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A Matter of Timing

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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.

Meanwhile

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?

"No."

"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?"

"General Hammond."

"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?"

"Of course."

"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.

Meanwhile

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."

"Why?"

"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!"

"Understood, Colonel."

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."

"Truth?"

"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."

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Highlander: the Series, the concept, characters, and all related events are the property of Rysher Television, Panzer/ Davis Productions and their respective creators and producer, none of which belong to me, but you already knew that, right? The same goes for Stargate SG-1 which is the property of Gekko Films Limited, MGM Studios. La Femme Nikita belongs to USA Network and UPN. Notes: Some references to the episode "Shadow Plays."

Note: Picks up where "A Matter of Timing" ended, with a good interval taken into consideration.

"Pipe Dreams" by Karen

Prologue

More than 48 hours after the attempt on General Hammond's life found Major Sam Carter in the diagnostic lab running a systems check on the base's security protocols. Leaning back in her chair, she brushed a tendril of hair away from her eyes and twisted the knob on the lit up display panel. Distractedly watching it cycle through programmed subroutines. Playing in the background, an obscure Bach fugue, aside from his musical genius; Sam had to admit that the German composer had a talent for incorporating a lot of hidden mathematical theories as well, if you listened to it backwards. In the back of her mind she thought, with some irony, that it fit her present circumstances as well, going back through the computer records, retracing the steps of their intruders.

"Now if there were just more clues to follow before the trail goes cold. Whatever or whoever Section is: rogue organization or it was an independent organization like the Navy's NID, the less said about that the better."' She shuffled her feet to restore circulation in her legs that were slowly going numb, She had to give their pair of operatives, Michael and Nikita, if those were their real names, credit. They had left slim to none trace of their presence, no obvious tapering, no electronic fingerprints, no obvious glaring security breaches or missing files, not even the more obvious traces of a human presence.

Carter couldn't say which was the more alarming, the electronic presence or the lack of a human presence. Everything was clean, efficient in its clinical ruthlessness. Now that she had to deal with damage control, she realized what a large task it would prove to be. Carter cleared the screen and leaned back in her chair, hands resting on the keyboard, fingers laced together in a rough tent-like shape. "There is still a key piece of the puzzle, if I could just determine what it was." she said aloud. Nothing quite fit's the way it should.

"I'm sorry? Daniel Jackson said, from where he was absorbed in another report, "Did you say something?"

"Yes, and No," Carter replied. "I think I'm close to solving the mystery, but every time it just slips out of reach."

"Any progress is better than nothing, " Daniel offered her a tired smile.

"You've been at that for hours. How about taking a break. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry."

"I could eat, " Carter smiled. "Has Jack commandeered the chef's kitchen?"

"Yes, " Daniel smiled. "But he won't tell us what he is cooking up. It's supposed to be a surprise. You how 'he' gets."

"Well, I'd hate to disappoint him. Maybe I do need a break. Come back to this on a full stomach, a fresh perspective." Carter smiled. "After you."

"Hey, at this point, I'll use any excuse to get out of here," Daniel replied.

"I'm sorry I haven't asked this before," Sam replied, running a hand through her tangled mop of blond hair, "but how's that cataloguing project going?"

"About the same rate as before, but I think I'm about half way through," Daniel replied. "Let's go."

Scene 2 At Section's headquarters

"What have we got?" Madeline asked.

"I wish you wouldn't sneak up on people, it's rather disconcerting," Birkoff, startled, shaking the module he had let drop onto the floor when he sensed the presence looming up behind him. Not expecting an apology or a response that she had acknowledged the incident, he turned his attention back to his monitor.

"There are any number of ways I could answer that question," he replied, 'but once I had the various algorithms solved, "our friends in Colorado are either very clever or making things harder than they need to be."

Madeline tapped a ruby-painted fingernail on the desk's reflective surface where it made a muffled ringing sound in counterpoint to the hub and whine of the machinery in the Operations room and muted conversation. "They have something to hide. Go on."

"Well, at best its that definitely a legit operation. In fact, it's funded by Uncle Sam by way of the United States Air Force."

"The Air Force? Now, that is interesting. I wonder what the price tag of such an undertaking would be? Never mind that now," Madeline said.

"It's all very top secret, the security clearances along must have cost a small fortune."

"You were able to decrypt it?" she asked.

"Of course," he replied, rather insulted that after all the time he'd been with Section, and even after the death of his twin brother, that she would even consider questioning his skill with databases, encryption codes and the like. "Without those clearances our filed operatives would have never infiltrated their base."

"I'll contact them after I'm finished here," Madeline said.

"A lot of the data and the files have to do with theoretical physics, matching logistics and various other scientific disciplines, " Birkoff said, unaware that he had the end of his ballpoint pen caught up in the sleeve of his angora sweater, the sleeves rolled and ink blots staining the elbows. "What puzzles me is why they would bother using Egyptian hieroglyphics as a from of encrypting their data."

"Hieroglyphics? No one uses that form of pictographic writing anymore, and the only cultures that did have long since died out." Madeline replied. "Does this project have a name?"

"The Star Gate Project."

"How romantic," Madeline sneered, arms folded over his chest. "How did learn about this project?"

"You know the answer to that one better than I would, I'm just the resident tech geek."

"Let me think for a moment," Madeline said, smiled, a thin narrowing of her lips, brows narrowing in concentration. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, she snapped her fingers. "If memory serves, I recall a report submitted by one of our Russian field agents. A group of scientists had uncovered an ancient artifact buried beneath the ice in Antarctica. They claimed it was some kind of alien gateway."

"Gateway? To what?" The Ice-Age." Birkoff gave himself a quick little shake, like a duck sloughing off water from it's back; he could imagine how it would feel to descend meters down into freezing water with ice closing over one's head, gasping for air. "Definitely not for me. Give me the tropical sun every single time."

"I thought it a bunch of errant nonsense at the time, but maybe it isn't." Madeline interrupted, breaking his train of thought.

"Isn't what?" he asked.

"Nonsense," she replied.

"During WW II the Allies codes were continually broken by the Axis and valuable information was getting into the wrong hands. So they brought in the ideogram language of the Native Americans, a language that was impossible to crack."

"So what you are saying is that all those Egyptian hieroglyphs must mean something, otherwise why use them for an encryption code. What we need is a universal translator."

"I can check with local universities, see if they have any available linguistics with a specialty in ancient Egyptian," Birkoff replied.

"Do it," Madeline decided. "It stands to reason that our friends in the Star Gate project already have an expert of their own, I don't like playing catch up with anybody. I'll admit to a certain curiosity, but I we have to know more. Get on it right away."

Scene 3a INTERLUDE

Methos: Never a firm believer in an appropriate hour of the day to drink himself into a drunken stupor, Methos paid no attention to the blinking readout of the alarm clock. He had been tossing back his stockpiled collection of beer all night and had no intention of stopping any time soon. Given an Immortal's general high tolerance to almost everything and his own ability to drink large amounts of beer, Methos felt very relaxed He had his booted feet propped on the console, disturbing the stacks of carefully sorted documents, cheerfully ignoring the mess it made. He sipped at the foamy liquid and let it swish around in his mouth, before swallowing, enjoying the sensation going down his throat. In the back of his mind, he blessed whatever primeval gods/demons had given mankind the secret of fermenting in order beer, but 'bully for them', he thought.

"Better the devil you know," Methos muttered aloud, wiping the foam from his lower lip and wondering what vapors of the air had hidden the last of his beer cans. "I'll go question the prisoners, I'll get to bottom or the top as the case may be of what Section really is. Call it curiosity, but I can't let this go that easily."

Meanwhile, his fellow Immortal, Thoth was in the Palestra, or the base's gymnasium, along with the new Immortal, Teal'C.

