Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 is the property of Double Secret Productions, MCA studios and Gekko Films, as are all related characters, events, and concepts. The same goes for the characters, events and concepts in Highlander: the Series, which belong to Rysher Television, Panzer/Davis Productions.
La Femme Nikita is the property of USA Television Network and the WB TV studios, and no money is made from this. Takes place in the middle of Season 2.
Note: Written in response to story challenge # 39 posted at the Heliopolis Stargate fanfiction message board by Amanda.
"A Matter of Timing" by Karrenia
Daniel stood up, groaning, as sore muscles protested at the sudden change in position. He had spent hours lying in a flat on his stomach on the plastic mat he had found in an unused utility cabinet. He had then began cleaning it, amazed at the thick layer of dust he had raised he shook off of it. He still felt the abuse he sinuses had taken and he sniffled a little as his allergies acted up.
The artifacts painstakingly sorted and catalogued never seemed to diminish in size no matter how many hours of the day he devoted to them. And even if he hated to admit to anyone else here were only so many hours of the of the day that he could set aside to work on his 'pet project.
Thinking of that, it occurred to him that it would amuse Colonel Jack O'Neil no end, to give him some good natured ribbing about the sheer amount of time and computer memory it took to even log one of his reports into the base's mainframe computer.
Recent events had taken precedence over his study of alien cultural artifacts. He had and he had to devote more time to both off-world missions as a member of the SGC as well as deciphering technological devices that would help them defeat the Gou'ald, with or without the well- intentioned assistance of the Tok'ra. It did not bear thinking about the gauntlet that they had all been asked to wear as part of a Tok'ra experiment. The nuero-toxin the glove acted quite differently on human physiology than it did on Tok'ra or other races. In hindsight, Daniel realized it was like an addict taking performance-enhancing drugs, it made you feel well for a while, Then came the crash and burn when the drug wore off. In the back of his mind, he felt a little sense of loss, but he wasn't about to brood about it.
He walked over to his desk chair and fell down rather than sitting because he legs still were protesting on keeping him standing upright. With a quick entry access command, Daniel ordered his terminal to bring up the image of the trefoil they had brought back from a recent mission to the planet PCX 1553. They had brought an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphics, an Adam Pierson, who the newest addition to SGC, Thoth revealed that they were both Immortals.
Thinking of Methos, Daniel wondered if the man was telling everything he knew, and whether it really was the truth. Sure, it made for a nice story, but really, a 5,000 year old Immortal, okay, scratch that, he mentally changed gears, two 5,000 year-old Immortal, and they're only telling half of the truth, that would make 1,5000 a piece. I wonder why that acerbic, know-it-all Methos hasn't killed Thoth. You can tell just by looking in his eyes that he wants to, and what would General Hammond do if they did eventually square off against each other?"
At that instant Daniel was startled out of his gloomy thoughts by the blaring of the alarm klaxon and the harsh red emergency lights were turned on. He jumped to his feet and ran to the open doorway, but not before he had managed to topple the stack of artifacts all over the floor. "Damn it," he muttered under his breath, finger-combing his hair as he ran down the hallway to the briefing room.
Michael allowed himself to zone out on the soft rhythm of the jazz recordings playing on his CD player. It had been an unreasonably long time since he could afford to relax his natural sardonic and suspicious nature. In his line of work he simply could not afford to lower his guard. Less than 48 hours ago after the successful compilation of the list of all active operatives, he knew very well that one day his name could appear on the list of inactive operatives, permanently. It was a remote chance that could happen as a hypothetical question, it was a reality that he lived with every day.
He closed his eyes and absent- mindless tapped his feet against the final step of the stairs of the record room leading to the floor directly above. He had dimmed the lights and the only illumination came from the moonlight slipping in through the bay windows to his left casting the room in contrasting shadows of gray, white, and black. The somber colors fit his mood right now, as did the musical recording he had chosen. Miles Davis on the trumpet, the slow, lazy of the classics, ' he thought in the back of his mind, "so much better than all that new-age stress management mediations that are in fashion these days." The selection came to an end and he pressed the stop button on the player and removed the headphones to lay the device to one side. He stood up with the elegant grace of a predator and moved over to his terminal where he the computer program he had left running completed its assigned task. Tapping the stylus that activated his handheld personal digital assistant, he compared the stored notes on the first device with that of his desktop computer. At first glance everything appeared identical, when he noticed a slight discprenancy and ran his computer model once again.
Someone knocked at his door, distracting him, and he immediately spun around a few well-chosen scathing remarks on his lips, but they were never uttered when he saw Madeline standing outside his office.
"What do you want?" he muttered under his breath.
"Why were you siting on the steps in semi-darkness?" she wondered.
"It seemed a good idea at the time?' he replied, without commiting to anything.
"What you do on your off hours in no concern of mine, I just hope you weren't idling away your time while your are supposed to be working," Madeline replied.
Michael smiled, showing all his teeth, "Oh, I concur, wholeheartedly."
"Must you be this way?" Madeline snapped, "I had hoped that after being with the organization for over a year or more that we could put aside our personal differences and work as a cohesive whole."
"In an ideal world that may be possible," Michael shrugged," You should know better than anyone that we are hardly living in an ideal society."
"Touche," Madeline replied. "Very well, I did not come here to debate philosophy, although to be honest, I do often enjoy our verbal sparring. If nothing else, it keeps things interesting around here."
