Disclaimer Stargate Sg-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
The woman carefully scanned the halls and, seeing no one, quickly used her key card to open the door. She let it ease shut behind her and snapped on her tiny flashlight. She didn't have much time. SG-1 was due back in a little under an hour and she couldn't run the risk that they just might be early. With the ease of familiarity she opened the drawers of the dresser and desk, looking for anything out of place.
She felt her frustration increase as her search turned up nothing. It wasn't possible that she was innocent. There was no way. Somehow she was fooling her teammates, fooling them all. No one would listen to her; no one believed her that Carter was compromised, that she couldn't be trusted.
She'd prove them wrong. All she needed was proof. And once she had that they would have to listen to her. They would have to do something.
The opening of the chaap'pai shattered the late night stillness of Vorash. The Tok'ra warriors monitoring the gateway tensed, anticipating an attack. No one was scheduled to return now. They relaxed marginally as the chaap'pai discharged a solitary figure, then snapped shut.
Motioning for his companions to hang back, Kordesh silently gained his feet and approached the visitor. "Identify yourself," he demanded, fingering the zat-nik-a-tel at his waist. He knew he was risking his life by revealing himself but that was his duty as a guard.
"Kordesh, it is I, Martouf," the visitor said, raising his hands to forestall any cases of mistaken identity. The last thing he needed right now was a delay...any delay.
"Martouf, Lantash. Praise be you have come," Kordesh said, waving back the guards as he rushed to escort Martouf to the transport rings, which would take them into the tunnels below.
"We came as quickly as we could. How is she?" Martouf asked, fighting the urge to run pell-mell for the rings.
"Still alive, but...she is badly injured my friend..." Kordesh stopped, grasping Martouf's arm and turning him so he could see the younger man's face. "The healer says there is nothing he can do."
"No..." Martouf whispered. His worst fears had come to pass.
"Nothing short of a sarcophagus can save her."
"Then we shall find one. There are hundreds of them in the universe. Surely..."
"Martouf. No. Jolinar does not want that."
"She is not thinking clearly, has not for months. She will..."
"NO. You will not take her. Martouf, your mate is dying. Should you be wasting what little time she has left arguing with me or spending it with her?"
Martouf slumped. "You are right. Let us go." The two men quickly made their way to the rings and the people waiting below.
"Martouf," the woman whispered, almost too softly for Sarouche to hear, even with Selmac aiding her hearing. Ignoring the pain her symbiote could not longer totally mask, the older woman slowly got to her feet and sat beside Marisa on her bed. She wrung out a square of cloth and bathed the woman's fevered brow.
"Ssh. Rest easy. He is coming," she reassured the injured woman, fighting her rising rage. Had it really come to this? Attacks from the Goa'uld upon their warriors was one thing but this...this had been a cowardly attack from within. A bomb set in the one place they could feel marginally safe. Marisa and Jolinar had been fatally injured by an explosive device planted in the depths of the tunnels in their storerooms. There was no strategic value in blowing up boxes of food or extra clothing. This was an act of a true terrorist. Now her fellow Tok'ra were divided, seeing enemies in every familiar face. Every act was now suspected. One little bomb which, had it not have been for a twist of fate, wouldn't even have killed anyone, was dividing the Tok'ra more than any other act of the past millennia.
At first the healers had held out hope Jolinar would be able to heal Marisa's injuries. And she would have, had she been healthy herself. Unfortunately the symbiote was simply too weak from her trials of recent months.
Within the last year her host of over a century, Rosha, had died on Nasyia, which precipitated Jolinar taking over Carna, the native man who stumbled over the dying Tok'ra in the wreckage of her stolen Tel'tac.
Then mere weeks later Nasyia was attacked by the Goa'uld, presumably looking for Jolinar.
Carna had been fatally injured trying to help his wife Thalia through the chaap'pai and to the relative safety offered by the humans. So Jolinar had been forced to invade another host, a female this time.
Captain Samantha Carter had merely been trying to help escort the besieged Nasyians to safety when she made the fateful decision to help a wounded man. Realizing her choices were a forceful blending or certain death, Jolinar possessed her and used her to return to the woman's homeworld of Earth.
She was fortunate this time that her new host journeyed through the chaap'pai...Stargate the next day.
Tapping into her unwilling host's memories, Jolinar knew she would find little sympathy among the Tau'ri. So she compelled her host to run away from her friends, a group called SG-1.
Unfortunately Samantha had not been exaggerating when she told Jolinar her friends would kill her before they let her go.
As a result Jolinar and Samantha has stumbled through the Stargate severely injured and barely alive.
Partially through conversations with the Jaffa who accompanied her, and partially through accessing Samantha's memories, Jolinar had realized she could not remain in the young Tau'ri. The people of Earth had an extremely strong sense of self and would see the keeping of Samantha tantamount to an act of war.
So when Marisa had presented herself as a willing host, Jolinar had moved into her.
However it is difficult for a Tok'ra to deal with changing hosts more than once a decade much less four hosts in less than a year.
When a symbiote takes a host, they not only attach themselves to the brain stem; they weave microscopic tendrils throughout the host's brain. That is what allows communication between the two species along with permitting both entities control of the body.
Every time a Tok'ra leaves a host, they are unable to withdraw all the tendrils. They are severed from the symbiote and left behind. It is the human equivalent of severing limbs and then growing them back.
Because of this strain, along with three of her four previous hosts suffering severe to near-fatal injuries, Jolinar was extremely weak. There were those among the healers who feared for her survival even without being injured. That was why she was remaining at the base instead of working out in the field like she preferred.
Even with the healing device, Jolinar was unable to heal her latest and last host. The most she could do was mask as much of Marisa's pain as possible and keep her alive. Until Martouf could arrive. She had to see him. Just one last time.
As she drew upon her last bit of strength, Jolinar cursed the last year. It was as if she had angered fate herself, as if she had cheated death one too many times and was now going to pay the ultimate price.
Colonel Jack O'Neill opened his eyes and swallowed to pop his hears. He felt the slight upward motion of the plane and idly looked out the window. He stretched in his seat and noted the jet planes circling below. They must be over Kansas City International by now. That meant Colorado Springs and home was just a couple of hours away.
'Thank you God,' he thought as he tried to ignore the events of the last several hours.
'You son of a bitch. You did this...' The dying words of an ambitious reporter. The blood on his hands.
He scrubbed those same hands, clean now, over his face and tilted his head back. Too bad the Air Force hadn't sprung for a bar on this charted flight. He needed a drink.
And he suspected he wasn't the only one.
Unlike the flight to DC from Colorado, there was none of the chatter and good-natured teasing. All three passengers were quiet, each seemingly lost in their own thoughts.
He knew General Hammond was no doubt trying to figure out who had talked to the press. Wracking his brains for a spy in their midst despite Carter's belief that it couldn't be one of their own.
That was something Jack himself would like to know.
As for Carter, oh there was definitely something more bothering his captain than an impromptu meeting with her father and a canceled medal ceremony, he thought as he looked across the aisle at Captain Samantha Carter.
His teammate had hardly said a word since the trio had boarded the plane, heck since they'd left the reception. He had a sneaking suspicion that last conversation she'd had with her father had a lot to do with it. There had been an extremely noticeable delay between the general's exit and Sam's emergence from the room.
Jack saw Hammond's head bob up as Sam abruptly got to her feet and made her way back to the small restroom, ducking her head to avoid the eyes of both men.
Taking advantage of Carter's absence, George got up and sat next to Jack.
"Sir," Jack acknowledged him, not really wanting to talk to anyone, much less his CO right now.
"I need to ask you something son..."
"I relayed everything the reporter said to me. It's too bad he's dead. Now I guess we'll never know who his source was."
George shook his head. "This isn't about that. I need to know how Carter's dealing with things. What her state of mind is."
Jack stiffened. What was Hammond up to now? He knew George was an old friend of the family. Was he looking for some excuse to pull her off of active duty? Was this what the whole dad thing was about? Or did he suspect that maybe she was the leak? Hell that was a laugh. Now he knew how she beat him at poker. He hadn't seen anyone ramble on about deep space radar analysis with such a straight face for years.
"You and the rest of SG-1 are closer to Sam than anyone else on Earth, including her own family. How is she dealing with the events of the last several months?" George asked, referring to her possession by the Goa...Tok'ra in addition to several rather trying missions.
"She's coping just fine sir. I would have noted it had her performance been unsatisfactory," Jack replied cautiously.
"Jack, relax. I'm not a general inquiring about an officer of mine. I'm asking as a friend, someone who was at her high school graduation. I know Captain Carter is coping. What I need to know is how is Samantha dealing with having a Goa'uld and its memories in her head?"
Jack sighed and relaxed a bit. There was noting cold or calculating in the general's gaze, rather genuine concern. Shooting a quick glance towards the bathroom he started. "She was aah...a little wobbly at first. Something like that...well it'll take a big hunk outta your confidence. But she's got it back."
"What about the after-effects?"
"What you reported happening on Cimmeria. Her being able to use the ribbon device, experiencing some of Jolinar's memories."
"She seems to be OK with it. Maybe a little freaked out at first. I mean she's been a bit quiet lately, not quite in the arm wrestling mood but OK. Why the sudden interest sir?" Jack shot back, his desire to protect one of his team winning out over playing it cool. Something was fishy here. Hammond hadn't grilled him this hard about Daniel and he'd really gone off the deep end with the whole sarcophagus thing. Hell, compared to that, Carter's little run in with the snake had been a walk in the park, a nearly fatal walk but survivable none the less.
"Jake's presence today was no coincidence. He started calling me a couple of months ago, asking about Sam, the project. Basically fishing for more information than he should have. I answered what I could but..."
"Classified sorta limits you."
"Right. It took me a bit to pull it out of him. The real reason behind his sudden interest in her."
"And that is?"
George paused, almost as if speaking it aloud would make it more of a reality. "There's nothing like facing your own mortality to make a man want to mend some bridges."
"Mortality?" Jack asked, his stomach clenching.
"It's cancer. Lymphoma to be exact. Probably only got a few months," Hammond reported sadly, the despair at losing a close friend evident on his broad face.
"Damn," Jack groaned. He'd only met Jacob Carter for a few minutes but he liked the guy. "That's aah...the last thing she needs right now."
George nodded. "Yeah. And if I know Jake, he broke the news with all the grace of a bull in a china shop."
"That explains the last little talk they had."
"Jack. Captain Carter will resent the hell out of this, but Sam Carter is going to really need her friends in the coming weeks."
"Don't worry sir. We'll be there."
"Good," George replied. He stood up and returned to his original seat.
Sam splashed water on her face from the minuscule sink in the cramped bathroom.
I have cancer Sam.
Damn. She hadn't even recognized him when she'd first seen him talking to General Hammond. Jeez, her own father and she couldn't pick him out of a crowd.
I have cancer Sam.
He'd seen right through their cover story. Then again, who wouldn't? Analysis of deep space radar telemetry...even she would have seen through it. And the Air Force sure didn't hand out medals for deskwork.
I have cancer Sam.
Why? Why now? Over the years, all the things she'd ever wanted from him but been unable to ask. All she'd never had. Why did he have to start doing her favors now? The one time she had to turn him down. And she couldn't even tell him why she'd refused. Great dad, you're calling in favors to get me into NASA and I've already been on more planets than the folks at NASA can confirm exist.
What I wouldn't give to take you into Cheyenne Mountain, through the gate and show you the sunset on a dozen worlds. The waterfalls on P2G364 that makes Niagara Falls look like a leaky faucet. P3X275 that has a spectacular view of the Orion Nebula. Abydos and its friendly people. He and Kasuf would really hit it off. Heck, if the boys at Nellis could fix them, she could get Teal'c to take him for a spin in a Death Glider. The difference between it and an F-16 as vast as the difference between a Porsche and a pinto.
I have cancer Sam.
Oh God. He was dying, and she didn't know which was worse. Sudden tragic accidents with no good-byes or weeks in a hospital watching him waste away.
True, they'd never been anything resembling close but he'd always been there. Even if it was in the tragically inept way of a suddenly single father having to deal with a daughter.
But soon it'd just be she and Mark. She, who made her living in the armed forces he despised. Carter family gatherings would soon be brother, sister and sister-in-law all dancing around the topic they'd never agree on, keeping the peace for the sake of the kids. Until eventually it'd just be easier not to get together at all.
I have cancer Sam.
She felt so alone. Soon she would be alone. She couldn't tell her father why she refused the only favor he'd ever done her. She couldn't tell her brother what she really did. She couldn't tell her landlord where she disappeared to for days on end. She couldn't even go to a non-military doctor ever again. Not unless the program ever got declassified and he could know what Naquadah was. She couldn't be 100% certain if her dreams were even hers or leftovers from Jolinar.
She couldn't be certain anyone would ever trust her again. Not after the way they'd been acting lately.
Just a year ago things had been so fantastic. All her hard work had been rewarded. The eighteen-hour days and countless vending machine sandwiches had been worth it the first time she'd walked up that ramp.
Oh it hadn't been perfect. She'd been kidnapped, killed and nearly frozen to death. She'd been party to a mutiny of a sorts...and in the crazy way of the world, the results of that mutiny was what that medal the general had in his briefcase was for.
And let's not forget that oh so spectacular experience of having a sentient alien borrow her body for a few days.
She'd been compromised in the worst way possible. For every fragmented recollection of Jolinar she'd retained, she feared the Tok'ra had more. During their blending, Jolinar had had access to everything. Every memory, every name, every code. Every feeling. Jolinar's new host probably knew about the money she had stashed in her sock drawer, not to mention the code to enable the self-destruct of the SGC mainframe.
As soon as she'd gotten back they'd changed it all. SG-1's iris code, her self-destruct over ride, heck even her e-mail password had been changed. A paranoid little part of her even made her change her PIN and where she stashed the spare key to her apartment. She'd spent dozens of sleepless nights ruthlessly scouring her brain for any and every secret Jolinar could have dipped into. She'd rearranged and re-hidden as much as she could.
Of course it was all pretty silly. It's not like Jolinar and Marisa would come to Earth and clean out her bank account or un-earth those embarrassing baby pictures, but it still made her feel better.
Over the last few months she'd been so careful. She'd tried to prove to everyone that they could still trust her. At first she hadn't wanted to admit to the memories, the feelings she'd had left over from Jolinar, but in the end, fearing they'd think she was hiding even more, she'd spoken up.
She'd braved the skeptical looks on her friends' faces when she told them about the memories, the dreams. Relating to the colonel how she could sense a Goa'uld had been tough enough. The whole waking dream bit had been even tougher. She'd seen the disbelief in his eyes, knew he was inclined to just write it off as exhaustion crossed with an over-active imagination. He had believed her in the end, though she wasn't sure how much was her and how much was Teal'c vouching for her.
Then on Cimmeria she honestly didn't know who was more surprised when she'd blasted a hole in the ground with Kendra's ribbon weapon.
When she'd first seen it lying in the wooden tray on the ex-host's grave she'd been drawn to it like a moth to a flame. She'd found herself slipping it on almost without realizing what she was doing. It had felt so wrong, yet so right all at the same time. In her mind's eye, she could see herself wearing it, feel the surge of power as it activated.
Now it was something else that set her apart. She once told Janet it was hard to be one of the guys when you were seen as 'the girl'. Now she was the 'once possessed by an alien who altered her physically, swapped some of her memories and left her able to work alien tech' girl.
