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Artistic Differences 


Chapter 6

Harold sat back, reached for the sandwich on the plate beside him. It hadn’t even been a challenge to get into Mikey Turner’s computer. That had been disappointing. Then it had raised alarms in his head. Obviously Mikey was expecting someone. Harold was careful, never left calling cards. He wasn’t as egotistical as many hackers, never felt the need to declare to one and all where he had been. He preferred to slip in, take what he wanted, and then slip back out, leaving no one the wiser to his presence. There were always accidental ‘traces’, but for the most part, he cleaned those up as he left.

There had been nothing on the computer. No cookies, no temp files, no history that would have given a clue as to where Mikey had gone in cyberspace. It was as if the computer had set up, put online, and then...just left there.

He groaned as the obvious became clear. Mikey had another computer, somewhere. All Harold had to do was find it.

The morning hadn’t been a total loss. The new hard drives and additional memory were working well, and he'd been able to gather more personal info on one Michael Jeffrey Turner than he had thought possible to find on a hacker. Mikey was sloppy. And he had an ego.

What The Hammer wanted, however, was a reason why someone as good as Mikey had been unable to do a simple hack and flee job. Harold suspected that the reason had to do more with willingness than ability. To that end, he began to search Mikey’s employment records. Even if he worked for the Mafia, chances were he was an employee of one of the legit businesses ran by the various Dons.

His fingers moved with precision over the keyboard, typing in commands that would take him exactly where he wanted to go, making quick work of ‘off-the-shelf’ firewalls, moving around any obstacles that appeared with the ease of a driver avoiding large orange cones in the road.

He wasn’t surprised at what he found. Mikey had been in the employ of Donny Bellatoni two years prior. Now the question became: did Mikey refuse to do the job for Joey Ricardo out of loyalty to his employer, or former employer, or out of fear, should he be discovered?

That, he decided, wasn’t his problem. He copied the files necessary, then turned his attention back to locating Mikey’s primary computer.

It was possible to have both a DSL connection and a cable connection to the same address. Day traders often had dual hook ups, in the event that one went down the other, theoretically, should work. If one connection went to the set-up computer, the other should go to the real one.

But, what if Mikey had two residences? That could mean as many as four connections. It wasn’t unheard of for a hacker to have an apartment, or even a room, where their system was physically located, while they lived elsewhere, and had a second system that was totally legitimate.

Harold never ordered internet services under his own name. He always picked names from the phone book...a first name from one page, a second name from the another. If Mikey did the same thing for all of his connections, however many there might be, then finding them wouldn’t be easy. Not impossible, just not...easy.

As far as he knew, Mikey had been in Colorado Springs for less than two months. So he’d check connections ordered within that time frame. He contemplated searching the Denver metro area as well, after all, Mikey could be living there. If he found nothing in the twin Springs’ area, then he’d search there.

Two hours later, Harold still didn’t have Mikey’s main computer connection. It was after two in the afternoon, and he was quickly running out of time.

Sorting through the list of connections in Silver Springs, he finally hit pay dirt. The name had to be as made up as his own listing was. The minute he tried to get into the system he knew. He could tell.

With a grin, Harold moved past firewalls and alarms. Mikey was good. But he wasn’t flawless. All it took was one mistake, one door left open somewhere. In less than three minutes Harold was reading the contents of Mikey’s hard drive.

The man either had brass balls, or he was a complete idiot. The information he had stored on his hard drive could get him killed. That thought brought Harold back to the real world. If he turned all of this over to Joey Ricardo, Mikey would be dead before midnight. For the first time in his life Harold held the life of another human being in his hands. Did he hate Mikey Turner enough to get him killed? Did he hate anyone that much?

His thoughts turned to what Joey Ricardo would do if he learned that Harold hadn’t been...forthcoming...with all that he knew. Of course, how Joey would know, or be able to prove such a thing was difficult to imagine.

What had Mikey ever done to him...really? Oh, he was an insufferable snob. Thought he was better than everyone else, especially everyone named Harold Maser. He’d managed to con his way into a few jobs that Harold had been after...but other than that...

Harold disconnected. He had proof that Mikey had at one time been in the employ of Donny Bellatoni. If Joey Ricardo wanted more than that, then he’d have to find another hacker to get it.

After copies of the information had been burned, and disks secreted away to his hiding place, Harold stood and stretched. He had enough time to take a shower and have a drink before he had to appear at Joey’s house with his findings.

He whistled all the way up the stairs to the master bedroom, sang loudly in the shower.


A  A  A  A  A  A


The stairwell door opened into a deserted hallway. Jack was thanking whatever true gods there were that the door had come with a nice, wide window for sneaking a peek through, before opening it.

