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Title: P is for Paradox (or rather avoiding one)
Rating: PG / PG-13
Characters: Sam, O'Neill, Daniel, Teal'c
Pairings: None
Summary: SG-1 ends up in the past, at what might well be a focal point.
Category: Drama, adventure, angst
Notes: takes place a short time after Jolinar's Memories/The Devil You Know. This is important only as an explanation for why SG-1 doesn't know Apophis is alive and has taken over Sokar's domain. Which isn't relevant for this story, other than in their comments.

Written for Time Travel Alphabet Soup


"What's up, Sam?" Daniel asked, when his teammate again stopped and looked around. It was the third time since they arrived, and they had only walked maybe half a mile from the Stargate.

Sam shook her head. "Nothing. It's just... this planet looks familiar, somehow."

"I'm sure we haven't been here before," Daniel said.

"No, I know. But I think Jolinar has," Sam observed. She frowned. "Teal'c, I think maybe you should hide your forehead symbol before we reach the nearest town. We'll have to pass through there to get to the ruins."

"Why? Didn't you say this world belonged to Sokar? He's dead!" O'Neill said. "The planet should be free of any Goa'uld."

"True, even before Sokar was killed, Tokal - the minor Goa'uld he had left in charge of this world - was rarely here. He was in charge of three other planets as well, and I think he preferred to live on one of those. Anyway, according to the Tok'ra, Tokal was visiting Sokar and was aboard his ship when it was destroyed, so this world is free now. The population here may still react badly to what looks like the First Prime of Apophis, though. Sokar and Apophis were enemies." Sam insisted. "It's just a precaution, sir."

"It is a valid concern. I will do as you suggest, Major Carter," Teal'c said.

"Here - take this." Daniel handed him the bandana he had been wearing. "That should work."

"Thank you, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c put it on.

"Okay, can we move on?" O'Neill asked, a bit annoyed.

Daniel frowned. "What's wrong, Jack?"

"This mission is a huge waste of time! SG-2 could have handled it - we're only here because of those ruins they found," he grumbled.

"And that I wanted to take a look at. I'm sorry!" Daniel said, looking miffed. "It's just that it sounded like something we ought to check out. Some of these ruins were in unusual good condition, and there was writing which might indicate the people who lived here were related to the Furling!"

"I know, Daniel! I know!" O'Neill gave him a tired smile. "Just... try not to take the whole week? There's a Simpsons marathon on television tomorrow."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "I'll try..."

Sam made a sound that suspiciously resembled a suppressed giggle, and O'Neill and Daniel both glared at her. She lost the fight and laughed out loud, then hurried ahead to avoid any comments.

"Wow, the locals sure aren't the friendliest bunch, but I guess SG-2 warned us," Daniel said, when they had left the town behind.

"You can say that again! They approached us immediately, and kept threatening us with death and curses the moment we told them we were going to take a look at the ruins!" O'Neill exclaimed.

"Yeah, they were a bit persistent." Daniel sighed. "I don't think they get a lot of visitors, so I guess that was some of it. They didn't seem like they themselves were ready to carry out any of their threats, if we went to look at the ruins anyway. They probably expect their 'god' to do it."

"Only - he's dead!" O'Neill grinned.

Sam nodded. "Yes, that is what they expect. Sokar did what he could to foster the belief that even going near ruins of earlier civilizations would bring death and misfortune."

"Didn't want to risk the locals finding any tech leftover from the Ancients or others races, eh? I guess that could make them doubt his divinity!" O'Neill said. "Can't have that!"

"Yes, exactly. If I remember correctly, Sokar often had some Jaffa make sure those who went there anyway were killed."

"Nice guy." O'Neill grimaced.

"Such a behaviour is quite common among the Goa'uld. Anything that might give people cause to reconsider that the Goa'uld are gods is usually taboo," Teal'c told them.

"Well, that make sense, I guess," Daniel said. "So, Sam, you say Jolinar was here. Do you remember anything about the ruins?"

Sam shook her head. "No, she only knew they were there. I get the feeling she was curious about them, but that it would have been too dangerous to go check them out. I think..."

"Okay." Daniel nodded. "It looks like the buildings over there are in the best condition. Let's start there." He pointed.

"Fine with me. Let's get this over with," O'Neill said, walking on ahead.

