Hide 'n' Seek
by

Jaclyn Horrod


TITLE: Hide 'n' Seek
AUTHOR: Jaclyn Horrod
EMAIL : jaclyn@thefifthrace.net
CATEGORY: Action, Drama
SPOILERS: Set in Season 4, spoilers for Shades of Grey, The Fifth Race, The Curse.
SEASON / SEQUEL : Season 4.  This story forms part of a larger arc – if you have not yet read Sacrifices, The Rescue, Deception's Kiss, Interactions, Inquisition, Beyond, Sedition, and Province you might want to read them first.
RATING : 15/Mature
CONTENT WARNINGS : Mature subject matter.
SUMMARY : With
Jackson held captive by the Goa’uld, O’Neill has to find a way to save both his friend and the Sengo’lians a race he has become kindred with.
STATUS : Complete - continued in Perfect Darkness.
ARCHIVE : Rabelais ~ & ~ Thefifthrace.net
DISCLAIMER : Stargate SG1 and its characters belong to MGM, Gekko film corp. and Double Secret Productions. This Fanfic 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.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT : I would like to thank my extraordinary beta reader Rach, whose constant encouragement and assistance is so greatly appreciated. I could not have continued to write without her support
FEEDBACK : Most definitely!


 

Part One

 

Coburn’s adrenalin was optimum; his eyes were darting from place to place and seeing only hostiles.  He could hear his breathing roaring through his throat, deafeningly loud in his ears.

To the right, Collins faced a similar image, the Aztec natives building their forces around the SGC unit, quietly waiting to attack.

 

“Sir, we’re in trouble,” Carter yelled out, startled by how quickly the growing number of natives were surrounding them. Leaving the power source she was supposed to be disarming, the major took up the one position the unit hadn’t the manpower to cover.

 

Makepeace looked across at the major and sighed deeply. “You know,” he remarked, a scowl slowly forming on his gnarled features. “I hate to point out the obvious, but I KNOW!”  The marine’s attentions immediately back to the now advancing forces.

Carter bit her tongue, she wanted to say something back, desperately wanted to kick his ass, but he was right, and whatever she’d meant, however she’d intended that feeling to come out, clearly it had sounded dumb to an officer of Makepeace’s considerable experience, maybe even panicked. She hoped not, it was just the adrenalin, the same dose probably shared by the four soldiers as they prepared to defend their position.

“Yes sir,” she said instead, biting off the sour end of the lollipop for, as she saw it, clearly deserving a retort that had ‘obvious’ written all over it.

 

“This is great,” Coburn complained. “So much for avoiding the locals!”

“Shut up!” Makepeace warned, the constant chattering doing little to keep them focused.

 

“Where are these damn Sengo’lians,” Collins yelled back toward them, not wanting to take his eyes away from the patch of trees that he’d decided could be the source of the largest assault, amassing in ever increasing numbers; it was obvious that attack was imminent.

 

“Not here, that’s for sure!” Coburn shouted back. “Sir, we need to get back up!”

“Ya think?” Carter intoned, closing her eyes for that split second.  Just what they needed, a visit from her mentor! Or maybe that was exactly what was needed, what would O’Neill do?  She kept her focus, beginning to get over the shock of the situation.  “We need something diversionary,” she told Coburn, who was the closest to her position.

“Yeah, like what?” Coburn bit back.

“I don’t know,” Carter retorted. “Just something, C4, or maybe grenades?”

“Except we don’t have enough grenades or C4 with us!” Collins yelled across. “We don’t have much of anything.”

“Great, let’s give up then shall we?” Sam charged bitterly, she almost felt the accusations were aimed at her, that he and Coburn both thought she must have somehow been responsible.

 

“SHUT UP! For fuck’s sake, let me think!” Makepeace yelled. He’d listened to them enough, could hear the fear and the panic building. They all knew the odds were insurmountable, they’d never hold off such a huge number of hostiles, however poorly armed their foes might be.

He needed to think of a way to get the team out, yet surrounded that seemed impossible to even consider.

His teeth ground together as he focused his attention from one likely breakpoint to another.  Nothing, the Aztecs were entrenched, maybe three or four deep, no weak point, no options.

 

“Sir?” Coburn persisted.

“Pipe down and let me think!” Makepeace insisted, silently contemplating whom he could save, who was expendable.  That made no sense, no one was, and yet it seemed they were all going to die.  For a moment, a second, he considered surrender. He dismissed the thought immediately, would such savages even understand? It was hard to think of a way out of this one, but, just maybe.

 

“Okay, these people are primitive right?” he stated.

“Yes, sir,” Carter agreed, scouring the tree line ahead.

“So they’re not gonna be used to hearing the noise these weapons make right?” Makepeace continued, checking his clip on the P-90 he held. “So I’m thinking we fire off a few rounds, it might buy us some time!”

“They didn’t like ‘em before,” Coburn concurred.

Makepeace looked over his shoulder. “Before?” he asked.

 

Coburn, about to respond, was cut short of doing so by Carter. 

“It’s worth a try,” Carter said, raising the muzzle of her weapon into the air. “It might at least buy us some time.”

“On my command, open fire!” Makepeace ordered.

 

Collins took a deep breath, praying silently. “Yes sir!” he said, hoping his voice sounded as certain as he’d intended. Positivism was paramount now, believing that even against such insurmountable odds they’d suffice.

 

The mist that began to descend around their position came in so quickly that none of them had time to see it coming, one minute they were looking at the trees and bushes that surrounded them, the next it was shrouded in a white impenetrable haze.

 

“What the hell?” Makepeace exclaimed.

“It must be the Sengo’lians,” Sam surmised, lowering her gun, her eyes straining to become accustomed to the gloom. It was disconcerting, forcing apprehension to the surface, fear of an unknown force that was far more powerful and incomprehensible than any she’d known.

 

“Alright, get in close,” Makepeace advised. “I don’t wanna lose anyone here!”

Collins pulled back instantly to the colonel’s position, Coburn close by already.

“Major Carter?” Makepeace called out, unable to see her through the haze that now completely engulfed them.

There was no answer. “Sam?” Coburn’s startled call.

“Godammit!” the colonel exclaimed loudly. “Carter, do you read?” His fingers pressed into his radio. Only static broke the silence.

The Aztecs began to chant something incomprehensible; the sounds of their weaponry being clattered together rang out loudly in the dense mist.

“Cover up!” Makepeace screamed.

 

*****

 

Sokar knelt before Jack O’Neill’s image, yet bowed only to the omnipotent race that possessed his body.

“I am your loyal servant,” he declared. “Ask of me anything, and it shall be done.”

O’Neill’s eyes, now glowing bright blue, with two pinnacles of red at their very centre, lowered to meet his.

“You will find these Asgard,” he advised. “We demand it!”

Sokar’s nod of acquiescence was immediate. “I shall need an army,” he suggested, his voice contained none of its usual arrogance.

“So it shall be,” Jack replied, albeit it in a tone that seemed to contain the echoing voices of his ‘guardians’.

 

Heru’ur listened, watching the exchange. The sneer he wore on his features one that showed his disdain for such an alliance. He had unwittingly told the Sengo’lians of Sokar’s knowledge, given them a means to destroy an enemy who although a thorn, had never directly challenged his power without first being provoked.

He did not recognise anything of O’Neill, fearing these creatures far more now than he had reason to before. There was but one thing to do. He would need to summon and amass the biggest army of Jaffa the Goa’uld had ever known, and for this he needed to make treaties with his sworn enemies, Apophis and Hathor!

He turned quickly. “Nefir, we leave,” he alerted his first prime.

The Jaffa fell in behind him obediently.

The rings took them aboard his mothership, the Goa’uld instantly powering up the vessel, sending it into hyper drive.

He turned and stared at his Jaffa. “We now fight with our sworn enemies,” he advised. His hand engaged the long-range communication device, Apophis appeared before him.

“Kel shak, Apophis,” Heru’ur greeted.

“Kree shak Shel, Heru’ur,” the rogue system lord replied. “Why do you contact me now?”

Heru’ur stepped closer to the image, his features clouded with concern.

“We must ally against the greatest enemy the Goa’uld will ever face,” he advised, no time to exchange too many niceties. “I left my planet, O’Neill is possessed by these Sengo’lians, and their power is unlike that we have ever faced before.”

Apophis seemed to balk, then his eyes widened, almost challenging.

“Why should I believe you?” he demanded.

“Would I trust my armies to fight with yours if I did not speak the truth?” the system lord responded. “O’Neill is no longer in control, he does not care for the Tau’ri. These creatures have despatched Sokar to begin a war with the Asgard, once they are defeated, there will be only the Goa’uld left to fight, we must align our forces to survive.”

Apophis seemed more intrigued than afraid of the impending doom that Heru’ur foretold. “Sokar allies himself with this Tau’ri slave?” he asked, the words spat from his mouth like a foul taste.

“In doing so, he will be given the power to defeat all Goa’uld, and the Asgard,” Heru’ur asserted. “We must fight to prevent this, for once he has such power he will undoubtedly wield it against us!”

“We will gather at the Loc Sham Grees,” Apophis advised. “A neutral zone, where we might better discuss our position, and consider such alliances against our enemies!”

Heru’ur nodded, disengaging the device. He moved across to the console, his eyes glowing fiercely, changing the coordinates to head for the rendezvous.

 

*****

 

Hathor spun around, observing Apophis. “And you believe this?” she asked. “That this is not a trick devised by Our Pharaoh and Heru’ur to undermine us?”

“I have checked this information,” Apophis told her. “Sokar controls a portion of the armies loyal to O’Neill, do you think I am such a fool that I would not do so?”

Hathor raised her eyebrows. “You have been deceived in the past,” she corrected, turning away from him. “Our beloved controls these beings.”

“No!” Apophis spat. “O’Neill controls nothing, they control him, and through him they will destroy the Goa’uld, since we are the most powerful race after the Asgard.”

The Goa’uld queen nodded slowly. “Then we shall accompany you,” she agreed. “With our armies and Daniel Jackson. If our beloved is able to resist these beings as he was the symbiotes introduced into him by Heru’ur, then Jackson will be the means with which we seize control.” Her eyes flicked across to Kalim, without needing to speak to him, the Jaffa bowed his head and left the room.

“We shall see how powerful these creatures are,” she intoned. “Perhaps Daniel Jackson knows more than he is willing to share.”

Apophis turned, heading away from the palace and back to his ship.

Nyerti, a silent observer to the conversation, stepped forward. “I trust Heru’ur,” she stated. “Never would he bring himself so close to peril without good reason or fear!”

Hathor regarded her. “Perhaps this could work to our benefit,” she mused.

Nyerti smiled, understanding the inference instantly.

“And Daniel Jackson?” she asked.

Toying with her flame red hair provocatively, Hathor’s supercilious features became drenched in a devilish smile. “He will remain with us,” she replied thoughtfully, moving toward Nyerti. “I have plans for him.”

 

*****

 

Jack sat back into the throne once occupied by Heru’ur. His head felt light, spinning slightly with what appeared to be an overactive thought process, and not his own. He had a vague memory of the Sengo’lians words to Sokar, and the intended actions.

“I can’t let Sokar destroy the Asgard,” he told them. Alone in the huge chamber, his voice echoed, breaking the silence.

“We would not have the Asgard destroyed, yet such a battle will delay their actions against us.”

“Okay look!” Jack asserted, instantly regretting too much movement, the thoughts of his ‘guardians’ were weighing heavily on his mind causing sharp pains, stabbing into his temples. “I was gonna get you off that damn planet, without all this destruction!”

“This can not be Ha’dai. The Asgard will not permit it,” they advised.

“Hey I wasn’t exactly going to tell em,” Jack replied. A grimace sweeping his face as the pain seemed to intensify.

“They have two of their ships orbiting Sengo’lia, waiting for such an attempt at freedom. Then they will destroy us, and with us, you Ha’dai!”

Jack’s features contorted with dismay. “Sweet! Nothing like diplomacy to solve a problem.” A heavy sigh. “Alright, what if I can talk them out of it? You’re not exactly helping here! Sending Sokar after the Asgard, whether he’s gonna beat them or not, is a stupid move tactically!”

“We do not understand?”

“Yeah! I get that a lot,” the colonel lamented, his eyes rolling heavenwards. “Okay, look, Sokar starts on the Asgard, they’ll make short work of him and any forces you send with. Right after that, they’re gonna be a little pissed off with you, and me, for sending him there in the first place. These guys have moved on technologically speaking since you last spoke, know what I mean?” Jack emphasised.

“We hear you,” they replied. Their words permeated into his mind, the echoes of which had begun, it seemed, to cause numbness around his aching temples.

“Great, so what I’m saying here is, you do that and they’ll wipe you out,” Jack insisted, his fingers now massaging the back of his neck as he attempted to alleviate the pain in his head. “They can do that from space, by the way,” he added for good measure. “Want that to happen?”

“We are left with no choice but to fight, for millennia we have been prisoners of the Asgard, of the Ancients, and the Furlings. We are dying Ha’dai, without our passage to the one, we are doomed to death.”

Jack sighed heavily. “Okay, so you never mentioned that before, kinda puts a whole new light on speed!” he replied, slightly less insistent now. “So what? You need to get home sooner rather than later or that’s it?”

“Yes.” Silence then.

The colonel, sat back in the uncomfortable seat.  His thoughts corrupted by their thoughts.

Ha’dai?”

“Yeah?”

“We are destroying you, we must find freedom, or we will all die,” they said.

Jack’s eyes closed. His head fell into his hands. “Oh well here’s news, always gotta be something!” he acknowledged cynically. “I don’t suppose you’d consider leaving?”

“We cannot, you are Ha’dai.”

“Sweet!” Jack sighed. “So I guess what you’re trying to say is speed is kinda vital here right?”

“Yes.”

The colonel sat up now, contemplating the probabilities. “Okay, so let’s just say, I get you off that planet, and back to your ‘one’. You leave then, right?” he questioned, standing, his hands running through his hair, stretching above his head.

“We would be free, you would be free.”

Askance in his expression now, he looked across to the right of the chamber, it’s Ancient Egyptian sculptures dominating that wall. Instantly, it made him think of Daniel, he’d almost forgotten about the archaeologist in the malaise of energetic thoughts that cascaded through his overburdened mind. 

Shaking his head, he focused his attention back to the immediate threat. He was no good to anyone dead.

“Your presence is destroying my mind?” he asked finally. “Is that what this is, the headaches, the blackouts?”

“We regret that we have put too great an emphasis on your mind, we will quiet, and expect you to free us based upon the knowledge you now possess. If you call upon us for help, know this, it will diminish your capacity to function further.” The words left him in little doubt. The ‘guardians’ were quite literally killing him.

“Great!” he groaned. “Okay, one last question. Since you’ll be quiet and try not to kill me unnecessarily,” he said. “Can I communicate with Daniel without damaging my ability to function?”

“The conduit will not harm you, use him wisely.”

Jack nodded silently, a wry smile crossing his features. “Great! Saved by the geek!” he remarked.

 

He sat down on the steps leading to the throne, thinking. He’d need a ship, and since the Asgard were waiting in orbit of Sengo’lia, he couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t come under attack.

Concentrating hard now on locating Daniel in his mind, the colonel shut out everything else, even the pain was beginning to recede.

“Jack?” The familiar, and strangely pleasant sound of Jackson’s voice in his head made him smile.

“I’m here Daniel. I need your help, what’s going on with you?”

“Looks like we’re moving out. From what I’ve managed to get out of Kalim, Apophis intends to ally with Heru’ur to destroy you and the Sengo’lians,” Daniel explained.

 

“Sweet! Who isn’t?” the colonel sighed. “Listen, we don’t have much time here. The Sengo’lians are dying, hence their sudden decision to change my plans to come get you. Is Martouf still with?”   He saw no reason to tell Jackson he might be dying with the creatures that infected his mind. Pointless to put him into a state of panic.

“I haven’t seen him,” Daniel responded.

“Are you still on Hathor’s planet?” Jack asked.

“No we’re heading for some rendezvous with Heru’ur, I’m on a ship Jack.” His voice sounded a little smaller suddenly.

O’Neill closed his eyes. “Okay, that’s a good thing. I can get you from a ship Daniel, just keep this channel open and I’ll get back to you, okay?”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Jackson’s thoughts rueful, lonely.

“Hang in there Daniel, I’ll get you home.”

 

Jack exhaled long and hard. “Great!” he groaned. “This is getting a little repetitive!”

He ran his hands over his face brusquely. “Save Daniel, get the Sengo’lians home. Piece of cake!” he chortled to himself.   “Wonder where the hell Oz is when you need him?”

 

He sat there for a couple of seconds soaking in the reality of his situation, the worst day at the office thought skipping flippantly into his mind.  He knew the timescale wouldn’t allow for too much consideration; so he’d need to act as quickly as he could, not much room for error!

Standing up, he paused, his head wasn’t as light as before but he still felt shaky, his hands were trembling slightly, or was it his whole body?  No time to think about it, first priority was the Asgard, warning them of the impending attack by Sokar, and, if he had to, coming clean on the whole problem confronting him.

 

Thor was a reasonable guy, and hopefully he trusted that he’d know what he was doing. Even if he was asking the high commander of a far superior race of beings to take a leap of faith on his behalf, he was praying that their natural altruism, especially for him, would prevail over the more recent scepticism.

 

The communication device would need to be modified, his extensive knowledge of the Ancients now affording him to capability to do just that.

Six Jaffa followed the minute he emerged from the chamber and made his way toward the communication device. A wary eye cast over them, he nevertheless continued.

“Wait here,” he instructed, closing the door behind him. He opened the casing around where the device sat, and began to modulate the frequency without even thinking about it, changing the crystals, and replacing the casing.

He initiated the device immediately.

 

The images seemed to change before his eyes as the device locked onto the correct frequency, finally producing an image of the Asgard the colonel had been searching for.

“Hey!” he greeted.  “You probably don’t know me…” A heavy sigh.  I sound like I want a date, he thought, shaking his head in an amused fashion.

“You are the one they call O’Neill,” the Asgard replied, his huge dark eyes unblinking.

“Great!” Jack enthused, his hands sweeping toward the device. “Listen I really need to speak to Thor, he about?”  A grimace settled on his features as he waited for the Asgard to respond.

“Thor is with the High Council, is this a matter of great importance O’Neill?” the creature enquired.

“I’d say it was pretty important.” A smile. “But you know, you guys probably don’t consider the Goa’uld much of a threat anyhow right?”

“Wait please,” the Asgard asked.  The image distorted.

“Oh come on!” Jack exclaimed. “This is hardly the time to put me on hold for crying out loud!”

“O’Neill?” Thor’s image appearing on the device.  “What is it?”

“Hi buddy,” Jack greeted, a softer smile offered, reserved only for those that the colonel held any esteem for.  “Listen, I’ve got a problem and I’m hoping you can help me out here, but before we get into that, you ought to know that Sokar is leading a fleet of Goa’uld motherships to try and take you guys out.”

“Has Sokar defeated Heru’ur?” Thor enquired, immediately acknowledging that Apophis aside, the Goa’uld’s largest army belonged to Heru’ur.

 

Jack winced, lowering his eyes for a moment before deciding to spill the rest in typically blunt fashion.

“Um, well not exactly.  It’s my fault, or well, not mine exactly, more the Sengo’lians.  See they’ve got a problem they’re dying.  They need to get home sooner rather than later.”

“How does this effect Sokar’s challenge to us O’Neill?” the Asgard general asked.

“Okay, I’m not making myself real clear here am I?” Jack enquired, another wince to underline how uncomfortable disclosing the details made him.

“No.”  Thor’s response a simple one.

“Right.  Well, they, the Sengo’lians, decided that sending Sokar after you might keep you busy, and allow me to get a ship to free them.” Jack began. “Anyway, I figured you needed to know that.  But aside from that I need you to back off, whatever ships you’ve got orbiting that planet, I need them out of the way.  Because if I don’t get them home, I’m going the way of the Ancients my friend.”

The Asgard high commander didn’t respond.  Obviously he was considering it, or maybe even deciding that in the greater scale of things, both he and the Sengo’lians were dispensable.

“I see,” he said at length.

“Look, I can’t exactly ask you to consider putting your whole race in jeopardy because of me.  But I’m kinda hoping you know me well enough to know I’d never intentionally put anyone in harm’s way.”  The colonel looked away.  “I’m asking you to trust me here?” Almost imploring.

“What you ask is impossible,” Thor replied finally.  “The high council would never agree to free the Sengo’lians.”

Jack took a deep breath.  “Thor, you’re asking me to condemn an entire race, I can’t do that!” he asserted.  “Not to mention the damn headaches are getting worse here!”

“I understand O’Neill, but you must understand that the Sengo’lians were responsible for a great deal…”

“Okay!” Jack snapped, his finger levelled accusingly toward the orb into which he spoke.  “Let’s get this straight.  You guys couldn’t handle the Sengo’lians, you don’t get them, but I do!”

“O’Neill this is not about what we could not perceive.  It is about what this race is capable of.”  Thor’s attempted explanation fell on death ears.  The colonel pulled the plug on the device.

If the Asgard were going to give no quarter, he couldn’t afford the sentimentality of considering anything other than his objective - to survive, to save Jackson, and to free the Sengo’lians.

 

He opened the doors, regarding the assembled Horus guard.  “Alright, let’s go make some noise!” he ordered, permeating that statement with a protracted sigh.  It wasn’t exactly panning out the way he saw it.

 

He stood finally on the Pel’tac of an advanced version of the Goa’uld Cheops class ship, a mothership with some very special features.  Features that although good enough to combat the Goa’uld, would never stand up to an Asgard vessel.

For that, he needed to return to Earth, but this time cloaked.  The Ancients ship would be the kind of weapon needed in a war of minds and technology against his former allies.  Its speed and stealth capabilities would ensure there would be no real conflict.  Another heavy sigh, at least, that was the plan.

 

********

 

Daniel looked across at the Goa’uld queen.  Hathor had said nothing since entering the quarters she had secluded him in.

“What?” he asked, his patience finally running out with her silence, with the all-knowing smile she favoured him with.

“We would consider gifting you a great honour, if you would consider sharing with us the knowledge of our Pharaoh’s intentions.” A guarded expression swept her supercilious features.

Jackson’s eyebrows rose slowly. “Really?” he chided. “I think I’ll pass.”

“You are a fool, Daniel Jackson,” she goaded, moving closer to him.  “Our beloved is controlled by these creatures and you still believe he will offer you salvation?  When he has the power of the Universe in his hands, he would never be so misguided.”

 

Daniel nodded slowly. “You’re right, why would friendship mean anything to someone like that?” he enquired, the question more a directional inference of Hathor’s behaviour, than something he would associate with Jack O’Neill.

“You really don’t get it do you?” he persisted, the scorn he poured into his voice measured equally by the scowl that pervaded his face.  “Your kind will die out, ours will survive simply because we do!”

 

Hathor stared back at him.  “Your humanity?” she questioned, mocking him. “You are weak, as our beloved is weak to think that we can be so easily defeated.  Far more advanced technologies have tried and failed.”

 

Daniel didn’t return her gaze, opting instead to turn his back on her.  “I’ve got nothing to help you with,” he said. “You’re wasting your time.”

“We do not consider time spent with you wasted, Daniel Jackson,” she remarked, closer to him than she’d been before.  “We marvel at the petulant insolence you display to us.  A race so primitive they serve us believing that they could ultimately change anything.  You are pitiful!”

 

“And you’re still not getting any information out of me,” Daniel replied, the smile he wore hidden from her. “But maybe you didn’t want anything did you?”

Hathor’s eyes widened, lowering, even if he couldn’t see her she had no intention of allowing him the satisfaction of being right.

“What is it you think that brings us here?” she enquired, her voice almost sweet.

 

Daniel turned, the smile still etched into his features.  “Jack,” he replied simply. “You miss him, don’t you?”

Hathor looked enraged, completely insulted by such a demeaning accusation.

“Pitiful,” she repeated, the echo of the symbiote resonating in her voice.

“You’re taking refuge behind that?” Daniel’s eyes filled with amusement. “That’s pitiful.  Being afraid to admit to having flaws, to being halfway human in your thinking.  I made a mistake…” His voice trailed off, his eyes meeting hers now, and the confidence that radiated in them was intoxicating.  “You do love him, and you hate him for that.”

“Fool!” she spat, fury resounding. Her eyes now glowed with that familiar iridescent hue.  “We are a goddess!”

“So we are,” Jackson cajoled.  “In our own minds.”

 “Work with us, Daniel Jackson, and we shall reward you.  Defy us, and you shall see the true power of the Goa’uld.”  She turned, one last look before leaving the archaeologist once more to his own thoughts.

 

“What ever you’re planning Jack,” he said, a wistful expression crossing his boyish features.  Do it fast!”

 

*****

 

Carter sat up, startled.  Glancing around, she was alone.  The surroundings were familiar, the Sengo’lians had once again brought her to wherever it was they resided.

“Hello?” she called out.

“We ask why you have come?

“I, we’re trying to help.”  She searched the chamber for sight of the creatures, unnerved by their ability to communicate telepathically.  “Colonel O’Neill needs us to disable the Ancients technology,” she continued.

“The Ha’dai seeks your help?”

“I think you know that,” Carter changed her tone. “So why did you bring me here?”

“Time is slipping.”

“Time, what does that mean?  What are you saying?” She felt anxiety creeping up slowly, reading between the lines they appeared to be trying to tell her something.

“We are in your hands, free us, free O’Neill.”

Carter’s eyes widened.  “Free the Colonel?” she questioned. “From what?”

The light that suddenly engulfed her blinding, she closed her eyes against the searing white glow, her hands protectively held in front of her face.

 

*******

 

Makepeace dived for cover as another volley of spears was thrown toward them. Collins was already a casualty, he needed to get him out and there wasn’t much time. His P-90 was spitting bullets toward the band of Aztec natives who had amassed on his right flank, their weapons, although primitive, were exacting a heavy toll.  Coburn had sustained a minor injury from an arrow, which had penetrated his right arm. Makepeace, the only fully fit member of the team, defended their position with his life.

“Sir, we can’t hold them off,” Coburn yelled, looking up from administering basic first aid to the ailing Collins who had lost consciousness, along with what appeared to be a lot of blood.

Makepeace spun around.  “Shut the hell up and cover that flank,” he screamed at the top of his lungs. Unclipping all three MK2 grenades from his belt, he pulled the pins simultaneously and hurled them toward the advancing natives.

The explosions sent a shock wave through the air, sods of earth rained down mingled with undergrowth.

Makepeace squinted, trying to see through the destruction, he knelt up scanning the now silent horizon.

He couldn’t see the enemy; it was likely they’d sustained enough of a shock, and possibly some casualties of their own to consider regrouping, or maybe, hopefully pulling out altogether.  His breathing heavy from the adrenalin that coursed around his body he looked back at Coburn.

 

“Probably should have done that before,” he remarked.  Glancing down now at Collins.  “How’s he doing?”

Coburn shook his head. “I don’t know, I’m no Doctor.  It doesn’t look good,” he advised.

Makepeace frowned.  “Great!  We’ve lost the one person that probably has more field medic training than any of us,” he complained.

“Major Carter?” Coburn guessed.

The colonel regarded him, shaking his head. “Nope, Collins.” He surveyed the surrounding area cautiously.  “Definitely think we scared them off,” he said, placing his weapon down beside his wounded subordinate.  “Keep your head up, I’ll see what I can do.”

Coburn willingly accepted the role of protector.  He was ill equipped to deal with Collins injuries, especially since the arrow still lodged in his upper right arm was making him slightly dizzy.

Robert Makepeace examined the injury to Collins’ abdomen.  The spear that had cut into his body lay close to him.  Collins, obviously suffering from shock, had pulled it out before the colonel could advise against it.

“Okay, you’d better hope it missed the vitals,” he remarked to the unconscious major.  Feeling his pulse, it felt weak, but then not having the necessary training to know any better, it might have been normal.  He applied pressure to the temporary dressing that Coburn had administered to the wound.  The bleeding hadn’t stopped, but somehow he felt it was the right thing to do.

“Alright,” Makepeace said, his attention now emphatically on Coburn.  “We need to get him out of here.”

Coburn nodded. “I agree. How long is it going to take to carry him to the gate?” he asked.  He couldn’t think straight anymore, and the pain that seemed to become even more penetrating was shooting down his right arm.

“Too long,” Makepeace sighed. “Especially since you don’t look capable of carrying anything. But we can’t wait, we’ve got to try.”

“I’m okay,” Coburn lied.

He groaned inwardly, he didn’t like the sound of Makepeace’s voice.  It seemed to indicate that Collins was going to die, no matter what they did.  Knowing the colonel possessed far more experience in combat, and therefore logically would have seen more injuries and be able to make a judgement on the survival rate of such wounds, he felt himself sinking into the inevitability of failure.  That, and the constant stabbing pains that felt like red hot pokers being thrust into his right hand

Carter’s sudden reappearance couldn’t have come at a better time, even if it startled the colonel somewhat.

“Glad you could join us,” he quipped.

Carter looked apprehensive, trying to take in the scene as her eyes adjusted to once more being out of the brilliantly lit chambers that the Sengo’lians had spirited her to.

“What the hell happened?” she asked, clearly shocked by what she saw.

Coburn lowered his head, looking away from her inquisitive regard.

“We got our asses kicked is what happened Major,” Makepeace interjected, his hand still firmly pressing on Collins seeping wound. “Don’t think he’s gonna make it,” he added, as she looked down toward her fallen team-mate.

“How bad is it?” she asked.  It was the kind of question that didn’t require an answer – clearly Collins was unconscious, and losing his lifeblood.  But it was almost a conditioned response to the tragedy unfolding around her.

“Well, he’s been better that’s for sure,” Makepeace, replied caustically.  His eyes narrowed then.  “How quick do you think you can make it back to the gate with Coburn?”

Sam shook her head. “Two, maybe three hours if we double time it,” she said.

“What about you?”

“I’m staying with him,” Makepeace advised. “If he’s dying here, he’s not doing it alone.”

Carter nodded slowly, her eyes filled with trepidation. “Then I guess we’d better get moving,” she concurred, knowing that to argue the point might simply delay any medical attention for both Coburn, who was looking slightly pale himself, and Collins.

“Sir, the Sengo’lians…”

Makepeace’s steely gaze cut her off in mid sentence. “Fuck the Sengo’lians,” he retorted acerbically. “Two of my team are down, get your ass going Major, that’s an order.”

 

***** 

SGC – Two hours earlier.

 

Major Davis stormed into Hammond’s office, no knock, and no protocol.

“Sir, we’ve got a problem,” he announced, aware of Jacob Carter’s presence, yet uncharacteristically ignoring it.  His attention was sternly focused on Hammond.

“Major Davis?” the general questioned, a little surprised by his obvious disregard for courtesy.

“Sir, I think our team on Sengo’lia is in trouble,” he advised, the urgency in his voice, matched the concern that pervaded upon his features.

Hammond nodded.  He had no idea how Davis would know it, but given the recent communication capabilities of one Jack O’Neill he didn’t dare doubt the accuracy of what the man said.

“Sergeant Davis!” Hammond exclaimed, bringing the man scurrying into his office smartly.

“Sir?”

“Get SG3, 4 and 7 ready to go.”

“General?  I think a medical team will be required,” Major Davis told him quickly.

“See to it airman,” Hammond ordered.  His gaze now returned to Davis, the major looked slightly off balance now.  “Major are you alright?” he enquired.

Davis nodded. “I’ll be fine sir,” he replied, turning without further recourse and leaving the office.

Hammond looked across at Jacob Carter.  “Seems Colonel O’Neill is becoming quite the benevolent presence in this,” Jacob remarked.

Hammond nodded. “I’ve never doubted Jack for a second,” he agreed.

Teal’c’s arrival in his office once more surprised the general; he regarded the Jaffa with a questioning expression.

“General Hammond,” Teal’c began. “I would very much like to accompany SG3 in any rescue mission.”

Hammond nodded.  “I know you would son, but didn’t you have a problem with that planet?”

“Indeed, but I feel I should attempt to overcome the aversion my symbiote has to this planet.” He left no room for argument, accepting Hammond’s nod as a go, he bowed his head and exited the office in preparation.

Major Davis loitered in the doorway, looking somewhat jaded. “Sir, I need to return to the Pentagon,” he said.

Hammond nodded once more. “Keep me informed son.”

 

****** 

Davis waited for the helicopter topside of Cheyenne Mountain. He checked his watch; he couldn’t afford to be late.  A sigh of relief as the ‘bird’ flew into view.  Climbing inside, he strapped in and put his headgear on. “Alright, let’s get moving,” he ordered.

Lieutenant Philip Hodge nodded. “Destination sir?”

Arizona, grid sector 90-09. Step on it!”

The mothership slowed as it neared Earth.  Jack looked at his watch, nodding approvingly.  “I could use one of these things during rush hour,” he commented to the Jaffa who had seemingly taken up duties as his ‘first prime’.

“My lord, we will need to engage our cloaking devices,” Kah’loul advised, bowing his head lower the second O’Neill regarded him.

“Sweet, know how to do that?” the colonel asked.

There was alarm in the eyes of the man, strong blue eyes that seemed fearful suddenly.  Jack couldn’t help but allow the amusement, his own cruel sense of humour, to permeate across his features.  His cheeks erupted into a huge smile, patting the man on the shoulder he chuckled.

Leaning forward, his hand touched the red crystals on the console, immediately cloaking the ship from detection.

“I’ll take a glider down,” he advised. “I need you to take this ship back to Sengo’lia.”

“Yes my lord,” Kah’loul replied.  “Will you join us there with this vessel you seek so that we may engage in battle?”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. “I’m kinda hoping the battle part won’t be necessary,” he admitted. “But hey! You never know!”

He turned away then, heading for the glider bays.  He’d need to get the Ancients ship running quickly.  To do that he would require complete concentration, that would mean shutting out his guardians and probably Daniel. Contacting the archaeologist beforehand would probably result in hearing more apprehension and fear, fear he could sense the last time they spoke.  Discerning that Jackson’s fear was borne of a lack of comprehension, telling him what he now faced could only add to that concern.

He felt bad though, keeping Jackson in the dark, leaving him to his own devices for so long in a situation that had volatile written all over it.

The Asgard would be dealing with the threat from Sokar, and hopefully wiping out the upstart, saving him the trouble.

 

Knowing Carter’s situation didn’t help either.  He hoped the message he’d sent via Major Davis had been adhered to. Collins didn’t have too long to wait; trusting the SGC to save him, he’d made the choice not to intercede personally.

Another weight on his mind, the life of one soldier from the SGC over that of thousands of beings that should have meant nothing to him, and of course, Daniel Jackson, whom he felt completely responsible for.

He took a deep breath as he climbed into the cockpit of the death glider, familiarising himself once more with the control panel.  The distended cockpit climbed and sealed itself as he engaged the drive, checking the egress point had opened before sending the vessel plunging from beneath the mothership and into orbit around Earth.

Stealth mode engaged he navigated toward the Arizona desert.  The beacons that resonated in his mind pulled him to the location of the Ancients vessel used as guidance. Targeting the specific area, he brought the vehicle down expertly.  The two observation posts set up by the Air Force, and possibly a third by the NID would need to be safely negotiated, hence, O’Neill had chosen to land the vehicle a mile or so away from the location of the ship.

 

He saw the helicopter approaching.  A smile crossed his lips, right on time!

Disengaging the cockpit from the main body, the colonel made his way double time toward the Ancients craft.  He had no weapons with which to defend himself, or Davis, who was making his way toward him quickly, and would have to in all likelihood risk linking once more with the Sengo’lian consciousness if the situation became too difficult to manage alone.

He couldn’t think of anything more entertaining than knocking a few of those NID types down to size.

“Major, what kept you?” he enquired, a wry grin on his features.

“Our method of transportation isn’t as swift as yours!” Davis replied. “Colonel this place is…”

“I know!” Jack told him, his demeanour showing no signs of concern.

 

They moved forward slowly, beginning to cover the mile or so distance toward the concealed vessel.  Davis took O’Neill’s lead and remained quiet, nervously looking around them.  He knew precisely where the NID operatives would station themselves, as well as O’Neill did.

 

Jack could feel the trepidation in his companion, but he had no time to consider calming the nerves he displayed by his constant need to look around him. Almost the moment they came within spitting distance, he could sense the danger, covered from several different points by high powered rifles, he immediately sought the help of the Sengo’lians, their presence beginning to heighten his senses.

He paused, his eyes beginning to fill with the familiar blue hue that signalled their intent on his behalf, the red pinnacles settling central as he swept the horizon with an encompassing vision that was now more than just three dimensional, it covered every single angle.

 

Davis paused with him, waiting on his instructions. His mind curiously beginning to fill with voices, voices he couldn’t understand.  The cacophony of sound forced him to close his eyes as he became slightly dizzied by its constant humming.

 

Jack too felt himself beginning to succumb to their presence once more as their voices became a collective within, he could comprehend the need to protect that which would free them.  He didn’t need to watch his six, the Sengo’lians would do that far more adequately, and given the opportunity, they would deal more swiftly with the threat than he ever could.

He turned and looked at Davis, sensing the man’s distance he put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and guided him forward.

 

The rifle shot echoed in the distance, it had started, now he guessed they would see exactly what they were dealing with.  The bullet exploded seconds out of the barrel, the sniper looked on in amazement.

“Faulty round,” he yelled into his PR, taking aim once more at the figure approaching the no-go zone.

This time the rifle ceased on him, the trigger simply refused to be depressed.  He looked at his spotter, sat beside him in complete disgust.  “This damn thing is screwed!”

