Z is for Zeus
by Eilidh17

“Whichever way you look at it: a gilded cage is still a gilded cage.”
“I’m not asking you to throw yourself at it, Jack, just… touch it.”
“And get myself thrown clear across the room again? Are you nuts?”
“Clear across the room would imply that you flew beyond the opposite side of the containment field, which clearly you didn’t, and besides, the field flared when you made contact with it so clearly it’s reacting to your touch.”
“It’s a force field, Daniel! Of course it reacted to my touch! Carter, wanna take over here?”
“I think what Daniel means, sir, is that this isn’t like other repelling fields we’ve come into contact with.”
“Like Boch?”
“That’s one example, yes, or the field the Bedrosians trapped us in. This one…” Sam stepped closer to the barely visible electric field and held her hand out, just shy of touching it. “This one is different.”
“How so?”
“Most force fields are designed as barriers to contain or repel specific objects.”
Jack shook his still numb hand as a show of support to her theory. “Yeah, got that loud and clear.”
“They’re not designed to be lethal, though, or it would negate the purpose for having them. Why go to the bother of trapping something or someone, only to have them die the moment they come in contact with the field?”
“My hand doesn’t agree with you, Carter.”
“It’s not dead is it, sir?” she said deadpan.
“Just get to the point.”
“My point, is that when you came into direct contact with the field, besides stunning you, which in this case I think is a subconscious reaction to an impending electrical jolt—”
“Are you saying I subconsciously knew to throw myself across the room because I was about to be electrocuted?”
“I’m saying your mind was expecting to be repelled by the field and your body reacted to the contact.”
Jack knotted his brow in confusion. “It zapped me, Carter.”
“Yes,” she agreed, “but your reaction may not have been in direct proportion to the amount of electrical discharge.”
“Would you care to test that theory with a practical demonstration?”
“No, sir, but while you were busy being zapped, the field flared. Okay, so that’s what generally happens when positive pressure is applied to a force such as this, but it flared for longer than I’d expect. Considerably longer.”
“So while I was busy writhing on the floor in agony, you were?”
“Watching the field, sir.”
“Right. Gotcha.”
“I believe it was the writing illuminated by the field that Daniel Jackson and Major Carter were most interested in,” Teal’c offered, stepping closer to the barrier.
Numb arm seemingly forgotten, Jack clambered to his feet and sidled up to Teal’c. “Writing, you say?”
“Yes,” Teal’c grumbled.
“And you didn’t recognize it?”
“Ah, hello?” Daniel interrupted, waving a hand at them. “Linguist here.”
“Well?” Jack cocked his head at Daniel. “What did it say?”
“I don’t know—what I mean is the field didn’t stay visible long enough for me to get a clear enough look at the writing. It looked like Greek, though.”
“No. No. I’m pretty sure it was Greek.”
“You don’t sound sure.”
“I said the field didn’t stay visible long enough for me to be totally certain, but I thought I saw the name Zeus among the scrawl.”
Teal’c caught everyone’s attention with a low, unintelligible grumble.
“Something on your mind, big guy?”
“That would depend on whether we have stumbled across one of Zeus’ domains or merely a temple bearing homage to his past deeds.”
“Good deeds?”
“He was a Goa’uld.”
“Ah,” Jack replied with a raised brow. “Light in the good deeds department.”
“Zeus was the offspring of Cronus, and a Goa’uld known for his many erotic escapades, among other personal endeavors.”
“Which kind of fits the profile we have of him from ancient times on Earth,” Daniel started. “He was regarded as the king who presided over the universe and assigned many of the lesser gods their various roles, although his stature varied depending on whose account you preferred: Homer or Hesiod, just to name a few. Basically, he was the god of the gods; responsible for a litany of godly and heroic children.”
“Wasn’t he the father of Aphrodite?” Sam asked.
“So history says, yes. Helen, Apollo, Athena, and Minos can all trace their lineage back to Zeus and his many favored consorts.”
“Many consorts? Wasn’t he supposed to have been married to Hera?”
“Again, it depends on whose account of Zeus’ deeds you prefer to follow. Commonly, Hera is thought to have been the mother of Hephaestus, Hebe and Ares.”
“So, our boy Zeus was a bit libidinous,” Jack smirked.
