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Strange Bedfellows

Chapter 4

Casey put her black suit into the garment bag beside Daniel's. So far, wearing it had been 'good luck'. She had hopes that the trend would continue. She took her toiletries bag to the bathroom and tossed in all the things she'd need to make herself presentable to the leaders of the eight most powerful countries in the world.

Daniel and Jack had checked the house thoroughly, but found no sign of entry. Unless the occupant of the sedan that was still sitting in front of the Thompkin's house was adept at picking locks, it didn't appear that he'd been inside. Siler carried an electronic 'sniffer', a device capable of finding any and all hidden listening and viewing devices that might have been planted. There had been none. Either the agent hadn't yet had time to plant any, or the Chinese weren't as high-tech as they wanted everyone to believe they were. Jack was betting on the former. Two listening devices were put into place, one in the kitchen, an innocuous little 'bump' on the control surface of the cooktop, and another, hidden on one of Daniel's degrees that graced the walls in the den. If anyone entered the residence, the team listening in a van parked in Emma's driveway would hear it.

Casey had been the one to suggest using that particular spot, insisting that the team could be through the gate, onto the deck and into the house in less than a minute if need be. And that Emma would be more than happy to let them use the space in front of her garage.

General Hammond had listened with interest as the young woman told him about her feisty neighbor, and what a godsend the elderly woman had been, collecting mail, watering the flower gardens, even giving some of the nosy neighbors a 'song and dance' about how sweet the Jacksons were to allow her to do such simple things, just to make her feel needed, and that it gave her something to look forward to each day. Casey also reported that Emma's husband had been in the Navy, and had worked for the NSA for thirty-five years. A woman married to man doing that type of work picked up a few things over the years. Something told him that the senior citizen might help with a problem that had concerned him since Casey, with her very special gift, had joined the SGC.

"Ready?" Daniel asked quietly.

She nodded. Jack took the garment bag from her hand, led the way out the back door. The sedan couldn't see the back of the house. Unless they had listening devices in place that had escaped Siler's notice, they'd never know that the Jacksons and a team of techs had been in the house.

Emma was sitting on her front porch swing as they headed toward one of the SGC vans. Casey hurried over and sat down beside her. "Thank you so much, Emma. To be willing to help, even when you don't know what's happening, or why..."

Emma took the young woman's hand, patted it lightly. "My Henry worked in secrecy, Casey. I understand when there are things that can't be discussed. Things that probably shouldn't be. You and Daniel be careful."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." The old woman looked around. "Damned fun having all this happening right here in my own yard! I'll bet Maggie Cooper is just foaming at the mouth to know what's going on!"

Casey giggled. "National security. And that's the god's honest truth, Emma."

"I believe you. Go. That handsome colonel of yours is getting antsy."

She hugged her elderly neighbor, then bounded down the steps and into the van. Hopefully, this latest crisis would be averted quickly, and she could go home. She'd spent far too much time away for her liking.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The message shouldn't have been a surprise. He'd made no secret of his return. He was, as a matter of fact, heralding the news as quickly as possible. There'd been no expectation of open arms welcoming him, nor had he received such. So far this was the only acknowledgement he'd received.

Ares poured a wine into a chalice, lifted it to his lips. He contemplated the words of the message he held in his hand. Began to formulate his reply. While he had the strength, he lacked up-to-date intelligence on the strength and placement of the others. Yes, an alliance would be a good thing. It had worked well before. Up until the moment he'd been betrayed, he thought bitterly.

That was a time long passed. Surely his ally had suffered much more than he had. Rumors among servants and slaves were often the most reliable. And his spies among those lowly workers informed him that all was not well for that Goa'uld. And that the fool had no idea that his own priests plotted against him. Abandoned on the First World without the benefit of his trappings as a Goa'uld god, unable to maintain any sort of control, he'd been too long gone. Something that Ares conveniently ignored - the fact that he had been too long gone, as well.

"Send a reply," he said at last, to the Jaffa who stood waiting patiently. "Tell Tem that he is most welcome, and that I look forward to seeing him again."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The team stood beside General Hammond, waiting for the elevator to open and usher eight men, and their body guards, into the heart of the secret facility. Six of the eight had received carefully worded reports, explaining the discovery of the Stargate, and its storage in a military warehouse for fifteen years, the experiments that had been conducted, by men who had no idea exactly what they had discovered. The fact that it had been returned to storage until Dr. Catherine Langford managed to 'reopen' the program. Copies of Dr. Daniel Jackson's theories concerning the pyramids were included. Reports kept by General West documenting the young man's achievement of deciphering in a matter of two weeks what the experts had spent years trying to understand. Select mission reports, including the very first to Abydos. The reasoning behind keeping the 'gate a secret, especially after Apophis had walked through it into the converted silo and abducted an Air Force security guard. And, a brief synopsis as to why the meeting was being held, and the secret program revealed to the leaders. No one expected these men to be in a particularly good mood.

