"Remind me why we're here again?" Daniel asked, eyeing the non-descript door with lifted eyebrows.
Sam sighed and threw him a long-suffering look. "Because this is the address of record for the people questioned after the disturbance in Bowling Green Park two nights ago," she said. "225 Washington Place."
"...Right. And we expect them to actually be here because?" he replied.
He exchanged unimpressed glances with Vala; on the other side of the former galactic thief, Mitchell offered him an eloquent shrug. Nominally, Mitchell was the leader of their motley crew as he had a few months' seniority over Sam in their respective lieutenant colonelcies, but given that Daniel was a civilian, their other two team members were aliens, and Sam had far more SGC experience, he usually let whoever had the most knowledge in any given situation have their head. Today, that was Sam.
"I read the police reports on our way over," she replied, as she pulled a palm-sized device from her jacket pocket and aimed it toward the building. "They were uploaded this morning. There's no mention of the energy burst the Odyssey picked up, which isn't really a surprise, given its unusual nature. The local authorities only became involved after reports started coming in about a disturbance in the park-- several people running around, someone yelling in the fountain, and then what looked like a lightning strike before the power went down briefly throughout the entire financial district. When they arrived, they discovered the Charging Bull statue knocked off its pedestal, and two people on the ground: a man suffering from the aftereffects of what appeared to be a heart attack, and a woman wearing, quote, some kind of fancy party dress, tending to him."
"Lightning strike?" Daniel asked, skeptically.
"Fancy party dress?" Vala echoed.
Sam looked past both of them to Mitchell, smiling wryly. "Aht! Don't say it-- yes, someone made the inevitable Highlander joke. But there weren't any swords around, or severed heads-- just a fancy lacquered cane, some shattered concrete, and a bunch of electrical wires wrapped around lampposts. Kind of a lot of effort to go to for a prank, or some live action role play game."
"Unless it wasn't a prank, or a LARP...." Mitchell drawled.
"But some kind of Ancient technology," Teal'c continued.
"Especially if they gave this as their address," Vala added, skeptically.
Daniel conceded the point with a sigh. "Why is it always warehouses?" he groused.
Sam glanced up at the building, then back down at her palm-top Asgard-tech enhanced computer again. "Not a warehouse, exactly. Not residential either, though; the building goes down a few stories. It's an old abandoned subway turnaround, currently leased to a student at NYU for lab space."
"What manner of laboratory?" Teal'c asked, furrowing his brow.
Sam smiled at him, eyes brightening in that expectant way that meant she knew something they didn't. "Physics," she said.
"Physics?" Daniel blinked at her, trying to piece that together with the rest of the scant facts at their disposal. "Let me guess, you think it's related-- and that the student's involved somehow."
"Considering that he-- Dave Stutler, a twenty-year-old undergrad-- is currently writing a thesis paper on Tesla coils...."
"The electrical display in the park!" Vala exclaimed, snapping her fingers.
"Exactly," Sam replied. "And I'm also detecting trace amounts of the same energy the Odyssey's sensors reported-- much fainter, but the frequency is nearly identical. This is the right place."
Daniel sighed, turning to glance up and down the street; it was fairly clear at that time of the morning, just a few pedestrians minding their own business and a handful of cars parked along the curbs. One of the vehicles on their block was an older model, a thirties-era Rolls Royce with a foreign license plate, and he frowned at it as he considered. "Have we tried to contact Mr. Stutler?"
"He's not responding to the phone number at his apartment," Sam said, then raised her hand to knock. "And according the university, he's not in class at the moment, so I'm guessing he's here."
"Sounds like you've covered all the bases," Mitchell nodded. "Ancient tech in New York-- I guess it's more surprising that it took this long for something to turn up, than that it happened at all, considering. You think it's from some kind of cache, like the one we uncovered in England?"
"I guess we'll find out," Daniel mused, as the sounds of someone fiddling with a lock carried through the door. Since the end of the Ori war and SG-1's final contact with the Asgard, it had often seemed as though all the wonder had gone out of the legacies left by the four founding races-- that the Milky Way galaxy had been left with only the dregs of the Alterans' long-ago failures. Atlantis had been repeatedly put beyond Daniel's reach; it would only be fair if the Earth still held other Ancient marvels to find.
The door finally moved, jerked sharply open by an eager hand. "Becky!" a young man greeted them, looking out through the gap toward Sam. Daniel got a quick impression of pale skin, short dark hair, typical t-shirt and flannel college student wear, and a smile bright enough to light up one of his Tesla coils on its own, before the kid registered that she was a stranger and his face fell dramatically.
"Wait, you're not Becky," he corrected himself, frowning. "I'm sorry, who are you?"
