The five people made their way across the night-dark desert. True to her word, Helen kept pace with the others, grateful that she stayed in shape.
She glanced at the man who walked beside her. His demeanor had changed. There was a sense of purposefulness and determination about him now. She had no idea what she'd gotten herself into, but, whatever it was, she had a feeling that it was big.
"Daniel, what is this about?" she asked, no longer able to rein in her curiosity. "What the hell was it that you really did for the government and military?"
It was Jack who answered. "Well, ya know those theories of his that made him a laughingstock to his fellow archeologists? It turns out that they shouldn't have laughed."
"What? Daniel, what is he saying?"
"That I was right."
"You can't be serious."
"It's true," Sam said. "Daniel had it right all along. The pyramids really were landing platforms for alien spacecraft."
"Yep," Jack confirmed. "I've seen it with my own eyes, just not here on Earth."
Helen's mouth was hanging open. "Not here on. . . ." Her expression abruptly darkened. "What kind of bull are you trying to hand me? You don't really expect me to believe this, do you?"
Jack halted, causing everyone else to do the same. He turned around and stared appraisingly at the woman for several seconds.
"Teal'c," he then said, "show her Junior."
Daniel immediately objected. "Jack."
"Daniel, she's the one who insisted on knowing what this is about. Can you think of a more surefire way to prove that we're telling the truth?"
The archeologist sighed. "No."
Teal'c lifted his shirt, revealing the opening of his larval pouch. Helen nearly shrieked when the larva inside poked its head out, squeaking softly.
"Dear God!" she cried, taking a hasty step back. "What is that thing?"
"It's the larval form of an alien species called the Goa'uld," Daniel explained. "Teal'c is a Jaffa. His people act sort of like incubators for the Goa'uld until they reach maturity."
Helen gaped at the larva as it retreated into its pouch. Her eyes then lifted to Teal'c's face.
"You're not human?"
"No. I am from the planet Chulak."
"We've met lots of alien species, Helen," Daniel told his former mentor. "Some of them are our friends and allies, others, like the Goa'uld, aren't so nice."
"We've been in a war against them for almost five years," Sam explained, "six, if you count the first time we encountered them."
Helen was struggling to take in everything. "But . . . but how is it that everyone doesn't know about this? How could you have met all those alien species and be at war with one without the rest of Earth knowing?"
"Come on," Jack said. "We're wasting time. We can talk while we walk."
They resumed their journey.
"You recall me telling you that I did a job for the government that lasted two weeks before going out of the country for over a year?" Daniel asked Helen. He received a nod. "The job was deciphering the symbols on a coverstone discovered on the Giza Plateau in 1928. I learned that what was found beneath the coverstone was something called a Stargate, a device that opens sort of a bridge between planets. We call them wormholes."
Sam took over the explanations. "The wormholes enable us to travel thousands, even millions of light-years in a matter of seconds. We have visited hundreds of worlds using the gates."
"During that year I was gone I was actually living on another planet. It's where I met my wife and her people."
Helen's eyes got even wider. "Your wife was an alien?"
"No, she was human. You see, for thousands of years, the Goa'uld took people from Earth to populate other planets, to act as their slaves and . . . and other things." Daniel decided that she was not yet ready to know about the Goa'uld taking hosts. "Um, this next part may be hard for you to take."
"The next part? Daniel, this whole thing is hard for me to take."
"Yeah, I should imagine so. But what I'm going to tell you now is going to completely change everything you've learned about the mythology of Egypt and other civilizations. When the Goa'uld were here on Earth, they assumed the persona of our ancient gods. Some actually created the identities, whereas others just took on the roles of gods that already existed in a culture's mythology. Ra, Horus, Hathor, Cronus, they were all Goa'uld, as were many other gods of Egypt, Greece, and several other ancient civilizations. Ra was the first, the one who discovered Earth and started the whole thing. This went on for thousands of years until the Goa'uld finally left the planet for good."
Helen was speechless, her mind reeling. It was all so hard to believe. Yet she'd seen that thing with her own eyes. It was real.
It was several minutes before she spoke again. "And you've been involved in this . . . this war all this time?" she asked Daniel.
"Daniel hasn't just been involved," Jack said before his friend could reply, "without him, everyone on Earth would be dead."
Sam took over. "Daniel's skills and knowledge have been invaluable to us. Without him, many of our missions would have failed. There are countless people all across the galaxy who owe their lives to him."
