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Official Episode 4 Mission Wrap-Up


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**WARNING THIS POST WILL HAVE SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 1**

The purpose of this post is to give the official version of what happened in Season 1, Episode 4 of the Phoenix Site Living Series. These results are compiled from the episode playthroughs that where ran at tables and reported to us via After Action Reports. Future episodes of the Phoenix Site Living Series will build off of these official results for story arc and plot points.

 

Oringo poked Lanni in the side as she attempted to take an afternoon nap in Phoenix 1’s shared quarters.

“Go ‘way.”

“Lanni.”

“M’ sleeping.  Zzzz.”

“Lanni, look.”  Oringo waved a tablet in front of her closed eyes.

“Hrrrm.  Whut?”

“Report.  SGC.  Pro-mee-thee-us.”

Lanni opened her eyes and sat up, taking the proffered tablet.  While rubbing her eyes she asked, “What’s a Prometheus?  Or who?”

Oringo sat next to her.  The bedframe creaked threateningly.  “Big Tau’ri ship.”

“As in spaceship?”

Oringo nodded.

“When did the Tau’ri build that?!” she asked, seeing the scale of the ship.

Oringo shrugged.

“Wait…somebody hijacked it?”

Oringo nodded.

Lanni scrolled to the end of the report.  “Okay, but they got it back.”

Oringo nodded.

Lanni scrolled back up a little.  “Go SG-1!  Especially Carter – I always liked her.”

Oringo nodded.

“Thanks, this will make for good reading.  Can I hang onto it for a while?”  She scrolled back to the top.

Oringo nodded.

“Awesome!  Great talking to you, I need coffee.”

Oringo silently watched her departing back as she left for the mess hall, deep in the report about Prometheus’ theft and recapture.  As she left the room, Bythal and Kulera entered.

“It does not mean anything!  The librarian showed you in The Illustrated Lord of the Rings – elves are tall and beautiful.”

Kulera was unusually agitated in her response, waving her hands as she spoke.  “Except when they are short, fat bakers.  I may have grown up in a tree, but I do not bake cookies!”

The corner of Bythal’s mouth curled.  “You have pointy ears.”

Kulera’s eyes widened, and her lips whitened.  She whirled and stormed away.

Maste took over.  “Kulera, wait!  Bythal was just teasing, she meant no insult!”  She ran after the Aturen.

Bervel thumped down on Lanni’s bed next to Oringo.  “Good luck with that negotiation.  Wanna go to Natok’s?”

Oringo nodded.

 

*   *   *

 

“Good morning, campers!”  Captain Selena Rodriguez greeted her team the next morning from the doorway of their quarters, doing her best Jack O’Neill impression.  She received a variety of greetings and waves.  “I hope you’ve had your morning chow, because Major Ross wants us in the briefing room in” – she checked her watch – “eighteen minutes.”

Phoenix 1 started moving like the well-oiled machine it was...if not without some half-hearted grousing at the short notice.  “That’s the spirit!” Rodriguez called out.  “See you in…seventeen minutes.”

 

The full team was standing in the briefing room sixteen minutes later, waiting with Major Ross for General Loyer to arrive.  As he entered – accompanied by a short, slender woman in Tok’ra garb – he called out, “At ease!  Be seated” before the Major or Captain could snap out a salute.

The general and the Tok’ra joined the others at the conference table.  “Good morning, team.  This mission is time sensitive, so let’s get right down to brass tacks.  This is Zelida and her host, Salem.  Perhaps you’ve seen Salem around the base….”

Rodriguez thought the woman’s golden brown complexion, dark brown eyes and attractively braided chestnut hair did look somewhat familiar.

“They have received intelligence that the System Lord Nephthys has withdrawn her forces from P2X-678, also known as Parva.  Zelida, please brief Phoenix 1 on what you know.”

Zelida straightened in her chair and began, “More than a century ago, the Tok’ra maintained a base on the desert planet of Parva.  When Nephthys invaded Parva, the Tok’ra were forced to flee, abandoning almost everything at the base, including three stasis jars containing Tok’ra symbiotes awaiting new hosts.  We expected to be able to return soon, to salvage them, the equipment and material.”  She sighed.  “Instead, Nephthys build a palace not far from the gate, and took up residence, effectively preventing any access via the Stargate.  We believe that, despite the lengthy occupation, Nephthys never discovered the base.

“Recently, Wepwawet commandeered most of Nephthys’ forces.  The native Parvans rose up against the few remaining Jaffa, driving them from the planet.  This has provided us with the chance to return to the base and recover the jars.”

General Loyer explained, “The Tok’ra High Council has asked me to provide a team to escort Zelida to the base and help recover the stasis jars.  You’re my choice.  Now…any questions for Zelida or me?”

Maste spoke before Rodriguez could.  “Where does your intelligence come from?”

“A Jaffa double agent named Lan’gan.  He was in the service of Nephthys, but when the Parvans rose up, he turned his staff weapon on those loyal to the false god and openly joined the Free Jaffa.”

“And you trust him – not only his devotion to the cause, but his abilities?”

“Completely.  His information has always proven reliable.”

Rodriguez leaned forward.  “Where is the gate relative to the base?”

“When I was last there, the gate was on the outskirts of a small town, near their souk – that is, marketplace.  I advise you to bring items to trade in the souk, as this will give us an opportunity to gather the latest intelligence.  But” – she looked at A’tir – “do not bring any Jaffa clothing or equipment.  It would likely be best to hide your forehead, as well.”

