The Older Siblings
Down the tunnel to the lower chamber. Nyan had found it in a room of stuff -- for lack of a more unifying term; and Daniel had seen its importance.
The Ori-sent plague wasn’t a major issue on Earth, at least not right now.
What mattered was that they’d gotten the Ori to stop. Again. For how long, they didn’t know.
Right now, they were just glad their plans had worked.
Which made it time for a new plan, since it was highly doubtful the Ori would succumb to the same tactic twice.
According to the document -- written in Early Ancient -- this tunnel led to a cavern discovered by the Ancients before they’d learned how to ascend. This cavern was home to something that’d been ascended back when the Ancients had moved into the neighborhood. Fifty million years ago.
And now it was SG-1's turn to discover it -- namely one ascended being.
A big one.
Very big. Like any other ascended intelligence, there were ribbony protrusions of energy that looped around and around like abandoned twine. And those ropes of energy glowed in the dark.
It looked at them. The team could tell that it was looking at them. Unlike most of the ascended beings, it didn’t deign to show a face. Colonel Cameron Mitchell wondered if this was going to be a problem.
It arched itself, some of the frontmost energy tendrils curving towards SG-1.
It’s sure taking its sweet time, Mitchell thought to himself. Hell, then again, it knows our stuff can’t touch it. So why not play with the mouse a little? “Jackson -”
“It’s not an Ori,” Daniel said. “I know that much. And not an Ancient either.”
Abruptly, light flared from it’s entire self, washing the cavern with brightness.
When SG-1 could see again, they found themselves in a different cavern, shaped only remotely like the one they’d been in before, with three small (human-sized) archways. And everything was significantly hotter here than where they'd been.
“So...ideas on why he’s taken us to his local sauna?” Cameron asked.
Teal’c shook his head.
Daniel looked contemplative.
"Excuse me,” Mitchell said to the ascended, which was lowering itself into a shallow pool of boiling mud. Looks like Yellowstone. “Over here.”
No response. Coppery-smelling yellow mud, with just a hint of rotten eggs.
“Hey, you brought us here,” he reminded it. “Mind telling us why?”
OFFICE OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY
In his private office, General Jack O’Neill looked over the notes that Davis Lee had sent over. The notes about the invasive species. He'd even included Cirko’s little demonstration with the snakehead fish, paper and video of the event. An invasive species. Tempting though it was, Jack didn’t sigh. Maybe one of these days I’ll tell Cirko just how long the Goa’uld’ve been on Earth.
Reading further, accelerating global warming, Jack thought to himself; finally something we can’t blame on the Goa’uld.
And, almost an afterthought, Lee’d included a dossier about the scientist that kept running into Cirko: Dr. Laura Daughtery.
O’Neill nodded, putting both folders to one side of his desk.
That done, for now, Jack looked through the reports newly come in from the SGC. According to Orlin -- he’s back? -- the Ori didn’t just ascend anybody who smiled nice at them...marked difference from the Ancients, who had no compunction against ascending entire planets.
That was when his younger self showed up. Just walked right through the wall -- okay, walk wasn’t accurate. More of floated or slowly flew through the wall.
The General said “You know, there’re these things called doors."
“I know. You’ve heard about the plague, right?” When he got a nod in response, the other man continued. “It seems to work faster on those of us with the gene."
“Hi, hello, how are ya,” O'Neill said. “Nice to see you.”
“I’m fine now, and you’re fine. Can we talk now?”
He nodded. It was hard to convince himself to engage in formalities, particularly when both of him wanted to do something else. “What’s on your mind?”
“Just wanted to stop by.” High School hadn’t worked out for his younger self, so Jack had gone into business -- using shell companies, of course. “Let you know we don’t have to worry about the Ori plague after all.”
“Sure we do. Not everyone knows about ascension.”
The younger man shrugged. “So it’ll swing the religious balance around some. Name a major event in history that didn’t do that.”
“Okay, bad example.”
“Yours was, yeah.” Taking a seat, Jack asked, “So, how’s life as head of Homeworld Security treating you?”
“Bet the President did.”
“Not yet...but he should be getting the memo soon.”
Both Jacks grinned.
They’d gone in every one of the four interconnected rooms, finding no way out. No doors, windows, stairs; not even a latch or rope. Naught but stone walls. Mitchell resisted the urge to start whistling that particular Jim Croce song.
When the four of them collapsed for a bite -- singular for each of them -- from their MREs, “Okay, so we’ve exhausted the obvious,” Cameron said, not bothering to ask if the ascended was still drifting there, seeming to watch them. Studying?
“And there’s nothing with naquadah down here,” Sam said. “And he’s not being talkative,” she said, referring to the energy being.
