please!  If you’ll all just be quiet for a moment…”

          “Hey!  What’s going on here?”  One of the nearest man demanded.  “Why are we being denied entry to our exhibit?”

          “We’ve got to be ready by tomorrow!”  A female voice added from somewhere in the middle.

          “I’m very sorry, but under the National Securities Act, this exhibit and lecture is under immediate investigation.  Until we have finished, no one without clearance will be allowed in, and any one of you involved may be asked to turn over all data, records, photographs, etc., regarding the artefacts and the dig they were discovered at.  If you do not comply, you can be charged and held under the NSA for an unspecified time.”  Daniel announced, internally wincing at both having to tell these people that and their expressions of shock and outrage.

          “And just who the hell are you?”  A woman from the front of the crowd demanded.  “What authority do you think you have?”  She didn’t even let him answer before turning to the others and asking, “Where’s Steven?  And Joel?  Someone call them and get them here now!  And someone find Dr. Glasser!”

          Daniel eyed the crowd and narrowed his gaze at them.  “Yes, please, do find Steven.  We need to question him anyway.  As for the rest,” he turned the full force of his glare on the woman, pulling out his civilian military ID and holding it up like a cop flashing his badge.  “My name is Dr. Daniel Jackson, and I’m a civilian consultant to the USAF via the Pentagon.  I have full authority through them.  But if that’s not good enough for you, how does Presidential authority grip you?”

          The woman’s eyes widened for a moment.  “Presidential?  As in of the United States?  Don’t you think that’s laying it on a little thick?”

          “Excuse me.  Pardon me.”  Dr. Glasser pushed his way through the crowd and hurried over to Daniel.  “Daniel, is there a problem?  I can call for more security if you like?”

          “No.  Thank you, sir, that won’t be necessary.”  Daniel gave the poor man a small smile of reassurance.  “But if you could recommend a room that these fine people could wait comfortably in, that would be very helpful.”

          “Of course!  Next door in the conference hall.  I’ll unlock the doors.”

          “Perfect.  Thanks.”

          “Wait a minute…” a young man pushed ahead of the others and studied Daniel suspiciously.  “Jackson…  Aren’t you that weird guy that insisted the pyramids of Giza were built by aliens and that civilization is over 10,000 years old.”

          Daniel just looked at him impassively, having long since been validated and not caring if any of these people still remembered him as the extremely outrageous academic with crazy, ridiculous theories that were the laughing stock of academia nearly twelve years ago.

          “Yes, he is.”  A new voice answered for him.  Dr. Steven Rayner had finally shown up, and his expression vaguely reminded Daniel of Teal’c when the Jaffa was suffering from indigestion – a much more frequent occurrence since the loss of his primta.  “And I should have known you wouldn’t keep out of this, Daniel.”

          “Steven, don’t.”  Sarah pleaded, stepping out from behind Daniel.  “This isn’t something personal.”

          He glared at her.  “And I really should have known not to tell you anything.  I should have known you’d go running to him.”  Steven stared darkly at them both.  “Why can’t you just stay out of my life, Daniel?  Hmm?  Out of my career?  I’m never going to earn anyone’s respect because of you!”

          Daniel sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he contemplated the situation and his options for handling it.  “Look, I’m sorry this isn’t going to happen the way you want it to, and I’m sorry to be the one that has to enforce it.  I wish you could have this, Steven, I really do.”  And he did.  Honestly.  “But the world’s not ready.  And you should have recognized that you’d never be allowed to go through with it.”  He held up a finger, waggling it when Steven opened his mouth to refute him.  “No!  Not here.  In a moment.”

          “Dr. Jackson, what should we do with everyone?”  One SF asked him politely.

          “Pull Montoya and Whyte from inside.”  The linguist replied.  “They can cover these doors while you and Sgt. Connor keep an eye on our…guests in the lecture hall.”

