The Sengo’lians

by

Jaclyn Horrod


TITLE: The Sengo’lians
AUTHOR: Jaclyn Horrod
EMAIL : jaclyn@thefifthrace.net
CATEGORY: Action, Drama
SPOILERS : Prodigy, The Fifth Race, The Nox, Chain Reaction, etc.
SEASON / SEQUEL : Season 5.  This story forms part of a larger arc – if you have not yet read previous stories in the arc (starting with Sacrifices, continuing through to Hellion) you might want to read them first.
RATING: 15 / Mature.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mature subject matter.
SUMMARY: The past catches up to SG1, and O’Neill’s allegiances to his benefactors become apparent.

STATUS : Completed
ARCHIVE : Rabelais
DISCLAIMER : Stargate SG-1 and its characters belong to MGM, Gekko Film Corp and Double Secret Productions. This fan fiction was created solely for entertainment purposes and no money exchanged hands. No copyright or trademark infringement was intended. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
AUTHOR'S NOTES : Without the constant support, critique, and honesty of my beta reader, Rach, this Fanfic would never have been written. Meus amicus, ego sum gratus - ad infinitum.
FEEDBACK : Most definitely!


 

Daniel Jackson was tired, but still he studied. His focus was on the books he’d brought along for their trip. A pile of maybe six high rested beside him, and he’d been taking copious notes since they had departed the main vessel, descending toward the planet below. He had resisted the urge to watch the descent, choosing instead to continue brushing up on his Latin and Ancients language skills. Most of the notes were of words he had likened to those he understood, but O’Neill had clearly told him were far from his deductions. It was frustrating. There seemed to be two languages; that of the more recent Ancients, from which Latin was no doubt taken, and that of the ancient Ancients, which was confusing as hell, since O’Neill seemed to speak all three fluently and deliberately, at least it seemed that way, and delighted in vexing him with long conversations aimed at showing him exactly how far behind he’d gotten in learning the three variations.

He glanced up a couple of times as the remarks going between Hooper and Coburn became louder and excited; obviously whatever it was they were witnessing was something neither man had seen before. This time however, Hooper was smiling at him. It was a curious feeling, more so because he’d felt as if someone was watching him; to have it confirmed was spooky.

His eyes wandered across to O’Neill; the man’s focus was still fully on guiding the Tel’tac to the right location, or was it locus, he mused, considering his Ancients and Latin once more, and attempting to use the two together in his thought patterns.

O’Neill’s eyes flicked across toward Coburn and Hooper.

Daniel watched him, looking the pair up and down for a moment before turning his attention back to his books. O’Neill had warned him it was going to take a while to get to where they were going.

He’d barely lifted a secondary text book when he realised Hooper was hovering above him. “Doctor Jackson?”

“Major.”

“Do you mind if I ask what you’re studying?” Hooper enquired, now perched on one knee and looking directly at the archaeologist.

“Languages,” Daniel told him. “It’s a hobby.”

Hooper smiled. “I guess I just wondered what was so interesting… the planet’s amazing…”

Daniel smiled patiently. He was trying not to be dismissive, but he really didn’t want to drag his thoughts away from the intense study he’d decided on, and thus had brought the relevant books for that purpose.

“Major, I’m not really interested in scenery... old buildings, ancient relics, dialogue, culture… just not scenery,” Daniel told him.

“I’ll let you get on, you seem very…”

“Yes,” Daniel interrupted, sensing he’d made his point and not wanting to labour it too much. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” Hooper responded.

He got back to his feet and turned, and saw O’Neill was watching him. He lowered his eyes immediately and he made his way back to Coburn.

The colonel smiled, inclining his head and looking at Jackson, who was back studying.

“Interesting,” he noted, his voice almost a whisper.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air, mingling with the more potent cigar smoke, and adding to the dusky atmosphere in a poorly lit room. Poorly lit purposefully so as not to reveal the faces of the occupants therein, and chosen to ensure that surveillance was impossible, this was a room small enough to make claustrophobics out of the men that met within, reflecting perfectly those men, crowded closely in their conspiratorial gloom, hidden away from the society that would scorn such a gathering.

“How can any one being become so powerful as to read the thoughts and control the minds of those they encounter?” The Texan sounding voice of a man drawing on a large cigar enquired.

“Not just those they encounter,” Lester Goldman stated, his eyes widening at the thought. Goldman worked at the Pentagon special intelligence division, and one of the committees he sat on had access to the files of the secret organisation known as the SGC, from there, Goldman had made himself an asset to his powerful friends; with his new knowledge gleaned from the most recent files he had made himself indispensable. “The influence of the Sengo’lians goes across galaxies, it’s unbelievable. Nothing has ever come close to this kind of power.”

“Telepathy is not a new phenomenon, many are capable of it without really knowing,” the distinctly British sounding voice replied. Leaning forward, Howard Mitchell revealed himself to the others; it was the first time they’d had the chance to see him collectively. Here was one of the most important and powerful men in the corporate world and with that knowledge came a sense of fear.

“Gentlemen, if these creatures are truly as powerful as we believe, as Lester states, we must find a way to harness them, to capture what it is they possess, and find a way to use it to our best advantage.”

“He won’t make it out of the black hole, how do you propose to find a way to use this untapped phenomenon?” This was a voice that none of the men recognised. “The law of astrophysics dictates it impossible.”

“General, it’s simple,” Howard Mitchell replied. It was only Mitchell that knew this character who remained cloaked by the gloom. “We ensured the deal we made with the Goa’uld guaranteed his capture. This Heru’ur wants rid of him, the promise of power beyond that he already possesses has been enough of a carrot. The shield the Asgard provided us with will hold him and these all-powerful Sengo’lians. The study of the Ancients technology that kept them on Sengo’lia, which incidentally was a moon of an Ancients’ home world, has been interspersed with the technology. We can, and we will hold them, once we do, can you see anyone on Earth stopping us?”

“Then we won’t have long to wait, but I warn you, I’ve had dealings with O’Neill in the past, he’s determined to keep the power to himself in some misguided unpatriotic wish to balance the planet’s power structure,” the general stated. “But he does have one weakness, and we’ll be able to exploit that once we have him.”

Randall Manz smiled, raising his glass to his fellow politician and then in turn to the hidden member of their group. “Then all we have to do is wait, and hope that the deceitful Goa’uld doesn’t decide to revert to type!”

Mitchell laughed. “He will! I’m counting on it, which is why we have a very nicely placed insurance policy on his ship.”

Goldman smiled. “It’s a doozie!” he said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Colonel Richard Dyson checked his stats; the plane had been flying a little over an hour, but fuel consumption seemed to be lower than it should have been. He tapped the glass over the gauge, sighing heavily when the needle didn’t move.

Patrolling the skies for he didn’t know what, since no one was dumb enough to attempt to slam Washington twice, he checked his watch; definitely been an hour.

It was a little mind-numbing on occasion, occasions like these where nothing particular happened, and there was hardly any radio traffic on account of him being one of only three planes patrolling that area.

The photograph of his wife and twin daughters, pinned on his instrument panel, gave him a moment’s thought away from the rigours of flying a three million dollar piece of equipment over the nation’s capital city.

“Oh to be back in Iowa!” he remarked.

The clouds were at minimum, candy floss floating around him; there were no real shapes, nothing that caught his imagination. Another heavy sigh; it was going to be a long three hour stint.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hooper excused himself to his colleagues; a toilet break, the third since they’d left the main ship. O’Neill eyed him cautiously, but there was little the man could do in the hold, and why would he want to?

“He must have a weak bladder!” Coburn remarked, a smile crossing his face. “Or…”

“Please!” Jack snapped.

“Sorry, sir.” The major looked apologetic, not that O’Neill particularly cared. He was far too busy now channelling his energies toward the ship he knew to be on the planet’s surface somewhere.

Hooper’s reappearance didn’t go unnoticed however. The man glanced directly at the colonel as he re-entered the bridge. O’Neill didn’t seem to be paying attention to him; he seemed distant.

“Doctor Jackson, how goes the studying?” he enquired, once more squatting directly before the archaeologist.

Daniel pushed his glass back against his cheekbones, they always slid forward when he was reading, something he’d often resolved to deal with since it did cause some discomfort.

He found the blue-eyed marine staring directly into his face a little disconcerting from that proximity. “It’s going,” he remarked, a little off-hand.

“Sorry, I’m being a pain, aren’t I?” Hooper’s attempt at excusing himself, without actually moving, didn’t go unnoticed by the colonel.

“Um, no… I’m just a little distracted, actually,” Daniel responded, attempting to be his usual polite self, even if he was a little put out at the second interruption.

“It’s just,” Hooper began, getting comfortable, “I’ve always been fascinated by languages, but never really had the patience to study and learn them… I mean, I can speak a little Russian, a must, but not much, and Latin, well that’s the one, isn’t it? That’s the benchmark of languages.”

Daniel’s slightly bemused expression didn’t seem to deter the man. He was beaming broadly when once again the archaeologist’s attention was on him. “Actually, the most difficult language to learn, I think, is Mandarin, although I’m not exactly sure, since there seem to be disagreements on those, and I haven’t exactly spent much time on Earth lately.”

“I know,” Hooper concurred. “I’ve read the reports, been out here a while.”

Er, I don’t want to be rude…”

“Sure,” Hooper acknowledged immediately.

Daniel caught O’Neill’s gaze briefly before returning to his studies. The colonel’s eyes were a shade lighter but Daniel was not close enough to see them. His concentration became more focused on the task to hand.

Hooper sat next to Coburn on the right seat of the Tel’tac. “Amazing having the ability to speak so many languages and stuff,” he remarked.

“Who Daniel? Yeah, he’s pretty amazing alright, I remember when he couldn’t even hold a gun properly, now he’s one of the most effective fighters there is,” Coburn replied.

“Doesn’t seem the type,” Hooper noted, his eyes returning to the planet as they swooped above some hostile looking swamps.

“Yeah, academics never do,” Coburn responded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Baal’s eyebrows furrowed and a winsome smile crossed his eyes. “It is true,” he said. “Hathor has become a prisoner of the Tau’ri. How incredibly delightful,” he added. “Perhaps they will finally show a ruthless streak and kill her.”

The device into which he spoke showed the image of a dark haired man. “I doubt it, they seem to believe they can learn from her, Selmak seems especially keen to interrogate her,” he replied.

“Selmak is a Tok’ra, I am not surprised,” Baal offered, the words seeming to stick in his throat. “After all, since we have this fragile understanding, Damien, I am certain that Selmak’s intention is to ensure O’Neill cannot rescue her once more.”

“Let’s hope, frankly that alliance is a little too precarious for the galaxy,” Damien responded. “I will tell the rest of our alliance what I have learned, I am certain the Asgard will be intrigued.”

The mere mention of the race he deplored so much brought a scowl to the Goa’uld system lord’s face. “If you must,” he replied. “However, be certain that your communications are without trace, lest anyone discover your… our alliance,” he cautioned.

Damien nodded. “I shall let you know of the outcome,” he told Baal. His image faded the instant the last word left his mouth.

“And I shall look forward to that, at some time or other I dare say!” the Goa’uld mused, a smile crossing his eye-catching features. “Indeed, I shall look forward to many more tidings of the demise of the other system lords.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O’Neill set the Tel’tac down on the surface beside a large lake, its still water reflecting the clear blue skies above; no clouds shielded the surface from the heat of the Sun.

The blue planet, which from orbit had closely resembled Earth, revealed itself as far less hospitable.

It became apparent as the vessel descended into the atmosphere that this was a far younger surface than the one they currently resided on. There were vast volcanic areas that spat sulphur and molten rock into the air as they flew over, and the steam that rose from the surrounding bogs and geysers added to the desolate and eerie emptiness. The vast sea matched, if not surpassed, the size of the oceans and seas of Earth.

Daniel shuddered, remembering the rescue of the Tollan people so many years earlier; that atmosphere had almost caused the loss of several SGC personnel, not to mention his own discomfort and respiratory problems for several days thereafter.

Further into the journey the surface became almost forest like, and then suddenly fields of golden coloured plantation, resembling corn, or even flax.

O’Neill and Jackson had left the ship first, leaving behind their supplies; it seemed as if they were almost anxious to be outside.

The two airmen followed. Coburn, noting the clearing was lined by regimented lines of trees, checked them with a powerful set of binoculars; the digital zoom lenses made what used to be a difficult task of aligning lenses easy and far more accurate.

“Nothing, sir,” he confirmed to O’Neill who watched him.

A smile crossed the colonel’s face. “Yeah, knew that, Major,” he replied.

Coburn regarded Hooper with dismay. The marine grinned.

“Freaks you out doesn’t it?” he remarked, as they collected their kit and followed Jackson and O’Neill who were already making tracks toward the water.

“It does,” Coburn agreed, attempting to look around O’Neill and Jackson. “I’m also a little concerned with where he’s going?”

“The water’s edge?” Hooper speculated.

O’Neill could hear them; he’d grown used to the ability to hear and perceive most of the thoughts and fears of the people around him. It had been too much initially, the Sengo’lians had taught him to shut it off, just as he’d learned to cope with Daniel’s constant thought patterns, even if some of those were a little amusing.

The colonel stopped at the very edge of the lake. The water lapped on the lightly coloured, yet not quite golden sand.

“Gonna need a while,” he remarked, giving the location of the vessel he sought his fullest attention.

Daniel gestured for the two men to put down their packs.

Coburn shrugged and did so immediately.

Hooper, however, made his way toward Jackson.

“I know he’s aware of how urgent things are, does he know where the ship is or not?” he enquired of the stony faced archaeologist.

“He knows where it is, Major,” Daniel chastised, as if addressing a child. “Getting it from there is another matter.”

Hooper took a deep breath. He wasn’t accustomed to being dressed down by a civilian, however well qualified and Jackson’s tone grated, but he knew not to push it; O’Neill, seemingly distracted, had already warned him not to underestimate that particular civilian.

“Sorry, I’m just a little anxious to get going, Doctor Jackson,” Hooper explained.

Daniel’s expression became askance. “Oh really?” he snapped. “I thought we had time for recreation and some water sports.”

He turned away from the man, and walked back to O’Neill.

“Touchy!” Hooper remarked, shaking his head.

“Protective,” Coburn corrected. “Lot of history there, that’s how come the Colonel doesn’t exactly belong to the SGC in a military capacity anymore - lack of trust!”

“Maybe sometime when I care, you can explain it to me,” Hooper retorted. “Right now, I just want to get these bastards off our backs and through a black hole where they can’t possibly come back.”

Daniel crouched next to O’Neill, who was now sat on the sand close to the edge of the lake, looking out across the almost still water that lapped very gently on the shore.

“What’s the problem?” he enquired, noting a troubled expression on the colonel’s face and unable, at the moment, to read his mind.

Jack turned leisurely, looking at Jackson without any expression crossing his normally extremely expressive face.

“Jack?” Daniel prompted.

The colonel raised his eyes slightly, meeting Jackson’s gaze. “What?”

“What’s wrong?” Jackson probed, his hand now lifted and resting on O’Neill’s shoulder.

O’Neill sighed heavily, yet it wasn’t an illustration of stress or tedium. “Difficult,” he said, his voice but a whisper. “So…”

“Shut up?” Jackson enquired, a smile crossing his face. His thoughts attempted to probe his friend’s mind, but unable to read into O’Neill’s thoughts, he stood. “You’ll get there,” he reassured, attempting to inflect an assurance that might emanate enough to boost O’Neill’s confidence.

“Yeah,” Jack replied, although once again he was far from listening, or evening answering, he was simply making noises in response to the distant sound of Jackson’s voice.

His eyes narrowed as he studied the water; the ship wasn’t there, but it was under something, and something close too - it was too close, beneath him, where?

His mind was focused as never before, there wasn’t a door, a secret opening, as there had been on Earth in the desert. It was deep, far beneath the shoreline of the lake, and somewhere in his mind were the commands to raise it up.

“Too close,” he said, his hand reaching back and slapping against Jackson’s left leg.

“Jack?” he asked.

“Move,” O’Neill cautioned. “It’s here.”

Daniel didn’t need to be told twice; he began to walk toward the two marines. “We need to get to the trees,” he urged.

Neither man needed to ask why.

O’Neill was standing slowly, the ground beneath him was beginning to tremble, and the small tremors were becoming a shaking mass of sand and water. The earth convulsed in a manner that to the three men running for the safety of the tree line, felt almost forcible enough to be an earthquake.

Daniel turned to see O’Neill standing where he’d left him. He didn’t fear that the colonel would be harmed; nothing so fanciful would ever enter his mind when O’Neill summoned the power of the Ancients, amplified by the presence of the Sengo’lians.

Coburn’s eyes widened. “Incredible,” he gushed, watching the colonel standing in the mass of convulsing sand and water.

“Finally!” Hooper stated, unable to resist.

Daniel didn’t give him the satisfaction of noting his remark, preferring instead to pay attention not only to the possibility of assisting O’Neill, but listening too for anything else that might suddenly alert him to danger, or perhaps even a chance at saving Iceni. One thing Doctor Daniel Jackson had learnt being out of touch with the usual reality, it was never to underestimate anything, or anyone.

The explosion of the ship from beneath the golden sands close to the shoreline was a spectacular sight. The three men watched transfixed as the glimmering vessel emerged seemingly without a scratch, reflecting everything around it, glassy and miraculous.

“Oh man,” Hooper gushed. “That’s incredible, but it looks a bit small!”

Coburn said nothing, acknowledging with a slow but certain nod of the head.

Jack O’Neill felt the weight of drawing the vessel from beneath the surface lift slowly from his mind, a smile engendered on his face, calmed at the knowledge of what he had discovered.

“D, let’s get moving,” he yelled, moving around to the front, if that was what it was of an otherwise perfect cylindrical vessel. He placed his hand on the shell which reflected his image, and the shell immediately drew open before him, an entrance small enough to walk into which revealed a passageway directly in front of him, lined with incredibly bright lights at waist height. The rest was opaque, nothing to be seen, no reflection. “Nou ani anquietas,” he said, as he entered the vessel.

Daniel nodded; he had often had to pinch himself at what O’Neill had become. He could hear the colonel’s thoughts as clearly as if they were spoken to him. “Ita, tu incoluntis,” he said. (Yes, you belong)

Hooper looked at Coburn. “What the hell did he just say?”

Coburn laughed. “Hey! I don’t speak English properly, you expect me to know what Ancients is?”

Daniel offered a smile to Coburn; neither man afraid to speak in the hearing of the other.

“I’ll teach you, if you want to learn?” he offered.

Coburn nodded, gratitude expressed in his face. “Thank you, I’d like that,” he responded.

Hooper regarded Jackson. “I wouldn’t mind learning that language myself, if you’ve a mind to teach me too,” he said.

“I think we’ll probably have a few days of free time,” Daniel concurred, greeting the man’s enthusiasm with another broad smile and nod of approval. “I just hope you’re both more patient than he is!” he added, a further nod directed toward O’Neill, who was already making his way deeper inside the vessel.

The colonel stopped, sensing something within the vessel. His mind immediately attuned to the mechanisms as if it were an extension of him, and he looked concerned for a moment, then anger replaced that concern; it was fleeting, brief, yet there.

.“Quare?” he demanded, turning and glaring at Jackson. (Why)

“Quad ego sunt,” Jackson replied. He studied O’Neill, yet the man had now hidden whatever thoughts or feelings had emerged. (Because I can).

“Sweet!” the colonel sighed, leading them into the ship. The door closed instantly the last man stepped through.

Quandoque, brevidas veruus brevidas, tu volantus cognosco quare ego sum recuso confido.” (Sometime soon, very soon, you will know why I am unwilling to trust)

Daniel didn’t respond, unsure of what O’Neill was attempting to tell him. If it was something concerning Coburn, he neither could nor would believe that the man had betrayed them. He moved forward and stood alongside O’Neill, who had finally come to a stop after entering a small room to the left of the door they had originally come through.

“What’s this?” he enquired.

Atquis, tu saepe interroga meos?” Jack stated his eyes fixed on Jackson. (And yet, you often question me?)

Daniel didn’t need to ask; he knew finally what O’Neill had said, even if the Ancients and Latin the man mixed very effectively, which seemed almost designed to confuse any speaker of either, wasn’t making complete sense to him. There was however, an inflection within what the colonel was saying, and it was that which suddenly became clear.

Jackson lowered his eyes for a moment, away from O’Neill’s intrusive gaze and the two men who now stood watching the exchange, bemused by what they were hearing. “Fontestus?” he responded at length. (Forgive me?)

Ita!” Jack retorted. For the benefit of the other two, he added loudly. “Now, since we’re done with Ancients 101, for the time being,” added pointedly. “Maybe we can get back to destroying the cargo ship and get our asses in gear here?”

There was no need of an answer; Jackson knew the colonel didn’t require his sanction to carry out the deeds he had just mentioned.

“Do we need to destroy the ship?” Hooper challenged. “Doesn’t it make more sense not to draw attention to ourselves?”

O’Neill turned and regarded the former colonel. “Major, trust me when I say, no one will know we were here!” he retorted.

‘Jack, is something wrong?’

O’Neill looked across at Jackson as the ship’s controls lit up at his touch.

‘Someone in our midst isn’t playing well with others.’

Jackson nodded. ‘I figured you weren’t giving me a lesson in Ancients without good reason.’

‘What was your first clue? Remember the situation on that planet with the Teyu’peh?’

‘Yes, and I’m, er, amazed you remembered the name, by the way.’

O’Neill almost smiled, the expression instead a grimace. ‘Technology that kept the Hyksos in check, this ship comes from that era, it’s newer than the ship we had before, it reads things, it’s reading Hooper right now, he’s not with us, Danny, so we’re gonna find out who he is with… you’re gonna find out.’

‘How?’

‘Use your charm, Daniel, he’s…’

‘What?’

‘Gullible, totally and completely… oh and did I forget to mention he’s also attracted to you, or didn’t you figure that one out yet, either?’

Jackson’s eyes widened, horror written on his boyish features. He stopped himself from gawping at Hooper. ‘Oh you’ve got to be kidding?’

O’Neill’s smile told Jackson it was anything but a joke.

“No!” Daniel snapped.

Jack regarded the archaeologist with disdain. ‘This isn’t a democracy, he’s not my type, know what I mean? You’re on it, no arguments! Besides, he’s probably more stupid than most Goa’ulds, and they bought your whole desire thing!’

‘That wasn’t an act!’

‘It wasn’t?’ The deliberate sarcasm echoed through the retort. O’Neill couldn’t help the sneaky smirk that crept slowly on his otherwise stern features.

Jackson folded his arms and looked suitably scalded. “Dammit, Jack,” he growled. “Why is it always my job when there’s something you find abhorrent?”

The colonel flicked his eyes across to the two marines; they were far enough away not to require him to use his mind to transfer his responses.

“Do I really need to answer that?” Jack retorted. “Just, stop whinging and get on with it. Subtly, Daniel, don’t flutter your eyelids at him.”

“What? Oh come on, Jack, you can’t possibly be serious?” Daniel protested.

“I can’t ask Coburn to do it, can I?” O’Neill said. “He’s not exactly gifted in the brain department, besides, I’m not asking you to date the guy, just manipulate him. His homosexuality is his weakness, Daniel, exploit the enemy with their weaknesses, it’s the most effective interrogation strategy, and it’s the only way to make sure we find out the truth.”

“And again I ask, how?” Daniel contested, looking angry.

“Daniel, how the hell do you think I know? Do I look like I regularly flirt with men? Do you think I’ve ever considered flirting with a man?”

Jackson groaned. “I’m surprised you ever flirted with anyone without browbeating them first,” he confessed. “Fine, but I swear, Jack, this goes no further!”

O’Neill smiled. “Scout’s honour!” he confirmed.

Daniel took a deep breath, scowling heavily at O’Neill. “No jokes, no remarks, and no fluffy comments!” he added for good measure.

“None,” the colonel agreed.

Jackson looked less than trusting at that moment, but he knew he really didn’t have a choice. O’Neill rarely took decisions lightly and this one didn’t offer any argument, he could see that.

“When exactly did you notice his attraction?” he asked O’Neill as an afterthought.

“D, it doesn’t matter, ship’s kinda revealing in the thoughts and intentions department, let’s just say he’s got the kind of imagination I wish he’d kept to himself!”

Jackson’s horror once more exploded onto his face. “Oh crap!” he groaned. “Jack, I wish you hadn’t…”

“Then stop asking, Danny, or I’ll let you have full access… second thoughts, just don’t think about it!” Jack told him. “Maybe I should just torture him and get the truth out of him?”