She knew she was the topic of the base grapevine. Though she pretended not to, she noticed how conversations ceased when she entered a room. She knew there were people in the SGC who felt General Hammond was making a mistake leaving her on a field team. In the eyes of many she was a liability. As far as some were concerned, once a Goa'uld, always a Goa'uld. They were just waiting for her to do something, for her eyes to glow so they could pack her off to Area 51 to be Maybourne's latest guinea pig.
'That's enough,' she told herself, ruthlessly blotting the water from her face with a coarse paper towel. The pity party's over. Time to get back out there. Time for Samantha Carter to crawl back in her corner and let Captain Carter back out. A few more hours. All she had to do was keep it together for a few more hours. Accept the medal from the general. Go to Abydos, retrieve Daniel and Teal'c and come back. Then, if she was lucky, there'd be a perfunctory debriefing and she could go home. Have herself a good cry, maybe even treat herself to a good old-fashioned temper tantrum and drown her sorrows in a half-gallon of double chocolate espresso fudge ice cream.
She took a deep breath and ruthlessly pushed her feelings deep inside. She left the lavatory and reclaimed her seat, a picture perfect example of a proper Air Force Captain.
Then again, at one time, Mount St. Helens had been a picture perfect example of a dormant volcano...right before it vaporized a fair sized chunk of the northwestern United States.
"Daniel, how are you?" Sam asked, coming to a halt beside his bed. Daniel sat up and impatiently swung his feet over the edge of the bed. Sam winced at the sight of the bruise that was starting to darken his cheekbone. Heru'ur had done a number on him. Then again, if she and the colonel had been a bit later, lord only knows what could have happened.
"I'm fine," he insisted, a belligerent look on his face. "Just a few bruises. God knows I've had worse. All I want to do is go home," he declared, raising his voice. Sam shot Janet a look. She saw the doctor shake her head and roll her eyes. They both recognized the tone in Daniel's voice. The tone that told Janet she could either let him go or he'd let himself go.
"OK. OK. You win. Go home. Relax. Sleep. Eat. Drink. Be merry. Totally ignore my advice. I'm sure you know more than I do. Ten years of Medical School didn't teach me a thing," she railed.
Daniel slumped. "Janet, I'll be good. No booze, I'll even let Sam drive me home. I just need to get away from here. If I see one more sympathetic look, hear one more platitude I'm going to snap."
"Janet, come on. You know that if we let the colonel take him home it'll be pizza, beer and hockey. We'll go to his place, order in Chinese, maybe watch a movie," Sam bargained.
"Fine. You're released. Just..."
"We know. First sign of a headache, nausea...anything icky we'll be back," Sam promised, shepherding Daniel out in front of her. She turned her head and mouthed 'Thank you' as they left. "So Daniel. What are you in the mood for? A chick flick, meaningless violence and special effects or a silly comedy?"
"Huh?" he asked distractedly.
"Or we could watch the Discovery Channel. I think there's some mummy special on. You could pick it apart. 101 archaeological myths by Dr. Daniel Jackson," she suggested as they reached the elevator. She pulled the key card out of her pocket and swiped it in the lock. Hearing no answering beep, she frowned and swiped it a second time. Damn it. Not again.
"You still having trouble with your card?" he asked, pulling out his and swiping it. "Maybe the scanner's broke?" he suggested. Hearing the answering beep he shot her a sheepish look. "Or not."
"Must be some kind of glitch," she said, not meeting his eyes. Yeah some glitch. One that only effected her card and only some of the time. That same glitch that was behind her password to her computer not always working. The same glitch that opened her mail and rearranged the things in her lab. The glitch that caused the members of her team to always be at her side whenever they were off world. The glitch that was behind the appraising looks, almost like they were expecting her to go ballistic and try to run away again. The glitch that first showed up the week she came back on duty after Jolinar had possessed her. The glitch that told her no matter how hard she worked, how good of a job she'd done, they still didn't trust her.
"Just a glitch," she whispered as the elevator carried them past NORAD to the surface.
They cleared the checkpoints and walked out into the gathering evening dusk. Sam wiggled her keys, indicating she would drive. Without a word, Daniel got into the passenger seat. He sat back and closed his eyes while Sam concentrated on navigating the narrow road to the highway. Neither of them noticed the brilliant streak that trailed across the darkening sky.
But someone else did.
The delmak blinked and a quiet series of beeps announced their arrival. With the inattention of practice, Aris Boch brought the ship out of hyperspace and settled into orbit, automatically shielding the ship against detection from the surface. He scanned the planet and barely held back a snort of laughter. So this was the fabled Tau'ri homeworld? This blue, brown and white ball surrounded by primitive satellites and tons of trash. These were the people rumored to have blown up two of Apophis' ships? These were the people who kicked Hathor off their planet? These Tau'ri were either incredibly lucky...or incredibly lucky.
And sitting on a treasure trove of Goa'uld leftovers. He wondered if that Tel'tac buried under the sands of one of their deserts was still operational? He should come back here some day. They didn't appear aware of its existence so they wouldn't even miss it. And he could use another ship. His had been destroyed in an unfortunate misunderstanding with Sokar a few months back and it was galling for a bounty hunter of his stature to resort to borrowing a ship from his clients.
"Have you located the Stargate?" a soft voice asked. Aris turned to see his 'boss' walk onto the bridge of the ship. He could call himself Tok'ra or Goa'uld...didn't matter. A snake in the head was a snake in the head.
"Unless the scanners are lying to me I count two stargates. One in the mountains here, and one in the desert over here. Now I ask you, what do they need with two of them?"
Martouf frowned and searched his memory. "The mountains...she lived...lives in the mountains. I will go there," he declared, turning towards the descent pods.
"Aah...now before you go..."
"There are two cases of roshna in the hold of this ship. An associate of mine in waiting for you on Detan with two more cases when you return the Tel'tac to him," Martouf said, stepping into the small pod.
"And how do you know I won't just take the ship and run?" Aris asked.
"Because if you do, no Tok'ra will ever deal with you again. And my associate has been instructed to contact Sokar and tell him who warned the people of Antares that he was coming. I believe he threatened to send that person to Netu should he ever be found," Martouf finished smugly.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Aris quipped. That was something else he hated about the Goa'uld. They were twice as sneaky as other races.
Martouf closed his eyes as the pod sealed, plunging him into darkness.
"I did tell you this was a bad idea, did I not?"
"Martouf, we should respect this woman's wishes...Jolinar's wishes. Samantha was an unwilling host. Jolinar left her for Marisa willingly. We have no right to further invade her life. Samantha nearly died...twice because of the Tok'ra. We should leave her alone, allow her to get on with her life."
"Lantash, she...she's all I have left. I have to see her," Martouf said desperately.
"Do you not think I mourn also? We were their mate for nearly a century, but I was her mate for half a millennium. There was a reason the council forbade our coming here. We do not want to become enemies of the Tau'ri."
"I...I just want to see her Lantash. Hold her one more time. Then we will go back and I shall face the council and accept its punishment."
Lantash 'shook' his head. The impetuousness of youth. "And have you a plan...how to get back? I very much doubt Mr. Boch will remain and the Tau'ri are barely capable of reaching their moon."
"Samantha has access to the Stargate. We shall use it to get home."
"Well, as long as you have all this planned out." With a slight mechanical groan, the descent pod dropped from the ship, entering the atmosphere and streaking across the sky. "Just out of curiosity. How exactly do you plan to find Samantha in a city of millions?"
Sam locked her car and followed Daniel past the checkpoints and into the depths of the SGC. She pushed her doubts of the previous night aside as door after door opened without a hitch. She'd just been letting her imagination run away with her. It was all so silly, like trying to recount a nightmare in the warm light of day.
She bit back a yawn as the elevator stopped at the level Daniel's lab was on. She was incredibly grateful they had no mission today. She and Daniel had sat up and talked until well after the witching hour and the one thing she really wanted right now was a cup of coffee...a big one. Her late night combined with a touch of jet lag had left her distinctly craving a nap.
She walked into the commissary and made a beeline for the coffee. After filling the mug and snagging a chocolate frosted donut she left the room and proceeded to her lab.
As she turned on the lights and computers her eyes settled on the flat black box lying on the counter top. She opened it and traced her fingers over the cool surface of the medal. For a minute she wished her father could have seen it. Maybe then he would have been proud of her.
With a sigh she pushed her melancholy thoughts aside and tried to concentrate on her work.
She should start running a comparative analysis between Linea's information and earth plants and see if she could come up with a match. If they could match the two plants or possibly her 'activators' then they stood a chance to find cold fusion in her lifetime.
As the computer ran its comparison, she took an abstracted sip of her coffee, grimacing as she realized it was distinctly cold.
"Carter?" Sam looked up to see Colonel Jack O'Neill standing in the doorway to her lab.
"Sir?" she asked, wondering what could get him, risking patience and sanity, on the laboratory level.
"How ya doing?" he inquired, sauntering into her lab and leaning against the table.
"Fine sir." OK. Now she was confused. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh nothing...nothing," he replied quickly, too quickly. "I aah...I was just going to warn you. We're on stand by," he said, starting to fiddle with a piece of wire left over from her last experiment.
"Stand by? What's wrong?" A team was never put on stand by unless something big was up.
"SG-3's overdue. They should have been back by 0630. Hammond's tried to make contact but no response. He's giving them until noon before he sends in a rescue."
"I thought they were on a simple recon?"
Jack shrugged. "Abydos was a simple recon," he countered.
"Yes sir," she replied with a slight smile. "And just how much are you going to enjoy it if the Air Force gets to bail out the Marines?" she asked, knowing full well the rivalry between the two groups.
Jack waggled his eyebrows. "Now captain. You know all those myths about inter-branch rivalries are just that...myths," he claimed innocently.
"Right," she replied skeptically, taking a bite of her donut.
"If we go we'll be shipping out by 1300 so you might want an early lunch," he advised as he abandoned the wire and left the room.
Sam rolled her eyes as she popped the last of the donut into her mouth. "Yes dad," she muttered, turning back to the computer. Rescue mission or not, she could get a lot of work done in the next three hours.
The electronic beeping of her watch drew Sam's attention away from her computer. She automatically saved her files and turned it off. It was 1100. Since there had been no klaxons announcing an off-world activation, she figured the rescue mission was still on. It was time to round up Daniel, grab some lunch and get ready to rescue the Jarheads.
As she left the room there was a tiny part of her that hoped their mission would be scrubbed. Given a choice she really wanted to stay home. Even ignoring her little exorcist excursion, their last few missions had been rather arduous and she found herself craving a night at home, gorging herself with way too much Mexican food and curling up with a trashy novel. Something with a stud on the cover and a barely perceptible plot.
Oh well, maybe it would still happen. SG-3 did have two hours left.
She came to a stop outside Daniel's lab, biting back a grin at the sight of a tousled head barely visible behind a stack of books. She'd tried to tell him all that information was probably available via the Internet months ago. And he'd used it. For a while. Then Lt. Baker accidentally contaminated the base's mainframe with a virus and the whole thing had been down for days. As Sam had cursed the inaccessibility of some needed information, Daniel had calmly walked across the room, picked out a book and continued his translations. That was the last time she'd teased him about his books.
"Daniel," she called. His head popped up; his glasses perched on the end of his nose. "Come on. Lunch time."
"Hi Sam. Already? Just give me a minute. I need to finish this." She crossed the room and watched him scribble down a few last words. She absently looked at his artifact, picking up the piece of tablet almost without realizing what she was doing. She traced the carvings with her fingertip. "Sam?" She ignored him and compared what the tablet said to what he'd written down.
"It should be giver of immortality not harbinger of death," she said quietly.
Daniel watched his friend, growing more concerned by the second as her gaze remained unfocused. The first time he'd witnessed one of these flashbacks she'd scared the hell out of him. The look on her face reminded him of how she'd looked on Cimmeria when she'd tried on Kendra's ribbon device. It was almost like Jolinar was still inside her somewhere. Oh he knew she wasn't. That had been one of the first things they'd looked for when they'd gotten her back, but he still remembered the glow in her eyes, the determined look on her face when Jolinar had overpowered him in her escape attempt. For an instant he felt a surge of fear, like he'd felt as Amaunet reasserted control over Shau'ri the second the baby had been born.
He forced the fear back. This wasn't Jolinar, this was Sam. "What do you mean? Giver of immortality."
"Huh?" Sam's eyes snapped back into focus and she looked at the tablet she was holding as if she'd never seen it before.
"You said this read giver of immortality not harbinger of death."
"That doesn't make any sense. I can't read Goa'uld," she protested.
Daniel opened his mouth to argue then stopped. Mackenzie had warned them about this. That confronting her with her flashbacks, especially if she didn't remember them could do more harm than good. "Oh. Right. My mistake. Let's head to the commissary. See if we can get our lunch before they run out of jello," he said, making a note to talk to Jack. His friend needed to know she'd had another flashback.
"So whatta you think Daniel? Can we negotiate them outta there?" Jack whispered. SG-1 & 2 were lying on a ridge overlooking the camp of the people holding SG-3. The tardy officers looked slightly the worse for wear but not in too bad of shape as they laid on the ground, tied spread eagle to stakes in the center of the compound.
Daniel tried to place the culture but the best he could come up with was that they reminded him a lot of pictures of the tribes in New Guinea. And some of those were cannibalistic. "I don't think so," he whispered back. "There seems to be no real chain of command, just the chief and he's..." Daniel broke off as the man in question stepped forward and leaned over one of the men. He chanted a few words and drew a long knife from a sheath at his waist. "Jack..."
"That's it. Over their heads. Open fire," Jack ordered. He and Makepeace may never be bosom buddies but he'd be damned before he'd let the guy get gutted.
The stillness of the night was broken by staccato bursts of automatic weapons fire. The natives yelled and scattered as they were confronted by the unknown weapon. "Carter. Teal'c. Cut them loose," Jack ordered as he and two members of SG-2 scanned the trees.
Sam cautiously dashed down the embankment, keeping her eyes peeled for the natives. She knelt beside Colonel Makepeace, letting her rifle hang by its strap and drawing her knife in one smooth movement.
"Get to Johnson. He's hurt," the Marine colonel ordered.
"Teal'c's got him," she replied, sawing through the ropes and freeing the man. She freed his feet as her radio crackled to life 'We have movement in the trees,' Ferretti reported.
Sam drew her pistol and handed it to Makepeace. "The colonel and SG-2's on the ridge and your friends are coming back," she explained as she finished cutting him free. She glanced at Teal'c who had freed the other 3 members and was now supporting an injured Johnson. At his nod, they began their retreat, with Sam and Makepeace covering the rear.
"Carter. Teal'c. Move it!" she heard O'Neill yell as she saw torches flickering through the trees. Lots of torches.
"I see them captain," Makepeace answered, cocking the pistol. "Move it Jarheads. Company's coming," he yelled, picking up one of his men who'd stumbled.
Sam scrambled up the small hill, dividing her attention between the officers behind her and the emerging natives. "Whoa!" she exclaimed as she ducked.
"Oh yeah. Should have warned ya captain. They got spears," Makepeace quipped, sparing the quivering shaft of wood a bare glance as he pulled her up, squeezing off a couple of shots over their heads.
"Of course they do," Sam muttered as Teal'c fired a few blasts from his staff weapon between the retreating SGC personnel and the emerging natives.
Sam reclaimed her feet and clambered up the rise. She gained the summit, slightly out of breath, and incredibly grateful that the gate was only a mile or so away.
"O'Neill, they are flanking us," Teal'c advised, now splitting his efforts between two fronts.
"Damn it!" Jack cursed. "Let's get the hell out of dodge! Shoot to kill only if you have to!" he ordered the group around him. "Get the gate open!" he called over the radio to the SG-2 personnel guarding the gate.
