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5. Learning a Little About the World of the Tau'ri

Jacob had managed to contact his friend, and he had arranged a meeting with him that evening in Denver.

While they waited for evening to come, they had bought clothing and various supplies, then rented a room at a motel.

Before going out to eat at the Applebee's restaurant located just beside the motel, they all changed into some of the new clothing they had bought.

Jacob had put on jeans and a shirt, and now grinned as he looked at the others who were getting dressed as well. "You've got that sweater on backwards, Bra'tac!"

"Tau'ri clothing is completely incomprehensible!" Bra'tac complained. "And these pants... jeans as you call them, are extremely unpleasant. Much too... constricting."

"I can only agree with Bra'tac," Martouf said, touching the material of the jeans he had on. "While the cloth is sturdy, it is also stiff. I do not understand why this type of clothing is so popular, but from the people we passed in the... car, it would seem to be the case."

"Perhaps we got some that are defective?" Bra'tac suggested.

"This is how they are supposed to be," Teal'c said.

"They'll be much more comfortably after a while. Relax," Jacob told them. "You all look just like people from Earth now. That is - as long as you guys remember to wear a hat or something," he told Bra'tac and Teal'c. "Are you ready to go? I'm starving!"

"As am I," Teal'c said, rising.

"Bra'tac - perhaps you should leave your zat'nik'tel here," Jacob said, seeing Bra'tac grab the weapon.

"You did not permit me to bring my staff weapon from the teltac, and now I must go completely defenseless?" Bra'tac said, taken aback.

"I'm sorry, but it would not be a good idea to bring any weapons," Jacob said. "Don't worry. You're in no danger."

Martouf was looking at himself in a full length mirror, then at the others, frowning. "Jacob, did you not say today was some sort of religious holiday?"

"Holiday, yes. Religious, no."

Martouf nodded. "Should we not wear something more... festive, then?"

Jacob snorted. "If we were going to a party, sure, but we're not. We're just going to eat a chain restaurant, so casual clothing is fine. Now, are you coming?"

"Welcome to Applebee's! My name is Katherine, and I'm going to be your server tonight." She held out four paper top hats. "Since it's New Year's Eve, we have a gift for each of you!"

They took the hats. Everyone but Jacob looked strangely at them, then at the other customers at the restaurant, most of which wore just such a hat.

"Thank you," Martouf said, carefully placing his hat on his head.

Jacob grinned and put on his own hat, and gestured at Teal'c and Bra'tac, who slowly did the same, placing them on top of their knitted caps. Bra'tac wore his paper hat with a long-suffering expression.

Katherine smiled. "Here's your menus. Can I bring you something to drink first?" She gave them each a menu.

"Ah, just some water," Jacob said, quickly. "For all of us."

"I'll be right back," the server said, leaving.

"This means nothing to me," Bra'tac said, putting down the menu card.

"What would you like to eat?" Teal'c asked.

"Do they have roast boar?"

"Um, not whole roasted boar, I'm pretty sure of that." Jacob smiled. "They do have ribs, though. They're usually quite good - at least I think so," he added, when Selmak made a sarcastic remark to him about his unsophisticated taste.

Bra'tac made a curt nod. "I believe I shall try that then."

"As will I. In addition I would like their grilled chicken salad," Teal'c said.

"Teal'c... if you order a full rack of ribs, that's plenty of food," Jacob told him.

"Tau'ri portions are usually quite small," Teal'c said.

Jacob shook his head. "Never mind then. Martouf? Ribs for you too?"

He frowned, looking at the menu again. "While it sounds delicious, I do not want to eat that right now. Or rather, Lantash does not, and as he is not in control much while we are undercover here, we have agreed that he should be allowed to chose the food. So, I would like their chicken with red wine sauce and something called 'portobellos'."

"It's mushrooms," Jacob said. "The portobellos."

Martouf nodded. "That sounds good."

"Okay, I guess we can order then. I want some beer with my ribs, but I know you guys don't drink alcohol." Jacob looked at Teal'c and Bra'tac.

"Ginger ale or orange juice would be acceptable," Teal'c said.

"I will have the same," Bra'tac added.

"Martouf? Do you want beer? Juice? Wine?"

"Since there is red wine in the food, I believe that would be suitable to drink as well."

Jacob nodded. "Okay. The server is coming back to our table. Just let me handle the orders."

"Is this the traditional Tau'ri way of celebrating religious holidays?" Bra'tac wondered, when the server had brought them their drinks. He looked at the colourful ribbons, streamers, and balloons, and the large banner with the text 'Happy New Year!'.

"Well," Jacob shrugged. "Sometimes, I guess. Mostly not, though. Besides, New Year's Eve isn't a religious holiday. It's more... just a marking of the new year. It's celebrated throughout the planet, except where they follow different calendars."

"I see." Bra'tac frowned, obviously no less confused than before.

Their food soon arrived, and being quite hungry, everyone concentrated on that.

After eating dinner, including ice cream for dessert - something Bra'tac found very cold and not nearly as good as Teal'c had hoped - they left the restaurant.

"I was told the store over there has a photo booth," Jacob said. "We'll go there and get pictures for the fake ID cards."

"What is a 'photo booth'?" Martouf wondered.

"What kind of pictures do we need?" Bra'tac asked.

