Summary: The course of life ne'er did run smooth - or something like that. First they have to find the guys. Then they have to go home. Simple, eh? This is a Mission Impossible episode...
Thanks - as ever - to the cast of thousands for betaing (ie, Joy, Fabi and RW. Not really thousands but they can seem like it at times ;-)). Love you all, ladies. Just don't tell my hub.
"Would you like to run that past me again?" Jack asks.
George lets out a long sigh. He's trying to wrap his brain around the information he's just received, I think.
"It would seem that John figured that if something happened to him or DJ, it would be a good idea for your mother to have a phone. He told her to call one of the three numbers. I guess he told her to try the speed dial for Jake's phone first because of the other two androids. Anyway, John and DJ went out to visit your brother. They got there, spent some time with him and then disappeared. Seeing as they know how important it is to keep out of sight, there's no way they'll have done it on purpose, is there?"
"You know what this means? It means they've been watching my family! For six months, George!"
"It's either that or they got lucky," George replies. "We have to go. I told Jake we'd meet up where he dropped me off to start with. It's best that I get back to the SGC as planned. I'll see what I can find out when I get there. I'll keep my phone handy, you do the same with yours."
It's time to go, then. We pick up what we've brought into the cabin and lock it up. Jack's looking despairingly at it, probably thinking that it's the last time he's going to see it.
"We'll come back, Jack," I tell him. "One day, hopefully soon, we'll come back."
I don't think he believes me, but we go to Mia anyway.
We're silent as we fly back to the rendezvous point. Trying to figure out what happened, guessing where they'll have been taken...
"Will we need to contact Maybourne again?" Sam asks.
"Hopefully not," Jack sighs. "I want him concentrating on taking the NID down."
"How far is the radio contact between the androids?" I ask.
Sam doesn't know for sure. Neither do the others.
"I think it's a fair distance. But they're like us, they don't like to be separated. At a guess, they won't have tested their range," she answers.
"We'll find them," Jack announces. We have to believe that we're going to.
We're there. Jacob's there, and the others, thank God. We see them rushing to us when Jack calls them on the communicator. Frankie and Kar Shel look scared - well, Frankie does. Kar Shel's just doing the Teal'c thing and keeping his face stony, but we all know what that means.
"Thanks for everything, George. You have no idea what it means to us to have you here. Whatever you do, keep out of this," Jack orders. "We need you to be free. If they are certain that you're behind our disappearance and so on, you could end up in jail or you'll be the one to disappear. That is not acceptable."
We all agree. Sam hugs him, so does Frankie. Teal'c and Kar Shel do their little 'bow' thing and Jack and I grab his hands.
"Take care, all of you," he says.
"I'll see you when you get home," Jacob says as he goes.
It's time to find my mechanical brother and his other half.
"Have you any contact with them?" Jack demands as soon as we take off.
"No, we've been trying since we heard," Frankie says. "We were calling them and looking out for people on our own tail, too. It's been a nightmare!" She sounds desperate. I'll bet I sound just like that when my boys are missing.
"Do you think they'll have gone to Area 51?" Daniel asks.
"I doubt it." Jack's pacing up and down, trying to rack his brains for a clue.
"It will not take many hours to fly over the entire country," Teal'c points out. "If we were to do that at a medium height, too high for us to be heard on the ground yet too low to be in the airspace commonly used by commercial jet planes, could you detect their presence if they were underneath us?"
"We should be able to do that easily," Kar Shel announces. "When the original androids were created, their radios worked from the ground up to space."
"That need only have been a matter of a couple of hundred miles, if that, depending on the thickness of the atmosphere and so on," I say. "Going straight up isn't as far as the distance this country covers in square miles. Going even higher than flight paths could be our best bet. We could cover the ground even quicker that way."
"Do it," Jack orders. "Are you two fully operational?"
"Our batteries are charged," Kar Shel announces.
"Great. Teal'c, could you do the honours? If you get tired, yell."
"What should I yell, O'Neill?"
"Uh, how about, 'I'm tired'?"
He's going to take us to Chicago first, detouring over Area 51 to get there just in case. It has only been a matter of hours since they went missing, so hopefully they won't have been taken too far. Of course, they could have been flown anywhere, but whatever happens, we won't go without them.
"We are above the city, O'Neill. In which direction should I go first?"
Unfortunately, they weren't in Nevada, as best we could tell, so we're starting a grid search.
"Head due south. When you hit water, turn around and go north-northwest."
"I shall endeavour to do so."
Jack? Are you okay?
Carter? I'm fine. Why are you asking?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe the fact that you're going to wear a hole in the floor is clueing me in?
Well, I'm anxious, annoyed, fucking furious in fact.
I get that. So are the rest of us.
I hear him sigh deeply before he answers. Yeah, I'm sorry. It's just that for the first time, there's another me that I get. I understand. I kinda like the guy, ya know?
I know, believe me, I know.
And this sucks. We came home for a holiday and now look! Yet another fucking mission. It makes me wonder what disasters are going to await us when we get back to Remoc.
I see what you mean. It will work out, Jack. Just try to calm yourself a bit. Go hug Daniel or something. You won't do the guys any good if you're exhausted from all that pacing.
He rolls his eyes and grins, then goes straight to Daniel and wraps his arms around him. Daniel doesn't think twice, he just holds him tightly. I know that Daniel wants DJ back, too. We all do.
It seems like we've been flying up and down for ever. It hasn't been that long really, but the continuous southerly then north-northwesterly sweeps are making me giddy. The irony is, we've just turned south from Minnesota.
I'm wondering if we'll ever find them. We're trying not to miss anywhere, but this country is huge. I'm guessing that they'll have gone west of Chicago - mainly because there are fewer populated areas out here than out east. I could so easily be wrong though. There are plenty of unpopulated areas out there. Needless to say, they could be trying to hide them in New York. It's a hunch though. NID have a lot of places not on the books, but their favourites tend to still be disused Air Force bases in the middle of nowhere.
Daniel's brought some food out and he's trying to persuade us to eat. Kar Shel has insisted on taking over the flying, so Teal'c is now at that lovely, lovely state where he's growling at everyone in frustration. Oh joy.
South again and further south. Are we ever going to find them? We're down to the Texas/Louisiana border area. They're scanning constantly, calling out in their minds to the others. I can see the stress on the androids' faces. Sometimes, I forget they're not human. Especially as we have the telepathy thing going which is similar to their internal radios, making us even more alike.
"I think I heard something!" Frankie calls out.
"Circle the ship," I order. "And lower our altitude as much as you can."
She and Kar Shel are calling together now. Teal'c's pushed Kar Shel out of the way, saying it would be better that he concentrates on the flying while Kar Shel concentrates on finding them. We've just moved up a little northwest of Houston.
"They are moving," he announces. "Heading west."
Teal'c turns Mia and we follow the instructions that they're giving.
"We're getting closer and closer. They say that they're okay, that their captors don't know they're not human yet," Frankie puts in.
That is good news. It'll help the element of surprise when we go to get them out.
"Tell them to play it cool. Don't get injured or get in a position where they should be injured if they were us."
"I shall, O'Neill."
"How far away are they?"
We're flying over the plains now. The only life-signs I see are the ranches and the odd one-horse town. We passed 'civilisation' a while back.
"About ten miles," Frankie says. "They're slowing. Turning. They can't see because they've been blindfolded."
"Is that going to affect their power supplies?" I ask.
"Depends on how charged up they were before and how much light their skin's getting," she says. "Uh oh, they're in the back of a van. No light. They can keep going for a few hours like this, but they'll need light soon or else they'll start to get weak."
Dammit. We need a break for crying out loud!
"They have stopped," Kar Shel says. "The van door is opening. Their blindfolds are still on, but they are being led out of the van."
"That's good, at least they'll be getting some light."
"Not for long if they stay out in the open," Daniel points out. "The sun's setting."
If it's not one thing, it's another.
"They are being taken inside a building. We are nearly on top of them."
"Take us down a bit more. Let's look with the view screen."
Carter's playing with the scanner.
"Sam? What're you doing?"
"Using the 3D scanner to see what's down there. If we can get a good picture then it will help us plan a rescue."
We can see what's there now. It looks just like a warehouse from the outside, but I'm guessing that there's more to it than meets the eye.
"How long before the scan's complete?" I ask.
"Just a minute... there. It's done. Put us down somewhere and we can plan."
I point out a place for Teal'c to land the ship. It's about a mile away from the warehouse. Hopefully, they won't have noticed us.
O'Neill is studying the plans, as are we all. Inside the warehouse there would appear to be elevators. We can see that there are small enclosed areas, and the information received from the androids said that they went down in one, so that would be the access point.
"There has to be an escape route," O'Neill points out. "Not even the NID would build a place they couldn't get out of in an emergency."
