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* TITLE: Breaking New Ground
* AUTHOR: Redbyrd
* EMAIL: redbyrd (at) mindspring (dot) com
* RATING: PG
* CATEGORY: drama, missing scene
* SUMMARY: Missing scenes and tag for New Ground. Nyan knew the strangers who had come through the Gateway could be the most important thing that had ever happened to his world- if only he could help them survive long enough to go home. Nyan's POV.
* SPOILERS: New Ground
* AUTHOR'S NOTE: I really liked Nyan. The intellectual honesty required to change one's worldview when it conflicts with the facts is pretty rare in any time or place. I thought it deserved a story. And enormous thanks to Aurora, who gave me a brilliant beta, made useful suggestions for patching the weak points, and gave me the idea for the intro.. the story would still be sitting in limbo on my hard drive without her.
The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Nyan walked fast through the halls of the Academy, muttering an apology as he passed too close to a woman carrying a large box in her arms. He found he was breathing fast, when he arrived at Callin's door, and took a moment to catch his breath and wipe his palms on the edge of his tunic. Then he signaled for entry.
"Come," a voice invited immediately. Nyan pushed the door aside, silent on its rollers, and walked into his mentor's office.
"Senior scientist," he said formally, as the man looked up.
Callin would have been nearly Nyan's height if he stood up, but his narrow shoulders were stooped with age and his frame was frail. His eyes still held the youthful gleam of a younger man, however, and he smiled cheerfully at the younger man. "Nyan, come in. Sit."
Nyan took two steps into the room and closed the door, but remained standing. "Scientist Callin, I wanted to talk to you about my petition for resources for a dig in Fire Valley."
Callin's bushy eyebrows rows, but he gestured to the chair again. "Sit, Nyan. Will you take refreshment?"
Nyan would rather have refused, but he schooled himself to conventional courtesy. "Water is fine, Callin."
Callin poured them each a cup and took a sip as he looked at Nyan. "Your petition was refused, Nyan."
"I know," Nyan said, his voice nearly cracking with impatience before he got it under control. "What I don't understand is why you recommended against it." He set the cup aside to jump up and pace toward the window. "My work on other projects has been solid, and well-received." That was an understatement. He'd taken over the excavation of an early factory site on the Chevet River the year before and provided some key insights that had won him recognition throughout his field. And no one could suspect that he'd consulted Optrican materials in his Fire Valley research. He'd more than justified its selection with purely domestic sources.
He continued, "I have done a thorough examination of the proposed site, correlating local legends with our earliest writings and surveys of other sites. Artifacts dating to the correct period have been recovered in the area. There is certainly a primitive site there, of considerable antiquity, perhaps even a settlement. Why does the review panel not believe me? Surely they don't think me inexperienced? I was running the Chevet excavation well before Scholar Grevis succumbed to his final illness."
"Ah," Callin said, as the flow of words finally ebbed enough for him to get a word in. "It is not that they do not respect your experience, or that they didn't believe you. We are quite certain you are correct. That is why we refused."
"What?" Nyan blinked at him. "You believe me? Then why can we not excavate properly? We could prove the Bedrosian theory for once and for all?"
"Or you might find evidence that is more ambiguous, that enemies of the state could use for purposes of propaganda," Callin said.
"Since when do you care about propaganda?" Nyan demanded. " 'Truth is the goal of science, science is the process by which we arrive at truth'. You taught me that, sir."
"And you are not that na•ve, young Nyan," Callin said soberly. "Your family connections will not help you if you become a tool of the Optricans. Rather the reverse."
"My father isn't that influential. And my uncle has never taken the least interest in my activities," Nyan protested. At least not since I declared my lack of interest in a career in the church. That was not entirely true, anyway. His uncle would certainly care if Nyan was credited with some blasphemous scientific theory. As it was, his passion to study history was considered odd by most and potentially seditious by some. Indeed, Callin's maxim on science could be construed as political, since most considered truth the realm of religion.
Callin laid aside his cup to rearrange a group of ancient crystals on his desk, artifacts from one of his digs, perhaps the Hidden City. "Nyan, I'm not saying the academy will not reconsider. But because of the subject matter, you will need something more."
"Something more?" Nyan repeated. He thought his proposal was already very thorough.
"Something that shows the academy that your dig will support the goals of government, not erode them," Callin clarified.
Nyan felt a sharp sting of disappointment. "What happened to 'theories evolve from facts, if theory precedes fact the conclusions may be suspect'?
Callin chuckled. "You are determined to fling my own words back in my face today, eh? Do not mistake my meaning, Nyan. We are not asking you to make predictions. Your proposal has been rejected for insufficient orthodoxy. You are a full member of this academy. It would only be reasonable for you to request such equipment as you might need to begin a new survey, and come up with a more ..suitable.. proposal."
Nyan sat up straighter, caught by the conspiratorial gleam in the old man's eye. For a moment there, he'd thought.. well, he was ashamed of what he had thought. The academy was a bastion of empiricism and scientific methodology. But what Callin was implying... "Equipment, sir?"
"I was thinking of a deep earth sensor. Perhaps you could recruit some unofficial assistance, eh? Even dig an exploratory trench or two at your new site, just to establish some soil use data," Callin suggested.
Nyan subdued a wide grin to a small dignified smile. "Of course, senior scientist. You are correct, I will need my new proposal to be most rigorously prepared." Callin knew that he still wanted to dig in Fire Valley. Deep earth sensors were expensive and valued pieces of equipment. It was also exactly what he needed to locate buried structures or artifacts and begin his excavation. Callin was making it possible for him to generate preliminary results that would prove his project was no threat to the government. If he could do that, he could resubmit his petition with the new information, and there would be no reason it should not be approved. "My thanks, Callin."
"Nefertum bless your endeavors, young Nyan," Callin was recording his personal authorization to release the sensor equipment on a small data plaque. "Take this to supply." His dark eyes brightened as the younger man took it from him. "And be sure to come and tell me what you find," he instructed.
Nyan really did grin then. Callin was as anxious to know what was out there as he was. "I will, sir," he promised. "I certainly will."
After taking leave of his mentor, Nyan walked briskly to the outer door, checking his chronometer. There wouldn't be time to collect the equipment today, but he could try for first thing in the morning. At this hour some of the junior scientists of the academy would be gathering at the cafeta across the street. Perhaps he could sound out a few of them about some unofficial assistance.
He emerged from the tall glass tower of the Research wing into the late afternoon sun. It wasn't quite end of shift for most people, but pedestrian traffic along the street was still greater than normal, and there was a crowd already waiting at the transit station for rides out of the inurb. A few small independently powered vehicles moved through the streets. Those would be military or church transports. Most people, Nyan included, gave them a respectful berth.
He waited for the vehicle to move past before crossing the street. Even this far from the front, there was a continuous military presence. His uncle said it was necessary, that Optrican agents were apprehended daily. His father had been known to say in a rare unguarded moment that it wasn't the Optricans the government was most worried about controlling. Nyan was himself conventionally devout, but tried to ignore the politics. Compared to the mysteries of the ancient past, he found it all rather tedious. Just as he reached the other side, he thought he heard his name.
He turned in time to see a woman a bit older than himself with long brown hair pulled back in a neat queue. "Nyan!" She shouted impatiently, despite his having turned around and looked toward her.
"I heard you, Halera," he said as she came closer. He stood patiently as his older sister gave him a critical once-over. "Blessings to the day."
His sister's expression warmed slightly at the greeting. "Well, I'm glad to see you haven't completely lost all sense of propriety."
Eh? What now? "I'm not sure what you mean, Hal," he said. There was nothing inappropriate about his current dress, though it scarcely compared with his sister's impeccable uniform and gleaming insignia. He took a second look at the formal garb. "You've been promoted again!"
"Yes," she smiled, her eyes lighting with satisfaction. "And I've been posted to a unit that's transferring to the border next cycle."
A frontline posting? No wonder she was excited. His ambitious older sister had been crazy about anything military since as long as Nyan could remember. Even his uncle couldn't disapprove, even if he wished she'd followed him into the church instead. But to reach high-church office meant a stint in the Soldiers of Purity, the Inquisitorial branch of the Church. Nyan was just as happy Halera preferred to take a secular route to success. He smiled at her. "You'll have to forgive me if I don't really wish you to see combat."
Halera shrugged off his concern. "It's not very likely, though I can hope. It would almost guarantee swift advancement." She returned the subject to him. "But you're not going to distract me. Call our parents.. you've been buried in your research for weeks now, and they're starting to get concerned."
He started guiltily. "Nefertum! I was supposed to call them yesterday."
"Yes, you were," His sister shook her head. "What you find so interesting about all that stuff is beyond me. You don't even care if you find treasures from the Golden Age, do you? It's a good thing you didn't join the church.. you'd probably get lost in some old tale and forget what day it was."
He flushed. "The government and the Church support historical research."
"The government and the Church want to advance our technology to help us in the war against Optrica," his sister said briskly. "It's not the same thing as your obsession with every dusty old manuscript that crosses your path."
"It's a mystery, Hal, that could help us to understand who we were, where we came from." It was an old argument. Even though he was well established in his own profession neither his parents nor his older sister really took it seriously. And it was true enough that the main reason the government funded the academy was in the hope of gaining technical advances.
His sister dismissed his statement with an eye-roll and flip of her long hair. "You already know where we came from. Read the Book." The Book of Nefertum, she meant, of course. He sometimes thought the Holy Book was the only non-military book she ever read. She leaned forward to press a quick formal kiss to his brow. "Call me if you decide you want a real job. And call our parents."
"I will," he said. "Be careful." She laughed but didn't bother to answer, striding quickly away in the direction of the regional military headquarters.
Nyan continued the short distance to the cafeta. Even though the sun was sinking, it was still warm. In this season, it would remain dry and warm for weeks on end. Perfect digging weather. His steps quickened. Hopefully there'd be someone he knew there.
As he scanned the room, he was pleased to see several other of the junior members of the academy already settled at their usual table in the back. He waved as he threaded his way across the room to join them at the small table.
When he arrived, they'd already hijacked a chair and a clean cup from an adjoining table and were pouring him a cup of the strong fragrant tea that was popular here. It was early for the evening meal, but Faiele was already halfway through a plate of small buns filled with a spiced bean paste. He'd often joked that she needed twice as many meals as the rest of them because she moved twice as fast. Malin was drinking her tea with a prim look, as usual, and Tamon was arranging pimli nuts in precise geometric patterns, switching them about to get pleasing balance of sizes.
"You're looking cheerful, for a man whose petition was rejected," Malin said.
Nyan shrugged philosophically. "You win some, you lose some."
All three of them stared at him. Faiele washed her mouthful of bun down with a swallow of tea. "Don't take this the wrong way," she said. "But who are you, and what have you done with Nyan?"
Tamon chuckled and Malin smiled. "Fai has a point," she said. "Why aren't you depressed?"
Tamon looked at him closely, then swept away his pimli nut array and started a new design. "He's got a plan."
Nyan confiscated a handful of nuts for himself, and began peeling them. "I think I can still convince them to let me dig in Fire Valley. I just need a, uh, more thorough proposal."
Faiele shook her head, making her fine dark braids bob. "Why don't you join the Hidden City expedition with me? There are years of work left to do there."
Nyan gave her a rather wistful look. If the invitation had been a personal one and not purely professional, he'd have considered it. But Faiele's husband was a crystal engineer, and also part of the Hidden City team. And the massive coastal ruins were themselves well understood, even if there was still a lot of untranslated text and new engineering techniques being developed from the ancient technology buried there. It was true that there was a lot of work still to be done, but the dating was clear.. it had been built by survivors of the Great Upheaval, more than a century after fleeing the center of the continent. It was here that he'd find traces of that older civilization. He smiled at her and said jokingly, "How about if I find some enormous caches of ancient text and technology and you and Brevan can come join my expedition?"
She smiled back. "Find a cache of Golden Age texts and tech, my friend, and you'll be hard put to keep us away." Faiele was a linguistics specialist, a nice complement to her husband's specialty.
"And some nice art in need of preservation would be good," Malin suggested. "I suppose you'll be in charge?"
Nyan grinned. "Well, this is my excavation we're fantasizing about."
"And what about me?" Tamon asked. Nyan looked at him consideringly. Tamon was the youngest of the group, and less established in his career.
