[ Chapter 1: Escape | Chapter 2: Stranded | Chapter 3: Where are we? | Chapter 4: Discoveries | Chapter 5: Finding Shelter | Chapter 6: Daily Life | Chapter 7: Strange Discoveries | Chapter 8: An Unpleasant Surprise | Chapter 9: Developments | Chapter 10: An Attack With Long-lasting Consequences | Chapter 11: Myth and Reality | Chapter 12: Breaking and Entering | Chapter 13: Rest and Results | Chapter 14: A Meeting | Chapter 15: Captives | Chapter 16: Revelations | Chapter 17: Some Explanations - and an Alliance | Chapter 18: Some Information | Chapter 19: A Dangerous Mission | Chapter 20: Prisoners | Chapter 21: A Fight - and an Escape | Chapter 22: Guests | Chapter 23: A Motel | Chapter 24: Next Day - and Travel | Chapter 25: A Pleasant Night, Followed by an Unpleasant Morning | Chapter 26: Meeting Ba'al | Chapter 27: Escape - and a Confrontation | Chapter 28: A Surprising Turn of Events | Chapter 29: Some Measure of Success ]

"Well, Merry Christmas, everyone!" O'Neill grinned, and took a drink from one of the beers they had gotten as well.

Martouf looked out over the table, at the many different dishes. "I recognize the 'turkey' as some sort of large fowl, and some of the vegetables and tubers are... fairly familiar to me as well, but I would appreciate it if someone would tell me what the rest is? What is this, for instance?" He pointed at a bowl.

"That's just mashed potatoes," Daniel told him. "Do you know what potatoes are?"

Martouf nodded. "Yes, we call them pah'pas. They are eaten on many worlds. I have never seen them eaten mashed before, though."

"Try it, then. Maybe you'll like it?" Sam said. "Anyway, that one there is some sort of sweet potato casserole, and then there are various types of relish... that one at least is cranberry..." She pointed.

"I will try a little from each of them, thank you. This is a traditional Tau'ri Christmas dinner?" Martouf asked.

"More or less. The food is pretty traditional," Daniel said. "At least for this country."

"Way more than what I'm used to, that's for sure." O'Neill looked happy, shovelling more food onto his plate.

"Me too, actually." Sam grinned at Jacob. "Except last time, when we went to Mark's place - they sure had gone all out on the traditional Christmas front!"

Jacob nodded. "They had spent a bit more effort on it than what I'm used to, but then Mark has a family."

"We never celebrated like that, dad, and you know it!" Sam told him, but she did not look angry.

"True, I guess." Jacob shrugged.

"I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn about Tau'ri culture," Martouf said.

"It's too bad we don't have a Christmas tree," Daniel told him. "Though that is actually not a very old tradition. It stems from..."

"Ah... no, Daniel! No history lessons tonight!" O'Neill admonished. "Besides, our hosts have a Christmas tree in the house. You can look at that the next time we're in there."

"I will. Thank you, O'Neill," Martouf said, sounding very interested in it all.

Sam laughed. "You know, Martouf, if you'd like to experience a traditional Christmas, then we can do that next year - with food, tree, ornaments, and gifts. I don't usually spend much time and effort on it, if I'm on my own, but I guess I can do it as... ah, an educational experience for you and any other Tok'ra that might be interested."

"I would like that, a lot. Thank you, Samantha." He smiled.

"Then we'll do that next Christmas - that should be enough time to solve the current mess we find ourselves in." She sighed.

"Yeah, let's not think about that tonight," Jacob said. "Cheers, everyone! Merry Christmas!"

The next day they started the work of picking the farmer's fruit. There was a lot of trees, and it was soon clear that it would easily take them a week to finish the work, even if they worked long days.

Fortunately, the weather was still fairly nice, and they were all in good shape, so the work progressed nicely and the farmer was pleased.

By now, Sam's leg had healed almost completely. Except for some lingering soreness which she expected to pass soon, she was not troubled by it at all.

"Sure you don't want any more of the stew?" Jane asked.

"It was delicious, but no, I think we're full." Jacob looked around at the others, who all nodded.

It had been three days, and they had finished picking the persimmons. Tomorrow they would start on the oranges. There were somewhat more orange trees, but they expected to be able to finish on time without problems.

"I was thinking of taking some of the persimmons to the marketplace tomorrow, where a friend of mine has a fruit stand. I'd need some help loading and unloading..."

"We would be happy to help with that," O'Neill told him.

"It'd be fairly early in the morning that we have to leave - very early, in fact, since he needs to get the fruit in time to set some of it up before the market opens. We'd have to leave here before 3 AM."

