Summary: More shocks for the Tauri, tension between the guys and good news for a friend.
The usual thanks go to Joy for the fab beta. Much appreciated, hun. And Fabi - big hugs and loads of love.
"So you think Hades will come here sooner rather than later?" George asks.
We've 'allowed' Resch to stay as we discuss what we've learned. Parker gets to stay because of his rank. We're hoping that Resch will finally understand the sheer scale of what's happening out there if he listens in. Jack's warned him to keep his mouth shut, though. So far, so good.
"Like we said, he's either going to come here soon, try to wipe out the planet and then show the rest of the galaxy that he's the meanest snakehead out there. Or, he's going to build his forces up so damned much that he's just going to overwhelm Earth.
"Frankly, we're kind of hoping it's the first one, even though the second will give us more time to prepare. But that one will mean that he takes over all the unclaimed and abandoned sectors and that will make pinning down his location much more difficult. We do need to get messages out to all of the peoples we've encountered over the years, just to warn them what might happen. Chances are it won't be of much use to them, but at least they'll know what's coming."
"Understood. I'll arrange for messages to get out as soon as possible. If we can liaise with some of the planets, we might find out if Hades is actually doing this. Just a single message back from a planet being attacked by him would clue us into his plans."
We knew George would get it. Parker and Resch don't seem to understand the importance of the interplanetary alliances yet. Maybe they'll get it later.
"If he comes here before we've received all of the ships from the Asgard, what are we going to do?" Paul asks.
At least that's a sensible question.
"We're not really sure. It's one of the reasons we're delivering the ships personally and why we're hanging around, to be honest. Thor will call us when the rest are ready. We can gate back and get them when each one arrives. The problem is," I say with a sigh, "that we believe that Hades' ships are bigger than ours. The good thing is that they're only hybrids. They are slower than ours, less powerful. We think. If we could find his homeworld, we might be able to let you know what you were up against."
I look at Sam as she's obviously thinking about something.
"We're assuming that he's in Goa'uld territory, aren't we?" she asks.
"Assuming it," I agree.
"And we know that we have the three final symbols, right?"
"Right. But you already told me that if we have three symbols for an address, there are still about thirty-nine thousand possibilities."
"Overall," she concedes.
"Why don't you come with me to the ship?" she asks. "I think I might have an idea. Jack, is that okay?"
We look at him and he shrugs. "Sure. We'll go for any ideas. You guys head on up there. We'll continue here."
Frankie and DJ stand up, too. Not sure what good we're all going to do, but military briefings are pretty boring. Maybe we can pick each other's brains.
We reappear on Gimli's bridge moments later and wait for Sam to tap some things into the navigation computer.
"Something dawned on me," she says as she works. "Yes, there are thirty-nine thousand possible combinations, but not all of those will have gates. More to the point, not all of those that do will be in Goa'uld-held territory."
"So we limit the possibilities down to those that are in Goa'uld-held territory?" Frankie asks.
"And by doing that, we don't have so far to look," Sam confirms.
I look at DJ and he shakes his head.
"Not just them. Remember the green areas? Neutral systems, systems that have been abandoned by the Goa'uld..."
"Systems which Hades might still know about," I confirm. "DJ's right. We need to include those systems."
So she adjusts the parameters. All red- and green-gated planets which have the final co-ordinates of Pegasus, Canis Minor and Hydra, in that order. We wait for the results and when they do appear, we're very surprised. There are only five of them.
"Um, wow," Frankie says.
"That's kind of shortens the odds," Sam adds.
"You think we're going to find him now?" DJ asks, grinning from ear to ear.
"I'd say we're going to stand a much better chance," I murmur, unable to take my eyes off of the screen. "Sam, you need to call your dad."
"Because he knew who probably owned the shipyard. Perhaps he'll have a clue who owns these? If any of them now belong to Yu or Svarog, we'll be able to leave those until last as they'll be less likely to be taken over."
"Good point. Let's get back to the SGC."
"Before we go, can we use this logic to find the Furlings, too?" I ask.
"Possibly," she says. "We'll do it when we get home."
"There's only one problem with that," DJ points out. "And that's the fact that we don't know if they limited themselves to the lilac sector or if they used the entire gate network."
"Probably minus the red and green areas," I say. "I'm sure the Ancients would have warned them about the Goa'uld."
"Not really," he contradicts. "The Ancients were making their way out of our galaxy when the Goa'uld were just starting. The Furlings met them in ships, which would probably mean they were still establishing the gate network and hadn't ascended yet. There wasn't a snake problem at that time."
Shit. "Okay. I see your point. Probably minus the purple area then. I'm sure Thor would know where they are otherwise."
He nods, conceding that one. At least part of the galaxy has been eliminated from our enquiries. That's got to be a start, hasn't it?
Dad came as soon as we called him, which makes a change. He's looked at all of the addresses and says that as far as he knows, none of them are owned by Yu or Svarog. That's a bummer, but at least we know it's probably one of the five.
"So, do we go by gate or ship?" Hammond asks.
We're in full-scale war mode now. He's brought Colonel Monkewitz in and a couple of other team leaders. The eight of us are on one side of the table, ganging up together. It must look odd. The Jacks are in the middle and we're all sitting in mirror image of each other, spreading out from Jack in the order Daniel, me and Teal'c on the ends. If that makes sense.
Anyway, we're sticking together and our body language is letting everyone else know that we're not going to be split up. Not that some of them would try. Lou Ferretti is grinning at us, pleased to see us.
"Ship," John recommends. "We need intel for now. If we open the gate to any of these addresses and he sees a MALP coming through, he's going to know we're onto him."
"I see your point. We only have two ships, however," Hammond says.
"Not true," Daniel reminds him. "You've got Prometheus, haven't you? We've got our ship, you've got the new ship. But you've also got two al'keshes with full Asgard engines. There are eight of us, you have people qualified to pilot these ships; between us, we can check out all five systems at the same time."
I see that General Parker is shifting about most uncomfortably.
"General? What's wrong?" I ask. God, I'm enjoying not being in the Air Force now. I can talk to people like him and say what I'm thinking instead of tiptoeing around them.
"I am not comfortable about leaving Earth undefended," he states. "If you go and Prometheus and the other ships go, who will fight if Hades comes?"
"For a start," Jack replies, "we are so going before long. This is no longer our home. We're doing what we can to help out, but don't expect us to live in orbit of Earth; it ain't gonna happen. Secondly, even if we are all here, all the ships in orbit and waiting, we don't know when Hades is coming. If he were to come now, we'd be hopelessly outnumbered. We think.
"The point is, we need to get out there now and find out what he's got and when he's coming. A quick in and out of the five systems is less of a risk than waiting for him to turn up and doing nothing."
"We'll leave a few of us here," John offers. At our querying look, he adds, "Just in case we get the message from Thor that the new ships are ready."
"Good point," Jack agrees. "We'll need to take at least one of each of us," he says, pointing to our sides. "The Daniels and Teal'cs would be useful on most of the ships."
We know why, it's for translation purposes.
"I'll go on the other," Dad offers.
Jack nods and we soon see the Pentagon people - minus Paul - looking most peeved.
"General. Are you going to let them organise this? I thought you were in charge!" Resch complains.
"Over the years," Hammond drawls, "I have learned to listen. Especially to people who know what they're talking about. If I have a problem with what they're saying, I will let them know it. So far, I happen to agree with them all the way. What they're saying makes perfect sense to me."
Jack snorts. At Resch's indignant look, he says, "Tell me Mister Resch." Yup, even he can make 'mister' sound like an insult. "What is your job?"
"You heard. What is your job?"
"I'm a financial adviser to the Senate Committee which approves funding for this project."
"An accountant," Jack repeats. "Have you any military experience?"
"Have you at any time been a member of the armed forces? Did you study military history and tactics in college?"
"Well then. Do yourself a favour and either shut up or get the hell out of here. We have the experience."
"What about the Doctors Jackson? They don't have it."
"Oh, they have it. Practical experience. Battle experience. Believe me, they know tactics better than a lot of experienced officers. Ain't that true, General?" he asks, turning to Hammond.
"Very true. I am more than willing to listen to their ideas. I have on many occasions taken their advice."
"So you see," Jack puts in. "We know what we're talking about. We know the opposition. You don't. And while you are trying to save a few dollars here and there, we are trying to save the planet from slavery or annihilation. And those are the only two options Hades has when it comes to dealing with us.
"Believe me, burying the gate is not an option. All that will do is cut off any chance you have of escaping when he comes." He looks up at Hammond and says, "I'd advise contacting the Alpha site and warning them of a possible attack. We just don't know what Hades is going to do. If he knows about the Alpha site, that may well be the first place he goes."
"Understood," George says. "I'll get onto that straight away." He looks at his watch and says, "Go get something to eat, people. It could be a long day." Looking at Lou, he says, "Take our friends to the commissary, please. Make sure they're given what they want."
"Yes, Sir," Lou replies with a grin. "Well? You coming?" he asks us as he stands up.
"You go," John says. "We'll wait here."
"Sure thing," Jack sighs. "Maybe you can gate back to Annwn? You never know, Thor might have turned up with another ship?"