"Tamon is good with a shovel," Malin said faintly maliciously.
Tamon looked away but, but Nyan caught a flash of hurt. "Tamon will be the recorder for the excavation," Nyan said quickly. "It needs someone absolutely trustworthy."
Tamon flushed a bit, looking pleased. Recorder was a responsible position, and in truth, the meticulous record keeping necessary to an excavation was something for which his dogged patience and methodical nature was an asset.
Faiele looked at him curiously. "Seriously, Nyan, what are you doing? Everyone else has a proposal already approved."
"Seriously, I'm going to do some more work, and resubmit my Fire Valley proposal," Nyan said, sweeping the nut shells into the brazier keeping the tea hot in the center of the table.
Faiele looked dubious. "Does that have any chance? I mean, if it was already rejected..."
"Senior scientist Callin says it was bounced for orthodoxy concerns, not for methodological ones," Nyan said. He ate several of the small sweet nuts in one mouthful. He was hungry. He'd been too agitated about the review panel's decision to eat much lunch.
"Orthodoxy concerns?" Malin said, frowning.
"The review panel is afraid that ambiguous data might become a political concern," Nyan said. "If I can prepare a preliminary report that shows that won't be a problem." He shrugged. "I think they'll accept it."
Faiele laid down her bun half-eaten, a rare sign of concern. "Nyan-"
"What? " he gave her a speculative look. "Are you going to eat the rest of those?" "Huh?" She followed his gaze. "I'm willing to share, but only if you order more." As he reached for a bun she continued. "Nyan, you're treading on very sensitive ground. Some of the evidence in your proposal suggests that Fire Valley might even have been Nefertum's home on Bedrosia. No matter what you find or don't find, it's going to be controversial."
Nyan lowered the bun from his mouth untasted and leaned forward over the table. "But Faiele, don't you see how important that makes this? We could be talking about actual scientific proof for the Bedrosian theory." He froze, wondering if he should have just blurted it out like that. That his ultimate goal was proof for the Bedrosian theory was something he had previously shared only with his mentor Callin.
His friends stared at him, and Malin said carefully. "But Nyan, we already know the Bedrosian theory is the truth. It doesn't need proving."
Faiele looked like she wanted to say something else, but curbed her tongue and said tactfully. "I hope you find what you're looking for." Faiele was as curious as he was, but her middle-class background made her cautious about challenging authority.
Nyan looked at Malin. "I know the teachings of the Church, Malin. But they're a little short on detail, don't you think? I mean, we don't know how those early Bedrosians lived, how they rose to their Golden Age..."
"And the Church says we don't need to know," Malin insisted.
"That's no attitude for a scientist," Nyan retorted.
Malin looked around furtively and her tone dropped to an intense whisper. "It's very hard to be a scientist if you're locked in a Purity re-education chamber, Nyan!"
Tamon cleared his throat loudly. "Oh, good, more tea!"
Nyan and Malin looked around at the cafeta server who was bringing them a fresh pot and taking food orders. By the time they'd ordered and received several more plates full of food, Nyan's irritation had passed. He picked up the conversation where it had left off. "Don't worry, Malin. I'm not going to do anything crazy, I promise."
She still looked a bit worried. "I hope not."
He gave all three of them a hopeful look. "I hope that doesn't mean you won't come out and lend a hand."
"Help you?!" Malin's eyebrows went up.
"Just to lend a hand with laying out the grids, a little digging," he cajoled. "After all, the most likely outcome is that I won't even find enough to sustain prolonged study. In which case, I'll have to go back to the beginning and develop another proposal."
Faiele shook her head. "Brevan and I are headed off to the Hidden City the day after tomorrow," she said. "And we've a lot of preparations to make."
"I'm working on some research for senior scientists Callin and Ogila," Tamon said. "I could come out on my freeday, though."
Malin glowered at him mock-suspiciously. "You're just looking for strong backs, I can tell." She sighed, "All right. My next freeday. If only to make sure you aren't developing some wacky heretical notions."
Faiele pushed her chair back, "And I need to go meet my husband. Nyan, if this doesn't work out, please consider coming out to the Hidden City. We could really use someone with your expertise. I'm sure we could persuade the director to let you join us."
He only replied, "Safe travel." Nyan didn't tell her he had already turned down an offer from the director of the Hidden City project. Truthfully, he could almost have his pick of positions after the professional acclaim he'd received for the Chevet River excavation he'd finished earlier in the year. Some of his colleagues thought his independent proposal was the simple desire to be in charge of his own project. In actuality, none of the available projects offered him the chance to continue the search that had obsessed him since his youth. The origin of life on Bedrosia...if we understood that, what other insights might we gain? He looked over his part-time staff of two. It would have to do.
Nyan walked through the woods from the transit station in the predawn light, carrying the valuable sensor with him. The several trips that he, Tamon and Malin had made out there with equipment several days before were already beginning to wear a faint path in the forest floor. He followed the trail of unobtrusive markers they'd attached to the trees, though in truth, he'd little need. He had a good natural sense of direction, and he'd hiked all over this area when he was making his initial site selection. That was how he'd found the cave where they'd stored the supplies, sheltering from a sudden thunderstorm.
In the clearing, he retrieved a shovel from the equipment stash near the edge of the clearing and looked with satisfaction at the area they'd surveyed. He'd mapped out a program of digging that should let him make a fair assessment of the potential of the site in a couple of weeks, even with just himself and occasional help from Malin and Tamon. A preliminary pass with the deep-sensing equipment had suggested that there was buried metal near the base of the cliff. That would be a good place to start.
Nyan wiped the sweat from his face and decided to take another walk around the site with the sensor. He was actually starting to wonder if the instrument was working properly. It still continued to register metal strongly though he had already dug down several feet. He held it over the hole, but it continued to insist that there was something large and metallic down there. He hoped it wasn't a meteorite or something stupid like that. That much metal seemed like more than he would have expected to find in a primitive site, though if it were something later... He grinned briefly. It was going to be extremely amusing if he really did turn up a Golden Age site, even if he was hoping for something older.
He strolled over the graveled clearing noting that there didn't seem to be any other metallic intrusions. At least whatever it was probably wasn't a lump of metallic ore. If so, he should be getting more readings. He waved the sensor at the rock wall a dozen feet away, and his heart sank. Metal. Much stronger than the readings he had gotten from the pit he was digging. Then he shrugged. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise. If he could confirm that he was getting some kind of ore pocket, it might make it more worthwhile to start digging survey trenches across other parts of the area.
He rummaged through his toolbox looking for something to chip off a sample of the rock. It looked like an ordinary silicate to him, but he should take a sample to one of the geologists at the academy to confirm it. The heavy knife fit into a crack in the rock wall. Nyan used a rock to pound it in, trying to pry a sample free. This was stupid, and he was probably going to break the knife. He needed a spike and hammer, something designed for the job. The chunk of rock was starting to come loose, though and he continued to pry at the rock.
It finally broke with a crack, and revealed something so surprising that Nyan didn't notice his sample landing on his toes. "Ow!" He didn't even bother to move the rock off the bruised toes either, he was so busy staring at his discovery. "Oh, sweet Nefertum! What is it?!" The sample had fallen away to reveal a quite different sort of stone behind it, worked stone or perhaps metal, unlike anything he had seen before. He waved the sensor at it.. Definitely, this was what he had been detecting. A strange design stood out from the surface in relief. The edge seemed to curve. Stepping back, he thought he could trace the outline of the artifact behind the rock and there were even a few other places up high where it was exposed.
Nyan's eyes went wide with excitement and he nearly danced. A carved arch buried in volcanic ash could only mean that this was the site of the primitive village that he had been searching for. He resumed chipping, relieved to find that the rock wasn't too hard. Possibly it had fallen as loose ash and been compressed over time. He quickly discovered the surrounding matrix, the material of the arch was very hard, and impervious to damage by the tools that he was using. He speeded up recklessly, removing rock until nearly a third of the arch was exposed.
Only the onset of darkness persuaded him to stop. He turned to stumble over the path back to the transit station in the dark. He needed to come back with better tools. And may be some help. Perhaps Malin and Tamon would come, even before their freeday. He'd have to call them.. he looked at his chronometer and cursed. He'd almost forgotten he was supposed to have dinner with his parents this evening.
The evening meal was strained. Nyan had arrived late and grubby to his parents' disapproval. He couldn't stop thinking about what he had uncovered. Fortunately his parents were occupied with serving out the food. Both of them had responsible jobs and neither liked to cook, so they had brought home food that was already prepared. He wrinkled his nose slightly as he tasted the spicy traditional dish. He liked it as well as anything, but the cafeta near the academy made it better.
"If you don't like the food, Nyan, you bring something next time," his mother said sharply, his expression not escaping her.
"It's fine, Mother," he said. He managed to keep his mind mostly on the company and the conversation through the rest of the meal, until the subject of his sister came up. "I saw Halera the other day," he ventured.
"She mentioned it when she came by to see us before she left," his mother said. Trust his sister to be diligent about family responsibilities.
"She's very excited about the new job," he continued.
"I wish she were as excited about settling down," his mother said wistfully. "I sometimes think both of you are so busy working you'll never have families of your own."
That was his father's cue. "Seen anything of your young friend Malin lately?" the older man asked.
Nyan restrained the urge to roll his eyes. They liked Malin, and her family was well connected. No doubt they thought they were looking out for his interests in encouraging him to pursue her. Contrition kept his tone civil. "Actually, I'm inviting her out to see my site tomorrow."
His father laughed approvingly, "See your site, eh? Is that what young folks are calling it now?"
His mother said, "Harol!" as Nyan flushed.
His father was grumbling, "Well, first time I heard all that digging stuff might have a sensible use."
"I had better get home before it's too late to call her," Nyan said, hastily swallowing the last of his food. Something about dining with his parents made him feel like an adolescent again. Probably their barely veiled disapproval of what he'd chosen to do with his life. He was in no mood to rehash old arguments about the value of studying the past with his father.
Better to get home and call Malin and Tamon. He couldn't wait to show them what he'd found. He wasn't sure just how he was going to get to sleep tonight, he was so excited. A carved arch, preserved in the ash. As much as he hated to admit to anything as unscientific as intuition, he just knew this find was going to be amazing.
Dawn found Nyan and his friends trudging to the rock wall lugging tools and a ladder with Malin and Tamon grumpy from lack of sleep. "Just what is it that's so exciting that you have to drag us out here before we're properly awake?" Tamon asked.
"You'll see!" Nyan kept trying to speed up in his eagerness to get back to the site and Malin stumbled as she tried to match his pace. "It's really amazing."
The morning light was just hitting the rock wall as they arrived at the clearing. The segment of revealed arch glistened with an almost iridescent sheen, strikingly different from the surrounding rock. Tamon dropped his end of the ladder and gasped. "What is it?"
"I don't know yet." Nyan told him. "Perhaps we can tell when we have uncovered more of it." He extracted the rock spike from his tool belt and maneuvered the ladder closer to the wall. "Let's find out."
Malin helped Nyan chip at the concealing rock, while Tamon began clearing away the rubble from the base of the ring. Nyan opened his mouth to speak, and then shut it, seeing that his friend was looking carefully at each piece he loaded in his basket to be sure it wasn't concealing an artifact. He really should get Tamon to join him when this dig was official, he thought. Tamon wasn't given to sudden inspiration, but his conscientious and precise work were an asset to any project he joined.
As they freed more and more of the ring, more carvings were revealed. Nyan thought that they were some kind of symbols, not just decoration. He'd never seen anything like it. He'd have to send images to Faiele and ask her if she had any idea of their meaning. Finally Malin and Tamon stepped back as Nyan chipped away one of the last remaining pieces of rock. He brushed off the symbol that was revealed, a pair of lines, closed at the top, with circle above it. He grinned with excitement. "Another one."
Malin surveyed the ring, her eyes alight with interest and speculated, "Perhaps the ancestors used it for astronomical calculation." Nyan reflected that he'd that it was times like this, when Malin was caught in the excitement of the moment rather than worrying about propriety, that he felt the most interest in falling in with his father's matchmaking schemes.
Nyan grinned even more broadly. "A settlement must be nearby." This could be the discovery that he had dreamed of. Malin smiled back at him with genuine warmth. Behind him he heard a metallic clunk. Malin looked past him and her smile faded. "What's that?" He turned to see that one of the bits of the carved ring had moved and was glowing a dull red.