          He got a smart salute for his trouble.  “Yes, sir.  And him?”  He gestured at a seething Steven.

          “He’s with me.  For now.  SG1 and I will handle it.”

          “Very good, sir.”

          Daniel nodded at the SFs and motioned for Steven and Sarah to precede him into the exhibit room.

~*~*~*~*~

Chapter III

          “Listen, Steven, I’m not going to argue with you about this or old issues.”  Daniel stated in a weary, but firm voice.  “Whether it was me here, shutting down this exhibit, or not…someone would.  Be thankful it’s my team and I that you’re working with because believe me, there are many worse people you could be dealing with on this.  At least we’re reasonable.”

          “I don’t understand why ‘your people,’” Steven stalked along beside Daniel (Sarah following behind), complaining as he went, “As you call them, think they have the right to just barge in and interfere with legitimate academic pursuits!  And why the hell would a few artefacts – though strange – be a threat to National Security?”

          “Like I said before…it’s classified, and I can’t tell you.  If you don’t like it, take it up with the President, next time you see him – though I’m fairly sure he’ll just ignore you.”  Daniel spotted his teammates continuing on with the search.  “Until then, you and everyone else on the dig, as well as anyone who had access to any of the related data, artefacts, etc., will have to turn over everything you’ve got; every single paper, file, data disk, email, photo, video…hell, post-it notes, even.  And expect to be signing another mountain of disclosure forms and agreements, Steven.”  With that warning, the linguist went over to where Mitchell and Teal’c were stacking crates around the obelisk.  “Hey, so..what’cha doing?”

          Cam dusted his hands off.  “Well, Sam called General Landry, who agreed to task the Odyssey to assist us.  Apparently they’re just lazing around up there, playing with all the new toys.”  He replied, referring to the Asgard technology their little alien friends had bestowed on the Tau’ri before their mass destruction a few months ago.

          “We are preparing the artefacts for transport, Daniel Jackson.”  Teal’c added.  “Col.Carter and ValaMalDoran are making a final sweep of the room to make certain we have not missed anything.”

          “Wow.  You guys finished already?  That’s great!”  Daniel, impressed, smiled at his friends.  “I gotta tell you, I can’t wait for this day to be done.”

          “Daniel, my darling,” Vala sidled up next to her favourite person as Steven and Sarah approached the group.  “Sam had an excellent idea that you should probably ask her about before we leave.”  She hooked an arm through Daniel’s comfortably and held on, her eyes on both archaeologists.

          With an eye-roll, Daniel extracted his arm and steered Vala around his former friends and peers, heading for Sam.  “Okay, then let’s go talk to her.”

          “Hey.”  Sam’s blonde head turned to glance at them briefly before returning to study the scanning instrument in her hand.  “So how did it go?”

          “Oh, same old schtick.  You know…’why are you here, Daniel?  Why are you determined to ruin my life, Daniel?’  But Vala says you have an idea?”  He prompted, not wanting to dwell on Steven’s anger and accusations.

          “Yep.  I’m thinking if you want the guy off your back, then the best way would be to bring him into the programme.”  Sam shut off her equipment and sat on a folding chair.  She spoke quietly.  “I’m not even suggesting as an off-world asset.  Both Dr. Rayner and Dr. Gardner could be very valuable to your department for research and on-world study.”

          Daniel pondered that for a moment.  “Maybe.”  He agreed slowly.  “But there might be some issues there, especially for Sarah after what she went through.”  And then, as it always was, a few mega-watt light bulbs went off and his mind took Sam’s idea much further than even she ever seemed to go.  Although to be fair, he’d had this fantasy floating around in his brain since Vala and her ‘treasure map’ and her ‘marriage bracelets’ led them to Glastonbury Tor and Merlin’s treasure.  But he’d never dreamed he’d actually see a way to make it happen.

          “Daniel?”  Sam inquired curiously.  He’d gone all thoughtful on her, and she recognized the expression he wore as his ‘I’m about to be brilliant’ one.

