"By constant dripping, water hollows stone,
A signet-ring from use alone grows thin,
And the curved plowshare by soft earth is worn."
— Ovid, Epistolae ex Ponto
The panicked scream tore through him, and Daniel did the only thing he could in the circumstances. Ignoring the armed guards, the archaeologist lunged for the rope sliding past his feet. Thankful his captors had let him keep his gloves, he tightened his fingers on the coarse line and braced himself as best as he could.
Vala, he remembered belatedly, was always a lot heavier than she looked.
His boots skidded on the rocky slope, and he fell to one knee trying to regain his balance. Pain shot through the offended joint, but he resolutely dug in further and held on for dear life. A sharp tug on the rope and a short cry announced that Vala's rapid and unintended descent down the cliff had been arrested. Despite the gloves, Daniel's fingers ached from the strain of catching and holding the rope. He closed his eyes briefly, drawing once more upon his "mind over matter" techniques. When he was confident he could ignore the dull pain, he opened his eyes again.
"Vala, are you okay?" he asked, tuning out the voices of their escort. He couldn't spare the concentration translating their words would take, anyway.
"I-I'm not sure," came the shaky reply from below. "Nice catch."
Part of him wanted to sigh in relief; the other part wanted to groan. He was proud of how, in a short span, she'd gone from scared out of her wits to calm enough to joke, but found himself equally annoyed by the inappropriate flippance.
Knowing her bound wrists had to be hurting fiercely—if not sprained out-right—by the sudden stop, Daniel called down for her to try to hold onto the rope with her hands. "I'll pull you up, but if you can sort off walk up the wall while I pull..."
"Got it," she answered, and the rope shifted as she positioned her feet. "Ready as I'll ever be."
Pushing more meditative thoughts through his muscles, Daniel stepped sideways around a nearby bush, using its thick trunk as a makeshift pulley. With his own hands tied, he couldn't pull more than a few inches at a time, but he was determined to keep up a steady pace. "Just hang on tight, Vala. I won't let you fall."
"I know," she answered. "I trust you."
The sincerity in her voice caught him off-guard. Daniel had bollixed this particular first contact situation from the start, but Vala still trusted him, still believed in him. Oddly enough, her trust in him was one of the few things he knew he could rely on, and in the last year, he'd slowly begun to let himself trust her, too.
"You're almost there," he coaxed, pulling a few more inches of rope through his hands. When Vala's gloved hands finally appeared at the lip of the canyon, Daniel knotted his end of the tether around the base of the hardy bush, then turned around and stepped forward to help her. As he squatted down to catch her hands and help her climb over the edge, he heard footsteps on gravel. Finally, one of their guards was going to help.
A moment later, he realized he was wrong yet again. Rough hands pushed at the small of his back, and Daniel had no way—and no one—to stop his fall.
Twenty-four hours earlier...
"Come on, Muscles, just a little hint? A teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy, teensy-weensy one?"
Teal'c turned around and stared at Vala for a moment, jaw twitching slightly as though he was irritated by the inquiry, but his eyes expressed only humor. "You have requested this of me on many occasions, Vala Mal Doran," he replied.
"And?" she prompted, turning her head to the left and offering one of her most winning smiles.
"The answer is still 'no'." Giving one of those annoyingly polite upper-body bows, he resumed walking down the hall.
Not one to take a simple "no" for an answer, Vala gave chase, bounding along beside him. "'No', you won't tell me anything, or 'no' I didn't hook up with someone... or maybe I hooked up with more than one person?"
"'No', I will not respond to your inquiry," Teal'c answered, lips curving slightly in amusement.
"Ah ha!" she exclaimed triumphantly. "So I did hook up with someone, didn't I? Who was it?"
Teal'c stepped into an elevator, and Vala ducked in right behind him. "I am not at liberty to say."
"Well, fine. Would you be 'at liberty to say' if I answered a few of your questions? As Daniel would say, quit pro quote?"
"Quid pro quo," he corrected. "And the answer is still 'no'."
"Oh, give it a try!" she encouraged. "Go ahead, you start."
Stepping off the elevator when the doors opened, he asked, "Do you know who took my Farscape collection?"
