Authors: Sally Malcolm
Sam slipped and slithered over the unstable sand on top of the dunes, sometimes crawling on all fours to discover the grilled outlet for the next tidal organ pipe. It was a remarkably simple but effective piece of engineering. Now that she was getting used to the sounds it produced, she found the atonal notes soothing, even mesmerizing.
Fourteen pipes located, none the same distance from each other. She sat back on her heels for a moment. From this height, she could see Third Island, its fields a patchwork in shades of green and brown surrounded by a white rim of surf and the emerald water. The wider ocean was a deeper blue-green, unbroken by other land masses. Whoever had chosen these islands for a Stargate had certainly chosen well.
“The water holds its beauty and mystery in equal measure.”
Sam started and whipped around. A woman approached, elegantly mastering the shifting sands. She was dressed the same as the islanders, her long red sarong fluttered behind her like fairy wings.
“Oh. Hello, there.”
The woman nodded. She stopped on the crest of the dune, gazing in turn at the magnificent vista before them, and at Daniel pottering around the shore. She folded her hands over her belly, which, Sam realized, was a near-term pregnancy.
“I’m Sam. Samantha Carter, one of the visitors. We found your tide organ. I hope its okay to study it. We’re looking for the source of some power readings.”
“The music belongs to the air and the sea. I do not believe they will deny you.”
“That’s — very — er, thanks.”
“You seek power other than that which resides within you?”
“I… don’t have any powers,” Sam replied, thinking for some reason that the woman was talking about superpowers. Although, sensing Goa’uld could be called a superpower. Being a successful woman in a man’s air force was one too.
“You have the power to create with your body. Is that not a power?”
“Yes, of course.” She glanced at the baby bump with a certain amount of envy.
“The ability to destroy must always be tempered with creation, do you not agree?”
“Destroy? I don’t…” Blow stuff up? Well, yeah, but usually in a good cause. Guess saving others’ lives could be called creation.
Why are we talking about this?
“Um, what are you going to call the baby?”
“Her name is Diana.”
“That’s nice. Well, I’d better get back to what I was doing. Day’s nearly ended.”
“Yes, the moons approach.”
The woman gazed out to sea for a long moment, then turned and continued on her way. Sam watched her go until Daniel’s call from the beach jolted her back to business.
“It’s getting late,”
“We’d better head back, see if Jack and Teal’c have found anything.”
Dinner that evening was a merry affair. The night air was still warm and the team sat amidst the villagers and visitors from Second Island. Food piled everyone’s plates in an endless and wonderful variety. Jokes and stories circulated the tables set up in the open green space and had everyone laughing.
Jack sat at a table to one side of the roasting fire in the middle of the gathering, relaxed and replete. From his seat he could see Carter and Daniel laughing at a tale told by newly-wed Jante. Across the square, Teal’c sat listening politely, eyes watchful and not missing a movement. They traded glances. Nothing awry. All is well.
He and Teal’c had walked the causeway and met a nice bunch of fisher-folk who swiftly offered an invitation to join a boating event planned for the next day. He’d accepted, not just because it sounded like a heap of fun. His kids were finally getting a chance to unwind. After a string of trying missions with dubious successes, topped off with an unexpected sky dive, and a deep-sea dive for Daniel and Carter — they could all use a break for a couple of days.
A clanging bell broke him out of his reverie. Immediately, people began to rise from their tables. Rosal walked into the center of the gathering with raised hands.
“Kin and friends and our honored guests, the sea retreats and the way is open to Third Island. Come!”
Jack rose and meandered through the crowd to Carter, Daniel and Teal’c.
“Have enough for dinner?”
“Way more than enough.” Daniel patted his stomach and repressed a burp.
“These islands provide an impressive bounty,” Teal’c declared, still clutching a warm fish cake in one hand.
Jack grinned. “How about we join these good people and work it off?”
They merged into the flow of people heading down to the causeway. As they passed the lamp post, Jack hefted a basket full of new shoes onto his shoulder.
“How often do they do this trade with the other island?”
“The tide recedes far enough only once a year.” Daniel balanced a tray of baked pies in his hands. “They do cross by boat the rest of the year but these extreme tides come at the end of their harvest season, so it’s a good opportunity to walk over and trade goods and grain.”
“And generally party.”
“Sweet. Carter, keep your doohickey on. We need to pin down the location of this power reading… signal… thing.”
