Chapter 38 - in which Cronus develops double vision
After a couple of hundred Jaffa had passed through, the transporter rings ceased their regular activity.
"Teal'c?" Jack asked.
"I do not think all the Jaffa will have left yet. It would seem that we have been discovered, O'Neill."
"And the next batch will come down shooting?"
"It would seem likely. We must not let any leave the pyramid to recall the ones who have already left."
"Right," Jack said looking round. "Three exits... Teal'c, Daniel, take the left, Sam and - er - Daniel, take the right, Darien, stay out of the way and keep your head down. The rest of you are with me outside the main exit to pick off any that get away."
They had just taken positions when the next batch of Jaffa arrived, alert and with staff weapons at the ready. As soon as the rings had cleared them, they moved out looking around the apparently empty chamber - and were hit by a barrage of zat fire then disintegrated.
A second group followed almost immediately and were also wiped out without firing a shot. Then there was silence. For a long time.
"D'you reckon Cronus has gone?" Jack asked of the robot Teal'c.
"I do not think so, O'Neill. Cronus will not easily give up part of his territory."
"I'm still in contact the rest of my team," the robot Jack added, tapping his chest.
"How are they?"
"Not too good - like you'd care! Think they're running out of energy. And they've been tortured. Some scientist wants the secret of how we work. She's got our Daniel."
"Any chance they can get away?" Jack asked.
"Our Carter's working on it. Now she knows we're here, she'll get the scientist to activate the self-destruct mechanism in our Daniel's chest."
Although it was only a robot, the blowing up Daniel gave Jack a guilty feeling of déjà-vu. Before they could discover the success of this ploy, the transporter rings operated again, leaving a pale coppery-colored sphere, some eight or nine inches across, floating in the center of the chamber.
"What's that? A bomb?" Jack asked the robot Teal'c.
"It is not. It is a shak mel-sarith or surveillance device, used to ascertain the numbers and positions of an enemy before going into battle."
"Who will have sent it? Cronus himself?"
"Unlikely. Probably one of his personal guard."
There was a pause for communication, then both the Daniels came into the chamber and stood at either side of the globe.
"We are the children of the hydra," one said.
"Cut the head off one" said the other.
"and two more appear," they said in unison, then zatted the device into oblivion.
"Well, that should give them something to think about," said one, blowing imaginary smoke from the tip of his zat.
"Our Carter and Teal'c have escaped," robot Jack announced. "...Teal'c's taken out the guard outside... They've got weapons, and they're making for the transporter room on the ship."
"Okay, time to go," Jack said, leading the group into the ring set into the floor. "No, not you, Darien. I suggest you go home now - and thank you. Beam us up, 'Cronus'!"
A circle of Jaffa with staff weapons pointing inwards awaited them. Seeing, as they thought, Cronus in their midst, and wondering at the apparent ability to their god to be anywhere and everywhere at will, they faltered and the robot Teal'c took advantage of the tempo so gained.
"Shek kree, Jaffa!" he roared as the Jacks hurled the Daniels to the floor. "Shel-norak! Mekta satak Cronus! I myself have captured these two while you play games like children! Hasshak!"
As the transporter circle was cleared, 'Cronus' ordered his Jaffa to continue the mission to wipe out the rebels of Owatonna, and stood back to watch with arms folded and an angry scowl on his face. Cronus was not pleased and no one was going to cross him.
Once he was satisfied that the evacuation was continuing smoothly, 'Cronus' ordered his 'Jaffa' to throw the Tau'ri scum in the cells and followed them out. Covert radio communications enabled robot Sam and the other robot Teal'c to join forces with the rest of the group between the transporter room and the pel'tac.
On reaching the door, 'Cronus' was about to open it when it was opened from within. The real Cronus found himself almost nose to nose with his doppelgänger. He stopped in amazement as he confronted not only himself, but the hated S.G.-1. In duplicate. Including Doctor Jackson.
Both were taken by surprise, but robo-Teal'c was a beat quicker at assessing the situation. He slammed the flats of both hands into Cronus's chest. The System Lord, off-balance both mentally and physically, flew backwards.
The robot continued his forward momentum as Cronus crashed to the floor. He placed a boot on Cronus's wrist. His next step brought his other boot down hard on Cronus's neck, crushing his voice box and the goa'uld within. With a mystified look and a faint glow in his eyes, he expired.
It had all happened so fast that Cronus's personal guard had barely had time to prime their staff weapons. Now, looking on victor and vanquished, they hesitated.