"Especially not them," Daniel says. "Bunch of lowlife cowards that they are. Is there an air vent?"
"Um, yeah, this looks like one," Samantha points out.
We see what she is looking at and agree.
The androids are transmitting the images in their minds to the others, so that they know what the layout of the complex is like. The fewer surprises, the better.
"They have been put in separate rooms," Frankie says. The androids are giving running commentaries on what is going on. This is most helpful. "The blindfolds have been removed and they say that there is sufficient light to keep them going. It would seem that their captors think that by keeping them apart, they won't be able to communicate."
"Good," O'Neill says with a smile. "That means that we have even more of an advantage. The more the NID think they have the upper hand, the more their guard will drop."
"We should wait until dark," I suggest. "It will aid our cover."
"Yeah, we're going to do that. Sam, Daniel, go find the C4 and zats and then dig out as much dark clothing as we'll need."
They go to do as he bids and we decide how we will play this.
"How big is that shaft?" O'Neill asks Frankie.
"Big. It's about three feet in diameter. Plenty of room for us to go through."
"Are there any cameras or other security devices around the place?"
She looks at the plan and points out a few places that look as if there are electronic devices which could well be there for security.
"Where's the power source?" he asks.
We study the plans and see nothing obvious. Inside the warehouse is something that could be a generator, but there is no heat signature.
"You don't think they're taking the power off of the grid, do you?" he asks, his voice filled with surprise.
"It looks that way, but there's no way of telling without getting close enough to find out. I didn't see any power lines going directly to the warehouse when we flew over," she answers.
"Could the cable be underground?" I ask.
"Could be... could be... hmm, I wonder..." His voice is trailing off and now he is smiling. "Kar Shel, how fast can you run?"
"I am capable of moving approximately twice the speed of Teal'c."
"Do you think you can get out there and run back to the road to check out the power supply and maybe the telephone connections without being seen?"
"I do. However, Frankie would recognise the connections a lot quicker than I would."
O'Neill nods. "Okay. I want one of you to remain on board, though, so we have constant contact. Just in case."
"How about I go with Frankie?" Daniel suggests. We did not hear him returning to the peltac.
"It's better for two people to go, as you know," he shrugs. "I can run faster than any of you. I won't be as fast as her, but running a couple of miles is no problem for me. That way, I can be in contact with you, too. It'll just double our chances of staying in touch."
O'Neill is reluctant, but he nods, understanding that we should not be alone.
"Come on, Frankie," Daniel says, "Sam's found some black clothes you can wear. We'll be changed in a minute, Jack, and don't worry. Unlike DJ and John, we're going to be armed."
"Do it. Don't make me have to rescue you, Daniel. You won't like the consequences when I get a hold of you."
Daniel just smiles and nods, then he goes to get changed.
Oh, the joys of holidays. One minute I'm relaxed, happy, with not a care in the world; the next I'm running over rough ground in the dark with an android, zat in hand and trying not to be spotted. Who said my life is boring?
Before we left, Jack made us take some C4. The plan is that if we see that the power is being supplied to the warehouse from the main grid, we'll plant some and then get back to the others to join in the rescue mission. When the time comes to get in there, we'll blow it by remote. Chances are they'll have a back-up generator, but hopefully it will give us enough time to enter the complex without being spotted.
Daniel? How's it going?
Another half a mile or so, Jack. Won't be long. What are you guys doing?
Teal'c and I are heading out to the perimeter. We're going to see the place with our own eyes. Sam and Kar Shel are acting as co-ordinators for the moment. I'm getting messages that the guys are being interrogated individually, but they're not saying anything.
Are they being tortured?
No, not yet. Whoever's behind this is playing it cool for now. They haven't been given any access to food or water. I'm guessing that they think that it will make them weak.
They're going to have a shock then, aren't they?
I hear him chuckle in my head, it's weird. Oh, yeah. I'm thinking that the next thing they'll do is put them straight back into their cells and leave the lights on to deprive them of sleep.
Oh dear! Those poor boys. How will they cope?
I am now officially crazy. We're in deep shit and I want to laugh.
Hang on, Jack, we're there.
Frankie's looking at what appears to be an electrical junction box. She's pulled the door off it and her fingers are tracing out the wires.
"This one," she says of a thick cable. "Look, it's going down here." It's disappearing through the bottom of the box. As the main power cable is being run through overhead lines, I think she's right.
We start to dig up the earth next to the box and before long, we see the cable heading in the direction of the warehouse.
I get out one of the small buttons of Tok'ra explosive and we dig a little more, following the cable away from the main junction box. The reason being that we may cause a power cut to the area, but if the damage is away from the main supply cable and the junction box, the utility company should be able to restore power to the local homes a lot quicker - we don't want to inconvenience civilians after all.
A good few feet away, and about a foot down, we place the explosive where it will do the damage. Now for the phones. They could well have cellphones there, but anything we can do to slow them up - and/or confuse them - will be a help.
A little further down the road and we find the telephone pole. There's a distribution point on it and a cable running down the pole and towards the warehouse. Again, it's disappearing underground near the foot of the pole. A little earth moving and we do the same as for the power cable.
Jack, we're all set. We're on our way back.
Good. Well done. Circle the complex in a wide arc so you're not spotted. If Frankie can see anything of interest, tell her to memorise the locations.
Will do. We'll take a bit longer coming back then.
I pass on the message to her and she nods. We're jogging back towards the ship, I'm leading the way and she has her hand on my shoulder. The moon is out and it's lighting our path so I can see where we're going. Unfortunately, it could mean that we are seen too. We're trying to stay out of sight but it's not easy, especially as she needs to stay in sight of the warehouse to do as Jack asked. Hence her holding onto me. I'm acting as her eyes as we move, her eyes are acting as cameras on our target.
Oh shit. There's someone out here.
"Down," I hiss.
We drop to the floor and crawl behind a rock. Frankie can see much better in the dark than I can so she's watching him.
"He's a guard," she whispers. "Armed. Has a radio."
"Is he looking for us?"
"I don't know."
She's listening out, able to hear a lot more than me, she's tuning in as best she can to pick up what he's saying.
Jack? We're going to be delayed. We've run into a guard. We don't think he's seen us yet. Frankie's trying to overhear what he's saying into his radio.
Keep your heads down. If you have to zat him, do it three times.
Fuck. I hate it when we get that order. It's necessary though and I know it. I just wish it wasn't me that has to do it. Then again, would I feel any better if I left it to Frankie? Probably not. That would be a coward's way out.
Frankie's passing on the intel to Kar Shel. He's telling me that the guard is just bored, announcing that he thinks that wandering around like this is a dumb idea.
That's good. It probably means they don't know for certain that we're here. Is there any news on how they were captured yet?
No. We can ask them that when we get them back.
Okay. He's moving off again. We'll just come directly back now. I think she's found out everything she's going to from out here anyway.
Right. Make sure you're not followed.
Easier said than done, but we'll do it. Frankie's got the message from Kar Shel, so we're on our way.
I hate waiting on the ship for the others, but it's necessary. Kar Shel has been passing messages on to me from the other androids and I've been passing them on to Jack. This telepathy thing has great uses at times.
We hear the door opening and see Jack and Teal'c coming back on board.
"You find what we're looking for?"
"Oh yeah. Seems they have a simple grating over it. We listened in and there was no sound of fans inside the shaft. There were metal rungs inside it too, so it is the escape route we imagined it to be."
"That's great. I've been trying to place the locations of the cells that the guys are in, in relation to the shaft. Seems that they're fairly close. I've been scanning the area for heat signatures and life-signs too. From what we can gather, the guys are being held here..."
I point out one section of the complex. There are a few individual rooms there, some with life-signs and others without. There is another entire floor underneath them, and it's open wide. There are more life-signs there and heat signatures from objects that make me think that the place is some kind of underground laboratory. On the floor where the guys are being held, there are eight other people. Five in their vicinity, the other three on the opposite side. In the lab, there are about twenty people. How many of these people are armed, I do not know.
Another noise gets our attention and we see Daniel and Frankie come on board.
"We're all set," Daniel says with a smile. "When are we going in to get them?"
We've left it a couple of hours. It's past midnight now. I've scanned again and I see that only four of the people on the floor where the guys are, are moving, the others would appear to be asleep. We'll wait a little longer and then we're going in to get them out.
All the while, we've been keeping them in touch with what's going on and what we plan to do. They are continuously being taken individually for questioning. Where have they been hiding out? Who's helping them and so on. Each time they're refusing to speak and each time they're taken back to their brightly lit cells and being deprived of sleep. Big deal. John and DJ will outlast their captors, that's for sure.
The last message from John was that the one guy was starting to look frayed at the edges and he's hating the fact that he and DJ are still perky. DJ, unfortunately, has Daniel's snake-baiting tendencies, so I think that he's enjoying the joke.
