Author Topic: Chapter 3  (Read 6367 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 3
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:32:17 AM »
"Join the SGC, they said. See the worlds, they said!" Ahardt was grumbling a little too loudly to be serious about it.

Beside him, Temens looked at him quizzically. "What's your gripe with the SGC this time?"

Ahardt grinned. "Think about it. Where else could I nearly be killed with an alien gun, nearly suffer heat-stroke, and nearly drown in a flash-flood, all in less than an hour? What other job description could say that?"

"Point taken."

Ahardt held his hands to his ears briefly. "Not to mention nearly go deaf, too. What was that, anyway?"

"According to Captain Page, something that shouldn't be happening again, I hope."

Tony kept quiet, for the time being. His team, even Desousa, had been talking as they'd walked, and now as they were waiting for Stokes to update everyone. Their way of allaying anxiety, he supposed. Tony couldn't bring himself to join in. Possibilities ran through his head, one after the other, as to what was wrong; what could have caused this situation.

He could count eighteen people in the clearing around the lab. No, nineteen. A sour-looking scientist stepped out, too. SG teams seven, eight, eleven, and his own team, plus the three researchers assigned to this planet for some reason.

Colonel Stokes stepped forward, just inside the rough circle of people, and a hush fell on the group.

"All right. As you all know, we've lost contact with Earth and the Alpha Site. Multiple attempts to dial both, from several planets, have all failed over the past few hours, and no one can say exactly why. Without the 'gate, we'll need a ship to get home. Doctor Matthews here," he gestured at a nervous-looking woman near the lab entrance, "knows the 'gate address to Tollanna, one of our offworld allies' homeworlds. I'll be going there with Major Dodson to ask for their help. If anyone else has any bright ideas, now's the time to speak up, because right now we could use them." He looked around, expectantly.

Tony hesitated, then stepped forward. "The Tok'ra may be able to help. We know they have some ships-" But Stokes was already shaking his head.

"Already considered that. No one we have here knows the address to Vorash. We have no way of contacting them."

There was a murmur from the group, and Tony heard someone grumble, "You gotta be kidding. What kind of allies don't leave a calling card?"

Evidently Stokes had heard that, because he looked in that direction. "They're a society of infiltrators, remember. Their world's address is need-to-know, and no one here knows it. Any other ideas?"

There was some discussion, and Colonel Rowe spoke up. "We could try Cimmeria. It's one of the asgard-protected planets. Do we have that address?" He looked at Matthews, who lifted her laptop and nodded after checking it.

A Major Tony didn't recognize asked, "From what I know, Cimmeria's barely into the bronze age. What could they do?"

"I didn't mean the locals. Based on reports, there's an asgard there, helping them rebuild after the Goa'uld hit them. We could ask him- or her- for help."

Stokes nodded thoughtfully. "But the asgard don't use radio frequencies. How do we confirm viability?"

There was a pause. It was a valid question. Before every offworld trip, it was the Stargate Command's policy to send a robotic probe, or MALP, through the 'gate to check for any toxins, radiation, atmospheric problems, or anything else that could be a risk to people going there. The Tollans or Tok'ra could use radio waves to confirm viability, but the asgard species had long since developed past radio technology.

Tony was about to suggest risking it without checking when he heard a cough from one of the scientists.

"We have a MALP here, Colonel." Everyone looked at him, and he seemed to shrink under all the attention. He looked about thirty, with short red hair, green eyes, and skin that looked all too easy to sunburn. Tony thought he looked familiar. Doctor Matthews nudged him, and he continued. "Well, it's an older Mark 1, and it hasn't been used since we got here weeks ago, but the battery should still be charged."

"And how exactly do we control it? They're tied into the SGC, in Cheyenne Mountain."

Tony almost snapped his fingers. He had it. The young man was Blake Matthews, a mechanical engineer on the Air Force payroll. The other Doctor Matthews must be his dark-haired wife, Haley. Tony had seen them both around the SGC, in passing. Almost everyone involved with the Stargate project was part of the military, but a small number of civilian scientists had been brought in over the years to help with specific problems.

Blake spoke again, more confidently. "I should be able to use the equipment here in the lab. Shouldn't take more than a few minutes to rig up a signal to handle the MALP's frequencies. We'll just have to find a way to recalibrate the lab's long-range antenna to sync up with the MALP's-"

"Good." Stokes cut him off. "Get started. Anyone else?"