A’tir nodded his understanding.

Zelida continued, “Getting to the base will require a trek of approximately twenty kilometers through the desert.  It will be very hot – bring plenty of water.  We may be able to find a local guide, but we will need trade goods to hire them.”

Rodriguez said, “You said ‘we’ and ‘us’ – you’ll be coming with us?”

The general answered, “Yes, Zelida will act as a mission specialist.  You’re in command, Captain, but listen to what she says.”

A’tir asked, “Why did you not retrieve the jars using a cloaked Tel’tak?”

“The jars have enough power for several millennia.  With no known dangers to them, the Tok’ra Council felt it was not worth risking a ship or retrieval team.  They were watching and waiting for an opportunity such as we have now.” 

Maste asked, “Zelida, you were stationed on Parva?”

“That is correct.”

“You knew the Tok’ra in the stasis jars…?”

“Yes – they are Marseph, Jandith and Dowsha.  They were my colleagues.”

Mindful of the time, Rodriguez responded before Maste could follow up with more personal questions.  “Thank you Zelida.  With a little luck we’ll return your friends to you.”

The general surveyed the table.  “Any other questions?”  Hearing none he concluded, “Very well.  Phoenix 1, you have a go.  You’ll depart for Parva in one hour – gear up, people!”

 

*   *   *

 

The team was assembled in the gate room – all except A’tir.  With three minutes left before the planned departure time, Rodriguez was getting antsy that her second in command was not present.  She needn’t have worried – with a minute to go he strode in like Lawrence of Arabia, with a beautiful keffiyah wrapping his head, hiding his forehead sigil and trailing down his back.

The gate operator, Heim, started dialing.  As soon as he called out, “Chevron seven locked!” and the wormhole stabilized, Rodriguez strode up the ramp, calling out, “Let’s move!” over her shoulder.

A few seconds and many lightyears later, Rodriguez stepped through onto the gate platform on Parva.  While the rest of the team and Zelida came through behind her she took in the view, which was more or less what she had expected: much like a back-country North African market she had seen on TV, complete with crowds of running children and baaing sheep and goats.  She turned to Zelida.  “Notice anything?”

“The village is smaller than I remember, but a few generations have passed under Goa’uld rule, so perhaps that is to be expected.  See the falcon wing symbols there and there?” she asked, pointing to the defaced carvings on gateways around the souk.  “Those are Nephthys’ symbols.  And that was her palace,” she added, pointing to bomb-damaged ruins in the distance.”

“Why doesn’t anybody seem to care that we’re here?  For all they know, when the gate activated it could have been a Jaffa re-invasion force.”

“These are very fatalistic people, Captain.  What will happen, will happen – what they care about is obtaining enough food today to feed their families tonight.  If they run and hide every time the gate activates, their families starve.  Frankly I was shocked to hear that they had risen up against Nephthys, but – what is the Tau’ri expression – I will not look a gift camel in the mouth.”

Rodriguez grinned.  “Yeah, something like that.  Let’s get off this platform.”

The team descended to the dry earth and formed a circle to discuss their next steps.

“Okay Zelida, you’re here to advise, so advise.”

“We should split up and start meeting the merchants.  The children will want to trade trinkets for food, too, so do not ignore them or you will incur their wrath, and their parents’.  Enter the shops around the outside of the souk.  There you may rest from the heat, and the proprietors are wealthier and better connected than those who have only a thin piece of cloth between them and the sun.  That is where you are likelier to obtain useful information.”

“Alright, you heard the lady – go mingle, talk and trade.  Groups of at least two at all times.  Meet by the gate over there,” Rodriguez said, pointing to the western gate with its defaced falcon wings, “in one hour.  Radio check every fifteen minutes.  Zelida, you’re with me.”

 

*   *   *

 

Within five minutes, Lanni radioed to warn the others that the children were stealing whatever they could get their hands on.  They would give it back, but only if the team members would agree to trade food or bottles of water for the inexpert products of the kids’ crafts.  She and Bythal were already almost out of things they could trade, and were just trying to hang onto their equipment.

The first radio check passed with no further incidents.

At the second radio check, A’tir reported that he and Kulera had spoken with Ofeh the baker, who confirmed that the Jaffa Lan’gan had rebelled against Nephthys when she ordered the souk vendors killed in retaliation for the defacement of her symbols.  Of some concern, Ofeh had not seen Lan’gan for several days.  The baker had also mentioned the odd fact that the gate activated yesterday morning, but nothing came through.

“A’tir, does that match when Phoenix dialed in the first time?  Over.”

“No, Captain.  The first connection from Phoenix Base was yesterday at 1530 local time.  Over.”

“Hmm.  Okay.  Chalk that up as a known unknown, then.  Rodriguez out.”

At the third radio check, Kulera related that Tafora the tailor had offered her oversize local clothing in exchange for her BDUs.  The robe was too broad and too short for her.  Tafora said that she had made it for the Jaffa named “Luh-something,” but he hadn’t been around in a few days, and she was starting to think she wasn’t going to be able to offload it.

With the shops covered, Oringo and Bervel had been working the stalls.  Bervel reported that there was evidence of off-world trade – they had found a vendor, Ikusi, who brought items from his home planet of Alava.

