Ok, ok, I should be working on the next chapter of the Terran Jedi, but this bloody thing appeared in my head and once again made such a nuisance of itself that I had to write it. Plot bunnies will be the death of me, I swear. Right, now to start writing the next chapter of the Terran Jedi!
Jack O'Neill looked around them with a sigh of antipathy as the Stargate disengaged behind them with its usual swish of noise, leaving SG-1 in a clearing. "It's always trees. You'd think that the universe could have started to evolve a better kind of tree by now. Ok, let's head out to the ruins." He took a few steps and then paused as he realised that he was on his own. "Guys?" He turned around to see the rest of his team staring around them in puzzlement. "What?"
"Jack, where's the mountain that's supposed to be about ten miles north of here?" asked Daniel as he squinted at the horizon.
"DanielJackson is correct O'Neill," boomed Teal'c. "We do not appear to be in the correct place as indicated by the MALP."
"What are you…" he turned to look north and then stopped dead in his tracks and swore under his breath. No mountain. Trees, yes, mountain no. "Oh for crying out loud! Carter, what happened?"
"I'm trying to work that out now Colonel," his second in command said as she scanned the horizon with her binoculars. "Oh."
"What 'oh'? I don't like the sound of that 'oh', Carter it makes me think that bad things are going to emerge about our location."
To her credit Carter looked a bit sheepish. "Sir, Daniel's right. There should be a mountain about ten miles away. The trees also seem to be different. I don't think that we're on P-389C7."
"Crap," Jack sighed. "Ok then, does anyone have any idea where we are and how this happened?"
"No idea yet Sir."
"Haven't got a clue."
"This world is unfamiliar to me O'Neill."
Jack muttered something even ruder under his breath and then sighed. "Ok, well let's take a quick swing around the site to find out where the hell we are, then we'll dial the SGC and tell them we'll be home early. Carter, any theories why we aren't where we're supposed to be?"
"A few sir, but I need to find out just where we are before I can-"
"Guys, you need to see this," Daniel broke in with a frown on his face and a lot of puzzlement in his voice. He had wandered over to one side and had discovered a large sign partly hidden by a bush. "Stargate – improper use of this device could result in a fine of 100 pounds", he read out loud.
"A hundred pounds of what?" asked Jack vaguely as he sniffed the air.
"A hundred pounds sterling, Jack. There's even the sign for it."
Jack tilted his head in puzzlement and then strode over to stare at the sign. Sure enough, it said '£100'. "Well that's… odd," he conceded after a moment. "What are the chances that someone invented that currency sign away from Earth?"
"Very small, but I guess it's possible," replied Daniel after a moment. Then he stared harder at the sign and reached down to pull a small shrub away from the lower right hand corner to reveal a somewhat worn symbol. "And the chances of there being a lion and a unicorn on either side of a coat of arms makes it even smaller, but that's what's here."
Jack stared at it and then moved up close to inspect it properly. "You sure that's a lion? Looks more like a cat."
"Well Jack I know that it's pretty worn, but that looks like the British Royal Crest."
The leader of SG-1 straightened up and then looked around. "Ok," he shouted, "Quit with the joke here, it ain't funny! We're not in the UK!"
A few birds exploded into the air to one side at the sound of his voice, but otherwise the clearing remained silent and still and devoid of any practical jokers from the SGC, must to Jack's dismay.
After a moment Jack's shoulders slumped. "Ah, crap. Where are we anyway?"
"Why don't we go and find out?" asked Daniel in his 'let's not annoy the irked man with a gun' tone of voice.
"Yes, let's. Spread out all of you and-"
"O'Neill. Something is burning not too far away from here." The Jaffa wrinkled his nose slightly and then pointed in a north-east direction. "That way."
"Burning as in forest fire, or burning as in something possibly man-made?" asked Jack with a sharp look at the huge man.
Teal'c sniffed again. "It smells like burnt metal."
