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Ren Au listened carefully to the report, one just received from General Hammond. "He is confident that the information is correct?"
Jacob Carter/Selmak smiled grimly. "Casey Jackson wasn't wrong about the spies within our ranks."
The woman nodded slowly. "Agreed. Very well. Take a ship and go to those coordinates. Contact SG-1, and offer whatever assistance you can."
Selmak bowed her head slightly. "Have you considered our proposal?"
"It is being discussed."
Jacob muttered about stubborn aliens while Selmak continued to gaze unflinchingly at her friend. "There are sacrifices in any war. One such as this requires no loss of life. Only the humbling of spirits."
"We will continue to discuss the matter," Ren Au said firmly. Attempting to put a polite end to the conversation.
"Do not discuss the matter too long," Selmak warned. "The longer our alliance with Tau'ri remains as tenuous as it is, the more damage will occur. It is possible that further hesitation to make amends for that which the Tok'ra have inflicted on the Tau'ri, Doctor Jackson and his wife specifically-"
"Nothing that we have done which precipitated those events could have been foreseen," Ren Au argued.
"Perhaps not. Nevertheless, it was while in service to the Tok'ra that Doctor Jackson was taken hostage by Osiris, drugged and made to believe he was still in a relationship with Sarah Gardner."
"His wife fled without waiting for the facts," Ren Au pointed out.
"Have you never been in love?" Selmak asked softly.
Ren Au lowered her eyes. She knew exactly how Casey Jackson must have felt that afternoon in the infirmary in the SGC. She'd suffered the same hurt. Her own story, however, didn't have a happy ending.
"I realize that Karinda had no idea that Ba'al would be with Anubis. But once again SG-1 was working with us, and it was our information, and our agent, who was present when Casey Jackson was taken hostage by Ba'al a second time. And I need not remind you of the consequences of the Atoneek armbands."
Ren Au shook her head. Dr. Jackson, Colonel O'Neill, and Major Carter had suffered serious withdrawal symptoms from the effects of the armbands...the three had been in the SGC infirmary for nearly a week.
"Too many times we have come to our own conclusions, rushed to force the Tau'ri to accompany, or accommodate us, and too many times they have suffered. How much longer do you think this alliance will survive if we continue to treat them in such an off-hand manner?" Selmak asked gently.
"Never have our intentions been to harm!"
"No, they never have been. However, great harm has come to the Tau'ri in spite of our best intentions." Selmak glanced at the other council members, including them in what she was about to say. "Our numbers grow smaller with each agent we lose. The Tau'ri are a strong ally. They are impulsive, yes; their ways are not our ways, this is true. But look at how much they have accomplished already, in a very short period of time. In the six years that they have been journeying through the Chappa'ai, they have destroyed more Goa'uld, more Goa'uld strongholds, freed more people than we have in the past century. Should they turn that...enthusiasm...in our direction, in a negative way, we would not survive but a few weeks at best."
This was an argument that Selmak and her host had made many times. And it was an argument that the Tok'ra Council preferred to ignore. However, after the events of the last joint mission between the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri, and Dr. Jackson's blatant warning, they had little choice but to listen now.
"What Jacob has suggested, is asking us to do, is nothing more than offering a formal apology. The gesture will do much to improve communication between our people and his. And insure that the Tau'ri, and SG-1 in particular, remain allies of the Tok'ra. Remember also, in spite of their feelings of distrust, Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter, and Doctor Jackson were seriously wounded aiding Jacob and I to save the data from the computers at Ravanna." Selmak said. No one would ever know from her, nor her host, about SG-1's secret.
Ren Au looked around as well. "Perhaps we should discuss this more...thoroughly."
"I believe you should. I warn you again, however. Do not take too long. And Jacob's idea really is a good one," Selmak said. She looked at each council member, took note of individual expressions. Then turned and hurried toward the ring transport. She and her host would join Aldwin, load the Al'kesh with as many of the naquadah tipped bombs that they could carry, and race toward the planet where even now SG-1 was attempting to stop what Anubis had started.
