One More Time Into the Breach

Daniel Jackson hefted the pack he'd been assigned. Someone, he never knew who, was responsible for packing the SG teams' packs before each trip, making sure that any oddities picked up by the probe were taken into account in addition to all the usual 'for any contingency' equipment. It made, Daniel found, for a rather heavy pack.

Never as heavy as the bag he'd hauled around with him for three weeks in Dabulique. The field trip to western Africa had been one of the worst experiences of his life -- before the Go'auld. Everything that could have gone wrong had, from disastrous weather conditions to hostile government officials to dysentery. The second week there, the archaeology team had lost their truck to an enraged rhino, forcing them to haul their equipment on their backs and travois for the remainder of their stay. Daniel remembered spending a week in a clean bed after arriving home, just for the sheer novelty.

Sometimes he thought back on those days with a wistful fondness. Before everything he ever believed had been either turned on its head, or proven true, life had been simpler. A lot more boring, he admitted, as he stepped up to the ramp leading to the Stargate. His contributions to mankind had been on a much smaller and less significant scale back then. Even if mankind hadn't a clue what he was doing for it, now.

Colonel O'Neill gave them a once over, then grinned. "Ready kids?"

Daniel responded with the line he'd been wanting to use for months. "I have to go to the bathroom."

O'Neill looked at him, blank-faced for a moment. Right before he waved his arm towards the door to tell him to go ahead, they'd wait for him, Carter piped up. "How much farther is it?"

O'Neill turned to her, face still blank as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. That was when Teal'c spoke up. "Daniel Jackson is on my side of the ramp."

Jack stared, jaw dropped, at the Jaffa. Admittedly, Sam and Daniel had had to coach Teal'c on his line. For a moment Daniel thought maybe Jack was going to laugh, or ask General Hammond if he could have another team. Then the Colonel just shook his head and said, straight-faced, "I'm going to leave you all here, by the side of the gate."

No one replied; Daniel and Sam exchanged grins. When Jack nodded, satisfied they were going to behave, he headed towards the gate. Daniel waited until they were almost to it. "Teal'c is touching me."

Jack stumbled. He glared over his shoulder, then turned back and went through the gate. Daniel gave Teal'c an apologetic smile, which was met with a raised eyebrow. "I'll explain later, Teal'c."

"What do you wish to explain? I was touching you."

Daniel shook his head. "Later." He stepped through the gate.  

The trip itself was, as always, a fascination, with its twists and turns which they could see but never feel, and tunnels leading off towards other gates. Daniel often wondered if there was a way to re-direct oneself while traveling, a way somehow to reach out and grab onto another path. He usually decided that it was doubtful, as the creators of the Stargate would not have made such an intricate dialing system if it were possible to control the travel without it. Every time he was actually here, however, between the stars seeing those paths flit by, he wondered again.

He stepped out into a poorly-lit room. Looking around, he said, "What a short, strange trip it's been."

Jack gave him another flat look. "Is this going to be one of those missions?"

"What are you talking about, Jack?" Daniel asked in a distracted tone as he peered around trying to make out details in the shadows. The room appeared to be a large, stone-walled chamber. It reminded him of the interior of a pyramid, except that he could not see any of the typical paintings or hieroglyphs that decorated tomb walls.

"The last time you and Sam did this, we ended up scrubbing toilets back on base."

Sam spoke up, from half-way across the room. "That was Daniel's fault, sir. I was only trying to make sure he stayed out of trouble."

"Didn't work, did it?" Jack asked her.

She shrugged; Daniel continued looking around. The ceiling was high, and four stone columns partitioned the room into an inner and outer square. Jack and Sam were shining large flashlights into the corners, illuminating the shadows. Daniel still didn't see any sort of decorations. He frowned, puzzled.

"Doesn't look like anyone's home," O'Neill called out. "Let's split into pairs and take a look in these rooms. Sam, Teal'c, you head that way. Daniel, you're with me."

They split up, and Daniel and Jack headed north into one of the adjoining rooms. Here they found the expected decorations. One wall was almost entirely covered with hieroglyphs; Daniel walked directly over to it, pulling out his own flashlight to better see the words.

"What is it?"

"It appears to be an unaltered dialect of ancient Egyptian. At least, the symbols are the same. Whether they are being used to mean exactly the same thing--"

"So can you read it?" Jack interrupted.

Daniel glanced back at him. "Of course I can read it. At least I can translate what it would mean if it hasn't--"

"Altered, evolved through the hundreds of years, so on, so on. Got it." Jack waved his hand in a circle, as if he'd heard all this before. He had. "Why don't you translate this, then, while I take a look farther on?" There was a passageway leading away from the room.

"Sure, Jack." Daniel was already scanning the hieroglyphs, looking for the place where the writing had begun. There were seven sections of the wall, five fully covered with hieroglyphs, the sixth mostly covered, and the seventh was bare. He barely noticed as Jack set up a couple of lanterns. He did flick off the flashlight when he realised there was enough light to see by, and stowed it in a pocket. The writings appeared to have been drawn hastily, but they were still quite clear enough to read.

