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of the Light
this could be the end of everything
R, gen. Long AU. Anubis has attacked Earth and triumphed, and the first world has become the prize of the Goa'uld. But in the rubble, the rebellion has begun. A look at SG-1 after the apocalypse, and what it takes to win back a world.
“No wonder these guys are always cranky,” Jack muttered to himself. He seemed to remember having said it before. A lot of what had happened ‘before’ was blending together in his mind. However, this was a sharp reminder of just how uncomfortable it was to wear a Horus guard’s uniform. Thankfully he had had help putting it on; all he had to do now was complete the mission successfully, make it back to the headquarters of the Resistance with his precious burden and then he could ditch the helmet.
“Piece of cake,” he’d said.
Yeah, right, said a voice inside his head.
Jack kept on forgetting he shouldn’t look furtive. One thing common to all guards was the fact they all knew exactly where they were going. So did he. He just had to go there like he went there every day. And it wasn’t far… just march, left, right, left, right…
He reached the rendezvous exactly on time. It was a corner, a tiny closet size room jutting off a corridor. He entered, and they were there as scheduled. ‘They’ were just another two poor sorry humans, dressed in the rough, sand coloured clothes of the farm workers. Jack thought he recognised them. Not that he could put names to faces, you understand, but he thought he remembered them from long ago. In the days of Stargate Command, when they all wore uniforms, when people addressed him as ‘Colonel.’ The man and woman standing here now might have been airmen he had known. He could barely remember, and besides it wasn’t relevant now, not at all.
“Have you got him?” Jack asked sharply.
“Yes,” the woman answered simply.
“Thank you,” Jack told them. “We appreciate this.”
“It was a pleasure to help,” she replied. “If, in the future…”
“I’ll remember you,” Jack promised. “And now, if you would…”
“Of course.” She stepped out of the way, and her companion moved forward. He reached out and Jack took his heavy burden from him. For a few horrible seconds, he felt as if he were holding a corpse. He reached under the many layers of rough coverings and grabbed a limp and lifeless hand, letting his fingers drift up to the wrist, and waited. After a few seconds, he was reassured. Under these rough blankets, there was a human being, who was still alive… just.
The couple waited to see Jack was satisfied, and then they left, walking quickly with their heads held down. Workers were not allowed here. Jack waited until they were out of sight around a corner before he made a move himself. Once again, he had to look purposeful, which was made more difficult by the fact he was carrying what looked like an enormous bundle of blankets. However, the guards always carried out their orders unquestioningly, and no-one dared question a Goa’uld giving strange orders. Jack was counting on this. He strode through the corridors, head high, marching right out into the open air. Here, he could breathe easily. Half an hour’s march brought him to the outskirts of the city and the Slave Quarter. The timid workers and the battered slaves fled at the sight of a Horus guard. Only one slave did not. She was small in stature, with blonde hair that showed signs of growing out of a very short cut. Her blue eyes shone with reflected light.
Sam Carter had been waiting for hours. For a single panicked second, she thought this was a genuine Horus guard, on the point of discovering a secret. But after a second, the ‘guard’ pressed something on the back of his neck and the helmet dissolved. “Jack!” she whispered. Once upon a time she was proud of her strict adherence to military protocol, but not any more. “Did you get him?”
Jack nodded. “Yes.”
She didn’t wait. She led him through the streets of the Slave Quarter until they reached what looked like an old, abandoned house. The windows were broken and the once-pretty garden tangled and overgrown. He had to carry his burden all the way.
The door was opened after three knocks. Jack and Sam hurried in. There was only one inside wall here. Each of the two large rooms contained perhaps ten people and a lot of assorted equipment. Anything remotely technological was collected here - old computers from before, mainly, but there were GDOs and pieces of old MALP probes, advanced gadgetry mixed with things as simple as television sets and radios, interpsersed between scavenged Goa’uld technology, nearly all of it damaged almost beyond repair.
Jack laid his burden gently on the floor. Sam hurried across and pulled away the covering, creating the impression in her mind she was unveiling a corpse. But just as Jack had realised before her, she saw that this human was alive. “It’s almost as if he’s asleep,” she said in wonderment.
“Better that way.”
“I know him. After this he won’t be sleeping easily for a while.” Off her look, Jack added, “He’s had a hard few days.
Sam mouthed the word a few times before she said it out loud. “Was he… raped?”
“I think so… yes.”
She didn’t ask how he knew. Instead, she contented herself with asking, “What can we do?”
“Leave him,” Jack said. “There’s nothing we can really do for him at the moment.” Because we have nothing, he added silently. “He’ll come out of it in a little while.”
“Was it a difficult job?” Sam asked, echoing the thoughts of others in the room. She had been more than usually worried. They had had to put their trust in so many people, and all to save just one life… Sam hated the fact she had to put a value on a life. She hated how she had to decide - who to rescue, and who to leave? But it had to be done…
“Not so bad,” said Jack, considering. “I think we pulled it off.”
“You weren’t followed or anything?” queried Sam anxiously.
A soft moan from the floor put an end to further discussion. Jack and Sam dropped to ground level. Upon seeing he was now awake, Sam asked, “What’s your name?”
“When’s your birthday?”
“Ask me tomorrow…oh, God…” This was followed by a groan. “I feel like I just did ten rounds with Teal’c!”
Sam was well informed. “I think you’ve been doped, Daniel, with some advanced drug,” she told him gently. “It’s apparently a trick they use to make humans more docile. You’re going to be narcoleptic for a while.”
Jack was stern. “This is all your own fault! If you weren’t so obsessed with trying to persuade everyone to agree with us, this would never have happened! For crying out loud!”
There was another groan, and then something that sounded suspiciously like ‘bite me’ before Daniel’s eyes closed again.
Jack and Sam exchanged glances. “I guess he’s not feeling quite himself yet…” she offered tentatively.
“Yes,” Jack said slowly. “Either that or he’s got amnesia.”
Sam didn’t quite see the logic in this, but decided to let it pass. She picked up a tangle of wiring from the floor and began playing with it aimlessly. She knew she couldn’t make it serviceable. But that didn’t stop her from trying.
Five minutes later Daniel was awake. “Hey…” Jack said.
“Jack?” Daniel said slowly.
“Daniel? You back with us?” Jack said softly. He was beginning to regret his earlier words. Even though they couldn’t help Daniel, he didn’t have to make things worse by assigning blame.
“Yeah…” Daniel said. He looked slightly dazed, but was slowly recovering as the mist lifted from his mind.
“How’d they treat you?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know…”
“Daniel.…” Jack paused, breathed in, and tried again. “Do you even know what’s happened to you?”
Daniel blinked at him.
“I don’t think they tried to kill you, or interrogate you, or whatever. I don’t think you were particularly important. They doped you. They could have done anything they wanted with you. Is that true?”
Daniel sighed. “Yes…”
Jack waited for memories to filter into Daniel’s bewildered head, and pushed his own hair out of his eyes. After spending his entire adult life in the military, he was finding it difficult to get accustomed to hair that wasn’t in a regulation crew cut. Only Daniel didn’t mind it, and as his hair had been quite long enough to begin with, it now almost touched his shoulders.
“Listen, flower baby,” Jack said. “Do you get what I’m saying?”
Daniel looked surprised for a second, and then self-consciously touching his hair, he smiled at the reference. Jack was just leaning in to say something more to him when he was distracted by a sudden hammering at the door. But it didn’t stop at the normal three knocks. It went on, and on, and on…
Everyone glanced around at everyone else. This couldn’t be a Horus guard, who would have simply blasted the door down, but who else could it be?
Suddenly the knocking stopped, to be replaced by shouting. “Let me in! I know you’re in there and I want to help!”
Sam thought she recognised the voice… and when the door was opened she wondered if she were dreaming.
Janet Frasier stood on the other side of it. As they all stared at her in shock, she took in the scene. A room lit by flickering blue and white light, many people dressed in the rough clothes of slaves, living anachronisms in a room that looked like a dumping ground for microchips. Daniel lay in the corner, possibly hurt in some way, but no-one was doing anything to help him. In the front, the obvious leaders, two friends who had once been called Colonel Jack O’Neill and Major Samantha Carter.
How had it come to this?
– – – – – –
Sam thought she knew what the doctor was thinking. Most of the time, she thought the same. But in addition to the feeling of disbelief at how far they had fallen, there were the dim flickerings of pride. The room around her, the people in it - they were her doing. They had fallen far, but they had risen. Just a little bit.
Surprisingly, Daniel spoke first. “Janet?” he said sharply, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. Sam guessed he thought this could be a dream - if her theories panned out, he had spent most of the last few days in a deep sleep.
“Daniel!” Janet responded. “What happened to you?”
“I don’t remember…”
“Daniel!” Janet’s instincts came into play. “What happened to you? What did they do to you?”
“You can’t help him,” Jack said shortly.
One look at Daniel confirmed this. Only he and his two remaining team members really knew the nature of the beast. The drug coursing through his veins was highly advanced, and designed with dishonourable intentions in mind.
Sam decided suddenly not to hide the truth from her friend. “Daniel was taken by the Jaffa, Janet,” she said. “Jack rescued him, but not until it was too late.”
“Too late? What do you mean? Why was he taken?”
“The idea is to remain as inconspicuous as possible,” Jack said, successfully avoiding the sordid details. “Unfortunately, Daniel here has never been very good at that. He has this idea we can persuade everyone that…”
“The Goa’uld are not gods,” Sam finished. “Obviously, the Jaffa heard him saying this. And so they took him. Not because they thought he was any threat, you understand. They took him to teach him a lesson. They gave him something like a date-rape drug.”
The silence that followed was loaded with unspoken words. Janet realised she had entered an organization quite as complicated as Stargate Command had been.
“Tell me, where have you all been? What have you done?” she said, struggling slightly to get the words out.
“What do you mean?” Sam asked.
“I want to know what I’ve missed,” she said, with a flicker of humour.
“All right,” Sam said slowly.
