• Published 27th Jul 2017
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Two Score, Minus Two or: A Stargate Tail - Lithl

Containment breached! Humans are transforming into something else; did a Stargate team bring something home to Earth?

  • ...

Prologue: The Grand Exhibition

Author's Note:

Welcome to A Stargåte Tail! Today is July 27, 2017, the 20th anniversary of the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1. Sound off if that makes you feel old! :trollestia:

PHK-519 – Many Years Ago
Princess Celestia and Starswirl the Bearded – feeling almost naked without his signature hat – walked together across a field. Behind them, an industrial city crawled with life. Before them, a dark, dense forest of Populus trees waited for them as they approached.

"The people of Telepylos were certainly friendly, weren't they, Princess?" Starswirl asked.

"Indeed!" Celestia agreed. "It was an absolute delight to take part in their faire, teaching them about magic and friendship... I was even able to trade one of my pink diamonds for a nullstone padlock as a souvenir!" Celestia lifted a piece of rope in her magic, with a padlock attached to it. Her telekinetic aura didn't touch the metal.

"Yes, it's rather surprising the amount of nullstone available on this world," Starswirl nodded. "I suspect they don't find it quite so remarkable, though, since we were introducing magic to them for the first time. A nullstone padlock would provide excellent anti-unicorn security, though."

With a glance at Starswirl's hatless head, Celestia asked, "Will you be alright, leaving Hatty behind with them?"

"Hatty the Second," Starswirl corrected her. "I'm sure I'll be fine. I left Hatty with my best preservation spell. The Telepylosians will surely be able to learn much more about magic with the foundation we gave them and an enchanted object to study." His eyes drifted upwards to consider where the brim of his hat had once been. "As for myself," he mused, "I've found that good hats come to those who need them. I'm sure I'll find Hatty the Third before too long. Did I ever tell you the story about how I found Hatty the Second? I was floating in a bathtub miles out to sea..."

Celestia tuned out her mentor as he started rambling. As much as she enjoyed his company and his tutelage, as much as his magic mirror did to distract her from losing Luna, sometimes he was a bit much.

Eventually, the pair reached the looming forest, and then came upon a great stone ring standing on its edge, with a pedestal sharing its design sitting nearby.

"Ah! We're back to the anchor ring!" Starswirl said, interrupting his fanciful story about a whale, a monk, and his hat.

"Who do you suppose built the anchor rings?" Celestia asked. "The Telepylosians had no idea what we were talking about when we mentioned it, and we've seen them in a few other worlds we've traveled to.

"I don't know," Starswirl admitted. "My hypothesis is that there is, or was at some point in history, a group of interdimensional travelers with access to tremendous amounts of magicite." Starswirl cast his spell to summon their return home, and within seconds the ring filled with a flat mirrored surface. "It's a bit of a pain that the presence of an anchor ring forces my mirror to connect to only a single spot in the entire dimension, but on the other hoof they make summoning the return mirror foal's play."

"Perhaps one day we'll get to meet the descendants of the anchor ring builders," Celestia wondered aloud as she stepped into the mirror, disappearing.

Starswirl chuckled to himself, "Maybe you'll get to meet them, miss alicorn princess, but I'm an old pony, and I won't be around too much longer." He followed Celestia through the mirror, and a few seconds later the ring was empty once again.

PHK-519 – Present Day
In a dense forest of aspen-like trees, a twenty-two-foot-wide stone ring stood upright, overgrown. Clearly artificial, but just as clearly untouched for decades or centuries. The edge of the ring was decorated with a myriad of glyphs which conveyed no apparent meaning of their own.

Then, the ring began to rotate in place, under its own power.

The ring stopped, and one of the chevrons on the outside began to glow reddish-orange in the darkness of the thick forest canopy. This process repeated six more times, with seven different chevrons coming to life, before the empty space within the ring suddenly filled with what was apparently frothy blue water.

The turbulence shot forwards, horizontal to the ground in defiance of gravity, annihilating the tree trunks and undergrowth in its path. The surge subsided back to its origin, and the stone ring held a rippling blue surface, constantly moving. The trees that were now missing large portions of their trunks promptly fell over.