Malin was backing away. "I don't know." The inner ring of the arch- 'the device?' - Nyan wondered, was moving and the other chevrons that he had taken for decorative elements were lighting up in turn.
Nyan was fascinated. "It's not an arch. It's some kind of- machine."
Malin was starting to sound frightened. "We must leave, Nyan!" Tamon was backing away hurriedly. But Malin stood her ground, caught between fear and amazement, and Nyan moved closer to her, watching in purest wonder.
When the last chevron lit, the center of the circle erupted with a whoosh like a fountain of water. Nyan and Malin both fell back out of its path. The water subsided back into the ring and rippled gently, like a vertical pool. Nyan got up and approached it curiously. How could it stand up like that? Why didn't it rush out and spill over the ground?
Malin called out as he approached the ring "Nyan! You'll drown."
He put his hand against the surface. It felt a bit cool, but not at all wet. He told her, "It doesn't feel like water." Concentric ripples spread out from where his hand disappeared into the shimmer. Then he felt a sudden bump against his fingers, and jumped back as a boxy metallic thing came poking out of the water. It seemed to be a machine, with a long pincer arm on the front. On the top, a protrusion with a round black glass eye poked out. It stopped and after it sat there for a couple of minutes without moving, Nyan approached it. The cylinder with the glass eye in the end began to move back and forth, and Nyan stepped in front of it, ignoring Malin's gasp of fear. She stood frozen in place while he looked it over.
Malin asked. "Nyan? What is it?"
"I don't know." He walked away from the seeming eye and watched as it tracked him back toward Malin and stopped when he did. He was stunned when it spoke, and greeted him by name.
"Hello, Nyan. Don't be afraid. My name is Daniel Jackson."
His brain flew to the speculative fantasies that he had loved as a child. "Are you a mechanical life-form?"
"No, I'm-I'm communicating with you through that device." The voice sounded surprisingly normal, down to the slight stutter.
Nyan's curiosity began to outweigh his startlement. "From where?"
The calm voice replied. "From another planet." The suspicion he had been nursing sprang into being. Could this- was it even possible - that this could be the Gateway? But that would mean-
Beside him, Malin's tone was suspicious. "This is a trick. We must report this, Nyan."
He protested. "No, not yet." 'What if it's real?' he wondered.
She dragged him aside and whispered, "Why?"
Nyan looked at her imploringly, "Malin. I think we've found the Gateway."
Malin said in a flat tone, "There is no gateway. That is Optrican legend."
Nyan demanded. "Well then how do you explain this?"
"This could be very dangerous, Nyan." Malin persisted. "Do you realize what this would mean?"
He turned and looked at her. Did she think he was stupid? Of course he understood what this meant. "It would mean we were wrong. And the Optricans were right."
The machine spoke again, "Nyan, is it all right if we visit you?"
Malin whispered a shocked, "No!"
Nyan replied in a tone that drowned her out. "Yes." What was she thinking? They had the chance to be the first people to greet visitors from another planet, and she wanted to call the authorities. They wouldn't want to greet anyone. The voice, Daniel Jackson, he reminded himself, was replying. He wondered if all alien names were that long.
"Okay, we'll be with you shortly. Um, try to stay close to that mechanical device I'm speaking through and uh, try to avoid that big splash that you saw before. It's, it's kind of dangerous."
Nyan tried to speak in as dignified a manner as he could manage. "We will be waiting here to welcome you, Daniel." Belatedly, he hoped he hadn't been offensive by not using both names. Well, these people had contacted him; presumably they would make allowances for some confusion on his part. The watery surface winked out, disappearing in a haze of mist. Then he heard footsteps receding behind him and turned see Malin pelting off for the trees. He called after her, "Malin, come back! If you tell them, they might kill whoever comes through! Malin!"
He wished that they had not closed the portal so quickly. He should have warned them that not all people in Bedrosia would be receptive to meeting people from beyond the gateway. Their scientists would be convinced by evidence, he knew, but the population in general and the security forces in particular would be unwilling to listen. He bit his lip uncertainly. All he could do now is wait, and hope they came back before Tamon or Malin could convince someone to come out here.
It seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than a tenth part of the day when the gateway reopened. A man and a woman stepped out of it with startling suddenness, carrying an apparently heavy box between them. They were followed by another man, and - Nyan blinked. He supposed it was a man, but he had never seen anyone with such dark skin before. And unlike the others, he wore a gold emblem on his forehead. The two fair men wore dark shields before their eyes. He stood his ground as the strangers approached and the first man spoke to him in a familiar voice. "Hello, Nyan."
Nyan felt breathless and his stomach was churning with anxiety. Their clothes were strange, but they looked- human. They looked human, so this had to be the gateway. "You're human."
The man looked at him sympathetically, and his tone was slow and reassuring. "Yes. I'm, uh, Daniel Jackson, the person you were talking to before. This is Major Carter, Colonel Jack O'Neill and Teal'c. We're from a planet called Earth."
Nyan couldn't seem to get his breath. The world was upside down. Everything he had believed his entire life was wrong.
Daniel smiled at him and asked in a concerned tone, "You all right?"
Nyan found his voice. "Then the legend is true."
"What, uh, what legend is that?" With every word the strangers spoke, the reality was sinking in.
Nyan told him, "The Optricans believe that humans were brought to this planet by aliens that traveled through a gateway. But during the Upheaval the gateway was buried and things could no longer come through."
Daniel asked. "What was the Upheaval?"
Nyan stumbled through the answer. "A period of violent earthquakes and uh, volcanic eruptions covering most of this continent. About two thousand years ago."
The woman spoke. "So if the stargate has been buried for that long, how did you know where to look for it?"
He turned toward her, stammering a bit. "I was not looking for it. I was hoping to find a primitive settlement that was here before the upheaval." He wet his dry lips. "I was hoping to prove the Bedrosian theory." 'The clearly wrong Bedrosian theory.'
The older man asked, "What's that?"
"That human life was created on Bedrosia...without a gateway."
The man clearly saw his problem. "Ah."
The woman asked, "So this, this country is called Bedrosia?"
Nyan corrected, "This continent."
Daniel asked, "And then who are the Optricans?"
"A rival continent." Nyan told him.
That caught the older man's attention again. "Rival as in...what?"
Nyan explained with a catch in his voice, "We believe-" believed "-that we were created on this continent and the Optricans believe their holy gateway is on this continent. Therefore we've been at war for decades."
The older man turned to the woman. "Okay, Carter, you want to make sure the reactor's all hooked up? Just in case." He turned back to Nyan. "Mind if I ask how close to the front lines we might be?"
"A great distance. There's no need for concern." Not from the Optricans. He was opening his mouth to explain that the Bedrosians were another matter, when the fourth man, Teal'c, shouted from the edge of the woods.
"O'Neill!" He was pointing his tall staff at three incoming security craft.
Nyan gasped. Malin or Tamon must have convinced someone to come quickly. "Oh no. No. We have to hide."
O'Neill said, "I thought you said they weren't around here."
Nyan explained miserably, "Those are not Optrican. They're my people...Bedrosian." Local security tended to attract the dregs. Anyone with real ability or ambition- like Halera- joined the military. Not that they'd be any less rigid in this instance.
The man asked, "Good guys?"
Nyan shook his head. How could he make them understand? "Good is not the first word I would use to describe the ones that approach."
"Uh-huh." O'Neill accepted his assertion without further argument, but turned toward the woman.
"We must run now." Nyan insisted. The security forces were renowned for their fanaticism. They were known to severely beat and imprison people for mere impiety. Confronted with the demise of all they believed in, they would simply the kill the visitors and destroy the gateway.
The woman had opened the box and was uncoiling wires from it. O'Neill told her. "Okay, Carter, dial it up!"
Carter replied, "I need five minutes before I can be operational, Sir."
The security craft were nearly there. 'There is no time for this.' "This way. Quickly!" He turned and sprinted for the woods. He had to get them to town, to the scientists at the research academy. They would need the help of important people to make the government see the truth. Only when he reached the trees did he turn and see that the strangers had been too slow to follow him. They had been trapped in the capture field. As Nyan watched in horror, the field was constricted around them until they collapsed. He scrambled into the underbrush and concentrated on putting some distance between him and the security forces.
When he finally stopped for breath, he was sure that he was safe for the moment. But he felt terrible. He leaned against a tree and gasped miserably. This was all his fault. He should have warned them sooner. Now security had them, and the best they could hope for was imprisonment. And even then, if they told the truth about where they came from, they would be convicted as blasphemers and turned over to the Purity until they recanted. More likely security would just kill them. There was little justice available for blasphemers. He had to do something, try to help them.
He turned and regarded the tree speculatively. He wasn't that far from the site of the gateway and this was a tall, sturdy specimen. He shinned up it to get a view of the clearing. To his dismay, he saw that Riegar himself, the commander of the local security cohort, had come out to apprehend the visitors. Daniel, Carter and O'Neill were tied up and kneeling before Riegar while his second-in-command took biosamples for identification.
The fourth man, Teal'c. They hadn't caught him. Perhaps if he could get Teal'c to the academy, they could get someone to listen before the other three were killed. He climbed back down the tree and started circling around the clearing in the direction that he had last seen the dark man, moving as quietly as he could.
It took a over an hour of anxious searching before he found the dark skinned visitor, lying near the body of the security man. He put his hand on the man's chest to see if he still breathed, and was startled to have his throat instantly enveloped in a single massive hand. "State your purpose," he growled.
The pain was excruciating, and the lack of air was making him feel dizzy and panicked. "Nyan," he gasped, unable to get anything more out through the grip on his throat. Teal'c released him and he fell back beside the security man, scrambling back up to help Teal'c sit, groaning. His face was burned and his shirt singed. He looked terrible.
Another security craft was landing in the clearing. "We have to get away from here," Nyan told him urgently.
Teal'c asked, "Where are my friends?"
Teal'c's voice hardened with determination. "I will not leave my friends."
He started groping around on the ground. Nyan wondered what he was doing. "We can't get to them. Riegar's set up a quarantine field and as soon as he finds the soldier you killed..." He suddenly realized that Teal'c was groping for his staff. And if he couldn't see it .. Nyan reached out and pulled the staff toward him. Teal'c's hand closed over it and he painfully levered himself to his feet. Nyan waved a hand experimentally before Teal'c's eyes. The man didn't react. "You're blind."
He hesitated. He couldn't lead a blind man all the way back to town, let alone one as conspicuous as Teal'c. He would have to find a safe place to conceal him. He thought of the supply cave. "Come with me. I know a place where we can hide."
Despite being blind, Teal'c walked remarkably lightly for such a big man. Daniel, O'Neill even Carter had all been tall. Nyan wondered if all people from Earth- Earthians?- were larger than he. He was grateful that the cave was so close. Teal'c was shuffling slowly and seemed to be in some pain. He led Teal'c into the cave, finding the light that was always left there. He turned to the other man. "I come here for shelter. We also store supplies here. Are you injured in addition to your eyes?"
Teal'c replied. "I will be fine."
Nyan led him to a low rock shelf. "You can sit here." He found a bottle of water and passed it over. "Here."
The dark man hefted it suspiciously. Nyan assured him. "It's water." His mind was drawn inexorably to the amazing upheaval he had just experienced in his worldview. It should be a nightmare- disproving his country's most cherished beliefs, on the run from security- but all he could feel was an overwhelming wonder and excitement. "It's amazing how one discovery can change everything. For years I've been searching for proof that we were created on this continent by Nefertum."
To his surprise, Teal'c recognized the name of the god. "Nefertum. The blue lotus blossom of Ra."
He suddenly wondered if perhaps the Bedrosian theology was still valid. "He's represented in our texts by a blue lotus blossom. But what is Ra? And how do you know about Nefertum?"
Teal'c replied. "Nefertum was an under System Lord to the one named Ra. It is with him whom I did battle."
'Did battle? That doesn't make any sense.' Nyan stood, wrapping his arms around himself protectively. "I don't understand. Nefertum was and is the creator of all of us. He created this planet and this great continent."
Teal'c was looking steadily in his direction and there was a hint of anger in his voice. "Correction. Nefertum was an alien who most likely brought your people though the stargate as slaves many thousands of years ago."