“Doohickey at the ready, sir.”
She snapped a salute at him and picked up a basket of turnipy-looking vegetables. He narrowed his eyes at her back as they moved down to the shore. She was really starting to refine that attitude-as-an-art-form routine.
He felt so proud.
In the gray-toned light of two risen moons, the exposed sea floor sparkled. Tiny rock pools still filled with water lay between patches of sand and rock. The island folk scattered across a wide area as they made their way to Third Island. From the shore of that island Jack could see a flock of people making their way toward them.
His boot slid off a piece of weed and into a pool, soaking his foot. A creature, long, white and scaly, flashed out of the pool’s shadow and snapped an impressive array of sharp teeth at his leg.
He jerked his leg out of reach. Cold water absorbed into his sock. He sighed and placed his burden on the sea floor. If there was one thing he hated, it was walking with wet feet. You could almost hear the tinea growing. He undid his boot and pulled it off. As he balanced on one leg, wringing the sock out, he became aware somebody had halted next to him.
“Don’t say it, Daniel.”
“I am not Daniel, therefore I cannot say what it is he would have said.”
Jack glanced up, overbalanced, and put his foot in the pool again.
“May I assist?”
A hand steadied him. Jack looked up at a striking woman, tall, white hair falling free around a face that had seen many years. The strength in her grip was at odds with her apparent age. Her lean body spoke of a life well lived. She carried a carved stool, one of the goods for trade, which she placed on the rock in front of him.
“Why, thank you, ma’am.”
He plopped his butt on the stool and fished in his pockets for his emergency socks. “Name’s Jack O’Neill. I don’t think we’ve met before.”
“We have not.”
The lady crouched by the pool and trailed her fingers across the surface.
“Careful, there’s a thing in there with lots of teeth: sharp teeth.”
“Yes, they live in the shadows. The departure of the water disturbs them.”
The ghostly creature showed its head above the water. Intrigued, Jack watched the woman stroke its scales. It nuzzled her hand for a moment, then slid back into its hidey-hole.
“You have a knack with, er, those things.”
“All creatures have goodness in their nature. One needs only to treat them with kindness for it to be returned to you.”
He pulled his boot back on over a dry sock. “Wise words.”
“Wisdom comes to all, whether the passage of time be short or long.”
Jack looked her over carefully as she rose unhindered by creaky joints or old bones. He stood and concealed a scowl at the twinge from his left knee. “Didn’t catch your name.”
“I am called Diana by many.”
He handed her the stool. “Thanks for the helping hand.”
“Fair journey to you, Jack O’Neill.”
She walked on toward the island, long hair swinging with her stride.
Carter was walking back to him.
“Yeah, coming. Just… paddling my toes.”
“Oh. Well, I just got a massive spike on the readout.” She waved the doohickey in a circle, then glowered at it. “But now it’s gone again.”
“Seems to happen a lot here.”
She shook her head and retraced her steps. Jack picked up his basket of shoes and followed, giving the rock pools his close observation and a wide berth.
Third Island turned out to be quite ordinary. Beyond the tall trees along the shore that provided a wind break inland, there were large fields filled with grain, vegetable, and foliage crops. There was no town as such, just a communal hall that faced across the strait in view of the other two islands. Fields defined by meandering rock walls stretched from one side of the island to another, with little blue and yellow painted houses tucked into a corner of each field.
Jack dropped his basket in the pile growing beneath a stone lamp post that matched the one on First Island. Daniel was staring up at the lamp.
“You have that look.”
“That look you get when something doesn’t add up.”
“I have a look that says that?”
Daniel dipped his head, peered over his glasses and raised his eyebrows: his classic
I don’t believe Jack
“Forget it. What’s so curious about a lamp post?”
. It’s just a mix of things: a monument standing at a crossroad, a lamp as a monument…”
“That’s a crossroad?” Jack scuffed his boot in the dirt track at the foot of Daniel’s ‘monument’. He could barely make out the other track, more an impression in the ground, which intersected it.
“Well,” Daniel waved an uncertain hand. “Crossroads are a significant symbol in many cultures.”
“I repeat my question. You think the lamp has anything to do with this shield that’s supposed to be here?”
“Uh, ye — er, well, no. Sam said it’s not giving off any power readings, same as the one on First Island.”
“Some times a lamp is just a lamp.”
He patted Daniel’s shoulder.
“How long do we have here?”