They ran for several minutes, Teal'c covering Daniel who was now supporting the wounded Johnson and Jack, Sam and Makepeace bringing up the rear.
Sam thought the shimmering blue surface had never looked so good as they drew near it. This was going to be close. Even over the sound of her own ragged breathing she could hear the rustle of leaves and see the flickering of the torches that announced the natives were drawing near.
Just as they were within a hundred yards of the gate the first spears came flying out of the trees to land, shivering in the dirt. Jack, Sam and Makepeace paused, all emptying their clips into the trees in an effort to hold the natives back long enough to allow the more vulnerable members of their group to retreat.
"O'Neill!" Teal'c called. "They are safe."
Jack swiftly snapped in his last clip. "Let's go," he ordered. The trio ran for the gate as a volley of spears again left the trees.
Sam heard a strangled cry and turned to see Makepeace lying on the ground, a spear jutting out of his right thigh. She ran back to him.
Teal'c saw the Marine go down. He also saw that O'Neill did not notice. "O'Neill!" he yelled, pointing at the duo, then commenced laying down cover fire. This was a situation that could turn very bad, very quickly.
Sam took one look at the spear and roughly pulled it out of Makepeace's leg, cringing at his cry of pain. It went against every bit of first aid she'd ever learned, but there was no way he could run shish-ka-bobed by a five-foot spear.
"GO!" Makepeace ordered, pushing her away.
"ON YOUR FEET MARINE!" Sam yelled back, the need for survival outweighing protocol. When he didn't respond she grabbed his collar and pulled him up. "Or do you want to get carried home by a girl?" Hearing the continued gunfire, Sam pulled his arm over her shoulder and dragged him forward, trusting her team to cover her back.
Teal'c and Jack closed ranks around them and the quartet climbed the small flight of stairs to the gate together. Without pausing, Sam crossed the event horizon...and fell flat on her face on the other side as 200 pounds of Marine landed on top of her. The air left her lungs in a rush and spots danced in front of her eyes as she tried to breath.
She vaguely heard the clatter of two more people coming home and the metallic grinding of the iris closing. Just as a lack of oxygen threatened to render her unconscious, the weight was removed and she lay there for a moment, digging her fingers into the grate, sucking in air.
"Carter? You hit?" Jack asked, gently rolling her onto her back.
She shook her head. "Just...wind knocked outta me," she gasped.
"OK," Jack said, kneeling beside her as she fought to remind her lungs how to do their job.
"Colonel. What happened?"
"Well general, I'm no expert but I think SG-3 was going to be guests of honor at a banquet," Jack said, watching Daniel help the orderlies lift Johnson onto a gurney while Teal'c helped with Makepeace.
"Banquet?" Hammond asked, plainly confused.
"Sure sir. The same way a pig's a guest of honor at a luau."
"I see," he replied, hiding a small smile. "Get yourselves to the infirmary. We'll debrief when you're clear."
"Yes sir." Jack watched the older man leave the room and turned back to Sam who was still lying on the ramp.
"Carter. You OK?"
Sam opened her eyes and nodded. "Yes sir," she replied as she pushed herself up on her elbows, grimacing a bit as pain shot through her chest.
"Think I caught an elbow in the ribs," she explained, her hand instinctively going to her bruised side.
"You make it to the infirmary or do I need to get a gurney?"
"I'll make it," she vowed. There was no way she was going to get wheeled through the halls. Not while she was conscious enough to prevent it.
Jack took Sam's rifle from over her head and handed it and his and Teal'c's weapons to the waiting sergeant. Daniel helped her to her feet. "Let's go get you checked out," he said as they followed the parade to the infirmary
Janet pulled the curtain closed and Sam cautiously removed her T-shirt. The doctor winced in sympathy at the sight of the darkening bruises running up Sam's side. "Have fun storming the castle?" she quipped as she began to gently palpate them, looking for any sign of broken bones.
Sam sucked in a breath as her friend hit a particularly sensitive spot. "Again?"
"Yep. Every night actually. You know I should consider myself lucky. At least she's too old for Barney or the Tele-tubbies because if Colonel O'Neill had gotten Cassie hooked on those…I would have to kill him."
Sam chuckled. "Remember the good old days before VCRs?"
"Reading the same book over and over," Janet finished. "For me it was the whole Wizard of Oz series, talking china figurines and all that."
"CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. I was fascinated by people walking through a doorway and ending up on a different world," Sam answered, a nostalgic smile on her face.
"Pure fantasy. It'd never happen. How did this happen?"
"We went in to bail out SG-3 and the natives weren't quite ready to let them go yet. I ended up with a couple hundred pounds of Marine landing on top of me. How is Colonel Makepeace?"
"No arterial or nerve damage, though I may have to surgically attach the crutches to make him use them. He'll be fine. And we'll take an x-ray to be sure but I think you're just bruised."
Sam nodded and pulled her dog tags from around her neck as the doctor gave her a gown to slip on for the short walk to radiology.
A flash of purple caught Janet's eye and she picked up the necklace Sam had been wearing with her dog tags. She examined the crystal hanging on a delicate silver chain. "What's this? Not exactly regulation."
Sam took it from her. "I know. It's…one of the Tok'ra gave it to me. I…somehow it just feels right when I wear it. Like…like some confirmation that the Tok'ra are real, that I wasn't exactly a Goa'uld. I…" she trailed off.
Janet looked closely at her friend. She'd thought Sam had been dealing with her possession OK but…What if she'd been wrong? "Sam. Are you OK? I mean has anything happened?"
"You mean other than having the memories of some alien rattling around in my head? Honestly I'm fine. I just felt like wearing it is all."
"OK. Well. Why don't we get your ribs x-rayed so you can debrief and go home? Which is what I'm recommending by the way. The last few days have been tough on all of you."
"No argument there doc," Sam replied as Janet helped her off the bed.
Four hours later a tired Sam paused outside the infirmary. They'd finally finished with the debriefing. It had lasted slightly longer than usual because SGC personnel had fired upon the indigenous people. They were free to go but she thought she should check on Colonel Makepeace, make sure he wasn't too incredibly angry with her. Protocol often took a backseat to practicality in the heat of battle but…well it couldn't hurt to make sure. Threatening a superior officer was something the military frowned upon after all.
The curtains were drawn around his bed and she paused to listen, not wanting to barge in on some medical procedure.
"I heard Captain Carter dragged you through the gate." She heard. So the rest of SG-3 must be in there with him.
"Yeah. She saved my six," Makepeace grudgingly admitted, knowing full well he wasn't going to be hearing the last of this for some time to come.
The laughter of his men confirmed this. Sam grinned to herself.
"I heard she read you the riot act."
"Nah. It wasn't like that." The men laughed again. Sam put her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. Oh this was good. They carried on for a few more minutes, their reminiscing of the day's events getting more and more outrageous and the laughter getting louder.
Sam stayed behind the curtain. Content to merely eavesdrop, not minding the sneak preview of the version that would be speeding along the base grapevine in the morning.
"So tell me boss. When Carter got all ticked off at you…did her eyes glow?"
The question stilled the laughter in the room faster than if the general himself had walked in.
"What did you say?" Makepeace asked quietly.
"Did her eyes glow and her voice get all funky," he repeated, not catching the mood change.
"Why would they glow?" he asked in a low voice.
"Cause she's a Goa'uld boss."
Makepeace stared at his men for a second in disbelief. He'd read the reports. He knew what she'd been through. It was nothing short of a miracle the captain wasn't in some mental ward right now. "Captain Carter is not Goa'uld. She's a damn fine officer and she saved my ass. And if I ever hear any of you making another disparaging remark about her I'm gonna sign you up for some hand to hand training. I hear the Jaffa is always looking for a new partner. Do I make myself clear?"
Two very subdued marines answered in the affirmative.
Unfortunately the person who needed to hear the colonel's speech missed it. She had already fled the room.
Sam parked her car in front of her apartment and automatically turned off the engine. She honestly couldn't remember the ride home. In fact, her last real memory was stumbling out of the infirmary wanting to do nothing more than to just get out.
She pulled the keys from the ignition and reached into the console for her wallet. Her questing fingers come up empty. Right. It was still locked in her desk drawer. Now she really hoped her drive home had been a smooth one.
She got out of her car and climbed the flight of steps to her apartment. God! What will it take? She'd worked so hard to prove to people she could still be trusted. She'd submitted to all their tests, tried to remember all she could about the Tok'ra. She'd even let herself be hypnotized again, an experience she had never, ever wanted to repeat. Not after having to relive those awful memories of Nem and all he'd done to them.
She'd cooperated in every way she could short of letting them crack her head open and see what a goa'ulded cerebellum looked like. Hell, she'd even saved the planet a time or two. You'd think a little thing like that would prove your loyalty.
But they still didn't trust her.
Suspecting was bad enough but to actually hear the words created an ache in her chest that had little to do with her bruised ribs.
She unlocked the door and entered her apartment. She listlessly picked the mail up off the floor and tossed it onto the table. It could wait. Right now she needed a bath.
A few minutes later she propped her head against the back of the tub and used her toe to turn off the tap. The water was hot, probably too hot. But she didn't care. She closed her eyes and tried to relax. She tried to ignore the salty tears that splashed into the steaming water.
Several miles away a dark, slightly scruffy figure searched through the bracken. He knew perceived distances could be deceiving but the descent pod had to be near. He could sense the small amount of Naquadah that powered the device.
He impatiently tossed aside a small pile of brush and smiled as a dull black surface glinted in the moonlight. He searched the pod and was frustrated to find it empty.
It would have been too much to hope for it to have had the homing beacon intact. Not that he would have used it for that. Who knows whom he might summon? But he could use the components to make a device to communicate with one of his fellow Ash'rak and find a way off this cursed world. For months he had struggled to survive, having to depend on the handouts of weak hearted individuals and living on the streets like an animal. This great Tau'ri home world was worse than the most primitive backwater planet he'd ever been on.
Regardless of his physical trials, he needed to get the intelligence he had gathered back to Cronos. His reward would be great indeed when he told his God that the Tau'ri were nothing but blustering fools, ripe for the taking. That their iris was the only real defense the world had. That Apophis' defeat had been a mere fluke and an assault from space would succeed.
He felt his mood lighten as he saw a set of footprints. Tok'ra. He would recognize the specific type of footwear anywhere.
His opportunity to escape this thrice-damned world just presented itself. While they were more than capable of suicide missions, he knew of nothing on this planet worth dying for. That meant this Tok'ra had or would have a way off this planet.
If events transpired as he hoped, he would not only get home, but also have a prisoner to take to Cronos. And if the fates were truly kind, it would be enough to appease his lord for his failure to capture Jolinar.
Sam padded down the hall dressed in a comfortable pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt. Who cares what a couple of Jarheads think anyway? Her team trusted her, mostly anyway. And she knew the colonel. If he were worried about her wigging out she'd be confined on world, she reassured herself as she opened a can of soup for dinner.
As it heated she noticed the flashing red light on her answering machine. She listened to three hang-ups, a notice from her land lord warning her of an exterminator coming next week, and a message from her dad telling her that he had moved to Colorado Springs and giving her his address and phone number.
More than a little stunned she rewound the tape and wrote the information down. This was a surprise. Her dad had spent most of the last fifteen years avoiding her, now he was moving halfway across the country. Why? To spend time with her or was it just a symptom of the good old fashioned human desire not do die alone?
Maybe it was because Colorado Springs was closer to California, or maybe because he knew Mark would slam the door in his face, literally.
Her soup hot, she poured it into a bowl and took it out to the living room. As she snagged the remote to turn on the TV a flash of white caught her eye. She got up, set down the bowl, and walked over to the hall table. Several pieces of mail were lying on the floor. This was wrong. She distinctly remembered putting the small pile of envelopes on the table.
As she bent over to pick them up she saw a flash of silver and blue. The mail forgotten she picked up the bit of plastic. It was a candy wrapper to a Zero bar. This…it wasn't her imagination. Not this time. She couldn't explain this as forgetfulness or coincidence. Someone had been in her home. And while she was there. While she'd been soaking in the tub, someone had been here, going through her place, her stuff, and her mail.
And now she had proof. She felt the uncertainty of the past few weeks melt away to be replaced by cold fury. Holy Hannah! What more did they want? She could tolerate them snooping into her lab. Like she'd once told the colonel, even the CIA never trusted a turncoat. But this. How the hell could they think to find evidence of Jolinar in her mail? What did they think she would do, call the National Inquirer?
No. They'd gone goo far. If they trusted her so little that they'd search her home…to hell with them. To hell with the whole thing.
With anger glittering in her eyes she stalked back to her bedroom and crammed her feet into some running shoes. A few moments later her car sped into the night, the screech of tires not going unnoticed in the quiet neighborhood.
'That had been close,' the woman thought, lighting a cigarette as she watched Sam's car speed away. Carter had come home unexpectedly; she'd planned on the rescue mission and debriefing to last far longer than it had.
She raised a shaking hand and pushed it through her hair. And worse than nearly getting caught, she still hadn't found anything. But there had to be something. She refused to believe Carter was totally innocent. She had to be controlling the general somehow. She had to have a hold over him.
All she had to do was find proof. Proof and she could go to the general and expose the traitor.
"You still have not told me how we are going to locate Samantha within the confines of this large city," Lantash reminded as Martouf walked through what had to be a rather disreputable part of town. At least he hoped only part of the city looked this way. If such squalor was representative of earth, he could understand the Tau'ri's desire to explore the galaxy. Even many worlds under Goa'uld domination were more prosperous.
"Jolinar described Samantha's home to me. It is to the east of the mountains."
"So is most of this city and half the continent."
"She remembers…remembered a place called Cheyenne Mountain."
"So where is this Cheyenne Mountain?" Lantash asked caustically.
"I do not know. Perhaps there is a sign," Martouf replied sarcastically.
"I do not doubt it given the large number of signs we have seen. Of course it would help if we could read the language."
"We will merely ask someone."
"Not some of those ruffians we just avoided?" Lantash asked, referring to the group of youth they had ducked into an alley to avoid. He had noticed an increase in the number of…disreputable looking people as the sun had begun to set. It was not an uncommon occurrence for human predators to join the animal ones in the dark.
"No I think…there," Martouf said, spying a young girl walking down the street, a colorful looking weapon held in her arms. Suddenly two boys ran up to her and jerked it from her grasp, knocking her down. Without fully contemplating his actions, Martouf lunged forward. He caught one of the youths and tossed him against a wall with enough force to stun him. He then grabbed the second by the neck and pinned him against the wall. "It is not nice to torment those younger than you," he snarled as he pulled the weapon from the youth's grasp. The young man didn't answer, but merely stared at Martouf with wide eyes. "You will leave this girl alone," he stated.
Fearful, the bully nodded and Martouf let him go. He fell to the concrete in a tangled heap. Martouf stepped back and felt a bit of satisfaction as he saw the two youths pick themselves up and scurry away.
"Show off," Lantash chided.
"You hate bullies also. Besides a grateful person is more likely to help us."
"Hey. That's mine."
Martouf looked down to see the pre-teen girl holding out her hand. "It is in my possession."
"No. No finders keepers here. It's mine. Gimme."
"Perhaps a trade?"
The girl's expression changed form indignation to fear. "Nah. Who needs it anyway? It leaks you know," she said as she backed away.
Realizing he'd tried the wrong approach, Martouf called out. "Wait." He bent over and laid the weapon on the ground, then backed away. "I mean you no harm. I would just like some information."
The girl shifted her gaze between him and her water gun. Hoping to reassure her, he took another step back. "What kind of info do you want?" she asked warily.
