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Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep 

 

Chapter 2

Jack lifted his field glasses, studied the target. "Yep. There it is. Just like promised."

"I'd forgotten how big those things are," Sam murmured, looking at the Goa'uld mothership that sat menacingly in the very center of the valley floor. It wasn't often that the team was able to see one of the enemy ships in a location that underscored the massive size of the craft. Usually they got a glimpse of the pyramid ship they were to board from the windows of whatever vessel they happened to be on, and the vastness of space could dwarf even the most impressive of space craft.

"Yeah," Casey agreed. Seeing the ha'tak this close...well, from the ridge of the hill that overlooked the village, which was in the full shadow of the huge pyramid monstrosity...reminded her of just how risky their mission really was. She was too busy watching what appeared to be hundreds of Jaffa to realize that the shiver than ran through her wasn't from the brisk breeze that blew around them. "How are we supposed to get on that thing? I don't think we can just walk through the center of town and waltz onto it."

"Well, we could," Jack drawled. "Don't think it would end well, though."

"Probably not," Daniel replied. "And I really don't want to add 'captured and tortured' to the list of daily activities."

"Not anything I want to sign up for, either," Jack admitted. Both men were blatantly ignoring what Casey had 'seen'. In their minds, there was always the possibility of changing that outcome. "So, what else was on the brochure?"

"Nothing about the number of Jaffa," Sam grumped. "How many do you think there are?"

"I dunno," Jack said, squinting slightly. He scanned slowly from left to right. "Just a quick count and I'm coming up with close to two-fifty."

"Most Goa'uld motherships carry a Jaffa contingent of at least one thousand at all times," Teal'c informed his teammates.

"Well, that sucks," Daniel muttered.

"Indeed," the Jaffa replied.

"Radar, you're certain this guy is working for Ba'al?" Jack asked.

Casey nodded. "As sure I can be. Every time I looked at the mission folder, I 'felt' his slimy snake ass."

The Tok'ra had sent what they had regarding Keku, but insisted that he was too minor a System Lord for Ba'al to deal with. Jack snorted silently. He didn't have much use for Tok'ra opinions, seeing as how they proved to be wrong most of the time. It was due to what Casey had 'seen' about this particular snake that had led SG-1 to be sitting on the top of the hill where they now found themselves. What she'd 'seen' was a direct connection to Ba'al, one that could lead them right to that snake bastard. He'd bet on Radar every time. "I'd most certainly like to know where Balls is hiding," he muttered.

"Well, I could run out there, find the snake of the day, and ask him," Casey offered with a grin.

"Ha ha. Funny. Keep up with the wiseass remarks, and I'll make you do just that," Jack retorted.

Their teammates smiled at the banter. As long as they could joke, things were okay. The glances exchanged were filled with anticipation, maybe a smidgen of worry. No fear.

Daniel sighed. The mission, which had sounded so simple when they had been discussing it around the conference table in the briefing room, was to sneak aboard the ship that had been discovered lurking on the planet the computer had designated RK5-212. According to the intel, Keku seemed to do his best to remain out of the line of fire when the System Lords were squabbling amongst themselves...and apparently used this planet to remain 'out of sight'. There wasn't anything of note here, according to the Tok'ra. But then, consensus among the team was that what interested the Tok'ra wasn't the same as what interested the Goa'uld...or the Tau'ri. Sending the MALP through had been a risk, and they hadn't waited for any extensive scans to be run. As soon as they were sure the way was clear, SG-1 was through the 'gate and the robot returned to the SGC.

Staring at that huge ship, however, and watching the Jaffa who seemed to be everywhere, was a reality check he just wasn't so eager to accept. In fact, it seemed to make the chances of them achieving their goal of sneaking on board slim to none. Once they made it on board, according to the mission plan, they would make their way to any computer terminal possible, download everything they could find, and then head home. With luck, there would be information about Ba'al, and what he was up to; information that would be worth selling to the highest bidders among the other Goa'uld System Lords, which was always a good way to keep the snakes focused on one another. Information that would help them plan their own move against that damned snake.

Another sigh, one that he didn't allow his Wife or teammates to hear. He wasn't about to voice his concerns. That was simply a means to stir up bad luck. Any time Ba'al was involved, even peripherally, it seemed things went to hell for SG-1. That was experience, not opinion, Daniel thought bitterly.

"So, whaddya think, Rocco? Wait until dark?" Jack asked softly, glancing over his shoulder at the large man stretched out beside him.

"I believe that to be the most prudent course of action," Teal'c replied.

"Should we move closer?" Sam asked.

Jack scanned the area again. "I don't see anywhere that offers enough cover. We don't need the locals to see us, and turn us over to those Jaffa," he replied. Although it hadn't been mentioned, Casey's 'vision' that the team would somehow be separated was on every mind. And they would all do whatever it took to see that such an event didn't occur.

"Makes it a longer hike to get to the ha'tak," Daniel said.

"True. But we'll have all night," Jack pointed out. Judging by the bright spot behind the clouds that rolled across the sky, it was late afternoon. "Let's get some rest now. I'll take first watch. Get some sleep, campers. It's going to be a long night."

Casey snuggled up to Daniel, rested her head on his shoulder. Before she closed her eyes, she noted that Sam was just as close to Jack. Teal'c had stretched out between the two couples, neither would be able to shift positions without his knowledge. They had all assumed those positions automatically...naturally. Hearts entwined, she thought, letting her eyes drift shut.

Jack continued to monitor the activity in the village as his kids drifted to sleep. This was another of those 'sit and wait' kind of missions. If the objective was a treaty, or gathering intel, it was always a 'sit and wait' mission. He raised the binoculars once again. Sure were a hell of a lot of Jaffa. That fact bothered him. It made him, if he were honest with himself, want to dial up the 'gate, take his team home, and say screw it. Knowing what Balls was up to...too important, he sighed silently. Balls was just as annoying as Apophis had been. Just wouldn't stay down when he was knocked on his ass. Well, SG-1 had seen the end of Apophis. They'd bring Balls to his end, too. The sooner, the better. When he realized his thoughts had brought him full circle, Jack sighed out loud. Sometimes this job was a pain.

