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The Devil In the Details

Chapter 6

Tuesday, 0830 hours

Zeus was only by chance on the pel'tak when the scout ship appeared on scanners. "Hail them."

"Yes, My Lord." The Jaffa at the communications console relayed a standard message of greeting.

"I carry a message from Lord Ba'al, the greatest of all System Lords, for Lord Zeus," a voice said, responding to the transmission.

The Goa'uld on the throne snorted loudly. "Certainly is an arrogant one, isn't he? What's the message?"

"Relay the message so that Lord Zeus might hear it," the Jaffa instructed the unseen messenger.

"Lord Ba'al extends an invitation to Lord Zeus. To meet in thirty-two standard hours, on the flag ship that leads Lord Ba'al's fleet. He wishes Lord Zeus to dine with him."

One dark eyebrow moved up. The invitation wasn't a complete surprise. He'd intended to extend such a summons himself. Had he not spent the past two days waiting for repairs to be completed on his ship...he stilled the growl that rose from his throat. "Coordinates?"

"Where shall Lord Zeus find Lord Ba'al?" the Jaffa inquired.

"I am sending coordinates now."

"Received."

When the transmission ended, the scout ship moved away, disappeared into the darkness of space.

Zeus stood, wandered over to the console. Checked the coordinates. Felt his blood run cold. It had been a very long time. It seemed he would not be making any detours on his way to punish the First World for the actions of three arrogant slaves from that planet. Ba'al was already there. "Proceed to the coordinates."

"Yes, My Lord."

It was most bothersome to be faced with this challenge now. It would have been better for him to have subjugated the First World before meeting with any of the Goa'uld System Lords who still reigned in this galaxy. It was not an impossible situation from which to derive a win, however. It was the first step in the intricate dance that would lead to an all out battle between him and Ba'al. To have made that first step would have offered him the advantage. Zeus was well seasoned in the arts of posturing and war. He'd become the most powerful Goa'uld in what was known as the Andromeda galaxy. He was confident that he would rise to the same position in this galaxy.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Ares tossed aside the scroll, on which the Jaffa had carefully written the message from Ba'al. He was being summoned. Again. He stood to his feet, walked out of the tent and stood surveying the valley below. "Carry out my orders. I wish construction of my new palace to begin. Use the Chappa'ai, and find what slave labor and resources you need," he told his First Prime. That he had taken the round, stone monument from the trading planet still made him smile. Let the System Lord who claimed that planet find it if he wanted it returned!

"Yes, My Lord."

"I shall return in no more than three days' time."

"Yes, My Lord."

The coordinates were...surprising. There could be only one reason for Ba'al to be there. He'd find out just exactly what Ba'al was up to, and if the opportunity presented itself, kill the loathsome creature. He would take great satisfaction in ripping the symbiote from the host, and breaking it into pieces with his bare hands. He would prevent that Goa'uld from doing what apparently he had planned; for the First World was a prize that Ares would never allow to fall into the hands of another. He would take all that Ba'al controlled. Soon. Very soon, he would show Ba'al who the master truly was.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel hurried into General Hammond's office. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Sit down, Doctor Jackson."

"Sir, Casey is waiting by the rings...we only have a few minutes-"

"Go see her off, Daniel, then get back here," Hammond said softly.

"Sir?"

"The president wishes to speak to you. It's going to be a few hours before you join Casey on Ba'al's ship."

Feeling as if he had just been punched in the gut, Daniel nearly toppled over at the words. His Wife, alone with that bastard for even a few minutes was enough to make his skin crawl. "Yes, sir," he replied hoarsely. The general wouldn't have given the order, and the tone of voice he'd used, and the look on the Texan's face, left no doubt that that was exactly what it was, without a very good reason.

He was too stunned to even notice that he'd walked to the elevator, pushed the button for level twenty-four. So many things could go wrong...the most frightening of all was the thought of Ba'al simply disappearing with his Wife in custody. Ba'al had already proven himself capable of hiding for weeks. So much could happen in that amount of time...Casey could be brainwashed...infested with a Goa'uld...he shuddered, closed his eyes and forced away the hateful images.