The acquiescent stare told O’Neill he didn’t consider that an option. “I said I’d do it, Jack,” he conceded once more. “Just promise me you won’t ever share whatever it is you know… I don’t think I could look at him without wanting to harm him myself!”

Jack nodded. “Love the pacifist in you, Daniel, makes me go all warm inside!”

As the colonel spoke the ship began to move upward, the panels around him glowing each time he glanced at them.

“Communication with this is kinda easy!” he remarked.

Hooper and Coburn watched the screen that had automatically come online the instant the ship began to be operational. The lasers, or whatever it was the ship used as weapons, destroyed the Tel’tac without explosion; the vessel just seemed to disintegrate, bringing gasps of surprise from both men. “Whoa!” Coburn’s gasp became audible. “That’s amazing!”

“More like something out of a Spielberg movie!” Hooper concurred.

“It’s far more potent than that,” Jack O’Neill asserted, a smile crossing his face that was perhaps deliberately goading. “Depending on the size of the target, say a planet the size of Earth could be wiped out without any debris, or maybe just a building! Where the hell do you think the Zat technology came from?”

“Disintegration. So it’s the sort of ship that wouldn’t really need to travel through a black hole, then, Colonel,” Hooper challenged.

“That’s right, Mark, no need… just gotta get the snakeheads through, and we’re home free!” O’Neill told him.

‘Jack, just how the hell is he betraying us exactly?’

‘He’s got one of them Goa’uld communication ball things, D, and something else I scanned inside this thing, something Asgard, which is kinda a concern!’

‘What?’

‘Oh yes, our old buddy Thor warned me some of his council were up for another attempt at harnessing the powers that be, those being the Sengo’lians and their Ha’dai!’

Daniel shook his head, closing his eyes for a moment. He was aware that the Asgard feared the Sengo’lians, feared them to the extent that some of the usually benevolent race had decided to attempt to reveal the secret using O’Neill as a shield.

It didn’t sit easily though, even knowing what most races were capable of in the pursuit of power or safety, it felt like O’Neill had said; it felt like betrayal.

‘You haven’t been entirely honest yourself, have you?’ Daniel charged.

‘Sorry, D, I wasn’t sure enough until now to tell you, or even me! Heru’ur has no intention of attempting that black hole, even with a ship that might take him and his merry gaggle of Goa’ulds through safely. I think we’re being led into a trap, but not sure they figured we could find a ship that might just give us the edge in this thing for the first time.’

Jackson looked across at the two marines; Hooper turned away almost immediately.

‘I’ll find out who he’s working for!’ he promised O’Neill, the determination in his tone matched only with anger.

‘Sweet! Just do me a favour, hah?’

‘Do I need to ask?’

‘You do! Don’t get caught up in trust and betrayal issues, leave those to me, Daniel, I do them so much better, you know the game, you know the players. Let’s play!’

Daniel regarded the colonel with concern. ‘Jack, you’re not telling me something, and I have this feeling it’s something important.’

O’Neill glanced across toward the two marines who were in conversation about the plans. ‘Something isn’t right, Daniel, I don’t know exactly what it is, or where the feelings are coming from, but there’s something more than betrayal and the usual crap from the NID backers, it’s potent and it’s a little disconcerting.’

‘Okay, that doesn’t sound like you. Disconcerted, I mean. What exactly, Jack, where?’

‘Daniel, if I knew I’d tell you, I swear to God, even I need to air concerns and fears, know what I mean, but it’s just not clear, not yet.’

‘That’s good, I haven’t had a moment of uncertainty in a few minutes, thanks, Jack, I feel so much better now!’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Jaffa gathered at the behest of the first prime to Baal, awaiting the instructions of their god. They were aware that Baal had been allied to Heru’ur, and that it was time the Goa’uld finally fought against the foes that they had feared for too long.

Many knew of Teal’c, the Shol’vah, and of the one the Goa’uld knew only as O’Neill, a master of energy and mind control, they had been warned of such, even so, they feared him. Only those that believed completely in the power of their god did not.

The newly attired black and gold emblems blazoned on their chests gave the Jaffa a sense of invincibility. Baal, a cunning and incredibly astute leader, had yet to be defeated in battle. He had negotiated the powerful alliance with the son of Ra, and thus he had managed to ensure the security of his armies and his home worlds.

Baal’s appearance before them roused the thousands he had amassed, chests expanded with pride at the sight of their ‘god’, who rarely appeared before his army. Only the first prime, Ram, had the honour of addressing his god directly. Now was a moment for the Jaffa to savour, their god, stood in their vision, and dressed in the same incredibly eye catching uniforms as his army.

Jaffa, behold your god,” Ram bellowed, his gruff voice lifted by the echoes of the large chamber of the assembly. “Baal commands you to destroy those that would lay false claims to the realm of the Goa’uld.”

The collective response was deafening. Baal’s surly smile broadened at the servitude of his Jaffa. He nodded, looking slowly across the assembled ranks. “Send them!” he ordered.

Ram bowed his head, turning back to the massed ranks of the Jaffa. “Jaffa! Kree,” he roared.

The army marched as one toward the waiting Cheops vessels of their god, through the vast doors that drew back at their approach. The sound of their armour and boots was thunderous on the ground below.

Ram followed Baal from the raised platform on which he had appeared, back into the depths of his palace.

“My lord,” he bade. “May I have the honour of leading your Jaffa into this battle with the Shol’vah?”

Baal stopped, turning and facing his first prime. “It does you honour that you request such a task,” he noted. “But for you, Ram, I have an even greater task, you will lead the elite Tak’ra Guard into battle against the Asgard,” he informed, watching carefully the response.

Ram did not disappoint his master; the Jaffa’s expression became one of glee. “I am deeply honoured,” he replied, dropping to one knee before Baal. “To be given such a task, to destroy the enemy of my god!” The reverence in his tone left Baal in no doubt that he had chosen wisely.

“You will take the new fleet of Hataks, the shields are now a match for the Asgard vessels and should ensure your victory,” Baal stated.

Once more Ram lowered his head in obedience of his master’s wishes, he did not rise until Baal was out of sight. He took a deep breath and a smile slowly crossed his face. “Finally, a battle that does honour to the Jaffa!” he said.

The Goa’uld system lord retired to his quarters within the salubrious palace. Built on the crest of a hill, the steep sides acted as a defence that had yet to be breached by approaching armies.

It had been a long time since he had faced an army on his home planet, longer still since he himself had taken the planet, a heady time when the Goa’uld were learning to be one of the dominant forces in the universe, facing only the Asgard and the Furlings, as a worthy opponent. The Ancients had only been a minor presence, although their technology had been prized amongst all others.

Now once again, he faced the final battles that would determine the fate of the human race and the Goa’uld. It was a fate that he did not expect many to escape. Earth, the platform for so many embarrassing defeats at the hands of the lesser beings chosen for hosts, was now the target for Heru’ur’s unknown allies, allies he had boasted would be a match for the Sengo’lians, and with them, O’Neill, who he believed would be forced to serve the Goa’uld or risk the destruction of his own planet, and the eternal damnation of those he cherished.

Heru’ur’s plans to destroy the planet had been clever in their deceit, the arrogance of those they had dealt with in believing they could somehow outguess the politics and methods of the Goa’uld laughable.

The image of Heru’ur appeared now on his reac’tar, the long range communication devices the Goa’uld used, gleaned from a planet once inhabited by the Ancients.

“Your armies have been deployed?” he enquired.

Baal nodded. “You are certain such a wide battle on so many fronts can be won, even with these secret weapons you purport to have?” he countered.

“I am confident, they are the enemy of the Sengo’lians, the enemy of O’Neill and as powerful as both together,” Heru’ur asserted. “Once we have unleashed them on Earth, O’Neill will have no alternative but to cede, or lose the precious planet he has fought for so long to protect.”

Baal leant toward the device. “Assuming he still cares enough about this planet to risk servitude, something he has managed to avoid despite the risks to those he cares about and that planet.”

“I am certain he remains loyal to Earth and the Tau’ri, even if they do not remain so to him!” Heru’ur asserted, a smile crossing his surly features. “Perhaps you and I would be wise to ensure that we have added insurance, such as Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter and the Shol’vah!” he added. “He seems to have a great weakness for those he calls friend!”

“Daniel Jackson is never too far from O’Neill’s side, he is a lieutenant that the colonel seems unwilling to sacrifice. Samantha Carter, she is presently on Earth, but will soon be joining the ship they took from Hathor, who remains a prisoner at the Earth base, along with Nirrti,” Baal replied, his intensely dark eyes narrowing. “Perhaps, in the interests of a power sharing alliance between our two armies, we should consider a direct strike on that facility to ensure Hathor does not trouble us in the future, she is a most resourceful foe!”

Heru’ur nodded. “I agree, let us not waste time with the more petty details of our plan, destruction of the SGC should be of paramount importance. I will inform our allies of this decision and hasten their arrival,” he agreed. “You are indeed a formidable ally, one that will serve our alliance well!”

Baal bowed his head. “Long journeys have offered a wisdom that many of our fellow Goa’uld do not reflect,” he remarked. “Let us learn the lessons and bear the burden of ensuring the survival and the dominance of the Goa’uld!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob Carter regarded General Maybourne; the two men had shared an elevator and now entered the briefing room where Major Carter sat at the head of the long briefing table awaiting them.

“I know what Jack said,” he pointed out. “But at this point I think I’d be more use to Earth here at the SGC.”

Maybourne nodded, seating himself opposite the former USAF General, now Tok’ra; he wasn’t short of ideas as to why Jacob had chosen to change his post.

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with the sarcophagus in the holding room on level twenty two, would it?” he enquired.

Jacob nodded slowly. “Hathor and Nirrti,” he confirmed. “I think I’m far better qualified to deal with them and extract whatever we can before putting their lives to an end.”

“And I’d agree with you, Jacob, you are,” Maybourne replied. His hands now clasped together in front of him on the table, he leant forward. “But it’s not exactly what Jack had planned is it?”

Carter sat quietly listening to the confrontation; since Hammond had decided to take the President up on a change of venue, albeit for a short hiatus only, it had fallen to Maybourne to take charge of the SGC until Hammond returned.

Not much made sense to her anymore. Former enemies and traitors, now ensconced as allies and commanders, but then Maybourne had perhaps, more than anyone she knew, worked hardest to assist O’Neill when everyone else was ready to doubt him. These were very different times to any she had experienced and now wasn’t the time to debate her misgivings about those Hammond and his superiors had charged with command.

“Jack’s judgement is clouded on this, Maybourne, and you know it,” Jacob charged, furiously. “If Jack had listened to us in the first place…”

“Not what I meant, Jacob,” Maybourne retorted immediately. “There was a very good reason for placing them in a sarcophagus and sending them through a Stargate somewhere.”

“Which is?” Jacob queried, intrigued now that Maybourne might know something he didn’t.

“Which was that who ever is trying to gain control of the Government right now will attempt to rescue them and make a deal,” Harry Maybourne informed him. “If we’re not mistaken, some very important shadows have already been making deals with members of the Goa’uld… maybe even the Asgard in the pretext that O’Neill needs to be reigned in, poses a danger to his own planet, you know the line.”

“I’m aware there was supposed to be some covert talks existing between some Tok’ra and the Asgard. The Tok’ra part, however, was a false lead… so when exactly did Jack learn about this other ‘covert’ deal?” Jacob enquired his concern evident.

Maybourne raised his eyebrows. “I’m surprised you’re that much out of the loop really,” he replied. “But, according to what Jack told me, Thor actually visited him concerning the High Council’s proposal to leash the Sengo’lians. He told Jack the Asgard were ready to deal with people they believed to be superiors to Jack, and who had his best interests at heart, probably these same caring folks that have no intention of doing anything other than snatching power however they can. With Jack harnessed by whatever means they can get, maybe they feel they’d get control…”

Jacob looked to his left, down toward his daughter who still sat quietly at the end of the long briefing room table.

“Sam?”

“It’s possible, but I doubt whoever the colonel suspects is likely to attempt to make any kind of move right now,” she responded. “Either way, I don’t think Hathor or Nirrti should be given an opportunity to gather allies and pose a threat to Earth, or the SGC.”

“Or Jack O’Neill?” Maybourne added succinctly, with a knowing smile toward Carter.

“Exactly, sir,” Sam retorted.

“Good, so we’re in agreement then,” Maybourne confirmed, a relieved expression crossing his face.

“What?”

“Jacob, I’m surprised at you,” Maybourne stated, a glance toward Carter. “And frankly, with you!” he added. “Even in my former position, doing deals with Goa’ulds wasn’t ever a consideration,” Maybourne continued. “I’m of the same opinion as Major Carter; we dispose of the threat before it becomes lethal. So, I authorise your stay. Major, I authorise your transfer to the ship with Makepeace, and hereby end this meeting!”

Maybourne began to stand, Jacob ushering for him to remain. “Harry, isn’t it?”

The former NID man nodded.

“Tell me, Harry, why would Colonel O’Neill confide this information to you?” he enquired, dubiously.

“Because he knows better than anyone what I’m capable of,” Maybourne responded, leaning back now, a smile cascading over his bearded face. “Jack told me purely because I’d established exactly who it was, and then he knew I’d be capable of dealing with the disposal of both Goa’ulds.”

Carter looked toward her father. “Makes sense, Dad,” she remarked. “I just wish the colonel had thought to tell us!”

“Jack wouldn’t tell you, Sam,” Maybourne retorted instantly. “For obvious reasons, and Jacob, well despite knowing that he would have Earth’s best interests at heart, he doesn’t exactly trust the Tok’ra.”

Jacob had to concede that point immediately. “Okay, so let’s just say you’re right and these people, the shadow people, are attempting to lure Jack into a trap, having done a deal with the Goa’uld, how?”

Maybourne shook his head. “You’re asking me?” he remarked, his gaze turning to Major Carter. “She’s better placed to figure out how to harness a form of energy that seems to completely go against everything Earth scientists know.”

“It’s the Sengo’lians,” Carter said. “Whatever they’re planning I think the colonel’s right to go and ensure their protection. If, and it’s a big if, they could manage to take them out, Earth would be open to an all out Goa’uld attack, even the Asgard are not in a position to prevent that. The only thing that’s kept them at bay is the knowledge that the colonel possesses something far greater than they could ever imagine possible. Heru’ur knows better than anyone that the Ancients knowledge and gene were formidable, but the Sengo’lians, if he believes they are at the heart of his power, he’ll stop at nothing to destroy, or even try to harness them for his own ends.”

“Okay, so we’re agreed,” Jacob confirmed. “Sam will join Makepeace on the Goa’uld ship, to patrol this galaxy and offer any protection necessary to the planet. I’ll remain here with you and work the problem from the inside.”

“We’re uniquely qualified for that,” Maybourne agreed. “But I have another idea… I wonder how we might use the clone to act as a decoy.”

Carter looked surprised that Maybourne had even made the suggestion. “How do you mean, sir?” she asked.

“Well, let’s just say these shadow people could be fooled into believing that the real Jack O’Neill had decided to head back to Earth and use his expertise to defend our little part of the galaxy, rather than attempt to protect the Sengo’lians. Maybe they’d make a try for him here, revealing whatever technology they possess, and thus giving us the ability to trace the shadows and end their little plot!”

Carter’s features showed her approval. “It might work,” she agreed. “They have no way of knowing it’s not the real Colonel O’Neill, unless the Asgard High Council are working that closely with them.”

“I’m prepared to take that chance,” Maybourne stated. “It might just give us the upper hand and for once find the actual conspirators behind this thing. All joking aside, these people scare me.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aiestrodous regarded his companion with dismay. “It is farther than we had expected,” he stated. “Are you able to sustain without food or water to traverse the swamps of Alnanom?”

Martouf took a deep breath; he felt the heat in the air from the swamps and it reminded him of his brief, but uncomfortable visit to Netu, a moon once orbiting Sokar’s home world which had been made to resemble hell.

“You are certain there is no other way?” he enquired of the Furling.

“I am certain,” Aiestrodous responded. “If we decided to avoid the swamps we would face something far more potent than discomfort, the Teyu’peh is a formidable foe.”

Martouf’s eyes widened. “Those creatures reside here?”

The Tok’ra’s eyes were immediately scanned the trees and bushes about him; he looked back wistfully to the Stargate only a few hundred feet away.

Aiestrodous nodded, his usually expressionless features seemed to become hollower with a frown. “They have been placed on many worlds by the Hyksos, long before the Goa’uld and the Ancients finally overcame them. But not before they had discovered hibernation,” the Furling cautioned.

“Could this not work in our favour?” Martouf enquired.

“Why do you believe, youthful Tok’ra, I chose this planet to meet our nemesis?”

Martouf’s eyes lowered for a moment. “What is the other significance of this planet?” he asked, already suspecting the reply.

“We feed!” Aiestrodous told him bluntly.

The Tok’ra gazed around at Aiestrodous’ kin; their eyes were sullen, yet from the centre of each, red pinnacles began to glow.

“I see,” he remarked.

Aiestrodous placed his elongated hand on Martouf’s left shoulder. “Fear not, I will protect your existence with my life against foe and friend alike. You will not fall victim to the Furling, see that you do not fall victim to the Unas!”

Martouf checked his weapons; a Zat, a double bladed knife, and a hand gun given to him by one of the marines at the SGC, a few grenades, all primitive, but effective, and some C4; a potent explosive that he had learned to use in his brief time at the SGC.

“I am prepared, let us proceed,” he advised.

Aiestrodous smiled. “Let us!” he agreed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The deep endless darkness of space was nothing unusual to Bra’tac; he had seen many campaigns for his former master, Apophis. Yet never before had it seemed as desolate as now. So few of his friends remained; Teal’c, of course, had mercifully survived many of the conflicts that had taken so many others.

His allegiance to Earth had spared him the foolish wars waged by the Goa’uld as they battled for minor domains, but now at least the all-powerful system lord coalition had been smashed, few remained, yet always the fear of others rising to take their places was a spectre.

This was finally perhaps, a penultimate battle; a battle that would finally lay the Goa’uld bare of their stolen technology, allowing the Jaffa to have a victory that would mean freedom for not only them, but generations to come. Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss.

“Teal’c?”

“I am here,” Teal’c’s voice sounded through his headset.

“It is desperately silent,” Bra’tac said. “Has it ever been so?”

“Indeed, many times before battle we have experienced this solitude even in the fold of our brethren,” Teal’c responded.

“Never before have we been so close to finishing this.” It was Rak’nor’s voice that now joined them. “Perhaps in our endeavour for freedom, we have never dared to truly believe it possible.”

“Perhaps,” Bra’tac said. “But we are not there yet.”

“All the more reason to focus,” Teal’c stated.

Each man left now in that silence, to their thoughts, to fears. Could it really become possible for the Goa’uld to finally be overthrown as the dominant species in the galaxy? Perhaps each would like to believe it, but dare they? Even with the power of O’Neill’s presence and the species he amplified to challenge these gods, was it really something to aspire to as almost at an end?

Bra’tac breathed out with some effort. He of all of them had more to fear, his life, all one hundred and forty years of it, had been in the shadow of a monster that used him and his body to exist, now there might be a time when that wasn’t so, when the Goa’uld did not figure in his every thought and consideration; how empty or full would such a life be?

Bra’tac smiled. Of that he had no doubt; such a life would be full, if not long.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack O’Neill’s robotic clone looked doubtful; the image of Harry Maybourne one he didn’t particularly enjoy seeing, even if this former foe was now an ally.

“Are you nuts?” he enquired, his brown shorn hair a contrast from the real O’Neill’s now mostly grey crown.

“It’s not a stretch, Jack, we deal with the hair colour and you’re it!” Maybourne asserted, a wicked smile crossing his unshaven features. “With less attitude and a more relaxed demeanour?”

“I’m it? I know what I am, I’m not altogether sure you know what you are though,” the clone goaded, a disdainful sneer toward the monitor that showed his features to Maybourne as assuredly as he saw the former NID man.

“Jack, we need to deal with this threat,” Jacob urged, his image now replacing that of Maybourne.

“Look, Jacob, I realise that you’re all Tok’ra snakehead knowledgeable and stuff, but is this really necessary, I’m supposed to be dealing with Froth!”

“Thoth,” Jacob corrected. “And yes, Jack, despite the fact you don’t know me at all well, your flesh and blood counterpart does, and he trusts me.”

The clone’s eyebrows crowded his forehead. “I doubt that,” he retorted. “But… if you can get someone else on the Froth problem, I’m more than willing to come and dangle my ass for the other guy’s possible assassins!”

“I’m sure Teal’c and Bra’tac will be more than happy to deal with that problem!” Jacob asserted. “And I know Jack will appreciate it… he’s not aware of this particular problem right now.”

“Yeah, cool the fanfare, I’m on my way!” the clone responded, cutting the connection the instant he’d finished.

Jacob turned and looked at Maybourne. “I remember when he wasn’t that ornery!” he remarked.

“He’s always like that,” Maybourne retorted. “You’ve just never noticed before because you’ve been too busy to!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel sat, his legs crossed, leaning back against the console in the centre of the bridge area, alone. The three military men on his team had gone to check out the rest of the ‘cool’ ship, except he knew that Hooper would be back long before O’Neill and Coburn. O’Neill had told him so, and very rarely these days was Jack O’Neill wrong in his predictions.

He occupied himself reading an Ancients text concerning the history of a great race that had spent far too long enjoying its own successes; that, he concluded, had been their downfall as a race in their original state.

“Doctor Jackson,” Hooper’s voice.

Daniel looked up to see the man standing in front of him. His army combats worn militarily earlier, were now somewhat in disarray, as if the attitude of the wearer had become less rigid. “Sorry, I was miles away,” he responded.

This was something he couldn’t prepare himself for; inwardly he had been dreading the colonel being right. He’d never considered how to manipulate a man. A woman? Sure, he understood the dynamics and the inevitable consequences if that went too far, but a man? He could feel himself shaking inwardly and that wasn’t exactly a good start.

“I was doing a little studying, fascinating…” Daniel’s voice trailed off.

Hooper took that as an invitation and promptly sat next to Jackson, the archaeologist smiled nervously, realising that he was making himself seem apparently interested, if, and he was now hoping it was a big if, O’Neill was right… but there was the beginning of something he felt sure was O’Neill being right.

Hooper was smiling back quite broadly and he seemed to be considering becoming intimate; at least his eyes appeared to be.

Daniel attempted to dismiss that immediately, how on earth could he possibly know what Hooper’s intentions were? O’Neill’s fault, the colonel had wound him up far too tight, besides, he was just a man! It wasn’t some Goa’uld, someone that could overpower him and do with him what he wanted.

“So, how’s the ship?” he enquired quickly, his tone a little breathless, something he quickly tried to deal with by clearing his throat loudly. “Dust,” he added.

“I think the atmosphere is sterile actually,” Hooper replied. “You seem a little nervous?”

Daniel felt perplexed. “A lot at stake,” he replied. “Does it have advanced capacity for travelling faster?”

Hooper shrugged. “I don’t know really, I mean, it’s a ship,” he remarked.

“It is,” Daniel concurred. “So…”

“So,” Hooper echoed, gazing now into Daniel’s eyes.

‘Have I mentioned how much I hate you right now, Jack?’

‘Blow him a kiss from me, Danny.’

‘Ass!’

Jackson looked alarmed. He turned away, stretching and dragging himself to his feet. “A little stiff,” he explained, the horror of what he’d said thankfully not visible on his face. “Muscles,” he added, again for good measure.

“Doctor Jackson,” Hooper said, standing now and facing the archaeologist. “Do you ever get tired of this?”

“Of what?” Jackson enquired, guardedly.

“Of dealing with everyone else’s problems,” Hooper said. “Doesn’t it ever just cross your mind to find a nice planet somewhere and settle down?”

“With whom?” Daniel asked, realising instantly he was once again sounding far too interested, at least that was his perception, and he was hating himself for being so fearful of something that he had control of; even if he didn’t like being in that particular situation, he knew he could contain, he was, at least, sure of that.

“I don’t know, just with someone, stopping the fight, giving up and just letting go of everyone else’s concerns.”

The archaeologist sighed heavily; it was something he’d often thought about. “Sometimes,” he confessed. “I guess.”

Hooper nodded. He moved away from the man and walked across to the doorway. He leant against the frame and stared out into the corridor, first left, then right.

He’s seeing if we’re alone. Daniel theorised, dread that had been harboured in his thoughts since O’Neill had made him aware of Hooper’s attraction, was beginning to well ever more to the surface. He took at deep breath, and with it shoved back down his own apprehension. He needed to engage Hooper whether he liked it or not; he had chosen to fight these battles with his friends, with O’Neill, there was no shying away at the prospect of something he found difficult or repugnant. He took another deep breath and shoved down the feeling of nausea that was slowly ebbing from his throat.

