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Dr. Zeus

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Chapter 1

 

“Gentlemen, sorry for the short notice and for cancelling your down time,” said General George Hammond, the leader of the Stargate Command. He sat down behind his desk and got comfortable on his favorite chair. Colonel Jack O’Neill, SG-1’s team leader, walked into the small office, followed by his teammate, Dr. Daniel Jackson.

“Both of you need to leave on an urgent mission,” continued the general, his fingers tapping a folder on his desk. “I just received a request from the White House. There has been an unexpected development in New York City. You’re needed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

“An art museum, sir? That’s a bit out of a normal range.”

“Not this time. The museum is holding a Greek vessel of some sort––they called it a krater––that is emanating a strange light that is preventing anyone from getting close enough to examine it. Also, one of the museum’s conservators appears to be missing. Take a look at this artifact and determine if the disappearance of that man posts any risk to this facility. There will be a military transport ready for you soon, so please get to the Peterson Base as soon as you can manage. Any questions?”

“A strange light? Shouldn’t Carter…” said Jack, waving his hand in the air.

“We are not able to reach her. You know the Tok’ra.”

“Indeed I do, sir. And Teal’c?”

“Not available. He and Bra’tac are meeting with a potential Jaffa ally. He’ll be gone for several days.”

“I guess, we are it then, sir. What about this Greek er…what kind of an object is it?” asked Jack.

 

 

“It’s an ancient Greek ceramic pot,” clarified Daniel. “They are usually named by their different shapes, like an amphora or a krater, but the word vessel will do as a general term,” he added, resting his shoulder on the office’s door. “Kraters are usually decorated with scenes of mythical––”

“Whatever,” said Jack quickly to prevent the incoming lecture. “Is this pot on public display?”

“Everything happened in some kind of a lab, Colonel. Agents from the NID are keeping access to it restricted.”

“Interesting. The NID is calling us. And the missing conservator, who is he?” asked Daniel, giving Jack a dirty look.

Handing Jack the mission’s dossier Hammond answered, “Alexandre Rahmani. He’s French Algerian and works for the museum. You’d better take your passports along. And gentlemen? Report twice daily, and Godspeed!”

 

****

 

Daniel was busy packing in his bedroom when the new encrypted satellite phone the SGC had issued began to ring insistently. He scrambled to the living room where the cell was charging, getting annoyed by the distraction.

“What!!”

Aren’t we in a happy mood?

“Never mind. What do you need, Jack? I gotta finish packing.”

So we’re packing for Spring in New York? Wet, possibly hot one day, snow the next?

“I was thinking about that. If the missing guy left the country, he has both French and Algerian passports.”

So New York, Europe, and Africa. Sweet. Any other continent I should consider?” asked Jack.

“How should I know? What if he’s hiding inside his closet?”

The NID would’ve found him already.”

“Fair point. Anyway, as an active conservator, the man probably has visas to half a dozen countries, so I’m taking my big duffel bag and preparing for variable weather. And bring comfortable shoes. Museums are worse on your feet than hiking.”

Daniel, no museums. We are going after a guy.”

“Who works at a museum.”

But he’s not at the museum. That’s the whole point of the trip.”

“He is not at the Met museum, but he might be at a different one.”

You wish.”

“Just sayin’, Jack.”

“Right. Pick you up in 45. I should call Hammond before I leave to warn him about possible visa issues,” said Jack.

“Funny, not much need for passports when we hit the big galactic outdoors, but here, on this little planet, we can’t leave home without them. At any rate, I’d better go finish packing. And Jack?”

Yes, Daniel?”

“Comfortable shoes.”

Daniel heard the sigh before the line went dead.

 

****

 

Jack and Daniel walked down the well-lighted hallway toward the entrance to the lab. A man in a dark suit and ID clip-on stood there. He looked like an NID agent. Jack chewed at his lip, wondering again why the NID had called the SGC since they were usually very territorial. Not a good sign.

Before getting closer, Jack held Daniel back and said quietly, “Listen, you’re not gonna go nuts on me or anything for being in this museum, right? That gamekeeper guy didn’t pull any punches.”

“Always so tactful,” said Daniel, rolling his eyes. “I’ve been here many times. I’m fine.”

“Okay. Just checking.”

“More like mother henning,” mumbled Daniel, a bit annoyed.

At the door labeled “Antiquities Conservation Laboratory,” Jack nodded at the man clearly guarding it. “You guys are Johnny-on-the-spot, Agent …” The man didn’t have a name tag on the ID. Typical of NID.

“Gómez, sir. Credentials?” he asked, ignoring the jibe.

Jack and Daniel brought out their IDs. The guard looked them over and kept comparing the pictures to the men before him. Jack was about to say something sarcastic, but the man moved aside to let them pass.

“By the way, sir, we searched the lab and other storage areas. With the exception of the one suspicious item inside, the building has been cleared.”

After knocking a couple of times, they walked in, finding a woman in her forties with dark hair and dressed in black.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Daniel Jackson and this is Colonel Jack O’Neill,” said Daniel offering his hand.

“I’m Dr. Julie Fisher,” she said shaking their hands. “I’m the chief antiquities conservator here at the Met. Please come this way.” She led them towards a square table in the middle of the lab, where sat the ancient Greek krater. It was enveloped by a translucent blue energy field that the men immediately recognized as Goa’uld in origin.

 

 

“As the person from your Pentagon requested, access to the lab has been restricted, and we’re giving the reason as a suspected chemical spill, but that won’t hold for long. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Dr. Fisher, have you signed the confidentiality paperwork we forwarded?” asked Jack.

“Yes, Colonel. I’ve already faxed it to the number listed in the forms. The person mentioned you might want to examine this krater in your lab. However, I’m still waiting for approval to accompany the vessel.”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I should make something clear. The Met is happy to help, but wherever this krater goes, I must go with it. The Detroit Institute of Arts has loaned it to us so we have a contractual obligation with them to courier this unique artwork at all times. It is my legal responsibility to make sure that nothing happens to it.”

“I understand, and I think it could be arranged,” said Jack flashing her with the kind of blinding smile reserved for undercover work. “Dr. Fisher, is there a place where we could talk while Dr. Jackson takes a look at the vase?”

“At the desk,” she replied, pointing across the room.

Jack nodded and followed Dr. Fisher, adding, “I’ll call my superior, General Hammond, and if he agrees, then there’s a little story you need to know. After that, lots of papers to sign and––” He suddenly turned towards his teammate.

“Daniel, I’m going to give Hammond an update.”

“Sure, go ahead, I’ll just––”

“Don’t touch it!!!”

“––look at it and yep, no touching. Since, you know, there’s a force field in place.”

“A what?” Dr. Fisher asked.

“I’ll explain that,” Jack said, ushering her to the desk area at the back of the room and glancing back to give Daniel a “you’re a wise ass” look.

While Jack picked up a phone to begin Dr. Fisher’s clearance procedure, Daniel walked around the table that held the artifact, noting details through the energy field. There was a menacing buzzing sound whenever he drew closer, which became annoying very quickly. Absently nodding to himself, he confirmed that it was definitely a ceramic krater, a vessel used for mixing water and wine, from around 540 and 530 BCE. Its exterior decoration of black figures painted on a red background depicted the wedding procession of Zeus and Hera with multiple characters included. According to the file Hammond had given him, it had been purchased by the Detroit museum in the 1960s when it had been auctioned as part of a collection assembled by the late William Randolph Hearst, who was well-known for acquiring large amounts of art during his many trips to Europe.

“So, what’s up with the pot in the bubble?” Jack asked as he walked back to the lab table.

“Krater. What about Dr. Fisher?” asked Daniel, looking over his shoulder at the woman who was on the phone.

“She’s talking to Hammond. She’s adamant that she needs to keep the pot in sight. Since she has already seen the technology we’re giving her limited clearance to travel with the object. Just don’t mention the Stargate.”

“Where are they taking the krater?”

“You tell us, Daniel. What’s going on with this pot?”

“Krater. It shows the wedding party of Hera and Zeus, considered the most powerful gods in Greek mythology.”

“Zeus as in Dr. Seuss?”

“Zeus as in Jupiter.”

“The guy with the thunderbolt?”

“Exactly,” said Daniel.

“So … what about the pot?” Jack repeated.

“It could have belonged to Zeus, probably a System Lord with blood ties to Cronus.”

“Nice family. And?”

“It has limited writing on the exterior surface,” said Daniel, stretching his head to look inside, “but I see a Greek inscription inside, near the rim.”

“Dr. Jackson, can you make sense of the text?” asked the conservator, rejoining them. She adjusted the position of a spotlight, shining a bright light over the object. “General Hammond said my clearance was approved.”

“Yes, he informed me. Dr. Fisher, can you tell us what happened?” said Jack, cutting in.

“I am not sure. Yesterday, I left Alex preparing the krater for exhibition. He was just doing some light cleaning before it was to be moved to the gallery. I was working over there, helping with the installation. When I got back here to the lab, he was gone and the krater was like this. I immediately called our director who told me to close the lab. Then Mr. Gómez came with others who searched the museum. Frankly, I don’t understand what’s going on.”

“Alex, the other conservator,” Jack said, “How do you know he’s missing?”

“We’re in a relationship. I can’t find him anywhere, and he left his phone behind. He wouldn’t do that. I’m a bit worried about him. Is his disappearance connected with this krater? Can you understand what’s written inside near the rim?”

“Dr. Fisher, the text is written using the Greek alphabet, but only phonetically, that’s why you can’t understand the meaning,” explained Daniel. “It’s actually a language spoken by dangerous aliens called the Goa’uld. We found some evidence that they meddled in Earth societies in the ancient past by pretending to be gods. Given the wider religious implications we’re keeping the knowledge of their existence classified.”

