Perfect Darkness

By

Jaclyn Horrod


TITLE: Perfect Darkness
AUTHOR: Jaclyn Horrod
EMAIL: jaclyn@thefifthrace.net
CATEGORY: Action, Drama
SPOILERS: Prodigy, The Fifth Race, etc.
SEASON / SEQUEL: Season 5.  This story forms part of a larger arc – if you have not yet read Sacrifices, The Rescue, Deception's Kiss, Interactions, Inquisition, Beyond, Sedition, Province or Hide and Seek you might want to read them first.
RATING: 15 / Mature.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mature subject matter.
SUMMARY: O’Neill’s liaison with the Sengo’lians takes on a darker arc and an old foe returns to complicate things.
STATUS: Complete.  Continues in 'Malevolence'.
DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters belong to MGM, Gekko Film Corp and Double Secret Productions. This fan fiction was created solely for entertainment purposes and no money exchanged hands. No copyright or trademark infringement was intended. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Without the constant support, critique, and honesty of my beta reader, Rach, this Fanfic would never have been written. Meus amicus, my eternal gratitude.
FEEDBACK: Most definitely!



Part One

 

“Ha’dai, you must hear me!” Fre’uana asserted. “There is too much darkness, too much!”

Jack’s eyes closed slowly, a smile sweeping across his face.  “But it’s fun!” he replied. “It’s me! You were right Fre you’re so damn right.  No more morality, no more jerking around with orders. Ah don’t feel bad you did it! You gave me freedom.”  The sound of his voice was far more intense than it had been before, there was revelry to his tone, a devilment that Fre’uana could feel as well as hear.

“This can not be stopped, the path is too dark.  Hear me, we will free you!  But this is not the path, we were wrong…”

“Nope! You were right; who needs this crap when you can go do anything you want and not give a damn about the consequences.  It’s like having a whole new clean slate pal!  Know what I mean?” Jack’s eyes opened, he glanced across at Osiris.

“Ha’dai, you must not proceed as you are, we can…”

“Sweet, thanks for the advice.  But you know I think I’ll see what this whole not giving a damn thing's about, see ya!”

“Ha’dai?” Fre’uana’s voice unheard, the Sengo’lian closed his mind.

 

*****

Colonel Mathews dropped his P-90, glancing across at Lieutenant Jacobs, who was yet to relinquish his weapon.  His eyes bade him to obey his order, as far as he could see there was nothing to be gained from provoking O’Neill, whose position had been quite clearly underlined by his actions; he no longer held any respect for life, nor allegiance to his country, or command.

Skip Bower’s dead body lying at O’Neill’s feet, discarded so cruelly by the man, told him that.

“Jacobs, drop it now!” he ordered, when the man failed to obey the unspoken command.

“We’re dead if we do that, sir,” Jacobs argued, his eyes crossing to O’Neill filled with hatred and loathing.  “Aren’t we?” he demanded.

“As in dead?” O’Neill’s tone was sarcastic. He moved closer to the obstinate marine, those ebony eyes that made him look anything but human reflecting the sunlight. “Hey, I’m unarmed, shoot me,” he goaded.

“Jacobs, drop it!” Mathews snarled. “That thing on his left hand?  It’s a Goa’uld ribbon device and it’ll break every bone in your body.”

Jack O’Neill smiled. “I see someone did their homework!” he quipped, a glance around the men who now stared at him in a mixture of loathing and fear. “Won’t do you any good!”

He raised the device, ominously pointing it at Jacobs.  “So, you wanna find out how this works, or did you want to drop the damn weapon?” he enquired, almost banal in the phrasing. For a moment it appeared as if he didn’t care whether the man obeyed the command or not, the abhorrence that burned in his expression intent on murder.

Jacobs threw the gun to the ground petulantly, shaking his head in defeat.  “Now what?” he asked.

Mathews shrugged.  “Follow orders!”  There was no other option as far as he could determine, his intelligence on the former USAF colonel had been lacking, he’d gone into the operation blind, and now he and his men would have to accept the consequences.  He was angry just the same, there had been no mention of solid proof pertaining to the man’s loyalties, just that he’d been compromised and the extraction order had come from the White House.

Compromised?  That was a stretch, judging from those dense ebony eyes and the callousness with which O’Neill regarded the intrusion by he and his team, the former colonel was definitely more than that!  He was in league with the Goa’uld as Colonel Darnell had suspected all along; no one could be that close to a powerful system lord and not be turned.  He’d done his homework on these parasites, and everything the Goa’uld Ptah had told his captors from the fortified cell at Area 51 rang true.

Colonel Jack O’Neill wasn’t simply a pawn in the hands of these aliens, he commanded an army of Jaffa, and judging by his irreverence for Bower’s life had clearly shown which side of the fence he preferred.

Forced to cede his team, in an attempt to prevent further loss of life, Mathews felt betrayed by the colonel; even those that had sent him here had failed to fully apprise him of the potential dangers he faced.  Now it was simply a matter of survival, trying to keep his team alive and get back home safely, and right now that particular goal seemed a distant one, all the same he understood that game.

He stared at O’Neill whose uncompromising gaze directed toward him seemed to be citing a response, their eyes locked, it felt like he was staring into death itself; it reminded him of a sharks eye’s, inky blackness empty and terrifying.   He’d read over fifty mission reports filed, and there wasn’t a hint of this traitor that stood before him in any one of them, whatever alien intelligence had subverted the man, it was complete, of that much he was damn sure.

“What?” O’Neill asked finally.

Mathews shook his head. “What?” he replied. “You think I ought to be asking you for something O’Neill?”

“Begging might work,” Jack retorted callously, his voice filled with scorn eyebrows arching into his forehead.  He stared without blinking, a wry smile forming slowly on his features. “You might wanna give that a try?” he persisted, the expression on his face becoming supercilious.  “But then again, maybe not. I never was much good at forgiveness!” 

He turned away, leaving Mathews staring still with hatred etched into his eyes.

“You’re a disgrace!” the colonel snarled.

Jack’s eyes fell upon him once more. “That hurts!” he remarked, mocking the man.  He turned now to address the Jaffa, their staff weapons still aimed at and covering the Special Forces team.  “I think you guys can have ‘em, take them to the ship,” he ordered, another glance across at Mathews. “Enough of a disgrace for ya?” he asked, smirking at the man.

The Jaffa moved forward, immediately obeying his command, herding Mathews and his team forward into the centre of the city through the plain white buildings until finally the ship, a Goa’uld vessel, came into view.

“Daniel,” Jack remarked, intent on milking the moment to the fullest extent as he followed the group slowly toward an uncertain fate. “I think the Colonel here’s a little disappointed.”

The mockery in his tone so chilling, the fact that it was calculated to rile the Special Forces team was lost.

The archaeologist, a constant at O’Neill’s side, nodded, his gaze directed toward Mathews. “I guess he thought you’d be a little more forgiving,” he remarked.  “After all, it’s not every day that you get to be the subject of an NID hit!”

O’Neill paused. “Really?  I thought that was every day.  You know, I’m really thinking we need to pay old Kinsey a visit!”

Jackson shrugged. “If you think so, but I never did like him very much!”

O’Neill’s eyes lit up. “Exactly!” he retorted, watching now as the men were paraded before Osiris, a nod toward the Goa’uld.

She stood close to the Goa’uld ship as it uncloaked, activating the entrance to the vessel.  “You have done well,” she acknowledged.

O’Neill’s gaze fell upon her immediately, that same distinct abhorrence that he had favoured the team from Earth held fast on his features.

“Hey! Snakehead!” he spat, moving toward her scorn poured into the words.  “Just because I’m loaning you some extra troops don’t get the idea we’re allies!”

Osiris stepped forward, her eyes glowing more ominously. “You dare to challenge me?” she snarled. “I am a god!”

The smile that resonated on O’Neill’s face was almost akin to that wicked first bite of a great white shark.  “Challenge?” he repeated. “You’re no challenge.  Do yourself a favour and take the gift, then hope I don’t get bored and come looking for you!”  He stood close to her, his eyes fixed on hers. “And, shouldn’t that be goddess now?” he remarked.

The Goa’uld seemed incensed by his attitude; she’d seen the malevolence in his eyes, but didn’t consider that power encompassing enough to match her own.

“You believe you possess enough strength to defeat the Goa’uld?” she snapped, her eyes glowing nefariously. “We are both more powerful, and far greater in number!”

Jack nodded slowly. “Care to find out?” he asked, a red hue glowing in those dark black pools that resonated ominously. The smirk that rested on his features became nonchalant now as he turned away from her, allowing the Goa’uld to believe such an act would make him vulnerable.

As she raised her hand, the colonel spun around, the iniquity in his eyes forcing her to reconsider the act.  “You really don’t want to find out!” he warned, his hand gesturing toward a Jaffa. “Neither does he!”

The Staff weapon that the former serpent guard directed toward the colonel was lowered almost immediately.  “Now get out of my sight before I change my mind and kill you, just for the hell of it!”

Daniel Jackson smiled triumphantly at the Goa’uld. Like O’Neill he harboured nothing but abhorrence for this creature, even the fact that the host was a former girlfriend didn’t appear to soften his attitude.  “I, er, think he means it!” he remarked, his voice containing the same dismissive tone as his friend’s.

He stood to the left of O’Neill now, holding Mathews P-90. He turned his attention to the marine, staring into the man’s impassive features, unable to control the anger he felt from the knowledge that the team had been sent to assassinate O’Neill, attempting to murder one of his family, the hatred welled up in his thoughts again.  His allegiance to Jack, forged in the link from the Sengo’lians, was now completely unwavering and that anger was becoming vengeful.

Even if something inside told him he was acting without consideration or thought, spurning everything he believed in, the compunction to harm Mathews and his team was undeniable.

“At least I know why he kills without impunity,” Daniel said, his tone measured to administer the right amount of scorn. “You’re just following orders, ill conceived as they maybe!”

Mathews shook his head slowly. “He’s been a threat since he joined, got Frank killed, and now I guess we can add another 1000, plus Bowers to his list, huh?” he spat. “But then it really isn’t your fault is it Dr. Jackson, you’re simply one of the lambs, there for the slaughter.”

Daniel lashed out with the butt of the weapon, sending Mathews painfully to his knees. “Lambs do that?” he questioned, staring down at the man, his eyes filled with hatred. “Before you answer that, I’d think very carefully.  He really doesn’t care what I do, and oh, just so we’re clear, neither do I!”

“Sir?” Major Kilburn called urgently, a trained psychologist, assigned to the outfit only several weeks earlier. “I really would provoke him, he isn’t likely to be the pacifist you know from the files.”

“Pacifist?” Daniel retorted, laughing in the man’s face. “You think I’m a pacifist?”

“I think you’re under the influence of a far darker force, Dr. Jackson, judging from what I’m seeing here, something neither of you are capable of controlling.” Kilburn said.

“Oh yes,” Daniel’s eyes rolled, a smile permeating his features. “Yes, that would explain it nicely for you wouldn’t it?  Have that alien influence escape route.”

Kilburn knew better than to argue his corner, O’Neill’s eyes, completely black, and ominously empty, pointed toward some darker forces at work.

Osiris was intrigued, she moved toward the major, grasping his face in her left hand.  “And what of you, Tau’ri?” she asked. “What is it that might cause you to turn to your true nature?”

“You assume I have one, a darker side,” Kilburn responded nervously, relieved as she freed him.

“Shall we find out?” Osiris probed, a smirk crossing those incredibly beautiful features.  “Shall we explore you, perhaps you possess the intelligence to become the one I have searched for?”

“Searched for?” Kilburn enquired.

“All gods require a confidante, someone whom they can trust, you seem to possess such intelligence, so it shall be you!” she told him.

“O’NEILL! Goddammit!”  Mathews exclaimed loudly.

Jack O’Neill had already begun to walk away, leaving them to the mercy of the Goa’uld, heading back toward the Stargate, Jackson following at a leisurely pace.  He turned, glancing at Mathews.  “What?” he asked.

“Is this it?  You’re leaving us to the Goa’uld?” he called.

“Ya think!” Jack yelled, a smile crossing his face.  He turned once more and continued away from the city.

“I don’t think he’s liking you too much!” Daniel pointed out as the two men began to ascend toward the Stargate.

“Nope! You may be right about that Danny.”

“Where to?” Daniel enquired, as O’Neill began entering the Glyphs, a smile crossed the archaeologist’s face. “Oh, Earth!” he said.

“Seems like a good place to start doesn’t it?” Jack told him. “There’s a couple of NID folks I’d like to thank, not to mention a certain Goa’uld!”

“Jack, your eyes?” Daniel pointed out. “They’re, um, black?”

“They are?  I figure Dr. Fraiser can work on that problem, that P-90 got the safety off?” he asked, nodding toward the weapon.

Jackson checked, flipping the safety over. “Safety’s off, why?”

“Shoot me in the shoulder, would you?” Jack told him. “Need to make this look convincing.”

Jackson looked a little disturbed, shaking his head slowly. “Is this really necessary?” he asked.

O’Neill stared at him incredulously. “Would I ask you to shoot me otherwise?” he enquired.

The archaeologist considered it for a second, then nodded. He set the rapid fire to single shot, moved back a couple of steps, and squeezed the trigger.

O’Neill flinched as the bullet struck the bone. “Daniel, for crying out loud!  Anyone would think you’d never fired one of those things!” he snapped. “You couldn’t aim lower?”

“Sorry, it, er, kicked up!” Daniel replied sheepishly.

O’Neill glared at him, that gaze more imposing and sinister with such empty black eyes.  “Yeah, right!” he snarled.

Daniel stepped back, watching the colonel enter the last symbol and activate the DHD, sizing up the man.  There was nothing of the old O’Neill, nothing he recognised and even if, somewhere deep down inside the alarm bells were sounding, he didn’t have the will, nor the strength to action the fear; whatever dark powers were at work held him as surely in their grasp as they did his friend.

“Remember,” Jack hissed, a glance toward the archaeologist before he slipped through the wormhole. “We’re victims, NID plots, shoot to kill. Count on Hammond grilling you for the first few hours, we get through that, we can pretty much do what we like!”

Daniel acknowledged his words with a single nod of his head; he understood even if those bells were still ringing loudly in his subconscious, his conscious mind simply ignored them, linked inextricably to this malevolent force, his will to think or calculate beyond that had been completely subjugated.

 

*****

“Unauthorised off world activation!”   It was becoming a familiar call to arms; the SFs thundered down the corridors toward the embarkation room, their weapons aimed toward the wormhole.

“Iris won’t close, ma’am.” Lieutenant Simmons told Carter as she joined him, collapsing quickly into the seat beside him and trying to override whatever might be preventing the computer’s access to the iris.

“Dammit!” she snapped. “This is happening a little too often.”

Simmons looked across toward her, it was probably the first time he’d ever heard the major cuss so loudly.  His attention once more turned toward the event horizon, as the injured colonel and his companion, obviously Dr. Jackson who seemed to be supporting the man, appeared.

“Medical team to the embarkation room,” Carter called through the tannoy, leaving her position immediately and heading toward her injured colleague.

“Colonel?” Her voice contained all the alarm and concern Jack O’Neill knew it would.

“Major,” he gasped, slipping from Jackson’s grasp and collapsing in a heap at his feet. “Ah, god!” he exclaimed, clasping his hand over the injury to his left shoulder.

“Sir, what happened?” she asked, kneeling beside him and trying to see the wound.

“They tried to kill him!” Daniel told her, his voice shaking with the right amount of shock. H wiped his hand down the front of his combats, leaving a trail of the colonel’s blood in its wake.

“What?” Carter exclaimed. “Sir?”

“Oh, Carter, just… I’ll be fine,” Jack groaned through gritted teeth.

Their eyes met, and the major clearly looked horrified. “Sir, your… what happened to your eyes?” she gasped.

Jack looked completely surprised, searching her face with the right amount of wonderment. “What?” he asked.

“Never mind, sir, where the hell’s the medical team?” she snapped.

Janet, her team behind her entered the embarkation room. “Bring a gurney!” she snapped quickly to one of the orderlies. “Okay Colonel, easy.”

Hammond, flanked by Davis now, joined the malaise of activity surrounding O’Neill, as he sat, wincing in pain; pain he faked more effectively than any of them could know.

“Colonel O’Neill, what the hell happened here?” he demanded.

For a second Jack was filled with hatred, wanting to tear the place apart and have done with it.  But that, considering the forces that surrounded him, might prove too great a task.

“We were ambushed, sir, Daniel managed to warn me, I’d just managed… ah god!” he cried out in pain.

“Sir,” Fraiser told Hammond. “You can question him later, right now we need to operate to remove this bullet. Dr. Jackson, are you injured?”

“No, I’m fine, if it hadn’t been for Jack taking that bullet,” Daniel told her, but now addressing Hammond. “I’d have been dead for sure.”

“Dr. Jackson, what happened?” Hammond asked, a little less assertively. The man appeared to be in shock to him, his eyes wide, face pale and hands shaking as he handed over the weapon to one of the waiting SFs.  “Where is Colonel Mathews and his team?”

“Dead, sir,” O’Neill’s voice, weak filled with pain.

Hammond’s eyes narrowed, surprise permeated his features. “What?  How?” he asked.

“Sir, I must get the Colonel to the OR.” It wasn’t so much a request, as a demand; the general instantly nodded his accession.

“Dr. Jackson, my office!” he snapped.

Carter followed the gurney to the OR, standing outside for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Teal’c arrived at her shoulder. “Major Carter, is Colonel O’Neill injured?”

“Hey Teal’c,” she acknowledged. “He’ll be fine, we need to speak to General Hammond.  Something isn’t right here, don’t ask me what, but he’s… come on.”  She moved away quickly. The Jaffa, his right eyebrow slowly ascending up his forehead, followed behind.

Davis sat beside the archaeologist as he took his seat in Hammond’s office.

“Don’t ask me how I knew,” Daniel began, taking a deep breath. “But it was almost as if somehow the information the Sengo’lians filtered through their various contacts throughout the galaxy… anyway, according to that information, the NID had placed some people in the extraction team to assassinate Jack, if he hadn’t reacted as quickly as he did, sir, I’d be dead and so would he!”

“Dr. Jackson, are you telling me Colonel O’Neill took down an entire Special Forces team?” Hammond asked, incredulity masking his features.

“He didn’t have a choice!” Daniel replied. “They didn’t give him a choice… the minute Jack said he’d take them back for… they opened fire, killed some of the natives who were trying to protect us… it was … I can’t do this,” the archaeologist asserted, his head dropped into his hand for affect.

Davis looked across at Hammond.  “Sir, I had exactly the same feeling,” he confirmed. “The Sengo’lians must have…”

“No choice?” Hammond enquired, waiting for Jackson to respond.  The man simply shook his head, still cradled in his hands.

“No choice,” he said at length.

Hammond was clearly shaken; he couldn’t decide what to do next. He looked at Davis. “Maybe we should send a team through to recover the bodies?” he suggested.

“I don’t know General, shouldn’t we wait?” Davis replied, a nervous glance toward Jackson. “Speak to Colonel O’Neill?”

Daniel looked up, his eyes filling with tears. “There are no bodies, sir,” he explained, a grimace sweeping his features, wincing as he spoke. “Jack used the ribbon device and it, I don’t know what happened exactly, but they just disintegrated.”

“Disintegrated?” the general echoed.  “Major, take Dr. Jackson to the infirmary and have him checked out.  I’ll speak to O’Neill once he’s out of surgery, I don’t like the sound of this.”

“Yes sir,” Davis confirmed.

Daniel looked at the JCS liaison as soon as the two men were away from the office, a smile crossing his features.

“Nicely done!” he said.

“Thank you, what’s the plan?” Davis asked immediately.

“Well, I figure it won’t take Jack too long to convince them he’s willing to undergo whatever they want, once we’ve achieved that, we’re out of here!”

Daniel responded.  “We’re going to need names, addresses, everything you can get on the NID people you’ve managed to locate!”

“The files in my briefcase, I got right on it as soon as the colonel asked,” Davis confirmed.

“We need the override codes to get out of here, just in case,” Daniel advised. “If they don’t buy the act, we need a back up!”

Davis nodded. “I can do that,” he agreed.

 

*****

Carter stepped inside Hammond’s office, closing the door behind her and Teal’c.

“Sir, I’d like to take a team back to that planet and check out Colonel O’Neill’s story,” she said immediately.

“According to Dr. Jackson there is no remaining evidence,” Hammond responded. “I’ve just gotten off the telephone with General Vidrine, and he’s of the same opinion, given the nature of what we’ve seen so far, I think the Colonel has a lot of explaining to do.  To that end, I’m inclined to authorise a mission to that planet to discover exactly what happened.”

“Yes sir,” Carter acknowledged. “I think maybe the Colonel is under the influence of some pretty powerful forces.  Judging by what Cadet Hailey’s discovered already, the Ancients repository had a vast amount of information on these Sengo’lians!”

Hammond looked intrigued. “Anything we can use?” he asked.

Carter smiled. “Funny you should say that, sir!” she replied. “I think there might just be one way of stopping it, but it involves force fields and things we’re not really technologically advanced enough to do… maybe the Tok’ra?”

“Good idea, Major,” Hammond agreed. “Keep on it!  I’ll send a message through to Jacob!”

 

*****

Senator Kinsey poured himself a whisky, handing a second glass to Colonel Darnell who sat in his study.  “You said it would work Colonel, and frankly I’m a little disappointed in you!” he remarked.

“It appears that the power he possesses has gone beyond us, Senator, but I have a few ideas on how we might use that to our own ends!” Darnell replied, accepting the whisky and sipping it almost immediately.  It was a single malt, expensive and soothing.  “I think we can pretty much eliminate any threat from O’Neill!”

“I want that disk back!” Kinsey hissed, his eyes narrowing. “Soon!”

“Trust me Senator, you’ll get the disk back, and if I’m given the authority to go after O’Neill myself, a whole lot more!” the man responded.

Kinsey nodded. “I’ll see what I can do!” he replied, a smile crossing his craggy features. “Just don’t let me down again, or it won’t be O’Neill’s family holding a wake!”

 

*****

Dr. Fraiser checked O’Neill’s vital signs, recording them on the chart as she moved slowly around his bed.  The bullet had chipped away fragments of bone, which had to be retrieved, complicating the operation and taking a little longer than she’d anticipated.

“Colonel?” she whispered, seeing the man’s eyelids move.  There was no response.

“There are those that would harm him!”  Janet spun around, aside from O’Neill, who was clearly unconscious, she was alone in the observation room.  She shook her head, chastising herself quietly.  “I need to get more rest,” she said aloud.

“You must protect him, he will be killed…”

“Who’s there?” she demanded, looking slightly on edge now, her eyes darting around the room.  “Colonel?” she asked again, realising that the man had the power of telepathy.  “Is someone trying to hurt you?”

“Hear us, we shall protect you, but we can only do this if he is safe.  There are forces within that would harm him, she wants him, you must prevent this, you must save him from her!”

“What?” Janet’s eyes continually searched the room.  “Are… you’re the Sengo’lians?”

“We are here … you must listen.”

Janet nodded.  She felt an overwhelming sense of duty pervade her thoughts; no one could be trusted, only Daniel, although she wasn’t quite sure of how she knew that… he would be the one to confide in. The feeling that Carter was in league with them, whoever they were, was almost too confusing to comprehend, yet she couldn’t get the sense that she was the only one who could prevent his demise.  They meant to kill him, she was sure of it what they couldn’t possess they wanted to destroy.

 

*****

Davis sat at the computer in Daniel’s lab; the two men had successfully hacked their way into the mainframe.

“Okay, why are we doing this exactly?” the major asked.

“We have to buy some time, the NID is closing in and we have to be sure Jack gets off this base before they get here, added to the fact we don’t want them visiting that planet!” Daniel replied.

Davis nodded.  “So which systems are we looking to take out?”

The archaeologist considered the question. “Um, the dialling computer for starters, and any security systems would be helpful,” he suggested, checking his watch. “We don’t have that much time.”

“Communications?” Davis enquired.

“Would be good!” Daniel agreed. He leant over Davis’ shoulder watching the man work. “You realise that if we don’t do this soon we’re going to have a problem?”

“Problem?” The major looked surprised. “What kind of a problem?”

“Well if Jack wakes up here, I don’t think he’ll submit to the NID cross-examination about that planet, he’s a little short on patience right now,” Jackson told him, raising both eyebrows simultaneously. “Which isn’t exactly a new thing, but, er, well I don’t think they’ll take too kindly to him in his current state of mind!”

“Did he kill that team?” Davis asked.

“No, he, er, gave them to a Goa’uld actually, which is kind of fitting don’t you think?” Daniel remarked.

The major looked up at him incredulously. “Why?”

“I didn’t ask, and he didn’t say.  Can we hurry up?” Jackson asserted.

“Going as fast as I can.”

“Just remember, they’re going to suspect you so you’re going to have to be as convincing as possible,” Daniel warned.

“I know, after that last incident I think they pretty much consider me as an outsider when it comes to discussing the Colonel,” Davis replied. “Okay, that’s it, ought to kick in sometime in the next couple of hours, or the minute they attempt to dial out!”

The phone beside him began to ring; the archaeologist swept it up quickly. “Daniel Jackson,” he said, nodding thoughtfully as he listened. “I understand, I’ll meet you on level 11.”

*****

Hammond replaced the phone, looking across at Colonel Makepeace.  “Seems the NID have clearance to take Colonel O’Neill once Dr. Fraiser gives him the all clear,” he said.

Makepeace half smiled. “Why am I not surprised?” he remarked. “Seems to me that half our problems start and end with that bunch sir!”

“Be that as it may, Colonel, I’m authorising a return to that planet.  You’ll have the lead on this one, so heads up!” Hammond advised. “Colonel O’Neill has got a lot of explaining to do.  Although I have a feeling that might just be a waste of time if these aliens are controlling his mind!”

“I’ll get my gear!” Makepeace said, standing, a pointed glance at Hammond as he left.

 

*****

Colonel Darnell waited for the Goa’uld to be brought to him, pacing the holding room nervously.  The reports had been unspecific, perhaps the Goa’uld would know what they were dealing with and offer them a way to capture and hold O’Neill without risking too much!

Colonel Stuart was led in, bound with high tensile steal chains wrapped around both his ankles and wrists, having already attempted escape, and killing two NID men in the process, it had been all Darnell could do to keep him alive. Kinsey’s intervention had helped, but the biochemical division were pushing hard to dissect the creature, but that would mean killing the host, something thus far that had kept them at bay!

“Sit down!” Darnell ordered, nodding at the two men who escorted the creature to leave.

“Why am I still treated as an enemy?” Ptah demanded, his voice low and menacing.  “Have I not already assisted you with the devices captured?”

“Small matter of that attempted escape!” Darnell pointed out. “You’re not here to talk, you’re here to listen and then tell me exactly what I want to know, maybe then I might consider having those bonds removed.”

Ptah nodded slowly, his eyes manifesting the kind of supercilious regard that Darnell had come to expect.

“What is it you wish to know?” the Goa’uld asked.

“You know O’Neill has aligned with certain forces?  The Sengo’lians?”

Darnell asked him, looking dubiously across at the observation room, where he knew his superiors watched.

“I am aware of his power, aware that these creatures are able to control that which is around them!” Ptah responded. “Surely you do not think me capable of possessing an answer?  Of knowing how to defeat them?”

Darnell glanced once more across the room, however seasoned a player he was to this arena, he couldn’t help but show the disappointment clearly on his face.

“So, remind me why we’re keeping you alive again?” he questioned factiously.

Ptah’s smile was immediate.  “Because, Tau’ri, I am so much wiser than you could ever hope to be, more powerful than any of your weapons!”

Darnell stood up.  “Powerful or not, you don’t seem to be any match for Colonel O’Neill!” he snarled. “Who is far more powerful than any Goa’uld, and slowly destroying the system lords one by one!”

“Then release me, and I shall find the one who possesses more power than any! The one who has thus far not shown themselves,” Ptah growled.

“Excuse me?” Darnell’s voice had almost become a whisper, his eyes narrowed.

“There is one, far more powerful than Ra!  But this is all I will say until you agree to release me!” Ptah replied, sitting back in the chair, a smug and victorious look on his face.

Darnell stood up.  “I’ll let you know!”

As he walked from the holding room, the chains rattling around his ankles, Ptah looked back at Darnell over his shoulder.  “This is not negotiable Tau’ri!” he remarked, his voice almost mocking.

Darnell turned and looked at the mirror behind which his superiors stood.  “Interesting!” he remarked.

 

*****

Cadet Jennifer Hailey sat opposite Carter in her lab, the monitor between them, both read the dialect on the screen.  “See, from what I’ve gathered here they’re not exactly bad, so much as curious,” Hailey explained. “Using the dialect that Dr. Jackson already put into the computer, it seems these Ancients exposed themselves to the Sengo’lian consciousness to learn about it.  They weren’t telepathic so it intrigued them.”  She scrolled down the page. “Now, apparently the Sengo’lians ability to control everything around them, augmented by the powerful minds of the Ancients, made those that were infected completely uncontrollable, they became corrupted with the power and basically reacted like… some wacko Gadaffi, or Hitler!”

“Whoa, that’s not good!” Carter responded. “So it is the Sengo’lians that are controlling the process?”

“Not entirely,” Hailey stated, she scrolled down further, and pointed at the screen to underline the position she read from. “Here they allude to the ‘curiosity’. It says that the Sengo’lians were investigating the minds of the volunteers and became intrigued by their thoughts, some of them harboured jealousy, others wanted to be more important, and so they basically allowed them to be their true nature.  If that’s what happened to Colonel O’Neill, then although the Sengo’lians are responsible, it’s what he wants, not what they want.”

Carter exhaled long and hard. “Wow! We can’t use this to stop him can we?” she commented. “And if it is dark side O’Neill we might have a few problems!

Not least of which is that the Colonel is culpable for everything he does.”

Hailey considered it. “I could bury this?” she suggested, shrugging her shoulders. “I mean it can read like that, but it really isn’t the Colonel’s fault if the Sengo’lians kind of drove him there right?”

“Right!” Sam agreed. “Keep looking, maybe you’ll find out how the Ancients dealt with it.”

“Sure!” Hailey replied, a self-satisfied smile crossing her features.  She was beginning to truly feel like a part of the team. “Or I could try to engineer something like that force shield?”

Carter shook her head. “If the frequency isn’t right, he’ll just extrapolate its power and…”

“You’re right, that could get messy,” Hailey responded. “I’ll keep working on this, see if I can find the instructions!”

 

*****

Daniel checked his watch; he had stationed himself on level 11 after Dr. Fraiser had alerted him to the impending arrival of the NID.  She’d initially thought she could take O’Neill from the base with the recommendation that he required hospital care, but on hearing from Hammond she had panicked.

The voices in her mind had also become more insistent and persuasive, every second she delayed his departure from the base, put O’Neill’s life in more peril.

For Daniel, that particular piece of news had been fortuitous, having already set plan B in motion, leaving Davis to run the necessary interference with Hammond. It also ensured that they would be kept appraised of the SGC’s efforts to track them. Whilst he wasn’t completely in the loop as to Jack’s plans, he had a pretty good idea; asking Davis for the information on the NID people they had on record wasn’t exactly so he could send them Christmas greetings!  Of that he was damn sure.

He stepped forward as the elevator doors opened, assisting Dr. Fraiser as she emerged with the still unconscious, but clothed colonel on a gurney.

“We have to get out now,” she told him, her tone lowered so as not to alert the guard. “General Hammond can’t prevent the NID from taking the Colonel into custody, and to be honest, I don’t think he would if he could.”

Dr. Fraiser was not usually so easily panicked, the calm collected approach she generally displayed had given way to an almost frantic state.  The voices told her that everyone was out to destroy O’Neill, or control him for the knowledge and power he possessed. As his doctor, she felt it was her responsibility to keep him from harm, and those voices simply fed on that natural proclivity to protect.

“We have to hurry, I don’t know how long it will be before they suspect something’s wrong,” Fraiser said softly. “His vitals are strong, but we need to get him somewhere to rest fast.”

“Look Janet, I know what’s going on, I’m just glad someone else does too!” Daniel told her, adding fuel to an inferno. “I’m really grateful that the Sengo’lians filled you in.”  His eyes filled with concern as he added, “I didn’t believe him at first, I mean why would anyone here at the SGC want to do that to Jack?  But Hammond did send that extraction team with orders to kill him.” His hand reached out and touched her shoulder, an imploring expression crossing his boyish features. “Can I count on you? He’s really going to need looking after, and I’m hardly qualified.”

“Of course you can,” she replied, signing out on behalf of herself and her patient.  “I’m not about to leave him.”

Fraiser’s conviction was impressive; her agitated and protective state indicated that she had been completely taken in by the illusion of this perceived threat to O’Neill’s life, something Jackson found gratifying since the deception was beginning to take on a grand scale, just as Jack wanted. The NID were a priority, he didn’t understand exactly why O’Neill would choose to return to Earth simply to destroy them, but then he wasn’t really thinking clearly at all.

O’Neill’s influence, nefarious in its intent was far too engaging to allow Jackson a moment’s respite.

With the SGC thrown into complete chaos, the colonel could action his plan.

Undermining the core of the intelligence service that had plagued them in the past wasn’t a factor, Daniel had clarified that in his mind; O’Neill held grudges, grudges he was now free to pursue, and the hatred he favoured the NID, and the backers, politicians probably, of that particular organisation with had given him his first target, and in his current state of subjugation, Daniel was quite happy to help O’Neill destroy anyone and anything that stood in his way. 

“I’m with you all the way.  We’ll get him somewhere safe then we can figure out what to do,” Fraiser told him, as they moved quickly into the car park area.

“I know Jack will appreciate that,” Daniel told her, that ‘butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth’ expression crossing the archaeologist’s features.

“No thanks necessary, Dr. Jackson, it’s my job!” Fraiser responded.

 

*****

 

Hammond looked at the dialling computer, and then back to Staff Sergeant Davis, a frown was crossing his features slowly.

“Sergeant?” he enquired.

“It’s dead, sir, nothing is responding,” Davis told him, continuing to enter codes into the computer, ‘error’ and ‘access denied’ flashing on the screen until finally ‘program not found’.  Davis looked completely bewildered.

Hammond turned his attention to the embarkation room, down to where Carter, Makepeace and Teal’c stood waiting. He shook his head.

“Major you’d better come and see if you can work this out,” he ordered. “In the meantime the mission is on hold.”

Carter nodded, looking at Teal’c and shrugging her shoulders. “Now what?” she remarked.

“I will check on Colonel O’Neill,” Teal’c advised, as the pair, leaving a disgruntled Makepeace behind, exited the embarkation room.

 

*****

Daniel helped Fraiser lift O’Neill from the gurney once they were clear of the guards, placing him in his own Jeep.  “You need to lose some weight!” he remarked, barely able to move him across to allow Fraiser to take the seat by the door.

‘Or you need to work out more!’ The thought, one placed in his subconscious mind, transferred immediately.  Jackson rolled his eyes. ‘Just no avoiding those old sarcastic remarks is there?’

‘Not when you make it so easy there’s not.’

“How far do you think we’ll get before they find us?” Fraiser enquired, nervously looking around, half expecting to see SFs pointing their weapons at the three of them.

“I have no idea, but we can’t go to anywhere they’d look, so our own homes are out!” Daniel replied, getting behind the wheel and starting the engine.

“Where then?” Fraiser asked. “They’ll track us down to any hotel we book into, I don’t have that much cash, credit cards leave a trail.”

“I can get cash,” Jackson told her. “I just don’t know where we’re going to use it!”

O’Neill’s eyes opened with a start. “Whoa!” he exclaimed, attempting to sit up straight and clasping at his shoulder.  “That hurts, and… where the hell?”

“It’s alright Colonel,” Fraiser told him. “We’re getting you out of here.”

“What? Where?  Um, why? Even,” Jack asked, feigning innocence perfectly.

“Well apparently we might have been a little too quick to think that we’ve got allies here Jack,” Daniel responded. “The Sengo’lians warned Janet that you were in danger.”

“From whom?” Jack enquired, looking deliberately perplexed.

“They indicated a she, sir,” Fraiser told him. “I took that to mean Sam.”

O’Neill’s eyes, back to their normal state, rolled cynically. “Carter?” he completely sounded aghast. “Oh come on, Carter?  She’s the last person that would… Doc, I’m not in…”

“They were very explicit sir,” Fraiser asserted, her voice edgy. “And I can understand why. Seems to me that a few people have lost faith in you, and that’s hardly your fault.  I mean, they send you out there and as long as they get what they want, they don’t care if you live or die!”

Daniel looked at Jack, rolling his eyes. ‘Hook, line…’

‘And sinker!’ O’Neill completed the thought. ‘Where are we going?’

‘I’m not sure actually, any ideas?’

“You know,” Jack said aloud. “We’re probably not going to get across this last security check point.”  

The men approached them, weapons raised.  “Stop!” the lieutenant declared.

Jackson did so. “Is there a problem?” he asked.

“Sorry Colonel O’Neill, didn’t see you there, sir,” the man apologised, saluting. “You’re not scheduled to leave the base, in fact…”

O’Neill shook his head slowly; the effects of the anaesthesia were still fairly strong.  He took a deep breath, his focus on the security gate, its mechanisms could be far more easily overridden than an agitated human mind, and the fact that the second guard, who was now about to call through his status, was unlikely to open the gate based on his colleagues say so!

He could feel the energy beginning to rise inside his mind, the headache that came with it already pounding on his temples.  Daniel watched apprehensively, concentrating his thoughts without realising it, doubling the power that O’Neill unleashed on the electronics that controlled the checkpoint.

O’Neill slumped back as the pain welled around his mind, completely exhausted both from the surgery and the sustained effort of attempting to free them from the compound, blood beginning to run from his nose as the strain on his mind, on his entire body, resonated through him with so much pressure it burst blood vessels around his eyes.

“Sir?” Fraiser’s voice filled with alarm.

“Don’t touch him!” Daniel warned.

The mechanisms holding the gate shut began to fuse, smoke began billowing from them.  The guard looked around, hearing the sounds of metal groaning as the colonel’s focus became intensified.  His eyes widened in disbelief as the gate was torn from its hinges, he turned, going for the weapon that was hanging from his shoulder.  O’Neill’s gaze shifted, sending the man crashing back. Immediately his eyes were on the second guard now making his way hurriedly toward them, his gun raised.  O’Neill sucked air in fast, fighting the pain, and used it to slam the guard back against a concrete post.

“Daniel, drive!” Jack gasped, his breathing laboured, spitting blood unintentionally over the windscreen.  Fists now clenched and slammed hard against his thighs. “Drive dammit!” he yelled.

Jackson, seeming to collect his senses, thrust the vehicle into gear and put his foot down hard on the pedal.

Janet’s eyes were filled with surprise, confusion at what she’d seen; she turned to O’Neill, blood now coursing down the man’s face and dripping onto his fatigues.

“He’ll be fine,” Daniel told her. “Just don’t touch him!”

“But…”

“Do as he says dammit!” Jack snarled, turning to face the doctor, the whites of his eyes filled with blood, making him look slightly crazed.

Fraiser gasped in surprise, nodding slowly. “Okay, I’m not touching him!” she agreed.

The Jeep crashed over the buckled gate, careering off down the road before the SFs patrolling the fence line could get off a shot.

 

*****

Teal’c checked the three different observation and recovery rooms close to the infirmary.  Finding them all empty, he approached a medical technician.

“Where is Colonel O’Neill?” he enquired.

“Dr. Fraiser took him for X-rays on that shoulder injury, she wanted to be sure she’d cleaned away all the bone fragments,” the woman replied.

“Why did she not use the portable machine?” Teal’c asked, regarding the technician suspiciously.

“Portable? I don’t know, I, er…”

“Thank you,” Teal’c snapped, turning instantly and hitting the alarm.  He lifted the phone on the wall. “General Hammond, I believe that O’Neill may have facilitated escape from this base.”

 

*****

Carter shook her head. “Whatever they did, sir, it’s a damn fine job!” she said.

“What they did, Major?” Hammond enquired

Carter looked up at the man. “These files have been systematically corrupted and deleted, it’s a specific virus, sir, it’s taken down almost everything but the surveillance cameras.  And obviously,” she added, alluding to Teal’c’ ability to raise the alarm. “The klaxons.”

She turned back to the monitor, studying the video tape, watching a very nervous looking Fraiser taking O’Neill to the elevator, switching the surveillance modes to show the rendezvous with Jackson on level 11.

She sighed heavily. “Looks like he got to Dr. Fraiser sir,” she said.

“Does Colonel O’Neill believe there is some kind of conspiracy concerning his safety General Hammond?” Teal’c enquired.

“We’ve given him no reason to suspect that Teal’c,” Hammond replied. “But I’m starting to suspect something, it can’t be coincidence that our dialling computer went down around the same time as O’Neill and Jackson made off from this base.”  He looked warily at the monitor above him. “Not to mention the damage getting out of the gate, both men have severe concussion, one of them has broken ribs.”

“A very clever distraction sir,” Carter surmised. She felt a slight sense of trepidation, O’Neill had fooled them before, pretending the knowledge of the Ancients had been lost, concealing the ability to link to Jackson’s mind, and having the ability to completely destroy sophisticated surveillance systems.  She was beginning to wonder exactly how friendly the Sengo’lians were, since it had been, according to Jackson, their insistence that O’Neill denied their continued presence in his mind.

He’d obviously been under their control from the beginning, and everything he’d done, and said had been at their behest.  That, if nothing else might explain Hathor!  “I guess he fooled us sir,” she added.

“You’re damn right he did, and I’d like to know why? Find Major Davis!” Hammond ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Carter responded, leaving the general and Teal’c watching Jackson and Fraiser assist O’Neill into the jeep.

“O’Neill still appears unconscious,” Teal’c observed. “How then could he have achieved this?”

Hammond shook his head, exhaling loudly. “I don’t know Teal’c, but I damn sure intend to find out.”

“Could it not be possible that O’Neill is not acting on his own?  That these aliens have been controlling him all along?” the Jaffa asserted.

“It’s certainly looking that way!” Hammond said. He addressed the surveillance operative. “Sergeant, I want Colonel O’Neill found. Inform the local authorities.  I advise extreme caution in his handling.”

“Yes sir,” the sergeant replied, immediately lifting the phone. “What reason shall I give, sir?”

Hammond looked slightly perplexed. “Tell them he’s AWOL and under medical care… they don’t need to know anymore.”

“General Hammond, do you believe that Colonel O’Neill is dangerous?” Teal’c asked, concern etched into those normally stoic features.

“Right now Teal’c, I don’t know what to think,” Hammond stated. “But whatever his purpose in absconding from this base, I’m quite sure it doesn’t bode well!  Which ever way you frame it, Colonel O’Neill is AWOL!”

 

*****

Hathor descended to the planet via the rings, regarding Osiris with a degree of disdain. “We see you have changed hosts!” she observed. “Perhaps something more constructive might be done with the hair. Where did you procure this host?”

“From the Tau’ri,” Osiris responded. “She is the one who freed me!”

Hathor sneered, her blue hypnotic eyes glowing irreverently, filled quickly with scorn.

“You are foolish to have contacted me, what is the meaning of your message?” she snarled.

Osiris smiled, one of those snide unmeaning expressions that so often fell over the features of a host. “I offer my pledge of allegiance and ask that I be allowed to serve you,” she responded, lowering her eyes from Hathor’s supercilious regard.

“Since when has the one that considered himself the Supreme Being, second only to Ra, deemed himself a servant?” Hathor questioned. “Was it not you who tried to destroy us, to please the vile one Ra?”

Osiris raised her eyes, looking the Goa’uld queen in the face. “We were mistaken, tricked by Setesh into believing that you would have destroyed our domain!” she replied. “Was it not I who imprisoned you, rather than destroy you?” she added.

“Who are these?” Hathor asked, turning her attention to the seven men and two women, dressed in SGC uniforms.

Osiris looked suddenly triumphant; something at last to offer that might align her in favour with this powerful foe. “These are from the Tau’ri, they were a gift from the one you covet!” she responded.

“Our beloved?” Hathor’s eyes glowed ominously once more as the words left her lips. “Presented these to you?”

“Indeed,” Osiris said, turning and regarding colonel Mathews.  “Speak!”

Mathews frowned heavily. “Colonel O’Neill,” he remarked with distaste. “Your beloved.”

Osiris waited for Hathor to react, watching the Goa’uld queen closely.

“I can understand why you would covet a slave who possesses such darkness,” she said at length, when a response from Hathor failed to materialise.  “And now I have given him good reason to destroy the Tau’ri, and when he does he shall destroy with them any reason he may have possessed to remain amongst the slaves.  What is this information worth to you?”

Hathor regarded her with a surly expression, walking slowly around this new threat to her position.  Yet having amassed the forces of Apophis, and Nyerti’s armies under her control, the threat was moot.

“We would take these as your gift to us, and accept your allegiance.  Deny us, and you will find we are quite merciless.  We would not show you the same regard as you may have shown us in the past,” she stated, the words recited slowly.

Nyerti descended from the ship. “Hathor, Kree, Heru’ur’s ships have arrived at your home world,” she told the Goa’uld. “As you suspected O’Neill told him of your power.”

Osiris seemed surprised to see the former system lord alive, she had heard that Nyerti had been despatched by O’Neill; clearly Hathor had managed to enslave even she, one of the most devious of all the Goa’uld she had known.

Hathor smiled regarding Mathews. “We shall enjoy watching your world suffer at the hands of our Pharaoh,” she cooed provocatively. “And when he has tired of this, he will join us and we shall continue our ascension!”  She turned and faced Osiris once more. “You are sure he has not tricked you?”

The Goa’uld shook her head slowly. “I watched him crush the life of one of these slaves with his hands, as easily and without mercy, as we ourselves would!” she asserted.  “He also told me that the Asgard are not to be feared as much as we suspected, that they are currently doing battle with an enemy they have no means to defeat!”

Nyerti listened; she didn’t believe that O’Neill could be so easily lured.  If he had turned, become a dark force she believed he would be a more fearful adversary than he had ever been; the information about the Asgard bound to be some cleverly orchestrated deception.

She eyed Osiris with suspicion, knew this Goa’uld of old, even with a host as beautiful as he now possessed he could not disguise himself, she had battled his forces many times, allied with Setesh in order to prevent his rise to dominant power.

“And what of this one?” she enquired of Hathor.

“Osiris pledges her allegiance to us,” Hathor replied. “We shall destroy Heru’ur together and await the return of our beloved.  Bring these to our ship, we shall greatly enjoy their interrogation!”

Nyerti looked sceptical. “I will remain here,” she advised. “There are things I can do to undermine Heru’ur.” She bowed her head graciously toward Hathor. “With your permission of course.”

Hathor nodded. “Very well, we shall return now to our ship,” she replied.

Nyerti watched the slaves being shipped via the rings onto the Ha’tak, a smile crossing her features as they disappeared.  She turned, making her way toward the Stargate.

 

*****

Major Davis raised his eyebrows slowly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about Major,” he told Carter, as they headed toward Hammond’s office.

“Don’t give me that Paul, you and Daniel lied about Colonel O’Neill still possessing the link with the Sengo’lians, now we’ve got computer viruses and people helping him to get off this base. I don’t think you’d be kept out of something like that, added to the fact that we have you on camera operating one of the base computers with Daniel!”

Davis stopped in his tracks, looking at Carter. “Are you accusing me of tampering with the base computers?” he asked. “Because that’s a pretty big accusation, Major!”

“Oh come off it, don’t pull that innocent act with me,” Sam warned. “What the hell is going on here?”

“You’re what’s going on,” Davis responded, his tone decidedly aggressive now. “As in, trying to kill Colonel O’Neill, spying on us…”

“On you?” Carter’s voice, her features showed incredulity. “Is there a particular reason we should trust anything you say?” she demanded.

Davis stared at her, his features masking slowly with disdain, without warning he lunged at her, slamming her back against the wall.   Carter felt the full force of his weight, knocking the breath out of her; she groaned involuntarily with the impact. Instantly recovering she gritted her teeth and brought her knee up, sharply sending Davis into a heap on the floor, the alarm raised the second her hand slammed into button, brought several SFs rushing to her aid.

“Pick him up,” she instructed, a look of disgust crossing her face. “And take him to Hammond’s office. Watch yourselves!”

 

*****

The police car pulled up behind the Jeep; both officers alighted quickly from their own vehicle and walked alongside cautiously.  When a code 3 came out about a US Air Force officer, it generally meant extreme caution, neither wanted to take the chance that this one might be armed.

“Is there a problem, officers?” Daniel enquired, employing all his most innocent and boyish charm.

“You could say that.  Step out of the vehicle and hand me the keys, sir,” Officer David Malinchek ordered, his hand resting on the still holstered weapon on his hip.

Daniel looked at Jack; the colonel indicated that he should follow the instructions.

“You er, realise that we’re transporting an Air Force officer to hospital?” he remarked.

Malinchek looked inside the vehicle, O’Neill’s features still smeared with his own blood; he flinched.

“We’ve got our orders to detain you until the Air Force arrives to take you into custody,” the officer replied. “Is he okay?”

“Um, does he look okay?” Jackson enquired ruefully.

Malinchek indicated that his partner should check out the man, since he was closer, and with Jackson standing at his side now he felt his attention was better occupied there.

The second officer opened the passenger door, indicating to Fraiser to step out, trying to get a clearer view of O’Neill, who looked deathly pale.

Jack O’Neill lowered his shoulder to accentuate the obvious injury, he groaned with just enough volume to allow the officer to hear him.

Fraiser crowded him protectively almost the instant he’d made the sound.

“You can’t move him,” she said. “He’s too weak.”

“Herb, leave him where he is,” Malinchek instructed. “Call it in.”

Jack’s eyes slid across, watching the second officer disappear from view, using the mirror to ensure he’d indeed gone back to the police vehicle. A smile crept slowly onto his features as he moved with lightening speed across the driver’s seat, blindsiding Malinchek who was facing the archaeologist.

Jackson went straight for his gun as he went down, turning sharply and approaching the police vehicle, pointing the gun at Malinchek’s colleague.

“Get out of the car!” he yelled. “And keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Shoot him!” Jack ordered, his eyes once more returning to the black soulless state prior to his operation, the anaesthesia had now completely worn off. “Daniel!” he snarled. “Do it!”

‘We are here,’ their voices screamed inside Jackson’s mind.  But he couldn’t resist … the power O’Neill wielded was too great. ‘NO!’

The gun exploded, the bullet struck the officer in the chest.  Fraiser turned, she hadn’t heard O’Neill demanding that Jackson pull the trigger, she seemed completely oblivious to the fact he’d even moved.

