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His Father's Eyes

 

Chapter 5

Beth tapped on the door of the office. "George?"

General Hammond looked up from his desk. The smile that crossed his face was automatic, and widened at the way she so shyly stuck her head into the room. "Come in."

Holding a bag of freshly baked cookies, taken from the tray in the commissary, Beth smiled, then slipped into the room. Making certain that no one was in the corridor, she closed the door. "I thought we could take a break together."

Sniffing appreciatively, Hammond nodded. "Good idea."

She deposited the bag on the large desk, then poured a cup of coffee for herself, taking the pot across the room to warm up the bit that was still in the cup beside the general's hand. Her task completed, she grabbed her mug, then settled into the chair in front of the desk. She took note of the lines of weariness around his blue eyes. "Rough day?"

"Started out rough," he said wearily.

"I've only heard bits and pieces, something about friends that Casey made on Ba'al's ship…" Beth paused, then chuckled. "Somehow, that doesn't sound odd. Casey can make friends wherever she goes."

The general laughed. "Although from what I hear, she drives the Goa'uld crazy with her attitude and snippy comments."

Beth chortled. "She does have a way with words, doesn't she?" She took a sip from her mug, sat it on the desk and opened the bag. "Major Whitmore just put these out," she said, handing a large sugar cookie to him, taking one for herself.

He sighed as he bit into the cookie. Taking breaks with Beth always soothed his nerves. Gave him the strength…the energy…to face whatever lay before him. She had a way of making everything seem manageable. And, given that they'd been interrupted before they'd been able to get away for lunch, this break was exactly what he needed. "Just what the doctor ordered," he murmured around a mouthful of sugary goodness.

"As I started to say, I heard that her friends came through the Stargate, seeking help."

Hammond nodded. "Their village was raided early this morning. Well, early morning on their planet. They came here as soon as they were sure the Jaffa were gone."

"Oh, my," Beth said softly.

"The worst part, the Goa'uld took all of the children. Doctor Jackson believes he intends to use them as sacrifices."

Beth's eyes went wide. "Oh, no!"

"SG-1 is on the Daedalus now, heading for the planet this Goa'uld is hiding on. Their goal is to rescue all of the villagers, particularly the children, and take out the snake."

"If anyone can do it, it will be SG-1," Beth nodded.

"I hope so," Hammond sighed. "Sometimes, the good guys don't always make it in time. Or even if they do, they can't change…or stop…what's being done. Doesn't happen often, but it does happen."

"And you're worried that this might be one of those times," Beth said softly. She ached for the man sitting in front of her. The burden of leadership weighed heavily upon his shoulders. She found herself wanting desperately to help ease that weight…if just a tiny bit, and if only for a few minutes.

"SG-1 has experienced being unable to save a group of children. What they were forced to witness…to endure…damned near did them in. I'm concerned that if they're unable to save this group of children, what damage it might do to them. As individuals as well as a team. It could be the one thing that would break them completely. Particularly Casey. I'm not sure her heart could take the weight of being unable to save those children."

Beth leaned across the desk and took a large, callused hand between her own. "They're SG-1, George. You've said many times that of all the teams in the mountain, they're blessed. And if they've had to sit by before while children were being hurt, there's not a force in this universe that will be able to prevent them from helping this group of children."

"My fear is that they'll be so determined to save the children that they'll get themselves caught," Hammond sighed, wrapping his fingers around the soft, warm hand in his without even thinking about it.

Once again Beth chortled. "I've heard enough stories about SG-1 to know that there isn't a Goa'uld in the galaxy that's held that group longer than a few days. Ferretti always runs betting pools on the number of hours the team will be prisoners."

This time Hammond chuckled loudly. "True. They pull off miracles on a regular basis."

"Did Casey foresee any problems?" She gently withdrew her hand, giving his fingers a gentle squeeze before letting go. She took a sip of coffee, waiting for his answer.

The general shook his head. "No. The update from one of our spies-" He paused briefly. Tieel Mogba had been responsible for causing as much heartache for SG-1, Daniel and Casey in particular, than any Goa'uld had managed…other than Ba'al. And the man had been employed by Ba'al. Although Doctor Jackson's opinion of that matter was that Mogba had had no choice in the matter. Now, the man was working for the SGC, or at least, working with SG-1. Because that team had offered him the chance to escape from the Goa'uld. How many times had that team turned an enemy into a friend? And in this case, an asset to the entire program.

"George?"

"Sorry, mind drifted a bit," he smiled apologetically. "Anyway, one of our spies reported that this Goa'uld…uh…Chaahk, has been able to build up his resources in the past few months. He's not going to be easy to take out."

"I believe that's been said about every Goa'uld that has fallen at the hands of those from the SGC," Beth pointed out.

"I suppose it has been," Hammond agreed. He took another bite of cookie.

"Well, I for one am looking forward to hearing all about how SG-1 dealt with this Goa'uld," Beth grinned. "Casey has a way of making one feel as if they were beside her during the battle when she tells about her adventures."

Hammond guffawed, nearly choking. "She does at that," he agreed. "I'm sure it will be very entertaining."

"Oh, no doubt about that. And Daniel will stand there, listening, proud as a peacock."

The general nodded his agreement as he continued to laugh. He looked down at the reports on his desk, then back up into the warm eyes of the woman he loved. "Thank you."

