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Daniel was pacing, his brow knit into a frown. "He just…vanished? How can a Goa’uld ship, especially one that old, just disappear?"
Jack shook his head. "I don’t know, Daniel. Looks like he has some…uh…upgrades."
"Like new Goa’uld technology?" Sam asked, a frown on her own face. "That’s not an encouraging sign. He must be in league with at least one of the System Lords."
Jack nodded. "Jacob said that they’ll keep looking, even a shielded ship leaves some traces. We’ll find him."
They all looked up when Casey entered the room. She hadn’t slept in over thirty-six hours…none of them had…and the dark circles under her eyes were prominent bruises against her pale cheeks. "Duncan has all the Immies on alert. He agreed that bunching us together isn’t a good idea. He sent two teams to the Alpha site, three to the Beta site, and two teams to the Tok’ra base." She dropped down into a chair, put her arms on the conference table, and laid her head on them. She didn’t dare close her eyes, if she did, she’d be asleep within seconds. "Methos has his teams suited up, ready to go at a moments notice, one team is already ‘disappearing’, they’ll make a thirty second contact every twelve hours," she said, yawning.
"Case, why don’t you go get some sleep," Daniel said softly, rubbing his hand across the back of her shoulders. His beard cast a shadow on his jaw, and his eyes were as weary as Jack's and Sam’s.
"Maybe we should all get some sleep," Sam suggested, rubbing her tired eyes. "There isn’t anything we can do but wait."
Casey never heard a word, having finally lost the battle against her weariness. With a smile, Daniel scooped her into his arms and carried her to the quarters they shared on base.
A A A A A A
She woke up to the ear-wrenching sounds of klaxons, groaning as she forced her eyes open. Daniel was already stirring, reaching for the light. "Must be news," she mumbled, pulling on her BDU, trying to remember actually taking the uniform off. She looked over at her Husband, raised an eyebrow.
"You went to sleep in the conference room. I carried you in here and put you in bed," he smiled.
"My knight in shining armor," she smiled at him, her eyes reflecting the love that swelled in her heart.
"My fair damsel," he replied, his love filling his heart, and his eyes.
They were only seconds behind Jack and Sam as they entered the 'gate room. Jacob Carter was walking down the ramp, a frown on his face.
"Jacob, tell me you have good news," Jack said, shaking the older man’s hand.
"I wish I could," Jacob replied. "Hi, kid," he said, hugging Sam.
"Hi, Dad," Sam replied. "Still no sign of him?"
Jacob shook his head, but it was Selmak who replied. "We are gravely concerned at this recent turn of events. There is no trace of the ship that was spotted entering your solar system. We have plotted dozens of possible courses it could have taken, and have carefully examined each one, but there is no trace of the ship. At this time we have begun a search grid by grid, but as time continues to pass, any traces will eventually disappear. That Framone has such technology is...worrisome."
"Crap!" Jack said, shaking his head. "He could be right on top of us and we’d never know it!" He looked hard at Jacob/Selmak. "If we knew what to look for…"
Jacob grinned. "We’ve already alerted the Prometheus. They’re searching the immediate area."
"But still no results," Sam said.
The grin faded as Jacob shook his head. He turned to Casey and Daniel. "Hello, you two."
"Hi, General Carter," Casey said, smiling. Everyone in the room noticed that her smile didn’t reach her eyes. "So, we’re in deep shit here, aren’t we?"
"’Fraid so, kid," Jacob replied.
Casey shivered. Daniel slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "He’s after me. I can feel it," she whispered.
"He won’t get you this time," Jack said, his voice as grim as his face.
Casey shook her head. "We can’t find him now, even after he so blatantly announced his arrival. If he wants me, he’ll get me," she said. Her teeth began pulling at her bottom lip.
Jack looked at her, could see the worry, the terror, that lurked in the depths of her green eyes. He turned to Daniel. "Why don’t you go home, grab a few things, and stay here at the base. Might be safer."
Daniel nodded. "We’ll be back in an hour."
"If not, I’m sending out the Marines," Jack replied.