“It’s O’Neill,” the spotter told him. “I recognise him from the handout sheet.”

“Great! The one person Colonel Darnell told us to keep shy of this operation,” the sniper cussed.

 

With the respite in any sound from the rifles, Jack moved forward quickly, dragging Davis with him. His hands pressed against the rocks, he recited the Ancients dialect to trigger the door, disappearing inside the moment it activated.  He knew instinctively where to go and how to operate the controls, the Sengo’lians once more abandoning him, freeing his mind to concentrate on the Ancients repository.

 

“Wow!” Davis exclaimed, finally free from those amazing chants that permeated his mind. “Where are we?”

“In the Ancients ship,” Jack told him.

“Colonel?”

“Major?”

“Why am I here exactly?” Davis asked, a quizzical expression his face.

“Well,” the colonel replied, leading him through the ship. “You and Daniel are important right now.” His tone was almost measured toward encouragement. “We’ve got to free the Sengo’lians and I can’t depend on them right now.”

“What? Like just then?” Davis responded, even more confused by the role he was being asked to play.

“Look!” Jack’s eyes meeting his as he paused mid-section of the vessel. “I’m gonna tell you something right now, I can’t keep using them, they’re basically dying and they’re taking me with them.  So if you can handle not having a play by play, can we get on with this?”

Davis appeared to be startled by the information, his features contorting as the enormity of what O’Neill had told him sunk in.  “Okay,” he said, nodding slowly. “What do you need me to do?”

Jack smiled. “Just stick around Major, it’s about to get very interesting!”

 

He led Davis to the control deck, his hand outstretched as he approached the centre of the chamber; a console rose from nowhere.

His understanding of the vessel had become far more expansive; it used the same technology as the creators had put into the wormhole and the Stargate set-up. Transgressing time space in order to travel undetected and instantaneously to any point in the known galaxy, something that he was only beginning to perceive, yet was ‘old news’ to the Ancients and their scientists.

 

“We’re heading to Sengo’lia,” Jack told him, looking around with certainty that he’d read the major’s thoughts correctly.

“And from there?” Davis asked.

“Well, then I guess it’s up to them.  We get them off that planet, they’ll know where to go.” Jack continued to study the panel before him.

 

Vibrations began to emanate from the power source as he ignited the core, confidently directing the coordinates, thankful that those coordinates could easily be identified, the glyphs exactly the same as those used on the DHDs.

Time to contact Daniel, he thought.  He would need to ascertain Jackson’s location simply by linking to his mind; the Sengo’lian knowledge would translate the coordinates to him, allowing him to input the destination to the console.

He took one of those deep breaths that came from knowing the pain he was about to endure simply to talk to his friend, something which he was beginning to take for granted.

“Daniel, come in?”

Davis could hear the thought as clearly as if the colonel had spoken aloud.  The link that Jack was now opening would bring three minds into one.

There was a long silence, the colonel groaned inwardly and apprehension flooded his thoughts.  Was he too late? Had he overestimated Jackson’s value to the Goa’uld alive?

“Come on Daniel… please?”

“Jack?”  There was an almost desperate sound to the archaeologist’s voice as it echoed inside his mind.

“Daniel, I’m on my way. Just keep this channel clear, I need it to locate you,” Jack advised.

“Um, good actually.” Jackson’s tone now sounded a little more hopeful. “Because I think I’ve just about managed to piss Hathor off enough for her to consider giving me my own snake!”

Jack raised his eyebrows.  A smile unintentionally adorning his face, he wondered what Jackson’s expression might look like at that moment, and probably pictured it perfectly.  “I’d like to say that’s not easy, but…”

“Yeah, just hurry up.  No pressure,” he added.

Jack allowed the Sengo’lians to locate his friend, before taking the information they fed him to the other place in his mind that could decipher and input the details into the guidance console.

“Hang tight, be with you in a minute,” he advised.

Davis smiled, acknowledging the conversation and how easily the two men communicated.  “A minute?” he asked.

“Oh yeah, this baby puts that Goa’uld ship into C5 category!” Jack told him.

“Cool, so are we there yet?” Davis enquired, looking around at the technology.

“Your impatience is almost matching mine!” Jack quipped. “So, I guess we can just initiate now if that’s okay with you?”

Davis nodded, a rueful expression crossing his features. “Sure,” he replied. “Go ahead.”

“Thanks!” Jack retorted. “Nothing like having your approval.”

 

*****

 

Teal’c, his staff weapon clutched firmly in his right hand, led SG3, 4 and 7 toward the ramp.  Dr. Fraiser and her team were behind them, anticipating the worst. With little or no information to go on, they were heavily laden with medical equipment.

 

One other rather useful piece of kit that Major Davis had recommended had already been sent ahead.  A jeep.  It was the first time that they had used something so big, and uncertain if it would exit the wormhole too quickly, Teal’c and Sergeant Graham Perry had pushed it through.

Watching from the control room alongside Hammond and Jacob Carter, Sergeant Siler stood, apprehensively wringing his hands.

“Hopefully the modifications we made to the jeep will get it through safely, sir,” Siler told Hammond.

“Let’s hope so Sergeant, from the way Major Davis acted it seemed critical,” Hammond responded.

 

Teal’c glanced up toward the control room, a single nod of his head enough to set the team in motion.

 

On the other side of the wormhole Teal’c emerged alongside Captain Ryder of SG4, the marine unit of SG3 followed on quickly, immediately establishing a safe perimeter for their team.

“Clear!” Sergeant Perry announced, the same words echoing from three other men as they secured the area.

Teal’c looked across at the jeep.  He’d elected to remain close to the gate, maintaining radio contact using the UAV as an antennae relay with the advance team that would carry Fraiser and her medics to the injured parties.

Woefully lacking in intelligence, and only able to guess at the coordinates, Perry started the jeep, waiting for the medics and his SCO to climb aboard.

 

“Sergeant,” Teal’c advised. “It may become necessary to abandon this vehicle, the terrain is very uneven. Should you have to complete your journey on foot, ensure that Dr. Fraiser and her team are kept safe from any attack.

Perry offered the Jaffa a salute. Hammond had faith enough in him to make him coordinator for the rescue as such; he was commanding the entire team.

“We’ll stay in touch, sir,” he acknowledged.

 

Teal’c felt his symbiote coil restlessly in its pouch, the sensation an unpleasant yet endurable experience, he turned and indicated for Captain Ryder to launch the UAV.  Any visual they could get on their team would be helpful in guiding the marines to their objective.

 

******

 

Aboard Hathor’s ship, Daniel felt more apprehensive now, knowing that rescue was almost at hand.  He couldn’t speculate on exactly what the colonel had up his sleeve, but guessed what ever it was would require a pitched battle to free him.

That didn’t exactly fill him with confidence.  Staring expectantly at the door, waiting for them to come for him, to probably use him as some kind of shield to prevent Jack from destroying them.

His hands began to clench and unclench as he waited, nerves transcending fear; inadvertently his body seemed to twitch with the anxiety that built within him.

A sense of timelessness shrouding his mind momentarily, and then stars, stars?

It was dark, very dark, a vortex seemed to be all around him, motion, he was moving and yet he was standing still, the instant he felt himself floating he came down with an almighty jolt, crashing into the deck of the Ancients vessel.

 

The first thing he saw was a pair of Air Force regulation boots, the kind he knew could only belong to one man.  A smile crossed his giddy features; lopsided and unrestrained he looked up into the face of Jack O’Neill and beamed broadly.

 

Major Davis smiled at the man as he was dragged to his feet. “Dr. Jackson,” he acknowledged.

“Woohoo!” Jack O’Neill exclaimed in childlike glee.  “Welcome aboard,” he added, offering his hand to assist the archaeologist in rising.

“Thank you. Hello Paul,” Daniel responded, glancing in surprise at the JCS liaison, then facing O’Neill.  “Where are we?”

Jack’s head inclined to the right, an expression of confidence on his features, the kind of confidence that came with knowing at least one of his problems was solved. “What, you don’t recognise the place?” he asked.

Jackson looked around, gathering his senses slowly he found himself instantly recognising the Ancients design, the ‘bridge’ of their ship he guessed.

O’Neill nodded.  “We’ve got a few problems to deal with,” he advised, inputting the coordinates for Sengo’lia.

“We, er, do?” Jackson asked, watching him curiously.

“Oh yeah!” O’Neill replied. “Not least of which, is whether or not Carter got that shield down.”

“Oh,” Jackson acknowledged. “Those problems.”  He was still no clearer on what the colonel alluded to, but felt that going along with was the best option right now. “So, you went to Earth?” he asked, deciding to keep the conversation to events, to discover exactly what O’Neill had been up to.

“Yep,” Jack replied succinctly.  “Unless you thought I could just pick up Davis and a ship this cool from the local Star dock!”

 

Daniel’s eyebrows climbed his forehead.  Why would he expect anything different, it wasn’t exactly O’Neill’s style just to respond to a question with the facts, nope that was a little too much to expect.  With Jack O’Neill, ignominy appeared to come hand in glove.

“Right,” he ceded, deciding against engaging the adept sarcasm with which O’Neill peppered his conversations.

“Besides, we might just have to do a little life saving, find out just how advanced these guys were.”

“Wha… What?” Daniel stuttered.  “Jack what exactly is going on here?”

O’Neill regarded him good-naturedly, possessing it seemed, a little more patience suddenly.

“Well,” he replied, a lengthy sigh almost. “Makepeace and the team sent to Sengo’lia kinda ran into the locals. Collins is critical, if Doc Fraiser can’t help, I guess we’ll have to. If this technology is up for it?”

“General Hammond sent the team before I left the SGC Colonel, I think they ought to be halfway there by now,” Davis advised.

 

Daniel’s obviously perplexed features dolefully fell upon O’Neill.  “Sam? Teal’c?” he asked.

“Carter’s fine, and the big guy didn’t even make the trip, remember the little snake problem with that place?” O’Neill responded.

“Ah, Teal’c did make the rescue team sir,” Davis advised, trying to find a way into this exclusive conversation.

Jackson nodded, his hand absentmindedly reaching for his glasses; removing them all in one motion, he rubbed his eyes.

“Daniel.” O’Neill’s tone chastising, no other words necessary.

Daniel held his hand out in front of his face looking at it as though it had been responsible for this breach of O’Neill rules. “Oh, yeah,” he recalled. “I know, it’s bad for the eyes.”

“Like you care,” Jack scalded roundly. “But just in case we manage to get out of this alive, I’m thinking you might need them!”

Daniel’s sober looking face suddenly exhibited alarm.  “Um, why? We’re just moving the Sengo’lians right?  I mean, that’s what they want, right?”

 

Davis shook his head and looked across, concern etched onto his brow at the colonel, it was almost detectable, but he remembered the colonel’s words; not to tell anyone he himself was in danger.

Jack looked sharply toward Davis, a frown settling quickly across his face.

He took a deep breath.

“What?” Daniel asked dubiously, almost as if he really didn’t want to hear the answer, features contorting into way to many expressions to register one particular emotion.

“Well,” Jack said once more accentuating the word into a rather long vowel. “The Asgard aren’t exactly helping,” he advised.

Jackson, his interest already piqued by this seemingly easy mission becoming unnervingly more complicated by the second, groaned inwardly.

“Is there anything else you think you might want to share?” he asked. In retrospect, he probably should have demanded to know everything.  Jack O’Neill had a habit of being economical with the information he possessed.

“Let’s just say,” Jack retorted cryptically.  “We’re not exactly amongst friends.”

Daniel looked away, he wanted to get the colonel to expand upon that, but pointless entered his mind the very instant he thought it.  He turned his attention toward Davis. “You know anymore than that?” he asked.

Major Davis shook his head, yet his eyes betrayed him slightly, causing the archaeologist to approach him.  “Paul?”

“No, I’m er, well I’m as surprised by you are that I’m here to tell you the truth,” he replied weakly.

“Um, yes,” Daniel’s attention once more focused on O’Neill. “Why is he here exactly?”

The colonel shrugged. “Seemed like a good idea at the time,” he intoned, glaring at the errant JCS liaison, who averted his eyes.

 

Daniel took a long deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Okay, so we’re in trouble with the Asgard?” he enquired. “The Goa’uld, probably the SGC, and the Sengo’lians if we don’t pull this off.”

“Yep!” Jack replied.

Jackson nodded slowly, a curious regard covering those boyish features. “Is there anyone in this galaxy you haven’t pissed off?” he commented sourly.

“Nope!” Jack’s retort well rounded, a wry smile crossing those oft scowling features. “I guess if we include you in that illustrious list, that is?”

“Oh I’d say I’m fairly pissed off actually,” Daniel concluded.

“Sweet, well I guess we’re batting 1000 then huh?” Jack acknowledged.  He placed the palm of his right hand on the console.   “And, we’re here,” he advised out of the blue, changing the direction of the conversation.

 

“We’re at, um, we’ve arrived at Sengo’lia?” he queried.

“Oh yeah, this baby knows how to fly,” Jack enthused.

“So what now?” Davis asked, joining the two sparring partners at the console.

“We try find Carter,” O’Neill advised.

 

*****

 

The Jaffa soldiers raced around the corridors of the large Cheops vessel, sweeping through the cargo holds and the glider bays quickly, panicked by the alarm that had been raised following the disappearance of Daniel Jackson, and terrified of the wrath their Goa’uld masters might hand out in retribution for his loss.   

Whispers abounded amongst them that the ever-powerful O’Neill had been responsible for spiriting him away, adding to the reverence many of the Jaffa held him in, almost god like now in stature, each defeat they learned of, merely convinced them of his ability to destroy their oppressors.

 

Kalim had done his best to silence such folly, knowing without needing confirmation that such idle gossip would surely lead to someone, possibly him, being singled out and made an example of to underline the power of their own gods.

 

He had conceded finally that the archaeologist was nowhere aboard the vessel. He knelt now before Hathor, his head lowered he awaited what he thought would be his death.

“Where is he?” she demanded, her eyes glowing nefariously.

“My Queen,” Kalim’s voice quivered as he spoke. “We have searched the length and breadth of the ship, there is no sign of him.”

 

Nyerti stood to the right of the Goa’uld queen; her lips pursed an eloquent expression on her features.  “It is him,” she declared, her eyes almost betraying the amusement at his guile. “He has found a way to control their power.”

 

Kalim dared to look up, unwatched by either Goa’uld he found himself elated that one of ‘the gods’ would confirm the whispers.

 

“Our beloved?” Hathor snapped the retort fiercely, vindictively. “Impossible!”

 

“He has proven himself adept as an adversary,” Nyerti replied. She turned away, dismissing Kalim as she did so. “Perhaps we should rethink our strategy,” she continued, standing at the control console of the Pel’tac. “He is clearly far more useful as an ally than an enemy.”

Hathor regarded her, a look of disdain sweeping her features. “Our Pharaoh refuses to be our ally,” she insisted.

 

Nyerti glanced at the irate Goa’uld queen, her dark brown eyes matter of fact. “Then perhaps we should endeavour to discover how to align ourselves with his masters?” she suggested. “Since it is they who possess all the power.”

The Goa’uld queen remained sceptical, this showed clearly in her face. Observing Nyerti, she scowled then. “Perhaps you would serve as ambassador,” she mocked, clearly finding the whole idea amusing.  Her far greater knowledge of O’Neill, and those he served, afforded her that luxury.

“We shall see,” Nyerti countered. Bowing her head, she left the queen alone to her smug and superior thoughts.

O’Neill’s power was obviously far superior to that of the Goa’uld, she knew in order to finally cast off Hathor, Heru’ur and Apophis, to rule the Universe, he was the key.  Whatever power he had been given by these creatures she wanted for her own.

 

*******

 

Jack slammed his hand down. “There’s nothing here!” he snapped.

Jackson looked bothered by the sudden outburst, it told him, even if O’Neill didn’t want to admit it, that there was something wrong, something he refused to share.  That only led him to believe that it wasn’t good, and however much he wanted to trust the colonel he also knew how completely the Sengo’lians controlled him.  Perhaps that was the answer, it wasn’t O’Neill as much as it was they refusing to confide.

“You’re a little testy Jack?” he noted, a tremble of apprehension in his voice.

“Collins is dying down there and this damn ship doesn’t have anything to help!” he replied, his tone growling ominously. “You’d think a race that can build a network as intricate as the damn Stargate system would find a way to cure a simple damn injury!”

Davis looked across at Jackson, shaking his head, trying to get the man to drop it.  But as always Jackson marched to another drummer.

“Well maybe they didn’t need it?” he suggested, trying his best to calm down the ever-intemperate O’Neill, whose face was beginning to go red with the anger that he made no attempt to conceal.

“Well that’s just great Daniel!” he replied, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Maybe we can suggest it for next time!”

“I’m just trying…”

“Well don’t!”

 

Daniel gazed almost sympathetically at him; the tone he now used contained the kind of angst that he had heard before, it was stress coupled with a feeling of hopelessness. “Okay!” he countered defensively. “I’ll shut up.”

 

O’Neill didn’t respond. Closing his eyes for a moment he found himself wishing he were somewhere else. The sensors told him Collins was dead, only one life sign and that was Makepeace.

“I’m going down,” he said. “You guys…” He waved his hand at them dismissively. “Just… stay here.”

 

Jackson watched until the colonel had disappeared, he felt a little guilty having been so assertive and intrusive, obviously the colonel had a lot on his mind, maybe that was the problem, the burden these creatures had placed on him was finally beginning to take its toll.

“He’ll be okay,” Davis offered.

Daniel glanced at him. “I hope so, I really do.”

 

Makepeace checked his watch.  Carter had been gone for about forty minutes, but it seemed like over an hour.  He sat in the cover of the trees and bushes away from their original position, as much thicket as he could manage pulled over and around the hide. His P-90 clutched in his right hand, with Collins nestled now protectively in his lap.  His hands caked with blood from the efforts to stop Collins literally bleeding to death. He had thankfully seemed to stop the rapid flow through both the makeshift dressing he’d reapplied and the constant pressure he placed on the wound.

It was hard to tell if Collins was still alive, his breathing had become too shallow to detect anymore, although he still felt warm, which Makepeace decided to take as a good sign.

His legs felt numb, probably due to the dead weight of Collins’ body resting on them for such a long period of time, but his senses remained sharp, survival depended on it.

“You’re doing swell,” he told the unconscious man, pulling him as close as he dared without suffocating him. “I’m figuring if you’re sleeping you won’t know anyway.  But just in case you can hear me? You need to diet.”

He’d kept an almost unending monologue going, hopeful that the sound of his voice would filter through and keep Collins from slipping into a more permanent state – death.

He’d worked with the man for so long he couldn’t conceive of losing him now.  But all the wishful thinking, all the hope he tried to cling to as a constant friend, was merely a prelude to the inevitable; he knew it was just a matter of time before Collins would die, the blood loss alone had condemned him. No! There was hope, he knew it, never give in!

 

It was lonely, sitting there clutching the remnants of a comrade.  He’d never felt such solitude before. Yes he’d lost friends in the past, but for some reason that didn’t seem as isolated, as final.  Maybe the fact that others had been there, who had shared the moment and the loss made the difference.  He hadn’t been alone to feel the last gasp of death, responsible for the man whose life was ebbing away in his arms.

Whatever it was that had shielded him before, it offered little or no salvation now.  “So I guess you’ll be missing out on drinks tonight, typical,” he said, trying to prevent the thoughts that kept crept like a second voice into his mind. “Your damn turn to buy!”

Another glance at his watch, fifty-five minutes and counting, he took a deep breath, noticing Collins cigarettes half out of his top pocket.  Seemed as good a time as any.  He plucked them out, putting the weapon down to light up.

 

“Guess I owe you one huh?” he said, his voice a low growl now as the smoke filled his throat, the cigarette held firmly in his left hand between his index finger and thumb, the blood on his fingers now clearly visible to him, he lowered his eyes to Collins peaceful looking face.  “You know these can kill you?”

 

“Makepeace?” Jack’s voice, the colonel looked up seeing the man before him, he could scarcely believe his eyes.

“O’Neill?” he replied, something very needy in that word.

“Relax,” Jack told him, kneeling beside him and feeling for Collins pulse, his eyes immediately reflected the worst.  “He’s gone Robert,” he told the man, emptiness in his eyes that shuddered through his voice.

 

“I know,” Makepeace said, his own voice filled with emotion that he seemed unable, or unwilling to control.

Jack took the cigarette from him, shaking his head.  A rueful expression sat comfortably on his face. “Those things will kill you!” he commented.

 

The SG1 commander stood up, a heavy sigh.  What else could he say?  He’d scanned the directories aboard the Ancients vessel hoping to find something that might retrieve the life of a fallen soldier and came up empty, nothing in their database told him how to revive a human being from a state of death.  It had frustrated him to the point of a tantrum – that’s why he’d decided to leave Jackson and Davis topside, that and the fact he intended to bring the colonel aboard; having managed to comprehend the vast teleportation options the technology offered, he’d pinpointed Makepeace’s position.  Just the job, he thought as he prepared to beam himself down, but it was probably the most humane thing to do.  He hadn’t been sure if Makepeace knew that the man he held onto was dead – just to bring him aboard without warning felt wrong.

 

Daniel’s insistence on quizzing him at every turn was also a contributing factor to coming down in person. Even if his head felt a little light from the trip, it had been the right choice, and looking at Makepeace he could see the man was immersed in remorse.

 

“We should go,” he said finally, another deep and settling breath as his body coped with such a quick relocation.

Knowing only too well that Makepeace would be in the emptiness of shock, he added, “sitting ducks here.”

 

“I’m not leaving him,” the marine responded, the reaction instant, he shook his head defiantly.

 Jack felt a wave of sympathy washing over him. He knew where Makepeace was knew how he felt.  It was desolate and lonely; a sense of guilt would be eating away at him.  As the commanding officer, ultimately he bore the brunt of responsibility, losing one of your team unacceptable, probably more so for a marine, but he had neither the patience, nor the luxury of time to deal with the man’s state of mind.

“Look!” he snapped, trying to inflect as much authority as he could in the words. “You’re not doing him any good staying here!”

“Get out of my face, O’Neill,” Makepeace spat, his eyes filled with anger, the one thing that suggested there was anything at all happening in that mind, his features were startlingly pale and immobile.

 

“Sweet!” Jack whispered to himself, taking a deep breath. He needed to be mercenary, to thump the man’s senses as hard as he could.   “Wallow in it, working for you is it?” he tried to compliment the question with as much reality as he dare. “I’m sure he’d be all cut up to know how caring you really are Robert, but we’ve got bigger problems. I need you on board here!”

Makepeace wasn’t feeling anything right now; the shock was too deep.  It couldn’t have been the first time he’d lost comrades, he surmised, staring down at the man, who seemed in a world of his own, and had now begun to rock his dead colleague gently back and forth.  As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t allow himself to become immersed in the grief, he’d been there too often, that’s what happened in war, death didn’t discriminate.  Good men, as well as bad, paid with their lives.

“Robert, get a damn grip!” he challenged, forcing himself to ignore the man’s obvious suffering. “You need to leave this, leave it dammit!”

Makepeace sighed heavily; he could hear everything O’Neill was saying in the hollow chamber of his mind, and it made sense.  But something inside of him didn’t want to let go; it was too final.

Collins still felt warm, his body, if not the heart that failed to beat inside him anymore.  The loss was too intrinsic to deal with now.

What, just leave him here?” he questioned; there was a resentment in his tone. Bitterness creeping in. “A casualty of war?”

O’Neill took the same deep breath.  Justifying the decision to abandon a fallen comrade the hardest part of any command, been there, done that.  But still, he couldn’t let him wallow in the self-pity, in the anger that now pervaded.

“Makepeace dammit! I’m still senior officer here, now get off your ass and let’s go!” he snapped. “That’s a damn order marine!”

 

Makepeace seemed to jolt back into reality.  The sound of O’Neill’s voice, the authority in his tone and the order forcing him back. He was trained to respond to such authority, even if he didn’t completely accept that Jack’s position as SG1 team leader gave him a higher mission status, maybe it was what he needed, someone else to take the responsibility.

He moved his dead colleague’s body slowly; as O’Neill leant down to help he pushed his hand away.  “I got it,” he said, standing up.

He felt numb, unable to comprehend anything properly, except the need to follow orders.  Almost surreal now, the situation had gotten beyond him, gone beyond comprehension to confusion

“O’Neill?” he responded, the trained response kicking in more assertively.

“Marine, I need you to focus.  How many clicks to the gate?” Jack demanded. Reaching into his vast armour of experience and selecting a tool to get Makepeace to use his mind and drag him out of bereavement, the Air Force colonel glared at the man, their eyes locking, O’Neill forcing him to wake up, to find his way out of the emotional abyss that wrapped him in its steely grasp.

 

“It’s,” Makepeace began, breaking eye contact momentarily before looking back with a far more emphatic regard. “Maybe 20 clicks.”

“Maybe?” Jack pushed; he couldn’t afford to let the man stop for a moment.

“Maybe isn’t an answer marine, is it 20 clicks or not?”

“My estimation, 20 clicks,” Makepeace said, more positively.  His eyes lowered away once more.  “Jack, I…”

O’Neill shook his head. “Forget it Robert, we need to find the team Hammond sent, and get the Sengo’lians off this planet before the Asgard decide to try and wipe them out.”

The marine’s eyes opened wider, amazement settling on his craggy features. “The Asgard?  I thought they were supposed to be helping us?” His voice filled with incredulity. 

O’Neill shrugged, emitting a heavy sigh. “Yep, well see that’s the trouble with allies.  Seems they don’t agree with freeing these guys, so they’re gonna try and stop us from doing it.”

Makepeace frowned.  “The hell they are,” he retorted. “Where in hell did you come from anyway?”

“Got my own little ride,” Jack replied.

Makepeace nodded, he knew it was pointless to pursue since O’Neill rarely confided anything to him, looking down instead once more at Collins body before collecting his P-90. “We should bury him.”

 

Jack considered it for a second. “Nope, Hammond’s guys can take his body back to the SGC.  He had a family right?” Jack responded, a look of sympathy once more clouding his features.

“Yeah, no kids thank god!” Makepeace remarked, now appearing to have more control of himself, yet still his brow furrowed with the sorrow he felt.  “Hate to see kids lose their father.”

Jack didn’t say anything, his thoughts meandering back to his own personal heartache, to something that would always be a companion.  Charlie had meant the world to him, just as he was sure Collins did to his family, another scar to chalk up to the Air Force. Even if he knew he was directly responsible for his son’s death, he couldn’t help but blame the service for providing him with the gun.  His hand ran over a disconsolate face, glancing up into the steely blue eyes of the marine, who seemed to understand the author of his sorrow.

“We should probably get going,” he asserted, an instantaneous reaction to mask the grief.

“Yeah,” Makepeace concurred.  Another glance down at his fallen subordinate, the anguish he now suppressed etched into his craggy features.

 

*******

Carter knelt beside Coburn.  He’d slowed up considerably in the last mile or so and now he was crouching down, his left hand steadying him.  She was beginning to think that maybe leaving him there and going on alone might benefit him, and the rest of the team.  Medical attention, and Makepeace’s welfare tantamount in her thought process, she knew that she needed to make a decision the problem was justifying it in her own mind.

 “Jim?”

“I’ll be all right, keep going,” Coburn urged.

“Look it might be quicker if I go on ahead,” she paused smiling at the man. “You just said that right?”

“Collins needs help more than I do Sam, leave me if you have to,” he replied, the considerable pain he appeared to be in displayed across pallid features.

Carter stopped before she uttered another word, listening, something was approaching, and it sounded suspiciously like a diesel engine.

She looked up, above her in the sky the UAV was circling.  “Look!” she exclaimed, drawing Coburn’s attention to the Unmanned Arial Vehicle

“Hammond must have sent it,” he muttered, taking in breath sharply as he did so, expelling the words with what sounded like a great effort.

Carter stood, waving her arms in the air above her head.  “Hey!” she yelled, grabbing at her radio.  “Sierra Golf one niner calling Sierra Golf command,” she called desperately into the radio.

“Major Carter?” It was Teal’c’s voice. “Remain at your location, we will find you very soon.”

“Received,” Carter replied, she let out a sigh of relief.

Makepeace found himself standing beside Daniel Jackson inside the unfamiliar ship. He blinked momentarily in the lesser light of the surroundings to gain focus.  “Okay, that’s cool!” he remarked. “How’d he do that?”

Daniel shrugged, his attention drawn to the big patch of what appeared to be blood on the colonel’s camouflage.

“Are you okay?” he asked, the concern etching into those soft blue eyes.

“Huh?” Makepeace responded, looking perturbed that his grief might be showing.

“The, um, blood?” Daniel pointed out, his hand gesturing towards the marine’s combats.

Makepeace followed his hand, looking down at the dark patch on his clothing, a scowl forming on his face, distaste in his eyes.

“It’s not mine,” he replied flatly.

“Colonel, Major Collins?” Davis enquired moving into the marine’s vision.

He’d known Collins a long time, liked him. “Sir?”

Makepeace shook his head slowly. “No Major, I’m sorry … he, he didn’t make it,” the colonel said.

Davis lowered his eyes, walking away, trying to keep his emotions in check and needing a moment to gather himself in order to do so.

 Daniel bit his bottom lip, unsure if he should ask how, as O’Neill, with impeccable timing, arrived on the deck between them.

“Hey kids,” he greeted, beaming not uncharacteristically with his childlike delight at the technology he controlled.

“What now?” Daniel asked.

“Now we get our team, and start planning how to get the Sengo’lians out of here without getting ourselves killed by the Asgard,” Jack replied.  Eyebrows rising optimistically, replacing the grin that he’d worn previously with a grimace.

Makepeace nodded thoughtfully, he wore a perplexed expression then. “Jack, just how likely is it, that the Asgard can detect you removing anything from the surface?” he enquired.

O’Neill shrugged. “I don’t exactly know what the Asgard are capable of, this ship is cloaked. As far as I know they can’t even detect that we’re here, even the energy signals dissipate in the atmosphere quickly, too quickly to register as anything more than a small anomaly. But, this can’t transfer the Sengo’lian aboard without taking down the energy barrier that covers the planet.  It’s pretty dense and its tuned to their physiology, so, doesn’t look like we’ll be going back to Oz for a while huh?”

Daniel heaved a heavy sigh. “So, how exactly are we going to get the Sengo’lians off this planet Jack?”

O’Neill’s face contorted, it was the kind of reaction that Jackson loathed, the grimace, the quizzical bemused ‘regarding the idiot’ expression that the colonel seemed to only favour him with.

“Daniel?” The colonel’s eyes filled with scorn. “Did it ever occur to you to listen with that high powered intellect you’re supposed to have?” he retorted acerbically, adding, “I’m not just talking for the sound of my own voice here.”

There appeared to be an underlying inference to that comment.  Even Makepeace cringed outwardly at the remark.

Jackson looked slighted, his eyes lowered away. Cheek muscles twitching in annoyance at being subjugated again, another deep breath, maybe a ten count before he responded.  He should have been able to brush off O’Neill’s sarcasm by now, without even so much as batting an eyelid.  But, considering what he’d been through, his emotional tie-in was too great to just accept that Jack could be so cutting.

 

“Well, I know that Jack, but since you’re the one with any knowledge about this ship, I just thought you might have some idea?” he said finally, keeping the edge out of his tone and hoping that might keep from inciting more disparagement.

O’Neill took a few deep breathes of his own, ruefully glancing at the dejected looking archaeologist.  He couldn’t, didn’t want to tell the archaeologist why he’d become so short on patience.  Being in such close proximity to the Sengo’lians was beginning to take a heavy toll on his mind.  Even if they hadn’t intended to convey their thoughts, his very presence and the anticipation it brought from his guardians building in his mind.

 

Daniel’s eyes widened then, looking at the colonel with trepidation.  “Jack?”

“Daniel?” O’Neill’s tone monotonous.

The archaeologist moved closer, a questioning expression on his face now slowly becoming one of concern.

“What aren’t you telling me now?” he asked, a charge he gave weight to with his accusatory expression.

O’Neill’s eyes averted, falling on Davis who watched him attentively, he shook his head. “Daniel, do me a favour, just leave it!” he asserted.

“No, I don’t think so,” Daniel persisted. He stood his ground waiting for the colonel to respond.

Jack looked slightly exasperated then.  “What?” he demanded, his hands held aloft.

Jackson’s stern expression unmoving, the archaeologist took a deep breath, he had no reason to reply the question had already been asked.

“Daniel we don’t have time…”

“Oh I think we do, in fact I don’t think we can keep doing this Jack unless you’re prepared to be straight with us,” he insisted, a gesture toward Makepeace and Davis indicating that he should join the fray.

The marine glanced at him, then back to O’Neill.  “Is there something we need to know?” he enquired, his manner less assertive than Jackson.

“Jack?” Daniel persisted, those soft blue eyes scowling signalling his position. He wasn’t going to back down, the stubborn little kid had taken over, and now he was most assuredly putting his foot down.

O’Neill winced inwardly, he could tell them the whole truth but what would it accomplish?  As far as he could see it would only make Jackson more likely to panic – and he didn’t need to be engrossed in some kind of desperation mission he needed his thoughts free and clear to address the more daunting prospect of getting the Sengo’lians freed and home without having to engage the Asgard.

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied. “Whatever it is, it doesn’t affect you.”

Jackson shook his head. “Jack, I’m not being difficult here, I just think we need to know.  Something isn’t right, I can feel it.”

“I’m sure the Colonel knows what he is doing Daniel,” Davis offered supportively. “I mean…” Unable to finish the sentence as the marine cut in.

Makepeace had taken a deep breath and decided to throw himself in.

“How unimportant is it exactly?” he asked, trying to ascertain if there was some dark purpose without making O’Neill feel like he didn’t trust him. “Safety, personal or planetary?” he continued.

“Nope, no one is in danger,” Jack lied, his eyes still remained focused strong in their resolve, fixed on Jackson’s now and almost challenging him to doubt.

Daniel shook his head. “Well I’m sorry Jack, but that doesn’t tell us anything.  Since we’re risking our lives here, I think we’re entitled to know!” he asserted, staring ever more defiantly at the man.

Davis leant on the far wall, deciding to err on the side of caution and remain an observer to this strange verbal jousting.

Jack’s hand brushed across his chin. He hadn’t shaved in a couple of days and the texture momentarily distracted him.  “Anyone got a razor?” he enquired.

Jackson exhaled loudly. “Yes,” he replied. “I routinely carry one with me in case we can’t find a gas station on our travels actually!”

Makepeace couldn’t help but foist a wry smile onto his craggy features, looking to O’Neill for the usual retort.

Jack regarded Daniel with a wry, almost appreciative expression, one that had settled easily on his features in response to drawing the archaeologist into his playing field.  “Got some cream too?” he enquired, deadpan in delivery, his eyebrows rose quickly to denote amusement.

Daniel pulled a face, the kind that sent his boyish face into contortions of displeasure.  “You’re doing this on purpose,” he charged.

“What?” Jack looked at him with incredulity.

Exasperated Daniel threw his hands above his head, allowing them to rest on his hair. “Jack, I swear!” he warned.

“Would be refreshing,” O’Neill replied quickly, alluding to how mild mannered the archaeologist behaved. “You know, it would be really cool just to see you lose your temper once!” Jack continued, adding verve to his tone that made the statement sound like an accusation. “Getting mad Danny?”

 

“Oh really?” Jackson retorted, completely forgetting the task he’d set himself in learning of O’Neill’s hidden agenda. “And how would that help? I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have sarcasm and impatience in abundance around here is it?” he challenged, turning away from O’Neill, he spun around quickly, his eyes betraying the loss of temper he tried to conceal. “And no Jack, I’m not getting mad, I’m just getting frustrated with your refusal to believe anyone else here has an opinion!”

 

Jack shook his head.  “No Daniel, and it’s not as if I don’t know what I’m doing here either, is it?” There was more menace suddenly. “Opinions are like assholes! Know what I mean?” he added sardonically.

 His eyes cold now, filled with a far more compelling yet controlled anger, cutting fiercely with a laser like accuracy through Jackson’s defences, challenging and overwhelming in its power, he held the younger man’s gaze until finally Jackson acquiesced, succumbing to this far more domineering stance from his friend, he lowered his eyes, unable to look the colonel directly in his face and ceded with a simple nod.

Makepeace shook his head a wry smile crossing his features.  O’Neill had sent the far more intelligent man around in circles, he had to admire that, to see how the colonel used cutting observations against Jackson’s petulant demanding, yet logical challenge.  He’d always believed O’Neill to be a lot deeper than he ever shown, playing the fool a portrait he painted for those careless enough to believe it.  “And so?” he asked, looking with a degree of sympathy toward the archaeologist before addressing O’Neill.

Jack’s attention remained fixed on Daniel, waiting for the man to recover his dignity, or whatever one of his emotions he’d slain in that visual assault.

The archaeologist looked up, wondering why the colonel hadn’t responded to Makepeace and found those intense brown eyes smiling at him.  His lips pursing he managed a begrudging smile in return.

“Okay…” A protracted sigh.  “So how do we find the others?” he asked.

“That’s not a problem,” Jack told him. His attention now on the console close to Makepeace, he pointed down at one of the symbols, his hand crossing over it.

Davis, deciding to join them now the battle had ended, stood close to Jackson, who eyed him suspiciously.  Something told the archaeologist he knew more than he was saying.  Now wasn’t the time to grill him!

A transparent panel that rose up from nowhere before them projected the surface of the planet almost like a grid-map, most of the image, red a single point to the far right illuminating green.  “That’s where Carter is,” he told them. “We can either just beam her aboard, or we can go down there and try to figure it out on the ground.  Maybe if I see it, this power source…”

“What about Collins?” Makepeace asked. “We have to tell them where to find him?”