It's time to start our little incursion. If all goes well, we should be in and out in minutes. We can't afford to take any longer than that. It's a matter of going in, getting them and getting the heck out of here.
Kar Shel has managed to get near the perimeter fence and has planted some C4. Lots of it. It's a pity we can't get inside the fence to cause more distractions inside it and at the entrance to the warehouse.
"I would like to create more chaos at the opposite side of the building to the air vent," he says. Teal'c is in agreement.
"Could you do it without being caught?" Jack asks.
Jack thinks for a moment and then he says, "Take staff weapons from the stores. Go to the edge of the fence. Do not allow yourselves to be seen. When you get the message, see if you can hit the security cameras and things like that. Keep moving. I want this to seem like it's an attack by a large force."
"We shall endeavour to do that, O'Neill."
"I know you will. Be careful. We don't want to have to come get you. Daniel, I know you're going to hate me for this, but I want you to stay on board Mia."
He is not happy. From the look on Jack's face, he was expecting that.
"I need you to stay," he says. "Someone has to remain on board to get us out of here as soon as possible. You can watch what Teal'c and Kar Shel are doing on the view screen and pass the information to me. They're going to be too busy to communicate. When the time comes and I give the word, I want you to fire the ship up so that we can take off as soon as we're all back.
"Please, Daniel, don't argue with me. I'd leave one of the others behind to do it, but I need Frankie to communicate with the guys, and should the need arise, Sam has more experience in disabling electronic systems than you do. I know Frankie could do it, but I'm trying to limit it to one person, one task."
Daniel doesn't look happy but he nods.
"You," he growls at Jack. "You come back or I kick your ass."
We're all in position at the grating. A quick survey says a small explosive will blow the lock which is on the inside. I've got one and I'm just putting it on now.
Daniel? Where are the guys?
At the fence. Teal'c's on one side, Kar Shel is on the other. As far as we can tell, they haven't been spotted. It would appear that the guards aren't very good at their jobs.
That's good news. Okay everybody, it's time to blow!
I give the nod to Frankie and she passes the message on to the other androids. Daniel's in control of the remotes so it's up to him to set them off.
Heads up, he calls.
*BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG*
One after another, the devices go off. We have the grating out of the way and we're heading down the steps as fast as we can go. I can hear the chaos breaking out. The lights are out, there are shouts of people that sound like they've just been woken up.
"The guys can't get out of their cells without breaking the doors down," Frankie says.
"Tell them to hold off doing that as long as they dare," I tell her. "Don't want anyone to see them do it."
We're at the bottom of the shaft. I can hear more explosions on the surface.
They've managed to blow up a couple of vehicles, Daniel tells me. They're running out of targets though. What should they do now?
Tell Teal'c to head towards the road, making as much noise as possible. We want all attention deflected over there, then tell him to double back to the ship. Frankie will tell Kar Shel to get to the escape hatch to keep that clear for us.
You got it.
I whisper to Frankie and tell her to give the message and she nods that it's done. Following Sam's plan, we sneak down the corridors. We can hear panic nearby, they're trying to get to the lab and the people stuck in there. Heck, all they have to do is get that generator up and running. Assuming they have one. I'd be very surprised to find out that they don't.
Here. Those two rooms on the right.
I look at where Sam's pointing and see. Fuck, there are guards, obviously holding their posts and letting the others in the complex fight off the invaders. Our zats are already primed so it's time to go.
Something I've noticed when launching an attack like this is that time slows. I think it's got something to do with adrenaline, and I should be used to it by now, but it's still weird. I see everything in slow motion. Details that I would not normally see become clear.
There are lights starting to come on, flickering as the back-up generator starts to kick in. In-between one footstep and another, I see the first guard start to turn towards us and his mouth slowly opening. Another step closer, my hand is squeezing the trigger and I see that he's yelling for help. By the time my running feet take another step, he's been hit by the electric-blue blast. Another step, he's been hit a second time by one of the girls and he's almost on the floor.
The other guard is turning on his heels and making to escape. His feet start to move and I can see them as they lift off the floor. His body is turning towards us even as his legs are going in the opposite direction. I can see his gun. It's a 9 mm Beretta. Probably an FC. If that's the case he's got thirteen rounds in there. Semiautomatic; it can fire quickly. Can't give him the chance. I fire at the same time as Frankie. He falls backwards, tripping over his own legs as his body collapses awkwardly, the clatter of his gun hitting the ground is the only noise I can hear.
Followed, of course, by the thud of his body.
Then my hearing expands and I'm aware of more and more yelling, more noises from outside. Time is starting to speed up again.
"HERE!" Frankie yells.
If we fire a zat at these locks, we'll end up welding the guys in.
"Get the guns!" I call out. Sam's picked up the guns from the dead guards and she's given one to me. Frankie's telling the guys to stand back and we both fire quickly into the locks. Finally, the doors are opened.
"C'mon, we have to get out of here now!"
I have drawn fire for long enough. Messages from Daniel have kept me informed of the situation underground. It is time to return to the ship.
Kar Shel and I were able to create much confusion, firing our staff weapons at objects that could make the loudest and most impressive bangs. We hit the same van at the same time, each from our own direction. The fuel tank exploded and the resulting debris was strewn over a great distance. I do not believe that we killed anyone, though some may be injured. This is good. It was not our intention to kill and neither was it necessary.
The location of the ship is about a half mile from my current position. Thankfully, the moon has gone behind a cloud and I am now virtually invisible to the enemy. I can hear that Daniel has powered up the engines and is awaiting our arrival.
Daniel. How close are the others?
They're near the top of the shaft.
This is good. Do you think that they will need assistance?
I haven't heard anything. Come back to the ship. I'll let you know immediately if there's a change of plan.
The ship was landed so that the door opened facing away from the warehouse. The internal lights were dimmed so that even with an open door, it would cast no light outside. This, however, is making finding the ship more difficult.
Teal'c, I can see you. You're about a hundred yards in front of me. Take about five paces to your right and you should just go around the front of the ship without banging into it.
Thank you, Daniel. I shall do that.
I am there. I can just see the interior of the ship.
"Daniel. I am back."
"Good to see you, Teal'c. The others are at the top of the shaft and coming out."
"Are any of them hurt?"
"So far, so good. Can you stay by the door? As soon as the last one's on board, shut it and call out for me to take off."
"I shall do that."
We wait impatiently for their return. Each passing second seems to last a minute. I wish Samantha's presence immediately.
Time is passing, I am sure that they should be here by now.
Where are they?
Close. I can see them. Oh hell.
What is wrong?
They're being chased. COME ON GUYS! MOVE IT!
I can hear footsteps and heavy breathing. To aid them I have increased the internal light a little. Finally, they appear. Shots are ringing out. I go back outside with my staff weapon and fire in the direction of the shooters.
"Teal'c! Get on board!" O'Neill's voice calls to me and I quickly get back inside. I close the door and inform Daniel that we are all safe. The floor beneath us shudders as we start to take off. In moments, we are out of reach of the enemy.
This is one evening that I should be glad never to have to relive.
"George? We got 'em."
O'Neill is using the cellphone before we leave Earth's atmosphere. As it is satellite controlled, it appears to be accepting the signal.
"Yeah, it is great news. Where are you?... Good... You just go back to the Springs and make it look like you had a great holiday with your old pal... Of course. We'll pass on all of the information when we see Jake... No, I don't know for certain who's behind this, but at a guess it's NID... It wasn't a true military set-up but there were guys in uniforms... The bad news is we had to kill two guards... Yeah, it sucks, but we wouldn't have done it if we hadn't had to... I know... You take care and we'll see you when we come back for another visit, okay?... Yeah. Bye, George, and thanks for everything."
O'Neill suddenly looks older as he disconnects the phone.
"You guys okay?" he asks the androids.
"We're fine. Thanks to you," John responds.
"Welcome," he replies. "Look, if you're up to it, could you start to fly us home, please? It's been a long day. We can debrief about this in the morning."
"Of course. Go and get some sleep."
Daniel puts his hand out to O'Neill and leads him off to lie down.
Jack is still asleep. He was out cold as soon as his head hit the pillow, poor thing. I think his adrenaline rush suddenly disappeared and he was exhausted. It's been a busy week. I'm glad we came back though. Seeing Janet, Cassie and George was good. Seeing Maybourne was something I could do without, but hopefully it will be profitable. It's going to take a while before that plan comes together, though. I'm hoping he won't do anything for a few weeks and until the brouhaha has died down from this little incident. I want to know who was behind this and how they knew where DJ and John were.
Ah, his eyelids are flickering, I know this look. He's going to wake up soon. I've been awake for about half an hour and I've just been lying here and watching him. It's one of my favourite things to do.
"Hey," I say when I see those lovely brown eyes. "Do you feel better now?"
"Hey," he replies, wriggling until he's even closer to me. I wrap my arms around him and hold him tight. "Hmm, much better."