Thoth had his hands full, literally. It was obvious that the man knew how to handle himself in a fight, and he had plenty of experience if the scars that criss-crossed his coffee-brown skin were any indication. Thoth knew he had once been a Jaffa, even a first prime to one of the more prominent Gouald's , Apophis, so he he'd been a warrior long before he'd become an Immortal and had his parasite removed, and he knew how to fight. What Thoth was having difficulty wrapping his mind around, was how to develop a training routine that would make sense to both himself as an Immortal who admittedly had never been in an actual combat scenario since he'd emerged from stasis. "Damn, Damn, and for good measure, damn again, why isn't Methos doing this training? I'm no good at this."

Teal'C, standing with feet spread apart and staff with a snake's head perched ungainly on top of it, waited a few feet away, browed furrowed in concentration.

"I would concur," Teal'C replied, brow furrowed in concentration.

Thoth sighed, and readied his quarterstaff in a defensive posture, "Attack me."

"I would not wish to harm you."

"You will and you won't, it's all very muddled. You see Immortals can be harmed, even killed, but we don't die unless you remove our heads from our bodies. Damn."

Thoth swore, letting off a long stream of invective in languages that the former Jaffa must be intelligible to only a handful in the mountain base, Thoth, his counterpart, Methos and Dr. Daniel Jackson. When he paused for breath in between curses, Thoth looked, red-faced and an sheepish look on his narrow face. "I can't believe Methos has let me live this long. You see of the rules governing immortals, this one has been around as long as anyone can remember, 'There can be only one.

"Meaning?"

"Meaning, one left in the end, it's all part of some cosmic game that began millennia ago, "Thoth cocked his head to one side, thinking it through, carefully choosing his next words: "You see, 5,000 years left in on a abandoned alien world, gave me plenty of opportunity to think.

"And what did you conclude?" Teal'C asked.

"I decided that the entire game is a colossal waste of time. It's part of some plan by Guls or whomever you want, to get Immortals to fight amongst themselves." Thoth exclaimed, raising his legs and breaking his quarterstaff over his knees, throwing the splintered pieces to the ground, unaware that several had broken his skin. Thoth idly watched the blood clot and the skin heal over in a matter of minutes, leaving the tell-tale fine white scars.

"Then they could you use your race as potential slaves/hosts for the gul larvae." Teal"C found the entire incident fascinating, wondering, not for the last time, now that his own gul parasite had been removed, if such a thing would also occur in his own body when he sustained a energy, fatal or otherwise.

"Exactly." Thoth murmured. "You do not need me to teach you how to fight, you knew that already. I guess the conclusion of this lesson, watch your head., Teal'C, you'll need it.

"I shall take your lesson to heart, Ancient One," Teal'C replied.

Scene 4a

Meanwhile inside the brig, Michael sat on the floor with his legs crossed tailor fashion. His eyes were closed and his breathing was the required breaths per minute of one of his favorite meditation techniques. He hadn't moved or said anything in the last 48 hours since he and his partner had been apprehended and brought to the brig. The fact alone, irritated the duty officer assigned to act as guard.

Nikita paced the narrow room like a caged cat, aware that not only made her guard nervous, it also irritated Michael, even though he affected to be meditating and oblivious to what happened around them, he really had all five senses of high alert, and when broke out of his heightened awareness he would lecture her for wasting energy. "Let me yell all he wants, sometimes I get to do exactly as he want, no rules, no secrets, no pretenses. Section does not rule my life, well, not completely, I've got some latitude to be myself, come hell or high water. So, let me choke on that. Even if he is incredibly handsome; brooding dark eyes, sensual lips. Hell, listen to yourself Nikita, going on about a man your barely know outside of the department, and you're carrying on like a sappy romantic heroine. Get it together.'

Scene 4b Methos/Nikita/Michael

Michael stood, stretching to relieve the tension of his self-imposed meditative state. Aware as he was unaware of the guard's shifts, the condensation on the metal walls from where the heating and plumbing was uneven, and Nikit'as constant pacing. He had an acid comment to make to her on the futility of pacing. She had been with Section long enough to know better than that, but he knew her better than anyone and sometimes her pacing resembled that of a caged panther, it help her restlessness, help clear her thoughts,' Michael decided that for once, he would let it slide.

"What do you want?" Nikita demanded when she the man who had once tried prevent her attempt on General Hammond's life. Unarmed and dressed only in bath towel, he had wrestled her gun out of her hand. Either he was insane or over-confident, Nikita still had determined which alternative was better. For her own peace of mind she would have preferred to write off the incident and forget about it, but those dark eyes and features kept haunting her, as if she had seen them somewhere before, but the memory proved elusive, like she was trying catch snow-mice while wearing mittens.

"What do I want?" Methos mused, pausing half-in and half-out of the open doorway of the brig, shouldering aside the guard. "That could cover a whole range of possibilities."

"You're drunk," Nikita observed, not impressed.

"I am not, but I wish I were," Methos sneered. "Not all problems can be washed away at the bottom of beer can, I should know. I've had lots of practice at it."

"Misery loves company, " Michael observed. "Care to share some of that beer?"

"No. I only share my beer with people I like, and that's a very short list compared to the list of what I want." Feel like talking?"

"Not really," Michael replied.

"Too bad. I'm not going away until you do, " Methos replied, closing the gap between the door and the cell in a swift strides. He wrapped one hand around the bars. "You see, something doesn't add around here. Your so called mission and this affiliation of yours, Section, were entirely too pat. I don't like easy answers."

"Too bad. We don't like easy answers either," Nikita replied, shrugging.

"What is Section? Is it legal?"

"Oh, it's legal all right. The only difference is that the people who run it, the powers that be, work from the assumption that the ends justify the means," Michael replied.

"Why did they leave you here, if you're some of their best operatives?"

"That isn't the type of question I'd expect from a military officer if you're really operating with the approval of the United States Air Force," Nikita said.

"How do you I'm not?" Methos smirked.

"So it's going to be like this? A game of 20 questions? I've been interrogated before, some where good, some were downright pathetic, you're just crazy," Nikita said.

"Humor me," Methos smiled, and it wasn't a pleasant one.

"What is the Star gate project?" Michael said.

"A fancy title for a research and development project?" Methos replied.

"Too easy, try again," Nikita said.

"Why was Section interested in it?" Methos asked, ignoring Nikita.

"Curiosity. And what makes you think our people will just leave us here locked up in your brig?" Michael snapped.

Scene 5 Back at the SGC Plans

In the briefing room, Hammond stood with his hands laced behind his beck, his mouth in a firm line. The scar that puckered the left side of his face now nothing but a thin white line after Dr. Frasier had treated it and it pronounced it 'not serious.' He supposed after all his years of military serious he should be used to such things as coming with the territory, there had probably other attempts on his life, but he honestly could not remember them. In the back of his mind, he thought; 'Dodged a bullet there, literally. I should thank my lucky stars for that.'

Colonel Jack O'Neil came in then, looking rumpled and alert as usual, his uniform sleeves rolled up to the wrists, Major Carter and Dr. Jackson following along on his heels. Teal'C came in moments later in the company of Thoth. Methos, or as he preferred to be called, Adam Pierson was conspicuously absent.

"Where is he?" Hammond demanded of everyone in the room as they took their seats at the rectangular conference table. "Last I checked he was in general quarters getting roaring drunk," O'Neil replied.

"Drunk?" Hammond echoed, the practical military side of his mind unable to quite grasp the idea that any one of his personnel would deliberately drink them selves into oblivion, while on duty. First off it was a completely foreign concept to him, on his off duty hours maybe he save a swig or two of whiskey or perhaps gin for a special occasion, and while the rule of the base didn't expressly forbid his officers and enlisted men from indulging in strong drink, not while on duty or on a mission. With these thoughts running through his head, Hammond glared at Colonel O'Neil. "I don't care what condition he's in, just get him in here."