O’Neill nodded; the grid suddenly showed similar green signals on six more points.  The colonel appeared alarmed almost immediately.

“What’s that?” Daniel enquired, immediately sensing Jack’s trepidation.

O’Neill placed his hand on another of the 46 symbols on the console.  His features contorted as he absorbed the information, blocking out everything else listening to the Ancients, to their sensors.

Makepeace watched with a mixture of fascination and concern as more points on the map lit up like a Christmas tree.

“What is that Jack?” he, too, asked.

O’Neill’s hand slammed hard onto the centre of the control, sending the vast chamber they stood in into total darkness.  The map began to etch patterns across its vast surface; green lines became blue, then yellow, a single point of red remaining.

“What the hell?” Makepeace exclaimed.  Neither of his companions responded.

“Colonel?” Davis sounded perturbed.

“It’s the damn Goa’uld,” Jack said finally, his voice drenched with loathing. “They’re here.”

Jackson looked around at the colonel, his features masked with fear now.  “Jack, we’ve got to get our teams off that planet,” he asserted.

There was silence then, finally the colonel tracked the source, its position highlighted now in a second image that sprung to their right.

“Ya think?” he snapped sharply, moving across the chamber in the darkness until neither Jackson nor Makepeace could see him. “Dammit!”

“Jack?” Daniel’s tentative voice resonated in the darkness.

“Daniel!” Jack retorted brusquely. “I guess we’ll have to work around them now right?”

“How many?” Daniel enquired.

“Oh just Apophis, probably Hathor and Nyerti, and H.  Almost feels like the family reunion from hell, huh?” O’Neill’s response sounded a little farther away.

“Sounds bad,” Davis groaned. “What do you need us to do Colonel?”

No answer.

Jackson stared into the inky blackness unable to detect anything. “Ah, Jack?”

“Where’d he go?” Makepeace enquired.

“You’re asking me?” Daniel responded.

 

Jack moved through the vessel quickly, toward the chamber he’d used to speak to the Ancients, he once more needed their counsel, but even if they granted him such a sanction, would they help?

The darkness within the ship did not prevent him from finding his way easily, the silence that now prevailed inside his mind told him that the Sengo’lians were attempting to help; by freeing his thought process ultimately they must hope it would free them.

 

Within the chamber, Jack stood still, looking up at the vast array of crystals that were clustered together in groups of colours the green, the red and the blue began to glow luminescence filling the chamber as they did so.

Jack felt himself floating almost as he became engulfed in the Technicolor light show.  His eyes closing, he felt giddy, although the sensations flooding his body were transient, the unnerving feeling of being out of control invaded his thoughts.

Finally, before him were the beings he sought.  But now with the chamber in darkness he could only sense their presence.

“Ut peto vestratum auxilium.” {I seek your help}

“Itas nos cognoscui.”  {Yes we know}

“Tu habeo frustra catena includio Sengo’lians.” {You have without reason imprisoned the Sengo’lians}

“Itas nos habeo includio – Quod malus incolunt – Suntis destrere tu!” {Yes, we have imprisoned – because evil resides – they can destroy you.}

“Video tui odium!  Ut volantussi libero Sengo’lians penes tui subvenio.” {I see your hatred. I will free the Sengo’lians with your help!”}

“Nos indigeo totus fides quae suntis esse commendus!” {We need total belief that they can be trusted!”}

“Tu habeo meos verbum.” {You have my word}

 

The darkness lifted, Jack blinked rapidly as the light flooded his eyes, forcing him to close them if only for a few seconds whilst he became accustomed to the more intrusive brilliance of the startling blue glow, his eyes finally focusing.  A single console in the centre of the chamber immediately drew his attention, he moved toward it slowly, looking around the empty void that had no semblance of familiarity to him.

He still didn’t fully understand the method of communication the Ancients used. Was he really in another part of the galaxy, or had this amazing race used a technological advance? Perhaps the repository buried in his mind was simply linking with the systems within the ship?  He stared down at the console, the alien scripture changing every few seconds.  The information seemed to log into his mind almost as if files were being transferred from one source to another.

“Yes!” he exclaimed loudly. “Finally!”

 


 

Part Two

 

Heru’ur, his ships now orbiting the Sengo’lian home world, stood poised on the Pel’tac. Apophis had consented to his plan, albeit reluctantly.  His fleet, comprising of over three hundred ships, had taken up position on the opposite side of the vast planet.  One so immense that it made most Goa’uld occupied worlds seem like mere stars.

 

Both system lords had sent their Jaffa to the planet’s surface, converging on the pyramid structure they had seen from their orbital surveys.

 

Heru’ur checked the proximity of Hathor’s fleet before ordering the launch of his gliders.

“Nefir,” he said, turning and facing his first prime.

“My lord?”

“Lead the battle, I will remain here, Apophis might change his mind. We must be ready,” he asserted.

“Yes my lord,” Nefir replied obediently, his hand thrown across his chest in salute, he marched from the Pel’tac.

Heru’ur initiated contact with Apophis using the long-range communication device.  “It is time,” he urged. “We are ready to attack.”

Apophis’ image, supercilious as ever smiled back at him. “And the Asgard?” he asked.

“They will see this as an act of friendship, in destroying their enemies, we will prevent a war we cannot win.”

This notion, one the Goa’uld supreme system lord had used to forge the alliance with his most deadly enemy, was met with a sly smile of approval from Apophis.

“Then let us begin!” he agreed.

 

*****

 

Carter could see the jeep approaching, raising her hand to the radio. “Teal’c, I can see the team,” she advised.

“Major Carter,” Teal’c’s voice came back. “We must evacuate this planet immediately.”

Carter looked surprised, her eyes meeting Coburn’s, which seemed to share that surprise.  “Ask him why?” he said.

“Ah, Teal’c?” Sam enquired. “We’ve got to get Colonel Makepeace and Major Collins, is there a problem?”

“We are no longer alone, Major Carter.” Teal’c responded, a foreboding in his tone that sent an expression of confusion across Carter’s delicate features.

“Exactly what does not alone mean Teal’c?” she questioned once more, frustrated by the usual lack of clarification by the laconic Jaffa.

“Goa’uld motherships have encircled the planet,” Teal’c advised.

Coburn flinched. “Oh great, that’s all we need,” he spat.

“Ah, Teal’c, we can’t leave without Colonel Makepeace,” Sam argued. “We’ve got to try and get to him and Collins.”

“There is no time,” Teal’c’s voice was stern.

“Teal’c!” Carter’s tone filled with anger now. “We’re not leaving them behind!”

“Sam, we don’t have a choice,” Coburn said. “Makepeace is wily enough to stay hidden.”

“If we withdraw now and the Goa’uld…”

“Carter, did Teal’c just say negative?” O’Neill demanded.

The major spun around, her jaw dropping open. “Colonel?”

“Oh yeah, and you know, I’m sure Makepeace appreciates the gesture, but he’d do the same!” Jack advised. He held his hand out. “Let me have your radio.”

Carter did her best unhitch it quickly, handing O’Neill the microphone, looking at the Jeep as it arrived. “Teal’c, this is O’Neill, I want you to send your team back through the gate and standby, I’ll beam you aboard buddy,” he ordered.

“O’Neill?” Teal’c’s voice sounded both surprised and delighted. “It is good to hear your voice once again.”

“Thanks Teal’c,” Jack responded. “I’m sending the other team back, minus Fraiser, get them all out A-SAP!”

 

Teal’c stood by the DHD, raising an eyebrow at O’Neill’s last comment he began to dial in Earth’s coordinates, sending through the IDC immediately the wormhole had established itself.

“General Hammond,” he said through his radio.

“Standby Teal’c,” Lieutenant Simmons' voice came back. “We’re bringing him down now.”

Teal’c waited, sending through the SG teams that had stayed with him at the gate.

“Teal’c, this is Hammond, go ahead son,” the general’s voice told him.

“General Hammond, this position has been overrun with Goa’uld, on Colonel O’Neill’s advice I am sending back all teams.  SG1, Dr. Fraiser, and I will remain.”

“What?” Hammond sounded startled. “Let me talk to O’Neill?”

“I am unaware of his position,” Teal’c advised. “I will try to reach him.”

“General, this is O’Neill, reading you loud and clear sir,” Jack’s voice now echoed over the airways.

“Colonel, exactly what is happening on that planet?” Hammond demanded.

“Well sir, we’ve pretty much got the snakeheads covered, I need my team to try and free the Sengo’lians.  Once that’s established we’ll return to Earth.”

“And how exactly do you intend to do that Colonel?” Hammond demanded. “Since your position is threatened by hostiles.”

“I can’t go into detail sir, don’t know who is listening in, trust me General, we’ll get the job done.”

 

******

 

Fraiser climbed from the jeep, astonished to see O’Neill, but her immediate concern was Coburn, she knelt beside him beginning to examine the wound.

 

“Sergeant, get your men back to the gate, we’ve got a little Goa’uld company,” Jack ordered.

“Yes sir!” Sergeant Perry acknowledged, swinging the vehicle around and heading back toward the Stargate as ordered.

“Sir what about…” Carter’s intervention silenced immediately by O’Neill’s expression, a shake of his head indicating that Collins was past attention of any kind.

“What about Colonel Makepeace?” Coburn asked.

“He’s safe, keeping Daniel company right now,” Jack told him. “How you doing?”

“He’ll be fine, Colonel,” Fraiser answered.

Sam seemed a little more relaxed now. “Um, sir shouldn’t we be going too?” she asked. “Where is Daniel?”

“Slow down Carter,” Jack responded. “The snakeheads aren’t too close, and I need to see that device, so you and I will be taking a little trip into the middle of hell, whilst these guys get to see the latest in Ancients innovation!”

Almost the second the words left his mouth, the entire party were beamed aboard the Ancients craft onto the bridge where Jackson and Makepeace waited.

Jack grinned once more. “You know, I’m getting really good at that,” he observed.

“Daniel,” Sam greeted, moving toward the man and embracing him.

“Are you okay? What happened?”

She saw Davis standing to the archaeologists right then. “Paul?”

“Hi,” Davis replied, offering her a warm smile.

“Okay! Let’s do this later shall we?” Jack insisted. “Carter, we’ve got to go take a look at that device.”

“Yes sir,” she replied.

Daniel stepped away from her, heading toward Jack. “Isn’t that just a little dangerous considering how many Jaffa are on the surface now?”

Jack ignored him, heading over for the console. “Carter, gimme your radio again,” he ordered.

 

The major handed him the device, looking slightly rueful toward Jackson and shrugging. “Where’d he get this from?” she enquired, as the colonel busied himself talking to Teal’c on the surface.

“I think he went to Earth actually,” Daniel told her, a grimace sweeping his features. “He’s not really telling us that much.”

“Earth?” Sam seemed shocked. “Did he get you from there?” Her question directed at Davis, who nodded.

“I’m only guessing,” Jackson pointed out, a glance across at the colonel. “He’s hiding something.”

Sam’s turn to look concerned, her eyes following Jackson’s and resting on O’Neill.  “What?”

“Um, I don’t know exactly, but its something important,” he said, eyeing O’Neill suspiciously.

“I don’t think he is,” Davis stated. “Just has a lot on his mind.”

“And so is he,” Daniel asserted, gesturing toward Davis.

 

The major was about to protest his innocence when Teal’c appeared to their right; a little disorientated he looked around for a second.  “O’Neill,” he acknowledged the instant his eyes fell upon the man.

“Hey buddy,” Jack responded.

“We are aboard the Ancients vessel, O’Neill,” the Jaffa observed.

Jack’s eyebrows climbed his forehead, looking over toward Carter. “Ah, yeah,” he confirmed.

“Then we are able to free the Sengo’lians?” Teal’c questioned. “This vessel might also allow us to fight the Goa’uld.”

“Nope.” It was as dismissive as the colonel could make it. “Carter, we need to go now!” he asserted.

“Yes sir,” she concurred.

Teal’c regarded O’Neill curiously, his attention slowly turning toward Jackson who shrugged.

“He really isn’t saying much,” Daniel advised.

“Need to know,” Jack snapped abrasively. “And none of you need to know!”

 

“But we do need to know Jack,” Daniel insisted. “What if we’re wrong and the Asgard are right? We could be unleashing hell?”

O’Neill looked around his colleagues; they all seemed to concur with Jackson, all except Davis who seemed more sympathetic.  He looked down, away from those questioning faces.

“What do you want from me?” he demanded. “You don’t know, because I can’t be the only witness!  I know these creatures; they’ve saved my life more times than I can remember, and yours.” That comment directed toward Jackson.

“You have to trust me…” He stopped then, wondering only for a second how many of them actually did.

“Sir, Daniel’s right how can we really know how much of what you see is not control brainwashing?” Carter stated.

“Come on Sam, does he seem brainwashed to you?” Davis contested.

Carter shrugged. “And you’d know?” she questioned.

The JCS liaison held his hands up in acquiescence. “I’m just trying to say he’s under a lot of pressure right now.”

 

The colonel looked away from the prying eyes, there had to be a way to get around this sudden unified assault on his intentions.  Having promised so much to those whose power he needed to accomplish the mission he could hardly blurt out that he’d… it wasn’t prudent, not now.  Only one way out, and that was a spot of emotional heart tugging.  He knew just the right person to beat too!

 

“Dictum est, amicitia est fidem et est trados penes-foris interogga!” Jack said, his eyes fixed on Jackson.

The archaeologist lowered his head. “Yes,” he agreed. “I’m sorry.”

Sam looked at O’Neill, her eyes filled with curiosity, before flicking them across to the rather angst ridden expression of Daniel Jackson.

“Care to spell that one out for us linguistically challenged folk, Doc?” Makepeace enquired.

Daniel sighed heavily.  “He, er, said.” His eyes fixed on O’Neill’s.  “It is said, friendship is faith and is given without question.”

Sam took a deep breath. “And I guess he would be right,” she replied, the guilt trip Daniel was taking, wouldn’t be alone.

“And that means what?” Makepeace asked, never one to catch the subtler moments.

“It means that you need to have faith,” Jack told him.  He stood, his hands held aloft at his sides. “I mean, come on guys.  Have I ever let you down?” he enquired, a smile now dancing across those intense eyes. 

Teal’c looked at Carter, who looked at Makepeace.  The marine colonel, his eyes closed now, shook his head. “The damn four musketeers!” he commented ruefully.

“Sweet!” Jack remarked. “Carter, let’s go!”

The pair vanished almost instantly, leaving Jackson staring wistfully at his boots. He’d been had, and he knew it.  Damn Jack for that, for knowing him well enough to engender such capitulation.  Sulking, something he was particularly good at, according to that same sneaky son of a bitch, would be payback!

 

Dr. Fraiser finished treating the wound on Coburn’s right arm, standing up.

“Is everybody else okay?” she enquired.

“I’m fine,” Daniel remarked flippantly.

“Me too,” Makepeace agreed. “Just wish I knew what O’Neill was up to, and I’d feel a whole hell of a lot better.”

 

“Perhaps O’Neill’s intentions will become clear when he desires us to know,” Teal’c offered thoughtfully.

“Well we better hope so,” Makepeace responded.

Davis remained quiet, he had no intention of overly defending O’Neill and placing himself under more suspicion, he was already aware of Jackson’s doubts.

 

******

 

Carter ducked down behind the device, close to O’Neill as he examined the readings on its outer surface.

“Okay, I get this,” he said, glancing deviously across at the major, averting his gaze quickly to conceal it. “We need to remove this panel without setting off the built in safety devices.”

“What safety devices?” Sam enquired dubiously.

“Um, detonator, trip switch and disintegration capabilities,” he informed, reeling the words off like he’d known them all his life, his eyes never once moving from the scripted surface.

Carter raised her eyebrows. “Oh great!” she remarked. “How do we do that?”

“Well,” Jack replied, a wry smile crossing his features. “I guess with a lot of caution.  Don’t want to blow the damn thing up.”

“No sir,” she agreed.

 

Jack didn’t say anything else, his concentration suddenly overwhelming as he prepared to disable the device.  Everything said he should turn the first key, a symbol to the left of the panel to his right, yet he was unsure if that was his own gut reaction, or truly the wisdom of the makers of the device.  His hands poised over the top of the symbols, wavering in thought.

“I don’t know,” he sighed heavily, but it was a charade, a part of the role he was honour bound to create for such a captive audience. “There’s too much going on in here, I can’t block them.”  Even he felt he’d sounded convincing!

 

Carter looked at him. “What about Daniel sir?” she asked. “Maybe he could channel your thought process?”

“Daniel’s a key to the Sengo’lians, Carter, not the Ancients.  He’d just make it worse.” Jack’s tone edgy suddenly.  His eyes narrowed as he scrutinised the symbols and tried to make them align in his archive of knowledge.

“Sir what if…”

“Sam!” Jack’s voice sounded very shaky. “I don’t wanna be rude, but shut the heck up!” he demanded, sure he’d gotten the mix right; he sounded unsure, sounded apprehensive and edgy and it was just what he’d intended.

 

Carter looked heavenward.  She watched curiously, concerned by how much his hands were shaking, unsure if this was due to nerves or perhaps the strain of concentrating so completely.  She knew well that the human mind was not equipped to deal with the Ancients repository, wondering how the Sengo’lians had managed to trigger it, without overwhelming his brain to the capacity that had almost killed him the last time.

There was so much she wanted, needed to know.  The whole premise of his possessing such knowledge could form the focal point of an offensive against the Goa’uld, ensuring they at least had equal footing.

Daniel had told her a few things, how much power he seemed able to generate, the ability to control the minds of those around him, including hers.

So much had happened so quickly, she hadn’t had time to stop and think about all the things that O’Neill had done, accomplished, but something else plagued her thoughts too; as much as she was fascinated, she was also concerned, deeply so, about the possible side effects.

 

“Okay, I think I’ve got it,” Jack told her. “But I can’t risk you being here so…”

Almost the instant he spoke, Carter was gone.  A smile swept his handsome features. “That could be useful,” he said.

 

He stood up, looking down at the device, his hand held over it.  “Okay, let’s see if we can do this and get the hell out of here.” His eyes closed, he began to recite commands in Ancient dialect silently in his mind, summoning the power from the ship that he needed using a small piece of Ancients technology nestled in the palm of his left hand.

The symbols lit up, colourfully alternating until the colours merged into one.

 

*****

 

Thor monitored the activity of the Goa’uld motherships, something else fluctuated repeatedly on his sensors yet he was unable to make it out or completely scan its properties. It seemed to shift phase, sending the scanners into different directions, distorting the images they sent back.

The closer of the two Asgard ships in the planet’s orbit, he surmised that either the Sengo’lians cloaked themselves, or it was O’Neill, but there had been no activity from the Stargate since the arrival of the humans over 48 hours earlier.  The only wormhole established had been outgoing since then, he’d lost track of some of the SGC personnel.  They had literally disappeared, perhaps the work of the Sengo’lians, but somehow he knew it had to be O’Neill, the rather admirable human never seemed to know when he was beaten.

 

He instructed the second ship to cover the Goa’uld Apophis, concentrating his efforts on detecting movement on the planet’s surface, which did not meet the expected parameters.  If the defiant human was there, he would find him.  The safety of the Galaxy hinged on it.

 

*******

 

Carter paced the deck of the Ancients vessel.  “I don’t know sir,” she replied to Makepeace’s insistent questions about O’Neill’s whereabouts and actions. “He just said he couldn’t risk my being there.”

“He’s making me nervous,” Makepeace admitted finally, sitting on the floor, his back rested against the control console. “I mean, do any of us know what he’s doing here?”

“He’s trying to help,” Sam argued; a disdain swept her features, forcing her to look away from the colonel who now regarded her steadfastly.

“Help whom?” Makepeace demanded. “Us or them?”

 

Teal’c stepped forward, making his immense presence felt.  He knew he was able to deflect Makepeace more affectively than the protocol of rank would allow Carter to do.

“Colonel Makepeace,” he began, imposing in both stature and tone. “Is it not obvious that Colonel O’Neill seeks to free these creatures in order to free himself?”

Makepeace looked up at him, the Jaffa’s immobile expression greeting him.

“So why can’t he just say that?” Makepeace asserted. “Why keep telling us ‘trust me’, when a simple, ‘I’m trying to get my ass out of the fire’ would suffice?”

“Possibly because he does not wish you to know he is compromised, or feels so?” Teal’c offered intuitively.

 

Carter watched the exchange almost enviously.  There had been so many times when she would have liked to slam-dunk that sucker herself. Although having to enjoy the experience vicariously, it was nonetheless a satisfying one.

When Makepeace left the argument well alone, she found herself drawn to the console, looking down at the symbols, wondering what mysteries they held, what technology she could study.

Daniel joined her, a smile as she looked around at him.  “Ever get the feeling you’re in a different world?” he asked.

“All the time,” she replied. “Do you recognise any of these symbols?”

“No,” Daniel said. “I looked them over when Jack went down to get Colonel Makepeace.  It’s really odd actually, because according to Jack, they changed. Originally they were the same symbols we use on the gate.”

Sam’s expression became one of curiosity. “That would figure,” she remarked thoughtfully, those big crystal blue eyes suddenly regarding Jackson with the same inquisitiveness. “How did he manage to get you away from the Goa’uld?”

Daniel shook his head. “Using the same technology I guess,” he replied. “I was on a Goa’uld mothership, probably heading here.”

“Hyperspeed?” Sam asked, the expressions now crossing her elfin features reflecting a sense of astonishment.

“Um, yes actually,” Jackson told her. “One minute I was there, then next I’m here.”

“WOW!” she exclaimed. “That’s incredible, I mean, what are the odds on matching the signals perfectly in order to transfer biological matter from one place in the spatial universe to another?  This is amazing.”

Daniel’s eyes widened slightly. “Um, ah, if you say so?” he muttered, unable to comprehend the dynamics of her thoughts.  “So, are you as sceptical as Maybourne?” he enquired. “I mean do you think Jack’s got some other agenda?”

 

Sam regarded him with a mixture of uncertainty and surprise.  “You can’t think the Colonel has some ulterior motive?  He’s doing what Teal’c said, he’s freeing himself.”

Daniel seemed perplexed suddenly.  “I don’t know Sam, he won’t tell me anything, and he’s blocking his thoughts.”

“Like what?” Sam enquired. She moved closer to Jackson to conceal their conversation from the observing Makepeace. “Daniel, he’s been wrapped in this forever, he must want to get out.”

“I don’t know… it’s just his whole attitude! He’s hiding something and that bothers me,” the archaeologist insisted, his soft blue eyes appealing to her as if he needed her assurance as much as Jack’s.

Sam shrugged, she seemed a little uneasy suddenly. Jackson, sensing it almost as if he had the ability possessed by O’Neill, looked into her face, and the expression was slightly resentful.

“Oh god,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “We’re not doing this again are we?”

“What?” she barked, almost as if the accusation was understood, her eyes averted, lowered away from his intense regard.

“You’re jealous?” he charged.

“No I’m not, jealous of what?” she demanded, her face masked with anger.

Daniel waved her away, moving toward Teal’c.  She glared at him, furious that he would be so openly challenging of her motives.

 

Janet watched the curious exchange, she’d noticed before how often those two seemed to easily spark, especially when a debate about Colonel O’Neill came to the fore.  She half suspected that Sam had harboured jealousy of a sort toward the uncompromising relationship O’Neill shared with Jackson, often feeling that the astrophysicist was in some way challenged by it.  Finding herself on the outside of something she couldn’t understand.  Men were like that, they had the ability to bond beyond the understanding of women, no matter how many experiences she could share as an Air Force officer, nor how close she became to the men in her unit, that fact would always come between them; she was a woman!  Not exactly a startling revelation, but one nonetheless she knew troubled Sam.  She left Coburn, having successfully treated the man, and made him more comfortable; a good ear seemed the right thing for her colleague.

“Sam?”

“Hi Janet,” Sam greeted. The scowl she’d foisted upon Jackson wiped from her features and replaced with a more passive smile.

“You okay?” Janet enquired.

The astrophysicist smiled, a perplexed and impatient smile, but one that managed to convey her feelings nevertheless. “I’m okay, I’m just wondering why these guys always make me feel like an outsider!”

“It’s a man thing!” Janet said, a tentative smile crossing her features. “Besides, I think Daniel’s afraid.”

Sam looked concerned now, quizzically regarding the doctor. “Why?”

“I don’t know, he just seems troubled,” Janet observed. “I mean you’re the closest thing he has to family and right now he’s probably as in the dark about Colonel O’Neill as you are.”

Sam looked apologetic suddenly. “My god, I never even…”

“Maybe because you’re on the inside?” Janet offered. “Besides, the way things have been with Colonel O’Neill recently I’d be surprised if any of you weren’t exhibiting signs of stress!”

“Except Teal’c,” Sam noted, a nod toward the Jaffa who was talking now with Makepeace.

“Teal’c shows it,” Janet confided, even if it was hypothesis. “He just has a hold over his emotions.  Try not to let Daniel get to you too much Sam, whatever he says, he needs you as much as you need him right now!”

Carter looked across at the archaeologist, who was now loitering in the area of the deck close to the door.

“I will,” Sam agreed. “Not like he can exactly put it all down to um, like we can,” she added with a devilish smile.

Janet’s lips contorted. “Oh, I think men have those, they just manifest themselves differently!” she laughed.

 

*******

 

Jack stood in the centre of the Pyramid, Jaffa surrounding him, forcing him onto his knees in front of Hathor, beside her Nyerti.

“Our beloved,” she cooed, the look of sheer pomposity on her features declaring the idea of a victory.

“Since?” Jack retorted in a monotone.

His eyes fell onto Nyerti then, she seemed apprehensive, afraid of him.  He could hear her thoughts quite clearly as his Guardians once more shadowed his thoughts and equipped him with their unique acumen.

“We are most happy to once again have the pleasure of our Pharaoh’s presence,” Hathor continued, ignoring his scorn.

O’Neill raised an amused eyebrow. “This isn’t a social call,” he advised, applying as much emphasis on the social aspect as possible. “I just thought I’d tell ya that your whole fleet is cover by Asgard motherships.”

 

Hathor’s smile wiped from her face, she stepped forward, clutching his chin viciously in her right hand.  “Our beloved would be wise not to offend us!” she warned.

Jack couldn’t conceal the sardonic expression that crept easily onto his face. “Ya think?” he enquired. “Oh I’d say right about now, you’d be wiser to think about getting off this planet.  I’m so over you!”

“We wish to forge an alliance O’Neill,” Nyerti interrupted, seeing that Hathor’s attention was irritating him, and fearing he merely allowed capture so as to orchestrate their demise more rapidly.

Jack looked across at her, freeing his face from Hathor’s grasp easily.  “Now see, here’s the thing, not interested!”

Nyerti’s caution appeared to influence Hathor, as she moved away from the colonel watching him with a degree of concern etched into her beatific face.

“We offer you more than you could ever hope for our beloved, why do deny us?” she asked.

“I’m thinking you know the answer to that,” Jack told her, but still even with the building apathy for her he couldn’t help but admire those incredibly alluring eyes.   He took a deep breath, trying to dismiss that line of thought.  Why did he feel it now?  It made no sense, none.

“Tell us you do not desire us?” she demanded.

Jack froze for a moment, was he as transparent to her as she evidently was to him?  “I don’t desire you,” he rattled back as quickly as he could find the words.

“Liar!” she snapped.

His eyes softened, a smile crossing his lips.  “So?” he challenged. “Doesn’t mean I won’t kill you.”

“Then kill us,” Hathor challenged, moving toward one of her Jaffa she took a staff weapon from him, the slave scurrying away the minute she had relieved him of his weapon.  She held it out to Jack.

The colonel stood, accepting the weapon. He spun it in his hands pointing it toward her.  “Is that what you want?” he asked. “Want me to prove it?”

She opened her arms holding them out to him. “We demand you prove it,” she replied.

Nyerti backed away, moving off to the left, the colonel’s attention immediately drawn to the movement, a laser like stare followed her menacingly, forcing her to stop, the vaguest hint of a satisfied smirk flashing in those eyes.

He activated the weapon, opening the guard, his eyes switching back to Hathor.  “Kill us?” she said.

He smiled, throwing the weapon to one side. “If I wanted to kill you, I’d make it more permanent,” he advised.

She stepped toward him with urgency, her body pressing against his. “Tell us you do not desire us?” she demanded once more.

Jack looked down into her eyes, his breath taken quickly as the desire almost engulfed him.  The fire that burnt so effervescently in her intoxicating gaze quickened him inside, arousing primal emotions that he’d almost dismissed by absence.

 

Nyerti watched, fascinated by the hold Hathor appeared to have over this human.  She could see the electricity between them, how the body language seemed to change, how easily he succumbed to her touch.

Jack closed his eyes, shaking his head in dismay. “Damn you’re good,” he admitted, reverence permeating his voice, his eyes locked into hers, betraying the desire she roused so effortlessly within him.

“Then join us?” she offered softly.

“Ah, no!” Jack’s tone now a little more decisive, sharp intakes of breathe punctuating his words. “You need to leave this planet, these folk won’t tolerate your interference, and they know why you’re here,” he added ominously.

“We come to free our Pharaoh,” she told him.

Jack chuckled then, amused by how blatantly and easily she lied. “You came here to destroy the Sengo’lians in the hope that the Asgard won’t destroy you,” he countered. “Since the Sengo’lians did send Sokar after them.” His features became more concerned then, brow furrowing drawing lines across his forehead. “You really need to leave,” he reiterated.

Hathor’s left hand slowly rose as Jack turned away from her, the ribbon device glowing; the colonel spun around his eyes filled with anger. “Don’t!” he warned, there was almost a sense of desperation in his voice.

As the ribbon device activated the colonel raised his hand and sent the Goa’uld crashing back, her body smashing against the pillars behind her with a sickening thud.

Jack winced, his features creasing in horror, he moved forward with urgency, kneeling beside her lifting her unconscious body in his arms.

“Kalim!” he yelled, knowing the first prime would be close by.

Nyerti watched once more, completely enthralled by this open display of affection as the colonel lifted her into his arms, effortlessly he carried her toward the first prime.

“Sarcophagus?” he asked.

Kalim bowed his head, a mark of respect for this prodigious human whom he and many Jaffa now rightly revered as a true god.  “My lord, the sarcophagus is on board the mothership.”

The colonel held out her body to the Jaffa. “You know what to do,” he said

Kalim accepted the charge of Hathor’s lifeless body, bowing his head once more to the colonel.

The staff weapon blast missed the two by inches, O’Neill threw himself to the ground, turning quickly. Nyerti stood above him, the weapon lowering toward him.

The second shot tore into his chest; the searing pain traversed his body before he lost consciousness.

 

“Jaffa, Kree!” she warned, the staff weapon now turned on the man. “Leave her, bring him!”

Kalim hesitated looking down at O’Neill, he was not moving, the wound looked fearsome, its circumference easily matching the size of his chest, had killed him without question.

“Kree!” Nyerti spat, taking her attention from the colonel.

 

*****

 

The systems on the Ancients vessel shut down with a massive hissing sound. Carter looked at the console she had been studying.

“What did you do?” Makepeace’s voice charged in the darkness.

“I didn’t do anything?” she sounded unsure.

“Um,” Daniel’s uncertain response.

“Great!” Davis exclaimed.

“Well it didn’t just shut down on its own!” Makepeace asserted.

Fraiser sat next to Coburn. “How’s the arm?” she asked. “Any more pain?”

“No, I’m fine, it feels better.”

“Good, you might want something for a headache soon,” she sighed.

 

Sam looked perplexed, wracking her brain trying to think of what might have suddenly caused the ship’s functions to cease.  She was sure she hadn’t touched anything on that console, but even so Makepeace’s charge hung heavy in her thoughts.

Nothing, with the exception of the lights, and as far as she could tell life support and oxygen, was functional. It wasn’t like she understood any of the technology, but that was almost the challenge, having access to something so advanced, that maybe given time she could figure out.  The frustration came from knowing that without O’Neill’s help she might as well have been pushing buttons on a videogame.

 

“Not unless the Colonel did something?” Sam questioned, thinking out loud.

“Will this ship not become visible to others?” Teal’c enquired.

Jackson looked toward him, concern etched over his features.  “We’d better hope not,” he remarked.

 

*****

 

Jack’s body twitched. From the unconscious state of near death, from nothingness, he could feel the burning around his rib cage, almost the moment his senses became alert a strange sensation swept over his body, a feeling akin to pins and needles shivering up and down his chest, running through his arms to his fingertips, growing in momentum gradually overwhelming the pain.

His eyes closed; nevertheless he could see the Goa’uld threatening the Jaffa.

“We are here,” the Sengo’lians told him. “We grow weak, rise and free us!”

Jack’s eyes opened. Taking a deep gulp of air to fill his lungs, he concentrated on the staff weapon the Goa’uld held, the power that began to resonate in him from his guardians tore it from her grasp.

Nyerti turned. The colonel stood facing her, watching the terror in her eyes as she realised she was about to die. This time there would be no reprieve, standing in the epicentre of the Sengo’lians’ power!

Jack stepped forward, the emptiness in his eyes becoming a crystal clear display of abhorrence, his cheek muscles twitching as the loathing that could so easily have burst from him showed only in a scowl.

“Shouldn’t done that!” he said, inclining his head slightly to the right, a smirk crossing his lips

He raised his hands out before him, the blue glow beginning to resonate in his eyes, filling their entire surface, darker than before, more intensified, electric blue.

The hatred within him permeated itself through a vicious strike of energy that struck the Goa’uld in her chest, throwing her back.

The colonel moved forward, his eyes fixed on the stranded victim of his retribution. Slowly he inclined his head forward, the image of destruction resonated on his face as his left hand reached out toward her, sending a surge of power through it that tore the host apart and completely evaporated her.

“Gotta love those Sengo’lians!” Jack hissed, his voice contained the aberration of those who possessed him. “Kalim, take Hathor back to her ship and put her in the sarcophagus!”

The Jaffa bowed his head, turning and leaving the pyramid, O’Neill stood watching him go.

We are ready,” they told him.

“Sweet!” Jack responded. “Need all you folks in one place.”

“We will make it so.”

 

*******

 

Major Davis made his way tentatively across the deck of the Ancients vessel toward Carter; Janet stood with her, both women studying the console.

“Can you tell what’s wrong yet?” Janet enquired.

“I can’t figure it out,” she said, as she studied the command panel that Makepeace now leant on, looking at her with a mixture of quizzical fascination and cynicism.

“Major, if you didn’t touch anything, then who the hell is in control of this ship?” he enquired, avoiding Janet’s glare.

 

Carter seemed a little puzzled, shrugging her shoulders. “I don’t know sir,” she replied. “It’s almost as if the Colonel wasn’t even using anything to operate the teleportation devices.”

 

Davis bit his bottom lip, now standing close to Carter. “He doesn’t,” he told her, his eyes flicking across to Makepeace.

“What?” Carter’s response was immediate.

“He doesn’t need to use controls, not physically,” Davis paused, before adding, “he has some kind of mental link to the ship’s systems.”

 

Fraiser looked intrigued. “Wait a minute, I thought the links were with the Sengo’lians, didn’t you say this was an Ancients ship?”

Davis nodded. “I don’t know how Dr. Fraiser, he just does.”

“So he turned it off?” Makepeace asked, standing up straight and regarding the JCS liaison. “Is that what you’re saying?”

 

“Um.” It was Daniel who now entered into the debate. “Actually the systems shut down because they lost the link to Jack,” he said, stood beside Teal’c away from the group he now wandered closer. “But I think it’s okay.”

 

Carter looked dubious. “How do you know that?” she demanded. “I mean, if the Colonel lost contact with the ship…”

“We just know,” Davis interrupted. “You’ll have to trust us on that.”

“We?” Makepeace queried, a dubious expression creeping across his face.

“Daniel and I, sir,” Davis responded, his eyes leading the colonel’s toward the archaeologist.

“I’m thinking we need to know right about now!” Makepeace asserted. “So let’s take this one at a time shall we?”

Davis nodded, looking across to Daniel for his affirmation; Jackson however was shaking his head.

“Know what?” he asked. “Jack’s not exactly sharing very much.”

 

The colonel looked a little weary, his features contorting, Jackson wasn’t very forthcoming with him at the best of times, although he admired the man’s loyalty, he found his lack of respect for the chain of command irritating in the extreme.

“I guess that’s what you get for having civilians!” Makepeace snorted.

“Oh, yes, let’s look at that shall we,” Daniel rasped. “Like you’re such a big help with anything other than being a pain in the ass!”

 

Carter’s eyes widened. “Whoa,” she said, almost a whisper. “Testosterone overload!”

Janet tried not to giggle.  “I guess that’s what I meant earlier,” she replied. “This could get out of hand fast!”

Sam shook her head. “Teal’c will step in if it gets too much,” she advised. “Either that or I’ll shoot them both!”

 

“You know, you’re so full of crap Jackson, acting like you know so much!” Makepeace charged.

Daniel fed up with being left in the dark by O’Neill, and slightly perplexed at having vented that earlier on Sam, had found himself a target at last.

“We should probably compare IQs, Colonel,” he asserted, a supercilious expression adorning his features. “If you actually had one!”

“You jumped up, arrogant little son-of-a-bitch!” Makepeace snarled. “Someone ought to teach you some manners!”

“And who is going to do that Colonel? You?” Daniel challenged.

 

“I might just have to since O’Neill puts up with your crap!” Makepeace threatened.


