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Artistic Differences

 

Chapter 5

"Just what did you see, Radar?" Jack asked, pawing through his pack. Damn it! He’d have to start carrying another knife, hide it between his clean shorts and clean socks. Better yet, with his dirty ones - no one in their right mind would go through them.

"I was in a cave...it was really dark. I could hear water, like a small stream or something," Casey replied, sorting through her own pack. "Then I touched the wall, it was covered with blood and then I found the body...I know there were more bodies nearby. A door opened, and I couldn’t see who it was in the bright light, but I heard Hale’s voice. He told me no one would ever find me."

"Do you know who the bodies were?" Jack asked, tossing MREs to the floor.

"No. I got the sense that we had been separated, that each of us were being held in the same...conditions." Her eyes went wide. "Council members!"

"What?" Jack asked.

"The bodies...Council members! I think...I think there were..." she cocked her head sideways. "Reporters? Council members and reporters, brutally murdered."

Daniel grimaced. "Dreylock did say that the headlines would be heralding our arrival."

Sam nodded. "Hale has to get rid of anyone who stands in his way."

With a sigh, Jack began to stuff his pack once again. "Okay, we need to get some rest, we have no idea what’s going to happen between now and when Hale shows up."

"I will take first watch," Teal’c said calmly. He held up a knife, one that appeared to be ceremonial.

"Whoa!" Jack said, eyeing the blade carefully. "Nice!"

"It was blessed, and to be used on my wedding night," Teal’c explained.

"I don’t think I want to know," Casey muttered.

"It is an antiquated Jaffa custom, known as the ‘Rite of Ornoc’," he continued.

"Somehow knives and wedding nights just doesn’t sound right together," Daniel said, shaking his head.

Teal’c smiled. "It is a very antiquated custom. Very few follow through with the ritual."

"And that ritual would be?" Jack asked, morbid curiosity demanding that he inquire.

A sharp tap on the door had them jumping to their feet, posturing themselves to their benefit. His large hand wrapped around the handle of the knife, Teal’c flattened himself against the wall behind the door, just before it opened.

Jonas stepped inside, a canvas bag over his shoulder. "I believe these belong to you," he said, with a wide grin.

Casey, the closest to him, opened the top of the bag and looked inside. "Merry Christmas from the United States military," she intoned. She reached in and pulled out one of the P90’s, caressed it gently. "Oh, mommy missed you!"

Daniel snorted, then laughed, shaking his head slightly.

Sam was giggling as well, reached into the bag and withdrew another weapon. P90’s and the standard nine millimeter Beretta’s that each of the team members carried were soon back in hands and holsters, and a collective sigh of relief went up from the group.

"Ambassador Dreylock asked me to relay a message to you," Jonas said quietly. "She apologizes for what she must do, but the people of Kelowna, and their safety, is her first priority."

"We’re going to be sacrificial lambs," Daniel said flatly.

"I’m not certain I understand, Doctor Jackson," Jonas said, a slight frown on her face.

"She’s going to use us as the means to move Hale out of control," Daniel explained.

The frown deepened. "The Ambassador is going to declare that you arrived to offer peace, and that Hale threatened your lives," Jonas insisted.

"Maybe that’s what she told you," Jack replied. "More than likely she’s going to blame Hale for allowing us to get through the ‘gate at all, and that by letting us in, he exposed the entire planet to danger."

Sam nodded. "That will turn the tide of public opinion against Hale to the point of rendering him unable to do anything."

"But, it’s not true!" Jonas gasped.

"Truth and politics have never been friends," Daniel quipped sourly.

The young Kelownan shook his head. "I will try to get you to the Chappa’ai as soon as possible. But-"

The sound of gunfire in the corridor startled all of them. Jack and Teal’c raced to the door, weapons ready, peeked into the narrow passageway.

"If...if it’s true, I’m sorry," Jonas said.

Casey reached out, squeezed his arm gently. "You’re a good man, Jonas Quinn. Never let them take that from you."

He offered her a weak smile. "I need to-"

Jack shook his head. "I’m not letting you go out there, especially unarmed."

"Maybe we should just stay here," Casey suggested, shivering again.

It didn’t take another seer to recognize the terror in her green eyes. As much as he wanted to know what was going on, who was firing on whom, Jack knew that often Casey’s most casual remarks could hold a fateful warning. If she said leaving the building was a bad thing, then it was a bad thing, and wild horses wouldn’t pull him into that street. "Right. We’ll just keep this hallway clear."

