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The sun was low on the horizon. The teams were given a break when the undergrowth began to thin out as they moved deeper into the forest. They were able to double time around the huge trees, some sort of oak, Daniel mused, making up a bit of the time they'd lost earlier.
By the time the bushes and vines became thick again, it was nightfall. Jack ordered the teams forward, and aided by their night vision goggles, they continued toward their ultimate goal. He could only hope that they weren't leaving on the run. If so, it was going to be damned close. Deep in his gut he already knew that when they made their way back to the 'gate, it would be under fire. That's the way this type of mission always went down. There was no use trying to pretend otherwise.
There was danger in pushing on without a break...they were all tired. Pushing and hacking through all of that foliage had taken its toll on each of them. Running only added to that fatigue. And they needed to be sharp when they were inside that...whatever the hell it was. Jack shook his head mentally. Adrenaline would only take them so far. But hopefully it would take them to the end of this mission.
As Casey had reported, the forest ended abruptly. They could see several campfires burning. Dozens of tents filled the meadow.
"Those weren't there before," Casey whispered, crouched beside her CO.
"What the hell does a snake need with Jaffa, if she has those Super Warriors?" Jack asked, thinking out loud.
"She can't control them, not yet. The Super Warriors are getting onto that ship because they're supposed to, not because she told them to," Casey replied.
"You're sure?" Jack asked.
"You're sure about that?"
He grinned. It was too dark to see, and her goggles blocked his view of her eyes, but he had no doubt she was rolling them in frustration. Experience had proven that whenever she said something like that, she wasn't wrong. "Never mind."
"I hate it when that happens!"
"So you've said," Daniel grinned.
"Where's that doorway, Radar?"
Casey scanned the meadow. One Goa'uld Al'kesh was visible, and from what she could remember, it was the same one that had 'appeared' when she'd 'been here' before. Damn it, if she were better with distances, it would make this much easier! She didn't dare just try to crawl out there, this time she was corporeal, and she would be seen. A glance around her wasn't much help, the trees all looked the same to her. "Give me a minute," she murmured.
Before her teammates, or her husband, could protest, she'd closed her eyes.
She felt herself move up and over her body. A careful study of the SG teams confirmed that they were well hidden among the shrubbery. She counted each step she took. There was a telltale indentation just at the bottom of the door. She searched carefully. There it was! She turned to face her hidden companions. If she could only leave some sort of mark...dragging the heel of her boot, she moved around the door. The scuff mark was deep and obvious...here anyway. She could only hope that it worked. With a sigh, and a prayer for help from any of the true gods who watched, she raced back to her friends and waiting body.
"Damn it," Daniel hissed. "I am so not amused!"
Casey opened her eyes just as he finished speaking. "I dunno, I thought it was funny."
Daniel rolled his eyes, an action hidden by his own goggles.
"I'm not good with distances," she admitted, "but it was fifty three steps for me...that way."
Jack looked in the direction that she pointed. Seemed too damned close to the outer edge of that camp for his comfort, but then, that was par for the course, wasn't it? "Okay, Radar, feel like taking point?"
She'd never taken point before. It was risky. It was also important that she remain alert, her warning would be all her team had of any approaching danger. "You bet," she replied, hoping she sounded more confident that she felt. "Might be easier if I just go open the door, and then you guys can join me."
The thought had already crossed his mind. For all of her enthusiasm, for all that she'd learned, Casey was still not a seasoned veteran at this game. He sighed mentally. Every recruit, every cadet, had to take that first step sometime. Without a doubt Daniel would knock the shit out of him for this...especially if the whole thing went tits up...but..."Good idea. Keep your ass down."
"Jack-" Daniel started to object.
"Daniel, we have to get down there. We can't risk being caught before we take those freaks and that ship out. All of us stumbling around out there will get us caught. Radar knows where it is."
He hated this! With everything inside him, he hated this! Once again the thought of resigning from SG-1 flashed through his mind. Couldn't help but smile when she pushed her goggles up, turned her face sideways, and planted a hasty kiss on his mouth, too quick for him to be able to respond. He ran his tongue over his lips, could taste her sweetness there. "Be careful, Angel," he whispered.
"Promise," she whispered in return. Goggles back in place, she shrugged her pack off. Felt more than saw that Teal'c had picked it up for her. Pushing her P90 in front of her, she began to crawl toward the doorway. Please, please, please let those marks I left really be there! she thought desperately.
