Daniel frowned as he bit his lip in concentration. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Unwittingly arriving on the planet only an hour before sunset, other than meeting their genial host, SG-1 had yet to accomplish anything and it would be getting dark soon. The language barrier was proving quite a challenge, but not for lack of trying on either side. Jack was getting impatient which only further hampered the already frustrated linguist.
“Come on, you’ve been playin’ charades with Farmer Brown there for twenty minutes,” Jack complained. “Get on with it already.”
“I’m working on it,” Daniel exclaimed in mild irritation. “I can’t find a single point of reference, nothing remotely familiar, not so much as a root. This language is a complete mystery to me.”
“All right then. Keep doin’ your chicken thing…” Jack trailed off at the murderous glare from the cool blue eyes. “I’ll just be over here,” he grumbled as he wandered to the other end of the chrome and glass outbuilding that looked something like a benchless bus stop, which was open on the two long sides. What appeared to be a moving sidewalk took up the entire floor, although at the moment it was inactive.
Daniel muttered an unintelligible but cheeky reply as he turned his attention back to the local man.
Bored but vigilant, Jack swept his gaze over the quaint little farmyard surrounding them. Despite the high-tech hut, everything else appeared very rustic indeed including the lone farm house and the nearby barn. In fact, it seemed a little too picturesque for Jack’s taste, a little too perfect. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but pasture land, orchards, a single field of wheat, and a patchwork of small but immaculate vegetable gardens. A multitude of workers lovingly hand groomed the crops, not a tractor or bottle of pesticide in site. It was an organic wonderland.
“Carter?” Jack asked, turning his attention to the woman on her hands and knees investigating the innards of the sophisticated shed. When she had shown an interest in the odd structure, the old farmer had opened a large panel for her and invited her to explore. Intermittently she made squeaks and squawks of surprise and discovery while steadily cooing techno-babble from inside.
“Sir, this is incredible,” Sam gushed, never raising her head.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know yet,” she admitted somewhat sheepishly. “But I’d love to tear this baby down in my lab. The power source is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s not even crystalline, it’s more of um… ah… honestly, I don’t have a clue what it is.”
“Uh huh,” Jack responded dutifully, his attention now focused on the final member of the team as Teal’c returned from a perimeter check. “T, have you ever seen anything like this?”
“I have not,” Teal’c supplied succinctly, appearing slightly more dour than usual.
“Find anything interesting?”
“No,” Teal’c uttered in disgust, lifting one boot to examine the dung encrusted sole which told that he might have wandered a little too close to the barnyard.
As the sun began to slowly sink into the horizon, the masses of field hands started streaming in from the surrounding area. They made their way in small groups along the unpaved paths that lead straight to the bus stop where Old MacDonald was using pantomime to try to lure Daniel inside. Daniel continued to politely refuse, all the while still attempting to communicate.
“Where do you think all these people live?” Jack queried, watching the crowd with one eye as they drew near and keeping the other on Daniel and the old man.
“I am uncertain,” Teal’c answered. “I had thought perhaps they might leave via the stargate as I see no building capable of housing so many.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. But they’re definitely headed this way.”
Daniel put up a hand in appeasement to the insistent farmer as he backed away from the shed. “I’m pretty sure this device is some form of transportation,” he explained as he reached Jack and Teal’c.
“Transport to where?”
“If I’m not misunderstanding Ooluk, which unfortunately is a distinct possibility, it takes them directly to a large city.”
“Farmer Brown’s name is Ooluk? Ooluk Brown?”
“I wish you’d quit calling him that,” Daniel scolded lightly, crossing his arms over his chest.
“That can’t be right,” Sam disagreed, reluctantly backing out of her hidey hole and climbing to her feet. “The initial MALP readings indicated that the air is almost perfectly pure. It’s so clean there’s no way a large metropolitan area could be within a hundred miles of the gate. Not unless these people have solved all of their pollution problems.”