Daniel tightened his arm around slender shoulders, drew Casey's body as close to his as possible. He closed his eyes when he felt her shift closer still, her arm like a vise around his waist. This was the first 'real' mission since his 'death'. There had been a few simple recons. They'd taken a second look at the temple where Casey had seen the drawings on the wall that represented Ba'al. Jonas was busy trying to decipher what they had found, and to identify the odd...thing...the Goa'uld had been holding in one bas relief.

It was always difficult to go on the first 'real' mission after having survived hell. Which, he thought somewhat amusedly, the team should actually be accustomed to by now. It seemed that every other time that SG-1 walked through the Stargate, things went to hell, and in a big way. That they were still alive, still sane, still willing to step into the unknown was a testimony to their courage, their faith in themselves and one another, their foolhardiness. Maybe even a bit of stupidity. But no matter what happened, no matter how many times they suffered, they'd pick themselves up, dust each other off, deny that the fall had hurt, and they'd hurl themselves into the jaws of danger all over again. Because that was what SG-1 did. They faced impossible odds to beat the bad guys. They were determined to defeat the Goa'uld. If their determination alone could bring them success, the Goa'uld would be nothing more than the villains of myths and stories in a matter of days.

He stretched his legs out. Might as well be as comfortable as possible now. They were going to spend a good portion of the night trying to sneak aboard that ship. Part of him, the rational part he assumed, figured that five people going up against a Jaffa army wasn't the brightest thing to do. Nothing could be worth the risk they were about to take. Another part of him, the part that hated the Goa'uld with a black, cold hatred, wanted to know where Ba'al was for one reason...to find him and kill him. Yet another part wanted to get Casey off the planet and to safety, intel be damned. The conflicting segments of his heart...his mind...his soul...all agreed on one thing. This was a very bad idea. He wasn't psychic, but even Jack had to realize that the odds on this mission had to be a million to one. Against them. Ferretti would never touch odds like what they were up against.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

He'd been working on the translations all day. Had spent the better part of the day before working, not stopping until the lack of sunlight had driven him to the camp that had been set up. The major had insisted that he stop long enough to eat, and Dobson interrupted occasionally, offering water. The interruptions were irritating, but he understood that the team was doing what they'd been instructed to do...take care of him. He'd never been considered 'important' on Kelowna. Jonas found the attention to be flattering...and a bit overwhelming.

He'd been able to completely translate one of the pillars of which there had been several blurred photos. What he'd discovered had sent him to check out the fifth pillar, just to make certain that the notes in the folder were exact. Jonas squinted as the sun continued to drop, positioning itself directly beside the pillar he was trying to read. He checked the notes that Daniel had carefully written out for him. Checked them again. Having learned on his first mission how important an actual rubbing of glyphs could be, he took a sheet of paper and carefully moved his pencil over the carved marks. He wasn't familiar with the syntax. It was highly possible that Cam Balinsky was. He glanced over his shoulder. The men of SG-12 watched him from their places on the ground, where they were lying or sitting. "I need to get this back to the SGC," he said quietly.

Major Anderson sat up. "Got something?"

"I think so. I need Doctor Balinsky to translate a couple of sections I'm not sure about."

"Anything about a weapon?"

"Yes, sir," Jonas replied. "I'm not so sure if it's a good thing or not," he admitted. The phrase that had him worried was short...and so far, he'd only seen it once. There had been three references to the weapon being dismantled, and the parts 'thrown to the corners of the galaxy'. This however, was even more worrisome...

 

 

Gathering the pages that he'd already translated, descriptions of the weapon that had him anxious to re-examine the photos of the Ba'al' bas-relief, Jonas turned toward the men who waited. "Let's go," he said quietly.

With a nod, the major sent Sergeant Childers ahead on point. He took the six. And watched as Jonas continued to worry the papers in his hand. Looked like their rock reader had found something, and something important. He'd wait until after that had been dealt with before informing the young Kelownan that SG-12 was to be his 'permanent' assignment. Anderson couldn't help but smile. Seemed he'd been blessed with an archaeologist almost as good as Doctor Jackson. Wasn't that a lucky deal for him?

 

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Cam Balinsky entered the small room that had become Jonas' office, responding to the urgent call he'd received. "What's up?"

Jonas thrust the tracing at the man. "Read this."

With an indulgent smile at the young man's eagerness, Cam did as requested. The smile faded from his lips as his eyes moved over the glyphs, his mind translating as quickly as possible...beware the weapon of the gods, for its destructive power is greater even than their own..."This could be bad," the red-headed archaeologist said.

"I've examined the images SG-1 took in that temple. Look at this," Jonas said. Pointed to the photo. "And then read this." He shoved another page into Cam's hand.

The redhead whistled softly. "We need to tell General Hammond about this. And hope we can find all the other parts before the snake figures out what he has!"

The two men headed for the elevator at a run. SG-1 was on a mission to locate Ba'al. Right now, that was the only thing that was important. Because it was doubtful that Keku would have specifics in his data system that would give them a clue as to whether or not Ba'al was already searching for the other missing pieces of the Ancient Weapon.

 

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The activation of the Stargate, not more than four hundred yards behind them, had SG-1 on their feet, weapons in hand. They waited, hearts pounding. It had been risky enough to send the MALP back to the SGC. Another activation thirty short minutes later was bound to get the attention of someone in that village!

"Colonel O'Neill, do you read?"