“It seems unbelievable. But given the evidence right in front of me, I… sort of understand, Dr. Jackson,” said the woman. “But how did these beings get here? Could they come back?”

“We are not quite sure how they arrived in ancient Greece. At any rate, the inscription says, “Kree! Ne’nai intrum. Satak Cronus hakoor kra terak shree shol’va Zeus!”

As if Daniel's words triggered the action, the shield shut off with a sudden zap. Surprised, Jack, Daniel, and Dr. Fisher took a step back.

“What did you say?” asked Jack.

“The text meant, ‘Attention! Do not open. The great god Cronus condemns to oblivion Zeus, the––’”

Before Daniel could finish his translation a blue-white line appeared, horizontally bisecting the krater near the top of the vessel. The top section rotated in place before sliding to the left, revealing the contents of the vase. When the observers moved in to look, there was nothing to see. The krater was empty.

“Huh. Anticlimactic,” Jack said, pulling out his cellphone and hitting the speed-dial. When connected, he said, “O’Neill here, sir. We managed to open the Greek pot––”

“Krater,” Daniel repeated, exasperated.

“––and it’s empty. Still, we’d better recall Carter, sir. Maybe Jacob should take a look too. We’re shipping it back to the Mountain.” Jack listened to the instructions, glanced at Daniel, and with a “Yes, sir,” closed his phone.

“Dr. Fisher, may I touch the object?” asked Daniel, putting on a pair of gloves.

“Just be very careful,” she said with a warning tone.

“She’s right,” Jack said, giving Daniel a knowing look.

“I will,” Daniel said as he walked around the vessel, snapping the gloves on. “I just want to check something.” Daniel touched the rim but nothing happened. “That’s it then. No resistance. The shield’s no longer active. I think once the passphrase was spoken, there’s no further need for the shield.”

“Dr. Fisher,” Jack said, relieved that nothing else had happened. “You’re welcome to travel with the pot to our lab in Colorado. We’ll need it ready for transport by the end of the day. The agent outside will help you with those arrangements, but I need to stress that no one else be allowed into this lab until this object leaves. Someone from General Hammond’s office will contact you with the details.”

After shaking hands with the conservator, Jack and Daniel left the lab. The men stopped to give an update to the NID agent waiting outside.

“Agent Gómez, General Hammond is ordering that this object be transferred to the SGC as soon as you can manage. You can help Dr. Fisher with the packing. She will be escorting it to the SGC, but please keep an eye on her. She has limited clearance. The General will give you a call with further instructions.

"Yes, sir.”

Jack and Daniel walked to the elevator.

“Why do you think the NID called us instead of taking the krater to their own lab?” asked Daniel.

“Not sure. Maybe it was the language thing, or they thought the pot could be a bomb.”

“Nice,” deadpanned Daniel.

“By the way, Hammond says the other conservator passed customs at the St. Petersburg airport a few hours ago and used his credit card in the vicinity of the Hermitage Museum,” said Jack. “Let’s get to the airport. The general is getting us some kind of fast-tracked UN diplomatic visas.”

Daniel raised his brows. “Fancy. You’re coming with?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Jack, you’re not gonna go nuts on me or anything while we are in Russia, right?”

“No. I’ve been to Russia many times,” said Jack knowing he was made to eat his own words. “Everything is usually fine, unless.”

“Unless what?”

“Nothing. I’ll just keep my mouth shut, okay?”

“Good idea, Jack. I’ll do the talking.”

“Just think twice before you say nyet.”

 

****

 

Chapter 2

 

Nyet, spasivo,” said Daniel, rejecting the offer of a luxury limousine to take them around the city for a week. At the Pulkovo Airport, near St. Petersburg, Daniel got to extensively practice his Russian while attempting to arrange a more reasonable transport with a taxi company.

Keeping track of the proceedings, Jack looked at his travel book to get a sense of the city formerly known as Leningrad, and as Petrograd before that. Ahead, they had a 30-minute ride to the State Hermitage Museum on the shore of the Neva River, provided the driver didn’t take them on the scenic route. The Hermitage, the former imperial palace, was the second-largest museum in the world, which could be a logistics nightmare if things got dicey.

“Jack, let’s go!”

“Got the taxi for the day?”

“Yes, but it took all my negotiating skills to turn down the upgrades.”

“Interesting,” said Jack, threat-assessing the hard sale. “At any rate, it’s gotten too late to figure out the hotel. We should proceed directly to the museum.”

Once they settled in the back seat, Jack grabbed Daniel’s hand, leaned closer and whispered in his ear, “he’s FSB. Play along.”

The ride to the museum gave them a moment to regroup after the difficult transition through customs earlier in the afternoon. The officials didn’t like their hastily arranged UN diplomatic visas but, after many phone calls, they were allowed to enter. Jack had no doubt the delay at the taxi counter was created to find a driver that would keep a careful eye on an American high-level military officer entering Russia under suspicious circumstances. He would do the same. Perhaps he could use this opportunity to their advantage to diffuse tensions.

Pressing Daniel’s hand as a secret warning, he asked, “Did you confirm the appointment at the museum?”

“Yes, Dr. Bodrov is waiting for us. Apparently, Alexandre Rahmani had a lot of questions about their collection of Greek ceramics,” said Daniel. “After all, that’s what he does.”

“Well, perhaps the guy just got a serious case of cold feet and felt like taking a sudden trip to look at pots to make himself feel better. But you don’t leave the daughter of General Carter at the altar without answering a few questions.”

After quickly wrapping his mind at the sudden change of direction, Daniel commented, “Jack, this is a family matter. Why do we need to chase after this guy? We should let him fade into the background.”

“Look, it’s just a favor. Samantha is distraught and the guy’s family connections in Algeria makes her dad a little nervous. We need to make sure this is just a family matter and nothing else is involved. If we can convince Alex to come back with us and marry Sam, even better.”

“I don’t know, Jack. Sam could do much better. She’s beautiful and smart, and really, she should find somebody better than Alex. He’s a dweeb.”

“Watch it, you sound a bit in love with her.”

“I do love her. So what?”

“Well, getting a girl on the rebound is not a good thing. Let me tell you….”

Jack went on to tell a long story of a dreadful romantic failure, until the taxi arrived at the museum. No scenic route, which in Jack’s estimation meant the Russian had probably bought their story, at least for the moment. Either that, or the driver couldn’t take his storytelling.

 

****

 

 

The pair met Dr. Nikolai Bodrov, curator of Greek Antiquities, at the reception desk of the Hermitage Museum. Once all introductions were made––in English, to Jack’s delight––Dr. Bodrov led them to the Greek Gallery, where numerous ancient vessels were on display.

“This is such a beautiful gallery Dr. Bodrov,” said Daniel, looking at the richly decorated walls of the former palace. We appreciate that you made time for us.”

“We got a call from your consulate. They told us this was important, so of course. My pleasure.”

“Alexandre Rahmani, the conservator at the Metropolitan, has suddenly vanished in a rather odd way––I mean, he missed his wedding day. As a favor to the bride, we are trying to locate him as discreetly as we can, just to make sure he’s okay. He’s well respected in the field, so we don’t want to involve the authorities in any way. Did Alex Rahmani spend time here?”

“Yes, he was here first thing this morning. He talked to one of our staff members,” said Dr. Bodrov.

“Did Alex ask to see anything specific?” Daniel asked with what Jack knew was his I have a theory face.

“Yes, as a matter of fact he asked to see ceramic vessels featuring Hera. He was interested in their provenance as well. They called my office to request that information.”

Daniel nodded. “And did he find what he was looking for?”

“Of that I am unsure. After visiting our galleries, he requested access to see our well-known krater with the procession honoring Hera. Unfortunately, it is on loan at the British Museum. After that, he left. It was not really that long a visit.”

“Well, thank you very much for talking to us and helping us locate Alex, Dr. Bodrov.”

“I hope Dr. Rahmani will be okay. Is he in any trouble, or is just a case of what you call, ‘cold feet’?”

“Yeah, it may be a family related thing. Or perhaps something happened that made Alex upset enough to run away. We’re just trying to understand what happened to him to help out. But since we missed him, I guess we’ll have to wait until he decides to go back home. Oh well....”

After saying goodbye to the Hermitage curator, the two men walked through the Greek gallery.

“Sweet. Guess we’re going to London now, right, Daniel?” Jack groaned. “So, what’s your theory?”

“You want to hear about my theory? I’m shocked.”

“Come on, Daniel, spill.”

“Okay, then. I have the feeling that what was inside the Met’s krater was a symbiote and Rahmani was somehow implanted. Until our lab examines the interior of the krater, my theory is just that. Moreover, judging by the type of artifact Rahmani is looking for,” Daniel said, waving his hand at the ancient ceramics around him, “he may be trying to locate Hera, also known as Mother of the Gods. Most likely, she’s a Goa’uld Queen.”

“Oy, we could have two snake-heads running around––or even more if she’s another frigging queen bee, for crying out loud! We need to contact Hammond.”

“Sure, we can do that while visiting the Ancient Egyptian displays. But you know, the General is gonna get cranky when you call. It’s 2:00 am in Colorado,” Daniel said, decisively heading for the Sivkov Passageway that would lead them in the direction of the Egyptian collection. Jack fell behind as he decided whom to dial on his secure phone.

“Sergeant Davis?” said Jack, as he trailed after Daniel. “This is O’Neill. Tell––What? Oh, yeah, we’re fine, thank you. Hope you’re staying out of trouble too. Listen, tell Hammond that we have a situation. We haven’t found the man we were looking for, and it’s possible that he could’ve been implanted. Send us his most recent tracking information and arrange for transportation to wherever we should go next. We suspect he may be going to London. We need to get some sleep, so we’ll be at the hotel.” Jack listened for a moment and then commented, “Davis, until the Carters get back from their trip and once the pot gets there, perhaps Dr. Lee could do some preliminary work. And keep an eye on Dr. Fisher.”