Ren Au watched her old friend disappear around the corner. "I believe that Selmak is correct."
"Shall we begin preparations?"
She nodded. "Yes. I will contact General Hammond concerning the matter as soon as we have word that SG-1 has safely returned to Earth."
A A A A A A
Simmons dropped into the seat. Leaned his head back. He was too tired to try and think a way out of the situation. He knew two things for certain. His foreign 'associates' would not remain placated by promises for much longer. And Casey Jackson was his ace-in-the-whole. That she wasn't even in his custody yet remained a mere trifle in his thoughts.
"Well, imagine meeting you here."
He jerked, opened his eyes, looked around. Three other passengers were already sleeping. The flight attendant was nowhere to be seen. "I can have you arrested on the spot!" he hissed.
"Well, now, that's a lousy way to greet an old friend." Harry Maybourne picked up the small packet of pretzels from the tray in front of Simmons, tore it open, took one and popped it into his mouth. "I hear you're in a bit of trouble."
"You hear wrong," Simmons snapped.
"Uh huh. General Hammond sure took the wind out of your sails, didn't he?"
Dark eyes narrowed. "Say what you want to say. And then I'm going to call for the pilot, and the Air Marshal, and you're going back to prison."
"Better men than you have threatened me with that, yet here I am," Harry replied. "And I don't want to say anything."
"Well, maybe there is one little thing." He looked around, then leaned closer to the NID Director. "Kinsey isn't dead. He's a...pet...for a Goa'uld. I suggest that you watch your step. It would be a shame to see the same thing happen to you."
A large manila envelope fell into his lap. Simmons picked it up. Opened it. Gasped out loud as he sifted through pictures of Senator Robert Kinsey...former senator, his brain reminded him. Nearly a dozen of the man with a woman and two other men in various sexual acts. More vivid photos of him being led by a chain, connected to a leather choker around his neck, through what appeared to be a hotel lobby, naked as the day he was born, obvious wounds on his back, buttocks and the backs of his legs. "Where..." he looked around. Harry had disappeared as suddenly as he'd appeared. Well, the bastard was on the plane. All he had to do was alert the flight attendant, and Federal Marshals would be waiting when the plane landed the Dulles airport in D.C.
He continued to look through the photos. Felt his heart stop beating when he came to the last half dozen. His hands began to shake. Pictures of his wife, with her lover. He'd known she was having an affair. He hadn't known that her lover was a prominent D.C. attorney! Two were of his daughter... Oh, god! He also knew about the various sexual clubs in the city. Clubs that no one ever talked about. Jessica was with a group of men, there was no way to deny that she was taking on three at a time. Her eyes were dull; she was stoned out of her mind.
He very carefully put the photos back inside the envelope. Wondered idly how many copies Harry had. Who else had access to them. He closed his eyes. Felt fear close around him. The fleeting thought that perhaps this was the same feeling that other enemies of SG-1 experienced just before they were destroyed danced through his mind. Then cold determination set in. He wouldn't go down without a fight. If he was going down, so was George Hammond, and those rogue pests known as SG-1.
A A A A A A
"How much longer, Carter?" Jack asked, watching as Daniel sent yet another group of Kulls, as he was calling them in his mind, to stand with their buddies. He continued to glance toward the doors. Had the two Jaffa they'd taken down upon their arrival been the only other...people...on board this thing? Certainly by now someone should have come to investigate the fact that the freaks weren't showing up where they were supposed to...wherever that was. He was pacing...a nervous habit when he was feeling uneasy...and unprepared. Just like he felt now.
"I think I have it. I'll set it for an hour. That should give us enough time to get out of here."
"Good. Our luck isn't going to last forever."
"Have faith, Jack," Casey said softly. "We're the good guys, remember?"