It's weird. We're back in the commissary, sitting at our old table with the current SG-1 and it feels both alien and like we haven't been away. Some of our old friends are coming up to us and saying 'hello' but other, newer, personnel are watching us as if we're something strange. Perhaps we are to them.
SG-1, well, us when we were SG-1, were a bit of a legend when we were here, even if I do say so myself. Since we've been gone, I dare say that some of our exploits have been spoken about in hushed tones. I've seen that happen with other teams in the past.
"You don't do things by half, do you?" Lou accuses, still grinning. There's little that wipes the smile off his face.
"Well, you know us by now, Lou," I say. "If a job's worth doing..."
I dig into the apple pie and enjoy every mouthful.
"I've missed this," I tell them.
"Apple pie?" Daniel asks.
"Pie of any sort. You don't make it."
"You haven't asked me to. Besides, we don't have access to flour. Those grains you found didn't work out well."
Ah. The grains. So, not everything on Annwn is perfect. What can I say? Daniel will trade for some foodstuffs, like the coffee and chocolate, even milk and eggs, but he feels guilty about asking for some basics, the sorts of things that can be stored for the people, in case there's a famine or something unforeseen. We'll trade for bread - it's something with a limited shelf life. Grain isn't. I get his reasoning but hell, I miss pie!
"We can get some while we're here," I suggest.
Daniel screws his face up. "We're about to face one of the biggest battles we've ever faced and you're thinking about pie?"
I shrug. A man's got to eat, hasn't he?
"We can always ask the General to send supplies of flour and other foodstuffs," Sam suggests. "It wouldn't be hard for them to disguise those supplies, after all. They've got to supply this place with them."
"I think that would work," Daniel agrees. "Then we wouldn't have to stock up with pickles and sauces whenever we come here. We should make another list."
I let out a groan. We've done nothing but make lists recently.
You're the one that wants pie, Jack, I hear.
He's right. It would be good. And if we can have a regular supply of things like flour and eggs... I could live with that.
"Uh... Colonel O'Neill?"
I look up and see an airman standing next to us. I go to correct him but figure 'what the hell'. I earned that commission.
"General Hammond requests your presence, Sir. Your... friends... have returned."
"Thanks. Come on, kids. Time to go."
We stand up, I grab the last piece of pie and eat it, and we leave together. I can feel the eyes of everyone in the room follow us.
So there's no sign of Thor. Frankie's had a great idea and she's set one of the scanners on Mia to pick up any signs of Asgard tech and when it does, she'll send a message to Thor telling him where we are. Cryptically, though, we can't take too many chances. ET, phone home. Seriously.
She's hoping that he'll figure it comes from me and know where we are from that. I'm only hoping we're going to be home before he gets the message. We did leave the address in the niche as we usually do, whether we go by ship or gate, and Thor knows about it, so hopefully, he'll go to the niche and look at the address if he doesn't guess straight away.
"Who's going to go on what ships?" I ask. We've got to get this organised quickly.
"Daniel, DJ, Kar Shel, Jacob and I will each be on one ship," Teal'c replies. "It would be good if we could have others to accompany us, but we do not need full crews. In fact, the fewer on board each ship, the better, in case we lose any of them."
Parker suddenly goes white so before he can respond, I say, "That's par for the course, General. We're all prepared to die. Tell me, are you?"
Now he's going red. Heh heh heh.
"I signed up to protect my country, Mister O'Neill."
Ouch. What a bitch.
"So did I," I reply. "It seems that my country doesn't want my help, though. That's cool. I can go home and take my ball with me if you don't want to play."
It takes him a moment to realise what I'm talking about, by which time, George has interrupted.
"Believe me, Colonel," he says, "we both want and need your assistance. And we are very grateful for it. Now, when it comes to piloting the various ships, how much assistance will you need? After all, you have suggested that some of you remain behind in case Thor delivers more ships to your homeworld."
"We'll only need two pilots familiar with Goa'uld technology," I say. "If Jacob goes with Prometheus and her crew, Teal'c and Sam can pilot one of the new ships, and Kar Shel and Frankie can go on another. That would leave Daniel and DJ needing a pilot-cum-engineer. Someone who knows about the crystals, anyway."
"How about if Sam and Frankie go with us?" Daniel suggests, pointing to himself and DJ. "We can pilot as well as translate. They can do the engineering if necessary as well as pilot. Teal'c and Kar Shel know about the crystals and the tech, so they'd just need someone familiar with the systems, able to fight and fly. It might be easier to find someone to assist them," he finishes with a shrug.
"It's fine by me. Gentlemen?" I look at our Jaffa.
"It is of no consequence to us," Kar Shel replies.
"Cool. Then two experienced pilots, George. Maybe some from Prometheus' crew?"
"That will be simple enough. I'll call them up right away. They're on standby already. In the meantime, Major Davis, would you organise the acquisition of all of their requirements, please? I think that if everything is placed in an empty hangar at Peterson it will probably raise the fewest eyebrows."
"Understood, Sir. It may take a few days to get everything on the list," he adds, looking at us with an apologetic smile.
"That's okay. We're in no rush for it. Oh, Daniel's got a few food items to add to the list by the way."
Paul picks up the paper and hands it over to Daniel without raising an eyebrow.
"Jack wants pie," Daniel mutters in explanation.
I see he's listing things like flour, sugar, apples... Ooh, I know some of the other ingredients. I think we're going to have that bake sale after all.
Uh guys, do we need all of the gliders on our ship?
We all try not to acknowledge Daniel's question physically, but keep our faces straight. We have become good at this.
Why? O'Neill asks.
Well, Parker's obviously nervous about leaving Earth undefended, and frankly, so am I. I was thinking that if we offer to offload our gliders, as well as those of the other ship, they'll at least have a couple of hundred of them on standby. It could help George's side.
Tactically, deploying those would be a nightmare. And where would they get the pilots?
I think I have an idea, Daniel says calmly. You've just got to go with the flow.
We think about it for a moment, then agree with him, although O'Neill adds a caveat.
We need to keep eight on board our ship. Just in case we need them.
Understood. I have an idea about that as well, by the way. We can discuss it later.
"General," he says out loud as the meeting starts to break up. "If it's of any use, we can transport most of the gliders on our ship to somewhere of your choosing. That would at least give you some backup while we're away. We can transport the gliders from your new ship, too. No one would see them if we used the Asgard beams. All you'd need to do would be to arrange somewhere to put them."
"I appreciate the offer, son, but what of the pilots? We can't just conjure up several hundred glider pilots at a moment's notice."
"Actually, it probably wouldn't be that difficult. If you see Hades coming, put a call through to Bratac. I'm sure he could rustle up a fair few experienced pilots in minutes."
He looks at me for confirmation and he gets it. Of course, that would be a good idea.
"In fact, calling up Bratac wouldn't hurt anyway, because from what I can gather, flying a glider is pretty easy. If he and a few of his people could come here, they could teach Tauri pilots in a short space of time, couldn't he?" Again he looks to me for confirmation and again he gets it.
"If I could find that many suitable Air Force pilots, I'd be more than willing to look into this idea."
"Does it have to be Air Force?" Daniel asks, surprising everyone, especially Major Davis.
I see him mouthing Daniel's name in query but Daniel's face is calm in response.
"I mean," he continues, "the Navy has connections with NASA, doesn't it? How many Navy pilots try out for the astronaut programme and don't get in, even though they're perfectly capable pilots? As I understand it, there are a lot. You could arrange a cover story to get them to Peterson or wherever you want them to go. And there are Army pilots.
"A glider is a simple craft. With just a little training, anyone who has flown anything should manage it. After all, the basics of flying are the same, aren't they? It's just the control panels and the flight characteristics of each type of craft that are different."
"Could we be of assistance?" O'Neill offers. "I mean, if John and I are hanging around here, we could at least show some of your people the ropes, too."
"If Hades suddenly attacked while the larger ships were away, we'd be relying on your expertise to lead our people into battle," Hammond muses.
"I have an idea for when you have all of the ships here, too," Daniel offers. "Something that would leave Earth very well defended and would keep even a thousand or so gliders secret. But that will take time and more negotiation, I think. In the meantime, this is the best I can come up with under the circumstances."
"I look forward to hearing your idea when you get back, Doctor Jackson. I think we can certainly accomplish your first suggestion. Sergeant Davis!"
I believe that Sergeant Davis must have a sixth sense. He is already entering the room.
"Put a call through to Peterson for Major Davis, please. Major, you organise things there. They'll need to empty out a few of their largest hangars, I believe. How many gliders are we speaking of?" he asks us.
"Including the ones on your ship," I say, "and leaving a few for us, you will have about 390."
"That's a lot of gliders," Hammond replies. "Thank you." He turns to Parker and without asking for his agreement says, "General Parker. Would you get onto whichever admiral you think would respond fastest to our request, please? I've got to put a call through to the President."
Daniel stands up, as do we all, but instead of following us, he makes his way to the General's office. My team are at my side in moments.
"What's he up to?" O'Neill asks.
"I do not know."
"Should we..." He waggles his eyebrows and tries to surreptitiously point to his head.
"Is it not private?"
"We don't have secrets," O'Neill harrumphs.
"If he is not keeping this a secret, he will tell us of his own accord."
O'Neill looks put out, but he seems to agree. We await our teammate and then it will be time to organise things quickly.