“Tell her,” Jack said briefly. The others in the room had been turning to face them, and now she could see their faces, Janet recognised many of them. They were all people from the SGC, long ago… There was Sergeant Siler, Sergeant Harriman, the man who had always shouted “Chevron Seven… locked!” and Robert Rothman, Jennifer Hailey, Lieutenant Sadurfield, the Bedrosian scientist Nyan, Ferretti and his team…
There were people from every Stargate team, but Janet noticed there were no complete teams. Even SG-1, the flagship team, were missing a member.
“It began,” said Sam slowly, “on the fourteenth of September.”
There was a blank silence. Not one of them knew what date it was, and not many knew what month it was. Time was measured by days and nights, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the seasons. There was no need for anything else. After a point, everything began to blend together, past, present and future all becoming one, the monotonous, never-ending life of a slave.
“It began with Anubis and his arrival on Earth,” Sam said, and this time there were nods of agreement. Jack grimaced at the sound of the name.
“He found us an easy target,” Sam continued, ignoring this completely. “However, I don’t think the Goa’uld quite realised what they could do with this world before now. For the first time, they’ve realised the benefits of combining our technology with what they already have. So, our cities have become their cities. This place used to be someone’s house. Someone used to live here, in Colorado Springs, in this house.”
“And he or she is either a host, a slave, or dead by now,” Jack cut in.
“In one way, we were lucky…” Sam mused, almost talking to herself.
“Lucky?” Janet demanded. “How were we lucky?”
“It was Anubis,” Sam said. “Anubis doesn’t know us.”
“You have to know someone before you invade them,” the general put in. He barely spoke nowadays, and besides, military regulations had gone out of the window. Sam and Jack were the leaders, not by rank, but by force of personality alone.
“I didn’t mean Earth in general,” Sam explained. “I meant us, the Stargate teams and the SGC. If Apophis had attacked us, he would have known to capture us first and get information from us by making us hosts. Anubis has been in exile for so long, he doesn’t know us and what we’ve done in the past.”
“So he made us slaves,” Jack said. “Figures.”
“Some people were made hosts,” Sam reminded him. “But you’re right, most people are slaves. And again, we’re lucky.”
“How? How are we lucky?” Jack demanded. “Stop saying that!”
Again, Sam ignored him. “The Goa’uld claim they are gods. And almost everyone on Earth believes them. They have seen what they can do and they think it could be magic. And the most enquiring minds have been stifled - the Goa’uld were quick to make them hosts.”
“Almost everyone?” Janet repeated.
“Everyone except us,” Sam said sadly. “The people who were once part of Stargate Command. Only we know what the Goa’uld really are, and only we know they can be defeated. The other slaves fear them so much, they’re tractable and timid and do exactly as they’re ordered without realising how little supervision they actually receive.”
“But what can we do?” Janet asked.
“Alone, not very much,” Sam said honestly. “But I plan to change that. I’ve planned it since I met Colonel O’Neill. I’ll tell you about it.”
– – – – – –
On a warm, starry night, the Goa’uld had come to Earth. Anubis had taken over Cheyenne Mountain more easily than even he expected. The SGC tried to fight, but the Jaffa were only emboldened by their slaughter of every human being in NORAD, and they had stridden through, killing everything in their path. The SGC was scarred with energy blasts and littered with corpses when the survivors realised this was a fight they could not win. Climbing the ladders to the surface, they scattered into the night.
When morning came, the Jaffa were already rounding up the humans. The days of human technology were over. Because of the knowledge of Osiris’ host, the Goa’uld knew what to do to utterly disable humans. All over the planet, supplies of electricity began to fail. The Goa’uld could sense the naquadah from the Stargate - they knew where was the best place to rule from. The mothership was firmly ensconced on the mountain, and its human inhabitants were thrown to the wolves.
They were farm slaves, made to work on the land. Even gods needed to eat. The town of Colorado Springs was transformed into a base for the lesser Goa’ulds, Osiris and Nefertuum. They and their Jaffa tyrannised the human slaves. Or so they thought.
The Resistance was born out of a chance meeting, one sunny morning not long after the fall of Earth.
The city had once been a thriving modern American city. But where there had been steel, glass and concrete, there was stone and bronze and gold. In places, the human architecture showed through the Goa’uld veneer, and the resulting combination was oddly grotesque. Where people had rushed through the streets, slaves plodded along on their way. Where there had been happiness, there was despair, where there had been people looking to their future, there were slaves looking at the ground, and where there had been rebellion, it had been crushed.
She was just another slave, dressed in a curious mixture of green fatigues and a rough sand coloured cape, thrown at her by passing Jaffa who knew how long ago. She looked at the ground like they all did, staring at her own bare feet and clutching at the fruit basket she held. The Goa’uld had taken everything from her. The Goa’uld were gods. The Goa’uld were…
He was another slave. He was unimportant. He was just another slave. He was…
For a moment, Sam felt bitterly ashamed of herself. She was a soldier. She wasn’t supposed to get almost tearful at the simple sight of a friendly face.
“Oh, God, Carter…” He led her away from the main street, away from the people and the noise, to what would have been called a blind alley were this still a human city.
“Where have you been?” they asked simultaneously. Sam laughed. It had been a long time since she’d laughed.
“Looking for you,” he said seriously.
“Sir?” she said carefully. “What can we do?”
It was a loaded question. What could they do, now, later, today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year? For mere slaves to become rebels, there was so much to be done, so many choices to be made.
“We can do our best,” he replied. “Come with me…”
They left. The slaves had masters, but neither of them were missed. With an entire world rich with slaves, no Goa’uld master missed one or two. After some time, Sam knew they had begun to rise again.
Daniel appeared on the third day. He was breathless and ragged and looked like he was in pain, but he refused to say where he’d been. He only said he had seen Jack in the street, and followed him. The Jaffa did not even think to watch for rebels. Humans could not rebel. Humans were slaves and vessels, nothing more. They could never rise against their gods. So Daniel said, and Sam trusted him.
And it began from there. Daniel’s sense of whimsy remained as irrepressible as ever, and he gave the operation its name - the Resistance. Jack always felt it reminded him of World War One, or perhaps the French Revolution, but he was at a loss to explain why. He was asked to explain it many times, as the three humans began a search for the survivors of the massacre in Stargate Command. Day by day, the Resistance grew.
Sam tried to make plans. She wondered how on Earth they could reclaim the world. She only knew that they needed everything they could get, so she sent out search parties, searching for people they knew, for what technology was left, for what they could scavenge from the Goa’uld. Mostly, they were sent for food. Slaves without masters were not fed, and yet many people hid here on a permanent basis. It would seem that freedom and starvation tasted better than slavery. Sam never felt she had enough food, but she knew the risks that were taken every day by the scavengers, and she tried not to complain.
Daniel was sure the quest for freedom should not be limited to the remnants of Stargate Command. While Sam agreed with this in principle, she knew better than her idealistic friend when it came to preaching freedom to slaves. Daniel tried his best. But no mere human slave could ever believe the Goa’uld were anything less than gods. Daniel’s eloquence and utter disregard for his own safety had finally got him captured. Jack had rescued him from the Jaffa, with some inside help, but he feared he couldn’t pull off the trick again.
– – – – – –
“But I don’t understand,” Janet said at this point. “Well, I do… you’re gathering together people and technology here… but what’s the plan?”
“Up until now, there hasn’t been a plan,” Sam answered. “Our original idea was just to gather together as many people as we could, and by that I mean the people we knew in the SGC, because they’re the only ones who could possibly help us defeat the Goa’uld.”
“I understand that,” Janet replied. “But after that?”
“We’ve been gathering together everything we can get our hands on for quite some time. We’ve also got many more people… Jack and I used to go hunting for them, and every time we found someone, we’d bring them back here. But now, I feel I’ve made some breakthroughs. I think we may have a chance to save ourselves.”
Janet said, “I’m not trying to play down what you’ve done, Sam - honestly, I think this is amazing given the circumstances.”
“It’s not that bad,” Sam said. “There are so many slaves, the Goa’uld don’t miss the ones who aren’t there. We’ve been relying on that. Sorry… you were saying?”
“It’s just…” Janet began. “There are so few of us, and we’re trying to win back the whole world. It just seems… impossible.”
“I thought so,” Sam said. “But I try not to think that. Neither does Daniel, for that matter.”
Daniel was deeply asleep again. Janet wished, not for the first time, for her clean, orderly infirmary, her nurses, her equipment. Sam saw her looking at him, and whispered, “Nothing we can do.”
“Doc!” It was Jack, calling to her from the other side of the room. “Where have you been?”
“I have been a wheat-thresher,” Janet declared. “You’d think, with all their advanced technology, the Goa’uld would think up a better way than humans to thresh wheat! Anyway, yesterday, I saw Lieutenant Hailey in the Slave Quarter, but it was from a distance so she didn’t see me. I saw her come in this direction. So early this morning, I gave the Jaffa the slip and came here, hoping to find her again and maybe even some of you. I wasn’t sure exactly where you were, so I just looked everywhere. I was just about to give up, when I saw Colonel O’Neill come to this door, carrying Daniel. So I followed.”
Hailey had heard her name; she came over to see the petite doctor. “I’m glad you saw me, Doctor,” she said seriously.
Janet looked like she agreed with her.
There came the habitual three knocks at the door, and Hailey grinned. “That’s what you were meant to do, Doctor.”
Janet smiled - and when the door was opened, the smile became something more.
Cassandra stopped dead. She had been on an errand, specifically, to steal some fruit from a Goa’uld orchard harvest. She had a full basket of fruit, which promptly went flying into the air. “Mom?”
Sam watched the reunion with a smile of her own. She had been waiting for this moment. And as she looked on, she was reminded of what they were planning. They might no longer have what they once had, but they were still the same people, with the same responsibility. Somehow, they must continue to save the world.
