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TITLE: Here We Go Again

AUTHOR: Tiv'ester

E-MAIL: tivester@lycos.com

STATUS: Complete

CATEGORY: Angst

SPOILERS: Quite a few

SEASON/SEQUEL: 6th - A rewrite of Redemption Parts 1 and 2

RATING: PG

CONTENT WARNINGS: None

SUMMARY: While Daniel is still recovering from the near-fatal mission to Kelowna, Anubis attempts to destroy the Stargate with an Ancient's device. Can Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal'c stop him before all life on Earth is gone? An AU version of “Redemption.”

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Stargate SG-1. Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only. No money has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the result of wondering how the Redemption two parter might have been if the original team members had been in it. It was originally published in the zine Splinters from Ashtonpress. Big thanks to Lems and Jmas for alpha/betaing this story.  Thanks guys!

 

 

PLANET P2X-374

SG-1 was running for their lives.

The MALP's images hadn't indicated any indigenous life nearby, but that didn't mean there wasn't any. In fact, a group of hunter/gatherers lived about a mile away from the Gate. Scouts hidden in the woods had witnessed a metal creature on wheels guarding the Chappa'ai, but they stayed away from the curious beast. They informed their chief and the war council of the strange, unknown creature that had mysteriously taken position near the sacred stone and were told to watch the beast and see what it would do. Later, four people dressed in strange attire appeared in the water that magically splashed in the middle of the stone. The strangers placed their hands on the metal creature, then one of them pressed his hand on the gods' pedestal near the Chappa'ai and created the water splash again. The metal creature, a pet perhaps, was sent through the water and disappeared moments before the water disappeared. The natives' curiosity about the four travelers had overcome their immediate mistrust, and they greeted the strangers warily. Once a form of communication was established between the two groups, the natives allowed the visitors to come to their camp but soon learned that the peaceful visitors from Earth were not the type of people they were interested in getting to know. It was not polite for visitors to breach custom and protocol -- all of which insulted their hosts, and insults were considered capital crimes.

Naturally, SG-1 was running for their lives.

Carter and Teal'c had reached the gate as Captain Hagman helped Jack run down a sandy slope toward them. O'Neill was visibly limping as the captain held him upright. "Carter!" Jack yelled. "Dial the gate! Dial it now!"

Captain Hagman had been apologizing the entire escape back to the Stargate. "I swear, sir, I thought they wanted to smoke a peace pipe." How many more times would Hagman say that and Jack would continue to ignore it?

