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As soon as they were alone in the 'secure holding cell', Casey knelt down on the floor, Teal'c and Daniel began working the buckles that held the leather straps in place around her head. When the red ball was loosened, she tossed her head, sending it into the wall. "Damned arrogant sons-of-bitches!" she muttered.
Daniel smiled. "A bit pissed, Angel?"
Green eyes flashed with anger. "You have no idea!"
The sound of a key in the lock had them all tensing with fear...trepidation. Before the door could open, the team placed themselves in a semi-circle. They might be handcuffed, but they could still do a bit of damage to one or two guards. Once we can get our hands free, we are so outa here, Jack thought.
None of them were prepared to see Janet Fraiser step into the room. She was wearing her dress uniform. And her brown eyes were wide. She glanced over her shoulder at the marine who followed her. "General West wants to me to make certain that the...executions," she practically choked on the word, "will go smoothly."
The marine guarding the door nodded. "I'll stay-"
"There's no need. Make certain that none of those who just tried to free this group make it down that hallway," the petite doctor ordered.
Janet waited until the door was closed. Walked first to Jack. Rolled up his sleeve, tapped the vein in his arm. Repeated the procedure with Sam and Daniel.
"You can't let that bastard kill them," Casey said softly.
"If you're really who you say you are, you'll be dead in a few hours anyway," Janet replied.
Casey shook her head. "Wrong freaking reality. Very, very wrong," she sighed.
"You're telling me?" Janet hissed. "Nothing has been right for over a year now!"
"Where's General Hammond?" Jack asked.
Brown eyes filled with tears. "He was executed just days after the program was shut down and the mountain sealed." She was stunned to watch the pain, the grief, that washed over five faces. After what she'd heard, the surveillance videos she had seen...
"What in the hell happened here?" Jack demanded.
Four pairs of eyes swung to Casey. She'd shared her nightmare with her teammates, hoping that one of them would be able to help her figure out just exactly what she was seeing, convinced that it was a premonition of some sort.
"Well, Radar, seems you were seeing the right thing. Just the wrong place," Jack sighed.
"Would have been nice to have gotten more of a heads up on this," Casey grumbled.
"There's a reason," Daniel said quietly.
"I agree," Sam said, nodding slightly. "That's the only time you don't get all of the details."
"I concur, Casey Jackson. What you saw was to give us a warning of what had happened here."
Janet watched. Listened. These were the people she had known. The people she'd worked with. "I know you don't have much time. I also know that you have...help. I'll do my best to keep your path clear."
"How?" Daniel asked.
The doctor gave a small smile. If anyone was monitoring this room, she would be executed for treason. Probably within the next few hours. It was a small price to pay. And if it was the coward's way out...so be it. "I have friends."
"How's Cassie?" Sam asked, needing to know that even in this reality, her god-daughter was safe.
Janet closed her eyes, turned her head slightly, but not before the tears touched her cheeks. "She was killed. They...they experimented on her, because she was an 'alien'. I had a friend...Doctor Warner...who was able to get to her. He...he gave her a lethal injection."
"Why? Why not get her out?" Jack asked hoarsely.
Janet looked into familiar brown eyes. "Because Cassie wasn't there, not any longer. Her body was still functioning. That's all."
"Oh, god," Daniel moaned, disbelief in his eyes.
Pounding on the door had Janet jumping, and moving away. She hastily wiped her cheeks. Looked up at the guard who entered. "Their veins are fine. There won't be any problems with the injections. I'll report to General West personally."
The guard nodded, ignoring the five prisoners completely. Followed the doctor out, and re-locked the door.
"Anybody else notice the absolute hate we're getting?" Sam asked, watching the closed door with a frown on her face.
"They're angry-" Casey started.
"Duh," Jack muttered.
The seer smiled. "They blame us...well, their SG-1...for not getting back before Kinsey shut down the program. For not stopping him like you...they...had done before. The world was turned upside down, and the only people able to stop it from happening weren't there...um...here."
The team exchanged shocked looks. "I know we've managed to pull some impressive rabbits out of some really big hats," Jack said, "but just how in the hell would we...er...they...have stopped...whatever happened here?" They had no details...not yet. Only the knowledge that all was not as it should be.
"SG-1 magic," Casey replied.
"We have to get out of here, before they kill us," Daniel said quietly. "What with entropic cascade failure and all, I don't think there will be any...return."
"Well, for you and Sam and Jack," Casey said softly. "No doubt Teal'c and I will wind up like Cassie when we reanimate in three days." Her teammates exchanged glances filled with worry...and fear.
Jack looked around the room. Took a deep breath. Apparently any escape was going to be totally up to them. There would be no help from anyone within the building. Janet might have believed that they weren't from her reality. She wasn't, however, in any position to be able to help them. That had been obvious. The petite doctor was probably under constant surveillance herself, having been part of the SGC. And any 'friends' she might have certainly didn't seem to be nearby. If Harry was still outside...he didn't have time to worry about that. Right now, they had to get as far away from the Cheyenne Military Complex as possible. And back to Area 51 as quickly as possible. "Okay, if I'm not totally mixed up, and this is the Admin Building on base; on the other side of that wall is open ground."
"Which does us no good without a window," Daniel grumped. "Especially since we're all still cuffed."