"For what? Bringing down a couple of cookies?"

"For the break. For listening to my concerns. For pointing out the obvious. For…just for being here," he replied softly.

"Anytime," she said, her own voice soft. She brushed the crumbs from her lap. "I need to get back to work. SG-17 found a most interesting site on…" She frowned. "I can never remember those planet designations. Anyway, the markings are definitely Celtic. I'd like to see what I can learn from the few bits of writing that were located. There might be something about how they came to be on that planet."

"Have fun," Hammond smiled. He was aware that like the other archaeologists in the mountain, Beth enjoyed unraveling the mysteries of the settlements that the teams located through the Stargate.

"I'm sure I will." She patted his hand one last time before standing up. "And try not to worry about SG-1. They'll pull off another miracle. It's what they do best."

"It certainly seems that way," the general agreed. He gave Beth's hand a quick, gentle squeeze before allowing her to pull her fingers away.

"I'll talk to you later," she said.

"Look forward to it, darlin'," Hammond drawled. He smiled when she fluttered her fingers in a wave before opening the door and disappearing into the corridor. When he looked back down at the reports, he found it much easier to concentrate. He took the time to note how much he appreciated not only the distraction of Beth's visit, but the fact that she'd been able to help him to deal with his concerns. He'd never had such a resource before, and he was finding her presence to be a balm to his constantly worried heart. He acknowledged her importance to him, and his love for her, then focused on the work at hand, his heart much lighter than it had been before their chat.

 

A A A A A A

 

Tieel Mogba watched with interest as the Tau'ri pilots climbed into the impressive looking craft that lined the hangar bay. "No doubt seeing those ships will give Chaahk's Jaffa a moment of consternation."

Daniel smiled. "Let's hope it's more than just a moment."

"I have witnessed the Tau'ri as they battle against the Goa'uld. Hak'tar are not any more determined in their battles."

The archaeologist's smile faltered slightly. 'Hak'tar' were specially bred humans. Created to do battle for the entertainment of their Goa'uld masters. Those men, and sometimes women, fought to the death. Survival was a natural instinct in any creature. He didn't want to even contemplate how brutal such fights could become, as each contestant did whatever was necessary to survive. He understood that Mogba had meant the comparison as a compliment, however. "Thanks," he murmured.

"I will dare to set down closer to the castle this time," Mogba continued. "With the battle raging up here, no doubt Chaahk will be taken aboard his ha'tak as soon as the fighting begins. There will be fewer Jaffa interested in what might be lying outside of the walls of the keep."

"That's good," Daniel agreed. "I'm not sure how far those children will be able to run."

"It's been my experience that anyone escaping to freedom can go as quickly as necessary," Mogba said quietly. "Never fear, friend Daniel. We'll get those young ones."

"If we don't…" Daniel shook his head. "I don't think Casey will be able to stand it if we don't."

Mogba nodded. "She does indeed have a tender heart." He pulled himself up to his full height, standing just a few inches shorter than his companion. "I for one will not allow that woman to suffer, if I can prevent it."

It was impossible not to grin. Casey affected everyone in the same way: the people she met were determined to protect her from harm. Not because she was in need of said protection. But because she seemed so fragile, and because of the gentleness that radiated from her. "I'm going to do my best to prevent that as well."

"If this friend of yours is also as determined, then we shall of course succeed."

"Not to mention Casey's determination to save those children," Daniel pointed out.

"In which case, we'll have those children home within a few hours," Mogba predicted.

Oh, god, please let that be, he thought, just a bit frantically. Casey would be torn apart if they failed to save even one of those children. We're the good guys. We're supposed to win, he told himself. We're the good guys.

"Just do what you need to do on that ha'tak, and we'll rescue those children while your friends destroy what fleet Chaahk has," Mogba said, giving a wide smile.

"We'll do our best," Daniel replied.

"I'll be waiting for you."

Daniel frowned slightly as the thought dropped into his head. "Is it possible for you to use the transport rings to bring Casey, Ferretti, and me directly onto your ship?"

"If I am waiting above the ship, yes," Mogba replied.

"Then when the shields drop to ring us over there, you should take your ship out of the hangar."

Mogba nodded his understanding. "I can be cloaked as I leave the ship. And wait for your signal."

Daniel turned to find Jack to inform him of the slight change in their plans. The older man approved of the idea, agreeing that it would save valuable time in getting to the planet.

Cam Mitchell's voice echoed over the intercom. "Approaching target solar system in two minutes. SG-1 and SG-3 to the transport room."

With a nod at Mogba, Daniel hurried toward the elevator. Mitchell had promised that from the time the ship arrived in the solar system until it was maneuvered into position behind the ha'tak, hidden from the view of the al'kesh, would be no more than five minutes. The reason, he had explained, was because the solar system was much smaller than anticipated, and the planet they were heading to was near the outer edge, even though it was no farther from its sun than Earth was from Sol. There had been a few moments of concern, that coming out of hyperspace so close to the planet would allow the Daedalus to be detected by the Goa'uld ships. Cloaking instantly, however, would prevent such a thing from happening, while allowing the Tau'ri ship to slip into position at their leisure.

