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Descent Into Hell
The teams that had ‘gated to the Alpha site were the first to return, subdued in their reaction to the news that all had gone well. They waited warily with the teams that had remained at the SGC. That General Hammond seemed to be downright chipper made the situation all the more surreal.
Forty-five minutes later, the teams that had been aboard the Daedalus walked through the Stargate, jubilant in their victory over Ba’al. They shared the news of the destruction of the Goa’uld ship with their comrades. Jack was the first to notice that the general was standing just inside the blast doors.
"Sir, I’d like to report mission accomplished." He glanced at Casey, noting the worry that still marred her face. "Well, mostly. We know Daniel is okay. Just not exactly where he’s okay at."
Hammond smiled. "I understand." He walked further into the ‘gate room, nodded at Walter. "Monitor for any messages that might come through from the doctor."
The general looked around. "If you don’t mind, since we’re all here, or mostly in here," he added, noting the members of SG teams standing in the adjoining corridors, "we can have our briefing right here and now. For the record, let me say that if there had really been an order to abandon Doctor Jackson, I would have taken full responsibility for any disobedience, and I would have sent out teams to retrieve him. Under the circumstances, however, the president and I agreed that it would be far more...effective...if you didn’t know that you were embarking on a fully authorized rescue mission."
"We’re mean as hell when we’re pissed off," Casey’s said, a smile on her face.
The laughter that filled the air was as full of relief as it was mirth.
"The Tok’ra did use the Tau’ri," Hammond admitted. "But this is one time that we were more than happy to comply. Full reports haven’t arrived as of yet, but the destruction of Ba’al’s flagship is promising."
"Wait a minute...this was a set up?" Jack asked, frowning deeply.
"Have to admit, boss, it worked," Casey said.
"I don’t have to admit anything," Jack countered. Several chuckles were hidden, or partially hidden, in the sudden clearing of throats.
"How did the staff of the Alpha site react to your arrival?" Hammond asked, doing his best not to smile at the banter.
"They were as surprised by the orders as we were," Major Evans said. He and SG-6 had been chosen to help ‘hold’ that facility until the all-clear had been given. "They immediately sided with us, and let us know that if it came down to it, they'd be fighting on our team."
Hammond nodded. "I’ll speak to Colonel Reilly and let him know what was going on."
"One of the things we didn’t get a chance to mention when we were here before," Jack said, "was that Balls had made a Casey clone."
"He thought I was dead," Casey explained. "He saw Daniel carrying me through the ‘gate from that planet...the one where Teal’c and I..." her voice faded. Not everyone in the SGC was aware of the team’s secret.
"I understand," the general replied.
"That explains the break-in we had a few weeks ago," Sam said.
"Can I trust that the destruction of the ship put an end to Ba’al’s ability to create more clones, or any Super Soldiers?" Hammond asked.
"As far as we’re aware, sir," Jack replied. "We don’t know what he might have had on that planet, other than his temple and palace, which are apparently still under construction. Mitchell scanned the area, says there are about a thousand people living there. We’re assuming that they’re slaves."
"Just to make certain, colonel, put together a mission to take a closer look at the planet," the general said.
"We were able to rescue Ba’al’s lo’taur as well," Casey said. "She’s still on the Daedalus, Doctor Lewis is taking care of her at the moment."
The general nodded. "Suggestions on what to do with her?"
"If I may, sir," Casey said, "she’d be safe with the Free Jaffa. And probably more comfortable around them. She only speaks Goa’uld, so communication here would be difficult for her."
"I concur," Teal’c said. "She would be most welcome in any of the camps or villages."
"I’ll leave that to you," Hammond replied, nodding at the Jaffa. "Let me know when she’s been placed in her new home."
Both Casey and Teal’c nodded their understanding.
"We met the clone," Deke Anderson said, glancing at Casey. "Damned brave woman."
