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3. The SGC

Daniel had just fetched himself a new cup of coffee and returned to his office when he noticed the alert on his computer screen. He quickly opened the message and had just read it when Sam entered.

"Hi, Sam. I just read the report from your automated search," Daniel said. "Damn!" He shook his head.

Sam nodded. "Yeah, it doesn't look good, but hopefully we can contain it."

"It's a lot to contain - and a lot of people that probably need to sign non-disclosure agreements."

"Maybe it won't have to come to that." Sam held up a bunch of papers. "I printed out the information and I've told General Hammond we have something that needs to be taken care of immediately. We meet in the briefing room in ten minutes."

"So what's the big emergency?" O'Neill asked, taking a sip from his coffee. "I just arrived and it's not even eight o'clock! We're not leaving for 'the Land of the Light' for another three hours, and I thought that was just a supply run."

"It is – but that mission is postponed," Hammond said. "You're going to Washington."

"Washington? What are we doing there, sir?" O'Neill asked.

"Major? Would you care to explain?" Hammond said, looking at Sam.

"Of course, General." She handed out a folder to each of them. "You probably remember the automated search algorithm I created a couple years ago. It trawls the internet for anything related to the Stargate Project or anything offworld. This is the material we got today."

"What? You mean someone is threatening us with disclosure again?" O'Neill asked.

"No, but this could actually be worse. Apparently, NCIS in Washington responded to a break-in at one of the museums at the Smithsonian, because a Navy Lieutenant Commander was killed when he tried to stop the thieves," Sam said.

"Please tell me they didn't get away with the Starship Enterprise," O'Neill said.

"What?" Sam stared at him.

"You know, the model they've got? It's the actual model from the show!"

Sam shook her head and smiled a little. "No, sir, they didn't. They were after an Egyptian artefact." She dug out a grainy photograph from the pile of papers and held it up. "This."

"Doctor Jackson?" Hammond asked.

"I'm sorry, it doesn't ring a bell. As far as I know, it's just some sort of religious artefact, dedicated to Ra, probably, given the Horus symbol."

"Ra was the Supreme System Lord," Teal'c reminded them.

"Yeah - which means, this is probably something else entirely," Daniel admitted.

"Okay, so this is it?" O'Neill asked. "Someone tried stealing that, and you think it has something to do with the Goa'uld?"

"My search algorithm is good, but it's not that good," Sam said. "It's more who tried to steal it." She fished out another print-out which also showed a picture of a Jaffa abdomen. "The Forensic Medical Examiner of the NCIS posted this to a medical forum, asking for opinions and if anyone had seen anything like it. He also posted a picture of this lifeform he found inside." She showed them the picture of a dead - and cut open - larval symbiote.

"Crap," O'Neill said.

"That's not all. He's got two dead Jaffa - one of which didn't have a symbiote in his pouch - as well as two live, imprisoned Jaffa."

"You think the missing snake has, uh, grabbed someone?" O'Neill asked.

"Until we know otherwise, we are going to assume that is the case, yes," Hammond said.

"Another NCIS employee - Abigail Sciuto - has also posted questions. To a Chemistry forum. She's claiming she has found an unknown element - in both the blood of the dead symbiote and in the Egyptian artefact. Now, the few people who had had time to read it were extremely sceptical, so it may not be much of a problem. All forums have been scrubbed of all information now," Sam told them.

"You can do that?" O'Neill asked, then shook his head. "Never mind - I don't need a lecture about how. So, what are we going to do?"

"You're going to Washington, to take custody of the Jaffa - both the dead and live ones - as well as the artefact and the dead symbiote. Try to find any information about the missing symbiote - who was present, when did the Jaffa get killed, and so on," Hammond said.

"Got it."

"All right. You're dismis-" Hammond held up his hand to indicate they should wait, when someone knocked on the door. "Yes?"

The door opened and Harriman stuck his head inside. "You have a phone call, General, and I think you should take it."

"Who is it?"

"She's calling herself 'Lord Selkhet'. She called the switchboard and demanded to talk to 'the Tau'ri Commander in charge of the chaapa'ai'. Apparently it took a while before they let her through. She's pretty angry."

"Goa'uld?" Hammond asked.