The tightness was back in his chest and the wonder started to dissolve into apprehension. "That is what the Optricans say."
Teal'c voice was somber. "Then, they are correct."
Nyan looked helplessly at the ceiling, "Oh dear Nefertum, this is blasphemy." He looked back at the calm dark face before him. "But if it is true, it could change everything. I must show my colleagues at the research academy."
Teal'c asked. "Can you be certain they will believe you?"
Nyan assured him. "They are scientists as I am. They will realize they are wrong when presented with the evidence."
"Your military has the stargate in its command." Teal'c pointed out.
Nyan knew that there would be no chance of bringing the scientists to see the gate. "Not the gateway. You. You are the proof."
"I will not be the proof!" His tone was angry. "And I will not allow my friends to be imprisoned as they are!" Teal'c climbed to his feet. "You must help me rescue them."
Nyan's gaze went to Teal'c's chest as the light showed dark liquid seeping through the black shirt. Blood. The man was in no shape to rescue anyone. He reached out, saying, "Let me see."
Teal'c batted his hand away angrily. "Do not!"
Nyan persisted. "You could have a serious injury."
"I will be fine." Nyan looked at the stubborn expression on the man's face and decided that finding a medkit would be the best thing he could do. And something to help heal his eyes. He knew the instrument, even had a pretty good idea how to use it.
He would have to go by his mother's office and take a healing device; it wasn't something that he could get from anyone but a trained medical person. He briefly wished that he could bring his mother back, Teal'c could certainly use a healer, but his devout and conventional mother would tell him to call for a medical evacuation unit. She would never follow her son into the woods to help a stranger. He banished the thought and told Teal'c, "I have something that will help. I will bring it back with the other supplies." He resolutely ignored the injured man calling his name as he left the cave.
He was relieved and grateful that security had not yet thought to post a guard at the nearest transit station. Walking through the woods paralleling the line until he reached an unguarded station would have taken time they didn't have.
When he reached his rooms, he was surprised and dismayed to see Tamon leaning on the wall outside. "Nyan!"
It was too late to retreat, the other man had already seen him. He stepped forward. "Tam- what are you doing here?"
He looked embarrassed. "I meant to apologize for running away. Are you and Malin all right?"
"Fine." Since the place wasn't crawling with security men or Soldiers of Purity, he figured it was safe to ask, "How much did you see?"
His friend was studying his shoes. "The noises. I ran.. the watery stuff." He looked up. "You don't look like you got wet?"
"No, it was fine." Nyan decided to go with a portion of the truth. "Malin went and reported it to the authorities while I waited at the ring. They didn't want us to hang around getting underfoot after they got there."
"Oh." Tamon looked reassured. "We're not in trouble then."
"Not at the moment." Nyan said, keeping the heavy irony out of his tone. He thought quickly. "Though I expect they're going to want to waste a lot of our time over the next few days asking us stupid questions about it over and over." It would be worthwhile if they didn't get to talk to Tamon for a day or two. "I hope you don't have any important plans."
As he expected, Tamon flinched. "But I have to finish the article I'm submitting to the academy journal. It's due next week."
Nyan shook his head sadly. "You'd better hope you can get it done this afternoon then, before they come looking for you."
Tamon simultaneously straightened up from his position by the wall and slouched furtively. "I can't- I have to get this done, Nyan. I really shouldn't even have taken the morning off to help you." Just as Nyan was wondering if he was going to have to prompt him, Tamon continued. "Since no one has told me officially to make myself available, I think I'll hide out at my cousin's until it's done. Can you pretend you haven't seen me?"
"Seen who?" Nyan asked, giving him a mock innocent look.
Tamon smiled, relieved. "Thanks! You're a good friend."
Nyan smiled back, and went inside as his friend hustled away. A good friend. God. It was more than likely Tamon would be interrogated for days after disappearing like this. But Teal'c's life depended on security not catching up with Nyan just yet.
Nyan quickly unlocked his door with shaking hands, and put his back to it once inside, sweat dripping down the back of his neck. Fortunately, no one had thought to post security at his home yet, which meant that the healing house would also likely be unguarded. He quickly gathered up the food and simple medical aids he meant to take and moved on to his mother's office.
At the healing house, his mother's assistant told him that she was helping someone in the exam room but raised no demur when he went to wait in her workspace. It was the work of only a few moments to locate the healing instrument he needed and slip it in his bag. He left, telling the assistant cheerfully that he had decided not to wait, but would see his mother later. He wondered if that was actually going to be true. Malin had to have told security his name. Even if he wasn't caught helping Teal'c, he was bound to get in a lot of trouble. He pushed the thought away. If he could prove to the academy that the visitors were from another planet, public outcry would keep security from doing anything awful to him. He hoped. And his family connections might finally come in useful for something as well.
On the way back, he slumped patiently into the hard seat of the transit car, waiting for his stop. He'd have to signal to stop the conveyance, Fire Valley was part of a large natural area in between two widely separated urban areas. The stop was used only by hikers and occasional foresters and geologists. There were only a few other passengers in the car, mostly reading or staring idly out the windows. The man two seats ahead of him suddenly said, "Huh?" looking out the window with increased interest.
Nyan's hand froze halfway to the stop signal, as he spotted the two men standing at the transit stop. The man ahead of him turned to his female companion and said, "I wonder why they didn't signal for a stop? They looked like security."
Nyan returned a blank gaze to the window, clenching his hands on the strap of his bag to still their trembling. So they'd staked out the transit stop. But he couldn't stay here all the way to the next city. He'd have to risk the next one. Going any further would put him close to a days' walk from the site.
He waited until the last possible moment to stop the transit car, and only when it had passed out of the station and still no one had popped out of the woods to grab him did he finally let out a huge sigh of relief and belief that security's net had not yet spread this far. Nyan set off through the woods in what he hoped was the direction of the clearing.
He alternately jogged, walked and ran, until he started to think he might be getting close, then slowed down and tried to move quietly. He was grateful for all the time he had spent hiking over this area before finally selecting his excavation site. The ground began to rise and he realized that he had reached the stony ridge that the gateway had been embedded in. He was too far west, so he turned to walk along the ridge back toward the clearing.
As he got closer he slowed down, placing each foot carefully. He could hear the whine of machinery before he could see the clearing. When he spotted the lightening of vegetation that marked the clearing, he dropped to his knees and moved forward even more carefully. Halera would laugh hysterically if she could see him emulating a military scout. Fortunately, it didn't seem like the security forces had similar training. The occasional stone was hard on his knees, but he kept going until finally he crawled under a bush and lay flat on his stomach to gain a safe vantage.
The security forces had erected two large temporary buildings, and he counted half a dozen men milling around. Two of them were digging vigorously at the spot that he had started to excavate, and he suppressed a curse at the lack of care they were showing. They could destroy all sorts of sensitive artifacts without even noticing their presence while digging at that speed. He could hear a clank as the spade hit something metallic and held his breath as he recalled the strong sensor readings he had gotten in that spot.
He pressed himself flatter against the ground and schooled himself against any sudden movement that might draw their eyes. The men were clearing the dirt off a metallic object. It looked like something that might be related to the gateway, as it had concentric rings about a large red dome and if he squinted, he thought he could make out symbols similar to those on the gateway itself.
His attention was drawn to a pair of men who were coming out of the woods opposite. They were dragging the body of the man that Teal'c had killed. That was bad. Now they knew he was there for sure, if they had not already, and the search would be redoubled. Nyan would have to get him out of the cave. It was not so well hidden that a thorough search would not discover it. The men must have reported in on their coms.
They dropped the body on the ground before the tents as Riegar emerged and went over to look at the body. He knelt briefly and examined the bloody chest wound that was visible even from the ridge, then stalked back into one of the tents, fury written in every line of his body. Nyan gulped. If the visitors had not yet been mistreated, it was likely that was about to change.
As Riegar returned, he realized that his hope that the visitors had not been mistreated was a vain one. Behind him, two soldiers were half-dragging, half carrying Daniel by the arms. He seemed dazed and hardly able to walk. Nyan remembered that Riegar had the reputation of being very fond of using shock sticks on prisoners. The men clustered around the body scattered as they approached.
They hauled Daniel up to the body of the security officer. He looked down and said something Nyan couldn't hear. Riegar motioned curtly and they dragged him closer to Nyan, to the edge of the pit in the ground, showing him the gateway device. Daniel looked down at it without expression. Riegar was facing Nyan, and close enough to be audible. "Explain this."
Daniel simply shook his head. Riegar hit him with the shock stick and drove him to his knees, holding the activated weapon against him. "Tell me what this is!" he demanded. Daniel had yelped when the stick was first applied, but then simply slumped over and shook with the pain of the charge until the weapon was finally withdrawn.
Nyan wanted desperately to throw up. He could taste bile in the back of his throat and his hands were icy despite the heat of the afternoon. He couldn't bear to watch this, but he didn't dare to try and leave with Riegar and several security men so close and facing in his general direction. He buried his face in his arms and listened to Riegar yelling threats and the fizzing of the shock weapon until it finally stopped and he could hear footsteps starting to move away. He raised his head. The tall stranger hung limp in the grasp of the guards, but feebly struggled to get his feet back under him as they dragged him along. They were taking Daniel back toward the tents now. Hopefully the interrogation was over for the moment.
Nyan swallowed. He could not take Teal'c into the city and try to free the visitors by force of reason. Teal'c would not leave his friends anyway, and Nyan was beginning to fear that they did not have time. He squirmed slowly back from the edge of the ridge and crawled through the underbrush as quietly as he could manage. There had to be some way to help them, but Nyan could not see what he and a blind man could do to stop this. Hopefully Teal'c would have some idea. As he got far enough away from the clearing to feel safer, he made a wide circle around the gateway site and headed for the hiding place.
By the time he reached the cave, he was almost running. He'd been gone for hours. What if Teal'c tried to go out on his own? Movement inside the cave reassured him as he came in and stopped just inside the door to let his eyes adjust. Teal'c was still there, and seemed to be doing some kind of first aid, because he'd removed his shirt. But his hand.. Nyan's eyes must be fooling him- it looked like Teal'c had his entire hand inside his chest.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, he felt a mingled wave of shock and revulsion. That wasn't a wound. The edges were smooth and bloodless and the hand fit far too easily inside. It was like nothing he had ever seen. "What are you doing?" Nothing human could do that. The stunning realization crashed down on him. "You're an alien."
Teal'c's voice was forbidding, "Come no further." He removed his hand from his chest, glistening with some sort of fluid, and pulled his shirt back on.
Nyan ignored the instruction to move closer. His brain was spinning. Not human. Not like us. Alien. Now Nyan wasn't sure what to think about the strangers. His voice rose to a near squeak. "Daniel said you were all human."
Whatever he was, Teal'c did not seem inclined to explain. "Speak of it no more."
"What are you?" There was no way that Nyan could leave it like this. Was it possible that Daniel and the others were also aliens? That this gateway was truly an alien device, but that humans had still arisen on Bedrosia as he had been taught.
The alien was donning his outer garments. Nyan wondered if perhaps he had violated some taboo against nudity. Since the aliens wore clothes, it seemed plausible that their culture would regard them similarly to his own. "As I have said, speak of it no more. I did not believe you would return."
Didn't think he would return? For the first time, it occurred to Nyan that he could have just gone back to town and tried to pretend it had never happened, or reported Teal'c to the security forces. Despite his fear, it had never occurred to him that he shouldn't help fix the mess he had helped to create.
Looking at Teal'c's stoic expression, Nyan felt a pang of compassion. Even an alien must feel deserted, left blinded and alone on an alien world where his friends were imprisoned. Besides, the activation of the gateway was a historic event in the history of Bedrosia. There was no way that Nyan could walk away from that. "You are the most important thing that has ever happened to my planet, although I have not yet decided if it is a good thing or bad."
The first order of business was to try and fix Teal'c's sight, though. Nyan rummaged through his case. "I brought something for your eyes. It is a healing device that, among other things, can regenerate the visual nerves. It will help most of your sight return within a day." He suddenly wondered if the alien's eyes worked the same way his own did. "Of course it was designed for humans, so how you respond is uh..."
The alien cut him off. "I have no need for it. My sight will return on its own."
Nyan was pretty sure that a human's eyes would be permanently damaged without treatment for this sort of injury. "Because you are alien?"
