chapter 3: Hurry Up & Wait
Jack ended the call on his cellphone and sank a little deeper into the pillows. He absently caressed Jason’s arm with the back of his hand.
“Well?” Jason asked sleepily.
“Briefing at 10:30. Hammond’s given us most of the morning off.”
Jason waited. He’d long-since learned Jack’s speech patterns and while it sounded as if Jack had ended his sentence with an enigmatic open-ended statement, Jason knew the man was merely giving a long thoughtful pause.
“Considering,” Jack said. “Just in case.”
“Meaning he’s not all that confident of the intel, that it could very well land our asses in a dungeon as Seti’s playthings. Or worse. If there’s such a thing after ‘Seti’s playthings.’”
“Jinx,” Jack said with a soft snort.
Jason checked his watch. It was 0730. He sighed and rolled slightly to drape an arm across Jack’s chest. “I wish I had the energy to take advantage of the time.”
Jack grinned. “I think we did okay. Anytime there aren’t sore muscles the morning after, we’re doing it wrong.”
“And you didn’t need to worry about hurting us, either,” Jason said. “Though I might not have minded.”
“Kinky bastard,” Jack drawled.
It made Jason smile widely. “You like it, Mister Man.” Jack gave him a backhanded fist in the chest, making Jason laugh. Noise from downstairs caught the latter’s attention. “What’s he doing?”
“Mmm,” Jason groaned. “Worth getting up for, I guess.”
Jack leaned over and kissed Jason’s cheek before turning and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “He can’t carry it up here. We don’t have trays that big.”
Jason sighed again. “Pity. But I guess being awake is better than sleep. Since we managed quite a bit.” He sat up on the other side of the bed and yawned, at odds with his sleep statement. “Gotta go for a run,” he said, standing up and heading for the dresser.
“Jeez, we’re gonna get enough exercise in a little while.”
“Yeah, maybe, but it’ll be filled with a lot of standing around. Sometimes I think our alien friends have caught on to the military’s hurry-up-and-wait approach to life.”
Jack snorted. “Maybe it’s simply endemic to bureaucracies.”
“That too.” He shucked off his boxer briefs and earned a slap on the ass as Jack passed him on his way to the bathroom. Jason grinned as he put on a new pair plus his sweat bottoms and an Air Force tank top. He sat down on the edge of the bed to put on his socks and sneakers. “So, who’re we gonna see first? Jacob or the Tollan or both? Ten bucks says we’re gonna play the waiting game with the Tollan.”
“No bet,” Jack said as he turned on the water to wet his toothbrush. “Easy bet.”
“S’pose,” Jason said. “See you in thirty.”
“Yep,” Jack said around the toothbrush in his mouth.
Downstairs, Jason slipped into the kitchen, gave Daniel a kiss on the cheek, stole a big gulp of his coffee, and headed out of the house for his morning ritual run.
Daniel eyed his coffee, gave a mock glare in the direction of the front door, and downed the rest of his coffee before making himself another cup. It wasn’t really the morning off. They had about two hours to play with, which meant plenty of time to get some arrangements done.
It was three days after the initial briefing with Jacob. Hammond had given the order: “Take this time to get your houses in order.” It hadn’t taken long. A few phone calls to the landscaping group, a call to Walter to ask him to pick up their mail. There were no illusions. Once the mission was a go, they were likely to be gone for at least two weeks, half of that taken up “on the road” as they sought out the source of the intel. Despite Jack’s and Hammond’s worry about the reliability of Tok’ra intel, they were dealing with Jacob, not some newbie or bureaucrat. They would go in with as much intel—and survivability—as possible.
All they were waiting for, now, was UPS. Jacob had given them the specs for the roles they needed to play to sell their bona fides to the Goa’uld, and not just the System Lord Seti Ptah but his minor snakeheads. So costumes had been needed. Jacob had sent a shopping list.
In the briefing room, after Jason had read it, he’d said, “Good god. We’re in for some cosplay.” And he’d then had to explain what he’d meant, with some assistance from Connor, who routinely attended Renaissance Fairs. As such, it had been Connor everyone had depended on to find the right costuming shop to get them suitably attired. Unfortunately, much of what they wanted hadn’t been locally available and deliveries were expected. Their chosen theme for space pirate had been Sam’s chosen nickname: Victorian Space Pirate. Aka, Victorian fantasy combined with the fashion cut of Steampunk dress codes.
