Summary: Deep thoughts of melting points and woodwork while the team split to work alone for a while. A big surprise awaits them at the shipyard.
Many thanks to Joy for the beta.
We're in the final stages of planning for our mission to what we think is Hades' new shipyard. I looked at the location on the holomap and we've discovered that it's deep inside Goa'uld territory, so we're - rather obviously - going in on the big ship, weapons ready and the cloak on.
Daniel's finally come up with a name for the ship. After lots of drunken debate when Paul was here, we went through a whole list of possibilities, putting in plenty of our own ideas as well as listening to his. They didn't like Ethel for some reason. Don't know why. Neither was Jack's idea of 'Titanic' accepted readily.
For some reason, we decided on Gimli, said in Norse mythology to be the most beautiful palace which, according to Daniel, shone more brightly than the sun. It was believed that it would remain standing after Ragnorok - the end of the world. It would be the place that the gods would live together in peace. Somehow, the legend had a resonance with all of us.
MIB are coming with us, just in case we find we can act immediately. That's not the initial plan, but we have to be ready for anything. This is supposed to be a reconnoitre rather than an action. If, however, we see ships ready for the taking, or some - as yet - unforeseen event takes place, we will act.
The hope is that at some point we will be able to take some ships, one each for the Tok'ra, MIB and Earth. Maybe we will be able to persuade the Asgard to refit them with complete Asgard technology. We'll need that if we're to defeat Hades, I'm sure.
The gate is opening. Automatically we rush to the trees to check out who's coming. We still don't believe that Annwn is unknown to the Goa'uld, even if we have no evidence to show that they know it.
It's Dad. That's great. Partly because I want to see him, but - I have to admit to myself - mainly because it's no one uninvited.
"Dad! Good to see you."
"Sam, guys, what's the occasion?"
"Come on, Jacob," Jack calls out. "We've got some news for you."
Paul said that Hammond hadn't been able to contact Dad when the information from the MALP came through. Even though we're certain the Tok'ra are now clear of any spies, there is still a reluctance in us all to discuss operational details openly or with anyone that isn't Dad.
We're back at the house, sitting around the table, and Jack's showing Dad the images. Dad lets out a low whistle.
"What's the plan?" he asks, grinning as he knows we're up to something.
Jack gives him the details and finishes by asking, "If we can manage it, could the Tok'ra find somewhere to put a ship?"
Dad looks stunned, then he laughs. "I think we could squeeze one in somewhere," he says. "Do you think that Thor would help us out with the technology?"
"If he's not too busy with the Replicators, I don't see why not," Daniel replies. "He made vague noises to that effect when we mentioned it to him before. He's more than aware of the strength of Hades' ships and knows that if we're to defeat him, we have to have technological strength if we can't have strength in numbers."
"How are you going to pull this off?" Dad asks.
Jack shrugs. "That, my friend, we're playing by ear. We're not promising anything."
"Dad, I need some equipment," I put in. "I need to make some personal cloaks for MIB."
We've finally told the General about the cloaks. Now that the NID are no longer a force to be reckoned with, we thought he should know about them. He said he's going to pass on the information to a couple of scientists at the base that he trusts - Philip on SG-1 being one of them. They'll develop the cloaks there for infiltration purposes, but they have been warned about the lack of reliability on the power front. Frankie and I are still working on changing the power source to something more like MIB's 'solar panels' to stop them from failing mid-mission.
"How quickly do you need it?" he asks as I hand him a scrap of paper with the items on it.
"As soon as possible. If we're going to pull off the heist of the century, we're going to need every advantage we can get."
"You want them for this mission? Don't ask for much, Sammy, will you?"
I hear the annoyance in his voice and shrug. What I'm asking for is peanuts compared to what they may get in return.
"I'll see what I can do," he grunts. "Look, I'd better get going. I won't say anything to the council just yet, I don't want to get their hopes up about having our own mother ship."
This is good. It's not like we think they have spies in their camp anymore, it's just that we don't want them to interfere.
"I'll send a message through soon, to let you know how long it's going to take me to get all of the equipment together. That way you'll know if you have time to wait or will just go without."
Jacob's gone to see if he can find the things Sam wants. We really need the personal cloaks if we're going to stand a chance of succeeding in our ultimate goal. There are few guarantees in this life and I want us to have every edge we possibly can.
In the meantime, Sam's gone to the tunnels with Frankie to make a start on the cloaks with what they have on hand. Frankie says that she'll be able to finish them within an hour if she gets what she wants, so we're really hoping that Jacob will come up with the goods.
Daniel's working with DJ on the information taken from the Furlings' planet. They're up on Gimli (which I still think is a weird name, but at least the story Daniel told about it was pretty cool), still looking at the tech. Kar Shel is with them, Teal'c's gone off to meditate. He's said he needs to do a long kel'no'reem so that he won't need to rest on the mission. I think he can literally store up his energy like the androids can.
John and I have been going over our plans, trying to think up all of the possible courses of action. I've been finding this newly acquired intelligence kinda weird. I mean, I always knew this stuff, but it's easier to recall it, and more than that, it's easier for me to think more laterally. Which is really strange as that's Daniel's domain. I've been wondering how he keeps a hold of his sanity.
You see, this sort of thinking takes you places you don't always want to go. No wonder they say that the brightest people often suffer from debilitating depressions from time to time. It's easy to see how. When you can see all possible outcomes of a particular strategy, can see all of the downsides as well as the upsides... When you can imagine more clearly the disasters that can strike... Let's just say I've been feeling pretty down as a result. I'm beginning to understand him now in a way I couldn't before.
There is a good side to this, so I'm not totally cheesed off. I'm finding it easier to understand Sam and Daniel when they're off on one of their scientific tangents. If they're discussing something I haven't heard of before, I only have to ask them to explain it and I get what they're talking about.
Another downside is that I can no longer pretend to be dumb. Not that I managed to get away with that with Daniel, but I had great fun over the years kidding Sam. Especially when it came to astrophysics. She always forgot that I was interested in stargazing. Much as I was an amateur, I'd spent many months studying the physics side of it, as well as learning the positions and identities of the stars. Well, you can't appreciate a subject if you don't go into it fully, can you?
"I think we've pretty much covered all our bases," John sighs.
"Yeah. I hope so." I get up and get myself a beer, then return and put my feet up on the coffee table, relaxing back against the well-padded sofa. "So, what do you think? Can we pull this off?"
"Don't see why not. We need three more ships if we're to give one to everyone. Let's just hope there are enough there."
"I'm worried about it," I admit. "I mean, each ship is going to have any number of Jaffa on them."
"Yeah, but we know how to get rid of them. Given the tech we've now got, I don't see why we can't manage it."
"I want to have a good look at the ship's instruction manual before we go. I need to know everything there is to know about it."
"At least you're going to be able to remember it all now," he grins.
"There is that. This increase in brainpower couldn't really have come at a better time."
"Unless you count final exams at the Academy."
I raise my bottle in his direction. We remember that time, painful as it was.
It wasn't that I couldn't do the work - I could. Top of my class, if you must know. But I was young, the women (and men for that fact) were plentiful and I wanted to play instead of study. In the end, I had to lock myself up in my room to keep my mind off sex. It didn't really help. My roommate was hot. And queer, too, dammit. How I passed those exams, I'll never know.
I take the last draught of my beer, then get up and indicate to John to come with me.
"Come on, let's go annoy the Daniels."
"Sounds good to me."
I am finding kel'no'reem difficult for some reason. My mind keeps wandering back to the Furlings' planet. There is every indication that if these people still exist, they will hold the key to the liberation of the Jaffa from the slavery of the symbiote. But I cannot help but wonder if most Jaffa will accept genetic engineering as a solution or not.
After all, if we are returned to our original human state, we will lose the length of our lives; it will be reduced to that of a normal human being. We will lose the ability to heal quickly, lose our extra strength. We will not be Jaffa anymore but human.
For some reason, that thought frightens me. I do not wish to lose my strength. How will I help my team? My mate? She has had her age reduced. I am one hundred and six. Would my age count against me? Would I start to look and feel that age? Would she reject me?
Anxiety is not conducive to good meditation. However I need to do it or else I will be a danger to my friends if I suddenly become ill on the mission.
Samantha. Is everything well?
I'm not sure, honey. I'm sensing that you're upset about something. What's wrong?
I start to say 'nothing' but I know that despite her being underground, she and I are so connected that she can tell if I lie, even without seeing me. And since her telepathy has increased, she is more empathically aware. I can only tell her what is bothering me and hope that she will understand.
Teal'c, you're missing something important about all of this.
What is that, Samantha?
The rest of us had already figured that one out. We're pretty certain that the Furlings would be able to help you retain your strength, possibly boost your returned immune system and basically start you again where your apparent age is. I mean, you don't look any older than me. So why you couldn't have another fifty or sixty years as a human from now, I don't know. If these beings are that far advanced, I'm sure they'd be able to do that. We need to offer the Jaffa as a whole something more than just freedom from the need for a symbiote, especially if they're going to fight on our side.
Thank you, I say, much more relieved. I shall try once again to meditate.
You do that, sweetie. I'll see you later.