Daniel felt his body twitch in anticipation. They were about to enter into the fray. They'd have mere seconds to hide before the Jaffa on the ha'tak were surrounding the transport ring, searching for intruders. The best estimate was that they'd have fifteen minutes to locate the women who had been taken from Nutesh's village, and get them beamed back to the Daedalus' cargo hold, using the Asgard beaming devices that Sam had thankfully brought along. The teams would be required to use the transport rings to escape, once enough explosives had been planted to cripple the ship, and hopefully destroy it. Fire from the Daedalus would see that only small pieces of the ship remained.

Casey was waiting for him, standing beside Teal'c within the circle of the rings. She handed him the pack she'd made ready for him.

"Thanks, Angel," Daniel murmured.

"You're welcome." She leaned closer. "I had a little chat with Miss Eloise. She said that I should be able to figure out exactly where to hit the ha'tak when the time comes. And she also said that when we get home later tonight, we should probably say thanks to the God and Goddess."

His eyes went wide. "When we get home tonight?"

Her smile lit the room. "Apparently we're going to pull this off in true SG-1 fashion."

Given the fact that usually the team had to suffer through bad luck before their good luck kicked in, Daniel couldn't help but wonder what was about to go tit's up for them. But if the results would be in their favor, he could deal with the drama for a bit.

"Okay, campers. In, grab the women, set the explosives, and out," Jack said. "Thirty minutes, tops. And we stay as invisible as possible."

Which, Daniel mused, was the reason for the zats, rather than P90s and nine millimeters.

"Let's go. Colonel, do your thing," Jack finished.

Sam made certain that the program that would affect the alarms on the ha'tak was indeed working, the signal already being recognized by the ship below them. "Ready," she said, racing around the console to join the team within the rings. She nodded at the tech. "Do it."

In a flash of brilliant white light, SG-1 and SG-3 left the Daedalus, to appear on the deck of the ha'tak now controlled by the Goa'uld called Chaahk.

 

A A A A A A

 

Jay listened quietly as the pilots assigned to the Daedalus told of their experiences. There had been no battles, although General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, and Teal'c, the Jaffa…honest-to-god alien…had led them through training exercises.

"The trick is to remember that you're not in a jet," one of the pilots explained. "What works in an F-18 in atmosphere doesn't work in an F302 in space."

"That's right," his companion nodded. "The urge to just floor it is so damned hard to control when you're in the middle of a dogfight. I don't know how many times I was 'killed' before that finally clicked for me."

"The thing is," the first pilot continued, "it doesn't take a lot of thrust to move you in space. If you can learn to finesse that control stick, you can out-maneuver the Goa'uld gliders."

"Have you learned that?" Jay asked.

The pilot laughed ruefully. "Not yet. Not for lack of trying, though."

"What about this whole hyperdrive jump thing," one of Jay's comrades asked.

"Freakier than shit," the second pilot said immediately. "But the nav computer gets you right back where you need to be. It takes about five minutes before you can jump back, and it's best to choose to jump back a few hundred thousand klicks from where you were, just to avoid crashing into someone, but it works great to get out of a no-win situation."

Silently storing away every tidbit of advice and information, Jay's mind wandered to the video games he'd played as a youngster. He'd learned in several of the tank games that slight adjustments to the joystick often netted better results than quick, hard jerks. He wondered briefly if he'd be able to call on those memories to help prevent him from 'over-correcting' while engaged in battle.

Battle. Oh, my god. Real this-could-kill-me battle.

Shaking his head to dislodge the sudden terror that welled up, Jay focused on what the more experienced pilots were saying. The men were, he knew, trying to give them as much information as possible before they were tossed into the heat of battle with an enemy determined to destroy them. And he was more than a little grateful.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey glanced around - the sound of approaching Jaffa seemed to come from everywhere. She swallowed the panic she felt, and slid into place behind a pillar beside the comforting bulk of her best friend. She could feel the familiar warmth of her Husband immediately behind her.

Jack peeked around the corner, gave a nod, and dashed down the corridor. Ferretti and his team followed, the remainder of SG-1 leap-frogging to make certain the teams weren't attacked from behind.

Hiding behind the beams as a squad of Jaffa ran down the adjoining corridor had her trembling. Memories of being taken captive…beaten…tortured…filled her mind for a few terrifying moments. Firmly pushing them away into the corners of her mind, Casey followed Teal'c toward the nearest repair shaft. Hopefully there would be no Jaffa working within the narrow confines.

Daniel had watched the absolute terror that had filled her eyes for a moment. He caught her glance, and cocked an eyebrow at her. She shook her head. She hadn't seen anything. She reached out and squeezed his hand. Memories, then. His Wife had far too many memories of being tortured by Goa'uld. He was aware that she didn't want to add to the list. He certainly had no desire to be caught, either.

Both Jacksons watched as Ferretti and his men dashed to another access shaft. They were on their way to the rooms where all critical equipment - including the engines - were stored. There, they would place enough C4 to blow those rooms to bits, and the rest of the ship with it. Everyone was sticking bits of C4 here and there. Just more kabooms, as Casey had said, grinning mischievously during the briefing before the team had arrived on the ha'tak. It would certainly leave a lasting impression on any Jaffa who managed to escape to the planet's surface.