"I am looking for Cheyenne Mountain. Can you tell me where it is?"
"You're kidding right?"
"No. I am not. Can you direct me to Cheyenne Mountain?"
"Yeah. It's that one, with all the antennas on the top," she replied, pointing.
"The sticks with the lights on them," she clarified. "What are you? From Mars?"
"Actually Vorash," he said, following her hand and seeing the mountain topped by blinking towers."Thank you," he replied, turning to walk away.
Ally dashed forward and snatched up her precious water gun. She cast an appraising glance at the stranger. And he was a stranger. Everything from his clothes to his demeanor screamed outsider.
"Hey mister." Martouf turned. "Thanks. I owe ya."
"You do not owe me. Simply show someone else a kindness." He saw her nod then turn and scurry away.
"Nicely done," Lantash complimented. "Now that we know where we're going, are you certain Samantha will be there?"
"She will be," Martouf said hopefully. "Or someone who will know her location."
A trio of people looked through the trees at the quartet of green clad men setting up camp in a clearing.
"Garshaw. You are certain these are of the Tau'ri?" Kordesh asked quietly.
"That is what our operative reported," The brunette replied.
"They are attired similarly to Samantha and Teal'c when they came to us," Selmac said, wishing they'd had someone else other than Kordesh to bring. There was something about that man.
"I wish there was a better way to make contact. How can we know these people will behave similarly to Samantha's friends?"
"They never returned to the planet after they retrieved Samantha and Teal'c," Selmac pointed out. "A vengeful race would have attacked, or at least returned to find answers. They merely left. This agrees with what Jolinar told me of the Tau'ri. They are not vengeful like many races. By allowing Samantha and Teal'c to return, we took away their reason for attacking us. Jolinar felt an alliance would be profitable."
"Or Jolinar's mind was damaged by its contact with the Tau'ri's," Kordesh suggested. "We have all seen the effects of an unstable mind upon a symbiote."
"The woman I spoke with was not unstable," Garshaw declared. "She was in fact most charming and would have made an excellent Tok'ra, had she been willing. We will speak with these Tau'ri. Convince them to take us to their home world."
"And if Martouf is not there? Then what? We shall be prisoners of a primitive race," Kordesh said, his dislike of the plan plain on his face.
"Martouf is there," Selmac promised. "Samantha carries the last embers of Jolinar within her. He can no more refuse to go to her than you can stop breathing."
With all three in agreement, reluctant though it may be, they stepped out from the trees and walked slowly to the camp. Each of their faces was placid but three symbiotes were alternately convincing their hosts the decision was a wise one and bracing the same hosts for the worst.
Sam stormed through the halls of the SGC; too angry to notice the quizzical glances from the personnel she passed. They were used to seeing her on the base at all hours of the day or night, just not in casual civilian clothes and a look of fury on her face.
She walked up to Colonel O'Neill's office door and pounded on it with her fist. She felt her anger grow when there was no answer. OK fine. She'd wanted to do this face to face but...no one had had the guts to ask her anything to her face. She went instead to her quarters and proceeded to clean out the small closet and desk. It didn't take long. She didn't have much that wasn't military issue, just a few toiletries, a couple changes of clothes and a handful of rocks or memorabilia she'd brought back from other planets.
She noted almost dispassionately that someone had searched her quarters again since she'd left a couple of hours before. The quartz from P4C387 was supposed to be to the right of the piece of obsidian from P5X293.
Instead of making her angrier, it just made her more resolved. She could take a hint.
Not wanting to deal with typing out her resignation she settled for scrawling a few angry words on a piece of paper, neatly folding it and sealing it, the candy bar wrapper and her dog tags in an envelope.
She then grabbed her small box of belongings and left the room. She made her way to the surface and signed out.
"Can you give this to the general for me?" she asked the Sergeant on duty. She turned and walked away as the klaxons began to blare, announcing an off world activation.
"Ma'am. You forgot your key card," he said, holding out the plastic card towards her retreating back.
"No I didn't," she replied as she kept walking, quashing her curiosity about who could be coming back. It wasn't her problem any more.
The ringing of the phone pulled George from his slumber. His eyes still closed; he reached unerringly for the receiver. "Hammond."
"General. I'm sorry to wake you sir but we have a situation," he heard a young voice say.
"Who is this and what's the situation?"
"This is Lieutenant Simmons. Sir. SG-11 just returned. They were approached by three individuals claiming to be from the Tok'ra."
"What do they want?" Tok'ra. Wasn't that what Carter and Teal'c had called those aliens?
"Sir, they won't say. They'll only talk to you sir, or Captain Carter."
George sighed. What was that old saying? I'll sleep when I'm dead. The way things were going that was how it was going to end up. "Very well. Recall SG-1, especially Carter. Keep the visitors confined. Politely. I'll be there inside an hour."
George hung up the phone and turned on the lamp. 0315. At least he wouldn't have any traffic to deal with.
He got out of bed and went into the bathroom. Aliens or not, he wasn't facing this can of worms without a shower.
The man walked through the silent streets. Cursed Tau'ri. Their habit of paving their thoroughfares made it impossible to accurately track the Tok'ra. As he walked, a tiny beeping from his pocket caught his attention. He dug into the grimy pants he wore and pulled out a small sensor receiver.
When he had been in their SGC months ago, he had been able to plant a small sensor in their gateroom. It would warn him of the presence of other Goa'uld arriving on the planet.
And now it was telling him some had arrived. In his mind he reasoned that either his lord had found a way to breech the iris, which was rather unlikely. Or the Tok'ra had come to rendezvous with their operative.
He abandoned his trailing of the Tok'ra and instead altered his course for the chaap'pai. It was probable his quarry was headed towards the gate. He planned to beat him there. Perhaps his day of deliverance was at hand.
Sam pulled her car to the curb and idly watched the paperboy delivering his papers. Holy Hannah. What had she just done? Her job, her career, her friends. Everything was gone. And there was no going back. No. She couldn't ever face them again. She couldn't go home. They'd come. Or maybe they wouldn't. Which would be worse? That they would come to find out why she'd quit or if they didn't care. Dad. That was it. Dad would know what to do. With that desperate thought, she pulled out from the curb and drove off into the pre-dawn darkness.
Colonel Jack O'Neill exited the elevator on level 28, wondering vaguely if the general would take offense if he brought a cup of coffee to this briefing. For crying out loud it wasn't even dawn yet. Whatever had precipitated George recalling them not only from their downtime but also in the middle of the night had better be fate of the world important.
He climbed the stairs to the briefing room and couldn't quite hide his surprise at the sight of General Hammond, Daniel and Teal'c seated at the oak table along with three... knowing this place, three aliens.
"Colonel O'Neill. Glad you could join us."
"Sir," Jack replied, taking a seat at the table next to Daniel. "And who would this be?" he asked, nodding towards the trio of strangers.
"I am Garshaw of Beliote, this is Sarouche and Kordesh," the middle aged brunette said, introducing her companions, an elderly woman in a pink dress and a man in light colored clothing. "We have traveled to the Tau'ri to ask your help."
Jack looked from the woman to his CO.
"These individuals are from the Tok'ra. They believe another member of their group, a man named Martouf may have journeyed to Earth in an effort to make contact with Captain Carter."
Jack looked around the room. "Where is Carter?" His 2IC was conspicuously absent.
"That's the other problem Jack," Daniel spoke up. "We don't know. Evidently she stormed in here tonight and resigned."
Martouf made his way through the dark streets. He and Lantash had long ago left the rough urban avenues behind and were now walking through quiet residential boulevards.
"Martouf, I know you wish to find Samantha, but you need to rest."
"Lantash I know. Just...just a bit longer," Martouf asked, trying to ignore the message his body was sending him. He was tired. Exhausted might be a more accurate description.
Part of him longed for his pallet back on Vorash. Perhaps a long soak in a pool. But he couldn't waste time looking after his petty physical needs. He had to reach Samantha. Something told him if he didn't contact her soon, it would be too late.
The Ash'rak approached the mountain, retracing the path he'd taken months ago when he'd first fled the SGC. The first thing he needed was to acquire the appropriate attire. With that, few would even notice him.
He remembered the large number of personnel he had passed when he left the facility. He knew it would not be difficult to acquire the attire he needed. It would just require some patience.
"So what makes you think this Marty guy is here?" Jack asked, eyeing the Tok'ra suspiciously. True, Teal'c had vouched for them, and they had put themselves pretty much at the SGC's mercy, but it was one of their kind that had crawled into Carter's head and taken her over. Something he'd thought she was dealing with, though this whole resignation business had proved him wrong.
"Lantash and his host Martouf were mated with Jolinar and Rosha for over a century."
"Rosha?" Daniel asked.
"She was Jolinar's host prior to the Nasyian man and Samantha. Marisa, Jolinar's host after she left Samantha recently died. Jolinar died with her. Martouf was...most distraught at their passing," Garshaw related.
"That is why we believe he may have come to earth," Selmac said.
"It is highly probable," Teal'c said. "I witnessed a great depth of feeling when I was with Captain Carter on the Tok'ra planet. Loving Jolinar to the point of obsession was the phrase Captain Carter used."
"He came to find the last bit of his 'true love' left in the universe," Daniel said quietly. Jack shot his friend a look, seeing the fresh pain on his face. Oh yeah, given half a chance Danny would be off chasing after Shau'ri, especially after learning she was still in there, that Amaunet hadn't destroyed all of his wife.
"So, and forgive me for being Mr. Negative here, but are we sure Marty isn't going to hurt Carter?"
"I do not believe so O'Neill," Teal'c said. "Martouf's feelings may have certainly clouded his judgment, however I believe the opposite is true. He would go to extraordinary lengths to protect her."
"Yeah well, if he's gonna protect her, he's got to find her first," Jack said, more than a little skeptical. Despite the assurances, he trusted this guy about as far as he could throw him. "Then again, so do we. General, did Carter say anything in her resignation," he asked the older man, not quite believing he was using 'resignation' and 'Carter' in the same sentence.
Hammond shook his head as he handed Jack the piece of paper. "Quite frankly colonel, if I didn't recognize the handwriting, I'd think this was some kind of joke."
Handwriting? OK, something was definitely wrong. Jack swore if she could figure out a way to do it, she'd type her notes while on a mission. She typed out her grocery lists for crying out loud. And she sure as hell wouldn't not type her resignation.
He scanned the one page missive, frowning as phrases like 'compromised', 'searching my home' and 'can not be trusted' jumped out at him.
Jack lifted puzzled eyes to his CO. This emotional rambling hardly sounded like the Carter he knew. "Searching her house?"
"I'm as puzzled as you are Jack. The security precautions we discussed after Captain Carter's return are the only ones I've authorized. This was in with it," he said, holding up the dog tags and candy bar wrapper.
Daniel picked up the bit of plastic with a frown. "If she found this in her house, someone was there."
"What makes you say that?"
"She'd never eat this. Sam hates white chocolate," Daniel said "And she was having some trouble with her key card."
"Sometimes it wouldn't work. She always said it was a glitch."
"And why didn't you report this Dr. Jackson?"
"General, when it comes to the base computers, if Sam says it's a glitch, it's a glitch. She wrote half the programs we use."
Hammond sighed. Daniel was right. "Regardless, I'll have Sergeants Siler and Davis look into any breaches of security we may have. Colonel I would like you and Teal'c to find Carter and bring her back here. Kicking and screaming if need be. Garshaw, Sarouche, Kordesh, I'm afraid we can not allow you to leave this facility. However, Dr. Jackson will do all he can to make you comfortable. You're not prisoners but I ask that you respect our prohibitions. It is as much to protect you as us."
"We understand general," Garshaw replied with a small smile. "We would act similarly. What about Martouf?"
"Ma'am, if his feelings are anything like what you've relayed, I have a funny feeling that when Colonel O'Neill finds Captain Carter, Martouf won't be far away."
Sam parked her car and looked across the street at the small condo. Now that she was here she was as afraid to go in as she was desperate to go in.
It would be OK she told herself as she got out of the car. Dad would understand. He'd tell her what to do. How to fix this huge mess that was her life.
She walked up the sidewalk, barely noting the pinking sky. It was early. But that was OK. Dad always used to get up early. She remembered all through school, whenever he was home, he would be up before dawn to jog five miles. He'd be awake, she told herself as she rang the bell.
As the seconds ticked by she felt her doubt grow. Maybe he wasn't home. Maybe she had the wrong address. Just as she was ready to turn and leave a light came on and she peered through the window to see her dad making his way to the door. She saw him frown and squint as he tried to focus on whoever was rousing him from a sound sleep.
"Sam?" he asked as he opened the door. "It's 5am. What the hell are you doing here?" he asked grumpily.
"You what kid? Spit it out."
"Dad I've...things are so..." Sam paused as tears began to well up. She saw a strange look cross her father's face. He abruptly turned and stalked back down the short hallway. "Dad?" she whispered, holding out her hand as she heard a door slam, the sound echoed like a gunshot in the still of the morning and it struck her to the core.
He didn't want anything to do with her. She knew she'd disappointed him by turning down NASA. She'd let him down one too many times. By not marrying Jonus. When she'd transferred to the Pentagon and started spending more time in a lab coat than a flight suit. You can't climb the ranks in a lab Sammy, he'd said. Then most recently when she'd refused his favor driven offer. Oh god. She'd really done it this time. She'd burned her last bridge. There was no where left to go.
She turned and ran back down the sidewalk, barely able to see through the tears streaming down her face.
She never saw the SUV that came around the corner. All she felt was the impact that threw her body against the curb.
The drunk driver continued on his way, oblivious as to what had just happened, his brake lights faded in the distance, leaving just the first hints of dawn to illuminate the scene. A dawn she may not live to see.
"Do you recall my persistent disbelief in the concept of luck?"
"Huh?" Martouf replied. He had been paying scant attention to their surroundings, basically resting his mind and letting Lantash have control.
"I am referring to your belief in the primitive concept of luck," Lantash replied sardonically.
"So?" Martouf asked, puzzled by his symbiote's sudden interest in baiting him. They had often debated the concept of luck. Something Martouf believed in and Lantash firmly dismissed as drivel. The centuries old symbiote instead preferred to put his beliefs into the concept of fate and unchangeable paths.
"Either we are very lucky today, or we were fated to find her."
"Her? Lantash if you don't stop being cryptic I'll leave you behind next time."
"Is that not Samantha?" Lantash asked, directing their gaze towards the running figure.
Martouf fought to keep his amazement under control. It was Samantha. He stepped forward to capture her attention before she attained her vehicle and slipped away again. His words of greeting turned into a cry of horror as he helplessly watched the vehicle strike her, tossing her body aside like a discarded toy.
Jacob shakily walked back down the hall, convulsively wiping his mouth off with his hand. Damn doctors. They said it'd be days before the chemo started to make him sick. He'd hoped to at least have a few good days with Sam before... "Sam?" he called, not seeing her in the living room. Where was she?
Putting the hour of the morning together with the look on her face something had to be seriously wrong. She hadn't even looked that upset when she'd broken it off with that bastard Hansen.
He walked past the handful of boxes lining the hall and out the open door. Was she waiting outside? Since when did she need an invitation to come in?
Scanning the area, his eyes picked up a movement in the darkened street. His heart sank as he saw a figure kneeling over another at the curb. In an instant he knew the fallen person was Sam. The sickness he felt now had less to so with the chemo and more with fear as he stumbled down the walk desperately running every prayer her knew through his mind. Please God let her be alive.
The chatter of people drew the attention of the man crouched in the bushes. He studied the half dozen individuals, sizing each up as a potential victim. He had already let several pass that were entering the facility. They would be missed sooner than those leaving would.