"That's good." It is. I love holding him like this.
We say nothing and do nothing for a while, just letting the time pass in silence.
"I suppose we'd better go and find out what happened?" he says with a yawn.
"We should. But they're not going anywhere for another three days. A few more minutes won't hurt."
"I don't suppose it will," he agrees, shutting his eyes again.
We finally got up, only to discover that Sam and Teal'c were getting up at the same time. DJ saw us appearing and went straight to the galley and put some coffee on. Who needs telepathy?
Now we're sitting around the table, the others pulling up whatever they can find to sit on.
"So, are you going to tell us what happened?" Jack asks, his nose in his mug.
"We were just stepping out from seeing Patrick," John replies quietly. "We'd rented a car when we'd got into town so we wouldn't have to be out on the street any more than necessary. Anyway, we'd just reached the car when two guys came up to us. We could see that they had guns in their pockets. They told us to go quietly or else."
"You could have fought them off," Jack interrupts.
"Sure we could, but another guy was standing outside Patrick's place. By the time we'd have gotten away from them, he could have been in there."
"Shit." Jack's just dropped his head in his hands. I'm next to him so I do the only thing I can and put my hand on his back.
"It was him or us," John shrugs. "No contest."
"No, there wasn't," I tell him. "You did the right thing. What happened next?"
"They took us to an airfield out of town, then they flew us down to Texas to a remote airfield there. They put us in the back of a van, blindfolded us, telling us that if we didn't co-operate, they knew where Pat lived."
"Do you think they'll go back there now?" Sam's asking.
"No, I doubt it," John shrugs. "I didn't think they'd go back to him even then. It made more sense to us at the time to let them take us wherever they wanted to go so we could find out more."
Jack's nodding in agreement. "We'll pass this information onto Jake as soon as we see him though. He can arrange for someone to keep an eye on things with our families."
"What happened when they took you inside the warehouse?" I prompt.
"They took us down in the elevator, then separated us," DJ shrugs. "Nothing they did made us think that they didn't think that we were you." He crosses his eyes as he tries to make sense of his own sentence, but I got the drift of it.
"They kept taking us into another room for interrogation," John continues. "Same questions, over and over again."
"Ack, I hate that," Jack says. "It's boring."
"It wasn't so bad," DJ snickers. "We were telling each other jokes, playing 'I spy' and stuff like that."
We all laugh at the image that that throws up.
"Who were they?" Jack asks when we stop.
"Pretty sure they were NID. One of them did drop the hint that our images are on a 'wanted' list with the Feds though."
"That could be how you were spotted?" I suggest.
"That's pretty much what we thought," DJ answers. "All of the things that they said seem to point to that."
"That means that you guys can't go back to Earth again," Sam sighs, prompting us all to do the same.
"Anyway, basically that's it," John shrugs. "We were questioned, we said nothing, you came and got us out."
He's shifting around a little.
"Uh, I called Mom just before we left Earth," he says sheepishly. "It was just to say goodbye, you know?"
Jack's looking a bit hurt, but he understands. He wishes he could have been the one to make the call, but last night he was too tired to even think of that.
"I told them that our friends had rescued us and that we were all safe and sound. I told her to keep the cellphone handy and that she's to call George on it if she ever gets the feeling that she's being watched."
"Good thinking," Jack acknowledges. Mary's a sharp woman. Even the best agents would have a hard time watching her for a few days without her noticing, especially now she's on her guard.
Silence falls for a while until DJ says, "So, I see you guys bought a lot of stuff. Did you get what we asked for?"
We'll be home soon. It's been a subdued trip, though. I, for one, will be glad to get back to my cabin. We're just entering the solar system, deliberately taking it a little slower than normal for some reason. The outer planets are virtually in alignment and it's giving me a good opportunity to look at them as we float past.
There are seven planets in the system. Furthest out is an ice giant, a huge rocky body at the edge of the system covered in ice chemically similar to Pluto with nitrogen, methane, ethane and carbon monoxide. Size-wise, it's about twice the diameter of Earth.
I'm still trying to figure out why it's so far away from the sun when it looks like it should be closer - and I know that sounds odd, it just looks like a terrestrial planet that should be nearer to the sun. Also like Pluto, it has an eccentric orbit. It gives me the feeling that it belonged somewhere else, maybe in another system, but that some disaster or other shifted it into ours. From what little I've seen, it looks stable enough, so whatever happened, it was a long time back.
Knowing what we do know about aliens and their planet-busting, star-exploding technology, outside influence of the 'man'-made variety isn't beyond the realms of possibility. It's just one of those space oddities, though, most likely.
We have two gas giants next in line, like the ones at home, they're surrounded by small satellites. The furthest one looks like Neptune. It's huge, bright-blue and gorgeous to look at. The other is a thickly-ringed, red and orange planet, closer to us than the other outer planets. There is no asteroid belt as such, but there are a fair few rocks winging their way around our system. To be on the safe side, we should try to find the ones that are most likely to hit our planet and send them elsewhere. Preferably into the sun or one of the giants.
Like Sol's system, there are four terrestrial planets. Romuloc and Remoc, the twins and two others, as yet unnamed. Neither holds much in the way of interest as they're both as barren as the moon around Earth. They may have some interesting minerals though. I'll check them out better one day. One's halfway between us and the sun, the other's the same distance more or less in the other direction.
I haven't spent half enough time up here. I've concentrated on the habitable planets only. Some astrophysicist I am. Sheesh.
Speaking of which... something's wrong.
"Jack? Look down there."
We're just approaching Remoc and it doesn't look right. The atmosphere is grey! What's been going on?
After initial panic, arguments and confusion, Jack barked out that we should try to land. It's been hard to battle our way through the outer atmosphere.
"Circle the planet," he orders. "Let's see if we can find the cause."
We're flying over the ocean and seeing that things have changed. I'm comparing the geography to what we have on record.
"The islands... Some have gone!"
"And this is why," Daniel's drawl breaks through the stunned silence. He's pointing out something in the distance.
One of the volcanic archipelagos has erupted. The whole thing has gone up.
"Take us home, quickly!" Jack says.
Teal'c turns the ship and we rush to our island. It's supposed to be daytime but the sky is black. This is a nightmare. Using the scanners I see that the sea level has risen again.
"I think an earthquake triggered it off," Frankie whispers. She doesn't need to speak any louder, we're not making any noise. "A massive quake, somewhere out in the ocean. That could have set the volcanoes off, sending the ash up into the atmosphere. It's going to be like a nuclear winter."
"Why has the sea risen?" DJ asks.
"I'm not sure," she replies. "At a guess, maybe one of the tectonic plates dropped a bit? Or it could be that some gigantic glaciers left the polar areas? You'll need to do a proper scan to find out. Whatever it is, you can't live here anymore."
"Where are we going to go?" Jack asks.
"Romuloc," Daniel shrugs. "It's more than suitable. If the gate and DHD are still operable, maybe we can take them over there?"
"Well, we have a ship," he answers. "It's not as if going through an atmosphere would damage a gate, is it?"
"I'll try to think of a way to do it. Hang on," I have an idea. "We still have that tractor beam thing that we used on the asteroid. That should work."
"Good thinking. Let's go see if we've got anything left here and shift it onto the ship."
"Jack, we don't have much room left in the cargo hold. It's not as if we really have a cargo hold. This ship was designed to transport prisoners, remember? It's the cells that we converted into the one we've got."
"Yeah, you're right. Okay, we're here now anyway. C'mon, let's see what's here, take what we can, then we'll head over to the other planet and unload what's on board. We can come back to pick up anything else."
"I think you lot should put something on to protect you," John points out. "If I needed air I wouldn't want to be breathing that in."
He's got a good point.
"There are some suits in one of the storerooms," Teal'c says, so the four of us go and suit up.
Shit. Is anything else going to go wrong? I'm looking at Daniel and he's looking a lot more upset than I would have thought he'd feel. We don't have the time to discuss this now, though.
The earthquake must have been planet-wide. We're talking off-the-scale in magnitude; the sort that would not only cut California from the rest of the USA but would likely send it floating off towards Australia.
The cabins have collapsed; most of their fabric is missing. Whatever was left in them before we went is now flat or gone elsewhere. John has gone underground with Kar Shel. They're checking out the lie of the land. According to Frankie, it's warped. Even the Tok'ra tunnels have collapsed in parts. There are some things that have survived, so they're putting them in the transporter rings, which are, thank heavens, still functioning. In a way it's just as well we weren't here when this happened. It could have happened at night when we were sleeping in the cabins. With no warning, we could have been squashed.
There's not much for us to load up on Mia, so we can take everything we've got. With everyone's help, we're getting it on board pretty quickly. Sam's happy, funnily enough. She kept all of the computers and related stuff down in the tunnels and Daniel kept all his books there too, so they've been saved.