"We could try to take a Goa'uld ship."

The low chatter in the group cut off abruptly. Tony looked at the speaker, and felt a chill. The speaker looked average, unassuming. He had blue eyes and black hair almost too long to be regulation. His gaze, however, was fierce and unsettling.

"Major Hargrove?"

"Think about it, sir. Together, we've got a lot of intel on the Goa'uld on the planets near Earth. If we find one of their ships, taking it shouldn't be that hard. Assuming the good Doctor there can figure out how to fly it." Blake looked afraid to respond. "Then we fly home and take a look around, without having to wait for any alien say-sos."

Stokes shook his head. "If we failed, anyone who tried could be compromised. The Goa'uld could infest any of them with a symbiote, and then they'd know everything we know. They'd wipe us out." He looked around, and Tony could see others nodding. "It's not worth the risk, at least not while we have other options."

Hargrove looked unhappy, but nodded.

"All right, people, let's get started. We've got a lot to do."

-.-

Suna and Cayo were laying on their bellies, in the underbrush outside the clearing. Cayo was his usual, serene self, while Suna was trying not to breathe too loudly. They'd been as stealthy as they could so far and the tau'ri in the clearing hadn't noticed them yet. Or at least they hadn't given any sign that they had. Suna tried to brush some of the mud off her robes. She'd known she might die, or be tortured, when she'd convinced Cayo to join her on this excursion, but somehow she hadn't expected the dirt.

Down below, the gathering broke up, and tau'ri began heading in several directions. Suna saw some heading for the chappa'ai, while most stayed near the strange metal house. After a quiet discussion, at least quiet on her brother's part, Suna began heading down after the smaller group, while Cayo stayed to watch the others.

-.-

"Colonel Stokes?"

Stokes looked up from the laptop's list of 'gate addresses. Colonel Marcus and one of his team- he couldn't remember a name- were standing nearby. He nodded at Doc Matthews and then stepped towards them. "What can I do for you, Colonel?"

"Captain Desousa and I would like to go with you to Tollanna, sir." Marcus said. "If the Tollans aren't as friendly as we've heard, you could use the extra firepower. Also…"

Desousa cleared his throat. "I'm the closest thing we have to an expert on the Stargate, sir. Unless you want to take one of the scientists along, that is." He cast a not-quite-scornful glance at Dr. Hughes, who was irritably scraping mud off his boots nearby.

Stokes considered. He'd decided to leave two of his team behind because of their logistics experience. Rowe could keep everyone focused while he was gone. He had to admit Marcus and his people could be helpful, though.

"Colonel, the Tollans are at least five hundred years ahead of us, technologically. If they're hostile, having a few more guns won't really help us. But you're right. If they have a solution to this problem, having someone who can understand it will help with the back-and-forth." He nodded. "You're with us."

-.-

Tony had only read summarized reports of Tollanna from various SG personnel who had been there. The reading was dry and clinical, and it had left him with an impression of a dry and clinical world. Those expectations had just been shattered.

Spreading out from the 'gate, which was an unusually sleek version, the buildings were white and gray, and gave the impression of having been grown, rather than built. There were few edges or angles to be seen, nor any signs of industrialization.

He felt like a caveman walking into the first artistically designed building on Earth. A dirty, armed caveman. There was one similarity he did feel comforted by, though. There were stone and tile paths cut through the well-kept grass, almost as if he were on a college campus during touring season.

The others hadn't been there either. Stokes kept his mouth shut, but Tony could tell he was impressed, too. Dodson and Desousa stared openmouthed, before Tony could catch their attention.

A brown-haired man dressed in gray and blue approached them, smiling uncertainly. "Colonel Stokes? I am Narim. I'll escort you to the Curia's chambers." He shook their hands, Earth-style, and then led them down one of the paths. Stokes introduced the rest of them as they went.

"Who is this Curia we're meeting, Narim?" Tony put in. "Does he have any information about Earth or the Stargate there?"

Narim bobbed his head apologetically. "You misunderstand. The Curia isn't a person; it is the Tollan governing body. A group of ministers represent the populace, and discuss many issues. They are spoken for by the Chancellor, a woman named Travell." He pointed at a large, vertical-spiral structure ahead.

Stokes seemed surprised. "We're meeting with your head of state?"

"That's correct. The Curia has been in session since shortly after your radio message, yesterday. You were fortunate that Travell was here in the city at the time. She is best suited to answer your questions. Your weapons are about to be disabled." He added offhandedly.

