stringertheory: (Colonel O'Neill)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: U is for Utopia
Rating: PG
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, Teal'c
Word Count: 2195
Categories: gen
Spoilers/Warnings: None. Set any time during S2-S5.
Summary: The team get a little time off, off-world. Written for the Off-World Alphabet Soup.

Arrival through PYX-389's Gate offered the traveler a panoramic view of the sea. The Gate was set on a small, man-made island – no more than a pillar whose base disappeared into the surf – that was connected to the mainland by a narrow drawbridge. Visible to the ruined city that lined the mainland coast, but quite deliberately set at some distance and off to one side from it, the island's location made it clear to Jack that whoever had once lived there didn't consider the Gate an important part of life. The arrangement brought to mind a city-scale version of a fire escape.

Jack took in the sea view – the deep blue-green water, the cloudless sky, the rocky coastline footed by sandy beaches – and drew a deep breath of salt-tinged air. “Well, this is refreshing.” And not quite what they were used to.

He turned around, only to find himself alone on the island with Teal'c, who was standing at the entrance to the bridge and raised one eyebrow ever so slightly in response to Jack's look. Daniel and Carter were already halfway across the bridge; Jack could just hear them chattering at one another. He sighed and waved Teal'c forward. “Let's get after them before they get lost. Or hurt themselves,” he said, only half joking. Initial scans of the planet had indicated that it was uninhabited, but there was always the chance they had been wrong. And the scans didn't account for indigenous flora or fauna. Or for the exploits of overzealous and excitable scientists.

Alert more out of deeply ingrained habit than any real concern, he set a strolling pace as he and Teal'c followed after the other pair. Aside from the muffled roar of the surf, the area was quiet and he figured if Daniel and Carter slipped out of sight, they could be located by sound alone.

After the past few months, Jack was relieved to have a simple, safe reconnaissance mission. The team needed a break, and his scientists needed some science time that didn't happen to coincide with getting-shot-at time or running-for-your-life time or the-base-has-been-infiltrated time. He was pretty sure Hammond agreed and had given them the mission for just that reason. For his part, Jack had accepted the orders with uncharacteristic and entirely sincere enthusiasm after he had seen the way the Wonder Twins' faces lit up when reading the briefing report. To be fair, their faces often did that, but this time their excitement had not been tempered by one “... but the natives are hostile” or “... but it's a Goa'uld stronghold” or “... but it could be fried by a blast of solar radiation at any moment” caveat. Nope, PYX-389 was a soldier's and a scientist's paradise: not a hostile in sight on a beautiful beach lined with the nearly pristine ruins of an ancient, long-dead civilization.

Aside from their pristine nature, the ruins were extensive and elaborate, as it turned out. The long, winding hallways and variously shaped rooms, pocketed here and there with the signs of damage or decay, played havoc with sound, and with Jack's reluctance to resort to the radios, it took longer than expected to locate Daniel and Carter. By the time he and Teal'c found the chamber they were in – a particularly large one with a wide balcony overlooking the bay – equipment had been set up, tools pulled out, and notes were being furiously scribbled.

Bypassing his scientists for the moment, Jack sauntered out onto the balcony to once again enjoy the view. He could see why the planet's former inhabitants had chosen this place for their own; to the left they had the bay and to the right, the open sea. The natural beauty of the world was breathtaking, and the architecture of the city – while not his personal style – suited the landscape, flowing lines contrasted with sharp angles. He studied the room from the balcony for a moment. The soft midday light of the planet's sun, darker than their own back home, threw the pillars of the balcony against the far wall in shadow relief. The far side of the room had suffered damage of some sort; the wall between it and its neighbor was partially missing, and that side of the balcony, which originally would have extended across the other room as well, had been completely sheared off. Carefully walking to the edge, Jack spotted the remnants wedged in the rocks below, the low tide just lapping at the polished stone.

Rejoining the others in the room, he scanned the walls that still stood, which were etched with an assortment of writing. Daniel was at the wall that housed the door leading back into the hallway, nose mere inches from its surface as he studied the inscriptions in contained. Carter, sitting crosslegged in the center of the room, held a piece of rubble from the damaged wall in one hand and clicked away at her computer with the other. Teal'c stood sentinel near the entrance, watching his teammates with a placid expression that would have passed as indifferent for anyone who didn't know him. For SG-1, it was basically a scene of domestic bliss.

“Well, children,” Jack said, “what have we found?”

Carter glanced up, the same small furrow between her eyes that she got whenever she came across something puzzling. “The mineral composition of the stonework doesn't match what I expected based on our initial geological surveys of the planet, sir.” She turned her focus back on the hunk of rock in her hand, frowning at it as if it had personally insulted her intelligence. “But given the location of the Stargate, it doesn't seem likely that the stone was quarried elsewhere and brought here; getting a load large enough for one room alone across that tiny bridge... I suppose they could have moved the Gate...” She trailed off, turning to her computer again, and Jack knew he had lost her.

At that precise moment, as if they had planned the hand-off, Daniel turned around. Similarly to Sam, his brow was furrowed in concentration and his eyes, though focused in Jack's direction, had the faraway glaze to them that Jack thought of as his Science Look.

