Everything was about ready when the Bruxan party came into
sight around the bend.
Theo lobbed a fist-size stone a little in front
of Eneas. He looked down. Saw a large, flat stone with Omega - Tau marked on
it. Saw the short piece of rope that had been left exposed. Muttered something
to those around him. Took enough steps forward to allow the rest of his friends
to pass over the rope. Hit the deck as J and Luc yanked the rope.
The leading Bruxans tripped. The next few fell over them. The rest went down
in electric blue discharges from Theo and Maxine.
J and Luc removed the others from consciousness too.
The Contra-Bruxai were soon freed, then they and their rescuers zip-cuffed
the bad guys.
"I can't thank you enough!" Eneas said, clasping J's forearm.
"We were on our way to be sold at the slave market - the Bruxan one, not
"Hey, we owe you!" J smiled, responding in kind.
"I owe you."
"Maybe you could return with us to the 'Gate. We'll take these guys
"Sure, though we have a slight problem of our own at the 'Gate. I
don't think Bachmann is a Bruxan, but he's working for one."
"We think so. He's waiting at the 'Gate, probably expecting that
lot," J indicated the bad guys, "to capture us too."
"We'll take him with us then," Eneas said. "No
"Ah, no thanks.." J rolled his eyes. "If we go back without
him - much as I'd like to! - it'll cause even more problems. The president is
suspicious enough as it is."
"It occurs to me that Bachmann may well call up one of this lot,"
J said, indicating the unconscious Bruxai. "He called someone named Vasile
when we were on Persulis. He was calling himself Andrei, presumably in the hope
that he wouldn't be recognized, but it was definitely his voice."
"Persulis?" Eneas grinned. "That's another reason to thank
you. We'd been trying to get rid of Frantisek for a long time. Yes, we
got your message; thanks Maxine."
"Well, thank you for your warning by the 'Gate. Not being taken by
surprise made a big difference!"
"If Bachmann - or Andrei - tries to contact one of these, would you
take it please?" J asked.
"For sure," Eneas nodded.
"Oh, and we now have 'mission names'," Luc put in. "Using our
own names when we were working against the authorities got us identified once,
though it turned out okay that time. So now, when it's necessary to avoid
recognition, J is Wolf, Theo's Hawk, Maxine's Storm and I'm Blue."
"Okay, got that," Eneas smiled. At his feet, a comm unit crackled
into life. He picked it up and growled, "Da, ce?"
"You got them?" came the voice of Bachmann. He sounded as if he
was salivating at the thought.
"Nu, ne-am, tâmpitule!"
"What?" Bachman asked, clearly unfamiliar with the term.
"No, we haven't, you asshole!" Eneas continued in English.
"Your foghorn voice gave them enough warning to disappear into the trees.
Well, you want them taken out, do it yourself! We're going back to the town -
get some refreshment. Vilhelm out."
Eneas cut the connection, and SG-24, laughing, congratulated him on his
"Thanks," Eneas grinned. "Now we need to get this lot back to
our base, which could be a problem if your Bachmann's still there."
"No, it won't be... and I think this one's mine," Maxine said and
disappeared, enjoying the gasps of their Contra friends.
She made her way back to the 'Gate through the trees as the invisibility
material didn't conceal her completely. Bachmann was in front of the 'Gate,
watching for the arrival of his Bruxan buddies.
Maxine worked her way quietly behind him, then fired her zat. Bachmann
dropped to the ground in an untidy heap. She quickly stripped him of his vest
and jacket, zip-cuffed his wrists and ankles with Bruxan ties and stuffed
cotton wool in his ears. Next she fastened his jacket over his head, tying the
sleeves tightly round his neck, blinding and partially throttling him.
That done, she opened a channel and said in a deep voice, "Vijelie -
bine." [ "Storm - okay." ]
While she was waiting for the rest to arrive, she dragged Bachmann's limp
form out of the path of the vortex.
The Contras arrived first, marching the Bruxan team ahead of them and
followed, not too closely, by her team on foot. It took a while to transfer the
Contras, their prisoners, and the prisoners' weapons through to their base.
Then came the final act. Bachmann had begun his return to consciousness, so
Skender and Toma started dragging him, not too carefully, towards the 'Gate. He
started fighting the movement, so Toma fetched him a fairly hefty kick to the
Eneas waved as he approached the open 'Gate. On cue, SG-24 fired a volley of
shots into the air, yelling at the 'attackers' to release their man. Then Eneas
followed his men through the 'Gate and the wormhole collapsed.