          Her adopted little brother raised a finger, eyebrows furrowed deeply.  “In a minute.  Hey, guys?”  Daniel called out to their teammates.  “Could I have a moment?  Sorry, Sarah.  Steven.  This will only take a moment, if you could just wait there.”

          Sarah nodded, holding Steven back with a hand on his arm.  The archaeologist scowled, getting more and more annoyed.

          Teal’c and Cam joined Vala, Sam, and Daniel.  “What’s up?”  Cameron asked.

          “Well…how many alien discoveries have we – meaning the SGC – made right here on Earth since the Stargate first opened?”  If the strange question confused anyone, they didn’t show it.

          “Several.”  Teal’c answered after a moment.  “Many important discoveries have been made on this planet – not always by the SGC, but sometimes by others, as this exhibit exemplifies.”

          “Antarctica, Honduras, Mexico, Egypt…”  Cam listed off countries where such things were found from his memory of mission reports and his own experience.  “…England, and now France.”

          “Right.  Now, I admit it annoys me that no one thought of this sooner – including myself, and I only got the idea after Glastonbury Tor – but with everything we now know, all these discoveries that keep being made…does anyone know why we don’t have a permanent on-world archaeological/research team to deal with right here at home?”  Daniel wondered, glancing around at each of his friends in question.

          “I don’t even pretend to understand how Tau’ri society works half the time,” Vala drawled, studying her nails, “but you said it yourself, Daniel; no one else has thought of it yet.”

          “And we did sort of…cull the academic pool and send a large number of the world’s best and brightest off to Atlantis with Dr. Weir.”  Sam pointed out.  “But you’re right.  It does seem strange that we’ve ignored our own planet all this time – not that I’m trying to invalidate the entire programme or anything, because…no way.”  She hastily added.

          “Indeed.  Perhaps now that we face a much graver enemy than even the Goa’uld or the Replicators, our focus should include the First World.  I have often noticed that Earth features more often than not in the pasts of not only the Tau’ri but of the enemies – and allies – of the Tau’ri, also.”  Teal’c stated.

          “So…what?  You think it’s time to start a team?  With those two?”  Cam asked, indicating Sarah and Steven with his thumb.  “Is that such a good idea?  And why haven’t you tried recruiting them before now?”

          “Well, yes.  I think they’d be perfect for the job of leading an Earth-side team.  And before there was no place to put them, not to mention Sarah was still dealing with her…traumatic issues.”  Daniel explained, sotto voce.  “And quite honestly, I don’t think either of them are suitable for active, off-world duty, at least not yet.  I doubt they’d be able to handle the field-training;  even Sarah, who is quite feisty when she wants to be.”

          “Okay, so what do we do now, then?”  Vala wanted to know.  “I can tell that Steven guy isn’t going to let us just beam out of here with his precious stuff without an explanation.

          “She has a point, Daniel.  And I don’t think there’s any possible cover story we could come up with that he – not to mention the rest – will believe or accept.”  Sam agreed quietly.

          “Well, I’ll have to call General Landry and see what he says.  Then…I guess I’ll have to go pester Jack so he can pester the IOA and those Pentagon suits about it.  At least I can get them clearance, for now.”

          “Right.  Jackson, you make your call to the Generals.  Sam, Vala, and I will finish packing and get this stuff aboard the Odyssey.”  Cam decided.

          Teal’c glanced at his young friend, already with his cell phone out and punching numbers on the keypad obliviously.  “I will remain with DanielJackson and lend my assistance.”

          “Fine, fine.”  Cam waved him off, leading the females of their group back over to the artefacts they were packing up.

          “Dr. Jackson for General Landry, please.”  Daniel said when the switchboard operator answered at the Mountain.  A moment later, Hank Landry’s jovial – yet serious – commanding voice responded, “Landry.”