Suddenly klaxons began to wail overhead, lights began to flash. "Got it!" Sam crowed delightedly. "Daniel, I need you!"
Daniel raced to his teammate's side. "What?"
"What does that say?"
He read the screen, grinned broadly. "Self-destruct mechanism has been engaged. Detonation in..." the smile faded. "Oh shit! Denotation in thirty minutes!"
"Let's get the fuck out of here," Jack ordered, waving SG-3 and Teal'c to join them from their positions.
The empty lift was twenty feet below them. "Should we risk it?" Ferretti asked.
"No choice," Jack replied. "That thing moves too slowly for us to wait for the return."
"I will go first," Teal'c offered already sliding the strap of his P90 over his shoulder.
"Go," Jack said.
"Wait!" Daniel said, grabbing Teal'c's arm. He pointed to the narrow pipes that housed the hydraulic cylinders that lifted and lowered the platform.
Jack grinned "Good thinking, Danny. Gloves on, let's go!"
Carefully, the teams slid to the platform. Casey couldn't help but smile. They were gong to make it out just fine! Something poked at the back of her mind; too small, too quiet for her to notice it just yet.
Jumping from the elevator platform before it was completely on the floor, the team raced for the wide door, and the stairs that lay just beyond that would lead them back to the tunnel where they'd entered. No doubt the entire area was going to be blown sky high, and they had little time to seek safety in the forest. If the forest wasn't on top of this damned place, Daniel thought worriedly.
"Kree!" a feminine voice screeched.
"Oh, hell!" Jack muttered.
"We so don't have time for this shit!" Casey declared grumpily. She swung around at the same time Sam was bringing her own weapon up. The two women opened fire without missing a step. Whoever the Goa'uld was...had been...she was dead now, her body thrown back nearly five feet from the impact of the P90 armor piercing cartridges.
Lou Ferretti gasped slightly; he'd been totally unprepared for the women's response to the threat that had approached from behind them. "Don't piss off the blondes!" he chuckled.
Jack and Daniel exchanged grinning glances. "No shit," Jack replied. Up the stairs, their boots clanging against the metal treads. Down that long corridor. Into the tunnel. "Carter, time!"
"Twenty-five minutes, sir," she replied, panting slightly.
"We don't know how those Jaffa topside are going to react. Expect a fire fight," Jack warned. "Goggles on, you can push them out of the way if it gets too bright." He didn't need to see them to know that his order was instantly obeyed. It was amazing how much experience the teams had at reaching for equipment in their packs while on the run.
Teal'c eased around his friend and CO. Jack closed in behind him, Daniel at his shoulder. Lou Ferretti and his men took the six.
The Jaffa shoved the door open, waited for a count of ten. When there was no sound of an alarm being raised, no voices coming from the camp, he cautiously rose up to look around. Fires were burning low, most were nothing more than embers. He put a finger to his lips, then moved up onto the grassy turf of the meadow. One by one the others followed, and they slipped beneath the black blanket of darkness in the thick forest.
"Keep moving," Jack panted quietly. "We don't know how far that damned place goes! Move!"
It wasn't any easier pushing through the undergrowth now than it had been earlier. Daniel made certain that Casey was in front of him. He remained close to her back, determined that nothing would separate them.
The poking in the back of her mind was gaining strength. She fought against it for several minutes, every ounce of concentration focused on struggling against the limbs and vines and branches that blocked her path.
They weren't more than one hundred yards from the meadow when they felt the rumble beneath their feet. It felt like an earthquake, and they all shot worried looks at the huge trees that seemed to tremble around them. With more determination than ever, they surged forward.
Sweat poured off of their bodies, rose as fingers of steam in the cold, night air. The sounds of their panting as they struggled to draw oxygen into their lungs accompanied the sounds of vegetation being ripped and torn as they fought, battled, gained foothold against the bushes and weeds and vines that reached out and grabbed at their arms and legs, determined to slow their progress.
