When starting on writing A Square Peg in a Round Hole
, I wound up with four distinct premises. I chose the Square Peg premise for no particular reason, and in developing that one, I partially cannibalized this plot bunny. If you’ve read that story, then you’ll doubtless recognize some of the themes that come up here. None the less, it does limp along, still alive in its own right, with it’s own plot and character interactions.
Anyway, here’s the third of three:
Methos looked at the military group.
The military group looked at Methos. And pointed their guns at him. And apparently signaled for backup because here came more military people with guns all directed at him.
Methos wondered how he managed to always get himself into these situations.
Most immortals, Methos knew, did not get usable or coherent memories from a quickening. Of those who did, most contented themselves with clearing out the various bank accounts and jewelry caches the dead immortal had handy while leaving strange and potentially dangerous artifacts alone. It was only Methos who could inherent a hidden chapp’ai along with the knowledge of how to use it. And it was only Methos who would then consider it a good way to escape the game for brief periods of time. A year or decade or two spent on some other planet could occasionally seem like just what the doctor ordered.
And the first two times he had taken off it had been quite nice.
It was the third when, rather than being spit out of the wormhole onto some foreign planet, he came out on his own world but in a military instilation.
He sighed deeply. It must just be his karma.
He turned his hands forward in a universal sign of peace, showing that they were empty and slowly raised them until they were stretched out to either side and allowed himself to fall backwards into the wormhole that still swirled behind him.
General Hammond had been looking out over the gate room as the wormhole was engaged as it was his habit to watch when any of his teams went through it. As SG1 started up the ramp, he had wondered what adventures they would have this time. But they hadn’t even reached the event horizon yet when a man had stepped out.
The stranger had looked just as surprised to see SG1 as they had been to see him. If the situation weren’t so serious, Hammond would have laughed.
As a marine troop pounded into the room, the various techs in the control room tried to fiugre out what had happened, but the general could already guess what the problem was: they had opened the wormhole from their end and the stranger had simply walked through. The iris only closed if the wormhole was dialed in from somewhere else. It was a serious flaw in their security but it was one that would have to be dealt with later because as the marines were still entering the room, the stranger spread his arms wide and fell back into the wormhole.
It was a surprisingly elegant move.
Colonel O’Neil looked back and up at the control center with a question evident on his face. General Hammond leaned forward to speak into the microphone. “Mission is still a go. Figure out who that guy was and where he came from.”
Methos really did hate taking quickenings. His problem wasn’t with the process itself but with the consequences. Beyond the obvious of having to deal with a dead body and matching head. The problem with taking a quickening was that he was taking somebody’s entire life into himself, and these people had generally had long interesting lives that included taking the quickenings of other people who had also had long interesting lives that included taking the quickenings of other people, ad infinitum. It was, quite frankly, confusing. And it took seemingly forever to organize all the new memories in his mind.
There was a silver lining though. The memories did give him knowledge of all sorts of hidden stashes and bank vaults such that old immortals tended to keep filled with artifacts of various sorts.
It had always surprised Methos that most immortals didn’t have to deal with this. He supposed their subconscious took all the memories and hid them away somewhere. MacLoed certainly never saw the world from any perspective but his own. MacLeod’s student, Richie, had once said that he saw faces of people he didn’t know while taking quickenings but had mentioned nothing more than that.
Methos, however, had to take weeks or even months of meditation after a quickening to sort through all of the memories received. Sometimes he would dream of fighting except he would remember the fight through both eyes even as one killed the other.
“You’re searching for gods so that you can kill them?” The stranger looked taken aback.
Daniel rushed to explain. “No. They’re not real gods. They say they’re gods, but they’re really these snake like aliens who simply have tricks.”
“Then you should not say you are searching for gods. You should say you are searching for snake like aliens who falsely call themselves gods. There is a difference.”
“No. The gods are false and will betray you.”
The stranger snorted. “Not all gods are false gods, and not all false gods are these snake like aliens you describe. You should be careful in your words for they confuse your intent.”
“Of course.” Jackson was suitably chastised.
O’Neil, of course, was not. “How so? We’ve never come across any one calling themselves a god who was not a goa’uld.”
The stranger looked amused. “And do you never come across new things? Ah, but if so, then I will shock you. I have been a false god.”
“It was long ago and I no longer look for worship.”
They traveled as a group to the riverside, the stranger, the villagers, and SG1. The villagers stopped some meters distance from the edge, SG1 stood a bit closer, but the stranger walked right up to the edge, so that the waters lapped at the toes of his shoes. Teal’c and O’Neill stood prepared to fight a Goa’uld, should the demons of the river be such, and the stranger taken over.