"No idea," she responded immediately. "Your turn: who did I hook up with on the Odyssey?"
Teal'c smiled enigmatically again. "I cannot answer your question, as you did not answer mine truthfully. Aboard the Odyssey, you admitted you had concealed the DVDs in your nightstand."
Vala's mouth fell open in surprise only briefly before snapping shut and reforming into a pout. Before she could work up an appropriate reply, Teal'c vanished into the men's locker room, and since she inhabited her own body at the moment and not Daniel's like once before, she wasn't allowed to follow him.
Instead, she contented herself with getting a parting shot, even though the target wouldn't hear it. "I moved them to my dresser last week." Grinning smugly, Vala went in search of someone else on whom she could relieve her boredom.
Startled, Daniel dropped his pen, grabbed for it, nearly upset his mug, but managed to finally catch everything with no harm done to anyone or anything other than the small burn on his hand from a stray drop of hot coffee. "What?" he asked, looking up to see Vala Mal Doran hoisting herself up on the edge of his lab table.
"I finally got Teal'c to tell me something about all those years he spent on the Odyssey!" she exclaimed excitedly, either having missed his fumbling or choosing, for the moment, to ignore it.
Rubbing at the reddened patch of skin, Daniel nodded. "Good for you."
"Yes, and it just goes to show that I can wear down anyone if I'm persistent enough."
Daniel had no problem believing that, but he did wonder if Vala knew the difference between wearing someone down and driving them crazy. He didn't doubt for a moment that Vala could harangue and annoy Teal'c until he lost patience with her "persistence", but that was a far cry from getting him to detail events he'd already sworn he would never reveal.
Vala was still prattling on about something, and Daniel felt a brief pang of embarrassment that he'd zoned out on her. "Crichton? Isn't that the author of Jurassic Park?"
She huffed indignantly and slid off the table. "Why am I even here?" she muttered in exasperation.
Daniel blinked. "Why are you here?" Yanking the proverbial foot out of his mouth before she could storm off in a well-deserved huff, he stammered, "Wait! I didn't... I didn't mean it like that! I mean—don't take this the wrong way or anything—but the Ori threat is gone now, so why are you still at the SGC?" He bit his lower lip nervously. "You don't have to answer it, really, I'm just... curious."
Several emotions flickered across Vala's face, but none stayed long enough to decipher. Instead, she pulled up a stool, straddled it, and leaned her crossed arms on the table. "I like it here, Daniel. I have a place to live, food to eat, and a job which—while often boring—at least gives me something to do that can actually make a difference. I don't have to just 'survive' here, I can live." Her eyes narrowed, but met his gaze steadily. "More importantly, I have friends here, so believe me when I say, there's no other place I'd rather be."
Surprised by the honest and forthright answer, Daniel felt a smile begin to creep across his face. "Well, I'm glad you're here, then."
Vala beamed. "Thank you! And by the way, I was talking about Farscape when you tuned me out just a moment ago. Samantha thinks the male lead, John Crichton, resembles Colonel Mitchell, but I think he's more like you. He's a scientist—although more along Sam's vein than yours—makes friends with lots of different aliens, and is crazy for the beautiful female lead, Aeryn Sun."
Having bought one of the season sets for Teal'c as a Christmas present a few years ago, Daniel had seen the cover and therefore had a pretty good idea which character "Aeryn" was. "Uh-huh," he remarked, shading his voice with disbelief. Fighting back a grin, he instead sculpted his face into a look of puzzlement and asked, "Isn't that the blue-skinned lady?"
Vala pouted. "Clearly, some aspects of your education have been neglected, Daniel." She brightened. "But if you'll follow me to my quarters, we can watch a few episodes together and correct that!"
"We can't, Vala, it's already 1900. Mission at four in the morning, remember?"
"Oh," she sighed, visibly deflating. "I forgot all about that. Why so early?"
"Time differential and atmosphere. A day on P21-663 is about twenty-eight hours long, and the atmosphere—"
"—Is thinner than Earth's, too, which means high UV radiation during the day and freezing temperatures at night," Vala finished, obviously having listened to Sam's explanations in the mission briefing that morning. "So we're starting out at dawn in cold weather gear and sunblock... sounds like my kind of fun."
