Colonel Jack O’Neill walked along a long forgotten path that led up a craggy hill on P7X-725 and sighed. Exploratory missions were frequently boring and this one was sure to be no exception. While he certainly didn’t like being shot at, captured, tortured or occasionally dead, he did like a little bit of excitement. He turned and looked at Teal’c who brought up the rear of their line and rolled his eyes. Teal’c merely raised an eyebrow in response. Dr. Daniel Jackson, archaeologist, cum soldier, cum pain in Jack’s ass much of the time, was up near the front, probably blathering on about how exciting this all was. He was glad Daniel was up there instead of in the back. It would be terrible to have to kill Daniel before he even got to see his precious ruins. The branch of a low tree smacked him in the face. Damn trees. Jack thumbed his radio. “Hey, Carter, are we there yet?”
Major Sam Carter, who was at least 50 feet ahead, clicked her own radio. “Not yet, sir, but it’s not much farther.” She looked down at the device she was holding. “Once we crest this hill, we should start seeing water, and after that, it’s about another click and a half up the next hill.”
“More hills! Great!” Jack said to no one. “I love hills. My knees love hills. The hills are alive with the sound of music!”
“I hear no music, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.
Jack shook his head in exasperation and amusement. “T, T, T. You have lived on Earth for what…six or seven years now? How have you not seen The Sound of Music?”
“I believe you hear, not see music, O’Neill.”
Teal’c’s unfamiliarity with Earth’s culture beyond science fiction, Friends, and Survivor were a constant source of wonder to Jack. Jack lived enough science fiction to not want to watch it, had little interest in the lives of 30 something people who did little but drink coffee, and felt the show Survivor an insult to those who actually had the skills to survive. Teal’c for some reason was fascinated by them. Jack wondered if perhaps it wasn’t because it was so far removed from the world he had known before turning on Apophis and joining forces with the people of Earth. Still, how could he not have seen The Sound of Music? While it wasn’t exactly the manliest of movies, it was a classic and a vital part of film history. Kind of like The Dirty Dozen.
Jack continued his upward trek for another 10 minutes until he reached the top of the hill. Carter and Daniel were both waiting for him. He could finally hear the sound of ocean waves crashing against rocks. A large expanse of clear blue water stretched out to their left, and the rocky hills to their right. The temple ruins gleamed in the sunlight on the next hill, like a small jewel. Jack breathed in the salty air. He had to admit that ocean air smelled a whole lot better than burning lava and sweat. He decided the planet even seemed rather picturesque in its own way and that maybe this mission wouldn’t be so bad after all. He might even make it down to the small stretch of beach he could see and relax. “So, what are we looking for?”
“We’re not sure, Sir.” Carter smiled. “That’s why it’s called an exploratory mission.”
“Clever name, that.” Jack responded. “So, where to next?”
They carefully descended the steep hill and crossed a small valley that led down toward the sea. There wasn’t much in the way of vegetation in the valley other than small scrub grasses and trees. Large birds circled, dipping into the water every now and again, coming up with small, wiggling fish.
Sitting down on a large rock, at the base of the hill, Jack called a break. They’d been walking up and down for nearly two hours and his knees were killing him. The sun was high and warm, but the sea pushed a cool air across the valley. Carter sat across from him, turned her face toward the sun, closed her eyes and sighed in contentment. “Enjoying yourself?” He asked.
She turned toward him and smiled. “Yes, Sir. It’s nice not to be chased or shot at, isn’t it?”
“But where’s the fun, Carter?”
Sam laughed. “It might not be exciting, but you have to admit it is different.”
Daniel, who had been steadily shoving chocolate power bars, looked up. “Craving some excitement, Jack? You can always help me translate. You’re still pretty good at Latin aren’t you?” He winked at Sam. Jack hated thinking about having to learn Latin the time loop several years back. “From what I saw on the MALP photos, the temple seems to be Greek, but they usually contained a ton of Latin. I’m sure I can find something for you to work on.”
“I’d rather face a mothership full of Goa’uld, thank you very much.” Jack replied.
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed.
Sam took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It reminds me of the summer I spent in Greece when I was a teenager.”
“You spent a summer in Greece?” Daniel asked. “I didn’t know that.”
She shrugged. “My dad was on a temporary assignment in Souda Bay, Crete, doing something with the Navy, so Mark and I tagged along. We spent our days exploring the islands and laying out at the beaches.”
“Wouldn’t have minded seeing that,” Jack mumbled.
“Sorry, Sir?” Sam said.
He shook his head. “Nothing, just thinking out loud.” Daniel gave him a sharp look.
“Anyway,” Sam continued, “it was a really great summer. I have a lot of fond memories. Dad even took some time to climb the Acropolis with us. Sight seeing wasn’t really his thing, as I’m sure you can imagine, but he said my mom had always wanted to see it, so…” Sam shrugged. She rarely spoke of her mother and almost never of what Jacob Carter had been like before he blended with the Tok’ra, Selmak. Jack knew they hadn’t been on the best of terms before that happened, and despite his extreme mistrust of the Tok’ra, he was glad it had helped her and Jacob reconcile.
