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"Stargate", "Stargate SG-1", and "Stargate: Atlantis" its characters, certain technological devices and/or references to such from the movie, is the property of MGM. "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer", its characters, certain technological devices and/or references to such, is the property of the Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. Other names and additional characters are the creation of the author who is solely responsible for them as such.
Crucible of Champions
He’d planned this vacation for months. He’d dreamed of the forests around Los Angeles. He’d done his research on the net, and he’d picked the most scenic of the forests, one that was near the Sunnydale Sinkhole. He figured he could get in a little training in as well, and so he was fairly well armed. He planned to spend the night at the Joint Services Base just outside of Sunnydale, before heading off on his new mountain bike to the trail head. Jack would be joining him after the first week so they could discuss his career options. He might have been the exact clone of Jack O’Neill, but it didn’t mean he wanted to follow in the exact footsteps as well. Loki had given him an unexpected chance at a new life, a chance to do things over again in a sense. Jon wanted to take full opportunity at this new lease on life. If he wanted to, the Air Force Academy was always there for him. General Hammond and the President had seen to that. All he had to do was show up, and his admission would be there. But with high school out of the way now, and much better grades than the first time around, Jon just wasn’t sure if a life of Black Ops was what he truly wanted. Parts of it he definitely wanted, though.
He wanted to fly jets again. He’d already gotten his pilot’s license, and was both fixed and spin wing qualified. In fact, all of SG-1 knew he was headed out for a few weeks to clear his head. Sam had asked for a favor, and he’d willing gone along with the request. She’d given him a couple of mini-hover drones to test out in the woods. They were powered by liquid naquadah cells, of the type found in standard Staff weapons, and he had plenty of spares and a small naquadah generator to recharge them if the need arose. The fact that each drone had a camera that fed back to a special monocle eye piece he could wear, and the fact that it was also armed with two small dumb rockets and a miniaturized staff cannon of the Gatling variety, meant that he could maybe have some serious fun while camping. He just had to make sure he was far enough from prying eyes and ears before having said fun.
He’d spent weeks researching his purchases. It wasn’t that he didn’t have enough money, far from it. The stipend the Air Force was paying him while in high school had been more than ample for his needs. He’d managed to put away a tidy sum. So, the money wasn’t the object. He just wanted to make sure that he’d gotten the right bike for his needs. He’d ended up choosing a Marathon 29er cause he liked the bigger wheels. An assortment of spare parts, repair tools, spare tubes, and spare tires completed his package.
He rode out of the main gates to the Sunnydale JSB at a little past zero-nine-thirty and was skirting the crater that was the Sunnydale Sinkhole, by a few minutes after ten; the hole in the ground that had formed when Sunnydale had mysteriously collapsed into a series of caves beneath the city. His directions had him going to the West for five miles, before turning onto the road that eventually led to the park entrance and the trail head. As he reached the half-way mark, he began feeling a tingling sensation in his legs, almost like both of them had fallen asleep. He wondered about the sensation for all of five seconds when he fell to one side and landed on the soft grass near the roadway. His vision grayed out, and for a moment, he would swear he saw towering Redwoods where the crater should have been. It was like a bad flickering image before his eyes. Crater. Redwoods. Crater. Redwoods. His sight faded to black as the crater faded to Redwoods yet again.
They had decided to meet early that morning because of a supposedly ancient artifact that had been found at a dig near Sunnydale. Carbon dating showed the item in question to be somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve and fourteen thousand years, give or take half a thousand. That it was magically enhanced was beyond a doubt, as the wood had not decayed in that length of time. That it was a near duplicate of Buffy’s favorite stake was the reason for the meeting. As Willow gathered the necessary ingredients to cast the spell, her two best buds were next to her lending their minor magical support and their major friendship type support.
Xander Harris had other things on his mind though. He’d gotten a package from Riley Finn in the mail just the day before, and he was planning to walk to the National Park afterward to test his new toys. Derringers. Riley Finn had sent him a pair of Derringers. Until Xander had examined the ammunition for the Derringers, he’d had no idea for the reason behind the gift. The Derringer’s were chambered such that a four-ten shotgun shell went into the lower chamber, and a forty-five Long Colt in the upper chamber. The Long Colts had wax tips, instead of metal tips, that had three wooden darts embedded in the wax. The shot shells had a triple punch type round; one long wooden dart, one long silver dart, and one long hardened steel dart. Whatever he would aim at, was certain to die painfully.
Buffy had planned on some sword practice after this little spell with Willow. She had her favorite Katana in a sheath down her back, and the Scythe in her hand. Willow needed to draw a bit of the power of the Scythe in order to complete this particular spell, which would determine the true age of the artifact, and its true origin. But her translation from the Ancient Sumerian and Egyptian mix left a little to be desired. One word was all it took to be spoken incorrectly, the emphasis in the wrong place, and the meaning changed. The spell should have shown them a window into whatever place and time the Stake in question had been lost. Instead, it expanded outward in a bubble, and took all living matter, and whatever it happened to be touching, into the past. All that Willow could utter as the bubble of time enveloped her, was, ‘Uh-oh!’
Jon came awake with no movement. His eyes opened and blinked rapidly in the early twilight of the later afternoon. Something was making the hairs on the back of his neck standup at attention! Slowly, he moved his hand along his side to the backpack he was wearing and extracted his latest toy. It was an AR-15 modified to fire the FN Five-Seven round, but altered with a folding stock. He moved his eyes this way and that, looking for whatever it was that was setting off his sense of danger. He heard it before he saw it. A low growl that sounded something like a lion. Mountain lion maybe? California was known to have those. He did have a pistol, but the thirty caliber he’d brought along for target practice would likely piss off a mountain lion rather than hurt it much. No, it had to be the rifle. Carefully, so as not to make any sudden movements, he extended the rifle stock to its full locked position. He flipped on the infra-red illuminator, and looked through the enlarged reticle to find his target. he saw it almost immediately from where he’d heard the growl. If it was a mountain lion, it was probably the largest one he’d ever heard of before. It was a very large cat, with long, exaggerated incisors. If he didn’t know any better, he’d swear it looked like a museum exhibit of a saber toothed cat he’d seen once. Or that Jack had seen once. He set the fire selector to three round burst, and carefully lined up the cat. The critter was definitely stalking him. But until it started its charge, Jon was unsure whether to fire. The cat’s charge made up his mind for him.
Xander came to with a start. The sun was high in the sky, but the crater he’d been standing in front of was no where to be found. Hell, the entire crater was gone! He looked around him quickly and found that he was still wearing what he’d been wearing for their impromptu trip to what was left of the ‘Dale, and that the two Derringer’s were still in his hands. A few feet away, lay Willow in a crumpled heap. A few feet on the other side, was Buffy, flat on her face on the ground. Xander got up and walked over to Buffy first, shaking her briefly, before moving over to Willow. Both girls blinked rapidly in the afternoon sun, trying to figure out where they were.
“Willow. Just what spell did you use?”
“It was supposed to open a window to whatever timeframe the Stake was from.”
“You don’t suppose you read it wrong maybe?”
“Anything is possible Xander. Where are we?”
“This sure ain’t where we were. It don’t look like a crater to me either.”
They picked a direction, west, and started walking reasoning that eventually they would hit the shore and then they could make another choice. The sun moved quickly across the sky. Buffy and Xander were grateful that whatever had happened, that they still had their weapons. At least sun started to get lower in the sky, Xander called a halt to their walking and decided that they should try to find some shelter for the night. It was at that point that they heard the gun shot. Xander would later tell them it was a three round burst.
As they came over a short rise, they saw the most enormous cat they’d ever seen, running away into the woods, and a man lying on the ground next to a bicycle. They approached cautiously, but they needn’t have worried. Jon was not going to shoot the first people he laid eyes on.
“You alright there Mister?”
“Yeah. Scared witless, but yeah.”
“Did you miss on purpose?”
“Yeah. The critter had two little ones behind it. Didn’t think it would be a good idea to make them orphans.”
Neither party spoke for a few minutes. Jon stood up and pulled his bike up next to him. He looked at a map, and then looked at his GPS and shrugged in frustration. His map indicated he should still be just outside of the National Park. His GPS was not receiving any signals at all, which made him wonder if the batteries were low. He should get at least one satellite signal anywhere in the world. Unless he was off-world? The possibility of that being true could explain the tingling sensation. It could have been an Asgard transporter. Jack might have arranged a gag for him. But then who were these other three?
“Name’s Jon O’Neill, with two l’s. You wouldn’t happen to knew where this is, would you?”
“It’s not the ‘Dale, that’s for sure. I don’t remember Redwoods around here. Pine trees yeah, but not Redwoods.”
“I take it you folks are native to Sunnydale?”
“Yeah, well we were before the Sinkhole. You?”
“Colorado Springs. Came out here to do some Mountain Biking, some Hiking, and just some getting away from decision making for a bit. Trying to figure out my future sort of thing.”
“Ah, well. Since we both seem to be lost, how about we hook up long enough to find civilization again?”
“Yeah. Ok. I’ll go along with that. But the sun’s going down. We need to put together a camp, and I think we’re going to need watches tonight. That was a very big cat.”
“If it was, it was the biggest damned mountain lion on record. Six-fifty, maybe seven hundred pounds. Big effing cat!”
“Watches it is. Hate to ask, but you got any extra food in those packs?”
“Yeah. Plenty of it for today. Might need to start foraging in a couple days though if we can’t find the ‘Golden Arches’.”
“You would have to say that. Now I want a ‘Big Mac’ and extra large fries!”
They made their introductions and then they made camp against a fallen tree trunk that was at least the width of a semi-trailer. Jon pulled a large tarp, that he had brought along for use as either a rain fly or a ground sheet and with some lengths of parachute cord, he and Xander secured it to the trunk and to the ground, keeping any moisture off them. Afterwards, Jon set up the campfire, while Xander and Buffy collected enough wood to last them through the night. Willow took the opportunity to learn more about Jon O’Neill.
“You seem to know a lot about the outdoors. Were you a Boy Scout or something?”
“Something like that. Did a lot of camping with my uncle. He taught me everything he knows about the outdoors and how to survive.”
“Must be a smart man.”
“He has his moments.”
“And your parents?”
“Dead. Died in a plane crash when I was fifteen. My uncle was supposed to take me in, but he was MIA. Some mission or other went bad, and he was listed as Missing for about a year. His CO, helped me out, and then he got lucky. He managed to escape his captors and found his way back to the US. But by that point I’d already managed to become emancipated. Money from my parents insurance has helped, and it helps that I’m rather frugal.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“No big. It was bound to come up sooner or later.”
“You said you came up here to make some decisions?”
“Yeah. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life. My Uncle is a big influence in my life, and he wants me to follow in his footsteps. I’ve already been accepted at the Air Force Academy, but I’m not so sure anymore about a career in the military.”
“Air Force? I applied there, but I couldn’t get the sponsorship of my senator. I’ve been accepted to Cal-Tech and MIT. I still have to decide which one.”
“You must be pretty smart then.”
“I try. So what, you want to fly fighters or something?”
“Already have a private pilot’s license. Flying fighters wouldn’t be so bad. I’d say I want to be an astronaut, but with the Shuttle coming to the end of it’s service life, the odds that I’ll be flying anything in space are pretty remote.”
Nothing else was said, except for some small talk as Xander and Buffy dropped two armloads of wood onto the ground. Xander started to build the fire, and Jon said he be back in a few minutes. As he walked in a wide circle around their small camp, he placed a few warning trip wires. Xander seemed capable enough, but let’s face it; neither of his companions had the skill base of a lifetime in Black Ops. In the morning they would move on. Jon wanted to find a better place to camp for the duration of their stay in this place; camping in an area with one too many lighting attractors was always worrisome for him.
The four of them ate a quiet meal, and then settled on the watch schedule. Xander would go first, followed by Buffy, and then Jon. Willow knew her limitations and begged off the watch schedule. She had always been ‘support-person’ not ‘warrior-person’. It was a quiet night, and nothing whatsoever transpired during the night. Jon finished up his duty by waking the others and treating them to fresh coffee. Then they broke camp and started looking for a better place to stay. Xander mentioned caves in the area, and Jon figured they’d be as good an option as any other one. It took them a while to find the caves, but by the time the sun was beginning its trek towards the horizon and nightfall, they’d found what they sought.
The cave was set up a slight rise, about midway up a sheer cliff wall. It overlooked a peaceful little stream where they could obtain water, and a wide meadow where they could hopefully find something edible. Rather than use his flashlights, Jon quickly cut some lengths of wood to use as torches. The cave was perhaps a hundred feet deep, and didn’t seem to be in use by anything else. Still, it was better to be prepared for any possible visitors. It was an unspoken agreement, a look between men, between soldiers, that Jon and Xander exchanged. Tonight they would rest, and tomorrow they would start making the cave a livable place for whatever amount of time they were stuck here. Other than the one encounter with the big cat, which Jon’s brain insisted on calling a Saber-toothed Cat, they’d seen no other signs of life, save for some very distant birds in the sky. Jon suggested they do a full inventory of their possessions, to see what would be useful to them.
Jon had the most stuff, since he had technically been on a camping trip. But the other’s weren’t slouches either. Xander had a 9mm pistol and the two Derringer’s. Buffy had her sword and a wicked looking axe that she insisted on calling a scythe. Willow had a few bits of stuff in her fanny pack, but except for the small first aid kit that was mostly bandages and antibiotic ointment, a small flashlight, a sewing kit that she had stuffed in there at some point in time, a small bottle of water purification tablets, a few granola bars, one of those emergency blankets, and a silver dagger, there wasn’t much that would help them in the long term. Jon had wanted to spread the weapons around, but Buffy was insistent that she didn’t go anywhere near firearms. in her words, ‘Buffy and guns are non-mixy things’. Jon thought she’d eventually change her mind.
Weapons-wise, they were good for the moment, so long as they used their ammo sparingly. If they got into a fire-fight, then all bets were off. Food wise, not so good. Jon had brought enough food for two people for two weeks or one person for four weeks. Four people meant a one week’s supply. They would have to forage and hunt for more. Jon knew what to do in that area. Jack’s memories would serve him well. Medically, they were in good shape. Jack might have had a high tolerance for pain, and by extension, so did Jon. But that didn’t mean he’d go into a wilderness area unprepared. Aside from the small pouch on his web gear, there was the larger kit in the handlebar bag, and the ‘portable hospital’ that Jack insisted he take with him. Maybe Jack was getting paranoid in his old age, but Jon knew better. Too many NID stooges that would stoop to any means to test him in the field.
Gadget wise, they were in fair to middlin’ shape. Jon had a Netbook with him, with solar rechargeable batteries. It wasn’t much in terms of raw computing power, but it had a couple of games, and a few databases, and some other stuff he was supposed to go over if he was going to follow in Jack’s footsteps. A few foldable solar cells that could recharge his battery operated devices, and his iPod which he considered an essential item for any trip. The Carter Drones that he was supposed to check out, and the handheld scanner that Jack had passed along to him, courtesy of John Sheppard in Atlantis. The scanner would at least tell them if there were hostiles in the area, would help them determine is something were poisonous or edible, and it could find minerals and ores near the surface. That could be something useful. The fact that it could also scan for broken bones and anything that might be lodged in a person, or offer up fairly complex readings for diagnoses, was definitely a plus as far as Jon was concerned.