"We have escaped. We have come to this new world to bring up our children in freedom..."

Hours later Daniel looked up from where he was crouching and found Jack standing nearby, watching him. Daniel tried to absorb what he'd read as he stared up at Jack. Jack raised an eyebrow in inquiry, Daniel didn't say a word.

"We didn't find any sign of anyone living here," Jack told him.

Daniel shook his head. "No. There wouldn't be."

"What does it say?"

"They... escaped the Go'auld." Daniel felt numb, and it was difficult to think clearly enough to relay the words he'd read.

"Escaped? How? From Earth?" When Daniel just stood and glanced over the hieroglyphs, Jack asked, "Why did you say there wouldn't be any signs of people living here?"

The writing was still there, showing him the story. He looked back at Jack. "I... there isn't any further writing. This account ends... with a promise to return and complete the history after... there was obviously no one left to come back."

"Danny, are you OK?"

"Huh?" Daniel blinked, and found Jack standing near him, looking worriedly at him. "I... No, not really."

"What does it say?"

"It... uh..." Daniel tried to focus, tried to remember the entire story. He stepped back, looked over at the first panel and tried again. "There were about thirty -- or sixty, I can't tell if this number is doubled -- families who escaped earth, escaped the Go'auld through the Stargate. They came here, apparently by randomly selecting a location on the DHD." As he settled into a familiar mode of lecturing, Daniel was able to speak more clearly, with more certainty. He still felt shaken. "They came here, knowing the Go'auld would follow. They were preparing to do battle. They'd found this temple here, when they arrived, but there was no one living here. It doesn't say why," he added.

"So obviously they lost," Jack observed.

"Er, no..."

"No?" Jack blinked at him, again surprised.

"They didn't, at least I don't think so. The description of the first battle ends here," he pointed at the bottom of the third panel. "These two sections were written after the battle. These," he indicated the first three, "describe their escape from earth, and their plans to build a new life for themselves. Free of the Go'auld. It--" He faltered, momentarily. "It tells of their having to leave behind all the children under the age of five, because they were too young to help..."

"Too young to help?" Jack prompted quietly.

"Too young to help fight. This," again he indicated the appropriate section of writing, "tells how everyone was going to have to participate in the battle against the Go'auld. Even the children had tasks to perform. There weren't enough escapees to stay out of the fight to watch over the youngest children, so they had left them behind."

There was silence for a moment, then Jack said, "It sounds as if they knew what they were doing. I mean it was well-planned, if they knew before they even left Earth, that they'd all have to fight."

"Yes. They were." Daniel pointed to the third panel. "This describes the preparations they made. The battle was held in this temple, and each room and corridor had people assigned to it, each with tasks to carry out."

"So what happened? You said they won, but there's nobody here."

"They won the first battle. Then these last two panels describe their preparations for a second."

"So they lost that one. Huh. Does it say anything--"

"Jack." Daniel interrupted.

"What?"

"They didn't lose that one, either."

Jack looked at him for a long moment. "OK, you lost me there, Danny. Wanna try again?"

"They didn't lose. Not exactly. After the second battle there were two few survivors to reproduce sufficiently to settle their new home. It isn't entirely specific, but it speaks of only three women and two men, along with an unspecified -- but very small -- number and gender of children. They must have died out after only a few generations. Assuming they survived at all. If there were a third attack..."

"So they beat the Go'auld, and died anyway." Jack's tone wasn't quite casual, and Daniel knew he was feeling the same sympathy, and anger that he himself was. In a subdued voice O'Neill asked, "Is there anything more?"

Daniel stared at the panels. The hieroglyphs seemed to be fading into the stone, as if now that'd he'd read their message they were not longer important. His eyes picked out other details of the walls, chiseled lines separating the panels, breaks in the rock and color changes, indicating that not all of the stones were of the same type. He wondered for a moment about those who had built the temple.

"Danny? Is there something you're not telling me?"

As he stared at the line of a reddish-brown stone jutted up against a grey one, he answered, "They knew how to kill the Go'auld."

"Yeah?"

Daniel turned to his friend. "Without harming the host."

He watched in dread as Jack's face showed his astonishment, and growing excitement. "They what? You didn't think to mention that first?"

He spoke up quickly, cutting Jack off. "It doesn't matter, Jack--"

"Doesn't matter? You of all people, standing there telling me--" Jack stopped, suddenly, as if realising what he was saying.

Daniel just nodded. "That's how they won the two battles, because they knew how to free the host and kill the Go'aulds. They rescued four people, in the first fight. This," he gestured towards a spot on the wall, "tells how they were incorporated i nto the preparations for the second battle. It wasn't enough, though. Perhaps if they'd had more people to fight the Go'auld they could have..." He trailed off again.

"Danny, for crying out loud, will you just--"

Quietly, Daniel said, "They didn't write it down."