"Kree, Jaffa," the robot cried. "Whom do you serve?"
"We... we serve Cronus, my Lord..." they responded uncertainly.
"Mok tal Cronus! Now I say again - Whom do you serve?!"
"We serve you, my Lord," they answered crisply, clearly relieved at having this - possibly trick - question explained to them.
"We serve you, my Lord!"
"Excellent! You have done well this day. Now, go to the lower decks. Tell the Jaffa who remain there that the danger is over - that Cronus reigns supreme. Then return and throw the worthless body of this imposter out of the airlock. Jaffa, kree!"
Once the personal guard had left, Teal'c and his two robot selves joined hands over Cronus's body.
"We are avenged," they declared solemnly, then Teal'c/Cronus bent and removed all the goa'uld 'toys' from the body, bestowing them on his own person.
Jack entered the room and approached Cronus's nemesis.
"Um, 'Teal'c', what're you"
"O'Neill," growled the scary new Cronus, "do you still persist in believing that humans are superior to us?"
Jack puffed out his cheeks and released the breath. "Er no... no, not... really," he conceded. Looking into the commanding visage before him, he added, "Not at all in fact. Equal all the way."
"Equal?" 'Cronus' and the other robot Teal'c snorted together, then burst out laughing at Jack's patent discomfiture.
"So..." Jack tried again, "what're you"
"This is how it will be" 'Cronus' interrupted.
Jack looked across to his counterpart. "Hey! Who died and made him god," he demanded but only received an amused shrug in reply as a large hand clamped on to his face and dragged it back to face front.
"O'Neill, kree! Do not anger your god! This is how it is going to be!"
Jack blenched, wondering what sort of a monster they'd just created as the words, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' zinged around his brain. Then he noticed the real Teal'c's mouth curving into a distinct smirk.
"Jaffa humor - oy!" he exclaimed as the three laughed aloud.
"In all seriousness, O'Neill, there is no place for me with either version of S.G.-1. My face would forever remind my 'brothers' of what is past and now ended. Therefore, I propose to remain and make Juna my base, taking the place of Cronus. This has many benefits. The people of Juna will be protected from invasion by any other System Lord. They will be able to live their lives freely. You - all of you - will be welcome here at any time. As Cronus, I can keep in touch with other System Lords. I will be well placed to discover their plans, to set one goa'uld against another, and to pass on information to the Jaffa resistance. I have my own army of loyal Jaffa and I even have my own mother ship. What more could I want?"
"Power," said the robot Sam who was beginning to look drained of power herself. "You can't keep coming back to our base every forty-eight hours to be recharged."
'Cronus's shoulders sagged a little as the new robot Daniel suggested they return to Darien's house to recharge Sam and Teal'c.
"Actually, sir, that gives me an idea," the real Sam said brightly. "It doesn't take that much power recharge the robots - not relative to the 'Gate anyway. I think I could redesign their power packs with a small amount of naquadah that would enable them to run indefinitely."
"Hey, whose side are you on?" Jack griped good-humoredly. "Besides, I thought we didn't have naquadah to spare."
"We're not so badly off. The Abydos mine is nowhere near worked out yet, or there must be something we could trade with Shyla for a small amount - which is all I'd need. And I'm pretty sure the Furlings would oblige if we asked nicely."
"If you asked nicely, you mean," Jack corrected and grinned at the faint flush that settled across her cheeks.
"You've met the Furlings?" the robot Sam asked, itching to know what they'd been missing since their paths diverged.
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "I am sure your new Daniel will be happy to update you."
"Whatever," the robot Jack said. "If you can provide us with a permanent power source, then it means we're not stuck on P3X-989 - with Harlan..."
"Well, you don't seem that stuck on P3-warehouse-world, pal!" Jack snarked.
"We'd need a power pack for him, too," robot Sam said, adding as her own C.O. grimaced, "Aw, we couldn't leave him behind all on his own, sir. Besides, I've kind of grown accustomed to him..."
Chapter 39 - in which Hammond needs some convincing
By the time they returned to Cheyenne Mountain, it was early evening, Mountain Time. Much as the S.F.s surrounding the 'Gate were fairly well used to bizarre arrivals, several of them did a double take as S.G.-1 returned in duplicate. Even General Hammond took half a step backwards on seeing two flagship teams, and he knew what was going on.