"Can you toss those cool blue fireballs, even if you're cuffed like that?" Jack asked.
"I guess so. Why?"
"Daniel, the only way we're going to get out of here is if you make a window for us," the older man explained.
He took a deep breath. "Right."
"Where do we go once we're out of here?" Sam asked nervously.
"One problem at a time, Carter," Jack replied. He looked at Daniel. "Come on, Daniel, we don't have all day here."
"Jack's right, Stud Muffin. You're our only hope, and we don't have time to debate the issue," Casey said softly, standing as close to Daniel as she could. Smiled when he pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"Right." He turned around, putting his back to the wall that Jack had indicated would lead them to freedom. Closed his eyes, and pulled up the fire that raced through his veins. When he couldn't stand the heat any longer, he 'tossed' the blue arcs of fire away from him.
Jack shook his head. "Just a bit of cracking. There weren't any blue balls, Danny. Just lots of sparks."
With a nod of understanding, Daniel concentrated. Again called on the fire that filled him, that had been a part of him since the time the team had spent in a mysterious, underground cavern. Mentally formed that heat into a large ball.
"That's it, Danny," Jack murmured, watching as the blue glow formed a shape the size of a soccer ball.
Unable to stand the heat, Daniel did his best to toss the fire as hard as he could toward the wall. The sound of wood splintering filled the air as the ball of fire exploded through the wall. Plaster dust formed a cloud around them, making the teammates cough and sneeze.
"One more time," Jack gasped, trying to wipe his face on his shoulder.
The second fireball managed to bring half of the wall down. The ensuing dust and noise had the team cowering in the corner beside the door for a few seconds. The noise had to have alerted the guards. Each of them expected the door to fly open at any second. When that failed to happen, they made their way over the debris to the opening.
"Must have thought the explosion was elsewhere," Daniel observed.
"We have to go, now!" Jack ordered.
If he hadn't seen it for himself, he wouldn't have believed it. As it was, Harry was sitting in his van, his mouth gaping open. He'd been trying to determine exactly where those people...they certainly weren't behaving like the SG-1 he knew!...were being held, when one wall had literally exploded in a hail of debris...and flashing blue light. What the hell had that been?
The three living members of SG-1 and their two look alike companions were cautiously crawling out of what was left of the small room. Hell bells! What kind of technology had they found? And why hadn't they told him about it? Get a grip, Harry, he thought. You wouldn't tell them about anything you found, would you? He begrudgingly admitted to himself that he wouldn't...that SG-1 was acting in self-preservation. Just as he always had. And, he sighed mentally, it wasn't as if they'd actually had time for a conversation. There had been just enough interaction for him to suspect that his sources were indeed correct...this group didn't belong here.
Without taking time to think about what he was doing, he gunned the van forward, putting it between the gaping hole in the wall, and the parking lot that was filled with vehicles. And would soon be swarming with Marine guards. He threw the van into park, jumped into the back to shove open the side door. "Get in! Get in! Get in!"
Not taking a moment to consider what they were doing, the team raced forward, dove into the dark interior of the box van. Harry slammed the door shut, dropped back into the driver's seat, shoved the engine into gear, and stomped on the accelerator; sending the van into a spin as he took the first corner he came to with more speed than was safe. His passengers grunted when they tumbled into the side of the van, and one another.
Jack managed to sit up. "Don't suppose you have a key for these things."
"That will have to wait," Harry spat. "Let's get the hell off the base first, shall we?"
Sam caught a glimpse of Daniel's watch as he tried to sit up, pushing unknowingly against her shoulder. "Sir, we're down to fifteen hours."
He nodded his understanding. As soon as they had been taken prisoner, they'd spent two invigorating hours being beaten and interrogated. The team had been loaded into covered troop carriers, and driven from Area 51, to the nearby Nellis Air Force base, which was located near Las Vegas. That little trip had taken almost three hours. Then another two hours in the Pave Hawk helicopter to Cheyenne Mountain. Two more hours being interrogated...by complete morons with one set of mindless repetitive questions...yep, they were running out of time! And they had to get back to the Quantum Mirror if they had any hope of getting the hell out of this screwed up reality. "I don't suppose you can get us to Area 51."
Harry shook his head. "Nope."
"We have to get back there. We need that Quantum Mirror," Jack insisted.
"That's been moved."
"General West's office."
"NORAD," Harry said, tossing a grin over his shoulder.
"Now that makes my day," Jack muttered. "You're sure the mirror is there?"
"One of my men just saw it."
Jack sighed. "Can we pick it up?"
"Later. Won't be easy to get in."
"So where are we headed?"
"Little place I know about. That none of these assholes are aware of. Just until the dogs chasing you take off on the little false trail I laid out," Harry replied.
"Harry, you're a sweetheart," Casey sighed.
"Thank you, Beautiful. At least someone appreciates me," Harry grinned. He glanced over his shoulder again, winked at the slender blonde. The van came to a sudden, screeching stop behind the building that housed the motor pool of the base. "We need to switch vehicles."
"Um...gonna turn us loose?" Jack asked.
"No time. Pick a van, any van. I have to clean this one out."
The sound of sirens still pierced the air, and even from the distance they could hear the shouts of the marines as they searched for the now missing team. That there had actually been no witnesses to identify thevehicle, or to even see the breakout, was a miracle that no one involved was going to question.
