Summary: What's slimier? A snake? Or a snake in the grass? MIA and MIB are needed to complete two missions. And there's an appearence by an old 'fiend'.
Many thanks, as ever, to Joy, Fabi and this time, the amazing Alphekka. Couldn't do it without you guys :-)
I didn't think that I'd be able to do it, but I did. In the list of blueprints we got from Morrigan's weapons factory was a set for a device which looked uncannily like Nirrti's phase-shifting device.
So, I made it, scrounging parts from Dad, picking Frankie's brains and so on. I can't walk through walls, I don't seem to be 'out there' so to speak - and I'm hungry. All of these things tell me that I'm not necessarily in a different phase. I am, however, invisible. It's either that or I'm a vampire. Whatever - there's no 'me' in the mirror. I think I should go tell the guys. Now, do I switch it off first? Just think of the fun I could have if I don't...
Okay, Harry, it's time to get revenge. Taking pot shots at Kinsey is so satisfying. But it's time to move things up a notch. The mutterings in the Pentagon about the kiss-and-tell hooker are starting to percolate out into the public sector, but not quickly enough. So, what shall I do now?
God only knows this is costing me enough. Getting the photographs of Linda Lovejoy walking into Kinsey's security-heavy apartment in DC was hard, but I managed it. I had to arrange passes, IDs, and some serious computer hacking to wipe her - admittedly minor - criminal record as part of the payment, as well as the necessity of the hacking to gain us entry.
I couldn't believe that Kinsey himself would answer the door. Must have been his aide's night off or something. I took photos of him and her from the corridor inside the building and then got out to wait for her to exit it. Just as well he was on his own - Mrs. Kinsey seems to want to spend as little time as possible with him. Can't say I blame her. Wish it hadn't been so damned cold, though.
Of course, he kicked her out pretty quickly, but I shifted the timer on the camera forward so when I took another picture of the lovely Linda leaving the apartment building, it looked like she'd been there for a few hours. Not sure if it would have been more embarrassing for him if she'd left only twenty minutes later or not...
It would seem that I have a friend in the Pentagon. Major Davis. One-time lover of the dangerous Doctor Jackson. Oh, I know that Jack doesn't think that I knew about him and the good doctor back then, or about the row they had when he found the major taking his place as Daniel's bed warmer, but I knew. Not that I'd have used that against them. Well, not unless it benefited me, anyway.
The law sucks. I mean, from a security point of view, how easy is it to use a guy - or a gal - if you make who they are and what they are illegal? A guy, lonely, desperate to get off, can end up being blackmailed into passing on secrets. It happened a lot once; gay or straight and married, it didn't matter. The Russians made the most of that particular tactic back in the days of the Soviet Union. Remove the law, remove the taboo and you remove the possibility of blackmail. Done and dusted.
You'd think that in days when we're desperate to keep our secrets, we'd make it as easy as possible on the people we're relying on to actually keep them. Don't know if that tactic is still being used by our enemies, but the potential is still there.
Of course, having the law still there aids people like me. Oh! I just think I made my point.
Now, where was I? More to the point, what am I up to?
I'm doing a touch of covert surveillance. Watching for the right moment. The photographs of Kinsey and the hooker are in the right hands. The rumours in the Pentagon are circulating more and more wildly - this is where Major Davis is coming into his own. Whenever the rumour dies down, he stokes it up again.
He's gotten access to one of the news boards I use and from time to time, I get a cryptic message. Kinsey's movements are being passed onto me and the mood in government about his activities is being reported. Not that anyone who doesn't know what we're talking about would guess, but I'm getting the message. Turns out he volunteered to help me out, just to keep Hammond's name out of the limelight if the shit hits the fan.
I didn't even have to use blackmail to get the assist...
I've left a message for him. He can pass it onto Hammond if he wants. I'm going to make my big move soon. Let's just hope that Jack gets the message and comes to collect me. I'll go to his cabin when I need to lay low. At a guess, he's got a ship or he's going to call in some alien or other.
He'll keep his word - if he's still alive. Jack may be a pain in the ass, but he does keep his word. Which worries me a bit as he has, on occasion, promised to kill me and then do unspeakable things to my body. If he keeps those promises I'm in deep shit. I may well be more than capable of taking care of any "problems" I have, but you've got to be better than good to get one over Jack O'Neill.
Okay, I am better than good, but I don't have Doctor Jackson, Major Carter and Teal'c on my side. Even if I got Jack, one of the others would get me. Of course, him living off-world makes things difficult for me to actually act against him if the need arose.
Back to the problem at hand. I'm not just going to bring Kinsey down. I'm going to expose the NID. They didn't help me when I was working for them, they hung me out to dry. Revenge, as the Klingons would say, is a dish best served cold. Want ice with that?
It took us a while to recover from Sam's ghostly antics, but we're really happy with what she's come up with. After the understandable - and not so understandable - Harry Potter cloak of invisibility comments, we settled down and Sam's promised to make more as soon as she can. She's waiting on a call from her dad for the parts she needs. She says she can make a couple more, but not enough for us all yet.
Daniel and I have been visiting with the androids while she works (Teal'c, naturally, stayed on Annwn with her). Seems that they've completed the diplomatic rounds and the various worlds have agreed to hold fire on breaking with Earth, but they won't be actively pursuing the alliances until we let them know it's safe to do so.
Daniel and DJ were chatting about the various let-downs that Daniel's had recently. Just as well, really. DJ's the only one that really knows how Daniel feels about it. He's still not talking much about the visit to Thoth's world. DJ was thrilled when Daniel said he could come over and read the books from Jotunheim, though.
I'm actually glad that Harlan made copies of us - strange, but true. Having a double to share things with helps. At least Daniel feels like he's telling someone what he's learned - and it's a someone who understands his high falutin' academic talk.
We haven't heard anything more from Earth yet, so we're still waiting for the word to fly back to pick up Maybourne. I'm hoping that Harry will come through. I get the feeling that he will. He wants revenge as much as we do.
Talking of the devil...
"Where shall we take Maybourne when the time's right?" I ask as we settle down to our evening meal.
The others are silent for a moment, then Daniel grins.
"I think," he says quietly, "that I know the perfect place. We'll have to check it out first though. Despite my wanting to shoot him, it wouldn't be fair to drop him where there are any Jaffa or anything. If it's not possible, then I have a second option. Either way, he'll be left alone."
He opens his mouth to tell us when we're interrupted. The alarm from the early-warning device we set up at the gate has gone off. Quickly, the four of us grab our weapons and head out of the house. We've got a plan for this. In a matter of a minute or so, we're in the woodland in prearranged positions.
Can you see who it is? I ask.
Not yet, Jack.
We wait a minute more and then relax. It's Jacob and he's on his own.
He jumps out of his skin when we all leave the cover of the trees and surround him.
"Whoa!" he yells, then he grins. "Good to see you haven't let your guard down, guys."
"Got to keep the training up," I answer. "Come on, let's go to the house. We've dished up dinner and I think there's some left if you want to join us."
"Lead on!" he says with enthusiasm, then he stops. "Who cooked?" he asks suspiciously, looking at each of us in turn.
"Great. Let's eat."
"That was terrific. Thanks," Jake says as we settle down in the living room.
"You're welcome," Daniel replies with a grin. "So, Jake, is this a social call?"
"Wish it was," he sighs. "We have a bit of a dilemma."
"Yeah. We think that Maybourne's about to act, so that means that it's nearly time to go get him. We'll need to get him off the planet asap after the event to keep his involvement quiet. I mean, they're looking for him now, but when Kinsey goes down, they're going to be looking for him."
We all nod, knowing what he means.
"However, we think that we have a chance to get at Baal."
"Oh yeah? How?"
For once I stop and think before answering that one. "Do you mean the snake Yu or us you... Er, you know what I mean."
"Actually, both. Yu has been actively feeding us bits of information. It's to his benefit, after all. I know he's not telling us everything that he knows, but still, we're hearing intel that we've confirmed later as accurate, so there's every chance that what he's telling us about Baal is true."
"Send MIB in when we go to get Maybourne," Sam suggests.
"No can do," Jake sighs. "Yu saw you guys after your dip in the pool. The plan is that you make contact with him. If he sees MIB looking the way you used to look, he's going to get suspicious."
"Damn. That means that MIB will have to go to Earth. Hang on, Harry's seen us like this."
