Crellum Mare

Story Timeline: Takes place between seasons 8 and 9, but Jack is on this mission.  Allows for some flexibility in the timelines of both SG-1 and SGA, in that SGA’s Letters from Pegasus has taken place during this time and the SGC has received at least preliminary reports from the Atlantis expedition.
Summary: New allies bring with them a potential find of a lifetime in the guise of a planet made by the Ancients.  However, the discovery comes with a hefty price as the shield holding the world together is failing.  Faced with a seemingly insurmountable mission, SG-1 is left to try and save the planet before time runs out.
Story Notes: I like to believe that Sam has the brilliance to take an invention and refine it over the years, and while the naquadah generator is not strictly something she created, it is likely that she continually tried to perfect the technology.  With that in mind, I have taken some liberties with established canon on the functions of the generator and Sam’s ability to repair and monitor its function.
Thanks: This world of ours is full of wonderful and creative writers, talents that leave us hanging on their every word.  For me, that person is Jack McDevitt.  No, he does not write for the Stargate fandom, but his creativity just blows me away.  I thank him for the marvellous underwater ruins on Quraqua from him story Engines of God, and for the inspiration they gave me for this story.   Many thanks also to the talented DennyJ for her patience and wonderful beta.  Any and all mistakes are all mine.

Crellum Mare

Colonel Reynolds had warned them about the unpredictable power outages that would plunge Crellum Mare into a murky darkness.  Had warned them of the sudden wall of silence that followed and was quickly swallowed by cries of confusion and fear, but no matter how often it happened or how ready General Jack O’Neill thought he was, there was just no escaping the brief surge of fear that had him instinctively reaching for his P90 when the lights went out.  Irrational, yes, but this was unfamiliar territory and Jack hadn’t quite made up his mind just how trustworthy the Yahut people were, regardless of Reynolds’ assurance they ‘appeared’ honorable.  Despite the faith Jack had in the men and women under his command, he placed a whole lot more stock in his own gut-instinct over second-hand intelligence. 
Around him, cries of fear and surprise punctuated the air as people stumbled around in the dark, falling over each other and anything that was in their path.  Somewhere off in the distance, Jack could just make out the high pitched shrill of a child crying and calling for his mother, only to be silenced just as quickly when the lights suddenly snapped back on. 
“Are you harmed, General?”  Only a few feet away and leaning heavily on a nearby wall, First Leader Zolan of the Yahut looked pale and a little shaken, his breath coming in short, barely audible gasps.  When they’d first met, Zolan—a short, dumpy man with an impressive receding hairline and a bottom lip that seemed permanently droopy—he had radiated an air of self-assuredness.  It was a false bravado, an act of superiority intended to leave no doubt about his leadership, but Jack didn’t have to look too hard to see the man was starting to buckle under the stress of command.
Taking directional cues from the Yahutian First Leader, Jack had deliberately played up his role as interested diplomat in the absence of Daniel, who was off in another part of the city, likely with his nose in some dusty tome and holding an in-depth study of comparative cultures with the local historian.  The Yahut weren’t exactly living the simple life Jack craved.  What technology they did possess took an apparent backseat in their lives— a necessity for survival, but not a crux to dominate their lifestyle... so the first leader had explained with the slightest twitch in one cheek. Only, Jack was fairly sure that shaping clay and weaving baskets was, in this case, a by-product of a life lived easily thanks to the technology of a race the Yahut knew very little about.
“I’m good,” Jack replied with a quick nod and a smallish smile that didn’t quite make it to his eyes.  “You?”
“I am fine, though I must admit our power issues are becoming more and more unsettling.”
Jack couldn’t tell if the man was naturally nervous, but it seemed to him from the moment they arrived in Crellum Mare, Zolan’s mood had swung from relaxed to, at times, verging on panic; an emotion Jack could well relate to at this moment. 
SG-1 had only been planet-side a short time when what Carter was now calling a power hiccup had occurred, plunging the city into a brief moment of darkness.  Zolan’s nervous reassurance that they were in no danger was well timed with the lights coming back on, and only just enough to convince Jack he should hold off from having the team retreat back through the ‘gate to Earth.  
“Your Colonel Reynolds, he explained our situation to you?” 
Reynolds had done a fine job in his briefing, putting forward the concerns and needs of the Yahut with as much detail as the short visit to PC4-192 had afforded SG-3.  But what the man had failed to convey with any adequateness was the sheer majestic beauty that was the Yahut city.
Now, Jack had seen some amazing things in his life: Architecture that was both bewildering and beautiful and vistas that made the seven wonders of the Earth look like sandcastles on a beach.  However, Crellum Mare, its buildings interconnected to a central body and floating miles under the ocean, almost made a mockery of such wonderment and left even the most travelled visitor in awe of its beauty.
The ceilings inside the central building were impressive; leaving the best aquariums on Earth in their wake for sheer engineering ability.  Curved with an elegance that was the hallmark of Ancient architecture, the roof hung above him like a giant balloon full of aquatic life, almost ready to burst.  Colored seaweeds swayed across the surface of whatever the dome was made from, revealing a variety of marine life hiding among its tendrils.  Every so often light would shine through the display, hitting the surface and bouncing a myriad of colors onto the floor below.  Jack could only guess the light was coming from the distant sun in this system. 

According to the report tabled by SG-3, Minitos—so named by its current inhabitants—was little more than a ball of water hanging in space, its mass held together by a planetary-wide shield.  The look of pure and unabashed excitement on Carter’s face had pretty much lit up the briefing room, but quickly paled when Reynolds handed the post mission briefing over to his 2IC, who’s shit-eating grin took a backseat to Daniel’s when the man brought up the first of a series of digital still on the walls lining the Yahut gateroom.  Ancient script almost as far as the camera could record.   The walls instantly reminded him of Kheb, the thought of which elicited a headache.  No good had ever come from messing with the Ancients.
Hammond’s famous words “SG-1, you have a go” popped into Jack’s mind at about the same time his brain and mouth decided to betray him, and he ended up inviting himself along for the ride.
SG-1 had predictably fanned out the moment they exited the ‘gate and disposed of the welcoming formalities.   Zolan, presenting himself with all the dignity of a politician, quickly introduced Daniel and Carter to their Yahut counterparts, leaving Jack and Teal’c to finish off the pleasantries.  A quick getting-to-know-you session later and Teal’c had wandered off to explore the city, citing a need to know the layout of the land as a perfect excuse for leaving Jack to play his part as the mundane politician.  Sometimes he hated being the man.
Jack pulled himself from his musings when he caught Zolan’s patient smile, the man’s question still hanging in the air. “He mentioned something about your people having problems with the equipment that powers this place.”  Truth be told, Reynolds’ report did a little more than make note of the problem, but Jack only took from the briefing that which concerned him most, leaving the technicalities and cultural aspects to his premier team. 
“That would be putting it in simple terms, General.” Zolan ushered him forward and more fully into the larger of the city segments and on to what Jack figured was the fifty cent tour, taking in what few compartments were still in working order.  There weren’t many.
The segments were uniform in construction and each roughly the size of a small warehouse; a few slightly larger than the rest.  Brushed metal walls were hidden behind single-tiered living complexes, no more than six or so to a compartment, each sharing a common meeting area where families would mass and children could play under the watchful eye of their parents. 
Outwardly, the confines seemed perfectly idyllic, if not a little sterile in places where the population’s attempts at creating a more homely environment had fallen a little short—featureless walls breaking through what Jack figured were wall hangings fashioned in the traditional colors of the Yahut.  Blue seemingly a constant among offworld nomadic tribes.  He smiled to himself at the thought.
“The shield that encompasses our world and holds in our ocean is failing.” Zolan paused to acknowledge a group of passing women, arms heavy with baskets of what Jack assumed, from their rich aroma, was freshly baked bread.  “Each day,” he continued on as they walked, “our situation grows dire, more desperate, and I fear it is only a matter of time before the shield fails completely.  As you have already witnessed, the falling power levels are also affecting our city.  We have been left with little choice but to close down most of our living quarters, forcing families into more confined areas in the hopes of reducing our power consumption.”
Carter, to her credit, had her scanner out from almost the moment they’d dispensed with meet and greet, and was gracious enough not to look overly panicked at the figures whirring past on the machine’s tiny monitor.  Jack knew, though… the look in her eyes told him well enough that the city was in trouble.  
“See what you can do,” he had told her after two more power fluctuations followed the first in alarmingly quick order.  A stiff nod and wry smile later, she was being ushered out of the main complex and into the city proper by one of the local engineers.  A surge of pride caught Jack in the chest at that exact moment; the realization his team knew each other so well after all this time together, that there was virtually no need to issue orders.
Daniel was next to leave, and the rather animated conversation he had been holding with the Yahut historian almost made Jack laugh.  One hand on his hip, the other resting comfortably on the top of his P90, Daniel resembled more of an at-ease soldier than an historian in the field.   Lord knows it had taken the better part of a decade, but somewhere in the history of SG-1, Daniel had finally found an identity that defined him.  He now wore the skin of both a soldier and a scientist with equal ease. 
