Luc, standing beside the AVCOP, called up
the SGC to find out what was going on.
"Major Mitchell's already left - about half a minute
ago," the 'Gate tech responded. Luc took a step back in disbelief.
There was a stunned silence.
It was broken by six or seven guys breaking cover from behind
the trees. They were wearing dark green cammo and holding what looked like some
sort of ray guns.
"Freeze! Drop your weapons!" the leader cried in
Romanian. Three of his men fired their ray guns at the AVCOP, disabling it.
"We mean you no harm but time is vital!" the leader
Maxine translated and, faux de mieux, they laid down their
"Good. Now you have to trust me," the leader said,
then started dialing out. "It's the only way to save your friend."
He waved his team through the 'Gate. Pausing before stepping
through after them, he said, "Do nothing but wait -- and trust other
senses than your eyes and ears." Then he was gone and the 'Gate shut down
Luc checked the AVCOP but it seemed completely dead.
Maxine sat down on the edge of the plinth beside the 'Gate and
passed on what the invaders had said. "I have a really bad feeling
In the lab., there was consternation. The activation meant they
had to abort the operation before it had been completed -- or they'd lose
both men. The chief scientist angrily gave the order.
In the center of the lab., side by side, were two circular
podia about three feet in diameter and six inches high. These looked like small
horizontal Stargates with thick glass panels over active wormholes. The light
from one of these was a greenish blue, the other emitted purplish blue light.
They were about a foot apart.
Behind each of these podia was a large, vertical-sided chemical
flask, half filled with a swirling inky liquid that was effervescing with
golden bubbles. The two flasks were connected by inch wide tubes at the bottom
and halfway up.
The effervescence was dying down as two streams of
scintillating particles flowed upwards along the glass tubing from these
flasks, round a right-angled bend, and spewed down on to the two circular
podia, where they coalesced into two men.
The one on the purple podium looked annoyed. The other, on the
greenish podium, looked disoriented.
The latter looked at the man to his right and thought for a
moment that he was looking into a mirror. He looked around, bewildered.
Apparently he was in a science lab with banks of computers along three sides.
Small lights were flashing in several colors, and a number of people in long
white robes, like priestly vestments, were dashing around, looking like they
were in a mighty panic.
One of these men - the leader? - pointed to a
computer on a stand in front of the podia. Another white-robed man ran to it.
The leader was holding up a hand and seemed to be counting down. His hand
dropped and the priest-scientist touched a button on the computer.
The man didn't know why, but he leapt across to the purple
podium and wrapped his arms round the other guy as the leader's hand dropped.
The leader cried out. Too late.
The two men were converted into a single matter stream and
disappeared up into a small horizontal 'stargate with a purply blue event
horizon some ten feet above the purple podium. There was only one of those.
Five minutes after SG-24 sat down to wait, the 'Gate on P4D-131
started to activate, but an event horizon appeared without the preceding
'kawoosh.' The team sprang to its collective feet as J, grappling with another
man, tumbled out on to the 'Gate's plinth. They seemed to be fighting over J's
J tried to grab it, but the other guy kicked it away, out of
reach and rolled out of range himself.
SG-24 raised their Calicos and Luc yelled at the fighters to
get their hands up, which they both did. Maxine and Luc went over to J, guns
trained on the other guy. Theo went over to the dark-haired stranger with the
intention of cuffing him.
"Are we glad to see you," Maxine smiled at J.
J gave her a stony look, then nodded to the stranger.
Maxine sneezed, big time, and lowered her weapon as she did so.
"I said, kill him!" J snarled. "That's an
Luc gave him a very old-fashioned look, wondering what had
happened to J's dedication to the Bushido code. "What's he done?"
"Are you questioning my orders, Captain?"
"Guess I am," Luc said.
"Then I'll do it myself," J said, reaching for Luc's
Luc stepped back out of reach. "Not until I know what's
"He's an evil bastard and he tried to kill me. That good
enough for ya, Captain? Now kill him, or I'll have you on a charge for
"Do I get a say in this?" the stranger asked.
"No. You don't," J snapped.
"Yes. He does," Theo said, adding snarkily, "and
you can't do me for insubordination. What d'you want to say, guy?"