Two were women, which eliminated them from contention.
After a brief conversation, two of the men left together which left a large man in green and a smaller one in a white shirt. Physically he knew he could overpower either of them, or possibly both. However he needed to be discrete. From his months spent on this planet he knew neither of the men should be due back to work for at least 12 hours, possibly days if either was due for his weekend.
But, if two men were to go missing, it increased his chances of discovery. All he needed was a few hours. Time enough to gain access, either capture or free the Goa'uld inside and make his escape.
Remembering that individuals in the white shirts seemed to be of a higher rank than the people in green, he made his choice.
Fortunately the young man had left his vehicle at the edges of the parking area. He slipped the Hara kash onto his hand and stepped from the concealing bushes. He grabbed the man and held him fast as he activated the ring.
Within seconds his puny resistance faded away and the man slumped to the ground. The Ash'rak dragged him into the bushes and proceeded to switch clothes.
"Sam?" Jacob asked as he knelt by the body of his daughter. 'No. Not again,' he begged whatever deity may be listening as he flashed back to that horrible day decades before. The broken body of his wife...lying so still in the wreckage of the car.
"She is badly injured," the stranger said, running his hands gently over her.
"I'll call an ambulance."
Martouf shook his head, more than a little concerned by Sam's shallow, irregular breathing. "There is no time. She bleeds inside." He reached for the pouch at his waist, grateful for the healing device he carried.
Lantash stilled his hand. "Discretion my friend."
Martouf silently agreed. "We need to take her inside."
"No. We shouldn't move her," Jake protested.
"We do not have time to argue. She is dying. I can help her but not here," Martouf insisted, carefully picking Sam up in his arms. He could not have traveled so far, defied the odds only to watch her die...again.
Making his decision in an instant, Jacob got to his feet and led the stranger inside.
Martouf gently laid Sam on the couch and reached for the healing device. He did not have much time. Her wounds were still healable but if he hesitated too long, only a sarcophagus would save her. And he couldn't stand to lose her again.
"Martouf. Let me," Lantash said, taking control as Martouf's despair threatened to overwhelm him.
Jacob hurried back to the bedroom and returned carrying the quilt from his bed and the portable phone.
"Here. Keep her warm and I'll call..." he started, then stopped as he saw the stranger holding out his left hand over Sam, a strange golden light seeming to come from his palm.
He stared as the man wielded the device over his daughter's chest. He didn't know if the stranger was helping her or hurting her. He let the phone tumble from his grasp and instead hurried back to his bedroom to retrieve his gun. If he were helping, he'd apologize later. But by God if he'd hurt her...it was going to be the last thing he ever did.
The healing device snapped off and Martouf opened his eyes as Lantash retreated, exhausted. He looked at his patient, relieved to see her respiration even and deep, not the gasping irregular breathing of before.
"Get away from her." He heard. "What the hell are you?"
He looked up to see the man aiming what could only be a weapon at him, a look of determination on his features.
"I did tell you I was against this idea from the beginning," Lantash said.
"I am just saying...this was your idea."
Jack got out of his car and scanned the parking lot outside Sam's apartment, not surprised not to see her car. If she was as upset as he'd heard, the last place she'd be was home.
He figured the best he could hope for was to find some clue as to where she might be.
He was ashamed to admit it but he had no idea where she would go. He'd never talked to her about her life outside the SGC. All he really knew was what was in her personnel file. Her only real family was her dying father, a brother and his family in San Diego, and a mention of an uncle.
There was no mention of her mother and he didn't know if that was because she was deceased or if it was one of those nasty divorce situations. She'd never talked about any friends in the real world.
About the only things he knew was that she'd been at the Pentagon, that she'd wanted to get into NASA, she hated Italian sausage on her pizza, loved crab rangoons, slept on her left side and had a bad habit of thinking too much. None of which helped him right now.
"This is where Captain Carter lives?" Teal'c asked as he and Jack walked towards the building. O'Neill had been uncharacteristically quiet on the drive from the SGC. He knew the colonel was concerned about his teammate. He too was concerned. After their return from the Tok'ra and her return to active duty he had noticed a change in her behavior. The impulsive officer who had urged him to fire his staff weapon in the gateroom was gone, replaced with a quieter, more cautious officer. There was times when he missed the youthful exuberance she had had.
"Better be her place or someone's in for a surprise," Jack quipped as he turned the key and pushed the door open. "Carter?" he called out, not wanting to surprise her on the off chance she was home. "I'll check the back," he said, pointing Teal'c towards the living room and kitchen.
Jack walked slowly down the short hallway, looking and listening for any signs of trouble. He peeked into the bathroom and frowned at the sight of towels wadded up on the floor. He continued on to the bedroom, stepping over her uniform lying on the carpet, obviously where she'd let it drop. The quilt on the bed was unmussed, suggesting to him that if she'd slept last night, it hadn't been in that bed. That would fit in with her coming in in the middle of the night and quitting.
Jack turned and went back to the living room. "Got nothing back here but she didn't sleep in that bed last night."
"She did not finish her evening meal," Teal'c said, pointing towards the full bowl of congealed soup left abandoned on the coffee table.
Jack nodded and spying the mail on the hall table, he crossed to it. He began to flip through the envelopes, looking for a clue, any clue.
"O'Neill, does Captain Carter inhale tobacco products?"
"Huh?" Jack glanced up at the Jaffa, trying to translate his words into English. "Smoke? No she doesn't. Why?"
"There is an odor of tobacco in the room. If it does not belong to her then her claims of someone searching her home could be justified."
Jack sniffed; smelling it now that he knew what he was smelling for. He frowned and held up an envelope. "And left a calling card," he said, holding up an envelope marred with a pale, chocolaty thumbprint.
"We still have not accomplished our objective."
"Yeah I know," Jack replied, slipping the envelope into his coat pocket. He pulled out his cell phone.
"Better check in with Hammond, see if he has any ideas." 'Actually let's see if the old family friend knows more about my captain than I do.'
Jack talked with the general as Teal'c picked up the congealed soup and carried it into the kitchen. About the time he had washed out the bowl and dried his hands, Jack was hanging up.
"Did General Hammond have a suggestion?"
"Yeah," Jack replied, moving towards the door. "Her dad just moved into town. Either she'll be there or maybe he'll have an idea where she is," he said. 'Or I'll have to tell dad the general his distraught daughter is lost somewhere in Colorado Springs,' Jack thought morosely as he got into his car and drove off
Sam surfaced from oblivion idly listening to the conversation. She must have fallen asleep on the couch again with the TV on. She'd been doing that a lot lately, plagued by insomnia until exhaustion would overcome her. She really needed to stop it though. She had a perfectly good queen sized bed that really should be used more often.
"My name is Martouf. I am a friend of Samantha's."
"I remember the last time a father threatened us over his daughter. Kayna was her name."
"Lantash, I do not need you butting in right now."
"Who just happened to be walking by in the wee hours of the morning," she heard her father ask skeptically. Dad? What was he doing here?
"Actually yes. It is a most fortunate coincidence."
"Fate or luck, coincidence is a myth."
"Fortunate my ass. How do I know YOU didn't hurt her?"
Hurt her? Who her? Me her? Sam asked herself. She shifted on the sofa, unable to stifle a moan as her body protested its rough treatment of late. How had she been hurt? Oh yeah. Her and Makepeace's unceremonious exit from the gate. But that didn't explain why her hip felt like someone had whacked it with a ball bat…not a bat. A car. Oh she remembered now.
"Samantha?" The conversation stopped as she forced her eyes open, blinking once or twice to clear her vision.
"Sam. How are you feeling?" he asked, real concern in his voice. Either she hadn't been hurt as severely as the stranger had insinuated or the odd looking man had worked a miracle with his…thing.
"Samantha," Martouf said, moving forward only to stop as Jake raised his gun.
"I told you to stay back."
"That is gratitude for you."
"I'm…Martouf, what are you doing here?" She asked, pushing herself up a bit so she was sitting up more, ignoring the stiffness in her muscles.
"I came to visit you."
"And defied the council to do it."
"All the way from…but why?" she asked, censoring herself.
"Let me handle this. Please forgive Martouf, this is still difficult for him," Lantash explained, speaking aloud for the first time, though he did make a point not to make his host's eyes flare or his voice to change. Startling people with weapons was never wise. "Several weeks ago Marisa and Jolinar were killed by a bomb planted in our base. In his grief, Martouf wished to seek you out and inform you of their passing."
"Martouf, Lantash, I'm sorry. But how did you get here? I can't imagine General Hammond just letting you go off on your own?"
"We did not come through your Stargate. We came by ship and…this mission was not totally sanctioned by the Tok'ra high council."
"Aah…Excuse me. I thought your name was Martouf? And what's all this about a Stargate, a ship and the Tok'ra?" Jake asked, wondering vaguely if hallucinations were a side effect of the chemo.
"And you thought I was indiscreet?" Martouf asked his slightly embarrassed symbiote.
Sam looked from her father to Martouf, her eyes lighting on the healing device still clasped in the Tok'ra's hand. She groaned again, fighting the urge to pull the quilt over her head. This time it had less to do with pain and more with explaining all this to her father. And she had a funny feeling 'classified' wasn't going to cut it.
"So this Egeria was…sort of your founder?" Daniel asked as he led the three Tok'ra into the commissary, noting the quartet of marines that stood at parade rest just inside the door. Fortunately Garshaw seemed to be the understanding type and hadn't protested about the armed guards that had been trailing them during their tour.
"Yes. Egeria was a queen."
"Like Hathor?" he asked, barely suppressing a shudder. God he hoped never to cross paths with the red head from hell again.
"Well, yes. She spawned the Tok'ra movement."
"So, all of…you are descended from her?"
"Yes. In the beginning there were a few defectors but most of us are Egeria's children," Sarouche said.
"That's…fascinating," Daniel replied as he led the aliens through selecting their food, explaining some of the dishes to them.
Janet had assured him, that despite them being alien…aliens…they were basically human and able to eat pretty much what they wanted. She did advise him to steer them clear of the breakfast burritos however.
"So. How do you…when Jolinar and Marisa died…do you ever get new recruits?" he asked as they sat at one of the tables. Sarouche picked up a piece of toast and shook her head. "Sadly, no. I am dying. If we do not find my symbiote Selmac a new host, she will die with me."
"You're always outnumbered," Daniel said in a flash of understanding. "You have zero population growth since you don't have a queen to make more Tok'ra or Jaffa to incubate them."
"That is correct," Garshaw said, picking at her scrambled eggs.
"That is why some see our battle against the system lords as a futile one…they shall always outnumber us," Kordesh stated, an odd tone in his voice.
"It is not always the quantity but quality," Garshaw replied coolly.
"So," Daniel interrupted. "Tell me more about the Tok'ra. Ummm…I mean, no offense but what makes you different from the Goa'uld? Is it biological or…"
"We do not believe in the Goa'uld way of domination and terror. The symbiote does not dominate the host; rather we share the body, each complimenting the other's weaknesses. It is truly a symbiotic relationship," Garshaw said sincerely.
"Well, forgive me but…what Jolinar did to Sam didn't seem very symbiotic to me," Daniel said, flashing back to the puzzled look on her face as she and Jolinar fought for control. The horrified expression when she'd attacked him, knocked Jack out and even shot Teal'c. Thank God she'd never visited Cassie like she'd planned. Lord only knows what she could have done to the young girl.
He knew that had been one of the hardest things for her to deal with when she'd come back to work. The feelings that she'd let them down, that she'd betrayed them. A feeling he was all too familiar with.
"That was one of Jolinar's biggest regrets. The way she had treated Samantha," Sarouche said. "It was unforgivable. She told me she had spoken with Samantha about it and that Samantha had understood."
"Well, I'm sure Sam understood but…" His words remained unspoken as there was a disturbance by the door. He turned to see an officer he didn't recognize arguing with one of the guards.
"Aah…maybe…Down!" he yelled as the stranger drew his pistol, took aim at the Tok'ra and opened fire.
"If you say classified I'm going to turn you over my knee…"
"That could be fun."
"Shut up Lantash. This is all your fault."
"My fault? Who came here? Who defied the council?"
"Who shot my mouth off? This is your father Samantha?"
"Dads usually are."
"Yes. Jacob Carter meet Martouf," Sam said, wondering vaguely what the protocol was to introduce aliens to your father the general.
"It is a pleasure to make you acquaintance sir."
"Aah, yes. It is good to be polite to the person with the weapon."
"Just stay back," Jacob said, raising the gun.
"Dad. Put the gun down. He won't hurt you."
"Just what the hell have you gotten yourself into? What do you do inside that mountain?"
"I told you. Analysis of deep space radar…"
"Bull shit. What's all this talk of ships?"
"Martouf used to be in the navy."
"They have Coast Guard in Kansas, what's the difference?"
"And this Tok'ra?"
"I want to see how she explains this one. She lies as good as Jolinar did."
"A…a club he joined. Sorta like the Blue Angels," Sam said, hoping it sounded at least plausible.
"Oh. So you fly?" Jake asked, his interest piqued.
Jake looked at the two people.
"Yes he did, no he doesn't now," Sam explained, wishing for a second that she were still unconscious.
"And what's that…" Jake made a gesture. "Glowing hand thing?"
"Clearly Samantha prefers subterfuge."
"A healing device," Martouf said.
"Very cryptic. Want to show him how it works again?"
"If you don't stop harassing me, you're going to need it," Martouf threatened.
Sam shot him a chilling look. "Experimental device…like Dr. McCoy's scanner on Star Trek."
"You know Sam. When I said your cover needed work…I meant it. How about the truth?"
"Sam. Don't lie to me. Just once…tell me the truth. What do you do in that mountain? Who is this guy and where did he come from. And what the hell is a Stargate?" Jake asked in total exasperation.
Sam looked at her father. Truly looked at him. She saw the tiredness in his face, his acceptance of his own mortality and his desperation to have this one thing from her. She made her decision in an instant. Of all the sacrifices she'd made in the last few years, not having anyone to share her accomplishments with had been the hardest.
And anyway. What did it matter? He was dying. She'd resigned. Letting him in on the secret was probably the last thing she could do for him. "OK. But first give me the gun," she demanded, holding out her hand. Jacob reluctantly handed it over. "And second, have a seat. It's a …very, very long story."
The silence after the gunfire was deafening. Daniel gingerly raised his head, both dying to know what had just happened and …well not wanting to die.
Two of the marines were lying on top of the stranger, a third was lying crumpled on the floor and the fourth was standing taught, his sidearm aimed unwaveringly at the figure under the Marines.
"Umm. Sorry. Everyone OK?" he asked, carefully lifting himself off of Garshaw who he'd pushed to the floor when the gunfire had erupted.
He sucked in a breath as a wave of pain assailed him. Instinctively raising his hand to explore the source he wasn't surprised when his fingers encountered sticky, warm blood. Great. Guess he still hadn't quite gotten that ducking part down.
"I am unharmed," Garshaw said, sitting up. "Thank you Dr. Jackson. Kordesh? Sarouche?"
"Nothing that will not heal," Kordesh replied, also gaining his feet. Daniel looked and saw a large stain of crimson blood marring the man's off white attire.
"You've been shot."
"It is minor injury. My symbiote will heal it shortly. Who attempted to kill us?"
Daniel shook his head, wondering the same thing, "I don't know," he said simply, starting to grasp the magnitude of the situation. Oh boy. This was a delicate enough time without having one of the SGC attempting to kill a visiting alien delegation. "I…"
"What the hell is going on here?" General Hammond demanded, storming into the room, a bevy of security and medical personnel in his wake.