“Well done everybody.  Start wrapping things up.  Meet at the west gate in 15 minutes, or when you run out of people to talk to, whichever comes first.  Rodriguez out.”  The captain wiped the sweat from her forehead and took a big swallow of water from her canteen.  It was flat and tepid.  “Mind if we sit in the shade over there?” she asked Zelida, pointing with the neck of her canteen at the wall next to the western gate.

“Not at all.  It is inadvisable to spend more time in the sun than is necessary, especially since we will soon be trekking through the desert.”

The two women had just arranged themselves companionably in the sliver of shade next to the gate when a young boy running by stopped, looked out the gate and yelled to his friends, “Nagbe!  It’s the famous Nagbe, back from the desert!”  A minute later a young woman driving a donkey came through the gate.  She tore a chunk of bread off what she was eating and tossed it to the boy, then had to do the same for all his friends.

By the time the bread was gone and the small crowd had cleared away to chew in peace, Rodriguez was on her feet, waiting to speak with her.  “You’ll make a lot of friends that way around here!”

Nagbe rubbed her donkey’s neck, raising a small cloud of dust.  “Perhaps you are in need of a friend.  You seek a guide?”

“That obvious, huh?” Rodriguez grinned.

Behind Nagbe, the rest of the team assembled at a respectful, non-threatening distance.

Zelida joined the conversation.  “There are eight of us.  We wish to follow a path I knew long ago, but we need your expertise in desert travel.”

Nagbe rubbed her chin and spoke to Rodriguez.  “You are Tau’ri?  I’ve heard of you…and your weapons.  Give me that one on your hip, and three – what do you call them? – magazines, and you have a deal.”

Rodriguez laid her hand protectively on her sidearm while Zelida jumped in and started bargaining in earnest.  In the end Nagbe settled for a pair of binoculars, three rolls of duct tape, an SIPC – Standard Issue Care Package – eight MREs, and two canteens.

“When do you want to leave?” asked Nagbe when the goods had been handed over and stored in various packs on the donkey.

“The sooner the better.  We’re ready now,” Rodriguez answered.

“Perfect!  Let me water my friend here and then we’ll go.”  She led the donkey to a trough tucked next to the bakery and started cranking the attached hand pump.  The animal drank long and deeply, then turned away and shook the drops off his nose.

“Good luck, Nagbe!” called the little boy who had announced her arrival earlier.

“See you again soon, little one!” she replied, returning his wave.

Nagbe rejoined the group.  The sun was still a few hours from setting as they exited the souk’s western gate and headed into the desert, Nagbe, her donkey, and Zelida in the lead.

 

*   *   *

 

The late-afternoon heat was unrelenting as the group went deeper into the desert.  At least it isn’t a sea of sand,” Rodriguez thought to herself.  There are landmarks – more like the Mojave than the Sahara.  Occasionally Zelida would spot something she recognized and ask Nagbe to adjust course.

Even as the shadows started to lengthen, it was hot enough to make Bervel a near-casualty.  Bythal was just about to remind him to drink something when he stumbled and she had to catch him.

Suddenly Nagbe stopped.  The donkey – his name was Hemar – blew out his breath, pawed the ground and shook his mane in worry.  “Jackals,” Nagbe said, just loudly enough for the word to reach Zelida and Rodriguez, who passed the word to the rest of her team.

Rodriguez could see one – no, two – dark shapes silhouetted against the blue sky on a low ridgeline about 100 meters to the north.  While she turned to check for other unwelcome newcomers, she unsnapped the strap on her sidearm and made sure the Beretta was loose in its holster.  She was gratified to see that the rest of her team were also scanning all around.  She reached for her canteen…and was shocked by Hemar’s scream.  Spinning back to face front, she saw five more black jackals speeding toward the donkey and Nagbe – the two on the ridgeline had been a distraction.  She struggled to raise her pistol and take off the safety in the few moments she still had a shot, before Nagbe got in the way.  She was shocked by the rapid-fire reports of a pistol as Zelida fired four shots.

With Zelida’s wild shots kicking up dust around her, Nagbe did exactly the right thing – she dove to the ground and rolled out of the way, giving Rodriguez an extra fraction of a second to take aim and fire, killing the lead jackal.  Behind and to the left of her, A’tir’s P90 rapped out a three-round burst, eliminating the second jackal.

Before they or their teammates could shift to aim at the two remaining jackals, the third was snapping at Hemar’s side, trying to reach his belly.  Acting more like a warhorse than a donkey, Hemar staggered the jackal with a hind leg, then immediately lashed out with his front, catching the canid in the side of the head and knocking it dead.  He spun back to face the fourth jackal, but a three-round burst from Lanni ended that one’s charge before it could get close to the donkey.  The final attacker weighed the odds and beat a hasty retreat.

Rodriguez checked the ridge to the north, and saw two tails disappearing down the hill on the other side.  She took a deep breath, and went to give Nagbe a hand getting up and calming Hemar.

 

With the sun still a couple of handspans above the western horizon, the day was not getting any cooler.  Kulera, used to a more verdant, clement environment – and in spite of her medical training – followed Bervel’s example in not keeping up her fluid intake.  Fortunately A’tir noticed and told her to drink before she could start stumbling.

At last there was a breath of coolness from the east, just as the team crossed a rolling dune and spotted a beautiful sight ahead of them, glowing in the low rays of the sun:  A small patch of flowering, fruiting cacti.  Nagbe turned slightly to avoid them.

“Hemar doesn’t eat the fruit?” asked Rodriguez.