Daniel grins. "True. But do you care if he's confused or not?"
"Um, no," I agree. However I have to add, "But MIB are on the wanted list..."
"Right, Jack," Jake agrees. "If they go to the cabin, though, it should be okay. We won't send them until we've heard that he's ready to go. As long as they stay out of sight..."
"Why do we have to act now?" I push. "Can't it wait till we've dumped Harry somewhere?"
"'Fraid not, Jack. Baal will be attending a meeting with his supporters in three days' time. Yu will not be there. However, we don't know where it is, which is where you, Daniel, come in. We think he'll tell you the details."
Daniel doesn't question it, but nods.
"There's one problem with this scenario," he says quietly.
"What is that, Daniel?" Teal'c asks, equally quietly.
"If we take out Baal and his supporters, Yu will grow in strength. Morrigan's gone, her supporters have either changed allegiance to Baal or to Yu. With Baal gone, Yu will feel that he's in a position to take on Anubis."
"True, so what's the problem?"
"We came to a truce with Yu. For the time being, he won't try to kill us and we won't try to kill him. However, when the time comes, the truce will be over. If I go to him and pass back the information to you guys to take out Baal, who's to say he won't kill me? Or lie in wait for us when we've finished? He's dangerous, Jacob. Trustworthy only up to a point. That is his cut-off point."
Silence descends again as his words sink in.
"Could you not kill him when you have retrieved the information?" Teal'c prompts.
"No," Daniel replies. "Because then we won't have the strength to take out Anubis. And to be perfectly blunt, we'll need that to happen in a big space battle."
"Why?" Sam asks. Daniel doesn't have to answer, I've already figured out what he's thinking.
"To reduce the numbers of Jaffa and therefore future System Lords when the symbiotes mature."
Daniel nods at me. Sweet, I got it right. However, another tactical thing strikes me.
"Er, Jake, how are we going to get to wherever this meeting is? If we need to go by ship and if MIB is taking Mia..."
"I'm lending them my ship," Jake replies. "It's only a day's flight from Earth where it is, so I'll go and give them the co-ordinates in a while. They can gate there, then pick him up, take him wherever he wants to go and drop the ship back where I left it. It'll take less time that way."
Dad has gone, leaving us in stunned silence. It looks like a lot of things are going to go down and soon. We just hope that it doesn't drown us.
Although it's starting to get late, Jack and Daniel have popped over to see MIB to tell them of Daniel's idea. I think they're also going to remind them to pick up anything that's been left for us, too.
"Samantha. You are quiet. Is something wrong?"
"Wrong? Oh no, just a little nervous, I guess. We have so little information to work on and so many things can go wrong during the mission... it's hard to put my finger on it. I mean, we've been in many dangerous situations, but only some of them unnerve me."
"And this one unnerves you?"
"Yes. Yes it does."
"Would you like to relax?"
He looks at me and then at the bedroom.
"Okay!" I squeak.
Taking me by the hand, he leads me to our room and through to the bathroom. Oh boy, I'm going to enjoy this.
I stand by the side of the bath, doing nothing. When he's in this mood he prefers me to remain totally passive. That's cool, I know I'm going to feel incredible by the end of it. He's running the bath, dropping some oil under the falling water as it covers the mosaic on the floor of it.
I wasn't keen on the idea of a sunken bath until I first used ours. Now I wouldn't change it for anything. Oh, oh, here he comes. I stand still as he starts to undress me, his fingers brushing my skin as it appears. I shiver with anticipation - I should - I know what's coming. Sometime, later tonight, after he's massaged every inch of my body and kissed where he's massaged, what's going to be coming is me.
Jack and Daniel look at me in shock and then Daniel grins.
"Someone got laid last night," he sniggers.
I look at the both of them and ask, "You didn't?"
"Nope. We slept like angels," Jack answers, trying to look innocent.
"That'll be the day."
"Hey, we don't spend our lives making out, you know. Sometimes all we do is sleep."
Daniel pours me a coffee and Teal'c some long-life orange juice that we brought from Earth and we all sit down for breakfast.
"So, how are we going to tackle the thing with Yu?" Jack asks after some coffee has percolated through our bodies and starts to reach our brains.
"I think I should just go and see him and get whatever intel he has on Baal," Daniel replies. "If we take the ship and you guys drop me off..."
"Not acceptable," Jack interrupts. "We all go together."
"And who's going to get us out if we all get taken?" Daniel argues.
Jack scowls. Sometimes he hates it when Daniel's right.
"How about we just talk to him via a comm link?" I suggest.
"Will he give us that sort of information over the air?"
"He might. We can but ask."
Jack nods. "Okay, we'll try that one. But I want more plans just in case."
As we eat, we think, we talk, we plan... It reminds me of pre-mission times during our SGC days.
It won't take us long to get to Yu's planet. I just hope he's there. More to the point, I hope he's going to talk to me via the comm link. I don't want to go down onto the planet and take the chance of getting captured. I can't let him know what we have planned.
"What are you thinking?"
I look at Jack and see that he's got the expression that he wears when he's been watching me for ages. I didn't think that I'd been ruminating for so long.
"Just wondering how I'm going to tackle this with Yu," I tell him. "We can't let on that we're going to go to the meeting to take out Baal."
Jack nods in understanding. He never does his dumb act when I'm talking tactics, it's the one area he knows he knows more than me or Sam for sure.
"Okay, I think I've got something for you."
He tells me what's on his mind and I agree. All we have to do now is hope that Yu's going to talk to us.
We're there. Well, we're close to him. Sure, we could have called from our planet, but comms can be traced and we didn't want him to know what part of the galaxy we live in, so we're in his area. Of course, this gives us the chance to get to his planet quickly if he won't talk over the comm, too.
Teal'c has called on the comm link, using his polite Jaffa manner to get the Jaffa on the other end to listen. I think that Yu has given orders that messages from us are to be passed on, however, as the Jaffa has told us to wait and disconnected the link.
"Sam, get a trace on the message from Yu when he calls back," Jack says.
Good thinking. He might not be on the planet.
We wait and wait, getting more and more impatient by the moment. Finally, we get a call.
"Daniel Jackson. I am surprised to hear from you."
"Hey, Yu. Well, you know me, always popping up when you least expect me."
He smiles a little before answering.
"What is it you wish to say?"
"Well, I was just wondering... Do you know where Baal's going to be meeting with the others in two days' time?"
"I may. Why should I tell you?"
It's my turn to smile back at him. "You know that whatever we're doing is ultimately to your benefit, Yu."
"Possibly. What good would it do you to know the location?"
This is where Jack's idea comes in.
"We're going to pass the information on to friends of ours. Intelligence gatherers, so to speak. You never know what information might come out of it. Rumour has it that Baal's not too happy with you. Maybe he's planning something? If you tell us where he is, we'll send our people in, find out what we can, and if there is a threat to you, we'll return the favour."
I see a bit of shock on his face. He didn't know about the rumour. Not surprising, really, seeing as there isn't one. Oh shit, he wouldn't, would he?
"Don't go and attack him," I add quickly. "It is only a rumour. You know how things like that spread. It could be just because you're not siding with him that someone's reading more into it than there is. Let us send our people in to find out the truth. No point in wasting your time and Jaffa on Baal when we both know who the bigger prize is."
He lets my words move through his mind and then he nods.
"Very well. I shall send you the co-ordinates. I do not have to tell you that I will deny everything if he discovers that the information came from me, do I?"
"Don't worry. Our people won't know where it's come from, anyway. Besides, dropping you in it would be shooting ourselves in the foot. No, your identity will be kept secret, I promise."
"I will expect a report from you at the end of this mission."
"If there's anything to report, you'll get one. You know how things like this go - working on rumours and unsubstantiated claims is like taking a shot in the dark. We'll let you know if you're in danger, I give you my word."
Sam says that a set of co-ordinates have been sent so we sign off.
"Do we trust him?" she asks as she looks at the location.
"Would you trust your favourite pet cat to a tank full of hungry piranhas?" Jack snaps back. "Trouble is, we don't have a choice. This is all we have to go on."
"We'd better get moving," I sigh. "By the way, Sam, where was Yu?"
"Apparently on his planet. I say apparently, because it is possible, if difficult, to disguise the origin of your signal."