The debriefing was necessarily long. The two Teal'cs had a little trouble selling the idea of a robot System Lord to the general, despite its advantages.
"It's not me you need to convince," he scowled. "I'm going to have to do some pretty nifty footwork when I get a call from the Pentagon on this. They weren't very happy about the fact that we had a group of androids with all S.G.-1's knowledge sequestered on P3X-989 - with their 'Gate buried... What they're going to say about today's escapade, I shudder to think, especially if they know that the robot S.G.-1 is planning on leaving P3X-989."
"Do we need to tell them, sir?" Sam asked.
"Brevity is the soul of wit, sir," Jack put in, "and you know I can do brief when it comes to reports."
"How do I explain our giving away some of our very limited supply of naquadah, not no mention Major Carter's time required to design and build these new power packs?"
"Permission to speak, sir?" Captain Carter said and, on Hammond's nod, suggested, "I could do the design and development work."
"And we could do the naquadah transactions from Arcadia," Daniel put in. "The S.G.C. doesn't need to be involved at all."
But Hammond wasn't at all keen on letting control of the operation pass to outside agencies.
"Don't you think that, maybe, we're in danger of getting a little too parochial here?" Daniel asked.
"Indeed," Teal'c put in, "there is much going on in the galaxy over which we have neither knowledge nor control."
"All the more reason to keep tabs on as much as we can," Hammond snapped.
"With respect, sir, this way we can at least expand our sphere of influence," Sam said.
"And our robot brothers and sister have already proved themselves to be brave warriors and loyal to our cause," Teal'c continued. "As I see it, we have now doubled our ability to gain intelligence and with our version of Cronus already infiltrated into the goa'uld system, we have greatly increased our ability to influence what goes on in the wider galaxy."
"Very well, I will give due consideration to what you say, but the Pentagon will still be concerned about security issues."
"General, you know me and my feelings about robots," Jack said, "but these guys have been going around the galaxy, doing what we do for nearly three years now. Don'tcha think if they were going to betray us, they would already have done so by now?"
Not to be outdone, the robot Jack added, looking very cocky, "And who do you think took out Naunet, Mafdet and Zipacna?"
"You took out Zippy?" Jack asked, "the jumped up, overblown... with the plant on his head?"
"That's the one."
"Kinda gets my vote, sir," Jack said with a bright smile at Hammond. "Never heard of the other two though."
"That's because we got to them before they got to you," the robot responded mirroring Jack's smile.
"Hm, I think maybe the alternative S.G.-1 had better remain behind for a further debriefing about their 'missions'."
"Or we could just leave you our mission reports," Captain Carter suggested.
"You wrote mission reports?" Jack exclaimed, looking at his opposite number in disbelief.
"Well, not wrote exactly. We have them logged in here," the other responded, tapping his head smugly. "Won't take long to upload them to your base computer so you can print them out."
Hammond rolled his eyes.
"Three years of mission reports?" he asked, appalled.
"Indeed," said the robot Teal'c.
The next day, Jack made an early visit to the infirmary to request medical leave for the duration in which Janet was happy to oblige. The next stop was Sam's lab.
"Hey, Carter, how d'you feel about moving house?"
"Er, I've never really thought about it, sir. My present home suits me pretty well. Why would I want to move?"
"Just thought you might be quite Keane on the idea..." Jack said.
If the look that went with it was essaying innocence, it gained a D-minus. Sam blushed again.
"You're suggesting I move to Arcadia?" she asked.
"Jeez, you're quick, Carter," Jack replied with mock surprise. "So how about it?"
"Um, well, I'd have to think about it, of course."
"It could give you lots of opportunities to advance your scientific knowledge. I dare say at least one of them might be Keane to help you there..."
"Er, yes sir, a little. Maybe."
"Tell you what. Why not give it a couple of months trial? Doc's just signed me off for two month's medical leave, and - to be honest - if all of S.G.-1 moved its base of operations to Arcadia, then there might be a little less speculation about Daniel and me."
"Oh! Silly of me. Of course I'll come," she smiled.
Daniel had sounded out Teal'c, a little more subtly, and was happy to report that he, too, was willing to provide cover, at least for a couple of months. Daniel had already discussed the matter with Leandros who was happy to waive the population rules, partly because S.G.-1 were, effectively ambassadors of the Tau'ri, but mostly because the Arcadians had set up the problem in the first place.
"Knowing only our own kultura had made us a little yeelp, I think," he said humbly.