Jack slumped slightly as Hammond's voice echoed softly in their radios, giving it an odd, stereophonic sound. There had to be a damned good reason for the general to risk contacting them. The fleeting thought that the team was about to be recalled skittered across his mind. He would never admit to the fact that his heart took a little leap of joy at the prospect. "Yes, sir. Loud and clear."

"Colonel, as of this moment, your mission objective has changed. Jonas Quinn and Doctor Balinsky have located more information pertaining to the Ancient Weapon. They believe that Ba'al is already in possession of one piece of this weapon. I want to know where that Goa'uld is, and then I want SG-1 home. Don't take time to download anything. Determine Ba'al's location and get back here."

He couldn't help but grin. The idea of downloading everything that this Kookoo was hiding in his data system had come from Jacob Carter. Had to love it when their own objectives trumped that of the Tok'ra. And as a result, their task just became easier. They wouldn't waste time waiting for the data to transfer. "Yes, sir. We're waiting until nightfall, too risky to move before then."

"Understood. Doctor Jackson, your request to personally visit P5R 611 is approved."

Jack noted the gleam in Daniel's eyes. Already planning the mission, Jack thought with a silent harrumph.

The 'gate hissed to a close, indicative of the fact that the 'connection' had been broken in the SGC.

"Well, isn't that interesting," Daniel murmured. Then he smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. "That's what Ba'al was holding in that bas relief! A piece of that weapon!" Getting a first hand look at those pillars was even more important now. It was the only way to determine whether or not the Ancients had left any clues about their weapon. The pillars held that secret, he was certain of it. Apparently Cam and Jonas had found enough to warrant a return. It was possible they hadn't been able to decipher all of the glyphs...he was the only one who knew the dozen or so variants of Ancient that were used. If there were other ruins nearby...maybe Sam could find a way of scanning for them...

"But he was holding it like a scepter," Casey argued.

Daniel frowned, his thoughts pulled back to the image of Ba'al. She was right. That could only mean..."He doesn't know that it's a piece of an Ancient device," he said slowly.

"But as soon as he finds out-" Sam started.

"The race will be on to find the rest of it," Jack finished drolly. "Peachy."

Five pairs of eyes turned toward the Goa'uld ship. "We have to get on that thing, now," Sam sighed.

"We wait until dark," Jack said firmly. "Only the mission objective changed. Not our plans to carry out that mission."

With nods of understanding the team settled back down on the ground once again, to try to rest. What they had to do was a hell of a lot more important than getting the lowdown on what this minor Goa'uld might...or might not...know.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Keku watched indifferently as the servants moved around the room, bringing in his evening meal, seeing to it that every need...or want...had been met. His lo'taur, a beautiful woman with long dark hair and eyes the color of the night, stood silently behind him, waiting to do his bidding.

He had never before been in a position to demand anything from other System Lords. He was, as he was well aware, a minor god at best, never achieving the greatness he deserved. Apophis, Hathor, Anubis, Seth...all had seen to it that he'd remained in obscurity. Apophis had gone so far as to forbid the people in several of the villages he'd ruled to even have effigies of Keku. Ra himself had given him the little-known position of 'bringer-of-the-light'. He could still recall how Ra had laughed at the humans who had populated the First World...a superstitious lot who had names for hundreds of 'gods'. Those who ruled everything that the simple-minded creatures couldn't comprehend or understand. It had been so easy to assume the identities of those 'gods'. To be treated as such...what an experience that had been for the first time! To see people fall to their faces on the ground in fear...in reverence. Obeying every order as if their lives depended upon doing so.

There had been no difficulty in gaining control over the Tau'ri of the first world. The technology of the Goa'uld, taken from wherever and whomever they could find it, made 'conquering' the blue and white planet absolutely effortless. The ships, the weapons used by the Jaffa - those humans modified by the Goa'uld to serve their Masters - and the knowledge of the system of monuments that allowed nearly instantaneous travel between planets, had been left behind by a race of people who had simply vanished. Ascended, some claimed. Whatever had happened to the Ancients, their technology had handed the keys of the universe to the ambitious Goa'uld. Ambitions that had been born from just one of their number...Ra. Never before had the Goa'uld dreamed of universal domination...of ruling star systems and galaxies...as gods.

The discovery of the stones that could focus mental energy into an actual beam of light had resulted in the first ribbon devices, the greatest of all Goa'uld 'tools'. When worn in conjunction with the wrist device, which gave the wearer control over personal shields, could activate transport rings, and held small, short distance communication devices; the ribbon device made the Goa'uld appear as god-like as they claimed to be.

Keku hadn't actually been present in those early days, of course. But he'd heard Ra speak of it countless times. The ribbon devices, along with the power that was Goa'uld, the ability to speak through the host body with the voice of a god, to allow the peasants to glimpse the power through the light that could shine from the eyes of the host...these were the assets that had put the Goa'uld at the level of gods.

Goa'uld were, Keku freely admitted, rather egotistical. After all, it was their ingenuity that had made use of all of the technology left behind by the Ancients. It was the Goa'uld who had reached out to all of the galaxy and beyond; taking their wisdom, their knowledge of the universe, to the hordes of uneducated, superstitious beings known as humans. It was the Goa'uld who elevated the chosen few to the level of godhood by merely being present in their bodies. It was the Goa'uld who had populated the universe with the inferior species, creating worlds where the humans thrived. From which slaves and hosts were harvested.

While his own station in the Goa'uld Empire was far from inspiring, he had lived quietly, with little notice from his 'brothers' and 'sisters'. Being left alone had allowed him to watch the power struggles. To build up his wealth, if not his visible power. To garner information that any number of Goa'uld would pay handsomely for.

This was what had put him into the interesting position he now found himself. The great Ba'al, he snorted silently to himself, was in need of supplies. Minerals in general, naquadah in particular. While Keku controlled two planets with a more than adequate supply of that ore, he kept the locations, and the amount of naquadah available, to himself.