"Yes, Sir," O'Neil saluted and went to carry out his orders.

"While Colonel O'Neil rounds up our 'missing link', Major if you could open this meeting with a summary of your findings thus far. I for one, would rather deal with the damage control before the NID or anyone else gets wind of our 'break in."

"Understood, Sir." Carter replied. "Section is good, very good. I'm still entirely certain that their a legitimate outfit, but they certainly have an agenda, and that agenda seems to be information gathering for the purpose of securing their position so that they are almost untouchable."

"That isn't exactly reassuring?" Jackson muttered.

"Anything else?" Hammond pressed.

"As far as any lasting damage, we didn't lose anyone, the attack on you, General, while it may have been pre-motivated, now was merely a distraction. One member of the infiltration team would draw away all attention, while the other member, in this case, Michael, posed as one of the junior officers, hacked into our database and downloaded as much usable information as they could. Before they were discovered."

"Any idea what they want that information for?" Hammond asked.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Carter shrugged. "Taking a wild stab in the dark, somebody out there leaked intelligence about what we're doing on this mountain and it attracted Section's attention. Now, I guess they're trying to figure out how it benefits them."

"Will this Section make another attempt on Hammond's life?" Teal'C asked.

"I doubt I," Thoth murmured. "I'd have to guess, is that we are dealing with the type of people who need to keep their identity and activities secret. They either don't tolerate or can't risk failure.

Carter smiled, a thin narrowing of her lips. "I agree with Thoth."

"What are our options?" Hammond asked.

"Question our prisoners again." Carter nodded.

"I doubt they will be any more forthcoming than they were before, " Jackson said. "It's worth a shot."

At that instant the door to the briefing room banged open and a young soldier with Colonel O'Neil all but tripping on his heels burst into the room.

"Our prisoners have escaped." The young officer clenched his fists, his face turning red. "It was my watch. I'm sorry, General. I should have done more to prevent this from happening."

Scene 6a Flashback Methos/Silas/Nikita

The Naquda Reactor Project

The rapid movement of the vicious liquid in the vat was mesmerizing. The mirror of its surface broken at regular intervals by bubbles rising to the surface, lingering for a short time before the air pressure caused them to pop. A blonde woman wearing a white lab coat and goggles found it as fascinating as she had been led to believe. The room that house the project was circular and kept bare of clutter. Nikita or rather the alias she had assumed for this mission, Sarah Greeley, combed her considerable memory for the name given to the project "Quicksilver' sounded right, but it didn't quite fit. Compared to other metals it would serve as a poor conductor of heat, but a better one for electricity. "Mercury is the only common metal that is liquid at room temperature, and this stuff is hot..

Monitors hooked up by wires and cables monitored the progress and made sure that all systems where within the program's specified parameters. Any change, no matter how slight, would be recorded in the session logs. The program was currently house inside of a large building whose location was not on any map, and given the highly sensitive nature of their research and the high likelihood of reactor's exploding, it was best that way.

At that instant Nikita could feel the fine hairs on the back of her neck bristle, and turned around in time to see another of the project scientists enter the room. He was medium-built, skinny as a switch and tall, with lank red-hair constantly falling down into his big green eyes.

"Sara," he greeted, 'how are you?"

"Hello, Aaron. I'm fine," she replied.

The red-head wiped his brow, unaware that it left a dirty streak on the skin, his hands were ink-stained and the skin below the nails were filthy. "No change, in case you were wondering about the 'old man. He's just the same as he ever was. I've been with the project from day one and Dr. Silas was always considered eccentric by his colleagues in the scientific field of theoretical physics, but never like this."

"I feel a little like I came in the middle of the third reel of a movie," she replied. "Could you fill me in?"

"Oh, Sara, I'm sorry. It had completely escaped that you were just brought in, You see Dr. Silas had worked in the field for many years, and it was only recently that he felt he had truly made a breakthrough," Aaron replied.

"Let me guess, he presented his discovery along with documented research and when he presented to his colleagues they shouted him down and told him he Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, right?"

"It's an interesting analogy, that's all," Aaron said, nodding his head. "Like all scientists determined to prove that he'd been right all along. Doctor Silas went looking for outside sources to provide the funding and the lab in which to conduct his experiments." Aaron sank down into a nearby chair, picking up a pitcher of water that was half-full and drank down the contents in one gulp. Looking around the round like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, he looked up her, the lines around his green eyes deepening," You think he can hear us in here?"

"Relax," Nikita coaxed, coming over to sit beside," It's a sound-proof room."

"Then what happened?" she prompted.

"We lucked into funding from an interested third party that came through a university in the Northwestern United States," Aaron said.

"Quite generous, our anonymous donor, then?" Nikita asked. "What that part of the agreement in order to get the funding, or did that come later?"

"I'm sorry, I'm exhausted, " Aaron muttered. "I don't why I said that, or why I said so much, it must be nerves."

"Get some sleep," Nikita suggested, smiling at Aaron. "I am just finishing the end of my shift, and I don't need much sleep and you do. So I'll take yours as well. Deal?"

Aaron mustered up a tired smile of his own, "Okay, Sara. Deal." Then offered his own hand to shake, which she returned. "See you around."

Scene 6b

Nikita was up at the crack of dawn engaging in her morning routine, a series of tai chi stretching and breathing exercises followed by a light jog around the park surrounding the facility, then a shower followed by breakfast in the communal kitchen.

Aware that none of the other inhabitants stirred until the sun was high in the sky she fully intended to use the time to her advantage. She took her plastic tray to the kitchen sink and sloshed it around in hot water before placing it back on the high shelf above where she had found it. She toweled dried her hands and straightened the loose sleeves of her white lab coat.

Leaving the kitchen she headed for the psych ward, making notations of the clipboard that she carried with her. She did not spend any time analyzing her motives for going to see an announced crazy man, and even her colleague, Aaron., had all but said as much. In the back of her mind, she thought to herself, 'Is it simple curiosity or is it duty, just part of the fact-finding mission, or do I really want to find out if he's insane, and if he is, what caused it?"'

She found Doctor Silas huddled in the center of the narrow room, bedraggled and hunched on the top of his bed, his white lab coat in a bundle at his feet. He was a tall, angular man with black hair and glasses that he wore attached to a plastic cord. Several days of going unshaven had left with a heavy beard that shadowed most of his face.

She keyed in the access coded and entered the small room, ready for anything. Silas looked up at her, and all she saw in his dark eyes was the look of a man, a man with nothing left to lose. Nikita was reminded of her days on the streets as a young girl, even as an adult, if she had seen that look in the eyes of anyone, her first instinct would either have been fight or flee. Nikita felt odd, the fine blonde hairs at the base of her neck prickle and a tension head ache make itself known.

"Dr. Silas," she began quietly. "I've come to talk you."

He looked up at her, his moving, trying to form words but something was gravely with his larynx or he had gone so long without speaking to anyone except the nurses and doctors that had forgotten. He surprised her then, uncurling and sitting up street. "You wish to know if I am insane. Am I correct?" They also wish to know this, to know if the naquada material has driven away my senses? Well, the answer is both yes and no. Water."

Nikita looked over and saw a pitcher of water on a small table along with white paper cups, she filled on for him and one for herself.

"Here you go. When did it happen?" Nikita found it hard to believe that this man had lost his senses, he sounded surprisingly lucid to her.

"Like all experiments, we'd had our share of setbacks," Dr. Silas nodding in acknowledgement of her giving him water. "You see, I really felt I was on the verge of a breakthrough, but something went wrong."

"What?" Nikita prompted.

"We did. We could not contain the solvent and it got out," Silas snapped, and refused to say another word.