So, we're left with taking Yu at his word again. So far, he hasn't let us down. So far.
I am uneasy about putting my trust in a Goa'uld; however, I have no choice. There will be little or no rest on this ship until this mission is over.
None of my teammates are happy. O'Neill and Daniel are barely speaking to each other but that is not because they have argued. They simply have nothing more to say for the time being. Samantha and I are in a similar mood. She knows of my love for her, I know of hers for me. We need make no more declarations. Of course, O'Neill and Daniel may be speaking to each other in their minds, but I do not think so.
It will take us another day to reach the co-ordinates of the meeting, leaving us barely twenty hours to prepare when we get there. This may not give us enough time to plan an attack, but at the same time, it gives the enemy much time to discover us. We are cloaked, of course, and that helps us, but even that is no guarantee of safety as we wait.
The meeting is taking place on a planet. We have discussed what we would like to do. First of all, we need information. The Tok'ra currently have no one in Baal's camp and so there is a need for this information. However, our primary task is to kill Baal and possibly his most loyal supporters. That would leave his Jaffa leaderless, which is where Yu could take over.
None of this is going to be easy. In fact, it is more dangerous than the attack on the space station. There will be no asteroid strike this time, we do not have the time to find one. And as Daniel Jackson says, it has been done to death and he is bored with the idea.
O'Neill, however, calls himself a traditionalist and complains that as a strategy, it works. As he reminds us on many occasions, if something is not broken, then one should not attempt to mend it.
Samantha did point out that a homeworld would most likely have some sort of planetary defence system and that to ensure the death of Baal (there is always the possibility of him transporting off the planet if he knows of an attack), a direct, or very near hit would be essential.
It is one thing aiming a small asteroid at astronomic velocity at a vulnerable space station where any hit would be disastrous, it is quite another to get a direct hit through an atmosphere (which could deflect its trajectory) on a palace, or even a specific region. This teltac could only tow an asteroid of a limited size, not one which could definitively destroy a planet.
Of course, Daniel also pointed out that we would not wish to bring too much harm onto the main populace of this world, that they are not really our enemy. A wide-ranging strike would be an indiscriminate killer - so indiscriminate that unless there was indeed that direct hit, or very close to one, there would be no guarantee that the palace, which could also be shielded, would be destroyed.
No, we need to do what O'Neill calls a surgical strike, taking out only the diseased heart of the Goa'uld. It will not be easy.
Watch and learn as I turn up the heat! Nobody does it better - not even James Bond, even if I say so myself. Well, I'd have to, Jack wouldn't say it for me.
It was more than difficult to get another hooker into Kinsey's apartment block so I changed tactics. He got one hell of a shock when a transvestite 'call girl' pulled off the best acting role of his, er, her career at a DC party for political bigwigs.
She managed to sneak in, then, when things quietened down the partygoers were treated to a complete tantrum. Kinsey got his face slapped and she screamed at him for lying to her about not divorcing his wife and moving in with her. Needless to say, she stormed out before anyone could question her or throw her out, and Kinsey was left denying everything. Not sure whether he was believed or not - that doesn't matter.
What with the rumours about him and a prostitute going around, people are going to think there's no smoke without fire. It would seem that his opponent in the race to become the party's presidential candidate is getting more and more support. Kinsey's blaming him for this but his opponent says that he wouldn't stoop so low and perhaps Kinsey's doing it himself, trying to show the world that he's actually got balls and knows how to use them.
Tomorrow should seal his fate. The Washington Post has an exclusive on the rumours doing the rounds at the Pentagon, coupled with an insider's report on the party. Major Davis sure does get around. That boy has potential. Not that I should be surprised - I've seen his record. Underneath the manicured fingernails and neatly-trimmed hair and shaven face, lies a cold, calculating special ops agent. He knows all the angles, knows who can be trusted to believe the lies and who can't - and more to the point, just how to tell them.
Even if the truth behind the rumours comes out, there'll still be enough people ready to believe the lies. Kinsey's finished. And no one there was sure how the reporter from the National Enquirer was able to get an invite.
Got to love computerised invitation lists...
To cap it all, tomorrow night's edition of 60 Minutes is going to blow the NID sky high. I'm relying on Jack to get me out of this because despite my identity being electronically hidden, the powers that be will know it's me. I told them who the NID were, what they do.
Naturally, as a loyal soldier, I kept the alien thing and the SGC out of it. I may want revenge, but I've really got nothing against Hammond and the people there. They were only doing their job, just as I was - even if Jack doesn't believe me. Besides, the people of this damned planet are not ready to hear about the fact that we're not alone in the universe. Though it's tempting...
No, what I've done is prove to the conspiracy theorists that there is a conspiracy. I gave them facts, papers, photographs of the inside of Area 51 with some of the contents blacked out. Much as I want to expose the work, I wouldn't expose the actual research. I told the producer that they were not to advertise the contents of the programme until such a time that the government wouldn't have time to react and pull the programme off the air. Because they could be sure that the government will be highly pissed with them for showing it.
So, all the good people of this country - and those who get it abroad on satellite - know is that they have a secret exposé planned. It should be guaranteed to get plenty of viewers, as there are even rumours in the papers, especially the tabloids, that it's about someone famous. It sure is - Kinsey gets a mention as being the one behind the organisation.
What's funnier is that the producers of the programme know me as Colonel Simmons.
I'd have used my own name, if only to get the recognition I deserve for my service to my country later on, but under the circumstances, it's much more fun to screw up Simmons' life.
The upshot of this is I'm in Minnesota, in Jack's cabin - he didn't say I could use it, but hell, it's late January and it's fucking freezing - and I'm watching the news very carefully.
I wonder what's in the boxes in the living room? They're sealed crates and I can't get into them without it leaving a trace. If Hammond's sent them here, then he probably figured that I'd get inside. He's leaving them to tempt me, no doubt. No, I have to resist temptation. Otherwise I could find myself floating out of an airlock, or even being left behind. There are times that satisfying my curiosity isn't worth it. Ho hum, I'd better wait. I wonder if rattling them would help?
We're there. It's taken us ages - okay, a day, but it's been boring. Even the novelty of hyperspace wears off pretty quickly. Unfortunately, we're none the wiser as to how we're going to tackle this.
Needless to say, given that the solar system is fucking heaving with ships of all shapes and sizes, we're cloaked and creeping in as quietly as we can go.
"Fuck me," Daniel whispers as he sees the size on Baal's mother ship. Or at least we're assuming it's his. Could be anyone's I guess.
"Is that an offer?"
He looks at me, a bit annoyed at first but then he grins.
"I'll hold you to that."
"You do that. In the meantime, what in hell's name are we going to do, Jack?"
"I don't know," I sigh. What does one do when confronted with overwhelming odds? Well, I guess I do what I always do. Wing it, flyboy.
"I suppose we should land," I finally suggest. "Can you scan to see where they're likely to be?" I ask Sam.
"I can try. Take us away from the ships and I'll see what's going on down there."
So we're doing the spaceship equivalent of tiptoeing and trying to get close enough to find out what's going on. Talk about formidable opposition, I'm seriously considering getting us the hell out of here.
"Do you think that Baal's planning an attack?" Daniel asks quietly.
Yeah, I know that talking quietly isn't necessary, but we're all doing it. Go figure.
"Could be. Wonder who he's going to attack if it's the case?"
"One of two," he replies. "Anubis or Yu."
"If it's Anubis, I'd be tempted to let him get on with it."
Daniel turns and nods.
"That would piss Yu off, but to be frank, I'd take whatever we can get on that front."
"We need to find out, then, don't we?"
"There they are, I think," Sam says suddenly.
I look at her in question and she shrugs. Guess she's winging it too.
We look at her scan results and see that there would appear to be a palace or fortress of sorts. If we're going to get into it, we're going to need a miracle.
"Increase the resolution of the scan," I order. "I want blueprints, just like we had of the NID facility on Earth."
"We'll need to get closer then," she replies. "The high resolution scanner, I mean the one that gives us the really minute details as opposed to general features, only works to its fullest extent if you're a few miles from the target."
"Then do it. Teal'c, take us down. If you feel like you have to take us into the atmosphere on the other side of the planet then do it. Let us know when you're there."
"I will do as you request," he intones.