Casey tried to smile. "I was able to talk to Gemeti a little bit, just before we ringed down to the ‘gate. She said that...the clone...died fighting Ba’al, trying to protect the Jaffa who were with her, and to keep him and his loyal Jaffa from finding you and your team. Apparently she..." Casey turned her head, blinked back her tears. "She prevented Ba’al from being hurt. But she took away the one thing he wanted the most."
Hammond cleared his throat. "I see."
Sam had been frowning, obviously concentrating on something. "I’m not sure she would have lived long, anyway," she said softly.
All eyes swung toward the tall blonde major. "And what would make you think that?" Jack asked.
"I’m not sure about any of this, it’s only a theory," Sam said, looking from Jack to the general. "Nirrti was working to create the perfect host. We know, from what the Tok’ra were able to find, that Anubis used quite a bit of her research to add to his own work on the Super Soldiers."
"Okay. This means what?" Jack frowned.
"Any information that Ba’al had, he stole from Anubis and Nirrti," Sam explained.
"Not hearing about life expectancies here," Jack muttered.
"According to the Tok’ra, Nirrti had managed to steal information on genetic experimentation from the Asgard."
"Are you saying Nirrti lifted Loki’s notes?" Casey asked, the disbelief in her voice mirrored on the faces around her.
"Possibly. As far as we know, Loki was the only Asgard still running genetic cloning experiments," Sam replied.
"Which means that anything Balls has, is flawed," Jack mused.
"It’s also possible that either Nirrti, Anubis, or even Ba’al, managed to find and correct the flaws," Sam added.
"Still, no matter how long she had, it’s a shame she couldn’t have lived her life free from Ba’al, somewhere...peaceful," Casey sighed.
"Does anyone have anything else to add?" the general asked.
"Me and my boys were able to bring back all of the gear that Ba’al has been collecting from SG-1 every time he captures them." Snickers moved among the gathered teams. "That, and the bag of goodies SG-1 went to his ship to collect," Colonel Dixon said, grinning broadly.
"Very good, Colonel," Hammond smiled.
"I think that’s it, sir," Jack said. "What happened on the Daedalus, I’ll leave to Colonel Mitchell to report."
"Other than not having a clue where Daniel is, everything came out pretty well," Jack smirked.
A A A A A A
Daniel tried to roll over, then realized that the bed wouldn’t stop moving. There’d never been an earthquake in Colorado, at least not one that he’d been aware of...so what the hell was going on? He opened his eyes. The tent above him was not the ceiling of his bedroom. Which meant he wasn’t in his bed. He managed to focus on the grinning face of Bra’tac. "Wha-"
"You must wake up, Daniel Jackson. Jacob Carter and Selmak await our arrival,"the Jaffa master said.
He sat up. "You got through to him?"
"I did. I did not expect him to be able to meet with us so soon. I have taken the liberty of telling my Jaffa that it is because Rihat truly is a Tok’ra, and one who has been deep in the heart of Nergal’s court for some time. That he was sent to spy on Ba’al was proof of his success." It was obvious that Bra’tac was quite proud of his contribution to the story that would see Daniel’s secret, and that of SG-1, kept silent.
Daniel smiled. "Then I’m going home!"
"Indeed, Daniel Jackson. You are going home."
He climbed to his feet, took the time to make certain the scarf was still covering the collar of the modulating device. The reason for needing the device caused a slight shudder; he poked around in his mind, just to confirm that he was truly alone, that Rihat was indeed dead. His sigh was one of pure relief. "I’m ready."
With a nod, Bra’tac led the young archaeologist out of the tent. The Jaffa who had been on Ba’al’s ship were waiting near the DHD.
"We would thank you for aiding our escape. If not for you, we would have died...at Ba’al’s hand, or that of his enemies,"the leader of the group said.
"I’m glad I was able to save the brave Jaffa who serve Master Bra’tac, and all of the Free Jaffa,"Daniel replied, his voice resonating with the duality of a symbiote
The Jaffa inclined his head, then stepped aside.
Bra’tac dialed the ‘gate, then turned to Rak’nor. "I will be gone only a short time. I need only see that Rihat is safely returned to the Tok’ra."
