Author Topic: Chapter 13  (Read 5662 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 13
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:31:24 AM »
Due to 'gate-lag it was already dark when they got back, so the Survivors had lit a bonfire in celebration. Most of them had gathered around it, laughing, shouting and cheering. Their pair of victories, plus the fact that they hadn't lost anyone, had buoyed spirits to the point of euphoria and not even the SGC personnel were immune to the effect. There was a feeling running through the SR that they were on track, finally, and it felt good. As Nelson walked past the spread of exotic foods brought in by the Deuca, he picked up some kind of small roasted bird, hoping it actually did taste like chicken, and listened in to some of the nearby conversation

"So when the man gets back from the woods," Galosi began to snicker, "he carries a bear-mark… and runs right into his tsiio!"

The other Valei burst into raucous laughter, rocking back and forth. Ahardt waited for them to head back to the bonfire before pulling Galosi aside and asking, "What's a tsiio?"

Galosi looked at him curiously. "Like you."

"I'm a tsiio?"

"Well, you're our tsiio, at least."

Nelson shook his head in confusion, and Galosi sighed, ruefully. "One who returns carrying a bear-mark is one who killed nothing on his hunt. His shame is such that he must return unclothed. Tsiio is your name for our primarch." He explained patiently.

"You mean… your CO??" Nelson exclaimed.

"Yes! Our tsiio!"

Nelson laughed more out of wonderment than amusement, but Galosi seemed satisfied and joined the others. Nelson used the term a lot but had never actually explained where it came from. Technically, Tony was their CO, but they'd had plenty of reason to put Nelson in that position. It shouldn't be this hard to understand their version of funny. Nelson reflected, as he followed the others.

-.-

When Hargrove had finally finished his report to the Colonel, he went over to the bonfire and noticed dancing. Some of the Kolasti had started up instrumental music, using pipes they'd carved and basic percussion instruments, and quite a few people had joined in. After a quick search of the general area, he slowly walked over towards the chairs he'd seen.

Blake, Haley, and Suna were all chatting away, far enough from the music to be heard easily. He heard Blake talking as he approached.

"It was about two years ago. I was a mechanical engineer working for a firm in Denver. Everything was perfectly normal one moment, and the next thing I knew I was being whisked away to Colorado Springs by some scary government types. I had to sign a small book’s worth of nondisclosure agreements before they finally told me that it was a matter of national security.”

Blake sighed. “Turns out I wasn’t alone. About two dozen of us were herded into a room, given a speech about preserving mankind, and then they opened the ‘gate right in front of us." He shook his head at the memory, and Haley laughed.

"I was there, you know. You should have seen your faces. Probably what I looked like when I started working there a year before."

Suna looked from one to the other. "So it’s true that people on your world know nothing of the Stargates?"

"That’s right." Blake continued. "Only a very few of us do. When I found out, it flattened me."

"But why were you chosen, then? Out of so many people?"

"Because he’s the best." Haley hugged him, and he looked down, apparently embarrassed. "When the threat was over, he signed on with the SGC right away. He spent every free moment learning everything he could about the Goa'uld and other aliens out here. He started learning their language, and trying to understand the physics behind their technology. That's actually how we first met, in one of the labs on the base." Haley smiled as Hargrove stepped closer and quietly took an empty chair next to them. "He'd get so wrapped up in his work that he wouldn't notice anything happening around him."

Suna gave a slight smile. "Yes, it's a common problem in the men from your planet."

Both of them laughed lightly, and Haley gave Hargrove a sidelong glance before standing up. "Come on, honey," she tugged Blake's arm. "Let's see if there's any more of this drink back at the tables." She swirled an amber-colored liquid in her glass before downing it.

"But, I-" Blake protested for a moment. "Ok." He relented and allowed her to pull him after her, towards the others.

Hargrove's lip twitched. Very subtle, he thought, as he watched the bonfire with Suna for a while. She'd done well today. She hadn't had to kill anyone, but her cover fire had distracted the enemy and forced them under cover, giving the rest of them a chance to hit back.

Eventually, she looked at him. "Is it true we'll be going offworld again tomorrow?"

He nodded. "We've got a few more targets to hit, at least. The Colonel doesn't want to lose the momentum we've built up since the cure went out. Plus, the rest of the Survivors need combat experience, and this way they'll get it."

"Have you thought any more about our…" she quirked a smile, "negotiations?"

There it was. "A lot, actually."

"And?" He could hear her suspicion in the word.

"And I need to explain something to you." He leaned forward. "I've tried this romance thing before, back on Earth, and it never ended well for me. I kept on putting work first, and because my job was a secret, I could never tell anyone why. Time and again, I was called away for some reason or other, and I never said no." He shook his head. "I guess I never really wanted a relationship, or I would have made the time."

