“And you're heading to the airfield now?” President Hayes asked.
“Yes, sir, just as soon as I hang up,” Jack answered, quickly glancing to the corner of his office, where his pack was still sitting in the exact same spot he'd put it in several days ago (it felt like longer). It felt like he'd been waiting for this moment for years.
His eyes snapped to his closed office door at a sudden noise from out in the hallway. It had to be fairly loud if he could hear it in here.
“Well then good luck, Jack.”
“Thank you, sir,” he replied, frowning. He'd instructed his staff not to cause any panic and that meant no noise or commotion. There would be time for everyone to panic later – after it became clear they couldn't keep the aliens and their giant honking space guns a secret.
Suddenly, his office door slammed open and two black-clad commandos with P-90s stormed into his office. He heard gunshots from the hallway as his staff fought back against the intruders.
“You- what the...” he began, but quickly dropped the phone and took cover behind his desk just in time to avoid getting shot as the men opened fire.
Bullets hit the desk as he slid the bottom drawer open and grabbed the loaded handgun stowed there. Flattening himself to the floor he turned off the safety with a quick flick of his thumb, aimed and fired at the closest man's ankle. The man screamed and went down. Jack didn't wait to watch, scrambling immediately to his knees and out from under the desk. Daniel could make all the jokes he wanted, but Jack wasn't ever again going to laugh about his bullet-proof desk.
He took a deep breath and then straightened to fire two shots at the second man in his office. His knees twinged at the movement, but he ignored it: adrenaline really was the best painkiller. The man's bullet-proof vest caught the shots, so Jack fired a third at the man's right bicep. The bullet hit and the man's arm jerked backwards, but as he ducked back down to avoid the first guy's bullets, Jack already knew it hadn't penetrated.
“Shit,” he said under his breath. These guys had some top-notch body armour. Ex-SHIELD, he guessed, which of course meant Hydra. Wonderful, just what he needed.
He reached to the holster at his boot and took out his knife. Carrying it was habit more than anything... and it made him feel a bit more like he was still a soldier instead of just an old, desk-riding bureaucrat. Its weight was familiar in his right hand as he gripped his hand gun in his left. He sat back and listened. The steady crunch of boots on pieces of glass and plastic was coming from the right. He crouched and waited.
The commando came into view and Jack sprang, instantly grabbing the guy's trigger-arm as he threw his entire weight against him, throwing him off balance. He heard a shout from the downed soldier as he thrust the knife into the commando's neck. He then fell backwards, twisting their bodies so that the other soldier's bullets hit his fellow's back. When the barrage ended, Jack let the body slump to the ground, grabbing the P-90 as it fell and pointing it at the other commando, who was down on one knee, blood seeping into Jack's beige office carpet from his ankle.
A single shot between the eyes and that commando was falling too.
Jack quickly reached down to strip the corpse of its back-up ammo and ran to the door. He cautiously looked around the corner. And saw the large black object coming at his head.
He ducked, but his reflexes weren't quite fast enough and his head swirled for a moment as the butt of the gun clipped him along the top side of his head. He fell to the ground and rolled onto his back, immediately opening fire onto the new target. The commando jerked as the bullets hit him and went down, the impacts having apparently managed to hit something vital even if the bullets themselves still didn't penetrate the body armour.
Something cool touched the side of his face and Jack froze.
“Not bad, old man,” said an amused voice. “The reports said you were good; I'm glad to see they weren't written by complete morons. But now it's time to put the gun down and surrender.”
Jack heard the tell-tale clicks of several more safeties being unlatched. Gritting his teeth and keeping his expression neutral, he slowly placed the gun down onto the ground beside him.
“Good. Now, get up and keep your hands where I can see them.”
At least he wasn't being told to kneel, Jack thought to himself and did as he was told. He thought about the zat in his pack and really wished he'd thought about it sooner. Damn secrecy.
“Now turn around.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “So, tell me,” he said as he slowly turned around, doing a quick visual sweep of the corridor and resolutely not flinching at the slumped bodies leaning against the walls. “Did you guys consult your crystal balls this morning or something? 'Cause, seriously, you have the worst timing in the history of... timings.”