"The people who lived here were definitely related to the Furlings!" Daniel said, studying yet another inscription.

"Can you read any of that?" O'Neill asked, chasing away one of the small colourful lizards that seemed to be everywhere, before sitting down on a mostly-whole piece of wall. He unwrapped an energy bar and started eating it.

"Uh, not really. There are a number of differences, but I recognize a few words here and there. I just need some more time, then I'm sure I can figure it out."

"How much time?" O'Neill wondered.

"I... really can't say. It's quite different from any of the other languages we've come across, but we do have the sample of standard Furling that we found on Ernest's planet. So, I do have something to start from. Sure, this is a different dialect, but..."

"How long, Daniel!?"

"Uh, days, certainly, maybe weeks - unless I can..."

"Use the camera to record it. You can always go back later with SG-11. This isn't what SG-1 is for!" O'Neill turned to see what was tugging on his energy bar and found that one of the small lizards had snuck closer and was now eating it. "Dammit! Those damn things are everywhere! Cho!" He tried chasing the animal away, but it just hissed at him. "Take it then!" He threw the energy bar and the lizard ran off after it.

"They are called rainbow lizards, and are quite common on many worlds," Teal'c said, walking over to them. "Though I must admit these are less afraid of people than any I have seen before."

"You can say that again!" O'Neill glared at the animal that was sitting maybe 15 feet away, munching contentedly on the energy bar it had gotten from him.

"Hey! Guys!" Sam stuck her head around the corner of the nearest building and called. "I've found a lab that's completely intact!"

"A lab? Any nice weapons in there?" O'Neill asked, sounding interested.

"Don't think so, but there is a lot of other stuff - most of which I have no idea what does. Daniel - I could really use your help. I found a computer which I managed to turn on, but I can't read anything on it."

"Sure, I'll take a look, but I'm not exactly fluent in this language," Daniel said.

"Wait! Teal'c and I are coming with you - and don't touch anything you don't know what does!" O'Neill warned. "Remember what happened last time!"

"That wasn't my fault! I couldn't have known that lever would cause the floor to tilt!"

"Carter, Teal'c, and myself ended up in a huge reservoir full of mud!" O'Neill exclaimed.

"To be fair, it was holy, blessed mud..." Daniel grinned.

"I thought we weren't talking about that again?" Sam said.

"Indeed." Teal'c raised an eyebrow.

"Never mind - let me see that computer, Sam," Daniel said, trying to suppress his grin.

"I think this is actually a database of historical events," Daniel said. "I mean, I think these are years, and if you chose one of them, it splits out into smaller increments of time."

"So, no weapon?" O'Neill asked, half-leaning against one of the counters. "It would be nice to bring back something useful for once."

"Sorry, no," Daniel told him. "That doesn't mean this isn't a fantastic find."

"I agree! Their science is so far ahead of us! Ahead even of the Goa'uld! We need to study this further!" Sam insisted.

O'Neill rolled his eyes. "I knew you'd say that!" He gave a small lizard that was sniffing his pockets for food a shove.

The animal gave him an offended look, then skittered off over the counter, then up onto a row of control panels.

"Hey! Careful!" Sam exclaimed, running over to stop the lizard.

She did not reach it before it activated something. There was a flash, and the room, and everyone and everything in it, flickered briefly.

"Okay... what was that?" Daniel asked.

"I'm not sure," Sam said, looking over the row of alien machines. "I think the lizard accidentally activated one of the devices."

"Obviously! Which did what?" O'Neill demanded.

Sam slowly shook her head. "No idea. As far as I can tell, nothing happened, except that it was activated. So we're probably safe." She frowned.

"Good, then let's call it quits for today and return tomorrow. Better yet, wait until we know what we're doing - for instance, when you've translated the full text!" O'Neill said.

"It's only a little after noon!" Daniel complained, going to take a closer look at the device the lizard had run across.

"Yes, and you have no idea what any of this is, am I right? We could be blowing up the planet for all we know!"

"I think that's a bit of a stretch, don't you?" Daniel asked, frowning at the machine he was studying.

"Nothing in here seems to be a weapon, but the Colonel do have a point. It would probably be safer to wait until we actually know what the writing on the machines say," Sam agreed, a concerned look on her face.