As Jon sorted through the items, Xander took stock of the young man before him. The Soldier’s influence was still within him, along with the Hyena Primal. There were things about young Jon that just didn’t add up. Some of it could be explained by having an Uncle in the military. Some of it could be explained if he had spent any time in a scouting program. But not all of it. The Soldier screamed loudly in his head telling him, that Jon was a ‘Specialist’; black ops trained. But that didn’t fit either. Jon was definitely a conundrum. One that he would have to carefully peel the layers off of. The Slayer in Buffy told her that Jon was definitely a well trained fighter. But she couldn’t imagine why. His moves were careful and considered at times, free and easy at others. He was a mystery and she didn’t like mysteries. But she did like what she saw in him, and while he was younger than most of the other men she’d been with, he definitely had all the right pieces to make her interested. Willow, on the other hand, seemed out of her element. She’d never been ‘camping girl’, never been the one to want to rough it somewhere. Her idea of ‘roughing it’ meant a three-star motel instead of a upscale hotel. Still, when in Rome.
“Ok. It looks like we’re pretty well set for a short duration stay. There’s enough food for the four of us for another week, but after that it will mean foraging and hunting or fishing. Hopefully we won’t be here a week, wherever here is. But just in case, I’d like to try and start identifying the edible from the poisonous. I know something about astronomy, so when it gets full dark, I’ll take some star readings, and try to figure out where we are.”
“I can help with that. I’m good at most of the science and math stuff.”
“Good. A second head on the math helps. Second, if we are going to stay here for any length of time, we might as well stay in this cave as it offers protection from the elements along with any wild critters. That means making things a little nicer. We can start tomorrow with that project.”
“What did you have in mind Jon-Boy?”
“Xander. That’s short for Alexander right? I think I’ll call you Alex then.”
“Right. Jon it is.”
“Good man. As for what I have in mind, I think a proper fire pit for our cooking needs, a wind screen made of some stout timber would also be good. Then we’ll discuss the location of a latrine and who gets to dig that.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t mention that. Now I’ve got to go and there’s no TP!”
“Uhm, use a leaf? Just make sure it’s not Poison Ivy or something like that.”
“Ooooh. That would be majorly bad!”
Nothing else was said as late afternoon segued into nightfall. Jon went out and took his readings, writing down directions with his compass and using the tried and true method of estimating positions with fingers on the horizon. But his results didn’t add up at all. Then he used his Netbook to access an astronomy program, and used his numbers to generate a picture of the sky, and the result shocked him. Based on star positions alone, he was sometime in the Pleistocene era! Crap and double crap! He’d ask Willow to check his math later. He settled into position for his duty watch, and would wait until morning to broach that particular subject. As dawn broke the next morning, Jon awoke to the scent of coffee. He’d made sure to bring a lot of it with him, as it was something he liked to relax with, but there was only so much one could do with the freeze-dried stuff. A quick glance at the fire pit told him that only Xander was awake.
“You were quiet after you ran the numbers last night. That tells me whatever you discovered is bad.”
“I want Willow to check my numbers before I make any pronouncements.”
“Crap. It’s worse than I thought.”
“Right now, it’s worse than I could imagine. If my numbers are good, then any hope I have of rescue from this place is pretty much shot to hell.”
“What numbers, Jon?”
“Ah, good. You’re awake Willow. My Netbook is over by my bed-roll. Raw numbers on the pad next to it. I had to guesstimate the declinations, but they’re probably accurate to plus or minus ten degrees or so. If I had a sextant, I could be more accurate. I might build one if worse comes to worse.”
“Let me look. What do you have in the way of software loaded?”
“The basics, mostly. Pretty decent astronomy software that was a gift from a friend. Media Player. A few hundred compressed books, some video games.”
“What about power?”
“Solar recharger. I have two spare batteries that I can plug into the solar unit. Something I need to do today. While you check over the numbers, I think Xander and I are going to walk down the hill and make some plans for our stay here.”
The two young men walked out of the cave. Xander was wearing his ever present pistol, and Jon was carrying a hand axe, in addition to the smaller caliber pistol at his side. Jon knew that Xander had at least one of the Derringer’s on him at any give time.
“So what did you want to talk about?”
“I wanted to break it to you first. I’m pretty well certain that my numbers are good and I’m afraid Willow will only just confirm that. What that means in terms of rescue is that barring some major intervention by, I don’t know, Aliens or something, we are well and truly screwed. We are sometime in the Pleistocene era.”
“About twelve to fourteen thousand years in the past, give or take five hundred years. That’s about as accurate as I can be given the lack of a proper sextant.”
“Yeah. So, until Willow confirms my numbers, let’s just say that my conclusion is a worst case scenario and plan accordingly.”
“Which means what exactly?”
“It means doing as little to impact the time line as possible. Zero interaction with any local inhabitants. Hunt only those animals we know will become extinct. We stick to ourselves, and stay out of history’s way.”
“Did I say ‘Crap’ earlier? Crap! Double and triple crap!”
“Amen, brother. Amen.”
“So if you’re right, and we’re stuck way back when, then what do we do?”
“We make our life as easy as possible. We can continue to live in a cave, which realistically offers the best protection from some damned big predators in this day and age, or we can take a chance and build a cabin.”
“How about we make the cave a bit more livable?”
“That’ll work too. I’d say we need to fell a couple trees. I wish I was more of a carpenter, but I’m not.”
“Why? What are you thinking?”
“I was thinking a simple raised platform to keep us off the ground, especially in winter. We can dredge clay from that stream over there, maybe put it into some molds and make tiles for a floor. I’ve got a hand-axe, an E-tool, a Mattox, a machete, and an emergency chain saw, which is a chain with two pull handles. That’s it for building tools, unless you count my Leatherman tool.”
“Miracles of miracles, I happen to be a pretty decent carpenter.”
“Alright then. Consider yourself the guy in charge of making the cave more livable, and I’ll do the grunt work of getting the materials.”
“Sounds like a plan, Jon. Anything else on your mind?”
“Yeah, a few things. I’d like to clear some shooting lanes, so we can have a good field of fire from the cave entrance, just in case. We’re going to need a more permanent latrine structure, and as much as I hate to say it, it’s going to need to be very near the cave. After that, well, I’ve got some wire and cord we can use for snares, line for fishing, and a very limited ammo supply. We’re going to need to fashion a good couple of bows and whatnot.”
“Yeah. Ok. That sounds like a very full day. What about the day after?”
“One day at a time, Xander. This could be all moot anyways if my math is bad.”
The two walked in silence back to their temporary home. Buffy was up and having coffee, but it was the look on Willow’s face that told all.
“Damn. I was really hoping my calculations were off.”
“I’ve checked the numbers at least a dozen times. I got the same answer as you. And you’re right. Maybe with a sextant we could be more accurate.”
“What the heck are you two talking about? Willow, what’s the what?”
“The what is, we’re somewhere about twelve to fourteen thousand years in the past. I don’t know how we got here. I don’t know how to get us back. For the moment, we’re pretty much stuck here.”
“Yeah. Stuck here, and interacting only with ourselves. We have to stay out of the way of history or we risk throwing the whole ball of wax into chaos.”
“What he means, Buffster, is that we can’t go out and find us a couple of hunky cavemen to protect us. Or cavewomen. The less we interfere with history, the better.”
“Right. I knew that.”
“It also means that we can only hunt animals we know will soon become extinct. Speaking of which, I think we need to see about doing some hunting. And if we get lucky on that, then tonight we can feast a bit, and maybe tell each other stories. If not, then I hope you like twigs and bark, cause that’s what we’re going to be eating soon.”
“No! Lots of luck on the hunt there, Jon. While you do that, I’ll rig up a simple smoke rack so we can preserve some of the meat for longer term storage. Buffy, why don’t you go with Jon, I’ll stick with Willow and see about making the cave a little more homey.”
“Xand, me and hunting are non-mixy things.”
“Trust me on this Buff.”
Jon took his rifle this time, along with the machete. He and Buffy walked out into the nearby woods and within about an hour, had come to the edge of the tree line. Jon put up his hand, signaling a stop and then quickly put his hand on Buffy’s mouth, before she could vocalize a question. He pointed with his other hand, and then whispered to her.
“Any loud noise or loud talking will spook that critter. That’s a mighty big bear, and the meat on that critter will feed us for a good long while. The fur will keep us warm this winter. I’m going to take the shot unless you see something else?”
“Nope. Take your shot. I’ll back you up.”
Jon had no idea how she planned on doing that since all she had with her was what looked like a medieval battle axe. He kept his finger near the selector switch. There was a fifty-round magazine fully loaded and ready to go. He took careful aim at the bear’s head, and let fly with a three-round burst. A second later, the angry charging bear told the tale. Jon triggered another burst at the thing’s head, then a third burst at its chest area as it stood up and roared in pain. A fourth and fifth burst were necessary before the thing fell to the ground. Jon guessed that it was at least a ton of meat on the critter. Getting it back home to the cave was going to present a problem.
Present Day California
Theirs was an archaeological study group going over the cave formations south of Los Angeles. It was a tried and true location for students of the craft to learn the trade. There was nothing present at this dig that hadn’t already been catalogued and checked, cross-referenced and written about that would startle any learned professor of the field. So when one of the graduate students came to him with a symbol she’d never seen before, he chalked it up to a poor preparation in the sciences at the undergraduate level. That was, until he saw the symbol. It didn’t register with him as anything from any language. He asked where she had found it, and she led him straight to the cave in question. There was some form of writing on the wall, but it definitely wasn’t one he recognized. He wondered for a split second whether this might be some form of academic prank, but then dismissed the idea. Defacing an ancient site like this one; it would be tantamount to sacrilege. He took a snapshot of the symbol. He’d have one of his research assistants load it onto the university net. Maybe someone else would recognize it.
And someone else did. A routine search program that Carter had created for Daniel, pinged on the symbol in question not long after it had been posted. One glance at the screen and Daniel was out the door and running for Jack’s office.
“What’s got you in a tizzy, Daniel?”
“The symbol for Earth on the gate. It’s been found at a dig in southern California.”
“It’s clear as a bell, Jack. The sample of writing that was also posted is very clearly Ancient.”
“Right. Walter? Get the rest of SG-1 into the conference room. And round up SG-3 just in case.”
After a briefing by Daniel on the preliminary findings, Jack decided to call George at Homeworld Security and apprise him of the situation. Then he signed orders dispatching SG-1, 3, 5, and 13 to the site. SG-7 and 23 would be standing by to assist with the dig should anything interesting turn up. Within hours, the four teams were on the site, and chasing the archaeological students off the grounds. The professor in charge of the students protested loudly, but eventually, the civilians were cleared, and Daniel marched straight to the cave where the symbol had been found. The writing on the wall was unquestionably Ancient. After only a few words, he realized the message was for himself!
It had taken Jon about an hour to gut the bear, then carefully remove the skin from the carcass. He’d asked Buffy to find two long stout poles about eight feet long and to cut them down. Then he’d taken some nylon cord and fashioned a travois to carry the bear back to their encampment. Buffy had volunteered to run back for the others, and against his better judgment, he’d said ok to her suggestion. Jon was afraid that the scent of the bear’s blood was going to bring out some of the larger predators in the area. But it was meat and it was too much of a risk to pass up. So while she ran away for help, he went about preparing the hide for tanning, using its own brains and his urine for the task. Fortunately nothing bad happened during his wait, and between the four of them, they were able to carry the bear and the hide back to their camp site.
While Jon had been hunting, Xander had been busy, rigging up a large tripod of stout logs from which to hang the bear while they did the butchering. They would have some nice bear steaks that evening, and then all the rest of the meat would be put on to smoke slowly. Jon wanted to utilize as much of the bear as possible, saving the claws to make some necklaces, and most of the skeleton for various other tasks. In the morning, they would start on the flooring, and on other things, but for the moment, they were satiated after a good meal. With various trip wires set around the perimeter, everyone slept through the night.
A little after sunrise, they were all up and moving about. Jon and Xander used the ‘survival chainsaw’ to cut down a few of the smaller trees, about a dozen total. Then Jon used the machete to lop off the smaller branches, while Xander started cutting the logs into smaller sections. They wanted to be able to cut long planks from the logs, and it took them a while to figure things out. In the meantime, Buffy had done as asked by Xander, and had hauled up some of the clay along the stream bank to their work area. Jon had shown Willow how to use the handheld scanner, without telling her where it was actually from, to scan the nearby flora to determine what they could safely eat. She lucked out midway through the morning, finding a patch of wild berries, which she collected with much gusto and brought over to the work area around noon-time. Smoked bear meat and a variety of wild berries were on the menu that day. Xander was proving himself a talented carpenter to Jon, who had asked the man to fashion some molds for the clay. Xander had taken one of the logs, split it lengthwise, and used the seven foot section to carve out molds for the floor tiles. They weren’t all perfect, and that was the nice thing. Jon was falling more and more back on the memories he shared with Jack of survival school and all the things his father and grandfather had taught him growing up.
While Xander spent the afternoon cutting planks from the logs, Jon spent the afternoon searching the stream for flat rocks. After finding what he needed, and putting them into his backpack, he spent the rest of the day digging out a more serviceable fire pit, lining it with clay first with the flat stones set into the clay, and surrounding it with flat stones again set into clay, giving them surfaces to keep the food warm while other dishes were prepared. Jon had brought a small package of flour with him in his pack. He decided that Indian style fry bread would go well with the bear meat. As he was preparing to make the fry bread, Willow came in with some of the samples of items she’d found, and Jon changed the menu for the evening, opting to make a stew instead. Wild onions, some small form of wild potatoes, and what looked like a wild carrot, though without the usual orange pigment. Willow had also found a few patches of wild wheat, wild rice, and a few nut trees.
“If we’re still here, when that wheat and rice are ready for harvest, we’re going to take as much as we can, and save some for planting. Wheat can give us cereal and flour. Same for the rice. Sunflower seeds can give us flour, snacks, and oil. The berries and nuts are always good too. I still have no idea how to get us rescued, and you three haven’t offered up any suggestions so we need to start thinking long term. Like rendering the fat in the animals we kill for oil for lamps and such. Taking up farming. Maybe trying to expand our cave home. Certainly we’ll need to begin making our own tools before long.”
“I’ll talk to the other two. I think we all need to share some secrets tonight.”
“Right. Tonight it is.”
“So, who wants to start the show and tell? Only it’ll be all tell and very little show.”
“Sometimes, Xander, you’re a difficult man to understand.”
“This coming from the guy with more secrets than anything else?”
“We’ll start with our side. Then you can tell your story, Jon.”
“Sounds fair, Buffy.”
Buffy started it with the usual story
“In every generation, there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.”
“Vampires? Demons? What the fuck?”
“It’s true. I wish we could go out and just show it to you, but we seem to facing a lack of vampires and demons. Why, I couldn’t begin to guess. But along with everything else, there’s magic.”
“Magic. Sure. Ok.”
A section of floor burst into flame, then dissipated because there was nothing to burn.
“Ok. I believe you. What else can you do?”
“I’m the Slayer. Faster healing, maybe not more muscles, but definitely more muscle power. Enhanced senses, enhanced strength, the ability to master any weapon just by picking it up.”
“As you might have guessed, I’m a witch. A powerful one at that. Plus I was also the groups designated medic.”
“And what super-powers do you have Xander?”
“None. I’ve been fighting the things that go bump in the night since I was a sophomore in High School. Ever since my best friend was turned into a vampire. I, I had to stake him.”