They all waited in silence, a frozen tableau.
Then a mature go’ald flung itself from the water, and headed straight at the stranger. The stranger made no move to protect himself, although all the members of SG1 had seen him perform kata’s before and move quickly when confronted with danger.
But the stranger didn’t react.
It was Daniel Jackson who reacted the quickest of all the witnesses as he lunged forwards and pulled the stranger away from the waters edge. He moved quickly, but it was far from being quick enough to save the stranger from goa’uld possession. However, the stranger was turned to face them when his eyes shown gold. But rather than being the steady gold they had seen before, the strangers eyes flickered and streaked with silver, like lightning. And then his eyes were totally silver, and then they were the hazel color they had been when SG1 had first seen him.
Throughout the change, his face had been utterly relaxed and expressionless. But as his eyes returned to normal, he smiled. No. He grinned, and laugh lines appeared on his face.
“Oh, that was an interesting experience. To carry the dead of another species, and such a species it is. Why, it has inherited memory!” The stranger laughed with delight. “I shall have to do that again sometime, it died too quickly and too completely for me to get much more than a brief impression. But, oh, there are worlds opening up to me.”
“Can you rid the river of them then?” The headman of the village was more interested in the welfare of his village than in the strangers odd delights. Wandering spirits, whether good or bad, had to be treated respectfully but firmly.
“I can clean the river of all living things for half a days walk in either direction. Any people in the water will not survive, and you will get no fish for many days, maybe many moons. Can you accept that?”
“The demons have kept people from these waters already, and we have had no fish from here since they came, nor would we ever again if they do not leave. We will honor you and pack your bags full of food and clothing if you clean this river.”
Methos smiled. He liked the headsman. A good village headsman knew that you had to honor a demon hunter or wandering spirit, or whatever he thought Methos was, or else you risked his anger, but on the other hand, once the deed was done, you wanted the being gone. “That is acceptable.”
Methos waved everyone back, and they all drew back even further from the rivers edge. He went to what seemed to him an acceptable distance and stripped down to his underwear. After some consideration of water and blood and such, he removed his underwear as well. He had felt naked ever since he had removed his knives, anyway. He picked up one of his daggers and with it, walked into the river. This time, when go’ald jumped at him, he knocked them away. He was in the center of the river, and could barely touch the ground with is toes and keep his head over water when he turned the knife on himself and cut himself deeply across the stomach.
It hurt, but he was thankful that he was in water, so that his intestines were bouyed up and he didn’t have to feel them dripping down his legs. While he was still concious, he sliced his chest and his thighs as well. When he died, he could already feel his quickening coursing through his body and blood, expanding through the river, up stream and down, like the strike of a lightening bolt frozen in time.
From the shore, they couldn’t see what was happening. It was only when the red cloud formed around the stranger, that the witnesses cried out. The stranger ,who had been standing mostly upright, drifted so as to be floating on the water. And then the fish and go’ald started appearing. They drifted up to the surface and floated there, dead. The dead fish seemed to cover the surface of the water in the iridescent silver of their scales. The only break in it, was the pink body of a man.
Everyone was talking and exclaiming and looking at each other with wide uncertain eyes. It was the headman and Daniel Jackson who continued to watch the dead body. Daniel knew that this man who said he carried his dead with him and had been worshiped as a harbinger of death would not succumb to death so easily, and merely for the cleaning of a single river. The headman knew that spirits were tricky things, and never left unpaid. If this being had been promised full packs of good food and clothing, then he would be around to collect those packs. Nothing came for nothing. And thus it was these two that saw the body convulse once and then lift it’s head to take a breath of air, before half swimming, half wadding back to shore, pushing aside the dead bodies of fish and goa’uld.
“Death is a major event. It should not be taken lightly. Even the temporary death of an old false god such as myself effects the world around it.”
“Is that how you brought death before? When you were a god of death?”
“No, no. Generally then, I just killed people. By disease or starvation, by war or treachery, we killed them, but not by my own death.”
“Sometimes you say ‘we’ and sometimes ‘I’.”
“Indeed I do.” The stranger relented after a long teasing moment. “I had brothers during that time, and we killed together. I brought death, but together we brought the end of the world. My favorite brother was the end of time.”
"Among my people there are three kinds of death. There’s first death, and last or final death, and then there’s all those deaths in between. First death is important because that is the death where you don’t know that you’re coming back. Final death is important because that is the death where you don’t come back. The intermediate deaths hurt just the same, and scare, almost as much, but they hold less importance over all. For example, they can be used to clean a river."