“Not those – that is a paddle cactus patch.  Bad news if you touch the paddles or flowers.”

“Hmmm.  Good to know, thanks.”

Another twenty minutes brought the team to the edge of a shallow dry riverbed.  Flies buzzed thunderously, swooping in and out of the remaining sunlight.  Nagbe handed Hemar’s lead to Zelida, walked into the swarm of flies, dropped to one knee and started digging in the loose, sandy soil with her bare hands.  Bervel grabbed his multi-tool and joined her, quickly discovering her purpose.  Only a few centimeters down, clear water started filling the hole.  “Water!” he called back to his teammates.

Everybody lined up to refill canteens, swatting flies all the while.

As the companions started moving again, the sun dropped below the western horizon.  A single cool gust of wind raised dust and promised the chill that would come soon.

Twenty minutes later Rodriguez was surprised to see the tops of palm trees waving in front of the first stars to the southeast.  Between crunching footsteps she thought she could even hear their rustle in the breeze.  But again Nagbe diverted to avoid the spot.

“More paddle cactus, Nagbe?” she called out.

“No, an oasis.”

“We aren’t going there?  That might be a good place to stop and bivouac, right?”

“I do not know this word, ‘biv-wack,’ but we will not be stopping there, or going there.  Do you know what comes to an oasis at night?”

“Uh…no.”

“Neither do I.”

“I see,” which Rodriguez definitely did not.

Nagbe sighed, quite aware that Rodriguez was fishing for an explanation.  “It is the desert.  Bad things come out in the cool of the night – things that might like to bite, sting or eat Hemar.  Or you.”

“Oh.  Got it.”

“Indeed,” added A’tir from a few positions back in the line.

Zelida asked, “But we will be stopping, right?”

Nagbe was silent for a moment.  Rodriguez suspected that she still held some anger at Zelida for almost shooting her during the jackal attack.  But eventually she answered, “It is not safe here.  Better to keep moving.  I know of someplace we may stay, about forty minutes from here.”

“Will we need to detour?”

“When is the next turn?”

“There is a grove of trees twenty or thirty minutes ahead.  We should turn northwest there.”

“I know the trees of which you speak.  We will have to turn south before we get there, but we will not need to go far out of our way.”

Fifteen minutes later Zelida turned south at a sign next to a large boulder sitting by itself in a plain of dust, sand and gravel.  A’tir read the hieroglyphics on the sign aloud – “Milk, cheese and beer, sometimes goat meat.”

After another twenty minutes, dim firelight could be seen shining from the windows of a small, square building ahead.  As they came closer, Rodriguez could see that it was a small sandstone hut, thatched with a roof of dry grass.  Nagbe pulled a pot from one of Hemar’s packs and banged it with a rock to announce the team’s coming.  The sudden noise was greeted by numerous goaty complaints from a small corral outside the hut.

The hut’s door burst open and a youth charged out, waving a heavy stick.  When he saw Nagbe and Hemar silhouetted by the team’s bobbing flashlights, he shaded his eyes and called out, “Nagbe?”

“Well met, Qabir!  There is no threat here – we seek only a spot in the yard to sleep.”

A woman came outside and stood by Qabir’s side.  “Nagbe, welcome!  Who have you brought?”

Nagbe managed the introductions.  The woman’s name was Yosufa, and she was Qabir’s mother.

Once everybody had met, Yosufa pointed to a small clear patch on the west side of the house and said, “We sweep here most days.  You should find it a comfortable place to lay your heads.  We can give you a little firewood, too.”

 

*   *   *

 

The team spent the rest of the evening sharing MREs, drink and stories with their hosts.  Lanni was especially thrilled to try the beer, theorizing that it was similar to the beer given to the workers who built the pyramids on Earth.  The chewy brew was nicknamed “mother’s milk” by the Parvans.

At one point Bythal mentioned that they were interested in finding Lan’gan, the brave Jaffa who had rebelled against his god.  Nagbe showed surprise – “Lan’gan came to me some days ago, seeking to locate an abandoned base in the desert.  Is that where we are going?”

Rodriguez, thinking it was too late to hold back now, admitted that it was.

Qabir spoke up, “Lan’gan would be welcome here, but we have not seen him.  We have seen no Jaffa for two months.”

Yosufa added, “But a goat was carried away in the night, two nights ago.  I feared it was a sand cat…but it could have been a desperate traveler, instead.”

The circle quietly pondered the possibilities for a minute, but was soon back in a fine mood.  By the time Yosufa and Qabir headed inside and the Phoenix team slipped into their sleeping bags, it was late, under a cold, crystal clear desert sky dazzled with stars.

 

*   *   *

 

The next morning came early, with the sun seeming to jump over the horizon.  Nagbe asked for a little more firewood so the team could heat water for coffee and tea.  Remembering the mention of milk and cheese from the night before, Bythal and Lanni inquired about what they could trade.  For an SICP, four MREs and a canteen, they received enough fresh goat milk for everybody to have a couple of swallows, and more than enough salty goat cheese to make a breakfast.

With calls of thanks and well wishes, the team was heading onward before the sun was a handspan over the horizon.

By the time the travelers returned to where they had diverted south the night before, the sun was still fairly low, but was making its presence felt on the backs of their necks.  In another fifteen minutes the grove appeared around the shoulder of a low escarpment.  But while some distance from the dying trees, Hemar stopped and pawed agitatedly at the ground, much as he had done yesterday with the jackals.  The team immediately grabbed their weapons and scanned for what might have spooked the donkey.

