Meanwhile, Ash and the black-and-blue man had been joined by a girl with
bright blue hair. The two looked to be related - maybe brother and sister - as
there was a definite family resemblance.
The lady slid her arm into the man's and cast a salacious
look in Ash's direction.
She began speaking in a language unfamiliar to Ash. Her tone was part
animated, part wheedling.
The man was watching Ash for his reaction. When she paused for breath, he
replied in what sounded like a different language.
Ash looked back at the man. "Sorry, I don't have a clue what you're
"Ah," the man said. "It seems we have a Tau'ri."
"Well, actually, I'm an American. I've no idea where Tor-ree is."
"And not too bright either, my little Bluebell," the man said
with a grin.
Ash smiled inwardly. He could play dumb; it would probably be to his
advantage to do so. Casually, he thrust his hands into his pockets. There was
something in the right-hand one. Oh yes, the pad of small blue post-it notes
that Fischer had insisted he take.
"You never know when they might come in useful."
Hm, maybe he could stick them on the walls to mark his path so he could find
his way back?
"And where are your friends?"
"Oh, I'm afraid I haven't been here long enough to make any friends
yet. Saving yourselves, of course," Ash gushed. "And I'm sorry, I
don't even know your names, Mr. - Er? Oh, yes I do! I know the lady's name.
Miss Bluebell, I believe you called her." Ash gave them both a slightly
inane grin. "And I'm Mr. Kirkwood, but you can call me Ash if you like. I
can see we're going to be good friends," he concluded, drawing on Dougal
The man looked at him with narrowed eyes. "Really? You don't know Lord
Vladivayne and the Lady Viorica?"
"Sorry, no. Are they friends of yours?"
"I am Lord Vladivayne."
"You're a Lord, sir? Well, well, there's a surprise!" Ash
said. "You don't wear a crown then? And where is the Lady Vicorita?"
He looked around for a third person.
"I am Lady Viorica. Bluebell is my brother's pet name for
"Oh, I see! A pretty name for a pretty lady," Ash said with a
"What of the other four who came into my castle with you?"
"Four? I'm sorry, but I'm traveling alone." Ash paused for a
moment, considering. "Hm, actually, now you mention it, there was a group
of people up ahead of me. The weather was looking very threatening, and I
thought this might be some sort of hostelry where I could get a bed for the
night, and start out fresh again in the morning."
"Oh, you'll certainly get a bed for the night," the Lady purred,
giving him a long, lustful stare. "Won't he, Vladdie, darling?"
"You are insatiable, Bluebell," 'Vladdie' frowned.
"Then you shall have a rest, since you can't keep up with me!" was
her arch response.
Vladdie laughed out at that.
"So I can have him to play with? He so pretty - such beautiful
deep blue eyes. Just like sapphires..."
"Very well, dearest. You know I can deny you nothing that you've set
your heart on."
"You won't regret it," she reassured her brother, fishing a
collar of blue metal strips out of her reticule.
She stood in front of Ash and fastened it round his neck, while he stood
pliant and let her. It tingled slightly and was probably a control device. Next
came a leash which she fastened to the front of the collar. Again he didn't
resist, being thankful that she hadn't gone behind him where she might have
noticed the computer in his back pocket.
"Now we are going to my chamber in the west turret," Bluebell
told him gleefully. "And on the way, I shall tell you what we are going to
do when we get there!"
Ash winced inwardly. This was definitely going to be too much information.
On the plus side, as she wandered along endless blue corridors, he could tune
her out and take note of how she made the wall panels slide open or closed. He
could stick the post-it notes on the walls at junctions too.
He noticed with interest, as she sashayed sensuously along ahead of him -
presumably with the intention of 'turning him on' - that black and blue
filaments floated around her and bright blue scintillae sparkled from and to
She wasn't completely solid; she was partly plasma, like the ascended. It
gave him an idea. It was probably a very flaky one and it probably wouldn't
work, even if the opportunity to put it into operation presented itself. But
that was no reason not to try. It was at least possible and he owed it to Theo
after he'd so carelessly gotten left behind.
By now they were into the old part of the castle again. Moreover, the
post-it notes wouldn't stick to the stonework, so he crumpled the one he had in
his hand and dropped it on the step ahead of him.
Then he fished the computer out of his back pocket, hoping he could remember
the relevant math. Not a Mandelbrot, he thought; didn't want her mixing with
the others. A Lorenz attractor maybe? No. Strange repellers. That should work.
As quickly as he could, without risking tripping on the steep stone steps,
he programmed in an equation for a Julia set. Now, as Bluebell led him into her
chamber, all he had to do was wait and hope for an opportunity...