When the doors finally slid open, the President of the United States stepped out, greeted General Hammond and the team warmly, and made introductions all around.

"Where is this...'Stargate'?" French President demanded immediately.

"This way, sir," General Hammond said.

The group of politicians followed SG-1 and the base commander into the room that had once been a missile silo. Which was also information that had been in the report that the men had read carefully on their way to the emergency summit.

"We have a team due to arrive within just a few minutes," the general explained. "Major Carter, would you please explain how the Stargate works?"

With a nod, Sam cleared her throat. "The Stargate is capable of creating a stable wormhole between one Stargate and another, which allows almost instantaneous travel between two places, two planets, regardless of how far apart they might be in the galaxy. The average 'trip' through a wormhole takes zero point three seconds. What you'll see, which will look like a shimmering pool of water, is an actual event horizon, and allows entry into the wormhole."

Nervous, unbelieving glances were cast back and forth. The Japanese Prime Minister skewered Sam with his stare. "How can we know that this is not a trick of some sort?"

The Air Force major never flinched. She'd faced down Goa'uld. This man didn't intimidate her in the least. And her eyes reflected that. "Because, as Mrs. Jackson has suggested we do, we're going to take a little trip. We'll be making three stops. PX3-808, where Doctor Jackson located the ruins of an alien culture similar to the Mayans; and our Alpha and Beta sites, where several long term experiments are being conducted, as well as serving as emergency destinations for teams in trouble. If evacuation of Earth should be required, it would be to these two planets that those chosen to...escape...would be sent."

The klaxons began to wail, startling the men of the group. As was standard procedure, the Marines who guarded the 'gate room rushed in, took up their positions. When the 'gate activated, eyes widened, fixed on the sight of the inner ring of the monument spinning, the clang of each chevron as it locked into place the only sound that could be heard.

When the event horizon opened, sending the sideways plume of 'water' that signified the establishment of the wormhole, the leaders of the free world jumped once again.

"No faking that," President Miller said dryly. The Japanese Prime Minister remained silent.

When the members of SG-6 stepped through the shimmering event horizon, they were surprised to see the group of formally dressed people standing at the bottom of the ramp.

"Welcome back, SG-6," General Hammond smiled.

"Uh...thank you, sir," Major Parker replied.

"How did it go?"

The Major shook his head, still eyeing the group of visitors, who'd jumped when the event horizon hissed closed behind him; understanding something BIG had happened while he and his team had been off-world. "Not much left," he reported. "We have pictures of everything we could find. Whoever hit that village hit it hard and fast."

The general nodded his understanding. "Did you find anything that might give us as clue as to who attacked?"

"No, sir," Major Parker admitted.

"Very well, Major. You and your men head to the infirmary, get checked out. We'll debrief on this mission tomorrow."

"Yes, sir." Parker led his weary team from the room.

A nod from the general, and Walter began to dial. Once again the huge, stone monument came to life. "We'll only spend a few minutes on each planet. But long enough that you'll be able to see for yourself that you are indeed standing on alien soil."

Casey looked at each face. It had been her suggestion that the best way to prove that what they were telling the leaders of the G8 was true, was to take them on a little 'sight-seeing tour'. These men were angry at being left 'in the dark' about the Stargate program. That anger would hamper the negotiations unless it was dealt with. And the sooner, the better. She glanced at the general, caught his eye.

As soon as she looked at him, Hammond knew that she'd 'seen' something. He gave her a slight nod.

"Before you begin accusing President Miller of arrogance, and ranting about American pride, understand that the Stargate winding up here was more or less decided a long time ago."

The men jerked with surprise. "And just who made this decision?" the French president asked.

"There are those in the universe more powerful than you can imagine," Casey said softly. "And if they saw fit to have the Americans find the 'gate, and open it once again, there was a reason."

The Italian president shook his head. "Are you telling us that 'God' decided that the Americans should find this Stargate?"

Casey shook her head. "I don't know about God. But the Beings on the Ninth Level of Existence did. Because Doctor Daniel Jackson had to be involved with this program. And, Daniel is here."

Everyone stared at her, including her husband and teammates. "Casey?" Daniel said softly.

"What?"

"When did you learn about the 'Ninth Level of Existence'?"

"The what?"