She stared at Jackson, her face white with shock, then instinct took over, moving forward quickly, kneeling beside him as she reached him, her fingers pushed into his neck looking for a pulse; there was one. She felt around his chest and realised he was wearing a bulletproof vest; heaving a sigh of relief, she looked across at Jackson.

“What are you doing?” she asked, the man’s expression one of horror, he seemed as surprised as she that he’d attempted to murder the man in cold blood.

“Don’t sweat it!” Jack remarked, stepping around Daniel. Taking the gun from his hand, he lifted the weapon and aimed it at Malinchek.

“Colonel!” Fraiser exclaimed, moving toward him as quickly as she could. “No!”

“You want them following us?” he asked. “Think Hammond’s in charge and we’re just gonna end up in a nice cosy cell back at the SGC?”

His eyes seemed to completely overwhelm her senses; the ability to think clearly, to think for herself in anyway, disappeared almost immediately into that empty black abyss.

“Jack don’t kill him,” Daniel implored, still reeling from the horror of having pulled the trigger on the other officer.

O’Neill looked at him. “You care?” he enquired with disdain.

“He’s innocent Jack, just doing his job, we’re after the NID, remember?” Daniel told him, his eyes meeting O’Neill’s, dolefully beseeching mercy. If you kill him it might only make them redouble their efforts to catch us, leave them alive?”

“Sweet!” O’Neill spat. “Fine, get his cuffs and cuff him, hands behind his back.  Janet, do the same with our friend here.”

Daniel didn’t hesitate to follow his instructions, whilst the colonel assisted Fraiser with the stunned, but now fully conscious, second officer, the man seemed completely subservient, staring into O’Neill’s eyes as he moved around him.

“What never seen black eyes before?” Jack asked, a wry smile sweeping across otherwise motionless features.

“I know you,” the man said.

O’Neill knelt beside him, lifting his warrant card.  “Officer Paul Herb, kinda a weird name isn’t it?” he remarked. “I think I’d remember that one.”

“O’Neill, Jack O’Neill.” The man’s voice seemed to hold some recognition as he said the words.

Jack stared down at him, those eyes seemed familiar but he couldn’t place them.  APBs will do that to you!” he asserted.

“No, that’s not it,” the man responded.  “I know you!”

“Sweet, well sorry, but I don’t remember you!” Jack retorted, throwing the badge down on the ground beside him, checking the cuffs.

“You served with my brother,” Herb told him.

Jack looked down at the man, shrugging. “Doesn’t make me a nice person!” he remarked.

The officer looked completely confused by his attitude.  “Saved his life,” he added.

O’Neill knelt beside him, checking the cuffs. “Now I’ve saved yours too!” he said.

“Thank you,” Herb replied.

O’Neill looked at him curiously, those dark empty eyes showed no emotion, yet he grimaced just the same. “You’re… welcome!” he said slowly, almost confused by the man’s attitude and his own response.  He stood up, shaking his head as if that might expedite swifter thinking. “Whatever…” added with disdain as he moved away, toward the vehicle.

“Daniel, I’ll drive,” he snapped as Jackson sat in the driver’s seat. “Your driving reminds me of my wife, kinda like we’ll get there sometime in the next month!”

Daniel’s eyes rose heavenward, he moved across allowing the colonel control of the vehicle, Janet slipped in beside him.

“Jack, where are we going exactly?” he asked.

“Oh that would be Washington DC, with a few interesting stopovers!  Kinda a long trek, but it’ll be worth it, trust me!” the colonel replied, another wry wicked smile crossing his face.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t!” Daniel stated, a sideways glance. “Just try not to get anymore cops on our tail huh?”

“We’ll need another vehicle, this one’s gonna be the highlight of radio comms up and down the damn State!” Jack told him. “So, keep your eyes open!”

 

*****

Davis shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he insisted.

“Oh I think you do,” Carter charged. “I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

“I didn’t do anything to the computer system, nor did I know that Colonel O’Neill intended to…”

Carter’s interest piqued, she moved closer to the man. “I didn’t mention anything about Colonel O’Neill, Major, now suppose you rethink that lame ass crap you’ve been spouting for the last ten minutes!”

Hammond watched, saying very little during the whole interrogation.  Carter appeared to be on a mission, and he admired her ability to handle herself.  If O’Neill was lost to them, she was looking like a sure-fire replacement.

“Perhaps your judgement is impaired,” Teal’c offered. “It would not be beyond these Sengo’lians to influence you as they have Colonel O’Neill?”

“I’m not impaired, I’m not conspiring, and I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!” Davis snapped, agitated at the constant stream of unending questions, all of them accusing him of being duplicitous in some way or another.  “I was helping Dr. Jackson with…”

“With what?” Carter demanded, she pulled the chair closer still, staring into the man’s face.

“You sent those men there to kill him!” Davis said suddenly, anger masking his features.

“Okay, this is ridiculous!” Carter exclaimed, she stood shaking her head, eyes closed, as she attempted to fathom exactly why anyone would accuse them of being complicit in a scheme to harm one of their own, especially someone whom they all held in such high regard, and in her case, affection.  “Paul, you’re not making any sense!”

“Oh I’m making sense,” Davis insisted looking up into her face. “You’ve seen what the NID is capable of, don’t they deserve what’s coming to them?”

Hammond leant forward. “What exactly is coming to them, Major?” he asked, concern wracking his features.

“A whirlwind!” Davis retorted, nodding slowly, a smile descending across his face.

Carter looked across at the general. “Sir, if he’s on some kind of revenge mission?” she began.

“I know, Major,” Hammond agreed. “Major Davis, exactly what were you doing to our computers if not sabotaging them?”

“Daniel wanted some information, so I got it for him, oh and he wanted the dialling computer snagged!”

“You wiped out the files Paul, you’re just damn lucky we had a third tier back up.” Carter’s tone was filled with disdain. “Sir, I don’t think Major Davis is himself.  And if I’m right, anything we discuss with him goes straight to the source.  He’s telling us exactly what Colonel O’Neill wants us to hear!”

“Hey Carter!” Davis exclaimed, his eyes widening to accentuate the words. “Whatever gives you that idea?”

Hammond and Teal’c both looked to Carter. “Major, is that who I think it is?” the general enquired.

“Yes it is George!” Davis retorted quickly. “And by the way, you people had better understand something real fast, I can’t be caught, I can’t be bargained with, and I know exactly what you’re gonna do before you even do it!”

Carter exhaled loudly, shaking her head in disbelief. “Colonel, what’s going on?” she asked.

“Well now here’s the deal Carter, not that I don’t think you’ll like it, but I’m not telling ya, suffice to say, I really don’t give a damn what any of you think right now.  I’m gonna do this my way, sort out these bastards, they’ve got it coming!” Davis might have been speaking, but the annunciation and the expressions were pure O’Neill.

“Sir, I know they tried to kill you, but taking the law into your own hands?  You’re officially AWOL, and do you really want Dr. Fraiser to get into trouble too?” Carter asked, desperation creeping into her tone.

Davis sat back comfortably in his seat, head tilting to the right regarding the major.  “Oh, Janet, now there’s a nice distraction,” he remarked. “Sorry to ruin your day! Hey!” he exclaimed, leaning forward. “Maybe I should let you come over, have a nice threesome!”

Carter looked completely horrified, her eyes lowered away from the man. She turned and regarded Hammond.  “Sir, I don’t think he’s himself!”

“Oh come on Carter, a guy can change his mind, it’s not like you didn’t offer?” Davis smirked.

Carter moved forward, her hand connecting with his face. “That’s beneath even you sir!” she snapped.

“You wanna be beneath me Carter, that’s the problem!”

“COLONEL O’NEILL!” Teal’c yelled stepping forward. “You go too far!”

Davis half smiled, his face seemed to go blank, his eyes closed slowly and he fell forward, crashing to the floor before Carter could prevent it.  “He’s unconscious sir,” she told Hammond, looking flustered and distressed.

The general lifted the phone, shaking his head. “He’s definitely out of control!” he remarked.

Teal’c moved forward and assisted Carter in lifting Davis back into his chair, placing his hand on Carter’s shoulder.

“Are you alright, Major Carter?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” Sam replied, a smile crossing her features. “Thank you.”

Teal’c managed a smile, although concerned by what he’d seen and heard, he was, like Carter, certain that O’Neill was being influenced by the Sengo’lians.

 

*****

The Jeep slowed, coming to a stop just outside the city limits.  “Well, I guess you guys need a break right?” Jack observed, watching the two of them falling in and out of a restless sleep.

“Somewhere comfortable would be nice,” Daniel remarked, fidgeting in his seat.

“Comfortable?” Janet commented. “I could murder a shower.”

Jack turned and regarded the doctor, a wicked glint in his eye. “Sounds nice!” he agreed. “There’s a motel about three miles on, think you can survive until then?”

“Yes sir,” Janet replied.

Daniel groaned inwardly, it seemed the O’Neill magic worked in any persona.

“I can cope, thank you!” he said, knowing O’Neill didn’t particularly care one way or the other whether he could or not.

“That’s good, Danny, and don’t worry, plenty to go around,” the colonel told him.

Daniel regarded him, a measure of surprise crossing his features. “I’ll, er, thanks.”

“Don’t mention it!” Jack retorted, thrusting the vehicle into drive sharply and sending the Jeep forward.

 

*****

Carter sat beside Davis; the man had been unconscious for over three hours.  She checked her watch to confirm it. “Great, babysitting!” she remarked.

“Sam?” Davis asked, his eyes opening slowly and flickering in the light.

“Hey Paul,” she greeted. “You feeling any better?”

“Like a truck hit me.  What happened?” he asked, attempting to sit up and finding little strength to do so.

“Easy,” Sam urged, her hand resting on his shoulder to settle him back down. “Colonel O’Neill decided to use you as his mouthpiece again.”

“I really wish he’d stopped doing that,” Davis told her, a heavy sigh permeating the words. “I don’t remember anything.”

“I know. Do you know where he is?” Carter asked, hopeful that the link would go both ways.

“I’m not sure, a hotel maybe, outside of Colorado… it’s a little bleak. Images aren’t exactly clear.”

“It’s okay, try and rest.  I’ll tell General Hammond you’re back with us,” Carter told him.

“Thanks.”

Davis watched her go to the phone, a wicked smile crossing his features; he waited for her to return.  “You know, he could really use your help,” he asserted.

Carter looked intrigued. “What makes you say that?” she asked.

“He’s lost, Sam, he needs someone that can bring him back.  Daniel’s too corrupted with their influence.”

“They?  The Sengo’lians?” she questioned, that notion almost seeming plausible.

“Yeah, they’ve unleashed everything he doesn’t want to be, he’s… it’s almost like if he doesn’t find a way back soon, that’s it.  Game over!” Davis told her. “These guys aren’t going to understand that, they’re just going to try and interrogate him, get the information and lock him away somewhere, where he can’t do any harm.”

“What are you saying Paul?” Carter’s eyes widened. “If we don’t retrieve the situation soon…”

“What are the odds he won’t take down a couple of NID guys before you find him?” Davis questioned. “He knows where to find them, and I’m telling you Sam, he’s mad as hell.  Whatever they did to him, he has no conscious and no morality left!”

“The Sengo’lians are doing this right?” Carter enquired dubiously. “It’s not Colonel O’Neill?”

“Jack hasn’t been in charge since this whole thing started, I tried so hard…”

“Jack?” Carter repeated.

“That’s what they call him, it’s in my mind, no disrespect intended.”

“I understand,” Carter replied. “Are you sure you can’t see where he is?”

“I’m not sure, I can see this place, but you’ve seen what he’s capable of with those damn aliens controlling him, you go in there with an army and he’ll take them out.  He made short work of Heru’ur!” Davis stated, shaking his head.  “Sam, he needs you!”

Carter stared at him.  “What are you talking about?” she asked, far more sceptical now.

“Look!” Davis told her. “It’s no secret, at least not to me with this damn link, that he threw himself into that travesty with Hathor because of how he felt for you!  You know Jack, he… well he couldn’t risk losing you from his team by complicating things!” he asserted.

“Oh yeah, like I’m buying this,” Sam retorted. “Paul, he’s feeding you a line.”

“No, he’s really not Sam, he’s, he tried to hide it, bury it.  He’s afraid of you, of things he can’t control.”

“Oh come on, this is bullshit!” Sam exclaimed.

“No, I’m not kidding, he really is afraid of you, why do you think he doesn’t spend his free time in your company? Tries to make light of everything you do?  Invited you to go fishing?” Davis sounded completely convincing, and even if she knew it was a line, that he was being controlled, something inside wanted to believe that there was an intrinsic link between she and O’Neill, that he might care enough to trash her feelings because he couldn’t deal with them.  He couldn’t be that vulnerable to a junior officer in his command.

She knew the man well enough to know how honourable he was, and it tracked.  NO!  No, it didn’t track, it sounded like psychological crap!  It sounded exactly like it was, bait.  But one thing she knew, and it resonated throughout her thought process.  He could, without blinking, take out a battalion.

“So you think he needs me that much?” she asked, half of her believing it too, whilst the scientist knew better.

“I’m saying he’ll never get back without you!” Davis told her.

 *****

Fraiser slipped into the shower, the water soothing aches that had become almost intolerable during the long ride in a rather unforgiving vehicle that seemed to completely lack a suspension.

She rested her head back against the wall, soaking in the heat and the relief at finally being able to relax.  The anxiety of the last few hours had really built a tension that seemed to be almost overwhelming. As Jack’s hands reached through the curtain, slowly moving up her lower back, and kneading her shoulders, she felt a shiver run down her spine, but it was a pleasant embrace, one she had no intention of stopping.

As he slipped into the shower, Janet leant back into him, allowing his strong body to support her, a smile of pleasure rising on her face.

Jack caressed her body softly, his intention to further subjugate her will would also alleviate some tension that had built inside him, he needed a release and for now, until he could coax Carter to him, she was it.

Daniel lay back on the bed, finally able to think for himself, he could hear the voices screaming inside his mind.

‘We need your help; what is too dark and cannot be stopped. You must hear us!’

‘Hear you?’

‘He will prevent your freedom, he will destroy all that is around him without care, this place in which he resides is too dark!’

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about?  Jack?’

‘Hear us, he is…’

“Daniel?” Jack’s voice broke through his thoughts immediately.

“What?”

“Janet’s kinda, go take care of it!” the colonel barked, throwing the towel that he’d draped around his shoulders onto the chair beside the television.

Daniel sighed heavily, swinging his legs from the bed and sitting up. “What?”

“Just do it!” Jack snarled, a grimace sweeping his features. “I was a little rough, sort it out!”

“You were…” Daniel stood immediately, moving across the room toward the bathroom.

Inside he saw Janet, naked and slumped on the floor, a darkening bruise visible on her cheek.

“Oh my god,” he gasped, kneeling down beside her. “Janet, are you…”

“I’ll be fine,” she said dismissively, attempting to cover herself.

Daniel immediately brought one of the towels down from the rack. “Look, he, he’s not himself, and, er, neither am I, oh boy, we’re in trouble!” he confessed, confused as to why he would be suddenly posing such questions, a look of resignation crossing his face. “I don’t even know where the hell I am?”

“That makes two of us Dr. Jackson,” Fraiser told him, wrapping the towel around her. “He’s… we have to get out of here.”

“And go where?” Jack asked, standing in the doorway his features studied, curious yet decidedly unyielding.

“Nowhere,” Daniel replied quickly, almost as if he had been caught perpetrating a crime. “We’re… Jack, what’s going on?”

The archaeologist seemed totally disorientated, baffled by his surroundings and the situation he found himself in.

“You’re where I told you you should be Daniel,” Jack responded, his tone cold and calculating, but almost hypnotic. He leant against the doorframe almost casually, staring down at the pair with those unblinking and intense eyes. “Problem with that?”

“No,” Daniel conceded. He looked around at Fraiser, and she was staring adoringly at O’Neill.  “None at all apparently,” he added.

He watched Janet cross to Jack, looking up provocatively at him; the archaeologist’s eyes rolled.  “Great!” he sighed. “I’ll just stay in here, let me know when you’re done!”

Jack titled his head back, a wry smile crossing over his features, a lopsided grin at Jackson.  “Stay here!” he said, before following the doctor into the other room.

The door slammed firmly shut, Jackson sat on the side of the tub shaking his head. He was in a state of complete confusion, each time the Sengo’lians almost convinced him he was on the wrong path, O’Neill’s far more assertive force brought him back to subservience.

 

*****

Hammond shook his head. “I don’t know, Major,” he replied sceptically. “From what we’ve seen, Colonel O’Neill has powers working in and around him a lot more imposing than we’d first thought or imagined.  Two police officers, one of them sporting a nice bruise on his chest from a bullet that struck his vest, were left handcuffed on the side of the road.  Apparently, from the description, it was Dr. Jackson who attempted to shoot him dead!” A heavy sigh. “It’s quite clear to me that this has gone beyond simply being a matter for the Air Force!  If they find them first, I think it’s likely to be a shoot to kill!”

“Then O’Neill’s link to Daniel Jackson has given these aliens control of both,” Teal’c observed, a wary glance across to Carter. “Perhaps since Daniel Jackson was unaware, he was unable to prevent it?”

“That’s why I can resist him, sir,” Carter argued, acknowledging Teal’c’ words, but now addressing Hammond.  “I know what’s going on, so anything he tries to control me won’t work.  In order for this mind control thing to fully possess your will you have to be unaware it’s happening.  Dr. Fraiser and Daniel couldn’t have known what was going on, but I do!”

“Major Carter, how do you know you will not be taken in just as Daniel Jackson and Dr. Fraiser have been?” Teal’c questioned. “O’Neill’s mind is indeed strong, you have said it yourself on many occasions.”

“I know, but… I can’t explain this, he just can’t get to me,” she asserted. “Maybe it’s the Goa’uld influence, Jolinar’s presence might somehow shield me from it.”

“And you’re sure that he’d know if we sent anyone else?” Hammond enquired.

“Positive, sir, he’d sense it.  These Sengo’lians don’t move in the same phase as we do, they’ve got the ability to see around them, outside of the Colonel’s vision.  He’d never have been able to detect us in Luxor if they didn’t,” she explained. “And if we send anyone else in sir, he’ll… they have him completely under their control, he might kill someone.”

“You’re saying he’d kill his own?” Hammond sounded, looked, shocked.

“Sir, it’s not Colonel O’Neill, however much it looks and sounds like him he’s as much a victim here as anyone,” Carter stated. “And if we don’t do something soon, according to everything that Cadet Hailey has discovered, we won’t be able to get his mind back!”

“Major, do you think this was triggered on that planet?” he asked.

“Could be, sir, which is why they might have attempted to delete those coordinates, to stop us going back?” Carter theorised.

“Then I’ll have SG2 go and check it out, perhaps Cadet Hailey would like to join them?”

Carter nodded. “Okay, I think she can handle that,” she agreed. “And I’ll go and try to bring Colonel O’Neill back sir?” It was a tentative request, yet a hopeful one.

Hammond looked slightly dubious about that fact, but he was confident that Carter knew the colonel well enough to deal with him. Jack O’Neill might be guilty of many things, but he’d never hurt his team!

 

*****

Fraiser curled up into Jack’s arms, sighing heavily as she drifted into an exhausted sleep.

“Oh Daniel,” he called.

Jackson had all but given up on having a bed for the night, sitting against the door and listening to O’Neill being deified was almost too much to take.  Several times he’d considered just slipping into his bed and attempting to block out the sounds of passion that had filtered through to him continually for the last couple of hours.

It wasn’t like he could see anything, without his glasses and in the darkness, but something kept him behind that door, and trying to block out the more obvious distractions of O’Neill’s efforts had effectively stifled any chance the Sengo’lians had of reaching him.

Even distracted, O’Neill’s mind was far more powerful than his Sengo’lian guardians had anticipated, unleashing his dark side could cost them greatly, but it was the cost of the most important conduit they had been given access to in many millennia that they most feared.

‘Oh Danny!’

‘What?’

Don’t, what me!’ Jack snapped. ‘Whoa can you sulk, didn’t I say you could have her if you wanted her?’

‘Oh thanks, what am I thinking turning down your cast-offs!’

‘Wow, you nag more than ‘we’ do,’ the colonel groaned. ‘Gonna freeze your ass off in there all night?’

The door opened, Jackson stood, backlit by the mirror light.

“Are you done battering my ears?” he enquired petulantly. “Because I have to tell you Jack, I’m really not in the mood.”

O’Neill’s eyes, still encompassed in darkness, seemed to glow in the reflected light as he stared at Jackson.  “You really know how to sulk don’t ya?” he remarked. “It’s not like you’ve got any reason to whine, you just love listening to your own voice!”

“And with that startling display of acumen, which by the way is totally way off, can I go to sleep?” Daniel enquired, padding toward the second bed.

He looked concerned for a moment; O’Neill could sense it more than actually see it.  “What?” he asked.

“Is she okay?” Daniel queried, his voice softening as he realised she might be sleeping.

“She’s fine, damn women and nails, what is that all about?” Jack enquired, genuinely so, just for a change. “My back feels like a damn tiger ran up and down it with ice skates on!”

“I have no idea, and actually, I don’t even want to think about it if you don’t mind!” Daniel told him, his face creasing up in dismay as he began to do just that, the chuckling in his mind coming from O’Neill’s ability to pick up those thoughts.

“Damn, when you put your mind to something!” Jack teased.

Fighting a battle of sarcastic wit with Jack O’Neill, especially in his current state of heightened acuity, wasn’t something that Jackson particularly wanted to do. He shrugged at the man instead and collapsed onto his bed.

“Where are we exactly?” he asked then, an afterthought, since he hadn’t a clue how far they’d come.

“Well Dorothy, we’re almost in Kansas,” Jack informed him, stretching out, his free left arm pushed comfortably under his head.  “Gonna make a stop in Topeka, and then it’s onto Missouri!”

Topeka?” Jackson queried, his tone sounded slightly bemused. “Ah, why Topeka?”

“Oh, that’s where one of our friends resides.  Figured we may as well catch up with as many as we can whilst we’re on this road trip!” Jack informed him.

“Oh,” Jackson sighed.

“For crying out loud, don’t start going soft on me now!” Jack snarled, moving abruptly and dumping Fraiser onto the pillow as he did so.  “We’re having fun here, kinda… Hey, think of it as Thelma and Louise!” he offered, and even in the darkness Jackson could see him grinning as he looked across with incredulity masking his own features.

“Yes, um great! Well I’m not being Thelma!” he retorted.

“Okay, Louise,” Jack quipped, his hand thrown out in a grand sweeping gesture. “Try not to pick up any strange men on the way!”

Daniel shook his head. “I already did that!” he observed, another sigh.

Jack lay back down, a smile sweeping across his features.  Jackson had a habit of coming around to his way of thinking eventually, even if he nagged worse than most women.  For what he had in mind, he’d need the one link that could maintain the earth to the Sengo’lians, who although doing their best to deny him, were powerless as long as he kept Daniel onside, only with the intervention of Jackson’s mind joining forces with theirs, could they stop him… and he had no intention of letting anyone do that!

 

*****

Makepeace listened intently as Hammond briefed him on the probable mission.  Carter had all but convinced the man she could handle this latest incarnation of O’Neill and even if he was sceptical, the idea that he’d attempted to lure her to him, at least gave them some kind of springboard to take the man back into custody.

He’d summoned the Tok’ra almost four hours ago, and still no word.  Ultimately he believed they might prove a more resourceful ally, since they had more detailed knowledge of these Sengo’lians.

“Sir, isn’t that a little bit risky?” Makepeace commented. “Major Carter is a very capable soldier, but O’Neill’s proven he’s more than a match for the Goa’uld.  And if he’s goading her into going to wherever he is, he’s bound to know she won’t come alone?”

Hammond nodded, sitting finally in his seat at the head of the briefing table.

“Which is why she’s going to be carrying enough tranquilliser to take down an elephant!” he replied. “And why I want you and Teal’c there in case anything goes wrong.”

“General Hammond, if you will permit me,” Teal’c interrupted.

Hammond’s nod immediately invited the man to offer his opinion.

“I believe that O’Neill is far more wily an opponent than Major Carter would give him credit for, we have seen his ability to control the minds of those in close proximity to him.  I believe he intends to do harm to her,” the Jaffa said.

“I have to concur with Teal’c, sir,” Makepeace stated. “And voice my objections to putting her in that position!”

“So noted,” Hammond acknowledged. “But look at it like this, if we don’t take this opportunity, and given O’Neill’s past history in Special Forces, we might not get another chance to track him down!  He has access to alien technology, who knows how much more is out there?”

Makepeace shook his head, exhaling loudly. “I just don’t think taking chances with Major Carter’s safety is worth the risk, sir!” he replied.  “For all we know Jack already has alien technology, according to that footage I saw of him coming back to the SGC, he had a ribbon device.”

Major Davis stepped into the briefing room. “Permission to sit in, sir?” he asked.

“How are you feeling Major?  Any more voices?” Hammond enquired.

“No sir, and sorry about the…”

“Sit down Major, perhaps you can help here,” Hammond’s askance directed toward Makepeace, immediately conveyed his intention.

“Hope so, sir,” he replied. “Although, if the Colonel is… I don’t want to jeopardise any chance we might have of bringing him back, sir.”

“Understood. Major Carter seems to believe that if she goes alone, she might be able to talk Colonel O’Neill into coming back, and given the fact that Dr. Jackson attempted to kill a police officer I don’t think we have much choice in the matter.  If we don’t find him soon, the police will!”

“Yes sir, I understand, I just wish I could be more helpful,” the major replied. “But if you will permit me, sir, I think Major Carter going is a mistake!  The Colonel used me to goad her into it.”  There was genuine dismay on the Pentagon man’s face.  “I think it might prove fatal, sir!” he added.

“Be that as it may, we can’t risk O’Neill, and whatever forces are controlling him, being out there somewhere.  We have to at least attempt some form of communication.”

 

*****

Daniel woke with a start, sitting up and looking around him.  O’Neill wasn’t there; even half awake he could feel the emptiness.  Looking across at the bed, he saw that Fraiser was still sleeping.

It was so quiet, so peaceful, it almost felt as if the entire world had shut down, he lay there for a moment just listening, waiting for something to shatter the serenity that silence seemed to bring to his mind.

He climbed out of bed slowly, still fully clothed having been way too exhausted to undress. He padded quietly to the bathroom, locking the door behind him. He turned the shower on and stripped off, catching his reflection in the mirror; could have used a shave, but then they hadn’t exactly stopped for toiletries. Shaking his head, he stepped under the hot streams of water. 

‘You must hear us,’ the Sengo’lians thoughts immediately broke into his mind.

‘No I really don’t!’ he replied. ‘In fact, weren’t you the start of all this?  You wanted revenge right?  I mean that is how it works!’

‘In finding the darkness of his mind, we attempted to free him of it, we had not realised that darkness was far more…’

‘Okay!’ O’Neill’s thoughts, his voice resonating between Jackson and the Sengo’lians. ‘You’re gonna have to leave now,’ he asserted. ‘But thanks for dropping by!’

‘Jack, where are you?’

‘Getting another vehicle Daniel, oh, when you’re done with that shower, just leave Fraiser there, I don’t think she can be useful anymore now, she’ll just slow us down!’

Daniel slipped unnoticed from the hotel room, leaving the sleeping doctor, as Jack had instructed. Outside, the colonel waited in a blue ford sedan.

“Where did you er, get this?” Daniel enquired, as he slid into the passenger seat.

“Oh I borrowed it,” the colonel replied. “Should take them a while to find out it’s been, borrowed, which will give us a nice head start!” An almost childlike appearance of glee spread across his face. “CD player too!” he added.

“So where are we going again?” Daniel enquired dubiously; daring not to ask exactly why O’Neill was so confident the theft would be undetected.

“New plan!” Jack replied. “We’re going to a little place in Kentucky, you know those Ancients weren’t too fussy where they left their ships!”

Jackson faced him, turning in his seat as the vehicle moved off. “Excuse me?” he asked.

“Well I kinda have it on good information that our Goa’uld friends are gonna start trying to take over the galaxy again!” Jack explained. “Which could be a problem…

Daniel looked perplexed, unsure of himself.

“Jack what did the Sengo’lians mean… about the darkness?” he questioned suddenly.

“Oh they’re just… they never know when to shut up and go away!” the colonel responded.

“And so…”

“Hey! Don’t ask me, I’m just doing what needs to be done here, know what I mean?  Saving the Earth from the bad guys!” O’Neill’s eyes, now fixed on the road ahead were back to normal, something Jackson had failed to notice.

 

*****

SG2 stepped through the gate into complete oblivion; the entire city had been completely devastated.  Coburn shook his head in dismay and surprise. “Looks like the MALP wasn’t functional, pictures we got were… what could do that much damage?” he asked Hailey as she stepped through.

“Looks like maybe the Goa’uld sir,” she replied. “We can take some readings with these instruments I’ve brought.”

“Sure it isn’t dangerous?” Coburn enquires dubiously. “Radiation that kind of thing?”

“No sir, I’m not detecting anything.” Hailey showed him the Geiger counter, its readings measuring normal.

“I’m thinking we should report back,” the SG2 leader said. “See what Hammond wants us to do.”

“Why? There’s no one here, we might as well look around and see if we can figure out what destroyed a planet in like an hour!” Hailey began to walk away as she spoke.

Coburn raising his eyes heavenwards. “Damn!” he sighed. “Carter Junior!”

 

*****

From the distance, the cloaked figure of Nyerti watched the team with interest; she had seen the ship in time to shield herself from its effects on the planet’s surface. The inhabitants, taken by Osiris and Hathor for use as slaves, hosts and Jaffa, had been spared the annihilation of their home world. She had waited twenty minutes before emerging into the shattered ruins of the once thriving city.

Watching the ship cloak the instant the gate had activated, it was like nothing she’d ever seen, far more sophisticated than anything the Goa’uld had acquired, perhaps Asgard, yet she had never seen one of their vessels so close up, and this one had some impressive capabilities, it seemed to alter in shape as it descended closer to the surface. Before the interruption of the Tau’ri, whom she recognised instantly from their attire, she had thought it might land, and afford her a better survey of its hull.

 

*****

Hailey paused at the bottom of the hill.  “Oh wait,” she said, turning.

“Cadet?” Coburn asked.

“There are weird readings coming from this, like an EM spike or something, but there’s no discernable power source.” She moved forward once again, watching the instrument as the readings drew further up the scale.

“It’s almost like there’s a ship, or…” She looked up, the vessel uncloaking above her immediately shrouded her in a beam of sharp blue light and extracted the cadet from the planet.

Coburn aimed his weapon at the ship, firing repeatedly. “Dial the damn gate now!” he yelled, fearing his entire team would be extracted.

Cloaked now, the ship disappeared from view, the major turned to see a second beam directed toward the ruins.  He sent the GDO signal to the SGC, and shot one final glance at the devastation before he and his team fled through the Stargate.

 

*****

Hailey looked around in the darkness, she couldn’t see or hear anything at all. Terror momentarily overwhelmed her, and she shuddered, taking deep gulps of air as she attempted to calm herself.

“Well Cadet.” O’Neill’s voice familiar. The room became bathed in light, the colonel stood close to her.

“Colonel,” she sounded relieved, a surprised gasp as she looked into those cold black eyes, catching herself before being too obvious. “I thought … sir, how did you get aboard a ship?”

“Questions, questions!” Jack replied. “What were you doing on that planet?”

“We were trying to find answers sir, hoping to er, help you, actually!” she responded, a little unsure of herself now, as she realised this wasn’t exactly the Colonel O’Neill she’d met previously on ‘862

“Help me?” Jack enquired, the sarcasm in his tone obvious. “Oh I don’t need any help Cadet, I’m fine just as I am. In fact, I’ve never been better.”

“Yes sir,” she replied.

“Drop the sir, it’s Jack, hardly time for all that boring military stuff right?” he remarked, walking around her. “You know in my day you’d never have made it into the Air Force, too short!”

She watched him cautiously; his eyes seemed to be changing, altering in colour. She averted her gaze quickly when she found herself staring at him.

“But, you’re fairly cute, cute’s a good word don’t ya think?” he continued.

“Kinda says small but nice?” He was staring at her ominously; his eyes completely normal now, showing no signs of the extensive black that had painted them and made the stare seem lifeless and empty.

Now she could read his eyes, and she didn’t like or feel comfortable with what she was seeing.

He gazed around the room, a smile sweeping across his face.

“Hey, Nyerti, so wanna uncloak now or what?” he asked, directing his attention toward an object that seemed fixed to the wall. Hailey turned and followed the glance.

“Nyerti?” she enquired. “Who…”

“O’Neill, how clever you are to see through the invisibility device.” Uncloaking as she spoke. “I am sure it is this sophisticated ship that makes it so easy for you?”

“Might say that, not to mention the whole mind awareness thing these nice Sengo’lian folk gifted me with,” Jack retorted.  “Besides, didn’t you think it was kinda obvious, we did beam you up?”

“I had heard, from Osiris that you had returned to Earth in order to destroy it?” Nyerti enquired. “How then did you come to be aboard such a vessel as this?”

Jack moved toward her, his eyes showing signs of devilish delight. “Now see that would be telling wouldn’t it?” he answered, his fingertips brushing across her cheeks. “And, since I don’t give information to Goa’ulds, I guess I’m not… telling,” he added for good measure, lest she fail to understand him.

“A Goa’uld?” Hailey asked.

“Oh, sorry…” Jack spun around. “Cadet Hailey, meet Nyerti, former system lord, and snake in the head!”  He beamed happily at the description. “She got her ass kicked at the SGC, it was… messy!”

Nyerti looked at the young woman who seemed to show the same disdain as she felt, the two women mirroring perfectly.

“Doing a little recon for Hathor?” Jack surmised, his attention firmly on the Goa’uld now. “She send you to try and penetrate Earth’s defences and find me?”

“I came of my own accord, or rather stayed of my own accord,” the Goa’uld told him. “I had a feeling you would return sooner or later.  Your destruction of that planet was most effective!” she remarked, clearly showing reverence to the man. “The weapons technology did little to destroy the atmosphere, yet were powerful enough to crush it!”

“Well thank you!” Jack replied. “Pretty damn impressive don’t ya think?”

Hailey looked a little surprised. “You destroyed the planet?” she asked.

“I believe she is upset with you, Colonel,” Nyerti remarked. “Perhaps she does not know you as I do!”

Jack’s eyes narrowed, a smile resonated clearly over those handsome features he’d used to such good affect on Fraiser. “She might … later,” he said, a wicked grin offered to the cadet, who visibly flinched. “So! What’s old Hathor up to these days?” he enquired.

“She intends to reunite with you,” Nyerti stated, her eyes eating him up. “I however have another suggestion!”

Jack smiled again.  “What?” he asked, his hands reaching around her waist and pulling her to him. “You, me and some quality time?”

Nyerti’s body responded to him immediately, pushing against him, her lips meeting his.

Hailey’s face contorted with disgust, she looked away from them around the room wondering where there might be an exit.

“So,” Jack announced. “Now we have a nice ship, with the right kind of powers, I figure a little meeting with all our friends is on the cards!”

Nyerti glanced across at Hailey. “Why did you bring her here?” she asked.

“See, I was just getting to that part, Hailey here, she’s real smart and she’s been working on a way to try and stop me.  That’s not really nice is it?” the colonel observed. He moved toward the cadet, letting go of Nyerti’s hand. “So she’s gonna be spending a little time with us, and getting a crash course in the art of being a bad guy!”

Hailey shook her head. “Colonel that isn’t you speaking, it’s…”

“Cadet! Shut up, I really don’t care.” The venom that resonated in his eyes was filled with spite and hatred; Hailey immediately found it too difficult to return such an intrusive gaze and lowered her eyes.

“Sir, I can’t just shut up, you don’t know what’s happening and how far it will go,” she insisted.

“See here’s the thing, Cadet,” Jack snarled, moving closer to her. “I’m in ‘I don’t care mode’, what part of that don’t you get exactly?”

Hailey shook her head. “I don’t get any of it, sir,” she replied.

“Well, here we’re going to learn the meaning of the ‘I don’t give a damn principle’, it’ll be a real short lesson if you don’t start paying attention, one that might end in death!” he explained, amusement beginning to drift slowly across his features. “Now, what about that don’t you understand?”

Hailey took a deep breath, nodding slowly now in accession. “I understand that perfectly sir!” she retorted bitterly.

“Good! Now see, we’re learning,” he told Nyerti. “I love having kids around don’t you? Brings on that whole paternal thing… then again, you probably don’t know anything about that, do ya?”

Nyerti looked a little bewildered, she hadn’t yet learned to read the colonel’s sense of humour as well as Hathor appeared to.

“Perhaps we should consider her as a host,” she offered, a smile crossing her features at Hailey’s sharp intake of breath.

“Now see, she’d be a good candidate,” Jack agreed, looking back at the cadet. “But right now I need her focusing on another problem for me, and as much as I find this whole double deal, snake in the head thing fun?  I think she’d get a little too big for that already oversized brain!”

Hailey felt an immediate sense of relief; even if the colonel wasn’t exactly acting liking himself, that he wouldn’t allow her to become a host gave her some hope that he wasn’t completely lost.

He strode across the room, raising his hand a door appeared from nowhere. He paused. “Ladies?” he offered.

Nyerti moved first, she felt he was far more accessible now, since that kiss, she could truly feel the passion that flowed through him powered by menace, something she hadn’t felt in their former liaisons.

She watched Hailey walk past O’Neill, and noticed how his eyes seemed to alter in regard.  He obviously felt some form of protectiveness toward her, and that could be used to her advantage!  As his eyes shifted to meet her own, he smiled. “Got any ideas of how we rattle your snaky pals?” he asked her.

“The system lords will not be equipped to deal with a vessel such as this,” she replied. “Perhaps we should begin with the fringe, they will of course race to prevent his demise, since Nefertum borders close to the Asgard, the system lords will be convinced it is they who have perpetrated the attack, the Asgard will deny it, but there will be distrust of a far greater magnitude than already exists.  Then, the system lords will feel they have no other option but to engage the Asgard, they will deplete one another’s forces considerably and make both easy to conquer!” She looked completely enthralled at the prospect.

O’Neill nodded thoughtfully, a smile matching hers swept across his handsome face, mirroring perfectly her insidious expression.

“You really are evil aren’t ya?” he remarked.

She returned the favour, nodding slowly. “I really am,” she replied.

 

*****

Janet sat in the corner of the hotel room shivering; she felt alone and afraid.  O’Neill’s influence had completely worn from her mind, and now she waited for the Air Force to collect her.  The feeling of violation as the memories flooded back of the night she’d spent made her feel nauseas.  She looked across at the digital clock, it wouldn’t be long, and she’d be back at the SGC, embarrassed, dismayed and furious at herself for having been taken in.  O’Neill had abused her, and she couldn’t get that thought from her mind.  Better to turn the anger on him, than on herself, that was easier and for the most part it was the truth.  Understanding why she had been so easily taken in was not something that she found easy to stomach, facing feelings toward a senior officer, or perhaps simply the affection of a common bond wasn’t something she’d ever considered before; her patients were just that, but she had been through so much with the flagship unit of the SGC that perhaps the thin line between patient and friend had been crossed.

The rap on the door alerted her to the Air Force officer’s arrival, the fresh faced MPs that stood before her as she opened the door saluted.

“We’ve come to take you home ma’am,” the young man announced.

“Thank you Sergeant,” she replied, lowering her eyes away from his gaze. “Thank you.”

 

*****

Coburn smashed his hand down hard on the briefing room table; faced with an irate Colonel Makepeace, he was becoming increasing angry at the accusations that he had fled without attempting to save Hailey.

Hammond had been summoned to the Pentagon to explain the present problem, leaving Makepeace temporarily in charge.

“Don’t beat your damn chest at me!” Makepeace snarled. “Go over it again!”

“I’ve been over it, SIR!” Coburn snapped. “We couldn’t do anything because the damn ship beamed her aboard and then just disappeared!”

“Could it have possibly been an Asgard vessel,” Teal’c enquired. “Or perhaps… what did this beam of light resemble?”

“It was probably a damn Goa’uld!” Makepeace spat, eyeing Coburn with disgust.

”Goa’uld vessels do not use such technology, they have only the ring devices with which to transport,” Teal’c corrected.

“The light was blue,” Coburn told Teal’c. “Like the one Colonel O’Neill used to take us aboard that Ancients ship.”

Makepeace sat up straight. “That’s not possible, I checked with the commander assigned to guard that ship, it’s back where we left it,” he asserted.

“Then perhaps it is the Ancients themselves?” Teal’c offered.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Carter observed, entering the briefing room and taking a seat. “Dr. Fraiser’s going to be fine,” she told Makepeace whose glance clearly asked the question.  “When she recovers from the black eye and the bruising on her… anyway, I think it’s safe to say that either the Colonel found another vessel, or we’re dealing with another race here, don’t you?”

“What of Cadet Hailey?” Teal’c enquired. “Would it not be far better if it had been O’Neill?”

“Oh I don’t know about that Teal’c,” Sam replied. “Seems the Colonel has a thing for undermining smart women.  At least in his current state of mind.”

Makepeace shook his head, regarding Carter with incredulity. “Please keep the discussion to matters relating to exactly how we’re going to find O’Neill and deal with this situation Major!” he lectured dryly. “Assuming it was O’Neill, let’s say he knew where to find another Ancients vessel and took off undetected, so we know he’s not on Earth, what’s he likely to do?”

“I believe, if these Sengo’lians intend to take over the galaxy as previously suggested by the Asgard, then he would attempt to engage and destroy the Goa’uld, the Asgard themselves and very probably the Tau’ri!” Teal’c surmised. “Since it would be these three that might find a way to stop him.”

“Great! So what the hell are we supposed to do about that?” Coburn asked. “He’s kicked the Goa’uld into touch a couple of times, practically told the damn Asgard they couldn’t deal with him, and made pretty damn short work of our defences!”

“We goad him,” Carter suggested. “He’s just arrogant enough in his present state of mind, or they are…” she corrected herself quickly. “To believe they’re unstoppable!”

“Excuse me Major, but wouldn’t they be right?” Makepeace intoned. “I mean it took the damn Ancients, the Asgard and probably the whole of that four race alliance to beat them back the first time!”

“Sir, I’ve been thinking.” Carter said suddenly, getting that determined look that Teal’c, and now Makepeace, recognised so easily.

“No surprise there, Major,” Makepeace smiled.

“I’ve got an idea, but I think we might need to call in some markers to pull it off.”

Makepeace held his hands aloft. “I’m listening,” he encouraged.

“Okay, we know the four race alliance consisted of The Asgard, Ancients, Nox and Furlings.  Since the Colonel knew how to shut down the device on Sengo’lia, we naturally assumed that it was the Ancients that had found a way to defeat them, but what if it was the Nox?”  Sam said. “What if they were the ones that came up with a method to prevent the Sengo’lians from leaving that planet and the Ancients simply engineered it?”

“Go on?” Makepeace invited.

“Well sir, we make contact with the Nox, and ask for their help, now, they’re not likely to want to involve themselves in a battle, but they might tell us how they did it in the first place…”

“If it were they who achieved it!” Teal’c finished the sentence. “Perhaps there is some merit in what you say Major Carter, the Nox use their minds far more than technology to deceive.”

“That’s what I’m thinking!” Sam agreed.

Makepeace nodded. “How do we contact them, didn’t they bury their gate?” he asked.

“Yes sir, but they unburied it to send the Tollans we rescued to their new home world, or took them there in a ship, either way we know they unburied it to attend the Triad on Tollana, so if we’re lucky they haven’t buried it again!” Sam advised. “We could try dialling it up?”

“Worth a try, if you think they’ll cooperate,” Makepeace ceded. “Since I’m in charge here for the time being, let’s go with it!”

“Thank you, sir!” Carter smiled.

 

*****

Nefertum watched in horror as his ships were destroyed one by one, the solitary vessel they faced seemed to have the capability to remain concealed until it was ready to fire, and only then did the vessel appear fleetingly.  Two of his motherships had already made the mistake of firing upon it, only to destroy each other.

He’d sent word to the system lords, and knew they were on their way, now it was simply a case of whether or not they could hold out until help arrived, and with the speed this hostile ship despatched his fleet, he severely doubted it.

Heru’ur had demanded to know what they faced, and had been irritated when he had been unable to confirm; he had never seen an Asgard ship, and had decided, simply to appease the system lord, to suggest that it were they.

As the system lords arrived within Nefertum’s domain they found nothing, not even debris from the battle, hails to the Goa’uld went unanswered.

Heru’ur stood on the Pel’tac of his ship, staring out into the emptiness around him. “How could this be?” he snarled, turning and facing Anubis.

“The Asgard denied involvement,” Anubis replied. “Yet what other race possesses the power to destroy twenty motherships and leave no trace?”

“My lord,” Nefir interrupted. “The Asgard answer your request.”

Heru’ur marched quickly from the Pel’tac; the long-range communication device on his new ship now resided within his own quarters.

The image of an Asgard greeted him as the doors slid open. “Lord Heru’ur, I am Thor, high commander of the Asgard fleet.”

“Honoured,” the Goa’uld sneered. “You have not defied the treaty and attacked the domain of Nefertum?”

“The Asgard have no reason to do so,” Thor told him.

“Then who?” Heru’ur enquired. “Since they despatched an entire fleet of motherships, in a domain that has many protected planets within it’s region of space, it would be in your interests to share this knowledge with us.”

“That is not a part of the treaty, the Asgard will ensure the planets that remain under our protection are defended, but cannot help the Goa’uld in their battles.”

“You are aware of the delicate balance we attempt to maintain between the Goa’uld and the Asgard, yet you refuse to assist us when this enemy could quite easily attack and destroy your ships?” Heru’ur warned.

“If such an attack happens, the Asgard would not expect the Goa’uld to assist, neither can we offer assistance.  We are sorry, but such an alliance is not possible,” Thor insisted. “We appreciate your contact.”

Heru’ur nodded slowly. “You are of course aware of the fate of the human O’Neill?” he enquired. “That he has become a puppet of the Sengo’lian and is now more of a threat to your protected planet than the Goa’uld?”  It was a long shot, he himself had no idea how much contact the Asgard maintained with Earth, but he also knew that the Asgard favoured O’Neill.

“We are aware of all things concerning the Planets that we protect,” Thor told him.

“Then we have nothing worth discussing!” Heru’ur told him, closing off the device.

Thoth appeared in his quarters then. “My lord, since I am to serve you might I offer advice on dealing with the Asgard?” he asked.

“Speak!” the system lord spat.

“The Asgard would not divulge information, that would be conceding that they are not as powerful as they would have you presume. Nor would they openly admit to attacking one of our own,” Thoth advised. “In my quest to discover a race that possess the ability to create the power close to the beings you call Sengo’lians, I have discovered many whose power is limited only by a lack of the correct guidance and technology with which to channel it.”

”This is what Cronos bade you to discover?” Heru’ur enquired, intrigued now. “Or perhaps, knowing your continuing thirst for knowledge you were merely searching for more?”

“Cronos had instructed me to learn all I could of the Tau’ri known as O’Neill, this when you brought him to rank of system lord,” Thoth replied. “I was unable to find the knowledge he required. These Sengo’lians are an impossible race to find, however I did discover a creature with knowledge of O’Neill whom I have managed to locate, yet the planet on which it resides is Loc’Kol’telmar, we would be unable to set foot upon it without the hosts within whom we reside becoming vulnerable to his contagion.”

“What creature can possibly stand against us?” Heru’ur snarled, almost slighted by such a statement.

“Aiestrodous!” Thoth replied.

That name said enough, Heru’ur knew of the creature had heard stories of his power, like O’Neill, using the mind control of the Sengo’lians, this creature had infected several Goa’uld hosts, and that contagion had destroyed the Goa’ulds within.

“If it is impossible then why do you tell me of it now?” he snapped.

“Because should we locate the creature on the surface of the planet upon which he resides, he will be far less dangerous to us held within a force shield on a mothership.  He possesses the ability to become invisible, and would not easily be detected by the Sengo’lians should he agree to defeat O’Neill, for it is O’Neill who destroyed the fleet of Nefertum.”  Thoth’s words were foreboding.  Deep down Heru’ur had suspected that O’Neill had begun his conquest of the Goa’uld system lords with what he knew to be the weakest in rank.  To possess a creature that Thoth, the all knowing and wisest of all Goa’uld, believed capable of defeating him, would be a prize worth obtaining.

“Then we shall seek and capture this creature, offering his freedom in return for his service!” he agreed.

Thoth bowed his head. “As you wish my lord,” he replied. “We should perhaps consider engaging the Asgard in battle, your fleet has grown considerably, and the fleet now possessed by Hathor, with whom you can forge an alliance, would provide us with a considerable tactical advantage, perhaps we should launch against them. I am not convinced it was not the Asgard who knowing our problems, have taken advantage.  They would not expect a strike at this time!”

Heru’ur considered the words carefully, he had been cautious when it came to challenging the Asgard, but this most intelligent of his race rarely steered his former master wrong, and therefore the consideration was a valid one.

 

*****

Carter sat across from Janet in the commissary. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she enquired.  Fraiser seemed very distant, almost depressed.

“I’m fine, I just can’t believe the Colonel would…”

“It wasn’t the Colonel doing that stuff Janet, you know him better than that!” Sam corrected. “He’s… whatever they’ve done to him, anything that remotely resembles Colonel O’Neill has been put in a box somewhere!”

“You may be right about that,” Fraiser agreed. “There was something, I can’t explain it, it was almost irresistible.  Like… I’m not sure, but no matter how much I thought I could just tell him to go to hell?”

“You couldn’t,” Sam told her. “Look, you’re probably the only one I’d say this to but, partially, you were under the influence of a very powerful mind control, the other part well, that was,” she paused, a heavy sigh emitted slowly. “That was probably almost instinctual attraction.”

“Sam, I’m not attracted to Colonel O’Neill,” Janet retorted, seeming amazed Carter would even suggest such a thing.

“Okay then call it animal magnetism… or drugs!” Sam offered. She felt a strange sense of jealousy pervading her thoughts, but even so she understood, probably better than Fraiser ever could, what O’Neill’s true nature could aspire.

“Daniel seemed completely taken in too,” Fraiser said. “Then he changed and started asking questions, he didn’t seem to have any idea what he was doing there.”

“He has that link, and a certain empathy with the Colonel, so I guess his mind is pretty easy to manipulate,” Sam replied.  “But I’m betting he’ll manage to break free of it at some point, I mean how long can the Colonel stay focused on anything usually?”

“Oh he’s focused Sam,” Fraiser warned. “He’d have killed me, or Daniel, at the drop of a hat if we’d tried to defy him.  He was so… cold, I’ve never seen anything like that in his persona.”