Holy Hannah. I am jittery, jumpy and... damn, can't think of another thing beginning with J for the moment, but whatever it is, I'm it. It's ridiculous. I've watched as reactors have gone critical; flown bombing runs through anti-aircraft fire. I've faced death - spat in the face of death to be honest, but this is making me nervous. There's a sense that we're looking at the end, for some reason. I'm not afraid to die, that's not it. And I don't think I'm going to die. But there's an element of finality that I can't quite grasp.
Perhaps it's because we're going after one of the big guys deliberately. When we took out Morrigan, it was almost by mistake, it certainly wasn't planned.
The scan is going as planned. We're getting good details of the palace on a 3D map. We're scanning for life-signs too, and there's plenty of naquada coming up within them, so it's humming with Goa'uld and/or Jaffa. There is one huge room which could well be the conference room.
"We've got it," I tell them.
"Good. Find somewhere uninhabited, Teal'c and take us there," Jack orders.
With a nod, Teal'c does that. We all stay silent because we know that Jack's thinking tactics.
"How long have we got before the conference starts?" he asks after a few minutes.
"About fifteen hours," I tell him.
He nods and then moves off the bridge and goes somewhere else.
"Don't ask me. He's obviously got something on his mind. He'll let us in on it when he's ready."
We notice that Teal'c's landing Mia and we look out of the window. He's put us down in a field overlooking the town where the palace is. For the first time, we get a really good look at it. It's huge. Bigger than huge. Appears to be red brick funnily enough. Lots of greenery though.
"Babylon," Daniel says.
"Babylon. It looks like the ruins that have been excavated there. At least, the shape's the same. Babylon was made out of burnt brick, a baked mud brick that lasts longer than sun-dried. Remember the ziggurat and Marduk?"
"Well, he was the city god of Babylon. I wonder if he was one of Baal's sidekicks?"
"Could have been," I agree - well, who am I to argue?
"Not to mention that there's a god in Babylon known as Bel. Um, remember the story of Daniel?"
I look at him and grin.
"Bel is the god that he proves doesn't exist, or God defeats - depending on your interpretation of the texts."
He looks at the scan results and points out a few things.
"If we go on the ground plan of Babylon, this will be the throne room..." he says. "This would be the Ishtar Gate," he adds, looking at a massive construction. I can hear his voice reflecting his excitement. "No one's ever seen this... I mean, no one alive on Earth knows exactly what Babylon looked like. This must be it. It must be."
All I can do is hold his hand and squeeze it. I'd give almost anything to let him take photographs of it and then publish them back on Earth, but it's not going to happen. And worst of all, we may have to destroy it.
"Look! The Temple of E-mah. It's got to be."
"Uh, yeah. It's been reconstructed at Babylon. It's something special."
"I have never heard of a god called E-mah, Daniel."
"No, I'm not surprised. E-mah turns up in the Bible, um, Jeremiah if I remember correctly, but that does depend on which version you read. It means 'terror' and alludes to the downside of worshipping idols. Don't forget, Baal was a major player in the Old Testament. Now, where was it... Kings, I think. Jezebel, the idol worship... Damn, it's been so long since I read the Bible."
"You've read it? All of it?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure. Pretty much all of the major religious books in fact."
"In the original languages, no doubt."
"Of course. Where possible. I mean, I don't read all of the original languages, especially the eastern ones, but if I can, I do."
He looks at me as if I've lost the plot. "Why wouldn't I? My life's work is based on the mythological and religious histories. Mainly of the Middle East, so those three books in particular are important to my research."
"You're saying that the three main works of the Jews, Muslims and Christians equate with mythology?"
"Depending on your perspective," he replies dryly. "I see them as interesting, in fact, fascinating collections of stories, morality laws, and so on. But then I'm a godless heathen," he adds with a grin. "If you're religious then they're to be taken as historical fact, I'm sure. Whatever.
"If it makes someone happy to believe, and they don't try to kill off others for not believing, then I say 'good luck'. If people actually lived by the words, then we wouldn't have half the problems we have on Earth. Can't argue with the morality side of things - don't kill, don't steal, don't lie or cheat, be charitable... Nothing wrong with that. I must admit to disagreeing with some aspects of each book, but hell, you can't have everything I guess."
I'm not really sure what to say to that. Can't say I'm overly religious myself, but I was brought up as a Christian and find his offhand dismissal of any of the religions a little odd. I guess I want to believe that there is a God out there, one who will stop the universe imploding on itself. How I can balance that with my scientific attitude, I don't know.
"So, Baal?" I prompt, still a touch confused as to what I'm feeling.
"Oh. Yes, well, Elijah was sent by God to basically stop the worship of Baal. Ahab, the king, had been turned to worship him by his wife Jezebel. Um, to cut a long story short, there were 450 prophets of Baal in competition with Elijah. They had to sacrifice a bullock, place it on an altar and call to Baal to burn it, thereby accepting the sacrifice.
"They did, but nothing happened. They danced, sang, prayed, even cut themselves, but still nothing happened. Elijah built his own altar, had people soak it with water, then prayed. God sent down some fire and accepted the offering. The people were so impressed that they reverted to worshipping God, but not until they'd killed all of prophets."
"Not good news for Baal, eh?" I say.
We turn around and see Jack as he comes back onto the bridge.
"I think I've got an idea," he drawls. "Sam, I'm going to need a box of tricks."
"You are? Oh, good!"
Jack's looking inordinately pleased with himself.
"Jack, what have you got in mind?" I ask as he comes back to the scan and studies it.
"Just a minute, Daniel. Um, Sam, are all of the cloaking devices or whatever you want to call them ready?"
"I only had the materials to build three, Jack."
"Not a problem. I need to know they're working."
"Let me double-check them, but they should all work."
She leaves the room and goes to check. After her little ghostly display on Annwn, I think I know what Jack's got in mind.
"So, we're going to creep around?" I ask.
"Something like that. I was thinking more along the lines of a haunting. Creep in, scare the crap out of them and creep back out. Whatcha think?"
"I think I like the way you think."
Teal'c's looking confused.
"Teal'c, I'll need you to stay on Mia," Jack says, getting a scowl from Teal'c in response. "Ah ah ah! Hear me out. For a start, we need someone that can get us out in a hurry. Secondly, I'll want you to listen in to any and all transmissions. Now, I know that you speak more Goa'uld dialects than Daniel..."
This is true.
"And you're a better pilot than the rest of us put together. Much as I want you watching our backs inside the palace, I think you'll do us more good outside it. We need to have someone we know will be able to get to the right place to transport us out of there in a hurry. We can't even have a moment's doubt."
Teal'c looks a little mollified, but not much. It's true though, he's the only one of us that can fly Mia through anything. After his display near Netu, we've all accepted his talents in this direction. Sure, we can all fly the ship and sure, I can speak some Goa'uld, but not as well as Teal'c. If Jack thinks it's necessary, then it is. He wouldn't ask Teal'c to stay behind otherwise.
"You'll need to keep in constant touch with us, too," Jack adds. "Mentally, if possible. We don't know how far our telepathy goes, though, so we'll wear our comms bracelets. We'll need those, anyway, to control rings and things."
He looks Teal'c in the eye as he continues, "I know it's going to be tough for you, Teal'c. You're going to have to keep Mia hidden, listen in to loads of communications and keep your mind connected to ours. If you think it would be easier, you can just stay connected to Sam."
I know why he's added that last bit, my link to Jack is stronger somehow. We can't explain it, but it's true.
Teal'c is not a happy camper.
"Teal'c, we know you'd prefer to be with us," I say. "We'd rather you were with us, too. But you have to know that we'll feel so much safer if you're in Mia. If we get into trouble, you're probably the only one that could come and get us out single-handed, and you're the one we trust to do so."
Jack mutters agreement and Teal'c nods slowly. Shit. He understands but he's pissed off. Still, nothing can be done about it. Jack wouldn't have asked him to stay if he didn't think it necessary; he hates us being split up as much as anyone.
I do understand O'Neill's reasons but I am not amused.
"O'Neill. You will take care of Samantha."
He looks at me and nods vigorously.
"Well, duh," he drawls. "You think I wouldn't?"
"I am making sure."
He laughs a little and then smacks my arm.
"Don't worry, buddy. You know I will take care of her."
I nod and say no more. He knows that I will hurt him if he lets her get hurt.
"You will die trying," I inform him.