"Ok," Jack muttered, hefting his gun, "Spread out and be careful people. I don't know where we are or what we're doing, but knowing our luck sometimes we're gonna get into trouble."
Spreading out as directed they passed into the tree line, moving carefully over the piled soft ground that seemed to be mainly made of leaf mould. As they passed the first trees Daniel looked up at it and then blinked. "Jack, this is an oak tree."
"That's nice. Daniel will you keep your eyes on what might be lurking in the undergrowth and not on the trees?"
"Ok…" he grumbled.
There was a rough path through the trees and as they passed further into the woods then the path widened a little before dipping into a small valley, and it was there that they saw the smoke. It was also there that Daniel found the first piece of wreckage, a lump of metal as long as himself that had scorch marks all over it and which was embedded quite a way into the ground.
"Sir, this looks like something that might have come from a spacecraft," said Carter quietly as they all looked at it.
"Yeah, well something took a chunk out of it," Jack pointed out. "Stay sharp."
They found the first signs of what must have been a very rough crash landing at the bottom of the valley, where a small stream had received a very near miss given the size of the hole and the additional chunk of burnt metal. About a hundred and fifty yards further on there was more wreckage and then beyond that they saw the remains of what had once been a medium-sized spacecraft but which was now a pile of scrap.
One landing leg had been snapped off and another was canted at a crazy angle in the air. As for the rest of the craft it was… odd.
"Yuck," said Jack, speaking for them all. It was the most organic-looking thing he'd ever seen, all mottled red with peculiar bumps here and there. It looked like something that had been grown more than built. Smoke was whafting gently out of it, although there had not been a large fire that they could see. Instead it looked wrecked but not gutted.
"Sir, this looks like organic technology," Cater breathed as they approached it carefully.
"Looks like something horrible you mean," Jack pointed out as they came close to it. Then he paused and tucked his P-90 a little more firmly into his shoulder as he peered down the sights. "Wait a second, there's something…" He darted forwards and then stopped dead. In front of him, almost hidden in a fold of battered earth, was a body. He stared at it. Then he scrunched his eyes closed, opened them again, flinched slightly and looked at the others. "Ok, does everyone see the presumably dead giant ant-man wearing a uniform with a big freaking hole in its chest and holding what remains of a gun?"
"Uh, yes sir," said Carter with a certain sense of revulsion.
"Yeah but I wish I hadn't," said Daniel, who looked as if he was about to toss his cookies.
"Does anyone know what that thing is?" Jack demanded as he looked around carefully. In his experience where there was one alien creature than a second tended to be about to drop on your head seeking a light snack.
"Not a clue."
"It is a ghast," rumbled Teal'c. His nostrils were flaring and he was looking about the wreckage warily, his staff weapon held in both hands, ready for instant use.
The others looked at each other and then back at Teal'c. "Ok," said Jack eventually, "I'll bite. What's a ghast?"
"They are a highly-organised species from the far tip of the next spiral arm of the galaxy," Teal'c said grimly. "Their cloning technologies were closely studied by the Goa'uld. I was not aware that they had spread very far in the galaxy however."
Jack stared at the creature and then at Teal'c and then back again. "Ok, and when were you going to get around to telling the rest of us about these things?"
"They are relatively isolated, O'Neill. Plus the Goa'uld dislike them, although not enough to exterminate them."
"What a pity," grunted Jack as he looked at the remains of the ship. Then he frowned. "We'd better check that there aren't any more of those things around before we do anything else. Last thing we need is giant bug-ant-men chasing after us. Let's check the wreckage first."
The wreckage did indeed contain other ghasts, but as SG-1 was rather glad to discover they were all very dead ghasts, having been obviously killed in the crash. They certainly discovered enough severed limbs to keep any pathologist busy for weeks. They also discovered large amounts of viscous gunk, which stuck to the bottom of their shoes and smelled vile enough to make even Teal'c wince.
"Right," said Jack as they thankfully filed out of the wreck, "Big check on the 'dead ant-men' list. That was just… gross."