"Cutting it close, aren't you?" Casey said, glancing at her watch. She frowned at the look on his face. "What's happened?"

"You go on, Angel. We don't dare break that treaty, or give Ba'al an excuse to claim we have."

"No! Send a message to him, I don't want to go without you! Please-"

His lips crashed down on hers, an effort to stop the pleas that ripped at his heart. He pulled away slowly. "I'll be there as soon as I can. Tell Ba'al that if he tries anything, if he breaks orbit, we'll announce the existence of the Stargate Program ourselves, and we'll let Zeus know just what he's planning."

She was clinging to him, her entire body wracked with shivers that seemed never-ending. "I can't do this," she whispered.

"Yes, you can," Daniel insisted. "I love you, Angel. I'll be there soon, I promise."

Tears standing in her eyes, she nodded slowly. "I'll hold you to that, Stud Muffin."

He watched her step into the rings. Smiled when she held his duffel bag tightly in her arms, her own at her feet. He blew a kiss to her, nodded at the technician assigned to operate the ring transport. Watched her disappear in a flash of light. Felt as if he couldn't breathe. Leaden legs led him back to the elevator.

General Hammond motioned for him to close the door when he re-entered the OIC's office. He realized later it was to muffle the sounds of anger that the general knew would follow his revelations.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey had closed her eyes. She hated this! She had no clue what was going on, but when she found out just who was responsible for her current situation, a good round of ass-kicking would ensue.

"You come to me alone, I see," Ba'al said quietly.

Her eyes flew open, her arms tightened around the nylon bag that held Daniel's clothes and ditty bag. "Not by choice."

"I take it that Doctor Jackson will not be joining us?"

"Oh, he'll be here. Just as soon as he takes care of a little business. Daniel is an important man you know," Casey replied haughtily. Let the bastard think whatever he wanted about that. "He had a message for you."

Ba'al smirked. "I'm certain he did. I am not to touch you, correct?"

"Oh, no. That's my message for you. Daniel said to tell you not to do anything stupid, because we will whip your ass."

"He said that?"

"Not exactly like that," she admitted. "Screw us over, and we'll announce every detail of the Stargate Program to Earth's citizens ourselves. And then we'll send a nice long message to Zeus and let him know what you've been up to, and all the plans you've made."

Ba'al didn't doubt for one moment that the damned Tau'ri would do just that. As tempting as it was to leave, to put her safely on another ship bound for Nippur; as much as he wanted to sweep down and conquer the First World, announce his success, and take the reins of the Goa'uld Empire firmly, at long last, into his hands, he would refrain from doing so. The pieces of the puzzle must fall just so for him to declare checkmate. "Gemeti will escort you to your quarters. When Doctor Jackson arrives, you will be notified."

She didn't know whether to be relieved or worried at the Goa'uld's casual acceptance of the situation.

"You are tired, Casey. I can see it in your eyes. Please, rest," Ba'al said softly.

Truth be told, she was damned near asleep on her feet. Too weary to argue, even though she was certain she should, just on principal, she nodded slightly, followed the young woman with long, chocolate brown hair.

The room that the servant led her to was spacious. Fruit and water were waiting on a silk-covered table near a window that framed a view of the planet below the ship. It was flanked by two upholstered chairs. She had to admit it would be a lovely place to take their meals.

The en suite was as luxurious as the one in Ba'al's quarters, she thought, stepping through the door to take a quick look.

Gemeti hovered near the door, her gray eyes darting to Casey's face, then back to the floor again.

"Thank you," Casey said softly, putting Daniel's duffel on the bed, dropping her own beside it. "You may go, I'm just going to lie down for awhile."

"The belongings of your companion, do you have them?" The slaves eyes darted to the two duffel bags, then back to the floor.

Casey frowned, her hand moving to Daniel's bag. "Why?"

"I will take them to his quarters," was the simple response.

"Wait a minute...his quarters? Daniel and I will be sharing this room."

The servant shook her dark head. "Lord Ba'al has ordered that he be placed down the corridor."