          “General, it’s Dr. Jackson reporting in, sir.”

          “Good, good.  I was just about to call one of you.  I just got off the horn with Col. Davis at Homeworld Security.  He’s sending some Pentagon pencil-pushers to deal with your crowd of archaeologists and their disclosure agreements.”

          “Oh!  Good.  One less thing to worry about.”  Daniel breathed a sigh of relief.  That had been one aspect he did not want to deal with if he didn’t have to.  “I’ll let the rest of SG1 know, sir.”

          “Thank you.  Now, what can I do for you, son?  I suspect this call was more than just a check-in.”

          “Um…yes, actually.  I want to request that Dr. Gardner and Dr. Rayner be issued clearance – full clearance – so that I can explain to them what’s going on.”  Daniel hastily kept talking, fearing the immediate answer would be ‘not on your life, kid – not matter how many you’ve got.’  He explained the situation, his reasoning, and the idea he had proposed to the others.  When he stopped talking, there was a moment of silence on the line as Landry absorbed the info and thought about it.  “Sir, I hadn’t expected to ever see my idea happen, so I don’t have a proposal in the works, but as soon as we get back I’ll get started on a formal proposal, and I’ll oversee the new team’s work personally if you want…” he added, after a few more seconds of silence.

          “Whoa, now, Dr. Jackson, just back the truck up a bit.  We’ll deal with that later.  You’ve made an excellent point about this new team, and I will be bringing it up as soon as possible with all the necessary parties.”

          “Really?  Uh, wow.  Thank you, sir.”  Stunned, Daniel smiled a little.  He wasn’t sure he’d be able to convince Landry – or anyone else – that such a team was necessary or worth the expense.

          “Don’t thank me until it happens.  You know how much of a fight it is for any new expense with the IOA.”

          “Very true, General.  Unfortunately…”

          “As for the other…are you certain that they’re trustworthy, Dr. Jackson?  And for what reason would I have to ask the President for permission?”

          “Well, I think Sarah has proven herself trustworthy, sir.  And like I said, Steven bought the cover story we cooked up for him last time, but he won’t this time.  Not when he’s seen as much as he has and with us – me – here shutting him down.  I honestly think when he hears and sees the truth, he’ll be completely on board with the secrecy of the programme and an asset to the SGC.”  Daniel just hoped the guy could see past his own insecurities and desires for recognition long enough to comprehend the importance of it all.

          “Alright.  And if your plan for this Earth-side team doesn’t pan out?  What will you do with them then?”

          “They would still be assets to the SGC, sir.  We still need researchers, translators, and archaeologists trained in the archiving and preservation of artefacts and delicate materials.  They would earn their salaries, sir.”  Of that, at least, Daniel was positive.  “If you need something more to tell the President, or if he needs a more formal proposal, I’ll be happy to…”

          “Yes, Doctor.  So you’ve already stated.”  A pause.  “Very well.  I’ll start making phone calls, and to begin I’ll give you permission to talk to them only about the current mission you’re on and those artefacts.  Nothing else until you hear from me, understood?”  Landry’s voice was stern, but Daniel could hear the slight smile in it.

          “Loud and clear, General.  Thank you, sir.”  Daniel shut his cell and pocketed it, smiling up at Teal’c, who raised an expressive eyebrow in question.

          “He’s actually going to try and make it happen.”  The linguist explained.

          “Why would GeneralLandry not see the value in such a plan, DanielJackson?  It is a reasonable suggestion regarding the exploration mandate of the SGC.”  The Jaffa regarded the younger, brilliant man knowingly.  “You feel your ideas are of little worth to those Tau’ri making the political and economic decisions for the programme.”

          “Well…yeah.”  Daniel flushed a little, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets self-consciously.  “I’m not well-liked by the pencil pushers in Washington or the IOA.  And the recent little…incident where I went Prior doesn’t really help much.”  He wouldn’t add how he was certain that same incident had irrevocably broken what might have still remained of his roller coaster friendship with Jack.  The man hadn’t talked to him since they’d come home, and the ride back had been cold, lonely, and uncomfortably silent between them.