"O’Neill," Teal’c said quietly, calling attention to his position. He pointed to the wall beside him. Plaster was missing, and the very obvious holes made by projectiles were like black eyes that watched silently.

Jack nodded, then motioned that he was moving forward. The first door was locked. Sam slipped past his position to the second door, which was also locked. Casey was next, to the door on the opposite side of the corridor. Daniel took the last door before the intersecting corridor, found that it opened easily. The team slipped inside, greeted by the sight of three men lying on the floor, the puddles of blood beneath them telling of their grisly deaths.

Jonas turned pale when he saw the bodies, but remained stoically silent. Smiled weakly when Casey gave his arm a gentle, reassuring squeeze.

There were four more offices on the opposite side adjacent corridor, all were locked. They turned to follow the second hallway, where only three doors were to be seen. These were also locked. The walls bore the scars of battle however, and from the number of holes, there had been a heated struggle waged between the combatants, whoever they had been.

"What’s on the next floor down?"

Jonas swallowed. "The library that houses all of the political paperwork, it’s open to the public; the Council Chambers, Commander Hale’s office, and Ambassador Dreylock’s office are on that floor as well."

Jack grimaced. More than likely this would be where the majority of the two forces would be centered. There hadn’t been any gun fire for several minutes. Ideally, the fight would be over, Dreylock’s people would have won, and he could get his team the hell out of this place. Realistically, the fight was still going on, or Hale’s men had taken control of the main level.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Hale pulled his jacket over his shoulders. "I regret that you chose to stand against me, Dreylock. Together we could have built a powerful Kelowna."

"Your vision for our people and mine will never be the same," she said sadly.

"I control the bunkers and the laboratories. I control the Chappa’ai. The aliens will do as I bid, or they will die here. I don’t care which it is. You, unfortunately, will be found, a victim of this sudden and senseless violence brought on us by these Tau’ri."

"You underestimate them," Dreylock said.

"It is I who has been underestimated," Hale smirked. "I have won, Dreylock. Not even you can stop me now."

"I don’t know about that," Jonas said, walking into the room. He trained his weapon on the man he had grown to hate over the past two years.

Jack and Teal’c were immediately behind the young man, Teal’c sliding to the second door of the room, monitoring the adjoining hallway for any signs of movement.

Daniel, Sam, and Casey followed. "There’s time to stop this, to bring peace to the people of this planet, all of them," Daniel said quietly.

Hale gave an icy smile. "By tomorrow morning, all will know the truth."

"Your version of the truth," Jonas spat.

"What is truth, but that which is chosen by the strongest?" Hale replied. "You are aliens, you came through the Chappa’ai, betrayed our trust in you, killed Ambassador Dreylock and numerous Kelownan soldiers, then sent word to our enemies that we are vulnerable to attack. I will be able to launch a counter attack immediately, protecting the citizens of Kelowna."

"And dooming everyone on the planet who survives the radiation fallout to nuclear winter," Sam said.

"I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about."

"Of course you don’t," Sam snapped. "Because if I did, you’d be a damned fool for launching those missiles...launching them on innocent, unsuspecting people!"

Captain Cyr hurried through the corridor, stopped short when he saw the large alien waiting at the doorway. He held his hand up, bringing the men behind him to an immediate halt. He hadn’t learned the language of the Tau’ri, he’d just never found the time. Now he regretted that lapse in judgment. He turned his weapon around, the muzzle facing him, then placed it on the floor.

"Sir?" one of the soldiers behind him whispered.

"These people could be our last hope of stopping Hale," the captain replied softly.

"I speak a bit of their language," one of the other men reported.

Cyr almost passed out from relief. "Good! Tell this man that we work for Ambassador Dreylock, but that for the moment, that fact must remain our secret."

With a nod, the young man stepped forward. "Work for Dreylock Ambassador. Secret kept, please?"

Teal’c stared at the man for a moment. Could see the desperation in the eyes of the leader. His actions had not been those of an enemy. He nodded slowly. "O’Neill, all is not at it seems," he said quietly.

Jack turned to see the men approaching. "What?"

"Those men work for the Ambassador. For the moment, Hale must not know of this fact."

"How do you know this?"

"They just informed me."

Ask a silly question, Jack thought. Teal’c was a seasoned warrior. He had impeccable instincts. "Right."

The captain marched into the office. "Commander, the lower levels are completely under the control of my men."

Dreylock lowered her head, a movement that could be interpreted as defeat, when in fact it hid her smile.

"Very good. Now, I want you to take these...aliens...to the caverns outside of the city. Lock them into cells...individually. I do not want them together."

"But sir, I thought the plan was to destroy those caverns, and the proof of the experiments," Cyr gasped.