"That good for nothing, snake-faced, lying, son-of-a-bitch!" she muttered. "Tell Ba'al that Daniel and I share a room, or I send a message to General Hammond and tell him to contact CNN."

"I-"

"Do it!" Casey hissed.

The anger in the face of the woman she was to serve sent Gemeti scurrying to obey.

 

 

 

Ba'al wasn't surprised by the demand, nor the threat. In fact, he had been waiting for it. He left his quarters, strode through the corridor toward the room where the woman he loved waited. "You are displeased?"

Casey whirled around when she heard his voice. "Ever hear of knocking? I suppose this is a glimpse of what's to come, you walking into my room any damned time you take a notion to?"

He couldn't help but smile at the fire that filled her eyes. "Forgive my rudeness. I am not accustomed to seeking permission to move about on my own ship."

"Well, get used to it, cupcake!"

"Is the room not to your liking?"

"The room is fine. It's the idea of you putting Daniel in a separate room that's not to my liking."

"It is the way it shall be."

"Don't think so!"

"You have no choice in the matter."

"Like hell I don't! I have no problem with telling the general to spread the word about the Stargate right now!"

"I will not have you fucking him while you are here!" Ba'al roared.

She took a step backwards, her eyes wide.

Ba'al shook his head slightly. "Forgive me." The fact that he had begged her forgiveness twice in as many minutes was completely lost to him.

"Daniel and I have never, ever 'fucked'. We make love," she said softly. "And I can't exist without his touch. I can't live without his kisses, I can't live without the feeling of his arms around me." And we don't need you to find out he's addicted to me, or that I carry the Hathor-gene, she thought, just a bit desperately.

Each word was like a knife in his heart. "I will not allow it."

"I love him, Ba'al," she said softly. "I was away from him for far too long, because of you. I'll never get those days, those nights back. I hate you for stealing them from us. Keeping us in separate rooms won't stop our love. Won't keep us from finding ways to be together. Please, it's bad enough that I...we...have to be here. I won't survive if I can't be with him. Please, Ba'al, don't take more from us."

As much as he tried to steel himself against her soft entreaties, to harden his heart to her desires, Ba'al found himself incapable of doing so. To know that she was here, in the arms of that damned Tau'ri, would be torture. It was only for awhile, he promised himself. As soon as Zeus was destroyed, he would kill Jackson, give the body to Ares - surely the fool still had at least one sarcophagus; then she would be his. To rule at his side forever. Soon.

Casey watched his eyes. Could see the hard, cold calculating look that filled them for just one moment. The bastard was up to no good, he had no intention of honoring the treaty. Just play along for now, my girl, she told herself. "Please?"

"Very well, have it your way," he growled. Ba'al turned on his heel and left the room.

She was surprised that she'd actually won the argument. Wasn't surprised to hear the lock engage. Too tired to fight off the sleep that her body so desperately needed, she dropped onto the bed, asleep almost before her head hit the pillow.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

It was raining when he stepped out of the plane. The two security guards tasked to pick him up were waiting at the foot of the steps, each holding an umbrella. Daniel gratefully ducked beneath the first one when the guard shifted it towards him. "Thanks," he said quietly.

So far, so good. He hadn't actually chewed anyone's head off. Well, if he didn't count telling the President of the United States that only respect for the office, and the fact that they had been separated by about seventeen hundred miles, kept him from knocking the man flat on his ass. His first and most powerful response to the order to personally explain the treaty to the chosen representatives of the Stargate Alliance members. Not one of those bastards could show up, but he had to do this in person. Very damned annoying. The calm, intelligent, rational part of him understood that the sudden 'disappearance' of the G8 members for a second time in less than six months would raise numerous red flags among the media, and right now, they did not need that group of bloodhounds sniffing around. But it was still damned annoying!

He was still dealing with his anger, his fears. After kissing Casey goodbye, watching her disappear as the rings dropped down and surrounded her, whisking her to Ba'al's ship...and side, if that damned snake had his way...no, don't go there...General Hammond had told him as gently as possible what the president expected of him. Hadn't even flinched when Daniel had shouted at him. Remained silent as Daniel had then shouted his displeasure at the president.