He glanced at Hooper. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I haven’t even begun yet and I’m already tired of it,” Hooper told him, sauntering back toward him, his gaze intense and intrusive.

Daniel could feel the panic welling once again; his senses, the ones that seemed to have come along with the DNA from the Furlings, told him that Hooper was intending to make a move. How would he deal with it? It wasn’t something he could deal with as he normally would; a slug in the mouth in answer to Hooper’s questions wouldn’t exactly prove to be a tease that might lure the man into revealing his plans. He didn’t have a choice; O’Neill wouldn’t tolerate Hooper on the ship without knowing what the man was planning, what he was involved in, and the problem with O’Neill’s methods meant he would likely utilise a nasty streak his fellow Furlings possessed and deal with Hooper in a way that might leave the man mutilated or dead.

How could he possibly lead a man on without committing to something he found nauseating? There was absolutely no chance he could even feign interest in a way that might become physical, he knew that, somehow, something had to back the man off, yet still create the illusion that would make Hooper think he was interested.

He smiled at Hooper and walked across to the door himself now. “Jack and Coburn going to be a while?” he enquired, once again chastising himself inwardly for sounding too keen.

“Long enough,” Hooper responded, moving toward him in a determined fashion. “I want to kiss you,” he stated.

Daniel’s eyes widened. He managed to catch his immediate response, and turned away from Hooper. “Excuse me?” he exclaimed. “That’s a little presumptive and… where the heck did that come from?”

Hooper looked slightly embarrassed. “Isn’t it obvious?” he asked.

“What?” Daniel countered, once more keeping the loathing behind the utter surprise he’d managed to cloak his face in.

“I want you,” Hooper replied. “Please don’t tell me you hadn’t noticed.”

“Okay.” Daniel’s eyes widened. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Hooper lowered his eyes from Jackson’s regard. “Look, I know this might be out of the blue for you, then,” he stated. “But I’m attracted to you, and to be honest I don’t think I can manage to keep that to myself - you’re too sexy.”

Daniel couldn’t help a smile crossing his features. “Sexy?” he echoed. “Sorry, I’ve just never actually, er, seen myself as being sexy.”

Hooper moved closer. “Can I?” he asked.

“No!” Daniel asserted. “I, er, I can’t… Jack would kill you.”

There it was; why hadn’t he considered it before? It was so obvious, who in their right mind would ever want to challenge O’Neill for anything?

“I knew there was something more between you than friendship,” Hooper groaned. He looked furious for a moment. “It was probably his doing that I got demoted!”

“You did?” Jackson’s bemused response fortunately not reflected on his face.

“Maybourne decided to pull a few strings,” Hooper explained. “I must have really pissed him off.”

“So, can I ask you something?”

Hooper’s reaction was an immediate nod; he seemed anxious to please Jackson.

“Why is it you think that Jack and I are a couple, exactly?” Daniel queried, attempting to keep a conversation going, and thus freeing him of any approach that Hooper might make in a prolonged silence.

“Too obvious, you’re like a puppy dog with him,” Hooper complained, his obvious jealousy no longer concealed.

“I’m sorry, a puppy dog?” Daniel echoed, dismay crossing his features. “I don’t think I’d actually describe myself as a puppy dog.”

Hooper smiled. “I’m being a little unfair. I doubt it’s obvious to heterosexuals, Daniel, you had to feel more than just friendship,” Hooper asserted. He walked away from him once more and leant on the console. “But it’s in the way you look at him, the way he’s so protective of you. To me, I’d say it was really obvious.”

‘So, you’re a puppy dog, are ya?’

‘Jack, that’s not even remotely funny. Besides… he thinks we’re a couple!’

‘A couple of what?’

‘Take a guess, and Jack, get out of my head - it’s getting too crowded in here.’

Daniel sighed heavily. Who else considered that his and O’Neill’s relationship was anything more than a camaraderie? It was laughable; the more he thought about it, the more amusing it became.

“Look, Hooper, I realise this is difficult for you, but you can’t let him know,” Daniel told the clearly besotted major, wanting to ensure that he was making himself perfectly clear and adding as much distance between them now as possible. “You can’t let Jack know how you feel, he’d kill you.”

The former colonel shrugged. “As if I’m particularly bothered about what he thinks! I’d like to kill him!” Hooper admitted without any further provocation.

Daniel’s brow furrowed, it shouldn’t have been a surprising revelation and yet it was a consideration he had never taken into account; that those who sought power and control would unleash someone capable of having a desire to destroy the one person who had protected Earth above all others.

“You would, why? Because of me?” he probed, keeping his surprise in check even if he was amazed at how quickly Hooper had owned up to his intentions.

“If I thought you’d even consider spending the rest of your life with me, maybe that would be reason enough, but no, it’s not my only reason,” Hooper stated. “He’s bad news, a collaborator, look at how he’s involved himself with so many alien species against Earth,” he continued. “Look how he’s used you, manipulated you.”

“Okay, look!” Daniel asserted quickly. “Jack might not be perfect, and whether you want to believe it or not, he’s not a collaborator, he is though very impulsive, and his DNA alterations make him far more volatile than he’s ever been. Mark, you have to…”

Jack O’Neill entered the bridge at that moment, his eyes were red and the pinnacles of his lenses were emanating a blue hue.

Daniel moved in front of Hooper instinctively.

O’Neill wasn’t role playing; something inside him had transmitted the danger of Hooper’s presence, and without even realising the colonel was reacting.

“Jack,” Daniel cautioned, his hands raised passively in front of him. “He’s not a threat to you.”

O’Neill seemed to be staring right through him, past him, he wasn’t there; he knew it, he felt the rage inside his friend.

Hooper’s fear was audible, the sigh prolonged as it seemed all the air in his lungs escaped. “Help,” he whispered.

“I’m trying,” Daniel told him. “Jack, look at me…”

O’Neill’s eyes narrowed, his features became less infuriated, the reddening of his cheeks lessened. “Daniel?”

The archaeologist heaved a huge sigh of relief; he turned to Hooper. “You’d better get out of here while I calm him down,” he suggested. “Maybe now you understand why I…”

“Yes, I get it,” Hooper acknowledged, taking Daniel’s suggestion.

The instant he left the door closed, sealing the two men in, and with it ensured nothing they said could be heard.

“Jack, what the hell was that?” Daniel snapped. “Are you trying to get…

O’Neill’s blank expression told the archaeologist he most definitely hadn’t been in control at any time for those few moments.

“What?” he enquired.

“You have no idea what you just did, do you?” Daniel remarked.

“What?”

The archaeologist studied O’Neill’s bemused features for a moment, realising that he still wasn’t exactly attentive to their conversation. “Er, never mind,” he remarked, waving it off. “But thank you for totally confirming my cover!” Jackson told the man, a pleased expression crossing his boyish features.

Jack regarded the man with disdain. “What?” he asked.

“Jack, do you ever have mental blackouts?” the archaeologist asked him. “The sort of mental black outs that might prove dangerous to say… me?”

Jack’s eyes meandered around the room for a moment. He glanced at the door, then back towards Jackson, and finally there was a realisation on his face. “Damn, wasn’t I in the engine room?”

“I have no idea,” Jackson responded, relief crossing his boyish features. “I think you were somewhere with Coburn since Hooper decided to come see me!”

O’Neill looked intrigued. “Yeah, that part I remember, Fido.”

Daniel’s features screwed up. “Can we, er, skip that part please!” he implored. “I’m not exactly comfortable with deceit, Jack, as you already ready know, and really irritatingly, you were right… he also mentioned the wanting to kill you issue, which was probably… the ship’s amplifying,” Jackson exclaimed, his face brightening as if struck by a ray of light. “It’s… I really need to stop being so scientific.”

“Ya think!” O’Neill’s response; he took a deep breath. “What exactly, aside from attempting to kill me, did Hooper say?”

Er, well he was just getting to it when you decided to appear from nowhere and scare the heck out of him,” Daniel told the colonel. “And me, by the way!”

“But he’s not right, right?” Jack prompted

“He’s definitely not right,” Daniel agreed. “I, er, probably should mention that I used you as a cover for why I couldn’t possibly engage with him.”

“Sweet,” Jack responded. “Just don’t expect flowers anytime in our future!”

Jackson smiled. “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you say that,” he confessed, winking at the colonel.

“I’ll bet it’s no more relieved than I am to be saying it,” Jack remarked. “D, be careful with this guy, I get a sense of really dire intentions.”

“Which is probably what caused the intrusion,” Daniel confirmed. Seeing O’Neill’s rather disinterested expression greeting his relapse into scientific analysis, he added. “But, you know me, I’m not intending to be a hero any time soon.”

“The whole hero thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway,” Jack told him. “I’m picking up something else… I really wish this damn ship would get out of my head, it’s bad enough having you and the ‘we are here’ bunch in there.”

The colonel waved off Jackson’s obvious look of concern. “Do me a favour, D, just watch yourself!”

Jackson nodded. “As always.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

General Vidrine checked his tie for the third time as he entered the elevator, his adjutant beside him. “It’s likely that whoever is in charge here won’t be pleased to see us,” he remarked. “Loyalty is a big feature of this command.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more, General,” Captain Martin Lewis commented. “Not many like their commands given to others.”

“Of that you can be sure, and this one in particular, since Hammond’s had command for over eight years now,” Vidrine stated. “We’re not going to be popular.”

“Popular, that’s a word I haven’t heard in a long time,” General Harry Maybourne remarked, as the two men exited the elevator and came face to face with the former NID operative.

“Maybourne,” Lewis snarled.

“General Maybourne to you,” Harry retorted. “I was promoted in the field.”

“Is General Hammond here?” Vidrine enquired. “I have a change of orders.”

“No, sir, he isn’t. I have command of the SGC whilst he’s on sabbatical with the President,” Maybourne told Vidrine. “It came from a higher authority than the President,” he added, having heard the comments the two men had been making since they had arrived at Stargate Command; having listening equipment installed to elevator, some of the corridors and most of the laboratories had been a good idea of Carter’s.

“General Maybourne, there is no higher power than the President,” Vidrine’s tone was disparaging.

“Well, I could debate that, sir, considering God, whatever denomination, and some of the Goa’uld might also claim to have higher stations in the cosmos!” Maybourne countered. “But, then again…”

“I have full authority to take command of this facility!” Vidrine snapped; his dislike of the former NID man obvious.

“General Vidrine, I suggest you talk to Jack O’Neill, since he put me in command here, and he’s the only one keeping the Goa’uld from knocking on the front door.” Maybourne’s retort was icy, his eyes fixed on Vidrine. He’d suspected the man for some time in complicity with darker characters in the darker places of power. “He’ll be here within the day, and since I have a sneaking suspicion that this place is going to be a target, forgive me for not caring who has command.”

“Will he indeed,” Vidrine snapped, obviously bristling at the mention of a man he had little regard for. “Since former COLONEL O’Neill doesn’t have executive authority, acting General Maybourne, I’ll assume control of this facility until our commander in chief tells me otherwise!”

“As you like,” Maybourne responded. “But I guarantee you this, General, you’ll wish you hadn’t! I’m sure you know your way around, so if you’ll excuse me, I was about to go to the commissary and have lunch.”

Maybourne couldn’t help the less than rueful smile that swept his face as he turned and took his leave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carter checked the scans from the Asgard satellites placed in orbit around Earth to provide effective communication and early warning systems for an impending invasion. It hadn’t taken long; once O’Neill had informed the Asgard of the Goa’ulds’ latest plan, they had insisted on placing them around the planet for the protection of all human kind.

“Elaborate speech,” Jacob remarked to his daughter, having sat through her conversation with the Asgard, Odin.

“They do have a way with them,” she replied.

“Hathor’s asked to see you, she says she has an offer you can’t refuse,” Jacob told her.

Carter’s expression became a grimace. “Well, I really don’t have time to worry about her right now, unless she’s planning on revealing Heru’ur’s entire plan and has a means to communicate that to Colonel O’Neill,” she responded. “Nothing on these so far,” she added, directing her father’s attention to the screens in front of her.

“Maybe they decided to call it off,” Jacob remarked, a wry smile crossing his face.

Carter couldn’t help but smile; her father had such a laconic style, a dry sense of humour that she had missed so much since he’d been the Tok’ra liaison. “That’s a possibility; maybe we should discuss their surrender?”

“Perhaps we should,” Jacob stated. “Maybe it’s that simple!”

Carter shook her head. “I doubt anything is ever that simple,” she replied.

Jacob looked around; there was no one in the control room except them. He sat down on the seat next to his daughter.

“Sam, there’s something I’ve really been meaning to discuss with you,” he began, offering a consolation smile the second his daughter’s concerned face met his. “Jack O’Neill, actually.”

Carter smiled. “Dad, you’re a dollar and a donut short on that one,” she remarked.

“No, Sam, not your relationship, or even one you or he might have considered,” Jacob confessed immediately. “Jack’s death.”

Carter’s eyes met her father’s. “He’s not dead,” she replied.

“Not yet, but it’s coming… you know that, right?”

“Why?”

“Because nothing so powerful can be allowed to exist,” Jacob responded.

Carter’s features became askant. “I don’t think I know you’re trying to tell me that the Tok’ra and all those other alien benevolent forces have made a decision to kill the colonel, Dad, are you?”

Jacob looked down unable to meet the gaze of his daughter. “It wasn’t my decision,” he confessed, finally looking up. “But to be honest, it is one I agree with.”

Carter’s eyes displayed her disappointment and confusion. “Why?”

“Because he’s not Jack anymore, Sam, he’s something, someone controlled by the Sengo’lians, working toward their end.”

Carter shook her head. “NO!” she snapped.

“Sam, this is beyond you and me,” Jacob told her. “It’s beyond Maybourne, it’s beyond…”

“You set him up,” Sam snarled, the fury resonating in her face. “My GOD, he was right, Colonel O’Neill saw this, he saw that the Tok’ra were as complicit as the Goa’uld in wanting to have control. There is no difference is there?”

Jacob shook his head. “You don’t understand,” he said.

“I do understand, Dad, I understand that you’re contemplating betraying the colonel because you’re scared that he’s that powerful,” Sam continued. “You, the Asgard, Earth, you’re all afraid!”

“Yes,” Jacob admitted. “I am afraid, Sam, I am and so is anyone that realises how much power Jack has.”

“He’s not a danger, Dad, not to us,” Sam argued.

“Yes he is,” Jacob countered. “You’re not old enough to know the damage the Sengo’lians caused, Sam, but I am.”

“Jesus, you have no faith at all in Colonel O’Neill, do you?” Sam charged, her dismay registering across her face. “He’s stronger than you realise, Dad, and the Sengo’lians aren’t some evil force, they are a force that’s been misunderstood because the other dominant forces in the galaxy were afraid of them.”

“Sam,” Jacob began.

“No!” Carter snapped. “You might be a Tok’ra, but he’s not your enemy.” Her eyes widened for a moment. “Dad, what have you done?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel looked across toward O’Neill; the man smiled before leaving the bridge of the ship and turning left out of the door.

He wondered just how informed the colonel was by the ship, how much it amplified thoughts and feelings, how much he should hold himself in check lest the colonel act on his behalf.

‘Daniel, you think too much!’ Jack responded.

‘Jack, whilst I realise you’ve got the ability to read my mind and scan my thoughts, it is really irritating when you do it!’

‘You’re welcome.’

The archaeologist continued to study the information on the small monitor. The ship was far more advanced than either he or O’Neill realised. The weapons capable, as O’Neill had surmised, of destroying a planet the size of Earth without much of a problem, and eliminating the debris that might come with such a devastating event.

The Ancients had apparently been attempting to destroy a foe far more potent than the Goa’uld; the waves of incredible power were emitted from a central microwave beam, the heat it generated capable of simply disintegrating anything it was aimed at. There was also the amplification of thoughts that appeared to be disturbing O’Neill, these it appeared were a by-product of technology that had been used to detect and interfere with any sub-space communications.

Hooper didn’t wait too long before joining Daniel once more.

“Look I’m sorry about that Doctor Jackson, I was way out of line with that come on, you must have thought… well, God knows what you must have thought,” Hooper said. “He’s a bit of a surprise, isn’t he?” he added, “I had no idea how possessive he was about you, it must be suffocating.”

Daniel nodded; there was no other response he could think of that would be appropriate. “Except, he’s not usually that possessive,” he offered. “At least not in reality… maybe in the imagination, maybe,” he added.

Hooper looked confident suddenly. “Maybe he’s got reason to worry,” he remarked, another smile offered to the archaeologist.

Daniel’s eyebrows rose into his forehead. “I, er, possibly, he’s got other things on his mind right now.” He was deliberate in his responses.

Hooper got closer again, much to his discomfort. “What are you looking at?” he enquired.

“Just seeing if there’s anything in here that can help,” Daniel told him.

The man seemed more interested in that suddenly, than in foisting his attentions on the reluctant archaeologist. “And is there?” he queried.

“I’m not sure,” Daniel replied, appearing even more reluctant to share information than himself, quite deliberately. “You’re up to something, aren’t you?” he was suddenly direct, more direct than Hooper appeared to be ready for; he immediately drew away from him.

“Sorry?” he retorted. His feigned surprise far too feigned to be real.

“I think you know,” Daniel pushed. “I think you’re involved in something.”

Hooper regarded Jackson with some scepticism. “Why are you suddenly interested?”

“Why?” Daniel retorted instantly, the fear in his face made apparent. “Because as much as everything out here scares me, nothing scares me more than the enemy within, that’s why. Jack scares the hell out of me! He must frighten you to death.”

“Okay, so I’m sceptical about his purpose, so are a lot of people. Do you think I’m pretending to be interested in you to get information about him?” Hooper asked, his fingertips tracing across Daniel’s cheek.

Despite how he felt inwardly, Daniel knew he couldn’t react in anyway that might indicate his abhorrence for Hooper’s attention. “Aren’t you?” he probed. “Because if there’s a chance we can find a way to win without putting him in further jeopardy, I’d, well…”

The archaeologist’s voice was laced with desperation again, his eyes filled with apprehension.

“There are people who know how to win, to stop him from hurting himself,” Hooper stated, interrupting Daniel, his eyes attempting to instil calm in Jackson, emanating confidence and security. He sensed that Daniel would be prepared to do anything for the colonel. Perhaps attempting to avail him that there were other alternatives than those that might sacrifice O’Neill, might at least get him the information he needed to send to the coalition.

Daniel shook his head. “You have no idea what you’re talking about, Major, Jack is far too powerful for anyone, the Sengo’lians have seen to it. He’s their champion, they give everything, they…”

Hooper’s fingertips pressed against Daniel’s lips. “It’s okay,” he said. “I can stop him, I swear I will.”

Daniel poured scorn on that, moving away from him. “Stop him?” he countered. “You can’t, no one can.”

Hooper seemed in no mood to argue. He sensed Daniel’s vulnerability and wanted to offer some comfort; he moved toward the archaeologist quickly, forcing him back toward the wall until Daniel’s back was pressed firmly against it by the force of Hooper’s presence. “If I didn’t find you so attractive, I’d swear you were being far too compliant with me, Daniel,” he said.

Somewhere in his tone Daniel could hear his desperation.

The archaeologist took a deep breath and pushed him away, his eyes filled with fury. “Is that all you can think about?” he charged. “You don’t have any idea what you’re dealing with, do you?” he snapped. “There isn’t anyone out here to deal with this but Jack! I’ve watched him go through hell, and how do you think you can save him from that again?”

“They have a plan,” Hooper replied, once again trying to soothe Daniel. “I’m certain they won’t fail, they can’t fail with their allies.”

“Which allies? What are you talking about?” Daniel probed, still keeping his distance, hoping that Hooper wouldn’t detect how much he loathed the man’s closeness.

“General Vidrine, Jacob Carter, the Asgard, and some of the most powerful men on Earth, they brokered a deal with Heru’ur to trap him, and they will achieve it, they’ve got technology that will keep him harnessed. He won’t be able to use his power - not unless they let him!” Hooper explained, the relief of his confession to Jackson seemingly more powerfully exposing than he’d realised.

Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “Jacob Carter?” he questioned.

“Yes, Jacob and the Tok’ra, they’ve pretended to be on O’Neill’s side only to keep him from guessing the truth. He agreed with Odin that they needed to control O’Neill before the Goa’uld did, that’s why he made sure he had Hathor and Iceni as a bartering chip, that’s why he gave them the location of the Ancients vessel.”

Daniel’s eyes closed, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing; he knew O’Neill would be hearing the same thing. “Did Sam know about this?” he asked, instantly realising he was perhaps showing more than he wanted to. “Did she know he’d given up Jack’s daughter?”

The moment he said it, he knew it was a stupid thing to ask; Sam would no sooner give up Jack’s daughter than she would have given up Jacob, he, or Jack himself.

Hooper drew back, realising a little late the truth of Daniel’s attentions. “You’re playing me, aren’t you?” he snapped, his face filled with fury.

Daniel Jackson’s eyes lit up with pleasure at that moment, as much as a relief to be able to come clean, as of being able to remove himself from the disgust he felt of the role he had adopted to learn the truth.

“Yes, I’m playing you,” he retorted. “And you know what? I don’t believe you’d be arrogant enough to think I’d be attracted to you! It’s repulsive,” he continued. Now able to vent his true feelings, he was unable to prevent the volley of those feelings from becoming a barrage. “I couldn’t be attracted to you if you were the last human form on the planet, and I know this might come as a revelation, but you’re a man. I realise that it’s fashionable to pretend something’s there for your own convenience… but have you ever considered that maybe discovering if someone is gay before attempting to come onto them is a good idea?”

Hooper stared at Daniel in complete disbelief; he didn’t seem to suspect that the archaeologist might have been pretending. “You find me disgusting?” he asked, confusion masking his features.

“I find your need to put your desires on others disgusting,” Daniel retorted, without any hint of apology.

Hooper shook his head. “Maybe you think your relationship with O’Neill is just a friendship, Daniel, but just because you haven’t come to together yet means you’re too much of a coward to express your feelings physically.”

Daniel’s expression became flustered. “I’m sorry, maybe your hearing isn’t perfect, or you don’t want to listen? The point is, Hooper, I don’t want to express myself in anyway with Jack, or with any man. Despite what you or anyone else wants to read into it, we don’t harbour secret fantasies. Frankly the thought of anything physical with any man makes my skin crawl!” he snapped. “So, please, stop the bedroom fantasy and come back to reality.”

“Daniel, I’m sorry you can’t accept me, accept who I am,” Hooper stated. “The fact that you’d use my sexuality to play me… that you’d use my emotions that way…”

Daniel raised his eyebrows again, disbelief crossing his face. “Er, you really are living on a planet far from reality, aren’t you? And it was Jack’s call. Personally, I found the whole idea abhorrent, I still find it abhorrent, but at least now I know which side you’re on.”

Hooper unsheathed his gun, moving toward Daniel. “So, I guess there’s nothing more to be said, is there, at least I know…”

“Now you know what, Hooper,” O’Neill’s sarcastic tone unmistakeable. “You know Daniel’s a lot smarter than you realised. Did you really think he’d be vulnerable to you and your little conspiracy?”

Hooper turned to see O’Neill.

His eyes were not slightly red, they were bright red, blood red, seething with rage and hatred; hatred that poured from them the scorn he felt for Hooper and what the man stood for. The betrayal of men who did not understand was one thing, but Hooper had spent some time in the SGC command, he should have known the extent of the enemy they faced.

“I’ll kill him,” he snarled at O’Neill, unable to believe that both men had read his intentions and deployed a plan that completely crushed his emotions.

“I’ll just bring him back to life, Hooper,” Jack sighed, the disappointment he felt once more resonating in his tone. “Because that’s how powerful I am, I’m powerful enough to make you turn that gun on yourself and shoot, so why don’t you?”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “Jack, you can’t?”

“I can, Daniel, how many times do you need to hear that before you believe it,” Jack replied, his eyes never leaving the terror that was now Hooper. “Mark, you’re a little fish in a pond where sharks are swimming, the kind of sharks that don’t care whether or not you drown, or they eat you alive. They will eat you, right after they rip chunks of your flesh from your body… bleeding yet?”

Daniel moved toward O’Neill. “Jack, don’t, you can’t,” he protested.

“Again with the I CAN, Daniel,” Jack snapped. “I can because I have to, you don’t get the importance of having to act when maybe you don’t like the consequences, do you? You have the luxury of that, Danny, I don’t, or didn’t you get that?”