Jack chuckled. "Well, somebody wanted that little tidbit of information to come out."

"I don't understand," the Italian said.

"Mrs. Jackson is a very powerful seer," President Miller said. "She often makes...comments...that contain information, and she's not aware of that information, or passing it on."

Several of the politicians rolled their eyes.

"Oh, I so hate this part," Casey grumbled. She looked at each man. "Where do you think President Miller got those little nuggets of intel that convinced you to show up here? I have more, if you'd like to hear. We can talk about the backroom deals, and the mistresses, or boyfriends," she said, raising an eyebrow in the French President's direction, "and the kickbacks and the-"

"I don't believe that will be necessary," Jean-Luc Selegone said hastily. His companions had shifted uneasily as well.

Once again the Stargate opened with its usual magnificence. "SG-1, if you'd take the lead, please," General Hammond said. He watched as the premier team walked up the ramp.

Casey glanced over her shoulder. "Just believe what your eyes tell you."

Three gasps filled the air, and the men from whom the sounds had emerged colored deeply as all eyes focused on them. Each of them had been thinking the same thing...convinced that this was a ploy by the Americans to shift opinions in their favor, to get exactly what they wanted from the G8.

General Hammond bit back his smile, extended his arm in an invitation for the distinguished guests to follow the others up the ramp and into the event horizon. President Miller strode up the metal walkway side by side with Russian President Vladimir Sokolóv. The Canadian and British Prime Ministers were next, followed in quick succession by the Italian Prime Minister. Exchanging nervous glances again, the Japanese Prime Minister and the German and French presidents followed slowly. The general brought up the rear. Wishing that he could see their faces upon arrival at their first stop on the 'tour', PX3-808.

 

 

 

The selection of PX3-808 had not been a random choice. Overhead, filling the sky even in the middle of the day, were two planets, the graceful lavender arcs reflecting the light of the nearby sun back onto its lush sibling. The grass was such a dark green it was almost black, and the leaves of the nearby trees ranged from gold to orange to yellow. Perhaps not so different from the trees on Earth in the autumn, except for the fact that the leaves seemed to glow. Low bushes ranged from gold to orange to yellow as well...striking an odd contrast with the gray-blue rocks that jutted from the ground, ruins of what had been a fair sized town, once upon a time. The Stargate sat in an open field, guardian of all things past and present.

The eight men who comprised the G8 stumbled a bit as they walked down the crumbling steps to stand on the soil of an alien planet. Their eyes were pulled upward, and loud gasps filled the silent air.

"L'OH, Il Mio Dio!" [Oh, my God!]

"Unglaublich!" [Unbelievable!]

"Rien de Dieu! C'est vrai!" The French President colored slightly when he realized he'd spoken out loud. [Goddamn! It's true!]

Daniel chuckled. "Yes, it is true."

General Hammond moved to stand in front of the stunned group. "Doctor Jackson and SG-11 spent nearly two weeks here."

The Canadian Prime Minister circled the DHD. "What is this?"

"It's what we call the 'Dial Home Device'," Sam replied immediately. "We were never able to locate the one on Earth, it wasn't near the 'gate when it was uncovered."

"We've theorized that the people who buried the Stargate were afraid that someone might unbury it," Daniel explained further. "So in an attempt to render it useless, the DHD was hidden elsewhere. Although we do have an idea where it might be located today."

The Russian President avoided looking at the archaeologist. He knew for a fact that SG-1 had seen the 'DHD' in the Russian facility when they helped Dr. Svetlana Markov in Siberia.

"How then were you able to make the Stargate function as intended?" the Japanese Prime Minister asked.

"Because of the experiments in 1945, we did have some idea of what the Stargate was supposed to do. Although not to the extent that we do now, and certainly we wouldn't have been able to work out a dialing program without Doctor Jackson's translations of the cover stone, and deciphering the glyphs on the 'gate itself. A program was written that mimics what the DHD does," Sam told him.

"Allow Doctor Jackson to demonstrate," General Hammond said. He nodded, and Daniel stepped up to the DHD. "The 'address', as we call them, that Doctor Jackson will dial is for our Alpha site."

Once again the men stood and watched in awe as the stone circle began to move, and the chevrons clanged into place. "You say that your SG teams go through this thing, daily?"

General Hammond smiled at the English Prime Minister. "Yes, sir. We have teams arriving or departing at least once a day. We're investigating every address that Doctor Jackson found in the Abydonian Cartouche. As well as the addresses that Colonel O'Neill added when he'd had the repository of Ancient knowledge downloaded into his head."

"I think that you have many stories to tell," the Italian Prime Minister said softly.