"Yes, Master," Rak’nor said, nodding his understanding.
"As always, remain alert,"Bra’tac warned.
"As you say."The younger Jaffa dared to smile. "We have not yet been discovered here. I don’t think we need worry on this day."
"Never become complacent. It is synonymous with death,"Bra’tac said sharply.
"Yes, Master,"Rak’nor replied, suitably chagrined.
Daniel wanted to race up the steps and through the waiting event horizon. Barely resisted doing so. Bit his tongue to keep from urging the old Jaffa to hurry up.
Bra’tac glanced at Daniel. "We will go now. I’m sure Rihat is most anxious to return home."
"Yes, I am," Daniel replied. And refused to acknowledge the grin on the old man’s face.
Jacob was pacing in front of the DHD when it came to life. His hand went to the zat’nik’tel at his side, and he stepped into the shadow of the trees that surrounded the Stargate. As it did every time he was in such a situation, his heart pounded with the dread that whoever walked through the round monument would be an enemy.
He nearly sighed out loud when he recognized the Jaffa master, and Daniel Jackson. Took note of the way the young archaeologist was dressed. ‘Too understated for a Goa’uld,’ he said to Selmak. Listened to her chuckle.
‘He has far more taste than a Goa’uld. Although I will wager that his wife will find his appearance most...pleasing.’
He took in the tight black pants, and the red shirt, unbuttoned all the way to the waistband. ‘Most probably.’
Bra’tac looked around warily, his staff weapon poised and ready to fire. "Jacob Carter?"
"Here," Jacob said, stepping out from his hiding place. "Had to make certain you weren’t someone I didn’t want to see."
"I understand," Bra’tac replied.
"Daniel, I hear you’ve had one hell of a day," Jacob said, turning his attention to the young man who practically vibrated with anticipation. He had switched to speaking English, certain that Daniel'd had enough of Goa’uld for one day. Knowing that the Jaffa master understood the language as well as spoke it.
Daniel was already unwinding the scarf. Took the voice modulating device off before he replied. "Hell is the appropriate word," he said. He draped the scarf around his neck, oblivious to the fact that the ends hung down to his groin.
"I assume that your Immortality is what killed the symbiote?" Jacob asked.
"I guess so," Daniel replied. "When the snake...er...symbiote passed out, I remained aware...conscious."
Jacob’s eyes fluttered closed, then opened, flashing for just a moment. "Most intriguing," Selmak said. She turned to Bra’tac. "Greetings, Master Bra’tac."
"And to you, Selmak," the Jaffa responded.
"We are most pleased at the response of your friends. They destroyed Ba’al’s ha’tak much quicker than we had anticipated."
Daniel couldn’t help but smile. No doubt his friends had hit that ship like crazed men in an attempt to find him. He’d also lay odds that Casey had caused as much destruction as possible. "Is Ba’al dead?"
"I’m afraid we’ve been unable to confirm his death. However, the Goa’uld who attacked him are convinced of his demise," Selmak replied.
"Which will lead them to behave recklessly, attempting to fill the void his presence has left," Bra’tac said.
"Perhaps," Selmak said. "Ba’al has hidden much of what he controls. If he survived this day, then his retaliatory attacks will be swift, precise, and merciless."
"If that is so, he could destroy those weaker than him," Bra’tac mused. "If too many fall before him, others will bow to him, rather than be destroyed."
"I’m afraid so," Selmak sighed. "For the moment, that we have obliterated Ba’al’s ability to create Kull warriors is enough."
"You are certain of this?" Bra’tac inquired.
"As certain as we can be. Our spies indicated that the only equipment that he had was on board his ha’tak. So that he could monitor any experiments he might be performing."
"You did know about the clone, right?" Daniel asked.
Both men turned to stare at their young companion. "Clone?" Selmak asked hoarsely.