The briefing room has cleared of all but MIA. Daniel has re-entered the room and we are all staring at him.
"What? Have I spilled something?" he asks, looking at his clothes.
"No, not that," Samantha replies cautiously.
"Then what? Jack, tell me!"
"Oh, we were just wondering what you were talking to Hammond about, that's all."
"Oh, is that it?"
He starts to walk to the door that will take us to the control room.
"Daniel. Aren't you going to tell us?" O'Neill pushes.
"It's nothing important. At least not to you guys."
He stops, sighs, turns around and calls us close. In a low voice he says, "Look, I just suggested a certain person at the Pentagon to liaise between the SGC and the Navy if Parker can get agreement from whichever admiral he's talking to, that's all."
"Since when have you known... Oh. I get it," O'Neill says. "A certain lieutenant commander?"
"Yes. It makes sense, Jack. And it will mean that Paul can talk to him about work, he'll understand when Paul has to rush off and so on. From what Paul told me, Anthony's a nice guy. He's steady, loyal, reliable... among other things," he adds with a mutter. "All good things," he then says, grinning from ear to ear.
"Just don't say anything to Paul yet, okay? Hammond hasn't asked any questions, but he's not stupid and he likes Paul a lot. I'm sure he'll do what he can, how he can, to help out."
He frowns at O'Neill and then says, "And before you ask, yes I wanted to help Paul out but no, that wasn't why I suggested giving the gliders away. The reason I gave at the briefing was genuine. Calling the Navy in makes perfect sense and you know it. So don't think I had an ulterior motive, please."
"I wasn't going to suggest that," O'Neill sniffs.
"You didn't have to. It was written all over your face."
He turns, his head high but his shoulders are down, as if he is trying to hide the fact that he feels hurt. We hear him say - probably only to O'Neill, but it has come to us all -
And you said the green-eyed monster was dead. Think again, O'Neill. I'm not cheating on you. I never have and I never will.
I wonder what brought that on. I did not get the impression that O'Neill thought otherwise. It only takes one look at O'Neill to discover that he had not thought that either.
I should have known Jack would get jealous. He's denying it, but I saw the look on his face when I mentioned it. Dammit, I only want to help out a friend, that's all! It's not like I want to get into Paul's pants again. Typical. He says he trusts me, tries to show it, then the slightest thing happens and we're back to square one.
I don't have time for this. We're too damned busy. Hammond's told us that Prometheus has launched and two pilots are waiting for their orders. Paul's informed us that there are three giant hangars clear at Peterson and DJ and Frankie are already on Earth's new ship and are transporting all of the gliders down from ships ready for use.
"Are we ready?" Sam asks. She's coming with me. I guess we've just teamed up in the way we usually do.
"I am. Let's go, shall we?"
We're just about to transport to Gimli - she and I drew that one - when Jack comes charging up to us.
"What is it, Jack? They're waiting for us."
"Go on up, Sam," he says. "Sort out who's going to which system. Daniel will be with you in a minute."
She shrugs and presses the transport command into her bracelet and disappears.
"What was all that about, Daniel?"
"What do you mean?"
"Come on, I'm not jealous. How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Oh, please Jack. Don't you think I can read your expressions yet? Please don't make it worse."
"Make what worse? If you want to..."
He takes my arm and pulls me to one side, making it look like we're speaking quietly but he continues telepathically.
If you want to help out a friend, it's cool.
Cool, eh? So why did you look so damned angry?
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
I don't have time for this, Jack.
When will you have time for it? he asks angrily.
When I get back! You know I've got to go.
He turns on his heel and stalks off. Fuck.
He doesn't answer.
Jack, dammit, talk to me!
Still no answer. Is that it? I don't have time to launch into a big discussion with him and he has a tantrum? Well fuck you, O'Neill.
I transport to the ship and I'm on the bridge in moments.
"We've got the co-ordinates," Sam says.
"Then we'd better go."
She looks at me oddly then sighs, presses the controls and seconds later, I watch as Earth recedes. I can't help feeling like I've lost Jack again and all of a sudden, a wave of depression hits me like a brick.
It's only going to take about forty minutes to get to our destination, even though it's halfway across the galaxy. So far, about halfway there, the journey has been completed in silence. I'm sitting on the command chair - I won't call it a throne. Delusions of grandeur never sit well with me. Sam hasn't said a word to me but I guess I'm not exactly giving her reason to talk.
She's staring out of the view screen at hyperspace. It's kind of mesmeric. All I can think of is Jack. Has he really decided to end it? No, he wouldn't. I mean, I'm just reading too much into it, aren't I? We've had fights before but this was nothing compared to those. But even the bigger fights we've had haven't led to me feeling this damned depressed. Last time I felt like this was the last time we split up. Fuck.
The only thing I can think of is that he's aware of that fucking fantasy. I don't want that. It just turns up occasionally, when I'm least expecting it. If he is, then maybe he thinks that I want Teal'c. Or John. Shit. No wonder he's jealous.
But I haven't done anything that could lead him to believe that I'd cheat on him, have I? If he's annoyed by the fact that I - briefly - kissed Paul, then he's way more childish than I thought. After all, he told me I could sleep with him! I didn't want to! Even if Paul had been single I wouldn't have. Jack knows that Paul's in a serious relationship and if he doesn't know me well enough to know that I wouldn't do a thing to break that up, then perhaps he doesn't know me at all.
All the jokes about him wanting me barefoot and, if not pregnant, then chained to the kitchen sink seem to be true. They're certainly not funny anymore. He wants me to be kept away from everyone, doesn't he? Well screw that. I trust him not to run off with anyone, if he can't trust me to do the same then there's nothing left between us.
So that's it, isn't it? It's over. What am I going to do now? I can't leave the team. It's not like I've got anywhere to go. I guess I can go sleep in the tunnels. It's going to make working with him difficult, but I'm sure we can manage it. We managed it before.
I look up and see Sam staring at me.
"About time, too. I've been calling your name for ages."
"Sorry, my mind was elsewhere. I'll concentrate better when we get there."
"So, are you going to tell me? What's wrong?"
"Right. And I was born yesterday. Not. Come on, Daniel. Something's up. Talk to me."
I guess she's going to find out soon enough anyway.
"I think Jack's ended it."
"WHAT? No! Of course he hasn't. What makes you say that?"
"Uh, the fact he wouldn't answer me, the fact that he doesn't trust me not to cheat on him... You name it." I take a deep breath and try to steady my voice. Not easy when my whole body wants to shake. "I suppose it's for the best. I mean, I don't want to live a lie, and if he doesn't trust me, then he can't love me the way he says he does."
"I'm sure you're misreading this, Daniel. You know Jack. He overreacts to lots of things."
"Perhaps I'm sick of being the one he takes it out on."
I stand up and walk to the control panel and check out how much flying time we have left. I realise that I was deep in thought longer than I'd guessed. We're nearly there.
"Daniel..." She puts her hand on my arm. "Don't think like that. It's not that bad."
I shrug as I don't have any words for her on that subject.
"We're nearly there," I tell her. "Time to get ready."
I'm sure Daniel's misread the situation with Jack. I mean, Jack's crazy about him. He'd die for him. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for him. Except maybe completely trust him. Daniel might have got a point, there. Jack has been known to be exceedingly jealous for no real reason, even before they got together.
Anyway, there isn't anything we can do about it now. We've come out of hyperspace and we're making our way into the system. Both of us are watching the scans intently. We've got every sort of scan we can imagine going like crazy and our eyes are flicking from one to another.
"Sam, look here," he says, pointing to the space near one of the planets.
I look at where he's pointing and say, "Another shipyard?"
"Or his fleet. If that's his fleet, we're in trouble."
"We can't take out the sun this time," I point out. "Just look here."
We see that there is a twin planetary system, two medium-sized 'Earth' planets, spinning round an invisible central point as they orbit their sun. On both planets, there are massive populations. They can't all be Jaffa, it just wouldn't be possible. Hecate would be constantly breeding if that were the case. I'm sure even a Goa'uld would wear out before long if she had to do that.
The scan says that there about ten billion people here. Humans. I wonder where they came from? I didn't get the impression that there were any other settlements on Hades' homeworld. I didn't see anything when we were looking for the Asgard there. So was this a planet which had been abandoned by another Goa'uld? Or has this been Hades' all along?
"We have to wait until he takes the ships away from here," Daniel murmurs.
I can't help but stare at the planets. I've seen twin suns before, but I haven't come across twin planets, at least not habitable ones. It's as if one of the planets was going to be a moon, but they couldn't work out which was which. I'm not even sure this is possible. Hell, I'm not sure that a lot of what we've seen in this galaxy is possible, but it's there.
At least Daniel doesn't complain when I set up the scans to take as many readings as possible. He gets my need to know. I wonder if these planets were created in the same way as our moon. It's thought that there was another planet like Earth, right back near the beginning of the solar system. It crashed into Earth and the resulting ejecta coalesced into what became the moon.
These planets are a similar mass to each other. Very similar. Instead of a smaller amount of material being ejected into the orbit of the larger planet, perhaps half the amount ended up orbiting. Because they'd both have the same mass, they'd have a more or less equal gravitational force on each other. The one planet seems to move the least - difficult to tell from a few minutes' observations but the scanners on this ship are pretty remarkable.