The stranger nodded at J. "Ask him what his middle name
J looked baffled and Maxine sneezed again.
The stranger growled, "Yeah, he doesn't know. Because I
don't have a middle name, do I, Max?!"
Maxine, green eyes flashing, began to react as she had when J
had called her Max before. Before--. Her jaw dropped. "J?" she said.
It was little more than a whisper.
He nodded and rubbed his bewhiskered face. "What's
happened to me?"
The team looked from one to the other.
"Just shoot him," ordered the one that looked like
J. "Can't you see he's just trying to stir up trouble in the team?"
"Well, somebody sure is," Luc declared.
"Then, let's go back to the SGC and sort it out
there." 'J' went over to the DHD, but before he could start dialing out,
the chevrons lit up, announcing an incoming wormhole.
When the event horizon settled, the men in dark green cammos
came running back out.
"You!?" 'J' exclaimed. He grabbed the
discarded Calico but was hit by a blast from the group leader's ray gun before
he could fire. It seemed similar to a zat blast. The leader then cuffed him.
"You seem to have worked things out, more or less,"
he said in Romanian.
"I haven't," said the dark stranger who seemed to be
J. "What's going on?"
"I apologize," replied the leader in English.
"We can speak English. There are several linguae francae around the
galaxy. English is one of the newer ones. Others are Greek, Latin and Khemian,
though these are falling from favor. And Romanian, of course. I am Eneas,
leader of the Prasinos Team of the Contra-Bruxai. We are descendants of the
Archaioi whom you may know as the Furlings."
"The Furlings," everyone exclaimed. Theo said, a
little sadly, "SG-1 never got to meet the Furlings."
Eneas continued, "Many centuries ago, the Dwimmerlings
taught the Strigoi how to take over other people, body and soul, and replace
them, using the mindless, memory-less originals as slaves in their Bruxan
Empire on the other side of the galaxy. I'm afraid they've recently discovered
the Tau'ri and they're working on making Earth a part of that Empire."
"Okay, back up," Luc said. "We've heard of the
Furlings, but who are these others? Strigoi? Dwimmerlings? Bruxan Empire? What
"Ah, not as well informed as we thought," Eneas
commented to his team. "Very well then. The Bruxai are your friendly
neighborhood bad guys bent on galactic conquest. Sort of. They achieve their
ends by stealth. As I said, they replace people in power with their own people,
and run things for their own best interests, specifically so they can enjoy an
idle, sybaritic life-style and delegate all the work to others. The Strigoi
claim to belong to a kind of priestly caste, but they're really Bruxan
scientists. They do the replacing. The people they've replaced are sold as
"At the Agora?" Maxine asked.
"Sometimes, but usually not. The Bruxai have their own
slave market which is as bad as the worst cattle market you can image,"
Eneas said, looking like he'd found a dead rat in his soup. "Oh, and the
Dwimmerlings are what you might call dark Furlings - Furlings gone to the
"So why did they try to replace J?" Luc wanted to
"Their targets are usually either people in power over
others, kings, political leaders, the heads of banks or industry or the
military. Alternatively, they're people who might 'rock the boat' - ones who
are honorable and can neither be bought nor bullied into toeing the line. I
suspect your friend may belong to both categories?"
"Certainly the latter," Luc said.
"And he's the leader of our team which is kind of
military," Theo added.
"Then we are your friends for sure," Eneas said.
"The Contra-Bruxai, as the name suggests, are working against the Bruxai
and trying to put right the wrongs they have done. We feel responsible for
their rise to power because the Dwimmerlings are - well, our 'brothers' I
guess. Their actions have led to this scourge spreading all over our galaxy. We
are few in number so far - fewer than we need anyway, so new members are always
There was a groan from behind them. J's would-be replacement
was coming round. Sulkily, he asked, "What now?"
"How about giving me my face back?" J asked.
"And you can have your own back, whoever you are."
"Dragomir," Maxine murmured.
"What?" J asked.
"I think his name may be Dragomir. An assignment came my
way by accident yesterday. It disappeared before I had time to decode the whole
thing, though I made a copy. It mentioned someone called Dragomir and it read
like it was a plan for an assassination. Now, I think the target of that
assassination was you." Then she gestured at the Bruxan guy and added.