Sam looked sympathetic.  “I know this is going to sound really lame, but try not to think of him as Colonel O’Neill and…”

“It wasn’t O’Neill,” Fraiser asserted, her eyes now fixed on Carter’s.  “Sam, it wasn’t.  No matter how much he looked and sounded like Jack O’Neill…”

“Jack O’Neill?” Carter repeated. She searched Janet’s face a strange regard crossing her own. “You’re the second person that’s called him that below his rank that he’s had influence over.”

Fraiser looked baffled. “Is there some significance to that?” she enquired.

“I don’t know, maybe?” Carter responded.

 

*****

Daniel turned as the three entered the control room. “Um, okay, that’s a weird combination!” he stated.

“Dr. Daniel Jackson, Danny to his friends,” Jack stated, “this is Cadet Hailey, and you already know Nyerti!”

“Yes, I, er, what just happened?” Daniel enquired, nodding at Hailey.

“Oh we took out a snake and his pals.” Jack’s eyes fell once more on Nyerti. “She’s got a plan!”

Daniel looked slightly sceptical. “Oh, well if she’s got a plan, then I guess we should just got with it right?” he remarked, he looked more closely at Hailey. “Is she for me?” he enquired.

“Hey, if you want her…” Jack threw his arms up in a grandiose gesture. “Take her!”

Hailey looked panicked all over again. “I don’t think so!” she snapped, but her voice didn’t quite match the conviction.

“You don’t?” Jack enquired, amusement once more framing his features. “I think Danny can pretty much do whatever he likes myself.”

“Sir, you can’t mean that… you…” Hailey began, her eyes imploring.

“Daniel?” Jack enquired of the man.

“Oh I’d like to spend some time alone with Cadet Hailey if that’s okay with you?” Daniel remarked.  He seemed as aloof and possessed of himself as the colonel, yet something told Hailey he wasn’t, that he wouldn’t hurt her, she hoped that little voice was right; thus far, it hadn’t been.

“Well, we’ve got to go restart an internal war, so take your time,” Jack offered.

Daniel took Hailey’s hand. “Thanks, I will!” he remarked.  He led her from the control room.

Jack looked at Nyerti shaking his head. “That boy is a walking, talking representation of Jesus Christ!” he laughed. “I swear, you give him Sokar’s job, he’d be too nice and get the damn sack!”

“I am not entirely sure I know what you mean, but, at least it gives us time to be alone, to have something I have wanted from you, something you refused me before,” Nyerti told him, her eyes locked with his.

“Nope!” Jack retorted. “I’m not giving you the dog tags.  I worked hard for these things!”

She raised an amused eyebrow. “Then I shall have to take them,” she replied.

 

*****

Carter entered the point of origin, glyph number seven and held her breath. “Here goes nothing,” she commented.

Makepeace stood behind her. “Pessimism,” he chuckled. “I have to admire that coming from you!”

“Sir?” Carter enquired.

“Major, I see you as Miss Fix it!  You ever get the inclination to come shoot some pool, I’m offering!” he remarked.

“I’m not sure I know what you mean, sir?” she replied, a smile, an expectant one adorning her features.

“Well let’s just say, I’d be intrigued to see Samantha Carter out of those fatigues and into something a little more…” he paused, shaking his head and for a marine of his age and experience looking a tad embarrassed. “Okay, that came out a little bit wrong.  Suffice to say, Major, I’d like, just for once, to see you when you’re not trying to save the world!”

“Yes sir,” she acknowledged. “Well, I guess you might get to see that in, oh… 2020!”

Makepeace smiled. “Your wormhole worked, wanna send a MALP?”

“Be pretty pointless if I didn’t,” Sam goaded, a wry smile crossing her features.

“Careful Major, that was almost funny!” Makepeace chided. “Sergeant Siler, get your MALP friend ready for transport.”

Siler gave a mock salute toward the control room. Makepeace watched with a degree of trepidation, he wasn’t entirely sure having seen what the Sengo’lians were capable of that any single race was capable of defeating them or even coming close to it.

“Here’s where we do a little praying,” he commented.

 

*****

Daniel led Hailey to one of the farthest points on the ship, into a chamber that seemed to be some form of personal quarters.

“Sit down,” he instructed, looking around him warily.  He hoped that O’Neill would be busy with the Goa’uld.  “Look, I don’t know how much you know, or even how qualified you are to be here.  Judging on your title, Cadet? I’m thinking probably not much more than a freshman?”

“I’m a little more than that Doctor Jackson, what’s your point?” Hailey enquired.

“My point is, we’re in trouble!” Daniel told her. “And I don’t know how much of this is going right back to Jack, but here it is,” he continued, apprehensive yet determined. “Jack’s lost it, and I mean… wow!  He’s planning on starting some intergalactic war between the Goa’uld and the Asgard and taking over as much of it as he can once they’ve pretty much depleted each others’ forces.”

“We have to find a way to stop that Dr. Jackson,” Hailey said.

“Yes, I agree with you, only I don’t happen to think it will be that easy!” Daniel confessed. “Jack’s pretty much got me sown up, and if he has his way, you’ll be under the same influence.”

Hailey looked a little sceptical then. “If he’s gotten you sown up Dr. Jackson, how come you’re telling me all this?” she enquired.

”Okay, that’s a good point.  Look!  I don’t know exactly but he’s keeping me around for a reason and I figure, or as near as I can figure, there has to be a reason for it,” Jackson’s voice was lowered now. “We don’t exactly see eye to eye on most things, so having me around here, and some of the things I’ve done, well, he’s compromised both of us… is that military enough for you to understand?” he enquired then, looking at her quizzically.

“I just don’t know why you’re suddenly changing sides,” Hailey countered. “Everything I read tells me you’re compromised too, just like you said, so this could just be a way of trying to gain my trust?”

Daniel smiled. “That’s, um, very wise.  But it’s flawed.  See I don’t have a reason to gain your trust, or lie to you!  If I wanted to, I could just kill you, think Colonel O’Neill would mind?” he asked. “I’m trying to make a point here, so you understand.  I am compromised, there’s really no question of that.  But doesn’t the fact that I’m trying to work through that tell you something?”  The archaeologist stared at her. “They, the Sengo’lians, have been trying to reach me, and every time they do Jack shuts the door on them.”

“So you’re asking for my help?” Hailey enquired, still unsure of him. “Because I really don’t know how I can help you, if he’s in control?”

Daniel looked perplexed.  “He’s going to start a war here, and I can’t stop him.  Maybe you can?” he offered.

Hailey laughed. “You’re kidding right?”

Jackson moved toward her. “NO!” he snapped. “I’m deadly serious.” His hand swept across his face in frustration. “What do I have to do to convince you that this is going to be really, really bad?” he demanded. “Nyerti’s probably about the worst companion Jack could have picked right now.  She’s, she tried to destroy us twice!  You read up on the archive right?  You know how the Ancients dealt with this?”

“What makes you think they dealt with it in the archive?” she enquired dubiously.

“Because they documented everything else, including how to deactivate the device on that planet which allow Jack to free them!” Daniel asserted. “Anything you know that could be helpful, would… we’d have somewhere to start.”

Hailey considered the question, the plea that came with it.  “Okay, according to what I learned the Sengo’lians are curious about the thought processes of others.  Now just before I was ordered to go with SG2 to that planet where Colonel O’Neill… the one he destroyed.” She said the words with disdain. “I figured out that it wasn’t the Ancients that had the power to battle the minds of the Sengo’lians, they were just as helpless as the Asgard and Colonel O’Neill appear to be. I think it was the Nox.”  Hailey watched Jackson taking in the information.

“The Nox?” he queried, bemusement settling on his features. “How did they do that?”

She shook her head, shrugging at the same time. “It didn’t exactly go into detail, but one of the texts that concerned the imprisonment of the Sengo’lians referred to those that possessed a power beyond ‘ours’ meaning the Ancients,” Hailey explained. “So, having already done the research into the four alien race alliance, I’m just guessing.”

Daniel smiled.  “And I think you’d be guessing right,” he concurred, he paced as he spoke, his hands gesticulating to accentuate the words. “That makes perfect sense.  The Nox have the ability to hide things with their minds, why not to take on the Sengo’lians?  I can’t understand why I never thought of it before?” he added, enthused suddenly.

“Because I wouldn’t let you!” Jack told him.

Both spun around, looking at the colonel, who was leaning in the doorway to the room. “Smart kid!” he said.

“Um, Jack, I was…”

“You were doing what I knew you’d do the minute you thought we were going a little bit too far Daniel. That old moral code kicked right on in!” Jack remarked. “Predictable, but that’s kinda comforting since it’s given me the next target!”

“Jack, you can’t?” Daniel exclaimed.

“Oh I can’t?” Jack parodied the man, mimicking his alarm and mocking it. “When are you gonna learn Dr. Jackson, that I can do whatever the heck I like?”  He moved toward him. “I mean, who’s gonna stop me.  You?  Our little Carter clone here?” he chuckled then. “I don’t think so!”

Daniel took a deep breath.  “If I have to,” he said, his eyes locking with O’Neill’s.

The smirk that covered O’Neill’s features condescending, he lifted his hand and placed it on Daniel’s shoulder. “No Danny, there’s not a chance in hell!” he said.

Jackson felt the pressure immediately on his shoulder; the colonel appeared to be transferring energy, energy that was pulsating suddenly within his body, his head felt light, and almost instantly he found himself unable to focus, or stand, his legs folding underneath him, the harsh collision of his body with the ground the last thing he felt before the darkness.

Hailey moved forward. “Colonel, what are you doing?” she gasped, seeing the look of sheer terror that crossed Jackson’s face before he blacked out. “Colonel!” she snapped, louder now.

Jack O’Neill turned to face her. “Learning yet?” he enquired.

“Learning what?  That you’re willing to hurt just about anyone to get your own way?” she asked.

“See, now you’re learning,” Jack told her, turning and leaving her alone with the unconscious archaeologist.

She sank to her knees beside him, feeling for a pulse, a sigh of relief when she found it was perfectly normal and strong.

“Now what?” she groaned.

 

*****

Nyerti waited for him in the control room, her attempts to recognise or activate any of the ships systems had failed.  She favoured O’Neill with a smile.

“As you suspected?” she enquired.

“Oh yeah, had to put Daniel out!  He’s getting way too cynical.  I ask you, talk about pick your moments!” O’Neill complained.

“Then we must proceed with haste, centre our attack on Yu and Pelops.  Heru’ur will undoubtedly attempt to prevent such destruction, you are sure the plan you have will work?” she asked.

“What with the images they see and transmit?” Jack retorted, leaning on the console opposite the Goa’uld. “Oh yeah, they’ll be seeing Asgard ships alright, hundreds of them!”

Nyerti smiled, moving across and placing her hands on his shoulders. “I had always suspected that you would make a very good Goa’uld,” she said. “But I think I prefer you like this!”

Jack turned, taking her hands. “I don’t think you’d really prefer me like this if you were the one on old Yu’s planet when I get there!  Or you thinking that once I wipe out the opposition you’re gonna get to be in charge?” he stated, a grimace forming on his features.  “Run the whole damn thing!”

Her eyes widened slightly. “You know I have a weakness for you, one that is rooted in power O’Neill, but you did try to kill me, for which there should be some form of retribution!” she told him, a smile crossing her dark and devious eyes.

“Of course there should,” Jack mocked. “Have anything in mind?”  He pulled her closer to him. “That involves excruciating pain?”

His grip tightened on her wrists, causing her to gasp at the pain as he drew her closer to him. “Because you know I’ve got some pretty good ideas of what that retribution should be!”

Nyerti’s eyes glowed, yet this wasn’t the usual furious expression associated with such an act, this bore excitement.  She had finally found someone as devious and evil as she, that excitement permeated her body; she closed her eyes and felt the heat from his breath caress her cheeks.

“But…” Jack said, moving away from her. “We really don’t have time for that right now!”

He moved away, leaving her standing, staring after him.  “You will be mine,” she whispered. “Of that I am certain!”

 


Part Two

 

Hathor waited for the image of her archenemy to appear on the long-range communication device, looking across at Osiris, who had finally changed into something a little more suited to her position, at least in the judgemental eyes of her mistress.

“He does not know of your existence?” she enquired.

“No, you and Nyerti are the only ones who know I now live, your plan should work provided he does not suspect that in forging such an alliance you have determined to destroy him!” Osiris responded.

The device activated, and then on the viewer were the surly features of Heru’ur.

“Nefertum is destroyed,” he said. “These Asgard lie to us, it is clear they mean to wage war by deceit.”

“You have proof it is the Asgard?” Hathor enquired.

“Who else possesses the power to destroy an entire fleet of Goa’uld Ha’taks?” Heru’ur spat. “Surely the time you spent with the Tau’ri slave has not convinced you that these creatures can be trusted?”

“On the contrary.” Hathor moved closer to the device. “We are convinced that it is the Asgard, they are simply setting out to do what it was impossible for them to achieve when the system lords were united.”

“Then you agree we must mount a counter-assault on their planets, fragment their forces, and then launch an attack on their home world?” Heru’ur stated.

“We agree, perhaps it would be prudent to call a meeting of the system lords that remain, before they isolate us further,” she replied.

Heru’ur nodded. “It will be done!” he concurred.

The device now dormant, the Goa’uld queen turned to her newest conquest. “You will attend this summit,” she remarked. “It will be there that you will destroy them and we shall take control of the largest army ever known!”

Osiris bowed her head. “I will plan their destruction carefully,” she agreed. “When this is over, you shall have control of all that was once theirs.”

“Do not fail me!” Hathor warned. “Failure will have consequences you will not enjoy facing.”

 

*****

Carter stepped through the Gate, Makepeace at her side.  Teal’c had already descended the steps before them onto the familiar planet.

“No one here to meet us then?” Makepeace remarked.

“I wouldn’t say that sir, we have no way of knowing if we’re being watched or not.  They could be standing right next to you and you’d never know it!” Carter told him.

Lya’s appearance simply underlined that statement, if punctuating it with a shocked gasp of surprise from Carter.

“Lya,” Sam exclaimed, exhaling loudly.

“Hello friends, for what purpose have you returned?” she enquired, a simple nod of her head acting as a greeting and acknowledgement of Carter’s presence.

“We’re hoping you can help us,” Sam told her honestly. “Is it possible to go to your… er…”

“Follow me,” Lya urged, moving away from the Gate.

Teal’c half smiled.  The Nox were never a people who needed to express themselves with words, and the quizzical expression on Colonel Makepeace’s face amused him.

“Where are we going exactly, Major?” Makepeace enquired, as he followed, lengthening his stride to catch up to Carter, who had followed the Nox without hesitation.

”Well, if I’m right, sir, to the small village we were taken when Apophis killed us,” she told him.

“Fond memories are they?” Makepeace asked, with a degree of incredulity masking those ragged features.

“Oh yeah,” Sam retorted. “I could relive them again and again!”

Makepeace looked around at the Jaffa who now walked at his side. “She’s getting worse!” he noted.

“I believe you mean her humour is improving, Colonel Makepeace?” Teal’c offered, a sideways glance at the marine.

“No, I definitely meant worse!” the colonel replied.

“Indeed!” Teal’c said.

Makepeace shook his head, exhaling long and loud.  Both were often a mystery to his thought process, but in the absence of their CO, and getting to work so closely for so long with the flagship team, he was learning how to appreciate their particular brand of comradeship.

 

*****

‘We are here within, even in the darkest place we shall find you.’ The Sengo’lians spoke softly into the mind of the still unconscious archaeologist.

‘Where am I?’ Daniel asked. He was unaware of anything except the darkness that surrounded him, and an intense feeling of cold.

‘You are everywhere, as are we.’ Their voices seemed to blend into an almost poetic and sweet sound in his ears.

‘Okay, that’s a little too cryptic.  What do you want?’

‘We ask for your help, only with this may we prevent a disaster.  One which we regret we have seen before.’

‘You’re the catalyst aren’t you?’ Jackson questioned. ‘Did this happen with the Ancients?  Were they pawns in your ridiculous quest to understand the minds of races you couldn’t possibly comprehend?’

There was a silence then, Daniel could almost feel himself moving around, looking out into that darkness in an attempt to locate them. ‘Why?’

‘Why do we ask for you help?’

‘Um, no, why do you keep repeating your mistakes?  Don’t you learn from them?’

‘It is a valid question, one we can only answer by first understanding the minds of those we are within.’

‘Oh so what you keep on doing the same thing over and over again, regardless of the consequences, until you get it right?’ Jackson’s thoughts reflected his anger and disappointment. ‘You have all this power and the only way to understand it is to experiment on the minds of other beings until you figure it out?’

‘This is not what we do.  We simply exist, as do all beings within the universe, and eventually we, like all things, will end.’

‘Listen, whilst I’d really love to know what the hell you’re talking about.  We, you… created a problem that could expedite that destruction a lot more proficiently than even you realise!’ he told them. ‘So, the question is, how do we stop Jack?’

‘We had thought it would be as simple as turning your mind to ours, but we had not accounted for his ability to hone our own telepathy so thoroughly, we must rethink and learn.’ The voices were now beginning to become fragmented, lost in a sea of sound that made no sense at all.

‘Okay, can whoever else is talking in here shut up?’ Daniel snapped. ‘It’s too chaotic with everyone talking at once.  Let’s just focus on the problem and see if we can find something that might help.’

‘All that will help now is an end.’

‘Excuse me? A what?’

‘Consciousness as it exists must end, the Ha’dai will attempt the destruction of such consciousness, and with this destruction chaos will once again reign within us.’

‘By chaos do you mean you’ll all have individual thought?’ Jackson asked, trying in his own mind to clarify their meaning.

‘Such chaos was, is a means with which to dissipate our society.  We cannot allow this to happen.’

Daniel groaned, without really emitting a sound. ‘Where have I heard this before?’ he asked.

 

*****

Hailey sat on the floor next to Jackson; she had taken off her jacket and done her best to make him comfortable.  Feeling very out of place and desperately out of her depth, she was praying that the archaeologist would revive soon, although he seemed to be in a deep state of unconsciousness and that deep even breathing made her believe he had been put into that state intentionally by O’Neill, and would only awaken at the behest of the colonel.

She’d considered attempting once more to confront him, yet found herself fearful of his attitude and that rank.  Her discussions about O’Neill with Carter had made him sound something of a legend, although the major had gone to great pains to dispel any form of hero-worship that the tales of his deeds might have alluded to.  He was a soldier, pure and simple, and not one to tolerate scientists gladly, which, given his current state of mind, simply added to the intimidation factor.

Trying to draw on that scientific mind to find a solution, one Jackson seemed to believe she possessed, brought more questions than answers. How could she tackle something as advanced as these Sengo’lians, communicate with them to better understand how they’d managed to alter the man’s perception of himself and his role?  It was a challenge, one that she needed to rise to, or else find herself hopelessly marooned, or worse, made into a host for one of those Goa’uld symbiotes, as Nyerti had hinted.

Suddenly that all powerful IQ meant very little, the prospects were less than encouraging; whatever she did, she would have to do alone, unless she could find a way to revive Jackson.  “Think!” she said aloud. “There’s got to be an answer in that text somewhere?”

“What are you looking for an answer to my dear?” Nyerti asked.

Hailey looked up sharply, her attention so completely on the problem she hadn’t heard the Goa’uld enter the room.  She got to her feet quickly.  “Not something you would want to help with!” she replied.

“Freeing O’Neill?” Nyerti enquired, sneering at the cadet. “You are far too young to understand the complexities of such a task.”

Hailey continued to watch her, unsure of how to respond.  This was a formidable creature, thousands of years old and with a nefarious intent she could only wonder at.

“Lost your tongue?” Nyerti chided, looking down at Jackson. “Or is it simply that fear controls it?”

“No ma’am,” Hailey responded finally. “I’m just wondering I guess.”

Nyerti looked intrigued. “Wondering what exactly?” she asked.

“Why you’re here?” Hailey told her. “What you want from me?”

“From you I want nothing,” the Goa’uld snarled. “It is Dr. Jackson I came to see… still unconscious?”

“Yes,” Hailey replied, beginning to relax slightly.  The Goa’uld had no visible weapon to speak of, nothing that she could see that might prove harmful.

“I am curious,” she asked. “Why would O’Neill have interest in bringing a child aboard his vessel?  A child with advancement on your world, but merely an infant in the ways of the galaxy.”

Hailey stared at her contemptuously, yet almost with a sense of reverence.  The woman that stood before her knew so much of the universe that she was only seeing for the second time.  “And what if I wanted to learn?” she asked, suddenly detached from her fear by her curiosity.

Nyerti’s dark eyes smiled, a glint forming from the supposition and daring of a human child keen suddenly to seek her wisdom.

“And what if I were willing to teach you?” she offered. “Would that be a true request, or do you merely believe that with the knowledge I possess you could free him?”

“Colonel O’Neill?” Hailey asked. “If that’s whom you’re referring to, then I know that’s impossible.”

“Then,” Nyerti responded. “I would be interested to hear why?”

Hailey looked a little apprehensive now, she didn’t possess that knowledge, merely her theories, theories that if she’d known better she would have kept to herself.

“You had to learn at some point?” Hailey ventured, lowering her eyes momentarily as she gathered her thoughts. “Well, I want to learn too, but I don’t have thousands of years to do it.”

Nyerti seemed pacified with this answer; she walked across to Hailey, holding out her hands. “Then come, and I will teach you, perhaps even afford you the opportunity to have such a life.”

Hailey accepted the gesture, taking the hands of the Goa’uld. Looking into those confident yet deceitful brown eyes she felt a sense of betrayal sweep over her.  It had been both curiosity and cunning that had convinced her to appear complicit, if only to ascertain exactly how she might find a way out of a situation that seemed otherwise hopeless.

“There is much you can learn from me,” Nyerti asserted, as she led the cadet from the room.

 

******

Lya sat across from the three members of the SGC in the small village both Carter and Teal’c recognised instantly.

“If what you say is true, then Colonel O’Neill may be lost to you forever,” she said, her regard almost apologetic. “You are sure?”

“But we believe that the Nox found away to prevent them from completely infecting the Ancients, and somehow managed to imprison them on that planet long enough for the Ancients to build a device that prevented them from influencing escape,” Carter responded. “Lya, we’re not asking you to harm them, just buy us some time to free the Colonel of their influence.”

“What you ask is impossible,” Lya stated.

“Why?” Makepeace snapped. “You did it before?”

“Yes Colonel Makepeace, we did.  You are correct, however to do so again might ultimately cause irreparable damage to the Sengo’lians.”  Lya’s hands were raised in front of her, she interlaced her fingers together and she closed her eyes.

Carter watched her, fascinated, yet strangely fearful of the reply.  She had no idea what the Nox woman was doing, but it seemed to be a way of communication. Perhaps their minds were as strong as the Sengo’lians; their philosophies however were quite different.

She looked at Makepeace who appeared slightly bewildered, shrugging as if to indicate that she had no better idea of what Lya was doing than he.

“We shall contact Colonel O’Neill,” Lya said, almost the second that shrug had come. “We will advise you of our decision once this has been done.  Please return to your planet and await us.”

Carter stood, offering the Nox woman a smile. “Thank you Lya,” she said, accepting the decision without need for question or further making their case. “We appreciate your help with this.”

Lya lowered her head, acknowledging Carter’s gracious response, and disappeared instantly from view.

“Is that it?” Makepeace enquired sceptically. “We just sit around and wait until they decide whether or not to help us?”

“It is the Nox way, Colonel Makepeace,” Teal’c reflected, memories of their previous visit flashing through his mind.

“Swell!” Makepeace retorted. “Which way back to the gate?”

 

*****

O’Neill checked over the ship’s systems, memorising each function quickly, he reset the sensors to detect frequency modulated fields created by cloaking devices.  The scans of deep space indicating no ships in the immediate area, he moved across to the weapons and tactical displays.

This vessel, unlike the last one, was created for defence, its memory banks contained information on several thousand planets and galaxies spanning the universe, with detailed information on the life forms and threats encountered. What O’Neill found most interesting was the reference to Earth, a planet where many civilisations, unrecorded, had sprung up and departed into space as they had found the technologies to do so, then the first and second meteor strikes that caused a cataclysmic event, destroying those more advanced cultures, and leaving in its wake a barren scorched planet.

But there was something else within the database too, a reference to the Ancients themselves, although he searched for further mention of this reference, he could find nothing.

‘Daniel!’  Jack’s thoughts easily lifted the neuron inhibitors he’d used to keep the man unconscious.

He didn’t need a response; the archaeologist would come as soon as his senses had returned fully.

Without needing to try too hard, the colonel had found most of the keys to those doors the Sengo’lians had tried to shut firmly. Attempting to hide their secrets had been futile; the instant he turned his thoughts to probe their knowledge he had unlocked the vast network of that consciousness in seconds.  Now, the understanding began to precipitate his abilities to substantially enhance his powers of mind control, even objects could be moved quickly and efficiently, just as if he lifted them with his hands and placed them, they obeyed the will and force that his mind, using the Sengo’lians, and ultimately Jackson’s link with them, afforded him.  Such an intense concentration of power did they provide, that slowly his mind became the conduit to access the systems within the ship, absorbing the knowledge and calculating the most essential and destructive elements that he could harness.

“Jack?”

O’Neill turned to see Jackson standing behind him.  “Daniel, about time you woke up! Listen, I’ve made the calculations here and I think we can basically track and target the system lords’ fleets from anywhere in space!” he enthused.

“Well that’s good,” Jackson replied dubiously. “So we’re wiping out the system lords now?”

“Oh yeah, this thing is awesome, this whole… it’s vast!  There’s nothing I can’t see, or do, oh and this stuff?” He moved across to a console and without touching it, brought up a viewer that began to extrapolate the information he believed would completely fascinate the archaeologist.  “They’ve got an incredible amount of stuff in here dating back way before…”

“Um, that’s really fascinating Jack,” Daniel responded, without the perceived interest the colonel had depended on him showing. “But, er, isn’t this getting a little out of hand, too much information?”

O’Neill stared at him. “Look!” he snapped. “We can take out the Goa’uld, the Asgard, hell we can even lose the damn Sengo’lians if we want to! This stuff is limitless!”

“For what?” Daniel asked. “I mean isn’t it a little futile to just wipe out the entire populations of other sentient species?”

“Nope!  It’s a good thing, kinda gives us everything we’ve ever wanted, you can study this stuff and know everything there is to know about the universe… hell, Earth’s history is documented on here from…” he paused, looking at the archaeologist with dismay. “You’re not buying this are you?” he asked.

“No, I’m really not,” Jackson ceded, a well-worn scowl of disappoint etched into his boyish features. “Because I know what you’re doing, and it’s just not you, I thought it was, Jack, but they convinced me with their words that they’ve basically taken every ounce of hatred and evil that exists within them and thrown it into you.”

O’Neill’s expression became one of confusion, his eyes narrowing.  “Does it matter why?” he asked, and there was almost a sense of bewilderment reflected in that question.  “The point is, we can do whatever we want and to hell with the consequences, right?  We own this place!”

Jackson shook his head, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. “No, we really don’t, that’s the problem.  We’re one small part of something that’s way too immense to ever control, not without completely wiping out anything that threatens, without subjugating mind and wills of races we haven’t even discovered.  Jack, you have to try and reach down inside and find you!  Not what they’re mirroring and representing, but what you are!”

“You’re so not getting this!” O’Neill remonstrated, looking slightly jaded now, clearly perplexed that Daniel wasn’t falling into line with his big plan. “Just… go back to your pesky little existence and die, or whatever it is you wanna do!” His eyes began to change once more, the black washing over the white, and becoming that deep empty lifeless abyss.  “You don’t matter!” he intoned bitterly. “Nothing matters.”

“Well that’s just… it’s bullshit!” Daniel snapped assertively. “Everything matters, God!” he exclaimed loudly. “Why do you think they did this Jack?  They’re using you to get rid of everything within them, they don’t even know they’re doing it. Don’t you see that?”

O’Neill waved him off, turning away from him and placing his hands on the console. He didn’t want to hear it, because he couldn’t compute the information.  Everything that had been Jack O’Neill, that was recognisable even to the colonel himself, was buried far too deeply beneath his own hatred and that of Sengo’lians. Hatred they believed expunged had simply been locked away and unleashed into the worst possible place, a mind that already contained vengeance and darkness, amplified now, and channelled unwittingly into someone that contained knowledge of how to use it.

Jackson stared at the colonel, nothing he could say was going to make a difference, the futility of his words simply resonated around his mind, which was already in crisis trying to comprehend the magnitude of the situation.

The Sengo’lians were helpless, even with, as they had asserted, Jackson’s mind sympathetic to their cause, what they had freed had grown beyond their own capacity to control.  He stepped back, almost under the weight of his thoughts, and the turmoil that brought.

“Where’s Nyerti?” Daniel asked, suddenly realising that neither she, nor cadet Hailey were there.

“She’s teaching her new pupil the basics in Naqadah technology, I guess,” Jack replied. He stood, his back still turned on the archaeologist, setting the coordinates for his next target.  “So, you, er, want me to take you back to Earth?” he enquired, turning slowly and regarding the archaeologist with a grimace. “’Cause, I can do that right now!”

Daniel considered it.  He couldn’t be useful here, perhaps he could be back on Earth, and maybe Sam had come up with something, maybe the information that he had might help?  “And you’d do that?” he asked.  “Take me back without an argument?”

“Oh yeah, come on Danny, think I’d do anything to hurt you?” Jack’s eyes returned to normal the instant his voice and disposition changed. “I’m not gonna keep you here if this isn’t where you wanna be.”

Jackson shook his head a smile slowly crossing his features. “That’s good Jack, you almost look like you mean it,” he replied. “But you don’t… what’s the plan, take me back to Earth so I can watch you destroy it?”

O’Neill’s left hand snatched at the air. “Oh dang!” he quipped. “You see right through me, don’t ya?” The amusement that settled onto his face was quickly replaced by one of resolute abhorrence, he moved toward the man.  “With or without you, Earth’s going down!” he said, his voice almost a whisper.

“Wipe out everything you care about?” Daniel asked. “Sara?  Sam? Iceni?”

The colonel stopped in his tracks. “Iceni?” he repeated. There was a vague sense of recognition.

“Your daughter,” Daniel said. “The one you had with Hathor?”

“Oh, that Iceni,” Jack acknowledged, dismissing it instantly with another sweeping gesture from his left hand. “Well she’s better off that way, you know?”

“Dead?  Sure, just like Charlie, better off dead.” Daniel moved across to the colonel now. “Is that what will make everything go away, Jack?  Kill everything and that’s it? No more concerns, no more conscience.  I mean it has to work like that, right?” he charged. “Everything you ever cared about or loved dies, and then you can feed off that self loathing forever?  That’s it isn’t it, I’m right!”

“Is there a point to all this incessant moral crap?” O’Neill enquired, a bored sigh escaping his lips to underline just how much he didn’t care.

“I don’t know, you tell me, sure let’s got to Earth and blow it up!” Daniel snapped. “Take out the Asgard, kill all the Goa’ulds, throw in the Tollan and the Tok’ra, anyone else? I mean there has to be a couple of races we can annihilate whilst we’re at it?”  The frustration was becoming almost unmanageable, he was completely lost and unable to find a solution, nothing he said mattered, no taunts, no insults, there wasn’t a way through the wall that the Sengo’lians had unwittingly erected. “What’s left to rule then? To control?”

“Patience, Daniel,” the colonel retorted, a wry smile forming on his face.

Jackson felt himself losing that patience, and burning with anger.  He couldn’t find a way to get around the sarcasm, the irony of that just seemed too ridiculous to contemplate.  “Fine!” he snarled, throwing his arms up in defeat.

O’Neill watched him walk from the control room, shrugging his shoulders. “Some people just don’t possess patience!” he remarked glibly.

 

*****

Heru’ur’s ship scanned the surface of the planet.  “We are not detecting life signs my lord,” Nefir pointed out.

The Goa’uld turned and regarded Thoth, whose strong green eyes merely smiled back patiently. “Reconfigure the resonance to detect movement,” he advised.

Nefir looked to his master before complying with the instructions.

“This creature possesses no life?” Heru’ur enquired, slightly shaken at such a notion.

“You have heard of what human’s call vampire?  A creature of the dead that sucks life from the living?” Thoth replied, knowing well that Heru’ur had heard the legends, but never understood them.

“This creature is nourished on the blood of the living?” It was an observation that needed no answer. “Then this is why we are in danger, since he will drain the life’s blood of our hosts, and thus without life within the body we will perish!”  A supercilious smile crossed the features of the system lord. “Perhaps this is a creature we should introduce to its origins.”

“Such a creature, when left on a planet containing life, will eventually, slowly, over a thousand or more years, reduce it to death,” Thoth told his master. “The planet we are orbiting once teemed with life, now there is only Aiestrodous and those creatures he created to guard his existence.”

“Intriguing, how does he survive without life?” Heru’ur enquired.

“The species he created provides that which he needs, and feeds solely on micro organisms within the atmosphere.  Much like those vast creatures we studied on Earth, they filter the nutrients and survive.  They have been bred over many thousands of years to exist solely to provide the nourishment for their creator.”

“Then we shall have a creature in our possession capable of destroying hosts?” Heru’ur asked, his mind already beginning to weigh up the possibilities of using such a creature against other Goa’uld.

“Of this I am certain, my lord, and that he has already experienced the life blood of a human,” Thoth told him. “Had I not known, or realised his power, I should not have been able to so thoroughly interrogate him!”

“O’Neill?” Heru’ur surmised, a smirk crossing his features.

“Yes my lord,” Thoth replied. “He can match O’Neill, not for power, but for speed and guile.  This creature pre-dates the Goa’uld rise to dominance and even the Asgard were in their infancy when he roamed Earth!”

“Find it, and bring it to me!” Heru’ur snarled impatiently. “I have need for such a beast!”

 

*****

Jack sat up on the console, closing down the ship’s systems one by one, until only life support, which had no means of shut down, remained, that and the lighting.

He wasn’t sure anymore whether to bother with Earth, or to simply annihilate the more advanced races within the galaxy first; pondering the thought of taking out the Goa’uld from a distance, didn’t feed the pleasure he seemed to thrive upon of the sheer terror he could cause this race.

From her planet, Lya interrupted the colonel’s thought patterns, placing the perception of her presence in his mind.

She appeared before him, causing him to double take.  “Well, well, if it isn’t the Nox, how’s it going?” he asked.

“We are fine, Colonel, although you appear not to be,” she replied.

“I’m just having a little moment of indecision here, I was getting around to coming to see you!” he remarked.

“We are aware, but you are not, at least your conscious state is not,” Lya told him.

“Oh you do-gooders,” Jack complained, jumping down from the console. “Suppose you’re here to back up old Doc Jackson?”

“We are here to help you,” Lya said. “Your mind isn’t capable of dealing with the thoughts of so many, as such it has shut down, and all that remains are the things that are most dark within it.”

“Yeah, that’s real nice, but I kinda like those things,” he responded. “So I guess we’ll be doing the whole struggle thing right?”

“No, Colonel, we are not here to fight you,” Lya replied. “We are here to warn you of the danger, and to invite you to our planet in order that we may once again restore you to your true self.”

“Sorry, much as I’d love to spend a little time with you, not interested.”  He moved toward her, finding it impossible to come within touching distance.

“Okay, that’s impressive!” he noted.

“Colonel, I had hoped that you would be able to aid us in this, I see you are helpless, very well then.”  She closed her eyes, her hands placed together before her.

Her thoughts overwhelmed and controlled his mind, conducting him to take the ship to a neutral planet and land it. Without question he did so, using the gate to arrive at the Nox planet. She released his thoughts the second he had been moved to the village he’d visited many years previously.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed. “How did you do that?”  No memory of his actions under her control remained.

“It is not difficult, Colonel,” Lya told him.

“Sweet, now wanna take me back?” he remarked. “This place is kinda… wet!”

He looked up in dismay at the skies above as the heavens opened and rain began to fall heavily. “Great! Just… for crying out loud, is it ever dry here?”

Lya smiled. “Already I begin to see you,” she told him.

I’m just loving seeing you,” the colonel replied, a grimace sweeping his face.

 

******

Hammond listened intently as Major Carter explained the purpose of the mission to the Nox.

“Basically, sir, they’re thinking about helping,” she told him.

“But nothing yet?” he enquired, a glance across to Makepeace.

“Nothing so far, sir,” the marine responded.

“So exactly what are we looking at here?” Hammond asked. “In terms of remedying the situation?”

“I’m not sure, sir, if what Cadet Hailey theorised is true, then there’s probably a very good case of getting Colonel O’Neill back, with the help of the Nox,” she told him.

“And without their help?” Hammond enquired. “What’s the worse case scenario?”

“O’Neill, with the influence of the Sengo’lians and the power to control Ancients technology, will probably wage war on just about anyone!” Makepeace told them.

Major Davis’s arrival into the briefing raised a few eyebrows. “Sir, I thought I should report right away,” he explained. “The link with Colonel O’Neill, it’s gone, sir. I, it’s really odd, but one minute I could hear the voices in my head, and the next?” he looked bewildered

“You’ll forgive me, Major, if I remain cynical as to that news!” Hammond commented. “Until I have proof, and even then I doubt if I’ll trust it!”

Davis nodded; he looked woefully inadequate, almost apologetic.  “I’m sorry, sir, I wish I could prove it, but I… may I join the briefing, sir?”

Hammond gestured for him to sit down, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms.

“Is it possible that the Nox would simply act without telling us?” Makepeace asked.

Carter puffed her cheeks out, exhaling. “I guess it is, I mean they’re very secretive and protective of their race?” she replied. “And if…” she added, a tentative glance toward Major Davis, “what Paul says is true, then maybe they acted already?”

“Unauthorised incoming traveller!” Lieutenant Simmons voice boomed over the tannoy.

Hammond was out of his chair immediately, heading toward the control room, followed by all those at the briefing.

“Lieutenant?” Hammond enquired immediately.

“Receiving, IDC sir,” Simmons responded. “It’s… SG2?”

Carter raised her eyebrows, looking at Teal’c who kept his gaze firmly on the Iris.

“Open the Iris,” Hammond ordered.  “All defence teams standby!” he added into the tannoy.

The Iris opened; Hammond anxiously watched the event horizon.  Daniel Jackson and Cadet Hailey emerged.  Jackson paused on the ramp, his hands held out to show his intentions were not nefarious.

”General, we’ll need TERs, I’m not sure if Nyerti followed us?” he called out.

Hammond looked a little startled.

“Major!” he instructed.

Hailey looked at Jackson. “You think she’d follow us?” she asked.

“Oh I’m pretty sure she’d do anything to destroy this place,” Daniel replied.

Carter and Teal’c were already making their way from the control room. “Stand by Dr. Jackson we’ll have them momentarily,” Hammond advised.

“Thank you!” Daniel acknowledged. “And, standing by!”

Carter and Teal’c swept the embarkation room. With no signs of Nyerti the security team was stood down.  Hammond ordered Jackson and Hailey to the infirmary for a full check over.

 

*****

 “Janet, I really am fine,” Daniel insisted, as he watched her drawing blood from his arm.

“Well you can never be too sure, Dr. Jackson!” Janet responded.  She hadn’t been able to look the man in the eyes at all; she seemed completely ill at ease around him, not her usual confident self.

“Is something wrong?” Daniel enquired, when that lack of personable charm he’d become so accustomed to failed to materialise.  “I mean is it just me, or is there a problem?”

Janet finally looked him in the eyes. “You… I really don’t think this is the time to discuss this, Dr. Jackson,” she said, turning away once more.

Daniel slipped off of the gurney, his hand gently grasping her arm.  “It’s because of what happened between you and Jack isn’t it?” he asked softly. “You’re, what, embarrassed?”

Janet looked into his eyes finally. “Embarrassed?” she repeated. “No, Daniel, I’m not embarrassed, I’m livid!”

“Oh,” Jackson gasped, his eyebrows climbing his fore head, a look of dismay crossing his boyish features. “I um, don’t really know what to say, except…”

“Don’t say it wasn’t his fault, please, just don’t say that!” she insisted.

Daniel looked around, some of the medical staff and technicians were trying to be discreet, yet with the doctor being so loud and forthright it seemed a little implausible.  “Why, er, don’t we go to your office?” he suggested. “Because I really wasn’t going to defend Jack.  But I can see you really do need to talk about this, and even if I’m not the right person, I’d like to help?”

Janet’s face softened. “I know you would Daniel,” she replied, shaking her head as she spoke. “But it really isn’t you I have a problem with, and as far as I can tell you had no way of stopping him from…”

“I know,” Daniel saved her the embarrassment of voicing it aloud. “But if you need to talk about it?” he offered once more.

“Thank you.”

 

*****

Jack sat in the half lit hut, he remembered it vaguely, having woken up in there from being dead, it had left an impression of sorts on him.

Lya sat opposite him.  “Your will is to be within darkness, Colonel?” she questioned.

“You betcha!” Jack replied, he’d taken absolutely nothing she’d said to heart, and seemed intent on being as flip and awkward as he could possibly be.

“Yet you tried to save us from the Goa’uld, and put your own life in danger.  As well as this you subsequently saved the Tollan from others of your race that wished to make them slaves?” Lya ventured. “Does that not appear odd to you?”

“Nope, that was a moment of weakness!” the colonel repudiated. “Besides, that was a lifetime ago!”

“Then perhaps you would mind explaining to me, if you can, why you have since risked your life for others? Others that now bring this great shame upon you.”  Lya maintained eye contact with him the whole time she spoke; her voice remained even, with very little enunciation used.

Jack regarded her with a degree of impatience now, he was becoming frustrated with the monotony of the conversation, and why she would want to spend so much of her time in such a menial way, after all, he wasn’t about to suddenly decide he’d been completely wrong and swing back to that being nice mentality!

“You know, is there a point to this?” he enquired, leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees. “Because it’s getting kinda old, you telling me what a great guy I am, I already know!”

“Your sarcasm and dismissive behaviour will only serve to lengthen this, Colonel,” Lya advised. “But since you did mention your benevolence perhaps you would like to clarify how a man of these qualities can change so much?”

“Okay, firstly, I’m not benevolent, never have been!  Secondly, I haven’t changed, I’ve just wised up.  What’s the damn point in running around the universe playing nice, when I can just wipe it all out in the blink of an eye and have done with it?” he demanded.  “You answer me that?”

“Do other races, other cultures and species have no right to life, Colonel?” Lya queried.

O’Neill exhaled loudly, throwing his hands up in dismay. “I’m SO not going there!” he retorted.

“Why, Colonel?  Do you not have an answer?” she persisted. “Since you believe you have the right to arbitrarily exterminate, do you have no reason to justify this action?”

Jack’s features contorted as he considered the question.  “Nope!  Don’t need one,” he remarked at length, looking away from her invasive gaze.

“Very well,” she answered, standing.  A P-90 appeared at the man’s feet; the colonel looking slightly surprised, a grimace crossed his features.

“And this is?” he enquired.

“Since you believe that the Nox are all that stand before you and domination of the galaxy, here is your weapon,” Lya told him. “I am unarmed.”

Jack looked down at the weapon, then back to the woman. “Okay, that’s not real,” he stated, pointing down at the P-90. “Playing games with my head isn’t gonna get me to change my mind you know?”

“You will find it is very real, Colonel, or perhaps you require something a little more personal,” she enquired. “Such as…”

The knife that appeared beside the P-90 was the same one he always carried on away missions.  He leant down and picked it up. “So you’re trying to check on my benevolence level here right?” he noted, checking the blade and the grip of the handle.  “Sweet!” he added, rising from the crib.  He moved across to her. “You wanna see how we do this in Special Forces?” he enquired.

The instant he brought the knife across her throat she disappeared.  Jack chuckled to himself. “That bad ass enough for ya?” he yelled, at the top of his lungs.

 

*****

Jackson sat in one of the holding rooms, alone now, waiting for someone to come and debrief him. He found himself free to think with far more clarity than he had in months.  There were no other voices in his mind, wherever O’Neill had disappeared to, before sending the ship to Kheb, and unceremoniously dumping them on the planet, he had no idea.

He’d found Hailey beside him, but no sign of Nyerti; knowing she couldn’t possibly operate the ships systems, although he couldn’t remember quite how he knew that, the thought that she had somehow made it back through the Stargate with them still weighed heavily on his mind.  TER sweep or not, he had an eerie feeling he hadn’t seen the last of her.

It was curious to be alone in his mind, not to have sarcastic comment or conversations with O’Neill, even the Sengo’lians were quiet now, and that felt strangely empty to him.

He heard voices outside, the door opened almost immediately revealing Carter and Teal’c.

“Hi,” he greeted, if somewhat dubiously.

“Daniel Jackson, it is good to see you are well,” Teal’c acknowledged.

“We’ve come to debrief you,” Sam told him, a look of reticence crossing her face.

“So I’m in here until we convince General Hammond that I’m Jack free?” Daniel ventured.

“Pretty much,” Sam replied, sitting on one of the two chairs opposite. Teal’c elected to remain standing.

“Okay, I can understand that,” he said. “What exactly is that going to take, or is that a dumb question?”

“Okay, let's just start with what happened after you left the base to go to the planet with the rescue team?” Sam questioned, her tone business like. “Why you prevented Teal’c and Colonel Makepeace from joining that mission, and what happened when you got there.”

Daniel’s hands swept across his face into his hand and came to rest at the back of his head. “Well, I was basically stopping them from being captured,” he began.

“Being captured?” Sam probed. She looked up at Teal’c. The Jaffa as usual gave no indication of his thoughts.

“Yes, see I knew, or at least being under the influence of the, er, of Jack I guess, that anyone that went to the planet that wasn’t on his side was going to be turned over to the Goa’uld,” Daniel explained, He winced slightly, it certainly didn’t sound any better when he said it aloud.

“Turned over to the Goa’uld?” Sam exclaimed.  She looked both horrified and disgusted with that statement.

“Jack was, is… I’m not sure anymore,” he responded. “But then, at that time he was working with Osiris, he basically had the whole place crawling with Jaffa and… oh, this sounds really bad.”

“Sounding worse all the time isn’t it?” Sam remarked cynically. “Go on.”

“Well, they were captured and Jack basically decided to come back to Earth and go after Ptah, and the NID,” Daniel continued. “Only he, er, well it’s a little bit unclear what he was going to do actually, I mean he could have killed those cops?”

“Why isn’t this making any sense?” Sam asked dubiously.

Daniel looked perplexed, his hands dropping to his sides. “I’m not a very good story teller am I?” he replied. “Look, whatever Jack’s done, it wasn’t him I mean, it was him, but it, er, wasn’t.”  He glanced up at Teal’c; the Jaffa, his eyebrows now raised incredulously, was shaking his head.

“It does not look good, Daniel Jackson,” he replied without needing to be asked.

“No it doesn’t,” Daniel agreed. “But you had to be in this to understand what’s happened to Jack.”

“Did raping Dr. Fraiser come as part of that package?” Sam enquired bitterly, her eyes cold and unforgiving.

“He didn’t exactly rape anyone, and I’m not discussing that.” Daniel remarked.

“He didn’t?” Sam snarled. “Oh, I forgot, he’s your best friend.” There was something very sinister in that inference. “Subjugating Janet’s mind doesn’t count, does it?”

Jackson looked angry for a second then shook his head. “Look, let’s not get sidetracked here,” Daniel implored. “Whatever Jack did is the result of what the Sengo’lians have done to him.  You really believe he’d hurt Janet?  Is that what you really think?” he demanded.

“Care to try and explain that?” Sam persisted, her tone and her body language still hostile, overtly so.

“No actually,” Daniel retorted. “I don’t care to explain anything else.  I’ll, er, take the fifth!  Jack can fight his own battles.”

“Okay,” Sam said dismissively. “Then I guess we’ll see you later.”

Daniel lowered his eyes taking a deep breath. “Sam, it’s not his fault,” he said, and instantly wished he hadn’t.  He’d promised himself he wasn’t going to do the crusading thing again, but, just like Jack had told him, he was predictable.

“No, Daniel, it never is!” Sam replied scathingly.

Jackson looked perplexed, frustration overcoming him.  “So we’re more inclined to try and find fault with Jack than we are worrying about a Goa’uld within the NID?” he snapped. “Or what that damn alien race has unleashed on everyone?”

Carter ignored him, walking out of the door without a backward glance.  Teal’c turned and regarded him.

“I believe this is a concern to be addressed also, Daniel Jackson,” he stated. “However, O’Neill is far more important to Major Carter than a Goa’uld!”

Daniel nodded, his eyes searching the Jaffa’s features.  “I know he is Teal’c, and it really isn’t his fault.  Whatever he did, it just wasn’t… it isn’t Jack.”

The Jaffa bowed his head, leaving Jackson alone; the sound of the door closing behind him isolated Daniel from his colleagues once more.

 

*****

Jacob sat in Hammond’s office, his symbiote conveying his regret at the length of time it had taken them to answer the request for help.

“We have been alerted to a meeting between the system lords following the destruction of Nefertum and his fleet,” Selmak explained.

“O’Neill?” Hammond asked.

“We believe so,” Selmak responded. “However, we also believe that Heru’ur is now looking for a showdown with the Asgard, hoping no doubt that Hathor can pull Colonel O’Neill onto their side.”

“Is that likely?” Hammond enquired, looking concerned now.

“Yes, news reached us that the Goa’uld Osiris has now surfaced and she had prisoners our operatives overheard her saying were a gift from O’Neill,” Selmak replied. “It is likely that if these Sengo’lians are responsible for turning the Colonel, that he would indeed align himself to a race as malevolent as the Goa’uld!”

George Hammond exhaled long and hard. “So the team sent to retrieve him weren’t destroyed?” he asked.

“No!”

“I’ve declared O’Neill as MIA for the time being,” Hammond told the man.

“Then you believe the Nox will assist in freeing him of the influence he has fallen under?” Selmak enquired, the face of his host looking sceptical.

“Major Carter believes that if they have elected to help, that they are the ones responsible for stopping the Sengo’lian in the first place,” Hammond informed him.

Jacob lowered his head, silencing Selmak. “Sam’s right, George,” he said. “We’ve been doing a little homework of our own.  From what we’ve learned Colonel O’Neill went dark side. He destroyed that planet and turned your people over to the Goa’uld, as well as furnishing Osiris with the knowledge that the Asgard are having a little Replicator problem.  But, the Nox have conveyed to us that they currently have the Colonel, and are doing their utmost to rid him of the malevolence accidentally forced upon him by the Sengo’lians.”

“Accidentally?” Hammond echoed.

“Yes,” Jacob responded. “These Sengo’lians aren’t dangerous per se, they’re just a little too curious to have that much mind control.  Apparently from what we’ve been told they stumbled across the things in Jack’s past he’s buried, the death of his child, his marriage break up, his whole dark past in black ops, and they felt they could help free him of the guilt and shame locked in there if they made him face it.”

“That’s all it is?” Hammond asked incredulously.