Sam ran to the DHD and quickly dialed Earth. As the rock spun with the coordinates, a large group of natives appeared at the top of the slope, yelling and armed. Time was running out. None too soon, the wormhole engaged. Sam hurried through the event horizon first while Teal'c and Hagman helped their limping commanding officer to follow close behind. No one needed to look back to see that the natives were rushing their position.

~~~~~~~~~~

SGC - moments earlier

Quiet mornings were rare events at the base. Usually, there were phone calls, experiments, incoming/outgoing traffic...in actuality; it was controlled pandemonium, but not that morning. Everything had proceeded like clockwork, and Hammond was enjoying the moment.

Sergeant Davis sat at his usual seat, his attention riveted on the panel. Given the unusual lack of commotion, he had decided to run a few simple diagnostic tests on the computers -- routine maintenance perhaps? There had been some anomalies on some of the readings during incoming wormholes for the last two days - nothing to worry about, but the scientists were curious about what was causing it. Davis was so engrossed in reading the scrolling words on the monitor screen that he didn't see General Hammond enter the room.

"Good morning Sergeant."

Startled, Sergeant Davis jerked his head toward the sound. "Oh, good morning, sir. I’m sorry, I didn't hear you."

"That's all right. You were occupied. When is SG-1 due back?"

Sergeant Davis glanced at the clock. "An hour and 22 minutes from now, sir."

The general nodded his head. "When they get back, tell Major Carter I have a message."

"Yes, sir," the sergeant answered. An hour and 22 minutes…that’s how long he had to do the simple diagnostic…then he could -- the alarms sounded. They were about to have visitors. So much for their quiet morning.

Davis watched the gate activate as he said, "Incoming wormhole, sir."

He waited for the signal to identify the newcomers. Almost immediately, he said, "Receiving SG-1's identification code. It's a code red, sir. Looks like they're under fire."

Hammond grabbed the phone from the wall and said into the mouthpiece, "Defense unit and medical team to the gate room." Why couldn't SG-1 have an ordinary, boring mission someday? Was that too much to ask?

Davis pressed a switch on the control panel. "Opening the iris."

Hammond followed the SFs into the Gate room. As SG-1 trotted through the event horizon, a spear followed them and landed at Hammond's feet.

"Next!" Jack hollered as he and Teal'c left Hagman behind on the ramp. They walked past Hammond and out the door.

Hammond picked up the spear and looked at it. Nope. Definitely not an ordinary, boring mission.

General Hammond allowed Jack’s less than professional retreat once he saw the look on his second-in-command's face. Another archaeologist/anthropologist did not pass the Daniel Jackson litmus test. Just as he was about to address the captain, he noticed that Hagman pulled a dart out of his leg.

"I've been shot," the captain commented, his voice sounding surprised.

Sam pulled a second dart out of his shoulder before the captain fell down hard on his rear. As she studied it, Hagman tried to sluggishly say, "I think they're some sort of tranquilizers...." before he passed out.

The nearest medic reached out and took hold of the captain's wrist. "He has a steady pulse, sir. He's just unconscious."

Sam stood up and walked toward the general, all the time holding the dart. "I'd classify P2X-374 as unfriendly, sir...fairly, primitive but definitely not hospitable."

Hammond nodded his head and poked his chin towards the unconscious soldier. "I presume Captain Hagman will need to be reassigned?"

"I'd say so, sir." Sam answered smiling. Yes, another one come and gone.

Hammond silently agreed. It had been difficult keeping SG-1 in the field with the number of archaeologists/anthropologists/linguists they'd tried as replacements and decided were ineffective. None of them were Daniel Jackson. None of them had his intuition or expertise or abilities to get along with a certain irritable colonel. Oh, well, first things first. "We'll debrief in one hour. Dismissed...Oh, Major, I got a call this morning from Area 51. It's done."

As General Hammond left the room, Sam followed, her only reply was a silently worded "Wow!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DANIEL’S OFFICE

Sam walked into the room she had spent a great deal of time in during the last two months. Daniel's office had become a second home to all of them during that time. Although three months total had passed, the resulting legacy was still haunting them. Regardless, all of SG-1 was thankful for the months that had followed the mission to Kelowna no matter their difficulty. They almost didn’t happen.

Once Jacob had started to cure Daniel of the radiation poisoning, he realized that Daniel’s condition was far more critical than he could heal alone. Three other Tok’ra had been summoned to relieve her dad, but the process had taken hours. The radiation had done a great deal of damage internally as well as externally. With no hope of utilizing a sarcophagus, only the healing devices could be used, and although they cured him physically, there were other side effects no one had considered. No one had cared at the time. After the long, drawn-out healing process was over, Daniel had suffered from cognitive "disruptions." It was difficult to understand or explain. Selmac told them in very simple terms that the naquadria had produced effects that even the oldest Tok’ra scientists had never witnessed before. Daniel's brain had been overloaded on sensory data and needed time to readjust. The more basic explanation was that Daniel’s brain could no longer withstand the massive agony his body was undergoing and had shut down its ability to feel anything -- including pain -- and now it was attempting to reestablish a connection to the nerve endings.

For the first month, Daniel lay in a semi-comatose state. The medical staff monitored him constantly with the help of a myriad of machinery. Several weeks with no response was followed by the day Daniel opened his eyes. He would focus on people's voices, so Hammond immediately placed Jack, Sam and Teal'c on downtime to help aid Daniel’s recovery. They would take turns talking to him, reading to him, saying anything that helped him connect to the world around him. Yet they weren’t alone in their endeavors. SG-1 had help. Janet and Cassandra Fraiser as well as General Hammond conversed with the mostly unresponsive man. Once, Sam went to the infirmary to find Sergeants Siler and Davis discussing proper computer protocols for the civilians and asking Daniel what he thought at regular intervals even if they weren’t receiving an answer. It was reassuring to see how many people cared about what happened to her friend.

During the second month, Daniel started to come back to them. One morning, Janet found him trying to sit up in his bed. It was the first voluntary movement he made. Within days, he attempted to walk and talk again, but he limped badly and his words were disjointed and confused. He knew what he wanted to say, but he couldn't find the right way to say it. It was very frustrating for everyone, but both the physical and speech therapists said it would pass. His brain was making reconnections with his body, and everyone had to be patient. The therapists' main concern was that Daniel couldn't be left alone. Returning to his apartment would not be an option for some time since he was unable to care for himself. Luckily, Daniel had been able to articulate that he would stay at the base in a VIP room, and Jack readily volunteered to move into the connecting room. His convalescence was long and difficult, and for someone like Daniel who needed to be active, it was a form of torture. Jack never left him, never yelled at him, only encouraged him. Late in that second month, SG-1 was reactivated as a three-person team, but their missions were short ones. No one wanted to leave Daniel in the hands of therapists when the team itself was available. Sam believed that he worked faster and harder when one of them was with him. When the team was together, they were always stronger.

During the third month came the real progress. His speech became clearer, his thoughts more coherent and his physical progress improved at an astonishing rate. He worked relentlessly with his therapies until, finally, the only true telltale physical sign left of his ordeal was a slight limp that was diminishing more each day. But his eyes...his eyes held a haunted look that seemed to stay with him. SG-1 had been placed back on full-time active duty, and it was almost business as usual. It would be another two weeks before Daniel would be fit enough to be considered to be placed back on the team -- not that there was any question about that. It was only a matter of time.

Now, Daniel sat at his desk reading one of the many books from his library. His weight wasn't up to normal, and Janet's continual requests that he eat more had prompted him to always have some food nearby. At the moment, he was indulging in big bowl of grapes. There were the typical scattered remains of a 5th Avenue candy bar wrappings lying in his trashcan, but not the typical smell of coffee. Janet had made caffeine a forbidden fruit, and everyone from the general to the maintenance crew had permission to yell at Daniel if he attempted to have a sip of coffee until he was medically cleared.

Sam approached him slowly, realizing as she did so that Daniel was engrossed in the book he was reading and not paying any attention to the television playing quietly in the corner. Oddly enough, the station was the Discovery Channel and the show was a documentary about the mysteries of ancient Egypt, yet Daniel was completely oblivious to it when usually he would be completely absorbed with the documentary. It was such an odd sight that she could only smile at the picture it created.

"Hey," she tried to get his attention.

Daniel put down the book as soon as he realized he wasn't alone. "Hi. How was the mission?"

"Same as always. We met the local inhabitants and ended up running for the Stargate. The colonel has a partially torn ligament in his knee. He'll be okay."

Daniel shook his head in amusement. "What about Captain Hagman?"

"He'll make a full recovery, but he'll be reassigned. Immediately."

Great. Another one. "I didn't think Hagman would last very long, but I was running out of people to assign. Jack goes through my department faster than I can convince people to work with him. I was hoping since Hagman was military, he'd last a little longer than the others. How many does that make now? Eight?"

Sam held up her fingers with only one thumb tucked in. "Nine...if you count the two hours Captain Matheson lasted."

Daniel closed the book he was reading and moved it away from him. "Were you able to discover if the inhabitants spoke ancient Babylonian? I was brushing up on my cuneiform just in case."

Sam shook her head. "Not exactly...but I've got a surprise for you. Do you think you can spare a few hours?"

Daniel gave her a look that expressed the absurdity of that statement. "A few hours? Gee, I don't know...got so many things to do...I was planning to sort my socks and clean out the closet..."

"Daniel," Sam jokingly warned.

"Sure. I can make time to spare a few hours...for what?"

"Well, you've been stuck here three months and only made a few short trips off base. Since Janet declared you fit to make longer excursions outside if someone’s with you, General Hammond thought you might like to leave the base for a while. I believe he mentioned something about keeping you from going stir crazy."

That was the smile Sam hadn't seen in three months! "Yes. When do we leave?" Daniel said enthusiastically. Then added, "Uh, where are we going?"

Sam smiled. Yes, Daniel seemed very eager to get out of the mountain for a little while. "One of our favorite places. Nevada."

“Sounds like fun,” he said, the smile not leaving his face.

Daniel quickly turned off the television as Sam commented, “It’s not like you to not watch Egyptian documentaries. Have you lost your interest in them?”

“No. I’ve seen that one, but it’s not as if I’m watching the Weather Channel…”

“Daniel?” Sam queried.

"When Kasuf was visiting last week, he found the Weather Channel and couldn't stop watching it. He was impressed that we can get reports of the weather from all over the planet. Even the long range forecast. He said it was like predicting the future."

It was a sentimental memory that brought a different type of smile to Daniel's face. It was one Sam had seen before when her friend reminisced about his home and family on Abydos. "Did you explain to him that there was some science involved?"

"Yes, but Abydos is an agrarian world. Even if they can predict daily weather to some extent, long range forecasts would do more to help the farmers than just wondering if a sore knee meant three days of sandstorms."

Again, he was worrying about everyone else. Sam made a mental not to see what she could do to help the Abydonian farmers...

"You’ll have to tell him the next time he visits that there are at least 500 other channels." Truthfully, Sam had seen Kasuf mesmerized by television shows when she saw him sitting in Daniel’s office several times, but she never noticed what he had been watching. “Or perhaps introduce him to DVDs?”

“Jack’s already done that.” Daniel glanced back at Sam whose raised eyebrows asked the unasked question. “Don’t ask. It’s a long story involving ancient biblical relics and bullwhip-carrying archaeologists. So why are we going to Nevada?" Daniel asked.

Sam grinned in a mischievous way. "You like surprises?"

"Uh, not as much as other people do. I think I've had enough surprises to last a while".

"You'll like this one. Oh, and bring snacks. I don’t think they’ll serve us food on the plane."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AREA 51 HANGER

Area 51 housed the majority of technology brought back by the SG teams. Once the SGC had photographed, cataloged, inventoried and experimented with the items, Area 51 would be the recipient for further experimentation and more extensive backwards engineering. One of their latest and greatest "modified creations" was about to be revealed inside the hanger.

Doctor Larry Murphy hurried to greet his visitors the moment their arrival was announced. "Major...I thought you'd like to see the prototype as soon as it was completed."

The prototype took up the center of the bay, and it was a rather impressive sight. It was nothing less than a new spaceship ready for use.

Sam was suitably impressed. "Wow...you're way ahead of schedule."

“No, no, no, no, no,” Jack muttered as he climbed the metal stairway rising up to the cockpit, his limp much more noticeable than Daniel’s as he followed. Teal’c chose to inspect the underside of the craft, a glimmer of approval in his eyes. Sam and Doctor Murphy stood back and watched.

Jack slid into the pilot’s seat, wriggling his backside a bit to get comfortable and started looking over the controls.

Daniel watched for a moment before asking the obvious question any non-pilot would ask. “So, I take it this is impressive to everybody else as well?”

Doctor Murphy had been a long time admirer of Doctor Jackson even though they had never met or been introduced. He was famous among the non-military personnel working with the SGC. It wasn’t every person that could work so closely with such a military group and still retain his civilian-ness. “Yes, it is, sir. Thank you."

"Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no." Jack complained loudly again.

What? But it was impressive! Doctor Murphy knew not to directly confront an Air Force colonel, even if they had never been introduced, but he did say, “Uh, I'm sorry?"

Sam tried to smooth things over. "Doctor Larry Murphy...Colonel Jack O'Neill. This is Teal'c and this is Doctor Daniel Jackson. Daniel’s the one who convinced Jonas Quinn to let us have some samples of naquadria to study.”

Doctor Murphy waved at his guests. “Pleasure to meet you. I was allowed to read the mission report from Kelowna,” Murphy mumbled a bit, some bitterness in his voice that was unmistakable.

Sam couldn’t overlook the tone she heard in Murphy’s voice. She had to ask. “How is Jonas adjusting to life at Area 51?"

“Mister Quinn is adjusting well. He has an ability to speed-read and has read every book and periodical we have in our library. We have orders to let him have copies of every bit of research we do on Naquadria, and he’s turned out to be a very good reference manager in the records department."

“You’ve made him a librarian?” Sam asked.

“He’s very good at it,” Murphy added.

Jack spoke again, this time in a much louder voice. "In case there was some doubt about what I was just saying, I’m saying NO!"

Now what was the colonel talking about? “Um, I'm sorry, to what exactly?" Doctor Murphy asked.

"O'Neill believes you are going to request that we test fly this aircraft." Teal’c answered. He wasn’t eager to test fly another Tau’ri attempt at higher technology.

Murphy now understood why O’Neill kept uttering no. "Oh, yeah, uh, of course, sir. I wasn't around for it, but we're all quite familiar with your experience with the X-302's predecessor."

Jack glanced at Daniel standing above him, then through the cockpit window at the scientist. "Are you now? Really?"

"Well, sir, I can tell you that this - this is a very different ship," Murphy crowed loudly.

Sam, never intimidated by her commanding officer, explained. "Sir, the X-301 was a modified glider. Now, while many of the 302's systems were retro-engineered from Goa'uld technology, it is entirely human built."

"So was the Titanic," Jack reminded her. “Only took one big piece of ice to ruin her career.”

"Sir, this could be the most important breakthrough for Earth since the discovery of the Stargate," Sam protested.

Daniel turned toward Murphy and asked, “Why's that?"

“It's got four different sets of engines. Air breathing jets, modified aero spikes for high altitude and a rocket booster." Murphy was proud of his creation. Why shouldn’t he be? He had been the one to oversee every nut, bolt and screw that had been used to build that ship.

Daniel did a quick count. The numbers didn’t add up. "You said four, right?"

"The fourth engine is a hyperspace window generator," Sam told him.

Teal'c’s eyebrow went up about an inch. This was a new technology. "Even Goa'uld gliders are not capable of entering hyperspace."

“That's because they're too small to carry the Goa'uld version of the generator,” Sam pointed out.

“Yes,” Doctor Murphy agreed. “Ours are much more compact."

“Uh, not that I’m gonna understand a word of it, but how?” Jack asked them.

"Because of the naquadria, sir,” Sam said. “It creates a greater chemical reaction with a minute amount of the material thereby allowing us to utilize a smaller generator to initiate the reaction itself. If Daniel hadn’t convinced Jonas that we would keep our agreement to help develop shield technology using naquadria, we wouldn’t have been able to make all this a reality."

Doctor Murphy glanced at his paperwork. "It's still a few weeks away from a practical test, but all preliminary indications look good."

Sam nodded her head in full agreement. "If this performs the way it was designed to, the X-302 will be the first earth-built space craft capable of interstellar travel."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC - HAMMOND’S OFFICE

Hammond’s office had been the scene of every event known to the military - everything from acute insubordination to earth-saving treaty agreements. If the walls in that office could talk, what stories they could tell. At the moment, it was the scene of what could only be called an international request of absurdity.

Colonel Chekov stood proudly before the general’s desk, his posture straight, his medals displayed across his chest. He was determined to win the argument. "The deal made by our governments, General -- "

"I'm aware of every aspect of the arrangement, Colonel,” Hammond countered. “I’ve read the agreement, every word and paragraph. However, including a Russian officer in such circumstances is not covered in any article or clause.”

“General Hammond,” Chekov tried again, “SG-1 has been operating one-person short for three months. All attempts to replace Doctor Jackson have failed. Under -“

“Colonel, Doctor Jackson has been on medical leave since he suffered radiation poisoning on Kelowna. He is not dead nor is he being replaced. It is true that we’ve experienced some difficulty in finding personnel capable of performing his job, but his expertise is irreplaceable as I’m sure you well know. No one person has his skills. However, this is a moot point. He will be brought back to active duty in a few more weeks.”

“That is not a certainty, General,” Chekov said smugly. “Our doctors have explained to me that there is a very good chance that Doctor Jackson will suffer physical inefficiencies too great to be allowed on a front line team ever again.” Chekov took a deep breath, and then said, “General Hammond, I have the utmost respect for Doctor Jackson. For a civilian, his accomplishments are unparalleled, and I would in no way make any remark to diminish his contributions not only to your Stargate program but also to the continued safety of Earth itself.” Chekov changed tactics slightly. He had to remember to whom he was speaking. “Doctor Jackson will not be easily replaced. You have seen the difficulty in accomplishing this task, but the fact remains that SG-1 is not performing at full staff. The team needs a scientist, and the agreement between our two governments do allow for a Russian scientist to be included on a frontline team, and my government is formally requesting that a member of my command be included. In fact, I insist upon it.”

Luckily for Hammond, Jack walked by the door at that moment, saw Colonel Chekov and tried to make a prompt get-away, but the general knew opportunity knocking when he heard it. "Ah, Jack. Come in. Colonel, you remember Colonel Chekov, the Russian envoy to the SGC?"

Jack forced a somewhat civil answer past his lips. "We've, uh, met."

"Colonel Chekov feels that as a symbol of our joint efforts, a Russian officer should be assigned to join SG-1." Hammond stood by and waited for the fireworks to start.

It wasn’t a long wait. "Over my rotting corpse, sir."

Yes, thank you, Jack.

Unfortunately, a general had certain protocols he had to pretend to follow. "Colonel..."

"I'm sorry...did I say that out loud?" Jack at least had the presence of mind to try to add some humor in his tone of voice.

"Colonel Chekov has asked that I discuss it with you, and that I was sure you would give it some careful thought," Hammond told him.

"And that I will, General, but I'm still pretty sure I'll say...bite me." Jack still hadn’t lost his touch.

Hammond cleared his throat and said to Chekov, "Colonel, would you excuse us?"

Chekov picked up his hat and muttered a quiet, "General."

As Chekov left the run, Jack uttered a very quick "So sorry" to the departing back of the colonel.

Hammond motioned for Jack to sit down as he did the same himself.

"I'm sorry, sir,” Jack said. “You know I mean no disrespect toward you."

"I know, Jack,” Hammond said. Only this officer could get away with such behavior solely on the basis that the sarcasm was only a way to add humor to a very stressful job. “I probably should have reprimanded you in front of the Colonel, but I happen to agree with your sentiments in this case. Besides, I wouldn’t want to give him the satisfaction."

"Personally, sir, I do like having four people on my team, but who decided every team that goes through the gate has to have four people all the time?"

"No one says they do, but Doctor Jackson has always provided SG-1 with invaluable knowledge, linguistic skills and, in my opinion, a very beneficial viewpoint. He’s even convinced you that you’ve been wrong on several occasions, and I think his expertise and insight is one that is important enough to try to maintain at least the majority of the time."

"But not with a Russian!" Jack protested. “Besides, Daniel will be back on duty in a couple of weeks. I don’t want some Russian there for two or three missions and then run off to Moscow complaining about the fact that he gets kicked off because the best man for the job is back on the job.”

"I agree, but my patience is starting to wear thin on this matter. I think I've given you a great deal of latitude lately, given the situation. I know you’ve tried to keep the status quo by including a scientist, but all of them have failed. Captain Matheson came to me after two hours complaining that you’re impossible to work with given your attitude toward scientists and praising Doctor Jackson’s abilities to do so."

"Sir..."

"Jack, you're off the mission list anyway until that knee fully heals. Use the time to try and get some perspective. Find someone qualified you can work with until Doctor Jackson is cleared to go back off world. You know as well as I do that there is a chance he won’t be put back on full time active duty. His physical condition, although greatly improved, may not be adequate for a front line team. If this is the case, and I hope it isn’t, you’ll have to choose someone suitable. If nothing else, it will keep the Russians from forcing us to put one of their scientists on SG-1. I'll have all available personnel files forwarded to you. Dismissed."

"Yes, sir," Jack said as he stood and left.

Hammond pulled a piece of paper out from his desk drawer. It was a list of names Doctor Jackson had given him of personnel that might be able to work with Jack. With Hagman’s named crossed out, the list was getting definitely shorter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC SAM’S LABORATORY

Sam bent over her workbench, writing furiously in a notebook. The possibilities naquadria presented were almost limitless. Every new discovery led to more astounding revelations of the mineral. Naquada was remarkable, but it paled in comparison to naquadria. In some respects, naquadria amplified mineral properties to levels previously unthought of and unconsidered. The scientists were going to need more to experiment with, but even General Hammond had ordered that no further communication with Kelowna would be sought until the Kelownan government apologized. Their attempts to accuse Daniel of treachery for saving their lives while almost losing his own was dishonorable and cowardly. The general’s unexpected order was phrased more bluntly than anyone had heard before. For the first time since Sam had known the general, he was actually snarky.

The notebook was rapidly becoming full of scientific notations and equations. The more Sam wrote, the more ideas she developed. She was too involved in adding and subtracting that she didn’t hear a visitor enter.

“Hi, Sam,” Daniel said.

“Oh, Daniel, I’m sorry. I was working on some new ideas for naquadria. It’s amazing. Some of the properties are completely opposite to the laws of physics. Would you believe that the explosive power of one quarter ounce of Naquadria could be measured in megatons?”

“I’d believe it,” Daniel said as he sat down beside her. “It’s powerful stuff.” Daniel paged through another notebook, each page filled with numbers. “Do you think we should keep trying to find ways to use it or is it too powerful for us to deal with at our current level of technology?”

Sam reached out and took Daniel’s hand. She never stopped marveling at the fact that only three short months before, that hand had been in bloody tatters and unimaginable pain. “I think we need to understand its properties and know what it can do, but as far as cultivating it as a power source --“

“Not us, Sam,” Daniel said. “The NID wants it for their own purposes. The Tok’ra think we should hand it all over to them for safekeeping. The Asgard are warning us against using it in any way -- Sam, naquada’s one thing, but this is something so powerful even the Goa’uld couldn’t harness its abilities.”

“What about the X-302?” Sam asked. “If it performs according to plan -“

“If. That’s a big if.”

“We’re putting it through countless computer simulations -“

“Simulations which failed to tell you that the Stargates could only be reached once you account for stellar drift.”

Point and counterpoint. “Nothing’s full proof. All we can do is try.”

“Are you sharing your information with Jonas?” Daniel wanted to know.

“I’ve been ordered to give anything pertaining to the naquadria research to him. I fax or e-mail my information to Doctor Murphy and he gives it to Jonas. I have no personal contact with him.”

“What happened to me isn’t entirely his fault, Sam. I did jump into that lab knowing there was radiation in there.”

“Yes, and he cowered behind a corner and then went along with his government when they accused you of terrorism. I may appreciate the fact that he finally developed a spine and came here with the naquadria, but it was too little, too late. I don’t like him, but we’ve agreed to share our research so he can take naquadria shield technology back with him someday.” Sam wasn’t alone in her bitterness toward Jonas. Jack and Teal’c had repeatedly stated their opinions of the Kelownan. “He’s not physically working on the X-302. Doctor Murphy doesn’t trust him either but Area 51 is a much safer place for him.”

Safer. Daniel had heard the rumors, had overheard the remarks when he was recuperating in the infirmary. He had friends at the SGC, and these friends wanted revenge on what they thought was a cowardly act that almost cost Daniel his life. He and Jonas had gotten along, but only on an academic level. He was not someone who would have been prepared for what happened on a strange planet or on a battlefield. “By the way, whose idea was it to take me with you to Area 51?”

“Unanimous decision,” Sam told him. “How did your trip to Janet go afterwards?”

“She was pleased that I made the trip and didn’t get tired. She’s very happy with my progress.”

“Is that all she said?” Sam asked quickly.

“More or less. She said she has no doubts that I’ll be able to go back on active duty soon.”

That was wonderful news! “How soon?”

“She said that if all my test results stay this good, I’ll be going through the Stargate again by the end of next week.”

“Next week?” Jack’s voice echoed through the lab as he walked into the room. “You’re sure? Positive? And you’re not going to pull any more stunts like shooting through a window and touching radioactive thingamajiggies?”

“Yes, Jack. No more stunts like that. And all you have to do is find someone to go with SG-1 for the next few missions to keep the Russians from forcing you to take one of their people along - at least I’m assuming that’s why Colonel Chekov is here. Do you think you could manage to not intimidate any more of my department?”

“I don’t intimidate,” Jack protested. “I merely exert my authority on anyone tagging along with my team…” He stopped talking when the two scientists glared at him. “Hammond’s given me the personnel files of all the people you suggested. I’ll go over them later today and find someone. And I won’t intimidate them. Will that make you happy?”

“Absolutely. You really should choose a civilian.”

“No. You can be impossible enough to deal with, but I can deal with you. I don’t want to have to housebreak another civvy.”

Verbal attack! Sam sat back and watched.

“Housebreak?” Daniel repeated. “Excuse me, Colonel, but let’s remember who has convinced the other that he was wrong more times. I’m the gold medal holder of that event. You didn’t even qualify for the bronze.”

“Oh, yeah?” Jack sputtered. “Well, I was right when you thought Goa’uld ghosts wanted to take you as a host and it was just one of Machello’s little buggers.”

“You thought it was stress.”

Jack just stood there for a moment before saying, “Okay, we were both wrong on that one. But I’ve been right and you’ve been wrong plenty of times.”

“Name one,” Daniel challenged as he tried unsuccessfully to stop a grin.

Jack stood there again, thinking, then “Carter, tell him when I’ve been right.”

Sam just raised her hands in surrender and walked away. “Sorry, sir, I’m not getting involved in this one. You two can deal with this on your own.”

After she left the room, the two men just looked at each other. Finally, Jack said, “I’m heading for the commissary. Figured I might as well eat while I’m going over those personnel files. Why don’t you join me and we’ll find someone to substitute for you until next week?”

“I’m supposed to meet Teal’c in the gym for my daily workout. The physical therapists are thinking of letting Teal’c deal with more of their patients. It seems he can get people to do their therapy easier than the therapists can.”

“Yeah, one snarl and everyone jumps,” Jack said. “Okay, go for your daily torture session, then meet me in the commissary. Maybe I’ll have weeded out a few of them by the time you get there.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC GYM

The two combatants sparred easily, Part of Daniel’s therapy included moving around Teal’c while his friend stayed in one place. Movement helped retrain muscles and exercise helped them stay fit. Daniel was no longer exhausted after the workouts, but in the beginning…

A little over a month ago, Daniel couldn’t keep up the frenetic pace for more than a few minutes. Now, he held is own for the entire session. Janet would have to diagnose him as fit for duty and reinstate him on SG-1. That’s what he had worked so hard for.

That’s what his teammates had hoped for.

However, despite his strengthening abilities, Teal’c always insisted that Daniel wear the protective headgear. He didn’t want to take the chance of hurting Daniel when he was so close to overcoming the after-effects of the radiation.

“I do not understand why this has concerned you, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said as he easily deflected a hit. “You will be reinstated to SG-1. O’Neill’s decision to research the remaining scientists as a possible fourth for the team is merely an attempt to dissuade Colonel Chekov from pursuing his efforts to include a Russian on SG-1.”

“And if I don’t qualify for an off-world team? Teal’c, Janet may find one thing that keeps me grounded. If that happens, Jack will have to choose a new fourth. He’s hard enough on the military scientists, and he has absolutely no patience with civilians.”

Teal’c feinted with his right fist but tagged Daniel with his left. The momentum knocked Daniel down, but only for a moment. With little effort, Daniel stood up again.

“Neither O’Neill, Major Carter nor myself see your replacement as permanent.”

Daniel moved left, then quickly right and hit Teal’c with a left hook. “It’s a possibility. Jack needs to seriously look at the replacements in case…” He stopped talking for only a moment. “Teal’c, he trusts you. If you agree with me on this, I’d feel better about it.”

Again, Teal’c feinted with his right fist, but Daniel deflected the hit with the left.

“O’Neill trusts your opinion as well,” Teal’c said.

Daniel did a quick side step, swung his leg out in a circle, hooking Teal’c behind the knee and tripping him.

From his spot on the mat, Teal’c looked up at Daniel, completely surprised at the younger man’s inventiveness. It was the first time a Tau’ri, not under an alien influence, had bested him. Yet, despite that, he could see that Daniel was still concerned that he might never be allowed through the Stargate again. He finally said, "I do not believe that we have need to be concerned that you will not be pronounced medically fit to be reassigned to SG-1, but Doctor Fraiser has warned us that there may be reasons yet unconsidered that may keep you from being allowed to resume off-world duties. Also, Colonel Chekov’s continual requests to include one of his people may prove distracting. I will tell O’Neill that a fourth should be chosen now before General Hammond is forced to make the decision himself.”

“Teal’c – “

“Daniel Jackson, you will be reassigned to SG-1. I have no doubt of that fact.”

They were at an impasse. But… as long as Teal’c talked to Jack… “Good. I’m supposed to meet him in the commissary. Why don’t you join us?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC COMMISSARY

File folder number one…unacceptable.

File folder number two…who were they kidding?

File folder number three…couldn’t even speak ancient Egyptian.

File folder number four…was way too green.

File folder number five…six…seven…eight…

The commissary wasn’t the best place to study personnel files, but Jack was doing his part of Daniel’s therapy. It was his job to see that Daniel put back on every pound that he lost. Extra helpings of meat, seconds on dessert, chocolate…everything that could put weight back on Daniel’s bones was put in front of him, and he ate. His weight was better than it had been, in fact, it was almost normal, but he was still a little gaunt. That wouldn’t last long, not with Carter smuggling him cookies and the general making requests that 5th Avenue bars be kept in the vending machines at all times. Daniel would be back to normal weight soon, and then back on the team. No problem about that, it was the waiting for all that to

happen that was the hardest. Now, if Jack could just choose a “pretend fourth” to keep the Russians from the front door…

He glanced up as both Teal’c and Daniel joined him. Each had a tray laden with food.

“I take it those workouts make you hungry?” he asked.

“Indeed,” Teal’c said as he began eating. “Daniel Jackson has greatly improved. He did, in fact, knock me down.”

“You did?” Jack appraised Daniel with a questioning eye. “You weren’t wearing one of those armband things, were you?” That was when he noticed the amounts and types of food on Daniel’s tray. He had wisely chosen to not eat the meatloaf and had taken the roast instead - a generous portion of it, too. Three vegetables, some bread, fruits and two desserts. In fact, the amount of food on Daniel’s tray matched Teal’c’s.

That much food deserved a sarcastic comment. "Little snack?”

“I’m a little hungry,” Daniel told him. “How’s the search coming?”

Jack threw folder number nine onto the steadily growing pile. “I'm telling you, the universities of this great nation are getting a little lax in their admissions."

“Jack, just because you’re looking out of spite is no reason to start attacking the current academic standards.”

“Or lack thereof. If that little twerp would just…”

Teal'c stopped eating when Jack stopped talking. "To whom are you referring, O'Neill?"

“Chekov. This is all his fault.” Jack reached over to Daniel’s plate and grabbed a small handful of grapes. Not his favorite, but it irked Daniel when he stole off his plate. So, naturally, Jack did it every now and then. “His idea that we have to have a Russian on SG-1. I mean, I can be as diplomatic and open minded as anyone..."

Teal'c raised his eyebrow at that statement. Daniel stopped eating with a fork raised halfway to his lips.

“Well, I have been able to negotiate an agreement or two in my time, but we have Daniel. We don’t need some sociopolitical nerd to offset our overwhelming coolness."

Daniel didn’t say anything, but nudged Teal’c under the table.

"Have you considered that choosing a fourth from the ranks of the SGC may be a prudent move? If, in fact, Daniel Jackson is unable to return to SG-1, a permanent scientist may be required."

"Now I know you’ve been practicing, but I still can't tell -- is that a joke?"

“Your efforts to keep SG-1 intact are commendable, O’Neill. Daniel Jackson’s efforts to regain his position are equally astounding. However, the chance remains that he may be unable to return. Therefore, we must heed that warning and choose a potential new member wisely.”

Jack leaned toward Daniel. “Yeah, he’s been practicing.”

“Jack,” Daniel whispered, “he’s right. You can’t ignore the fact that Janet could ground me, and then Chekov could get one of his people on the team. You’ve got to take this seriously.”

“Look, even if that were to happen, which it won’t, I’m not sticking a permanent geek on the team. It’d take at least,” he picked up some of the folders, “at least five of these guys to do in one week what you can in one day. You stay on SG-1, no matter what, even if me, Carter and Teal’c have to go through the Stargate alone, we’ll handle things just fine.”

“Jack -“

“Besides, I don’t trust my back to just anybody. You know that.”

Before the argument could be carried further, the alarms began blaring. A loud voice spoke over the intercom. “Unscheduled incoming traveler."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CORRIDOR

The blaring alarms seemed to retreat in the background as Hammond escorted Brata’c into the corridor. There was a look of great concern in the older Jaffa's eyes. The report that Brata’c was there had spread rapidly, and all four member of SG-1 had rushed to greet him, all quietly hoping that it wasn't bad news, each knowing that it was.

Jack, as usual, got in the first word. "Hiya, Brata’c. What's up?"

Teal'c, as usual, was much less informal. "Teck mae te, Master Brata’c."

Brata’c, as usual, ignored O'Neill and addressed Teal'c. "I'm sorry I did not come sooner, Teal'c. Drey'ac is very ill. Gravely so."

No.

Teal'c couldn't speak. He didn't have to.

Hammond didn't miss a moment. "Go, Teal'c. There's no need to ask."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC ELEVATOR

The elevator doors opened on Level 28. Sam and Daniel entered silently; each entrenched in their own thoughts. Sam didn't ask which floor; she just pushed the button for the level Daniel's office was on. They waited until the doors closed before speaking.

Daniel was the first to break the silence. "The only time a Jaffa gets gravely ill is when they've lost their symbiote."

"I know," Sam agreed. "And I don't believe that the rebel Jaffa have any young symbiotes as replacements."

"That was one problem we never solved." Daniel himself had mentioned the possibility of problems when the Jaffa would require new primtas. No one had solved it. "Rya’c will need a new symbiote before Teal'c will. Maybe we can get the Tok'ra to find new ones?"

"They didn't want to help before. I wouldn't count on changing their minds now."

"Despite the fact that we've helped them out time and again, they still want to act like they don't need our help until it suits them. And when we need their help, they're always busy."

"It seems that way, doesn't it," Sam smiled.

"It hurts to lose someone you love."

Sam looked at her friend. 2 years or 20 years or even 200 years wouldn't change the loss Daniel felt over losing Sha'uri. Every now and then, Sam would see Daniel gazing at Sha'uri's picture, remembering, longing, grieving. "Maybe it won't come to that," she said. "Maybe they can find a new symbiote in time."

"Maybe. Maybe we're wrong and it's not the symbiote?"

"We can hope so. But you're pretty good at reading situations and people."

The elevator doors opened, and the two stepped out. Not long before, the corridor seemed like an interminably long obstacle course to Daniel. He couldn't walk its length without becoming winded and exhausted. Now, he felt like he could run from the base of the mountain to the pinnacle itself.

When they saw Colonel Chekov walking down the corridor towards them, Daniel truly felt that running from base to pinnacle was the preferred option.

Colonel Chekov stormed toward them. "Major! Why was I not informed about the X-302?"

"Speaking of reading situations," Daniel repeated, "but I get the distinct impression that this man is upset."

Sam nodded while she tried to suppress a smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GENERAL HAMMOND'S OFFICE

Colonel Chekov was not a happy camper, not in any sense of the words. Righteous indignation, at times, could be a powerful weapon. In this instance, the Colonel looked almost comical, much to the delight of the spectators.

Hammond tried to be patient. Very patient. "How did you find out about the X-302, Colonel?"

The colonel remained indignant. "That is not the issue, General. Article 3-A clearly states--."

"The X-302 has nothing to do with the Stargate," Hammond quickly interrupted.

"Doesn't it?" Colonel Chekov argued. "The naquadria used to power the hyperspace window generator was procured through the Stargate. Therefore, any technological or scientific information is covered by the agreement."

"Colonel, are you suggesting that I would willfully disregard a duly constituted and agreed-upon arrangement between our two governments and knowingly keep any Stargate related information from you?"

"I am merely stating that the X-302 and the naquadria are technologies gained by use of the Stargate and are covered by the arrangement. Why were we not informed of these developments?"

"Colonel, I am not going to argue this point with you. The agreement has been --"

The general was interrupted by a new cacophony of blaring alarms.

"We're popular today," Jack commented. "Now what?"

Hammond didn't care what it was. "I'll take anything over this..."

As Hammond, Sam and Jack left the office, Colonel Chekov glanced at Daniel. The archaeologist shrugged his shoulders and said, "It gets very busy around here at times." Leaving the sputtering colonel behind him, Daniel followed his friends. The general was right. He'd take anything over this.

He walked toward the console and heard Hammond ask, "What's going on, Sergeant?"

Davis kept looking at the controls, reading the gauges. "I don't know, sir. We have an incoming wormhole, but nothing's coming through."

"Nothing?" Jack asked. "No transmission? No greeting card? Nothing?"

Sam double-checked the readouts. "Apparently nothing," she said. "No matter or frequencies detected."

"So, nothing?"

"So it would seem."

"I hate it when things like this happen," Jack said.

Daniel glanced over Sam's shoulder. "If the gate's functioning properly and we're definitely looking at an incoming wormhole, this means trouble."

"Only if nothing is incoming," Hammond reminded everyone. "Sergeant, anything from Deep Space Watch?"

Sergeant Davis checked another monitor. "No, sir. Skies and space are clear."

The wormhole remained open. Sam checked another gauge. "This doesn't make any sense. In order to keep a wormhole open, you have to send something through...a radio signal, anything. We're getting nothing."

Hammond sighed. First Chekov, now this. It wasn't a good day. "Figure it out, Major. I'll call the President."

"Yes, sir," Sam said as Hammond returned to his office, passing Chekov as he left.

Chekov glared at the three-team members. He seemed extraordinarily angry.

"Don't look at us," Jack said. "We've got nothing."

Taking that as his cue to leave, Jack gave Daniel a little nudge and followed him out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

Brata’c led Teal'c quickly through the Jaffa camp. Some paid scant notice of them, others watched intently as they sped across the grounds. One Jaffa in particular moved past Teal'c, brushing into him as he passed, no apology for the affront. In his hurry, Teal'c noticed the sparse conditions, the less-than-full cooking pots, the rugged look of the camp. Ordinarily, he would have placed these concerns first in priority, but the need to get to his wife was paramount.

They stopped in front a tent, serviceable if nothing else. "As you see, conditions are harsh, but they have been safe here."

Teal'c looked back at the camp. "They must be moved to the new outpost built by the Tau'ri. All Jaffa who support our cause are welcome there."

"Drey'ac is unable to be moved now."

Her condition was that serious? "Why did you wait?"

"She would not leave. As it is, I brought you here against her wishes."

Teal'c knew his wife, knew her stubbornness. It was one of the characteristics he admired about her. "She has always been proud."

"This, I know. She refused to accept a new symbiote."

Refused? Drey'ac wasn't that proud, was she? "Was one procured?"

"No. She did not wish us to sacrifice the life of another Jaffa to save her own, even one who still foolishly worships the false gods. We would all chose the same fate."

"You would choose this to be your fate? In the past --"

"We no longer live in the past, my friend. The dissent we have bred has brought many changes. The Goa'uld are finding new means to sustain their young. They no longer trust the Jaffa priests with the symbiotes as they once did."

A boy emerged from the tent. Rya'c, growing quickly into a young man, stood before Teal'c, angry and rebellious, eyes saddened by sorrow.

Teal'c stepped forward and tried to lend comfort to his son. "Rya'c --."

"You dare show your face here? She is dead! Because of you!" He fled from his father’s sight or, more likely, placing his father out of his sight.

Teal’c stood by silently, his son’s words ringing in his mind. She is dead! Because of you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC BRIEFING ROOM

Hammond sat at the head of the table, the command crew almost intact. Despite the current crisis, Hammond was relieved to see Doctor Jackson in his usual spot, beside Colonel O’Neill. The last time all of SG-1 was around the table, it was to discuss another replacement for Doctor Jackson. Was it the fourth or the fifth? Regardless, Doctor Jackson had lasted ten minutes before exhaustion completely overtook him and Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c had to help him back to his on-base quarters to rest. Now, Daniel sat there, very lively and awake, O’Neill still firmly remaining by his side.

It was good to see.

Now, to the task at hand. “Major, could it be a malfunction?”

Sam had considered the possibility, but the facts didn’t bear it out. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a malfunction though. "It's possible, sir, but highly unlikely. Chances are somebody dialed Earth from an off-world gate."

"Wrong number?" Jack asked.

“I honestly don’t know, sir. Normally, the gate shuts down automatically after a short period of time if nothing's entering the event horizon from the out-going location. In this case, it’s remaining open despite the fact that nothing’s coming through."

They already knew that much. Jack asked the obvious question. "Great. So what do we do?"

"We wait. To my knowledge, no one's been able to sustain a wormhole for longer than 38 minutes."

“Unless someone learned how,” Daniel pointed out. “Given the way the Goa’uld have been scrambling to find new ways to defend themselves against Anubis, maybe someone’s found a new weapon.”

“That’s a very good possibility,” Hammond said, agreeing readily. “Our last transmission from the Tok’ra did indicate that some Goa’uld have built secret bases unknown to the System Lords. It would follow that at least one would wish to attack Earth in some manner.” But how to deal with the possibility if, indeed, it was the one they were facing? “Major, could whoever's behind this redial our gate repeatedly just to keep us from using it?"

Sam shook her head. “We’ve programmed the computer to dial the Alpha site immediately after the incoming wormhole expires. While our wormhole is activated, we'll be able to warn our off-world teams and hopefully contact someone who can help."

The four of them watched the countdown as it approached the thirty-eight minute window, reach it, pass it…

Glancing at the Stargate, Hammond said, "It's still active."

Sam briefly remembered the countdown passing thirty-eight minutes when General Bauer’s experiment had gone so terribly wrong. "Thirty eight minutes, give or take a few seconds, sir."

Jack turns to watch the clock again for several seconds. “Carter, we just hit thirty nine minutes and the clock’s still ticking. How many is a few?”

“Now we have a problem,” she told him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

Teal’c slowly entered the tent that was draped in the funerary rites of a passed Jaffa. The burial candles were burning around his wife’s cloth-draped body. He carefully removed the cloth that covered her face and gazed upon her one last time.

Drey’ac’s spirit was what drew Teal’c to her at first. She was brave and intelligent, stubborn and spirited. She had never openly questioned the Goa’uld, but in her heart had wondered about them. Until Teal’c had turned shol’va, she had remained quiet. Then she had embraced the rebel life as surely as one born to it. She had once told Teal’c that the age of the Goa’uld domination over the Jaffa was ending, and she would be one of the warriors to see that day.

It was a promise now never to be kept.

Teal’c leaned over his wife and kissed her forehead one last time, then replaced the cloth. He reflected on the fact that they had spent more time apart than together during their life together, but it was the Jaffa way. Now, he would have no chance to redeem himself for his absences.

He could no longer be Drey’ac’s husband, but he was still Rya’c’s father. Now, his son needed him.