"Very much."

"Anyone we know?" Hammond looked at Teal'c, then Sam and Daniel.

"I do not. She is probably a minor one," Teal'c said.

Sam and Daniel both shook their heads.

Hammond sighed. "All right, I'll take it in here - the rest of you should probably listen."

"I am Lord Selkhet, Ba'al's senior lieutenant tasked with retrieving 'the Eye of the Hippopotamus'! How dare your minions delay me for almost an hour!" the Goa'uld roared, moments after Hammond had accepted the phone call and identified himself.

"I am sorry, but you spoke with the switchboard and they have no knowledge of the Stargate Project," Hammond explained, patiently.

"They are insolent and slow-witted! But their stupidity pales in comparison to your mechanical servant who went 'your call is important to us and will be monitored for quality assurance'. Over and over again. I will have the head of the programmer on a platter for this!"

"You know, I think she's onto something there. I often feel the same way when I encounter those," O'Neill said, helpfully.

Hammond sent him a resigned look and was about to speak when Selkhet spoke again.

"I demand reparations! I demand-"

"You are not in a position to demand anything!" Hammond exclaimed.

"Insolence! I demand that you give me 'the Eye of the Hippopotamus' right now, or I will detonate the ten thousand uten'sau naquadah bomb I have brought!"

"She's bluffing," O'Neill said.

"Possible, but unlikely," Teal'c told them.

"By the way - what's the utensil-stuff?" O'Neill asked.

"A measurement of the explosive power of the bomb. I do not know the exact translation," Teal'c said.

"Estimate?" O'Neill said.

"It will remove several medium-sized states. At least," Teal'c said.

"Damn!" O'Neill whistled.

Hammond sighed, realizing they could not risk it. "Listen, miss Selkhet-"

"Lord Selkhet!"

"Lord Selkhet. I don't have this... 'Eye of the Hippopotamus'. You have to give me some time to find it."

"That is an obvious lie! My Jaffa had it in their hands when they clumsily triggered some sort of trap. Your people took it when they captured the Jaffa!"

"That may be true, but I have no way of knowing that. Please, give me time to find out where it is."

"You have one standard day. If I have not received the artefact by then, I will detonate the naquadah bomb in one of your larger cities."

"One day isn't enough. I need three days, at least."

"Incompetence as well as insolence!" Selkhet scoffed. "Very well. You will have three days. Starting now!" She hung up.

Hammond stared at the receiver for a moment before replacing it on the telephone. He shook his head.

"Since when do Goa'uld call us? On the phone?" O'Neill said.

"It does seem a little strange that she's figured that out," Daniel agreed. "It's not exactly a common device on other worlds."

"Makes you wonder how much they know about our world," Sam said.

"That's a problem for another time. Right now we are in a hurry. Does any of you know anything about this 'Eye of the Hippopotamus'?"

"Well, uh, aside from the obvious - that it's the artefact that NCIS has," Daniel said. "No."

"I do not," Teal'c added.

"Maybe we should contact the Tok'ra," Sam suggested.

O'Neill made an unhappy sound.

"I agree. Contact them - and tell them to send someone as quickly as possible. It is an emergency," Hammond decided.

It was not yet noon when the unscheduled, offworld activation alert sounded.

"It is the Tok'ra," Harriman told Hammond.

"All right, open the iris." Hammond left the control room to go to the gateroom, and met SG-1 who came running towards the same place, called by the activation alert.

"The Tok'ra?" Sam asked.

"Yes," Hammond confirmed.

They entered the gateroom just as two people stepped out from the event horizon, both dressed in tan Tok'ra uniforms - though one was decidedly more covering than the other.

"Hello Martouf, and Anise," Sam said, smiling at Martouf.

"Hello, Samantha," Martouf said, smiling. He bowed to the others, as did Anise.

"Anise... and Marty," O'Neill observed. "Been a long time since we saw either of you. I see you haven't updated your uniforms. Did the Tok'ra run out of brown leather?"

Martouf raised an eyebrow. "The choice of colour depends on the planet we are stationed on. Dark leather is used in temperate zones. Anise and I are currently stationed on a desert world."

"We're happy that you're back from your mission, Martouf. As the Colonel said, it's been a long time since we saw you," Sam said.