Bachmann looked the worse for wear as they released him, and was clutching
his ribs where Toma had kicked him.
"Wh-what happened?" he groaned.
"We think you got shot by one of their ray guns," Maxine said in
"How come they didn't get you?" Bachmann asked suspiciously.
"We got lucky," J said. "We'd just pulled into a clearing to
take a leak, when some moron with a loud voice contacted them. If he hadn't, we
would've been ambushed. As it was, we stayed in the trees and shadowed them
back to the 'Gate. When it looked like they were going to add you to their
slaving party, we came out of hiding and scared them off."
"Thanks," Bachmann muttered, not sounding particularly grateful.
"That's okay," J said bracingly. "I'm terminating this
mission now. We need to get you to the infirmary. From the way that guy kicked
you, you could have a broken rib or three. You stay there while we go fetch the
PATTs, then we'll be off home."
That evening, the team went round to Ash's pad, knowing he would enjoy
hearing about the mission, especially Bachmann's dressing down from Eneas.
Warren would no doubt count it as a failed mission, but SG-24 regarded the
rescue of the Contras as a definite success. Chalk one up for the Good Guys!
"Now I have some news," Ash said with a secret smile. "First,
there's something for you, Maxine," he said, putting an envelope and a
small box into her hands.
As she opened the envelope, looking puzzled, Ash put an arm around her
shoulder and announced, "Now - I'd like the rest of you to meet my
This disclosure was greeted by dropped jaws, bugging out eyes, and dead
"What, no congratulations?" Ash looked crushed.
"Ash - dear! - is there something you should tell me?" Theo
asked, sarcasm dripping from every word.
"Yes, there is. Quite a lot, in fact."
"Apparently," Maxine said, reading the single sheet of paper that
was in the envelope, "we've been married for nearly two years. I take it
this was your idea for making our problem go away?"
"Yes. I figured we needed to act quickly. Your Dad agreed."
"Typical!" Maxine muttered sotto voce, as she stared at the
marriage certificate dated October 4th 2107, and signed by her father, Ash's
parents - and Aunt Claire. She wondered who'd forged her own signature.
"Would one - or both of you - please tell me what's going
on?" J demanded.
Maxine began by reminding them of Grandfather Daniel's visit in the time
loop and his warnings about the Stemma, the Diabolikon, and the evil Kyros who
wanted them both.
"With hindsight," she said to Ash, "I think Grandfather left
the warning about the black dragon in the hopes that I'd make the connection
with Dougal Drake. As interfering goes, it was fairly inconspicuous."
Ash gave his account of how Kyros, as Dougal Drake, had clearly been
grooming him, as he had with Daniel, and how he claimed he would make the
morality police go away in exchange for the crown.
"Not that I think he would have kept his side of the bargain if I'd
gone along with it. Then it occurred to me that I could fix it myself. So while
you were away, I cleared it with Rufus, then I hacked into the government
system and registered our marriage well before the problem first arose. Rufus
suggested getting Dr. Claire on board as her word is unlikely to be questioned.
She agreed. Dr. Claire also sent the ring," Ash said as Maxine opened the
little box. "It belonged to her sister-in-law, your Grandmother
"This is going to create a heap of paperwork," J groaned.
"But good thinking, Ash. What's the official story for the SGC,
"Well, we're not planning on 'coming out', as you might say. As the
quiet wedding happened going on two years ago and with only close family
involved, there's no need to make any changes. If anything does crop up, then
we kept quiet about it and lived apart so we could keep our jobs. You three,
especially Theo, knew nothing about it. We don't want your mother giving you
hell for keeping her in the dark. So we're just going to carry on as before.
Nothing changed in any way."
"Oh, okay," J smiled.
The following day, Maxine was called to General Bradfield's office.
"Ah, Dr. Pepperday, please come in and shut the door. Or Dr. Kirkwood,
I should say."
Maxine's heart sank. Already?! she thought then said, "It'll
probably make life easier if I stick to Dr. Pepperday. Ash doesn't mind. We
were worried that we might not be able to work together, and neither of us
wants to leave here."
"You needn't have worried about that. You're both too valuable, but I
agree, it would cause less disruption if things are left as they were."
"Then why this now?" Maxine asked, puzzled.
"I'm afraid someone found an anomaly in the records."