Jack broke from his pensiveness and frowned at how easily he’d lost his concentration.   “You’ve got a Stargate.  What about moving your people to another world?  Might be a safer option for the time being.”
Zolan visibly bristled at the suggestion.  “This has been our home for many generations.  Tell me, General, would you not fight to save your homeworld if there was even the remotest chance you could succeed?”
Giving the question only a fleeting thought, Jack shrugged. “Fight, yeah, but only if I was sure I could win the battle.  According to Colonel Reynolds, your people came from somewhere else and settled here when you discovered the city was uninhabited.”
“We were once nomadic, yes, but the need to roam ended when we discovered Crellum Mare.  It has been our home ever since.”
Jack cast his gaze around the cavernous room once more and couldn’t help but agree with the Yahut’s choice to want to stay here.  The digital recording Reynolds had played back for them at the briefing left no doubt that at least the central complex was Ancient in design, showing a clear likeness to the city of Atlantis the Pegasus expedition had recently sent back to Earth.
“I assume you do use the Stargate?” he said focusing back on Zolan.  “I mean, considering this city is underwater, I’m guessin’ farming your own produce is a bit of an issue.” 
“If you’re asking if we trade with other worlds, then yes, General, we do.  Moving my people to a new home—and there are plenty who would shelter us—is an option of last resort.  We simply do not wish to move.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that,” Jack said with more sarcasm than he’d intended; a fact that wasn’t lost on Zolan, whose posture turned from mildly relaxed to defensive the instant the words slipped out.   Spotting the other man’s reaction, Jack waved towards a group of women gathered nearby around a bank of work benches just inside the entrance to the city. “The local knitting club in action?”
Jack shrugged off the query.  “What are they doing?”
“They are working clay,” Zolan answered neutrally.  “Many among my people are gifted artists and sculptors, talents that are favored greatly on the countless worlds we trade with.  Obtaining food and daily necessities has never been an issue for us in the past.  In fact, quite a number of our population have families spread throughout this sector of space, yet another reason why we have never had difficulty establishing trade.  We are not without our means.” 
Jack cringed internally, taking in Zolan’s hurt tone as a reaction to his own lax attitude.  This was by no means the first time the SGC had established contact with a culture in danger of being wiped out for one reason or another, and if his opinion was worth a damn to these people, he would have had them through the ‘gate well before now.  Unfortunately, Zolan’s stubbornness was a universal trait and probably a side effect of having ruled unchallenged for a long time.  He’d seen the same tenacious attitude with Hedrazar and the Enkarans, and wondered at what point these people would push aside their pride in favor of survival. 
Colonel Samantha Carter frowned at the small screen of her multi-purpose diagnostic tool and made a mental note of the time and frequency of the event she was monitoring.  Beside her, one of the Yahut city engineers was making and entry in his maintenance log, looking up at her long enough to squeeze out a nervous smile. 
“The same?” he queried, pocketing his pencil and shutting the book.  “I would need to check the readout in the control room, but the dip in luminosity looked constant to what we’ve seen over the last few days.”
Sam tried on a reassuring smile, but let it fall as she turned the screen towards the man and tapped at a flashing set of numbers.  “Down another point three of a percent.” 
“Point three?  Are you sure?”
“I’m sorry, Mikah.  Our equipment is very sensitive and tuned to working with Ancient technology.  There’s no doubt about the readings.  I’ve recorded almost a full percent decrease in the power levels over the last hour alone.”
Mikah shoved his logbook in his messenger bag and closed the flap with a slap of irritation.  “And there is no way at all you could be wrong?”
Sam desperately wanted to be wrong, but sugar-coating her readings after the worrying string of power incidences they had just experienced wasn’t going to be fair to either of them.  “Even allowing for an acceptable margin of error, there’s no denying a marked drop in the sustainable power levels.  I’m sorry, Mikah, but without knowing the exact ratio of power production versus consumption, there is just no fool-proof way to determine exactly how long the city has before it loses power completely.” 
“That has been our problem all along,” Mikah conceded, frustration coloring the tone of his voice.  “We have never been able to find the original systems that monitor this complex, and even if we had, there is none among us who is able to read the writing with any great measure of proficiency.  When the city modules were added to the original complex, the most we were able to do was to install monitoring equipment to observe and maintain structural integrity and the independent life support systems.”
None of which sounded quite right to Sam.  “Independent?  I thought this city was connected to the ‘gate’s power utilization system?”
“Of course it is,” Mikah stated flatly, as though the answer should have been obvious.   “We have no other means to generate power.  It is not the power systems that are independent, just our ability to continuously monitor those systems for power fluctuations and other maintenance problems.”
Sam tried not to look distressed by the corners the Yahut engineers had cut and most definitely the safety issues they’d thrown in the face of their own people for the sake of a few thousand feet of living space.  It was clear to her that the original temple complex was never meant to be expanded upon, and whatever purpose the Ancients had designed the planet for, it was never intended to become a home to anyone. 
“Well, I don’t think there’s any point in taking another reading for a while.” She pocketed her diagnostic tool and looked towards the giant metal arch that separated the Yahut city from the Stargate, a question forming in her mind.  “Mikah, how exactly did you join the city modules to the ‘gate power systems?  Through the DHD?”
“No,” he said, gesturing towards the arch as their next destination. “There is a set of power discharge units directly behind the Stargate.  We were able to modify the city’s power nodes and interface them with the additional living units.  We also discovered several banks of colored crystals in the temple, which we have long-assumed are part of the mechanism that controls the entire complex.  I can show you if you would like.”
Time was a luxury afforded to more fortunate people and not to someone acutely in need of more.  In the few hours since Mikah had been called away to tend to a problem in another part of the city, Sam had discovered that with every panel she opened or crystal she removed, she had more questions than answers.  She doubted the little engineer’s ability to answer her questions, despite his basic understanding of Ancient technology, because the limited time he could afford her was barely enough to glean a working understanding of the functionality between the temple and the outpost. 
“What have you got, Carter?”
Sam rocked back on her heels and pressed her hands to her thighs as she rose and shook out her legs.  Wiping her brow with the back of the hand holding her diagnostic tool, she gave the open panel in front of her one last, lingering gaze before turning her attention to the general.
“Well, it’s definitely Ancient—”
“Which we already knew.”
“Yes, sir, but the technology operating this place is older than almost everything Ancient we’ve encountered in the past.”
“With the exception of Dakara, yes.  Some of the crystals in this housing alone have degraded with age, and considering how sturdy Ancient technology is, that’s really saying something.  It’s a miracle this whole entire complex didn’t shut down completely centuries ago.”
“Yes, well, I’ve long since ceased associating miracles with the Ancients, so let’s call it luck instead.”
“Yes, sir.”
“So?” He thrust his chin in the direction of the open panel. “You think you can help these people out?”
Sam shrugged and pushed an errant lock of hair behind her left ear.   The crystal control panel Mikah had shown her was a complete mess.  It had only taken a cursory glance to know that most of the crystals were damaged in one way or another.  Hairline fractures covered several of the crystals, their generally smooth surfaces now resembling something akin to granite.  In this juncture alone, the primary control crystal had gone from a bright red color to having a somewhat smoky appearance.  A fact that bothered Sam greatly. 
She reached over and pulled one of the secondary crystals from its housing and held it up in front of her face, the light catching a spider’s web of fractures running through it.
“Even if we could find replacement crystals, it’s unlikely we’d have enough to get this facility back to its full operating potential, and that’s assuming the crystals are the only problem we encounter.  There must be about twenty or thirty buildings off this one alone and most of them are either on the verge of failing or already have.  I can’t do a whole lot without getting an engineering team here from the SGC to properly assess the damage.”
Jack smiled tightly and turned away towards the Stargate sitting snugly in the rear wall of the amphitheater.  “What about the ‘gate?”
This Stargate was an anomaly; a mystery that begged for an answer Sam couldn’t supply.  SG-3 provided a digital recording of the Yahut ‘gate, but seeing it second-hand hadn’t adequately prepared her for the real thing.  
Nestled inside the inner ring was yet another ring, constantly spinning even when the Stargate wasn’t in operation.   If that didn’t provide her with enough of a curiosity, there was also the fact that this ‘gate was part of the actual building itself, set against one wall with just enough defined space behind it to allow for the reverse splash of a forming wormhole.  It was as though the amphitheater had been built specifically for the ‘gate. 
Sam slipped her diagnostic tool into a vest pocket and walked over to the ‘gate, stopping just short of its massive dais.  Beyond the dais, and sitting at a comfortable distance from the ‘gate, was the DHD, which in itself was looking like an enigma.   Closer inspection of the floor around the DHD revealed an almost invisible seam, leaving Sam to wonder if the device retracted in some fashion.  “From what little the Yahut engineers have been able to tell me, the inner ring works like a generator, a dynamo, converting mechanical power into electrical.  A highly technical dynamo compared to what we have on Earth, but that’s essentially what it is. It’s what powers this complex and, in turn, the rest of the city.”
“A little primitive for the Ancients, isn’t it, Carter?”
“Yes, sir.  Compared to the Ancient technology we’ve encountered, I’d say it’s very primitive.  I get the idea this ring generator may have served as a back-up to one or more ZPMs, and possibly took over the city’s power generating needs when they were either removed or drained.  Only…”
“Only what?”
