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 Artistic Differences


Chapter 4

Tiesha filled in the final lines of the application. The painting was finished. Carefully wrapped, and ready for transport. That the students from one of the college art classes, where she was occasional TA, were willing to take the piece of art to the gallery in Denver for twenty dollars each, plus gas, was a bargain she couldn’t pass up. And she knew the students well enough to know that they'd be very careful with the canvas upon which she had poured her heart, each stroke of the paintbrush a bit of her soul.

She folded the forms, stuffed them into the supplied envelope, and sealed it. She carefully attached it to the nylon rope that held the black plastic tarp over the frame and the painting it surrounded. Took a deep breath. Smiled when she heard the honk of a horn in the driveway. She lifted the garage door, watched as the three young men climbed out of the pickup. "I appreciate this," she said as she watched them painstakingly load her artwork into the bed of the truck.

"No problem. Maybe you can let me borrow that Nikon 2159 sometime," the lankiest of the young men grinned, referring to one of the lenses he had seen the photographer using. It was probably one of the finest lenses Nikon produced; the shots that a good photographer could easily get using that lens were astounding.

"Right. You can leave your balls as collateral," Tiesha teased. Laughed when the young man’s companions began to tease him. "Seriously, I don’t mind letting you use it, but I want to be there. It’s one of my babies."

"No doubt," the young man nodded. "And I don’t have a problem with that. Maybe we could meet up at Grant Park, do some shooting there."

"Sounds like a plan," Tiesha replied. "Make sure the papers don’t blow off."

One of the young men produced a roll of duct tape, and carefully taped the envelope to the tarp. "That should hold it," he announced.

The gallery workers would have to cut the tape to get to the forms, Tiesha thought, but they would be there! When the painting had been secured as tightly as possible, each of the young men taking a turn in pushing and tugging at it, making certain that the frame wouldn’t shift during transport, they climbed back into the cab of the pickup, and waved.

There it goes, she thought, her heart pounding against her ribs. The thrill she'd felt when she had first seen the color photo, the giddy feeling of absolute delight while she worked on the painting, the excitement of being part of a prestigious art contest, all began to roll over her, through her; leaving her shaking with anticipation. It was probably a good thing that the team was going to be on a training exercise all day. It would help keep her mind off the stress she'd be feeling.


A  A  A  A  A  A


It seemed that the Kelownans, or at least Commander Hale, were not willing to let strangers...aliens...wander the streets of their city. The team found themselves confined to the suite of rooms that had been provided for them. The rooms were small, but not depressingly so; the furniture simple and functional, although the abundance of cushions and pillows prevented it from being stark. The use of color was almost garish in its prolific presence. Granted, they’d been held in less appealing accommodations, but it didn’t ease their worries just because the ‘cell’ was comfortable.

A check of the two adjoining rooms revealed each small bedroom was furnished with two twin beds, a small table between. A tiny room that appeared to be the equivalent of a bathroom was at the end of a narrow hallway. The shower looked familiar, but the odd shaped half-column in one corner was a bit of a mystery. The top of the column had been hollowed out to a depth of about ten inches. There as an open drain, at least three inches in diameter at the bottom of the indention. Two levers were attached to the side of the column. Jack forbade anyone to touch either of them. With nothing else in the room, they were left to guess at its purpose. Assumptions were made, and the decision to refrain from using anything in the room was agreed upon.

Teal’c settled his massive frame onto one of the settees, Daniel and Jack choosing chairs across a small table from where the Jaffa was seated. Sam was investigating the desk that stood against one wall of the main room.

"I just did this," Casey grumbled, beginning to pace around the seating arrangement.

"At least it’s not a Goa’uld ship," Sam offered.

"Explain the difference," the young seer challenged, huffing a sigh. "We’re still just as locked in, and we know there are guards out there."

"Don’t have to worry about becoming a host?" Sam said, smiling.

"Conceded," Casey replied, smiling in return. "I do have to admit that it would have been fun if we'd been able to do to Ba’al’s ship what we did to Zeus’s."

Jack chuckled. "I’ll have to let him in on that. Balls will owe us one."

The sound of a key in the door brought the team to their feet. Hands curled slightly, each of them wishing for the P90’s which had been unceremoniously confiscated. Jonas had assured them that their weapons would be returned before they left Kelowna. Jack was going to hold the young man to that promise.