"Teal'c why didn't the Goa'uld use these ghasts?" asked Daniel as he wiped his boots on the nearest patch of uncharred grass.
The Jaffa paused and then tilted his head. "Because their technology revolted Ra himself."
"I can see why, with all that gunk slopping around in their ships," Jack grunted as he wiped off his own boots.
"Indeed. Their airlocks are also… somewhat disturbing," Teal'c rumbled as he walked over to the entrance to the wreck and inspected a spot in the hull. "Observe."
He reached out and opened a small hatch, winced visibly and then pressed something inside. The entrance… closed, if such a word could be used to describe what basically looked like an orifice puckering shut with a noise that could best be replicated by a giant elephant removing its foot from a blocked toilet.
"Eeeuuuuwwwww!" squeaked the non-Jaffa complement of SG-1.
"That's going to stay with me for some time," said Jack with an appalled look on his face. "That was… revolting."
"I'm going to raise your revolting and say that that was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life," opined Daniel with a thoroughly appropriate look of revulsion on his face. "I can see why Ra didn't like them. And why any of the System Lords would dislike them."
"Yes, it would never do to get goop on their nice new robes, would it?" smirked Jack. "Or to arrive in a spacecraft with an airlock that operates like a cats' ass." He looked at Carter, who was gazing on the wreckage with very mixed emotions written on her face. "Oh come on Carter, please tell me that airlock puts even you off organic technology."
"It… can have its uses, sir," she said in a voice that sounded as if she was trying to persuade herself as well as him.
"Carter, I have no intention of emerging from a spacecraft like a… deposit from something's ass!"
Carter opened her mouth for a moment and then closed it again with a grimace. "Good point sir."
"In fact I-" But Jack was cut off as Teal'c suddenly swung around and held up a hand as he stared into the trees.
"O'Neill, someone is approaching."
"Cover, everyone, now!" Jack hissed as he bounded away into the undergrowth, followed by his team.
Someone was indeed coming, but given the trembling and shaking of the undergrowth, as well as the odd whining noise, they weren't making much of an effort to conceal their presence. And then they came into sight. The someone was a shortish woman with mousy brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, dressed in a brown jumpsuit with dark brown boots and a large holster on her belt that obviously contained a weapon. She was dragging what seemed to be an anti gravity sled that looked as if it was decorated with a lot of brass and by the way that she was swearing she was in a very bad mood.
"Sodding arsing buggering High Command bastards," she hissed as she approached the broken wreck. She sounded British. "Scum-sucking, arse-licking bastard…" she kicked a lump of earth bitterly as she seemed to search for the right word, "Bastards!" Then she glared at the wreck, before kicking that as well, before hissing with pain and dancing about on one foot as she clutched at the other.
Then she glared at the body of the ghast, visibly thought about kicking it too and then changed her mind. "Bloody ghasts," she muttered. "Taking pot shots at people. Heh. Good thing we had that missile system installed. You didn't like that did you, beetleboy! And now I've got to get a bloody tissue sample off you. Why couldn't the bloody high-ups ask for a tissue sample before we shot the buggers down? Why can't someone on the bloody front line get a sample? Why does it have to be bloody me? I had an afternoon of leisure planned, well once the repairs are done. Me and my dirty mag and my new vib-" She stopped dead, her eyes on the closed airlock. Then she looked around furtively and unclipped a radio of some sort from her belt. "Boss," she hissed into it.
There was a pause and then a crackle of static. "Is that you Carveth?" said a very British voice. "Tea's up by the way."
"Yes, it's me! When you and spear-boy were checking out the wreck did you leave the airlock open or closed?"
"Open," said the voice. "Why?"
"Because it's closed now."
"Oh." There was a pause. "Carveth, we checked, they're all dead."
"Well something closed the bloody thing!"
"We're on our way."
As Carveth clipped the radio back onto the belt and looked around nervously Jack looked at the others and rolled his eyes, before he made a 'wait and see' motion with his right hand.