"He wasn't just going to replace you; he was meant to kill you - or
"That was their big mistake - telling us to execute this
guy," Luc commented, pointing at J. "No one who knows J would believe
he'd kill someone out of hand - someone he couldn't have known for more than
about ten minutes at that."
"So you used your other senses," Eneas smiled.
"Ok then - Dragomir. You're going to take us to the Strigoi lab."
"No," Dragomir said, his chin jutting out at a
"Fine. Then we'll take you to the Fagaras 'Gate and send
you back here, closing down the wormhole early, and you knows what that
This was obviously a serious and credible threat as Dragomir
capitulated almost immediately. He led them several hundred yards into the
woods. In a small clearing, he indicates a square of different colored turf
with his foot. One of Eneas's men lifted a trapdoor.
Dragomir took his chance, bent over the hole revealed, and
opened his mouth to yell a warning. He got no further as the butt end of Luc's
Calico made contact with his skull, knocking him out.
J winced. "Hey! Watch the head!" he groused.
SG-24 stayed to guard Dragomir as Eneas led his team down stone
steps carved into the bedrock. They continued along a dark curving passageway
towards a faint, multicolored glow.
There was a brief skirmish as the Contra-Bruxai burst into the
underground lab. The Strigoi were quickly subdued. Eneas sent one of men to
fetch SG-24 and Dragomir who was still out cold. They dragged him along the
passage into the lab.
"Well, this place looks familiar..." J commented
Maxine just sneezed.
Skender, Eneas's chief scientist, set things up to return J and
Dragomir to their proper forms. "And no cracks about reversing the
polarity this time, please, Toma," he scowled at the youngest Furling who
J and Dragomir were placed on the podia, Eneas' men holding
Dragomir upright on his. They were converted into glowing golden matter streams
which traveled along the tubes into the connected glass flasks.
As they all watched the golden particles bubbling vigorously
through the swirling inky liquid, there was a violent sneeze.
"Bless you!" Theo said to Maxine.
"It wasn't me. I didn't sneeze."
"Okay, reveal yourself!" demanded Eneas.
There was a faint glow in the middle of the lab
next to Maxine.
"And the rest of you..."
There a grunt, and a bundle of glowy tentacles appeared.
Maxine and Theo exchange glances.
"Grandfather Daniel?" they both said doubtfully.
Daniel put a glowy finger to his lips. "Ssh, I'm not supposed to
"I'd say you've already been interfering," Eneas
"But how did you know?" Theo asked.
"The Ancients are allergic to dark matter," Skender
"'M not an Ancient - just an ascended human."
"Oh?" Eneas sounded impressed. "Should've
realized. Much more hands on and damn the consequences," he grinned.
"You were there on my eighteenth birthday, weren't you? At
Aunt Claire's?" Maxine asked.
Daniel frowned. "Will you shush? I'm not supposed to be
here!" Then he grinned. "Yes I was. How could I miss it?"
Maxine was suddenly serious. "They won't kick you out
again, will they? I mean, I'd love to see you for real, but it might be a bit
embarrassing for you, and heaven knows what the Warriors would make of
Daniel laughed. "Don't! They'd either think it was the
second coming or-- well, let's not dwell. Though either of those scenarios
would probably put them off kicking me out, as you so elegantly phrase it, on
Maxine looked horrified. "You mean you might get dumped
on some unknown planet like you - um like you were last time--"
"With no clothes?"
"I was going to say with no memory. That would be
Daniel gave her a gentle smile. "Don't worry, they aren't
cruel," he reassured her. "Now I'd better be off before someone
does notice. Oh, and I would keep this little jaunt strictly between the
four of you - and Ash of course. Good luck and take good care of each
With that, Daniel turned back into ethereal form and drifted
along the passageway to the outside. By this time, the process in the lab was
coming to its end. The two men reappeared on opposite podia. J collapsed but
was caught before he hit the floor. He groaned, shook his head and groaned
again. "Definitely seeing double here. What did you hit me - him -
"The stock of my Calico," Luc said sounding
"Clearly you don't know your own strength then!"
"What are we going to do with him?" Luc jerked a
thumb at Dragomir.