– – – – – –
An Indian summer became a brief, chilling autumn, which became a bitterly cold winter. It was strange, Sam thought, how easily they had come to take things for granted. Things like heating systems and hot water, warm clothes and snow boots, even simple things like hot coffee with milk and sugar. In a derelict house in a broken world, the small Resistance shivered their way through their strange hard lives. There was no longer any embarrassment in huddling together to keep warm. It was a matter of survival. Jack and his teams of scavengers kept their heads down in the driving snow, returning with scraps of food and startling scraps of information. Osiris and Nefertuum and their Jaffa were scouring the streets of the snowed-under city, rigorously correcting mistakes made in the past. Slaves were regimented, accounted for, and housed in barracks now. At least the slaves were fed, Sam found herself thinking, and their fingers and toes weren’t turning blue from the cold…
Stop that! her inner voice told her. Don’t think like that.
But it was hard, sometimes, and harder at other times. If they only turned themselves in, they wouldn’t die from cold. But her inner voice persisted in telling her how lucky she was, how lucky they all were, to have made their plans when security was still lax. They were lucky that no Jaffa ever came here. They were lucky in so many ways.
But it was hard to look on the bright side when the wind howled and she could hear the cracking as the snow piled up on the roof. It was especially hard when she saw Daniel, still curled up in his corner, rarely awake and alert. His habitual state was a deep sleep, punctuated with strange strangled sobs and cries from dreams of his sketchily remembered rape. It was hard to see Janet watching him and many others, longing to help and to heal as she should be able to do, but knowing she could do nothing whilst they had nothing. She could only reassure with words alone. Sam could only plan, and with no paper, no pens or pencils, she used a large piece of rock chalk to draw on the walls. Sometimes the whole room would be filled with plans and ideas, mathematical equations, drawings and doodles, all aimed at tackling the apparently insurmountable problem. How could they, so few and so helpless, overthrow the Goa’uld and take back their world?
And what would be left of their world? And what would be left of the people? After all this, could they really find it in themselves to carry on?
The wind howled and the driving snow found its way into Jack’s eyes and ears and mouth and nose. He was shivering so much he could hardly stand up straight. But he entered the dwelling of the Resistance in a vaguely triumphant mood; he and his scavengers had made a fairly good haul. It only took one inattentive Jaffa for a whole shipment of food to disappear. The Goa’uld had had to terraform the landscape to make it suitable for farming, and yet with all this technology their harvests still went astray! But the more food they stored for winter, the more chance the scavengers had to take it, and they took it with a vengeance.
But Jack’s cheerfulness was short-lived. The food was eagerly received, but Jack had forgotten for a short while that he wasn’t in Kansas any more. There was no such thing as a dry set of clothes here; he had to shiver and wait for his clothes to dry, and the good mood disappeared like a soap bubble. He found a corner to huddle in, and waited impatiently, snapping at anyone who said a word to him. It was only after a minute or two that he realised the corner he had chosen was already occupied.
Daniel opened his eyes when he sensed Jack was watching him. “Go away,” he said sleepily.
Jack stared at him, and felt something rise within him, something hot, choking, blinding. Anger. He was angry suddenly, angry with the whole world, the whole world that no longer belonged to its offspring, he was angry with the Goa’uld, with the weather, with his lack of dry clothes, and most of all, he was angry that his corner was occupied by someone who was dry if nothing else.
“Daniel,” he snarled, “I don’t think you’re the one who’s been freezing his butt off for six hours in the snow to get food for us all. I think that’s me. And you know what else, Daniel? I think that while I have been outside freezing to death, you have been in here being such a fucking drama queen that you’d gladly let me freeze so you can carry on sleeping whatever-it-is off, when we know it wore off weeks ago and you’re milking it for everything it’s worth! Get over it, Daniel! Get over yourself!”
Daniel rolled over. He stared straight at Jack, his blue eyes burning with a feverish light that made Jack want to look away, but he didn’t dare. It lasted perhaps a minute, before Daniel’s eyes closed and he was asleep again. Jack drew his breath in sharply, and then shuffled away, looking at the ground. He didn’t say a word.
Sam had been watching this silently, impassively. Sam never cried. She hadn’t cried, not the day her world was destroyed, not when she first began to realise she might never see her family again, not on the day Daniel disappeared, not when the first snow began to fall and the Resistance began to freeze.
She was crying now, but no-one noticed.
But even the worst of winters must turn into spring. Day by day, the snow began to melt. The sun shone again. The seized-up Goa’uld city began to return to its former self. The regimented slaves were sent back to work on the farms, and Jack’s scavengers reported rich hauls, of not only food but technology too. And this time, Cassandra managed to talk Jack into letting her help. Jack soon discovered the benefits of having a pretty fifteen-year-old girl with him. More and more Jaffa were distracted, and when they turned round, they found their food was gone, or else something else, like a zat gun, and Anubis forbid it, an energy staff. It was almost a game, seeing how much trouble they could get the Jaffa into and how much they could plunder. But the one thing they had not so far got hold of was a Goa’uld healing device. Sam wanted one; knowing she could heal people made her feel better about their situation, and Janet wanted one because she still felt helpless as a doctor.
In the corner, Daniel’s sobs quieted themselves as he withdrew into himself, giving in to the forces sweeping him away. He dwelt somewhere where no-one could touch him, and he was happier there.
One fine day in early March, things began to look up. Sam Carter stood up in front of an audience to describe her plan.
– – – – – –
“Attention!” Jack roared. “Who’ve we got?”
It was a varied selection. Sam’s plan required the brightest and best, so Jack had assumed command of the mission, but his followers were a somewhat motley crew. He had refused to allow Sam herself to come, claiming she was too valuable to risk, and he had hand-picked his people whilst steadfastly ignoring her. Finally, there were four of them - Jack himself, Daniel’s research assistant Nyan, Jennifer Hailey, who had been a lot less opinionated lately, and surprisingly enough, one of Hailey’s companions-in-training, Lieutenant Sadurfield.
“Do you need anything else?” Sam asked, eyeing them carefully. They had all the weapons the scavengers had ever found, but that wasn’t much. It was all Goa’uld weaponry, mostly old zats and one rather decrepit looking energy staff.
“No, I don’t think so…” Jack said thoughtfully. “Oh, some snacks if you’ve got them?” He was being sarcastic, so he was somewhat dismayed when Sam’s eyes lit up. “Wait here,” she said excitedly, and disappeared.
Jack, trying not to look embarrassed, glanced around, and his eyes landed on a familiar face. He was suddenly reminded of something important. “Daniel,” he said slowly, “I think you should come with us.”
“Why?” Daniel asked sharply.
“You’ve been there before,” Jack said blandly.
“So have we all!” Daniel was emphatic and defensive, but Jack could see through it to the fear underneath. Jack felt strangely impatient. Gone was the choking anger he had once aimed at Daniel; it had been replaced by indifference and impatience.
“You’ve been there… after,” Jack persisted.
“So you’ll know the territory. Plus you’re used to working with me…”
Daniel shook his head. “No. Forget it.”
“Daniel…” Jack’s voice took on a mock-pleading note. “I realise what happened to you, but could you forget it for just one second, and remember what’s at stake here?”
“What happened to me?” Daniel repeated. “I can’t forget it… just as you can’t spell it out!”
Sam entered at this point and was startled by the tension in the atmosphere. Without stopping to inquire about it, she moved forwards with something in her hands. Jack was startled when she handed him two apples. “It’s all we’ve got to spare,” she said. “Enjoy!”
“Thanks,” he said, and as he said it, silence fell. The mood had been broken by the surprising appearance of the fruit, but it was suddenly back in full force. The absolute hush; the enormity of what they were setting out to do; the unspoken thought - what it they failed? And there was Daniel - angry and defensive and so badly hurt.
Jack shook himself mentally. They had a job to do. He hated himself for how he’d treated Daniel - he’d accused him of cowardice, and his conscience spared no time in reminding him the catatonic state Daniel had been in when Jack had found him.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Jack gathered his team together and they left.
Sam watched them go. Daniel stood beside her, shaking, but even as she turned to him, she thought of the wild, reckless thing they were attempting to do, and she knew whose fault it would be if the plan failed. As the team disappeared into the crowds, the pair of scientists returned to what Jack called Auschwitz, and the rest of them called headquarters.
Sam returned to her plans on the wall, and then stopped, suddenly realising she couldn’t plan any more. The plan was in motion. She was not, sitting here and rocking back and forth, deep in thought. Janet looked at her in concern, but said nothing. She looked at Daniel with even more concern, watching him sit there, shaking.
Daniel was shaking with anger, although no-one was to know that. He hated Jack for even suggesting he go with them, he hated them for going at all, he hated, he hated…
His memories had faded to the point where he no longer cried out in his sleep, but it was the Goa’uld drug that kept him as docile as he was now. When he finally woke up properly, he promised himself he would change it all. He could remember the eager look of the Jaffa, advancing on him, he could remember their laughter mingling with his screams…
He could remember the moment where he learnt how to cope. And as he slowly came to himself, still drugged, still hurt, still helpless, hatred surged through the core of his being. It was his life-blood, it was keeping him alive, it carried him through frenzied nightmares and suicidal dreams. Running from the demons, Daniel had learnt how to hate.
Janet was watching Daniel without him knowing, watching him carefully on this early spring night. Sam was her primary concern, as the one-time astrophysicist was so worried she looked positively ill. Daniel was just … Daniel. He was always like this, pale and withdrawn and deeply resentful of any interference in his misery. But tonight, Janet noticed she couldn’t look into his eyes. They were burning with the light she recognised as feverish, burning with such intensity she had to turn away. She was almost relieved when the archaeologist sank into sleep as night fell. Strange… she could remember a time when she had chided him for keeping such unearthly hours. Ever since the forcible administration of the Goa’uld drug, he was sleeping most of the time. The drug was wearing off, Janet knew, but it was taking weeks and months, not the hours of conventional, terrestrial date-rape drugs.