“I don’t know.”  She shook her head and folded her arms across her chest.  “I just don’t see how this device can generate enough power.”  Sam stepped through the semi-dormant ‘gate and down the dais on the other side, squatting down beside a large grey box, the top of which was covered in Ancient writing.
“One of the local engineers showed this to me before he got called away.  If Daniel hadn’t gone off with the Yahut historian I would have asked him to translate it for me.  According to Mikah, the engineer who’s been working with me, it houses one of two couplings that connect the city to the ‘gate’s power conduit system.  There’s another one like this on the other side of the ‘gate.” She pointed over her shoulder to an identical box sitting several feet away. “The Yahut apparently modified the city’s power nodes to interface with these couplings.”
“So you’re saying this city is dying because it hasn’t been properly maintained?”
“That and it’s lost its main source of power.” Sam paused for a moment, closing her eyes to gather her thoughts before continuing on.  “Maintenance would be an ongoing issue in a city of this type, regardless of size, but in this case it’s more that the size of the city doesn’t quite match the amount of power I’ve estimated this ‘gate generator is capable of producing.  It could probably power this complex and several others connected directly to it, but not the whole city.  And there’s another thing: Mikah told me that when his people first discovered this place the only building powered was this one.  It wasn’t until they started exploring that the other’s lit up.”
Jack frowned, pursing his lips.  “This place is Ancient, right?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Then how come it powered up just from their presence?  What about this whole ‘gene’ thing they have happening?”
“Not in every instance.  Sometimes the equipment only needs to be initiated by someone with the gene before it can be used by a non-gene carrier, and in some cases the gene isn’t needed at all.”
“So it’s likely one of the Yahut has the gene?”
“It’s not impossible, sir, although I’d say the city was probably responding to the presence of the Yahut in general, rather than someone with the gene.”
“How so?”
“Because this city is old, even by Ancient standards.  We found nothing at Dakara that required the gene to activate it, and, as you know, that complex housed one of the most powerful devices we’ve ever seen.”
“Meaning it’s more likely the Ancients added the ATA effect to their technology as a way to prevent its use by the Wraith.”
“Okay, that actually makes sense.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“What now?”
“Well, I’d like to keep looking around here for a while longer, at least until Daniel returns and can tell me what this writing says.  There’s writing on several other access panels and I’m hoping somewhere in all of this is a clue as to where the equipment that monitors the city is located.”
“The answer to all of life’s little problems, Carter?”
“I’d be happy if we can just answer this one.”
Jack left Sam to the inside of yet another panel that had captured her attention and wandered back out the amphitheatre.  The space was massive and he let his gaze wander up the subtly curved walls to the vaulted transparent dome high overhead.  An array of clashing colors shone down on the polished floor of the temple complex; a swirling mosaic of cerulean blues and greens, peppered occasionally with brightly colored sea creatures and swaying seaweed.  As impressive as the view was, it wasn’t a trick of the eye but the ocean itself. 
“The Yahut call this place, Crellum Mare, which is the merging of two languages.  ‘Crellum’ meaning city in the language of the Yahut, which, best I can tell is a long lost relative of Gaelic, and ‘Mare’ the Latin word for ocean.  Put them together and you get City in the Ocean.”
They were gathered in the ampitheater, against the impressive backdrop of the Stargate and its weird extra spinning ring, and walls of Ancient scrip that Jack occasionally found himself drawn towards, as though there was some magical answer staring them all in the face.  He looked up at the ceiling, connecting Daniel’s last words to the unavoidable vista above, and mumbled, “Aptly named.”
Without missing a beat, Daniel continued reading from his journal.  To his left, the Yahut historian—a wiry little man with long, waist length grey hair and steely blue eyes— looked on, nodding in apparent agreement every few minutes. 
“Teesan here,” he acknowledged the man with a quick nod and flash of a smile, “took me to one of the smaller temple rooms his people have been using as a library of sorts.  Sam, I think you’re going to want to check this place out—think back to the images the Atlantis expedition sent back, and in particular the ones of the holographic interface room.”
“I remember.  Doctor Becket found the room and managed to get the interface operational about the same time McKay noticed power levels throughout the city were dropping.”
“Exactly, yes!  Well, this city has its own holographic interface, very similar to the one on Atlantis!”
Jack looked a little taken back.  “Reynolds’ boys didn’t mention this holo-thing in their report.”
“Your men were not shown the device, General,” Teesan interrupted with an almost apologetic smile.  “They were more focused on our immediate power problems and taking images of the wall writing for your scientists to analyze.  It is unlikely our First Leader even considered the device worthy of mentioning, since we have not been able to use it in many years.”
“How so?” Jack asked.
“Because we did not understand its function.  At least… not at first.   Myself and several other younger scholars devoted what time we had to studying the images in an attempt to learn more about the temple builders, but it soon became apparent that operating the device used too much power.  In the end, we were forced to restrict its use, until eventually we could no longer risk turning it on.” 
“The Atlantis expedition faced a similar problem with their holographic interface,” Sam interjected with a knowing nod.  “It wasn’t until they found a ZPM with more balanced power levels that they could use the library more fully.”
“Your people were fortunate to find an alternative power source, Colonel.  As our population increased, the power issues became more substantial, and eventually some of our families choose to leave Crellum Mare and settle on other worlds.”
Jack threaded fingers through his short, cropped hair and sighed, “Yeah, Zolan mentioned something like that.  So, what?  The device is useless without the means to power it?”
“The equipment itself, yes,” Daniel confirmed and turned to Sam.  “Didn’t Rodney’s report on the Atlantis pedestal mention some sort of data crystal?”
Sam smiled tightly.  “I know what you’re thinking, Daniel, and with most other Ancient tech it would be possible—”
“What would be possible, Carter?”
“If we pull the data crystal from this holo device we should be able to interface it with the Atlantis pedestal, thus giving us access to everything stored on it.  It’s not that simple, though.”
“No, sir.  Although McKay and his team hadn’t conducted a full diagnostic of the Atlantis pedestal at the time we received their report, they were able to determine that the housing containing the data crystal was hardwired directly into the device itself.  I think the Ancients designed it that way to prevent tampering.  Essentially, the holographic interface has the dual purpose--at least the one on Atlantis does--of being not only some sort of educational tool but also an historical document, like a timeline.  I guess they figured if something happened to the rest of the city there would at least be a record of events stored on the crystal.”
“With access to the Ancient database, the Wraith would become virtually unstoppable in their single-minded pursuit of acquiring new feeding grounds,” said Teal’c in a low voice and stating the very obvious.  “Our galaxy would be in grave danger.”
“Maybe,” Sam conceded, “but I don’t believe the Ancients were stupid enough to leave behind any reference to Earth.  The timeline probably only covered their time in the Pegasus Galaxy.  The data-crystal in the Atlantis holographic interface wouldn’t be able to hold even a fraction of one percent of the Ancient database.  Besides which, McKay determined that any attempt to manually remove the crystal would result in a nasty surprise.”
Jack tipped his head to one side and nodded knowingly. “Nasty surprise.  How far?”    
“Sir?” Sam said in a tone that suggested the question caught her by surprise.
“How far did it toss him?”
“Doctor Becket reported bruising consistent with an impact at—”
“About ten feet, sir.  The rear wall stopped his flight.”
“Ah!”  Jack tried not to look too disappointed.  “So, yanking the crystal out…”
“Would be a shocking experience,” Sam finished with a barely suppressed grin.
“An electrical discharge capable of inflicting minor injuries.”  Teal’c cocked one brow questioningly.  “Hardly an effective deterrent for a determined enemy.”
“No,” Sam agreed, “but in defense of McKay and his team, they did cut power to the interface pedestal before attempting to remove the crystal.  I’m betting the charge that hit Rodney was residual.”
“I’m with Teal’c here, Carter. I would have expected something better from the Ancients than a quick zap for touching their stuff.”
Frustration building, Daniel pulled off his classes rubbed his eyes.  “I don’t suppose we could get back to the point?”
“Which was?”
“Oh, I don’t know, just that the information on that crystal could be invaluable, Jack.”
“I get it, Daniel.  However, if Carter is right, which means McKay is right—something I will never publicly admit—then the retrieval of the crystal takes a big back seat to trying to help these good people out.  Besides which, if Carter can get this place up and running again then the crystal won’t need saving because we will have done what we came here to do.”
“Worst case?
Jack held Daniel’s hardened stare for a few seconds and then conceded the point with a wave of his hand at Sam.  “Then, and only if there’s time, Carter can make a try for the crystal.  Satisfied?”
Daniel nodded slowly, lips pursed and brow drawn tight. 
“Good! Now that’s resolved, what else did you find in the library?”
“Oh!” Daniel slipped his glasses on and turned his attention back to his notes. “Well, as I’m sure you know, most nomadic tribes pass on their history to each subsequent generation through oral tales, but the first Yahut to settle here saw the importance of what they’d found and started noting down their historical milestones in journal form.  There is one problem, though…”
Jack took Daniel’s furrowed brow and the slight hesitation in his voice as a sign of worry.  “And that would be?” he asked.