"Now we're getting somewhere," Michael interrupted.
"Depends on how far you like to travel," she replied. "What I wanted to discuss, it has recently come to our attention that an opportunity for an undercover assignment is available and your name is among the list of qualified operatives."
"So," Michael shrugged. "We both know I'm better than over half the 'qualified' operatives. How many assignment are open to negotiation?"
"Do you or do you not want to know the particulars of the assignment?"
Michael cocked his head to one side, thinking the matter through, and then leveled his dark eyed gaze directly at her. "Very well, but only so I'm certain that you'll leave nothing out by chance."
"With the assumption that you accept the assignment, you are to go undercover with a top-secret project under the auspices of the United States Airforce. They have been running a project located in the Cheyenne Mountain in the Colorado Rockies in western United States." "What else do we know about this project? Could it be a research and development facility for nuclear weapons?" Michael asked.
"We don't believe so, but whatever it is, it's been kept very hush-hush," Madeline. "What we do know is they somehow have managed to obtain, by undisclosed means, access to very advanced technology, we want you to gather intelligence on the project and if possible retrieve more information on the technology that they developed."
"And you just hate to see someone else own something that you don't have."
"Spare me your acid commentary," Madeline replied, folding her arms over her chest. "The choice is simple. "Do as you are ordered or I'll simply assign the operation to another operative, someone more tractable. Catch my drift?"
"Understood." Michael thought it over for a moment and then nodded, "Very well, I accept the terms."
"See that you do," Madeline replied, then left his office.
General Hammond shut the plastic case over the latest mission report submitted by the R & D department and rubbed his eyes where he could feel the first signs of a sinus headache building up behind the pupils. It was one thing to have deal with differing departments all crying out for desperately needed funding to continue their research projects, it was another thing to have to keep juggling wildly divergent personalities, especially when one of those department heads was so damn difficult to work with. He was reaching for the bottom drawer of his desk, and just when he had it halfway open, remembering that he had stashed a bottle of aspirin; at that exact instant one of the causes of his headache marched into his office, standing squarely in his line of sight and announced with any preliminary formalities:
"General, I must speak with you," Colonel Frank Simmons said, oblivious to his superior's significant glare, the lines around his eyes deepening further in annoyance.
"Very well, Colonel" Hammond snapped, "Don't just stand there. Have a seat."
"Sir, we both know that we've been dancing around this issue of NID and funding from the United States government. Far be it for me to criticize how efficient you've operated the Stargate Project.." Simmons started, shuffling his booted feet on the hard metal floor.
"I'm a old soldier, and Colonel I'm sure you appreciate blunt honesty when the situation calls for it, so come out with it already, or am I supposed to guess what this about?" "This isn't about money," Simmons muttered.
"Although, I am receiving some flack from the scientists and my subordinates in R & D. They have come to a consensus that without more funding it will be almost to complete their various projects in the assigned timeframe."
"How so?" Hammond asked. "I've read the report. I suspected it was only a matter of time before you made an appointment to discuss the issues it brought up."
"They, I mean, I feel the Stargate project has drawn away the available resources and personnel."
"The Stargate is the priority around here, Colonel, and it's not just for scientific curiosity. In case you haven't noticed the Earth is at war with the Gou'ald."
"Oh I've noticed, Sir, I may a pain in the rear echelon, and I'll admit it, but I'm not blind or stupid," the other man shouted.
"Keep your voice down, Simmons," Hammond interrupted, folding his arms over his chest. "What's your point? You are able to come to one without yelling, I hope."
Colonel Frank Simmons took a few steps backward, blinking in confusion, not realizing that somewhere along the way his express train of a speech that had been moving along at full speed, how now become derailed.
Hammond, as he said, was an old soldier, a good commanding officer, and Simmons had to respect the man, he just did not agree with his methods. The speech had so carefully prepared had deserted his memory and now he found himself abashed, and floundering. He had come prepared, armed with knowledge of Hammond as both an officer and a man. His arguments were, the best he could to represent the NID and the officers under him, but now he felt that he was drowning and it was highly unlikely that the other would throw him a lifeline.
"Any time, Colonel," Hammond prompted.
"I may not have won this round, Hammond, "Simmons snapped, leaning forward over the desk and resting his elbows on the polished surface.
"Come off it," Hammond shouted. "We're not in a competition here, Colonel. You and the NID have issues with how I run my base and my command, fine. You are entitled to your opinion. For now I'm in charge and until that changes, you are still an officer here, and subject to my orders. Am I understood?"
"Understood, Sir!" Simmons snapped.
"That will be all, Colonel," Hammond said, standing up. "Dismissed."
"You won't thank me for this, but for the record, there's a security leak in your department and you better find out who it is or you may not be in charge around for much longer," Simmons remarked over his shoulder as he spun around and left the office.
Major Sammantha Carter paused with her fingers poised over the keyboard, mulling over the exact phrasing she wanted to use to bring the computer model to its conclusion. She hated to leave something only half-done. She raised her hands over her head both to stretch and to think the problem through. In the back of her mind she could recall something that her father, Jacob Carter had often said when she was younger (Something worth doing, is worth doing well.