A A A A A A
The drive to their home was done in tense silence. Casey held Daniel’s hand tightly, terrified that if she let go, she would suddenly find herself in Framone’s clutches. She shivered again as a feeling of absolute dread came over her. Things were about to go very, very badly. She could feel it. And her feelings had never been wrong.
She was in the bathroom grabbing extra shampoo and soap when a knock on the door brought both of them into the hallway. Daniel looked through the peephole. There were two men, dressed in dark pants and shirts, their hair covered by dark hats. They looked vaguely familiar, and instinct honed from years of working with the SGC took over.
"Out the back way, babe," he whispered, already pushing her down the hall to the door that led from the kitchen to the driveway. He opened it slowly, satisfied that there was no one there, led her out. He never saw the man who hit him. His glasses went flying, shattered against the concrete. "Run, Casey, run!" he shouted, already struggling with his attacker.
Casey hesitated for a second, ready to come to the aid of her husband. She watched as the larger, heavier man began to beat Daniel.
"RUN!" he shouted, forcing her mind and body into action, even as her heart fought her.
Casey dashed through the gate that Emma had just installed in the fence between the two yards, making visiting one another easier. She ran up past the house, could hear heavy footfalls behind her. She startled the elderly woman as she came around the corner, jumping over a cart of yard tools. "Emma! Jack! Call Jack O’Neill! Cheyenne Mountain!" she cried as she ran down the sidewalk, and across the street. She cut between two more houses, her pursuer not far behind.
Emma Hanks was in her eighties, but she was far from senile. She pushed the little plastic cart in front of the second man, the first by her before she could react. With speed that belied her age, she hurried into her house and locked the door before the other man was on his feet. She grabbed the phone and dialed 911.
"9-1-1, please state your emergency," the operator said calmly.
"I need to be connected with the military base at Cheyenne Mountain," Emma said, her voice shaking slightly. "I need to talk to Jack O’Neill."
"Ma’am, that number is available in your phone directory," the operator sighed.
"Listen, you little punk, if I had time for that do you think I’d be calling your sorry ass? I need to be connected now! A young woman’s life is at stake! Do you hear me? Now, dammit!"
"One moment," the operator said.
"Are you listening? I need to talk to Jack O’Neill now!" Emma raged. These idiots must have to pass a stupid test to work as emergency operators, she fumed, waiting for the connection to be made. She heard several clicks, and then a gruff voice came online.
"Sir, I have…excuse me, what is your name ma’am?"
Emma ignored the operator. "Jack, this is Emma Hanks, Daniel and Casey’s neighbor-"
Jack sighed. "Emma, this really isn’t-"
"Shut up and listen, young man," Emma snapped, her patience at an end. "Two men were just chasing Casey. I don’t know if she managed to get away from them or not. I don’t know where Daniel is. When she ran by me she shouted at me to call you. Now, you get off that fine ass of yours and do something about this!"
He couldn’t repress the grin that spread across his face at the old woman’s attitude. It quickly faded as her words impacted upon his brain. "Thanks Emma. I’ll have somebody there immediately. Which way did Casey go?"
"She ran across the street, through the Cooper’s yard. Don’t know where she’d go from there. If she's smart, and she is, she’ll go somewhere with lots of people."
"Emma, the next time I see you, I’m giving you a big kiss," Jack said. The old lady was right, Casey was smart, and a populated area would offer safety. At least, he hoped it would. "Emma, I have to go. We’ll take care of them, I promise."
Satisfied, Emma hung up the phone. Her heart was pounding. She sat down heavily at her kitchen table. She knew that both of the Jacksons worked at the military base. They had never told her what they did. She did know that they were often gone for days, sometimes weeks at a time. When they came home after extended absences, their exhaustion was plain in their faces. She had seen other things in Casey’s eyes as well. Things that spoke of sadness, fear, anger. Her Henry had been in the military for almost thirty-five years. She understood what special ops were. She also understood that special ops meant danger. And those young people were definitely in danger. She pulled herself to her feet. She had to go see if Daniel was home, and if not, tell him when he arrived that Casey was in trouble.