Someone had been in the midst of washing jeeps and vans when the alarms had gone off. All the better for him. Harry ran toward the building, grabbed the hose and the bucket of soapy water. He tossed the water into the van, then turned on the hose, making certain that the high pressure spray hit every possible place where he or his passengers had touched the metal of the vehicle. He hosed down the seat and steering wheel as well, leaving the van dripping wet inside and out. The guards would know this was the van used. There wouldn't even be a partial fingerprint to find and link to any of them, especially him,however.
Standing together near a similar van, SG-1 waited impatiently. "Come on, Harry, time's a'wastin'," Jack growled.
Harry grinned. "I like your choice. They'd never believe we'd use the same type of truck twice."
"Can we get going?" Daniel asked, glancing over his shoulder when it seemed that several voices were growing closer.
Harry pulled a hat from his pocket, pulled it over his head, the bill hiding his face in shadow. A sheaf of papers came from his pocket, were snapped onto a clipboard he grabbed from a nearby desk. "Let's go."
Harry covered the five with tarps that were laying inside the van, another blessing no one had the time to think about, or actually be grateful for, making it look as if he were moving rolls of carpet. They wouldn't be able to stay wrapped that way for long, it would be too hot, and the air flow in those damned things was minimal. All he needed was enough time to get clear of the gate...
This was not how she had imagined that she would die. Not that she'd actually spent time thinking about her demise, Casey thought with a mental sigh. She was hot, she couldn't breath...okay, she couldn't breath well, and she was scared out of her wits. Somewhere nearby her Husband was in the same predicament. As were her teammates. Thoughts that were of little comfort to her.
At least she now had an idea of just what that damned nightmare had been about. Hateful. Bitter. Angry. Ice cold rage. Feelings that accompanied the Technicolor pictures that had flooded her mind. Had overwhelmed her. Had made her cry out from the pain that washed over her. Not her pain. Theirs. Hurt so deeply. Physically...emotionally...mentally. Never the same again.
At first Daniel's touch had terrified her...angered her. He was a murderer! But, at the same time, her heart and her mind had insisted that he wasn't that man, wasn't the scarred version of Daniel Jackson she'd seen in her nightmare. His gentle touch, the loving way he'd held her, softly spoken words helping her to move back into her own reality...reality...well, duh! Why hadn't she picked up on that sooner? Then maybe they could have avoided this little trip into the freaking twilight zone.
There were no hints, nothing to tie the images together. Random 'snapshots' of violence. Nothing to give her any idea how what she'd seen affected her, or Daniel, or SG-1, or the SGC. At least, not directly. Nothing that made sense to her anyway. The more time that passed, the more disjointed the images became. Just a nightmare. She had convinced herself that it had just been a nightmare. Kinsey wasn't even on Earth, no way would he ever become the vice president! Just a nightmare. She closed her eyes. Which flew open again as scenes of Jack and Daniel torturing the former Senator filled her mind. That was so wrong!
Well, my girl, guess it wasn't a nightmare after all, was it? And just why hadn't she picked up a warning about this? There had been nothing...no hint of anything going wrong on the mission. Whenever that happened...well, shit.
Hesitantly, knowing that it was necessary if she were to be able to help her teammates through the situation in which they found themselves, sheonce again examined the images, and the feelings that had accompanied what she had seen. Feelings that were as strong now as when she had had the nightmare. Searching for anything...any hint or clue as to what exactly had gone wrong in this reality...and just what SG-1 was supposed to do about it.
What happened now had to happen. Because SG-1 had to help them. The other SG-1. She had no clue how. Only that it was important that those people were given back their lives. Given back what made them SG-1. Sam, Jack, and Daniel...the tormented survivors of whatever horrible things had happened to that team. They deserved a second chance.
Five hearts pounded with fear when the movement of the van ceased. Harry's voice could be heard, but was too muffled to make out any individual words. They were certain that they were about to be recaptured when the side door of the van was noisily slid open.
"If you want to unroll those rugs, which are very expensive silk Persian rugs, you be my guest. Just be damned sure they're all wrapped back up nice and tight the way they are now. Because if General West sees that they've been tampered with-" Harry was saying.
"General West?" a voice asked.
"I told you a minute ago that I'm making a delivery for General West."
"Going the wrong way for that."
Harry chuckled loudly. "Yeah, his private residence is on the base."
"Oh," the voice said, then dropped to a whisper, making it impossible to hear what was said, although the five hiding people were straining to do so.
Another chuckle. "I'll do what I can. Look, the General has a shitload of stuff moving through here. He wouldn't miss a small percentage. Small things that could be reported as damaged or missing. We could sell them on the streets."
The other voice laughed. "I like that idea."
"Nobody else needs to know about this. My last partner...disappeared...because he couldn't keep his mouth shut."
There was a pause. "The body they found near Bear Creek...the one that had been-"
"Didn't know they'd actually found him," Harry said, his voice cold. How convenient that some poor slob had gotten himself brutally murdered and dumped near the river that ran through the national park named for it.
"No problems, my man. You just come through here during the afternoon. If I ain't here, you forgot something, okay? And you head back to the pool and wait. Want the digits, so you can make sure?"
"Seems like a reasonable idea," Harry replied.