“Ouch. Ok. After those stories, mine probably won’t be so dramatic. A little more ‘out there’ maybe.”
“My name is Jon O’Neill, an up until three years ago, I didn’t exist. A rogue scientist, trying to save his people, made a clone of then Colonel Jack O’Neill, thinking he was the perfect specimen. Unfortunately, Jack’s DNA had been safeguarded against such attempts. The result of that experiment in cloning was that instead of a full grown Jack, the scientist got me, sixteen year old Jon. But see, he didn’t do that right either. He had only put a short life span on me, just two weeks, for his experiments. Jack intervened, and another scientist fixed the error, allowing me to grow up at a normal rate.”
“Well, you did say ‘Out There’ didn’t you?”
“Human experimentation? DNA locks? What branch of our government does Jack work for? the X-Files?”
“Would you believe, the US Air Force? Jack was for a long time Black Ops. He also spent time in a Iraqi prison cell during that war. So a word of warning. If you see me thrashing about in a nightmare, don’t approach me. I might lash out at you with whatever is available and that could be bad.”
“Yeah, ok. Duly noted, Jon.”
“So, clone-boy, eh?”
“Now, what did we say about that Alexis?”
“Alexis? Uhm, no. I meant Jon! Yeah, that’s right. Jon.”
The days passed. Despite their new knowledge of one another, none of them was any closer to figuring out how to return. Willow stated that without knowing the exact year and the exact location, that getting them back to the same moment of departure would be a problem. She could send them back earlier or later, and either way, that could disrupt the timeline. Jon figured if anyone could help, it would have to be the SGC and Carter. Specifically Carter. He would have to figure out someway of communicating his dilemma across the millennia. Not an easy task.
Before they could lay their flooring, both Xander and Jon wanted to put in timbers to strengthen the roof and the walls of their cave. Once they’d done that, Jon took it upon himself to dig a new section to their cave, and started at the back, digging into the wall. He and Xander took turns at it, slowly expanding their cave. Willow got into the spirit of things and about once per day would use a spell to do her part, directing a section of the hillside, about six feet in diameter and seven feet deep to just disappear. Oh, it would reappear outside the cave, but inside, it looked like it had been dug by a machine, or by some form of laser or plasma cutter cause the walls were so smooth. It became something of a competition between Jon and Xander to match Willow’s contribution for the day. When one was tunneling, the other was cutting timbers to brace the new section. Neither Jon nor Xander were ever able to match Willow’s digging, but again neither of them had magic on their side.
Since Buffy was arguably stronger than all of them put together, she was always assigned to Willow protection duty on her jaunts around the area, looking for grains and fruits and other edible plants. The smoked bear meat was nearly gone, and Xander and Jon were contemplating another hunt, although maybe for something smaller than the bear. Jon had treated the bear fur and it was now a blanket shared by Buffy and Willow. Both ladies were out on the usual afternoon exploring and Jon and Xander were bracing the latest completed section of tunnel.
“So, we’ve got the tunnel extension now at sixty feet. Any further and we’ll be out the other side, you know.”
“Yeah, I think we’ve gone as far as we can. We can start up near the beginning of the tunnel, cutting five chambers, two opposite each other, and one here at the end.”
“What’s your grand plan, Jon?”
“A room for each of us, and an indoor privy.”
“Indoor and deep, I’d say, to quell that stench as much as possible.”
“Deep, and then maybe a channel to the side nearest the hill surface. I want to be able to flush the waste to an outer pool of some type. Maybe create a form of compost heap?”
“Yeah, ok. That could work. But you’d need water for that.”
“That’s where you come in oh carpenter of mine. Water wheel. And a series of sluices to move the water. Worst case scenario, you can use parts from my bike.”
“I’ll try to avoid that. Thanks for the offer, though.”
“And the next project will be actual steps up the hill, so we don’t lose our footing. After that, I need a small landing pad.”
“Oh, one of my other self’s friends let me have a couple of experimental drone units. For remote observations. Video signal that feeds to an eye piece, two small dumb rockets, and a small plasma cannon.”
“You’ve had those the entire time and you’re just now mentioning them? Oh the fun we could have had!”
“Well, I’d like to use them to scout a little further out. The range on them is fifteen miles, but I’d like to go only seven or so on the first outing. Maybe five would be better. A five mile radius to see what else is around us. We can keep it up about a mile or so to avoid startling any natives.”
“Sounds like a plan and something to look forward to. So let’s get these new chambers dug, so we can start sleeping in our own rooms. And that indoor privy too!”
“Yeah, going in the woods is ok for a few days, maybe even a week, but it got old really fast.”
Two days later, they called a temporary halt to construction to allow for hunting. This time, all four went along on the hunt, but only after Willow had placed a ‘Do Not Disturb’ spell on the campsite area. It would be effective against everyone except themselves. Jon packed his back-pack with enough food for an overnight stay should the need arise, along with a tarp and a few emergency blankets of the very thin Mylar type. When the two men hadn’t been working on the construction project, Xander had been fashioning crossbows for all of them. Willow had done the fletching of the arrows, to make them more aerodynamic, and Xander had painstakingly melted down the little bit of steel they did have, borrowing some of Jon’s spare parts for his bike and Willow for a spell to melt the steel. He’d poured the molten steel into a large mold he’d carved out of a clay form, that had space for a couple hundred arrowheads. They sported their new crossbows for this hunt, though Jon had begged off and decided to use his rifle instead, just in case their target was larger than they expected.
By late afternoon, Jon had bagged two Pronghorn, and Buffy and Xander had worked together to bring down something that looked like an Ox. Putting together the travois that Jon had built sometime before didn’t take as long as it had the first time around, especially considering that Xander had fashioned two connection points to utilize the wheels off the mountain bike, and thus ease the amount of strength required to pull the load. Jon had three more hides to tan. As far as he could tell, it was sometime around early August, though it had been early June when he’d arrived here. He already had several other hides and furs prepped for other uses, including a number of furs from a very big beaver like animal. Jon had packed clothes for his hiking adventure, but the clothing of the others were in a bad state. Well, he did have that awl and sewing kit. And for some reason, the image in his head of Buffy in leather was a rather nice one.
They’d brought their bounty back to the cave to find nothing disturbed. Xander set up the smoking racks while Jon began cutting the meat into portions for the smoker. He’d already done the basic skinning in the field. He’d saved the brains from the animals and now used a clay pot he had fashioned to mix the brains with urine to treat the hides. During his walk on the hunt, he’d picked up a few large pieces of flint. He’d planned to try and fashion a natural stone knife to assist with some of these chores. Both of his knives needed some serious work; he needed to find some sandstone for that project. For the next several days, they ate smoked Pronghorn, and smoked Ox. Jon manipulated the hides until the Ox was soft and supple on the inside, and soft and furry on the outside. The Pronghorn hides he planned to tan into leather, and that meant treating both sides of the skin. He would need many more if he wanted to clothe his new team. That’s what they were to him; his team. Somewhere along the way, he’d replaced Daniel and Carter and Teal’c in his mind and in his heart with Willow and Buffy and Xander. Willow was his Carter, smart and attractive and able to create things that they needed to survive. Xander was his Daniel, even though Xander only spoke a few of the dead languages, he was still a gifted man, able to create with wood and clay and metals to give them the modern implements they sorely needed. And strangely enough, Buffy was his Teal’c. He doubted, after seeing Buffy work out and smash things with her bare hands, that Teal’c would have been able to match her one-on-one. A man couldn’t have asked for a better team.
Present day California
SGC Dig Site
Daniel had made another find. The teams from the SGC had been onsite for almost a week now. Carter had thoroughly scanned the ground and had found a layer of disturbed soil at the same depth all around the area. A team had made a slit trench, under Dr. Balinsky’s care, and had found a very primitive looking set of pipes, undisturbed for millennia. Tracing the pipes had led to a section of the cave that was unexplored. They’d found a private latrine area, with reed rushes on the walls that would have provided light, and a deep hole in the ground that led to a pool of exceedingly rich material on the opposite side of the hill. It was genius on the part of the ancient designer, and Daniel doubted it very much that it had been done by the Pleistocene tribesmen that had inhabited the area. Daniel remembered that argument from the other day. Especially when the professor that had been in charge of the dig had discovered who the government had brought in to take his place.
“Jackson! I might have known. Still chasing little green men as the builders of the pyramids?”
“Dr. Thompson. It’s been a long time.”
“Not long enough. I’m going to contact my Congressman. He’ll see that you are removed from this site.”
“You do that.”
And the Professor had tried to do exactly that. He’d contacted his local Senator who had in turn contact the Air Force about a supposed classified dig site south of Los Angeles. The Senator, after his little chat with the Air Force, had turned to the Professor and gave him the bitter news.
“Dr. Thompson, you didn’t mention the Air Force was running this dig site. Why?”
“I didn’t think it was important.”
“You were wrong, sir. The Air Force, I’m told, has declared the area off-limits. They’ve declared it a classified area with a national security tag. Whatever they’re doing, I don’t care and I don’t care to know. It would be best for all concerned if you did the same.”
“I’ll put it in the simplest terms possible, Professor. Back the hell off. This is the Air Force’s dig and not you and not me are going to get them away from there.”
“We’ll see about that! I’ll contact the media!”
“No. You will not. You don’t get it do you? National Security. Whatever they’ve found out there it rates a National Security tag. You try and go to the press, and you’re going to find yourself the victim of a government drive by.”
“Drive by? How preposterous!”
“Uh-huh. I’m washing my hands of this. I don’t like the idea of the IRS crawling through my finances since birth.”
But the professor in question was beyond hearing all of that. He’d already risen and was planning in his mind, the ambush by reporters of one Dr. Daniel Jackson.
September came full on with a noticeable change in the air. The four of them went out to where Willow had earlier found the wild grains growing and harvested all that they could, bringing home quite a lot of the grains. The meadow now looked like it had been mown down. They set aside one fourth of the grain for planting in the spring, and commenced with the wheat, separating the kernels from the chaff, and saving the chaff for other uses. The grains of wheat went into the grinder, powered by the water wheel that Xander had built just the month before, going round and round through several different settings of the stone until they ended up with a finely ground wheat flour. Some of the rice also took this trip through the grinding wheel, as did some native acorns. Adding in the rice and acorn flours helped to expand their meager supply of flour for making flat breads. Rice became a part of every dinner meal.
October brought a definite cooling on the winds. Xander and Jon finished their privy, and Willow used some reeds she had cut to form rushes for light when in the privy. The tallow they were soaked in also had Mint leaves infused throughout, lending a sweet aroma to the light, that somewhat tended to offset their privy donations. Winter was coming on, and soon. Jon and Xander both realized it, even if the women didn’t. They felled more trees and started stacking wood in the main chamber, and in the hallway between rooms. Each of the rooms now sported a small fire pit, with a ingeniously carved chimney that led straight up through the hill to the outside. It meant that the rooms would stay reasonably warm and that there would always be some light to move around by.
Some of the water that was headed for the bathroom was being diverted to a set of holding tanks that Jon had fashioned out of wooden staves and pine pitch. One tank held pre-treated water, the other two tanks held post-treated water. Jon had long ago run out of water treatment tabs, but by passing the water through a series of sand and charcoal filters, and then boiling the filtered water and allowing the steam to condense in the other two tanks, they had a clean and purified source to use for cooking and for washing.
November brought the first snows to the area, and the two men stepped up their preparations, using the smoker every hour of ever day to preserve meat for the long haul of winter, and using the water wheel as often as possible to bring water up the hill to their home. Willow had taken Jon’s lead in the sewing of clothing and was keeping their regular clothes on the mend, but she left the buckskins to him. Jon was guessing, mostly, at their sizes, and trying to have some nice presents for them come Christmas. He knew the others were working on gifts as well, but he didn’t even think to be nosy, not once. He wanted their gifts to one another to be a surprise.
On one of his daily jaunts to get meat, Jon stumbled on a scene that he knew would give him nightmares. A big bear and a big cat had fought it out, and from the looks of things, it looked like both bear and cat had lost. Both critters were dead and Jon used his radio to call the others for help in the butchering and skinning. He was settling down to process the bear when he heard a noise behind him. He turned to find himself staring at six pairs of eyes. The big cat, apparently, had been a female with a litter of kittens. Saber toothed kittens. Jon moved cautiously and cut some meat from the bear into small portions and waved them at the kittens, who responded to the scent of the meat with gusto. When the others found him a good forty-five minutes later, Jon was laughing his ass off at being tickled by the rough cat tongues as they licked the excess blood off his hands and arms.
“Times like this I wish I had a camera.”
“I know exactly what you mean, Willow. Who’d a thunk that Jon there had a thing for kittens?”
“Eew, Xander! Not a nice image in my head!”
“Sorry, Buffster. My bad.”
“You ok there Jon?”
“Oh yeah. Peachy with a side order of keen. I found the bigger critters already dead. When I started cutting up big bear there, these little ones made an appearance. I think that’s their mom over there. I know it’s survival of the fittest and all that, but I also know that these little guys are meant for the extinction list shortly enough. So, how do you feel about adopting a litter of kittens?”
“Oy. At least you didn’t say that they followed you home.”
“Let’s get the critters butchered and the hides taken care of. There’s enough meat to last us a couple weeks. And yes, you can keep ‘em.”
The kittens imprinted on Willow for some reason and not Jon. But there were six of the little critters and they tended to share their love quite easily. At least two of them could be found asleep at any give point in the day in Willow’s room, and one could find one or more following either Jon or Xander or Buffy. The cats seemed mesmerized by the things Buffy could do, almost as if they hadn’t expected a mere human to be able to do those things. On one of his daily excursions around the area, Jon noticed one of the kittens munching away contentedly on what he thought of as just a piece of bamboo-like cane. Jon took his knife and cut a piece off another one and tried the sap. It was sweet! Jon had discovered sugar cane! Or at least one of it’s more primitive ancestors. He took his machete and lopped off a few canes near their bases, and took them home with him. Xander looked at him crazily until he tasted the cane and then smiled. He’d missed sugar!
Jon cut one of the canes into smaller chunks and let the kittens munch away to their hearts content, while he prepped the other canes. First he cut them all into six inch pieces, then stripped away the outer cane bark. He put each piece into a pot to boil. After a few hours he poured off the top liquid and started all over again. He repeated the process several times, each time pouring off a portion of liquid and adding more water. Xander finally got curious enough and asked him what he was doing.
“Never seen anyone make syrup before?”
“Not like that, no.”
“Well, I’m cheating a bit. I’ll save some of this for syrup, but I’m dedicating a portion of this for rum.”
“Yep. God knows, I could use a good drink!”
“I take back anything bad I’ve ever said about you Jon. I’ll even call you a God, if you promise me a bottle!”
“Skip the God part and the bottle is yours.”
Present Day California
The first that Daniel knew that something was amiss was when someone got his attention.
“Excuse me, are you Dr. Daniel Jackson?”
“Karen Michaels, GNN. What can you tell me about the Air Force’s presence here under something called Project Prometheus?”
“Prometheus? Other than the references to the titan of old, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
As Daniel talked to the reporter, he pressed the ‘panic button’ in his pocket. It was simply a transmitter that let Carter listen in on his conversation. But Carter got the hint and showed up in less than a minute with a full security team.
“Excuse me. How did you get in here?”
“And who would you be?”
“I asked you a question. How did you get in here?”
“A nice young airman directed us here after I asked about Dr. Jackson.”
“Wrong answer. What’s your name?”