The consensus was that the women of Nutesh's village would be in the harem. Hopefully only one or two guards would be deemed necessary. More than that number would be difficult to dispatch quietly. Stealth was their greatest weapon at the moment.

It had also been discussed that a dozen or more frightened women would be incapable of remaining quiet in the ventilation shafts of the ship. While that method of approach would be used to get to the harem, leaving it would be altogether different. It had been Sam who had suggested simply tagging the women with Asgard beaming devices, having them returned to the Daedalus immediately, and then the teams would be able to remain hidden on their way back to the transport rings. The same devices could be used to rescue the men, after the women were safely on board the Daedalus. The entire team had taken the time to thank their gizmo expert for having managed to 'reverse engineer' the devices given to them by the Asgard, allowing her and the other scientists to build nearly a dozen of their own beaming devices, allowing them the option of using the little gadgets.

The rings would be used by SG-1, because the team wanted the enemy Jaffa…wanted Chaahk…to know that his ship had been boarded. They wanted him aware of the fact that he was under attack. It was perhaps foolhardy, but if their rescue was too smooth, it was possible that Chaahk might not arrive on the ship before it was destroyed. Taking that Goa'uld out of the equation permanently might have been secondary to the rescue, but it was a main goal for SG-1.

Teal'c pulled the vent free. Daniel crawled inside, Casey right behind him. Sam ran up, crawled in behind Casey. Jack gave one last look down the corridor before diving headfirst into the shaft. The Jaffa slid in feet first, and carefully pulled the vent back into place. He would be able to turn around at the first cross shaft. His boot firmly against that of the team CO, he began to slide backward.

When Daniel stopped abruptly, Casey nearly ran face-first into his butt. She reached back, felt Sam's fingers wrap around hers. Knew that when those fingers disappeared, they were reaching behind Sam. The team tried to remain as quiet as possible, not knowing exactly what was going on, only that they had to remain unnoticed. They barely dared to breath.

It seemed to be an eternity, but in reality was less than five minutes, before Daniel began to move again. Even so, he had flattened himself on the bottom of the shaft, and was very slowly, very quietly dragging himself. His teammates immediately did the same. As they passed the cross shaft, each of them learned why they were being unusually quiet…just visible through one of the many narrow air vents, a group of Jaffa were standing nearby, talking quietly among themselves. Teal'c paused just long enough to listen. And smiled grimly at what he heard. No doubt Chaahk was about to learn just how few Jaffa he truly had. It was possible that the Jaffa he had just overheard would escape in gliders when the first of the explosions began. That was certainly to the benefit of the Tau'ri.

A careful glance around, and Daniel determined that the corridor was empty. Even better, there were no guards in front of the harem. That room was identifiable by the drawings on the columns just outside of the room.

Within two minutes SG-1 was slipping inside the harem, trying to determine just who among the slaves would set off the alarm.

One of the women looked over her shoulder, dark eyes going wide as five strangers pressed themselves into the shadows near the door. When the woman with a long, golden braid held her finger to her lips, the poor slave was nearly overcome with joy. She and her friends had been taken from their home in the early morning. They had been beaten, and were all frightened, but they'd been certain that Nutesh would find a way to save them. He was a strong and wise leader. He'd not allow his people to be taken and not rescue them. Surely he'd found those who could help him.

She reached over and touched the shoulder of her best friend. "Help has arrived!" she whispered excitedly in the girl's ear. The young girl's head came up, and she too looked toward the door. "No! Don't look. Just let the others know."

At that moment, a woman wearing dark red silk around her hips and breasts entered the room. "You are the property of the great god Chaahk. He has chosen you to serve his needs."

One of the younger girls began to cry.

The woman knelt down. "I know, Little One," she crooned softly. "It is our Fate. There is no escape."

"Wanna bet?" Casey said softly, from where she stood.

"Radar!" Jack hissed from his hiding place.

The young seer pointed to her temple. "We have one chance to save them all. Right now. We hesitate, and we're screwed."

Jack ran a hand over his face, then nodded.

Again Casey held her finger to her lips. The women in the harem didn't so much as breath.

The woman in the red silk watched, wide-eyed and slack-jawed as the five people stepped out of the shadows.

Racing forward, Casey pressed one of the beaming devices onto the bare shoulder of the closest girl. Her teammates followed suit, and they continued until every woman in the harem had been tagged.

"Take 'em home," Jack said softly into his radio.

Two dozen flashes of light filled the room, causing those who remained to shield their faces from the brightness.

"Casey-" Jack started.

"I know, Jack," the young blonde said softly. "But we're kinda pressed for time here, and as soon as I knew that woman wasn't going to send for the Jaffa, I knew we were going to be able to save them all. But we only had seconds before emotions gave way to serious screaming and crying."

He reached out and tugged on her braid. "You're gonna have to let Miss Eloise know that your CO doesn't like to be kept in the dark."

Casey smiled. "I'll tell her."

"Come on. Ferretti and his boys should be back at the rings by now." Jack looked around, then slapped a large brick of C4 in the middle of one of the erotic murals painted on the wall. The scene depicted was between two men and a very young looking girl. "Sick bastards," he muttered beneath his breath.

The trip back to the level where the rings were located seemed much quicker. Zats took out the guards who had been left by the ring transport, as the other Jaffa searched the ship for the intruders. How diligently they searched was questionable, considering that the two teams had been able to accomplish their objectives with literally no interference at all.

