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The Outer Paths

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Jack O'Neill woke with a groan and shook his head, pushing  himself up to a sitting position, back against the cold metal of their cell wall.

He was becoming used to this, Jack thought grimly.

More than that. Being kidnapped by the Goa'uld apparently had became a habit of his team at some point, a habit much, much worse than drinking and smoking and so on.

They all looked for a way out for a moment, patting the walls of their cell up and down, searching for a loose panel, something that would let them interfere with the power source, anything really. All Major Carter needed was a little, unimportant thing, a toothpick and she would McGuyver a way to escape in an instant, not to mention everything she could blow up along the way. She was good like that, probably the cleverest person Jack had ever known.

This time things didn't seem to be that easy; the Goa'uld finally seemed to be doing their homework and Tau’ri proofed the whole thing.

It meant that they would have to get out the hard way or just hope for trouble coming from somewhere else, so they could use the chaos to escape.

Jack didn't like to hope in situations like this but sometimes, there simply wasn't any choice. All he could do now was try to use Teal'c as an example - the big, muscular Jaffa warrior, once first prime of Apophis, now commonly known heretic and traitor was sitting with his legs crossed, face blank.

Jack felt an urge to wave his hand in front of the other man, just to check if Teal'c was still there. Jaffa didn't sleep, they only meditated to rest, he knew it well, but sometimes a man just wonders...

However this time it wasn't just his team he needed to worry about; when they were dragged in, half-conscious and still spasming in pain from the zat gun, the cell was already occupied.

Jack grimly looked at the corner furthest away from them, where a child was curled into a tiny ball, miserable and sniffling.

They all tried to talk to the little girl, but she was both unwilling to interact with them and unable to understand what they were saying; even Daniel failed at talking to her and that was his job.

“Major?”

“Colonel?” Samantha Carter turned towards him with a question in her blue eyes.

“Just wondering how long we're sitting here,” he said. “You have a much better internal clock than I do.”

And he didn't have his outer clock around the wrist because of course, anything that looked like technology, magic or was dangerously pointy was taken away.

Soon, Jack thought grimly, the Jaffa warriors would start taking away their belts and shoelaces.

“I would say about an hour, sir” Carter estimated, brushing away her fringe.

She was about to get a haircut, he thought. She never liked her hair to be too long, finding it too annoying on the offworld missions to be worthy all that effort.

“Only an hour, eh?”

“What are you thinking, sir?”

“The girl…” he muttered. “They’re not going to snake her, are they?”

“Goa’uld prefer adult hosts,” she quickly reassured him. “She could have been taken as a source of information though.”

“Information? That's a kid!”

“She's wearing a hoodie, sir. How many hoodies have you seen offworld?” Carter questioned. “The rest of her clothes is also of high quality. High enough to be made on a technologically advanced world.”

“Huh,” he said, blinking. That indeed could be a reason. Goa'uld preferred their slaves to be illiterate, dirty farmers who barely knew how to weave their own clothes. It was easier to be gods for people like that, without anyone smart and educated enough to challenge their reign.

All of the Stargate Command teams traveled through many worlds, seeking allies in their fight against the Goa'uld, new technology and knowledge. Usually they just found farmers. Jack could count civilizations more technologically advanced on one hand and none of those had the will - or the resources when it came to the Asgard - to bother with earthlings.

“Shame we can't really talk to her,” he muttered. “Though we already jumped once, so we can't even tell what her homeworld address is.”

And Jack doubted that a little girl could tell them which sevel symbols on the DHD led home. He wonder if she even now what a Stargate was; usually only the worlds left behind by the System Lord's were able to evolve and prosper. Or the ones without the Gate.

The last option would be the worst, because then, they would have no way of telling just where the girl was nabbed and how to take her back home.

Jack jumped, when the doors were unsealed with a thunderous noise. Stone-like slabs grit against each other, slowly revealing an opening.