          Teal’c merely tilted his head in undisguised disgust.  “They are fools.  They do not see the reality of which you and I see every day, only what is written on paper.  And they do not hear the wisdom of your words, DanielJackson, because they do not believe in anything beyond their own desires and petty needs.  This, however, I do not believe will prevent you from doing what must be done.”

          “No, you’re right.  Besides,” Daniel’s grin flashed and there was a hard gleam in his surreal blue eyes that was usually reserved for Goa’ulds, Priors, and Jack O’Neill, “It was worth it just for scaring the total crap out of Weasel-Woolsey.”

          Teal’c smiled in a peacefully content way, as he did when fools were made to see how foolish they truly are.  “Indeed.”

          Daniel rubbed at the bridge of his nose and sighed, gearing himself up to go talk to Steven again.  “Let’s go, my friend.  Might as well try and calm the storm brewing over Steven’s stubborn head.”  The big black man followed Daniel calmly, staying just far enough behind to remain overtly protective and yet still be immensely intimidating.

          “That’s a poor excuse and you know it, Sarah.”  Steven was saying to the weary, sad female as they approached.  “You’ve sold out to the military, too, haven’t you?  Wherever you went to after Dr. Jordan died…”

          “That’s enough, Steven.”  Daniel snapped, stepping between the two and giving his former colleague a stony stare.  “That’s none of your business, and you know it.  Leave Sarah be.  And as for right now, you can just stop throwing accusations and blame around.  Like I said before, if Sarah hadn’t told me, then you’d be dealing with much less agreeable people, and probably staring at the inside of a prison cell right now.”

          Livid, Steven threw his hands in the air and gave a short, growling scream of pure frustration.  “Are you just completely insane?!  What have I done that’s so goddamned awful I’d be imprisoned for it?  Tell me, Daniel…” Steven was right in Daniel’s face as he spoke now, poking the other man in the chest.  Daniel merely glared back at him, unfazed – after all, one didn’t face down System Lords, hoards of Jaffa, and hundreds of Replicators (not to mention die a few times) without growing a backbone.  “…what do I have to fear from you?”

          “There’s only one way I can tell you anything, Steven.  I’m working on that, but at the moment I’ve only got permission to discuss the current situation.  The artefacts we’re confiscating are a threat to National Security because knowledge of their existence is a potential threat to the programme I am a part of – have been for the last eleven years or so.”  Daniel folded his arms over his chest.  “If you’ll kindly back off and calm down, we can discuss this like the professionals and adults we are.”

          “Steven, please.”  Sarah laid a hand on Daniel’s arm, stepping out from behind him.  “I know you’re confused, and upset, and that you don’t really trust either of us, but Daniel’s telling you the truth.  He’s only telling you what he’s allowed to, and if you ever believe me about anything at all ever again…please believe that what he isn’t telling you is for your protection, not because he wants to ruin your career or your life, nor because he wants the credit of your discovery.”

          Rayner stared at her for a moment, then looked back at Daniel before taking a slow, deliberate step back.  “Fine.  Start talking.”

          “Thank you.”  Daniel flicked his eyes toward Teal’c, who’d tensed and looked very much like he was prepared to jump in and restrain Steven if he dared touch one hair on Daniel’s head.  In a small nod, the linguist conveyed to the Jaffa that the situation was under control.  Teal’c simply nodded back and planted himself where he stood like a titanium wall.  Realizing his self-appointed guardian wasn’t budging, Daniel shrugged.

          “Well?”  Steven demanded impatiently.

          “There isn’t really much I can tell you because I haven’t had time, yet, to really study things.  But what I do know is this: the material some of those artefacts are made of can’t be found on this planet, and the writing on the broken obelisk and those tablets is a language that very, very few people anywhere have ever heard of, spoken or read or written in millennia, or are currently able to translate.”