His captor was still looking amused once Jack was able to properly see him. He wasn't a large man, but he was stocky and obviously well-muscled, with the stance of a marine: he was former SHIELD black-ops or Jack was a Goa'uld pleasure slave. And he'd obviously seen quite a bit of action if the scars on his face were any indication. Looked like something had exploded in his face; he'd probably been lucky to have survived it.
“Missing out on lunch with the President, General?” the man sneered at him.
Jack raised an eyebrow at him. What exactly did these grunts think he did? “Of course not, it's two o'clock in the afternoon.”
The man snorted. “Good, we weren't going to stop for food anyway.” He motioned with his gun. “Now move.”
Jack debated with himself for a few moments. It wasn't like his people wouldn't be able to find him what with the subcutaneous transponder embedded in his shoulder, but... “Uh, yeah no, I've got somewhere I need to be right now,” he said instead of moving.
His captor blinked in surprise for a moment and then stopped looking amused. “I would've thought you'd know how this works by now, General O'Neill. I give the order and you obey or I blow out one of your knees.”
“Then you'd have to drag me.”
“That won't be a problem.”
Damn, this guy was good. If they'd all been like this, then no wonder SHIELD hadn't noticed the infiltration until it was too late. Jack sighed, barely resisting the urge to run his hand through his hair in frustration. He was glad he'd had the foresight to transfer command to Landry when he'd been on the phone with him, just in case they came across interference while in the air. Their ships were all needed to stand against the Ori – there would be no quick transporter beam out of this situation. Maybe take a page out of Daniel book on how to deal with hostile aliens?
“Look, I don't say this lightly but the fate of the entire world actually is at stake right now. If I don't get to where I'm going right now then your perfect world definitely won't happen because my imperfect world won't be there to tear down or whatever it is that you Hydra guys are trying to do. The world domination rhetoric all starts sounding the same after a while.”
The man was frowning at him, as though trying to figure out just how much Jack was bullshitting him. Jack only wished he was.
“I'm assuming your people managed to get a hold of at least some relevant information, whether from the NID, the Trust or hell maybe someone close to the Avengers betrayed them after Daniel spilled whatever guts he spilled to get Captain America to help him. The look on your face tells me they either didn't get enough info, or didn't decide to share it with you, and really I don't care which it is. You know what I'm in charge of, though, right?”
The man's frowned deepened. “Homeworld Security,” he answered eventually.
Jack waited, patiently (he was really good at pretending to be patient... when he had to be), for the man to put the puzzle together. He could tell by the widening of his eyes when he did.
Two gunshots resounded inside the hallway, felling two of the Hydra soldiers next to Jack. He immediately ducked down and took the handgun out of one of the soldier's side holsters. That was quicker than he'd expected an SG team to get to him. He fired the gun at their leader, but the impact was taken by the body armour with only a small grunt from the man inside. Jack dodged the answering bullet and decided he'd had enough.
Firing several more shots at the soldiers around him and knocking one to the ground with a blow to the trachea, he dove back into his office. He heard shouts coming from the hallway, but his sole focus was on crossing the room and getting to his pack. His knees protested the impact when he landed heavily on them and unzipped the main compartment. He slipped his hand along the right side and grabbed hold of cool metal.
“You're lucky my orders are to take you in alive,” he heard the scar-faced man growl from the doorway. “Should've known you were just stalling for time.”
Jack stood up with a wince. “Yeah, you should have.” He activated the zat in his hand and met the man's eyes. He saw his eyes dart down to the zat curiously. He fired it at the man's thigh. Blue energy engulfed him and he twitched for a moment before dropping to the floor, unconscious.
Which was when the windows in Jack's office blew up.
Jack threw himself to the floor and shielded his head with his arms. When the sound of glass falling stopped, he looked up – in time to watch as a futuristic metal suit with the flag tattooed all over it flew into the space. It hovered its way into a standing position and then lowered itself to the ground. There was a slight hiss and the face mask came up, revealing Colonel James Rhodes.
“Are you alright General?” Rhodes asked.