And I bet I can put a name to that 'someone,' damn him! Maxine
"Oh?" she said.
"I'm sorry to have to say this, but the Office of Public Morality has
ordered that you undergo a medical to confirm that the marriage has been
consummated and is therefore legal. I'm even sorrier to have to tell you that
Dr. Dawson is waiting for you now," Bradfield informed her.
"What?! No way is that alcoholic buffoon getting his hands on
my genitalia! No way!"
"I said that would be your reaction. Unfortunately, Dr. Flint has been
called away by a family emergency and won't be back for at least a week."
"Well, we've been married for nearly two years and no one's shown any
interest before. They can wait until Dr. Flint gets back."
"Or die?" Bradfield smiled.
"Pretty much, yes," Maxine responded, tightlipped.
Bradfield's lip twitched. "I'll take that under advisement, Dr.
Pepperday. I would be obliged if you would at least put in an appearance in the
"Very well, sir."
In the infirmary, Dr. Dawson approached Maxine with a leer and invited her
to undress behind a screen.
"I don't think so, Dawson," Maxine said with a sneer. "You're
not my physician."
"This has to be done today," Dr. Dawson replied with a smug
"No. It doesn't. It will wait until Dr. Flint returns."
"No. Now," Dr. Dawson insisted, gripping her arm.
Midway through the 'discussion,' Ash arrived to collect his migraine meds.
Seeing what was going on, he strode up Dawson. Their faces were almost
"Keep your grubby little hands off Dr. Pepperday!"
"Best not find out," Ash said with an intimidating smile.
J's methods seem to have rubbed off on him, Maxine thought, amused.
Dawson backed off. "You haven't heard the last of this! Either of
Some time later, Luc found Maxine in a quiet corner of the commissary,
staring into her coffee in a brown study.
"You look worried, bambina," he said gently.
"Yeah." She told him about the impending medical.
"Ahh. I suspect that means that you're still "
"Virgo intacta? Yes. And with Timmy away, I can't ask her for help. I'm
screwed!" She gave a grim chuckle. "Or rather, not
Luc gave an amused snort. "Actually, that gives me an idea." He
paused for a long while, wondering how to put that idea into words.
At last he began, "Since Kellermann killed Christine, I could never
fall in love again - too painful - but you know I'm very fond of you, don't
"Yes. The woman I wanted to marry. Didn't Theo tell you?"
"No. He knows how to keep a secret."
"Oh. Well then, tell me if what I'm going to say offends you - or you
think I'm well out of line here - and I won't say another word, but there is
another way... The - the natural way..."
Maxine looked stunned. "You would... you would - have sex with
"I'm sorry... I shouldn't have suggested it."
"No, it's okay, I'm not offended. Really. I think it's a very kind
"Oh. I'm... I m ashamed to admit that I'm a very experienced lover. I
would make it easy for you - enjoyable even - not an ordeal... and I would take
precautions so there shouldn't be any problems. Later - you know?"
"Yes. I know you're not trying to take advantage, and I can't think of
any other way, so yes."
"Right. Now there's the where and the when. There's something I need
to do first, so I suggest the day after tomorrow; we don't have any commitments
then. As to where, I suggest your cousins' little bolt-hole up on the mountain
that you used for the survival test."
The agreed afternoon found Luc and Maxine on their way up to the cave in
Cheyenne Mountain. Luc came well equipped with everything they might need,
including scented candles.
He made love to her slowly and gently, and used his skills to ensure she did
indeed enjoy the experience.
A little while later, Luc said, "You should be okay by the time Timmy
comes back, assuming she doesn't return early. But just to be on the safe side,
Rufus says to take you to your Aunt Claire's today. Apparently she has a
"What? Wait... Are you saying you discussed my - my virginity
with my Dad?"
Luc noted the flashing green eyes with some unease. "Well, he seemed
very protective of you when I first met him, so I thought I should run it by
him first. I wanted him to know I wasn't using you for my own pleasure.
Maxine was giggling. "He was just winding you up when he met you! Jeez,
I wish I'd been a fly on the wall during that conversation!"
Luc gave her a wry smile. "Actually, after Ash told him what was going
on when he went to get Rufus' signature for your marriage lines, he'd been
expecting me. Well, not me specifically, but one of us. He didn't seem
surprised that it was me though."
"Oops," Maxine grinned. "That could've been something I
"Never mind. Wouldn't want you getting a swollen head. Hm, speaking of
which, can we do that again? Now...?"