          Sarah’s eyes widened in apparent recognition.  “I…I remember…”

          “If you do, then you know how much more important it is that we take this stuff and figure it out before someone who doesn’t understand the technology fools around with it.”  Daniel hastily interrupted, shooting her a warning look.

          Steven frowned.  “You know what it is, Sarah?”

          “No.  I only…vaguely know of who may have built it.”

          “I suspect it’s some form of communication device.  Sam was getting power readings earlier, so it may be still working.”  Daniel shrugged at the incredulous look on Steven’s face.  “Like I said, I’m making educated guesses because I haven’t had a chance to really study it.”

          “Okay…but…you can read the writing?  You know who made that stuff?”  Steven kept on frowning.  “I don’t understand how that’s possible.  No one has seen anything like that writing before.”

          “I wish I could tell you how, Steven.  And if my request is granted, I promise I will.”

          The dark-haired man shook his head, trying to process things.  “What request?”

          Teal’c stepped up to Daniel’s side, dropping a hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently in support.  “DanielJackson has petitioned of our superiors to be allowed to bring both yourself and SarahGardner into the programme, with full-disclosure of the programme’s mandates, activities, and achievements.  He believes you would be great assets to…your nation if you agree to join us.”

          Blinking at the giant of a man, Steven looked shocked.  “What?  You want us to work for the government?  And who are you?”

          “This is…Murray.”  Daniel hesitated, using the Tau’ri name Jack had once pinned on the Jaffa as a cover because he still didn’t know how much he could safely tell Steven.  “He’s a very good friend of mine, and he’s a member of my team.  Yes, Steven, I’m waiting for permission to recruit the both of you.”  He smiled faintly.  “You want to work on something important?  You want recognition and credit?  I guarantee you’ll get it.  This project is the greatest adventure you’ll ever have, Steven.  You’ll learn things, see things, you never dreamed possible.  And…” Daniel’s expression saddened, his eyes holding a wealth of knowledge and sorrow.  “…you’ll discover just how insignificant all of that is.  What I do – what we do – is more important than any personal desire or the ridiculous squabbles the nations of our world are constantly mired in.”

          “He’s not exaggerating, Steven.”  Sarah added, her voice quiet and full of deep sadness and conviction.  “I only remember small parts of what happened to me, but it’s enough to know that Daniel is a part of something profound.  Not just to the academic world but to all of humanity.”  She looked at Daniel.  “I don’t know if I can be involved, Daniel.  I don’t think I can ever go out there again…”

          “No, Sarah.”  He took her hands and clasped them tightly.  “Of course not.  You wouldn’t be expected to be on a field unit.  Your feet would stay firmly planted on terra firma, I promise.  No, what I have in mind would suit you both much better than the kinds of things I run around doing on an average day at the office.”  Daniel quirked a smile.  “You would have your own team.  I’d supervise, advise, etc., but your team would essentially be free agents.”  He sobered.  “I won’t lie and tell you that you’d be in no danger, however.”

          “Indeed.  There are yet many…snakes to be wary of.”  Teal’c agreed sagely.  “And you may often be required to travel to places of unrest and strife around the world.”

          Daniel’s smile was weak.  “Yeah.  Snakes don’t have the monopoly on evil, after all.  Humans can be just as bad.”  He coughed and straightened.  “Anyway, I just want you to think about it.  I’m afraid I can’t say anything further at the moment.  And Steven,” Daniel threw an abjectly apologetic expression at the other man.  “I am truly sorry to bust up your exhibit.  If the world was ready, I’d have done what I could to help you share it with everyone. But not quite yet.  We’re still…much too young.”

          Frowning because he had no idea what Daniel meant by that, Steven warily nodded.  “I’ll reserve judgement.  For now.  And I’ll think about what you want to offer, Daniel.  But no promises.”