Meanwhile, SG-24 was trying to find some means of operating the wall which
cut them off from Ash, assuming he'd gone - or been taken - that way. There was
no obvious means of so doing.
Then suddenly, the panel slid back into the side wall, allowing them access
to the other branch of the passage.
"Well, that's obviously a trap," Maxine said.
"Likely, but not necessarily," Luc responded. "Maybe it just
resets itself after a while."
"And if you believe that, I've a bridge I'd like to sell you,"
Theo commented with a sour look.
"Whatever," J cut in, in Major mode, "from here on, we all
stick together. No wandering off on your own, and no heroics, any of you.
"Clear," the rest responded. It was bad enough having one
Theo, leading the way again, sent TIGER ahead of them along the blue
passageway. After a while, he saw a blue post-it note stuck to the wall on the
lefthand side, just before a junction on the same side. Theo was disappointed
to find that there was nothing written on it. He sent TIGER round the corner to
check that the coast was clear. It was.
Just around the corner was another post-it note. Theo's heart soared; they
must be on the right path.
Then came a sound - two sounds - they didn't want to hear.
The team was midway along a long, straight section when there were grating
sounds behind and in front of them. Two sliding wall panels had them trapped.
Then a black mist entered their prison and coalesced into a tall, gaunt man
with long blue-black hair and pale blue skin.
J stepped forward. "Lord Vladivayne, I believe?"
"Indeed? You do not profess ignorance of me as your friend did,
"My friend?" J asked, trying to keep it casual, yet deeply
"Yes, the one with the sapphire eyes."
Unsighted, Luc kicked Theo's shin. Gently. Didn't want the Dwimmerling to
get any information out of them. Theo didn't even twitch.
Maxine, on the other hand... "You have my husband?" she asked.
"Ah, I see. Not a friend but a husband. Well, my dear, your husband is
currently playing with my sister. I think she would like some more playthings,
while you will be mine."
"Oh, I don't think so," Maxine said, looking him straight in the
"Then you will return the property you stole from me."
"We have taken nothing that belongs to you, sir," J said, wishing
Maxine would learn when to keep her mouth shut.
"I think the Lady Viorica will find out otherwise. And don't try
anything foolish. Just because you cannot see my guards, doesn't mean they
Vladivayne shepherded SG-24 ahead of him, the appropriate walls sliding
aside to allow their passage. It seemed a long trek. Finally, the blue walls
ceased and stone ones began. They were at the foot of a narrow spiral
staircase. On the third step was the crumpled post-it note that Ash had dropped
earlier. It gave Theo hope.
While Vladivayne was interrogating SG-24, his sister was making herself
comfortable on a big four-poster bed. Unsurprisingly, the drapes and bedding
were all in shades of blue.
"You are such a pretty one, so I didn't warn my brother of your
arrival. We are going to have so much fun!" Bluebell said, batting
her long dark blue lashes and running her tongue over her plump lips.
Ash thought it was a good thing it was himself and not Luc; he
would've been lost as the lady seductively removed some of her clothes and then
began removing some of his own. Ash almost felt sorry for her, as she was
doomed to be disappointed very soon.
Before long, she had them both naked, and was stroking, licking and sucking
every remotely erogenous piece of skin she could find, but the part she was
most interested in was resolutely refusing to join in the 'fun.'
It took Ash a great deal of self-control to remain flaccid. "I am so
sorry, my lady," he said, sounding contrite. "Clearly my body thinks
it is unworthy of such a beautiful lady as yourself."
"Maybe I should tie you up and spank you?" Bluebell said,
kneeling up on the bed and pouting.
Oh, that would definitely do it, Ash thought. Time to put that flaky
plan into action...
"Actually, there might be something you could do," he said in as
sultry tones as he could manage. He leaned back on the bed, adopting a pose
that drove Theo crazy. And wriggled nearer to the computer.
"Oh?" Bluebell looked interested - more than interested.
"Yeah. When I was following you up here"
"My butt did it for you?" she asked, salivating.
"Ah, I'm sorry, but no. However, there was a definite response when you
sent all those little blue stars floating around you." Ash gave her an
"Oh? Like this?" She shimmered into partial plasma mode.
"Oh, yeahhhh! More!" Ash said as his hand reached the computer.
Good thing it was small enough to conceal in his hand.
Bluebell was smiling radiantly as she writhed on the bed. With the computer
in his right hand, Ash crawled over to her.
Taking the jackplug at the free end of the wire in his left
hand, he thrust it into the area of her solar plexus and thumbed the enter key.