 

****

 

Jack and Daniel spent one very exciting hour visiting the Egyptian galleries––well, at least Daniel thought so. Afterwards, they picked up their luggage from the museum cloakroom and headed back to their taxi, which took them to a local hotel guaranteed to have a great view of Neva River, and a convenient restaurant nearby.

After an early dinner, the men went to see their room. As teammates and friends they were expected to share a double room whenever possible. Daniel set his bag down, leaving the room key on the small table by the door. Then he stood for a moment, taking in the blue and white theme of the decor. It matched the dusky sky through the room’s large windows. Blue walls, white bedspread, and the ambience... well, it was so Jack. Didn’t need much else for that. The comfortable king-size bed was an unexpected but quite welcome bonus.

“What?” Jack asked, moving around him. He began to remove his clothing, shooting Daniel a puzzled eye over his shoulder.

“Nothing, it’s just––” Daniel gestured. “Pretty.”

Jack arched a brow. “Pretty?” He looked around, frowned slightly at the bokeh wallpaper behind the head of the bed, then moved on to look outside. “Pretty setting. Missed the sunset. They have great ones here.”

“Do tell?” Daniel asked, eyeing him as he began to undress.

Jack turned, mouth open to say something sarcastic, then he grinned even more sarcastically and said, “Nyet.”

Daniel barked out a laugh. “Funny.” As his trousers were set on top of the room’s dresser, he asked, “So in the morning, we go––”

Jack reached out and put two fingers over his mouth to shush him. “No. Enough business talk. Let it wait until morning.”

“Oh?” Daniel asked, pretending to be coy. “What do you have in mind instead?”

“You have a fairly good imagination. Work it out.”

“Smooth talker,” Daniel said, down to boxer briefs. “Show me.”

Jack grinned and took him in his arms. “It’s been so long. I might have forgotten—”

Daniel brought their lips together as he put his arms around his neck. It was slow, as if he hadn’t done it before. “Nice,” he whispered, and his hands slid down to caress Jack’s back, then backside.

“Need better,” Jack grinned around a second kiss, and led them to the large bed.

 

 

After they got rid of their underwear, Daniel sat on the edge of the mattress with Jack riding his lap while they kissed once more.

Daniel pushed himself backwards until his head hit the pillows. Spreading out his hands over the blanket and sheets, he said, “This’ll do.”

Jack grinned as he crawled toward Daniel plopping next to him, his staff still half-mast.

“That won’t,” Daniel grinned back, but it faded into a purposeful look as he gazed on Jack’s growing erection. He frowned slightly. “Uh, lube?”

Jack winced. “Knew I forgot something.” He went to his suitcase and rummaged around, and once he had it in hand, he tossed it to Daniel while he opened one of the windows. A cool breeze wafted in. “Better.” When he turned, Daniel was busy with the lube, sliding it between his cheeks. “Much.”

“Hardly. Get over here.”

Jack started at the foot of the bed and stalked up the mattress, stopping at Daniel’s crotch as he locked his eyes on his. “What’s this?”

Daniel chuckled. “Did no one have this talk with—” Daniel inhaled sharply as Jack inhaled his erection. “Never mind,” he groaned, and closed his eyes as he threaded his fingers through Jack’s hair. Jack wasn’t in the mood for too much foreplay, however, because he left off, creating a cooling sensation around his cock. Kissing his way impatiently up Daniel’s body, their lips met and a much more passionate kiss ensued while he felt for the lube and slicked the gel over his erection.

It was a dance done so many times before that it rarely took more than a second, but Jack took a moment to raise up and look into his eyes before he hooked one of Daniel’s legs in the crook of an arm and effortlessly found his mark. Daniel groaned as Jack slid deeply in and thrusted upward to meet him, shuddering when the little gland was grazed.

They moved back and forth, slowly at first, but Jack soon changed that to a steady pitch of unrelenting desire and need. Faster, with the heady scent of sweat between them as a hot perfume spurring them on. Bending over and letting Daniel’s legs lock around him, Jack rested his forearms beside Daniel’s head and kissed the hell out of him as he plowed into him hard and fast. Daniel unlocked his legs and spread to receive the pounding he loved, breaking the kiss to throw his head back.

“Fuck yeah,” he whispered, but his moans cut off any other attempt at speech. Then Jack took hold of his hands and pinned them over his head while his hips ground into him, sending zings of white-hot pleasure over his gland and into his balls. They began to tighten up and he let out the short intake of breaths that signaled the impending orgasm.

Letting go, Jack reared back to his haunches, grabbed Daniel’s hips, and simply let loose a rapid staccato of thrusts, blinded by the friction, the pleasure, the unending beauty of fucking Daniel.

They groaned at the same time, climaxes shared; a rarity, as Daniel usually came first. But Jack easily dropped on top of him and rocked them together as their shared love swam over them into afterglow.

“Let’s just cuddle,” said Jack.

“I’m gonna fall asleep if we do, and I need to charge my phone and take one long hot shower before sleep.”

“Party pooper.”

“You can shower with me.”

“Well, that’s better. Can I give you mohawk hair in the shower?”

“You’re a frustrated Ferris Bueller.”

“I like playing with your hair. It’s relaxing.”

Grabbing his travel kit, Daniel gave him an amused look and entered the bathroom. They followed a well rehearsed night routine that was never free from teasing banter. Before bed, as Jack plugged his phone in the charger, he realized he had a message from Walter. Alexandre Rahmani was in London, and they were booked on a 0500 flight to Heathrow. MI6 would be waiting for them.

 

****

 

Meanwhile, at the SGC…

 

“Unscheduled off world activation,” announced Sergeant Davis.

“Do we have a code yet?” asked General Hammond. He was still expecting news from Sam Carter and Teal’c.

“It’s SG-1’s IDC. It’s Major Carter, sir.”

“Open the iris.” Hammond went to the gateroom to wait for Sam and, hopefully, her father, too. He wasn’t disappointed. “Major Carter, Jacob and Selmac, good to see you all.”

“Thank you, sir,” Carter said. “The Tok’ra Council decided to help us without having to ask twice.”

“Hi, George, good to see you too. Apparently, you have a bit of a problem in your hands, correct?

“Let’s go to the briefing room, I’ll tell you what we found so far.” After the group settled down, Hammond updated them on the most recent developments.

“If the Goa’uld you found is indeed Zeus, there’s a chance he knows where Hera was hidden,” said Jacob. He looked down for a moment allowing Selmac to come forth. “Hello General Hammond,” spoke the symbiote’s odd voice. “Daniel could probably tell us what part of this history was reflected in Tau’ri myths. What we the Tok’ra know is that when Zeus and Hera attacked Cronus, he punished them by putting them and their followers in stasis. They have not been heard from ever since. Since Hera is a Queen, we can only hope that she hasn't bred with a human again to create more Goa'uld symbiotes.”

“Is she like Hathor?” asked Hammond, his eyes growing colder.

“She is a queen, yes. She preferred willing followers so her nishta was rarely used. She is, however, far more dangerous than Hathor was known to be,” said Selmac.

“Major Carter, I would like for you to study the Greek vessel that was brought here from the museum. Dr. Lee has been working on it, and Dr. Fraiser has taken some samples, so we’re expecting results soon.”

“Yes, sir.”

“By the way, the museum requested that the conservator accompany the artifact and since she was already exposed to the alien technology, she was given partial clearance. She can only access the lab floors and must not know about our program. When I met her, she asked me a lot of questions. I can’t say I blame her but something doesn’t quite sit well with me.”

“Is she at the lab, sir?”

“Yes, Dr. Lee’s.”

“Then, we’ll go meet her right away,” said Jacob.

“Thank you, Jacob and Selmac. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.”

 

****

 

Chapter 3

 

Outside Terminal 2 of Heathrow airport, Jack, followed by Daniel–holding the largest cup of coffee he could find–met a rather striking woman nearly as tall as Jack. She held out her hand saying, “Agent Rebbeca Lewis, MI6. General Hammond contacted us and explained the situation. Frankly, if we hadn’t gotten confirmation from the Home Secretary, we wouldn’t have believed any of this information. Now, we’ve been shadowing Dr. Rahmani since he left Heathrow.”

“Any idea where he’s heading?” Jack asked.

“The British Museum. We should get there as soon as possible. Our ride is here,” she said, pointing at a car right ahead of them. The driver got out, giving Agent Lewis the keys before heading towards a second car.

“Before we head there, I’ll need to contact General Hammond for an update,” Jack said.

“We can get both things done in the car,” Lewis said. Jack raised an eyebrow. “Sat phone. It’s secure.”

“Thanks, but we have our own,” said Jack, stepping aside to dial the SGC.

They left after a few minutes, and after an hour spent mostly on the A30 road, Agent Lewis announced, “We’re here, gentlemen. Dr. Erik Dawson is the chief curator. He’s waiting for us.”

Dr. Dawson met them on their way to his office and shook hands with everyone. “I’ve been briefed by the Home Secretary. Dr. Rahmani arrived early this morning to examine pieces from our ancient Greek ceramics collection in our storage area. He’s been here many times so I didn’t have any reason to refuse him. He was rather disappointed when he examined the Hera krater he requested to see--apparently it did not suit his needs, whatever those may be. He’s always been a pretty decent chap. Always polite. But this time, he’s been brusque, rather oddly irritable. He left our storage area and has been going through the galleries, which just opened to the public.”