He had traded with Olokun for centuries, mostly because it afforded him a chance to keep a close watch on that Goa'uld. Another who would be Emperor, but had neither the strength, nor the cunning, to become such. Ba'al, on the other hand, had attacked and raided Olokun's planets whenever the mood...or need...struck. Now, licking his wounds from his failed attempt to take the First World, Ba'al had needs that Keku could meet. For a price, of course.

Ba'al had no idea that the already rich coffers of the minor System Lord were swelling even more with every payment received. Keku smiled. What not one of the fools around him realized was that when the time was right, he would turn that wealth into strength. Then he would destroy all those who had belittled him, used him...ignored him. How very appropriate that one considered too weak to be a threat would soon rule the Goa'uld Empire. Taking the First World would be easy, now that Ba'al had shown how not to attempt that feat.

He barely looked up from the plate of glazed lamb when his First Prime entered the room. "The payment has arrived?"

"Yes, My Lord. On schedule."

"Very well. Send ten pounds of naquadah back to Ba'al."

"But My Lord-" The First Prime swallowed when Keku glared at him, the eyes of his god glowing with his anger. He stood taller. "Ba'al's...request...was for one hundred pounds," the warrior dared to state. He'd been present during the communication between the two gods. Ba'al's 'request' had been more of a demand. One that his master had agreed to most willingly.

"As I am well aware. It would not do to have Ba'al get his hands on too much naquadah, too soon. He has more that he's willing to admit. When I have what I want, Ba'al will get what he wants," Keku replied.

"Yes, My Lord." The First Prime saluted, and hurried away. No doubt the Jaffa who were waiting to return to their master would not be pleased at the prospect of facing him with a mere one-tenth of what was expected.

Keku ate a leisurely meal. With the rising of the sun, he would leave this backwater planet. Worthless save for the fact that it was a most suitable rendezvous point. And he would make arrangements for the fleet of warships that would be his...for the right price. He didn't care to which Goa'uld they had once belonged. The fact was, they were now in the hands of dealers who were more than willing to barter ships, weapons, even captured Jaffa...for nothing more than a bit of gold and a few baubles. Why battle to gain an army, when it was so much easier to simply purchase one?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The sunset was obscured by the clouds that continued to build on the horizon. The breeze that had been blowing was now colder and stronger. No doubt a storm was brewing, Jack thought irritably. He tugged his jacket tighter around his frame. Now was the perfect time to start moving. There were enough shadows to hide them...just enough light for them to see their way down the side of the hill. "Let's go, campers," he said quietly.

Daniel fell into step beside his Wife, wrapped his fingers around hers. Noticed that Jack and Sam were together as well. Teal'c, as he usually did, had taken point. The team depended upon his carefully honed Jaffa skills, his genetically enhanced sight and hearing, to keep them safe.

Something was...wrong. She couldn't put her finger on it. Not one of the images from her 'download' that pertained to this mission had changed. Which meant that they hadn't veered from the path that would lead to...whatever it was that was about to happen. Sam would be running, and fighting for her life. Jack and Daniel would be captured...at least she assumed that was what had happened. Although thankfully she had been spared images of any torture they might endure. But what was going to happen to Teal'c...and herself? Neither the Jaffa nor she were anywhere near their teammates in any of the images. If they were going to be captured, she'd see that. If they were running and hiding, she'd see that as well. Why was Teal'c just...missing? She normally didn't see anything pertaining to herself unless there were others involved, but to not see Teal'c...

Daniel watched her for a minute. Noted the frown on her face, and the fact that she was tugging her lip between her teeth. "Casey?"

Her gaze moved up, locked with his for a moment. His cerulean blue eyes were filled with concern. "Nothing's changed," she whispered.

If nothing in her 'vision' had changed...Well, that sucks. "Any idea what we need to do...or avoid doing?"

Slender shoulders moved up and down. "I can't see enough to know how the two events I can see happen, let alone a way to avoid them."

And that was tearing her up. He could see it in her eyes. Feel it in the trembling of her hand. "We have a heads-up, Angel. It's enough," he said softly.

"No, it's not," she argued.

"Case, you see what you see," he reminded her gently.

"It's not enough," she insisted stubbornly.

"Maybe you'll get more," he suggested.

"Before or after we need to know?"

"Hopefully before."

"I should have looked-" She broke off, dividing her attention between watching Teal'c's broad back and watching her footing.

"Why didn't you?"

Because I couldn't bear to see you tortured, she thought miserably. "I...Jack said I didn't have to," she mumbled.

It wasn't difficult to discern the answer to his question. She was afraid of what she might discover. As much as he'd like to have a few more details about what was going to happen to the team, he sure as hell didn't need to know he was going to be strung up and beaten. Again. He squeezed her fingers gently. "We're SG-1," he said softly.

"I know."

"We have that magic."

"I know."

"We'll be okay."

"Oh, I hope so," she said quietly, the worry in her eyes reflected back at her.

Behind them, listening to the quiet conversation, Jack and Sam exchanged worried glances. Sam slid her fingers against the callused hand of her lover. Felt his fingers close around hers. They were SG-1. They always walked away from whatever disaster was visited upon them.

Jack could think of only one thing. Keeping his team together. If he could do that, then none of what Radar had seen could happen. Made perfect sense to him. That's all he had to do...keep the team together..."Tighten up," he said quietly. Couldn't help but smile as his 'kids' closed ranks, moving closer to one another. Let some damned snake try to mess with them now!

 

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Ba'al stood just inside the storage bay. Stared at the huge statues that had been taken from his palace in Babylon, so many millennia ago. His hand moved over a smooth, wooden chest, filled with elaborately tooled jewelry...necklaces of silver and gold, dripping with rubies and emeralds and pearls, priceless diamonds that would reflect light with a flash that represented wealth...and power.

