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Casey cuddled closer to the warmth of Daniel's body. She could just barely make out the shadow of Teal'c's profile as he took over watch from her. Something had been nagging at the back of her brain ever since she'd 'seen' that there would be a Goa'uld arriving. It just wouldn't settle long enough for her to examine it. Weary, she closed her eyes, tried to focus on the thought one last time before giving in to sleep.
She was almost asleep when it came to her. "Damned rat bastards!" she hissed, sitting straight up.
Daniel groaned, opened his eyes. "What?"
Sam and Jack were stirring as well. "What the hell?" Jack asked quietly.
"The Goa'uld that's about to arrive? It's not a surprise visit!"
Everyone was instantly awake at that announcement. "That would explain the Goa'uld devices in that lab," Daniel said.
"We've suspected that the NID was allied, or at least working with, certain Goa'uld. We just never were sure which one or ones. Any idea what will happen when this snake finds out his buddies are dead?" Jack asked.
Casey shook her head. "I don't think he…no…she…I don't think she's going to be very happy. The NID bosses want to be Immortal. Want Immortal soldiers. I'm thinking the Goa'uld wants Immortality as well. Don't know why, basically they already have that."
"Not really. Every time they take a new host it's very…difficult on the snake. The more hosts that are taken, the more…age…on the symbiote," Sam said.
"Big crocodile tears here for the poor snakes," Daniel snorted.
Sam grinned. "An Immortal body would reduce…eliminate…the need for new hosts. The symbiote would remain strong, healthy…probably wouldn't have a need for the sarcophagus."
"We already know this," Jack pointed out.
"Yeah, but we didn't know that the snakes were actively pursuing the matter of Immortality," Sam replied.
"They haven't tried to capture any Immortals in a couple of years now," Daniel mused. "They must have figured out that the symbiote won't survive a…joining…with an Immortal."
"But if they can make the body they're already in Immortal, it's a whole different ball game," Casey finished. She shivered. "We have got to shut this down. I have the feeling that the snakes are working with the NID because those slimeballs have a better chance at nabbing an Immortal."
"But why the children?" Sam asked, her forehead creased in thought. "Why not an Immortal adult?"
"There must be something about the blood," Daniel guessed. "The kids are pre-Immortal. Maybe that makes a difference."
The blonde colonel nodded. "Maybe the Quickening in the blood of an Immortal is the problem," she said.
"Well, whatever reason," Jack said, cutting short the two scientists and their discussion, "we can't let it happen." He glanced at his watch. "Let's get a couple more hours of sleep. We're gonna need it. T, wake me in an hour."
The Jaffa nodded, watched as his friends bed down once again.
A A A A A A
When the sun peeked over the horizon, SG-1 was already on the move. The sunlight hadn't filtered through the heavy foliage of the forest yet, necessitating the use of night vision goggles. They continued to move slowly, deliberately, leaving very little sign of their passing. Only someone trained to notice such things would be able to tell that anyone had walked through the area.
Casey's heart was beginning to pound in her chest. The Goa'uld had arrived. She was sure of it. She slowed down slightly, cocked her head as she 'picked up' what was happening. She shivered, then hurried to catch up with Jack, who had taken point.
"Jack," she whispered.
"Snake alert. She's here," Casey replied.
"Shit!" Jack held his fist up, then pointed in three directions, sending Teal'c, Daniel, and Sam into the brush. He turned to face the young seer. "Things are going to get bad, right?"
"Yeah. She's pissed off. She has total control of the camp; she's already killed half a dozen of the prisoners who were fighting to control things. They told her about us…well, that somebody is here, and killed the Committee members and the scientists." She cocked her head again, closed her eyes in concentration. "She already suspects that the…teams…on that freighter have been compromised. She's…um…Jaffa…at least fifty. They're-"
Before she could say another word, the sound of staff weapons charging filled the air. Jack and Casey found themselves surrounded by metal clad warriors. In the brush waiting, realizing that to move right now would result in their capture as well, Daniel, Teal'c and Sam watched…helplessly.
Relieved of their weapons…packs and night vision goggles tossed to the ground as unimportant…the Jaffa bound their two prisoners, then led them toward the camp.