Daniel grinned. Sometimes, Vala reminded him of Jack O'Neill: both were witty, irreverent, and possessed an enviable ability to shrug off stress. Jack and Vala also shared a tendency to act like naughty children, and a part of Daniel was grateful that the general and the former thief hadn't had much time to get to know one another. He was sure that if they managed to compare notes, he would shortly fall victim to their combined efforts. Singly, they each drove him to absolute distraction, and he was worried what would happen if they ever ganged up on him.
Jack and Vala were also people with whom he'd clashed at first, but to his utter surprise, he just as quickly found he couldn't live without them.
"I am, you know," he announced suddenly, then amended when she gave him a look of confusion, "I'm glad you're here, I mean, on Earth... at the SGC. Maybe we should take a rain check on those DVDs?"
Vala blinked in surprise, but quickly composed herself and beamed. "Absolutely!" Reaching out to tap him on the cheek, she turned to walk away, calling over her shoulder, "Better go get your beauty rest, Daniel; we've got a mission in the morning."
"Sweet dreams," Daniel told the now-empty doorway.
Metal ground against metal as the inner wheel turned and chevrons locked into place. Mentally hurrying the dialing process along, Cameron Mitchell bounced on his toes and anxiously awaited the Stargate's telltale rush of cosmic energy—the 'kawoosh', as Sam once told him it was oh-so-scientifically called. The SGC, being several stories below ground, was generally the slightly-too-cool temperature of a natural cave, but when wearing fifteen pounds of insulated Gore-TEX, it was practically balmy. The extra five minutes he'd had to stand in the 'Gate room waiting for first Jackson, then Vala, hadn't helped any at all.
"Let's go!" he called out as the event horizon settled into place, stepping up the ramp and pulling on his gloves as he moved. Not for the first time, he was glad the SGC always saved room in its budget for the latest and greatest in military hardware and other gear, as all the equipment loaded onto the remote-controlled flatbed would come in very handy if their stay ran any length at all.
Behind him, he heard the whine of electric motors as Sam powered the FRED and its cargo forward, but the sound was soon cut off by his entrance into the open wormhole. As always, he loved the freewheeling sensation of hurtling through the cosmos, even though Sam once thought it necessary to attempt to spoil his fun by explaining that the light, sound, and motion experience were the body's way of dealing with the overwhelming sensory input from being torn apart at the molecular level, rocketed through a spatial vortex at speeds far exceeding that of light, and reassembled again on the other side. Disturbing as such a concept was, Cam just liked to think of it as the wildest roller coaster Six Flags never thought of, and enjoy the ride.
The cold air on '663 wasn't unexpected, but it still slapped him in the face. Exhaling in surprise, he self-consciously tugged his balaclava further up the bridge of his nose and looked around. The sun, though hidden behind the massive rock wall next to the 'Gate, was obviously just beginning to peek over the horizon, coloring the sky with long streaks of red. The ground, which seemed mostly made of rough, dark gray stone, was broken here and there by patches of gleaming white snow and scraggly grasses. In the distance, barely visible past the mouth of the long canyon, dark columns rose in the morning air, marking the location of the village the SGC's premier first contact team was here to visit. Beyond that were more craggy canyons, towering rock formations, and snow-capped mountains.
The wormhole finished expelling the last of his team and shut off with the familiar roar and snap. Tugging his goggles down to cover the last remaining bit of exposed skin, Cam rested a hand on the butt of his P90 and sauntered over to the team. "Looks like the village is awake," he announced, gesturing upward to indicate the thin lines of smoke.
"If they're human and haven't physically adapted to the environment," Jackson began, pulling his eyeglasses off and replacing them with his prescription goggles, "then they probably make the dawn and dusk their primary activity times." Glasses safely tucked away in a hard case and stowed in a pocket, the anthropologist stepped forward to check on the DHD.
"If they're human," Cam pointed out.
"If they're human," Jackson agreed.
"I bet they aren't," Vala sing-songed, waddling up next to Jackson. The thick clothing wasn't having much of an effect on the movement of the taller members of the team, but Vala's shorter legs were hampered enough by the bulky fabric that she looked like a giant penguin.
Jackson's expression was unreadable, concealed as it was behind his own ski mask. "The odds are against you."