"So it is, Captain, so it is." Hale looked up when the Captain had failed to move. "You have your orders!"

"No, I do not," Cyr replied coldly. He turned to the Ambassador, took the knife from the sheath on his belt and cut her free. "What are your orders, ma’am?"

Dreylock’s head came up, she pinned Hale with her fiery glare. "Did you think we were unaware of what you were doing? Oh, we didn’t know exactly what you were up to, not until Casey Jackson told me just a few hours ago. Every member of the Council knows. By now, the caverns have been taken by our forces. And already word is going out on every news broadcast that you attempted to assassinate myself, and the other Council members."

Hale paled, began to shake visibly. "No! I was so careful! I chose those who worked for me meticulously!"

"You deluded yourself into believing that anyone who could parrot your twisted beliefs actually thought the way that you do," Dreylock continued. "Captain, if you would be so kind as to have your men escort our guests to the Chappa’ai, and see that they are safely on their way."

"Yes, ma’am."

Dreylock turned to Daniel. "There will be those who will blame your arrival for this particular...unpleasantness."

"And you’ll allow that to happen," Daniel replied flatly.

"Commander Hale must not be allowed to retain his post. Even with the experiments he was conducting, there will be great support for him. There are those who don’t believe that his way is the correct way for Kelowna. But he is a popular military leader. Better for him to be seen falling under the influence of outsiders...of aliens, than to expose him as a traitor to his people."

"But that’s so unfair!" Casey gasped. "He is a traitor to all the people on this planet!"

Dreylock gave a sad smile. "It might not be fair, but it is the best for my people. It is them, and the days to come, that I must consider. This...incident...will open the doors of communication between us and our neighbors."

"But we’ll still be the bad guys," Jack grumped.

"It would be better if you were not to return," Dreylock said, her attention focused on Sam "I have had Jonas prepare all of the documents of which we spoke earlier. It is...it is the least I can do...that we can do."

Sam nodded stiffly.

"Go, now, before others of the military guard arrive." With a nod, Dreylock stepped back.

Two of the soldiers motioned that the team should follow them. Weapon in hand, at this point not trusting anyone not to shoot them in the back, Jack gave his order with one look, watched as his kids fell into step behind the men. He glanced over his shoulder at Dreylock. "If any Goa’uld should happen to show up, you know how to contact us."

"Thank you for your generosity, Colonel," Dreylock replied.

"I never said we’d do anything to help you," he replied, his eyes as cold as his words. He turned on his heel and strode after his team.

Jonas stared after him, then turned to the Ambassador. "We can’t blame them for something they didn’t do! Their first concern was the safety of the Council members! They were willing to risk their own lives to protect our people!"

"Jonas, I know that you are...fond...of the Tau’ri. I know that this is disappointing to you. But it is how things must be. For the good of our people."

"What good can come of basing policy on lies?" Without waiting to hear her reply, Jonas stormed from the room, heading toward the elevator. He wanted to convey his regrets, his sorrow, wanted to say goodbye to people who were good and honorable...and everything he had believed his own people, his own leaders were.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Daniel punched the last symbol on the DHD, watched as the event horizon opened with its customary splendor.


The team turned as one, watched as Jonas hurried toward them. "I’m sorry...I’m so sorry," he said, his eyes mirroring his frustration, his regret.

Casey smiled. "Jonas, you are the only one who has nothing to apologize for."

"Thank you," he said softly. He handed a sheaf of papers to Sam. "I don’t even know what they are, only that they were among the papers Tomis Leed had collected. Perhaps you’ll find something useful in them."

"Thank you, Jonas," Sam smiled, accepting the gift, adding the papers to those given to her by one of the armed guards.

"You know the symbols," Daniel said quietly. "Just be sure you send a message through first. Use this." He handed the young Kelownan his radio. "Press this button, and then speak into this part."

Jonas nodded. "I didn’t know that they would do this."

"We know that, Jonas," Daniel assured him.

"Let’s go, campers," Jack said, walking toward the steps. He turned to look at the young man who had put so much trust in them. "Things are going to get ugly around here. You’re welcome whenever you’re ready."

His face lit up. "Thank you!"

With quiet smiles, pats of reassurance, the team walked up the steps, and disappeared into the shimmering blue surface within the huge circle. With a hiss, the event horizon closed. Leaving him alone, with people he no longer believed in, nor trusted. He stared at the monument for several minutes. Made up his mind. He would follow through, before he could change his mind...and before anyone could stop him.


A  A  A  A  A  A


General Hammond was waiting at the bottom of the ramp as the team walked down, looking weary, and a bit pissed off, he thought. "Well?"

"Let’s just take that particular address out of our book, shall we?" Jack grumped. "Sir."

The general looked at Daniel.