Jackson’s panic was now mirrored in Hooper; the man knew that O’Neill’s power was awesome, he just never expected it to be turned on him. He could feel the urge to put the gun to his temple and pull the trigger, but he resisted, he resisted because Jackson was distracting his foe and he could. The trigger tightened under his finger and the gun exploded suddenly, the bullet was almost in slow motion as it flew from the gun toward O’Neill, toward his chest, striking him in the shoulder as he moved.

The colonel’s eyes filled with rage, his eyes closing. “Ego obviam tu,” he snarled. (I oppose you.)

“I’m gonna kill you,” Hooper growled, moving closer to O’Neill, less fearful now he could see blood running from the wound in the man’s shoulder.

“Mark, stop!” Coburn yelled as he entered the bridge. “Colonel!”

Jack turned and looked at Coburn. “What?” he enquired, his red eyes terrifying in their intensity.

“Oh shit,” Coburn said, looking at the colonel then toward Hooper.

Daniel didn’t wait any longer. His reaction purely instinctive, his hands closed around Hooper’s throat. “Drop the gun,” he ordered, his attention on the marine unwavering. “Hooper, drop it.”

O’Neill’s fascination precluded him from doing anything, his shoulder didn’t hurt, nor could he feel any pain in his mind, which usually followed when it worked overtime to deal with an injury, instead his focus was altered, altered because Daniel’s actions were extraordinary to him.

The archaeologist’s grip tightened around Hooper neck as the man refused to cede his hold on the weapon, still pointing it at O’Neill. He could feel the grip, feel the flesh collapsing under his hold, and yet he couldn’t stop himself from squeezing even more.

The life was expelling through Hooper’s lips, his body weakening, then O’Neill was pushing him back, pushing him away from the man. He couldn’t focus on anything. He could only feel the intent within the desire to end the existence of something so abhorrent to him it had little consequence, little reason to exist, and therefore he had to expunge it.

“Daniel,” Jack spoke to him, his voice an echo. “Danny, look at me.”

He could feel how shallow the younger man’s breathing had become. The lust inside him to do harm to someone he despised, and that anger was eating him up without a trace of humanity reaching within.

“Daniel!” Jack asserted again. “You’re better than this… you’re better than me, you’re better than anyone here… you can’t do this.” The colonel’s eyes were fixed on Jackson, the intensity he felt burning in his gaze. Then a smile, albeit brief, crossed his face. “And since when do I have to talk you down?”

Jackson seemed completely oblivious to him, oblivious to anything other than satiating the desire to kill Hooper.

‘His mind is infuriated by the lack of compassion, Ha’dai,’ the Sengo’lians attempted to remind O’Neill of what he knew for himself. ‘He sees only the evil within the human being, he sees only the disgust he feels.’

‘Yeah, well being gay and corrupted doesn’t mean he can just kill him, this is Daniel, let him go, and let him think for himself.’

‘It is not the Sengo’lians whose pain he reflects, it is his own. It is your pain, Ha’dai.’

‘Great! Just what I need, more amplification! Back off, let me deal with this.’

‘As you wish.’

“Daniel, not this way, not like this,” Jack continued, his eyes never leaving Jackson. “This isn’t you. You’re reflecting him and his poison… Daniel…”

Jackson’s eyes widened before he seemed to simply weaken and plunge toward the floor. A solid weight in O’Neill’s hands, the colonel was barely able to break the man’s fall.

“Coburn, take him into custody,” Jack ordered, kneeling beside Daniel’s unconscious body.

‘We are here.’

‘You’re aware of the plans of the Goa’uld, coming through the Sanctuary and attempting to harness you, to harness me, it cannot be allowed to pass. Destroy Heru’ur, show them we aren’t playing here.’

Ha’dai, if we destroy Heru’ur…’

‘She’s gone, I know what I’m asking, believe me, I know.’

‘Consider it so. We ask that you forgive us for carrying out that which you ask.’

‘No need to forgive you, no need to forgive her, just a need to end this before it corrupts everything.’

Coburn moved across to Hooper, the cuffs he had been alerted to carry earlier by O’Neill, fastened around the man’s wrists.

“You dumb ass,” he growled. “You ever think you were being used?”

Hooper stared back at Coburn. “Not as much as the rest of you are,” he asserted. “He’s the user. Look at him manipulating everyone and everything to what he wants. Did it never occur to you or anyone else that this is just how he likes it? That the war with the Goa’uld would have been over long ago if he harnessed the true power he possesses? Of course it didn’t, it didn’t because you want to think he’s good, well he’s not good,” Hooper continued. “He’s a part of a wider plan by these aliens to take over the damn universe, to subjugate the wills of all sentient life forms until nothing can resist him.”

Coburn shrugged. “If he’s so powerful what makes you think I’m not already in his control, dumb ass, save your breath for someone that’s as gullible as you evidently are, I’ve seen this guy in action, I’ve seen what he’s suffered so people like you could betray him,” the marine snapped. “You don’t have a clue where the real evil is, where the real manipulation is, you just think you do because someone with a star on his shoulder told you so.”

“Jimmy, he has you fooled too?” Hooper gasped. “I don’t believe this.”

“Neither, former Major Hooper, do I.”

Coburn dragged the man to his feet, pushing him toward the door. He took one final glance back at O’Neill and Jackson before he left.

“D, you’re too stupid for your own good,” Jack whispered, sitting on the floor beside the archaeologist. “Ever occur to you that this thing could easily take you to places you might not go? Ever occur to you you’d regret that afterward?”

Daniel’s eyes opened. “No, actually it didn’t,” he responded. “At least not until now.”

The colonel smiled. “Just when ya thought you were immune, hah?” he said.

“Just when!” Daniel confirmed. “Did you get everything you needed?”

Jack nodded. “Not sure Hooper did,” he remarked.

“Neither am I, why did you stop me?” Daniel enquired.

“Because as much as you want it to be, that person isn’t you, even when you’re at your worst, you’re not him,” Jack replied. “Besides, one of us has to have a little morality and humanity, or maybe we will forget why we’re out here.”

Daniel’s eyes closed for a moment, a sense of the integrity emanating from his friend sending a tinge of guilt through his mind. “Maybe I wanted to be, Jack, maybe I’m tired of believing in humanity.”

“Bullshit!” O’Neill countered. He stood, offering Jackson his hand. “You will never be that man, Daniel, because you’re not that flawed.”

Jackson accepted the assistance, getting to his feet and looking directly at the colonel. “Maybe you don’t want to believe I could be that man, Jack, but believe me, with everything I knew about him and what he intended, I was, for that moment, I was.”

Ha’dai, confirm to us that it is your desire once more, for we would be beyond consolation if our actions destroyed something you could not live without.’

‘You know where the vessel is?’

‘We know, she is aboard, she is corrupted but not beyond your salvation.’

‘Don’t tell me that.’

Ha’dai, we would be without recourse to your wisdom if we lied.’

‘Where is the ship?’

‘From the location of your formidable vessel? Within two thousand light years to your shen’ai’cah.’

‘I’m with you. Disable the vessel, disable the Goa’uld in her mind, and I’ll deal with it from there.’

‘She must do this herself.’

‘She can’t… are you telling me you’re unable to stop that?’

‘Within, if she does not possess the power to overwhelm them, then she will be overwhelmed. Within did you possess that power hence you were freed and they were unable to overcome you, Ha’dai. That is why you are to us, the salvation, your mind is stronger than any other we have ever encountered, it matches our collective for strength.’

‘Starting to sound like Yoda!’ he cautioned, even if he knew they had no idea what that meant.

He took a deep breath, alerting his companion to his plight.

Daniel immediately focused on the colonel.

“Jack is there something you’re not telling me?” he asked.

O’Neill almost smiled. “Most of the time, Daniel,” he responded, the smile gone instantly, he focused on Jackson. “It’s a kinda complicated ‘my daughter is a Goa’uld’ thing, Daniel.”

“She’s a host, Jack, not a Goa’uld,” Daniel corrected, offering his most encouraging expression, he added. “We can save her, just like we saved Teal’c.”

“Doctor Daniel Jackson, the eternal optimist!” Jack sighed.

“I’m a perfect foil for the eternal pessimist then, right?” Daniel retorted, looking O’Neill directly in the eyes. “Come on, Jack, you know and I know that I’m here because you need me. Well guess what, I need you too, I need you not to give up, because that’s what you’re good at. As much as you need me to be a humanitarian in case yours is gone. I need you to be a warrior and pretend you can’t be beaten. It’s a two way street we’re on, Jack, help me out!”

O’Neill’s concession was slow. “Okay, you’re right, D, I’m not giving up on her. I’m not giving up on Jake either,” he said.

“Good, because I’m pissed that he’s given up on you!”

“Jesus, is that what you think?” Jack replied. “You think Jake’s given up on me? He just got fooled, D, he got messed up!”

“Messed up? Jack, he’s plotting with whoever it is that’s trying to kill you,” Daniel retorted sternly. “I’d say that’s more than messed up, wouldn’t you?”

“And you think he’s not gonna notice that, hah?” Jack stated, a confident smile beginning to cross his features.

“What have you done?” Daniel enquired.

“I’ve just made sure he’s gonna be paying attention for a while,” Jack told him.

“Jack?”

“Daniel, it’s not his fault, it’s the snake, the snake got scared and in a way I get that, Thor’s only not in that category because he knows me,” Jack explained. “The way you know me, D, the way Sam knows me, and Teal’c does, that’s it, that’s all that keeps me from losing my mind out here.”

“We’re starting to sound far too chummy, Jack,” Daniel remarked a look of reticence on his face.

“Yeah, and you wonder what starts the rumours!” the colonel stated.

“A vivid imagination and a vicarious desire to exist through something that doesn’t,” Daniel countered. “I’ve seen the headlines, read the stories, bored now!”

“Buffy!” Jack stated. “Good show.”

“Yeah, I saw a couple of episodes, the redhead’s hot!” Daniel remarked.

“Actually, I prefer the blonde,” Jack replied, winking at the archaeologist. “I like a girl that can hold her own!”

Daniel tried not to enjoy a rather whimsical and irrelevant exchange, but it felt good to be throwing comments that meant absolutely nothing in any scheme of things.

“Okay. We’re not taking this very seriously, are we?” he said finally, after allowing a quick contemplation of the other females in that particular show.

“Nope, do we ever?” Jack responded. “Besides, if you take stuff too seriously it bites you in the ass. Speaking of biting someone in the ass, I figure we should be taking on H, right about now.”

Jackson nodded. “So?”

“I know, I’m on it,” Jack told him. His mind synchronised with the navigation and engines and his thoughts directed them, sending the vessel toward Heru’ur’s destination.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aiestrodous smiled; his skeletal features fearsome. “We are placed as close to intercepting her as we can be without revealing our strength,” he said.

Martouf, who was both tired and thirsty, nodded. “Finally,” he said.

“There is water nearby,” Aiestrodous told him.

Martouf looked surprised. “I thought you were unfamiliar with this planet,” he probed.

“I can smell it, human!” Aiestrodous growled. “So much of you is human that you have lost your sense of smell!”

Martouf looked toward the area Aiestrodous had indicated would yield water, and got slowly to his feet. “Why are you suddenly so hostile?” he asked.

The Furling looked at him, his red eyes piercing through to the symbiote. “Did you not betray O’Neill,” he stated, “along with the others of your race. Did you not expect him to perish or be driven to slavery by those that desire his power?”

Martouf’s surprise was not feigned, the Furling could tell that instantly, in fact the horror of the insinuation seemed offensive to him.

“What do you speak of?” Lantesh demanded, the Tok’ra’s eyes flashing in Martouf’s blue gaze.

“I speak of the betrayal of O’Neill, a pact with the Goa’uld, the High Council of the Asgard, and some power mongers on his planet,” Aiestrodous replied, his fury at the revelation barely concealed in the ever intrusive stare.

“I have no dealings with the Goa’uld,” Lantesh protested. “Nor would I broker deals with those that have attempted too often to steal power without realising the power they were up against. I have worked with Colonel O’Neill, whether I have agreed with his methods or not, I know his intentions, and thus his intent is honourable.”

“Then you are welcome here,” Aiestrodous said. “Had you been complicit I would not have hesitated to destroy you where you stood!”

Martouf regained control. “How do you know neither of us was complicit?” he enquired, disturbed by the revelations as much as Lantesh.

“I, human, have not lost my ability to read the thoughts of any living creature and know whether they speak truly or not. I can see inside your soul, Martouf, and that of your symbiote, if any impurity of thought or deed existed, it would reside there.”

The realisation that Aiestrodous spoke confidently of his prowess sent a chill down the spine of the Tok’ra host, making his symbiote uneasy.

“I am truly glad I have chosen wisely in my allies,” he said.

Aiestrodous offered what passed for a smile from this wiry creature, turning his back on Martouf as he did so. “Be gone with you, whilst there is still time for you to nourish yourself of water and food. Maya awaits you, he was sent on to secure these comforts for you,” he told the man.

Martouf bowed his head; he knew that somehow the Furling would know of his gratitude, even without seeing it.

Aiestrodous watched the horizon. He knew that Hera and her forces had landed on the planet, and soon there would be a battle that the Goa’uld would regret entering; she had never come across a foe as formidable as the Furlings, nor the Teyu’peh, who resided in the forests where Hera had been forced to land her fleet. Thousands of the cumbersome Unas would be easily destroyed by these ferocious creatures; their claws, sharp as talons of the fiercest bird of prey and mounted on the most muscular of limbs, capable of tearing the arm from an Unas without much effort.

“Soon, they will discover what it is to have true enemies,” Aiestrodous said. His kin stood around him in a symbolic circle, lowering their heads as if to pray; yet nothing so divine could ever reside in such soulless creatures, who, had the Goa’uld ever bothered to learn of, would certainly have been a foe never to be challenged in open combat.

The history of this incredibly resilient being stretched back before the Goa’uld, before the Ancients and the Asgard. Only one race could boast the longevity of the Furlings, and they were the Sengo’lians.

These two races had evolved on planets not dissimilar, yet their achievements in survival and the ability to maintain had been remarkably different. Where the Sengo’lians had possessed a power that would keep their foes far away, the Furlings need for the sustenance they lived upon meant their nourishment required proximity to life, with that proximity had come a culling of the worst sort; many of the pure bloods had been destroyed by heat and weapons of mass destruction wielded by the Goa’uld, who had colonised many of the planets they lived on. Aiestrodous, like many of the true Furlings, had been forced to create his own colonies. If those could be reunited, perhaps the Furlings could once again sustain a limited population on planets that O’Neill had planned to designate for them as home worlds.

Perhaps then, they could once again breed descendants, and the possibility of hibernation for great periods to promote the re-growth of their cellular structures would ensure that they were indeed immortal.

Aiestrodous turned to see Martouf returning with Maya.

The Tok’ra smiled. “Thank you for your consideration, Lord Aiestrodous,” he said.

“Before this battle is ended, you will have cause to remember those words!” Aiestrodous told him. “Maya, prepare for the arrival of the Unas, and the one that believes she can face us in flesh and blood and survive.”

Maya bowed his head. “My lord,” he acknowledged. “Come, we prepare.” He beckoned for the followers of Aiestrodous to follow, leaving the Furling and the Tok’ra alone.

“If these Unas are so fearful, would it not have been wise for you to have weapons?” Martouf enquired, clearly disturbed by the impending battle and what might be the consequences.

“We need no weapons, ours are eternal and lethal, ours are part of us. We are able to move amongst our enemy without their awareness of our presence, until we render them mere piles of bones!” Aiestrodous stated. “Fear not, mortal, for these are true mortals who require technology to sustain a prolonged life. The Furlings are immortals, true gods in the sense that the Goa’uld will never be.”

Martouf raised his eyebrows. “Those are bold and notable words,” he said. “I must again acknowledge my humbleness in such a presence.”

“If O’Neill were here, he would respond thus, Martouf, there is nothing that can deserve to be so mighty as to be humbling of any other being - only those that need to be feared and respected.”

“I have a feeling Colonel O’Neill wouldn’t have put it quite so eloquently, nor politely,” Martouf replied, a smile crossing his face that seemed to migrate to his companion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Colonel Jack O’Neill didn’t look quite as old as the last time Vidrine had seen him. “So, taking over, hah?” he remarked as he walked through the Stargate.

“Same Jack O’Neill,” Vidrine observed, making no attempt to hide his disdain.

“Yeah, well I’ve been elevated to the role of God since you last saw me, not sure even the President can overrule that one, Samuel,” Jack commented, a wry smile crossing his sardonic features. “But since you’re keen to try, wanna tell me why you’re taking an interest in this command suddenly?”

Maybourne nodded his approval at the clone’s ability to assume the role of his flesh and blood counterpart. Even if he hadn’t been altogether sure what was going on, the information Major Carter had sent through prior to Vidrine getting access to the master computer had proved invaluable.

“The President feels the Pentagon needs more control,” Vidrine stated, ushering the clone towards the exit from the embarkation room. “I didn’t think you’d object.”

“Oh, I don’t object, Samuel,” Jack patronised. “In fact, take command, let me know when you want me to blow shit up, until then, do me a favour and don’t wake me up. I haven’t slept for weeks!”

Vidrine’s surprise at O’Neill’s lack of concern was obvious; he had expected an argument, at the very least a dozen reasons why he should be in control.

“Well, you surprise me, Colonel,” he remarked.

“I know, I get that a lot,” O’Neill retorted, a glance toward Maybourne. “Care to show me where the latest four star facilities are since the changes to this place?”

“Not at all, Jack, it will be my pleasure, assuming I’m excused, General?” he enquired of Vidrine.

The man nodded, still surprised at O’Neill’s acquiescence.

“Nice,” Maybourne remarked as the two men walked along corridor B7. “I must confess the blowing up shit even convinced me I was looking at the real McCoy!”

O’Neill stopped. “Look, I might be a damn android, Maybourne, but I’ve got everything he had, with the exception of having some hooky, mindbenders in my head, so quit with the thumbs up and apple pie crap, okay?”

“Quitting!” Maybourne confirmed. “I think he’s involved with some pretty influential folks in attempting to set up Jack, he and Jacob Carter!”

“Jacob?” the clone looked surprised. “I thought he was Sam’s dad?”

“He is, doesn’t mean he isn’t also influenced by his snake,” Maybourne replied, gesturing for O’Neill to enter the elevator before him. “He’s involved, Carter told me, and I have to tell you, I’m extremely surprised.”

“Hey! He’s got a snake in his head, what’s to be surprised about?” O’Neill commented.

Maybourne shook his head. “No, I’m not surprised about that, I’m surprised Sam trusted me enough to tell me her suspicions!”

O’Neill nodded. “Yeah, you’re right,” he agreed. “Shocker!”

“Believe it or not, your other self and I have a degree of trust now,” Maybourne told the clone. “I’ve come a long way, Jack, I’ve done a lot of things, but I think by and large I’ve redeemed my former indiscretions!”

“Sweet, because I was beginning to wonder if I should shower or not,” the clone retorted, a smile briefly lighting up his face.

“Funny,” Maybourne responded, leading the way toward the guest rooms on level twenty-four.

“What’s the plan?” O’Neill’s clone enquired as the two men entered the salubrious quarters normally set aside for VIPs.

“We wait, see what they do and who’s involved,” Maybourne told him. “We’ve got a few reserves standing by that they’re not aware of, even with their little probes watching from on high, we’re ready for anything that they might send our way.”

“Sweet, I was beginning to think that we’d be waiting a while,” the clone responded.

Maybourne tried not to smile, but it was difficult. O’Neill had that affect on him often, which was a whole lot better than the previous effect of making him nervous.

“He’s already been down to Hathor and Nirrti, which makes me suspicious as to what exactly he’s up to on that score,” Maybourne remarked.

“Oh, she’s here is she?” Jack’s eyes lit up. “Wanna have some fun?”

Maybourne regarded the clone with intrigue. “What did you have in mind?” he asked, a devilish smile crossing his bearded face.

“I think I can probably find out exactly who’s in bed with whom,” the clone replied. “Without too much trouble if she thinks I’m the other guy.”

“I’m with you, and since we’re both free to move around as we see fit, why not!” Maybourne concurred.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The image that flitted across the viewer made Makepeace double take, unsure if a ship had passed by at sub-light speed, or if he were seeing those spooky things that often appeared in his eyes yet didn’t seem to exist when his fingertip probed for it.

Stuart regarded him. “Something up?” he enquired.

“Aside from sleep deprivation?” Makepeace remarked. “Nope! Although, I could have sworn something went past that damn window thing.”

Stuart was immediately on his feet. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” Makepeace retorted, he felt a little irritated and couldn’t quite put his finger on why.

“Robert, maybe you should get some sleep,” Stuart suggested. “You’re worse than my wife at the wrong time of the month!”

“That’s sexist, and bullshit, by the way,” Makepeace snapped. “Women are far worse.”

“Is there anything on the sensors?” Stuart enquired.

“Nothing,” Makepeace confirmed, studying the console before him. “Damn Goa’uld technology, we need an interface for our own units.”

“Makepeace, are you receiving, come in?”

“Major Carter, receiving you loud and clear, what’s the situation with Jacob? Are we waiting, or are we heading out?” Makepeace enquired.

“Colonel, there’s been a change of plan, we need you to continue to orbit Earth until further notice,” Carter told him.

“Major, I’m not sure you’re clear what Colonel O’Neill asked us to do here,” Makepeace asserted, “orbiting Earth wasn’t it!

“Sir, I can’t explain further, possible situation concerning infiltration, you’re needed here,” Carter replied instantly.

Stuart nodded at Makepeace. “She sounds a little stressed; we ought to find out what’s going on the covert way!”

“Major, heard and understood, we’re standing by for further instructions,” Makepeace said, a slow single nod of agreement with Stuart. “We have anything that can get you down there without anyone seeing?”

“I have no idea, we could check it out,” Makepeace said. “If we can’t figure it out, we’ll get hold of O’Neill, he’ll know what to do.”

“How are we meant to get hold of O’Neill, exactly?” Stuart enquired, a rueful expression crossing his face.

“Trust me when I say, right about now he’ll know what’s going on, and he’s probably finding a way to deal with it,” Makepeace retorted.

Stuart shook his head. “Whilst I share your enthusiasm for Jack’s ability to deal with shit, I have a feeling he’s busy with the Sengo’lian issue right now, Robert, so maybe we should find a way to deal with this problem ourselves.”

Makepeace shook his head. “I thought fighting these fuckers out in space was bad enough, but having them right on our doorstep? That pisses me off!”

“I heard that!” Stuart agreed. “So, shall we see if we can get a look see down there, or shall we stay put and rely on Carter?”

“I think we should sit tight, wait until we’re certain we need to deal and then go deal… if something happens up here, we’re the only ones dealing with it!”

The two men stared toward Earth. The force shield, window-like in its presence, allowed them the view that many would have marvelled at, but it wasn’t a time to marvel. Colonel Robert Makepeace held his breath and prayed; he wasn’t a god-fearing man, but still, it couldn’t hurt to put a word in with what was supposed to be the most powerful force in the known universe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heru’ur regarded the daughter of his nemesis, now implanted with Tawaret, his genetically engineered mate. “It is time you were in control of this host, my love,” he asserted, raising Iceni’s head with his fingertips, lifting her chin. “Tell me, Tawaret, how long must I wait to finally realise part of a destiny that has been so long in the making? How long can she possibly hold your will at bay?”

Iceni’s incredibly immense blue eyes stared at him; the sudden glow of the Goa’uld within made those eyes irresistible to him. “You are indeed a master worthy of servitude,” she said. “And yet I sense you do not believe I am capable of providing you with the children you seek.”

“Did she tell you that?” Heru’ur countered. “Truly, these Ancients are formidable adversaries, as we speak her long lost father seeks to reunite with her, and you are incapable of prevailing, you disappoint me, Tawaret.”

“Engineered for your pleasure and subservience, my lord, are you surprised that I would be disappointed?” Tawaret stated. “However, I would rather be at your side than under your feet, give me time to subdue this host fully, and she will betray her kind as you have never seen before.”

Heru’ur’s arrogant regard offered a smile. “She cannot make him acquiesce, but she can give him something to think about whilst we plan the final battles with all that dare to oppose us!”

Tawaret bowed her head. “Take your pleasure, my lord, there is time enough for battle,” she suggested, fingertips running tantalisingly up and down the body of her host. “Would it not be a true victory to bring this body to your pleasure and will, to implant your seed inside, and with it create a child that would truly possess the knowledge of both the Ancients and the power to enter the mind of her creator? She will be your gateway to him, you will offer his services to these men that believe they are greater than the Goa’uld, greater than Heru’ur, and you will truly have the power, and when you are ready that power will destroy them all.”