Eight people watched her, each of them holding their breath. Various thoughts skittered across minds as she moved on her belly, slowly...carefully...making her way toward her goal.
Once again Major Ferretti found himself in awe of the slender blonde. She had to be scared shitless, but no one would ever know that, especially the snakes. His gaze moved from the body that moved over the ground, to the nearest of the tents. He already had the safety off his P90. His thumb flicked it from automatic to semi-auto mode...so that he could fire off one round at a time if need be. Assassin style.
Daniel's heart was hammering against his ribs as he watched her. How in the hell did she always manage to get away from him? No matter his resolve, it seemed that circumstances at every turn during missions resulted in her being wrenched from his side, where she was at least relatively safe. His finger caressed the trigger of his weapon. Let just one freaking Jaffa move in her direction, and he was dead. He didn't give a shit what Jack said. He'd do whatever it took to protect her.
Jack couldn't help but grin. During several of their training sessions, he'd put his booted foot on her ass, telling her that if she failed to keep it down, she'd not only give away her position, and thus the position of her teammates, but she was liable to get it shot off as well. She listened. She learned. And that nicely shaped little fanny was as low as the rest of her.
Teal'c was nodding mentally with approval as well. Casey Jackson was indeed a quick learner. A smile tugged his lips upward at the memory of when she had, very seriously, told him that the Jaffa should no longer be referred to as 'the faithful ones', but the 'courageous ones'. And that the ranks should be open to any who could prove themselves worthy in the battle against the Goa'uld. He understood that she was thinking about the others at the SGC. Never would the thought that she was worthy of being called 'Jaffa' cross her mind. She was becoming a formidable Jaffa, he thought proudly.
A glance at his watch told him that in spite of the fact that it felt as if hours had passed, it had been five minutes. Jack continue to watch carefully, his eyes scanning around her, making certain that no threat approached her.
If she didn't find the damned thing soon, she was just going to stand up and walk over to it, she grumped silently. Just as she was about to give up, she saw a faint mark in the dirt. She scooted forward, her fingers following the path of the grass that seemed pressed down. This was it! Yes! It wasn't quite as noticeable as she'd thought it would be, but her efforts on the astral plane had paid off. Now, she hadn't found the latch the first time, but she knew where it was, having come running out of that door after what she'd discovered inside. Trembling fingers continued to search. Oh, yeah! I'm good, baby! she thought delightedly. Now if she just opened this thing, the others would see it and they could run toward it, and hopefully the cover of darkness would prevent them from being detected.
She took a deep breath. Stood up and pulled the door open, half fearing that alarms would begin to scream. Not a sound broke the silence save for her heavy breathing. She ducked inside, and kept her eyes on the tents that she could see.
They all watched as she stood up, yanked open a door and disappeared inside. The door remained up and open. "That's our cue, campers," Jack said, already on his feet.
The two teams raced across the meadow, the advantage of their night vision goggles making the run no more dangerous than it would have been during the light of day. So far luck was with them, and the alarm had not been sounded. Not one of them believed they were home free, however. Just because you couldn't hear an alarm didn't mean that the enemy hadn't been alerted to your presence.
Teal'c had automatically dropped back to cover their six, and as the last one through the opening, he pulled the hatch-type door closed behind him.
"Good job, Radar," Jack said proudly.
"Thanks," Casey grinned. She accepted Daniel's hug, one of relief and pride.
"Okay, you know the way, lead on," Jack grinned.
With a nod, she pulled her pack over her shoulders, gripped her P90 just a little tighter, and moved down the corridor. They were inside...finally. Now all they had to do was stop all of the activity that went on in this...bunker. Piece of cake. Right.
A A A A A A
Colonel Simmons checked into the motel; a small, unassuming place that had seen better days. It was clean, it was cheap, but most of all, it was the last place that anyone associated with the SGC would expect to find him.
He spread the map of Silver Springs on the small table that sat in front of the window. Located the motel. And then located the residence of one Dr. Daniel Jackson. And his very lovely wife Casey. Was absolutely thrilled to learn that it was within blocks of Dr. Janet Fraiser's house. Where little Cassie Fraiser, the alien from 'Toronto' resided. How convenient.
The drive was less than ten minutes. It was an older neighborhood, well established. The homes were modest in style, mostly older bungalows; or the large, square 'farmhouse' type. All were well kept, however, and each house inconspicuously reflected the quiet substance of the homeowners. He circled the block twice, frustrated to learn that there wasn't an alley that offered access to the back of the Jackson house.