Both men immediately felt Teal’c’s massive presence as he stepped between them, pushing
Jackson back and leaving Makepeace posturing, his chest puffed out, cheeks flushed red with anger.

“Colonel Makepeace, perhaps it would be wise to consider that such aggression usually achieves little,” the Jaffa said.

 

Makepeace took a deep breath, looking at the Jaffa, and then to Jackson once more.

“Well then you tell me Dr. Jackson!” he insisted, voice honed for maximum effect. “Just what is it you know that you think isn’t important to this mission?”

 

“Sir.” Davis stepped away from the console toward Makepeace who was beginning to calm down a little. “I think what Daniel was trying to tell you, is that although Colonel O’Neill can infiltrate our minds, project his thoughts into words, that we can’t exactly do the same thing.  So anything we know is pretty useless.”

 

Daniel regarded the major, his features contorting thoughtfully, finally getting a grip on his own anger. He looked somewhat embarrassed now.  “Um, no that isn’t exactly what I was trying to say, but it was close enough.”

“Perhaps O’Neill does not require us to know his plans,” Teal’c commented. “Since he has quite obviously decided that we are of no use to him.”

Daniel turned sharply. “No Teal’c I don’t think that’s it at all!” he argued. “I just don’t think that Jack knows himself, all he does know is that he needs to rescue this race from the Asgard, and now the Goa’uld.” He looked angry again. “And our doubts won’t be helping that much!”

 

“Daniel you keep defending him,” Sam interjected. She looked dubious, unsure of herself as she spoke. “But we don’t really know that these creatures aren’t controlling him. I mean we could be doing something that might destabilize the entire hierarchy out here!”

“Jack wouldn’t do that,” Daniel asserted.

“And you know this for a fact?” Sam countered. “We don’t even know who’s in control of this ship, or what purpose these Sengo’lians had for infecting the Colonel’s mind in the first place?”

 

Jackson considered it for a moment, looking away from her intrusive gaze. “No, we, er, don’t,” he conceded. “But have they done anything to hurt us? Can we honestly say that it isn’t exactly what Jack said it is?  That the Asgard and the four races imprisoned them here because they couldn’t control them and they were threatened by that?”

Carter took a breath, holding it in for a moment as she mulled those questions around in her mind. “Well the same could be said for the Asgard?” she replied.

Fraiser raised her eyebrows. “Well the Asgard were all for putting Colonel O’Neill in stasis!” she said.

 

 

“Okay!” Makepeace asserted. “We’re going around in circles here, this isn’t getting us anywhere.” He looked at Jackson, then back to Carter. “Can you contact him?” he asked finally.

“I can try,” Daniel responded, a little more positively.

“Okay, good, do that. Let’s try and focus here and get this damn job done.  But I’m telling you, when we get back, I’m recommending to Hammond that O’Neill be stood down and placed under observation.”

“What?” Daniel snapped. “Why?”

“Because everything he’s done here is contrary to command, he’s acting on his own! We need to study this thing, and try and find out if he’s compromising Earth and the SGC by what he knows,” the colonel replied. He could see the looks on the faces as he regarded them one by one.  Even if any of them thought O’Neill’s behaviour was in contravention of both USAF and SGC guidelines they weren’t about to agree with him. “I’m not saying that Jack is a threat,” he continued, trying to find a way to make his feelings clear. “I’m just saying that maybe we need to understand what he’s got up there. If we’d done that in the first place…” He stopped then, Collins death had affected him he could feel that, and maybe he was blaming O’Neill, however inadvertently, for that.

“I know sir,” Carter said. “I guess we’re all taking leaps of faith based on our knowledge of the Colonel.”

 

“He’s dying,” Davis told them told then, right out of the blue. He didn’t know why he felt he needed to say it, why he felt compelled to share something he’d sworn he wouldn’t.

“What?” Six voices blended into one.

“The Sengo’lians are dying, and they’re taking Colonel O’Neill with them,” he expanded. “So we should probably try to go along with whatever he has in mind to get them off this planet and home, before we, he, runs out of time.”

 

The silence that now fell on the bridge of the ship profound, each person allowing his or her thoughts to digest the information.

“Well that’s not good!” Daniel said, breaking that silence. “Is that why you’re here?” he asked of Davis.

“He needed anyone he could communicate with I guess, but I don’t really know.”

“Oh boy!” Sam gasped, as the control panel beside her lit up. “I think something’s happening here?”

 

Makepeace looked across at her. “Something?” he enquired.

“Lights just came on,” she advised gazing attentively down at the panel. “And…” She stepped closer, watching the symbols flashing in a repeating pattern. “I think we’re… okay, these look like… wow coordinates,” she gushed.  “They’re entering coordinates for… P9Q 281?” Her eyebrows raised as she looked across at Jackson.

“P9Q 281?” he repeated. “I know that, it’s on the…”

“Major Carter?” Teal’c’ stated. “Were these not the coordinates to that planet on the Ancients repository?”

“Yeah, and we pretty much got fried there!” Sam retorted.

“What?” Makepeace looked astounded. “Someone want to tell me what the hell we’re talking about here?”

Jackson looked startled, almost as if he’d been woken from sleep. “Oh my god,” he gasped. “The um, planet you tried to find information to help Jack get the Ancients knowledge out of his mind!  Are there any more?”

 

Carter kept her eyes fixed on the console, as yet more glyphs flashed in sequence. “It has to be mapping the system,” she said slowly. “The coordinates going in are close to P9Q 281, this ship must operate almost like a Stargate,” she gushed. “It’s charting its way through the galaxy, whoa, wait!” exclaimed with a little less certainty.

“Major?” Makepeace asked.

“The symbols, are… nine symbols, my god that’s…”

“Way further than the Asgard galaxy,” Daniel noted.

“Would somebody explain all this crap to me?” Makepeace demanded once more.

“I think the Colonel has input these into this… computer, for want of a better word sir,” Carter began, beginning to indicate each symbol, as Makepeace stood at her shoulder. “To the Sengo’lian home galaxy, but that could take years, hundreds of years to chart?”

“What?” Makepeace looked bemused. “Hundreds?”

 

********

 

The Sengo’lians finally aboard the ship in a sector the colonel had chosen with the aid of the Ancients database he had stored in his mind, he stood amongst them. “Cu’tar rembrok, zi safeh!” he said, speaking their language perfectly. (Now we are safe).

“Cumsa xi pre’tal,” Frashata the Sengo’lian leader replied. (Let us be so – proceed.)

“Vel’ta bro-cautai,” Jack confirmed. (Soon, it ends.) “Gre ata’sd.” (Remain.)

 

He closed the large silver embossed door of the main quarter at the lower deck of the ship.  Shaking his head, the light immediately illuminated the way.

“Colonel?” Carter indicated the man’s arrival immediately, the others turning to see O’Neill enter the bridge of the ship.

“Major,” he acknowledged, moving across to the console close to where Carter stood, a smile on his face as he addressed her. “Okay, we’re good to go!”

“We are?” Sam replied.

“Yep, the wee folk are aboard,” Jack confirmed. His eyes met Jackson’s then, he could immediately read the man’s thoughts, averting his gaze immediately from the archaeologist’s.  His attention turned to Major Davis, who regarded him with trepidation.

Davis!” he said, a low growl in his tone. “We’ll talk about this later!”

 

“No Jack, we’ll talk about it now,” Makepeace insisted. “Where exactly are we going? And what’s with this stuff about those Aliens dying and taking you with them?  When were we going to made aware of the circumstances Colonel?”

O’Neill’s eyes narrowed, a scowl forming on his face. “Like you’d get it if I told you?” he challenged, his attention once more on the console. “You’ll just have to trust me, won’t ya?”

“Jack!” the colonel snapped. “We can’t just keep going on with blind faith!”

“Oh?” An emphasis put into the response.

“Sir, all we’re…” Carter began, apprehension in her tone, in those soft blue eyes that now lowered away as the colonel’s met them.

“We?” he snapped, turning on his heals and regarding his subordinate. “This the consensus?”  Jack’s expression stern now, as his gaze swept across the faces of his companions, resting on Jackson’s.

 

Daniel shook his head, the colonel catching the response out of the corner of his eye. “No?” Jack asked him.

“I think it’s a little too late for that,” Jackson stated. “But, I’d have preferred some honesty.”

 

O’Neill looked perplexed then turning away, his hands resting on the console he stooped forward, precariously it seemed. Carter placing a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“Colonel, are you okay?” her voice drenched with concern.

“Do I look okay?” he asked honestly. “My head feels like I’ve got the damn

Boston Philharmonic Orchestra in here!”

“Playing a catchy tune are they?” Daniel enquired, wincing openly at what he perceived to be a completely inept attempt at humour.

Jack scowled at him. “Anything that shuts you up has to be good!”

Jackson looked at the colonel, a frown etched into his boyish features. “Oh yes, what was my thinking,” he said.

 

“Makepeace,” O’Neill began. “You know what?  You don’t have to come, I can make a run on Earth in seconds…”

Carter looked intrigued. “Seconds sir?” she asked.

“Carter, don’t go getting all excited about the possibilities,” Jack told her, almost ruefully. “We really don’t have time to go into all that ‘scientist stuff’!”

“Yes sir,” she ceded. “But um, those coordinates?”

“Yeah, they’re pretty intense huh?” Jack replied. “Anyone else want to abandon ship? Once I hit these controls there’s no turning back?”

 

Fraiser shook her head.  “I think we’re all pretty much in this together now Colonel,” she agreed.

 

Daniel moved closer. “Care to um, share?” he asked furtively. “I mean we’re going farther than we’ve ever gone before right?”

“Daniel, what is it you think I can share exactly?  I haven’t got a damn clue where we’re going anymore than you do!” Jack told him. “And no Carter, it’ll take days, not years!”

 

Carter looked surprised, his ability to read her mind seemed intact, yet he couldn’t know everything, or he’d have responded far more aggressively.  She too doubted these Sengo’lians, that they intended to let go of a culture that gave them such easy access to the outside world without a least keeping some safeguard that would once more open up that Universe.  Something so intense, so big, couldn’t ever be content with its own existence.  Not when they’d done so much to expand before, to venture out and offer the Asgard and the Ancients access in return for travel.

 

Jack leant in closer to Daniel, his intense gaze penetrating the curiosity and forcing Jackson to pay attention, preventing the archaeologist’s mind from wondering too far into the possibilities.

“Daniel,” he said, his tone lowered so much as to be barely audible. “I need you to keep these folks in line.”

“Um, what?” Daniel asked, moving ever closer to the colonel, until they stood practically shoulder-to-shoulder.

“Look, I can’t… you have to trust me,” Jack told him. From the tone in his voice and the uncomfortable expression that resided on his face, it sounded as if he hated to do so. “I can’t tell you why.  Can you do that?”

 

Jackson felt the same insecurity, almost as if the colonel had projected that inside his mind. Something was troubling him badly enough to practically implore Jackson’s acquiescence, that notion, to be faced with a personality so unlike the usual Jack O’Neill he’d come to know, disturbed him enough to cede to O’Neill’s request.

He nodded slowly, a sense that he had little choice given O’Neill’s current circumstances, he would, and for the time being compelled by either loyalty or fear, have to play along.

Or maybe he was kidding himself again? It had become something of a personal crusade lately, one, which he neither understood fully, nor knew when, or how to question, a nagging suspicion that O’Neill’s ‘guardians’ might be having an acquiescent affect on him resided at the back of his mind, or maybe he was just convinced that O’Neill’s stance, although not in keeping with the military way of doing things, was right, either way they were in the middle of a situation that had gone far beyond any understanding.  In Jackson’s mind there was no question that it needed to be brought to a conclusion, although how that would pan out he wasn’t sure.

 

He didn’t have all the answers about the Sengo’lians, not like Jack did, so how could he judge whether or not it was right to save them?  Or to leave them to die? The confusing part was he couldn’t even find the right questions to ask for answers.

Finally he looked back at the colonel, with all the confusion buzzing around like a hive of bees in his mind, there was only one real question he needed an answer to, even if he already knew it.

“Just tell me that we’re not putting anyone’s life in danger here?” he whispered. “Tell me that and I’ll back you all the way!”

 

Jack had already heard the question, amongst all the doubt that scurried through the man’s laboured thought process, he knew it well, having a whole bunch of information in your mind that made no sense and offered no answers was a constant burden to him too. He didn’t know what to say, how to explain it, and that frustrated him almost as much as it scared Jackson.  He did the only thing he could and offered a simple nod of assurance hoping it would appease the man, but knowing deep down it wouldn’t. How could it? He looked away then, trying to block out Jackson’s thoughts and his own, he had something else to do, something more important than try to quantify or clarify anything to either one of them.

 

“Buckle up!” he intoned, for the benefit of everyone on that bridge. “Gets a little, well, you’ll see!”

 

Fraiser looked at her watch, nervously her eyes found Sam’s and she saw the same uncertainty lurking, an insecurity.

“Janet?” Sam asked, noticing the mirror image. “You okay?”

“I’m fine Sam, I just wish we knew if we were doing the right thing,” she replied.

Sam nodded. “So do I, but since Colonel O’Neill isn’t saying, I guess we won’t know until we do it!”

The doctor leant back against the wall, looking around the bridge. “It’s pretty impressive when you think about it,” she mused.

“What is?” Sam asked curiously.

“Well, we’re in an alien space ship, thousands of miles from home, saving a race that’s far more advanced than we could ever hope to be,” she explained, a tinge of awe in her voice. “All from something the Colonel unwillingly had downloaded into his brain.”

Sam’s hand swept across her face, a sigh escaped her lips. “Well, if you put it like that I guess!” she agreed. “I just wish I knew what affect this was having on him, I hate not knowing. I mean doesn’t it bother you at all what Davis said?”

“About them dying?” Fraiser asked, her gaze now resting on O’Neill. “The Colonel seems pretty confident he can get them home Sam, and I don’t even think I’d know what to do for him if…” Her voice trailed off, she looked at the major now fear evidenced in her eyes. “Yeah, I know … I was thinking the same thing too.”

Carter looked a little dejected, her head now back against the wall she closed her eyes. “It’s like this whole thing seems to have escalated and I don’t see it having too great an effect on…”

“Colonel O’Neill?” Fraiser finished.

“Well look at it Janet, he’s been so different since this whole thing started. I mean Hathor, Heru’ur?  It just doesn’t make any sense, he hates the Goa’uld as much as we do.”

“The Goa’uld maybe Sam, but Hathor?” Fraiser responded, a distinct note of caution in her voice. “Hathor might be a little different.”

“I should have left her dead!” Sam groaned. “She’s just screwed up his mind worse.”

Fraiser raised her eyebrows. “You know, he hasn’t even asked about Iceni,” she noted.

“I doubt if he can think about anything other than these Sengo’lians,” Sam’s response permeated with doubt. “It’s almost like he’s not functioning on any other level!”

“So you agree with Colonel Makepeace?” Fraiser enquired.
”What about locking him up? No!” Carter replied emphatically.

“What then?  You don’t think that General Hammond is going to have to seriously consider trying to find a way to keep the Colonel on the base?  That the NID, or the Pentagon isn’t going to section him for his actions?”

“I don’t know, I just…” A heavy sigh. “I just wish I knew how to help him!”

 

 

“Ladies,” Makepeace acknowledged as he sat down close to them.  “What’s got you both looking so worried?” There was sarcasm to his tone. “I thought you trusted Jack?”

Carter bit her bottom lip, not for the first time at one of Makepeace’s cutting observations. “Worried sir?” she asked innocently. “I don’t think we’re worried so much as concerned.”

“Well that makes three of us!” Makepeace concurred. “Care to try and do anything about it?”

“Like?” Fraiser asked.

“Like try and talk some sense into O’Neill, and get him back to Earth where we can try and contain the problem!” the colonel responded more assertively. “Because in case neither of you considered it, we’re pretty much reliant on someone who’s compromised.”

Carter and Fraiser exchanged a glance.  “Compromised sir?” Fraiser questioned.

“Oh come on,” Makepeace intoned. “You’re not buying into this bull that Jack’s operating on his own here are you?”

“Actually sir,” Carter replied, standing. “I think that’s exactly what he’s doing, it’s called self preservation.”  She walked away, leaving the colonel staring after her.

“Self preservation,” Makepeace echoed, to no one in particular. “Whose?”

 

******

 

Heru’ur sneered down at his first prime, those arrogant features taut with anger. “What?” he demanded, the symbiote’s eyes glowing behind that sneer, his voice chillingly low.

“My lord, Hathor has been mortally injured, Nyerti destroyed.” The Jaffa bowed to his master, not daring to look the volatile god in the face.

“How?”

“My lord, it was O’Neill,” Nefir told him.  “Kalim has placed Hathor in the Sarcophagus, he warned also of an Asgard presence.”

The Goa’uld eyes illuminated with rage. “The Asgard?” he snapped. “Withdraw our forces! O’Neill has tricked us!”

“Yes my lord,” Nefir responded, leaving the presence of his master to obey his command.

The system lord scowled furiously out into space, his hand sweeping across the surface of the long-range communication device.

“Kree, Apophis, kel bec!” he thundered.

Apophis image immediately appearing before him. “We have not yet destroyed…”

“The Asgard are among us,” Heru’ur told him.

Apophis looked startled regarding the Goa’uld system lord. “A trick?” he asked.

“We must withdraw our forces,” Heru’ur cautioned. “O’Neill can not be far!”

“As you wish!” Apophis agreed, the image fading from the device.

 

Heru’ur engaged the ship’s power, moving it away slowly from the planet, his mind perplexed.  There would be another time to finish this tiresome human, perhaps once he had freed these creatures and did not possess their power, then he would make him a host, the torture best suited for this Tau’ri slave, to be the vessel of destruction of his own kind; they would trouble the Goa’uld no more.

 

******

 

Daniel sat close to the doors of the bridge deep in thought, Jack’s behaviour had seemed a little odd to him, asking him to keep the others in line?  What the hell did that mean exactly?  What was Jack going to do that might make the others become disaffected by him or his plans.  But he’d promised, practically, telling O’Neill he’d do something was tantamount to a promise, wasn’t it?

None of it made sense anymore, maybe Makepeace was right, maybe whatever knowledge Jack possessed would be better handled by experts, but to confine him?  Study him like some science project?  That wasn’t exactly something he could agree with, not to do that in what would have to be a scenario that might be against his will.

He’d like to know what was inside Jack’s mind as much, if not more than the others.  The Ancients had clearly, in his mind, been on Earth during the Roman empire, maybe building roads and temples, great cities that would live forever in the history books were not their only contribution to Earth, maybe they had been to other cultures and influenced them too?  All that knowledge, all those answers.  Damn! Why was that even crossing his mind, he wasn’t about to give a seal of approval on his friend becoming a lab rat.

 

“Daniel?” Sam’s tone questioned as she sat beside him, leaning back like he was against the wall.

He looked at her for a moment, then away, back into his thoughts.

“Are you okay?” she persisted.

“I’m fine Sam,” Daniel responded, although there was something of a ‘but’ in his tone, one she easily latched onto.

“Doesn’t sound like it?” she remarked. “What’s up?”

 

Daniel sighed heavily, removing his glasses; he pushed his head back against the wall. “I’m wondering what’s going to happen, if… when we get back,” he confessed.

“Why? What, Makepeace?  Daniel don’t listen to him, he’s just, General Hammond won’t do that.”

“Really?” Daniel sounded, looked cynical shaking his head. “I don’t know Sam, he’s been at his limit for a while with Jack, maybe this will just push him over the edge? I mean he’s kidnapped half the SGC and Davis isn’t here under official sanction either.”

 

“What’s going on here kids?” Jack enquired, taking both by surprise.

“We’re just talking,” Carter replied.

“So I see, about what?” Jack’s eyes narrowed as he said it, as if he didn’t know already what was on Jackson’s mind.  “Carter could you excuse us for a minute?”

Sam nodded, a deep breath.  She felt abashed once more, excluded, but she didn’t feel commenting would go down too well.  She took O’Neill’s hand as he offered it.  Lifting her up, the colonel paused, their hands interlocked.

“No Major, that’s not it!” he remarked, his grip loosening, eyes boring through her. “We need to talk!” he admitted, alluding to her that he wasn’t happy. “But not right now!”

 

Sam nodded, stepping around him and moving away from them.  O’Neill sat next to his friend. “Daniel?” he asked inquisitively. “What’s up?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Jackson shirked. “All this, I guess.”

“You don’t know, but all this?” Jack repeated, amusement creasing the corner of his eyes. “Not sounding a whole hell of a lot like you.”

Daniel regarded him, unable to keep that troubled straight expression that resided on his features. “Jack don’t make me laugh,” he implored.

“Why, something wrong with laughing?” the colonel asked, a broad beaming smiling crossing is own features.

“I’d just…”

“What? Sit and sulk?  Come on Danny, it’s not gonna be bad I promise!” Jack told him, a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “What can they possibly do? Been done before right?”

Jackson became serious once more, looking at the colonel with a mixture of apprehension and surprise. “Are you saying you know what Makepeace is planning when we get home?” he asked, incredulity awash in his voice.

“Yep! Same thing as I’d do, I’m a risk Daniel.  You know it, even if you want to think I can just go waltzing around the galaxy doing whatever I want and making up all the right excuses to excuse my behaviour.  Fact is I haven’t followed one damn order in so long I’m surprised Hammond hasn’t canned my ass long before now!”

“You’re kidding right?” Daniel’s incredulity was reaching new levels. “I mean, you can’t want to go back there expecting that you’ll be happy being a glorified… lab rat?”

“Nope!” Jack retorted. “I don’t think I would, but let’s face it, the ride was great wasn’t it?  And I’ve done just about as much harm out here as good. Stop your worrying, I’ll be fine.”

“Oh and where have I heard that before?” Jackson’s riposte borne from a painful memory.

 

“Well,” Jack sighed. “Maybe I won’t like it, and maybe I could use a little less action and all this stuff in my head!”

 

Daniel’s head lowered he sighed heavily. “That’s just it though isn’t it,” he remarked. “All that stuff won’t go anywhere and then what? When they can’t get it out of you or figure it out?”

 

Jack looked slightly vexed.  “Daniel,” he said, regarding the man with a serious expression. “Lighten up for crying out loud, you sound like my old Colonel!”

 

“Jack what you have in your mind might be the most important discovery we’ve made so far,” Daniel told him, his eyes closed, as he struggled to find the right words to explain how he felt it affected all of them. “Imagine it, everything the Ancients knew is in your head, the secrets we can’t even begin to wonder at… they won’t understand that, they’ll just see you, your record, your history and they’ll decide that it’s too dangerous

 

“Hey!” Jack exclaimed. “Having this stuff in my head is dangerous, half the damn Goa’ulds are threatening assaults on Earth to get it!” 

Daniel shook his head, another heavy sigh. “Jack what’s going on?” he asked completely bemused. “You’re coming back right?” 

O’Neill’s eyes closed. “I don’t know,” he told the man.  “I’m not sure I…” 

The sensors on the panel began to flash, an alarm sounding the moment they did so, immediately bringing the colonel to his feet.

“Ah crap!” he exclaimed.

 

“Colonel?” Carter asked, drawn to the panel, looking down at the flashing symbols.

 

“We’ve got company!” Jack told her.

“Who?”

“Well that would be the Asgard, and lots of ‘em!” Jack replied.

“Wait a minute,” Daniel interjected. “I didn’t think they could… what am I saying?  Is this going to be a problem?”

“Ya think!” O’Neill remarked. “Daniel, Davis, go!”

 

He didn’t need to tell them where, the two men were already making their way towards the door.

“Sir?” Carter questioned, looking around furtively toward O’Neill.

“Major?”

“Do we have weapons?”

“Nope!  We have some pretty hi-tech stuff, but no weapons.”

 

Makepeace made his way across the deck. “So what now?” he asked.  “They’re not gonna fire on us, or maybe they have good reason too?”

“Makepeace will you shut the hell up!” Jack snarled. “I’m trying to think!”

“What like you did before,” Makepeace charged. “I thought you said they couldn’t track this thing?”

“They didn’t need to track it,” Jack retorted, his eyes boring into Makepeace sharply. “They already knew where we were going.”

 

“We’re here sir?” Carter enquired. “Won’t the other Sengo’lians help?”

 

“Oh yeah!” Jack told her. “They’ll help alright, I’m just not ready to watch them destroy the Asgard!”

Carter’s jaw dropped open. “Destroy?”

“I thought they weren’t like that Jack, thought they were peaceable?” Makepeace stated.

“Hey!” Jack snapped. “You’re people were about to be wiped out, tell me what you’d do?”

“Sir, we can’t let that happen!” Carter asserted.

 

O’Neill didn’t respond, his left palm placed down on the panel eyes closed, he scanned the database.  The Ancients knowledge permeated through his mind, it’s secrets beginning to unlock one by one.  Images of the Furlings, the Nox and the Asgard flowed through his head, a picture of chaos, of destruction, causing him to wince, his features contorting under the sheer weight of information and annihilation that surged through until finally he could see only one thing, emptiness.  Complete destruction.

 

“Colonel?” Sam questioned once more, her eyes darting from Makepeace to O’Neill as the marine looked suspiciously like he was about to do something.

“Jack?” Makepeace snapped. “We’ve got to pull out, we…”

“Colonel, we’ve got to do something?” Sam asserted.

 

Jack’s eyes opened, an empty blank expression crossing his face, he turned his head and looked from Makepeace to Carter.

“No, really?” he responded sarcastically, moving away from the panel and taking a deep breath.

“We can’t let them destroy the Asgard, sir,” she insisted.

 

The colonel’s eyes expanded. “Carter, if they start this thing, it isn’t ending here, it’s gonna go right the way across the damn galaxy, these folks get pissed and they attack the Asgard?  We’re looking at a four race alliance more powerful than ten thousand Goa’uld motherships, against a race that can quite easily wipe them all out, and take us with them!”

“Are you saying that all four races will be caught up in this?” Carter asked, unsure if she’d heard him correctly.

 

“Why the hell do you think they formed this alliance Major?” Jack questioned. “To have social gatherings on weekends?”

Carter looked furiously at him, she’d had just about all she could take.

“Well maybe Colonel!  If you actually told us we’d know!” she scowled.

“Alright Carter, since it makes no damn difference either way, I’ll tell you! Chaos, they banded together to stop chaos and destruction and the wee folk in the hold did it, the whole damn thing!” Jack yelled. “They did it and I just gave them the ability to do it again!”

Sam took a deep breath. “Great! So what, they’ve been deceiving you?  Well what a surprise sir! Didn’t we say maybe the Asgard were right?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Jack responded. “That really helps Carter, do the I told you so thing!”

 

“Well, didn’t I, we?” she demanded. “So what do we do now Colonel? Maybe we can ask Hathor for some help!”

Jack’s eyebrows shot into his forehead. “Excuse me?” he asked incredulously. “Sounding a little less focused there wouldn’t you say Major?  Or are you just pissed at me for being wrong?”

“No sir, how could I be pissed at you for doing what you always do and…”

“And what?” Jack demanded. “Landing us all up to our necks in trouble? Gee there’s a happy thought!”

“Colonel!” Fraiser snapped, in between the pair now. “Major Carter, this isn’t getting us anywhere.  Can we focus on the problem, like how to stop this happening?”

 

Jack looked at her, acquiescence sweeping his features. “I don’t know what to do,” he replied dejectedly.

“Think sir!” Fraiser told him calmly. “It has to be there.”

Jack closed his eyes; tension that was already building inside him caused his shoulders to ache, the pain careering up his neck and through his brain.

‘We’tsra. Re-amot,’ he thought.  (Why destruction?)

‘We are here, there will be no destruction.’

‘Sedires’ uta compo’dasta nefe, sedires.’ (Deceit? There is no longer a need for deceit) ‘Sha’rpet conar expril’tas.’ (Allow them to go free.)

‘We cannot, you will go free. You have served us well Ha’dai return to your world.’

‘I can’t do that! Is this a revenge thing?  Is that what you want?’

‘They would only send us back.’

‘Back?’

‘Imprison us.’

‘You nearly destroyed their existence.’

‘Yes, but we did not do this wilfully.’

Carter and Fraiser watched the colonel, standing close to the control console, his eyes closed and swaying precariously.

“What’s he doing?” Makepeace asked.

“I think he’s trying to find a way out of this,” Carter responded. “At least I hope he is.”

“Great!” Makepeace intoned. “Here we go again!”

“Colonel?” Fraiser asked. “Have you ever considered being positive, he couldn’t have known they were deceiving him.”

“It was a safe bet!” Makepeace replied. “Since when have any of these damn aliens been that benevolent?  Even the Asgard wanted to take him out right?”

Carter raised her eyes heavenwards.  “Sir, maybe we should just be quiet and let the colonel think?”

“Whatever!” Makepeace retorted.

 

 ‘You wouldn’t let me die; you put everything you had into keeping me alive.  Was it just for revenge? Is that it?’

‘It was to return home. We knew you had it within you to do this for us. We have no choice Ha’dai, they will not leave us, they cannot.’

‘Make me understand,’ he demanded. ‘Maybe I can make them back off?’

‘Very well, this we shall try.’

 

The colonel sank to his knees, collapsing onto the floor the instant the words were in his head. Darkness permeated his mind, then came the images, flashes of the society, of the Sengo’lians home world.

 

“Colonel?” Carter exclaimed moving toward him.

Janet knelt beside him, checking his vital signs.  “He’s okay Sam, I think he just passed out,” she said, taking off her jacket and placing it under his head.

“Oh god!” Carter gasped. “So what do we do now?”

“I hate to say this but…” Fraiser began.

“Nothing!” Makepeace and Carter said in unison.

“Well, I was going to say nothing we can do actually,” she corrected.

Daniel stood outside the hold where the Sengo’lians resided, looking at Davis.

“He doesn’t want us to go in there,” he said.

“I know, I heard him too Daniel.  We can’t just…”

Both men winced; Daniel’s hands went instantly to his head. “Ow!” he gasped.

Davis said nothing; the pain that swept through his mind paralysed him.

The unconsciousness when it came, a relief.

 

“This world is in chaos, how can we bring it together?  Our thoughts are as fragmented, our being torn apart by those that have fascination with our minds, our consciousness. These thoughts must become as one, we must become unique.”

 

The heat of the planet’s surface burned his face as O’Neill stepped into the unconscious world the Sengo’lians had brought him too.  It’s temperature higher than any he’d felt on Earth or all the planets he’d visited.  Standing among the children of this race, they took his hands and led him toward the vast citadel at the centre of a glass like city that shimmered under the three Suns orbiting their world.

‘Do not be afraid Ha’dai, this heat cannot harm you.’

Through the haze the colonel could see the gates of the citadel opening before him, he followed the children who led him toward it, children that towered over him, their sweeping golden manes of hair covering lithe bodies.

 

‘We are at the centre of our being,’ the child said. ‘Here we learn to embrace the one.’

“The one?” Jack asked, his voice echoing around his mind.

‘That which bonds us, that which is the very essence of our being.  It is this that makes chaos, chaos that has fragmented and disseminated.  Such dissemination however attracts those beings who would attempt to destroy us.’

“I don’t understand, why?”

‘Our chaos is simply too powerful for those creatures to understand.  We may harness it and build upon it, this chaos is our strength, but they fear it.’

“Why?  What’s to fear?”

‘Power. Within our galaxy we have no enemies.  They came seeking new worlds and knowledge; our chaos destroyed their minds.  They fear us, they fear we will leave our world and bring with us this chaos.’

“Chaos is?”

‘Power.’

“Alright you’re losing me here. Chaos is power, and they fear it?  Why don’t they just leave it alone?”

‘Once exposed to our chaos, to the one, there is no freedom from it.  Thus once we were unable to free them, they feared us.  We can see inside the minds of many, through those minds we can communicate and channel our power, the more we know, the more powerful we become.’

“So you’re telling me because the Asgard and the Ancients were exposed, they can’t get you out?  You’re stuck in there?  They’re afraid you’ll use it to destroy them?”

‘Yes.’

“But you won’t right?  That’s not who you are, you’re just giant sponges?”

‘We have no desire to move into worlds, into galaxies beyond our own.  But they cannot comprehend this.  All the while they fear us, they have tried to free themselves or destroy us.  Thus they fragmented those who tried to help, dividing our power, separating the one.’

“And you don’t know how to undo it do you?”

‘No.  We have no wish to destroy them Ha’dai, but they wish to destroy us.  Our chaos has brought them pain, there is no apology for this, no harm was intended.  We cannot cease simply because they cannot be free.’

Jack’s eyes felt heavy staring into a hazy image, a fountain like monument in front of him.

“Those are your thoughts?” he asked, fascinated as the colours cascaded together into an energy that reached to the ceiling of the citadel, a vast transparent city with only one focal point, the chaos of thousands of minds linked together to create order.

“Whew, that’s… whoa!” he gasped.

‘You are now seeing us, can you free them?’

“What?” Jack almost choked the word out. “You think I can free them?”

‘You are Ha’dai, you bring chaos of thought to chaos of control – you will find the answers.’

“Okay, that’s a little, um, me?”

‘Your mind is not always open, close it, there is the answer.’

“Alright, look, that’s just a little too subtle, mind telling me how the hell I’m supposed to do something three of the most intelligent races in the damn Universe can’t do?”

‘Return!’

 

Jack sat bolt upright, startling Carter who had been watching him closely.

“Sir?”

The colonel grimaced, shaking his head. “Well here’s news!” he acknowledged.

“Colonel?”

“I heard you the first time, Carter,” he replied. “Um, I think we need to talk about this right now.  Seems these folks think our human brains can figure out something that the Asgard and the Ancients couldn’t.  No point in telling them they may have chosen the wrong brain I guess?”

 

Daniel entered the bridge almost running. “Tell me you saw that?” he said, excitement resonating in his voice.

Jack looked up at him. “Tell me you understood it please?” he asked.

Daniel looked slightly bemused for a moment.  “I er, think so?” he replied guardedly.

“Sweet! Mind telling me?” O’Neill entreated. “Because I gotta tell ya Danny, it made about as much sense as all that… mythology you keep spouting!”

“Well, um, I’ll try I guess,” the archaeologist said. “I think what it means is, well, um.”

“You didn’t get it either did you?” Jack deduced. “Kinda like a chaos within a chaos that needs some kind of order right?”

“Actually sir,” Davis said. “I think it made less sense than that.”

 

“Would somebody mind telling me what you saw exactly?” Carter demanded. “Maybe I can help?”

 

“Oka-ay, well… ah, Daniel?” Jack’s baffled expression as he spoke almost comical.

Jackson’s eyebrows drew down a studied yet bemused expression permeating his features. “Right! Yes, well, oh boy!”

 

“Guys you’re not helping me here?” Carter intoned. “Just try to… take your time sir!”

“Well,” Jack tried once again. “See, this whole hive mind thing they’ve got going is… well it’s kinda controlled chaos, all these thoughts rolling around into one, but see… you’re not getting this are you?” he enquired of Sam’s slightly perplexed regard.

“Just keep going sir,” she encouraged. “I’m sure we’ll get there in the end.”

 

O’Neill nodded, trying to put into words what he’d seen.

“Apparently the power they have to jump right into your head can’t be undone, so once they’re in, they’re kinda like, long term…”

“Guests?” Daniel offered.

“Swell, yeah, that!  Anyway, this kinda chaos deal is causing problems for the Asgard and so they fragmented it, sent half the Sengo’lians into… prison, they thought it would break the chain,” Jack told her, watching her features contort as she attempted to take in the rather broken explanation he offered.

 

“Wait a minute sir, you’re saying that the Asgard, or the Ancients intentionally condemned these guys to death because they can’t block them?” Carter enquired.

“How does she do that?” Jack asked of Daniel. “Did that make that kind of sense to you?”

“Um, no,” Daniel agreed. “None whatsoever.” 

“Sir?” Carter rebuked. “Is that it?”

“Okay … probably not, but it’s close enough!” Jack enthused.

“You er, left out the bit about knowledge,” Daniel told him ruefully.

“Oh yeah… well I guess the Asgard aren’t too happy about it, because the Sengo’lians know all they know and if they did become aggressive…”

 

“They could quite easily take them down.” Carter completed the sentence.

“So what are they asking you to do exactly sir?”

“I think they want me to disconnect them,” Jack told her. “Close the phone lines, know what I mean?”

Carter looked at Jackson. “Is that what you got too?” she enquired.

The archaeologist nodded. “I think so,” he concurred.

“So we just have to figure out how to unlink them and what no wars?” Makepeace asked.

“Sounds simple doesn’t it,” Jack retorted. “Not!”

“Wait a minute sir,” Carter interrupted once more. “You don’t have to unlink them, you just have to convince the Asgard they’re not a threat.  That’s what they mean about freeing them.  Not freeing them of a link, but freeing them of their fears.”

 

“Ya think so?” Jack asked.

“Well, I guess.  They needed a mediator, someone that could negotiate with the Asgard.  Sir they didn’t pick you because of the Ancients knowledge, they picked you because they know you can communicate with the Asgard,” Carter told him.

“How does she do that?” Jack enquired once more.

“What?” Daniel asked, as bemused as the colonel evidently was. “Figure it out? I guess she’s smart.”

Jack nodded slowly, a smile permeating his features. “I guess she is,” he agreed. “So, I guess I ought to contact the Asgard and get some kind of dialogue started here right?”

 

“Will they listen?” Davis enquired.

“We’d better hope so, huh?” Jack responded, getting to his feet with Carter’s assistance.

“So do we send the Sengo’lians we have aboard down to their planet?” Daniel asked. “Let them go while we negotiate?”

