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The corridor left a hell of a lot to be desired for stealth, Jack thought. Not one damned place to hide if someone decided to come waltzing up behind them...or down in front of them. They'd tried to remain as far behind those four men and their horror movie extras as possible. That not one of them even glanced down the corridor when they turned was a freaking miracle!
Teal'c, Jack, and Ferretti peeked into the room. Watched as the newly 'born' creatures began to don the black uniforms and armor that would be their exoskeleton. The clank of Jaffa armor could be heard, moving towards them. It was a sound that never failed to strike fear in their hearts.
They'd passed what looked like another lab, and when Daniel whispered that it was empty, the two teams dashed down the hallway and disappeared into the relative safety of the room. A squad of Jaffa marched by. And as with everyone else they'd encountered, memory devices were attached to their temples.
This particular lab was obviously used for experimentation. Or something of the sort, Sam amended mentally. There were half a dozen computer consoles. Ten...chairs...that closely resembled upright operating tables, connected to machines that stood between each one. Above each was an apparatus that looked similar to...she'd seen something like that before...Oh no! "We have to get out of here!" she whispered.
"Because those guys and the freaks will be in here! This is where those...creatures...are programmed...taught...whatever you want to call it!" She pointed to the obvious equipment.
"Crap!" Jack hissed. There was absolutely no place to hide. None whatsoever.
Before anything more could be said, the four men and their charges entered the room. The clones were completely dressed now, although the helms that would hide their grotesque faces were carried beneath their left arms.
All that the two teams could do was press themselves against the wall, and hope like hell that the shadows hid them well enough to prevent them from being noticed.
Casey nearly fainted when one of the men looked at her, and she was certain his eyes had focused on Daniel as well. He frowned slightly, then shrugged.
The clones were directed to get into the chairs. Wires with small diodes on the ends were attached to key points on the eerily muscle-less skulls and faces. Each of the men stood in front of one of the consoles, and began to key in information, their fingers moving in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time.
With a very subtle hand movement, Jack motioned for the teams to vacate the room as quickly and silently as possible. Back into the corridor. And down to the room where those things had been suited up. Only to discover that their plan for using the armor to gain access to the ship was completely foiled.
The body suit that was worn beneath the armor had openings along the spine. And the back plate had protrusions, metal spikes that were three inches in length, and about an eighth of an inch in diameter.
"This armor becomes a part of them," Sam said, shuddering slightly as she examined each piece. The helmets seemed to have a connection that interfaced directly to the brain. "Super Warriors."
"Yeah," Casey whispered. "Sort of reminds you of the Borg on Star Trek, doesn't it?"
"Not quite as...intrusive, but...yes," Sam replied.
Daniel was looking at the equipment as well. "Not as intrusive? Just how is it not as intrusive?"
"They don't lose any eyes or limbs to 'make room' for...machinery," Sam replied.
"Well, that blows plan A to hell," Jack grumbled. "We need a plan B."
"Why don't we just walk right into that...hangar room place," Casey said, "get on that elevator and ride it into the ship, sabotage the hell out of it, come back down, and leave the way we came in?"
Everyone stared at her. "Air a little thin in here for you, is it?" Jack asked.
"Jack, that man looked right at me, and at Daniel. I know he saw us! How could he not have seen us? All of us? Yet, he didn't make a sound," Casey replied.
"O'Neill, perhaps Casey Jackson is correct," Teal'c said quietly. "All that we have observed so far indicates that those who are working in this facility do not have free will, and may not deviate from their assigned...their programmed tasks."
"I have to agree, Colonel," Ferretti said.
"Jack, we have to take that thing out. And those...monsters...as well. We don't have any choice on that matter. We might not have any other options to achieve the mission objective," Casey said softly.
"If we stay near the walls, as close to shadows as we can, get on that lift before the waiting clones can do so...I mean, we saw that they seem to understand that if something else is put on that platform, they have to wait," Ferretti said, "we could get onto that ship."
"It's possible that I can use any available ring transport to put us in that meadow," Sam added, thinking quickly. "It might alert the Jaffa, but I might be able to get us close enough to the edge of the forest that we can lose them in there."