'We're right behind you.'
He shook his head. She was scared. And she was angry. Probably blaming herself for not sensing the approaching Jaffa sooner. Teal'c had already voiced his anger at not hearing them, and obviously they'd been damned close when the team stopped. A quick discussion between the three of them had concluded that it had just been a stroke of bad luck that the Jaffa had been following a narrow path, and had literally stumbled upon Jack and Casey where they stood. A few seconds sooner, and the entire team would have been captured. 'Easy, Tiger. Nobody's at fault here. Just more of that lousy shit.'
'I should have known!'
'Angel, you were busy picking up information. You were distracted.'
She turned this thought over in her head. 'I need to learn how to multitask!'
He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud. 'Smartass. We're gonna drop back a bit. We know they're taking you to camp. Sam is going to contact Turk. We'll be there for you. Give me as much info as you can once you get there.'
'Love you, Angel.'
'Love you, too.'
Casey glanced back at Jack. "Too bad we're not alone," she whispered.
Jack grinned, understanding her 'message' to him. "Yeah, isn't it."
"Not as…close…as we could be. But then, when you have other people to talk to-" She broke off when the Jaffa beside her grabbed her arm and pushed her forward.
"Hey, back off, bozo!" Jack said loudly. He was given a thump across the back with a staff weapon. He bit back his smile. The team was dropping back in order to contact Turk. It was going to be a hell of a party.
A A A A A A
Jack and Casey were marched into the Quonset camp, and noted immediately that the prisoners who had tasted just a few hours of freedom were slaves once again. All of them had the signs of beatings, two had the telltale signs of having had a ribbon device used on them. A dozen were busy working to dig a pit, presumably to bury the heap of bodies piled nearby. More bodies than had been left when the two SGC teams had disappeared into the woods. It looked as if half of the prisoners had been killed.
Their Jaffa captors led them into the middle hut, which the Goa'uld had taken over as her own personal quarters. The woman was tall; her raven black hair fell in waves down her back. Her eyes were the color of amber, and glittered with anger.
"Kneel before your god, Hemsut!" one of the Jaffa demanded. The guards forced the prisoners to their knees. The other guards who stood nearby noted that the two dared to struggle in the presence of their 'god'.
"You are the ones responsible for this?" she demanded, waving her hand in the air, her voice shaking with rage. Hemsut had been a minor Goa'uld for as long as she could remember. This plan, this…scheme...had been her chance at changing all of that. To see her opportunity to become a reigning System Lord slipping away infuriated her.
Jack and Casey exchanged a look. His eyes relayed his message. Play stupid, they said.
Casey cocked her head sideways, then shook her head. It was all Jack could do to keep from laughing out loud.
When the Goa'uld looked at him, Jack tried to appear as confused as possible.
"Find someone who can speak to them!" the woman screeched. She'd had no prior contact with Tau'ri. Those who had approached her spoke Goa'uld well enough that they had been able to communicate, and form an alliance of sorts. She would, of course, violate the…treaty…that had been signed - once she had what she wanted.
"There is no one, My Lord. Those who were your allies would have been able to communicate, I am certain," a short, thin man said nervously. He was dressed in the manner of an Egyptian High Priest. Apparently this Goa'uld was an Egyptian 'god', Casey noted.
With a grunt of anger, the woman threw herself into the throne that sat against one wall. She stared at her prisoners. What good were they if they couldn't speak to her, tell her what she wished to know? She watched their eyes. Something told her that they were lying. That they at least understood what was being said.
A Jaffa came running into the hut. "My Lord, another fight has broken out among the slaves."
The Goa'uld's face twisted with anger. Things had been a disaster since her arrival. The Tau'ri who had approached her, requesting an alliance, and specific Goa'uld equipment, were dead. They had not made payment on their agreement. The body she inhabited was to have been made Immortal. She would have become the greatest god in the universe! Never again would she be forced to take a new host, battle for control of the mind, the body. Never again would she be forced to spend time in the sarcophagus, at risk from enemies eager to dispose of her. The fools had gotten themselves killed. And their…experiments…were too much of a bother to deal with. She'd received the reports on the progress of creating the perfect, Immortal soldiers. But without the ability to make them Immortal, keeping the brain-damaged group was not worth the effort. She'd had her Jaffa kill them soon after arriving, and discovering that her plans had been ruined.
