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They arrived on the planet moments later, the wormhole whooshing to a close behind them. The MALP was in its original position, and a quick scan of the area confirmed they were alone.
"Okay Spencer, whatcha got?" Mitchell asked.
Captain Spencer did a slow sweep. Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose he said, "Definite naquadah readings. Not strong, but…" He looked at the scanner closely.
Spencer frowned. "There was a momentary spike before the reading leveled out again. It more than likely was an anomaly," he said. He had calibrated the scanner right before they left; it shouldn’t have spiked like that, but the line was now smooth and flat, steady in the low range.
"Well, I guess it’s time we go make contact with the natives," Mitchell said half jokingly.
"Sir," Lieutenant Pisano said, his gaze fixed down the path leading away from the Stargate.
Looking into the distance, they could see what appeared to be a lone woman heading in their direction.
"You’re on, Watson," Mitchell said as they started walking.
Jessie smiled as they met the woman at the halfway point. "Hello."
"Greetings," the woman said, smiling at them.
Good. She spoke English. "We are explorers; we mean you no harm."
"Yes," the woman said, almost as if she already knew this. "My name is Ileah."
"I’m Doctor Jessica Watson. This is Colonel Mitchell, Captain Spencer and Lieutenant Pisano."
Ileah nodded as each of them was introduced. "Please, if you will follow me, Brojorn would like to speak with you."
"Brojorn is your leader?" Mitchell asked.
"Yes. We’ve been expecting your arrival."
The team looked at each other suspiciously, but followed Ileah into the village. There were a few people passing through, but other than that not a whole lot of activity going on. She led them into what appeared to be the main building in the town square, judging by its size. Following her down the corridor, they climbed a flight of stone stairs, emerging into a large room. Bookcases flanked the walls, a sizable desk and chairs set off to one side. Double doors led outside onto an apparent balcony. Their attention, however, was drawn to the man standing in front of those doors.
"I have brought the travelers as you requested, Brojorn," Ileah said as she bowed once again.
"Thank you. Please, see that refreshments are brought for us."
Jessica’s breath caught in her throat as Brojorn turned to face them. The man was positively drop-dead gorgeous. Tall, broad-shouldered, well muscled, he had classic Roman features with the high cheekbones, strong nose, full lips, and to top it off he had piercing, light green eyes. She had the distinct feeling that this man was used to getting exactly what he wanted; he had that air of authority about him. He looked at each of them closely before he spoke.
"I am Brojorn. Please, make yourselves comfortable," he said, indicating the seats near them. "Ileah will be back shortly with something to eat and drink."
Spencer and Pisano sat down on the sofa, while Mitchell and Jessica took the chairs on either side.
Jessica introduced herself and the team. "You don’t seem surprised by our arrival," she observed, remembering that Ileah had said they were expected.
Brojorn smiled warmly at Jessica, perhaps a bit too warmly by Mitchell’s assessment. Gesturing towards the double doors, he said, "I was on the terrace when the chappa’ai activated. From this level you can see it in the distance."
"Yet, you send a woman, alone, to greet an unknown entity?"
"We have occasional visitors; rarely ones who are harmful. They are greeted appropriately, depending on their intentions."
There was something about this man that was troubling her. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but she had learned long ago to trust her instincts. Something was not right.
Just as Jessica was about to continue the conversation, the door opened and Ileah came into the room carrying a tray with glasses, a decanter, small plates and what appeared to be meats and cheeses. She set it down on the table in front of the sofa and just as quickly left the room, closing the door behind her.
Brojorn came forward and filled five glasses, gesturing at the tray as he did so. "Please, help yourselves. Ileah sees to the refreshments personally, and always brings the best we have to offer."
Keeping in mind that they might soon be bartering for naquadah, the team filled plates and accepted the glasses accordingly. However, none of them drank until Brojorn had taken a drink from his glass, figuring that if it were anything harmful, he wouldn’t drink it himself.
"So," Brojorn said after they had served themselves, "you are here to trade?"
"Why would you say that?" Mitchell asked, not waiting for Jessica’s reply.
"Well, usually the visitors we get are seeking trade in one venue or another," Brojorn replied. "Are you here for another reason besides that?"