The riches he had meant nothing to him. He had surrendered to the hard, cold fact that without Casey beside him, he felt empty inside. Even though she had never been with him willingly, he had enjoyed...had treasured...every moment with her. He was more determined than ever to have her love...her heart. Her body. He shivered slightly as images of her slender body danced in his mind.

He walked deeper into the room, ran a hand over the foot of one of the twenty-foot tall statues that had adorned the entrance to his palace in Babylon. Dropped down onto the chair that had once served as his throne. He would give all of it, every piece of it, to Casey. His gift to her. As a token of his love. That would surely prove the depth of his feelings for her. Soon, he promised himself. She would be with him soon. And this time, she wouldn't escape from him. He had gained her trust once. He could do so again. And when he had done so, he would win her love.

Beside him was a yet another crate of treasures, packed by slaves who were killed as soon as the cargo hold had been filled. Slaves who had served to help him retrieve his treasures might speak of what they had seen, inciting other Goa'uld to try to take what he had. Slaves were an easy enough commodity to come by. The treasures he had gathered were irreplaceable. He idly reached out and flipped open the lid. One of the 'scepters' he had been given by a the people of a planet desperate to appease him caught his eye. It had been centuries since he'd even looked at it. He picked it up, carefully examined it. Could remember the parade to his newly built temple. The priests kneeling before him, offering what they considered to be a priceless treasure. Found, they had told him, in the hills near their village. Buried there, they claimed, by the gods themselves.

As he recalled, the planet had offered an abundant supply of naquadah, as well as iron ore that he used to make more weapons for his growing army of Jaffa. The village had supplied him with a dozen nubile young women as well. Hours of pleasure had been his, spent teaching them exactly how to please him. He wondered idly what had happened to them. Oh, he was well aware that their life spans had been but a flicker of the candle compared to his own. But still...had he simply grown tired of them...had they been sacrificed in some religious ceremony or another, held to maintain control over the people, once his interest in them had waned? He shrugged mentally. It didn't matter.

Running his fingers over the cool metal of the scepter, his attention was caught by the rough edges he felt. Closer examination revealed marks...what appeared to be Ancient writing. He'd never bothered to learn more than the rudimentary alphabet...he had Goa'uld in his service for such mundane tasks. He didn't remember seeing the marks before. The gold leaf that had once covered the shaft had worn away. Probably the reason that the marks were visible now.

Curiosity won out. He closed the door to the storage room and sealed it. He'd give this to his linguists. It would give them something to do while he bided his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to prove once again that he was Ba'al, the mightiest of the System Lords.

 

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Jonas stared at the rubbing he had taken. If his translation was correct, he was looking at a detailed description of the weapon. And, if he was right, there was a hint about a another weapon, one that had been the 'first'; 'one of less power'. Given that these were weapons built by the Ancients, he had no doubt that 'less powerful' in Ancient terms still meant one hell of a weapon to mere humans. The 'first' weapon was put into place, according to this text, to protect their 'home planet'. Okay...did that mean there were more of these...'things'...out there?

A frown on his face, his eyes going back to what he had written, to check one detail or another, he began to sketch what the text described. Just what sort of weapon could this actually be? It certainly didn't look like a weapon. It looked, he thought, more like the pictures he'd seen of the chairs that were used by the commanding officers of ships...particularly of the outer space variety. The frown deepened.

His knowledge of computers, or rather how to use one, and the Internet, was growing daily. He'd learned enough about 'surfing' from Casey and Teal'c that he was certain he could find what he was seeking. Didn't stop to wonder if anyone who monitored the connection would find his search...unusual. His query had been short...just four words. And netted almost three million results. Most of which, he was certain, would be redundant links to the same sites.

He clicked on the first site. Nearly thirty images were available. He studied each one carefully, then looked back at the pages of notes. Yep. Just like a spaceship. Or at least the bridge of a space ship. As if someone had simply cut the 'captain's chair' from the room around it.

Following through with his task, he finished the drawing. Yep, a captain's chair...on a square dais of sorts. With an odd looking 'controller' attached to the right arm of the chair. It didn't take an expert to perceive just how the Ancients had broken their creation into pieces. The question was, would what was left be recognizable? Or would each part be so obscure that anyone searching for the weapon would look past the obvious?

That, he thought, was a logical assumption. After all, no one had found the thing. Yet. It was a safe bet that no one actually knew about the weapon. Or weapons. Again, that was a fact that could change at any moment.

He shuffled through the folders, looking for the photo of the bas relief of Ba'al...studied it for a moment. Compared what was in the photo with the description, and his drawing. Yep. That was most definitely a part of the weapon. From what he could tell, and Jonas would freely admit he was no 'gizmo expert', the piece just might be one of the most important components. Didn't that figure?

As soon as Major Carter had returned, he'd seek her advice on just how it was possible for the weapon to work. He continued to work meticulously on each section, drawing carefully, following the text exactly. It certainly didn't look like much to him. Didn't look like a weapon at all. He had yet to learn that the most innocuous looking devices could be the most deadly.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

SG-1 moved methodically as they made their way past the low, square buildings on the very outskirts of the village, which were, upon closer examination, nothing more than storage sheds. Torches flickering nearby decorated the bare ground with golden light. The shadows that clung to the sheds offered hiding places as the team crept closer to the ship.

What appeared to be crates of supplies were stacked conveniently near the open bay door of the ha'tak. The only Jaffa who were present at the moment were guards. It seemed that the loading, or unloading, whichever was actually going on, had halted for the day. Thankfully no one seemed to think more than a half dozen of the metal-clad men were needed for the job. They were, no doubt, more a deterrent to any of the locals who might take it into their heads to help themselves to any supplies they might need than protection from any other type of threat.

Knowing the Goa'uld, Daniel thought disgustedly, the people in the small village didn't have enough to eat, probably lacked medical care, and the food and supplies that would benefit them were sitting right there. He glanced over his shoulder at the cluster of humble houses. Few had light within; no doubt the occupants were exhausted from their day's labor as stevedores for Keku.