She nodded, tightened her grip on the P90 in her hands, taking comfort from its presence.

"If you have another weapon, I can help," Jonas offered.

Everyone looked at the young man, then exchanged glances. Daniel grabbed his Beretta, offered it to the Kelownan grip first. "This unlocks the safety," he said quietly, pointing to the tiny lever.

"Got it," Jonas replied. He stood awkwardly for a moment, then joined Jack and Teal’c at the door. "I can tell you who isn’t an...enemy," he shrugged, stumbling over the word. It wasn’t easy to think of any of his own people in that way.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"No, I want that one on that wall," Ms. Richards said, her voice echoing in the large room, her heels rat-tat-tatting on the floor as she crossed it. "It totally captures the feel of the contest, the theme of mythological gods and goddesses. I want it to be the first thing that patrons and visitors see when they walk in."

Carl good-naturedly began to unscrew the support brackets.

He couldn’t help but groan. They had rearranged the paintings in here twice. Well, the second time had been at his suggestion, spouting his knowledge of art as the basis for his opinions to the faintly amused janitor. He had to agree, this painting was the most impressive. He wondered idly if it would win. If so, that could significantly raise the price...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jesse sipped his coffee. Nearly spilled it when he saw the activity. Finally! For awhile, he thought the little shit might have actually given up! His fingers flew over the keyboard, matching the hacker stroke for stroke. The guy was good, he’d give him that, Jesse thought, struggling for several seconds to keep up.

Dennis turned toward the sound of tapping keys, watched over the younger man’s shoulder.

"Damn it!"

The older man rolled to his own keyboard, joined in on the battle that was raging among the bytes and bits of cyberspace.

"Shit! He’s in!"

"Shut him down!" Dennis growled.

"I’m trying," Jesse replied.

 

 

 

Harold grinned. Yes! There it is! Files on energy weapons. Known as zat-

Son-of-a-bitch! His fingers moved so quickly over the keys they nearly blurred. Whoever was on the other side of that firewall was good. But not good enough. He made a sharp turn, heading back toward the miscellaneous files, hoping to throw off his pursuer.

 

 

 

"Got you now, you bastard," Jesse ground out. He entered three commands, slapped his hand onto the electronic reader that would give him, and only him, access to that section of the hard drive for the next few minutes.

He had no idea how the Major had come up with the idea, but it was a beaut. It also guaranteed that any legitimate requests for information wouldn’t be completely shut out during the ‘hunt’ for the hacker. For the moment, anyone trying to access those files from within the SGC would receive a message that the system was temporarily unavailable, due to security overrides. He'd heard the whispers in the corridors, everyone in the SGC was aware of the ‘hacker problem’.

"You’ve got him," Dennis crowed. "Shut him down."

With a cold grin, Jesse typed in the final command.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Harold watched with mounting horror as file after file began to disappear, deleted by an outside force that he was unable to stop. This wasn’t just a packet, someone had sent the code directly to his computer!

Every attempt to break the connection was thwarted. The main hard drive was now empty, and the bastard was going after all secondary drives.

In frustration, he reached down and pulled the plug. Had the sick feeling that as soon as he restored power, the command would continue to erase everything. He glanced at the stack of CD’s on the desk. He was fanatical about keeping backups of everything. But if enough damage had been done, if the outside commands had burned themselves into the BIOS, and if whoever had sent them had made the code unalterable, not even reformatting the drives would work. He'd have to purchase new drives.

He leaned back in the chair, ran his hands over his face. Damn it! All he’d needed was a few seconds more!

The door to the study banged open, and Joey Ricardo, flanked by twin goons, stepped into the room. He held up a small package. "We need to talk, boy."

Oh, shit! He so didn’t need this right now! He nodded wearily.

Joey regarded the young man for a moment. "What the hell is wrong?"

"I was working on the Cheyenne Mountain computers. Someone was physically monitoring the system."

"What does that mean?" Joey asked, his interest piqued.

Harold barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Hadn’t the statement been self-explanatory? "Someone is sitting there, watching the system. I made it all the way in, but got caught. Whoever it is...was...is good. Managed to wipe all my drives clean."

Joey frowned, settled himself on the sofa across the room from the desk. "How much did you get?"

"None. They were on me before I could start the download," Harold replied with a sigh.

