Another Not So
Jack stepped out onto P3X-176 and looked around. In the seven years they'd been traveling through the Stargate he'd never seen a planet quite so...well, psychedelic.
The sky was a hazy reddish-pinkish color. The two suns were purple and about half the size of the Earth's sun. The trees were misshapen and stunted, with smooth green bark and leaves the color of a fresh bruise. The grass was mostly the same color as the leaves but there were splashes of color throughout the field in front of the Stargate, as if someone had run through with a small paint brush and flicked multi-colored paint all over.
Jack turned around to look at Daniel. "Well that's one word for it," Jack said to him. He pulled out his sunglasses and put them on. It wasn't bright but maybe the dark lenses would dull the intensity of the colors. He was starting to feel a little light-headed. "This place is worse than the purple planet."
"It's fascinating," Daniel said, head tilted back and hand on his boonie to hold it in place. "I wonder why the sky is that color."
"Carter, don't answer that question," Jack barked. He could already feel the headache that techno-babble filled explanation would create. "We don't need to know why the sky is pink. We need to check out that pile of boulders that Daniel's so gung-ho about. So, what say we head out?"
With one arm resting on his P-90, Jack waved the others in the direction of Daniel's Stonehenge wanna-be and watched as first Teal'c then Carter and finally Daniel, head still tipped back and eyes on the pink sky, began walking.
Twenty minutes later Jack was lounging against a surprisingly sturdy tree, Teal'c was standing nearby, leaning against his staff weapon like it was a walking stick, and Carter and Daniel were happily playing with their new discovery -- giant rocks.
He wasn't too sure what the significance of these rocks were, nor did he care, but he remembered that Daniel had been so excited by the similarity to other stone circles on Earth that he'd been bouncing.
Normally, they'd leave a planet like this to SG11 but SG1
had had several rough missions recently and Daniel had only been back from
Oma-land for a few months. An easy mission was exactly what they all needed.
So, here they were. Jack watched Daniel babble at Carter while she smiled indulgently at him and suddenly felt uneasy. He looked over at Teal'c and noticed that Teal'c was no longer at ease. He straightened and readied his P-90 but before he could call out a warning to Carter and Daniel the four of them were surrounded by giants. Naked giants. Unless you counted the brown, flaky body paint.
Two of the giants, there looked to be about a dozen in all, turned in his direction when he spoke. One of them said something in a language that he didn't understand and then they turned their attention back to where it had been before. He was a little annoyed at being dismissed but mostly he was feeling worried. Because the giants seemed focused completely on Daniel and Carter.
As yet, the giants hadn't made any overtly threatening moves and they didn't appear to be armed but it never hurt to be prepared for the worst, especially considering SG1's history. They were the only team at the SGC that could get into trouble on a deserted planet. Well, apparently deserted because their visitors pretty much proved that the planet was inhabited after all. And how in hell had they missed a bunch of people that were eight feet tall! When he got back to the base heads were gonna roll. If they got back to the base.
He decided to find out if Daniel had any idea what was going on. "Daniel?"
Daniel looked over at him and shook his head in the negative. Great. He really, really, really hoped that they hadn't broken some important taboo that carried a penalty of death or something.
"Do something," he said to Daniel, exasperated. The man was their cultural expert after all. It was his job to get them out of this mess that he'd gotten them into. 'Cause if Daniel hadn't gotten all giddy over this place then they wouldn't be here. See if he ever indulged his archeologist ever again.
Daniel sighed loudly enough for Jack to hear it 30 feet away and said, "I can't do anything until I know what's going on."
"Then find out."
"You're the linguist slash anthropologist. You figure it out."
The giant that had spoken earlier, a white-blond man with muscles that were big enough to make Teal'c green with envy, moved to stand between Daniel and Jack and began talking again. Jack could just barely catch a glimpse of Daniel, if he craned his neck a bit and leaned to the right. Daniel's head was cocked to the side and he looked like he was concentrating intently on the leader of the giants -- at least Jack figured he was the leader from the way the others deferred to him.
