Back on Edora, the 'Gate was horizontal and had a big heap of rocks on
"Okay, Dr. Pepperday, time to go home," J said. "If we
Maxine reached inside her jacket for the black velvet bag. She opened it and
slid a smooth pink crystal into her palm. "Asgard!" she said.
The rest of the team did not react as expected, staring at her aghast.
"B-but they all died a hundred years ago because they couldn't clone
any new bodies!" J exclaimed.
"Actually not," Maxine smiled. "According to Grandfather
Daniel, they managed to fix the problem thanks to Braggi and Loki. Braggi
helped Aunt Claire set up her secret cellar. Grandfather himself met Thor,
Heimdall, Freyr, Vili, Aegir and Njord again at Delos in the Enastros Patrida
galaxy several years after their apparent mass suicide. Oh-oh!"
There was the sound of the 'Gate activating. The 'kawoosh' blasted
downwards, causing the 'Gate and the rock pile to rise several inches before
resettling. The next sounds were a thump and a groan. The voice was
recognizable as Bachmann's. Then came the sound of a wormhole closing. Just
what they didn't want. Still, better to deal with the situation now than leave
it for the Edorans.
"Damn!" J exclaimed. He turned to Finn O'Neill. "I apologize
for this. That man is the one who wanted to take your food. I'm afraid we'll
have to dig him out though. We can't leave him to die or we'd be as bad as him
and his ilk. But don't worry, we'll take our trash home with us. Oh, and please
hide SG-1's weapons. Best he doesn't know anything about them."
Finn nodded. By the time SG-24 had dug Bachmann out of the pit below the
'Gate, a sizable crowd had gathered - bad news travels fast - and the Tau'ri
weapons had all disappeared.
Bachmann was anything but grateful when Luc offered him a hand to pull him
out. In fact, he was furious, muddy, grazed, and in some pain. Mostly he was
furious. Luc grabbed his hand and yanked him out, none too gently, anyway.
Bachmann refused to give him the satisfaction of a cry of pain and just
grunted. He gazed balefully around at the 'peasants' then the 'Gate, then at J.
"What the fuck's goin' on here?" he demanded. Where's the food?
You" - he jabbed a finger in Finn O'Neill's direction - "were
supposed to have it all ready and waiting."
Next he turned on J. "And what have you done to the 'Gate."
J looked back blankly. "It was an 'Act of God' if you will."
"It was what the locals call 'fire-rain,' Theo added. "The orbit
of P5C-768 passes through a debris field once a year. Usually, the debris is
small enough to burn up in the atmosphere as a spectacular meteor shower. Every
now and again, the planet passes through a thicker layer with rocks big enough
to make it down to the surface as meteorites. Then they do a lot of damage. The
people here have lost most of their food supplies, besides the damage to the
"A likely tale!" Bachmann scoffed. He turned to J. "These
peasants have fooled you, you idiot!"
"When we get home - if we get home," J snapped,
"remind me to put you on a charge."
"Yeah right - Sir," Bachmann sneered. "While we're
waitin' I'm gonna teach these peasants a lesson they won't forget in
hurry." He wrestled his 9mil. out of its holster.
"Put your weapon away, Captain!" J ordered.
"Sir, no sir," he said, raising his sidearm. He began firing
randomly into the crowd.
But the bullets didn't reach their targets. In mid-flight, they were
enveloped in a silvery glow.
When the magazine was empty, the lights
coalesced into a silver-haired human wearing black BDUs. He opened his hand and
dropped the spent bullets on the ground.
Bachmann was stunned. "W-Who are you?"
Maxine smartly computed 2 + 2 and made the introductions. "Captain
Bachmann, I have the honor to present Major General Jack O'Neill. General
O'Neill, this is one-time colonel, now Captain, James Bachmann."
"Rubbish. This is just trickery - smoke an' mirrors. O'Neill's been
dead for decades."
"I was dead," Jack drawled, "but not any more."