"Right!" O'Neill gave her a surprised look, not having expected her to agree with him. "Pack it up. We're leaving."

"Uhh, didn't you say it was only a little after noon?" O'Neill asked.

"It is!" Sam looked at her watch. "This planet has almost exactly the same rotational period as Earth, and the timezone for the Stargate here is only one hour ahead of the time at Stargate Command. It should be around 1300 hours now."

"It's dark!" Daniel said, looking around in the gloominess. He gazed at the thin sliver of moon that could be seen. It did not light up much.

"Could it be a solar eclipse, perhaps?" Teal'c suggested.

Sam shook her head. "I don't think so. This planet's moon is too small to cover its sun completely."

"Please tell me it doesn't have anything to do with that weird flicker before!" O'Neill said.

"I'm afraid that's likely." Sam looked unhappy.

"Could it have extinguished the sun?" Teal'c asked.

"No," Sam said with confidence. "I' pretty sure we don't have to worry about that."

"Maybe we were just knocked out for a while?" Daniel suggested.

Sam nodded. "I considered that, but why would our clocks not reflect that, if we had been unconscious for several hours?"

"Right," Daniel said. "Do you have a better suggestion?"

"I..." Sam hesitated, then shook her head. "No, not right now."

"Okay, then let's get back to the Stargate. We can figure this out later," O'Neill said. "At least those unfriendly villagers are probably either eating dinner or in bed by now - depending on what time it actually is!"

"Okay, that was weird!" O'Neill said.

"You mean the fact that the good townspeople completely ignored us this time, or the fact that they had decorated the entire city, and was busy building some sort of platform even now, using only the light from torches?" Daniel asked.

"Both." O'Neill shook his head. "Whatever. At least they didn't bother us." He looked to Sam, who had been very quiet." Carter? What's up?"

"I'm not sure." She frowned. "It's just... a feeling."

"Quiet! Jaffa!" Teal'c said in a low voice.

They all crouched down behind the shrubbery at the outskirts of a small forest that was located a short distance from the Stargate.

"Damn!" O'Neill grumbled. "Didn't the Tok'ra claim this planet was supposed to be abandoned?"

"Yes, but I suppose some Goa'uld could be trying to take over. It happens," Sam said.

"The Jaffa belong to Sokar," Teal'c told them.

"Sokar? But he's dead! Why would his Jaffa be here?" Daniel asked.

"Maybe they're working for someone else now," Sam whispered. "Like we saw with Hathor."

"That is possible," Teal'c agreed.

"How long do you gather they'll hang out by the gate?" O'Neill asked.

"I am unsure." Teal'c frowned. "They appear to be guarding the Stargate. Strange, if this is an expedition to evaluate the planet."

"Guarding the gate? Well that just sucks! They're way too many for us to take them!" O'Neill grumbled. "Do you think there's a snakehead here too?"

"Unknown," Teal'c said.

"Okay, well let's go back to the town and see if we can figure out what is going on," O'Neill decided. "Not that I'm looking forward to talking to those unfriendly doomsayers ever again."

"They're still at it! Building and decorating their town! It's crazy! It must be late evening!" O'Neill said, when they had seated themselves around a table at a local inn, called 'the prancing unicorn'.

"An hour or so before midnight, I'd say," Sam told him.

"Yeah, the watchman called out eleven o'clock in the evening just when we entered this establishment," Daniel agreed.

"Right, okay. Well, let's get something to eat, then see if we can sleep a few hours. We'll go check on the guards later tonight," O'Neill decided. "Maybe they will have left by then."

"That is unlikely," Teal'c said.

Sam nodded. "I agree."

"Spoilsports!" O'Neill grumbled.

"Aren't you curious about why no one seems to recognize us? We talked to several of the good townspeople when we arrived," Daniel said.

"Particularly since one of the people we asked for directions was the same one we talked to earlier today," Sam agreed.

O'Neill shrugged. "They're busy with their own stuff. Can't say I care."

"Don't you think he seemed... younger, somehow?" Daniel asked.

Sam nodded slowly. "Yes... and he's not the only one."

"That's easy to explain - we just met his brother or whatever," O'Neill said.

"No..." Sam looked uncomfortable. "I think there's a different explanation. One you're not going to like..."

"What?" O'Neill demanded.

"Quiet!" Teal'c whispered. "Our food is being brought in."