She left him after a while. She was worried about him and horrified at what had happened to him, but people grow more selfish in a post-apocalyptic world. She left Daniel to talk to Sam as the long night wore on. The Resistance slept; soon the doctor and the astrophysicist were the only ones left awake. By flickering blue light, they sat and whispered in a corner. Janet had come to try and persuade Sam to sleep, but she realised quickly that it was a lost cause.
“Janet,” Sam said suddenly after a pause. “If they die… it’ll be all my fault.”
“If they die,” said Janet steadfastly, “it will be the fault of the Goa’uld. You didn’t invade Earth, Sam.”
Sam smiled briefly at the mental image those words conjured up, but she was soon back in her morose state. “Janet, I came up with this plan. It’s impossible, it’ll never work, we’ll all be discovered and then what will we do?”
“Colonel O’Neill believed in it. Colonel O’Neill believes in you. It will work, Sam. It will work.” Janet spoke slowly, emphasising each word.
“What if it doesn’t? What will we do?” Sam was getting more distressed by the moment.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Janet firmly. She wondered for a moment what they would do, but crushed the thought. Now was not the time.
“I don’t know…” Sam said, becoming reflective. “Everyone always thinks I’ll come up with a plan, it will all be fine, Sam has a plan. But they don’t know how much help I had in the SGC, how I had every piece of technology ever invented to help me, and even the sometimes I couldn’t think of anything! Remember Antarctica? It was Daniel who saved us then, Daniel; if it was left to me Colonel O’Neill would have died!
“And then it was me who wanted to open the orb that almost killed Colonel O’Neill another time! I could have destroyed everything that time…”
“Sam!” Janet was sharp. “Stop doubting yourself. I don’t doubt you, and can I assume you trust me?”
Sam paused, and nodded.
“Besides, you’ll become hysterical if you carry on like this,” Janet continued.
“Once a doctor, forever a doctor?” Sam said, smiling a little.
“Yes,” said Janet smoothly. “Exactly. I’m the doctor here. And I say you should get some sleep.”
“I can’t, Janet! Not until they get back!”
“But if the plan works, they won’t come back, will they?” Janet asked.
“So go to sleep!”
Sam nodded wearily. Though her mind was working feverishly as always, she was exhausted in body and didn’t feel up to arguing with the doctor.
Janet waited for Sam’s eyes to close, and settled down herself. It was amazing, she reflected, how quickly human beings adapted. Some months before, she would have recoiled at the thought of sleeping on a hard floor. But thanks to the wonderful capacity for change her species possessed, she was soon sleeping deeply. Beside her Sam slept too, not so deeply, but at least she was asleep.
Daniel’s eyes snapped open. Something was about to happen. Rolling over, he stood up and looked around. In the flickering blue light of the room, he could just make out what looked like bodies, draped over chairs and spreadeagled on the floor. Daniel knew they were not dead, merely sleeping, and not one stirred as the archaeologist padded silently to the door. His movements were as deliberate and precise as a cat’s. Daniel had spent the last few weeks and months eating and drinking no more than what was needed to keep him alive. Hunger had sharpened his faculties and slowed down his thoughts until he saw the world in utmost clarity. Now more than ever, he knew what he had to do.
As he closed the door behind him, a brief blast of cold air permeated the room, and a few people stirred and some said a few words in their sleep. But the air settled within minutes, as did the sleeping people. No-one knew Daniel had gone. No-one cared.
– – – – – –
Jack had made this journey three times before. The first time, the time he could barely remember, had been the night Anubis came. Deep in the mountain, he had stood and fought, and then he had cut and run. He supposed he had Daniel to thank for that. The civilian had none of the Custer’s-last-stand military mentality - in other words, he knew when there was no chance of winning a fight. Thanks to him, a lot of people had escaped with their lives that night, climbing up the long ladders to the surface. They had scattered into the wild country, guided only by the lights of the town of Colorado Springs. But they were not guiding lights; once the humans had reached the town, they had immediately been rounded up by the Jaffa. In the meantime, the Jaffa had thoroughly disabled the small city. It had been reduced to a barren landscape which the Goa’uld had quickly augmented with their own technology. It would soon be the habitual ornate gold Ancient-Egyptian-style stereotypical Goa’uld city. Daniel might be pleased… finally, the chance to study one close up!
Jack stopped there. He didn’t want to think of Daniel. He didn’t need him, he especially didn’t need the choking feeling of guilt… And of course, that led him straight into thinking about Teal’c. Teal’c’s death had been so sudden, so unexpected, so shocking. On his second visit to the mountain, to rescue Daniel, he had looked around, wondering in morbid fashion just what had happened to the former First Prime’s body. Of course, he thought to himself, the Goa’uld would never leave the bodies of vermin lying around, and there must be such a thing as Goa’uld domestic staff…
The mountain had looked a lot different anyway. Just like the human town above ground, it was slowly turning into a Goa’uld stronghold. The harsh, utilitarian military interior of Stargate Command and NORAD was being replaced by the typical ornate gold of the Goa’uld. Teal’c was gone. He tried not to think of it any more.
Just as he tried not to think of Daniel any more. Though Daniel wasn’t dead… Jack tried not to touch on the subject. He wasn’t proud of how he’d tried to ignore his friend. Jack knew Daniel needed help. But he didn’t know how to give it, not any more, not now when the world was in chaos. Daniel needed so much more than what they could give.
Jack decided then and there to stop thinking and look around him. His team were in good shape so far. Nyan was next to him, and Jack noticed how the young scientist was constantly distracted by everything around him, not in a childish way, but in a calculating way, as if he were mentally evaluating and analysing and cross-referencing everything he saw. Jack always had to remind himself that Nyan was an adult - at least, they had no idea how old he was in Earth years, but on Bedrosia he had been old enough to call himself a scientist. Nyan had been an unusual asset to Stargate Command, but a valuable one - he had learnt how to think scientifically in an utterly alien environment, and so could be counted on to lend a new perspective to a problem. And then, he was young and enthusiastic and so eager to learn, that he reminded Jack of…
He wasn’t thinking about it. Sighing, he turned to look behind him.
Behind Jack and Nyan came the other two, Sadurfield - strange, he could never remember her first name - and Jennifer Hailey. They were holding up exactly as he’d expected them to. Sadurfield was setting the pace for herself and Hailey, who was looking pale but determined. Come to think of it, Jack thought, Hailey was always looking pale and determined.
It was a long trek, and it had to be made under cover of darkness. In front of them, the mountain loomed, with its strange new adornment - the mothership that had landed all those months before. The ship glowed with light, but it did nothing but make the darkness show up better. Jack knew in his mind that he was making a journey he had made many times before, but his subconscious persisted in telling him he was walking straight into danger. Which was true, in a way, but not what he need to hear. They were walking from the town of Colorado Springs to Cheyenne Mountain through darkness and trees. Lots of trees. They might as well not be on Earth, Jack decided.
The darkness was pressing, and all they had for light was lanterns. The trees were enclosing and oddly claustrophobic - Jack shook himself at the thought. If mere claustrophobia bothered him now, the rest of the mission was unthinkable. He ran over the details in his head one more time, all the time silently thanking the powers that be that they still had Carter. Her plan could save the world, if only he, Jack O’Neill, managed to pull it off.
Several hours of pressing darkness later, they were nearing their destination. In the silence, Jack held up a hand and bid his team to stop. It was dangerous here, so close to Anubis’ home on Earth. They were in a clearing that Jack remembered.
“How are we getting in?” Nyan asked, his voice low in the darkness.
“Down through these,” Jack said. “Remember when the black hole… oh, no, you weren’t here, were you? These lead right down into the SGC…”
“We remember them!” said Hailey with a touch of humour, speaking for herself and Sadurfield.
Jack was standing in front of the manhole-type cover that hid the long ladders that led the way down. Sifting through his memory, he entered the codes, remembering with more ease the fact that if the codes were wrong, poison gas would come spewing out.
“Damn military efficiency!” he muttered to himself as he entered the last digits.
“Jack?” Nyan said, looking surprised.
“Nothing…” Jack said, and just as he was getting worried, the cover opened. He tried to look as if he had never doubted it, and then turned to face his team.
“You all know the plan,” he said seriously. “I’ve warned you before and I’m doing it again - the place looks very different. No matter what I say, it won’t prepare you for the difference. The basic geography is the same, it’s just the feel of it that’s different, and you must not let yourself comment on it in any way whatsoever. You are slaves who have been here every day of your working lives. Do you understand?”
There were three murmurs of assent. Since the fall of Earth, the phrase “Yes, sir!” had become redundant. No-one cared enough.
“You also know how the Goa’uld treat their slaves. If you keep your heads down and look like you’ve got a place to go and job to do, you should be okay. Unfortunately, there is a risk involved - a Jaffa or even a Goa’uld may stop you and order you to do something. If that happens, you must go and do whatever you were asked without a word. We’ll do out best to come back for you, but the success of the mission is all-important. Never forget, we’re trying to save the world.”
“We’re not likely to forget,” murmured Nyan, his civilian side showing. Jack was reminded of someone he didn’t want to think about, and he tried to shrug it off, saying acidly, “Quite so. Any questions so far?”
The trio shook their heads and murmured, “No.”
“Good. Now once we’re down there, we’re going by my memories of the place as it is now, and it’s all a bit sketchy. I didn’t actually get all the way down to Level 28, as it happens - the Jaffa keep their prisoners several levels above that.”
“Just to interrupt for a moment - why were you here before?” Nyan asked. He wasn’t quite au fait with events yet, having only discovered the existence of the Resistance during the winter.
“Rescuing Daniel,” Jack said shortly.
“How did you do that alone?” asked Nyan. In the darkness, he couldn’t see how his questions were affecting the team leader.
“We have some contacts inside,” Jack explained hurriedly. “They couldn’t help us this time, not in a job of this magnitude. What I did here the last time is not the point. It’s your job to focus on today, do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes,” said Nyan dispassionately.