The ground continued to shake and shudder beneath them. When the first of the most violent explosions occurred, they were tossed to the ground, could hear the sound of metal being ripped apart, and of pieces hitting the trees above them. Behind them the very earth was opening up, trees began to sway dangerously, the younger, smaller saplings giving way.
"Oh, shit," Jack muttered. "Move it! We have to get away from here!"
Daniel grabbed Casey, raced forward, her hand tight in his own. It was difficult to get their feet under them. When she stumbled, her foot catching on a root that had suddenly appeared beneath them, his arm went around her waist.
Her chest was on fire...she felt as if she'd been running for hours. In fact, none of them had actually been running at all, merely scrambling to get through the thicket that seemed to form a wall between the trunks of the huge trees that surrounded them.
Jack glanced over his shoulder. Ferretti and his men were still on the six. Sam was right behind him, Daniel and Casey behind her. Teal'c's large body was making a path for them to follow...but at a cost...he was starting to see blood on some of the thorny vines that seemed to be everywhere.
Sam pressed a hand to her side. She shouldn't be feeling this winded! She wasn't even running. Why did the air seem so heavy? Her mind began to work on the puzzle, taking the focus off of her discomfort as she followed Jack.
When the undergrowth ended, in what they'd all agreed must be the center of the forest, they continued to push their bodies, running as quickly as they could, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the constant rumble behind...beneath them...as possible.
Too quickly they were in the thick of the brush once again. His breath coming in gulps of cold air that didn't seem to fill his lungs with enough oxygen, Jack knew that they had to stop long enough to catch their breath. "Wait up, Teal'c," he managed to gasp.
The large man paused, turned around.
Panting, exhausted, each of them bent over, trying to breathe, lungs burning. The air was rent with the sounds of trees crashing to the ground, the ensuing collision between earth and the huge trunks that had stood for eons of time causing more shuddering beneath their feet.
The poking that had become annoying finally localized into thought. Images flooded her mind. "Oh, hell," Casey whispered.
"What?" Jack asked immediately.
"Others...coming through the 'gate," she replied.
"No clue," she admitted.
"Well, shit!" Jack cursed. "I knew our luck wasn't going to hold out much longer."
"Do we have enough time to make it through before they get here?" Daniel asked.
Casey shook her head. "They're already here."
Well, isn't that just a fine kettle of fish, Jack thought irritably. "Eyes open, campers. Let's go."
Behind them, what had once been a meadow was now a crater. Fires burned, although the multitude of screams that had filled the air had long since been silenced. The ground continued to break away, falling into the burning chasm. The cavern Anubis had discovered millennia ago was connected to the very core of the moon. He hadn't known about that connection, nor would he have cared if he had. All that concerned him was that he had a place large enough to build his warship, the craft that would carry his army of Kull warriors...Super Soldiers, and spread fear and panic throughout the galaxy. Now on fire, the heat enough to melt the rock around it as the ship consumed itself in the red and orange and blue flames, gases put out by the burning debris began to fill the tunnels and fissures that linked the cavern to the center of the moon. Within hours, the moon would enter its final death throes.
A A A A A A
Abby Hammond Pierce stared at her father. When he'd called, suggested dinner, she'd known something was up. Her father wasn't a 'spur-of-the-moment' type of person. Everything he did was carefully planned. Things as simple as writing out greeting cards for birthdays or holidays was a task that went into his daily planner.
They'd shared a steak dinner at O'Malley's. And then her father had driven up to the old look-out post where they came so often in the summer to picnic. Whatever it was, that alone told her it was something...big...something very important. Her heart had been hammering with trepidation while he parked the car, overlooking the town below.