A guard opened the door, stepped back as Ambassador Dreylock entered the room. "My sincerest apologies," she said immediately. "When I learned that you were being held virtually as prisoners, I came as quickly as I could."

Daniel stepped forward. "Thank you for your concern. It gives us hope that not all of the people of Kelowna feel toward us the way that Commander Hale and his associates do."

Dreylock shook her head. "I haven’t even been allowed to tell anyone that you’re here. I do have my ways of spreading the news, though," she said, her eyes twinkling. "I’m certain that by tomorrow the headlines will be heralding your arrival."

Casey glanced at Daniel. She wanted to make it to the gallery opening; to be there for, and with, Tiesha when the artwork was judged and the winner announced.

He wasn’t unaware of his Wife’s gaze, nor the reason for the worry in her green eyes. "I do hope that you, and Commander Hale, understand that we need to return home tomorrow. Unless we’re to be held here against our will."

"Of course not!" Dreylock exclaimed. "I give you my word."

"I accept your word," Daniel said, offering his most charming smile.

Blushing slightly, her hand moving to her hair to check that it was in place, those intense blue eyes never leaving hers, the ambassador fairly preened. Jack couldn’t hide his smirk as the woman reacted to that ‘Jackson charm’. She smiled brightly. "I do hope that you’re hungry. My staff has done themselves proud this evening. I’m certain you’ll find dinner to be to your liking."

Nervous looks were clandestinely exchanged. Often a feast for the locals wasn’t so much so for the visiting SG teams. And just as often, negotiations rested on the behavior of the guests during that feast.

Thank goodness for MREs, Casey thought, following their hostess out of the room. If the food wasn’t to their liking, they could fake their way through dinner, and then eat when they had been left alone in their rooms. She felt Daniel’s fingers close around hers reassuringly as they moved through several narrow passageways, passing several obviously curious people as they went.

Dreylock opened a door on the top level of the building. Jonas Quinn was waiting just inside the room. He had changed clothes, the bright colors of his tunic and pants apparently the local version of proper attire for dinner. Daniel wondered briefly if their appearance in the drab BDUs would be considered an affront. Hopefully not. Of course, nothing had been said to them about any special dress requirements. It was possible that the Kelownans simply wanted to impress their guests.

The team had expected to be led to a banquet hall. Instead they found themselves in a more private dining room. A table had been set for eight...apparently the Ambassador and Jonas Quinn would be joined by another of their people. For whatever reason, Dreylock seemed to be operating below Commander Hale's radar. She stepped back, motioned that they should proceed her.

A man of medium height, with closely cropped gray hair, had been waiting in the adjoining parlor. He jumped to his feet when the ambassador moved toward the dining room. His skin was slightly red-toned, whether naturally, or from overexposure to naquadria was difficult to say. He smiled excitedly when he saw the strangers, raced forward, leaving the ambassador to smile indulgently behind him. "One of you is a scientist, yes?" he asked, almost breathlessly.

"Two of them actually," Jack drawled. "But I’m betting that it’s Major Carter here, our resident astrophysicist and gizmo expert, that you’re wanting to talk to."

Daniel ducked his head and grinned.

"Yes, yes, the Major. I understand that she has looked at our research and might have-"

"Tomis, please!" Dreylock said firmly. "Allow me to introduce our guests properly before you go off on one of your tangents."

"I’m Doctor Tomis Leed," the man said, shoving his hand toward Jack, not actually giving him a chance to respond or reply. He looked from Sam to Casey and back again, then glanced at Daniel. "And the Major?"

"Would be me," Sam said, smiling at the man’s exuberance. She could identify with the excitement the scientist was feeling. She’d experienced the same thing a time or two...or three or four, herself. "Major Samantha Carter."

"What do you-"

"This is Doctor Jackson, and his wife, Casey," Dreylock interjected, physically turning Tomis toward them. "The man you so rudely cut off is Colonel O’Neill. And this is Teal’c of Chulak. A Jaffa."

"Charmed, I’m sure," Tomis said, barely giving any of the team a glance before returning his attention to Sam. "About our research?"