“I wish we weren’t going to wear our outfits for a highly dangerous mission,” Jason had complained. “I could then enjoy wearing the gorgeous stuff.”
Jack had eyed him. “You’re such a romantic.”
Daniel grinned at the memory. Jack, the hypocrite. He was the most romantic out of the three of them, but he covered it up with sly grins and silence. At least, most of the time. Putting the breakfast on the table, he place warming mats underneath so it kept warm. He and Jack were hungry. They weren’t going to wait on Jason to return. As he hungrily shoved a strip of bacon in his mouth, the doorbell rang. Eyebrows raised, he headed for the door.
Behind him, Jack said, “Ten bucks it’s FedEx.”
“Nope, you lose,” Daniel said. It was USPS instead and the post required a signature, with Daniel quickly signed.
“Since you already knew, no bet,” Jack said. There were five enormous boxes. Enough to outfit seven people. Teal’c was opting to wear something else entirely: the new Free Jaffa uniform, which no one on Earth had seen yet. Teal’c had hinted that it would include skin-hugging red and burgundy leathers for easy movement and a free-flowing robe-slash-coat.
“Big buggers,” Jack said as he helped Daniel bring them inside. “Where’d they come from again?”
“Cosplay USA,” Daniel replied, eyeing Jack as he lifted two boxes at once. They measured three feet by four feet and Daniel estimated they weight about eight pounds each. Jack wasn’t even winded when he set them down in the living room. Unlike Daniel, albeit the winded part lasted no more than a minute. As he retrieved his phone from the kitchen to call Sam, he asked, “You feel any of that at all?” as Jack entered the kitchen for his morning coffee.
“Hmm?” Jack asked.
Daniel blinked. The man hadn’t even noticed what he’d done. Either that or Jack was doing some damn good acting. “Never mind,” Daniel said, grinning as he punched in Sam’s number.
“Daniel! Good morning.”
“Backatcha,” Daniel said. “Costumes are here. You wanna come get yours or wait till we haul it up to the mountain?”
“Good God, no. I’ll be right over.”
They hung up and Daniel then called Jason’s teammates. They too opted for grabbing their gear at the house instead of the mountain.
“So, do we get dressed after breakfast or change into these get-ups in the locker room?” Daniel asked.
Jack had a mouthful of coffee and seemed to be mulling over the question while he savored the Liquid Life. Finally, he said, “Let’s call the boss and find out. I’m not wearing it in only find we have to change into our utility uniforms.”
Jack called, then hung up. “We wear it in to save time. Jacob’s already there and waiting on us.”
“So we’re to ‘gate to the new Tollana?”
“No idea. Jacob’s gonna fill us in when we get there.”
“Gotcha. I’ll put this stuff on after breakfast.”
Jason returned while they were eating. “Stuff got here fast,” he said, getting his coffee before sitting down at the breakfast bar. “Must’ve paid a king’s ransom to get it here?” Daniel nodded as he chewed a mouthful of pancakes and bacon. “This’ll be fun,” Jason said before digging into his own breakfast.
An hour later, the men were wearing the gear they’d chosen. Daniel stared at his husbands and said, “We look like the steampunk version of GQ.” Jason grinned as Daniel went on. “If there’s a silver lining about this mission, it’s that the two of you look incredibly . . .” He stuck his tongue in his cheek and skipped spelling it out because the living room also boasted Sam, Alex, Al, and Connor, also in their costumes.
Alex kept eyeing Sam. “I think the word you’re looking for, Daniel, is fuckable.”
“Alex,” Sam admonished, but only half-heartedly. She tended to agree. All that male hotness in one room. She made an exaggerated fanning motion. “But damn, you’re so right.”
Granted, none of them wanted to fuck the other—except the married trio—but they were all in agreement that just because they looked great didn’t mean they wanted to sleep with that person.
Connor quipped, “I can appreciate beautiful scenery without feeling the need to go camping in it.”
“Amen,” came the stereo reply.
“And now for the piece de resistance,” Daniel said and held out a foot-square box. “I got these mouth scarves, known as neck gaiters. Everyone picks one. There’re plenty of them.”
All of the scarves were printed with varying artistic renderings of skulls from the nose down. Daniel picked one out that had a skull with a cigar in its mouth. “Here,” he said to Jack. Jack took it with a bemused grin. “Sam?” he said and handed her one that resembled a dia de los Muertos sugar skull but was clearly feminine. “I thought you’d like it.”
“It’s gorgeous!” she said. “But I’m not wearing this to the base.”