“Well, they also managed to offload their own problems in there somewhere too,” Jacob clarified, shaking his head. “So it’s a little amplified.”

The general shook his head.  “How do we get him back?” he asked. “Or do we?”

“The Nox are a pretty persuasive race, they said it might take some time and a lot of soul searching, but they are almost positive that they can retrieve the situation, and here’s the best part, remove the Sengo’lians from the Colonel’s mind entirely.”

“That would come as something of a relief,” Hammond agreed. “How long is some time?”

“No idea,” Jacob replied honestly. “It probably depends on how much he wants out!”

“In the meantime, is this possible attack on the Asgard likely to have repercussions?” Hammond enquired.

“Hard to say,” Jacob confessed, a rueful expression crossing his features. “That the Goa’uld now know the Asgard have the Replicator problem could be a factor, even so we’re hoping that they still see that as too big a risk!”

“Let’s hope so,” Hammond replied. “Or we’ll have one heck of a fight on our hands!”

 

*****

Aiestrodous stood behind the force shield, his piercing red eyes staring at his Goa’uld captors.

”Why have you brought me to this place?” he enquired, his voice low, the words drenched in scorn.

Thoth approached him, dubiously unsure whether the creature’s powers would extend through that shield.  “We have need of your help,” he told him.

“A Goa’uld, asking for help?” Aiestrodous replied, sarcasm lacing his tone.

“Without us, you would be left on that planet.  Eventually your nourishment would perish and you in turn would die,” Thoth declared.  “We offer you an unlimited source of food in return for several deeds.”

Aiestrodous regarded the face of the host, seeing fear in those eyes, smelling it easily.  “You are not a Goa’uld,” he said, his voice ever lower. “You are of the Tok’ra, would that I turn you in to those you deceive?”

“And why would a being that hates the Goa’uld as much as I, do such a thing?” Thoth enquired, a smile caressing his face now.

“Freedom,” Aiestrodous replied. “A freedom I could buy with your treachery.”

“Then do it,” Thoth replied. “See the Goa’uld become more powerful, and since they fear you, you would be the first they destroyed.”

The vampire bowed his head. “Touché!”

Somewhat relieved, Thoth moved even closer to the shield. “My master desires conquest over the one you know as O’Neill, a human whom you almost captured.”

“How do you know of this?” Aiestrodous enquired.

“The Tau’ri, from whence he hails, are allies of the Tok’ra, we share information, this knowledge was gifted to me.”

“You would destroy an ally?” Aiestrodous noted, somewhat apprehensively.

Thoth shook his head. “No, never!  But O’Neill is no longer considered an ally, he has been turned by the beings with a power so great he has the capacity to destroy with his mind, possessing as he does the knowledge of the Ancients, and therefore having the ability to find and utilise their weapons, he has become a bigger threat than the Goa’uld themselves!

“Omnipotent?” Aiestrodous demanded, his eyes widening, the fire like glow that resonated in his pupils turning blood red.

Thoth lowered his eyes, fearful of the power he saw. “To a degree you could never imagine,” he confirmed.

“And you wish me to destroy him?” the vampire questioned.

“I do!” Thoth confirmed.

 

 ******

O’Neill was making his way back toward the Stargate when Lya appeared before him on one of the well-trodden paths.

“Leaving us so soon, Colonel?” she enquired, her petite frame appearing even more waif like as O’Neill, who now sported both the P-90 and the knife she’d given him, drew closer.

“Well, you know, your entertainment sucks, hate the weather.  Next time I do a vacation, I’m thinking of visiting Argos actually, but hey! Thanks for the chat,” he remarked caustically.

“The Stargate is gone,” Lya told him. “There is no way off of this planet.”

“You hid it, I can find it,” he replied his expression becoming jaded. “So if you don’t mind?”

“Very well, Colonel, please continue,” Lya offered. She moved aside and allowed him to walk on, following him.

After several paces he stopped. “Okay, why are you following me?” he enquired, anger resonating in his tone.  “Because you know you’re getting on my nerves right there?”

“I merely wish to keep you company,” Lya replied, the sweet innocence on her face causing the colonel to grimace once more.

“Well, I don’t want your company!” he snapped petulantly. “So go away!”

He walked on once more, only to find her several paces behind him when he glanced back.  “Do you understand the concept of annoying?” he enquired.

“The Nox understand much Colonel,” she responded. “Perhaps you would consider this less annoying if you simply heeded that the gate is no longer there?”

O’Neill turned fully now to regard her, a heavy sigh pursing his lips. “Swell, the gate’s not there, so consider this a hike!” he retorted glibly, waving his left hand across his body dismissively and then pointing at the woman. “And you’re not invited!”

Anteaus watched, shielded from the colonel by the shroud of invisibility.

“This will take a long time,” he told Opher, the oldest and the wisest of the Nox.

“Yes!  But Lya will lead him back to his soul,” he replied.

 

******

Daniel looked slightly bemused as he was led into the briefing room. At the table sat Jacob Carter, General Hammond, Major Paul Davis and Colonel Makepeace.

“Come in Dr. Jackson and take a seat,” Hammond advised.

There was none of the previous attitude, the man seemed genuinely pleased to see him, or at least that was the impression he was giving.  Daniel did as ordered, looking curiously from one to the other.

“Daniel, the Tok’ra believe that the Goa’uld may be planning an assault on the Asgard,” Jacob began, once the archaeologist had settled. “Now, if that happens, and with the Asgard compromised by these bugs, there’s a good chance they’ll be destroyed.”

“I, er, I guess,” Daniel agreed, unsure of why such information was being shared. “And so?” he encouraged.

“Are you still in contact with Colonel O’Neill?” Jacob asked. “Because if you are we’d like to throw a little red herring his way and have him prevent such an assault.”

“No, actually I’m… not,” Daniel replied slowly.  He got the feeling he was being tested.

“Dr. Jackson, you’re sure?” Jacob probed. “If we had any way of communicating what we’ve learned to the Asgard we’d do so, other than that the best thing we can do is get Colonel O’Neill to launch an assault on the Goa’uld and…”

“Look!” Daniel said, his right hand brought up to his face, pushing those ever-encroaching glasses back against his face. “I realise what you’re trying to do here, Sam did the bad cop, and you’re doing the good cop.  But it really isn’t necessary… would I have told Sam what really happened on that planet if I was still under Jack’s influence?  Ask Cadet Hailey, she saw me arguing with him?” he offered, frustration creasing his eyes as he grimaced at the unconvinced faces before him. “It’s quiet in here, too quiet!” he added.

“Sir, he’s right,” Davis interceded. “Whether the Colonel’s gone to ground, or whether he’s… dead, I’m not hearing anything at all!”

“Okay,” Jacob said. “Since we know Colonel O’Neill is with the Nox, and they pretty much believed that they had managed to sever the links, I guess we’ll have to trust that it’s happened.”

“Well it’s nice to know I’m trusted!” Daniel remarked bitterly, holding his hand up immediately in apology. “Sorry, that was uncalled for.”

Hammond’s acknowledgement that he accepted the apology brought a smile to Jackson’s face.  “Thank you.  Are the, er, Goa’uld really thinking of taking on the Asgard?” Daniel enquired.

Jacob nodded. “The last communication we got from our spies aboard Heru’ur’s ship indicated as much!”

“Well that’s not good,” Daniel remarked.

“No it isn’t,” Jacob replied. “Apparently, according to our sources Heru’ur has some very ambitious plans.  But then so does Hathor, who is now aided by Osiris and Nyerti!”

“Oh yes, speaking of Nyerti actually,” Daniel cut in, another shove at his glasses. “According to Cadet Hailey, it seems that she’s looking for a little cooperation, I don’t think she likes being demoted, so maybe she might be willing to help if the deal includes restoring her to power?”

“Dr. Jackson,” Selmak spoke. “I do not need to tell you how nefarious most Goa’uld are.  With Nyerti, this applies doubly so.  She is one of the most devious and dangerous of all Goa’uld.  She doesn’t have the same fear of the Asgard we’d usually associate with the Goa’uld, since she is the only Goa’uld ever to actually capture and torture to death a solitary Asgard!  Her cloaking device was apparently designed during that time!”

“Oh!” Daniel gasped. “Sorry, I was just thinking out loud, I mean if we can encourage Nyerti to create a little chaos amongst her own?”

“Actually, that’s not a bad strategy!” Makepeace chipped in.

“Colonel?” Hammond enquired dubiously.

“Well sir, if Dr. Jackson’s right and she’d be willing to work with us in causing a rift between Hathor and Heru’ur, which might help the Asgard and keep the balance out there intact, maybe we can turn it around on her and catch ourselves a Goa’uld.  If Jack’s lost his Colonel Fantastic powers, it might be a good way to address the balance and we might learn how that cloaking device of hers works too!”

Selmak shook his head, lowering his eyes and allowing his host to speak. “Colonel Makepeace,” Jacob said. “That’s a dangerous idea, and I doubt seriously if you could pull something like that off.”

“Actually with the bait I had in mind, maybe we can?” Daniel offered. His eyes widened a little as he thought it through, removing his glasses carelessly before pushing them back on more forcefully.

“Go on, Dr. Jackson?”  Hammond urged, looking at Jacob sceptically but willing to listen all the same.

“Well, sir, Nyerti promised to teach Cadet Hailey some stuff, I’m not sure what, but, er, anyway I don’t think that was her intention!  According to the Cadet, she spent most of her time questioning her about Iceni, and what Jack had been doing since they last met!” Jackson told him. “Apparently she thinks the child contains the knowledge of her father, that because of the Goa’uld DNA it would be genetically imprinted on her mind.”

Jacob looked intrigued too now. “She’s right, it might be!” he agreed. “We know Nyerti has done experiments in the past, tried to engineer herself a more powerful host, if Iceni has the knowledge of the Ancients, and possibly the Sengo’lians, even the Goa’uld?” Jacob said. “She’d make a very powerful host!” Selmak agreed, taking over from his host.  “Where is this child General Hammond?”

“Right now she’s in the charge of Dr. Fraiser,” Hammond responded. “On this base!”

“Like Colonel Makepeace said, we offer our assistance and, although not obviously, access to the child and lure her back here!” Daniel suggested. “We can keep Iceni safe… can’t we?”

Hammond nodded.

“I doubt she’d go for that?” Jacob reproached. “No, you’d have to convince her that you were going to help, anything to sabotage the Goa’uld, she’s arrogant enough to think she can outsmart you, and devious enough to try.  You’d have to come up with a foolproof plan, figure all the angles, and then go back and figure them again to capture that prize!”

“But you think it’s possible, Jacob?” Hammond asked.

“Oh, it’s possible,” he responded. “Right now she’s out in the cold as it were. She’ll take the help, you just have to figure out a way to catch her once that’s happened!”

“What about O’Neill, sir?” Makepeace enquired. “If the Nox can get these Sengo’lians out of his head, she’s already shown a willingness to ally herself to him?”

“Right now, we need to concentrate on working out a plan, if we’re sure this is the road to go down, and the only way to help the Asgard and maintain the equilibrium out there!  But let’s keep one thing in mind,” Hammond remarked, shaking his head. “We’re offering to help a Goa’uld here people, let’s hope this one doesn’t bite us on the ass!”

 

*****

Lya watched the colonel pace up and down where he knew the Stargate had previously been.  He had maintained that low growling menace each time she had attempted to lure him back to the village, and once or twice had actually opened fire on her with the P-90

“Where’s the damn Stargate,” he demanded, once more displaying nefarious intent, and lifting the P-90 in her direction.

“Colonel, you do not learn easily,” she told him. “You have emptied your weapon.”

Jack looked heavenwards. “So gimme some more bullets!” he snarled. “I’m gonna get lucky in a minute.”

Lya smiled at him. “Your wildness is very admirable, Colonel,” she reflected. “It is something you once harnessed for good.”

“Hey, wanna talk bondage?” he asked moving closer to her. “You know what I’m talking about, right? You me, a little down on the dirt kind of therapy?”

“Nor will your attempts to shock provide you with a means to avoid this,” she advised. “Will you not return to the village?  You become tired and…”

“BORED! For crying out loud, what is with you people?” he vociferated. “Don’t you get it?  No one home?”

“I understand perfectly, you desire to be rid of the pain that is such an investment of your past, this is so much easier for you.  The shame you feel for your liaison with a Goa’uld whom you have come to love.”

Jack’s eyes became jet black once more, boring into her face, twisted with rage.  “You’re so wrong,” he hissed menacingly.

“I am?” she asked. “Then why does the darkness throw itself to your defence, Colonel, and why if you feel so much malevolence, do you find yourself so enraged?”

She didn’t move this time as he came close enough to touch her, his rage searing in its intensity, hands clenching into fists and out, fingers reaching up and clasping around her throat.

She did not flinch; instead her eyes sympathetically met the fury that burnt out of control within him.  “Go ahead, Colonel,” she urged once more. “Hide from your true self.”

He drew in breath so forcefully that she felt the life might be sucked from her, yet even then she did not flinch, nor did his grip tighten.

His eyes closed and he allowed his hands to drop, but he didn’t move. When those eyes opened once more they were lit with a blue effervescence she’d seen once before.

Lya gasped, unsure if she was truly seeing what she knew could no longer exist; that race had long since moved on, had long since become extinct.

“Help me,” he implored, tears welling in his eyes.  She knew instantly it wasn’t O’Neill who was asking for help, if they existed they were somewhere so far away as not to be able to get back.

“We will,” she answered.

 

*****

Carter looked at the computer screen and sighed heavily.  “I don’t see how we can do this?” she stated, exasperated.

“It is indeed a difficult proposition,” Teal’c agreed.

“Look Sam, I know it’s not exactly like… I just think we can do this if we put our minds to it!” Daniel enthused. “She’ll go along with it if she thinks she’ll regain her power, I’m guessing she’ll even go one step further.”

“I don’t know Daniel, I just can’t see her thinking we wouldn’t screw her?” she replied, perplexed. “It doesn’t make sense!”

“It makes perfect sense, Sam, she knows we’ve got Jack, Jack’s got the power to overthrow the Goa’uld, she’s seen it. If we can convince her that Jack’s back onside with us, she’ll jump at the chance, believing she can turn it around on us later!”

“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed. “She would believe such a deception, the Goa’uld consider themselves far more powerful than the Tau’ri!”

“I don’t know.  I just can’t see how we’re going to do this?” Sam replied, still the sceptic.

Jackson sighed heavily. “Well, there has to be something?”

Carter’s eyes opened wide then, the look of surprise that resonated on her features almost ecstatic in its affect.  “WOW!” she exclaimed. “Why didn’t I think of it before?”

“What?” Daniel demanded, glancing across at the equally intrigued Jaffa.

“That’s if they haven’t buried their gate!” she said.

“What?” Daniel asked, on the edge of his seat.

”We need Colonel O’Neill right?” she announced, her eyes widening with the excitement of the solution she felt she had found.

“Um?”

“We’ve got one, one we can rely on, at least if he hasn’t changed his tune?” she added, waiting for the archaeologist to follow her train of thought, and finally telling him when he appeared to be completely confounded. “Daniel, Altair!”

Wha… what?” Daniel exclaimed.

Teal’c smiled, nodding his approval. “Indeed, you are correct Major Carter, we do have an O’Neill!” he said.

 

*****

Hathor listened to Heru’ur’s latest broadcast; his excuses for late attendance, that he had discovered something with which they could ultimately and finally rid themselves of the Tau’ri appeased her.

“I will join you once I am certain of this discovery,” Heru’ur told her.

“See that you do, fragmented we make a far easier target for the Asgard,” she told him.

Heru’ur nodded, bowing his head as he terminated the device.

“We do not trust him,” she told Osiris.  “We should discover exactly what it is he covets.”  A malicious smile crossed those supercilious features. “Perhaps it will benefit us!”

“Would you like me to attempt infiltration earlier?” Osiris offered. “Since he will undoubtedly be preoccupied with this new discovery, we shall have an opportunity to make a discovery of our own!”

“See that we do!” Hathor remarked.

 

*****

 “Major, are you out of your mind?” Hammond remonstrated. “You’re asking me to draft that Colonel O’Neill into the SGC in order to perpetrate this deception?”

“Sir, I know it’s an odd request but…”

“Odd? How the hell do I bypass the paperwork necessary when people start seeing Jack O’Neill large as life, and as I recall from what O’Neill himself told me, bucking his rank, walking around the SGC?” Hammond asked.

“Sir, for all intents and purposes he is Colonel O’Neill, he knows everything the Colonel knows!” Carter responded.  “And he can convince Nyerti a lot easier than we can.”

Hammond looked at Jacob Carter.  “She’s your daughter alright!” he remarked.

Jacob looked fascinated. “You’re telling me you’ve got clones? Androids?”

“Yeah,” Sam replied, her eyes beaming with delight. “Perfect copies in every way!  The technology was fascinating, how he could just make us in every detail, except for the fact that they are androids that is.”

“And you intend to bring the clone here to the SGC to attempt to convince Nyerti he’s the one with all that power?” he enquired dubiously.

“General, it makes perfect sense,” Daniel asserted. “Who better than to convince Nyerti that he can help, but Jack O’Neill himself?”

“And when he can’t operate the Ancients vessels?” Hammond asked.

“He, er, can actually,” Carter replied, a little more reticent now. “We have the Ancients download, sir, if anyone can figure it out, an android with an advanced processor can!”

The general shook his head in disbelief.  “I can’t believe I’m agreeing to this?” he told Jacob.

The Tok’ra host smiled. “But she’s right, George, who better than to pull off a complex double bluff than an android!”

 

******

Lya sat before the colonel; he had been sleeping for over sixteen hours since she had discovered his secret and why the turmoil in his mind was so chaotic.

It made far more sense now, that he had resisted so vehemently her attempts to assist him; having so much, so many different voices in his head, must have caused him intense pain, the like of which the Nox only ever experienced when they combined their minds to raise the dead.

She had comforted him as much as her limited knowledge of human mentality allowed, meditating close to him, trying to align her thoughts to his, to extract the pain that seemed to resonate even in a deep state of unconsciousness. Finding some of his darkest memories far too painful to deal with, she began to understand why the man had been so easily turned.

Finally he began to rouse, Lya moved from the cot as he did so.

“Colonel, can you hear me?” she asked.

Jack’s eyes opened slowly, back to their normal shade of brown. “Oh not you again!” he groaned.  “Didn’t you get the hint the last time?”

“The last time, Colonel, you were imploring my help.  Do you not remember?” Lya enquired.

He regarded her with a degree of scepticism. “I doubt that,” he replied. “So gonna give up yet? Call it quits, let me go?”

“I’m sorry, we can’t do that, Colonel.  Now more than ever you need our help,” she asserted, yet even such an assertion was done with the utmost politeness.

Jack looked intrigued, leaning forward now as he sat up. “What?” he asked, incredulity masking his surly features, eyes narrowing intrepidly.

“You are more in need of our assistance than even we could have known,” she explained.

“See now you’re trying to trick me,” he replied, waving his finger subjectively at her. “Don’t do that!”

She smiled, a patient smile; as much as he knew and understood about the Ancients, he could know nothing about the race that had inadvertently invaded his mind and sought freedom, even she had no idea how they had managed that particular feat.

“Colonel, this is not about trickery.  Never would we do such a thing to mind as overburdened as yours,” she assured him. “You have unwittingly become almost like a beacon in a very big universe to those lost long ago.  The Sengo’lians power is immense, I can only believe that it is they who lead those for whom you spoke, since they cannot possess a voice of their own.”

“What?” he exclaimed. “Alright, I’m outta here, let me know what you’re on though, ‘cause I could probably use a little of that myself!” he remarked, his eyebrows rising comically to accentuate the comment.

Lya stood, her hand reaching out to him. “Please, Colonel, you must understand.  The human mind was never intended for so much catastrophic information,” she said softly. “I fear for you.”

Jack did a double take. “Oh for crying out loud!” he exclaimed. “A guilt trip now? Do you women ever get tired of trying to use those feminine wiles on us?”

“I do not understand?” she responded, and so genuine were those eyes that Jack O’Neill found himself lost in their innocence for a moment.

“Don’t worry about it.” His eyes softened slightly before he had a chance to configure a more sinister expression.

“We must speak of your feelings, Colonel,” she told him. “Please sit.”

Jack’s eyes rolled once more, but he complied just the same. “Great, psyche 101, with the Nox!”

 

*****

“Dialling the coordinates,” Sam advised Hammond. The general, still sceptical, stood some way behind her, still shaking his head in dismay.

“Think they’ll have an Iris?” Daniel enquired. “I mean I’m sure Sam, the. er, other one probably came up with something?”

“We’ll send a radio transmission through,” Carter advised.

“Two O’Neill’s?” Makepeace said, aghast. “Oh man, am I not going to enjoy this!”

“How bad can it be?” Davis enquired, looking across at Jackson, seeing the archaeologist look away sharply, offered the man some insight. “I see.”

“Wormhole established,” Sam said excitedly, even if Daniel and perhaps Teal’c in his own way were the only ones that shared her enthusiasm.

“Sending radio transmission,” she told them. “Colonel, this is Major Samantha Carter at the SGC, come in?”

There was a long silence. “Carter?” O’Neill’s distinctive voice. “Carter, what the hell?”

“Sir, we need your help,” she told him, looking up at Jackson.

Daniel lent down, taking the mic. “Er, Jack, this is Daniel, are we safe to come through, er, over?” he asked.

“Your radio skills aren’t improving any, Danny,” the sharp retort. “Sure, come on over, been a while, hey! Do me a favour and leave the other guy there, know what I mean?”

Carter couldn’t help but smile, knowing precisely what he meant, whilst Daniel looked a little confused.

“Does he mean me?” he asked.

“No he means himself!” Sam reassured. “We’ll be through in about half an hour, Colonel, SGC out!”

“Yeah, O’Neill out… what the heck?” Discernable as the transmission was cut off by the closure of the wormhole.

“That’s it sir,” Carter told Hammond. “Permission to go to Altair?”

“Permission granted!” Hammond replied.

Daniel followed Sam to the locker room.  “This is going to be odd,” he remarked. “Seeing myself after so long.”

“You’re telling me,” Carter replied. “It’s like I’ve been living another life somewhere, it’ll be fascinating to see what I’ve… she’s been up to.”

“Great!” Makepeace lamented to Teal’c as the pair followed. “Two geniuses, two impetuous civilians and one pain in the ass!”

Teal’c raised an eyebrow at the man.

“I meant O’Neill,” Makepeace told him quickly.

Teal’c smiled to himself, allowing the marine to get ahead. “Indeed!” he remarked.

 

*****

The wormhole exploded outward, as Colonel Jack O’Neill and his team stood waiting for their flesh and blood counterparts from Earth.

“Wonder what they want your help for?” Daniel enquired, raising an eyebrow toward the colonel.

“Probably something the other guy can’t do,” he smirked.

“Well whatever it is, sir, they specifically asked for your help,” Captain Carter pointed out. “Which probably means the rest of us are staying here, and the mission to P37 981 is off!”

“I was looking forward to that mission,” Teal’c complained.

Jack looked at him shaking his head. “Yeah, damn!” he retorted. “Me too!”

Teal’c sighed heavily, looking across at Carter who smiled at him. “Same here,” she said seriously.

“Oh, here we go,” Jack groaned. “Damn mutual appreciation society!”

Daniel raised his eyes heavenward, his attention immediately straying from O’Neill’s usual diatribe toward the new arrivals; his jaw dropped as he saw his counterpart.

“Oh,” he gasped.

“What?” the colonel enquired.

“The, ah, hair?” Daniel pointed out. “He’s gone all military!” he added with disdain.

Jack did a double take. “Hey, so’s Carter, see Teal’c hasn’t grown any!” he remarked sheepishly.

Major Samantha Carter took a moment to reacquaint herself with having a double.  “Sir,” she said, a smile at the ‘other’ colonel.

“Captain!” O’Neill retorted. “See you followed my orders.”

“Actually, sir, I’m a Major now,” she corrected.

“Well done, Major!” Jack remarked.

Carter smiled broadly, remembering fondly her promotion and how he’d echoed those exact same words her CO had offered as congratulations.

“Something funny, Major?” O’Neill asked, looking slightly offended by her reaction.

“Wow, this is weird,” Daniel commented, as he approached his clone. “Kinda like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself in another lifetime.”

“Kinda?” his clone mimicked.

“I see you’ve been, I’ve been, we’ve, er, been hanging around Jack O’Neill too much!” Jackson remarked, looking at his younger, if that were possible, looking double.

“Sir, we don’t have that much time,” Carter said. “We’ve got a problem back at the SGC that could affect the balance of power within the galaxy, it’s a fairly complex situation that might take some time to fully explain, but the bottom line is, sir, we need your help!”

“Oh Carter, do either of you ever explain anything in the simplest terms available?” Jack groaned bitterly, eyeing the other Teal’c suspiciously since he appeared to have remained far more stoic than he’d become accustomed to.

“Sir, we really don’t have time…”

 

*****

“A GOA’ULD?” O’Neill exclaimed loudly, the astonishment written clearly across his features.  “Excuse me run that part by me again?”

“O’Neill, there is little time.  We are in need of your assistance,” Teal’c told him, eyeing his clone suspiciously.

Captain Carter moved forward. “Sir, if we all…”

“I’m sorry, um… Captain,” Carter told her clone. “But you coming along just isn’t possible.  We wouldn’t be able to explain your presence on the base, and we’ve got some trouble with the NID, so it’s best they don’t know you’re still around.”

“The NID?” Captain Carter enquired. “Oh great! When did they start running the program?”

“They don’t,” Sam replied, looking back to O’Neill. “We just didn’t exactly put you in our reports as still being… active, shall we say!”

“Oh here we go,” Jack remonstrated. “The robots don’t exist until we need ‘em!”

“Jack, look, if you just agree to help us we’ll explain everything and you can explain it to Sam, Teal’c and, er, me when you get back,” Daniel suggested, a dubious glance toward his double. O’Neill looked slightly perplexed. “Great!” he sighed. “Okay, Carter, hold down the fort! Teal’c, try not to break anything else, and Daniel, we’ll talk about that other situation when I get back!”

“Yes, sir,” Captain Carter responded.

Jackson’s clone shook his head. “I’m still right,” he muttered, offering O’Neill a wry smile. “As always!”

The colonel frowned heavily. “Whatever!  I’m just going to bail out the flyboy!” A grimace crossing his features, he looked at Major Carter. “Lead on!”

“Daniel, dial it up,” Sam instructed.

“Dialling,” Daniel replied, looking dubiously at his clone. “Well, I guess… bye!”

He turned and walked toward the DHD, shuddering slightly at seeing himself again, even if he had been fascinated the first time, right now, with all that had happened differently in their lives, it seemed a little too surreal.

The clone viewed him dispassionately, walking across to his ‘own’ Teal’c. “I don’t think I like him very much!”

“He is indeed most peculiar,” Teal’c remarked.

O’Neill took a last glimpse at his team-mates, a mock salute as he passed through the event horizon.

Stepping out seconds later into the SGC he paused at the top of the ramp, it didn’t matter how long he’d been away, this felt like home almost immediately.

“So, what’s this big emergency?” he asked, catching up to Carter.

“Long story, sir,” she replied. “We’ll get changed, and meet you in the briefing room.”

“Sure, I think I can find it,” he muttered, as he watched what was his team all disappear from the embarkation room.  He looked up at Hammond; the man was staring at him as if he was seeing a ghost.

“George!” he acknowledged.

“That’s General Hammond to you Colonel,” Hammond snapped, the features contorting to underline his authority.

“Yeah, whatever,” O’Neill sighed, strolling nonchalantly from the familiar surroundings of the gate room, eyeing the SFs suspiciously as he did so, and continuing out, albeit with a few backward glances, up the stairs to meet his… former commanding officer.

“So, what’s the big secret?” he enquired, looking at Major Davis whom he didn’t recognise, then to the more familiar features of Colonel Makepeace.

“Well you didn’t get any better looking, did ya?” he remarked.

“Colonel, let’s go to the briefing room,” Hammond instructed.

Jacob Carter sat awaiting their arrival. He looked at O’Neill, this one hadn’t aged, still had a completely grey free head of hair, and fewer scars from the battles his counterpart had fought in the years since he’d been created.

“Colonel Jack O’Neill, allow me to introduce Major Paul Davis, JCS Liaison, Colonel Makepeace you know, and this is Jacob Carter, host of Selmak,” Hammond told him.

“A host?” Jack exclaimed, eyeing them all dubiously. “Have I come into some kind of alternate reality here where we’re sucking up to Goa’ulds?” he questioned.

“Jacob is a Tok’ra,” Hammond said immediately. “They are against the Goa’uld and our allies.  Sit down Colonel.”

O’Neill glanced across at Jacob. “Carter?” he queried, cocking an eyebrow as he did so.

“That’s right, Jack, Sam’s dad.  She got me this gig to save me from dying of cancer, don’t worry you’ll get used to it,” he remarked. “I certainly did.”

“Not worried,” Jack replied. “A little shocked maybe, but hey, I’m sure I’ll, er, cope! Did we lose Samuels sir?”  O’Neill’s eyes returned to the general.

“Yes, Colonel, we did, right after the other SG1 saved Earth from Apophis,” the general responded.

“That slimy snake-ass… how’d they do that?” Jack enquired, still sending askant glances toward Jacob.

“Blew up two motherships actually,” Daniel told him, as he entered before Carter and Teal’c.  “Just as they were planning an attack on Earth!”

“Sweet, so wanna tell me why I’m here?” he asked. “Or do I get to guess until I come up with the right answer?”

“Sir, we think it would be a lot easier if you interfaced with one of the computers, downloaded all the mission reports and… well took a four year lesson in a matter of a day,” Carter suggested. “You do have an interface?”

“Oh yeah, a lot more efficient than the ones you probably have,” he remarked sardonically. “Won’t take a day either, got this new super ’tronic fast gadget kinda thing that Carter… the er, other one? Designed.”

Jacob smiled shaking his head. “Wow, he really doesn’t change does he?” he remarked.

“Er, no, Dad, that’s pretty much Colonel O’Neill for you!” Sam responded.

O’Neill grinned childishly at the major.  “So where’s the other guy?” he enquired finally. “Having a little problem with the back and the knees is he?”

“Colonel O’Neill is currently off world on another mission,” Hammond said.

O’Neill’s eyes narrowed. “Collaborating with the Goa’uld?” he asked, leaning forward. “Lost control of your poster boy, George?”

“Colonel, maybe I remind you that whilst you’re here in this command I am still a higher ranking officer!” Hammond snapped. “If you agree to help us, help the Asgard, and save the Galaxy from becoming the playground for the Goa’uld we might consider integrating you back into the SGC, based off-world for special assignments.”

Carter bit her bottom lip, smiling ruefully, that was the kind of carrot she knew would appeal to either O’Neill.

The colonel sat back casually in his chair, his eyebrows flicking up.  “Well, there’s an offer I can’t refuse!” he acknowledged. “Except, what makes you think I want to take orders? We’ve been doing pretty nicely without ya!”

Hammond smiled at the man. “Colonel, do we need to go over your resume?” he asked. “I know you, Jack, even with a three year gap!”

Jack’s face screwed up, resembling a kid who’d been found hiding his sister’s toys.  “Sweet!” he groaned. “So, Carter, wanna wire me up so I can see what I’m supposed to be doing here?”

“General?”

“Jack, if you do this, the information and knowledge you’re about to gain means I need your assurances that you’ll respect this command,” Hammond said.

Geor… General, you have my word,” he replied, intrigued now as to what he’d missed in four long years.

“Um, Colonel, is your power supply going to be a problem?” Carter enquired.

“Nope, you… Carter designed these cool built in power packs, kinda neat little devices sit right in your…”

“We probably don’t need to see that,” Makepeace stated.

Jack regarded him. “Well I wasn’t gonna show you!” he snapped. “Jarhead!”

Makepeace looked at Davis, who shrugged. “It’s fascinating,” Davis remarked. “He’s almost a carbon copy, aside from the hair!”

“What’s wrong with the hair?” O’Neill asked, looking slightly self-conscious, a dubious glance across at Major Carter.

Davis looked a little bemused, his gaze directed at Jackson, who shook his head. “We er, don’t need to go there,” he told O’Neill.

“Sir, if you’ll follow me,” Carter invited, standing and getting Hammond’s nod of approval to continue.

O’Neill stood, looking across at Davis, his hand absently running through his hair. “Sure,” he replied, another glance at the JCS liaison.

 

*****

Osiris moved easily through the mothership of Heru’ur, since the Goa’uld had joined the conference she had slipped in unnoticed.

The Horus guard seemed to be most concentrated on the lower decks, those that held cells for captured slaves and enemies. Dressed now in the clothes of a lower cast Goa’uld servant, she was able to move with relative ease amongst the Jaffa, however low cast she might be in the eyes of a system lord, she still held considerable position to the ranks of the Jaffa.  Even so, risking entry into whatever they guarded so resolutely, would simply draw unwanted attention to her presence.

 

*****

Hathor’s ship had been designated as the meeting place for the system lords gathering; the Goa’uld queen lapped up her new position of power as she regarded the fifteen system lords that had made the journey.

They would not be easy to convince, starting a war with the Asgard something none of them would agree to readily.  There were too many scars from previous conflicts, conflicts that Ra, and then Apophis after him, had begun, which had ultimately seen many domains lost.

Yu was primarily the biggest opponent of such a plan, since they had little proof that it had indeed been the Asgard who were responsible for Nefertum’s destruction, still nursing wounds of the last engagement, he would be the least likely to agree, even knowing this Hathor would challenge him, wielding her newly gained power like a sword.

“We can not win such a war,” Titan argued, the fair-haired Goa’uld always taking a position against any plan of the warlike Heru’ur. “Yu is right!”

Titan led a small group of lesser system lords from the Gamma Quadrant, a region of space beyond Nefertum’s domain, and thus far closer to the Asgard.

“Such a battle would decimate our forces and leave us open to attack from other enemies, ones who do not possess the same nearsighted thought for peace as the Asgard!”

Heru’ur stared at the Goa’uld; he’d never been particularly fond of Cronos’ offspring.  This one, his ridiculous garments taken from the culture he had attempted to rule on Earth, far exceeded his father’s ability to irritate.  He had little time for such creatures, Titan reminded him of Apophis, pompous and asinine in his ways.

“Silence!” he spat, when finally he could bear to look at the source of his distaste no more. “If the Asgard are responsible for this attack on us, then they will be made to pay!”

“We agree,” Hathor stated, a favourable glance toward the supreme system lord whom she sat close to. “The Asgard are not nearly as powerful as they would have us believe!  We understand that they currently wage a war against the Sengo’lian, and have another enemy with whom they do battle, as such both these conflicts will render them far more vulnerable!”

“Another enemy?” Heru’ur enquired. “This is something you have not mentioned before?”

Hathor looked pleased to have information to hand that her main rival did not. “From what we understand, they engage the forces of the Asgard very effectively,” she imparted.

“And therefore we would have no defence against them,” Yu argued, the only one, it seemed, to recognise such a threat.

Pelops nodded his head, his dark long hair sweeping across his shoulders. “The Asgard are still far more powerful than our combined forces, or did you forget the Sha’bolt?” he enquired, his Germanic speech the gift of a host taken during the battles with Rome, the second host he had taken from that era on Earth after the first had become fatally wounded by a Roman foot soldier.

Sha’bolt?” Tanith, the latest addition to the lesser clan, enquired.

Heru’ur regarded the son of Apophis with disdain. “We have no other course open to us!” he snarled. “Clearly if these enemies of the Asgard are a problem within their own galaxy they will be looking for another domain!”

“If we allow the Asgard to remain unchallenged they will undoubtedly continue to dispatch us with ease, thus rendering our forces ineffective,” Hathor stated.  “We must circumvent such guile and react immediately.”

“Where did this information come from?” Yu enquired still sceptical.

“O’Neill,” Hathor responded. “Who better to know their weaknesses, than one they favour!”

Nyerti watched, fascinated by this foolhardy debate.  She could have ended it easily with the knowledge she possessed, but they played into her hands.  If they risked battle with the Asgard, even after what she had heard from O’Neill about their enemy, they would undoubtedly lose, thus weakening their own hand, whilst she could work to build her own forces with the help of O’Neill.  Wherever he had disappeared to, she was confident it would be only a matter of time before he began attacking the forces she had outlined for him in the farthest regions of the galaxy.

“What of Sokar?” Pelops challenged once more. “Did he not attempt to engage the Asgard at the behest of the chosen one of Sengo’lia?”

“Who is this?” Tanith enquired, finding himself once more lacking in information.

“O’Neill is of no concern,” Heru’ur spat, the words peppered with loathing. “He is merely a vessel for these creatures, who clearly have their own agenda in mind.”

“But is it not an agenda we share? The destruction of the Asgard?” Titan challenged. “Surely such a power would be beneficial to us?”

“I do not trust this Tau’ri,” Yu spat. “He could easily have given this information to lure us into battle with the Asgard!”

“There is no way to harness that power,” Nyerti sneered, she looked across to Hathor. “He is far too untrustworthy to align our forces.”

“The Goa’uld can not defeat the Asgard,” Hathor countered. “Our beloved has proven he can!”

“A slave?” Tanith remarked. “Aligning yourselves with him did little to improve the situation in the past.”

Heru’ur stood, his eyes glowing furiously. “Enough!” he snapped. “The Asgard cannot defend every planet they have under their protection, fight this enemy within their own galaxy, and fend off the Sengo’lians.  If we send forces to each planet, they will be vulnerable on their home world.  If we plan our assaults we can defeat them!”

“I disagree,” Yu retorted.

“As do I,” Titan added.

Pelops looked across to Hathor.  “Such an attack would also leave our domains vulnerable, even with the forces combined we could not think to outmanoeuvre ships as superior as the ones they possess.”

Hathor regarded Heru’ur. “Perhaps they are correct,” she told him, Osiris now in view indicating that she should leave as soon as possible. “To attempt an assault on the Asgard would leave our domains vulnerable.  It would also allow the Sengo’lians a far greater power than they already possess!”

Heru’ur’s surly expression became one of evil disdain.  “Then we will have to prove it is not impossible,” he sneered. “To kill two birds with one stone!”

 

*****

Lya maintained her position, even with O’Neill once more aggressively remonstrating his desire to leave; his exaggerated hand gesticulations gave her no cause for concern.

“Look!” he snarled, his hands contorting in front of his face, resembling petrified tree branches.  He leant forward ominously, and not for the first time. “I’m not doing this whole cosy chat thing!  Maybe you’ve got time to sit around sipping sap juice and eating fruit, but I’ve got stuff, important stuff, I need to do out there!”

When this behaviour failed to raise even so much as one of those delicate eyebrows, he took another huge gulp of air and exhaled loudly, beginning to pace up and down again before her, the obvious agitation displayed in his hands as they wrung together ceaselessly.  He was unable to sit still, his hands now clenching and unclenching, lines masking features that seemed to be frozen in a perpetual scowl.

“You trouble yourself unduly, Colonel,” Lya remarked. “Since you have already established that there is no gate, and you do not possess the heart to kill me with your bare hands, then would it not be far more productive to speak with me?”

Jack stopped in his tracks, turning and facing her for the first time. Their eyes locked together, his filled with the anguish of a wild animal trapped in a cage, whilst she reflected the serenity that she wore almost shroud like.  “And do what?” he demanded. “Pretend I’m a good boy so you’ll let me off this damn planet?”

“Pretence is not an option for the Nox,” Lya stated.

“Oh that’s right,” he retorted bitterly. “Got all those fancy little tricks up your sleeve don’t ya?”

“They are merely tools of the mind, Colonel, ones we would be willing to teach you, but how can we? If you remain so destructive to both yourself, and your world?” she asked, regarding him with a sympathetic smile.

“See, I kinda hoped you’d catch on to that,” he retorted. “And since when am I destructive to Earth?”

Lya stood, blocking the path of the pacing colonel. “Colonel, you cannot deceive us, we read your intentions as surely as if you had spoken them aloud.  The longer you resist, the more pain you will feel.  Please, trust me I can, and I will help you.”

“So you’re threatening pain now?” Jack snarled, his mind searching for something nefarious, anything that would alleviate the burden of this benevolent race. “Kinda goes against that advanced pacifist ideal you claim to hold so dear doesn’t it?”

Lya shook her head. “Why do you insist upon speaking for the sake of your own wit?” she asked. “Does this somehow prevent you from acknowledging the trouble you find yourself in?”

O’Neill winced, a grimace crossed his face indicating that she might be right, he refused to answer her, instead turning his back to show his unwillingness to further cooperate with her, his mind focused trying to prevent her from accessing his thoughts.

“You cannot shut me out, Colonel,” she said softly. “You have grown beyond what you were, and now you find your thoughts troubled.  You are questioning, this confuses you.”

Jack took a deep breath, shaking his head. “Lya, what is it you want from me?” he asked, turning, his arms held aloft, then suddenly dropped to his sides. “I mean is there something I’m missing here?”

“Only yourself, Colonel,” she replied.

“Oh for… Look!” he sighed, his hands cupping his face for a moment before dropping once more to reveal the torturous expression he wore, the anguish resonating through an almost beseeching soul that struggled to find its way from the darkness.  “How many damn voices am I meant to cope with exactly? Do this, stop that, kill them, free those!” he shook his head slowly, his eyebrows drawing down.  “I’m so tired of this, so damn tired.”

Lya reached out and touched his face softly with her fingertips. “Then you must listen, Colonel,” she urged, a caress in her voice that made his eyes soften.

“Listen?” he whispered. “Seems all I do is listen now isn’t it!”  He grabbed her wrist twisting it slightly. “And you wanna send me back to that hell?   Make them stop?  All those voices that keep me from going nuts?” he snarled.  “Go figure lady, I’m not interested.

Lya did not flinch, even though his grip caused her pain, her eyes steadfastly trained on his.  “Is it your desire to hurt others to protect yourself, Colonel?” she asked.  “I had not thought you such a selfish person.  Your act in trying to save us from the Goa’uld showed your compassion for those you believed weaker.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed, releasing her wrist he spun away again. “I’ve had it with doing the right thing!” he snapped. “What’s the point?  You, the Asgard, the Tollan, the Tok’ra, well you all seem to think you’re so much better, don’t ya?  Making your judgements and keeping your heads down, what’s that old philosophy?  I’m alright Jack?” he continued. “Don’t involve us, we’ll just let the slaughter and the slavery go on around us!”

“So you would have us all behave in the same way as humans?” Lya charged. “Judge what is right and wrong, even if others do not agree?”

“Isn’t that what you do already?” Jack challenged, moving around her now, he seemed to be far more assertive. “Tell us how we don’t meet your standards and dismiss us?”

Lya lowered her eyes. “You chose the way you wish to exist, Colonel, as did we.  The Nox do not force our way upon you, nor do we expect that you would force yours upon us.”

O’Neill shook his head. “Oh I get it, so telling us we’re not wise, or old enough to share your technology, wasn’t meant to be condescending or judgemental.  Saving a Goa’uld so he could go out there and enslave more civilisations was okay simply because you don’t want to get involved with the little people, hah?” he growled, standing in front of her and challenging her to deny it.

“Our ways are something you do not understand,” she responded, her eyes still averted.

“Yeah, that’s great, gotta love that we don’t get it bit!” Jack snapped. “Standing on the fringes and allowing it to happen makes you as guilty as the damn Goa’uld, when you’ve got the power to stop it!”

“Is this what you desire, Colonel, to live with so much hatred and resentment?” she questioned, now looking directly into those unyielding eyes.

“What I want doesn’t matter,” he exclaimed. “You’ve proven that by keeping me a prisoner here and telling me what I am is wrong!  Isn’t that contradicting your policy of non-interference just a bit?”

Lya sat down, inviting the colonel to do the same.  “You have been subjected to much, Jack,” she began; the colonel’s attention more immediate, he sat opposite surprised at her use of his name. “May I call you Jack?” she asked, seeing the surprise.

“Sure,” O’Neill responded. “Why not, it’s a little more fitting than Colonel right now anyway.”

“Then yes, you are correct, Jack, we have broken our own ways in order to help you, because you cannot possibly help yourself and such damage has been done because we did not return the Sengo’lians to their home world.  In a way, we learned a lesson, and after the alliance was fragmented, we did not interfere in the ways of those that inhabit this galaxy, for that reason.”  Her voice was lowered now, the words spoken in a measured way.  “In this we are guilty of allowing fear and inexperience to prevail.  We did not interfere when you freed the Sengo’lians because we felt it was the right thing to do. To corrupt a mind as benevolent as you possess is clearly wrong, and could result in a destruction of the like that the galaxy would not recover from.”

“So you’re just concerned with keeping me from what?  Destroying the galaxy. Kinda odd you didn’t apply the same logic to the Goa’uld,” Jack commented.

“The Goa’uld are not an issue, Colonel,” Lya replied. “They have a right to live and exist as you do, as we do.  Perhaps in time…”

“Don’t say they’ll grow up!” Jack snapped instantly. “’Cause that just ain’t gonna happen!  It’s not who they are unless you hadn’t figured it out.”

He stood up, frustrated once more with the answers, he felt dizzy, his eyes unable to completely focus on her as he looked down.

“Colonel, lay down,” Lya told him.  She sensed his loss of balance, unable to stop him from keeling over sideways and collapsing in a mess on the cot, which mercifully broke an otherwise awkward fall.

She left him alone, Anteaus and Opher awaited her.  “We must free him,” she said. “He will surely never turn back with so much confusion and pain with him without respite.”

“You know what will happen if we free him,” Anteaus reminded her.

“Then it should be,” Lya insisted. “We cannot standby and watch him tortured into insanity as we did many of the Ancients.”

“You know we could not have helped them,” Opher said. “They were far too advanced in the condition for it to be successfully reversed.”

Lya turned, lowering her eyes toward the hut in which the colonel now rested, a disturbed and tormented slumber that she had allowed herself to share, if only for a few moments.  “He is not to that state yet,” she said. “And what of the Furlings? Are they to be condemned to remain in that dark place forever because we refuse to share this knowledge with one who can undoubtedly be trusted?  Has he not protected the Ancients technology from the Sengo’lians and the Sengo’lians from the Asgard?” she entreated.

Opher looked at Anteaus.  “What she says is right, perhaps it is time for the Nox to share with this one.”

Anteaus searched his thoughts; his knowledge of the human race had become far wider since Lya’s dealings with them in freeing the Tollan, and at Triad.  Yet they possessed something unique that could undoubtedly be exploited in the wrong hands.  O’Neill was a warrior, that much he knew and that is why he feared him so.  The Nox had long since freed themselves of the need to battle, learning how to co-exist with nature and the universe, never had they shared this wealth with any, even the Asgard were ignorant as to their power.

“If he should desire to use this knowledge against the Nox,” Anteaus stated. “He would be in a more powerful position than anyone to do so, since he possesses so much knowledge of the universe from the Ancients.  However, I agree with you, he can be trusted once freed from the hold the Sengo’lians have on him.  You have my permission to act, the Furlings may depend upon it.”

Lya bowed her head in thanks, leaving the two men and rejoining O’Neill who was still unconscious.  She sat beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “You will need your rest, this will be a difficult and painful path,” she said softly.

 

*****

Aiestrodous moved impatiently in his ‘shielded’ prison, he could easily use his powers to escape, yet found himself intrigued by these nefarious creatures.  He had battled them long ago, and knew how deep their fear of him went.  To risk bringing him aboard one of their ships meant they had become confident in their technology.

Heru’ur finally stood before him, his guards surrounding the vampire’s prison, their weapons pointed toward him.

“You take precautions that are unnecessary,” he told the Goa’uld.  “I have no desire to taste of your blood!”

Heru’ur eyed him suspiciously. “Thoth has told you of our offer?” he enquired.

“He has,” Aiestrodous replied. “Yet you must understand, the forces with which you attempt battle are far greater than you realise.  The Sengo’lians are amongst the oldest races of the galaxy.  The Asgard possess technology far more impressive than most other races, and then there is O’Neill himself, a conduit for forces far greater than both!”

Heru’ur looked intrigued, moving closer now to the creature. “In what respect?” he asked.

“I can say no more, only that he has a power of a race far more incredible than even that of the Sengo’lians.  The Goa’uld would be wise not to antagonise this race, they do not share the benevolence of the Asgard!” Aiestrodous told him.

The Goa’uld looked enraged. “I fear no one!” he snarled.

Aiestrodous, his incredible red eyes beaming through the shield, smiled an almost guileful smile. “But you do,” he remarked, baiting the creature. “You fear me!”

 

*****

Carter looked a little uncomfortable as the ‘other’ O’Neill lifted his shirt.  “Central connection can probably be achieved here somewhere,” he remarked nonchalantly. “I can never find the damn thing!”

Daniel tried not to smile, even with a robot’s endless capacity for storing knowledge, this one was so completely replicated that he didn’t care to show it.  “Would you like me to do that, Sam?” he enquired, seeing her expression.

“No!” O’Neill snapped. “She can manage!”  He looked slightly disturbed at the offer. “You’re not flying a MIG, are ya?” he added, his features contorting.

“What?” Daniel exclaimed. “Flying a MIG, what the hell does that mean?”

Sam dissolved into giggles. “Er, no, sir,” she said, her hand clasping her mouth in a futile attempt to stop her amusement. “He’s just… being helpful!”

“Oh, fine!” Jack replied, still eyeing Jackson suspiciously.

Daniel looked slightly offended, even if he wasn’t entirely sure as to what the clone might be alluding too, and why Carter found it so amusing, but that fact alone meant it couldn’t have been a compliment!

“There’s the damn thing,” Jack announced, locating the ports that his Carter had installed into all of them, in order to better integrate with new systems she’d designed for Altair.

Sam gingerly fitted the connections.  “Okay, I’ll start the database.  This should get you completely up to speed on our missions, the Ancients repository, most of which we can’t decipher, and the Colonel’s file, recent entries that is,” she explained.

“Sweet!” Jack replied.

Daniel watched the expressions on the face of Jack’s clone changing as the information was input and processed.  Clearly whatever he’d just learned had sent a look of sheer horror across his features.  He glanced across at Sam, and she had the same look of apprehension on her face.

“Hope this isn’t too much at once,” she remarked.

“He is an android, how can it be? Jack’s handled much more… is handling,” Daniel replied. “I sure hope the Nox are successful and he doesn’t show up in the middle of this!”

Carter raised her eyebrows.  “Well that wouldn’t be good,” she commented, biting her bottom lip as she considered the connotations of such an event.

 

*****

Lya sat patiently waiting for O’Neill to regain full consciousness.  She couldn’t feel the more malevolent side of his nature, just confusion as the link to the Sengo’lian was being slowly eroded by her efforts to fuse their minds together. In relieving him of this burden, she hoped that he would be more disposed to helping the other race that had communicated their distress.

“Colonel, you are rested?” she asked.