Not wanting to risk anyone of the locals hearing what they talked about, they focused on their food, eating and discussing only innocent matters.

"Okay, Carter. Out with it!" O'Neill demanded, when they had retired to the large room they had rented.

"Well," Sam again got an uncomfortable expression. "I can't be sure, of course... but I think we have travelled in time."

"What?" O'Neill exclaimed.

Daniel nodded. "That might explain things, yes."

"You believe the alien device caused this?" Teal'c asked.

"Yes, I do," Sam said.

"How far back in time?" O'Neill asked, clearly dreading the answer.

"Obviously, I can't be sure, but... less than ten years. Perhaps... seven or eight years?"

O'Neill sighed. "Could be worse. Not good, though."

"Based on the apparent age of the people we remember seeing in, uh, in the future." Daniel nodded. "Of course."

"Yes, partially," Sam agreed.

"What else?" O'Neill asked.

"The fact that the Jaffa are guarding the gate, and the preparations the locals are doing. Sir, this could be very very bad!"

"How bad - and why?"

"Around this time, Jolinar was undercover with Sokar. She was pretending to be one of his underlings. I think she was briefly in charge of this planet, and that the people in this town is currently preparing to receive her as their new lord. Her - and Sokar, since he's going to officially name her his vassal for this world."

"Uh, didn't you say Tokal was in charge of the planet?" Daniel asked. "Or was that just after Jolinar was killed?"

"Jolinar was only in charge of it for a short time."

"Regardless, this is not so bad! If the planet's going to be under the rule of a Tok'ra, then we won't have trouble escaping - or rather staying here and letting you and Daniel work on that alien device until you figure out how to send us back!" O'Neill smiled.

"Normally I would agree, but not when we have travelled to the past, especially not in this case. It may take days or weeks for us to figure out how to use that device, and during that time we risk getting discovered."

"Because it's Jolinar? So what? It's not like she can recognize you. She hasn't met you yet!" O'Neill said.

"No, but she will, and what if she recognizes me then? Will that change anything?"

"Probably not. It's several years later, and she didn't have a lot of time to think before she took you as host. You said yourself it was an impulsive action," Daniel said.

Sam nodded. "That's true, but she did spend about a day and a half in me, and we also talked to her host before we knew she was in there. I think she was staying dormant much of the time, to interfere as little as possible in his life, but we don't know. Despite the stressful circumstances, there is a risk she might recognize me when she jumps into me at least. What if she then finds out we haven't met yet? That this, being here on this planet, happens in my future, and her past? A future where I am clearly no longer her host!"

"Would that mean anything, though? If she even finds out you weren't a host here," Daniel.

"If she meets me she will know I am not a host. She would be able to sense a symbiote in me. However, if she gets fairly close, she can sense a trace from me having been a host, in the past. If, then, when she takes me as host, finds out I haven't met here before, then she knows something happened," Sam said.

"That's so convoluted it's giving me a headache!" O'Neill complained.

"She'll just think that she left you, as she promised. Don't you think?" Daniel suggested.

Sam shook her head. "No, I have too much naquadah in my blood. Far too much. The only explanation would be that a symbiote died in me and left the naquadah in me. Don't you think Jolinar would realize it almost certainly means she is going to die in me? And that given the situation, it would probably be because the ashrak kills her?"

"Oh." Daniel nodded. "Yes, I suppose so. Would that matter, though? I mean, what could she do? For all we know, this already happened, and she didn't find a way to escape her fate. Perhaps it was even caused by us travelling here, by us being meant to travel here."

Sam sighed. "Yes, it's possible, but I still think it's more likely not. I think I would... have known. No, we can't risk meeting her. No matter what."

"All right," O'Neill said. "Let's assume that's true. Any other ideas to get us out of here?"

"Major Carter said there is only an intermittent Goa'uld presence on this world, so we wait," Teal'c suggested.

"Any idea how long?" O'Neill asked.

Sam shook her head. "Sorry, I don't remember anything that specific. Just like Tokal, Jolinar was in charge of this planet and three others. They are close together, in neighboring systems, and none of them are worth much. Anyway, I'd say at most three months, if Jolinar divided her time equally between the planets."

"Three months!" O'Neill looked horrified. "Oy!"

"Well, she may prefer one of the other planets, just like Tokal, don't you think?" Daniel said.