Heru’ur seemed intrigued at that suggestion and a smile crossed his face once more. “I never intended to breed with this creature,” he snarled. “That pleasure will belong to the one that can control O’Neill, to the only one that can truly fool him into bending his will, and when finally I unleash that, he will blend with this host and they will destroy our enemies without having to expend energy or even lift a delicate finger. He possesses more power than the Ancients could ever harness and he will have his revenge!”

Tawaret moved back away from her master. “What have you done? With whom have you made a pact, my lord?” she demanded, her eyes filled with fear.

Heru’ur’s surly expression became a victorious glower. “I will unleash a force more powerful than any other in the universe, the darkest side of the Sengo’lians. O’Neill has met them in the past, they are the Hyksos, a foe so feared by the Ancients that they were locked in solitude on three planets, only one managed to survive and they want to meet their former nemesis! The nemesis that destroyed their leader, I have to ensure he is nowhere near to Ancients technology when they meet. It will be like tossing him into the depths of hell, and when they destroy his planet, he will know that I will never be trifled with again by the Tau’ri.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The alert that sounded on the ships for proximity woke Darnell with a start. He checked all the instruments in front of him. “What the heck is going on?” he demanded, remembering to switch on the communication device and ask a second time in order to get a response.

“Well, I think it’s probably Baal’s fleet,” Daniel Jackson’s clone remarked. “They’re a few thousand light years out, so I guess the system figured a warning was in order. Maybe if you hadn’t been sleeping you’d have noticed.”

“I need sleep, Daniel, I’m not made of plastic and circuitry!” Darnell retorted. “We stand a chance in an open fight?”

“Yeah, you lack a sense of humour too!” the clone growled.

“So would you if you felt as damn uncomfortable as I do. How the heck do I put this thing on autopilot so I can at least shake off the snake?” Darnell complained.

Jackson’s clone sighed heavily. “It doesn’t need you to hold its hand, Colonel, it has a computer to fly for it.”

“Not our job to destroy Baal,” Carter told them. “It’s our job to make them think we’re launching an assault, engage them, and keep them busy whilst the Jaffa put paid to their Stargate networks.”

“It makes sense, I guess, so we’re not gonna take out the snake?”

“No, sir,” Carter responded. “We’re here to make sure no one else does!”

Darnell considered this for a moment. “We’re not… and we are?” he echoed.

“Let’s just say, Colonel O’Neill doesn’t want Baal dead just yet, he has other plans for him,” Daniel’s clone told him. “So, we keep his fleet busy, like Sam said.”

“Okay, but I have to say, these strategies make no sense to me whatsoever,” Darnell complained. “In my day we just blasted the shit out of the enemy and didn’t make deals with them.”

“Maybe that’s why your ‘day’ isn’t exactly covered with glory,” Daniel’s clone retorted curtly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hathor glared at the two SFs as the door opened to her cell, which in fact was a secured room on the same level O’Neill’s clone had been taken to. She couldn’t believe her eyes as O’Neill entered, followed by the man who had spent some time interrogating her before.

“Our beloved,” she greeted. “You have nerve to come before us after your betrayal.”

“Ya think?” O’Neill’s clone retorted. “I’d have thought that one went both ways, right?”

“Perhaps,” Hathor conceded. “What is it you desire from us now, simply to have pleasure in our captivity?”

The clone shook his head, regarding Maybourne for a moment. “How the hell does he put up with this?” he enquired, his voice lowered sufficiently to prevent the Goa’uld queen from hearing him.

“Jack’s amazingly resilient,” Maybourne told him.

“So, let’s do some fast talking on the problems you’ve got, and how what you know might help you out here,” the clone began, moving to one of the two chairs that were pushed under a plain wooden table. “Like, why is Heru’ur pretending he’s going for the Sengo’lians when we both know he doesn’t have the technology or the know how to negate them, or the black hole?”

Hathor regarded the colonel with disdain. “We are not here to satisfy your curiosity,” she snapped. “Your lack of knowledge in these matters, however, does intrigue us.”

The door opened, causing all three occupants to look at the intruder. Jacob Carter stood there. “We’ve got to get out of here now,” he warned. “Something’s in space and it isn’t something our defences can repel. They’ve taken out the Asgard satellites!”

Maybourne looked at O’Neill; the man nodded. “Let’s go,” he ordered.

“What about her?” Jacob asked.

“She’s going with,” Maybourne stated. “Right, Jack?”

The clone looked at the former NID man as if he were nuts. “What?”

Maybourne moved closer to the clone. “Look, we need information from her, whether you like it or not, your other self wouldn’t just leave her here to perish!”

“I’m not him!” the clone protested. “But if you insist, bring her!”

Nirrti?” Maybourne enquired as the four made their way past her holding room.

“Leave her!” O’Neill snarled. “She’s got it coming!”

Hathor’s disdain was wiped from her face; she could admire such callous need for revenge, it matched her own lust for destruction. She was wary of the Tok’ra, even if she knew he had been complicit with Heru’ur and the plans to restrain her beloved, his desires had been more understandable to her than those of Heru’ur, who could not possibly have been foolish enough to believe any force could contain the Sengo’lians. Their ability to overwhelm any foe with a power of thought and control was unmatched.

Carter waited at the embarkation room, ready to dial the coordinates for the new Alpha site, where most of the command had already been evacuated. The defences were already failing, most of NORAD’s upper levels had been destroyed, half of the US was in flames, and no one had seen it coming. Earth was being systematically destroyed, and that destruction had begun with the Pentagon and the White House. Air Force One had been in flight and thus had escaped the devastation in the nation’s capital, yet where would they take refuge? It was clear this new enemy had knowledge of the hierarchy and was disrupting the command abilities.

“Has Vidrine already gone through?” Maybourne enquired as they reached Carter.

“No, sir, he’s in his office,” she replied.

“Good, because if he tries, I’ll have to shoot him,” Maybourne commented.

“Major Davis says it’s all clear on the other side,” Carter informed them, as they made their way to the gate. She paused for a moment, looking at Hathor and noting the clone’s dismay at being so close to the Goa’uld. “Why’s she coming?” she demanded.

“Major, stand down!” O’Neill’s clone snapped. “Now’s not the time for a catfight.”

Carter looked furious for a second, but restrained herself admirably, much to the amusement of Maybourne. “It’s finally happening,” he said, as they, like many other personnel waited to go through the gate. “We’ve finally destroyed this planet.”

“We didn’t do this,” O’Neill’s clone snapped. “They did this. Whoever the hell it is behind the power mongers on Earth, and out there, whoever it was that made a deal with the damn Goa’uld.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Jacob Carter cautioned. “Hopefully they’ll limit the destruction to the US, since they seem to deem that as the only opposition on the planet.”

“And maybe they won’t,” the clone stated. “Kinda late for worrying about it, don’t ya think?”

The flood of people going through the gate to the Alpha site was beginning to ease. Maybourne finally had his feet on the ramp leading to the wormhole. He looked back, a sadness in his eyes that was now resonating throughout those left.

“I can’t believe this,” Carter said, disgust in her voice.

“Why, my dear? Did you not realise that you had meddled in the affairs of the gods and what would result?” Hathor challenged.

“Shut up!” O’Neill’s clone snarled. “This has nothing to do with gods, you’re just a damn snake in a human body, get over yourself!”

Maybourne couldn’t muster a smile, even if he felt like it. He took another last glance back at the control room, an empty control room, before he walked through the event horizon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Colonel Richard Dyson’s jet spun out of control. Watching the burning below him, he hadn’t seen the object that he’d collided with, he couldn’t see anything at all, even when there had been calm just before the Pentagon seemed to burst into flames, the entire octagonal building simultaneously disappearing in a ball of white heat. He felt dizzy, unable to get his bearings, he could hear himself calling the mayday hail, feel the stick in his hands, but he couldn’t control the plane, and then it stopped, the plane simply stopped spinning and hung in the air as if held by some invisible force.

Dyson held his breath for a moment, keeping his eyes firmly on his instrument panel. “Holy Mary, mother of God!” he yelled. The relief of suddenly returning to some form of control washed over him in an almost euphoric state.

His eyes began readjusting, his mind asserting itself on his thought process. “Halo 32, come in please?”

Nothing, no response, not even the other jet was in sight now. He took another deep breath, mindful not to hyperventilate. “Okay, why am I not moving at all?” he enquired, speaking only to himself and anyone else that might have been on comms and unable to respond.

He decided on the only course of action he could think of to free himself of whatever seemed to be holding him; he brought his weapons system online. A short burst from his guns should do it. Before the weapons could engage, the plane began to ascend toward the heavens, vertical lift, yet he could see nothing at all, and now nothing at all on the plane worked.

“Oh shit!” he exclaimed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Vidrine stood at the console in the control room of the SGC, a smile sweeping his features. “We made a deal,” he told his adjutant. “That deal just got everyone off this base we didn’t want here.”

“Sir, why are they attacking the Pentagon and the White House, they’ve both been destroyed,” Captain Lewis replied.

“President wasn’t in either facility, Captain, now we have absolute power, because whilst the President is incommunicado we will make the necessary decisions to keep the rest of this great nation safe.” Another smile crossed the man’s face. “A little revolution now and again is a healthy thing, don’t you agree?”

The captain, although he looked dubious, nodded his agreement. “When does it begin, sir?” he asked.

“Oh, once we’ve changed all the codes, managed to get all the defence systems in place, then we begin the restructure of planet Earth in the vision of the Coalition!” Vidrine told him. “A few months and everything we’ve ever wanted will be achieved. The Russians will be completely out of the loop, and our British allies will be thankful we negotiated a truce before the aliens began their global attack.”

Lewis nodded his approval. “Nice deal, sir, kill all those pigeons with one stone!”

“With one well aimed stone most things can be brought down,” Vidrine replied. “Now, let’s get our people in and sort this country out.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Makepeace watched in complete disbelief as many parts of the US were obliterated, leaving nothing but rubble and flames in the place of once historic buildings and cities. Millions dead, millions more wounded and destined for death or slavery. He shook his head.

“We can’t just sit here and do nothing,” he snapped.

Colonel Stuart lowered his eyes. “Robert, we’d just be part of that destruction, what good would that do Earth? What good would the sacrifice of this bit of technology that we might be able to use in the liberation of Earth, do us exactly?” he asked.

Makepeace knew he was right but still something inside him didn’t want to watch without at least attempting to aid those millions of people he had sworn to defend.

It went against every thing inside him to sit by, do nothing, and know how many people were being sentenced to death and worse.

“We need to get O’Neill now more than ever,” he stated. “How the hell did they get past us?”

“I know,” Stuart agreed. “I’m not altogether sure how we do that though, are you?”

“Nope,” Makepeace replied.

“O’Neill’s clone was quite specific about the not interfering, something else is going on here and I don’t think we’re in any position to deal with it, I’ve never seen those ships before,” Stuart stated, watching the smaller, crystal like vessels darting from the main ship and disappearing into Earth’s atmosphere. The viewing capabilities of the ship they were on was the only way they could see the destruction these vessels meted out, strictly on US soil; a thorough scan had revealed that no other country had been targeted. “This is too well orchestrated,” he added, glancing back at the concerned features of his colleague. “I say we head for the Alpha site, something’s wrong here,” Stuart added.

“Alpha site,” Makepeace agreed. He emitted a heavy sigh; the sadness and concern etched into his weather-beaten features. “There’s gonna be time enough to kick ass when we get this new ship O’Neill’s gone to find.”

As the two men looked once more at the bleak destruction of their country, both were drawn to something curious; a fighter jet was ascending into space, the pilot still in the cockpit. Makepeace trained the visual sensors on the object and projected the image fifty times larger.

“What the hell?”

“Beam him out or something,” Stuart suggested.

Makepeace looked at the console; the notes Jackson had left pinned on the controls were useful. A smile crossed his face. “Let’s hope this works,” he said, using the instructions to lock onto the jet and the bio-signs inside. “Fingers crossed… beaming.”

The surprised pilot fell on his backside in the middle of bridge. He looked up at Stuart and Makepeace who were already moving across. “Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dyson,” he said quickly.

“There’s no need to identify the rank or the serial number, Colonel, we’re friendlies,” Makepeace told him. “And, before we start answering your questions, we’ve gotta get our butts out of here!”

Dyson glanced from one man to the other. “I guess you had to be there, hah?” he remarked.

Stuart nodded. “And then some.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack sat on the floor by the console. His shoulder was still bleeding; even with the energy he had used to dislodge and remove the bullet, he had not been able to prevent the bleed.

There was something curious about the psychic ability to heal; it seemed less attuned than normal and it seemed to take so much more effort recently. Another concerted effort to prevent the bleeding failed, causing him to exhale loudly and petulantly.

“You okay?” Daniel enquired, shaking his head in dismay.

“I’m not sure,” the colonel confided. “I’ve lost contact with Iceni, she’s silent.”

“She said that about you once, Jack,” Daniel confided. “She believed you’d deliberately closed off communications with her.”

“I had,” Jack stated.

“Maybe she’s done the same,” Daniel offered.

“Why, so I don’t have to listen to the snake?” Jack retorted bitterly. “If you ask me, she’s lost the battle, Daniel.”

“You are always such a pessimist,” Daniel charged, shaking his head in dismay. “Remember the optimistic, warrior ‘I always get us out of this situation’ Jack O’Neill, where did he go, Jack?”

“He’s sat here, Daniel, he’s just not looking through those rosy tinted glasses you wear so well!”

“Hurting?” Jackson enquired.

“Hell yeah, it’s hurting, a bullet hurts, Daniel, like one of those ribbon devices, only sharper and longer since it breaks the skin, tears the flesh, rips the muscle and hits the bone, aches like hell and stings in the process,” Jack explained slowly. “So, on a scale of one to ten, I don’t really feel like being very optimistic just now, D. To top it all off, Heru’ur’s position doesn’t lead me to believe he’s even considering a black hole trip, and something’s very out of whack with the whole cosmic telepathy aspect right now and that’s a little disconcerting, never known these boys to be so worried.”

Jackson’s features dropped. “Has he already found something that can destroy the Sengo’lians without going through the black hole?”

O’Neill shrugged, wincing immediately. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “It’s all getting kinda monotonous, I mean, for crying out loud, how damn many bad guys can there be out here?”

The archaeologist didn’t respond, biting his bottom lip. He understood just how frustrating and perplexing the situation was for them both; most were happy in the knowledge that there was no life out there and nothing to threaten them aside from the stupidity of other human beings. It would probably destroy the order of things if the happy existence of everyday humanity found out that extremists were not the biggest threat. Yet they dealt with it every single minute of every day, now for almost eight years the SGC had been fighting to keep the balance.

“It’s getting tedious?” he asked finally.

“No, Daniel, it doesn’t get tedious defending your country or your planet, it can be a little wearing sometimes, especially when you’re fighting on all fronts,” Jack replied. “I’m sick of the acceptance of these guys operating with impunity and screwing things up with their damn conspiracies.”

The archaeologist regarded O’Neill with intrigue. “Something you didn’t want to tell me?” he asked.

“Just something I wasn’t sure about, Daniel, except there’s a lot of confusion right now in the Sengo’lians, something’s darker than normal, and they’re beginning to sense a presence that might be a little more potent than dealing with the Goa’uld. They think it’s familiar, they think it’s relative, and they think I’m probably in grave danger,” Jack told him. “Aside from that, nothing I could tell you, Daniel.”

Daniel heaved a heavy sigh. His mood began to darken again. Looking at the colonel, he could see how easily the man might find the whole scenario repetitive; both had been here far too often for their own liking.

“So, we pick ourselves up,” he began, standing, offering O’Neill a helping hand. “And we get going, right?”

Jack took his hand and got to his feet. “We do,” he concurred. “Let’s deal with these bastards one at a time, starting with H!” A wry smile crossed the man’s face. “Once more unto the breach!” he added.

Daniel’s eyebrows climbed higher into his forehead. “You’d better be careful, Jack,” he advised. “You’ll end up speaking in clichés!”

O’Neill shuddered. “Oh yeah, that’s gotta be avoided,” he remarked. “Right up there with quoting Nixon!”

“What are you planning on doing with Hooper?” Jackson enquired, watching O’Neill accessing the controls of the Ancients vessel.

“I figure he’s gonna start whining soon, tell me all about how I’ve betrayed Earth, and then of course there’s gonna be some diatribe about how the coalition is right, and then he’ll probably go the other way… er, excuse the pun!”

Daniel’s eyes rolled heavenward. “Excused,” he retorted instantly.

“Anyhow, I figure he is probably gonna be a pain in the ass, and I don’t think trusting him ever is an option…”

“Why? Just because he’s been misled, doesn’t mean he can’t see…”

“What, the light?” Jack mocked. “Gimme a break, D, there is not a chance in hell he’s gonna believe that the people, generals, and all that he trusted, lied to him,” Jack continued. “Just doesn’t happen, and we don’t have time to hold his hand and show him the error of his ways… besides, who says in his world he’s wrong?”

Jackson’s features looked less than impressed with the colonel’s last sentiment, illustrating his disdain for what he saw as sidestepping an issue.

“We can’t just dump him off somewhere,” he argued.

“Daniel, will you just… stop!” Jack snapped.

“No, you’re doing that not listening thing you do,” Daniel countered. “He could be useful.”

“Toilet cleaner?”

“Jack!”

“Oh come on, Daniel, I don’t have the patience or the inclination to explain myself to him… or you for that matter, so you wanna play ‘mister reasonable’, go ahead, be my guest, just please don’t ask me to join in!”

Jackson shook his head; a wry smile now crossed his face. “You never do play well with others,” he stated as he took his leave of the colonel.

Jack watched him leave. “That’s because I don’t trust others!” he commented, concentrating once more on dealing with the injury that was still causing a great deal of discomfort to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maybourne turned quickly, rounding on Jacob Carter, missile-like in his accuracy. “You did what?” he snarled, the rage barely concealed.

“I thought we were doing the right thing,” Jacob argued.

“Sending a message to Baal is hardly the right thing,” Maybourne countered furiously.

“I didn’t expect he’d intercept a message I was sending to Thor,” Jacob retorted, his glance toward his daughter. “Believe me I had no idea Baal could intercept it!”

“Going on your past record,” O’Neill’s clone responded with dismay. “It might be a stretch, Jake!”

Jacob Carter lowered his head, his eyes immediately announcing Selmak’s arrival to the verbal conflict. “General Maybourne, I assure you it was not Jacob’s doing that I agreed a truce with certain factions in order to gain control of O’Neill’s power, obviously had I known that there was complicity with the Goa’uld I would not have done so, so please, believe me when I tell you that Jacob did not intend for that message to be intercepted, in fact, he need not have mentioned it at all, the Tau’ri’s communications are not exactly secure!”

“Alright, let’s not get into a ‘who’s in the wrong and who’s in the deeper wrong!’” O’Neill’s clone asserted. “It’s just a shame, Selmak, that you didn’t give Jacob’s knowledge of the wonder of human nature more consideration, thus we’re all in deeper shit!”

“I admit in my haste I did set aside Jacob’s concerns, something I will not do again!” Selmak conceded.

“Thanks, but right about now is it possible we can come up with something that might get a message to the other guy about the deep shit he’s about to be in?” the clone enquired, looking from Jacob to Carter, and then to Maybourne. “Anyone?”

Carter regarded O’Neill’s clone. “Maybe we could work something out, sir,” she suggested.

“I’m not technical, even being a damn clone doesn’t give me the kind of mind that might have the faintest idea about communications, Carter,” the clone retorted.

“I’ll help,” Selmak’s voice rose above the mêlée. “It is my fault, I should rectify it.”

“I thought you said it was Jake’s fault?”

“I must of course, as a part of this, share some responsibility,” Selmak argued. “Therefore I will do whatever I can to alert O’Neill without actually giving away our position to Baal, or Heru’ur for that matter.”

“Sweet, Sam, you and Jacob can work on that, Maybourne and I will do our best to make sure there are no more unpleasant surprises in all this!” the clone stated.

“Colonel O’Neill.”

Jack turned to see Major Davis stood to attention in front of him. “Nope, but close enough,” he replied. “What can I do for you?”

Er, not sure who’s in command here,” Davis asked, looking from Maybourne to O’Neill.

“He is,” Maybourne replied, a wry grin crossing his whiskered face. “What?”

“I am?” the clone enquired. “How’d ya figure?”

“You’re the guy,” Maybourne told him. “Besides, if I start giving orders over your head, people are going to realise that you’re…”

The clone’s features wore a grimace. “Right, that they are,” he agreed. “So, Major, the in charge guy, at your service.”

Davis looked from one to the other. “Okay, sirs, I guess I can fill you both in,” he began. “We’ve set the perimeters as protocol and set up a defence shield supplied by the Tollans, courtesy of General Maybourne.”

“Nice,” O’Neill’s clone responded. “Good going, Harry, we can always use those guys! Narim here?”

“Yes, sir, he’s working with the scientists in the bunker, Tollan was wiped out over four hours ago, nothing left, whatever hit that place had firepower better than anything we’ve ever seen from the Goa’uld. It took out their defensive technology in minutes,” Davis briefed. “Thing is, sir, we have over two hundred civilians from Tollana here, as well as our own scientists and military personnel…”

“Major, are you trying to tell me we don’t have the beds, showers, food, or the beer to go around?” O’Neill probed, showing once again his lack of patience for dithering.

“We don’t have the facilities, heat, power, food, yes, sir,” Davis responded.

“Okay, first order of business, since Carter’s busy, get Makepeace and Stuart to go on a little forage for some supplies, until we can contact the other guy, we’re in a limbo here!” the clone stated. “So, let’s go about this like we got a purpose.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel regarded Hooper as he entered the cell outside which Coburn sat vigilantly. The man sat on the floor in the corner of the fully white cell; the panels convex, yet still this did not deter from the stagnation of the surroundings.

“What do you want?” Hooper questioned; his bright blue eyes less than pleased to see the archaeologist.

“I was hoping you’d calmed down actually,” Daniel replied.

“You’re stupid to come in here alone,” Hooper warned, getting to his feet and wiping his hands against his buttocks as if dusting them off.

“Oh?”

“I’m trained to kill with my bare hands,” the man asserted.

“Really,” Daniel’s reaction was dismissive. Both men knew Hooper wouldn’t harm him; he couldn’t, no matter how angry he felt. “So, aside from threats, have you actually had time to contemplate why you’re in here?”

“Because you betrayed me, that’s why I’m in here,” Hooper snapped.

“Oh, come on,” Daniel countered. “Doesn’t it strike you odd that everyone that knows Jack is fiercely loyal to him, that most people, and aliens for that matter, would die rather than let any harm come to him?” His eyebrows danced into his forehead as if to underline the point.

“Because you’ve all been brainwashed by those aliens that control him,” Hooper argued. “You can’t see it because you’re brainwashed.”

Daniel’s expression became askant. “I’m going to pretend you have some level of reasoning,” he said, his tone low and deliberate. “Why hasn’t he brainwashed you?”

Hooper regarded the man for a moment, shaking his head. “Because I’m aware of his duplicity with the aliens, I’ve got…”

“If he’s as powerful as you believe, able to control everyone around him, and those thousands of light years away,” Daniel stated. “Then why is it he can’t get beyond your incredibly astute brain? Mark, you’ve got to admit that it doesn’t actually make sense that Jack’s managed to brainwash everyone he wants to with the exception of whoever it is behind this attempted coup and…”

“They want to kill the President, destroy the Russians, and basically take over Planet Earth,” Hooper stated, lowering his eyes away from Daniel’s surprised expression.

“Kill the President?” he echoed.

Hooper took a deep breath. He turned away from the archaeologist and pounded his fists against the white panels. “I don’t believe it… you’re right, I’m stupid,” he confessed. “They had me believing the same rhetoric that caused the cold war. I spent a lifetime getting my damn commission, a lifetime making something of myself, and I was sold out by the same bullshit that scared half of America to death and kept them under the damn thumb of the government.”

Daniel’s apologetic expression didn’t go unnoticed; Hooper offered him a less than self assured smile. Reticence seemingly buried in the very fibre of the man.

“Look, Jack’s not in any mood to trust anyone right now,” he told the marine.

Hooper shook his head. “I’m surprised he didn’t just kill me and have done with it,” he remarked, obviously feeling slightly sorry for himself. “Maybe I wouldn’t feel so damn pathetically stupid right now if he had.”

Daniel tried not to smile. “You wouldn’t be feeling anything at all, you’d be dead,” he offered.

“Stupid!” Hooper said. “See!”

“You’re not the first one to believe something in defence of his country,” Daniel told him. “You won’t be the last either.”

“How did he know?” Hooper asked, getting closer to Daniel now, feeling a little more confident that the archaeologist was beginning to warm to him.

“Jack?”

“Yeah, how’d he know there was something wrong?”