“Carter what do you think?” O’Neill questioned. “Think they’re on the line this time?”

“I think so sir,” she concurred. “Won’t change anything keeping them aboard.”

“Sweet! I’ll go tell em the good news, you guys figure out a way to open a channel to Thor!” Jack ordered. “And Carter?”

“Sir?”

“Well done, Major!”

 

 

 

 

Part Three

 

The Sengo’lians turned almost in unison to regard the colonel, as a rejuvenated part of the ‘one-ness’ a feeling of approval fell over him the moment he entered their presence.  It was a strange feeling to see them, instead of simply hearing them in his mind.

 

“Nice to see you folks in one piece,” he remarked, being so close, he didn’t feel the need to communicate telepathically.

‘We are ready to return now.’

“Yeah, I figured,” he said looking upon them, one by one.

 

They were a curiously beautiful race, some standing over eight feet tall; their huge, black, yet surprisingly gentile looking eyes never seemed to blink, feline features so well chiselled from the angular faces framed with a mane of golden hair, around features that seemed so static, yet still appeared to favour him with a smile, a smile the colonel couldn’t help but return, there was such a serenity about them, a grace he’d rarely seen nor felt so strongly in any other presence.

For a moment he was transfixed by their voices, a caress that seemed to embrace him to the very core. It was so familiar, yet so removed somehow from simply hearing them from afar; a feeling of warmth permeated his senses, of belonging.

 

‘You have much to learn Ha’dai, we shall teach you.’ Their voices as always conveyed through thought directly into his mind.

 

“Now see,” Jack replied, in amongst them now. Their long fingers reached out suddenly, touching him, enhancing their psychological embrace.  “Oka-ay!” he gasped, as that touch resonated throughout his mind and body.  “This is weird,” he added, his hand held aloft to underline the point, taken by one of his guardians in a velvet grasp.

 

‘You have saved us,” they explained. “Know of our gratitude.’

The colonel took a deep breath, nodding thoughtfully. The soft, almost exploratory caress of each Sengo’lian sent waves of information about that individual, until finally it became almost as one voice again, resonating in a low gentle harmonic humming.

 

“What exactly is it you’re going to teach me?” Jack asked curiously.  There was no reason to fear them, and yet they controlled so much of his thought process he had little choice but to respect them. “See I thought we had this … you leave deal?”

 

‘You already know we cannot.  But, this we can do, we can offer peace, and we can show you, Ha’dai, the true power.  It is yours always.’

 

“Sounds a little…” Jack began dubiously, only to pause the second their voices spoke once more intruding into his thoughts.

 

‘You must convince those that would covet you that we are no longer here.  That we have closed the conduit with which we live, only then can we teach you without the desires of those around you.’

“What you want me to lie about it?” Jack asked, this time using his thoughts to communicate. He looked reticent then, his eyes meeting the leader of this small group. “See, I have a problem with deception, and what about Daniel?  He’s gonna know the second he hears my thoughts?”

‘Ha’dai, whilst those that covet know of your possession, they will always fear and desire what you possess.  Your conduit already understands this, as does the one you gifted.  They will not betray you.  Make those believe who have no knowledge.  Do not show yourself for they will surely destroy you in an attempt to attain that which you cherish most.’

 

“Ah, yeah.  Listen, I don’t actually cherish ‘this’… you know?  It’s been great, don’t get me wrong, but having all this stuff in my head isn’t… well it’s not making for a peaceful life!” Jack explained.  “It’s… not me.”

 

‘We cannot explain more, but you are now one.  You will achieve that which you feel. With time you will come to know.’

 

O’Neill’s eyebrows climbed his forehead, slightly aghast, almost comically so as his features contorted with a mixture of apprehension, shrouded under the obvious expression illustrating a complete lack of understanding of what they told him. It sounded rather cryptic he thought, almost like the monk guy they’d met on Kheb. 

 

“Alright,” he acquiesced, speaking aloud once more, his head inclining quizzically, regarding them.  “I’ll just…” he paused, a smile once more crossing his features as the Sengo’lians brought their hands together in almost a gesture of prayer, bowing their heads as they did do.  “I’ll send you down now if that’s okay?” he finished, almost mimicking the gesture.

‘We are ready.’

The colonel managed a humourless smile at them, raising his hand to wave, an ultimate send off.  He felt a strange sense of finality that he knew deep down didn’t, couldn’t exist since they confessed they’d still be in his mind.  Yet it was almost as if somehow he was losing something, a part of himself.  Wistfully he watched as the Sengo’lians disappeared from his sight, a gulp of air to force down the sadness that curiously swept over his mind.

“Sweet!” he remarked. “Nothing like being part of an extended family.”

On the bridge of the ship, Makepeace paced up and down, passing by Major Davis who glanced across at Jackson; the archaeologist nodded slowly.  Both understood the nature of the information they’d been given simultaneously by the Sengo’lians; that the power which O’Neill had been gifted with, was also a malevolent force, one that would certainly leave the colonel open for scrutiny and possible exploitation.  The Sengo’lians had seen to it they would know to reveal that power would jeopardise Earth.  It was a silent acknowledgement that went between the two men, a pact.

“Any luck with that thing?” Makepeace enquired of Carter, who was attempting to configure the symbols on the console.

“No sir,” she replied, frustrated.  Even with Jackson’s help she couldn’t decipher how to sequence the symbols.  “It’s nothing like the Asgard communication technology.  It doesn’t conform to anything I’ve ever seen before.”

“Where the hell is O’Neill?” Makepeace growled.

Daniel glanced across at the marine colonel; he seemed very tense, worryingly so for a soldier of his experience, he still wasn’t sure if he completely trusted the man.  Yet on more than one occasion he’d stood up and been counted, but something wasn’t sitting right now and it showed.

“Do you think he’s hiding something?” It caused Jackson to ask Carter.

Sam’s attention so focused she did a double take at the archaeologist.

“What? Who?”

“Makepeace,” Jackson said. “He seems kind of nervous.”

Sam glanced across at the colonel, watching curiously as he paced up and down, a distracted, almost angst-ridden expression on his face.

“Certainly seems a little… disturbed,” she remarked.

“Yes he does,” Jackson’s response thoughtful. “I wonder why?”

Carter shrugged, her attention firmly back on the device. “Maybe he’s wondering how the Colonel isn’t going to manage to get us out of this one?” she ventured.

Jackson nodded slowly, his attention now diverted as Jack entered the bridge of the Ancients vessel. A smile still residing on his features, he caught Jackson’s regard and offered a knowing refrain with eyebrows snapping quickly on his forehead.

A glance then across at Teal’c who had when he left been meditating, a mock salute to acknowledge the man’s return to the group.

 

“That’s the wee folk back where they belong,” he remarked, a sideways glance toward Carter. “Managed to get in touch with the Asgard?”

“No sir, this damn…”

“Oh Carter.” A grin directed toward the perplexed looking major. “Not losing your temper are you?” he suggested, joining her at the console.  “I’d have thought you’d have figured this thing out by now,” he added, almost in devilment.

 

“Well sir, I don’t have the advantage of having a repository downloaded into my brain, so I guess I’ll just have to be the dumb one for a change,” she replied, frowning at the colonel for daring to mock her capabilities having only moments earlier praised her input.

 

“So what now?” Makepeace enquired once more.

Jackson instantly looked across at him, suspicious now of his motives and intention.

 

O’Neill groaned, the sound audible enough to reach the ears of Carter who couldn’t help but smile, watching as the colonel turned and faced Makepeace.

 

“Robert?” Jack said in a somewhat tiresome tone. “If you ask me that damn question once more, I swear I’m leaving you here!”

Makepeace scowled at the man, shaking his head. “Maybe you might want to answer it sometime soon, save me the trouble of asking, huh Jack?”

 

“Or maybe if you paid attention once in a while and I wouldn’t have too!” O’Neill retorted sardonically.

 

Daniel sighed heavily, his scepticism now coming into its own, he decided to intervene. The last thing they needed now was another verbal exchange between the two colonels.  O’Neill was clearly in the mood to fence with all-comers, which whilst not exactly unusual, could prove particularly distracting considering his current task.

 

“Colonel Makepeace, can I talk to you?” he asked, watching the man’s expression turn from anger toward O’Neill, to one of surprise.

“What’s on your mind?” Makepeace enquired, leaving the group who had now gathered around the console and approaching the archaeologist.

 

“Jack doesn’t need you to question everything he does, I think it would be, ah, prudent if you just didn’t say anything at all!” he remarked pointedly.

 Makepeace once more forced to shake his head in dismay. “You might be prepared to follow O’Neill blindly Dr. Jackson, but I’m not!” the colonel retorted sharply. “In case you’re forgetting, he got us into this whole mess in the first place.”

Daniel nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, thank you for the history lesson, but I already know that.  Since Jack is the only person who can currently communicate with all parties concerned, and has been chosen for that reason, I would think you’d agree we need to let him focus!”

“I’m happy for him to focus, I’d just like to know what he’s focusing on!”

Daniel’s eyes rolled in his head. “That would be the problem, you’re not good at keeping up on current events are you?” he replied a hint of disdain in his tone. “So if you need to know anything, just ask me.”

Makepeace nodded. “I’ll do that!” he agreed, turning sharply as the technology O’Neill summoned came online.

“Thor!” Jack exclaimed, as the image of the Asgard supreme commander appeared on the image enhancer now set against the back wall of the vessel. “Nice to see you buddy!”

“O’Neill,” Thor greeted.

“Listen, we really need to talk about this Sengo’lian problem,” Jack suggested, looking across at Jackson his eyes indicating that he required the man’s presence.

“See, you’re really not seeing the whole picture here.”

“O’Neill you are not aware of…”

“Oh I think I am,” Jack asserted. “I know exactly what you’re gonna say ‘cause you kept a few things back the last time didn’t you?  Like the fact that you guys have a couple of Sengo’lian problems yourself, got them in stasis, have ya?”

 

The Asgard general didn’t respond to O’Neill, addressing his own people who stood close to him aboard the Asgard vessel, he spoke now in his own language.

“That doesn’t sound too good,” Daniel observed, desperately trying to make out the vernacular, his trained ears unable to detect anything resembling any language he understood, but it sounded in inflection, quite negative.

 

“Actually he’s telling them that I must know everything now and perhaps they might want to listen,” Jack remarked, enjoying the ability to understand them. “They’re talking backwards, but hey! That makes sense.”

 

Daniel did a double take at the colonel. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “You understood that?”

Jack’s eyes expanded with glee. “Oh yes!” he confirmed.

 

Carter raised her eyebrows. “Okay,” she said to Janet. “This is getting scary now!”

Fraiser couldn’t help but smile, as much as by the childish delight the colonel displayed in this ability as at Carter and Jackson’s reactions. “Ya think!” she mimicked.

 

“Thor we don’t have much time here,” Jack challenged. “I’m strongly suggesting you prepare a group… an, um…” he struggled for the right word, punching the air in triumph as he found it. “Delegation, able to speak for the Asgard, and then I’ll bring you aboard.”

 

“Aboard, O’Neill?” Thor responded.

“Oh that’s right,” Jack gushed, unable to prevent a small modicum of gloating from permeating his tone. “Well, see we’re right on your starboard bow!”

 

The image disappeared from the screen. Jackson turned and regarding the colonel.

“Was that really necessary?” he asked.

“What?” Jack enquired, looking completely innocent.

“Jack sometimes… so you think they’re going to accept your invitation?” The reply changed mid sentence, Jackson slightly reticent since he’d earlier lectured Makepeace on such inciting behaviour.

 

“I really don’t know, not gonna wait forever though!” Jack warned.

 

“Er, sir?” Carter’s tone somewhat dubious.

“Don’t worry Major, I wasn’t thinking about abandoning the summit!” O’Neill replied, a smile sweeping across his features, one of those boyish delighted types that suggested perhaps the colonel might be about to do something rash. “I’m getting kinda good at diplomacy don’t ya think?” he added with a broad smile.

 

“What exactly do you have in mind Jack?” Daniel enquired, looking concerned.

“Oh, this!” Jack remarked, his hand sweeping over the console.

 

Thor found himself standing on the bridge of an unrecognisable ship, blinking as much from the surprise of transportation, as from the change of light and surroundings; the Asgard high commander’s oval dark eyes met O’Neill’s.

 

“Glad you could join us, buddy!” Jack greeted. “Apologies for the short notice but we’re kinda on a time thing here.”

“Colonel Jack O’Neill, this is not how we would negotiate,” Thor told him.

 

“Well now see,” O’Neill moved from around the console, approaching the general.  “Here’s the thing, the Sengo’lians are sure you’re going to move on them, and I gotta tell ya, you guys just aren’t equipped to deal with that kind of an assault.”

 

“The Asgard high council,” Thor began, “will not accept such proposals.”

“Look, I don’t want to try and teach you guys how to run your society, but do you really think you can afford an all out war with a race that can just kick your butts with a thought?” Jack enquired. “Not to mention what the snakeheads can do in your absence, which given the power you’re up against here could be a permanent one!”

 

Carter looked sceptical, glancing nervously at Janet, then to Daniel.  Unsure that such provocative tactics would work with the Asgard, Jackson who was now looking back at her nodded slowly.  “He’s right you know!” he told her.

“They wouldn’t last five minutes against them.”

“I don’t think Thor is buying it, Daniel,” Sam replied dubiously. “This isn’t exactly a race that needs us telling them how to handle a crisis.”

Jackson shrugged, raising his eyebrows. “At this point,” he retorted. “I really don’t think they have any choice!”

The Asgard high commander, having ascertained his bearings and deduced the origin of the ship aboard which he now stood, regarded the colonel.

“O’Neill, it is not my decision to make,” he explained.

“Sweet.” Jack’s eyes rolled then, he threw his arms up in the air to animate his point.  “Let’s just wait and see what they think then, shall we?”

“You must return me to my ship,” Thor told him.

“Thor, I don’t think your… people,” the colonel said, leaving out the surly attitude he’d taken previously, “can afford to say no.  I’ve seen what these folks are capable of, and whilst having them in your heads isn’t ideal, I’m convinced, completely,” he emphasised, “that they’re not out to do anything other than survive.”

“It is our experience, O’Neill, that such control and knowledge of our society could prove harmful,” Thor explained.

 

Jack shook his head, his features contorting toward a grimace. “Look!” he exclaimed. “You guys don’t have a choice, and whilst I know how uncomfortable it makes you… what the hell do I have to say to convince you about that?”  He shook his head slowly. “Trust me, I know what it’s like to have something invading your thoughts, but you guys opened up this whole mess… don’t ya think it’s time you did the right thing here?”

Thor moved toward him with that almost awkward looking stride.  “The Asgard are unwilling to accept these terms O’Neill,” he explained once more. “Since we have seen what the Sengo’lians, if threatened, can do.  There are no other species in this Galaxy for that very reason.”

The colonel took a deep breath, regarding Thor with a degree of sympathy tempered by the knowledge, a far superior one, in the existence of the Sengo’lians and their galaxy. His eyes softened slightly.  “There are no other species in this galaxy because nothing else was ever indigenous to it,” he corrected.  “Thor, come on, you guys are reasonable and intelligent enough to understand the chaos within their society is the balance of their ‘one-ness’ thing?” Jack implored, his hands held aloft, features masked with dismay. “I trusted you with the whole Goa’uld protected planets deal!  Can you throw me a bone here?”

Thor observed the colonel, a simple nod.  “I will endeavour to persuade the High Council of your genuine beliefs O’Neill,” he agreed.

“Sweet, that’s all I ask,” Jack replied.  He stood slowly, a glance across at Carter and Jackson.

Teal’c, who had for the most part kept out of all discussions, nodded his approval slowly, standing close to Major Coburn.

The Jaffa had spent a great deal of time in Kel-no-reem.

His symbiote had become distinctly uncomfortable being aboard an Ancients vessel, yet he’d managed to contain that discomfort, knowing it would be too costly to request that O’Neill leave on his behalf.

Jack nodded back at him. Gazing around the room he now felt satisfied that everyone seemed happy, with one simple thought he sent Thor back, the beam that extracted the Asgard from their presence illuminated the room momentarily.

“Colonel?” Carter asked, moving toward the man now. “If what you’re saying to Thor is right sir, doesn’t that mean you’re stuck with these Sengo’lians in your mind too?”

O’Neill regarded her. “Actually Carter, unlike the Asgard, once I leave this region of space, since my brain isn’t as advanced physiologically speaking, I’m pretty much off the hook!” he replied, without making eye contact.

Sam looked surprised. “But they could reach you from Sengo’lia when you were in Asgard space, sir,” she remarked.

“Well that had something to do with the whole spatial…” He stopped then, looking decidedly bemused. “Um, actually I don’t have a clue.  But I’m sure Daniel could help me out here?” He gestured toward the archaeologist, hoping that he could articulate a lie better.

Daniel’s surprise at being picked on for such a deed evidenced in his perplexed expression. “Ah, yes!” he confirmed. “That’s right, what Jack … said.”  His speech broken and stumbling, Jackson decided to retreat whilst he was still ahead.

“Spatial?” Sam repeated, looking back to O’Neill. “So you’re saying that their capabilities won’t stretch across two galaxies?” she asked.

“That!” Jack agreed, pointing at her. “Right there, you got it.”

“O’Neill, may I speak with you?” Teal’c enquired, turning away from the man immediately as he did so and heading away to the back of the vast chamber that served as the bridge on the incredibly advanced yet ancient vessel.

“Teal’c, what’s on your mind?” Jack asked, as he joined him.

“It has come to my attention, O’Neill, that these creatures may prove far more useful to the Tau’ri in our fight against the Goa’uld if they remain in your mind,” Teal’c stated. “Since with the abilities they possess, you are able to match the power of the system lords.”

 Jack’s grimace showed his unease at the statement. “Look Teal’c, as much as all this stuff is kinda useful, it’s not something I want to be carrying around with me.  Know what I mean?” His tone sounded edgy. “Besides, I don’t exactly have a choice, once we get back to Earth, it’s gone!”

 Teal’c arched his right eyebrow causing lines in his forehead as he regarded the colonel.  “Is this power not what you want O’Neill?” he asked candidly.

 

“Not exactly, I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s really… cool.  But I don’t sleep so great. I think it’s making me a little cranky to be honest!” the colonel replied. “Besides have you ever tried talking to someone and hearing their words in duplicate?  It’s phew! Let me tell ya!”

“I see, then you desire the solitude of your own thoughts?”

The colonel took a deep breath. “You say that like it’s a crime Teal’c,” he retorted, studying the Jaffa’s features closely for some inflection of intent.

“It was not my intention O’Neill,” he answered at length.

“Yeah,” Jack sighed. He turned away from the Jaffa, a troubled expression crossing his features.

It had been a long while since his thoughts were his own, and as much as he too had found the Sengo’lians presence useful in saving his own life, and the life of a child he dare not even think about for fear of losing focus, it was beginning to become too crowded in his mind to properly function.  Temper simmered frequently beneath the surface, and then there was the aggravation of headaches brought on by the constant unending noise.

Whether it was Jackson, or the Sengo’lians themselves, things were getting a little too crowded for comfort.

They said they would teach him, and he had no idea what that meant.  Whether it meant the ability to close off his mind, as he had done when infected with the Goa’uld, stepping into the sanctuary that the Ancients afforded him, or if it simply meant learning to come to terms with so many individual yet harmonised thoughts milling around he was unsure.

He wandered away from Teal’c, quietly considering if his sanity could continue to thrive under such extreme duress as he’d endured for the last six or more months.  Heck! He couldn’t even remember if it had been more or less than that, that fact alone told him something wasn’t right.

Hathor, Iceni, the whole problem that emotions he could neither understand right now nor control had coursed through him and added to the chaos in his mind.

Maybe he needed to find a solution to all the different problems that possessing both the knowledge of the Ancients, and that of the Sengo’lian collective presented – maybe some time alone in a place where there were no voices to pull him one way or the other.

“Jack?”

He turned around, still in a semi-contemplative state seeing Daniel Jackson standing to his right.  “What?”

“The um, Asgard are trying to contact us,” Jackson told him. The sturdiness in his eyes reminded Jack that he could probably hear most of those thoughts.

It was just like Jackson to try and offer salvation, however subtly, to lend his thoughts and support, he didn’t want, nor need either right now; too much was happening.

“Sure,” he acknowledged, a sideways glance at the archaeologist as he moved past him.

“Thor?” he asked, as the image of the Asgard appeared before him.

“Jack O’Neill, your words have convinced us to reflect upon the Sengo’lian race,” he said. “In doing so we have decided that the matter requires more consideration and we are therefore prepared to withdraw from their part of the Galaxy.”

“Sweet!” Jack responded, giving the Asgard high commander his most winning smile. “Trust me,” he added mischievously. “It’s the right decision!”

 

*****

 

Major Collins woke as the sarcophagus opened above him, his eyes screwing shut tightly as the light invaded them.

He sat up, disorientated, the unfamiliar surroundings slowly becoming chillingly familiar.  He was in a Goa’uld chamber of some kind.  His last memory had been staring up at Coburn, and then darkness.

 

He was alone, not even a Jaffa guarded from inside the room, but he knew they’d be outside the door.  Panic shivered around his mind like a tactical weapon deploying almost instantly.  Flashes of the battle, the pain he’d felt moments before passing out coursed through his thoughts.

He knew why they’d brought him there, and the panic became more intense as he allowed that thought to wash over him.

They’d torture him of course, maybe even make him a host and he couldn’t even kill himself to prevent it, they’d proven that with the sarcophagus even death wasn’t an escape.

He climbed from the Goa’uld sarcophagus carefully.  Any noise might bring whatever fate awaited him closer.  If he was on a ship, there was nowhere to hide; a palace however might offer him some hope.  But in an enclosed chamber such as the one he found himself in, that was difficult to determine.

Trying to get a grip on his emotions, he wondered what Makepeace would do in such a situation, probably reason out the problem and find a way to prevent the enemy gaining a foothold.  That amused him, how could you stop an alien race possessing vastly superior technology and no regard for freedom on any level?  Even Makepeace would have his work cut out for him, minus his P-90 or a vast quantity of C4.

He sat down on what resembled a packing case, albeit one decorated with gold emblems, which he recognised as Egyptian hieroglyphs.

“Great! Snake city,” he moaned softly, his teeth chattering unconsciously as the waves of fear swept over him.

The doors to the chamber opened. Hathor, dressed in full regalia, appeared before him.

“Well,” she cooed softly. “We see you are recovered?”

Collins stood, nodding, unsure of how to act, how to handle the situation.  He knew she’d deceived O’Neill, but he also knew she had pledged herself to that same man.

“Thanks for…”

“Silence!” she insisted.  “We have not saved you, we have merely stayed your execution.” Her intoxicatingly beautiful eyes smiled at him nefariously. “Unless our beloved will consider your life worth saving?”

Collins looked apprehensive. “Colonel O’Neill?” he asked, his tone slightly cracking.  “He’s here?”

“Here?” Hathor echoed. “Our beloved is back on your planet, where we shall be shortly to affect his freedom.  He will decide if your life is worthy of his!”

The penny dropped slowly for Collins. “You want to exchange me for Colonel O’Neill?” he gasped.  “They won’t do that, he’s…”

She leant closer to the man, her hand grasping his face, nails biting into his cheeks. “You, had better hope he deems your life worth saving, or we shall send you back to your people and destroy them!” she engendered.

Collins swallowed hard, he knew she could sense the fear in him, there was little point pretending otherwise.  But all the same he responded.  “Colonel O’Neill is more valuable to Earth than I am,” he replied, his voice barely audible.

Hathor smiled pleasantly, yet even this was a terrifying apparition.  He knew she’d kill him with her bare hands without a second thought or remorse of any kind, and no amount of pleasantry could alter the horror he felt inside at being so vulnerable and so dependent on a man’s reputation for sacrifice.

Right then, at that moment in his most desperate and pitiful state of mind, he wondered for a fleetingly if Jack O’Neill was really all that!

 

******

Emerging from within the Ancients vessel in the middle of the Arizona desert, Daniel swayed precariously as the midday heat greeted them.

Six teams were on standby to recover SG1 and the other members of the SGC. O’Neill’s hail, picked up by deep space radar and relayed to Cheyenne Mountain via NASA, had been met with a resounding sigh of relief from Hammond, who welcomed them back.

 

“No place like home,” Makepeace remarked, approaching the teams who had now quarantined the area.

The Lieutenant who met him spoke in lowered tones.

Makepeace took a deep breath, exhaling long and hard before he turned and announced so the entire party could hear the words.

“Place Colonel O’Neill under arrest.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Duncan replied, indicating to his team to move forward and do so.

“Wait a minute?” Carter exclaimed loudly, as the men proceeded to inform O’Neill of his status.

“It’s alright, Carter,” Jack said, a rueful glance toward Makepeace. “I was expecting this.”

Makepeace shook his head almost sorrowfully; he didn’t ever want to really utter those words. No matter his own personal thoughts, O’Neill was a patriot and a fellow soldier.  Even if he had in the line of his duty arrested him for a similar crime to that he now stood accused of, it didn’t feel right, nor justified.

“But sir…” Carter’s tone now an octave higher, she protested toward Makepeace this time.

“Major Carter, stand down,” he warned. “I’m… under orders.”

Sam’s beleaguered expression fell on Jackson, who shrugged.  “He was expecting it,” he confirmed. His voice carried no conviction, almost subdued by inevitability. “We can talk to Hammond when we get back,” he added.

“Put Colonel O’Neill in that chopper,” Makepeace ordered. His hand swept off to his left then as he addressed the rest of the personnel. “You’re in there,” he advised.

“Wait a minute,” Daniel snapped, stopping in his tracks. “Why’s Jack being taken separately?”

Teal’c also crowded Makepeace now. “I believe it is not your intention to return him to the SGC,” he charged, his dark unyielding eyes glaring at the marine colonel.

“I told you,” Makepeace replied, standing his ground as best he could. “I’m under orders.” His hand thrust forward aggressively, perhaps defensively under the Jaffa’s unswerving scrutiny.  “This was not my call!”

“Oh well that makes all the difference,” Daniel countered. “See for a minute there I thought you were actually thinking.” His accusatory scowl conveyed his total malcontent with the situation. “Where are they taking Jack,” he demanded once more.

“Nellis,” Davis replied, causing the entire remaining SGC team members to look fleetingly to one another.

“Why?” Daniel questioned, his status affording him that luxury.

“Daniel, I won’t let anything happen, these are General Vidrine’s orders,” Davis explained.

“Then that’s where we’re going too,” Sam stated.

The SFs raised their weapons.  Makepeace lifted his hand to calm them.

 

“Major, I don’t even get to go!” he told her, and this time she could see the distaste in his eyes.

“Does General Hammond know about this?” she asked, turning now to Davis who appeared to have known O’Neill’s fate all along.

“Yes he does, Sam,” the major replied. “He’s as unhappy about it as the rest of us.”

O’Neill had already been bundled into the helicopter as his team argued his corner, the pilot, as instructed, initiated the vehicle.

“Well this sucks!” Jack remarked to one of the two security personnel who accompanied him. “Nothing like getting your ass thrown in jail for doing your job, huh boys?”

 “Sorry Colonel,” Lieutenant Duncan responded. “Not our choice sir.”

 Jack’s features contorted into a grimace, nodding at the man.  “Oh don’t worry about it Lieutenant, I just hope they’ve got shower facilities lined up!”  His eyebrows lifted for effect.

“Yes sir.”

 

As if he needed reminding, the voices of his guardians spoke softly to him, reassuring him of their presence.  None can harm,’ they told him. ‘We are here.’

Jack managed to keep a straight face, just for once maintaining silence; he rested his head back against the webbing behind him.  His thoughts became concentrated on Iceni suddenly, blocking out the loud drone of the rotor blades.  He was overwhelmed with the urge to hold her, to finally be able to bond, wondering how she was, where she was?  Her image filled his mind as he closed his eyes and remembered the feeling of pride he’d felt holding her that first time, a smile crossed his lips.

 

*****

 

Hammond prepared himself for the verbal assault that he knew would be forthcoming from his subordinates.  Jack O’Neill had been taken, as ordered, into custody, and although that filled him with apprehension, he knew O’Neill well enough to predict the colonel would probably cause more problems for those that demanded study and debrief than they could ever foist upon him.

 

“They just arrived top side, sir,” Lieutenant Simmons informed him.

The general nodded slowly. “Thank you, have them brought right here,” he told the airman, although he thought it rather redundant since his office would probably be their first port of call to register their complaints.

 

*****

Jack’s arrival at Nellis brought out the brass. General Raymond, a strapping 6’1” former marine whom O’Neill only knew by reputation, flanked by two subordinates, greeted him as he was led from the helicopter.

Jack did his best to salute drawing the man’s attention to the fact that he wore handcuffs.

“General,” he acknowledged.

“Lieutenant, take those cuffs off!” Raymond insisted. “Colonel O’Neill, I’ve read a lot about you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jack replied. “All good I hope?”

“Well that’s debateable, depends on your perspective I guess.  Shall we?”

Raymond said, a smile covering his ample face as he gestured for the colonel to lead the way.

“Yes sir,” Jack agreed.  He started to move inside, flanked by the SFs that Raymond brought out to meet him.  “So, I guess we’re headed for the cells again?” he added, looking the two armed men up and down.

“Not quite Colonel, thought we could have a little chat first,” Raymond told him.

Jack half smiled once more, he knew all too well that Raymond had the kind of connections within the spec-ops community that Harry Maybourne would have been proud of. Allowing the general to enter his own office first, O’Neill gave the two men who remained outside a nervous glance as the door was closed behind him.

“So, Jack, sit down,” Raymond instructed, taking his own seat behind an impressively big antique desk, littered with pictures of his family tilted just so the visitor could see them.

The walls were decorated with aircraft memorabilia, and various pictures of Raymond with one general or another.  It was impressive, even the President made the roll of honour.

“Mind telling me why I’ve been brought here?” Jack enquired earnestly.

“I don’t think we need to discuss that,” Raymond replied. “Coffee, Colonel?”

“Thanks, but I’ve not eaten in a while, I’d kinda like to get something more substantial.” Jack’s manner was becoming increasingly agitated.

“You’ve been fighting against us for a while Jack,” Raymond told him. “That’s why you’re here.”

“Sweet!” he retorted quickly, a grimace sweeping his handsome features. “That’s not exactly about to change, sir.”

“Well I’m going to suggest something, and I hope you will give it your consideration, Colonel.” Raymond projected the arrogance that his rank afforded him. “Because I don’t think you’re as dumb as you like to make out.  There are substantial advancements here for the right people.”

 

“I’m sure there are,” O’Neill’s tone terse, his expression stern. “But I’m not all that interested in advancing.”

 “I figured you’d say that,” the general replied, tossing a folder in front of the colonel. “So here’s the package give it some thought, if it’s no, then I guess you’re going to be our guest whilst we attempt to debrief and understand the alien technologies and information you possess.”

 

“Not interested,” Jack snapped back, his eyes filled with contempt.

“That’s a shame Colonel O’Neill,” Raymond told him, leaning forward and pushing the intercom. “Colonel O’Neill will be staying a while, Madeline, have Colonel Trainer come and collect him.”

“Yes sir,” a woman’s voice.

Jack stood up his eyes fixed on the general.  “I guess this sucks!” he remarked a surly smile crossing his face. “But you already know that.”

Raymond stood too, regarding the colonel with pathos.  “You’re supposed to serve your country, Colonel, not your morality!” he snapped. “That’s what, how did you put it, son?  Sucks!”

The colonel shook his head. “Always gotta try for patriotism when all else fails,” he mocked.

“Well Colonel, I guess that works two ways now doesn’t it!” Raymond countered. “Unless you call your recent behaviour ‘duty’, I’d say we’re looking at court martial wouldn’t you?”

Jack scowled at the man, his eyes narrowing. “I’d call it politics!” he replied sourly.  “Or throwing your toys around, actually, sir.” The tone he took on slightly more chipper then.

Raymond glared at him. “Dudley-do-good!” he spat. “You’ve got no idea how much trouble you’re in Colonel, I’d be a little less of a smart ass and give some consideration to that proposal,” he stated. “Or the rest of your life is going to be spent behind bars!”

 

*****

 

Hammond acknowledged the knock on his open door the second Jackson made it.   “Come in Dr. Jackson,” he said, a wry smile crossing his face as Jackson was followed in by Carter and Teal’c, even Makepeace was in the group.

 

“I know what you’re going to say,” Hammond told them. “I don’t like it anymore than you do, but someone’s gone over my head here and until I can speak to the President, I’m afraid that Colonel O’Neill is in the hands of the NID.”

 

“General, I followed your orders, sir,” Makepeace began, silencing Jackson who was about to begin one of those long and no doubt argumentative moral tirades on his friend’s behalf.  “And whilst I agree that Jack’s been somewhat negligent in his duty as an Air Force Colonel, sir, I’ve got to add that O’Neill’s behaviour as the CO of his team, and this operation has been impeccable.  I would have done the same in his place, sir.”

Hammond took a deep breath.  “I’m sure we all appreciate that,” he acknowledged. “However, for the time being at least, no testimony to the actions of Colonel O’Neill is required, since to my knowledge he isn’t about to be court martialled.”

“Does that really matter?” Daniel asked, his brow furrowing in dismay. “General, the fact that the NID has him is enough, surely if he’s going to be debriefed, studied for want of a better word, that can be effectively done here!”

“Apparently General Vidrine believes that whilst Colonel O’Neill has the ability to control things, minds!  That being close to the Stargate is dangerous.” Hammond countered.

“But sir, the NID?” Carter questioned.

“Colonel O’Neill is no longer in possession of this ability, General Hammond,” Teal’c informed, stepping forward. “And since he is unlikely to cooperate with the NID would it not be more productive for a team who better understands the knowledge he possesses to evaluate what information he has?”

“Son, I agree with you,” Hammond told him, leaning back in his seat. “But it’s out of my hands.”

”That’s it?” Daniel demanded, derision in those deep blue eyes. “I’m sorry, General, but you know as well as I do that the NID don’t exactly favour Jack, not after the way he ruined their last plan to gain control of this program!”

 

“It doesn’t matter what he knows, Daniel,” Sam said, a heavy sigh escaping her lips. “Colonel O’Neill’s knowledge and actions over the course of the last seven months has given the NID all the leverage they need to make a case against him.”

“What, so that’s it?” Daniel snapped. “We just accept that?”

“NO!” Hammond vociferated. “We don’t just accept that Dr. Jackson, we do what we can within the boundaries we’re designated to rectify it!”

Daniel’s accusatory gaze unmoved, he waved his hand dismissively at the General and strode from the room.

“I know just how he feels,” Hammond remarked. “Dismissed!”

 

******

Jack sat in the holding room he’d been in some four months earlier with Daniel looking up at the camera, a newer version of the one he’d nullified on that last visit.

‘We are here,’ the familiar voices of the Sengo’lians told him.

‘We wish we weren’t.’ Jack replied.

‘Live within us, we shall bring that which will free you from them.’

‘What exactly does that mean?’

‘Observe.’

 

The security monitor operator slammed his hand down on the comms system. “Sir, we’ve got a problem in lock-up C,” he announced to his line commander.

“What kind of a problem?” the voice, one tinged with a distinct southern accent, enquired.

“Colonel O’Neill just seemed to pass out, sir,” the man responded.

“Jesus H. Christ,” the voice came back. “Medical emergency Lock-up C, stat!” he exclaimed.

 

******

 

Major Paul Davis reported in at the third and final checkpoint on his way to see Hammond, he was concerned enough to scrawl an almost unreadable signature across the sheet, dropping the pen and turning immediately to enter the elevator on the last stage of his journey down to the General’s office on level 27.

 

As the elevator doors opened, he was surprised to see Hammond, and the entire team waiting for him.

“General, sir,” he acknowledged.

“Major…”

“What’s going on?” Daniel asked apprehensively.

Davis bit his bottom lip, like Jackson he’d lost contact with O’Neill some four hours ago. The silence had been abrupt, almost as if a radio had been switched off. As those four hours had dragged on, it was unnervingly eerie.

Hammond led the way to the briefing room, as usual the general kept his feelings in check, having no line of communication with Nellis that he particularly trusted, he, like the remainder of SG1, was reliant on Major Davis.

“Major?” the general asked as everyone seated themselves around the briefing table.

“General, I’m sorry to inform you all…” His eyes moved from one to another filled with uncertainty. “Colonel O’Neill was rushed to the infirmary at precisely 19:50 hours.” He opened his briefcase placed on the table before him, almost as if that might give him a moment’s respite to gather his thoughts and keep the very businesslike persona from losing the emotive side that was so close to the surface.

“Apparently, sir, there’s no brain activity.  The Colonel is being kept alive on life support.”

 

Carter looked at Daniel, the archaeologist lowering his eyes away from her.

“What?” she exclaimed. “Sir, we have to be allowed to see him, he could be suffering the effects of the Sengo’lian withdrawal from his mind.”

“Major Davis, I’d like Colonel O’Neill transferred from Nellis to the SGC for observation, he’s obviously of no use to the NID or anyone now!” Hammond asserted. “Major Carter, get Dr. Fraiser up here, I’d like her thoughts on this!”

Carter immediately did as ordered, leaving Jackson and Teal’c staring at Major Paul Davis who looked disturbed, his features drawn and pale, clearly in a state of shock.

“What happened?” Daniel asked again. He wasn’t entirely convinced that O’Neill had slipped into some form of coma, so much as he suspected the NID had done something to achieve it.