*end flashback"

Scene 7a Interlude Methos/Nikita

Present Day

Methos gunned the motor of the car he had found in one the Cheyenne's mountains cavernous underground motor pools, it was a gray coupe and shiny with a recent wash like it had just come off the assembly line. He had lost his quarry's trail a turn or so back, given the nature of the mountain side road, it switched back and forth, and he couldn't risk hurtling down the road or driving on the shoulder. He had made the mistake once already of looking out the passenger side window and staring down into ravine. As soon as the guard had announced that the prisoner's were gone, Methos couldn't have said how they got away when he had been in the adjacent room stewing over what they had revealed, or more accurately hadn't revealed. Before he could blink or yell, a canister of gas had been tossed negligently into his vicinity, it took longer, but it achieved its purpose, knocked unconsciousness, maybe it would have taken longer to kick in if he had been sober. It was no fun being sober.

Methos couldn't afford to give the problem the proper attention at that second; when his senses warned of approaching danger, an 18-wheel rig approaching from the direction he was currently facing. Methos yanked on the wheel, making the car's tires screeching with the sound of animal in mortal agony. Methos would have laughed if wasn't so concerned with keeping himself and the car in one piece.

Once more in the clear, he saw the license plate numbers of the car Michael and Nikita used as their getaway vehicle.

"This breakaway is Not going according to plan," Nikita muttered, her hear hammering in her chest and the adrenaline in her system making the seatbelt feeling constricting and as confining as the cell they had escape from only hours earlier.

Michael drove like a madman on a straightaway, all too aware that Methos had not only recovered from the exposure to the knockout gas, but had the wherewithal to get up, follow them, and continue to pursue. And Nikita had the sneaking suspicion that that 'one' was not doing so out of a sense of loyalty, duty, or for the sake of a job well done, no, it was a instinctive need to chase down his prey. Hell, he'd make a could Section operative, 'Maybe we could recruit him.' she thought idly, then tossed the thought aside. "No."

Encounter

"We should abandon the car," Michael said. "It was the only available option at the time, but it's one of theirs. I'll lay even odds that it will be tracked either by the plate or the registration number."

"Madeline is going to be really ticked off about this," Nikita replied, unlatching her seatbelt and levering open the passenger side door.

"Let her," Michael sneered. "She's as much responsible for the fiasco this mission turned out to be as us." Michael got out as well, leaving the car in idle and watching as the car spun into a nearby ditch, where the back end wheels spun for a seconds before grinding to a halt.

"You really believe that?" Nikita muttered, getting at a pile of rocks with one booted foot.

"Doesn't matter now." Michael scanned the nearby scenery, the stand of pine trees along the edge of the road, the scraggly brush still clinging to the bare rock and paved tar, snow blanketing the area is light patches. "I'll give him credit. He's persistent."

"You don't happen to have any concealed weapons on you?" Nikita asked, more for something than anything else.

"I was counting on the neuro toxin gas to get him out of the picture, and when don't know if had time to warn his superiors. If he did, then it will take them some time to scramble a search and retrieval unit. By that time, I want to be well away from Colorado or anything in the vicinity."

"How do you think he recovered so quickly from the gas?"

"I don't know and I don't care," Michael tossed over his shoulder, trying to make a much distance as possible from the car wreck as possible. "Just keep walking."

"We'll call for back up," Nikita suggested, and fell into step beside him.

Later

Methos found the car in the ditch and cursed, shaking a fist up at the cloudless blue sky. His curses were drowned out in the unmistakable grinding sound of a helicopters' blades cutting through the crisp winter morning air. "Just about bloody perfect. He dodged out of the way, the wind from the backlash of the choppers' blades ruffling his dark hair, sand and grit getting into his eyes.

The copter landed and the members of the SG-1 team disembarked.

Colonel Jack O'Neil looked at him, looked at the scene of the car crash. "I like initiative from members of my squad as much as next command officer, but not when they run off on half-baked suicide mission. Don't ever do it again."

"Come again?" Methos sputtered.

"You heard him," Carter smiled. "

Doctor Daniel Jackson stood behind and slightly to the left while the Jaffa' Teal'c remained seated in the copter. "Consider yourself lucky, Methos. I think you're getting off pretty easy. Jackson cocked his head to one side, thinking something through. "Considering everything we've been through, I got thrashed worse than that for some of stunts I've pulled. Just wait until this is over and we get you back to the base."

"I'm ecstatic," Methos muttered.

"Get every one onboard. I want these people caught, and I want answers," O'Neil said.

Scene 8a Confrontation

Meanwhile

"We're within visual range of our quarry," Carter announced, a note of finality and satisfaction in her voice. "I'd see we should have them in a matter of minutes."

"About time," Thoth said, fingers clenched around the arm rest of his seat. "

"At last, something we agree on," O'Neil replied.

"I want first crack at the woman," Methos demanded, folding his arms over his chest.

"Why,"At that instant Carter gave a shout of mingled excitement and surprise. "We found them! But they have friends in high places. Incoming hostiles."

"Some kind of energy pulse interfering with the electronic guidance systems." O'Neil muttered, looking up from the readouts on the console in front of him. "I'll evade them, no problem."

Jackson's gaze wasn't on the conversation taking place inside the helicopter, rather he had been staring out the landscape rushing by in patches of dark gray and green blurs. They had flown for unmarked length of time, and passed over the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Then across the bread-basket of the Midwest, from an altitude high enough to be above most radar detection systems, but not too high to risk losing track of the escapees. He couldn't put his finger on exactly what was making the fine blond hairs on his nape prickle, but he could have sworn they were missing something, 'But what," he muttered aloud.

O'Neil landed the helicopter a small distance away from the series of buildings that Michael and Nikita had pulled up to and then disappeared inside.

The building, a dull metal gray, was blocky and situated on rocky hill with a commanding view in all directions. By mutual consent, under the circumstances it was better to approach on foot. Going armed sounded like an even better idea.

**
Inside the complex, it was dim, but enough light came through the windows to allow them to see the hallways that branched off from each, leading to still more hallways. Either the place had been built for strictly one purpose, with no frills in mind, or someone had hired an architect with no blueprints and just with strict geometry. The place looked deserted, but they were aware that appearances could be deceptive.

They moved down the hallways in pairs with Teal'C and Thoth acting as rear-guard.

The unmistakable crackle of a gun prepped to fire sounded, and Methos snarled and shoved Teal'C out of the way. "Yeah you're big and strong, but sometimes you just make a big dumb target."

Teal'C nodded and calmly slid the snake-headed staff and prepped, the red sockets of the snake head glowing in the dim lighting. "I shall remember that. Turning to Thoth, "Was this one of things I should remember, Ancient One?"

"Stop calling me that," Thoth snapped.

"We've been made," O'Neil shrugged the incident aside. "Hey, given our luck so far with Section, they probably had us pegged before we even landed." As if to emphasize the point alarms shrilled through out the complex.

"I would still like to know how they scrambled the copter's systems," Carter remarked.

At that instant Michael appeared from behind a sliding door panel, emerging from the shadows. "Shall we play another round of 20 questions? If I recall, from our brief acquaintance that you were found of that game."

Methos ground his teeth, "Should have killed that bastard when I had the chance."

"I'm 'not' disagreeing with you," O'Neil muttered. "And in case you didn't notice, we outnumber you."

"Don't feel like playing anymore," Methos added.

"Neither do I," Nikita stated, tilting her head to one side, and the sizzle of powering up electrical systems filled the close air with ozone and sweat.

O'Neil braced for the opening salvo, crouched in a hunter's stance, his own gun ready to fire, so when the hot red ribbons of laser appeared, the bullet hit the laser beam and disintegrated. "Figures," he muttered and kept firing off shots until the clip was empty. Tapping Teal'C on the shoulder, "Bit of on obstacle here. Would you mind clearing a path?"

"Of course, O'Neil." Teal'c pressed the trigger on his snake-head staff launching a hot white stream of laser energy, aiming it at the grid of laser beams. Upon collision the beams sizzled, contracted and disappeared.