Why I should not have realised that they would have foreseen the same problems is unknown to me. I should trust them more as they trust me. I will not let them down again.
DJ and I have had great fun working through the Furlings' data. Not that we understand a word of it. I mean, we can translate it, but we're talking genetic biology, not one of our subjects. Having said that, I'm sure I've picked up more about the subject than I normally would have done. Whenever I've done technical translations in the past, I've more or less just translated the words, not really trying to understand what they're saying. But now I'm trying and some of it is starting to make sense. Not sure if that reassures me or frightens me.
The more I read, however, the more I'm learning about the people as well as the lab work. We're absolutely convinced now that the goo was engineered by them and wasn't a naturally occurring substance. Or rather, they went to a world with little breathable atmosphere, quite possibly with the initial stirrings of life, with the original primordial soup bubbling away. Then they added the bionanocytes and the experiment got out of hand.
We still don't know how that works, but the records show developing nervousness on the part of one of the scientists that they were possibly in danger.
Oh my God, I've just thought of something.
I look at DJ and say, "These Furlings were smart, right?"
"I'd say so."
"What if they were slimed like us?"
"You mean that some of them might have become even more intelligent?"
"It's a possibility. Find the last entry in that worried scientist's log."
We look it up and translate it on the hoof as we read it out, taking it in turns to read a sentence for reasons known only to fate, I think.
"Bradnig came into contact with the experimental fluid. When the energy pulsed, he seemed to change. He has not outwardly evolved as has happened on the rest of the planet, but says that the world is much clearer...
"I am worried. Bradnig is accusing us of becoming slow or simple-minded. We believe that the liquid has somehow evolved his brain. It is a pity is has not evolved his manners. They are as obnoxious as ever."
"Looks like one of them got slimed then," he shrugs.
"Yeah. It had a similar effect, too."
"Why? I don't see you becoming more obnoxious than you already were."
I turn around and see Jack standing there, grinning like a moron. He can't use that excuse anymore.
"But I started out nice, Jack. Unlike some people."
He's trying to work out whether I've insulted him or not. I don't think he really cares, to be honest.
"What brings you to Gimli?" I ask, grinning back at him because... Well, just because, really. He's wearing his oldest, most faded pair of jeans. The ones that look like they're going to rip apart, any moment now...
"I wanted to look at the instruction manual Thor gave us," he says, staring into my eyes.
I'm thinking that studying is going to be on the back burner in a moment.
It doesn't help when DJ and John start snickering. I look at DJ and he waggles his eyebrows. Oh, what the hell. I grab Jack's hand and lead him off to the large quarters we used before.
Daniel? I thought we were working, he says, running his hand down my back and over my ass. We often speak telepathically when we're feeling horny. It really adds to the sensations.
He stops, looks at me, shrugs, then carries on walking.
Works for me.
Damned jeans, they were in my way. Still, I've had plenty of practise in removing them, just as he's had plenty of practise in getting me naked quick.
On the bed.
I'm on my back, he's on me... Where the hell did that lube come from?
Stored it here when we got the ship back from Thor, he informs me.
I was always good at forward planning. Good training.
God bless the USAF, I moan as he slides down my body and just goes for it, sucking me off even as he replies.
Best place to learn how to be prepared.
Thought that was the Scouts.
Same difference. Who cares? Lots of guys in uniform.
He flashes me an image of him in dress blues. Dammit. That's always been one of my favourite images and one I miss.
Nice thought, I repeat, this time meaning that specific image.
He's laughing in his mind, but happily continuing with his job in hand. Or mouth. Whatever.
I love it when he does this. I know what's going to happen and I'm glad of it. Sometimes an air of predictability isn't a bad thing, as knowing what's coming adds to the excitement. I should rephrase that but frankly, I can't be bothered. I know he's going to suck me till I come. I know he's going to... Oh yeah, there we go, he's fucking me with his fingers. One, two... This isn't prep as such, it's because I love it. Fingering has always been something I enjoy.
Knowing there's no part of my body that's off-limits to him. His fingers, his mouth, his tongue, his cock... If he can stick it inside me, he does. Oh dear, what a pity. Never mind.
Not that I don't do the same to him and not that he doesn't get the same pleasure out of it, but some days, I just need to bottom for reasons that aren't always clear. It's like an internal itch and only he can scratch it.
Come on, Daniel. Give it up for me. I can't wait to stick my cock up your ass. Want to own you.
You already do. Dammit, this is so good that even my mental voice is hitching.
His free hand reaches up and searches around on my chest. Again, I know what's coming but I also know it won't prepare me. Oh yeah. When he twists my nipple like that, hitting the button at the same time, sucking hard - all in one go - I don't stand a chance. He gets what he's been aiming for and I have nothing left to do except to give him my ass. It's all his.
Dad got back to us and said that he should have the things we requested tomorrow. That will help a lot. It turns out that Anise had most of what we want and she's been persuaded to hand it over. Not sure what Dad had to do to persuade her, but frankly, I don't care. Unless he had to... Ew. Just don't go there, Sam.
I look at my watch and see that it's getting near dinnertime so I suppose I'd better get up there. It's my turn to cook. Teal'c had already told me to not worry about feeding him, that he would 'take nourishment' before he started to meditate. I think he's just trying to avoid my cooking. Not that I can't cook, but I don't like to, to be honest. Besides, Daniel's much better at it than I am.
"You going to give me a hand?" I ask Frankie.
She looks at me in surprise. "What? I'm an android, remember? I don't eat."
"I know. But I have to make dinner..."
"I'll see you later," she mutters and ducks her head back down over the table, pretending to work on the cloaks.
"Traitor," I hiss and stomp off to the rings.
Dinner was successful, in that the guys ate what I gave them and didn't complain. Okay, okay, maybe I should try to make it more interesting, but they don't really seem to care one way or another as to what I give them. They'll eat anything, especially Daniel. He's eaten things I'd have nightmares about.
"How are the cloaks coming, Sam?" Jack asks.
"Not bad. Dad says I'll have the stuff in the morning. If Frankie and I can finish building their shells today, which we should manage by the way, we should be able to get the rest done in next to no time tomorrow. We know exactly what we're doing now, so we're not foreseeing any problems."
"Famous last words," Daniel mutters.
"Cassandra," Jack snipes back, grinning at him though.
Oh hell, they've been at it again, haven't they? Jack only has that particular smile when he's been... Well, doing whatever it is they do. It's not that I don't know what they do. I really do. But thinking about it has a detrimental effect on me, especially when Teal'c's not available to deal with the aftermath.
"What are you guys doing tonight?" I ask. Perhaps I should rephrase that.
"I'm going to continue with the translation," Daniel replies, missing the double meaning thank God.
Jack looks put out.
"Oh, I'll probably go play in my workshop," he says miserably.
"You could help me?" I offer. "We need to weld some parts together. If you do that, it'll free me up to help Frankie with the wiring."
He looks a bit happier at that. Letting him loose with a welder probably isn't a good idea, but hey, I'm a nice person.
"Jack, have you ever used a welder before?" Daniel asks warily.
"Sure. A much bigger one than we've got here, too. It's cool."
"No, Jack. It's not cool. It's hot. Extremely hot. You make sure you wear the visor and gloves."
Jack's trying not to laugh at Daniel's bossiness, he's just saying 'Yes, Daniel. Of course, Daniel'.
Make sure he's careful.
"I'd better get back up there," he grunts and struts out of the kitchen, leaving Jack and me to clean up.
"Now, if I tried to get away with that," Jack says, "I'd be called back and chained to the kitchen sink."
I have to laugh; his demeanour is most annoyed, but there is a distinct twinkle in his eye which reminds me of what I just offered to keep him busy. I should have my head examined.
Okay, that killed a couple of hours. If I'm honest with myself, I enjoyed it. It's been a while since I did any welding but it didn't take me long to get back into the swing of it.
Perhaps that's another facet of this increased intelligence. Better hand-eye co-ordination. That could be interesting. Maybe I could be a better shot, a better pilot... Not that I was a bad one before, but to be sharper, quicker, would be a huge advantage when it comes to keeping my kids safe.
I think I'll test it out. I don't want to waste ammunition, even if we can get more easily, it's still unnatural for me to leave myself short. So I'll use the practice bolts and the crossbow. If I can get more bulls than I usually get, it'll be a clue towards proving this theory.
Dammit, I'm starting to sound like Daniel again, aren't I?
Yup. Three bolts directly into the bull. I pulled them out, moved further back and got the same again. Usually I'd get one or two in the centre, with the odd one going a bit further out. But this time, I was millimetres from the centre with each bolt.
I hope this is going to increase my talents in all things. If I have to be known to be smarter than the average bear, I can at least get compensated by being better at the fun things, like computer games. Speaking of which, why don't I go and...
What're you doing?
I tell Daniel what I've been up to and he seems to like my theory about us being physically better, too.
Hang on, don't put the things away. It'll be interesting to see how I've improved.
I get out his longbow while I wait for him to turn up. He doesn't like the crossbows for some reason. Ah, there he is.
"So, you think that the three of us will be more accurate?" he asks as he takes the bow off me and gets an arrow out.
"Well, it seems to be working for me."