“None of us are wearing these masks,” Jack said and stuffed the scarf into an inner pocket of his brocaded jacket. “Bad enough we stick out like a sore thumb.” He grabbed a small duffle bag filled with necessities and his truck keys. “Let’s go spread the love.”
The teams received unapologetic stares from everyone after heading into the mountain checkpoints, first on Level 1 and then on Level 11 onward. Jack, Daniel, and Jason met up with Sam and Teal’c as the elevator stopped on Level 16 where Teal’c’s quarters were stationed. They grinned at each other, eyeing the costume clothing, but Teal’c was given particular attention because he wasn’t in theme. He was wearing rich brown and mahogany red leather with a flowing brown robe detailed with tribal designs unique to both Chulak and other former servitor home planets of the Jaffa.
“That’s new,” Jack said, giving Teal’c an appreciable nod.
“This is now our standard,” Teal’c said with smug pride.
“How’d you come to pick this?” Daniel asked, refraining from touching the leather.
“Bra’tac and other leaders . . .” He paused, frowning slightly.
Jack’s eyebrows raised in that trademark sarcasm. “Took a poll, did ya?”
Teal’c’s mouth twitched at the corner, but that was the same thing as a human laughing out loud. “In a manner of speaking.”
“Nice,” Jason said, and he didn’t refrain from touching the robe. “What’s the material? It feels like silk.”
“It is an ancient weaving method developed on Rondaux, the former home base for the now-dead System Lord Olokun.” Another smug look. “The material is made from the kashtow, an animal that broadly resembles your ostrich or emu but has a thick pelt of long fur instead of feathers.”
“Cool,” Jack said. The elevator stopped at Level 27 and the group left. Up ahead were Jason’s teammates and they stopped for a moment to join the group. Both teams entered the Briefing Room and found seven Tok’ra including Jacob.
Hammond, however, had a scowl on his face and Jacob looked aggrieved. Jack eyed them suspiciously as a hole developed in his stomach.
Hammond gestured. “Everyone take a seat.” To the Tok’ra, he said, “Those that are available.” All of the Tok’ra ended up standing, though Jacob sat to Hammond’s left, his back to his fellow Tok’ra. “It seems,” Hammond began slowly, “that we have a problem in communication.” He looked at Jacob, who set a small sphere with four base corners on the table and clicked a button on one of the legs. Overhead, a holographic map appeared, showing the landmasses of a planet laid out flat.
“This is Nialla,” Selmak said. “The home planet of the Nialla where the System Lord Seti Ptah has taken up residence.”
“You mean conquered and moved in,” Jack corrected.
Selmak gave him a flat look. “Yes.” To Jack and the others, he said, “Jacob and I have showed this map to the General.” He gave a flick of his chin to the Tok’ra behind him. “It appears that we have been given bad intelligence.”
“Not bad,” said a Tok’ra behind him. Everyone knew him as Senna. “Just incomplete.”
“Incomplete as in dangerously suicidal,” Jason put in, pointing at the map. “That’s a planetary occupation, not some goddamn outpost. We can’t engage that. We don’t have the numbers.”
“Correct,” Selmak said.
Jack pursed his lips and gave Selmak a hard look. “Then why the hell are you here? This mission isn’t happening.”
“Correct,” Hammond said. “We are awaiting word from the Tollan, asking them why the Nox would ask them for help when the Nox are powerful enough to rescue their own people.”
“For that matter,” Daniel put in, “why didn’t Lya just show up here to ask for help?”
“I don’t think it matters,” Jason said. “They don’t need our help. They don’t need the Tollan’s help. I think we need to find out what the hell’s going on.”
“That is precisely what we’re doing, Colonel,” Hammond said.
“For cryin’ out loud, General,” Jack said. “We just spent a lot of money for these disguises. I was looking forward to wearing them.” He looked at Jacob and pointed at the holographic map. “Given that we’re needed for a combat op, why’d you tell us we needed these costumes?”
“There’s an outpost on a nearby planet,” Jacob said. “It’s home to all sorts of nefarious activity and visiting it might have given us the intel we needed.”
Jack pointed at the holographic map. “So I’m guessing you guys,” and he pointed to the Tok’ra behind him, “have already been to this outpost?”
“Correct,” Jacob said with a scowl aimed at his fellow Tok’ra. “There was no need for your participation.”