“You know, some people use doors when they enter a building,” Jack groused and then waved him off. “Yes, yes, I'm fine. Go help take care of the Hydra goons outside.”
In the time it took Jack to tuck the zat away again into his pack, heft the pack over his shoulder and walk back out into the hallway, the fighting had stopped. What was left was about a dozen unconscious or injured Hydra soldiers, and War Machine standing in front the tactical strike team, who was most definitely not from the SGC, both eyeing each other warily.
Jack noticed the symbol on the shoulder of one of the operative's uniforms and groaned.
“Are you kidding me?” he exclaimed as he walked out into the hallway. “Did you guys have to decide to come play on my turf today of all days?”
An Asian woman turned to him with a scowl. “General, we were informed of a Hydra plot to kidnap you, so we came to make sure that didn't happen,” she said sternly.
Jack rolled his eyes. “And I'm grateful, really.” He pointed his thumb in the direction of his office. “Just don't forget to tie up the guy sprawled out on my office floor. Pretty sure he was in charge of all this and he's only unconscious.”
She nodded and passed by him to tie the man's arms behind his back before turning him over. He saw her eyes widen.
“It's Brock Rumlow,” she announced. “Coulson will be glad to hear about this.”
“Good for him,” Jack muttered. Movement from out of the corner of his eyes caught his attention and he looked over to the figure that now leaned against the office door, relief flooding through him. “Major Davis, good to see you're still alive. How are you feeling?”
“Thank you, sir,” Davis answered. “I'm a bit dizzy, but I'll live. Sir, your transport is waiting outside for you.”
Jack nodded. “Thank you, Major. I'll leave things here in your hands. Make sure anyone who needs it gets medical attention – and that includes you. Also, please contact the President and let him know I'm fine and that War Machine came through just in the nick of time. Oh, and that I'm commandeering him temporarily on behalf of Homeworld Security.”
Davis sighed. “Sir, it's Iron Patriot now,” he said.
“Don't care. War Machine sounds better; Iron Patriot makes him sound like a steam locomotive.”
Beside him Colonel Rhodes burst into a sudden coughing fit. Jack looked over to him thoughtfully.
“Actually... Colonel, is there any way for someone to right side-along with you?”
Rhodes blinked and looked at him warily. “Um, if I fly very carefully, sir. And I wouldn't recommend it for long-term travel.”
“Sir, the President specifically said–“
“–Major, the suit isn't experimental and I won't be the one flying it, so there's no way I'm breaking the President's directives. And I was just thinking to the airfield.”
Rhodes looked amused at the exasperated look on Davis' face (at least Jack imagined it was there – Davis seemed to get that expression a lot around him for some reason). “Er, that shouldn't be a problem sir.”
Jack rubbed his hands together. “Excellent. Then let's get going.”
Colonel James Rhodes didn't fly while carrying other people often. It threw off his balance and made the ride bumpier. Turned out that didn't really matter with General Jack O'Neill, who spent the entire ride grinning from ear to ear beneath his borrowed motorcycle helmet and safety goggles.
The General looked stiff and walked his first few steps back on the ground with a pronounced limp. In the background, Rhodes recognized Air Force One taking off and frowned. He'd been on his way to meet with the President when he'd gotten a call from his aide telling him to redirect to the Pentagon, where he'd then detected gunfire. This seemed like a rather disproportionate response to a relatively small Hydra attack.
“Is something going on, sir?” he asked.
General O'Neill snorted as they continued towards a waiting plane. “That would be an understatement, Colonel.”
An airman met them half-way to the plane... that didn't look like anything Rhodes had ever seen the air force use. It was painted dark grey except for the symbol inside the round blue circle on the tail where the American flag should've been: a two-sided triangle with a circle at its top. He suddenly got the feeling he was venturing into something he hadn't signed up for when he got up this morning.
The airman saluted the General, his eyes shifting over to the War Ma-Iron Patriot armour. “General O'Neill, your BC-305 is ready, sir. Air traffic control has cleared your flight and the pilot is ready for lift-off.”
O'Neill returned the salute quickly. “Thank you, Airman. You're dismissed.” He waved Rhodes on. “Come on, Colonel, as much as I hate it, we've gotten reports that Hydra has fighter jets and we can't afford to stop for a dogfight. So you get to ride along for now.”