An instant later, he'd closed the twelve yard gap and wrapped one hand
tightly round Bachmann's throat, bringing him to his knees.
"Now what are we going to do with you? Listen, scum, these here are my
people - many of them my family. I consider them my 'heirs and graces.' This
world is now off-limits to you and anyone like you. Consider Edora to be on the
'protected planets' list."
"Um, sir, a word," J said.
"What is it, Major Mitchell?"
J, not entirely surprised that General O'Neill knew him by name, drew him
aside. He quietly explained their mission and how they were bent on thwarting
"What I need to know now sir, is how we can return home and not have
Bachmann blow the gaff on our subterfuge."
"No problem, Major." He turned into a glowy squid that wrapped
itself around all of SG-24. "Dr. Pepperday, if you would be so good?"
came a disembodied voice.
Maxine operated the pink crystal as Aunt Claire had explained in a note
accompanying the stone. They were all instantly converted into a matter stream
that re-materialized on an Asgard vessel.
"Well this is a day full of surprised," J grinned.
"Isn't it just?" Jack smiled back. "Ah, Thor. Good to see
you again, ol' buddy."
"It is always pleasing to see you also, O'Neill. You said you might be
in need of some assistance. What do you require."
"Well first," Jack indicated Bachmann, "please would you
throw this creep in the brig?"
Thor nodded and half a dozen Asgard appeared.
"You're not touching me!" Bachmann yelled, backing away.
"Captain," J said softly, "you can either do this the easy
way and go with these gentlemen quietly, or you can do it the hard way and find
out just what they're capable off." He broke off thoughtfully and
concluded with his crocodile smile. "Yes, you do it the hard way,
Bachmann bottled out and went quietly.
Thor listened intently as Jack and J explained their needs.
"So please ask Heimdall to plant a memory chip in Bachmann's brain -
deep in his brain - programmed with a memory of the fire-rain which took out
the 'Gate, rendering it inoperable for all time, and destroying all their
crops, and that SG-24 was rescued by you as you were already coming to visit
the Edorans. Oh, and he's never seen me," Jack concluded.
"Commander Thor," Maxine said, "if he was injured when he
came through the 'Gate, please could you repair him, so there's no reason to do
a CAT scan and maybe find the chip?"
"It shall be done as you ask," Thor said, "although Heimdall
will use an organic chip which will blend with his brain. As such, it should
With a slight bow, Thor followed his crew members.
As he left, there was a bright flash and a soft pop behind Jack. A
pissed-off voice said, "Jack!"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Daniel?" he said gently, slowly turning
"You ascended?" Daniel squawked, sounding indignant.
"And you never made contact - never let me know... " Daniel
"Well you know this non-interventionist policy...?"
"That doesn't apply to friends who're ascended too, and you know it.
Not that this looks particularly non-interventionist..."
"Pot, meet kettle." Jack frowned. "Besides, a lot of the
Edorans are my family, as you must know. Oh, and who d'ya think's been watching
your back when you've been intervening?"
"Y-you've been following me?"
"Yes, Daniel. Be thankful I have. As always, you sail too close to the
wind. Do you know just how close you've come to ending up in Big Trouble?
Again? Or how often?"
Daniel looked a little sheepish. "No."
"Way too often for my comfort, let's say."
"What about Sam and Teal'c? Are they ascended too?" Daniel looked
"Sort of. Not exactly. I think Teal'c's helping Jaffa to ascend and
Carter's gotten herself a fancy lab to play in somewhere."
Jack laid an arm across Daniel's shoulder. "Look, Daniel, I've had the
pleasure of meeting some of your family. Why not come back to Edora with me and
meet some of my 'heirs and graces'?"
With that, the two ascended friends changed into a couple of glowy squids
and drifted gracefully away.
General Bradfield was extremely concerned. SG-24 was long overdue and hadn't
made a sit. rep. to explain why. An AVCOP, despatched through the 'Gate, sent a
grainy picture of something that looked like a backpack, an SMG and a lot of
rocks. Then it died. Bradfield hope SG-24 hadn't met the same fate.