Jack took a long drink from his canteen and stood. “Time to get moving, campers.” He took the lead this time, Carter and Daniel right behind him and Teal’c in the back, as he generally preferred. The rocky hill was steep but after about 10 minutes they found a set of marble steps to their right. The steps led up to the temple and down to what as probably a small village. Jack decided they (meaning Daniel) could explore that later and made his way over to the steps. They were far easier to climb than the rocks, though no less steep. They were smooth from years, possibly thousands of years, of use and slightly slick as a result. Carter had moved in front of Jack, and slid on the stair just above him. He reached up and grabbed her arm to keep her from tumbling over. Even the small touch sent a coil of heat through him. She smiled her thanks and turned back to the climb, leaving Jack oddly disappointed when they lost physical contact. He mentally shook himself. That was not something he needed to be thinking about.
At the top of the hill, surrounded by a huge tangle of grape vines and roses, which didn’t seem to grow anywhere else, stood what had once been a white marble temple. It was mostly ruins, darkened by age and neglect. The roof had collapsed in many places and columns toppled on their sides. Spindly vines grew around them, and into the temple as if trying to reclaim what had once belonged to a Goa’uld. Jack was glad the vines were winning.
“It’s…wow, just…um, wow,” Daniel said staring around.
Jack clapped him on the back and walked toward the entrance. “Very articulate there, Dr. Jackson. Your lectures must have been riveting. Packed with students!”
Daniel caught up with him. “Hey, I’ve seen you lose your train of thought looking at donuts.”
Carter turned around and gave them both an exasperated look. “Shall we?” She climbed the temple steps, P90 held high and aimed the light through the open doors. “Seems clear.” Stepping inside, she noticed it was much cooler. One wall had partially crumbled, but the rest of the interior remained in tact.
Daniel and Jack followed her and Teal’c stood at the door like a sentry. Jack’s weapon was raised, but Daniel was too busy oohing and ahhing to think about personal safety. Sam and Jack kept sweeping their weapons back and forth until they were certain they were alone.
Jack looked around. Shattered statues were everywhere. There were torsos and heads and feet scattered over most of the floor, leaving little room for walking. “Seems like someone didn’t like the artwork,” he commented. Crouching down, he looked at the faces of some of the statues. He noticed they were all female and looked incredibly frightened. Odd, he thought. He’d seen plenty of Greek and Roman statues, but they almost always had a serene look on their faces. These statues were disturbing. His thoughts were interrupted by what was almost a squeal from Daniel. He glanced up to see the archaeologist touching a fresco on the wall. “You all right over there, Danny?”
Daniel nodded his head. “Fantastic! Look at this. It seems the temple was dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. I should have realized from the outside. The friezes are done in seashell motifs and grapes and roses were often associated with Aphrodite.”
“Aphrodite the Goa’uld, you mean?” Jack asked, coming to stand at his side. “Hey, T,” he called, “you ever hear of Aphrodite?”
Teal’c left the door and walked to look at the fresco. “Indeed I have. She was a minor system lord who was killed by Hathor many years ago. Apparently they were rivals for the affection of another Goa’uld, though I do not know whom.”
“Good ol’ Hathor,” Jack said. “So, anything interesting, Daniel?”
Daniel gave him a quizzical look. He raised his hands and swept them around. “Everything is interesting, Jack!”
“Of course it is.” Jack walked over behind a large statue of the Goa’uld herself, where he found a pallet next to a shattered statue. It looked as though someone had scavenged the pieces of a particular statue and laid them out so they formed most of the original. There were fingers missing from one hand and the lower part of one leg, but the rest seemed to be there. He was getting that prickly feeling up his spine. “Hey Carter, c’mere.”
Sam had been looking at the large statue in the center of the room. It was easily 15 feet tall and depicted a stunning and completely nude woman. The statue stood on the inside of a large seashell, supported by three dolphins, held a dove in one hand and an apple in the other. On her head sat a golden crown and long loops of pearls were woven into her long hair. It was quite possibly the most beautiful statue Sam had ever seen. It was absolutely exquisite. “Coming,” she called, stepping up on the dais in front of the statue.
“NO!” Came a shout from the door. Four sets of eyes and four weapons swung toward the voice. The man’s eyes were on Sam. “You mustn’t! You must get away!”
Jack had moved from the area near the back of the statue the moment he heard a sound. “Calm down there, son. We’re not going to hurt you.”
The young man became more agitated. “It is not me you must worry about.” He pointed to Sam. “She must get away.”
Daniel lowered his weapon, causing Jack to roll his eyes. Good job there Daniel, he thought, give the mad man an easy target. They’d clearly have to have yet another chat about safety when they got back to the SGC. Jack watched as Daniel took a few steps toward the man and began speaking. “We’re peaceful explorers. I’m Daniel Jackson, that’s Colonel Jack O’Neill, Major Samantha Carter and this is Teal’c. And you are?”
The man’s eyes never left Sam. “Please,” he said. “Please, you must get away.” He was becoming more and more frantic.
Jack, weapon still trained on the man, glanced quickly over at Sam. “Carter, why don’t you come down and see if that will make things better.”
“Yes, Sir,” she replied. A large piece of shattered statue was directly in front of her, so she took a small step to the side, which placed her directly in the center of the dais.
“NOOOOOOOO!” The man yelled running at her. Teal’c grabbed him, before he could move more than a few feet. Jack looked at Daniel, who shrugged. He clearly had no idea what was going on either.
“Oh, my god,” Sam said in a strained voice. They all turned to look at her. “Sir?” She looked at Jack, fear making her face tight. Her weapon clattered to the ground.
Jack looked down and felt his stomach lurch. He lunged for her, grabbing her arm. The moment he touched her skin, a jolt of electricity knocked him back. “Carter!”