“He has an uncanny ability to utilise senses that most have allowed to lie dormant for centuries,” Daniel responded. “And you’re not playing me very well.”

Hooper moved back, shaking his head once more. “I wasn’t playing you, I was trying to ascertain if you were still playing me… Look I know we totally got off on the wrong foot…”

“You and he won’t be getting off at all,” O’Neill said pointedly. “And just so we’re clear, Hooper, I can read you like a book on this ship because it amplifies everything you feel and think. It amplifies it because the ship is sensitive to human nature on account of the way the controls link to your mind.”

“Sir, I didn’t mean to call you a traitor,” Hooper said, moving toward Daniel once more.

Jack’s smile stopped as quickly as he moved across the room and threw Daniel aside, his hands instantly in position; Hooper’s neck was snapped before the man’s body hit the ground.

“Ship’s pretty impressive,” he told Jackson, a grimace sweeping his face. “I just did to him what he was planning on doing to you.”

Jackson watched the colonel leave; a heavy sigh escaped him as he looked at the body of the marine. Coburn stood at the door as he exited.

“He wasn’t worth it, Doctor Jackson,” he said. “He was going to kill you.”

“How could you have known that?” Daniel asked Coburn, stopping to regard the man.

“Because if he wasn’t contemplating it, he’d have stayed where he was, he wouldn’t have been stalking you around the cell, positioning himself for the kill, even I could see that, if Colonel O’Neill hadn’t stepped in, I would have.”

The archaeologist nodded at the major; whether to acknowledge an agreement or simply to thank him, Coburn didn’t know, but he seemed to look a little more relieved than he had when O’Neill walked out.

Coburn took one last look at the body of his former colleague and departed, following Jackson toward the bridge. “Sir, are we going to deal with Heru’ur now?” he enquired.

Jack barely noticed him, or even acknowledged either man had entered the bridge.

‘We are here.’

‘They are too, aren’t they?’

‘They have found a way from their prison, it is true, however, they lack the power to do anything substantive, given, they have ships that are dangerous and capable of destroying much, they cannot yet control or manipulate the minds of others.’

‘Moving on you?’

‘They will attempt to do so, once they have destroyed you, your power, Ha’dai, is what prevents any living being from vanquishing us, or you.’

‘My power?’

‘The knowledge your mind possesses, coupled with the life force of the Furlings, has given you the ability to eradicate any foe if you so desire, however, that power is also as dangerous to you, to your universe, and to all biological creations, as it is benevolent.’

‘Ancients knew how to capture you and destroy you, but they didn’t, they also didn’t destroy the Hyksos, did they?’

‘No. It is true, Ha’dai, they had no way of distinguishing between our intentions. Where we strive to understand and exist, the Hyksos strive to rule and dominate. Their thoughts are dark, you felt the darker side of our thoughts yourself, when our inquisitiveness became too great. That is why we are not dangerous to anyone, we have learnt to come back from that precipice. The Hyksos never did, nor did they wish or desire to.’

“Jack?” Daniel’s voice.

O’Neill held his hand up to indicate for the archaeologist to be patient.

Coburn regarded the man. “Seems to be busy doing something, Doctor Jackson,” he told Daniel.

“Yes, he is, he’s communicating with the Sengo’lians.”

‘So, how do we deal with them, want them out of the way?’

‘It is like destroying a part of ourselves, Ha’dai, but then you are our salvation, it is your decision. However, know this, your desires may be tarnished by the desires of the Ancient ones. They will caution against destruction, you must find your own mind and reason what is best for you and for them.’

‘Yeah, they do like to preach!’

“Jack?”

O’Neill turned and looked at Daniel. “What?”

Er, there’s a Goa’uld mothership on the starboard bow, and I doubt we can scrape it off!”

O’Neill raised his eyebrows. “Was that a Star Trek thing?” he enquired.

Jackson looked at Coburn. “He never watches TV,” he remarked.

“Don’t hardly have the time myself, Doctor Jackson,” Coburn responded.

Jack looked mildly irritated. “I watched Buffy!” he asserted indignantly.

Coburn looked surprised. “You did?”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Oh yes! I’m very fond of small blondes with attitude, and vampires, love those!” he added mischievously.

Heru’ur’s image appeared on the screen in front of O’Neill and Jackson; both men regarded that image with disdain.

“Hey, it’s snake boy!” Jack taunted. “Can’t say it’s nice to see your face, H!”

“O’Neill, you might be surprised to know that I have come to offer you a chance to save your planet,” Heru’ur said, a smirk covering his surly features. “Surrender your vessel and your knowledge and I will call off my…”

“Save your breath,” Jack snapped. “There’s not a chance in hell I’m handing this over to you, and the whole caper about attacking Earth, yeah I’m aware you’ve destroyed several facilities, but you didn’t knock out the Stargate, and if I’m not mistaken, your friends in the coalition still think you’re good for the deal you made with them, right?”

“So,” Heru’ur countered, obvious in his expression that he had hoped to take O’Neill by surprise and disappointed that the man obviously had some knowledge of his plan. “You have worked out that we are in league with your nemesis on Earth, are you also aware that I have your daughter?”

“Yep, getting old, care to tell me something I don’t know?” Jack enquired.

Heru’ur took a deep breath. “I intend to destroy Hathor, in fact, if I am not mistaken, she is already dead!”

“Yeah, I figured you’d have that little insurance policy in place, anything else?”

“The woman that bore your child is dead!” Heru’ur snapped. “She died in childbirth. The child however lived. It is a very resilient creature.”

Daniel felt O’Neill’s body tense, even standing four feet or more away from the man he could feel the rage surging through him.

“You might wanna reconsider your allegiances and your threats,” the colonel snarled. “The Hyksos aren’t controllable, H, they’ll do whatever it is they want to do to get power, same as you, then you’ll be feeling the full force of your allies, and I figure, why the hell not let you just continue on and find out how painful death from within your own mind can be!”

“You do not know the Hyksos as well as you think, O’Neill,” Heru’ur retorted, his head held back now in the arrogant manner he had made all his own, the gleaming golden armour worn proudly across his broad chest. “They are power mongers, but before they can become all powerful they need to deal with the one that imprisoned them, they need to draw the life from their better selves, both of which will take a while. Whilst this occupies them, I will be readying the weapon that you will give me to destroy them.”

“Yeah,” Jack sighed. “That part of your plan is kinda flawed, don’t ya think?”

“How so?” Heru’ur enquired.

“That actually requires me to give you this ship, which, if you go way back to our first exchanges, is not gonna happen!”

“I think you will change your mind when you see how your children suffer at my hand,” Heru’ur warned.

“See, we’re playing chess here,” Jack informed the Goa’uld, reflecting the surly expression on his face. “Problem is, you just don’t realise I’ve taken all your most important pieces.”

“I do not need to trifle with you further, I am not in any mood to give you a verbal target, we both know you love the sound of your own voice.”

“About as much as you do,” Jack replied. “So, I’m kinda bored with this, do your worst, oh and don’t forget, the enemy of my enemy is my friend!”

The Goa’uld’s expression altered slightly, before returning to his arrogant sneer. “I will bring down such force upon you…”

Jack turned to Daniel. “Wasn’t that a line in Star Wars or something?” he enquired. “Must be a ‘quote the famous movie’ day!”

Daniel looked at the colonel; he, unlike O’Neill wasn’t ready to jest, even if for the sake of Heru’ur. “I’ve never seen it,” Jackson responded. “Anyway, he should be more concerned with what’s happening on his ship, right?”

“Oh yeah!” Jack responded, a smile at Heru’ur, whose image was beginning to fade. “Very worried!”

Hyksos?” Daniel questioned immediately. “Jack, you knew, didn’t you?”

“I told you, I suspected…”

“That was why you mentioned the Teyu’peh,” Daniel stated. “You had a feeling it was them, there’s nothing else in the universe that might challenge the Sengo’lians, is there?”

“Daniel, they are the damn Sengo’lians,” Jack told him. “Remember the dark side, that was where it came from, kinda like the Goa’uld and the Tok’ra, good and bad, and the Hyksos are the bad… can’t wait to meet the ugly!”

Daniel’s eyebrows rose slowly into his forehead. “There’s worse isn’t there?”

Jack nodded. “Oh yes,” he said slowly. “There’s much worse. Hyksos derive their power from one, we kinda buried that one, anyway, I figure they’re probably pissed at me, which also means they’re gonna be losing the battle with the ‘we’s.”

“I’m sorry, the ‘we’s?” Daniel parodied.

“The ‘we are here’ mob, the Sengo’lians, Daniel, have they never done that intrusion? That’s the announcement they make every damn time they want to speak with me, ‘we are here’ gets on my damn nerves!”

“You’re choosing to share this now, you’re choosing to share that there’s an attack happening on Earth right now, and mentioning how annoying your benevolent friends are, why?” Daniel demanded looking slightly bemused with O’Neill’s reasoning. “Jack I know it’s a little weird out here, but did you have to join it?”

“Daniel, just… don’t concern yourself with my sanity, if I had any left, I’d have used the self destruct ages ago whilst I was on the damn ship!” Jack countered, staring at Jackson until the man looked away.

Jackson smiled. “Point taken.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aiestrodous rose to his full height, awesome in his stature; the far smaller frame of Martouf stood to his left. “Are we certain that fighting so closely is a good idea?” the Tok’ra enquired.

“Many battles have I won at such quarters,” Aiestrodous responded. “Her beasts are not fearful to us. We will feed upon them just as surely as if they were served to us. Stay close to me, Tok’ra, for your life depends on my strength.”

Martouf did not need telling twice. Facing the hundreds of Unas that Hera had brought to the battle he felt comparatively weak. Aiestrodous and his brethren however were eons old; knowing how to defend against such brute force with stealth and guile that these creatures would never match.

It would not be the slaughter Hera had hoped for; he knew this even if the Goa’uld system lord did not. Soon the fields between them would run rich with blood from her soldiers, from her dead and dying soldiers. With every advance would come defeat, with every defeat the Furlings became stronger, taking from the vanquished the strength and surging forward to once again vanquish. Martouf could not believe his eyes, these Furlings were formidable foes, matched strength against guile and brutality, the Unas were no foe; they melted in death before him, their life sucked from their bodies, heads severed from once proud necks. Never before had the Unas faced a foe that could match their own lust for carnage.

In their tens they fell before him, their blood covering his clothes as it spurted from them, the teeth and claws of the Furlings slicing through their thick hides without any resistance. The incredible and undeniable force of the awesome in its perfection and cruelty; devastation such as this had not been witnessed by any human eyes before. As surely as the sun would rise, Hera and her armies would be slain.

Martouf stood away from Aiestrodous, marvelling at the passion with which he fought, with the courage he witnessed. Surely the Unas were mighty enough to withstand the onslaught of the Furlings, there were after all only fifty or so, against hundreds of Unas, yet there seemed to be so many more; the illusions they used to disorientate their enemy incredible in conception.

Only one Furling had fallen and Martouf could see why, these creatures fed from the very energy of the enemy; it was only when this one Furling had been cut off from his brethren that he fell, and even then, Martouf could not be sure he was truly dead. The same could not be said for the hundreds of bodies that fell from Hera’s ranks.

Her Unas were weakened by the first encounter, and yet she still believed the battle winnable. Aiestrodous moved through them as if they did not exist, his lithe and statuesque frame towering over his opponents, engulfing them in a shroud of illusion before allowing their emptied shells to fall to the blood-sodden soil.

Hera’s eyes widened when she came face to face with the creature she had believed she could defeat. His red piercing eyes were terrifying, the shrill call from the depths of his throat caused her to freeze where she stood, never had she heard such a shrill death knell as that she witnessed.

“Do you cede?” Aiestrodous asked of her.

Martouf could hear it as if he stood beside him, instead of held in some form of abeyance above the fray.

“Do you recognise defeat or is it necessary for you to meet it head on?”

Hera lowered her head. She knew she could not defeat this creature; he moved far too quickly and drank of her army as if they offered their blood to him. “I cede to your victory,” she responded.

“Then it is done,” Aiestrodous said. His voice carried to every Furling that fed on their dying enemy, and the bodies were cast aside immediately as they gathered to his position, spirit-like in their movement, nymphs moving in a dense mist that seemed to cover them and protect them from the mightier Unas. “Then we are done, you will be spared but you must give your allegiance to O’Neill.”

“I have heard much of this O’Neill, he is so potent that he possesses your loyalty?” the Goa’uld queen enquired.

“He is worthy of my loyalty, and far more powerful than you could ever imagine,” Aiestrodous responded. “Speak now, for I will know if you lie.”

Hera bowed her head once more. “My pledge of allegiance is to you, and therefore if you bid it, it will be to O’Neill also.”

“Then it is to O’Neill, listen well, for I will speak only once of this. You are to go back to your ships, there take them to Earth, and protect it from the oncoming storm. If you fail in this, your life will be forfeited.”

Hera stared into the eyes of this incredible creature. Unknowingly, she had fallen into a trance induced by the power of his hold; his teeth embedded into the veins of her host, and she could not feel it, now she would be in need of him. She would never know that she had no more free will, for she would never desire it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maybourne checked his watch. “How bad can it be?” he enquired, looking at the clone. “We get your friends here… the other Sam and Daniel, and we deal with that the only way we know how!”

“We blow shit up, or we deceive everyone and go sun ourselves on a beach somewhere why they try and figure it out?” the clone retorted, a wry smile crossing his face.

“Look, you clones are robots, which means you must have a pretty impressive matrix of ‘stuff’ in there that could figure out ways and means to save Earth from whatever the hell it is tearing it apart right now!” Maybourne argued.

“Except, we can’t exactly get to Earth, Maybourne, we don’t have control of the gate and even if we did, who’s to say that they’re not waiting for us?”

O’Neill’s clone response was met with disdain from the former NID man. “So we do nothing?”

“That I didn’t say,” Jack responded. “What I said was, we’re not going to be sitting ducks for whatever it is that decided to attack Earth, and judging on what Carter senior said, it seems like someone on Earth instigated that attack!”

Maybourne frowned. “Then we need to un-instigate it, don’t we!”

“I agree, any ideas you have will be gladly received, Maybourne.”

The two sat facing each other with little regard for anyone else in the room. “We use the ship the real O’Neill has and blow the place to hell,” Maybourne suggested.

“Which place? It’s not like we even know who’s complicit in all this, or where they got their damn allies from, because I gotta tell you, from what Carter recorded of the attacks, those were not Goa’uld!”

“Not Goa’uld?” Maybourne echoed; he looked slightly bemused at that revelation. “Swell, who else did you piss off whilst you and your original self were out there?”

“Hey, don’t blame me! The other guy did all the pissing off!” the clone protested, standing and pushing back the chair on which he sat. “I figure we’ve got two choices here, we sit it out and wait for Colonel Disaster-breaker, or we go use that ship Makepeace has and cause some trouble.”

Maybourne regarded O’Neill’s mechanical image and shook his head. “We need to make a dent, Jack, before there’s nothing to dent!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I don’t understand,” Daniel responded. “How can you be sure they can’t win?”

Colonel Jack O’Neill offered no such reassurances. A smile crossing his features, he shrugged. “Daniel, you’ve just got to roll with it… Look, the Sengo’lians are billions of years old in many different forms. Ancients probably got the idea of ascending from them. Look, I can’t tell this any better than letting you know through me, from them, Daniel… try to keep up, okay?”

‘Started out before there was anything except particles in the universe, Earth’s barely formed, lots of mess and chaos and then there’s the Sengo’lians - small, insignificant but intelligent, theey gathered and became one mind, even when they were parted. Then nature and the universe decided that it was time for biological life forms to be developed they survived, the Furlings came about a little while after, about a thousand years after, and from many shapes and forms until they ended up as you see them now, as you see Aiestrodous.

Just one problem with the galaxy, it wasn’t run by anyone, there wasn’t a benevolent force deciding what was good and what was bad… there wasn’t any order, and from no order came the chaos that slowly began to degrade the environment the Sengo’lians developed in, so they took it upon their highly developed senses to move around the galaxy and investigate matters, see if they could find somewhere better for their race to thrive. Look around, see if there was anything else out there - anyone else out there. Even though there were thousands of them, they kinda thought with one mind. One single mind, and that was what made them so powerful, what made them able to communicate and control over massive distances, they didn’t need to traverse because their power came from searching within. From within they found that outside was incredibly vast and undisturbed but for some biological life forms, okay… I’ll shorten this, I’m beginning to sound like you…

Ancients came along, didn’t know that anything aside from them, Asgard or Furlings existed, all of them were kinda different, little grey guys, big scary looking red-eyed… you get the picture, so, they started getting a little clever. All the time the Sengo’lians have been watching these births of different species fascinated with their ways, the individual thoughts and actions. So, they decided to go introduce themselves.

Let’s just say their thoughts were completely overwhelming, and unbeknownst to them, they kinda blew the minds of the Asgard, the Ancients … Furlings didn’t actually interact because they could hear them, see, they’re derived from the Sengo’lians, just like the Hyksos, so they’re telepathic, it wasn’t something they shared, it was something they hid because they knew the Ancients weren’t this all knowing race they pretended to be - they were very elitist, unable to realise that within the universe many things existed they couldn’t understand, they couldn’t control, it scared the shit out of them, same as it scares the shit out of Earthlings now to think there’s something out there that might be able to kick their asses… whether the out-theres would or not is irrelevant.’

“Jack, are you saying that the Ancients created the problem?” Daniel enquired, the information spinning around his head, only able to stop as he snatched parts of it, listening to O’Neill’s words in his head, over and over until one part made sense; the Ancients were not as wonderfully benevolent as he’d, as Jack had imagined.

‘Ancients aren’t as clever or as damn noble as they pretended to be. Or maybe we just thought they were because, hell they knew so much more than we did. Meeting your hero can always be a huge disappointment. So, anyway, they decided on hiding these folks away, found out what could hold them and held them. Knowledge isn’t always power, Daniel, sometimes it is stupidity borne of arrogance. Sengo’lians only posed a threat because they couldn’t be heard by the limited perspective of the Ancients. Aliens don’t seem to know their limitations either. So, Hyksos were born, they reflected, yes I heard what you said, they mirrored the worst elitist forms of the Ancients that opposed them and they brought heaven and earth down on them, Ancients weren’t the first to know how to control the elements, Furlings have been doing it long before, and from them the Hyksos learnt to control the wind, the seas, the sand and the soil. They destroyed three colonies of Ancients before the Ancients found a way to hold them. But in true Ancient fashion they decided that killing them was wrong, imprisoning them… that wasn’t half so bad, good Ancients, we don’t kill anyone, we just condemn them to eternal imprisonment.’

“The Ancients were protectionist,” Daniel echoed.

Jack nodded. He took a deep breath. “Takes quite a bit out of you trying to get this stuff, doesn’t it?”

Daniel smiled. “Yes, er, actually, how did you guess,” he enquired.

“Your eyes are glazing over,” Jack replied.

“It’s more the method of communication you’re using, actually, you think a lot quicker than you talk, so I have to really concentrate,” Daniel confessed, looking slightly perturbed at that thought, let alone the fact that he had voiced it.

“Hey, who doesn’t?” Jack jested. “Ready?”

“Ready!”

‘We are here.’

‘Look, you should just connect directly to Daniel and tell him this stuff instead of…’

Ha’dai it is a far easier task to send this information to you, for you to send it to your familiar.’

O’Neill almost smiled, trying not to freak Daniel out anymore than he’d already been at the hands of Hooper; he figured allowing the Sengo’lians to communicate directly with what they considered a familiar might freak the man out more.

‘Anyways… where was I? So, they kinda sent the old Sengo’lians to this shielded, reflective shield, incidentally, to prevent communication from off the planet Sengo’lia. Reflective meaning they stopped communicating that much because it became really uncomfortable to have their thoughts amplified back at them. Ancients didn’t actually do them any favours with their all benevolent behaviour. This was probably the cruellest form of treatment you could possibly hand these guys. Hyksos are pissed, so they’re weaker than the pure minded Sengo’lians, D, plus, Furlings belong too, makes them far more powerful. Hyksos never realised that, never realised that the kin of their Ancestors were one of the most physically powerful creatures who possess mesmeric skills. That’s why I can talk to Aya, that’s why I know he’s defeated Hera, and he and Marty are on their way to a gate close by, we can pick them up and then we deal with the rest… then we really deal with the rest!’

The archaeologist nodded slowly, trying to absorb the information that O’Neill had given him about the ancestry of the Sengo’lians, and by virtue, the weaknesses of the Hyksos.

“Let me get this straight, you think you can what? Destroy something that the Ancients were so terrified of they imprisoned on the furthest planet they could think of?” Jackson enquired cynically.

“Daniel, that’s the whole damn point! The Ancients believe they didn’t have the right to wipe out a species, they thought their superior thinking and technology gave them the right to just lock it away,” Jack explained. “I don’t really know what’s worse - being a bad guy, or finding out the only punishment they can think of for your crimes against other races is to lock you on some planet where you may…”

“Jack, that sounds like us… I mean, we lock felons away, murderers, cheats and rapists, isn’t this what these creatures are? Okay, maybe in a slightly more global sense?” Daniel argued.

“No!” Jack’s tone was far more assertive than he intended. “See, this is exactly why they had a problem dealing with the Hyksos, they’re not accidentally destructive, they mean it! As far as they’re concerned every single living thing in the universe deserves to be destroyed, they’re the worst kind of purest, Daniel, Hitler would have been horrified, if they manage somehow to beat the Sengo’lians, the Furlings, which by the way, means me too, then forget living things, these bastards will wipe out everything, Goa’uld, Asgard, Furling, Humans, plant life, marine life, mammals, reptiles and bacteria! Am I making myself clear here?”

The colonel’s obvious distress and anger at Jackson’s lack of comprehension was apparent in both his body language and his tone. “No treaties, no discussion, good night!”

Daniel exhaled loudly. “So, I guess you’d better find a way to kill them, right?”

A smile formed on the soft features of the archaeologist. “At least I get the importance of this now.”

“Sweet, so how about we pick up our people, and deal with H? Then I try and figure out a way to deal with all things omnipotent thereafter?” Jack suggested.

“Okay, I’ll, er, go along with that,” Daniel concurred. “About Heru’ur… well Iceni and Hailey…”

Jack’s eyes closed, his features became stern, yet even then, the sorrow he was feeling inwardly became obvious. “Nothing I can do,” he admitted.

Jackson didn’t know how to respond, the apparent questions, seemed irreverent. There was no need to question O’Neill’s voracity, he knew all too well what the man would be feeling at that moment, having an amazing power and being completely unable to use it to save his own children, even if he hadn’t set eyes on the second one, he knew it existed and that, for O’Neill, would be enough to torture him.

The colonel turned toward the centre console which immediately lit up. He looked over his shoulder at Jackson. “We can’t, Daniel,” he said.

“Why?” Jackson’s tone a little more aggressive than he’d intended.

“Why? Because at some point we have to make a decision to deal with the threat without putting anyone else in peril, to end it, and that’s…”

“How do I know that’s you talking and you’ve not been completely taken over by the wishes of the Sengo’lians, or worse!” Daniel argued. He moved toward the colonel, looking the man up and down. “Because the Jack O’Neill I know wouldn’t abandon his children, plural!”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. He turned and faced Jackson, the fury he felt resonated in the terse expression on his face, bare white knuckles underlining a rage he was attempting to keep within.

“Daniel, somewhere I have to draw the line…”

“NO!” Jackson yelled, his features becoming as angry as his friend. “No, Jack, this is not you, you don’t ever draw that line… you can’t!” he asserted.

“Can’t I?” Jack’s features now became slightly bemused, his eyes closing, head shaking. “Why, Daniel, because you say I’m some kind of all powerful superhero?”

Jackson shook his head too now. “No, Jack, because I know YOU better than this,” he insisted. “This isn’t you…”

“Get used to it,” Jack snapped. The door to the bridge opened and the colonel made his way toward it; Jackson’s attempt to follow stopped short when the door swiftly closed behind the colonel.

The horror on Daniel’s face was reflected in the clear sheen of the door. His thoughts raced around; could the colonel hear his thoughts, or read them, and why the hell did he? It was rude, unconscionable.

‘Is it not prudent to confine his thoughts?’

‘Excuse me?’ Daniel’s obvious surprise at having a different voice in his mind was reflected in his tone.

‘He can only read your mind because you allow it; you have as much ability as he does to prevent it…’

‘Who is this?’

‘We are the Sengo’lians, Daniel, we are aware of your fears for Ha’dai, but truly they are unfounded.’

‘And I’m going to believe you because I’m gullible!’

‘You need not believe us, Daniel, you need only listen to learn how to close your mind to his ability to read your thoughts.’