"You’ve taken a most interesting path," Sam began. "It’s one that we hadn’t thought of, although I don’t think that it will lead to the results you’re seeking. We’ve had success in using the naquadria for an energy source, but our results are based on what we learned from the engines of Goa’uld ships. Modified, they can be used to power almost anything."

"That’s wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! Would you be willing to share this knowledge with us?"

"Of course-" Sam started.

"If the price is right," Jack said, tossing a frown in her direction.

Tomis seemed to deflate before their very eyes. "Payment. Yes, of course. It’s just that after the...incident, so much had to be used for rebuilding..."

Daniel cleared his throat. "I think we’d be willing to accept a bit of naquadria in exchange."

"Oh. Oh! Yes, yes, yes!" Dark eyes lit up once again. "I’m certain that we can see our way clear to share with you!"

Jack glanced at Casey. She was watching the Kelownan scientist with a bemused look on her face. "Radar?"


He cocked an eyebrow.

"Oh. Well..." she frowned. Closed her eyes as images began to whirl in her mind...images that she had seen in the first ‘information dump’ concerning the Kelownans. Several of the more puzzling of the group began to make sense. She glanced at Jonas. Then looked back at her commanding officer. "We’ll get the naquadria," she said softly.

He began to frown. There was something about the way Radar had spoken, as if..."But?"

She shook her blonde head. Yes, they would get naquadria. A case full of the ore. But she couldn’t see how...or when that ‘exchange’ would occur. What she could see clearly was that there was the chance that the action would result in a military take-over of the nation/state known as Kelowna. Which in turn would lead to an all-out war with their neighbors...and that could result in the deployment of those damned bombs..."Ambassador, you must find a way to stop him," she said quietly.

Dreylock’s eyes widened in surprise, her gaze going from Tomis back to the young seer. "Why?"

"Not Doctor Leed. Commander Hale. He’s on the verge of taking your people...all of the people on this planet, to the brink of destruction. If he is allowed to declare a military emergency, then all power will fall into his hands. You can’t allow that to happen."

"How can we stop him?" Dreylock asked.

"Tell the Council about the experiments his men are carrying out. In a bunker..." Casey frowned slightly. "Very deep...outside of the city. It’s very old...no one would ever suspect them of using it..."

The Ambassador’s cheeks paled. "I know exactly where that bunker is. Excuse me, I need to see to this immediately. Please, begin without me. I shan’t be long."

Jonas had watched the exchange silently. His eyes had grown wider with each passing moment. "How do you know about that bunker?"

Casey gave him a weak smile. "I call them ‘information dumps’. I...see...things. I saw the bunker...and the bombs."

The young man shook his head. "After all that’s happened, how could he be so foolish?"

"Paranoia," Jack said quietly. "And a thirst for power. One feeds off of the other."

With a nod of understanding, Jonas moved toward the table. "Please, let’s eat before the food gets cold."

Tomis commandeered the seat beside Sam, leading her into a discussion about the details of the power source that the Tau’ri had been able to devise. Jack sat down on the other side of her, but knew that she probably didn’t even remember he was in the room. Not that he begrudged her the chance to talk about her doohickeys with someone who actually understood what she was talking about...could converse on her level about her interests. It was a good thing, he thought with a silent smirk, that he knew a few things about her other topics of interest. Those that had nothing to do with astrophysics or gizmos of any sort.

Jonas chose to sit down beside Casey, noting that Dr. Jackson didn’t seem to mind. Teal’c sat down at the foot of the table, watching the others carefully.

Each place setting was marked with a different color cloth, spread beneath a collection of polished brass rings. Moving upwards in a graceful arc the five interconnected rings held small, brightly painted plates. The top plate was a full ten inches from the table, the lowest two actually sitting on the cloth that protected the polished wooden surface. There would be no effort required to reach any of the delicate porcelain dishes. To the right of each plate grouping was a large goblet, the glass looked much thicker than it actually was.

The centerpiece was an assortment of dried and fresh flora arrangements, all kept low enough that conversation would be easy to maintain across the width of the table. The fresh flowers added their scent to that of the candles that burned in sconces on the wall, and the tall candelabra on the sideboard behind Jack, Sam and Tomis. The chandelier above them glowed softly, whether the flames that seemed to flicker within the frosted glass globes were real, or artificial, could only be determined by actually looking inside.