"And Miss Pissy-pants?" Jack asked, using the name that Casey had given the Goa'uld who seemed to be alone among the programmed Jaffa and clones around her.
"If she gets in the way, we take her out," Casey shrugged nonchalantly.
He couldn't help but grin at the response. And as much as he hated to admit it, they all had legitimate points. He heaved a sigh. "Any other ideas for Plan B?"
Glances were exchanged. "Well, Jack?" Daniel asked after a few minutes of silence, each team member wracking his or her brain for any other alternatives...viable alternatives.
"I got nothin'," Jack admitted.
Hearts began to pound. The adrenaline associated with risk...with fear...with danger... began to flow through their veins. Almost hyper-alert at this point, the two teams slipped out of the armory and into the corridor.
A A A A A A
Walter Harriman waited nervously as the receptionist for Senator Shepperd notified the politician that he'd arrived. General Hammond had assured him that he'd be expected, and have no difficulty in getting in to see the senator.
Walter was a simple airman. He'd been in the Air Force for twenty-five years. He'd clerked for General Hammond when the Texan had been a mere captain, and he'd been fresh out of training. He'd been delighted to learn that his former CO had personally requested that he be posted to what was to be the general's last assignment before retirement. And what an assignment it had turned out to be! Chloe, his wife of eighteen years, often complained, although lovingly, when he was gone for days at a time, unable to even call her to let her know he wouldn't be coming home. It was quite a change from all the duty stations where his hours were as regular as a banker's. The quiet librarian did her best to understand, to deal with the new aspect of her husband's heretofore staid military career. The light in his eyes when he was home, the smiles of pride when he told her that he was part of something important, something significant, even if his own part wasn't all that noteworthy, stilled doubts she'd about what he was doing. He was happy, and for Chloe Harriman, that was good enough. She supported him...even when he had to leave messages on their answering machine to inform her that he was flying to Washington, D.C., and honestly had no idea exactly when he'd return.
"Sergeant, this way, please."
Startled from his thoughts, Walter jumped slightly. He slid his hand into his pocket, curled his fingers around the disk case.
Senator Shepperd stood to his feet when the short, bespectacled man entered the room. For some reason, he'd expected a tall, strapping Marine to deliver what promised to be damning evidence against Colonel Frank Simmons, if General Hammond was correct. Fought to hide his smile. No one would ever suspect the unassuming man of being a courier of such important information. No doubt General Hammond had reached that conclusion as well. "Sergeant..."
"Harriman, sir," Walter replied. Wishing his voice didn't sound so squeaky.
"Yes, Harriman. If I'm remembering correctly, we met when I toured the facility a few months ago."
"Now, I believe you have something for me?"
"Yes, sir. Before I give it to you, General Hammond instructed me to tell you that I am to wait until you have seen the disk. And then to carry any reply directly to him."
John Shepperd hissed a breath. His gut, and that ever present sixth sense, told him that whatever was about to happen, it was BIG. "Of course. Have a seat, Sergeant Harriman. Judith, bring the sergeant a cup of coffee and today's Washington Post."
Judith delivered the coffee and the newspaper, made sure the boss's coffee cup was full as well, then slipped out of the office and closed the doors. She frowned. The senator had instructed her that the moment the airman arrived he was to be brought into the office. He'd cleared the meeting that had been scheduled for the late afternoon in preparation of the man's arrival, determined to be available as soon as the airman walked through the door. What could be so important, and concerned the military, that would make the senator postpone a meeting with two of his largest campaign contributors?
A A A A A A
Frank Simmons stretched out on the bed. It was lumpy, not at all comfortable. Unlike most of his fellow military officers, he'd spent damned little time 'in the field'. He'd managed to stay in the cushiest positions available for his rank and rating. He was an expert at stroking egos to get what he wanted. As a result, he wasn't accustomed to less than the best that he could get.
He shifted again, trying to curve his body around a particularly hard lump in the mattress, one that pressed against his lower back with relentless proclivity. Reminded himself that by this time tomorrow, he'd be back in D.C., with Cassandra Fraiser and Casey Jackson in tow.