There was a pause, while the man wrote out his telephone number, or so SG-1 assumed.
"Okay, there ya go."
"I'll be in touch," Harry said. The side door slammed shut. Within a minute the van was moving away from the 'gate.
The guard frowned as he watched the vehicle move away. There were five rugs...and five escaped prisoners...Nah. The guy had been too cool. The tags had matched the inventory sheets on the clipboard. And they all had Colonel Donahue's signature. The colonel was General West's assistant. His 'second in command'. And there had been three other such 'shipments' to West's home in the past two months. No clue what the old man was bringing in. But the chance to make a buck or two off the deal, and totally 'under the table', was just too tempting to pass up.
When the MP jeep came screeching to a stop at the gate a few seconds later, the guard nonchalantly told marines inside it that there hadn't been anyone leaving the base in the past hour. Which was almost the truth. Other than one van, just a staff car had exited. It had been empty...on the way to the airport in Denver to pick up some psychiatrist. MacKenzie was the name on the list...
A A A A A A
Harry didn't stop until the van was on the narrow, rarely traveled road that led to an abandoned farmhouse he'd discovered a year ago. What a nerve-wracking drive that had been; there were so damned many 'security points' in place. The freeways were all but devoid of traffic, so few being allowed on them. After all, it would be too easy for the driver, and those in the vehicle, to simply pull onto the shoulder, get out, and disappear into the countryside. Getting the necessary permission to use the roads was an exercise in total frustration.
So, he'd taken one of the few back roads that for some reason had escaped notice of the new military government. It was rough, and bypassed most of the small towns that dotted the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It had been while using this road - to make his way from the bunkers, which he had dubbed "Uncle Sam's", to a meeting place just north of Groom Lake, where freedom fighters gave him as much information and documentation as they could get their hands on regarding all that had gone on and was going on in that still secret facility - that he had noticed the old house.
Careful examination of the property ascertained that no one had maintained a presence for several years; and what he'd been able to learn in the nearby small town, posing as a traveling salesman who passed through on a regular schedule, was that no one had any plans of buying the old homestead. There were rumors of ghosts or some such thing. The truth of the matter was that a nearby rancher was 'claiming' the land, letting his herd of cattle graze on the fertile farmland. The rancher had enough clout to keep nearby neighbors from complaining too loudly to anyone who might actually take notice. Harry suspected that the old man who had lived there hadn't simply abandoned the place, angry because his children didn't want the land. He figured the old man had been killed. By the rancher. Probably where the whole ghost myth came into play. The entire thing, he thought absently, had struck him as a plausible B-movie script.
That threat of ghosts didn't matter. In fact, it suited his purposes quite well. He had actually corroborated the story by insisting he didn't believe it, agreeing to spend the night on the farm, only to return to town at around three that morning, maintaining that the old man had told him to 'get the hell out'. The townsfolk had been waiting for him, nodded in sanctimonious righteousness, several of them reminding him of their warnings. And then the local sheriff had let it be known that going to the old farm was just a bad idea, and anyone caught up there by 'the ghost' was on his or her own, as neither he nor his deputies would respond to any calls in that area. The rancher, Harry remembered, who had been sitting quietly in the corner of the diner, had been obviously delighted with the announcement. Harry still thought the bastard owed him for that bit of assistance.
Now that farm was one place where SG-1...his SG-1, could meet with him when the need arose. He had no idea why the three were still hanging around Colorado. Why they hadn't just kept on moving when they'd gone to Washington DC to deal with Kinsey. He suspected that they'd returned simply because they had nowhere else to go...and the SGC, even sealed off, was their only link to the life they'd once known. Their homes, apartment in Jackson's case, had been sealed off. Not sold, or emptied. Just...sealed off. As if someone, somewhere was holding out the hope that they would return, and life would pick up and be just as it had been before the team had left. So the only reason for staying in Colorado Springs was the Stargate. Hell, for all he knew, the three had plans to get inside the SGC and use the 'gate once again. To leave what Earth had become, once and for all. Couldn't say that he blamed them. Surely wouldn't refuse them if he was invited to go along.
Pulling to the side of the narrow lane, he looked over his shoulder. None of the canvas tarps were moving. If they had suffocated...if they'd suffocated, his problems were over, weren't they? He could dump the bodies at any nearby military base, and the heat would be off of his SG-1. In fact, he'd lay even money that with the 'deaths' of SG-1, West would be hard pressed to justify the need for such a heavy guard on the SGC. And his SG-1 could make the escape that he was certain they dreamed of...hoped for. Yep, if this group was dead, he'd dump the bodies at Buckley Air Force Base, and then sit back and wait to see what happened.
He shook his head. Something about that thought just seemed...wrong. With a sigh he unbuckled his seatbelt. "Now tell me the five of you weren't so inconsiderate as to die," he said. He pulled the tarp off of Jack's head. Met the icy stare head on.
"Get them out of those things," Jack rasped, dragging in a large breath of cool, clean air.
Within minutes the members of SG-1 were unwrapped, and uncuffed. They looked a little worse for the wear, but they were alive. Their faces and necks were smudged from the dust and plaster bits and grime that had landed on them when the wall in their 'cell' had exploded. Sweat had seen that dust run down their cheeks, splotch their foreheads and chins. They were, Harry thought, pretty damned dirty. And mad as hell.