And never leave a chore for tomorrow when it can be done today." She allowed a small smile to slip out and remembered that her father had been a storehouse of odd sayings and cultural references that she had often dismissed because she believed she had known better. Now that she was older those old 'bromides' seemed more applicable if a little dated. In any case, she turned her attention back to the computer model waiting patiently on the monitor screen. She keyed in the final command and watched as it responded by rotating counterclockwise showing a 3-D representation of the Star Gate, the pinpoints of colored light representing the variety of coordinates known to them thus far.
Just then, Colonel Jack O'Neil walked in with a tray of food, "Carter," he said," You've been at this for hours, I figure it was time you took a break and actually ate something."
She turned around and smiled, "What time is it?"
"You asking me? Well, dinner time," O'Neil replied. " Care to join me?"
"Sure." She stood p and moved to a nearby table buried underneath star- charts and documents. "Here, help move this over to the bin by the computer. I'm keeping everything in there until I have time to organize them by category."
"Why not sweep them all off the table?"
"Because I just got them into this pile and I don't need to duplicate my efforts, Sir," she replied.
"Oh, here," he replied, taking half the stack and transporting over to the white plastic bin sitting on the floor by her computer terminal.
"I didn't know what you would like so I brought a little of everything," Jack began, methodically removing lids from metal platters and unwrapping food packages. "The mess hall thought I was crazy." Jack added while he grasped a bottle of lemonade and drank half its contents. "I don't know about you, but I was famished."
"Hmm," Sam replied, removing a freshly made chicken salad sandwich from one of the packages and slowly taking an appreciative bite. "This is delicious. I never realizes how much time goes by when I'm working." She took another, savoring the taste on her tongue.
"I know," Jack smiled. "That's why I thought I would bring along some reinforcements. "You ever wonder why I need to remind you to eat every time you get focused in on a big project and become completely oblivious to anything else?"
"Wait a second," Sam shouted, "that's not entirely true."
"Hmm," Jack replied, munching on his own sandwich, this one pastrami on rye, the breadcrumbs falling onto the front of his uniform. "I seem to recall the time when were participating in that experiment with Annlise, and while were there....
"There were extenuating circumstances," Sam replied. "My marathon typing session in order to write the book on spatial anomalies was in some measure affected by those Goa'uld arm gauntlets."
"All right, all right," Jack backed down. "You win."
"I wasn't aware this was a competition. Are you going to eat any more of these sandwiches?" Sam asked, "If not, I'll finish them. Oh, have I thanked you for not letting me go hungry?
"Thank you," Sam said, brushing the crumbs from his uniform and then turned around to crumple up the used plastic packaging and with an overhand toss threw it to the wastebasket by her computer terminal. ** Jack was about to add something else but whatever it was lost as General Hammond showed up in the doorway of the science lab. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"No, Sir," O'Neil replied.
"If I might have a word with the Colonel," Hammond said, "Alone."
"Of course, Sir," Carter replied and left the science lab.
"Have a seat, Colonel. I doubt what I have to say will take very long but it's best that you be seated when I do."
"Something wrong, General?" O'Neil said.
"You could say that. I wouldn't have believed it myself, considering the source, but in an organization like this. No belay that. This is strictly off the record and I want you to play this close to the vest, if you take my meaning."
"Now you've got me worried," O'Neil remarked, not liking either the serious tone of the general's voice or the suddenly chill feeling he got, considering the implications. "What are you not telling me and why me?"
"Because I need someone I can trust."
"And you're right, Colonel," Hammond paused and with his left hand wiped sweat from his mouth. "Perhaps it will be better in the long run to come right out and say it rather than beating around the bush. It's doing nothing
for my digestion let alone yours."
"Well," O'Neil prompted.
"We have a security breach." And I don't like the implications any more than you do."
"You think there's a spy loose on the base, Sir?"
"Yes. From a preliminary search, it seems our security breach is concentrated mainly to the computer mainframe, but all the same we can't afford to have it spread to other vital systems".
"Especially the Stargate. Any ideas of who it might be?" O'Neil asked.
"No. And that's why I want you to begin an investigation at once. Be discrete".
"No problem, Sir, I'll have our hacker fingered before bedtime. Hell, I'll even have Major Carter due a back track of all the computer logs that were filed in the last few weeks. We'll leave a trap for our rat. There won't be any place for him or her to hide."
"Keep me posted," Hammond replied, a grim smile spreading across his face.
"Is this a secure channel?"
"Of course. Did you expect anything less?
"I've missed you.
"Let's not get sentimental, we can't afford it."
"Who's the target?"
"An officer at the top of the chain of command?"
"Don't you think you can handle it?"
"Of course I can handle it. But doesn't it strike you as odd that Section would be earmarking some in the United States military. What do we have on him that would make him a target?"
"Not sure, From what I can tell he's a native of Texas, has a reputation for being hard-nosed but practical. His officers that serve under him seem to genuinely admire and are fond of him. So I don't believe anyone here would send a covert message to section to order the hit. Unless.."
"Unless what?" Nikita prompted.
"Unless, we've got a case of a disgruntled subordinate with delusions of grandeur."
"Hey, it could happen. It's not like it doesn't happen every day, so low on the totem pole flunky goes postal and everyone pays the price."
"Speaking of cost," Michael paused, running a hand through his tangled black hair. "You ever feel that sometimes a man must be made to pay the piper?"
"I'm sorry," Nikita interrupted, "You've lost me. I don't know where you come up with these obscure sayings."