Perhaps that planet is the original one and the other one pulled it out of its steady elliptical orbit of the sun and forced it into a secondary orbit, too. Hmm...
"Oh! Sorry. Just got a bit caught up. What were you saying?"
He chuckles. "We'd better start concentrating on our jobs," he says. "The way we're both wrapped up in our minds, we could end up in trouble."
"Agreed. Have you found anything?"
"I think so. Look here."
He points out a tech scan and we see a concentrated area of naquada. Merging this scan with a few others, we both let out a whistle. "The new palace?" he suggests.
"Certainly looks like it."
"We need to get down there."
"Yeah. Should we call for backup?"
"What if this isn't Hades' place?" he asks. "I mean, we've only guessed that the new palace was his. We could be wrong. If we call for the others, we could be taking them away from what really is Hades' place, or any other significant discovery."
"I see your point. So, what are we going to do?"
"I don't know," he mutters, looking at all the scans. "I think we need to think about this."
I still can't believe that Daniel thinks that of me. How many times have I got to tell him that I trust him? Dammit. He really knows how to hurt a guy, doesn't he? Okay, so I shouldn't have stalked off like that. It was a bit childish. But I was well pissed with him and didn't want to talk just in case I said something I'd regret later. It's way harder to argue in our heads, as when you're speaking out loud, you get the chance to keep your mouth shut. Thoughts are harder to guard against.
Why would he think that way? I cast my mind back to the events and shut my eyes as I try to recall everything, even every emotion I felt.
Daniel suggested the Navy. Okay, I was a bit surprised, probably a little miffed. I can't help that, it's an Air Force thing. Not that I have anything against the Navy, it's just we all stick to our own branch of the forces and tend to promote them. I can't see that anything I thought of there would have upset him. What about when I was able to connect...
No, backtrack. When Daniel went into Hammond's room. How did I feel then? Annoyed that he wasn't sharing, curious as to what he was up to, nothing serious. Then he wouldn't willingly tell us what he'd said. That annoyed me further, for sure. I mean, now I see why he didn't feel it necessary to mention it. It's not like who the Navy liaison is would affect us in any way. It probably just didn't dawn on him that we'd be interested.
Of course, then I connected his idea to... Shit, shit, shit! I remember it. It was there, only for a moment, but it was fucking there!
A brief thought that he wanted to 'take care' of Davis, and even though my logical brain said that it was just a pal looking out for another pal, my emotional brain was angry. And he detected it. Fuck. It's not like I meant it. But he wouldn't know that, would he?
I'll have to make it up to him when he gets home. I'm sure I can think of something to prove that I trust him. I have to.
"Jack? Thor's calling."
I turn and see John looking at me and make my way to him.
"One of his hologram things. He's in the briefing room."
"Hey Thor. What's up?"
"I was about to ask the same thing of you, O'Neill. I am on Annwn."
"Great. Have you brought another ship?"
"I have. Will you come to get it?"
"We'll be there in a few minutes. Have you been briefed about what we're doing?"
"I have not."
"Okay. Either John or myself will be with you soon. We'll tell you everything that's going on. Whichever one is left is going to train up a few glider pilots."
"I see. I shall await your return. Perhaps you could explain to me the meaning of 'ET'."
With that, he signs off.
"Who's going?" I ask John. He shrugs. I guess neither of us is really bothered. To be honest, I'm not bothered about much at all. I'm just too damned depressed.
We do the rock, paper, scissors thing and he gets to go home.
"You go to Peterson," he says. "I'll be back as soon as. Maybe the others will be on their way back by then, too."
"Sure. Have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
He looks at me as if I've gone mad. Perhaps I have.
"Don't know what the hell is going on with you," he growls, "but you'd better get over it."
"Oh, I've just fucked everything up with Daniel," I say, trying to sound light. "It's nothing serious."
He looks stunned. "HOW? Jeez, Jack, I mean... What in hell's name have you done now?"
I shrug. "Been an idiot. Had a brief moment of jealousy. Really brief. He got annoyed by it and now he's gone."
"You haven't broken up again, have you?" he asks suspiciously.
"I haven't broken up with him. But he was seriously hacked off with me. Who knows?"
He glares at me and shakes his head. "You really are an idiot. We'll talk when I get back."
"Where have I heard that before?" I mutter.
"Nothing. Sorry, go on. I'll get down to the air base."
I get a call that Bratac has just contacted us and that he and a few of his loyal Jaffa will be here soon. That's great. We need all the help we can get. All I have to do now is wait for him to turn up and I can go play with some gliders.
I can see one problem with this. Peterson isn't that far from 'civilisation'. If we're not careful, the local people are going to get an eyeful. Hell, if Hades turns up, the whole planet will know about it. I guess a few locals wondering about UFOs is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.
Now I wait. And try not to think about Daniel.
I do not believe that this system belongs to Hades. However, I do believe that we have found something of interest.
"Major Gustavson. We need to proceed most carefully."
"Aren't we just going to go back and report?" he asks.
"I do believe we should find out as much as we can about this place first. Look there."
He looks out of the screen at where I am pointing.
"And that looks like Asgard technology. It should not be there. The current Asgard territories are outside our galaxy or on the furthest edge from Earth. Ancient Asgard territories are either populated by humans and protected by items like Thor's Hammer on Cimeria, or have been completely abandoned. Why, therefore, would there be new, or a fairly new ship and structures on and around this planet?"
"I don't know."
"We should take as many scans as we can and report to Thor. As commander of the Asgard fleet, he should know all of the locations of their ships. I am assuming, based on our current knowledge of Asgard positions, that he is not aware of this. Also, given that either Baal or Hades had mysteriously acquired Asgard technology, there had to be a source of that acquisition. Perhaps this is a clue."
"So we need to get closer?"
He sounds both excited and nervous, a reaction I have often encountered in pilots.
"We do indeed."
"Cool. Uh, okay. Let's go."
We are close to the structures which are on one of the moons orbiting one of the outer planets. We are also trying to avoid detection by the Asgard ship. That will be easier said than done as Asgard ships can detect even cloaked Asgard ships. Which worries me. Would Hades be able to detect a cloaked ship such as Gimli? Perhaps not. The ship did not originally have a cloak, so we may remain lucky as the scanners may not have been calibrated to detect one. I should ask Thor when we get back.
"There's something odd about that ship, Sir," Major Gustavson says.
"What do you mean?"
"It doesn't seem to be the same shape that it was earlier. I mean... Has it grown?"
I look at the scan that he is pointing to and see what he is saying. It is at least half as big again as it was and a slightly different shape. Somehow, it is adapting or... I am afraid that can only mean one thing.
"Turn the ship around," I order.
"Do as you are told!"
I keep watching the scans and hope that we have not been seen. I now understand my teammates when they say that their hearts are in their mouths.
"What now?" he asks.
"Make good speed out of here, but do not engage the hyperdrive engines until we are out of the system."
I am not afraid to die. I will face death honourably. However, I do not wish to die. And we must get this information to our friends and allies. This is not good news.
"We're nearly out. Have we been spotted?"
"I do not think so. Wait... They are powering up their engines!"
I do not issue any more instructions but I engage the hyperdrive immediately, taking us away from the system and initially, away from Earth. It is only after ten minutes of maximum speed do I slow us down to see if we have been followed. Major Gustavson has said nothing, but he looks extremely worried. Perhaps that is because I have not yet enlightened him.
"We may return home," I say. "We were not followed."
He looks relieved.
"Are you going to explain now, Sir?" he asks.
"Indeed. I do believe that our most feared enemy was residing in that system."
"Oh? What enemy, Sir? I mean, we've got a few."
I nod in understanding. If he has not personally encountered them, he would not understand the potential disaster.
"The ship you saw was not a ship as such."
"It was almost a living being."
"The ship was made up of many small beings, which gather together to make whatever they require. They are better known as the Replicators."
He has heard of these, I believe. He has lost all of his natural colour.
"We must return home as swiftly as possible."
He taps the flight plan into the al'kesh's computer and we are soon back in hyperspace and heading for Earth.
"Another ship's coming into the system," Sam says.
We still haven't figured out what we're going to do, or how. We need information, and lots of it. We've scanned the ships that are already here. There are twenty the same size as Gimli, about forty al'keshes and hundreds of gliders on what seem to be military exercises. Perhaps they're preparing to attack Earth?
Scans have told us that all of the ships are the hybrids, and that half of the gliders flying around are the full meal deal. Engines as well as shields and weapons. They won't make a great deal of difference in actual battle, apparently, but it does mean that he has plenty of gliders with which to launch an attack from outside the solar system.
We've guessed that if all of the ha'taks have the 200 glider compliment and that half of those have the Asgard engines, we'll be facing an initial attack of two thousand plus gliders. Maybe more if the mother ship has some. We're guessing that the mother will have the lesser gliders and that he'll keep back at least half his compliment for when he comes to 'take over' Earth.
We've also discovered another sizeable cache of neutronium. We'll let Thor know about that, I think. I'd rather the Asgard had it.
"Is this his whole fleet?" I wonder. "We knew from the records that they'd built a considerable fleet before they left his original homeworld. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the timeline. You know, what was built, where and by whom."
"Is it important?"