“And believe me,” Daniel said, “I’ve tried. I’ve used Ancient, several dialects of Goa’uld, even Unas. Nothing, not even a flicker of interest.”
“Perhaps it is waiting for something,” Teal’c said, airing something that’d been worrying all of them these past few hours.
Sam couldn’t help but remember when Jack had theorized ‘Well here’s a thought: we just exchanged hostages. Just a thought.’ Was that what was going on here?
“Great. Think it knows what its waiting for?” Cameron asked.
“Yes,” it boomed, its voice a thunder in the cavern. But it said not a thing more.
Two hundred and fifty million years ago, they ascended. They were the first in our galaxy to do so. They did it without outside help, all on their own. Going it alone was not dangerous for them, but it had horrific consequences for life on Earth.
Ninety-six percent of all life on Earth perished. A funeral pyre to mark the galaxy’s first ascension.
Their fellow creatures on the Earth died, and all fossil evidence of their own existence, every related species that led to them, ceased to exist.
OFFICE OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY
The younger Jack wasn’t here today. He was off making millions and plotting against Baal in his spare time.
The older Jack was here. And he was on the phone.
“No, Mr. President,” O'Neill said to his former boss. “You gave me the job, absolutely -- but you forgot what it would entail.”
He paused, listening to the other man on the line before he continued again. “I’m going to do my job, Mr. President. I’m telling you that, just like I told the Ayatollah of Iran, the Queen of England, and the Presidents of France and Syria and Brazil. Now you let me do my job, and you can do what you were going to do anyway.”
He continued a moment later. “My advice? Don’t get in my way.”
O'Neill nodded. “Yes, that’s what I told them too.”
Hanging up, Jack sighed to himself.
And his secretary opened his office door. “Sir,” she said, “your two-o’clock is here.”
He gestured to the secretary with his hand. “Send her in.”
She nodded, and backed away, and brought Dr. Elizabeth Weir to the door.
Weir stepped inside, taking a seat as the door closed behind her.
“You wanted to see me?” Weir asked.
“That I did,” Jack said. “There’ll be an Asgard on board the Daedelus when it takes you back to Atlantis.”
“They don’t trust us to drive it to the next galaxy?”
“Actually, they wanted to look around. Thor said something about your description of the Wraith, being of great interest to the Asgard populace.”
“I suppose I can understand why,” Weir said. “A species capable of regeneration would be a real grail for a population of clones.”
“There’s that too,” Jack said, nodding, “Now for the meat-and-potatoes of what I wanted to talk to you about. You ever hear of a woman by the name of Laura Dauherty?”
“I went to college with her. She majored in oceanography and marine biology. Has something happened to her?”
He answered with a half-nod -- he’d learned well from the Asgard -- “She ran into something that falls in my jurisdiction...or, according to the claim she filed, that that something (had) nearly ran her over.” He paused before he dropped the big one: “Five thousand feet underwater.”
“As far as we know,” Weir said, “the Wraith don’t have technology that lets them go underwater.”
“Your reports make that abundantly clear, doc,” Jack said, his trying to keep his tone neutral and diplomatic. “No, it’s not something you’re likely to have heard of. They only arrived on Earth a few months ago.”
“Let me guess -- you want me to talk to Laura?”
“I know its your downtime, and you of all people need a vacation, but...”
Weir made a gesture which meant, simply, don’t worry about it. “It’ll be fun; I get to catch up with an old friend of mine.”
“Have fun,” Jack said, “and happy fishing.”
He chatted with her a while longer, them both discussing minor things, little issues that might or might not sprout into annoyances some day. And then she excused herself, leaving.
Leaving Jack alone.
If Jack hadn’t turned his chair to say goodbye to her, he’d have brained himself with his desk. As it was, he doubled over, his lungs refusing to inflate. Something was wrong. Something was --
-- Tensing his calves, blinking his eyelids, twitching his fingers.
-- Tightening his gut, burning his feet, searing his brain.
He didn’t even see his life flash before his eyes.
He saw them.
Jack found himself hovering only an inch above searing lava, with unmovable rock barely an inch over his head and on both sides of him, right and left alike. A tunnel, he was in a tunnel.
He was energy. ‘Head’ and ‘feet’ were no longer applicable, while ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ were interchangeable. He could flip himself without really moving.
Abruptly, he knew that he was still on Earth. In would be a better word.
So it is, Jack was told.
For ascended beings, thought and state-of-being were the same thing. Energy carried vibrations that never touched sound.
You were not the first choice of my kind, Jack was told. We considered several others, and have others on standby.
What’s wrong with me? Jack asked.
There was dispute whether one with borrowed genes should be carted close to our level.
Won ya over with my sunny disposition, did I? Jack asked.
Efficiency won -- you were infected by your younger self’s raised-presence -- and you detest being obligated by circumstance.