“Agent Lewis, do you have the current location of Rahmani?” Jack asked.

She checked with the other agents. “He’s in Gallery 23, Greco-Roman Sculpture.”

“Dr. Dawson, it would be best if you begin moving the visitors away from that area. This could develop into an… unpleasant situation,” said Daniel.

“Certainly. My security staff will cordon off the relevant access points.”

On the way to Gallery 23, Jack said, “Listen Agent Lewis, I realize we’re the visitors here, but we know these creatures, the Goa’uld.”

“Then how would you suggest we approach him?” she asked.

“By pretending we’re typical museum visitors. We’ll get close, stage a conversation,” he said, gesturing between himself and Daniel, “and while we’ve got his attention, you trank him.”

“I beg your pardon?” Lewis asked.

“Tranquilize him,” Jack said. “You brought the gun I assume?” She showed him her other sidearm and the other agents did the same. “Pistol tranquilizers?” She shrugged. “Cool. Now, don’t get too close. Trust me on this.” She looked a little miffed and Jack asked, “You were briefed?”

“Of course.” She made a face. “It’s one thing to hear it. It’s quite another in the field. And no offense, Colonel, but you’re not––”

“Special operations, once upon a time,” Jack said. “I know the protocols and how to play the game. Neither of us are rookies. Trust me, okay? Don’t get too close. Last thing we need is for Zeus to jump ship.”

She blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Leave Rahmani and jump into one of you,” Daniel said, looking from Lewis to her fellow agents. He added, “It can happen like that,” and snapped his fingers.

“But if that were to happen,” Lewis said, “would that thing be in instant control?”

“Pretty much,” Jack said. “And there’s a way to get them out but it’s tricky and you might not survive it.”

“They can kill their host if their own existence is in peril,” Daniel clarified.

“So again,” Jack reiterated. “Don’t get close. Just keep back at least twelve feet or so.”

“Or three point six meters,” Lewis said.

“Or that,” Jack said irritably. He gestured to Daniel. “Let’s go play tourists.”

 

****

 

 

Jack moved swiftly through the pedestals holding up the massive Egyptian sculptures, and arrived first at the Greek gallery, spotting the Goa’uld right away. The tall figure seemed mesmerized looking at the beautiful marble statues representing the ancient gods and goddesses of Greece.

The museum had efficiently redirected the early public flow away from the area, so the adjacent galleries were mostly empty of visitors. Jack turned to Daniel to make eye contact, but the archeologist lagged behind, seemingly distracted by the Rosetta stone. He waited for a minute for Daniel to catch up, and realized that he had also seen their target. He looked around the room. All visitors were now replaced by the three MI6 agents and the galleries were secured.

Jack hid for a moment behind a wall and made a few quick signs to Daniel to coordinate. They moved slowly, trying not to call attention to themselves, when suddenly Rahmani turned. Jack knew they were in trouble when he saw recognition in the man’s eyes. He was about to warn Daniel when the Goa’uld’s eyes glowed.

“Bloody hell,” said Agent Lewis, a few steps behind Jack.

Before Jack or Daniel could answer her, the Goa’uld moved quickly towards the exit. MI6 Agents Powels and Thompson cut off his escape and Rahmani found himself surrounded.

Turning around he confronted Jack, his eyes flashing. Suddenly, Rahmani raised his arms, as if to point at the gallery around him, and exclaimed in his strange dual-toned voice, “I am Zeus, father of all the gods! These sculptures proclaim the glory of my rule. People worshipped me for thousands of years. Humans, you will not get in my way!”

“I’m afraid we must. The rule of the Goa’uld is over, done with, finished,” said Jack, moving a bit closer and trying to distract the Goa’uld while the agents quietly prepared the tranquilizers.

“Do you dare to speak to me in that way? You will pay for your insolence––” The tirade was interrupted when two tranquilizer darts hit him. “What is this?” he said, his eyes flashing as he looked at the darts buried in his torso. “Do you have the impertinence to attack your god?! Then, he fell down, unconscious.  

Jack, Daniel and Lewis moved swiftly to restrain the fallen host, while the remaining two MI6 agents just looked at the Goa’uld, pointing their guns towards him, astonished.

Jack turned to Lewis and said, “When I talked to General Hammond this morning, he said we should bring him to the United States Embassy. He’s arranging for a private plane and a group of specialized guards to accompany him to our base in Colorado. We have dealt with his sort before.”

“Jack, we can’t let him go yet,” said Daniel. “You heard Dr. Dawson. Hera’s krater wasn’t the one he wanted. We need to find out what he’s after.”

“You’re right. We’ll have to question Dr. Zeus at the Embassy. Agent Lewis, could you get a van to transport us to the Embassy? We’ll need help to guard him on the way. He’s going to wake up in a few minutes, so bring more tranquilizers.”

“Yes… of course. But… his voice… his eyes… How.. what…”

“He’s not your usual suspect,” Jack said, giving Lewis a grim smile.

“Bloody hell.”

While the MI6 agents took the Goa’uld to an office to wait for transportation, Jack and Daniel followed them slowly, speaking in low voices.

“Jack, there’s no way he could’ve known we were after him, but when he looked at you he knew. It’s like he recognized you!”

“Someone must have warned him. But only the NID and SGC know about our connection to–– Crap!!!”

“Dr. Fisher!” both exclaimed at the same time.

“We just assumed there was only one symbiote in the vessel,” said Daniel.

“She could have even sent him a photo of us via email,” said Jack. “No wonder he’s been in such a rush. We better warn Hammond,” said Jack, taking his cell phone out of his pocket and moving towards a quiet corner.

Daniel thanked the chief curator for his help in capturing a colleague in distress, who was acting under the influence of mind control. Dr. Dawson, who understood the need for discretion when dealing with security matters, invited Daniel to come back for a normal visit. He then led the two men to the museum’s loading dock, where their luggage was waiting next to a nondescript black van. Inside, two MI6 agents sat either side of the securely-bound Goa’uld, who was slumped forward with a new dart still stuck to his leg.

 

****

 

Once at the US Embassy, three Marines escorted the Goa’uld to a holding cell, while Jack and Daniel said goodbye to the MI6 agents.

“Thank you very much for your cooperation, agents,” Jack said with a disarming grin. “Especially you, Agent Lewis. Give us a call if you ever get bored of MI6 or would like to become an MIB… Though, you know, we don’t really wear black.”

“Is this the part where you delete my memory, Colonel O’Neill?”

“That’s so sci-fi! Alien technology? Please! Besides, you haven’t signed the right papers for that.”

"Don't listen to him, Agent Lewis," Daniel said, rolling his eyes. "He's just flirting with you." Jack shot him a glare. Daniel ignored him. “Thank you so much for your help with this."

After the British agents left, Jack told Daniel that Hammond had requested they used the secure telephone at the Embassy for a full debrief. Once they were seated at the table in an empty conference room, Jack picked up the phone, dialed his boss’s office, and turned on the speaker.

“Good morning General. Dr. Rahmani has been detained and placed in one of the Embassy’s holding cells, awaiting transport.”

Plan to make the transfer this evening, your time. Colonel Ferretti and Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds are already on their way with some SFs to bring him back to the SGC,” said Hammond, his voice filling the room.

“Sir, what about Dr. Fisher?”

Your warning did not come as a surprise. When the Carters arrived they headed to the lab to examine the Greek artifact. They realized Dr. Fisher was carrying a symbiote and immediately she became hostile.”

“So... we were right. She’s the one who warned Zeus,” said Daniel.

There is more. Selmac interrogated Fisher and it turns out his name is Zelus, Zeus’ henchman. Jacob believes that Zelus was probably trying to find the gate, while Zeus looked for Hera, a dangerous Goa’uld queen, by the way.”

“Sir, what about the Greek pot?”

The tests indicate that the vessel contains a cloaked stasis chamber where the two symbiotes were trapped until these two unlucky museum conservators released them.”

“Are the Tok’ra willing to extract the symbiotes and save the hosts?” asked Daniel.

Dr. Fisher has already departed for the Tok’ra home base and Rahmani is next. Jacob is willing to come back and bring the Tok’ra memory device to help us figure out where Hera is. But I doubt the Goa’uld will give us any information willingly, and your location is not ideal for that kind of questioning. Wait in London for further orders. And SG-1? Good job,” said Hammond, ending the call.

“I guess we’ll stay put until the Tok’ra have a whack at Dr. Zeus,” Jack said.

“Really, do you have to call him that? At any rate, we now have time to go back to the museum before Ferretti and Reynolds arrive, right?” asked Daniel, giving Jack his sweetest look, sparkling eyes and full smile included.

“Ya know, you should use that look on the snake. He’d have no chance. None whatever!”

“Thank you, Jack. I promise I’ll make it worth your while, you know, later on.”

“I’ll hold you to it.”

 

****

 

 

Watching Daniel looking at precious Egyptian artifacts with wistful eyes was always one of those rare pleasures. Nonetheless, the afternoon spent at the British Museum seemed to Jack to pass at a glacial pace. He did not mind too much trailing after Daniel, as used as he was standing on guard protecting his team while they did their thing under the ever present trees. But he was growing impatient for some skin time.

Daniel dragged Jack to an Indian restaurant to have, what he called, “the best curry in the world.” By 2000 hours, they returned to the U.S Embassy bearing gifts. The head of security took them directly to the prisoner holding area, where Colonels Ferretti and Reynolds were securing the still struggling prisoner with chains and a blindfold.

“Colonel, Doc, nice job nabbing this fellow,” greeted Ferretti with a smirk on his face, as he emptied a syringe in Zeus’ arm.

“Hello campers,” responded Jack. “Welcome to London.”