Jack’s hands reached up to his face, rubbing hard to wake himself.  “What happened?” he enquired, looking slightly nonplussed. “Did I pass out?”

Lya nodded, standing and approaching him. “Colonel, there is much we must speak of, perhaps you would like something to eat or drink before we begin?”

Jack swung his legs from the cot and sat up, shaking his head slowly. “I’m fine,” he replied, the air expelled from his lungs in a protracted heavy sigh. “So, what’s on the agenda now?  Gonna give me the twenty reasons why destroying my enemies is a bad thing, law Nox?”

Lya couldn’t resist a smile. “We do not have laws, Colonel, by this I take it you mean rules that are enforced?” she queried.

“Kinda, I guess?” Jack muttered. “No laws, hah?”

“We simply exist in harmony with our surroundings, Colonel, we have no need to behave in a structured way as you do.  Our society is one that does not possess elements that exist in others,” she told him.

“And that makes no sense whatsoever,” he remarked glibly, looking at her with dismay. “I, er, didn’t mean the way you live, I just meant the explanation.”

He became more studied then.  “Can I ask you something?”  Taking the single nod to be approval, he continued. “What makes you so fired up to want to help? I seem to recall the last thing you told us was how young we are, how we didn’t deserve your knowledge, help, because of our structured society!”

“It is true,” she told him. “That back then we could not communicate with you on this level.  We feel now as we did then.  However, the fact that you have now become somewhat kindred, and possess a far greater understanding of the elements that exist in the galaxy, means we are prepared to change our previous attitude toward you.  You have become a prize to covet for enemies, and one that has attracted benevolent beings.  The Asgard have come to trust and respect you, and so have the Nox.”

“And I’m supposed to be what?  Flattered that a bunch of aliens over running my head is this big key to the city?” Jack demanded, shaking his head in disbelief. “Let me tell you something, I didn’t ask for any of this, none of it! Not the damn Ancients download, nor the friendly wee folk to go poking around in my head!  So if it’s all the same to you, just take it, and don’t ask me to do anything else for this damn galaxy, because I’ve had it! I’m through!”

He stared at her, the anger and resentment he felt for how much pain he had caused to people that cared about him, the things he’d done in the name of duty, sickened him to the core.

“That’s good, Colonel,” Lya concurred. “You should let out this rage that traps you within the darkness.”

“I don’t need some damn pep talk!” he snarled. “You folks don’t get it do ya? I’m racing around the galaxy with this big idea of trying to defeat the Goa’uld and save Earth, and the Asgard, you, anyone, just defeat the damn snakeheads!”

“You protect the weak,” Lya agreed. “But in doing so you forgot yourself.  You forgot you are simply human, and could in no way continue to bear such a heavy burden as has been placed upon your shoulders.  Even if you refused to admit it, Colonel, you are weakened.”

Jack stared at her, heaving a sigh of relief. “It’s not bad to say I wanna quit?” he asked genuinely.

“No.  There is no shame in finding that you can no longer continue on a certain path,” she responded.

“How about if I said I wanted to stay here?” he enquired. “How’d that be?”

“If it is your wish to remain with the Nox, then we shall afford you a comfortable place in which to reside, where you will be able to do as you desired.”

O’Neill drew in breath deeply, lowering his eyes and searching his mind.  There was still so much pain and confusion, but there was also a light.  In asking for that one thing, he’d finally seen a way to readdress the balance that had been lacking for so long, he needed to stop and deal with everything that had happened in the last eight or nine months; Hathor, Iceni, Nyerti and worst of all Fraiser, even if he hadn’t been in control of his senses he’d influenced and used her, that stung. Carter, the Special Operations team, Daniel, the whole thing was like the biggest chain of disastrous events that could ever have happened in his life, before he could deal with that, he needed to understand how he’d gotten so out of control, there was a deep seated need to sit back and take stock, that had to be a priority; before he could consider dealing with any of them, he’d have to deal with himself!

“Yes,” he answered. “Yes it is.”

“Tell me, Colonel, is there anything that we, the Nox, may do to help you?”

“Nope!  I think I’ll find my way with a few natural surroundings.  A little company now and then,” he paused, looking at Lya. “Still feel like wiping out the universe though.  Got a cure for that, have ya?”

“There will be time to deal with the matter of the elements within your mind that we may use to free our friends from their fate.”

Jack looked at her curiously. “Excuse me?” he asked.

“Colonel, although you could not have known, nor realised, the Sengo’lians have the capacity to connect with many.  Through you they have opened up a means with which another race, one whom we thought had long since perished, could contact us and implore our help,” Lya explained.  “We will need to establish where they are, without harming your mind or bringing forth anymore pain.  I am hoping there is a way to do this with your cooperation.”

O’Neill exhaled, he’d been holding his breath knowing what was coming.  “You need my help?” he replied, a hint of incredulity in his tone. “I find that hard to believe.”

Lya bowed her head. “I will understand if you do not feel this is something you wish to pursue, since you have already suffered greatly,” she told him.

“Help them, who?” Jack enquired. “Not that I’m agreeing to anything, I’d just like to know who it is before I decide, either way!”

“They are the Furlings,” Lya replied. “They once resided within this part of the galaxy, but moved on over four millennia ago to a distant part of space.  We have not heard from them since.”

“Part of the four race alliance?” Jack asked.  “I’ve heard of them.”

“The Nox did not share their philosophy.  They were as the Asgard now are, powerful and able to destroy other beings.  We have learned that conflict will never end once it has begun, and so the Goa’uld have proven.”

“Wait a minute, how do you know they’re using me?” Jack’s features became quizzical. “I mean I don’t remember making a declaration about the Furlings.”

“You possess their power, Colonel, your eyes radiate with their presence, and through you they were able to ask for help,” Lya informed him. “It is your decision.”

“But you don’t agree with them right? I mean you just said that, so why would you want to help them?”

“Just because we do not share the same path, does not mean that we would be willing to see them perish, nor remain trapped.”

“Yeah,” Jack sighed. “What was I thinking, you even saved the damn Goa’uld!”

She smiled at him, and he couldn’t tell if she had been amused by what he said, or if she was just humouring the idiot.  But knowing how they felt, and that they were more than prepared to create a save haven for him, he felt beholden to them.

Lya shook her head. “That alone is not reason enough,” she remarked.

“What, you can hear my thoughts now?” he asked, his face screwing up at that rather uncomfortable revelation.  “Sweet!  What ever happened to privacy?”

“It is not your thoughts, I cannot hear anything specific.  It is merely your demeanour,” she reassured him, that patient smile once more brought to bear.  “You are right of course, until you are sure, you should not risk your mind and further intrusion that this would bring.  We will accede to your wishes.”

 

*****

Hammond waited for them in his office, O’Neill’s double had apparently requested seeing the child that his counterpart had fathered with a Goa’uld. He sat with Jacob and Major Davis, the latter still dubious as to whether he was now fully trusted.

“We’re trying to get word to the Asgard now,” Jacob said. “It’s not easy, but we know of a few planets that don’t have protective devices, plus the Tollan have agreed to help!”

“Oh they’re finally onside are they?” Davis remarked, he sounded almost like O’Neill for a second.  “Sorry, sir, I, er, well.”

Hammond tried to prevent any form of amusement from crossing his features. He shared the major’s view on the Tollan, even if he understood why they had refused to share their technology, the fact that they had still grated slightly.

”Sir?” Davis asked then. “How do we know once this O’Neill has all the knowledge that the other Colonel O’Neill has, he isn’t going to start wondering how come there was a love interest with a Goa’uld?  Get curious? I mean he has asked to see a child he has absolutely nothing to do with?”

“That’s not a concern, Major,” Hammond replied. “I’m confident that this O’Neill will be a lot more capable of handling himself without the burden of allowing his… Jack’s feelings to cloud his judgement.  He’s had four years away from what he considered to be his own life, I dare say he’s just curious!”

“I’m sure you’re right, sir,” Davis agreed, his eyebrows rising slightly. “I just think we should consider it.”

“Consider it considered!” Hammond replied dubiously.

“Unauthorised off-world activation!”

“Now what?” Jacob asked.

 

*****

Lieutenant Simmons attempts to close the iris were failing miserably as Hammond and Jacob joined him in the control room.

”Problem, Lieutenant?” Hammond enquired.

“Iris won’t stay closed, sir,” Simmons told him, panicking slightly as each time he gave the command the mechanism only half closed before opening again.

The security teams were already deployed, as SG1 and O’Neill arrived in the control room.

“What’s going on?” Daniel asked.

“We’re not sure, but the Iris won’t stay closed.  Since we still have power, it can’t be the Asgard,” Hammond replied.

Lya’s appearance through the wormhole brought the order to stand down. Jackson, Carter and the others instantly made their way into the embarkation room to greet her.

“Lya,” Daniel acknowledged.

“Hello again,” she replied, offering Daniel a smile.

“Why is she here?” Hammond asked Carter, who had stood back slightly, beside Teal’c.

“Maybe a progress report?” Carter offered.

“I have come to tell you of Colonel O’Neill’s wishes,” Lya replied.

“Um, how is Jack doing?” Daniel enquired.

“He is better, however he has requested to remain amongst the Nox, and we have agreed.”

“Staying with the Nox?” Hammond asked. “For how long exactly?”

“He did not say,” Lya responded.

“Is he cured of… whatever it was that made him act irrationally?” Hammond enquired, moving closer to her now.

“For the moment he has been able to find a degree of peace within himself, we are unsure how long this will last.  But we feel it is necessary to allow him the space and time he needs to truly become himself again,” Lya explained.

“Um, I’ll go, sir,” Carter offered, knowing that Hammond would want one of his team to liaise with O’Neill and see first hand his position.

“No, Major, we need you here to deal with this other matter,” Hammond replied, looking dubiously at O’Neill’s clone.

Lya, too, now regarded him. “Almost perfect,” she remarked.

“Thank you, ma’am,” O’Neill responded, beaming at her. “I like to think so.”

“I’d like to go, General,” Daniel offered, which seemed to surprise him.  “If you, er, trust me, that is?” he added dubiously.

“Okay, Dr. Jackson, you go,” Hammond stated. “Get a status report.”

“Yes sir.”

O’Neill watched intrigued as the team made off toward the guest quarters where he’d just visited with the child.

“Something bad wrong with the other guy?” he enquired then of Lya, his features contorting into a grimace.

“Colonel O’Neill will be fine,” she replied. “What of you?”

“Me?” he asked, surprised she’d care. “Oh I’m just here trying to undo the mess he’s made.”

“Interesting.”  She moved toward him. “Perhaps to better understand how such events arose, you would be wise to understand the forces that have been unleashed in his mind.  You intend to deceive the Goa’uld, they will know you are not he.”

“How are they gonna know that?”  He regarded her with intrigue, his eyebrows rising slowly, and curiosity masking his features. “Since for all intents and purposes that’s exactly who I am.”

“You lack his heart, yet have compassion.  But in you I sense no fear,” she replied succinctly.

“Oh come on, you’ve only known me five minutes, how the hell can you tell that?  Normally takes people months to figure that out,” he quipped.

“Perhaps if you look inside and find him, you too might possess these qualities and deceive the Goa’uld,” Lya advised. “The loss of humans to the Goa’uld for which he was directly responsible troubles him greatly.  Perhaps you would be able to rectify this?”

“Not if I can’t convince the Goa’uld I’m him apparently,” he smarted.

Lya bowed her head. “I am sure it is within you, perhaps buried in your own resentment of a predicament you could hardly have asked for.”

Jack smiled. “Touché!” he agreed.

 

*****

Osiris moved cautiously amongst the dead bodies of the Jaffa, the tattoo upon their heads signified they were in the service to Heru’ur.  Having managed to descend to the lower decks of the ship in order to investigate what it is they guarded, the Goa’uld had not anticipated that the creature, or whatever it was, would have overcome such overwhelming odds.  She had counted over thirty Jaffa, their symbiotes lying dead beside their bodies, curiously having tried to leave the protection of the pouches.

She turned one way and the next, spooked by the silence and the death around her, curiously so, something sent a shiver up the spine of her host and immediately she became panicked.

Perhaps now wasn’t a good time to go in search of whatever Heru’ur had held captive, since it were far more likely to find her than she would be likely to find it first!

Cautiously she retreated, the shivers her host experienced becoming more and more voracious as she moved toward the rings.  The creature must be close by, or else her host would not be reacting in such a manner, perhaps humans had a sixth sense for whatever it was that had laid waste to the Jaffa. She stopped, her eyes glowing, peering into the darkness as the internal lighting system within the Ha’tak failed.

Her hand device nervously rattled as she brought it before her, waiting for whatever lurked in the darkness to pounce.

“Your energy and hatred are useless against me!” Aiestrodous said, his voice seeming to carry in the eerie silence.

“Who are you?” Osiris demanded, pivoting quickly toward the direction she believed the source of the words had derived.

“What I am is of no concern to you, know that you will survive.  Leave this place, for I will soon hunger again!” he said, knowing that in allowing her to leave she would lead him to the technology that would set him free.

Without a second to pause, or question further, Osiris did as he bade. The rings located easily, she stood activating the device and awaiting the transport that would distance her from this creature.

Aiestrodous stepped from the darkness, his eyes two red pinnacles of light.  “Know that I am here!” he murmured. Instantly cloaked, he moved toward the rings and stood beside her, his stealth preventing the host from sensing his presence; there would be time enough to deal with these Goa’uld.

 

*****

Daniel made his way from the locker room where he had collected his kit and some rations and entered the embarkation room where Lya still patiently waited.  Hammond had attempted to invite her to his office several times, an invitation she had declined, and fended off questions about how she intended to help O’Neill recover from his current predicament. Sensing he was wasting his time, Hammond had left her in the charge of Makepeace, who had barely said a word.

She moved toward the ramp the instant she saw him, and stood in front of the Stargate, turning to regard those that she and Jackson were leaving behind, a nod toward O’Neill’s clone, she raised her hand, tracing the huge grey ring, and instantly a wormhole opened.

“I love the way she can do that,” Carter remarked to Teal’c, the Jaffa bowing his head to the departing Nox.

“Indeed!” he replied.

Daniel had all the supplies packed into his rucksack and moved fairly awkwardly behind Lya as she led him toward the small village in which Jack O’Neill now resided.

“Lya, I know you’re probably not going to tell me, but, I, er, need to know,” Jackson began.

“About Colonel O’Neill?” Lya enquired. “What is it you wish to know?”

“Is he… will he get back to where he was before all this started?” he asked. “I mean, I can understand him wanting to take a break away from everything given the whole Goa’uld… and other women, er, thing!”

“You believe he carries love for a Goa’uld still?” Lya asked there was a note of caution in her tone.

“I don’t know, can you really love something you truly despise?” Daniel replied thoughtfully. “I’m not sure that he ever truly loved her.”

Lya stopped, turning to face him.  “Then you would be mistaken Dr. Jackson, it is very real, and very true.  This is perhaps part of the conflict that rages within, and why he is unable to continue.  Without focus, there can be no resolution.”

Jackson nodded slowly.  “I think I understand that,” he agreed. “I just hope that Jack does!”

 

*****

Jacob Carter looked anxiously at the controller.  “It’s a message from the Tok’ra,” Staff Sergeant Davis told him.  “They request your immediate return.”

Jacob nodded, looking across at Hammond.  “Now what?” he remarked.

Hammond shook his head. “I hope it isn’t bad news, Jacob!”

“So do I, George, so do I!”


 

Part Three

 

Jacob didn’t need to wait long to discover the reason for the call back.  Having been briefed by Nazir, he was well aware of the reasons that the Tok’ra high council had been called into emergency session. He had elected not to mention the existence of the clones; at that moment in time it seemed too tenuous to bring up yet another bombshell that the SGC had failed to enlighten them on.

Having studied the situation that O’Neill had found himself in, the Tok’ra had decided to move forward and listen to proposals from two of their scientific analysts.  Now seated around the newly established chamber, with High Chancellor Perseus at its pinnacle, there was an uneasy silence as they awaited the representations.

“The analysis was accurate to the last degree of the specified parameters,” Marn’on advised. “The power force generated by the vessel O’Neill used to destroy the Goa’uld mothership was indeed Ancients and not reliant on Naqada, and more importantly the signature was almost undetectable!”

“Almost?” Martouf queried, his eyes flicking back and forth between the scientists and Jacob Carter.

“We were only able to detect it as it hovered above the surface of the planet, the net detection system we have built is sensitive to minor waves generated by the movement of sub-light and hyper-light travel This vessel is far more powerful than any vessel we have yet seen!” Marn’on concluded. A holographic diagram, showing the possible shape of the ship, beamed from the small device he placed on the table before the council. “If we were able to gain control of this vessel…”

“Such technology is beyond our use and comprehension!” Martouf pointed out sternly, unsure of where the meeting was going. He felt a sense of foreboding, O’Neill had successfully managed to elude capture by the Goa’uld, such information was highly prized and that concerned him.  He felt dubious as to the intent of the high council, and wary. “We would not be able to operate it, even if we could gain access.”

“We propose, as we did before, that O’Neill be brought here and bargained with for use of this technology,” Nazir suggested. A Tok’ra scientist, he had spent over 100 years studying information the rebels had been able to steal that featured any Ancients technology.  “We only need find that which is resistant to our symbiotes and we will be able to use the devices and the ships!”

“What you propose is unworkable!” Martouf protested, looking at Perseus. “The Tau’ri have no way of controlling Colonel O’Neill, nor do the Asgard!”

“The Nox have a found a way!” Perseus reminded him.

“Then surely we cannot allow this to continue?” Ree’talam, one of the most senior of the council asserted.  “Is it not clear that the power these creatures possess is unlimited?  We could easily wipe out the Goa’uld from many sectors of the galaxy with such knowledge.”

“At the risk of losing the Tau’ri as an ally!” Martouf pointed out. His objections had been clear from the start; even if Lantesh did not agree with him, he allowed his host to speak at will.  “And is it not the Ancients who ultimately have control over the vessel you seek?”

“O’Neill has their knowledge, this can be used to our advantage!” Marn’on argued, looking toward Perseus. “We believe the technology within these vessels still exceeds anything the Goa’uld have managed to obtain, it is therefore vital that we consider allying the Tau’ri in this venture and gaining their trust!”

“The Tau’ri are no match for the Goa’uld!” Ree’talam snarled.

“We are no match for this one Tau’ri!” Martouf snapped; his fists slammed on the hard surface of the council table. “I watched him destroy Heru’ur’s guard as if it never existed. He controlled legions of Jaffa, I watched them tremble and pale in his presence.  This is something you can not control, the forces that guide and protect him are far greater than anything we possess!”

“Martouf, his power over the minds of Jaffa…” Perseus began.

“How do you explain the damage done to Heru’ur himself? That he was able to command Sokar to his demise when he sent him to confront the Asgard on the behest of this power?  Why do you believe that Hathor covets him?” he demanded, desperately trying to warn the council from a path that he feared could ultimately destroy them.  “Heru’ur reveres him to a point where he has given up attempts to destroy him, he now fears him!”

“Heru’ur, Hathor… these are Goa’uld, Martouf,” Nazir pointed out, challenging his old friend as he had never done before. “As if you needed reminding?”

Ree’talam stood, regarding the dissident. “As such they will do anything to obtain his power.  Why is O’Neill so willing to align himself with the Goa’uld, sworn enemies, and deny us?” he enquired.

“Martouf?” Perseus entreated, glancing now at his subject. “Why does O’Neill ally himself with foes of his own kind, and as an ally to the Tok’ra reject us?”

Martouf shook his head, a smile crossing his lips slowly. “Because he knows what to expect from the Goa’uld, we have given him cause to be suspicious of our motives,” he replied emphatically. “His mind is shrouded in darkness now, Selmak himself claimed this much from his visit to the Tau’ri, and from our own spies within the ranks of Hathor’s forces.”

“The Nox have managed to block the darkness from his mind,” Selmak responded, looking down toward Martouf. “But we must consider that what Martouf says is correct. Attempting to entice O’Neill to use such a power might ultimately require far greater technology than even we posses!”

“Then we simply obtain the information we need, using the memory technology, and use it to our best capabilities!” Perseus said. “Jacob, I know you have voiced your objections, as has Martouf, with bringing Colonel O’Neill to the Tok’ra and using this knowledge, but do you not agree that this information would be instrumental in the downfall of the Goa’uld?”

Jacob looked across at the man nodding slowly. “I just don’t think we’ll be able to achieve what you’re talking about.  The information that Colonel O’Neill possesses is resistant to us and to the Goa’uld.  We’d need to force him into using it – and I know the man well enough to know he won’t be used!” he explained. “Jack’s cynicism, as my friend Martouf correctly pointed out, of the Tok’ra is already past the point where he’d be willing to work with us on anything!”

Martouf looked angry. “It is my understanding that if we attempt any such action against him, that O’Neill has the ability to destroy us!”

“Not if he is heavily sedated!” Hek’atay, another supreme member of the council remarked, far more aggressive in his stance of using their allies to their own ends than other members of the council. “We can keep him compliant, we have this technology now, and it would benefit both us and the Tau’ri – perhaps Selmak could convince his commanders of this fact?”

“I know General Hammond will never comply to such a request, he has too great a respect for Colonel O’Neill,” Martouf argued.

“Then we ask commanders higher in rank and status!” Hek’atay responded. “Ultimately we cannot sit by and watch any chance we might have to further our goals be wasted, O’Neill’s willingness to ally himself with our enemies must be looked upon as a hostile act, and therefore we must use whatever means necessary to ensure he complies!”

“I agree.  Reluctantly,” Selmak responded, most obviously for Martouf’s benefit. “But let us try to convey this to O’Neill first?  Perhaps if we approach him with our true intentions he might agree to assisting us.”

“But if he doesn’t?” Ree’talam retorted fiercely. “I suggest we simply proceed!”

Martouf’s disgust and dismay obvious in the expression he now favoured Jacob with.  “How can you agree to this?” he demanded.

“Because we have to be pragmatic, and we have to use any and all means at our disposal to tip scales heavily weighed against us in our favour!” the man replied, a cautionary tone entering his voice and etched in his eyes as he added, “Jack’s a friend of mine too.  Given another alternative, I’d take it.”

*****

The building’s age showed through the damp stains that were poorly hidden behind a sloppy decorating job.  It was one of those places you’d expect to find the NID lurking. Maybourne knew them well, yet he hadn’t expected them to be so open, to solicit his assistance in whatever venture they were currently involved in, which, he deduced correctly, would be routed in the SGC.

Colonel Darnell leant forward, his arms resting on the cheap table between he and the former Colonel Maybourne.

“Treason?” Maybourne retorted, at the threat of turning him in.  “I guess the information I have on you people must look like virtual suicide then!”

“We’re aware of what you have Maybourne, every dirty little file that you’ve been accumulating over the past two years!” Darnell confirmed, the muscle in his right eye causing a nervous looking twitch, which appeared to be getting more pronounced as he faced off against a very competent, and far better equipped adversary.

“The truth is Darnell you don’t know how to handle it,” Maybourne ventured confidently, a wry and sardonic smile crossing his features. “Which is why you had me picked up – and which is why you’ll be letting me go just as soon as you think I’ve told you everything you want to know!”

Darnell sat back, exhaling loudly. “So no one knows you’re here, we don’t need to be enemies Harry, we just need to work together.”

“Supposing I agree,” Maybourne replied, still in a far more relaxed posture than his combatant. “Exactly what is it you think I can help you with?”

“Jack O’Neill!” Darnell said immediately.

“O’Neill?” If he was surprised Maybourne didn’t show it. “He borrowed some more classified NID evidence?” he enquired, clearly enjoying the disdain that swept across Darnell’s features.

“He’s been turned… crushed another network we built with the Goa’uld, and managed to turn over fifteen of our men to a rogue Goa’uld!” Darnell told him.

Maybourne raised his eyebrows incredulous. “Oh dear, now that is a shame isn’t it!  Then I’d say you really do have a problem! What makes you think I can help with that?” he enquired.

“Let’s just say, we have a mission that requires a handler for an asset… are you interested?” Darnell asked.

Maybourne smiled, crossing his arms he nodded. “Of course!” he replied. “For the right remuneration I’m always interested, Colonel!”

*****

 

Carter stirred her coffee slowly, observing O’Neill’s clone who sat opposite her close to the door in the commissary, dressed in O’Neill’s blue jumpsuit and distractedly staring at the wall.  It occurred to her that this was a different entity than the rather flippant, and oft-humorous man she had come to know.

The ‘colonel’ had spent almost six hours digesting and processing the information that had been downloaded into his system.

She’d aided as much as was possible, but it felt peculiar nevertheless to spend so much time with someone so familiar that she knew hardly at all, the differences were subtle, but they were there just the same; he looked younger, the hair was without the now resident grey, and he seemed openly suspicious of their intentions. The fact was that even knowing this was O’Neill’s double, a carbon copy, it didn’t mean he hadn’t altered in many ways since they had left him back on Altair, and he clearly resented his biological self. 

“So, what do you think, sir?” she asked, studiously watching the reactions for any sign of disagreement. “Can you do it?”

O’Neill tilted his head to the right, a grimace crossing his more youthful features. “For starters, Carter, let’s not get confused here.  I’m not that guy!” he remarked, leaning forward to emphasize the point. “I don’t hold a rank, Major, so just… call me Jack!” The grimace was familiar, but the apparent apprehension etched on those familiar features betrayed the distrust he’d shown during the last few hours.

Here was a far more cynical character, perhaps from the lack of interaction with the outside world. He was openly suspicious of the entire base, despite displaying an air of confidence toward those around him. Carter detected that he wasn’t altogether comfortable with the surroundings.

He stared at her now, watching her features contort as she studied him, almost unaware of his regard.

“Sir?” she questioned when she realised he, like she had, wore a fascinated smile.

“Okay,” he ventured. “This is a little more information than I needed.  What the heck is this guy on?” he asked incredulously, a heavy sigh pursing his lips.

“On?” Carter enquired, a nervous glance toward Makepeace.

The smile faded from the clone’s face, his regard now far more concerned. “Goa’ulds as lovers?” he remarked, shaking his head.  “A kid, with Hathor?” The disdain he quite clearly felt now echoed in his voice. “This whole thing kinda makes me feel like taking a bath, know what I mean?”

“You bathe?” Makepeace enquired incredulously.

O’Neill glanced across at him. “No,” he retorted, his face now showing clear signs of that incredulity his counterpart often reserved for Jackson. “And that’s not the point!  What the hell’s been happening with this guy?  I mean you really let him run around with all the stuff in his head and no challenge?  Sleeping with Goa’ulds?  Allying with Heru’ur… who is Heru’ur by the way?”  His eyes flicked from Carter to Makepeace, shaking his head as if he couldn’t quite grasp what his biological self had been doing, or why he might do it!

“That’s a long story sir, Heru’ur is the son of Ra and Hathor,” Carter replied, “Basically the Colonel’s used him to pretty good effect so far, the information the Colonel possesses has been fairly useful to both Earth and the Tok’ra, added to that that he now has one of the most powerful system lords in fear of his capabilities...”

The clone regarded her, a look of pure dismay crossing his features. “Okay, I’m pretty sure I just asked you not to call me, sir,” he growled.

Carter returned the scowl he fixed her with, he was beginning to be slightly annoying.  She couldn’t shake the feeling that the resentment the clone quite clearly felt for ‘himself’, for the real O’Neill, was being meted out to her. “With respect, Colonel! That’s precisely what you are whilst you’re on this base, and during any operation we undertake.  Is that clear… sir?” she snapped, her tone sharp and clipped, eyes blazing.  She’d take a dressing down from her CO, but not from his rather belligerent double.

O’Neill’s face melted into a smile. “Whoa, Carter!” he exclaimed, both delighted in expression and tone. “That’s kinda feisty for a major!” Once more undermining her, but this time without meaning to.

“Sir, we’ve done this,” she pointed out. “Can we move on?” She looked across at the bemused features of Makepeace before once more addressing O’Neill’s clone. “So, can you handle this assignment or not?”

“Oh Yeah, I can handle it,” O’Neill’s double answered, resenting any insinuation that he couldn’t.  “But he’s kinda lost it, know what I mean?”

“No, not exactly!” Makepeace commented dryly.

“Look!  I’m not saying your boy’s gone over to the other side or anything, but did it never occur to you people that with all that stuff running around in his head he’s compromised?”  There was a look of sheer disbelief creeping on the android’s features. “Is Hammond going soft?”

“O’Neill’s managed to avert two attacks on this planet already, and dispatched some pretty nasty hostiles,” Makepeace snarled. “So cut the guy some slack, it’s hardly his fault he got used by the damn Tok’ra!”

“Yeah!” O’Neill snorted, a wily glance across at the marine. “More snakeheads!  And to answer your question Major, yeah, I can do this, but I’m gonna need a little time to figure out that Ancients download, it’s taking a while to run through my systems with the decoding device.”  There was a long pause, the clone looking from Makepeace to Carter.

“Sensing a but?” Carter said finally.

“There’s always a but,” O’Neill retorted, a wry smile crossing his features. “Bottom line? I’m gonna want to work with my people here, so you better figure out a way for Hammond to explain their presence!”

Carter shook her head. “No sir,” she replied. “Working with your ‘people’ isn’t an option.”  She leant closer to him. “We’re going out on a limb just by having you here!”

The clone sat back in his chair. “Well here’s the deal, I don’t work without people around me I can trust Carter, and I trust… my guys.  So do whatever it is you think you’ve got to do to convince Hammond, or I’m going nowhere!”

Makepeace took a deep breath, looking across anxiously at Carter. “I don’t think this is gonna work,” he groaned.

“Oh it’ll work Jarhead, but on my terms!” O’Neill retorted, a smirk crossing the familiar features of a man both knew well, except in this case it seemed not at all. “My way, or no way!”

 

*****

 

Daniel felt a strange sense of apprehension beginning to surge over him; he elected to wait outside the hut for Lya to alert O’Neill to his presence.  

He knew how much importance the man attached to loyalty, and somewhere inside he felt he’d betrayed him. 

Having spent so much time with O’Neill recently, he’d began to understand the man far better than he ever thought possible, feeling so disconcerted at seeing him after such a short time apart was slightly vexing.

Perhaps it was the fact he no longer knew the colonel’s thoughts that played so much on his mind; having been linked for almost eight months and constantly hearing both thought and feeling, it was almost akin to having an umbilical cord severed, to losing a limb.

That had to be it, and with that sudden realisation the anxiety ebbed away, replaced by the hope that the Nox had been successful in their attempts to lock down the Sengo’lians and extricate them from O’Neill’s mind.

Each time it had been attempted in the past, this wily race had merely remained dormant, surfacing when most needed, and whilst the current interpretation of their ‘darkness’ was something that he agreed had to be removed, considering the amount of good they had done for both he and the colonel, he felt it was almost a waste of such a powerful ally.

The image of a rather tired and distraught looking O’Neill emerging into the daylight from the hut however, immediately dismissed all such thoughts from his mind. Jackson was shocked at the way he looked, the ravages of a great battle etched into haunted and hollow features, he resembled someone who had been through a war, a holocaust of sorts, the dark shadows under his eyes and around his cheekbones enhanced a tired and empty expression.

The appearance of what was a normally buoyant and animated persona completely replaced, caused Jackson to wince openly.  “Jack, ah, you’ve um…” he winced again, his face creasing up as if pained. “Looked better!” he noted as the man drew closer.

“Gee thanks. Not exactly looking like my idea of a date either Daniel,” the colonel acknowledged, a grimace sweeping his face and intensifying the hollow dark appearance around his eyes. “What are you doing here?”

Jackson moved forward, a defensive smile crossing his features. “Well, I, er, General Hammond wanted me to see how you were doing,” he responded honestly. “And I was pretty curious myself actually.  And you look… um, are you sleeping?”  The concern he displayed not only on his face, but also in the tone of his voice, made O’Neill’s grimace even more intense.

“Still watching my six, hah, Danny?” the colonel commented, walking past the man and perching on one of the makeshift seating areas the Nox had fashioned from dead tree stumps.

“So, er, how are you doing?” Jackson enquired, the consternation he felt ringing out clearly in his voice. “I mean aside from the, er, rather unfortunate dark rings around the eyes, and the… are you eating?”

Jack’s expression became one of askance, sardonic regard resting within his pain filled eyes.

“Ah, you know, still think I could kill a few thousand folks, but it’s wearing off slowly.  You?” A grimace crossed the man’s features, confusion etched with dismay.  “Truth is, I’m having a little problem adjusting to the latest piece of news.”

“News?” Daniel enquired, his eyes sliding across momentarily to Lya before resting once more on O’Neill. “What, um, news?”

O’Neill’s eyes closed, a deep sigh escaping his lips, focusing it seemed before launching into the latest monumental discovery.  He opened his eyes as quickly as he’d closed them and gazed up into the skies. “Seems I’ve become a Mecca for all those lost souls… aliens, definitely aliens.” His hands now gesticulated as he spoke. “Out there!” A wide sweeping arc formed with his right hand as it was lifted toward the sky. A grimace sweeping his features, he added, “and I don’t really know how I’m feeling about that right now.”

Jackson sat opposite him, balancing precariously on a weathered tree stump, glancing across once more at Lya. “Sorry, but, er, I thought the links to the Sengo’lians was gone?” he noted, concern once more furrowing his brow.

“We cannot eradicate the link entirely Dr. Jackson,” Lya informed him. “However over time it will lessen.  The Colonel’s mind is free of the darkness from within them, but his own remains.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Jack remarked, looking up at Lya who had slowly made her way toward him, standing close now, close enough for him to reach out and touch. “I’m talking about the Furlings!”

“Furlings?” Jackson repeated, clearly mystified. “What about the Furlings?”

“Well!” O’Neill sighed, his eyes growing more expressive as he spoke. “As if having the Ancients download, the Sengo’lians and Beelzebub in my brain wasn’t enough, apparently they’re calling too!  I’m starting to feel like International Rescue here!” he added sourly.

Jackson’s eyes widened, mirroring his colleague’s almost perfectly. “This is one of the four races right?  The ones the Asgard told you about on Othalla?” he asked, the amazement resonating in his voice. “Um, wow! Er, how the hell did they get in your head… exactly?  I mean, isn’t it getting a little crowded in there?”

“Oh yeah!” O’Neill declared. “It’s like open season in my head apparently.”  He lowered his eyes for a moment, shaking his head in dismay.  “What’s your situation?  Is Hammond pissed?”

”Um, no more than usual.  Jack, you’re seriously telling me you have another race in your mind? This is amazing, did the Sengo’lians open up some kind of universal communications, er, deal in your head or something?”  His eyes beamed now as he considered having two of the four-race alliance manifesting within the colonel’s mind and what they might learn from it.

“Ya think!” Jack growled, groaning. “It’s not like I’m anything special here right? I mean someone didn’t deign me to be the damn arbitrator for all these damn races, did they?”  He looked both perplexed and anxious. “I just wish someone would tell me what the hell’s going on here, because I’m starting to lose it!”

“Perhaps it is time for you to leave?” Lya suggested, sensing that O’Neill was becoming agitated.

“Um, no!” Jackson snapped. “I don’t think so!  What’s this about the Furlings? I mean what do they want?” he asked, looking questioningly at both O’Neill and Lya. His head was beginning to feel a little light too, something he put down to the latest discovery and the intense questions that were welling in his mind.

“Don’t know, she does though,” Jack replied almost dejected by that particular admission, his thumb jerked in Lya’s direction. “Ask her!”

Daniel looked up at the Nox woman. “So?”

“They are lost,” she replied.

“Lost?”

“Oh yeah, and guess who they think is getting ‘em home!” O’Neill sighed.

Daniel’s eyes widened. “How?”

“You’re asking… look as fascinating as all this sounds…” O’Neill remonstrated, once more dismissing any interest with a sombre shake of his head. “I’m retired, so I don’t think I’ll be getting myself involved in any of this for the foreseeable future, know what I mean?”  His eyes met Jackson’s, emphasising his position.

“Um, retired?” Daniel repeated, obviously something that came as a surprise. He shook his head as if to shake off any sense that he may be hearing things.  “Um, retired,” he repeated. “Since when?”

“Since now!” Jack snarled, his eyes beginning to grow dark, the circles underneath clearing almost the instant they did.

Daniel sat bolt upright, alarm registering across his boyish features. His eyes flicked quickly across to Lya who now regarded O’Neill with a degree of concern herself; she could feel the trepidation from Jackson as surely as she could feel the malevolence from O’Neill, the two signals quite distinguishable, yet strangely interwoven.

“Um, Lya?” Jackson gasped. “He isn’t, um?”

“Colonel,” Lya said softly, her hand reaching out and touching the man’s shoulder. She attempted to prevent the contact she felt with Jackson from distracting her own thoughts, concentrating solely on O’Neill, whose rage was slowly building. “You must focus.” That assertion was more than a whisper.

O’Neill stood up shrugging off her reassuring touch. “Focus? Ah come on Lya, what’s the point?” he asked, his eyes slid across to the Nox woman. A glint of disdain shimmered in the pupils signalling his obvious descent, his lips now pursing as he slowly shook his head. “Every time I try to get out, someone is just trying to drag me back in.”

“Listen to me Colonel, here you are safe,” she told him, moving forward her hand reaching out and touching his arm.

“NO! I’m not safe ANYWHERE!” he exclaimed, his hands sweeping from his body to accentuate his feelings, violently thrown into the air as he spoke. “You can’t block the damn Sengo’lians, you can’t do anything, they’re too powerful,” his eyes seemed to convey a degree of sadness, “… even for you!”

“That is not the case, Colonel, we are progressing…”

The words seemed to echo in Daniel’s mind, words that were lost within a cacophony of sound, of other voices, his vision momentarily blurred as he tried to focus, to concentrate on O’Neill, on Lya, on anything at all.

The colonel was angry, he could sense it, watched him slowly becoming more and more desperate.  Jack stood, then sat, looking at Lya.

“Progressing? For crying out loud we’re regressing.  What’s he doing here? You call that keeping me safe? Bringing the one person who can link me right back to the Sengo’lians to this planet?  Or didn’t you realise he’s the conduit?” Jack snarled, a shrug as he gestured toward the archaeologist. “Oops!” he added to emphasis the point. “Kinda messed that up hah?”

Almost the instant O’Neill had acknowledged it; Jackson heard the voices welling around his mind.  Even he had not been aware, but now they were back without question.

Lya looked across at Daniel. “Is what he says true?” she asked, realising at once that the Sengo’lians had cleverly shielded Jackson’s ability from her. They had done so in the past, and she had allowed that deception to once more prevail, opening up the colonel to their presence again, with a force far more powerful than she could control.

“Sorry,” Daniel remarked. “But we, they, just couldn’t just let this go.”  He too now stood, his eyes focusing on hers. “You understand?  There… are many things… we must do. Much… to oversee… for freedom!”  He spoke curiously, his tone slightly different than that she recognised, and the words were said slowly and somewhat awkwardly.

Lya moved back away from them, it was clear to her now that both were not only infected by the Sengo’lians, but also, possibly as a result of this link that they shared, the same connection to the Furlings without knowing it existed.

After so long, perhaps she had underestimated the Furlings themselves since in leaving their region of space and disbanding the alliance their experiences and thus their philosophy could have changed.  It was not the Sengo’lians, those were not the voices that had driven O’Neill over the edge, it was the Furlings themselves, desperately trying to communicate their need, they were the creatures sending for him.

“Got a plan?” O’Neill enquired of Jackson, his eyes narrowing, head tilting to the left, a well worn scowl adorning his handsome, yet cynical face. “’Cause I’m thinking we kinda need one right now, you?”

“Oh yeah, plan would be good,” Daniel concurred; his eyes seemed to beam with anticipation now. “We should probably leave?” he urged, a glance back toward Lya.

The Nox woman shook her head slowly, her eyes leaving Jackson to once more regard O’Neill.

“Colonel, you must focus!  You are doing what others bade you do.  You must listen to me,” Lya demanded.

”Well that’s swell! I’m doing what I’m bade… so if you’ll forgive me, I think the listening thing is a definite no!” Jack retorted cynically. “Daniel, let’s go!  She can’t stop us.”

“Be careful, Colonel,” Lya cautioned, her attention split, fragmented between these two very forceful souls that stood before her. Jackson posed less of a threat, simply a conduit, her main fear centred on O’Neill. “Remember how weakened your mind is, to once more consider yourself as the only option for anyone could open up the pain you have done so well to conquer.”

“Jack, she’s right.  We’ve got the whole thing under control,” Jackson insisted, as if the realisation of the danger overwhelmed the presence of the Sengo’lians, or the Furlings, whichever race currently held court within his mind.

O’Neill’s features contorted wildly as he struggled with the forces that were once more invading his thoughts.  Daniel’s presence now made it far easier for them to infect and control his mind. “Look!  We don’t have time for that, I’ve got planets to save, snakes to kill and there’s a certain alien problem we need to fix… it’s that or nothing Daniel… I’m not doing this whole damn dance indefinitely!”

Daniel’s expression became blank, quizzical suddenly. “Doing, er, what?” Jackson enquired, as if he’d said nor heard anything previously to this latest sweeping statement by the colonel.

“Colonel, Dr. Jackson isn’t anymore in control of this than are you,” Lya asserted. “Both of you it would seem need our help.”  She looked from one to the other; clearly both men seemed completely bemused by her statement.

“What?” O’Neill and Jackson said in unison.  It appeared that neither seemed to know what they’d discussed moments, seconds earlier, Lya found herself surprised by this strange behaviour.

O’Neill’s face suddenly went from one of angst to amusement, staring at Jackson. “You think you can trick Nyerti into a trap?” he questioned, his features dancing on a cynical and amused face as he attempted to prevent outright laughter. “Daniel, who came up with this plan exactly? Makepeace?”

Jackson’s eyes rolled heavenward.  “Um, well… actually it was my idea!” he confessed.

Lya appeared confused, the two men were obviously once more communicating on a telepathic level that she could neither hear, nor detect the waves that resonated between their two minds; even with her heightened sensory perception, she was merely an observer.

Which is why you’re not team leader!” Jack snapped. His hands thrust into his pockets in a matter of fact manner, regarding Jackson with dismay, he added, “You people have no idea what you’re getting yourselves into here.”

Jackson looked almost surprised by that analysis; his left eye closed as he viewed O’Neill with disparagement that snuck fleetingly on his bemused expression.  Surely the colonel knew better than to surmise they couldn’t convey knowledge that Carter could so easily download?  His clone was after all an android, who had a far greater capacity for absorbing information than he did?

“Well,” he stated, shrugging now. “He, er, knows everything you know, including how to run the Ancients ships and technology.” A grimace now resided on his features. “And pardon me for saying so, but you’re beginning to sound like the Tok’ra!”

Lya’s eyes slid from one to the other as they spoke; her fascination in this seemingly endless ability to communicate on two levels momentarily distracted her from intensifying her efforts to control O’Neill’s now wayward thought process.

“That’s probably because I have a much deeper appreciation of all this stuff now than you do!” Jack retorted, sitting once more, his elbows resting on his knees, hands covering his face. “Do any of you realise just how powerful Hathor’s become?  The clone isn’t gonna fool her into believing he’s me!”

“Well, we’re pretty sure…” Jackson paused; he scrutinised the man reading his body language before feeling it safe to continue. “I think we can handle this Jack!”

O’Neill stood up abruptly, walking away from him, shaking his head in dismay.  “Daniel, Hathor’s not going to let anything stand in the way of her ultimate conquest of the system lords!  Nyerti isn’t clever enough to stop her; there will just be a huge damn war! Think H is gonna stand by and watch that happen?”

“And that would be a bad thing why?” Daniel enquired; surprised at the consideration he would show to Hathor.

“BECAUSE!” Jack yelled suddenly, hands wrung together in anguish, his knuckles white, eyes filling with dismay. “I love her, Daniel.” His voice now almost a whisper. “Whether I like it or not I can’t just stand by and see her… killed!  I just can’t do that, whatever you think, or I think… she’s the mother of my child, and… there it is!”

The confession hit him hard, his face contorting with the realisation of what he said, the pain registering in his eyes as he once more found himself in a place he had no desire to be. His eyes looked sullen once more as he waited for the archaeologist to respond, a response he had no desire to hear.

“Oh that’s great!” Daniel retorted sourly. “So what?  We’re going to protect a Goa’uld? Because she happens to be the mother of your child!  Sweet!”

O’Neill took a deep breath and nodded slowly yet emphatically. “Oh yeah!” he acknowledged, his eyes now far more focused, and without the darkness that had previously prevailed. “That’s exactly what we’re gonna do!”

Lya looked at Jackson, shaking her head.  She could see the path he was choosing so clearly that the mere knowledge of it brought fear to her heart; O’Neill was a good person, underneath all the hatred and anger he had openly displayed, the hostility he had foisted upon her for daring to demand he bring his soul back from the darkness, she knew it.  Her fear became so great that it brought a sigh of sorrow to her lips.  “If he continues to tread this path, it is doubtful that even the Nox will be able to assist.  I do not know how to explain, but there is far too great a power residing within his mind to be once more unleashed.” Her voice filled with the foreboding of her wisdom, she moved slowly toward the colonel once more.

Daniel looked curiously at her, his features becoming questioning. “What exactly are you trying to tell me?” he asked, his eyes diverted quickly to O’Neill, glancing at the face of his friend and searching that horror-stricken expression for evidence of some dire and impending doom.

“Your link to the Colonel is causing him distress,” she explained, moving ever closer to the man. “If he were to once again harness the power of the central mind that is the Sengo’lian and use its knowledge, he will be lost.  Then there is the link to the Furlings that you both appear to share.”

“We, er, we do?” Jackson enquired, once more a tenuous glance toward his friend before lowering his eyes, searching the ground at his feet for a meaning he couldn’t completely comprehend.  “I thought you said you’d be able to help him?” he charged. “Isn’t that why he’s here?”

Lya looked across to where Jack now stood, leaning up against a tree, his forehead resting on the bark.  “See his anguish, is that not already becoming evident?” she remarked. “He is not equipped to deal with so much Dr. Jackson, it is tearing his mind in two.  His loyalty to benevolence, and to the Asgard, is countered by the hatred he feels for the Goa’uld.  The two forces are unclear to him. Ultimately this must be settled before he can attempt to rejoin you.  I fear that if this is left, and with the intervention of the Furlings and your ability to re-establish such links, it will cause his mind to splinter!”

“So he’s confused?” Daniel queried, understanding that far better. “He’s still not completely free of the hatred that the Sengo’lians unloaded onto him and it might turn up and blow up in our faces?”

“Yes,” Lya confirmed. “And the knowledge he now has of the existence of the Furlings will also be pulling him in another direction.  There is so much that he does not understand in what is happening to him.”

“But you understand?” Daniel asked. “You know about the Furlings and what they want?”

“They have not been in our region of space for many cycles.  They severed their links with us, as we did with the alliance.  It is unclear why they have chosen to once more seek contact,” Lya informed him.

Something in her eyes troubled Daniel greatly.  “But they’re still benevolent right?  I mean it isn’t them causing Jack to go dark-side on us?”

Lya shook her head slowly. “Of this I am also unsure,” she responded honestly.

Daniel looked completely aghast, his eyes closing momentarily as he tried to absorb the information. “So help him?” he implored. “There has to be something that you can do, you said so yourselves!”

“We can only do so if he wishes it,” she stated, looking back toward the haunted figure of the colonel. “Now that you have enabled the Furlings to once more control their voices within his mind he will wish to pursue all that has gone before.”

“Then you have to convince him,” Daniel insisted. “Can you do that?”

Lya did not respond she walked toward Jack, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Colonel, you must follow your first path.  You can not help others when you are so in need.”

“Decision’s made!” Jack replied. “If I don’t do something they’ll all get themselves killed, or Goa’ulds, or… worse!” The perplexed expression he wore was now becoming something more, impatience, fear, and anger.

“Very well Colonel, you leave me with no choice,” Lya said, her features becoming resigned, yet oddly, and unusually for the Nox, angry. She closed her eyes, the palms of her hands meeting together before her.

Daniel watched, afraid to intervene, yet reticent to allow her to continue as he witnessed the power that her mind possessed, O’Neill was slowly sinking to his knees, yet exhibited no sign of distress or pain, it appeared as if he had simply slipped into unconsciousness where he stood.

“What did you do?” he demanded anxiously, as he moved forward toward O’Neill. He knelt down beside the now unconscious form of his friend, feeling for a pulse, his eyes meeting Lya’s, panicked, angry.

“I am helping him,” she said, her own eyes softening, her expression becoming sympathetic. “Please, carry him inside.”

“How?” Daniel asked, pulling O’Neill onto his shoulders. “How is this,” he continued as he followed her, “helping him?”

“Come, you will see.”

 

*****

Heru’ur looked around at the devastation.  “How did this happen?” he questioned.

“I am unsure my lord,” Nefir responded. “When I returned to the ship, I found the guards dead and the creature gone.”

“Find it!  And kill it!” Heru’ur snarled, his eyes glowing nefariously.

“Yes, my lord!”

“Where is Thoth?” the system lord demanded.  Nefir shook his head.

“Of this I am also unsure, my lord,” he replied.

“No matter!” Heru’ur snapped. “He has no doubt eluded this creature, he is far too wily to have been destroyed!”

 

*****

Maybourne looked at the creature.  “Colonel Stuart,” he remarked.  “Or is it Lord Stuart!”

“Silence, infidel!” Ptah snarled.

“Oh I don’t think so, since I’m going to be your handler!” Maybourne retorted, a wry smile crossing his smug features.

“Why is this?” Ptah demanded, his eyes glowing nefariously toward Darnell.

“Maybourne is far more uniquely qualified to deal with your specific needs,” the colonel retorted. “He lacks morality, a conscience, and won’t hesitate to kill you if you attempt anything stupid!”

Ptah glared toward Maybourne. “We shall see!” he growled.

Maybourne didn’t respond; the contempt that resonated on his features clearly underlined Darnell’s assertions.

“Now, shall we get going?” he enquired. “Before this whole thing becomes moot!”

The Goa’uld reluctantly nodded, his hand indicating for the former NID man to proceed. “Lead on!” he replied.

 

*****

 “Lya, what exactly did you do?” Daniel questioned, panic in his voice, watching as the Nox woman sat close to O’Neill, her fingertips pressed to the man’s temples.

“I must remove the knowledge of the Furlings from his mind,” she told Jackson finally.

“Um?” the archaeologist sighed, rather more reticent now. “Isn’t that going to be about as effective as you getting the link with the Sengo’lians out of his head?”

The Nox woman stood, she walked across to Jackson, her hand placed on his forehead. “You are the link,” she told him.

“Me?” Daniel asked dubiously.

“Yes, if we are to succeed, I must first prevent your minds from joining.”