~~~

Rya’c refused to look up when he heard Teal’c approaching. He simply sat on the fallen log, repeatedly hitting the ground with a staff weapon. It was a simple way to beat out his frustration, but it did little to alleviate it.

Finally, he could no longer ignore his father’s presence. “She believed in you. She believed enough to take up the fight you’ve chosen.”

“As have you,” Teal’c said, his voice patient and steady.

“How long will it be? How long are we to live like this? Are we all to die as she did?”

“We fight to free our people and destroy the Goa’uld. The task is a long and arduous one, but one in which your mother and I believed. The Tau’ri have shown many that the Goa’uld may be defeated.”

“Defeated? Father, we carry symbiotes within us. Without them, we will die. We will always be enslaved to them.”

Teal'c took a step closer to his son. "We will find a way to be free. The day will come when no Jaffa will have need of the symbiotes."

Rya'c stood quickly, dropping the staff weapon, turned and faced his father. He grew angrier by the moment, his hands clenched into fists.

“The day will come, Father? My mother will never see that day or know this freedom of which you speak. She believed she had no choice but to die. You brought this upon her. You chose such a death for the both of us."

Moving quickly, Rya'c took hold of the staff weapon lying on the ground and pointed it directly at Teal’c’s chest. “I am a warrior. As any warrior would, I choose to avenge her death.” With a small flick of his thumb, he activated the weapon.

Without flinching, without hesitation, without fear, Teal’c said simply, “Everything I have done, I did for you and your mother and our people. I am proud of the small service I have been to the Jaffa by fighting the Goa’uld.”

"Then I am ashamed to be called your son. You have done nothing but bring pain and misery and false hope to countless Jaffa."

Teal’c had seen such anger before, just never in his son and never directed at him. Not even when Apophis had brainwashed the boy. "I have done what I believed was right to free our people although many of these actions should be unforgivable by others. I have killed one human to protect a village. I placed my friends in danger when claiming revenge on a Goa’uld. My staff weapon took Daniel Jackson’s wife from him, and that is a guilt I must carry until the end of my life. My hope that a Goa’uld can turn from evil assisted in the death of an old friend at the hands of that Goa’uld. Your mother chose her course as I have chosen mine, and she was a much stronger person than I am. She chose not to steal another Jaffa’s life from them by taking their symbiote for her own. I do not believe that I would have such strength. If you hold me to blame for your mother’s death, then fire your weapon."

Rya’c hesitated, and then swung the staff weapon around, hitting Teal’c repeatedly. Across the face, in the stomach. Again and again.

Teal’c understood the anger and the fear. He let Rya’c expend his sadness on him in such a way, and he knew it was all he could do. In a way, he felt he deserved it. He had let another person down by his actions. Absolution would not come by violence, but by patience and understanding. He hoped he could make Rya’c understand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

The numbers just weren’t right. Something was definitely wrong.

Lieutenant Simmons rechecked the numbers…. and rechecked them again. This just wasn’t right. He was about to call Major Carter when she walked into the control room. Finally. Here was someone who could make sense out of the unusual figures. "Major, I’ve got something strange here. The sensors are detecting a rise in the power being retained by the internal capacitors.

It’s measuring .1%."

Sam didn’t see a problem with that fact despite the fact that it had to do with their ever-open wormhole. "I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, Lieutenant. An open wormhole’s values can fluctuate by that much.”

“But they’ve remained steady by that amount for the last 12 minutes.”

Steady? Fluctuations weren’t steady. That was the meaning of the word fluctuation. "Switch to diagnostic screen four."

Lieutenant Simmons checked the readings again, cross referencing them with a graph. "They’re normal. No incoming energy readings."

"Increase sensitivity by 50%."

More blips appeared on the computer graph. Then, one small blip showed up, a few moments passed, showed up again.

"What was that?" Sam asked.

Simmons didn’t know. "Could it be interference in the line between the gate and the computer?"

"I don’t think so,” Sam said as she watched the graph. The blip came and went again. “There it is again. Increase sensitivity by 200%."

Were they spinning their wheels? "Major, that's well within the accepted margin of error for the sensors."

"I know. Try it anyway." Simmons may have found something significant.

The pattern of blips became a repetitive pattern. It wasn’t an accident.

“Major? Do you think this is anything important?”

Sam knew they had found something. "I admit it's a pretty small anomaly, but it could be contributing to the power build up in the Gate."

"But --"

"Lieutenant, errors are random. Whatever this is has a distinct pattern."

"Meaning it’s no error, right?" Simmons asked.

“Right.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

Rya’c continued pummeling Teal’c in his rage, but Teal’c refused to stop him. He would allow his son to use him for a punching bag if it helped him deal with the grief.

Finally, one hit knocked Teal’c off his feet, and he shakily stood.

Rya’c was furious. “Fight me! Or do you think me an unworthy opponent?”

Before Rya’c could swing the staff weapon again, Brata’c appeared and grabbed the staff weapon from the boy’s hands. “You should be glad he does not fight you. If he did, he would snap you in half. You have become skilled, Rya'c, but a true Jaffa warrior does not let grief cloud his judgment."

The young man eyed the elder Jaffa angrily. "I choose my opponent as foolishly as he chose his."

Brata’c allowed the outburst but calmly saying, "Teal'c did not choose your mother's fate any more than he chose his own. Opportunity chooses when to assert itself in our lives, and we must either meet the occasion or allow it to pass us by. Your father did not choose foolishly. We are all victims of the Goa'uld, and we must not allow that state to exist."

The rebuff was polite, but it was in error. Teal'c said lowly, "No, Master Brata’c, Rya'c is correct. I have failed both him and his mother."

Brata’c looked at his old friend and former student. Self-indulgence was not one of Teal’c’s characteristics. "Teal’c, the boy passes judgment without having fought a single battle. Once he has stepped onto the battlefield, he will learn that fighting a war that appears unwinable does not make one’s cause less noble."

Rya’c felt he knew enough without having killed anyone. "My mother is dead because he chose this for us. He cares more for dying than for his own flesh and blood!"

"Young one, so must all Jaffa if any of us are ever to taste freedom. Many will die before we can shed the yoke of enslavement by the Goa’uld."

Brata’c gently took Rya’c’s shoulder and pushed him back towards camp. Teal’c stared after him, wondering how he would ever make up his transgressions to his son.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

Daniel was disobeying Janet’s orders to rest, but he didn’t care. He was too interested in what was going on with the Stargate, and that was something he hadn’t felt in a while. For the last month, he’d performed his job, sometimes slowly, trying to get back up to speed but hadn’t felt like he was completely connected to the goings-on around him. Jacob had told him that it was all after-effects of the radiation, and he would get through it. Lately, he had felt differently. He had regained an interest in his work and in his life. So interested, in fact, that he was going to the control room more to be a part of what was going on. However, Janet had cautioned his team and General Hammond to not let him overwork himself, so it was no surprise when Jack had subtly but forcefully pointed him to a chair, so Daniel sat.

Sam pointed out the blips on the monitors to her audience. "We've detected an energy build-up within the Gate itself. The source is being transmitted through the incoming wormhole.”

“It didn’t set off any alarms?” Jack asked.

“No, sir. We didn't notice it before because our sensors aren't calibrated to measure something this small."

"The iris appears to be holding,” Hammond pointed out.

"Yes, sir, it is,” Sam agreed quickly. “The readings indicate that the iris may be slowing the energy transfer significantly but not stopping it completely."

“Oooookay,” Jack said hedgingly. “That doesn't sound so bad."

"Actually, sir, it is. The Stargate itself is one giant superconductor capable of absorbing huge amounts of energy. If that capacity is eventually exceeded, the naquada that the Stargate is made up of will become charged and will eventually explode."

Gloom and doom. It all sounded familiar. "How long might that take?" Daniel inquired.

"Maybe a few days. Maybe less. The computer is calculating the time right now.”

Jack glanced over at Daniel and said, “We might not have to go through those personnel files after all.”

"Is there any good news?" Hammond wanted to know.

“Major?” Lieutenant Davis approached and handed her a printout. Sam studied the numbers for a moment, and then said, “No, sir. In fact, it’s just gone from bad to worse. If the amount of energy being transferred to the Stargate remains constant, the resulting explosion will be a blast equivalent to two to three megatons.

“That’s enough to take out Colorado,” Daniel muttered loudly.

That wasn’t all. Sam put down the printout and sat next to Daniel. “It’s worse than that. The resulting environmental effects could destroy all life on Earth."

Just when you thought it was safe to get out of bed in the morning…

“Any more bad news?” Jack really didn’t want to know, but someone had to ask.

"We have no idea how to stop it."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

The funeral pyre stood in the center of the circle of Jaffa, all present to pay final homage to one of their own. Drey’ac, fighter, warrior, Jaffa. The funeral pyre was the final act of respect given to a fallen comrade.

Teal’c walked toward the pyre, torch in hand. It was not just another warrior he was honoring. This was his wife, the mother of his son, the woman who had borne his absences and stayed by his side all those long years. This was the woman who believed as he did. This was the individual he had fought to give a good life free of the Goa’uld. He alone knew the sorrow in his heart, but he would bear that sorrow alone. A Jaffa did not show his grief, but instead mourned in solitude. His time with the Tau’ri had changed his outlook in grieving. At times, he had seen O’Neill grieve for his lost son. More than once, he had seen Daniel Jackson’s anguish over the loss of his wife, a heartache brought about by Teal’c’s actions. It was an unending emptiness.

Teal’c placed the torch into the pyre and began uttering the funerary words. "Shal mak. shal assah."

As the flames reached up to claim Drey’ac’s body, Teal’c could see his son through the smoke. He was standing beside Brata’c, trying to retain a stoic visage but the tears came nonetheless. The moment their eyes met, Rya’c turned and left the crowd. Teal’c, knowing that Rya’c needed his father even if he was too proud to say so, tried to follow but was stopped by Brata’c.

“His mother has died. He needs time

to mourn.”

"He has grown to hate me," Teal’c concluded. What other explanation was there for Rya’c’s hostility?

The elder Jaffa knew better. "He does not hate you, nor does he truly believe our cause is futile. Drey'ac would not allow such thoughts. She taught him to believe in the same freedom as his father."

"Then why does he speak as he does?”

"It is self-doubt. Since the day Apophis clouded his mind, he has believed it weak. He does not think himself worthy to be called a Jaffa if he is not strong enough to resist a false god."

"It is not true," Teal’c protested. “The Goa’uld have means of destroying the strongest minds. Rya’c was not at fault.”

"No, my friend, but you were no different at his age. After the death of your father at the hands of Chronos, fear almost consumed you. Fear of failing to earn retribution for your father, fear of not being considered a Jaffa because your father was murdered. Like Rya'c, it was desire for vengeance that gave you strength."

"Rya'c misplaces his blame," Teal’c stated quietly.

"He directs his malice toward you because he believes you doubt him as much as he doubts himself."

Teal’c’s eyes widened at Brata’c’s comment. "Why would he believe such a thing?"

"Because you are his father, and you have not told him otherwise."

Together, both Jaffa turned back to watch the pyre burn. It was the moment of finality and closure that all funerals try to allow those left behind. In that moment, Teal’c knew what he must do to help his son, and silently promised Drey’ac that he would do whatever necessary to protect Rya’c.

~~~

Nighttime was a time to rest, but the occasional restless soul would find their way into the darkness. Sitting by the Stargate, Rya’c had nothing but his thoughts to keep him company but was soon joined by his father.

For a short time, they remained quiet, each barely acknowledging the other, then Teal’c broke the silence.

"Not long ago, I was captured in battle, and Apophis took control of my mind. He made me believe that I was once again his First Prime, loyal only to him, believing him to be a god. I betrayed my friends who had trusted me with their lives. Regardless, once we escaped from Apophis, they returned me to Earth and contacted Brata’c. Were it not for the Rite of Malshoran, I would have died believing that Apophis was my god.”

Rya’c was listening, but he didn’t move. Not yet.

“I found it difficult to trust myself afterwards, but my friends did not. We had undergone such a test once before. Daniel Jackson had a similar experience three years ago. He was killed during an escape from a naquada mine. Our captors placed him in a sarcophagus to heal him, but what was not known to us at the time was the detrimental effects a sarcophagus can have on someone. It changed him, and Daniel Jackson is one of the strongest individuals I have had the honor to call friend. He mistrusted himself afterwards, but it was unwarranted. What happened to him was not his fault nor was he to blame for what resulted. He did not seek reassurances from us, but we gave it nonetheless. We still trusted him. After my ordeal with Apophis, my friends still trusted me because what happened was not my fault and I fought to regain control of myself.”

Rya’c looked up at his father, seeing perhaps for the first time that his father wasn’t a paragon of strength, that he had faults just as any other.

“Whether you believe in me or what I have chosen to do does not change the fact that I have never doubted your heart, Rya'c. You need never win back my trust, my son, for you have never lost it."

Rya’c couldn’t resist any longer. He may have been a warrior in training, but there was still the boy that needed his father. He placed his arm around Teal’c who drew him in for a hug.

It was a beginning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CORRIDOR

Didn’t someone somewhere say life was nothing more than controlled chaos?

Well, whoever it was had to have been assigned to the SGC because there had never been a truer word spoken. The news that the Stargate could explode didn’t stay a secret, not with the base grapevine in good working order. The news that they were facing impending disaster didn’t phase anyone either. It was a case of been there, done that for all of them.

Daniel was rushing back to the control room, a cup of tea in his hand, noticing as he did that his limp was almost gone. That was a very good sign. If he made a 100% recovery, he’d be back on SG-1…if there were an SG-1 to go back to. If they didn’t stop the Stargate from exploding…

“Sir?” Lieutenant Simmons caught up with Daniel, his eyes betraying his concern. “Mind if I ask you something?”

“Uh, no. What is it?”

“Well, sir, you work more closely with Major Carter than I do, so maybe she’s explained what she’s doing to you.”

“She’s told me some of it.” Daniel told him. “What are you curious about?”

“Why aren’t we cutting all power to the Stargate? Wouldn’t that help slow down the energy absorption?”

“Uh, no. It wouldn’t do any good. Wormholes draw their energy from the initiating source. We could shut down the entire mountain, and we’d still have the same problem. Besides, we still have to monitor the gate through the feedback system, and if we shut down the power, we couldn’t do that.”

“Major Carter said that?”

“That’s what she said.”

“Oh,” and Lieutenant Simmons went on his way. The young man still had a crush on Sam. Daniel could easily see that.

He entered the control room, and sure enough, the chaos was there, and Sam was in the middle of it. Daniel didn’t say anything to distract them. He just placed the cup of tea in Sam’s hand, accepted her smile as a thank you and stepped back to see what was going on.

Sergeant Siler and several other technicians were in the gate room setting up equipment. Daniel heard Siler’s voice over the intercom say “No, we can’t use the Russian Gate. You can’t dial out if there’s already a wormhole in this one.”

“Sheesh, that sucks,” the other technician said. “There’s no way to force this one shut?”

“Not without destroying whatever’s started it at the other end.”

That didn’t sound encouraging either.

Daniel’s attention wandered back to Sam and the scientists working with her when a movement off to the side caught his attention. A new individual entered the room, an interesting addition to the mix of scientists already there. Daniel saw Jack in Hammond’s office and motioned for him to look.

Jack’s head peeked around the door, saw the new individual, grabbed Daniel’s arm and pulled him into Hammond’s office. “I think we should stay out of the line of fire,” he whispered. “It’s safer in here.”

~~~

Sam had no idea what new threat was about to befall her. She remained focused on the monitors and numbers being generated by the computer.

“Energy build up has reached 18%,” one of the scientists told her.

Sam thought again. There had to be a way. Muttering out loud, she said, "There has to be a way to drain the capacitors --"

"Still as sexy as ever, I see."

No. Not that voice. Not that person. Not here. Not now. Sam turned and saw her own thorn-in-her-backside McKay walk into the room.

"What are you doing here?" Truthfully, she didn’t want to know. She had other things to worry about, not the sanctimonious know-it-allism of this so-called physicist.

"Well, there's no point in building naquada reactors for Russia if there isn't going to be a Russia, is there? There I was, minding my own business, watching the Russian version of Wheel Of Fortune when I got a first class ticket back on the classiest plane leaving Siberia. Basically, the Pentagon thought you might need some help."

"Not from you," Sam stated boldly. No, she really didn’t need help from him. Where was Daniel? He could talk to McKay and keep him out of her hair for a while.

"Oh, Okay. No problem. If you don’t need me, then I'll get a coffee and a doughnut and wait for the big bang. If you change your mind, I’ll be in the commissary.”

"That's just what I needed," Sam complained loudly as McKay disappeared from sight. That’s when she noticed that they had been observed by Daniel and Jack from the general’s office. Those two little so-and-sos…

The phone beside her rang, distracting her from thoughts of how she was going to get even with those two. She picked up the receiver and said, “Carter.”

Then she listened. It was good news.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HAMMOND’S OFFICE

Hammond didn’t like Colonel Chekov any more than Jack did. In fact, if the situation weren’t so dire, he would have been happy to personally kick him out of the SGC. Instead, he kept his temper in check like a good little general and agreed to another of the Colonel’s requests for a formal meeting. Hammond also told O’Neill that he might be needed in his office during the “discussion” and to herd Doctor Jackson in with them the moment he returned to the Control Room. Chekov may not like most of the personnel at the SGC, but Hammond was going to use the grudging respect the Russian colonel had for Doctor Jackson to its full advantage. Hammond believed that the respect stemmed from the fact that Chekov had received a phone call once, answered in Russian and was unaware that Daniel spoke the language fluently. It had been a private conversation concerning classified government reports, and Daniel had refused to repeat any of it. That alone had earned him a modicum of trust from the Russian attaché even if that attaché was interested in replacing the man he respected with a member of his own command. He even adopted a less abrasive tone when speaking to Daniel, and that was reason enough to have Doctor Jackson around at all times to help “diffuse” situations.

The fact that the colonel stormed into Hammond’s office without knocking a few minutes after Jack pulled Daniel in there didn’t win him any points with George either. In fact, the general stared at Chekov and waited for him to apologize, when he never did.

At the moment, Colonel Chekov was complaining about certain facts the SGC had no control over. "General, This situation is intolerable. My government is unable to use our Stargate at all. We have teams off world at this moment that must be able to return home.”

“So do we, Colonel,” the general said patiently. “In fact, I have seven teams off world at this moment, none of whom can contact us and may be stranded off world permanently if they can’t find another way home. I understand your frustration, but we’re facing a more major crisis at the moment than just having teams stranded on other planets.”

“Why have you not shut down your gate manually?”

Hammond glanced at Daniel, a silent plea to help.

“Colonel,” Daniel’s voice said diplomatically, “we’re trying everything we can to do just that. We’ve got a team of scientists working around the clock, but this is a unique situation, one neither of our scientists have encountered before. Right now, your lead scientists are in direct contact with ours trying to resolve the problem, and even Doctor McKay has offered his services.”

“Doctor McKay is a very astute physicist,” Chekov said, “but he is not under my command. He is merely a concession made to us as a means to use our DHD to regain your lost comrade.”

“True,” Daniel agreed, “but no one wants to see this planet destroyed under any circumstances regardless of whose command they’re under.”

Chekov nodded his head. “However, even this situation wouldn't be a problem if you had a working alien ship."

Jack had had enough. Jumping to his feet, favoring his bad knee as he did so, he remembered that he was in the general’s office and needed to at least try to remain some air of civility. Courtesy. Respect for authority…aw, hell…"Hey! We didn't wreck it. The Goa'uld did. And we barely escaped with our lives. Thank you."

Chekov waved a dismissing hand.

“Any of my teams would not have lost control of the situation.”

“No, they would have just taken one of their little poison pills.”

Chekov turned back to the Hammond, ignoring the fight Jack was trying to pick. “General, what good is being a part of this so-called Protected Planets Treaty if you can't even reach any of our allies when we're being attacked?"

“Do you have any idea how expensive long distance is these days?” Jack piped in.

Before Hammond could say anything, Sam walked into the office, interrupting whatever was about to be said next. "Excuse me, sirs. I just got off the phone with Doctor Murphy at Area 51. He says he can have the X-302 ready to go in six hours."

“And this is important…. how?” Jack asked.

“Transgalactic flight, sir,” Carter reminded him. “Since we can’t dial out from here to contact the Asgard - “

“So you fly someplace where you can,” Daniel finished for her.

“Exactly.” Sam wasn’t so engrossed in the problem at hand to realize that Daniel finished her sentence for her - how long had it been since he’d done that?

“Okay, whoa.” Jack really didn’t like where the conversation was going since he knew something was about to head straight for him. "I thought it was weeks away from a flight test."

"It was, sir,” Sam explained, “but given the circumstances, I asked Doctor Murphy to put the X-302 on priority and have it flight-capable as soon as possible. Area 51 is aware of what’s happening and every scientist there is focused on completing it. Even Jonas Quinn assisted with the final computations for the naquadria interface. In all honesty, sir, we've tried everything else we can think of that might have had some degree of success under normal circumstances. We’re out of ideas. Our only chance may be to contact the Asgard.”

“Actually, we were just discussing that,” Daniel told her.

Sam suspected as much. “I'd like to volunteer, sir."

Hammond reached over to pick up the phone as Jack also volunteered. “I'll go too, sir."

"Are you sure you’re physically capable to attempt such a mission, Colonel?"

"Yes, sir. Flying a ship is done from the seated position.”

"I'll have a transport prepped. Be ready in 20 minutes."