She'd been shocked when he'd told her that he was about to reveal to her what he did...what his work in Cheyenne Mountain actually consisted of. In all the time she'd known him, he'd never spoken about anything classified with anyone not cleared for the information. He'd been a POW in Viet Nam, had been brutally tortured as a result of that fact. She and her mother would be eternally grateful for the platoon of Marines who had saved him and six other US soldiers, six weeks after he'd been reported missing. She shook herself mentally. If he was about to break his own cardinal rule, then there was a damned good reason! Didn't bat an eye, never hesitated when he asked her to sign several non-disclosure forms, something that was very characteristic of him. She might not be cleared, but he was determined to follow the rules as much as possible. After she'd signed the papers, she looked back at the face of the man she'd considered her hero from the time she was just a child.
After agreeing not to interrupt with any questions until he'd finished, her father had launched into a story that could have been science fiction at its best. She listened carefully, her eyes going wider with every passing moment. The 'secret life' her father had been living for the past six years was...unbelievable!
"I know it's a lot to take in," George Hammond said softly.
"Just a bit," she replied. Stargates. Other planets. Aliens. At first she thought he'd been joking, pulling one of his famous pranks on her. The look in his eyes had convinced her otherwise. When he began to list off the times he'd been gone from home for days, explaining what had been happening...told her how he'd gotten the wounds he'd come home with, but could never rationalize, she realized that everything he was telling her was the truth.
"There's a reason I've broken my confidentiality contract," he said softly.
"I figured there was." It must be a hum-dinger of a reason, she thought.
"Abby, do you believe me when I tell you that what I do everyday, what the people I work with do every day, keeps this planet free from the Goa'uld?"
There was another well-known fact about George Hammond. He never lied. Never. He wouldn't even tell a little white lie, at least, not if he could avoid it. "I believe you, Dad."
He took a deep breath. "In March of last year, SG-1, the premier team of the SGC, went on a mission."
"Is that the team that Colonel O'Neill commands?"
"Yes, it is."
Abby nodded. Jack O'Neill had been to their home on several occasions. She thought he was a bit like her father, perhaps a bit more irreverent than her dad, but just as...honorable.
"They were missing for sixteen days. We'd declared them dead, again."
General Hammond smiled. "That team has a habit of getting themselves into the damnedest situations. And walking away to tell the story."
"With Colonel O'Neill in charge, I can see that," she retorted.
His smile widened. Then faded slightly. "When they returned, they'd been changed...altered by Beings we know very little about. Only that they...exist on a different plane of existence than us."
"Altered? Have they been compromised?" Was her father going to ask for her help, to capture a team gone rogue?
"No, not compromised. Not at all. What happened to them was a...reward...of sorts. For all of the sacrifices they've made, been willing to make. For all of the people they've helped."
"So what happened to them?"
"They were made Immortal."
Well, sure they were, she thought. Her mind was spinning. If her father told her that the Easter Bunny was his secretary, well, right now she'd probably be apt to believe it.
"Just before Thanksgiving, Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter, and Doctor Jackson were killed, helping the Tok'ra. This was immediately after the Tok'ra had rescued them from a Goa'uld mothership," the general said quietly.
She'd just seen all three of them at the annual Christmas party, held in a hanger at Peterson Air Force Base. All three had looked very alive to her! "You're kidding!"
"No, darlin', I'm not. They'd been attempting to rescue Casey Jackson, who'd been captured by Ba'al."
"He's one of those Goa'uld things?"
Hammond nodded. "One of the most dangerous, right now."
Abby looked out over the city of Silver Springs, at the lights that sparkled in the night, like diamonds against black velvet. She shivered. Again, this was...shocking...it would take time to come to terms with what she was learning. Although she didn't think she'd have any trouble keeping it to herself. Who'd believe her? But there had to be more...there was a reason, a personal reason that her father was telling her all of this. "There's more."
"Yes, there is." His gaze followed the path hers had taken just a few seconds before. "I didn't realize I'd even made the decision until just before I called you. I suppose I'd made it before I even left the base that night. I just didn't know it."
"What night? What decision? Dad, are you going to retire?"
He shook his head. "No. I'm not going to retire."