Teal'c finally gave in to his persistence. "The others are human. I am a Jaffa. I possess within me a symbiote that accelerates healing."
If Teal'c was healing at an accelerated rate, Nyan didn't want to know about the normal one. "Forgive me, but you do not appear to be healing at all." A symbiote? That was amazing. He wondered if Teal'c's species was naturally symbiotic or if they had discovered the symbiote on their travels to other worlds. But the others were human as Daniel had said?
Teal'c explained reluctantly. "My symbiote was severely damaged by my own staff weapon blast. It must first heal itself."
"How long will that take?" Nyan asked.
Teal'c replied. "It could be days."
Days. They definitely didn't have that kind of time. And if it were that badly wounded- "Might it not die itself?"
"It is possible." Teal'c admitted.
"And if that happens?" Nyan asked curiously.
He swallowed queasily at the Jaffa's reply. "Then I too will die." There was a long pause and then Teal'c asked. "What do your people intend to do with my friends?"
Nyan didn't want to think too hard about that. What they were already doing to the others was barbaric. He said. "They are evidence that everything my people believe in is wrong and that everything the enemy believes is right and that is not an easy thing for military minds to digest."
"Then they will kill my friends and destroy the stargate and deny this event ever occurred." Teal'c said flatly.
Nyan had to admit that he was reading the situation aright. "Probably."
Teal'c said resolutely "We must soon depart."
"To do what?" Nyan knew he was right, this cave wasn't hidden enough to last for long, but he was uncertain as to what Teal'c's plan was.
Well, it had the virtue of simplicity. "You're still blind."
"I will manage." Teal'c said.
The man was clearly mad, but Nyan could not help but be touched by his loyalty to his friends. He needed to be healed though. There was no other way this was going to even be possible. He reached out and snatched Teal'c's staff.
"NYAN!" Teal'c shouted. Nyan stayed out of reach cautiously, remembering that iron grip at his throat.
"You will?" he asked gently. He handed the staff back to Teal'c. "I will not be part of a suicide mission. This device only works within the first thirty hours. Do you want my help or not?" He indicated the healing device, only after remembering that Teal'c could not see it, but the Jaffa seemed to understand him well enough anyway.
Teal'c asked him suspiciously. "You wish to use me to further your scientific aspirations, do you not?"
Aspirations? His aspirations had all been to prove his lifelong beliefs were based in fact. "You are proof that my theories have been all wrong..." Nyan said.
Teal'c replied grimly, "Then perhaps you would be better off if I were no longer alive."
Nyan understood, but was still a little shocked. That was the sort of answer he'd expect from a security man. He tried to explain, "Teal'c, I'm a scientist. When I find evidence that my theories are wrong, it is as exciting as if they were correct. Scientific advance in either direction is still an advance."
Teal'c looked bemused, and thank Nefertum, convinced. When he replied his voice was calmer. "You sound like Daniel Jackson. Do what you can."
Nyan carefully adjusted the device, remembering his mother's explanation of his function when he had seen her use it. He shone the light into Teal'c's eyes. "The pain is the nerve regenerating. It will be a moment." He held it for the prescribed length of time and then switched it off, watching Teal'c touch his face.
Nyan remembered that he hadn't told Teal'c what he had seen. "When I was out I went to a place where I could look upon Riegar's camp. Your friends are still there. Riegar's men have dug up a smaller device that looks related to the stargate."
Teal'c seemed to find that encouraging. "The DHD. Perhaps circumstances have become more favorable." He seemed to look around and became more animated. "There! There, I see a light there."
Nyan felt a vast relief. "Yes, good, then it works on your kind."
Teal'c seemed worried. "But I can only see a faint light."
"That was only the first treatment. We will do it as many times as necessary. There's no guarantee, but it should help." Nyan said reassuringly. He really didn't know if this was going to heal Teal'c, but at least it seemed to be working as he'd expect.
Teal'c seemed to have no further reservations. "Then do it."
Nyan remembered the cautions his mother had voiced about the device. "We must wait between treatments or we will do damage rather than good."
He timed the intervals precisely and continued giving him the treatments. They were nearly at the maximum safe usage of the instrument. He told Teal'c, "Almost there," and finally shut down the device.
Teal'c immediately began to gather up his belongings. "Our objective is to free O'Neill and the others. You will then lay down cover fire to enable one of them to dial the stargate."
Nyan was just as happy Teal'c was willing to take charge, but there were a few holes in his plan. "Getting inside the camp is going to be our first problem," Nyan told him. "The quarantine field is only penetrable by shuttlecraft."
The Jaffa seemed unworried. "An obstacle easily overcome." He looked down at his hands. "My vision is improved. Thank you, Nyan."
Nyan smiled at him, and Teal'c handed him a strange device, a weapon by the way he handled it. "You may use this to defend yourself."
Nyan gulped. "I have never used a weapon before."
Teal'c replied, "I am confident that you will learn quickly. We must depart." He picked up his jacket and staff weapon.
Nyan watched as he nearly walked into a wall, then corrected his bearing and moved toward the door. "What does this weapon do?" he asked.
Teal'c took the weapon back from him and showed him the controls, first to activate it, then to fire it. "One shot will stun." Teal'c told him, returning the weapon.
"And more than one shot?" Nyan asked nervously, following him out and stepping forward to lead him toward the city, where the next security craft would come from.
"Two shots in a short period of time will kill." Teal'c said.
"Oh." Nyan looked at the weapon in his hand, and resolved to be very careful when and where he shot it.
They walked through the woods only a short distance in the direction that the shuttles would take coming to the site from town. As they heard one approach, they took cover. Teal'c fired his staff weapon in the general direction of the craft and it came down to investigate.
Nyan shifted his grip on the weapon in suddenly sweating palms. He cast an imploring look at Teal'c and asked him nervously. "Are you sure I should be the one to do this?"
Teal'c reassured him with vast calm. "You will perform well. Of that I am certain."
'But how do you know?' Nyan wondered helplessly.
The doors on the craft opened and a security man came out. There was no more time for second-guessing. Nyan aimed carefully despite shaking hands and shot him with the stunner. Unlike a Bedrosian weapon, it fired a bluish jagged bolt that ran all over the man like lightning before he collapsed. A second man appeared and ducked aside as Teal'c fired, the shot missing. Nyan aimed carefully again, his hands scarcely steadier, but he dropped the second man. Nyan's knees were shaking. He'd just assaulted two security men. Anything else he'd done before this could be explained away, but not this. Teal'c's hand briefly touched his shoulder and he steadied.
Then Teal'c was running for the craft, with Nyan close behind him, hoping that there would not for any reason be an unexpected third man on board the transport. Teal'c grabbed one weapon, while Nyan collected the other, thumbing the controls to stun and showing Teal'c, "Stun, don't kill." They scrambled aboard the craft and shut the doors behind them, thankfully not finding any other crew aboard.
"Can you fly this craft?" Teal'c asked Nyan.
"No!" Nyan blinked. "Oh, Nefertum. You didn't think I could, did you?"
"It is of no concern." Teal'c said. "I am skilled in flying many different craft." He peered at the controls. "Can you tell me what this label says?"
Nyan nervously read off the labels on the controls. He was pretty sure that these craft were easy to fly, but personal transports were rare in Bedrosia. Cargo sleds were available for large or heavy items, but those were generally programmed to follow the person holding their key while avoiding obstacles. Teal'c seemed superbly confident though, and after familiarizing himself with the controls, he told Nyan his plan. "I will land us in the clearing, making it appear that I have little control over the shuttle. You must exit the craft and tell the security people that I attacked you and you escaped. Try to get to the tent and release the others. If you cannot get there without suspicion I will lay down covering fire for you."
Nyan felt almost dizzy with fear, but reminded himself that it was his fault these people had been captured. His fault that Riegar had been torturing them for, O Nefertum, most of a day now. He swallowed. "I'll do my best, Teal'c."
The Jaffa seemed confident as he took the controls, but as the small craft lifted it tilted abruptly sideways and Nyan was almost thrown from his seat. At first Nyan wondered nervously whether the erratic swoops and jars as the craft lifted off were for effect or were caused by Teal'c's lack of experience with the craft He grabbed the safety webbing and hung on for dear life as the shuttle wobbled nauseatingly, and then scraped through the top of a tree before lurching in a series of drunken arcs toward the ridge. Teal'c muttered something unintelligible under his breath as he fought the controls. "What's wrong?!" Nyan asked frantically.
"Nothing," Teal'c said, as the shuttle shuddered and clipped another tree. They rose fractionally higher. Nyan forbore further comment in favor of hanging on and not throwing up. The Jaffa was certainly doing a brilliant job of making it look like he wasn't in control. Teal'c brought the shuttle careening over the top of the ridge, and it wobbled wildly until it slammed down onto the ground with enough horizontal momentum to send it sliding toward Riegar. Nyan was jolted by the rough landing and looked to be sure that Teal'c was uninjured before heading toward the door. The Jaffa picked up the Bedrosian stunner and took up a position where he could see the door. "Go, Nyan," he said.
Nyan concealed the alien weapon in his tunic and took a deep breath. He didn't have to feign shakiness in his knees or fear in his voice as he jumped out of the shuttle and ran toward Riegar and tried to throw himself imploringly at the man's feet. "Help me! Help me! He's out there in the forest," he said.
"Who's out there?" Riegar asked.
Nyan said, "The alien. He killed the soldiers and he tried to kill me with his lightning weapon, but I got away and I came here."
Riegar immediately told two soldiers, "Take the shuttlecraft! Find him." The two soldiers immediately ran for the shuttlecraft.
Nyan glanced toward the tent where he'd seen them take Daniel earlier. Riegar then said to another soldier, "Put him under guard," gesturing to Nyan. His heart sank. If they locked him up too, he wasn't going to be able to do anything.
Riegar was looking toward the shuttlecraft impatiently. He turned to his aide and ordered, "Tell them to launch now!"
The woman responded immediately, "Yes, Sir," and headed for the craft, calling ahead of her as she did. "Why haven't you launched this craft?"
Teal'c popped his head around the door and stunned her at close range with the Bedrosian weapon. The remaining soldiers immediately fired upon Teal'c, but not before he hit the man guarding Nyan. Nyan felt a little thrill of satisfaction as he saw Riegar running for one of the tents. He let the soldiers pull them after him to the cover of some boulders and took out his stunner with grim determination and shot them both. Then he picked up their weapons and ran to the tent holding Teal'c's friends.
Coming inside, he spotted them immediately, confined in horrifyingly small electrified cages. They looked tired and worn, but the woman Carter recognized him immediately and said his name. He used the stunner controls to deactivate the cages, giving his captured weapons to O'Neill and Carter. "Hit the side button to shoot long range," he instructed.
Daniel asked, "Where's Teal'c?"
"He's outside," Nyan replied.
O'Neil lost no time in giving orders. "Daniel, dial us up. We'll lay down cover." Even Nyan followed that, and he felt a certain pride that O'Neill obviously was counting on him as part of that 'we'.
They went outside and starting shooting at the security men as Daniel ran for the hole where the men had dug up the other strange device. The men fired at him repeatedly, but Daniel just ducked and kept running. Despite the best efforts of the security men, he was able to slide into the hole without being stunned. There wasn't really enough cover there for him to be completely safe, but O'Neill was able to pick off the only security man in a position to pour down fire on him. Nyan kept looking around and trying to shoot anything that moved. In a shorter time than he would have thought possible, the Stargate let out its aqueous whoosh and settled into a vertical rippling puddle.
Nyan heard Teal'c calling from the shuttle, "Go!"
Daniel followed the instruction without question, running to the gate and jumping in. Miraculously, all the security men missed him again.
O'Neill yelled, "Carter, go!" and she followed after Daniel. He turned to Nyan, "Nyan, can you cover me?"
Nyan gulped, but nodded resolutely. "I will."
O'Neill ran over to the shuttlecraft and conferred briefly with Teal'c. Nyan looked up to see two more shuttlecraft approaching the clearing. Teal'c and O'Neill jumped from the crashed shuttle firing and ran for the Stargate. The fire from the security men had all but ceased, so many of them were now unconscious. Nyan watched them run for the gate, looking for another target. He couldn't see any. "Sweet Nefertum," he murmured. Security was going to destroy the gate, and he'd never learn anything more about them. Assuming he was going to learn anything more ever. He was going to be in so much trouble. He rose and started to run after them. What did he have to lose? Then his nerves flashed fire from a stunner and he just had time to think, "I failed" before he crumpled to the ground. Then Teal'c was pulling him to his feet, though he could barely stand with the stun charge still jangling his nerves.