“Yes, sir,” both officers said. Just as they were about to leave, Jack leaned toward Daniel and asked, “Want to tag along?”

“You know, the last time I got on a plane with you, I had to parachute out. I think I’ll pass this time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

The appearance of a cargo ship landing near their camp had long ceased to be a cause for any alarm. It was the look on the face of the disembarking Jaffa that caused the concern.

Shakrel, an old friend of Teal’c’s rushed toward the waiting group. “Teal’c, it is good to see you.”

Teal’c grasped his friend’s forearm in the warrior handshake. “It has been too long, old friend. I trust you are well.”

“I am. It is fortunate that you are here. I have brought word to Master Brata’c so that he might warn you if you were not on the First World.”

“Warn me of what?”

Shakrel’s expression didn’t change. “The Tau’ri are under attack by Anubis. He has a new weapon and is attempting to destroy their Chappa’ai.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AREA 51 HANGAR

Back again. “Didn’t we just leave here?” Jack asked himself as he followed Sam and Doctor Murphy toward the X-302. They were wearing uncomfortable flight suits, the kind that didn’t fit well in the right places and were too loose in the wrong places and were too tight in places you never thought about. He really hated the things.

Doctor Murphy was flipping through papers as they walked. “Were you briefed on the way here?”

“Briefly,” Jack said.

“You’re target destination is Abydos since it’s the closest planet to us in the network. Oh, you do know that the computerized simulations for opening a hyperspace window were configured to outer-atmosphere jumps, right?”

Jack didn’t know how to answer that

one. Instead he just looked at his second-in-command. “Carter? Translation?”

“We have to leave the atmosphere to initiate the hyperspace jump, sir.”

“We have to leave the ground first, right?”

Doctor Murphy gazed at his pride and joy. “It’ll fly, Colonel. I’d bet my life on it.”

"Really? Wanna come with us?"

“Uh, no, sir. I’m needed here.”

“Of course you are,” Jack answered.

“Anyway,” Murphy continued, “once you emerge from hyperspace, you’ll be traveling at an incredible rate of speed. You can’t just stop. You’ll have to slow down first.”

“We’ll be traveling at ludicrous speed?” Jack asked.

Murphy didn’t catch the joke, but kept on talking. “If you slow down too fast, the g-forces could crush you, so go easy on the braking thrusters.”

“Right,” Jack said. “Slow down too fast, g-forces flatten us like pancakes. Don’t slow down fast enough, and we crash into Abydos and …”

“Yes, sir, Colonel,” Murphy said. “Flatter than a pancake.”

“Thank you, Doctor. You’re a comfort, you know that?”

“By the way, we’ve called the ship the Abydos One since that’s your destination and the first planet we visited. Mr. Quinn wanted to call the Kelownan, but that idea didn’t go over very well.”

“I imagine not,” Jack muttered as they watched Murphy walk away.

Jack climbed into the cockpit, favoring his bad leg as he did so. As Carter climbed into the seat behind him, she said, “You know, sir, even if we do manage to contact the Asgard, there's a chance they won't be able to help us."

Yep, the team pessimist was still working in perfect order. "What's your point, Carter?"

Sam thought for a moment, then answered, “I guess I don't have one, sir."

"Thank you."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC BRIEFING ROOM

Daniel did NOT like talking to the man on the other end of the phone, but at the moment, the information he provided was too invaluable to ignore. Daniel was furiously writing down notes on a pad when Hammond walked in with McKay.

“You’re missing the point, Doctor,” Hammond said.

“Actually, General, you’re the one who’s not seeing the big picture. This little fly-by Blondie and the colonel are going on just isn’t going to work.”

“Do you have any other ideas?” Hammond demanded.

“General!” Daniel quickly joined the pair. “Got a minute?”

“Only one. I was giving it to Doctor McKay, but I’d be more than happy to give it to you. What is it?”

“Something you should be aware of. I just got off the phone with Jonas Quinn and -“

“Isn’t he the twerpy alien who brought the wacky naquada and almost let you take the fall for saving their planet? You’re actually on speaking terms with the putz?” McKay hadn’t lost any of his charm.

“Naquadria is what it’s called and, yes, that’s him. He’s at Area 51, so we’ve had to converse a few times.” Daniel hated it when McKay interrupted people, especially him. “Anyway, General, Jonas is saying that according to his research, trying to use the hyperspace engines isn’t going to work. The instability of the naquadria increases exponentially as you attempt to extract more energy out of it.”

“Hoo, boy, I’ve been saying that.” McKay crowed. Then he saw the notes Daniel had written down. “Forget hoo, boy. This is even worse than I thought.”

“Bad?” Hammond asked his ranking civilian.

“Bad,” Daniel answered.

Hammond scratched the top of his head. “Is there anything that can be done about it?”

“I have no idea. The Area 51 people don’t know because they don’t know exactly how bad it could be. There may be nothing that can be done, but we need to tell Jack and Sam, right?”

That was the 64,000-dollar question, wasn’t it? “Is there anything that can be done?”

“Sam might know something, sir,”

Daniel murmured, “but right now, all the scientists at Area 51 except Doctor Murphy are in agreement that there’s a problem, but no one’s said anything to anybody before now. I think they thought that they

had time to fix the problems, and this rush to get the ship finished stopped that from happening.”

More and more bad news. Doesn’t it ever end? “I’m about to contact them. We’ll tell them Mister Quinn’s conclusions. Then all we have to do is cross our fingers and hope for the best.”

“General,” McKay tried again, “this test -“

"Doctor McKay, this is not just a test. If the X-302 fails, this planet will be destroyed. Do you understand that?”

McKay just nodded condescendingly. "Yeah, yeah. Look, I understand your position --"

"It's not just my position. You stand to suffer the consequences along with everyone else. Now, if you have a more prudent suggestion on halting this crisis, I'm willing to hear it. Otherwise, I suggest we all go downstairs, contact Colonel O’Neill and Major Carter, cross our fingers and hope they can reach help and have no problems with the X-302 during the interim."

Hammond walked toward the Control Room, Daniel close behind.

McKay just stared after them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AREA 51 LAUNCH FIELD

Buttons, switches, whirligigs and sensors all crowded the control panel of the X-302. Jack had looked over the specifications on the flight to Area 51, but he didn’t have time to study more than the mere basics, but there were a lot of basics. Luckily, he’d flown cargo ships and death gliders and ha’taks so the basic design was familiar despite being a backwards-engineered jumble.

He definitely was driving his dad’s Ford truck anymore.

He taxied the ship from the hanger bay toward the runway. It handled a lot better than his dad’s Ford. Of course, his dad would have a fit if he knew that his firstborn pride and joy was flying space ships and going to other planets. He’d probably start making jokes about Captain Kirk and transporters and Scottish engineers.

"Navigation," Sam started calling out the checklist.

Jack looked at the first gauge. "Check."

"Oxygen, pressure, temperature control."

Jack looked at the smaller gauges. "All check."

“Inertial dampeners."

Another gauge reading right. "Cool...and check."

"Engines."

The last gauge looked good. "Check.” He waited a moment, but his co-pilot didn’t mention anything else. “No phasers?"

Sam laughed. "Sorry, sir. No phasers. They’ll have to wait until the photon torpedoes are installed or the warp drive could malfunction from the instability of the warp core. We have Scotty and Geordie working on it, but they’re both saying that they can’t change the laws of physics.” She switched on the communications to the control tower. “Control, this is Abydos One. All systems are operational. We are good to go."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

“General” Jack’s voice sounded clear over the intercom. "It's too bad we can't drive across the galaxy...this thing handles like a Cadillac on the ground. And this is only the base model. I can’t wait to see what the deluxe version will have on it."

"Colonel, Major, Doctor Jackson was speaking with Jonas Quinn. There seems to be some concern regarding the instability of the naquadria. Mister Quinn and a few of the scientists at Area 51 are stating that according to the research, trying to use the hyperspace engines won’t work.” Hammond took the writing pad that Daniel handed him. “They’re saying that the instability of the naquadria increases exponentially as you attempt to extract more energy out of it.”

“Sir, I don’t see how that’s possible,” Sam argued as she rechecked the equipment again. “The preliminary tests have shows that the Naquadria has a power disbursement level that remains constant regardless of any energy field passing through it. The extraction rate shouldn’t interfere with that. The simulations we ran anticipated every conceivable scenario."

Not that excuse again. Jack glanced over his shoulder, saying, "You know, Carter, it's the inconceivable ones I'm concerned about. You know the ones that Daniel usually thinks up on the spur of the moment? I’d like to avoid those if we can."

"So would I, sir. The X-302 has hundreds of safety mechanisms to compensate for anything that can go wrong. In fact, I’m arming the ejection system."

"That's good...that's good, that's funny."

"Sir, if they’re right, there’s nothing we can do. This is our best chance of contacting the Asgard.”

Jack nodded his head. “Yeah, yeah. Right.” He spoke into his headset. “Control, all systems are go on Abydos One."

A new voice sounded over their speakers. "Copy that, Abydos One. Good luck."

Jack nudged the control lever forward. "Well. Fasten your seatbelts and make sure your seats and tray tables are in their full and upright positions because here we go."

They were shoved back in their seats as the X-302 took off and began to climb.

"Control, we have lift off. So far, everything smooth as silk." Jack really had to get himself an X-302. This was sweet! He kept track of the sensor readings. "Still climbing. Velocity approaching Mach two."

"10,000 meters,” Sam announced.

"Mach three." Jack looked down and saw the earth getting a good deal smaller.

"Abydos One, this is Control. Everything looks good from here. You’re in the sky, five by five. Over.”

"Control, this is Abydos One. Looks good up here, too. I’d like to request the first one off the assembly line. Over."

“Copy that, Abydos One. We’ll see that your request is forwarded through the proper channels. You should have your X-302 as soon as the red tape clears. Be aware that the base model only comes with bucket seats, power locks and automatic transmission. Manual transmissions won’t be available for the next few model years. Over.”

Jack could hear the Mission Command personnel laughing in the background. A little humor went a long way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

Teal’c’s fourth attempt to dial Earth was no more successful than the previous three. The wormhole refused to connect. He tried again, this time pressing the symbols more forcefully, his palm slapping the DHD quickly.

“Father,” Rya’c stepped up next to Teal’c. His father’s agitation had a profound effect on the young man. “Would not the Tau’ri seal off their Stargate when the attack began?”

Teal’c allowed the wormhole to try to ignite, then didn’t try again. “Yes. General Hammond would have sealed the iris. If Anubis was able to breach the security, they would have detonated the auto-destruct. General Hammond will not allow Anubis to gain access to Earth through the Stargate.”

Shakrel and Brata’c approached quickly, both visibly concerned from the thought that Anubis was willing to go against the protected planets’ treaty Earth shared with the Asgard. That topic of conversation had taken up several minutes of the Jaffas’ time.

Shakrel placed a comforting hand on Teal’c’s slumped shoulder. It was little enough, but there was little else he could do. "Anubis has a weapon that uses one Stargate to destroy another and if my information is correct, the attack has already begun."

"With the Tau’ri Chappa’ai blocked, we cannot warn them,” Brata’c commented needlessly.

Teal'c knew that any warnings would be useless. "If the attack has already begun, a warning will do little good. We must find a way to stop it before it is too late."

Shakrel had anticipated that. "That is why I brought a ship. We may be able to travel to the planet Anubis is staging his attack from and stop him. Unfortunately, we do not know the location of this weapon."

“How do we find the weapon?” Rya’c asked his elders.

"Anubis has grown powerful,” Brata’c answered, “but still only defends a small handful of planets. If one of those Stargates also cannot

be contacted..."

"It is most likely the origin of the attack," Rya’c guessed correctly.

Brata’c smiled at his young pupil. “Yes. Now, let us hope it is one of the planets to which I can remember the sequence."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

X-302 COCKPIT

“Ya know, Carter, we can’t pick up the Oldies station on this radio. Anything we can do about that?”

“Not at the moment, sir. We’re preparing for main rocket engine burn."

Jack keyed the mike again. “Control, Abydos One. Preparing main rocket burn. Over.”

“Copy that, Abydos One. We'll re-establish contact on SAT-COM 3 after you exit the atmosphere. Over."

Jack briefly wondered if all Control voices sounded the same. “Roger that, Control. Engaging rocket engine."

Jack felt like he was plastered into his seat as the ship climbed out of the atmosphere. A brief glance at the controls showed everything was still looking good. “Control, this is Abydos One, do you read? Over."

Control’s voice sounded loud in Jack’s ears. “Loud and clear, Abydos One. Over."

"Altitude, 500 kilometers and rising, velocity, 40,000 kilometers per hour. Over."

“Copy, Abydos One. You are cleared for hyperspace attempt. Over.”

Jack could hear Sam punching buttons behind him.

“Sir, I'm entering the coordinates in the hyperspace generator."

“Control, did you copy?” Jack wasn’t going to try to repeat that sentence.

"Roger that, Abydos One. We copy."

Then, Jack heard Hammond’s voice. ”God speed and good luck, Colonel, Major, from all of us." He’d forgotten for a moment that the SGC was listening in. He knew that Daniel would be sitting in the control room listening to every word, worried about whatever it was that the Kelownan had warned him about. Well, there was nothing anyone could do about it now.

“Thank you, sir,” Jack said. “Fingers are crossed, rabbit’s foot is in pocket. We’re good to go.”

Keeping the radio open so the SGC could hear them, Jack said, “Okay, let's do this."

"Yes, sir. Engaging hyperspace window."

The hyperspace cloud formed in front of the ship. Jack eased the X-302 into position, saw the cloud stabilize, accelerated toward the cloud at full speed…

The ship veered off course at the last moment! The alarms started blaring inside the small cockpit as Jack fought to decelerate. The cloud disappeared, the mission was a bust.

Control’s very worried voice came back online. "Abydos One, this is mission command, do you read? We are still receiving your radio signal."

“No kidding,” Jack said. "Carter?"

"I don't know what happened, sir. It should have worked."

Should’ve/would’ve/could’ve…"Control, we missed the window.”

Sam supplied the explanation. "The autopilot engaged, Control. We veered off course at the last second. Should we try it again?"

There was a few seconds of silence. The personnel at Mission Command were undoubtedly discussing the option. Finally, they heard the outcome. "Negative, Abydos One, return to base for further evaluation. Mission failure."

"I hate hearing that,” Jack muttered as he aimed the ship back for Area 51.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC BRIEFING ROOM

Hammond was not overly enthused at the present state of the conversations he was overhearing from the scientists. Each was arguing a different point of the problem and not finding any solution at all. Occasionally, he’d hear McKay’s voice raised sarcastically over the other voices. He wasn’t helping much either.

The general found some relief sitting next to a very quiet Daniel who seemed to be listening to every word that was being spoken and writing down notes at the same time.

“Doctor? May I ask what you’re doing?”

Daniel looked up from his notes, a surprised look on his face. Clearly, he hadn’t heard the general sit down. “Sam may be able to figure out what happened with the hyperspace window, but if I write down everything that they’re saying, maybe it will save Sam time.”

Saving Sam time. Hammond liked that. He liked seeing his first team care about each other again. Where once the relationship was strained and the four seemed to be more like combatants as opposed to friends, Daniel’s latest brush with death had brought them together again. They were forced to help each other and lend strength to each other to pull the recovering man back to health. Daniel, ever independent, was forced to wholly depend on other people for basic necessities. Jack, sometimes aloof and brusque, became caring and ever-present by the sick man’s side. Sam left her lab behind and stayed nearby. Teal’c, well, Teal’c hadn’t changed. He was always the stalwart companion, the faithful friend despite adversity. During Daniel’s recovery, they became family again, and the difference had remained. Even now, something as simple as helping Sam take notes or getting her a cup of tea that she wanted but was too busy to ask for was a simple gesture that any other member of the team would do. It was good to see again.

“Just out of curiosity, son, how can you write as quickly as they talk?”

“Scientific shorthand. Sam and I have to work together on so much research, we’ve developed our own. Jack can’t read it, so -“

“So naturally you and Major Carter use this shorthand exclusively in his presence?”

“We have to get our fun where we can, sir,” Daniel replied cheekily.

Yes. It was very good to see his first team friends again.

“General,” Jack’s voice sounded, quieting the bickering scientists, “we’re home.”

Both men stood and greeted them as they entered the briefing room. "Colonel, Major, I'm glad to see you're OK."

Jack nodded his head toward the Stargate. “Well, only for the moment, sir."

“Any idea what happened?” Daniel asked as he handed Sam the notes he’d taken.

"They're still analyzing the flight data recorder, but it looks like a 605-3 error." Sam took a quick glance at the notes, especially the ones Daniel had gotten from Jonas Quinn and nodded her head. “Given this information, I’d have to agree with them.”

"Excuse me," Hammond needed clarification. “605-3 error?”

"It's the one after 605-2, sir," Jack explained. Of course. What else could it have been?

Sam explained further. "The X-302 couldn't get a lock on its destination once the window was open so it auto-aborted. It's one of the built in safety features."

Another annoying voice crept up behind the general. McKay. The man never knew when to be quiet. "What went wrong?"

"The hyperspace window was unstable. We thought we'd compensated for the energy fluctuations emitted by the naquadria, but apparently not."

Daniel took the notes back and turned to the ones he’d taken while speaking with Jonas. “If Jonas was right, you might not be able to. He said something about the naquadria’s energy growing exponentially under certain circumstances but not always."

“Which isn’t exactly according to the laws of physics, sir,” Sam finished.

"Apparently, Carter and I could have been torn...asunder." Did Jack just use a big word? Perhaps spending more time with Doctor Jackson had increased his vocabulary.

"The possibility of that was remote, sir,” Sam argued.

McKay chuckled. “Blondie’s right. You probably would have been transported to an unknown location with limited fuel, oxygen and no way of getting back."

Hammond was finding the situation becoming more intolerable by the moment, and McKay’s contributions were not helping. "Can this problem be resolved?"

Sam shook her head, almost discouraged. "Sir, we don't even understand why the problem exists, yet."

“Look on the bright side, gorgeous,” McKay said. "Consider yourself lucky. There's no telling how much damage an unstable hyperspace window could have caused if you had made it to Abydos."

While Sam did her best to politely ignore McKay, Hammond told him the bitter truth. "The bottom line,

Doctor, is we're on our own."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CORRIDOR

Companionable silence was no longer a rare commodity between Jack and Daniel. Neither was witty repartee and banter. Just walking down a corridor allowed them the opportunity to talk with each other without eavesdroppers hanging on to their every word.

“I’ve got to tell you, Danny, this doesn’t look good.”

“No, but we’ve been in bad spots before.” Daniel’s voice sounded optimistic, but Jack knew when the optimism was forced.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. One bad spot they were still recovering from. “We never seem to get a break, do we?”

“Not much of one.”

“Want to go to the commissary and grab a bite to eat?”

“Sure.” They walked a little further when Daniel said, “We could ask Sam if she wants anything and if she’s figured anything out. She went to her lab a little while ago.”

“I think that was to get away from McKay more than to see if she can find out what’s going on. Those two are like kerosene and lighter fluid with a fire burning underneath them.” Jack had seen fiery personalities together before, but not like the two scientists. He was interested to see the day that they both agreed on something. Wouldn’t that be a sign of the apocalypse?

“Yeah. Let’s go see what she’s come up with. It’s got to be more interesting than listening to the geeks up there -“

“Add to our overwhelming coolness?” Daniel asked.

“Don’t be a smartass. That’s my job.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SAM’S LAB

None of it made sense.

The rules of physics were absolute. If A happens, then B follows. Simple. Sam was learning that naquadria was anything but simple. The rules seemed to change where the element was concerned. If A happened, then C followed, not B. Why was that? Why was naquadria different?

Sitting alone at her workbench, Sam started going over Quinn’s notes again. A Kelownan scientist would have been more useful, but what little Quinn did know was a first step toward finding the solution. Now, if they only had the time…

She needed a diversion, someone to throw ideas off of…where was --

“Hey, Carter, how come you're not downstairs with the rest of the eggheads? Not that you're -- an egghead."

“Good save, Jack,” Daniel told him as he walked in behind him.

“Well, the two of you are. But in a good way.”

“There are bad ways to be eggheads?” Daniel asked.

“Absolutely. Look at McKay. Crack his head open and you’ll find yolk.”

Daniel shook his head, catching Sam’s smile as he did so. “Why are you up here? Wouldn’t it be easier to work with the other scientists?”

“Not really,” she said sadly. "I couldn't think down there. They all kept looking at me for the answer, and I don’t have one."

“Don’t worry about it,” Jack said. “You two have a penchant for pulling brilliant ideas out of your butts."

Both scientists glared at him, directing him to rethink his last statement.

Which he did. "Heads. Out of your heads. When we need them." The looks didn’t change. “Okay, think about it. We have a problem, you two start talking, one of you mentions something that gets the other one thinking, and we get a solution. Remember the whole coordinates change because of spatial drift conversation? You two were finishing each other’s sentences. Running through the force fields when we were wearing the armbands? Using the hyperspace engines to move an asteroid through the planet? Just do the same thing here.”

"We might not be able to do that this time, sir." Sam was tired and almost depressed by the lack of progress. “I’m having to rewrite the laws of physics because naquadria doesn’t follow them. I need time.”

“Oh,” Daniel understood.

Jack didn’t. "Well, you’ve got two days to work on it."

“Sir, I don't think I could solve this if I had a couple of years."

"Carter, am I sensing fear in your voice?"

"Yes, sir. Actually, a lot of fear."

"Well, stop it. You're making me nervous."

“Sir, Daniel and I are both scientists. We can toss ideas around all day and might come up with something coherent, but that’s exactly what they’re doing downstairs. No one has realized any type of workable solution yet. What about you? Any ideas? I mean, sometimes you have a way of seeing things at their simplest."

Not an insult, but Jack didn’t take the bait. "Thank you, I think. We were on our way to the mess hall. We’re gonna go eat some cake."

“Want to come with us?” Daniel invited.

“That’s the best offer I’ve had all day.” Sam told them as they walked out the door.

“You mean McKay’s offers don’t interest you?” Jack asked her.

“Sir, McKay is an absolute -“

She was interrupted by the alarms erupting around them.

“What’d I tell you?” Jack yelled as they ran toward the gate room. “We never get a break!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

Hammond swore to himself that if they survived the current crisis, he was going to take a few days off. Maybe take a long weekend, sleep late, watch television, maybe even go fishing.

After he dealt with the newest alarm.

“Sergeant, what is it?”

Sergeant Davis’ head was tracking side to side frantically as he assessed the situation. "We're experiencing a wide spread loss of power, sir."

“Source?”

Davis checked one last control before saying, “The Stargate, sir. Something’s drawing power from us.”

“Is that possible?”

Davis shrugged is shoulders. “Sir, after the last few days, I’d say anything was possible.”