Knowing that this could take a while, he checked on Carter and Teal'c. Carter was frowning, fingers flexing on her P-90, and keeping a close eye on the giants closest to her and Daniel. Teal'c had his staff weapon in hand, but not raised into firing position, and he was also watching the giants' every move.
Confident that his kids had the situation well in hand, he turned his attention back to Daniel. He watched the head giant's back and listened to him yak for a few minutes. He was seconds away from banging his head against the tree behind him when he heard Daniel's voice. Daniel tentatively spoke a couple unrecognizable words and the head giant shouted out something and slammed a hand down on Daniel's shoulder.
Jack was pretty sure that it was meant to be a friendly gesture but it nearly knocked Daniel into the dirt. He, Teal'c, and Carter all moved toward their friend but were stopped. Two of the giants grabbed Jack by the upper arms and started to carry him off.
"Hey," he shouted and tried to break free. The giants just tightened their grip so he reached for his P-90.
Only he couldn't. His arms were pinned and immobilized at his sides.
He twisted his head around looking for the rest of his team. He saw that Carter was captured and pinned the same as he was. Daniel wasn't being carried but the head giant had Daniel's entire upper arm encased in his massive hand and was "escorting" him rapidly away.
But the most disconcerting sight, by far, was seeing Teal'c carried in the same way as he and Carter. Teal'c looked pissed and a little shocked.
These guys better be friendly giants or they were in a shit load of trouble.
"So help me, Daniel. If they have us for dinner because you wanted to poke around in the dirt, I'll..."
"You'll what? Kill me?" Daniel asked breathlessly. Jack felt a small bit of satisfaction in knowing that Daniel, the only one not being carried along by the giants, had to struggle to keep up.
"No, Daniel. But I'll make your afterlife as miserable as possible. What the hell did you say to him, anyway?"
"I'm not sure," Daniel said. "The language seems to be similar to Gaelic and their dress or...umm...lack thereof indicates that they're descendents of the ancient Celts. They used to go into battle naked except for bright body paint."
"The Celts were known to be a very war-like people. Various tribes tended to be in constant conflict with each other. I wouldn't be surprised if these men were on their way to attack a neighboring tribe."
"I don't think we're in any danger, Jack."
"No danger? Daniel, we're being carried off by people big enough and strong enough to subdue Teal'c without even breaking a sweat. People who are, according to you, primed for battle. People who are dragging us off somewhere against our will. That seems damned dangerous to me. But, maybe you have a different definition of danger?"
"If you'd let me finish," Daniel said in his snippiest tone, "I would have explained that their language probably has the same root as ancient Gaelic, a language that I'm fluent in. The languages are close enough that I can understand most of what they're saying and can communicate in a limited way."
"Oh, well, then...you mind telling us what's going on because I'd really like to know and I think Carter and Teal'c might be a little curious, too. Am I right, guys?"
"Perhaps, O'Neill, Daniel Jackson would be able to explain recent events if you would cease interrupting."
Jack turned his head to glare at Teal'c and caught Carter's grin out of the corner of his eye. "I'm real glad that you find all this amusing, Carter. Being captured and killed wouldn't be at all worth it unless at least one of us enjoyed it."
Carter's smile faded and she said, "Sorry, Sir." Thank God one of his team had to pretend to obey his every command.
"We're not going to be killed, Jack."
"Really? And you know this, how?"
"Cadeyrn told me."
"Oooh. We're on a first name basis already, huh?"
"Yes, which seems to indicate that we're not going to be eaten, doesn't it?"
"You'd think so, but then this is us you're talking about. The team voted most likely to get eaten by rabid guinea pigs."
Their conversation was interrupted by Caddie, who began talking to Daniel again. He listened to Daniel's incomprehensible response and wished that he could twiddle his thumbs or something. He still didn't know what Caddie had said earlier that convinced Daniel they weren't in danger. He wished that he could understand what they were saying.
He also wished he was stretched out on his couch with a beer watching the Broncos on his TV.
Daniel and Caddie were still chit-chatting fifteen minutes later when they arrived at a good sized village filled with people.
He was definitely going to have a very long talk with the techs checking the UAV footage. They were either blind or incompetent to have missed this. It was a village for cryin' out loud. How do you miss a whole village! Especially, a village full of people dressed in bright clothing and wearing enough jewelry to choke a dinosaur.