Daniel shrugged. “Just a bit.” He turned to Teal’c. “There is one thing I’m curious about though: Our history has Zeus sired by Cronus and his consort Rhea. I take it Rhea wasn’t a Goa’uld or this would make Zeus a harcesis.”
“Rhea was indeed a Goa’uld. She was a queen in the employ of Cronus and tasked with providing worker symbiotes for his expanding army. However, at various times of need, she was also asked to produce heirs for Cronus, selecting only the most intelligent and worthy human slaves from whom to harvest the code of life. The experience was said to be most pleasurable for the slaves, until they outlived their usefulness and were put to death.”
Daniel winced at the implication. “Well, that explains Zeus but what about all the children he sired? Another queen?”
“No. It is more likely that Zeus simply took advantage of Cronus’ queen while he was engaged in battle and then had those symbiotes implanted in the most faithful of his human slaves, claiming them as his children in much the same way Cronus did.”
“I bet that went down well with Cronus.”
“Well, you play god and look where it gets you. So,” Jack drawled, “lovin’ the history lesson, but where does this leave us, besides in a six foot by six foot gilded cage?” He waved a hand at the barely discernible field that surrounded them. “Not that I’m not enjoying the company.”
Daniel ran his gaze over the length and breadth of their prison, at times reaching out towards the force field, before pulling his hand back. “The only way I can even try and read the writing on the… wall, is for one of us to keep contact with the field for longer.”
“My arm is still numb from the last time.”
“Which makes you the most likely choice, Jack.”
“Why?” Jack squawked.
“Because I think Sam is right and the field isn’t intended to harm anyone. I get the feeling this is a game, probably a puzzle of some type that we’re supposed to solve in order to gain our freedom.”
“That I understand, but playing sacrificial bunny was not in my job description.”
“Suck it up, Jack.”
“Sir,” interjected Carter. “It makes sense that it would have to be you. We need Daniel to translate the wall and me to continue working on another means of escape should he fail.”
“And Teal’c?”
“If this is a Goa’uld force field then it is unlikely to respond to my touch.”
“Let me guess: You don’t you want to test your theory either?”
“I do not.” Teal’c battled to suppress a smirk.
“Right. Here, take this.” Jack shrugged his pack and unclipped his P90, handing it to Sam. “I’d hate for my ever increasingly numb body to slip and flip the safety.” Stepping up to the barrier, he numb left arm dangling uselessly by his side, he shook out his leg as through preparing to land a kick.
“Ah, Jack?”
“What now, Daniel?”
“I don’t think kicking it is a good idea, at least, not yet.”
Jack turned to him, face set in a scowl. “And why would that be?”
“Because hopping around on one leg is so undignified and you still have one good arm.”
“Oh, right. Okay.” He turned back to the field and reached up to touch it. “You’re sure about this, Carter?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Pinky swear?”
“Um, if I have to.”
“Good enough for me.” Jack didn’t sound convinced, but closing his eyes tightly, he leaned into the field. The barrier flared brightly, sparks of light dancing over his hand and up his arm. His eyes were still closed tightly, pain creasing his face as he visibly tried to shake off the urge to pull away.
Behind Jack, Daniel was hastily scribbling down notes in his journal as the brilliant streams of Greek text hung suspended in the air around them.
In the next instant the field dimmed and Jack staggered back, unable to catch himself as he went down, landing on his butt and flopping down onto his back. Momentarily dazed, he groaned his general dissatisfaction before prying one eye open. “Did ya’ get it all?”
Daniel chewed on the end of his Bic, reading over his notes. “Uh, no.”
“You have got to be—”
“I’m sorry, Jack, there was just too much for me to get down.”
“And you didn’t think to do an on the spot translation without taking notes?” he grouched as Sam knelt beside him, taking his pulse.
“You’ll live,” she pronounced with a pat to his shoulder. “How’s the arm?”
“What do you think, Carter?”
Sam raised her hands in resignation and made a hasty retreat.
Jack, arms clearly unresponsive, struggled to sit upright and finally accepted the pack Teal’c wedged behind him. “What did you discover, Daniel?”
“Well, this is definitely a puzzle.”
“I thought we knew that?”
“Never hurts to confirm these things,” he replied with a dismissive wave of the hand, preoccupied with his notes.
“Don’t make me come over there!”
Daniel stopped chewing on his Bic and slid his gaze from Jack’s arms to his face, a small smile tugging at his lips. “And do what? Arm wrestle?”
“Not funny.”