He was still lying on the driveway, blood on his shirt and pants, blood on the ground beneath him, although she didn’t see a mark on him. She found his broken glasses. Plain everyday ordinary glass, not a corrective lens, she noted. He sat up with a groan. "Emma?"
"Daniel, are you alright?"
The young man nodded. He looked down at his clothes, then cringed. "Emma, please don’t ask."
She nodded. "Two goons were chasing Casey."
He was on feet, ready to dash after her. "Which way?"
Emma put a gnarled hand on his arm. "Daniel, I don’t know which way she went. She told me to call Jack O’Neill, and I did. I just talked to him. He’s on his way. Casey’s a smart girl. She’ll be okay. Let’s get you inside and changed. Those nosy neighbors of yours are starting to stare."
With a frustrated sigh, Daniel allowed Emma to lead him into the house.
Daniel was in clean clothes, his spare pair of glasses on his face when Jack arrived.
Emma had made tea, and was calmly drinking a cup when Jack burst through the door.
"Jack-" Daniel said.
"I’ve already got people looking, Daniel," Jack said softly.
"I can’t go through this again…I can’t let him take her again," Daniel moaned.
Jack cast a frown in Emma’s direction. "Not in front of company, Daniel."
"Oh, bullshit," Emma said softly. She was thinking back to something Henry had said, years ago, about seeing a man that he had served with in the war, a man who had died in his arms, walking the streets looking the same as he had the day they'd met. She had questioned him, and suggested that the man merely looked similar. Henry had shook his head, and told her that one didn’t forget the face of a man who died in one’s arms. He said the man had recognized him as well, he had seen it briefly in the dark eyes, but before Henry could say anything, the man was gone. ‘There are folks out there, Emma, that don’t age, don’t get hurt, don’t die, like you and me. You can bank on that.’ "I already know there's more going on here than meets the eye," she said. "Daniel was covered in enough blood he should be dead, but he doesn’t have a mark on him. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that neither he nor Casey seem to be showing any signs of aging, either. My Henry was military, Jack. He was in the Navy for thirty-five years. Ever heard of the NSA?"
Jack grinned. "Yes, ma’am, I have. Look, we don’t have time to go into all of the details. But could I ask you a favor?"
"Of course," Emma replied.
"Don’t let the neighbors start talking…head off the questions and rumors if you can."
The old woman beamed. "Now that will be fun!"
Jack grinned, then made good on his promise. He leaned over and gave the woman a kiss on the cheek. He turned and looked at Daniel. His smile quickly faded. The young man looked lost, haunted. "We have to get back to the base. I’ll make sure somebody lets you know the minute we have Casey back," he promised the elderly neighbor.
With a nod, the old woman stood. She put a hand on Daniel’s cheek. "Never give up, Daniel. She loves you more than life itself. She’ll keep going just for you. Don’t you forget that, do you hear me?"
With a wan smile, Daniel nodded, bent down and kissed the wrinkled cheek. "Thanks, Emma."
She nodded. "She needs you now. Go find her." With that, the old woman hurried back to her own home.
A A A A A A
Casey was still running, the pain in her side bringing gasps with every step. She was running toward the local shopping center. She didn’t think that whoever these goons were, they would be willing to try anything in a crowd of people. She was cutting through an alley when she felt that pain between her eyes. Then she saw him. He was standing near the cross street in front of her, his eyes glowing. She stopped, turned to look behind her. Goons one and two were closing quickly. She looked around. Nothing but high fences. She ran towards one that looked as if it would be easy to climb. Before she could reach it, however, her pursuers had caught up with her. They grabbed her roughly, taking her to where Framone waited.
She looked toward the sound, saw Methos running toward her. Casey had no idea where the oldest Immortal had come from, but she was happy to see him. She struggled with her captors, to no avail. She cried out when Framone raised his hand and used a ribbon device to render Methos unconscious.
"Bring him as well," Framone said, in his dual voice.
Casey continued to struggle until she was tossed over the shoulder of the largest of the goons. Déjà vu, she groused, beating against the muscled back. At least it’s not someone I know, and loved, she thought. She gasped when they ringed up to the waiting ship. Jack had been right. Framone had been literally on top of them. That was her last thought coherent thought for nearly a week…
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