When he had left the mountain, not more than fifteen minutes later, Walter had still been waiting for any word from Thor. Selmak had arrived with the scrolls he'd requested, been brought up to speed on what was happening, and had sent her own message to the Council, informing them of Ba'al's actions. Jacob had returned to the Tok'ra base before the SG teams had ringed to Ba'al's ship, with a message for Yu. General Hammond had sent word about the treaty to the Tok'ra Council as soon as the teams had returned with the signed document, and had still been waiting for a response from them as well. Daniel hoped like hell they'd hear from their 'allies' soon!

He couldn't help but glance up. Oh, he knew that Ba'al's ship wasn't directly above him. But it was up there. And his Wife was on it. Alone. With that lousy, snake-headed son-of-a-bitch...

"Sir, this way."

With a brusque nod, Daniel followed the shorter of the two guards toward the building. He was whisked through the customs area, his passport stamped with no questions asked. It pleased him to note that the men who escorted him were rushing him through the airport. The sooner he made it to this damned meeting, the sooner it would be over, and he could join Casey in the lion's den. If Ba'al touched so much as one hair on her head, if she shed one tear, treaty or no treaty, he was killing that goddamned snake. It was just that plain and simple.

He was ushered into a black sedan. Gee, big surprise there. Why was it that every government chose the same type of car for official business? Might as well paint what it was being used for on the side panels, for all the 'anonymity' it actually offered.

The streets were nearly deserted as dawn crept over the horizon, although there were several small buildings that were brightly lit and seemed to be virtual hives of activity. He'd managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep on the jet, but he was still too tired to do more than guess at what the businesses might be...restaurants, perhaps, serving breakfast for the workers who were heading out for the day shift.

His fingers were wrapped around the folder that held copies of the single sheet of paper that represented the future of the entire planet. Those of the SGC were working hard to make certain that the Tau'ri won this particular match. Jack and Teal'c were working on an 'extraction' plan, to get him and Casey off of Ba'al's ship. General Hammond, Major Davis, Colonel Ronson, and Sam were trying to work out a plan of attack that would give the Tau'ri a chance to get rid of Ba'al once and for all, and survive to brag about it. Now, if the damned politicians would just stay out of the way...

The building in front of which the car stopped was a nondescript gray cinder brick square that covered an entire city block. The drab exterior belied the extravagant interior. Suites of rooms tastefully decorated, fit to serve as temporary living quarters for the upper echelon of the world's Who's Who list of financial wizards, kings of industry, or masters of technology, were spread across thirty floors. The first four floors offered conference rooms that boasted the most up-to-date surveillance for security, and the hotel management guaranteed that nothing that was said, or done, within those rooms, could be listened to, picked up, or spied upon by anyone, no matter what high tech equipment might be used.

He glanced at his watch. Just after ten-thirty p.m. at home. It was just after six-thirty a.m. local time. He'd noted the time on the tall, intricately carved mahogany grandfather clock that graced the rather small, but tastefully appointed lobby. The Pave Hawk had taken him from Peterson to Bolling Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. in just under three hours. The President's private Lear jet had been warmed up and ready to go as soon as he arrived...he hadn't even settled into the seat before he was being offered coffee, which he'd sorely needed, and the plane was taxiing for takeoff. The flight had been just over ten hours. So, thirteen hours, give or take. Casey had been on that goddamned Goa'uld ship, alone, for thirteen hours. This meeting was going to be as short and sweet as the treaty he was carrying. Well, as short, anyway. He wasn't wasting time with bureaucrats. He had to get to that ship to protect his Wife!

The elevator stopped on the third floor The thick, plush carpet in calming blue-green muted any sound of footsteps. He and his two escorts moved silently through the hallway. Once again the shorter of the two men took the lead, and pushed open a set of double doors.

The reception room was large, with three separate seating areas boasting overstuffed couches covered with silk pillows, and leather wing-backed chairs. Floral arrangements filled the carefully circulated air with their sweet scent. Two armed guards, wearing Swiss Army uniforms, stood just outside of a second set of double doors. With a nod from the first guard, one of the soldiers opened the door, allowing Daniel to enter the conference room.

