In one way an arrow moves, in another way the mind. The mind indeed, both when it exercises caution and when it is employed about inquiry, moves straight onward not the less, and to its object. — Marcus Aurelius
Carter woke to the sound of rain drumming on the tent, and pressure in her bladder from the coffee she’d had not long before lying down. Unlike some people, Carter found that having caffeine shortly before bed didn’t keep her awake if she really wanted to sleep, but coffee had other ways of awakening her in the middle of the night. For some reason, this only seemed to happen on offworld missions, and then only if there was inclement weather. She thought she’d smelled rain on the breeze shortly before they’d turned in for the night, but she’d hoped she was wrong. Obviously, however, her nose had been correct.
Sighing, she wriggled her way out of the sleeping bag and situated her clothing before unzipping the tent. Teal’c was standing watch, his face impassive in the light of the dying campfire. He had pulled on a waterproof poncho and pushed the hood up, and now waited stoically for the rain to stop. Stopping to pull on her own poncho, Carter made her way out of the tent and off into the shadows to duck behind a large standing stone. Reappearing a few moments later, she approached the campfire and heard muffled grumbling from the other tent. A plaintive “For cryin’ out loud!” reached her ears, followed by the sound of the tent unzipping, and Colonel O’Neill emerged into the rainfall, which had intensified in just the short time since Carter had left her own tent. Blinking sleepily, Daniel followed him.
“I really hope it isn’t going to do this all night,” complained the colonel as he moved off into the darkness, likely on the same errand from which Carter had just returned. Daniel pulled up the hood of his poncho and came to stand next to Carter, watching the fire, or what was left of it. Teal’c added another log, and the flames blazed up, hissing in the wetness. Carter watched Daniel remove his glasses and wipe raindrops from them before putting them back on, only to repeat the process a moment later. Frowning, he shook his head and tucked them into a pocket of his field jacket instead, beneath the rain poncho.
Lightning split the sky as O’Neill returned. Several seconds later, an enormous clap of thunder shook the air. The rain redoubled in intensity, becoming a deluge that threatened to drown their campfire. “I believe this storm will grow stronger before it abates,” observed Teal’c.
“Ya think?” The colonel threw him a scowl and turned to the pile of equipment left behind by SG-5. Pulling out a large wad of heavy plastic sheeting, he began to unfold it. “Carter, Daniel, let’s throw these tarps over the top of the tents and see if we can’t keep things at least a little drier, okay? Now that we know Frank’s been in the area, I really don’t want to leave if we don’t have to, in case he comes back to the stargate.”
Together, they managed to drape the plastic over the tents and stake it down, the spikes biting deep into the muddy ground. A gust of wind tried to tear one corner of the tarp from O’Neill’s hand as he positioned the last stake, and he swore. Lightning sizzled through the air again, and this time was followed more quickly by thunder that caused the very ground to vibrate. The colonel turned his face skyward and swore again. “Damn it, I didn’t ask for this kind of weather!”
Carter turned her own toward the nearby stargate. They had set up camp just outside the ring defined by the cinderblock-sized stones encircling the flagstoned plaza, which meant that the gate itself was only thirty feet away. “Sir, the stargate could act as a lightning attractor. This might not be the safest place to be right now. I estimate the lightning strikes to be no more than five miles away.”
“I know that, Captain. I can do the math.” O’Neill looked around. “I don’t really want to go off into the woods, and just sitting out here getting poured on for the next however many hours doesn’t sound too great, either.”
“Unless we want to leave now and go back to Earth, the woods are the safest choice,” Carter told him. “We could try to make it back to that village, if you want.”
Her CO shook his head. “No, there isn’t time for that. The storm’s too close.” He glanced at the sky again, then back toward the Stargate. “Do you think it would be safe to dial out right now and leave, or would that risk attracting a lightning strike?”
“If we do it fast, I think we’ll be all right,” she responded. “But we should go now, before the strikes get any closer.”
O’Neill thought for a moment. Frank’s not gonna come out here to the gate in this kind of weather, either. He knows better. And even if he did, he’d at least know we’d been here, and that we’ll be back, since we’re leaving gear behind. “Okay, campers, there’s no sense hanging out here if it’s gonna be like this for the next several hours. Grab whatever can’t be left in the storm and let’s go. Carter, dial it up. We’ll grab some sleep and some dry clothes at the SGC and check back in a few hours to see if the storm’s passed.”
General Hammond came to meet them as they descended the ramp in the Gate Room. O’Neill double-checked his watch against the clock on the wall and his mental estimate of the time on the planet they had just left. Local time at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t far off apparent time at the Stargate on P2A-870. “You’re here late, sir,” he commented.
“Catching up on paperwork, given recent events,” replied the general. “I didn’t think you would return tonight unless you’d located Colonel Cromwell. I take it you ran into nasty weather?” Hammond glanced at the puddle forming rapidly on the floor as rainwater dripped off SG-1’s wet-weather gear.
