Chapter 16: What Hangs in the Balance
Well, at least it seems that for once the military is willing to listen to reason and that is good. It means that at least the threat from this world can be neutralized, the problem is that I'm still not sure the Asgard understands what I mean. I am no expert in reading alien body-language but as far as I can tell right now Thor looks more confused than anything else and --given the circumstances-- that is hardly surprising.
With the humans in the room at least I have a general idea as to where the common ground is likely to be but when it comes to more spiritual matters I suspect that reaching an alien will turn out to be something of a challenge. It is quite apparent that the Asgard are a technologically advanced race but if what we've seen here on earth is anything to go by, then it is not uncommon for technological development to come at the expense of spiritual awareness.
It is all a matter of balance and that balance is precisely what I suspect is missing here.
"The problem is that I'm afraid there's nothing we can do to save the Asgard, not really," I say, not knowing whether or not Thor will be able to follow my reasoning.
"But if we could obtain healthy, viable DNA we could..." he begins but I cut him off almost immediately.
"No you couldn't. I think the problem is far more basic than you seem to realize."
"I'm afraid I do not understand," he insists and that is the real problem here.
"I know you don't, that's exactly the point. You see, even now what you are asking for is a chance to create a healthy generation of clones. You haven't even mentioned the fact that if we were to help you you would still be left with a non-viable population. Even if we were to help you, your population would be entirely female," I point out, knowing that I'm going to have no choice but to try to explain this in scientific terms, though I freely admit that science is not my strong suit.
"I understand that, but sexual reproduction was never our ultimate goal," Thor reminds me.
"And that's what got you in trouble in the first place," I say. "The whole point of evolution is supposed to be the survival of the species but for thousands of years your primary concern has been the survival of the individual. Even now you are not here looking for a way to save the Asgard as a species, you are concerned primarily with your own survival. You don't want to create a new Asgard population, you want to be able to sustain the existing one indefinitely. That is why an entirely female population does not seem to be a problem to you."
"Sexual reproduction would not be viable for our people, not now," he insists.
"Why not?" asks Major Carter.
"Because we are an old race. We've come too far and without a transfer of consciousness to begin with it would be impossible for us to truly preserve our knowledge. A young Asgard would need well over a thousand years to acquire the basic knowledge needed to even begin to function in our society," Thor points out.
"In other words, your problem is that the very young don't always do what they are told?" asks Colonel O'Neill with a smile and I wonder what is going on.
"In a manner of speaking," confirms the alien, though I can't help but feel that the colonel's comment doesn't really fit with what we've been discussing up until now... in fact in a way it seems completely out of place in this conversation. Still, Thor seems to know what he is referring to so I assume that somehow it does make sense.
"By the way, why didn't you ever ask the Nox to help you? I mean, they are one of the four races so I assume they are advanced enough," says the colonel.
"We did, unfortunately they too were reluctant to help," admits Thor and I can't help but wonder who these 'Nox' are.
"We don't know. Even though we have been allies for many thousands of years, at times we have trouble communicating because our paths have always been so different. They do not understand our technology any more than we understand theirs."
"Yes, well, from what we saw, it's not like Nox technology makes much sense anyway," mutters Colonel O'Neill, shaking his head.
"The Nox?" I ask, seizing the opportunity.
"Another alien race we've come across a couple of times. They are peaceful beings, maybe even a little too peaceful for their own good. They are one of the four races," explains Dr. Jackson.
"The four races?"
"It's an old alliance including the Ancients, the Asgard, the Nox and the Furlings. We've never really met the Furlings, the Ancients have ascended to another plane of existence, the Asgard, well, you've met the Asgard, and then there are the Nox."
"The Ancients? You called this gene that is present in both Faith and Buffy the 'Ancients' gene', correct?"
"Yes, we first became aware of its existence because its presence --or even its partial presence-- seems to enable humans to interact with the Ancients' technology to a greater extent."
"Interact with the Ancients' technology?" I parrot... again.
"Yes, there are some devices anyone can use, such as a DHD but..."
"A DHD?" I interrupt, growing increasingly frustrated with these partial explanations.
"A Dial Home Device. It's what we call the device found on most planets that makes it possible to control the stargate," explains the colonel.
"The Ancients were the ones who built the stargate network in the first place," adds Major Carter.
"But I thought the Ghoa'ul..." I say, more than a little shocked by that particular bit of information.
"No, the Goa'uld just use the network, just like we do, but they didn't build it," she says.
"I see. So, wouldn't these 'Ancients' represent a more logical solution to the Asgard's problems?" I can't help but ask.
"Unfortunately they are no longer around," explains the major.
"They are extinct?"
"Not exactly, as I mentioned before, they've ascended. They no longer have physical bodies and that means they have no DNA," says Dr. Jackson.
"In other words, they reached the pinnacle of one form of existence and took the logical step of moving on to the next one?" I ask, relieved by the realization that things are finally starting to make sense here.
"Logical?" he asks, sounding more than a little disbelieving.
"At least from our perspective," I say, well aware that my interpretation will probably seem anything but to these people. "You see, science sees all life as existing on the same plane, magic does not. That is the difference. We are used to demons coming from different planes of existence so the idea of a whole race of ascended beings is something we can relate to."
"Okay, I'm afraid I'm not following you," says Major Carter.
"It's quite simple, really. Even the Christian conception of the universe recognizes different levels. One example would be the Nine Circles of Hell and the Nine Spheres of Paradise. Christianity accepts the fact that the inhabitants of these other planes --of these circles and spheres-- are inherently different from the inhabitants of our own realm. Those who come from the Circles of Hell are perceived as demons or lower beings and those who come from the Spheres of Paradise --though far less numerous-- are perceived as angels or higher beings. In addition to that there's a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that the 'natural' order is anything but fixed. That is why humans can hope to reach the next level through their actions. Anyway, that is the religious perspective and even though it is highly oversimplified and not necessarily an accurate representation of the facts, it may well be enough to help you relate to the current situation a little better. Taking that as a basic foundation, you have that what you are saying is merely that one of the four races you just mentioned managed to move on to the next level. That is what I mean when I say that by ascending the Ancients merely took what amounts to a fairly logical next step."
"Yes, well, that's all nice and good but somehow I think we are losing sight of what we are supposed to be doing here, you know? I mean, weren't we supposed to be trying to figure out a way to keep the Asgard from dying out?" reminds me Colonel O'Neill, who seems to be about as comfortable with philosophical reflection as Faith is.
"Yes, and I think we already have," I say with a smile, the only problem is that getting these people --and especially the Asgard-- to come to terms with what that way entails is not going to be easy.