"And many of them are stranger than the science fiction you watch on television," Casey said just as softly.

"General Hammond, we do not wish to appear rude, but it is necessary that we travel to each of your outposts?" the German President asked nervously.

Her teammates and commanding officer glanced at her, smirks on their faces. Casey had predicted that just one trip through the 'gate would be all that was needed to impress these men that what they'd read about was true.

"I believe we can return to the SGC, if you wish."

"I've had the General compile a list of the most...important...missions that have been undertaken, and a brief synopsis of each. It's quite long. However, I feel that each of you should be aware of the seriousness of this situation," President Miller said. "I propose we return to Earth, and give you gentlemen time to examine this list."

Five heads nodded in agreement. "I understand that the Russians also had a Stargate program," the Canadian Prime Minister said.

"We did," the Russian President confirmed. "It was decided that the Americans were achieving much more in a faster, more efficient manner. Operating costs for our program were quite...debilitating, at a time when we did not have the funding to spare, so we chose to allow the United States to operate the sole Stargate program on the planet. We have taken an...advisory...position. We also help to fund the program as we can."

Casey cleared her throat. Caught the man's eye.

"Although getting the money from our Federal Assembly is fraught with delays," he added quickly.

President Miller studied the ruins nearby, willing himself not to laugh. Vladimir had just made that funding a real deal by announcing it in front of the others. Even if it had been just a ploy to appear that he and his country played a larger part in the operation than they did. And any help funding the program would be most welcome...the cost of operating the SGC was staggering.

"Is this what you'll ask of each of us?"

The American President studied the Japanese Prime Minister. "Actually, what we're asking for, all that we're asking for, is assistance in putting enough pressure on the Chinese to keep them quiet about the whole thing. If word of this program were to get out to the general public, we'd have chaos in the streets."

"It would be devastating for most people," Daniel said quietly. "They'd be faced with proof that their belief systems were based on myths...even lies. Religion plays a very large part in each of your societies. Imagine telling your countrymen that not only is God dead, he's a parasitic alien bent on total domination of our planet."

"That would be very bad, indeed," the Italian Prime Minister admitted. The Vatican itself could fall, and it was as deep a part of his country as the history of ancient Rome. Yes, chaos was an apt description of what would ensue if word of this...program...were to reach the citizens of Italy.

"The planet would tear itself apart. Radical groups, extremists...they'd have no qualms using the WMDs that we all believe that they have. Society would destroy itself in its panic," President Miller said, his voice as low and calm as Daniel's had been. "We are the leaders of our respective countries; the people entrusted us to look out for their well-being when they elected us into office. That's what we need to do, gentlemen. And they don't need to know the details. Not yet. And certainly not in the way the Chinese wish to bring it out."

"You have dealt with the traitor who has...exposed...your program?" the Japanese PM asked.

"We have. He's awaiting trial. There is more than enough evidence to convict him."

"Won't it be a bit difficult to hold a trial when you are unable to explain exactly what it was that was stolen, and subsequently sold to the Chinese?" the British PM inquired.

"He was selling military secrets. That's all we have to say. And we do have proof of that. Several very incriminating pieces of evidence, and thanks to Mrs. Jackson, half a dozen witnesses."

Casey had been able to 'see' the people who'd helped Simmons repackage the artifacts for shipment to the Chinese. The four men and two women had been eager to cooperate, turning state's witness in return for leniency. Which simply meant they wouldn't serve over twenty-five years for their crimes. Not one of them would serve less than fifteen, either.

"Let's return to the SGC. You can read the further information we have for you. And then we'll discuss what we need to do," President Miller suggested. He nodded at the young man who waited patiently beside the DHD.

Daniel nodded his understanding in return, and began to dial once again.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

He closed his eyes, allowed his lover to take complete control. So good...it had always been so good with Kinsey! Memories of a former lover, disturbed from slumber by the news of his return, clamored to be seen and heard. He pushed them away. The past was the past. And betrayal wrought only one just reward...death.

The training he'd suffered at Tem's hand had been brutal, and complete. He was as deeply in love with his Master as he feared him. The two emotions were so tangled in his mind that they couldn't be separated. All he knew was the need to please Tem. Pleasing his god was what he lived for...existed for. Although...he shook his head mentally. He was well aware of the fact that the news of this Ares had brought mixed feelings to Tem. Kinsey had watched with growing jealousy as his Master, his lover-'son', spoke of his one time ally; the way blue eyes softened slightly, filled with memories...very pleasant ones if the accompanying smile had been any sort of indication. He increased the power of his thrusts, trying with his body to push those memories away.