Minutes later, SG-1 and SG-3 were back on the Daedalus. The women from the harem were already being cared for by Doctor Lewis and her staff.

Tieel Mogba had been waiting for the return of SG-1, his ship as invisible as the Daedalus. "Once again you have done the impossible!" he declared, his voice echoing over the radios on their shoulders. They could hear the grin they couldn't see.

Jack couldn't help but chuckle. "We've had lots of practice."

"So I have heard," Mogba replied. "Are you there, Daniel?"

"Yep. We'll be ready to ring to your ship as soon as we take out the ha'tak," Daniel replied.

"Very well. I will await your signal. Then, my friend, we will see if the magic the great SG-1 possesses will see those children safely home."

Casey felt a shiver move over her frame. She examined the feeling, searching for any information that might have been dumped into her head. "He's just now being told," she said softly, listening to the whispers. "Apparently the First Prime didn't want to disturb Chaahk until he had the prisoners in hand. But our escape was witnessed. So, he's reporting in."

"That bastard is going to ring to the ha'tak, right?" Daniel asked, watching green eyes closely.

"I think so. He'll know that whoever ringed aboard, had to have done so from a ship nearby." Casey cocked her head slightly to one side, and 'watched' as Chaahk stormed through the castle to the recently installed ring transport. "Yep. He's nine kinds of pissed off. Gave orders for all of the ships to start scanning for cloaked ships. He's planning on firing as soon as he's on the ha'tak."

"He will have all of the ships fire in random patterns," Teal'c said. "The chances of a cloaked ship surviving would be relatively small."

"That's our cue to move," Jack said. "Let Mitchell know it's time to send out the fighters, and head toward the planet. Make sure those pilots know to keep their fighters cloaked for as long as possible. Once they hit one, they'll know we're here."

The tech operating the transport nodded and relayed the message.

Jack looked over at Ferretti. "How long since you've had a stick in your hand?"

"Too long," Ferretti grinned. "But I figure it's like riding a bicycle."

"Good. We can use as many as possible. Radar, get to the bridge. Take that ha'tak out. We'll let the C4 make little pieces of it."

Casey nodded. Daniel's hand wrapped firmly around her own, she hurried out of the room. Miss Eloise had told her that it would be a matter of 'feeling' for the most vulnerable spot. She'd be able to sense it, the old seer had promised.

Alarms began to wail throughout the Daedalus. Personnel ran toward duty stations. They had been briefed on what was about to happen. Now…the battle had begun.

 

 

 

Jay jumped slightly at the sound of the alarms.

"Pilots, man your fighters!" came the shouted order.

He scrambled up the ladder and dropped into the seat. One of the flight crew put a helmet on his head. He automatically reached up to strap it into place. He pulled the seat belts tight around his shoulders and torso. He gave a thumbs up when he felt the thump on the top of the helmet. Watched as the canopy lowered into place.

"Pilots, start your engines." The voice echoed in the ear-piece each of the pilots wore.

Shaking fingers reached out, flicked the rocker-switch that would ignite the rocket engines. Those that would hurl him into the black of space. He double-checked that all systems were booted properly and were working. Checked again to make certain the hyperdrive system was registering as ready.

"You'll do fine, son."

He closed his eyes as he heard his dad's voice in his mind again. He wondered why it had been so long since he'd remember how encouraging his father had always been. No matter what he'd wanted to do, Mike Graham had been there for him. Telling him he could achieve whatever he set his mind to. That he would 'do fine'. Whether it was in sports - always there to cheer him on during the games; or the semester he'd taken drama classes - just to catch the attention of a pretty girl. "Thanks, Dad," he murmured.

Opening his eyes, he watched as General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, Teal'c, and Major Ferretti raced toward waiting fighters. The tightness in his chest eased slightly. He was going into battle. But he was doing so with four top rated F302 pilots. All he had to do was remember everything they'd said…

 

A A A A A A

 

Chaahk was in ill-temper by the time he reached the pel'tak. His First Prime had informed him that not one of the Jaffa patrols had seen nor heard any invaders, and that it was, he declared, simply a problem with the alarms connected to the transport device. In fact, the First Prime had continued, he already had ha'he searching to locate said problem.

(The fact that SG-1 had dragged the downed guards away from the transporter rings and had locked them into a nearby room allowed the First Prime to nearly convince his God that what he spoke was the truth. As soon as those Jaffa were conscious, however, they were able to call for help. Their location, and the fact that they'd been knocked out for at least twenty minutes made it obvious that someone had indeed been on the ship, and had left as well.)

"There is a cloaked ship out there," the Goa'uld roared as he settled onto his throne. "Find it!"

"Yes, My Lord," was echoed across the room. The Jaffa began to frantically search for any anomalies that would indicate a cloaked ship, although none of them said out loud what they were thinking: the intruders were gone, and so was the ship they had arrived on.

The question that remained on every mind was uttered aloud by Chaahk. "Who are they, and why did the ring to my ship, only to leave it again?"

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey frowned as she stood in front of the window, staring down at the pyramid ship beneath them. She turned to look at Cam. "Can we move from here? I need to see the front of it."

Cam nodded. "You heard the lady. Put us in front of that ugly thing. Nice safe distance, if you please."