He was never sure afterwards just which of them had made the noise, but he was pretty sure that it had been a very tiny one, nothing more than a creak of a belt perhaps, or a tiny whisper of cloth rubbing against cloth. Whatever it was, all of a sudden Carveth had pulled out a very large handgun out of the holster and was pointing it almost exactly at them. To make matters worse she was also almost visibly shaking in terror. "I hear you!" she called out with more than a slight quaver in her voice, "Come on out! Um, unless you're a Praetorian, in which case stay there so I can shoot you!"
"Ah crap," muttered Jack, before looking at his team, who gave him a collective shrug. "Ok," he said loudly, "We really mean you no harm and I'm going to stand up now, so please don't put a hole in me with that little cannon of yours, ok?" Very carefully he stood up and faced her, making sure that his hands were nowhere near his P-90.
She blinked hard at the sight of him and then her face twisted into suspicious surprise, making her look as if she had a bad smell under just one nostril. "How many more of you are there? And where the bloody hell did you come from?"
Jack didn't look at the others at all, but judging from the way that she was waving her gun to cover the rough area where the rest of SG-1 was hiding, he could tell that she somehow know that they were there. "We come in peace?" he said, making his 'stand up' gesture with his right hand as slow and non-threatening as possible.
As the other members of SG-1 stood up Carveth took a step back and then pulled out her radio again. "We've got company boss. Four people. Humans."
"Edenites?" came the response. "Where are they from?"
Carveth peered at them suspiciously. Then she frowned. "Buggered if I know what kind of uniform that is." Then she caught sight of Teal'c and his staff weapon. "Cor, hasn't he got a big one?" The moment this left her mouth she growled and shook her head. "Stick! It's a bloody stick! Sodding designers…"
"Um, can I stress that we really do come in peace?" Daniel said carefully.
"You'll be resting in pieces unless you tell me who you are and where you come from," Carveth barked, punctuating her words with a wave of the handgun that almost made Jack duck.
"We're explorers," said Daniel in what Jack recognized as his 'let's calm down the trigger-happy neighbors' voice. "I'm Daniel Jackson, that's Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter and the guy with the, um, stick is Teal'c. We come from a planet called Earth."
This got him a very odd look indeed from Carveth, who pointed her gun to cover him. "We're all from Earth," she scowled, "Well, originally from Earth. You'll have to do better than that!"
"What do we have here Carveth?" asked a voice to one side and Jack winced as he caught sight of the new gun being pointed at his team. It was long and rifle-like and also looked extremely business-like, not to mention lethal, and was being held by a tall dark-haired man with a moustache and a long brown coat. Under the coat Jack could see that he was wearing a red tunic and black trousers. From his voice he was the 'Boss' whom Carveth had been talking to on the radio.
"They sound like Yanks, boss," she replied, visibly relaxing at the sight of the man. "No idea where they're from, but they say that they're explorers from Earth."
"And they're standing next to a gertie ship!" the man barked. Then he paused. "Well, they're not wearing Edenite uniforms."
"I should say not!" replied Jack. "What's an Edenite if you don't mind me asking?"
"Someone from the Democratic Republic of New Eden," the man said, narrowing his eyes at him.
SG-1 looked blankly at each other and then collectively shrugged. "Never heard of it," said Jack. "Although anything calling itself 'Democratic Republic' tends to be neither I guess."
Carveth and her boss exchanged incredulous glances. "Given the fact that the blighters control about 60-odd worlds and have cosied up to gertie, I find that extremely unlikely," the guy said with a growl. Then he stared at Jack's P-90 and raised both eyebrows. "Good god, what an antique," he said. "Hmm. And very un-Edenite, they like their guns big and fancy and with all the bells and lights and bloody whistles."
Jack looked at his P-90 indignantly. "Hey!" he said, "I'll have you know this is the latest model!"
There was a long moment of mutual confusion and then the man with the gun frowned. "No it's not," he said, "They haven't made those things for centuries. Belgian P-90, I've seen one in the Old Imperial War Museum."