It didn't take an expert to realize that a rental car would be noticed if it were parked anywhere near the Jackson residence. The same held true for the street where Cassie Fraiser lived, and for the old, red brick building that housed the Silver Springs Roosevelt High School. Where, according to his information, Cassie was a sophomore.
What he needed was something that would blend in. He drove to the nearest bank. Took out a cash advance. Then he purchased a newspaper. Someone had an old car they were trying to sell for a few hundred dollars cash. He only needed the car for a few days. And it would never be traced to him. His smile was cold. By the end of the week, Casey Jackson and Cassie Fraiser would be in his custody. George Hammond and those damnable pests of SG-1 would do exactly as he said, in order to assure their safety. And what he could learn from both would placate his...associates.
A A A A A A
Ba'al stared at the ceiling, his hands beneath his head. If only he'd known! He never would have subjected her to the training! Seer! And from what his spies told him, a very powerful seer. Osiris and Tem were both fools. Taking over the First World would not be as easy as they both wished it to be. It would take time. Patience. Cunning. Getting an operative in the infamous SGC had not been easy. Nor had the...arrangement...lasted long. No doubt the damned idiot had done something to give himself away. His last report, which would also be the final report, he claimed, had indicated that he no longer had access to any of the more secure areas of the base. What he could learn would have no significant value.
Three attempts to contact the spy had failed. He didn't dare leave his scout ship near Earth for long, the damned Asgard had a way of popping up at the most inopportune times. He'd ordered the ship away after receiving the last transmission from them, reporting that all efforts to communicate with the spy had remained fruitless. There was always the chance that the spy had been caught, detained, perhaps even exposed. The fact that two of his spies among the Tok'ra had been exposed because of Casey Jackson left no doubt in his mind that she was a seer, and could have discovered the traitor. The order had been given to...terminate...the arrangement. Permanently.
He cursed silently. If he had but known! She'd be with him now, would be his Consort! Never did the thought cross his mind that she'd not willingly leave the man whose name had been constantly on her lips, whenever the ker'nish'ta ebbed in her system. He was Ba'al. He was a god. She would be honored to be the woman selected to sit at his side.
A A A A A A
General Hammond finished reading the report that Sergeant Mandel Ortega had handed him. That man waited silently, hands behind him at parade rest. "Major, I believe this little operation has been a success."
A smile flickered over his brown face. He'd been concerned when his commanding officer had first approached him. He'd feared the retribution of the others working within the mountain if his...mission...were to be discovered before it was completed. Traitors weren't dealt with lightly within the gray cement walls of Stargate Command. He'd no doubt be the recipient of a blanket party or two...and his survival wouldn't be a concern to the party-throwers.
It hadn't been as difficult to place himself into position as he'd feared: being caught by one of Ba'al's Goa'uld subordinates, along with his teammates, had offered him the chance to 'turn'. It had to be Ba'al, the general had insisted. That snake bastard had become too damned powerful, and now that Anubis was history, thanks to SG-1, he'd be quick to move in and take what was left. Everyone on the base had a hate-on for that particular Goa'uld as well, for what he'd done to Casey Jackson. Passing on information about her hadn't been easy to do. He worried that it would put her at greater risk.
"Did you leave the communication orb in the lab?"
"Yes, sir," Mandel replied. "They seemed excited to get it."
"You've done a fine job, son. I know it wasn't easy for you." General Hammond looked toward the briefing room, where the rest of the young man's team, SG-4, filed silently into the room. "Major Haines indicated to me that he suspected that you'd been 'turned'. His fear however, was that you were working for the NID."
Mandel's eyes went wide. "Why would I want to work for those assholes?" he blurted. His face turned red. "I apologize for my outburst, sir."
Hammond chuckled. "No need, son. I feel the same way. Let's tell your CO what's been going on, shall we?"
The two men entered the briefing room. Sat down at the table. "Gentlemen, I will be putting Sergeant Ortega in for a Silver Star."
"Sir?" Major Haines gasped. Ortega was a flippin' spy! He just hadn't been able to prove it! But that little shit was passing on information...probably building up a nice fat bank account squealing to the NID.
"Several weeks ago, after a chat with General Carter, it occurred to me that we've never attempted to infiltrate the Goa'uld with spies. Sergeant Ortega's record is exemplary, and he displayed the qualities needed for such a...delicate...operation," General Hammond explained.