Jonas picked up a small bell that had been sitting beside the place setting at the head of the table. He gave it a shake, and immediately two uniformed men appeared. "You may begin serving," he said.

With stiff nods, the two disappeared into what appeared, from the brief look that the swinging door allowed, to be a kitchen.

"This is a lovely room," Casey said softly, taking in the china on display in a heavy cabinet that took up the majority of one wall, directly behind Teal’c.

"Ambassador Dreylock brought all of her most cherished possessions when she moved in," Jonas replied.

Daniel frowned. "She lives in this building?"

Jonas nodded. "This is her apartment. Commander Hale has an apartment in the building also, as well as several of the Council Members. It was deemed necessary during the...emergency...to have all of the leaders of Kelowna nearby, and able to meet at a moments’ notice."

"Easier to keep tabs on them, too," Jack muttered. He glanced around, wondering if there were recording or listening devices in the room.

"No doubt," Jonas admitted. "Although I must confess I had never considered that aspect before."

"Jack is always a bit paranoid," Daniel said, tossing a look at his best friend.

"Isn’t it a bit...risky...to have so many beautiful, personal things here?" Casey asked. "I mean, what if there’s another accident?" 

"The laboratories in the underground facility have been reinforced, and each of them have had blast shields installed in the walls, floors and ceilings."

"That must add considerable weight to the structure," Sam mused. "I assume that additional support was needed?"

Jonas gave an apologetic smile. "To be honest, Major, I’m not sure. But I could find out if you’d like."

Sam glanced at Jack. "It might be something we could look at adding to the SGC, at least to the labs most likely to have accidental explosions occur."

Jack nodded. "If the Kelownans are willing to share, that works for me."

She gave a nod of understanding. "I’d be most interested in getting a look at the construction requirements."

"I’ll gather the information first thing in the morning," Jonas promised.

The two uniformed waiters appeared for the second time, each carrying two large serving platters. With Jonas acting as host, he was served first, and the members of SG-1 watched carefully, then mimicked his movements. What appeared to be meat was put on one of the lower plates, the vegetables placed on the two plates in the middle, what looked like fruit on the top plate. One of the waiters served up a classic dinner roll, and placed it on the plate opposite of the meat.

Casey lifted the goblet to her lips, expecting wine, and was surprised to taste cold water. She wouldn’t complain, it was most welcome, especially given the saltiness of the meat.

Tomis continued to question Sam about the naquadah reactors that the SGC had already constructed. The two delved into the subject of naquadria and its unstable properties, and how the scientists of Area 51 had compensated. Daniel engaged Jonas in a conversation about the history of Kelowna, and the two city/states that bordered the largest nation.

Jack sat back, watching and listening to both conversations. Without a doubt his scientists would get as many of the answers to their questions as possible. Radar wasn’t displaying any signs of sensing anything wrong, so he allowed himself to relax just a bit. One glance at Teal’c had him smiling to himself. No need for him to be uptight, the Big Guy was doing a fine enough job for both of them.

Casey continued to examine the images she had seen. If the Ambassador was unsuccessful, there wouldn’t be another trip to Kelowna by any SG team. Because there wouldn’t be a Kelowna. Hadn’t they learned from the last disaster? she wondered briefly.


A  A  A  A  A  A


He hadn’t been working at the gallery long. He'd managed to land the job through the recommendation of his art professor. And all he'd done so far was hump paintings and portraits and sculptures from the storeroom to the show rooms or back. Donna Richards, the manager of the gallery, hadn’t been interested in looking at any of his work. Her assistant, Tammy Adams, had been a bit more accommodating, although she hadn’t seemed impressed with what he'd shown her. In fact, she had told him that the work was very ‘amateurish’ and suggested more art classes to ‘hone his skills’. She never said one word about his natural talent.

Nor had she given him any positive feedback concerning his application for the New York School of Visual Arts. If he could just get a letter of endorsement from her, or better yet, from Ms. Richards, he just knew that his application would be accepted. That was all he needed to make it big in the art world...to attend that prestigious school, mingle with a few artists...find someone willing to showcase his work...