"You've heard of the Brothers Grimm, right?"
"Well, one tale tells of the story of a village that had a problem. They couldn't rid of all the rats."
"Sounds like Section."
"I'm leading up to something here," Michael snapped. "All the so-called wise men and city leaders couldn't figure out what to do with their pest problem so they finally decided to seek outside help. They called the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Using his magic flute he led all the rats away from the town."
"And," Nikita prompted.
"And, they thanked him, profusely," Michael paused. "It was probably just an oversight, but they forget to pay him."
"Bad move," Nikita remarked.
"Indeed. In retaliation he used his magic flute to take away all the children."
"There's a reason they called it the Brothers Grimm, right?"
"Oh the story's changed quite a bit over the years, but at the time our tow German friends were collecting and travelling throughout Europe the tales were very grim. Modern retellings have made it a bit tamer, but sometimes not buy much."
"I think I see your point," Nikita remarked, shaking her head. "You do lay it on thick." "You ever think that in our case, we weren't made to pay the piper, it was an entire symphony orchestra that had to be subsidized," Michael replied.
"You and your literary references. We've got the green light to go ahead with the hit. Where do you want me?"
"Get the first red-eye flight out to Denver that you can manage. Take a train out to Cheyenne Mountain Base. I'll forward the information I have concerning blueprints and the base layout to your secure account. The rest is up to you."
"Agreed," Nikita replied. "I'll contact once I arrive to finalize plans. Nikita out."
A few days later
The base corridors had been all but deserted by the time Colonel O'Neil had finally given up on trying to corner the as yet unidentified hacker that had tampered with the base records. Jack ground his teeth together in mingled frustration, and admiration. Whoever this person he had to admit they were, not just your average geek with a modicum of computer know-how and a high speed cable connection and a lot of time to kill could have made it past even the first level of security encryption. This hacker had not only cracked the code, he, and Jack was assuming it was a he, had also downloaded a few of the mission logs from SG-1.
He had to wish them luck in trying to decphier Doctor Jackson's long-winded reports. No else could, Jack him self had to ask for condensed versions. Major Carter, for one. All the same, if this person was going to all the trouble to investigate the SG Command and the mission logs, they were dangerous and had to be stopped. He just wished to hell that he knew how.
Jack left the computer mainframe room, a hand-scribbled pad of yellow paper tucked into his uniform jacket, hands stuffed into his pockets. Outwardly he was calm, relaxed, he even whistled theme song to Mission Impossible under his breath, not caring who overheard. On the inside, he boiled with anger. He was a career military officer, and likely to remain that way; this wasn't the first time he'd had to deal with security leaks and other dangers. It was more the principle of the matter, given the size and the nature of the Cheyenne Mountain Base; they had been rather luck in their ability to keep security leaks down in number.
'Hell,' he thought to himself, "Look at how much trouble we were in when Hathor came through the Gate and managed to take over the base. Not to mention, the rest of the Gou'ald system lords would kill for a chance to get their hands on us and shut down the rest of the outfit. It happened once, it could happen again.' " Jack shook his head, clearing it of the attendant cobwebs. "I'm getting paranoid. Sure, Hammond wasn't all that forthcoming about a spy running around loose, and I can't exactly tell anyone what I'm up to. Think, Jack, think.."
Jack shrugged his shoulders and rubbed the stubble on his chin. He'd meant to shave but had misplaced his razor and now the five-o clock shadow itched. He thought he would try another approach.
"Okay, if you were a spy and you didn't want to be found, where would you be?" When the realization hit, Jack nearly ended up on the floor of the corridor. "Damn, why didn't I see it before. All those coded messages, all at one time. All coming from the same place. I've been looking in the wrong places. I assumed it was the Gou'ald or their allies spying on us. It's coming from inside the base! Hammond is going to be furious!" Jack muttered under his breath, dashing down the corridor at a dead run, not feeling the pain when he slammed into a wall, taking a corner to fast and not watching where he was going.
Michael stretched his movements quick and fluid, like a cat. He rubbed the corners of his eyes with a damp cloth that he left lying in the sink. He was standing in the center of his assigned quarters mulling over the results of his surveillance and computer downloaded files. Much of it still didn't make sense to him, mainly because of the large amount of data he had accumulated, and the fact that the majority of had been either taken directly from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics or translated from the same. It was damn puzzling why the United States Airforce would be concerned by some dusty old artifact a civilian archaeological team had dug up underneath the sands in Valley of the Kings in Egypt. More troubling was the fact that mission logs from SG-1 team as well as others that had gone out involved coordinates that did not correspond to any known spot on Earth. 'Just what the hell are these people up to? Michel said to the room in general, not really expecting a response.
When it came, Michael instinctively turned on his heel and checked around for all the available exits. Unfortunately the only available way out was blocked by the stocky figure of Colonel Jack O'Neil. Michael remembered that he was supposed to be a low-ranking officer and saluted in time to make it look convincing. "What can I do for you, Sir."
"Well, that is the question," Jack replied, realizing at the last second that he had been so tearing hurried to get here he hadn't given any thought to how this would play out. As a result, he confronted the dark- haired with the slicked back dark hair and lean muscles, and wondered if he should have called for some back up. The man looked sauve, and dangerous. Jack took a rapid three hundred and sixty-degree inspection of the quarters.