"Some types of ID cards have images showing the likeness of the owner of the card," Teal'c explained.

Jacob nodded. "Like Teal'c said. The photo booth has... a type of machinery, used to create a picture of a person. We'll use that. Come on."

It was late in the evening when Jacob returned from the meeting. Teal'c, Bra'tac, and Martouf were watching a movie, drinking soft drinks, and eating various snacks which Teal'c had procured from the nearby store.

Jacob opened the door and entered, then stopped just inside. The others all looked perturbed - or in Martouf's case, outright shocked.

"What?" Jacob frowned. "What's going on?"

"We are watching Tau'ri entertainment," Bra'tac said.

"It is a movie about alien body-snatching parasites," Teal'c informed him.

"It is very scary. How can you call this 'entertainment'?" Lantash asked. He threw a quick glance at the door. "Would you mind closing the door, Jacob? It is, ah, cold."

Jacob snorted. "Afraid something will sneak in and attack us, eh?" He closed the door.

"Funny," Lantash grumbled.

"Maybe you shouldn't watch horror movies as your first introduction to human entertainment." Jacob grinned. "It is fiction, you know. There's no body-snatching parasites in real life." He listened to a sarcastic comment from Selmak, and added, "Well, not that kind, any way."

Lantash rolled his eyes. "Perhaps we have spent enough time discussing this subject. Did you receive our ID cards?"

"Not yet. I gave the photos to my friend, as well as some minimal information about each of you. You'll get made-up names on the IDs. They should be ready in a couple days - my friend will talk to the person who makes the IDs tomorrow."

"Understood," Lantash said.

They all looked towards the windows, where they had heard what sounded like a small explosion.

"This is not the first of these sounds. Is it some kind of attack?" Bra'tac wondered.

"New Year's Eve. Fireworks," Jacob said. "Didn't your teammates take you to see that, Teal'c?"

"O'Neill has mentioned it, and last year we decided we were in fact going to do so this year," Teal'c said.

Jacob nodded. "Come on outside if you want to see it - there's some people shooting fireworks somewhere behind the one-story buildings across the road. They've got some nice rockets."

They had stayed in the motel for two more days, and had finally received their fake IDs - which looked flawless.

The time they had waited had mainly been spent on practicing card games, making sure Martouf - and Lantash in particular - was as good at it as possible.

It was now time to drive to Las Vegas. From Denver it was about 900 miles, a drive of about 14-15 hours if they made it without breaks. Since Teal'c and Jacob took turns, they could drive almost continuously and arrived late evening the same day.

"This is a very strange city!" Martouf remarked as they drove down a street, looking at the many lights and very diverse buildings, most of which were covered in colourful lights.

"Indeed, that is so," Bra'tac added.

Jacob chuckled. "Yeah, it's certainly different from most places on other worlds - and it's in fact pretty unusual for Earth too."

Martouf made a sharp intake of breath. "Jacob!"

"What is it?"

"Did you not say there were no Goa'uld on this world? There is a pyramid structure with a transportation beam going..." he hesitated. "No. That is a permanent beam of light. Was it constructed as a duplication of something humans remember from their Goa'uld masters?"

"That? No, that's just the Luxor - it's a hotel and a casino. I guess it's deliberately made in a style reminiscent of ancient Egypt, but it doesn't have anything to do with the Goa'uld." Jacob hesitated. "Well, except that the Goa'uld did influence culture in ancient Egypt, a lot, so I guess in a way you're right."

"That is the place where we are going to gamble?" Teal'c asked.

"It's one possibility, yes. I thought we'd take a look at a few of them. Check them out, and get a feel for the places," Jacob said. "Then, we pick one, and you, Martouf, dress up and go there, pretending to be someone who's either inherited some money or won them - and wants to have a good time. Just pretending to have fun, and not really pay much attention to the games."

Martouf nodded. "And meanwhile, Lantash 'counts cards', as you call it."

"Exactly." Jacob frowned. "I believe we need something else... something to distract the guards, when you hopefully start winning a lot."

"Perhaps Bra'tac and I can create a diversion?" Teal'c suggested.

"It's probably not a good idea. We don't want any attention to be drawn to you guys," Jacob said. "I was thinking something... beautiful to look at. A gorgeous woman, for instance."

"We could have asked Anise to accompany us, or perhaps Zarin. Though I fear the High Council would not have agreed to let any more operatives join us," Martouf said.

"I agree. It's not a problem. We can hire an, ah, escort. As long as we watch what we tell her, it should work just fine."

"What is an 'escort'?" Martouf wondered.

"It's a, well, a professional... companion. Often for sexual services, but not solely," Jacob explained. "They can be hired from a number of agencies."

"It is a sex slave? I thought the Tau'ri did not have slavery," Martouf said, appalled. "Am I expected to mate with her?"

"No! She'll just accompany you, pretend to be your companion," Jacob said. "And escorts are not sex slaves." He hesitated. "Well, I guess it happens, but not in the more reputable places as far as I know." He sighed. "There is still slavery in many places on Earth, though. In any case, Selmak suggests courtesan may be a better word, one which is used on various other planets."

"I understand." Martouf nodded.

"Let's see if they have rooms available here," Jacob decided, turning into the parking lot of a smaller, less expensive looking hotel.

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