Having offered to let the teammates tend to any 'personal business', Harry busied himself with one of his disposable cell phones. Still no answer. This time, he dared to leave a text message...
A A A A A A
In a run down apartment in a forgotten complex in Colorado Springs, two men read the message - twice. Harry had been a damned fool to leave a text message. They'd seen the news reports. Knew what was going on. And about the manhunt that was underway. Which meant they were laying even lower than usual.
"You think he's got them?" the younger of the two asked.
"That would be my bet. Probably thought he was busting us out."
"This could be our ticket. Turn them in, walk away free."
The older man nodded. "Let them be executed, and they stop looking for us."
Neither man would admit to the feelings of regret, of remorse, that tickled at their thoughts. They had long ago shoved their consciences into the recesses of their minds. Along with the memories of beatings and torture; the grief and pain of their imprisonment, and the lasting, loathsome results. Only one emotion ruled either of them. Pure, hot rage. It was all they dared allow themselves to feel. It was necessary, in order to survive in the screwed up world they had returned to.
The slim blonde who had been watching television stood up. "I'm thirsty."
"There's diet coke in the fridge," the older man replied absently.
The man sighed. "Want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"
"I'll get it," the younger man said softly. He smiled at the woman. "Come on. You can help me spread the jelly."
Sapphire eyes lit up, and a smile spread over the beautiful face of the woman. "I can do that all by myself."
"Yes, you can," the younger man replied. He held out his hand, waited until the fingers of the woman were against his before moving toward the kitchenette, where what little they had to eat waited for them.
"We were on TV again," the woman said. "That's bad, isn't it?"
The young man nodded. "It's bad."
"We have to be quiet."
"I can't take any more. I don't want him to hurt me again."
The words tore at the man's heart. They hinted at the woman she had once been. And the hell she had endured. He put down the butter knife he'd been using to spread peanut butter onto a slice of bread. Pulled the woman into his embrace. "It's okay, Sam. No one will ever hurt you again."
Jack glanced over at the two. Hoped that she wouldn't follow her oft-made proclamation with her usual observation. As if she wasn't able to say the one thing without mentioning the other.
"He hurt Casey so bad she died. Teal'c died, too."
He grimaced. Watch the pain...the agony...that flashed through cerulean blue eyes.
"I know, Sam." Daniel's voice was devoid of any sort of emotion. It was so flat...so...cold.
"I miss Casey. Do you miss Casey?"
It was all the young man could do to finish making the sandwich. "No."
"Don't you love her?"
Jack winced as the lies fell so easily from Daniel's lips. As if he actually believed what he was saying. He knew about the nights when Daniel would moan Casey's name in his sleep. Had watched the archaeologist reach out, sit up abruptly. Watched as the realization of what had happened settled back into his consciousness. And the damned walls went back up in blue eyes that had once been so full of wonder...excitement...love; closing his best friend off from everyone. Including him. Not, Jack thought, that I haven't done the same damned thing. Just easier to deal with not thinking about it. Any of it. Just survive. That's all we can do. Survive.
A A A A A A
Before he could stomp out the cigarette he'd been smoking, a bad habit he'd picked back up...stress, you know...Harry found himself against the side of the van, his toes barely touching the ground, Jack's arm against his throat...and pushing.
"Now, Harry, we're going to have a little talk."
"We really shouldn't do it here in the open," Harry objected, his voice much calmer than the hammering of his heart indicated it should sound.
"Major, you and Roccomake sure there's nothing coming up the road behind us. Daniel, Radar, you two go see if there's anyone coming down the hill."
The four sprinted off in opposite directions. Harry gulped. He knew that O'Neill could kill him and never blink an eye. He'd been Special Ops. This O'Neill seemed just as capable. "What is it that you want to know?"
"Just what the hell is going on here? Obviously there was a Stargate Program, if SG-1 are now being hunted. And just how did that happen?"
Harry barely smiled. "It's a long story, Colonel, and one I suggest we keep for later, when we're safe."
Jack studied the man for a moment, then nodded slowly. Gave a sharp whistle.
Harry was impressed when the rest of SG-1 hurried back into sight. They hadn't gone far, it seemed. But no doubt if there had been anyone approaching, O'Neill would have known about it in a second.
"Okay, Harry. Drive. But don't piss me off," Jack warned. He pressed the gun he'd taken from Harry against that man's shoulder.
It was difficult not to smile. He hadn't even felt the weapon leave the spot where it had been tucked against his back. Yes, this Jack O'Neill was every bit as much like the man he knew. Or rather...had known. This man was the Jack O'Neill that his Jack had been. Should have been. Hadn't been since his return to Earth. For very good reasons.
The van moved forward. Harry was very aware that the barrel of the gun hadn't moved an inch. If Jack pulled that trigger, it would take half his head off. He gave a silent snort of annoyance. In the past six months he'd been at the wrong end of a gun, one in Jack O'Neill's hand, more than once. He should be used to it by now.