Jack froze. Oh crap, he thought, no, it can't be. Then he turned to Carter, summoned the most patient look that he could muster and asked the burning question. "Carter. Did we screw up and time travel again?"
"Um." Carter frowned and then looked at Carveth and the man with the rifle. "Can I ask what year it is?"
"What year?" asked the man in bemusement. "2436 of course, what else could it be?"
Jack's jaw dropped open for a moment and then he closed his eyes and swore viciously. "Carter," he said eventually, "Didn't we have a little talk about not letting this kind of thing happen?"
"Yes sir, and we do have data coming in all the time from the people at NOAA to make sure that we don't have any outgoing wormholes when there's a large amount of solar flare activity, but… oh."
"Oh? What kind of an 'oh' was that Carter?"
"Oh as in… the data was a bit incomplete this morning and we probably should have waited to double check that it was all clear."
"Hey!" said an annoyed voice to one side, "I'm still trying to interrogate you here!"
"Sorry," said Jack, turning back to him and holding his hands up again. "Just making sure of something."
"Right," said the man with the rifle. "Now. What was that about which year it is? What year did you think it was?"
"Um, 2002?" Jack admitted with a wince.
There was a pause and then Carveth burst out laughing. "Yes, right, pull the other one it's got bells on."
"Sadly it's true," sighed Daniel. "Look, can we put our hands down please? It's very tiring."
"Where's your ship?" asked the man with the rifle. "How did you get here?"
"Well," said Daniel with a sigh of his own, "We don't have one. We used a device called a Stargate, which is in a clearing about half a mile over there," he pointed in vaguely the right direction.
The man with the rifle lowered his weapon with a groan. "Oh bloody hell, not the Stargate system. No wonder."
Carveth looked at the man and then faltered. "You're not telling me that you believe this do you boss?"
"Yes," the man said, brushing at his moustache. "That damn thing's a bloody menace, it always has been. Solar flares and whatnot affect them at the drop of a hat, they're always sending people forwards or back or to places on top of black holes, I mean you'd have thought that people would have learnt their lesson by now." He looked at SG-1 and sighed deeply. "Or will learn by now. This kind of thing makes my head hurt. Put the gun down Carveth."
"Thanks," said Jack cautiously as Carveth obeyed orders. "Could you tell us where we are?"
"Marlow Four," grunted man. "Some way away from the main spaceport I might add. Isambard Smith, Captain in the British Merchant Space Navy." He walked up and held his hand out, which Jack promptly shook, wincing slightly at the ferocity of Smith's grip.
"We came through the Stargate, smelt the burning and discovered the wreck," he said.
"Yes, we shot it down about two hours ago," Smith said with a fierce gleam in his eyes. "Dirty gertie sod tried to ambush us as we came in on final approach. Didn't count on our new missile system and they came a fearful cropper."
"So I see," said Jack a little weakly, still partly stunned by the oddness of the entire situation. "Sorry, British Merchant Space Navy?"
"Sir, we shouldn't be asking anything about the current state of history," Carter said urgently. "The last thing we need to do is alter the timeline!"
"Oh, um, yes. What she said," Jack muttered.
"The time line?" asked Smith blankly. Then the penny dropped and he pulled a face. "Oh yes, that stuff. My grandfather doesn't meet my grandmother at the right time, so I end up not going to school or something." He rolled his eyes. "If you ask me that's why they started slapping fines on unauthorized usage of the Stargate network."
"But how do you travel from world to world?" Daniel asked, looking puzzled and totally ignoring Carter's spluttered objections about information polluting the time line.
"Bloody big spaceships!" Carveth piped up as she looked around in a confused manner. "Um, boss?"
"You said that 'We' were coming to help me. Where's Suruk?"
Smith froze for a moment. "Bugger," he said faintly, before filling his lungs and bellowing: "SURUK! They're FRIENDS!"
There was a whisper of noise and a spear embedded itself in the tree next to Teal'c, who whipped his head around in the direction from which it had come.