"We'd better check out the gate," I say when it's all on board.
Without another word, we all head off together.
By some miracle, it's still standing. Carter's checked out the DHD and she says that some of the crystals had been moved a bit, but she's going to fix it. We stand around watching her, none of us speaking as there's nothing to say. When she's done, she dials up the palace and I throw a VCD through.
"Just in case," I say.
We look at the receiver and see that things look the same as normal, so that's good.
"You'd better go," I tell them. "We'll take the ship over to the other planet and try to find somewhere suitable to settle. You get a message through to Jacob. Call him to the palace, brief him on what happened on Earth and here. Chances are, we're going to need some more tunnel-making crystals in a hurry. The plan is we'll get the gate installed over there in the next forty-eight hours. Don't try to contact us before that, and don't let the Tok'ra call us either. We don't want the gate suddenly dialling up when we're trying to lift it."
"Can some of us stay to help?" DJ asks.
"I have no objections," I tell them. "But if it takes longer than that to set up, you're going to be separated for too long. It's probably best you all go. You'll be doing us a favour if you can talk to Jacob anyway. If we can't contact you in forty-eight hours, one of us will come to your place in Mia to let you know what's going on. We'll need more help setting the gate up if that's the case, so we'll need you to contact the Tok'ra again."
They all nod, then say goodbye and step through the gate. It shuts down and we're alone.
We're in orbit of the other planet. I think it needs a name change. Romuloc is plain silly and sounds like something out of Star Trek, the original series.
"Shalim," Daniel says.
"No, Shalim. One of a pair of twins in Canaanite mythology. The name means sunset. The twin was Schachar, or dawn. They don't have any bad connections as far as I am aware," he adds with a sad smile.
"Okay, it's a possible," I say. "I'm all for good karma."
He raises an eyebrow and mouths 'karma?' at me. Hey! I remember the sixties. Just.
"I think we should have something Viking," Sam says. "Seeing as it was an Asgard that gave us our gift."
Daniel thinks for a minute then he shakes his head. "I've got it," he says with a grin. "Annwn. One name for the Celtic 'Otherworld'. You see, the Celts believed that to get to Annwn, you had to go through water. What is the event horizon often compared with, if not water?"
"This is true," I say with a grin. "This Annwn, it's okay, is it?"
"It's where the souls of those you love go when they die," he says quietly. "Like Heaven. Except for one thing."
"Oh? And what is that?"
"Twice a year, mortals could cross over to Annwn and come back safely, during Samhain and Beltane. There was a one day period when the living and dead could meet up and basically catch up. It's said that the living could stay in Annwn and come back during the next opening. It's made me wonder if there is a place out there where the Celtic gods live."
"Morrigan was a Celtic god," I point out.
"Not all were like her, Jack, and you know as well as I do that the Goa'uld took the place of the original gods, so the Morrigan we know and hate isn't necessarily the one from the older myths. The Morrigan, by the way, was just one of the fiercer mother deities out there, one of the Irish gods.
"Annwn is the Welsh version of the Otherworld and is the land of hunting and feasting, health and youth. In Ireland, the Otherworld was known as Tír na nÓg, or the land of youth. Think of them both like Valhalla, home of the brave warriors. I figured Annwn is quicker to say than Tír na nÓg," he adds with a smile.
"All the Celtic peoples had fierce and gentle deities, just like everyone else, but the one thing that's common throughout the Celtic world is that the Celts did not worship them in the same way as say, the Egyptians or Greeks. They were more like the Vikings in the way they viewed the Asgard. They paid their respects to them, but throughout the tales, there are stories of humans challenging them and the gods or the spirits living among the humans.
"A Celt would look a god in the eye, Jack. He'd spit in the god's eye if the god wasn't worth respecting, too. For the most part, the relationship was that of mutual wariness and appreciation. Some gods and goddesses were more popular than others, and if a god didn't live up to the expectations of the people, they would be ignored."
"Sounds good to me. I especially like the sound of feasting and health."
"I thought you'd like that," he replies. "One day, I'll tell you the stories of Arawn, the King of Annwn, and his magical hunting dogs."
"I'd like that."
"What do you guys think?" he asks the others.
"Sounds good to me," Sam says. "How do you spell it?"
"A, double N, W, N. Pronounced Ah-noon."
"Teal'c? What do you think?"
"It will suffice."
"I think I've found somewhere for us," Samantha says suddenly, looking at the scanner's readout. "Look, it's perfect."
"Perfect?" O'Neill replies sceptically.
"Yeah. Come on, take us to these co-ordinates, Teal'c."
I follow my woman's instructions and land the ship in a wide field. I do believe that she is right.
"This is it," O'Neill says, his arms open wide and turning in a circle as we look around the field.
The area is fairly flat and is a lush, green meadow. The grass is about a foot high throughout. To the east side of the field, there is a large lake.
"We'll need to check out the water," Samantha explains, "but the initial readings state that it's fresh water and teaming with life."
"Fish?" O'Neill says, his eyes lighting up.
"We'll have to wait and see," she answers with a laugh.
At the north end of the field is the foot of a large hill, or small mountain. To the west there is a wood. At the south end, there is a steep slope. I investigate and I see that we are on, what appears to be a long, wide ledge. We are not at the foot of a small mountain but about a third of the way up of a medium-sized one. At the foot of which is a green valley, grass interspersed with small woodlands.
"Samantha. Have you checked the geology? Is this stable?"
"Yes!" she replies excitedly. "That's the beauty of this. It's not on a fault line, this was shaped by a glacier, millions of years ago. Think of this as being like one of those places in the Alps, where you have the wonderful scenery but without the earthquakes. And look here!"
I follow her back to the hillside and see a waterfall which drops into a pool which in turn feeds the lake. She has some testing equipment out and she is checking the toxicity of the water.
"That," she says with a yelp, "is the purest water you'll get anywhere. This place has everything we'll need. There's room to grow our food, a clean water supply, solid ground for tunnels, plenty of space to build new homes... So? What do you think?"
"I am happy with it," I tell her.
"Me too," O'Neill adds. Though I do believe that he is already mentally building a short pier into the lake.
Samantha turns to him, as do we. His face is neutral.
"It's fine," he says quietly.
I really don't want to talk anymore. I don't know why. When we were up in the ship, it was like we were home. Mia was always just an extension of Remoc anyway. But how can I explain to them how I feel when I don't understand it myself?
"Daniel? What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing," I shrug.
"Uh huh," he answers, grabbing me by the arm and taking me back into the ship. "And my idea of a good image to go to sleep with is Kinsey in drag."
"I always had my doubts about you."
We've arrived at our room and he's making me sit on the bed.
"I know you're upset about losing your stuff..." he starts.
"NO! It's not that! Stuff never bothers me. I don't care about possessions, you should know that by now."
"Okay, I get that. So what is it?"
"That was our home. Our home." Shit, I can hear my voice cracking.
"Ah, Daniel, I know, I know," he soothes.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't get like this, should I?"
"You've lost your home too. Both of them, and your family."
"Daniel, this isn't a competition as to who's lost more than the other. I do understand what Remoc meant to you. It was the first place you could really be yourself, that we could be ourselves. When we were in the cabin and we realised that the others hadn't seen us the way Teal'c and Sam see us, it dawned on me how relaxed we'd become about our relationship and others knowing about it. We'd spent so long hiding it.
"Remoc represented freedom to you, and to me. But because I still had ties on Earth I don't think I'd allowed myself to really think of it as home. Now I know that this place is going to have to be it. But do you know what?"
"I don't need a place, Daniel. You are my home. Wherever you are, I'm happy."
"God, Jack, it's the same for me, you've got to know that."
"I do, babe. I do."
He's holding me close and kissing my head. I'm not crying, though maybe I want to a little bit, but I am sad. And glad. At least I've got him.
What's going on? He's letting go of me.
"Just going to shut the door, Daniel. Let's lie down, shall we?"
I kick off my shoes and he does the same, then we curl up together. I don't want to sleep though.
"Make love to me."
"My pleasure. Just lie back."
I love it when he takes it slowly like this. Undressing me bit by bit, lingering over each piece of skin as it becomes bare. In the past, when we've had time we've literally spent hours just getting naked. I know he can't wait that long now, though, but I'll take whatever he can give me.
He's taking each nipple into his mouth, one after the other and back again, sucking, then licking and nibbling. He hasn't even got to my belt yet and already I'm arching off the bed.
"Oh God, Jack, please, don't tease me anymore. I need you. Need this. Please, Jack."
"You want? Okay, babe, you're gonna get."
He's kneeling up, pulling off his own shirt, showing me that young, fit body that turns me on like nothing else. Only one other body made me feel like this and it was Jack's before the fountain of youth thing.
I can't help but growl when he unbuttons his jeans. I'm not waiting, I want this so bad, I'm ripping mine off.