"A coupe of weeks or so ago," Daniel started, "there was a break-in at the SGC. Cloaked individual managed to climb down the escape tunnel, to the med level. Stole a container that held vials of blood. Most specifically, Casey’s blood. It had been taken right after she’d arrived at the SGC."
"And Ba’al used this blood to create a clone?" Selmak surmised.
"Of my Wife, yes. I don’t know if she made it off that ha’tak before it was destroyed or not. If my friends found her, then she’s at the SGC."
Selmak frowned. "The cloning process for such an undertaking is much more...precise...than that of simply creating bodies to contain the specially bred symbiotes of Kull warriors."
"Is there a chance that Ba’al was working toward a more refined Kull warrior?" Bra’tac wondered.
"If so, then it will be even more difficult to kill them," Selmak replied.
"We must pray that the Tau’ri did indeed kill Ba’al today," the Jaffa said, his own voice raspy with concern.
"I agree, my friend," Selmak nodded.
"I hate to be inconsiderate here, I really do appreciate all you’ve done for me," Daniel said, too weary, too anxious to get home to want to think about what Ba’al might or might not be doing...if he’d survived. "But right now, I just want to see Casey."
"Of course," Selmak smiled. "Jacob and I will accompany you. We can debrief General Hammond on what the Tok’ra witnessed today."
"Bra’tac, thanks for everything," Daniel said, turning to the old warrior.
Gripping the younger man’s arm in the traditional Jaffa manner, Bra’tac smiled. "Thank you, for giving me the answer to the riddle that had perplexed me."
Daniel smiled in return. "You’re welcome."
"I will return to my warriors. We will celebrate Ba’al’s death," Bra’tac declared.
"We don’t know for certain that he’s dead," Daniel objected.
"For now, he is dead. The Goa’uld have a very irritating habit of returning, just when we are certain they are no more," Bra’tac said. "We will celebrate when we can, to boost our spirits for battles yet to come."
"Fair enough," Daniel replied.
The Jaffa master rounded the DHD, pressed the symbols that would return him to the Jaffa encampment. "Let us hope that today has seen the end of the System Lord known as Ba’al."
"Let us hope," Selmak said.
"Safe travels to you," Bra’tac said.
"And to you," Selmak replied.
"Daniel Jackson, I will visit your compound soon. Tell Hammond of Texas we will boast of our victories to one another," Bra’tac grinned.
"I’ll tell him," Daniel promised.
The Tok’ra and the Tau’ri watched as the Jaffa rebel entered the event horizon, and disappeared.
Taking a deep breath, Daniel began to dial for the SGC. "I don’t have a GDO," he said, the realization causing a bit of panic.
Jacob held up the small device that his old friend and one-time colleague had given him. "I do."
With a nod, Daniel finished dialing the sequence of symbols. His heart began to hammer his ribs as he waited for the Stargate to open. Home. He’d be home in just a matter of a minute or so. Casey would be there, he’d be able to hold her, know that she was safe, reassure her that he was fine. Just another minute...
A A A A A A
When the Stargate came to life, all those who had been standing in the ‘gate room came to immediate attention. All of the SG team members were still armed. Every weapon was trained on the spinning device.
"Incoming wormhole," Walter announced. "Tok’ra IDC. It’s General Carter, sir."
Hammond nodded. Hurried to the end of the ramp to wait the arrival of his friend. Maybe, just maybe, the Tok’ra had word on where Doctor Jackson was.
The ‘whoosh!’ of the event horizon opening filled the room. When the wormhole stabilized, everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath, waiting for the arrival of the Tok’ra leader.
When Daniel appeared, for a moment not a sound could be heard. Then, as if one breath had been drawn, everyone stared for a few seconds, as if to ascertain that the man walking down the ramp was indeed their missing archaeologist. Cheers began to ring out.
"Daniel!" Casey squealed. Her brain barely had time to register the way he was dressed; tight black pants, red shirt unbuttoned to his waist...the scarf that drew her attention to his crotch, although her body responded immediately to the sight. She tossed her P90 toward Teal’c, and raced up the ramp.