What followed was a moment of fast and furious action. Something brown and nasty exploded out of the undergrowth to one side and slammed into the side of Teal'c, who moved just fast enough to effectively roll with the blow and throw the pair of them into a nearby bush.
There was a loud click and then an inoffensive branch to one side was blasted to smithereens, making everyone freeze where they were. Jack turned his head to see that Carveth was standing there with a wisp of smoke coming from her gun and a look of faint alarm mixed with annoyance. "Have you lot finished, or would you like to vent some more testosterone first?" she asked archly.
There was a rustle in the bush and Teal'c emerged slowly. He was holding a knife in one hand and was clutching at a wound on his right side with his other. As for the other… person, Jack took one look at him/her/it and went white. It was a tall thin thing with a face that looked like a frog crossed with a crab. It had mandibles for a start. It was holding a sword and had a wound of its own on one leg. It also looked more than a bit sulky.
"Spoilsport, Carveth," it hissed, making Jack jump slightly at the sound of human speech issuing from those mouthparts. "Just because you are a coward who doesn't like fighting that does not give you the right to stop my own fight." It moved its' mandibles in what Jack very much hoped was a smile. "I was enjoying that. It has been many years since one of my kind fought one of his."
Carveth and Smith looked at each other in bafflement. "One of his what, Suruk?" she asked, frowning puzzledly.
The thing, whose name was apparently Suruk, smiled again. "He is a Jaffa."
There was more bafflement. "He's not an orange, he's a human, old boy," said Smith in a confused voice.
"I am indeed a Jaffa," rumbled Teal'c. "But I am unfamiliar with his species."
"Suruk, they came from the Stargate," said Smith, stressing the last word with a certain amount of tired intensity."
"Oh," said Suruk, lowering his sword slightly. "That thing. The gate to confusion as my Father used to call it."
"That sounds as good a name as any," Jack sighed tiredly as he rubbed at his forehead. "Ok, Carter what do you need to get us back to where – and when – we need to be?"
"I need to know exactly where we are, if there was any significant solar activity when we came through and if there's going to be anything similar soon," Carter replied, ticking the points off on her fingers.
The three people – well the two Brits and the alien – looked at each other and then Smith and Suruk looked at Carveth, who looked back at them. "What?" she asked in an aggrieved manner.
"You fly the ship, you should know about such things as solar flares," said Suruk as he bounded over to stand by Smith, all the time keeping at least one eye on Teal'c.
This bought him a shrug from Carveth. "Dunno," she grumbled, "I just fly the ship. I don't watch out for solar flares, I just input the latest solar forecast from the Met Office into the computer and let it handle it… what?" she asked as everyone stared at her.
"Solar forecast from the Met Office?" Daniel said with one finger slightly raised.
Carveth thought about what she'd just said and then paused. "Ah," she said. "Perhaps we'd better go and take a look at it. It should list all the activity that's going to take place today."
"You can do that?" Carter asked with a frown.
Carveth looked at her and rolled her eyes. "Yes, the Met Office might be a pain, but they're quite good at that. Just don't ask them for a long-term forecast for the next ice age or anything." She sighed, pulled out an odd-looking syringe, and then took what looked like a large amount of blood from the nearest body of a ghast. "Come on, back to a ship that can fly."
It was quite a surreal experience, Jack reflected afterwards, to walk through the forest with a Brit who looked like a refugee from an H Rider Haggard novel, a female pilot with a talent for unintended double-entendres and the frog-crab thing from hell. Oddly enough the latter was getting on like a house on fire with Teal'c They were even talking weapons. As for Daniel, he was being leered at a lot by Carveth, who had told him that her first name was Polly and that she was unattached right now, well sort of… would he like to see her hamster by the way? Daniel was obviously debating if this was a pet name for a certain part of her, when she added that Gerald liked sunflower seeds, which caused him to relax. As for Smith, he was looking grimly determined.
"You ok?" Jack asked, making Smith jump slightly.