"Never mind that for now. Let’s talk about this."

He swallowed. "Just insurance."

"No shit." Joey chuckled, which grew louder at the surprised look on the little shit’s face. "You’re good, kid. Damned good. So let’s talk about a deal."

"What kind of a deal?"

"One that keeps you alive, and me out of prison."

He let the smallest of smiles creep onto his face. At last! He had made it! He was on the inside now! Let Mikey Turner deal with that! Hell, maybe he’d ask for that bastard’s head on a platter! The thought quickly morphed into images of Mikey Turner’s head sitting in bloody mess on a silver serving platter. Okay, maybe not. These guys tended to take requests like that literally. "I’m listening."

Joey sat back. The kid had way too much information on him, on his business, and no doubt had more. And he wasn’t as stupid as he looked. Obviously he had skills, it hadn’t taken him more than fifty minutes to take care of Vinny Bellatoni. Reports had filtered to him from reliable sources that Vinny was outraged, and had lashed out against his sons, accusing them of individually and collectively conspiring against him. Word also had it that Vinny had already lost several lucrative ‘contracts’, the other parties not willing to deal with a man who couldn’t control his own family. That alone was worth his gratitude. He frowned mentally. Wondered briefly why that Mikey Turner shit had been unable to do what appeared to be a very simple task.

Harold waited, for the first time in his life not giving in to the need to chatter nervously. Truth be told, he was too afraid to say anything. He was sitting in a house that Joey Ricardo owned, looking at two hulking bodyguards who could tie him up in pretzel knots without breaking a sweat. He'd disappear, and no one would ever find the body, let alone know for certain that he was missing. He wished that he had taken the time to establish a few friendships...to have just enough people notice if he suddenly stopped coming around.

"You came through for me on your first assignment. Come through for me again, and we’ll consider this," he waved the disk, "to be nothing more than a little...misunderstanding."

"Yes, sir."

"I want to know just why Mikey Turner couldn’t pull off the same thing you did. My informants tell me he’s better than you." Joey watched, waited for the angry denial.

"I don’t think he’s better than me," Harold said. He was too tired to get emotional. His brain was still focused mostly on who had stopped him. He wanted to get back into the game. It was personal, now.

No outburst. Interesting. "Well, apparently he’s not. Dig up everything you can on Turner."

"And then?"

"And then nothing! You get the information, and give it to me. That’s all you need to know, all you need to do."

He gave a nod of understanding. "I can’t do anything until I replace the hard drives."

"Fine. Start tomorrow. You have until five p.m."

Shit! That wouldn’t give him long. But then, he already knew about Mikey’s propensity to collect and keep the wrong information. Sort of like you have, his brain taunted him. For the first time, Harold wondered if it wasn’t so much a power play on Mikey’s part, as just a means to stay alive.

Suddenly it occurred to him that he was holding the other man’s life in his very hands. He could tell The Hammer everything. Which would result in Mikey taking a very long drive into the desert, and not coming back. Or he could give the old man just enough to send Mikey packing, unemployed, and probably unemployable, at least where the Mafia was concerned. But he’d be alive.

The battle of conscience began. For the moment, which side would win out was anyone’s guess.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Sam continued to monitor the street below. So far, whatever battle was being waged between the two factions of Kelownans was confined to the Council Building. The sound of gun fire was becoming constant now, although it didn’t seem that the combatants were moving any closer to the ‘VIP’ section of the building.

Jonas stood near the door, shifting uneasily from one foot to the other. "I should be out there," he said softly.

"You’re safer here," Jack replied, his eyes never moving from the cross corridor two doors away from where the team waited.

"If Ambassador Dreylock and her forces are moving against Commander Hale, I should be there," the young Kelownan insisted.

Jack spared a glance at him, then at Daniel.

"We’ve chosen sides before," he said to the question in his friends’ eyes.

"Yeah, didn’t turn out so great a time or two."

"We know what Hale plans. It’s not good for any of the people of this planet. It will probably get them all killed."

"True."

"We certainly don’t want to endanger innocent people by our lack of response."

"Also true."

"And you’re itching to join the heat of the battle," Daniel grinned.

"I am not!" Jack denied, although his brown eyes had taken on a look of determination.

"Right," Daniel replied, his grin even wider.

"Grab your packs, campers. Let’s see if we can’t help the Ambassador convince that idiot he’s wrong."