"Sir. This man opened fire on the Tok'ra," the marine reported, still keeping the assailant in his sights even though his hands had been cuffed behind his back.
"Who is he?"
"I've never seen him before," the marine said as Janet hurried into the room and knelt beside the man. She rolled him to his side. "Sir. Whoever he is, he isn't long for this world if we don't get him to the infirmary now."
"He is Goa'uld," Garshaw stated, a look of disgust on her face.
"What?" Janet asked, instinctively drawing back. She didn't want to be too close if the Goa'uld decided to move into a new home.
Garshaw stepped forward, putting herself between the Goa'uld and Janet. "Who are you? Why did you try to kill us?"
The injured man forced his eyes open, a trickle of blood trailing from his lips. His eyes flared weakly. "Tok'ra scum. My master will destroy you," he gasped.
"You are hardly in the position to threaten us," Garshaw said evenly as the man's eyes closed. "He is severely injured but his Goa'uld should heal him. I suggest you restrain him."
"Take him to holding cell," Hammond ordered as Janet moved aside a bit of blood soaked cloth to reveal the plastic nametag.
"Sir?" she indicated, pointing to it. 'Simmons.'
"Contact the surface. See if Lieutenant Simmons' car is still here. If not, send a team to his house. He may be injured," Hammond instructed.
"Aah Janet, we could use some help here."
Janet turned to see Daniel on the floor beside Sarouche. "Damn," she whispered as she knelt beside the older woman.
"There is nothing you can do doctor," Sarouche whispered. "Selmac can not heal me. I…I was dying before we came here."
"Why don't you let me determine that?" Janet said, not willing to accept the diagnosis. The alien nodded and the orderlies lifted her gently onto a gurney. "You too Daniel," the doctor ordered, giving him a 'come or I'll drag you look." Grimacing at the pain in his shoulder he willingly followed her. He could tolerate pain, but why should he when there was an infirmary full of nice drugs just an elevator's ride away.
"So you're telling me this Stargate thing of yours is an interplanetary doorway to other planets...which you've spent the last year and a half exploring. That not only are there other planets, they're full of various descendants of Earth which were kidnapped millennia ago by a race of aliens that are these parasitic creatures that take over a person's body. Which is what Martouf is but not really. And you were in DC to get a medal not for your radar things but for blowing up a pair of alien ships that were going to destroy earth."
Sam shot her father a sheepish look. "That's pretty much it," she said, cringing at how unbelievable her life had become. Wordlessly, Jacob nodded and leaned forward, laying his hand on Sam's forehead. "What?" she asked, pulling away.
"Just seeing if you're running a fever. Either that or you conked your head."
"Samantha is telling you the truth."
"You know kid, when I told you your cover story needed more work, I didn't expect you to get so creative. Take it from someone who knows...simpler is better," he said condescendingly.
"He reminds me of Selmac."
Sam closed her eyes and sighed. She couldn't win. Tell him the cover story and he didn't believe her, tell him the truth and he didn't believe her. "I give up," she muttered. He didn't want to believe her.... Fine. She was too tired to fight him. Too tired and too sore. Martouf's healing device may have fixed the internal damage, but it hadn't done much about the bruises from her close encounter with the car. She longed to just burrow under the quilt and sleep for a few days. And if she could get her hands on some extra strength painkillers, all the better.
"Why do you not just show him Samantha?"
"Do you have a better one?"
At Martouf's suggestion, her eyes popped open and she shot him a questioning look.
"The Stargate. The ship I came in could not wait so I must ask to use the chaap'pai to return to the Tok'ra. When you take me you can also take your father. He will believe it once he sees it. Perhaps both of you can come and visit Vorash for a bit," Martouf suggested, hope rising in his voice.
"Visit Vorash? The council is already furious with you. Do you wish to make them ANGRIER?"
At Martouf's words Sam got a sick feeling in her stomach. This was getting WAY out of hand.
"Umm...Martouf. That won't work."
"Why not? You have defenses guarding against an attack. The outward wormhole created to return me to Vorash would provide little danger to Earth."
"Yeah Sam. Let's go see your...what did you call it?"
"Chappa whatever. If an alien has clearance then surely a general can get in, retired or not."
"Dad. Martouf doesn't have clearance. He's not even supposed to be here...and I thought Lantash knew better."
Martouf had the grace to look slightly abashed. "In his defense, Lantash did express concerns about my actions."
"Concerns?...Try totally against it. Just along for the ride."
"So what? He's an illegal alien?"
"Dad?" Sam cried in exasperation. Great, she shares mankind's greatest secret with him and he sees it as an opportunity to make bad one-liners.
"Look kid. You can't come over here at the crack of dawn spouting off about aliens and stuff and expect me to just believe it."
"You've never listened to me before. Whatever gave me the idea you would now?" she asked, getting more than a little disgusted with the whole thing.
"What do you mean?" he asked indignantly.
"You listen when it's convenient."
"I always listen to you," he protested.
"Like you did in DC. Like you listened when I said I was happy where I was."
"This is why we don't have children," Lantash said.
"Samantha..." Jacob's words remained unspoken as the doorbell rang. "We're not finished," he promised, going to answer the door.
"Oh yes we are," Sam muttered, throwing back the quilt and swinging her legs off the couch.
"Samantha, your injuries are healed but you must rest," Martouf said seeing the pain flash across her face.
"If I stay here we're just going to fight," she said tiredly. "I never should have come. Some things never change. We'll...aah...We'll go back to my place. See if we can get you home," she said, getting unsteadily to her feet. Maybe she'd give Martouf a crash course on driving. The way her day was going she'd get them both killed if she tried to drive.
"Samantha. You should not leave," Martouf continued to protest, stretching out his hand to steady her.
"I agree with your friend. Teal'c and I have been all over this town looking for you." Sam looked up to see Jack O'Neill and Teal'c walk into the room, followed by Jacob.
"Colonel," Sam said, sinking back onto the couch. Oh this was going to be fun. "What are you doing here?"
"Like I said, looking for you. And I'm guessing this is our elusive Tok'ra," Jack drawled, handing Jacob the newspaper he must have picked up on his way in.
"Colonel O'Neill. You may be Sam's CO but you better have a damn good reason for barging into my home at 6 o'clock in the bloody am."
"Sorry to intrude sir. Captain Carter is needed back at the base and since she left without her pager," Jack shot Sam a pointed look. "We were sent to retrieve her."
Sam bristled at his tone. She was a grown woman not some recalcitrant child. "Sir. You can't take me back because I don't work there any more. But you can take Martouf. He needs a ...lift home."
"What do you mean you don't work there anymore? Since when?" Jake asked.
"Resignations only count if someone accepts them. Hammond doesn't and neither do I. So you still work there and you're coming back," Jack stated. He wasn't going to let her throw away her career over what had to be a misunderstanding. Besides, he was just getting used to her.
"Resignation? Sam what are you doing resigning?"
"It's...a long story," Sam said lamely.
"Your whole Stargate thing was a long story."
"Whole Stargate thing?" Jack asked, raising his eyebrows. "Did we forget the meaning of the word 'classified' Captain?"
"I still know what it means sir. But circumstances..."
"Samantha was forced to explain matters when her father witnessed me using the healing device to save her live," Martouf interjected.
"He could give Garshaw a run for her money in the pointed looks department."
"Just a little accident," Sam said.
"So. When we get back to the base...which is where we're going...Fraiser takes a look at you," Jack said in a tone that told Sam she was going back, whether she wanted to or not.
"Fine," she agreed, knowing if she didn't give in gracefully she could end up slung over Teal'c's shoulder.
"You'll have to give me a minute to change. George and I go way back but I don't think he'll be too crazy about me coming to visit in my pajamas," Jacob said.
"Aaah sir. Cheyenne Mountain is a classified facility," Jack said.
"Whose secrets I already know. And you might as well stop arguing right now colonel. I'm coming or I'm going to start making phone calls."
Jack looked from the defiant gaze of Jacob to Sam's slightly sheepish one.
"He will sir," she said quietly.
"OK. General, you're in. And if this back fires I expect you to testify in my defense at my court-martial." Jacob turned and went back to his bedroom. "You," he said to Martouf. "I have three of your friends waiting to take you home. And you Captain. Once we get this whole mess straightened out, we're going to sit down and have a nice long talk."
The drive through the early morning traffic was a quiet one. Sam was in the passenger seat with Jacob and Martouf in the back with Teal'c between them. Both Sam and Teal'c may have vouched for the guy but Jack still didn't like having a Goa'uld in his back seat.
Jack hadn't missed the stiffness in his 2IC's movements, how she bit her lip every time he hit a rough patch of road. What ever her 'accident' was, it must have been a doozy.
And something she was being incredibly closed mouthed about. Just like she'd been about the whole 'someone is searching my stuff' thing. When exactly had she started to think she couldn't trust him? He hit a pothole and heard her hiss in pain. "You OK?' he asked quietly.
"Nothing," she responded tightly.
"Carter...Sam, come on," he pled.
Sam sighed. "Forgot to look both ways before I crossed the street," she admitted.
"Yeah." They pulled into the parking lot. Jack parked in his spot and turned off the engine. Sam un-did her seatbelt and opened the door.
"Here," he said, putting a restraining hand on her arm. She turned back. "You're gonna need these." He held out a set of dog tags and a key card. "It's Hammond's card. I'd stay out of his private bathroom if I were you but..."
Sam smiled. "Thanks."
"Come." General Hammond raised his head to see Sergeants Davis and Siler waiting outside. He waved them in and motioned for them to have a seat. "What did you find gentlemen?"
"Sir," Sgt. Davis spoke up. "Someone has definitely been accessing Captain Carter's lab and quarters. I've found evidence going back a few months, starting shortly after her return to active duty. At first it looks like the intrusions were limited to when she was off world or off base. In the last few weeks however, they've become bolder. On at least one occasion someone accessed her lab while she was in a post-mission briefing."
"Why weren't they noticed before?"
"Sir," Siler said, "The security system only flags us if there is an unauthorized access, like if I tried to make the elevator stop at one of NORAD's levels. As long as I or anyone accesses a room they have access to, all the computer does is note the entry. This person has access to Captain Carter's lab and quarters."
"Also, someone has been hacking into her computer files. I've found evidence of e-mails being re-routed and files being duplicated. I can only presume if such things are happening here, then there have doubtless been incursions into her home."
"Sir. I've also found video evidence of the person entering the captain's quarters," Siler said, holding up a tape. Receiving the general's permission, he got to his feet and put the tape into the VCR. The three men watched the lieutenant use her card and enter Sam's quarters. "In this particular instance Captain Carter was off-world. We'd have to check with her but I'm pretty sure she didn't give her permission."
"Who is it?"
"Lt. Patti McClendon. She transferred her a few months ago, right after the scare with Apophis' ships."
A look of anger crossed the general's face as he reached for the phone. "Get me Major Castleman."
"Sir," Siler interrupted. "What we have is circumstantial at best. We need to catch her in the act. Get some proof she can't weasel out of."
George looked at the sergeant's earnest face. "Major Castleman, Sgt. Siler is on his way up. He's got someone I need you to investigate. Be discrete but I need infallible proof." Hammond hung up the phone. "Sgt. Davis. I need you to find me a paper trail. Make sure no one else is involved. If they are, I want to know about it."
The two men got up and left the phone as Tech. Davis entered the room. "Sir. Colonel O'Neill has returned."
"About time. Have him meet me in the infirmary."
Jack walked into the infirmary, feeling like the leader of a very odd parade. Sam was quietly explaining some things to her father, though Jack was relieved to note she was being appropriately vague in all the right places. Teal'c was talking to Marty about…stuff and Jack was wondering how he was going to explain Jacob's presence without getting court-martialed. He stopped short at the sight of two of the Tok'ra standing beside a bed accompanied by Daniel…who had his arm in a sling.
"For crying out loud Daniel. What'd you get into this time?"
Daniel looked up. "Jack. Hi."
"Hi yourself. What happened?"
"Ooh. Well. We were eating breakfast then this guy came in and started shooting at us," he reported calmly, wondering just how much his life had changed that he was getting used to people shooting at him.
"It was an Ash'rak," Garshaw spoke up.
"An Ash'rak is an assassin O'Neill. They carry out the wishes of the system lords," Teal'c explained. "I am uncertain how one came to be on Earth."
"Maybe he came the same way Martouf did," Sam suggested.
"Or he's been here all along. Remember Jack. Right after Sam…we thought there could have been more than one Goa…Tok'ra…whatever in the Nasyians," Daniel reminded.
"Where is he?"
"Locked up on level 16. The SF's shot him but Garshaw says his symbiote is healing him."
"What about you?" Jack pointed towards the white sling.
"Me…it's just a flesh wound…I've always wanted to say that," he said sheepishly at Jack's stern look.
"And you Garshaw?" Martouf asked, guilt on his face. He acknowledged if it wasn't for him, they would not have been in danger.
"I am unharmed. Thanks to Dr. Jackson. Kordesh is nearly healed."
"But Sarouche is dying," Martouf stated sadly, sharing his symbiote's grief.
"Yes. The damage to the host is too severe for Selmac to repair. They both will die."
"Not if we could find Selmac a host," Kordesh said angrily. "If we were still on Vorash, perhaps she would have a chance."
Sam looked at the still form of the silver-haired woman who had befriended her all those months ago. She lifted her eyes to the haggard face of her father. She couldn't believe she was thinking what she was thinking. It was crazy. Off the wall. Pure desperation…and it just might save two lives.
"General Hammond sir. I have an idea," she said to the general who had slipped into the room right after their arrival.
George looked at his slightly bedraggled officer. He saw little sign of the woman who'd felt she had no choice but to leave. Then again, when he looked at O'Neill he saw little evidence of the trained killer he knew the man was.
With a slight nod of his head, Sam and Hammond stepped out into the hall, trailed by Jack. "Well?"
Sam took a breath. "Selmac and Sarouche are dying."
"We know that."
"And so is my father," she said in a rush almost as if saying the words would confirm them.
"Carter. Tell me this isn't going where I think it's going?" Jack pled, getting that sinking feeling all over again.
"Sir. Back on the planet, Selmac had a chance for a new host. A host she let Jolinar have so I could come back."
"Captain. Guilt isn't a valid reason…"
"General. If we do nothing three people are going to die but…if Selmac will blend with my dad and cure him, we can save two of them."
George and Jack shot each other skeptical looks.
"Umm…Carter. This might not be…"
"Colonel. I know it sounds crazy but I think my dad should at least have the option."
"Captain. I know you want to help your father but…"
"General. Sir. If we knew of a drug or plant we'd found on another planet, you wouldn't hesitate to offer it to him."
"We're not talking about a pill here. You're suggesting we let that snake crawl into your father's head. How the hell do we know he won't end up like Shau'ri or Skaa'ra? Instead of saving his life you could be condemning him to an eternity trapped in his own body. An experience you found less than enjoyable if I remember correctly," Jack countered.
"Sir. The Tok'ra aren't like that. And, with all due respect, you both know the lengths people can go to to survive. We have a chance to not only save my dad's life but also make some allies. The Tok'ra have been fighting the Goa'uld for millennia. Think of all we could gain from an alliance."
George looked at Sam's desperate face. Damn it. He didn't want to bury another friend. And she did have a point, the Tok'ra were technologically advanced. Making an alliance with them could help get the JCS off his back. And hell, Jake deserved the chance.
"Very well. See if all parties are agreed." Sam nodded and went back into the infirmary.
Jack stepped closer to Hammond. "Sir?"