“Karen Michaels, GNN.”
“Karen Michaels. You are under arrest for violations of the Patriot Act. You and your crew will come with us until we can get this sorted out.”
“What did we do wrong?”
“This is a restricted area. Classified under the National Secrets Act. Your presence here is a bold violation of that restriction. Colonel Ferretti! Escort Ms. Michaels and her crew to a holding area. Seize all of their equipment for processing by our labs.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Sure we can. You’re in over your head. Tell me who sent you out here, and I might consider letting you go without filing any charges.”
“We’ll see. Ferretti, arrange transport to the stockade at 29 Palms for Ms. Michaels and her crew.”
“Sure. Right this way, Michaels.”
“You can’t do this to me! I demand access to a phone to call my lawyer.”
“After you get to the Stockade.”
The woman was dragged out of the cavern, kicking and screaming, much to the bemused laughter of her crew. Carter turned to Daniel.
“What did she ask before you hit the button?”
“She asked about Project Prometheus.”
“Crap! We’ve got another leak. I need to get Jack and Hammond on the line.”
“Sam, she interrupted before I could call you. I found something here.”
“What did you find?”
“Under the symbol for Earth, I found a section of text. It was basically telling me to look here and there, for various clues, like a scavenger hunt almost. Anyway, I just found the latest location, and it’s a treasure trove of information. I’ve just started going through it, but this much I can tell you. It was written sometime during the Pleistocene, and it was written by Jon.”
“Crap! He supposed to be south of here, camping! I need to speak to Walter. Now. I’ll be back, Daniel.”
Six months they’d been here. The seasons had been noticeable too. This morning Jon had awoken to snow on the ground. At least six inches of it. Before long, if it got much colder, the stream would be frozen, and they’d lose their only source of water. One more hunt, maybe one of the larger critters, would keep them in meat for more than a month. It had been noticeably colder last night as well, and Jon had felt grateful for the Mylar layer he’d sewn into the fur blankets he’d made for them. Today, he and Xander would have to figure out some sort of covering for the cave entrance that allowed the smoke out, and oxygen in, but kept the majority of the heat in and the cold out. Xander had proven himself a more than competent carpenter. Jon would leave that up to him, while he prepped more firewood.
An hour later, Xander joined him at the chopping block, bringing Jon some hot herbal tea. It was no substitute for coffee, but they had all agreed to save the last of it for the holidays. It was the one thing they would really miss once it was gone. Jon had become efficient at splitting wood for the pile, taking a log and cleaving it in two with an easy strike, then slicing it in halves again and adding the four quarters to his growing pile. They had, weeks ago, developed a cart that ran along a cleared path up the hillside. A person near the cave entrance could use a simplified crank and pulley pedal system to power the cart up the hill, where it eventually reached a stopper and tipped over, depositing its load in catch basin before slowly moving back down the hill. the person at the pedals could then take the wood and stack it in caches around the cavern.
“You know what all this snow means, right Xander?”
“Time to make the snow angels?”
“Hadn’t thought of that, but no. It means that soon enough, that stream is going to be frozen over, and with it, our water supply.”
“Yep. But before we get to that, we need a way to cover the entrance to the cavern, so that CO2 gets out and breathable air gets in, and such that the cold stays out and the heat stays in.”
“Anything else to add to that request?”
“Nope. I’m thinking if you can solve that little issue, then I can solve the water problem, should it freeze over.”
“Ok then. I was also contemplating one more hunt. This time, for a Mastodon. That would give us plenty of meat to last a few months, some very nice rugs for blankets for the cave, and a nice chunk of ivory for your projects, and a lot of bones for my projects.”
“Right. Mastodon it is. Anything else on that devious mind of yours?”
“Well, yeah. We need to search the area, for any wild greens that are still viable. And I was thinking of using some of the cordage I have left to weave a net for fishing, if you’re up for that. I would need a simple frame, say, eight by eight, or twelve by twelve. Bigger is better, but since it’s going to be a throw net, I’ll also need some evenly sized weights to weave into the bottom side of the net. Which means digging for more lead.”
“Yeah. I was going to suggest doing another dig anyways. I’d like some more shiny things to work with.”
“Ok. Which project first?”
“Let’s get the wood finished. Only a few more loads and we should be good for the winter. Then I’ll work on the door while you work on the stream. We’ll plan the hunt for tomorrow or the next day. Just you and me I think, and leave the ladies with the kitties?”
“Sounds good to me. But you might want to strengthen the cart. I’ve got a feeling the Mastodon is going to be a lot bigger than we realize.”
“Right. I’ve already lengthened it. I just need to add a couple more axles and wooden wheels. I’ll get on that today. You good to finish up the wood chopping?”
“Yeah. I’m good.”
He’d finished with the wood later that afternoon, and they now had, by his best estimation, a supply for at least seventy-five days. Any wood they chopped from now on would only go to serve as a cushion for that estimate. An idea had formed in his head about a way to keep the stream liquid enough not to freeze, but it meant some interesting engineering challenges. He set up a fire pit near the stream, but this one would burn some of the natural tar pitch they’d recovered some weeks back. The fire would burn longer with the pitch. He had copper tubing, left over from one of Xander’s projects. He would form a closed loop of copper tubing, to carry steam into the colder water. By the time the steam condensed back into water it was already on it’s way back to the pot of boiling water. If he could keep the water around the wheel warmer, then they would have the water for their other needs. It would mean keeping the fire under the pot burning, and that would mean at least one more trip to gather pitch, but it should work as he’d planned it out.
Xander had also finished with the door, leaving a vent to pull out the smoke near the top, and a vent near the bottom to pull in clean air. He would try it tonight, to make sure it worked as advertised, and then refine it in the morning, if necessary. He couldn’t try it until nightfall however. But it did work as designed, and they all woke up the next morning a tad bit warmer than the previous night. The two men spent the day doing nothing more strenuous than preparing the meals for themselves and the kittens. Early the next morning, Jon and Xander set out pulling the cart behind them. The few creaks it made were quickly silenced with an application of lubricant; oil extracted from the tar they’d found in nearby pools. They’d used the hover drones the day before to scout out likely spots for a Mastodon herd, and had found one only a few kilometers east of the cavern. They spoke a little as they pulled the cart along with them.
“Do you suppose Willow is still trying to figure out a way home for us?”
“I hope so, but seriously, I think she’s pretty much given up hope.”
“Which means we need to realize that we’re here for the duration.”
“Yeah. That about covers it.”
“I was thinking that there might be a way home. I need to think on it some more. In the meantime, let’s get us a Mastodon. I was thinking that when Spring arrives, we’re going to need to fence in an area around our home. Big and tall. Think we can figure out barbed wire?”
“I think so. It might take a while, but yeah. You want to fence it in so the cats can play outside?”
“Yeah. But we also need to fence in the area where we want our crops in the spring. which means more digging for ores cause we’re gonna need to make some new tools. At the very least, a plow.”
“Yeah. Ok. I’ll look through that book you have on the laptop, see what it says about making wire and plows.”
They had left their cart hidden amongst some bushes and with a easily said spell of Willow design, it would be overlooked by everyone other than Jon or Xander. Jon had to admit to himself, finally, the existence of magic. If he could figure out the date, the exact date, then the SGC could rescue them. But so far he had no clue. Oh he had information on the laptop, and he knew how to make a sextant, which would definitely come in handy. But it was all a matter of finding a specific date and then leaving that date somewhere for Daniel to find. Somehow, he knew that Daniel, in the far removed future, was already looking through the ruins of the campsite, looking for a specific date to tell Carter. But if he could figure out the date, then they could be rescued. And after their little excursion into the past, Jack would have to make them all sign those dreaded non-disclosure forms. But Jon was aiming to get the other three assigned to him as a team. It wouldn’t ever be SG-1, and even SG-1 wouldn’t ever be the same again without Jack at the helm, but it would be his team, and that was all that mattered. Between his years of leadership experience, Xander’s ‘twin spirit guides’ in the form of the Soldier and the Hyena Primal, Willow’s magic, and Buffy’s Hok’Taur abilities, Jon was certain that no Goa’uld would be able to stand up to them. He’d tell them at Christmas, when he gave them his other gifts. It wouldn’t be a promise of rescue, just a chance at it. And it all depended on him, or them, figuring out the date. He was cut short from his musings by Xander who tapped him once on the shoulder and pointed ahead of them. A herd of Mastodon. And they were running. Chased by the primitives of this era, and straight to a waiting shallow canyon. And Jon and Xander had discussed this possibility and they put their plan into motion. They waited.
A few hours later, their wait was over. The primitives had driven a good portion of the herd over the edge of the canyon and then had sent dozens of spears into their prey, killing off the unfortunate animals that had gone over the edge. Jon and Xander watched and waited while they laid claim to the largest of the animals, and had butchered the beast, easily peeling the skin off and then putting meat into baskets for the men to take home, wherever that was. And then they waited a couple hours more to make sure the primitives were gone and not coming back, before they pulled their cart into the canyon, and walked around the dead animals, making sure they were dead, and putting shots into the ones that still had some life in them. They worked quickly, and efficiently, taking the skins and using them to line the cart, and then dropping chunks of meat onto the skins. They had chosen two of the mid-sized animals to butcher, as the primitives had taken the larger animals. The one thing they both feared, however, was the sun setting above them. They had worked so long, and before that, they had waited so long, that now the sun was setting above them.
The two men moved quickly, rounding up wood for a fire, and pulling out torches from the tool box at the front of the cart. The torches were placed in a wide perimeter around their work area, with the fire at the middle. Jon had kept his road flares in reserve, but now that they needed the fire to get started in a hurry, he used one of the flares and its intense heat to start the fire burning. They fed in tinder and tufts of grass before gradually adding the larger twigs, sticks, and finally logs. Now it would be different. One of them would work, while the other kept watch, back to the fire, eyes facing the darkness. When they had set up the torches, they had run a trio of single nylon strands, one at a foot above the ground, one a mid torch, the other two feet above the mid point. There were noisemakers on the nylon strands, and hopefully, someone breaching one of the strands would give them some warning, at least long enough for Xander or Jon to respond. Jon butchered the meat, and Xander kept the watch; the rifle set for three-round bursts, and a Derringer by his side. Jon had the other Derringer in his shirt pocket.
They worked through the night, switching off every two hours from the gruesome task of butchering the dead critters. But nothing breached their perimeter that night, and by noon, the wagon-cart was packed to the gills and then some. They had completely butchered two of the Mastodons, taking hides, meat, ivory, and bones. After the sun was up, Jon walked around some of the other long dead corpses, and gathered more ivory. There was no sense, he thought, in letting it go to waste. Xander gathered the torches, and Jon extinguished the fire and the two of them left, pulling the magically lightened cart behind them. And again, Jon thanked whomever was listening that Willow was along for this ride.
The temperatures were down significantly. Both men could see their breath fog in front of them whenever they exhaled. That did serve one good purpose in keeping the meat cool. At least it wouldn’t spoil as quickly. Still, both knew that the odds were they’d have to throw away some of the meat due to spoilage.
Two Days Earlier
The two men had left at sunup, leaving Buffy and Willow with six fast growing Saber tooth kittens, that even now were the size of at least a medium sized dog. Perhaps it was Willow’s fiery red hair, or maybe it was that she was a Wiccan, in tune with the natural powers of the Earth, but whatever the reason, the kittens had definitely taken a liking to her. They followed her everywhere, and she loved them completely. Sure, there were occasions when a few of the kittens spent time with one of the others, but for the most part, they slept with Willow and kept their ‘Mother’ warm. It was one of those sights that never failed to bring a smile to Buffy’s face. It had taken her several weeks to come to grips with the idea that they were stuck here, in the past. Willow had tried and tried, and was probably still trying, to find a way back home. But their were too many variations of the spell that she had used. Too many different ways to say the words, and which word had been misspoken was still a mystery to her. But while she could have run the gamut of the various words and their pronunciations, some of the effects would have been disastrous. So it was decided by all to leave well enough alone and to adapt to the situation. Still, they knew Willow was researching other, less destructive ways to get them home.
The small cats seemed to know instinctively to stick close to Willow. Even when she ventured outside, they never strayed far. Buffy was outside the same morning after the men left, doing her regular exercises. And Willow was outside, picking herbs and just enjoying the view of Buffy in full work-out mode. Willow was a confirmed ‘at least in her mind’ lesbian. Though she’d technically been with no one at the time of the accident, it was still something she missed. She knew Buffy liked guys, and that made things difficult for her. She was a lesbian at a time when as far as history was concerned, only heterosexual relationships were allowed. She had tried and tried to find a way back, but it continued to elude her grasp. She was, ostensibly, the most powerful witch in the known world, and still, she couldn’t get them out of the mess she’d gotten them into, even accidentally. If they were still here at the New Year, then she would begin thinking about choosing either Xander or Jon as a mate. Not that she wanted offspring, but if they were destined to remain trapped in the past, then it was something she needed to consider.
What they would need, long term then, was a way to remain apart from the natives. That meant an enclosure of some type. She was certain that Jon and Xander were probably already considering that eventual event, but her knowledge of math and science forced her to look at the problems presented. The easiest enclosure, at least for the time being, would be a fence, probably barbed wire or something similar. After that, they would have to look at the options and what was available to them.
But while Willow pondered those questions and others, Buffy continued her workout. She was moving steadily through the forms of Tai-Chi, working herself into a state of meditation where she would be able to hear a cricket fart a mile away; if crickets farted that is. So when the soft, barely voiced, whimper reached her ears, she was instantly off and running in one direction. Willow noticed her off and running just as Buffy entered the woods on the far side of the stream. Willow did what she thought was the right thing; she went back to the cave to get the well used first-aid kit and locked the kittens in her room for the emergency, whatever it was. She picked up her crossbow on the way out the door to the cavern as she threw the first-aid kit on her back. She would wait by the base of the hill until Buffy called for her. She couldn’t track a target, and she knew at the speed that Buffy was running, that odds were, she was already several miles away.
Buffy walked into a scene of utter chaos. A tree that had died sometime before had finally come down and had done so at a most inopportune moment, crushing a wolf beneath it, and making orphans of her recently born pups. That was the whimper that Buffy had heard, the pups as they cried for their dead parent. Buffy approached them cautiously, and they felt her strength and cautiously reached out on their own. Their parent was dead, and their wolf pack was unknown to them, but this big creature felt like pack to them.
“Hey there little guys! Aww, you’re cuties! Want to come home with me?”
The pups whimpered their response, and Buffy walked away slowly from their mama. The little doggies followed. Buffy stopped and picked two of them up, putting them in her backpack, and tucked the other two under each arm, before fast-walking back to a very concerned Willow. Maybe it was something about both types of critters being small and relatively defenseless, but neither dog nor cat were mean to one another. The cats were a little bigger, and perhaps it was that they recognized another young creature in distress, but both Willow and Buffy knew things would be good when one of the kittens began licking one of the puppies. By the time the men got back the following evening, the pups were a part of the family.
“Like our new puppies?”
“Wolf pups? Where’d you find them?”
“Their mother got crushed beneath a tree. I didn’t want to leave them to the elements, so I brought them home. I think they’ve made me pack.”
“Well, you’re definitely an Alpha Female if ever I met one!”
“Is that a compliment, Jon?”