"I don't know. It might be. Anyway, we're not going to find out from here. Where's that ship going?"
"To the twin planets."
We watch as it slows to a halt and then see the unmistakable sight of the transporter beam working. It's definitely rings - they have a particular look. So Hades hasn't managed to completely convert to Asgard technology since our backs have turned, which is a relief.
"Did you track where the rings were?" I ask her.
"Yes. They're in the palace."
"There's only one thing we can do," I sigh. "Where is the personal cloak?"
Why do I do these things? I had to insist on Sam staying on the ship. After all, there's no need for her to come with me. She doesn't speak the language. I've promised to call her down if I find anything technological that I need her help with. At least we have Gimli. She can find us straight away.
Actually, since Gimli had the new computer put in it, I've been feeling particularly attached to it. Can't explain why. Maybe I'll figure it out later. I don't have time now.
The cloak is working and Sam has just transported me to a corridor next to the ring room in the palace. I'm really grateful that we've got the Asgard transporters as it's safer to sneak in places like this with them.
I'm following my nose, or rather, my ears. There seems to be some fuss going on down this corridor.
Daniel? How's it going?
I'm just going to listen into something. Hang on.
Let me know, okay?
I listen in and translate on the fly so that I can let Sam know what I'm hearing. Maybe that will stop her feeling so left out.
"What do you mean? It cannot have disappeared!"
I make my way into what seems to be a throne room. On the throne is a woman, dressed in black. She's furious. I look around and see that the Jaffa in this room have Hades' mark on them, so at least we can be sure of that. In a way, that's a relief. It means it's no one else.
"Just that, my lady. As ordered, when we had not heard from the shipyard for a few days, I went by ship to see what was wrong. I had hoped, as did we all, that it was just a malfunction of the gateway. But when we arrived at the co-ordinates, it had gone. All that was left were the remains of the sun."
"Yes, my lady. It was as if the sun had exploded."
I transmit this to Sam and hear, Well, that answers that question.
"That is not possible! That sun was not old."
"But it happened, Mistress. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. There was nothing left."
"No Mistress. Only the remains of the sun, as I said. We could not stay long, but our scans and our eyes told us that all of the planets had been destroyed. There was not a single ship left."
"It must be the work of the Tauri," she spits. "Our spy with the Tok'ra told us that they had exploded a star when wanting to defeat that fool Apophis. That is the only explanation."
"What do you require of us, Mistress Hecate?"
Ah, so that's who she is.
"I will discuss this with our lord Hades. But prepare for war!"
"Yes, Mistress. Your Jaffa are ready to serve you however you require."
Hecate dismisses him and everyone else and soon we're the only ones in the room. I stay as far away from her as I can as I don't want her to hear my breathing. She calls up a large VCD like the one I saw on Apophis' ship. Soon I get to see Hades for the first time.
I'm not sure what to make of him. His host is - rather unsurprisingly - extremely good-looking. He's got that olive skin of a Mediterranean native, his hair is black, shoulder-length, very curly. In fact, he looks like one of the Greeks we see depicted on the old pots. But there's something about him which puts me on edge, and I don't think it's just because he's a snake. He's smiling. That always unnerves me.
"Ah, Hecate. What is it now?"
"The Tauri have decimated your shipyard. They have blown up the sun!"
"Surely not. They are not that intelligent. Neither are they that brave."
"They have done it before, my lord. Remember the information from Magda? There was a Tauri team who destroyed Apophis' fleet as the Tok'ra were running to ground like the rats that they are."
"Magda... Oh yes. But she has told us of many amazing things that this team was supposed to have done. I fear that she has a vivid imagination. Has she spoken of this latest explosion?"
"I have not heard from her in some time. This is not unusual."
"Perhaps you should contact her first? If the Tauri were involved in this, then she would know for certain. There is no point in looking for revenge if it is not warranted. Perhaps it was a natural occurrence. I have seen many stars explode in my lifetime. Perhaps it was another System Lord. You know that they are not very original and are known to steal the tactical ideas of others."
I can see Hecate is stopping herself from reacting. Hades seems to be pretty reasonable but she's got a real temper. Is his placidity because he's not inclined to attack? Or is there another reason? I don't know. I just don't know.
"Very well, my lord. But I must warn you that I believe the Tauri were behind this. If they were, then we must take action against them. We cannot allow them to damage us like this. If word were to spread to the other System Lords, your name would hold disgrace. I cannot let that happen."
"Ah, dear, dear Hecate. You are so loyal. You also forget that I have never cared for any standing among the System Lords. Tell me, why be the lord of a system or two, when you can be lord of all? And when you are lord of all, does it matter what one or two insignificant little hataakas think of you?"
Okay, that clears that one up. He's unfazed because he doesn't just have delusions of grandeur, he has delusions of godhood - on the grandest possible scale. Right. Now I don't feel as bad about fighting him.
"When we confirm..."
"If, Hecate. If we confirm."
"Of course. If we confirm that the Tauri were behind the destruction of your shipyard, what should we do?"
"Do? Oh, that. It is quite simple. We go back to the first world and remind them of their god. If they will not worship me freely, they will die."
Right, I'm thinking that now would be a good time to get out of here.
Daniel's been keeping me informed of Hecate's conversation with Hades. The good news is that they're not on their way to Earth. The bad news is, they're going to come. We have to get out of here to let the Tok'ra know that Hecate will want a report from Magda. Which will be tough, as there's nothing left of her.
I've been scanning like crazy and part of me wants to wind Hades up. He's going to need lots of money and other things if he's going to rebuild what we destroyed. From the way he was talking, I get the impression that he wants to build a massive fleet before he comes. He's thinking bigger than big. Sure, he has a pretty impressive fleet as it is, but, if he wanted another hundred and fifty - at least - I don't think he's going to want to go with less.
So we might have some time. And I think I've found a way of buying us a bit more. It could well irritate him even more but either way, we'll win.
Get me out of here, Sam. I don't think I can... Oh fuck.
She's seen me! The cloak has failed!
Shit. Hang on, I'll just...
Just... Look, listen in. You'll know when to get me out.
I listen in and my heart is stopping. I watch through Daniel's eyes and see what Hecate looks like. Nasty, that's really it. She looks plain nasty.
"Who are you?" she demands.
Daniel doesn't answer her.
Daniel, think of a name. Think of a false ID. You can use this against someone else.
Of course. Hang on.
I watch as she closes in on him. He doesn't move.
"Why should I tell you?"
I want to scold him for snake-baiting but all I can do is keep my hand on the transporter beam. He needs to feed her false information and fast.
"Because I will kill you if you do not."
"You'll do that anyway."
Oh hell, she's used her ribbon device. He's been sent flying into a wall.
I can't help but laugh. I shouldn't, but I can't help it.
"You will hurt a lot more if you do not co-operate."
She steps closer and starts with the ribboning, sucking at his mind.
Daniel! I'll get you out.
"My master will kill me," he gasps.
"As you so rightly pointed out, if you do not co-operate, I will kill you." She's stopped with the brain-sucking and starts to pace. Phew!
"So where's the benefit to me to tell you who my master is?" His voice is pretty croaky, but I think he's okay.
She stops walking, looks like she is thinking and then says, "If you tell me who sent you here, I will let you live."
"In a cell," he snorts.
"Perhaps not." She indicates to him to stand up and he does. I can almost feel his pain as he tries to do it without shouting out.
Ah hell, not again. Sam, what is it with these snakes?
Daniel, I keep telling you. You're a babe.
I can hear his mind laughing.
I don't feel like one.
Do you want out of there?
Soon. Let me tell her who my master is first, eh? I can't do that too soon. She's got to give me a reason to.
I agree, then let him concentrate on her. She's trailing the fingers of the beribboned hand down his face and he's trying not to pull back.
"You could have a place at my side."
"Wouldn't Lord Hades have something to say about that?"
"He allows me my playthings. So? If you go back to your master, you know you will die. If you do not tell me who he is, you know you will die. If you tell me who he is, you will live in paradise. What is it to be?"
He's not answering directly, but eventually he says, "You promise?"
"I do not need to promise," she snorts. "I am Hecate!"
"Yeah, well. Okay, you win. But you'd better stick to your word."
I can see her eyes rolling with impatience.
"It's Lord Svarog," he says. "He's heard that Lord Hades is planning attacks on the System Lords."
"The System Lords will stand no chance against us. Soon, they will all kneel at the feet of their supreme lord or they will die. As will you."
"But you said...!"
"Fool! Did you really think that a traitor would be allowed to live?"
Okay, it's time to get him out of there. I continue to watch through his eyes as my hand slams on the transporter. Too late, he's been hit with the ribbon again.
He appears on the bridge, lying on the floor. Dammit, he's out cold. I haven't got the time to check him out just yet as she'll know there's a ship here now. To hell with it, I'm going to take what I wanted and then we'll get out of here. Then I can check him out.
"Daniel, come on, wake up!"
There's no response from him. He's been like that since I retrieved him. I've checked him out as best I can and I don't think he's broken anything, but I can't tell for sure. It's why I haven't moved him. I'm too afraid to do any further damage. I mean, what if he's broken his neck? He's still completely unconscious, there's some blood from a cut on the side of his head but it doesn't look too serious. I've dressed that as well as I can under the circumstances. I think that it's bleeding just because he hit his head on the wall again.