"Daniel Jackson has been one of our greatest warriors in the fight against the Goa'uld," Teal'c added.
Helen's eyes went to the man she had known since he was seventeen years old. His gaze was on the ground, and there was a slight frown on his face. Daniel was a warrior in an intergalactic fight against evil aliens? It sounded like a plot from some silly science fiction TV show.
The question of what had caused Daniel to change so much returned to Helen's mind. She was beginning to understand now. If he really had been out there in the galaxy all these years, fighting a continual war against an alien race, she could only imagine the things he'd gone through, the horrors he'd witnessed, the pain he'd suffered.
Helen knew that what they'd told her was only a tiny portion of the whole story, but she'd learned enough for now. The rest could come later. And perhaps when she learned the rest, she'd also find out what had left the scars on Daniel's soul.
There was one other thing she needed to know now, however.
"The relief on that stele," she said. "What was it depicting?"
"A battle," Daniel answered, "one between the Goa'uld and a person called a Harcesis, at least it was, if my guess is right. And if I'm right about something else, the place we're going to now could give us things that will help us fight the Goa'uld."
The rest of the trip was made in silence. As they drew close to the ruins, Jack and Sam donned night vision goggles and searched the area with binoculars.
"The area where you said the building was is clear," Jack announced. "We've got activity to the north."
"That's where the camp is set up," Helen said. "What building are you talking about?"
Daniel described the structure to her. "Do you know which one I'm talking about?"
"Yes, I know it. From what we could tell, it appeared to be one of the original structures."
Daniel nodded. "I think that, when the stele was made, it was one of the only buildings here."
"Daniel, I've been inside what's left of it, and there's nothing there."
"We believe that what we're looking for is in a hidden chamber underneath it," Sam explained.
Daniel put on a pair of goggles and gave the last pair to Helen, showing her how to use them. Teal'c, who had the best night vision, would be going without.
They cautiously covered the remaining distance to the ruins. With the aid of Daniel's and Helen's knowledge of the ruins, they found the building they were seeking. There wasn't much left of it. The roof was completely gone, as was one of the walls and half of another. The only reason why Daniel had been able to identify it were the wide steps leading to the entrance and the remnants of two stone slabs at the foot of the steps that, according to the relief, had once held lion statues.
They ascended the steps. Figuring it was safe to do so, they removed their goggles and switched to flashlights. Sam pulled out her scanner and ran it over the stone floor.
"I'm not detecting anything, but that isn't surprising. There's no telling how thick this stone is."
Daniel began studying the walls and floor. "If there is an underground chamber, there should be some kind of mechanism that would open the entrance. Let's just hope it wasn't on the wall that was destroyed."
"Or that it needs a key to open it like that one Osiris had," Sam added.
Helen looked at her sharply, still not used to the idea that these people had actually met some of the gods of ancient Egypt – or, rather, the aliens that pretended to be those gods.
Daniel focused all his attention on the worn remains of a relief on the back wall. So little of it had survived that it was all but impossible to tell what it had been. However, the fact that there had been a relief on an inside wall rather than painted images could be important.
He pulled a brush from one of his pockets and used it to remove some dirt and debris from the relief. Three of the figures were in slightly better shape than the rest because they protruded out from the wall more.
"Three of these are almost high-relief instead of low-relief," he remarked.
Helen came forward and examined them. "You're right."
Using his brush, Daniel cleared away the last of the dirt. He examined the figures closely and spotted a nearly invisible seam around the edges.
"I think these press inward. There are three of them, so it could be some kind of combination lock. You have to press them in the right order."
"So, what's the right order?" Jack asked.
"I have no idea."
"If it's a three-character code, and you use each one only once, there would be just six possible combinations," Sam said.
"But we don't know if it is a three-character code. It could be more or less."
"More important, we don't know what will happen if we put in the wrong code," Jack said.
Daniel stared at the three figures. They gave him no clue as to which ones to press or in what order, which made sense. The Harcesis would have known the code. He wouldn't have had a reason to leave clues.
"I guess all we can do is start pressing them," he said. "Um . . . maybe the rest of you should back away or even leave the building."
"Daniel, we're a team," Jack said. "The rest of us aren't going to go running to safety while you risk your neck."
Daniel met his eyes. "I'm not part of the team anymore, Jack."
"Yes, you are. Maybe not officially, but, right now, at this moment, you are part of SG-1, at least as far as I'm concerned."
"That goes for me, too," Sam said.
"And I," stated Teal'c.