The representatives from the G8 countries, as well as the man who represented China, sat stoically around the conference table in the briefing room, called from their individual rooms as soon as the Lear Jet had landed. No one spoke as Daniel took his seat. He opened the folder. There were nine copies of the agreement. He slid eight sheets of paper toward the center of the table.

"This is the copy of the treaty reached between Stargate Command, the President of the United States of America, the members of the Stargate Alliance, and the Goa'uld System Lord Ba'al. As per orders from the president, the document is as short as possible. It clearly spells out the objective of the treaty, its duration and stipulations, and any penalties for any party who breaks the treaty before the objective is met," Daniel said. His voice was firm, cool. None of the men missed the slight edge to it.

"There doesn't seem to be any need for interpretation," the British envoy remarked, reading the carefully worded document.

"Nor are there loopholes for Ba'al to use against us," Daniel replied.

"Doctor Jackson, forgive me for sounding...harsh...but according to our reports, Ba'al has made it clear that he wishes to have Casey Jackson as his-" the French representative searched his notes. "Consort. If this will pacify him, prevent him from attacking us, then it is an option we must discuss."

"I agree," Russia said. "As difficult as it would be, and believe me, we all understand this, but you must admit that the life of one woman, to save the entire world-"

"We shouldn't give in so quickly," Britain countered. He wondered briefly if he was the only man in the room to have read the mission reports generated by the SG-teams. He was certain that what the members of the Stargate Alliance had been given was only a sampling of their missions, and all pertinent information was carefully blacked out. But there had been enough to know that the enemy they were facing was like no other. Enough to know that the people who had been fighting these Goa'uld for seven years had a much clearer picture of this enemy. And that Daniel Jackson had lost one wife to the Goa'uld. There wasn't a snowball's chance in hell he would lose another one in such a way.

"This situation is one in which we have no hope of winning, not with conventional sources," Germany pointed out.

"If all this...Being...wishes to have is one woman, then I say we let him take her. If it will save the planet-" France argued.

"We have no guarantee that it will save the planet!" Britain declared.

"There is the possibility that the danger of this Ba'al remaining a threat is over-exaggerated," Russia insisted. "Send the woman to him, with the stipulation that he is to leave our solar system, never to return!"

"As if we are in any position to enforce such a threat!" Canada scoffed.

"Perhaps he does not know how precarious our situation is," France said.

"If we hand over one of Earth's citizens with nary a whimper, I believe it will give him a very good idea of just how weak we are!" Britain replied hotly.

"I must agree with my esteemed colleague," the Japanese representative said. "I believe that to capitulate to the demands of this...Goa'uld...would only place us in an even more dire situation."

Daniel felt his blood run cold as he listened. No doubt these men would offer the same advice to the members of the Stargate Alliance. Who would then put pressure on President Miller to serve Casey up to Ba'al on a silver platter. His jaw was beginning to ache as he clenched it tightly, resolving not to give in to the need to scream out that no way in hell would they be offering up his Wife to that damned snake! He closed his eyes, praying to any true gods to give him the strength to remain in his seat, and silent, representing the SGC, and President Miller, to the best of his ability. And not letting his personal feelings interfere with that task. The treaty is signed, he reminded himself. She's safe for now. As safe as was possible on a Goa'uld ship.

The French representative watched the archaeologist. It was obvious that the man was struggling to remain quiet. "Tell us, Doctor Jackson, if the fate of an entire world were to rest on this one decision; if this one sacrifice could save billions of lives, do you not agree that it is the logical choice to make?"

"If you hand my Wife over to that...monster, you're no better than he is," Daniel hissed. "And if you believe that doing so would make him 'go away', as you put it," he said, staring coldly at the Frenchman, "you're sadly mistaken. Ba'al has every intention of taking Earth. It's known as the First World. This is the first planet where human hosts were taken. This was where the Goa'uld Empire was born. For him to control Earth would put him in place as the most powerful of all Goa'uld. He knows this. Sacrificing my Wife to save your own sorry asses wouldn't work. You'd still wind up as slaves, or with a snake in your heads! You would have condemned her to hell for nothing!"