“That’s good. Now according to our sources, the only room in the SGC that is just as we left it is the control room, which is good for us. Now, once we’re close enough to it, we’ll split up. You three are going to aim for the control room. I don’t think it will be very heavily guarded, because they’re not expecting any attacks on it. So the moment you three get in there, get on with your job - Hailey, you know the address you need to enter into the computers?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good. So, while you’re doing that, I will be in the doorway of the Gate room. The first moment I can, I’ll aim for the Gate. Now, it’s quite possible that the Jaffa will manage to surround the control room while you’re still in there. My advice to you - go for the glass. Fire the energy staff - who’s got that?”
A voice out of the darkness answered him: “Me.” It was Hailey.
“Right. Aim it at the glass, which will shatter onto everyone below it. Jump through and make use of the chaos - go straight for the Gate. I wish it could be the other way round, but I’m the only one who can do this - I have to get through that Stargate come hell or high water. Any questions?”
This time there was. “There’s one thing I’m not sure of,” said Hailey.
“Go ahead, caller.”
“Anubis has kept the Gate room as his own command centre on Earth, hasn’t he? That means it will be the most heavily guarded place of all. How are you going to get from the blast doors to the Gate without the Jaffa stopping you?”
“Firstly, I very much doubt Anubis will be there,” Jack said. “He’s a system lord, things to do, people to see, and he does have more than one mothership. I rather think the one on top of the mountain is a permanent fixture. If any Goa’uld does have its snaky ass on the throne, I’m guessing it will be Osiris. Not Nefertuum, as according to Carter he was last seen heading off to Europe… no, I mean it,” he added off their looks. “The Goa’uld have got the whole planet to watch over.”
“Nefertuum,” Nyan said slowly. For him, the name would always have religious connotations. Unlike the people of Earth, who had revealed the Goa’uld as false gods in the dim and distant past, his people had made the discovery in the living present. It was sometimes hard for him to contemplate the destruction of his one-time god.
“And secondly?” Hailey wanted to know.
“Secondly. You said, ‘firstly,’” she reminded him.
“Ah, yes. Secondly… I’m going to run like hell.”
Hailey didn’t know whether to smile or not. She took her place among the rest as they began to descend the ladders. “We’ll come out on level 19,” Jack hissed as they made their way down. “Keep your heads down!”
The team emerged several minutes later on level 19, into an almost deserted corridor.
“Out with the secret weapons,” Jack hissed. The team all whipped out empty fruit baskets from under the cloaks they wore. Hailey felt almost relieved; she suspected the others felt the same. It might not seem like much, but holding the baskets gave them a legitimate reason for being here. They were genuine slaves with a definite purpose and place to go. That was the idea, at least. They walked swiftly along the corridor, two abreast, swinging the baskets. They met assorted Jaffa along the way, as well as fellow slaves, but not one gave them a second glance. Jack began to be almost hopeful.
The control room was guarded by a team of Jaffa. The moment Jack saw them, he ushered his team straight past them into the corridor leading away from it. Once they reached a deserted portion of it, they all turned to face each other.
“Thought you said it wouldn’t be guarded!” Hailey snapped in a sibilant whisper.
“Shut up!” Jack snapped back. “Nyan?”
“Yes?” Nyan whispered in reply.
“You worked with Daniel… do you remember any of the Goa’uld language?” Jack asked this with bad grace. Being forced first to think of Daniel and then to rely on something other than ‘damn military efficiency’ was not doing wonders for his state of mind.
“I remember a little,” Nyan said. “Why?”
“Oh, yes, I could do with a tutorial.” Off his blank look, Jack snapped, “What do you think? Get back there, give the Jaffa some message and get them all off running errands! Go!”
Nyan acquiesced calmly. He had never been particularly affected by Colonel O’Neill, although he had wondered in the past just what Daniel saw in him. Walking with a calculated lethargy, characteristic of any slave, he went back to the entrance of the control room. As he stopped and faced them, the attention of the Jaffa was on him. “Jaffa, kree!” he said calmly.
“How did I know he was going to say that?” Jack muttered to himself around the corner. He, Hailey and Sadurfield were hiding a little way along, to see but not to be seen.
After the predictable opening, Nyan’s voice dropped so the listeners could not make out any words. They could, however, hear that his tone was perfectly calm, almost aloof, and Jack made a mental note to commend him for it. He was regretting his earlier sarcasm.
Nyan’s voice rose in time for them to hear the word, “Kree!” again, and to Jack’s astonishment, the four Jaffa marched off down the corridor. They were used to receiving slave messengers and went to do as they were bid.
“How did you do that?” Hailey demanded as they caught up with him. “What did you say to them?”
“I told them Osiris wanted to see them, and they’d better hurry up and see what she wanted,” said Nyan reflectively.
“You what?” Jack exclaimed. “Really, what did you say?”
“That is what I said,” Nyan protested. “I simply said she was waiting and they’d better hurry if they didn’t want to face her wrath.”
Jack shook his head in disbelief. “They’ll be back,” he said. “The moment they find Osiris, wherever she is, they’ll know. Therefore, we’d better get a move on… Hailey, Nyan, you know what to do? Sadurfield, you’re with me.”
They all nodded, and Nyan and Hailey entered the control room. It was just as they remembered it. The dialling computers were ready and waiting under the pane of glass. “They must have left it here because they don’t have a DHD,” said Hailey shrewdly. “If they want to use our Gate, they have to use it on our terms.”
Nyan privately doubted this, but he said nothing and moved forward to sit at a computer. He looked down on the keys suspiciously.
“I’ll show you,” said Hailey. “Here, this is what you do… oh, crap.”
“You need a code!” Hailey exclaimed, typing frantically. Every time she pressed a key, the computer spat out a ‘Unauthorised command code’ message at her. “There’s got to be some way,” she muttered to herself. “There’s got to be, otherwise the Goa’uld wouldn’t be using the Gate… they must have cracked it in some way…”
As she was talking, she was hurriedly trying every trick she knew, knowing all the while they wouldn’t work. When it had been in operation, and even now, this had been the most secure computer system known to man.
“Quickly!” Nyan urged her. “The Jaffa may be on their way back even now!”
“I don’t know how!” Hailey said desperately. “I’m not Major Carter!”
Nyan chose to ignore that remark, and standing up, ran out into the corridor. “Nyan!” Hailey yelled the moment he had gone, but when he didn’t reply she didn’t go after him, continuing to tap furiously at the keys.
“Colonel O’Neill! Jack!”
Jack turned. “Nyan! What the hell’s wrong with you? Didn’t I tell you what you had to do?”
“No time,” Nyan said breathlessly. He’d gone some distance from the control room, and the Jaffa must be on their way. “I need your command codes for the dialling computer.”
Jack swore under his breath. “Why didn’t we think of that? Nyan, the code’s too long, you’ll never remember it - I’ll have to come back with you.”
“You can’t do that!” Nyan told him. “We might make it back, but you’d never get out to the Gate in time.”
There was a pause…
“Give me half of it to remember, and give Nyan the other half,” Sadurfield suggested suddenly. Jack glanced at her. “You deserve a promotion,” he told her. “Listen…”
He rattled off a string of numbers. After several repetitions, she said she’d got them. A minute later, Nyan had his half memorised, and the duo ran off in the direction of the control room. Hailey was waiting for them. “Nyan!” she began, but once again, Nyan said, “No time! We have a command code… listen…”
In turn, they recited their numbers. Hailey entered them in as fast as she knew how, and pressed enter. The computer whirred as it processed them.
“Yes!” Hailey exclaimed, and went straight to the dialling sequence. She had studied the seven symbols until she knew them better than Earth’s address. One by one, the computer accepted the chevrons and down in the Gate room the Stargate began to spin.
Jack could hear the Gate revolving. He breathed a tiny sigh of relief - they’d got this far. Sending a telepathic thumbs-up in the direction of the control room, he entered the Gate room just in time to see the seventh chevron lock. The wormhole roared into existence.
Jack had not seen the Gate room since the Goa’uld had landed on Earth. It was both surprisingly familiar and frighteningly alien at the same time. The ramp was still there, and so was the window into the control room, but that seemed to be it. The uniform military grey was slowly being replaced by the ostentatious gold that made up the Goa’uld idea of interior decorating. At the base of the ramp were Jaffa, not humans, and they carried staff weapons, not ‘projectile weapons.’ The room reminded Jack briefly of the Stargate room on Apophis’ mothership. But there was no time to stand and think. The Jaffa in the Gate room were already marshalling into action at the sight of the Stargate activating. Jack could see above to the control room, and could see Hailey aiming her staff weapon at the glass. Time to put part B of the plan in action, and run like hell.
Jack ran. He ran blindly, trying not to think of anything but the fact he was saving the world, trying to think of nothing but the shining, shimmering wormhole that might shut down at any moment. The Jaffa had somewhat slow reaction times, especially as they were encumbered with the metal of their uniforms, but they had their staff weapons primed by the time Jack had sprinted past them. He was close enough to touch the event horizon now, just one more step, just one more step…
Jack stopped along with it. The moment he did, he knew it was a mistake, but he thought he knew that voice, harsh as it was. He turned round and he was right.
Osiris was standing there, dressed completely in white, with her cloud of blonde curls tossed gracefully over her shoulders. She had just entered the Gate room through the blast doors. With her were an entire contingent of Jaffa and…
“Daniel?” Jack shouted. “Daniel!”
“I see.” Osiris’ voice was smooth, seductive, and measured. “This is why I have so many Jaffa reporting to me today. Colonel O’Neill, I believe you know Dr. Jackson.”
She waved one lazy hand, and almost if responding to orders, the wormhole shut down. Jack watched the silvered surface disappear and felt his hopes going with it. Turning round, he realised Osiris and Daniel were standing close together. Almost as if they were one side… and he was on another…
“Daniel, did you…” Jack began, and then started again. “Daniel, what have you done? What have you done?”
“He has done nothing except come to me,” Osiris said, still smoothly. Daniel stood at her side, his blue eyes utterly expressionless. “Trust me, Colonel O’Neill, he has done nothing. It is mere… coincidence that he should choose to come here on the day you apparently have done the same.”