"We'll take care of him," Eneas said, "and no,
he won't be harmed."
"So what's our next move?" Theo asked Luc as J was,
if not incapacitated, not in a good position to think straight.
"I think we go back home. J needs treatment and I don't
think this world is the one we were supposed to come to, given it isn't as
described in the files for P4D-131."
"Given that," Maxine said, "I think this
whole mission has been a set-up from the very beginning, with the aim of
replacing one of us with a - a cuckoo in our nest. "
"I think you're spot on the money there," J said,
groaning. "If you remember, I was held up for a few moments before I came
through the 'Gate. There was a message for me. I thought it was funny at the
time, as it certainly wasn't as urgent as it appeared at first."
"That's what the Strigoi do," Skender said,
indicating the unconscious scientists. "Grab the last guy through and
collapse the wormhole so the energy pattern is stored in the memory buffer.
It's transferred to the flask when the other guy is ready. If the procedure had
been completed then, after your appearances had been exchanged, your memories
would have been duplicated and downloaded into Dragomir's brain. He would
retain all his own memories, but yours would then be suppressed leaving you
with no idea of who or what you are. Dragomir would have been sent to join your
team and, under normal circumstances, you'd be on your way to the slave market.
You must be a really special guy for them to want you dead."
"Yeah, we think he is," Luc smiled.
"You've a funny way of showing it," J growled,
rubbing his head. He turned to Skender and co., and added, "That was some
bullet to dodge and I thank you wholeheartedly."
"The memories are just suppressed?" Maxine asked.
"Not destroyed altogether?"
"No, they're still there," Skender replied.
"Removing the block isn't easy though. Unfortunately."
"We were damn' lucky you came along when you did,
then," Theo said to Eneas.
"Not luck. We've been keeping an eye on several 'Gates in
this quadrant. We got advance notice of this one."
"I'd rather not say. Don't want to compromise our
J nodded then winced. "Yeah, I get that."
"Now that we've taken control of the lab under this
'Gate," Skender said, "we aim to keep control of it, and I can work
on finding out how to release the memories of the anticatods when we find them.
I can't do anything about restoring appearances though unless I have both
people, as I did here."
Maxine gasped. "Oh. My. God.! Like Ash said, I am so
stupid sometimes and we have a very big problem..."
"What?" Theo asked.
"My sudden 'allergy' problem. Maybe I'm allergic to dark
matter too? Or Grandfather Daniel somehow makes me sneeze when I'm around dark
"So how is that a problem? More like a useful tool."
"Think about it. My sneezing seems to have a connection
with dark matter. Now, who thinks J's too straight, could have sent him that
message right on cue and makes me want to sneeze - though I didn't and thanks
for that, Grandfather."
A disembodied voice said, "You're welcome! Oops..."
"President Warren?" Luc exclaimed, stupefied.
"Yeah. I think our country's leader is one of these
"This is most likely," Eneas says. "It's the
"A silent revolution," Theo said.
"Well, I guess we just joined the contra-Bruxai,"
Luc said to Eneas, "in spirit at least."
"You are most welcome to join our fellowship."
"I don't really know what we can do against these Bruxai
though," J said ruefully.
"Information is always useful."
"I don't know how we'd contact you though. It's not like
we come and go through the Stargate at will - not yet anyway - and we don't get
much advance notice about where we're going to go next either," J sighed.
"Hopefully, there will come a time when we have a little more freedom, but
it could be a long way off."
"There is one Bruxan we know about though," Maxine
said. "King Tobias of Noucincu in Ceresc-tara on P5R-772. I think he may
have been swapped with one of our people, a Major Toby King, whose daughter
used to work with me. He looks like her father - though a lot younger
than he should."
"Sounds likely. Though it would be difficult to track him
down. He's probably been sold as a slave--" He gave a bitter sigh.
While Eneas and Skender were talking with SG-24, the rest of
their team had been carrying out the unconscious and zip-cuffed Strigoi. Toma
came running in to say they were ready and could use some more muscle - if
there was any... He stayed behind to help Skender and the rest filed out, J
leaning on Luc. The able-bodied then lent a hand with pushing the Strigoi
through the 'Gate.