He was contemplating the undesirable option of reporting to the president
when there were sounds of a commotion from below. He made haste down to the
'Gate Room to find a number of parallel matter streams descending. These
resolved themselves into four PATTs, a backpack, an SMG, an AVCOP - and SG-24.
God! This was going to be an interesting debriefing!
All five were through their medical checks in short order - with a slight
detour to check up on Eli Kern - then went to the briefing room where General
Bradfield was already waiting.
"I take it the mission did not go as planned?" he began.
"Not entirely, no sir," J confirmed. He explained that the
fire-rain had begun shortly after their arrival, taking out the 'Gate and
destroying food supplies then Theo explained the mechanics of the astronomical
phenomenon. Luc detailed Bachmann's arrival and rescue without mentioning the
latter's graceless reception of the rescue.
"So how on earth did get back to the S.G.C.?" the general asked.
"And uninjured too?"
"We got lucky," Maxine smiled. "The planet is under the
protection of the Asgard"
"The Asgard?" Bradfield exclaimed. "But I thought they all
died a hundred years ago?"
Maxine smiled. "Well, Commander Thor is certainly alive and well.
Apparently a solution turned up out of the blue at the last moment. Today, they
just happened to be on their way to check up on the natives."
"Well, that is good news!"
"It was even better news for Captain Bachmann," J put in. "He
was injured, but they fixed him up as good as new. Of course, all this means
that, even if we could find a way back to the planet - it's called Edora, by
the way - there's no way we could raid it for food."
Bradfield's eye was drawn unwillingly towards Bachmann. The captain was
looking his normal grumpy self but showed no inclination to join in the
discussion, nor to contradict anything that was being said. Strange. Actually,
if anything, he was looking puzzled - as if he would love to make some
disparaging comment about his C.O. but couldn't think of anything. Bradfield,
bringing the debriefing to a close, didn't think it would last.
The following morning, Maxine was in her office in the Arlington Building,
catching up on her decryption duties when Bachman burst in without bothering to
"What have you done to me?" he demanded.
Maxine gave him her best mystified look. "I haven't done anything to
you," she said, standing up. "Not yet anyway, but that could
"Don't play Miss Innocent with me. It won't wash. Either you or one of
the team did something to my memory. There are things missing from my
"Well, if these 'things' are missing from your memory, how do you know
there was anything there in the first place?"
"Don't get cute with me, Missy. There are holes in my
Maxine refrained from comment, tempting as it was. "Look, I'm not a
medical doctor but you probably had a concussion when you came through the
'Gate. My older brother had a knock on the head when he was in his teens, and
suffered from short-term memory loss for several weeks. His memories all came
back eventually though, and likely so will yours."
"Yeah," Bachmann said, not sounding in the least convinced.
"I thought you said those little grey guys fixed me up 'good as
"Well, physically, they did. You were in pretty bad shape when Captain
Lucarelli pulled you clear. I'd say you had several damaged ribs and, in view
of the memory loss, maybe a cracked skull as well. But memory?" Maxine
shook her head. "Even medical doctors don't really understand how that
works. Just give it time. I'm sure any missing memories will come back, just
like my brother's did. Was there anything else?"
"Oh. Yeah. The president wants to see you, stat."
"Well, thank you for the prompt delivery of that message,"
Maxine said drily.
"Sorry, Doc. Must've slipped my mind!" Bachmann gave a sardonic
grin then took himself off, whistling as he went.
Maxine locked her office and legged it to pick up her ride. She'd hoped it
would be the friendly Sergeant Gayle. It wasn't, but on the plus side, it
wasn't Sergeant Quinney either. She didn't recognize the young man driving the
horse and buggy. A step up from the pony and trap? At least they should make
"Good morning," she began, climbing into the buggy beside the
driver, "I'm Dr. Pepperday. The president wishes to see me as soon as
"Morning, ma'am," the driver replied with a tight smile.