Looking down into the gate room, Hammond saw SG-1 run in. They knew. Somehow, instinctively, they knew that the alarm was caused by something being sent through the gate.

~~~~~

“Okay,” Jack muttered, “now what?”

Immediately, a holographic image appeared before them, towering over them.

“Now there’s something you don’t see everyday.”

“I am Anubis,” the image said.

Jack leaned toward Daniel and said, “I think this guy’s been watching too much Empire Strikes Back lately.”

"Humans of the Tau'ri. Your end of days finally approaches. There will be no mercy."

This was getting ridiculous. "Oh, come on...who talks like that?" Jack muttered.

Carter was fascinated. "Sir, this is Asgard technology. He must have downloaded it from Thor."

“And now he’s using it? That’s rude.”

"You will bow to my awesome power. There is nothing that can stop the destruction I bring upon you. Prepare to meet your doom."

Having said that, the hologram disappeared.

“Oh, please," Jack groaned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC: STAIRCASE TO CONTROL ROOM

As if having Anubis send a threatening hologram wasn’t bad enough, Sam was then subjected to the continual verbiage of a certain physicist that she wasn’t particularly fond of, an individual who had absolutely no experience with current events.

“He has a real flair for the dramatic, doesn’t he?” McKay commented sarcastically. “Is this guy always this theatrical?”

Sam wasn’t in the mood for McKay, not his constant belittling of her intelligence or his inane conversation, but she tried to appear civil. “Anubis? We’ve never dealt with him before, but every other Goa’uld we’ve met is pretty much like that.”

“Oooookay,” McKay followed her into the control room. “But what’s he waiting for? First he attacks, then he waits a day and a half to spring his ‘prepare to meet your doom’ routine. I mean, how old-movie can a Goa’uld get?”

“I don’t know,” Sam said less than patiently. Was that coffee she smelled? It wasn’t the usual coffee…must be the Air Force special blend. Later, she’d go to Daniel’s office to score a cup of the good stuff. “Maybe he wanted to make sure it was going to work before he sprang his surprise speech on us.” She grudgingly poured herself a cup of coffee, noticing quickly that it was thick - must have been cooking a little too long. “It wouldn’t have looked good if he sent the threat before he knew that his weapon could work.”

McKay let loose a chuckle. “Yeah, I guess that would have been embarrassing, wouldn't it? ‘Nothing can stop the destruction that I bring upon you!’ only to find out his little doomsday weapon is a bust.”

Sam couldn’t drink the coffee. It was just a little too overcooked. She was definitely going to have to pilfer a small stash out of Daniel’s private collection. “Yeah, well, that didn't happen, and we only have 54 hours left. We’ve got to come up with a way to expend the energy the Stargate’s absorbing or stop it from getting through the wormhole or the last thing we’ll be discussing is a Goa’uld’s humiliation.”

If McKay wasn’t bad enough, several of the scientists had camped out in the control room and were badgering her with questions. For the first time, she understood Daniel’s frustration at not having enough well trained people in his department. She needed more theoretical astrophysicists, not more mathematicians and engineers. If they survived, she made a mental note to ask the general for an increase in the science departments’ budgets. She was certain that Daniel would be more than happy to back her up on the request.

Doctor Thompson and Doctor Evans were arguing loudly, their voices rising over all the others.

“Major, can I speak to you for a second?” Thompson rapidly approached with Evans hot on his heels.

“Yes, Doctor Thompson, what is it?” Sam asked.

“Well, when the gate was connected to that black hole, we used a charge to disengage the wormhole -- ”

“Yeah,” Evans interrupted, “but that was an outgoing wormhole, not an incoming one.”

Thompson checked a file. “True, but then -- ”

“It won’t work,” Evans told him. “Trying to use a charge on an incoming hole would detonate the gate.”

“Uh, excuse me,” McKay spoke up, raising a finger in the air.

“Evans, would you just let me finish one sentence - “

“Hey!” McKay yelled. “Look, boys, you’re really wrong, both of you, but you just gave me an idea.”

The looks he received seemed to indicate to him that no one thought him capable of producing an independent idea. “Look, we know that certain waves can travel in both directions through a wormhole, right? Like radio signals for one.”

“Yes,” Sam agreed. “What do you want to do? Call up Anubis and ask him to stop?” Great, now Sam was getting sarcastic. She was spending far too much time around the colonel and Daniel.

“Yeah, right Blondie. Call him up, say, ‘hey, Anubis, you’re playing the part way over the top, and overacting went out with Charlton Heston and William Shatner. How about playing it serious for a while? The Screen Actor’s Guild is complaining.”

Sam didn’t have time for this. As she saw Hammond approach, she noticed the look on his face. He wasn’t enthused with McKay’s presence either. “You were saying?”

“We need to send a massive EM pulse back through the wormhole and knock out whatever’s making this happen on the other end.”

“McKay - “ Sam started.

“Will that work, Major?” Hammond asked.

“No, sir,” Sam disagreed immediately. “I’ve already considered it and the reason I didn’t mention it is because that it would be too problematic.”

“As opposed to the Stargate blowing up under our noses?” McKay asked sarcastically.

“The iris would have to be opened,” Sam argued.

“So what? The Gate Room’s shielded, isn’t it?”

“Major,” Hammond raised his voice over the bickering scientists. “Are you saying that this absolutely won’t work?”

“Sir, we have no idea how powerful an EM pulse would be required, and given the fact that the iris is preventing much of the absorption of the energy pulse being transmitted through the wormhole, once we open the iris, the Stargate will absorb the energy at an increased rate and the amount of time between now and the moment it reaches critical mass will be greatly decreased.”

McKay threw up his hands. “Great. Let’s just pack up and go home.”

Looking directly at Sam, he said, “Look, Blondie, we can’t sit on our hands doing nothing.”

Hammond agreed, even if agreeing went against his chief physicist’s advice. “How long will it take to set up?”

“Four hours,” McKay told him.

“Tops.”

Hammond considered the solution for a moment, then said, “Okay. Do it.” Then to Sam, “Major, that’s how long you have to come up with a better idea.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA PLANET

Brata’c carefully and meticulously dialed another planet’s symbols but received no response from the Stargate. He waited a few moments, then dialed the address again. The second failure was all the proof they were going to get of Anubis’ attack headquarters.

He turned to his friends and said clearly, “I have tried to connect to this world twice now. It is the only one I cannot make contact with.”

“We must hope that this planet is the location of the weapon he is using against the Tau’ri,” Teal’c had to hope. It was his friend’s lives at stake.

Rya’c moved in step with his father as they walked toward the cargo ship. “I'm coming with you. If the Goa’uld can be defeated, then I wish to be a part of it.” The adult Jaffa didn’t speak for a moment, so Rya’c pressed his advantage. “Father, you and Master Brata’c said I could not judge this war if I am yet to fight a battle.” Before Teal’c could protest, Rya’c turned to the elder Jaffa. “Master Brata’c, you have trained me. You must let me fight.”

Seeing the looks shared between the two men whose respect Rya’c truly wanted, he added, “You said you did not doubt me.”

“I do not,” Teal’c assured him.

“Then I will join you.”

Brata’c saw his student - not as a boy wishing to prove himself to his father but as a warrior willing to take up his staff and fight against the false gods. Rya’c had learned well, as befitting a good student. “He is very much like you, Teal’c. We should be quick. Let us go.”

Teal’c put his arm around his son’s shoulders and led the way into the ship. “Very well, but this will be your first battle. You must listen to me and Master Brata’c.”

“I will, father. I won’t disappoint you.”

“You never could.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HAMMOND’S OFFICE

The tense, non-stop hours were catching up with everyone. Exhaustion was showing around people’s eyes, and desperation could be heard in their voices. No matter how many times they’d faced the critical moment, Hammond had always hoped that one of his team would pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat and save the day. He didn’t see that happening this time. Not yet -- but it wasn’t from lack of trying.

“I see the arguments are in full swing,” Jack commented as he and Daniel walked into the general’s office. He immediately gave Daniel a gentle push toward a chair. From the look Hammond saw on Daniel’s face, he knew he wasn’t the only one to realize that Jack’s habit of making sure that Daniel wasn’t getting too tired or overworked was no longer needed. In fact, Daniel looked much better than he had for the last three months. There seemed to be some irony in the fact that the man who deciphered the mystery of the Stargate and who had almost died from an element similar to the material the gate was made from had regained his health at the same time the very same Stargate was about to destroy them all.

More voices drifted into the room, all angry and scared. The scientists were loudly debating McKay’s plan, and more than one was in agreement with Major Carter’s assessment.

“They’ve got less than four hours to come up with a better idea, Colonel,” the general explained. “If Doctor McKay’s plan works, then the risk is acceptable.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then we’re in even bigger trouble.”

“Just out of curiosity,” Daniel spoke up, his eyes taking on that look of sudden inspiration that they knew so well, “we know that the Tok’ra have a communication sphere. We took Maybourne’s away from him when he was arrested. Could we contact the Tok’ra that way?”

That was a good suggestion. Hammond picked up the phone and promptly called Area 51.

“Doctor Murphy, this is General Hammond…yes, the situation is still the same…Doctor, do you still have possession of Colonel Maybourne’s communication sphere…yes, Doctor…. I know…Doctor, as interesting as the device is, we are on a bit of a schedule…yes…and we weren’t informed of this…Doctor, may I remind you exactly who you work for?…I understand…thank you, Doctor.” The general placed the handset back into its cradle.

“Bad news?” Jack asked.

“According to Doctor Murphy, the communication sphere disappeared from Area 51 almost two years ago.”

“And we’re just hearing about it now…why?”

“Because its disappearance was deemed top secret by Colonel Simmons.”

“Simmons?” Daniel repeated. “He has it?”

“All inquiries directed at him have not produced any information, or so Doctor Murphy told me.”

Jack looked up, down, around….”Sir, would it be a prudent move for us to pay Colonel Simmons a visit?”

“I’ll call him, Colonel,” Hammond warned him as he picked up the handset again. “It seems that there’s no love lost between SG-1 and Colonel Simmons.”

“Can’t argue with that, sir.”

“However, I doubt if I’ll have better luck. Simmons isn’t one to volunteer any help in any situation.”

A knock at the door was followed by Sam walking into the office. She placed her laptop in front of Hammond so he could see the screen.

“You still don’t agree with Doctor McKay, Major?” he asked.

Sam pointed toward the numbers on the screen. “Sir, I've calculated that opening the iris will increase the flow of energy to the gate by at least 10 times. If McKay’s plan doesn't work, we'll be cutting as much as half of the remaining time before the gate detonates.”

“I understand that risk, Major, but it’s an option. Doctor Jackson suggested we try to use Colonel Maybourne’s communications sphere to try to contact the Tok’ra.”

“Sir, that could work!” Sam stated excitedly.

“There’s only one problem,” Daniel told her. “It’s missing.”

“Missing?”

“It looks like Simmons has it,” Jack told her. “I don’t think he’d admit to it even to save the planet. The general’s still gonna call.”

“Oh,” Sam sounded very disappointed. She glanced back at the laptop. The numbers hadn’t changed.

Jack had never liked it when one of his two resident geniuses was at a loss, so he asked the obvious. “So, any better ideas yet?”

“No. So far, using the sphere is the best alternative I’ve heard yet.”

Things were not looking any better. Hammond didn’t know what else to do. Given a military situation, he was very good at doing his job. Given a situation that needed scientific results, and he was at a loss. The two scientists in his office at that moment were two of the smartest people he’d ever met, and both were unable to reach a solution, and there was only one viable option available to them. “Major, I know you and Dr. McKay don't see eye to eye...”

“Sir, this has nothing to do with - “

“Major, right now, we have no other plan. If this plan has any chance of success, it’s going to require your cooperation.” Hammond didn’t want to make it an order, but they had no other choice.

“Yes, sir. I’ll keep trying to come up with alternatives.” Sam picked up her laptop and left.

Daniel waited until Sam had left before speaking. “You know, it may be my imagination, but is she starting to like McKay? She was very, uh, civil.”

“You noticed that, too?” Jack asked. “She was in here for all of, what, three minutes and didn’t say one single insult against him.”

“Think it’s the start of a beautiful friendship?”

The sound of Sam and McKay’s bickering voices could be easily heard.

“Maybe friendship isn’t the right word…maybe a guarded truce with a lot of border skirmishes?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA CARGO SHIP

The previous owners of the cargo ship had left it well stocked before Shakrel took possession of it. Staff weapons, zat’nik’itels, grenades…Brata’c mentally inventoried the supply and found it to be more than adequate.

Brata’c’s current prize pupil was readying a pack for himself. Rya’c inspected each grenade carefully, checked the timing unit and then placed it into his bag. He noticed his father standing in his peripheral vision watching him carefully.

Rya’c turned his head, but Teal’c did not look away. “Father, I know what I’m doing.”

“Indeed you do,” Teal’c said proudly.

“Teal’c, Master Brata’c,” Shakrel called to them. “We’re approaching the planet.”

“How soon?” Brata’c asked.

“Moments.” Shakrel altered the ship’s controls as they broke free from hyperspace. “I’ve cloaked the ship.”

The sight was a rather impressive one. Five ha’taks were in orbit around the planet and death gliders were flying out of their launch bays.

“The planet is heavily guarded,” Brata’c said, although he knew it was unnecessary. It was an obvious statement.

“It is a good sign that the weapon is there.” Teal’c remembered a story Daniel Jackson had told him once about the Greeks trying to attack a heavily fortified city and sneaked past the guards by hiding in a wooden horse.

One of the ha’taks emitted a beam from beneath its structure, aiming down towards the planet. “They have rings on the surface,” Shakrel said. “That could be useful.”

“It also means that there will be Jaffa on the surface,” Brata’c cautioned them. We must take them by surprise.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

Daniel didn’t have the innate sixth sense that the military personnel around him seemed to have, but he did know when he was being watched. He also knew that the person watching him would have a worried look on his face, worry that had nothing to do with the Stargate. “I’m fine, Jack,” Daniel told his friend as Jack walked up beside him.

“Yeah, I know you are. I wasn’t checking up on you,” he lied.

“You’re hovering.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Daniel - “

“Jack?”

“Okay, I’m hovering. A little. Doc still has you under observation, and she’ll have my hide if you overdo it.”

“Yeah. Did she tell you when that was going to stop?”

“After the first mission you’re allowed to go on and come back from and pass the post-mission examination. Or until the gate explodes. That soon enough for you?”

“Uh, yeah, okay. I can live with that. Sort of.” Daniel brought the mug up to his lips and drank whatever liquid was in there.

Jack caught the aroma…a forbidden one at that. “Daniel, is that coffee?”

“Yes.”

“Doc said you couldn’t have coffee, and we’re supposed to get first dibs on ‘reminding’ you of that.”

“She’s not here, and if the gate explodes, my health is going to be the last thing anyone is worried about. So I’m drinking coffee.”

“Ah.” Jack looked down into the Gate Room and saw the huge EM pulse generator being towed in. He didn’t find it fascinating, but Daniel did. “Care to tell me what’s so entertaining about this?”

“The floorshow’s about to start, and I didn’t want to miss it.”

“Floorshow?” What had Jack missed?

“McKay’s down there and Sam’s heading that way. Want to switch on the microphone?”

Jack grinned wickedly. Yes, put Sam and McKay together and a floorshow was exactly what you got.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GATE ROOM

McKay looked at his watch. Three hours, fifteen minutes and the pulse generator was almost ready. He needed to set a few more controls, adjust a dial or two then everything was ready to go.

One of the technicians helping with the generator bumped into the casing, jarring the device.

“Hey! Be careful!” McKay ordered. “This isn’t your ordinary toaster, you know.” He motioned them forward. “Okay, move slow… don’t want to jostle the insides…put it right here.”

As McKay opened the casing and started to make the final adjustments, he saw Sam enter the room. He didn’t look up, he just said, “Don’t tell me, Gorgeous. Let me guess. You just want to take the credit for this idea when it works. Right?”

“Just for the record, McKay, my name’s Major Carter, and I hate you.”

McKay jerked his head up too fast and hit the casing. He rubbed the tender area knowing it was going leave a bump. “Well, then. I guess that means it can’t get any worse, right?”

“Don’t be too sure,” Sam told him. “I moving up to despise very quickly.” With that said, she turned to leave.

McKay couldn’t let her leave with the last word. “You know, if we’re gonna work together, we’ve got to get over this physical attraction thing we’ve got going.”

The technicians purposely looked away.

Sam walked back and whispered, “Oh, I think I can act as though it never existed.”

“So you think we’ll be able to pretend enough so we can save the world?”

Sam glanced over at the generator, noticing something that no one else had yet. “McKay, before you take credit for this little venture, don’t you think that the generator should point toward the gate?”

McKay whirled around, saw that the generator was sitting backwards on the ramp. “You’re good, Blondie. Very good.” He didn’t watch Sam leave the room. Instead, he helped the technicians turn the device around, all the time happy that he got the last word in.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JAFFA CARGO SHIP

Wars and battles were always noisy, but Brata’c couldn’t remember as noisy a battle as the one he was listening to on board the cargo ship.

“Rya’c, Master Brata’c and I will transport down to the planet. You are to remain on board with Shakrel.”

Rya’c stood by, an indignant expression on his face. “Why?”

Teal’c was exercising every ounce of patience with his son who was walking on the verge of manhood, felt as if he could do whatever the adults could do…. but couldn’t. Not yet. However, it wasn’t from lack of courage. “One day, you will be a great warrior. I want you to live to see that day. The danger we face on this mission is too great.”

“But I am a warrior, Father. I am prepared to die.”

Brata’c stepped in to the conversation. “Your skills as a warrior are not in question. It is your lack of experience in battle. Our training methods have not been the same as in the days when we were under the oppression of the Goa’uld. Before, young warriors would be tested through mock battles and war games. Your father wishes only to allow you the chance to gain experience on missions that may not be as suicidal as this one.”

“But - “ Rya’c started.

“My son,” Teal’c placed a hand on Rya’c’s shoulder. “I am not prepared to let you die.”

A blast outside the cargo ship shook the craft…weapons!

“We have two gliders in pursuit!” Shakrel announced loudly.

Teal’c hurried to the co-pilot’s seat. The control readouts bore out what Shakrel had claimed. The gliders were heading for them and were gaining rapidly. “How is this possible? Are we not cloaked?”

“Yes,” Shakrel answered. “Anubis must have new technology that may detect cloaked ships.” He altered the ship’s path, the gliders matched him. He dove, they dove. He climbed, they climbed. One of the gliders fired a volley of torpedoes at them that exploded short of their position. The resulting blast wave shook the small cargo ship. “I am decloaking and diverting power to the shields. We should be within range of the service rings in moments.”

Rya’c saw an opportunity. “Father, is it not equally as dangerous to remain on this ship as it is to go to the planet?”

Shakrel didn’t have time for a debate. “Go! I will return for you.”

“Father –“

Teal’c guided Rya’c to the transport rings. “Stay close to me. If the forces on the ground have been alerted to our presence, as O’Neill says, we’ll hit the ground running.”

“We will be running?” Brata’c asked although he understood the hidden meaning. “The human says strange things.”

“Indeed.”

Shakrel activated the transport rings and watched his friends disappear in a stream of light. “Chel nok,” he whispered for luck.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

Anubis’ Jaffa had been gleaned from other system lords’ defeated forces. Many of these newly assigned Jaffa had no choice, no respect for their new master, no chance of escape and fear holding them in their new positions in life. Failure was met with execution, and sometimes, when Anubis was in a particularly bad mood, he would execute one of his Jaffa as an example to the others – Anubis was not only their new god, he was the determiner of their existence.

Several Jaffa stood guard on the northern perimeter of Anubis temporary base. It was quiet, tedious work but not even forest animals would get past them. Even that would be a breach of security and would be dealt with swiftly. It was rather a surprise for the guards when transport rings formed nearby, depositing two Jaffa warriors and a boy in their midst.

“Identify yourselves!” one of the Jaffa commanded.

Perhaps the Jaffa should have said ‘please identify yourselves’ because the elder intruder threw a grenade at them, destroying two of the Jaffa. The remaining guards rushed the intruder’s position only to be met with staff weapons and zat’nik’itel shots. One guard aimed his staff weapon at the boy, grazing him in the shoulder and knocking him down. It was the last thing the guard saw as one of the adult intruders shot him in the chest with a staff weapon.

Suddenly, all was quiet.

Brata’c and Teal’c helped Rya’c to his feet. “We must move,” Brata’c told them. “Others will have heard and will coming in this direction.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

Jack and Daniel decided that it was the better part of valor to keep out of everyone’s way during the little experiment. Watching Sam and McKay “attempt” to work together had been interesting in the least, amusing at the most. Sam was giving the effort 100%, but she was having a great deal of trouble maintaining her professional attitude, especially every time McKay said something.

“Oooookay!” McKay yelled gleefully over the intercom. “That’s it! EM pulse generator is ready to rock.”

Sam looked toward General Hammond. “We’re ready, sir. The generator’s set up and is primed.”

Hammond watched as his people took their places. Sam sat down next to Sergeant Davis while McKay stood behind her. “All right, people. Close the blast doors and open the iris.”

Sam placed her hand on the system’s handprint analyzer and initiated the command. In moments, they only had the control board’s monitors to rely on. Without the iris, the numbers began increasing dramatically. “Energy transfer is increasing. Seven times…eight…ten…”

“Do it!” McKay said, his frustration evident in his voice.

Hammond repeated the command to Davis. “Do it, Sergeant.”

“Yes, sir. Activating the electromagnetic pulse.”

The main pulse generator began to turn and whirl as it started transmitting the pulse through the wormhole.

Davis pointed toward the energy reading. “Major, look.”

Sam sighed. “Sir, the energy transfer is still increasing. The EM pulse isn’t having any effect. If it was going to work, then – “

Suddenly, bursts of lightning flew through the Gate, hit the generator and spread to all corners of the Gate Room. The monitors in the control room flashed off from the power overload then through the wires and metal to the control room itself. The sparks crackled over the controls.

“Close the iris!” Hammond yelled.

Sam slammed her hand down on the hand plate. A lightning blast traveled through the device and up Sam’s arm, knocking her to the ground unconscious.

Daniel ran to Sam’s side took her wrist. Her pulse was strong. She was just unconscious.

“Iris closing!” Davis yelled over the noise. “And we’re completely offline now.”

“Hoo, boy, she’s not gonna be happy when she wakes up, is she?” McKay asked Jack who was standing beside him. This hadn’t been a great day.

“Your will up to date?” Jack asked.

“Does it need to be?” McKay wanted to know. The looks he received told him that he was in big trouble.

Hammond picked up the microphone and ordered, “Medical team to the Control Room.”

“She is gonna wake up, isn’t she?” McKay asked.

Daniel shook his head. “She’s alive, McKay, but she’ll probably be very angry when she wakes up.”

“Carter does have a temper,” Jack added. “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.”

McKay stood back, shrugged his shoulders and got out of everyone’s way. Yep, it had been a very bad day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

The forest offered some protection to three Jaffa; at least it provided a cover for them from the death gliders overhead.

Brata’c watched the death gliders make several passes over them. Their presence was no longer a secret, but their whereabouts were. They had to maintain their mobility and cover if they were to succeed.

He returned to the secluded spot where Teal’c was examining Rya’c’s shoulder. “There are many death gliders patrolling the skies. We must stay undercover for as long as possible.”

Teal’c nodded his assent, then returned to tending his son. “This wound is not a small one. You must be in great pain.”

“It is nothing I cannot bear,” Rya’c said bravely, although he winced at the touch of his father’s hand.

“You could easily be dead,” Teal’c warned him.

“There were at least eight of them. How is it that neither of you were shot?”

“There were ten,” Brata’c corrected him. “And a moving target is always more difficult to hit.”

Teal’c finished examining and dressing his son’s wounds. “As O’Neill says, it is also helpful to be lucky. The death gliders will be back soon. We have little time to waste. We should make our way to the weapon immediately.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC HALLWAY

“Carter’s gonna be fine,” Jack said as he and Daniel walked towards the elevator.

Daniel was in the middle of a huge yawn and didn’t hear him.

“Yo! Earth to Danny, come in Doctor Jackson.”

“What? Did you say something?”

“Daniel, when was the last time you got any sleep?”

Daniel looked at his watch, counted on his fingers and confidently said, “Probably the last time you did. When was that?”

“Okay, smart guy, don’t start pulling that with me. You know what the doc said.”

“Yes, I know what Janet said. Given that we’ve got about a day left to live unless we can figure out a way to stop Anubis’ weapon, I don’t think my sleeping or not sleeping is a major concern with anyone.”

Trust Daniel to state the obvious at times, even if that was Jack’s job. And he was right. Physically, Daniel was almost 100%. Jack could see it even if he had fallen into the habit of trying to keep Daniel from getting overtired. Carter and Teal’c could see it. Now, if they survived this latest crisis, Janet would see it and SG-1 could be a working unit again – if Daniel was 100% mentally as well. Jack thought he was, but he couldn’t be the only one to think that. Others would have to agree with it as well.

“What about Anubis? Think he’s got the cajones to really do all the stuff he’s threatening?”

Daniel remembered the summit meeting well, the looks of the System Lords, the concern in their voices. They were scared of being annihilated, not just being defeated. “The System Lords won’t go against him. I don’t think any of them would even unite against him. They’re running scared because they don’t know what Anubis’ agenda is. You either join him or die and too many system lords like their independence. They can’t stop bickering among themselves long enough to fight him.”

“Can’t or won’t?” Jack asked.

“Both. Anubis’ attack is in direct violation of the Protected Planets

Treaty, and no one’s trying to stop him.”

“Probably because we keep killing off the only system lords who would have stopped him?”

“Chronos was killed by Teal’c’s double, not that I think anyone cried over his death,” Daniel pointed out. “But he was a powerful system lord.

Yu is the only other one who would keep the treaty, but his forces are under attack, too. Even if he knew that Anubis was trying to destroy us, he might not be able to act. As far as the others go, I wouldn’t count on any of them.”

“Why, Doctor Jackson, that almost sounds like a defeatist attitude,” Jack said, a smirk on his face.

“Just realistic. We’re going to have to get out of this ourselves, just like always. Although it would be nice to know that the Goa’uld are capable of keeping deals.”

They reached the elevator and waited for the doors to open. “Wanna go check on Carter?” Jack asked.

“Uh, no, not right now. I overheard McKay say he was going down there to see how she was doing, and if she decides to rip him a new heart, I don’t think she’ll want witnesses.” He waited two heartbeats before adding, “I think she likes him.”

“So do I,” Jack agreed. “Those sparks between them get bigger and bigger every time they’re together. I don’t know…maybe it’s a good thing he’s going to see her in the infirmary. He may need a doctor if she wakes up really pissed.”

The elevator doors opened and they stepped in.

“Commissary again?” Jack asked. “I think the cook made some pecan pies today.”

“Sounds good.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC INFIRMARY

Sam woke with a bad headache and a feeling of complete exhaustion. Despite that, Janet had pronounced her fine and could return to duty after her hand was bandaged. Time was wasting, and they had less time now to waste than they did before. Sitting in the infirmary, dressed in a hospital gown, waiting for the medical personnel to do their jobs while the entire planet was about to be destroyed seemed silly. She had to figure out a way to –

“Uh, hi?” McKay said nervously as he crept into the infirmary.

“Oh, man! I was just starting to feel better.”

McKay sat down on the bed opposite her, clasped his hands in his lap and tried not to look too sheepish. He wasn’t succeeding.

“They said you’re gonna be okay, right?”

“For the moment. At least until the Gate explodes, yeah.”

The sheepishness was there in full force. “Look. I, uh, I never…I just…look, I never meant for anyone to get hurt. Especially not you.”

Knowing that was the closest thing to an apology she’d hear from him, Sam decided to accept it. “It’s okay. We had to try something even if the something didn’t work the way we wanted it to.”

Knowing that was the closest thing to any type of forgiveness he’d hear from her, McKay decided to accept it. “When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a pianist.”

Sam wasn’t sure she heard that right. Did he say….”Excuse me?”

“A pianist.” McKay started moving his fingers on an imaginary keyboard. “A concert pianist – you know, someone who plays piano in front of lots of people? Carnegie Hall? Major league orchestras?”

“Oh. Right.”

“Why?”

“Uh, never mind. What about you playing the piano professionally?”

“Well, I didn’t have a really great childhood. My parents hated each other and blamed me for it. Didn’t have any friends, so I found music. It has this perfect order, symmetry, timing. It was great.”

“That’s nice,” Sam said. She could tell him about Daniel’s not so stellar childhood and how her friend never felt sorry for himself. Where was that nurse? She wanted to get out of the infirmary. “Then what?”

“When I was 12, my music teacher told me to quit. He said that I had a fine clinical technique but had no idea of the feel of the music. It’s an art, and I was turning it into mere technique.”

Sam scrunched up her forehead trying to understand exactly where this conversation was going. “Okay, and you’re telling me this…why?”

“Trying to bond?”

“Why?”

“I get turned on by blondes in skimpy hospital gowns with no backs in them?” McKay saw that went over with all the grace and skill as a bag of rocks. “I turned to science because I thought it would take me away from music, that’d it be different, but it wasn’t. It’s just the same. It’s as much art as it is technique and laws and rules.

“Ya know, I didn’t realize just how true that is until I got to read all of SG-1’s mission reports, and man, you guys prove the point all the time. You know what I’m talking about. You come up with answers to weird stuff all the time.”

“Not all the time,” Sam muttered.

“Sure, you do. All the time.” McKay wasn’t bonding yet, so he tried another tact. “I’ve read all those reports where you and Jackson come up with all kinds of conclusions. Now that’s a guy I still can’t figure out. He can take the fewest clues and reach conclusions in seconds that would take another archaeologist years to understand. He’s got this intuitive mind like I’ve never seen before. He’s an artist.”

The nurse was nowhere to be found. “McKay, look, it’s not your fault that the EM pulse didn’t work. It as an attempt – “

“You’re like that with physics, Major. All you need is a problem and boom! You’re working on the solution. And you two get to work together. I guess that’s why you two get along so well. You’re an artist, the best I’ve ever seen in physics. I guess I act the way I do because I’m jealous.”

“Okay, look, there’s no need to be jealous. Daniel and I have worked together for a long time, and I’ve had the practical experience of hands-on experimentation while you’ve only had simulations. Under different circumstances, the EM pulse would probably have worked. I wish I had a brilliant plan to draw up for you to see –“

“And you’re funny, too. Even electrocuted, you’re sitting in here trying to solve this problem, and I’ve got nothing.”

“Okay, now you’re just creeping me out.” What was his ploy?

“What I’m saying is that it’s a kind of self-preservation, see? I won’t be able to solve this, and that one of those insane ideas like the ones that you and Jackson come up with will be our best chance.”

Oh. It was a compliment. “How much time until detonation?”

“Half what we had. You were right about that.”

“Twenty-five hours,” Sam groaned. That wasn’t enough time.

“So…what do we do now?” McKay asked.

“Well, first, I’m going to get dressed.”

McKay sat there staring at her.

“Alone. Leave.”

“Oh,” McKay said understanding. “Right. Do you want me to hold anything or help you – “ he stopped talking when he saw the look on Sam’s face. “Yeah. Right. I’m outta here.”

As McKay left, Sam sat there. What was that conversation all about? She just shook her head and smiled as the nurse finally came in to bandage her hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

More gliders were searching for the intruders but no one was having luck finding them. The discovery of ten dead guards was not something that could be overlooked or missed, and the fact that ten were dead meant that a sizeable force of attackers must be on the planet. Yet, there was no sign of a large group of people anywhere. Not a single Jaffa was eager to tell the news to Anubis.

Underneath the main company of gliders was an area encased by an energy field. Within the energy field was the Stargate and the weapon in question. It was larger than the Stargate itself, its design unknown to Brata’c, and its energy beam was aimed through the wormhole that was connected to the Tau’ri Stargate.

“This weapon is unlike any Goa’uld design I have ever seen.”

Teal’c gazed on the apparatus, his disgust turning to anger. “I have seen similar constructions. It appears to have been built by the Ancients.”

The Ancients? “Who are they?” Rya’c asked.

“An advanced race of beings who built the Stargate system long ago.”

What? “But I thought –“

“The Goa’uld are nothing more than parasites, my young Jaffa,” Brata’c explained. “They not only steal human bodies to do with as they please, they also steal technology and claim it as their own. The Ancients left long ago. So long ago that now they exist only in our legends.”

“Do you think the Ancients would have designed a weapon to destroy their own Stargates?” Rya’c asked.

“No,” Teal’c answered quickly. “Not long ago, Earth and several other planets were connected together in a time loop initiated by an Ancient’s device whose energy was trapped within the confines of a small Stargate network. Daniel Jackson, O’Neill and I had to learn enough of the Ancient’s language in order to decipher the writings around the device. However, Daniel Jackson did say that no matter what the device did, perhaps it was not designed to capture planets into time loops. We had to learn what the device was designed to do before we could understand why it had malfunctioned as it did. It is quite possible that this weapon was not originally designed to be a weapon.”

“Ah,” Brata’c understood. “Anubis merely knows how to operate it since it is not Goa’uld technology. If we destroy it, he will not be able to rebuild it quickly.”

“Do we have enough explosives?” Rya’c quickly checked his store of weapons.

“Master Brata’c and I will worry about that. You are to remain here,” Teal’c told him.

“Father, I am – “

“My son, you are injured. You will slow our pace and risk our mission.”

“My symbiote is healing me, Father. I can go.”

“Rya’c, listen to your father,” Brata’c said to the eager youth. “This is but one of many battles to be fought. This is another lesson all Jaffa must learn. There are times when we must choose wisely the battles we fight. Learn this lesson well.”

Rya’c was more than a little disappointed, but accepted his elders’ wisdom.

Teal’c placed a hand on his son’s uninjured shoulder. “Remain here until sundown. We will try to return before then.”

Rya’c watched the two men run into the seclusion of the trees. From his vantage point, he had a clear view of the weapon and the Gate. He had a staff weapon and his small stash of grenades and even a zat’nik’itel. He could only wait.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

Apple pie, warm from the oven. It had been a long time since Hammond had indulged himself like that, but he did love the taste of it. In fact, he was grateful that Jack and Doctor Jackson had brought him two slices. It was delicious. Maybe there was something unprofessional about eating pie while in the midst of a disaster, but like Jack had told him, he might not get another chance. Besides, when the general had called down to the commissary for a piece of pecan pie, he’d been told by the cook that the last two pieces had been eaten by a certain colonel and archaeologist. He couldn’t blame them. The desserts at the SGC commissary had gained quite a reputation since a visitor named Urgo had taken a liking to them.

The few minutes of peace and quiet needed to indulge in the pie was fleeting. He was interrupted by the next round of scientific arguments between…well, between several of the scientists. So many had gone through the Control Room that day that Hammond had ceased trying to remember all their names.

Two of them he did know. Doctors Johnston and Waters were discussing options as they walked in behind Major Carter and McKay.

Johnston was definitely trying another tact. “If we were to encase the Gate in a trinium alloy, it could reduce the effects of the explosion as much as 40%.”

“There isn’t time,” Waters disagreed loudly. If we detonate the gate ourselves right now, we could reduce the eventual damage by about 20%.”

Johnston wasn’t convinced. “The damage to the atmosphere would be irreversible. Life as we know it wouldn’t exist anymore.”

Waters didn’t give up. “So far, we’ve been completely unsuccessful with…” His voice trailed off as they moved away.

“Major?” Hammond asked between bites of pie. “Any new developments?”

“No, sir,” she said. “We’re all still stumped about how to stop Anubis.”

Hammond watched as McKay walk over to the window and stared down at the Gate. “Doctor McKay? What are you thinking?”

“Other than the fact that Johnston and Waters are morons? Actually, I was wondering what Jackson was doing down there. I thought we’d told everyone to stay out of the Gate Room.”

Sam moved to the window and saw Daniel. Maybe it was his physical stance, maybe the tilt of his head, but she knew right then she needed to talk to him. Or maybe he needed to talk? There was something…familiar…about the way he was standing. She hurried down to the Gate Room and walked up the ramp. Daniel didn’t move his attention from the Gate. He was standing on both legs, not favoring one over the other like he was wont to do recently. Physically, he was much stronger. Mentally, he was almost his old self. If only…maybe…perhaps he had regained his health now?

Sam hadn’t seen Daniel stare at anything like he was at the Stargate in a very long time. It was the type of look he’d adopt when he was completely enthralled with an artifact, trying to discover its mystery and history. Sometimes, he’d become so engrossed in studying an artifact that he wouldn’t hear people talking to him. This time seemed a little different though. His posture was more inquisitive rather than studious, as if he were reading a language he knew well instead of translating it.

“Daniel?” Sam walked up behind him, wondering what had him so enraptured. “Are you okay?”

Her too? “Yes, Sam, I’m fine.” Daniel’s eyes became wistful. “I was just thinking about the first time I saw it. Until then, I had only seen the cover stone. That’s all Catherine had given me to use to decipher the code. Then, after the meeting with General West and the government personnel where I explained the six points and point of origin needed for an address in a three dimensional setting, they raised the shield, and I saw it. I had no idea what it was or what it would do. Then we input the address with the point of origin I found, and it connected with Abydos.”

“A lot of things changed then,” Sam told him quietly. So many things had changed for all of them, Daniel most of all.

“But with everything going on that day, I never had the chance to ask Catherine how they got the Stargate in here. It’s at the bottom of a mountain and can’t fit through any of the doors.”

Sam smiled at that memory. Daniel had asked her that question once he’d come back from Abydos. “The retractable ceiling,” Sam repeated what she said then. “Why?”

“I was just thinking…the Gate was lowered into place through the retractable ceiling by a crane that’s positioned at the surface, right?”

Sam nodded. “Yes. Daniel?”

“And we can’t shut the Gate down, so wouldn’t getting rid of it be an option?”

“Yes, it’s an option, but I don’t - “

“Sam, the Gate was lowered in here. Can’t we raise it out of here?”

“Yes, but just moving it won’t shut it off. As long as it’s on Earth - “

“Exactly.” Daniel interrupted.

Sam looked at him quizzically, trying to understand…and then she did. “We get it off of Earth. Daniel, you’re brilliant! I know how to get it off the planet!” She threw her arms around his neck and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before running back to the Control Room.

Daniel watched her leave then glanced back at the Stargate. “But we won’t have a Stargate after that…” he muttered quietly to himself.