The old farmhouse was...old. Any paint that had covered the weathered clapboard was long gone. A wide porch covered the front and one side of the house, half of which had collapsed, completely blocking the front door. All of the windows on the first floor had been boarded up, the plywood not quite as gray as the boards around it. There was no glass in any of the upstairs windows. Behind the house, what was left of the barn sat in a heap of collapsed gray and black wood. A smaller building, a shed of some sort, leaned precariously, but remained standing. The grass was knee high, taller in places. Scrubby trees had sprouted here and there, giving the place an even wilder, emptier feel.
"Quaint," Jack muttered.
"And quite safe," Harry retorted. "No one in his right mind would venture in there."
"Which is exactly what we're going to do?"
"Yep." Harry pulled the van behind a stand of tall bushes that lined the rutted driveway, hiding the vehicle from sight, turned the key, the engine coughing to a silent stop. The sound of birdcalls and insects in the tall grass were suddenly the only sounds that filled the air. "Don't worry. I've made sure it's safe inside."
Jack reached over and grabbed the former NID agent by the collar, tugged the man out of his seat, and literally handed him over to Teal'c. Who waited until Daniel had opened the door to force their nemesis/ally out of the van, then stood behind him, holding him firmly.
"I'm wounded, Jack," Harry said, giving the man a wide smile.
"I'll bet. Lead on."
"With 'Rocco' holding me like this?"
"Just start moving. He'll follow," Jack replied.
Daniel was looking around, trying to assess any threat that might exist. Gave a bemused mental shake of his head. It didn't seem that long ago when he'd never have given a first thought, let alone a second one, to scoping out his surroundings...especially at 'home'. His time in the SGC, and on SG-1, had changed him...drastically. And forever. Long gone was the almost childlike innocence he had possessed when he'd first became a part of the Stargate Program. Sometimes the changes bothered him. Most times he just avoided thinking about it.
Casey and Sam were scanning around them as well. Experience was an excellent teacher. Even the most innocuous of shadows could hide danger.
Harry led the team toward the back of the sad old house, to a door that looked as if the hinges were barely attached to the wood. Looks, they found, were a bit deceiving. The door was solidly in place. The former NID agent slid a key into the padlock. "Be it ever so humble," he said, just before he found himself shoved into what had once been a country kitchen.
The team gave a cursory look around them. Faded floral wallpaper hung in strips, most of the walls were exposed lathe, the plaster that had once covered them in piles on the warped wood floor. A large metal cabinet with a sink and dual drain boards was all that remained to identify the room as a kitchen; the lower sections of two walls weren't quite as faded or damaged, where obviously cabinets had been in place. Stains surrounding other 'clean' areas of the walls higher up were indicative of the cupboards that had once hung there. There were small holes in the floor, mostly close to the walls...probably where pipes or wires had come up from the cellar. Other holes were apparently the work of whatever rodents had claimed the old house.
Jack glanced at Teal'c, who released Harry, and disappeared into an adjoining room. The sounds of the large man's footsteps echoed in the silence as he walked from room to room. When he returned, he gave a nod. "The stairs to the rooms above us have collapsed. I do not believe it possible to gain access to them. The other rooms are in similar disrepair, and are empty."
Jack gave a sharp nod of acknowledgement.
Daniel stepped into what looked to be a large, walk-in pantry. Came back holding up five packs, and four P90's. "Ours, I presume?"
"Must be," Harry replied cheekily.
"How?" Sam asked.
"You'd be amazed at the number of people willing to help me," Harry grinned.
"Uh huh. Got dirt on that many folks, eh, Harry?" Jack mused. Watched as the kids checked their gear. Was actually shocked when they signaled that everything, including the doohickeys Sam and Daniel had found in that alien lab, were there.
The smile faded. "Actually, no. They're members of underground freedom cells."
"Oh." There just wasn't a comeback for that. He wasn't particularly inclined to be a smart aleck at the moment. Not with what he had witnessed so far. Jack frowned. "Just what the hell happened, anyway?"
Daniel had disappeared into the pantry once again, and had returned with five ammo belts, and the holsters that still held their Beretta's. "Sorry, Teal'c, there's no sign of your staff weapon."
"I believe there are more where that one came from," Teal'c said, cinching the gun belt around his waist.
"Harry, I'm waiting," Jack said, his voice even. Calm. Just a bit cold.
Harry dropped down into one of four chairs that flanked a small, 50s-style kitchen table. The chrome around the edge was cold as he leaned against it; he could feel the metal through his shirt. "A little over a year ago, Kinsey was running for re-election to the Senate. Wasn't doing so well. Two days before his final debate, one that the pundits were already declaring that he'd lose, he held a press conference. That was because there'd been 'anonymous sources' that had started an investigation into several of the Senator's bank accounts, and his dealings with some very...surprising...people."
"SG-1 was the 'anonymous source'," Jack said, knowing that twice he and his team had been responsible for information about the slimy bastard finding the light of day. He conveniently ignored the fact that his...their...Harry, had been instrumental in finding and providing proof of that information.
"You'd be right about that. He outed the Stargate Program, and everyone associated with it. At first, no one believed him. Then the media hounds swarmed on Cheyenne Mountain, and Kinsey picked a couple and took them on a freaking tour."
Jack dropped onto the chair beside his arch enemy. "Oy!"
"Yeah. Things went to hell fast. There was rioting in the streets...same thing was happening in Europe. China just moved in and took most of Asia. They wiped out any resistance...which mostly came from the Muslims in the area. Lots of political finger pointing and accusations. Whole world went crazy. Then, the president, Kinsey, the Canadian Prime Minister, and the Mexican President held a press conference, offered this 'new order'."