“Alas, we won’t get to see the sights this time,” said Reynolds, helping move the now sleeping Goa’uld onto a wheelchair. “It’s a quick turn around trip. There is some equipment arriving with our Tok’ra friends that should help us locate any additional unfriendlies.”

“Hammond warned us about your tight schedule, so we brought you all some dinner from one of my favorite Indian restaurants,” Daniel said, putting on the table three large bags full of containers that issued faint aromas that made everyone salivate. “Dinner is on us.”

“Way to go Doc!” exclaimed Ferrett, giving Daniel a firm pat on the shoulder. This was a considerable improvement over the few MREs waiting for them in the jet the NID had been forced to lend them.

“What’s the time table for Dr. Zeus over here?” asked Jack.

“The kids’ writer?” asked Reynolds, but Ferretti was already chuckling.

“Good one, Jack. No, Reynolds. We got us the Greek god Zeus inside a geek. Ya know, with a doctorate.”

“Yeah, right,” said Reynolds, shaking his head. “At any rate, our ETA at the base is around 0800 hours, and then we’re to proceed immediately with the interrogation. So, expect to get an update by late afternoon tomorrow, your time, depending on how successful our friends are. Hammond said to stay put and wait for orders.”

Before leaving, once the officers and their prisoner were situated in the back of the van that would transport them to the airport, Daniel came to the door. “Listen guys, Alex Rahmani, the host, is a decent man. He must be scared out of his mind. Please try to be nice to him,” he asked.

“Don’t worry about Dr. Zeus, Doc. We’ll treat him right. Scout’s honor,” said Ferretti making a vague cross over his heart.

“Good luck guys,” said Jack. “No need to tell you to be careful.”

The two officers nodded, the door closed, and the van slowly exited the compound to merge with traffic. Jack and Daniel walked out the same way and hailed a taxi near the corner. The men held hands until the end of the quiet ride but did not fall into each other’s arms until they entered their room in the Shangri-La Hotel.

“As much as I enjoy this lovely entrance hallway, do you mind if we get horizontal?” said Jack pulling off Daniel’s jacket.

“Your knees?”

“Long day, even with the comfortable shoes.”

“How about a long soak?” suggested Daniel helping Jack out of his long sleeve top. “Since I’m splurging we might as well enjoy the facilities.” He had decided to make London as much of a vacation as duty allowed, including paying for the fancy hotel.

“Only if you join me and keep me awake,” said Jack slowly popping open the buttons in Daniel’s soft blue denim shirt.

“Oh, I can think of a couple of things I could do,” Daniel said.

With a crooked smile, Daniel stepped away from him and went into their large bathroom, where he turned on the faucets in the Jacuzzi that was ensconced in a corner. Jack turned around and located the small refrigerator. Inside he found a chilled bottle of Prosecco wine.

When he entered the bathroom, naked and holding a glass of bubbly wine in each hand, he found Daniel seated on the edge of the tub, his feet covered by the swirling warm water. Jack put the glasses down on the ledge, and quickly joined him. When he sank his tired feet in the water he couldn’t help but exclaim with a sigh, “Oh, yeah, that feels so good.”

“Should I leave you two alone?” asked Daniel, lightly pushing against Jack with his shoulder.

Jack touched Daniel's chin and turned his head for an introductory kiss. As the soft lips waiting for him parted, Jack rubbed his tongue against Daniel’s in a rhythmic dance that soon turned up their heat. Panting and aroused, the men stopped for a moment to get more comfortable inside the large tub. Reclining side by side, they continued to kiss, letting the hot water and the steam build up their desire.

“We should get one of these tubs at home,” said Jack reaching for the wine glasses. “It feels pretty good on my legs after walking all day.”

“Speaking about walking, there are some things I would like to do tomorrow,” said Daniel, drinking some of his wine. It was refreshing and delicious.

“Well, I vote we sleep late and wallow in all this luxury,” said Jack slowly waving his glass in the air.

“Or we could take advantage that we are in London and go back to the museum,” said Daniel with wistful enthusiasm. “Dr. Dawson said if we get there by ten o’clock he can give us a tour of the storage area and give us access to their collections for the rest of the day. Want to do a little sightseeing before that?”

“Daniel, we spent the whole day looking at Egyptian mummies and what not. Is there anything else you’d like to see? Besides, I’ve been waiting for years to see the Royal Air Force Museum. That’s the kind of museum I want to visit.”

“But I… I still haven’t seen the storage section, Jack. There are some new materials they’re preparing to add to the Egyptian galleries and I want to see them before we leave.”

“We’re in London, Daniel! I don’t want to spend the day in a dusty storage room.”

“It’s not like that. Besides, you never said anything about a plane museum, and I already arranged things with Dawson.”

“And when did you tell me about your plans for tomorrow? There’s no way we can be in two places at once, Daniel.”

“Well… maybe we could if we, you know…”

“Know what Daniel?”

“If we split and go our separate ways. Then we could both go see what we want.”

“What I see is that you prefer to spend your time with dried up mummies instead of accompanying me to do something I want to do,” said Jack raising his voice.

“What? See a bunch of outmoded machines that glorify war?!” Daniel’s voice was even louder.

For a moment, both men remained silent, looking at each other with frowned brows and annoyed expressions.

“I can’t believe you just said that,” said Jack finally. “It’s a history museum.”

“I’m sorry. That was really over the line,” said Daniel, taking a breath.

“Ya think?”

“Look Jack, you actually work for the Air Force and get to fly any time you care to drop by Peterson. On the other hand, I rarely get access to see these materials because there are no collections of Egyptian antiquities where we live. In fact, if I ever get to see anything related, it’s usually been twisted into something evil by the Goa’uld. Please, don’t take it personally, but I don’t want to let this opportunity pass.”

“Fine, do whatever,” said Jack, getting out of the water, grabbing a towel and walking out of the bathroom. He was tired, his knees hurt after running after Daniel in those damn museums for two days, and he had had enough. He wrapped himself in the large towel and lost himself in the spectacular view out of their large windows. The city lights spread beneath him, like a beautiful vibrant postcard of London at night.

After a few minutes, he heard Daniel’s voice on the phone behind him ordering their early breakfast. Then suddenly, a couple of arms wrapped around his waist.

“If it means so much to you, I’d be happy to accompany you to the Royal Air Force Museum,” said Daniel’s throaty voice in Jack’s ear. “You’ve indulged me for days now and I’d love to reciprocate and go with you.”

“You would?”

“Yes, Jack. I want you to be happy.”

“How about this? You spend the morning with your mummies and then we meet for lunch at the RAF museum. We can visit it together in the afternoon.”

“What will you do in the morning?” asked Daniel, his aroused body pressing against Jack’s.

“I’m thinking Mme. Tussauds,” said Jack. He turned around, nibbling Daniel’s jaw line, rough with stubble, and pressing his body forward.

“Hmmm… I’ve seen it! You’ll enjoy it, especially the––” Daniel never finished his statement as his lips were captured and given a sound, passionate kiss.

 

 

Jack’s military mind was always a few steps ahead of the action. As he kissed Daniel out of his mind, he began moving them towards the bed, dropping the towels that had been wrapped around their waists. Stopping long enough to yank the bedspread clear of the bed, Jack maneuvered Daniel to the center of the bed and attacked his neck and chest, leaving a trail of kisses and gentle bites.

Daniel moaned appreciatively and wrapped his arms and legs around Jack. Their bodies began to undulate rhythmically seeking the necessary amount of friction. Their cocks rubbed together sending waves or arousal down their spines, but it was not happening fast enough.

“Let me try this,” said Daniel, unwrapping his hands and legs, and then gently pushing Jack away. He reached for the lube on the nightstand, and applied a generous amount to his hand. Then reached down and firmly wrapped his long fingers around both of their hard members, darkened with friction and need. He began to pump, his hand gliding easy over their soft skin, sometimes slowly massaging their sensitive heads.

“Oh yeah… that’s better!” growled Jack with a gasp. He pulled slightly back to give Daniel more room to move. Putting his weight on his folded arm, Jack reached down and wrapped his hand over Daniel’s, forcing them to pump faster and faster.

“Yeah, that’s it, that’s it,” whispered Daniel, pulling his head back, heavy with pleasure. Jack rested his head in Daniel’s shoulder. Their bodies, glistening with sweat, momentarily relaxed to the onslaught of sensations their moving hands were producing.

Jack raised his head and kissed Daniel’s cheek. The latter opened his blue eyes and got lost on the brown ones, looking down on him. They kissed, breathlessly, until their bodies tensed up, and ribbons of cum shot between them. After a long moment to catch their breath, they looked at each, love and understanding shining in their eyes.

“As much as I enjoyed the moment,” said Daniel pressing against Jack and nuzzling his face, “if we remain like this they’ll have to peel us apart in the morning. I’ll be back.”

Daniel went to the bathroom and came back with a wet hand towel. Lovingly, he cleaned them both. Once comfortable, they held each other again and promptly fell asleep.

Early in the morning, insistent knocks on the door woke up the men, still cuddling under the soft covers. The full breakfast with extra coffee Daniel had ordered the evening before was ready.

 

****

 

Hammond’s phone call reached Jack and Daniel as they were browsing the Royal Air Force Museum shop before it closed. Jack found a quiet corner behind a gondola full of small airplane replicas and set the phone on speaker.

“Good morning sir. Did the team arrive safely?”

The did, Colonel. The interrogation was not as fruitful as I wished. We learned that Cronus punished Zeus by forcing him to watch as he trapped his fellow Goa’uld rebels in stasis chambers. This apparently took place in a cave in the vicinity of a site dedicated to Zeus, possibly the Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece.”

“What about Hera, sir?” asked Daniel.