Sam shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry. I just don't remember."

O'Neill sighed. "Okay. It's getting late. Let's get some rest, and then maybe we'll think of something tomorrow."

They had eaten an early breakfast, after being awakened by noise from the outside. When they asked the innkeeper, he had looked a bit strangely at them, but explained that the townspeople were taking care of the last preparations before their god Sokar arrived, together with his minor gods - including the new overlord of the planet.

"So a bunch of Goa'uld arrive at noon, to be celebrated and worshipped by the locals. Just wonderful!" O'Neill grumbled.

"We should do our best to avoid being seen at all," Sam said.

Daniel nodded. "I agree."

"That may not be possible. During ceremonies such as these, everyone is required to participate, and if we do not, we can be certain someone from this town will report us. That would be most unfortunate," Teal'c said.

O'Neill winced. "That's an understatement!"

Sam sighed. "I think Teal'c's assessment is correct. That means we need to blend in."

"Local clothes," Daniel said.

Sam nodded. "Yes, and we should get them quickly. Let's just hope the stores aren't all closed in preparation for the big day."

After walking around the market place area for a while, they had found a merchant selling clothing. Of course, the problem was that they did not have any shesta - the Goa'uld currency which was used there.

The problem was solved by trading away a completely whole vase and a necklace - both of which Daniel had found in the ruins, before they were sent back in time. He was not exactly happy, especially since they had already used another piece of jewelry found in the same place to pay for food and a room at the inn.

"All right, we shouldn't stick out in this," O'Neill said, touching the shirt made from coarse cloth, that he was wearing.

"No, as long as we stay at the back, we'll probably be fine. Fortunately it's fairly cold today, so we can all keep our cloaks on, and let the hood cover our faces." Sam tied her cloak around the shoulders. "We won't risk Jolinar seeing us."

Daniel looked at Teal'c. "Yeah, and they won't know we're not all humans."

"They'll be following the cleared way through the mass of people, up to the platform," Sam said.

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "Sokar will be stepping up first, followed by his First Prime and an honour guard, then his Goa'uld underlings will follow, with the new vassal being the closest."

"Jolinar," Sam said. She shook her head. "It's weird. I can almost feel it, almost remember it, how it was."

She looked around at the dense mass of people. The town square was completely packed, except for the platform and a passage up to it. Those that had not been able to fit on the square were standing in the streets leading in to it, in the windows, on the balconies, and a few children were even standing on the branches of a couple large trees that stood in the town square.

"They are arriving now," Teal'c observed.

Trumpets announced the arrival of the planet's 'god' and his minions. SG-1 was keeping to the back, as far from the platform and the passage through which the Goa'uld would go, as possible.

Jaffa were posted along the way, making sure no one too enthusiastic - or hostile, as unlikely as that was - would get too close to their 'gods'.

People started cheering and waving as soon as the Goa'uld approached, and SG-1 looked on with disbelief.

"What's wrong with these people!" O'Neill grumbled, keeping his voice down.

"Well, I'm pretty sure they actually believe the Goa'uld are gods," Daniel said, also in a low voice.

"That, and they're probably terrified," Sam added. "Sokar is usually picturing himself as the devil, or a dark evil god." She shuddered. "They wouldn't dare not to cheer."

"Speaking of the devil..." O'Neill commented.

Teal'c nodded in confirmation. "Sokar and his underlings are arriving."

They watched as the Goa'uld was carried towards the platform in an opulent palanquin, decorated with gold and strong colours. The deep red velvet curtains were open, and Sokar could be seen sitting comfortably among soft red pillows. He wore a dark red and black cloak, decorated by a sea of dark gems, glittering in the sunlight. His hood was partially covering his head, but his unnaturally pale white skin made his face look like it shone.

Before him and behind him marched Jaffa, and then further back came what was obviously minor Goa'uld - his underlings. They were dressed in tight-fitting dark red leather, with long black capes billowing after them.

"That's pretty cliche, isn't it? Even for a Goa'uld!" O'Neill exclaimed, loudly enough that a local man standing some distance away threw him a hard look.

"Careful," Daniel whispered.

Sam pulled her hood up further and bowed her head not to be seen. "Jolinar," she said in a low voice.

"The young female walking immediately behind Sokar's palanquin?" Daniel asked.