Within seconds the Daedalus hung invisibly in front of the ha'tak. She felt a 'pull'. Could see a spot in the center of the pyramid itself. Not good enough, she thought, barely keeping her frustration in check. 'C'mon, Miss Eloise, give me more than a general area. I need the exact spot!'

Daniel almost didn’t hear her as she began to murmur a series of numbers. It took a second for him to understand what he was hearing. When he did, he relayed the 'message' to the young lieutenant at the weapons console.

"I have a lock," the man reported.

Cam nodded. He punched a button on the arm of his chair. "General O'Neill, Mrs. Jackson just gave us the sweet spot."

"Fire at will. I'll set off the C4 from here," Jack replied.

"Roger that," Cam said. "I want all missiles armed. As soon as we see gliders, I want those 302s spaced."

"All missiles armed."

"Fire!"

Casey watched as the long, thin missile appeared, heading directly for the ha'tak. She held her breath, hoping that the Goa'uld and his Jaffa wouldn't simply shoot it down.

 

 

 

On the pel'tak, one of the Jaffa flinched. "My Lord, there is a projectile of some sort heading toward us."

Chaakh narrowed his eyes, searching the star-strewn darkness for sight of the object. There! It was moving quickly, as if…as if it were…"Destroy it!" he screamed, rising to his feet. "Destroy it this instant!"

The Jaffa tasked with firing the weapons of the mothership struggled to get a lock on the target, it was small and moving so fast…

The pel'tak shook from the impact. The ship continued to shake as more explosions began to rock the craft. Jaffa who had already determined they were not going to die for a god they knew nothing about were scrambling for fighters. They had no intention of fighting anyone. Every thought was of returning to their far away homes.

The First Prime managed to slip from the pel'tak during the confusion that reigned, as Chaahk barked orders, demanding that all weapons begin firing immediately. He sent the same orders to the al'kesh that waited, demanding that all gliders seek out the hidden ship. Chaahk was still standing, screaming his anger, when the ship exploded into pieces. The Mayan 'god' known as Chaahk and Tel-chaahk, one of the oldest Goa'uld among their number, was no more.

 

 

 

Jay Graham watched with something akin to horror settling in his stomach as what looked like thousands of gliders filled the darkness of space around him. His logical brain pointed out that it couldn't be more than a couple of hundred of the craft, but that still left him and his fellow pilots totally outnumbered, at least five to one.

A deep breath, and he followed his leader, a pilot nicknamed 'Frosty'. Something about 7-11 Slurpees and a fifty dollar bet.

"Okay, campers, fire at will," General O'Neill's voice said quietly.

Certainly no lack of choices, Jay thought. He zeroed in on a glider that seemed to be coming straight at him. Before he could get a clear firing solution, the glider flew over his head. Instinctively Jay grabbed for the stick…heard the echo of voices in the ready room…

"Finesse…you gotta use finesse on the stick…"

A glance in his rearview mirror told him the glider was looping in behind him. He'd often tried to pull this off in a fighter jet, and had succeeded at least a dozen times. Would it work here?

Barely moving the stick to the right, applying the braking rudders on the right and throttling the left thrusters forward, Jay managed to make his 302 turn immediately toward the right. He was facing the glider now, and rather than wait for the computer, opted to trust his own instincts. He began firing. Watched as the glider exploded, and pulled the nose of his craft up to go over the flaming debris. He was back on his leader's wing just seconds later.

"Good job, Junior," Ferretti's voice echoed in his ear.

Grinning, Jay opened fire on two more gliders that were approaching, not allowing them the time to accelerate and move over and past him. He was a quick study, and that particular maneuver would be one he'd remember.

When the ha'tak exploded, half a dozen of the gliders began an all out run toward the moon that orbited the planet.

"Let 'em go," Jack ordered. "They're gonna run for it."

More gliders began to race toward the al'kesh that were firing, the Daedalus no longer cloaked as it fired on the larger ships. Two of the mid-range bombers began moving away as well.

"Well, looks like Mogba's intel was right," Ferretti said. "Those boys are runnin'."

"Probably heading home," Sam's voice replied. "He did say the majority of Chaahk's Jaffa had once served Ares."

"Let's just hope they tell everyone in the Andromeda galaxy that we're just too damned much trouble to bother with," Jack added.

Two al'kesh seemed determined to defeat the Tau'ri. Fire from the Daedalus took them out. Fifteen minutes later, none of the remaining gliders were more than drifting pieces of scrap metal.

"Back to the hangars, campers," Jack said, making one final sweep through the growing debris field.

It's over, Jay thought, totally relieved. He'd survived his first space battle. The adrenaline rush that had seen him through the past minutes drained out of him, leaving his hands shaking on the stick.

 

 

 

Casey, Daniel, and Willie Lopez - who had been chosen to take Ferretti's place - ringed to Mogba's small scout ship. Gliders filled the dark of space around them, 302s in pursuit. The bounty hunter-cum-spy seemed to delight in flying between those ships, narrowly escaping being hit by laser fire on more than one occasion.

"I don't mean to complain," Casey said dryly, "but we're not going to be able to help those kids if we get killed out here."

Mogba chuckled. "Have no fear, Beautiful Lady. We're safe now." True to his word, the scout stopped pitching and bucking, and dropped closer to the planet, leaving the battle behind.