As the Contra-Bruxai followed the Strigoi through the 'Gate,
Eneas said, "If you want - or need to contact us - our emblem is the last
letter. Omega. We hope to put an end to the Bruxan Empire. Some day. Mark it on
a stone and leave your message under it or nearby. If you see a 'Gate with
omega marked on the plinth, the world is one we visit and is safe. Probably. If
it has omega with a cross through it, the world belongs to the Bruxai. If it
has this sign," Eneas scratched an omega with two vertical lines down it,
"then there's a lab under it."
"And we can add an omega with a tau inside it to say our
messages are from the Tau'ri," Maxine suggested.
"Good idea. Now, I have to go, and may good luck go with
"And with you," Maxine smiled.
Luc looked at the blackened AVCOP, then waved the team away
into the trees. "It seems is totally dead. I hope so or we're going to
have a lot of 'splainin' to do. I guess that's why they shot it up at the
"To save us the awkward explanations?" Theo asked.
"I think so. They obviously know what they're doing,"
Luc said. "Now, before we return, we have to decide how we're going to
play this - get our story straight."
Maxine raised a finger. "Thinking back, that accidental
message said that Dragomir was to tell the rest - us, I think - that the
address was wrong, and to bring them - us again - back. He was to go to
GB who would give them the correct one. That would be General Bradfield,
"You think he's a Bruxan too?" Luc asked, alarmed.
"No," J said decidedly.
"I agree," Maxine said. "I've never felt the
least bit sneezy around him. But I wonder how far under their influence he
"Well, he has to go along with the way things are, or
he'll be replaced by someone more co-operative - maybe a Bruxan already in
place somewhere on Earth. He's always seemed more nominally in charge than
actually in charge - if you see what I mean?" J said.
"Yes, I do. He's a bit like Aunt Claire. Better all round
if he's there even if he can't actively do very much. His presence is a
"Yeah. Something like that."
"Focus, team," Luc said. "We have to account
for our time here, and also for our Contra-Bruxan friends. The AVCOP has to
have recorded their arrival, and there are probably people at the SGC or WPX
who'll recognize them."
"How long have we been here anyway?" Theo asked,
checking his chronometer. "Hm, just over half an hour, so not as long as
"As I see it," Luc said, "we have two choices.
Either J pretends to be our would-be cuckoo, Dragomir, - or - Eneas and
co disrupted things before Dragomir appeared here."
"Well, right now, I certainly don't feel up to pretending
to be someone I'm not," J said, "plus I've no desire to take on
Dragomir's style of leadership."
"We could say that Eneas and friends, a.k.a. the bad guys
who attacked us, forced us to go to their camp in the wood," Theo
suggested. "We didn't see anything much except people coming and going. J
got dragged into the camp unconscious a while later. He'd been knocked out
because he'd tried to play the hero. That should prevent Warren saying he
should've done more. Then they let us go."
"Why would they do that?" Luc asked.
"That is something we will never know," Maxine said.
"Not being in a position to interrogate our captors. We're just thankful
that they did."
"We didn't pose a threat to them so they sent us home.
And we've no need to mention Dragomir because we never saw him," Theo
"Actually, that could work," Maxine agreed. "It
covers all the angles I think and Dad always said that if you have to tell a
lie, deviate as little as possible from the truth."
"Oh yes, I can just hear Uncle Rufus saying that!"
With that, SG-24 returned to the 'Gate and Luc dialed home.
General Bradfield, watching from the observation room, made
haste down to the 'Gate Room when he saw J arrive with his arm round Theo's
broad shoulder. He'd been informed, indirectly, that as the result of a typo,
SSG-24 had been sent to the wrong planet. He was concerned to see that it had
resulted in injury.
Luc cut off his bee-line towards J with Maxine acting as
"What happened, Captain?" Bradfield said, taking the
"Major Mitchell's concussed, sir. Don't know how badly--
"I see. Then take him to the infirmary straightaway, Dr.
Hunter. Everything else can wait," Bradfield said immediately, then turned
back to Luc. "How exactly did this happen?"
"We don't really know, sir. Think someone made a mistake
with the 'Gate address--"
"So I was told," Bradfield said drily.
"You were?" Luc exclaimed, looking surprised.
"May I ask who by, sir?"