Well, yeah. I guess so.
‘Guess’? In your condition, guessing is no longer a valid factor.
I was being sarcastic. Jeez, who’re you that you don’t know about sarcasm.
My civilization progressed adequately without it. My kind ascended well without this sarcasm. It is a primate failing.
Hey, I’m a primate.
‘E re nata,’ as your precious ancients say. As things stand, as things are.
And what exactly are you?
Is it not obvious?
Nope. Well, maybe it is to you, but I can be a little slow at times.
Jack continued. The last thing I know, I’m in my office, doubling over, and then I somehow see one of the invaders of Earth -- catnapping in a pool of lava -- and then I’m here.
There was the itch of indignation -- ‘invaders’? -- and I was enjoying the lava, when necessity drew me into this tube.
Letting out a mental sigh, Jack tried another avenue of approach, now that he was reasonably sure what this thing was. Look, I don’t know who you guys are, or why you’re here -- but you’ve gotta know -
The Ori do not concern us.
They hell they don’t!
Burning, burning, in his thoughts: a memory being torn up and brought to the fore: “The very young do not always do as they are told,” with the impression that it was referring to the Ori. Nor are they problematic to us.
Well maybe not, but they’re damn sure a problem to us!
Silence in all things, save for the rushing of lava beneath them. We will steer the Ori away from our ancestral world. This is less distressing for you, yes?
How the hell could it be --? I don’t even know where you folks come from.
This is our planet.
No, it's not.
Our imprint rests firmly in the history of this world, mammal. Doubt not that.
And what exactly is that imprint? Huh? Didya steal away human slaves, to labor in your mines?
Jack began to feel that prickly sensation of being stared at by something large and predatory. He could feel their thoughts, their superiority. He could almost feel them saying, "We evolved here, without aid. We acquired civilization, without aid." It was the grating sensation of someone feeling superior to you in every way.
Get off your high horse and try helping somebody, then! Jack thought at it.
That came off as faintly threatening.
God, the ascended thing sounded amused. It was!
Very well, it told him briskly. We accept your bargain. Your packmates are being released now -- and we give our assistance to a promising species of this world. If your species threatens them, we shall enlarge our efforts to retake this as our homeworld.
Best of luck, Jack said, doubting these things could be successful. You are, after all, the new kids on the block.
A feeling of surprise -- overcame him, emenating from the being. We are not new, it said to Jack. Many whom gods worship know of us.
And, with that, it dropped Jack back into the mortal world of flesh and blood. His first action was to vomit upon his carpet.
One billion and ten years ago, they ascended. They were the first in Pegasus galaxy to do so. They also did it without outside help, all on their own. Alone, they skipped past the lower stages of pure-energy-life, and advanced further than the Ancients did, further than the Permians did.
All life in their stellar cluster perished, and seventy-two percent of all life in their galaxy went extinct. It was a pyre that directed future evolution in the galaxy.
Weir found her standing on a pier, leaning against the railing, facing out to the open ocean. “I hear,” Weir said, leaning against the rail, to the woman standing next to her, “there’s a storm coming.”
Dauherty looked at her, then back out to sea. “Could you be a little less cryptic?”
“Well, there’s Hurricane Wilma on its way northeast --”
“And here I thought you were talking about something dangerous. You mean your friends in any government haven’t seen fit to tell you what’s going on?”
“There’re a lot of things going on.” Remembering something, she continued, trying to turn the conversation a little, “How’s your son?”
That got an instantaneous response from her: she turned and grabbed Weir’s collar. “Don’t -- you -- ever -- even try to -- threaten -- my -- son. You do that, and I don’t know you any more.”
“I wasn’t threatening. I was just wondering how he was. It has been a while since I’ve seen either of you.”
“Okay,” Laura said, letting go, taking a step back. “Sorry.”
“Its okay. No harm done.” Any closer to the breaking point, and she’ll be past it. “I’ll admit, I’ve been a little out of circulation lately. Something happen that you thought I’d know about?”
A nod. “A new marine species.”
“And you thought your son would be threatened, to keep it safe?”
“To keep it secret. I nearly got killed by it. The whales are definitely being killed by it -- and the US government has pressured the Oceanographic Institute to let me go.” She gave a slight, barely-noticable flourish at her uniform. “Hence my new workplace.”
“If there’s anything I can do,” Elizabeth offered. Laura had introduced her to Simon, and helped with various other projects along the way.
She nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind; thanks. But for now, I think I’ll keep trying to find out just what it is that’s out there.”
“I’ll do what I can, on my end,” Weir offered. “What do you think it is?”
“A new Class of animal...or just a new Order of Mammal.”
Either way, Elizabeth thought, these are not small potatoes.