“Again, why are we here?” Daniel asked. He was growing angry, partly because of the money they’d spent to get into character, and partly because aliens were once again using the SG teams as cannon fodder.
“I can’t believe I dyed my hair for this,” Sam muttered.
Behind Jacob, Senna said, “Major Carter?” Then looked abashed. “Apologies. The black hair transforms you.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, though his expression was admiring.
“To answer your question, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said. “We’re waiting to hear from the Tollan.”
“For what purpose?” Jack asked, then pointed at the map. “We’re not going into that with just fifteen people. Not even if the Tollan added fifty. That requires an invading force, not a select group of people.”
“I agree,” Hammond said. “We’re waiting to hear from the Tollan so they can explain . . .”
Jacob added, “Why they were obviously setting us up as a sacrifice.”
“I hope that agreement we signed after the rogue teams sting is null and void after this,” Jack said.
“Not yet,” Hammond said slowly and scowled. “And it’s not up to us.” Meaning that the Pentagon wasn’t ready to call it quits on the Tollan.
“Figures,” Jack said. “How about I go pay them a visit wearing this get-up, plus this.” He pulled out the scarf and put it on. Hammond snorted with obvious amusement but one pained look on Jacob’s face matched similar reactions from the other Tok’ra. The humans at the table looked at the members of the Tok’ra with puzzlement.
Jack squinted at them and if he didn’t know better, he’d have taken their reaction for . . . fear. Jack looked at Daniel for an explanation by way of raised brows. Daniel gave him a shrug. He had no idea what was causing the reaction.
“Jacob?” Hammond asked.
“Skull depictions are a bad omen to the Tok’ra,” Selmak said.
“Huh,” Jack said, thinking. “Does that go for the Goa’uld as well?”
Jacob’s brows rose and the other Tok’ra showed the same surprise. Selmak said, “Of course.”
“What’s the basis for this taboo?” Daniel asked as he gestured for Jack to take the scarf down.
Jack did, but said, “Daniel, I think the history lesson can be ditched for the time being.”
“Not necessarily,” Jacob said, eyeing Jack. “The taboo began with the oldest of the Goa’uld, who were involved with fighting an old warlord named Simbuchek, in the Asian steppes I believe. He and his tribe were known for leaving freshly peeled skulls on pikes at the border of newly conquered territory.”
Jack winced. “Lovely. Did that to some Jaffa?”
Teal’c shuddered. “Indeed. I have heard of this tale.”
“So if Seti Ptah is one of the oldest System Lords . . .” Jack began.
“He is,” Selmak said and looked over his shoulder at the other Tok’ra, who nodded.
“Then he too could be freaked out by these masks,“ Jack went on. His voice was muffled and it caused all the Tok’ra comfited expressions.
“Irrelevant,” Hammond said, “since this mission has been canceled.”
“Damn shame,” Jack said. “But only because I’d have loved to see the look on his face.”
“This is interesting but the subject can be tabled,” Hammond said. “We’re not going. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what reasoning the Nox or Tollan give as to why this isn’t a full military operation. Their credibility is a stake.”
“Sometimes I wish I could just ask Queen Morrighan to help out,” Jack muttered.
“Colonel,” Hammond said in an admonishing tone.
Jack held up his hands. “I know, I know. It’s not her business and we can’t call her for every little thing, but I was just thinking of asking her to talk to the Nox if the Tollan can’t be bothered to answer promptly.” He reached into an inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out the comm tablet he was gifted.
“We’re not in a position to ask for her help, Colonel,” Hammond said.
“I know,” Jack sighed. “It’s just . . . I like seeing her kick ass is all.”
Hammond snorted but didn’t offer a reply.
“When were we supposed to hear from the Tollan, Dad?” Sam asked.
“Within two to three hours from the time we last spoke with them prior to coming here.”
“Which was two and a half Earth hours ago,” Senna said, exchanging a nod with Jacob. It caught everyone’s attention because it wasn’t Senna’s voice who answered, but his host. “Simone,” said the Tok’ra. “I am Senna’s host. I’m speaking because he is too angry to speak without using colorful language. That would not be appropriate.”
“In Goa’uld, I’m assuming,” Daniel said. Simone nodded. “No one here, except myself and Teal’c would understand anyway.”
“So have at it. He’d speak for me,” Jack said.
Simone gave a wan smile. “He appreciates your candor but is remaining silent.”
“How were they supposed to contact you?” Sam asked.
“Through the stargate, here,” Jacob said.