“Look, best I can tell, the top half of the wall pays homage to Zeus: Zeus the all powerful, Zeus the mighty, Zeus the bringer of thunder—you get the idea.”
Sam peered over Daniel’s shoulders at his notes. “So this is a temple to Zeus?”
“Ah, no, he built it, or rather, he had it built.”
“How can you tell?”
“Because after the several passages that go on and on about his might and the glorious era he ushered in for his people, the many lesser gods he sired, that type of thing, he signed his own name.”
“Oh, we are full of ourself,” Jack quipped.
“I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but the Goa’uld tend to be rather ego-maniacal when it comes to bolstering their profile.”
“Really? Do tell!” Jack oozed sarcasm. “What’s with the puzzle?”
“Well,” Daniel frowned at his notes, “that’s the problem. The barrier didn’t stay lit long enough for me to get to that part. I meant there was a reference to having to solve something, but that’s as far as I got before you stepped away.”
“Oh, no, no, and no. I’m not touching that damn thing again!”
“Sir, we need to know what the rest of the writing says.”
“Yeah, I get that, Carter. It’s the whole touching thing I don’t like. Hey, here’s an idea, what about pushing a pack into the barrier?”
“I don’t think that’ll work, sir. This force field is clearly made to contain biological life.”
“How do you know?”
“Because inanimate objects don’t generally have the ability to read. Most of the Goa’uld traps we’ve come across have been designed for life forms to trigger and find their way out of, if indeed there is a way out.”
“Are you saying we don’t have a choice here?”
“Unless you’d prefer to stay in the hopes of being rescued, no.”
“Not when I really need to pee.”
“The Tau’ri possess extremely small bladders,” mumbled Teal’c.
“You know what they say: small bladders, big—”
Daniel’s, “That’s okay, Jack, we get the picture,” was quickly followed by a harried, “Sir,” from Sam.
Jack dropped his chin to his chest and groaned. “Okay, so we have at it again. Daniel, any chance you can read quicker this time?”
“Any chance you can tough out the discharge a little longer?”

From his position, propped up on his pack, both arms and one leg totally useless, Jack pondered the last few hours’ events with a modicum of barely restrained anger. Carter finished checking his pulse, declaring him sufficiently numbed in most of his extremities, in dire need of hair smoothing products, but none the worse for wear. Truth be told, he had been able to maintain his contact with the barrier for a fraction longer with each attempt, and besides the lingering numbness, the only part of him protesting was his tingling teeth… and the growing need to relieve himself.
“You do realize I’m pretty much out of body parts here. Can’t exactly kick the barrier with my spare leg and stay upright at the same time.”
“I’ve been thinking about that.” Daniel sat cross-legged in front of him, journal open and balanced on one knee.
“Any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share?”
“Uh, well, we’ll have to push you into the barrier while you’re laying down.”
“That’s a terrible idea!”
“It’s all I’ve got, sorry.” Daniel picked up his journal and continued mulling over his notes, seemingly nonplussed to Jack’s fate.
“Sorry, sir, I have to agree with Daniel here.”
“One of you two is going to have to try this.”
Teal’c turned away from the barrier and squatted down beside Jack. “Major Carter and I have both touched the force field but with no result.”
“You have?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam chimed in. “While you were napping after your last attempt. The barrier flared but the writing didn’t light up.”
Daniel looked up from his journal again. “It’s either keyed to ignore Goa’uld physiology or the cage serves some sort of ceremonial purpose.”
“Like? There must be something in all the notes you’ve made.”
“Well, other than a meticulous record of his many godly attributes and achievements, no, not really. I was fairly certain this was a puzzle to be solved, I mean it makes sense that it might be, but I’m not so sure now.”
Jack drove the heel of his only working leg into the floor in frustration. “So I’ve gone through all of this for nothing?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s for nothing, Jack. The picture Zeus paints here is one of an unchaste Goa’uld who preferred the company of his many concubines over whatever role Cronus had for him. From what I can tell, his carnal pleasures weren’t just restricted to one sex either.”
“Whoa! TMI, Daniel!”
Daniel waved to the room beyond their force field prison. “All of this used to be some sort of reception hall or greeting place. I’m guessing this is where Zeus held court and ruled his domain from.”
“Big domain?”
“No idea,” he said with a shrug.
