Comments would be appreciated
"I think I may have a match for the tattoos," Daniel said three days later, showing Jack photographs of an old scroll in a language Jack thought might be Greek. "They're associated with an obscure religious sect called the Knights of Byzantium. Founded some time in the eighth or ninth century, maybe earlier, mentioned a few times in documents up to the fifteenth century, when Constantinople fell to a Turkish invasion. I would have found them earlier, but I looking for an Egyptian or off-world connection and there isn't one."
"What were they?" asked Jack. "Goa'uld worshippers?"
"I'd have to say no. There isn't much information about them, but there are several references to them fighting an ancient evil. The texts are really obscure, but if I'm reading this right they're supposed to have been formed to fight a god."
"That's right. They were a warrior order, an offshoot of what we'd now call the Greek Orthodox church."
"Okay, so you're saying they were... what, the good guys?"
"It's beginning to look that way. This passage here is particularly interesting..."
"I really don't speak Byzantine, Daniel. Or read it."
"It's just a variant form of archaic Greek, Jack. Okay, paraphrasing considerably, what it seems to be saying is that the order was formed to ensure that a god couldn't open a gateway or portal."
"It could be, except that I can find no evidence for them going anywhere near Egypt. They describe the results of opening it as 'the end of all things', which I guess would follow from a Goa'uld invasion. The next paragraph mentions something called 'The key', and says that it must be destroyed. There's a whole litany for it: ' The key is the link. The link must be severed. Such is the will of God.' It's repeated several times in this text."
"The key... Something like a DHD? Maybe something more portable?"
"It's suggestive, isn't it?"
"There's a reference to another order that guards the key, implying that they are... well, not exactly rivals, more that the knights were their backup if they ever failed."
"So if the knights were the backup, what were the other guys?"
"My guess would be astrologers," said Daniel. "So far I've seen them referred to as priests, wizards, and wise men. It seems to be saying that they were to guard the key, keep it from the gods, and send it to safety if the gods ever discovered it."
"So one group to keep the thing safe, the other to destroy it if anyone unauthorised gets hold of it. Defence in depth. But why not destroy it first?"
"They were keeping it for someone?" suggested Sam, who had come into Daniel's office while they were talking.
"For more than a thousand years?" asked Jack. "Who'd want something kept that long? Okay, I know, only one answer, there has to be a Goa'uld behind it. Someone like Seth. He must have founded half a dozen religions while he was exiled on Earth."
"That makes a lot of sense. Seth was trapped here when the Stargate was buried," said Daniel. "We never did learn what happened to its DHD. What if he'd destroyed it or removed it to make sure that any other Goa'uld who found Earth couldn't dial out, and set up the Knights or some sort of predecessor organisation to keep the Key safe, whatever it was?"
"I thought you said the tattoos didn't match any Goa'uld pattern," said Sam.
"I did, but I've been thinking. Suppose that Seth lost contact with them for some reason, but the Knights kept on guarding the Key, whether it's the DHD or something more portable, and following old traditions. Over generations the tattoos they used might evolve."
"It's reaching a little, isn't it?"
"Over the years that we know the order existed Byzantium had incredibly destructive riots, plagues, several wars, and eventually a Turkish invasion that destroyed most records. The whole order could have been wiped out and replaced. Maybe they simply forgot where they were coming from, just remembered the mission."
"And they're still out there," said Sam, "if they weren't all killed in California."
"Whoever buried them showed a lot of respect," said Jack. "They also went to a lot of trouble to clean up the area, stop anyone from knowing what went down. To me that spells their friends, not their enemies. Maybe more members of their order."
"Which leaves me wondering who they were fighting, or what, and who won," said Daniel.
"How about you, Sam?" asked Jack. "Anything coming up on Sunnydale?"
"Plenty. At a first glance it's exactly what you'd expect from a Californian town of that size, up to the moment it vanished. Average birth rate, death rate, income, number of children... shall I go on?"
"How average is average?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is it just... oh, within a couple of percent, or is it exact?"
"Exact, to two decimal places. Someone's edited the data, and didn't have much imagination."
"So what's the real story?" asked Daniel.
"It's frustrating. Most of the sources I would have used went down with the town; the local newspaper, town records, that sort of thing. I've had to go with reports from other sources such as government archives and the Los Angeles papers. And even there I'm finding evidence of tampering. What I'm finding is suggestive, but I'd like more."
"And?" asked Jack.
"There's no way that the death rate was as low as the official records claim. In ninety-nine there was a gas explosion at the high school during the graduation ceremony, totally wrecked the place. It killed sixteen students, some parents and teachers, and the Mayor of Sunnydale. Something like that would have an enormous effect on the statistics, there's nothing there."
"If you put Sunnydale into search engines you find hundreds of hits related to unsolved deaths and disappearances, all second and third hand sources. But I'd say that most of it looks less reliable than the average alien abduction story."
"Okay, I know, you were abducted by aliens. Not a good example. But you know what I mean."
"What about you, Jack?" asked Daniel. "Found anything?"
"Not much," said Jack, "but I've talked to a few contacts in Special Forces. Everyone seems to know someone who knows someone who heard of someone that was in Sunnydale a few years ago. And none of them are talking. Nada. Zilch."
"Then how do you know that they know something?"
"Because it's the kind of zilch that screams 'this is really bad news, and you want to keep out of it if you can."
"What kind of bad? NID bad?"
"I thought that at first, but no. I'm hearing this from guys who'd never go within a hundred miles of an NID operation."
"We don't even know that there's any connection to the bodies," said Daniel. "For all we know it's just a coincidence."
"Actually," said Sam, "that's what I came in to tell you. They've found the camper."
"And it was dumped about four miles from the service station, camouflaged in brush wood. Showed up when we ran a satellite radar probe of the area."
"And?" asked Jack, sensing there was more.
"And it has at least a dozen arrow holes in it. Also marks from swords and axes."
"Let's get moving."
"Plane's already on the runway."