"I'll take those odds," she replied. "If I'm right, you owe me another date."
He coughed. "Another date? Vala, we haven't even had one."
"Puh-leeze. And I want it to be that little Italian restaurant we went to the last time. I never did get to try that—passionate berry? Passion fruit. I want to try that passion fruit martini I didn't get to drink last time."
Behind the lenses of his goggles, Jackson's eyes rolled. "Fine. But if I'm right... um..."
"She should have to take you out to dinner," Sam chimed in, standing up from where she'd finished collecting a few soil samples.
"Deal!" Vala exclaimed, and Cam just knew she was grinning behind her balaclava.
Jackson groaned, and Cam chuckled. "You got the ladies gangin' up on you, Jackson... you might as well give in gracefully."
"Fine, but I get to pick the restaurant," he conceded, eyes rolling again.
Shaking his head, Cam deliberately rubbed his gloved hands together. "Time's a-wastin', boys and girls... let's get movin'." Glancing back toward the 'Gate, he caught sight of Teal'c standing next to the MALP, watching the rest of the team interact. Since his face was concealed like everyone else's, Cam couldn't see his expression, but he was pretty sure the Jaffa was privately laughing at them all.
He seemed to do that a lot lately.
They headed toward the mouth of the canyon, Cam taking point with Jackson and Vala following just behind. Sam came next with the controls for the FRED, and Teal'c brought up the rear, presumably where he could watch them all and keep his amused thoughts to himself. As they cleared the canyon and continued to follow the left-hand wall toward the distant village, Cam glanced back at the team and noted that Vala had dropped back to walk beside Sam. Slowing his pace, Cam waited until Jackson caught up to him, then matched the other man's stride.
"Something going on between you and Vala?" he muttered.
Jackson's head jerked up in surprise. "What?"
"Well, you're making plans for another date, and you were both late to ship out this morning," Cam began. "Now, it's not that I disapprove of you two being involved or anything! I, uh, don't think it'd change how the team works, but as the team leader, I think I have a right to know if... you know."
"No!" Jackson protested. He glanced around furtively, then lowered his voice. "No, there's nothing 'going on' between us. She and Tomin only recently agreed to go their separate ways, and she hasn't had a night out on the town in months. It's no big deal, really. I was a little slow this morning because I misplaced a journal, but I haven't any idea why Vala was late; you'll have to ask her yourself."
Cam stared at him for a moment, wishing the cold weather gear didn't conceal so much of the archaeologist's face and posture. "Okay," he began at last, "but if anything changes, you know... tell me?" Increasing his pace once again, Cam retook the lead, leaving a silent and apparently bewildered Jackson in his wake.
Teal'c watched his teammates' antics with amusement, indulging himself in what was now his favorite pastime. In his last years aboard the time-ensnared Odyssey, one thing he had steadily grown to miss was the spark of enthusiasm in his human friends. Without proper medical care, they'd aged far too rapidly even for humans, and it was painful for him to watch them grow old and know that when they died, he'd live on several more decades... or at least until the Ori energy beam finally breached the time barrier.
Seeing them all young and healthy filled him with a mix of emotions: gratitude, for certain, thankful that the fates had seen fit to grant him a second opportunity to live out his life with his dearest friends; joy at seeing them spared from a meaningless death; pride at witnessing all they had accomplished in so short a time.
Anger, sorrow, and guilt—he was the only one who remembered the life they'd had. It was a terrible burden to carry, and at times, he wished he could forget. He'd even locked himself in his quarters a few weeks back to perform his annual mourning ritual for Hank before realizing he was grieving for a man who wasn't dead yet.
For that matter, the Hank Landry Teal'c knew didn't even exist: there was only General Landry, and while he was similar, he was not the same man Teal'c had known. Of all his friends, only Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran were the closest in temperament to their older counterparts, lacking only the peace and comfort Daniel and Vala had found with one another. Samantha had spent many years mired in regret and self-doubt, and despite Teal'c's efforts to console her, had never forgiven herself for making the decision which marooned the team.