The knock on the door brought him to his feet, and sent his heart hammering against his ribs. No one knew he was here! He'd made certain of that! Dr. Fraiser was aware he was in Silver Springs, but she hadn't seen the car he was driving, had no idea where he was staying!
"Open up, Simmons. I know you're in there." The voice was calm. Quiet.
Simmons obeyed, having little other choice. If the man knew he was here, no doubt he was being watched...and any attempts to escape would be short lived. Never let them see you sweat. Something he'd heard Robert Kinsey say on several occasions. "General Hammond. How nice to see you," he said amiably.
"I'll bet," Hammond grunted.
"I suppose you're here to tell me that I frightened that little girl today. I had no idea who she was until I saw Doctor Fraiser."
"Bullshit. I'm not one of the politicians in D.C. Blowing smoke up my ass won't work."
The features of Simmons face hardened. "Then let me remind you that any threats you make against me won't go over well with the new administration."
"Henry Hayes hasn't been elected yet," General Hammond replied easily. "By the way, did I ever mention that he and I flew over 'Nam together?"
Simmons felt his blood begin to boil. Another goddamned president who would be in the pocket of this...this cowboy!
"Now, I have a pretty good idea why you're here. Just so you know, Cassandra Fraiser is now in a safe location. And Mrs. Jackson is...off world."
For the first time it hit him that he should have made certain that the Jackson woman would be...available. He'd been in such a hurry to get to her...to learn what had become of Dennis Ballard, who had taken him, and where...that he hadn't fully thought out this plan. It wasn't the first time he'd leapt without looking. The last time hadn't been any more successful than this attempt was turning out to be. And he'd barely avoided being court-martialed. Only the very careful placement of key evidence into the possession of another officer of questionable character had saved him.
"Since there isn't a reason for you to stay, I suggest you drive that POS you just bought straight to the airport and fly home."
"You have no proof of what you're accusing me of."
"Like hell I don't!" The general glanced around the room. Spotted the laptop sitting on the table beside the window. He strode toward it, pulling a disk out of his pocket at the same time. He'd just burned it, and only certain tidbits of information were on it. He wouldn't allow this slimeball to change anything truly incriminating, to rearrange all of evidence against him. Not this time.
Simmons followed the general, watched the man turn on his computer, insert the disk. He could only stare in disbelief when he watched the information that scrolled down the screen. He had to get back to the city! If he was quick enough, he could erase most of his 'tracks'. The rest he could chalk up to circumstantial evidence.
"Now hear this," General Hammond said, his voice low and full of the anger that was coursing through him. "You will leave Silver Springs. And you will never again bother Cassandra Fraiser, or Doctor Fraiser. You will never attempt to take that girl, or Casey Jackson. Touch one hair on Casey's head and I'll let Doctor Jackson have his way with you!"
He raised his chin slightly. "Don't think you've won just yet, General," he hissed. "Even if Hayes is elected, he won't be in office forever. The day will come when you won't have the carte blanche that you enjoy now. When you won't be the OIC of the SGC. When that happens, I will be there. And I will bring you down. You and that damned team that you're so proud of. I'll see each and every one of them serving time for crimes against this country!"
"You're sounding dangerously like a certain former senator. I always suspected that you were in league with him. Threaten me all you want. You won't win." General Hammond spun around, and left the room, slamming the door loudly behind him.
Frank Simmons stood shaking, for several long minutes. With a curse, he began to gather his belongings. Pulled his shirt and shoes on. There was no reason to stay if Casey Jackson wasn't even on Earth.
A A A A A A
General Hammond sat at his desk, staring at the wall where his commendations and degrees were hanging, amid pictures of him standing next to the men he'd served with, fought beside. Simmons' words echoed loudly in his head.
"...The day will come when you won't have the carte blanche that you enjoy now. When you won't be the OIC of the SGC. When that happens, I will be there..."
He swiveled, turned to look at the pictures of Abby and the girls. Who would protect them, if men like Simmons won? If men like Frank Simmons and Robert Kinsey succeeded in controlling or shutting down the Stargate Program, who would protect them from the Goa'uld?