Apparently Lieutenant Girabaldi hadn't made any attempt to put his personal stamp on the standard military quarters. There was a bed, freshly made a chair with his uniform jacket draped over the back, a shelf of books, all hardcover this spines stamped in gold leaf; and a desk on which rested a notebook computer laptop. It's screen still glowing, the flickering of the prompt winking on and off.
"Well," Michael replied, folding his arms over his chest.
"I'd like a word with you."
"Of course," Michael replied, taking a seat at his computer chair. "May I ask, Sir, what brings to you my quarters at this time of night?"
"You may, doesn't mean I have to answer. Jack settled himself in the chair opposite from Michael and sighed. A few tense seconds later he reached a hand into his uniform jack and removed the clipboard with its hand written notes. In the back of his mind, he hoped he was doing the right thing: 'It would be a damn shame,' he thought,' 'If I was wrong about this guy and ended up accusing an innocent man'. Then Hammond really would have an excuse to chew me out.' With that thought running through his head, Jack scanned his notes and turned to confront Michael.
"Lieutenant Girabaldi, if that's really who you are. Jack glared. 'I think we can agree on one thing. We're both men of the world."
"Where is this leading, Sir?" Michael interrupted.
"Oh, it's going somewhere, I just haven't decided where that somewhere is. If my gut feeling is correct, I think I have a pretty good idea of where that somewhere is. Glancing around, Jack looked the other man in the eyes, slightly disconcerted by the knowing smirk on his Michael's lips and the confidence in the dark eyes. Jack swallowed, feeling a sudden urge for a glass of water.
"And what does your gut tell you?" Michael asked.
"I've never been accused of being subtle," Jack snapped. "So I'm going to come right out and say it. You're a fucking son of bitch and a liar. You're a spy for some covert organization and I want answers!" Jack finished, gasping for breath and collapsing back into his chair.
"Well, I knew I couldn't hide forever," Michael smiled. "Remarkable, actually, that it took you this long to uncover our little plot. You might consider this something of a compliment, Colonel O'Neil. I didn't take into consideration that you would be the one to unmask me, in a manner of speaking."
"You're admitting it?" Jack glanced at the still glowing monitor screen, not really seeing what was being displayed until he really focused in on it. When he did, he found his mouth tasted of cotton and he was unable to bring any moisture up. Displayed in neat, crisp letters where the schematics of the Star-Gate and the access codes for various access codes used within the base.
"Of course, the truth shall set you free, and all that nonsense." Michael smiled a vague thinning of his lips. "So, you know."
"What is the truth? Who are you really working for?"
"Well, you do realize that I can't just let anyone know. I was merely sent to investigate your operation, it was never anything more than that."
"You'll forgive me for telling you to your face, that you're a damn liar," Jack shouted.
"Yes, I believe you mentioned that once already," Michael replied. "Section is quite interested in learning about the StarGate project. "One thing puzzles me, and I find that I've been unable to get a good night's sleep since I've been here."
"Tough," Jack snapped.
"Tell me one thing, Sir."
"What, how the Stargate works, you probably know that better than I do."
"Truth? I don't understand any of it. Sure, I've have all the technical specs downloaded and saved in my laptop's harddrive, but I can't read Egyptian hieroglyphics, nor I doubt could we find anyone at Section with that expertise. Is it true that we're not alone in the universe as the inhabitants of this planet have always believed ourselves to be?"
"You asking me if there are really little green aliens out there?" Jack asked, surprised at the question, not catching the subtle emphasis on the word 'section.'
"Yeah, aliens are real, Some more dangerous than others, but I fail to see what possible interest that would have for this Section of yours. You wouldn't happen to represent the United States Army or Area 51 would you?" You ain't taken anyone or anything from here to study, poke and prod, find out what makes it tick and then dispose of it by giving it a burial in the desert."
"I'd laugh my ass off, if I hadn't seen my own eyes these aliens you refer to as the Gou'ald."
"So? You darn well just incriminated yourself, and it is my duty to see to it that you and your organization don't cause any more trouble. Jack rose from his chair and removed his gun from its holster, "I've got news for you, mister, You're under arrest. Now stand up and raise your hands where I can see'em." No sudden movements, I'm taking you to see General Hammond."
Michael did as he was told, allowing the Colonel to lead him out of his quarters and down the hallway, the business end of the gun pressed into the small of his back. A small smile flitting across his lips. "This should be interesting," his whispered.
"What's that?" Jack asked.
"Well, if I'm not mistaken, General Hammond will be rather busy for a while."
"If you must know, Section has targeted him for a hit."
"An assassination attempt? And this is your idea of non-interference!" Jack ran for this nearest phone, "Don't go anywhere," he tossed over his shoulder. Punching in the access code for the base public address system, he dialed Hammond's office number, all he got in return for his efforts was an automated recording saying "this number has been disconnected, if you feel you have reached this number in error. "Shit! Jack swore, and dialed
"Teal'C. "Colonel O'Neil," came the rumbling voice.
"Teal'C, do me a favor, round up Major Carter, Daniel, and find Hammond immediately, his life is in danger! Don't ask any questions. Just do it!"
Jack hung up the phone and went back over to his prisoner. "Well, what are we waiting for?"