They had agreed to call this day Christmas if only cause they weren’t sure about the actual date. Though Jon’s watch still worked, it didn’t have a date feature. Other methods for telling time were suspect. None of them knew just how long they had been unconscious on that first day of their arrival in this place. But a simple counting of days and nights had yielded something that was approaching a calendar marker on the wall. Another project for the coming year, they guessed.
Jon was up early. His laptop was playing a selection of Christmas music he’d found buried in one of Carter’s sub-directories. He’d been looking through his panniers and bags just the other day, looking for something he couldn’t remember what it was, when he’d come across some of those MRE accessory packs he’d put aside into one of the various inside pouches, and then forgotten about. But the accessory packs had yielded a small treasure trove of items that he vowed to save for Christmas morning. These were the items that he’d put aside from each meal, just in case there were days where they didn’t have enough to live on. But they hadn’t had any days like that, and so he’d forgotten all about these little items. Packets of peanut butter, jelly, and cheese spread. A few books of matches. Six packets of instant hot chocolate. While everyone else still slept, Jon started making breakfast. This morning it would be duck eggs mixed with smoked mastodon steak, with fresh fry bread drizzled with some honey they’d found recently, along with the hot chocolate. He was sure the smells would entice the others out of bed. Then it would be business as usual for the rest of the morning, followed by a mad dash to prepare a Christmas dinner, thence followed by the gift exchange.
Buffy awoke first, and followed her nose to the scent of chocolate. Her brain told her she was just smelling things, like a memory, but her nose told her otherwise.
“Jon? Why do I smell chocolate?”
“Cause it’s hot chocolate?”
“Where did you find chocolate?”
“I found some packets in my bags the other day. Thought I’d save them for this morning. Why don’t you wake the others?”
After breakfast, each of them disappeared for awhile. Jon figured it was because they were getting their gifts ready for one another. The other three had known each other for years, and Jon was a ‘Johnny come lately’ to their little party. But even in the few short months he’d known them, he knew that they’d be friends for life. It was more than just his gut talking to him. It was something different telling him that these were his family. And he wanted Christmas dinner to be a special event. So after breakfast, he took his rifle and his pistol, and his knives, and set out on a short hunt. A few hours later, he was back, pulling two fairly large Turkeys. Xander joined him at the base of the hill for the cleaning of the birds. Some of the organs were saved to make a nice gravy for the meat. They used the few vegetables they’d managed to find this late in the season as stuffing, along with some of the fry bread. One turkey for them, the other would be smoked. As they sat around the fire after dinner, warming their feet against the storm that had come in just before sunset, Jon reached behind him and started pulling out the gifts he’d managed to make for his compatriots.
“I know it’s not the latest in video games Xander, but since you do like to work with wood, I though maybe you’d like these.”
“Yep. Ivory handles with a few small obsidian blades.”
“I don’t know what to say, except thanks man!”
“Willow, this is for you.”
“Modeled after the standard pilot’s survival vest. With fur lining, and a dozen different pockets, all loaded with little bits of gear to keep you and us, safe.”
Willow started opening pockets. In one she found a small first aid kit, complete with the last of their bandages, and a few leather wraps. In another was a flint and steel combination, along with some small bundles of tallowed tinder. A pocket on the inside housed the scanner they used on an almost daily basis. Willow knew that the scanner wasn’t even tech from their own far flung future, but from somewhere else, yet she’d never said a word.
“Buffy, I made this for you.”
“Wow. I, erm, I’m speechless.”
Jon had handed over a pair of items. A leather sheath for her Katana sword, lined with seasoned birch bark to keep it from tearing the leather, and hand tooled on the outside using a script she’d never seen before. The other item was a hand tooled leather quiver filled with arrows for her crossbow. Each arrow had a steel tip, an the fletching was done in a very custom pattern.
“What does the script say?”
“It’s an Ancient script. It identifies you as protector and huntress of the tribe. Our tribe.”
Buffy didn’t say anything else, but anyone that looked at her could see the glistening in her eyes from the unshed tears. Xander followed up Jon’s gifting with his own, passing out gifts to his friends, all hand carved. Buffy got a pair of ivory handled daggers from him, with intricate Runes flowing along the handles. Willow got a hand carved walking stick, with a heavy hand rest and small claw like points jutting out where her fingers could easily slide between. The heavy clawed end could also be used as a weapon in a pinch. For Jon, he’d fashioned a spear, with a extremely sharp steel tip, and sturdy wood inlaid with ivory and carved with various Runes.
Willow passed her own set of gifts out to the others. Xander received a leather bag, with a belt that would easily go around his waist; a fanny pack for his new carving tools. For Buffy, she’d created a new stake, with a few enchantments. This stake would never break, it would never dissolve in a vampire, and would remain forever sharp. For Jon she got slightly more creative. She knew, all of them knew, that he had been extremely frugal with his ammunition supply, but they also knew that it was dwindling fast. She had spent hours searching here and there with her scanner, and had found all the ingredients to produce black powder. It wasn’t modern gun powder, but it would help keep them well fed.
Finally it was Buffy’s turn to give out her gifts. She had somehow managed to create a sizeable stone axe for Xander, and then had asked Willow to enchant it, such that it would have all the power and strength of a modern steel hammer, yet weigh only as much as a small hand axe. A secondary enchantment that kept the axe in one piece for as long as the owner lived was tied to a semi-precious stone set into the handle. Jon received a new crossbow for his future hunting efforts. She’d gotten help from both Xander and Willow in its creation, ensuring that the steel frame and the heavy sinew bow string would remain strong and intact so long as it’s owner lived. Again, the enchantment was tied to a stone embedded in the stock.
Jon handed out the last of the hot chocolate, and bade them enjoy it. Then he set the laptop to play the little bit of Christmas music he’d found on it. The notes of Handel’s Messiah began floating through the outer cavern, as Jon stepped into his fur jacket and fur lined leggings and out into the night air. The storm had abated a bit and it wasn’t howling as it had been just a short while ago, but it was definitely cold. A glance at the small thermometer on his watch band showed that it was pegged at zero degrees. It was colder than that, he knew, but that was the lowest reading it gave. He stood outside, just listening to the wind blow, the snow fall, and the ice harden. Nothing stirred in their area. He wondered, not for the first time either, whether they were destined to spend their lives here. He felt, rather than heard, someone come outside with him.
“Little nippy out tonight.”
“Why are you out here?”
“I just wanted to listen to Mother Nature a bit before I called it a night. These last few months have been, well, interesting to say the least.”
“They have. But I can’t imagine spending them with anyone else. Xander might have had a little instinct left over from his possession by the Soldier, but you, Jon. You are the reason we’ve not only survived, but thrived. We might have eked out an existence for a month or so, but none of us were prepared for the reality we found ourselves in. I, well, I wanted to thank you for that.”
“What about the long term?”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, I know Willow is still trying to find us a way home. Hell, if I could figure out the exact date, I might be able to do something. The thing is, if we fail, and we end up stuck here for the rest of our lives, well, it’s just that, well...”
“You don’t want to be alone. Is that it?”
“Yeah. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at you while you were working out, wondering if there was someone in your life that you missed.”
“You mean like how you miss Carter?”
“At the beginning, you’d call out her name in your sleep. These days, you sleep like the dead.”
“Ah. No. Carter is someone my older self is interested in. I doubt a Major in the United States Air Force is pining away for a nineteen year old clone of a man she knows and trusts. There were times, let me tell you, when I’d see someone on the street that Jack knew and trusted, and hadn’t seen in years. I felt like going up to them and just shooting the breeze and catching up a bit, but then I’d realize I couldn’t. That Jack would have been able to, but I could never do that. I don’t think you realize just how difficult it is being a clone.”
“No. I don’t think I ever could feel your pain, Jon. But I do know a way to lessen it.”
“Share my bed, Jon. Or let me share yours.”
“I can’t do that. Not now. Probably not ever.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s one of those downsides to being the Clone of a fifty-something Air Force Colonel. He’s up here, in my head. And to me, sleeping with someone your age would be like cradle robbing.”
Buffy laughed. She laughed loud and hard and then she kissed him, soundly. When she let him go more than a minute later, he was gasping for breath, and she was grinning at him.
“Remind me to tell you about my first love some time. His name was Angel. He was a two hundred year old vampire with a soul.”
“Trust me. The fact that you’re a clone of fifty-something doesn’t bother me a bit. In fact, I expect you to be a bit more knowledgeable than someone who was just nineteen.”
“Come on Jon. It’s cold out here. And your bed is a lot warmer, especially with us in it.”
“Right. After you, m’Lady.”
“I could get to like that.”
When Jon awoke the next morning it was to a feeling of contentment and peace. There was a woman by his side, and for the first time in a very long time, he felt that all was right with his life. The sight of a slightly dishelved Buffy laying next to him was enough to make his heart beat a little faster, enough to make his brain take a nap, and enough for him to forget the predicament they were in.
When Jon awoke again later that morning, it was to peace and quiet. Buffy had left his bed at some point since he’d last woken up, and he figured it was long past time to get up for the day. He took his morning tea, and went back to browsing through the laptop, looking for any little thing that might get them out of the mess they were in. He found an un-named file and decided to take a look. Jackpot! Plans for building a primitive sextant. He read through them several times, before going outside and looking for the materials he’d need. He would test it that night.
Present Day California
USAF Dig Site
Daniel was engrossed in his reading. So much so that he failed to notice Jack walk in to his little space. A glance by Jack around the cavern told him many things. Evidence of Jon’s handiwork was everywhere, if one knew where to look. And Jack certainly knew Jon as well as anyone else. Hell, he and Jon were the same person, just a different vintage. Jack stooped to brush some of the dirt away from the flooring he knew would be there. Sure enough, clay tiles set into the floor. Just exactly what he would do if faced with a similar situation. The excavation of the fire pit proved it would have exceedingly useful for its time, and if Daniel were correct, then it would have been ahead of it’s time.
“Jack! You need to hear this!”
“What’s that Daniel?”
“Read it, Daniel.”
“I’d put the date down, but I really don’t know that yet. What I can say is that it feels like Spring is right around the corner. That means it’s time to plant the seeds we managed to save from last season. The wild wheat and wild rice, along with what we think is barley and flax, but we’ll have to plant it to be certain. it should be interesting though. We spent the winter digging for ores; iron and copper, which Xander smelted down in his forge and made the tools we need to plant a couple acres worth of seed. Our biggest project, aside from the fields, will be the fencing, to keep the critters out.
The Winter has been damned cold. The stream froze over more than once, cutting off our water supply until we managed to thaw it again. I’m glad we took the time to build those barrels that gave us that cushion of clean water we needed. I’d like to double or even triple that cushion the first chance we get. In addition to the other things we did to keep from getting too bored this Winter, I used all of grand-pop’s lessons. I fashioned some really nice sets of buck-skins for everyone, along with some lighter summer gear. As far as we can tell, we’ve been stuck here six months now, through the summer, fall, and now winter. We’re staying out of history’s way. I’m sure that’s what Carter would have suggested, so we don’t pollute the time-line.
We did most of our home improvement last summer and early fall, putting in clay tile flooring, and expanding the cave to add four private bedrooms and a common privy. Willow fashioned some torches to use in the privy that give off a nice scent of something flowery, so we don’t kill each other with the stench. Xander and I worked hard on that privy, digging as far down as we dared before cutting a sloping side channel to drain off the excess stuff to the backside of the hill we call home. Water from our storage tanks helps flush the stuff down the channel to the outside, where we’re collecting it, along with various other scraps of food and leaves and stuff to make a nice compost. I think this ground is pretty well fertile, but it never hurts to help old Oma Desala a little.
I really hope that Daniel and the SGC find this journal of mine, otherwise this next part won’t make any sense. Daniel, and Carter if you’re there. I’m working on a sextant. I want to refine it as much as possible, before I start taking star readings at night, and sun readings during the day. We’re using a primitive sun dial to mark off the hours. I want to take a sun reading at or about the same time each day, for as many days as I can, but at least thirty days. The same for the night time sky readings. Willow is crafting a program for me to crunch all the numbers. If we can figure out the rate of stellar drift down to the smallest fraction of time, then we’ll use the astronomy program that Carter loaded on my laptop to figure out the exact date. I’m hoping that once we do that, and that if it is the SGC reading this, then Carter can figure out how to get us home!
Home. That’s something that we’ve learned to ignore. It looms in our sleep like a mountain, but it’s one we can’t seem to climb. I’d have gone nuts though, if it hadn’t been for my team. Jack has Carter and Daniel and Teal’c. I’ve got Xander and Willow and Buffy. Their names sound like some bad sixties hippie shtick, but those are the names their parents gave them, for some odd reason. Xander is like Daniel. There’s a quiet intensity to the man that has freaked me out from time to time. One minute he’s like all serious and the next, he’s like a kid in a candy store. Willow is like Carter. The woman is a genius. I’d wager her math and science skills could give Carter a run for her money. Her computer skills are definitely worth her weight in silicon at the very least! Buffy, oddly enough, is my Teal’c. The woman has an inner fire that impressed the hell out of me when we first met. She’s proven herself true on more than one occasion.”
“Ok. So he’s working on a sextant and wants to shoot the sun and the stars. That’s good. It means with enough readings over a long number of consecutive days, he can figure out when they are. The more data they collect, the more refined the date will be. Can you skip ahead Daniel and find out what the date is?”
“I’ll skim the rest of the book. Did you confirm it is Jon?”
“Even if his diary hadn’t confirmed our suspicions, then Walter certainly did. He tried him by radio, by satellite phone, and by locator chip. He’s not on the planet.”
The weather was changing and the four of them knew it. It would be time to plant soon. The six kittens and four pups, were kittens and pups no longer. Though the pups had initially seen Buffy as their savior, they had somehow or other decided amongst themselves that each of these tall creatures needed their protection. Jon and Xander were training one wolf each to help them with their hunts, using handmade decoys and other throw-able items to teach the dogs to fetch. There were other projects going on as well. Willow had figured out a simple transformation spell, that so long as she had the ingredients could transform them into whatever was needed. Iron ore and carbon became steel which was then transformed into barbed wire for the fence posts. Iron ore and carbon also became steel for fence posts. They had found a fairly rich seam of the stuff nearby, and had spent a portion of the winter excavating at least a ton of the stuff. Mixed in amongst their diggings, they’d also found a few other items that in the modern times were considered very rare; raw ores and stones that would fetch a nice price should they ever manage to return.
With fence posts in hand, and steel tools now at their disposal, the fence building went rather quickly, and inside of a three days they were able to set up the fence posts in a semi-circular area with a radius of fifteen hundred yards centered on the entrance to the cave. After that came the task of stringing the wire between the posts, which proved to be no easy task and took more than a week to complete. But when they were done, they had a fence that was eight feet high. Jon helped Xander build a work shed near the cavern where Xander would make the large farm implements they would need.
They did a controlled burn, setting fire to the area they wanted to farm. Then Jon and Xander took turns with one pulling and one pushing on the plow. It was hard work, but both men finished their days knowing that they were providing for their family. It was on one of Willow’s daily excursions that she ran across a groups of ducks. With a quick spell, she captured them all and brought them back to the home area. Xander and Jon took a break from the plowing to build a simple coop to keep the ducks. It wasn’t chicken, but it was awful close. On yet another excursion, Willow found rabbits and using magic, she stunned them and transported them back to the home area, where once again, Jon and Xander took a break long enough to build a rabbit hutch. They planted an acre of wild wheat, an acre of wild barley, and close to the stream, an acre of wild rice.