Bluebell gasped and there was a look of horror in her eyes as she
disintegrated, morphing into total plasma form then disappearing down the lead.
A pretty Julia fractal - blue - appeared on the tiny screen and the metal
collar fell away.
He rolled on to his back and was thus splendidly displayed when the door
SG-24 burst in, headed by a delighted looking Theo. "Ash!
"Alive?" Ash scowled, looking indignant. "I told you I can
take care of myself. Which is more than can be said for you, it seems," he
concluded drily, noting Lord Vladivayne standing behind them.
"Yes, well just put some clothes on," J said.
"Oops." He reached for his jeans and slid into them.
"Going commando?" Luc grinned.
"Yeah. I'll leave the underwear as a souvenir for Bluebell."
Covertly, Ash slipped the computer into his back pocket then pulled on the
T, followed by his shirt which he didn't tuck in so it might better hide the
Vlad pushed the rest into the room. "I've brought you some more
Then he noticed the absence of his sister. "Bluebell? Where are
"She's somewhere where you can't reach her," Ash said looking
smug. "And you'll never see her again unless you grant us safe passage
back to the 'Gate. When the wormhole has been established and these people have
gone through, then I will restore her to you."
"How do I know I can trust you?"
"Oh, don't judge me by your standards! By them, you can't
trust me, but you can trust me when I say that, if you don't do
exactly as I say, you will never see your sister again. Ever. She's a
sweet girl and hasn't done me any harm. So it goes against the grain for me to
consign Bluebell to oblivion - drifting in the void for all time - and all
alone - forever. But then, the choice is yours - Vladdie."
The appalled look on Lord Vladivayne's face showed that he did indeed
believe Ash would carry out his threat. With barely a moment's thought, he
Ash recalled his tormentor's state of undress. "Oh, before we go,
Maxine, could you fetch those clothes. Wouldn't want Bluebell to catch
Halfway back to the Sapphire 'Gate, they were pursued by a swarm of big
black dragonflies which rapidly caught up with them. Vladivayne's guards?
Ash let the PATT slow to a halt, then stood up, hands on hips.
"Oblivion, Vladdie!" he yelled.
Instantly, the swarm pulled back and returned to the castle.
J gave Ash a casual salute. "Nice one!"
The gang reached the 'Gate with no further problems.
"Wait with me when I release Bluebell," Ash said to Theo.
Theo agreed, wondering if this was another part of his lover's 'Trust the
Geek' campaign. They pushed the two PATTs through then waved the rest to
J looked as if he was about to say something. Theo caught his eye, and shook
his head, indicating Ash who was pulling the computer out of his pocket. J
caught his meaning and nodded.
After Maxine had piled the clothes into a tidy heap, he led the other two
back through the 'Gate. Theo stood with one foot in the wormhole to keep the
'Gate open as Ash rapidly programmed in the release equation.
The blue plasma cloud coalesced into a magnificently naked blue Lady
Ash tucked the computer back into his pocket and said, "Okay, Bluebell,
you're free to go, but before you do, I owe you an explanation. This is why you
couldn't have your way with me."
Ash planted his hands on either side of Theo's face and made a determined
attempt to reach his tonsils. Theo was with him all the way as they slowly fell
through the wormhole, locked in a tight embrace.
Ash's last view of Bluebell was the totally freaked-out look on her face. It
was part horror, part envy - mostly the latter.
The pair were still wrapped in each other's arms as they tumbled out on to
the platform in front of the Gladsheim 'Gate. There was a round of applause,
mixed in with cheers and whistles from their teammates. Then they were all
beamed up to the deck of Mjølnir.
Jack was already there, waiting to greet them. He could tell from their
faces that the mission had gone well. But had it fully succeeded?
"Well, let's see, shall we?" Ash said with a smile that wasn't
With fingers mentally crossed, he keyed in what he hoped was the right
equation. A plasma cloud appeared and coalesced into a slender, and very
grateful, young woman.
"Ileana!" Jack exclaimed. "Good to see you!"
Well, if one worked, Ash hoped they all would. One by one, they did.
The last to appear was Grandfather Daniel. Jack wrapped his arms round him
and hugged him hard.
Theo, who felt he had a score to settle, elbowed Jack in the ribs and said
loudly, "Hey, get a room, you two!"
The two sprang apart looking a little goofy as everyone else cracked out
"See, Daniel! He's way worse than you ever were!"
Theo then grabbed Ash's hand and raised it aloft. "Let's hear it for
And they did. Ash was hero of the hour. Jack sidled over to the pair and
said to Ash, "For this, Sam says you can keep the computer."