She heaved a sigh. Those whose minds remained intact had been fighting amongst themselves when she had arrived. Six of the men had been engaged in a battle of some sort. One had tried to fire his Tau'ri weapon at her as soon as she had walked through the Chappa'ai. Those six men breathed no longer. This was unacceptable! Her Jaffa, unaccustomed to dealing with humans who dared to continue fighting after their defeat, were not willing to strike out at the captives without their god's express approval. She rose to her feet, stomped out the door. Another lesson with the ribbon device was in order. Slaves must know their place…or die!
The tables and benches that had filled the hut were pushed to one side, several stacked on top of each other. Jack took notice because he thought he smelled gas. The High Priest had begun to fiddle with the propane tank that powered the grill in the kitchen, and Jack was looking for somewhere to hide. Nearly a dozen candles were burning in the large, open room; he figured more for their aroma than the actual need for light. Propane fumes and candlelight were not compatible.
"Case?" he whispered.
"When I tell you, I want you to drop and roll toward those tables. Scoot as far under them as you can."
She followed his gaze. "Oh, shit!"
"Yeah. Get ready."
Jack ignored the Jaffa who had hit him with the staff weapon. "Now!"
Both Tau'ri dropped to the floor, began to roll as quickly as they could toward the tables. Not easy with their hands bound behind them. The Jaffa guarding them were taken by surprise, and for a few seconds merely stood and watched their prisoners scoot as far under the pile of tables and benches as possible. Before they could react, an explosion rocked the hut around them.
The hut came down, killing all those inside, save the two who had managed to find protection from falling debris. They, however, would not live long as the dust obliterated what little oxygen remained.
A A A A A A
Daniel's heart stopped beating. He, Teal'c, and Sam had just settled in. They'd been close enough behind Casey and Jack to see them taken into the center hut. He watched as flames danced around the remaining wooden beams. "Casey!"
Everyone in the camp had been thrown to the ground from the concussion of the explosion. Those nearest the building had been killed. Debris was still falling from the sky, tossed nearly one hundred feet into the air. Deadly spikes of wood and metal were taking out an unlucky few. Jaffa were trying to herd the prisoners into a group, the prisoners were trying to escape into the brush, and all were still trying to avoid the fragments that continued to rain down around them.
He was on his feet, ready to run into the melee when Teal'c's strong hand stopped him. "Wait until it is safe, Daniel Jackson," the giant of a man said gently.
"We'll get them," Sam said, tears running down her cheeks. "We'll dig them out and they'll be all right."
He nodded numbly. Whenever we're separated, he thought, fighting back his need to race toward the flames, the need to find his Wife. Bad things happened every goddamned time they were separated!
"Colonel Carter, come in," Turk's voice called on the radio. He sounded a bit panicked.
"I'm here, Turk."
"Please tell me that the general and Casey weren't in there."
She bit back a sob. "Sorry, Turk."
"Shit!" The Marine replied. "Suggest we open fire, take out as many as possible, then open the 'gate and call for some assistance to clean up the mess."
Sam wiped her face. Took count of the living still wandering stunned in front of the 'gate. "Concur. On my order."
Daniel was on his stomach, tears in his eyes. Hang on, Angel, he thought. I'll come for you in just a few minutes. His finger hovered over the trigger.
"Any idea who that Goa'uld is?" Sam asked.
"Nope," Daniel replied.
"Just curious," she said. "Fire!"
The sound of P90's on full automatic ripped though the air, taking down anything, anyone that moved. Coming from two sides, those still alive in the camp had no chance of survival. Hemsut fell to the ground, her body torn apart as nearly two dozen hot pieces of metal moving at nearly fifteen hundred feet per second impacted upon her.
"Hold fire!" Sam called. "Let's check it out."
Moving slowly, the two teams began to converge on the camp. No one was left alive. Sam let her weapon fall to her waist, turned and faced what was left of the center Quonset building.
"We'll get them out," Turk said softly.