He takes aim, lets fly and I pick up my binoculars and look. Right smack bang in the centre. Not bad considering we're so far out we can only just see the coloured rings from here. There are sights on the bows, of course, but still, it's pretty impressive.
"Neat," I say. "Do it again."
And he does. Right next to the other one.
"I'd say you've got a point, Jack," he mutters.
He's a good shot normally, but not this good. He can hit the bull, but it's at some point in the area rather than dead centre.
"Could prove interesting," he shrugs. "Especially if you only have a single shot to do what you need to do."
I nod with a wry grin on my face. Assassination was never a fun thing to do. The upside of this is knowing that I can do it cleanly.
We don't bother doing any more but put the things away, then I take his hand and we go for a walk.
"You're antsy," he states.
"Maybe. I guess I want to get on with it, get in there, find out what's going on. Stop him."
"I know. But we'll stand a better chance if we can all go in cloaked if we need to leave the ship. I'd like to get down to the planet, make use of this telepathy, find out where Hades is actually living if we can."
"That would be good. We keep changing, having things happen to us... I guess I want to make the most of it, too. Make it work for us."
"We've used our team telepathy a lot," he points out.
"I know. But the fountain of youth was more of a curse than a blessing."
He's about to argue about that, to tell me that we'll have more time together, then he shuts up and nods, squeezes my hand and then lets go of it before wrapping his arm around my waist.
He knows how much I miss my family.
I should not have done it. I do not even know why I did it. I tried to use my connection to my symbiote to find out if it knew anything about Hades.
I never seem to learn.
It gave me no information but caused me a great deal of physical pain. Somehow I did not call out and Samantha remains asleep. I need to get out of here, to breathe fresh air. I remain barefoot as I creep outside, trying not to bang any doors. My heart rate starts to lower as the chill of the night air hits my bare skin.
I look around me and see the clear night skies. I can only hope that they stay clear.
One thing I wonder of is the location of Hades. I look at the stars and try - foolishly - to guess which one gives him sanctuary. Perhaps tomorrow, we will discover which it is. We have to succeed. There is no doubt in any of our minds that he has one purpose and one purpose only. To take over the whole galaxy.
Being one of the oldest living Goa'uld, he is bound to know the location of Earth. He will also know that the Tauri have left Earth and are now causing more trouble than the Goa'uld have ever faced in the past. Perhaps the most important thing he will now know is that the System Lords are severely weakened and if he is ever to strike, now is the time to do it. To do that, he will most definitely need to show his dominance by attacking Earth as soon as possible.
It is my fear that he will go there before Earth is ready for him. Tomorrow, we must succeed. Despite our plans to investigate the shipyard, I believe we must actually do something. O'Neill believes the same thing, I feel. He is most anxious to make a start.
"Teal'c? Honey? What are you doing out here? You're freezing!"
I turn and see my mate staring at me from the kitchen door.
"I am sorry, Samantha. I felt the need for some fresh air."
"Come on, come to bed. It's late, it's cold, you need rest. Have you finished meditating?"
"I need further kel'no'reem," I start and see her face drop. "But I could do that in bed with you."
She smiles. "You could indeed."
The items Samantha needs have arrived and she and Frankie are already in the tunnels working on the cloaking devices. We are still unsure as to whether they will be needed, but we cannot be too careful. While we wait for the ladies to return to Gimli, we are double-checking the controls throughout the ship and making sure that the weapons are fully primed.
The Daniels have suspended their studies of the Furlings data and have transferred all of the equipment retrieved down to the tunnels in case something happens to the ship. We are taking Mia with us as a precaution - an escape route if necessary. No chances are being taken with our safety.
Nerves are running high; even the androids are most anxious. The risks for this mission are great but, if we succeed, the payoff will be even greater.
"How many ships do you think we'll find?" Daniel asks as we gather on the peltac.
"I should not think that we will find many," I reply. "Shipyards normally hold only those ships being constructed and newly finished ones, waiting for someone to take them to the rest of the fleet. A normal fleet can contain anything from a few ships to many dozens. The greatest fleet I have ever heard of contained about eighty ships. Other, possibly larger fleets were coalitions."
"We can presume that he's not going for a coalition," Daniel muses. "I don't see him wanting to share the spoils of war with anyone."
"Neither do I. Having said that, as you pointed out, Hades was exceedingly wealthy and powerful. It is possible that he is preparing a massive fleet."
"Let's hope not," DJ sighs. "The most we can steal is seven ships."
"That would be extremely difficult to accomplish," I point out. "The most likely scenario is that we are able to steal one or two."
"I wonder..." Daniel says, then he moves to the control panel and brings up some information on the transporters.
Daniel does not turn to O'Neill's voice but raises his hand in a 'wait' gesture.
We wait impatiently, then we see him turn with a smile on his face.
"I think I have an idea."
It makes a change for my tactical ideas to be accepted so readily, but - and it's a big but - if there are sufficient ships finished... Well, let's just say Hades is going to be more than annoyed.
It's time. The girls have finished with the cloaks and are about to come up to the ship. We've triple-checked our state of readiness and now we're itching to go.
Hold on guys, Dad's just come back through the gate.
We hear Sam's voice in our heads and I look at the androids and realise that Frankie's given them the same message.
It's with more impatience that we wait until we hear, "Will it be okay for Dad to come with us?" over the comms.
Jack sighs. "I guess so, but hurry up, will ya? We want to move now!"
As he signs off, he says, "What else could I say?"
"You guys are going to have to be careful," DJ reminds us, pointing to his head.
Every time we've seen Jacob since this telepathy thing has happened, we've had to fight hard to not hear what's going on in his head. We've succeeded for the most part, but strong emotional responses to anything are like blaring trumpets. To be honest, I'm worried about what's going to happen when we're near hundreds, if not thousands of minds.
We get the call that the three of them are in the ring room and Jack looks at Teal'c and says, "Punch it."
He responds, and soon we see the familiar sight of space whizzing past and then the sight of hyperspace. Asgard hyperspace looks different from Goa'uld hyperspace. Perhaps that's because we're going so much faster? I don't know.
It won't take us too long to get there, it never does take us long to get anywhere in this ship, but we're all mentally urging the ship to go faster.
Sam and the others have arrived on the bridge and they're as silent as we are.
"Come out of hyperspace outside the system," Jack reminds Teal'c. "We don't want to alert them to an incoming cloaked vessel."
"They won't find us even if they know we're there," I shrug.
"True, but they'll be on alert on the ground. I want this to be a complete surprise."
Teal'c announces that we're about to re-enter normal space and we watch the screen intently. The blue of hyperspace disappears and soon it's the pitch-black of space, dotted with the silvery distant stars.
"It will take us at least thirty minutes to fly into the system at this speed," Sam announces, so we all just move around, ending up standing next to our partners, without ever once mentioning the fact.
Jack's hand reaches for mine and I take it and give it a quick squeeze. He's as nervous as the rest of us and it's showing.
"Oh my God."
We enter the system and our collective blood freezes. Even the androids look like their insides are frozen.
"HOW MANY?" Jack gasps.
Sam looks at the scan and turns to look at us, her face as white as snow.
"One hundred and fifty," she says. "Most of them are finished. This isn't just a shipyard, this is Hades' fleet!"
"At least we hope it's his fleet," I mutter, getting a glare from Jack.
"What the hell are we going to do?" DJ asks.
"I have no idea," John replies.
We look at Jacob and see that he's as shocked as we are.
"Selmac? Any ideas?"
Jacob's head shakes dumbly.
It takes us a while to get over what we're seeing. The implications are probably beyond our comprehension. Despite having better technology on board our ship, we're feeling like we're a primitive group of hunters who've just stumbled upon a massive modern-day army.
"We need information," Jack announces. "Lots of it."
"I didn't bring any of the radioactive isotopes," Dad says. "Should we go back to get some? I mean, if we go over to one of the ships, even with a cloak we might be discovered."
"Scanners will only look for life-signs," John points out, then taps his head.
"Good thinking," I say. "MIB can sneak over there. We'll use the Asgard transporters as they don't make any noise and we won't need to restrict them to a ring room. With a cloak on, and their internal communication systems, there's no reason they should make a sound, let alone be discovered."
"Do you think that this planet is Hades' new homeworld?" Jack asks, turning the scan onto the only planet which looks inhabited.
"Would you put your homeworld where the shipyard is?" Daniel replies.
"He did it before, remember."
"But that was when he had to. Now, I wouldn't think he'd be here."
"Let's see what the scan says," I say. "We're pretty certain that the blueprints you found relate to a new palace for him. If we see anything that remotely looks like it, we'll investigate further."
They agree and we scan the entire surface of the planet, coming up with nothing more than the buildings necessary to house the Jaffa and other workers. The planet is full of naquada and other elements. Oh boy, it's got neutronium! No wonder this place was chosen. They need that for the Asgard tech.
"What about underground?" Dad suggests. "You said that he lived underground before."
I increase the power of the scan and see right through to the core of the planet.
"Okay, so we don't think he's here. Dammit. That means we're still going to have to find where he lives and hope that he doesn't have another fleet there."
"I think he will have some ships there. Probably nothing like this fleet, but with significant firepower," Kar Shel says. "After all, there is no ship here which resembles the blueprints of the mother ship that Gimli is a smaller copy of."