For his part, Daniel had just enough time to comprehend the fact that his Wife was running toward him in order to brace himself before she flung herself into his arms. Her arms locked around his neck, her slender legs wrapped around his waist, and she was pressing kisses on his face, his neck, his throat, his eyelids, all the while murmuring her love between each caress. He managed to remain on his feet, his hands going to her shapely derriere.
Jacob Carter grinned, sidled around the couple, and walked to the bottom of the ramp. "Hello, George."
Hammond smiled. "Hello, Jacob."
"Just as we predicted, your people did a phenomenal job today."
Jack frowned. "Ya know, general, ya coulda' just asked."
"But you wouldn’t have been as...forceful. Not as...angry. Those emotions made you far more dangerous than had you simply gone on a mission for us," Jacob replied.
"Well, true," Jack admitted.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I want mission reports on my desk by the end of day shift tomorrow. You’re all dismissed. Duty officers report in. Those not on duty...go home and get a good night’s rest," General Hammond announced. "We get back to work first thing in the morning. Doctor Jackson, we’ll debrief as soon as you’ve been given medical clearance."
Oblivious to anything or anyone, Daniel pressed his lips against Casey’s throat, felt the pulse that beat so rapidly there. Safe. She was safe and in his arms.
The moment he began to kiss her, Casey knew that the horrendous day was finally over. "Let’s go home, Stud Muffin."
"I like the sound of that," he murmured, just before his lips closed on hers once again.
"Hey! Come up for air, for crying out loud!"
"Bite me, Jack," Daniel muttered. And continued to kiss his Wife.
Jack, Sam, and Teal’c stood patiently at the end of the ramp, waiting for their turn to greet their safely returned teammate.
Daniel shifted Casey in his arms, one arm around her shoulders, the other beneath her knees, refusing to let her go as he walked down the ramp.
"Welcome home, Space Monkey," Jack said softly, reaching out to muss Daniel’s hair.
"Been through hell, but yeah, I’m okay. You?"
"Lousy freakin’ day. But I’m okay now."
"We were so-" Sam started, her voice cracking with emotion.
"Me too, Sam," Daniel said softly. He pressed a kiss to her temple. "It’s all over now."
"Indeed," Teal’c said, his dark eyes suspiciously shiny.
Janet hurried into the room, making a straight line for Teal’c. "I would have been in here to greet you, but I couldn’t make it through the crowd."
"All is well," Teal’c replied gently.
"Daniel...I want you in the infirmary now. You’re not snake free until I say you’re snake free," Janet said firmly.
"Aw, Janet, I know he’s gone! I...felt it."
"I’m certain you did. And I’m certain it’s a result of your Immortality. But I want to run tests, just to make certain. We’ve had snakes try to fool us before."
"She has a point, Daniel," Jack said.
"General Hammond insists that we have all of the paperwork in place that proves you’re still you," Janet pressed. "Besides, it’s SOP for a team to have a post-mission exam."
"You’ll have to examine everyone then," Casey muttered.
"Right now, I’m not worried about them. I am, however, concerned about Daniel. Let’s go," Janet replied.
Knowing that to argue would be a waste of time, and wanting to get out of the SGC and home alone with his Wife as quickly as possible, Daniel heaved a pained sigh, and followed the petite doctor as she marched toward the elevator.
There were still team members loitering in the corridors. All of them greeted Daniel, reached out to pat his back as he passed by them, as if reassuring themselves that he was indeed among them once again.
As soon as the team was on the elevator, the doors closed behind them, Daniel lowered his head to kiss Casey once again. He drank from her sweet lips, taking the comfort he needed, offering her the same with each pass of his tongue against hers.
So wrapped up in one another, they never noticed that Jack pulled Sam into a tight hug, holding her closely, or that Teal’c had leaned down to place a gentle kiss on Janet’s waiting lips. The SF’s in the monitoring room grinned at one another, and diverted their attention to the other camera feeds that filled the monitors spread before them. Once again SG-1 had taken the day, and all members were home and safe. This was one of the good days.