Daniel refused to let the thought that there wouldn't be enough of them left to find settle in his brain. Casey and Jack were smart. They were survivors. They had to be okay…dead…but okay. He grimaced at that thought. How bizarre was it, he thought, to hope that his Wife was dead, but her body unharmed? Being Immortal resulted in many weird thoughts, he decided.
The teams examined the wreckage of the building. The metal that had been the skin of the hut was still hot. What fires there had been were nothing more than smoldering embers, there had been little wood actually used in the construction of the buildings.
Turk pulled on his gloves. "Ma'am?" he said, looking at Sam. He could see the shock, the grief that had settled on her face.
Sam took a deep breath, shook herself mentally. "We need to sift through the rubble. We have to find them," she said firmly. Only the slight quaver of her voice revealed her inner turmoil.
He gave a sharp nod. "Okay, we're going to move this stuff. Gently, grunts!" He reached down and grabbed a piece of what had been a part of the roof, and drug it to one side.
An hour later they were into what would have been the middle of the room. So far they had found seven bodies, or…more accurately, parts of bodies. All of them Jaffa. Daniel and Sam were searching frantically through the jumble of debris, knowing only that the ones they loved had been in the hut. They had no idea how close to the source of the explosion the two had been. The closer to the source, the less chance of finding them, of finding Immortal bodies capable of reviving.
"I found something!" Haberman called out. The others raced to where he stood. Warped sheets of metal and sheared, twisted aluminum beams seemed to be piled higher than what they had been through so far, in the area that would have been against the far wall of the building when it had been standing.
Carefully, as quickly as they could, hearts pounding, prayers being offered that they would find their missing teammates, the Marines and the living members of SG-1 began to sift through the rubble once again.
A boot was the first clue that they had found Casey and Jack. They were most certainly dead, their faces covered with soot and ash. But the tables they had hidden beneath had protected them from the worst of the blast, and the falling pieces of the building.
Daniel carried Casey toward the 'gate, found a place that wasn't covered by debris or dead bodies, and sat down, cradling her in his arms. He pushed dirty blonde hair from her face. "Wake up, Angel," he begged softly. He was vaguely aware of the fact that Turk and Teal'c had carried Jack to a spot nearby, and Sam was holding him as well.
Ten agonizing minutes past. Her back arched, and she took in as much oxygen as she could. "Oh, hell, that hurt," she murmured, trying to raise a hand to her head.
Tears running down his face, leaving streaks of black, Daniel hugged her tightly. "Stay out of exploding buildings then," he replied.
"Yeah, I'll add that to my list of things to avoid," she replied dryly. "Jack?"
He looked over to see Jack holding Sam as she wept tears of sweet relief. "Just fine."
She nodded. "So, uh, did Hemsut survive?"
"That's her name?"
"Nope. She's gone. Everybody is gone," Daniel said.
"Guess it's all for the best," she said softly.
"Guess so." The loss of life always bothered him. Even when those lives were those of the enemy. This was one group, however, that he would not spend one minute agonizing over.
"Okay, campers, let's take those labs out," Jack said, getting to his feet. "I don't want anything left of this place."
The teams spent thirty minutes placing C-4 in the remaining buildings. Sam went through the lab, taking hard drives, and any data crystals from the Goa'uld equipment that had been used. They needed to know what the NID had managed to accomplish, and how many Goa'uld were aware of the…experiments. The explosives were set with radio activated detonators, and would be detonated just as the teams went through the Stargate.
Daniel started dialing the DHD, his hands still a bit shaky from the heart wrenching events of the afternoon. Just before he had keyed in the third symbol, the 'gate came to life. Someone was dialing in.
"Wouldn't be Duncan," Jack said worriedly. "We're not due to check in for about twelve hours yet."
"I suggest we find a place from which to observe," Teal'c said, his eyes on the rings of the 'gate.
"I agree, big guy," Jack said. "Turk, head north again. We'll go back south." The two teams ran toward the safety of the forest and the brush that offered concealment.
Thoughts and questions about what they were about to face filled their minds as they quietly, quickly faded into the undergrowth, watching from their hiding places, hearts pounding, fingers caressing weapons gently.
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