Sam smiled blandly back at him. "Dave Stutler, I presume? I'm Dr. Sam Carter; I'm here with my team to talk about the disturbance in Bowling Green Park a couple of nights ago?"
Dave's jaw dropped as soon as she spoke the park's name, and the color drained out of his face. "I, uh. Why-- why would you want to talk to me about that? I heard someone trashed the place, and the power went out for a couple of blocks there for a while, but-- um. Why would you think I had anything to do with it?"
Behind her, Mitchell chuckled. "Did the lady say we were here to talk to you? We actually wanted to speak with Balthazar Blake and Veronica Gorloisen-- the cops told us this was where we could find them, and they're the only witnesses on record. But you seem remarkably informed-- maybe you can help us, too?"
Dave gulped, staring at him like a deer in the headlights. "It was just... I..."
Daniel was sure he'd been that young and transparent once, once upon a time more than a decade and several lifetimes in the past. Back when this job had still had shocked and surprised him every other day. He felt old just looking at the kid-- who was, after all, about half Daniel's age. It was obvious that he was involved somehow, and just as obvious that he had no talent for lying. Maybe they would get out of this without tripping over the Trust, for once; maybe the strange pentagram-shaped image the Odyssey had resolved from the odd pattern of electromagnetic energy sketched over downtown New York was more innocent than it seemed.
...And maybe not. Daniel frowned past the young man's shoulder as footsteps echoed up a metal staircase, and a guy more in Daniel's age bracket with longish, curly sun-bleached hair and a distinctly unusual fashion sense came into view. He had the scruffy start of a beard, a woolen vest with silver accents, some kind of long-sleeved shirt obscured by fuzzy maroon over-sleeves, and very sharp pale eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. Daniel couldn't see his hands, but he could see his own teammates shift their stances at the guy's approach.
"Visitors, Dave?" the newcomer prompted the younger man in a mild, dry voice.
Dave turned, shuffling immediately to the side, and gestured spastically from his friend to Sam. "Balthazar-- this is Dr. Sam Carter. Dr. Carter, Balthazar Blake. I'll just-- let you guys talk, shall I? I think I'll go catch Becky on her way over and hang out at the café for a while."
Nothing wrong with the kid's instincts, at least, Daniel noted with interest; Dave had neatly removed himself from any potential line of fire and was edging his way out of reach even as he spoke. Blake's eyes followed him a moment, then snapped back to Sam, before flickering over her shoulder at the rest of the team. His gaze stopped short, though, when he finally got to Daniel-- then moved to Cam again, and finally backtracked to Sam, a pensive frown building on his brow.
"No-- I think you might want to hear this, Dave," he said, gesturing back down the stairs behind him. "Go tell Veronica we have guests, would you?"
Dave's eyebrows shot up, and he made a vague gesture between himself, Balthazar, and an indeterminate point between all of the others. "Seriously? You don't think I should...?"
Balthazar snorted, but seemed more amused than disgruntled. "No, no, it'll be all right. We'll just be a minute."
"I'll have to take your word for it, I guess-- just don't get yourself arrested, okay?" With that parting remark, Dave vanished back inside, passing Blake on the internal stairs.
All the warmth drained back out of Blake's features once Dave was gone, and he crossed his arms over his chest, frowning at Sam. His hands were visible now; he was wearing half-gloves that exposed his fingers, several of which glittered with gold and gemstones. It was almost as ostentatious a display as one might expect of a Goa'uld-- but only if you discounted all the rest of his clothing.
"One of you I might dismiss as a coincidence," Blake said, voice low and suspicious. "Even two. But three?" The creases in his forehead deepened. "Though this is a little soon to be Horvath's work."
Sam shook her head, then cast a glance back to check with the rest of them; Daniel shook his head, too. "We don't know any Horvath," he said. "I'm not sure what you think's going on, but we're just here about the witness statement you made regading the disturbance in the financial district a couple of nights ago."
"Really," Blake drawled, skeptically. He glanced between the five of them again, then stepped closer to Mitchell, eyeing him intently. "And I don't suppose the name Percival means anything to you?"
Mitchell started at that, then threw a raised eyebrow Daniel's way. "Other than a name out of Arthurian myth...?" he said, casually. "'Fraid not."
First a sigil drawn in the air that only Asgard tech, not human satellites, could pick up, and now a man recognizing in Mitchell the same name Merlin had called out before he'd left his memories for Daniel to download? Surely this guy couldn't be...?
Daniel was stepping forward almost before that thought reached its inevitable conclusion, drawing Blake's attention to himself. "And what name would you give me, if you had to pick one...?"
"Jackson...!" Mitchell hissed. None of the others chimed in-- but he knew they were probably thinking much the same thing.