Janet held the small device on Daniel’s neck "Nothing registering."
"Told you so," he replied.
"There’s still a small mark, here," she said, running her fingertip over the scar left by Rihat’s brutal entry into his body. "Should be gone by tomorrow."
"Good. I’d prefer not to have any physical reminders of today," Daniel said, shuddering slightly.
Patting his arm, Janet reached for a hypodermic needle. "I’m going to draw a bit of blood. If I’m right, you’re going to have the same protein markers that Sam has now."
He nodded his understanding. "So I’ll be able to sense a Goa’uld now?"
"It feels like...tingles," Sam said.
Casey was contemplating Teal’c, who stood beside the door, feet planted shoulder-width apart, his hands held loosely behind him. "So, Jaffa, since you’ve become Immortal, can you still tell when the bad guys are around?"
"Indeed. It would seem that the only change in my physiology was the removal of the pouch that harbored the symbiote, and the opening for it."
Janet smirked. "Well, there’s the little change that made you Immortal."
Teal’c smiled. "Indeed."
"Well, boss, we could always have you blend with a Tok’ra for a day or so, then you’ll have the Goa’uld proximity alarm, too."
Jack shuddered visibly. "No thanks! I’ll just depend on the four of you to let me know when the bad guys are around."
"And if we’re not with you?" Casey challenged. "Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c get the tingles, I can sense the duality of host and symbiote...just how are you going to figure out if there’s a Goa’uld around?"
"I’ll do what I always do. Assume everyone is a snake until proven otherwise."
General Hammond peeked into the infirmary. "Doctor Jackson, if you’ll come to my office as soon as you’re finished here, you can give me your report, and then call it a day. Considering what you and your teammates have gone through today, I think taking tomorrow off is in your best interest."
"Yes, sir. Thanks, sir," Daniel replied.
His eyes sweeping the other members of the team, the general locked gazes with Jack. "I think all of you need a few hours to rest. I’ll expect SG-1 to report for duty day after tomorrow."
"Thanks, sir," Jack said quietly.
With a nod, the general turned and walked away, heading back to his office. He had one more phone call to make. He was certain that President Hayes would be relieved to know that once again, SG-1 had saved the day...and lived to tell about it.
The debriefing with the general had been blessedly short. He’d not been forced to relate all the details of his temporary imprisonment in his own mind by the Goa’uld known as Rihat. Daniel accepted the sincere good wishes from the Texan, and then headed for the locker room.
"Don’t change on my account," Casey said, her smile seductive. "Do you have any idea how hot you look in those pants?"
Daniel grinned. "Nope."
"Good. But you do. And that shirt...goddess what it does for your shoulders..." She paused; looked up into amused blue eyes. She reached out, grabbed the ends of the scarf and pulled him closer. "Think you could stand wearing it for another hour or so?"
"I think I could be persuaded," he replied.
She pressed against him, kissed his chin. "I can be very persuasive."
"Yes, you can," he admitted, his body stirring to life.
"Let’s go home, Stud Muffin."
Home. For a couple of hours, he’d feared he’d never see his home again. Never be with Casey again...never again be seduced, amused, entertained, overjoyed with her company. Somewhere in the universe was a Power that seemed to protect him. He had no idea who that might be. But he’d be forever indebted for the help he’d had today. There was no doubt in his mind that without the interference of that Being...and he suspected that the ‘woman’ that the clone had mentioned just might be the same ‘guardian’ who watched over him...he’d have been doomed to life as a Goa’uld host. That was a descent into hell he never wanted to make.
Draping his arm around his Wife’s shoulders, he led her toward the elevator. Thanks, whoever you are, wherever you are.
Watching from her place in the corner, the woman smiled. Could feel the emotions from the man...touched him just enough to ‘hear’ the thanks his mind uttered. "You are most welcome, Daniel Jackson, Champion of the Innocent. May what you learned this day keep you safe on the perilous journey ahead."
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