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Z is for Zilch

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"Really?" Sam groaned as she came around the last curve of the current hallway to see yet another familiar intersection looming up ahead. The stark sandstone walls common throughout this particular abandoned Goa'uld base were virtually indistinguishable from one another-- but the big, visible X-shaped markings drawn at head-height on two of the other three corridors' walls were not.

Just like the last intersection they'd been through, and the one before that. She sighed, lowering her P-90 to take the grease pencil back out of its pocket in her vest, and marked their current route with yet another heavy X and a sequential number. They were up to twenty-three already, and the far corridor would make twenty-four; she wasn't sure she wanted to know how high that number was going to reach before they found the exit.

"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike," Daniel quoted dryly, shaking his head as she put the pencil away. "I know Ascended beings don't relate to the physical world the same way the rest of us do when they're not embodied, but this is taking it to extremes. How did Anubis' Jaffa even get around down here before the base was abandoned?"

Teal'c headed for the lone remaining unmarked corridor, taking his turn at point, scanning the passageway for closed doorways or concealed equipment. Every so many yards a band of metal was set into the wall, stretching up to the ceiling, across, and down again on the other side, covered in alternating Goa'uld and Ancient glyphs; as far as they'd been able to tell, the text was mostly typical Goa'uld propaganda. They gave each panel a cursory check as they passed them by, but if they contained any kind of location data, it was too well hidden for an uninformed visitor to pick out at a glance.

Even the many rooms they'd found so far were bare of any kind of distinguishing ornamentation, and the only furniture left was either damaged, or a permanent part of the structure of the base. So far they'd guessed they'd found where the resident Jaffa had been barracked, as well as a scattering of emptied labs and storage rooms, but what exactly had been kept or built there was still an open question.

"Maybe there used to be some kind of signage on the walls? I'm starting to think this place was not so much left behind when he brought his fleet to Earth, but deliberately emptied out sometime before that. How exactly did we get our hands on that access device, again?" Sam glanced at Teal'c.

"It was acquired by a Jaffa formerly loyal to Anubis," Teal'c replied as he paused to activate another doorway, shifting his staff weapon to cover the space within the room. "He brought it to the Beta site for the SGC to utilize."

Sam followed him into the room, scanning the bare walls inside. There were a few patches of slight discoloration that might have been evidence of something long since removed; she frowned at them, then knelt and swept a finger along the crevice where the wall met the floor. If she'd been wearing a white glove, it would definitely have failed the test. "Did he say what his position was here? Or why the rebel Jaffa didn't send a team to check it out themselves?"

"No," he admitted, a frown audible in his tone. "He did not."

"Well, that's... potentially problematic," Daniel said, expression grim as they rejoined him in the hall. "Do you think there was deliberate misinformation involved? Another false flag operation, perhaps, to stir up more trouble between us and the rebel Jaffa?"

"An opportunistic one, maybe," Sam frowned, thinking it through. "You saw how faint the signal was, even when we were standing right on top of the rings; what if one of the other Goa'uld got their hands on the device first, but couldn't find the base? The system lords all know we defeated Anubis; of course we'd be interested in whatever he might have left behind. And if we thought it was safe, we wouldn't bring a large force. They wait for us to find it, then take us and the base, too."

That didn't bode well for what might be waiting for them on the surface. If, of course, they ever got there. The entrance rings hadn't had a visible control panel; as far as she'd been able to tell, they were only programmed to go one way. And they had yet to detect anything that even hinted at an exit.

"Or... I suppose if they had found it, and already knew it was an empty maze with no easy way out...." Daniel made a face as they reached another intersection, this one branching five ways instead of four. None of the other corridors yet bore a mark. "It would make for one hell of a distraction."

Sam sighed and reached for her grease pencil again. Daniel's line from earlier ran through her mind again: you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. That text-based adventure game had been created in the seventies, right? Back when she was a kid. Long before the Stargate had been reopened and cultural cross-contamination began again. ....Right?

Feeling slightly ridiculous, she paused in the intersection and said the magic word: "Xyzzy."

...And nothing happened. Of course nothing happened; no instant teleportation from one room to another, via rings or any other method. She rolled her eyes at herself, then applied the pencil to the wall of the corridor they'd come from.

"Gesundheit," Daniel said, giving her a knowing grin. "Sorry, don't think it's going to be that easy."

"Of course it isn't," she snorted. "Well, either way, we won't know if it was a trap until we either reach the surface or someone comes in after us, and from the looks of things, that could easily take days. We should pause at the next room with furniture and take a rest break; I'd rather not wait until we're ready to fall down if we're going to need to be on our toes when we leave."

"Indeed," Teal'c nodded solemnly, checking his watch. "It has been four hours."

"Great, power bars for lunch," Daniel sighed. "Well, I guess it could be worse."

"Now why would you say that?" she teased. "Now you know we'll run into an ambush."

"Well, at least it'll give us something more than zilch to put in our report?" Daniel teased back.

Teal'c eyed them both, pointedly not casting his eyes toward the ceiling. "Indeed," he said again, very dryly, then turned and headed down the next hall.

Sam was filled with a burst of warmth at her team; then a pang at the thought of General O'Neill, left behind to await their return. He was not going to be happy when they failed to return on time, and how was this going to look as her very first mission as team lead?

Oh, well; she'd cross that path off, too, when she came to it.

She made an X on the wall of the new corridor, then put her pencil away again and followed.