Waiting until he knew his team was watching him, Jack signaled for Teal'c and Daniel to move ahead. Remaining in the shadows, crouched low to the ground, the two men slipped from one stack of crates to the next, toward what appeared to be nothing more than a gaping hole in the side of the ship. He watched as they slipped into the dark shadows of the cargo bay. He sent Sam and Casey next, the women mimicking the moves of the two men who had gone ahead of them, before disappearing into the hold. He followed slowly, his eyes shifting constantly, making certain that none of the guards had noted their movements.

He took a deep breath as he ducked behind several tall boxes. Wondered briefly what was in them. Then just as quickly dismissed the random thought. So far, so good. The team was together. That was the most important thing on his mind. He glanced around. "Any computer terminals around here?" he whispered.

Teal'c shook his head. "There are not. We must move upwards, toward the level where the laboratories are located. Each room there will have at least one console. Those computers will allow access to all of the data that the memory contains."

Well, that just figured, didn't it? Moving up in the ha'tak meant one of two things. Taking the elevator, which was totally out of the question, for obvious reasons. Or climbing through the access shafts that were used for maintenance. He hated like hell to do that. One wrong move, and the noise would alert those Jaffa to the fact that someone was messing around where they shouldn't be. Jack heaved a silent sigh of frustration.

"Elevator?" Daniel asked.

"I believe the use of the lift would be risky," Teal'c replied. "There are far too many Jaffa still moving about."

"Do we want to wait awhile?" Sam asked, her eyes going from Jack to Teal'c and back again.

"What are the chances of all of those guys going to bed soon?" he asked.

Teal'c frowned. "I do not believe that there would be a significant decrease in the number of Jaffa on duty. With the ha'tak 'vulnerable' on the planet's surface, there would be additional guards placed strategically throughout the ship."

Peachy. Just friggin' peachy. The very thing that made getting onto this thing easier than doing so in space was going to be the detail that would bite them in the ass. "No matter what, we stay together, do I make myself clear?" Jack looked pointedly at Daniel and Casey, before his gaze moved to Sam, and then Teal'c.

"Perfectly."

"Crystal clear, boss."

"Yes, sir."

"Indeed."

He gave a nod. "Good. Let's go. Teal'c, find a shaft for us."

Eyes moving slowly, taking in every shadow, every detail, making certain that none of the numerous Jaffa were nearby, Teal'c moved toward the back of the bay. The access panel was only three feet off the floor. Something that the entire team was grateful for. Jack and Teal'c removed the cover; Daniel, Casey, and Sam made certain that neither they, nor their activity, had been detected.

Leading the way, Jack slid into the shaft. Sam followed, then Casey, Daniel right behind her. Teal'c lifted the heavy metal cover back into place before following his teammates.

So far, so good, was the thought that continued to echo in the back of his mind. As long as the team remained together, what Casey had seen just couldn't happen. Right? Right. Daniel sighed silently. She's never been wrong. Never. He kept his attention on that heart-shaped ass, watching as she crawled along the metal grate of the access tunnel. Tried to ignore what the sight was doing to him.

The most perplexing part of what she had seen was the fact that she and Teal'c seemed to be missing completely. It was possible that whatever happened to them was connected to his and Jack's capture. Maybe they had been captured as well, but she hadn't looked further because of her fear of seeing him tortured. He could well remember her reaction the last time he had been in that position. Her green eyes had filled with such grief...and guilt...that it had cut him to the quick. It was the only explanation. Jack was right, as long as the team stayed together...

She's never been wrong, bucko. Face it. Things are going to be as intense as hell.

He sighed mentally again. And determined in that moment that he'd be damned before he let some freaking Goa'uld hurt her. Screw the mission. Casey came first. No matter what else might happen. No matter what else might be at stake. His Wife was his first, his only priority.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Keku stretched out on his bed. Debated for a moment whether or not he desired company from his harem. Decided that he really was in the mood for a bit of a celebration. After all, he was on the verge of becoming the greatest of all System Lords. He couldn't help but smile as he contemplated the surprise of those around him who considered themselves to be among the highest echelons of the Goa'uld Empire. He would be the Goa'uld to remind them that turning their back on one considered too weak to be a threat was a mistake only a fool would make. He was, he thought with a smirk, surrounded by such fools.

Nefret knelt beside the bed. "What is your wish, My Lord?"

"Bring two of the best from the harem."

"Yes, My Lord. Do you wish for me to...remain?"

His eyes swung to her face. The lo'taur was faithful. Capable. Very astute, and able to bring him bits and pieces of gossip from among the slaves of other Goa'uld. But she was absolutely passionless. She would do exactly what was demanded of her, without hesitation, and to the best of her ability. But she would do so with no more emotion, or enthusiasm, than a machine. "No, you may return to your quarters."

"Yes, My Lord." A secret smile tugged at her lips. She had learned, when she'd been quite young, that there were ways to avoid that which she had no desire to do. Nefret had honed her skills in other areas, making herself most useful to her Master, without risking herself to his physical whims. She'd been lo'taur for nearly ten years. She had been, she knew, quite successful in her attempts to do exactly what she wished to do. All the while appearing to be a faithful slave, desperate to remain within her Master's good graces.

With luck, Tjau'kek would be free to spend time with her. As First Prime, he had no greater love of their master than she did. Like her, he did as he was bid, simply to remain in a position that afforded him the least amount of misery. That they found comfort in one another's arms was a secret they guarded carefully.

After fetching two slaves from the harem, she would wander the corridors, appearing to do her god's bidding. Then she would slip to the cargo hold. If her lover could join her, he would do so. Heart pounding with anticipation, she schooled her expression to reveal nothing to the man who watched her from the bed. Rose to her feet, bowed low, and left the room. Her mind went over the list of harem slaves available. There were several who would serve Lord Keku most willingly. She supposed that they harbored secret desires to replace her. What they didn't realize was that Keku had been quick to understand that what he needed from a lo'taur didn't have to include sex. He had any number of harem slaves for that. She had other skills that were more valuable to him than her body.