"How long did the...chaos...last?" Sam asked.
He shook his head. "Six days." He took in the expressions of shock on the faces that surrounded him. "Yeah. Sort of like God creating the world. When it was over, the military had control of the newly formed North American States of Democracy, run solely by Taylor and Kinsey. Seems the Canadian Prime Minister, who had been slated to run things, and the Mexican President, managed to get themselves killed in a plane crash."
"Typical," Jack snorted. Several of Kinsey's political opponents had disappeared in very...interesting ways. And of course there had never been proof of foul play, certainly nothing to link Kinsey to their deaths. Well, not until Radar had come on the scene. And the FBI had had a field day with that info! One of Harry's comments clicked in his brain. "Wait...Taylor...as in Senator Greg Taylor?"
"President Greg Taylor."
"Not in our reality. He'd been making noises about running. Then he was exposed in a little fiasco caused by Kinsey," Jack said.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "What happened there?"
"Kinsey had Taylor's help when he...Kinsey that is...pressured General Hammond to resign."
"Yep. You...er...the Harry Maybourne of our reality helped me expose that...and put Kinsey in a world of hurt over it. He pointed his finger at Taylor, who had to resign his Senate seat or face a criminal investigation."
"Then Kinsey went totally stupid about a year and a half ago," Jack continued.
"This I gotta hear," Harry said, sitting back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest.
"Kinsey had Casey and Cassie Fraiser kidnapped. Rat bastard had some not so pleasant plans for them," Jack continued. "Radar broke free, grabbed Cassie and took off. Sort of screwed up his plans. Which gave the FBI the time to investigate all of the interesting information you...well...our Harry...sent to them. And every news agency he could think of."
"There was quite the shake-up in DC," Daniel grinned. "Half a dozen Senators and a dozen House Reps decided that they really wanted to retire. A couple of them resigned on the spot, rather than have what they'd been up to come to light during investigations. Apparently there was a deal made between them and the FBI. They'd leave, and the FBI would keep their dark secrets...secret."
"There were a few things that leaked out," Casey added. Her green eyes twinkled. "There wasn't a deal with the media."
"So, Taylor and Kinsey were working together on this?" Jack asked, steering the conversation back to the reality in which the team was, for the moment, trapped.
"It seems they'd been planning the whole thing for some time," Harry confirmed. "It's anyone's guess how many other world leaders were in on it. When it was over, the leaders had complete control, the remaining politicians were rounded up and jailed...not that too many taxpayers were crying about that."
"It sure happened fast," Daniel mused.
"Which is why everyone is convinced it was all carefully planned," Harry replied.
"What happened to the SGC?" Jack asked.
"Kinsey himself showed up to shut it down. A message was sent out for all SG teams off-world to return to base immediately. They were given an hour to return to base."
Looks of disbelief were exchanged. It could take an hour just to get to the Stargate, depending on where a team was, and what they were doing. And that was if they weren't under fire!
"From what I was told, SG-1 didn't make that hour deadline. When they couldn't get the IDC recognized, they didn't dare walk through."
"Iris," Jack hissed.
"They'd been running from Ba'al's Jaffa. Ba'al captured them. Held them prisoner for just over three months. They escaped...well, Jack, Doctor Jackson, and Major Carter escaped. Teal'c had been executed as soon as they'd been captured."
Casey's hand reached for Teal'c's, closed around his wide fingers.
"And Casey?" Daniel asked, not certain he wanted to know.
"Ba'al took her as his Consort. Rumor has it she killed herself. Jackson didn't take that so well," Harry said quietly.
Daniel blanched. What had Casey...the Casey of this reality...endured, that suicide was the only way she could see to end her torment?
There was only one reason her counterpart would have given up hope, Casey thought. "She thought he was dead," she whispered.
"What?" Harry asked, looking at the seer.
"She thought Daniel was dead. Had been convinced of it," Casey said. She moved into Daniel's embrace when his arms reached for her, an automatic response to what they had learned.
He pressed his face against her hair, breathed deeply of her sweet scent. He'd faced losing her too many times. Could understand how devastated his counterpart must be, to know that his beautiful Wife had died. To know she'd died at her own hand...it was too painful to even consider.
"They managed to steal a ship. Al'kesh, Jack said. It wasn't in such good shape, but it got them here," Harry said, continuing with the story of what had gone wrong. "Scared the hell out of everyone when the ship showed up on sensors worldwide. When it disappeared, everyone assumed it had crashed. Lots of people are still looking for it."
Jack glanced at his kids. Somehow he had the feeling that what was about to come would be the worst.
"Scared the hell out of me when the three of them showed up at my place. Jack and the doctor..." Harry shook his head. "The only thing that drives them now, probably the only think keeping them alive, is their anger. Their hatred. Carter...Carter was broken. She's not...she's not much more than a little kid. They take real good care of her, though."
Sam winced. She knew herself well enough to know what would break her. Didn't want to even imagine what her counterpart had gone through to reach the point when holding on was no longer an option. Goa'uld were experts at finding the weakness in their prisoners...and then taking advantage of that weakness. How many slaves had suffered...had died...for Ba'al to find her counterpart's Achilles heel?