"No question, Teal'c," Daniel replies. "It would hurt us as much as it would hurt you if we didn't."
"Guys? Why are you mumbling?"
We turn and see Samantha as she enters the peltac. It is fortunate that we kept our voices low. I do believe that she would be furious if she heard our words.
"Er, Teal'c's unhappy about being asked to stay on the ship," Daniel says. "He wants in on the action."
This is why we use Daniel as our spokesman. He thinks quickly on his feet.
"Oh? Why isn't he coming?"
"We need him to listen out to radio chat, fly Mia, get us out of trouble if necessary..." O'Neill shrugs.
She stares at him and then nods slowly.
"I see. Well, it's probably just as well. I only have three of these devices. I'm giving no guarantees as to how long they're going to work, Jack. All I know is I couldn't see me in the mirror when I tried them. We may be detected by scanners."
"I know. It's better than nothing. If nothing else, we should get in the building undetected. After that, it's up to us to stay out of sight - device or no device."
"How will we know where we are?" Daniel asks. "I mean in relation to each other as opposed to the location within the building."
O'Neill points to his head in response.
"Constant communication, Daniel. When we get there, no talking. Keep your breathing as low and as quiet as possible. What sort of flooring do you think they'll have?"
"Uh, tiled or stone at a guess. Could be marble."
"Okay. No shoes then. That way we can walk silently. All equipment must be worn in such a way as to not make any noise. We need to maintain total silence."
Daniel and Samantha nod in response.
"Right. We have just over fourteen hours. Sleep, eat and gather as much strength as you can. We won't be taking supplies apart from weapons."
Over our meal, he lays out his plan.
"First thing, we need to find out what's going on. Daniel, your job will be to listen in to as many conversations as possible - especially the unofficial ones. We need to know everything. Baal's plans, Anubis' plans... Anything, down to what colour underwear Baal likes."
Daniel grins and nods. We understand O'Neill's position, that even the slightest piece of gossip can offer up clues as to intentions and even weak points in defences.
"Teal'c, you'll be doing the same with the comms chatter. There could well be comms between bored minor Goa'uld left on the ships, or Jaffa... Anything you can pick up, record if you can, write down if you can't. Nothing is to be considered insignificant."
"What about me, Jack?"
"You will be looking at the tech. See if there are any developments you knew nothing about before, and see what would be the best thing to destroy."
"Gotcha. Not a problem. What will you do?"
"I'll figure out how to take out that snake and as many of the Goa'uld as possible. If I can, I'll try to avoid taking out the Jaffa. Teal'c, try not to take out any of their ships. If Yu's going to build his fleet to take on Anubis, he's going to need to absorb as many ships as possible."
"That could leave us with an almighty problem later on, Jack. If Yu has so many ships, how would we take him down?"
"Let's worry about that later, shall we?" O'Neill asks. "Besides, Yu isn't so difficult to track down. I'd be less worried about him being the head honcho than some guy that decides to live in the shadows."
And the shit has hit the fan! Mike Wallace's interview of little ol' me on 60 Minutes was a classic. Kinsey is finished, once and for all. Okay, I was lying through my teeth when I told of rumours that he uses the NID to cover up his devious bedtime activities, but still, there was so much truth in the show that no one's going to believe that it's a lie.
How I kept a straight face throughout that interview I don't know. Not that you can see my face, or hear the glee in my voice. Staying in the shadows and using a voice synthesiser that made me sound like a Goa'uld was a neat touch, I think. I spilled, and spilled big time.
Sure, the government will announce to the world at large that this is all a hoax, perpetrated by an escaped traitor, but I beat them to the announcement, so to speak. I told them that I was sent by the NID to Russia to work with them on a secret project, but when it was found out that I was there by a bunch of Air Force guys - who, I hasten to add, I didn't name or diss - the NID disowned me and called me a traitor.
Now, it's up to the public who they'll believe, but I guess I know that at least half of them won't believe the government.
The Stargate Project remains a secret. In fact, I've protected it by tying the NID into other, more nefarious projects - some that the SGC know nothing about and which, to be frank, even I baulked at. It could be that any interest in the goings-on at Cheyenne will now be redirected back to Area 51 - which is cool, they know how to handle the conspiracy theorists better than most. Got to love the X-Files for cranking up the old shadow government rumours. If only they knew...
So, I'm waiting - still watching TV, but waiting for my 'lift' elsewhere. The news was funny, at least to me. I dare say that there will be some celebration at Cheyenne, too. My interview took centre stage on every single channel. Final proof that there really are conspiracies; pictures, names of senators and major military minds, details of operations and so on... Damn, but I'm good.
What's this? Oh, it's Kinsey. Above the clamour of reporters outside his house, he's going to make a speech.
The disgusting lies about myself and my honour that have been plastered over the television screens tonight are nothing more than complete and utter fabrications. I have no involvement with the so-called NID and never have.
Ooh, you liar!
As for the rest of the filth that is being suggested, I will not even dignify the slander with a public reply. Be sure, I will clear my name. And when I do, I will be back and I will run for the presidency. However, in the meantime, I am withdrawing from the current race so that I can give all of my attention to fighting these lies.
I know who is behind this and I can assure him that he is currently being sought most actively. All of the tapes and information will be requested from the 60 Minutes team so that we may find out why they were duped into making this show.
Yadda, yadda. Mission accomplished. He is so never going to be president. Shit sticks and no way will the party ever want the spectre of rumours hanging over them. As they say, there's no smoke without fire; and this thing is belching smoke like a Russian coal-fired power station.
Besides, the NID connection is true. The producers have a lot of proof and they most definitely believed me. They also believe that I'm currently in Florida and about to make a run for Cuba, which is cool. If they're forced into letting on where I am, they'll be looking in the wrong place - yet again. I love being a sneaky bastard.
So, where is Jack? I need to get off this planet and fast. Minnesota may be pretty in the snow, but it sure is cold.
"Wanna make out?"
Daniel looks at me with a grin as we lie down for a sleep.
"Uh, would you mind if I said 'no'?"
"Course not. Tired?"
We won't be able to sleep for long, but we do need to do nothing for a while. He's wound his arms around me and we're holding each other closely, saying nothing. I know that even though his eyes are shut, he's not asleep. Neither will I sleep yet. I will, I can drop off quicker than he can, but not just yet. For now, I'll make the most of holding him quietly.
"Ready to go, kids?"
"Ready as we'll ever be," Sam answers. Daniel nods in agreement.
We switch our devices on - they're bands that go around our waist and somehow make us invisible. I have no idea how they work, neither does Sam. It's possible that it's some sort of phase shifting, but it's more likely to be the same sort of tech that cloaks the ship. Sam doesn't know how that works, either. Neither do the Tok'ra. Don't you just love the certainty?
"Can you see us, Teal'c?"
Well, I'd better ask, I guess.
"Good. Take us to the palace and then proceed as planned. Do your best to keep in touch telepathically. If you can't contact us that way, wait for us to contact you. If you haven't heard in thirty minutes we're in trouble one way or another."
"Very well. You should get in position."
We go to leave when suddenly Sam switches her device off, grabs at him, pulls him close and hugs him. His arms go possessively around her and then he lets go. Daniel and I put our hands on his arms - he hates it when we hug him. It's time to go.
Don't know about not being seen, but I'm sure we're going to be heard by our heartbeats. Mine is pounding hard.
We are in position.
Teal'c's warning comes through loud and clear. It really is time to go.
Ya know, I hate the transport rings. It is fun though, especially when you turn up in a room and scare the crap out of the Jaffa in it. They're looking around and now they're worried. They've seen the rings activate but they can't see us. Needless to say, we're primed, pointing P90s at them and ready to go in firing if necessary. So far, so good. Barefoot, we're silent as we sneak away from the ring area.
We can't leave the room, though, at least not until the door opens for someone else. It's bad enough that the Jaffa know the rings operated. They've got to at least suspect that someone's here.
Jack, should we zat the Jaffa?
I don't know. What's worse? Them knowing that the rings were used or finding no guards here later?
There's a silence - it's a real conundrum.
Teal'c? Can you hear me?
That's a relief. I ask him what he thinks we should do and he says to zat the guard. They'll get annoyed that they're not there but at least they won't know why.
So we do. There were only two of them so Sam and I zat them three times quickly. We still wait, however, as we don't want to alert anyone in the corridor that someone's here by the door opening without apparent reason.