"Gimli?" Dad asks.
"The name of the ship," Daniel mutters. "Long story."
"Right. So... Wait a minute, you think there's a bigger ship than this one?"
"Yes. We told you that when we got back from the Underworld."
Dad's even paler than he was before.
"Even one ship of that size could take out an entire planet eventually," he moans.
"Yeah, we know. Scary, ain't it?" Jack drawls.
"We have to take out this fleet," John adds. "Like now. And negate their ability to make more."
"HOW?" Jack yells.
They all look at me for some reason. Then I smile.
"Hey, piece of cake. Especially with this baby."
"Sam? What are you thinking?" DJ asks, looking at me warily.
"Oh, nothing we haven't done before," I reply.
I look back at the scanner and locate the stargate.
"Dad - watch this for me, will you?" I ask as I point out the life-signs scanner. "When that goes down to zero, shout."
"Jack, while MIB are checking out the ships looking for information, the rest of us can prepare for stage three."
"Are you going to tell us what stage three is?" he asks dryly. "And why three and not two?"
So I tell them.
One thing I love about my kids is that they don't think small. Despite Daniel's natural reluctance to reuse an old tactic, and despite knowing what might happen if we get this wrong, we've all given it the thumbs up. Desperate times etc., etc., etc.
John has remained on the ship - reluctantly, but he has to. If MIB are not to use comms channels, they'll need someone on board who can act immediately on their thoughts. As we can't hear their thoughts, it has to be one of them. This time, John drew the short straw.
They've all gone to different places. DJ's gone to one of the completed ships in the hope that he will be able to discover the address of Hades' homeworld. Frankie's gone to one of the ships that's being built to see what state the scanners and so on are in. If they can't detect life-signs, it will give us a chance to send one of MIA over there to listen in to the Jaffa's thoughts. Perhaps there will be a clue there. Not that we can tell Jacob what we're doing, but we'll think of something.
Kar Shel, meanwhile, has landed in what looks on the scans to be the headquarters of the shipyard. He's going to attempt to find out how many ships are planned to be built and possibly, how many have already been built. It might give us a clue as to what we're going to be up against.
We can't make a move on stage three, yet. Everyone has to be ready to run. Besides, we're still hoping to steal some ships - stage two of our operation. We don't see why we can't steal eight ships as there are nine of us.
Nine ships in total, if you count Gimli, will be plenty. The Tok'ra can have a few, we have one, MIB will have one, and Earth will have the rest. They'll need them as we're sure that Hades will come, no matter how many ships he has or doesn't have. Four or five Asgard-adapted mother ships and Prometheus will give them more than a fighting chance.
"Frankie says there are no scanners, but only a few places safe for a human or Jaffa to go on the ship that she's on," John says, breaking me out of my thoughts.
"How about if she gets close to a supervisor," I muse. "Wait till he's on his own, then when she calls to you, you can transport them over here."
"What good will that do?" Jacob asks.
"Uh, well, we can ask him some questions," I reply. Okay, perhaps my voice was a touch on the dripping with sarcasm side, but he didn't have to look like he wants to kill me for it. Did he?
John says that he's passed the message on to her and she'll do what she can. All we need is that no one sees the Jaffa disappearing.
"DJ is reporting that the ship he's on has nothing in the records pertaining to Hades' address. Should I move him onto another ship?"
"Try one more. If there's nothing there, we can pretty much assume that it won't be on any of them. Perhaps the ships are just being held until the last minute. If I were Hades, I would have no information in the computers, at least nothing that wasn't being hidden by layers of security codes, about my homeworld. All he needs to do is turn up and lead them off to battle."
"I'm wondering how they've built so many ships in such a short time," Daniel says.
"Who said they've all been built here? Perhaps some of them were built at his old place," I suggest. Then something strikes me. "Do you think that his old place had neutronium there?"
"I didn't notice any on the scans I did when we were there," Sam says. "Not saying that there wasn't any elsewhere on the planet, or on one of the other planets or moons in the system."
"If there wasn't any, or wasn't any left," Daniel muses, "it could explain at least one of the reasons Hades decided to move. After all, if you were him and you decided that now was the time to make a move on the remaining System Lords, you'd want to ensure you had the materials to build the ships and weapons."
"I wonder whose system this was to start with," Teal'c says. "This shipyard appears to be older than what we are assuming is the timeframe we are working from for Hades to have moved." It takes us a moment to figure out what he's just said and then we all agree that that's a possibility.
"If someone can look at this scan for me," Jacob calls out, "I can look at the location of this system and make an educated guess."
Teal'c goes to the scan and watches it carefully. Jacob calls up the information and stares at a star chart. After a few minutes, he says, "At a guess, I'd say this was Baal's. I recognise a neighbouring system as one of his. It's not unusual for a System Lord to have a few shipyards wherever they find the relevant minerals needed to build them."
"If Baal was building on a planet with neutronium," Sam says, "perhaps it was he who had the Asgard information. We know Hades had spies in various places..."
We all wince as she says that, completely oblivious to the effect her comment's had on Selmac. She continues, still staring at the various scans.
"It would be the sort of data a spy would send back. Hades strikes me as being the sort of snake who'd see the importance in the data and would act on it. As soon as we took out Baal, he'd have known it would be a good time for him to act. He'd have come here straight away."
She's got a point and we acknowledge it.
"I'm not sure if I'm glad we took out Baal or not," Daniel mutters. "If he'd developed the technology he wouldn't have waited around to use it. It would have been on the one ship, straight to Earth most likely, possibly after trying it out on an innocent settlement elsewhere, and then 'bye-bye Tauri' without them even knowing what had hit them. It's only the fact that Hades seems to want to have a full-scale fleet on his hands first, that's stopping that happening now.
"But if we hadn't killed off Baal, we wouldn't have this," he points to the fleet, "to contend with."
I know he was happy with our plan to destroy the fleet so I mentally nudge him to find out why he's now bothered by it. It only takes me a moment to discover that he's got a head count on the Jaffa and slaves working in this system. We're talking nearly a million.
Daniel, there are over six billion on Earth. That's over six thousand times as many as here.
And we're not positively, unequivocally certain that we're a target.
No, we're not. But what is the likelihood that he won't eventually take on the biggest pain in the Goa'uld neck?
Slim, he concedes. I know this, Jack. It's why I'm going through with it. I just don't have to like it.
No, no you don't. I don't expect you to. But please, don't lose any sleep over it.
He looks at me and his eyes tell me everything I need to know.
Kar Shel and DJ have both reported that they have found little of use so they have returned to the ship. Kar Shel has discovered that there were plans to build a number of different types of ships, from al'kesh to ha'tak, cargo ships and two types of gliders, all of which - except one type of the gliders - have Asgard engines. Those gliders have Asgard shields and weapons. There is no need for them to have Asgard engines; which begs the question as to why the other type would need them. I pose this question to the others.
They say nothing for a moment, then O'Neill looks most distressed.
"If they've started to build these and they've left this system and are already with Hades, we're in trouble."
"Why?" Daniel asks.
"Because if they've got hyperspace engines, he'll be able to launch an attack with gliders without taking a mother ship there. Maybe send an advanced fleet to confuse the enemy, soften them up, then the mother turns up, he demands surrender... After being beaten up by the gliders with Asgard engines and weapons, most colonies or even major populations like Earth would think twice before arguing.
"Besides, it'd be way more difficult to spot a few thousand gliders in a system than even a single mother ship. He wouldn't really even need to send a ha'tak in if he had enough gliders. Less risk for him."
"I agree. The loss of individual gliders and pilots would be as nothing to a System Lord. He could wave off the defeat of a glider fleet as nothing more than a planned event, a ruse to confuse the enemy. Losing a ha'tak is much more difficult to face. This new development is most disconcerting."
"I have copied the blueprints onto this data pad," Kar Shel announces. "For all of the varieties of ships. Unfortunately, there was no information that I was able to find which would have told me if any ships had been built. Neither was there information on the number of total ships built, nor their eventual destination."
"Never mind," O'Neill sighs. "You got us some good data, we'll have to make do with that."
DJ found nothing on the ships that he went to. There were senior Jaffa supervising the final fittings of the ships and perhaps they know where Hades resides, but they were not discussing the information. We must now wait for Frankie to call us.
"The DHD area is clear," Jacob calls. He had returned to studying the scan when he had finished establishing the previous owner's identity.
"Right. Jack, I need to get down there," Samantha calls out.
"Okay, get your cloaks on. Teal'c, you're with her."
She hands me my cloak and we switch them on. When we get confirmation that they are working, Samantha gives Daniel the instruction to send us directly to the DHD.
It is the matter of a heartbeat before we arrive at our destination. We look around us to make sure that we are on our own and then finally, Samantha starts to dial.
I'm glad we've got Asgard power this time, she says.
As am I. I would not have supported this idea otherwise. Not after the last time.
Agreed. I wouldn't have suggested it.
The gate bursts into life and we give the message to Daniel to retrieve us.
When we reappear on the peltac, he announces that the gate has been placed into position, near, but not too near, the far side of the sun.