Even if it wasn’t at five thousand feet deep.
“So,” Laura said, “how’s the world treating you?”
Oh, just some Wraith, paperwork, irritated Genii, and a promise made to a giant alien. Not exactly ‘the usual.’
"Fine," she replied.
OFFICE OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY
This report had come in not quite an hour ago. Its content: the population of Earth.
Jack looked through the pages, skimming over the report. There were two extremes for a stable population here on good ol’ Earth, it said. One was an Earth where everyone had an abysmal standard of living, and next-to-no property or land. That world could handle about seventeen billion people.
The other extreme was an Earth where everyone had the highest possible standard of living, and all their needs and wants were provided for. That world could handle only two billion people.
A stray thought rambled through: the Ori don’t ascend everyone.
Then it hit Jack: the Ori weren’t trying to kill people. They were trying to render the Ancients powerless.
Even the ZPMs, Jack knew, could run out of power. And the Ancients seemed to tap into the same source of energy to keep on glowing and zooming around the galaxy.
And while the Ancients might be able to handle ascending an average of ten people a year, all while searching for a way to keep ascending themselves further -- or so was the implication from what Orlin had said to SG-1.
But overwhelm the Ancients’ with thousands and millions of newly-ascended individuals, and they’d be unable to deal with other events. “Sneaky,” Jack said, picking up the phone. Before he could dial anywhere, a white light filled the other half of his office.
Once the white light faded away, the traveler was clear. “Thor, hey,” Jack said.
“Greetings O’Neill,” Thor said.
“Did ya get the reports?”
“I did. When Mirmir was informed of the progress made in the Pegasus galaxy, he displayed interest in only one section: Doctor Weir’s encounter with the being known by the Pa as uukuutuu.”
“Who’s he? I thought you were Supreme Commander.”
“I am. Do you recall your surprise when you read the Treaty between Asgard and Goa’uld, O’Neill?”
“Yeah, but that’s not what I asked you.” O'Neill was very used to Asgard attempts to side-step issues.
“It is relevant.”
“O-\kay. Yeah, I remember. It said that the Asgard hadn’t even made a token protest against the idea of the Goa’uld being the rightful gods of humans.”
“Agreed.” There were protests against how the System Lords enforced and conducted their godhood, but that was another matter, Jack thought to himself as Thor continued. “The Asgard are monotheistic.”
“Great. How’s that...or are you getting to that?”
A blink. He learns faster than we had made plans for. “Our god, O’Neill, is Mirmir. Long ago by your reckoning, Mirmir arrived at our world, and selected animals who had not yet developed tools, and made us into the Asgard. Made our minds, made our skills.”
“Wow, what’s he do for an encore?”
Thor half-blinked, then full-blinked. “Sleeps.” A blink. “Mirmir wishes to speak to you and Doctor Weir, on the matter of the uukuutuu.”
“Is it something he’s come across?”
No blinks. “Mirmir does not always disclose his reasons to mere Asgard.”
Jack nearly fell from his chair. He’d never heard Thor or any other Asgard refer to their species as ‘mere.’
Recovering, Jack pulled over the folder from Lee. “While you’re here, Thor, I was wondering if you’ve ever seen or heard of the things that are swimming in Earth’s oceans now.”
“These whale-eaters are new to us, O’Neill. I will inquire if Mirmir knows of them.”
“Best of luck.”
A blink. “Mirmir does not invoke luck,” he answered and beamed away.
Alone now, “Of course he doesn’t.”
Both the Permians and the Pegasi spent ages in their ascendant forms, outliving many stars.
Eventually, they each decided to return to lives in which they were physical almost all the time.
While the Permians opted for a form which was quite similar to their ancestral shape, the Pegasi turned themselves into something physically different from what they had once been. While the Permians had to convert themselves to and from the interstellar transporter form, the Pegasi adopted a life cycle based around interstellar dispersal.
Not interfering with the selection process of either ascendant, Mirmir continued on, alone and close enough to aloof.
No one would ever go extinct. It had been planned for.
SG-1 was sitting together, discussing what to try next, when the cavern became full of blindingly white light -- and then they were back in the chamber they’d originally walked into. Standing up, they looked at the ascended being, which was rising from the hot springs.
“Thanks,” Mitchell said.
“You have been rescued. Your world is now not your possession.” And, with that said, it rose up through the ceiling.
“He waited this long to tell us that we’re only borrowing the Earth from future generations?” Cameron asked as they headed back up the tunnel to the Stargate. Nothing was in their way.
Sam shrugged. She didn’t doubt that the four of them stunk to high heaven, or that their uniforms were soaked beyond recovery with sweat and steam. At least we’re alive.
Pairings: Gen or ship
Plot: SG-1 have to find the Stargate through a maze/labyrinth