Involuntarily, Jack’s eyes travelled to the glass of the control room. It was still intact as far as he could see.
“Your friends are fine,” Osiris assured him, and her eyes flashed white-gold. “They are being taken care of.”
“What the hell?” Jack shouted. “Daniel… you…”
“I believe the pair of you have some unfinished business to take care of,” Osiris said smoothly, amused.
“Leave it alone, snake,” Jack told her, snarling with anger.
“I see.” The Goa’uld was always calm, always dignified. “Jaffa!”
The Jaffa turned to face her, and she snapped several sharp sentences in Goa’uld at them. For the first time in his life, Jack didn’t turn to Daniel for instant translation.
The Jaffa were trained never to look surprised. They left the room quietly. Osiris, Jack and Daniel were left on standing on the Gate ramp.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack yelled. “For God’s sake, is this the time for this?”
“I think it’s the perfect time.” It was the first time Daniel had spoken, and it was the first time Jack had ever heard such possessed fury in Daniel’s voice. He had been angry when they had spoken before, but this was something new. Looking into Daniel’s eyes, Jack began to feel frightened. “Daniel, what the hell is wrong with you?” he asked, trying to ignore the rising fear at what Daniel might say, or do, next.
“You think I’ve betrayed you.” It was a statement, not a question.
“You’re damn right I do! Daniel… I know you were angry, Jesus, you had every right to be. I would have understood it if you’d kicked my ass from here to next week. But Daniel… do you even realise what you’ve done? How many people you’ve condemned?”
“What have those people ever done for me?” Daniel hissed. “They’ve abandoned me, made life miserable for me since I was eight years old. I left this planet without looking back six years ago! It was you who made me come back, and for what? I loved Sha’re, and she was taken from me. I loved Sarah, and she is now… that.” He was pointing at Osiris. “No-one here ever cared whether I live or die!”
“Daniel, for crying out loud! What about us? What about me?”
“You.” Daniel’s voice was even. “You’ve been a wonderful support to me these last few months, haven’t you?”
“Daniel…” Jack began. “I may have behaved in a way I regret. But I never wanted to hurt you. Stop being such a drama-” He stopped and his mouth went dry. He knew, and Daniel knew, what he had been about to say.
“The only one who won’t hurt me is myself and I hate myself!” Daniel said passionately. He was almost crying. “I hate you, Jack, I hate you all! They hurt me and used me and no-one cares any more, no-one ever will. It was all a façade even when we were free! I hate you, Jack, I hate myself and I want to die!”
“Daniel, I…” Jack stopped there. He couldn’t, he didn’t know, he just couldn’t…
“Go on,” Daniel said softly, dangerously. “Pretend you care. You’ve pretended so well until now, haven’t you?”
“Daniel!” Jack shouted. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was shouting so the friend he knew and loved would come back. Not the pale, hurt, frightening creature wearing his friend’s face, biting at invisible chains and running for his life from his own demons.
“My, my, you do have issues, don’t you?” Osiris said smoothly. “It’s a pity, really, that I won’t get to hear the end of this.” Off Jack’s look, she went on, “If you had been paying attention, you would have known that your little protégée up there is a very resourceful young woman.”
Jack looked up at the Gate room, and saw to his amazement that Hailey was once more sitting in front of the dialling computer. He couldn’t make out what had happened to Sadurfield and Nyan; nor could he see any Jaffa, which he thought was a good thing. Hailey was typing furiously; Jack suddenly noticed that the Gate had begun to spin. During this whole horrible nightmare, he hadn’t noticed the sound of the chevrons encoding. As Osiris smiled, the seventh chevron locked once more, and the trio on the ramp backed away from the plasma wash. Jack looked at it despairingly. Somehow, he had ended up closest to the base of the ramp - Daniel was next, with Osiris right by the Gate itself. Jack was wondering what the hell to do when someone he used to call his friend spoke.
“Go through the Gate,” Daniel said dispassionately. The fury had been replaced by deadlier calm; Jack knew how dangerous this calm could be, and he pretended he didn’t.
Jack stared at Daniel as if he was trying to stare right through him, trying to pretend he couldn’t see the archaeologist standing there, looking back at him through expressionless blue eyes. Jack could cope with so much - hell, he’d had his planet taken over by aliens - but this was unbearable.
After a pause, Daniel spoke. “I’m sorry,” he said clearly.
Jack waited for more. I’m sorry, but…
There was no more.
Osiris laughed softly. The sound made something inside Jack snap. “You bitch!” he yelled. “You did this to him! I don’t care how you did it, but you did it!”
“You are mistaken,” Osiris said. “You wish for someone to blame. But your friend is not the angel you have always believed him to be. He has betrayed you out of his own free will.”
“Daniel…” whispered Jack, repeating himself out of desperation. “What have you done?”
“What have I done?” Daniel said. “What have I done? What does it matter? Give me the knife in your boot, Jack, and you’ll see what I will do. Look to the future, Jack… isn’t that what saving the world is all about?”
“That’s ‘Colonel’ to you,” Jack snarled, and Osiris laughed. Jack moved tentatively towards the Gate, trying to shut out the horrible sound of her laughing. He moved past Daniel, who didn’t even look at him, until he was level with Osiris.
“Don’t let me stop you,” she said, and meant it. Jack decided not to question, but accept it. He could figure it out later.
She was still laughing when he plunged forward into the shimmering wormhole.
Two Earth minutes later, Jack was on the planet of K’Tau. He wanted to avoid the inhabitants of the planet, and the explanations he would have to provide, so he continued on his way while avoiding the village.
He had to think to remember his way around, especially without Daniel, but eventually he did find what he was looking for. He went on, trying not to think of Sam as he disabled the holograms as she had taught him, and looking at the runes engraved on the walls, he tried not to think of Daniel. He tried not to think of Daniel… full stop.
He was in the presence of the Asgard High Council and the great hall of the Asgard was just as he remembered it, dark and shadowy and filled with whispers. He could just make out the forms of the Asgard themselves as they sat in solemn conclave.
“Colonel O’Neill,” said one Asgard evenly, blinking and apparently unaffected by the sudden appearance of the Earthman. “You wish to speak to Commander Thor.”
“Yeah, that would be what I’m here for,” Jack responded, ignoring the fact it hadn’t been a question. “Please,” he added as an afterthought.
“Unfortunately, Commander Thor is not here. He is currently on the Asgard flagship on a mission on the other side of the galaxy.”
“Oh…” Jack said. “Is there some way I could… get hold of him?” He said this, and then inwardly berated himself for treating the Asgard High Council like Directory Enquiries. Especially as Directory Enquiries had ceased to exist several months earlier.
“There is a way. You may have to wait a few minutes.”
“Could you please…”
Several minutes did pass, as Jack stood there. He had enough time to start thinking of inane thoughts involving the piped music Directory Enquiries used to play at him when he was put on hold, but he soon abandoned them as he became aware of something happening in front of him. He wasn’t quite sure how this whole set-up worked, but he became aware of the fact the other Asgard had all but disappeared. The only one he could see at all clearly said, “Greetings,” and the human recognised him as Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet and Norse god of thunder, Thor. He was standing in a room that reminded him very strongly of the bridge of the Biliskner, with the same retro pink, red and purple décor, with all kinds of technology lurking in the corners.
“Thor!” Jack exclaimed.
“How can I be of assistance, Colonel O’Neill?” Thor asked, and blinked his huge eyes.
Jack looked around and blinked. “Is this the Biliskner?” he asked.
“No, it is not. It is the replacement for that ship. It is called Ragnarok.”
“How can I be of assistance?” Thor repeated.
“Oh, we’re in trouble this time…”
“The Goa’uld?” Thor asked, before Jack could finish.
“Yeah. How did you know?”
“I did not. Please continue,” Thor replied, mystifying Jack, but he continued nonetheless.
“It’s Anubis,” Jack said. “Maybe it’s somehow our fault, I don’t know, but Anubis and Osiris and Nefertuum - they’ve taken over Earth.”
Thor blinked again. Jack wondered if this was the approved Asgard method of displaying extreme surprise.
“This is… not good,” Thor said.
“Not good?” Jack repeated. “Not good? I’m being honest with you, Thor. We’re way out of our depth. We need help.”
“It would appear, however, that you still have control of your Stargate,” Thor observed.
Jack shook his head. “Nope. Anubis has the SGC as his base. We had to literally run in with guns blazing and take our chances. And then… Osiris was there in time to stop me.”
“That does not make sense. How then were you able to access the Stargate?”
“I’m not sure,” said Jack honestly. “I think Osiris… let me.”
“She allowed you to use the Stargate? How did she learn of your plans at all?”
Jack suddenly felt like he was six years old and his life was collapsing around him. “Daniel,” he said in a low voice. “Daniel betrayed us for her.”
“Oh, I wish you did.”
There was a pause, during which Jack tried his utmost not to think of Daniel and failed utterly. If he closed his eyes, he could see Daniel standing in front of him once more, screaming.
“You wish for an Asgard mothership to orbit your planet and obliterate the Goa’uld, is that not so?” Thor’s voice broke through his thoughts.
“Yes!” Jack exclaimed. “Please! Thor, we’re desperate. We… need… help.”
“I wish I could give it, but it is impossible.”
“You… what?” Jack couldn’t believe this. After they had worked so hard and come so far…
“Anubis was in exile at the time of the creation of the Protected Planets Treaty, and is therefore not governed by it. But by intervening in Earth’s affairs, the Asgard are risking all-out war with Anubis, which is unthinkable. The war with the replicators has reached a critical stage and we cannot expend any resources on the Goa’uld. I am sorry.”
Jack sat down, temporarily forgetting he wasn’t really on an Asgard ship. He was reminded of that fact when he landed heavily on the rock floor of a cavern. Thor waited politely for him to gather himself together again.
“Thor… please…” Jack said slowly, desperately. “We’re… we’re… “
“I am sorry,” Thor repeated.