          “I’ll think about it, too.”  Sarah said.  “I…have to decide if I’m strong enough to face that reality again.”

          “If it matters, I think you are.  And I think you both can make a difference.”  Daniel glanced over as Vala called his name.  “Duty calls.  Come on, T…Murray.  Let’s go see what’s up.”  Together, the teammates joined the others, leaving Sarah and Steven alone to talk everything over.

          “You bellowed?”  He drawled, sidestepping a crate.

          “We’re done.”  Vala ignored the jibe.  “We were wondering what General Landry said.”

          “He’s looking into the whole new team thing.”  Daniel informed them, feeling a bit more pleased about it now that the possibility of it really happening was setting in.  “And he said he’d try and talk the powers-that-be into bringing Sarah and Steven into the fold.  They only have clearance regarding this mission, for the time being, however.”

          “Right.  Any new orders?”  Cam asked.

          “No.  He did say the Pentagon was sending some people to deal with the rest of Steven’s dig team.”  He’d almost forgotten that part.

          Sam rolled her eyes.  “Col. Emerson offered to beam us all up to Odyssey and drop us off back in the Springs instead of us flying back the conventional way.”

          “Great.”  Daniel shrugged.  “Beats jet-lag.”

          “What about the two Doctors over there?”  Cameron pulled out his radio when it crackled, holding up a hand.  “Hold that thought…Mitchell.”

          “Col. Mitchell, a team from the Pentagon has arrived, sir.  They’re requesting to speak to SG1 before they debrief the archaeologists in the conference room.”

          “Copy that.  We’re coming.”  The officer answered.  “You heard the man, folks.”  He ushered them forward.  As they neared Sarah and Steven, Sam indicated that they should follow.

          “You two better tag along.  I’m sure the Pentagon sent a nice big stack of forms for you to sign off on as well.”

          Steven raised both eyebrows in surprise at the implied official brass that was getting involved, but didn’t protest.  Daniel suspected his curiosity was slowly overriding his animosity and hopefully tweaking his interest in the prospect of Daniel’s offer.  Both he and Sarah allowed themselves to be herded along to the lecture hall next door.

          The first one of SG1 to say anything at the sight of who was requesting their presence was Vala.

          “Oh noNot you again.”

          Richard Woolsey looked very much like he’d rather be elsewhere, too.  “Ms. MalDoran.  How nice to see you again.”  No one mistook that for anything more than sheer politeness.

          “If it isn’t the little weasel-y man.”  Vala returned the greeting none to fondly – not that any of her friends rushed to interrupt.  “Why do you insist on turning up where we least want to see you?”

          “I’m only trying to do my job.”

          “Alright.  So do it.  You don’t need us for that.”  Cam jumped in, aware that there was an entire roomful of curious onlookers staring and listening raptly to the exchange.

          “No, I don’t.  I do, however, have need of Dr. Rayner and Dr. Gardner.  I believe their statements and forms will take considerably longer to get through, and I’ve been asked to administer to them personally.”  Woolsey drew himself up to stand as straight as he could, trying to appear in control – though both he and SG1 knew better.  “As they were not among these others, I assumed they would be with SG1.”

          “Why personally?”  Sam asked suspiciously.  “And by who?  General O’Neill?  Or are you here doing the IOA’s dirty work again?”

          “Because just before I arrived, General Landry contacted me with direct orders from the Joint Chiefs to work on their forms for full clearance and disclosure, Col. Carter.”  Woolsey frowned at her.  “And I take offence at the implication that the IOA has any part of any untoward activities!”

          “Ha!”  Vala tossed her hair over her shoulder indignantly.  “Of course you do.”