When the entries to the contest that the owners of the gallery were conducting began to arrive, he examined each one critically, certain in his own mind that he could have done much better. He hadn’t bothered entering any of his work, disgruntled because neither his boss nor her assistant even asked him to do so. They knew he was an artist! They should have been demanding that he enter!

The large, mural sized paintings were a pain in the ass to move, and it took him and Carl, the gallery janitor, handyman, and sometime delivery man, at least an hour to maneuver each one into place. Special mounting brackets had been placed on the walls of one of the showrooms for the huge frames. None of the paintings were to be uncovered until they were safely attached to those brackets.

Tammy had been adamant that all paperwork remain with each painting, so that there were no errors when it came to making the identification plaques, and entering the name of the piece, along with that of the artist, into the computer. She did check to make certain that the authorization to enter each painting into the silent auction had been correctly filled out.

He brooded silently. If Tammy had just waited, he could have chosen the best, slipped in his own paperwork, and then sat back and collected the prize. But with her having seen the names and titles, she’d know immediately if he substituted his own entry form.

The silent auction was going to be his ticket out of Denver and into the Big Apple, and the fame and fortune he would make there as an artist. All he had to do was wait for the judging. His fingers moved over his hip pocket. He could feel the outline of the plastic rectangle. He’d covered all the angles. Hadn’t missed anything. In a few weeks time, he’d be a art student in New York City. His grin widened as he went over his plans again. Yep, just pick the winner, he thought. And then I’m set!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Harold put the disk into a plastic holder. It contained only enough information to let Joey Ricardo know that he knew much more about the operation than could be learned from the usual sources. He had carefully worded the first document on the disk, alluding to the fact that even more information was at his fingertips, and that should anything...unpleasant...befall him, everything would wind up in the hands of the FBI and DEA. He hadn’t made any demands, only insisted that his skills could be useful to a man in Joey Ricardo’s situation, and that that none of the alphabet law enforcement agencies would be able to touch The Hammer as long as Harold Maser was on the job.

He hoped it would persuade the old man to back off on his demands of more information from the Cheyenne Mountain computers. He'd found two packets attached to his connection, one of which managed to wipe everything off of his secondary hard drive. Thankfully he'd protected the primary, and had backups for every file and folder that he needed. But those packets were enough to let him know that his presence had been noted, and action taken.

It would take time, but Harold was determined to find out just what the US Air Force, and NORAD, was doing with documents on energy weapons. What he found, when he found it, wouldn’t go to a mobster like Joey Ricardo. No, there would be more important men very interested in that information. He'd be earning several thousand dollars a month working for The Hammer, and he was living in a very nice house in an upscale neighborhood, courtesy of The Hammer. But for information of the order he had found, and would find, no, that was worth much, much more.

For the first time in his life Harold began to aspire to be much more than just the ‘computer muscle’ for a Mafia Don. He could become a multi-millionaire...hell, he could run his own organization. He never stopped to consider that his new aspirations were exceeding his experience and his knowledge of how the real world operated. He had the keys to the new kingdom, and ready or not, and he was willing to use them!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Ambassador Dreylock had rejoined the group by the time dessert was being served, a frozen combination of fruits that resembled sorbet. She gave a winning smile to Jack and Daniel. "I believe I have managed to put a few stumbling blocks in the Commander’s way."

"You won’t be putting yourself in danger, will you?" Daniel asked immediately.

The question seemed to delight the woman. She chuckled softly. "Hardly. I’m not a brave woman, Doctor Jackson. All I have done is alert those who have the wherewithal to stop Hale."

"If he learns that it was you-"

"He won’t, I assure you," Dreylock insisted, smiling at the archaeologist. "And even if he should learn that it was I who had the information and passed it on, not knowing exactly how I was able to do that will keep him at bay for a very long time."

Jack looked around nervously. "You sure it’s safe to talk about things like that...here?"

"If you’re asking if these rooms are monitored, then the answer is no. While I’m certain that the paranoia that the Commander has demonstrated from time to time would be well served by keeping watch on all of those who have been...encouraged...to live here, to actually do so would be such a breach of etiquette that no matter what secrets he might learn, the scandal of how he learned them would override any of his discoveries."

Daniel nodded. Often the mores of a society were so strict that even perceived violation could lead to ruin for whomever was so accused. "As long as you’re safe," he said. "If you ever feel the need, you’ll find safety with us."