"I know son. It's a risk. But Jake's a dead man walking. He deserves the right to make the decision," George said, fervently hoping he wasn't condemning his friend to a fate worse than death.
Sgt. Siler looked up, paying attention to the monitors. Major Castleman tapped the tiny black and white screen. The two men watched Lt. McClendon use her key card and enter Captain Carter's quarters. Siler reached out his hand and switched to the camera they'd just installed in Sam's quarters. They silently watched the lieutenant systematically search the cabinet and drawers.
"You know, it's too bad Captain Carter cleaned out her stuff. I'd love for the lieutenant to find something," Castleman said, feeling his anger grow as the nosy lieutenant continued her search. What they did was difficult enough without worrying about one of your own stabbing you in the back.
"Who says she won't find anything?" Siler asked innocently.
Castleman shot a glance at the man. "What did you do?"
Siler shrugged. "Just left her a bit of 'evidence' to find," he replied as they saw the woman lift the mattress on Sam's bunk and pull out a small item.
Castleman squinted. "A computer disk. What's on it?"
"Don't know. Something Davis cooked up. All I know is he said whoever opened the files on that disk is going to get a hell of a surprise."
Both men watched the lieutenant straighten up the room, attempting to erase all signs of her intrusion. She slipped into the hallway, blending with the various personnel walking there.
"Now what sir?" Siler asked.
Castleman turned to the Sergeant, a determined gleam in his eyes. "Now we spring the trap."
Lieutenant McClendon slipped into her quarters, her palms sweating a bit. Finally. Finally she had proof. She'd nearly given up hope of ever finding anything. But now, if the disk had on it what she hoped it did, she could prove the woman was a threat, not only to everyone at the SGC but the whole planet.
She sat at her computer and fought to contain her anticipation as she opened the file. Her anticipation turned to fear. She let out a small scream and nearly fell backwards as instead of the classified document she'd been sure she would find, a three dimensional graphic filled the screen.
"You OK there Lieutenant?" she heard. She turned to see Major Castleman standing in the doorway to her quarters.
She quickly reached for the mouse, trying to hide what she was working on. "Aah. Yes sir. I'm sorry…I just…"
"Save your breath lieutenant," Castleman spat. "Though I doubt you'll have that rank much longer. I am hereby placing you under arrest for breaking and entering, violating the security of this facility and what ever else I can come up with," he said, pulling her to her feet and cuffing her hands behind her back. Much to his disappointment she remained silent. "Siler, secure the evidence."
Siler sat down and ejected the disk from the floppy drive. He looked at the screen, still amused. "Walter, Walter, Walter," he said chuckling at the image. Instead of the document she'd expected, what had come up when McClendon had opened the file was a three dimensional computer animated Goa'uld, the Quadra-fanged creature seeming to leap from the screen with glowing eyes. "You wanted to find a Goa'uld so bad…well here you are," he said, turning off the computer. Revenge could be a beautiful thing.
Sam sat on the edge of the infirmary bed, trying not to eavesdrop on the muttered conversation going on just beyond the white curtains.
She felt the bed shift and turned to see Daniel sitting beside her. "Hey," he said, awkwardly holding out a glass of water and a couple pain pills.
"Thanks," she said, swallowing them gratefully.
"So what's going on?" he asked, jerking his thumb towards the curtain.
"Selmac wanted to talk to dad," she replied, shrugging a bit.
"What? Like a job interview or something?"
"I guess," she answered distractedly.
He shot her a concerned look. Not wanting to needlessly get anyone's hopes up, Jack, Hammond and Teal'c had convinced Garshaw and Kordesh to join them in the briefing room under the guise of sharing information on Goa'uld activities. That left Sam and Daniel alone with Jacob and Sarouche. Martouf had volunteered to stay to answer any of Jacob's questions Selmac might not be able to answer.
"So…how are you?"
"Fine," she answered quickly, too quickly.
"Sam," he said, laying his hand on her leg until she looked at him. "How are you with…all this?" he asked, motioning again towards the screened off part of the infirmary.
Sam closed her eyes and slumped a bit. "I…aaa…I don't know. I mean I…"
"You don't want to lose him."
"No. But I'm afraid I'll lose him anyway. What if…Selmac takes him over like Jolinar did me? What if it doesn't work? I mean, they might blend and Selmac might not be able to cure him and they'll all still die. It might all be for nothing."
"You know…there's a…a really good chance I'll never get Shau'ri back. I mean…on Abydos SHE was there, not Amaunet, Shau'ri. For a few hours I had her in my arms. I could hold her, talk to her. But then she was gone, back to Apophis. She's still in there, just like you were still in there when Jolinar was in control. Kowalski was still in there when his Goa'uld took him over. And I have to believe Skaa'ra is still in there." Daniel paused for a second. "Once she got away from us, Jolinar let you have control back right?"
"And she risked her life to move to a new host because she knew she couldn't stay in you right?"
"Doesn't sound like the actions of a monster to me. All the time the Tok'ra have been here…they haven't threatened us once. In fact, they're rather interested in what we do and how we do it. And they're willing to share technology and information with us. If this works, maybe your dad will be the first of many."
"First of what?" Sam asked, confused.
"The one thing we have that they need is hosts."
"Daniel…" Sam started, horrified.
He held up his hand. "Hear me out. Garshaw and Yosha are two disparate entities sharing one body. Just like you and Jolinar did…once you got done kicking our butts. Now, put aside what she did to you…if you had a choice, certain death or letting a creature share your body with you for the next century or so…what would you do?'
Sam shook her head. "I…I couldn't ever go through that again."
"I know. But if I had asked you that question six months ago…what would you have said?"
"Samantha." Sam and Daniel turned to see Jacob and Martouf pulling back the curtain.
"Dad?" Sam asked, hopping off the bed.
"Gimme a minute. Ok?" Jake said to Martouf as he ushered Sam away a bit.
"Dad. You don't have to do this," she said, seeing the resignation on his face.
"Yeah I do. The alternative is to just curl up and die and I'm not ready to do that yet."
"Look. I'm doing it. I just…In case it doesn't work…I'm proud of you. I was proud of you when I thought you were playing around with your satellite dishes and I'm even prouder to know you're out there living your dream. Hell I know a couple dozen guys at NASA that'd sell their souls to be where you are. You just…you keep living your dream."
"I will," she promised, fighting back tears.
Jake pulled her into a tight hug knowing that, regardless of the outcome, this would be the last time HE hugged his daughter.
"If they do not do it soon, it will be too late for Selmac," Lantash warned Martouf.
Martouf stepped forward and laid his hand on Jake's shoulder. "Little time remains."
Jake looked to the man, "OK." He turned back to Sam. "Look kid…"
"I know. Now go. Don't keep Selmac waiting. She hates that." Jake gave her another hug then followed Martouf back to Sarouche.
Kordesh watched the young woman enter the room and bend over to whisper something into General Hammond's ear. He remembered her being called Dr. Fraiser. The general whispered back to the woman who then slipped from the room. An expectant silence fell over the group. He saw the older man take a breath, then speak up, almost as if he didn't want to say what he was going to say. "Jacob has agreed to become Selmac's new host. They're…making the exchange right now."
Kordesh scanned the faces of the people gathered around the table, watching the variety of emotions playing across their features.
The general looked like he had just lost his best friend. O'Neill looked vaguely ill while Garshaw's eyes held hope for the first time in months. Selmac, Sarouche, Garshaw and Yosha had been close friends for over a century and he had seen Garshaw's despair grow as Sarouche's body had slowly failed.
And the sholva remained disgustingly indifferent. Kordesh felt his indignation grow. How dare he sit there as though he was their equal?
He fought to keep the disgust he felt off his face. Not only at Teal'c but also at Selmac's apparent survival. Again. It was as if the fates themselves were conspiring to keep her alive. First she'd managed to survive far longer than he had anticipated. If he ever ran into that trader on Parses he was going to have words with the man. He'd been promised the poison would act faster than it had.
Then she'd sent Jolinar to the storerooms instead of going herself. Though killing Jolinar was a good thing. It was too bad Martouf had cremated her. If he could have gotten her body back to Cronos, his reward would have been great.
And, to make matters worse, it looked like the Tau'ri and the Tok'ra were moving towards an alliance. This alliance would be something the system lords would want to avoid.
Just as the Tok'ra strived to keep the system lords fragmented and busy fighting amongst themselves, infiltrators like himself were working to do the same thing with the Tok'ra.
Fortunately for him, their obsessive need for secrecy made his job so much easier. Little did they realize that if they'd just step from the shadows and make their presence more of a fact than myth, they would be able to do much more damage. The longer they remained aloof, not only from the differing cells, but also from other races; they remained easy to manage.
However, blending the knowledge of the Tok'ra with the annoying ingenuity of the Tau'ri could have a drastic effect on the system lords. Acting alone, the Tau'ri had already cost Apophis a high price. Working together could be a disastrous.
'I can not permit this to happen,' he thought as everyone gained their feet to go to Selmac and her new host.
He saw O'Neill quietly say something to Teal'c and the Jaffa nodded his assent. He left the group and went off in a different direction. So the Tau'ri had the Jaffa do their bidding? And they thought themselves superior to the Goa'uld.
Kordesh took a moment to speak with Garshaw. Pleading fatigue from his injuries, he excused himself. He would have time to deal with Selmac later. Right now he had more pressing things to do.
Jack followed Garshaw and General Hammond into the infirmary, casting a sympathetic glance at the unconscious Simmons. It was a sure bet getting mugged by aliens in the parking lot hadn't been high on his list of concerns when he'd transferred to the SGC.
The trio came to a stop just inside the curtains. Jack glanced at the shrouded corpse on the next bed. It looked like the old woman was gone. And Jacob?
He watched Carter hold her father's hand in her own while stroking his head with her other hand. Oh Boy. Hadn't it worked? Should Jacob be unconscious like that? There'd been no period of unconsciousness when Jolinar had jumped into Sam.
Looking back, there had been a few instances of…offness. A handful of lost looks, not to mention the way she'd talked to Teal'c, but she'd never been out. Not like this.
Almost as if sensing their puzzlement, Martouf stepped forward.
"Martouf. How did the transference go?" Garshaw asked.
"As well as could be expected."
"That is to say they are both still alive."
"Should he be…out like that? When Jolinar jumped into Carter she was never out. That I would have noticed."
"Jolinar joined with a healthy host. In this instance Selmac must first repair the damage done to Jacob's body by the disease. If she can not repair the damage, they both will perish."
Kordesh dragged the body of the human into the cell and dropped him next to the wall. Without a symbiote they were so fragile, he noted dispassionately.
The Ash'rak slowly gained his feet, still not totally healed. "Kordesh," he snarled. "Or are you going by a different name now?"
"I have no need for an alias." I am a trusted member of the Tok'ra," Kordesh said smoothly, ripping the camera from the wall and stepping towards the captive.
The Ash'rak snorted. "Trusted. Only because they are blind fools."
"Blind yes. Fools no. They will take you with them back to our base…and that I can not allow."
"Really? Afraid I will expose you?'
"Far from it. You see I can offer my lord a far greater prize than a few Tok'ra. I can give him the Tau'ri homeworld," Kordesh said as he calmly raised his hand and used the guard's weapon. Gore from two entities splattered the wall as the Ash'rak fell limply to the floor, his body twitching slightly. "My reward will be great indeed. And I have no wish to share," he told the corpse as he quickly left the room.
Daniel again sat on the edge of the bed, fighting the urge to swing his feet. Despite calling it a flesh wound, his shoulder hurt. A fact he was trying to hide or he was afraid Janet would show up with one of her magic needles and he'd end up flat on his back like Simmons. And worse than the pain, he was bored. From experience he knew it was far easier to ignore pain if you had something else to do.
It had been over an hour since Selmac and Jacob had blended and everyone was still waiting to see if it had been successful.
Martouf and Garshaw were in the far corner, occasionally whispering amongst themselves and Daniel imagined some silent conversations between host and symbiote were going on.
Hammond had left for the control room shortly after escorting Jack and the others down here. He knew the man would rather have stayed but duty won out over his personal wishes.
Jack was hanging off near the door, almost as if he was leery of getting too close while Sam maintained her vigil at Jacob's side, curling up in one of the chairs.
Daniel honestly didn't know how she'd handle it if Jacob didn't make it. He watcher [watched] her closely, looking for some clue to how she was feeling behind that façade she struggled to maintain.
Jack had given him the readers digest version of events and he knew Jacob was pretty much the last of her family. For a minute he wondered what he'd do. He hadn't seen Nick in over a year and they'd been far from close at the best of times but…could he ever let him go if it'd save his life?
For the last year and a half he'd thought becoming a host was the worst fate imaginable. Especially after witnessing the torment of Shau'ri, Kowalski and Sam. But these Tok'ra were so different.
Either their Goa'ulds were the best actors in the universe or it really was a good thing. For both entities. In the time he'd spent with Garshaw, Sarouche and Kordesh, he'd found them all extremely personable. Well maybe not Kordesh but at least he hadn't been as arrogant and rude as Apophis or Heru'ur. Garshaw and Yosef had struck him as gentle but with a core of steel, much like Catherine. While Sarouche and Selmac showed a penchant for wry humor that would put Jack to shame.
When he looked into their eyes he saw no fear, no self-loathing, no shame There was no desperation like Shau'ri. No remorse like Sam had expressed for beating up on all of them when Jolinar had tried to get away.
Watching them was like witnessing a fifty-year marriage in one body.
"Dad?" Sam spoke up softly, sitting up in the chair and leaning towards Jacob.
"Selmac?" Garshaw and Martouf stepped forward as Jacob sat up.
"Yes. We are fine old friend," Jacob said, or maybe it was Selmac, Daniel thought as he realized the man's voice resonated.
"Umm. Is my dad in there somewhere?" Sam asked almost hesitantly.
Jacob's head nodded and he shook his head. "I'm here. I'm ok. Holy Hannah! There's a lot of stuff in here," he said, holding his head as if he'd just wakened from a long night of drinking.
"General Carter?" Jack asked, stepping forward.
"Colonel O'Neill. I know what you're going to ask. I'm me. Mostly."
"It's the mostly part I'm worried about."
"It's all right. I'm not feeling an overwhelming desire for world domination or ready to start imitating the deity of the day," Jacob said with a grin.
"That's a relief," Jack quipped, relaxing a bit.
Jacob hopped off the bed, ignoring Sam's outstretched hand. "Wow!" he exclaimed, a smile creasing his face as a look of concern crossed Sam's.
"What? What's wrong?"
"My arthritis. It's gone. I feel like I'm twenty again," he said as a knowing look appeared on Garshaw and Martouf's faces.
"Let us see if he still feels the same way when he and Selmac have their first fight."
"It was much the same for me when Garshaw and I joined," Yosef said, her voice noticeably softer than Garshaw's.
"Yeah. Well. Maybe we should get Fraiser in here to take a look at you."
"Colonel. I can assure you I'm fine."
"Humor me sir…" Jack started, then stopped as klaxons began to wail.
"Unauthorized Stargate Activation." A voice blared over the loud speakers.
"Busy little place you have here colonel," Jacob quipped.
(Fifteen minutes earlier)
Kordesh strode through the halls leading to the control room. Surprisingly enough, the handful of Tau'ri he had encountered did not challenge him. One thing he had learned decades ago was that if one always walked as if one knew where one was going, few would question.
He had to make haste. It would not take long for the Tau'ri to discover the bodies. But he would not need long. All he needed to do was tell his lord he had breached the Tau'ri's infamous iris.
Sargent Davis downloaded the last of the information. My, my McClendon had been a busy girl. And sneaky too. If he hadn't known what to look for he would have missed it. In the last few months the lieutenant had been snooping in many places she shouldn't have been.