Cameron, too, had had demons he seemingly could not exorcize. Just over ten years into their confinement, Cameron had finally beaten Teal'c in a sparring match, but the victory brought him no closure. He abandoned the weekly bouts and never mentioned them again. Instead, he began spending more and more of his time sitting in the cockpit of one of the F-302s, dreaming his life away.
And now it seemed as though Teal'c was doomed to dream the rest of his life away, as well. Giving himself a mental shake and hoping that his woolgathering had gone unnoticed, the Jaffa returned his concentration to the mission, tuning his aged but still-sharp senses to the trail around and before him. They had exited the canyon and were now following the curve of the cliff to their left, using its looming presence as a guide for the path they were to follow.
Even without such a guide, the trail would have been an easy enough one to traverse. Though no road led the way from the Stargate to the village, the land at the base of the massive rock formations was flat enough to permit sight for many miles. As much as that comforted him, it also put him ill at ease, realizing that there would be little cover afforded by the sparse grasses should SG-1 need to retreat.
Finally, they reached the outskirts of the village and began to make their way around a ragged low fence made of bound sticks. The crude barrier was clearly not constructed for defensive means but rather for containing livestock. Though Teal'c saw no beasts, there was ample spoor within the corral to indicate their recent presence.
Suddenly, a bellow split the morning air, followed by a pair of echoing roars. Immediately on-guard, the team slowed and readied their weapons. Several tense moments passed in which the team cast about, searching for the source of the ruckus, and then a figure emerged from the closely-grouped collection of low stone houses.
At first, he thought he was seeing a rather large man dressed in dark gray shaggy furs, but that notion was quickly dispelled. The man turned to greet the team, revealing simian features, sharp tusks, and gracefully-curving horns. Expert on Tau'ri urban legends that he was, Teal'c immediately thought of a yeti.
"Whoa," muttered Mitchell, likely having come to the same conclusion.
"We are surrounded," Teal'c noted, glancing around as more of the... yetis arrived on the scene. Most were unarmed, but their fearsome teeth, horns, and claw-tipped hands could do soft human flesh a great deal of damage if the creatures chose to attack. Those who bore weapons carried short, heavy spears. Fortunately, the yetis were making no overtly aggressive gestures, leaving Teal'c with the impression that they were just as curious about SG-1 as the team was about them.
"Jackson, you're on," Colonel Mitchell ordered quietly. "Get us out of here in one piece so you can take Vala on her date, will ya?"
Daniel Jackson swallowed heavily. "I have no idea where to begin." Despite his words, his first step was to lower his P90 to his chest and hold out both arms placatingly. "Greetings," he began, "we mean you no harm... we're peaceful explorers from a planet called Earth."
"I don't think they understand you," Vala Mal Doran muttered.
"Maybe not the words, but I'm hoping they understand my body language." In a move which never ceased to give Teal'c the mother of all tension headaches, the linguist stepped out of the circle of his teammates and toward the yeti who had first revealed itself. It was risks like these which so often paid off, but which O'Neill had always blamed for his loss of hair-color.
Thinking on the broad streak of gray in his own hair, Teal'c wondered if perhaps O'Neill's claims held some merit.
The lead yeti chuffed, then growled softly, though neither noise seemed to hold any malice. Encouraged, Daniel Jackson slowly brought his right hand in and tapped himself on the chest. "Daniel Jackson."
"Ha-nel Haks-sen," the yeti tried. The leader then tapped his own chest and uttered a snarl.
"Norraul?" Daniel Jackson attempted. The yeti barked shortly, apparently finding the pronunciation acceptable enough.
As the linguist breathed a sigh of relief, Colonel Mitchell turned to stare at him. Teal'c wished the garments the team wore did not conceal their faces, as he was certain he would have enjoyed the expression of incredulity on the pilot's face. "Whoa! Reading about the whole 'make friends with Unas' thing is one thing, but watching it in action is something else!"
Daniel Jackson shrugged. "Well, we're far from being able to communicate in a meaningful way, but it's a start."
"The yetis haven't ripped our arms out of their sockets yet, so I'd say it's a hell of a start."
"I was just thinking the same thing," Colonel Carter announced. "Er, not the arm sockets thing, but that they looked like yetis."
"I had also drawn that comparison," Teal'c added.
"Well, I didn't," chimed in Vala Mal Doran. "I was going to say 'Abominable Snowman'."