He took a deep breath. Picked up the phone. Listened to it ring. "Hello, darlin'...I know this is short notice, but how about joining your old dad for a bit of dinner? I...there's something we need to discuss..."
A A A A A A
Janet stared out the window. General Hammond had called her. Informed her that Simmons had checked out of his room in some flea-bag motel, and was on his way out of town. She'd been terrified for a few minutes, standing outside of the school, certain that the bastard had managed to get her daughter. The need to protect Cassie had burned inside her. She'd faced down a Goa'uld. She'd face down anyone, any time, any place. She'd die for Cassie, any day of the week...
And then her daughter would be alone. Vulnerable. Unprotected.
Immortal. All she had to say was yes. And then she'd never have to worry about leaving her little girl...the young woman Cassie had become. The woman that she would be. To watch her age...die...could she do it? Five faces filled her mind. They needed her as well...depended on her. Right now, she was their first line of defense when it came to their risk of exposure every time they entered the infirmary.
"I just have a few things on my mind."
"They must be pretty serious, judging from the frown on your face."
Janet smiled. Patted the sofa beside her. "Can you spare a few minutes?"
"Sure." Cassie dropped down beside her mother. "What's up?"
"Cassie, how much do you remember of your family...your parents, your grandparents?"
She was a bit startled at the question. Janet always encouraged her to talk about her family, to remember them, to keep their memory alive. But she never asked about them. "Little things, mostly, I guess," she replied, shrugging slightly.
"Do you remember...do you know how long the Hankan people lived?"
"I don't know," the young woman said. "I think Daniel might know. He found a few books that he brought back."
The petite doctor nodded. She'd talk to Daniel as soon as he returned. Maybe Cassie would live a very long, very happy life. No doubt she'd get married...have children...grandchildren..."Cassie, there's something we need to discuss. And it's one of those big secrets."
Cassie nodded. "I understand."
"Oh, I hope so," Janet sighed. Knowing that she'd made a decision that would affect her daughter...forever.
A A A A A A
They peeked around the wide opening into the hangar, as they were calling it. The open area seemed even larger when standing on the first level. They'd spent an hour going over their plan. Making certain that they each understood what they needed to do. Not knowing how those on that ship were going to react to them when elevator platform lifted them into it, they were going to have to be prepared for anything. Jack had managed to let his team know to keep Ferretti and his men surrounded if at all possible. They were Immortal. The men of SG-3 weren't.
So far Miss Pissy-pants hadn't made another appearance. And Casey wasn't feeling anything bad or negative. Jack took a deep breath. He was about to order his kids into freaking hell. Not Netu type hell. But damned close! "Okay, we're sure about this, right?"
"Yes, sir," Sam replied.
"Yep," Daniel nodded.
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"No choice, boss," Casey quipped.
He lifted an eyebrow. Looked at Ferretti. "You can wait here."
"And let you have all the fun? Hell, no!"
Another deep breath. "Okay. Let's try to look like we know what we're doing. Move out, campers."
They slipped through the wide doors. Pressed themselves against the wall; moving slowly, determinedly toward the elevator platform. Shadows among shadows. Hearts pounded. Brows were moist with sweat caused by the fear that coursed through them. One agonizing step at a time.
Three Jaffa, each pushing a crate, entered the hanger, moved through the carefully arranged Super Warriors. Neither group acknowledged the other. Not one head turned in any direction. All faced straight ahead. They might as well have been robots.
The teams watched the lift move upward. By the time it returned, they'd be in position. Jack continued to monitor the platform as they to moved ever closer. When it was nearly to the floor, he motioned the teams away from the wall. As soon as it stopped, they jumped on it.
One of the Super Warriors had started to step forward. "Sinu," Daniel said softly.
The warrior stepped back into formation with his companions.
"Daniel?" Jack quirked an eyebrow in the archaeologist's direction.
"Just told him to wait," he replied.
"So it did."
"Sort of makes you wonder what else would work."
"No it doesn't."
"Of course it does."
Jack turned to look at Daniel as the elevator began to move upwards. "You think you can just tell them to do something, and they'll do it?"