"You've seen too much and heard far more than is strictly health," Nikita said. "I feel it's only to inform that we have been authorized to use lethal force."

"Hey, no fair stealing my thunder," O'Neil snapped, "That's my line. Seriously, though if your superiors are pulling strings and targeting government officials in positions of authority, that grinds my gears."

"Someone is going to pay," Carter nodded.

"Now we're getting somewhere," Jackson said.

"You're angry about what happened back on your base, and you have a right to be. If it's any consolation, it wasn't personal. It was just part of the mission." Nikita glided away to a nearby wall panel and hit a button that activated an explosive device.

The shock of the explosion knocked the small group off their feet. Carter was thrown up against the wall, the impact causing a small gash to open out on her forehead right below the hair line. Jackson staggered into her left side at the same instant that she raised a hand up to wipe the blood flowing into her eyes. Daniel blue eyes were glassy, and understood in a matter of seconds when she saw the small black needle of a poison that had been inserted into his left arm. She couldn't keep herself upright and keep him from collapsing to the metal floor, and they both went down in an ungainly heap.

Meanwhile Thoth, feeling much like a third well, stood over the prone bodies of Carter and Jackson, doing his best to try and revive them. Methos sneering in the back ground. "You could help?" Thoth glared up at Methos, dropping Carter's limp wrist where had just checked for a pulse. It was there and steady, she just wasn't responding to anything he tried.

"We don't want you dead," Nikita remarked, "just incapacitated.

"I feel 'so' much better now," O'Neil snapped, crossing the distance to where she stood, swinging his arms in a roundhouse punch and feeling the blow blocked by Michael, they locked and O'Neil surprised by the coiled strength of the other man. Breaking the lock and taking Michael out of the picture was not going to be as easy as O'Neil thought it would be. Michael countered the stalemate but hitting O'Neil in the kidneys, and O'Neil crumpled to the ground. Groaning more than was necessary, O'Neil returned the favor by introducing his booted feet under Michael and knocking him down, grabbing the loaded gun.

Nikita, meanwhile, had taken shelter behind a half open doorway, muttering under her breath, and cursing how nothing during this entire mission and its aftermath had according to plan, while she dodged and weaved to avoid the energy blasts from the snake-headed staff carried by the large black man, Teal'C. "We are so dead." she whispered.

Scene 9a Conclusion

On the other side of the hallway Doctor Silas waited, as he had been doing for a very long time. Longer than even he could remember. He watched the exchange of fire, the angry heat wave of emotions coming from the small group in exterior hallway, and shook, the eyelid of his left eye twitching uncontrollably. An submerged memory came to the forefront, he 'knew' one of the man, a tall, angular man with narrow cheekbones, dark hair, and eyes. He once called this man' Brother' and the memories associated with that relationship had nothing to do with science, and chemistry, and secret societies, and alien energy reactors: they were of place of wide open spaces, and mountains, and riding on horseback clad in leather battle gear. Silas, was insane, these thoughts going through his head were the products of his particular insanity, brought on by seeing a stranger as a brother.

The insane had their privileges, even by all lights most of those, like creature comforts, food, clothing, shelter were provided. One of the benefits of being thought by all those he had trusted, those who had been with him on the naquada reactor project from the beginning and those who had been brought in later, thought his madness was irreversible, at least someone, knew he had lucid moments. Silas did not know or care what Section was, but when that women, she called herself Madeline, arranged his escape from the asylum, he was grateful, and a little surprised, but he would take what he could get.

"Doctor Silas," Nikita said, in tone not of inquiry but surprise at recognizing the disheveled man in the white coat, much less that he had been brought into Section and was running around loose.

Methos gazed at the madman, feeling the vaguest stirrings of recollection. Had he ever met this man before. After 5,000 years a lot of memories blurred into each other. In the back of his mind, he shuffled all the separate pieces of his memories and his experience when he stored them in neat compartments. Nikita had called him Dr. Silas, not a unusual name, but still. While these thoughts went through his head, Methos shoved the man aside, he found disagreeable to have a certified lunatic hurl himself bodily at him, call him 'brother,' and proceed to fawn all over him. Aside from that, it was embarrassing, and everyone was staring at him. "Just what is everyone's problem. Is insanity contagious?" I don't know or care what's he's talking about, just forget about it? Okay?"

"The reactor," Silas babbled, grasping onto the hem of Methos' uniform pants, sweat coating his face. "It's hear. It got out, but Section contained it. The possibilities are endless. Brother, don't turn away from me…" Silas's stream of inane chatter ended on a choked gurgle, as Michael placed a dagger in between the lunatic's ribs. "He's expendable."

O'Neil turned to face Carter and glancing sidelong at her, "Did he say 'reactor'.

"He did." she whispered.

"Refresh my memory, the only reactor that has anything to do with our project specs, a naquada reactor. Well, come hell or high water, we're screwed."

"So they have a reactor?" Methos shrugged. "So what?"

"That's classified," Carter replied, feeling a bit groggy but otherwise alert after the

"We're not your enemy. You may not agree or condone how Section operates, but that's tough, " Michael replied, "and even if you do manage to kill or otherwise incapacitate the two of us, you won't shut us down. It's like a weed, it keeps on going."

"I hate this guy," Thoth muttered.

"How could you?" Jackson yelled, crossing the gap, unaware of his own continued safety. "He was crazy, but that's no reason to kill him!"

"No reason that you are aware of, but he's served his purpose."

"We had a go ahead?" Nikita

"I feel sick," Thoth whispered, pleased that Carter and Doctor Jackson had recovered, but also shocked by how cold-bloodedly Michael had dispatched the unfortunate Doctor Silas.

"Oh, stop whining, Thoth. I am beginning to understand these people," Methos said, "As much as it pains me to say this, one rule above all, 'success by any means possible. And I think that whatever they're stated intentions, all their protestations to the contrary, they're fanatics."

"They bring you along to psychoanalyze your enemies?" Nikita snapped, out of patience.

"No. I'm just good at reading people," Methos replied.

"Damn, and just when I thought we really had a chance to win this one." O'Neil snapped. "I hate that."

"At last something we agree on, Colonel," Nikita replied.

"Why do I get the feeling that short of killing you and carting you back to base in a body bag, you'll won't let us take your prisoner," Carter asked.

"I will tell this much," Michael smiled, showing all his perfect white teeth. "As man sows, so shall he reap. In novels such men are sometimes converted, in real life, they do not change their natures until they are converted to dust."

"I really hate this guy," Thoth stated, but was ignored.

. I wanted to find out the answers to all these questions," O'Neil said, "Now I just want to leave." O'Neil said.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and related characters, events and history belong to their respective creators and producers, as do the characters from Highlander: the Series and La Femme Nikita. They are borrowed for the purposes of the story and will be returned. No profit is made from this, at all. You know the drill.

Notes: Follows shortly after where the previous story "Pipe Dreams" left off.

"The Quick and the Dead"

"I can't stand all the whistling!" Jack shouted to be heard over the noisy confusion of broken concrete, metal and the report of exchange gunfire. Pausing a few precious seconds to reload his gun, Jack thought in the back of his mind, that he might be hearing things, but an internal monitor kept saying 'nothing is ever as easy as it should be.' Section is bad news, write off is a loss and get your team the hell outta here.' Aloud he said" We're leaving, now."

"No one is whistling, Jack," Daniel whispered as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, then dodged a bullet as it whizzed directly over the space his head had a been a second before. Daniel ducked behind a conveniently situated cart of cleaning supplies that a janitor had left behind in the corridor. "You'll get no arguments from me, Jack, I am wholehearted agreement, preferably with our skins intact." Daniel shuddered, and nervously took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses with a wad of paper from one of his pockets.