Seconds after the last tree fell, an object began to emerge from the vertical puddle: a machine, approximately four feet high, resting on a set of six wheels. The device was loaded out with a manipulator arm and a camera, and overall gave the impression of a miniature tank.

The probe trundled forward over the forest debris, its camera turning side to side and sending the images back to the humans controlling it from Stargate Command.

Two Score, Minus Two

A Stargåte Tail

Stargate Command Embarkation Room
Several people stood at the bottom of the ramp leading up to the Stargate, waiting for the green light to follow after the Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe, or MALP. The five members of the interstellar exploration team were dressed in olive uniforms with black tactical vests. On each of their left shoulders, a Velcro patch identified them as members of Stargate Command, while their right shoulders each had a patch indicating that they were part of SG-1, the flagship team of the SGC.

Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell was the team's commanding officer. His short, brown hair was just visible under an olive cap as he waited patiently with his FN P90 SMG at rest to begin the routine reconnaissance mission. As a veteran fighter pilot and a member of a team that regularly got itself into close-quarters combat, Cam was able to keep himself lean and fit without much additional effort.

Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter was the second in command of the unorthodox team. Sam, in addition to her military accolades, was an astrophysicist and an engineer; she was one of the lead scientists on the Stargate program which had been running in secret under Cheyenne Mountain for the past ten years. Air Force training and field experience kept her trim, just like Mitchell. Carter also displayed the military patience Mitchell was exerting, although she allowed her short blonde hair to breathe without headwear.

Doctor Daniel Jackson was an archaeologist and a linguist, and he was often responsible for acting as translator. Daniel wore an olive green boonie hat and was outfitted similarly to Mitchell and Carter, although he was generally more accurate with his M9 pistol than the P90 SMGs when called to action. He was generally far more sedentary than either Mitchell or Carter, much preferring research in a library over physical exertion outside.

Like Daniel, Teal'c was not a member of the United States military. He was also not, strictly speaking, human. While apparently a large man of African descent, he was actually a member of an alien race called Jaffa, a genetically engineered offshoot of humanity. With over one hundred years of experience and training as a Jaffa warrior, Teal'c was much bulkier than any of his companions. Teal'c did not carry a P90, preferring instead to use the Goa'uld-made Ma'tok staff weapon. On his forehead, a brand of gold cut into his skin was a reminder of his former enslavement to a false god.

The last member of the team was Vala Mal Doran. Like Teal'c, Vala had not been born on Earth, but she was human. The Milky Way Galaxy was full of planets populated by humans stolen from Earth millennia ago, and Vala was a descendant of one such group. Vala had been a thief and con artist, wiry by necessity, until eventually finding something of a home with the SGC and SG-1. Vala kept her raven-black hair long, and she wore the same fatigues as the rest of the group, though only because it was required.

"MALP shows no activity," Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman could be heard over the Embarkation Room's speakers. Harriman was in the control room overlooking SG-1 and the active Stargate.

Major General Henry "Hank" Landry stood next to Sergeant Harriman, and leaned forward to speak into the microphone, "SG-1, you're go for recon on PHK-519. We'll be expecting your call back in six hours."

Colonel Mitchell gave the general a casual salute and stepped forward, crying to his team, "Let's move out!"

PHK-519 – Exterior, Day
SG-1 stepped out of the Stargate's wormhole with a small sucking sound and quickly spread out, alert for danger. While the sensors on the MALP hadn't detected anything, that didn't mean nothing was there.

Daniel took interest in the Stargate itself. "Nobody has been here in years," he said. "If this planet is inhabited, their culture has probably forgotten that the 'gate even exists, much less where it is or what it's used for."

"Forest was too thick to send out a UAV," Mitchell said as he stepped over a tree that had been felled by the unstable vortex in front of the opening wormhole, "but data from the MALP says there's a weak energy signature about four klicks to the northeast. There's somebody here."

With that, SG-1 began making their way through the underbrush towards the signal, hoping that the mission would turn up results more interesting than trees. This hope despite previous experience that 'interesting' often meant 'run for your life.'