"Thank you, Samantha." He looked pleased, then sighed lightly. "We were told there was an emergency?"

"Yes. Please come with me," Hammond said.

"So it is a problem that this other agency has captured a number of Jaffa because the existence of everything not from this world has been kept secret for your people, including others working for your government, correct?" Martouf asked.

"Yes." Hammond nodded.

"That and the fact that a freaking Goa'uld is threatening us with a bomb unless we give her some old piece of junk!" O'Neill said.

"It is unfortunate that this must remain a secret. It will make retrieving the artefact - and the Jaffa - much more difficult," Anise said.

"Yeah, well, that's just how it is," O'Neill grumbled.

"Do you have any information about either Selkhet or this 'Eye of the Hippopotamus' that she's apparently here to get?" Hammond asked.

"The 'Eye of the Hippopotamus'." O'Neill made air quotes. "What kind of ridiculous name is that?"

"It alludes to the name originally given to a project Ra initiated, to gather as much useful technology as he could, mainly from old Ancient ruins," Anise explained.

"Now that sounds interesting," Daniel said, leaning forward in his chair.

"I'm curious - why Hippopotamus? Why not Elephant or Tiger?" O'Neill asked.

"A hippopotamus is considered a much more dangerous animal, with a penchant for lying hidden and waiting to strike," Martouf said. "Much like the hidden technology Ra hoped to use to strike against his enemies. That, too, could be very dangerous, if one did not know what it was."

"Okay, so what - this is a symbol of some kind?" Sam asked, confused.

"No, 'the Eye of the Hippopotamus' is a database containing maps, notes, gate addresses - everything the scientists in the group was able to find for Ra. It was thought lost a long time ago, in fact, 5000 years ago, when Ra left Earth. The project was still under way at that point, and the scientist in charge of the project hid the database so it would not fall into the wrong hands. Many have searched for it since," Anise explained.

"No wonder they want it," Sam said.

"So do we, or what? It sounds like there could still be something there we could use," Daniel said.

"I agree," Sam said.

Hammond nodded. "Yes - and we obviously can't let Ba'al get it. What about Selkhet?"

"She is a minor Goa'uld, working for Ba'al - as you already know. She was a minor System Lord during Ra's reign, but fell completely from grace after his death. She had to accept a position with no planets of her own, serving Ba'al. She is not happy with this, and yearns for power," Martouf told them.

"Can she be bribed? I mean, can we make her betray Ba'al and give us the artefact?" Hammond asked.

Martouf shook his head. "She may well be compelled to betray Ba'al, but she is more likely to betray you. The artefact is very valuable, and could potentially make her more powerful than any other Goa'uld. In fact, she may well have plans to take it for herself, especially now when the Jaffa sent with her are dead or captured."

"So there's no way she'll give it to us. Noted," O'Neill said.

"I'm curious, how did the researchers at the museum not activate it?" Daniel asked.

"You most likely need naquadah in the blood to activate it. It is a common safety measure," Martouf said.

"Okay. I'm guessing it's not something we want in Ba'al's hands?" Hammond wondered.

"You do not want it in the hands of any Goa'uld. It could shift the balance of power in the Galaxy. In fact, without wanting to sound overly dramatic, the fate of the Galaxy is at stake," Martouf said.

"It always is, isn't it?" O'Neill observed.

"What about the bomb. Do you have any way of dealing with that?" Hammond asked.

Anise and Martouf looked at each other, then Martouf dipped his head, giving Lantash control.

"Depending on the type of bomb and the amount of naquadah in it, we have the means to scan for it at a significant distance, though it would be easier if we could do so from orbit," he said.

"Well, we have the X-303," O'Neill said. "Prometheus. Our human-built spaceship."

"Unfortunately, Prometheus is currently 4 days away," Sam pointed out.

"The scanners will still be somewhat effective within about ten of your kilometers," Lantash said. "Even from the surface."

"That's better than nothing," O'Neill said.

"A lot better than nothing." Hammond nodded.

"Then we will return to the Tok'ra to get the scanners, and then come back here as fast as we can," Lantash said.

"Good. We will arrange transportation to Washington," Hammond told them.

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