He was still alternately reeling from the existence of a village and mentally reaming out SGC personnel when he was dumped onto the ground inside a small stone house.
Teal'c and Carter were dumped next to him and Daniel was led in behind them. Caddie said something. Daniel said something back. Caddie smiled, ruffled Daniel's hair in much the same way as a proud parent, and then walked off with the rest of his raiding party.
Carter headed for the door and checked on what was happening outside. "Carter?"
"There's no guard," Carter replied, obviously perplexed. She looked at Daniel then at him. "Sir?"
Jack sighed. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Daniel, wordlessly demanding answers.
Daniel also crossed his hands over his chest and glared right back at Jack, clearly conveying his belief that Jack had no right to be pissed at him because he'd already tried explaining.
Jack cocked his head and twitched his eyebrows, telling Daniel to humor him and start talking already.
Daniel sighed the most put upon, long suffering sigh in his arsenal and started explaining.
"If my understanding of the language is correct..."
"If?!" Jack said, aggravated. They were sitting, or rather standing, here like lambs waiting for slaughter because Daniel said that they weren't in any danger and now he was telling them that he was guessing?!
"Jack will you shut up and let me talk? For just a minute? Can you do that?" Daniel asked in an annoyingly condescending tone.
Jack was thinking about strangling him.
"I agree, O'Neill."
"So do I, Sir. I'd like to hear what Daniel has to say. These people don't seem hostile and they didn't take our weapons. I'm curious. What do they want with us?"
Jack threw his hands up in the air, knowing damn well that he was being unreasonable. It was just...this was intended to be a cake walk, a simple little Please the Archeologist mission. And now they were being held captive by a bunch of naked giants that weren't supposed to exist, waiting to find out if they were scheduled for sacrifice or something worse. Christ, they'd only just gotten Daniel back.
He scrubbed his hands through his hair and took a deep breath. "I apologize. Daniel, I won't interrupt again."
Daniel was now looking concerned. "Are you alright, Jack?"
He offered Daniel a feeble smile. "I'm OK. Tell us what's going on."
Daniel studied him for a moment and then continued his explanation. "It seems that Cadeyrn and his men saw us come through the Stargate. They believed that the Stargate was a kind of highway that only the gods could travel. When they saw us, four people who didn't look much like gods, they were curious. They followed us to the 'Lios na Grainsi', Stones of the Sun, and watched us."
"They were observing us from the moment that we first arrived here," Teal'c said, in a severely disapproving tone of voice. Jack looked over at his teammate and saw Teal'c's deep frown. He was angry as well. They should have realized that they were being followed. If those men had been hostile, they all would have been dead.
Daniel looked back and forth between them. He opened his mouth as if to say something and then closed it. Smart man. There wasn't anything that he could say and he'd obviously realized it.
This whole mission had been one giant cock up right from the very beginning. "Next time I agree to go on an easy, safe mission, have me committed because I will have obviously lost my mind."
"It's not that bad, Jack," Daniel said softly, trying to lessen Jack's guilt.
Jack walked over to Daniel's side and rested his hand on Daniel's shoulder, giving it a squeeze, telling his friend that it was alright. Daniel smiled at him and he smiled back. He gave Daniel's shoulder one last pat and then let go.
Daniel nodded his head and continued his tale. "Once they'd realized that we weren't a threat, they decided to approach us. I'm not quite clear on whether they think we're supernatural beings of some sort, but they don't think that we're gods."
"Too bad," Jack said. "Might have come in handy."
"I tried to tell them that we're peaceful explorers, but I'm not sure they understood. Cadeyrn, um, decided that we were coming back with them to their village. He said something about a celebration."
"I don't hear anything there about us not being fattened for slaughter. Maybe they're celebrating their newly discovered sacrifices. Didn't those Celtics practice human sacrifice?"
"The Celtics are a basketball team, Jack. It's Celts, with a 'K'"
"I knew that. You didn't answer my question."
Daniel worried at his lower lip with his teeth for a moment, eyes on the ground. Jack groaned. "All right, we're getting out of here. Right now."