“The security guard reported that Colonel O’Neill had collapsed in the holding room,” Davis told him. “When the medical team arrived there were no life signs.  They managed to get the heart started again, and immediately put the Colonel on life support.  There’s just no brain activity.” His intonation sounded strained and emotional, he glanced at Daniel, looking him in the eyes. “Nothing!” he added, knowing Jackson would understand.

“You’re sure?” Daniel replied.  He considered the deception O’Neill had played on he and Hathor in the Goa’uld chamber at Luxor.  He’d been convinced O’Neill was dead then, only to doubt it through some kind of communication the colonel left open.

Hoping, suspecting, that the colonel was using the Sengo’lian control to make it appear so to the monitors. 

The fact that he and Davis could not communicate telepathically however was slightly worrying, if O’Neill had suffered some kind of mental break-down due to the rescinding of the Sengo’lian mind infiltration, then surely it would affect them both too, as it had done previously.

He’d suffered the same kind of blackout O’Neill had when they’d finally been freed from the Goa’uld five months earlier, rescued by O’Neill’s bartering with Heru’ur.  He recalled it well, being grilled by Hammond in that very briefing room, O’Neill’s sudden rush of blood, his anger at being pushed too far and asked too much, especially relating to loyalty, and giving any information he possessed to the Tok’ra by way of the Zatarc device, he remembered the sick feeling that resonated around his mind, losing balance and coordination before succumbing to a dead faint, in that one moment he finally felt the pressure being exerted within Jack’s mind.

He shivered then, recalling the nausea and the pain he’d felt.  Maybe Jack was feigning since he hadn’t shared that sensation this time around?  It was something to cling to, the idea of Jack O’Neill being completely brain dead one he’d rather not embrace too easily.

He looked across at Hammond; the man seemed as troubled as he’d ever seen him.  Introverted and quiet, awaiting the arrival of Fraiser as if it might somehow improve the situation.

“General?” he ventured thoughtfully.

Hammond’s pale blue eyes met his, the worry etched into them reflected back to him.

“Dr. Jackson?  Sorry did you say something?” he asked.

“Um, yes.  I don’t think Jack’s brain dead sir,” Daniel offered, as if this might somehow relieve whatever demons currently haunted him.  “I think he might be recovering from the overload, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Hammond’s face became a little more relaxed, curious even.  “What makes you think that, Dr. Jackson?” he enquired. “Do you still possess a link to Colonel O’Neill somehow?”

Daniel shook his head immediately. “Um, no I just, he’s done this before, even convinced me he was dead.  It’s…”

The voices he heard instantly prevented him from proceeding to finish the explanation.  ‘You must be silent!’

 

Fraiser’s entrance into the briefing room saved him from having to finish the sentence, something for which he was grateful, his eyes instantly aligning with Davis’s now. The questioning look that went between them missed by the distraction the doctor had caused.  Davis nodded, acknowledging that he too had heard them.

Hammond, deciding that the conversation with Fraiser was best held in his office, had already left the room when Carter, who was a little more attentive to Jackson and Davis, sat opposite the JCS liaison and beside Jackson.

“Okay,” she asked, her tone filled with anger.  “He lied didn’t he?”

Daniel looked at her innocently. “I have no idea who you mean?” he replied.

Davis shook his head. “Yeah!”

“Don’t bullshit me!” Sam warned.  Her eyes fixed more on Davis, since she knew he’d be more susceptible to her demands.

Teal’c looked quizzically across to Makepeace.  Unlike Jackson he had no reservations that the Colonel was on their side, Makepeace had proven himself as a warrior in battle countless times.

The colonel looked as bemused by this close huddle of his two subordinates and the archaeologist as the Jaffa, both men shrugging in unison.  Clearly whatever they discussed was a matter of some consternation to Carter, yet the very nature of that huddle meant they were obviously not invited.

“Sam, Jack doesn’t have access to the Sengo’lian consciousness,” Daniel asserted, trying to sound as matter of fact as he could, his glasses pushed back against his face having slid down his nose yet again. “He told you that himself, why would you question it?”

“Why would you lie?” she asked candidly, those intense blue eyes directed at the archaeologist cynically.

Jackson stared back, attempting to be as forthright as he could, given the obvious lies he was perpetuating. “And why would we lie?” he countered.

She sat back in her seat, a wry smile masking her features.  “You just never know when to stop do you?” she charged, shaking her head in dismay. “Why the secret?”

“Secret?” Davis asked.

“Oh come on!” she challenged. “You guys don’t think I’m buying this act?”

“Act?” Daniel echoed. “Are we… acting?”

His question directed at Davis who shrugged. “I’m not acting,” he replied.

Sam shook her head once more in dismay. “And the Colonel O’Neill act won’t work either fellas!” she remarked.

Daniel looked at Davis again, shrugging once more. “I think she thinks we’re lying?” he jested, yet maintained a serious expression, almost a direct challenge.

“I think you’re right,” Davis agreed.

“Okay! I can see you guys are going to keep shutting me out here,” Carter stated. “So I’ll just make it easy for you.  I know he still has the knowledge, if you want to keep me out of the boys’ club, fine!”

“Oh don’t pout, Sam,” Daniel urged. “It’s, well, it’s girly!”

“WHAT?” Sam exclaimed loudly.

Daniel tried not to laugh; he’d aimed just high enough.  “Well come on, it’s so… cliché.”

“Cliché?” Sam intoned. “What’s cliché is the boys club!”

“Sam, we really don’t…” Davis began, only to stop under the scrutiny of Carter’s scowl.

“Don’t pacify me Paul, you’re worse than they are!” she snapped. “At least I get why they behave like jerks!”

“They?” Daniel asked. “Whom they?”

“You they!”  Sam spat back. “And it would make sense if it said NID somewhere on my uniform.”

“Jerks?” Daniel echoed, dismay crossing his face. “Me?”

“Daniel, you really don’t know when to quit do you?” she snarled. “The little boys’ club thing is getting pretty old though.”

“Will you just…” Daniel began, realising that the venom in those now expansive blue eyes was building.

“NO!” Sam’s tone was becoming louder the more incensed with their games she became. “I’m part of this team, do I need to have…”

 

“Major Carter?” Hammond’s voice immediately drew the attention of the entire room.

“Sir?” Sam looked sheepishly at him.

“Is there a problem?” Hammond enquired.

“No sir, we’re just… Daniel…”

“We’re just disagreeing about the fundamental theology of…” Daniel began.

“The Ancients!” Davis interjected.

Hammond regarded the three of them ruefully.  “And I’m trying to figure out whether I ought to send you to escort Colonel O’Neill’s body back here.”

Carter looked stricken. “Body sir?”

“Colonel O’Neill was officially certified dead ten minutes ago,” Hammond’s voice was choked slightly with emotion.


Daniel’s jaw dropped, his eyes becoming wider.  “What?”

Sam’s anger abated instantly, her eyes becoming moist with tears.  “Oh my god!” she gasped.

 

***** 

‘We have been in this place many times.’

Jack looked across at the Sengo’lian guide; his eyes were different somehow than those he had seen on the ship.

‘Dead?’ he asked.

‘You are not dead, Ha’dai, you are merely in abeyance.  With us, there can be no death, for we will contain that which keeps life within.’

‘How long can you keep this up?’ Jack enquired. He couldn’t see anything else distinctive but the Sengo’lian who kept a firm grasp on his hand.

‘It has been as long as you wish it to be, there is no sense of time here.’

‘Whoa!’

‘Is it your wish to return?’

‘I have no idea where I am, or at least… where my body, er…’

‘Trust in me, you will see all once you free your mind into my care.’

‘You know how they say trust me on Earth?’ Jack retorted, thinking better of supplying the answer!

‘Your race is not one that trusts Ha’dai, you have no need to explain this.’

‘Sweet! So, exactly what are we doing here?  Looks kinda like, well, what’s with the white hazy effect?’

‘This is merely your own perception of death, alter it to however you wish, it will be your imagination that guides you.’

“Cool!” Jack gushed.  “So, you’re teaching me what exactly?”

“I will guide you towards freedom, towards understanding how the mind may interact in reality and in abeyance.  Once the memory becomes accustomed to shedding the cumbersome requirement for what humans and most races perceive as reality, the mind is freed to understand and explore all that such freedom entails.”

Jack looked slightly perplexed. “Be a good thing if you could just explain that statement actually,” he remarked.

“In time, you will understand.”

“Yeah, see it’s that time thing that has me a little worried.”  The images around him changed, Minnesota, the cabin he’d spent so much time in his youth, directly in front of him.

“Whoa, cool!” he exclaimed.

“This is a place of tranquillity that we see in your mind,” his guardian told him. “It is here you will see that which we are trying to teach you.”

 

Jack moved forward, he’d dragged Teal’c there not so long ago, even if he realised the Jaffa had not particularly seen the point of fishing, it was the one place he could truly unwind, surrounded by memories of a less complicated time.

“The Goa’uld are powerful Ha’dai, they will seek your knowledge for it is this that will give them ultimate power.”

Jack turned to face the Sengo’lian, apprehension masking his features.

“Okay, so how do we undo that?” he asked. “Assuming it can be undone?”

“It is quite simple,” the Sengo’lian teacher advised. “Illusion is your will, with it you can assuage the wills of others.”

“What like that thing with Heru’ur, the more than one image deal?” Jack questioned.

He found himself sitting on the pile of logs stacked outside the front of the cabin.

“Imagine if you will, the same white nothingness that your mind perceived before this place.  There nothing could be seen, this is the case when your will exerts the image it desires to others.  There are many that subvert the wills and minds; this is a lesson you must learn alone.  When your will is overcome you must find a way through it.  See the deception, soon it will come!” 

“Sounds a little ominous,” Jack replied with a grimace, one of many. “So what, you’re there only if there’s a threat I can’t deal with?  Going Asgard on me?”  

“We are here, but you must learn much for yourself, or you will never be truly free to quell our voices!”

 

*****

Daniel stared down at O’Neill’s peaceful expression, quieted and pale, he hardly recognised the colonel’s image.  He had kept hoping, even from Nellis, that O’Neill would jump up and yell psych, or surprise.  But after three, or was it four days now, that practical joke idea had failed to materialise. The Nellis report had been succinct, another examination by Dr. Fraiser had only brought the same result; Colonel Jack O’Neill had been KIA. That was how the file would read, and with it would come the full honours of a military funeral.

 

Standing alone in the infirmary next to his friend’s body he felt a profound sadness.  Clothed in his full dress uniform for the occasion, now only an hour or so away, Jackson wondered at the ribbons, medals and insignia pinned to the blue jacket’s left breast, what they meant, how he’d earned so many.  It was almost like his mind didn’t want to deal with Jack O’Neill in the past tense.  To him, the colonel was simply somewhere else, planning something aided by the Sengo’lians. He couldn’t, wouldn’t see him as dead.

 

He drew in a breath as if it were his last, the merest contention that O’Neill had lost a battle, after so many, not one he was prepared to accept, exhalation as laboured. He had told Hammond point blank he wouldn’t attend the ceremony, that he didn’t want any part of the funeral. Knowing what technologies were out there, he didn’t accept that it had to end this way.

 

Arguments for a sarcophagus had fallen on deaf ears; that they said would be too dangerous, and O’Neill would never consent to risking anyone’s life on his account.

Makepeace himself had practically been written up for insubordination through his protestations, even the normally stoic Jaffa had slammed his hand angrily on Hammond’s desk in frustration.

Daniel pulled up a chair, sitting close to the gurney, looking wistfully at the wall rather than down at O’Neill.  He hadn’t slept much, Sam had even called him at 3am suspecting like her, he would be unable to do so.  Talking hadn’t helped; ranting at the top of his lungs to someone he knew shared his views had simply brought further frustration.

Sam was in pain too, and he’d done little to comfort her, stuck in his own anger at Hammond for lack of vision.  Sam had suggested putting him back on life support, to keep him going mechanically if necessary until he decided to return from wherever the Sengo’lians had taken him.

Both Fraiser and Hammond had declared that a non-starter.  Another deep breath.

 

“Jack?” he said softly. He lowered his eyes; it was worth a try.  “If you can hear me, and I think you can, wherever you are, whatever they’ve done to you this time, you’re not likely to be waking up in a positive frame of mind cremated or buried, so if you’re in there, you might want to think about coming out real soon!” he advised.

Carter stood in the doorway listening; a smile crossed her face.  He’d finally told her they were there, finally admitted they’d lied under direction of the Sengo’lians to protect O’Neill, she wrapped her arms protectively around herself as she listened, fighting back tears that came all too easily.

 

Daniel’s faith had astounded her, his insistence that O’Neill was simply in some kind of abeyance at the behest of the Sengo’lians compelling, but she had to deal with the facts, and clinging onto some desperate hope that he would just wake up of his own accord was something she couldn’t compute.  Everything she knew scientifically told her no brain activity meant death.   She desperately wanted to believe too, had tried to see how what Jackson claimed the Sengo’lians to be capable of could work, but after two days with no life signs she’d forced herself to accept the worst, there was no other way of handling it.

Daniel obviously wasn’t there yet.  He was losing his ‘brother’, his best friend.  She could understand given his tragic past why he wouldn’t want to let go.

“Daniel?” she called.  “It’s time. You okay?”

Jackson turned, seeing her in full military regalia.  “Give me another minute, can you?” he asked.

She nodded, a sympathetic smile crossing her face; she brushed away the tears and turned away, heading back to the briefing room, leaving him alone once more.

Daniel checked over his shoulder, the room was empty. Having had the misfortune to be committed for being, how was it Jack described it? Nuts, after one of Machello's inventions had invaded his body, he had no desire to be caught talking to an imaginary friend.

“Look, er, this is gonna sound crazy, I guess,” he began. “But I just get this really weird feeling that since the Sengo’lians told me to shut up they’ve been busy with you. I don’t know how you’re doing this Jack, but it really is time to…” his voice trailed off, eyes staring at O’Neill’s right hand.  Did it move?

“Jack?” he said again.

There was no movement; he’d just imagined it.  He stood, pushing the stool away, walking quietly, his head lowered from the infirmary.

He passed the honour guard, who along with Fraiser were in the corridor making their way to the infirmary to collect the colonel’s body, the doctor offered him a sympathetic smile.

He turned toward the elevator, his mind made up to leave the SGC and go to a bar or somewhere he could drown his sorrows. He wasn’t about to stay, he still bore too much anger to stand alongside people that had refused to try and procure a sarcophagus.

“Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c’s voice called out.

Jackson turned, looking at the Jaffa. “I’m… I can’t do this,” he apologised. “I just can’t!”

Teal’c nodded.  “Do you still believe that Colonel O’Neill is not dead?”

Daniel looked surprised. “Yes.”

“Even though Dr. Fraiser has claimed it to be so?” the Jaffa responded.

“Teal’c, I can’t explain it, I just don’t think the Sengo’lians would let him die, look how far they’ve gone in the past to protect him!” Daniel asserted.

“Did not Dr. Fraiser say that the human mind could not handle such masses of information?” Teal’c persisted.

“Then how did he manage it before?” Daniel looked both perplexed and angry.

 

Teal’c’s impassive repose almost the complete opposite, he regarded Jackson thoughtfully. “I am unsure,” he said finally.

“Unauthorised off-world activation!” roared out of the tannoy.

The alarms following echoed around the SGC, SFs seemed to appear from nowhere, streaming past the two men.

“Hello?” Daniel exclaimed.  Following them, as did Teal’c immediately.

 

“I said close the iris!” Hammond snapped at Staff Sergeant Walter Davis.

“I’m trying sir,” he responded, his voice panicky.

Carter sat down beside him. The computers were simply overridden; each time the Iris attempted to close it would instantly open again.

“It can’t be Rhi’tou, not with the palm scanners!” she told Hammond.

Just as Jackson entered the control room the ominous figures of Horus guard emerged from the event horizon, behind them came Heru’ur, his eyes glowing, shield raised. More Jaffa poured through behind him, none of them armed, yet stepping protectively in front of the Goa’uld all the same.

“Hold your fire!” Hammond ordered as the blast doors went down before them. “If this Goa’uld thinks he’s immune to our weapons, we’ll show him otherwise.”

“General, wait!” Jackson insisted, indicating the monitors. “They’re unarmed. Let me talk to him, and he had to have help to breach that Iris.”

“Help from who?” Hammond demanded.

“I don’t know, but shouldn’t we find out before we start shooting?” Daniel argued.

 

Hammond looked sceptically across at Carter who was already arming herself.

“Please?” Daniel implored.

“Can’t hurt, sir,” Carter agreed.

“I want all levels above 28 sealed!” Hammond ordered, shaking his head. “I just hope you’re right!”

Jackson was already making his way before the General had even sanctioned it.

“Kree shak Shel, Heru’ur,” he said, in greeting as he stepped from behind the amassed SFs who were covering the Jaffa. “Um, what, how?”

“I was summoned,” the Goa’uld system lord told him. He slowly surveyed the embarkation room.

“Um, summoned?” Daniel’s face showed surprise, puzzled that the Goa’uld had so easily breached the iris.  “By whom?”

“By who actually,” Jack O’Neill corrected, as the SFs parted from around him. The colonel cut an impressive figure in his dress blues, being dead appeared to agree with him. “That would be by me!”

“Jack!” Daniel’s voice sounded relieved.

“H, thanks for coming,” O’Neill acknowledged.  “What’s with the goons?  Didn’t I say you’d be completely safe?”

“You offered little option O’Neill,” Heru’ur spat, emerging from amongst his Jaffa.

 

Hammond was already making his way from the embarkation room.

Carter, a smile lighting her features, remained in the control room watching the scene on the monitors.

“Colonel O’Neill?” Hammond snapped; not so much a question but a shocked acknowledgement of the man’s seemingly unerring ability to rise from the grave.

Now inside the embarkation room, the SFs stepped up to protect the general from the Goa’uld, moving into a horseshoe formation around him.

“General,” Jack acknowledged.  He looked back at the system lord. “H, you wanna leave the boys here and come on up to the briefing room?”

“Colonel?” Hammond’s voice a little sterner. “Just hold on for one second.  I’m not allowing this Goa’uld into this facility until you explain what the hell is going on here?”

Jack turned and regarded the general, a grimace masking his face.  He could see straightaway from the expression, the demeanour of the man’s posture, that he was getting over the shock, shock that was understandable given the circumstances, he had after all just risen from a prematurely announced death.  But like the good professional soldier that he was, he kept a handle on that emotion and along with it his composure, obviously the Goa’uld’s presence posed a risk to security.

“Sir, I have a very good reason for…” O’Neill told him, gesturing toward Heru’ur, “this, if you’ll just let me explain upstairs?” he asked, the appeasing expression seeking the man’s sanction. “I can assure you the base is under no threat, sir.” 

Hammond looked across at Jackson, the archaeologist didn’t seem as surprised as he would have imagined.  It was almost as if he’d half expected it, even the fact that the colonel had somehow summoned what Hammond considered to be one of their more dangerous foes hadn’t fazed him.

 

Daniel Jackson had seen too much to be shocked by a simple resurrection; the archaeologist looked from O’Neill to Heru’ur, then back to Hammond, he shrugged, offering a nod of approval at O’Neill’s suggestion.

It didn’t matter that O’Neill had spent four days clinically dead, according to Dr. Fraiser, deep down he’d suspected, knew that O’Neill’s untimely death was simply a method to free him from the NID.  But it was damn good, those four days had convinced just about everyone that this time the colonel wasn’t going to make a miraculous recovery.

“I’d go along with it, sir,” he urged.

Heru’ur stepped forward bringing his hand up. The SFs wary of the ribbon device instantly locked their weapons on target.

“Stand down!” Jack snapped, instinctively knowing that Heru’ur’s intention had simply been to lower his shield. A wry smile crossing his face, he stepped aside and gestured for the Goa’uld to lead, falling in behind as Heru’ur did so, a pat on Daniel’s shoulder as the archaeologist stepped beside him.

“Nice trick!” Jackson remarked, a warm smile settling on his features.

“Ya think?” Jack agreed, as they followed the Goa’uld to the briefing room.

 

Carter glanced across at Major Davis who looked as bewildered yet relieved as she did.  “I didn’t see this coming,” he assured her, judging that given his connection to O’Neill that she might think him complicit.

He watched curiously now as the party filed past him, the system lord leading the way as they headed through the control room to the stairs leading to the briefing room.

“No idea at all huh?” Carter remarked.

“None!” Davis replied flatly.

Jack took a seat to Heru’ur’s left, the Goa’uld having positioned himself, with his usual arrogance, at the head of the table opposite Hammond.

“Carter, get Makepeace, he’ll need to hear this,” Jack ordered.

The major didn’t hesitate for a second to follow his order, even if, given the circumstances, taking such authority might have seemed a little presumptive.

“Colonel?” It was Hammond who spoke.  “Care to let me in on this any time soon?”

Heru’ur regarded O’Neill askance in his expression. “Why was I summoned?” he asked, he too, it seemed, was in the dark.

Hammond found that surprising, given the nature of this supercilious race, to admit he’d been brought there without explanation seemed extremely out of character.  He knew O’Neill had done serious damage to this particular Goa’uld on their last encounter, but that he had forged such fear that he could influence a system lord of Heru’ur’s power intrigued him.

“Alright, let’s just wait till everyone’s here and I’ll get to explanations!” Jack told them. His normally laid back manner appeared intact, he busied himself pouring a glass of water and offering the same to the Goa’uld, who declined with a simple shake of his head.

Jack’s attention was drawn to Dr. Fraiser as she hurriedly entered the briefing. She, like all of those whose eyes O’Neill had met since his ’rebirth’, looked in shock, disbelief at something that really shouldn’t have surprised them at all, given all of the curious things that had been before and would likely happen in the future.  He offered her a smile, inclining his head slightly and shrugging. “Nine lives!” he commented.

“Oh I’d say it was more than nine Colonel, how did you do that?” she enquired, taking the seat opposite him.

“Oh, I didn’t, in fact I’m beginning to think our technology counts for squat in this big old universe.”

“Certainly had the medical equipment fooled, sir,” she replied.

Daniel looked curious now. “Er, Jack could you actually hear me?” he asked, realising the question was an ambiguous one. “Um, I mean just now, before you er…”

Jack’s broad smile, a patient almost fatherly regard, was enough to make the archaeologist realise he had.  “Oh you do like to ramble there, Danny,” he quipped. “Pretty good timing though!”

Jackson, unsure as to whether he was receiving a compliment, or a jibe, decided to venture no further into that particular conversation, his attention averted to Makepeace, whose arrival signalled another impatient request from Hammond. O’Neill, now satisfied that all were settled, rested his elbows on the table, leaning forward almost leisurely.

“For starters,” he began, a pragmatic expression adorning his features. “I wasn’t dead, The Sengo’lians, Om’trata, to be precise, just decided now was the time for a little teaching experience. Which was kinda timely since the NID had some seriously bad plans.” He paused only for a second. “You’re here,” he told Heru’ur, “to stop Hathor from laying waste to Earth.”

“I do not care about your world, O’Neil!” Heru’ur snarled. About to rise, the Goa’uld was prevented from doing by Jack’s hand, which now rested firmly on his arm, the pressure he exerted, although minimal in appearance, was substantial enough to cause discomfort to the system lord.

He glared at O’Neill, but acceded to his wishes all the same.

“Maybe not,” Jack told him. Their eyes locked together almost in a battle of wills that the colonel had no intention of losing. “But you need to destroy Hathor before she gets control over Apophis and his armies.”

His interested piqued, Heru’ur seemed suddenly less confrontational as he leant closer to the colonel, his surly expression becoming troubled. “She has power over Apophis?” he asked.

“I forgot to mention this, but, see she kinda has something I want,” Jack said, a visible flinch, his eyes creasing at the corners. “Which you guys probably don’t think is anything new but…”

“Jack, you’re doing a damn lousy job of explaining this,” Hammond asserted. “Not to mention the fact that once again you’ve deceived this command using alien technology you claimed no longer existed.”

“I appreciate that sir.  It was duplicitous, I guess?  But only from where you’re sitting,” Jack countered quickly, cringing openly at the factual aspect of his own deceit. “But you have to understand that it really wasn’t my choice, the wee folk decided that it needed to be contained, disguised, something?  I guess they thought that if the NID, the Goa’uld, and anyone else wanting a part of me and all this stuff…” His hand tapped his head as he spoke. “Thought that it didn’t exist, that it was okay to… deceive, since disinformation was the only way to prevent any assault on Earth to procure it.”

“And you didn’t think you could tell us?” Carter questioned. She sounded a little disappointed, so much so, that it came across as an accusation.

Jack regarded her patiently, taking a deep breath; he looked a little reticent, perhaps even jaded now.  His eyes lowered considering the question for a moment before explaining himself yet again.

”Carter, it isn’t personal.  It’s not that I don’t think I can trust you, or anyone here,” he replied, directing his comments now toward Hammond.  “Giving anyone that information would have put them at risk, and I wasn’t prepared to do that and neither were the Sengo’lians.”

Hammond took a deep breath. “Jack, I don’t see how informing your commanding officer of your status is putting that information at risk to alien sources!” he charged.

“General,” Jack rose slowly. “With all due respect sir, you’re wrong.  The NID has alliances I can’t even begin to get into right now, they’re… they’ve got a Goa’uld sir, they still have Colonel Stuart!”

The surprise of the announcement resonated around the room, bringing a hush from all present, until finally the JCS liaison asserted himself.

“Stuart’s dead, sir,” he insisted. “I saw the report, they couldn’t even extract the Goa’uld. It was absorbed by…”

“It’s bullshit, Davis!” O’Neill exclaimed, slamming his fist down hard on the table, deliberately reprimanding the assertion, underlining it with a scowl. “Colonel Stuart is not in fact any deader than I am, was, you get the point!” he snapped.  “And oh, by the way?  That isn’t the only alien race our secret friends are dealing with!”

 

Hammond looked startled; his eyes crossed momentarily toward Davis, whatever O’Neill appeared to know had come as a surprise to the JCS liaison too.

“Colonel, how do you know all this?” Carter enquired, bemused by the statement and the sudden outburst of anger the man displayed, as the rest of her colleagues seemed to be.

Jack looked pained, the frustration showing in his features as they screwed up, contorting in a mixture of confusion and anguish.

“I don’t know exactly how,” he said, the words almost imploring, “but you’re gonna have to trust me on this!” he asserted that more emphatically, his hand sweeping across his face. “Stuart IS alive, snake and all, Hathor IS a threat, and then we’ve got a little off world operation run by the NID.  Kinda gives you a warm fuzzy feeling don’t it?”

“Colonel, are you alright?” Fraiser asked, concern etched into her features.

His eyes slid across to the doctor, a wry smile crossing his face. “Oh yeah, I’ll be fine,” he replied, a resignation in his tone now. “If someone could just alleviate me of all this stuff and let me get back to doing what I do best!”

Hammond couldn’t afford the same luxuries as his subordinates. The accusations O’Neill was throwing around had far reaching connotations, the possibility of a Goa’uld on Earth and dealing with an organisation as dangerous as the NID bad enough, without the idea that that organisation had established off-world teams which could be jeopardising their relations with the Asgard and the Tollan once more, not to mention the security of the planet.

“Off world, Colonel?” His tone was now lower, making the sound slightly angry, even if that anger might not be showing in his eyes.

“Oh yes,” Jack replied.

 

“O’Neill!” Heru’ur snapped, more concerned by matters that directly affected his position, than with what he perceived a Tau’ri lack of faith in O’Neill.  Something he perceived could be useful in the future.  Clearly their lack of faith could be used to further his own ends.

“H?” Jack’s attention snapped back to the Goa’uld immediately.

“You have information of such an alliance between Hathor and Apophis?” Heru’ur asked.

“She’s gotten a few folk into his guard, I figure it won’t be long before they make a move and give her control of his armies,” O’Neill told him

”Jack, you said she had something you wanted?” Daniel asked sheepishly.  “I, er, thought that was over?”

Jack’s eyes narrowed, a thoughtful expression crossing his features. “That’s never over,” he responded. “But that isn’t what I was referring to… she’s got Collins!”

Makepeace’s expression became thunderous. “Why the hell didn’t you say so before?” he demanded, turning abruptly toward Hammond. “Permission to lead a team in search and rescue sir?”

Hammond waved him off.  “Jack, I think we need to know a little bit more about this don’t you?  I’m concerned, Colonel, that one of our people is out there and that’s the last thing you mentioned?”

“I was getting to it,” Jack replied. He slumped back in his chair, an anxious expression now adorning his features. “She wants me in exchange for him, she figures I’ll do that rather than let her make him a host or worse!”

“O’Neill, what could possibly be worse than being made a host?” Makepeace enquired, his eyes sliding across toward Heru’ur who did not dignify the insult with any form of acknowledgement.

“Oh a few things,” Jack remarked, almost sarcastically but he caught himself. “Like having to live with half the damn universe in your mind, and knowing you can’t ever get it out!”

Daniel looked a little surprised. Seeing Makepeace about to have yet another outburst, he intervened quickly.

“I think what Jack is saying… if I may?” He glanced toward O’Neill who shrugged. “Is that, the symbiote can be removed, Jack’s stuck with that stuff for life!  And believe me, it isn’t as cosy as it sounds.”

Makepeace shook his head. “Oh I don’t know Dr. Jackson, having the power to completely smash a Goa’uld can’t be all that bad?”  Once again the comment was directed toward Heru’ur, who seemed impervious to such deliberate incitement.

O’Neill glared at the marine, waiting for him to push if farther.  Whilst he had no more regard for the Goa’uld than the SG3 commander, it was neither the time nor the place to pay lip service to it.

 

Jackson sensed his unease, deciding to intervene once more before the two men decided to begin another war of words, which, considering the company, wouldn’t go down too well.

“Well you can take it from me,” he insisted, pushing his glasses back into position as he did so. “It’s far from being comfortable.”

Hammond took a deep breath, regarding O’Neill then the Goa’uld whom he felt that his subordinate looked far too comfortable with, finally turning his attention to Carter.

“Major, I want you to contact NASA, see if we have any Goa’uld, or other ships out there, this base is on lock down until I’ve had time to assess how to proceed.” A glance toward O’Neill. “With your permission of course.”  It wasn’t meant to be complimentary.  The general was clearly disappointed with O’Neill’s lack of communication.

“I’ll save you the trouble there sir, “ Jack intervened immediately. “There are no Goa’uld or other ships in orbit of Earth.  Not even in this solar system.”

Hammond looked annoyed now.  “And just how would you know that?” he demanded.

“You’ll just have to trust me sir, I know,” the colonel replied, somewhat reticent now, he could almost feel the general’s disapproval, the sharp reminder of his position and disregard for it bringing a feeling of remorse.

 

“Sir?” Carter asked Hammond.

“Belay my last order, Major,” he retorted quickly, still scowling at O’Neill.

“General, can I speak to you privately?” Jack asked, standing. He looked down at Heru’ur. “Stay here!” he hissed.  “Daniel, do that mediating thing if war breaks out here, hah?” he urged, tapping the archaeologist on the shoulder as he passed him.

“I’ll um, give it a shot,” he replied.

Closing the door behind them, Jack stood face to face with Hammond, his jaw contorting to the right, eyes apprehensive.

“I realise that you might think I’m not being straight with you,” he said. “And that bothers me, sir.”

“Can you honestly say you’ve been communicating and keeping me apprised, Jack?” Hammond charged. “Because recently I’ve been spending an awful lot of time trying to justify things around here!”

 

“I’ve done so to the best of my ability,” the colonel responded. “I’m not exactly in control here, General… okay, that sounds as if I’m being controlled, which I’m not!” he asserted, his right hand gesticulating wildly as he spoke. “What I mean is, well there’s stuff in here that I don’t understand and every time I try something to get it out, basically sir,” he stumbled slightly over his address. “The information doesn’t slow down because I want it to, and if inviting Heru’ur here without consulting you seemed a little pompous, or overstepping the mark? Then I apologise.”

 

Hammond breathed a sigh of relief, he’d wanted O’Neill to show some kind of deference for his authority, even so he couldn’t condone the colonel’s actions. He understood what the man was trying to achieve, but he had a chain of command to answer to. O’Neill wouldn’t be freed of his obligations to explain in detail exactly what had been affecting him, how it benefited, or not, the SGC and Earth, nor the tests that the Pentagon had ordered in the hope of discovering if he could continue to be allowed to function as a serving member of the Air Force and the SGC.

“Sit down, Jack,” he ordered. “I need to hear exactly what’s happening. As for bringing the Goa’uld here? Don’t do that again!”

“No sir,” Jack responded, doing as instructed. “The point is, sir, the Sengo’lians have the ability to see and hear stuff all over the galaxy.  They’ve got a network out there, people they’ve come into contact with that feed them information.  I can’t explain it properly, but during my… death, I got a little tour of that network, they brought me information they thought might help us, Earth.”

“Why?” Hammond asked. “Doesn’t it strike you that they’re being overly helpful?”

 

“Well, that thought has crossed my mind, yes sir!” Jack retorted. “But they’re not like us, or anything we’ve ever encountered before.  They’re probably the one true benevolent race in this whole mess.  They’re not looking for favours!”  He shook his head in dismay almost, at imparting or needing to underline the generosity of the Sengo’lians. “Basically sir, we couldn’t ask for a better ‘big brother’,” he asserted.

“Okay, so let’s say I believe that,” the general stated. “Off world operations? Goa’ulds working with the NID?  What proof have you got that these things exist Colonel?  Major Davis will report this to his superiors at the Pentagon, along with your… resurrection!”

“None,” Jack sighed, lowering his eyes away from the general and exhaling loudly. “I don’t have a single shred of substantive proof sir, just what they tell me.”

 

“Which could be argued against, Colonel. The NID could counter that you’re being set up or used up by this race in order to gain information and access to our planet.”

The charge wasn’t without merit, Hammond knew it and so did O’Neill.

“Yes sir,” he agreed. “So you’re saying what exactly?”

 

“I’m saying that to all intents and purposes, Colonel, you’re currently compromised, and quite frankly appear duplicitous with an alien race that could possibly have other motives.  Not to mention in breach of USAF protocols, regulations and security.  Colluding with the enemy, failing to comply with direct orders, shall I go on?”

He looked sincerely at the colonel, it didn’t matter what he believed anymore, he couldn’t, wouldn’t overlook O’Neill’s behaviour.  Not if it meant risking the lives of he and his team, and very likely all their careers.

Jack winced outwardly. “No sir, I think I’ve heard enough of the recent resume for my liking, bottom line it for me here, General,” he urged. “What exactly are you telling me here?”

“I’m placing you under house arrest, Colonel, until a full assessment of your current mental state can be made.”  There was no pleasure or agreement with that statement.  Hammond delivered it in his best ‘military’ voice.

“Mental state?” O’Neill asked incredulously, a tortured expression crossing his formerly downtrodden features.

Hammond nodded, continuing, “I can probably pass off some of your behaviour with the alien infiltration of your mind and the stress of operating in a hostile environment, but that’s it Jack. I’ll do what I can, but this entire command is not going to revolve around the insistence of an alien race that you can operate outside the bounds of our rules. Bottom line Jack, I’d like to just turn you loose and let you get on with your job.  But that isn’t my decision to make, not anymore!”

 

O’Neill watched him, nodding slowly, almost accepting of every single point.  He knew the military machine well enough to know that Hammond couldn’t play it any other way.

“And Major Collins?  Does he get to become a host whilst I’m having this assessment, and probably getting court martialled?” he asked.

“I’m sorry, Jack, it’s out of my hands.”

“Yes sir,” O’Neill responded. He stood, his eyes fixed on Hammond. “I’d better get Heru’ur off the base, hopefully he’ll stop Hathor from trying to invade the planet, and if we’re lucky, Collins doesn’t get a snake!” He looked angry then, filled with an inner rage at rules he would be forced to obey.

 

“Damn it, General, if we were operating under normal Air Force conditions, I’d agree with, or maybe understand exactly why we’re going to desert an officer, surrender him to the enemy without a fight!”

His eyes were steely now, cold in their regard.  “This isn’t normal military protocol or rules!  It’s survival, sir, pure and simple.  You think I like having this in my head? Being one of the main reasons the Goa’uld want to come here and destroy Earth?”

“Colonel!” Hammond snapped. “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.”

O’Neill shook his head, a wry smile crossing his face.  “So Collins gets a posthumous medal?  His family get a flag is that it sir?” His tone bitter, a look of sheer disdain masked his features now. “Sweet!”

 

Hammond looked at the man, felt the same anguish he did.  But he couldn’t acquiesce and find the right excuses, not this time.  Complicity with O’Neill was tantamount to signing his own court martial.

“Jack, give me options? Something I can use.  If you cooperate with the investigation it might give me…”

The colonel’s empty stare foreboding, he had no intention of cooperating with anything, his jaw set, features stern, his body language said it all. “Well, I’m officially dead sir, does that count for anything?” he replied, a grimace sweeping his features.

“Jack, levity is hardly prudent given your current situation,” Hammond reprimanded. “Will you cooperate?”

Jack took a deep breath, allowing the air to escape his lips in a long protracted sigh, his face reflecting resignation.

“I wouldn’t know how, General.” The words almost whispered. “I don’t know how to access any of this stuff to make any sense to anyone. It’s just there.”

The general nodded slowly, certain of the colonel’s integrity, but without any other course of action left open to him.

“Then I’d suggest that you had better get that Goa’uld off this base, Colonel,” Hammond advised. “Then we’ll talk about how we’re going to proceed. In light of what you’ve just told me it doesn’t look like being a quick process.”

O’Neill nodded, standing up slowly. “Yes sir,” he agreed. “I’ll need your authorisation to dial out.”