"Slow down, Daniel."
"No, not slow. Now!"
"Patience, Grasshopper. Good things come to those that wait."
"Don't want to wait. I like bad things."
At last. We're naked. He's lying on top of me now, sliding his groin against mine. I reach out and grab him, pulling him close so that we can kiss. Our tongues and lips collide as our mouths move in time with our hips. We seem to melt into each other, cease to be two people and become one. I'm not sure if it's my hand on my leg or his, my fingers can only feel heat. He's grinding into me and my hips have taken on a life of their own, pushing up to meet him, our dicks are saying hello in their own, inimitable style. It feels so good.
I finally make contact with my hands again and run them over his ass, trailing the fingertips down through the crack and over his hole. He twitches as he feels the ghosting touch and pushes even harder into me. I feel his hot breath panting into my neck and my head tips back of its own accord. Oh God I'm gonna come, I can't hold out. Feels so good. So good.
He pushes a couple more times and there it is. His mark, his branding of me. I welcome it.
"Oh fuck," he groans into my neck.
"Now? Damn, Jack, you recover quickly."
He's chuckling against me and my whole body is shaking as a result. Now he's holding me tighter, burying his face in my neck till there's no gap. I feel his chest expanding and contracting deeply. So now? Now it's time to let go of our past.
"Let it out, Jack. Don't hold it back. We'll go back one day, I promise."
When the guys went into the ship, Teal'c took my hand and walked me to the side of the lake. He asked me how I felt about the events of the past week. I had to admit to confused emotions. I was happy to see Janet and Cassie and George - more than happy in fact. I was sad that I could not see my brother and his family and sadder when the events unfolded and I realised that until everything is over, I will not see them again. Maybe I never will.
At least I have my dad. Poor Jack is never going to see his family again, that's for sure. I realised then that I was more sad for him than for me. I have Teal'c and I'm happy. I've never truly been in love before. It didn't happen overnight for us. We got together as friends who were attracted to each other, loved each other in friendship and knew that we'd be the only partners either of us would be able to have.
But since then I've fallen head-over-heels and it's good. He's such a kind man, so respectful and caring, and yet his faith in me as a warrior as well as a scientist is unwavering. I've gotten over his overzealous protective streak, understanding now that it's because he loves me and wants to keep me safe and not because he doesn't trust me. Perhaps, if we hadn't had the years together as colleagues, that wouldn't have been as obvious to me.
They've emerged now, both a little red-eyed. Neither Teal'c nor myself are saying anything though. Despite their tendency to be demonstrative in front of us, and the fact that all of our sex lives are notoriously public, they're both intensely private men when it comes to emotions. At least the more depressing ones, anyway.
"I found a cave where we can store our things," I tell Jack. He follows me up silently and agrees that it will be a good place to put things until we're ready to set up again.
"I don't know about you," Daniel says, "but I don't want to build a log cabin this time. I want something a bit more permanent."
"We could quarry stone," Jack suggests.
"We could, or we could make bricks. It's easy enough when you know how."
"You know how?"
"Yeah. The one thing we'd need would be to build a kiln though. A lot would depend on the weather around here. The trouble with brick-making is that you need the clay to dry out before you bake it. Unlike a mug, where the clay is fairly thin, it can take weeks for it to dry out of something as thick as a brick."
"Quarrying might be better. Did you see if the tractor that you made for dragging logs was still around?" Jack asks me.
"No, we'll have to look when we go back there."
"Okay. Look, we'll unload tonight. Let's get as many things off the ship as can be safely stored in the cave. I don't know what sort of wild animals are around here, but I don't want things off the ship that will be damaged by rodent's teeth or anything."
"The scanner didn't say that there was anything bigger than a rabbit in this area," I inform him.
"Good. That means no man-eating tigers."
Daniel smiles for the first time in a while. I think that they've hashed out anything that was between them.
I'm exhausted. We've shifted box after box into the cave. I think we're going to have to go underground again soon. At least that will give us time to build a proper house.
Daniel's building a fire, Jack's finding suitable large pieces of wood to make temporary seats out of and Teal'c and I are digging through our supplies for cooking equipment and food. Jack insisted on buying as many crates of beer as we could fit in the truck, so I take eight bottles out to the pool. This pool is icy cold as the water is coming down from the top of the mountain, which is frozen on the cap. The waterfall is going to be tempting on a hot summer's day. I'm hoping that there will be hot summer days here, anyway.
Looking a bit more closely at the position of our new home, I'd say we're in the northern hemisphere on a latitude equivalent to that of Central Europe - which is equivalent to that of the Northern States. As it's inland - and judging by the scenery - it's probably going to be more like the Alpine regions or Montana than the coastal areas. Which means it could be hot in summer and my nipples are likely to freeze off in the winter, but what the hell. It sounds like Colorado Springs... I think I'll make me some skis.
In the meantime, I think it's late spring. I like late spring. The snow has gone and the sun hasn't yet got up to Saharan levels.
Jack got the logs over to the fire which is close to the pool - as much for aesthetics' sake as for safety - and he's carved indentations for our butts in them with the Tok'ra cutter. Mercifully, we'd long ago decided to keep all our tools on Mia just in case we needed them on a mission.
Teal'c found cans of beef in gravy and some canned vegetables, so they're cooking in a pot which is hanging from a spit hook that Daniel put up. We're sitting around, drinking a beer and generally just watching the flames flicker.
"We'll go get the gate tomorrow," Jack says. "First thing. It will give us more time to set it up."
"Where will we put it?" Daniel asks. "We don't want it too close to where we're living, after all."
"Good point. We'll have a scout around tonight. I think we still have a good few hours before night falls."
"What was on the other side of the woodland?" Teal'c asks.
"I didn't go through it," Jack says. "Sam? Did you notice?"
"There's another meadow, but it's smaller than this one, if I remember correctly. I can go check the records."
"How long before the dinner is cooked?" he asks Teal'c.
"It will be ready in about ten minutes, O'Neill. You have time to look. I shall stay and watch it."
"Great, thanks. C'mon, let's go look."
He and I go into the ship, Daniel's staying with Teal'c.
"Is everything okay, Jack? I mean with Daniel."
"He's fine," he replies with a sigh. "I guess the events of the last week just caught up with us. See, he'd long ago started to think he'd live out the rest of his life on Remoc. Not having the ties to Earth that we had, he was much more easily able to see it. When he settled with Shau're, he came to think of Abydos as home," he adds.
"Initially, with Abydos, he just felt he was swapping one place to live for another. Then he grew to love the people. After he lost Abydos, he withdrew into himself. I don't think he ever really settled back on Earth. After all, we were going through the gate a few times a month. Each destination could so easily have been his last. But when we moved to Remoc, and he and I could be us, he dared to believe that it was permanent, just as he had dared to believe that of Abydos."
"So he's lost everything again," I say.
"No. Not that. We are everything to him, Sam. Not the place. It was just he associated Remoc with us. And not just him and me. All of us. Now he's going to have to do it again. I doubt he'll become as attached to this place. Maybe one day, if we're here long enough for him to finally believe that it won't be taken away from him."
"I suppose it has a lot to do with how he lived as a child. Going from one foster home to another, finding some families that he hoped would be the last ones..."
"Exactly. He's okay, it's not going to give him a permanent scar on his psyche or anything, I think he's just having a little flashback to that time, that's all."
"How are you coping? Knowing you won't go home again?"
"It's not easy," he admits. "I'm having moments when it depresses me. I'll get over it though. I'm glad my mom knows I'm safe. That makes it easier on me."
"I understand that. Not seeing Mark is made easier because Dad's seeing him. I get the news, see the pictures... It helps."
We're at the console with the records in it now and I pull up the scan of the area that I did. Jack's looking carefully at it and now he's grinning.
"I think I've found the perfect place. Hang on."
Teal'c. Take the pot off the fire. Get Daniel and meet us at the edge of the wood.
I shall, O'Neill.
I follow him out, not quite sure what he's seen. Knowing him, it's going to be good.
The guys are running across the field. It's about a quarter of a mile wide at this point.
"We'll have to make a path through the trees," Jack says as we all join up. "Not too obvious, just in case we get unwelcome visitors, but good enough to make it easy for us to find in the dark."
"Where are we going?" Daniel asks.
"Come on, we're going to where the gate will sit."
He's jogging through the trees. There's almost a natural path here. It won't take huge amounts of effort to make it accessible. And now we're out and at the other field.
"Down here," he says.
At the mountain side of the field, we see exactly what he's getting at. Some sort of natural gully, in-between the field and the mountain. Providence has made it a little wider than the gate and about as high. It will give us three sides around which the gate will be covered. Should there ever be an attack through the gate, we'll only have to protect the front. There's a natural incline, fairly steep but certainly walkable. A few steps cut into it would make it easier for us. This is as defensible a gate site as I have ever seen.