O'Neill made a low whistle. "Nice! I can understand why Marty liked her!"

The Goa'uld had reached the platform and Sokar ascended it first, followed by his underlings, his First Prime, and some chosen guards.

Sokar made a gesture with his right hand, and the audience became completely silent. He looked around with an arrogant expression, before speaking. "I am Sokar. Dark Lord of the this world and untold others! Anyone who challenges me will suffer eternally!" He made a dramatic pause, during which all the humans bowed deeply to him.

"We obey! Oh, great Lord Sokar!" the locals said, as one.

Pleased, Sokar continued. "I am honouring you with my presence in order to appoint a new underlord of this place." He glanced at Jolinar, who quickly stepped forward, bowing respectfully to him.

"Pompous ass!" O'Neill rolled his eyes.

"This is Meretseger, the new Lord of this world. When she speaks, you hear my commands. Obey her!" Sokar said, with a thunderous voice.

"We obey you, Meretseger!" the locals chorused, bowing to their new local master.

They continued talking, but Sam did not hear what they were saying. She had blanched when she saw the other underling of Sokar's, Tokal, recognizing him.

"He... he was the one reporting me!" Sam whispered. Then she shook her head. "Sorry, Jolinar. He was the reason Sokar got suspicious and sent her to Netu!"

"You're sure?" Daniel asked. "What happened?"

The ceremony was interrupted when one of the children standing on a tree branch suddenly cried out as he slipped and fell. The tree stood just where SG-1 was hanging out, and O'Neill easily caught the falling child.

"Relax, kid! You're safe," he told the crying boy, putting him down on the ground.

Everyones eyes were immediately on him, the child, and those standing near them. Exactly the situation they had wanted to avoid. Scared, the child ran away and disappeared into the crowd.

The people that had been standing near SG-1, quickly took several steps back, distancing themselves from them.

"Jaffa, kree! Apprehend the blasphemers!" Sokar ordered.

"Heretics!" Tokal screamed, as the Jaffa grabbed the members of SG-1 and dragged them up to the platform and made them kneel before the Goa'uld.

Jolinar said nothing, but Sam saw her throw a concerned look at the group. She pulled at her hood and did her best to keep her face hidden from the Tok'ra.

"You shall suffer the fires of eternal damnation for interrupting this sacred ceremony!" Sokar ordered, furious. "Jaffa! Take them away and put them in chains! I shall deal with them later!"

"Damn our bad luck!" O'Neill grumbled, as he again tried the strength of his chains. He looked around for something to use to pick the lock, but there was nothing.

They were in the towns jail. A single room with brick walls and a wooden door. The room contained nothing except for their chains, some hay on the floor, a bucket of water, and another bucket in the opposite corner - which, from the smell, was used as a toilet.

"We're going to die," Daniel said, despondently. "Sokar will have us executed."

"If only that was the case!" Sam said grimly. "We will be sent to Netu."

Teal'c nodded somberly. "I believe that to be an accurate assessment." He attempted to break his chains, then had to give up.

"Carter, do you remember anything that's going to help us? Will Sokar leave immediately after the ceremony and let his underlings handle us?" O'Neill asked.

"Even if he did, we couldn't risk revealing ourselves to Jolinar. I told you that," Sam said, looking up from what was obviously troubled memories. "Besides, I doubt Sokar will leave our punishment to anyone else. He enjoys 'the sufferings of the damned' too much. He'll have us brought with him, tortured, then sent down to Netu."

"Wonderful," Daniel exclaimed. "That's just great!"

"Well, Jolinar escaped - and if you're right, she'll end up there soon too. Maybe we can get out with her," O'Neill suggested.

"You can't be serious!" Sam exclaimed.

"Listen, I'm not saying I'm not feeling sorry for her, I am, but it's already happened. Well, will happen, right?" O'Neill said. "Regardless of anything we do."

Sam pressed her lips together, then sighed. "Yes, I suppose... well, unless we tell her, but we can't of course. That would do something completely unpredictable to the timeline."

"Right. Do you know when she'll be sent there?" O'Neill asked.

Sam shook her head. "No, but it won't be very long, I'm sure of that." She leaned back against the wall, an unhappy expression on her face.

Out of options, they sat down to wait.