Dreylock smiled again. "Your offer is most generous, Doctor, and most appreciated."

The archaeologist looked from Jonas to Tomis and back again. "That offer includes the two of you as well."

Jonas looked surprised. "Me?"

"You’re taking a risk as well, especially by gathering the information about your facility."

The ambassador looked sharply at the young man. "Jonas?"

"Major Carter thought perhaps our structural improvements might be of benefit for their own...facility," Jonas replied.

The woman gave a relieved smile. "Of course. I hope that whatever information is in the building plans is useful."

"Thank you," Daniel said, smiling in return.

"Incoming," Jack said quietly, watching as Casey had cocked her head just slightly. Her teammates immediately focused on her.

Daniel pushed back his chair, took her hand as she settled into his lap almost absently. "Deep breaths," he said softly.

"What is going on?" Dreylock asked, her smile replaced by a worried frown.

"Mrs. Jackson is a seer," Jack replied. "Right now, she’s seeing something. Daniel helps by keeping her calm, and focused on relaxing."

"Why?" Jonas asked.

"Sometimes what she sees can be frightening, or even worse," Sam answered. "There have been times that what she’s...witnessed...has made her ill."

Jack nodded. The young seer had barely made it to the General’s private bathroom during a mission briefing for SG-14 on one occasion, the whole-sale slaughter of villagers that she had seen too much for her tender, caring heart. Four teams had been sent through the ‘gate that day, in an attempt to stop Amaterasu’s Jaffa from decimating the village of farmers. Because of Casey’s ‘vision’, the good guys had won the day...moving the entire group to a safe planet, away from any further Goa’uld attacks. He wondered briefly how those folks were doing.

Casey concentrated on blue eyes. Lost herself in the love that blazed so hotly in the cerulean depths. Slowed her breathing to match his, the gentle stroking of his hand up and down her back helping her to relax even more. Images twirled and spun, it was difficult to ignore them, almost impossible to keep from reaching out to grab them, to try and put them in order, to attempt to discern the message they contained.

"That’s it, nice and easy," Daniel crooned softly.

"Fascinating," Tomis whispered. "Does this happen often?"

"Sometimes it can happen several times in one day. I think the longest she’s ever gone without having a vision is a week," Sam replied.

"Absolutely fascinating," Tomis repeated.

The young seer closed her eyes.

"Here we go," Jack said, watching carefully.


Wherever it was, it was dark. As in spooky, scary absolutely solid black dark. She could hear sounds...water running...not much, perhaps a small stream trickling down a rock wall. A little light would be nice, she thought grumpily. She put her hand out to steady herself. Pulled her fingers away instantly as they connected with something wet...and warm...and sticky. Blood!

With a deep breath, she forced herself to touch the rock wall again. It seemed to be covered with the viscous fluid. She couldn’t hold back the startled scream that filled her throat when her probing fingers came into contact with the body that was leaking all of that blood.


Dreylock started visibly, her face pale. "What is happening?"

Jack barely spared a glance for their hostess. "Whatever it is, doesn’t sound good."

"Easy, Angel, I’m right here," Daniel whispered. "Tell me what’s happening."

"Dark," she replied, her voice low. "Blood...blood everywhere...body...no, bodies...cave..."

When she began to shiver violently, Daniel wrapped his arms around her, held her tightly. "You’re safe, Casey, you’re safe," he whispered.


The sudden light in front of her temporarily blinded her. She held her hand up in front of her face, could make out no more than the figure of a man standing in a doorway.

"Your insistence on involving yourself where you are not wanted will be punished," the man growled. "No one will ever find you here. Do not hold false hope that you will ever be saved!"


Her eyes flew open. "We have to leave! Now! He’s going to kill us!"

Jack and Teal’c were on their feet. "Who?" Jack demanded.

"Commander Hale," was the shaky reply.

Ambassador Dreylock tossed her napkin onto the table. "Not if I can stop him!"

Tomis stood as well. "Ambassador, I suggest that you call the Council together. If Commander Hale means to see harm befall our guests, then there is no telling what other plans he may have. All of us are in danger, for merely being with these people."

Dreylock nodded. "Yes, you’re quite right. Jonas, quickly, send out a summons for the Council members. Try to alert them without letting the commander know what you’re doing."