"We'll make sure we go before the supernova this time," O'Neill states.
"Absolutely. But we can't leave too soon, in case the fleet notices."
"Makes no difference," he counters. "There's nothing we can do about it even if they all leave. If nothing else, dialling up the black hole will destroy the shipyard. I call that a result."
Daniel is looking curiously at one of the scans.
"Daniel. What is it you have noticed?" I ask.
"Look here," he says, pointing at the screen. "Is that what I think it is?"
"It's a massive store of processed neutronium, naquada and... is that gold?" Samantha asks, not believing her eyes.
"It looks like it. The atomic weight is right," DJ confirms.
"Whoa! Look there! Platinum, titanium... Any number of elements. There are hundreds of tons of these in total and lots of them are extremely expensive metals."
The three of them turn to the rest of us, smiling broadly.
"I think I know what's going to persuade the Asgard to help us out with the ships," Daniel speaks for them.
"Is the cargo hold big enough?" John asks.
"Oh yeah. We've got plenty of room."
"Well, hurry up with it, 'cause we've got phase two to accomplish before phase three ends."
We would appear to be doing this the wrong way around.
"Have you determined which ships are ready?" I ask.
"Got them. And I've picked out some al'keshes, too," Daniel replies. "We need to leave this till the last moment or else they're going to know about it. If you want us to go now though Jack," he says, turning to O'Neill, "we can call Frankie back and just do it."
"How long have we got?" O'Neill asks Samantha.
She looks at the scans and says, "If the loss of mass continues at the rate predicted, we've got another thirty minutes."
"We'll give Frankie another ten, then," he states. "If she hasn't got a supervisor on his own by then, pull her out no matter what."
Kar Shel does not look happy.
"What is wrong?"
He looks at me and frowns. "Will they not know that their gate is missing?"
"Undoubtedly. However, they will not know where to look for it."
"But if the scanners on the ships are used, they may well discover its location."
O'Neill - both of them - look at him in exasperation. Together, they say, "And you didn't think to tell us this before we 'borrowed' the damned thing?" Not only were their words the same, their inflection was identical. Both Daniels are snickering.
"It only just struck me," Kar Shel replies.
"There's nothing we can do about it now," Daniel soothes O'Neill. "We just have to hope for the best. Perhaps we should make a move now?"
Jacob, who has said little, speaks. "I think Daniel's right. We should retrieve Frankie and get what we came for. Then we should get the hell out of here."
Silent conversations pass between the various teams and soon we all find ourselves agreeing.
"We're going to have to do this in a strict order," Sam says, and the rest of us agree.
We need to retrieve Frankie and take the most senior Jaffa she can find - by then, a disappearing Jaffa will be the least of their worries, then take the minerals and ores and store them in Gimli. Then the fun bit will start.
"John, ask Frankie if she's near a supervisor, will you?" Sam asks.
Between us, we start to program the transporter. First, she has to locate Frankie, pick up her and the Jaffa, then the aforementioned supplies need to be taken. Finally, she needs to remove all life from the ships we've marked up, move the al'keshes onto the mother ships, then transport us individually to each ship's bridge.
We have no real time to get out of the system. Not because of the sun going nova but because they may well notice what we've done and start to fire at us. We reckon it'll take them a while to figure that out and we want our ships powered up and out of the system before they catch up with us.
John still wants to wait till the last moment, so we're going with the ten minute timeframe. That's seven minutes now. Let's hope Frankie comes up with the goods before then. I don't want to take a Jaffa with us unless we have to. That's asking for trouble.
There's a flash of light on the bridge and we realise that John has transported Frankie and a prisoner over here. Our nerves are shot because time is running out.
"Who are you?" the Jaffa demands.
He looks at Teal'c and Kar Shel and gets a very confused expression on his face.
"Where is Hades' homeworld?" I ask, even more firmly than he did.
"I do not know. And if I did, I would not tell you."
"He's lying," Jack spits.
I don't know if he is, but it's making the Jaffa look nervous.
"I do not know!" he insists.
I don't have time for this. We don't have time for this. I grab his face and stare into his eyes.
"Where is Hades' homeworld?" I ask again.
This time I look into his mind as I ask the question, trawling it for information. He knows a part of the address, something that he saw the end of. Pegasus, Canis Minor and Hydra. Somehow, they fit. I tell the others the glyphs and the Jaffa looks shocked.
"Why is he building the fleet?"
Again, he has heard rumours. The first world. That's Earth. Dammit. I pass on the information again and now don't feel so bad about what we're going to do.
"You got anything else?" Jack asks.
I shake my head. "Not yet. One more question. How many ships does Hades already have outside this system?"
"I do not know!" he cries.
But again, his subconscious betrays him. He has heard that Hades has about ten large mother ships, the biggest variety. All with the strange - probably the Asgard - technology on them. They're the fastest, meanest ships in the galaxy.
I tell the others and soon Jack tells me to step back. Even knowing what he's going to do, I step back willingly. In a way, we're doing this guy a favour.
There's probably no point in trying to convince him he's working for a parasite. As my mind was trawling his, I heard him calling out to Hades to save him. His level of belief in his 'god' is total. This shouldn't be a surprise. After all, until recently, Hades' Jaffa were probably confined to one planet, away from all other Jaffa. Rumours of a rebellion probably didn't reach them. We just don't have the time to try to convert them.
Jack zats him three times, then turns to Sam.
"Hit it," he says.
As Sam takes the supplies and clears the ships, checking each ship by scanning it just in case they had shields that could stop our transporter, I feel a hand on my shoulder.
Turning around, my heart sinks.
"Jacob," I say with a smile - probably not a very convincing one. "Is there anything wrong?"
"You know damned well there is. What was all that about? Are you telepathic or something? Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Jacob, we'll explain everything when we get back to Annwn, I promise," I try, but he doesn't look convinced.
Jack? Sam? Teal'c? What am I going to do?
Tell him the truth, Jack sighs. The others agree.
"We don't have time now," I try again. "Please. We'll tell you what's happened when we're away from here."
He nods sharply, kind of like Sam does when she's pissed with us. "You'd better," he growls.
Sorry, guys, I didn't mean to let the cat out of the bag.
Don't worry about it, Sam says gently. He was going to find out sooner or later. There wasn't anything else you could have done to find out the information.
"Is everyone ready?" she calls out loud.
We agree that we are.
"Who's flying this one?"
We look at each other and shrug. None of us have a preference.
"I'll stay," I offer.
"Fine. Take Gimli here," she points out a system on the chart about twenty light-years away from this place. That should be far enough. "We should all meet up there and make sure that the ships are going well."
"I'll be the last to leave," I remind them. "If any of you have a problem with starting your ship, call me and I'll transport you over here. We don't have time to mess about with engines." Speaking of time, "How long before the sun goes nova?"
"Fifteen minutes," Sam informs me.
"Then that's when we've got to be out of here. Are all the ships empty?"
"All clear, there's nothing on the scans. All the al'keshes have been loaded onto them in the cargo bays."
"Were the al'keshes clear?" Jack asks. When Sam scowls at him, he shrugs, "Hey, just askin'. Can't be too careful."
Before they start to argue - and before the Jaffa have time to figure out what's going on and transport people back up to the ships - I wave at them and press the transport glyph. One by one they disappear.
I use my comms unit to check in with them all.
"Guys? You all there?"
"I am here," Teal'c announces.
"As am I," says Kar Shel. Or it could have been the other way around, of course.
"Me too." "And me." Both the ladies follow them.
"I'm okay," says Jacob.
"Uh, yeah, me too," adds DJ.
There are no answers from the Jacks.
"Don't get your panties in a bunch, I'm here."
Not sure which that one was - it's hard to tell the voices apart on the comms.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm here too."
Thank God for that.
"Great. You guys head out of here. I'll follow you as soon as you're gone."
I power up the engines and wait to punch it. We're only assuming these ships work. They're going to be slower than me, too, which is why I'm going last.
Various voices come over the comms, telling me that engines are in various states of readiness. I check my watch. Thirteen minutes.
"Come on, guys, move it," I warn.
One of the ships starts to go, speeding up towards the edge of the solar system. I keep a close eye on them all, and a slightly less close eye on all the other ships in the area, just in case they show signs of pursuit. Another of 'our' ships goes. Two down, six to go. And another. Come on, come on, move it!
Hang on, what's...
"GUYS! GET OUT OF HERE! One of the other ha'taks is powering up!"
Three more whizz past me in quick succession.
"Dammit, I can't get this fucking thing going! I need more time!"
"That's it, I'm bringing you back."
"No, just give me time, for Christ's sake!"
Fine, fine, I guess I have to fight... Dammit, I wish I'd read the instruction manual.
Great, just great! I can't get this thing going. Jack - or John - is having trouble too. The others have gone, which is a relief. Do I try to fix it or not? How much time have I got? Ten minutes. Less than that. Five, to be on the safe side.
"Daniel, get a lock on me. Send me to the engine room. I need to check out something."
"Too late. FUCK!"
"We've got company. John's already back with me."
"We can't lose another one, give me a minute there. If I can't fix it quickly, you can bring me aboard. Please!"
"One minute," he concedes.
A moment later and I find myself in the engine room.