“Big honkin’ thunderstorm,” said O’Neill, “with lightning strikes too close to our camp for comfort, and no place else to really go before it got directly over us. I decided we should come back here for a few hours and wait it out. There’s an item or two I’d like to get, anyway.”
Hammond nodded. “Of course. SG-5 gave me their report, and said you were requesting a photo from the base security system to show the natives so they could identify the colonel. I take it you found firm evidence of his presence on the planet?”
“Oh, yeah.” O’Neill dug in his pocket and showed the general the unit coin he’d retrieved from the stream. “Cromwell’s there, somewhere.”
The general nodded. “I see. Go dry off and get some sleep, all of you. I’ll probably stay on base myself, given how late it is. We’ll meet at 07:00 for debriefing before you return to P2A-870.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Oh-seven-hundred saw SG-1 and Hammond seated around the conference table with a fresh pot of coffee. “I’ve already had Lt. Simmons dial P2A-870 and take MALP telemetry this morning,” the general began. “It appears there is still a severe storm in the vicinity of the gate, with heavy lightning and torrential rain. I believe that for safety’s sake, you should wait before returning to the planet. We’ll continue to check back periodically until the storm abates.”
O’Neill groaned. Rested – well, as much as he could be, given the late hour of their arrival – showered, shaved, dressed in dry clothes and fully caffeinated, he was anxious to return to the search. On the other hand, the only difference between a blinding thunderstorm in the dead of night and one during daylight hours was the degree to which that search would be hampered. He knew the difficulty of tracking someone in the rain in familiar territory; trying to do so on an unfamiliar planet would make finding a needle in a haystack seem like child’s play. With any luck, Frank had found shelter; perhaps even a friendly settlement. “I suppose there’s no chance of sending a UAV to get an idea of what else is in the area? Pinpoint the location of settlements besides the one we found, potential shelter, that kind of thing?”
Carter fielded that question. “Not in the type of weather we encountered last night, sir.”
Hammond agreed. “We can try that after the storm passes, Colonel, but not until then. Suppose you tell me more about this settlement you encountered? I gather the natives were friendly?”
“They seemed to be. Daniel can tell you more, obviously.”
The archaeologist took his cue. “Well, General, the locals we met appear to be descended from people taken from the British Isles, and they call themselves the Pridani, which I’d say is a variant of the word ‘Priteni’ or ‘Briteni’, a general name for the tribes inhabiting much of Britain during the Iron Age and the Roman period. I’d guess they were relocated to P2A-870 – which they call ‘Tir n’Awyr’ or ‘land in the sky’ – sometime around two thousand years ago, give or take a couple of centuries, based on linguistic changes. The language spoken in the village we visited is strongly similar to Welsh, which didn’t actually differentiate itself as separate from other Brythonic languages until about fifteen hundred years ago. The grammar and syntax are almost identical, and the vocabulary is similar as well, except that there have been shifts in some of the vowel sounds, and a few of the consonants too. Basically, it comes out sounding like a different dialect, though to someone who speaks a modern Welsh dialect, it would probably be intelligible enough, given exposure and practice.”
A memory was pinging the back of O’Neill’s brain. He snapped his fingers as it coalesced. “Cromwell can speak Welsh. In fact, I think he’s fluent in it, or at least close.”
Four sets of eyes turned toward the colonel. “Excuse me?” said Daniel.
“I wasn’t even thinking of this yesterday, because you said ‘Brythonic’ and didn’t mention Welsh,” O’Neill explained, toying with his coffee cup. “But I recall Frank telling me years ago that his grandmother was born and raised in Wales, and spoke the language alongside English. She taught it to him when he was growing up, the way some immigrants will do with their kids and grandkids. He said he remembered most of what she taught him because they used it pretty extensively in her home, and he spent his summers living with her and his grandfather all the way up through his teens.”
“Wow,” said Carter. “The odds that he’d speak the one language that might actually do him some good on a planet he wound up on completely by accident…” She trailed off, shaking her head.
“I know. It’s a little freaky.” O’Neill looked at Daniel. “So, you think that if Frank has met up with the natives, he can probably communicate at least somewhat?”
Daniel shrugged. “It’s entirely possible. If he can, then that’s a lucky break for him. It would at least increase his chances of being able to request help from them, should he need it.”
“That’s good to know,” Hammond commented. “Did you notice any sign of Goa’uld activity on the planet?”
Teal’c answered first. “I saw nothing that said to me that they have been there recently, although there were indications that they might have been in the past.”
O’Neill picked up the narrative. “We saw scars on the landscape that might be – might, nothing definite – from an aerial or spaceborne attack, possibly as long as twenty or thirty years ago. Could be Goa’uld, could be something else, I suppose. My money would be on the Goa’uld, though.”