In the semi unconscious state of his mind, O’Neill could feel the powerful forces surging; they demanded freedom, demanded action.  Jack’s eyes opened, filled with the ebony that had pervaded before the Nox had taken charge of his situation.

He rose too quickly for Lya to prevent it; his hand levelled toward her, sending the woman crashing back into the side of the hut. “She’s getting on my nerves!” he told Daniel, as he made his way from the hut, looking back over his shoulder at the surprised archaeologist.

“How did you do that?” Daniel asked, looking down at Lya’s unconscious form.

“Just a little trick these Sengo’lians helped out with!” Jack told him. “Let’s go, before she wakes up and kicks my ass!”

“Um, you, er, didn’t hurt her did you?” Daniel enquired, his tone fearful, concern etching his boyish features. “She’s okay right?”

“Oh yeah,” O’Neill replied dismissively. “Just a few bruises, she’ll be fine.” He was already leaving the hut, the archaeologist glancing down once more to Lya before scurrying after him.

“Er, Jack?”

“What?”

“Where are we going?” Jackson demanded, as he reached him.

“Well that would be to save Hathor!” Jack told him.

“Oh, that’s, um, nice!” Jackson replied, looking dubiously toward the colonel. “Almost like going to see if the scorpion isn’t likely to sting you?” he ventured, apprehensively. “Jack, come on, after all she’s done?”

“Daniel, will you just have a little faith!” Jack insisted. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Famous last words,” Jackson sighed.

“Look!” O’Neill snapped. “I’m not doing this same damn dance!” He paused, turning to regard Jackson now; his eyes suddenly became opaque, filled with surprise, blinking once before Jackson realised that something had struck him, the obvious discomfort as small dart-like objects pierced flesh, embedding themselves in his body, across his chest and upper arms.  His features registered alarm as he sank slowly to the wet earth beneath him.

Daniel reacted slowly, feeling a sharp hot pain sweep up his back as he threw himself to the ground, looking across at the now prostrate colonel; he had been unconscious before his body struck the ground.

“Well this is getting a little too frequent!” he observed, as he began to feel the effects of whatever permeated his body through the darts. Dizziness prevailing over senses dulled, the ground coming up quickly to meet his fall. Dazed he glanced up just in time to see Jacob Carter before the full effects of the darts finally overwhelmed his senses, the surprise registering on his boyish features as his eyes closed.

“Hurry up,” Jacob instructed those that had accompanied him to the planet.  “I don’t think it will be too long before the Nox realise they have company!”

“Will this be enough to keep him docile?” Nazir enquired, assisting two other Tok’ra in lifting O’Neill from the ground.

“It had better be!” Jacob observed, looking at the unconscious form of the colonel with some trepidation. “He’s going to be really pissed when he comes to and I don’t exactly want to be in the same room with him!”

From a distance Anteaus was cloaked from the intrusive eyes of the Tok’ra, he watched, feeling that same sense of trepidation as they carried the two men toward the Stargate.  He could have rendered them invisible, preventing their abduction, yet he knew these were Tok’ra and unlikely to pose much of a threat to the safety of either man. He feared O’Neill now more than ever before, the discord and chaos that prevailed within his mind mostly because of the Sengo’lians had sent warning signals rippling across the universe, for those like the Nox who could sense and read such waves he knew it could not be allowed to go unchecked.  But now O’Neill possessed something else, a gift from the Nox themselves that would make him almost invincible.  He shook his head; Lya had wisdom and she had suggested, insisted, that O’Neill had a good heart, even if he believed this, such wisdom and power that was now possessed by this single man represented a formidable foe, or if Lya was right, ultimately he would be the balance between races that had long since lost the ability to communicate on any level.

 

*****

Aiestrodous moved slowly through the ship, having nourished his desire for blood many times over, he moved amongst the Goa’uld without their knowledge.  Hearing an irate Heru’ur demanding his demise, he smiled. The command from another Goa’uld via a long-range communication device to begin an assault on the Asgard was intriguing.

Listening to these primitive creatures amused him greatly, they were disorganised, unable to trust one another and flawed by their arrogance.  He had never been close enough to witness it before, a foe whom his race had taken out by stealth.

Now it seems the Goa’uld were even more ambitious, they had decided to attempt a long range assault on the Sengo’lians; a secondary plan, one that was designed to prevent O’Neill, who it seemed had become a foe far more widely feared than even he had imagined, from becoming more powerful.  It was too ambitious, and destined ultimately he knew for failure.  No race had ever truly defeated the Asgard, perhaps dented them, but never truly managed to overcome their technology.

The images of the Asgard, the Ancients and the Nox were vivid in his mind, he had seen the Ancients grow, and ultimately destroy themselves at their first steps beyond what evolution had destined for them, watched them build the Stargate system and learn how to traverse space, this too had been his means of escape when they had ultimately brought the demise of the planet upon themselves.

Fleeing to other planets, to other galaxies and with them, the Asgard from a distance once too great to perceive had grown, their own evolution bloody, many wars had been fought between them before they had finally understood that their very survival depended upon cooperation.  Cooperation the Sengo’lians had learnt thousands of years before them, and now the Goa’uld; a race that would never learn such humility, so entrenched was their evil.  Ultimately he had come to understand that all progression was forged through fear and pain, ascending far beyond the reaches of the Goa’uld, he had fought them on many planets, he and his kind, yet now only he remained.

A desolate and terrifying monster, whose past had become folklore on planets far older than Earth.

He listened with disregard as the creatures that sought to control the universe and enslave all that stood in their way, planned. Perhaps, somewhere inside, he felt obliged to know the fate of races he had protected in centuries past.

But even so, without the brethren of his own kind, he too was powerless to stand in the way of such a vast force, but he could warn them, assist perhaps, in his own way.  The piercing red eyes that stared hate-filled at Heru’ur became more intense.

He would need to plan it carefully, this creature was rarely alone, and possessed devices that could easily stun or harm him, this battle would need thought.

Once more he faded into the shadows, yet something began to disturb him, voices… whispers in his mind, intruding on his thoughts.  Slowly he began to hear them, voices he recognised… his own kind!

Within the darkness their voices rose to a crescendo, communication of this sort was against their nature, against everything that had been taught.  Yet as they were hunted down the confusion and panic grew within their ranks until it became the only way.  The Goa’uld had tried to find them before, but whilst they had been a part of the alliance it had always been futile.  Now cut-off from those allies, they were vulnerable.  The power from the devices had been able to locate them, to render their powers void, and now they had only their voices.  Fear had burned inside for the first time; creatures that used the night to their advantage had been brought into the light and arbitrarily exterminated.

Aiestrodous, stricken with that same panic, had buried himself under the soil, hiding from the onslaught.  Weakened by lack of nourishment he’d emerged from the soil days later, and with certainty that the sun had disappeared. He had roamed, searching in vain for his kind, finding only charred bodies, the cruel stench of their seared flesh burning his nostrils. His senses heightened; slowly the reality dawned upon him.  “I am alone!” he whispered.  “I am alone.”

 

*****

Martouf continued to voice his concerns as both O’Neill and Jackson were laid in a room, one protected with force shields preventing their escape, and for the safety of the Tok’ra who held them.

“We risk losing the alliance with the Tau’ri!” he asserted. “As well as the respect of those we hold!”

“Martouf, the council is right!” Jacob snapped. “We have the power to do something about the system lords right here!”  His right hand swept across to indicate the still and unconscious form of Colonel O’Neill. “To stand by, allow this to be wasted?”

“To do what we now contemplate makes us as bad as the Goa’uld,” Martouf argued vehemently.

“Does it?” Jacob snapped. “I don’t think it does, utilising the technology or abilities that O’Neill possesses may just save both ourselves and Earth!”

Martouf shook his head. “Enslaving him?  Is that our purpose? Because I do not believe that Colonel O’Neill will willingly participate in this!”

“Maybe you’re right, but we have to try!” Selmak snapped. “And since he trusts you over most of us, it will be you who has the task of convincing him!”

Martouf looked startled at this latest piece of news. He watched Jacob walk away, anger building inside him.  O’Neill had shown him a certain amount of latitude, even patience in the past, but now he was not so sure.

Lantesh had remained intentionally silent, suspecting this much would be asked of his host, he had elected not to alert him to it, there were many shared thoughts between host and symbiote, prudence decreed that this would not be one of them.

Martouf looked over his shoulder at the two men; both were still unconscious. The effects of the latest drugs the Tok’ra had discovered were quite stunning, capable of completely rendering a Goa’uld, even one that had sought refuge in an Unas, into an almost comatose state, even so, with the will of a race as omnipotent as the Sengo’lians that was no guarantee O’Neill would remain unconscious for very long.

The Tok’ra host took a deep breath.  Whether he liked their decision or not, the high council had given him the responsibility of communicating and reasoning with a man he knew felt a deep mistrust for his race.

He did not have the luxury of argument, instead he would now centre and concentrate his efforts on convincing O’Neill not to unleash those powers they so desired to harness for good, against them.  A task he felt ill equipped to handle considering the colonel’s openly antagonistic attitude toward them.

Perhaps in order to convince O’Neill, he must first convince Jackson!  Both seemed daunting.

 

*****

Hammond looked from Carter to Makepeace. He had his reservations; controlling the O’Neill clone was bad enough, without bringing in three more to complicate matters.

“Sir, I don’t think it’s an option,” Carter persisted; she looked dubiously at Makepeace hoping for some support. “We need him… with Colonel O’Neill completely out of the loop…”

“Major, it’s one thing to have the O’Neill clone, but quite another to try and explain away exact replications of yourself, Dr. Jackson and Teal’c!” Hammond pointed out.

“General Hammond, we’re probably facing a catastrophe of universal proportions if we don’t try to redress the balance!” Carter asserted.

“Aren’t we considered the poor relations in this equation?” Hammond remarked, looking sceptically at Carter.  “Just how much is it you think we can possibly achieve here?”

“Sir, Colonel O’Neill’s link to these Sengo’lians has drastically altered that balance.  He’s directly responsible for telling the Goa’uld that the Asgard aren’t as big a threat to them as they once were!” Carter stressed, perplexed by the general’s attitude. She had never considered herself a diplomat and to begin now, with so much at stake wasn’t ideal. “If we sit back and do nothing, we face this planet ultimately becoming a target for the Goa’uld, with no protected planets treaty to safeguard against it!”

“She’s got a point, sir,” Makepeace weighed in finally. “If we don’t try to rectify the mistakes that Jack has made out there, albeit unintentionally,” the marine added with a degree of reticence, “then we’re going to have to deal with something a lot worse down the line!  Something we’re not militarily ready for.”

Hammond took one of those deep breaths, the type that came with a decision he felt had been forced upon him.

“All right, but I want this operation moved off this base!” he agreed. “You can organise from the clones home planet and report back to me here before any operation is under taken, is that clear?”

Carter nodded, looking across at Makepeace. “Good to go sir?” she asked.

“You bet!” Makepeace agreed.

 

*****

 “Dr. Jackson?” Martouf whispered softly. He’d administered an antidote, attempting to wake the archaeologist without alerting the more potent force that was O’Neill.

“What?” Daniel’s startled voice as his eyes opened, he blinked several times. “Martouf?”

“I am sorry, but I must talk with you.” The Tok’ra stood, indicating for the archaeologist to follow and remain as quiet as possible.

“You did this?” Daniel charged as they stepped outside of the holding room.

“It was not my choice, Dr. Jackson,” Martouf assured him. “Had I been given a voice in this, I would most certainly not have brought you here under these circumstances, however, and you must recognise this, we are left with no other alternative than to seek the knowledge Colonel O’Neill contains within his mind that might further our cause against the Goa’uld.”

Daniel lowered his eyes, concentrating on listening to O’Neill, who despite appearances was very conscious of where he was, and what was happening.

“Well now, see that might be a problem,” Daniel replied, sounding more like his CO than himself. “Jack’s lost the ability to contact the Sengo’lians… and the Ancients download with it.”

“What?” Martouf exclaimed. He looked slightly perplexed, unsure of whether this was a deception, or merely that O’Neill had convinced Jackson of this. “How can this be?”

“The Nox,” Daniel replied, sensing the unease in the Tok’ra. “They were helping to free Jack of all those things so he could go back to how things were… he’s, er, had enough!”

“Then the Nox were completely successful?” Martouf ventured, leading Daniel away from the room, and toward the council chamber.

 

*****

Jack O’Neill sat up slowly, shaking his head to focus his conscious thoughts. He looked around; the surroundings were familiar, Tok’ra design.  A grimace crossed his face in disgust. The Tok’ra weren’t his favourite race, he found them bearable only because he was forced to, they were like the Tollan, a race that regarded Earth and her people inferior, that holier than thou attitude they seemed to use as a building block for their approach, irritated him.  Even Jacob’s attitude of late had a tendency to irk him, and he didn’t care if it showed.  Jackson was feeding him information the whole time, and that simply prepared him for what he perceived was inevitable; the Tok’ra had finally shown their true colours, colours that had made him suspicious of them all along. He’d fed Daniel with the lines he wanted them to hear, subconsciously controlling the archaeologist whom he knew was now in discussion with Martouf.

He listened to his friend’s thoughts; the upshot was the Tok’ra wanted information, how they got it seemed to be the debate Daniel was currently involved in.

The colonel had listened to the voices of those he now knew were the Furlings, ‘Free us, as you did the Sengo’lians’ that part was clear, why, or what their intentions were, was unclear to him.

“Sweet!” He groaned as he checked the force shield with which the Tok’ra contained him within the small room.  He felt sensors, knew exactly where they were situated; a smile crossed his face then.  Time for dense mode, time to play the hand of the terminally challenged inferior race.

He sat back down, his head plopped firmly in his hands.

Jacob Carter watched on the Goa’uld monitor, a device of which blueprints had been stolen months earlier, that he had insisted be developed and installed after the debacle with Tanith on Vorash.

“What do you think?” Hek’atay enquired, nervously watching the Tau’ri.

“He could be tired, maybe the Nox were able to remove the link from his mind, but they certainly couldn’t have wiped the Ancients database out too!” Jacob asserted. “Which is more important to us now than anything the Sengo’lians might offer.

“I agree, and if he refuses to assist us with this knowledge, how then do we proceed?” Hek’atay asked, the inference in his tone suggested he had no problem with violating a treaty they had signed only a year earlier.

“If you’re asking would I sanction torturing him?” Jacob theorised dubiously. “No, and I don’t think it would do any good, nor would the memory recall devices.  He’s been trained to withstand torture, and the devices won’t work with the Ancients’ database, anymore than we could operate the viewer that downloaded this information into his brain.  I think we need to use a lot more cunning than that,” he continued. “I think the key to O’Neill’s knowledge, to his mind, is probably Daniel, maybe Sam… but if we involve her, it might definitely make our alliance with the SGC and Earth untenable.”

“Then we will proceed however you feel will obtain us the results we desire,” Hek’atay agreed. “Ultimately this information is far too valuable to remain dormant within his mind.”

 

*****

Daniel shook his head, taking a deep breath before once more launching into a response to Martouf’s insistent and somewhat daunting attitude.

“And yes, ordinarily I would agree with you,” he acknowledged, having listened to the Tok’ra rattle on about not wasting the information O’Neill possessed. “But, we’re talking about a race that is far more advanced than anything either the Goa’uld or Tok’ra have been capable of, add to that the fact that the technology has a built in failsafe against symbiotes, I’d say you’re wasting your time anyway wouldn’t you?”

Martouf too shook his head, but this was far more defiant than Jackson had been. “Being able to understand the technology which the Ancients employed would go a long way to helping our cause,” he contested.

Jackson smiled, one of those rueful smiles that suggested immediately that the recipient of his next pearl of wisdom clearly wasn’t on the same level as he, a grimace followed quickly.  “Martouf, you couldn’t operate or understand that technology any better than we could, it’s in the realms and beyond of the Asgard, and Jack won’t share it!”

“Except with Heru’ur?” Martouf ventured, scorn emanating from his eyes, as well as drenching the words.

“He hasn’t…” Jackson paused, his eyes narrowing. “Is that what you believe? That Jack has somehow given the Goa’uld information he refuses to give the Tok’ra?  To Earth?”  The usually amiable features of the archaeologist exploded into rage. “Exactly what is it you’re planning here, because I’m beginning to think this… nice polite approach is a smoke-screen? You think you can take that knowledge from Jack? I’ll be really interested to see what he makes of it, and I’ll stand aside when he destroys…” He’d said too much, he knew it instantly.

“How can he destroy us Dr. Jackson?” Martouf questioned. “If he no longer possesses the power of the Sengo’lians?”

“I was speaking rhetorically,” Jackson remarked flippantly. “You won’t get anywhere with Jack, and you’d be risking the treaty with Earth, with Jack… since it seems the only thing you ever covet has to be powerful and come with an expensive emotional price tag, if you continue to go down this path.”

The fire burning in the archaeologist’s eyes was enough to tell Martouf he’d hit the chord he had intended to miss.  He lowered his eyes and shook his head slowly.

“I did not intend that to sound as aggressive as it did,” he apologised. “But you must understand Dr. Jackson, there are those who believe that Colonel O’Neill refuses to share this information, information which would greatly enhance our chances of effectively challenging the Goa’uld for personal reasons.”

“And those would be?” Jackson challenged immediately, unwilling to show as much respect for Martouf as he clearly held for him.

“Dislike mostly,” Lantesh replied. “Colonel O’Neill mistrusts us, and whilst I understand this, given certain situations that have occurred between our two peoples in the past.  That he would work so closely with the Goa’uld and refuse us is a source of consternation for many!”

Jackson stood, walking toward the doorway of the room leaning on it. “Like when he risked himself, and by the way me, to inform you that Heru’ur had planted a spy amongst you? Being kidnapped by Anise for his knowledge… that kind of indifference?” he enquired.

Lantesh nodded. “There have been mistakes on both sides Dr. Jackson, we acknowledge this.”

“No, I don’t think so!” Daniel retorted, shaking his head. “You really don’t get it do you? I mean, you sent assassins to kill him a few months ago, it was your fault this happened to him in the first place and now you want to... er, bitch... about the fact that he’s tried to destroy the Goa’uld without you?”

“He is ill equipped to deal with the Goa’uld since he does not…”

“Oh I think he does!” Daniel snapped, standing exhaling loudly to show his disdain. “I think he knows more about the Goa’uld now than you do, working so closely with Heru’ur, he’s managed to cause the kind of chaos amongst them, in what, 9 months, than you’ve achieved in 2000 years.”

Lantesh ceded and allowed his host once more to speak in his stead. “Daniel, I realise that there are some serious issues here, and it would not be wise to force them, however, you must understand that we are your allies and… Whilst this looks very bad, our actions are borne from good intentions,” he explained. “We would be prepared to listen to anything that Colonel O’Neill has to say, and come to some understanding as to how we might work together to achieve our goals.”

“I’ll, er, put that to Jack shall I?” Daniel replied, somewhat reticent now.  What they asked was reasonable, even if their methods had much to be desired.

 

*****

 ‘We are here,’ the voices of the Sengo’lians alerted O’Neill.

‘Have a plan do ya?’ the colonel responded, the sarcasm in his tone lacing the words heavily. ‘Because I gotta tell ya, this is probably the worst situation I’ve been in! Not real prudent to wipe out the Tok’ra, know what I mean?’

‘We were unable to prevent the intrusion into your mind of the Furlings, Ha’dai, please forgive this indiscretion. Another also wishes an audience with you!’

Jack sighed, the air leaving his lungs so slowly it caused him to groan. ‘See, I’m not blaming you! I’m just a little… pissed that this whole thing, all of it isn’t going away anytime soon, oh, and by the way, thanks for that nice malevolent streak you gave me!  Next time you want to investigate that whole dark side issue, call Darth Vader!’ A grimace now adorned his features. ‘So, these Furlings… we can help em right?’

The voices began to speak out of turn, almost an internal argument ensuing amongst them.

‘Okay. HEADACHE!’ the colonel yelled, the sound echoing around his mind stopping this battle instantly. ‘You folks done?’

‘We apologise. Will you speak with this other one?’

‘Getting old!’ O’Neill retorted, completely vexed. ‘What other one? And, let’s just try to think without doing the whole yelling thing, okay?’

‘We have located the Furlings, Ha’dai, yet so far are they such a task, such a place… it would be unwise, unwise.’ Those words were spoken by many, out of sequence.

‘Sweet! What’s unwise? Unwise as in, dangerous to my health, or maybe just a little risky?’ Jack enquired. ‘In case you can’t hear ‘em, they’re pretty damn loud in here! And what other one?’

The Sengo’lians were silent for a time, the colonel figuring they were probably attempting to decide on the right answer to his question.

‘O’Neill?’

‘Who’s calling?’ the colonel’s tone became more and more laced with acrimony.

‘Aiestrodous, I desire your counsel!’

Jack’s eyes narrowed. ‘Dracula!’ he snarled.

‘I am in a position to help you - they have found me, as once they did before.’

The colonel’s face screwed up, his eyebrows climbing his forehead.  ‘Okay, what is it with you aliens, is being vague some unwritten law?’

‘Forgive me, the Goa’uld brought me from my home.  They believe that I, Aiestrodous, can destroy your world.’

‘In case you haven’t been listening to the busy signals?’

‘I am aware you are overwhelmed with so much wisdom, with so many finding your mind.’

‘Little crowded, know what I mean?’

‘I am in a position to help you, if, you will help me?’

The colonel drew in breath heavily, shuddering.  ‘Why the hell not! Puts a whole new idea on that whole multiple personality condition don’t ya think?’

‘Then I am in your debt; you have the ability to locate me.  Please, it is essential that you do so immediately!’

‘Yeah, I’m getting that a lot!’ the colonel acknowledged.

 

*****

 ‘Daniel?’

‘Jack?’

‘Hey, if I want to hear my name, I’ll say it okay?  What’s going on with old Marty? He doing that whole negotiating peace deal… deal?”

‘Well, right now he’s asking if I’d put this proposition of working together to you… hold on,’ Jackson’s thoughts broke off quickly.

‘Holding!’ O’Neill echoed, bored and still irritated at being confined, even if he could step right through their shield he wasn’t about to. He found himself listening to his own doubts, and then the ones of Hathor; round 200 in the ‘do I, don’t I’ debate on his feelings toward her.  Ultimately, and he’d done this time and again, he knew the whole thing was destined to end badly.  But badly didn’t take into account the emotional turmoil he felt whenever her presence entered his mind.  Whatever it was, both in the physical and emotional aspects, she provided.

‘Jack?’

‘Daniel?’

Sitting opposite Martouf, Jackson raised his eyes heavenward. The colonel’s languid tone still cut with the sarcastic reverb of his thoughts.

‘I’m thinking maybe we should hear them out,’ he advised.

‘Really? And why would ‘we’ want to do that exactly?’

“Well mostly because I think what they’re saying makes sense, um actually it makes a lot of sense!’ the archaeologist told him.

‘Yeah listen, maybe to you Danny.  But right now I’m thinking that these guys are just gonna get in the way.  Besides, the wee folk are trying to find these damn Furlings and get them the hell out before I go dark side again!’ Jack retorted. ‘And we’ve got another candidate for Jack-aid!’

‘I… what?’ Daniel asked.

‘Oh yeah!  You’re not gonna believe this one either!’

‘Jack, I really think we need to deal with the Tok’ra,’ Daniel persisted, trying to focus as Martouf spoke to him. ‘I have a feeling it might actually help?’

‘Yeah, right and the sky’s blue… at least on Earth… Daniel these folk aren’t even close to understanding this stuff, Ancients aren’t exactly gonna let them use their toys either, so if none of what you’re saying relates in any way to that, I’ll hear them out, but I’m not promising squat!’ Jack replied.

‘Well I guess that’s the best we can do, right? Hear them out?’

‘I suppose!’ The dulcet tone emanating from O’Neill’s thoughts told Jackson he probably wasn’t all that serious about listening.  He was simply appeasing which, whilst grating somewhat, did at least put him in a position to bargain!

 

*****

Hammond stood in the control room, Carter making her way quickly up the steps to join him.

“Sir?” she asked, as the wormhole closed.

“Apparently both Colonel O’Neill, the real one, and Dr. Jackson have been taken by persons unknown from the Nox planet!” Hammond told her, a look of dismay crossing his features.

“And the Nox just let this happen?” Carter asked doubtfully.

“Something you’d like to say Major?” Hammond invited, knowing her well enough to read the tone and intent in her voice.

“Sir, the Nox must know who took Colonel O’Neill and Daniel, there’s no way they’d let the Goa’uld take them… maybe an ally?” she surmised.

“Why would they allow anyone to take them?” Hammond queried.

“I don’t know, sir, unless it was the Colonel’s choice and they couldn’t stop him?” she replied, although sceptical, since the term Hammond had used was taken.  “But my guess is… I think we should call my Dad!”

Hammond looked slightly surprised. “Major, are you saying you think that the Tok’ra have taken the Colonel and Dr. Jackson?” he demanded, edgy now.

“No sir, yes sir, it’s… possible?” she offered.

“Do it!” Hammond snapped, turning and heading for the staircase that led to his office.

 

*****

Teal’c sat on the floor of his room, deep in Kel-no-reem.  O’Neill’s clone had entered almost five minutes earlier, observing the ritual yet saying nothing.  Teal’c had not sensed his presence; it had been slightly overdue and therefore needed all the more.  In his trancelike state Teal’c thought of nothing other than communing with silence, although many other thoughts slowly began to creep into his mind. One thing, the presence, the strong presence of someone close to him disturbed his thoughts.  His eyes opened abruptly, and he stared into the eyes of the clone.

Whatcha doin’ there, Teal’c?” he asked.

“I am attempting to perform Kel-no-reem!” Teal’c advised, his head tilting to the right, he regarded the colonel with an air of dismay. It registered slowly. “Of course!” he said.

“Really?” O’Neill asked. “Of… course what?”

“You would not know what this is, as the clone does not require to do it.”

“What?” O’Neill demanded, a little past frustration.

“Kel-no-reem,” Teal’c responded.

“Which is sitting in the middle of a bunch of candles not doing squat?” the clone enquired, looking just a little peeved now with what he perceived as cat and mouse, which his Teal’c was very capable of.

“Colonel, since you are not aware of Kel-no-reem I will forgive such an outburst!” Teal’c informed him.

“Sweet!” the clone remarked.

“Did you require something O’Neill?” Teal’c asked finally.  Attempting to read the clone’s expression did little to tell him what the man desired.

The clone indicated that he wanted to sit, and did so, opposite the Jaffa, crossing his legs, his arms resting on his knees.

“You’ve been working with him,” he said slowly. “The other one?” Waiting now for Teal’c to acknowledge his understanding of the question.

“Indeed!” the stoic Jaffa replied.  He regarded the clone with a degree of sympathy. “So much has occurred,” he said suddenly. “You are unable to understand why O’Neill has chosen this path?”

The nod offered by the clone was one that showed a distinct insecurity  - even though in closing his eyes and looking away from the Jaffa he had attempted to hide it.

“No, not exactly,” he responded, sighing heavily. “Okay, yeah, how did this whole kid thing with a snakehead happen… exactly?”

“It is a lengthy tale,” Teal’c replied, cocking an eyebrow as the clone regarded him with a measure of dismay.

“Long story, Teal’c!” he corrected. “So, feel like sharing?”

Teal’c kept his focus on the clone as surely as if he played a game, a ritual of staring down the other man; yet it was filled with a feint amusement.

“Indeed!” he said at length.

 

*****

 ‘We are able,’ the voices of the Sengo’lians told O’Neill, united once more.

‘We are able?  Doing that whole not saying what you mean thing fellas!’ the colonel retorted. ‘Care to elaborate?’

‘We have discovered the paradox through which those that seek freedom have transgressed,’ they answered in one voice.

‘We can get em back?’ Jack’s tone warmer. ‘Sweet, when, how… yadda?’

‘We will require the ship which may travel the length of space within moments, a parsec, this will be the means of their freedom.’

Jack stood up, nodding slowly thoughtfully. ‘So what you’re saying is, you need me to go get ‘em right?’ he concluded, apprehension entering his thoughts.

‘We are unable to command a vessel Ha’dai,’ they responded, their voices once more out of sync.

‘Sweet!’ Jack groaned, his hand clasping his forehead in dismay. ‘So you’re telling me I’ve got to get out of here… and… go somewhere to bring these guys back right? Along with the vampire Le’stat!’

There was a long silence, punctuating only with the occasional voice in his mind as they once more conferred.

‘Can the vessel not come to Ha’dai?’

‘Sure, I can bring it here… Tok’ra are gonna be pissed though!’ he responded, a smile slowly crossing his face. Which kinda adds to the whole fun part of this job I guess!

 

*****

Jacob observed the colonel; he appeared to be somewhat perplexed yet the bemusement he now wore on his features suggested something else.  “He’s communicating,” he remarked.

“Communicating?” Nazir replied, looking cautiously at the screen. “Jackson told Martouf…”

“He’s lying, because that’s what Jack wants him to do!” Jacob told him; there was an element of frustration and anger in his tone that he found hard to disguise.  Even having an understanding of why O’Neill would have animosity toward the Tok’ra, he found it hard to digest that the colonel refused to assist an ally.

Nazir’s concern was far more apparent. “Perhaps we should sedate him once more?” he suggested. “Before we truly find out what his capabilities are?”

Jacob nodded slowly. “I think we’ll find out whether we sedate him or not!” he retorted.  Jackson’s whole conversation with Martouf must have been completely guided by what the Colonel wanted, which means he never really was unconscious at all, not entirely.”

The panic that settled on Nazir’s face bore signs of fear, he stood stunned by those words. “If we are unable to sedate him?” he ventured, the fear drenching his voice.

“I know, he can pretty much do whatever he wants,” Jacob conceded. “Which means he is deceiving us… that tells me something.

“Which is?” Perseus, who had entered whilst the two men conversed, enquired.

Which is, that he won’t work with us, and he may even be working against!” Selmak responded.

Perseus exchanged a glance with the already spooked Nazir. “Then we had better confront him!” he said. “Before he decides to confront us!”

 

*****

 ‘Daniel?’ O’Neill’s tone urgent.

‘What?’

‘Need you back here right now!’ the colonel responded.

‘Er, why?’

‘Because we’re getting out of here that’s why, and don’t ask, okay?’ There was something in the way he conveyed that last piece of information that told the archaeologist whatever O’Neill knew was urgent enough to break cover.

It wasn’t something that he was about to question; he’d spent way too long trusting the oft-erratic colonel for that.

‘On my way!’

 

*****

Jacob’s appearance didn’t surprise the colonel, nor did the fact that several more Tok’ra armed with both staff weapons and Zats flanked him.

“Hello Jack,” Jacob greeted.

“Jake, what’s up?” O’Neill responded, his tone and body language seemed to offer little respect or regard.

“I think you know,” Jacob said coolly.

“I do?” Jack ventured, his lips curling up into a grimace. “Well, you’re probably right about that… thinking of taking me out?”

“Taking you out?” Jacob enquired, still protected by the shield that cloaked the entire cell in which O’Neill stood.

“Oh come on Jake, let’s not do the whole games thing, it’s kinda boring!” Jack retorted. “I’m a little pissed you know?”

“I figured you would be, but then… so are we.” The Tok’ra Selmak now spoke, indicating those around him. “We’re wondering when exactly you’re thinking of helping us, instead of every other race, Goa’uld included!”

O’Neill’s face creased into a smile, belligerent though it was. “Ah, the proverbial… we want our ball back?” he remarked, humour crossing those intense eyes as he did so.

“Well, come on Colonel, exactly how long did you think we would merely sit on the sidelines and observe?  We are on the same side here.”

O’Neill moved toward the barrier that the Tok’ra believed protected them, and stepped through it, sending several of those aggressively aiming their weapons at him back a few steps.

“Are we?” he demanded. “Because I’m thinking we’re looking more like enemies, me being held captive and all!”  The cynicism etched into his handsome features underlined his disdain. “You people have no idea what you’re dealing with here and you want to play with it?” he stated. “Not entirely honestly either, or does kidnapping a member of the USAF fall into that dubious area of allies?”

“We’d be better placed to do so if you’d cooperate with us,” Jacob said, his lips pursing as he fought to keep his temper in check.

“No, you really wouldn’t be,” Jack retorted, another step toward aggressors, his eyes filling with scorn. “You wouldn’t know how to handle this, none of it!”  His hands swept across his body to emphasise his words. “See this whole thing is about Ancients, Sengo’lians and another race that detest the Goa’uld, and by the way, they’re not too keen on the Tok’ra either, since it was you guys who had a hand in getting them through a black hole!”

“Excuse me?” Jacob’s features now contorted confusion slowly masking his eyes. “Another race?”

“Furlings!” Jack told him, his eyebrows climbing his forehead as he watched the bemused expression falling neatly on Jacob Carter’s features.  “Or did you forget that one?”  His head now inclined to the right, an expectant grimace crossed his face.  “No?”

The Tok’ra liaison looked across to Perseus who stood behind the assembled bodyguards, who it seemed protected this high councillor at all times.

“I have no idea of what he speaks,” he confirmed to Jacob.

“What?  You mean your mother forgot to pass on that piece of knowledge?” Jack asked, cynicism drenched his tone, anger slowly rising in his eyes.  His features taut, he stepped closer.

“Keep your distance, Jack!” Jacob warned. “They will shoot you!”

“Will they?” O’Neill chided, his eyes falling onto each Tok’ra individually. “Think they’ll work?”

The words were slow to dawn upon them, each trying a weapon in turn to find it disarmed.  “Wonderful what the power of these invisible entities can do, huh?” he goaded.

“What are you going to do, Jack?” Jacob asked, with apprehension clouding his words, his eyes boring into this arrogant and fearsome foe.

“What I should have done a long time ago, Jake!” the colonel retorted.

Martouf moved between the colonel and Jacob, Daniel beside him.  “Colonel O’Neill, I realise we have behaved badly, but please…”

“Oh relax, Marty,” Jack snapped, an almost affectionate smile toward the Tok’ra. “I’m not planning on killing anybody, I’m just gonna tell it like it is!  See you folks, you have this whole idea of what it is we should be doing… long term plans right, Jake?  Well here’s a flash, we don’t have that long before this whole thing gets out of hand.”

“Meaning what exactly?” Perseus ventured.

“Meaning your plans won’t go for squat, ‘cause militarily you folks are centuries behind the Goa’uld. You think going in with little spy networks and thwarting the occasional plan is gonna make that much difference on the grand scale of things?” O’Neill sneered, his features reflecting the abhorrence he felt. “You’re just like them, not you Marty, and maybe even Jake can be spared the comparison, maybe.  You think too small, with the scale of technology you possess you’re still trying to do stuff that never worked when the playing field was even.  Well, it’s not even anymore fellas, the snakeheads are winning… they’ve got ships, loads of big honking space hips that are getting more and more advanced, systems that can track you down and wipe you out. H has a really cool new symbiote that you guys could have in your midst right now and you wouldn’t even know it!  Hell we saved your butts from the last spy, then you blew it with Tanith and now that snakehead is waltzing all over the galaxy building his defences with you and Earth as the top targets!  Not the kind of résumé I’d trust, know what I mean?” he added, shaking his head, perplexed by the required compilation of failures.

“You think too small, that’s how come none of this stuff I have up here will work for ya!”

They all listened without interruption, wondering when the colonel would finally do what it was he had threatened.  But none of them heard, mistaking the words for arrogance.

“And you know?” Jacob challenged, shaking his head in dismay. “Jack, you really have lost control.  You think you understand the Goa’uld?”

“Oh yeah,” O’Neill retorted, his eyes lighting up like a child with the answer to a question that had vexed him for too long.  “I know because I’ve got the knowledge of three really cool races in here, and know something else?”

“What?” Martouf asked.

“They stole most of what they know from us, it’s kinda weird, but in the most basic form of all, the whole procreation thing is how they mapped out their strategy, all those ships, all that fine Goa’uld knowledge, well see, here’s the kicker, before Earth managed to wipe itself out, before those snakeheads even found Ancient Egypt, humans were the most advanced forms out there, some of them, well they would be those very Ancients you guys covet so much!”

Daniel’s eyes expanded as he listened, turning now to face O’Neill. “Are you saying that the Ancients are human?” he asked incredulously.

“Yep!” Jack replied. “It’s kinda what they’ve been hiding all along, see, they didn’t want us to know that they originated on Earth, got a little too cocky and blew up the whole damn place, most of what was left, kids, babies really, well they are what developed into the ancestors you’d recognise Daniel.”

The silence was eerie, the Tok’ra looking at the colonel with amazement. Jackson too simply stared.

“Kinda makes ya think, doesn’t it?” O’Neill concluded, turning away from them and beginning to walk toward the place he knew the ring devices to be located.

“O’Neill?” Martouf called out.

“Nope!”

“Jack wait, you can’t just…”

“Daniel, you can stay with these nice folks if you want, but I’ve got things to do, and this is getting way too complicated to stand around and chat!”

Jackson looked at Jacob, then to Martouf. “I’ll, um… bye!” he said, moving off after O’Neill.

“Are we just simply going to allow him to leave?” Perseus enquired.

“I don’t think we can actually stop him!” Jacob replied.

Martouf shook his head. “It would be a mistake to try. I will attempt to speak with him.”

Daniel caught up to the colonel as he sighted the position of the rings.

“Jack, what the hell was that?” he demanded.

O’Neill paused, turning around slowly a gleeful expression adorning his handsome features. “What?” he enquired.

Jackson regarded him with dismay. “You know what I’m talking about!” he replied, his eyes narrowing.  “Did you make that up?”

O’Neill shrugged.  “Do you think I could come up with anything that outrageous and call it my own?” he remarked glibly.

The archaeologist pondered the response, his eyes half closing as he considered the connotations of what this information could mean.

“No, I, er, guess not, but wasn’t that a little over the top?” he persisted, his fingertips pushed into his temples, slowly massaging an ever growing headache.

“Look!” O’Neill snapped, moving forward his finger waving like a pendulum in the man’s face. “Don’t go there, don’t tell me what’s the right and the wrong time and place for things that just pop into my frond, okay?”

“Into your frond?” Jackson repeated dubiously.

O’Neill’s ever broadening smile told the archaeologist that whatever his reasoning, he wasn’t about to share the details.  It felt strange to err on the side of caution, especially since there had been a unified trust between them for so long, but the feeling that pursuing this particular line of questioning would bare no fruition finally forcing him to cede.

“So where are we going… exactly?” he ventured, drawing a grimace from O’Neill.

“That would be…” the colonel paused, a wry smile carelessly creeping onto his now mischievous features. “Daniel, am I worrying ya?” he goaded.

Jackson shook his head slowly. “No, I’m just pacing myself,” he retorted.

O’Neill grinned at the archaeologist.  “Sweet!” he said as the rings engulfed both men.  “Because I have no idea!”

Jackson shook his head and heaved a huge sigh as they arrived on the deck of the Ancients vessel.  “Good, that’s, um, comforting!” he replied.

 

*****

Carter stood up; the briefing room was filled to capacity, with various Pentagon officials as well as Major Davis, Teal’c, the O’Neill clone, Colonel Makepeace and Hammond.

“Major, what about the Tok’ra?” Hammond enquired assertively, a little impatient to get the briefing underway as the attendees finally settled.

“I’m not sure, sir, I sent the message over two hours ago,” she responded. “If they haven’t responded yet I guess they must know something, or know we know… something!”

Makepeace frowned. “It doesn’t make sense, why go and kidnap O’Neill and Jackson?”

“Maybe their intention is to attempt assistance,” Teal’c offered, if a little unsure of that particular reason; he above all others did not want to believe that the Tok’ra would have anything nefarious in mind.

“General Hammond,” Major Davis began. “This clone… sorry,” he winced the apology as O’Neill’s android glared at him. “What exactly is it we’re proposing to do with him?”

“Major?” The invitation was for Carter to answer the question since she had a better grasp on the plan.

“Basically we’re going to distract the Goa’uld from attacking the Asgard, Colonel O’Neill’s… double will attempt to turn Nyerti against the other Goa’uld, offering access to O’Neill’s daughter, who Nyerti believes possesses all the information of the Ancients, and possibly the Sengo’lians.”

“Isn’t that a little risky?” Davis enquired dubiously.  “I mean, why would she trust…”

“A clone?” O’Neill snorted, his features contorting into a bitter expression as he did so. “Because flyboy, she thinks I’m him, and if this database is right then she’s gonna be real interested in the whole dark-side aspect of his personality!  Am I going too fast for ya?” he paused, watching Davis cringe, his eyes slowly taking in the others around the table. “Truth is, you screwed up!  Left him to try and handle this on his own, and then you try and rope him in with the NID, I mean what is that?”

Hammond looked across at General Vidrine.  “Bear in mind, this isn’t Colonel O’Neill, sir,” he remarked.

“I’m aware of that, George,” Vidrine responded. “So, Jack, you think that you can make this plan work and avert a crisis with the Asgard?”

“Not only can I make it work General, I’m probably the only one, your boy aside, who knows exactly what he’s dealing with here,” the clone responded.

“But that’s not the problem!”

”Problem?” Vidrine echoed, looking across at Hammond; his subordinate shrugged. “You perceive a problem?”

“Oh yeah, lots of em!  The kind that you… people are not equipped to deal with!” O’Neill’s clone retorted, he glanced at Carter. “Sorry!  But you’re… well you could get yourselves killed and that’s why my team is probably a better option!”

“Worried about me, sir?” Carter enquired curiously.

“Always Carter!” O’Neill responded.  “Look!  Truth is, we could probably go in there and take a few of them out without all this deception stuff, what I need to know is… what about the other guy?”

“Your biological self?” Carter asked.

“Know anymore O’Neill doubles running around out there, Major?” the clone queried.  “Basically he shows up during any deception and we’re not exactly gonna be welcome, know what I mean?”

Carter looked across at Makepeace, the colonel shrugging.  “Guess we’ll just have to take the risk!” the marine stated.

 


Part Four

 

Aiestrodous stood silently watching, listening to Heru’ur and his generals discussing the attack on the Asgard home world.  The link he had established to O’Neill, and the promise of his abstraction guaranteed, information would be his endeavour until that promise bore fruit.

Six hundred Goa’uld motherships, cloaked with the kind of technology only attained in the past by the Asgard and the Ancients, would present a formidable foe, of this he was certain, yet with only the will to drain the very life blood from these infidels and so many to slaughter, he was powerless to act, to prevent the destruction of a sizeable portion of the Asgard fleet.

Somewhere Thoth hid from his masters, would he too be contemplating how to sabotage the Goa’uld?  Or merely act as a vessel for the Tok’ra who had been far from effective in their endeavours to defeat the Goa’uld.

Such an alliance of so many powerful system lords with but one aim would be capable of engaging and possibly overthrowing the Asgard, who for so long had maintained the balance of the universe so completely.  No matter, with O’Neill’s help such a disaster could be averted… or perhaps he was the catalyst?

There had been much in a life spanning more millennia than any of these beings that he had witnessed grow from humble beginnings, to creatures that now threatened the very core being of, and balance of the universe.  Humanity, asteroids, planets, and other creations had come and gone, but more than this had been the destruction; destruction which humanity had been complicit with.  O’Neill’s race were yet barbarians, this he knew, but still he held an affection for them, somewhere within the chaos that ruled within O’Neill’s mind, tortured by intrusions he could barely comprehend nor understand lay the answer, an answer that he himself had strived to discover, to abide by, but still there was nothing.  Perhaps this was the time he had lived so long to see, existed for whatever!  It made little difference if these creatures could not be stopped from reigning down the terror he had fought against throughout his long existence.  Parasitic by nature, by birthright, he knew of dependence, yet he had never sought to destroy all around him. The Goa’uld believed it was a right, the right of the most dominant species within the galaxy – so young, so much to learn.

 

*****

Daniel had sat quietly, watching O’Neill for the past hour or more. The colonel hadn’t uttered a word, and he didn’t feel like he could start a conversation.

There were a million things that could be going on in O’Neill’s head, thousands of voices he’d heard himself up to a couple of days ago.  It was almost as if the Sengo’lians no longer required him to act as a buffer, either that, or O’Neill had intentionally prevented him from hearing whatever plots, thoughts or discussions were going on, after all, it had been his link that had allowed the darker forces within O’Neill’s psyche to the surface.  

“Jack?”

He remained silent, hearing nothing of the current reality, his eyes closed as the feelings, the words of an alien centuries old penetrated his mind, his own thoughts meandering around aimlessly, silenced now by those of Aiestrodous, whose answers both confused and fascinated.

Daniel moved closer. “Jack?” he said, louder this time, more intrusive.  He watched as the colonel began blinking furiously.

Jack attempted to focus the realisation that it had been Jackson’s voice he’d heard in the distance.  Someone who, for now at least, existed outside his mind. “Daniel?”

The archaeologist nodded slowly, acknowledging the colonel’s query. “Too many voices in there?” he asked, sounding sympathetic. He moved a little closer, O’Neill’s wry smile enough of an answer, he continued.  “And, er, where is it we’re going… exactly?”

“I told you!” O’Neill’s tone was clipped, derisive.

“No, you, er, didn’t actually,” Daniel retorted, surprised by the colonel’s curt response. “Look I know you’re dealing with a lot here, but aside from that, is everything okay? Because I’m getting a distinct feeling that there’s something you’re not telling me.”

O’Neill’s eyes narrowed before expanding to overemphasize acknowledgement.  “I’m fine!” he stated, his hands sweeping across his face. “A little tired maybe, you?” Added whimsically.

Jackson shook his head, unable to shake off with it the feeling that O’Neill was holding something back; something important.

“Okay, look something is happening here and you’re not telling me, so I have to think that it’s either not good, or...”

“There’s no or!” Jack snapped. “None!” His hands actively illustrated the statement. “We’re going for the vampire who seems to think he has the ability to get all this out of my head and… he’s a damn Furling!” That part exclaimed as if it had been a sudden realisation. “A damn Furling,” he repeated, a look of dismay sweeping his features.

Daniel’s eyes now mirrored O’Neill’s, but were filled with amazement. “Ex… what?”

The colonel took a deep breath, shrugging his shoulders.  “Daniel, it’s getting complicated… way too complicated to talk about.  Know what I mean?”

Jackson’s almost immediate acquiescence startled the colonel, expecting the usual enquiry. He tilted his head to the right and regarded the archaeologist.  “We can do this,” he said, his voice almost a whisper.

“I know,” Daniel replied, nodding slowly. “I just wish I knew what it is we are doing?” Daniel took a deep a breath, his hands covering his face for a second before he allowed them to drop firmly to his sides.  “So how come Thor didn’t know that?” he enquired, a bemused expression masking his boyish features. “Or, um, more to the point, if he did why didn’t he tell us?”

O’Neill shrugged.  “Maybe Thor didn’t know?” he ventured, although without much conviction in the statement. “There’s this whole pride thing with him… hates being caught out!”

The two men stood in silence, both contemplating the question.  “Is it important?” Jack asked finally.

“No!” Daniel replied.

“Good! Let’s move on.”

“I’m, er, moving… Jack what about Sam? Teal’c? There’s still the whole Heru’ur and Hathor problem,” the archaeologist stated.

“Oh yeah,” O’Neill agreed pointedly. “Still got that whole snake issue, which at this point is kinda moot don’t ya think?”

Jackson looked surprised, his head inclining to the right as he observed O’Neill’s attitude.  “Furlings?” he enquired, his eyebrows ascending slowly up his forehead.

The colonel didn’t respond, leaning once more on the console, his thoughts invaded by the voices from within.

Jackson watched, now silently considering the latest in a long line of impossible situations.  It felt almost like the childhood revisited, being the one whose decisions were made without consultation, lacking respect, or power of any kind to influence the future.

Something inside wanted to breakaway from that feeling of loneliness it brought, being a child around adults, being an outcast of sorts.  Craving the attention of adults, but then never being able to be accepted fully on their level had been the perplexing part; the loneliness had come from the lack of childhood friends who shared his natural propensity to study.  He knew now what it was like for those other kids, always trying to attain his level like he now tried to attain O’Neill’s.

Whatever gifts the Furlings and the Sengo’lians had instilled in his friend were beyond his comprehension, and that brought back the frustration.  He glanced across at O’Neill and realised he felt envious, almost like a bolt from the blue, for the first time in his life he felt envy, and it felt uncomfortable.

“It’s a bitch isn’t it?” Jack said. Another bolt! A heavy sigh permeated his words. “You know, it’s almost like this whole thing is happening outside my head, instead of…”

“Inside?” Daniel responded, relieved that the colonel wasn’t reading his mind, and grasping at the same time to share anything that might assist his understanding. “Like it might be more surreal than real?”

Jack snapped his fingers, his eyes lighting up. “Just like that!” he agreed, a smile now etched into the formerly stern features. “See, we do that whole not disagreeing thing and it works, it’s like…”

Daniel’s bemused expression brought him to an abrupt halt. He frowned, a grimace forming quickly. “It’s not like?” he enquired.

“Okay, you’re tending to lose me!” Daniel replied, shaking his head, a wistful smile crossing his features that was slowly forming into a grin.

“Which,” he added with mirth.  “Is kind of ironic!”

“I get that!” Jack agreed once more, almost lost now in his own impetus. “It’s like before all this, my head was constantly empty, in a kind of not empty way… know what I mean?”

Jackson bit his bottom lip, trying not to allow the amusement he felt at that O’Neill perplexed expression show too obviously on his face. “Oh I er, yeah. I get it.” His brow furrowed urgently as his features contorted, trying to prevent the smile from pervading. “At least I, er, think I do?”

The questioning expression now brought the colonel closer to him. “You don’t get it do you?” he asked.

“No!” Daniel replied pointedly, laughter finally escaping his lips. “I really, really don’t!”

“You’re making fun of me?” Jack enquired indignantly.

“It, no… I thought you were, er, can we move on?” Daniel asked brightly, attempting to change the subject. “You were saying?”

“Having all this stuff in here is making it really difficult to concentrate, half the damn time I don’t even know which damn race is speaking to me.”

Daniel nodded. “I can understand how that might make your usually empty head a little… so, what exactly are they saying?”

“Right now, nothing that makes a whole lot of sense,” Jack told him. “Plus I have a damn headache!”

Daniel regained his focus, the nagging something that was plaguing his thoughts. “Jack is there something you’re not telling me?”

O’Neill shook his head dismissively. “Nope, fine here, unless you want to hear all about the evolution of the Asgard?”

Daniel’s regard now turned to surprise. “Right now? Um, I think I’ll, er, pass!”

Jack turned away sharply, a satisfied smirk etched into his handsome features. “Sweet!”

 

*****

The O’Neill android looked sharply across at the two Carters who had spent the last fifteen or more minutes, although it was beginning to feel like a few hundred, arguing about the best way to infiltrate the Goa’uld strongholds, both completely adamant that their tactics would be the best, and the debate only became more heated when they concluded that one or the other should back up O’Neill.  Both reflecting the worst traits in the other, certain of their abilities, and determined not to be beaten.