PHK-519 Settlement – Exterior, Day
Almost immediately upon reaching the edge of the forest, SG-1 had been able to tell where their destination lay: an entire industrial city was within easy walking distance of the forest edge. If anything could account for the energy signal the MALP had detected, it would be there.

"Judging from the building construction, I'd say these people are at the beginning of an Industrial Revolution," Jackson said as the group walked down a wide cobblestone street overgrown with weeds. "Expect technology similar to that of the late 1700s."

"Should we expect any people?" Vala asked sarcastically, waving one hand around and indicating the distinct lack of any life in the large city beyond plants and vermin, and the crumbling nature of the surrounding buildings.

"Well, something's giving off this signal," Carter was following a handheld device that had picked up the same signal the MALP had detected. "I doubt any Industrial Revolution types would have something that could keep going for very long without supervision."

As the group followed Carter's directions towards the source of the signal, the street narrowed slightly, and empty carriages began appearing on the side of the road. They were obviously designed to be horse-drawn, but the leather harnesses had rotted to nearly nothing. "The population of this city has been gone for some time, ColonelCarter," Teal'c said stoically. "It is possible the energy source you are tracking is not native to this planet." Teal'c gripped his staff weapon tightly, and Mitchell adjusted his grip on his rifle, just in case.

Eventually, Carter led the group to a large building near the center of town, with a vast square surrounding it. Booths, stands, signs, and more were arrayed all over the square, all abandoned with many knocked over or collapsed.

It seemed that a few stalls had held food items at one point, long rotted away and devoured by insects, but most of the displays seemed to be showing off devices and objects d'art of all sorts.

Here was a sign with faded and torn photos of an exceedingly large diamond, though no diamond could be seen nearby. Over there was some kind of harvester machine. A table of rusted revolvers, fallen from their display stands. A collection of padlocked boxes with what must have once been diagrams of the locks' internal mechanisms.

"It's the World's Fair," Daniel realized. "Or something similar to it, anyway." He gestured at the building in the center of the square, completely covered in glass and said, "This place has a lot in common with the Crystal Palace, too, where the first international exhibition of technology was held on Earth!" Of course, after years with zero maintenance, the glass building was missing many of its panels, and the ones that remained were covered in grime.

"Yeah, but everyone seems to have abandoned the entire thing. The inventors didn't even take their inventions home with them," Sam said as she walked past a large, curling poster apparently extolling the virtues of a device that looked like a phonograph in a script that only Daniel would have been able to read, if any of them could. The device itself, and a supply of tinfoil-wrapped cylinders in a box, sat on display next to the poster, worn by years outside in the weather. "Come on, the signal is coming from inside."

"But, what about these?" Daniel whimpered slightly, pointing to the phonograph device. "We should listen to what they might have recorded on them!"

"Keep it moving, Jackson," Mitchell said, pushing Daniel in the back gently. "The general will send a science team here when we get back, and they'll be all over everything these people left behind."

PHK-519 – "Crystal Palace"
Inside the Crystal Palace analogue, the remains of more exhibits also stood abandoned. These displays were generally larger, and had held up better over the years when compared to the ones outside, likely due to the protection offered by the building itself, even if that protection had weakened with each broken pane of glass.

Colonel Carter navigated around the displays, not as interested in the convergent technological evolution of the planet as Daniel was, following the signal being picked up by her handheld. She led the group to the dead center of the structure, where the largest and most extravagant display still stood, mostly intact.

The centerpiece for the exhibit was an unbroken glass case, containing a simple-looking pointed hat. It was a deep blue, with a lighter blue trim. Golden stars and cyan crescents were scattered over the body of the hat, and brass bells were sewn to the brim and the tip. The hat was almost child-sized, and seemed entirely out of place in an exhibition of modern technology.

"The signal seems to be coming from the hat itself," Sam said. "Some kind of unidentified radiation."

"Radiation?" Mitchell asked, a hint of worry in his voice. "Is it safe?"

"Don't worry, it doesn't appear to be ionizing radiation. It should be safe to handle."