"Three nights ago, SG-1 returned from a mission. It had been bad, I can't go into details, I've told you far too much already. I'd sent them home, planning to debrief them the following morning. I had to call the president, to let him know that the...situation...had been contained for the moment. It couldn't have been an hour later, I was just finishing up my own report, when Jack...Colonel O'Neill called me. Told me that he and the rest of the team needed to speak with me...immediately."
"That's why you were so late getting home that night," Abby replied. She'd heard her father come in, a glance at her bedside clock had informed her that it had been nearly midnight when his keys rattled in the wooden bowl.
General Hammond nodded. "They'd also called Doctor Fraiser. It seems that the Beings who granted SG-1 Immortality, have extended that offer to her and myself."
Abby gasped. "Immortal? As in living forever?"
"Yes, Immortal. As in living forever."
"You've decided to accept this...offer, haven't you?"
"Yes, Abby, I have. For one reason. To protect you and the girls."
"I don't understand."
"Abby, if I leave, if Doctor Fraiser leaves, the members of SG-1 will be at risk of having their secret exposed. If that happens, there are groups in this country, and abroad, who'd do anything, kill anyone, to have access to them. To experiment on them. Those four people have saved this galaxy at least twice. I've nearly lost count of how many times they've save Earth. The past year, since Casey has joined the team, that record has continued to grow. Trust me when I tell you that we came within just minutes of world-wide chaos, and possible Goa'uld subjugation just a few months ago. Because of Casey's gift, and SG-1's tenacity, we were once again spared a horrible fate."
"Leaving them...exposed...would leave Earth exposed," Abby said softly, grasping the crux of the situation quickly. "Daddy, you have to protect them!"
He smiled. "My thoughts exactly. This won't be easy. Eventually I'll have to move out of the house. I suppose I'll have to live on base to prevent people from realizing that I'm not aging."
"But the girls and I can visit, right?"
"Any time you want, darlin'."
"You'll be there for the girls, for Kayla and Tessa, even long after I'm gone," she said, staring out at the city once again. It was one hell of a concept to try and wrap her mind around.
"I wanted you to know...to understand. I don't want to do this without your...approval."
She turned to face him. Wrapped her arms around his neck. "You've always been my hero, Daddy. I just didn't realize how much of a hero you really are."
Tears caught in his lashes as he hugged his daughter. He'd go through the agony of losing her, of one day losing Kayla and Tessa as well. Agony that he dreaded to have to face. But the alternatives were just unthinkable. "Thank you, Abby."
"Now, it will be years before we have to worry about anything, right?"
"Right," he grinned.
"Good. And Daddy, don't worry. No one will ever know about any of this. Not from my lips."
"I know, darlin'. I know."
"Maybe you could have Colonel O'Neill, and Major Carter, and Teal'c, and Doctor and Mrs. Jackson over to the house on Sunday. I'll bake a peach pie."
"I think they'd like that."
"And Daddy, if you ever need to talk, well, I can listen."
For the first time it struck him that now that Abby knew about the top secret program known as Stargate, he'd be able to talk to her. In spite of the non-disclosure forms, he could never give her details. But she'd have a better understanding of what he was doing, and as such, would be able to listen when he needed to 'sound-off'. "Thanks, darlin'. I appreciate that."
She glanced at her watch. "We should probably get back. I told Tina I wouldn't be too late. Are you coming home?"
He shook his head. "No, SG -1 is on a mission. I need to get back to the base. This is another one of those 'save the Earth' moments."
She shivered. According to her father, there had been far too many of those moments that had nearly gone wrong. His description of the enemy the people of the SGC were fighting was too horrendous to even contemplate. To have something go wrong, and having these Goa'uld showing up on the Earth's doorstep was terrifying to consider. Keep them safe, she prayed silently. Knowing that she'd be saying a prayer and lighting candles everyday for that most special group of people. "I'll see you when you get home."
"Tell the girls I love them."
"I will. Daddy...be careful. And shoot to kill."