Daniel looked up at him. "Jack, we can't..."
Jack cut him off. "Maybe they're friendly. Or maybe the only reason why they didn't disarm us is because they don't know that these," he lifted his P-90 and pointed at Teal'c's staff weapon, "are weapons. I'm not waiting around to find out.
"Carter," he barked out and, with a jerk of his head, indicated that she should check on the outside activity. She nodded her head in acknowledgment and moved to carry out his order.
She'd barely moved, though, when Caddie and three others strode into the room, huge smiles on their faces.
They were still naked.
That probably wasn't a good sign. He looked over at Daniel, simultaneously checking on his friend and gauging Daniel's reaction to the nakedness of the natives. Daniel looked curious but not worried. He turned back to Caddie and his buddies just as Caddie began to talk to Daniel.
He waited, tense and impatient, while Daniel listened to Caddie. One sign of danger to Daniel or anyone else on his team and they started shooting their way out of here.
Daniel spoke and then Caddie bowed. Daniel was now looking worried; Jack's hand tightened on his gun. "Daniel?"
Daniel looked over at him and said, "Remember when I told you about the celebration?"
"Shit. We are being sacrificed to some god, aren't we?"
"No! No, we not. It's not like that at all."
"Then why do you look so upset, Daniel? What did he say to you?" Carter asked from her spot by the door. She looked equal parts angry and concerned -- ready, willing, and able to kick ass on Daniel's behalf.
Daniel sighed and adjusted his glasses. With eyes looking everywhere but at his teammates, Daniel said, "We're the guests of honor at their feast tonight. The thing is...um...they consider us, all of us," he looked at Carter for a second before his eyes shifted away, "well...see..."
"Daniel, will you just spit it out, already?"
"We have to get our bodies painted," he said.
Jack frowned. "That's it? It's not my idea of a good
time, but I suppose...When in
She shrugged and said, "It's fine with me, Sir?"
He looked at Teal'c. "Teal'c?"
"I will agree to this ritual."
He looked back at Daniel. "Good. Now that's settled..." He stopped talking when Daniel shook his head. "What?"
"Um...there's more. We also have to..."
"Have to what, Daniel?"
Daniel sucked in a deep breath, held it for a moment and then said, "They insist that we attend the feast without our clothes."
Jack said, "They expect us to wear native garb," knowing that wasn't what Daniel meant at all.
"Well, they do expect us to go native, so to speak."
He heard Carter gasp. "No. No way," Jack said shaking his head. He was not letting it all hang out, here or anywhere.
"Jack," Daniel said in his Don't Be a Dick tone.
Daniel," Carter said tentatively.
Daniel immediately looked contrite. "I'm sorry, Sam, but they consider women equals here and you came through the Stargate with us. The thing is, I'm not sure what would happen if we refused and it's perfectly normal for them. They won't be...ogling."
Caddie, sounding unhappy, interrupted with something that sounded like a question. Daniel responded and Caddie nodded. He said something else and the three other men in the room moved to stand next to Jack, Teal'c, and Carter.
"I told them that we agreed, Jack."
Sometimes he really hated his life. He cast an apologetic look at Carter and asked, "Do they want us to strip here and now?"
"No. They're taking you each to a different home to get ready in private, except for the body painting. You'll need help with that."
"What about you?"
"I'm staying here."
He didn't like the idea of splitting his team, but he also didn't want to try shooting their way out of the village if they didn't have to. "Alright. Let's get this show on the road. Tell him we're ready." He turned to Carter and, as Daniel told Caddie that they were all set, asked her, "Are you gonna be OK with this?"
"I'll have to be, won't I, Sir?" She said determinedly. He nodded his head in acceptance. Carter was a good soldier. She'd do what she had to do to get the team out of here alive.
After one last worried look at Daniel, he allowed himself to be escorted outside and down a dirty track to another stone house.
An hour later he emerged from the house, naked but for some body paint, itchy as hell, and a little buzzed from the three tankards of a sweet, fruity drink that they'd plied him with while he was being prepared for the feast.
Night had long since arrived and he could see a huge bonfire burning in the center of the village. They obviously had these parties regularly because the area they were leading him to was a wide-open space with plenty of room for hundreds of people to gather.