Hammond stood. “I think it’s time to push the issue, Jacob,” he said. “Let’s give them a call instead.”
“I thought that was done already,” Jack said as everyone stood.
“No,” Jacob said, but didn’t elaborate.
As the group headed down to the control room, the claxon began and a male voice announced, “Unscheduled Offworld Activation. General Hammond to the control room.”
“Someone’s ears were burning,” Jack quipped as they entered the control room.
Sam went to the console and sat next to Captain Simmons. She read the information coming through the data screen. “I don’t recognize the address, sir,” she said to Hammond.
“That’s the Tollan,” Jacob said.
“Okay, now what?” Jack asked.
“There isn’t a data message coming through . . .” Sam began.
Then the stargate’s iris rippled and both Lya of the Nox and the Tollan, Narim, walked through. They looked very different than the last time they had seen them. Narim’s hair was slightly grayer and he was wearing a silvery robe over a darker suit. Lya no longer wore the faery-sparkled hair that had fanned her head and face. It was now long, white, and reached the back of her calves. It also waved about as if static electricity permeated it in an aura. Her clothing, however, hadn’t changed. She wore a pearlescent gown of tiny leaves that barely covered her feet and the colors were a variety of pastel pinks and greens.
“They’re different,” Daniel said.
“Right. Wish we could keep them from doing that trick through the iris,” Jack said.
“Agreed,” said Hammond.
Jack gave him a raised brow. “Well, let’s go say howdy.”
“Most of you remain here please,” Hammond said. “Jacob, Colonels, with me.”
Jacob, Jack, and Jason followed the General out of the room. Once they were gone, Daniel sniffed, “I hate it when we’re left out.”
“Doesn’t mean we can’t listen to what they’re saying,” Sam said and flicked a switch. She looked over at him as he sat down next to her. His expression was ambiguous. “What?” she asked. “We record everything anyway.”
“I agree. I just hate being filled in later. Why not have us all in there?”
“Nox,” Sam said as if it were self-explanatory.
“Right,” Daniel said, making a disdainful face.
“Indeed,” Teal’c said.
Connor gave them a puzzled look. “I don’t get it.”
“They’re touchy about whom they give their attention to,” Daniel said, observing Lya. “I like her hair.”
“Me too,” Sam said.
“What’d it look like before?” Alex asked. “I don’t remember.”
“Um . . .” Daniel began.
Connor cleared his throat and quietly said, “A very pretty rat’s nest.”
In the gateroom, Jack turned to look up at them and used two fingers to signal that Daniel should come down. Daniel nearly bolted out of his chair as he took off for the gateroom.
“Now it’s just us,” Sam said, looking over her shoulder at the Tok’ra group. Alex sat down in Daniel’s place while Teal’c remained standing behind Sam’s chair. To Simmons, she asked, “We’re recording, right?” He nodded. “Just double checking.”
. . .
Daniel walked hurriedly into the gateroom and stopped next to Jack, who stood to Hammond’s left. Lya and Narim stopped at the end of the ramp. They both bowed slightly and Hammond and Jacob returned the gesture of respect. Jack and Daniel did the same, but less deeply.
“Greetings,” Narim said. “It’s nice to see all of you again.” He looked up into the control room’s window and smiled at Sam. She smiled back.
“Glad to see you survived Anubis’ attack,” Hammond said neutrally.
“I nearly did not,” Narim said. “I was under medical scrutiny for quite some time at a base we held in another system. I was then moved to the new home planet after it was acquired and the Asgard were informed through our mutual defense treaty. We are now back to full strength with new weapons to defend our home.”
“If you held a mutual defense treaty with the Asgard, why did they not assist you?” Selmak asked.
Narim gave him a flat look. “They were busy with an invasion of their own by an enemy known as replicators.”
“They’ve cleaned that up nicely,” Jack said.
“Indeed. Now they are helping another race against an enemy known as the Fomor.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a knowing look. “The name of this race?” Daniel asked. “Was it, by any chance, the Lia Fail?”
“No, the Furling,” Narim said.
Jack and Daniel both rolled their eyes and gave the ceiling a long-suffering look. “The Lia Fail,” Jack said. “The Asgard . . .” he began, prepared to take the Asgard down a few pegs, but then thought better of it. Now wasn’t the time and not with these people.
Daniel caught on. “There was a . . . miscommunication,” he said.
“Yeah,” Jack said, and cleared his throat. “It’s not Furling, it’s Lia Fail. Two words, not one.”