Daniel slid two fingers under his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes tightly closed.  “Their written language has evolved over time to incorporate aspects of Gaelic, English, even a word or two of Ancient--.”
“Not much.  Just a few words here and there.”
“You don’t say.”
“Anywoo...  providing any meaningful translation is proving to be a bit of a challenge.”
Is proving?” Jack questioned.  “Which means you’ve translated some of it at least.  Found anything interesting?”
“Not the reason the Ancients built this city, no.  At a glance, I can tell you the Yahut have been noticing a steady decline in basic city-wide functions over the last four or five generations, and gaining momentum over the last year or less.”
Jack turned to Teesan. “You never thought to act sooner on this problem?”
“We learned to adapt as many would in a situation such as this,” Teesan quickly added defensively.
“Well, good for you, but there’s a huge difference between adapting to circumstances and employing common sense in the face of a real threat.”  Jack held Teesan’s gaze for a moment and then winced when he saw the little historians face fall in reaction to his hastily spoken barb.  Clearing his throat, he continued on, “Carter has a theory there, don’t you Carter?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam smiled a little nervously.  “I think this city was once powered by one or more ZPM’s that have either been fully depleted or removed, and the extra inner ring on the Stargate is acting as some type of back-up generator.  Daniel, I’ve found some writings on several panels and boxes around the ‘gate that I’d like you to translate for me.” 
Jack clapped his hands together and rubbed them expectantly.  “Great, so we can--”
“Actually, hold that thought…” Daniel lifted a finger to his lips and rolled his eyes skywards.  “This city is totally submerged, right?”
Jack looked back up at the ceiling and to the kaleidoscope of colors swirling above his head.  “That would be a yes.”
“And we have no idea why the Ancient’s built it underwater.”
“That’s where you come in.”
“I don’t believe the Ancients would deliberately abandon this facility unless they desperately had to, and the only reason I can think of would be the plague that swept through the galaxy.  It’s possible the ZPM’s were taken to supplement the power required to move Atlantis to the Pegasus Galaxy.”
“This makes sense, considering both Atlantis and the Ancient outpost in the Antarctic had trays with enough space to house three ZPMs.  The power requirements for both facilities would have to been enormous.” Sam scrubbed a hand through her short locks and looked over at the Stargate.  “It also goes some way to proving my theory that the inner ring on this ‘gate is serving as some sort of back-up generator, its likely purpose to provide enough power to maintain this facility only.”  Her tight smile showed she wasn’t quite convinced.  “I’m missing something here.”
“Like?” Jack asked.  “Makes perfect sense to me and I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Sam smiled crookedly and shook her head.  “Like why the Ancients built this facility underwater and for what purpose.”
“And again, I say that’s where Daniel comes in.”  Jack looked over at Daniel who just shrugged and offered a small, indecisive smile.  “What, not even a vague idea?”
“If I may?”  Teesan stepped forward, arms spread wide and looking at Jack for permission to speak.
“Have at it.” Jack ceded the floor with a theatrical sweep of his hand.
“Thank you.  While it is true my forefathers were afforded very little time in the Hall of Knowledge before they were forced to close it down, they did discover that the Ancients, as you call them, expended vast resources growing and harvesting marine and plant life from the ocean.” He looked up at the ceiling and waved a hand at the swirling, cerulean ocean beyond the hall’s thick, protective dome.  “Unfortunately, they were not able to determine how the Ancients achieved this nor what became of the bounty once it was harvested.”
“Self sustaining society?”  Daniel suggested with an air of uncertainty.  “Considering the size of the city, it makes sense that they might use the resources of the ocean to support the population.”
Teesan nodded.  “This would be a likely scenario had most of the city you see before you existed when my people first arrived.  When First Leader Ortan guided our people through the Great Ring to Crellum Mare, the city was nothing more than the central cathedral you see before you and several interconnecting buildings.”
“Mikah mentioned something like that to me earlier,” said Sam.  “So this is what… some sort of outpost?”
Teesan suddenly looked confused. “What is an outpost?”
“I guess the best way to describe it would be a facility designed for a specific purpose.”  She tipped her head from side to side, appearing unsatisfied with her response.  “Given that we’re standing in a temple, and you said there were only a few buildings to start with; could this have been some sort of religious sanctuary?”
“Hmm, no, I don’t think so, Sam,” Daniel cut into the conversation.  “We’re talking about the Ancients here, so I’d be more inclined to think this place was built specifically for research and development.  The nearest the Ancients came to having any sort of religious outlet was through meditation to achieve enlightenment on the path to ascension.  Building a place of worship was hardly their ‘thing’.”
“Was Oma Desala not responsible for the establishment of Kheb?” Teal’c asked, tearing himself away from the colorful marine display overhead.
“An exception rather than the rule.”
Peering back up at the transparent ceiling, Teal’c asked, “Then how would you best describe this facility?” 
“Functionality is in the eye of the beholder?” Daniel suggested with a half shrug, clearly not holding much faith in his answer.
Jack frowned.  “I thought that was supposed to be ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’?”
Daniel turned to Teesan.  “My point is that your people probably looked at the architecture of the hall when they first arrived and assumed it to be a place of some religious significance.  The Ancients were known for their rather grandiose architecture, although not every remnant of their civilization we’ve found has followed a defined theme.”
“Okay.”  Jack rolled his wrist in the sign to get to the point.  “So, we’ve determined what?  That we have no idea what this place was for except to say that the Ancients are predictably overstated in their décor and like to harvest really big seaweed?”
Daniel blinked slowly at Jack’s answer, but then said with an concessionary shrug, “Not overly accurate but—”
“Close enough.”
“Thank you.” 
“Well, I was right about one thing.”  Sam looked back over her shoulder at the ‘gate, its curious secondary inner ring spinning so fast as to be a complete blur.
“What was that, Carter?”
“The power requirement needed to keep a city of this size functioning is far greater than what the ring generator can provide.  Somewhere in this complex there has to be a ZPM room or some other type of power source.”
Jack turned to Daniel, whose attention was focused on a nearby wall covered from floor to ceiling in Ancient script.  “Anything?”
“We could be here a while.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that.”
“You’re right, Sam.”  Daniel ran his hands over the last few words of Ancient script and, satisfied he understood their meaning, rocked back on his haunches and rose to his feet.   He looked back down at the box and then up at the ‘gate.  “It’s nothing more complex than the city’s original engineers leaving a warning to exercise caution when opening the box.”
Sam looked pleased.  “So, these are the couplers that connect the ‘gate to the power grid?”
“You’d probably have to open the boxes up to be sure, but yeah, that’s the way it reads to me.  Kinda odd though, don’t you think?”
“Odd?”  Sam knelt down in front of the first coupling box and pulled her diagnostic tool from one of her vest pockets.  “In what way?”
“The Ancients labeling their technology for all to find.  Look at the images we’ve received from the Atlantis expedition.  Most of their information has been locked inside functional consoles requiring a gene-bearer to activate.”
“Initially, yes.  But Doctor Weir’s report stated that non-gene carrying personnel were able to use a substantial amount of Atlantis’ systems once they’d been initialized.”
Daniel pursed his lips in thought and knelt back down beside her.  “That’s not quite what I meant.  This,” he gestured to the box, “is virtually in plain sight for all to see.  It’s almost like an open invitation.”
Sam ran her tool around the seams of the box and peered at the stream of numbers scrolling past on the instrument’s tiny screen.  “I’m afraid you’ve lost me here, Daniel.”
“I don’t think these…” he waved a hand at the closest box.  “What did you call them?”
“Yeah, those.  I don’t think they were part of the original ‘gate system when the Ancients established this outpost.  They’re a later addition.”
“How much later?” Sam asked, her brow knotting questioningly. 
“I’m not sure, but if I had to make a guess, I’d almost say they were added to the ‘gate just before the city was abandoned.  They just don’t… I don’t know…” He rose to his feet and swept his gaze around the entire room.  “They don’t fit in with everything else.  I think the Ancients knew they had to leave the city and rigged up this ring generator system with the express hope of it keeping the outpost and the shield operational until they could return.”
Sam left her tool on top of the box and rose to join him.  “Well, given the imposing size of this place, I guess it makes sense that they might have wanted to reclaim it at some point.  So you think they abandoned it when the plague broke out?”
“It’s the only reason I can think of for them leaving such an impressive set-up.” He swept his hand out to encompass the general area.  “Somewhere here there has to be a ZPM room or at least some central control area.  If we assume this place is at least as old as Dakara, then it’s probably been cleverly concealed.”
“Then what happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“The Ancients returned to this galaxy at some point in their history.  So why didn’t they take this place back?”
Daniel shrugged.  “No idea.  Perhaps knowledge of its existence was lost?”
“This is the Ancients we’re talking about here.  How likely does that sound to you?”
“Not very,” he conceded dryly, “but then they’ve set a precedence for leaving their stuff abandoned.”
“True. So... a cleverly concealed control area?  Doesn’t it seem strange to you that the Yahut haven’t found one?
“Not if we’re wrong and it does need the gene to activate the entrance, no.”
“But dad and I opened the control room at Dakara by reading the writings on the wall.  We had nothing but your notes to guide us.  In comparison, the Yahut have been here a long time.  Surely they’ve made some sort of attempt to access other parts of the complex?”