“Cronus did not consider Zeus a threat to his rule. It is unlikely he ever rose to a position of any great power.” Teal’c rocked back on his haunches and rose to his feet. “The Jaffa under Cronus’ rule were under no illusions as to the punishment they would receive at the mere mention of Zeus.”
“So why didn’t Pops just kill him off?” Jack asked.
“Of that I am unsure.”
Daniel closed his journal and slid his way over to the barrier. “One more attempt should be enough. I get the feeling everything we need to know is contained in the last few paragraphs of text.”
Jack looked up at Teal’c. “You do know you’ll be carrying me out of here?”

He could feel no pain, which was a blessing. Eyes closed with the pretense of sleep, Jack took himself back to Charlie’s birth and the epidural Sara had all but screamed at the medical staff to give her. He could see the sense in it now. There was something to be said for a body numbing bliss that chased away all your aches and pains, even if it was only temporary.
Jack cracked open one eye and squinted at Daniel. “You huh’d?”
“Ah, I thought you were sleeping?”
“I thought you were working on getting us out of here?”
“Oh, I am. I can.”
“So what was the ‘huh’ for?”
“I just realized something.”
“Important? Something worthy of a memo perhaps?”
Daniel reached for his back and pulled out his digital recorder. “Forgot I had this.”
“You’re kidding me? So I went through all of this for nothing?”
“I wouldn’t say all of it, no, just maybe some of it.” Daniel smiled tightly and shoved the camera back in his pack.
“I doubt it would have worked anyway, Daniel,” Sam rubbed her eyes and peeked out at him from behind her fingers. “I can’t tell without any proper diagnostic equipment, but there’s a good chance that whenever the colonel activated the field, the discharge would have disrupted the camera’s functions.”
“So I don’t get to kick his butt all the way back to the ‘Gate?”
“No, sir.”
“On the upside, I think I’ve worked out how to get us out of here,” Daniel announced.
“And about time! Please tell me it doesn’t involve me touching that damn barrier again?”
“Not you, no, Jack. It’ll have to be me this time.”
“Oh, well…”
“What did you discover, Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked.
“That sometimes a gilded cage is exactly just that.”
Jack tried to hurry him up with a few rapid nods. “Meaning?”
“Basically, new concubines to Zeus’ court have to pass through this point before meeting their god.”
“So this is like some sort of indoctrination point?” Sam suggested, her brow knitted in confusion. “Then why the force field?”
“I have no idea, but I get the feeling the technology that drives this must be malfunctioning, because if this is an initiation of some sort, then why bother stunning the initiate? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” Daniel waved to the space the writing usually appeared when the field was activated. “The barrier is probably meant to be interactive, with the user initiating different portions of the text by touch. Kinda like reading at your own pace.”
“And when they’re finished with one portion of the wall, they light up the next?”
“Right, Sam.” Daniel frowned at the barrier. “Zeus clearly loved the sound of his own voice, or in this case, the tales of his own achievements. Each initiate is supposed to be immersed in his history before being allowed into the court.”
“How do we shut down the initiation?”
“What happens when you reach the end of something you’re watching?”
“You hit stop?”
“Exactly. At the end of the very last line of text is the Greek word, stamata, which means to stop or end. All we have to do is touch the word and the barrier should drop.”
“As easy as that?”
“Pretty much. And as neither you nor Teal’c can interact with the barrier, and Jack is fully immobilized, it’s up to me to shut it down.”

The event horizon fluctuated briefly as it released SG-1 and they stepped out onto the ‘Gate ramp. Above in the control room, General Hammond had been briefing SG-2 for a search and rescue mission when the call of an offworld activation and the grinding rings of the Stargate alerted them to incoming travelers.
“Medical team to the ‘Gate Room!” Hammond ordered as his premier team ambled down the metal walkway, Colonel O’Neill hoisted across Teal’c’s shoulders in a classic fireman’s carry, and Doctor Jackson with his arm in a makeshift sling.
Jack tilted his head to the side and smiled up at the general. “No need for a medical team, sir.”
“Are you okay, Colonel? Doctor Jackson?”
“We’re fine! Feeling no pain at all. Not a thing, sir!” he called out, then lowered his voice to a whisper for Teal’c’s benefit. “Infirmary, James, and don’t spare the horses.”
“I am not James!”
Hammond shook his head in bemusement, marveling at how interesting SG-1′s debriefings tended to be.

The End


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