Teal'c, we did as you suggested. How far away are you?
I am in low orbit. I am attempting to stay as close to the planet as I can, to aid our connection.
Great. Thanks. Have you picked up any chatter yet?
There is a little, but not much and nothing of value yet. I am recording it all, however. I cannot listen in to all of the communication channels at once. I will attempt to discover the purpose of this meeting but I do not hold out great hope.
Keep at it pal. Hang on, the door's opening, it's time for us to go.
I will keep in touch with Samantha. She is used to my presence in her mind.
Good thinking, buddy. We'll see you soon.
I give the word to the kids and we creep out of the transport rings as another Jaffa enters the room. He's obviously pissed at not finding the guard here. At a guess, he's an honour guard for another arrival. We'll find out who that is before long, I suppose.
We're relying on Daniel's knowledge of the ruins of Babylon to guide us to where we think the meeting is going to take place. He says that the ground plan looks so similar to what he knows that we're hoping that they're going to meet where we think they are. The throne room.
We're finding that the telepathy thing is working sort of like an echo locator, we aren't needing to talk, just think of each other and we can determine where we are in relation to each other. This is cool. We haven't needed to find out just how far our abilities go before, so we're learning on the fly.
It's surreal. We're tiptoeing down a long, wide corridor, the floor is marble and cold, but at least we're not squeaking or clunking like Jaffa do. What's making it surreal is that there are others in the corridor and we're having to avoid them as they can't see us. Daniel's listening in intently to their conversations but I don't think he's picking up a great deal of information yet. Not that I can see his face.
We definitely can't be phase shifted. I think. I'm sure that we'd be in the same phase and able to see each other if that were the case.
In here. I mean, that room on the left.
We see a small room which doesn't seem to have anyone in it, at least from the bit of opened door we have. As quietly as we can, we creep inside.
Wow. Look at this!
Daniel's pretty excited and I can see why. There's a lot of writing on the wall - cuneiform. I pay attention to him, you know.
Daniel, I thought that Baal was Phoenician.
Well, Babylon was part of Mesopotamia.
I can hear him laugh a little in my mind.
True, but don't forget, this Baal is a Goa'uld. We don't know if the original Baal is the one we know and loathe. The Goa'uld don't seem to have paid much attention to what we know as boundaries. Don't forget, Hathor was found in Mexico. And remember what I said about Bel - I'm sure that's him too.
He's got a point.
So, what does it say?
There's reference to his myth, um, basically it's just repeating stuff that's been passed down to us. I guess it's just him trying to show to the other snakes how long he's been around. Emphasising his position, so to speak.
Sounds like the sort of thing a snake would do, Jack says.
Yeah. You know, I think that this is one of his anterooms... Daniel says quietly, his voice drifting off in our minds in the same way it does in reality. Somewhere he'd meet up with someone. I wonder if it's being watched.
Yeah. I mean, if you were to meet in private with people that were in competition with you, or were your supposed allies, wouldn't you want to keep some sort of record? More to the point, if you wanted to watch people who were talking before you met, wouldn't you put them in a room where you could lull them into a false sense of security?
We look around properly and see what he's meaning. The room is opulent, designed for entertaining. There is a small fountain in the middle. I could so easily relax in here.
Do you think we should wait in here? Jack asks.
I'm not sure. Part of me thinks so but another part of me wants to look around more.
I know what you mean, Jack replies for both of us. Will we miss something if we go? Will we miss something if we don't? Okay, let's check out the throne room and see if anything's going on in there first. If not, we'll hang out in the corridor and see where people are going.
I let Teal'c know what's going on. He's still connected to me but he's not hearing anything either. On the comms that is.
This is frustrating. Nobody can see us, nobody knows we're here, yet we're getting nowhere. Calm down Sam, we haven't been here long. Have some patience.
Right, we're in the throne room. There are many people here, all milling around chatting in a way I don't understand.
Sam, look out for somewhere to strike.
Okay, Jack's given me something to do that I can do. I creep around, trying not to alert anyone to my presence, but it's not easy. There doesn't seem to be anything in here. I can't use a scanner just in case it's heard - it beeps sometimes, so I'm looking with my eyes only. You'd think there'd be some flashing lights or technical panel or something, but there isn't. Uh, hang on though, that looks familiar... that shade of grey. It's naquada, I'm sure of it.
Here. I think the throne is made of naquada.
Yeah. Look at it.
I see what you mean. Find an unseen spot and put a C4 button on it. With the naquada in the explosive and the naquada in the throne, it'll make a big bang.
Will do. Timer or remote?
Remote. I don't want to take any chances on it being seen.
I know what he means. By necessity, the explosives with timers are larger than the ones with the remote devices.
I find a small gap near the bottom of the throne and pack the biggest button I can inside it. With a bit of luck, Baal will be sitting on it when it goes 'kaboom'.
Daniel? Have you heard anything?
Yes. It would seem that Baal is waiting for someone specific. Not sure who it is, yet. The other Goa'uld don't know who it is - they're both excited and pissed off by this. I guess pissed off because they haven't been told who it is, and excited because they know it's someone important.
Who could it be? Jack asks.
Good question. This level of excitement would lead me to believe it's someone big. Given that Kali is already here, as is Bastet, I don't think it's going to be another System Lord who is part of Baal's group. Which leaves two.
Anubis and Yu.
You don't think that Yu's going to come, do you?
I doubt it. Not after our conversation. But he may have been sufficiently annoyed by the rumours that we told him existed to insist on an invitation.
This is true. So, what are we going to do?
Wait. It's all we can do.
There's a silence between the three of us, then Jack asks, Sam, have you planted the C4?
Yes, it's all done.
Good. Come on, let's get out of here. If we go out into the corridor, maybe we'll see whoever is coming when he transports down.
We are really frustrated. It's damn near impossible to keep wandering around without bumping into others. I nearly ended up in one of Baal's many indoor fountains a few minutes ago trying to avoid smacking into a Jaffa. My stomach is in knots. I want to get out of here.
We all hear Teal'c's voice as he calls Jack but Sam and I stay quiet.
Here, Teal'c. What have you got?
A large ha'tak has just approached the planet. It is bigger than the ha'tak that was here when we arrived.
I hear Jack let out a long mental whistle at that news.
Any idea whose it is?
None yet. I am attempting to listen into the communications. There is a lot of chatter among the Jaffa of the other ships, however they are all just saying that they are impressed by the size of the ship and do not seem to know whose it is.
Ah. Ha'tak envy.
It takes all of my powers of self-control not to laugh a little at that. Jack's voice was so dry when he said that.
Seems Teal'c either didn't get the joke or is treating Jack's humour with his usual disdain. My money's on the latter.
Well, I guess we're about to find out who's coming. There's some activity near the transport room.
We watch as Baal himself goes to the room. Must be someone important.
Heads up, kids.
We acknowledge Jack's warnings as a pack of Jaffa jog down the corridor. Pack? Herd? I wonder what a group of Jaffa would be called. Seems strange calling them a battalion or regiment or even team. Don't know why. A snake? Hmm, nah. You could have a slither of Goa'uld. A slime. A treachery. Yeah, that's better. So, what of Jaffa?
Where are you?
Right next to you, Jack.
No, I meant mentally. You seem to be on one of your mental walkabouts again.
Oops, sorry. Didn't realise that Jack was listening in.
And it's a splat of Jaffa.
Sure! When we've finished with them, they look like that. Splat.
I thought it was a splat of SGC invaders. You know, bugs on a windshield and all that.
Damn. Okay. I'll work on it. In the meantime, concentrate on the job in hand, will ya?
Okay, okay, I'll concentrate. I just can't control my mind sometimes. I mean to think of one thing but then it goes off on a tangent and before I know where I am, I'm on the other side of the galaxy and usually up to my neck in shit. Quite literally at times.
We hear the transport rings activate and it's time to watch and listen carefully. Oh shit. Ohshitohshitohshit.
I fear that I know what is going on now. I have just received word of Osiris' arrival. It could be assumed from this that Baal is going to support Anubis from now on. Of course, Osiris could be there to answer for the supposed attack on Baal and his supporters by Anubis, but even that is not good news. If Osiris can convince Baal that Anubis did not give the order to attack then they will either assume that Yu is behind this or the Tok'ra/Tauri alliance. Which we are, but we do not wish them to know this yet.