"Arrogant? No," Daniel said kindly. "Your intentions - odyetten - were only for good. We would call it a little misunderstanding, though in the end, you were right and we thank you."
Demris and Zephra were happy to accommodate both Sam and Teal'c at the kliniki near the 'Gate, and that suited Teal'c just fine. While he and Sam were making their necessary arrangements, Jack and Daniel went back to Arcadia to the Kirios Kliniki for a further check-up with Arrelambros. He announced the time for Lily to be brought forth at a little over thirty-eight weeks gestation. This turned out to be St. Valentine's Day in Earth terms.
"That sounds good," Daniel smiled. "At least it'll be easy to remember."
"Wait a minute," Jack said, his brow furrowed in thought. "That's a Wednesday."
"So? What's wrong with that?"
"Wednesday's child is full of woe," Jack recited looking worried.
"You know, for a hard-assed ex-spec. ops. colonel, you have a lot of bizarre superstitions," Daniel said with an exasperated sigh. "There's another version that says, 'Wednesday's child will fear no foe'."
"Really?" Jack asked, brightening.
"You didn't just make that up?"
"No, Jack. Besides, you were born on a Sunday which proves there's nothing in it."
Jack looked indignant for a moment, then said, "Ah, but you were born on Friday. Friday's child is loving and giving, so it does work."
Daniel gave a reluctant laugh and shook his head.
"It was a Thursday, Jack."
"So? Still works. Commuting across the galaxy How much further can a Thursday's child go?"
Chapter 40 - in which Daniel does it again...
Shortly after their arrival after the mission to Juna, there was a torrential storm over Tegea - unusual, but not unheard of. This revealed a numbers of leaks in the house which would otherwise have passed unnoticed, so Daniel ended up on the roof fixing them. Izmini was very pleased. The pair also helped her with household chores and her garden, though Jack complained increasingly of backache and Lily's keeping him awake at night with her restless kicking.
The next six weeks seemed otherwise to pass very quickly. Occasionally, Janet and Cassie came to visit Sam, who continued her quest for knowledge. Jack opined that there wasn't much science involved unless it was biology, adding that Keane certainly seemed - keen... Sam rapidly found the joke wearing very thin.
Teal'c made occasional visits to the Land of Light, returning either with a face of thunder or looking downcast - almost browbeaten. Both states of mind were soon improved with a little dalliance with Zephra.
At last, St. Valentine's Day arrived. As per instructions, Jack went without breakfast and when Janet arrived, the three of them borrowed a horse-drawn carriage and drove to Mantinea. Jack opted for being anaesthetized, and was quite revolted at the thought that anyone would voluntarily wish to watch the procedure.
"If you'd really rather we didn't..." Daniel offered.
"No, no, it's okay. Go ahead. Knock yourselves out. Just so long as I don't have to watch."
"You might regret it later," Janet said.
"Not a hope in hell, Doc.!"
Once Jack was soundly asleep, the two interested parties watched from the sidelines, Daniel using the video camera he'd smuggled in while Jack wasn't looking. This was not so much for Jack's benefit should he eventually decide he'd missed out on something really important in his life, but for the Arcadian medical department and also for Lily when she was older.
Arrelambros first swabbed the center portion of Jack's belly with some sort of clear antiseptic liquid then picked up a small device that began to hum very softly in his hand. It had a triangular tip shaped somewhat like a double-bladed snowplow. He pressed the point into the skin of Jack's belly a little above the hair line, then slid it upwards slightly to the right of the center line and ending above the navel.
Apart from an initial trickle of blood, the sides of the incision were perfectly smooth and clean. Inside was a pale thin membrane crisscrossed by many fine blood vessels. Tiny hands were pushing up against it as though trying to find a way out.
"She is drawn to the light," Arrelambros said. "It is good."
Lily was positioned head down. A nurse slipped what looked like a couple of thimbles, connected at the tips by a very fine flexible wire, on to the first two fingers of his right hand. He reached the other hand behind her head and shoulders, easing her higher up Jack's abdomen. Next he slid his right hand below her head and carefully detached the lower anchor points of the fetal membrane.
The nurse supported Lily while Arrelambros detached the upper anchor points and together they lifted her out of Jack and placed her carefully into a small bath of water at skin temperature. There, he pierced the membrane with the snowplow tool and slit it open allowing the two fluids to mix.
Soon, Lily was floating free of the membrane. She gave a little gasp, then sneezed. Daniel was enchanted. Arrelambros did the checks that Janet would have done with a normal delivery and Lily was pronounced fit and well.