“Oh for crying out loud!” O’Neill exclaimed loudly, throwing down the P-90 he’d been fiddling with for the last ten minutes, causing both to look around indignantly. “Can we just stop the damn technobabble for five minutes!” he asserted, looking across at Daniel Jackson, who was getting an update from the real Teal’c on the state of the Goa’uld empire. “You know they’re gonna drive me nuts right?” O’Neill complained bitterly.

“Uh huh,” Daniel agreed, frowning heavily. “It’s a little hard to concentrate.”  An accusing glance directed toward the scientist and the major.

“Hey, lighten up!” Sam’s clone remarked. “We’re working things out here!”

Carter looked surprised by her double’s candour. “Yeah!” she added, lowering her eyes away from O’Neill’s furious regard; it was hard for her to stop seeing a commanding officer, even now, working with her own clone, she still saw Colonel O’Neill.

Jack’s expression darkened, the P-90 collected from the ground, another stern glance.

“Well, work things out quietly!” he snarled, nodding at Jackson. “Women!”

“Oh yeah!” Jackson agreed, forcing a look of consternation from the two Carters and a bemused expression from Teal’c.

 

*****

Heru’ur moved quickly across the deck of the Pel’tac.  “You are certain?” he questioned, sceptical of the information. “O’Neill is no longer captive of the Tok’ra?”

“I am certain,” Hathor replied, almost gliding toward him. “This changes our plans!”

“He has no power over us!” Heru’ur snarled arrogantly. “He is but one!”

Hathor raised her eyebrows slowly, the perfectly sculptured cheekbones more prominent as she glowered at her son. “Listen to me,” she hissed menacingly. “Our beloved possesses power that neither we, nor the Asgard can contain, did he not break free of both?”

Heru’ur paused, his head thrown back defiantly. “He will cause us no problems,” he insisted. “His battle with those that eclipse his own thoughts has taken precedence.”

“You are a fool!” Hathor snapped, her hand stretching out and taking the face of the host firmly in its grasp. “Our beloved is stronger than you think, he will not stand idly by and watch us destroy the Asgard! Allow those with whom we are aligned to attempt this destruction and you will see!”

Heru’ur’s surly expression now mirrored Hathor’s. “This would work!” he stated, affirming his understanding of her plan. “What of O’Neill once this destruction is complete?”

“We have controlled his thoughts, his human emotion is deeper than any allegiance he might possess, we shall once again win his feeble heart!” she replied confidently.

 

*****

Aiestrodous watched them, his thoughts conveyed immediately to the receptacle the human had become to the wills and minds that penetrated his thoughts so overwhelmingly.

His eyes narrowed, perhaps this female had some merit, the mere hint of her name brought mix of thoughts, both emotional and combative to the link to his race.

‘Understand, this is a creature who would destroy you!’

‘I get that, I also get that she’s mine, know what I mean?’

Aiestrodous contemplated the response. ‘Of what do you speak? This, O’Neill, is a Goa’uld, a creature who has no need of humanity, of feelings as you know them?’

‘Not entirely accurate there buddy!’

The vampire felt his own being interrupted by the statement, the flow of his connection to this human lost momentarily. ‘Explain?’

‘She’s got the whole host thing happening, there’s a whole conflict thing there.’ O’Neill responded.

‘You are mistaken,’ Aiestrodous asserted.

‘Nope, that would be you! See I know her, been with this whole thing for a lot longer than you have.  She’s not as thick skinned as you think she is A!’

The vampire, his command of composure almost lost, drew in breath. ‘O’Neill, am I to understand that you believe your wisdom, that of a creature with not one tenth of my lifespan, to understand the destructive powers of this race better than I?’

‘Nope!’

The succinct response grated, a low growl emanated in his throat. Aiestrodous turned and followed Hathor from the Pel’tac on Heru’ur’s ship.

‘Then I will end it!’ His thoughts sent to his conductor as he felt them.

‘No!’ Jack hissed. His voice, his presence so much greater suddenly. ‘No! You won’t, she’s the key, godammit!  Harm H...you can do H, but don’t even consider harming her, she’s… don’t go there or you’ll find out just how much I know about your damn existence!’

The vampire stopped in his tracks, his eyes fixed on the retreating figure of his nemesis. ‘For now!’ he thought.

 

*****

Daniel sat back against the bottom of the console that O’Neill seemed to pay so much attention to.  “Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“Okay, we do this whole exchange again…” Jackson paused, his eyes closing. “Could you not do that?”

“Do what?” Jack enquired, kneeling down to address the archaeologist. “Answer you?”

Daniel frowned heavily; the colonel’s hopeless habit of being mirthful in situations that required neither mirth nor sarcasm was beginning to grate on his nerves.

 His eyes met O’Neill’s, the colonel’s dogmatic regard infuriating him even more.  “Okay, you want the truth?  I’m sick of this whole superior, but I don’t mean to be, thing!” he smarted, his accusatory glare forcing a smile from the colonel.

“Sorry,” Jack whispered. “I just, well you know?”

“Oh I know,” Daniel replied, agitated by the fact that he did know. “Your turn to gloat, fine! Gloating over?”

Jack’s grin was broadening by the second, watching Daniel squirm an amusing distraction.

“Oh come on Danny, you’ve been doing that whole superior thing for five years and I can’t have five damn minutes?” he chided.

“No! Because, I didn’t gloat over important things like…”

“Like?”

Daniel’s blue eyes seemed to glaze over suddenly. “Okay,” he cringed, both verbally and physically. “I… fine!”

“You’re fine?” Jack probed whimsically. “Or you’re going to allow this whole gloating thing? Which won’t last forever.  There was an almost sullen tone to the last part of that, one that Jackson failed to pick up on.

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“Oh come ON!” he snapped, standing and facing O’Neill who seemed particularly smug now.

“Better get a grip on that whole petulance thing,” Jack pointed out.

“No!” Jackson retorted stiffly. “You’re like an overgrown child, and I’m not good with this whole, I know more than you do, nah, stuff!” the archaeologist admitted belligerently. “It’s childish!” he added, for good measure.

“I’m getting that,” Jack acknowledged, almost triumphant in that response. “So guess I should kinda cut you some slack? Let that brain pan in on this whole we saving the world… universe… Asgard caper?”

Daniel’s jaw dropped open. “Asgard?” There was a lack of any real volume in his voice, making the word almost incomprehensible.

“Knew that would get your attention!” O’Neill spurted, punching the air in triumph.

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“Will you stop doing that?” Daniel implored, slamming his hands down on the floor beside him.

“See, now you know how I feel!” O’Neill retorted almost churlishly. “We do that whole name exchange thing at least twenty five damn times a sentence and it’s… well it’s annoying!”

The what… my saying your name is annoying?” Daniel asked, perplexed and lost once more by an O’Neill logic that was anything but logical.

“Okay, now see, it’s not the name,” Jack stressed, at pains to make Daniel understand the irritation his behaviour often caused. “It’s the kinda annoying way you say it!”

Daniel looked completely gob smacked, it was the most mundane and ridiculous exchange he could possibly conceive of at a time when the last thing either man needed was to be distracted.

“Are we ever going to focus on Jack, what the hell are we doing exactly? I mean, you do plan at some point to do something about saving the Asgard right?”

The colonel frowned shaking his head. “You’re asking me?”

“Oh come on!”

“See now I do that like, what? Twenty damn times a conversation?  Lighten up Daniel, we’ll do the whole world saving thing, and we’ll have time for these useless, irritating exchanges… then we can go and annoy Carter!” he added, a smile crossing his face once more.

“Which is what?” Daniel enquired, bemused again.

“Justice!” Jack retorted quickly. “Heck, she’s got at least fifty headaches on her conscience right?”

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“Oh for God’s sake!”

“What?” The innocence, both in attitude, tone and eyes, was almost compelling.

“You’re being deliberately annoying!” Daniel snapped, losing patience finally.

“Sweet, you caught up!” Jack replied, almost monosyllabic. “Daniel, did it ever occur to you that this whole thing is just like… it’s ironic?”

Daniel’s eyes expanded, his features forming a scowl, which had little bearing on the thoughts that had exploded into his mind. “Ironic?” he echoed. “All those voices finally got to you didn’t they? You’ve gone crazy!”

“Been that way for a while,” Jack lamented, his hands once more sweeping across his hair. “Daniel, it’s… everything up here is like a damn map of the universe, and it all started right there on Earth, okay not all of it, which is kinda funny when you think we… an earlier form of we, gave the Goa’uld, even the damn Asgard, all this technology.  It’s kinda funny don’t ya think?”

Jackson sighed heavily. “If I knew what you were talking about, maybe I’d find it funny!” he remarked dubiously. “Jack, what is it we’re doing exactly?”

O’Neill lowered his eyes, shrugging momentarily before the decision to fill Jackson in on the plan was finally taken.  “Sit down Danny!” he offered. “This could take a while.”  A heavy sigh permeated his lips then. “Once upon a time…”

 

*****

The Goa’uld ships uncloaked almost simultaneously around the new home world of the Tok’ra, the smaller ships and death gliders beginning to disengage from the motherships to sweep the surface of the planet.

“This will take but a few hours,” Heru’ur told Hathor, as he walked toward the Alk’esh. “We will have their leaders, and the others will perish!”

Within the depths of the Tok’ra tunnels the alarms were already hailing the arrival of the Goa’uld fleet.

“It’s sizeable,” Jacob told Martouf, as the two men fled down the corridor away from the council chamber. “Take Nazir and contact the Tau’ri.”

“Selmak?” Martouf began to protest as the Jaffa closed in.

“Go now!” Selmak ordered. “Before the Stargate is cut off!”

Martouf glanced back as he and Nazir disappeared into the passageways that lead to the Stargate, Horus guard surrounded Selmak, and he was torn between returning to free his friend, and someone whom he felt beholden to since his pledge to Carter, and alerting the Tau’ri.

He was dragged into the tunnels and safety by Nazir.

“We must escape!” the Tok’ra scientist snapped.  Martouf reluctantly nodded agreement. “We do not have long,” he remarked as the coordinates for Earth were entered into the DHD.

“I am aware,” Nazir concurred.

 

*****

Heru’ur strode through the Tok’ra tunnels with his usual triumphant arrogance, surrounded by his personal guard, the obvious disdain for the design of the complex etched onto his features.

“We have captured their leaders,” he informed Hathor on the small communication device he carried.

The Goa’uld queen, Osiris at her side, smiled. “Then we shall proceed without further interruption, tell your servant he has done well!” she cooed.

“Why do we not destroy the planet, and Heru’ur with it?” Osiris asked, once the device had been terminated.

Hathor’s nefarious smile turned on her; she flinched. “Does our queen have another plan?”

“We are aware of our options,” Hathor snarled. “For now he will serve us, and many of the ships he controls would turn their attention toward us should we attempt to destroy him now.”

“My queen is wise,” Osiris deferred begrudgingly.

“If our beloved should have returned to his former ways, we will require Heru’ur as the target of his attention,” Hathor imparted, her eyes glowing now. “Once we are close enough, our Pharaoh will once again crave our touch and we will rid ourselves of those who would stand in our way.”

 

*****

 “Unscheduled off world activation!” The controller’s voice echoed around the SGC as the claxons rang out.

Hammond, Davis following closely, descended the stairs from the briefing room hurriedly.

“It’s Tok’ra IDC, sir,” Sergeant Davis told him.

“Open the iris,” Hammond ordered.

Davis watched the event horizon as Nazir and Martouf emerged hurriedly. “Close your barrier!” Martouf yelled, as energy blasts followed through, striking one of the SFs who stood his post at the bottom of the ramp, sending him back violently.

“Medical emergency in the embarkation room!” Sergeant Davis bellowed, as Hammond and Major Davis made their way toward the now safe gateroom, the iris protecting them from further assault.

“Martouf?” Hammond asked, watching as the man bent down to attend the wounded SF.

“The Goa’uld found us. They’ve taken High Counsellor Perseus and Jacob Carter,” Nazir began. “Martouf and I managed to elude them long enough to get the gate open.”

“Colonel O’Neill?”

Nazir, unfamiliar with protocol in such matters, wasn’t about to admit to having held the colonel against his will.

Martouf stood. “He and Dr. Jackson had left sometime before the Goa’uld attacked, General Hammond,” he imparted.

Major Davis looked concerned. “Did Colonel O’Neill divulge your position?” he asked.

“No!” Martouf’s tone was clipped. “The colonel is trying to prevent an attack on the Asgard.”

Nazir looked reticent. “We had no intention of holding them without your knowledge, General Hammond,” he said, a glance across to his Tok’ra colleague. “We were attempting to convince him to work with us.”

“That’s a little redundant now isn’t it,” Hammond snapped. “Are all of the Tok’ra dead?”

“No, they didn’t kill many,” Nazir replied. “We believe they will attempt to capture the entire Tok’ra resistance using our people as bait!”

“Sergeant Davis, get a message through to Major Carter and Colonel Makepeace, I think this changes things!” Hammond ordered.

 

*****

Colonel Robert Makepeace stared in disbelief as the Stargate shutdown.  “This just gets better!” he sighed, making his way quickly to the lab where the remainder of SG1 and the androids were preparing for their mission.

“Carter, we’re going to need some sort of plan here that doesn’t involve these… robots!”

“Sir?”

“Goa’uld took out the damn Tok’ra base!” Makepeace imparted.  There was no delicate way of saying it.

O’Neill looked up sharply. “Damn!”

“My father sir?” Carter enquired, her double following her as she crossed the room to Makepeace, who still stood by the door.

“The Goa’uld have him Major, so let’s focus!”

O’Neill looked at Jackson, the two clones both shrugging. “You’re gonna need us Makepeace,” O’Neill stated emphatically. “You’re not taking on any Goa’uld strongholds with just a Jaffa and Carter.  It’s tactically inept and, well, dumb!”

“Could someone let the rest of us in on this latest tragedy?” Daniel enquired.

O’Neill sighed heavily. “Carter’s dad, well long story kinda deal… he’s one of these Tok’ra and it seems he’s now held captive by the Goa’uld - allies, have to save them!  So we go!” he added, emphasis to the last part.

“This isn’t up for discussion Jack… whoever,” Makepeace snapped. “I don’t want some carbon copy flyboy thinking he’s giving orders around here!”

“Well, actually,” Jackson said. “Since you are on our home world…”

“Daniel, if Jarhead here thinks he’s leaving without us…”


”Sirs!” Carter snapped. “I don’t think we have the time or the luxury of choosing who goes and who stays.”

“Major Carter is correct,” Teal’c stated. “We must formulate a plan immediately, the Goa’uld will undoubtedly kill the Tok’ra they have captured, only after torturing them to obtain their knowledge!”

The Jaffa looked apologetically toward Carter. “I am sorry Major, but it is unlikely that we have long before…”

“Yeah, getting that,” O’Neill snapped. “So, I say we take out the Goa’uld before they take out Sam’s dad, and Earth right after that!”

Makepeace looked dubiously at the clone. “Earth?”

“This stuff in here, from the Ancients, all the stuff I know about these damn things from what the other guy told you? Well see that tells me these snakeheads aren’t going to take on the Asgard 101 if you get my meaning!”

“Why would they risk an attack on Earth?” Jackson enquired. “If the Asgard have it as a protected planet, then all the defences they constructed…”

“Er, defences?” Carter interrupted.

“No defences?” Jackson asked clearly surprised.

“No Daniel, no defences.  Protected planet means the Asgard come in ships and Colonel… he might be right, it makes sense to draw the Asgard from their home galaxy where they’d be stronger!”

Jackson looked across at O’Neill. “Seems like a bad treaty!” he commented.

“What do you expect from humans!” the clone replied sharply. “Treaties with small grey guys and snakeheads that aren’t worth the… are we going to do something about this, or did you just plan to stand around here and talk about it?” he demanded, his attention now on Makepeace.

“Major, do you remember the dialling coordinates for Heru’ur’s planet?” Makepeace asked.

“Yes sir, but…”

“No buts, seems to me we’d better start taking ‘em out whilst they’re not at home and hope that turns their heads!” Makepeace stated. “Anyone got a better plan?”

“Sounds like ole Jarhead here just might be onto something,” O’Neill remarked. “They’ve got communication devices that span the galaxy right?  I figure we make enough noise, it’s gonna get their attention!  Oh and you’d better let us go first, you’re… human!” he added, gesturing toward Carter. “Which is in no way an insult, just… well you are!”

Carter half smiled at the sudden discomfort of the clone, once more reminding her of how much like his biological self he really was.

“Daniel, you and Sam can follow Teal’c… our Teal’c through, you others give us a ten count and then come on through!” the clone directed.

“Sir, you’ve got some of Colonel O’Neill’s memories in there, and a fairly good idea about the layout there, but that might not be enough if they have the gate heavily fortified,” Carter pointed out. “You’re not immune from staff weapons!”

“I wasn’t intending to just give them shooting practise, Carter!” O’Neill retorted, a grimace sweeping across his features before he turned away from her, walking toward one of the many doors. “Stay here!”

Carter bit her bottom lip, her eyes falling on Teal’c, who attempted to change the stoic expression he wore to something a little more comforting, but only succeeded in a grimace.

“I am sure Colonel O’Neill will prevent such an attack,” he remarked instead.

“I don’t think taking out… oh the, er, right!” Carter realised. “I hope so Teal’c, if he even knows.”

 

*****

 ‘Here!’ The voices of the Sengo’lians directed O’Neill as surely as any navigation.

The colonel’s eyes widened, incredulity masking his features. “Okay, that’s a black hole!” he replied, looking reticently toward Jackson who was as wide eyed and startled as he felt.

“Jack tell me we’re not thinking…”

“Nope, no way!” O’Neill replied, his hands gesturing to underline the fact.

‘We can bring you back Ha’dai, since before you have journeyed here.’

‘Get out!’ Jack’s tone sounded dubious, yet tinged with surprise. ‘I’ve been in a black hole before? Is this metaphorically speaking?’

‘When you journeyed to speak with the Ancients, Ha’dai, once before you breached the darkness.’

‘So… you’re kidding right?’

“What are they saying?” Jackson asked, unable to hear the voices.

“Apparently,” the colonel responded, his face contorting into a grimace. “I’ve been in one of those before… or so they tell me.” Added sceptically.

“A black hole? Are you sure they’re not speaking metaphorically?” Jackson questioned, far more reticent now.

“I just asked that, apparently when I last saw the Ancients, that’s where I went and… well, I came back right?” He looked far less convinced than he sounded. “Right?” he asked again.

Daniel sighed heavily, shaking his head in dismay. “That’s a black hole Jack!” he snapped pointedly. “It tears things apart, that’s what Sam said right?”

“I know what a black hole does Daniel!” Jack retorted disdainfully, turning away from the archaeologist. “But I’ve trusted these guys up to now, and so far they’ve… okay there was the dark side incident, but that wasn’t really their fault,” he stated. “And right now if that’s where they say we’ve gotta go, I don’t think we’ve got time to debate it.”

“Oh yes we do!” Daniel contested. “This ship is the only hope we’ve got of taking on the Goa’uld, if they take out the Asgard, the whole damn universe is screwed. Jack, we can’t!”

O’Neill regarded the archaeologist with a degree of sympathy. “I get it,” he said. “Okay, I know what’s at stake here, better than you do.  But this ship isn’t some kind of damn super craft, Daniel.  Maybe we could take down a hundred Goa’uld ships, but that’s it, do the math!”

Jackson shook his head. “It’s better than none, Jack, combined with the Asgard we stand a better chance than going into a black hole!”

O’Neill’s eyes began to close, his head dropping forward.

“Jack?”

The colonel looked up, opening his eyes fully, a red glow emanating ominously as he glared at Jackson. “There is no choice!” he snarled, his voice seemed to echo. “This is Karma!”

“Karma? Fate? Jack, don’t do this,” Daniel implored, instantly feeling unsteady on his feet as he stared into the red pools that swirled in O’Neill’s eyes.  His lungs felt as if they were on fire, the oxygen burning them and becoming steadily heavier to inhale. ‘You did it, didn’t you!’ he thought.

The distortion was too great for his eyes to cope with, the lids felt heavy as he felt them closing, shutting out the vision of the maze spiralling out of the colonel’s eyes. He sank slowly to his knees gasping for air, the dizziness overcoming him, his thoughts incoherent in his own mind.  There was nothing but a hollow far away pain throbbing throughout his body, crushing him.   There was a feeling of weightlessness dragging him into a void, deeper and darker than he’d ever felt, and then nothing.

 

“Daniel?” Jack knelt beside him, dragging him up, staring at his unconscious form. “Come on Daniel, we don’t have time for you to fall asleep on the job, for crying out loud!”

The Furlings towered over O’Neill, standing almost 7’ tall, their pale drawn features intrigued, looking down at Jackson’s prone form. “He is not dead?” one enquired.

Jack’s eyes closed, concentrating his thoughts into Jackson’s. “No,” he replied, both a slight pulse, and a distant response to his thoughts telling him his friend was indeed still with him, but he was unable to bring him back to consciousness, realising that although the ship had to a great extent protected him, the distortions and atmospheric pressures he had endured were too great to sustain him.

“He’s just not protected by the Ancients.” He drew in breath slowly, shaking his head. “Slight technical hitch, he’ll snap out of it… eventually,” O’Neill added dubiously.  He laid Daniel down, his jacket stuffed under the man’s head.

“That whole thing happened so fast, I’m surprised he even felt anything,” he commented, regarding the leader. “So, we’re back where I started and you guys are gonna give me a hand with this whole snakehead problem, right?”

“Take us to Aiestrodous!”

“Sweet, just keep the whole family reunion for later, hah?” the colonel remarked, his hands now placed on the console.  He glanced once more toward Jackson, before sending the vessel towards Earth.

 

*****

“Cyanide?” Carter repeated, as she followed the clones through the underground complex toward the Stargate.

“Have a problem with that?” O’Neill retorted. “It’s a form of cyanide, dissipates quickly, Carter here, the other one, formulated it.  Kinda handy!”

“No sir, no problem at all,” Carter replied, looking at Makepeace. “We’re going to need HAZMAT!”

“No shit!” Makepeace groaned. “Just what we need, chemical warfare!”

“Does he have to come?” O’Neill commented sourly. “Because I can do without the damn second guessing on my command decisions!”

“Your command?” Makepeace exclaimed.

“Oh great!” Carter’s clone moaned. “This is all we need.”

“Can it, Captain!” O’Neill snarled. “Five minutes, then come on through,” he ordered, as Jackson dialled the coordinates that Carter had given him. “And, whatever you do, come through fast and low, just in case!”

“Sir, shouldn’t we alert Earth?” Carter enquired of Makepeace. “I mean, at the very least…”

“Nope!” Makepeace replied. “They’d only send an alert to the Asgard, which would bring them right where they want them!”

“Would it not be advantageous to attempt to secure a mothership and engage them directly?” Teal’c’s clone enquired.

“Not if we don’t want to get ourselves blown to high heaven, no!” Makepeace replied.

“Still not 100% sure this is the best course of action,” Carter said.

“Got something else that might get their attention?” O’Neill asked. “At least if we can distract ‘em, it might buy Earth, and your dad some time.”

“Yes sir,” she responded. “I just wish there was something more direct we could do.”

“Hey! We’ll save him,” her double told her.

 

*****

 ‘Earth?’ Jack snapped. ‘What the hell is H doing? Does he really wanna piss me off that much?’

‘You have my kindred?’ Aiestrodous asked.

‘Yeah, I got ‘em… oh and thanks for the whole black hole warning thing!’

‘There is little time, the Tok’ra captives will be destroyed, O’Neill, you must hurry.’

‘Story of my life!’ Jack sighed.

 

“There is trouble?” the Furling who appeared to be leader asked.

“When isn’t there?” O’Neill retorted cynically. “What’s your name anyway?”

Abalteuos, you are Jack.”

“I knew that!” the colonel replied. “So, you guys really think you can cause enough havoc on those ships to stop the snakeheads from taking over the universe?”

“We are able,” Abalteuos responded; he moved closer to O’Neill.  He had sensed the moment he and his clan were brought aboard the ship that the colonel was losing a battle.  A battle they were equipped to aid him with.  “You have blood Jack.  But you do not have much longer to live.”

O’Neill looked at him dubiously. “Yeah, and I’d kinda like to keep it!” he said, backing away unwittingly.

“We are able to help you,” Abalteuos told him. “Yet you fear. This fear is unfounded.”

“Yeah look, you don’t wanna start something you…”

The desire to move toward the creature was almost overwhelming, and before he had completely realised it, the sharp pain in his neck alerted the colonel to the creature’s proximity. It was a strange experience, heady and overwhelming, the pain almost intoxicating.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed, pulling back. “Alright! We’re not lunch here.”

“We will free you, Jack,” Abalteuos whispered. “There will be no more intrusions into your mind.”

“Not if staying out of the sun is the price, pal!” Jack snapped. “Just back off, or you’ll find out just how…” Once again the distortion of time lapsed before the colonel had knowledge.  The almost ecstatic waves that swept through his body engulfing his mind, he succumbed easily to the creature.

 

Daniel, jolted from his comatose state by the unease within O’Neill’s mind that sprung into his own, stood quickly, realising the presence of the creatures spelt danger.

The power of the link to the Sengo’lians that flowed from within his mind surging through O’Neill’s sent Abalteuos back forcefully, the creature unable to maintain the hold over the colonel’s being.

Jack looked across at Daniel, dizzy, his equilibrium beginning to fade.

“Are you okay?” Daniel enquired, moving between the creatures and the colonel.

“I’ll, er,” Jack’s voice sounded shaken. “Oh crap!” he exclaimed, as he sank to his knees.

Daniel’s alarm had little time to register; he was already moving toward O’Neill, stooping down, he felt for a pulse, faint but still beating, he concluded quickly. “Look!” he exclaimed at the creatures. “Aiestrodous told Jack he’d protect him, if he freed you.  I don’t think he meant he’d turn him into the living dead!”

Abalteuos moved toward the archaeologist. “We have no intent on harming,” he stated, his pale green eyes enveloping Jackson’s gaze.

“So what’s this?” Daniel demanded.

“He has need of us,” Abalteuos replied, a matter of fact tone.

“Yeah, I’m sure… just keep away from him… and from, er, me for that matter!” Jackson added apprehensively.

“You are of no use!” Abalteuos retorted tritely. “Your weaknesses make your life force tainted. You are in no danger.”

“Weaknesses?” Daniel said indignantly. “If you mean my allergies, then that’s the first time I’ve been thankful, just stay there… or something.”

Jack groaned sitting up, the giddiness he felt making his head spin.  “What the...?”

Daniel knelt beside him, his hand firmly grasping the man’s wrist, assisting to drag him to his feet. “You okay?” he asked.

“I’ve been better,” O’Neill replied, looking across sternly at Abalteuos. “You?” he snapped angrily.

“Definitely,” Jackson retorted dubiously. “Jack, look, you’re obviously vulnerable to these creatures and I don’t particularly feel like being one of the undead, so can we just get where we’re going and…”

“Oh yeah!” O’Neill agreed. “I’m so done.”

“Er, good,” Daniel replied now looking slightly pale.

“What?” Jack asked, his hand shooting to his mouth, checking his teeth. “Daniel don’t do that!” he snapped, finding no enlarged incisors present. “What?” he asked again when he realised Jackson was still staring at him.

“Your eyes,” Daniel told him.

“What?”

“They’re red again,” the archaeologist said. “Which I’m thinking is not a good thing.”

“Oh come on!” Jack complained, addressing Abalteuos. “Please don’t tell me you did that whole damn Dracula thing again, because I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m gonna be pissed if you have.”

The creature moved toward him. “You wish for a cure, O’Neill,” he said slowly. “Your cure is a certain death, not as you perceive it, merely as it is.”

“OKAY!” Jack exclaimed. “THAT’S IT!” He moved toward Abalteuos menacingly.

“I’m done with this whole being nice to the damn aliens thing!”

Daniel moved away from him, eyeing the Furlings with even more disdain. “What’s going on?” he demanded. “Are you saying he has to die again?”

“Do you wish to be free of the Sengo’lians?” Abalteuos asked.

“Not if it means being the living dead, no!” he replied. “What is wrong with you peop… things? Jesus!”

“Hardly,” Daniel groaned.

“You will be as we are, but free from them,” Abalteuos explained. “But not yet as we are!”

“See I don’t want to be as you… like you, I wanna be like me, normal, which to all you super beings might be kinda boring, but hey!”

“There is no other answer,” Abalteuos told him. “The Sengo’lians power will ultimately destroy your mind, your thoughts will be lost, all that you are will be lost.  To become as we are is your only hope of surviving with your mind intact.”

Daniel’s amazement at this information was written clearly across his features as he regarded the shell-shocked colonel.

“Okay, this is bullshit!” Jack exclaimed. “You’re lying!”  Even as he said it, he knew they spoke the truth, a truth he’d been keeping to himself.

“O’Neill, we would not trick he who has been our salvation,” Abalteuos said softly. “You have the will and the ability to see us as we are, yet you have redeemed us to save your kindred, we wish to offer the gift of continued life to you.”

“Except it isn’t life is it?” Jack replied, still stunned.

“Tell us we are deceiving you?”

Daniel looked from the creature to the colonel, waiting for O’Neill to decry their assertion.

“I can’t.”

“What?”

“They’re not lying to me Daniel, the Sengo’lians told me the same damn thing, only they didn’t mention joining Drac and his merry clan!” the colonel replied.

Daniel exhaled loudly.  The information sinking in slowly, he felt suddenly useless again.  The emotions wracking his mind, he couldn’t conceive of what the colonel was telling him.  After everything, the Goa’uld, the Asgard, the Nox, the Sengo’lians themselves, after surviving so many situations that should have spelt the end, so many arguments, so much water under the proverbial bridge, the knowledge that here finally was an end, an end he wasn’t prepared to accept.

“There has to be some other way, I mean they got in, surely…”

“No!” Jack sighed. “It’s kinda a done deal. No money back guarantee if you’re not a hundred per cent living deal!”

“So you’re just going to accept it, give up?” Daniel retorted angrily.

“Better than joining this bunch don’t ya think?”

The archaeologist closed his eyes. “I don’t accept that,” he said. “I don’t…”

“Daniel, get over yourself!” Jack snarled. “Mission’s gonna be accomplished, Earth, the Asgard the whole damn thing saved.  Job done!”

“What does he mean?” Abalteuos asked.

“He’d rather die,” Daniel told the Furling.

“Then it shall be so,” Abalteuos said.

“No!” Daniel exclaimed frantically, animated now. “This is bullshit, this is… God! How many times do you have to do that? How many times are we supposed to go through the self-sacrificing bullshit Jack?”

O’Neill looked furiously at his colleague.  “You think I like this?” he asked. “Think I get off on being some kind of hero?  Is that what you think?” he demanded.

“It’s what I’m hearing,” Jackson concurred.  “They’re offering you a chance, Jack.”

“Oh sure Daniel, some kind of chance!” Jack scalded. “You want to give up everything that you know just to survive?”

“Yes, yes if that’s what it means… living, surviving.  Jack it’s not about having any kind of normalcy, like we’ve had that at anytime recently… Choices, it’s about choices Jack!”

Jack chuckled to himself.  “You know, I really appreciate that it might be a little hard for you to deal with Daniel,” he remarked. “My not being around for ya, the whole family issue, supplanted thing, but you’re an adult, you’ll survive!”

The archaeologist looked disappointed, his eyes lowered from the colonel’s.  “No, it really isn’t about me, Jack.  It’s about you,” he muttered.

The colonel nodded slowly. “It always is,” he replied, moving across to the console, the flashing light alerting him to their arrival. “Well, we’re here, you ready?” he asked the Furlings.

“It shall be done,” Abalteuos replied. “We shall destroy those that plague.”

“Not the Tok’ra,” Jack asserted. “They’re, kinda the good guys… besides, Carter’s dad is one of them.”  He looked a little disheartened for a second before hiding the fear behind one of those famous O’Neill grimaces. “Danny, you’re gonna go warn Hammond.”

“Fine!” Daniel snapped. “Send me back, give up, do the whole martyr thing.  I don’t care anymore.”

“Thank you!” Jack acknowledged.

“God I don’t believe this!” Jackson vociferated. “You selfish…”

“Daniel, shut up!” Jack said softly. “It’s over. Just do me a favour and don’t adopt Iceni, I don’t want her growing up like a geek!”

Jackson could find no mirth in the words, glaring defiantly at the colonel unable to accept so easily that Jack O’Neill would suffer death, rather than accept the offer the Furlings had tabled.

Jack looked at him sympathetically an affectionate smile crossing his features as Jackson disappeared from his sight.

“Vale meus amicus!” he said.  The words reverberating in his mind he turned now and regarded the Furlings. “I’d be me?” he asked.

“You would retain all that you are,” Abalteuos confirmed. “Aiestrodous calls us, we must attend to your foes.”

“Yeah, thanks.”  The colonel took a deep breath, looking down at the console. “Have a blast!” he urged as he engaged the transport.

 

*****

Daniel found himself standing in the briefing room at the SGC with a surprised group of SFs, Hammond, Davis and two Tok’ra staring at him.

“Dr. Jackson?” Hammond exclaimed.

“Yes,” he sighed.

“Where… where’s Colonel O’Neill?” Davis asked.

“He’s… Jack’s not coming back.  He, the Goa’uld are launching an attack and, er,” his tone was flat, complacent almost unfeeling. “So anyway, he’s dealing with that and then… can I get some coffee or something?”

Hammond and Davis looked at one another. “Daniel?” Martouf stood as he addressed the archaeologist. “Is Colonel O’Neill in some form of danger?”

“Er, yes actually, apparently since the Sengo’lian infected his mind, he’s, er…” Daniel sat down beside Davis. “He’s dying, Major, apparently.”

Hammond looked at Martouf. “Is this true?” he asked, shocked by this information.

“It is possible General Hammond, since the power of the intrusion into the colonel’s mind is substantial and far from anything we understand.  That his mind has coped so far is astonishing.”

“We’d better get Dr. Jackson to the infirmary,” Hammond suggested, holding his own feelings in check far better than the archaeologist obviously was.

 

*****

Aiestrodous appeared on the bridge before the colonel, his head lowered.  “I attempted to save you before, O’Neill,” he said softly.

“Yeah, well, I think it’s kinda a moot point don’t you?  And shouldn’t you be over there, kicking Goa’uld ass?” Jack enquired.

“We have already destroyed one vessel, the others will follow.”

“Sweet!” Jack acknowledged, smiling. “Nice to know the snakeheads are gonna go down before I do.”

“You asked the question of Abalteuos, you have changed once again your mind?”

“It was just a question,” Jack said dismissively.

“Can I not convince you O’Neill? Ours is not such a wasted existence as you might think,” Aiestrodous remarked.

Jack chuckled to himself. “Look, thanks, but I’m an Air Force Colonel, it’s a lifestyle choice, you know?”

“You wish to remain on Earth?” Aiestrodous enquired. “In the form you inhabit, and require the ultimate death over an existence you merely perceive you are not capable of living?”

The colonel nodded, although there was something inside him, that survival instinct that had kept him alive in Iraq, Iran and too many other missions to recount that nagged.  The little voices that chided and goaded.

“Not really into the whole drinking blood deal, know what I mean?” Jack replied honestly. “I’m sure it’s a valid lifestyle for you guys, but come on, can you see SG1 feeling safe around a bloodsucker? Hair would get pretty long without a mirror, shaving would be hell!”

“You believe we cast no image?”

“You’re a vampire aren’t ya?”

“That is folklore, O’Neill, we have an image in the water’s reflection, and blood is not our only source of nourishment,” Aiestrodous corrected. “There is much you could still do, much to know and understand.”

“Not gonna happen!” Jack retorted. “No offence it just isn’t my kinda living.”

The fear that he could feel emanating from O’Neill made him flinch; he had known that fear, a fear of the unknown, of alienation.  Once they too had belonged nowhere, and to nothing other than existing, now after so many millennia he understood the gift far better.  The near terror that he felt from the human settling the matter in his mind, until he had truly embraced all that was, how could he ever judge if such an existence were so incredibly diabolical as to prefer the silence of true death?

“I am not offering you a choice,” Aiestrodous told him, drawing ever closer. “You are in no position to attempt to deny me, I will nourish you. Even now you require it. You grow weaker.  You fear us, you fear the knowledge of what you might become, this you will understand soon.”

Jack stepped back, shaking his head. “Not gonna happen!” he insisted, his hands now defensively brought up in front of him.

“You will succumb,” Aiestrodous told him confidently. “It is your nature to survive.”

Jack’s eyes closed, he didn’t want to embrace the fear he felt nor accept that he could handle living in a way that might be so alien to what he knew.  ‘Really needing you right now!’ he thought.

‘It is time Ha’dai,’ the Sengo’lians responded. ‘Do not resist, soon there will only be silence.’

‘Give me a choice?’

‘There is no choice, we cannot destroy you Ha’dai.  We owe you your freedom and life, to remain would grant only death.’

Jack felt the surge of their thoughts like a whirlwind around his mind, the grip of Aiestrodous’ hands on his shoulders.  He pulled back, stumbling away from the creature.  “No!” he snapped.

 

*****

Carter pulled the mask off. “Clear!” she yelled, looking at the fifteen or more dead Jaffa around the gate.

“Well that’s impressive,” Makepeace noted. “Guess they’ve decided to go on ahead, let’s move out, Teal’c, take point.”

O’Neill moved quickly around the outer perimeter of the palace. “Daniel, you and Carter back us up, Teal’c, we’re going in!”

The Jaffa clone obeyed without question, following the colonel into the gardens, the staff weapon he’d acquired from his biological self raised and aimed lethally at the advancing palace guard.

“It is too easy, O’Neill,” Teal’c cautioned.

“Not if they’re all off on that Earth conquering mission big guy, just relax, we’ll give ‘em a home coming they won’t forget!” O’Neill replied.

“Is he a little gung-ho recently?” Carter’s clone asked Jackson.

“I think he’s jealous, did you get a look at that program?” Daniel replied.

“The information from the Ancients?” Carter enquired. “Yeah I saw that, why would he be… oh wait, I get it!”

“I’d make his hard drive bigger,” Daniel advised. “He’ll be hell to live with otherwise.”

“And he isn’t now?” Carter retorted jovially.

“Point taken,” Daniel concurred.

“These Goa’ulds are sure getting adventurous thinking they can take on the whole universe!” Carter added.

“Oh please! It’s totally in character, I’m surprised Jack hasn’t decided to go on a suicide mission before,” Jackson replied. “He hates them as much as I do.”

Carter shrugged. “Rambo’s getting ahead!” she noted, watching the colonel and Teal’c disappear into another room.

“I’m seriously considering that new power pack!” Daniel concluded as they picked up their pace.

 

*****

The Horus guard stood guard outside the quarters of their master, the images of the Furlings appeared only at the moment of death, the Goa’ulds inside the pouches of their slaves died as quickly.

Hathor sat opposite her son, Osiris and Nyerti behind her. “Seven of our ships have lost contact,” Heru’ur snapped. “Something has infected the ships, is easily despatching the Jaffa!”

“This creature you brought aboard your ship, describe it to us!” Hathor demanded.

“It was a Furling,” Osiris intervened. “A creature capable of cloaking itself and destroying the hosts, draining their blood.”

Hathor’s eyes glowed furiously. “Fool!” she exclaimed. “These creatures will destroy us.”

Heru’ur shook his head. “We will find it,” he insisted.

“It? If there is one, there will be more. No, we shall leave this ship and return to our fleet!” Hathor asserted. “You will destroy this vessel.”

The Goa’uld stood, his arrogant features snarling. “You fear this creature?”

“This is the creature that drove us from the Tau’ri,” Osiris told him. “A creature that can not be harmed with our weapons, and can breach our shields.”

“It is but one!” Heru’ur protested. “I brought only the one creature aboard my ship.”

Hathor glared at him. “You believe that our ships lose contact because of one creature?” she snarled. “Where one is to be found, more will come.”

“They have no means!” Heru’ur insisted.

Hathor stood, looking the Goa’uld squarely in the eyes. “He has brought them here,” she said emphatically. “Our beloved has the ability to speak with these beings.”

“You give far too much credit to this Tau’ri,” Heru’ur sneered.

“And you do not give enough,” Osiris countered. “I saw what he was capable of, I saw the power he possessed.”

“We must use our own cloaking technology to elude it,” Nyerti insisted. “Or we will all be destroyed.”

The door to his quarters opened without guards entering, Heru’ur raised his shield immediately, Hathor and Nyerti cloaked, Osiris too using the technology afforded by her mistress.

Abalteuos materialised before Heru’ur. “Creature of evil, know thy foe!” he snarled. Baring his teeth, he passed through the shield as though it were not there, his teeth embedded into the neck of his defenceless victim.  Heru’ur sank to his knees slowly, as the life was drained from his host, the effulgent glow in his eyes dulling.

 

*****

Dr. Fraiser smiled patiently as Jackson once more refused to discuss what ailed him.  His listlessness, and inability to keep her questions in his head, indicated that whatever had happened aboard the ship was something he wasn’t ready to discuss.

“Well, all your vitals are normal,” she concluded. “So you’re free to continue, unless you’d prefer to go home?”

“No!” he replied pointedly, collecting his jacket he slipped off of the gurney. “I’m fine.”

“If you say so?” Fraiser countered doubtfully.

“I said I’m fine!” Daniel snapped, turning and walking away. “I’m, er, sorry,” he added, before disappearing from view.

 

*****

Aiestrodous watched from a distance as the colonel went into a feverish hysteria. Attempting to commit suicide had been fruitless; the Sengo’lians who so easily controlled his mind would not permit such an act. The weapon had become too heavy for him to clasp, his hands shaking violently, sinking slowly to the floor of the bridge, he implored Aiestrodous to kill him.

The vampire waited, moving ever closer as the colonel lost consciousness.  He sank gracefully to his knees, lifting O’Neill gently into his embrace.

His long fingernails slicing across his wrist, he held the colonel’s lips to his blood that ran from the wound.

“The gift of life, O’Neill,” he said softly, “is not to be taken so easily.”

Jack felt the adrenalin surge through him, opening his eyes slowly. The light, even dulled, burned his senses. He saw Aiestrodous standing across the room, watching him from the darkness, his eyes two small bright pinnacles of red light in the distance.

“Oh crap!” he exclaimed, the horror he felt registering on his features, his hands raised to his face. “Dammit, why?”

“You implored,” Aiestrodous told him.

“I don’t remember doing that,” Jack responded. “I remember telling you not to do that, and I remember trying to shoot myself, you stop me?”

“The Sengo’lians are gone O’Neill, in joining us you purge them from your mind. It was they that prevented your attempts to end your life.”

“Sweet! Well this is just great!” the colonel complained bitterly. “I’m really gonna fit right in at the SGC like this!”

“You have the choice now,” Aiestrodous retorted. “A choice you did not possess before.  We do not rely upon blood to exist, you will not be forced from the light. Your exposure before was caused by the fact that you were not truly of our kin.”

“So what, I can do the whole suntan thing?” Jack retorted. “Gee thanks!”

He stood, shaking his head in dismay. “I get rid of one damn race and get another, this is just great!”

“Did you think to venture into this universe would not ultimately change your race?” Aiestrodous questioned.

“Hey! Not to the point where I’d be avoiding crosses and stakes pal!” he snorted indignantly. He looked at the Furling apprehensively. “Stakes can kill me, right?”

Aiestrodous laughed, it was the first time the colonel had heard the vampire do so.

“Why do you continue to believe the fantasy from your folklore?” he asked. “We are not evil, we do not have a mission to create demons, or fight your God. We are simply creatures different to humans, as are the Asgard.”

“Oh well that makes me feel so much better!” the colonel groaned. “Except there is that whole blood thing right? Super strength? I damn near killed two SFs the last time you did this!”

Aiestrodous moved closer, seemed to glide across the room. “O’Neill, you were not truly converted and the convoluted battle between your own biology and ours made your primal instincts surface, the strength you possess is a by-product of our biology.  You will not be endangering your friends, you will simply require more flesh to sustain you than perhaps is normal for humans, or blood, either will sustain.”

“Sweet, I’ll order up a cow!” Jack commented wearily. “There’s no way they’re gonna let me function in my job being a damn creature of the night!”

“Then do not tell them!” Aiestrodous retorted. “You will appear no different, except, you will no longer age.”

Jack looked intrigued. “No getting older?” he said, considering the upside. “Okay so that’s a bonus, anything else I should know about?”

“Do not ingest impure blood or flesh,” the vampire replied. “Your body is pure, so must it remain.”

The colonel sighed heavily. “That’s hamburgers out of the window, godammit!  Why am I even talking about this?”

“You can remain in this ship O’Neill, you have lost none of the knowledge the Ancients instilled. This knowledge can no longer harm you.”

“So, I can go back, ‘fess up and tell ‘em I need pure blood or meat, or I can float around in space for the next… forever!” Jack sighed heavily. “Gotta love them options.”

“In time you will realise that this, like all evolution of your species has been, is a gift, use it wisely and it will ultimately serve you.” Aiestrodous told him. “There is much more you should know, please, listen to all I will tell you.”

Jack shook his head, leaning against the console. “Nothing you’re about to say is gonna make a difference,” he asserted.

“You are a most petulant creature,” Aiestrodous told him. “You will listen, you will live, and in this you will be certain, we will always be available to you!”

 

*****

Hammond beckoned the archaeologist in, the moment he was in sight. “Dr. Jackson, sit down.”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel replied, acknowledging Major Davis. “Did I see Martouf here earlier?”

“Yes,” Hammond responded. “The Goa’uld have captured the high council.”

“Not for long,” Daniel remarked.

“Daniel?”

“Jack brought the Furlings to deal with them, apparently they were going to attack Earth, bring the Asgard to them, and basically overpower them with about a thousand ships,” Daniel explained, without needing to hear the question. There was an absence about him, his tone containing no interest in what he said.

“Furlings?” Davis enquired.

“They’re one of the four race alliance, and incidentally we’ve actually made their acquaintance once already, at least Jack did.  The vampire was a Furling, sir,” Daniel told Hammond. “And they offered to save Jack and he turned them down.  So I figure right about now he’s er…”

“Hey Daniel,” Jack announced, startling Hammond in the process.

“Colonel O’Neill?” the general exclaimed.

“Sorry, sir, those Ancients vessels have pretty stealthy transportation capability. So Daniel, what were you saying?” he asked ruefully, the communication with Jackson back to its most rudimentary form.

“Come home to die?” Daniel asked glibly.

“Nope! Get out clause, don’t know why I didn’t think of it before actually,” Jack replied.

Daniel looked slightly perplexed. “You said…”

“I know what I said Daniel, but I didn’t consider all the options, so no more Sengo’lians, no more Ancients just good old, boring me!” Jack lied. He knew Daniel knew it, but he couldn’t risk Hammond finding out. “The knees are giving me hell by the way!”

“Nox?” Daniel offered.

“Yep!” Jack replied, the relief exhaled quietly at Jackson’s quick thinking. “So did I miss anything?”

“Colonel, what exactly is going on here?” Hammond demanded.

“Furlings took out the Goa’uld, or most of them sir, they’re in a full retreat!” Jack told him. “And if you don’t mind sir, I’d like to get checked out with ole Doc Fraiser, going through black holes and hanging out with vampires is kinda unnerving!”

Even believing, knowing that the Furling had told him there was no real difference in his biological makeup that could be detected, he had to be sure.

“Guards, escort Colonel O’Neill to the infirmary and remain there with him,” Hammond ordered.

O’Neill offered a mock salute to Hammond. “Thank you, sir,” he quipped.

“I’d like to go with him, sir?” Daniel asked.

“Dismissed Dr. Jackson,” Hammond intoned, still unnerved.  He turned his attention to Davis once the two men were safely out of earshot. “I want a full team investigating his current status!” he ordered.

“Yes sir,” Davis replied. “With your permission?”

“Go ahead, Major.”

 

*****

Fraiser’s attitude changed the instant Colonel O’Neill entered the infirmary, the frosty glance not lost on the man; he could vaguely remember something between them, an argument maybe? Something, he could sense something.  A keen sense of awareness seemed to come with the whole Furling/vampire package, an ability to detect discontent within those around him.  He was beginning to get that sense from the SFs.  But Fraiser’s pain screamed out far more loudly, it was laced with bitterness, with anger.

“Janet,” he acknowledged, his eyes not entirely able to meet her regard.

“Colonel,” she replied. “So back again without the demons, sir?”

“Okay, cut the whole, sir… Daniel give us a minute here, and you airmen, and that’s an order!” Jack snapped.

Fraiser moved away from him, preparing for the standard medical procedure, avoiding him.  He could feel that now too, she felt uncomfortable.

“I don’t think we have anything to talk about, sir, you were under the influence of that entity right?” she spat, the usual warmth in her tone completely absent.

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, his eyes still lowered.

“Oh well everything’s forgiven then, sir!” she retorted.

Jack’s hands covered his face, rubbing hard at the skin as he searched for something more appropriate to say.  “Look, Doctor Fraiser,” he began, keeping his tone low and even. “I wasn’t responsible for that whole thing, but I feel like I should be, and if I could completely remember what I did, I’d cut off my damn hand! As it is, I vaguely remember hurting you and for that I’m really, really… very… completely sorry.”

His wounded expression, tortured by things he could barely remember seemed more pertinent than the words to Fraiser, there was something else too, a genuine, almost intoxicating ‘little boy lost’ quality that seemed to permeate from those deep brown eyes.  She found herself staring for a moment, feeling waves of empathy course through her almost immediately.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, her voice softening. “I know it wasn’t you, I, well I just, thank you.”

O’Neill’s eyes closed, exhaling loudly. “What did I do?” he asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Janet replied moving away from him.

“Oh it matters!” he noted. “Because whatever it is, I can’t look you in the eyes because they’re cutting me to pieces.”

Janet sat back against the gurney regarding him. “You really don’t remember do you?” she asked, a hint of hurt in her features that translated perfectly to her voice.

Jack swallowed hard, a sinking feeling, a sudden guilt sweeping over him, now he really needed to know. “Will I be able to live with myself?” he enquired honestly.

“Sir, I had a long, a very long talk with myself, and even though it’s hard to deal with seeing you here, I realise we were both being influenced.  Anything we did wasn’t us!” she told him.

“What did I do?” he asked again, a little more apprehensively.

“If you don’t remember, Colonel, for my sake, I’d prefer you didn’t know!” she replied, as curt as she could be given the feelings that were erupting at that moment in her mind.

He wanted to pursue it, but everything, those senses that were so sharply focused, now backed him off. “If it’s easier,” he agreed.