“Thor!” Jack was shouting now. “Thor, we’re the fifth race and we saved your little grey butts! We need help! We’re calling in a marker… Thor!”
Thor’s hologram disappeared. Jack found himself sitting on the floor of a cavern, alone and in the dark. Sitting there, he didn’t move. He had just hit rock bottom.
– – – – – –
Daniel watched Jack disappear, and then he watched the wormhole itself disappear, but he wasn’t interested in either. He had gone beyond caring for anyone or anything, including himself.
Osiris turned to him the instant the wormhole shut down. “Dr. Jackson,” she said softly, reaching out and pushing his hair out of his eyes. Her nails were sharp and scratched at his skin, but he didn’t flinch, nor even respond to the touch. “Daniel. Tell me what you know.”
“I already have,” Daniel said expressionlessly.
“I think not,” Osiris replied with deceptive sweetness. “I think not. You know so much more than you have said.”
“Daniel…” Her words were still soft, and she reached out to touch him, as if to make the same gesture as before, but this time she held a lock of his long hair and pulled sharply. Daniel was forced to look at her if he didn’t want his hair pulled out by the roots.
She was angry now. “I know you are lying,” she snarled, “because I know you, Daniel. My host, pitiful creature as she is, she loved you and she knows you. She believes you would never hurt your friends the way you have today.”
“What have I done today?”
“You knew their plans. You came to me and you betrayed them. And you hurt Colonel O’Neill with your words a few minutes ago. All this you did, and for nothing. I understood that you hated the Goa’uld, Daniel, you hated them more than anything else living. And today you helped me.”
Daniel didn’t say anything. Osiris wasn’t looking at him, and she no longer sounded angry. “Some months ago you were captured by my Jaffa,” she said reflectively. “Is that not true? And what happened to you when you were under their… care?”
Daniel remained silent.
“My Jaffa, they think I know nothing!” Osiris spat. “I know there are many of them that… deviate from the norm, shall we say? I know what they did to you… I know how they must have played with you.
“But I also know how long you were with my Jaffa, before Colonel O’Neill rescued you with such aplomb. I know what you might have learnt. What did you overhear? Do you not wish to tell me? Because I can tell you.”
Daniel blinked. Osiris went on, “I think you heard something very interesting during your stay here. You know who Anubis is. He is a great and powerful Goa’uld system lord. He has ‘conquered’ Earth. But do you see him here? Do you?
“He wishes to expand his empire and his legions. He has left this world to conquer more. But do you think he will ever return to the First World? The world of the Tau’ri is under his control; in his absence, his trusted emissary, Osiris, rules it. For I know this world - I was imprisoned on it for ten thousand years! And Anubis would gladly imprison me here for another ten thousand years. My host is beautiful, but after ten thousand years, I feel she would be as much as a prison as a stasis jar.
“And so what interesting secrets you must have learnt when the Jaffa tired of playing games with you. The Goa’uld Osiris wishes to leave, she has taken all she can of this world. But why simply leave? Why make life easy for the one who would imprison her here? Why not ensure Anubis loses everything, and conquer him once she is powerful again?
“You knew, Daniel Jackson, just how easy I would make it for a rebellion among the Tau’ri. You knew I would do everything I could to help you. And that is why you came to me today, wasn’t it?”
Daniel’s weakened condition made him easy prey for the Goa’uld; in a trice she had forced him to his knees. “I know what you were trying to do,” she said scornfully. “Now rest easy. Colonel O’Neill will succeed in his mission. And you may even get your wish.”
For the first time, Daniel seemed to be paying attention to what she was saying. “What wish?” he asked in a low voice.
“You asked for Colonel O’Neill to give you his knife,” she said. “You know what you wanted it for. I doubt it was as perfect for the task as my little toy would be.” She had drawn it as she spoke, a long dagger that gleamed wickedly in the light, and so sharp a falling hair would have been cleaved into two pieces on its blade. With a surprising gentleness, she laid it by his side, and then turned and swept away down the ramp. Daniel dropped backwards onto the Gate ramp, lying with legs apart, mouth slightly open and one arm thrown over his eyes. At that moment he had never in his life felt quite so dirty and so utterly used.
After a second, a single Jaffa, summoned by Osiris, had entered the Gate room. He advanced towards Daniel, who closed his eyes. The Jaffa leant down and lifted the archaeologist, roughly at first, but at a few sharp words from Osiris, who stood in the doorway, he handled Daniel more gently. Osiris swept away, and the Jaffa followed, carrying Daniel, who was gripping Osiris’ dagger like a child’s toy.
– – – – – –
In the city, morning had come. Birds still sang in the mornings, but no alarm clocks rang. It was to the sound of the birds Sam Carter woke, and the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was someone watching her.
“Janet!” Sam exclaimed. “Don’t do that!”
Janet laughed. “It’s an old trick to wake people up.”
“What, watching them sleep?” Sam asked, sitting up and stretching. It was amazing, she reflected, how adaptable human beings were - she no longer even thought about her lack of a proper bed.
“Yes. Trust me, I’m a doctor,” Janet replied, amused. “It worked with you, didn’t it?”
“I guess…” Sam said. “I can’t believe I was that deeply asleep, anyway. I don’t suppose Colonel O’Neill…”
“Sorry, honey,” Janet told her. “No sign of any of them. Although… Sam?”
“I don’t want you to start panicking, but…”
“But? Janet, don’t do that to me! What’s happened?”
Janet sighed. “Daniel’s disappeared,” she said gravely. “I wondered if he’d just gone for a walk or something, but…”
Sam nodded. Daniel never did anything but sleep and lie still, and they both knew it. Sam yawned, rolled over and stood up. Despite the ongoing lack of coffee, she always seemed to have enough adrenaline to wake up in the morning nowadays.
“I’m not sure…” she began, and disappeared. Janet jumped up in surprise. After a pause, she ran outside, trying not to wake anyone on the way. It wasn’t time to panic yet…
Looking up, Janet couldn’t see any mysterious looking extra star, but she hadn’t really expected to. The Asgard could cloak their ships, everyone knew that… or so Janet said to herself as she crossed her fingers and waited.
“…what to do,” Sam finished, and realised she was talking to thin air. She was no longer inside a derelict house, that was for sure. She wasn’t on Earth either. Instead, she was standing in a large room, pink and purple and full of highly advanced technology. A faint resonance she could feel through the floor told her she was on a ship. This assumption was confirmed when she turned round. There was a huge window behind her, and through it she could see an immense starfield.
“Major Carter,” said a voice. Sam looked up. “Thor!” she exclaimed. “Where are we? What’s going on?”
“We are on the Asgard ship Ragnarok, currently drifting in space in the far reaches of the galaxy,” Thor replied. “I have taken a risk in beaming you here over such a long distance. I am glad you are unharmed.”
“Thank you,” said Sam doubtfully. “Thor, what am I doing here?”
“I have just been contacted by Colonel O’Neill,” Thor replied. Struck by a sudden impulse, Sam went down on her knees to be at eye level with the diminutive alien. Thor blinked once to show he appreciated the gesture, and went on, “He informed me of the state of your world at present.”
“Then he told you we need help,” Sam said.
“Yes… and I explained to him we cannot give it,” Thor said. “Anubis is not governed by the Protected Planets Treaty, and to help you would risk war with him, and given our situation with the replicators, we simply do not have the resources.”
Sam looked at him in amazement. “You can’t help us? Then why did you bring me here?” Struck by a sudden horrible thought, she added, “Colonel O’Neill… is still alive, isn’t he?”
Thor nodded. “Yes. He is quite definitely alive, and is currently still on the planet of K’Tau. I was able to talk to him via holographic technology. I had broken contact with him when the significance of one particular thing he said struck me.”
“What was that?”
“He explained to me how he gained access to Earth’s Stargate, and he mentioned in passing how the Goa’uld Osiris, having discovered his plans, nevertheless allowed him through the Stargate. I began to wonder if Osiris may have a hidden agenda buried beneath Anubis’ conquest of Earth. And so in order to discuss matters further, I attempted to beam Colonel O’Neill onto the ship. However the distance is too great; Earth is nearer than K’Tau, so I beamed you here instead, Major Carter.”
“I understand,” Sam said thoughtfully. “Thor, I don’t suppose you beamed Daniel here as well? It’s just he’s disappeared, and I thought…”
“Major Carter.” The interruption was gentle, but had an air of finality about it. “Daniel Jackson is the reason Osiris discovered your plans. He has betrayed you. I did not beam him here; you would be unwise to trust him.”
Sam sat down heavily on the floor. “Daniel…” she said quietly. “That can’t be true.”
“I assure you, it is true. Colonel O’Neill seemed somewhat emphatic about it,” Thor replied.
Sam smiled sadly. “Yeah, I can imagine,” she said. After a pause, her military mentality reasserted itself and she put the whole sordid affair out of her mind. “Why are you interested in Osiris, Thor?” she asked. “What was the significance?”
“This is difficult,” Thor said slowly. Sam realised that some habits, such as thinking out loud, were common to every form of intelligent life. Thor’s next words confirmed something else Sam had suspected beforehand. “If I assisted you in your rebellion, I would not be acting according to the wishes of the Asgard High Council,” said the supreme commander. “They would rather I withdrew from this altogether. But I cannot do that. The Tau’ri have saved the ‘little grey butts’ of the Asgard before now.”
“Thor,” said Sam thoughtfully, “did you just say ‘little grey butts?’”
Thor made a sound that could have been a sigh. “That, to be truly honest, is the real reason I beamed you here instead of Colonel O’Neill. My communication with him was being monitored by the Asgard High Council, and they must not learn of my plans.
“For this reason, I dare not bring Ragnarok to Earth just yet. It is only when matters have ‘come to a head’ as you say, that I will move from here. I am on a reconnaissance mission, Major Carter. It is an undemanding assignment, but one that I specifically requested. While I am here, I will have no interference.”
