Author Topic: Chapter 11  (Read 5658 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 11
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:31:34 AM »
Hargrove wasn't used to being in the dark. On Earth, he'd carried an almost encyclopedic knowledge, from terrorist networks in former Russian states all the way to the various customs of Afghan villages used to distinguish those terrorists. He could recite hundreds of names from memory, and vast details about each of them: their favorite food or drink, their preferred schedules, their most reliable assets in the field.

Out here, everything was different. Sure, he'd absorbed a great many details about the Goa'uld in this region of space. He knew as many 'gate addresses as the rest of the Survivors combined, along with as much relevant information about each of those planets as he could find. Still, this Argyros person continued to frustrate him. Whoever his people were, they were obviously a technologically and socially advanced people, maybe even as much as the Tollans, but they were also unlike them. They didn't seem to have the same reluctance when it came to messing around with other societies.

As he sat on a large rock near the 'gate, waiting for the source of his frustrations to return, he heard soft footsteps from behind him. Based on the weight, and spacing… "Hello, Suna."

He heard a gasp, and she stepped up next to him, looking reproachful. "How did you know it was me?"

"It's my job." He gestured to the rock, and she sat next to him. "Come to help me wait?"

She nodded ruefully. "Sometime soon, I'm sure I'll be able to surprise you. Tony also told me to give you as much detail on Argyros as I could remember."

"Yeah, I was just thinking about him. Pretty soon, the Colonel will open negotiations with whoever these people are, and I wish I knew a whole lot more about them. This whole miracle-cure situation has me on edge, especially." He rose and paced slowly in front of the rock. "There are just too many coincidences here. Cayo said a disease broke out on Zau forty years ago, and a guy named Kallias suddenly had the cure for it, ready and for sale."

She leaned forward. "You think he caused the illness?"

"I doubt it. If he did, he'd probably have taken a lot more than just a portion of your crops in payment. My guess is, he knew your people might get sick, and came prepared just in case. Then he died, or retired, and Argyros took over in his place. Both have Greek names, and Argyros' clothing looks vaguely Greek, too."

"They're from a world called Gree?"

He shook his head, smiling. "There's a region on Earth called Greece. It's home to a very, very old culture, and we know the Goa'uld visited that general area thousands of years ago. It's probably where his ancestors lived."

He continued pacing. "He didn't have to come with you to help us. He could have 'charged' us for his help up front instead of afterwards. Still, I don't trust him. I can't shake the feeling that he's using us somehow."

"Well of course he is." She stood up to look him in the eye. At his questioning glance, she continued. "Everyone uses everyone else, Hargrove. It's the way things work. Cayo and I used the tau'ri to learn how to fight better, and how to hurt the Goa'uld. Your people used us to recruit from the Zau, and other worlds. I'm sure Argyros is using us all to his own ends, as well. All that really matters is whether being used will harm us in any way."

He thought about it, and nodded. "I suppose you're right."

"You see the details, but not the picture itself. I believe David called it 'missing the forest for the trees'."

Hargrove didn't know quite how to respond. Instead, he sat down next to her, waiting for the 'gate in silence for a while.

Eventually, she spoke up again, quietly. "There is something I must know, Hargrove."

"What's that?" He looked over at her.

She kissed him, hard. The shock and surprise of it immobilized him and he nearly fell off the rock before he caught his balance. He didn't seem to know what to do with his hands for a moment, before he gently pushed her back. He had to work his tongue for a moment before he could speak. "What are you doing?" He asked as calmly as he could.

She smiled back at him. "Zau women have no trouble pursuing what- and who- we want." She moved towards him again, but he kept her at arm's length, this time. Confusion covered her features, and then her face colored, and she turned away from him.

She stood up to leave. "It seems I know what I wanted to."

"Suna, wait! Stop." He called out. "Please, let me try to explain."

She turned, stiffly. "What is there to explain? You don't see me in the same light. Such things happen."

Things were happening way too fast. He raced to compose his thoughts. "It's not that at all. You just… caught me off guard, that's all."

Suna studied his face carefully. "You truly didn't know?"

"No, I didn't." He shrugged. He had the urge to apologize, for some reason.