"It's perfect, Jack," Daniel says with a grin. He can see the tactical advantage as clearly as the rest of us. "There's only one problem."
"Just how are we going to get the ship close enough to the mountain to get it in place before letting go?"
Dammit. Why does he have to be the practical one all the time?
"Ah shit," I reply. "You're right."
"Don't give up," he encourages. "I'm sure we'll think of something. Sam, how far away will the tractor beam hold it?"
"I don't know for certain, Daniel," she says. "I'll check it out."
I walk down the field, away from the mountain and look up. It curves back fairly steeply about a hundred yards up. If the beam can hold it that far away, it should work.
"Of course, we are assuming that the beam will actually tow the gate in the first place," she says with a sigh.
"If it doesn't, we'll come up with a different solution. If that means we have to fly to Remoc to gate out anywhere, then so be it."
"At least we wouldn't have to worry about a Goa'uld incursion if we did," Daniel says brightly.
"Were you expecting one?"
"No, Jack. After all, Remoc was an Ancient's planet. But who knows what could happen? All we'd need would be a snake with a cold-dialling program... With the way our luck's been going, that's almost guaranteed."
"Sheesh. Talk about Mister Misery. Come on, let's get back to dinner. I want to finish my beer. We have little enough of it as it is, so I don't want any to go waste."
"I doubt that will happen," Sam snickers.
This is the life. A camp fire, a warm, dry spring evening, food, beer, laughs and my honey by my side. What's better is that he's the one that's laughing.
"Tell me about the guy with the dogs, Daniel," I encourage.
"You sure? You usually go cross-eyed when I tell you myths."
"Thpoil me. I might myth the point of the thtories but I like the way you thay them."
He's giggling now and spitting some of his beer into the fire. What a wathte.
"Okay, you asked for it. King Arawn was the king of the Otherworld. He'd go hunting with his magical dogs which were white greyhounds with red ears. Anyway, like I said before, it was possible to travel between Earth and the Otherworld, so sometimes, he'd go hunting among the mortals.
"There's a story in the First Branch of the Mabinogion, which is a collection of the folk tales and mythology of Wales in which the King of Dyfed, King Pwyll was chasing a deer. When he reached it, he found a pack of dogs setting on it. He sent them off and was just about to set his own dogs on it when the hounds' master rode up. This was Arawn, naturally.
"Arawn chastised him for his action and Pwyll was very sorry for his ungentlemanly behaviour and asked how he could make it up to him. Arawn said that he had an enemy, Hafgan, who was driving him from his kingdom. This enemy could only be killed if he was taken down with one blow of a sword - only one, however. If he was struck more than once, he'd live. Pwyll agreed to fight in his place.
"To allow for Pwyll to be in the right place at the right time, Arawn said that they should change places for a year. As Arawn was magical, he was able to make them swap forms, so Pwyll looked like Arawn and vice versa. Pwyll took Arawn's place to rule in Annwn until the appointed day of the battle, and Arawn went to rule Dyfed.
"Pwyll, it turns out, then ruled Annwn well, justly and fairly. The only problem was that Arawn was married to a beautiful queen. Pwyll, however, was a gentleman and refused to kiss or make love to the other man's wife, even though she tried to tempt him, thinking that he was her husband.
"Finally, the day of battle came and Pwyll, remembering that he could only use a single blow to kill the giant man, fought carefully until he was able to inflict it. He defeated Hafgan and he and Arawn swapped back their bodies and kingdoms. Pwyll found that Arawn had ruled Dyfed very well and it was, in fact, a better place than he had left it.
"Meanwhile, Arawn's wife was confused by her husband's sudden interest in her after an entire year of abstinence. She questioned him on the fact, leaving Arawn impressed by Pwyll's control and goodness.
"As a result of their benevolent rule and respect for each other's property and families, the two became firm friends. Arawn made Pwyll Lord of Annwn in gratitude and the two kingdoms had a long and prosperous relationship as a result."
"Okay, that was a good story," I tell him. He is good at telling them. I just don't listen as much as I should.
"It was indeed, Daniel. A story of honour," Teal'c says.
"I loved it," Sam adds, her blue eyes twinkling in the firelight. "Do you know more from that collection?"
"Oh yeah. I learned a lot when I was at Oxford," he says with a blush. I know why. He had a boyfriend from that neck of the woods when he was there. "I'll keep them for another night though."
We are back on Remoc. Samantha found the tractor that she made when we first moved here and has put it onto the ship. Now, we are attempting to move the DHD. It is not easy. The ship is placed as close to it as we can get it and she has disconnected the crystals to protect them.
However, it is heavy, even for the four of us, the task made more difficult as we are forced to wear the protective suits. The atmosphere is getting thicker by the day as more and more ash is being thrown up into it. We have indeed made the correct decision to move. It will take many years for the planet to recover. There were few animal life-signs left on land that we could determine.
"This is going to take forever," O'Neill grunts as we move it a few more feet before putting it back down.
"Keep at it, Jack," Daniel encourages. "We'll manage it. It's not far now."
"Yeah, you're right. Pity we can't use the tractor."
"It could damage it if we drag it," Samantha reminds him.
"I know, I know. Okay, on three. One, two... three."
We lift again and this time we get it to the ramp. One more effort and we should get it inside the ship. We take a breath and then on O'Neill's count, we lift and get it to where we want it to be.
"That's great. Now, let's get the tractor beam thingy working and let's get going. I want to get out of this suit."
The door has shut and we wait a moment for the air to stabilise and the ash to be dispelled. It is insidious and also dangerous, so we cannot afford to breathe it in. At least the humans cannot. I wear the suit also because reminding them of the fact that I am different from them is not always productive.
We are all now at the peltac and the three of us are watching Samantha as she sets the controls of the beam.
"I think we've got it," she says.
"Think?" O'Neill asks incredulously.
"The only way we're going to tell is by going up and seeing if it works."
With a sigh, he gives the order. The view screen is set to look at the gate for the moment. Samantha is watching the controls, O'Neill and Daniel are watching the gate and I am slowly taking the ship up.
"How far away from the ship have you set the beam?" Daniel asks.
"About two hundred yards," she replies. "It's not that far, not really."
We are near that distance now. Carefully, I edge the ship further up.
"It's raising!" O'Neill calls. "That's it, that's it. STOP! Dammit! It's fallen back down."
"Would making the length of the beam shorter strengthen it?" Daniel asks.
"It might," she says. "If the same amount of power is being used in a smaller area, then that's a likely result. Trouble is, I don't know anything about how this works. It really is alien technology."
"Try it," O'Neill orders.
I drop the ship down and she tries again. This time, the gate is lying at an angle. If we arrive on Annwn with it like this, it will be hard to install the gate there.
"Okay, take her up again, Teal'c."
Again, I take us slowly and we watch as we catch the gate in the beam. It is raising again. I take it further and yet further up. So far, as they say, so good.
"The really tricky bit will be when we try to take it out of the atmosphere," Samantha admits.
"Sam, can you lengthen and shorten the beam when it's actually holding something?" Daniel asks her.
"Yes, I think so, why?"
"Well, if you pull the gate really close to us now, the beam will be at its strongest. That will help us get through the atmosphere. When we're in space and beyond Remoc's gravity, you can let it go and then catch the gate at a better angle than it's at now. Then you pull it in until we get through Annwn's atmosphere, then let it out again when we get to where we want it to go. How does that sound?"
She looks at him and glares. "If I didn't love you so much," she says, "I'd hate you. I think that will work."
He gives her a shy smile and winks.
I have often seen Daniel do that for her. For all of Samantha's brilliance, she has difficulty seeing the 'obvious' solutions at times. Because Daniel knows only a little about her fields of expertise, he is unafraid to think of the simple solutions. As they are so close, he is one of the few people that can get away with speaking to her in that manner. Others try, but they fail as their way with words is not as efficient as his.
Somehow, my idea worked and we got the gate through the atmosphere. Twice. Now we're trying to carefully lower it into its final resting place. Ew, that sounds a bit dreary.
"Where will we put the DHD?" I ask as Sam slowly lengthens the beam. Teal'c's holding the ship in place as she drops the gate, inch by painful inch.
"Why don't we wait until we've landed, eh, Daniel?" Jack growls.
Oops. I've put my foot in it again. Ah well. Someone had to mention it. At least now they can't say that I didn't say something before the problem becomes obvious.
"We're nearly there," Sam says excitedly. We're watching the screen closely, holding our breaths as the beam gets thinner and weaker by the moment. "A few yards... a little more... we're there!"
It's down, it's in. Thank God for that!
Teal'c's landed the ship on the grass next to the gully and we're all out of the ship in moments and out and looking at it. It's up, it's straight. It might even work!