He quickly spotted Daniel, naked and painted and standing off to the side with a large chunk of brown bread. Jack headed in his direction.
He reached Daniel's side before he realized that his escort was gone.
The party was already in full swing. Naked men and women and not so naked men and women wearing brightly colored ankle-length shirt-like dresses were dancing and singing and eating and drinking.
"Daniel," he said. He couldn't hear his own voice so he figured Daniel wouldn't have heard him either. He leaned in until his lips were right against Daniel's ear and said Daniel's name again. Daniel jumped, startled, and turned to face Jack. He smiled and said something that Jack couldn't hear. When these guys partied they really partied. He grinned. This might be a lot of fun after all.
He shook his head and pointed at his ear, indicating that he couldn't hear. Daniel leaned in close and shouted, "Teal'c's over on the other side of the bonfire getting some food, but Sam hasn't arrived yet, I don't think."
He thought about asking how Teal'c was doing, but decided it was too much of a hassle. He'd see for himself soon enough. And he hoped that Carter wasn't too traumatized. As soon as he'd checked up on all of his kids, he planned on joining in the fun. Their hosts might be insulted if they all spent the night hanging out with each other on the fringes of the party.
He nodded his head to indicate that he'd heard and understood and began peering anxiously into the crowd. How long did it take to get some food?
A few endless minutes later he spotted Teal'c and Carter. They were both carrying tankards, probably containing that fruity drink that he'd liked so much. He'd have to get some more of that.
Carter looked a little tense so he tried not to stare too blatantly. She was a beautiful woman, normally. The flaky body paint left her looking like she had some sort of nasty skin disease. He looked down at his own body, for the first time, and then checked out Daniel's and Teal'c's. He, too, looked like he was infested with something icky, but for some reason Daniel and Teal'c looked...well, the body paint seemed to suit them, just like it had suited the warriors they'd met earlier in the day.
He glared at Daniel and Teal'c. Teal'c arched an eyebrow in an incredibly superior way. Daniel just looked confused. Deciding that everyone looked healthy, if not entirely happy, he decided it was time to party.
He was just about to walk away when he noticed Carter stop dead. Her eyes widened and he saw her lips form the word, "Wow." He followed her line of sight right to Daniel's...Jack growled and stomped off.
Alright, so, the man was well built. There was no need for Carter to act all overwhelmed. It's not like she'd never seen one before and, for God's sake, there were dozens of eight foot tall in proportion men dancing around a bonfire. Daniel wasn't that impressive.
And what about Teal'c?
Or had she greeted him in a similar manner?
Where was the booze? He wanted to get drunk, no matter how stupid that was when he was off-world.
Jack groaned and cracked open one eye. The resulting light induced anguish caused him to whimper, close his eye, and curl up into a fetal position.
His head throbbed with an unholy agony and his stomach began doing back flips and somersaults.
A thought intruded into his brain and he tried to focus on it, but that hurt too much so he tried ignoring it. It wouldn't go away, though, and slowly drifted into focus.
Where was he?
That was a really good question. An even better one was, who was he?
Did he hear a voice?
He did hear a voice. It was a familiar voice.
"Jack." He felt something touch his shoulder. "You need to wake up," the familiar voice said softly.
"Can't," he managed to croak out and felt the throbbing in his head increase exponentially. He moaned.
"Oh, Jack. If you can sit up then I have something for you to drink. Cadeyrn says that it's a very effective hangover cure."
Sit up? Uh uh. No way. It would kill him.
"Come on, Jack. Teal'c, help me lift him up."
He felt hands grab onto his shoulders and lift him upright. He bit his lip and whimpered. "It's alright, Jack. You're going to be just fine. As soon as you drink this." He felt something hard and cool press against his bottom lip, and since he trusted the owner of that voice, he opened his mouth and drank down the bitter liquid that was poured down his throat.
He coughed and sputtered and felt himself being lowered back onto the ground. "Just lie there for a few minutes, give the medicine a chance to work." Someone patted his shoulder and then he heard the shifting of cloth and the crunch of someone, or rather two someones, walking away.