The morning breeze shifted, and suddenly even the humans could smell it: rotting meat.

“Zelida, hold Hemar’s lead while Rodriguez and I investigate,” instructed Nagbe.

“Kulera, with us please,” ordered Rodriguez.

The three women approached the grove while the stench continued to grow.  “Jackals,” muttered Nagbe.  A pair of the canids – very possibly the same pair who had acted as decoys the day before – padded away from the grove, heading north, looking back over their shoulders at the humans and Aturen.

Under a dry bush at the edge of the grove was a gnawed ulna from a human-sized arm.  Other bits were scattered around as the women entered into the grove’s shade – it was obvious whoever died here, the jackals had enjoyed their meal.

By another dying bush near the center of the grove, pieces of Jaffa armor were scattered about.  The jackals’ jaws must not have been strong enough to crack the leg bones or skull, as these were intact…and reeking in the warming sun.

Kulera donned a pair of medical exam gloves and picked up the skull.  After only a cursory examination she held it up to show the other two.  “Murdered.  See the wound here?”  She pointed to a narrow entry wound at the base of the skull.  “This was made by a very strong person wielding an exceptionally sharp knife.  The victim was likely unaware or restrained somehow, or already unconscious.”  She stood and stripped off the gloves.  Unsure what to do with them but unwilling to carry them, she finally dropped them next to the body.

Rodriguez spoke.  “So…we have a murdered Jaffa who might – or might not – be Lan’gan.  If it wasn’t Lan’gan, my best guess is that a passerby stumbled on a sleeping Jaffa, and took advantage of the situation to get some revenge.  But if it was Lan’gan…what’s going on?  Nagbe, are there still people here loyal to Nephthys?”

“I have never heard anyone speak positively of the false god, at least not when they could speak without fear of being overheard.  If this was Lan’gan, I believe he was killed in error by one who did not know who he was.  That would be sad, but understandable.  Or there are other forces here on Parva, forces we have not seen.”

Rodriguez and Kulera’s eyes met.  “’Not seen.’  Exactly,” said Rodriguez.

“Captain, an invisible killer would explain this very neatly.  And the gate activation, when ‘nothing’ came through.”

“Invisible?” asked Nagbe.

“They’re called Ashraks – Goa’uld assassins.  They have technology that can make them invisible.”

The three women looked around with wide eyes.

“Perhaps we should return to the others,” said Nagbe.

“Indeed, as A’tir would say,” agreed Rodriguez.

 

*   *   *

 

The three walked quickly back to the others, trying not to look as spooked as they felt.

“Circle up, people!” ordered Rodriguez.  She briefed them on what they had found and what they believed it meant.  A tear slid down Zelida’s cheek at the news that Lan’gan was probably dead. “Don’t get paranoid.  We could be wrong about this.  But keep your eyes and ears open.  If there’s an Ashrak out there, maybe he’ll get lazy and leave footprints in the sand, or walk through loose gravel.”

Considerably subdued at the situation update, the group resumed their journey.  As the heat rose and became even more oppressive, Oringo moved up and down the line, urging his teammates, “Drink.  Hot day,” all the while listening and looking for a footprint or puff of dust that had no visible reason to be there.

 

*   *   *

 

In mid-morning a shocking sight greeted the team: A giant sandstone statue of Nepthys lay cracked and broken on its side in the sand and dust.  It would have stood 100 meters tall when upright. 

“Alright, take a break!  Find some shade by the statue.  Drink plenty and have some of the leftover cheese – the salt will help with the heat.”

Nagbe gave Hemar a pan of water and a bunch of dry grass before joining the Phoenix personnel in the shade.  “How much farther, Zelida?”

“Not far – maybe 40 minutes.  There is a ring platform – a way to get inside the base – in a dry riverbed.”

Nagbe added, “I know the riverbed of which you speak, though I believe it to be slightly closer.  I will wait outside with Hemar while you enter the base.”

“Are you sure?” asked Bervel.  “What if the Ashrak is somewhere outside?”

“I will not leave Hemar.  I will find a protected place, where I will know if an invisible foe approaches.”

Rodriguez and A’tir blessed this plan with respectful nods.

 

*   *   *

 

Nagbe was right about the distance.  Only thirty minutes later the team found themselves standing at the shallow edge of the broad, dry riverbed.  The rotting hulks of ancient barges lay where they had grounded long ago.

“There’s the ring platform,” Zelida said, pointing to a discolored spot in the middle of the riverbed.

Rodriguez turned to Nagbe, who was absently rubbing Hemar’s mane while he leaned into her.  “We don’t know how long we’ll be down there, Nagbe.”

“I do not see a good place out of the sun here.  We will return to the statue and wait there.  If you do not return in three hours, we will start back toward the village.  You will be able to find your own way back?”

“Oringo, Zelida!  Are you okay to guide us back?”

Zelida answered affirmatively, and Oringo nodded.

“Okay Nagbe, thank you for help getting us here.  Be safe.  If we don’t see you again before we leave, know that you have friends at Phoenix Base.”

“Thank you, Rodriguez.  This has been one of my more interesting trips.  Do not worry about me; if this ‘Ashrak’ is about, I am sure Hemar will smell him.”

“Oh!  I hadn’t thought of that.  Of course, you’re right.  Very well, we’ll hope to see you within three hours, by the statue.”