Germany snorted softly. "Of course you will believe that the sacrifice is for naught...that reasoning is simply desperation to save your wife. You are too personally involved to be allowed a voice in such a decision."

"I wonder if you would feel the same if it were your wife who were being offered as a sacrificial lamb," the Canadian representative said quietly.

"Since it is not," Germany replied coolly, "it makes no difference. However, if it were my wife, she would be proud to save the entire planet."

"Let me tell you something, Ambassador," Daniel said, his voice as cold as his eyes. "I stopped Casey from trying to do exactly what you're discussing. She stood and told me, with tears running down her cheeks, that she couldn't allow Ba'al to attack Earth. We damned near didn't get through to her, to make her see reason."

"'We'?" Britain asked.

"Myself, and the other members of SG-1."

"Again, I say that you, and your teammates, are too emotionally involved in this matter to see clearly," Germany declared.

"She would have turned herself over to Ba'al, perhaps ended this entire emergency, and you stopped her?" France asked incredulously.

"I believe it has been pointed out that even if Mrs. Jackson were to be given to this Goa'uld, he would attack Earth anyway," Britain said. "If you had thoroughly read the information given to you before this meeting, you would know that the Goa'uld are untrustworthy, and make deals incessantly, only to break them on a whim, whenever it suits them to do so. If control of Earth is Ba'al's ultimate goal, and as Doctor Jackson has pointed out, doing so will put him in a position of dominance over all Goa'uld System Lords, then taking Mrs. Jackson has little to do with those plans. He wants her, and demanding her in return for sparing us is nothing more than a way to get exactly what he wants. And I believe it to be a totally separate issue from his desire to take over our planet!"

"I do not believe that the reports we read were as...honest...as we might wish," Russia said, glancing over his reading glasses at Daniel. "They are much too...emotional...to be taken as gospel."

"I agree," Germany said.

"As do I," France added. "I move that we suggest to our respective governments that we seriously consider this demand. If nothing else, it will buy us the time to seek help elsewhere."

Daniel's knuckles went white as he wrapped his hands around the arms of the chair where he sat. That son-of-a-bitch! He didn't believe that handing Casey over would do more than postpone the inevitable. No doubt the bastard had plans of getting himself and his family through the 'gate to safety, with the others who had been placed on the 'short list' of people who would be sent to the Alpha site, or the new Beta site. "If you'll read the treaty terms," he said icily, "you'll see that Ba'al agreed to a temporary arrangement. My Wife is presently on his ship. And I will be with her during the execution of this treaty. As the treaty has already been signed, your 'debate' is pointless, since it will lead to no changes. It is nothing more than posturing, for your employers, and to save your own sorry asses-"

"If circumstances should change, for instance, one of the parties breaks this treaty, no doubt this Ba'al would make the same demand, only in much stronger terms," France insisted. "We must be prepared for that contingency, and if giving this woman-"

"'This woman' has a name!" Daniel snapped. "Casey Jackson!" He reached for his wallet. Found one of the wedding pictures that he carried. Slapped it onto the table. Missed the fact that the men arguing adamantly to hand her over to Ba'al on a permanent basis refused to even glance at it. "This is the woman you keep referring to as if she were nothing more than an inanimate object, something to be bartered! This is the woman you seem so anxious to condemn to hell. 'This woman', regardless of her position as my Wife, has kept you alive and snake free so you can even have this conversation. And I'll be damned if I let a sorry group such as yourselves have any kind of say in her fate!"

"You have no say in this matter," Russia sneered.

Everyone jumped slightly when a bright flash of light filled the room. When it had faded away, Thor was sitting near the windows. "We have been monitoring the situation, and this meeting," he said without preamble. "Doctor Jackson is most correct in his prediction of Ba'al's plans. We would be most...disappointed...to see the Tau'ri react in such a hasty and callous fashion, particularly when capitulating to Ba'al's demands would not have the desired results."