Helen looked at the three people who had claimed to be Daniel's friends, and she realized that they were more than that. They all shared a bond with him, one forged by years of facing life and death situations together, working side-by-side for a common goal.
Daniel smiled softly, nodding at them. He then looked at Helen. "You should get out of here."
"I may not be part of this SG-1 you're talking about, but I'm staying, too."
"No, if something happens, we'll need somebody to contact our base and tell them what happened."
Jack, Sam and Teal'c did not miss the fact that Daniel had said "our base".
Sam hastily wrote down a number and handed it to Helen. "Call that number and say Five Delta Zebra Victor. It's an emergency code that will make them patch you in directly to the base commander. Tell him what happened."
Helen looked at the number, then at Daniel. Reluctantly, she nodded. She left the structure and put several yards between her and it.
Daniel returned his gaze to the three symbols. Picking the one in the center, he pushed it. It didn't move, so he pushed a little harder. He felt it give slightly, sinking a fraction of an inch into the wall. He did the same to the one on the left, then on the right. Nothing happened.
"Well, this could be a good thing or a bad thing," Jack commented. "We didn't get blown up."
"But we might have locked the entrance so that we won't be able to get in," Sam said.
Daniel next tried the middle one, the right one, then the left one, which also resulted in nothing happening. His third attempt was right, left, middle. That time, something did happen. They were all startled by the sound of stone grinding on stone and turned to the right to see one of the floor slabs slowly sink, then slide back. They approached the hole and shone their lights down into it, revealing a staircase.
Daniel called to Helen, and she came back up.
"Teal'c, you stay here and keep watch," Jack ordered.
Cautiously, the four people descended the staircase. When they reached the bottom, lights snapped on, illuminating a large room around the size of the structure above.
"Holy Hannah," Sam said.
A collection of devices, both large and small, were scattered about the chamber. Daniel went up to one of them, the others following him.
Sam noticed the look on his face. "Daniel, do you know what this is?"
"Yeah. It's one of the things I built in that dream Shifu gave me. You can disable Stargates with it."
Sam's breath drew in sharply. "How?"
"Um, I don't remember the technical stuff, but you can use it two different ways, either by dialing the gate and sending a signal or by taking it someplace near the gate and doing the same thing."
Sam stared at the device. "Daniel, do you realize how valuable this is? We could dial into a primary Goa'uld target and knock out their gate, cut off their avenue of escape and make it impossible for them to call for reinforcements. Are the effects permanent?"
"No, you can reverse it with the device, but, of course, you'd have to do it in person since you couldn't dial into the gate."
The archeologist stepped away and looked around the room. "I know what all these things are. I didn't build them all in that dream, but I did schematics for a lot of them." He gave a little shudder.
Jack came up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Hey. You okay?"
"Yeah. It's just that . . . remembering that dream and the things I did in it, the way I acted, it's . . . not a good memory."
"What dream?" Helen asked. "What are you talking about?"
Daniel sighed. "It's a . . . really long story." He spied something over on the far wall and went to it. Reading the Goa'uld symbols, he turned it on. After several seconds, he said, "This is too much."
The note in his voice made the others look at him more closely. As they walked up to him, Sam saw that the device was a computer of some sort. Daniel was flipping through screens, bringing up pages of text, technical drawings and other things.
"I thought that there might be a few things here," he murmured, "just a few things that would help us, but this . . . God, I can't let it happen, not for real."
Jack knew what he was talking about, Daniel's report on what happened in that dream being one that the colonel did read.
"It won't, Daniel," he assured his friend. "We'll know better."
Daniel turned haunted eyes to him. "How can you be sure? It almost caused a nuclear war, Jack. It probably would have caused one if I hadn't—" His voice choked off, and he strode away a few paces. Jack followed him.
"Hey. That didn't really happen, Daniel, and it's not gonna happen. Forewarned is forearmed, right? We won't make the same mistakes that were made in that dream."
Daniel shook his head. "We can't build those defense satellites. It's too dangerous. The other things, okay, but not those satellites."
"Unfortunately, we really won't have a say in it," Sam said. "That will be up to the president and the joint chiefs."
Daniel's gaze returned to the computer. "I could delete it. I could erase the plans for the satellites from the computer."
"Daniel, you know I can't let you do that," Jack said. "There could come a day when we'd need them."