The Goa'uld had no idea that his slave...his lover...his 'father', was still capable of independent thought. That the man who moved inside him was planning to make certain that an alliance between him and a former ally never took place. Had he known, he'd have disciplined the Tau'ri. Even though his ego would have delighted in the reason for the scheming that was being done.

Kinsey watched through half slit eyelids as the man in front of him, beneath him, began to hump; hips moving automatically with the need to come. Knowing what Tem wanted...and needed, he leaned forward, reached around lean hips, began to stroke the hard cock that bounced each time he drove himself deeper into the Goa'uld's ass. He waited to hear the groan of completion, the sound that would free him to turn loose and find relief of his own.

The cock in his ass moved with more determination, the hand on his own cock tugging and pulling and caressing, familiar...and yet...there had been one who'd made his very soul soar with pleasure..."Ares!" he moaned softly as he came.

The silver-haired man glowered at the back of his lover. His thrusts became hard, demanding. Cruel. And only half a dozen were needed before he was filling the man's bowels with his essence, marking Tem as his own. Even as he admitted to himself that this interloper was a bigger threat than he'd first thought. His own survival was at stake. If Tem loved this Ares, he'd have no need for the pet, would he? His own orgasm complete, he pulled away, crawled off of the bed and hurried toward the bathroom to shower.

"You seem eager to be away from me."

He looked over his shoulder. The words were calm, but the icy look in those blue eyes chilled him to the bone. "Your Priest will be here soon to discuss your journey to greet Ares," Kinsey replied. He growled the name.

Tem's thoughts remained with his former lover, missing the hatred that filled the brown eyes of his pet. "Yes, I suppose you're right. We should be presentable when he gets here. He's so damned disapproving! I am his god! Does he not realize this?"

"You were away for a very long time," Kinsey said softly. He paused for a moment. Then continued, willing to plant the first seeds of doubt, to keep that anger fueled against those who'd betrayed Tem. "Because of Ra. It shouldn't be unexpected to learn that those who served you have forgotten your power."

The words had the desired effect. Anger rushed over him. Millennia, wasted on that damned planet. During that time the others had grown stronger, and taken over planet after planet; their fleets and Jaffa armies swelling in number, their place among the System Lords unquestioned. He, the son of Ra, had been left to wallow alone on the First World. Ares had betrayed him. And for that, the Goa'uld had made forfeit his life. "They'll soon learn that I have returned, and that I will accept nothing but complete loyalty. Any who do not obey, will suffer my wrath!"

The 'pet' smirked. If he could get rid of the Priest, he could convince Tem to name him in the old bastard's place. Then those who reported to Habib would report directly to him. Any information regarding Ares would be filtered first, before reaching Tem's ears. It was his duty to protect his god, was it not?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The members of SG-1 waited in Sam's lab. The president had insisted that the G8 leaders needed time to understand the scale of the SGC program, as well as the risks of losing it. There was no doubt that public opinion would turn against the current administration, and those who'd known about the secret facility. There'd be a demand for the heads of those involved, not literally, of course. But it would be a disaster, and would leave the planet defenseless. As it was, there was a Goa'uld with Earth squarely in his sight. If he wasn't stopped, and soon, he'd be knocking on the door, and there'd be no one qualified to deal with him. The men in the upper level conference room had to understand the gravity of the situation. They understood that it was real. The problem was convincing them that circumstances were serious.

"Picking anything up, Radar?" Jack asked. He adjusted his tie. Waiting had never been his strong suit. He was a man of action by nature.

"Sorry," Casey replied softly.

"They have to understand," Daniel said.

"Daniel, they're politicians," Sam replied. "They'll believe whatever is advantageous for them. The truth will have little to do with what they agree to."

"I can't believe that they'd condemn the entire planet to utter chaos just to maintain their political standing," Daniel argued. "Hell, they wouldn't have any political standing, because the Joint Chiefs would be certain to point out just who knew what, and when."

"If these men do not agree to assist your president in silencing the Chinese, what will happen?" Teal'c asked.

Jack shrugged. "The Chinese will declare that America is involved in a dangerous experiment, putting the entire world at risk, and from there it'll pretty much be a free for all."

"At least we don't have to deal with Kinsey, and you know damned well he'd be in the middle of this," Daniel sighed.

"Kinsey is up to his ass in other things," Casey said, not realizing her pun until the chuckles of her teammates filled the air.

"We have a Goa'uld headed this way, two more that could be a real problem, and we sit here doing nothing!" Jack grumped.

"It's the way the game has to be played," Daniel said quietly.