The ship rocks - probably from a blast. I open the top crystal drawer and see that it's the hybrid engine again. We can't afford to lose this one! There's nothing wrong in there, so I open the next one down. Nothing there.
"Just the last drawer, nearly there..."
I open it and see immediately what the problem is. Some idiot got the blue and clear crystals in the wrong way around. A quick change, I slam the drawer shut and hear the engines start to power up.
"GOT IT! Get me back up to the bridge!"
Phew, that was a close one. I punched it and just missed being hit by an Asgard beam. Daniel and John are doing a good job of fighting the one ship off. None of the others have moved close enough to be a problem. As I start to move out of the system, I see on the scan that the sun is losing mass more rapidly than I predicted.
"DANIEL! Get the hell out of there! The sun's going nova any minute now!"
"We're on our way. Move it, Sam!"
I'm moving it, I'm moving it! As soon as I'm clear of the planet I take a chance and go into hyperdrive. I can only hope that the guys are right behind me.
Yuck, being on a ship like this on my own is as creepy as hell. I don't like it one bit. I can hear creaks and groans - noises like doors opening and shutting - and I'm sure it's my imagination but...
No, it is my imagination. Has to be. The scans said there was no life on this ship. The only way there could be anyone here that wasn't alive would be if they were androids. Or ghosts, of course. But I don't believe in ghosts. Honestly!
Who am I trying to kid? If I didn't believe in things like that I wouldn't have locked the peltac doors. A girl can't be too careful.
That's the last time I watch horror movies with Daniel in the tunnels.
Finally, we're there. Or rather, I'm there. Let's look on the scan. We have eight ships. That's all of us, isn't it?
"Is everyone okay?" I call on the comms.
The next thing I know, I find myself being transported. It's with great relief that I open my eyes to discover that I'm surrounded by the gang.
"Are all of the ships all right?" I ask. "Do we need to fix any of them before we head home?"
"Mine's fine," Dad says, and he's swiftly followed by the others.
"So why are you all looking so glum?" I push.
"Not glum. Just concerned that Hades might have some more homing devices on the ships, that's all," Jack says.
"That and the fact that we're going to have to go back to the shipyard system," Daniel mopes.
"Why?" I'm confused.
"Because we need to make sure that the sun did go. We only saw it getting critical. What if the gate shut down or..."
"It should have gone," I insist. "There's no way it was going to remain cohesive. We took out too much of its fuel. It was getting to the stage where it wouldn't be able to generate the chain reaction needed to keep the sun going."
"I've been trying to tell them that," Frankie puts in. "They won't believe me."
"It's not that we don't believe you," Daniel soothes. "It's just we've had so many things go wrong in the past that we don't trust the laws of physics. We keep being told that there are immutable laws of the universe. Then we see them being overturned. It's happened so often that we're sceptical of even things like 'one and one are two'."
Frankie shrugs. She knows what he means. After all, the springs on Remoc and our last mission are good examples. Those things shouldn't have been possible. We shouldn't be telepathic, or a third younger than we really are, or smarter than we were before, or have better physical abilities. But it was possible and we do have those abilities.
"How are we going to do all this?" I ask. I guess someone should.
"We can scan the other ships from Gimli," Daniel says. "I don't see why we can't do it automatically... Get the ship to let us know if it finds anything. We can rest awhile and when it's done, you can go back to Annwn and call Thor and I'll pop back to the system. With the shields on this ship, I should be able to withstand anything that's still coming from the sun."
I don't like Daniel being on his own. Hell, I don't like any of them being on their own. There is a problem with Daniel's plan, though, and it means we don't go back to the system. Much as I understand why we should check it out, I think this overrides that.
"I think we should all go back to Annwn," I tell them. "We should travel in convoy. If we keep down to the maximum speed of the slowest ship, we will be able to stick together. Just in case there's anything wrong with the engines. Remember how badly this one had been built?"
"Yeah, and some moron had got two crystals the wrong way around on my ship. I think we should check out the engines before we leave this place," Sam states.
I guess we've just got our marching orders.
Jack. We have to know.
And we can check it out some other time. This takes priority. Come on, figure out how to do the automatic scans, will ya?
I can here him harrumph in his head and I want to laugh, though I don't dare.
We've split up into different groups. Jacob's on his own - he's got Selmac after all. Frankie's with me and we're checking out the engines on 'my' ship. Anything else can wait for the Asgard to fix. Kar Shel is with Daniel on another ship, Sam and Teal'c on yet another and John and DJ are on another. When these are done, we'll check out the remainder of the mother ships.
In total, we have the seven ha'taks, fourteen al'keshes, probably about fourteen hundred gliders and two cargo ships. Not to mention the thousand or so tons of various metals that we 'rescued'. They're in the cargo bay of Gimli and when we all went down there to look at them, we saw Mia swamped by bars of processed metal.
According to Sam, what's in the cargo bay is worth billions of dollars, some of the stuff literally priceless because there is no market for it on Earth. We've decided to offer all of the naquada and neutronium to Thor in payment for fixing the ships and upgrading them. Considering about half the weight of the cargo is taken up by pure bars of these metals, I think he's getting a good exchange.
I'm not sure if the Asgard use naquada though. Maybe they don't. Maybe they'll want some of the precious metals instead. Whatever, it's up to him.
Daniel wants to give what's remaining to Earth, either for weapons and generator development (if Thor doesn't want the naquada) or to go towards paying for the upkeep of the SGC.
We've also decided to keep quite a few bars of some of the metals, like the gold and silver we discovered, so that we can melt them down to small ingots, usable for payment on a lot of planets, especially ones settled by humans. If we can make moulds about a half ounce in size, one of the large ingots will keep us trading for ages.
Frankie and I are on the second ship. The first ship's engines were fine but this one was lucky to get here. The crystals were in the right order - otherwise it wouldn't have started - but some of them were loose and one was cracked. All of this smacks of being made in a hurry to me. That doesn't bode well for Earth. Perhaps Hades is in a rush to get there.
Having said that, the standard of workmanship seems hit and miss, so defeating him might be made a bit easier if his ships break down. Once our ships are upgraded, he won't really stand a chance. I'm thinking that his tactic was to come in with so many ships, we wouldn't put up a fight.
At least some of that threat is now gone. Without his massive fleet, he may take a bit more time before he attacks.
I can but hope.
"Are we ready to go?"
Daniel's voice comes over the comms and we all agree that we're ready. About half the ships had some problem or other, but the Sams and Jacob are pretty much convinced that we'll get back to Annwn, especially if we take it easy. That means we're flying solo for four hours. It's going to be a long four hours, I think. At least I can talk to Daniel without the others listening in. We're flying close enough for mental communication.
The familiar blue of hyperspace surrounds us and we fly in formation back home. My biggest worry is that Thor isn't going to come as soon as I call him.
The journey's only taken an hour so far and I'm bored already. Daniel and I have run out of things to talk about, so have Sam and I. Somehow I managed to annoy Teal'c within about thirty seconds of connecting with him. A record, surely.
Ya know what's worrying me? This was way too easy. No way should we have been able to go into a system, steal all those ships and get out without at least someone on our tail or being sent to another galaxy to fight mutant robot bugs. But no, there wasn't anything like that and so far - touch wood - there's no hint of any trouble, either from the ships themselves or from outside our little convoy.
And there's something else. Something about Hades that's bugging me. But I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is.
We have two more hours until we reach Annwn. I am not sure as to why we are going there as opposed to the palace or the Tok'ra homeworld. Perhaps it is convenient. I look at the map and see that there is little time difference in travelling to any of the worlds. We cannot go to Earth until the ships have cloaks, however, as they may be seen by Earth's satellites and other detection systems.
I must admit to being a little excited about turning up in the Sol system with these ships. Jacob has asked for two, MIB were offered one, although they have said that they would be happy with an al'kesh that was fitted with Asgard technology. Perhaps theirs will go with the other four to Earth. That would possibly be of great assistance.
They have a point about their needs. They do not require sustenance or rest in the same manner as us. A ha'tak would be troublesome for them, too, as their planet is known by the Goa'uld and may be spotted if someone turns up there and the cloak is not on. An al'kesh can sit on the ground next to the palace, giving them an opportunity to leave quickly, as well as to take it on missions.
Landing an al'kesh is also considerably easier than landing a ha'tak. Leaving a ha'tak unmanned around an enemy planet would not be wise, so they would be reduced to a team of three. No, they are correct. Gimli should only be used as today, for joint missions or missions where it is known that the ship will be safe, such as for trips to Earth or the Land of Light.
A thought has just struck me. Perhaps, now that he has returned to the main body of Goa'uld territory, Hades will wish to use the palace... I should discuss this with them. I think they should move to another planet to be safe.
I am glad that I am alone. I should not wish to be teased about sitting on the floor as if I am meditating when I should be watching the screen in case of trouble. I am watching the screen, only from a distance. I find sitting like this relaxes my mind and lets it wander away from the stresses and strains of our lives.
Not that I am complaining about my choice to live like this. I have never been happier. I am serving my son, my people, Earth, and my team, just as I was doing on SG-1. Possibly even more so because of the lack of restrictions imposed on us from above. Now, we work as we think fit. So far, that seems to have worked.