I feel that things are not going well. I am listening in intently to the communications between the ships. If the Jaffa's masters knew that they were talking they would get into trouble, but that does not stop them gossiping like women. What is unnerving is the single communiqué from Osiris' ship. All it said was, "We have arrived." I somehow doubt that Anubis is worried about Osiris' ability to get from point A to point B. It could mean that he has something planned. I have passed on that information to the others on the planet and they agree. O'Neill told me to get ready for more instructions. All I can now do is wait. I do not like waiting.
What the fuck is that noise? There I was, tucked up in bed, fast asleep and next thing I know, there's a loud engine sort of whine outside. Just as well I never lost my military ability to be up and dressed in moments. Gun drawn, I creep to the door of the cabin and...
"Can it Maybourne. And step back from the door. What do you expect will happen if you stand behind one?"
I put my gun down - probably against my better judgement but I am outnumbered - and step back. Jack's arrived. I knew he wouldn't let me down.
Hang on... something's different.
"Jack? You look old."
"You don't look too hot yourself."
"No, I mean..."
"I know what you mean. I just don't care to explain."
Typical. It's not just Jack. It's all of them. Teal'c's tattoo is suddenly back. Why do I get the feeling that something strange is going on? What am I thinking? I'm about to disappear to another planet, of course something strange is going on.
"Put the TV on, Teal'c."
"You've come all this way from wherever the hell it is you're living these days and you want to watch TV? Missed the hockey that much have you, Jack?"
He looks at me and sighs.
"News. I want to see what's going down for myself."
Well, one thing's for sure: this is Jack O'Neill all right. He wouldn't trust me to give him the news. Doesn't trust me to give him the time of day, let alone the news. Which is a bit rich when you think of all the things I've done for him.
"Beer?" I offer. Then grin as I realise that I'm offering him his own beer. Though why I want a beer this time of the morning is beyond me. I guess I must have an inbuilt need to wind him up or something.
"Not now. We, er, ate on the ship."
"Airline food?" More to the point, why didn't he threaten to kill me when I virtually admitted to drinking some of his beer? He's slipping. Either that or he loves me really. Not that I'd say that out loud, I don't want Doctor Jackson to get jealous.
"Yeah. Something like that."
Sheesh. Getting information out of him is like the old proverbial blood out of a stone.
We turn to listen to the news as Teal'c grabs our attention. Just as well - the news is making all of my troubles worthwhile. Kinsey is officially done for. Not only is he not standing for president in the next race, he's 'retiring due to ill health' from the Senate as of this moment. Life is good. And the NID is being well and truly investigated.
The President himself has ordered an inquiry - which is a hoot. After all, he knows all about it. I'll bet anything that he's ordering his flunkies to delete any evidence of his knowledge of the organisation. He's already said who's going to be in charge of it and the NID are in deep shit. We're talking about a guy who makes terriers look cowardly and easily distracted.
I take a surreptitious look at SG-1 - well, I guess they're probably not called that anymore, but it works for me - and see that there's some quiet satisfaction on all their faces. More so when we hear interviews with disaffected senators and congressmen - obviously people that Kinsey has pissed off in the years he's been in power. Now that he's a wounded animal, they're moving in for the kill.
"Let's hope the SGC is left alone now," I say and I get four blank looks. "What?"
"Considering your own activities, we're surprised by your sudden change in attitude."
I look at Doctor Jackson as he speaks and have to sigh.
"We were always on the same side, Doctor Jackson. You just didn't recognise it."
"Right," Jackson drawls.
I shrug. "I have always served my country in the way in which I was ordered. As for being glad now... the NID didn't back me up, so why should I back them up? Not that I really expected them to, but hell, I could have had some support from them. And let's be honest, Kinsey's a no-good low-down slimeball. I won't be shedding any tears over his downfall."
"No, I don't suppose you will."
A fragile silence descends as we continue to watch the news. Only when the subject finally changes on the TV do they make to move.
"Come on, we've got things to load," Carter says.
I watch them as they lift the boxes, but soon hear, "You too, Maybourne."
"Hey, it's your stuff!"
"It's your lift," he warns.
Oops - he's seen the broken seal on one of the boxes. Why they want crossbows, I don't know.
"You just had to, didn't ya, Harry?"
"What can I say, Jack? I got bored waitin' for you. So, you going to tell me why you're stacked up to the gills with bows and arrows?"
"No. Just shut the fuck up and help us," he growls.
Okay, okay... oh fuck, that's heavy!
"How come I get the heavy box?"
Carter looks at me and shakes her head. She puts her box down and takes the crate off me as if it's nothing.
"Shit. You been working out?"
She grins and says, "Clean living, Maybourne. You should try it some time."
I bend down, lift the box she had and grunt. It's just as heavy. I really need to spend time in a gym.
They've put me on the ship. All of the boxes have been loaded but they haven't told me what's in them. There are piles of other stuff, too. Chicken wire - rolls of it. Rolls of clear plastic. Boxes of nails and screws. I guess they must need them for wherever it is they live.
Teal'c and Carter are here on the ship, Jackson and Jack are outside the cabin. I can see through the view screen that they're talking on a cellphone. Well, Jack's got the phone, but the dangerous Daniel is hovering. Jack's switched it off, now he's handing the phone over to Jackson. A small smile appears on Jackson's face and Jack shrugs and leaves him alone. I wonder who he's calling now?
Jack re-enters the ship and I grab a hold of him.
"Who's he talking to now, Jack?"
"None of your business, Harry."
"It wouldn't be the suave, sophisticated Major Davis, would it? Ya know, Jack, I never got what Daniel saw in you. I mean, you're rough, ready... with the major, he had someone much more like him."
I think I've gone a little bit too far when I see anger flash across his face. Sometimes, just sometimes, I let my mouth run away with me.
I'm surprised to see a small smile creep across his face.
"Seems you don't know everything you think you do, Harry. I've got news for you. Daniel is mine. More to the point, I am his. And remember this. Daniel keeps his friends real close. Do anything to hurt one of them and you won't see him coming. Or me, for that matter. His friends are my friends."
I get the message. I may live on the edge but I'm not going to step over it. I drop the subject.
"Where are you going to take me?" I ask. "You told me you'd get me off planet but you didn't say where I'd go."
"We have somewhere in mind," he replies with a grin. "We need to check it out when we get there, make sure that there aren't any snakes about the place."
"Well, that's good. I don't want to end up with a snake in my head."
He looks at me and smiles - it's the sort of smile that I've grown to hate from him.
"This is true. You're slimy enough as it is."
"HEY! That's not very nice."
Before I can say any more, he turns on his heel and walks off. Only now do I realise that he hasn't told me where we're going.
Jackson comes back on board and without asking if the others are all right with this, Jack gives the order to take off. They don't look put out. It's as if those rumours about them being rendered telepathic back in the early days of SG-1 are true.
I see that we're taking off and to be honest, I'm a bit nervous. I've been on the run for a while now, and lived out of suitcases, but I was always on Earth - somewhere I knew and somewhere I could get whatever I wanted.
All I have in the universe is here on this ship in a few cases. None of the money I've been earning over the past couple of years will do me any good now. I have no idea where I'm going to end up, no idea if they're going to even put me somewhere safe or not. And God knows when or if I'll see Jack again - and whether he'll want me to do something for him in future or not. What the fuck have I done?
I'm not sure how Daniel's feeling and it's driving me nuts. He's barely reacting to my questions, telling me to shut up so he can listen in. I know that he and Sarah were together for a while, but I also know that he was never in love with her. He cares about her, that's for sure.
The thing is, he carries his guilt for losing Shau're like a monkey on his back. I'm afraid that he will want to rescue Sarah as if to mitigate it a bit. I know why, I understand better than he could imagine. God only knows that I try to rescue kids with maybe a bit more zealousness than I did before Charlie died.
When he was still alive, I'd try - of course I'd try. And it wouldn't matter whether the kid was on our side or the other side - a kid is a kid is a kid, right? If I failed, I felt guilty, but the guilt went. Since he died, I take it much more personally. I think that Daniel's the same about people that he knows that have been snaked.
He's passing on some information to us. Osiris isn't happy. Well, it's Anubis that isn't happy, so Osiris isn't happy. He (she? Oh heck, I hate these snakes) in turn is spreading the unhappiness. Gotta love the sharing, eh?