"I never was big on games that interfered with the important stuff. You know, life and death, the enslavement of the entire population of Earth. Things of that nature," Jack replied.

The phone at Sam's elbow rang. With a worried glance at her companions, she picked it up. "Hello?...Yes, sir, we're on our way." She put the phone down; took a deep breath. "Seems they're ready to discuss the issue, and they want us there."

"Any word from Thor?" Casey asked. "He said he'd be here."

"He will be," Jack said confidently. He led his team to the seventeenth level, and the conference room where eight of the most powerful men in the world sat waiting.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

In an office on the other side of the world, seven men sat together. The leader of the group was most displeased that so far, efforts to secure Dr. Daniel Jackson had proven ineffective. Without his expertise, the weapon that they'd been given, by Colonel Frank Simmons, was useless. Their best linguists and archaeologists had been working on it for weeks, using what little information Simmons had been able to procure for them. The tension with Taiwan continued to escalate, and as long as the United States insisted on interfering, it would be difficult to contain the situation. This new, alien weapon would give them a distinct advantage over all other countries. The decision had been made...a public announcement concerning the American's secret Stargate Program would be broadcast in less than twenty hours. Not one of the men in the room wished to see such a thing occur, they were well aware of the widespread panic that would ensue. However, the Prime Minister was convinced that any such upheaval would only benefit China. These men, not so bound by the Party that they couldn't see reality, weren't as certain. A mob of panicked people were as likely to destroy the messenger as the source of the message.

"Our agent reports that Doctor Jackson and his wife have not returned to their home since they examined it yesterday." The man speaking looked at his watch. "Two days ago, now."

"Perhaps our agent has been too obvious in his presence. He should remove himself from the vicinity," another man said. "Surely there is a place nearby from which he can observe."

A third man shook his head. "You've seen the same photographs that I have. You can see for yourself that there is nowhere for the agent to hide."

"If he were to take up temporary residence in one of the nearby houses-" the second man started.

"And just how is he to accomplish this? Is he to march up to the door and demand entrance? Demand that the American citizens living there obey his orders? You have gone mad, Le Kwan!" one of the others declared.

The men gasped when a bright light began to shine in the center of the room. Three tea cups clattered to the floor unheeded. An old woman, her back bent with age, appeared from within the light. Her white hair hung down her back, and she fixed each of the men with a cold stare from her sapphire blue eyes, waiting until the man had looked away before turning to the next. When at last she spoke, her voice was cold as her eyes, the words a warning that chilled the men even further. "Know this...what you seek to do will destroy all that you know. Your greed and lust for power will be the ruin of all. Your names will be cursed for eternity. You have one chance to change the course you have set." The old woman looked upwards, nodded slightly. With one last look at the terrified faces, she disappeared as mysteriously as she'd arrived.

Silence rang in the room for several long minutes. "We must call Wen Jiabao. He must not be allowed to make any announcements that would...embarrass...the United States," one of the men whispered.

"It is after one in the morning. He is no doubt asleep-" one of the men began to protest.

"There will be no sleep for any of us if we bring about the very end of the world!" another hissed. He had no doubt that the words the old woman's ghost had spoken were the truth. He and his associates had been dabbling with things not known to this world. While the need to control the weapon was great, it would be far better to wait until suspicion had passed, leaving them to move at will. Without anyone knowing what they were doing. This...project...needed to remain a very closely guarded secret, until they had full control of that weapon! Then, and only then, could the Chinese take the place in the world that was rightfully theirs.

The others nodded. Those among the number who had opposed such a move from the inception of the plan were too shaken to say 'I told you so'.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The air was oppressive with the sense of expectation. The leaders watched impassively as the team entered, sat down in the chairs provided for them.

"Colonel O'Neill, my colleagues have a few questions they wish to ask. You, and the members of your team, are to answer as fully and honestly as possible," the president said.

"Yes, sir," Jack replied.

"These reports state that a Goa'uld named Apophis had the same goal in mind as this Ba'al," the French President said. "Is it possible for you to conduct a mission as you did then?"

"No, sir," Daniel replied immediately. "I...we'd located the 'gate address for a Stargate on the ha'tak of Apophis' son Klorel. There's no way to use the 'gate to get onto Ba'al's ship."

"But he does have one, that is in Mrs. Jackson's report," the man insisted.

"Yes, sir, he does. Or did at that time. It's possible that the 'gate has already been relocated to his new home city. If that's the case, it won't help us to stop his ship. Without that address, the 'gate is useless," Daniel explained.

"Is there no way to determine that address?" The Canadian PM asked.