~~~

Sam’s idea didn’t go over very well. Johnston and Waters were more than skeptical. Hammond was listening. Jack and Daniel stood nearby and watched the proceedings knowing they couldn’t add much to the conversation.

“Listen to me, people,” Sam tried again. “All we need to do is get it far enough away from Earth. The X-302 can still achieve that without entering hyperspace.”

“I’m telling ya, Blondie,” McKay muttered, “that’s crazy.”

Waters kept shaking his head. “We’ve got less than twenty four hours.”

“It’ll be long enough,” Sam told him. “It’ll take two hours to get the gate to the surface, four to get it to Peterson and loaded onto a C-17 and two more to fly it to Area 51. A 747 will meet us in Nevada, which leaves sixteen hours to get the rig mounted and airborne. And none of this is going to happen if we just keep standing around here. This is going to save the planet, and we are going to do it!” She was tired of the lack of action and bad ideas. At least this one had a chance of working.

“You heard her,” Hammond said loudly. “Move, people.” As everyone scattered to perform their jobs, the general said, “Well done, Major.”

“It wasn’t exactly my idea, sir. Daniel’s the one with the brainstorm. Now we just have to get it done.”

“Doctor Jackson?” Hammond turned to his ranking civilian with an inquisitive look.

Daniel shrugged his shoulders. “I just made a suggestion, sir. That’s all.”

“Damn good one,” Jack told him. “ There is one little flaw in the whole plan though.”

“What’s that, Colonel?” Hammond inquired.

“Well, if this idea flies, we won’t have a Stargate anymore. No more boldly going where we haven’t gone in a long time.”

Hammond nodded his head as he headed back into his office, on the way picking up the plate where his last small bits of pie were resting. “That thought did occur to me, Colonel.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

Teal’c and Brata’c moved quietly and stealthily through the brush as they made their way toward the weapon. Both Jaffa knew each other so well that conversation was not necessary. Brata’c took the lead, Teal’c following, both watchful as they approached their target. They could hear the sounds of others nearby, the echoes of footfalls coming closer.

They were running out of time.

Brata’c watched as a glider passed overhead, then carefully charged forward only to run into a force shield surrounding the weapon.

“Self-controlled shielding,” Brata’c said uselessly.

“It is most likely that the shielding extends around the perimeter of the weapon,” Teal’c added. “We must find the source of its power and eliminate it.”

The sounds of the enemy Jaffa became louder through the forest. The two friends took refuge behind a large rock and waited….

Several Jaffa passed between them and the weapon, and they took advantage of the opportunity by shooting the Jaffa with zat’nik’itels.

“Perhaps the energy source is this way?” Brata’c suggested motioning toward the direction the now dead Jaffa had been walking.

“Perhaps.”

As they left the cover of the forest and started down the path, the unmistakable sound of staff weapons being primed sounded behind them.

“Drop your weapons!” a voice ordered.

Turning, Brata’c and Teal’c saw that they were now prisoners of eight of Anubis’ Jaffa. Knowing they were without options, they dropped their weapons and raised their hands.

Unknown to them, they were being watched in secret by one more Jaffa who had remained behind to allow his symbiote to heal his wounds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC

Sam watched as the crane’s hook was secured around the Stargate. Carefully, gently, the bands were tightened and fastened to their hitches. Slowly, someone, somewhere on the surface of the mountain, activated the crane, raised the moorings and took the slack from the lines.

It was a sight she could have seen on any construction site but watching an artifact that she was well acquainted with be treated like a load bearing beam being raised to its resting place on a scaffolding seemed to diminish its worth. A mere round stone that would have been decorative to less knowledgeable people was, to her, the epitome of magic and science combined.

Unfortunately, at the moment, that epitome could easily destroy them. Practicality had to take precedence.

Sergeant Siler moved into her field of vision, his full attention on the Stargate. He was double-checking and triple-checking the Gate, making sure that everything was secure. Finally, he started speaking into the microphone hooked around his head. “Yeah, this is Siler.

Everything’s ready down here. Activate the crane. Nice and slow.”

Very slowly, someone, somewhere up above reactivated the crane and the Stargate slowly lifted off its platform, up past the retracted ceiling toward the surface.

“I really hope this works, ma’am,” Siler said.

“It’ll work,” Sam said quickly. Then, under her breath, she muttered, “Luckily for us, Daniel’s ideas always work.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HAMMOND’S OFFICE

Hammond had gained a new appreciation for clichés since making Jack O’Neill’s acquaintance, but the one that went, “God, grant me patience and I want it right now!” seemed uppermost in his mind. Standing face to face with Colonel Chekov again was taxing his already tenuous self-control. Even now, the smug colonel was crowing over what he saw was an apparent victory.

“General, I have been instructed by my superiors to offer the SGC the following compromise. In exchange for continued cooperation and the immediate and full disclosure of the X-302 technology, I am willing to facilitate an agreement for the shared use of our Stargate.”

Hammond glanced at the countdown clock. Just a little over twenty-two hours were left, and Chekov was trying to barter with him? “Did you say facilitate?”

“Yes. I’m certain that a financial arrangement can be negotiated between our governments.”

Hammond couldn’t believe what he had just heard “You want us to rent your Stargate?”

“That is an overly simplistic way of stating it,” Chekov corrected him, “but you are correct.”

Hammond didn’t have time for this. “Colonel, the test flight for the X-302 was unsuccessful. The hyperspace technology doesn’t work because we don’t know enough about naquadria in order to make it work.”

Chekov removed his hat and held it in his hands. “That is correct, but we will understand its properties someday. At the moment, my government is unable to secure the funds necessary to counter the expense associated with operating a Stargate program such as the SGC. With funding, both of our governments will be able to –“

“Colonel,” Hammond interrupted him abruptly, “obviously you don’t understand. Even if, and allow me to stress the word if we are able to safely dispose of this Gate before it explodes, there is absolutely nothing stopping Anubis from starting all over again with the second gate, and the fact that we have a second gate is not necessarily a secret. No one on this planet will be running a Stargate program because the second Stargate has to stay buried.”

“I think you’ve taken a very pessimistic view of the situation, General.”

“Have I?” Hammond asked, his anger getting the best of his politeness. “Then tell me, Colonel, exactly how will you and your government stop Anubis if he attacks the second Stargate?”

Hammond waited, but Chekov didn’t say anything. In fact, he watched as his visitor placed his hat on his head and left the room.

Patience was a virtue, but Hammond felt that his virtues were about to reach their limit.

He sat down at his desk and shoved the paperwork in front of him away. All except one. It was Colonel Chekov’s formal written request to place a Russian officer on SG-1. Breaking up SG-1 was not an option he wanted to entertain, much less be forced to consider. That team was special. It took all four of the members together to create that team, and none of them could be replaced. Others could do their jobs, of course, but that’s just a function. Those four impossibly stubborn individuals created a synergy unlike anything he’d ever seen before. He couldn’t count the times he’d listened to the four of them argue in the Debriefing Room, heard O’Neill and Jackson practically insult each other’s intelligence to Carter’s with all due respect, sir to even Teal’c’s I do not believe so. Then, the meeting would be over and they would start discussing where they would go for dinner that night. They spent more time together on world than they did off world, and that togetherness was apparent to anyone who cared to look. Four parts of the same whole. Each a vital part of the team. No, there would be no replacements on SG-1 should they survive their current crisis. How could any good commanding officer even contemplate destroying perfection?