"Don't give me that," Mitchell countered. "I've read the mission reports. You told Jack that the Crystal Skull was safe, too! And look at what it did to Daniel!"

"Well, everything turned out alright in the end, didn't it?"

Mitchell pointed at Carter accusingly and said, "I hereby reserve the right to say 'I told you so' if we end up running into miniature giant space hamsters because of this thing."

"Noted," Sam said dryly.

Daniel began inspecting the signs around the hat's display, trying to decipher why a piece of headwear held such a prominent position. "The language seems to be derivative of ancient Greek," he mumbled, mostly to himself. Cam and Sam worked to remove the hat from the display case, Teal'c scanned around the open room, staff at the ready, and Vala looked on with a bored expression while Daniel began to read aloud: "See! Greatest artifact from other world, donated at Great Exhibition by Stromvilsoú. Here Great Exhibition we show you the new invention, Stromvilsoú and Ouárnias proven plus to our sciences, there is too..." Daniel trailed off.

"There is what, Daniel?" Vala asked.

"Well," he hesitated, "I can't be certain, as the language has certainly drifted from its roots. But this word," he pointed near the end of the text displayed on a large poster, "could mean 'fascination', although that doesn't make sense in context. Another possible translation would be 'witchcraft,' but I think it would be odd for a progressive people like these to buy in to claims of magic."

"The Goa'uld frequently pass off their technology as magic, DanielJackson," said Teal'c.

"True," Daniel conceded, "but the Goa'uld are generally doing that to civilizations stuck in an earlier phase of technological development. They tend to be more gullible or superstitious. The scientists on this world should've been more critical of claims of the supernatural."

"Should we be using gloves for this?" asked Mitchell from the hat's display case, now opened.

Carter shook her head, "It should be fine."

Daniel snapped out of his contemplation at their conversation. "No! Yes! Yes! Put gloves on!" he cried. "Even if the hat isn't harmful to you, you could easily be harmful to it!"

Sam shared a look with her commanding officer and shrugged, digging into her pack for some gloves to use when handling the hat.

"Is it wise to bring this back to Stargate Command?" Teal'c asked.

"I mean, it's not like we've ever had problems caused by bringing an alien artifact back for study," Vala said sarcastically.

Teal'c looked at her and cocked one eyebrow before turning back to Carter and Mitchell. "Indeed."

Stargate Command
Shortly after returning to the SGC with the alien artifact, passing the standard medical exam for everyone arriving from off-world with a clean bill of health, and completing their debriefing with General Landry, SG-1 was cleared for some leave. A science team would be sent to PHK-519, and the hat was placed in secure storage until Carter had time to study it in depth, pulling rank to have the first opportunity to properly inspect the artifact.

Most of the members of SG-1 had plans outside Cheyenne Mountain for their few days off. Most, but not all. Which was why, when Mitchell turned around a corner and saw Vala waiting for him, he immediately turned around and began walking in the opposite direction.

This, of course, did nothing to daunt Vala. "Ooh! Another mission successfully completed," she said far-too-cheerily as she caught up with Mitchell.

"Yeah, it was," Mitchell replied evasively.

"Goodness knows, we've all earned a nice break from routine!"

Mitchell turned suddenly and hastened his pace, trying to get away from Vala. Vala followed suit. "The answer's 'no,'" Mitchell grumbled.

"You don't know what I'm gonna ask you."

"Oh, yes I do."

"Alrighty then. I have a better idea of what you're facing than you might think. I've done research." Vala stepped in front of Mitchell, forcing him to stop in his tracks.

Mitchell pinched his nose, "Oh god..."

"Traditionally," Vala began, "these events entail the bringing together of large groups of people, all with a common bond in the past, but nothing really in common in the present. Everybody evaluates each other's lot in life, generally by virtue of a combination of material worth and the attractiveness of one's date, spouse, life-partner..." Vala gestured to herself. "Let me go as your date?"

Before Vala even finished speaking, Mitchell had already begun trying to speak over her, "No! No! No!"

"Please! It'll be fun, I promise!"