"I doubt he'll have many Jaffa left in the castle," Daniel mused. "Only as many as he thinks necessary to guard prisoners."

"And if these prisoners are in safely locked cells, fewer still," Mogba agreed. "Do you remember how to get to the cells?"

"I think so," Daniel said, frowning slightly. He closed his eyes, pulling up the memory of waking up in the cell, having been taken captive by a spy named Udal - a man who longed to be free from the Goa'uld as much as he had. The High Priest had come in, and then…"Yep. I remember."

"Good. You will lead us," Mogba declared.

The three Tau'ri checked and double-checked their weapons. They were carrying P90s as well as nine millimeter Berettas. And a each had a zat, as well. Just in case they were pinned down in a firefight. The few rounds they had wouldn't last long if that were to happen. The zats would see them through any such battles.

"Casey, those kids are going to be terrified," Daniel said. "I want you to start talking to them as soon as we find them. Let them know we're there to take them home."

"Right," she said. "Hopefully they understand Goa'uld."

"They'll understand enough," Daniel promised.

The planet loomed larger and larger through the view screen. There was cloud cover over the valley where the castle was located. It couldn't be helped, Mogba groused, but it was possible that their approach would be noted. Even cloaked the ship would displace the clouds around it.

Sweeping low over the edifice, just to see if any Jaffa were aware of their arrival, the four were surprised to see the courtyard completely empty. There seemed to be no activity at all.

Daniel glanced at Casey. "Can you find them, Angel? Are they in there?"

Looping her arms around his neck, the seer closed her eyes, reached out and searched for the missing children. She sensed them immediately, their terror ripping at her heart. She could hear them crying out for mamas and papas to come and save them. A single tear made its way down her cheek. "They're in the cells, just like you thought," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "They're so scared."

"What about the men?"

Reaching out again, Casey gave a sigh of relief. "They're in cells as well, though not on the same level. They've been beaten, and they're all chained, but…I sense that the snake wanted them for some very heavy, manual labor."

With a nod, Daniel hugged his Wife, then turned to Tieel and Lopez. "We take out any Jaffa we see. No time to ask how loyal they are or aren't. If they turn and run, let 'em go. We get the men first, they can help us with the kids."

Mogba shifted nervously. "Friend Daniel, I can take thirty, perhaps forty children. The men…"

Daniel smiled. "We already know that Chaahk has a ring transport. Lopez can take the men up that way."

The young SF nodded. "You got it, Doc."

The bounty-hunter sat the ship down in the courtyard. "If they have seen us, why hide our presence? It will make rescuing the children much quicker," he explained with a shrug when his passengers gaped at him.

"True," Daniel admitted. "Okay, let's get this done."

When the hatch opened, Lopez stuck his head out. No one shouted, or shot at him. He stepped cautiously onto the cobblestones, and held out a hand to help Casey to the ground.

Before Mogba could follow, Daniel grabbed his arm. "That kid…the one who-"

Mogba held up a hand. "If we find him, Friend Daniel, I'll see to it that he's with the men who are ringed up."

Daniel nodded. "Maybe our doctors can help him."

Mogba shook his head. "Do not pin your hopes on a cure for the boy. He has been a whore since he was ten. He was taught brutally. It's the only life he knows. The best that you can do for him is find someone who can protect him."

Swallowing the bile that rose in his throat, Daniel wondered for a brief moment if perhaps death would be better for the young slave who had helped him and Mogba find the second bracelet that night.

As soon as his feet hit the ground, Daniel was assailed by the memories of his captivity. He had known that he would make it home, but there had been a few hours he'd been uncertain as to how that miracle would occur. He'd pushed Chaahk during the time as lo'taur to the Goa'uld. Goaded him. How much of that had colored the Goa'uld's reactions to the attack earlier in the day? Had he hesitated in firing on that missile because he already believed he couldn't win against the Tau'ri?

"Daniel?"

He looked down into worried green eyes. "Hmm?"

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Angel. Let's get those kids. Give me a second to get my bearings," he said, looking around. He led his companions into the castle. "Okay, if that's the throne room, I know exactly where we are," he said.

Pushing open the door, he almost laughed out loud to note that along with the throne, there was table, and even a few more chairs. Bastard must have taken my advice to bring in a bit of furniture, he thought, with a silent chuckle. He would treasure always the look on the Goa'uld's face as he thrust the tray of food at him, refusing to take it back, then recommending that a table be brought in for holding the snake's future meals. "This way," he said aloud.

The stairs were steep, and wrapped around the circular center of the castle. Each level became darker, as they reached the levels that were underground.

The sounds of quiet groaning, the shifting of bodies was barely distinguishable above the sounds of dripping water. Apparently the water level was as high as the underground chambers, and as water has a way of doing, had found entrance into the fortress.

Lopez darted ahead, looked through the narrow grill on the closest door. "They're here," he whispered.

"Stand back," Daniel said, aiming his nine mil at the lock. The sound of the blast echoed through the stone corridor, darned near deafening them.

The men inside the room were on their feet, eyes wide, hands curling defiantly into fists.

Casey was first through the door. "Don't be afraid. Nutesh sent us. We're here to take you home."