Hammond picked up the request and quickly ripped it into small pieces.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DANIEL’S OFFICE

“I hate waiting,” Jack complained as he kept poking through some of Daniel’s artifacts. For the life of him, he’d never understand how a broken piece of pottery could almost send Daniel into excited convulsions, but they did. Almost every time they came across a long dead civilization, Daniel would become ecstatic at the slightest hint of a clue to their identity. Then, Jack would become the bored recipient of a very intelligent but long-winded explanation of the history of said identities. He idly picked up a small shard and remembered it had been found on the mission before the one to Kelowna, before the radiation poisoning. In fact, here were several artifacts on the shelf from that mission. None had been catalogued or tagged…that wasn’t Daniel’s usual method. He was very meticulous about his work. Having items just “sitting” in his office collecting dust without being studied was something new.

Maybe there was something else going on in his head other than the rampant flow of fast moving ideas and theories?

“Uh, Daniel?” Jack waved the shard around. “Wanna tell me about this?”

Daniel looked up from the computer screen to see what Jack was referring to. “It’s a pottery shard, Jack.”

“Yeah. Even I know that. I mean, what’s it doing here?”

“Waiting to be catalogued.”

Oooookay. “It’s a little over three months old, isn’t it?”

Daniel sat very still for a moment, his eyes going from Jack to the shard. “Uh, yeah, I guess it is. I didn’t realize…” His voice trailed off.

Daniel’s sudden quietness worried Jack. “Danny?”

“I never wrote a report about that mission. Every time I tried to remember exactly what happened or read over my notes, it all blurred into the mission on Kelowna.”

“Daniel, I know that whole radiation poisoning thing was rough on you –“

“No, you don’t,” Daniel said lowly, his eyes not meeting Jack’s.

Jack saw it then. The usual “I’m fine, don’t worry about me” facade had a big dent in it. “You’re right. I don’t. I hated the fact that I had to stand by while you went through all that and couldn’t help. I hate the fact you were in that kind of pain and even the Tok’ra couldn’t stop it while they were healing you. I hated that you were lost in that fog for a month, but you want to tell me why these little souvenirs are still sitting on your shelf and how it’s hooked into that little scenario?”

Daniel sat back and started twirling a pencil between his thumb and first finger. He was clearly troubled. “I look at those artifacts, and it’s almost like I can feel the pain again.”

Phantom pain. Jack did know what that was like. Every time he thought about Iraq, his knee would start to jerk and ache. The mission the artifacts were gathered on occurred the day before the Kelowna debacle. It was too closely related to the time when…

“Have you still got your notes?” Jack asked.

Daniel opened his desk drawer and pulled out the notebook he’d taken with him on that mission and handed it to Jack. As Jack started flipping though the pages, he saw that the notes alone would be more than enough to write the mission report that Hammond didn’t need anymore anyway. However, getting through that one report might be a way for

Jack to help Daniel since he couldn’t do anything for him when he was lying in the infirmary dying.

“Ya know, that mission was kinda boring. You and Carter were the only ones to find anything interesting there…why don’t I type up your notes and you tell me what you think these little shards are and then we go grab something to eat before I go?”

Daniel glanced at the notebook, then the shards, then Jack, then the clock. “There’s not enough time. You’re supposed to leave in thirty minutes.”

Jack tossed the notebook down on the desk. “If I concentrate, I can type really fast.”

Daniel smiled and shook his head. “What if we wait until after you get back to do that?”

“I’m going to fly an active Stargate out of our atmosphere in a spacecraft that’s twitchy because of some alien gasoline that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. I have to toss it through a hyperspace hole in space that’s not gonna last for more than a split second and hopefully not get my ass blasted into a million little bits. And you want to wait for me to come back from doing that before helping you type up a three month old report.”

“Uh, yes?” Daniel answered tentatively.

There it was. Jack had seen it before, he was seeing it again. Daniel’s faith in his friend to pull off the impossible. He didn’t think he deserved such a good friend.

“Okay. Coffee and pie again before I go?”

“Sounds good.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

Anubis had well trained Jaffa. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending one’s point of view), well trained didn’t mean well educated. The Jaffa leader paced around Teal’c and Brata’c, holding a grenade as he did so. His look was one of utter disdain and contempt as they were forced to their knees before him. “What did you hope to accomplish coming here? Did you believe that two shol’vas could destroy a weapon created by a god as powerful as Anubis?”

“He is not a god,” Brata’c said calmly.

“He did not create the weapon,” Teal’c added. “The Goa’uld are incapable of possessing the skills and technology necessary to produce such a device.”

The leader of the enemy Jaffa balled up his fist and slammed it into Teal’c’s chin, knocking him back against Brata’c. “My god is not weak like Apophis, Shol’va. Anubis is all powerful.”

The mention of Apophis’ name caught Teal’c’s attention. “You know who I am. Then you know of our cause. The Jaffa rebellion grows strong as our people declare their freedom from the false gods. The Goa’uld’s power comes only from the Jaffa whom they oppress as slaves to fight their battles and carry their symbiotes.”

The leader slammed his fist into Teal’c’s face again, then he picked up his staff weapon and pointed it at his prisoner. “You will not speak so again! To say such things is blasphemy.” He switched off the staff weapon and handed it to one of his subordinates. His voice turned quieter, more menacing. “The two of you did not kill all of the Jaffa. We know there are three of you. The scouts report that it was a boy. This is evidence of the success of your rebellion. You bring children to fight. Are your numbers so low that you have no warriors or are those who swell your ranks no more than cowards?”

Brata’c placed a calming hand on Teal’c’s shoulder. He’d heard such rhetoric before, they would hear it again. To argue the point would be fruitless. People like the Jaffa standing before him were not wise – one could not argue logically with an individual that possessed no common sense. “You think us no more than a few? A minority within the ranks of Jaffa? We are not. We are the ones that will shape the future of our people. We speak the truth. We fight against those who would oppress us and speak lies against us. Those who follow the false gods they think they may keep in power or who claim to have the fellowship of those who make false promises will learn of their folly soon. Time and circumstance have proven that we are the voice of the many.”

“We shall see,” the leader said. He turned to his subordinate, saying, “Find the boy and bring him to me. We shall remove three warriors from this ‘many’ of which he speaks.”

Teal’c watched as a few of the Jaffa went in search of Rya’c, and a sentence that O’Neill had uttered once before entered his mind. The Jaffa believed Anubis to be right and powerful despite the facts. And as

O’Neill said, “If you say something enough times, you’ll start to believe it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC HALLWAY

Jack walked down the corridor, listening to Carter explain all the how-tos and where-to-fores and there-as’s concerning getting the gate off Earth. The term ‘dead man walking’ entered his mind as he heard her mention fuel imbalance leading to an upsurge in something-or-other which would ignite a spark destroying some thingamajig on the ship.

He’d finally had enough. “Carter, long story short, is there anything else I should know?”

Sam mentally reviewed what she’d already said, then added, “Well, there is concern that the 302 may not have the fuel capacity to exit the atmosphere while carrying the weight of the Stargate.”

That was new. “Okay. How is that possible?”

“The engines were designed to be used with an alien inertial dampening system which effectively reduced its overall mass and weight.”

“Okay,” Jack muttered. “That affects me…how?”

“Sir, the ship will be heavier than the engines were designed to handle. They may buckle under the stress or burn up from overload or -- ”

Oh. “Okay, so the gate’s gonna be a problem?”

“It weighs 64,000 pounds, sir.”

That much? “Well, I guess that answers the $64,000 question, doesn’t it?”

Sam continued. “You’ll also need to reach an altitude of 180 – “

“Yeah, yeah, minimum escape velocity before I release the gate or it falls back to earth and we’ve got the same problem. I know.”

There was more. With Carter, there was always more. “The X-302’s burn capacity won’t be enough either. You’ll have to go full burn, of course, but the other engines will have to get you more than halfway to target point. Since you’re going to be carrying an object that weighs six times greater than specifications allow –“

“Carter! Get to the point!”

“The ship isn’t aerodynamic either, sir. It’ll be a bumpy ride.”

Jack took a deep breath. “I’m not sure I want to know any of this.”

“The engineers are working on lightening the 302. They’ve removed every extra pound they can. That’s why you’re going alone. Every pound counts.”

Jack looked down at his stomach. “I guess I shouldn’t have had that pie…or the other pieces I ate…”

They reached the elevator, and Jack punched the UP button and waited for the doors to open. As they did and he entered, Sam said, “I wish I could go with you, sir.”

Jack almost laughed. “Yes, I'm sure you do, and I find that quite bizarre. Anything else I need to know before I go?”

“Sir, you do know that this was Daniel’s idea, right?”

“Yeah. You’ve mentioned it before, and I was kinda there. It doesn’t surprise me, Carter. He’s had a lot of good ideas before, ya know.”

“Yes, sir. But this time, it’s not just the fact he had the idea, it was how he had it…the way he stated it. Sir, he’s acting like he did before the radiation poisoning.”

Jack pushed the top floor button in the elevator, but then slapped his hand against the doors before they could close. “You mean, really like before?”

“Yes, sir. Very clear, very coherent. Colonel, his thinking processes are as sharp as they ever were, and have you noticed that he’s not limping anymore?”

That was good news. Very good news. “Good. Once we get out of this mess, we get him back on active duty, and we don’t have to keep going through replacements.”

“One other thing,” Sam said, her voice indicating that she didn’t want to mention this.

“I’m not gonna like this, am I?”

“Some scientists and engineers from

Area 51 have asked permission to come to the SGC if this should work. Since they’re the ones who built the 302, they’d like to see the place they designed it for. General Hammond okayed it, but…”

“But?” Jack didn’t like this.

“Jonas Quinn has asked permission to come as well.”

Jack was speechless for all of two seconds. “That lying, thieving little coward wants to come back here?

For what?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

Jack shook his head. “What else could go wrong?”

He knew immediately he shouldn’t have said those words. He pressed the elevator button, but the doors didn’t close. He banged on the panel a few times before the doors shut and the car took him to the surface.

Jonas Quinn. He really didn’t want to see the smirking traitor again. It brought up too many bad memories he’d tried to exorcise as it was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS BASE

Rya’c hated waiting. He hated waiting and feeling completely helpless when the enemy was holding his father and his teacher prisoner. He knew that not being caught could perhaps be their one hope, but it meant waiting for an opportunity.

He overheard approaching footsteps and quickly hid deeper in the brush. He waited, then saw a group of Jaffa pass by. He listened intently in the hopes that he might overhear some news he might use.

“We have not yet found the boy,” one Jaffa said. “We may need him to force the prisoners to speak.”

The second Jaffa was quiet for a moment, then Rya’c heard him say, “Take the prisoners to the transport rings. We will question them on the ha’tak. Continue the search for the boy.”

At that moment, a glider passed overheard, and Rya’c realized that perhaps this was opportunity presenting itself.

He had an idea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AREA 51

As they walked toward the airfield, Murphy was in the process of telling Jack the litany of this’ and that’s and do's and don’t’s concerning the 302, but he’d already been briefed about all this by Carter. He had to know the more practical aspects of the ship.

“So, to make a long story short, what exactly did you remove?”

“Weapons, some life support, but don't worry. There’s more than a day’s worth.”

Jack looked down at his watch. Not much time left. “Well, if we need more than an hour, we're all in trouble.”

“Oh. Right. By the way, we also took out the radar and some of the crash mechanisms, some of the landing gear – “

What? “Excuse me? The landing gear?”

“We didn’t have a choice, Colonel. We had to accommodate the clamping system. Now, when you re-enter the atmosphere, you’ll have to eject. If everything goes according to plan, you should splash down off the coast of Florida.”

This was news. “When were you going to tell me this part?”

“Just now. Sorry, sir. We weren't sure we’d be able to do any of this until about five minutes ago. But here’s the part you’re not gonna believe.”

The walked out onto the airfield, and Jack saw a very unique sight. The X-302 was strapped to the top of a 747.

“Holy crap!” Jack uttered. That was something you didn’t see everyday.

“The plane will take you up as high as mechanically possible. That way you should have enough fuel to get to the target point. The pilots are waiting for you, sir,” Murphy said as Jack climbed into a jeep. “Good luck!”

“Good luck, he says,” Jack whispered to himself. “Never supposed to say that. It jinxes a mission.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

Rya’c’s moment of opportunity was still holding true. He followed the glider he had seen flying overhead to the landing site for the base. There, he saw several gliders on the ground, several of them unguarded.

Taking great care to remain hidden, Rya’c carefully and quietly made his way toward one of the unguarded gliders.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

The attention of every person within hearing range of a speaker was focused on the conversation being relayed between Mission Command, the 747 and Colonel O’Neill. The future of the planet hung in the balance.

Sam and Daniel sat at the control board, Hammond stood behind them. The only thing missing was Teal’c’s solid, silent presence.

“How are we doing, Major?”

“They've been airborne twenty minutes, sir,” Sam told him. “They should be approaching countdown in a few moments.”

“Tell me the truth, Major. What are our chances?”

Sam was silent, but then she said, “Slim.”

“Jack will do it,” Daniel said.

Sam smiled at the absolute certainty Daniel had. “I wish I could share your optimism.”

“You can,” Daniel told her. “This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a really bad situation, and we’ve pulled through every time.”

“By the skin of our teeth,” she reminded him.

“Maybe, but we’ve always done it. Jack will do it again. He has to.”

Those three sentences spoke more about the faith SG-1 shared than any other. Hopefully, that faith would not go unrewarded.

The conversation carried over the speaker began again.

747 pilot: “Mission Command, we’re approaching separation altitude.”

Mission Command: “Copy that, Flight. Prepare countdown to separation.”

747 pilot: “Roger, Command. Colonel O’Neill, the Stargate is securely fastened to the 302’s underbelly. When we separate, you’ll probably experience a few moments of drag as the gate settles in the clamps. The controls will be sluggish. You’ll have to compensate.”

O’Neill: “Understood, Flight. I got the Cliff Notes version on the way here.”

747 pilot: “Good to know those things are still around. Confirming altitude at 10,000 meters.”

O’Neill: “Confirmed, Flight. Let’s do this.”

747 pilot: “Mission Command, need confirmation for separation."

Mission Command: “Flight, you have a go for separation.”

O’Neill: “Proceeding with separation.”

Mission Command: “Good luck, sir.”

O’Neill: “Stop saying that. You’ll jinx the whole mission.”

Sam and Daniel hadn’t moved during the entire discourse. Even Hammond had stood stock-still. They recognized that sound in Jack’s voice. It was the one he’d get when he was worried about someone else and was preparing to go rescue them. It was grim determination mixed with a slight bit of trepidation and adrenaline.

747 pilot: “Mission Command, separation complete. Colonel O’Neill is on his own.”

Mission Command: “Roger, Flight. Colonel O’Neill? What’s your status?”

O’Neill: “Velocity is Mach 6. Engaging aero spike engines…it’s getting a little bumpy up here, folks.”

Mission Command: “Roger that, Starflight. You’re still too shallow to fire the rocket booster.”

O’Neill: “Okay, I may have been understating things just a bit. It feels like this thing is about to fall apart.”

Mission Command: “Your altitude is forty-two kilometers. You have to reach at least fifty kilometers before you can fire the main rocket engine.”

O’Neill: “I’ve got a matter caution alarm.”

Mission Command: “Roger that, Starflight. Reroute – “

O’Neill: “I’m losing power.”

Mission Command: “Starflight, your altitude is only forty-eight kilometers. If you can –“

O’Neill: “Full port engine failure. Starboard at 60%. Preparing to ignite rocket booster.”

Mission Command: “You’re still too low, Starflight.”

O’Neill: “I’m losing velocity, Command. I’m going to start losing altitude and then we’re back to square one. Any ideas?”

Silence.

Mission Command: “Go with main engine burn, Starflight.”

The sound of rockets igniting sounded over the speakers. Hammond didn’t like the worried looks on the faces of the scientists around him. “Major Carter?”

“I think we’re in trouble, sir. He may not make it to point zero to initiate the wormhole and release the gate.”

Mission Command: “Starflight, your velocity is at 25,000 kilometers pre hour. Now 28,000 per hour. You have to reach 40,000 and sustain it for at least fifteen seconds.”

O’Neill: “Main engine burn at one-zero-zero percent. Velocity approaching 40,000 kilometers per hour. Altitude at one-two-zero kilometers.”

Silence.

O’Neill: “Preparing to make a wormhole and release the gate, command.”

Mission Command: “Not yet, Starflight. You’re not at designated point yet.”

O’Neill: “I’m burning out here…cancel that. I’m out of gas.”

Mission Command: “Starflight your altitude is one-three-zero kilometers.”

Hammond didn’t like the groans around him. “Major?”

“He’s not going to make it, sir. He had to fire the rocket booster too early. His velocity is slowing.”

“It didn’t work?”

“No,” Daniel muttered. “He’s going to fall back to earth.” The disappointment in his voice was apparent.

O’Neill: “Okay, people. Has anybody got any good ideas?”

Mission Command: “We’re working on it.”

O’Neill: “Anyone want to wish me luck?”

Mission Command: “Don’t want to jinx it, Starflight.”

O’Neill: “Gotcha.”

McKay walked over beside Hammond and looked at the computer screen. The numbers didn’t look promising at all. “Hoo boy, but we’re in a pickle.”

“I’m glad we’re all in agreement,” Hammond told him. “Major, what’s happening?”

Sam checked a few new numbers…”Based on altitude, angle of ascent and current velocity, he’ll hit the coast of Europe in thirty five minutes.”

McKay had a sudden brainstorm. “What if he puts the 302 into a nosedive? He could cut his descent time in half.”

“That wouldn’t solve the problem,” Daniel told him. It could get Jack killed faster though.

“Not really, but if he could drop the gate in the Atlantic, it might have time to sink maybe two or three thousand feet.”

Hammond was open to any suggestions. “Will that do any good?”

“It could reduce the effects of the devastation,” McKay told him.

“By how much?”

Sam did more calculations. “Not much, sir.”

“Unless you’ve got any better ideas, it’s worth a shot, right?” McKay was getting impatient and impertinent. The world was going to end in about 30 minutes and no one was getting panicky?

What else could they do?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

The Jaffa warriors kept a close guard on their prisoners. Anubis wouldn’t like it if they were to lose them.

Everyone stopped at the sound of engines. A single glider flew overhead, turned and flew back low over the trees. The Jaffa watched, waited…the glider began firing on them! The Jaffa abandoned their prisoners as they sought shelter, only to be shot down with the precision marksmanship of the pilot.

Brata’c and Teal’c remained unharmed and untouched on the path. They saw the glider dip low and pass slowly overhead. A grinning Rya’c could be seen.

“Your son is going to be as skilled a pilot as you.”

“Indeed.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC CONTROL ROOM

Mission Command: “Starflight, we’ve just put the SGC on link. We believe we can reduce the extent of the damage by dropping the gate into the ocean. You’re going to have to put the 302 into a nosedive, --“

O’Neill: “Say what?”

Mission Command: “That’s all we’ve got, Starflight.”

O’Neill: “What about the hyperdrive?”

Mission Command: “It doesn’t work, Colonel.”

O’Neill: “Look, we opened a hole before, right? We just don’t know where it’ll send me. As long as it’s a galaxy far, far away, does it really matter?”

Daniel listened…damn! The answer had been there in front of them the entire time. “He’s right! The window formed, it was just unstable.” He remembered too late that there was no need to yell. The communication link with Mission Command was sensitive enough to pick up every word. That meant Jack could hear every word now as well.

“And? So?” McKay asked. What was Jackson thinking?

“Daniel?” Jack’s voice came over the speakers. “What have you got?”

“What if you were to create a wormhole and drop the ship in it before it disappears?”

Area 51 was involved as well. Murphy’s voice came over the link. “We don’t know what would happen if the colonel tries to open a hyperspace window within the atmosphere.”

Jack answered, “Maybe not, but I like that option better than the nosedive.”

Mission Command interrupted. “Stand by, Starflight. We’re working the numbers now.”

Hammond didn’t know what to do. It was a damned-if-he-did-damned-if-he-didn’t situation, and he didn’t like those. “Major, I can make a call if you agree with Doctor Jackson.”

“I do, sir. Make the call.”

“Whoa, people,” McKay wanted to jump and scream… but adults weren’t supposed to do that, right? “Are you all certifiable lunatics? Look, Blondie, I know what I said about you two being artists, but I think that was because I hadn’t slept in three days. This is deranged! He’s talking about putting an interdimensional field around an already highly charged Stargate with an unstable and completely unpredictable burst of energy in the upper stratosphere. Dropping it in the ocean sounds a hell of a lot saner.”

“Dropping it in the ocean will save a few lives, but if Daniel’s idea works, it’ll save the planet.” Sam didn’t want to argue Daniel’s point for him when he was quite capable of doing it himself, but this was a time for numerical and mathematical arguments and that was her field.

“You think this has a snowball’s chance of working?”

“Maybe we can reduce the risk?” Daniel interjected.

Both scientists looked at him in confusion. “How?” they asked in unison.

“Look, I’ve been reading up on the naquadria research. Sam, in one of Jonas’ reports, he says that the instability of the naquadria is –“

“Is relative to the size of the burst you’re trying to extract,” she finished for him. The wheels and gears in her mind were starting to turn.

McKay seemed to realize the benefits as well. “We don’t actually have to send the gate across the galaxy, do we?”

Sam grinned. “No. Even a second in hyperspace potentially gets us millions of miles. As long as the timing is right and the gate enters the wormhole at just the right moment –“

McKay grabbed Hammond’s arm, not realizing that wasn’t the most polite thing to do. “Make the call.”

Hammond didn’t wait. He rushed to the red phone and called the President. He wished he could give the order himself, he knew how well Jackson and Carter’s plans worked, but this had planetary ramifications. The President had to make the decision.

He glanced at the clock. They had eleven minutes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

O’Neill: “Altitude seven-six kilometers and I’m still falling. What’s going on down there?”

Mission Command: “The President has agreed to SGC’s recommendation. We’re going to try it your way.”

O’Neill: “Thank you. Run me through the paces.”

Sam took the microphone. “Sir, we’re going to have to override the safety protocol that caused the 302 to abort after an unstable wormhole. We think we can greatly increase the chance of this working by only activating the generator for one second. The problem is that it wasn’t originally programmed to work for such a short period of time.”

“So what do we have to do?” Jack wasn’t sure he really wanted to know. It was when he heard McKay’s voice answer that he was certain he really didn’t want to know what was going on back at the base.

“Look, Colonel, we’re going to write a new subroutine and upload it to your computers. Hang on.”

Hang on? Even Daniel didn’t say ‘hang on.’ McKay needed to learn a little more about military behavior. “Okay. Well, in the meantime, I’ll just keep falling.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ANUBIS’ BASE

“What is he doing?” Brata’c watched as the glider made one more pass over their position.

“He is targeting the weapon,” Teal’c answered.

The two Jaffa watched as Rya’c fired the glider’s weapons at the weapon. Several shots, and the weapon was destroyed in a fiery explosion. Immediately, the wormhole disengaged and the Stargate was quiet.