That she could smile and lavish compliments on those who worked for Keku, or most often, those whom Keku obeyed, and gain information from men too charmed to realize that they were telling her exactly what she wanted to know, was a talent that very few women possessed. Nefret not only possessed that talent, she had perfected it. Even Ba'al hadn't been immune to her charms when she had served him, as per the orders of her 'god', during the hours Keku had been on the more powerful System Lord's ship. She knew far more about his need for the naquadah than Keku. She also knew that Ba'al had other sources as well.

What she hadn't figured out...yet...was exactly why Ba'al would bother with a Goa'uld like her Master. When she did discern the reason, she would tell Keku only what she chose to tell him. And perhaps she'd offer information to Ba'al, all that she knew about Keku...and his plans. Surely such information would be worth something to a more powerful god. If she dreamed of freedom for herself and her lover, it was a dream that she clung to silently, and tenaciously. And she searched every possible place for a way to make that dream come true. Even if it meant betraying the god who owned her.

With a smirk of superiority, Nefret entered the harem. Bade two of the slaves to attend to their Master. Made the comment to the Jaffa who stood guard that she had other tasks to attend to before she would be able to return to her private chambers for a bit of rest, and then made her way slowly toward the lower decks.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Level by level SG-1 moved upward, toward the third deck. Where numerous laboratories were located. They only needed one lousy computer, Daniel thought irritably. Of course, it had to be a computer that was tied-in to the main terminal. If there were consoles in the cargo bays, they normally held such access. There hadn't been such consoles available. Damned inconsiderate snakes. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips when the thought passed through his mind. Casey was definitely influencing him.

The slender seer was moving as silently as her teammates. Her mind, however, continued to work on the puzzle of her 'download'. There was something odd about what she was seeing. She just couldn't seem to figure out exactly what it was that seemed so 'wrong'. She'd pushed and reached out, trying to determine if some other group of Higher Beings were screwing around with the information she was supposed to be getting. There had been nothing there...no interference at all. She had everything she was supposed to get. She could see Daniel, Jack, and Sam with perfect clarity. Teal'c...it was if he wasn't even there...at all. And there wasn't even a hint about herself. Not that she normally received anything that was directly connected to herself anyway. But usually she could 'feel' where she was in relation to her teammates.

She hadn't had a chance to talk to Miss Eloise further about what she'd seen, or rather, what she hadn't seen. If her 'gift' was going to be so vague as to be useless, how could she continue to offer any insight to the missions that were planned? How could she help her own team, protect her own Husband? How could she guide The One?

There were no answers to her questions. She was left feeling...disappointed, and useless. It was a horrible feeling, having only bits and pieces, nothing that would actually help the team. She was letting them down. She was letting Daniel down, and no matter how hard she tried, that fact wasn't changing.

Tugging her lip between her teeth, she continued to examine the images she did have. Forcing herself to look at Sam. The fear, the desperation, the feeling of despair that seemed to envelope the tall, blonde major wasn't easy to 'watch'. Not knowing the cause of her distress left Casey unable to give Sam any insights as how best to deal with the situation. Daniel and Jack...she shook her head mentally. There was so much anger! And frustration. She dared to look closer, steeling herself to see their battered bodies. Nope. Nothing. They were pissed as hell about something, probably whatever it was that Sam was going through. And just where in the hell is Teal'c?

"Level three," Jack announced quietly. He scanned the corridor as much as he could. Forced the vent from the opening, gripping it tightly so that it wouldn't clatter to the floor.

One by one the five team members slid from the shaft, into the shadows created by the support beams. Four indulgent smiles were tossed her way when Casey reached out and patted one of the beams affectionately.

Jack signaled that he wanted Casey to 'look' into the rooms before they opened the doors. With a nod, she slipped to his side, then stepped up to the first door. She put her hand on the metal, closed her eyes. Two...possibly three people, she thought. She glanced over her shoulder, shook her head.

With a nod, Jack moved around her, behind the next beam; Daniel, Sam and Teal'c 'leapfrogging' behind him, hiding along the corridor in order to offer as much protection as possible as the seer moved from door to door.

The second door netted the same reaction. At the third door, Casey placed her hand on the metal...cocked her head sideways. Barely managed to dive into the shadows at Sam's feet when the door opened and two men walked out. Only three of the teammates knew that the men were Goa'uld.

Jack pointed the muzzle of his P90 at the still open door. Casey crawled to the opening, stuck her head into the room. Jumped to her feet and slid inside, followed closely by Sam. Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c dashed in behind her.

Teal'c closed the door and locked it, although he did so carefully, so as not to set off any possible alarms.

Sam tossed her weapon to Casey, then hurriedly approached the main computer console. Daniel looked over her shoulder, whispering as he translated for her. Jack and Teal'c surveyed the room.

"Any bugs, Radar?" Jack asked softly.

"Not that I can find," Casey replied, closing her eyes and moving around the room mentally, seeking any surges of electrical current that usually indicated a listening device of some sort. She'd been practicing this very thing, she thought amusedly. Siler had hidden nearly thirty devices in Warehouse 2. Over half of them had been alien in nature. She'd found every one of them in less than thirty minutes. Which reminded her, she needed to talk to Ferretti about her winnings. He should have known better than to bet against her, she thought with a slight smile.

"Wait, go back," Daniel said quietly.

"What is it?" Jack asked.

"Um...give me a second," Daniel murmured. He glanced at Sam. "Do you have the data crystals?"

She pulled one of the glass-looking objects from her vest. "What did you find?"

"There's text here about an Ancient Weapon. Two of the symbols are identical to those used on those pillars," Daniel replied.