Suna kept her voice flat. "I see."

"No, there's more." He assured her. "This happened a long time ago, and I eventually just stopped thinking about it. Romance, love, attraction, none of them really had any meaning for me. That's why I didn't notice anything; why I was so surprised the other day."

"And since then, you've put it out of your mind, as you always do?"

"That's just it. I haven't!" He looked her in the eyes. "I found myself actually thinking it's a possibility. Thinking about you, about what it'd be like."

She looked confused. "So you do wish this?"

"It’s… complicated." He sighed and leaned back, looking up at the stars. "Part of the problem is that we work together." It sounded pretty grim, as he thought back over it, but she had a right to hear it all.

"On Earth, I worked for a group of people called the CIA. They would call you an ‘asset’. To them, all of the Survivors are nothing more than resources to be hoarded, or used." He hesitated. "Or expended."

Suna slowly nodded. "Expended. You mean killed."

"That’s right." He let out a deep breath. "Let’s just say that getting emotionally invested in an asset is a very bad idea back home."

"Is that what you’ve done? Become… invested in me?"

Hargrove shrugged uncomfortably. "Not all the rules back home make sense out here. Let's just say… I'm willing to take the risk if you still are. You know what I'm like. My job is still the most important thing I have, but you're part of that job. As long as we take things slow, see how it goes, I want to explore this." He stopped, considering that. "Wow, I actually do want to explore this. That's new."

She took his hand, and wrapped his arm around herself, turning back to look at the bonfire. "Slow. I can do that."

-.-

"Captain Desousa?" Cayo called out as quietly as he could manage. The Captain had been headed towards his barracks tent, but turned at the sound of his name. He approached, swaying slightly. The Deuca had provided some spirits along with the food they'd delivered to the SR, and most of the Survivors, both tau'ri and others, had taken part. He peered into the darkness hiding Cayo for a moment, and then grinned and plopped down on the ground next to him.

"Call me David." He responded good-naturedly.

"David, then. What is the Colonel doing?" Cayo pointed into the darkness, where the Colonel had knelt by a small rock outside the camp almost an hour ago.

David squinted into the darkness, trying to pick him out. "Oh, that." He sighed. "He's praying for the souls of the people we killed today. He does that every time he has to kill, for any reason, I guess."

It was not the answer Cayo had expected. "He's praying for them?? To which god?"

"Well, that's… hard to explain." Desousa hedged. He seemed to think about it for a moment. "Uh, it's not the same. His 'god' is… different."

"How?"

"Well, for one, he doesn't really have another name aside from 'God'. And he doesn't go around ordering people to kill in his name." David looked troubled. "Look, I told you there are a lot of people on Earth, right? Well, they believe a lot of different things. I'm not very religious, but the 'god' the Colonel believes in is more of a concept than a person, really."

"So he isn't real?"

"Well, a lot of people think he is, and a lot think he isn't."

Cayo thought his way through the tangled logic. The Goa'uld may be horrific false gods, but at least there was no doubt they existed. "Every morning, or at least when he's not offworld, the Colonel takes a book and leaves the camp for a time. Is that related?"

"Yeah, that's his devotional. Basically, he studies that book and prays every morning."

"If his god isn't real, then who wrote the book?"

Desousa considered for a moment. "A lot of people wrote parts to the book. Some think that God used them as his hands to write it, though."

"Suna's right. Your world is strange." Cayo shook his head, as David grinned.

"You get that too, eh?"

They both watched as the Colonel slowly stood and walked back towards the camp. Desousa seemed perfectly comfortable sitting there rather than heading back himself, so Cayo gathered the courage to ask him more.

"You said that you’re not ‘religious’. Do you not believe that this ‘God’ looks after you? That he can be known through his miracles?"

Desousa shook his head. "My family raised me to believe in that sort of stuff, but I’ve never seen anything that made it even remotely real for me."

That surprised Cayo. "But you have!"

When Desousa gave him a confused look, he tried to explain. "From what I was told, when I step through the Stargate, my body is sheared apart, so that nothing is left. A message is then sent over unimaginable distances, to another ‘gate, which uses that message to rebuild me."

He shrugged uncomfortably. "I suppose that's one way of putting it."

"And yet, despite what happens when I use the ‘gate, I feel no pain. No discomfort. Nothing at all. Is that not a miracle in itself?"

"Just cuz we don’t know how something works, that doesn’t mean it’s a miracle." He was starting to sound defensive.

"And even if someday you do find out how, that doesn’t mean it’s not." Cayo stood up, and brushed himself off. "Perhaps the Colonel has the right idea after all."

As he walked back over to the bonfire, he resisted the urge to look back. Desousa may have given him a lot to think about, but he got the impression that he’d just returned the favor.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:13:25 AM by Daen »