Grins were lighting faces, where just moments before frowns of distrust had been. "Way to go, Mandel!" one of the SF's said, giving the young man a 'high-five'.
Haines sat back. Crossed his arms over his chest. "Had to be when that creep Atar had us."
The young sergeant grinned. "Why do you think they kept taking me to talk to him?"
The major chuckled. "Well I'll be damned! I knew something was up...I knew he was spying...just didn't know he was doing it for us!"
General Hammond smiled. "Sergeant Ortega was reporting directly to Ba'al's First Prime. He gave him all of the information we wanted Ba'al to have. Including coordinates for the planet where we suspect Anubis was building his Super Warriors."
"On the other side of the galaxy from where Mrs. J found them," Mandel grinned.
"If you're telling us, I take it that the mission has been completed?" Haines asked.
"Yes, Major, it has. We felt it was too risky to continue...there was the chance that Ba'al would attempt to contact the sergeant personally...which put your team at too great a risk."
"You told him you'd been caught!" one of the other men exclaimed.
Mandel nodded. "I told him that I was leaving the SGC...as soon as he found that out, he told me that there wasn't anything I could offer them."
"So what was the bribe?"
The sergeant and the general exchanged a glance. The general nodded. Mandel took a deep breath. "When Atar started torturing me...I held out as long as I thought I should. Then I made him think I'd cracked. He put a device behind my ear. It had explosives in it...just enough to take off the side of my head."
Every man in the room winced.
"General Carter and the Tok'ra were familiar with the devices. They took it out, emptied out the explosive stuff, and then put it back. As far as Ba'al and his First Prime could tell on their little tag reader, I was still...tagged. They probably sent the detonation code right after the last communication. I'm assuming they think I'm dead."
"Shit!" one of the men hissed.
"Sergeant Mandel reported in every day. There has been a scout ship above us since he was...turned. The latest report we have is that the ship broke orbit two hours ago." The general was more than pleased that Major Carter, in one of her frequent moments of genius, had devised a way for half a dozen military satellites that circled the Earth to detect cloaked ships. It was by no means fool-proof. And she insisted that the newer, more sophisticated cloaks the Goa'uld were developing would be impossible to detect. Smaller ships didn't seem to receive the 'upgrades' that the motherships had...and thus were easier to spot. It had been a long shot, but knowing that Ba'al had to have someone within close proximity to Sergeant Ortega, the gamble had been worth it. And had paid off. "I consider the mission to be a total success."
"Glad to know you're still on the right side," Major Haines said quietly.
"Only place I would be, sir," Mandel replied.
General Hammond smiled. Understood that the team needed time to talk, to move past the feelings of distrust that had mounted during the weeks of the operation. "Gentlemen, you are dismissed."
"Let's go grab a beer, Manny."
"Sounds good to me, sir."
The team left the room, all of the men crowding around their teammate, the newest hero in the SGC.
A A A A A A
Simmons slid into the chair. The table was in the corner, and offered the perfect view of the school across the street. The diner had internet access; something, the waitress informed him, that kept the kids coming in and ordering. He'd smiled up at her, and ordered the daily special.
Reports indicated that Casey Jackson and Cassandra Fraiser were close, having endured that entire kidnapping fiasco together. It should be easy to grab the girl, have her call the older woman, ask to meet somewhere, and then, as simple as that, he'd have both of them. He snorted softly. If Kinsey had grabbed the two himself, no doubt he'd still be a senator, and have a very nicely padded bank account.
He huffed a sigh of frustration. No matter what codes he used, he was still unable to access the SGC computers. At least, the sections he wanted access to. The top secret files. Files that were locked away from the prying eyes of overseers. After a final attempt, he snapped his laptop closed. It was just as well. The waitress was delivering a plate heaped with the greasiest hamburger he'd ever seen, onion rings and French fries. He'd ordered coffee, but looking at the plate, a sudden urge hit him. "I don't suppose you make chocolate malts here," he said.
The waitress grinned at him. "Only the best in town."
"Then as long as I'm going to pretend I'm still a young man who can eat this without suffering for it, I might as well go all the way."
"Coming right up," the waitress replied.