The ship is going at maximum speed - maximum warp as Jack sometimes calls it - and we'll be home in about ten minutes. Not soon enough.
His breathing is shallow, but at least he's breathing. His heartbeat is steady if a bit slower than normal. I'm scared.
"Please, Daniel. Wake up."
I've just gotten a call from Sam on my comms unit. In the middle of briefing a bunch of Air Force pilots. Not that I care about that. Bratac's here, as are a few of his buddies. They'll continue the briefing.
"Right, Sam, beam me up," I say as I enter a corridor which is empty. I know they know we're dealing with alien tech, but still, we can't be too careful.
"He got slammed into a wall, twice," she says.
"Long story. I'll tell you everything when we get him to the infirmary. I want to get down there to prepare Janet. When I get to a clear bed, I want you to home in on it and transport him directly to it. I don't want to move him unless it's necessary. At least this way we won't have to pick him up. I'm scared his neck is broken."
"Oh fuck. Okay, go. Call me as soon as you're ready."
She disappears and I drop to my knees next to Daniel. He's dead to the world. Damn, I could rephrase that, couldn't I? No, he's not going to die. I won't let it happen. We have plenty of friends who'll fix him up. Yeah, they'll do that for him. There's Thor with his pod, the Tok'ra with the healing machine. Why didn't Sam go to them? She probably didn't think about it, just acted instinctively to get him somewhere safe.
"We're ready," I hear on the comms.
"Okay. I'll send him down."
I home in on Sam and locate the space next to her. Please God, let him land on the bed and not on the floor. I'll find out in a moment as I'm going after him.
I'm really glad I'm not Air Force anymore. Janet's working now, her shift started while they were away. I'm glad of that. She'll take good care of him.
He's already had an MRI. They put a neck brace on him and then moved him into the scanner. Thank God, he hasn't broken his neck. He has broken his skull, however. Just a few hairline cracks. Janet says that there isn't any internal bleeding, but that he's just been knocked out and he'll wake up when he's ready. It could have been much, much worse. His face is bruised, he looks a mess. But he's alive.
The why of 'I'm really glad I'm not Air Force anymore' is coming into play now. I'm sitting next to his bed, just as I did often enough when we worked here. But this time, I'm holding his hand. His right hand. His left arm is broken in three places. That was one hell of a smack against the wall. Sam's pretty certain it didn't happen the first time.
"Jack, how is he?"
I look up and see General Hammond. George. I keep forgetting. He's gotten the same expression that he used to have when Daniel was in the infirmary when we worked here.
"He'll live," I say. "He's got to."
"Teal'c has come back. He's got news. We need to discuss it."
"I'm not leaving him."
I tell him in such a way that he knows I'm not going to back down. He can't order me to anymore. Not that he often did before if I'm honest.
We're in a side room, there's only Daniel in here as a patient. I think Janet wanted to give us some privacy. Probably because I keep looking like I want to cry.
"We could hold the meeting in here?" he offers.
"I guess. Maybe the noise will wake him up."
He laughs a little, then says, "Very well. I'll call the others."
John should be here any minute. He's bringing that other ship back; should have been back ages ago but I guess he's been chatting to Thor about what's going on. DJ and Frankie are already here. They didn't find anything. Neither did Kar Shel and his pilot. We're still waiting for Prometheus to come home, but their planet was about three hours from Earth, so they're going to take quite a while to get back. Besides, Sam's already said she's found Hades' world. She hasn't said a great deal else. I think that guilt has taken over.
Now that John's back, we're all sitting around Daniel's bed. He's still unconscious. I'm still holding his hand.
Daniel? Can you hear me?
I keep asking. There's no answer yet.
Teal'c's told us of his discovery and we're all pretty shaken by it. It could explain how Baal or Hades got hold of a half-eaten Asgard ship. The location of the Replicators' system was fairly close to where the shipyard had been. Perhaps they came across it, floating in space somewhere. If the Replicators used it to find a suitable homeworld, maybe with specific minerals in it, they might have abandoned the ship when it was no longer usable.
We need to get that information to Thor as soon as possible. John has said that he'll take his team home and they'll wait for Thor to turn up with the next ship. They'll pass on all of the information then.
"Oh, um, there's more neutronium on Gimli," Sam says, though she's staring at Daniel. We all are.
"We discovered a massive store of it on one of the planets. Among other things. But that's what Thor's going to be most interested in."
"Okay. Instead of going back to Annwn to wait," I tell John, "get on the communicator thing on Gimli. Call him up and ask him to deliver the ship here instead. Tell him we've got the data and another present for him." Looking at Sam, I ask, "What else was there?"
"More naquada. And some other things. Not sure what, I just transported everything in the room that wasn't live into the cargo bay."
My blood runs cold.
"Teal'c, guys," I say, looking at John and his team. "Get up there quick. Check out the cargo hold with your eyes."
"Because I seem to remember Thor telling me that the Replicators were made of neutronium."
"Oh fuck," John mutters.
The five of them disappear in seconds.
"So, are you going to tell me what happened here?" I ask Sam, pointing at Daniel.
George, Janet and I listen as she tells the story. Part of me is furious - with her and with him. I try not to show it. She's weighed down with guilt as it is. It's not like I don't know why they did what they did.
If I'd been there with him instead of her, I'd probably have gone along with his idea. Then again, I'd probably have pulled him out of there before he got hurt. However, tactically, I would have been the one to make a mistake, not them. If Hecate really bought Daniel's story about Svarog, then maybe he's bought us some time.
And from what I've heard of Hades' fleet as it stands, time is something we're in desperate need of.
"Look, Jack, why don't you take Daniel to the Tok'ra?" George offers. "You said they have a healing device?"
"Yeah. It doesn't have the same soul-sucking properties of a sarc, so Daniel's cool about using that."
"So go and do that."
"You'll have to tell them that Hecate is going to try to contact Magda to see who destroyed the shipyard. Hecate's convinced it was the Tauri," Sam says.
Before I decide we're going, I contact Teal'c.
"Hey, buddy. What's the news in the cargo hold?"
"It is only good news, O'Neill. Once again, we have pure neutronium bars, pure naquada, and not a Replicator in sight."
I hear Frankie giggling in the background.
"What's up with Frankie?"
"She is most amused. There were other items of a valuable nature," he states. "None of which would pose a threat to us."
"I see. Okay, well, you can transport most of the naquada down here, figure we should keep some, along with all of the rest of the stuff that we brought for them. It'll give the guys in the gateroom something to do. By the way, how much more naquada and neutronium is there?"
"There is approximately another two hundred and twenty-three tons of naquada," he says. "There is also approximately another five hundred tons of neutronium."
"Thor is going to..." I stop myself. That is so not an image I need. "Be very happy," I conclude.
"I imagine he will. As will the Pentagon."
The alarm goes off and I'm guessing that Teal'c's just carried out my orders. Now it's going to be fun trying to get Daniel through the gate. I guess I'd better check out the path.
I have just deposited over four hundred tons of naquada into one of the larger rooms at the base. I did not feel that placing naquada bars, which are extremely heavy for their size, in the gateroom would be conducive to an easy passage to the gate. Instead, I have deposited the gold and silver in the gateroom and all of the rest of the metals in some of the VIP rooms. There is nowhere else to put such valuable items.
I took measurements of what Samantha found on Hades' world. There was more gold, more silver and more platinum. It would seem that Hades has been collecting many precious metals over a considerable period of time. Samantha's explanation that she wanted to hold up his production of ships is a viable one, although I do believe that this time, her 'requisitioning' of it was to make Hecate pay for what she did to Daniel. I approve.
Using the figures Sergeant Davis supplied O'Neill, I do believe that we have now provided the SGC with enough funding to last two years. If General Hammond has any more problems with financial advisors to the Senate, we will come and take back what we gave. I will make this point to Mister Resch when I see him next. In fact, I will take great delight in telling him that.
What I have not deposited at the SGC is something that I am not sure what to do with. There are many large wooden boxes. Each one contains precious stones. Daniel did say that Hades was the god of the earth, as well as the Underworld, and that he had dominion over all of the precious metals and stones found in the earth. He would seem to be living up to his reputation.
There are boxes of emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, rubies and many other stones of which I do not know the names. The boxes are so large that even I, knowing nothing of the value of precious stones, can estimate that they must be worth many millions of dollars. Perhaps we shall hand them over later. In the meantime, we might wish to keep some, either to make into jewellery for Samantha (I have not forgotten my idea), or to use for trade along with the gold and silver bars.
O'Neill has called up, thanking me for leaving the gate free. He is taking Daniel to the Tok'ra to be healed. This is good. Doctor Frasier has stabilised him but he will be more useful to us if he is fit and well.
That sounds very selfish. I wish him to be well for his sake, not for mine. It is just that Earth, and possibly the galaxy, is in danger. We need him.
John has sent a message to Thor, asking him to come here with the next ship. He has left a tantalising message, promising information and 'a gift'. I wonder how long it will be before he arrives.
"Ready to go back down?" John asks.
"I am. I would like to go to the air base to see if I can assist Bratac in any way."
"Yeah, well, perhaps you'd be better off driving down there. At a guess, they're wondering how they lost Jack. If you suddenly turn up out of thin air, you'll really confuse them."