Nagbe turned and left, leading Hemar away, while Zelida led the team down the bank and to the ring platform.  Under Rodriguez’s direction, they formed a circle around Zelida, weapons and flashlights ready and pointed outward.  Then Zelida activated the rings.

 

*   *   *

 

The flare of light from the operating transport rings left the team momentarily blinded, despite their flashlights.  But within moments they could see that they were at a broad spot in a hallway with smooth, crystalline walls formed long ago by Tok’ra tunneling crystals.

“Weapons safe.”  There were clicks as the team followed Rodriguez’s quiet order.  “Oringo, A’tir, scout.”

The Unas and Jaffa expertly checked the corridor, quickly ascertaining that there were no visible threats within twenty meters in either direction.

Once they had returned, the team circled.  A’tir began, “The way Oringo went is north.  I went south.  The corridor’s southern end was beyond the reach of my flashlight.  Not far beyond where I stopped, there were small flashes and sounds coming from a room to the right.  I believe they were electrical in nature.”

“I can help with that,” offered Bervel.

“That is the micro-grid that powers the base,” offered Zelida.  “Beyond it are living quarters and the kitchen.  To the north are the archive, infirmary and laboratory.”

“Thank you Zelida.  Oringo, what did you see to the north?” prompted Rodriguez.

“Room on right.  Fifteen meters.  Full of books.  Messy.  A-nother doorway…on left, twenty meters more.”

“So those would be the archive and infirmary.  Could you see the end of the hallway?”

The Unas shook his head.

“Okay.  Bervel, Oringo, A’tir and Kulera go south to the ‘micro-grid’ and see if you can get the lights working.  A’tir, guard the door.  Oringo, scout a little further but not out of earshot.  The rest of us will go north.  Lanni, you’ll check the archive while the rest of us guard or help.”

The captain went on with a few additional instructions about maintaining radio contact and calling for help if they encountered anything or anybody.  “Okay, move.  Find those stasis jars and let’s get out of here.”

Their assignments clear, the team split and headed north and south.  Standing guard in the doorway, Rodriguez was amused in spite of herself at Lanni’s reaction to the Tok’ra archive room.  Clutching sheaves of papyrus, scrolls and books to her chest, the archaeologist kept trying to grab more while reading what she already had.

Their radios crackled.  “Captain, this is Berval, over.”

“Go ahead, over.”

“Somebody’s been here recently.  There’s a lot of damage to the electrical system, and some to the sprinkler system.  Over.”

“See what you can do with the electrical system.  Don’t worry about the sprinkler system.”

“Acknowledged, out.”

Maste was paging through a notebook she had found on the floor just inside the door.  “Strange.  Look at this – the last page has riddles by Ren’al.”  She held out the notebook and shone her flashlight so Lanni could read.  “The handwriting on the other pages is neat.  On the last page it looks rushed, as if Ren’al was trying to get them down before evacuating.”

“Clues?” guessed Lanni.

Zelida looked up from the scroll she was holding.  “Captain, I have never liked riddles.  I will stand guard if you want to help.”

Rodriguez recalled Zelida’s inaccurate shots at the jackals, but decided accuracy wouldn’t matter if she was actually standing in the doorway.  “Okay.  Listen for footsteps, and yell if you hear anything.”  The captain huddled with Lanni and Maste while Zelida went to the doorway, hand on the butt of her pistol.

“The first characters, there by themselves…those would be D, M and J in English,” pointed out Bythal.

“’Where we sewed up what was reaped’?” read Lanni, translating from the Goa’uld.

“’So’ as in, s-o, s-o-w or s-e-w?” asked Rodriguez.

“S-e-w.  Like cloth.”

“Your Goa’uld is better than mine.  What’s the next riddle?”

“’Where we sweat and toiled.’  And the third is ‘Where we played games while bored.’”

The three were silent for a minute, running the possibilities through their heads.

“Wait a minute,” said Bythal.  “Zelida, what were your colleagues’ names again?  Zelida?”

The three turned as one to see that Zelida was no longer in the doorway.

“Zelida!” called Rodriguez.

The only reply was a faint cry, somewhere up the hallway.  Rodriguez bolted for the door, followed closely by Lanni and Bythal.  About twenty meters north, a doorframe on the left was illuminated by a flashlight that was rolling around on the floor inside the room.  The team members sprinted up the hall and spun into the room, weapons at the ready.

Medical beds extended from two walls.  Zelida was near the beds on the far side of the room, kneeling over a symbiote lying on the floor, protecting it from the beam of a Hara’kesh.  As Rodriguez entered the room, a figure in black armor shut off the beam and activated a cloaking device.

“Ashrak!” warned Rodriguez, firing her Beretta toward where she thought the Goa’uld had been.  No sound of impact or cry of pain answered the gunfire.

Zelida looked up and cried, “She’s dying, please help!” then crumpled to the floor.

“Oof!” exclaimed Bythal as something slammed into her shoulder on the way out.

Rodriguez wasted a brief moment deciding not to chase the Goa’uld.  “Oringo, A’tir, come in, over!”

“A’tir here, over.”

Oringo clicked twice.

“There’s an Ashrak in the base!  I saw him for just a second, then he got away.  Watch your backs!”