‘Okay, say I’m buying this… how do I do that?’

‘It is simple, concentrate and you will close him to your thoughts. Simply wish for him to be silent and he will, you have more control than you realise.’

‘Yes, if only everything were that simple. Okay, so… we’ve not really talked much, have we? You prefer to talk to Jack… I get that, you called him something, Ha’dai, I think?’

‘It means saviour.’

‘How so, and if so, why won’t he save his children?’

‘It is not for us to say, Daniel, he has made a decision and we will not question him.’

‘Right… well, thanks for the chat.’

Daniel sat on the floor, leaning back against the console that O’Neill had been stationed at a little earlier when they’d disagreed about his daughter.

So, I don’t want Jack in my thoughts, think it, it happens. I’ll bet it doesn’t, it’s not like I concentrate that well. Jack? Silence. Jack, are you pretending you can’t hear me? Silence.

The archaeologist considered his conversation with O’Neill; it was a concern that his friend seemed so against the idea of even trying to save Iceni, or Hailey and her child. Yes, he understood Heru’ur had said she, Hailey, had died in childbirth, but how could anyone believe the word of a Goa’uld?

He waited for the inevitable intrusion from O’Neill, but it never came. A deep breath, time to do what he felt needed to be done. Like the Sengo’lians said… he had the powers that O’Neill did, just without the overwhelming ability to call upon the power of destruction, that and the Ancients ability.

He stood up, moving across to the far console, placing his hand over one of the symbols, a communication device. Thor’s image appeared before him.

“Daniel Jackson,” the supreme Asgard commander said. “What is the meaning of this intrusion?”

“Intrusion? I think you should probably check your rear view mirror, Thor, the Goa’uld aren’t intending to attack you with any force, there’s something else to worry about.”

Thor’s image did not alter. “Then tell me, Daniel Jackson, what else is there?”

“Thor, I’m concerned about Jack, I think he’s being controlled by these…”

“The Sengo’lians are by nature the kind of force that O’Neill should never have acquiesced to, however, I am not altogether certain that he can be controlled,” Thor responded.

“You know about the Hyksos?” Daniel asked.

“The Hyksos are extinct,” Thor countered.

“No, they’re not extinct, we encountered them on a planet not so long ago, and Jack managed to destroy them, but Heru’ur was obviously looking for a way to control them… he was on that planet and the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced he was trying to tap into their ability to focus energy,” Daniel explained.

Thor did not respond immediately; his huge black, yet expressionless eyes stared at Jackson from the large screen in front of him. “Then it’s time we dealt with this, do we have your cooperation?” Thor asked.

“To do what?”

“To put O’Neill in stasis. You are aboard an Ancients vessel and they are more than capable of isolating and containing a passenger.”

“Jack’s got the ability to control this thing, Thor, I don’t!” Daniel argued.

“If you are able to use the control panel to contact me, Daniel Jackson, then you are capable of finding the abilities within to control the ship’s systems, your link to O’Neill allows you to channel his capabilities to your own in many ways. But,” Thor cautioned, “be aware that his ability means unless you strike without his knowledge, he can and will use the ship’s capabilities to neutralise your attempts!”

“Oh good!” Daniel sighed, his mind racing once more with the morality of neutralising O’Neill. He couldn’t be sure he was right, but then, he couldn’t equally be certain that O’Neill’s behaviour was solely his own. “Okay,” he conceded. “So I’ll just… here goes!”

O’Neill was oblivious to the scanners ranging over him; their sensory arrays locked the conveyance beams onto the colonel, sweeping him into the stasis chamber and into a coma like state.

Daniel’s concentration was completely focused on locating the chamber, the spread of individual lights showing him the path. He was cautious, cautious because he knew how difficult it had been to block O’Neill’s intrusions into his mind. If the colonel had detected, or suspected him of any collusion with the Asgard, in his current state of mind, which Daniel firmly believed to be influenced by the Sengo’lians, he would most certainly have been dealt with harshly.

The long, empty hallways, their glacier like panelling reflecting his image, made him feel slightly uneasy. Was the colonel toying with him, waiting for him? Would his image be reflecting his location and making it simple for retribution?

‘You have successfully isolated him.’

Daniel stopped. The voice in his mind was the same one that had contacted him earlier. Even so, he was not completely confident that this was the Sengo’lians, and even if it was, were they truly the benevolent force the colonel believed?

‘I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your thoughts to yourself.’

‘So it shall be.’

The door to the stasis chambers was different from the others, the panels were opaque, and nothing could be seen through them. His hand reached out gingerly, fingertips brushing the sensor pad to his right.

The door drew back instantly, revealing several chambers inside, larger than he could have imagined. His eyes swept them all before locating O’Neill. The colonel was inside the farthest one; the low humming sound that the tube emitted the only indication that the chamber had been employed.

“I hope I’m doing the right thing!” he whispered, as if O’Neill might wake if he heard his voice. Standing in front of the pod now, he studied the outer frame, the silver and white embossing on the edges an odd choice and nothing like any other design on the ship or any other he’d seen for that matter.

He stared at it for a moment, an attempt to understand the intent of the design, yet nothing was immediately apparent to him.

“Daniel Jackson?” It was Thor’s voice.

“Wow, how’d you do that?” Jackson asked, looking around him, wondering where the sound had originated.

“It is not important, you left channels open to us,” Thor explained. “Is it done?”

“It’s done,” Daniel advised.

“If you send the coordinates I will join you there, the functions of the ship will not allow you to over ride O’Neill’s previous course,” Thor told the archaeologist. “This could be a little more difficult than we had first thought.”

Daniel sighed heavily. “It always is,” he said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Baal watched on the viewer; the progress of the fleet defending his territory was beginning to become irksome to him. He had sent his most elite forces to face the Asgard, as Heru’ur had instructed, yet this now seemed a fatal error. The forces the rebel Jaffa and those that accompanied them were overwhelming; the ships they flew were something he had seen only once before in battle, when he had faced Pelops as an underling to Apophis, many hundreds of years in the past. Pelops had always had superior ships and weaponry; his alliance with several species that had secured Ancients technology had assured his dominance in that field.

Not for many years had he seen or heard of Pelops, but here now he faced the full force of the former system lord’s technology.

Jaffa!” he snarled.

The Jaffa who stood close by immediately answered his hail, bending to one knee as he did so. “My lord!”

“Prepare my ship,” he instructed. “It seems my forces are incapable of destroying the rebels!”

The Jaffa, a little shorter than was regular for Baal’s forces, stopped, turning and looking at Baal as the console’s constant bleeping sound alerted him to an incoming message. “My lord, you are being hailed.”

Baal’s eyes rolled in his head. “Really!” he responded, attempting to inject the right amount of sarcasm into his comment. “Whatever would have given you such an idea?”

He moved in front of the control console and allowed the incoming hail to be shown on the screen.

The image was not of a rebel Jaffa, but of Daniel Jackson, who evidently had learned how to be in two places at once, unless he had a twin.

“Baal, Jack wants to talk to you, privately, he’ll be a while. He’s currently dealing with Heru’ur!” Daniel informed him.

The Goa’uld raised his dark eyebrows into his forehead. “Is that so,” he responded. “What makes you believe he will live to see me following that encounter?”

“Oh, probably because the ship he has is about as advanced as it gets, added to the fact that transport around the galaxy is about to get a little harder,” Jackson added.

Baal’s intrigue quickly turned to alarm, but he maintained an outward calm. “How so?”

“Oh, let’s just say what you think is the Jaffa rebels fighting you, is actually three ships piloted by myself, Major Carter and Colonel Darnell.”

“Why would you tell me this?” Baal enquired. “Does it not offer me a tactical advantage over you?”

“You tell me?” Daniel responded.

“Then I will, you are completely outnumbered, the bulk of my forces are returning even as we speak,” the Goa’uld asserted, a hint of a smile forming on his ample lips. “Is that not reason for me to decline your offer?”

“Well, you can decline, but so far we haven’t destroyed your base there because Jack told us not to, but shouldn’t be a problem to get his authorisation if you’re too stupid to…”

“Don’t!” Baal snarled. “You are not O’Neill! I will not take such insolence from you!”

“Touchy!” Daniel remarked. “You’ve got five minutes to give me an answer, because that’s about as long at it’s going to take to get a message to Jack.”

“Tell O’Neill I will meet him, provided you withdraw your forces, he may come here,” Baal acquiesced.

“I dare say he’ll tell you where he wants the meeting to take place,” Daniel stated. “We’re in a holding pattern until then, call off your forces before you lose more them!”

Baal’s teeth ground in his jaws; the anger at the insolence of the Tau’ri never failed to rile him. “Jaffa, call the fleet back,” he ordered. “I am intrigued to know exactly what O’Neill thinks he has that I could possibly want!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aiestrodous stopped. Martouf collided with the Furling, making a mumbling apology before moving away from the creature slightly; being so close made him ill at ease.

“Something wrong?” he enquired.

“I have lost the ability to communicate with O’Neill, he is…”

Martouf looked mortified, expecting to hear the worst possible news. “He’s dead?” he prompted.

“Silent,” Aiestrodous told him.

“Something bad has occurred?” Martouf asked.

Martouf suddenly found himself aboard the Ancients vessel. “He is in orbit,” Aiestrodous confirmed, his gaunt features appearing to hold a smile for a moment.

Aiestrodous regarded Daniel Jackson as the man entered the bridge, his eyes beginning to glow a far deeper and more ominous red.

“What have you done?” he demanded.

Daniel, about to retreat, stopped. “He’s infected…”

“Infected with what?” Martouf enquired, attempting to prevent a battle between the two men, if only on a verbal level. “Transgenic?”

“What? No,” Daniel countered. “Aiestrodous, before we do something you will most definitely regret… or at least I’m certain that I will. Can we discuss why?”

Aiestrodous moved closer to the archaeologist. “There is little, human, you can tell me that I would want to hear!” he asserted, the hissing of his voice making the retort sound ominous.

“Okay, then I guess you’ll just have to listen whether you want to or not,” Daniel countered. “I can’t be certain he isn’t compromised in some way he doesn’t see or understand by the intrusion over such a long period of time from the Sengo’lians, or even if the Hyksos have found a way through into his mind.”

“From this you decide?” Aiestrodous challenged.

Daniel looked down; his feet offered him no retort worthy. “Yes,” he replied. “Because right now I’m the only one that’s spent enough time to know how this has affected him.”

The Furling swept across the bridge, his presence now startlingly close to Daniel. “And you do not think me capable of discerning this?” he snarled. “FOOL!”

Daniel looked around toward Martouf; the Tok’ra knew better than to intervene with Aiestrodous. “He is uniquely able to decipher lies, Doctor Jackson,” he responded.

“But he wasn’t here,” Daniel argued, moving across to Martouf.

“You have contacted the Asgard?” Aiestrodous asked.

“Yes.”

“Another mistake,” the Furling hissed. “Humans are ill-equipped to deal with such matters.”

The archaeologist couldn’t prevent his frustration from becoming anger. “What would you have done… oh sorry, you’re perfect so that wouldn’t be an issue!” he snapped. “I know why you and Jack get on so well!”

“You are merely flawed, that is a characteristic of humans, Daniel Jackson, had you listened to the voices inside your own mind, and not the intrusion of the Hyksos, you would have chosen a far wiser course of action,” Aiestrodous corrected.

Daniel’s exhalation said everything without saying anything. “Oh great!” he groaned. “Now I’m really up the creek…”

“You have locked O’Neill in stasis, a stasis that can only be undone once the cycle is completed,” Aiestrodous told him. “The cycle is over 356 days, in case, Daniel, you wished to know.”

The shock in Jackson’s features was obvious. “Monumental screw up!” he exclaimed, turning away from the Furling and grimacing. “Okay, there’s got to be…”

“No, there is no way,” Aiestrodous informed. “Those are not merely stasis to suspend, Daniel, they contain all the knowledge the Ancients had gathered, all their accumulated poison and arrogance! These are creatures that believed themselves higher than any other and therefore the judge of all - they are the most flawed of all life forms.”

“Great! I’m right up there with the flawed ones then, am I?” Daniel sighed. “Which means I’ve just locked Jack away for a year?”

“Yes.”

Martouf’s expression showed no discernable accusatory stare, but the disappointment and concern were obvious in his eyes.

“Well, then I’ll just have to figure a way to get…”

“There is no known way to interrupt the methods of the Ancients,” Aiestrodous snapped, his temper shortened by his fears.

“Jack wouldn’t agree with you,” Daniel retorted sharply. “I made a mistake, that doesn’t mean I can’t unmake it!”

“Your optimism is misplaced,” Aiestrodous replied, turning away from the archaeologist.

Daniel regarded Martouf. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to prove him wrong, won’t I?”

Martouf offered Jackson a smile. “I know you well enough, Doctor Jackson, to know you are capable of just that!”

Aiestrodous shook his head; the red beams that emanated from his eyes became stronger. “We should proceed to the next target O’Neill designated.”

“We’ll get to that,” Daniel replied. “When Jack’s about, we’ll get to that.”

“Whilst we wait the Hyksos are wiping out your kind,” Aiestrodous snarled, he felt the suffering.

“No, they’re doing exactly what they agreed to do; they’re taking out specific targets to allow for the power mongers to gain power.”

“A plot?” Aiestrodous enquired.

“Yes, the same plot that was supposed to lure Jack back to Earth, the same plot that was intended to gain ultimate power. I guess I didn’t exactly screw up completely, did I?” Daniel retorted, a wry smile crossing his boyish features. “So, maybe there’s method in my madness after all.”

“You betrayed him because you listened to those that fear him,” Aiestrodous corrected.

“I made a mistake,” Daniel argued. “I’m allowed to do that, even if the damn galaxy depends on it. Oh, and by the way, don’t threaten me again, because I’m not exactly lacking in defences myself!”

Aiestrodous rose even higher in stature than he had been before. “I do not threaten, human, if I desired you harmed, you would trouble me not, for I would surely have torn out your throat.”

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “Good to know,” he remarked. “Thanks for the heads up!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Howard Mitchell regarded the two men he’d placed in charge of the SGC; he was less than pleased with the devastation of the Pentagon. The White House was gone, a place he’d planned to make his own one day, and from where he and his coalition would run the nation, but then again, a President’s power was a little limited; he needed Congress to sign off on everything and that really wasn’t Mitchell’s style.

“So, General, when can we establish whether or not the Goa’uld kept the full bargain?” he enquired.

Vidrine shrugged. “In my experience the Goa’ulds never keep a bargain, nor do I think you expected them to,” he responded.

“Well, let’s just say I had a plan to ensure that Heru’ur and his friends kept to it,” Mitchell said. “Now I’m out of contact with my plant.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Vidrine stated. “We’ve got what we want, the Goa’ulds’ don’t care about Earth, all they want is what he has…”

“So do we, we need it!” Mitchell asserted. “There’s only one way to unite Earth against the aliens, and that’s to control everyone so everyone works for the same good. He’s got the ability to manipulate the minds of millions, that’s the only damn way we’ll get everyone on this planet to pull one cart!”

Vidrine nodded. “How do we go about obtaining that and destroying the Goa’uld, because believe me, Howard, there is not a chance in hell that O’Neill will do what we want, unless we find a way to control him.”

“I’ve already got that covered,” Mitchell stated. “The child, the second one, I made a deal with the Goa’uld to kill the mother and deliver it to us, he’ll keep that particular part of the bargain, since giving him the location of the new Alpha site, where he can find and destroy Hathor, was apparently very important to him! That and unlimited access to some pretty useful hosts, ex-Air Force and Major Carter. He jumped at the chance of that little gem!”

Vidrine looked slightly uncomfortable; he wasn’t certain how he felt about betraying men and women he’d served with, but then, he had already committed treason of the highest order. Keeping the President and Hammond out of the loop on Air Force One, which had been grounded at Edwards, was one heck of a way to gain control of the USA.

Communications with counterparts in the Ukraine, Russia and England had already been established; Mitchell’s billions proved most persuasive in gaining the cooperation and acquiescence of most ranking generals, admirals and politicians. The coalition had finally gained the upper hand on Earth, it remained only to ensure they kept it that way, and in retrospect perhaps Mitchell was right to attempt to wipe out anyone that might challenge that.

“I’ve had confirmation that the nuclear yields we gave have been destroyed without any environmental problems,” Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Brooks informed them, descending from the briefing room. “I think we’ve got the only weaponry available on Earth now, sirs, so I recommend we open negotiations as soon as possible.”

“Then do it,” Mitchell instructed. “The quicker we move to implement our plans, the less likely it will be that anyone can throw a spanner in the works!”

“Are we sticking to the same agenda? The US will protect one and all?” Brooks enquired, about to head back up the stairs.

“Of course, and her Majesty’s loyal subject will of course be advising her Prime Minister of his best course of action. Everyone trusts the British; lack of superpower status has always made us the dark horse in this little coup d’etat!”

“Good enough, sir,” Brooks replied, nodding as he left.

“General Vidrine, consider the position of Joint Chiefs of Staff senior officer yours!” Mitchell stated. “Recruit whomsoever you feel comfortable with and make it quick, I doubt our friend is going to take this sitting down!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The darkness in the room that contained the stasis pod housing Jack O’Neill instantly dismissed as Jackson and the statuesque Furling entered.

“How?” Daniel enquired.

Aiestrodous moved as if floating toward the pod, standing before it. His eyes opened wider, the red beams appearing to cut through the shield that held the colonel.

Martouf watched, now at Daniel’s shoulder. “He was pretty certain no one could interrupt this,” Daniel pointed out.

“Indeed,” Martouf concurred. “Perhaps he merely attempts to try.”

Daniel turned and faced the Tok’ra. “I know you can be fairly obtuse, often intentionally, but that doesn’t make any sense at all,” he noted.

Martouf took a deep breath. “I had not intended to respond at all,” he confessed. “I know little of these creatures - I know however that this one is the most powerful creature I have ever encountered.”

Aiestrodous raised his elongated fingers, placing them on the shield. “Hyksos, dei ens’sis ca’faula,” he hissed.

The room was once more in darkness. “Your planet is no more,” his voice continued. “Your world will become dust and ash soon, they will not allow those you call the plotters to survive, your race challenges them, until they can find this one, they will destroy all.”

Daniel could feel his heart beat increasing, unsure if Aiestrodous spoke to him, or to the Hyksos, his linguistic skills did not cover the language of the Furlings, it altered far too much and no words were even remotely familiar to him.

The loud, shrill sounds that now began to build from the Furling forced both he and Martouf to cover their ears and retreat outside the room.

“What the hell is that?” Jackson complained.

Martouf’s bemused expression confirmed to the archaeologist that he was as clueless. “A most unpleasant sound,” he offered.

Within the stasis chamber Aiestrodous forced his fingers through the barrier that held O’Neill, dragging the colonel from the pod and allowing him to sink to the ground before him.

He stared down, the radiant red eyes slicing through the darkness. He reached down and took the colonel’s shoulders in his grasp, lifting him, his hollow features filling gradually, a smile crossing his high cheek bones as the shrill sounds he emitted stopped. He lunged his head forward, sinking his teeth into O’Neill’s neck, but this was not the usual ritual. He had no intention of blood letting to arouse O’Neill to consciousness; this was an injection of his superior genomes. This was the only way the Furling knew to rouse the man from the depths into which the Ancients technology could plunge him.

Daniel and Martouf entered the chamber in time to see the creature release O’Neill, supporting the colonel to the floor.

“What the hell did you do?” Daniel demanded.

“For crying out loud!” Jack exclaimed, a look of confusion and genuine pain on his face. “I’ve got a damn headache, stop shouting!”

“Jack?”

“No,” O’Neill retorted sarcastically.

Aiestrodous moved away from the colonel. “You must hasten them, there is little time,” he advised, appearing now to be slightly unbalanced, his equilibrium clearly affected.

“A?” Jack’s voice was concerned.

“I have no time to discuss this, O’Neill, you must act! Gather those that mean anything to you, remove them, use the power of the Sengo’lians, there is not time for anything else.”

Jack’s eyes widened. “Ah, crap!” he snapped, on his feet and heading toward the exit.

“Jack?” Daniel’s voice unheard, such was the colonel’s urgency.

Martouf regarded the Furling. “He will not be able to save his planet, will he?”

Aiestrodous closed his eyes, finally gaining his sense of equilibrium. “Only the few he can remove will be saved. The Hyksos will claim the planet, rape it of natural resources, and destroy it,” he confirmed. “It has been this way, will be this way for centuries, until a way is found to destroy the Hyksos and the Goa’uld, until he realises that there can be no unity, it will reoccur.”

Martouf nodded. “I understand, the truth is, I do not believe the humans will,” he replied.

“He does,” Aiestrodous told the Tok’ra. “He is just unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to finally end it.”

The stress of his exertions showing clearly on his gaunt features, Aiestrodous began to move toward the door. “This is why we are here,” he told Martouf. “He knows we, the Furlings, will be able to do what is necessary.”

The Tok’ra watched him leave, a grave expression on his already concerned face. “And that is why I am here,” he whispered.

Daniel caught up to O’Neill on the bridge. “Jack, listen…”

O’Neill turned and regarded him. “Look, we don’t have time to go into your little brainstorm, Daniel, suffice to say, we will!”

Jackson acknowledged without another word. He turned away and leant on the console which he had used to control the ship, to channel his mind through and imprison Jack. He was definitely in a very deep creek!

Jack felt slightly groggy, the affects of being slammed in a chamber and frozen for a while began to resonate around his body, his muscles felt tense and stiff; even if he hadn’t been in the chamber that long, he felt almost lethargic, as if he’d spent years in stasis. A feeling he never wanted to experience again!

Getting the people he cared for off the planet was a priority now. The Sengo’lians would be on route already, he knew that, could sense that Aiestrodous had already began to put things in motion that would ultimately change the course of everything; no one would recognise Earth in a few weeks, perhaps days even, and he needed to save as many people as he could. Focusing everything he could on the entire planet would most definitely leave him vulnerable.

Was that the purpose of attacking Earth? Was it to draw him there and weaken resources as he tried to save an entire planet?

It couldn’t be, otherwise why would those insidious creatures convince Daniel to put him on ice? None of it made much sense, but then how could he focus on anything with the whole planet in jeopardy.

Carter’s image appeared on the screen that shot up before him.

“Sir?”

“Carter?”

“We evacuated Earth, Colonel, we had no choice,” she confessed immediately.

O’Neill looked relieved. “Everyone?” he asked.

“The whole command, sir,” Carter confirmed. Her bemused features were joined on the screen by Jacob Carter.

“What’s up, Jack?” he asked. “You seem rattled.”

Hyksos are gonna slam Earth, Jake, I gotta get…”

“Jack?”

The colonel immediately realised what Jacob was trying to tell him. “No need to hurry, right?” he said, the defeat in his voice obvious, the colour draining even more from already pale features. “Dammit!” he snarled, he turned and stared at Jackson. “We really have to talk!”

Daniel’s face displayed the horror and guilt he felt; he realised he had been the one responsible for containing O’Neill. His knees giving way underneath him, he sank slowly to the floor, gaze fixed on Jack O’Neill as he did so. “I’m sorry,” he gasped, his throat dry and almost unable to orate the words.

Jack shook his head. He could hear his heart pounding in his chest as his mind struggled to deal with the information Jacob Carter had shared moments earlier. This was the one thing he’d fought to prevent for so long, and now, because of him, because of a Stargate, because of Daniel, Carter, Hammond and everyone else that just couldn’t leave ‘out there’ alone, Earth was gone, the home, the shelter, the sanctuary, familiar, warm, dead!

“How long,” Jack demanded, trying to gather his thoughts.

“Over a day or more,” Jacob responded.

“They haven’t had enough time to totally destroy the place, Jake,” O’Neill said, turning once more and regarding the devastated archaeologist.

“You can’t know that, Jack,” Jacob protested, his irritation becoming apparent. “Selmak has had…”

“Don’t!” O’Neill snarled, his eyes narrowing, staring from the screen at Carter and Jacob. “You don’t know anything about these creatures, this isn’t the Goa’uld. They don’t want power, they want total destruction, nothing left, just them. Am I making myself clear?”

“Sir?” It was Carter’s voice.

Jack’s features softened instantly. “Carter,” he prompted.

“Can we beat them?”

“Anything’s possible, Carter,” Jack responded; once more he turned and glanced at Jackson. “So Daniel, are you up for a little suicide mission?”

Daniel nodded, the reddening of his face, and particularly around his eyes made his emotional state evident to the colonel. “Since it’s…”

Jack’s eyes flashed his anger. “Daniel, DON’T!” he snapped. “Don’t do that whole pity thing, if you want to help, that’s great, if not…”

Jackson looked away from the colonel, nodding once more without obviously expressing his feelings of regret and guilt.