That’s where it gets complicated,” said Hammond. “The Tok’ra tell me that Zeus also saw Cronus trap Hera inside a Greek vessel decorated with some figures related to this goddess. However, whatever knowledge Rahmani had in his mind was not enough for Zeus to locate the vessel, and whatever information Zeus has to give is hopelessly out of date.”

“Do you think Rahmani can help us once he’s back?” asked Jack.

It’s hard to tell. The Tok’ra just departed for Revanna and they are expected to return with Dr. Fisher and Dr. Rahmani in a few days. While they’re gone, I want you both in Athens. We have no special contacts in the Greek government since they are unaware of our program. They don’t like any type of interference in their archeological sites so proceed with extreme caution. Take a look at the Temple of Zeus and give me a preliminary report tomorrow afternoon.”

“Yes sir.”

Sergeant Davis has sent your tickets and the itinerary to your hotel. I believe your flight leaves London in three hours, so gentlemen––Godspeed!”

“Thank you, sir,” both men said at the same time before ending the call.

"Somehow I knew were gonna end up in Greece," said Jack.

"Why didn't you say so? We could've gone there directly."

"What? And miss all this fun? Besides, my frequent-miles account is happy," added Jack, closing his bag and heading to the door.

 

****

 

 

Chapter 4

 

It was two hours past midnight by the time Jack and Daniel arrived at the Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos,” where their progress was delayed by overzealous custom agents.

“Did you have fun with customs?” asked Jack, getting up from an uncomfortable plastic chair in the baggage claim area.

“Yeah. I’m still in their system as having an active working visa as an archeologist. They tend to get suspicious,” said Daniel.

“Why?”

“Too many people digging on their own. It’s been a problem. I hope my assurances that I would never do that won’t come back to bite me in the ass.”

“We do what we gotta do, Daniel. Let’s get a taxi,” said Jack, pulling the envelope with the information Davis had sent him out of his inside pocket.

“Where’re we going?”

“Oh wow, you’re not gonna believe this.”

“Uh, what?”

“We’re staying at the Athens Gate Hotel,” said Jack with a big grin.

“Oh yeah, that’s right. There’s a hotel with that name in Athens. I forgot,” said Daniel.

“You don’t think they know about... ya know?” asked Jack, making a circular motion with his finger, as they began to walk towards the exit.

“Nah. The hotel is near a couple of ancient arches or gates.”

“So you know this hotel?”

“I heard that it has a restaurant with a nice view of the historic district.”

 

 

After a 30-minute taxi ride and an uncomplicated check-in, the two men stood in the balcony of their room. Feeling refreshed after a shower, they held each other tenderly in the balmy air of the night. They quietly enjoyed each other and the awe-inspiring sight in front of them.

Right across the street, almost as if they could touch it, was the Temple of Zeus in all its splendor. The tall and slender Corinthian columns appeared to be made of gold in the dramatic light of the flood lamps. Behind them, the city seemed to rise up the barely discernible hills east of Athens.

“Remind me to send Davis a honking-big fruit basket,” said Jack chuckling. He grabbed Daniel’s hand and added, “Let’s go crash. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“It’ll be dawn in a couple of hours, Jack. We’re gonna need a ton of coffee.”

“Sure. But the temple isn’t going anywhere. We can afford a slow morning,” said Jack stretching his long body on the soft white sheets.

“I’d like that,” added Daniel, rolling closer to his lover.

They got comfortable in each other’s arms, and fell asleep almost immediately.

 

****

 

“What’s the name of this thing? It’s so much better than my omelettes,” said Jack, before eating a piece of the colorful omelette-like dish.

“That’s because it has something other than just beer,” said Daniel with a lopsided smile. “It’s called a sfougato and is the Greek version of the frittata,” he added while dipping a small, round pancake in honey and popping it into his mouth.

They were having a late breakfast in the balcony of the hotel's restaurant as the radiant sunshine gave everything a happy sheen. While they ate and drank dark coffee, they admired the impressive view of the Acropolis hill.

“How are your mini-pancakes?”

Lalagites. They’re delicious and kinda minty,” said Daniel, reaching for more coffee.

It did not take long for them to demolish all their food and while the gorgeous view was mesmerizing, they had a job to do. Once they were back in the room, Jack said, “Before we go out, let me call the base in case they have news.”

Jack stood next to the window looking at the Temple of Zeus, its columns growing from the green park like the strange white bones of an ancient giant beast. He opened his phone and dialed the direct number of the Control Room at the SGC. Sergeant Davis was not there, but the airman on duty asked him to hold.

Hey Jack, where the hell are you?” asked a familiar voice, coming from his cell phone.

“Hi Jacob, good to talk to you. We’re standing in front of the Temple of Zeus, in Athens, and about to take a closer look,” replied Jack.

I guess you boys struk it lucky this time around, eh?”

“Yeah, well. We’ve seen enough trees to last a lifetime... or two,” said Jack, glancing at Daniel. “But ya know, ruins are ruins no matter where. How are things on your end?”

We just brought the conservators back. They’re a bit shaken, but they’ll recover in time. In fact, they’re rather intrigued by their newly acquired insight into Earth’s history.”

“Good news. Any helpful new leads from them?”

Yes, indeed. They mentioned that Cronus used an underground site in the Island of Keftiu as a base of operations. Over the years the place became known as the Cave of Zeus, but it was originally dedicated to Cronus. The other Goa’uld rebels you’re looking for should be down there somewhere. My suggestion is that you head to the island. Once George is back on base we’ll figure out the logistics.

“Jacob, gimme a second,” said Jack looking at his lover. “Daniel, do you know where the Island of Keftiu is?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Okay, Jacob, we’ll head over there and wait for your call.”

You lucky devils. Don’t have too much fun.”

After Jack closed the phone he turned to Daniel, “So, what’s this island?”

“Keftiu is the Egyptian name for Crete. We’re going to Crete, Jack.”

“Well, lucky us!”

“Indeed. It’s full of amazing archeological sites,” said Daniel with sparkles shining in his eyes.

“I bet the fishing is awesome too,” said Jack, with sparkles shining in his.

“We may have to have a lot of lunch dates,” responded Daniel.

“If the snakes don’t get in the way.”

“Well, there’s that,” said Daniel, heading to the armoire to grab his duffel bag to pack, while Jack went down to the lobby to talk to the concierge. They needed a new hotel reservation.

 

****

 

The next available flight to Crete left later in the afternoon so Jack and Daniel took a couple of hours after breakfast to visit the nearby sites. First, they crossed the street and walked around the remains of what once was a splendid temple honoring Zeus, considered by the ancient Greeks as the king of the gods and all the heavens.

As the two men walked around the park, Daniel asked, “Did you know that Zeus and his younger siblings were born from Cronus’ stomach?”

“I get the feeling that someone got him confused with a Jaffa,” said Jack.

“That’s a very astute observation,” said Daniel.

“I have my moments,” said Jack. “So if Dr. Zeus was Cronus’ kid, why the animosity? Daddy issues?”

“Well, it was more like the other way around. Legend has it that Cronus was warned that his children would kill him, so he swallowed his offspring right after birth and kept them in his stomach. But Zeus’s mother gave Cronus a stone swaddled in a blanket to swallow instead, and hid the child in a cave in Crete. Eventually Zeus rescued his siblings from Cronus’ stomach and they banished him to Tartarus, which you know as Netu.”

“Oy, I don't want to hear about that planet. So what about Crete?” asked Jack.

“These two conservators really came through for us because we could’ve spent years looking at sites dedicated to Zeus and Hera without finding anything,” explained Daniel, adding, “and there aren’t any temples dedicated to Cronus, so that would’ve been another dead end.”

“So Zeus and the whole mythical caboodle got temples and stuff all over, but Cronus got zip, nada, zero, diddly-squat? Why?”

“I don’t really know for sure. Perhaps after Zeus and the other Goa’uld revolted against Cronus and banished him, they ruled for a period long enough to become memorialized in myth. If so, all this,” said Daniel, waving his hand towards the columns towering over them, “already existed by the time Cronus came back to destroy the rebels. Or, it could be that these Goa’uld just picked these names randomly because they were already part of Earth’s mythology and all they wanted was to be seen as gods.”

“What about this Hera pot that Dr. Zeus failed to find?’”

“Let’s hope that it’ll be in Crete,” said Daniel.

“Or?”

“Jack, as you always say, there’s always an ‘or’”

“Not a good option here,” said Jack, giving Daniel a pat on the shoulder.

Once they were back on the street, Daniel flagged a taxi to take them to the Acropolis, where they spent their remaining free time in Athens.

 

 

****

 

Chapter 5

 

Their flight to Heraklion, capital of Crete, was short and they arrived around sunset, heading directly to the hotel where they had found a room. The Lato Boutique Hotel had a great view of Heraklion’s old harbor and the Venetian Fortress, a medieval construction that projected its long blocky shape into the sea.

“This has been our most touristic mission ever,” affirmed Daniel, dropping his bag on the floor of their room, overlooking the harbor.

“After sending so much crap our way, the universe seems to have decided to play nice at last. I’m gonna check in with Hammond,” said Jack.

While Daniel took care of their dirty laundry, Jack sat on a comfortable chair to make his call. After a few minutes, the connection went through.

“Hello, sir, O’Neill here. We just arrived in the city of Heraklion, as Jacob suggested.”

Well done. A four-person team is on the way. Expect a call very early tomorrow. They’re familiar with the terrain and quite capable of handling the logistics.”

“Have they been briefed, sir?”

They have full access, but you’ll have to give them some of the details. They’re all military personnel that were flagged to join our program but have not gone through our training yet.