“Thor, let me get this straight,” Sam said slowly. “The Asgard High Council don’t want to help us, but you do. You believe Osiris may not be fully loyal to Anubis anyway, and that Earth deserves to be saved because of how we previously helped the Asgard.”
“You have contributed a great deal to the fight against the Goa’uld,” Thor interjected softly.
“Right. So, you’re willing to bring this ship to Earth, and do like what you did on Cimmeria; you’ll just zap the Goa’uld out of existence. But you don’t want the Asgard High Council to know about it? They’re going to find out anyway!”
Thor paused, and said quietly, “I am the supreme commander. My… eccentricities will be tolerated.”
“I guess ‘thank you’ is a little inadequate…” Sam said dubiously.
“It is quite enough, in light of what you and your people have done in the past. You are welcome.
“However,” Thor went on, “I do not believe Anubis will take kindly to the liberation of Earth.”
Sam resisted the impulse to say, “You think?!”
“Therefore I propose we wait until Anubis is back on Earth. He will be destroyed along with Osiris, Nefertuum and their Jaffa. It may be some time before he returns. You will wait?”
“I will return you to Earth now,” Thor said decisively. “You must take this with you.” He handed a small device, that she recognised as an Asgard long range communications device like the one they had been given at the time of the system lords’ negotiations on Earth. She pocketed it, and said again, “Thank you, Thor.”
“I will also transport Colonel O’Neill from K’Tau back to Earth, as I feel he will not be able to use the Stargate.”
Sam nodded, and disappeared in a blaze of white light.
Moments later, there was another blaze of white light somewhere very far away. Janet had been about to stand up and switch off the makeshift lights in the room and she blinked as Sam appeared before her eyes. She had scarcely finished blinking when Colonel O’Neill appeared beside her. He was closely followed by Nyan, Sadurfield and Hailey, all looking extremely startled.
“What just happened?” Nyan asked dubiously.
Sam decided to take charge. “You were all transported by the Asgard,” she stated definitively.
“Thor?” asked Jack, and as she nodded, went on, “I love that little guy!”
“He’s agreed to help us, against the wishes of the Asgard High Council,” Sam said sombrely. “I was just beamed up onto his ship. He wants to make sure Anubis is killed, so we have to contact him as soon as Anubis returns to Earth, and then he’ll come here by ship and do the whole… zapping thing.”
Janet smiled. “Your plan worked, Sam!”
“I guess…” she said, then smiled. “It did,” she said, half to herself. “It really did.”
Janet looked around for a second, then said, “Colonel O’Neill?”
“Yes?” Jack said.
“Do you know where Daniel is?”
Jack’s smile disappeared instantly, to be replaced by a stony, grim expression. “I don’t know and I don’t care,” he muttered, looking down, and then turning away, he walked to the door and went out.
– – – – – –
In the days that followed, Sam learnt that to mention Daniel’s name was the easiest way to anger Jack, and that to mention Thor’s name was the easiest way to make him smile. In the end, she stopped talking to him so much. There was little to do now but play the waiting game. For the first time and the only time, Sam was actually hoping for a Goa’uld mothership to come to Earth. She spent a lot of time persuading herself and others not to get their hopes up, telling herself it might be months, years even. Anubis was a Goa’uld with worlds to conquer, and “things to do, people to see…”
“T-shirts to buy?” Jack suggested at this point. Sam agreed, yes, T-shirts to buy, and tried to stop herself from laughing. But it was a lost cause, persuading people not to hope. Here if nowhere else, hope sprang eternal. And Sam herself wasn’t practising what she preached. She sometimes woke up for a moment in the middle of the night and smiled to herself; she sometimes overheard the Jaffa proclaiming the omnipotence of the Goa’uld and tried not to laugh. The general mood was one of optimism and barely concealed mirth. It lasted as long as no-one mentioned Daniel Jackson’s name.
On a summer night, nearly a year after the fall of Earth and three months after Colonel O’Neill’s mission into the remains of Cheyenne Mountain, Sam woke suddenly. She had been sleeping in fits and starts, waking for a few seconds before sinking back into uneasy slumber, but this was different. Her eyes opened and she was wide awake. The warmth and the humidity made her head ache. Suddenly coming to a decision, she got to her feet, and taking care not to wake anyone, she left the stifling room and made her way outside. The night air was cool, and a gentle breeze cleared her head and blew her long hair out of her eyes. It was only after a few minutes she realised she wasn’t alone.
“Hey,” Jack said softly. “Couldn’t sleep?”
She nodded. “That’s right. It’s like there’s something in the air.”
There was silence for a few moments. All over the Goa’uld city there was absolute stillness. Nothing and no-one moved. There was no sound.
“All debts have now been paid,” Sam said dreamily.
“What?” Jack said sharply after this had sunk in. Sam laughed, mercilessly ruining the mood. “I thought that would freak you out!” she said happily.
“Thank you,” said Jack sourly. “Did you say that for any particular purpose?”
“Yes, I did. The Asgard now owe us nothing for that one victory against the replicators.”
Jack shook his head. “That’s not true. They haven’t done anything yet.”
“Are you saying you don’t trust them?” Sam looked anxious.
“No… Oh, my God.”
“What?” Sam asked. Jack seemed genuinely struck by something.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“If you think it’s a Goa’uld mothership, then yes, it is,” Sam said slowly. “It may not be…
“Oh, I think it is.”
She didn’t ask him how he knew. The ship descended with dreamlike slowness as they watched. It made no sound, and the eerie silence made Sam shiver. It was the ship of a system lord. The time had come.
Again, no-one spoke. Sam turned and went to retrieve the Asgard communications device. Jack didn’t follow. He stayed outside, looked up at the sky and waited.
– – – – – –
Somewhere in the uncharted reaches of deep space, a ship began to move. A new course had been set. Smoothly, it made a full turn, then began to pick up speed. It took mere seconds for it to make the jump into hyperspace. Stars dissolved into streaks of light as the starship swept through space.
– – – – – –
The night was dark. There was no moon. And suddenly the sky blazed with light.
Sam had waited for this moment. Suddenly, the Asgard ship Ragnarok uncloaked itself. The huge craft seemed almost close enough to touch as it entered a low Earth orbit. Sam thought vaguely of Cimmeria as the long white beams of light and energy swept over the surface of the Earth. In seconds, Jaffa and Goa’uld alike had vanished, as had Anubis’ mothership and the pyramid landing platforms all over the planet. The millions of human slaves stood transfixed as Ragnarok brought the end of the world. The energy pouring into the ground from above made it rumble and shake, but there was no sound beyond the swishing of the great beams. For two minutes exactly it lasted, and then there was no more. The ship swept out of the atmosphere and back into deep space.
After a moment spent looking at each other, Jack beckoned Sam over. “Come on,” he said.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“Back to Stargate Command.”
– – – – – –
A strange silence prevailed for several seconds after the Asgard had gone. It was the silence that is heard only rarely, and quickly gone, replaced by the buzzing of a thousand human voices. Down below by the Stargate, there were two humans who seemed to be unaffected.
Sam had followed Jack unquestioningly, almost as if he was her commanding officer once more. The pair had met many slaves on their way down, all newly-liberated and dazed and confused with it, but on level twenty-eight there was no-one. Osiris and her Jaffa were gone.
In that silence, Jack and Sam stood on the ramp, looking at each other. Jack wondered why he didn’t feel happy. In their freedom, why were they not jumping for joy?
And in a flash he knew why. There was a friend they had lost, when Teal’c had been taken by the Jaffa so long ago, and another one, whom they had begun to lose long ago and was now far beyond their reach. There was the massacre at Stargate Command, the murders, the families destroyed, the shattered and broken world the Goa’uld had turned Earth into.
They had thought this was it - but this was only the beginning. They had a planet to rebuild. And it had to be them. The slaves that had once been the humans of Earth were in no shape to literally rebuild their entire civilisation.
Suddenly, one of the doors opened. Daniel entered, walking slowly. He was limping slightly as he advanced up the ramp. Jack turned to look at him almost against his will, and found he was no longer afraid to look into Daniel’s eyes. The wild fury and hatred were gone. But there was nothing in their place; nothing but blankness and apathy. Daniel held his gaze for only a few seconds before his eyes flickered away.
“Daniel,” Sam said neutrally. “The Asgard have gone. The Goa’uld are gone too.”
Daniel didn’t respond. He sat down heavily on the edge of the ramp. For one crazy moment, Jack thought of their first mission to Chulak, of how Daniel had turned to look through the Stargate, dreaming of Sha’re.
Jack noticed for the first time there was blood on Daniel’s hands, flowing down two lengthways cuts in Daniel’s wrists. Jack raised his eyebrows, and thought back to field first aid. “Daniel,” he called softly. Daniel looked at him. Jack held up his own wrists to make the point, and to the surprise of all three of them, Daniel submitted to having the freely bleeding wounds tied up with scraps of cloth torn from the long cloak Sam still carried. Jack did it without a word. How, why, who… he didn’t want to know.
Sam tried talking to Daniel again. “Osiris betrayed Anubis. She wanted the Asgard to help us. We’re free again.”
When she received no reply, she took a different approach. “Daniel,” she began tentatively, “did you know? Did you know all along Osiris was going to betray Anubis? Was it a set-up? Was that why you did… what you did?”
Daniel looked at her so intensely she was forced to look away. Sam waited for him to say something, anything, and then…
“No,” Daniel said quietly.
Sam was stopped in her tracks for a moment. “I thought…”
“I know what you thought. You were wrong.”
Sam wondered, vaguely, painfully, what was happening inside Daniel’s head. She tried looking into his eyes, hoping to see the friend she once knew, but there was nothing there but blankness. Daniel wasn’t coming back.
Jack thought of the world outside, that was waiting to be rebuilt. There was work to do, there were promises to keep, T-shirts to buy…
There was a friendship to forget about.
And then Daniel spoke.
“Ma’at,” he said softly, and his eyes closed.
Twenty-eight levels above, an eagle screeched and soared into a red sky. The sun was rising on a free world.
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