 

Hammond nodded, lifting the phone.  He watched O’Neill exit with a rising feeling of regret as he ordered the control room to dial up any coordinates O’Neill instructed.  Somewhere deep down, he knew the colonel wasn’t going to let it go.  He felt responsible for leaving one of his people in the field, and although he shared that same anguish and responsibility, his hands were tied.

General Vidrine had made his position quite clear, even with the interference that Major Davis had run from the Pentagon, their patience with what they perceived as being a ‘loose-cannon’ had finally reached an end. 

***** 

Heru’ur stood as O’Neill approached him his eyes glowing, a slight movement indicating his jaw tightening.  He almost nodded; yet it was a far subtler acknowledgement than that, one that left the colonel in no doubt that he understood.

 

Jack’s eyes crossed to Daniel for a moment, one fleeting look enough to convey his thoughts, almost instantly the archaeologist knew exactly what he had in mind, and having little time to decide whether or not it was the right thing to do, he would nonetheless go along with it.  The consequences of O’Neill doing nothing were far more damning than facing yet another court martial.

 

He too now stood, leaving the briefing room and making his way down into the embarkation area. Heru’ur followed, the colonel almost at his side.  “This had better be good, do what you have to,” Jack told him in a whisper.

 

The system lord did not respond.  “Coordinates, Colonel?” Lieutenant Simmons asked as the two made their way through the control room.

Jack looked at him. “P3X-557, and ASAP!” he advised.  Jack followed Heru’ur now into the embarkation room, wandering close enough to the waiting Horus guard as to be in harm’s way.  He calculated that the SFs wouldn’t open fire without Hammond giving the command, at least he hoped not, or it was going to get very bloody quickly.

“Do it,” he told Heru’ur, his voice lowered enough so as not to giveaway the command to the SGC personnel.

Heru’ur turned slowly facing the SFs. “Jaffa Kree, shel poc O’Neill!”

The Horus guard moved forward, surrounding Jack O’Neill. The SFs raised their weapons in response to what was clearly an act of aggression.

“Security to the embarkation room!” Simmons yelled over the tannoy, panic lacing his tone.

Carter descended the steps into the control room, followed by Makepeace, who immediately turned, heading for the armoury.

Jack raised his eyes heavenwards. “Oh crap!” he sighed. “Hope this works.”

 

Daniel, surprised by the move, even with the knowledge that O’Neill had planned something, stood between the SFs and the Horus guard, the soldiers, realising the peril of his position, that he was standing far too close to the Goa’uld began to urge him to move, Heru’ur seized the opportunity before the archaeologist could act, his hand clasped around Jackson’s throat, pulling him back, the shield raised around them both instantly.

 

“Tau’ri, kree!” he snapped at the SFs. His hand tightened enough around the bewildered archaeologist’s throat to make him cry out in pain. “Or I will kill them both!”

Hammond descended quickly into the control room, the alarms still ringing out, looking down at the malaise he saw the colonel barely, held by the Horus guards.  His attention on Heru’ur now and Jackson, whose life seemed to balance on whether or not he gave the order to open the gate.

 

“Sir?” Carter said. “We can’t let them go.”

“We do not have a choice, Major Carter,” Teal’c countered, his staff weapon clutched in his right hand. The Jaffa paused only momentarily before disappearing down the steps, heading toward the embarkation room.

“Stand aside,” he warned the SFs, his staff weapon remained at his side.

“Shol’vah!” Heru’ur spat.

“Steady H!” Jack warned; his voice lowered to keep it from carrying too far.

Teal’c looked curiously toward O’Neill, hearing the rebuke to the Goa’uld even with the colonel’s attempted subtlety.  He instantly knew that here, the colonel had the power, that for whatever reason, and he knew his friend well enough to know it had to be a good one, he’d instructed the Goa’uld to take him hostage, perhaps Jackson had merely been in the way.   That O’Neill had wished it so would be the only reason the Jaffa would not die trying to prevent their abduction.

“General Hammond?” he called to the control room. “It would be wise to allow them to depart.”

Hammond looked at Carter, who was now flanked by Makepeace, the marine clutching a P-90 and a large utility knife, and Major Davis.

“We can’t penetrate that shield before he kills Dr. Jackson,” Davis intoned.

“I can with this!” Makepeace countered, holding the knife aloft.

 

Carter’s eyes directed now toward the JCS liaison, she knew his link with O’Neill must still be accessible to the colonel, and Teal’c would never allow a Goa’uld to take either one without a fight.

 

“I don’t think we have a choice, sir,” she said, looking at Hammond, then back to Makepeace. “We have to let them go.”

 

Hammond nodded. “Dial it up, Lieutenant,” he ordered. His eyes met O’Neill’s, for a split second he thought he saw remorse.  Heru’ur’s words suddenly came back to him. ‘Why was I summoned here?’   He shook his head slowly; O’Neill had done it again, forcing a wry smile to sweep across the consternation that resided on his well-rounded features. ‘Son of a bitch!’

O’Neill glanced at Teal’c, the Jaffa’s regard told him he knew, knew that O’Neill had requested the ‘fake’ abduction, and trusted him enough to know if he’d done so, there would be a good reason for it.

Tilting his head forward, almost a nod to acknowledge his judgement, allowing him to see he’d made the correct call, a rueful smile residing on his features.  He hadn’t intended to deceive his team; he knew he could count on them, but it felt good to have it underlined so substantively.

 

“Vale meus amicus!” he said softly.

The Jaffa bowed his head, watching as the Stargate erupted into life.

The wormhole established, the Horus guard propelled O’Neill toward the event horizon.

Heru’ur glanced around him, the mountainous peaks in the distance covered with forests of trees, before them huge plains stretched out, broken only by a fast flowing river that seemed to come from the mountains themselves.  He didn’t recognise this planet. Realising he still held the Tau’ri in his grasp, he released his grip on Jackson allowing the man to move away from him without regard, he turned and watched the event horizon close behind them.

“You wished this why?” he asked.

The Horus guards parted, allowing the colonel his freedom. “I was looking at a court martial and no way to stop any of this,” he told the Goa’uld. “We’ve got the whole NID thing to deal with here and Hathor!”

“Your problems do not concern me O’Neill, only threats to my position will ensure my assistance to your cause,” he snarled, his eyes glowing, whether to underline his position or merely because it was the colonel whom he regarded with a degree of apprehension, governed by a fear of O’Neill’s power.

“See, the NID are your problem, they get their hands on any advanced technology who the hell do you think they’re coming after first?” Jack snapped. “Need a clue?”

Heru’ur sneered, his surly features filled with disdain.  He drew in breath, making his impressive frame even more imposing, nodding slowly, the stern regard wiped away almost the moment it had formed.

“Then we are talking alliance?” He almost laughed as he said it, mirth rising on his face.

O’Neill grinned, shaking his head. There was so much irony between the two men now that it could have been cut with a knife.

“We keep doing that don’t we?”

“Um, court martial?” Daniel enquired.

“Yeah, Hammond said as much, out of his hands.” Jack’s expression was one of dismay. “I can’t exactly blame him, at least now he’s got an excuse!”

“An excuse?” Daniel enquired.

“Oh yeah, he can say we were kidnapped!” Jack retorted.

The Goa’uld looked restless, the planet made him uneasy, or perhaps it was the fact that once again he had been forced to agree to an alliance with an enemy far more powerful than he. O’Neill’s unpredictability bothered him more than he would ever show, preferring to maintain an air of arrogance to cover any fear that may pervade, such weaknesses could not be tolerated, especially not in front of his Jaffa.

“It is time, we must leave this planet!” Heru’ur instructed.

“Yeah we’ve got some major Goa’uld behind to kick!” Jack agreed. He looked around appreciatively at the scenery. “Although I could get pretty used to this place,” he added, an almost distant look in his eyes now. “Wonder if there are any fish in that river?”

Jackson raised his eyebrows; it was an odd choice of planets, one they had never visited, something made him wonder if there was significance to it, O’Neill’s actions recently all seemed to be with purpose.

Jack looked him up and down.  “What do you think?” he asked, his hand held aloft. “Pretty neat place for a vacation?”

Daniel nodded. “Wonder if there are any fossils, or past cultures here?” he agreed distantly.

 

Jack smiled, if there was one thing the archaeologist was getting good at, it was recognising his signals, and his oft less obvious attempts to goad.

“Nothing of importance,” he remarked.

He’d deliberately used the planet’s SGC designation, and drawn the Goa’uld away from the control room to ensure that his foe would not know how to come back, this after all had come from the Ancients repository, and was high in natural resources, especially the raw Naqadah ore.

 

The planet was, according to the last data the Ancients had recorded, uninhabited, and therefore an extremely interesting proposition for an off-world base, something he had meant to mention to Hammond once things had quieted, but yet again it looked as if any attempt to utilise the knowledge he’d been gifted with for anything other than preventing nefarious forces from undermining Earth seemed to be taking precedence.  He hadn’t ever intended for any of it to get out of hand, but sure enough, here he was in out of hand land, probably about the only thing he ever really understood was how to adapt to such a lifestyle.  Black ops prepared a guy for most things, okay, so this was slightly different, but only the fact that it was taking place off world as opposed to a foreign country.

He took a deep breath.  “Once more unto the breach!” he sighed.

Daniel smiled at him.  “Round, um, ten?” he quipped.

“Round the bend actually,” Jack replied with a heavy sigh. “Dial it up,” he instructed Jackson. “Where ever the snake wants to go, point of origin is that kinda funny ‘v’ shaped thing.”

“That’s Pisces,” Daniel told him.

“I don’t wanna know your damn birth sign, for crying out loud, just dial it up!” Jack retorted.

Daniel threw his hands up in defeat. “Why do I do that?” he sighed.

 


 

Part Four

 

Hammond sat in his office studying the file he’d been presented with. Major Davis sat quietly opposite, contemplating the ramifications of O’Neill’s latest brush with authority, which he’d clearly decided would once again need to be ignored.

 

Hammond was no fool, the major knew that, suspected that he knew O’Neill had not been kidnapped.  Whether he would openly admit it, in the briefing with senior officers and members from the Pentagon was another matter.

They’d summoned the Tok’ra, hoping they might have some way of eradicating the knowledge from O’Neill’s mind.  Clearly the Asgard had been unsuccessful.

Carter had suggested returning to P3R 272 and attempting to obtain the Ancients repository using computer interfaces, whether that would be successful or if the device simply reacted to biological matter, was yet to be discovered.

To that end, Hammond had teamed Carter with Cadet Hailey, bringing the trainee to the SGC where she might be of some use.  It was a low level mission, one which would not place her in any danger, and Carter had immediately recommended her when asked whom she felt could be useful in diagnostic work.

Hammond looked up, directly into the eyes of the JCS liaison.  “Major, I’m only going to ask this once and I want an honest and frank answer, is that clear?”

Davis looked slightly bemused but nodded all the same. “To the best of my ability, sir,” he replied.

“Do you still have a link to Colonel O’Neill?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Explain to me how that works?” the general asked, leaning back in his seat and folding his arms.

“I’m not sure sir,” Davis responded instantly.  “It’s purely on the Colonel’s initiation.”

“But you know what he’s thinking?” Hammond persisted.

Davis shook his head. “No sir, Daniel has that capability,” he replied, looking a little more apprehensively toward his superior. “Is there something specific you want to know, sir?”

“Do you believe the Colonel and Dr. Jackson were taken from this base against their will?”

Davis looked away, a heavy sigh omitted from his lips. “No sir, I don’t.”

“Neither do I, thank you for your honesty, Major,” Hammond stated. “But, I guess that’s the way we have to play it.  If I stand any chance of preventing O’Neill getting himself thrown in prison for the rest of his life.”

The JCS liaison nodded thoughtfully. “Yes sir I agree!”

 

*****

 

Jack watched Heru’ur lead his Horus guard back through the Stargate, grabbing Daniel’s arm to prevent him following.

The archaeologist turned, surprised at the force with which the colonel held him.

“What are you doing?” he asked immediately, his blue eyes reflecting surprise.

“We’re not going with them, I’ve got something else in mind,” Jack told him.

As Gate disengaged he turned and approached the DHD, the archaeologist left trailing after him.

“Um, where exactly are we going?”

“Ra’alt,” Jack replied, a smile crossing his features.

Jackson’s eyebrows rose slowly. “And I’m supposed to know what or where that is? Aside from the fact the Ra part sounds suspiciously like an old Goa’uld, I’m hoping an old Goa’uld planet?” His face was now showing signs of concern.

“Nope!” O’Neill’s tone chipper, he began entering the coordinates. 

“It isn’t an old Goa’uld planet?  Or a present one?” Daniel asked, waiting for the colonel to respond.  When he didn’t bother, the archaeologist added, “Care to share?”

“Nope!” 

Daniel’s expression became reflective, thoughtful.  “So I’m just along for the ride?” 

“Nope!”

“Jack so help me, …” he snarled.

“What?” O’Neill enquired innocently, turning to regard Jackson now with an ever growing grin sweeping across his face.  His eyes filled with delight.  “You look like a smacked kid!” he remarked. 

“Well,” Daniel protested ruefully, attempting to reposition his features to appear more studied. “That’s probably because you’re treating me like one, even if you are doing it on purpose I fail to see the relevance.”

 

Jack’s patronising sardonic regard, which seemed to be almost rhetorical when concentrated on Jackson, replaced now with a comical expression. “You fail to see the relevance?” he repeated.  “Okay, since you asked, I’ll tell you the relevance.”

 

“Good!” Jackson snapped churlishly. “I can’t wait for this!”

Jack leant on the DHD, his head inclined toward the archaeologist, staring at him without blinking, not for one moment did that strong gaze waver.

“There is no relevance,” he said, having forced Jackson to avert his eyes. “That’s my point!  You’re like a kid in a candy store, for crying out loud, just relax or something!”

Jackson heaved a heavy sigh from his lungs, his eyes closed in an accepting sort of way, a way that told O’Neill he’d half suspected such a riposte.

“Well fine then,” he commented slowly. “Let me know when you’re ready to fill me in, and I’ll just tag along like a woebegone until you feel like being pleasant, or at the very least… civil!”

 

Jack’s eyes widened slowly, expanding so dramatically that it sent his eyebrows far into his forehead. “Excuse me?” he laughed, the humorous regard spilling once more onto his features.

“And you might want to finish entering those coordinates to… wherever it is you’re planning on taking us!” Jackson added, staring down at his boots now to prevent O’Neill’s over embellished satisfaction from being foisted on him once more.

“Woebegone?” Jack echoed.

The obvious delight and devilment in O’Neill’s voice grated on Jackson’s nerves, he looked back at him, the attempted apathy almost achieved in his gaze.

“What?  You need me to translate that, my lord?” he chided.

 The explosion of humour that spread so quickly across the colonel’s face made the archaeologist grind his teeth.

O’Neill did mirth well, and that irritated him.  That the colonel could choose such a moment for brevity was infuriating and bewildering. They were no closer to resolving the ultimate problem of how to reintegrate themselves back into the SGC, Collins was in danger of becoming a Goa’uld, and then there was the former colonel Stuart.  Jackson shook his head. “Yeah, funny Jack,” he remarked scornfully.

 

“Oh please,” O’Neill groaned. “Lighten up!”

 “I will, when you stop treating this as a game,” Daniel chastised petulantly.

The wince that registered across O’Neill’s face should have told Jackson he’d gone too far, the colonel was about to launch into one of those monotone diatribes he was so incredibly adept at, his right hand sharply directed at the archaeologist.

“Okay, am I repeating myself here?  EXCUSE ME?” Jack vociferated, staring even more ardently now, directing that laser like glare at the man. “A game?”

Jackson frowned heavily; O’Neill was often given to making such gesticulations when riled, that he had decided to become so at such an innocent enquiry was exasperating, but then that was Jack O’Neill, irksome seemed to go hand in glove with the man.

 “Well you’re not exactly taking this very seriously right now are you?” he countered, the statement made as if his life depended on getting the words out quickly, determined to make his point before being cut off once more by that galling wit his friend too often resorted too.

 

Jack’s grimace, that familiar one he reserved for Jackson, was now staring him in the face.  “Well?” he persisted. “Are you?”

 “Daniel,” the colonel began, his hands now gesturing the words as he spoke. “How many times have you been in life or death situations with me?”

 Jackson considered the question, a look of slowly resignation adoring his features, he closed his eyes again, a pause to gather his thoughts before confessing he’d been outwitted once more. “Okay, I’m overreacting,” he acknowledged finally.

  “Thank you!” Jack gushed. “Now we can go to Ra’alt, unless you want to discuss anything else that just happens to be on your mind?” There was that old O’Neill sarcasm, the kind that although ‘old’ with a capital ‘O’, still had that jaw clenching habit of finding new and exciting ways to irritate the heck out of Jackson.

  “No,” he rasped. “Nothing that can’t wait.  Unless you want to tell me where we are, and where we’re going?”  He knew he was pushing his luck, but of late he’d found O’Neill a little too economical with the details for his liking.

 “Hadn’t considered it,” Jack remarked, as he entered the last two glyphs on the DHD. “Ready?”

Jackson’s eyes rolled heavenwards. “As I can ever be!” he sighed. He paused then. “Um, Jack?”

“WHAT?” O’Neill exclaimed, his temper beginning to boil over.

“We don’t have any weapons of any kind?” Daniel told him, almost wearily in light of his need to burst his eardrums.

“Ya think!” Jack sighed. Shaking his head in disdain he set off for the Stargate.

Jackson watched him for a moment, shrugging his shoulders before following the man through into the unknown.

 

What greeted him on the other side was an amazing sight, the gate stood on a hill, high enough to overlook a vast city, yet sloped in such a way to descend without difficulty. The structures were unlike anything he’d ever seen, contours that set themselves into an incredible network of octagonal shapes, interlaced into one massive, or at least appeared to be from this distance, structure. It looked almost marble in construction, but from such a distance he couldn’t decide exactly what it was. There were no trees, nothing green in view at all the hill, mound upon which they stood seemed like it had been compacted there and was part of that same structure, even if it was a different colour, a light grey, more akin to rocks he’d studied on Earth in various digs. 

The city itself spanned as far as his eyes could see; a breathtaking sight, enough to make him forget his anxiety, the irritation that O’Neill seemed to delight in foisting upon him at every opportunity gone.

He glanced to his left to see O’Neill was already making his way down steps constructed of the same materials, he surveyed the city once more before slowly following him, trying to discern as he descended the origin of the designs through the vast library in his mind of past Earth cultures.

If anything, it seemed closest to Ancient Greek, simply for the choice of colouring alone. 

“Um, Jack wait up,” he called out to O’Neill, causing the man to pause. The colonel seemed strangely focused as he reached him, a studied expression adorning those normally sardonic features.

“This is where our NID friends are doing business,” he told Jackson the moment he was close enough to hear him. Having already made a threat assessment of the immediate area, he was confident they were in no danger especially with the Sengo’lians ever-present reassuring whispers.

“Here?” Daniel gasped, his amazement evident.

“Looks pretty advanced huh?” Jack remarked.

“Is it?” Jackson questioned, as the two men once more proceeded.

 “Nope, not in the same sense as the Asgard, Tollan, those kinda folks,” O’Neill replied. “They’re not the natives, just got dumped here by the Asgard on one of those limited benevolence deals!”

“The, um, Asgard?” Jackson repeated. “Then how come they’re doing business with the NID?”

“Well see that would be why we came here,” Jack pointed out, incredulity masking his features. “To find out?” he added, when he realised the archaeologist wasn’t following his train of thought.

“Surely the Asgard…”

“Would protect them from enemies, NID’s not exactly attempted a massacre here Danny, just pretending to be friendly with the folk here to get their hands on the technology,” O’Neill explained. “Our job is to see if they have, find it, return it, and teach these folk to be a little more discerning with whom they do business with!”

Daniel understood that, a sigh of relief before he realised that if the NID were on this planet, the last thing they were going to do was welcome them with open arms.

“Um, suppose they convince these, er, people?  We’re the enemy?” he asked concern saturating his tone and bringing that troubled mask to his features once more.

“Daniel, just relax!” Jack reassured. “We have all-powerful guardian angels remember?”

Jackson raised his eyes heavenwards. “Who let us get into some pretty interesting and painful situations recently,” he replied dubiously.

“Yeah, well they were figuring it out then.  We’re cool now,” O’Neill enthused.

 “So if it’s Asgard protected how did the NID find this in the first place?” Daniel asked.

“Same way we did,” Jack said. “I put the Ancients repository in the computer, the NID have their people inside the SGC, sent a team to the damn planet, probably through the Russian gate and then they use this place as a satellite base whilst they try and find other cultures and technologies willing to trade. If they’ve found some other way to get out here, we’ve got a serious problem!”

“Trade what exactly?” Jackson persisted incredulously. “Another way out here?”  He looked completely perplexed. “After all the trouble they caused the last time.”

“Well firstly, what are they trading? Probably false information probably, this is the NID we’re talking about here, Daniel,” the colonel reminded him. “Secondly, ya think!”

“If they’ve found another way to get out here, then I guess communication isn’t a problem, oh god!  You don’t think they’ve taken technologies back to Earth already?  Remember what happened the last time?”

Jack stopped, that surly regard crossing his features. “You don’t think we really shut down their little operation, did ya?” he asked his perplexed and bewildered colleague.

“Well I, er, thought so… actually.  And we?” Daniel responded, alluding to the colonel’s deception in that particular operation.

“You played a part Daniel, even if it was as a smokescreen!” Jack remarked. “Now if you’ve finished with the questions, Sherlock, can we at least make contact with these folk and find out exactly what we’re up against here?”

 

Jackson’s right hand swept out, to invite the colonel to lead on.  The thought of the NID controlling anything was abhorrent to him; he could hardly perceive what damage they might still be doing to Earth as a whole with their covert operations.

They were no better than the Goa’uld as far as he was concerned, crashing through the galaxy with no regard for anything other than furthering their own ends.

 

*****

Hammond sat down at the head of the briefing table, watching as Carter laid out the briefing files before General Vidrine, three of his aides, including Major Davis, two representatives of the President’s office and the senior personnel from the SGC, which included Makepeace and Teal’c, and two representatives from the Tok’ra, Martouf and Jacob.

Vidrine opened the file, without looking down at its content he regarded Hammond.

 “Where exactly are we with this Colonel O’Neill problem?” he asked.

“Since his abduction,” Hammond began. “The Tok’ra have been unable to locate him.”

Jacob nodded. “That’s true, Heru’ur did not return with the Colonel to his planet, and thus far none of our operatives have been able to get a line on him.”

 “And this NID situation you mentioned in your report George?” Vidrine enquired. “Are we able to prove anything there?”

 “It’s not exactly our area, sir, but we’ve alerted all off-world teams to be on the lookout for anyone resembling personnel from this planet,” Hammond replied.

“It’s a big universe out there and we haven’t even covered a third of it.”

 

“General Hammond,” Kevin Ramsden, one of the advisors to the President spoke. “Is Colonel O’Neill operating with the authority of this command?”

It was a loaded question, one that Hammond didn’t feel at all comfortable in answering.

“Officially?  No Mr. Ramsden, he is not.  But considering he was abducted from this facility by the enemy…”

 “Whom he invited,” Ramsden pointed out. “Which might suggest he was actually complicit with that enemy and merely supplied himself with a means to escape?”

 

“Actually,” Jacob Carter, able to ignore the protocols of rank and position, intervened. “Colonel O’Neill, far from being complicit, is the one weapon this facility has failed to correctly utilise!”

Samantha Carter nodded supportively, watching her father, the only one capable of doing so, alleviate some of the blame or burden from both Hammond and Colonel O’Neill himself.

“How so?” Vidrine asked. “All he seems to have managed to achieve so far is a child with a Goa’uld, and the ability to invite hostiles onto this planet with no regard for security or safety.”

Selmak’s eyes glowed fiercely, the Tok’ra symbiote although no fan of Jack O’Neill’s often-impetuous behaviour, found the lack of trust and futile necessity to lay blame distasteful.

 

“You of all people, General Vidrine, should realise that in O’Neill you have a valuable asset, and whilst you continue to attempt restraint for something you fear, you will only hinder Earth’s chances at furthering your goals,” he growled. “O’Neill has yet to truly tap into what he is capable of, and if you insist on this witch hunt mentality then you risk losing that must valuable resource!”

Vidrine swallowed hard. “So you believe we should just sit idly by whilst the Colonel and Dr. Jackson,” a glance toward Hammond for affirmation. “Go out there and do whatever they like with no regard for this command?”

“Yes!” Selmak spat. “That you would even consider attempting to harness or understand something which is beyond a race as advanced as the Asgard is arrogant and short-sighted.”

“As a former member of the United States Air Force sir, I’m surprised to hear you say that,” Ramsden remarked. 

“As a member of the Tok’ra,” Selmak corrected. “I am far more qualified than any of you to understand Colonel O’Neill’s position.  Your petty Earth politics will only serve to undermine your cause!”

Ramsden looked across to Major Davis.  “You’ve experienced this power O’Neill possesses, do you trust him?”

Major Davis looked the man squarely in the eyes. “With my life,” he replied succinctly, emphasising the statement with an expression of complete conviction.  “And if you’re asking me for my opinion, I think Selmak is right. We don’t have any hope of understanding what’s happened to Colonel O’Neill if we continue to treat him as the enemy.”

General Vidrine smiled to himself; he’d picked Davis from the top candidates at the Pentagon to serve under him.  That honesty and conviction he’d displayed, strengthened his faith in that choice.

 “Your advice?” Vidrine asked the Tok’ra liaison.

“Give O’Neill the respect of loyalty and trust, and he’ll prove himself a far more potent weapon than anything you’ll find out there, but temper it with this, the Sengo’lians, who have been gracious enough to gift the Colonel with their knowledge and protection, will not tolerate its use for destruction!”

“So you think it’s perfectly alright to allow a member of the USAF, who holds a significant amount of knowledge about the security of our planet, to be out there, that he should just be free to act on his own accord?” Ramsden challenged. “Give him a pat on the back for disobeying orders because another race told him so?”

“Colonel O’Neill has for the most part, Mr. Ramsden, been following orders, placing himself and his team in great danger on a number of occasions to afford you the right to sit there and judge him freely,” Hammond snapped, unable to hold his temper with a ‘suit’ interfering in what he considered as command decisions.  He may be one of the President’s advisors, but to summarily contemptuously judge one of his officers was pushing his position too far.

“Obeying orders?” Ramsden repeated. “Like he did when breaking out of area 51 three months ago?”

“In light of the fact that we discovered a significant number of personnel to be duplicitous with the Goa’uld, I think I’d standby the Colonel’s judgement on that one,” Hammond responded.

“Sir, with due respect,” Samantha Carter began. “Colonel O’Neill has managed to gain the respect of one of the most powerful system lords in the galaxy.  He’s stopped several Goa’uld and other hostiles from invading this planet.”

“He also saved the Goa’uld from said hostiles, Major Carter!” Ramsden retorted.

“He enlisted the help of the Goa’uld in a situation that couldn’t have been handled without them,” Hammond corrected.

“So what are we saying here?” the Presidential aide asked. “Let him do pretty much what he likes? Hell of a risk trusting aliens controlling one of our own!”

 

Hammond regarded Vidrine, wondering how much latitude the General would allow him in defending Jack O’Neill’s integrity

Colonel Robert Makepeace however wasn’t as diplomatic.  “Have you ever served in the armed forces?” he demanded. “Had to make a judgement call in the field that could risk not only the lives of your entire team, but maybe a planet?”

Ramsden regarded the man. “Does this go to credibility?” he asked 

“No sir, it goes down to heroism.  Jack O’Neill has saved this planet, and the lives of his command, probably more often than you’ve kissed babies for votes!” the marine snarled. “He’s out there now, possibly of his own choosing, but maybe a prisoner of the Goa’uld, trying to save another man’s life and prevent the more dubious characters on this planet from half-assed destruction messing with something they’ve got no idea of!”

 

Neither Hammond nor Vidrine interrupted, perhaps out of respect for the man’s position.  Makepeace had seen more action than most on the entire base, fought for his country in two conflicts and against the Goa’uld.  He had earned the right to speak for his fellow officers, even if he was addressing a member of the government with little or no regard for his position.

“So you think Colonel O’Neill isn’t a risk?” Ramsden questioned. “That the alien information and influence he carries around with him are no threat to Earth?”

“You’re damned right I do, and if you’d had to be the one to kill him after one of those missions to hold a gun on the man, maybe you’d realise it too! Jack O’Neill doesn’t just go out there for fun, or because some damn alien race happens to be in his head.  He’s out there trying to do his best for President and country, and if that sounds a little too self-sacrificing, or heroic for a politician to deal with, fine, but it’s what us enlisted men do! Does it give you the right to sit in judgement on him?  No sir, it doesn’t!”  Makepeace snapped. He turned then, facing Hammond, rage etched into his craggy features. “Permission to be excused from this… briefing?”

 

Hammond nodded, watching the marine stand abruptly and exit the room.

“You’ll find just about everyone on this base feels the same way, Mr. Ramsden,” he said. “Colonel O’Neill and his team have always been above reproach when it comes to matters pertaining to the defence of this planet.”

 

Ramsden nodded; obviously he had nothing else to say, the marine’s reprimand and reminder enough to quiet him.

“So, how do you want to proceed, George?” Vidrine asked, trying to disguise the admiration he felt for the marine’s outburst.  He’d often felt like hammering into one of those suits, the men that talked a good war but had never distinguished themselves in one. Makepeace didn’t have to be a politician, and quite obviously had no wish to be.

“Major Carter has put forward a plan to go to the planet where the Ancients knowledge was downloaded into Colonel O’Neill’s brain, see if we can find a way to transfer that information into a computer for analysis,” Hammond told him.

“General can I also suggest that Dr. Fraiser accompanies us to P3R 272?” Carter asked, knowing that Janet was thirsting to get away from the base if just for a few hours.

“Granted,” Hammond responded. “As for Colonel O’Neill…”

Martouf, quiet for most of the meeting, spoke up finally. “I will endeavour to trace him General Hammond, we have many Tok’ra spies amongst the Goa’uld, if he is with any one of the system lords, or Hathor herself, we will locate him.”

“We will take our leave, George,” Jacob told him, standing in unison with Martouf. “Anything we learn will be sent via the usual communications.”

“If you could locate Colonel O’Neill, and at least find out his situation, we would appreciate that tremendously, might give us an idea on how to proceed with this Goa’uld and NID connection,” Hammond replied.

“If you have a Goa’uld within your NID? I suggest you find him, he will undermine your power structure,” Martouf warned. “The Goa’uld, as you have seen, have many methods of controlling minds!”

 

Vidrine looked concerned. “I think we’d better start investigating that possibility,” he remarked. “Major Davis, remain here and keep me apprised.  I have just the right man for that job!”

Hammond, Carter and Davis all stood to salute as Vidrine rose.  “George, Colonel O’Neill?  Providing he proves himself to be acting in the best interests of this planet, then I’ll fight tooth and nail to ensure that he gets official orders to cover that fact.  I’ll overlook the abduction.”

“Thank you sir,” Hammond responded, noting Carter and Teal’c’s pleasure at that statement.

Vidrine paused. “One more thing, the child, O’Neill’s… daughter?”

“Yes sir, daughter, Iceni,” Davis replied.

“Do we have any concerns in that area?” Vidrine asked.

“Dr. Fraiser did a thorough examination sir,” Carter responded.  “So far she appears to be normal.”

“And where is she now?” Vidrine queried.

“She’s on the base sir, Dr. Fraiser has her in one of the guest quarters.  Until we can make a decision on exactly what to do with her,” Hammond responded.

“She doesn’t feature in any reports, George,” the general said.

 

For a second there was a collective apprehension, it had been a joint decision to conceal her presence in official reports.  The NID would certainly have made it their business to attempt to acquire her for study.

“No, we felt…” Hammond began.

“Keep it that way!” Vidrine stated, a smile crossing his features. “She is, after all, the child of a member of this United States Air Force.  But under close observation!”

Hammond nodded, a smile creasing his lips.  “Thank you, sir,” he replied.

 

*****

“Looks like the townsfolk are out to greet us,” Jack remarked, scrutinising the small group of people who now awaited them at the bottom of the hill.

“Let’s hope they’re a welcoming committee,” Jackson replied. “Not a guard!”

“You know,” Jack told him. “You’re way too cynical lately.  Whatever happened to that naïve, innocent Daniel Jackson that I remember leading me into all kinds of trouble?”

Jackson took a deep breath.  “I’ve probably been hanging around with you too much!” he retorted.

O’Neill nodded.  “Could be right,” he remarked.

“Hi!” Daniel greeted.  “We’re um…”

 

The natives were all dressed in blue boiler suits, remarkably similar to those worn on Earth.

“We are pleased to greet you, and welcome you to Arcadius.  I am Resus, lower leader of my people,” the man stated, his hand, palm down, placed on his chest, head lowered.

“Thank you, I’m Daniel, and this is Jack O’Neill.  We’re from a planet called…”

“Earth,” Resus said, a smile crossing his face. “We have been expecting you, your people said they would send others.”

 Jack looked across warily at Daniel.  “How long ago did they do that, exactly?” he asked.

“Three and a half platars ago.”

“Pla… what?” Jack replied, a familiar grimace on his features looking at Daniel as he always did for a translation.

“I think he means months,” Jackson responded. “Or maybe weeks?”

“Oh very helpful, thank you!” O’Neill retorted, his eyes rolling heavenwards.

 

“Please, come to our place of home, there we will share with you our food and wine,” Resus told them.

“Sweet! Remember the last time we did that food eating, wine drinking thing?” Jack remarked, a grimace sweeping his features.

Daniel nodded. “Just, um, don’t accept any cake!” he replied, a rueful glance toward his colleague.

 

O’Neill’s grimace was short-lived, his attention drawn to a female standing at the back of this group.  She was incredibly beautiful, captivating, and for a second he was completely mesmerised.  A smile crossed his eyes almost instantly; he fought that all-male thing, shaking his head.  He’d actually found himself about to point her out to Daniel who, under the circumstances, might have lectured him on taking things seriously again, oh well, back to business.

Daniel was far more intoxicated by the city; it’s amazing architecture, almost flawlessly constructed, carved from some form of granite.  His eyes traced along the shapes, octagonal, perfect, too perfect.

“Jack, this is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” he enthused, once again searching through the library in his mind. “Arcadius,” he repeated. “Um, Arcadia, Ancient Greek mythology, a mountainous region in Greece said to be the birthplace of Pan, a Greek god who was shunned by his mother, Hermes, when he was born with the legs and horns of a goat…”

 

“Sweet!” O’Neill remarked. “Hope they don’t have one of those here!”

Daniel’s eyes rolled heavenward. “You didn’t hear a word of that did you?”

“Hey! I got it, it’s a goat!” Jack retorted. “And you’re excited because it’s from Earth mythology, and by the way?  I’m getting this whole thing in stereo, so there’s no need to actually say it!”

Jackson allowed the colonel to get ahead of him slightly; he had forgotten how much his enthusiasm for ancient cultures bothered O’Neill when it wasn’t of any strategic value.

“Excuse me?” he asked, his hand reaching out and touching one of the others who led them through the city. “Do you have statues? Um, Zeus?”

The man stopped, turning to Jackson. “You know of Zeus?” he asked.

“Um, yes, is he your God?”

“Zeus is not our God, he is the one that brought us here.”

Daniel looked surprised, Zeus, an Asgard?   “Okay, so do you have a god, a temple?” he enquired.

“Daniel, what are you doing?” Jack groaned, shaking his head at the man’s incessant need to pursue cultural and mythological heritages.

“Um, my job actually,” Jackson responded. “Since most technology generally relates to the gods of each culture I thought this might be the best way to pursue it.”

O’Neill looked a little surprised.  “Okay.  Go pursue!” he agreed, staring after the archaeologist for a moment before continuing on with the leaders of this race.  “So, did our ‘friends’ stay long?” he asked, as they continued on into the depths of the city.

“Those that came remained for a time, they studied our temples,” Resus responded.

Jack raised his eyebrows, looks like old Danny boy was right, he thought.

“Take anything back with them did they?” he continued.

 

“This you would have to ask our Goddess, she will answer your questions, as she did theirs,” Resus told him. 

“Goddess?” Jack asked; there was a slight reticence to his tone now. “Living Goddess right?” 

“She is the one who saved us, delivered us from the false gods.”

“Okay…” O’Neill sighed. “Sounds like my kinda woman.” 

Finally, they entered a structure, into corridors that were oval in shape, tapering as they reached the floors, it was similar, although not exactly so, to the designs Jack had seen on Thor’s ship and his home world, still carved as the outside was from what appeared to be one massive piece of rock.

There were no decorating features of any kind, simply the off-white of the rock itself, which on closer study looked almost like pumice.

 

No doors, no guards, just the few locals that had met them from the Gate, which the colonel found slightly odd.

Finally they were inside a room, medium sized, still having no definitive markings of any kind. Not even furniture. 

“Love what you’ve done with the place,” Jack quipped, looking at Resus, who was backing from the room slowly.  “Going somewhere?” he asked, curiously regarding the man.

 “We are not permitted to see our Goddess unless she summons us,” Resus explained. “Wait for her, she will come.”

Jack nodded apprehensively. “Swell,” he said. “Thanks for the tour!”

He stood alone, scrutinising the walls; clinical came to mind, sterile, bare, boring!  Yep, boring said it all.  Wondering now if Jackson was having anymore luck than he was, obviously there was nothing here to suggest what kind of technology the NID operatives may have absconded with, a heavy sigh, had to hate it when Jackson was right!