"Yes, ma’am," Jonas replied, jumping to his feet.

"I must take you back to your quarters," Dreylock said, apologetically. "I will do my best to see to it that you have your weapons, so that you might defend yourselves against Hale and his associates."

"We’d appreciate that, ma’am," Jack replied.

Daniel caught the woman’s arm as she stepped in front of him. "Remember, you’re welcome to come with us."

"But what of the others?" Dreylock asked quietly. "If they risk their lives to prevent Commander Hale from destroying us all, how can I run away?"

"Is there anything we can do to help?" Jack asked.

"I do not know," Dreylock replied honestly. "Please, we must hurry. If the commander learns you have been here, it might go badly for all of us."

Quick glances between the team members echoed the same question...how had the ambassador planned to keep this visit a secret? They'd passed right by the guard assigned to stand duty at the door to the suite of rooms where they had been locked in. Passed several people on their way to what turned out to be the ambassador’s private chambers. There were at least two servers, and most probably a cook or two as well. Unless all of those people were loyal to her, no doubt Hale already knew about their little dinner party.

"Maybe we should head straight for the ‘gate," Casey said, hope rising in her voice.

"I’m sorry, that’s not possible," Dreylock said. "Commander Hale has a contingent of guards around it."

"Oy," Jack muttered. "Getting out just became a problem."

"Why don’t we just wait and see what Hale has to say when he meets with us in the morning," Daniel suggested, referring to the meeting of which the guard who had escorted them to their suite had informed them.

Jack looked at Casey. "Radar?"

"As long as we don’t let him, or any of his goons, take us from this building, we’ll be okay. The minute we set foot out there," she said, nodding toward a large window, "we’ll be in deep trouble. Right now most of the people of Kelowna just want peace. But if Hale can use us as a threat, make those same people afraid for their lives, then they’ll turn on us in a heartbeat. They’ll make certain we can’t escape him. And if that happens..." she shuddered violently.

"Right. No leaving the building," Jack said grimly.

"Please, we must hurry," Dreylock insisted.

The corridors were deserted as the team followed the ambassador back to their suite of rooms. Two unfamiliar guards were standing beside the door, both gaped with shock to see their charges on the wrong side of that door.

"They were my guests for dinner," Dreylock said immediately, using the most official tone she could muster. No doubt Commander Hale would be informed of this...deception...as soon as her back was turned. It could not be helped, she would have to see to it that her forces were dispatched immediately. Hale would not pass up this opportunity to put his plans into action.

While neither man looked convinced, one did unlock the door, watched carefully as the strangers filed past him.

Jack turned to the Kelownan woman. "We sure could use all of our...stuff."

"I’ll do my best," Dreylock promised. Just before the door swung shut and the lock was re-engaged.

They stood in the middle of the small parlor, staring at one another. "Now what?" Sam asked.

"They didn’t take our packs. Let’s see what we have that we can use," Jack replied.

 Casey sighed silently. So damned typical. Situation normal, she thought. All fucked up!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Commander Hale listened carefully. "You’re certain that Tomis Leed was with them?"

"Yes, sir," the uniformed man reported.

Hale sighed. It was most unfortunate. Leed was their top researcher on the naquadria project. But it would not do to have any of the scientists forget just who they were working for, and that they were to do what they were told, and not listen to the blatherings of the Council members too weak-minded to do what needed to be done. Not everything was yet in place for him to take the reins of control completely into his hands, to hold the hearings that would rid him of the few who had held him back from attacking their enemies...It could not be helped. "Call Captain Cyr, tell him that he is to gather his men immediately. We cannot allow these traitors to Kelowna to succeed."

"Yes, sir," the man said, snapping off a salute. He hurried from the room. Stopped only when he was certain that no one would see him. Ducking into a closet, he pulled a small communication device from his pocket.

"It is done?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Good. You have done well. Whatever instructions he gave you, follow through. Then meet me at the rendezvous point."

"I understand." It was a shame that the strangers had to be used in such a manner. But he understood that circumstances didn’t allow them the luxury of greeting the Tau’ri as friends...not just yet. Soon, very soon. He slipped from the closet, intent on fulfilling his duty. It would be a very long night.

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