"We are travelers from a distant planet," Jessica said, glancing at Mitchell. "We wish to learn about other cultures, whether they are allies or adversaries, and, sometimes, to establish trade."
"What do you consider an ally versus an adversary?"
"We are at war with the Goa’uld," she began.
Brojorn gestured with his hand, nodding at the same time. "Ah, yes. Nasty, egotistical little parasites."
"I take it you’ve had contact with them."
Another nod. "We were fortunate enough to persuade them that there was nothing of value here, and convinced them to be on their way."
"We’d be interested in knowing how you managed that. They have a habit of wanting to conquer anything and everything in their path. It’s not often that they can be ‘persuaded’ to just leave," Mitchell said.
Brojorn looked at Mitchell, a small smile playing about his mouth as he seemed to contemplate something. The hairs on the back of Jessica’s neck were starting to stand up, an odd, prickling sensation she couldn’t explain.
Finally, he spoke. "Mitchell, you more than anyone should realize that you never judge a book by its cover. Just because something appears simplistic, doesn’t necessarily mean that it lacks complexity beneath the surface."
Jessica found herself holding her breath. Mitchell had his poker face in place. That only meant one thing—something had hit a nerve. Before anyone could say anything, Brojorn was motioning for them to join him.
"Come with me. I’ll show you one of the methods we employed in convincing the Goa’uld to leave."
Much to Mitchell’s consternation, Brojorn fell in step beside Jessica, leaving the rest of the team to follow them.
"Did the Goa’uld come through the chappa’ai, or by ship?"
"Through the chappa’ai. Well, at first it was the scout group of Jaffa."
"Who were they serving?"
"Svarog. A very unpleasant individual."
Jessica searched her memory. "How long ago was this?"
"About ten cycles."
"Yes. It’s how we measure time passage. When life emerges after the cold, until the next emergence is one cycle."
She nodded. "On our planet we call such a cycle a year. No Goa’uld have been back since then?"
Brojorn led them far into the building, along turns and corridors until even Mitchell wasn’t sure he’d be able to find his way back out. Stopping at a 90-degree turn in the hallway, Brojorn touched different stone panels in a random fashion, activating a hidden doorway. Entering the room, at first glance it appeared to be empty save for a stone altar. Brojorn triggered another hidden panel on the altar, revealing a control console.
"Our lifestyle may be simple, but our technology isn’t. One of our best defenses against adversaries is the illusion that we have nothing they want. This system cloaks many of our natural resources and valuable assets on a planet-wide scale." He made a couple of adjustments. "I have brought the shield down just in our immediate vicinity. If you use your instruments now, they will give you accurate readings."
Spencer pulled out his scanner and activated it. Frowned. "I’ll need to take some readings outside. I think the equipment in here is interfering with it."
"No, Captain Spencer, there is no interference. But if you think the reading would be better outdoors…" Brojorn touched the band on his wrist, and they found themselves standing outside just beyond the main building. "…you are more than welcome to try another scan."
Jessica did her best to tamp down the rush of panic she felt. There had been no transport rings, no bright light, nothing. Just poof, and they were all outside. She was beginning to get an idea of how vulnerable they were if things were to go bad.
Spencer slowly walked away from them, doing a full sweep with his scanner.
Jessica turned to Brojorn. "Is that your normal means of transportation?" she asked, indicating the band on his wrist.
"For certain Nandanians, yes. Some of us have natural abilities, and this technology acts as an interface with those abilities, allowing us to transport at will."
Before Jessica had a chance to question him further, Spencer called Mitchell over.
"This can’t be right."
"What’s the problem?"
Spencer turned the scanner so Mitchell could see the read out. "According to this, the naquadah readings are off the chart."
"Is it malfunctioning?"
"Either that, or we’re on top of a naquadah deposit so huge that it’s beyond the normal parameters we use for the scanners."
"Get some samples and take them back to the lab for testing. If it isn’t a problem with the equipment, can you reset the parameters to get an accurate reading?"
"Shouldn’t be a problem."
"Good. As soon as you’ve got something, report back."
Mitchell rejoined them as Spencer headed off in the direction of the Stargate.
"Spencer’s going to run some tests and bring back a different scanner."
"This will take a while?" Brojorn asked.