“Let us hope it is not too late, my friend,” Brata’c said. “The Tau’ri –“

Gliders! Two more ships flew in quickly, targeting Rya’c’s ship.

“Rya’c!” Teal’c watched in horror as his son began shooting at the enemy, his aim unerringly fatal. “Rya’c!”

Brata’c held his friend back. There was nothing he could do. They could only watch and wait…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

COCKPIT X-302

The clock was ticking.

One minute, fifty four seconds left, and Jack was still falling.

“Carter, I don’t mean to be rude, but we’re running low on time here.”

It was Daniel that answered. “They’re uploading the program now, Jack. All you’ll have to do is activate the generator once the program’s running.”

“Okay. Gotcha.”

“Sir,” this time it was Sam’s voice he heard, “you won’t have much time”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Sir?”

“Yeah?”

“Good luck.”

Jack smiled when he heard Daniel say, “Sam, don’t jinx it.” Daniel was learning.

Jack put on his sunglasses and started flipping switches. “Activating the hyperspace generator – now—here we go!”

The wormhole formed in front of him. He put on his oxygen mask and pulled the ejection arm. The top hatch flew off, and he and his ejection seat flew out of the 302.

The tension in the control room was palpable. They listened as Mission Command relayed their observations.

“This is Observer One. We have visual confirmation. The 302 has entered the hyperspace window…the window has disappeared…we’re safe, Command.”

Well, that was all well and good but what about O’Neill? Hammond grabbed the microphone. “Observer One, do you have a visual on Colonel O’Neill?”

“Negative, SGC. There is no sign of a chute. There is a light show going on up here, though. Visibility is impaired at the moment. Opening the window in the atmosphere has ignited some of the gases up here.”

Hammond moved over to Davis. “What about the gate? Do we have any information on it?”

“It’s coming in from NORAD now, sir…Deep Space is estimating that the gate detonated over three million miles from Earth. We’re clear, sir.” Sergeant Davis wasn’t the only one smiling at the news.

“SGC, this is Observer Two,” a new voice was heard over the speakers. “I have a visual on a chute. I’m moving in for confirmation…Mission Command, the cockpit is intact. We are pinpointing splashdown position now.”

Sergeant Davis moved fast. “I’m patching in satellite imagery now, sir.”

The team watched as a picture of the 302 cockpit being helped to earth by a huge parachute came onscreen. Once Observer Two moved in close enough to transmit the image of the cockpit, they could see Jack strapped into his seat, waving at them.

Hammond took the microphone. “Observer Two, can you get close enough to transmit a communication signal?”

“Affirmative, SGC. Stand by…”

A few moments later, the happy voice of Jack O’Neill was sounding in the Control Room. “Looks like it worked, General. But I’ve got to tell you; I liked the 302 better before we started taking off all the options. This base model just isn’t as comfortable as the one with all the gadgets.”

“I’ll take that under advisement, Colonel,” Hammond answered. “By the way, good job.”

“Well, thank you, sir. Don’t want the whole ‘saving the planet’ routine to become…routine.”

“Understood. And Colonel, welcome back.” Hammond looked around at the people surrounding him. Carter and Jackson gave each other a quick hug, both smiling like the proverbial cat that ate the proverbial canary. He imagined that their expressions matched his own.

SG-1 had done it again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC HALLWAY

The threat was gone for the moment, but the fun was now over. McKay was being called back to Russia, and his plane was scheduled to leave in an hour. What surprised him was that Sam was walking him to the elevators.

“So that’s it? You’re just giving up and closing down shop?”

Sam nodded. “At least until we find a way to defend ourselves against this sort of thing, yeah. We’ve got no choice.”

“It shouldn’t take you too long.”

“Yeah, right.” Sam couldn’t believe they were actually having a civil conversation. “I thought you’d be happy that we’re out of business.”

“Hey, I never said we shouldn’t use the Stargate. Just…” McKay stopped mid-sentence. Both understood. He took her hand as if to shake it, but just held it. “Well, let me know if I can help with…anything.”

“I will. Thanks.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, much to McKay’s surprise.

“Does that mean you don’t hate me?”

“Maybe. Too bad for you, though,” Sam said smugly.

“Why?”

Sam walked back down the hallway, but yelled over her shoulder, “I was more attracted to you when I did.”

McKay stood there, flabbergasted. “Oh. Really. Right.” Without knowing what to say beyond that, he turned and walked into the elevator.

However, he did get the last word in again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HAMMOND’S OFFICE

It was a sad day when one had to clean out one’s office. Hammond carefully packed away almost five years worth of items into a box. Each one held memories, both good and bad. From the bottom of one desk drawer, he pulled out a series of pictures that no one knew he had. He had retrieved them from the surveillance photos. Each one was a testament to the perseverance of his flagship team.

The first picture was taken after the first mission to Chulak. It was the four members of SG-1 standing on the ramp; Major Kawalsky’s image could just be seen in the background.

The second picture was the SG-1 on the ramp, this time all four returning from Oannes after they had gone to retrieve a once-believed dead Doctor Jackson. The picture showed a very exhausted, wet Doctor Jackson protectively surrounded by his team as they were standing on the ramp. Hammond was in this picture, welcoming the wayward archaeologist back.

The third picture was the team in the Gate Room after they had destroyed Apophis and Klorel’s ships. The scene was often referred to as the Spacemonkey hug.

The fourth and fifth pictures were ones that no one else had seen. One was a picture of Jack holding Daniel in a storage room when the younger man was deep in the throes of withdrawal. They could have easily lost him then, but he fought hard to come back to them. The second was set in the infirmary, after Sha’uri had died. Daniel had been awake for several hours and had asked for everyone to leave him alone. They had, but Jack had returned later just to sit by the sleeping archaeologist. The colonel’s hand was resting on Daniel’s forearm, his own head leaning back against the uncomfortable, hard-backed chair.

Those two individuals had gone through all types of grief and pain, yet they remained friends. Strong friendships like that survived the twists and turns fate enjoyed throwing at them. It was this strength that helped fuel SG-1, helped keep the members together. And now…

A knock on the door drew Hammond’s attention away from the pictures. He motioned Jack inside as he placed the pictures in another box. “Colonel, I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Thank you, sir,” he answered. “Just another day at the office.”

“You know, the President wants to see you in person?”

Jack picked up a lamp sticking out of the box. “We spoke on my way here. He was wondering about future plans, that sort of thing. He was wondering what kinds of jobs former interplanetary explorers would be hunting since we’re all unemployed at the moment.”

“You can have any assignment you want,” Hammond reminded him.

“I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve always wanted to command my own boat.”

Hammond looked confused. “For the Navy?”

“Something a little smaller. With oars.”

“You deserve it, Jack. You did a great job out there.”

“Daniel invited me to visit him on a dig…if he can get one. He’s not certain how long it’ll take him to re-establish himself in the scientific community, but he’s got friends out there who’ve been connected with the SGC who’ve agreed to give him a job.”

Hammond shook his head. “It’s ironic, isn’t it? He opens the universe for us only to be rejected by people who have no idea what the truth really is.”

“Yeah.” Jack looked at the bottom of the lamp. “At least this time he’s got more than $23.42 and two suitcases with him. There are lots of people wanting to help him get the recognition he deserves. Carter’s already got requests to be a professor at Yale, Harvard, Princeton. I think the Academy has made her an offer…sir, are you sure you want to take this with you?”

“We’re closed for business, Jack. I was supposed to retire five years ago; you did retire six years ago. We don't know how long it's going to be before we can reestablish the Stargate Program, if we ever can. This facility is going to be shut down, so I have to pack up my office.”

Jack showed him the lamp. “Actually, I just meant, it says 'Property of US Air Force ' on it.”

Hammond took the lamp and put it in the box. “I’ve had this lamp for the last fifteen years. I’m rather fond of it…I still feel responsible for the teams stuck off-world, but there's nothing we can do about –“

The telephone rang. Hammond picked up the handset. “Hammond.”

He was silent for a moment, then replaced the handset. “We’re receiving a communication from an incoming ship.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CONTROL ROOM

If it wasn’t one thing, it was another – that old cliché. There was a ship approaching…who was calling now?

As Hammond and Jack entered the Control Room, they saw that Daniel and Sam were already there, both with confused looks on their faces.

“What’s happening?” Hammond’s voice thundered over the alert klaxon.

Sergeant Davis, a mysterious smile on his face, spoke into the microphone. “Go ahead, sir. They’re all here.”

There was a moment of static, then a familiar voice said, “General Hammond – “

“Teal’c!” a quartet of voices called out in happy response.

“It is good to hear you as well, my friends,” Teal’c’s voice sounded back. They could almost hear the smile in his voice. “The weapon being used by Anubis has been destroyed. We feared it was too late for the Tau’ri.”

Jack leaned forward toward the microphone. “Yeah, it was close there for a minute. Where are you?”

“We are approaching in a cargo ship, human,” Brata’c’s haughty but amused voice answered. “Hammond of Texas, do we have permission to land?”

Hammond looked toward Davis who answered, “NORAD’s aware of their approach, sir. The landing field’s been cleared.”

“Permission granted, Master Brata’c. Welcome back, Teal’c.”

“You did a good job, guys,” Jack added

“It is Rya’c that deserves that honor, O’Neill,” Teal’c explained. “He is the one who rescued myself and Master Brata’c as well as destroyed Anubis’ weapon.”

“Sounds like you’ve got an interesting story to tell us, Teal’c.” Hammond looked forward to hearing this one.

~~~

The main crisis was over, much to the thanks of one brave young man who proved to his elders that even a young Jaffa could produce miracles. The second crisis, however, was rearing its ugly head.

The group from Area 51 had arrived with Jonas Quinn in tow. Murphy had been given a somewhat cold reception given the fact that the 302 hadn’t worked quite the way it was designed to, but it was absolutely tropical in comparison to the non-existent welcome Jonas was given. No one wanted to talk to him, and when he spoke to anyone at the base, their answers were short and to the point. That didn’t stop Jonas from asking questions and trying to impress every person he met.

The guards were under orders to keep the Area 51 people away from the Gate Room as they placed their new Stargate in position. It was a long, delicate task and no one wanted anyone to get in the way. That meant that some of the personnel had to keep Quinn busy…a task few were willing to do, even under the circumstances.

Yet, like all orders given in times of great need, the soldiers followed them without question.

However, the promise of a three-day pass to all who kept Quinn away from the Gate Room and out from underfoot was payment enough for even the angriest soldiers to keep the Kelownan occupied.

~~~

Siler was in charge of having the gate lowered through the retractable ceiling. He was continually barking out orders to the crane operators above and the engineers in the Gate Room. The Stargate had to be placed precisely on the field dampeners so the entire mountain wouldn’t shake when they initiated a wormhole, and Siler was determined to get it positioned correctly in one try.

Daniel and Sam watched Siler work. Sam had every confidence in Siler’s ability, but she wanted to be there to watch. Daniel had said something about feeling like a fifth wheel and joined her.

“I once worked as a crane operator,” Daniel told Sam.

“You did? When?”

“When I was in college. I needed money and picked up a weekend job working at an auto salvage yard. It actually came in handy on a few digs when we had to bring in heavy equipment.”

That surprised Sam. “I thought archaeologists used paintbrushes and toothpicks to excavate a site so they wouldn’t damage any of the area.”

“We do, but sometimes you have to bring in bulldozers and backhoes to clear away collected debris like dirt and boulders. I learned how to operate those, too. It saved money since we didn’t have to hire anyone to come and drive them.”

Well, well, well. Sam learned something new about her friend. She didn’t know that Daniel could do all that. She briefly wondered if he knew how to ride a motorcycle…

Daniel looked at his watch. “Look at the time. I was supposed to be in the infirmary five minutes ago.”

“This is supposed to be your last exam, right?”

“I hope so. I think I’ve had enough tests for a lifetime.”

“Just don’t jump into any labs filled with radiation…”

“Cute. Cute,” he muttered as he walked out of the Gate Room.

Hammond passed by Daniel as he hurried toward the infirmary, the general smiling as he realized exactly what this visit to the good doctor meant and what it could mean to SG-1.

“Major,” he called out a usual greeting. “How’s it coming?”

“Just fine, sir. Sergeant Siler almost has the gate secured. If you don’t mind my asking, what exactly did we give the Russians to get their Stargate?”

“Good ole’ American dollars along with plans for the X-302 and X-303.”

“Really? We’re renting it?”

“So to speak. Also, we had to make a few more concessions, and I don’t look forward to telling Colonel O’Neill.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC HALLWAY

Family visits always seemed to be shorter than anyone liked. Teal’c didn’t get to see his son as often as he liked, and the time for Rya’c and Brata’c to leave was fast approaching.

Jack was walking toward the elevators when he met with Teal’c and Rya’c in the hallway. They were talking about nothing important, just passing the time of day.

“So, from that story you guys told, you’re a pretty good pilot,” Jack told Rya’c as they walked together.

“Master Brata’c taught me well. I hope to be as good as my father one day.”

Oh? “Just to let you know, no one is that good…but…”

“But what?” Rya’c asked.

Jack looked around them to make certain that no one was nearby to overhear him. “But the day you can pilot a ship with Hammond sitting next to you and he yells out a yee-haa while you’re flying through a Stargate, I’ll say you’ve made it.”

Rya’c laughed aloud at the remembrance of that story. “It also helps to be lucky.”

“Don’t I know that!” Jack agreed loudly. “Listen, are you sure you don’t want to stick around for a little while? Maybe hang out and play some baseball?”

Teal’c greatly desired to have his son at the SGC for a while, but there were other things to be considered. “Rya’c has chosen to help Brata’c spread the word of our cause. They are to meet with some leaders of the Resistance movement in two days.”

“Well,” Jack took Rya’c’s hand and shook it, “it’s been good to see you again. Don’t wait so long between visits next time, okay?”

Jack left Teal’c and Rya’c alone, but glanced back before he turned down the next hallway to see Teal’c pull his son into a strong bear hug.

It had been a hell of a day, no, change that, it had been a hell of a week. Jack just wanted to sit down, take off his shoes, put his feet up and have a beer. Not necessarily in that order, but that was what he was planning on doing as soon as he got to Daniel’s office. After all, he’d promised to write that report for Daniel and –

“Colonel! Colonel O’Neill! Do you have a moment?”

There was that dreaded voice. Jack had gratefully forgotten that certain individuals were coming by for a visit. This was one individual he could have gone the rest of his life without seeing again.

He turned and saw Jonas Quinn running down the hallway toward him.

‘Be civil,’ he said to himself. ‘You don’t have to be anymore than that. Hell, you don’t even have to be that.’ Why let Jonas know that he irritated Jack? “Quinn, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir. Jonas Quinn. Sir, I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment.”

As much as Jack wanted to say no, he just stood there staring at Jonas, waiting for him to continue.

“Colonel, about Doctor Jackson, there’s not a day that goes by when I don't think about what happened. I stood by and watched while he saved my people from disaster. It should have been me who jumped through the glass and disarmed the device.”

“I agree. It should have been,” Jack told him.

“Yes, sir. Doctor Jackson was injured because I didn’t. You have to live with that, so do I.”

“In case you didn’t notice, Daniel almost didn’t live with it. That radiation almost killed him. You and your people tried to frame him for something he didn’t do.”

Jonas took a deep breath, even his expression changed. “If I could go back and change what happened, I would, but I can’t. All I can do is try to change what happens from now on. I don’t want you to exonerate me. I just want to be given an opportunity to prove that I can make a difference.”

Jack couldn’t believe the sheer audacity and unmitigated gall of the… were they just supposed to sweep his actions under the rug and forget what happened? Was this man that stupid? Jack had had enough, but he was still supposed to be civil. “Look. Daniel doesn’t blame you. Hell, he’s the best person I’ve ever known and he’s forgiven people for doing things…”

“I know about the Jaffa killing his wife.”

Jonas said that with all the emotion of a man who wasn’t hungry ordering breakfast.

“Good. Then you know that Daniel isn’t the type to harbor a grudge against someone.”

“I’ve read all of SG-1’s mission reports, Colonel. I know the vast contributions Doctor Jackson has made, all the sacrifices. He’s a vital part of the SGC, one that can’t be replaced. There’s no way I will ever be able to ask forgiveness for what I did. All I can do is ask for the chance to prove myself.”

Jonas sounded more and more like a thief who stole a priceless painting asking to be released without being punished for the crime. Didn’t this guy ever take responsibility for his own actions?

Jack sighed loudly. “What do you want, Quinn?”

“I don’t feel that I can contribute anything doing research at Area 51. I might be able to help more if I were allowed to come here.”

Ah. Jonas wanted the golden apple. The brass ring. The kewpie doll. So much for being civil. “Jonas, let me understand this. You hide like a coward behind a wall while Daniel jumps into a room filled with radiation to save your worthless lives. Since radiation doesn’t stop at walls, you should have died too. Since you are apparently immune to radiation poisoning, you should have ran into that lab. It wouldn’t have hurt you, but you let Daniel jump in there instead. You then lie about what Daniel did. You come here with an armload of naquadria; an act we’re still wondering about since both the naquadria and the Stargate were well guarded on your planet. You hand us the naquadria hoping we’d welcome you with open arms after your actions nearly cost us my best friend.

“Do you have any idea what Daniel went through? Do you even care? He was in pain for hours, and then he was stuck in this mental fog for weeks. We couldn’t do anything more than sit by and watch him try to pull himself together bit by bit, which he has. Every member of this base has seen how hard he’s worked over the last three months, all of which we owe to your lack of bravery and complete self-centeredness, and you think you’d be welcome here now? Trust me, there’s not a soul here that would cry if you fell off the damn mountain. No. No one wants you here. Area 51 stuck you in their library just to keep you out from underfoot, or don’t Kelownans understand subtleties?”

Jack walked off down the corridor, leaving Jonas behind sputtering and muttering to himself.

“COLONEL O’NEILL, REPORT TO GENERAL HAMMOND’S OFFICE.”

Now what?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HAMMOND’S OFFICE

Almost reluctantly, Jack knocked on Hammond’s door. Just one bit of good news, that was all he was asking for. Just one tiny, small, miniscule bit…

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

Hammond stood up from behind a pile of file folders and tapped his fingers on his desk. Something was wrong. “Jack, I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but part of the deal to get the Stargate from the Russians involved agreeing to let one of their officers join SG-1.”

Jack stood there for a moment, his disbelief apparent in his eyes. “This is the thanks I get for saving the world? Again? Sir, we don’t need five people on SG-1.”

“I’m sorry, Jack. You're going to have to learn to live with this. The President himself – did you say five?”

“Yes, sir. Five. Me, Daniel, Carter and Teal’c are SG-1. We function fairly well on our own. We don’t need a fifth wheel. Can't we just throw them a bone? Give them their own unit? They'd be happy with that, wouldn't they?”

“Wait, are you saying that Doctor Jackson is ready to be reinstated on SG-1?”

Oh. Hammond hadn’t heard the good news yet. Given the amount of paperwork on Hammond’s desk, Fraiser’s report was probably buried at the bottom. “Fraiser got the test results back. Daniel’s good to go. He’s back to 100%.”

Hammond wasted no time. He picked up the red phone. “This is Hammond. Let me speak to the President…yes, sir…Doctor Jackson has been pronounced fit and able to return to active duty…yes, sir…I agree…I think the Russians should have their own unit…I have no doubt that Colonel O’Neill will be very happy to hear that…thank you, Mister President…yes, he’s standing right here…no, sir, Doctor Jackson isn’t…I agree, sir. SG-1 should be given some accommodations…thank you, sir…no, I think Colonel Chekov would be very impressed if you were to call him and tell him the news…thank you, sir.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SGC GATE ROOM

The SGC was up and running again.

The Stargate sat in its new place of honor at the top of the ramp, an active wormhole ready to transport the explorers to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. It dwarfed the individuals ready to depart through its portal, but these self-same individuals no longer stood in awe of the sight. They were too used to seeing a working Gate.

“For a while, we thought we wouldn’t be able to do this again,” Sam told

Teal’c. “It’s good to know we’re still in business.”

“Indeed. There was a time when I also believed that I might never see SG-1 or Earth again. I would have found that to be a great hardship.”

Sam smiled. That was as close to an emotional outburst from Teal’c she was likely to get. “We’d have missed you, too.”

“When are we to depart?”

The answer to that question walked

into the Gate Room. Daniel, dressed in BDUs and backpack, tried to outdistance his living shadow. Jack was still being a bit of a mother hen.

“You sure you don’t want the helmet?” Jack asked him as Daniel put on his signature boonie. “It should protect that hard head better than that thing would.”

“I hate that thing, Jack. My glasses won’t sit right and it’s uncomfortable. We’re just going to meet Jacob. I think the boonie will be fine.”

“You never know. We always run into trouble when we go visiting the Tok’ra.”

“Jack.”

“Daniel.”

“I’m not wearing the helmet.” Daniel grabbed the helmet and threw it into the waiting arms of a nearby SF guard.

“Don’t you think –“ Jack stopped mid-sentence when he got the look from Daniel. When had he learned that? Jack was the only one who was supposed to be able to do the look that silenced hardened military personnel in a single second. “Okay. But if you get hit in the head and get a concussion, don’t come complaining to me.”

Hammond entered at that moment, his instincts telling him that maybe he should intervene before the two friends began World War III. “Colonel, I think you might want to concede this round. I believe Doctor Jackson has the upper hand.”

“Can’t do that, sir. You know the old saying. Never give up, never surrender.”

Daniel and Teal’c looked confused, but Hammond explained. “That phrase was in a movie called Galaxy Quest.” Upon seeing the surprised looks he received from the remaining two members of the team, he added, “My granddaughters rented the movie one weekend, and we watched it.”

“Ah. Of course, sir,” Jack almost agreed. His granddaughters rented the movie. Right. Jack wondered if Hammond knew that everyone was well aware that he was a closet science fiction fan. Maybe it was a hazard of commanding a base where the people assigned there went to other planets?

Jack motioned for the SF guard to toss him the helmet but he hooked it onto his own pack instead of placing it firmly on Daniel’s head. He wasn’t going to admit defeat.

“You have a go, Colonel. Good luck, SG-1,” the general said his usual spiel as the team walked up on the ramp.

“Thank you, sir,” Jack answered. Then, to his team, “Are we ready?”

No one had to say they were. The smiles alone spoke louder than they could have answered. For the first time in three months, SG-1 was going through the gate, all members intact, present and accounted for.

As one, they walked up the ramp and passed through the event horizon.

Hammond watched his premiere team disappear from view, and waited as the wormhole shut down. For the first time since the disastrous mission to Kelowna, Hammond felt like all was in its proper place. Although he knew it wouldn’t last, he could take comfort in the fact that the Earth was in good hands. He allowed himself a small grin, turned and went back to the control room.

Time to go back to work.

~~~The End~~~


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