"We’re probably lucky they sent us through the ‘gate, rather than making us stand trial with Commander Hale," he said, shaking his head.

"I take it things didn’t go well?"

"Not particularly," Jack replied.

Casey stood, still numb at the turn of events. "But I saw it!" she whispered. "I saw us getting naquadria from Kelowna!"

No one spoke for a moment. Never before had any of Casey’s premonitions or visions failed to come true.

"There has to be an explanation," Daniel said softly, wrapping his arm around her, pulling her close to his side.

Casey was frowning. "I don’t understand it," she said softly. "I saw us getting a bit of naquadria. Not much, but enough for Sam and the other scientists to work with."

Daniel hooked his arm around her shoulders. "Nothing is written in stone, remember? You only get a peek at what might happen...at events leading up to a pivotal point or event."

"I must have misinterpreted what I saw," she sighed, her frown deepening. "I’m so sorry, General Hammond."

"You have no need to apologize. Perhaps at some future time the Kelownans will contact us," Hammond said gently.

"Maybe," she mumbled. "I did see it. We weren’t there just to stop Hale from blowing them all to kingdom come."

"What?" General Hammond asked, his eyes going wide.

Green eyes rolled with frustration. "What did I say this time?"

"That we didn’t go there just to keep Hale from blowing them all to kingdom come," Sam grinned.

"Although, in the grand scheme of things, it’s as good a reason as any," Jack said jauntily.

"Hmmph!" Casey pulled away from Daniel. Looked at the clock on the wall. "It’s still Saturday, isn’t it?"

General Hammond was aware that the team had plans for the evening. The mountain facility was buzzing with the news that one of its own had entered an art contest. Not as many seemed to be aware of the fact that Casey Jackson had been the model for the piece of art that had been entered. He, however, was one of the few who was. "We’ll debrief Monday at oh-eight-hundred."

"Sir, request permission to get to Denver for that art shindig," Jack said.

He fought his grin. "Permission granted," the general replied.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Harold stood in front of the desk, watching as Joey Ricardo went through the files on the CD.

"This is it?" Joey asked.

"What else did you want?" Harold asked, silently damning himself for his inability to keep his mouth shut when he was nervous.

The old man stared coldly for a few moments. Had no doubt that the little shit had found more. He could see it in his eyes...when his guest bothered to look him in the eye, for a brief second or two. Waited for the information to come pouring forth. Raised an eyebrow at the silence. Maybe the little shit had more balls...and integrity...than he had been given credit for.

It was hard not to fidget beneath that stern glare. He had to forcibly restrain himself, tried to keep his breathing calm and regular. Don’t give the old man any clues, he told himself.

"You didn’t find anything else?"

Harold’s eyes dropped to his hands, which were folded in front of him. Gratified to see they weren’t trembling. "You didn’t tell me I was looking for anything specific," he replied. How he kept his voice from shaking, he hadn’t a clue.

Joey sat back. Opened a drawer and tossed half a dozen sealed, stamped and addressed envelopes onto the shiny surface of the desk. "I have a little errand for you. Nothing difficult. I just need you to drop a few things into a mailbox. In downtown Denver."

Why couldn’t one of his goons do that? Harold wondered. He nodded numbly. "Is there a specific mailbox?"

"Don’t be a wiseass," Joey snapped. "Any mailbox, just as long as it’s downtown Denver."

Harold nodded. "Yes, sir." 

"I want them mailed now."

Great. He’d had plans to go to Deezers tonight...he actually had a little cash to spend. He was going to pay for a lap dance or two. At least, he certainly intended to...if he didn’t chicken out at the last second. He sighed silently. Maybe he could find a nice strip joint in Denver...

"You’re still standing there," Joey snapped.

Harold gathered the letters, fumbled and dropped them, bent down to scoop them up. "I’m on my way, sir," he gulped.

Joey nodded, one of his bodyguards took Harold by the arm to escort him out. Lighting an eighty dollar stogy, the old man contemplated what he had learned. Nothing that the little shit had given him was anything he didn’t already know about Mikey Turner. He knew for a fact there was a hell of a lot more. He also knew for a fact that Harold Maser and Mikey Turner were rivals. However, there had never been more than competition between them...a few insults hurled back and forth, but nothing more than that. He had offered Maser a way to be rid of his rival forever. But he hadn’t taken it. Hadn’t made a peep about anything that could even get the crap kicked out of Turner. The little shit was annoying. But he had honor. Not so easy to find these days. No doubt Turner wouldn’t have been as...generous.

He opened a file on his computer. Changed a name, added a few tidbits of information he had located through other sources. Sent the email to an associate. Who would send it to a hired ‘third party’. From there the email would arrive at its intended destination. And the chips would fall wherever.

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