“According to Teesan, no, they haven’t.  You heard him, Sam.  They were barely able to use the holographic interface before they realized how much of a power drain it was on the outpost’s supply.  They’re nomadic, and despite having lived here for several generations, they’d still be more inclined to live the simple life over trying to find out what makes this place tick.  A bit like finding a gift horse and not caring where it came from.”
“I don’t know about that, Daniel.  Mikah and several other Yahut engineers seemed to have a fairly good grasp of the city’s operating systems.  Still… it’s taken us several years just to scratch the surface of what we know about Ancient tech, and we’ve had plenty of help.”
Daniel shrugged.  “Who knows?  They certainly knew enough to shut the holo-room down.  Then there’s the whole adding of a city to the original complex.  That’s some mean engineering feat even by our standards.” He strode out to a point just in front of the ‘gate and stared up at the massive dome overhead.  “You know,” he said absently, “this kinda reminds me of Vis Uban.”
“Really? I don’t recall fish on the ceiling.”
“Ha ha,” he returned.  “No, I was thinking more of Shamda.  They lived in this impressive city with miles of ruins to explore and writings etched on walls for as far as you could see, and not once did they ever take the time to investigate what they had.”
“I’m sure you did, though.”
“Not really.  The writing interested me, but there was always something holding me back from exploring the ruins.  Like a fear I couldn’t rationalize.”
Sam crossed the short distance and stood next to him, placing her hand on his arm in a gesture of comfort.  “Maybe Oma didn’t want you finding something that might have triggered memories of your past.”
“Oh, that’s good, Sam,” Daniel laughed lightly.  “So she drops me buck-naked right in the middle of an archaeological playground and hopes I’ll ignore the honkin’ ruins?”
“Yeah,” Sam smiled wryly.  “It seemed a little odd to me, too.”
The mood was suddenly getting a little too sombre for his liking, so Daniel decided to change it.  “So! We’re looking for some kind of entrance way or writing that might tell us where they housed the ZPM’s.”
“Any ideas?”
Daniel did a slow 360 degree turn, his gaze tracking up and down the walls and ceiling as he went, taking in as much detail as possible.  “Besides the dome above and the Stargate behind us, what do you see?”
Sam followed his line of sight to a wall at the far end of the massive amphitheatre. “I’m not sure, but the room doesn’t feel functional to me.”
“In what way?”
“Well,” she strode away from him in the direction of the far wall. “We’ve got a transparent dome above which seems to do nothing more than provide us with a spectacular view of the ocean, and then we’ve got a large semi-circular hallway that leads to a dead end.  The rest of the room is vaulted ceilings with smaller passageways that lead to several ante-rooms and the rest of the city.  We already know the Ancients don’t build out of a need to be purely practical, so if that’s the case here, then why is this room so big?”
“Really?” Daniel’s eyebrows rose above the upper rim of his glasses, a sense of knowing something Sam didn’t reflected in his smile. “Grandiose architecture not withstanding, I think this room is very functional.”
Sam turned and eyed him suspiciously.  “Oh, you do, do you?”
Daniel pointed at the far end of the hallway leading from the ampitheater. “In fact, I’d almost hazard a guess and say that this wall probably opens out to the ocean.”
“You do?  It does?”  Sam frowned, seemingly unconvinced with his assessment.
“Come back here,” he beckoned, and she walked back towards him.  He grabbed her by the shoulders and slowly spun her to face away from him and back in the direction she came from.  “Now, in your mind’s eye, seal off all the passageways connected to this room and open up the end wall.  Let the water in.  What do you see?”
Sam closed her eyes and opened them almost instantly, an expression of amazement spread across her face.  “It’s funnel shaped.  The water is actually being channelled to the Stargate!”
“Explains why the ‘gate is built into the wall instead of standing free.”
“How so?”
“Because I think I’ve figured out what the Ancients built this planet for.”
“Terraforming?”  The general’s brow rose high on his forehead, the look matching the high, uncertain-sounding pitch of his voice.  They were standing down at the far end of the amphitheater, away from the Stargate, but still under the shrouded gaze of sea creatures that drifted lazily across the dome high above them.  Jack found the whole atmosphere a little unnerving; almost as though he was in a giant fishbowl looking out. “Anyone care to explain?”
“Daniel thinks the Ancients probably used this whole amphitheater like a giant water tunnel that funnelled water straight from the ocean and through the ‘gate to a newly terraformed world.  If he’s right, then this whole chamber is perfectly watertight when sealed.”
“Right,” he drawled, squinting hard at Sam before turning his gaze to Daniel. “Really? Terraforming?”
“It makes sense, Jack.”
First Leader Zolan looked equally as confused. “What is this terraforming you speak of?”
Daniel quickly looked to Sam, who ceded the floor with the flash of a smile. “In simple terms, it’s a means by which a race with the technological know-how is able to take an uninhabitable world and make it suitable to support human life. Essentially, they bring life to a lifeless world.”
“I thought we already knew that the Ancients used the weapon at Dakara to seed life in the galaxy?  Fairly sure you sent me a memo.”
“I did,” he said, and then quickly added as an afterthought, “Well, we’re not sure about the weapon being used to seed the whole galaxy, but as it is widely accepted that human life in this galaxy is said to have originated on Earth…”  Daniel caught Jack’s hardened stare and smiled nervously, urging himself to get to the point.  “Look, the chances of finding as many habitable planets as we have are fairly low, so it’s reasonable to assume the Ancients probably gave evolution a nudge along in the form of some type of terraforming effort.”
Teal’c turned away from examining one of the amphitheater walls and fixed his gaze on Daniel.  “If we assume the Ancients did indeed assist in their own terraforming efforts, would this not mean that all the marine, animal, and plant life we have encountered are not native to many of the worlds we have visited?”
“He’s got you there, Daniel,” O’Neill chimed laconically.
“That I don’t know, Teal’c.  Perhaps on the terraformed worlds, yes, but on others it would be a process of natural evolution.  Look, what other reason could there be for the Ancients to send such vast quantities of water and marine life through the Stargate?”  
“Pool party?”  Jack’s smiled died under Daniel’s withering stare. “Right! So this is a theory?”
“More like a work in progress.”
“I’m with Daniel on this, sir.  If he’s right, then it sheds light on not only the purpose for the outpost, but why the Ancients were so desperate to keep the facility operational after they left.”
“And could you perhaps shed that light on the rest of us?”
“If we take it as a given that they used this facility for terraforming, that would mean the water levels fluctuated between a pre-determined low volume and an extreme high volume.  The difference being the point at which they funnelled water through the ‘gate to another planet.”
“Where does it come from?”
“The water, Carter.  All this chit-chat about pre-determined this and that, you haven’t actually said where the stuff comes from.”
“I... don’t know.  Could be a facility at the core, or perhaps even a several facilities spread about the planet.  I’d only be guessing.”
“Well, whatever it is, it’s a lot of water, Carter.”
“Yes, sir, but we’re also talking about an entire world of water that is produced for this specific purpose, and given that most planets also have land mass and this one doesn’t, well… that’s a lot of water.  The Ancients designed a shield that was capable of contracting and expanding with the volume of water being created and used, and I’m pretty sure the generator system they replaced the ZPMs with was designed to maintain this facility and those systems only.  And only with enough power to achieve minimal sustainability.”
“In English?”
“The ring generator’s primary purpose was to produce only enough power to keep the outpost and the shield operational.  Nothing more.”
“Oh.” Zolan paled visibly. “We have added many living sections to the original complex.  Granted we did so over a long period of time, but…”
Sam nodded tightly, her lips curving in a sympathetic smile.  “I’m sorry, Zolan, but if I’m right, and I’m reasonably certain I am; then it was those additions that have taken power away from the generator, which in turn has caused the shield to slowly lose integrity.”
“So, the shield has been slowly contracting in direct proportion to the amount of power it has at its disposal.  And the water has been what? Drifting off into space?” Daniel asked.
“I’m guessing there is some release function to dispel any overflow as the shield contracts, but a total loss of volume would only happen if the shield collapsed completely.  The Ancients would have calculated how much volume the shield could hold at its minimum sustainable level and built the ring generator to maintain that volume and support the original complex.  One can’t function without the other. I don’t believe it would have occurred to them that someone might find this planet and try to colonize it.  There is something that I’m curious about, though.”  Sam looked to Zolan. “Ancient technology is very advanced, and Mikah has already shown me how your engineers interfaced the additional city modules to the existing Ancient complex.  But I would like to know where you got the technology from.”
Zolan slid his gaze between Sam and Jack.  “As I told General O’Neill earlier, we are a very resourceful people.  The schematics and materials for the modules were procured through one of our trading partners, many generations ago.  Once we overcame the issue of internal pressurization, it was quite easy to connect the units to the power grid.”
So, a little more tech-savvy than Sam had concluded. “And how many units have you added?”
“The original structure consisted of the temple and five interconnected work and living spheres.  We have added another thirty similar buildings, the most recent of which was approximately ten years ago.”
“Thirty six altogether,” Sam mumbled. “The ring generator wasn’t designed to provide that much power.”