It was late evening when the door to their cell opened. They had only had one visit before that, when a young woman had brought them food. Two guards had stood in the door then, making sure the prisoners did not attempt to overpower her and take the keys.

The food had consisted of dry bread and some sort of porridge, but at least it had been edible.

Sam had been very quiet, most likely thinking back to what she remembered from Jolinar's experiences on Netu - and their own trip there.

They had almost begun to hope no one would come for them that evening, when the door was opened and a Jaffa entered.

"You are to be released, scum. My Lord Meretseger, in her infinite wisdom, has decreed that it will be so, as a sign of mercy and good faith towards her new people, and to celebrate her ascension to her rightful position."

"Awesome!" O'Neill grinned. "Tell her thanks!"

"You may show your gratitude in person, as she has ordered that you be taken to her." The Jaffa gestured to a man who stood outside the door, and he entered, somewhat hesitantly, and unlocked their chains. "Come."

"We can't let Jolinar see us," Sam whispered at O'Neill.

"It's not like we have a choice!" O'Neill said.

"As much as I wish to find a way to warn her against..."

"Silence!" the Jaffa bellowed, giving Sam a hard push forward.

They were walking through the dark streets to the palace, where Jolinar - as well as Sokar and Tokal - would be waiting.

"All right. I have an idea," O'Neill said in a low voice, glancing first at Teal'c, then Sam and Daniel. "Follow my lead."

They turned a corner into a smaller alley, and when O'Neill spotted a broom standing against the wall some feet ahead, he knew he had found what he was looking for.

When they passed the implement, he grabbed it and turned swiftly to hit the Jaffa in the stomach, temporarily knocking the air out of him. Teal'c reacted immediately, grabbing the Jaffa's zat'nik'tel from him and shooting him with it, once.

Someone shouted at the other end of the alley.

"Okay, we're out of here!" O'Neill exclaimed, and they turned and ran, back the way they had come.

Behind them several shouts could now be heard, and there was the sound of heavy boots approaching. Jaffa!

"I think we lost them!" O'Neill panted, taking a deep breath as he looked between the trees, back in the direction towards the town.

"I believe so as well," Teal'c agreed. "Very fortunate."

Breathing hard, Daniel leaned against a tree. When he again had air, he asked, "What now?"

"The Jaffa will be guarding the chaapa'ai for as long a the Goa'uld are on the planet," Teal'c told him.

"What about the ruins and the time machine?" O'Neill asked. "Could we go there under cover of the night?"

"The locals here probably did not see us come from there, so why not?" Daniel said.

Sam had been very silent, but now she shook her head and spoke, "What would be the point? The area is fairly open, and we risk being discovered if we stay there for very long. We don't have any idea how to make the time machine send us back, and as we talked about earlier, it could take days or even weeks to make it work - if we even can. Right now Sokar, Jolinar, and Tokal are all here, and they're looking for us. I'm sorry, but we should wait until they have left."

O'Neill groaned. "And how long do you think that will be?"

"Sokar will probably leave quickly - if he hasn't already. Don't you think, Teal'c?" Sam wondered.

Teal'c nodded. "Yes, he will not care what happens here. It is now Jolinar's problem."

"Yes, Jolinar's problem," Sam exclaimed. "I'm afraid that we've caused her lots of trouble. She stepped up to save us. Somewhat unusual for a Goa'uld, but that could be excused with her wanting to make a good first impression on the people on her new domain."

"But us knocking out the Jaffa and escaping instead of going to officially thank her isn't good, I'm assuming," Daniel asked.

"No, us showing our gratitude would have been an advantage to her, if she tried to make it seem like she wanted the locals happy. It would have stopped all or most of the complaints from Sokar and Tokal, but now they may use it against her, saying she is weak and that it makes them look foolish in the eyes of the humans." She made a despondent sound.

"There is little the Goa'uld abhor more than looking foolish," Teal'c said.

"Yes." Sam nodded. "Tokal already hates Jolinar because she's his rival. He wants these planets. Now he has something to use against her. He will look for more, and that means it will be riskier for her to show any compassion to the locals. Either she would have to be more ruthless, or she will be suspected of being Tok'ra. In either case, this may lead to her behaving differently - or to her going to Netu before she did originally. She'll suffer even worse than she did before. Maybe she won't make it away at all, and die there! Have you thought about that? That might mean we never meet the Tok'ra!" She exclaimed.