"I'm Corporal Ezekiel Zeller, at your service."
The name rang a faint bell, and Maxine didn't like its tinny clangor. As
they drove off, very sedately, the source of the jangle surfaced. Zeller had
been one of Captain Beck's hangers-on.
"Would you drive a little faster please," Maxine said. "I'm
already a little late as the message was delayed in getting to me."
"Sorry, ma'am, I'm a new driver and haven't reached full certification
yet," Zeller replied.
"Then it's a good thing I am a fully certified driver,"
Maxine said. Well, it was true that she'd been taking lessons thanks to
Sergeant Gayle. "So hand the reins over."
"Sorry ma'am, can't do that."
"Can't? Or won't? Maxine demanded, glowering at him.
"I'm not allowed," he persisted.
"That's not true, is it?"
The young corporal swallowed nervously then nodded. "Yes, yes it is
true." Clearly, there was someone he feared more than her. She tried
another tack and pinned on her scariest smile.
"Would you like to walk back?"
"Then hand over the reins."
"I c-can't. Really I can't."
"O-kaay."Maxine said, and let him think she'd given up.
A couple of minutes later, she pointed up into the sky. "Ooh, look!
Isn't that a bald eagle?"
Zeller followed the line of her pointing finger without thinking. Bad move.
Maxine grabbed the reins with her left hand and used her dim mok with her
right. Once she was certain she had control of the horse - a powerful beast -
she countered the blow, then tipped Zeller unceremoniously out of the side of
the buggy. Then she gave the horse his head and drove hell for leather to the
new White House. She hoped she could stop him when she got there...
She began to rein him in as she passed through the gates into the carriage
approach. Perhaps having enjoyed the headlong gallop, he'd had enough and
checked his speed obediently. The equipage slithered to a halt amid a shower of
gravel. Maxine handed the reins over to a bemused Costin then sprinted towards
the oval room. The door stood wide open. The president was already waiting for
"Dr. Pepperday, I do not appreciate being kept waiting."
"I humbly apologize, sir. I came the instant I was given your message
- after I'd locked away the sensitive document I was working on, of
course." She could grovel if she had to and it didn't hurt to remind him
of her other talents. "And I had to drive myself here."
The president seemed surprised at that. "How so? Was there no driver
available for you?"
"Yes sir. Unfortunately the designated driver was new and told me that,
as such, he wasn't allowed to go any faster than a gentle trot. So I took the
reins and came at a gallop," she smiled.
Warren looked startled. "And the driver let you?"
"Not exactly." She decided to play to what the president seemed to
regard as one of her strengths. "I have to admit that I didn't really play
Warren appeared genuinely amused by that. "So, Dr. Pepperday, does the
young man still live?"
"Of course, sir! At least, I think so. I shoved him out of the side of
the buggy and, as I was running late and didn't want to make you wait, I - er -
I didn't go back to check. But he's probably okay."
"Fine. I imagine you know why I wish to see you?"
"The failure of SG-24 to fetch back food supplies, sir?"
"The failure of your mission, yes."
Inwardly Maxine cringed.
"Perhaps it would have gone better had you not left Captain Bachmann
"Doubtful, sir. In any case, he rather left himself behind. We waited
until he put in an appearance in the 'Gate Room, then the rest of us left as
soon as the wormhole stabilized. We fully expected him to follow Dr. Hunter. He
didn't. The wormhole closed, the fire-rain began and we took refuge in nearby
caves. Had we been any later, I doubt we would have survived, and had Captain
Bachmann not been further held up by a malfunction of the D.H.D., he would
likely be dead now."
"And what of these little grey men?"
"Oh, the Asgard," Maxine smiled. "Without them, we would
still be stuck on P5C-768, and Captain Bachmann would be suffering a lot of
pain. We all owe them a great deal!"
"They seem to be very good at 'fixing things," Warren observed.
"Yes, they are. They're very advanced."