Also, I have never been freer. Even though I was allowed to find my own home on Earth, I felt that it could have led to trouble if I did, just in case I was ever in an accident and taken to a civilian hospital.
On Annwn, I have my own home. Yes, I still share it with the others, but it is willingly. Samantha and Daniel were correct to design our home the way they did. We are together, yet we are able to spend time alone - either as couples, or as individuals. The various tunnels and workshops allow us to get away from the others whenever the need strikes.
No one ever questions the desire to be alone, either, as we all know we get the need from time to time. That helps. Not having to explain why one wishes solitude - or why one wishes company - is a relief. At the SGC, I was constantly being disturbed by well-meaning souls who felt sorry for me for being on my own and 'stuck' in the mountain. It was tiresome.
Since moving to Annwn, I have discovered a hobby. On Remoc, I worked with wood because it was a necessity. There were few building materials other than wood. On Annwn, we can use stone, wood or make clay bricks in the kiln should we so choose, or we can just have the masons supply our needs. So I have turned my hand to the more pleasant side of woodwork and have discovered that I am rather good at carving as well as carpentry.
Daniel's globe is nearly finished. He completed his initial drawing not long after starting it and is now in the process of turning that into a series of maps. I was stunned by the level of detail he traced onto the wooden globe for me, including contour lines, joining up the different height levels of the land so that I may carve things like mountain ranges as accurately as possible. He even took some digital video pictures of the hologlobe so that I can see what each area is supposed to look like. I am most pleased with the result. Unfortunately, I must wait just over three months before I can give it to him for his birthday.
We have not celebrated anything properly since we left Earth, as days and dates meant little to us until O'Neill instigated the making of our calendar. Even though nothing has been said overtly, I know that we are all in the process of making things for each other as gifts for when our natal days arrive. Samantha's is first. Just over a month from now. I am still unsure as to what to make for her. Perhaps Daniel will have an idea.
Okay, I'm beginning to sound like Jack, but I'm bored. John is flying with DJ - surprise, surprise. Actually, there's a real reason for it, as DJ's ship is the one voted least likely to get home without a hitch, so having two people on board will be a good idea.
Teal'c 'talked' to me earlier about ideas for Sam's birthday. We only have a month or so to make something for her. Buying things is tricky because we can't pop out to the shops without her knowing about it, especially as that means leaving the planet. I think I'm going to have to work out how to...
Ooh! I've got an idea. We've got all of that precious metal on board. I know for a fact that parts of Annwn have lots of precious and semiprecious stones, too (and ores like gold, but that would mean mining or panning for it and then processing it, something I know little about). If we can find some emeralds, we could try to make some jewellery. I wonder if there's a book on the subject that I can ask George to get for me?
Sheesh - my mind has been wandering like this all the time that I've been alone. I could be trying to work out serious things, but I'm finding that I can't. Not that I don't have the ability, it's just that I don't want to think about serious things. I guess it's a need to think positively about the future. Planning birthday presents is a good way of doing that.
I wonder what they've got up their sleeves for me? I know I won't get away with ignoring my birthday this year like I've always managed to do in the past. That's Jack's fault. He's marked up all the important anniversaries on the calendar with big red circles around the dates. He even had Sam print out Christmas day in bright-red instead of the dark-blue of the other days; as if we'd forget it!
Right. Concentrate on it. What's the melting point of gold? Come on, Daniel. You know you've read it. Think. Gold. Atomic number 79, symbol Au, atomic weight 196.967... Got it! Melting point, 1337 Kelvin. What's that in Fahrenheit? Um... Dammit, I know the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius. Have I read the melting point in one of those? Probably not because I would remember it.
What's the melting point of gold in Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Um... About 1947 Fahrenheit, 1064 Celsius, give or take a fraction of a degree. Why?
Oh... uh... we need to know to make the tiny ingots. Phew. Just as well I have an excuse!
Ah, I see. Anything else?
Well, there was silver and platinum there, too. What if we use those as well?
Okay. Let's think. Silver is about 962 Celsius, 1763 Fahrenheit. Platinum is 1772 Celsius, 3221 Fahrenheit.
Great. Thanks. Now all we need is a thermometer that can go up to about three and a half thousand Fahrenheit without melting.
There are any number of metals that can go above that without melting, but how good they are at conducting heat depends on their structure. I'm sure we could get General Hammond to send us an industrial thermometer of some sort. I used to have one which could measure much higher than that. Oh!
I just thought of something. It'll be easy enough for me to build one which can 'read' the heat from the colour of the flames and the radiation the fire gives off. Why didn't I think of that before?
I hear her laughing in my head, which while pleasant, is weird. I know she wanted to say technical things about the thermometer, but she's getting better at explaining physics to the layman without prompting. I could hear her mind arguing to itself - exceedingly rapidly, which was disconcerting - as to which words to use.
Okay, that'll give me something to do when all of this is over, she finally says.
Thanks, Sam. I appreciate it.
No problem. See you when we get home. Won't be long now.
No, it won't be too long. Thinking about this has helped pass the time. I wonder if I've brought some paper and a pencil? I could draw some ideas. She could do with some 'pretty' things for a change.
Great, now I need all the bits to make a thermal imaging thermometer. It would probably be easier for me to ask the General for the real thing, wouldn't it? Dammit, I wish I could go on a shopping trip again. This time, it would be for more engineering bits and pieces.
When we were in Minnesota, I found a great little shop that supplied me with lots of things like different fuses, wires, circuit boards, small motors and so on, but buying scientific and 'industrial engineering' equipment off the shelf is quite a challenge. The SGC can get whatever it wants from the various suppliers to the military, but they don't deal with the general public.
I should make a list and give it to the General. After all, if we're giving them these ships, there's no reason we shouldn't be supplied with things in turn. We get weapons and ammunition without problems, so why we can't get the rest, I don't know.
What do I need? The thermometer, for a start. Maybe another kiln. Jack's one is designed for pottery, not for melting metals. It's like one of the old 'beehive' kilns with shelves in it. The old-fashioned kilns made by the ancient people of Earth have a habit of exploding from time to time, so a purpose-built one would be useful.
Of course, if we got a purpose-built kiln for melting ores and so on, it would probably have an inbuilt thermometer or thermostat which would heat the kiln up to the correct temperature, which also means I wouldn't need to build one. That's even better. Yes, that's definitely top of the list.
I could do with some more solder, I'm running out of that. Hmm... Do I have a data pad handy? I could start writing while I think about it.
Right, that's my list done. At least the initial one, as I'd better check my supplies back on the planet. It's kind of long, but I hope it'll be easy enough for them to supply what we want. I guess I should ask Jack if this is a good idea.
Sam? What's up?
Do you think it would be okay to ask the SGC for a few things in exchange for the ships?
Don't see why not. After all, how much would it cost them to build one of these things, let alone five?
More than the country's GDP I think, I say. Not that I know what our GDP is, or what one of these things would cost, but hell, it would be a lot, especially with the Asgard tech.
Then I think we can ask without worrying. What do you want?
I read out the list to him and hear him whistle in my head.
I'm thinking that shouldn't be a problem, he finally says. You know what else I'm thinking?
That we should all go to Earth to deliver the ships, and then pay a visit to the SGC. It's been a while.
I must admit to being a little stunned by that idea, but hell, why not? We're allowed to, after all.
Sure. Why not? It'll be fun.
Yeah, that's just what I was thinking. I'll ask the others.
We're nearly home. Jack's put the idea of a home visit to the others - including MIB. They were a bit shocked at the thought, but they all agreed in the end. So it's going to happen. When the ships are ready, we're going home!
We've put the ships in orbit and we're all back home. Jacob's staring unblinkingly at us across the table as we eat, drink, and generally waiting for Thor to turn up.
"So? Are you going to tell me about the telepathy?" he asks, still not blinking. It's making my eyes water.
We've come up with a 'story' for him, one which should hopefully mollify him. Naturally, we're leaving it to Daniel to explain.
"Well, it's like this, Jacob. You know we visited the Furlings' place a short while ago?"
He nods, not saying anything, so Daniel continues, explaining about the goo and the effects it had on us. Daniel's not telling him about our 'localised' telepathy, because then Jake'd be pissed because we didn't tell him about that ages ago. Instead, Daniel's making out (without actually saying it) that the goo caused us to become telepathic, all except Teal'c, of course.
"Why didn't you tell me about it before?" he asks. "I mean, as soon as we met up after that?"
"We were just getting used to it, Dad," Sam says. "We didn't know if it would even stay with us, but it seems as if it has. We're not listening into your thoughts," she adds, hoping that it will improve matters. I'm not sure that it has.
"Jake, you need to keep this a secret," I insist. "If you don't, the rest of the Tok'ra will cease to trust us. We promise we won't use this to listen in to your thoughts or anyone else's, unless lives depend on it, like with the Jaffa on the ship. The more time we spend with you, the easier it is for us to block out your thoughts."
"What thoughts have you picked up?" he asks suspiciously.
Daniel sighs. "Only emotional responses. Not your secrets or anything like that. Just strong thoughts that jump to the front of your mind, the sort that you'd like to blurt out and would if you didn't have the self-control to hold them back. Even those are fading."