"Same thing," four voices replied.
Daniel Jackson nodded. "Actually, I'm hoping these guys really are the source of the legend of the yeti. It's possible that if the Goa'uld brought them to this planet long ago—or are responsible for their having been on Earth—then they might understand Goa'uld or maybe even one of the Sino dialects."
"Mandarin?" Colonel Mitchell suggested.
"Not likely. Mandarin is pretty new, linguistically speaking. Besides, yetis are Himalayas, meaning Tibetan, Nepali, or any one of the hundreds of other local variants."
"You know at least one of those, right?" Colonel Carter offered hopefully.
"Actually, no." Daniel Jackson rolled his shoulders. "Not much call for an Egyptologist at twenty thousand feet above sea level."
"Yeah, good point," Colonel Mitchell agreed grudgingly. He then muttered something under his breath that Teal'c didn't understand.
The yetis must have, however, as they growled in reply and bared their teeth. Daniel Jackson raised his hands again and shouted something as equally incomprehensible.
"They understood me?" Colonel Mitchell gaped.
"Everybody be quiet for a minute, okay?" Daniel Jackson snapped, then turned back to Norraul and continued speaking, likely making apologies for whatever offense the SG-1 team leader had inadvertently committed.
Daniel held his breath, instructing his muscles to not give into instinct and go for his weapon. It was funny how such an action had become "instinct" when years ago, it was anything but. Times had changed—Daniel had changed—but he hoped his ability to make nice with even the biggest, baddest, scariest aliens in the galaxy was still intact.
Norraul finished chuffing, grunting, and clicking to his companions, then turned back to the trapped team. "No harm was intended; no harm was taken," he announced in his growling version of Mandarin Chinese.
"It's okay, guys," Daniel sighed, feeling his shoulders slump in relief. "Mitchell, no more insults in Mandarin, got it?"
"No problem," the colonel answered quickly.
"You do not run from us or attack," Norraul questioned. "You smell differently from the others of your kind we have met. Why is this?"
"We're from another planet," Daniel explained. "We're peaceful explorers, travelers through the Stargate."
"No one has traveled the road of the gods in many years. You do not fear us; you do not seem to wish us harm." He paused. "You are welcome to join us inside. We would like to speak with you further."
"I think I understood most of that," Mitchell began. "He wants us to go inside and talk, right?"
"Yeah," the linguist agreed.
Jack, he knew, would have hated the thought of putting his entire team at the mercy of an alien race, especially one as physically capable as the yetis—for lack of a better term. In fact, if Teal'c had still had a symbiote to protect him from the cold, Daniel would have considered asking the big Jaffa to remain outside as a guard.
Mitchell wasn't Jack, though, and didn't have the older man's dozen-and-more years of Special Ops paranoia coloring his tactical decisions. Daniel didn't either, but he did have ten years of 'Gate travel experience—if walking into Goa'uld, Replicator, and Ori ambushes didn't make you paranoid, nothing would.
"Let's go in and have a chat, then," Mitchell decided. "That's why we're here."
Daniel nodded to Norraul, and the team followed the apparent leader of the yeti village. The large humanoid led them to the fur-covered entrance to one of the buildings, pulling the makeshift door aside. After glancing back to make sure the team was following, Norraul ducked into the fire-warmed interior. Taking a single step after him, Daniel pulled his goggles off, letting his eyes adjust to the dim lighting.
Six steps led down into the circular room, making the building considerably taller than it appeared to be from the outside. It was clearly a structure designed for gatherings, given the open floor plan, numerous cushions, and low-lying tables. Norraul gestured for the team to seat themselves wherever they chose, so Daniel picked a longer table near one side of the room, one with a full view of the entrance. Cameron gave an approving nod to his choice of seating, easing himself down on the straw-stuffed cushion immediately to Daniel's right. Vala claimed the seat to his left, letting out an audible sigh as she sat.
"Well, isn't this cozy," she remarked. Daniel decided to ignore the comment.
Three more of the yetis joined the team at the table, and as Daniel made introductions, he peeled the balaclava from his face and retrieved his glasses. The lenses were settled into place in time to see a weighted look be exchanged among the village elders, but it passed quickly. The rest of the team removed their own headgear, and Daniel was soon busy explaining his team's reasons for visiting the planet in greater detail, as well as translating between the two groups.