In less than a minute the team was inching down the corridor, Jonas tucked between Daniel and Teal’c, who was on point. Jack had the six, Casey and Sam adding their own abilities and senses to the lineup. After a careful sweep of all the rooms on their level, a task that took nearly twenty minutes, it was determined that they were the only ones on that particular floor. All of the doors were carefully closed and marked with duct tape. If those doors were opened, the team would know about it.

Jonas confirmed that there were three floors of living quarters above them, and that as far as he knew, the Council members were in their respective apartments, waiting for the appointed time to meet with Ambassador Dreylock; as per the instructions of her message. Which he had personally delivered. He was certain that none of them would stand alone against Hale, nor physically oppose Dreylock. He was also convinced that for the moment, none of them were aware of what was going on...if they hadn’t heard the sounds of the battle being waged several floors below.

"We need to make certain those folks are safe," Jack said. "Sam, take Teal’c and look around the top floor. Make certain that anyone you find understands that they need to stay put...but to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Daniel, take Jonas and check the next floor down. Same thing. Right now they seem to be safe enough there, and that’s where I’d like them to stay. Radar, you’re with me."

Four heads bobbed in understanding. Daniel took Jonas’ arm and led him toward the elevator. Jack punched the button for the floor above them, having already learned to recognize the numbers. He and Casey stepped out, gave a salute to their teammates, and made their way down the corridor.

"The Council members won’t know them," Jonas protested.

"Casey will be able to convince them," Daniel assured the young man. While he’d prefer to keep his Wife at his side, he understood that any intel Casey might receive could be important, and that a quick decision might be necessary. He also knew that Jack would be able to help her remain focused enough to prevent her from struggling with and against the incoming information. Not an ideal situation, but it was one he could live with...for the moment.

 

 

 

Jack tapped on the first door with the muzzle of his P90. "Let’s hope all of these people took a quick course in English 101."

Casey smiled. So far, the Kelownans they had met spoke their language. It was a bit stilted and heavily accented, but understandable. "There’s always Goa’uld. Daniel says it seems to be a universal language."

"If it didn’t die here like it did on Earth," Jack groused. "Who knew some long forgotten Egyptian dialect was the language of the so-called gods?"

She bit back her smile. "I’m telling Daniel you listen to his briefings."

"You do, and you’ll pull KP for the rest of your life!"

She giggled. "I think not! There’s not even KP in the SGC!"

"You have seen the full duty rosters, right? The showers and latrines don’t clean themselves, and those corridor floors aren’t polished by elves!"

"Right. No telling Daniel about the briefings," she said, her green eyes belying the seriousness of her voice.

Another tap. Still no response. Jack tried the doorknob, only to find it locked. "We don’t have time for this! Stand back."

Casey moved out of the way, watched Jack press himself against the wall opposite of the door. He kicked hard, his boot landing between the doorknob and the door jamb. There was the sound of wood splitting. Another kick, and the door flew open.

The rooms inside were furnished, and what looked like packing boxes, some full, others with the lids off and the contents strewn around, gave the impression that someone was in the middle of a move. In or out was the only question. They checked each of the four rooms of the apartment, beneath the bed, behind the doors, inside the closets. There was no one there.

The second apartment was just as empty. It however, had been unlocked. The third apartment was still in the process of being painted...tools of the trade were scattered throughout the rooms.

The fourth apartment door swung open after the third tap. The older man looked at the visitors with wild, frightened eyes. He held a what appeared to be a small handgun.

"Please," Casey said softly, putting her hand over his, the one that held the weapon and shook visibly. "We don’t mean you harm. We just wanted to make certain you’re all right."

The man frowned, shook his head. He didn’t understand a word she was saying.

"Damn it!" Jack hissed. He ran a hand over the back of his neck.

"Do you understand this language?" Casey asked, speaking Goa’uld.

Again the man shook his head. It was clear that he understood that the man and woman were trying to communicate with him. He had not moved from the door, nor opened it any further.

"Jack, do you think everyone who does live on this floor could be in there?"

"It’s possible."

"It seems to me that if they are, they already understand that staying together...and...um... ready...is crucial right now."

"Good point."

Casey turned her attention back to the man who watched them carefully. That he hadn’t panicked completely led her to believe that he had met the men of SG-9, was aware of who she and Jack were. She tightened her fingers around his hand, pressing the weapon tighter against his skin, then patted that hand gently. She pointed to the room behind him, then held a finger to her lips.