"Are you sure it's going to stay upright when the gate engages?" Jack asks. "After all, there's an immense amount of force produced when the wormhole does the whooshy thing."
"It should," Sam says. "I guess the only way we'll find out is by engaging the gate."
"Uh, guys?" I say, wanting to run away. "There's something wrong."
"What, Daniel?" Sam growls.
"It's back to front."
The silence that follows is deafening as they look and see that the chevrons are, indeed, not facing us. I guess no one noticed that in the excitement of having something apparently going right for once. Sam is now stomping back to the ship, dragging Teal'c with her.
"Do you think she hates me more?" I ask Jack.
"Probably," he shrugs.
Take the gate up, Jack orders the others, then hold it there for a minute. Daniel and I can check out the dent it left in the ground and we can see if there's anything we can do to make it more stable. Oh, and one thing. Move it away from us. I don't want the beam giving out and the gate falling on our heads. Knowing our luck...
He doesn't finish the sentence, but then he doesn't have to.
They move it away from the gully and Jack and I scoot back down. There is a significant dent where it was originally placed.
"What if we move it that bit closer to the edge, Jack?" I suggest. "That way, if it falls backwards, the rocks will still keep it more or less upright, at least vertical enough for us to use it."
"Yeah, I can see what you're saying. Grab some of these loose rocks and help me build a platform for it."
He tells the others what we're doing and they say they'll wait for the word. Personally, I think they're glad not to be shifting rocks.
Jack and I have removed our shirts. The weather's dry and warm but this is hot work. I'm watching him build up a sweat and my body is reacting. As if it wouldn't.
"Hell, Jack, we'd better get this done soon."
"Why?" he puffs as he puts another rock down.
"'Cause if we don't, the others are going to get an impromptu porn display."
"You look hot!"
"Oh!" He turns and looks at me, then says, "I see what you mean."
I think the hot and sweaty look does it for him too. What am I thinking? I know it does.
Finally, it's done. I think I know where we're going to put the DHD too.
We get out of the gully and watch as Teal'c and Sam show off with a display of their own - synchronised gate placement or something. They've placed it exactly where we want it. Neat work.
"Before we get the DHD out of the ship," I say to Jack as Mia starts to land again, "how about we think where it should go."
"Why do I get the feeling that you've seen a problem already?"
"No problem, in fact I think I have a good idea."
The others are coming out of the ship and I lead them to a spot in the gully about twenty feet in front of the gate. In the meadow side of the gully wall is a natural dent. It could be dug out a little further and the DHD could sit in it. The bottom half is solid rock (Sam says this entire mountain is made of rock like granite, it's really hard.) and the top of it is earth. If we made a space big enough and shored the earth up with planks, we could hide the DHD.
Should anyone ever dial up by chance, they wouldn't see the DHD so they might think that it's no longer there. And given that the only vision they'd have from a VCD or MALP-type device would be the gully, they could be persuaded to think that the gate had been covered by earth or a rockfall or something and that the planet was no longer inhabited. It's just a thought.
The guys see what I mean and agree. It's a little more work, but the more security features we have, the safer this home will be. Maybe we'll even get to keep it.
We've retrieved our tools. Jack's gone with Sam to the wood and they're finding a tree to make planks out of. Teal'c and I are digging out the cubby-hole that the DHD will go in. Fortunately, Jack had had the foresight to buy a couple of shovels, a pick and other human tools when we were on Earth. They may not be as efficient as the Tok'ra ones, but we're used to them. As an archaeologist, I'm very much at home with a shovel.
"There, you think it's big enough?" I ask Teal'c after an hour or so of hacking at rock and digging.
"I do. This was a good tactical plan, Daniel," he tells me.
"Yeah? Great. I think Jack's rubbing off on me."
He declines to answer that.
We've shored up the sides of the hole and now we're manhandling the DHD into place. We'd taken a break before this and had lunch and Jack said that the first thing we should do when it's installed is to call the robots and invite them over. Excitement is building as the DHD finally ends up where we want it to. I'm looking at the glyphs and see that I can easily reach them all, so we've got the height right. The DHD is sitting inside the hole, so none of it is sticking out. I run back to the gate and see that it is out of sight completely.
"It's just right!" I call out and get three smiles in reply.
It's up to Sam now. She's replacing the crystals and connecting it up to the gate. The rest of us watch a bit impatiently but we say nothing. Eventually, she says, "That's it. It should work."
"Let's get a VCD and send it through to the palace," I suggest.
"Hang on," Jack interrupts. "How about we pick up some things first? We have some boxes that we need to take to them, the ones containing the things the androids asked us for, and I don't know about you, but I want a shower or bath or something. We can take what we need over there and get cleaned up."
"Sounds good to me!" Sam exclaims.
Sounds good to me, too. So we do.
About ten minutes later, and we're nervously standing in front of the DHD. I press the glyphs in order, Sam's fingering the VCD and Jack and Teal'c are watching the gate, Jack calling out when it starts to dial up.
"It's working," he says, his voice trying to stay calm.
Come on, come on, glyph six, glyph seven... and whoosh! We have a wormhole!
As soon as the event horizon establishes, Sam sends the VCD through and we wait, communicators in hand.
"John?" Jack calls. "Can you hear us?"
"Jack! You made it!"
"We did. That we did. Look, we want to come through, is that okay?"
Grabbing our things, we step through... and emerge in the palace.
"Jeez, you're filthy," John says as we meet up with him.
"Uh, yeah. We were kind of hoping to borrow the facilities," I reply.
"Sure, go ahead. Then you can tell us about your new place."
"Oh, Jack, this is great," I moan. We had a quick shower to get the worst of the muck off and now he and I are soaking our aching bones. Sam and Teal'c have found a different bathroom and are undoubtedly making the most of that. There's oil in the bath, making our skin slippery and slick. Ooh, that's given me a good idea.
"This is the life," he agrees, lying back and spreading his arms, dropping down and soaking his shoulders.
"Do you want a massage?" I ask, trying to sound like a caring and loving partner and not like a horny bastard.
"Oh yeah, that would be the icing on the cake."
He's going to have to wait for the icing, but in the meantime, let's finish baking the cake.
"Kneel here, Jack and put your arms on the edge of the bath. Rest your head on them."
He gets the idea and kneels in front of me, folding his arms together on the side and resting his head on his forearms. His eyes are shut as I kneel between his legs and start to kneed my warm, oily hands into his warm, oily back and shoulders. Punctuated by happy moans, the only real sound is that of water moving around us. I can feel him relaxing bit by bit, turning to jelly under my touch.
I think it's time to up the stakes.
Slowly, I move my hands down, taking my time to massage each inch of his skin, working out from his spine on both sides. He's moaning louder now, pushing back slightly, encouraging me to go further. Oh yeah, baby, I'm going to do that.
At last, my goal. I massage his ass cheeks, pushing them apart, firmly grasping them and working my hands closer to his hole with every movement.
"Oh yeah, Daniel," he gasps, realising what I'm going to do. "Do it."
"You sure?" I tease as I trail my thumb around his anus.
He responds by pushing back and taking my oily thumb inside him. "The other one," he says, "use the other one."
I pull my thumb out of him and put it back to back with my other thumb. Then I slowly push them inside him and start to pull them apart.
I think he likes that.
"Just do it, Daniel. All the way."
It will be my pleasure. I slip my arms under his and lift him a little, dropping him back onto my thighs. I reach around his chest and rub my hands over them, pinching his nipples and making him jump a bit. He wriggles on my lap, urging me on. I lift him again and this time, he slides slowly down my cock.
"Now this is more like it," he growls.
"Lean forward again, Jack," I instruct. For once, he follows orders.
Once again, the only sound in the room is the slapping water around our bodies, but this time it is punctuated by both our moans. We're rocking together, the oil allowing just enough friction to make this feel right.
"Please," he begs. "End it."
I take his cock in my hand and start to jerk him off, increasing the pressure and tempo in time with my thrusts into his body. It feels so damned good.
"God, Daniel," he's panting. I know it means he's close. Letting my control go, I take us all the way, giving him everything I've got until I feel him stiffen and spasm under my touch. His fists are pounding the side of the bath as he comes, taking me with him.
I pull back slowly and collapse onto the ledge. He turns around and pulls me into his arms.
"We have got to get us a bath," he pants.
I couldn't agree more.
Dad turned up at the palace when we were all meeting up after our baths. I think the boys had been fooling around as they had that look about them that they always get. After sympathising with our situation, Dad promised to get hold of more crystals for us and said he'd visit in the next day or two. That will be good.
Daniel and I came up with a new design for the tunnels and hopefully, it will give us a better working and living environment until we can build houses. Dad did say that he knew of a planet where they quarried stone for building. Hopefully, we'll be able to trade with them for the materials to build our own.
We're just heading back to Annwn now, a bit lighter-hearted and looking forward to the future. We've just about said goodbye to our past.