He heard O'Neill call, "Teal'c!"
Teal'c returned, "He's coming with us, O'Neill." Then O'Neill was at his other side and he was somehow making his legs move to help them as they dragged him to the shimmering gate and jumped in.
There was a sensation of speed and cold and rushing movement that seemed to go on forever, and then they were stumbling out onto a metal ramp in a large dim room. Nyan wasn't sure if it was the gate or the stun charge, but he fell back onto the ramp as Teal'c and O'Neill let him down gently. He had a fuzzy impression of a great many people with dark menacing alien weapons. Teal'c was saying something and the weapons were being lowered. Several people in white rushed up, led by a woman who reminded him of his mother for some reason. It seemed safe or at least no one was shooting at them, so he gave in to the dizziness and nausea and let his eyes fall closed as the room grayed out around the edges.
Nyan awoke with a headache, something he'd been told was not unusual after being stunned. His remembered running and falling, and Teal'c and O'Neill pulling him through the gate. But now he was lying on something soft and comfortable and there was a strangely familiar murmur of voices- he opened his eyes and looked across an unfamiliar room to see Teal'c lying on a bed opposite him, with a small woman standing beside him as well as Carter. There was a man in uniform standing against the wall beside his bed, looking rather bored. He touched his head curiously, finding a bandage.
She was saying, "Well Teal'c, all I can say is that Junior is a resilient little guy."
"Who is Junior?" Nyan asked. He wondered how far he was from home. He felt oddly calm about it. Shock, he thought.
"That is the name Colonel O'Neill has given my symbiote." Teal'c explained.
Carter asked, "So how are you feeling?"
Teal'c turned back to his teammate and replied. "Greatly improved, Major Carter. Thank you."
O'Neill came through the doorway with Daniel on his heels and came over to Nyan. He gestured to the bored soldier beside the bed, and Nyan realized with a start that the man had been guarding him. It was a shock to realize that here, he was the alien. "Here's some good news," O'Neill said. "The Air Force has agreed to get you refugee status, which means you can stay here on Earth. With us. If you'd like."
Nyan blinked. "What would I do here?" It hadn't occurred to him that they might not let him stay here. He was sure to be arrested for treason if he went home. Despite his father's position in the church, it was quite likely he'd even be executed, after the way he had helped them escape the security forces.
Daniel came up to his bedside, carrying something. "Well I think we've got a little job for you Nyan, if you're interested. I have a backlog of ancient artifacts gathered from previous missions and I could really use a research assistant. It would also be a great way to learn about the history of your ancestors." He handed the item to Nyan, which turned out to be a collection of thin sheets bound together with a protective cover. Nyan couldn't help but smile incredulously. They were offering not only to let him stay, but to study artifacts from other worlds and learn about their history?
The healer made shoeing motions, and told Nyan and Teal'c. "But for now, you both need to rest."
"And we'll leave you to that." O'Neill seemed to need to have the last word. He and Carter and Daniel all followed the healer out. Nyan wanted to tell her that he was fine, he had only been stunned, but there was something he needed to say to Teal'c.
Nyan looked over at the Jaffa. "Thank you, Teal'c." The longer he thought about what he would have faced in the hands of the security forces, the more grateful he was that his new friends had not left him behind.
Teal'c said, "You have saved my life, as well as the life of my friends. It is I who should thank you."
Nyan said wistfully, "I still wish I could have shown you to my friends in the science community. They would have been fascinated."
"Perhaps one day the situation on your planet will improve and you will get that opportunity." Teal'c smiled at him reassuringly.
Nyan nodded, and despite feeling a few moments ago that he really shouldn't need to sleep, he felt his eyelids drooping. He'd had an early morning excavating, run back and forth to town, helped shoot a bunch of security people and then traveled.. he still didn't know how far away he had-
Nyan woke again to find Teal'c still lying silently in the bed beside him. Nyan found the alien fascinating, as strange as any creature in the stories that he had read as a teenager.
The healer- doctor, they called them here, he corrected himself, came back to check on them. "Hello, Nyan. I'm Dr. Frasier," she introduced herself. She was a pleasant woman who would have turned no eyes on the streets of any city in Bedrosia. Teal'c was the only one here among these Earth people who looked significantly different to him, but he had seen another dark skinned person pass through the healing hall. He wondered if she were also Jaffa.
"Hello," he replied.
"I need to run a few tests, to see how you're doing," she explained. The woman checked his pulse and looked into his eyes with a bright light, explaining what she was doing as she went. He bore it patiently. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
Nyan stopped to think about that for a minute. "My head still aches a little, but it is much better than yesterday."
She smiled and said, "Well, there is no reason that I need to keep you here. Are you hungry?"
"Yes!" Nyan was suddenly conscious of a hollow feeling in his midsection. He tried to remember when he had last eaten. He remembered skipping the morning meal to return to uncovering the gateway. Then he had gotten food with the supplies to help heal Teal'c, but there hadn't really been time to eat any of it. He supposed that it was still in the cave where he had hidden the alien.
"Well, we'll have someone take you by the commissary for something to eat," she smiled at him warmly. "For some reason, most people prefer to avoid infirmary food whenever possible."
Nyan smiled back. "It's the same in the healing halls at home." Dr. Fraiser turned aside to say something in low tone to one of the other staff, then turned back to him. "That was a very brave thing you did, you know, helping SG-1 escape. We're all very grateful."
Nyan started to flush bright pink. He hadn't felt brave. He'd been terrified, pretty much the whole time. "Um, I'm sure they'd have done the same for me," he mumbled inanely.
He was startled when she let out a peal of laughter. "Ah, Nyan, you have no idea. Actually, they did do the same for a group of aliens we rescued once. They'll have to tell you about the Tollan some time," she said. The woman she'd spoken to earlier had come back and she handed a bundle to Nyan. "Here, try these on," Fraiser instructed. The woman had returned with dull green clothing, one of the uniforms that seemed to be worn by many of the people here. She pulled a curtain around the bed to give him some privacy to dress. He was happy to see that it seemed to be customary here. He had to keep reminding himself that he was far away from home and could take nothing for granted.
The fastenings were strange, but the clothes seemed to fit him reasonably well. He hadn't seen anyone wearing the white shorts, so he figured they went under the green. Once he put it on, he could see why- the material was stiff and a bit scratchy. There were socks of a curious woven design, and longer than he was used to, but they seemed to be there to protect his feet from high tops of the boots. Once it was all on, it seemed more comfortable than it had looked. Also, warmer. He was conscious of the faint chill of the air and wondered what it would be like outside. They seemed to like indoor temperatures cooler here than he would have preferred.
When he poked his head out from behind the curtains, he was relieved to see Daniel talking in the doorway with the doctor. "Hello."
"Good morning." Daniel smiled at him. "Food is this way." He followed the taller man down a busy corridor. It seemed very dark and utilitarian, with pipes and beams hanging from the ceiling. There were colored lines painted on the floor and a great many people, nearly all wearing some kind of uniform, bustling back and forth.
He figured that he might as well start asking questions, since virtually everything was going to be new. "Is this typical Earth architecture?" He gestured at the walls and floor.
Daniel looked down at him. It seemed that many of the people of this planet were tall. In Bedrosia his height would not have been unusual, but here he gathered he was shorter than the average. "No, well perhaps it's typical of military architecture." Daniel replied. "This is a military base, we're deep underground at the moment. That's why it has such a lousy view."
Nyan smiled at the slight joke. At least these people seemed to have a sense of humor. "What is it like on the surface?" He remembered reading speculations of worlds that were covered with water or vast deserts.
"Mountains, at least in this part of the country." Daniel replied. "It's very beautiful. The base is located outside of a small city called Colorado Springs. It's home to about one hundred fifty thousand people."
Nyan blinked. "That's a small city?"
Daniel said, "Oh, yes." He gave Nyan a sympathetic look. "You see, Earth, also called Tau'ri, is the First World. Humans were not created on Bedrosia. They evolved here, over millions of years. Most of the worlds that we visit have a lot lower population density than Earth does."
"M-millions." Nyan gulped, the implications driving his personal situation completely from his mind. "That's- I can't believe-millions." He fell silent for a moment feeling a little dazed. "We weren't just wrong. We were so far away from the truth we would never have discovered it on our own."
Daniel's tone was practical. "Well, however could you? It took us hundreds of years to figure it out, and the evidence for it is in the fossil record on Earth. And even now, many people here disagree as to how it came about. There are even people not dissimilar to the Bedrosians who believe that we were created by gods."
Daniel steered him into a line of people who were shuffling along a counter, choosing from a variety of strange foodstuffs. Many of them seemed to be pastes of different colors and consistencies, others were unappetizing gray blobs. The odors were unfamiliar but definitely foodlike, he could feel himself salivating. He looked at Daniel helplessly. "What are they? What should I get?"
Daniel gave him a considering look. "What do you eat at home? Do you eat animal flesh?"
Nyan thought he had never heard anything more disgusting in his life. "No, we're not barbarians."
"Ah." Daniel looked thoughtful. "Well, we do. So there are a lot of things you'll want to avoid, at least until you are a bit better acclimated. He turned to the man behind the counter. "Hi, Leo. This is Nyan. He'll be staying with us for a while."
"Hello." Nyan smiled weakly at the stout man behind the counter. He didn't see anyone else talking to the servers, but perhaps that was because they had already been introduced. Some of the people at tables were talking but he could understand almost nothing of what they were saying.
Daniel was continuing. "Nyan's a vegetarian and doesn't know what any of this stuff is, so if you can keep an eye out for him, that would be great."
The man smiled at him in a friendly way. "He'll be the one who helped SG-1 get back yesterday? Sure, Dr. J. No problem." He turned to Nyan. "Just ask if you have any questions about what anything is. We'll try to help you. If we know."
Nyan smiled back nervously. That seemed to be another joke, Daniel was saying something about military food being notoriously bad. "How about giving him pancakes this morning?" Daniel suggested, telling Nyan that they were made from grain. He found them filling at least, and rather liked the sweet syrup that was served over them. The coffee that Daniel was drinking with relish smelled good but tasted horribly bitter so he drank juice instead.
About halfway through the meal, he finally stopped shoveling the food into his mouth and slowed to a more reasonable pace. He looked up, a little embarrassed. "I was hungry."
Daniel didn't seem offended. "I understand. It's okay." He went on. "There are a few things that we should discuss right away."
That got Nyan's attention. "What?"
Daniel was still watching him with that considering look. "I know that we said last night that you can stay here. And you can, we'd like you to. But you need to know that it isn't your only option. You do have choices." He hesitated. " I know that you didn't choose to come with us. And I know how hard it is to leave the world you came from forever. I did it myself."
Nyan looked at Daniel in surprise. "You're not from Earth?" Then he chided himself. He knew Teal'c was an alien, maybe lots of people here were from other-
Daniel shook his head and denied it, cutting off his train of thought. "No, I am from Earth. But I left for a while. Got married, chose to stay on my wife's planet. I thought it was forever, that I'd never see Earth again." His tone was very serious. "I wound up coming back, but the point is, I know how hard is to go to a different world- and I chose to go. If you wanted to go back to Bedrosia- even knowing the kind of trouble you'd be facing- we'd understand and would try to send you home." He paused. "If we can- I'll bet that your military will bury or destroy the gate, if they haven't already, so if you did want to return, we should try soon."
Nyan was thrown into confusion. "Wouldn't you risk my people sending something back, a bomb, or -"
Daniel was shaking his head. "No, the wormhole only goes one way at a time. If we can return you at all, there's no risk to us."
Nyan remembered watching O'Neill and Teal'c run for the stargate and leaving the cover of the shelter to follow them. He smiled faintly. "You're wrong, you know. I did choose to come. I was following O'Neill and Teal'c to the gateway- no, you call it the stargate, right?" He didn't pause for Daniel's nod but continued. "If I had stayed, I would have been arrested and executed for blasphemy. The security forces were angry enough to have shot me on the spot. With all of the evidence of your visit in the hands of the military, I would have had no way of proving what happened." He stopped.