Sure enough, a series of clicks sounded, and Tony could feel that his P90 had locked up. He'd been told that would happen, but couldn't help but feel exposed.

Because their ancestors had been removed from Earth so long ago, the Tollans had never gone through the Dark Ages. For some reason Tony didn't know, they'd been free of the Goa'uld for all that time, as well. As a result, their technology was far more advanced than anything on Earth. They were so advanced, in fact, that a few people from Earth had tried to steal from them not so long ago. Thankfully, those former SGC people were behind bars for their efforts.

Narim led them through a series of automatic doors, and then stopped at the last one. He pressed a control on his wrist, and it opened quietly. "The Chancellor will see you now." He waited for them to enter, and then closed the door behind them.

At the top of a raised dais, a graying woman was seated at an elegant desk which obviously doubled as a workstation. She rose at their approach, and walked around the desk, slowly.

"Colonels Stokes and Marcus, Major Dodson, Captain Desousa. I am pleased to meet more of our friends from Earth, despite the unfortunate circumstances." On closer inspection, Tony could feel the air of authority Travell wore like a cloak. She spoke softly, but somehow had no trouble being heard.

Stokes stepped forward and bowed slightly. "Chancellor Travell. Thank you for meeting with us. Do you know what's happened? Was Earth attacked?"

Tony put his hand on Stokes' shoulder, and spoke up. "We're understandably anxious, given the circumstances, Chancellor."

Travell nodded gravely. "Unfortunately, I have very little information for you. After your initial communication, we tried several methods of contacting Earth. According to the correlative update program used by the Stargate network, there is no Stargate currently on Earth."

Tony shared a confused glance with Desousa. "Did this program say when the 'gate… disappeared?"

"Based on when we received your initial message, between twenty and twenty-five hours ago. It also appears that thirteen other planets have experienced exactly the same phenomenon at approximately the same time." Travell pressed a control on her wrist and a visual display came up from her desk, showing a galactic destination map. Fourteen dots, all close to each other, were flashing, complete with the 'gate addresses next to each one. Tony recognized Earth and the Alpha Site near the edge of the group.

Stokes peered at the map, and pointed at one. "That's Alaris. SG-12 is doing a survey there. There are two others on the mission list, but I don't know if we have people on either yet."

Desousa spoke up. "Wait, this doesn't make sense. The update program is supposed to track 'gates when they're moved. We had to do some rewiring to work around it when we were installing the Beta 'gate two months ago." His breath caught. "Unless someone was able to destroy or damage all fourteen at the same time…"

"Chancellor," Tony cut him off with a warning glance. "We need to find out what's happened. We know you have ships capable of getting there. Can you help us?"

Travell closed down the display. "The Curia has already redirected our nearest ship towards Earth, but as you may know, our ships are not built for speed. It will be within effective scanning range of Earth in approximately two months."

The team exchanged dismayed glances as she continued. "In the interim, we will continue to monitor the update program for any signs of a change. Perhaps this phenomenon is temporary, but if it is not…"

She turned to Stokes. "Colonel, I understand that your people have nowhere to turn to at this time. I offer to take your people in, if you should choose to wait here on Tollanna. It is the least we could do, considering the help your people gave us."

Stokes hesitated. "I appreciate that, Chancellor, but I thought the Tollans didn't interact with more 'primitive' societies." To his credit, he managed to keep any sign of scorn out of his voice. Tony doubted he could have done the same. In almost all their previous interactions, most Tollans had looked down on people from Earth, at least verbally.

Travell smiled slightly. "I'm sure we can arrange a few basic precautions. If you would, please convey the offer to your people."

-.-

As they returned to the lab clearing, Tony knew the others hadn't had any better luck. Whatever cheer he could see on peoples' faces seemed forced for the benefit of the others. SG people were in and around the clearing, some asleep from the time transition they'd had coming here: 'gate-lag, Ahardt called it. After checking with Stokes, Tony lay down on the ground for some shut-eye.

It felt like minutes later when he got up, but he could tell that several hours had passed. Two moons were rising, of the five here, and it was starting to drizzle. He could see the rest of his team talking quietly with Rowe on one side of the building. He did a double-take when he saw a fifth… person standing near them. It was about four feet tall, with a disproportionately large head and eyes. It was covered with smooth, gray skin and nothing else, and was carrying a white stone-like object in its right hand.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:29:09 AM by Daen »