General Hammond was definitely not going to be happy to learn she'd expanded her little witch hunt to include Teal'c, Dr. Jackson, Colonel O'Neill, Major Ferretti and even the old man himself.
Hearing quiet footsteps on the stairs he glanced up, expecting to see his relief. Instead he saw one of the Tok'ra. And the man was alone. That was odd. Human visitors were never allowed free access. Aliens even less.
"Can I help you?" he asked the man, fighting to keep the unease he felt out of his voice.
"Yes. I have been sent to send a message to our base. I need to open the chaap'pai," the Tok'ra said. Kordesh, that was the man's name, Davis remembered.
"I'm sorry sir. I can't open the gate without the general's direct authorization."
"He is the one who sent me here. Now open the chaap'pai," Kordesh demanded, his voice growing sharp.
"Sir. I can not. Why don't I call General Hammond and get his permission?" he said, picking up the phone.
"Do not bother," Kordesh snarled, raising his left hand and using his ribbon device to throw the Sargent across the room. "I will do it myself."
Kordesh stepped up to the terminal and almost laughed as he saw the keyboard with the glyphs on it in place of the Tau'ri alphabet. Foolish humans. They could not have made it any easier if they had offered to open the chaap'pai for him.
He punched the keys and watched the gate spin. So easy.
'Formidable my mikta,' he thought as the chaap'pai blossomed into life. His lord would conquer this world by sunset.
It was a motley entourage that made its way to level 28. Jack led the way, followed by Garshaw and Martouf. Sam, Daniel and Jacob were bringing up the rear, all ignoring Dr. Fraiser's orders that they remain in the infirmary.
They met up with General Hammond who was waiting impatiently next to Sargent Siler who had pulled off a panel and had his hands in the wall, trying to get the blast doors open.
"Sir. What's going on?"
"Colonel. Apparently one of the Tok'ra has commandeered the Stargate and established an outgoing wormhole," the general said, barely reigning in his fury.
Garshaw looked around. "Kordesh? Why would he do this?" she asked, clearly puzzled.
"That's what I intend to ask him when we get in there," replied the steely eyed general.
"Perhaps we can help?" Martouf spoke up, pulling his ribbon device from the pouch at his waist.
"A weapon?" Hammond asked, giving Jack a pointed look as Martouf slipped the device onto his hand.
"Yes. I believe I can disrupt the circuits," Martouf replied either not realizing he shouldn't be armed, or not caring.
"That won't do us much good," Siler spoke up. This door's too heavy to open without heavy equipment."
Jacob shared a glance with the Tok'ra. "I don't think that will be a problem Sargent."
Siler looked to Hammond for his approval then stepped back at the general's nod. Martouf raised his left hand. He fired off a small blast, vaguely surprising Jack who was used to seeing the weapon on full power.
The trio of Tok'ra stepped forward and, with minimal effort, pushed up the blast door.
The group, plus a couple of armed SFs slipped under the door which the Tok'ra then let back down, gravity winning out over blown circuits.
"General. Perhaps you should let us handle this?" Garshaw said.
"If our bringing Kordesh here has endangered your world, we shall endeavor to repair the damage," the brunette said.
"I don't know about this ma'am."
"General Hammond," Selmac spoke up. "Let us handle this."
George looked into the eyes of his old friend and gave his reluctant assent. The Tok'ra walked into the control room.
"I will await my lord's arrival," Kordesh said as he ended the transmission.
"Kordesh Kree!" Selmac said angrily, walking quickly up the flight of stairs.
"Kordesh. What are you doing?" Garshaw demanded.
"I have finally found a prize worthy of my lord. I have given him Vorash and now shall give him the Tau'ri," he said proudly.
"But why Kordesh? You have fought at our side for centuries."
"I have played you for a fool for centuries," he sneered. "I have watched you plot and plan. Then grieve when the Goa'uld mysteriously discovered your plans. I have watched you mourn the dead while I have silently rejoiced. I have been forced to listen to your lies and platitudes, your deluded dreams. All the while I have longed for nothing more than to silence you forever. And now…now I shall finally have my reward. Within moments my lord shall come through that chaap'pai. I will give him Earth and I shall rule this planet at his side."
"We will not permit that to happen," Selmac said, edging forward as the chevrons on the Stargate started to glow, signaling an incoming wormhole.
"Oh. It will happen. And you will be there to see it. I will not kill you. You are worth far more to my master alive. I hold many secrets of the Tok'ra…but you Garshaw and Selmac and even you Lantash have enough information to cement my place with the system lords. And once we have wrung every last bit of knowledge from you I shall so enjoy terminating your pathetic lives."
" I would like to cement him in place...perhaps tied to the front of a tel'tac," Lantash fumed.
"You shall not be able to fulfill that objective," Teal'c said as he rapidly fired his zat three times, vaporizing Kordesh.
"Go Teal'c," Jack said, dashing up the stairs followed by Hammond, Sam and Daniel. "Carter. We gotta shut down that gate."
"Any idea who he contacted?" Hammond asked. "Which system lord?"
"He never said," Jacob said as the wormhole opened with a whoosh audible even through the glass.
"Captain. Get that iris closed," Hammond ordered.
"Then get the blast doors up. Get the defense teams down there. Set the auto destruct. If they get in here, they're not getting out of the mountain."
"General Hammond. That will not be necessary," Teal'c said calmly, helping Davis to his feet.
"There's a system lord knocking at our door. I think it's necessary," Hammond said sharply.
"It is not an attack. It is merely SG-4 returning as scheduled."
"Receiving SG-4's code sir," Sam reported.
"Kordesh's communication was a subterfuge. He did not make contact with a system lord," the Jaffa stated.
"SG-4's signaling again sir."
Hammond shot Teal'c an appraising look. "Acknowledge their signal." Sam sent the acknowledgement.
"There is no need for concern General Hammond. With Sergeant Davis' aid we…fooled Kordesh. When he believed he was speaking to his master he was really conversing with me," Teal'c explained, holding up a portable radio.
"If it has been compromised, it was not by Kordesh at this time."
"Teal'c. You are one sneaky son of a…" Jack started, sitting back from the computer.
"You did instruct me to keep an eye on Kordesh."
"Why would you do that?" Garshaw asked.
"Call it colonel's intuition," Jack quipped causing Jacob to roll his eyes.
"We are in your debt then colonel," Garshaw said, stepping forward and impulsively giving him a hug.
"We should go," Selmac said. "We have no way of knowing what damage Kordesh may have already done. It would be best if we moved our base immediately."
"But dad?" Sam protested, also getting to her feet. This wasn't how she'd pictured it. He wasn't supposed to go away. Not yet.
Jacob nodded his head. "Whoa. When she talks does my voice sound all funny?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah."
"Look. George. Selmac and I may just be getting to know each other but I do know this is a good thing. However. We need to go. There are hundreds of lives on the line."
Garshaw typed in an address and they filed out of the control room, passing an openly curious SG-4.
"Samantha." Martouf held out his hand to pull Sam aside. "I will watch over him as though he was my own father," he promised.
"Thanks," she replied.
As she entered the gate room, Jacob made his way to her side. "Don't worry. I'll be fine," he promised.
"I'm sure. Apparently Selmac is one of the oldest and wisest among the Tok'ra. If she can't keep me out of trouble, who can?"
Sam nodded. "You take care dad."
He pulled her into a hug. "Here I was calling in favors to get you your dream and you fulfilled mine. You gave an old soldier a new lease on life." He released her and turned to Hammond.
"Selmac wants me to tell you…don't call us, we'll call you." General Hammond raised his eyebrows. "Yeah. We'll have to work on that part," Jake said. He followed Garshaw and Martouf up the ramp.
They stepped through and the wormhole closed. Hammond turned to SG-1. "SG-1 you are on stand down for the next 72 hours. Colonel if I could have a word?"
Sam stepped out of the locker room, feeling distinctly better after a nice hot shower and a change of clothes, even if it was fatigues. She stopped at the sight of the rest of her team waiting in the hall. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you guys were waiting. I'd have hurried."
"We weren't waiting for the showers, we were waiting for you," Jack said. "Come on," he urged, grabbing her arm and pulling her down the corridor towards the elevator.
"Come on where sir?"
"Jack has a little surprise for you," Daniel said as they entered the car and rode it up a few levels. The elevator stopped at level 16 and Jack led the way to the detention cells.
"Colonel? What's going on?" Sam asked, slightly concerned. If this was some kind of a joke, she really wasn't in the mood.
"Just thought you and the soon to be ex-lieutenant would like to have a chat," Jack said, stopping outside one of the cell doors.
"I'm sorry sir. I still don't get it."
"O'Neill is referring to the person incarcerated within," Teal'c said. Sam shot her friends a puzzled look.
"Davis and Siler caught the spy. Lieutenant Patti McClendon. She transferred here several months ago. She's the one who's been in your computer and your lab. It's her fingerprints on your mail and we even caught her red handed tossing your quarters. Thought maybe you and she would like some girl talk time."
Sam looked through the tiny window at the petite brunette who had turned her life into a living hell. "Oh yeah. A chat would be good," she said. She reached for her neck and pulled off her dog tags and handed them to Jack. "Could you hang on to these for me for a minute sir?"
Jack raised a knowing eyebrow and accepted the tags. Sam entered the cell and closed the door behind her.
The three men leaned against the wall, waiting for Sam to emerge. A Sargent approached and stopped as he saw them. "Sir?" he asked.
"Just another minute Sargent," Jack instructed.
The man gave him a knowing glance and looked at his watch. "I'll be back in ten sir," he replied, turning and leaving.
Eight minutes later the door opened and Sam came out, shaking her hand.
"How'd it go?" he asked, handing her back her dog tags.
"Fine," she said, using her left hand to hang them back around her neck. In the fluorescent light they could see her knuckles turning red. Wordlessly Daniel handed her a cold pack, which she laid across her bruised hand with a grateful grin.
"Better than her," Sam replied with a slight smile. Normally she didn't go for physical violence but…that punch to McClendon's jaw had been…to quote Teal'c, most satisfying.
"I'm taking Daniel home. You need a ride?" he offered.
"Considering my car's at dad's…" Sam paused, remembering her father didn't live there anymore. He didn't live on Earth any more. But he was alive. "A ride would be nice sir," she finished, remembering Daniel's words. As long as he was alive, there was hope.
Jack climbed the steps to his makeshift observatory; pretty sure of what he'd find.
He'd called his friends and invited them over for dinner a day and a half into their downtime. He hated to admit it, but there were sometimes when his house was just too damned empty.
Soon after finishing their grilled steaks, the members of SG-1 had settled in front of the TV, channel surfing and MST3King the various shows.
At first Teal'c had been more than a little puzzled, Usually they hushed him for asking questions during a show. But tonight, they actively encouraged it.
Soon their wise cracks had turned into comparing the people on the show to people they knew, arguing about who looked like who.
Jack had lost track of the plot of an episode of the Outer Limits when Daniel and Sam had spent most of the show arguing about how much one of the people looked like Daniel. Teal'c swore the bartender on Deep Space Nine looked just like Anteus. Carter's was the weirdest however. She swore that Ferretti was moonlighting as an actor on some Sci-fi show.
"You turning anti-social on me?" he asked as a warning that Sam wasn't alone on the rooftop.
"Sir. Hi. Hope you don't mind? I needed some air."
"Nah. That's what it's here for," he said, sitting beside her and joining her in her perusal of the stars. The sky was especially clear. That was one thing he loved about Colorado. The higher altitude made the heavens look all that much closer.
They sat there in companionable silence for a few minutes. "So. What did you and McClendon talk about?"
"Sir. When someone…doesn't come back. What are the families told?" She asked, idly fiddling with the necklace she was wearing.
"I dunno. Depends I guess."
"Depends on what?"
"It depends on what we have to give back to them. If there's a body or…nothing. Why the sudden interest?"
"McClendon knew Kowalski. I guess they met…somewhere. She didn't believe the explanation of how he died. That's why she applied for the SGC. To find out the truth."
"She found out he was killed because he was a Goa'uld, but I wasn't. As far as she's concerned, once a Goa'uld, always a Goa'uld. And since none of you seemed worried, she thought I'd pulled a Hathor or something. So she thought if she could find proof, you guys would have to listen to her and do something about me," Sam finished.
"That explains all the funny stuff."
"Yeah. Working in security like she did, pretty much gave her access to wherever she wanted to go. Including my house."
"Still doesn't explain one thing."
"Why you didn't come to me or Hammond when you started noticing things?" Jack asked, getting to the heart of the matter that had been bugging him for days.
Sam sighed. "I…aah…I don't know. I guess…I guess I was afraid of what you'd say," she said in a small voice. Jack remained silent knowing that if she wanted to continue sharing she needed no prodding. "As long as it was just suspicions I could convince myself I was imagining things. That there was a glitch in the computers that only affected my key card. That I rearranged stuff in my lab and just didn't remember it. That there was a good reason you guys never let me out of your sight when we're off world now," she said, bringing up the one thing left unexplained.
"Ok. So we're a little protective. It's not because we don't trust you. It's because we're worried about you. It's because I left you behind on Nasyia for a few minutes and you got invaded. It's because Daniel felt he had to shoot you to prevent you from spending an eternity in a living hell. It's because Teal'c watched you nearly die twice because of Jolinar. It's not because we don't trust you," he repeated.
"There's a lot of folks at the SGC that say you're crazy to trust your six to an ex-host."
"Yeah. And they're the same people who wonder how in the hell Hammond puts up with me. They're probably the same people who think I'm a first class fool for allowing Daniel to keep going through the gate, especially after Shyla. And you would not believe the things they say about Teal'c. According to them he'd just biding his time until he can betray us and turn Earth over to Apophis. I don't give a damn what they say. And neither should you."
They sat for a few more minutes, watching a satellite arc its way across the sky.
"He tried to get me into NASA," Sam spoke up.
"That's what he came to DC to tell me. He called in favors to get me into NASA."
"So…ya going?" Jack asked. After what had happened, he couldn't blame her if she decided to leave. Make a fresh start somewhere. And, as much as he hated to admit it, she had looked pretty much at home on the shuttle.
"Are you kidding me? I've already been on the shuttle. Death gliders are better. When you're inside them anyway."
"Not if Bra'tac's flying, calling me 'human' in that condescending tone of his."
Sam giggled. "Teal'c's hoping somehow the guys at Nellis can fix them. He said he'd take you for a ride."
"Now that would be a plane trip. So…You going to stay up here all night? I mean, I'm all for camping under the stars but there's a nice comfortable couch inside."
Sam shook her head. "No. I was just saying good night to dad."
"You ok with that? Him having a sn…symbiote?"
"Yeah I am. Selmac…she's a good…person. She'll take care of him. Martouf said he'd watch out for him also. And…. He's alive. That's more than he'd have here. And it's not like I'm never going to see him again."
"I have a funny feeling the Tok'ra are going to be regular visitors," he agreed, still not quite sure if that was a good thing. He may have saved Carter's life but something about Marty bugged him. "And as the great Irish philosopher once said, 'you gotta let go of the past to have a future.'"
"Great Irish philosopher?" she asked skeptically.
"Either that or Kowalski after we drank our way through a fifth of JD. I'm not sure which." Sam laughed. "Come on. It's getting cold. And Daniel and Teal'c have been alone too long. The last time we let them go off on their own they decided to bluff a Goa'uld."
Sam followed Jack down the ladder, pausing a second to look at the twinkling stars. "Good night dad," she whispered as she followed him from the cold darkness to the warm brightness of his house.