“We didn’t know,” interjected Zolan defensively.  “Our power issues only began to surface in recent years and it has only been in the last short while that our engineers have been able to calculate Minitos’ surface volume.”
“And how are you able to do that?”
“We traded—”
“For the technology,” she finished for him.  “Still, it doesn’t explain why you’ve only been experiencing power problems for the last few years and not prior to that.  Unless…”
“Carter?” Jack quirked an eyebrow at her, questioningly. 
“Well, sir, it’s possible the Ancients factored a power storage component into their technology and this complex has been tapping into that supply to supplement the loss it was suffering when the Yahut added to the facility.  Over time, that back-up supply has been slowly depleted to the point where the equipment that monitors this facility was forced to divert power from one system to support another.”
“Would not the integrity of the shield be a higher priority than life support?” Teal’c asked.  “Without the shield to maintain the cohesiveness of the ocean, there would be no need for the city.”
“That would be my operational priority,” Sam agreed.  “But, Ancient technology is highly intuitive and I have to wonder if it detected the presence of people and overrode its original programming.  Then again, it’s also possible the crystal degradation I’ve seen may have affected the outpost’s monitoring equipment, essentially bypassing its self-checking protocols.”
“As interesting as all this is, Carter, can you bottom line it for us, please?  Preferably before this place loses its shield.”
“Bottom line?  I’m reasonably sure I can sever the power supply between the ring generator and the Yahut city and connect it to one or more of our naquadah generators.  This will free up power to run the planetary shield, but it could also overload the system.”
Daniel peered at her over the top of his glasses, lips pursed in thought.  “Because the conduits the power flows along have been operating long-term at a diminished rate?”
“Exactly!” Sam confirmed, looking slightly surprised by Daniel’s response.  “The flow would need to be regulated or we’d risk destroying not only the conduits, but the monitoring equipment and in turn the shield generator.”
“Which makes finding the equipment that powers this place a priority,” Daniel stated obviously.
“We can’t even contemplate diverting the city to back-up naquadah generators until we’ve done that.   And just to make sure we’re all clear, we can only sever power to the units the Yahut have added to the complex, not the complex itself.  That has to stay connected to the ring generator or we risk severing the monitoring equipment.  And there’s something else to consider.”
“Ah, yes… here comes the ‘but’ I was waiting for,” Jack quipped good-naturedly.
Sam smiled thinly.  “Not so much a ‘but’, sir, just me adding one more thing to a long list of possibilities.”
“Go,” Jack waved a hand at her, “add away.”
“I’ve been considering the engineering of this facility and, without knowing for certain, it seems this whole structure would have to be anchored to an artificial core to hold it in place.  The only other means of holding depth would be through buoyancy tanks or some type of thruster system, neither of which seem likely or particularly efficient to me.  If the city is held in place by a tether, then I’m guessing it retracts with the loss of planetary water mass and maintains the complex at a certain depth.”
“Or?” the general asked.
“Or, the planet loses enough mass that the city reaches the surface and is destroyed when it comes into contact with the shield.”
“No chance of it just bobbing to the surface and floating there?”
“No, sir.  Not if you consider the shield to be like a giant water balloon.  If the Ancients did manage to create a core that functions in the same way a naturally formed one does, then there might be enough gravity for the city to do just that.  Of course, that would mean providing a layer of atmosphere between the surface of the water and the shield.  I would only be guessing here, but considering this planet is purpose built, it’s not likely the Ancients would choose to have both a shield and a spinning core.  The power requirements for both would be, well… enormous.”
“The Ancients were known for their many redundancies,” Daniel reminded her, not that she hadn’t had more than enough hands-on experience with Ancient technology to know what they were capable of.  “This wouldn’t be a first.”
“True, but the Yahut have documented an increased loss of planetary mass over a period of time.”
Daniel shrugged.  “So, no core?”
“I wouldn’t think so, no.  At least not in the traditional sense.  Think of it as an anchor for the tether. It’s more likely the monitoring equipment is regulating water levels in tandem with the power available to maintain the shield.”
“Like the dome on P3X-389?” Daniel asked. 
Jack looked suitably lost.  “389?”
Coming to his rescue, Sam quickly explained. “Nevin’s world. The equipment that maintained the dome also strictly controlled the population through its neural link.  The dome was powered by energy collected from geothermal vents, and when they started to cool the computer compensated for the lack of available energy by reducing the size of the dome and the population it had to sustain.”
“Ah!  Right!”
Sam continued on, “Essentially, we’re looking at similar circumstances here.  Less available power means the computer has to compensate by slowly sacrificing what it sees as non-essential system, whether those sacrifices conform with the computers original programming or not.”
Letting his eyes rest for a moment, Jack rubbed the back of his neck, frowning from a mixture of frustration and indecision.  A large part of him wanted to forcibly haul the Yahut through the ‘gate to some safe world and take his team home, despite Zolan’s do or die approach to his people’s survival.  But, like so many times in the past when they’d been presented with the seemingly impossible, there was a niggling sense of wanting to take a further step, see if they could try and save this planet—not just for the Yahut, but for the veritable wealth of technological importance it held.  Carter had only scratched the surface here with what she was able to access, and with the full resources of the SGC engineering department, Jack was fairly certain they’d be presenting the naysayers back home with a find beyond anything they’d discovered before. 
More worrisome than trying to persuade Zolan to move his people was the risk of failure and the inevitability that they might find themselves stranded without means of rescue. 
“Carter.” Jack tilted his head up and cocked an eyebrow at her; the look intended to warn her that he was looking for straight-up answers.  To hell with diplomatic niceties.
Sam shrugged one shoulder and smiled thinly.  “Risk assessment? If there was time to get an engineering team here to do a proper survey of the outpost and its systems, we wouldn’t be at the point we are now.  Time is the key, and we’re running out of options.”  In what was probably an attempt to lend weight to her words, she turned to Zolan and let her gaze drift between him and the entrance to the city and back again. “Temporarily evacuating your people to another planet would further slow the rate of power consumption, giving us a little more time to work on connecting the city to a naquadah generator.”
Zolan tipped his head every so slightly to one side and regarded her through slighted eyes. “An option General O’Neill has already tried to sway me with.”
“In this case it’s an option worth considering.  I’m sorry, Zolan, but there’s no way I could even consider severing this city and switching it to the generator while it’s still inhabited.  Providing the city with an independent power source benefits everyone, most especially your people, but there’s a list of risks inherent with trying anything like this.”
“We are not a people used to being totally reliant on the generosity of others.”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack stepped into Zolan’s personal space and sliced a hand through the air towards the city.  “If it makes you feel better then think of this as a trade.  We save your city and you let Carter and Daniel take a good, long look at how this place works.”
“And if you cannot?”
Jack schooled his features and settled his gaze solidly on the man.  Unintentionally or not, the Yahut leader had forced him to play his hand, committing his team to at least attempting to save the outpost and city. 
“Cannot what?  Save this place?  No guarantees, but it won’t be for a lack of trying on our part.  What about you?  Are you really willing to place the lives of your people over all of this?  Because if you are then we walk away right now.”
“You wouldn’t!”
“Try me!  You say you have allies and trading partners on other worlds, then pick a damn address and get your people out of harms way.  And if that’s too hard for you then we’ve got better things to be doing back home, ‘cause we don’t need to be here when shit happens.”
“Carter!” Jack cocked his head and stared stony-faced at her.  “So help me, but my well of good intentions has almost run dry.”
And in a show of appreciation that was wholly unwelcome, the floor vibrated underfoot as the lights blinked and then went out again. 
Jack wove his way through the throng of people milling around the Stargate.  Despite the vastness of the hall, the crowd made the place feel small, almost claustrophobic, and he could barely see Carter standing on the dais in front of the ‘gate.  Yahut families clung to each other in clutches, small children peeking out from behind the legs of their parents, all carrying bundles of personal belongings. 
“Carter!” Jack waved a hand in the air to catch her attention.  He was being bumped and jostled from side to side as he tried to find a clear path through the throng, hyper-aware of his P90 clipped to his vest and held in as tight to his chest as he possibly could.  He’d spared a thought to stowing the weapon in a locker Zolan had provided for just such a purpose, but after all these years of ‘gate travel he’d learned that keeping armed wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. 
Craning his neck to get a better view of the dais, he caught Carter looking out over the crowd with a deep frown on her face, and he couldn’t be sure at that moment if it was because she’d heard him call her name or that something more bothersome was worrying her. 
“Yo!  Carter!”  She might not be able to hear him, but up ahead a small group of Yahut turned at the sound of his voice, and possibly seeing the look of dogged determination on his face, they moved aside to let him though.  
“Sir!”  Carter waved to him, her expression wavering between a grimace as people brusquely bustled past her, and a genuine smile at seeing him approaching her position.
Jack cleared the crowd and skirted past the DHD to take the dais steps two at a time.  “How goes the evacuation?” he asked as he reached the top, looking back over the assembly, which extended out of the main complex and back into the first compartment of the Yahut city.  “I thought you said we were nearly done?”
“The city is deceivingly large, sir, and First Leader Zolan’s estimate of numbers may have been slightly short.”