"Sir," Sam added, "Might I point out that the structural integrity of this entire areas is about to go the way of leisure suits and 8 tracks." She kept up a steady stream of counter fire with the persistent Section Agents, covering the rest of the team as best she could while the others finding a way out of this mess.

Methos, had experienced a little bit of difficult dragging Thoth out of the chamber that held a giant tub full of what Major Carter called a naquada reactor, and Thoth had proved balky. Methos, considered, not for the first time, shoving the other Immortal into the line of fire and being done with the other man. If nothing else it would provide a useful distraction. He was jolted out of his gloomy thoughts by the sound of metal giving way under extreme pressure. Thoth dropped to the floor and covered his head with his hands. "Bloody useless, idiot," Methos griped.

"Meaning, Major Carter?" Teal'C raised one of his thick expressive eyebrows in

Seeing that Sam was otherwise occupied Jack answered for her, "Meaning, Teal'C that something is about to go boom, and that something would probably be the spot we're standing on."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when the whistling noise intensified in whine and pitch, the floor shuddered like a whale breaching through the surface of an ocean, and entire flooring gave beneath their feet.

They fell for what felt like an interminable length of time, the free fall oddly relaxing after the intensity of the fire fight, the landing however came as a shock. Instead of hitting something hard as Jack expected, they landed in ankle length standing water and the smell of corroded water pipes and damp wafted to their nostrils. "Wonderful smell, I've discovered."

"As long as you don't take a sample back and bottle it," Daniel replied, feeling slightly better to be away from the line of fire.

"Not a bad idea for once, Doctor Jackson," Methos said.

"Ignore him," Sam replied, shrugging her shoulders and taking charge of the limping Thoth who gave up rubbing his shore ankle where a bullet had lodged right before the floor gave way. "It's nothing. Just a flesh wound."

"We can't sit around waiting another miracle," Sam replied.

Scene 2

Topside, staring down in into the gaping hole where the floor used to be, the Section agents stared at the destructions and exchanged a significant glance with each other.

Michael debated jumping down there and double checking to see if the unexpected intruders had survived the fall and if so going to the trouble of retrieving them for interrogation later. Most visitors to Section's facilities usually didn't make it past the preliminary security measures. Whatever else, these officers and what appeared to a couple of civilians were, they were resourceful and determined: Michael could almost respect that, almost being the operative word. The tunnels below the bunker did not contain anything critical to the existence of the shadowy world of espionage that he and his partner, Nikita inhabited, but still it would be troublesome to have them wander around down there, they know too much as matters stood, and they would have to be terminated.

Standing beside with a speculative look in her eyes, Nikita glared at that spoke volumes that she held him to blame for the malfunction time delayed explosive. 'Talk about overkill." he thought to himself. Not to mention it would like receive a reprimand in both their files from their case manager, Madeline. If only for the damaged sustained by the facility.

"This is all your fault," Nikita muttered under her breath, pivoted on her hell and stalked back to the entrance, took the stairs two at a time and disappeared from sight, leaving Michael flatfooted in her wake. "The boys in documents will never believe me when they read the report I'll have to submit after this little escapade." Yelling at Nikita wouldn't do him a whole lot of good it might relieve some of the tension, failure was not an scenario he was familiar to and it tasted like cotton balls in his mouth. Shouting, knowing even if he couldn't see her, she would be listening in the shadows, "You have got a lot of gall to pin this one on me!"

Scene 3

Meanwhile, moving along seemed a sensible idea, so picking up the pieces of their gear and weapons, Jack picked a direction at random and set off at a decent marching pace. "Anybody want to chock this up to a miracle? Because I'll take my miracles any way I can get them."

"Who knew they had tunnels situated directly below the bunkers," Sam remarked. "They might be a legit operation and we would have no way of determining if that was so."

"Yeah, like the NID is a legit operation?" Jack muttered, wringing the tail ends of his clothes of the layer of water it had accumulated from soaking in the standing pool.

"Jack just because we've had differences with the folks that run that branch of the SCG operation and they've, to put it mildly, difficult and balky in their dealings with General Hammond, doesn't that they're the enemy." Sam added rummaging in her bag for flashlights. "It's dark down here, we'll need to be able to see where we're going."

"Good idea," Daniel said.

"We have enough enemies," Jack nodded. "Too bad we didn't pump more information out of these Section operatives when they were our 'guests."

"Not very good manners," Daniel muttered, plodding along, sandwiched in between Methos, Thoth and Teal'C who acted as rear guard. "Let's go."

"Then let's find a way out of this mess," Jack said. "Once we're in the clear we'll reestablish radio contact with home base and arrange for a pickup."

"You think our ride has been confiscated?" Daniel asked.

"I honestly don't know, Daniel," Jack replied.

Scene 4

Later

"Welcome back," General Hammond greeted the retune of the SG-1 team, freshly sc

scrubbed and cleared for duty by Doctor Fraiser. Everyone took their seats around the briefing table while Hammond sat back in his chair and made a tent of his stubby but powerful fingers. He cleared his throat and got right down to business.

"A bit worse for wear, Sir, but glad to be back," Jack replied.

"Good to hear it, because we have a problem."

"I can only deal with one crisis at a time," Jack said.

Hammond chose to ignore the sarcastic comment from Colonel O'Neil and continued, "I just received a coded message from the members of the Tok'ra Council, priority one. It seems that they have a case of a missing person."

"Not Tannith again?" Sam asked, worried that the rogue parasite that had so terribly fooled everyone including the members of SG-1 and the Tok'ra elders, by revealing himself as a double agent and betraying them was stirring up trouble again.

"No. In this case, it's more a case of a missing larva. Somehow or other during the Tok'ra dealings with as they call the Tauri, they managed to misplace one."

"And what do they expect us to do about it?" Sam asked

"They are still our allies, and we will honor the pact of mutual alliance and assistance, I don't like the idea that a larva, tok'ra or gou'ald could simply go missing like that. It doesn't add up." Hammond said.

"Agreed, Sir," Jack replied.

"I've arranged a time for you to meet with the Tok'ra Council to discuss matters further." Hammond glanced down at the folds in his uniform and grabbed a handful of the starched fabric, twisting it into small knots. Looking up again at faces of those waiting on his next instructions, he said firmly and confidently: "Apparently Jonas was pressed for time and could only briefly outline the situation in his communiqué."

"Do they have a ideas of the location of the missing larva?" Carter asked, frowning. It was not in the nature of their Tok'ra allies to misplace something of such vital nature, especially if the Gou'ald got their paws on either the larva or the technology.

"It's last known location was here on Earth." Hammond replied, bringing up a map of the United States with a grid of diagrammed colored lights indicating possible search locations.

"Great, just great." Jack muttered.

"Hope it's not another case of a Gul starting up a cult, that was one mess I wouldn't wish to revisit," Sam said.

"We'll find out more once the Tok'ra representative arrives with additional information." Hammond nodded and glanced around the table. "Until then we will just have to be patient." Hammond sighed. "I expect the meeting to take place in approximately four hours, until then, you are off duty, take some time to recuperate."

Scene 5

At Section Headquarters

Madeline stood hovering over the shoulder of the technicians overseeing Section security, monitoring the live feeds from the video surveillance cameras. A line of both disapproval and concern creased her normally smooth forward. Only so much leeway and resources could be expended on the current mission op and she knew that they were missing something critical that touched directly on the current mission op with outfit running a top secret operation in Colorado at the Cheyenne mountain base. Not to mention, the damage to the bunker facility where an untimely and unfortunate pre set explosive had gone off permitting the escape of the officers from Colorado.

Birkoff, the tech specialist for Section sat ramrod straight in his chair, pretending to ignore the tension of having her hover over his shoulder and concentrate on his work, but it was proving very difficult.