“Come, everybody, come gather up our goods. The tide returns soon as we must also return to our homes.”
Rosal bustled past, directing people to stacks of grain bags and small hand carts filled with vegetables.
“Not long, apparently.”
Daniel quirked a smile at him and went to load up for the return trip. Jack caught sight of Teal’c and Carter in the throng of people. Carter shook her head — nothing new to point the way to this supposed shield. He was going to have a chat with Coburn about wild goose chases when they got home.
Next morning brought a day vibrant with sunshine. Teal’c stood on the bank of the causeway, his break-of-day exercises finished, the blood in his veins singing, his body primed with strength and hungering for the coming activities. He fished out the sunglasses O’Neill had given him before embarkation. Although he had no need for them — his symbiote shielded his eyes from sun damage — he had tried them on in the gear-up room and was forced to admit O’Neill was correct: they looked cool.
He slid the glasses on and struck a pose designed to show all, including his team leader, that he was a man not to be challenged. Also, that he looked pretty cool.
O’Neill ambled down from their village.
“Good morning, O’Neill.”
Despite — many — assertions to the contrary, O’Neill was, as ever, ready to face a day of unknown challenges.
“Are you prepared to undertake Jante’s ordeal by water, O’Neill?”
“It’s called rafting, T. Should be fun.”
O’Neill gave him one of those looks that invariably left Teal’c feeling as if he’d been stripped and searched. “Are you okay with it?”
“I have fallen to earth from one of your airplanes and survived. I believe I shall survive floating over the sea with Jante and his friends.”
“It’s not something you have to endure. It’s supposed to be fun. You’ll enjoy it!”
How difficult it was to partake in an activity purely for the purpose of enjoyment. Decades spent in the service of Apophis had brought no enjoyment, merely reward for victory. Nonetheless, he was a part of SG-1 now and, particularly in O’Neill’s team, enjoyment was factored into one’s daily life.
A short time later Teal’c stood on the thin beach of Second Island and stared dubiously at the craft he was to use for this enjoyment expedition. He doubted he would actually fit in it, let alone float across the water. Carved from the wood of the trees that covered this island, the
was barely five feet long, a squat, bulbous wooden blob to which he was supposed to entrust his life.
O’Neill was already floating a few inches offshore, testing the propelling device he’d called a paddle. Daniel Jackson and Major Carter had taken one look at these craft and declared they would spend the day walking in the woods. He could see their pale uniforms etched against the dark trees and ruthlessly quelled the urge to join them.
Entering the vessel was not the most dignified moment of his life.
Teal’c glared at the water sloshing over his legs, which were tucked underneath his body and uncomfortably soaked. He dug the paddle into the water, aiming to follow O’Neill and show his leader that his guffaws — an apt word he had learned from Daniel Jackson — were neither appropriate, nor required.
Oddly, the more he applied the paddle, the more the craft veered around in a circle.
“Teal’c, may I show you?” Jante powered his vessel alongside with admirable dexterity. “One stroke this side, one stroke the other. That will move you in a straight line.”
Teal’c complied, and his course immediately straightened. Confidence filled him and he floated quickly across the water, gaining on O’Neill whose wandering course had taken him halfway across the bay.
“Hey, there he is! Way to go, T. Knew you’d get the hang of it.”
“Once one knows the mechanics of the steerage implement it is easy to master.”
O’Neill gave his paddle a flick and increased his pace. Teal’c swiftly overtook him. They raced over the brightly colored water, the local women and men surrounded them, engaged in their own private races. The discomfort of wet clothing and potential embarrassment faded. He found that the physical effort, mastery of a new skill and the challenge of overtaking O’Neill, combined with the warmth of the sun and the splash of water, did indeed combine to produce enjoyment. He would not, however, mention this to O’Neill.
They spent a couple of hours paddling across the calm waters of the bay, even halting to partake of refreshments some of their companions had stowed in their craft.
“Do you feel skilled enough to challenge the devil’s gap?” Jante asked them.
“And what would that be?” O’Neill’s caution was disguised by the smile he liked to consider polite.
Jante pointed to a high cliff at the end of the bay closest to them. Thickly covered with vegetation, it dropped abruptly to the green water, then rose again in a series of steep rock outcrops that jutted out into the deep ocean.
“When the moons join, the tide pulls the water through the devil’s gap with great force. It is most exhilarating to ride through.”