“We stand corrected,” Narim said, not in the least bothered.
“You have had contact with this race?” Lya asked, surprised.
“Yes,” Jack said, refusing to clarify the reason. “Want me to contact them for you?” Both Lya and Narim gave him wide-eyed looks of shock. Jack refused to hide the smugness he felt as the two aliens looked at Hammond for confirmation.
“Jack,” Hammond said, remonstration in his tone. To Lya and Narim, he said, “May we please discuss the matter at hand?”
Narim nodded. “Yes, yes, of course. Could we move to a more comfortable location?”
Lya gave Narim a raised brow. “This is not sufficient?”
“Not for me, no,” Narim said.
“Very well,” she said, lifting her chin.
“Will the briefing room suffice?” Hammond asked.
Narim and Lya exchanged looks. She nodded. “It will.”
In the control room, Sam, Teal’c, and Jason’s teammates hurriedly returned to the briefing room. Lya moved to the far end of the table directly opposite Hammond’s seat and sat down. Narim sat to her left. Taken a little off-guard, the others took their usual seats. Before the General sat down, he asked, “Would either of you like something to drink?”
“Filtered water?” Narim asked.
Jack grabbed a bottle of water from the cart by the observation window and twisted the cap off before handing it over. He looked at Lya with a raised brow. She shook her head.
“We will not be here long enough to deprive me of water,” Lya said, but her words conflicted with her facial expression. Her gaze was fixed on Jack and Daniel. “If I may . . . redirect?” Then without waiting for an answer, she asked Jack and Daniel, “You said that you have had contact with the Lia Fail?”
“We have,” Hammond replied for them since it hadn’t just been two members of his facility, never mind SG-1.
Lya blinked, then asked, “Would you please be more specific about who you engaged with?”
Daniel held up a hand and gave Hammond a raised brow, indicating he preferred to answer; Hammond nodded. Daniel nodded back and gave Lya his full attention. He read her emotion as someone feeling a mixture of awe and fear so he worded his answer carefully. “We met with the Lia Fail during a recon mission and have since had direct interaction with Queen Morrighan herself, as well as other people close to her.”
Lya made quick a hand gesture that Daniel read as something akin to the Christian sign of the cross. But it didn’t mean a sign of protection against evil. It was a sign of worship toward a deity. She was blatantly taken aback and confused.
“You know her as . . .?” Daniel asked.
“A’ssan al’eckbar,” she said. Daniel shook his head, never having heard the Nox language. “In your language, it closely resembles Goddess of the All-Encompassing High Host.”
“Queen of Heaven?” Daniel asked.
“Heaven?” Lya asked.
“In this particular instance,” Daniel said, “it closely relates to ‘universe’ or ‘cosmos.’”
Lya nodded once, but she did not relax her awed expression. “That is sufficient. How did you . . . interact?”
Daniel sensed that wasn’t what she wanted to ask. Her question was more along the lines of, “How did you earn the greatest gift of her attention?”
“She sensed that Jack was special,” Daniel said.
“In what way?” Lya asked.
“Distant relation,” Jack said. When Lya frowned in incomprehension, he clarified. “We have a distant tie, as well as a distant tie to this planet.”
“You are related to Air-ew?” Lya asked.
Several people blinked back at her. “Excuse me?” Daniel asked. “Could you spell that?”
Lya drew figures in the air a few inches higher than her eye level. The letters were traced out in haloed gold and spelled, Īweriū. Daniel knew this as the archaic Irish names for Danu, Anann or Morrighan, and Ériu.
“Ériu,” he told everyone. “The name for Ireland, or land of Eire.”
“Morrighan,” Jack said. Everyone looked at him. “Morrighan of the Tuatha de Danann,” he then said to Lya, pronouncing it T-wutha day-dannan.
“A’ssan al’eckbar,” Lya repeated, but as a whisper. “She is the . . .” Lya wrinkled her nose, eyes closing as she tried to translate. “The one who made us.” She made a sweeping gesture of her hand to include everyone in the room and beyond. “All of us.”
Hammond nodded, but he was also impatient. “Could we discuss the reason for your visit and the request made of the Tollan?” he asked Lya. “They have thus requested our aid. But the request is . . . insufficient to the cause.” He turned his attention to Narim. “Please explain why you only need a small number of people for a rescue operation that clearly needs an army.”
Lya immediately frowned at Narim. “This is why we have been summoned here? To accompany you to this planet? We did not approve the assistance from hass-anya.”