Their meat supply was dwindling, but there were plenty of fish in the stream. Eventually, it was down to Jon and Buffy or Xander and Willow, taking their turns on the farm or going down to the nearby seashore to dig for clams. But they never went in to the water. On one trip to the shore, about a month after their arrival, Jon had spotted a large dorsal fin about a thousand yards off-shore. A look through his binoculars had revealed the truth of the fin. Megalodon. A pre-historic shark that could easily have measured at least eighty feet long. Jon definitely didn’t want to go into the water!
One Spring afternoon, Jon approached Xander with an idea. They drew figures in the dirt, and Xander added his considerable construction expertise to the problem. Both men set about building their parts of the device and after a month, they were ready for a field test. They had constructed a Ballista, a very large crossbow-like device mounted on wheels. They brought their Ballista down to the sea shore and anchored it to the ground with long and heavy stakes. There was a line attached to the arrow, and behind that, a wide net. The idea was to launch the arrow towards the ocean, and the net would open behind it and settle on the surface. They could then winch in the net which would gradually bring the ends to a close. Whatever they didn’t use for food would be used for fertilizer.
In the cliffs above them, a young man watched the goings on. He had never seen these others before. And the thing they tied down to the shore was strange. He could see them laboring hard in the afternoon sun. He wondered what they were doing. He was supposed to be watching his younger sisters, but these strange men had proven to be more interesting since he had first heard the strange sounds coming from the thing on the beach as it moved. He was a member of the Turtle Clan, and these waters had been theirs for generations. His tribe was camped just beyond the cliffs. He needed to tell the elders of what he had seen.
They had launched the arrow and it had sailed a good ways out to sea before the spreading net behind it brought it to the water. Jon and Xander had waited a good thirty minutes before beginning to turn the crank on the winch. As the line grew taught it became harder to turn the crank on the winch. Both men hoped that meant they were getting a good amount of fish trapped in the net. By the time they had managed to beach the net, it was getting close to call it a day. The sun was headed towards the horizon, and both men knew it would be a chore and a half to get the bounty of fish sorted and separated for the short trip back to the cavern. Jon volunteered to stay with the net and start the sorting process while Xander ran back for torches and their cart. Jon though Xander must have come back for something when he heard the twig snap behind him. He turned and instantly reached for his pistol. There were strange men on the beach. At least thirty of them, all carrying long spears.
“Father Turtle has blessed you with his bounty.”
“I don’t know what you’re telling me. But I’m hopeful you’re not about to eat me. Hi! I’m Jon.”
“We do not understand your words, stranger. Why are you here? Where is your clan?”
“Jon. My name is Jon. Can you say Jon?”
“Your words have no meaning for us. Your language is strange. Where do you come from?”
“Come on, repeat after me. Jon. Jon. Come on, say it. Jon.”
“Close enough I guess. Damn it, Xander, where the hell are you?”
The men turned as they heard a strange noise behind them and saw a man with a patch over one eye, dragging a thing behind him. He came to a stop as he noticed them, and pulled something that looked like smaller version of the thing on the beach. They parted to allow him to pass, and then watched with curiosity as the two strange men picked up the huge basket of fish and put it into the thing the second man had brought. The two men then tied the first thing to the second thing and then they began pulling it up towards the hills and the stream. The men knew that stream well. They followed it at the end of the Spring to the Gathering place of the Clans where they would meet and feast for several moons before moving on to their other fishing camp. They came here at this same time every year to catch the many toothed fish that appeared in this area every year. The bravest of the Clan would go to sea in the rafts, to try their skills against the child-fish of the great hunter.
The Turtle Clan men followed the other two at a safe distance. Eventually the two men came to what they guessed was their camp, near the stream. They could smell the wood smoke of a fire, and meat cooking. They heard a wolf yelping and turned to see four wolf pups race to the two men, who stopped and picked them up as if they were Clan! Strange ways indeed for these men. They would have much to discuss with the Elder and the Shaman this night.
Xander reached for the gate to close it and noticed that the others were walking off in a different direction. It was time for a recon flight by Jon’s Drones again. They pulled the cart to a stop near the cavern entrance and Buffy and Willow joined them.
“You guys seem spooked. What’s up?”
“Met the neighbors. They didn’t eat us.”
“That about covers it. Willow, do me a favor and get the Drones prepped for a launch. Buffy, get a torch, and light the perimeter, will you?”
“Come on, Xander. Let’s get these fish into the dunk tank. They’ll keep for a bit while we get set up to process them. Next time, we do our fishing in the morning, right?”
Between preparing a meal of broiled fish, cutting strips of fish for the smoker, and tossing bits of fish to the cats and the dogs, the process turned into a chaotic bit of fun. Above them, Willow was at the little landing strip and hangar they’d built for the Drones. She was plugging in the power supplies, and checking all their systems, making sure they were operational for the flight later that night. Buffy had taken one of the torches and had almost sprinted around the perimeter, touching her lit torch to the ones on the fence posts. They had previously set three torches per post, one vertical, and two horizontal, but facing away from one another. The line where the fence was had been cleared of grass for at least five feet in either direction; a fire started by an ember from a torch would be bad. She was done faster than Willow and at least the perimeter of their land was well lit for the moment. The torches wouldn’t last longer than three hours or so, but it would be more than enough time. An hour and a half later, the last of the fish were either in the smoker, in the bellies of the critters, or cooking over the fire. Jon took a moment to wash his hands of the fish stink, and then went up to Willow. A few minutes later, Buffy and Xander joined them.
“Both Drones are ready Jon.”
“Good. I’ll take point. Xander, I want your Drone as wingman, but out about a hundred meters or so. Let’s get going.”
Jon settled the headset and monocle over his head easily and the hit the switch on his controller that started the five small propellers on the Drone. Four were underneath, at each corner, to provide lifting power. A fifth was mounted vertically to provide thrust. The Drone was about four feet in diameter when fully assembled. There were three small but intensely powerful HID illuminator lights mounted along the bottom side of the Drone. The requisite marker beacons of green and red were also present. Near the opposite side of the vertical thrust propeller, were several infra-red illumination spot-lights with night-vision cameras mounted just ahead of the lights. Two cameras had a limited bit of movement left to right, and one was fixed forward. With full charge readings on the Drones, Jon and the others knew that they had four hours worth of flight time available to them. Jon and Xander had already agreed to follow along in the direction the other men had taken.
The pair of Drones flew along at tree top level before Jon pulled them both to a standstill. Plainly visible in his monocle was an encampment with glowing camp fires. With a couple of pressed buttons, Willow brought the picture up on the laptop. There were maybe thirty or forty tents at the site. Both Drones went a little higher to get an overview. One stayed facing the encampment, while the other turned around to face the way it had come. They could see their own circle of torches as small flares of light on the screen. The two encampments weren’t all that far apart. They needed to know how close they were, but more than that, they needed to be able to understand one another. Willow said she would work on a spell to fix that.
After breakfast the next morning, Willow announced that she had a spell ready. Once set in motion, they would always have the ability to speak in any language, even though to themselves, they’d be speaking in English. All four would go, and well armed. Jon and Xander would carry some trade goods with them, in case the opportunity arose. They approached in the open, both women walking just behind both men. Not in a subservient role, but in a place to watch their backs should the worst occur. An alarm spread quickly through the camp, and men armed with spears appeared in front of them. Jon spoke first.
“I bring you greetings. I am Jon, warrior of the Sky Clan.”
“You speak our language? Yesterday you did not.”
“We speak it now. Long ago, our Clan lived here. It took us time to remember your language.”
“Where does your Clan live now?”
“Many Moons in that direction.”
“Why are you here?”
“Our Elders sent us ahead to scout the way, to see if our ancient lands would support us. We have not heard from the Clan Elders in many Moons. We fear for their safety.”
“There are only four of you?”
“Yes. I am a warrior. He is a warrior. She is a Clan Protector, and this other is our Shaman.”
“You make joke, yes? Woman can not be warrior!”
“She is more than a warrior. She is a Clan Protector. Her duty is to protect all of the Clan. Warriors fight and bring food, she protects.”
“Why have you come here today?”
“We have come for trade. There are things we do not remember of this place. You live here. You know this place. Our Clan has not been in this place for many generations.”
“Yes. We can trade. What do you offer in trade?”
“Do you know what a bow is?”
“I do not know that word.”
“A favor then. Pick your best hunter. Pretend that tree is a meat animal. Have your hunter stalk and spear the tree.”
“This is strange, but there is reason for this, yes?”
A large man, with bulging arm muscles came forward, and did as he was told. He approached to within thirty feet and hurled his spear straight and true at the tree. Then Jon and Xander and Buffy picked up the bows, and nocked an arrow. Each one went to forty or so yards away from the tree and at various angles to the tree. All of them let loose one arrow each at the tree and all three arrows penetrated the tree deeply.
“These are bows. With them you can hunt from a distance. The arrow is silent in the air. The meat animal will not hear you or your hunters. You will still need the spear, but the bow will make your hunts easier. We can trade five of these, and the skill to make more.”
“Yes. That will be good. What do you wish in return?”
“We would like for our Shaman to speak with yours, so that they can exchange knowledge of healing herbs. Will this be acceptable?”
“It is. Have you more to trade?”
“How is it you catch fish?”
“Ah. Then you will like this. Xander, demonstrate will you?”
Xander picked up a throwing net and walked over to the lake they were camped around. He stood at the shore and twirled the net above his head, then threw it with all his might towards the center of the lake. As the net began to settle, he started to pull in the line, closing the mouth of the net and trapping a multitude of fish within. He showed his catch for all to see.
“With this net, your Clansmen will be able to catch many fish at one time. Those that are too small, can be released to grow larger.”
“You will show us how to make these nets and how to throw them?”
“Yes. Do you fish from the sea shore or do you fish from rafts?”
“We take rafts and we go to big water. We hunt the great hunter.”
“We can show you how to make a faster raft, and how to hunt the great hunter.”
“This, we will trade much for.”
“We want hides, that we can use for coverings, and for cold nights. We want sharp black rocks to make spear points, and we want your permission to search your lands for the things that make our lives easier.”
“What things you search for?”
“Rocks that burn, rocks that shine, rocks that glitter, water that burns. These things we look for.”
“Rocks that shine and rocks that glitter we have seen in our travels. Rocks that burn, we have not. Hides we have in great numbers. Black rock for spear points in small quantities. If you will allow one of our own Clan to join you in your search, then you may have permission.”
“This is good. We will start with the faster raft. Do you have a raft now?”
The Clan Elders showed them a very typical looking raft; several logs lashed together. It served a purpose, but it was easily washed over by waves. With a few simple modifications, Xander told Jon, they would get a much more stable platform for fishing. Though how anything would stack up against a shark or even a Meg was anyone’s guess. Xander started them on their new boat making chores by having them cut down four trees, at least three feet in diameter and at least ten feel tall. He tasked another group with gathering pitch from the pits nearby. A third group he showed how to prepare the tools that would be needed to cut the dug-out canoes. Within a pair of hours, there was a team of Clansmen cutting into the logs to hollow them out. Xander had shown them what he wanted by demonstrating on a small stick. The men took turns cutting the wood out of the logs, finishing up two of the logs by late that afternoon. Jon and the others vowed to return the following morning. The Elders, agreeable to continued relations, blessed them on their journey.
The were back bright and early the next day, to oversee the raft construction, and to train more of the Clan on the proper usage of the bow and arrow as weapons of the hunt. They showed them a simple pattern for the fletching and told them how sticking to one pattern, and giving each Clan a different pattern could help identify one arrow from another, especially when it was a contest. Willow spent another day learning from the Clan Shaman, and discovering new roots and herbs that were almost unheard of in the modern future. A few of the Clan watched as Buffy went through a series of katas, warming up for her daily set of exercises, alternating between a staff and a spear, and moving through them fluidly, much to the envy and outright and obvious desire of many of the men who stopped to watch. Jon stood nearby, watching her and watching them. After a few moments, he stepped off to one side, and began his own calisthenics routine, using some of the more deadly martial arts to demonstrate his place as her mate. The Clan were treated to a sparring session between Buffy and Jon, and were shocked and surprised to see Jon, who had clearly demonstrated his warrior prowess just moments before, defeated so easily and quickly by a woman. It made them wonder if all the women of Sky Clan were as talented as this one with the hair the color of ripe wheat. And it made them wonder what she would be like in their beds at night.
The Clansmen assigned to Xander for his project had made quick work of two of the logs, and were working on two others, when Xander called half the group over to him. He led them in building a simple set of work-horses, to use in the construction of the improved raft. He directed them to place one of the normal rafts on top of the platforms, spacing it so as to distribute the weight evenly over the supports. He looked at the lashings and decided that it would be best to start over. With swift cuts of his knife, the lashings were gone and the logs fell into a jumbled mass. He showed them how to notch the ends of the logs, and how to cut a fitting piece to place between the notches. Then he lashed the two logs using a figure-eight pattern first with long leather strips that he’d woven into a six-stranded rope, and later with rope made from plant fibers. Each log was tied in this same fashion to the next, until they had a usable platform that was twelve feet wide. Xander then directed them to fill in the cracks between the logs with pitch.
With the two of the canoes completed, he directed them in the cutting of some younger trees and the creation of arches to attach the canoes, on either side of the raft. Now they had a raft where a few men could do the fishing, and a dedicated team of others would do the paddling. Xander and Jon demonstrated the proper paddling technique, with Buffy on the raft itself, using an oar to steer the craft. They tried it on the lake nearby first, and the Clan were amazed at how fast they were able to cross the lake, and how sturdy the craft was. The real and true test would come in a few days when they set out to sea for the yearly hunt of the great hunter itself. Xander directed them in the creation of a second raft, letting a few of the more experienced Clansmen direct the others in its construction. He wanted to make sure that they could duplicate their efforts again and again.
The Elders requested Jon and Xander join them on their yearly trip to sea, and Jon agreed. And since he did agree, Xander made two simple modifications to the fishing rafts, and added a stable platform on which to mount a small version of a ballista, that they could use to launch a harpoon with some force. Test firings of the harpoon proved it would be very lethal at close range, as the spear launched by it, easily penetrated deeply into a tree. At the end of the day, the four ‘Sky Clan’ left to return to their compound, where they discussed the events of the day, and made plans for the fishing expedition. Willow enchanted a pair of amulets for Jon and Xander to wear, that would activate a simple shield in the event that the hunters became the hunted. She and Buffy agreed to remain behind at their compound. Neither man trusted the male members of the Clan, and both had noticed the looks of desire and lust that had passed over the faces of many of the men.
Present Day California
SGC Dig Site
“We launched the rafts before dawn three days later. The other men proved to be strong on the paddles, and they very quickly settled into an easy rhythm that conquered the outgoing tides and put them in their hunting waters within a pair of hours. Xander and I used our radios to keep in touch. Willow made sure to charge the batteries yesterday so we could communicate effectively today. Willow and Buffy had the other pair of radios, and they were keeping in contact with us. I used Buffy and the binoculars I’d loaned her as a long range scout. With her enhanced eyesight, and the aid of the binocs, she could see several miles out. She scanned the ocean in a slow and easy sweep, taking in the serene waters and sending me message cues to turn this way or that way, and slowly but steadily allowing us to gain ground on a passing group of whales.