 

******

Daniel studied the three central figures, recognising them immediately.  Pan, which he’d figured, given the name the inhabitants had chosen, Aphrodite, and Pegasus, the famed winged horse.

All were set in the same granite used to forge the city, as if from the one enormous block. He studied the base of each, noticing the language.  It was like nothing he’d seen before; perhaps the former inhabitants had scribed it there, leaving behind something, to be remembered by.

 “Um, sorry,” Daniel asked, interrupting his guide who was now speaking to Resus.  “What does this say?”

 “We are not sure, just that it is the false gods who had placed their words upon these monuments,” Resus answered. “They are here as a reminder of those that betrayed us, and tried to enslave our people.”

 “I, er, see, I think,” Daniel mused. “So these false gods, they brought you to this planet to be their slaves?”

 “Yes, and then we were saved by our true Goddess,” Resus told him.

 Your true Goddess?” Daniel enquired dubiously. “Here?” he regarded the Arcadian’s with a degree of suspicion.

 “Our Goddess lives amongst us, but she will not see you!” Resus informed him. “She chose your leader, the one whom I have presented to her, to speak for you.”

Daniel looked even more suspiciously at them. “Chose Jack?” he asked. “How did she do that? Who, um, is she?”

He looked from one to the other.  Maybe O’Neill had been wrong, perhaps these people were simply deceitful.

“She is Aphrodite, bringer of freedom,” Resus replied.

“Um, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, commonly believed to be Hathor, it’s Hathor?” Daniel exclaimed. “Um, red hair? Long red hair, glowing eyes?”

 

“Our goddess is not Hathor, she is Aphrodite,” Resus corrected.

“Um, yes you said, but on Earth many goddesses were merely known in certain… okay, you’re not getting any of this are you?” Jackson asked, realising the faces that regarded him were puzzled ones.

 “Our Goddess is kind, she has given us freedom from the false gods,” Resus stated.

 “Yes um, so you keep saying, but… can I see her?” Daniel persisted.

 “You cannot, she is with the chosen one, the speaker of your people,” another man spoke. Jackson’s eyes immediately found him amongst the group who had followed Resus.

 “Okay, fine, so these words mean?” Daniel asked, sensing he was beginning to agitate them.

 “We do not know, just that they are sacred, such things we are not permitted to know,” Resus explained. “We merely pay homage to the false gods to prevent their return.”

Daniel nodded slowly, the inscriptions certainly weren’t Goa’uld, if they referred to the ‘false gods’ as being the Goa’uld the same way most other races did, then it was pretty fair to assume that whoever the goddess was, she wasn’t a Goa’uld.

 “So, do these false gods have any magical powers?” Daniel enquired, looking ruefully at the Arcadians.

 

******

Waiting for the goddess to make an appearance, Jack opened his mind to the voices of his guardians once more, his curiosity to know the purpose of this race was becoming stronger; they had much to teach him, none of which he understood, there seemed to be no purpose.

 

‘Only that which is in your mind can find this freedom, the name you seek is Fre’uana, this is my single name,’ the Sengo’lian guide told him.

“Fre’uana, nice name,” the colonel spoke aloud.

‘There are thoughts you possess which lead to places you have no desire to visit, yet you deny them.  What is your true nature Ha’dai?

The colonel leant against the doorway, considering the question.

‘What thoughts?’

‘Those you have cast to the darkness,’ Fre’uana said softly. ‘Those you have tried to erase.  To be free, you must embrace all that is your essence, explore the nature of your mind, with this comes a path of completion which you will only attain in the release of those thoughts.’

Almost instantly the colonel knew exactly what they were asking him to do, he felt a distance, a fear he had closed off.  The resentment he still harboured toward himself and the Air Force for Charlie’s death, anger, hatred, disappointment and shame, all wrapped tightly inside his mind.  It formed an integral part of him, that much he couldn’t deny.

‘You’re asking me to embrace everything?’ he questioned, unsure of that particular path and the wisdom that came with it.

‘Who are you Ha’dai?’ Fre’uana asked once more. ‘Are you the sum total of all that resides within you?  Or do you simply embrace what you have been taught is righteousness?  How can you know which part of you is the true being without allowing all that is within you the chance to speak, to be.’

“Okay, that’s not making any sense, you can’t teach morality!  You’ve either…”

‘Why do you use a voice when a mind is more powerful?  Consider this, freedom is the reward.  A knowledge that all paths may exist at once, that the expanse of your mind is far greater than a universe that your physical self resides in.  You released us, and we in turn shall release you, but the journey will be long, the discovery will be harsh and uncompromising, do you fear that once you embrace those facets which you possess you will never return?’

Jack’s eyes narrowed, a heavy sigh.  ‘What you’re saying is, you can open that up right?  That I’m not really getting a choice here, or are you accusing me of being scared of it?’ his thoughts were confused, limited by the intrinsic fear he felt.  ‘You’re daring me to look at what?’

‘Dare?’ Fre’uana replied. ‘We would not.  We are simply here to complete the journey.  The path you fear will be the one that will destroy you.  Meet your fate, Ha’dai!’

 

There was silence then, the kind he hadn’t experienced in a long time.  His head leant back against the wall; he took a deep breath, ‘meet your fate.’ The thought, the words repeated in his mind.

 

He leant more heavily against the doorway, understanding, without truly comprehending what they had suggested he do, that would give him freedom?  How the hell was he supposed to embrace something he’d spent most of his adult life suppressing?

He gazed at the wall before him, its off-white texture seemingly distorting, drawing a more intense regard and there she was, emerging through the haze, almost perfect.  ‘Meet your fate!’

He stood bolt upright, this was the woman he’d seen earlier, she seemed taller, statuesque, yet lithely built, the silky white almost transparent dress she wore exaggerated that height, tousled blond hair nestled to her shoulders framing her face perfectly, but it was incredible piercing blue eyes that seemed to immediately fixate his gaze.

 “Hey!” he said, wincing inwardly at the greeting.

 “You are from Earth?” she asked, her smile warm.

 “Yes ma’am,” Jack confirmed. “You’re?”

“I am Aphrodite, ruler of these people. I am pleased to meet you, finally a leader of your planet,” she told him.

Jack looked suddenly dubious, unsure of himself. “Um, well actually not a leader,” he confessed, adding awkwardly. “More of a soldier.”

She gazed at him. “Perhaps you are being too modest, do you not possess the power of those who know all?” she probed.

O’Neill’s eyes narrowed for a second, widening once more to take in her beauty. “Um, how did you know that? Not that it’s important, just curious.”

 “Am I not a Goddess?” she retorted instantly.

“Sure looking like one to me,” he replied approvingly.

“Send back your companion.  He can confirm to your leaders that those who came before you took nothing of value, we are assured of that,” she said.

 

The colonel nodded slowly, trying to order his thought process without the repetition of what Fre’uana had told him. A question then, one that he hadn’t thought of himself, yet voices all the same. “Anything else he ought to take back?” he enquired. “Other information that might be useful?”

 “The device that you seek, one which your foes attempted to steal is within the base of the statue you know as Pegasus. Once you have sent your companion back to confirm this knowledge, return to me, I shall share with you the information you need. Together, we shall meet your fate.”

Her eyes seemed to penetrate his mind sending waves of information, signals he couldn’t comprehend immediately cascaded into the already scattered confusion of his thought process, mixed with something almost drug like in effect, stimulating the endorphins into a rapid state of delirium.

 

He stared at her rapaciously, the suggestion to send Jackson away one he gave little thought, before turning and leaving the room to carry out her wishes. He retraced his steps quickly, heading toward the temple.  Without even realising it, he knew exactly where to find Jackson.

 “Daniel?” he called, as he entered, the group around the archaeologist, who was studying the statue of Aphrodite, parted.

“Jack,” Daniel acknowledged standing. “I haven’t been able to decipher this inscription, but I think these people have a goddess that fought and beat the Goa’uld, which means it could be a number of races.  Did you, er, meet her?”

 “Yeah, you could say that.  Anyway, based on what she told me, I want you to report back to Hammond, tell him the NID failed to secure any technology from this race, and if you check the base of that statue of Pegasus you’ll find something useful to take back with!” he told the archaeologist.

Daniel looked a little surprised; the colonel seemed very blasé, almost dismissive, he got an eerie feeling he wasn’t wanted.

“And you’ll be doing what exactly?” he asked.

 “I’m gonna stay here, get some more information,” Jack replied. “You got the coordinates right?”

“Right,” Daniel agreed, dubiously.

“Sweet, so you can let Hammond know everything’s okay, and I’ll gather the rest of the intelligence we need. If I’m not back in a day or so, come get me, hah?” Jack said.  There was something strange about the tone of his voice.

 

“Jack, are you alright?” Daniel asked. He searched the man’s face, apprehension etched into his features.

O’Neill nodded.  “I’m fine Daniel, just, follow my orders!” he replied.

He stared at Jackson, waiting for him to do as ordered. He was strangely compelled to return to Aphrodite.  “Now’s good!” he snapped.

The archaeologist nodded, turning and kneeling in front of the statue of Pegasus.  “How do I open this?” he enquired, looking back over his shoulder at a rather distant looking colonel. “Jack?”

 

“Huh?” O’Neill’s voice sounded distant too. “What?”

“How do I open this?” Daniel asked again.

“Oh, the, er, that little scroll thing, twist it.”

The little scroll thing, set off to one side at the base of the statue, was difficult to see at first glance. Daniel looked over his shoulder at O’Neill curiously, if he couldn’t see it from where he knelt, how the hell did Jack?

The second he turned the small notched out scroll, a panel slid away, revealing a small box white box lined with what appeared to be rubies. There wasn’t a discernable lid, and it had no visible markings.

“It’s not dangerous is it?” Daniel enquired suspiciously as he lifted it.

“Nope,” Jack replied, now standing closer.  “Carter will figure out how to open it, its got some kind of power source in it, more potent than Naqadah, could run the entire United States power grid for decades!”

 

He had no idea how he knew any of that, suspecting the Sengo’lians were now transferring information without the need to convey it in speech.

“Just let Hammond know I’m fine,” Jack remarked, turning and walking away from the archaeologist.

 

“Wait, Jack?” Daniel called after him, the colonel didn’t respond.

Daniel watched him disappear from inside the temple, something about him didn’t seem right somehow, but he couldn’t quite discern what that something was, maybe he was bothered by his attitude and detachment.

 “Resus, this Goddess, has she always been with you?”

 “She came to us when we most needed, sent by Apollo himself,” Resus said. “To guide us now that we are freed of Zeus!”

Jackson’s features contorted slightly, the mythology certainly seemed weird enough to suggest that a Goa’uld had been playing the part of Zeus, but then O’Neill had said this was an Asgard protected planet, so somehow that didn’t quite add up.  “Um, Apollo?” he asked.

 

“He is our guardian, the God on high who sent her to us,” Resus replied.

 “How did she come to you?” Daniel persisted. “Did she just appear, or…”

 “She came through the circle of stone, her light instantly sent the dark forces away.”

 “And she told you she was Aphrodite?” Jackson’s tone was becoming more and more inquisitive.

“We recognised her instantly and gave thanks for her coming,” Resus explained. “Now as she bids you must go.”

“She bids?” Daniel repeated.  He looked curiously toward the man now. “She sent Jack here to get me to leave?” Incredulity lacing his voice, he stared back at the door O’Neill had disappeared through.

 

“Only one can speak with her,” the man replied. “She is a Goddess.”

Jackson’s hand slapped onto his cheek. “Oh boy!” he gasped. “Is her hair red? Um, a similar colour to mine?” he added when he realised the entire race was blond, and the city they lived in was so white, it practically resembled snowcaps!

 “She is fair, as fair as the golden light which falls upon us from Apollo,” Resus corrected.

“And I have to go because she said so?” Daniel persisted.

“It is what she desires,” Resus told him.

 

The archaeologist looked slightly perplexed. “What is it he has recently?” he sighed, alluding to O’Neill’s apparent magnetism with women. “I, er, need to see her too.”

 “Impossible, she chose the one,” Resus told him. “You will return through the circle of stone, as she bade!”

 “Um no!” The archaeologist put the box down. “No I won’t, not till I see her.”

He felt suspiciously uneasy now; the box was too easy, too convenient, yet with the power of the Sengo’lians protecting the colonel’s mind, how could anyone control it.

 “You must leave,” Resus insisted, his hand now clasping Jackson’s arm.

The archaeologist looked a little reticent now, guarded by an act of aggression or fear from this man.  If their goddess was so good, why did they fear her?

 “I want to see my friend now, or I won’t leave,” Daniel asserted warily, watching the native’s reaction.

 

Within minutes O’Neill appeared, his arms held aloft. “Whatcha doin?” he enquired. “Didn’t I tell you to go back and let Hammond know what’s going on here?”

Jackson nodded, moving closer to the colonel. “Jack what’s going on?” he asked, his voice now almost a whisper

 “What?” O’Neill seemed surprised. “I told you to go back to Earth, everything is fine Daniel.”

“And they told me it was what she wished,” Daniel replied.

“Oh that, I’m just playing along here,” Jack responded, his voice now lowered. “See what I can find out, she’s kinda cagey, know what I mean?”

 “Um, no actually,” the archaeologist responded, apprehension etched into his features.

“Okay look, she’s got this big deal going here about how she’s a goddess, so I’m just gonna play along until I find out exactly what the NID were after.”

Jackson frowned. “You said it was that box,” he retorted. “And that the NID went back empty handed.”

“That’s because it’s what she said, do you think I’d stay a minute longer on this planet if I thought that?” the colonel asked. “Just relax Daniel, everything’s under control here.”

 

“I really hope so,” Daniel sighed, he wasn’t a hundred per cent sure he trusted what O’Neill was saying, but clearly he had no other alternative than to accede to his wishes, whatever was happening, once again, the colonel didn’t seem to want to share.

“Come on, I’ll walk you back to the gate,” Jack urged, placing his arm around Jackson’s shoulders.

******

Apophis fell to his knees under the energy from the ribbon device, kneeling before Hathor, her hatred searing into his mind.

“We will not be denied,” she roared. “Ra, our husband and our father, bequeathed all that was his to us!”

 

The pain that seared through the Goa’uld’s mind was torturous, weakened he could do little to save himself; she had planned her accession well, her spies, both Goa’uld and Jaffa deserted him, leaving him vulnerable to an attack he had not seen nor expected.

Her forces had quickly despatched of his personal guard, and her power had been too overwhelming for his shield, slowly as her dominance crushed through his mind he was defeated, she had no intention of letting him live.  This last image was one of his conqueror.

 “Kalim,” Hathor instructed, signalling for the Jaffa to dispose of Apophis’ body.

He stepped forward, raising the Zat; three discharges disintegrated the remnants of the once powerful system lord.

Collins watched, lowering his eyes, he knew exactly what was coming, O’Neill hadn’t responded to her hails, the consequences for which would be his life.

At least he wouldn’t become a host, she’d promised him a quick death after the torture to discover the secrets of Earth’s Iris had failed.

She turned to him now, walking across the Pel’tac of Apophis’ ship to where he knelt at the feet of several Jaffa.

“You have witnessed us take back what is rightfully ours,” she told him. “Will you join with us if we spare your life?”

 “Join?” Collins questioned.

 

The symbiote’s hissing answered the question for him; the Jaffa priestess moved into view, with her she carried the Goa’uld symbiote, its sickening squeals filling his ears, horror resided on his face as she offered the parasite to Hathor. The Goa’uld queen took the creature in her hand.

 “We have plans for you,” she cooed.

Collins stared in terror at the creature, trying to move away, prevented from doing so by the Jaffa.

“Please no,” he cried out, as they held his arms and forced him forward. “God please, I’ll do anything, please?”

The symbiote’s incisive entry into the base of his neck sent one last shrill scream throughout the corridors of the Ha’tak.

 Hathor watched as the slave writhed around the floor in agony, the battle would be a short one, but one she would enjoy.

 “Of course you will, now we shall learn the secrets of the Tau’ri and they shall be our first conquest!”

*****

Teal’c waited at the base of the ramp as Jackson stepped through.  “Daniel Jackson,” he greeted.

“Hi Teal’c,” Jackson replied, acknowledging Hammond as he arrived. “General, Jack sent me back with this. We located one of the planets that the NID have visited and according to the occupants there they didn’t manage to procure any technology.” The explanation a quick one, before Hammond could launch off into the many questions that he was sure the man would be itching to ask.

 

“And just what is that, Dr. Jackson?” Hammond responded; dressing down a civilian for the acts of his superior could wait.

“Well, according to Jack, it’s some form of advanced power source,” Daniel explained.

“And Colonel O’Neill is where now?” the general demanded.

“He stayed on the planet to be sure, sir,” Daniel replied, looking across warily at Teal’c. “He said we could go back if he didn’t return in a couple of hours!”

A blatant lie, deliberately so, he wasn’t comfortable with O’Neill’s assessment, it was too easy.

 

“You’d better get yourself checked over, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond told him, looking around at the control room and Sergeant Davis.  “Have the hazmat containment team come down here and secure this artefact!” he ordered.

 “Where’s Sam?” Jackson enquired, as Teal’c accompanied him to the infirmary.

“She is currently off-world, as is Dr. Fraiser,” Teal’c replied. “They have been sent to P3R 272 in an attempt to decipher the knowledge that Colonel O’Neill has downloaded into his brain.”

“Um, how?”

“I am unsure,” Teal’c responded.

“Sorry, what was I thinking?” Daniel replied, shaking his head. “I guess Sam has it figured out, right?”

“Indeed,” the Jaffa responded.

 

******

Sam reconfigured her computer synthesisers. “Okay, let’s try that again,” she told Cadet Hailey, who had fitted a scanner close to the Ancients viewer.

 “Ready,” Hailey replied.

Janet looked on, three attempts had already failed; she was concerned that Carter in looking into the device to make it respond was taking a huge risk.  But so far, the major had managed to duck out of the way before the device activated, the problem was, once she did so, it shut down.

 

This attempt would mean wearing hydrogen alpha adapted goggles fitted with another scanner.  Carter theorised that if the properties in those glasses could protect her eyes from the sun, then likely it would prevent the rays omitted by this device from penetrating too.

 

“Sam, are you sure?” Janet asked, not for the first time.

Sam nodded. “I’ll be fine,” she confirmed.  “Wish me luck.”

Janet looked on dubiously, watching as the device activated.  “Whoa,” Carter exclaimed. “This is amazing.”

Janet heaved a sigh of relief, as the device seemed to have no affect.  Hailey knelt close to the computer.  “It’s working,” she enthused. “I just hope we’ve got enough memory here to store it.”

 

The device completed its transfer, releasing Sam from its mechanism.  “Wow, that was great, no wonder the colonel passed out,” she told Janet, moving across to the computers, which linked together were capable of storing terabytes of information.  “It’s still trying to download and sort the information, all we need is Daniel, or Colonel O’Neill to translate it.”

 

Hailey looked up at her. “We make quite a team, Major,” she remarked, a huge grin sweeping her youthful features.

 “That we do Cadet,” Sam beamed. “That we do!”

 

*****

Hammond looked slightly irritated.  Colonel Hampton’s orders were quite specific, someone had scooped up his report about the artefact Jackson had returned with and moved on it so quickly, he knew only nefarious purposes could be behind it.

 

“Sir, that authorises the immediate seizure of the technology brought back by Dr. Jackson for analysis at a bio-hazard facility of our choosing,” he asserted. “I’m only following orders, I didn’t write them.”  Hampton was defensive, unsure why the general would want to oppose the requisition order.

 “Colonel, without knowing the content of that box I’m reluctant to let you take it from this facility!” Hammond pointed out. “We have our own hazmat teams here, given some time…”

 

“Sir, my orders are specific,” Hampton stated.

 Daniel stood behind the general frowning.  “You know, there might not be anything at all in that box,” he said. “Or it could be a landmine.”

 “Which is why we’re better equipped to deal with it than you are,” Hampton retorted.

Hammond looked at Jackson, shaking his head.  There was little point in arguing, the orders were final.  The NID had the only authority anyone needed, and it had come from the top!

“Very well, Colonel,” Hammond ceded. “But with my objections!”

 “Thank you, sir, which are duly noted.”  The man offered a salute, and having received one from the general, exited his office.

 “Well I guess that was a waste of time,” Jackson declared.

“Dr. Jackson?” Hammond enquired.

“Jack and I going to the planet to prevent the NID getting their hands on alien technology,” the archaeologist replied. “Since anything we bring back just goes right to them anyhow.”

“I understand how you feel, son, but at this moment in time there’s absolutely nothing I can do!” Hammond told him.

“Sounds familiar,” Daniel replied, the expression one that showed a sincere lack of respect.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hammond snapped.

“It means that as soon as it suits him, the President switches sides.  Are we really doing this to attain weapons to use against the Goa’uld?  Or is it to make us superior to anyone else on this planet?” Jackson charged.

Hammond found room for an ironic smile.  “I see your point!” he remarked.

*****

Jack unclipped his tie, loosened the top button of his shirt, and unfastened the ones on his jacket.  He sat on the Grecian bench, close to the goddess; she’d imparted very little information, and seemed far more intent on talking about him.

Her image was aesthetically pleasing, captivating his attention, and for some reason he felt content just to be with her.

 ‘Learn, here is the arc upon which you must discover the inner self.  Freedom is the reward,’ Fre’uana’s voice resonated softly through his mind. ‘Do not fear that which you deceive yourself with, darkness is its own master.’

 “You are thinking?” she asked, a smile crossing her features.

 “Oh it happens,” Jack replied, ignoring the voices of the Sengo’lians who seemed intent on him casting off his duty.  “So, gonna tell me how you defeated the Goa’uld?  And saved these folks?”

 “Defeated the Goa’uld?” she repeated. “You believe they were the enemy?”

 “Well that’s usually who the false gods are yeah!” Jack replied dubiously.  “Have someone else in mind?”

She moved toward him, her hand caressing his face. “There are many things I could teach you.  Many things we could share,” she spoke softly.

Jack’s eyes widened slightly, uncomfortable with the contact yet excited by it, almost in the same way he had been by Hathor. Forces within him controlled urges he had no desire to explore, at least that was what the common-sense side of his mind was telling him.

‘Fear that darkness, and it shall destroy you,’ Fre’uana told him. ‘Learn Ha’dai is this the true nature?’

‘This is nuts!’ he protested. ‘I can’t do this.’

‘Freedom is the reward.’ 

Jack’s posture changed, he sat more alert, his shoulders raised and pushed back, a more domineering regard settled across his features.

“Something you want?” he asked, there was a silken sound to his voice now, his eyes ablaze with an evil intent, and a strange blue glow emanating from the pupils.  His hand wrapped around her wrist, twisting it violently. “Because I know there’s something I want!”

 

The woman’s eyes glowed. “Then you will know with whom you desire this union!” she snarled in that familiar sound of a symbiote.

 “You think for one minute I didn’t know who you are?” he retorted, the grip tightening, his eyes filled with the pernicious glow he’d unleashed in his mind. “Osiris.”

The Goa’uld seemed taken aback, staring at him, seeing more devastation and destruction in those slowly darkening eyes than he, Osiris, could feel in his mind, as the blue light that had danced in that gaze faded into terminal black the former system lord saw into the soul of this formidable human, a smile slowly crossing the host’s face.

“We shall destroy any that dare walk in our shadow,” she hissed.

Malevolence in its purest form settled steady on O’Neill’s face. “Starting with that little gift we sent back to Earth!” he agreed. 

 

*****

 

Sam walked through the corridor toward Hammond’s office; the general had unusually failed to greet them upon their return from P3R 272.  Knocking on the general’s door, she waited for the invite.

 “Come!”

“Sir,” she greeted. “I just thought you might want to know that we achieved our objective on P3R 272.”

She hadn’t noticed Major Davis sitting off to her left, acknowledging the man’s presence with a nod.

“That’s good news at least,” Davis responded.

“Er, at least?” she repeated, looking from the JCS liaison to the general.

 “Sit down, Major,” Hammond told her.  “We’re just waiting on Dr. Jackson and Teal’c before we get started.”

Carter felt a sense of unease in the room, one that her previously elated state had failed to detect.  “Daniel’s back sir?” she enquired. “No Colonel O’Neill?”

 

Hammond shook his head.  “Frankly Major, Colonel O’Neill has got a little explaining to do, when and if we ever get him back here.”

The major looked confused, a glance across to Davis simply enhanced that feeling.

Teal’c entered first, leading Daniel, who was flanked by two SFs, his hands tied with plastic cuffs.

Carter looked amazed, first toward the Jaffa then to Hammond. “What’s going on here?” she demanded.

“Hi Sam,” Daniel greeted. “I’m, er, under arrest in case you didn’t notice.”

 

“Sit down Dr. Jackson, we’ll get to you in a minute,” Hammond snapped, looking directly at Carter now. “It seems that Dr. Jackson here was the unwitting carrier of a lethal bio-toxin at Colonel O’Neill’s behest.”

 “What?” Sam exclaimed. “No, that can’t be right.”

Daniel looked ruefully at her. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell them,” he pointed out. “Jack didn’t knowingly send that thing here, and I certainly wouldn’t have brought it back if I’d known.”

 “The point is Dr. Jackson, you did bring it back and Colonel O’Neill directed you to do it, and unless you level with us, both of you,” Hammond ordered, the second party being Major Davis. “I’m afraid I’ll have no alternative but to have you both isolated, and sanction the immediate termination of one Colonel O’Neill.”

 “Wait a minute?” Sam insisted, trying to take in the enormity of that statement. “What box?”

 “Er, Jack found this planet where we think the NID have been trying to procure alien technology,” Daniel told her. “Anyway, this goddess, ruler, whatever she is, told Jack that the technology was in that box.  And of course rather than wait for someone that knows the nature of alien technology, the NID seized it, and opened the damn thing in their lab!”

 “Casualties?” Carter enquired, her eyes widened with shock.

 “367 dead, a further 700 under critical care,” Hammond informed her.

Carter looked stricken. “In bio-hazard conditions? How is that possible?” she sounded completely shell shocked.

“Level one precautions were taken, this thing went through them. It’s some form of chemical or biological warfare agent, that was only contained when the facility was locked down and incinerated using laser technology!” Davis said.

“How did they open it?” Daniel asked. “There wasn’t even a join on the thing.”

“It’s my understanding that they used laser equipment to penetrate the outside of the box, the instant they achieved that, the scientists working in the lab were wiped out,” Davis explained.

“Sir, Colonel O’Neill wouldn’t have knowingly sent that back,” Carter protested. “There’s no way!”

“That’s what I keep telling them,” Daniel sighed, a rueful expression crossing his face. “But I’m still under arrest!”

“Then give us the coordinates to that planet Dr. Jackson and we’ll find out one way or the other,” Hammond snapped, losing patience quickly with the man.

”What so the NID can send their teams and try and eliminate Jack?” Daniel retorted, shaking his head. “No!  I can’t do that.”

“The NID sir?” Carter enquired, still trying to absorb the information.

“As of one hour ago, the President authorised the immediate extraction of Colonel O’Neill from that planet, he further stated that O’Neill was now the subject of an investigation, pending that, court martial.  Given the perceived loyalties of this command, he has placed Major General Raymond in charge of that extraction, and this entire operation until further notice.”

“Which is exactly what the NID wants, sir, we’ve got to convince…”

 

“Major, I’ve about had it with Jack O’Neill’s disregard for his standing orders and the safety of this planet, I agree with the President’s decision.  Your orders are to find a way to extract the information downloaded into his mind by these Ancients, and to find a way to isolate him from contact with both Dr. Jackson and Major Davis.  Or, in the simplest terms, they’re going down with him.”

“Which is why I’m not giving them the coordinates,” Daniel stated.

“Okay, this is nuts!” Sam remonstrated. “Sir, there’s no way that the Colonel would do something to harm the safety of this planet.”

“Your objections are noted, Major. Now, Dr. Jackson just what is it that we need to do to convince you that Colonel O’Neill’s position, which is precarious at best right now, won’t be helped by your continued silence?” Hammond questioned.

“Um, well nothing actually,” Daniel replied. “Since I trust the NID about as far as I trust the Goa’uld.”

Hammond was beginning to show his anger and increasing impatience with the archaeologist.  “I don’t think you understand just how much trouble we’re in here,” he asserted.  “If those aliens that O’Neill’s been protecting have simply been biding their time, who knows the forces they can unleash through him!”

“Daniel you have to tell them,” Sam insisted. “You’ll only make things worse by holding out.”

Hammond’s phone interrupted the conversation, the general speaking briefly to the caller.  “Raymond has sent two special operations units to this facility, they’re on their way down now,” he told them. “Dr. Jackson, do you want to spend the rest of your life in isolation?”

Daniel looked surprised that Hammond would threaten such dire action, glancing toward Carter, then to Davis, who nodded slowly.

“I give you those coordinates and what?  They don’t shoot him on sight?” he asked the general. “I mean you said it yourself, Jack’s not responsible for anything.”

“Their mission is to extract him and bring him back to Earth, hopefully he’ll have an explanation for this,” Hammond replied.  “His only defence right now, Dr. Jackson, is that very fact!”

“Hopefully?” Daniel echoed. “So what you don’t think he does?  You think Jack sent that box back here knowing exactly what’s in it?”

Hammond didn’t respond.  “Teal’c, General Raymond has requested that you and Dr. Jackson accompany any extraction operation to this planet. They hope that you’ll be able to convince him to come back without a fight,” he said, looking across at the archaeologist. “But we’ll need the coordinates first.”

 

Daniel took a deep breath, petulantly averting his gaze.  “Fine,” he agreed. “I’ll dial the coordinates into the computer.”

“Thank you Dr. Jackson,” Hammond replied. “I’m sure you’re right.  I don’t think the Colonel O’Neill we know would knowingly send back that contagion. Teal’c, you can free him. Both of you have yourselves ready to depart within the hour.  Dismissed”

Sam followed them from the general’s office. “Daniel what happened?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” the archaeologist replied, keeping pace with Teal’c, as they headed toward the locker room.

“Why did Colonel O’Neill send you back?” she persisted.

“Look!” Daniel snapped, he stopped, facing her, the anguish in his expression echoing in his voice. “Something’s not right with him, Sam, but I know he couldn’t have known what was in that box!”

“Wait a minute,” Sam reacted. “Something’s not right?  What isn’t right Daniel?”

“The Sengo’lians, that’s what isn’t right,” the archaeologist stated. “I don’t know what they’re trying to tell me, it’s just buzzing around in my head and I can’t get a handle on it.”

“What’s buzzing…

 

“I don’t know!” Jackson exclaimed, the power in his voice causing several SGC personnel nearby to turn and glance at him.  He could feel an ominous sense of danger, almost to a point where he was choking on it; there was a void he couldn’t fill with missing information, information that he desperately needed to fight his way through the confusion.

“Jack’s in trouble,” he said, a softer intonation. “That’s all I can think of right now that would make any sense of what they’re trying to tell me.”

“Nothing more specific?” she asked, the concern that furrowed his brow mirrored in her expression.

“No, nothing, it’s like they’re panicking or something, none of the messages are clear,” Daniel explained.

They both thought the exact same thing, and both knew it.  Sam would have to say it, because quite clearly Daniel wasn’t about to.

 

“Did he know Daniel?” she asked.

Jackson looked away, biting his bottom lip he nodded. “Yes, I think he did,” he confessed. “But…”

“Oh my god,” Sam gasped, the horror of that thought illustrated in her eyes. “He sent it back knowing?  Why didn’t you tell General Hammond that?”

“Because it’s not that simple, I’m guessing Sam, and if I’m guessing right, it won’t make any difference,” Daniel replied. “Not if I’m right.”

 

She understood the implications of that statement better than he did, lowering her eyes away from his apathetic gaze.  “If the other 700 or so infected people die, he’ll have been responsible for over a thousand deaths, Daniel,” she said. “How can you say it’s not that simple?”

 

“Because I don’t think it is, and yes Sam, I know exactly how many people will have died, and if we ever get him back so will he and it’ll be just another notch to that impressive record of casualties that this command already boasts!”

He turned away from her, waving her off and disappearing from sight.  Sam took a deep breath, leaning back against the wall, the ramifications crashing through her mind.  “It is that simple,” she remarked.

 

*****

Makepeace sat in the locker room, fully kitted out as Jackson entered.  “Coming with?” Daniel enquired flippantly.

“I have my orders,” Makepeace replied.

Teal’c observed them both. Jackson defiantly clinging to his loyalties and Makepeace struggling to define his own.

“If it is not the Colonel O’Neill we once knew, then it will be easier will it not?” he asked of them.

Both men looked at the Jaffa, their expressions empty.  Neither had a response, Jackson looking away first and going about the business of dressing himself for the mission.

“I don’t get it,” Makepeace said finally.  “What the hell could have happened to make him do something like that?”

“Perhaps the Sengo’lians have deceived us,” Teal’c offered. “If their intention had been all along to procure a means with which to begin the conquest of the Galaxy, then destroying Earth, and any allegiance that Colonel O’Neill possesses for it, would be a good strategy.”

Makepeace sighed heavily. “Great strategy! Oh yeah, wonderful. Wipe out Earth, he’s stuck out there and giving them the power to do whatever they like.  Brutally simplistic isn’t it?”

 

“Is that what you really believe?” Daniel questioned.  “That the Sengo’lians need Jack to wage war on the galaxy?” 

Makepeace looked the archaeologist up and down.  “Just how safe is it to have you around exactly?” he enquired; an accusatory remark intended to rile the man.

Daniel glowered at him, pushing his handgun into its holster and picking up his P-90.  “Right now?” he remarked caustically. “Not very!”  The P-90 clipped to his harness, he lifted the Zat gun and aimed it at the colonel. A single discharge sent the man crashing to the floor, without even the time to register the shock of his actions.

The weapon instantly turned on Teal’c. “Want to join him?” he asked.

“Daniel Jackson, put down your weapon,” Teal’c warned.

“I don’t think so!” Daniel replied, discharging a second blast and sending the Jaffa to his knees.  He moved around him quickly, unclipping the P-90 and bringing it down with a crushing blow to the man’s head.  Fastening his hands securely behind his back, he dragged him into the shower bay, closing the curtain, repeating the procedure on Makepeace without the need to knock him unconscious, the Jaffa being far more resilient would certainly have recovered quickly enough to raise the alarm.

Finding some tape in his locker, he applied it to prevent either from calling out.

“Time to go!” he remarked.  A glance back at the shower curtains, a wry smile crossed his features.

In the embarkation room, more than thirty heavily armed marines were grouped waiting for the go ahead from their CO, Colonel ‘Matt’ Mathews, a former Navy seal, now in charge of the USAF special operations alpha teams following the untimely demise of Colonel Cromwell, lost to the black hole on P3W 451 via that infamous outgoing wormhole that quite nearly took Earth with it.

“Where’s the Jaffa?” Mathews enquired, as Jackson entered, the wormhole was already established.

“He’s right behind me, shall we?” Daniel remarked.

From the control room, Carter watched, stood beside Hammond.

“Where is Teal’c and Colonel Makepeace?” the general asked.

“They didn’t come in with Daniel, sir,” Carter replied.

 

Hammond lifted the phone. “Security to…”

The second the request began to sound over the tannoy system, Jackson was taking off up the ramp, a grenade clutched in his hand which he tossed back as he entered the wormhole, sending the marines diving for cover.

Those that were already through were making their way down the hill with Mathews at point.  Daniel slowed down; he already knew they were walking straight into a trap.

The closest marine shook his head in dismay; he picked up the grenade lifting it over his head. “He didn’t take the frigging pin out!” he declared, looking sheepishly toward Hammond, who was himself just standing once more when the grenade had failed to explode.

“Oldest damn trick in the book!” he groaned. “Find Teal’c and Colonel Makepeace, I don’t like the look of this.”

The alarms began to sound around the SGC as the general gave his order. Carter looked at the computer terminal in front of her.  “Found them, sir, that was raised in the locker room, I’m on my way!”

Hammond stared toward the event horizon. “Stand down!” he ordered, preventing the rest of Mathews’ team from walking into what he was now sure was a trap. 

***** 

Daniel caught up to Mathews.  “Looks deserted,” he remarked to the archaeologist.

Daniel didn’t respond, the safety catch slipped off discreetly, he readied himself for the ambush.

As Mathews led his troops into the city, the Jaffa appeared from nowhere, fifty or more, their staff weapons trained on the team.

“Hold your fire!” Mathews yelled, shaking his head.

From the midst of the Jaffa, Osiris stepped forward, her eyes glowing radiantly.

“A frigging Goa’uld,” Mathews spat.   His men moved nervously around him, their weapons still clasped defensively in their hands.  “Easy,” he warned them. “Stand fast.”

Daniel moved toward the Goa’uld, his P-90 poised.  “Dr. Jackson, stand down!” Mathews yelled, fearing the archaeologist was about to start a fire-fight.

One of the marines moved forward in an attempt to prevent the civilian getting himself killed.  About to grab hold of the man, when O’Neill appeared from nowhere, his hand clasping the man around the throat, eyes blacker than a shark’s empty stare.

 

“Looking for me?” he asked, as he crushed the man’s throat in his hand, choking the life out of him.

Mathews raised his P-90 as O’Neill let the marine’s lifeless body slip from his grasp and fall in a heap to the floor.

“Bad idea,” Daniel warned, a wry smile crossing his face. “Oh, and drop your weapons!” he added.

O’Neill’s malevolent presence seemed to overwhelm, his gaze freezing the marines where they stood.

“Or don’t,” he growled, a smile of pure evil residing on his face.

 

 

The End…………Perfect Darkness follows J

© Jaclyn 2001


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