"We spent four days together, observing that camp offworld." She crossed her arms.

"Recon, and infiltration training!" Hargrove protested. He was sweating, he realized. He'd faced CIA interrogations with more composure than this. "I didn't notice anything like… this."

"Hmm." She suddenly smiled and walked over to him. "It seems I was able to surprise you, after all." To his astonishment, she kissed him on the cheek, and then walked away.

"Wait, how am I supposed to take this?" He called out after her.

Over her shoulder, she replied, "Think of it as… opening negotiations!" and then she was gone.

-.-

It was just after dawn the next day when Tony and Hargrove finally got a radio call from the 'gate, saying that their alien visitor was back. Despite the early hour, a group of Survivors formed around the command tent just after Argyros arrived. The tensions of the past few days hadn't entirely dissipated, but Tony could tell from the general tone of his people that they were hopeful again.

The loss of two Survivors, to illness of all things, had affected them all in different ways, mostly along cultural lines. Tony could see that the reality of their situation, of their goals, was sinking in on some of the younger Survivors. Perhaps they'd not fully appreciated what they were getting into at first.

They'd buried the two Zau outside the camp, the night before. Tony had said a few words commemorating them, trite-sounding to his own ears, but they seemed to lift some spirits. Suna had followed with a traditional chant from her homeworld, before the rest were dismissed for the night. It wasn't the first funeral he'd attended as the deceased's commanding officer, but he'd found his mind wandering back to the service several times that night. Perhaps that's how it's meant to be, he thought. They won't rest easy, not until we're out there fighting for what they believed in.

Tony and Ahardt had agreed that training should continue, despite the current situation. Ahardt was out there even now, drilling one of the groups just as hard as he usually did. Tony wished he could be out there with them, as he tried to settle his stomach. A lot was riding on these talks, after all.

Argyros swept in, flanked by Hargrove and Cayo. Tony extended a hand and Argyros took it, seeming much more comfortable about it, this time. "Welcome back to the Redoubt."

"Thank you, Colonel." He sat in the chair offered by Cayo, as Tony continued.

"You took longer than we expected. Is everything all right?"

"Yes, I apologize for that." Argyros grimaced. "Your plight generated more controversy than even I could anticipate. However, as you know, I did not return empty-handed." Outside the camp, a pair of pale-skinned men guarded another hover-vehicle laden with boxes. Tony had allowed them to the edge of the camp, over Hargrove's objections. He wanted this disease gone as soon as possible, and the less time spent on back-and-forth, the better.

"I take it your people have an offer for us?" Tony prompted.

"Yes and no, as I will explain." Argyros steepled his fingers. "As you may know, the Deuca, as my people call themselves, have been trading on various worlds for centuries now. We have a set formula that we follow almost without exception. Because your people are newcomers to this planet, and are technically not even a society, so much as a group of other societies, you've fallen into a gap as far as Deuca law is concerned. The Boule met for several hours, and finally decided to allow this exchange on a trial basis."

Tony shared a glance with Hargrove. "And what does that mean for us?"

Argyros smiled. "Provided you allow a Deuca observer- that would be me- to monitor your progress in the fight with the Goa'uld, I've been authorized to give you the same medical care offered to the Havin people. In short, I would treat this disease immediately and permanently, and would be on hand to keep your people healthy for as long as this arrangement endures."

"And what does this… Boule?" Argyros nodded at him, "want in exchange?"

"Quite simply, the portal symbols to every world from which you've recruited people."

There was a moment of silence. Tony had gone over possibilities with Hargrove since yesterday. They'd thought the Deuca, as he should now call them, would ask for weapons, or maybe for military intervention with one of their own conflicts. From Hargrove's expression, he was mildly surprised as well.

"All you want are 'gate addresses?" Hargrove echoed. "What's the catch?"

"Don't look so surprised, Major. Those locations are more valuable to us than you know." He sighed. "We've had to work very hard over the years to keep our transactions hidden from the Goa'uld. If they discovered what we were doing, they would enslave us or wipe us out, as is their way. During my brief walk through your camp yesterday, I could tell from fighting styles, accents, appearance, and even gait, that you had people from at least six different planets here. It's reasonable to assume that you would recruit from places the Goa'uld do not control."