They were called the Ganar, and were enslaved and brought to this planet by the Goa'uld Helios to mine the minerals present in the cliffs. After several generations, Helios stopped returning, and the Ganar were able to overthrow their Jaffa guards and win their freedom.
"Helios was destroyed by Ra nearly three centuries ago," Teal'c explained after Daniel finished translating.
"Of course," Daniel remarked. "How dare anyone else refer to himself as the Sun God."
"Indeed," Teal'c smiled.
Daniel translated the Jaffa's explanation to the Ganar, then frowned, thinking on what the elders had said of the cruelty of their Jaffa taskmasters. "I hope you are not offended by Teal'c's presence," he began.
"Why should we be?" asked Karragh, the only female elder. Outwardly, she looked no different from males of her race, as their long, thick coats concealed any defining anatomy.
"He is Jaffa."
The Ganar's nostrils flared in surprise, but they looked only curious, not upset. "The Jaffa have changed much in the years."
"Yes, they have. They, like you, are now free. Helios may have been killed by Ra, but Ra himself was killed several years ago, and the Jaffa rebelled against the remaining System Lords. The Goa'uld have been all-but eradicated." It was an overly-simplified explanation, of course, but it served his purpose.
Eventually, conversation got around to what the SGC hoped to get out of a possible trade agreement with the Ganar. First and foremost, of course, was what the team hoped was naquadah still in the abandoned mines, and Sam was eager to take some samples. Daniel then asked if he and his team could be shown to the mines to acquire some soil samples for the geologists back on Earth. The response he received was unexpected.
"The mines are forbidden."
"You said yourself that you no longer mine the ore within them," Daniel pressed cautiously. "Our people may have need of those minerals, as one in particular does not occur naturally on our planet."
Norraul chuffed. "It is a perilous journey. There are many dangerous creatures along the way. Your safety could not be assured."
Daniel relayed this information to his teammates, adding, "The Ganar seem to be able to handle themselves pretty well. The wildlife must be pretty bad if they're worried about it."
Wisely, Mitchell decided to get opinions from the full team before making a decision. "I think we handle ourselves pretty well, too, but is it worth the risk?"
"We don't know if it's worth the risk," Sam pointed out. "That mine could be empty or have only common ores in it, or it could have a few good veins of naquadah... or even trinium. We won't know until we check it out."
"I say we head home," Vala chimed in. "I, for one, don't want to tangle with anything mean enough to make our very large friends here nervous."
"I, too, am concerned about the possible dangers, but I believe our weapons will prove far more formidable than those available to the Ganar," replied Teal'c.
All eyes now on him, Daniel shrugged. "Depends on how far it is and what the terrain's like. We have enough supplies on the FRED to last us a week—two, if we stretch it—but I don't want to try carrying all that gear ourselves."
"That's two for, one against, and one abstention," Mitchell drawled. "Find out how far it is to the mines. Let them know that we'll go by ourselves, if we have to, that way we don't put any of their people at risk."
Trying to be as diplomatic as possible, Daniel translated his team leader's words. "Of course, since this is your planet, you do have the right to tell us to just go home."
Despite the phonetic shift, Mitchell must have understood some of what he said, as he shot him a confused look. "Jackson?"
Norraul gave a staccato growl, and the other elders joined him in what was apparently their version of a laugh. "We could," he began after a moment, "but I believe your companions would not welcome such an answer. The journey is not long, but it will take perhaps a day to reach, another to return. It may take even longer if your people are not prepared for the harsh sunlight or cold nights."
"We are," he answered.
"Our people are farmers and herders," began Grancha, an aged Ganar with a pelt liberally streaked with white. "We have few hunters and warriors, and fewer still who can speak this language, but those we can spare will escort your people to the mines and back again." Bowing his head respectively, Daniel thanked them for their generosity.
"We good to go?" Mitchell asked.
"We have our escort," he replied. Intellectually, the archaeologist knew that the extra manpower would lessen the risks of attack by wild animals; why, then, did he suddenly have such a bad feeling about the trip?