He has a point.
"Very well. Let us go."
"Time to wake up, Daniel."
I hear Jack's voice. God, that was a lousy dream. It hurt.
"Coffee?" I ask, my eyes still shut.
I hear him laughing quietly.
"Caffeine slut," he teases.
I open my eyes and realise that I'm not in our bed. Oh fuck, I remember; it wasn't a dream. Where am I? This must be the Tok'ra's world. Either that or my eyesight has taken to seeing blue everywhere.
If it wasn't a dream then...
"What are you doing here?" I ask him. I can feel my face frowning.
He screws his own face up, obviously biting down some catty remark.
"Oh, you know. Just hanging," he says.
"Oh for fuck's sake, Daniel! You were hurt! Bad. I brought you here to get better. Why wouldn't I be here?"
I sit up, slowly, my head spinning as I try to focus.
"I don't know," I shrug. "You didn't seem to want to have anything to do with me earlier."
He stands up and paces around the room, looking like he wants to punch something. Probably me.
"Daniel, you read it wrong, okay?" he finally says, turning to look at me. "I wasn't jealous. I really wasn't. If you want to help out Paul, then fine. It's absolutely fine with me."
Why am I having a hard time believing it? Perhaps it's because he's still clenching his fists and speaking through gritted teeth.
I look at him, look at his hands and his eyes follow mine. He sighs, loosens his hands and shakes them, as if shaking out some creases.
I look up at him as he speaks.
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
"What is there to say?"
He stops pacing and stares at me, then says, "Who the fuck knows?" and walks out of the room.
I guess that answers that, then.
I look up and realise that I must have been staring at the floor for ages.
"Garshaw? What's up?"
"I was wondering the same of you."
"Oh, you know, just thinking about a few things."
"I see. Colonel O'Neill has returned to Earth. He said that he had some things he needed to do."
"Oh. Okay. Thanks. Did he leave a GDO for me?"
"I do not think so. You can use ours if you wish. He probably forgot."
"Yeah, right. Don't worry about it, I'll just go home for now. I could do with a rest."
"That is understandable. You were badly injured and the healing device can make you very sleepy if it needs to do a lot of work to heal you."
"How badly injured?"
I find out when she gives me a rundown and realise that I was very lucky to be brought here. Perhaps he still cares after all.
"Thanks. I'd better get going. I need to sleep."
She escorts me to the gate.
"Thank you for the information about Hecate. I am sorry that you had to hurt so much to get it."
"Hey, it's okay. Besides, you fixed me up. It's a fair swap, eh?"
She smiles and wishes me 'goodbye' as I step through the wormhole.
I've come to the conclusion that Jack still cares about me, but that he doesn't want me around. Otherwise he'd have waited for me with the Tok'ra or left the GDO so that I could join him. I guess that was inevitable. It's not like it hasn't happened before. Even the best of them get fed up with me eventually. Jack and I didn't even last as long as me and Fai, but hell, it was good - if stormy - while it lasted.
On the grounds that I still need to be out there, fighting the Goa'uld, whether they need me or not, I'm going to stay. I don't think the others want me to go. It's not going to be easy seeing DJ and John together, but I'm going to have to suck that up... ouch. Could have chosen a better phrase.
Do I use 'our' room in the tunnels? Don't see why I can't. If the snows come and the others are forced to move down there, I can't see why Jack couldn't sleep in his study, or I in mine. Okay, so that's that. I'll move my things down there. These are my things. Why are there so many?
Maybe a bit later. I really need to rest, and if I'm honest, I'm going to miss this big bed. Tok'ra beds are not comfortable in the slightest.
As I lay my head on the pillow, I catch Jack's scent on his. Fuck! Why does this have to be so hard? I should be used to this by now, shouldn't I? Oh God, what am I going to do?
"Jack? Where's Daniel? Is he okay?"
He looks at me, his eyes wide. Oh hell, something's wrong.
"Oh. He's fine."
"So? Where is he?"
"Uh, still there."
"Because..." He looks at his hand and sees the GDO. What the hell is going on? Why has he just lost any remaining colour? "Oh fuck."
"I've got to go back."
"What? Why? You can't. Thor's here."
"You talk to him. I've got to go back."
"Jack, you're not making any sense."
"I left him behind," he says. "Don't you see? I left him behind again. He's never going to forgive me."
I don't think I have ever seen Jack look so afraid. All I can do is grab him and take him back to the gateroom. I don't think he even knows where he is.
"Sergeant! Dial up the Tok'ra. Stat!"
As we stand in front of the gate, I hold onto him. To be honest, I'm scared that he's going to step in front of the wormhole, purely because he has no idea where he is. A team enters the room and I run to the nearest member and say, "Give me your GDO. Now!"
I think I scared him because he gives it to me without hesitation.
The wormhole forms and I rush back to Jack and take him through it.
We emerge to see Garshaw talking with some of the other Tok'ra, looking like they're walking to the rings.
"Garshaw! Where's Daniel?"
"I just escorted him to the gate," she replies.
"Where did he go?"
"He said he was going home. He did not have a GDO to return to Earth, but he also said that he was very tired. That is understandable."
I turn and slam our home address into the DHD, praying that no one looks. I'm sure Garshaw will keep her mouth shut if she saw it earlier. I hope.
When the wormhole establishes, I push Jack through it and follow him.
"Come on, he's got to be at home," I say.
Jack looks at me as if he's just woken up.
"Jack, move it. You've got to sort whatever is going on between you out before it's too late."
"No buts! Home, now. You don't want me to make you, do you?"
He shakes his head and stumbles up the rocky path to the field next to the woods. I don't let him stop, but propel him through the trees. He stops dead when he sees our house.
"Jack, you have to. Don't you love him anymore?"
He looks at me and I see terrible pain in his eyes.
"Do whatever it takes, Jack. You need to do whatever it takes. Go down on your knees if you have to. But if you don't do it now, you'll never do it and you'll lose him forever. Is that what you want?"
He shakes his head, only slightly but that's because he's so out of it. For a man that can keep his head longer than most under the most extreme fire, he's... shellshocked. That's the only way to describe it.
I push him again and keep doing it until we're at the door to their bedroom. I see that Daniel's pulled all of his clothes out of his drawers and wardrobe and piled them on the floor as if he's getting ready to move out. Then I see him, lying on the bed, sleeping - I hope - with tear stains covering his face.
That does it. He's not the only one crying. Jack's broken completely. I've got tears in my eyes, too, but I have to stop them.
"Jack, lie down," I order.
He gets on the bed and lies down next to Daniel. The movement, or maybe the noise of Jack crying, wakes him and he looks at Jack. He doesn't see me. It's time for me to go.
"Don't leave me," I say.
It's the first time I've really realised what's going on. Crazy, isn't it?
He doesn't say anything but he's staring at me in shock. I guess he didn't think that I'd come back for him.
"I know I don't deserve it but please, don't leave me. "
"You left me," he says. Not bitterly, not accusing me, just stating fact.
"I didn't mean to. I wasn't thinking. Just didn't think. I'm sorry, Daniel. I need you."
"You still don't trust me."
"I do. Honest, I do. I thought about what you were saying and I realised that there was this tiny bit of me that was a bit jealous, but only for a moment. You saw that. You probably wouldn't have if we didn't have this connection. It wasn't a conscious thought."
"But it's there, in your mind. You don't completely trust me."
Again, his voice is even. I couldn't blame him for shouting at me, but he doesn't do that. It's like he expects it. Shit. He does, doesn't he? He expects me to leave him, even after all the promises I've made to stay with him.
"I do. I trust you. I love you, dammit. I won't leave you again. It was a mistake. I was hurting, I just needed some air. The next thing I knew, I was at the SGC, like I'd been drawn there. It wasn't like I meant to go there. Probably habit. I'm sorry I didn't leave the GDO for you. I promise I didn't do that on purpose. If you don't believe me you can look into my mind."
The next thing he says is probably the most telling thing he's said in all the years we've known each other.
"I don't need to. I trust you."
It wouldn't occur to him to not believe me. How many times have I not believed him, even when he's been telling me the absolute truth as he knew it? Countless. Whether it was in a situation like this, where he's saying he did or didn't do something, or in a situation where our lives literally hung in the balance. And I've let him down, time after time after time. If I've spoken to him with the same passion as I've spoken now, needing him to believe me, and more to the point, believe in me, he's done it, usually without hesitation.
I know that recently I've been better than I used to be. I know I've shown him that I trust his judgement more. But there are times when my insecurities bite me on the ass and it's Daniel who pays the price. Well, I'm going to have to try harder, that's all. And I'll start by giving him whatever he wants.
"Do you want me to go?" I ask.
He shakes his head to say 'no', but at the same time, he says, "You must do whatever make you happy, Jack. I don't want you to stay because you feel you have to. That never works. If you want us to be together, then we will be. If you don't, if there is any doubt in you whatsoever, then it's probably for the best if we split up. I guess we can work together, if you want me to stay here that is..."
I shut him up by kissing him. It's the only way sometimes. All I needed was that shake of his head. He can't speak without gestures and for someone who can shut his emotions away, he's often shit at hiding his body language. He's really turned that into an art form. I speak fluent 'Daniel'. He wants me with him. I don't need anything else.