"That's not a problem," Jacob assured him. "We're all used to getting up at all times of the day - and night."

"Great!" O'Reilly smiled, relieved. "Thanks, guys."

They were about to go back to the barn, to get some sleep before the nights work, and were standing in the hall when Martouf froze. He frowned and looked through the nearest door, then back at Jacob who were a few steps behind him.

"Do you sense it?" Martouf asked.

Jacob took a couple more steps, then stopped. A moment after he nodded slowly. "Yes."

"What's going on?" O'Neill wondered.

"Naquadah," Martouf said, in a low voice.

"Naquadah!" O'Neill exclaimed, disbelief in his voice. "Where? How?"

"I am not sure..." Martouf went through the door and looked around.

"Wait... Martouf..." Sam said, not sure how their hosts would react to them walking around the house like that. She hurried after him, through the corridor and into a room some distance away. She could hear a voice speaking. By then she felt the naquadah signature too, though she had a hard time distinguishing it from the one from Lantash.

"I apologize, Mrs. O'Reilly," Martouf said, seeing her sitting at a desk. Before her sat some kind of small device, with a holographic figure of a young man being projected from it. The image had been speaking, but it was obviously on standby right now. "I... thought I heard... ah, someone... call my name. Obviously, I was mistaken."

"Oh. Well, that's quite all right." She smiled. "I was just listening to a message my son has sent. It's really a marvelous technology, those holo-letters, don't you think?"

"I... suppose it is," Martouf said.

"Wow!" Sam exclaimed. "Is that holo-technology? It looks like that thing you guys used for the inventory of... ah, some of our enemies," she finished, realizing she had been about to talk about the Tok'ra holographic inventory of Goa'uld System Lords that her father had brought when they were looking for Seth.

"I believe it is the same technology, yes," Martouf agreed.

"You didn't know about the holo-letters? It's been in all the news... though I guess you've had other things on your mind," Jane realized. "In any case, it's gotten very popular, and while it's a bit frivolous, I guess, it's also really nice. Getting to see and hear your loved one like this, even if they're far away, you know."

"Absolutely. So these are for sale in the stores?" Sam asked. "When did that happen?"

Jane told them what she knew about the holo-letters. Apparently, they had started being sold about a year ago, and had almost instantly become very popular, especially since they were also fairly cheap, and could be reused as often as one wanted.

"So you're certain it's Goa'uld technology?" O'Neill asked.

"Yes, very certain," Martouf said.

"Well, if it's naquadah-powered, then what else could it be?" Daniel pointed out.

"Meaning Goa'uld are selling those things here on Earth? Or what?" O'Neill wondered. "That's not really their M.O. is it?"

"No, and I don't think it's Goa'uld selling it here. It's probably something based on the holographic projector you brought to Earth, dad - you know, with information about the System Lords?" Sam said.

"When we were looking for Seth. Yes." Jacob agreed. "That's possible."

Martouf shook his head. "No, you didn't see it, Jacob. This device was not based on Goa'uld technology, it was Goa'uld technology."

"Or Tok'ra technology," Sam added.

"Yes, I suppose. However, it was not adjusted to resemble the technology of this world at all."

"That may be the allure of it? It's made to look different on purpose?" Daniel suggested. "Exotic?"

"Or the NID are selling Goa'uld technology, stolen or bought off-world," Sam said. "This could be very bad."

"In any case, it means Stargate Command - or someone - is no longer as dedicated to keeping alien technology secret," O'Neill concluded. "I agree it could signify something sinister, but I suppose they may just have decided 'why the hell not?' It's not like humans would know it was alien."

"Maybe. In any case, we should watch out for any other signs that may point to the NID - or some other organization," Jacob decided.

"That was the last crate, right?" O'Neill asked.

"Yep. Now, if one of you drive that truck, I'll take the other, and then we'll get this over with in no time," O'Reilly said.

"Okay," O'Neill told them. "That'll be me. The rest of you can go get a couple hours of sleep more. It's not even 3 AM yet."

"Listen..." O'Reilly seemed to think it over. "It would probably be a good idea if a couple more went - both to help unload, and so no one has to be alone in the truck."

"Sure." Sam shrugged. "I'll come too."

"As will I," Teal'c told them.

"I shall accompany you as well," Martouf said.

"Well, then you've got more than enough people," Jacob decided. "Come on, Daniel. Let's head back to our beds."

"You'll get no argument from me!" Daniel told him, yawning mightily.

Chapter 8: An Unpleasant Surprise