Daniel made a face. He didn’t need to know the unknown word because he read her intent in it. “Children,” he clarified.
Jack scowled. “I’m getting awfully tired of this superiority complex.”
Lya’s attention flicked from Narim to Jack. “We do not have a complex. It is fact.”
“I’ll refrain,” Jack said with the laser-focused look that typically intimidated enemies.
“Colonel,” Hammond warned.
Jack didn’t quite ignore him as he went on. “I’m getting tired of this need to put us down. We’re nowhere near as advanced as you are. And that is all we are.” He waited only two seconds before he launched into the main topic of the earlier discussion. “Why don’t you rescue your own people from this Seti Ptah?”
Lya blinked a few times as her expression clearly said she thought Jack’s question ludicrous. “We are not warriors.” The noun was clearly used as a pejorative, as in “those who war.”
“So you just let your people rot?” Jack asked.
“Colonel, that’s enough,” Hammond said.
“It’s a legitimate, if slightly offensive, question, sir,” Jack said defensively.
“If I may,” Narim interrupted. Hammond nodded acquiescence. To Lya, Narim gave a head nod that indicated a request. She gave a nod of assent. To everyone else, though his eyes fell on Hammond, Jack, Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c, he said, “What Lya means is that the Nox prefer . . .” He made a face as he mentally searched for the correct terminology. “Stealth. To avoid all means of direct confrontation to avoid unnecessary injury or death.”
“Correct,” Lya said.
Narim nodded to her. “We, the Tollan, are not particularly well-trained in the art of military stealth. Until Anubis, we did not need to be. Our weapons were of sufficient defense and deterrence. The Tok’ra and the Tau’ri, on the other hand . . .” He rephrased. “You and the Tok’ra are known to use this method of infiltration and indirect attack. We thought that rescuing the Nialla would be . . .” He made a face that was a combination of chagrin and apology.
“Piece of cake?” Jack asked, purposely using metaphors that neither Narim nor Lya would know. “Easy as pie. A walk in the park?”
Hammond gave Jack a silent reprimand and said to Narim and Lya, “Easy.” Meanwhile, every human at the table held thinly-disguised expressions of amusement.
“You were in error,” Selmak said to Narim. He set the holographic device on the table and it displayed the tactical data of the planet. “This is not a simple case of rescue and recovery.”
Jack sighed and pointed at the map, but he looked at Hammond, not Narim or Lya. “Listen, I hate to say it, but either we engage in a full military intervention or we ask someone far more powerful for help.”
“We won’t get approval for a rescue operation,” Hammond said flatly.
“Why not?” Narim asked. “I have heard of many operations where you did just that.”
“Explain how you came by this information,” Hammond asked.
“We have methods of information gathering, just as you do.”
“In other words, they heard about it from everyone in the know,” Jack said. “We’re not exactly . . .” He glanced at Lya. “Stealthy operators.”
“Nor are we in the habit of a quick resolution,” Hammond said. He gave Jack a look of displeasure. “Who do we know that is far more powerful than we are, aside from the Lia Fail, and who would be willing to lend us their assistance?”
“The Asgard?” Jack said.
“That’s a maybe,” Hammond said.
“Adriann,” Daniel said, making a face. “But . . . we can’t keep asking for their help. And besides, the last time we had their assistance, it blew up and Morrighan came in with a rescue.”
“And it blew up because we didn’t have the right intelligence,” Jack said. Alex coughed, cutting off the laugh of derision he’d been about to express. “Alex?” Jack asked. “Were you about to comment on a double entendre?”
“Colonel,” Hammond said, cutting off the impending, and irrelevant, back and forth. He sighed and said to Jack, “Ask her if she has any advice. Do not ask for her direct assistance.”
Jack nodded and withdrew the tablet from his jacket’s pocket. “She’ll get a kick out of the costumes we’re wearing.”
“Those . . .” Narim began. “Those are not new uniforms?”
Sam snorted. “Not by a long shot.” He looked at her in confusion. “No,” she clarified. “They’re costumes. Clothing meant for a special occasion.”
“I like the change,” Lya said unexpectedly. “It befits your personalities.”
No one knew what to say to that, nor whether or not it was a compliment.
Jack and Hammond exchanged rueful grins. “The military isn’t known for their fashion sense,” Jack said as he swiped the tablet with his fingers and the surface went from blank slate gray to a blue-black. “Uh,” he began, looking around. “Hang on. I’m gonna check on a possible answer to our problem.” With the stylus, he gestured at the whole room. “Talk amongst yourselves.”