"They wanted Kinsey's location. I'd already decided to avenge them, so I had a bit of information for them."
"Didn't know you cared," Jack said, trying to sound flippant. He failed miserably.
"I didn't either," the former agent replied, giving a rueful smile. "I got the intel they wanted. And then...word broke that Vice President Kinsey had disappeared. They found his body two weeks later. Medical examiner said it took him days to die. He'd been tortured."
Daniel's eyes moved to Casey's. Well, that confirmed it. "Your nightmare."
Jack looked at the couple who stood holding one another tightly, his thoughts the same as the archaeologist's. "Well, Radar, looks like you really did pick up what happened here. Any clue why?"
"Not yet," she said softly.
"I suppose you've been in contact with them?" Jack asked, returning his attention to Harry. Figured he already knew the answer.
"They're on their way here as we speak," Harry confirmed.
"We don't have much time left," Sam said, looking at her watch. Which, for reasons unknown, hadn't been taken. The only things that had beentaken from the team had been their packs and weapons. Of course, they'd been handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded most of the time, so using anything that they might have been carrying would have been impossible.
"How much?" Jack asked.
"That mirror was brought to General West as soon as it was determined that the five of you had stepped through it," Harry reported.
"I knew that they knew!" Casey snapped, her eyes blazing. "We have their faces. So they could pretend to finish a trial they started when SG-1 returned. And when the real SG-1 of this reality is found, they'll be killed...no questions asked. No chance to give their side of the story!"
Harry thought about the DVD that was hidden in a very secure place...one that he'd made from the bits and pieces he'd managed to collect. What he had captured on camera. What he'd stolen from security cameras. What he'd recorded, without the knowledge or consent of the two men he'd been talking to...knowing that it might be the only chance SG-1...his SG-1...had to tell of what they had endured. To tell, as the beautiful Mrs. Jackson put it, their side of the story.
"Away," Casey said, her head tilted sideways.
"What?" Jack watched her carefully.
"They need to just...get away. From here...from Earth. Go somewhere peaceful. A place where they can heal. Where they can...where their souls can heal."
"We can help them find a reality," Sam offered.
Casey shook her head. "They don't have to leave this reality. Just this planet."
"What about the Tok'ra, or the Asgard?" Sam asked.
"Haven't heard from either group. There were rumors that General Hammond managed to get a message out to them. Speculation is that he warned them to stay away...that he was able to send bits of news reports," Harry replied.
Casey rubbed her hands up and down her arms. Her BDU shirt had been taken from her when that group of Marines had decided they wanted to get...friendly. The timely arrival of an officer had stopped what surely would have been a brutal gang rape. She'd not been left with any of those men again. Given what she knew now, she suspected that her savior had been one of the rebels that Harry had mentioned. The downside to that 'rescue' had been that the next group of guards, three men and two women, had decided to make certain that she received what they thought was 'fair' treatment. Her jaw still hurt, come to think of it. Not as much, she knew she was healing. Which meant it had probably been broken. "It's getting cold."
Daniel unbuttoned his shirt, took it off and wrapped it around her shoulders. He was about to ask what had happened to hers when he thought better of it. He had an idea of what the answer might be, and right now, he didn't want to...expose...that dark side of himself. Not here. Not now. Maybe, by the time they made it home, and had a chance to discuss the subject, he'd be able to control the anger he knew would flood him when he heard the details concerning the missing piece of clothing.
Harry rose to his feet. "There are a couple of heaters. Small solar generator provides enough power to run them. We have a camp stove, a few bottles of propane, and enough MREs to last for a few weeks."
"I don't know about anyone else, but I could eat," Jack said.
"Me, too," Sam agreed.
"Just as long as it's not macaroni and cheese," Daniel said. "It always tastes like old chicken."
Casey grinned. "Maybe there will be a beef stew for you."
"This way," Harry said, realizing he'd not be allowed to leave the room alone. Teal'c followed him into a small side room. A section of the floor was pulled up, revealing a storm cellar, the dirt walls lined with shelves. Which were covered with supplies.
Daniel and Jack huddled together beside the back door, looking between the cracks in the wood that covered what had once been a window. "What do you think?" the archaeologist asked softly.
"I think we're in for one hell of a hard time. They aren't going to give a damn about us or our problem. Only what it means to them," Jack said.
"Yeah, that's what I figure. I mean...if I...if she..." he lowered his head, closed his eyes. "I'd strike out."
"Yeah. Me, too," Jack admitted softly.
"They're close," Casey announced. She could feel them. The anger...no, the rage. The pain. The sense of utter defeat.
Daniel looked at his best friend. "How shall we do this?"
"Together," Jack replied.
Harry and Teal'c had returned, carrying MREs and bottled water.
"Teal'c, you're with us," Jack said quietly. The team took up a position opposite of the door. Weapons held at the ready...just in case. After all, their deaths would mean freedom, such as it could be in this screwed up reality, for the SG-1 team that had been abandoned to Ba'al. That had been worse than anything the Goa'uld did to them. To know that their comrades in the SGC had simply walked away, leaving them out there to die. Even if it hadn't been willingly, the result had been the same. Leave no man behind. The unofficial SGC motto. When it had been broken, so had SG-1.
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