Madeline tapped her perfectly manicured nails against the cardboard backing of a clipboard where sheets of paper were tapped with a outline breakdown of every scrap of information that had been collated by both the staff and the field agents on the Stargate Project. While it was through and told her that the US military had a vested interest in the project, and one of the most top secret operations she had ever seen, a lot was still filed under the category of the unknown. Such as way the Navy branch of the military would be interested in not only astronomical and archeology research and development, but why they should encourage and entice linguists experts from the civilian population. By her reckoning it didn't make much sense.

Michael sat equally erect in the chair in the reception room, where he could be seen on the opposing side of a two-way mirror. Those inside the security room could see and hear his every move, while they were inside a sound proof area.

Michael half expected to have either a written reprimand in his case file or to hear directly from Madeline about disaster the Stargate project had become. He did not tolerate failure as much as Madeline did and it was a matter of personal pride to complete each and every mission with a modicum of fuss and with utmost efficiency. To lose the 'intruders' from Colorado due to a mishap with a time delayed explosive stung and Nikita would not speak to him, except for what was necessary to file the report.

"Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable," Michael observed to no one in particular. "But there it is, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops." He smoothed back a stray lock of dark brown hair from his forehead and waited for the inevitable. "What will be, will be. I should be used to this by now."

Scene 6a Meeting with the Tok'ra

Over the base's public address system, Gate Operator Davis' buzzed came through loud and clear. "Incoming gate transmission, activation code confirms that of the Tok'ra."

"Looks like they're coming to us, now that's polite," Jack commented to the room in at large, rushing out of the briefing room and running towards the Gate Room, the rest of the team following in his wake. Hammond trailing behind, and then mounting the viewing platform in the enclosed operations chamber where he had 1805 degree view of the equipment and personnel. Armed soldiers took up standing and kneeling positions at the foot of the ramp, weapons aimed and loaded, prepared for the worst should the new arrival not be one of the off world teams or a authorized guest.

"Usually it's not a social call, Colonel O'Neil," Hammond reminded everyone Methos and Thoth squeezed in behind him. Thoth fidgeted, Methos by contrast, was a iceberg; not for the first time Hammond wondered what the two Immortals had against each other, for it was obvious they were not comfortable in each other's presence. Hammond toyed with the idea of taking them off the SG-1 team and assigning them to a different division, but then focused his attention on the gate iris and the team assigned to its operation.

Anticipation was high, Samantha Carter wasn't certain how she felt about seeing Jonas Quinn again. While he had been a valuable member of the SG-1 team during his brief stint, while Daniel had 'departed' for the beyond, it wasn't the same as the bond she shared with the others, especially Daniel and Colonel O'Neil. Given her own history with being a host to a Gul parasite and the members she retained from Jolinar, all that history did make from some uncomfortable tension. Still, Jonas was a good man, and if he believed that this situation merited a significant threat to both parties, she was for one was willing to hear what he had to say.

The gate iris opened, spilling forth its white blue light and two figures emerged out of the light and descended the access ramp. Hammond stepped down from the observation platform and planted himself at the foot of the ramp to greet the new arrivals.

Jonas Quinn had brought a female Tok'ra council member with him, at least that was Jack assumed she must be. It was difficult to tell with the blended hosts, ones who had voluntarily chosen to be bounded to a gul parasite. As far as he was concerned a snake was a snake, and it was not a stance he was likely to back down from.

An astonishingly beautiful young woman, with ice blue eyes and shoulder length blond hair was brought forward by another member of the Council, her body language speaking louder than words that she was not present voluntarily.

Jack's first glimpse of the woman was in dim lighting. It was her utter stillness that unnerved him the most; the way her hands lay folded in her lap, the way her head and shoulders never seemed to move, but those ice blue eyes kept tracking the movements of everyone else gathered in the meeting chamber, traveling back and forth over their faces. For a moment, Jonas entertained the fond thought that she was physically attracted to him, but then discarded the notion as wishful thinking. He came to the conclusion that she was deciding the best way to kill him should the need arise.

Hammond didn't care for unpleasant surprises, it rubbed against his nature, but outwardly he projected confidence and shook Quinn's left hand and assumed that when the time was right Jonas would level with them. He strode forward and made a sweeping gesture with his forearms to dismiss the armed welcoming party assembled in the Gate room, to dismiss them back to general quarters, the piercing noise of the alarm siren silenced, and with brisk strides led the SG-1 team and the new arrivals to the nearest conference room.

Inside the room, Quinn sat down, the woman introduced only as Nikita beside him. Sam studied the body language of the two Tok'ra and Quinn's pale, smooth skin hada slight a coating of perspiration that made his high domed forward gleam in the low lighting. Whatever the nature of the security leak the Tok'ra was taking this very seriously. At the time she had first met Jonas Quinn she never would have imagined he would have been the type to hold up under the pressure of a combat scenario, let alone high pressure situation, however, he had surprised many times over, she just hoped that whatever the damage, he wouldn't crack. Sam studied the female Tok'ra, and right off the bat they were a number of things about that Sam found unusual.

When she had heard that the Tok'ra were sending a representative in person as opposed to having the SG-1 team come to them, she had been half hoping that the representative in question would be her father, the blended Tok'ra member, Jacob Carter. It had been a very long time, and the prospect of seeing him again had been exciting. The blond woman sat still, in the back of Sam's thought a suspicious warning voice said, 'Nobody is that cool and collected unless they think that they have everything under their control. I can't put my finger on it, but I think the trouble starts here,' Sam thought.

"Let me get right to the heart of the matter, and the reason why I felt it necessary to come in person," Jonas began, fidgeting in his seat. " General Hammond, as you know, received the coded message at 0400 hours Earth time. "I hate to admit this, but it's my opinion that we've allowed ourselves to become too complacent which led to the security breach, and allowed our enemies to lose the potential gul larva."

"Not to sound rude," Jack sighed," But speculation won't do us much good at this point, any idea who stole the gul parasite?" Jack shrugged, exchanging glances with Sam and Doctor Jackson, "I hate to speculate, but if we're talking worst case scenarios, the Guls don't have, do they?"

"I understand, Colonel O'Neil," Jonas sighed, making a tent of his fingers as he brought his hand level with his eyes and stared through as if hoping the solution to their problems within them. "My visit in person, is not all of a social nature. In fact, the council's vote on the matter was split almost down the middle.

"Easy, son, and tell what needs to be told," General Hammond said, reassurance and confidence in his voice, and nodded at the younger man.

Jonas took a deep breath and rallied. "You see, one of the difficulties of the case is that the gul's last known location was here on your planet, the Tok'ra were careless.

"It's not my father's fault," Sam exclaimed, worried about Jacob Carter's safety and continued good will with their Tok'ra allies.

"No, Major Carter, Jacob is in good health and sends his love," Jonas smiled. "I misspoke, the parasite had gone missing when I contacted General Hammond, but we conducted a through investigation, and the gul located, but not before it chose its host."

"Not to second guess the council members," Daniel said, "Why didn't you inform of us the problem as soon as it occurred?"

"Probably more of that the 'need to know, and the council divided on how much we need to know," Sam replied.

"Wonderful," Jack muttered, not liking the sound of this latest bit of information, "Some unsuspecting civilian could be walking around right now anywhere on Earth with a snake in his or her belly and never know. I want to go on the record as saying, this is not good. And if they are, that about narrows it down to almost every healthy woman, child, and adult."

"Colonel O'Neil!" Hammond said, a warning note in his voice.

"I do have some good news," Jonas said, ignoring Colonel O'Neil's sarcastic comments, "The gul's chosen host has been located."

Jack leaned forward in his chair, ignoring the look in Teal'C's eyes, sitting in the chair next to him, so far, aside from the quizzical raised eyebrow, the former Jaffa had ventured an opinion on the discussion. "You work fast. So why do you need our help?"