This time the man nodded. He stepped back, gave her a nervous smile, then closed the door. The loud click of the lock filled the silence of the hallway around them.

 

 

 

Sam knocked on the first door. The woman who came to the door opened her mouth to scream at the sight of two armed strangers standing in the hallway. Sam immediately clamped her hand over the woman’s mouth. "Did you meet with the Tau’ri?"

Slowly the woman nodded.

"Good, you understand what I’m saying?"

Another nod, although the blue eyes remained wide with fear.

"Ambassador Dreylock is trying to keep Commander Hale from leading Kelowna to ruin," Teal’c said quietly. "You must remain here for your safety. Be prepared to leave immediately if you are called upon to do so."

Sam looked down the hallway. "Would you come with us, to alert your neighbors?"

The woman nodded again, swallowed when the hand dropped from her mouth. "How do you know that I will not betray you to Commander Hale?"

"Because if you were on his side, you’d be with him right now," Sam replied, shrugging.

The woman smiled. "I suppose you’re right. I will tell the others. Perhaps it would be best if we stayed together?"

Teal’c and Sam exchanged a glance, then Sam nodded her blonde head. "It might be at that. Do you have anything to defend yourself with?" 

"I have a small stunner."

"Well, if your friends have weapons, make certain they bring them," Sam instructed.

"When you see the Ambassador, tell her that the Council will stand behind her, completely."

Teal’c raised an eyebrow.

The smile widened. "I am Second Chair of the Council," she explained. "We haven’t been totally unaware of the Commander’s plans."

"But you did nothing to stop him?" Sam asked incredulously.

"Often, the best course of action is to wait until your enemy has dug his own grave."

"Indeed," Teal’c replied.

Sam keyed her radio. "Colonel?"

"Right here," Jack’s voice responded.

"Top floor secured, sir. All of the residents will wait in one apartment."

"Good to know. We’ll meet back up on the guest level."

"Yes, sir, on our way." Sam turned to the woman. "If you can gather your neighbors-"

"Go. And take our prayers and thanks with you."

Sam gave a sharp nod, then turned to follow Teal’c back to the elevator.

 

 

 

Jonas had managed to gather the residents of the five apartments into the living room of Ambassador Valis. The man was agitated, demanding to know what was happening.

"All we know at this point is that there has been weapons fire, and that two groups, possibly more, are trying to gain control of the building," Daniel told the man.

"Please, let these people help us," Jonas pleaded.

"Hale is a brash fool. But I do not believe him to be paranoid."

"Sir, we aren’t your enemy, no matter what Hale says," Daniel insisted, when Jonas had finished translating. "We’d like nothing more than to just go home. Right now, that’s not even possible. Until we can get to the Stargate...uh...Chappa’ai, we’re the same as prisoners here."

Valis listened intently to Jonas, then glanced again at Daniel, and calmed perceptibly. "I suppose it must seem that way to you."

"Ambassador, if you and the others will just remain here, you’ll be safe. If you need to flee to safety, we’ll let you know as quickly as possible," Jonas promised.

A woman with more gray in her hair than brown put her hand on the Ambassador’s arm. "Is it such a difficult thing to do? We are not soldiers, husband. You are a politician, I am an artist. Fighting is not what we do. But if there is a battle beneath us, we need to be prepared."

"True," he sighed. "Go. I will hold you responsible for seeing to it that we receive ample warning to flee."

Jonas nodded his understanding. "I’ll bring word myself."

Daniel barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes when Jonas explained what had been said. It seemed that politicians were pretty much the same no matter where one traveled in the galaxy. Which was really a rather depressing thought. Sort of comforting at the same time. Politicians always behaved the same way...self-serving hypocrites.

"Daniel?" Jack's voice echoed loudly.

He keyed his radio. "Yeah?"

"Sit rep."

"All of the residents on this level will wait in Ambassador Valis’s apartment."

"Good. Time to meet up back on the guest level," Jack’s voice instructed.

"Right. On our way."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Ambassador Dreylock watched Hale as he paced the width of his office. The ropes that held her in the chair were rough, and cutting into the skin of her wrists. "You will not succeed. The people of Kelowna will never allow you to take this country to war."

Hale snorted. "The people will believe whatever I tell them!"