And the reason that the sneaky snake isn't happy? Turns out some unscrupulous bastards have been creating havoc in his name. As I'm one of those unscrupulous bastards, I'm finding all this unhappiness rather gratifying.
"So, who is behind this?" Baal demands. Surprising the hell out of me as he speaks English.
Danny? Why the change of language?
They all speak different dialects of Goa'uld, Jack. I guess it's a lingua franca.
Makes sense, I guess.
"We do not know," Osiris replies. "We have our suspicions."
"Will you tell us?"
Osiris strolls around, trailing his/her finger through the water of a little fountain in the middle of the room. Then he/she - oh fuck it, she sits on Baal's throne. It's Sarah's ass that's doing the sitting after all. By the way, Baal doesn't look too pleased with this.
"At first," she drawls, "we thought that Lord Yu was behind the attacks."
"Yes. But we have since... improved our intelligence."
In other words, Yu's got a snake in the grass - so to speak.
"Now we believe that he is at the very least in communication with the Tauri."
"To what end?"
"Of that we are uncertain. However, he is known to have ambition, as have the Tauri. Perhaps they have come to an understanding?"
"Then we need to take action!"
Oh shit. This is not good news. Hang on, who's the chick? Oh yeah, Bastet. She's wanting to say her piece.
"How can we trust you? For all we know, you wish us to concentrate our efforts on Lord Yu and the Tauri and that would leave us vulnerable to attack from Anubis."
She's got a good point. I'd agree with her if I could get away with it. Trouble is, Osiris is right. We need to do something to distract Anubis' attention from Earth.
Guys? Any ideas?
We've got to do it, Jack. Sooner rather than later, too.
What do you mean?
I mean, we need to take out all of the Goa'uld that are here and now!
Dammit, Daniel. I had planned on getting home ya know.
I know, Jack. But if we let Osiris go, Earth is next on the hit list and you know it.
But we don't want Anubis thinking that Yu is behind it either.
Wouldn't you rather he turned his attention to Yu than to Earth?
Okay, yeah, I see what you mean. So. Let's get out of here and blow this place.
That's going to be easier said than done, Jack.
The three of us have gathered together and we were about to sneak out of the door, but there are a load of servants entering with food. It's too risky to leave as we may bump into them.
Osiris seems to be persuading the others that they need to support Anubis. She's citing all of the attacks, talking of Morrigan's disappearance and so on. They're nervous, unsure of who to believe. Meanwhile, we've planted all of our C4 except for a few pieces. They'll be planted soon, I think. I'm sure there's a power plant here, but we don't have time to go find it. Some explosives are in the anteroom we were in, more are in here. My stomach is churning, my feet are itching to get out of here.
Sam, see if you can sneak out of here. I want you to check out to see if there's a power source nearby. Do not leave this floor.
Okay, shall do.
I hear Jack as he orders Daniel to stay put and listen in. He's off to check something out himself. We don't want to split up, but time's running out, I guess.
Down the corridor after being extra careful about not hitting into anyone, I look for hints as to where the power comes from. It's sure to be some sort of naquada generator, but the where of where it is, is the problem.
There are no hints - nothing! Dammit. I need to find something to make a bigger bang than we've already planned for. I think I'm going to need to search the entire building. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but we're all more nervous on this mission than we usually are and we don't want to be apart more than necessary. It's possibly because Teal'c's not with us. Teal'c. Ship. Scan! Damn, I am such an idiot.
Samantha. Are you safe?
For the moment, honey. I need you to look at the scan we did and see where the main power source is. Stare at the image and think it to me, please.
Very well. One moment.
I send a mental message to the others and get 'doh!' in stereo. At least it's not just me with brain fade.
The room is on the floor beneath you, Samantha. I am detecting five life-signs.
Where is the room in relation to the throne room?
Directly beneath it.
Thanks, Teal'c. I'll be back in touch in a minute. Jack? Did you hear that?
Yeah. Fuck. Okay - listen to me carefully. Find some stairs rather than ringing down there. Get in - stay unnoticed, then get straight back out as soon as you've planted the C4. Go directly to the rings on this floor and let us know when you're there. If you get into any trouble call us immediately.
Okay, a man with a plan. I can cope with this. When I have something specific to do, I get less nervous.
I've found the stairwell, mercifully there's no one in it, and I'm making my way down the stairs. It's weird being barefoot on a mission, but this time it's been a godsend. I'm making no noise as I run down the marble steps.
Right - I'm there, in the corridor underneath the floor to the throne room and trying to avoid the Jaffa that are wandering up and down it. One thing I'm gratified to see is that there are only Jaffa and Goa'uld here, there don't appear to be human servants wandering about. I shouldn't think like that, especially as the love of my life has a snake in his gut, but even he thinks the same way.
Here's the room with the power source. It's a naquada generator on a medium-scale. It's going to cause a big enough bang, though. I certainly don't want to be here when it goes up, that's for sure.
I hear the Jaffa muttering among themselves. I've picked up some Goa'uld from Teal'c and can tell that these guys are a bit ticked off, but I can't tell why. No matter, I have a job to do. It's time to plant the C4, get the hell out of here and wait for the guys in the ring room.
This is not good. Osiris is trying to turn all of the System Lords against Yu. If we don't kill them all now, they'll have the chance to gang up on him and no amount of us warning him beforehand will make a jot of difference. I could just shoot Osiris now... damn it, no I couldn't. Undoubtedly there's a sarcophagus here, and that would clue the snakes into my presence and put the others in danger.
And what of Sarah? If I kill Osiris, I kill her. I... I can't do that again. Can't watch someone else I care about die because of the fucking Goa'uld. I need to get her out of here.
Jack? What have you found out?
There are some interesting goings-on out here, Daniel. Remember the weapons cache on the space station?
Well, I've found another one.
In the anteroom. We missed it when we were in here earlier. I'm wondering if Baal has something planned.
I think for a moment, then realise what's going on.
Yes, Jack. He does. If you notice, none of his Jaffa are carrying weapons.
So, it's like the meeting on the space station that I went to with Yu. The only difference is that there are Jaffa here instead of human servants.
I wonder why he's allowed to get away with that?
Perhaps it's because this is his homeworld? I don't know. We'll have to ask Jacob later. In the meantime, I'd suggest that he is going to wait until he's learned what he needs to know and then he's going to kill them.
It's tempting to let it happen.
No, Jack. If he does, all of those ships in the system, plus countless homeworlds, other ships and thousands of Jaffa will be his.
And we don't want that?
No. He'll go after Yu, then he'll go after Anubis. Then he'll take out Earth.
Because he can. He'll have no opposition.
So we stop him?
Yes. And we let Yu take over.
I think that in the end, if we can't kill Yu, he'd be the least oppressive.
Do you think that Yu would take over Earth?
I'm not sure. The protected planets treaty would still come into play. Baal wouldn't pay much attention to that, not with the three Goa'uld that signed it out of the picture. But Yu did sign it. And he's never gone back on his word that we know of.
Besides, he's not so likely to go looking for trouble.
Okay. Sam's planted the C4, she says she'll be at the rings in a few minutes. Get out of there, I'll meet you in the ring room.
Um, Jack? What about Sarah?
Daniel, you know we can't...
There's a silence - I know he's thinking about it. I feel like shit for putting him in this position, but I can't not try.
I don't know how to, Daniel. My responsibility is for you and Sam and Teal'c. Not to mention the bigger picture.
I know. It's okay. I'll see you there.
Shit. He's right, I know he's right. I have to comfort myself with the knowledge that Sarah is better off dead.
Uh oh - what's going on?
"I must speak to Anubis. He will be pleased to know that you are all on his side."
The others look at Osiris suspiciously, but say nothing for a moment.
Baal speaks. "You may contact him from my communications room," he offers.
"Thank you, but that will not be necessary. I shall return to my ship. Then I will come back here and inform you of his next instructions."
I have an idea.
Guys? I think we have a way out of this.
I have just received information from Daniel, which has been followed by orders from O'Neill. This is not going to be easy. If I am wrong, if I make the slightest mistake, I will lose Samantha and my brothers. If I am right, if I do not falter, we will be in a position to achieve our goals. For once, I am extremely anxious. I must not fail.