“Of course, sir. I assume they’d be able to transport the items themselves rather than use SG-1 as couriers?”

Yes. Why do you ask?

“I know we’ve been away from the base for several days already, but since we’re already here, I was wondering if we could stay a couple of extra days. This island is so Daniel’s thing, and well, he could use some down time here, if at all possible.”

I get what you’re saying, Jack. I don’t begrudge the time you’ve had in Europe. You have more than earned it. But let me see what the schedule looks like and I’ll let you know.

“Thank you sir.”

Sure thing. Give us an update when you’re on your way tomorrow, and Godspeed.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Well, at least Jack had tried to buy Daniel some fun time in Crete, and who knows, he might succeed.

 

****

 

The men decided to have an early dinner in their room. Then they took a shower and got their things ready for the next day: boots, layered clothes, and small backpacks, the travel-size version of their field packs they have been hauling around Europe for just this eventuality. Tired, they laid in bed to watch CNN International for a few minutes, but quickly fell asleep.

Jack’s cell phone woke them up at about 4:30 am.

“O’Neill,” said Jack in a sleepy voice.

This is Colonel Stewart Harris. I understand you need a ride?

“Stew Harris?”

That’s me, O’Neill!

“How the hell are you?!!” exclaimed Jack with enthusiasm.

Daniel, still in the process of waking up, opened his eyes wide but narrowed them as he looked at Jack jump out of the bed full of energy.

I’ll be darned! Well, much happier now. I thought I was babysitting a pair of clueless geeks.”

There will be a geek, true; but far from clueless.”

Daniel got up and began making coffee. Jack’s familiarity with his old military buddies always made him a little jealous.

“Okay, I’ll take your word. You guys ready? We’ll be there in 30. See you in the back parking lot of the Lato.

“Roger that.”

The line went dead and Jack folded his phone. He turned off the television, still droning on the news, and turned on all the lights.

“They’ll be here in 30 minutes. I’m gonna take a quick shower,” said Jack, walking to the bathroom and setting the shower on tepid.

“So who is this Stew Harris?,” asked Daniel following Jack into the shower cubicle.

“Oh, just a friend from the service,” Jack explained as he moved away from the shower to rub the liquid soap over his body.

“Just a friend,” repeated Daniel stepping under the water to wash his hair.

“Black ops. I can’t really... you know,” answered Jack, switching places with Daniel to rinse up.

“Were you guys close?” asked the archeologist, doing a quick job of washing up.

“Things went south on us. We bonded, you could say,” said Jack stepping out and beginning to vigorously dry off with the last dry towel.

“I see,” said Daniel, finishing up and stepping out of the shower to find all the dry towels gone. Cussing, he grabbed a hand towel and dried himself the best he could.

By 0430, Jack and Daniel were at the hotel’s parking space holding a cup of coffee, when a black Land Rover SUV pulled into the lot and stopped next to them.

“Good morning gentlemen. Here’s your chariot. Put your packs in the back and hop in!” said Harris, a handsome African American man whose hair was so short it seemed painted on his skull.

They sat in the back seat, next to a thin young man. Once Harris got back onto the road, he introduced himself and his two-person team, both Navy SEALs, Lieutenant Commanders Patrick Berenson and Mariana Restrepo. The latter, seating shotgun with Harris, was an expert spelunker.

“Good to meet you all. I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill and this is a member of my team, Dr. Daniel Jackson, archeologist and linguist.”

“Nice to meet you, Doc. Okay O’Neill, you can now tell us this isn’t a joke, right? We’re still wrapping our minds around this Stargate program,” said Harris.

“Colonel Harris, I understood you were briefed before this mission?” asked Daniel, with a slight edge on his tone.

“We have. But come on. We’ve been going to other planets?” asked Harris.

“Look Harris, I understand this is a lot to process and there’ll be tons of reports coming your way. Right now, you and your team need to focus on getting us into that cave and locate some alien objects that are dangerous enough to kill all of us,” said Jack, abandoning his previous friendly tone. “You were briefed beyond the necessary as a courtesy. If you’re not willing to accept what your superiors told you, let’s just treat this as a regular mission. We get in, find the stuff, and get out. Simple.”

“You’re deadly serious,” said Berenson.

“Like a heart attack,” deadpanned Jack.

“Holy shit!” exclaimed Harris.

After a long moment of silence, Harris, Berenson, and Restrepo began firing non-stop questions about gate travel and what they found out there, which Daniel answered with his accustomed enthusiasm. After explaining the threat of the Goa’uld, the conversation turned back to the mission.

Restrepo, who had been stationed in the region for almost a year, had spent considerable time exploring caves in Greece.

“I’ve been to the Cave of Zeus twice already, but just as a tourist. It’s also known as the Psychro or the Dikteon Cave. For this mission, we found the report of the last spelunking exploration team which has a good diagram of the caverns in the Lasithi plateau, where the cave is,” she said.

“I understand this is a sacred Minoan site associated with the birth of Zeus or the place where he was hidden from his father, Cronus,” said Daniel.

“That’s right,” agreed the young woman. “The tourist entrance opens at 0800, but we’ll get there by 0600, pre-dawn. It takes about an hour to hike to the top of the mountain, where the access to the cave is. We’ll be out the way when the first tourists get up there.”

“What’s the plan inside the cave?” asked Jack.

“Our best bet is to get to the lower grotto,” said Resptrepo, “go past the pool and into the side caverns that haven’t been well explored yet. I assume that if whatever you’re looking for was placed in the excavated areas it would’ve been found already.”

“That makes sense,” said Daniel. “We’re looking for symbiote stasis chambers. It could take the form of an ancient ceramic pot, ranging in size from a gallon of milk to a fifteen-gallon keg. But it could also be an altar, or even a niche in the wall.”

“Doc, that’s gonna be like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Harris.

“We have to try,” said Jack. “These creatures can threaten the future of our entire planet.”

The group continued discussing the logistics and the equipment that had been brought for the mission for the following hour. Harris got on the narrow winding road up Mount Dikti. Everyone fell silent, and after a few hair-raising turns, they reached the cave site’s parking lot, which was empty. They parked the SUV in the far end of the lot away from the normal traffic, attaching a tag from a well known tour company on the window to assure it would be left alone.

Restrepo guided them past the tourist’s ticket office to the road leading to the mountaintop, where the entrance to the cave was located. The steep stone path was barely visible in the light of the coming dawn. By the time they got to the cave access they were a bit winded since they were carrying water and food supplies to last for two days. Berenson picked the chain lock that kept the cave’s entrance closed. After the group filed down the stairs, he reset the lock, so nobody would know they had been there.

Restrepo lighted their descent with a powerful flashlight. “Sirs, we are going to descend through a series of grottos or caves,” she said. “We need to reach the one at the very bottom.”

Donning mining helmets with headlamps, the group went down an endless series of stone steps until reaching the upper grotto. Everywhere around the strange limestone formations emerging from the absolute darkness created an otherworldly feeling.

 

 

“This is amazing. It’s like being on a different planet!” exclaimed Daniel.

“That’s so not true!” exclaimed Jack. “Go ahead, name one planet that looks like this!”

“Uhm, I guess you're right. Mine shafts don’t really look like this and even Netu was not like this at all,” said Daniel, always moving down the pathways and steps.

“Exactly. Trees, Daniel. Never ending trees. And an occasional dune.”

“Really? How come?” asked Harris.

“The Stargate seems to connect mostly to planets with oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres. So we typically find Earth-like environments with lots of trees or an occasional desert,” said Daniel.

“Okay, gentlemen, welcome to the second chamber. We have three more to go. It’s about 0700 hours. Tourists will be here in one hour but I’m guessing they will turn on the lights in 45 minutes,” said Restrepo. “I suggest we reach the bottom and get out of the way before that happens. Watch your step.” She descended with haste.

Nimble and used to being inside caves, Restrepo moved easily, while the men struggled to keep up.

“She’s like a training sergeant on steroids,” said Jack to Harris.

“No training gig for her. She’d quickly get bored,” he responded. “She likes action.”

Jack laughed, breathlessly, while Daniel gave him a funny look. Jack responded by pulling Daniel towards him and whispering in his ear, “Stew’s been married forever, and has six kids. Stop the jealous act, Daniel.”

“Busted. Sorry,” said Daniel, giving a smiling Jack an embarrassed look.

“Focus on the mission,” said Jack, picking up speed going down the steps.

After a rather grueling descent, keeping their balance in the narrow slippery steps, while avoiding the strange stone formations, the team reached the bottom to find a surreal landscape of massive stalactites and stalagmites surrounding a dark pool.

“We need to hurry,” said Restrepo. “Get off the tourist trail and walk carefully around the pool to the other end. Behind that large pillar is the entrance to a group of caverns not accessible to tourists. The first ones have been fairly well studied, but farther ones have not.”

“Before we proceed, I want to take a closer look at the so-called ‘Mantle of Zeus,’” Daniel said pointing at a massive stalactite hanging over the lake.

“Look, keep your focus, there’s no time for––” said Jack, a warning tone coloring his words.

“Jack,” said Daniel with a cold edge in his voice, “this it’s exactly the kind of unreachable location where Cronus would hide the stasis chambers.”

“We’d have to stretch lines from wall to wall, and pull you laterally,” said Restrepo looking at the formation of the cavern with her flashlight. “That'd take much more time than we’ve got.”

“But Cronus wouldn’t need to do all that. He’d have a conveniently accessible pedestal or a nearby wall and simply make the column open, or descend, or something,” said Daniel, looking at the area around him.

As the group looked at him with skeptical expressions, Daniel walked down to the pool to examine a flat area of the cave wall more closely. His fingers felt something warm under the humid limestone surface, and pressed it. A flap suddenly opened to reveal a Goa'uld panel.