Ash's eyes lit up.
Jack brushed aside his profuse thanks and whispered in Theo's ear,
"Okay, now you two can get a room..."
After Ileana and her colleagues had been beamed down to Gladsheim, whence
they could 'Gate to their respective home planets, J sought out Jack. He seemed
to be the mission co-ordinator, and J now had problems of his own.
Primarily, he needed to evade the Bruxan bushwhackers, and come up with a
plausible explanation for Warren for why he wasn't dead. Again.
"Not a problem," Jack smiled. "Thor's already taken care of
part of it. There were over twenty people lying in wait."
"Wow! They're certainly not planning on my survival, are they?" J
replied, thinking that maybe Maxine's paranoia wasn't so unreasonable.
"Doesn't look that way, no, though looking on the bright side, maybe
their brief was to sell you as a slave."
"I don't think so. Dragomir's brief was definitely to terminate me
with extreme prejudice."
"Good thing Thor detonated a sonic bomb directly above the 'Gate then.
While they were all unconscious, he transported them to a swamp on the other
side of the planet. The 'Gate's fine, in case you were wondering, but your
AVCOP's never gonna work again."
"That's okay," J replied. "It'll save us having to explain
the footage of the bad guys being knocked out and disappearing."
"I thought you'd see it that way," Jack grinned. "Now Thor's
going to beam you down to the settlement of Brocklesby, which is where you
would've have ended up if your mission had gone according to the alleged plan.
Ash and the PATTs can stay here. When you've finished, Thor will fly you back
to the 'Gate and Ash back to the Springs. What you tell the President, I leave
to your collective imaginations."
J grinned and thanked Jack, then went off to join his team.
Mjølnir took SG-24 back to Grøntverden, or P7Y-329. Thor
beamed down with the team to Brocklesby and introduced them to the chieftain,
Brockle the Fifth. Brockle was large, bluff man with an impressive beard.
Beneath the whiskers, his face looked pale and drawn. He wheezily welcomed them
in a language Maxine recognized as something akin to Old Norse. It wasn't a
language she was particularly fluent in, so Thor took over the negotiations.
The valley, or The Vale as it was known, was extremely fertile. There were
bumper crops, far more than they needed for themselves. It was almost ready for
harvesting. Unfortunately, the people of The Vale had been hit by a virulent
epidemic. It was over now, but although the death toll had not been high, it
had left many of the workers severely weakened. Very few still had the energy
necessary to harvest the crops.
"What the people need," Thor concluded, "is either basic
machinery or manpower to get the job done. In exchange, Brockle will give you
fifty per cent of this year's harvest."
"I think that should be doable," J nodded.
"Warren will almost certainly go for the fifty per cent," Maxine
Thor then beamed them all back to Mjølnir, flew them back to the
'Gate then beamed them and the PATTs down beside it. He would then return
Kern's PATT to the storage bay and Mr Kirkwood to his apartment.
Theo and Luc checked out the AVCOP. It was a complete write-off. They hoped
there were no recordings of events prior to its destruction back at the S.G.C.
General Bradfield was genuinely pleased to see SG-24, as they were much
overdue and had been unreachable via the AVCOP. At the debriefing, he was
delighted to hear of their success with Brockle's people, especially the
voluntary offer of fifty per cent of the harvest. He would set the wheels in
motion immediately for the harvest.
Maxine was almost looking forward to her meeting with Warren. Would he be
as pleased as Bradfield was with their mission success? He certainly seemed
pleased to see her at first. Perhaps he was anticipating a tale of woe
culminating in the death of their fearless leader?
"So, Doctor, how did your mission fare with a team of just four?"
"It went extremely well, sir," she smiled.
"You didn't meet with any problems?" He sounded disappointed.
"No sir, well except that we think the AVCOP may have been struck by
lightning while we were in Brocklesby. It was damaged beyond repair."
"I see. Nothing else untoward happened?"
"Oh no, sir. Chief Brockle was willing to negotiate and voluntarily
offered fifty per cent of this year's harvest."
"Fifty per cent? That much? What's the catch?"
"We have a good deal because they're in desperate need of our help
this year. The down-side," Maxine said apologetically, "is that this
is another Asgard protected planet. So we're going to have to play strictly
fair, at least in the first instance, and probably be prepared to take a
smaller percentage next year."
Warren, tight-lipped, thanked her for her advice and stalked out.
What, no cake this time? She thought as she headed back to Sergeant
Gayle. Oh well, maybe Andrew will let me drive Thunder back to base?