Hammond nearly rolled his eyes while Jason and Daniel smiled. Sam bit her lips together and to her left, Lya asked, “What does he mean?”
Sam assumed she meant to ask what Jack was doing. “He’s determining what kind of action we’re able to take to rescue the Nialla.”
Lya blinked. “I see.” She stood up. Everyone was taken off guard and they scrambled to rise with her.
“May I be of assistance?” Hammond asked.
“No. I am not comfortable in this . . . chair?”
“Chair,” he confirmed.
“I will walk.”
Meanwhile, Jack wrote quickly with the attached stylus and his handwriting was instantly replaced with the font preprogrammed for transmission.
As he wrote, he wondered if his questions went right to Morrighan’s awareness or if she had a tablet on her person. He then dismissed the latter as silly, then erased the first few words of what he’d written because he had to remind himself who it was he was contacting. He tended to be dismissive of snakeheads who called themselves god. Morrighan had never done so. She just was.
“Huh,” he said, mostly to himself. He looked up, wondering why everyone was standing around. Hammond looked down at him. “She’s gonna be here in two hours with my answer on how to help the Nialla.”
Hammond refrained from groaning. “Didn’t you explain that we’d rather not—”
Jack held up a hand as he got to his feet. “I did. That was her answer. She said it was the answer to any future situations like this. At least, that’s the gist of what I got.” He tapped his jacket where the tablet was. “Screen went blank after she, er, hung up. So to speak, or I’d show you what she said.”
“What did she say?” Hammond asked.
“She said, ‘Perhaps a visit with a present I believe will solve your problem. I will arrive in two Earth hours.’ It was the answer to my telling her that I didn’t want to call her every time we ran into a problem we couldn’t solve. I laid out the issue, which was how to rescue the Nialla from Seti Ptah with just a handful of people. That was her response.”
“Who were you conversing with?” Narim asked.
Jack refrained from correcting his grammar. Alien. “Morrighan.”
Lya whirled from looking through the observation window with a shocked look on her face while Narim’s eyes widened.
“You . . . you could just contact her?”
“Well . . .” Jack began and didn’t feel like getting into details. “Yeah.”
“So two hours?” Daniel asked. Jack nodded. “Brunch?”
“I’ll spring,” Sam jumped in and pulled out her cell. “The usual stuff?” Nods all around. She remembered the bread they were given when they’d visited the Nox planet. It had been bland. “Are you hungry? Thirsty?” she asked both Narim and Lya. “I can order you a salad or something else that doesn’t have chemicals baked into it?”
“Lemon spring water,” Lya said. “Nothing to eat.”
Narim said, “A basic salad.” It was what he’d eaten the last time he had visited Earth. And the time before that.
Sam decided to order two salads. Just in case Lya changed her mind. Everyone else was in for donuts and coffee.
“So it’s waiting time,” Jason said.
“Yep,” Jack said.
Jason tapped Jack’s jacket. “Wish I had one of those things for Jalen.”
“Be right back,” Sam said, and Teal’c went with her on their way to Level 1.
Daniel said to Jack in a lowered voice, “It’s gonna get weird in two hours.” He gave a minute nod in Lya’s direction.
Jack made a face. “Yeah, I know. Never meet your gods.”
Daniel snorted. “I think there’s a big difference between . . .” He didn’t need to explain.
Jack sniffed. “Same difference to me.”
“God,” Daniel said, and sat back down. He pulled out his cellphone to play with a word game app.
Jack nudged the back of his chair. “Stop worrying.”
Jason gave Jack a playful shove. “He doesn’t worry and he’s gotta point, Jack.”
“Would you two just chill? It’ll be fine. I’m more interested in seeing what she’s bringing.”
Daniel looked up as a memory surfaced, then his eyes grew wide as he got to his feet. “Wait,” he whispered. “Weren’t we supposed to get a ship? Or am I misremembering?”
Jack’s eyes grew wider than Daniel’s. “Holy shit. I think you’re right.”
“Yeah, but . . .” Jason cautioned. “Don’t get your hopes up or you’ll have jinxed it and she’ll show up with a fancy Mac 10.”
Jack snorted so loudly that he received raised eyebrows from their visitors, including the Tok’ra. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. “Nothing.”
“Ship?” Hammond asked.
“Shh,” Jack said. “Sir,” he added quickly.