“Ya think?”  Jack turned back from the crowd and stood aside to let a young couple pass by him and through the open ‘gate.  “What about the library?”
“Daniel, Teesan and a small number of volunteers managed to get it packed up in fairly short order.  The boxes have already gone through with some of the colony elders.”
“Right.”  Families continued to push past them, and to one side of Carter, Teesan was speaking soft, encouraging words as they stepped hesitantly into the wormhole.  Jack turned his attention back to the crowd, which didn’t appear to be getting any thinner. “Where’s Zolan?”
“He went through with the first batch of refugees, sir.  Felt he could best serve his people by being there when they arrived on the other side.” 
“Whatever happened to the captain going down with his ship?”
“I don’t think Zolan read the naval handbook.  He did mention something about returning to help with the rest of the evacuation after the first thirty eight minute window shut the ‘gate down, though I’m not sure he’s going to be able to do that.”
“Why is that?”
Sam held up her diagnostic tool with the monitor facing outwards, not that Jack had any hope of understanding what the screen was obviously telling her.  “The ‘gate needs a considerable amount of power just to form and maintain a wormhole, and the ring generator can’t fully replace the amount we’re using now.  We really need to get everyone through the ‘gate within this window.  If these readings are correct, I don’t think we’ll get another chance.”
“And you told Zolan this before he left?”
Sam stowed the device and shrugged one shoulder.  “I told him that using the ‘gate takes away yet more power from their already dangerously low supply, but he either didn’t care or didn’t understand.   Can’t blame him, though.  It’s got to be tough giving up your home and forcing your people to move—”
“For their own good.”
Sam looked across at Teesan, who appeared pre-occupied with a small child.  “Yes, sir, and for that they only have our word.”
Jack smiled thinly; it was an argument he’d heard plenty of times before. Trust was hard fought for even with the most sincere of motives.   “Have we heard from the SGC?”
“They sent through a naquadah generator and a few extra supplies I asked for just before we started sending the Yahut through the ‘gate.”
“Only one?”
Sam waited for a break in the crowd and switched to Jack’s side of the dais.  “One should be more than enough to power the city’s essential system in the short term, especially with the Yahut out of the equation.  I’ll need more time to do a detailed assessment of the daily power requirements and applying them to long term consumption when it comes to having a population in situ.  This isn’t exactly like trying to power the Enkaran village, sir.  We could be talking dozens of generators over a very long time.  Right now I’m more concerned with being able to balance the power in an unoccupied city.”
“And you’re positive one’s enough?”
“Absolutely.  I’m not looking to power the entire city right down to it individual energy needs, just those essential for maintaining structural integrity and minimal life-support.  To be perfectly honest, sir, with all the offworld activities the SGC is currently engaged in, our supply of naquadah generators is getting low.  I have to weigh up demand against supply.  One should be more than adequate for what we’re trying to do here.”
“Okay, well…”
“Once we’ve stabilized the situation here, it should be an easy task to bring in more naquadah generators to cope with the returning population.  Severing the ring generator and powering the city with the generator is only the first step.  The next will be to shut down the dynamo-like function of the ‘gate and run those systems off our generators--and determine whether doing so will create even more problems.   I’m not prepared to take any unnecessary risks.”
“What’s wrong with leaving the ring generator to run the outpost?  From what you said, it was doing a fine job before the Yahut came along.”
Sam smiled at a passing child who tried to offer her up a doll.  After a moment of quiet conversation and reassurance that the toy would indeed be welcomed on the other side, she saw the girl and her family through the ‘gate.  “It was, yes,” she said, straitening up and moving back to let more refugees pass.  “However, the level of degradation of the crystals is a result of age and poor maintenance.  Eventually, they’ll fail completely and the shield will collapse almost immediately.  I’d like to have something in place long before that happens.”
The wall before Teal’c was totally covered in Ancient script, from the elegantly curved ceiling that supported the transparent domed roof, down to the hard floor of the ampitheater with its tiny, intricate tile mosaics depicting various marine creatures.  For a brief moment he was reminded of the inside of a typical Goa’uld vessel, with its golden walls adorned with hieroglyphics.   If one was not familiar with the language then they would be unaware that the walls spoke of the heroic deeds of their egotistic master.  Were the Ancients that far different from the Goa’uld in this regard?  Or could it be that they were more similar than first appearances would seem, and therefore the writing on the walls would be nothing more than fanciful regales of long dead deeds.  History was a matter for the scribes.
As he continued down one side of the ampitheater towards where Daniel Jackson was currently standing, he saw very few breaks in the text or flaws in the wall that might denote a concealed entry.  “Daniel Jackson,” he called out, abandoning the wall and walking towards his teammate.  “Are these walls not similar to those at Kheb?”
A frown settled on Daniel Jackson’s brow and Teal’c wondered for a moment if he’d unintentionally confused him in some manner, aware as he was that his teammate still had difficulties remembering minor details of his pre-ascension life.  His first ascension, Teal’c hastily reminded himself.
“What did Jack tell you?” his friend asked with undisguised suspicion.
“Of what do you wish to know?”
“About Kheb.  Wait!” Daniel rested one finger against his lip in thought, and then said in a passable O’Neill voice, “’Lotsa words but not a whole lotta sense.’  That sound about right?”
Teal’c’s brow rose appreciatively and he was forced to concede the win to Daniel.  “I believe O’Neill’s description was quite similar.”
Daniel straightened up and moved away from the wall he was investigating to a point in the center of the amphitheater.  “You know, Teal’c, the words made sense. Jack just needed to have a little more faith.”
“O’Neill is not a man for whom faith comes easily.”
Daniel sighed and turned back to the wall.  “Tell me about it.”
“I believe a talent with languages may have proved helpful at the time.”
“Yeah, and we both know Jack playing the ‘dumb’ card will only work so many times.   Ancient is a nearly a direct alphabetical swap with English and most of the time only requires a basic understanding of Latin to get the general gist of what is being conveyed.  All teams in the field carry an alphabet list and book of commonly used words and phrases to assist with in-the-field assessments of any potential Ancient find.”
Teal’c took in his friend’s sincere expression and, with a small nod, turned back to the wall he was inspection.  “So it may well be this is not simply a wall of decorative writing?”
“If it is, then the Ancients went to a lot of effort for a pleasing décor… so, no.  And given that there are only a few walls covered in script, it’s looking more and more like this was a later addition to the complex.  Probably much like the coupler boxes Sam found behind the Stargate.”
“Something hidden in plain sight?”  Teal’c suggested.
“If the Ancients operating this facility at the time of the exodus wanted to make sure anyone returning here would know what to look for, then yes.  Remember those redundancies we mentioned earlier?  If they anticipated being gone for a long period of time, then it makes sense to not only have their operations manual backed up in the monitoring equipment somewhere, but to have it written someplace others might find it.”
“I believe it makes sense to you, Daniel Jackson.”
“Okay,” Daniel agreed, “maybe not so much a ‘how to’ manual, but at least a reference as to where to find the equipment that runs this place.  Or why go to all the trouble to set up the ring generator in the first place if they never intended for someone to return?”
“There is a phrase O’Neill would consider an appropriate response.”
“Huh!  There is?”
“‘All cryptic and not so knowing.’”
Daniel’s jaw dropped and his brow rose appreciatively.  “He actually said that? Not to an Ancient, I hope.”
Keeping his face schooled, Teal’c replied in a deadpan tone, “I believe O’Neill was referring to you in your ascended state at the time.”
“He was?”
“O’Neill is quite wise.”
Daniel smiled thinly.  “Yes, well the young do not always do as they are told.”
Teal’c looked puzzled.  “Are you referring to O’Neill as being young?”
“Tit for tat, Teal’c,” Daniel muttered under his breath, but quite sure Teal’c had heard him.  “So, where were we?”
“We are standing in an ampitheater looking for a concealed room.”
“I wasn’t talking literally.” Daniel walked to the wall at the end of the amphitheater and turned to face the Stargate at the far distant end.  The crowd had thinned appreciatively, and glancing at his watch, he saw that there was only another ten minutes before the thirty eight minute window was up and the ‘gate would shut down.  Looking down the right side of the ampitheater, his left, he counted the entrances.  There were three of them, including one that had been modified by the Yahut to serve as an entrance to their city.  To his right, he counted two entrances:  One directly opposite to its mate on the other side, and another opposite to the very end entrance on the left.  There was an obvious space on the left-side center of the room.  
Crossing to the vacant space, Daniel lifted his glasses from his nose and perched them on the top of his head.  Instantly nose to wall with the surface, he let his hands run over the stocky text, feeling every groove and dip in the façade. 
“Here,” he whispered, suddenly aware that Teal’c was standing beside him.  “There’s something here.”
“How can you tell?”
“Feel the wall, Teal’c.  Just put your hands up and press them hard against the writing.  Close you eyes if you have to.”
“What is it you wish me to find?”
“That would be cheating.  Tell me what you feel.”
Teal’c closed his eyes and focused on the wall, not really sure what Daniel Jackson had intended for him to find.  Almost instantly he felt warmth trickling into his fingertips and palms, as though the wall itself was heated.  He moved his right hand and stretched it out sideways as far as it would go and suddenly he felt cold.  Bringing his hand back to its original position, he moved his left hand in the same manner, but it stayed in contact with the wall’s warm surface. 