Not one of the men sitting in the room had been present for the first meeting of the G8 at which the existence of Stargate Program had been announced. This group of men were the most trusted aides of the G8 representatives; no doubt the Chinese representative was one of the best spies China employed. The men had received their orders, and the information in the folders in front of them, only a matter of hours before convening at the very 'secluded' hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. It was one thing to read about their employers meeting an alien. It was something entirely different to experience the same for themselves. Eight faces went pale, eyes darted from the gray being to Daniel and back again, as if expecting the archaeologist to protect them.

He smirked. "Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Thor, the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet, and the emissary between his people and ours," Daniel said calmly. He had no idea when Thor had arrived, but he was certainly glad to know that he had!

"Is...is he...he's...he's an alien!" the French representative stuttered.

Daniel bit his tongue to keep from saying what he so dearly wanted to say. "Yes, he is. A very powerful alien. He and his people, the Asgard, have been protecting Earth, and several other planets, from the Goa'uld. Our planet was added to the treaty only four years ago. But he negotiated for our safety, and prevented us from being destroyed by the Goa'uld at that time."

Faces paled even further. "Perhaps we should table the idea of agreeing to Ba'al's demand for Casey Jackson," the Russian representative said quietly.

"I believe that would be a very good idea," Britain said. He looked at the small, gray being. "Please note that United Kingdom would never have agreed to such an action."

Thor dipped his head in the man's direction. "So noted."

Thor's stern reaction created a quiet stir among the remaining members of the group. If this Being had been monitoring the meeting, then he was well aware of the position each of them had taken. They had no idea what to expect, although each of them prepared themselves for the worst.

"Gentlemen, perhaps we should take a break," Daniel suggested. He had the feeling that Thor's appearance at the meeting wasn't just to save Casey.

"I agree," Canada said. He stood, shot a nervous look in Thor's direction, then led the others out of the room, all of the men barely resisting the urge to run toward the safety of the reception room.

Daniel stood as well. Shoved his hands into his pants pockets. "Thanks."

"You are most welcome, Doctor Jackson."

"Did you really just drop in to save my Wife from Ba'al?" Daniel wasn't sure, but he thought the little alien looked slightly abashed.

"It is stipulated that there can be no interference in the natural progression of the inhabitants of a protected planet. Protecting the planet from Goa'uld attack is the only action we can take. There have been no direct threats from Ba'al, nor has he attacked. There is nothing we can do," Thor said slowly. "However, there are no direct rules governing the...protection...of a single person from the Goa'uld, even when threats are not involved."

Well, I'll be damned, Daniel thought, his heart beating a little harder, a little faster. "So you are here just to protect Casey."

"Not entirely. We have reports of Mrs. Jackson's 'gift', and what has been...observed...by mutual allies, is quite impressive. It would be a threat to the Asgard if her abilities were suddenly in the hands of Ba'al, a System Lord poised to take the final step in uniting the Goa'uld Empire. To have that event take place could very well bring an end to the Asgard."

He smiled. "Ah, I see. A little self-preservation as well as beneficence."

"It is in our best interest. If this group of men should decide to disregard my...observations, I'm certain that the Asgard will be more than willing to come to your aid."

"Thank you, for all of the people of Earth," Daniel said quietly.

"No, Doctor Jackson. Your aid. It would not do to have your wife in Ba'al's hands. Nor would I, as your friend, be able to allow such a thing when other...options...are available."

"I never would have allowed them to take my Wife," Daniel said quietly.

"Of this I am also certain. There are many places in the galaxy to hide," Thor replied.

"So the Tok'ra have told us."

"Do not believe that the Tok'ra are the only ones aware of such places."

His surprise registered on his face.

"If you have need of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me," Thor said. Then disappeared in a flash of light.

He couldn't stop the grin that spread across his face. No matter what the politicians and bureaucrats of Earth thought, or did, he and Casey would be spirited away to safety, if not by the Tok'ra, then by the Asgard. Insuring that Casey's amazing talent...her impressive gift of sight...would never fall into the hands of the Goa'uld.

Daniel stalked to the double door, threw both open. "Gentlemen, I've done what I was sent here to do. You can ratify the treaty now, or not. I don't care which it is. The deal is already done as far as Ba'al is concerned. Your signatures mean squat to him, and to me. According to the terms of the treaty, Casey and I are to be on his ship as...'guests', for the duration of the operation to find and eliminate Zeus. And that's exactly where I intend to be."