"Well, maybe not just anything. Simple commands. Go. Stay. Sit. Wait..."
"Roll over...play dead..."
Jack grinned. "Too easy. That'd make this job too easy, and you know that isn't going to happen."
Sam, Casey, and Teal'c, accustomed to the banter, smiled indulgently.
Ferretti and his men were struggling to keep from laughing out loud. They were literally surrounded by the enemy - riding an elevator into the Mother of all motherships, had no clue what they were going to find or meet up with, even less of an idea where they needed to go once they got there, so that Major Carter could do her gizmo magic to blow the ship and that Frankenstein's lab and its creations into the next dimension - and the colonel and doctor were trading quips like Abbot and Costello.
The ride up was agonizingly slow. Weapons ready, hearts pounding, they watched as the platform began to enter the ship. "Holy Hannah!" Sam murmured.
The elevator stopped, in what seemed to be a cargo hold. Which was probably as large as an entire Goa'uld transport ship. Two Jaffa stood waiting. The surprised expressions on their faces alerted the teams to the fact that they weren't being controlled by memory devices, or any other implants. Two staccato bursts of gunfire echoed loudly in the huge bay. And the Jaffa dropped to the floor, dead before their bodies stopped twitching.
Immediately Jack sought safety for his kids. The cargo hold was empty, doubtless there were more of these large rooms, and he figured they weren't empty. If the Super Warriors were as...docile?...as brain dead?...yeah, as brain dead as the group below, no worries. If any sort of instructions had been given that altered that behavior, they were in deep shit.
Sam had located a computer terminal; she and Daniel were already working to hack into the system, the archaeologist quietly translating any information she needed.
With a sharp wave of the P90 muzzle, Jack sent Ferretti and the men of SG-3 toward the large door, which was thankfully closed at the moment. No alarms were to be heard, although that meant nothing. He'd proceed under the assumption that their presence was known.
Casey watched for few seconds, as the platform began to sink toward the hanger floor. "We could just wait for the next group, and follow them," she said softly.
Jack glanced over his shoulder at her. "That would get us to where those things are being stored."
"Which would give us an idea of how many there are," she replied.
"Doesn't matter; they're all going to be history real soon, if we're lucky," Jack said.
Two simultaneous gasps made every head swing toward the two scientists of SG-1. "Twenty-two thousand," Sam whispered.
"What?" Jack croaked.
Daniel's face was pale. "This...manifest...lists twenty-two thousand 'Kull' warriors."
"Destination?" It was difficult to speak around the shock, and the black fear that was closing around him.
"Coordinates are for...Earth," Sam replied. Her voice was shaking.
"So this ship is already...programmed...to take those things to Earth?"
"Apparently," Daniel nodded. "I'm just guessing, but I'd say that once they arrive, they're preprogrammed to...well...take over."
"He didn't want to rule it, he wanted to destroy it," Casey hissed.
"Any other little surprises in there?" Jack asked hoarsely.
Sam shook her head. "I've found a map of sorts. Give me a minute, and I can find out where we need to go."
With a brisk nod, Jack acknowledged her request. "Case, Teal'c, you're with me." He led them toward another entrance, that door was also closed. "I don't suppose you can tell me what's on the other side of this."
Casey smiled. "I'm willing to give it a try."
Jack looked up at Teal'c. "If anything happens, grab her. Keep her safe."
"I will do so, O'Neill."
Knowing that she was as safe as was possible, considering the situation, Casey took a deep breath. Centered herself, put one hand on the closed door, closed her eyes. "Corridor," she said softly, as she 'peered' through the door. She looked in both directions. "Long, long corridor. Not very many doors."
Even Jack was aware of the fact that Casey's 'gift' was changing...growing...becoming more valuable with every mission. He was damned glad she was on their side! "Casey?"
She opened her eyes. "There aren't many lights on, either."
He grinned. Moving in the dark was no problem. They had night vision goggles. Dark meant that this area of the ship was practically empty. He nodded toward the console where Sam and Daniel were still standing. "Teal'c, mind standing guard?"
"I do not."
"Well, find anything useful?" Jack asked, as soon as they were close enough.