“There is something behind this wall.”
Daniel nodded, but appeared fixated on the writing in front of him.  He took a step back and nodded for Teal’c to do the same.  When they were both clear of the wall, Daniel reached out and touched a combination of symbols in sequence, pausing momentarily as if self-checking his choices.  There was no flash of light or lighting up of the symbols, but when Daniel pressed the last character a soft snick could be heard and the wall split into two doors that parted to reveal a room beyond.
It became obvious almost the instant the doors opened that the outpost control room had been vacuum-sealed when the Ancients had abandoned the facility.  Air rushed into the room with such force that both he and Teal’c took stumbling steps forwards before they could regain their balance. 
The room was dimly lit, and while Teal’c searched for his flashlight, Daniel pulled the radio out of his pocked and squeezed the comm.  “Jack, this is Daniel.” 
“Yep, go ahead,” came Jack’s tinny reply.
“Open sesame.”
“You found it?”
Cocking an eyebrow at Teal’c, Daniel smiled and said, “Yeah, it was hidden in plain sight.”
The sound of Jack’s voice as it came through the radio was slightly muffled as he tried to hold two conversations.  “Carter, Daniel’s found the door,” and then turning back to Daniel, “Coming to you now.”
Beyond lay a room that wasn’t large in comparison to what they had seen in the rest of the complex, but it was poorly lit.  Natural light filtered in through a small transparent domed roof, and left Daniel wondering exactly how much of that light was getting past the shield from the star this planet was orbiting.  Perhaps the dome was meant to be a power-saving feature, much like he suspected the one in the amphitheater was, impressive décor not withstanding. 
Unlike the other buildings that formed part of the outpost, this one was definitely built for one purpose only.  One wall was completely lined with what Sam assumed to be storage lockers; a fact that would be confirmed or denied once Jack and Teal’c had managed to pry one of them open.  The wall with the concealed door was similar to those in the main amphitheater, in that it was covered with lines of Ancient script, except here the script framed several mutely colored frescos depicting scenes of marine life.  The last two walls met at a rather acute angle and curved upwards towards the dome, giving the room a slight semi-circular feel. 
“Over here,” Daniel called over his shoulder; the beam from his flashlight settling on what he thought was a cloth covered workbench.  “I think I’ve found something.”
As Sam approached, Daniel pulled the cloth away to reveal a piece of technology she was only too familiar with.  “Well, at least I have some idea on how to work this thing,”
“That’s right.  You and Jacob found one of these at Dakara, right?”
“Something like that,” she conceded with just a tinge of regret in her tone.  For a brief moment Sam had totally forgotten about Dakara and the events that had ultimately led to her father’s death.  At the time, she had incorrectly assumed that Jacob’s sometimes far-away expression was from the stress of the moment, and she could have easily accounted for his weariness in the same way.  She was wrong, and was suddenly hit with a surge of misplaced anger at losing her father when he could have so easily been saved.  Unaware, as they were at the time, of Daniel’s fate, Sam had found her grief compounded and virtually all-consuming.  Losing two of the people she was closest to in her life, at almost the same time, had been overpowering.
Now, though, she looked across at Daniel, who was regarding her with a puzzled expression, and wondered for a moment whether she’d revealed too much of her private grief. “Sorry,” she said with a small, forced smile.  “I guess I was kinda hoping we’d find something similar to the technology on Atlantis.  It makes sense that this,” she indicated towards the console, “would be more in keeping with the temple at Dakara.”
Daniel smiled back and seemed to accept her explanation.  “I’m almost sorry I missed all the fun.”
Her head shot up. “What?”
“At Dakara.  Sounds like you, Jacob and Selmac had the situation well under control.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say under control, but we did have your notes to help us out.”  Sam shucked her pack, and carefully unpacking her tablet PC, she let her gaze wander over the Ancient device.  “As I recall, my father touched the surface and it activated a view screen behind him.  He didn’t have the ATA gene.”
“So, with any luck it’ll work the same for me.” Daniel held his right hand up and raised his brow questioningly.  “Shall I?”
Sam opened one of the Velcro tab pockets on her vest and took out her diagnostic tool.  “Probably best to keep an eye on the power levels while we do this, just in case we experience any more events.”
With his hand wavering in the air, Daniel looked past Sam to the outpost amphitheater and then back to the device.  “Won’t turning this thing on use up more power?  I don’t mean to state the obvious here, but wouldn’t it make sense that the Ancient’s put this device in some sort of power-down mode to conserve energy?”
“And us turning it on might hasten the power drain?  I had thought of that, but I’m guessing they factored in the eventuality of someone other than themselves finding this place and built in some sort of reserve power supply just for this equipment.  Of course, that only works on the assumption that whoever finds this place doesn’t have a ZPM with them.”
“We haven’t found any evidence this place was powered by a ZPM, yet.”
Sam checked the analytical readout on the hand-held device and screwed her nose up at the readings.  “Well, let’s hope our theories are all right, because I’m showing a three percent decrease in power in the last hour, although I’m fairly sure the ‘gate was responsible for a lot of that.  Actually, I’m kinda surprised it wasn’t greater.”
At the other end of the room, Jack and Teal’c had given up on trying to open one of the storage lockers and were concentrating their search elsewhere, relying on their flashlights to cut a path into the darker recesses. 
“Carter!”  Jack called out, holding the light to his face first and then flicking it in her direction.  “Any time you’re ready with the lights would be good.”
“We’re working on it, sir,” she called back.
“Ah, Sam?”  Daniel slid his gaze from her down to his hand and wiggled his fingers.  “Are we ready?”
“Oh!  Yeah… go ahead.”
Daniel mumbled something under his breath that Sam couldn’t quite catch, and hesitantly reached out and touched the nearest surface.  Almost instantly the wall behind him erupted in a medley of electric blues and whites as a massive view screen sprang to life, rippling Ancient text scrolling across its surface.
“Whoa!” Daniel twisted away from the console and towards the screen. 
Sam stepped around the console and pulled up next to him, her gaze flicking between the screen and her diagnostic tool. “Can you read it?”
“Ah, yeah.”  He squinted at the screen, and then after a few seconds pulled his glasses off and hung them from a pocket on his vest.  “The dialect is very old, but I think its some sort of directory.”
“Of what?”
“Hey!  Cool!” Jack stepped up behind them with Teal’c trailing a few feet away. “What does it say?”
“I was just getting to that,” Daniel said coolly over his shoulder.  Turning back, he held out a hand to the screen and moved it across the Ancient text without actually touching.  “It repeats every few seconds so I’d say this is like a root or system directory.  Sam, how did you interface with the weapon at Dakara?”
Sam took the tablet out from under her arm and sat it on the console.  “We hooked the laptop directly to the device and used it to help calibrate the wave frequency of the weapon to that of the Replicators.  The actual calibrations themselves were made by adjusting the settings on selected blocks.  Took a few attempts before we found the right setting, though.”
Daniel bit down on his lip in thought.  “Okay, well, I’m guessing the similarity between this device and the ones at Dakara and P4X-639 end at the purely aesthetic level, each serving a completely different function.” He pointed over his shoulder at the console, while still reading off the screen. “This one appears to be the control center responsible for maintaining the outpost’s primary functions, including an artificial core that houses the planetary shield generator.”
“I just knew there had to be a core,” Sam said in barely restrained triumph.  “I mean, there had to be one just to keep the city tethered to something stable.  I do think it’s a little odd that the Ancients would house the shield generator equipment in the core.”
“Maintenance issues aside?”
“Those, too.  It could be that there’s an entirely other facility in the core, but then why have the monitoring equipment here, unless this is a back-up console.”
Sam laughed lightly.  “I’m starting to think you like that word.”
“Only when talking about the Ancients and their technology.”
“Well, there is a good reason for having redundant systems when using technology as advanced as this.”
Turning away from the screen, Daniel leaned over the console and ran his hands across its uneven surface, quietly translation the writing on each of the perfect square blocks.  “I think the same principal of control works with this device as it did with the other two, the object being we can read from the screen, but any adjustments have to be made by finding the correct balance between the blocks.”
“Just like Dakara,” Sam surmised.  “It’s not so easy.”
“No, I don’t suppose it would be,” Daniel conceded as he straightened up and massaged his neck muscles.  “Interfacing your laptop with the console should at least cut out the need to keep referring back to the screen every few minutes, but it will mean you’ll need me here to translate.”
“No question about it.”  Sam turned her laptop on and then pulled out her flashlight while waiting for it to boot up.  She shone the light on the bank of equipment lockers on the far side of the room.  “Somewhere in all of this, I’m hoping we’ll find some spare crystals to replace the broken ones with.” She shrugged indecisively.  “The conduits feeding power to this complex have been running at such a depleted level that I can’t really be sure what’s going to happen when we sever the city completely.   Being able to replace some of the damaged crystals should help.”
Jack nudged Teal’c with his left elbow and tossed a thumb over his shoulder to the bank of equipment lockers beyond.  “Come on, big guy.  Those lockers won’t open on their own.”

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part 2