The lights came on.  Rodriguez looked around and took a deep, calming breath before continuing.  “Bervel, good job.  Oringo, rejoin the others.  A’tir, once Oringo joins you, get up here ASAP.  We’ve found one of the symbiotes, but it’s dying – it looks like the Ashrak damaged its jar, but Zelida interrupted before he could finish it off.  Kulera, Zelida needs you – the Ashrak hit her with his Hara’kesh.  She’s unconscious.  Over.”

“Oringo is here.  We will join you in thirty seconds.  A’tir out.”

The half minute seemed like at least five times that as Rodriguez, Lanni and Bythal attempted to aid Zelida and the symbiote.  Then the other four joined them, and Kulera took over Zelida’s care while Bervel examined the stasis jar, Maste attended to the symbiote, and A’tir and Oringo guarded the door.

After a quick initial examination of the jar, Bervel looked grim.  “I’ll try…but no guarantees.”  He got to work.

Lanni found herself with no specific role, so she started walking around the room, brushing the dust off anything that looked interesting.  She saw what appeared to be a medical textbook open on an examining table.  There was something on it holding it open.  “What’s that?” she said half to herself.

“What’s what?” asked Rodriguez.

Lanni picked up what she had thought was a fancy paperweight.  Once she held it aloft they could see it was a healing device.  She and Rodriguez looked at each other.

“Do you think…?”

“Give it a try.”

Lanni handed the device to Maste, who slipped it onto her left hand.  She activated the device, bathing the symbiote in the healing rays.  After perhaps twenty seconds she stopped and hung her head.  “It isn’t working.  I can feel it isn’t working.”

“Bervel, status?” asked Rodriguez.

“Making progress.  Maybe,” he replied.

“Kulera, how’s Zelida?”

“She is gravely injured.  If you had not interrupted the Ash’rak she would most definitely be dead.”

Zelida moaned and her eyelids fluttered.

“But I think she will live, if we can get her proper medical care.”

Rodriguez knelt and picked up Zelida’s hand, squeezing it to try to keep her conscious.  “Zelida, wake up.  We need you to help us help your friends.  Lanni, you still have that notebook?”

“Yes Captain.”

“Zelida, what were your friends’ names?”

The Tok’ra tried to open her eyes, but it was too much effort.  She whispered, “Jandith.  Dowsha…Marseph.”

“D, M, J,” said Lanni.  “The riddles are clues to where the jars are.  Dowsha was a soldier – they would have recovered from their wounds right here.  ‘Where we sewed what was reaped.’  Not sewing cloth – sewing up a wound.”

“What were the others again?”

“M – Marseph – ‘Where we sweat and toil.’  Zelida, tell us again what Marseph did.”

“En…engineer.”

“So he worked in a shop or an electronics lab?”

“Lab.  North.”

“What’s the last one?” asked Rodriguez.

“J – Jandith – ‘Where we played games while bored.’”

Zelida groaned, but managed to get out, “Living quarters.  South end.”

Bervel cursed under his breath at the jar, but didn’t stop working.  Rodriguez took that as a positive sign.  “Maste.  Lanni.  With me.”  She took the other two over to conference with Oringo and A’tir.  Whispering in case the Ash’rak was nearby, she explained that they believed they had a lead on the other two stasis jars.  “Oringo, you stay here and guard the door.  A’tir, Maste and Lanni, we’ll go north to the lab, then all the way back south to the living quarters.”

“Do you believe this to the be best course of action, Captain?” asked A’tir.

“We were sent to get these Tok’ra.  I know Jaffa and Tok’ra don’t always get along so well, but that’s our job and we’re going to do it, even if we have to face an Ashrak.”

A’tir nodded respectfully.

The four headed north, straining their eyes to spot the invisible assassin.  At least we have light now, thanks to Bervel,” thought Rodriguez.  At that moment the lights went out again.

“Well, now we know where the Ashrak is,” Rodriguez pointed out as they turned on their flashlights.  Move fast – let’s find that stasis jar before he can get back up here.”

The four sprinted to the end of the corridor and into the lab.  A’tir took up station in the doorway while the other three searched.  After a few minutes of digging through the dusty papers and lab equipment on the benches and chairs, Lanni announced excitedly, “There’s a stasis jar repair manual here!”

“That’s good – very good.  Keep looking for the jar.”

Bythal called out, “I think I found something.”  She tugged at a bent panel on a piece of complicated-looking equipment.  With another strong jerk, the panel popped free.  Inside was a plain grey vessel – a stasis jar.

“Good work people.  Let’s take the manual and jar back to the others, then we’ll go to the living quarters.”

 

*   *   *

 

Bervel was overjoyed to get the repair manual, and wasted no time returning to his task.  Kulera provided a detailed update on Zelida and the symbiote.  As she concluded, Bervel called out.  “That’s it!  It’s working again!”  Bythal immediately scooped up the symbiote – Dowsha – cradling it in her hands, and slipped it back into the jar.  Bervel screwed on the lid.  “That should be all that’s necessary – closing it should activate it.”

“That’s two ‘should’s too many, Bervel.”

“I’m sorry, Captain.  I wish I could be 100% certain, but that’s the best I can do.”

“Understood.  Thank you for doing what I’m sure was an excellent job, under a lot of pressure.  Now you need to do it again.”

“Okay, what’s the plan?”

“We’re going to go back down to the micro-grid and you’re going to fix the power again.  Then we’re going to continue down to the living quarters.”

“As long as the Ashrak didn’t do a lot more damage, no problem.”

“Okay, let’s move.”

