For an instant on waking, he thought he was in the temporary quarters at the ministry, where he sometimes slept after a late night at work. But the hum of the equipment that pushed air through the grate into the room, the feel of the bed underneath him, the texture of the fabric against his cheek brought it all back in a rush. The accident, the talk with Colonel O'Neill, taking the naquadria. The ecstasy-terror-excitement of stepping into the wormhole. The hollow fear when he found out they'd discovered his absence.
The gate kawhooshed, and as Jonas turned toward the general, the control room technician said. "Receiving a transmission from Kelowna, sir."
"Put it on speakers," Hammond ordered.
"This is High Councilor Wills," came the voice.
"This is General George Hammond of Stargate Command," the older man replied.
"Is Jonas Quinn there?" she asked.
Hammond surprisingly looked to Jonas for permission before saying, "Yes, he is."
"We demand that you return him and the stolen naquadria to us immediately," she replied angrily.
Jonas slumped. "I was afraid of this."
"What will happen to you if you go back?" Hammond asked.
"I'll be charged with treason," Jonas said. "Life imprisonment, probably." He straightened his spine and tried not to look as dispirited as he felt. "I knew it was a risk when I came here, General."
"You don't have to go back," Hammond said.
Jonas blinked. "You'd let me stay here?"
"Here, or we could find another world where you could live," Hammond said.
That wasn't a choice that required a lot of thought. Life imprisonment versus. the chance to learn more about this fascinating place? "I'd like to stay, general."
"Councilor Wills. Jonas Quinn has chosen to stay here." He turned back to the control room. "Disconnect the wormhole, sergeant."
The event horizon collapsed and Jonas said, "Thank you."
Hammond nodded shortly. "Since it's the actions you've taken to clear Dr. Jackson's name that brought you here, it seems the least we could do."
Jonas nodded. Hammond wanted him to know the naquadria wasn't a factor in the decision. Which was probably a good thing, since returning him to face the authorities on Kelowna probably would have been a better way to get more of it than letting him stay.
Hammond turned back to Harrison, his earlier shadow. "Please assign an escort to take Mr. Quinn to the infirmary for a standard physical, then install him in one of the quarters on Level 16. "
Looking at his chronometer, Jonas found he'd slept three-quarters of a Kelownan day. Not that it would mean anything here. There was a Earth wall chronometer in the room, marked in 12 units. Jonas could calculate the conversion from Kelownan units, but he had no idea whether 12 timeparts was early or late, or when the day started.
He managed to figure out the controls in the bathing chamber by trial and error, and a certain amount of reading directions on the boxes of tooth-paste and accompanying brush. He was grateful that Dr. Jackson had introduced him to Earth writing, as nothing here seemed to be written in the script they used at home.
There were dull green one-piece suits of different sizes and other articles of clothing in the drawers. The functions were relatively easy to deduce, though he was quite enthralled with the closure on the suit, and slid it up and down several times observing the way the simple mechanism interlocked. "Elegant," he decided. He wondered if he was supposed to wait until summoned, or if it would be acceptable to venture out on his own, but a grumble in his midsection decided him on going out. Where to go was easily solved, as he found a guard posted beside his door. "Could I get something to eat?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," the young man responded. "Would you like it brought here, or would you like to eat in the commissary?"
"That's a dining hall?" Jonas asked.
"That sounds fine," Jonas told him.
The guard escorted him with professional courtesy but was disinclined to talk. He led Jonas silently to the food hall, and told him he could get in line and ask for what he wanted. Some food was being served, other dishes you could take a serving for yourself. Jonas watched the man ahead of him, and got a slice of a grayish stuff that smelled like meat, with a mound of a white beside it and brown sauce. He added a dish of clear green colored cubes that jiggled, and a long bright yellow fruit. There was water, and again mimicking the man ahead of him in line, he also took a cup of steaming black liquid. It smelled enticing, and looked a bit like the fragrant tea he enjoyed at home. At the end of the line he stopped and looked around.
People seemed to be sitting in random groups and talking. Jonas turned to look at his escort, who had abandoned him to wait by the door. As he stood, a few people glanced in his direction, then turned away. The unfriendly looks he'd noticed the day before were still in evidence. "Jonas Quinn." Jonas turned in some relief to see Teal'c sitting with a large tray of food behind him.
"Teal'c," he said, hoping he was managing the inflection right.
"Will you join me for a meal?" the large man invited.
"Thank you," Jonas set his tray down opposite Teal'c with some relief and sat. "I was trying to figure out whether there was some etiquette that governs where people sit."
"Not officially," Teal'c said. "It is customary to sit either with people you know, or to take an empty table if one is available. If not, any empty seat is acceptable, though it is polite to enquire if the seat is 'taken', that is, if the people at the table are waiting for someone else to join them."
Jonas nodded appreciatively, while cutting off a bite sized piece of the gray slab and eating it. He blinked in sudden surprise and stared at it. "This is delicious! What is it?"
"Meatloaf," Teal'c said. "Ground meat and seasoning. The sauce is called gravy." He raised an eyebrow at Jonas' sudden enthusiasm.
Jonas dug in with a will. He was starving. "I love this. He tasted the white stuff, which was blander, but good with gravy. "And this?"