Daniel was watching him carefully. "Do you have family on Bedrosia?"
Nyan ate another few bites of pancake, thinking of the people he had left behind. "My parents and my sister. We did not get on well. For me to be arrested as an Optrican spy would be a terrible disgrace. If I simply disappear, the military will probably tell them I was killed in an accident. Better for everyone, really."
He looked at Daniel's sympathetic expression. "My parents didn't approve of trying to dig up the past. They thought I should not have needed proof." Nyan told him. "On Bedrosia, the sciences are respected for the benefits of technology, but the philosophy of science is held to be suspect."
"Never let the facts get in the way of good opinion?" Daniel suggested.
Nyan laughed. "Yes, is that another Earth saying?"
Daniel smiled. "Something like that. Okay, so you don't want to go back to Bedrosia."
He shook his head.
Daniel continued. "There are still other choices. You have to understand that the Air Force, the people who run this base, are on the front line of a war. We are fighting the Goa'uld, the race to which Nefertum belonged. It is safer here than it is to go through the stargate, but that doesn't mean that it's always secure. If you stay here, you'll be part of that, whether you want to be or not." He paused. "Teal'c told me that you had never held a weapon before yesterday. How did you feel about that?"
Nyan looked at him seriously. "I was scared. I don't know if I could have fired a lethal weapon. Teal'c told me the weapon would only stun, if I shot once."
Daniel nodded. "Yes, that's true. It hurts like a- a lot, but it's not fatal." He gave Nyan another of those measuring looks. "Why did you do it, Nyan? We're very grateful, but if something similar had happened here, the person who did it would be committing several crimes, and could be locked up for a long time. What made you decide to help us?"
Nyan stared at his empty plate, the pancakes suddenly feeling a lot heavier inside him. "I had to." He looked up into Daniel's eyes. "It was my fault. I should have told you right away that the military would try to capture you. They could have killed you."
"Nyan, that's not your fault. And it's hardly the first time we've been locked in cages."
He couldn't believe that Daniel wasn't furious with him. "And they tortured you-"
"Who told you that?" Daniel asked quietly.
He flushed. "Nobody. I saw it.. when they brought you out to show you the body of the man Teal'c killed. And I saw the burns on Colonel O'Neill's neck yesterday. And-they aren't nice people. I knew they would want to- hurt you."
Daniel shook his head. "Well, if it comes down to it, it's not the first time that's happened either. We were in too much of hurry to come in person. If we'd talked a little longer beforehand, you would have warned us. And you took a lot of risks to help us once it did happen. No one blames you for what they did."
Nyan sought for another subject. "You said that if I didn't stay here, there were other things I could do?"
Daniel nodded. "You could live somewhere else on Earth. That would present some challenges, but it would be less restrictive than staying here. Or there are other planets where you could go. Most of them are less technologically advanced than you'd be used to, though."
Nyan thought about that. "Would I be able to learn any more than I could here, in any of those other places?"
"No. Probably not." That amused Daniel, he saw. He remembered Teal'c telling him that they were alike.
He smiled back, a little shyly. "Then I think I'd like to stay here and help you. I mean, I could always change my mind and try one of those other places if it doesn't work out, could I not?"
"That's right." Daniel looked pleased. "And you have no idea how relieved I am you're willing to give it a shot. We're always pretty short-handed."
"Hey." Nyan and Daniel looked up to see O'Neill approaching them.
"Hi, Jack, what's up?" Daniel asked. Nyan reminded himself that he had to ask about names here. Everyone seemed to have two or three. Daniel had introduced him as Colonel Jack O'Neill, but Nyan had heard him addressed as Colonel O'Neill, O'Neill and now Daniel called him Jack. He wondered what significance was attached to each.
"Carter's looking over the Bedrosian stuff we brought back in her lab." O'Neill told them. "Are you done?"
"Yes, I think so." Daniel glanced down at Nyan's empty plate. "Nyan?"
"Um, yes?" Daniel was behaving like O'Neill had just asked them to do something, but Nyan had no idea what.
"Have you had enough to eat?" O'Neill was rocking impatiently back on his heels, but Daniel didn't seem concerned.
"Yes, fine, thank you." Nyan replied.
"Then why don't you come down to Sam's lab with us? I expect she'd like to ask a few questions about the things we brought back." Daniel had pushed his chair back and was picking up his tray, so Nyan followed him, hoping that O'Neill's rather cryptic way of speaking wasn't common.
They walked to the elevator and Daniel swiped a card to get in. "We'll get you a card soon," he promised. "So you won't need an escort."
Nyan nodded, thought to ask about names. "Is there some significance to two names? I mean should I call Doctor Fraiser, 'Doctor' or 'Fraiser' or use both...
O'Neill laughed and Daniel explained that 'Colonel', 'Major', and 'Doctor were titles, not names, and then went on to give a fairly extensive discourse on nomenclature.
Nyan's eyebrows went up when Daniel told him that three names were most common. "But don't worry. Most people either don't use the middle name or will tell you if they want you to use it. Do you have another name?"
"No, just Nyan. Bedrosians are given unique names though they can be reused after the original dies. And identification codes, but no one would call us by them."
Daniel nodded. "From what you've said, the population is small enough that you can do that, especially with good central record keeping."
That made Nyan wonder. Did they not have central record keeping here? He decided to save that question for another time. "And the, um, titles? Colonel, Doctor and so on?" He asked.
Daniel seemed to fall easily into lecture mode, reminding him of several teachers he had known. "Most of the people you meet here will have either a rank or a title. Military people have rank- Colonel, Major, Sergeant, etc. Many of the civilians have titles- Doctor is most common. It means that they've completed an advanced course of study in some area. A few people have both. Sam- Major Carter- is also Dr. Carter- she's an astrophysicist. But she generally uses her military rank. Dr. Fraiser also has a military rank, but she's usually called Doctor. Does that make sense?"
Nyan grimaced. "Not really. What do *I* call people?"
Daniel laughed. "In general, you'll call civilian co-workers by their first names and military co-workers by their last names, their rank or both. So I'm Daniel," he pointed to O'Neill, who was looking bored, "He's Colonel, or Colonel O'Neill."
Nyan reviewed the lesson. "Or O'Neill?" "Yes, but rank or rank and name is considered politer. And higher-ranking military people are supposed to be treated more formally. General Hammond is the commander of this base. I call him General, General Hammond or sir, but never by first or last name alone to his face."
"Ah." Nyan thought he was getting it. It reminded him of the hierarchical system used in the church. "So formal is more polite? And more respect is due those of higher status ?" That was the same as at home, too, though the system seemed a lot more complicated here.
"Yes." Daniel nodded. "But don't worry about it too much. The military has pretty rigid customs about how people talk to one another but they don't apply so much to civilians."
"You're a civilian?"
That got a stifled laugh from O'Neill as they exited the elevator and walked down another long bare hallway. "Oh, yeah, can't you tell?"
Nyan looked in puzzlement from one to the other. They were both wearing uniforms, both wore their hair in similar short cuts. They had both carried weapons in Bedrosia, though neither appeared to be armed now. "I'm afraid not, Colonel." That made Daniel laugh, and O'Neill look startled. He continued hesitantly, "Unless I should know because he asked me to call him Daniel?"
Daniel shook his head. "Actually, people you spend any time working with will probably tell you to use their first name. And it's okay to ask people what they want to be called. But you can tell the military from the civilians by their uniforms-" he pointed out the markings on O'Neill's uniform that identified his rank.
They turned into the lab. "Good morning, Nyan," she greeted him.
He put his learning to the test. "Good morning, Major Carter."
She gave him a sunny smile and said. "You can call me Sam." He glanced at Daniel and found him looking back like he was sharing a joke.
"Daniel thought you might have some questions about Bedrosian technology?" Nyan glanced over the table on which were laid out several of the Bedrosian stun weapons and Nyan's chronometer. He made a slight motion toward it, then stopped.
Sam caught it. "That's yours, Nyan, you're welcome to take it back now if you want."
He shook his had. "I'm sure that Bedrosian time is different from Earth time. I'll have to replace it."
O'Neill had picked up the small oval. "So this is a watch? Cool. Does it do anything else?"
He demonstrated the several small functions of the device and then told Sam everything he could about the weapons. She listened attentively, while O'Neill wandered about the lab, picking things up and examining them seemingly at random. At the end she turned to her teammates, "This is fascinating. The technology is clearly based on Goa'uld crystal principles, but in a far more simplified form. This may actually help us a lot in understanding some things that have puzzled us."
Nyan said, "One of the major goals of our science of history is to discover ancient devices from our Golden Age so their function may be analyzed. The Optricans are more advanced than Bedrosians are technologically. They are said to have a few very ancient devices, that belonged to the gods, of a type we cannot reproduce today."
Sam nodded. "Probably you don't have the right sort of crystal, which has limited how much of the technology you could build domestically.
Daniel said, "That makes sense, actually. From what Nyan has told us, the gateway was buried by a volcanic eruption. Presumably more of the Optrican technology survived because it wasn't affected by the volcano."
After some further conversation, they left the lab, Nyan following as Daniel speculated aloud on this history of his planet. "May be when the volcano erupted, someone took all the supplies they could to the other continent, and that's why they retained more technology."
"Optrican texts say that they were led there by a follower of Nefertum, but they killed him and took the devices of the god for themselves," Nyan said. He felt a flash of nervousness as he admitted aloud to having read forbidden Optrican texts, then relaxed. Daniel wouldn't know whether they were forbidden or not, and likely wouldn't care.
Daniel was in fact nodding. "And that makes even more sense. The follower of Nefertum was probably a lesser Goa'uld of Nefertum's court or perhaps one of his Jaffa."
Nyan blinked. "One of his Jaffa?"
Daniel gave him a startled look and then smiled. "I'm forgetting how little you know about all this." The reached a small office crammed with texts and artifacts. It rather reminded him of Callin's office, except it was messier. Apparently it was Daniel's, because the tall man gestured him to a seat and proceeded to give him a quick summary of the history of the Goa'uld, the System Lords, and the role of the Jaffa in their empire.
Nyan sensed there were huge numbers of details being omitted, which he'd have to ask about later, but for now he was finding even the basic outlines a lot to take in. "So Teal'c was enslaved by one of these Goa'uld?" he asked, horrified.
"Yes, by the System Lord Apophis. He was one of Ra's rivals for power and one of the chief benefactors when Ra was killed."
"Ra was killed in battle?" Nyan asked. He remembered Teal'c saying something about battling Nefertum- or perhaps it was Ra, he wasn't sure.
Daniel blinked, for some reason looking disconcerted. "Er, yeah, you could say that."
There was a loud noise, and Nyan jumped, but Daniel only turned to the desk lifting up a pile of papers to reach the communication device underneath and put it to his ear. "Jackson," he answered.
Nyan turned to look at some of the artifacts on and texts on the shelves. He was careful not to touch anything but several of the texts lay open on the table. He was startled to find that only two of them were in scripts that he could read, and that he could count at least eight different scripts in this small sample of books alone. Faiele should be here. She'd be in linguistic ecstasy.
Daniel said, "Uh, huh," paused to jot a few notes and then said, "Okay, I'll take him by security, then give him the grand tour." He put the device down and said. "Come on, Nyan."
On the way, Nyan remembered the unbelievable numbers of people that Daniel had told him lived on this planet, and of the many thousands of planets that apparently had stargates. He asked how many languages were spoken on Earth. He was astonished to find there were dozens, though 'only' five or six ancient tongues that would be useful to know to work here. Daniel gave him a reassuring smile. "You'll have time to study. And there is plenty you can do to help even now. You already read some Goa'uld, and that's one that we don't have many people trained to translate."
Nyan struggled to take in the steady flow of information as he followed Daniel from the security office to the supply office to his new quarters. He got a second name, his 'Tau'ri name' as he started to think of it. After a brief consultation, Daniel had told the security officer to write 'Nyan Debedrosia' on his pass and security card. He explained that it meant 'from Bedrosia' and sounded enough like a Tau'ri family name that most people would take it for granted. "Besides," he said with a smile, "It's just hard enough to pronounce that most people will prefer to call you Nyan."
Nyan grinned. "Which is fine with me."