As he lay on the ground, he slowly became more aware of his surroundings. One of the first things he noticed was that he was naked. And itchy. Since the pain in his head was already fading (How long had he been lying here?), he reached down and began to scratch his chest and neck.
With the pain and queasiness easing, his thoughts cleared. He remembered who he was, Jack O'Neill, who the owner of the voice was, Daniel Jackson, where he was, the Day-Glo planet, and how he came to be naked, Daniel told him to do it.
He couldn't seem to remember how he came to be lying on the ground, but he suspected, based on the hangover from Hell, that he'd had way too much of an alcoholic beverage and passed out.
He climbed to his feet and stumbled off in a random direction. Where had Daniel gone? Where were his clothes? And what happened last night?
The last thing he remembered was heading off to get some food and drink.
He looked up at the sound of Daniel's voice and saw Daniel, Teal'c and Sam standing in front of a house off to his left. They were all fully dressed. Daniel was grinning at him and Carter was making a heroic effort to not look at his assets.
"Where are my clothes?"
Daniel indicated the doorway behind him with an out stretched arm. Jack stalked past him and through the door. He quickly spotted his clothing, pack, and weapons stacked neatly in the far corner.
He absently scratched at his cheek as he walked across the room. He noticed his teammates follow him inside and asked, "Is there any chance of a shower?"
"We are due back at the SGC in less than thirty minutes, O'Neill. It will take nearly that long to return to the Stargate."
He sighed and reached for his clothes. "No shower." He pulled on his underwear and pants then said, "You all look bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning."
"We didn't get smashed last night, Sir."
He scowled at his cheeky 2IC through the collar of his t-shirt as he pulled it on. He tucked it into his pants and asked, "Why didn't anyone wake me up and where is everyone."
"They're all sleeping it off. I think Teal'c, Daniel and I are the only ones who didn't get drunk last night. You weren't the only one who slept outside, Sir."
"We decided we should let you sleep as long as possible since we figured you'd be in bad shape when you woke up. We didn't know that they had a fool-proof hangover cure until I was saying goodbye to Caderyn and he told me," Daniel said.
Jack settled his P-90 into position and then put his sunglasses back on. He was going to need them if they were going to be hiking back through the multi-colored fields and forests of this planet.
"Well, if all the niceties are out of the way then we better start back." He scratched at his elbow. "I need a shower."
Daniel smirked at him so he gave Daniel a shove. "Get moving, Rock Boy," he said and headed outside. His team fell into place behind him and they followed the same path they had taken yesterday afternoon, walking towards the Stargate this time.
Twenty itchy minutes later Jack stood beside the DHD, impatiently waiting for Daniel to finish dialing home.
The Stargate exploded into life and Carter punched in their code.
"We have to come back here again," Daniel said. "I barely had a chance to talk to Caderyn and..."
"Ahh,ah,ah. Don't lie. We know you want to come back for the naked dancing. I saw how much fun you were having letting it all hang out," Jack said.
"You're right, Jack. My inner exhibitionist demands that I get the chance to strip naked, paint my body brown, and dance around a bonfire," Daniel said and began walking towards the 'gate.
"Me, too," Carter piped up. "It was liberating," she said and joined Daniel in front of the event horizon.
"Indeed, O'Neill. I enjoyed myself immensely. I believe the best word to describe my experiences on this mission is 'wow'," Teal'c said and stepped through the wormhole. Jack burst out laughing. He felt someone, Daniel probably, shove him into the wormhole and he stumbled out the other side still laughing.
"Welcome home, SG1,"
"Sounds like you had a good time, Colonel. Perhaps, I
should send SG1 on more of these scientific missions. It seems to be doing
wonders for your morale,"
Jack stopped laughing. "What? No, Sir, that won't be necessary, Sir."
This time it was Daniel who burst out laughing. Jack smiled. It was good to hear Daniel laugh again.
Not that he was going to let Daniel get away with laughing at him. He headed down the ramp after giving Daniel his most evil smirk. "Daniel can fill you in on the details of our mission, Sir. I need to go get cleaned up."
He heard Daniel's outraged, "Hey," as he walked out of the gateroom. He chuckled.
It was good to have his team back together.