"Mashed potatoes. A starchy root." Teal'c explained. He looked at the dish of green stuff, which Jonas found was sweet with a tangy flavor. "That is jello. Of what it is composed, I do not know."
Jonas was already looking forward to his next experience with Earth food, and he hadn't even finished this meal yet. "We don't have anything like this at home," he said. "Boiled meat. Bread. Some vegetables and mild-tasting fruits. A lot of things are soaked in saltwater to preserve them."
"Pickled, humans would say," Teal'c supplied. "There are such cuisines here. Earth is home to many cultures, and each has its own customs concerning food."
Jonas picked up the yellow fruit, examining it carefully. It had a rubbery exterior that didn't look very appetizing. "And this is?"
"A banana," Teal'c said. He reached across the table to take it from Jonas' hands and peel back the outer covering to expose a pale inner flesh. He handed it back. "One does not eat the skin, but the unpeeled section makes a convenient handle to hold it."
"Right," Jonas took a large bite, finding it soft and sweet. "Amazing. They just grow like this?"
"Bananas are a tropical fruit," Teal'c said. "They are grown in wet climates near to the equator."
"Is that a long way from here?" Jonas asked, suddenly wondering if this was some kind of rare delicacy that he should eat sparingly.
"Some hundreds of miles," Teal'c said. "Tau'ri agriculture is very efficient, and it is common for foods to be shipped thousands of miles to where they will be consumed." Teal'c plucked a green globe off a cluster of berries on his tray. "These are grapes, and though they can be grown in the United States, these were probably imported from Chile, a country in the southern hemisphere. Many other vegetables are grown in California, on the western coast of this continent. In the central part of North America, adjacent to where we are now, there are immense grasslands. Corn and wheat, both grains, are grown there and soybeans. Also vast herds of cattle are raised for meat. This country, the United States, is a net exporter of food, as well as being among the most technologically advanced on the planet."
Jonas absorbed the information readily. "Okay, United States, Chile. How many more countries are there?" Among the most advanced suggested there were several. Perhaps as many as a dozen? No, that seemed to be too much for a world as advanced as this.
"Several hundred," Teal'c said, and the bite of banana Jonas had swallowed went down the wrong way. He choked for a moment, coughing, and had to swallow most of his glass of water before he could speak again.
"Hundred?" he asked, sure he had misunderstood. "Countries? On one planet?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "You must remember, Jonas Quinn, that this is the First World. It has been continuously inhabited for many tens of thousands of years. The population here is over six billion people and growing. It is also extremely diverse."
"That's amazing," Jonas said, shaking his head. In some ways he was even more impressed than he had been before. These people had hundreds of countries, hundreds of cultures, and yet they still managed to work together. It made him even more ashamed of his homeworld.
"Teal'c," a light voice sounded behind him. "Jonas," the tone flattened as Major Carter recognized him.
"MajorCarter," Teal'c said, inclining his head gravely. "Please join us."
Jonas thought she looked like she'd rather be shot, but she set down her tray beside him and pulled out a chair. He was encouraged by that until it occurred to him in that position she faced Teal'c and didn't have to look at him. His heart sank and he reached for the steaming mug he hadn't tried yet. It didn't seem too hot, and he took a large swallow, only to have his mouth flooded with a harsh bitter taste. He only just barely managed to swallow instead of spitting it out onto his tray. "Euwghh!" he gurgled. "Blech! What is that?"
"Coffee," Teal'c answered calmly, though Jonas thought he saw a flicker of amusement in the man's eyes. "It is an extremely popular beverage among the Tau'ri, though I find it too bitter."
Major Carter was spreading something on a roll, but said, "You can add milk and sugar to moderate the flavor."
"Or you can simply avoid it," Teal'c said pointedly. "If you like hot beverages, you may find that tea or hot chocolate are more to your taste."
"It's supposed to taste like that?" Jonas stared at the cup like it might leap up and bite him.
Major Carter shrugged. "Yes. I suppose it's an acquired taste."
Jonas couldn't imagine how you'd acquire it, unless you found it a nice change from liquid petroleum products. The dreadful 'coffee' had temporarily dampened his enthusiasm for trying Earth foods. "I think maybe I'll just get more water for the moment."
He picked up the glass and slid into the line to quickly refill it. As he returned to the table, he heard Carter saying, "-when did you become such a fan?"
"DanielJackson's injuries were not his fault-" the Jaffa said, and Jonas realized with a jolt they were talking about him. His steps slowed involuntarily as the alien finished. "I seek only to treat him as our friend would do if he were here." He looked up as Jonas came back to the table.
Jonas resumed his seat and applied himself to his food, sobered by the realization that the man who had saved his life was still helping him, even after he was dead. His thoughts turned back to what Teal'c had told him. Hundreds of countries, just on this one planet? And what about all the other planets? He glanced sideways at Major Carter, who was eating something that looked like the green 'jello' Teal'c had identified for him, only hers was red. He wondered what the color signified. Everything here was new. Even the dining room of the SGC held so much for him to learn. He pushed away a twinge of homesickness. Even without the knowledge that he would be arrested and imprisoned at home, he would have had to take this opportunity had it been offered. A million things to know, and he was going to have a chance to learn them. He couldn't wait to begin.