Four Jaffa stood on the outside, armed with staff weapons and in heavy armor with helmets Jack couldn't quite name. As always, it looked like an animal, but what sort it was impossible to guess. Maybe something that didn't originate on Earth?

He pushed himself off the ground, fully prepared to struggle, kick and punch but they weren't here for him or his team, not even to mock Teal'c. They had yet another prisoner.

A woman stood among them, high and calm.

This was... odd.

People usually reacted to being kidnapped by the Goa'uld in many ways, through usually it varied from blind panic to depression.

One of the Jaffa pushed her and she stepped forward, entering the cell. She was so pale, she looked more like a ghost than someone alive, eerie and silent as she walked. Jack couldn't hear a single footstep nor the fabric of her long, loose clothes shifting. And he should, he really should, because it was so quiet a pin drop would be deafening.

The newcomer’s face was carefully blank and the odd, yellow eyes were cold and definitely calculating, observing both the Jaffa and the cell doors shifting closed behind her.

Their new cellmate was wearing something that looked Eastern, maybe Japanese or some country nearby, though Jack decided to not try and name things.  His ex-wife used to painfully groan every time he was trying to name colors or pieces of her clothing and these were things he was supposedly familiar with.  It looked to be on the fancy side; the colors were very intense and the amount of little details on the fabric were almost overwhelming. Though it could be just her; no matter how long Jack looked, the woman still seemed to be otherworldly.

A bit shorter up close than she appeared to be standing far away, but she had that powerful aura that made her seem like a giant anyway.

She slowly turned her attention to the cell as the doors clicked shut behind her. These were hardly even doors, the Goa'uld had a weird obsession for hidden passages and entrances that looked just like walls, with the oddest mechanisms meant to open and close them. Sadly, this time pushing snake hieroglyphs and trying to rotate them didn't do a thing and after trying to do anything with all the other things that were grabbable Jack was all out of the ideas.

Jack was about to explain that no, the way out was currently unreachable from this side of the doors, but the woman looked straight at him and whatever thought was forming, it stopped dead in its track.

There were deep, strong purple lines framing her eyes, sharpening their shape, but that wasn't what made her gaze so predatory. Her pupils had a shape Jack never ever expected to see on a human. They were slitted and thin as needles, the deep yellow color of the iris only making it that much more intense.

Jack licked his lips, subconsciously expecting the eyes to flash with light and the deep, low voice to echo through their cell in that one of a kind, many people talking through one throat sort of way that screamed Goa'uld.

Though why exactly a bunch of Jaffa warriors would bring one of their gods to the jail and shut the doors, he had no clue. There’d been no bowing or anything at all.

She was also lacking the excessive golden jewelry the snakes were so fond of, even if she had much nicer clothes than the usual stranger they bumped in on the other side of the Stargate. Proof that not-farmers actually existed in this galaxy.

The probably-not-a-Goa'uld lady seemed to be interested in both the cell occupants and the cell itself, through she showed much more restraint than the eggheads Jack was familiar with usually did. Then again, when the usual nerd was looking at him, he didn't felt like he was cut open and analyzed on the spot.

It wasn't the most pleasant feeling, so Jack decided it was the time to break the awkward silence.

"Hi," he said, raising one hand slowly and giving a small wave. "How it's going?"

Her reply was to raise one thin eyebrow and tilting head  to the side.

"I'm Jack O'Neill, with two L's," he continued to blab. "And I'm not with the tin-cans, but that's sorta obvious.  So, where did you bump into these guys?"

The woman slowly shook her head and said something he couldn't understand at all.

Jack grimaced. He should have expected that.

There was this whole thing about how during travelling through the Stargate, the traveller was turned into a string of information and then spat out on the other side, information turning into flesh and bone yet again. The Gates that were active tended to add a little something too - a collection of the most commonly used words and phrases picked up from all the guys who went through it. It made communicating with the people from other planets much, much easier and problems only appeared when it came to more specialized words or when the Stargate was not used for a long period of time.