Daniel spoke up. “Interestingly enough, Rhodri, the local man we spoke with, barely batted an eye when he saw Teal’c. I know he recognized him as Jaffa, because he commented on his forehead tattoo, but when I explained that Teal’c was a Jaffa who had renounced the Goa’uld and now fought against them, he stopped asking questions. So obviously, the Pridani are familiar with the Goa’uld and the Jaffa, but for some reason the idea of a Jaffa who has turned against the Goa’uld doesn’t faze them. Or at least, it didn’t seem to surprise Rhodri much.”
“So what you’re saying is that the Pridani are familiar with the Goa’uld, but gave no indication that they are currently active on their world?” The general looked puzzled.
“That’s the impression I got, based on my conversation with Rhodri,” replied Daniel.
“Sir,” said Carter, turning to the general, “we have been invited back to possibly initiate trade, completely separate from our search for Colonel Cromwell.”
“I see. Does it seem like they might have anything of real value to us?”
Carter frowned. “It’s hard to say, sir. I wouldn’t call the Pridani primitive, but we didn’t see much in the way of technology either. Then again, they could have mineral resources that might prove useful. A source of naquadah would be helpful, and the planet may well have it.”
Hammond nodded. “Then you have authorization to look into the possibility.” He slid a folder across the table to O’Neill. “Colonel, you asked for a photo of Colonel Cromwell to aid in identifying him to the inhabitants of P2A-870. It seems the security cameras didn’t record properly due to the difference in time passage rates between the lower levels of the SGC and the upper levels where the computer that controls them is located… or so the security department tells me. However, I was able to obtain a recent photo from Air Force personnel records for you to use.”
O’Neill took the folder. “Thank you, sir.”
“One question, Colonel?”
“I’m curious about that unit coin. Where did you find it on the planet?”
O’Neill shook his head. “It was the damnedest thing, sir. I found it half-buried in a streambed, not more than a mile from the village we visited. Daniel, what was the name of that place?”
“Yeah. Anyway, it was in the stream, just below a bridge. All I can figure is that Frank dropped it somehow. It can’t have been too long before we came that way, because otherwise it would have been buried completely in the silt. It was already half-covered when I found it.”
“So he has to have been in the area of that village, even if he didn’t visit the village itself,” Hammond mused. “And you say that even when you described him, this Rhodri claimed not to have encountered any such person?”
“To be fair,” broke in Daniel, “Rhodri did say there are other settlements in the area. The bridge appeared to be part of a trail linking two or more of them with the stargate.”
“Good enough, then. We’ll continue to monitor weather conditions near the planet’s stargate, and as soon as the storm lets up enough to continue the search, you have a Go to return to P2A-870 and do so. Will you require further assistance from SG-5?”
O’Neill nodded. “I wouldn’t mind the extra hands, sir.”
“Then they’ll return with you. I’ll inform Lieutenant Barber. In the meantime, we’ll dial P2A-870 every two hours and query the MALP.” The general stood. “Colonel, Captain, use the time you’re waiting here as downtime.” He held up a hand as O’Neill began to protest. “I know that Dr. Fraiser cleared you for duty, but I also know that you’re still recovering from injuries. Do me a favor, and take it easy while you wait out the storm.” He turned to Carter. “And don’t think I’m not aware how many all-nighters you pulled recently. Not that they weren’t necessary, but I’d like you all to be at your best when you go back to that planet.” He looked from one to the other, and then at the rest of SG-1. “Dismissed.”
As they made their way from the conference room, O’Neill turned to Daniel. “You’re sure that Rhodri didn’t find the concept of a rebel Jaffa strange?”
“It’s hard to say for sure, Jack, but he didn’t say much once I explained the situation. If he had doubts or concerns, he certainly hid them well.”
“Just seems odd to me,” the colonel mused aloud, “that he’d let it go just like that, if he’s had any experience with Jaffa.”
Teal’c spoke from behind them. “We have visited many worlds where people mistrusted me, O’Neill. We have also visited worlds where people accepted me once you or Daniel Jackson explained my presence in your party. This may simply be another such instance.”
“He’s right, Colonel,” said Carter. “We really won’t know more until we’ve talked to the Pridani at length. I’m very curious to find out what resources they may have available as a basis for trade, though. If they do have naquadah – ”
“If they have naquadah, Carter, then you can almost bet they’ve had Goa’uld, too, at some point. The question is when were they last there, and what happened since then?”
“Well, sir, there’s only one way to find out.”
“I know that. All I’m saying is, everybody stay on their toes. There may be a lot more going on than meets the eye, all right?”
“Understood, sir.” The captain nodded.
“Indeed,” intoned Teal’c.
“Daniel?” O’Neill looked at the younger man.
“I don’t disagree, Jack. But like Sam said, there’s only one way to find out. Obviously, I’ll pay careful attention to what is said, and to what isn’t.”
The colonel nodded, satisfied. “Okay. Now I just hope the storm lets up soon so we can get back there and get on with it.”