After they left Nyan's new clothes in his quarters, Daniel took him down to the archeology lab to introduce him around, but was quickly forced to excuse himself to go consult with one of the other scientists. He did glance back occasionally to see that Nyan wasn't distressed at the abandonment, but the young scientist was finding the lab both familiar and welcoming. No one seemed the slightest bit surprised to meet him and they were all very nice. "You must be used to meeting people from other worlds," he said sheepishly, as he wondered for the hundredth time if this could really be happening.
"Not exactly," a pleasant middle-aged woman named Dr. Espinoza told him. "But the SGC, the base, is a hotbed of gossip, so everyone has heard about you and is eager to meet you."
"Oh," he blushed. "Um, everyone has been very kind."
Another woman, this one with military markings on her uniform said, "And we're also pleased about Daniel finally getting some help. He's spread so thin now you can read through him."
Nyan found the metaphor unfamiliar but understandable and nodded. Daniel had said he needed help as well. The military woman had introduced herself by rank and last name but said, "Call me Linda" and Nyan didn't try to remember the rest of her name right now.
A dark-haired man named Robert said, "Don't worry if not all the military people are friendly. A lot of them don't like civilians."
Linda gave him an irritated look. "That's not fair, Rothman. May be some of them don't like you-"
"I'll bet O'Neill wasn't 'kind'." Rothman shot back.
Nyan said, "Colonel O'Neill? Um, actually, he was very nice to me."
Rothman looked surprised and another man broke in. "O'Neill is generally pretty much in favor of people who save his team's lives. Nyan will be fine." He smiled at Nyan. "I'm Ian Howard." Another military person, Nyan saw. He shook hands, another custom he had learned today.
The other scientists showed him around the lab, and he examined some of the texts and artifacts that they were working on. The scale of it all was overwhelming. If he stayed here a hundred years, he was sure there would still be more to discover. More than that, the complete absence of the religious rigidity he was accustomed to gave him a sense of intoxicating freedom. Here, he felt pure science was the god, and truth was what they all sought.
By lunchtime, Nyan was already feeling overwhelmed, and Daniel had suggested that he start studying in the afternoon. Hot food made him feel considerably better and he decided to try and visit Teal'c before going back to the archeology lab. Nyan carefully retraced his steps from the cafeteria, using his new security card. He was decidedly pleased when he found his way back to the infirmary - not healing hall- without a single wrong turn. The painted lines on the floor turned out to be a sort of key, and helped considerable to keep him oriented in the maze of identical corridors.
"Hello, Teal'c!" he greeted the Jaffa cheerfully.
"Nyan." Teal'c said. "How are you?"
"Fine." Nyan told him about the morning he had just spent and asked how Teal'c was feeling.
"I am recovering quickly." Teal'c assured him. "Have you seen O'Neill?"
Nyan shook his head, "No, should I?"
Teal'c looked at him gravely. "He told me that they tried to dial Bedrosia today, and they could not make contact. Your military has destroyed or buried their stargate."
Nyan nodded a bit sadly. "I expected that. But I already told Daniel I wanted to stay."
Teal'c said. "Colonel O'Neill thought you might wish to send some message home to your family."
"Ah." Nyan said. "I don't think the military would have given it to them, but it was a kind thought. He tried to explain to Teal'c the sense of freedom he had felt in the laboratory. "I think I'm going to like it here."
Teal'c said, "I think in time you will find that there are constraints here as well, simply different ones than you have been accustomed to. Though you will certainly be free from the worship of the Goa'uld."
The next few weeks passed in a blur of new experiences. He tried meat, cautiously, and found it so tasty that he tried hard not to think about where it came from and continued to eat it. He had a few bad bouts with homesickness, but only cried himself to sleep once, after a particularly frustrating day.
Daniel was just as busy as everyone had told him, but still never hesitated to answer questions and checked up on Nyan frequently when he wasn't offworld. The other members of the cultural group were helpful as well, and Teal'c was always ready to talk or explain what he could of this strange new world.
Nyan quickly mastered the routine tasks he was assigned and applied himself fiercely to his studies. On Bedrosia he'd been a scientist and independent researcher. Here he felt like an untutored child. Even people who weren't specialists in history seemed to know more than he did. When he wasn't working, he studied, and when he wasn't studying he read voraciously. He reluctantly stopped reading while walking through the halls only after a near collision with Colonel O'Neill. O'Neill had dodged him neatly, removed the book from his hands and closed it. "I-I'm sorry," Nyan had stammered.
O'Neill laughed, handed the book back to him and patted his shoulder in a friendly manner. "I can tell you've been taking lessons from Daniel. All the same, don't emulate him when it comes to walking through the halls reading."
It was Teal'c who first took him outside, to stand looking at the impressive snowcapped peaks of the surrounding mountains. The air was cold and thin, and white flakes of snow drifted down. Nyan had seen snow before, but it was very rare in the parts of Bedrosia where he had lived. "It's beautiful," Nyan said. The wind was icy against his face, but his jacket was warm enough that he wasn't too uncomfortable. It was so peaceful that it was hard to believe there were six billion people on this world. He looked forward to seeing more of it, perhaps visiting some of the places he had seen pictured in books or on television.
"Large tracts of land are preserved in a wild state, and people are not allowed to build on them." Teal'c said. "It is so the beauty will be preserved for future generations."
Once his English had improved to the point where he could communicate, he went into town with Robert. He found it alien in a way the base was not. People seemed to dress in wildly varying styles and behave in incomprehensible ways. Travel was done in personal motorized vehicles, which seemed to need significant skill to operate. Some parts of it were attractive, some strange, but all of it seemed to be full of people rushing about in disorder. People seemed to value autonomy to an absurd degree. When he said as much to Daniel later, he had nodded. "From what you've told me, Nyan, your culture is a rigid theocracy that actively suppresses alternative viewpoints. A high level of conformity is expected and mandated. You won't find that here."
When Daniel explained how the government operated, Nyan was appalled. "That doesn't sound very efficient."
Daniel laughed. "A lot of people think that's a good thing. Freedom is very important to us. Leaving the government a little inefficient is a small price to pay."
"How does that affect your military?" Nyan asked. "The base doesn't seem inefficient."
"Military personnel surrender some of their personal freedom on the job," Daniel explained. "But they volunteer to serve."
Nyan was conscious of Daniel's warning that the SGC was a military facility, and the daily life of the place did nothing to put him at ease. Teams were always coming and going, sometimes returning injured. His new coworkers told him hair-raising stories about the dangers faced by SG teams, and SG-1 in particular. Nyan hated the thought of anything happening to SG-1. Despite being constantly busy, he felt a connection with them in a way that he did not with most of the other people he met. In a strange way, they felt like a tie to his former home. When Nyan was most overwhelmed, he would seek out Teal'c or Daniel for a conversation and feel comforted.
The day after their return from Kheb, a semi-mythical place for which Daniel had been searching, Nyan picked up an artifact he had been examining and headed for Daniel's office. They'd been gone longer than the mission was originally scheduled, but Linda had told him that they weren't overdue, they had radioed in for an extension. When they got back, SG-1 and the other team dispatched to explore Kheb had returned unharmed, but looking rather shaken. Word rapidly spread through the base that an entire army of Apophis' troops had been defeated. Not by the Tau'ri, but by a powerful alien whom Daniel had talked into helping them.
When he reached Daniel's office, he couldn't resist asking about it. The other man smiled a little sadly. "I didn't talk her into anything," he said. "The Jaffa killed the caretaker at the temple. Any one of them could have saved themselves by putting down their weapons, but not a single one did." He sounded remote and a little abstracted. "Sometimes, fighting isn't the way to win."
He looked over at Nyan, "Sorry, Nyan, did you want to see me about something?"
"Oh." Nyan picked up the artifact that had been his original reason for going to Daniel's office. "I wasn't sure what to do with this."
Daniel glanced at it. "Take pictures, catalog it and store it," he sounded tired. "It's just an unimportant pot from a world of no particular interest." He focused on Nyan, and the tiredness faded, replaced by kind concern. "That wasn't all you wanted, was it? Is something wrong?"
Nyan looked away, his eyes stinging. "No. I don't know. It's stupid..."
"I doubt that." Daniel said. "You want to get out of here for a while?"
Nyan said, "If you'd like- okay. Yes, I would."
He picked up the phone. "Hey, Teal'c? Nyan and I are taking a little field trip. Want to come?"
He had expected them to walk on the top of the mountain, but Daniel headed for the locker room. Daniel and Teal'c changed their uniforms for street clothes, while Nyan just made sure that nothing he was wearing had an SGC logo on it. He wondered why they had logos at all if the base was so secret, but it seemed to be an ineradicable custom. Teal'c had even put on a knitted black cap and pulled it down to cover his tattoo.
In twenty minutes they were piling into Daniel's car and headed down the mountain. The day had proved to be sunny and much warmer than the last time he had been outside. It was easy to lose track of the outside weather when he was under Cheyenne Mountain. "Where are we going?" Nyan finally asked.
"Garden of the Gods," Daniel said.
"A Goa'uld site?" Nyan asked.
Daniel and Teal'c both smiled. "No, Nyan." Teal'c rumbled. "It is a park, a place of natural beauty. The name was given to it by people who thought it fit for gods to reside in."
"Oh." The car wound around a bunch of side roads, then on and off a highway before they were pulling up beside a bunch of red rocks, startling against the tawny landscape. "Oh!" He pressed his nose to the window. "They are very striking."
"Indeed." Teal'c said.
Daniel parked and they strolled along paved paths. Despite the unexpected warmth there was a crispness to the air that told Nyan winter wasn't over yet. There were only traces of snow on the ground, rather than the thick blanket that crowned the mountaintops with dazzling white. Daniel took a path that led through the center of the park, looking at each enormous rock as they passed it. Then he stepped off the path and bent over. "Here, Nyan. Look."
Nyan leaned over and touched the rippled surface of the stone. "It looks like the bottom of a river bed."
"The bottom of an ocean," Daniel corrected. "A few million years ago, this was all at the bottom of an ocean."
"Wow." Nyan used the colloquism without thinking, studying the ancient seabed under his fingertips. It hit him again, as if it were new, that he was really here, alone on a world lightyears from home seeing amazing sights. The world where human life originated.
Teal'c asked, "What concerns you, Nyan?"
Nyan looked up at the tall archeologist and taller Jaffa and sighed. "It's stupid. I just wish I could tell the people at home about all this. I-" He choked and stopped.
"Nyan-" Daniel said. "It's okay to miss your friends, your family, your home."
"Indeed. I often miss the company of my own family." Teal'c said.
Nyan wanted to protest that Teal'c could visit his family, then immediately felt ashamed. Teal'c could never go home, any more than Nyan could. And Daniel's family was dead. "You both understand," he realized, feeling more relaxed than he had in a couple of weeks. "I- Robert and Linda don't- I don't think anyone else does."
Teal'c laid a large comforting hand on Nyan's shoulder. "It is because we three share something that no one else on the base does."
Daniel raised his brows at his friend and looked inquisitive. Nyan had to ask. "What's that?"
"We have all been confronted with falsehoods among our most deeply held beliefs, and chosen to embrace truth despite all personal cost." Teal'c nodded to Daniel. "Daniel Jackson found evidence that contradicted everything that Tau'ri scientists currently believed, and when he made that public, it cost him his home and job. I came to the belief that Apophis was a false god, and have sacrificed my position and home to try and rectify this wrong. You- " he looked at Nyan with respect and approval clear in his dark eyes, "-you have found that the theory of your people's origin was a lie, risked your life to save us from persecution, and been forced to leave your own home and family."
Daniel was nodding. "Not everyone would have made that choice, Nyan," he said.
"And one may regret losses even when they are the inevitable result of acting ethically," Teal'c added.
Nyan looked at his two friends and felt some of the aching loneliness ease. This was all still so new. He'd get used to it. It struck him that if Teal'c and Daniel could pick themselves up and go on after experiences far more traumatic than simply leaving home, he could do this. He looked around at the spectacular scenery and smiled. Truly, if he had known that all this existed and been offered the chance, he would have left Bedrosia to come here anyway, even without the encouragement of security forces trying to kill him. He could not have chosen comfortable ignorance over the lure of knowledge.
"So, tell me about the history of this place?" Nyan asked. After all, he only had one lifetime to learn about this complicated world of his ancestors, not to mention all the others out there through the gate. He'd better not waste any of it.
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