Jack O’Neill found a smile, even if he did conceal it well from his colleagues. As he turned from the monitor before him, he lifted his right hand. “Let’s roll!” he said, a wink directed at Coburn. “Take care of Daniel for a bit,” he added as he passed by the marine. “He’s feeling a little delicate.”

Coburn nodded. “Yes sir,” he replied. His gaze fell instantly on Jackson, who looked away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aiestrodous regarded O’Neill as the man entered the stasis chamber. Still he leant against the silver panels that clad the walls surrounding the pods.

“You’re weak,” Jack noted. He offered the Furling a smile. “All but wipe you out did I?”

Aiestrodous regarded Jack, his usually burning expression and frightening red eyes dim, yet still there was something proud and substantial in his presence. “I have given you something important, O’Neill, do not mistake that for weakness.”

O’Neill nodded, yet the concern etched across his features was evident. “But it’s left you vulnerable, and we both know we’re gonna need to combine strength to beat this thing, so…”

The Furling managed to stand, his full height imposing even to a kindred spirit. He looked upon O’Neill, his gaze never wilting, even if his eyes were less piercing than usual.

“I cannot, not from you, not anymore. You are now the source of my power, as my brother, my kin, I am unable to gain sustenance.”

Jack looked a little taken aback at the honesty and forthright response of the Furling. “Okay, er, I’ll figure out how good or bad that might be at some point. Kinda weird, I gotta tell you.”

“You are endowed with the most prolific of essences in the entire universe, your body will need time to adjust, your physical strength is now equal to that you possess on a physic level. You are a most awesome being.”

“Hey, knew that. I just try to be modest,” the colonel joked. A grimace crossed his face before lowering his gaze from the Furling for a moment to ponder the problem. “What about you? A, you need to strengthen…” the colonel paused, eyebrows climbing into his forehead; a wry smile pervaded now over his handsome features. “I guess we could ask for a volunteer? That might be appropriate considering Daniel’s to blame for this, a little mental torture…”

“I will do it.”

Jack turned and looked at Martouf, even if he already knew who had spoken, once more in a matter of minutes he was surprised. “You?” he charged.

“Aiestrodous, it would be an honour to repay your loyalty to our cause, to repay the gift of life you gave back to me, to us.” It was Lantesh that spoke, gesturing toward the host as he did so. “Had we seen before how important such an alliance would be, we surely would have prospered.”

Jack looked a little dubious. “Do you guys ever just come out and say what you mean without the whole speech deal?”

“Always are you wistful,” Aiestrodous told O’Neill. “But such words are wasted here. Take leave of us, such rituals are never for the eyes of our brethren.”

O’Neill did not need to be asked twice, leaving the Furling with Martouf. The instant he thought of the painful experience of a Furling bite, he also remembered the slightly drugged euphoria it had brought.

It struck him as strange that Martouf would be joining a very small clan of brethren that only now numbered several pure bloods, for that was now what he was. He could feel the strength causing through him; the altered genes slowly enveloping his own, and even though he knew he should be concerned about that, concerned that he wasn’t exactly the Jack O’Neill everyone knew and loathed, he couldn’t escape an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.

Daniel’s appearance before him startled the colonel; he had expected the archaeologist to be forlorn and guilt ridden for far longer than an hour.

“We need to get going,” Daniel urged. “Is Aiestrodous okay?”

Jack’s eyes widened slightly. “Yeah, he and Martouf are bonding,” he replied, watching Jackson visibly wince at that notion. “Get a second wind, did we, Danny?”

Daniel shrugged, unintentionally glancing toward the stasis chamber as his mind wondered at the image O’Neill had suggested. “Okay, that’s weird. I thought the Furlings and the Tok’ra didn’t exactly get on?”

“They’re having a moment, kinda like you… what’s going on?” Jack enquired, studying the archaeologist intentionally cynical in that regard. “New man?”

“Not the first time I’ve made a mistake, Jack,” Daniel stated, no detectable signs of guilt or remorse. “And it probably won’t be the last.”

O’Neill considered this ‘new man’ persona for a moment, accepting Jackson’s word at face value. What choice did he have, if Daniel was prepared to shoulder his responsibility and move on, ditto! He patted the man on the back. “Sweet, just do me a favour and make the next mistake less crucial, hah? Oh, and not a stasis pod incident, that would really help!”

Jackson smiled, it crossed his mind to lighten up the mood and immediately he did so. “I figured you could use a rest,” he chided. “I know I do!”

“I can always arrange a nap for ya,” the colonel joked, as the two men made their way back to the bridge of the vessel.

Jackson’s features contorted; he turned and faced O’Neill, blocking his forward route, causing them both to pause at the door. “It won’t happen again, Jack, I swear,” he asserted, every fibre of sincerity and honesty illustrated in his expressive regard.

O’Neill took a deep breath. “You know, it’s kinda nice to know I’m not the only one that can screw up listening to voices, D, makes me feel all tingly.” His realisation of Daniel’s need to expunge the shame he felt dawned slowly upon him; he offered a crooked smile toward his colleague, who regarded him with dismay.

“We’re done, right?” Daniel enquired.

“Oh yeah,” Jack replied. “We’re past the recriminations. We’re to the possibility of not living to have recriminations… unless there’s a divine intervention of Steve King proportions, of course?”

“Steve?”

“Stephen King, Daniel, don’t you read?” O’Neill chastised. “Horror writer… or was it Herbert?”

Daniel’s expression became even more curious, bordering quickly on bemused. “Herbert?”

O’Neill’s eyes widened. “James… you’ve never heard of either of them have you?” he observed, looking disgusted.

“Are they similar to… no,” Jackson conceded. “I might have seen the movies though.” A smile offered toward O’Neill, who often used the same opt out.

Cujo?” Jack offered, nodding acknowledgement of Coburn’s presence.

“Bless you,” Daniel responded, instantly raising his hands to fend off O’Neill’s impending tirade. “Okay, I know who Stephen King is, Jack, I also know who James Herbert is, I just figured I’d see how you responded to dense… works well, doesn’t it?” he added.

“I know how annoying I can be,” Jack remarked. “But I gotta tell ya, the whole Daniel descriptive mode thing you do, that’s way more irritating.”

Jackson’s eyebrows once more rose into his forehead. “Oh, well, I’ll try not to do the explanation thing you hate so much, too much.”

“Sir, are you feeling alright?” Coburn enquired.

O’Neill’s focus changed immediately to the major. “Why’d you ask?”

“You’re sounding a lot like your old self, sir,” the marine offered, a smile crossing his face. “No, really!” he added when O’Neill’s regard became a scowl.

The colonel’s gaze immediately fell on the images that now began to form in abeyance above them, his eyes narrowing to make out the barely recognisable patterns of lights, fire red, orange, grey. It was burning; whatever the ship’s censors had brought to their attention was afire. The haze began now to take shape as a discernable form. “Ah crap!” O’Neill gasped, lowering his eyes momentarily to take in what he now knew to be Earth, a part of Earth, and he didn’t need to have a landmark to tell him which part.

His eyes once more scanned the images, the US coastline now a little more obvious in its shape. The ship’s censors responded to his thoughts, and the images became less obscure; that was the west coast they were seeing.

“Oh my God!” Daniel exclaimed, unable to orate his feelings, his shock any better. “Jack?”

O’Neill didn’t respond. He began to get his thoughts together more clearly, casting aside his feelings and emotions at seeing his home devastated beyond real recognition.

His anger became visible; face reddening, his hands now fists. “Great!” he said. “They’re still here.”

The imaging scanners targeted other areas of the US, East coast, West coast, there didn’t appear to be anything left, nothing that resembled anything, or anyone.

The devastation, a mass of twisted concrete and steel, smoke billowing from the depths of whatever lay underneath flammable enough to consume the remnants of what were houses, offices, libraries; whatever structure once stood there had been crushed under the wrath of the Hyksos.

Major James Coburn shook his head in disbelief. “It’s gone,” he said, his tone as flat as the ruined images before him. “Sir?”

Jack turned slowly to look at the major, then at Jackson, something inside him steeled his soul to the possibility of such destruction, the reality of the Hyksos ethos preparing him for what they might encounter. He would need to scan the entire surface of the country, then the planet, but not right now, right now he needed to consider how to prevent total annihilation of the planet.

A deep breath, he declared. “Well, that’s the US gone.” Hardly any emotion showed in his eyes, just the tautness of his features betrayed the anger, or perhaps regret he felt. “I’ve gotta make sure we’re not on a hiding to nothing here, but I’m pretty certain we can still make an effort to save the rest of the planet.”

“How very American,” Aiestrodous stated, gliding in behind the three men unseen. “I have often detected a sense of heroism within you, Ha’dai, perhaps now is the time for such qualities to rise to the surface, and exonerate your country’s culpability in the destruction of your world.”

“Thanks for the pep talk,” O’Neill retorted, his eyes rolling in their sockets to underline the usefulness of such an observation. “You’ve had way too much blood, gone to your head has it?”

Aiestrodous offered, in his terms, what appeared to be a grimace, except this was a fond greeting, a smile of sorts. “It is good, Ha’dai, to know you have retained what is necessary to complete this conflict, before this is over, you will need everything you, and I suspect everything that I too possess.”

The image immediately switched to that of Jacob Carter. Behind him, Sam Carter, Maybourne, Makepeace and Stuart were visible.

“Jack, what’s the situation?” he enquired.

“You were right, Jake, we have no chance of saving the US…”

“I knew it…”

“But, rest of the world is looking like it’s been untouched at this point. I figure we go down there and we kick some ass, both in the corridors of corruption, and with the newly appointed, safe in their bunkers assholes who precipitated the alliance with a bunch of radical, murderous aliens… unless you’ve got a better idea?” the colonel asserted, a wry smile forming on his handsome features.

“What are our chances?” Jacob enquired.

“Our chances?” O’Neill echoed. “I don’t give a damn about our chances, Jake, I care about however many billions are left down there because we, collectively, screwed up.”

“Jack, maybe we should consider evacuation?” Maybourne offered.

“I don’t think we’ve got the time, Harry, besides, where the hell are we gonna put all these people, without consultation, that won’t start a massive conflict?” Jack replied. “We need to deal with the Hyksos, and then we can start a dialogue. We get them out of trouble first, might be a damn heck of a thing trying to convince them that this was an alien situation though, China’s not gonna want to believe it, neither will other countries that have issues with the US.”

“Jack, is there a chance the SGC survived the attack on the US?” Makepeace asked.

“Some,” O’Neill responded. “That’s probably where Heru’ur plans to run his dominion from, plus it figures that leaving the only viable Stargate on the planet working ensures escape or invasion. It’s a predictable Goa’uld move, especially since they really do think they have the upper hand!”

“So we take it back,” Makepeace asserted. “We use these ships to locate and beam out anyone that might get in our way, and we take them damn thing back. Any incoming wormholes, I figure we leave the Iris in place!”

“Talking too much and not doing a lot,” Stuart remarked.

“Walking into the middle of a destructive cycle imposed by the Hyksos isn’t exactly the brightest course of action either, David!” Jack snapped. “But he’s right, Aiestrodous and I should go check it out. And, if we can locate the Hyksos, I can deal with them, lessens the risks to the rest of you, if you know what I mean!”

“I don’t agree, if we’re gonna do this thing, Jack, we need to do it together, share the risks and hopefully the rewards,” Jacob argued.

O’Neill’s features darkened; he moved physically closer to the images before him. “What rewards? Knowing we managed to save the rest of the world from the crap we brought down on them with the usual mixture of lying, scheming, denials, and corruption we’re so damn good at?” he snarled.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant, Jack,” Daniel interceded. “I think he meant the rewards of being able to know he tried to help…”

“I don’t exactly give a damn about how he feels, Daniel. Or did we all forget the complicity of the Tok’ra in this? Jake, you do me a favour, give some thought to relocation for most of the population, and some of the species necessary to human survival, oh and dogs!” he added, and there was nothing whimsical or an attempt to lighten the atmosphere that he had created. “After that, we’ll talk about what part you’re gonna play in this, if any!” O’Neill’s tone deliberately offered no chance of retort from any quarter. Even Samantha Carter didn’t offer objection, indeed, the instant their eyes met, Sam looked away, her own feelings barely shielded.

“Aiestrodous, I would like to join you,” Martouf asked, the Tok’ra having slipped into the mêlée without notice.

“It is not for I to decide upon your fate, Martouf,” Aiestrodous replied, glancing toward O’Neill.

Jack nodded. “You’re in. Daniel, I need you to coordinate with the Russians. And I don’t suppose you speak Chinese?”

Jackson regarded the man. “No,” he replied. “But I’m sure I can find someone that speaks English and Chinese who can interpret.”

The colonel offered the archaeologist a smile. “Long winded!” he said, shaking his head as he turned away from Jackson. “Okay, I’m gonna complete a scan, everyone go do what you all do somewhere else, Daniel, stick around, hah!”

“What’s up?” Jackson enquired immediately.

“As opposed to what’s wrecked?” Jack retorted, an ironic expression covering his features.

Daniel shrugged. “I guess that wasn’t the best choice of words considering the situation,” he agreed.

“Something’s not right,” Jack confessed. “Ever had a really creepy feeling and couldn’t put your finger on it?”

Er, mostly when your friend Aiestrodous is about actually,” Daniel admitted.

“He’s harmless,” Jack reassured, turning toward the images that now flashed on the three-dimensional holographic reflection created from the multiple scanners. “Carter seem subdued to you?”

“She didn’t say anything,” Daniel noted.

“Right, exactly!”

The two men glanced at each other, and then back toward the holograms. “So, I guess she’s in shock or something,” Jack continued.

Daniel didn’t look convinced. “She’s not the kind of person I’d say shocked that easily, Jack,” he responded. “I think she’s probably having trouble dealing with the issues. I mean Jacob’s duplicity can’t fill her with pride or confidence.”

O’Neill sighed heavily. “So many women,” he complained.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maybourne regarded Samantha Carter. “He trusts your Dad, Major, he just doesn’t trust the Tok’ra,” he offered.

“Thanks, sir, but I don’t need an explanation, I just wish he’d drop it and get on with what has to be done,” she responded.

“Unless you trust your team, that’s a little difficult,” Makepeace stated, shrugging as Jacob regarded him. “Let’s face it, Jacob, your other half isn’t exactly a hundred per cent with us is he?”

Jacob offered no argument. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Ultimately, unless Jack can deal with this threat, it won’t matter who’s trustworthy and who isn’t. If these Hyksos are as intent on wiping out everything as he says, none of us will be around to argue the point!”

Stuart nudged Makepeace, walking away from the man. “I think Timmy’s in the well,” Makepeace said, before following the man. “Subtle!” he remarked to Stuart.

“Look, I don’t know about you, but shouldn’t we be doing something other than sitting here and waiting?” Stuart enquired.

“Like what?” Makepeace asked. “Defying O’Neill and having him kick our asses…”

“He doesn’t want anyone else dealing with this, Robert, no guts…”

“Okay, that’s a dumb ass thing to say, even with you thinking he and your wife bumped hips,” Makepeace snapped. “Let me ask you something, do you know anything about these Hyksos, aside from almost getting yourself into the hierarchy of the Goa’uld messing with them?”

“That wasn’t exactly what got me… Robert, dammit, I just don’t want to be on the sidelines when I could have done something!” Stuart insisted.

“Like?”

“Like taking on the enemy the only way I know how,” Stuart retorted instantly, the frustration, or perhaps weaknesses he felt beginning to show.

“David, you are in no better position to deal with something you don’t understand than the rest of us, wanting to go down there and fight, well, frankly, for someone of your rank and experience, that’s just stupid, so I figure we wait here and find out exactly what we can do, until Jack tells us otherwise,” Makepeace informed him. “Agreed?”

Stuart looked irritated and disappointed, but nevertheless he nodded his agreement.

Maybourne watched the interaction between the two men, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. He too felt frustrated with the way things were panning out. One thing he hated above all others, aliens, were getting the better of them. He had no compunction about upsetting Jacob’s symbiote, nor did he care if the man’s feelings were hurt because of it, he, like O’Neill, had a deep distrust of all things alien, and unlike O’Neill, maintained that distrust for the Sengo’lians, and for the Furlings, even the Asgard were not high on Maybourne’s list of the trustworthy. But one thing he did know was to have faith in O’Neill’s decisions, whether those decisions included other species or not. The colonel’s intent and loyalties were without question, that’s why he now intended to see that there were no distractions from the things O’Neill needed to do, why he had agreed, no matter what, to follow O’Neill’s instructions without question and without reservation.

Heru’ur and his kind needed to be dealt with, of that he was certain, and of his conversation with O’Neill, he was even more certain that the colonel’s wishes were mirroring his own. Whilst they existed, there was a chance one of them would find a way to gain power once more. The Goa’uld had to be dealt with, a crusade of sorts needed to be waged, instead of a holy war; this would be a crusade for the survival of man kind itself.

“Robert,” he called, keeping eye contact with the marine colonel once made. “Colonel Stuart isn’t a million miles away from what we should be doing.”

Makepeace looked surprised. “How so?”

“Jack’s going to be busy here. He basically told me to deal with Hathor, and her brethren, so I’m saying between us we can do that, save Jack the problem!” Maybourne explained. “At least we’d be doing something positive, and if push came to shove…”

Makepeace looked a little concerned, taking a deep breath. “Iceni, right?” he confirmed.

Maybourne nodded. “Right, I wouldn’t want to put that on him, not that,” he stated. “At least I can do him the favour of being the bad guy in that department.”

The marine acknowledged the thought with a pat on the former NID man’s shoulder. “That you can, so, when do we get started?”

“That would be now, I’ll get everyone off this ship and we’ll go engage the bad guys. Teal’c, Bra’tac and the clones are out there somewhere, I figure Jack’s clone can help him out, who knows, he might be even able to fool the Hyksos, fooled me!”

Makepeace turned away from Maybourne. “I’ll make the preparations, this time we don’t mess around with these fuckers, Harry, this time we should probably just do the job right, do what we’re paid to do,” he snarled, his gravel tone lowered to avoid being heard by anyone other than Maybourne. “You agree, right?”

Maybourne’s nefarious smile answered his question; the former NID man was capable of doing whatever needed to be done.

“Good enough,” he confirmed as he moved away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scans of the US completed, Jack turned to Daniel. “You’re right, Daniel, Cheyenne’s still there, which means it wasn’t targeted. I’m beginning to wonder… Hyksos don’t do deals, the Goa’uld would be a means to an end.”

Daniel watched the colonel’s expression changing. “Is there a possibility they changed their modus operandi?” he asked.

“You mean, could I be wrong? Oh yeah, that’s a possibility, but a leopard changing its spots that much, no, not a chance on that. But they’ve obviously got cute, so maybe we should consider what they might gain from an alliance.” O’Neill paused, turning away from Jackson momentarily, seemingly to gather his thoughts.

The Sengo’lians had been adamant about the Hyksos intentions, and since this was not another generation, the possibility of their methods and aims changing was slender to none, except forming an alliance with beings they considered inferior. He lowered his head into his hands. “They want something,” he said finally. “Dammit, I didn’t see that… Ancients, Daniel, it’s Iceni. Goa’uld won’t matter to them, they want the ability to access the Ancients collective and destroy them. Ascended or not, this is a damn trap, they wreaked havoc down there to get us here,” he continued. “First they get her, which gives them a way into the collective minds of the Ancients, a way to find them in their ascended form…”

“Jack, that doesn’t make sense, you’re far more…”

Jack O’Neill didn’t want to have to state the obvious, but he knew it was coming as an uncomfortable subject as it might be for both he, and he understood, Daniel, to breach, it had to be considered.

“She’s vulnerable, Daniel, I’m not. But she makes me vulnerable doesn’t she? With that logic it makes perfect sense.” O’Neill’s eyes closed. “That’s the purpose of the damn snake. H is a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, D, a lot smarter.”

Daniel looked slightly uncomfortable at what the colonel was intimating. “Is now a good time to decide on being a pacifist?” he enquired, a rueful glance toward O’Neill.

“Hey! I’ve never considered you as being anything else, despite your protestations, so, new plan!” Jack asserted.

“Oh no!” Daniel groaned. “Jack, you and a plan, I’m not sure, you don’t exactly thrive on plans do you?”

“Oh ye of little faith!” O’Neill retorted. “We…”

The colonel’s features altered the instant he heard someone approaching, stopping in mid-speech as Jacob and Samantha Carter entered. “Okay, that’s interesting,” he remarked.

Jacob’s eyes rolled momentarily, showing his own discomfort at being there. “Maybourne decided the ‘military’ should sort things out, Jack,” he stated. “He said it was your idea and he sent us and the clone over here.”

The colonel looked at Jackson, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. “So, you know that plan?”

“Yeah, I know.” Jackson concurred. “Oh boy!”

“What plan?” Carter asked, looking from Jackson to O’Neill.

“Well, the ‘we’ go after Heru’ur and stop him using Iceni to bring down the Ancients with help from the…” O’Neill’s voice trailed off, looking at Carter’s blank expression. “Okay, I’m going a little too fast for ya.”

“You could say that, sir, yes. We have been a little out of the loop.” Her intonation apparent, showing her resentment at being left in the dark.

“Carter, I really don’t have too much time to explain all of this, suffice to say there’s a few things that need dealing with, one of which is the Iceni being a Goa’uld situation,” Jack told her. “So, what I’ll do for ya, Carter, is make this simple. If Maybourne destroys the ship, first line is down and they’ll come after me. I’m the only one that can give them total access anyway…”

Carter immediately raised her hands to slow the colonel down. “Sir, wait, you’re basically saying that the Hyksos are going to attempt to use Iceni to manipulate you in order to destroy the Ancients in all their ‘states’” she hypothesized. “If that’s true then couldn’t, putting your feelings aside, you use the situation to mirror it back to them?”

After shaking a bemused and bewildered look from his face, O’Neill looked across at Jackson; a single nod. His gaze then rested on Carter. “Yes,” he agreed, finally. “She’s right.” Directed towards Jackson, and then at Jacob Carter. “I’ve missed that,” he added for good measure.

“Care to share?” Daniel enquired.

“The amplification process of communication used by the Sengo’lians is reversible to a point where the recipient can be completely overwhelmed,” Carter explained. “If the Colonel can…”

Daniel looked disturbed. “What will it do to Iceni?”

Carter’s eyes slid across to O’Neill. “Sir?”

The colonel’s expression revealed the answer, an emptiness that showed the underlying sorrow permeating within.

“She won’t survive it,” he confirmed, in case there were any doubt.

Daniel’s features showed the immediate alarm he felt at that statement. “Jack, you can’t, no matter what…”

O’Neill sighed, he wasn’t in the mood for one of Daniel’s lectures, especially when he had already had already been struggling with the eventuality of his actions and those of everyone around him as it pertained to Iceni’s well-being.

“We’re not winning this one, Daniel. It’s likely some of us won’t even make the end of the day. It doesn’t give me the luxury of choosing to save any of you over anyone else. Not even Iceni, not even now!” he stated.

Carter took a deep breath, regarding the colonel for the first time without the burden of resentment she had felt for months. He looked tired, the dark rings under his eyes, the lines across his forehead, his cheeks, even his chin seemed etched with concern, with fatigue.

A smile began to form at the edges of his mouth. “Carter, I don’t need you to remind me that I look like crap!” he remarked, causing Carter to blush openly.

“I wasn’t thinking you looked old, sir,” she responded.

“I was,” Daniel noted. “Maybe you should have a rest,” he added, a winsome smile crossing his boyish features. “Oh whoops, I think you already did!”

O’Neill smirked fully at Jackson. “We all know about that!”

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“Are you going to do this?”

“Yep!”

“Nothing I can say?”

“Nothing,” the colonel asserted. “Take the ship, go to Earth and defend it. Lots of bright lights, noise, confusion, that’s a good thing.”

Carter moved toward the colonel. “Wait, where are you going?”

“Gotta get closer to her,” he responded. “Reflections are always far more potent the closer you are.”

Daniel’s hand now gripped Sam’s arm. “Time to go,” he said, a glance toward O’Neill.

“I know,” Jack responded. “You too!”

Carter allowed Daniel to lead her from the bridge, followed by Jacob.

Colonel Jack O’Neill placed his hands on the console in front of him, a wry smile as the voices of the Sengo’lians entered his mind.

‘We are here.’ They advised.

‘Didn’t expect you’d be anywhere else.’

‘Our thoughts are yours to use, to amplify, to rectify all that has come to pass.’

‘Sweet! Let’s go kick some… do they have asses?’

The End.

 

 

©Jaclyn Horrod

 

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