The five left Oringo guarding Kulera, Zelida and the two stasis jars.  They moved slowly down the corridor, trying to sense their invisible enemy, but without success.  They passed the door to the archive and the ring platform without incident, finally arriving at the electrical room.

Bervel shone his flashlight on the equipment he’d fixed earlier and concluded it would take only a few minutes to restore power again.  “The Ashrak was in a rush this time.”  After less than five minutes the lights were on again.  It didn’t really make a difference against an invisible enemy, but it made them feel better, and would aid in their search of the living quarters.

They continued south.  After another thirty-five meters, they found the door to the living quarters on the left.  A little further on the right was the door to the kitchen, and just beyond that the corridor ended in a blank wall.  “A’tir, you and I will see what’s down there.  Bervel, guard the door to the quarters.  Lanni and Maste, search it.  Remember the clue – ‘Where we played games while bored.’”

The team split again.  Rodriguez and A’tir discovered that the kitchen was fully stocked with dusty utensils and even some very, very old food.  Rodriguez was pretty sure she was going to need medical attention after opening a container full of mold, on the off chance that it might be a disguised stasis jar.

A’tir found something worth sharing.  “Captain, a moment please.”

Rodriguez joined him by a large canister.  “Flour, Captain.  We can use it to detect the Ashrak.”

“It isn’t one big clump?”

A’tir stuck his hand through the crust on the top, wiggling his arm to reach to the bottom.

“I am quite sure it is no longer edible, but it appears to still be suitable for our purposes.”

“Great idea, A’tir.  Do it.”

The Jaffa nodded and picked up the canister.  As they went back up the hallway to rejoin their comrades, there was a sharp bang from the living quarters.  They hurried the last few meters.  Bervel was at the door, ready to assure them there was no problem.  “Just a little breaking and entering.”

Bythal and Lanni had pried open a wooden cabinet on top of which was a Senet board.  Inside the cabinet was a smooth terracotta vessel – the last stasis jar.

“Well done, people.  Now let’s go get the others and get the hell out of here.  A’tir came up with something that will help.”

A’tir led the way back up to the infirmary, tossing handfuls of flour ahead of himself into the air, creating clouds that would expose the Ashrak.  Probably make him cough, too,” thought Rodriguez, fighting against the urge herself.  Wherever the assassin was, he knew better than to expose himself to the concentrated fire of Tau’ri weapons in the enclosed hallway.

With the team reunited in the infirmary and about three quarters of the flour gone, it was time to leave.  “Okay, we’re going to replay our trip up here.  A’tir will lead with the flour.  Kulera, you help Zelida.  You have the ring activator?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Bervel, Oringo and I will each carry a stasis jar under one arm.  Guys, use your judgment – if you can handle a longarm with one hand, use your P90.  Otherwise go with your pistol.”

Oringo checked his P90, Bervel drew his Beretta.

“Lanni and Maste will be lead and tail.  Eyes and ears sharp.  A’tir, throw a handful or two of flour north toward the lab, in case that’s where he’s hiding out.”

 

*   *   *

 

The team made careful progress back toward the ring platform.  All was quiet until Maste called out, “Ashrak!” and let loose a long burst from her P90.  Bervel and Oringo joined, filling the hallway behind them with flying lead, but without any apparent effect.

“Cease fire!” commanded Rodriguez.  “What the hell was that about?”

Bythal started to answer, but at that moment their radios crackled.  “Phoenix Team, come in.  This is Selmak.  I was in the area, and told P.K. that I would give you a ride.  Over.”

Rodriguez was flabbergasted, but wasn’t about to look a gift camel in the mouth.  “General Carter, sir!  We’re dealing with something at the moment, but we would be very happy with that ride!  Over.”

“Dealing with what, Captain?  Over.”

“An Ashrak, sir.  Over.”

“Can you get to the rings?  Over.”

“Almost there, sir, over.”

“Go.  Click twice when you’re there.  Carter out.”

“Alright folks, you heard the general – move it.”

Within seconds the team had crossed the last few meters, A’tir wildly tossing flour ahead of them in case Maste was mistaken when she thought she had spotted the Ashrak behind them.  Rodriguez clicked twice, and the rings activated almost instantly.  As they descended and the transport field formed, the Ashrak appeared out of thin air by the door of the archive room, raising a weapon.  Rodriguez flinched, but then found herself looking at the inside of Selmak’s Tel’tak.

“Welcome aboard, Phoenix 1!” called Selmak cheerfully.

“We don’t know how to thank you, sir,” responded Rodriguez.  “You pulled our bacon out of the fire there.”

“You can thank me by clearing the ring pad so I can send this back down,” Selmak said, gesturing with the device he held in his hands.  It was about the size of an American residential mailbox.  From the way he gripped it, it was quite heavy.

“Yes sir,” Rodriguez responded, shooing the team off the pad.

Selmak placed the box in the center of the pad and stepped back.  Bervel had taken up a position by the ring controls, and when Selmak signaled, he activated the rings to send the device back into the base.  Selmak pulled a remote from his pocket, waited a few seconds, then pressed a button.

“Well.  That’s that.”

“Sir?”

“That was a bomb.  With any luck your Askrak is now just a smear on the wall.”

Everybody turned to face Lanni as she startled them with a loud groan and covered her face.  “What about the archive?!”

Selmak chuckled.  “Just like Daniel – guess all archaeologists are the same.  Well, let’s get you home!”

Episode Wrap-Up Written By:

Stephen Runyon

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