Smiles broke out on bruised faces.

It took a few minutes, but Mogba was able to pick the locks on the chains that held the men prisoner.

"Our children-" one of the men started, his voice raspy, his lips cracked and bleeding as he moved them.

Casey laid a hand on his arm. "We're going after them. Go with this man," she said, pointing at Lopez. "He'll take you to our ship. We'll bring the children in just a bit, I promise."

"Thank you," the man replied, tears rolling down his cheeks. "Truly you were sent by the gods to help us."

"We're just friends of Shanda and Nutesh," Daniel said, giving the man a warm smile.

The man nodded, then followed the others as they filed out of the cell.

"It seems odd that we haven't seen or heard anyone," Daniel said, looking over his shoulder as they made their way to the lower cells.

"I would say that those left behind took the opportunity to escape from Chaahk," Mogba said. "I was told that none of the Jaffa he controlled were his own. They may have sworn allegiance to him, but their hearts were not bound by their words."

"Good news for us," Daniel replied.

Casey stopped beside the door. The cries of the children were loud and constant. "Oh, those poor babies."

Before Daniel could shoot the lock off the door, Mogba put a restraining hand on his arm, the deftly picked the lock.

The children were huddled together in one corner of the room. It was nearly impossible to tell if they'd been hurt. There was a single light in the corridor, but it barely reached the far wall of the cell.

"Hello," Casey said softly. "Nutesh and Shanda asked us to come get you and take you home."

One of the boys ran a forearm under his runny nose. "My uncle sent you?"

Casey nodded. "Yes, he did. Nutesh and Shanda are my friends. They rescued me from a bad man."

Daniel blanched slightly at the memory. Ba'al was more than just a 'bad man'. He was a monster. I'm gonna kill that bastard someday. The thought was automatic, one that always accompanied any thoughts or conversations regarding that Goa'uld.

The little boy nodded. "My uncle Nutesh is very brave."

"Yes, he is," Casey agreed.

A frown crossed the small face. "Why didn't Uncle come for us?"

"He's very busy keeping everyone else in the village safe," Daniel said, kneeling down to speak to the boy. "That's why he asked us to come."

Again the boy's head moved up and down. "He's the leader of our village, because he's very wise."

"That he is," Daniel smiled. "Now, we all have to be very, very quiet. Can you all do that?"

The little boy sucked on his lower lip.

"It's a game we're going to play to while away the time until we get to our ship," Casey said. She thought about the cargo spaces on Tieel's, and how it would be easiest to get the children into them. "You must be very quiet, and then hide like little mice on the ship that will take us to the big ship. Can you do that?"

Heads bobbed up and down. One little girl looked at Casey, her lower lip quivering. "I want my mama!"

Casey reached out, drew the child into her embrace. "I know, sweetie. We're going to get you to your mama as quickly as we can. But you must be very quiet. If anyone hears us, or sees us, it will make our escape more difficult."

The little boy who had been the spokesman for the group of children put his arm around the girl's shoulders. "You can do it, Lara. You're always the winner in hide-and-seek."

The little girl gave a watery smile. "I'm bestest at that game."

"Then this will be easy for you," Casey said, smiling at the girl.

"We must go now," Mogba hissed, nervously watching the corridor. Though they hadn't seen nor heard any sign of Jaffa, it didn't mean that there weren't any lurking nearby.

Daniel rose to his feet, held his hand out. The little boy grasped it firmly. Two other boys pushed forward, reaching for his hand as well.

Mogba looked down in surprise when half a dozen small hands reached for and wrapped around his one good hand. He looked over to see that both Jacksons had children clinging to both their hands. "This way," he said gently.

True to their word, not one sound was uttered as the group hurried upwards. The steep, stone stairs were difficult for some of the younger children to climb, so they were slowed in their ascent.

To their surprise, and not a little relief, Lopez was waiting beside the scout ship, his eyes moving constantly, taking in everything around him.

"The men?" Daniel asked.

"Safe on board the Daedalus," Lopez replied. He looked down at the children and smiled.

Mogba pried his good had free from the grasp of his charges, then opened the hatch. "Now, I will get your little nests ready. It will be crowded, but I know you can all be good little mice, am I right?"

Again small heads bobbed in the affirmative.

"Mice?" Lopez asked.

"We're playing a game," Casey said, then repeated it in Goa'uld so that the children would understand.

"Got it," the SF nodded.

Pulling a piece of flooring loose, Mogba exposed a long, narrow storage compartment. "See how many of you can hide here," he said.

The children scrambled to hide, and in spite of the urging to remain quiet, a few giggles were heard. He replaced the grate, then walked to the other end of the ship, and the process was repeated. The children were indeed hidden. If one could ignore the occasional snorts and giggles that emerged from the floor.

Daniel and Casey grinned at one another. "Let's get 'em home, Daniel said.

Mogba looked around one last time. "I would say, Friend Daniel, that this keep is once again deserted."

"I agree," Daniel replied. And castigated himself for the relief of not finding the slave who had been so interested in him sexually. The kid had only been trying to please…to stay alive. Hopefully the young slave was with his friend…the young man who had been chosen to be lo'taur before he'd arrived…safe from those who would or could abuse him.

No one noticed the faces that peeked cautiously from one of the castle windows as the ship rose into the air.


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