Michael smiled, showing his entire perfect even white teeth. Jack hated that smile, and felt like hitting something, anyone, and Michael did make a connvient target, unfortunately he couldn't afford the luxury of giving way to emotion or the time. "Let's go," Jack muttered under his breath and leading the way, marched down the corridors at double quick time.
Nikita slipped through shadows, dodging the random passer-by, cursing under her breath at the sheer size of the cavernous Chyenne military base. Despite committing to memory the blueprints of the base's general layout, there were still times when she ran into a blank wall or turned around the wrong corner. How anyone found thier way around was beyond her.
Nikita rounded a corner and collided with a metal bucket and mop that someone on the service personnel roster had neglected to remove after finishing cleaning the floor. The metal floor gleamed in the harsh artifical lights that lit the hallway. She had thought she was ready for anything, but not for the sign that read: 'Caution, slippery when wet'. As her booted left foot made contact with the puddle, she lost her balance and toppled to the ground, landing on her back. ****
Methos left the gym, his shirt wringing wet and a terry cloth towel wrapped around his waist, sweat making the fine dark hairs stick to his forehead from the kata routines he had just completed. He found it soothing to both mind and body. At the instant he stepped out into the corridor, he sensed someone moving farther down from his present position. A vague prickling of his nerve endings made the hair on the back of his neck go up.
His movements were obscured by the flickering of the overhead lights as they went on and off. Suddenly the lights went off completely, flooding the corridors in darkness. His senses attuned, Methos could her the scramble of booted feet, the scrape of cloth on the metal floor, and the muttered gasp for breath as someone farther down from where he stood, went down with a colorful use of language, mixed with a splash of soap and water. In one fluid motion he grasped into a fluttering sleeve and twisted it.
"Lost," he whispered in an undertone.
By now Nikita had recovered both her balance and her poise, arching her back like a cat and kicking out with her left foot, trying to connect with Methos' shin and break his grip on her sleeve. Counting on it connecting she was momentarily surprised when her move was countered, and she was spun around to come face to face with a 20-30 old man with dark hair and a dangerous look in his dark eyes. Those eyes stared right through her and it felt that she was being subjected to a test, one where she came up short. That, more than anything, annoyed her and she was about to tell him so, when the hand that wasn't holding onto to her sleeve, went to her lips to indicate silence.
Methos glanced up and down the corridor to make sure it was empty. It was. Once more he turned to confront her.
"Now tell me, who are you? What are you doing here?" Methos asked, folding his arms over his chest.
"I don't owe you any explanations," Nikita defensively snapped.
"I beg to differ."
"Preferable to lies, Yes. But then, I've heard them all so if you prefer to drag this out by lying, by all means, do so." Methos said.
"Did anyone ever tell you, you are insufferable bastard?" Nikita said.
"You'd be surprised. He smiled. "So, what is the truth?"
"The truth will set you free," Nikita replied, brushing imaginary motes of dust from the front of her black shirt, then looked up at Methos again. "Should have know than that those tired old sayings wouldn't wash."
"Do you want to dance?" Methos suddenly snapped.
"What?" she asked.
"Do you want to dance." Methos replied, "We've been circling around the question of why you're here and want you want, that we should have some music to go along with it. You know, make the most of the moment."
"You're insane." Nikita replied. "It might be doing everyone a favor if I offed you right now. Two for the price of one, if you catch my drift."
Methos stared at her, the minutes dragged out in tense silence and then he began to laugh, deep and loud. When he recovered his breath and his poise, he stared at her. "You, you're an assassin?" Nice outfit, basic black and all that."
"You're not taking this seriously," Nikita shouted.
"Oh, I am. It's just that you've no idea who you're dealing with here," Methos replied, feeling oddly relieved and irritated that she hadn't come for him. Granted it had been a while since anyone, mortal or Immortal had made a try to take his head. As one of the oldest living Immortals still alive, he had a choice about whether he wanted to participate in the Immortal cosmic Game. "So I'm not your target. Mind telling me who is?"
"I can't see how it will make a difference now," Nikita shrugged, cocking her head to one side to think matters through. "All right, if you must know it's General Hammond."
"Is that the truth?" Methos asked, well aware that truth was often very subjective. "It is. I don't have time for this, Nikita replied, removing a .38 caliber revolver from her jacket pocket and pulled the trigger. Methos dodged the bullet and hurtled himself to the floor. Using his momentum, he rolled over and came to his feet all in one smooth motion. Seeing that she had missed Nikita depressed the trigger again; she couldn't afford to leave any loose ends let alone any witnesses to her presence.
Methos made another grab for the weapon and this time had grabbed hold of her wrist and expertly twisted until the bones crunched. He had to respect that she did not cry out with the pain but she did wince, by the twisting of the lines around her mouth. A booted foot made contact with his shin which he ignored and with a quick and practiced wrist motion Methos wrested the gun from her grasp ignoring he muttered oath and the fist that would have connected with his cheek.
Nikita curled like a panther about to strike at its prey and Methos found himself impressed by the woman's fighting spirit and sheer determination. He would have made a cynical remark at this point when he was interrupted
by the clatter of metal and booted feet further down the corridor.
At that instant, Colonel Jack O'Neil hurtled around the corner of the corridor at a dead run, the other members of the SG-1 team following along in their wake.
"You're aware of the attempt on General Hammond's life," O'Neil said, taking in the scene and the relative positions of those involved.