“Found it!” Daniel exclaimed, in a slightly mocking tone.

Everyone remained frozen until Jack shouted, “Don’t touch anything!”

“Why the hell not? Didn’t we come for this?” asked Daniel, losing patience.

“Yes. But it could be boobie-trapped. Besides, we have fifteen minutes left before we’re surrounded by tourists,” explained Jack.

“Oh. Right. Okay. So now what?”

“If I may...” said Berenson.

“Go ahead,” authorized Harris.

“We could do as we planned. Hide in the next chambers until the cave closes, and then proceed with the mission. We’re technically still in the winter season, so the cave will probably close at 1500 hours. That will give us plenty of time to explore the other caverns before closing time.”

Suddenly, powerful lights flooded the space, blinding them and making their eyes hurt. An increasing flutter of wings could be heard somewhere above them as the bats living in the cave were disturbed in their slumber.

“They’re here,” Jack said. “Daniel, take a quick pic of the control panel, and then close the flap. Let’s get to the next cave and regroup.”

The grotto was lit with colorful lights, which the park managers chose to enhance the strangeness of the place. The group moved carefully through an obstacle course of red, green, and yellow stalagmites and stalactites to reach the cave opening on the other side of the pool.

They could already hear the voices of the excited tourists echoing in the distance when the team reached the next cavern. The space was dark and there was a minimal path marked on the ground which they followed until arriving at a larger secondary cavern, where they set up camp.

The day was mostly spent exploring the deeper caves or sleeping once they were satisfied that there were no further surprises left by the Goa’uld. Daniel studied the photograph of the control panel he found, and came to the conclusion that the so-called Mantle of Zeus was most likely not a container. He sat next to Jack and showed him the photo in his small digital camera.

“What made you think of a boobie trap?” asked Daniel.

“The pot in New York. It had a shield,” said Jack.

“So where would you set up a shield in a cave like this one?”

“The stalac-thingy.”

“The big stalactite. The Mantle of Zeus,” clarified Daniel, not meaning to rub it in.

“Yeah. Daniel, you were right. But whatever it does, if there’s a shield you need to find the cipher to deactivate it,” said Jack. With a satisfied nod, Daniel went back to examining the photograph.

At about 1500, the last group of tourists headed upstairs, and the cave fell once more into a tranquil darkness. Restrepo, still on point, guided the group back to the spot where the control panel was. Jack ordered everyone to move up the stairs to a safer ground, while he stood next to Daniel.

“Go ahead,” he said.

Daniel opened the flap and took a brush from his tool kit to remove the grime from the interior side of the small door until he found what he suspected would be there. He pressed the buttons in a manner similar to opening a door in a Goa'uld Tel'tak.

Suddenly, a few rocks fell from the ceiling hitting the placid waters of the lagoon with a series of loud splashes. It almost seemed as if the spherical shield, that now surrounded the massive stalactite dedicated to Zeus, had grown out of the bubbling water of the lake. A large section of the pool became engulfed by the large greenish bubble, humming with energy. Inside the sphere, the surface of the water itself crystalized into a solid layer, on which four ancient Greek ceramic vessels were slowly revealed from behind an apparent cloaking shield. About twelve inches in height, they were all beautifully decorated with figures and were well sealed with a lid.

“Holy shit!” exclaimed Harris, coming down the stairs.

“Don’t get too close to the shield,” warned Jack. “It has quite a kick. Okay Danny boy, do your thing.”

“Jack, what if I deactivate the shield and the vessels sink?” asked Daniel. The group huddled together in the greenish darkness to consider the problem.

“How deep is this pool?” asked Harris.

“It could be quite deep,” said Restrepo, “but we brought a couple of masks with mini tanks.”

“Restrepo, Berenson, get ready in case you need to jump in.”

“Whatever you do, do not remove the lids. And if you see the vessels have cracked or become damaged, get out of the water immediately. Symbiotes are quite strong and will do anything to implant themselves in you,” said Daniel.

Once everyone got into position, Daniel directed his headlamp to the flap and read the words in Goa’uld, but like in the krater, were written phonetically in Greek, “Kree! Ne’nai intrum. Satak Cronus hakoor kra terak shree shol’va Zeus bral poteks!” a warning that meant, “Attention! Do not open. The great god Cronus condemns to oblivion Zeus’ accomplices.”

As soon as the shield dissipated, the rigid layer over the water began to lose cohesion. Restrepo was there first. She quickly grabbed two of the vessels and passed them on to Jack and Harris, who had run after her but were slowed down by the strange limestone formations. Daniel got there next and got one pot from Berenson who was already wading in the water. One of the vessels began to sink. Restrepo went down under the surface, her head lamp the only available illumination, and immediately Berenson followed her. The three men waiting at the surface could see the pot bouncing from rock to rock, until Berenson was able to grab it firmly with both hands. He let Restrepo pull him up to the surface. Harris was there to receive the vessel from his team.

“I think it cracked,” said Berenson, putting the pot in Harris’s hands. Without warning, the symbiote jumped out the broken lid and slid, sinuously around the mounds, jumping up at the first person it found.

Daniel was not ready for the attack. His blue eyes opened in horror at the scritching maw coming at him. But Jack was ready. He grabbed the squirming snake in mid air before it could burrow its way into a body that was not moving backwards fast enough. Once he had it on his firm grasp, Jack held it also with the other hand and without a second thought, he ripped the screaming creature in two. He then walked to the container laying on the ground, and threw the two pieces dripping in blue blood inside. Calmly, he climbed over the mounds to the surface of the water and washed his hands.

“Told ya, they're dangerous,” said Jack, and nonchalantly added, “we should each carry a vessel in our packs. Make sure they’re sealed first.”

Everyone reacted in a different way. Restrepo and Berenson began to outfit themselves for the long climb, using the extra ropes in their packs to wrap the pots to prevent a second accident. Harris, pressed his hand over Jack’s shoulder and said, “Good catch. Best ever, man,” before getting his pack together.

Jack, in case Daniel was still unsettled by the attack, climbed to his location and put a hand on his arm. “Daniel. You’re fine.”

“I know. It surprised me that the snake was able to jump so high. I think my life flashed in front of my eyes.”

“No, that was me playing Saint Paddy. We need to close the control panel.”

Daniel walked to the wall and pushed the flap closed, which blended seamlessly into the uneven surface, as if it had never existed. In fact, once the members of the team began to climb the stairs, they left behind no discernable traces of their stay in the cavern.

They departed from the site as quietly as they came in, under the cover of night. By the time they made it back to the car, they were tired and thirsty. While everyone had something to drink, Daniel took a closer look at the ceramic vessels they had recovered and quickly photographed them by the light of his headlamp.

He picked the one with the lid cracked and the dead symbiote inside. It was decorated with various figures playing musical instruments and following a female figure, wearing a crown and holding a lotus-tipped sceptre. Hera, the Goa’uld queen of heaven, was no more.

“Jack,” said Daniel pointing at the ceramic pot with the dead symbiote inside, “when you call Hammond, tell him that we found Hera’s vessel and she’s dead. So much for my professional promise of not exploring on my own without official authorization.”

“Daniel, it could not be helped. Besides, you are still registered, right?”

“Right.”

“Then consider yourself authorized. At any rate, I better update Hammond now,” said Jack, taking out his cell phone to make the call. He listened for a few minutes and then, thanking the general, he hung up. By then, the four ancient vessels had been wrapped with plastic sheets and old blankets, fitting snugly in a sealable container in the back of the SUV. A white and blue tape was placed over the box’s lid, and Jack was asked to sign it.

After they were done, they all got into the SUV and drove south for an hour, mostly in silence, until they reached a small beach with a rickety old dock. There, a high-speed surface craft was waiting to transport Harris’ team back to the aircraft carrier sitting some miles southeast of Crete.

The crew transferred the sealed crate to the boat, along with their equipment, then Harris took Jack aside, and said, “We know how dangerous these creatures are. You don’t need to worry about these pots. The seal will remain unbroken until it reaches your command in a few days. My team and I guarantee it. But O’Neill, you better have some good barbecue waiting for us when we get there.”

“Ya betcha!” exclaimed Jack. “Looking forward to your arrival, Harris. You have a terrific team.”

“Sir,” said Berenson, “when you are done with the SUV, please leave the keys at the front desk of the hotel. Somebody will come to pick it up.”

After goodbyes were over, including a quick military salute, Harris, Berenson and Restrepo jumped onto the boat and headed out to sea. Jack and Daniel were left on the beach alone.

“This is such a beautiful place,” said Daniel after a long while, looking up at the myriad stars shining above them.

“We’ll come back,” said Jack, grabbing Daniel’s hand and pulling him towards the SUV. They still had a long drive ahead of them before they could rest.

“Yeah, one day.” Daniel’s tone was wistful.

“No, we can come back this week. Hammond was so happy we captured half a dozen Goa’uld that he’s giving us a four-day vacation.”

“Really? That’s great news, Jack! We could go to see the Palace of Knossos and then you’ll see why Tuplo’s place looks like it does, and then––”

Jack didn’t let him finish. He pulled Daniel into his arms and kissed him deeply.

“I was worried back there for a moment,” said Jack, tenderly caressing his lover’s cheek.

“Me too. I don’t scare easily, but the snake rattled me. It was so sudden. What if the snake had taken me over?”

“Shhhh, you are just fine. I would’ve never let that happen,” said Jack, holding him closely, and gently rocking the man that clung to him.

But the sound of the waves and the light wind on the sand reminded them that much life was still ahead for them. In fact, they had four glorious days to see the island, visit the ruins, and––why not?––even try a little fishing.

 

 

The End