Mitchell sighed, "It is a high school reunion, not some swank party. Besides you will be bored out of your mind!"

Vala stomped her foot emphatically, the gesture greatly assisted by the heavy regulation combat boots she was wearing. "Don't you dare talk to me about boredom! Everybody else here has a life. Sam, off at a conference. Daniel, in a museum somewhere, doing research. Teal'c off-world—"

"With the Jaffa," Mitchell interjected.

"With the Jaffa, yes. Me? I have absolutely nothing to do."



"It. Is. In. Kansas."

"Don't make me beg you!" Vala begged.

Conference Reception Area
Doctor Bill Lee, one of the SGC's normally Earth-bound scientists, stood with Carter off to the side of the wine reception at the "Tomorrow's Technology Today" conference. Lee had replaced his normal white lab coat with a black business suit, and Carter had similarly replaced her normal SGC fatigues.

Chatting softly, Lee said, "Doesn't it bother you, to come to these—" Lee interrupted himself to accept a glass from a passing server. "To come to these conferences to present new technology and actually adding flaws?" More quietly, he added, "I mean pretending we know less than we really do?"

Carter grimaced at her balding peer, "Well, you know the drill. We have to act like there's a process of development."

"Oh sure, easy for you!" He exclaimed, trying to keep his voice down. "You're presenting Chimera. It's practically a fully functioning Asgard hologram system."

The Asgard, who would be familiar to UFOlogists as 'greys,' were allies of Humanity and had shared a number of technological advancements, including an advanced hologram projection system. Two years ago, the Air Force had demonstrated a 'prototype' for the system in order to discredit an industrialist who had revealed an Asgard specimen cloned from a DNA sample, thus keeping the truth secret. "I get stuck with a plasma cannon that supposedly shorts out at the drop of a hat," Doctor Lee complained.

Behind him, Lee noticed two women giggling, apparently talking about him. The women waved at Lee, smiling. Carter appeared less than impressed. "On the plus side," Lee chuckled, "these events have a dynamite singles scene. It's a huge window of opportunity. I think I'll mingle. You should, too."

Carter's jaw dropped slightly, as Lee grabbed another glass of wine from another passing server and approached the two women.

Museum Research Library
A number of artifacts from several ancient cultures littered the research area, along with a multitude of old tomes of various sizes. Daniel Jackson sat at a table with a number of books lying open, a laptop, and a yellow pad of paper slowly filling with notes.

He stood and wandered over to a nearby bookshelf, pulling a large hardback volume with no label off the shelf. An attractive young Asian woman peered at him through the gap between the books. "Doing some research?" she asked.

Without looking up from the book in his hand, Daniel replied, "Yes." After a beat, he noticed he wasn't actually alone, hearing voices, and talking to himself, and looked up to see his companion. "Hi," he said lamely. The woman smiled back at him. "I'm looking for any Aramaic translations of pre-Judeo Pagan hymns, hopefully in lithograph form. Am I in the right section?"

The woman smirked on the other side of the shelf and crossed her arms. The shiny black leather coat she was wearing was certainly not part of the normal attire for museum employees. "You don't work here, do you?" Daniel realized.

The woman shook her head and smiled, "It's okay. Maybe if we looked together?"

The side of Daniel's mouth twitched, attempting to smile. "No, it's okay," he said. "I'll ask at the enquiry desk. They probably have it locked up in the rare items archive."

The woman made a small noise acknowledging his idea, and he began to walk away. Haltingly, he said, "Uh... thank you."

Jaffa Planet – Exterior, Day
Teal'c approached the Dial Home Device attached to the planet's Stargate in conversation with another Jaffa warrior, Cha'ra. Both were clad in the tan robes common in the Free Jaffa Nation, and using Ma'Tok staff weapons as walking sticks.

"I can only hope you'll reconsider and accept the seat the Council's offering you," Cha'ra said.

"You have been speaking to Bra'tac," Teal'c chuckled ruefully.