To make sure he knows that I mean what I say - at least I'm letting my actions speak for me - I push him onto his back as I kick off my shoes, then kick his off with my feet. I'm still kissing him. Holding him down to the mattress firmly. There's no way he's getting away from me. I just won't let him go. If it means I have to handcuff him to me...
No, I'm nixing that idea. Daniel's always shown me how much he trusts me by letting me tie him up. When he did it the other day, he showed me just how much. I mean, there he was, completely vulnerable. Daniel doesn't do vulnerable. But he deliberately made himself vulnerable for me. Even when I've allowed him to tie me up, I've never been that vulnerable. He's always tied the knots in such a way that I can get out of each tie in seconds flat. He even gives me the end to pull! He's right, I don't act like I trust him, do I?
And what's worse is that he doesn't expect me to, yet I've come to expect him to trust me.
"I'm not going anywhere," I say, finally breaking away. "Never, got that?"
He nods, probably not trusting himself to speak. I roll off him, holding onto his hand firmly so that he doesn't think I'm going anywhere. From the drawer in the bedside table, I pull out his bandanas. Then I kneel up on the bed, reluctantly letting go of his hand, but staring at him as I undress. He stares back, then sees the bandanas. I see him automatically raise his hands, his eyes sad. I understand why, he thinks I'm going to tie him up whether he wants it or not.
I don't say anything, this isn't the time for words. Instead, I shake my head. He looks at me in confusion. It hasn't even dawned on him that I need to do this for him, that it would even enter my head to do it.
I'm naked. Now I've tied one of the bandanas to my left wrist and, nudging him out of the way, I deliberately tie another bandana around my eyes before reaching for the nearest post and blindly tying my left hand to it: no loop, no way out, just a tight knot. I can feel his shock, the connection which nearly ended our relationship becoming useful as we feel each other's emotions.
I'm scared, and he knows it. But he's getting to understand that I want to do this. I need to do this. I need to show him how much I trust him.
He's talking to me like this because this way, we can't lie to each other. We'll pick up even the slightest thoughts from each other, even the ones we don't want the other to hear. I know about the fantasies that he hates. I've seen them. I've seen the horror in his mind the moment they appear. He genuinely fears those fantasies and does not want them. I don't want to mention them to him because he'll think that I'm jealous. Crazy, eh?
Please, Danny. I want this more than anything.
He's getting undressed, I can feel the bed move. It doesn't take him long before he's done. I can sense that he wants to ask me if I'm sure, but a part of him is telling the other part to shut up. I don't think I've ever known him feel so conflicted before, at least not in bed. I know this for certain when he moves right next to me so that he can tie up my other hand, right next to the first one on the same post. His hands are shaking.
Even when he's tied me up, I know he's unsure because although our bodies are touching, although I can feel the heat of his bare stomach on my bare back, although he's kissing the back of my neck and running his hands over my arms and down my sides, his cock isn't hard.
God, Daniel. You feel so good. Love you so damned much.
I don't tell him that often enough. I made him tell me that he loves me, over and over again the other day. Made him tell me that he was mine. No, he made himself tell me that, probably because he was afraid that I didn't believe it. I should be ashamed. All I could do was mouth 'I love you' back to him.
It's not like I don't tell him out loud. It's not like I don't admit it to others. But I could be more... enthusiastic, I guess. More open. More honest.
Love you, he replies, continuing to kiss me.
I noticed that as I said it, his cock started taking interest. Not a huge amount, admittedly, but definitely some interest.
Are you afraid? he asks suddenly.
No. Not anymore. I'm not at all afraid of you, Daniel. I'm only scared of losing you.
That got some more interest from him. I'm on the right track. Don't get me wrong, this is not about sex. I know it looks that way, but it ain't. This is about us. This is only ever about us.
I don't urge him to fuck me, I don't urge him to do anything in fact. I let him know how much I'm enjoying it by moaning, moving, trying to get closer to him, but that's all. Even if he decides to stop it here and now, I'll live with it and not complain. The only thing I need is him. Though my cock's sitting up and begging and wouldn't say no if it came to it.
He's pulling me to lie down, sliding the bandanas down the post. Then he turns me onto my back and I feel his mouth on mine. Now it's my turn to be in conflict. I want to kiss him back, to show him that what he's doing feels so damned good. But I also want to just lie here and let him do everything. To just own me in the way he lets me own him.
Do it, I say after an age of kissing him back, leaving my mouth slack-jawed so that he can kiss me however he wants. Do whatever you want.
Is that what you want?
All I want is you.
But true. Use me. I know you won't abuse me.
He freezes, remembering why I don't like being tied up. I feel his hands leave me, probably to untie mine.
Where are you going?
Jack, you don't like this.
Yeah? Tell it to Little Jack.
I feel him pull back, probably to look, but why he'd need to do that, I don't know. It's been sticking in his groin for the last five minutes as he's kissed me.
Are you sure?
I didn't think you'd have to ask. Told you. I know you won't abuse me. I'm sorry it took me so fucking long to get with the programme. You didn't deserve that. Trusting you was never the issue. Truly, 100% trusting anyone was. You got closer than anyone else ever has, if that's worth anything.
It's worth a lot.
He flips the bandana off my eyes.
"I want to see your eyes," he says, smiling at me.
I smile back, I can't help it.
"Are you going to leave me like this?"
"I thought you didn't want me to untie you."
"Who said anything about untying me? It's not my hands I'm speaking about." I lift my head and nod towards my dick.
"Ah, that. So you want me to do something about it?"
I don't bother answering that, I just raise one eyebrow. I really should thank Teal'c for teaching me that trick.
When he shuffles back on his knees and ducks his head down, I know just what he has in mind. Ya know, I could live with this tying up shtick. Especially when he swallows me whole like that.
"Samantha, where is O'Neill?"
I have returned from the air base where I saw Bratac and some of his followers. They would appear to have the training well in hand.
"Oh, back on Annwn."
"Why is that?"
She takes me by my hand and leads me to the commissary. It is time to eat, I suppose. Although she does not pick much in the way of food.
"Are you not hungry?"
"No, I guess I'm too worried. You have what you want."
"I shall. We should find a table where we can sit and talk."
She does as I suggest and while I pick the food that I require, I see her sit at a corner table. MIB have entered the room, possibly looking for us. We may need to put our conversation on hold.
"Is something wrong?" I ask when I sit with them.
"We're just worried about Jack and Daniel," DJ sighs.
"Tell me, Samantha. What do you know?"
She informs us of O'Neill's behaviour, and Daniel's words on Gimli. I am shocked. I have seen them fight more vigorously than the few words they had earlier and it has come to naught.
"You should have seen him," she sighs, then sips some coffee before speaking. "Daniel was asleep on their bed, the room was a total mess. Clothes were everywhere. It looked like a whirlwind had been in there. If I hadn't heard a breath from him, I would have thought he was dead. For that one moment, I really thought he'd..."
Her voice breaks off, she can say no more. I see John look at DJ and he shrugs. He will not answer the unspoken question.
"DJ. Why did Daniel think that O'Neill wished to break with him?" I ask quietly. I do not want outsiders to overhear.
"Insecurities, I guess. It's happened a lot. Between them and with every relationship Daniel's ever had except for Shau're. He's never ended any of them. Jack left him each time they split, or else they automatically split because of a fight."
"Do you not mean 'you', as in the both of you?"
He shakes his head. "It's different for me. I never had the relationships. I remember them, but it wasn't me. The only relationship I've ever had has been with John. Specifically John, not Jack O'Neill. Even if I did call him Jack to start with," he adds, screwing his face up. "You know what I mean. We decided early on that we were wiping the slate clean when it came to our pasts. As far as we were concerned, it was the first time for both of us. And in a way, it's easier for us."
"What do you mean?"
"There aren't many androids out there," he whispers. "There are billions of humans. I don't have as much competition for John's affections as Daniel has for Jack's." John coughs loudly. "Or the other way around, of course."
"I see. Do you think that they will get back together again?"
"Samantha? What do you think?"
"If what I saw when I left them is anything to go by, they're either back together again or they're both dead. Because Jack looked like he wanted to die if Daniel wouldn't take him back. And I doubt Daniel would want to live if Jack killed himself."
We are all silent at those words. Again, I look to DJ and John.
"He would," John says. "Believe me, if he was as devastated as you say... It wouldn't take much to push him that far."
DJ stares at John and then takes his hand and squeezes it.
"So would Daniel. It would be different if Jack died in battle. He'd find some way to go on, but he wouldn't be the same. He certainly wouldn't love again, that's for sure. But if he thought Jack had killed himself over him... He couldn't deal with that. It would send him over the edge without question."
"Do we go back?" Frankie asks quietly.
I am not sure if I wish to find out what is there.
"Give them time," Samantha replies. "If they're back together again, they're not going to want any interruptions."
She does not say what we do not wish to think about. That if they are not together again, it is probably too late.
An airman enters the commissary and heads directly to us.
"Sirs, Ma'ams, General Hammond is asking for your presence in the briefing room."
"Thank you, Airman," John replies. "We'll be there soon."
He looks at us and says, "Well, perhaps we're going to have to go get them anyway?"
"We should see what General Hammond wants first. Then we shall act."