The men charged into the hunt with much vigor, rowing and paddling harder and faster to allow their hunters to use the improved harpoons we’d crafted for them. The harpoons flew straight and true and speared two of the whales. The harpoons had no ropes attached this early on, as both Xander and I were afraid that the whales would dive deep, potentially dragging us down with them. The hunters used their spears and their bows to further wound the creatures. Finally, both Xander and I directed the loading of roped harpoons, and the whales were ours. But I knew that so much blood in the water would call the hunters, the sharks to the area. With pre-set cues, Xander and I directed our paddle teams away from the whales, while Willow used our amulets to channel a simple transportation spell through them to the whales. The two beasties appeared on the beach near them, where another set of Clan members waited to butcher the catch. As part of our agreement with the Turtle Clan Elders regarding this expedition, Buffy would act as our representative at the site of the butchering, and lay claim to certain parts of the creatures we would manage to take on our venture to the sea. They both had the cart on the beach, and very shortly it was laden with at least a hundred pounds of whale blubber.
The blood drew large predators to the area as I had feared. The Great White Sharks of our day and age have nothing on these sharks of this particular time. I think I dropped a load when I first saw the dorsal fin sailing through the water. This one was at least fifty feet in length, and probably weighed as much as an Abrams main battle tank. How we thought we could take one of these massive sharks was beyond me. But the Turtle Clan didn’t seem at all fazed by the size of the critter. We wanted to coordinate our attacks to some extent, so Xander and I manned the harpoons, with the strongest spearmen and the best bowmen standing by to aid our attacks. Xander fired a few seconds before I did, and both harpoons hit true on the massive fish. It dove and we lost sight of it for the moment.
It surfaced a few dozen yards away and the spear men did their duties while we reloaded the harpoons. As the shark swam away from our attacks, the bowmen fired their arrows at the beast, but they quickly found that they had to be closer in order for their arrows to penetrate the toughened hide of the shark. It dove again, only to resurface between our two rafts. Looking into those lifeless eyes, I’ll admit made me feel like I was looking into the abyss. Xander and I fired our harpoons from almost point blank range, with every man on each raft adding either spears or arrows to the melee attack. One of the spearmen got lucky and managed to have his spear go in through one eye on the large shark. It was blind, but it wasn’t out of the fight just yet. Before it dove again, Xander put another harpoon into it, penetrating the skin around the gill area, and washing the sea with blood. I was afraid, that even with the presence of one large shark here, that more would come. We had to finish this, and fast.
It surface again, and this time it decided that it wanted to be rid of its attackers. I saw the damned beast charge Xander’s raft, and I fired my harpoons as quickly as I could load them. The other men with me, fearing for their fellow Clansmen, hurled their spears as quickly and as accurately as they could. I could only watch as the beast dove under Xander’s raft, as his paddle team stroked the waters furiously to get out of the way. The creature surfaced again, and this time I was awarded my own set of fears as it charged towards us. Nearby, I could hear Xander urge his team onward to spear the big fish, while he fired his own harpoons at the big beast. I loaded the last harpoon, the one with a rope, onto the ballista. I looked up and saw that its mouth was open. It was like staring into the pits of hell, and I wanted no part of it. I lined up the harpoon carefully, and let loose. The harpoon, really a sharpened log, flew straight and true into the shark’s mouth and into its brain. It stopped charge a few seconds later, its final propulsive movements driving it past my raft so close I could have reached out and touched it. But the line attached to the harpoon started pulling us along behind it. Xander hit it at the rear and between the two rafts we managed to bring it to a halt. With a whispered word to Willow, she drained most of her strength for the day by transporting the beast to the shore. Xander and I decided that this was enough for the day, and we directed our paddle teams to turn for the shore.
Two very tired hours later, we were beaching our rafts near where the other Turtle Clan members were butchering the catch of the day. According to the Elders, the shark we had caught was the largest he could ever remember seeing or hearing of. I jumped off the raft, and laid claim to the fins, and to the rows of teeth. The Elders, respectful of the magic we commanded, acquiesced to my requests.”
“What type of shark you think that was, Daniel? I mean, fifty feet? As much as an Abrams MBT? You think Jon was exaggerating?”
“No, Jack. I think he just described a Megalodon.”
“A mega what?”
“Megalodon. Prehistoric shark that lived well into the Pleistocene era. It made the modern day Great White look like a goldfish alongside an alligator. I mean, the fossil records indicate that fifty feet would have been a young one, not fully grown, with individual teeth the size of your head.”
“Crap! Looking into the mouth of one must have been terrifying!”
“I’d say Jon dropped more than a load in his pants.”
“Probably they all did. Still no hint in there as to the date?”
“Not yet. From his notes, he’s definitely working on it. Any word from Sam on the Jumper?”
“Just that the Jumper has had it. She’s working with all the eggheads at the SGC to install the time-travel doohickey onto the Agamemnon.”
“Newest ship to come out of the docks. She says they’re using some Hebridan and Tollan techs to boost engine performance and weapons power.”
“Sounds like our Sam.”
Three days post Meg Hunt
Whale blubber, whale meat, shark fins, sharks teeth, and various other bits and pieces had gone into the cart, and when it was filled to capacity, Jon and his crew bade adieu to the Turtle Clan, but not before inviting them to a feast in three days time. They had returned to their compound and begun the process of rendering the blubber into oil. Willow had managed to create a natural cooler for them, for small amounts of meat, so they could store things, like a refrigerator, for several days without it spoiling. Jon spent the next day churning out dozens of simple bowls and spoons, while Xander took a large redwood and carved out some long benches to sit on.
Late on the second day, Jon and Xander assembled a large fire pit and began burning wood down to coals. The pit was lined with rocks and when the wood had burned to coals, they planned to remove the coals and leave the hot rocks in place. They wanted to make this a luau-style feast, with shark’s fin soup as an appetizer, and a pair of large pigs as the main course. As had become something of a habit, Jon and Willow ran the Drones looking for anything out of the ordinary in their area. The infra-red sensors on the Drones picked up a herd of Mastodon about five miles to the south, a small herd of bison to the east, and nothing else of interest. There was a momentary flash as the Asgard built sensors detected an Asgard vessel in high orbit, and Jon let out a whoop of joy, that brought the others running. He dug through his things, scattering them about, leaving Willow to bring both drones home safely. Jon ran out of the cave entrance and into the middle of the compound, and rubbed a stone, making the others think he’d finally lost it. A few minutes, later, a bright flash of light filled the space in front of him, and Jon was amazed to see a much taller Asgard.
“How do you come to have an Asgard Emergency Transponder in your possession?”
“Thor gave it to me.”
“I do not know you.”
“Yes? Have we met?”
“We will. In about fourteen thousand years or so.”
“Time travel. The Asgard have long speculated at its possibility, but only the Furling and the Ancients have ever used such methods.”
“You don’t look like any Asgard I’ve ever met. Why is that?”
“These Asgard you know. Tell me of them?”
“Thor is all spindly arms and legs and about this high. Big head, large eyes. Nothing like you.”
“The Asgard are nothing like you describe.”
“Yeah, well. Fourteen thousand or so years of cloning will do that to a race.”
“Our cloning programs are very advanced.”
“I know. I’m a clone.”
“How is that possible? This world does not have the technology sufficient to create clones.”
“I’d love to tell you everything I know Thor, including how the Asgard race comes to an end. But that would be polluting the timeline.”
“There is a method available to us.”
Thor waved his hand over his wrist, and Jon and he disappeared in a flash of light.
The transport told Thor many things, but chief among them, was that the human was telling the truth. There were genetic markers in his DNA that told of Asgard tampering, and a large block in his memory that could only have been placed used Asgard technology. With this new information in hand, Thor set up a special program that would allow the human to tell his story, and that would allow the program to reveal just enough information to prevent this catastrophe that the Human spoke of. He bade the human to speak to the machine, to let it ask the questions, and for him to tell the full truth as he knew it. But what had shocked him most, before the privacy field activated, was how the Asgard race would engineer their own demise. Thor could not help the Human return to his own time. But, he could contact the Furling to ask for their assistance. And while he waited for their response, Thor set about creating the equivalent of an Asgardian gene bank that could be kept in a stasis field. Knowing that his own race was doomed to genetic degradation, and armed with that knowledge, this older version of the Asgard Supreme Commander set a plan in motion to prevent that demise. Kvasir, his most trusted compatriot and a genetic scientist of great renown, would be set-up with his own laboratory to prevent the Asgard from coming to such an ignoble end.
Jon had been gone for hours. Turtle Clan was already coming up the path, and Xander was very much frustrated. It had been a long and expectant night, as the three of them had taken turns staying up, watching over the meat cooking slowly in the ground, and waiting for Jon to show up again. Yesterday had been their first clue that aliens, real live and from outer space aliens, actually existed. Sure, they had heard the stories that Jon had told them, but hearing about it was one thing. The three of them had simply believed Jon and his team had experienced some weird type of demons, not real aliens. But seeing was a different thing altogether. The thing that had appeared in a column of light was no demon. It hadn’t given off that vibe, not at least according to Buffy. It certainly wasn’t human, not with gray skin under its clothes. But it wasn’t a demon either. But that was something for another time. Now they had to come up with some story to explain Jon’s absence from the festivities. The one thing Xander quickly noticed was that Turtle Clan had brought guests.
“Greetings Xan-der of Sky Clan. We are most fortunate. After our shared great hunt, we were blessed by the arrival of a trading party from Fish Clan. We did not want to leave them in our village. We brought them with us today. Where is Warrior Chon?”
“Jon went to speak with our Elders. We hope he arrives for the feast. Come, be seated. There is plenty to drink and to eat for all.”
There were eight new comers from Fish Clan. They had traveled many days to trade with Turtle Clan, hoping that the Gods had been kind to them in their yearly hunt of the great fish. But they were wary of these three who claimed to be Sky Clan. The two women were among the most beautiful they had ever seen, and the man with them seemed to be strong, but he could not be in many places at once. Xander asked for help from some of Turtle Clan, and together they uncovered the pit that he and Jon had dug the previous day. Willow was showing the Shaman of Turtle clan the miracle that was eating with a bowl and spoon. They saw no real use for the spoon, but the bowl was a nice concept that could hold a large quantity of the soup that Jon had worked on so diligently.
“So, Thor, I wondered if I might ask for a favor or two?”
“You may ask.”
“While we’ve learned to adapt to our new environment, myself and my companions are children of a time somewhere between twelve and fourteen thousand years from now. We’ve had to supplement our medical kit with local remedies, and while they are actually quite effective, they aren’t nearly as effective as we’d like them to be. I don’t have any more of our medicines, but if you could create sterile bandages for us, it would go a long way to alleviating one of our worries. The only other request I have is that you analyze these three objects, and tell me if you can create more of them?”
“What are these objects?”
“Ammunition for our weapons. Our weapons are our only defense against the perils of this age. They provide food for our table, as well as the ability to scare off the natives.”
“I have been monitoring the area from whence I retrieved you. Many of the natives have joined your compatriots. It appears there is a feast in progress.”
“We invited them to join us. We realize we can’t tamper with the timeline. To do so would be to endanger our future. The tribes of this area, face some future catastrophe that’s going to wipe out at least thirty of the larger species in the area. Problem is we don’t know when that will happen.”
“Yes. We are aware of this impending calamity.”
“We have been tracking a cometary fragment in this system. Based on current trajectory, position, and velocity, it will impact on the eastern side of this continent, approximately ten months from now.”
“From what I remember from the speculations of our historians, the event caused a rapid temperature shift. A rapid expansion of the ice sheets that froze much of the land, and made life much more difficult.”
“That is entirely possible.”
“Damn. I don’t suppose you have an accurate method of telling the current time?”
“Our method would be unknown to you. It is based on the decay of a nuclear particle held in a zero-gravity chamber on the Home World.”
“My people used something similar. Could you at least, tell me the current date and time, even if it’s on your system?”
“Yes. I can do this. I have finished analyzing the objects. Our molecular resequencer can create copies of the objects. How many would you like?”
“What else can the molecular resequencer do?”
“Provided one gives it a sample, it can resequence similar materials to create an exact duplicate.”
“How big is the molecular thingy?”
“It is quite small. Why do you ask?”
“If a comet is going to hit my planet, and if myself and my friends are stuck here for the rest of our lives, then that little doohickey of yours would go a long way to make our lives a lot easier. Would you be willing to give me one?”
“I will do this. In the spirit of what you claim is our future friendship. When the time is right, the notes I have left for myself will be available to my future self, so that you might be rescued.”
“Hate to tell you this, Thor, but by the time of my accidental time travel, the Asgard as a civilization have ceased to exist. One more favor to ask, Thor.”
“Is there someway you can monitor us? I mean myself and my friends?”
“We can leave a satellite observatory in orbit. For what purpose?”
“When we die, I’d rather our advanced devices not be found by the natives. If, by some miracle, we get rescued, I’d rather not take the chance that we accidentally leave something behind for them to use or exploit.”
“I will see to it personally. I will return you now. The molecular resequencer has been delivered as well.”
“My thanks, Thor. I hope to see you again.”
Below them, on the field where Willow and Buffy ladled out the soup into the bowls, and Xander served the soup, the men of Fish Clan were conversing with some of the most bold men of Turtle Clan, discussing the best way to remove the one-eyed man from the equation and thus lay claim to the women. There was a loud clap of thunder from the clear sky, and the men and women of Fish and Turtle Clans looked up, wondering what the loud noise had been, when a thing appeared in the skies, and a bright light speared the ground, and a moment later, another man appeared. Those of Turtle Clan recognized the new man as Chon, the other member of Sky Clan. As the clans looked above them, the strange thing in the sky rose up and was swallowed by a hole in the sky. And in front of them, the one called Chon was speaking to them.
“I bring you greetings, my friends, from the Elders of Sky Clan. Our time here is approaching its end, and by the time you return to your fishing village, we will be gone.”
Xander, Willow, and Buffy pulled Jon aside at the first opportunity.
“Nice entrance, Jon!”
“Yeah. Thor sensed some of the natives were looking at the ladies with a little too much interest. He helped me nip that in the bud. And he set us up as a real clan by the entrance. I don’t see them doubting the existence of Sky Clan anymore. On a side note, he gave me two things. One is a clock, unfortunately in Asgardian standard, and the other is a molecular resequencer, which we can use to create the things we need. My diary will soon get Asgardian dates, and if I know Daniel, somewhere in the far removed future, he’ll see those dates and Jack’s team will start working on a retrieval mission. I also have some bad news. Willow, you might be familiar with this next part. The late Pleistocene Extinction Event.”
“When something like at least thirty-odd percent of the larger species went poof?”
“Yeah. That. Thor tells me they’re in this system tracking a comet that will hit some where on the eastern seaboard of this continent, in about ten months time. So, we have to hope and pray to whatever Gods or Goddesses we believe in that the SGC can make the rescue plan work.”
“Ten months until a comet smacks into the planet, causing a mass extinction and a sudden ice-age.”
“Yeah. The cave is our best bet for long term survival, but we’re going to need some serious modifications if we plan to live here past ten months from now. We can start tomorrow. Let’s finish up this feast first. I’m starved!”
“Chon? Your Elders have left?”
“They’ll be back soon. They are visiting all of the scout teams they sent out to learn of the right place to set up their camps. Then they will return for us and we will move on to another place.”
“It is good that your Elders have not abandoned you. Our Shaman tells us that your warrior Xander is inhabited by a Primal Spirit, yet you have none. As a gift between Clans, we can guide you on the process to finding your own Primal Spirit. All men of the Clan, when they reach manhood, go through this process.”