"And you want to trade with these people, naturally." Tony was beginning to understand. There were still details he wanted to iron out, though.

He nodded at Hargrove, who brought up a topic of his own. "What about this disease? You said you can cure it, but you never said how. We don't even know exactly what it is!"

Argyros nodded glumly. "It's a bacterial infection. From my scans, I could see it was originally a harmless organism from Zau. When it traveled with your people to several other planets, it gained new traits and became deadly. The Deuca can cure it simply because we've been dealing with these kinds of infections for decades. We have a natural immunity, hence my blood being a useful component in yesterday's treatments."

"How come we've never heard of it before? The SGC has been sending people to other planets for years, and never had this problem."

"I can only theorize to that." Argyros shrugged. "However, I suspect you only went to one planet at a time, until recently."

Hargrove still looked suspicious, but didn't ask anything else.

"If we take this deal, you said you'd be an observer, keeping track of our fight with the Goa'uld." Tony put in. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

"Mostly, what it seems." Argyros shrugged again. "I would be present for every planning session that had to do with the Goa'uld, and with every operation therein. I would not fight, except in self-defense. I would also supervise the actions of any Healers the Boule may send to keep you in good health."

Tony gave him a frank stare. "If your people are working alongside us, your safety will be our concern. If you do this, all of you will be under my command. If I tell you to help one person instead of another, you'll do it. If I tell you to run to the 'gate and leave us behind, you won't hesitate. Understood?"

Argyros smiled. "I understand the need for unquestioned leadership, Colonel; I have been in military service before. It reassures me that you bring this up. I agree that we will be under your command." He leaned forward. "Of course, you understand that any other matters pertaining to the Goa'uld will also demand my attention. Any of their technology you may obtain, for example."

Tony shared a concerned glance with Hargrove. "Any technology we capture we'll almost certainly want to use for more missions against the Goa'uld. If you're suggesting the Deuca would want to take it-"

"Certainly not!" Argyros assured him, looking worried. "I was only suggesting that we study such technologies together. Anything we can learn about their tools, such as how they are operated, powered, or controlled, would be information the Boule would be interested in. Naturally, you would use any such devices whenever you needed them in combat, but when you're studying them…"

"You'd want to be there. I understand."

"There is one more thing." Hargrove put in. "If we're responsible for your people, we'll need something in exchange." Both Tony and Argyros looked at him curiously. "We can't trade with any of those planets you brought up, not without endangering them. How about you divert some of the food you get from them to us, instead? Say… enough to feed this camp, as long as we're fighting the Goa'uld for you."

Tony was slightly appalled at the bluntness of Hargrove's statement, but it did make sense. They'd gathered a lot of supplies from the other encampments on the planet, but even so were down to about half their original food supply. And they would be taking the risks against the Goa'uld, while these Deuca stayed in the shadows.

"That's not feasible." Argyros concluded after a moment's thought. "Because of your intervention, Zau is closed to the Deuca, and everyone else. Without that contract, my people can't afford any 'side deals'."

"No, he's right." Tony responded. "We'll be giving you six new trading partners. Even if only a few of them accept the deal, you should have plenty to make up for Zau's loss."

"You make a fair point." Argyros thought about it. "The Boule will probably be unhappy with the arrangement, but I will do what I can to convince them."

Tony hid a smile. Classic haggling tactics included claiming you were taking a loss. Argyros was probably getting a percentage from each deal he'd get with his new partners. Tony looked at Hargrove, who gave a minute shake of his head, meaning he had no more objections, so he rose and extended his hand. "Looks like we have a deal, Argyros." He paused. "Come to think of it, do you even have a title, or should we just keep calling you by name?"

Argyros shook his hand, and then began rummaging through his bag. "My title is Pyrta. In your language, it would mean 'enactor', or possibly 'problem solver'." He removed a tall glass bottle and a pair of metal glasses, and set them on the table. "It is Deuca custom to seal such arrangements with a drink. Shall we?"

Tony gave a genuine smile as he reached for the pale green liquid poured for him. "It'd be a pleasure, Pyrta Argyros."
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:14:31 AM by Daen »