"Yeah," Methos replied, rubbing his left shoulder where the bullet had bounced off and penetrated the metal wall directly behind him.
"Where is she?" Michael asked.
"Gone," Teal'C observed peering down the length of the corridor.
"Well, that's torn it," O'Neil muttered. ***
Nikita ignored the twitch in her side and the bitter taste of near-failure that made all the liquid in her mouth dry up, running down the corridor and careening around corridors. She knew what Section's punishment for failure was- death. And at times that were a fate she both longed for and dreaded. She had a target, a fixed purpose, and the means at her disposal to carry it through to its end. She was not about to let anyone or anything stop her. With that in mind, she stopped, gasping for air. Realizing that what she was feeling was panic, and mentally give her self- a scolding,
' Stop. You are acting irrationally. Stop and think. You have all the time in the world, and your target's time is rapidly running out. Michael gave you your head start; all I have to do is go in, kill Hammond and get out. Simple as that.'
The thought flashed through her mind and no sooner than it had, she put thought into action. ***
Hammond stood in the conference room, telling himself that he was analyzing the route and assessing the most qualified personnel to send on the next mission through the Stargate, when in reality he wasn't seeing the coordinates at all. He was troubled. He hadn't heard from Colonel O'Neil in almost 12 hours and still no word, no sign that O'Neil had found any proof or evidence of a spy with their organization, and it bothered him. Oh not because of the possibly of a security breach, what bothered him the most was the fact that that sniveling, obnoxious and hostile Colonel Simmons might have been correct in his warnings and threat. Speaking to the coordinates on the map, "Face it, old man. I'm just an old soldier. My life has been placed in harms way more times than even I can recall. So, yet another shadowy organization has singled me out for an assassination attempt." Hammond shrugged, and turned around to regard the rest of the conference room. "Should I feel flattered, annoyed, insulted? Really, what I feel is tired."
"At the risk of digging up a tired old cliché,'" Nikita replied, slinking into the room' Be careful what you wish for, old man." Clenched in her fist was a .a dagger with a serrated blade. She regretted the loss of her .38 caliber pistol she had lost in the struggle with the man who had accosted her several corridors and wrong turns back. However, she did not regret shooting him. 'I'll finish this assignment and then go back for him' she thought in the back of her mind. "He really should not have interfered." "You really are making this too easy."
Hammond stood, defiantly crossing his arms over his barrel chest, "Well, either kill me or tell me the truth."
"What is it with you people and the truth?" Nikita snapped.
"We're funny that way," Hammond smiled, allowing himself a vague thinning of his thick lips. "Not what you expected. Well, I am sorry to ruin your enjoyment, my dear, but I cannot allow you or the agency you represent to jeopardize my command or the people who serve under me."
"Nice," Nikita muttered, "Once you're dead and buried, I'll ask that they carve that on your headstone." She faked a darting move to his left, knowing that the general was right-handed, think to take him off guard. It didn't work. She moved forward at a run, tucking the gun into the front of her tunic and exchanging it for a knife, clutching in her white- knuckled grasp.
Hammond allowed her to get within spiting range, and joints protesting, grasped her around her forearms and by twisted, grunting in pain when she kicked him in his solar plexus. "Rather underhanded fighting style, my dear."
"I'm your 'dear' anything," Nikita hissed in an undertone, and twisting like a cat she broke his grip, but lost the knife, and both watched as it skittered along the metal floor and then disappeared underneath the table. They darted dagger glances at each other in the tense silence, daring each other to make a move for the weapon.
Nikita curled her lip in a sneer and with her right hand allowed it to hover directly above where she had the gun concealed. "It's over," she said.
At that second, the door burst open and the disparate group burst into the conference, Colonel O'Neil in the lead, the rest following along in his wake. There were a few tense seconds of a confused bottleneck occurring, and Nikita figured she could use that to her advantage, when she felt heat, a sizzling noise and then a bolt of laser energy, and then pain.
Nikita barely registered when the laser made contact with her arm.
"Teal'C," O'Neil said. "Your weapon was set on stun, right?"
"Of course, Colonel O'Neil"
"We need her alive to answer questions," Carter added.
"There were easier ways than to blast her with a snake-head staff," Doctor Jackson added.
General Hammond stood up from where he had been crouched on his heels at the foot of the conference table, and tugged at the end of his uniform jacket. Switching his gaze from Nikita's prone form on the floor to the odd tableau that had burst in at the last moment when it appeared he was going down for the count; he couldn't but help but be reminded of his days as a young officer in the Air Force, and the boxing champions tournaments he used to enjoy. "Maybe it's not too late after all."
"Sir," Carter asked, "Are you all right?" "Maybe we should call for Dr. Fraizer. "No, no, Major, I will be fine. However, our would-be assassin requires medical assistance. Teal'C take her to the infirmary. Everyone else stay here and deliver you reports."
"When she does regain consciousness, Sir, what then?" Doctor Jackson asked.
"Depending on what she has to say, we'll decided then. In the meantime maintain security around the medbay and contact Dr. Fraizer that she should be expecting a visitor."
"Understood, General Hammond," Teal'C responded, moving to pick the young woman and up carry out the door of the conference room and to the medbay.
"Sir," O'Neil interrupted. "Before this matter concludes, I want to go on record to report that I've identified our spy. Our would-be assassination as you so nicely put it, wasn't working alone.