“Maybe they have,” Daniel insisted. “I mean look at the Nox. Or the Tollans.”
“Perhaps this device is capable of transporting great distances.”
“Or maybe it transports them to another planet all together like the stargate?” Jack put in. “They could work here and live somewhere else.”
“You’re right,” Sam quickly relented. “Anything’s possible I suppose.”
“There must be a lot of these little farms,” Daniel reasoned. “I mean they’ve got variety in spades, but not much quantity of any one thing. It’s more like a self-reliant family farm. It could be a co-op I suppose.”
The gentleman farmer approached them again with a friendly smile and caught Daniel by the elbow to steer him back towards the apparatus just as the first of the farm workers arrived. He spoke several words and touched his temple next to his eye, indicating that Daniel should see something. The rest of SG-1 followed unbidden.
Every bit as pleasant as Ooluk, the new arrivals bowed and nodded their heads in greeting, speaking animatedly in the strange language. Daniel returned the gesture and Sam smiled politely as she fished out a hand-held RF frequency locator and switched it on to try and take some readings. Jack and Teal’c merely stood back to watch.
The first man to arrive pulled an apple from his pocket and carefully washed it at a small sink built right into the short end of the shed opposite Sam’s panel. He quickly cored and sliced it, placing it into a tray on a large grey box near the sink and pushed a button. The tray slid inside without a sound.
“That’s… odd,” Jack ventured.
“Could be some sort of offering for using the transport,” Daniel guessed, scratching his head.
“A biodegradable subway token? What’s next? Kittens or chickens?”
“Ew,” Sam groaned, making a face at her C.O. “Sir!”
Meanwhile, the man dusted off his clothes, whacking his hat against his leg then used the handy boot scrape to dislodge the mud from his shoes before stepping into the shed. The conveyer belt on the floor started automatically and in a flash of blue light, the man vanished before moving more than a few centimeters.
“Cool,” Jack breathed in awe.
From the other side a woman stepped in almost before the flash faded and she, too, was gone in the blink of an eye. Alternating from one of the open sides to the other, the crowd quickly diminished in one blue spark after another. A few people stopped to make a deposit before taking their turn; three string beans, a slice of melon, a cup of fresh milk in an odd-looking metal beaker.
When the last commuter was gone, the farmer manipulated a keyboard and stopped the belt. Once again, he gestured Daniel inside. “Looks like an invitation,” Daniel observed eagerly.
“You sure it’s safe?” Jack asked, suspicious of the machinery if not the farmer.
“No,” Daniel admitted. “But those people certainly weren’t afraid.”
“Yeah, but it’s already evening,” Jack hedged. “We don’t want to drop in unannounced at supper time.”
“Well it’s evening here,” Carter replied, “But it’s only ten o’clock in the morning at the SGC. There’s no telling what time it is on the other side of this thing.”
Jack scowled at his subordinate. “I realize that. I’m just not in a big hurry to jump into that thing.”
“Look at it this way,” Daniel pointed out craftily. “They’ve definitely got technology, and they actually seem willing to share.”
“Seem being the operative word,” Jack countered. “I’d just feel a lot better if you could actually talk to the guy.”
Daniel’s face fell a little, but he nodded his agreement. “Yeah. Me, too.”
Ooluk spoke a few words and indicated the setting sun.
“Apparently there’s a time limit,” Daniel surmised, standing next to Sam who bounced expectantly on her toes.
Jack took in the scientists’ hopeful faces and sighed. “All right,” he gave in reluctantly. “To Oz.”
“Yes!” Sam exclaimed, successfully resisting the urge to punch a fist into the air. “Sir.”
Turning to Ooluk, Daniel nodded his consent. The much older man slapped Daniel on the shoulder gleefully and placed him squarely on one end of the obviously not-moving belt.
“You’re still here,” Jack observed dryly.
“It must somehow be different for us,” Daniel presumed, glancing around the inside of the chrome shell curiously.