"Or maybe we were meant to cause her to be sent there in the first place? Have you thought of that?" O'Neill suggested. "It's possible, isn't it?"

Sam hesitated, looking unhappy. "I suppose it is, but I really think it's highly doubtful."

"Or maybe nothing we did changed anything, and Jolinar is discovered for doing something else entirely," Daniel said. "Something that would have been suspicious even if she hadn't just shown mercy to some prisoners."

Sam sighed. "It's possible. Still... I really wish I could remember what happened..." She frowned.

"I think we should go back to that alien lab," Daniel suggested.

"Why?" O'Neill asked.

"I just realized that I think I know what some of the writing meant. If I could take another look at it, I may be able to figure out what it says on the time machine. At least, I'd like to look at it again to refresh my memory."


Sam had clearly fallen back into thought, and had not been listening. She now looked up at him. "Sorry, sir. What?"

O'Neill sighed, but realized how this was affecting her. "Daniel thinks he can translate the text in the alien laboratory and wants to go back there."

"Sure, as long as we're careful and doesn't stay long, we'll probably be fine." She shrugged.

Sam sat against the wall, near the entrance to the laboratory, thinking, while Daniel tried to translate the writing on the time machine and O'Neill and Teal'c kept guard.

"Yes! I know what it says!" Daniel exclaimed, excitedly. "Sam!"

She looked up from her reveries. "Yes?"

"I've translated it!"

"You can read it?" She got up. "You sure?"

"Yes, yes! Look!" He pointed. "The samples we have seen of the Furling language has been very symbolic and precise, almost mathematical in the way they are built up. This script is much more... flowing, I guess. It looks almost like musical notes, in a way, and that was what confused me. It's not really that different, it's just that..."

"Get to the point, Daniel!" O'Neill said from the entrance, where he had just poked his head inside. "It's getting late, and Teal'c has seen a couple of Jaffa patrols. None have come here yet, but they're getting close."

"Right. Well, I can read it!" Daniel insisted. "The alien text!"

"Great! So we can go home?" O'Neill asked, smiling relieved.

"Yes..." Sam said, hesitantly. "If we can figure out how to operate the machine."

"Well, from how it looked to me, it's pretty intuitive, and if I think that, then I'm sure you can get it to work," Daniel insisted.

"Okay. Let me take a look." Sam gave him a small smile.

"Can you send us back?" O'Neill asked.

Sam nodded somberly. "Yes, I can."

"Great! Get it ready! I'll go get Teal'c!" O'Neill left.

"What is it, Sam?" Daniel asked, seeing that she looked sad. "You're worried we've changed the timeline?"

Sam shook her head. "No, I don't think we have. Not enough that it will matter much, at least. I suddenly remembered - Jolinar was not even Lord of this world for a week before Tokal reported to Sokar that he suspected she was a Tok'ra, and she was captured - and eventually sent to Netu."

Daniel nodded. "Okay, so we should be good?"

"Yes." Sam was silent for several moments, then wiped away a tear. "But Jolinar... it's just... part of me wish so badly that we could warn her. Wish she didn't have to go to Netu."

Daniel put a hand on her shoulder. "I know, but we can't. As you said, we don't know what it would do to the timeline."

"No, we don't." She sniffed. "She suffered so badly, Daniel." She shook her head and turned to the console, deliberately forcing herself not to think of it.

O'Neill and Teal'c came into the laboratory.

"Ready to go?"

"Yes." Sam said, setting the last controls. "Let's get out of here." She added in a low voice, "Before I do something we may all regret."

She pushed the button, sending them back to their own time.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2015 12:23 pm (UTC)
Wow! Nice addition to Jolinar's back-story! It's so easy to appreciate Sam's moral dilemma over wanting to warn Jolinar and yet knowing she needs to try and maintain the timeline.

Great story!

Mar. 8th, 2015 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was surprisingly difficult to write Sam's reactions and the dilemma she was in, so I am glad you liked it.
Mar. 18th, 2015 11:39 am (UTC)
Finally got a chance to read, hah!

I like this: Sam's struggle with justifying the future pain with the need to protect history.. Everyone is so nicely in character, too.

Thanks for contributing, as always. :)
Mar. 18th, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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