“This appears to be a library or museum of sorts for this society,” Daniel began, waving a hand at the walls. “The inscriptions here give detail as to how the society came to be. It's written in a variety of languages, though, which is unusual.” He pivoted back to the wall and ran a finger over various lines of text as he spoke. “This is some kind of Latin dialect, this one is related to Sumerian, I think, and this one is a form of Chinese, and this one appears to be diluted ancient Egyptian. The inscriptions were made at the same time, which is unexpected – these cultures didn't all exist in the same period, and even the ones that did overlap wouldn't have been transplanted here by the same Goa'uld.” He favored the wall with a curious stare, hands on his hips.

Jack fought back a smile. Carter was furiously tapping away at her computer for non-life threatening reasons, and Daniel was staring down an archeological puzzle for fun. He cleared his throat. “Does the wall happen to tell you this place's name?”

“Eutopia,” came Daniel's absentminded reply.

“Utopia?” Jack glanced back over his shoulder at the gaping hole where a balcony should be, heard the sea breeze whistle down an empty hallway. “Didn't exactly work out for them, did it?” he muttered.

“'E-U-topia, meaning 'good place', not U-topia meaning 'not place',” Daniel said, slipping into the tone of lecturer that, for once, had no hint of exasperation in it. “It's a rough translation. It's also Greek, which isn't one of the languages on the wall, but it is very specifically used in reference to the name.” He pushed his glasses up his nose before shifting slightly to his right to squint at that section of the wall. “I've been working on the passage that explains how these people came to be here, and it sounds like this wasn't a Goa'uld controlled planet. It was a haven.”

“A haven?”

Daniel nodded. “In a very real sense.” His finger flew over the inscriptions as he translated. “The record tells that a few people of various planets, ones spared the fury of their masters – they very specifically do not use a word for 'god' in any of the languages – left their devastated worlds to found a place of peace far away from the reach of their former tormentors. It was to be a sanctuary, a safe place for them and any others who managed to find it.”

“From the damage this city bears, it is clear that their plan was unsuccessful.”

Teal'c's voice was unexpected, and the others turned to him in curiosity.

“You think the Goa'uld found them?” Daniel asked.

Teal'c pointed to the damaged wall. “That bears the marks of glider fire,” he said simply.

The all turned to study the wall again. Looking at it more closely, the faint remains of scorch marks were obvious. Jack moved over to the wall and glanced into the room on the other side. It was much more heavily damaged than the room they were in, part of the floor having collapsed into the room below it. Even without the typical carnage that would accompany such an attack, the signs of destruction were numbingly familiar. Another society wiped from existence by an enemy that would not seem to die.

Jack found himself irrationally angry. Despite the fact that they encountered signs of the Goa'uld everywhere they went, it seemed extra wrong, somehow, that they were intruding on the idyllic day out this was supposed to be. His mouth thinned to a firm line as he bit his tongue, hesitant to spoil things even further by giving voice to his thoughts.

Carter suddenly spoke into the silence. “At least they got some time. I mean, it would have taken a while to build all of this,” she said, encompassing the city with a flick of her wrist, “and to pull together such disparate peoples. They were free for a while, even if it didn't last.”

“There are no bodies.”

Jack stared at Daniel. “What?”

“There are no bodies,” he repeated, as if in realization. “If the Goa'uld who came here had been intent on total destruction, where are the bodies? I doubt the Goa'uld would have attacked an empty city, and with destruction like this, there would have been casualties.”

“What's your point, Daniel?”

“However many were lost, they were clearly buried by someone. When the Goa'uld are out for punishment or mean to set an example, they kill everyone and don't bother with clean up. And the city is damaged, but still mostly intact. Maybe those who survived left, started over somewhere else. I mean, in a society like this, there should be many more artifacts left behind – furniture and dishware and tools – not just rubble and empty rooms. Maybe they packed up and left. Maybe they weren't even here when it happened.”

“That would explain the state of things,” Carter agreed, looking pensive.

Jack pondered the possibility, then looked to Teal'c. “Ever hear of these people, T?”

“I have not, O'Neill. But the Goa'uld fiercely control outside information reaching those under their influence, and the existence of such a place as this one and of such a people as those who built it would not be something the Goa'uld would want known.”

“True.” Daniel nodded. “It would severely undermine their claims of being omnipotent.”

“And omniscient,” Sam added.

“They'd still have the megalomaniacal thing going for them, though.” Jack said it almost out of habit – the snakeheads really did seem to enjoy being flamboyantly, self-importantly evil – but Carter sniggered and Daniel smiled and he even would have bet money that Teal'c looked amused. The sound of the surf reached him again, and he made a decision.

Leaving Teal'c in the city with Daniel and Carter, he trudged back to the Gate to call for provisions. They had found a utopia – or a eutopia, whichever – and they were going to stay there. At least for one more day, which Jack convinced Hammond to approve (thought it hadn't taken much in the way of convincing, it had to be said). They were going to camp by the beach and tell stories with no purpose. Daniel was going to translate that whole damn room if he wanted to, and Jack would personally collect however many soil and rock and plant samples Sam desired. He'd even pretend to care about what they both discovered. And Teal'c – well, Teal'c could simply enjoy not being required to do one damn thing that he didn't want to do. For a short, precious moment in time, his team was going to get to relax and just be. They'd go back to saving the world Wednesday.

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October 2015

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