"Lieutenant Michael Giarbalidi is not a member of the staff, his name isn't on the list of personnel for the base or even an officer in the Air Force. It's an alias. And he's the one that been feeding his partner information about the SGC and the base. That's how she was able to get to you first, undetected."
"Not entirely undetected, Colonel," Methos added.
“All right, Mr. Pierson stumbled on her by accident and tipped us off," O'Neil acknowledged.
Hammond sighed. "I should expected as much. All right, Colonel, good job. Escort our spy to the brig and post security around his cell as well. We can't afford to have them get into any more trouble. In the meantime, wait until we receive word from Dr. Fraizer, and then report back here and in two hours. We have much to discuss."
"Yes, Sir." O'Neil, Jackson and Carter saluted, Methos slumped his shoulders and kept his hands inside his jacket pockets, just because he was no a part of the team did not require him to go overboard on the formalities.
Several hours later the team and the members of the security staff gathered in the conference room, both Michael and Nikita's hands were bound in a thin silver mesh whose metal was reflected in the glow of red and blue lights like the LED of a computer screen. Michael couldn't resist trying to get them off, and the skin of his arms was now red and bruised. He darted a glance at the big, formidable-looking black man with the painted eyelids and the gold sigil tattooed on his forehead and wondered how anyone in their right mind would do that. He had expected to be interrogated in the brig or at least tortured, and when it had not come he was both relieved and disappointed.
Nikita, on the other hand, was calm and relaxed. She had not spoken since they were escorted from their cells and brought here.
Hammond stood up, stiffness in his muscles, but he refused to let it get in the way of his duty. He walked around to the head of the table and began the proceedings.
"There's no need to go over recent events, because by now I'm sure you're all aware of the attempt on my life. This is not the first such attempt nor do I expect to be the last.
Nikita started at that, but covered in a polite cough.
"I'm an old soldier, these things happen." Hammond paused, glaring at Nikita. "However, I can not and will not allow this to go unpunished."
"I understand," Michael replied.
"Why do you have to be so insufferably understanding? Carter snapped.
"In the interests of cooperation and communication," Michael replied. "You may find our efforts leaning towards a the criminal, but I remind you of one thing."
"Which is?" Jackson demanded.
"Sometimes it is necessary to do things that others would never consider, in the interests of protecting the innocent."
"Who are you working for?" Carter asked, not buying that line for an instant.
"A rogue organization that answers to its own agenda. Believe me, we have no intention of interfering with your operations. From what I've been able to surmise, you do good work here, in the interests of the planet's security."
"Non-interference with our operations," Jack repeated, "Hah! That's a laugh. What do you call hacking into our computer mainframe, downloading top-secret and sensitive technology documents and mission logs? I call that interference."
"At this time am I reminded of something the American author Ernest Hemmingway once said," Hammond said. '"The world breaks everyone, but some are stronger at the broken places.'"
"It was too late for us," Nikita whispered, glancing at Michael, you recognize the quote? "Too obscure for me. Never really got into Hemmingway."
"There's one thing I don't understand," Jackson paused. "How did you even become aware of the existence of the Star Gate or even where it was located?" "You'd be surprised," Nikita smiled and it was not a pleasant one.
"I've had it with hints, vague literary references and all this dancing around the truth!" Jack yelled, jumping to his feet and stalking around the table. "Would someone just tell me what you hoped to accomplish by killing General Hammond."
"Ask General Simmons of the NID," Michael replied.
Hammond stared as the news and the confirmation of his initial fears sunk in. In the excitement, he all but forgotten what he sparked all the fuss. The scene and the churning emotions of that confrontation with General Frank
Simmons came back to him and he realized he had paid it enough attention. It was no secret that the officers and personnel of the SGC and the civilians and officers in the NID did not see eye to eye, but had never expected
them to go this far. "What?"
"You heard me," he replied. "How you managed to keep this planet safe and this project of yours secure for so long is beyond me. To spell out, you have a security leak and it is from the inside. We just responded to the invitation," Michael said.
"I find that hard to believe," Carter said. "Believe what you want, it's the truth," Nikita replied. "Section figured we could kill two birds with one stone, as it were. Get rid of Hammond and give your Colonel Simmons what he wanted. Once that was accomplished, we could send in one our own operatives who would be more willing to go along with Section's operations."
"You're serious?" Jackson gasped, choking on the water in his glass.
"Yes," Nikita replied, smiling her most captivating smile at the blond man.
"You realize we can't just give you a slap on the wrist, say everything is better now because you failed to kill the general," Jack said, breaking the tense silence of a few moments ago.
"You can't keep us locked up in the brig forever," Nikita said. "We can try," Jack snapped.
"We've got other matters to deal with at the moment, O'Neil," Hammond said, his breath catching. "I want Colonel Simmons and a military tribunal convened for tomorrow at 0800. In the meantime, bring our prisoners back to their cells. I'll deal with them later. I want these alleged contact confirmed from Simmon's own mouth."
"Understood, Sir," Carter saluted. "Separate cells." "Of course," Hammond replied. "People, keep what you know about this matter to yourselves, the less that know what happened the better."
"So now we're damage control," Carter said "We literally dodged a silver bullet here." "You can say that again," Hammond muttered, rubbing his left arm where the knife had grazed leaving a puckering scar. "It could always have been worse."