"Then could they not have fixed the 'Gate so you could access our food
"I have no doubt that they could sir, if they so wished. However, they
made it crystal clear that they do not approve of advanced races such as
ourselves taking - erm - their leader called it an unfair advantage - of less
advanced races. As I warned earlier, we are getting ourselves a bad reputation
when, by helping our trading partners, we could build up a good reputation as
we did with the Persulians."
Warren didn't look too pleased about the reminder. He made no comment but
moved on to ask, "These little grey men, could you not have
"We could have tried," Maxine frowned, " but it would have
been an act of suicidal stupidity to do so."
"How so, Doctor?"
"They can dematerialize and re-materialize at will. They transferred
us to their ship, and then back to the 'Gate Room as a matter stream. They
didn't have to change us back into ourselves. It took a lot of sweet-talking
for them to repair Captain Bachmann and bring us all home at all. It didn't
help that Captain Bachmann tried to shoot some of the local population."
"It didn't?" Warren looked as if he approved of Bachmann's
"No, sir. The Asgard simply stopped the bullets in their tracks before
they got anywhere near any of the natives. Bottom line, they would have
made highly desirable allies, but now the best we can hope for is that we
haven't turned them into very bad - very powerful - enemies. Indeed, I'm afraid
they will be keeping a close eye on us from now on. Sir."
"I see," the president responded grimly. "So it could have
been a whole lot worse?"
"Yes sir. At least we don't have an Asgard fleet coming to attack us.
I really think we have to be on our best behavior for the time being
Warren sighed. "You may well be right. Thank you, Dr. Pepperday."
Taking that as her cue to leave, she gave a slight bow and returned to
Costin. As he handed her the reins, she updated him on his daughter's progress,
which was good.
He smiled and then asked, "What happened to the driver?"
"He was being uncooperative so I pushed him out."
This seemed to cause him immense pleasure if the laughter was anything to go
There was no sign of Corporal Zeller along the road, so she assumed he was
well enough to walk back to the stables.
She drove into the stable-yard at a smart extended trot and pulled up under
Sergeant Gayle, who was awaiting her arrival, looked far from impressed.
"What in God's name did you think you were playing at?" he demanded.
"I was called to the White House, I'd already been delayed, and the
driver said he wasn't allowed to drive any faster than dead slow. In which
case, why let him drive a buggy with such a powerful horse pulling it? Anyway,
I asked him to give me the reins. He refused, so he left me no option but to
tip him out and drive myself."
"I see," Gayle said. "I'll have a quiet word with him. From
now I'll drive you myself, and you will not tip me out.
"Understood." Maxine quirked a grin.
"And you're right about Thunder being a powerful horse. Hence I was
very worried that he might have bolted - leaving me to explain how you ended up
with a broken neck!"
"No, he was perfectly well behaved. He enjoyed the gallop."
Gayle's jaw dropped. "Gallop?!"
J had already called a meeting at Ash's that evening, having anticipated
some presidential interest. It was essential that they all gave the same
As Maxine was warning the rest about Bachmann's apparent awareness of 'holes
in his memory,' she clapped her hand over her mouth, then said, "Oh god, I
completely forgot about the bug in my computer!"
"Relax," Theo said, putting an arm round her shoulder. "It
doesn't sound like you said anything you couldn't have said over the P.A."
"No, maybe not. But what have I been saying in the past? This can't be
the first time I've forgotten."
There was a lengthy and rather tense silence, broken by Ash. "I have an
idea. Come on Theo, you can make coffee."
"On th plus side," Luc said as they left, "at least you know
there's a bug listening in..."
Theo returned first bearing a tray with mugs of coffee and a plate of
biscuits. Ash followed on several minutes later, holding up a brightly colored
piece of card dangling on the end of a piece of string.
"There you are," he said, handing over the home-made butterfly
with a smile. "Hang it up in your office. To you, it's a reminder about
the bug. To everyone else, it's just a decoration."
A faint voice that seemed to have drifted in on the breeze from the open