"But-" France said, rising swiftly to his feet.

"Let me tell you something about Ba'al. He captured my Wife for the first time almost a year ago. He beat her, tortured her, used a drug on her that was intended to wipe her memory clear, so that he could train her to be a slave to him. Her punishment for displeasing him was rape at the hands of his Jaffa. She damned near didn't survive, and it was nothing short of a miracle that she came back to me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you think I'm going to waste my time arguing with the likes of you while my Wife is alone on that ship with that bastard, you had better think again!"

The British representative rose to his feet, offered his hand to Daniel. "Doctor Jackson, I read the complete dossier on the Stargate Program, and the members of SG-1. It seems to me that you and your teammates have pulled off several 'miracles', which have kept us free from Goa'uld occupation. If you will allow me, I'll sign my copy of the treaty now, so that you can return it to your president immediately."

"As will I," the Canadian representative said.

"Please, accept our thanks for your efforts in this current crisis," the Japan said, bowing slightly. He handed Daniel his copy of the treaty, already signed.

Daniel bowed in return. "Thank you."

The Italian representative, who had remained silent, but ever watchful during the course of the meeting, scratched his name across the sheet of paper that he had held clenched in his fingers. "Doctor Jackson, on behalf of the Italian people, I offer my thanks as well," he said, putting the signed document in Daniel's hand.

Likewise the Chinese delegate had remained silent, preferring to watch and listen to the others, allowing them to maneuver around one another, taking note of whom believed themselves to be the most important to the group. While he did not care one way or another whether this woman was handed over to the Goa'uld, he did understand that China was at as much risk as the rest of the world. For China he would sign the agreement. He carefully wrote his name, first in Mandarin, and then in English. He also gave a slight bow when he handed it to Daniel.

The Russian, French and German representatives exchanged worried glances. It was in the best interests of their countries, their employers, and themselves, to see to it that any agreements reached spelled out specific benefits for their respective nations. Such a general document did no such thing.

"Has President Miller signed this document?" Britain asked, noting that Daniel hadn't missed the by-play between the three most vocal participants of the meeting.

"Yes, he has."

"Then I believe a majority consensus has been reached."

With a huff of obvious displeasure, the German representative signed the paper, and nearly threw it at Daniel. The Russian representative was a bit slower. He did, however, hand it to Daniel in a more civilized manner.

Daniel turned to the French representative. "Sign it now, or sign it later and have it sent by special courier. I'm leaving."

With a snort of disgust, the French representative signed the name of his employer, and his own. President Selegone would be most displeased, he was certain. Of course, if the treaty were violated in any way...

Daniel gathered the papers, shoved them back into the folder he had carried into the conference room. "Gentlemen, if we ever meet again, I hope it's under more pleasant circumstances."

"Vada con il dio, il mio amico," the Italian representative said softly. [Go with God, my friend.]

"Grazie molto," Daniel replied. With a sharp nod in the direction of the men who stood grouped together around the British proxy, Daniel turned to leave the room. The two men who'd escorted him from the plane had been sitting to one side of the room, waiting for him to finish with the meeting, in order to see to it that he was taken back to the airport immediately. They were on their feet, walking beside him as he hurried toward the elevator. [Thank you very much.]

"This madman named Ba'al, he really did those things to your wife?" the taller of the two guards asked quietly.

"Unfortunately."

"My sympathies to both of you."

"Thank you. We were very lucky, the drug he used left her with no memory of her time as his captive, or what had been done to her."

"Very lucky indeed," the tall man replied. He could not imagine living with the knowledge that his wife had been so brutalized. The man beside him was a seasoned warrior, he could tell that by the way Dr. Jackson carried himself. But he was a scholar as well, a man whose knowledge of languages and ancient civilizations was rivaled by none other, according to the dossier on him. Perhaps it was his experience as a soldier, his understanding of cultures long gone, that offered him the means to deal with that horrible knowledge. 


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