          “Daniel?”  Sarah looked at him questioningly.  The SGC’s top civilian sighed and rubbed at his eyes.  He could feel the headache coming on fast.  “It’s a very long story, Sarah.  Don’t worry about it.”  Daniel gestured to one of his least favourite people.  “This is Richard Woolsey.  He’s apparently been appointed the task of debriefing you both and helping you fill out all the stuff you’ll have to in order to get official full clearance.  You’re going to be asked a lot of questions, Steven.”  Daniel warned, turning to the other of his former peers.  “And you will probably be asked to turn over every little thing you’ve got regarding…all that stuff we are taking with us.”

          Steven nodded slowly.  “Fine.  So…what?  Once we fill out papers and answer questions, then what?”

          “Well, you can still give your presentation and hold your exhibition, but you’ll have to comply with any editing these folks make.”  Daniel nodded toward the JAG lawyers in Air Force uniforms standing behind Woolsey.  “I’m afraid it won’t be quite as exciting as it was going to be, but it’s up to you.  After that…I think you’d both better pack up your belongings because you’ll likely be moving.”

          “Hey!  Colorado Springs isn’t so bad.”  Cam smiled and clapped Daniel on the shoulder, the down-home Southern charm rolling off him.  “You’ll like it, I’m sure.”

          “Yes, well…” Woolsey interrupted.  “We have a lot of work to do, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to get started.  Oh, and Dr. Jackson?”

          Daniel gazed heavily at Woolsey.  “What?”  He wanted to smirk at the decidedly nervous expression on the man’s face.  “For cryin’ out loud, relax, Dick!  I can’t wiggle my fingers and hang you half-way up a wall by the throat anymore.”

          Clearing his throat and flushing in embarrassment, Woolsey tugged at the collar of his shirt.  “Yes, well, I merely wanted to pass on a message from General Landry.  He’s meeting you on the Odyssey, and he’s requested you report to the briefing room immediately when you arrive.”

          “Ah.  Fine then.”  Ignoring the man now, Daniel turned to smile reassuringly at Steven and Sarah.  “Well, I’m leaving you to it.  You’ll be fine.  Just answer all his questions, be as truthful as possible, and it’ll be over sooner than you think.”

          “Wait!  You’re leaving?”  Sarah held onto his arm.

          “I have to.  I’ve got a job to do.  And a General waiting.”  He grinned, shooting a wink at his teammates.  “First rule of working in a military setting: never keep a General waiting.”  He leaned in and gave Sarah a quick kiss on the cheek.  “When you’re brought to the Mountain, I’ll probably be there.”  He held out a tentative hand to Steven.  “Good luck.”

          Slowly reaching out, Steven accepted the handshake.  “Thanks.  I still don’t know if I believe you or that any of this is worth it, but…”

          Daniel nodded, stuffing his hands in his pockets.  “I won’t make promises or guarantees because, frankly, my work is far too unstable and uncertain for that.  But…I honestly believe you’ll agree how important it is, once you know.”

          “That’s fair.”  Steven allowed.

          “If you’ll follow me, Doctors?”  Woolsey motioned them to come with him.  They left, and Daniel watched them go with a sigh of relief.

          “Daniel?  You okay?”  Sam dropped a hand on his shoulder and squeezed in concern.

          “Yeah.  I’m fine, Sam.  Just…hoping that by bringing them in, I won’t be getting them killed.”

          Sam looked in the direction they’d gone.  “You’ve warned them, and Sarah has a pretty good idea already how dangerous it could be.  And no doubt Woolsey will do a thorough job of listing off all the dangers before they sign anything.  If they decide to join after that, then…”

          “Then it’s their choices,” Mitchell drawled seriously, “And anything that happens to them on the job after that will not be your fault, Daniel.”  Two years with SG1 and he’d gotten to know Daniel’s penchant for guilt quite well.  “Now, let’s go.  There’s a General waiting, and like the man said, we don’t want to do that!”

~*~*~*~*~

On to Part II:  https://kalichaos.wordpress.com/stargate/infinitas/part-ii/

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