Blake's eyebrows shot up at the question, and his manner changed-- his back straightened, and he lifted one hand up and slightly to one side, one of his rings catching the morning light with a yellow-green flash. "I think you know," he said.
"Enlighten me," Daniel replied.
Something beeped from direction of Sam's computer, and she swore under her breath. Blake's gaze switched to her-- then back to Daniel, and his eyes narrowed further. "Galahad," he said, challengingly.
Daniel drew a deep breath, then let it out again. "I've heard that before," he replied, cautiously. "Maybe we could come in, and discuss the wheres and whens in detail?"
He was rewarded with a speculative look-- and Blake's hand dropping back to his side. Sam's computer beeped again in sync with the gesture, and Daniel made a mental note as the timing added confirmation to certain growing suspicions. He'd have to approach the subject carefully....
"Oh, I see," Vala said suddenly. "You think he's like Merlin?"
Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course, they could always try the direct approach.
"Maybe you had better come inside," Blake said, eyeing them all warily. Then he stepped out of the way, gesturing Sam in toward the staircase with an incline of his head and shoulders that almost amounted to a bow. "After you?"
Sam took it with aplomb, and an eloquent glance at Mitchell. "Don't mind if I do," she said, then started down the stairs, Vala close at her heels. Daniel glanced at Mitchell, then Teal'c, then nodded at Blake and followed after the pair of them, trusting the other guys to make sure one of them was last so Blake couldn't trap them inside.
The stairs inside were metal, narrow and steep, and almost made him wonder just how desperate Dave was for lab space that he'd pick such a place-- but then they hit bottom and caught a better glimpse of the airy, arching ceilings, towering metal equipment, and comfortable furniture situated along the walls. He'd have killed-- well, no, not killed, those instincts had taken a few more years to develop, but at the very least committed academic fraud for a place like this all his own when he was an undergrad.
"Nice place," Sam said, echoing his thoughts.
At the sound, a woman stood up from her seat on a couch where she was speaking to young Mr. Stutler and gasped audibly, covering her mouth with one long-fingered hand. She was pale-skinned and dark-haired, with a naturally regal bearing despite her obvious surprise; she too wore a gaudy ring, though just one rather than the several sported by Blake upstairs. And from the rich fabric and flowing skirt of her dress, he guessed that she was the Veronica Gorloison Sam had mentioned earlier.
"Guinevere," she said in shocked tones, staring directly at Sam.
...And there was the third name. It had been the three of them-- and Ba'al, though the remnants of Daniel's borrowed memories were a little vague on that point-- that Merlin had claimed to recognize, when they'd found him in the chamber where Ganos Lal trapped him for more than a thousand years. Were both of these people Merlin's contemporaries-- perhaps Ancients themselves?
Daniel wasn't sure whether to hope for that outcome, or dread it.
"Actually, my name is Sam Carter," Sam replied, smiling at the other woman. "And this Vala Mal Doran, Daniel Jackson, Cam Mitchell, and--" She glanced up, face falling a little as Teal'c descended last of their party, ahead of Blake. Daniel wouldn't have predicted Teal'c losing that battle of wills, and wondered just what had happened up there. "Teal'c. We're here to ask about what happened in the park."
Blake descended the last few steps slowly, pointy leather shoes clanging on the rungs. "No, you're here about Morgana. Aren't you? I'm not sorry to have to tell you this, but she's gone. Utterly and irrevocably. The Grimhold is empty, and she's not coming back."
Daniel traded glances with Sam again. Definitely dread; that wasn't what they'd expected to hear. "Ah-- yeah, we were aware of that. Only, I thought it was more like a couple of years ago. And I should know; I was there."
"Wait, what?" Dave said, shooting to his feet off the couch and following Ms. Gorloisen over to the group.
The elegantly clad woman gestured quellingly in the young man's direction, but never took her eyes off Daniel. "But that is impossible," she said, staring at him in alarm.
"And Veronica would know," Blake said, grimly. "She was there. For all of twelve hundred and seventy years, trapped in that thing with Morgana until two days ago. I don't know who you thought you saw, but she didn't believe in serving anything other than her own personal goals." He'd raised his hand again, ring glinting-- and this time there was definitely a glow, no excusing the yellowish light as a trick of reflected sunlight.
"Then maybe we're talking about two separate people here?" he suggested, cautiously. "Though I find that a little hard to believe, considering that you recognized us the same way Merlin did."
Ms. Gorloisen's eyes widened again, and she exchanged a look with Blake. "Balthazar-- if they ran into Morgana's mentor-- could the legends have drifted while we slept? You said Ganos came for Myrddin's body after he fell. If she still lives...."
"Lived," Teal'c corrected her. "Ganos Lal fought most bravely, but her light was extinguished in battle against Adria of the Ori."