"Jack, one of the things that dream taught me was what can happen when any civilization is suddenly given big technological advancements that they're not mature enough and responsible enough to handle. Do you honestly think that, given our present political climate, our government would be willing to openly share the information for the most powerful weapon we've ever had with Russia, even with the warning that dream gave us?"
Jack paused before replying. "Probably not."
"Then what's going to happen if we build the satellites and launch them? Do you think that Russia wouldn't say anything about it, just let it slide?"
"That would be pretty unlikely," Sam answered.
"Then the same thing that happened in that dream would happen for real."
Jack could not escape Daniel's logic. Regardless of the agreement made with Russia over sharing technology obtained through the Stargate Program, too many in the U.S. government would believe that giving Russia that technology would be too risky, not so much because of the threat that they might turn it against the U.S., but that they might secretly sell parts of it to other countries, a danger that Daniel in that dream pointed out. It would also increase the risk of the technology leaking to far more dangerous countries or groups.
At the same time, it would be impossible for the U.S. to suddenly launch a huge number of new satellites and keep it a secret. In Daniel's dream, they tried to pass them off as a network of cutting-edge communications satellites, which might have fooled most of the world, but Russia knew better.
"Jack, you know I'm right," Daniel said.
The colonel sighed. "Yeah, I do. As much as I'd want to see all threat of a Goa'uld attack on Earth eliminated, we couldn't build that satellite network, not until we're . . . a lot more mature."
Helen was, to say the least, shocked by Jack's words. Here was a military man actually agreeing that a weapon shouldn't be built. The woman could hardly believe it.
It was Sam who was now staring at the computer. "Daniel, would there be a way to hide it rather than delete it? Make it so that the plans wouldn't show up unless a code was entered? In that way, we wouldn't lose the information. It would still be there for someday in the future when the situation has changed."
Daniel walked up to the computer. "I don't know. I don't know much about doing things like that."
"And I can't read this dialect of Goa'uld, so I couldn't do it."
"What about the Tok'ra? Do you think they'd be willing to do it?"
"It would sort of be in their best interest to make sure we didn't blow ourselves to smithereens, us being allies and all," Jack remarked.
Sam nodded. "I'd say that might be our best option. Daniel, maybe you should get on the computer first and see if you can see some way to do what we want."
Daniel did so, but could find no instructions for how to hide or even password protect certain data.
"That makes sense," he said. "If the Harcesis was worried about someone else getting their hands on this, he'd have password-protected everything. He believed that nobody would find this place."
"Wasn't that rather foolish of him?" Helen asked, causing everyone to look at her. "It seems to me that he was pretty lax with the safeguards. Look how easily we got in here."
Sam frowned. "She's right. It was too easy. The Harcesis would have wanted to keep this technology out of the hands of the Goa'uld."
Now, Jack was frowning. "Here's a thought. What if we set off a self-destruct device that's counting down as we speak?"
"I'd have thought it would have gone off by now."
Daniel had a thought. "Unless. . . ." He began searching the chamber, looking at each device. He found what he was seeking on a table with several other items.
"What is it?" Jack asked, studying the small device.
"It detects the presence of a Goa'uld. It can be programmed to send a signal, including to an explosive device."
"And is it on?"
"Daniel, are you saying that, if I hadn't had Teal'c wait up top, we'd have all been blown up?"
Daniel shook his head. "It only works with symbiotes inside hosts. It was designed to eliminate rival Goa'uld. Have a Jaffa or human slave plant the device along with an explosive and turn it on, then wait for the unsuspecting Goa'uld to enter the room. Big boom, and the rival Goa'uld is no longer a problem. The Harcesis probably figured that, if this place was ever found by a Goa'uld, they would come down here personally to check it out, which he was probably right about."
"This could really come in handy," Sam said. "If we could adjust it so that it detects Jaffa, too, and boost the range, all SG teams could carry one and be alerted to the presence of Jaffa or Goa'uld. It could save a lot of lives on missions."
"Yeah, I can think of a few times when knowing ahead of time that there were Jaffa around would have been really nice," Jack remarked.
"Can you turn it off?" Sam asked Daniel. "If we're going to get help from the Tok'ra, it can't be on."
Daniel pressed two buttons. "It's off now . . . I think."
"Well, just to be on the safe side, I think we should take it with us and get it as far away from whatever explosives are planted here as we can," Jack said.
Daniel nodded and handed the device to Sam, who put it in a pocket.