Daniel glanced up. "We're surrounded by cargo bays just like this one, the entire lower level of the ship seems to be nothing but these bays. From what we can tell, they're filling each one, then moving to the next one. I'd say this has been going on for some time."
"How are those things staying alive? I mean, they have to eat, drink water, right?" Jack asked.
"I have no idea," Daniel admitted. "It's possible that their bodies enter some kind of stasis...hibernation of some sort."
Casey cocked her head sideways. Images began to flash in her mind. "Production line...no...more like an assembly line. This facility was set up to function automatically, well, more or less, while Anubis was gone."
Sam's head jerked up. "And if he's not here to change the instructions, alter the commands..."
"They'll keep creating the drones and filling this ship," Casey finished.
"We know that there are a few Jaffa around here who aren't brain dead," Jack said.
"And there's Miss Pissy-pants," Daniel added, grinning mentally at the name bestowed on the woman by his wife.
"Even if she can't control those...things...she can control the Jaffa on this ship," Sam said. "I don't know how much good that would do her, however. Everything seems preprogrammed."
"So tell me what this means," Jack demanded.
Casey shrugged. "I'm not sure. We've already interfered with the production line. I don't know what will happen when they realize that their Queen, and all of the symbiotes, and all of the clones are dead. I don't even know if any alarms have been, or will be triggered."
"So far nothing seems to have changed," Jack mused.
"It's possible that the programmed Jaffa and Goa'uld who are here won't know that anything has changed. They'll wait for the alarms that notify them of impending...birth...and not be able to do anything about the fact that it doesn't happen...even if they are aware on some level," Daniel said.
"I have the feeling that their conscious minds are...turned off," Sam said. "Martouf told me that it was possible to...bypass...the conscious mind, and activate only the subconscious mind."
"Where it's very easy to plant instructions," Daniel said, understanding what Sam was talking about.
"By keeping the conscious mind under control, they're not even aware of what they're doing," Sam theorized.
Jack was frowning, deep in thought. "We know that Ba'al is looking for this place. He doesn't even need it, just the information on how to create these Kull things...and how to build that armor. He could download everything from the computers, obliterate it, and start his own operation somewhere else."
Daniel shook his head. "He'll take over. Everything is already set up here. It's possible he could alter the 'programming' just enough to make the Kull Warriors, and those Jaffa and Goa'uld who are programmed, to obey him."
"So bottom line, we have to make that place down there, and this nightmare we're standing on, disappear completely and forever, in little tiny pieces," Jack summarized.
"Yep," Daniel agreed.
"Tell me you have a plan, Carter."
"I have a plan, sir," Sam responded perfunctorily.
Jack grinned. "Really?"
"Really. There's always a self-destruct on Goa'uld ships. They'd rather destroy a ship than allow it to fall into the hands of their enemies. Especially this ship."
"Can you find it?"
"I already have."
"Can you set it?"
"I have to figure out how to bypass all of the normal safeguards."
"You've done that before."
"Once or twice."
Sam shrugged. "I don't know."
Jack glanced at Casey. "Do we have time?"
The slender blonde nodded. "For now."
The first group of Kull Warriors to arrive after them stepped off of the lift platform. Waited patiently for instructions.
Daniel hurried over to where the black-armored creatures stood. "Come."
The warriors followed the man to the far corner of the room.
"Sinu. Sleep." He hurried back to the lift.
"I'm impressed," Jack admitted.
"Just simple instructions. Anything else and I doubt that they'd be so cooperative. I'd say they're programmed to follow certain orders. And when they arrive at their destination, which would be Earth, orders that were programmed deeper into their minds would be activated, probably with a key word or phrase. And then nothing but the proper 'cease fire' order will stop them," Daniel said.
"Does not sound good," Jack muttered.
"No, it doesn't."
Time began to tick by as Sam did what she was so good at doing, allowing her instincts to guide her as she hacked deeper into the ship's computer. Daniel continued to send each group of Kull Warriors to stand together on the far side of the room, helping the SG-1 gizmo expert as it was needed. And each of the Tau'ri began to believe they were going to pull this mission off after all.
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