A smile spread over the woman’s face. "Then you must be unaware of the 'Kelownans for Peace' movement that has gained popularity with every passing day. A political movement that puts out its own newspapers, broadcasts its own reports. Has exposed you and your plans for the power-grabbing, paranoid ravings that they are."

The Commander stopped short. He'd heard rumors of such a group, but had been assured by his captains that the number of citizens involved was small, and that they were far from organized. "You lie!"

"Really? Did you know that Captain Anders is on my personal payroll?" She wouldn’t mention the other captain, a man who had worked for her, quietly, for years. Hale would never believe it, anyway. Her...friend...was quite convincing in his portrayal as a loyal follower of Hale’s twisted beliefs.

He blanched. Anders was one of his most loyal followers!

"Do you really believe that I, that the Council, would allow you to destroy Kelowna, to destroy this entire planet?"

His anger, his frustration overwhelmed him. He struck out, his hand impacting on the woman’s cheek, leaving bright red marks for each finger. If those damned Tau’ri hadn’t returned, he wouldn’t have been forced to act so quickly. He had been certain that the last communication, with that man named Farnsworth, had been enough to convince the aliens to stay away from Kelowna.

"What has happened to you?" Dreylock asked softly. "Your passion for your people, for Kelowna, for preserving and protecting this city, this nation, were what put you in the position of commander."

"I still hold that passion! I will see Kelowna as the most powerful force on this planet!" Hale shouted.

"At what cost? Would you so easily destroy us just to destroy our enemies?"

"Yes! Because they are our enemies!"

"But once we were all one people! Have you forgotten your history?"

"Ancient history! They chose to leave us! They were...they are weak! They don’t deserve to live!"

"Of course they do! No one deserves to die, especially in the manner you have planned!"

"Dreylock, you’re weak. You’re soft. You and that useless Council, spouting platitudes, while our enemies continue to build up their armies and their weapons. If we don’t strike first, they’ll attack us!"

"You have no proof of that! Have you stopped to think that their build up is only a response to our own?" She shook her head wearily. Noted that the sound of gun fire had lessened. She could only hope that the men and women loyal to her, to the Council, had been the victors this night. "Do you understand how weary the people are of all of this talk of war?"

"Then better that I do something now, isn’t it?"

"Do you really think that declaring an emergency and putting the city under military rule will stop the grumbling, will stop the Kelownans for Peace?"

He stopped pacing to look at her. "It will be a beginning. The first step in becoming the most powerful nation on the planet."

"Who wants that, Hale, besides you?"

Hale refused to answer. Instead, he reached for the radio communicator on his desk. "Captain Cyr, report!"

Static was the only sound in the room for several long seconds.

"Commander Hale, this is Sergeant Boder. Sir, the prisoners have escaped."

Hale’s eyes swung accusingly at Dreylock.

"I have no idea where they are," she said immediately. "I had hoped that they would be safe in their suite."

"Are they armed?" Hale demanded to know.

"I do not know if Jonas Quinn was able to return their weapons to them. Considering that they are here on a peaceful mission, to leave them unarmed during an uprising is unconscionable," the ambassador replied.

"They are the enemy!" Hale roared.

"Everyone is your enemy, to listen to you! According to your criteria, most of the people of Kelowna are your enemy!" Dreylock shouted in return.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The team stood beside the elevator, on the floor from which they had started. None of the doors on the floor had been disturbed, although the door to the guest suite was standing wide open.

"Any idea where they would have been fighting?" Jack asked Jonas.

The young man shook his head. "I’m not sure."

"There’s no way to know for sure which levels were involved...all of the sound was echoing up the elevator shaft and the stairwells," Jack mused. "So we’ll have to assume that they were beneath us. What’s one level down?"

"Just the Council member’s offices," Jonas replied.

Daniel and Jack exchanged a knowing look. "Someone is after something...proof of some sort," Daniel suggested.

Jack nodded his agreement. "We’ll take the stairs, the elevator is too dangerous."

"I’m certain that it’s safe," Jonas insisted. "As long as the cables haven’t been damaged-"

Daniel shook his head. "The elevator itself might be safe, but taking it isn’t," he explained.

Jonas frowned, then understanding moved over his face. "Oh, I see."

Slowly...weapons ready, eyes searching for any movement that could signal trouble, SG-1 made their way down the stairs to the level below them. Whatever was going on...they were about to enter the fray.


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