Jack glanced at his watch. "We need to get a move-on. I want to be out of here and get our two archeologists here back to their camp as soon as possible." He looked at Daniel. "You need to get some sleep tonight since you're going to be meeting us again tomorrow night, that is if we can contact the Tok'ra and get them to send a cloaked cargo ship here."
Upon hearing the words "cloaked ship" Helen murmured, "Why do I feel like I'm in an episode of Star Trek?"
"Nah. The guys on Star Trek didn't have our sense of humor," Jack responded. "They took things way too seriously." He paused. "I take that back. Kirk could definitely see the humor in some situations. Picard on the other hand. . . . Did that guy ever even smile?"
Helen smiled in spite of herself. This Colonel O'Neill might be military, but there was something about him that you couldn't help but like. And his willingness to give up a powerful weapon because it was the wise thing to do had definitely scored some points in the woman's books. Maybe she could understand why these people were Daniel's friends.
They left the chamber, and Daniel figured out how to close the opening. They made it out of the ruins without incident and began the walk back to where the vehicle was parked. As they walked, Helen asked who the Tok'ra were, and Daniel explained, which also made it necessary for him to tell her how Goa'uld took hosts. The woman shuddered at the thought of having her own body enslaved and used against her will by an evil parasitical creature.
Helen also learned a little about the Jaffa and the rebel movement that was still in its infancy but slowly growing. It was all so mind-boggling that Daniel and so many others on Earth were involved in these things that made many of the troubles on this planet look petty in comparison.
Daniel wasn't surprised when Helen asked about the dream. In answer, he first explained what a Harcesis was and about the evil inherent in the Goa'uld genetic memory.
"We encountered a Harcesis a while ago, a boy whose memories of the Goa'uld knowledge had been repressed, thanks to a very power alien being we'd met previously. We wanted him to give us the knowledge. He tried to make us see that it was too dangerous, that there was no way to divorce all that knowledge from the evil that came with it, but we just weren't listening. To teach us, he gave me a dream in which I had all the knowledge. It . . . changed me, made me into something as evil as the Goa'uld. I did some terrible things in the dream, things that. . . ." He paused, then shook his head. "That dream succeeded in showing me that the price tag that came with that knowledge was far too high."
"And yet, now, you actually have the technology that was part of that knowledge."
"We just have to do everything we can to make sure that it's used in the right way," Sam said.
Back at the rendevous point, Daniel took his bags from the truck.
"We'll meet you back here same time tomorrow," Jack said to the younger man. He looked at Helen. "This time, don't go following him, all right? Just stay in camp. I'm going to be in enough trouble as it is when the general finds out about you."
Daniel and Helen began the walk back to camp.
"Interesting friends you have there," the woman remarked after a couple of minutes.
Daniel smiled slightly. "Yes, they are. We've been through a lot together."
Helen paused for several seconds. "Why did you leave?"
Daniel didn't answer for a while. "Several reasons. I had reached the point where I felt like I wasn't doing enough to really help anymore. So much had changed from the way it was in the beginning, more fighting and less exploration. It just got to be too much. My wife dying was a big part of it as well."
"What happened to her?"
"She, um, was made a host to a Goa'uld, the mate of Apophis."
"Oh, Daniel. I'm so sorry."
"I fought for over two years to save her, but, in the end, I failed. When she was killed, it . . ." his voice dropped, "it killed something inside me, too." He sighed. "The last straw was losing Sarah."
Helen gasped. She knew the woman, having met her when Sarah and Daniel were working with Doctor Jordan.
"Two canopic jars were found on a dig. It turned out that they were actually stasis chambers holding Goa'uld symbiotes, Osiris and Isis. Sarah opened the jar with Osiris and was taken as his host. They escaped from Earth. They were killed recently on a mission I was part of."
Helen rested a comforting hand on Daniel's arm. She could now understand why his soul was so battered.
"So, what now?" she asked.
Daniel looked at her questioningly. "What do you mean?"
"You've found all those things that will help you fight the Goa'uld. That changes a lot. Are you going to keep doing what you are now or go back to help in the fighting again?"
"They don't really need me for that. Despite what Sam, Jack and Teal'c said, I'm really not all that important, no more so that anyone else."
"You know what, Daniel? I don't believe you."
That made Daniel stare at her in surprise.
"Look at what you just accomplished. You figured out the meaning of that relief and led your team to that technology, things that will save lives and might even end the war sooner. That was pretty important, and you're the one who did it. You. Nobody else. Don't minimize what you did, Daniel. That's not being fair to yourself."