He chuckled. "Always am, always do."
General Hammond drove his daughter back to the restaurant, watched as she got into her car, drove away, heading home. The weight that had dropped onto his shoulders the minute Casey Jackson had told him what was being offered to him was gone. And his heart told him that he'd made the right decision. He couldn't help but smile at that thought. He could hear Casey solemnly telling him to follow his heart, that it wouldn't lead him wrong.
A A A A A A
They could hear the river, the water splashing over the rocks and against the bank. They had no idea if those who'd come through the 'gate were anywhere nearby. They could see no one, but there was so damned much brush around that the enemy could be right beside them and it would be impossible to tell.
"Straight in and to the 'gate," Jack whispered. "Lou, you guys watch our backs. When we get across, we'll watch yours."
"Got it," Ferretti whispered in reply.
He hadn't believed it was possible for the water to get any colder, but it had, Daniel thought, trying not to gasp out loud as the water began to swirl around him. His balls were in his freakin' throat! Casey was just ahead of him, trying to keep up with Sam. He was concerned for her, she'd been so chilled the last time that it had taken nearly half an hour for her to stop shaking. This time they wouldn't have a chance to put on dry clothes...not with an unknown, unseen enemy lurking about.
Oh, momma! If she wasn't a frozen popsicle by the time they made it across, it would be a miracle! Her teeth were already beginning to chatter. She clamped her jaws shut in an attempt to remain quiet.
As soon as they were on the other side, quiet splashes let them know that the men of SG-3 were in the water. Jack, Teal'c, Sam, and Casey kept guard, while Daniel began to dial for home.
The shot seemed to come out of nowhere. Randy Taylor, who was just stepping up onto the bank, let out a scream of pain.
"Oh, fuck!" Ferretti growled. The young man had a gaping hole just below his pack. With the aid of the night vision goggles, he was able to see that the spine had been exposed. "Taylor's down, and it's bad!"
"Can he be moved?" Jack called back.
"Negative. Back wound. I can see his backbone."
"Oh, Christ," Daniel muttered. The 'gate opened with a loud 'swoosh'. "This is Doctor Jackson. We're under fire, I repeat, we're under fire! We have wounded who can't be moved. Request back up and medical assistance," he shouted into his radio. Both teams were laying down a line of fire in a three-hundred and sixty degree pattern around them.
"Cease fire!" Jack yelled.
The 'gate had closed, and they waited anxiously for help to arrive, SG-1 huddling near the DHD, the members of SG-3 protecting their fallen teammate near the riverbank.
"Talk to me, Radar," Jack whispered.
She reached out, tried to 'see' who might be lurking nearby. "I need to search."
"Not now," Jack said, shaking his head. "Too risky."
"I can't see anything if I don't do a search," she insisted quietly.
"And I can't risk you while you're in a trance," Jack replied.
She huffed a sigh of irritation. "It wouldn't take long."
"It's what I do, Jack," she said softly. "It's all I have to offer the team. Let me do my job."
Four pairs of eyes focused on the slender blonde for a moment. "That is the biggest load of shit I have ever heard!" Jack hissed. "You're a hell of a lot more to this team than just our Resident Seer!"
A flush of surprise, of happiness, washed over her. She tried again to reach out around her. Listened to that little voice. "It's a small group...hunting party, I think."
"Hunting?" Daniel asked. He glanced around nervously. They hadn't seen any sign of living creatures, had heard no birds overhead. That didn't mean there wasn't something out there.
"That's what I'm picking up," she confirmed.
"Anyway to let them know we're not a threat to them, and we're not prey?" Jack asked.
She shrugged. "I suppose we could try."
Jack nodded, looked at the archaeologist. "You're on, Daniel."
He gave a sharp nod of his head. "Hello? We know you're out there. We mean you no harm. We don't want to encroach on your hunting...um...hunting grounds. We'll leave, go through the Chappa'ai, to our home."