"You can ask, but this time, I don't rightly know,
Captain. The erratum notification with the correct co-ordinates was on my desk
when I returned after seeing Major Mitchell off, speaking of whom...?"
"Oh. Yes sir. There was a 'Gate malfunction at the other
end and Major Mitchell hadn't arrived. I called in and was told he'd already
gone through the 'Gate. Before we had time to find out what had happened, we
got jumped by an armed gang."
"Do we know who they were?"
"No sir. They took the three of us away to their campsite
in the forest. Trees! That was our first clue that we were on the wrong planet!
At a rough guess, there were around thirty more of the gang at their camp. A
dozen or so then took off back the way we'd come and a few minutes later, a
couple of them returned dragging Major Mitchell. He was unconscious."
"Do you know how that happened?"
"I'm afraid not, though given that he declined to talk
about it when he regained covsciousness, I suspect he tried to get heroic.
Seeing what their ray guns did to our probe, I think we're lucky they just
clubbed him. Or whatever."
"Quite. Do we know what this gang was up to?"
"No idea, sir. I guess we walked in on whatever it was
they were doing."
"I see," Bradfield said not looking particularly
illuminated by Luc's tale. "Well, at least you're all back in one
"Yes sir. Permission to go check on our leader?" Luc
said, wanting to avoid answering further questions on the fly.
"Permission granted," the general said with a smile.
"Nice bull-shitting, Luc," Maxine muttered as they
made their way up to the infirmary, "but don't overdo the embellishments.
The other two won't know exactly what you said."
"Good point. More of your father's advice."
Maxine grinned. "What else?"
When they arrived in the infirmary, they found Dr. Timmy Flint
ministering to J, which was a relief. The SGC was fortunate in that they had
one of the few remaining fully functioning body scanners, and she was prepping
him for this.
Meanwhile, Dr. Dawson's assistant, Dr. Urmston took over the
rest of the team's post-mission checks. Apparently Dr. Dawson was taking one of
his frequent half-hour breaks - in company with his good 'friend' Dr. Uisge
"At least you've got me," Urmston said smugly,
giving them full benefit of his annoying braying laughter. "Saved you from
the mongrel bitch! Haw, haw, haw, haw!"
"Excuse me?" Maxine growled, eyes sparking
dangerously. "A mongrel bitch? Well better that than a dumb ass!
Haw, haw, haaw, haaaaw!" Then she stalked out with
Luc in hot pursuit.
"Did I say something wrong?" Urmston said, looking
The debriefing, minus Major Mitchell, was very short as
General Bradfield already knew the salient features, and neither Dr. Pepperday
nor Doctor Hunter had anything more to add. Naturally. Least said, soonest
There was no summons to Washington PX. Maxine could hazard a
couple of guesses as to why. So the team went back to the infirmary to find out
how J was progressing.
The concussion was a bad one with a hairline fracture and
slight bruising to the brain, which made Luc feel very guilty. J was his
friend, for Chris'sakes. He should've had more control - should've considered
that the cranium in question didn't actually belong to the cuckoo.
Timmy was going to keep him in the infirmary for a week and was
confident that J would make a full recovery.
The bad news came the following afternoon. Theo, Luc and Maxine
had gone to check up on J's progress after lunch. He was looking fine and
responded positively to their questions. Then he dropped the bombshell.
"General Bradfield came to visit this morning. There are
going to be a couple of changes in the team for the next mission or two. One,
you're not going to like, the other Bradfield knew nothing about except that
he's been brought in from out of state."
"Who's the one we won't like?" Luc asked.
"Lt. Beck's being replaced by Captain Bachmann..."
"Probably the new mole," Maxine surmised.
"I agree," J said. "And they would hardly put
him in my team if I was there, given the history between us."
"And I thought Warren was my friend." Maxine said in
lachrymose tones, "How fickle! How very fickle!" The rest chuckled.
"My replacement is from Nevada," J continued.
"He's a Major Reuben Kellermann--"
Luc drew a sharp breath. "Oh, dear god, no..." he
whispered, raising his eyes to heaven. He closed his eyes tight shut then his
head sank to his chest.
His team mates exchanged concerned looks. There was clearly
some serious history there.