"Frankly, Colonel," Jonas sighed, "We don't know how to proceed. You see the host the gul parasite chose accompanied through the Gate. "I would like to introduce to you, Nikita."

Nikita heard the tension, and throughout the discussion had listened with only half her attention, the rest centered on the faces and body language of those gathered around the conference table. She had been in many different situations, many times throughout her stint as field agent for Section where matters were not entirely under her control, where her life had been in danger, and almost every time she had emerged from those dangers unscathed.

The living presence lodged firmly in her gut dragged at her consciousness and fought for control. She had never been placed in a situation before where the person she could rely on, herself or sometimes her fellow Section agent, Michael, was the person she could not afford to trust. The voice she heard stir her thoughts like a cook with stirring thick soup with a ladle, spoke to her, telling her that being 'blended' would be the most wonderful experience in the world, that it meant her no harm, that it would help guide, protect and welcome her. Nikita hated the voice, she detested the way it made her feel, that had been divided into two very different people. It was one thing to adopt varying personalities identities, it like playing a game, a masquerade: Nikita thought, she only did was what required to perform the mission; get in, get out, and be done with it.

Nikita's memories of the last 72 hours were hazy. She recalled leaving the Section's bunker facility after the disastrous encounter with agents from Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Nikita could recall every bitter word she had hurled at Michael, blaming him for the failure it had become. She remembered retuning to Section headquarters to file the report and returning to her flat, for a long soak in her bathtub, but everything after that had become a hazy blur in her mind.

"I really don't understand," Nikita said aloud, trying to sort through her responses, wondering why she felt a sudden conviction to let almost a lifetime's worth of reserve slip. She extended her trust to a very narrow circle of people, but the voice in her mind said that she could afford to take the chance with these people, in the back of her mind she told the voice to shut up. She should be accustomed by know to turning her conscience on and off when the need arose.

"If she is or she isn't," Daniel said, "We should be able to tell, it's in the eyes."

"Doctor Fraiser can run a full medical scan, but I'm sure."

"She's blended?" Sam asked, "We don't need another disaster like what happened with Tannith."

"I understand," Jonas replied, "And to answer you're question, yes we are certain that she's a blended host, the gul's name is Cernak."

Scene 7 Revelations

"What about Thoth, maybe we can exchange him for Nikita. At least she, symbiote or no symbiote, she can handle herself in a fight." O'Neil said.

"You're kidding, right?" Daniel asked.

"I would be agreement," Methos nodded.

"Methos, be quiet, that's an order," Jack said.

"I realize that, O'Neil, but the offer still stands," Methos said.

Jonas Quinn stepped forward with the intention of making a tactful intercession when he caught a glimpse of the man introduced as Methos' profile in the reflection of glass mirror hanging on the wall behind the assembled members of SG-1. Methos had remained silent throughout the opening stages of the discussion, under orders to keep his opinions to himself from General Hammond.

In the back of Jonas Quinn's mind, and the memories of outcome of the trust the Tok'ra had extended to Tannith he couldn't help be but struck by the uncanny likeness. Tannith is dead, he did in the fireball of the death glider crash, so who the hell is that? Genneral Hammond and the SGC where present when Tannith betrayed everyone, they know he's dead. Must be the stress and the lack of sleep that's making me see things that aren't there, and then having to run damage control on the current situation. That's it, it must be." Jonas thought and tried to ignore Methos' unsettling resemblance to the dead Tok'ra.

Jack nearly bolted out of his seat at the very instant that Nikita's eyelids rolled back in her head, the whites showing. In the back of his mind, he kept thinking that's when they tell you to shoot during basic training in the arming. That's also when the snakes eyes glow. Damn, why do these things always happen to us? And what the hell do we do about it.? Aloud he managed to whisper an understated warning to Carter and Teal'C seated to either side of him. Teal'C leaned over the table like a hawk about to pounce on its prey. The former Jaffa hatred of his previous masters the Gou'ald was well-known, respected and well documented.

The voice of the gul symbiote was a startling contrast from that of the blond woman. A richer mellow contralto that Daniel Jackson felt sure would not be out of place in some Italian or perhaps German opera hall.

I have vital information that will shed light on the matter at hand, and help to resolve the concerns and questions of the parties involved.

"Why should we believe you?" Teal'C demanded, a soft undercurrent of both hope and anger shading his words.

"I am Tok'ra symbiote. Whether you believe me or not is a decision that you must make on your own," the host, Cernak, continued, using the hold that she/it had on Nikita's muscles to shrug her slender shoulders. "The host current involvement with the organization known to you as Section did not come about voluntarily. She was coerced into it. In the Tauri vernacular, she was 'framed' for a murder she did not commit, sentenced to a life in prison. Come work for Section One or spend the remainder of her natural incarcerated."

"I hate to bring up a time honored cliché, but are you saying they played a mafia movie move on her, 'no matter how much I try to get out, the more they pull me back in?'" Daniel asked.

"I am not familiar with the cultural reference," Cernak replied. "However, if I must guess at your implied meaning, then the answer is yes."

"I'm not sure I want to contemplate the implications of what we've just heard," Diel said. "If she's telling the truth about Section, and so far everything we've learned about it which is minimal, means they can't be trusted. It's scary, really. Why go to all that trouble to run a counter intelligence/espionage agency and keep it under wraps."

"Is Nikita your real name or is it identity you were grafted with once you completed your training as a field agent?" Hammond asked the self-assured blond woman.

"At this point, it hardly even matters any more," Nikita felt her control over the situation and what was happening insider her own mind and body rapidly slipping away. At first she thought she was going to be sick, then decided that anger was by far the stronger emotion.

"The question, my friends,' Jonas said, "we must ask, is whether we have the right to force her to have the symbiote removed."

"Then we're in agreement that she is blended, and it was by choice?" Hammond said. "If prior experience is any guide, then that choice is not one that can be made easily, both parties have to be in agreement."

"You can remove the parasite?" Nikita murmured, not sure if this was a better option, then having a snake in her belly. Then thought of what she might do to Section, how she get revenge for their manipulation of her life. "I'm not sure I want that."

"There is another option," Jonas said, to break the uncomfortable lull in the discussion. "As much as it would anger certain factions of the Tok'ra council, we could provide Nikita with the training and help she needs to acclimate to being blended."

"Wouldn't that put a strain on the already tense situation?" Hammond asked.

Jonas nodded. "It would, but I'm willing to take responsibility for her."

"How valuable to the guls is her snake?" Jack asked.

"Valuable enough to warrant this meeting," Jonas nodded.

"We could take her into SGC, although I doubt that would be a long term solution," Hammond replied.

"There's no cut and dried solution to this one, folks," Colonel O'Neil, said, his composure regained, 'and not to sound rude, but to be honest I am not comfortable with having a gul host here, no matter the circumstances."

"If I make you uncomfortable, Colonel," Nikita snarled, "I'd be happy to terminate you at any time of your choosing."

"That's not what I mean," Jack said, uncomfortable again.

"Whatever we decided, we had best do it soon," Jonas said, "I am expected back within the next 48 hours. With or without Nikita. And given what we have learned about Section they are not going to take the disappearance of one of their highest ranking agents lightly."

"I hadn't thought of that," Sam said.

"We'll deal with it when the time comes," Jack replied, trying for a smile and ended up with something that looked like a man shaving his worst enemy. He hated that feeling and decided he wanted to engage in action, to hit someone or something, it would make him feel better.

Nikita glanced around the table, studying faces, body language, analyzing what they were saying and what they were not, and decided, she did not want to undergo a surgical operation to have the symbiotic removed, aside from personal interest in the matter, among the available options, the one proposed by Jonas Quinn seemed to best the best as matters stood. She stood up and with the most confidence she could muster she announced. "I've made a decision, I'll join the Tok'ra. Cernak is in agreement. So you all can stop worrying."