"I wouldn’t think more than a couple of hours."
"Perhaps you would like to spend that time exploring on your own? I have a couple of meetings I need to attend to. My attendants will be more than happy to assist you with anything you might need."
"That would be fine, thank you." Jessica replied.
"Once you have the results you seek, let Ileah know and she will summon me. Maybe then we might look towards establishing some kind of exchange."
For the next few hours Mitchell, Jessica and Pisano mingled with the different people they came across around the town square, who were very friendly and more than willing to answer any questions they had. Some seemed amused at the position they perceived Jessica to be in. While the women appeared to be just as valued and respected as the men on Nanda, for the most part they did adhere to more traditional roles of wives and mothers. The opportunity for education appeared equal, though, so Jessica reserved her opinion in that respect. Jessica was able to talk Ileah into letting her look at some of the historical records, while Mitchell and Pisano continued to talk with some of the men about local customs.
Jessica was happy to find the texts weren’t too difficult to translate, and soon was immersed in deciphering the writings. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed when a voice broke her concentration.
"Find anything interesting?"
Jumping slightly, she looked up to see Brojorn smiling down at her.
"I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you."
"That’s okay. I tune everything out when I’m reading, so it’s kind of unavoidable."
"You’re interested in our history." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes. It goes with the territory of being an explorer," she said with a grin.
"So, exactly what is your job on this team of explorers?"
"Well, foremost I’m a linguist. If the beings we run across don’t speak our language, hopefully I have the ability to understand and translate. I’m also an archaeologist. If I’m not translating between people, I’m either digging through and documenting ruins, or going through records."
"Do you also conduct negotiations?"
"To a certain degree. I put my communication skills to use, but generally negotiations are a team effort, unless the situation dictates otherwise."
"Strength of character and intelligence are highly desirable traits in a negotiator," he replied.
"Thank you." She was surprised by the unexpected compliment.
Well aware of the buttons he was going to push, he asked, "You don’t have a mate?" Brojorn watched the subtle change in her expression.
"No, I don’t."
He pulled out a chair and sat facing her. "I hope I didn’t offend you with that question."
Jessica sighed. "No, no offense taken. Sometimes I have a knee-jerk reaction to the subject."
"Ah. I take it some people want to judge the book by its cover, not bothering to see what’s underneath."
Jessica shifted in her chair. "You could say that."
"But, there are those who do not judge on appearance alone, who appreciate the value of the entire person."
"Few and far between," Jessica said to herself, closing the volume of text she had been reading.
"The man worthy of being your mate will treasure not only your beauty, but also the gift of your intellect. He will belittle neither. Do not settle for anything less."
Jessica looked at Brojorn silently, wondering why he was offering this advice.
"When you are ready to continue studying our history, just ask and these books will be brought to you. For now, your teammate has returned and they wish to speak with you."
Just then Jessica’s radio crackled to life. "Watson, come in."
Activating it she said, "Watson here."
"Spencer’s back. Meet us in the square."
"Yes Sir," she replied.
Brojorn remained behind while Jessica went outside. Catching sight of Mitchell and the others, she made her way over to them.
"Was it a scanner malfunction?" Mitchell was asking Spencer.
"No, Sir. Since the scanner was stuck in the high range with no fluctuations, I picked up some samples near the gate for analysis. It’s definitely naquadah."
"So, we’re looking at a large deposit?"
"It’s more than that, Colonel. Not only was it naquadah, but the purity was bordering on that of refined naquadah."
"How pure?" Jessica asked.
"Well, if the average is 10% naquadah before processing, and 100% after, the samples I took were about 91% pure."
"What’s the size of the deposit?"
"I’m running the calculations right now with the modified parameters loaded into the new program. I’m using the MALP to run the scans and transfer the information back for analysis. If the deposit comes back a decent size, this could be the boost we need for our defenses. With it being that pure, the processing time would be cut back to almost nil. The construction of the extra X-303’s we need could being almost immediately."
"Not to mention Colonel Carter being able to create more naquadah reactors." Lieutenant Pisano added.
"Okay, first let’s find out how much naquadah we’re looking at before we start counting our chickens before they’re hatched." Turning, Mitchell looked at Jessica. "You ready to put your negotiations skills to work?"
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