"Daniel," Jack said, his voice holding a warning.

"Jack, if Keku knows about the weapon, or where it might be located, we need to know about it. If he figures out that Ba'al has...might have," Daniel corrected himself, "part of that weapon, who knows what he'll do."

"With luck he'll attack Balls and the two of them will knock each other out of existence," Jack muttered.

"I think it's important."

With a sigh, Jack nodded. Sam shoved the crystal into the opening made for that purpose, and began to carefully download every file that Daniel indicated.

"Any clue on where Ba'al is?" Casey asked.

Daniel shook his head. "According to the duty reports, Ba'al sends his First Prime to deal with Keku."

"So Kookoo has no clue where Balls is hiding," Jack sighed again, heavily this time.

"Doesn't look like it," Daniel admitted. That had been the ultimate goal in coming here...locating Ba'al. They hadn't succeeded on that count. He could only hope that the information they'd stumbled upon would be worth the risk they had taken, and make the mission at least a partial success.

"Got it," Sam whispered.

"Good. Let's get the hell out of here," Jack said. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck were beginning to stand up. That was never a good sign. "Stay close. Stay together."

That 'something' began to poke at the back of her mind. Casey tried to focus on following Teal'c through the relative safety of the maintenance shaft. In an attempt to keep from grabbing at whatever might be about to come through. Let it flow, she told herself. Just wait for it.

Teal'c halted his movements, bringing his teammates to a stop as well. No one said a word, none of them dared to breath as the sound of voices wafted through the shaft toward them.

Now who in the hell would order maintenance right now? Jack groused silently. Well, actually, it was the best time, when the majority of the ship's crew were asleep, or at least not in need of using certain ship functions.

Looking around him as best as he could, Teal'c pointed toward a shaft that led vertically from their position. Going up wasn't exactly what they wanted to do. Getting caught, however, was even lower on that list.

Jack tapped Sam's foot, nodded at her. Sam tapped Daniel's boot, nodded, then glanced over her shoulder at Jack. With his own nod of understanding, Daniel tapped Casey's ankle. Winked at her, pointed his thumb over his shoulder, and then nodded. Casey smiled, winked in return, then reached for Teal'c. She nodded, then pointed over her slender shoulder.

Easing his impressive bulk upwards, Teal'c found the rungs that would make climbing the shaft possible. He carefully pushed his P90 over his shoulder.

One by one they began to climb. Not one of them at all thrilled about the fact that they were actually moving deeper into the ship and farther away from their escape route.

Fifteen minutes later another shaft offered them the chance to move horizontally. Fifteen minutes after that they were climbing down again. Luck had seen them stumble onto one of the main shafts, one that would lead them within three levels of the cargo bay. Their progress slowed considerably as they continued to work their way toward their goal, forced to take 'side shafts' to prevent their capture. Movement in one shaft, made by the technicians who carried out routine checks and repairs, held them in place...caused hearts to pound, pulses to race; five minds nearly frantic with worry. Becoming unwilling passengers on this ship was the fear the teammates shared.

Jack managed to check his watch. It felt as if they'd been in every freaking access shaft and air vent in the ship. Twice they'd been forced to simply sit and wait as technicians worked in the shafts just feet from where they were hidden. They'd been trying to get back to the cargo bay for over four hours now. They really needed to get the hell off of this ship and back onto that ridge. Before the sun came up.

Minute after minute, hour by hour passed. SG-1 moved ever closer to the cargo bay. And so far, no one was aware of their presence. That was always a good thing.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jonas handed the drawings to General Hammond. "I don't understand how it could work. I'm certain that Major Carter could determine that. According to this bit of text here," he said, pointing to one section of the typed translation, "there's another weapon. Less powerful, but apparently still able to defend their entire planet."

General Hammond frowned. "I believe that Doctor Jackson has theorized that Earth became the 'new' home planet for the Ancients. Is it possible that this 'first' weapon is here?"

"Well, if that's so, then yes," Jonas replied. "The second weapon, the one we're the most interested in, is far more powerful, according to the text. It's in pieces, and finding those pieces might not be so easy. Especially if Ba'al is already in possession of one of them."

"There would have to be a power source," General Hammond mused. "As soon as the Prometheus returns from their mission, I'll have them begin running deep scans. If there's naquadah out there, they'll find it."

The Kelownan nodded. The Prometheus had been dispatched to take much needed supplies to a planet that had no Stargate. The Tok'ra had discovered the small world, had met with the few surviving inhabitants, and had relocated them to an area of the planet that had escaped the devastation caused by a meteor strike. "Any word from SG-1, sir?"

"Not yet. However, I expect to hear from them soon," Hammond replied.

With a nod, Jonas began to gather the papers he had strewn across the general's desk. "I'd prefer that Doctor Jackson and Major Carter confirm my work before you actually do anything," he said shyly.

"Son, if you say this weapon is out there, then it's out there. Doctor Jackson has the utmost faith in your abilities. So do I," the general said kindly, understanding that it was his misgivings about his translations that had Jonas making such a...request.

Eyes wide, a smile made its way across his face. Jonas stood straight. "Thank you, sir."

"Now, I need to have an estimation of just how powerful this could be. Find Doctor Lee, and show him what you have. He should be able to come up with a projection."

"Yes, sir," Jonas replied.

"Dismissed." The general watched the young alien leave the room. If there was such a weapon on Earth, could it protect the planet from Goa'uld attack? That would certainly help to put his mind at ease, especially since it would be at least another year before the first of the satellites, built using Tegerian technology, would be ready for launch. Ba'al had made an attempt to take the First World. He had failed. He had, however, shown the other Goa'uld what mistakes not to make. It was only a matter of time before the next slimy bastard, or bitch, tried for themselves. A weapon that could defend the planet would certainly go a long way in making the Goa'uld think twice about trying to attack.


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