“It is, sir,” she replied, immediately switching back into her more familiar persona. “So, are we looking for anything in particular, or is this just a basic check over?”

“Knees as always, back’s a little stiff, other than that, just give me a clean bill of non-alien health and I’ll be out of your hair!” O’Neill responded, attempting to mirror her attitude.

“Okay, let’s start with the blood test!” she agreed.

Daniel waited until Fraiser had taken off with the blood test before addressing O’Neill’s obvious deceit, in which he knew he too was now duplicitous.

“Jack what the hell’s going on?” he snapped, albeit quietly.

“She’s a little pissed at me, what the hell did I do?” O’Neill asked, before realising that Jackson wasn’t interested in the prickly situation with Fraiser.

“Oh, right, Aiestrodous!” he said. “Gonna tell?”

Their eyes met squarely, Jackson looking slightly flabbergasted.  “Oh my God!” he exhaled, his eyes rolling. “It’s not like I’ll have to is it? It’ll will show up in the blood test, and the whole, er, blood lust?” he asked, moving back a step.

“No blood lust, will you just relax?  Look, we’ll get these tests out of the way, and I’ll buy you a beer, and I’ll tell you anything you wanna know, just do me a little favour… okay, it’s a big favour,” he conceded, as Jackson groaned outwardly. “Don’t tell anyone!”

“Don’t tell anyone,” Daniel echoed.

Jack watched Fraiser walk back. “Been doing anything interesting, sir?” she asked trying to keep the light-hearted banter going.

“Oh yeah, now I’m thinking, since I did save the world again, fishing!” Jack stated, reclining back on the gurney, his gaze fixed on Jackson, knowing the archaeologist had no intention of giving him away, without really needing to ask.

“Might not be that easy with Major Carter and Teal’c MIA, Colonel,” Fraiser told him.

  O’Neill sat up immediately. “Excuse me?”

“They were working with the clones, General Hammond sent a message through the gate that the Tok’ra had been captured, and we haven’t heard back from them since, General Hammond has sent three messages ordering their return,” Fraiser explained. “A team was sent to Altair, but there was no one there.”

“Oh, for crying out loud! Why didn’t Hammond tell me that already!” Jack snapped, jumping off the gurney. “Jacob, the one damn thing that would send Carter on a wild goose chase, dammit!”

“He was captured, sir,” Janet explained.

“No, he was liberated,” Jack retorted, already heading for the door.

“Colonel, I doubt he’ll… why don’t I just talk to myself!” Fraiser said, as she watched O’Neill and Jackson, pursued by the SFs, disappear from the infirmary.

“Great!” Jack exclaimed, striding hurriedly along the corridor towards the elevator, Jackson struggling to keep up. “That’s all I need, deal with the Goa’uld and the damn evil twin takes over!”

“This day just keeps getting better!” Daniel groaned, as the two men entered the elevator along with the two SFs Hammond had assigned to O’Neill.

“It’s not like we haven’t had enough damn excitement around here?” Jack asked, as they headed along the corridor toward the control room, his urgency so great now that the SFs were almost jogging to keep up.

“Jack, will you slow… oh this is fun!” Jackson complained, as the colonel took the steps three at a time.

“General Hammond, when exactly were you going to tell me that two members of my team are MIA?” O’Neill announced, as he entered Hammond’s office.

“Colonel O’Neill!” Hammond snapped. “Since SG1 is no longer your team…” The general knew he was wasting his time even as he said it.  Jack O’Neill wasn’t going to hear a word he said, and he knew it.

“Sir, request permission for search and rescue mission for SG1?” Jack asked.

“Denied,” Hammond replied immediately. “Colonel…”

“Excuse me?” Jack’s eyes widened his tone incredulous. “Denied?”

“Colonel, in case it’s slipped your mind you’ve been MIA for the past two months! Not to mention your actions when you went MIA!” he responded.

“General Hammond, I’ve been out there working my butt off to save Earth, sir, and if that’s not good enough for this command to cut me some slack and go save my people, then…”

“Then what, Colonel?” Hammond demanded.

“Okay, out of ideas here,” he said, turning to Jackson.

“Sir, you can’t just expect us to sit here and do nothing whilst Teal’c and Sam are in danger,” Daniel stated, looking at Jack apologetically.

“And Colonel Makepeace!” Hammond told them.

“Oh well, if Makepeace is out there let’s go on vacation!” Jack snapped sarcastically.

“Colonel!” Hammond was beginning to remember why O’Neill had caused him so many problems with command over the years!

“Sir, forgive me if I sound slightly dubious here, but you let my team go with Makepeace and the robot?” Jack vociferated. “Because, hey! If anything’s gonna get em killed it’s those two!”

The telephone’s intrusive ring momentarily interrupted them.

Yes Dr. Fraiser?”  Hammond answered. “I understand.”

Daniel looked apprehensively toward O’Neill, the colonel calmly regarding Hammond. “Sir?” he asked, attempting to keep his infamous temper from flaring once more.

“Colonel, until we’ve debriefed, and you’ve answered all the outstanding questions about your current status and actions, you’re on stand down.”

“Dammit General, we don’t have time for this now, I’ll answer all the damn questions you want, hell you can court martial me.  Sir, just let me get my team home safe first!” Jack implored.

Hammond looked at Jackson, shaking his head. “I don’t even know why I’d bother asking your opinion, since you’re usually complicit with whatever he’s up to!” he commented.

“Up to, sir?” Daniel enquired innocently.

“Permission granted.  You will take temporary command of SG2. Major Coburn and Cadet Hailey will join you for the mission, with the rest of the team,” Hammond said. “Don’t make me regret this decision Jack!”

 “I give you my word, sir,” O’Neill replied, and something in his tone told Hammond he meant it.

“Where do we look?” Daniel asked, as he followed the colonel toward the locker room.

“Good point!” Jack ceded, a heavy sigh. “If you wanted to get the Goa’ulds’ attention … what would you do?”

“I’d go to the only planet I knew might do that, and if they have your clone… oh that’s not good!” Daniel groaned. “Heru’ur?”

“Oh yeah!  That snakehead’s dead, so I’m guessing if she’s as smart as I think she is?”

“Hathor!” The two men said in unison, both rolling their eyes in dismay.

 

*****

 

Carter checked the area around the palace. “Looks like they made it inside, sir,” she told Makepeace.

“This guy’s worse than O’Neill,” Makepeace complained. “Alright, let’s get inside before the damn Goa’uld arrive!”

“It is unlikely that Heru’ur would be able to traverse such a distance so quickly, Colonel Makepeace,” Teal’c advised.

“Right!” Makepeace agreed. “Still better to blow this place and get the hell out anyway, right?”

“Indeed!” Teal’c concurred.

“There’s probably enough Naqada lying around here to do some pretty impressive damage, sir,” Carter pointed out.

“Shame we can’t time it for his arrival!” Makepeace remarked.

“Are you just gonna stand around talking or did you want to get out of here sometime soon?” O’Neill’s clone enquired.

Makepeace frowned. “Set explosives?” he asked.

“No, we left a note!” the clone retorted. “Coming?”

“We, er, don’t have very long by the way,” Jackson’s clone told them as he passed.

Makepeace shrugged. “Fine by me!” he replied. “Let’s move out.”

“No shit!” O’Neill grumbled to his Teal’c clone.

“This human appears to irritate you, O’Neill,” the clone responded.

“Talented kinda guy don’t ya think?”

“Indeed!”

The death gliders came out of nowhere, sweeping across their path, laying down a torrent of energy blasts from the powerful cannons fixed on their underbellies.  O’Neill turned quickly, throwing Major Carter down and covering her with his own body.

Makepeace scrambled for cover, catching hold of Teal’c who had been struck in the leg, his clone disintegrated by a blast that had almost taken out the Jackson clone too.

“Sir, we need better cover,” Carter’s clone yelled at O’Neill.

Major Carter heard him mumble something as he dragged her to her feet. “Sorry!” he said, throwing her over his shoulder and taking off for the sparse cover of trees that lay to their left.

“Makepeace, move your ass!” he bellowed.

Jackson’s clone quickly assisted the colonel to his feet as he struggled with Teal’c, half dragging both into the undergrowth.

“What the heck!” O’Neill’s double bemoaned as he threw Carter down and composed himself, the P90 spitting bullets at a now unseen enemy.

“I guess they can move a lot faster than we thought, hah!” Jack continued, looking around for Teal’c. He saw what remained of his friend and yelled in anger. “Dammit, Carter set a damn charge, Daniel, get off your ass and cover our six!”

Jackson took Teal’c’s staff weapon, handing him the P90. “Sorry, it’s more effective,” he said.

The Jaffa, a gaping hole in his left thigh, didn’t argue. Makepeace was already throwing field dressings out of his pack. “How’s it feel?”

“I will be fine, Colonel Makepeace,” Teal’c replied.

O’Neill looked at Major Carter. “Did I break anything?” he asked.

“No sir, but I am quite capable of covering my own ass!” she snapped.

“I’m aware of that, Major, I can just react a little quicker than you, and you’re welcome!”

Carter took a deep breath, counting silently to ten before responding. “Any suggestions now, sir?” she enquired curtly.

“Nope, not unless you’ve got something big enough and powerful enough to take out those damn gliders, other than your attitude that is, Major!” O’Neill scowled.

“No, sir!” Carter snarled. “Maybe you could out run it!”

“Alright, Major,” Makepeace chastised. “He might be a robot, but he still holds a colonel’s rank!”

“Oh now he’s on my side!” O’Neill growled. “Jeez, is this the boys club?”

“Jack will you just… focus!” Daniel snapped, exhaling loudly. “In case you hadn’t noticed,” he added for good measure, gesturing toward the skies. “We’ve got a couple of minor problems!”

“Hard not to!” Jack retorted.  He looked across at Teal’c. “How’s he doing?”

“He’ll live!” Makepeace responded. “We’re not going to unless we find somewhere to hole up pretty damn fast!”

“Hole up?” O’Neill repeated. “You think they’re gonna give up if they can’t find us in a couple of damn hours?  We need something better than just holing up, Colonel!”

“Any bright ideas?” Makepeace enquired.

“Actually, no.  Except one,” O’Neill replied. “Your guy knows this snakehead right? And did the whole big bad thing?”

“Colonel, what are you suggesting?” Carter enquired, looking dubiously toward Makepeace.

“Well, maybe he’ll be easy to fool, he wants stuff from O’Neill, I can give it to him.  We’re robots, Major, get your people out!” the clone said.

“You might be robots, and he might buy some of what you’re saying, but the act won’t work, he’ll still have that gate guarded,” Makepeace argued. “Which means we’re not going anywhere!

“Look! Carter, Daniel and I will give ourselves up, kinda let them catch us actually, at least that keeps you out of the Goa’uld’s hands.  Got a better idea?” O’Neill enquired. “They’re not going to know there’s more than us here!”

“No disrespect intended, sir,” Major Carter pointed out. “But if he has Hathor with him, you won’t fool her!”

“Why not?” There was a hint of dismay in his tone now.

“Because she knows Colonel O’Neill, he… he has a reaction to her that you couldn’t fake!”

“But I could fake Nyerti?” O’Neill protested. “Isn’t that the same thing?”

“Not exactly,” Carter responded. “Colonel O’Neill is… he’s, sir, she’d know!”

Jackson shrugged. “I think it’s about all we have, Sam,” he stated. “And we don’t have much time, so whatever we’re going to do?”

“Remind me to… never mind,” O’Neill remarked. “Okay, so we what? Hide?”

“Sounds good to me,” Daniel agreed. “At least until we can figure out, er, Jack?”

“I see ‘em, Daniel.” O’Neill moved slowly across the ground on his stomach. “Damn! Whole platoon!”

“We’d better get out of here!” Carter stated. “The colonel and I will lay down covering fire, Colonel Makepeace…”

“Major, you, the other you and Daniel take Teal’c, me and the robot will do the cover fire!” Makepeace said. “That Major is an order!”

“Yes, sir,” Carter snapped, a little perplexed at the macho crap that seemed to be permeating within the clone and the marine colonel.

 

*****

 “Jack shouldn’t we take the ship?” Daniel asked as they walked, fully kitted, out toward the embarkation room.

“Not real stealthy on the whole, I lost the ability thing Daniel,” Jack pointed out.

“Good, er, no!  You’re sure the whole Goa’uld fleet is otherwise engaged?” Daniel enquired, slightly more reticent now.

“Nope! I’m sure they got H, pretty sure a couple of the other system lords didn’t make it, but Hathor got away.  Dammit I should have let Aiestrodous take her out when he had the chance!”

“I’m not even going to ask,” Daniel replied. “Do you have any special, um, you’re not going to be able to throw Jaffa around with your will anymore are you?”

“Nope! Can stare at ‘em real effectively though,” the colonel retorted. “And if necessary, I can bite ‘em!”

“Great!”

SG2, along with Coburn and Cadet Hailey, were assembled in the embarkation room, all immediately snapping to attention as the colonel entered.

“At ease,” he snapped. “Okay, you know we’re heading onto a Goa’uld planet, so keep your heads up, stay in close formation and… give ‘em hell.”

“Nice speech!” Daniel quipped.

“Thanks!” O’Neill replied. “Sir, we’re ready to ship out here. Major Coburn, when that gate opens, be ready to deploy the stun grenades.”

Hammond nodded. “Dial it up, Sergeant,” he ordered. “Good luck, Colonel!”

“Thank you, sir.”

 

*****

Hathor stepped from the rings, flanked by both Nyerti and Osiris; the Goa’uld queen regarded the Jaffa who now awaited her command.

“You are sure it was our beloved?” she enquired, her fingers embracing the face of her new first prime to the recognised sole surviving system lord. “Here?”

“Yes my queen,” Amir replied. “He had others with him.”

“We do not want him harmed, bring him to us alive. Kill the others,” she ordered.

Settled within Heru’ur’s palace, Hathor regarded Nyerti.  “How many of our vessels escaped intact?”

“Fifty that we are sure of,” Nyerti replied. “Those creatures were like a plague, there must have been thousands.”

“Possibly only fifty are capable of such destruction.  You are certain none of the Furlings remain?” Hathor queried.

“As certain as we can be,” Osiris answered. “Perhaps Transphase Eradication weapons might better ensure they no longer infest our vessels?”

“Take them, see that none of those creatures survive,” Hathor asserted. Her attention turned to Nyerti. “You will see to it that our Jaffa capture our Pharaoh alive!”

Nyerti bowed her head. “It is done!”

 

*****

Hammond lifted the phone, listening to the caller, his features darkening as he did so.  “Abort!” he snapped.

Sergeant Davis reacted immediately.

O’Neill looked up at the control room expectantly.  Hammond beckoned him, bringing a heavy sigh. “Now what?” he hissed.

Daniel shared his trepidation, looking at the general suspiciously before following the colonel.

“Sir?”

“Seems Colonel Maybourne is here,” Hammond said, a frown of disdain forming on his round features.

“Here?” Jack looked surprised, glancing across at Sergeant Davis and indicating that he should leave the room. Once he was out of earshot O’Neill added, “can we not arrest him?”

“Colonel, are you out of your mind? Maybourne is wanted for treason!” Hammond snapped.

“Apparently,” O’Neill commented. “Sir, he helped save the life of Major Carter, and with the other thing, sir, I think this might be important,” he asserted. “If ill advised! He wouldn’t risk coming here if it wasn’t.”

“Alright, Colonel, you’ve got five minutes.  Then I expect you to arrest him, is that clear?” Hammond stated.

O’Neill nodded. “Yes, sir, perfectly clear!” he agreed.

Daniel looked perplexed. “This can’t be good,” he remarked, following O’Neill toward the elevator.

“Nope!” Jack replied. “How the hell do I say he got away this time?”

“This time?” Daniel sounded surprised.

The two men stood face to face as the elevator doors closed, an accusatory stare on Jackson’s features, matched by a profoundly bored expression on the face of O’Neill.

“Oh come on Daniel, whatever Maybourne did he was just a puppet, and he’s been much more useful to me on the outside than he would be in some prison cell somewhere!” Jack retorted.

“Great! So I’m just going to assume that you have a plan?” Daniel enquired glibly. “Because we’re both looking at charges here if this backfires!”

“Oh yeah,” Jack reassured. “Yeah!”

Maybourne breathed a deep sigh of relief as O’Neill emerged from the SGC, walking toward him in what seemed like a big hurry.

“Harry,” he greeted. “Got a good reason for trying to get me court martialled?”

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t, would I?” Maybourne retorted, acknowledging Jackson.

“So?”

“Colonel Darnell has entrusted me with a little babysitting job!” Maybourne told him, signalling toward his 4x4. “A Goa’uld, or Colonel Stuart and a Goa’uld.”

Daniel’s eyes expanded in surprise. “What?”

“And you’re telling me this why?” Jack enquired, looking vexed.

Maybourne shrugged his eyes lighting up with a mirthful smile. “They want the Goa’uld to take you out Jack, and I thought you’d find that a little distasteful!”

O’Neill rolled his eyes. “For crying out loud, Harry, why didn’t you just shoot it?” he asked.

“It is Colonel Stuart, Jack, and I thought you’d appreciate handing him over to the Tok’ra for extraction, and having one of the key NID boys in your hands!” Maybourne’s wry smile made O’Neill shudder.

“Alright, what’s in this for you?” he enquired.

“I want to join you, work with you, but I figure Hammond’s not exactly going to go for that without something useful to bargain with,” Maybourne replied honestly. “I’ve got information and knowledge that could prove very useful to both of you!”

“You’ve got to be kidding?” Jack snapped, laughing now. “It’s not up to Hammond, you’re convicted of treason Harry!”

“Oh come on Jack, we make a great team and I’m more useful to you than you’d like to admit!” Maybourne insisted. “Besides, I’ve got the evidence I need to clear my name, and what with your connections with Air Force One and all!”

“There’s something about being around you that gives me the creeps, Maybourne!” Jack retorted dubiously. “What makes you think I’d want you on my team?”

“One time offer, Jack,” the former NID man replied.

“Jack, you’re not even going to consider trusting him?” Daniel enquired openly.

“I don’t trust him and he knows it,” Jack responded.

“Have you ever considered the idea of having someone who’s worked within this community actually on your side?” Maybourne remarked. “Because right now, Jack, they’re out to get you, foul or fair means.  I can help you with that.”

“Harry, I really don’t have time for this,” Jack groaned. “Carter, Teal’c and the jarhead are out there… somewhere, and with the whole universe currently engaged with the damn Goa’uld…”

“Off to play hero again, Jack?” Maybourne interceded. “Because right now I know of six or more charges the NID is trying to prepare against you, I can make them disappear Jack, I have the intelligence.”

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “Intelligence,” he echoed sarcastically.

“Oh, he’s got that alright,” Jack sighed. “Just likes to use it in all the wrong situations.  Harry, can we do this later?”

“I can’t keep this Goa’uld under wraps indefinitely, Jack!” Maybourne challenged.

Jack’s low growling moan punctuated his frown. “Sweet!” he intoned. “Wait here!”

Daniel and Maybourne eyed each other warily.  “Just got back?” the former NID man asked.

“Not long ago actually,” Daniel replied.

“You know, he won’t stay alive much longer if the NID has their way.  He poses too much of a threat to them, knows too much!” Maybourne stated.

“And you really care about Jack,” Daniel mocked, biting his bottom lip before he continued.

“Actually no!” Maybourne admitted. “I respect him, but I don’t care for him much at all.”

“Well, that’s refreshing,” Daniel goaded. “Honesty.”

“Okay, Harry where’s the snakehead?” Jack demanded. “Hammond’s agreed to listen. You get my ass court martialled for this and I swear wherever they put me, I’ll find you!”

Maybourne smiled, his lips pursing in that triumphant regard he often wore.  “You might want to help,” he pointed out. “I don’t think Colonel Stuart or his friend are going to be that happy about seeing you so soon!”

O’Neill took the Zat from it’s holder, opening the weapon, the second Maybourne opened the door he fired, sending Stuart to the ground, writhing in pain.

“Hey! Glad you could drop by!” he announced as the SFs cuffed the Goa’uld.

“Let’s get him downstairs and in a cell, sooner the better!”

 

*****

Hammond sat behind his desk waiting on O’Neill and Maybourne, reticent for even agreeing to have a man wanted for treason in his facility, yet trusting that O’Neill wouldn’t have agreed to it unless he had a fairly good get out clause.

Maybourne wore handcuffs as the two entered the office. “Close the door, Colonel,” Hammond instructed, watching as O’Neill did so, his second action to remove the cuffs.

“Thank you, Jack,” Maybourne acknowledged.

“Sit down, Harry!” Jack instructed. “General, it seems that Colonel Maybourne is ready to give us the evidence we require on the men responsible for ordering him to cooperate with the Russians.”

“What are you up to, Maybourne?” Hammond asked, his distaste at having the man in his office evident.

“Well, General, I’d like my life back,” Maybourne stated honestly. “This being on the run thing gets a little old after a while.  Even if I am better at it than anyone pursuing me!”

“Harry, just get to the point,” Jack insisted, his patience with the verbal jousting wearing thin.

“General, I present you with the evidence that will hopefully go a long way to clearing my name, and the Goa’uld that the NID have had in their possession for over four months.  Colonel Stuart will be willing, I’m sure, to testify to the fact that certain high-ranking members of the NID were complicit in dealing with the Goa’uld and trying to kill Colonel O’Neill and his team.  And another plot to take over the SGC which you are well aware of since it was you they blackmailed to obtain control.”

“That doesn’t alter the charges against you, Maybourne,” Hammond pointed out. “You were still complicit with operations, including stealing from our alien allies!”

“I was following orders, General, just like everyone else!” Maybourne countered. “Jack disobeys orders all the time, he’s still here.”

“What are you asking for exactly?” Hammond enquired, still dubious.

“I want to be part of the SGC, legitimately, working with Jack specifically,” Maybourne stated. “Which isn’t as bizarre as it sounds, I figure you need someone around here that knows how the intelligence community works.”

“You think I don’t?” Hammond retorted.

“I think you were ill prepared for that little stunt with your grandchildren, General,” Maybourne’s riposte a perfect one.

“Alright, Harry, I think we get the point!” Jack said. “General, Harry wants to accompany us on our current mission, which whilst he’s still wanted for treason might be kinda dicey, but since he’s pretty adamant that we’ve still got NID moles working in some of the units who have my ass in their sights, I figure we could probably get around that if he wasn’t listed officially,” O’Neill continued.

“Colonel, are you out of your mind?” Hammond snapped.

“Again, probably!” O’Neill replied.

“Absolutely not!”

“Sir, he’s delivered the Goa’uld, you’ve got the evidence, do ya really want to keep him here?” Jack asked.

Maybourne smiled at Hammond. “Come on, General, I might get killed in action!” he jested.

Outside Hammond’s office, Maybourne exhaled loudly. “Thanks Jack,” he said.

“Don’t go there!  I have no idea why I agreed to do this… suffice to say, you try anything and I’ll shoot you myself!”

“I told you, Jack, I know most of the NID moles, you have one in your unit I can identify him before he tries to take you out!” Maybourne retorted.

Jack sighed heavily. “Yeah, makes me feel better knowing you’re watching my back!”

“What’s happening?” Daniel enquired, as the two men descended the stairs from the briefing room.

“We got Harry!” Jack groaned.

Daniel’s eyebrows shot into his forehead. “We do?”

“Wait for us in the embarkation room, Daniel, just taking Maybourne to get kitted up!” Jack instructed.

Jackson shrugged, heading back toward the gate room, a glance round at the two men, and a dismayed shake of his head.

“Listen Jack, I know you don’t think this NID thing is really a problem, but once they get their teeth into something they don’t let go!” Maybourne said.

“Harry, I can’t be concerned with the NID right now, a little down my list of priorities!” Jack replied, sounding bored with the whole issue.

“Doesn’t matter how many of them we take down, contract’s out, they won’t stop until they fill it!” Maybourne persisted.

You trying to make yourself important here, Harry?” Jack enquired, ushering the man into the locker room.

“I’m just trying to make you aware of the danger you’re in,” Maybourne asserted.

“Gee thanks! But you know, I’ve faced a lot worse than the NID, Maybourne,” the colonel retorted dryly. “Besides, we might not even make it back from this mission!”

Maybourne smiled. “I’ll take my chances!  But you? The NID can kill you a hundred ways Jack; they probably already have your house bugged, hell they could poison or drug your water, haul you off in the middle of the night and you’d just disappear! No one would find you!”

O’Neill exhaled, attempting to illustrate his disinterest.  “You know Harry, this is getting old.  I’ve pretty much faced everything the universe can throw at me.”

“Not this Jack, these guys are something you can never be prepared for,” Maybourne asserted confidently. “They can kill you in a second.”

O’Neill was across the room so fast Maybourne didn’t see him move; the glowing red eyes now inches from his own. “You think so Harry?” he hissed.

Maybourne stumbled backward, shock and surprise registering on his face. “Jesus, Jack, what did they do to you?” he asked.

“Let’s go, Harry,” Jack replied, a smug expression now adorning his handsome features.

 

*****

Makepeace fell backwards as the death glider flew over, firing his P90 up at the iron bird.

“Oh yeah,” O’Neill goaded. “That’ll stop it!”

“Jesus, you’re as much of a pain in the ass as the real O’Neill!” Makepeace countered.  “Got any more munitions, because I’m almost out!”

“Not exactly packing much myself, but hey! If anyone is in the palace right now, they’re not gonna be for long!” O’Neill replied.

Amir moved quickly along the corridor toward Hathor.  “My queen, the guards have discovered some form of explosive substance within the palace.”

Hathor stood, her shield raised around her, as the explosion impacted, tearing through the palace, sending the Goa’uld crashing through the large windows behind her into the garden, the shield taking most of the force, yet still leaving her unconscious.

“Whoa!” O’Neill’s clone exclaimed. “You gotta love that!”

Makepeace stared through the binoculars at the explosion.  “Yeah, especially since it’s coming this way!”

“What?”

“Must have a damn Naqada vein!” Makepeace observed.

The two men glanced at each other. “Gotta go!” O’Neill agreed.

“Oh yeah!” Makepeace concurred.

Nyerti stood over Carter and Teal’c, a triumphant smile adorning her supercilious features.

“It would seem you have run out of places to hide, Major Carter,” she remarked. “And, one of our mortally wounded Jaffa has presented us with a gift!”

She lifted the symbiote, allowing it to wriggle free of her grasp and leap at Carter, who didn’t react quickly enough to prevent it from entering her body through the throat.

Teal’c, attempting to catch it, turned his gaze toward Nyerti.  “I will kill you!” he snapped, trying to get to his feet.  The Jaffa that now surrounded them overwhelmed him before knocking him unconscious.

Carter stood slowly. “It is my honour to serve you,” her Goa’uld captor stated, bowing its head.

The Carter clone watched from the cover of dense undergrowth with Jackson, shaking her head slowly. “Now what?”

“Jack isn’t going to be very happy with us,” Daniel stated.

“We’d better find him,” Carter said. “This puts a whole new spin on the problem!”

“Yes, your biological self just joined the other team and became a Goa’uld, he might want to know that!” Daniel agreed.

 

*****

Maybourne stood shoulder to shoulder with Jackson at the bottom of the ramp in the embarkation room, waiting as O’Neill and Coburn set off the grenades and tossed them through the gate.

“He’s different,” Maybourne commented, visually uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry?” Daniel enquired, distracted somewhat by his own thoughts. “What did you say?”

“He’s not exactly still totally himself is he?” Maybourne continued.

“What exactly are you saying?” Daniel asked, looking dubiously at the former NID man.

“His eyes, speed, something happened to him out there,” Maybourne stated.

“Oh that,” Daniel’s tone was oddly flippant. “Residual affects, Colonel Maybourne.  That’s what he gets for serving his country.”

The archaeologist missed Maybourne’s scowl as Jack signalled for them to move out.

Stepping through the gate Maybourne fell to his knees. “Oh my god,” he gushed. “Amazing!”

“Shake it off, Harry, unless you wanna stick around here for target practise,” Jack remarked. “Daniel, stay close to him!”

Jackson nodded. “I have him covered,” he replied, taking his Zat weapon from its holder. “Make a move, please!”  The archaeologist added provocatively.

Jack smiled to himself as he watched Maybourne’s grimace.  “Let’s move out people!”

“Colonel,” Major Coburn called out. “These Jaffa were poisoned, sir.”

“Yeah, probably the handy work of the other guy!” Jack replied, looking at Coburn who was slightly surprised. “Look, Major, this might come as a shock to you, but there’s another Colonel O’Neill out there, a robot copy of me, exactly, only he probably doesn’t have the grey!”

“A robot, sir?” Coburn responded. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”

“I don’t know Major, why doesn’t it?” O’Neill replied grinning. “I don’t see much Jaffa activity around here, maybe the Furlings took ‘em all out after all.”

“If that’s the case, why didn’t Sam and Teal’c just come back to the base?” Daniel asked.

“Because they don’t know?” Jack reminded him. “It’s kinda quiet, I don’t like it!”

“What are you thinking Jack?” Maybourne asked.

“I’m thinking ambush actually, and right now…” The staff weapon blast missed the colonel narrowly. “We’re sitting ducks!” he yelled as the entire team fled toward the trees, heading away from the palace.

“What the hell are they shooting at?” Makepeace enquired, as he and the clone slid down a small hill heading for the Stargate.

The O’Neill clone groaned loudly, with his enhanced vision he could see exactly what they were shooting at.

“Looks like my old self is here,” he remarked.  “We’d better go around, see if we can rendezvous with them.  There’s only six Jaffa pursuing, we should be able to take those guys out!”

“Sure, let’s move,” Makepeace concurred. “Why the hell didn’t he just use the ship?”

Jack moved around Daniel trying to get a better fix on where their pursuers were, looking across at Maybourne.

“Having fun yet, Harry?”

“I’m still here,” Maybourne responded, looking dubiously at Jackson. “Maybe you want to point that weapon at the real enemy?” he advised.

“I thought I was,” Daniel remarked.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Cadet Hailey yelled. “Left flank, sir, moving low and fast.”

Jack looked across, instantly recognising the two forms moving through the undergrowth.

“Well isn’t that special,” he groaned. “Hold your fire, it’s the damn robot and the jarhead!”

“This just gets more and more interesting,” Maybourne commented, still attentive to both the danger surrounding them, and this new threat Jackson posed.

“What are they doing?” Coburn enquired, trying to see what the colonel had.

“Looks like they’re playing hero!” Jack commented sourly.

The speed and strength of O’Neill’s clone sent him around the pursuing Jaffa quickly, tossing a grenade into the middle of the first group, and combining with Makepeace, who had stayed to the left in taking the rest down with P90 fire, the bullets criss-crossing into the six Jaffa gave them little chance to pick out a target.  The clone nodded at Makepeace, satisfied, indicating immediately to attempt the position of the SG unit.

“O’Neill, what the heck are you doing?” Makepeace asked, as he crashed to the floor beside the colonel unceremoniously.

“Well, I thought I’d bring a team out here for a stroll, Makepeace,” Jack retorted sternly. “Damn Jaffa get everywhere!”

“Give me a break, O’Neill, right now I don’t need your wiseass cracks!” Makepeace snarled. “I’ve had just about enough of that smart ass clone of yours!”

“Fine,” Jack agreed, his face contorting with anger suddenly. “Just what the heck are you doing with my team and the damn robot!” Eyeing the clone, who was mirroring his disdainful glare. “You’re out of your damn depth,” he added, in the direction of the clone.

“I’m out of my depth,” the clone snapped. “Look who’s hiding in the damn forest?”

“Don’t see you exactly out there having a blast either,” Jack responded. “Where are Carter and Teal’c?” he demanded, this time at Makepeace.

“We got split up, Teal’c’s taken a hit.”

“Oh that’s great, Makepeace, way to run a mission!” Jack growled. “Alright, give me a status report, what the hell are we dealing with here?”

“Sir,” the Carter clone arrived from nowhere, startling Hailey as she appeared close to her.  Coburn lowered his weapon the instant he realised it was a friendly.

“Carter, what’s going on? Where are the others?” the O’Neill clone asked.

The clone did a double take, looking at her own O’Neill, then to the real one. “Okay, this is weird!” she commented.

Jack looked at the Carter clone, the senses that now enhanced his ability to discern biological from artificial told him instantly this wasn’t the right one.

“Where’s Carter?” he asked.

Jackson looked surprised. “Jack, that is Carter!”

“No, I mean the real one.  Daniel, will you just shut up for a minute?  Makepeace, where the hell are my team?” Jack demanded, scowling now at the entire party.

Jackson groaned inwardly, used to the colonel’s often-brusque nature.

Makepeace shrugged. “This Carter and Daniel were with your team, Jack, so ask them, hah?”

“Great!” O’Neill snapped. “Does anyone actually know what the hell is going on around here, or do I need the yellow pages?”

O’Neill’s clone moved closer to Carter. “Carter?” he enquired.

“That’s just it, sir, they took them to a ship.  There’s something else, sir,” Carter said, her tone unmistakeably dire.

“What?” Jack demanded, at the same time as his clone.

“She’s a Goa’uld, sir.”

“A Goa’uld,” O’Neill’s clone retorted with disgust.

“There was nothing we could do.  We left them for a second to scout ahead and…”

Jack’s fury registered in his eyes silently. “Makepeace, you brought my team here, to this?” he snapped.

“Excuse me?” Makepeace snapped. “This wasn’t my idea… it was, look!  We need to focus here, Jack, if they’ve turned Carter into a Goa’uld and taken her and Teal’c on a ship, they must be bugging out.  We need to know where!”

Maybourne sighed heavily. “Well, this just gets better and better doesn’t it?” he remarked. “Does anybody actually ever have a plan out here?”

“Maybourne, shut up!” Jack hissed. “I’m trying to think here.”

“That should take a while,” the clone remarked back at his biological self.

“You really don’t want to find out,” Daniel warned.

“Makepeace, was it Hathor?” Jack enquired.

“No, I didn’t see Hathor, come to think of it all I saw were Horus guards, no damn Goa’ulds, must be Heru’ur!”

“He’s dead!” Daniel said. “Jack?”

The colonel ignored Daniel; his thoughts racing too fast to worry about whatever urgency his friend might have to find their team.  He didn’t have the Sengo’lians, nor the ability to communicate with the Ancients, all he had was a sense that he was losing the ability to focus. Taking a deep breath, he focused instead on the clones.

“Carter, what did the Goa’uld look like,” he demanded.

“It was Nyerti,” Daniel’s clone stated confidently.

The Jackson clone did a double take at himself before settling down beside Carter. “That’s the only Goa’uld I haven’t seen before that could possibly dress and look like that,” he added.

“Dark hair, eyes, dressed in early Indian ceremonial type attire?” Jackson asked his clone.

“Actually, yes.  Which is what led me to believe it would be Nyerti…

“SHUT UP!” O’Neill yelled at the top of his lungs.

“Oh stealthy!” his double retorted.

“I’m so gonna deal with you later!” Jack told his android self.

“Two of all of you?” Hailey remarked, fascinated.

“Cadet! This is hardly the time to go all gooey eyed over the damn robots!” Jack complained. “Daniel, the real one! We’re gonna need that thing I said I couldn’t use anymore.”

“Can you bring it here from this distance?” Daniel enquired.

Jack sighed heavily. “Not without help,” he said, suddenly disheartened.

“What?” Makepeace asked.

“We need the ship, the Ancients ship, it’s the only chance we have of tracking them,” Daniel explained. “And Jack’s lost the connection to the Sengo’lians.”

“He has?” Makepeace looked surprised. “Heck of a time for that to happen.”


”Well, gee, Robert, next time I’ll check your disaster chart to see if having a bunch of aliens in my head is required!” Jack snarled.

“What do you need?” Carter’s clone enquired. “Maybe we can help?”

“Not with this,” Jack responded.

“I know everything you know!” his clone stated.

Jack looked around at him. “Is that how you lost two of my team?  Knowing everything?” he enquired disdainfully.  “Because I gotta tell ya, so far you’re batting zero with me pal!”

“I have the Ancients download, I can link into the damn console and have that ship here in a minute!” the clone countered.

“Except there isn’t a console, this thing operates… operated with a link to the Ancients through the Sengo’lians, have their number, do ya?”

“Jack, you do realise you’re ostensibly arguing with yourself right?” Maybourne pointed out.

“Shut up, Maybourne,” both O’Neill’s said in unison. “Look,” Jack continued. “If it’s Hathor then we know where she’d go, the trouble is getting Hammond to let me off the damn base again if I go back!”

“So we don’t go back!” Coburn said. “Whatever it takes, Colonel, we’re with you a hundred per cent.”

“Thanks, Major, but I have a feeling we’re going to have to,” Jack replied. “Since the damn ship is in orbit over Earth, and I have no way of bringing it here.”

“What about the Furlings?” Daniel enquired.

“Great idea, except I can’t exactly contact them either!” Jack told him. “Just give me a minute here, I need to think.”

“Tok’ra?” Hailey suggested.

“Jacob?” Jack replied. “I don’t think he or the Tok’ra have any way of helping us right now, they’re regrouping.”

“Colonel, exactly how did these Sengo’lians bridge the distances across space?” Carter asked.

“I don’t know, some kind of telepathy,” Jack answered, distracted suddenly.

“She’s here!” he said suddenly, closing his eyes as anger made them turn red.

“Hathor?” Daniel knew instantly what he meant. “Jack, that’s a little risky.”

“Ya think?” the colonel responded, getting a grip on his emotions, calming the inner fury and rage that seemed to build out of control.

“What are you thinking, Jack?” Maybourne enquired.

“I’m thinking that she wants me,” Jack replied, able now to restrain the primeval desire for revenge.  He opened his eyes. “And if that’s the only way I can get Carter and Teal’c back, then she’s got me!”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jack,” Daniel cautioned. “You’re not exactly going to be able to break out of there like you did the last time.”

“I know that!” Jack hissed. “Which is why I’m…

“What about this ship?” his clone asked. “These Asgard you’ve got a treaty with?”

“Since they didn’t take Sam from Earth, and we’ve probably got no way of contacting them either, they’re not exactly going to help either!” Daniel replied.

“At least the High council won’t,” he continued. “They have issues with Jack!”

“Who saved their asses if I’m not mistaken,” the clone retorted. “So don’t they owe us one?”

“Us?” Jack remonstrated. “Us didn’t get Carter and Teal’c in this damn mess in the first place, pal!”

“Sirs, this isn’t the time to assign blame,” Carter’s clone pointed out.

“Jack, we need to do something,” Daniel stated.

“I know,” Jack sighed. “I just don’t know the best damn way to do it yet. Except I can’t put another team in jeopardy here. Coburn, take your team and report back to Hammond, we’ll cover you.  Makepeace, take the robots and go recon the damn palace.”

“We blew the palace,” Makepeace told him.

“Well here’s news!” Jack retorted. “Is that why they decided to bug out?”  Another accusatory glance toward his clone.

“Hey, who knew?” the clone retorted.

Jack sighed heavily, for the first time in a long time he found himself without the power to do things that he’d taken for granted.

“Jack?”

The entire team stared at him. O’Neill lowered his head, trying to think a way out of an impossible situation, the sudden feeling of emptiness without the Sengo’lians making the enormity echo around his mind.  “Coburn, report back to Hammond, tell him what’s happened.  Take your team, do it now.  Makepeace, make sure they get back through the gate and then get your ass back here!” he snarled.

“Yes, sir,” Coburn acknowledged. “Permission to speak, sir?”

“No!” Jack snapped. “I know you mean well, Major, but I can’t use you!”

“Yes, sir,” Coburn replied, looking slightly deflated.

“Jack, what about the NID boys that you turned over to Hathor?” Maybourne enquired.

“Osiris,” Daniel corrected. “We don’t know what happened to them, and frankly, I don’t think I care!”

“I care,” Jack stated.

Daniel looked across at the colonel, concerned by Jack’s attitude; it seemed almost defeatist.

“The Furlings,” he said again.

“I don’t know how!” Jack snapped.

“We know the planet Jack, that’s where you sent them right?” Daniel asked.

“Yep!”

“So?”

“What are they gonna do without a ship, Daniel?” Jack enquired, looking at the archaeologist almost as if he were imploring him to have an answer.

“Can’t hurt to ask?”

“Who the heck are the Furlings?” Makepeace enquired.

“Why are you still here?” Jack demanded. “Gate, now!”

Makepeace shook his head. “Let’s go, Major,” he ordered.

“Sir, who are the Furlings?” Carter enquired, once Makepeace and SG2 had left their position.

“I am, Major,” Jack replied.

“What?” Maybourne’s amazement etched into his eyes, as well as the tone of his voice.

“Look, the Furlings are one of the four race alliance, they were combined with the Asgard, The Ancients, and the Nox,” Daniel explained. “What we didn’t know was that we encountered them, or at least their leader, a while ago on a planet where Jack became infected by a… disease they carry.”

Maybourne looked dubiously at O’Neill. “Disease?”

“Don’t worry, Harry, it isn’t catching unless I want it to be!” Jack reassured.

“What’s the disease exactly?” Carter enquired, fascinated to learn what their biological selves had been doing.

“That doesn’t matter,” Daniel replied, attempting to at least keep some information from Maybourne, whom he still didn’t trust. “What matters is the Asgard managed to cure Jack of it.”

“Actually that was you, when you shot me!” Jack reminded the archaeologist.

“You shot him?” Daniel’s clone asked, looking surprised.

“Oh yeah,” Jack replied.

Daniel shook his head. “Can we please just get this over with so I can try and explain what we’re dealing with here?” he implored, ruefully glancing at O’Neill. “And shooting you was the only way to cure you! Unless you forgot?”

“Nope, I remember that quite clearly actually.  But that won’t work now!  In fact,” O’Neill sat up, his shoulders suddenly broader.  “I don’t think it would work with any weapon anymore.”

”What are you saying, was he cured or not?” Maybourne, now completely confused, asked.

“Yes, he, er, was.  But when he rescued the Furlings from their prison, the other side of a Black hole, to bring them here to stop the Goa’uld… long story,” Daniel added. “Suffice to say, if the Sengo’lians had remained in Jack’s mind, he would have died.  The Furlings offered to save him.”

“So you’re not human?” Carter observed, fascinated.

“No, I’m not strictly human,” Jack agreed.

“That would explain the speed and the red eyes!” Maybourne noted glibly.

“Colonel, what makes you think you’re immune to small arms fire?” Carter asked.

“Not just small arms, Major… Captain,” Jack corrected, forgetting himself for a moment. “Nothing harms these Furlings… nothing!”

“Shall we test?” his clone asked, backing off. “Kidding, how does this help?”

“Hathor will still think I’ve got all those interesting links, the kind of power that makes her crazy!”  Jack explained to his clone. “It’s just Makepeace,” he added, without thinking, as something approached.

“And some pretty impressive senses,” Carter remarked. “Sir, just what are these Furlings?”

Jack looked at Daniel, Jackson lowering his eyes for a second before nodding his agreement. “Can’t hurt,” he said.

“Team get through the gate okay, Robert?” Jack asked, as Makepeace settled back.

“Yeah, there wasn’t a single Jaffa anywhere,” he replied. “So what did we decide on?”

“Colonel was just about to tell us what he is!” Carter told Makepeace.

“What he is?” the marine repeated, looking confused.

“We’re gonna go get my new race!” Jack commented, a wry smile crossing his features. “I’ll introduce you!”

“What the heck’s going on?” Makepeace enquired, looking completely confused.

“Jack had to make a choice, Makepeace,” Maybourne told him. “Survival as something else, or death.”

“Oh,” Makepeace muttered. “Er, what’s the something else, exactly?”

“Furling,” Daniel told him.

“Which is?” Makepeace persisted.

“You’re about to find out,” Maybourne answered. “I think we all are.”  The former NID man seemed to be enjoying himself far too much for Jackson’s liking.

Daniel walked beside the colonel as they headed toward the gate. “Are we going to be safe?” he enquired, his voice lowered so as not to alert the others.

“You will be, clones are useless.  I’ll keep my eyes on Makepeace, you keep Harry out of trouble!” Jack replied.

“Oh boy!” Daniel sighed.

 

*****

The fifty remaining motherships landed safely on Hathor’s home world, Nyerti bringing the two prizes to the Goa’uld queen, who had suffered little injury, although some two hundred Jaffa had been lost in the explosion at the palace.

Hathor smiled brightly at Carter. “Well, this will undoubtedly bring him to us, you have done well,” she told Nyerti.

“He will seek vengeance,” Osiris asserted.

“No, he will be more concerned with saving the host,” Hathor corrected. “This one means more to him than others.”

“She is of no consequence,” the Goa’uld who possessed Carter responded.

“Bastet is eager to serve you,” Nyerti said. “She has long awaited a host that would afford her the opportunity to take vengeance upon those who imprisoned her!”

“And so she shall,” Hathor replied. “Beginning with those whom our beloved has most affection for!”

Bastet’s eyes glowed, lowering her head to acknowledge the order of her queen. “It shall be done,” she replied. “The host has the knowledge, I shall do your bidding.”

“We are sure he will not bring those creatures with him?” Osiris asked. “To vanquish us?”

“He will not risk this host,” Hathor replied confidently. “The Furlings will not show mercy upon any host who possesses a symbiote!”

 

*****

 “Dial it up, Daniel,” Jack ordered as they reached the Stargate.

“O’Neill?” Makepeace began. “These Furlings, you’re one of them right?”

“That’s right, Makepeace,” Jack responded.

“So how the heck do we know we can trust you?” he demanded, raising his P90.  Something about O’Neill was spooking the marine.

“Shoot me,” Jack told him.

“Relax,” Maybourne urged, stepping alongside the marine. “If he wanted to take you, or any of us out, trust me, he’d have done it by now!”

“Trust you?” Makepeace snapped. “I don’t know which of you I trust less!”

“Makepeace, just calm down.  The Colonel would hardly come here to save his team if he had the intention of taking anyone out!” Carter stated. “Whatever these Furlings are, if the Colonel’s okay with them, then they’re fine by me!”

“Yeah, someone said the same about the damn Asgard!” Makepeace pointed out. “Look at how much value they’ve been!”

“Makepeace, if you have a problem with helping me save my team, go back to Earth!” Jack snarled. “If you want to help me, shut up!”

The marine looked at O’Neill, his eyes narrowing. “I’m with you, my mess after all,” he acknowledged.

“Sweet, so shut up and… Daniel why isn’t the damn gate engaging?” Jack asked.

“I think I forgot the coordinates,” Jackson stated honestly.

“Now what?” Makepeace intoned.

“Er, I think we have an incoming wormhole,” Jackson’s clone pointed out, as the first chevron engaged.

“Cover up!” O’Neill ordered.

The event horizon formed as the SG team looked on, waiting for whoever had dialled that destination to appear.

 

*****

Hammond smiled at Jacob Carter, the Tok’ra, along with Perseus and other leaders captured by the Goa’uld, had arrived at his facility.

“I’ve got to tell you, George,” Jacob admitted, as they assembled around the briefing table. “I really thought we were goners there for a while!”

“What happened?” Major Davis enquired.

“Jack sent some of his friends, and boy, they were scary individuals I have to tell you!” Jacob explained.

“The Furlings,” Perseus told them. “A race not seen for thousands of years, and yet they follow the will of your Colonel.”

“Colonel O’Neill has a unique way of collecting allies,” Hammond stated. “He’s off world at the moment.”

“Another assignment?” Jacob enquired.

“That’s classified,” Hammond said. “Now, what we would like to know is why the Tok’ra decided to take matters into their own hands and kidnap both Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson!”

Jacob looked across at Perseus who nodded.  “That’s a long story,” he stated, with approval from the high counsellor.

 

*****

Jack instantly recognised Aiestrodous, the tall figure surrounded others of his race.

“It’s cool, they’re kinda family,” he told the others, standing and approaching the Furlings.

“O’Neill,” Aiestrodous greeted. “We are aware of your problem.”

“I’m not even gonna ask how,” Jack replied, his hand extended, the creature taking a firm grasp on his wrist. “What do you think?”

“There are many problems with what you ask,” Aiestrodous informed him. “The Goa’uld that inhabits your friend will not be as easily removed as you might believe.”

“Okay, someone want to tell me what language these guys are speaking?” Makepeace enquired.

“Me too!” Maybourne said.

Daniel looked at the clones. “You understand that?” he asked.

The three shook their heads in dismay. “Basically Aiestrodous is telling Jack that the Goa’uld that has taken Sam isn’t going to be easy to remove,” he translated; wondering why he could understand since there was no link between he and O’Neill.

“What are you saying?” Jack asked.

“Bastet is an ancient Goa’uld, as old as Hathor, and possessing the same abilities.  She is a queen, capable of forming a bond unlike any other to the host.”

“Oh for crying out loud!” Jack groaned.

“He said difficult, Jack, not impossible,” Daniel stated. “That’s what you said right?”

“Yes,” Aiestrodous replied.

“Spell it out for me,” Jack continued. “We can get there, we can get Carter, but we can’t necessarily get the damn Goa’uld out of her?”

“Yes,” Aiestrodous confirmed.

“Well this is great!” Jack stated.

“Now that I understood,” Makepeace commented. “What’s going on?”

“We have a problem snake, Makepeace, one of my team has got a practically un-removable damn snake in her head!” Jack remonstrated. “Man, I am so gonna harm you guys!”

“There is but one way,” Aiestrodous began. “It is a risk, and we will require a place for the symbiote to feel safe.”

“Kill the host?” Daniel asked suspiciously.

“The threat alone would be enough to secure its extraction!” Aiestrodous told him.

“Listen to me,” Jack snapped. “You don’t do to Carter what you did to me, am I making myself clear on that?”

Aiestrodous nodded. “This is not our intention, but it must appear so.” 

“Jack, if it means we get her back you’re going to have to trust this… him,” Daniel stressed. “It’s not like we have that many choices if he’s telling the truth.”

“I don’t have any reason to doubt what he’s saying, Daniel, or did you forget that I’m kinda part of this family now too?” Jack pointed out.

“No, I just mean…”

“I know what you mean,” Jack retorted bitterly. “Choice less!”

“Yeah, I get that too,” Daniel sighed. “So how do we get there?”

”We are able to retrieve your ship, Jack,” Aiestrodous said. “Since we are capable, as are you, of cloaking your presence.”

“I can do stealth?” Jack enquired.

“Wish it so,” Aiestrodous instructed. “And it shall be.”

Sweet, won’t get us through an Iris though,” Jack replied. “Are there any other things I should know about this being a Furling deal?”

“There is much to know, yet no time to discover.  We must endeavour to retrieve your friend, the longer the bond, the more the host will resist salvation.”

Jack looked at Daniel shaking his head in dismay. “Gotta hand it to her, she thought this one through,” he commented.

“She knows you too well,” Daniel agreed.


The End.  Continued in 'Malevolence'.

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