“I don’t know,” Sam argued as she switched off her current gizmo and pulled out a Geiger counter. “They certainly look human.”
“Appearances can be deceiving, Major Carter,” Teal’c retorted, using the mud scraper to dislodge the remaining manure from his boot.
“Oh, wait! Something’s happening,” Daniel exclaimed excitedly. A yellow glow surrounded him and he heard a gradually growing hum that seemed to sink all the way to his bones. Suddenly he was hit by a sonic wave that felt like he’d been on the receiving end of a bucket of ice water. Startled, he recoiled and let out an involuntary gasp.
The blue flash missed him as he was tackled through the opening and thrown to the ground on the other side. “Jack!” he protested, trying to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him. “Get off me!”
“You okay?” Jack asked urgently as he patted the winded archeologist down for injuries.
“Yeah, except for the hundred and eighty pounds of Colonel I got knocked over with. What the hell was that for?”
“I thought you were in pain.”
“No, I wasn’t. It was… it was just a little intense; like getting hit in the face with cold water. It was actually kind of refreshing until I got tackled.”
“Sorry,” Jack mumbled apologetically, pulling Daniel to his feet.
Teal’c and Sam rounded the shed but the farmer came right through it, beating them to the other side. Anxiously, he grabbed Daniel and tried to push him back inside.
“Back off,” Jack barked at him, brushing the old man’s hands away.
“It’s okay,” Daniel soothed, placating his old friends and his new with a gesture before dusting himself off. “Whoa,” he exclaimed half a second later as his knees gave out and he landed butt first on the ground.
“Daniel?” Sam called fearfully, quickly at his side and checking his pulse.
After blinking a couple of times, Daniel looked around in confusion. “What happened?” he asked.
“You blacked out for a minute there,” Jack explained as he knelt down beside him. “How do you feel?”
“I feel a little… uh, strange. Light headed, I guess.”
“You think you can make it to the gate?”
“Why? Are we leaving?”
“Uh, yeah,” Jack retorted tetchily, not bothering to hide his concern.
“I think Janet should check you out,” Sam agreed.
“No, no. I’m okay,” Daniel insisted as he struggled to get to his knees. “It’s passing now. Help me up.”
“Are you sure?” Jack asked, catching one arm while Teal’c grabbed the other and pulled him back to his feet.
“I’m fine,” Daniel assured, taking a moment to steady himself.
The chrome of the hut seemed to dull as dusk fell and Ooluk worked furiously on the panel before giving up with an exaggerated sigh and a wave of his hand towards the last vestige of the setting sun.
“It’s solar powered,” Sam deduced quickly. She pointed in the direction of the fading rays and back to the shed.
Ooluk nodded unhappily.
“He really wanted us to visit the city,” Daniel observed.
“Yeah, he was a little too anxious for my comfort,” Jack put in. “I guess he thinks we’re stuck here with him and Mrs. Brown for the night.”
“We can camp out by the gate,” Daniel suggested hopefully.
“No dice, Daniel,” Jack shot him down. “I want you cleared by Fraiser before we do any camping. Look, if everything checks out with the doc, we’ll have a little lunch, maybe take a nap and then come back later tonight when the sun comes up.”
“Okay,” Daniel agreed, squinting as he puzzled out Jack’s convoluted reasoning. “But I really am fine.”
“It’s already too dark to take samples or anything. The days here must really be short,” Sam mused as they gathered their things to head to the stargate. “I’ll do some calculations and we can be back at sunrise.”
The old farmer wrung his hands in worry before pointing to the opposite horizon from where the sun had set. He frantically mimed a ball rising and pointed to the bus stop.
“We’ll be back,” Daniel assured him, nodding his head in an exaggerated affirmative before copying the rising ball gesture and pointing to the same spot in the sky.
Ooluk nodded back and sighed, seemingly even more apprehensive as SG-1 moved away.