Cassandra Fraiser had grown up a lot in the week she'd gone to Washington, D.C. with her mother and SG-1 and had been kidnapped. She'd also learned a lot. The time spent with Casey had taught her to be more aware of what was going on around her. So when she walked into Jerry's Diner, the man in the suit caught her attention immediately. She sat down at the counter to wait for her friends. And watched him surreptitiously in the wide mirror on the wall behind the stacks of cups and ice cream dishes and the cooler where the ice cream was stored. She wasn't sure whether or not he was watching her, or the waitress. Until the waitress hurried back into the kitchen to pick up the order for the three football players at the other end of the counter.
Simmons watched the girl. She was lost in whatever book she was reading. He stood up, ready to make his move. Patted his pocket. Right where he'd put it.
She took a deep breath. Better to apologize for being wrong, than winding up a victim again, she reasoned. She slid off the stool, hurried toward the three strapping teenagers. "Excuse me, but that man over there is making me nervous," she said calmly.
Three heads swung around in unison. Simmons was halfway between the table where he'd been sitting, and the counter where the girl had been...until three seconds ago.
"Hey, you some kind of freak?" one of the boys asked, rising to his feet.
The other two boys were standing as well. Cassie slid in behind them.
"Of course not," Simmons spat. "I'm simply after a napkin!"
There was something about this guy...he looked familiar. She glanced across the street. Her mind made up, her eyes never leaving the man's face, she slipped back to where she'd left her books and purse, grabbed them and ran back out the door.
"Sorry, man," one of the boys said. "Little girl was just a bit scared."
"No need to apologize," Simmons replied smoothly. He suddenly understood that 'simply' taking Cassandra Fraiser and Casey Jackson would be no such thing.
Cassie raced across the street, up the steps and back into the school. The computer lab was open for another hour. All she needed to do was to check the most reliable source she knew.
Janet Fraiser had learned early on, when dealing with Senator Robert Kinsey, that keeping copies of every email, every letter, every memo, and every bit of information available on those from D.C. with whom she dealt was in her best interest. And those of her friends. Cassie knew about the files. Knew how to access them. With luck, her mother would have a few up-to-date ID photos as well.
Good...she was in! Her mother was a doctor. Very organized. Like items were always grouped together. She giggled at the title of the file. 'Mug shots'. No doubt that was wishful thinking on her mom's part! One particular photo sent shivers up her spine. She'd never met the man. But what he'd wanted to do to her...to Casey...she shivered again.
There were several other photos, NID agents, suspected NID agents...She sat back in the chair.
Colonel Frank Simmons. NID. Oh, shit. She fished her cell phone out of her purse. Pushed the number one. "Mom? I think something is wrong."
In the small office attached to the SGC infirmary, Janet smiled up at the medic who took the stack of forms from her hand. "What's wrong, honey?"
"Colonel Simmons, NID, is across the street at Jerry's Diner. He was there when I walked in. He kept watching me." She briefly described what had occurred. "Mom, what should I do?"
During the recitation of events, Janet had dropped down onto the chair behind her desk. Icy cold terror gripped her heart. "Where are you, honey?" she asked, trying to keep the panic from her voice.
"In the computer lab at school."
"Good thinking. You stay right there. I'm on my way."
"The lab is only open for another thirty minutes, then I'll have to leave."
"I'm on my way." She gently replaced the receiver. "Jill, call General Hammond. Tell him I'm on my way to pick up my daughter. And that Colonel Frank Simmons, NID, is lurking in the diner across the street from her school!"
"Yes, ma'am," Jill replied.
Like the dynamo that she was, Janet stormed through the corridors, up the elevator, fretted during the entire ride to the parking lot. She glanced at her watch. Seventeen minutes. As long as nothing...unexpected...happened between the parking lot and the school, then she had enough time. This was a hell of a time for SG-1 to be off world, she thought, gunning her SUV toward the main gate and the highway just beyond.
"She said he was lurking in a diner across the street from Cassie's school," Jill replied. "Sir, she was very upset."
"I'll bet she was," General Hammond replied. She was probably twice as angry at the NID agent as she'd been at Nirrti...and Janet Fraiser had been livid with that Goa'uld. "I'll handle this, Lieutenant."
"I'm sure Doctor Fraiser will appreciate that, sir."
When he hung up the phone, his temper was at a boil. First Kinsey, now Simmons. He was sick and tired of dealing with back stabbing politicians and power mongers. Thanks to Casey Jackson, he knew that there was one man in Washington D.C. whom he could trust. He checked his rolodex. Picked up the phone, and carefully dialed. "Yes, I need to speak to Senator Shepperd, please. Please tell him that General George Hammond is calling."
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