"He only asked that I voice the opinion of any clear-minded Jaffa," Cha'ra shrugged. "The reformation of our government cannot occur without the help—"

Teal'c held up a hand to silence his companion, glancing around the clearing, tense. "Down!" he cried, as energy blasts erupted from the tree line, aimed at the pair of them.

The two Jaffa took cover behind the DHD, confident that it would be able to protect them from any anti-personnel weapons. The enemy fire died away after a few moments, which Teal'c and Cha'ra took advantage of to mount a counterattack with their own staff weapons.

No response to their attack came, and eventually the pair stopped firing.

"Are you injured?" Teal'c asked.

"No. But you are," Cha'ra said after inspecting Teal'c, finding a charred wound on the older Jaffa's side. Teal'c lifted one eyebrow, but said nothing.

Jaffa Planet Tent Settlement – Interior
Teal'c sat on a stool stripped down to his trousers, while another Jaffa tended to his wound. Cha'ra entered the tent and Teal'c attempted to stand, but his attendant forced him back to sitting.

"The men guarding the gate have detected no activity. It is possible whoever attacked us left by cloaked cargo ship," Cha'ra reported.

"Or perhaps they are still here waiting for the opportunity to finish the job." Teal'c considered for a moment before continuing, "Put out word that I indeed survived the attack, but that I am gravely injured." Teal'c gave Cha'ra a predatory grin, which Cha'ra returned before walking back outside of the tent, ready to spread disinformation.

Stargate Command Briefing Room
"So, over the past week: Doctor Jackson was assaulted by an alien bounty hunter at a museum, who was killed in the street by a passing bus; Colonel Carter was assaulted by an alien bounty hunter-sniper at the technology conference, who was vaporized by Doctor Lee's X-699 plasma cannon; Teal'c was assaulted by an alien bounty hunter masquerading as a Jaffa, who was taken out personally by Teal'c with the help of other Jaffa; and the entirety of Colonel Mitchell's high school reunion was held hostage by an alien bounty hunter attempting to capture Mitchell and Vala, who was subsequently captured by the rest of SG-1... and then released?" General Landry looked up from the file in front of him at SG-1 sitting around the conference table. "Care to explain, Mitchell?"

"Sir, the bounty on our heads was placed by the Lucian Alliance because we've been making Netan look weak. As you know from when I was undercover on Netan's ship, his seconds are beginning to doubt his leadership of the Alliance," Mitchell explained. Landry nodded and motioned for the Lieutenant Colonel to continue. "This latest failure only makes Netan look even worse than before, and letting Ventrell free ensures that everybody knows it. Netan's seconds are going to be sending bounty hunters after Netan soon enough."

General Landry looked askance at Mitchell, uncertain about the man's conclusions, but SG-1 had always been an unorthodox team, even before Landry took command of the SGC. Their record spoke to their ability, saving the planet on practically an annual basis, and earned them a certain amount of leeway.

Mitchell fidgeted a bit in his seat. "Sir, if there's nothing else, I would appreciate being able to hit the showers. Kansas is unforgiving, if you get my drift." Vala nodded in agreement.

Landry flipped the file folder closed and nodded, waving SG-1 off from debrief of their overly-eventful vacation time.

Stargate Command Locker Room, Men's Showers
Mitchell turned on the water and stripped out of the dress clothes he had been wearing to the reunion dance, tossing them far aside. As he began scrubbing down, he heard singing from the other side of the wall separating the men's and women's showers. Although it was difficult to make out the words, Vala's voice was easy to place. Mitchell rolled his eyes, but said nothing. Despite her useful skills, Vala was not only not a member of the United States Air Force like Carter and himself, she was actually born on another planet. Almost everything she learned about culture norms on Earth came from the television in her quarters, as she rarely had the opportunity to leave the base at all outside official missions. 'Singing in the shower' had apparently infected her from God only knew what television show.

Out of the corner of his eye, Mitchell noticed something unexpected. Glancing down, there was a trio of blue diamonds on his ass. Both sides, actually. He scrubbed at the image, but it wouldn't come off.

"VALA!" Mitchell screamed. The singing from the women's showers stopped, and he heard a muffled response, but not her exact words. "WHAT DID YOU DO?!"