Ms. Gorloisen flinched at that, looking slightly stricken, and Daniel's hard-earned skepticism wavered a little at her pain. She had known Morgan-- well, Ganos Lal; Daniel wasn't sure what to make of the idea that the legends had potentially lumped the actions of two very different women under one title, especially since Ganos had never bothered to correct him when he called her by that name, but it wouldn't be the first time that had happened in the historical record so he couldn't discount it either. "Did your Myrddin also have a mentor?" he asked, cautiously.
Blake cleared his throat, walking slowly past them to slide a comforting arm around his companion's shoulders. "No," he said, curtly. "He had apprentices. And if you were who you look like, you'd know that. So who are you? And who gave you those names? Was it Ganos?"
"Actually, she was rather unhelpful all 'round, right up 'til the end," Vala informed him, arms crossed in front of her. "It was Merlin himself, right before he died and hijacked Daniel's brain for one last adventure. Rather selfish of the guy, even if he did give him back in one piece when he was done with him."
"Merlin himself?" Dave blurted, squeezing around the older couple as they stiffened where they stood. "As in, frozen in the cave where Nimue trapped him, Merlin? Yes, I do read sometimes," he added, with an eye roll toward his eclectically-clad friend. "As in the same guy Morgana stabbed when Horvath betrayed him, and you told me he was dead?"
"He was dead," Blake replied, affronted. "Do you think I would have spent all that time scouring the world for his heir if I didn't have to? She said she would lay him to rest, and I believed her."
"Oh, he was resting all right," Mitchell spoke up. "Though more like suspended animation than buried under the ground."
"Gentlemen! Enough," Ms. Gorloison said, stepping slightly away from Blake to approach Daniel. "If what you say is true... And I feel that it is... David, do you have Merlin's ring?"
"Uh, yeah? Not like I need it now, but I still feel better if I have it on me."
"Might I see it for a moment?"
Dave stared at her briefly, features twisting with indecision, then glanced at Blake as if for approval. Finally, he sighed and took what looked like a twist of silver cable out of his pocket and held it out, resting on his palm.
"Thank you," she said, smiling gently at Dave, then stepped closer to Daniel again, holding it out toward him.
"Veronica...." Blake said, a note of caution in his voice.
"Hush, Balthazar. I think you will want to see this," she replied, sharply.
"You want me to...?" Daniel eyed the thing she held-- which did look like a ring, if a tiny, sculpted metal dragon shaped in a finger's-width coil could earn that title. He glanced at his teammates, then shrugged and held out a careful hand palm-up before her.
She tipped the dragon onto it. And the moment the metal touched his palm-- he knew.
Daniel stood transfixed as the dragon uncoiled a little, stretching its tiny neck and turning one winking jewel-set eye up to examine him. Then it shook its wings a little and retook its shape, not bothering to try to curl around any of his fingers. Which it wouldn't. Because it wasn't. His.
"Well," Veronica said, as he stared at it. "That settles that."
He knew what it said without even looking at the words carved into the band: Take me up. Cast me away.
Merlin hadn't needed it. And he wouldn't, either. Not this ring, anyway; he was no Prime Merlinian, but Merlin had left behind more than he'd let Daniel remember earlier.
And why not? Why couldn't he have triggered any of this-- towers and swords, circles burned in stone, the fact that the Ascended defied so much of what humans knew about physics because science was only half the equation-- when it might have been useful in the war against the Ori?
"Daniel. Daniel!" A strong hand gripped his shoulder, and he found that he'd clenched a fist around the ring without even realizing it.
...Because he would have used it for war, he realized. And that's not what the gifts borne by certain Earthbound descendents of the Alterans were intended to be used for.
We are but servants.
His eyes burned, and he nodded, as much to reassure Sam as to acknowledge the remembered message. "It's okay."
He unclenched his fingers and extended the ring toward a wide-eyed Dave, offering him a bitter smile. This college kid-- this descendant of Merlin-- had nearly as much power as Oma Desala; more than the healing Jack demonstrated when he'd experienced his second Ancient download, or the psycho-kinesis Anubis' half-clone Khalek had exhibited, or the telepathy and other gifts McKay reported when he'd been affected by the Ascension machine on Atlantis. And he was still just a kid-- a human being, with all the attendant flaws and strengths, plus nearly the power of a freshly descended Ancient without the Alteran non-interference rules and regulations.
Well. Daniel had been hoping to find some left-behind Alteran marvel... and he certainly had. He should have learned by now to be more careful what he wished for.
He met Veronica's dark, knowing eyes, and inclined his head in respect.
"Well," Balthazar said, clapping his hands together sharply. "It looks like we have a lot to discuss."