The party had lasted long into the night, with plenty of food and drink to go around. As Jon exited the cave he saw that Turtle Clan had left, probably around day-break. The grounds were clear. And his mind wandered back to the previous night, when he had not only found a Primal Spirit, but it had decided to share his mind with him.
“Hey Jon. How’s the head?”
“I’ll live. Whatever the hell we were drinking last night wasn’t as bad as some of the hootch I’ve had in my lifetime.”
“Willow said it was mead; fermented honey.”
“Xander, how do you deal with your Primal? Mine keeps telling me to hunt.”
“Mine too. Although mine is afraid of yours. I got mine in high school. Primal Hyena Spirit. You got yours yesterday. Primal Saber-Toothed Cat Spirit. Give it full access to your mind. Don’t hold anything back, especially the fact that where we come from, it’s extinct. Buffy and Willow got Primals too, you know.”
“Did they? I must have passed out before then. What did they end up with?”
“Buffy got a Cave Bear, which fits with her personality. Deceptively fierce, and completely protective of it’s family. Willow was puzzled over hers until just before she fell asleep.”
“All she saw was a tree.”
“You figured that one out pretty quick. Took her several hours.”
“She’s tied to the planet then?”
“Apparently. Looks like Mother Earth has chosen it’s own warrior. All I know is her powers just went up.”
“About five or six hundred orders of magnitude.”
“I think my Primal is cowering in a corner.”
“Shit man, mine has been cowering in a corner since it figured out what Willow’s Primal was!”
Present Day California
SGC Dig Site
Daniel had sat, almost unmoving except for the turning of the pages, as he read more and more of the life Jon had lead, in the Pleistocene. The hunts, the improvisations, the friendships, the love; it was all in Jon’s journals. At first, the journals had seemed more like mission diaries, or even mission reports, but the more he read, the more they became similar to his own diaries. Daniel recognized the tactic for what it was; a sign that Jon had all but given up hope of rescue, and the acceptance that he would remain trapped in the far distant past. The planting of crops, the adoption of wolf cubs and a litter of Saber Tooth kittens, sealed that conclusion for him. And then he read something that startled him so much, he had to read it several more times before it the salient parts had filtered into his brain enough to form coherent speech. Jon had managed to contact Thor. Jon had gotten a date from Thor. Jon now was adding the date, in Asgard terms to his journals!
“She’s at the SGC, Danny-boy. What have you found?”
“Jon made contact with Thor. Thor gave him a calendar of sorts. He’s now adding the date and times using an Asgardian calendar!”
“I knew he had it in him!”
“It means we know when and where he is, so now all we need is that Jumper and we can rescue him!”
“Not so fast, Daniel. The Jumper was trashed after our last trip. The geeks at Area 51 took it apart to see if they could install it in something bigger, like a Daedalus class DSC. They stuffed up things pretty good. Carter’s on her way there to fix the mess.”
“Jack. Aside from the date, the other thing Thor told him was the impact of a cometary fragment that would cause widespread damage. The Pleistocene Extinction Event.”
“That’s not good.”
“According to Jon’s journal, Thor gave them a ten month warning on the impending event. They’re already making plans for the change in climate, stocking up on furs, weaving blankets, laying in a long term supply of food, making changes to their shelter.”
“That doesn’t mean we have ten months though, right? I mean, as far as we’re concerned, this has already happened. All we have to do is show up in the nick of time to destroy the comet and rescue Jon, right?”
“The Extinction Event is a major milestone in our history. We can’t change that. But we can rescue Jon and his friends.”
Jon had taught Willow how to use the Molecular Resequencer and she had taken charge of the device, using it to make the things they would need to survive the coming climate change. Rather than use her magic, they used the Asgardian tool to make steel, which Xander then used in his forge to make their tools just that little bit stronger. They had planted wheat, rice, and barley, along with a few other primitive versions of the plants they were used to, including some berries and a few vegetables. The recent winter had been harsh, but an Ice Age was a different matter. They dug out a new chamber to store their supplies, rigged up a very primitive cooling system to preserve their food supply, and worked diligently, day in and day out to do all that they could. At least twice per week, either Jon and Buffy or Xander and Willow went out for a quick hunt. They were using all of whatever creature they managed to take on the hunts, animal skins tanned into leathers, animal furs crafted into blankets, bones crafted into spear points, meat smoked for future usage. They had enlarged their smoker and it was running constantly.
Trees were felled and cut down be used for planking. They boiled some of the pitch from the nearby pits and used it to seal the spaces between the planks. Xander did most of the design work, and Jon helped him fit it in to place, but when they were done, they had a proper door opening to the cavern, with a vent to draw out the smoke from their fire. Turtle Clan moved on to their next village location, leaving ‘Sky Clan’ alone once again. They had no one to depend on but themselves.
The months passed quickly, as they were filled with work. But it was necessary. They had abandoned the last of their modern clothes in favor of leathers. All of them were fit and trim from the constant hard work. All of them were well tanned from the constant sun exposure. If Buffy hadn’t already been with Jon, she would have found Xander a living embodiment of Adonis. Much was the same thoughts for Willow in regards to Jon. But the women had made their own choices long ago, and both were more than content with the results. Their cats and dogs were fully grown now, and well trained to boot. The dogs they used for the hunt, and to keep watch over the camp. The cats were used as a second line of defense. Jon and Xander had spent countless hours over countless weeks, training the big cats to protect them all, but to protect the women especially. The cats would kill, without hesitation, with the proper command, and were otherwise as docile as their more modern cousins; the common house cat.
Jon and Xander made monthly trips down to the shoreline. They took a few more whales, and plenty of clams and other shell fish in the tide pools. They used the seaweed washed ashore as compost and fertilizer for their crops; blubber from the whales was rendered into oil and stored in large clay pots in their new storage cavern. Gradually, they were filling it to capacity. Their long term plan, however, was to fill a second storage cavern with a duplicate amount of supplies. The second ‘cavern’ would be purposefully dug into the ground at the base of the hill, away from their own cavern, and away from any potential cave-ins. Using the Asgardian Molecular Resequencer (AMS), Jon had managed to fashion a primitive form of explosives, which he put to use carving out the ‘basement’. It was a root cellar, plain and simple, but it would be large, and it would store all the extra oil they had available to them. The hole he dug with the explosives was covered over with planking, and sealed with pitch and more planking, this time laid crosswise to the first layer. It was an arduous task that took a month and a half to complete, but by the time it was done, they were ready to start filling it with their excess supplies.
The seasons changed, and they began taking their harvests from the crops they’d planted, putting aside some of the harvest to use as seed stock for the next planting season. Their small mill had been improved somewhat, and they were now able to get a finer grind on their grains. It meant a less gritty bread, which was definitely a good thing. They had added a few animals to their small stock pen; primitive ancestors of the modern horse, camel, and llama. The animals were used to pull the wagon that they had enlarged to carry more supplies back and forth. At every opportunity they had, Jon and Xander would venture out and cut down grasses that could be used as hay. Properly dried and then baled, they would have feed for their animals during the earlier and harsher than expected winter. And then, one day in November the winds picked up, and the snow began to fall. The eastern sunrises were tinged red, and everyone agreed that the comet had hit. And still no rescue. Within twenty-four hours, the temperatures had dropped significantly, and the snowfall had increased dramatically. The finishing touches for the animal pens had been completed only two weeks before, but it meant walking into the blowing snow to make sure the fire that kept the pen warm stayed lit and well fed.
Forty-five days after the snow began to fall Jon’s Asgard sensor began to glow again. He touched the homing signal feature, and shortly there was a flash of light in the cave. Only it wasn’t an Asgard standing there.
“You are O’Neill.”
“I am. Who are you?”
“Ambassador Ss’ka’t of the Furling. Supreme Commander Thor has told of us your plight, and we have examined the truth for ourselves.”
“Really? What did you find?”
“That you are a noble creature destined for great things in this universe. Our research has determined that it was not a magical spell that placed you here, but rather a move by a group of higher beings that call themselves by the ostentatious title of the Powers That Be. They have yet to ascend to a higher plane, yet they can manipulate the fates to enhance certain outcomes. These beings wanted your companions out of the way. You were just an accident. But their power exceeded their grasp and an ancient security device placed here by the Ancients intervened on your behalf and brought you to this place and time. Safely away from the machinations of the Powers That Be. Where you could learn what was necessary in order to become ready for the fate that awaits you. Those who call themselves The Powers That Be, have lost all claim to your companions as their champions. We, of the Furling, now endorse you as our chosen Champions. But only if you make the correct choice.”
“You must choose, how you will return to your proper time.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Your choice, O’Neill. It requires, a leap of faith.”
“Is the decision solely up to me?”
“Yes. And there is a reason for this. Your friends were targeted, but you were not. You must choose.”
“Do I have to choose right now, or may I think on this for a bit?”
“No. You may have twenty-four of your hours to reach your decision. My ship will land in the field adjacent to your compound and you will simply press the Asgard transmitter to signal your readiness to choose.”
“Thanks. I think.”
With that, the Furling Ambassador disappeared in a flash of light and the cavern was quiet again. The others looked at him wondering what he would choose, trying to understand how he could answer a question when the question in it of itself hadn’t been properly asked. But it had been. The others hadn’t been paying enough attention. The clues were there, in the short speech of the Furling. ‘Learn what was necessary’; the phrase implied that their survival skills weren’t up to the task, for whatever task lay ahead of them. ‘How to return’ was the question he had to answer. Did that mean, just himself? No, thought Jon. Obviously it included his team, his family. Family. He wondered if that meant their extended family. He’d sleep on it and hopefully the answer would come to him.
Twenty-four hours later, Jon pressed the Asgard transmission stone, and the Furling Ambassador Ss’ka’t appeared in the cavern.
“Have you made a choice?”
“I have. As much as I would like very much to return to my own time, I realize that some of the friendships I have made here will not be possible in that future time; the future would overwhelm them and cause them too much difficulty.”
“Though we tried hard not to expose anyone from this time to even minor advances from our time, we failed, and the time line has become corrupted. It is better for us to remain here, so that when we die, the time line can correct itself. Eventually, the primitive peoples here will die off enough such that whatever we taught them will be lost to time, and the memories of us will become legends and myths told around campfires. We’ve taken in strays, these cats and wolves. They’ve learned from us, have been taught by us, and they depend on us for their food. To force them to return to the wilds, without the knowledge of how to thrive in the wilderness would do them harm. Yet, we have all grown attached to our pets; they have become members of our family. And I know full well that to release these creatures in our future would cause problems in the food chain.”
“You have made the correct choice.”
“I don’t understand.”
“By giving up your desire to return, you have proven your willingness to sacrifice what was necessary. Now, we will transport whatever you wish, to a planet we have prepared for you. A planet in your time, that is devoid of any animal or insect life. You will choose what to bring with you. An experiment in terraforming. I will offer advice as it is needed. When this is done, we will bring you aboard our ship, and guide you along the final steps to becoming our Champions. When all is complete, you will be able to recruit a crew for the ship we will provide you. You, Jon O’Neill, clone of Jack O’Neill, with whom the Asgard placed so much of their hopes and dreams, you will lead this crew and free the universe from its oppressors. We, the Furling, pass this mantle on to you. But only if you freely accept it.”
Jon looked at the others, at the expressions in their eyes. He spent several minutes looking at Buffy’s eyes, at the depths revealed within them. He knew of her fight, of how long she had fought, essentially alone. She didn’t have to be alone anymore. Jon made his decision.
There was a flash of light and the inhabitants of the cavern found themselves in a spacious room aboard the Furling vessel. Their pets were right by their side.
“All of you may follow me to the command deck. There, you will be shown how to designate targets for the matter transmitters. Your pets will be placed into suitable pens for their safety; pens that will be brought into this room.”
Jon and the others followed Ss’ka’t to the command deck and were then shown the wonders of the matter transmitters for selecting their targets. A quick conference with his family and they had decided what to take with them to the new world. They would aim only for the species that were about to become extinct. Dozens of mating pairs of creatures were placed into transmitter stasis, where their genetic structure was mapped onto memory crystals until such time as they arrived at their new home. Several hours later, Jon approached Ss’ka’t with a question.
“Something troubles you?”
“I want to request something, but I know it is a dangerous request.”
“The worst I can do is not agree, yes?”
“Yes. There were things we weren’t prepared for in this environment. We made do with what we had available to us, but if it hadn’t been for Turtle Clan, odds are our lives would have been a little harder. I want them to come with us, but I just don’t know how much damage that would do to the timeline.”
“Yes. I understand. I believe I have a solution for you.”
“We can take them in their sleep cycle, clone them, and return them. The clones will travel to the new world, and the originals will remain. There will be no damage to the time line.”
“Can you do this for all of the tribes? The more genetic diversity available to them, the better off they will be.”
“It will be done as you suggest.”
The next few nights, the ship moved from one campsite to another, beaming up the sleeping Clans, cloning them, and then returning their originals to the surface. Nearby each camp, little gifts were made from Sky Clan; large numbers of furs and hides appeared near the central cook fires of each camp, more than enough to offset the harsh winter that was upon the planet.
And then, all was ready. They had taken over two hundred different species of land animals, beaming up large herds of some, and individual mating pairs of others, placing them into stasis. They had also taken approximately the same amount of sea going animals, except for the apex predators. The ocean fauna of the new world would be devoid of them, and devoid of some of the nastier critters that they could have taken, like snakes, and crocodiles.
They had a firm target date now, and the dig site had been turned over to a team led by Dr. Balinsky. SG-1 was in the briefing room when the lights dimmed and the alert klaxons began ringing throughout the base. A hologram, very similar to the same type the Asgard used for visual communications, lit up the room.
“Hello? Anyone here? Where the heck is everyone. Targeting sensors must be off...”
Jon turned around. He’d been facing the wrong way, apparently.
“Nice to see your ugly mug again, Old Man.”
“You need a shave Jack.”
“Fine. Wait a minute...”
“As you might have guessed, I’ve been rescued. Well, myself and my friends in any case. Made contact with the Asgard who passed along news of our plight to the Furling, who rescued us.”
“Are they furry?”
“Sorry Jack. You’ll have to wait and see.”
“Are you coming here, Jon?”
“In orbit now. But leaving for a new world shortly. I need a favor Jack.”
“I need a small cadre of volunteers. Infantry, medical, pilots; basically what you would want for an off-world site Gather them up, get them briefed, and we’ll pick them up in six months or so. We’ll be back in six months, and hopefully by then, we’ll be ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Ready for anything. See ya, Old Man.”
It was a burst of light that the others noticed first, and when they were ready to charge at it, they saw her. Willow. The first of the mini Slayers to react called out for Giles and he came running from another part of the house.
“Willow! Dear! I feared you and the others lost to me!”
“We’re good. The Powers tried to get rid of us, but another power intervened on our behalf. We are no longer Champions for the powers. We are now Champions for a higher power.”
“I need something Giles.”
“A small cadre of volunteers for the mission of a lifetime. Slayers, magic users, and researchers. Everyone must have a skill useful to what would essentially be a new colony of man.”
“A new colony? Are you in a Hell dimension?”
“Nothing like that. Get them ready to travel in six months time. No more than a hundred.”
“Six months? The Council is in a shambles. Really Willow, I think it would be better if you and the others returned so we could discuss this ‘colony’ of yours.”
“No. We will return in six months.”
The light faded, and everyone in the room wondered at the implications of what was said. In six months, they would know. In six months, they felt, their world views would be shattered.