For several seconds the silence seemed to ring around them. Two shots scorched the ground beside them.
"Staff weapons," Jack hissed.
"Indeed. Coming from that direction," Teal'c said, pointing to a spot just to the north of the Stargate.
"Close enough to get them?"
"By now they have moved, O'Neill," the Jaffa said quietly.
"I was afraid you'd say that." It was what he'd do, Jack thought. Especially if he were outnumbered. "How small of a hunting party?"
Casey shrugged again. "Three, maybe four. Men, I think."
Jack nodded. He'd be trying to even up the odds as well.
"Please," Daniel called out again, "we don't want to harm you! Just let us go through the Chappa'ai and-"
Another blast. Dangerously close to the DHD.
"Okay, let's just give up on that for now," Jack said. "If they hit that thing, we'll all be here for awhile."
Casey began to shiver, and it had nothing to do with how cold she was after her trek through the icy water of the river. "No time! We have to get out of here!"
"I don't know how...but this moon is about to fall apart!"
As if to verify her words, the ground began to shake. It was the worst of the tremors yet, and when several trees began to groan around them, they understood the danger they were in.
The 'gate came to life, the inner circle spinning, the chevrons locking into place with a loud, metallic clang. The event horizon opened up, and the Marines of SG-2 rushed through the 'gate, Janet Fraiser on their heels. All of them dropped to the ground as soon as they'd cleared the steps.
"Where are the wounded?" Janet asked immediately.
"Taylor, he's down over by the river."
"I will cover you," Teal'c said, moving towards the doctor in a crouch.
Janet nodded, let the large man lead the way. Several staff weapon shots stirred up the dirt. Sat fire to one of the bushes nearby.
The sound of twelve P90's filled the air, sending a hail of metal into the shrubs, tearing apart small limbs and shredding vines.
Janet took one look at the wounded man and knew that there was little she could do for him until she could get him on an operating table. "I need that backboard!"
Gibbs crawled to where the doctor was waiting, the portable backboard in one hand. As soon as he reached her, he unfolded it, locked the plastic sections into place.
"We have to lift him, and we have to do it very carefully," Janet said. "We have to keep him as straight as possible."
"Got it," Ferretti replied gruffly.
"Okay, kids," Jack said, having heard the instructions the petite doctor had given. "We have to keep those assholes down. Daniel, dial that damned 'gate. Doc, we're gonna cover you. You do the count. When you're ready to move, we'll open fire."
"Right," Janet called back.
Daniel knelt up, began to push the symbols that would open the Stargate, link them to the SGC.
"On three. Remember, flat, straight, steady," Janet repeated. She waited until Teal'c, Ferretti, Willy and Richards had a grip on the wounded man. Her own hands wrapped around his head. "One...two...three!"
Casey, Sam, and Jack rose up and began firing, SG-2 standing back to back with them, aiming in the opposite direction. Daniel's P-90 joined the fray as soon as the last symbol had been pushed. The 'gate was activating as they fired into the bushes around them.
Once Taylor was on the board, the men picked it up, headed for the now open event horizon. SG-2 stood on the steps, continued to fire as the men with the stretcher approached. Janet was just behind them. Another flash...a scream of pain...and she went down.
"No!" Casey cried out, racing toward her downed friend. The hole in Janet's chest was still smoldering. "You bastards!" She stood to her feet, began to fire in the direction the shot had come from.
Jack, Sam, and Daniel were right behind her. Daniel reached around, managed to push the muzzle toward the ground, which caused her to stop firing, wrapped his other arm around her and lifted her off of her feet, carrying her toward the 'gate. SG-3 and Teal'c, bearing the wounded Taylor, were already through the event horizon, SG-2 directly behind them at Jack's order.
Jack scooped Janet's body into his arms, and Sam continued to fire until her teammates were heading up the steps.
Within seconds the teams were walking down the ramp. The mission had been a success. The cost was incalculable.
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