"No, sir," Sam said. "Not without knowing exactly where it's located. There are literally thousands of permutations. And of those, at least half would be just a random assignment of glyphs. Of those that were legitimate addresses, we'd have no way of going to all of them, not in time."

"There are hundreds of planets Ba'al could have chosen," Daniel added. "Even if Major Carter could compile a list of possibilities, the number would be...prohibitive, given the amount of time we believe we have before he attacks. We've been doing this for almost seven years now, and we've barely scratched the surface, as it were, in the list of confirmed addresses from the Abydonian Cartouche and those of the Ancient repository."

"Each of you have written of the strength of the Goa'uld. However, I can't help but think that the combined forces of our military's would be able to hold off any such invasion," the German President said.

Casey listened to that little voice as it whispered. She turned to General Hammond. "Sir, Teal'c should show them how a staff weapon works."

With a nod, the general turned to one of the airman who stood guard. "Airman, go to the armory and bring Teal'c's staff weapon."

"Yes, sir!"

"Your weapons are indeed formidable," Teal'c said calmly. "However the weapons of a ha'tak can turn cities into raging infernos in a matter of seconds. The shielding of the gliders and the ha'tak itself would render the missiles of your own fighter jets useless. And without such shielding, those jets would be vulnerable to destruction. It would take Ba'al less than a day to take complete control. His demands would be great. All would be required to...worship...him."

Nervous glances were exchanged. "If all the Goa'uld want is for us to bend knee, a show of...respect...would be much easier to live with than the alternative, it seems," the French President said.

"That's not all that Ba'al wants," Jack replied. "He'll take the brightest minds, and stick his Goa'uld buddies into them. Which will give them all of the knowledge we have. Those too old, too sick, too stubborn, any military personnel, and certainly any leaders would be killed. Snakes don't have any use for those who can't...or won't...serve them. The remainder of the population would be divided up, some left here to do whatever he wanted from them, slave labor basically; the rest taken to other planets, where they'd also be slaves, working in naquadah mines, no doubt."

"You're saying that there is no way to negotiate with this Goa'uld?" The British PM asked.

"No, sir. Negotiation isn't something the Goa'uld do, unless they're at the disadvantage," Jack said. "And then any 'truce' is only held to until they have the advantage once again. Then it's back to business as usual."

"I rather imagine it would suit his ego to take the most powerful leaders of this planet, and make them nothing more than mindless slaves," Casey said softly. "If you've read Doctor Fraiser's reports, then you no doubt have an idea what that entails. Trust me when I tell you that the Goa'uld, and Ba'al especially, know many ways to inflict pain, without killing their victim. Hearing his prisoners pray for death is one of his favorite past times."

Faces paled further. They had indeed read the reports by the SGC CMO. And what Dr. and Mrs. Jackson had both endured as prisoners of this Goa'uld named Ba'al.

Before any replies could be made, a bright flash of light filled the room. When it faded, Thor was sitting in his chair at the head of the room. "Greetings, General Hammond."

The general smiled. "Greetings, Thor. Glad you could make it."

Not one of the men of the G8 had ever seen an alien. Knowing about them, as the Russian and American presidents did, in no way prepared them for the...shock...of seeing an actual alien in the room.

"It is good to see you, O'Neill."

"Hey, Thor, how's it going?"

"It goes well." Thor looked at the men seated around the table, their eyes wide, several had their mouths hanging open. "I am Thor. Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. It is an honor to meet you."

"Uh...w-w-well...uh...yes," President Miller stammered. "It's a pleasure to meet you as well."

"General Hammond has apprised me of your situation. Although the Asgard are not allowed to become involved in the internal, political matters of a protected planet, we are able to...observe," Thor said.

"You...you...you're an alien!" The Italian Prime Minister gasped.

"According to your understanding and language, yes," Thor replied calmly.

The Japanese Prime Minister swallowed, then slowly held up one hand. "Perhaps you can answer our question. Is there no way for us to defend ourselves against these Goa'uld?"

"Your technology at this time is far inferior to that of the Goa'uld," Thor said. "This is why the Asgard fought to put Earth on the Protected Planets list, in a treaty drawn up three of your years ago."

"Then can you not defend us?" The French President asked.

"The Asgard have been, and are still, in a war with creatures known as Replicators. Our resources are thus tied up protecting our own planets. We could not offer enough protection should any Goa'uld wish to test the strength of the treaty," Thor replied.

"And this Ba'al would be willing to do this?"

"The thing about snakes is, they all think they're the end all and be all," Jack explained. "He thinks he's a god, and that's the way he's going to act. No doubt he suspects that the Asgard aren't as powerful as they were, or at least don't have the presence in our galaxy, that they once did."