"What? Oh, sorry. I was just thinking. We need to get off-planet quite quickly. Secret mission. Very hush-hush. Fate of the Galaxy and so on. Oh and I was about to warn you not to have any of Rhiannon's tea. Makes me feel all wonky."
Jack was about to ask who Rhiannon was, and what the war was about, when he caught sight of a ship though the trees. It looked… functional. It would never win any aesthetic awards, but it looked like a spaceship. Standing next to the main entrance was a figure. She was dressed in a long skirt, had a blouse on that didn't cover one shoulder, had bare feet and she was sitting in what looked like the lotus position. As they approached she opened her eyes and then sprang to her feet, looking slightly concerned but also slightly intrigued.
"Rhiannon," said Smith gravely, going up to her and kissing her on the cheek (blushing as he did so) "These are some people who came through the Stargate here."
Rhiannon looked at them carefully and then looked worried. "Oh dear," she sighed, sounding vaguely Californian. "Are they from another time?"
"It looks awfully like it," Smith said with a sigh of his own. "I really wish the Government would box the damn things up and ship them away somewhere. Anyway, we'll give them a copy of the sun forecast for today and hopefully that should get them back again."
The future-hippy-chick looked at them all again, with no small degree of wonder at Teal'c, before pointing at him. "But if they're-"
"Yes, they're all from the past, and we shouldn't tell them anything important in case the space-time continuum unknots itself or something." said Smith hurriedly. "Suruk likes the big chap especially. They tried to kill each other, so I suppose that makes him an honorary Morlock or something. Anyway, Carveth, get the forecast will you?"
The pony-tailed pilot broke off from her attempts at chatting up a slightly alarmed looking Daniel and pouted at Smith before trotting up to the ship and vanishing into it. A few minutes she re-appeared clutching a hand-held pad that seemed to double as a computer. She jabbed at it a few times, muttering under her breath and then handed it over to Carter, who frowned at it – and then her jaw dropped open.
"Sir," she said eventually, "It's a list of times for solar flares. Down to the minute and the order of magnitude."
"Standard forecast," said Carveth, looking bemused. "Nothing earth-shattering about that."
"It's the future, Carter," Jack broke in, "Deal with it."
Visibly restraining herself from further protests, Carter glared down at the list again. Then she looked up again. "What's the local time?"
"1.23 pm," said Smith after he looked at a large and rather ornate pocket watch that seemed to have about three faces.
This prompted Carter to look worried. "Sir, there's going to be a perfect-sized solar flare in about 15 minutes. We're going to have to run to get back though or we'll be too late. Next one that size isn't for another three days."
There was the sound of a throat being cleared to one side and they looked over at Carveth. "Hello?" she said sarcastically gesturing behind her, "You're standing next to a spaceship, remember?"
Later Jack had to admit that it was a very fast and efficient spaceship, even if it was called the John Pym. Carveth certainly had a deft touch, even though the cockpit did contain a large number of mugs that bore the remains of a large amount of tea, as well as a cage containing a rather fat hamster. The tea had to be some kind of genetic British thing. He also noted that even in the middle of flying the craft Carveth could still spare the time to flirt with Daniel.
"Should she be doing that while she flies this thing?" he asked Smith, who had somehow brewed up another mug of tea whilst his back had been turned.
"Who? Oh, you mean Polly. Well, it's her nature. Or programming. Or a combination of the two."
"Programming?" Jack asked, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. "You mean she's a robot?"
"Android is the right term. Or is it cyborg? Not sure." Smith shrugged. "She's just Carveth. Bloody good pilot."
Jack had a moment of mental confusion. "What's being a good pilot got to do with programming and trying to get into Daniel's pants?"
"Ah," Smith grimaced. "Bit of a ticklish subject that. She was built as a pleasurebot, but she decided that it wasn't the career path of choice for her. So she ran away and joined the RMSN. Good thing she did too. Can't imagine what we'd have done without her. She's the only one with the manual to fly this thing for a start."