"So, no magical translation for us this time, eh?" Jack stretched and looked at Daniel.

He was the one who should thrive in this situation, after all. Finding a way to talk to people, telling them to stop being pissed off at them or reading the ancient graffiti off the walls and stuff. That was his thing.

Meanwhile the woman made a few steps to the side, still observing Jack and his team as if they were a fascinating expose.

Jack wondered if she would act the same if it was a cage with a tiger inside. The answer was: probably.  

Jack was about to poke Daniel to make him start doing his whole communication charade , when the woman suddenly stopped dead.

Yellow eyes widened at the sight of the child and the odd irises constricted to the point they looked like thin needles.

"Himawari?"

The little girl raised her head rapidly, however she stayed in her corner of the cell, eyeing the pale woman with eyes wide open.

Poor kid, Jack thought.

She was really scared out of her wits.

The woman got over the initial shock fairly quickly, her expression mellowing into something more soft and reassuring.

She slowly took a step forward, then another but stopped several feet away from the girl, giving the terrified child breathing space.

Well, they were from the same world and if the ship wasn't moving around too much, then there was a small chance that they knew each other, or at least it was the best Jack could come up with at the moment.

The woman knelt down, to be at the same eye-level with the girl and said something, putting a hand on her chest, but all Jack heard was chirping of an unfamiliar language.

"Daniel...?" Jack asked, because Daniel was the person to go to when people were speaking anything that wasn't English.

Daniel shushed him both with a hiss and a hand gesture, brow furrowed in concentration.

Whatever the woman said, it seemed to work.

The girl blinked, fear slipping out of her face while surprise took its place. she repeated something of whatever was told before.

The woman nodded with a smile.

"I think she said that she's someone's mom...?"

"You think?" Jack raised an eyebrow.

"This is not one of the languages I'm fluent in," Daniel reminded him. "And even if I was, I would still be guessing. Language changes, because-"

"I know, I know!" Jack raised his hands up. "I remember Abydos and the blah-blah from there, thank you, don't need to repeat it!"

Daniels eyebrow twitched.

"You asked."

"For a translation!"

Jack wanted to bug his friend some more, because it was a thing that killed time neatly no matter what they were waiting for, but the foreign words stopped.

Instead, the woman was looking at them - at Daniel - curiously. Then her glance slipped towards Teal'c, eyes zeroing on the golden emblem on his forehead before returning to Jackson.

She said something, slower this time, carefully pronouncing each single world.

"Ah!" Daniel gasped, taken by surprise, but he quickly chirped something back, both hand already in motion.

For a first contact that was awfully fast, Jack decided. Not that he had anything against it. Quite the opposite, there wasn't anything worse than sitting in a space jail with people who he couldn't even communicate with.  

Well, technically he still couldn't, but Daniel seemed to have it covered.

"So, her name is Orochimaru, she’d never seen  anything like a Ha'tak before, so it drove her to investigate," Daniel explained, summarizing what he could. "She's familiar with the parents of this girl - Himawari - though I don't think it's a close friendship or anything like that."

"No, wait, she saw a huge, scary thing that wasn't there yesterday and then decided to check it out? Just like that?"

What the hell was with this lady? On the other hand, he would do the exact same thing. Did it, actually, on more than one occasion and almost died several times because of it. However Jack was also aware that most of other people had the common sense to turn on their heel and walk in the opposite direction to avoid trouble.

Daniel kept on talking, however it was mostly him running his mouth, while the woman asked a question now and then. Among the unfamiliar words, Jack noticed a few he actually knew - Goa'uld and Jaffa among them.

It looked like someone was getting the Galaxy for Dummies 101 course.

With a snicker, he shifted to sit more comfortably and simply decided to enjoy the show; even not understanding the language, the facial expressions were going to be fun.