Jacob's blushing a bit. Well, some of his emotional thoughts have been quite blue.
"It will help keep us safe," Sam puts in, appealing to her dad like a little girl. "We don't have to speak to each other, we can react quicker... We're more like MIB only we're still human. We're not as strong or as smart as them, but we're a lot closer than we were."
Jake finally nods. "Fine. I won't tell anyone. Does anyone else know?"
"Only Paul Davis, and that's because his coming here was how we found out. He's promised to keep it quiet, he's not even going to tell George," I inform him. "We might tell George, but only if we have to. To be frank, we're afraid of scaring him off."
"Have you scared off Davis?"
Daniel shakes his head. "No, but..." His voice trails off. Jacob looks at him, studying his face and then grins.
"I'm not Air Force anymore. I seem to remember telling you that I never liked that damned law anyway."
Daniel nods. "He's cool about me seeing his thoughts," he says quietly. "We're still very close friends. And who are we going to tell, anyway? Not that we'd tell anyone anything even if we could. It's not like that. We promise; anything we hear unintentionally will not be disclosed to anyone, except under the condition Jack said. If lives depend on it."
Before the conversation can go further, there's a flash of light and our little grey friend has turned up again.
"Hey, Thor. We've got a proposition for you."
"I noticed the extra ships in your system, O'Neill. I am not sure that we will have the resources to convert what you have."
"Maybe you will have, when you see what we have in store for you."
He looks at me oddly, then he blinks. "Perhaps you should show me."
"It's in the cargo bay on Gimli," I say.
He blinks again.
"Gimli?" I detect some amusement in his voice.
"Well," Daniel says, shuffling about. "It seemed appropriate to us."
Thor says nothing for a moment, then I'm sure I detect a smile. "I understand. Gimli has always been our image of hope for the future, a time and place of peace. We can only hope that your ship will help towards that goal."
"So you don't mind?" Daniel asks.
"No. I approve."
Thor's rewarded by one of Daniel's blinding smiles and I could swear that he's bristling with pride.
"We should go to... Gimli," Thor finally says.
In another blinding light, we're all transported up to the cargo bay.
Thor is stunned. That is the only way to describe his reaction.
"We found this processed neutronium," O'Neill starts, pointing to the section filled with that element. "There's about three hundred tons of it."
"Is that metric?" Thor asks.
"Metric?" O'Neill returns in surprise.
"We have used the metric system for many years," Thor answers patiently. "We find it a much more convenient method of calculation. In fact, it matches our system of measurement quite closely."
Daniel is attempting to keep his face straight, but is failing. He has often said that he prefers that system, too, and must continuously think in 'old-fashioned' terms to make O'Neill understand him. To stop O'Neill (an ardent supporter of the old measurements) 'going off on one', as Daniel says, he converts the measurements for Thor.
"Actually, it's only a little bit different," he states. "Just under 305 tonnes. It's all yours. It's not like we know what to do with it."
"Whether we are able to help you or not?" Thor asks, a little suspiciously.
"Sure. Like I said, we don't know what to do with it, you do. You may as well have it. If you want it, of course," O'Neill interrupts, trying to get the conversation back under control.
"It would be of great assistance to us," Thor replies. "I thank you." Then he looks at the rest of the metals with curiosity, but he says nothing.
"If you want anything else," Daniel offers, "it's yours. We'd like to keep a few bars of some of the precious metals, such as the gold and silver, because it would help us trade for things with other peoples. But whatever you want, whatever you need, it's yours."
"There are many elements here," Thor says. "Some, such as the naquada, would be of great assistance to Earth."
"True, but we know you could make good use of it quickly," O'Neill points out. "And, to be honest, we need your help with the ships. Uh, let's go to the bridge. We've got some plans of ships that Hades is building. He's even managed to design an Asgard tech-powered glider. We don't think that any of the gliders on these ships have that tech - we haven't checked yet, but we have no idea if he has them on other ships. We're hoping that if you have a copy of the designs, you'll find it easier to trace the source of the technology at your end."
Thor thinks and then blinks before nodding.
"I am not succeeding in finding the traitor," he states. "I have tested all of the High Council, and to my relief, none of them have anything to do with it. They have all been informed as to the news and they are also horrified by the thought of it. They wish to reduce Hades' capacity as much as you do."
"If they're on our side, will they help us with the ships?" Samantha asks.
"There is a good chance, especially as you have most generously offered the neutronium. What you have on this ship should be more than enough to finish converting all of your fleet."
"Including the al'keshes and cargo vessels on board them?" DJ asks.
"Including them," Thor affirms. "However, unlike with Gimli, it really will take some time to accomplish this. I will not be able to take all of the ships back to my homeworld at one time."
"Well, if you can do them one at a time, we can deliver them where they need to go as and when they return," O'Neill states. "In the meantime, let's go to the bridge."
Thor seems to be confused by the blueprints.
"There are many mistakes here," he says, staring at the designs. "Or rather, there are many places where the designs could be improved on most easily. This could explain why there are so many errors within the ships. I am becoming convinced that Hades did not gain information directly from an Asgard, but somehow acquired it from some Asgard technology and attempted to adapt Goa'uld technology to fit it."
"That could make sense," Daniel agrees, and we all add our agreement, more in hope than in conviction.
"How could they have acquired the Asgard technology?" Kar Shel asks.
"I am not sure," replies Thor. "We have lost no ships to the Goa'uld in many years."
DJ's eyes open wide with horror, and despite his lack of telepathic connection to Daniel, he seems to have the same idea. Whatever it is.
"Daniel? DJ? What's up?" O'Neill asks.
The Daniels look at each other, staring into each other's eyes. Then they nod slowly, as if passing on information to each other.
Daniel speaks. "The Replicators?" he suggests with a squeak.
"Bbbut... HOW?!" Samantha cries out. "If Hades had taken over a ship overrun by the Replicators, surely they'd have taken over him?"
"Perhaps not," John muses. "What if Hades found a ship that had been taken over by the Replicators, but was subsequently abandoned? If the Replicators removed or adjusted some of the technology..."
"It could explain why there is only half an Asgard ship incorporated into Hades' ships," O'Neill finishes off for him.
"Is that good news or bad news?" I ask, unsure of the meaning of this.
"Depends on where Hades found the ship," Daniel answers. "If he was outside our galaxy, or somewhere we know they are, then it's not too bad. If they were somewhere else, somewhere we have no idea that they are..." He shakes his head, as much as in terror as anything else.
"Has there been any sign from Hades that he has any connection to the Replicators?" Thor asks.
We all shake our heads. "No, this is the first time the thought of them has even come up," O'Neill sighs.
"That could be good news," Thor states. "At least from your perspective. If he has somehow allied himself with them, which would be extremely unusual, then the entire galaxy could face great peril."
"Uh, guys, we're also forgetting what we discovered at the shipyard," Daniel interrupts. He turns to Thor and explains. "We think that the shipyard was once owned by Baal. The planet it was on had neutronium. It's possible that Baal, not Hades was behind the acquisition of Asgard technology and that Hades just stole it."
"Baal is now dead, is he not?" Thor asks.
"Yeah. And it seems like Hades is moving in on his territory - at least that territory which hadn't already been claimed by others."
"With Baal dead, we could not ask him how he acquired the technology," Thor says bluntly.
"We had no idea that he was working on this!" O'Neill exclaims. "There was no hint of it before."
"I think he'd been doing it in secret," DJ states. "Think about it. Yu and the others have taken over Baal's territories. Hades is the one who's taken over what was probably the most valuable system. That would mean the others didn't know about it."
"That is quite likely," Thor agrees. "The other System Lords would not have left a system like this unattended if they had known about it. So the question is, are we certain that Baal is the one behind the use of Asgard technology or not?"
We all shake our heads and shrug. That is not a question we can answer.
Shit. We really need this. Not.
"It's my guess that the ship found by Hades or Baal or whoever it was, was abandoned," John states. "It's the only thing that makes sense."
We can only hope. But it's something we need to watch out for.
"We'll need those ships as soon as we can get them," Jack says, suddenly sounding very tired. He's not the only one.
"I can only take one ha'tak at a time," Thor replies sadly.
"Can Gimli tow any?" I ask. Well, I guess I should.
"Of course. You have the ability."
"The information is within the computer," he says dryly.
"I guess I hadn't got that far," I shrug. "Okay, how about you give us your co-ordinates, and we ferry the ships to you? Then you can bring them back as and when each one is ready. Given that we're pretty certain that Earth is the first target, we'll take them there one at a time when they get here. We want to go there anyway."
"That would be acceptable," Thor says. He sounds tired too.
"How about we start tomorrow?" Jack suggests. "Don't know about you guys, but I'm tired."
"We can start tonight," John offers.
"Yeah, great idea," replies Jack. "You do that. We, on the other hand, are mere mortals and we need some sleep."
Thor has gone with one of the ships in tow, MIB have gone with them with another. Given the speed of the ship, they could well have all of them gone by morning. That would be good. We, as Jack said, are now back on Annwn and in bed.
"It's been a long day," Jack yawns.
I don't bother answering him but I snuggle close and shut my eyes.