"Ah. O-kay," Jack conceded and then turned back to enjoy the sight of a furiously blushing Daniel telling Carveth that "a quickie in the loo" would take more time than they had. Which seemed to impress her a lot.
A minute later they had sighted the Stargate and set down next to it, with Carveth doing a slip-and-slide maneuver that left Jack impressed but very glad to get off the ship as rapidly as possible without being sick.
"Five minutes sir," said Carter as she scurried down the ramp and consulted the forecast anxiously. "I'll dial up the gate when it's time."
"Ok," said Jack, turning to their hosts. "Thanks for the ride. And it's been great – if distinctly weird – to meet you all."
"Entirely mutual old chap," replied Smith, subjecting Jack's hand to another bone-crushing handshake that left him wondering if he'd have bruises the next day. "Please don't go back and change then future. Might be a bit tricky if everything unraveled."
"Well we'll… try not to do any," Jack muttered, as he looked over at Teal'c. The big Jaffa was laughing at something that the alien had been saying.
"O'Neill," he said as he walked over. "I have been admiring Suruk's collection of skulls. He is a most impressive warrior. I would be honoured to fight by his side."
"Thank you, friend Teal'c," said the alien "Take this. It is a ghast skull. I give it to you with honour. Plus I have too many of them."
Jack looked at the ghastly thing as Teal'c received it with a bow. Yuck, he thought.
"Time to go," Carter said with a certain amount of strained brightness, and then she dialed up Earth with more than her usual speed. The Stargate groaned into life as they watched.
"Fascinating," Smith said, draining the dregs of yet another cup of tea. "Love the light thingummies."
"How do you do that?" Jack asked.
"Brew tea that fast."
"I'm British," came the reply. "It's what made the Empire great."
"I think it's hardwired into their DNA," Rhiannon said with a fond smile.
Jack thought about this for a moment. "Right," he said eventually as the gate's event horizon sprang into existence. "Ok people, I've got the GDO on so it's time to go home. Daniel?"
The last word was directed at the still furiously blushing younger man, who was being thoroughly kissed off to one side by Carveth, who seemed to be all hands all of a sudden. Breaking off he waved weakly at the beaming former sexbot, or whatever the hell she was and then ran straight into the event horizon.
"Oh, I'm so not going to let him forget that one easily," Jack muttered as, with a final wave at the watching group from the future, he, Teal'c and Carter walked after the archaeologist.
"Nice bunch," said Smith brightly as the Stargate shut down with a whoosh. "I think they were a bit bemused though."
"Not that surprising," Rhiannon pointed out as she linked arms with him and walked with him back to the ship. "Do you think we should have warned them?"
"Oh good god, no. Space-time continuum and all that. Makes my head hurt. Besides, I think that it would have taken a big viewscreen, a full presentation and more time than they had to guide them through everything. Especially the stuff about that right wing harridan."
Rhiannon frowned. "Margaret Palin? Or was it Sarah Thatcher?"
He shrugged. "I forget. We're still here ok, so things must have gone alright. Or at least I think so. I need some tea. And then we need to get off this planet – we do have a mission!"
When Jack stepped out of the other side of the event horizon, the first thing he saw was the very welcoming sight of the SGC. The second thing was a very bemused-looking General Hammond.
"Something wrong Colonel O'Neill?" asked the bald Texan. "You've only been gone for a few minutes."
"This is still July 9th, 2002, right sir?" Carter asked urgently.
Hammond, now looking confused, nodded.
"Phew, that's a relief," muttered Jack, before walking up to Hammond and sketching a salute. "Long story sir. Short version is that we took another little jaunt in time. The future in fact."
By now Hammond looked thoroughly alarmed. "The future? Are you certain Colonel? And what in the Sam Hill is that thing?"
Jack looked over to see that Teal'c was looking at the ghast skull in the same way that Hamlet might have."I'm afraid so sir. I have seen the future. And it seems to contain giant ant-men, lots of tea and it's jolly British." He sighed. "Sir, it's going to be one hell of a debriefing."