The airman sent to retrieve Teal'c's staff weapon returned. Handed the staff to the Jaffa.

"T, I never did like that chair over there," Jack drawled. "Take it out, will ya?"

With a nod, a glance at General Hammond for approval, which was received, Teal'c spun the staff and fired, not even looking at the target.

Alarms began to wail overhead, General Hammond called the control room and assured the techs that all was under control. Within seconds the klaxons had been silenced. And the members of the G8 stared at the smoking remains of the chair.

"I take it that the Goa'uld possess other weapons more powerful than that?" the British PM said.

"Yes, sir," General Hammond replied quietly.

"Now you understand, gentlemen, that not only does the SGC need to remain a secret from the general population, it must remain in operation as well," President Miller said quietly.

"The Asgard have no authority to request that the Stargate program of the Tau'ri remain operating, and in the hands of General Hammond and O'Neill. But it would be...preferred. General Hammond and O'Neill have saved our planet, and have saved yours, on several occasions. There is not a group of humans more...experienced...or more capable of continuing your protection," Thor said.

"I think that we understand," the French President said softly.

"Good. While your methods are often...unconventional, they are quite effective."

"I propose that we do as President Miller has asked," President Sokolóv said. "The Stargate program must remain a secret. And to that end, the Chinese must be stopped."

"I agree," the British PM said. "I believe it would be...wise...to leave the operation of the program in the capable hands of the Americans as well."

Each of the men glanced warily at Thor. "It will not be easy to assist with funding, not without explanations. Since the secrecy of the program is our utmost concern at the time, I suggest that we allow the Americans to wholly own and operate the program," the German President said. There was no way he wanted any responsibility for the protection of the entire planet! That was a burden Germany was not prepared to bear.

"I agree," the Italian PM nodded. "The Americans have the resources necessary. Our own budgets are stretched to the limits. It is not that we do not wish to help," he added hastily. "It is just not...feasible...at this time."

"Nor is Japan in a position to offer more than our moral support, and our gratitude for the job that the Americans are doing," the Japanese PM said.

President Miller fought his smile. Without a doubt attitudes would change, and the men sitting in this room would decide that they should be part of the decisions made concerning the Stargate program. Until they were helping to foot the bill, however, they could be put off. Until they decided that secrecy wasn't as important as being a part of the operation, the SGC would continue as it always had.

President Sokolóv frowned. His own country was in a fiscal mess. And asking for money for a secret project, then funneled quietly to the Americans...no, it wouldn't happen. Not any time soon. With the members of the G8 knowing about the Stargate, and the Stargate program, and voting to keep it a secret, the Russians lost any leverage they might have had in becoming a part of the day to day operations. It wasn't what he'd hoped for. His eyes strayed to the little gray alien, then to the reports in front of him. Right now, it was just too much. The Americans did have the resources to do the job. Let them do it. Let the Americans shoulder the responsibility...and any blame.

"I move that we vote to keep the Stargate program a secret, and thus approach the Chinese with our...request, and that the Americans continue to run the program," the French PM proposed. The men readily agreed and voted.

Casey looked around the room. That quickly. It was over that quickly! She'd expected hours of debate, heated accusations and counter-accusations...demands and threats. To have this group capitulate so easily...she frowned, and reached out slowly. Then smiled. These men would keep the secret...because they feared no one would believe them. They barely believed their own eyes and ears. It was one thing to speculate on life on other planets. It was something else to be face to face with it. What they'd seen, had experienced, had left them stunned. What they'd learned terrified them. And not one of them were willing for their countries to take on such a burden. Not yet. Someday, when they'd had enough time to come to terms with what they knew, then they'd begin to make demands. But not now.

"Gentlemen, thank you," President Miller said quietly, sincerely. "I took the liberty of having General Hammond establish a phone line for this room. I believe we should make a call, don't you?"

"SG-1, you're dismissed," General Hammond said.

With smiles for the politicians who remained around the table, the group left the room.

"Thor, thank you for your assistance," General Hammond said.

"You are most welcome, General. You have been most willing to come to the aid of the Asgard. It is only fitting that we, as your friends, do the same."

"We value your friendship," Hammond replied.

"And we, yours. I will take my leave now. I hope to see you again, General, under more...pleasant...circumstances."

"I look forward to it, Thor."

A flash of light, and the men of the G8 were alone in the room, with only the security detail of the SGC. President Miller picked up the phone, and began to dial the number carefully written on the top of his report. He could only hope that the ensuing conversation would be as cordial, and the results as positive.


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