He returned to Jack, taking another implement which he inserted at the lower end of the incision. this one buzzed quite loudly. The nurse took the two edges of Jack's belly and held them together as Arrelambros slowly ran the tool behind her moving fingers.
"Jeez, that's not fair," Janet muttered as the implement not only rejoined the sides but somehow worked in the skin that had been stretched.
When it was finished, the only evidence that remained was a thin white line which Arrelambros said would fade in a couple of weeks. Jack soon regained consciousness, one hand lazily resting on his stomach. He opened his eyes to see Daniel looking down and smiling at him. His face took on a puzzled look and he ran his hand across his belly.
"You know," he murmured softly, "I just had the weirdest dream. I dreamed I was... um... expecting a baby."
Daniel chuckled. "You haven't woken up properly yet," he said. "It wasn't a dream."
He lifted his head, then the sheet and looked along at his normal shape, still disbelieving. The nurse nudged Daniel and placed Lily, all wrapped up, into his arms.
"See?" Daniel asked.
"Wha? That's ours?"
"All ours, Jack. Think she'd like a little brother or sister?" Daniel teased.
"Hey, what d'you think I am? A brood m stallion?"
"Welcome to our world!" Janet grunted.
Thanks to Jack's previous experience of parenthood, there weren't too many problems once the inevitable broken nights stage had passed. Lily grew quickly and thrived and was a happy baby, quite content to have Izmini look after her while her parents were away working. She also passed each milestone at a remarkably early age. Janet recalled her conversation with Arrelambros about the Attaneek virus and passed the information on to Lily's parents.
"So we've got a super-brat?" Jack grunted.
She'd certainly done a good job of running him ragged that day. She was quick and curious like Daniel, and fearless and adventurous like Jack, which kept them both on their toes. Izmini, however, with nearly a couple of centuries advantage, seemed to have a pretty cute way of handling her.
Jack's and Daniel's working life continued pretty much as passed for normal with them, then just before Lily's first birthday, Daniel nearly got himself killed again in a manner that made Jack rethink his attitude about the 'superior races' and their assumption that the Tau'ri were 'too young' to be trusted with technologically advanced weapons.
S.G.-1 had gone to a world much like Earth in the '40s where, in their ignorance, their scientists were blithely messing about with a previously unknown, highly volatile mineral called naquadria, in an attempt to make a bomb. Daniel's warnings were ignored in the arrogant assumption that they knew what they were doing. They didn't, and Daniel took a fatal dose of radiation in preventing an accidental - and catastrophic - explosion.
Not that the locals were at all grateful, attempting to shuffle off on to him the blame for the minor collateral damage. At first there was panic, certainly in Jack's heart, then a calm born of necessity took over, enabling him to think straight.
He collected the rest of his team in the infirmary and asked Janet to get Daniel ready to travel. Knowing there was nothing she could do beyond palliative care, she acceded to Jack's request. Daniel was then taken down to the 'Gate room on a stretcher.
"What're doing, Jack?" Daniel murmured, hardly visible beneath all bandages. "You can't save me. Just accept that."
"No. We don't give up on the people we love," Jack growled as the event horizon surged outwards and settled back into its shimmering calm. S.G.-1 set off up the ramp and through the wormhole on possibly their last mission as a team. On their arrival, it seemed that Jack's gamble had been a big mistake, as they were surrounded by Jaffa. One who looked vaguely familiar stepped forward.
"O'Neill and S.G.-1?" he said. "It is a pleasure to welcome you to Juna. We will inform my Lord Cronus immediately."
Fortunately, 'Cronus' did - as Jack had surmised - have a sarcophagus. This was locked away aboard his ship, and rarely used except in the direst emergencies. Daniel's arrival constituted such an emergency. He soon had the bizarre experience of lying trapped inside the glow of its pale lavender light again as the healing vapor caressed him, easing away the pain and restoring him to health.
"Thanks old buddy," Jack said to Cronus, as the sarcophagus doors glided open. "I so owe you - more than life. Because he is my life."
"Indeed, O'Neill?" Cronus asked, one eyebrow almost disappearing into his hair.
"Er, Jack?" Daniel whined, tugging at the bandages as he climbed out of the sarcophagus. "Don't suppose you thought to bring along some clothes?"
"Hey, I already told ya. It's your turn to play mummy. I did it last time!"