Rhodes nodded. “Understood, sir.”
He watched as the General climbed into the strange-looking plane and was waiting for the hatch to close to take off himself, when O'Neill popped his head out of the plane with an annoyed look on his face.
“Inside, Colonel,” he said.
“Oh. Uh, sorry sir.”
Entry hatches on planes weren't designed for the suit and this one seemed an even tighter fit than most, but with a bit of manoeuvring, Rhodes managed to get inside. The inside of the plane was definitely designed for utility rather than comfort. Benches ran along either side of the hold with enough room to comfortably fit about eight people. The back also had a rather large space for cargo, what looked like a small fridge and several closed compartments Rhodes guessed likely housed weapons and first aid supplies.
General O'Neill strapped himself into the seat next to a wall-panel and pressed one of the buttons. Rhodes picked a seat opposite him, but didn't bother to strap in – in the armour he was too big for it.
“We're all here, Lieutenant, get us out of here.”
“Welcome aboard, General. I've been told to deliver a message from the President, sir. He says he's not amused.”
O'Neill rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Never grow old, Lieutenant, you get people telling you you're not allowed to do any fun stuff and then trying to convince you it's all for your own good.”
“Yes, sir. Prepare for lift-off, sir.”
Rhodes wondered how it was that he'd never met this particular general before. Of course, judging by the plane he assumed O'Neill was in charge of something classified, but still. Most of the air force generals had needed – or wanted, more like – War Machine/Iron Patriot at one point or other. It had been a bit like playing musical generals at one time, before President Hayes came into office and put a stop to it.
Then Vice-President Kinsey and his one thousand snide questions had disappeared and it had gotten even better.
He felt the plane's engine come to life with a deep purr, its vibrations travelling through the armour like tiny waves lapping against a beach shore (as amazing as the armour was, he still sometimes missed flying planes). Across from him, he saw the general tapping at the buttons on the wall-panel again.
The plane took off. He felt the familiar bumps and grinds of tarmac and then, far too quickly in his experience, they were gone and they were flying. His inner ear had never given him problems, but he still felt the steady increase of pressure as they rapidly ascended.
“Hello?” he heard from from across the aisle, the voice was male and sounded out-of-breath and harried.
“Landry, it's O'Neill. I'm in the air and on my way.”
“Oh thank god, Jack. Apparently you can take a guy off SG1, but you can't take SG1's unique brand of luck out of the guy.”
O'Neill grinned. “Hey, I didn't think of it that way! Almost makes me feel better.” He sobered up immediately. “How are things?”
“Well, Carter says it'll probably take at least another hour to get the shield up. They ran into some sort of snag with the power source and had to make sure connecting it into the shield didn't make it blow up.”
“I'm glad they've managed to fix that itty bitty little snag. And the others?”
“The Apollo is tracking the Ori fleet and it doesn't look like they suspect anything yet. They'll be in position for the ambush in about fifteen minutes. The Ilya Muromet and the Odyssey are both in position and ready to join the attack formation. What's your ETA?”
“About three hours. Any word from Daniel's group?”
There was a pause. “No.”
O'Neill sighed and shook his head. “Keep me posted if anything changes.”
“I'll be sure to do that, Jack. Good luck.”
“Hey, I've already survived one attack from an evil organization hell-bent on world domination today. I'm on a roll here!”
Landry chuckled and then the line went dead. The humour on O'Neill's face died and fierce determination took its place. Rhodes saw his left fist clench tightly.
“Sir, if I may ask, where are we heading?”
The General looked up at him and blinked. “Oh, I didn't tell you? Antarctica.”
He blinked and then frowned. “Antarctica, sir? I didn't think there was anything important at Fort McMurdo.”
O'Neill smirked. “Aah, well, it's not actually Fort McMurdo we're going to. And you didn't think there was anything in Antarctica because what is there is highly classified. You may or may not have paperwork to sign later, 'cause I have a feeling that Daniel's right as usual – but don't tell him I said that – and by time the dust settles 'top secret' isn't going to be worth the price of that classy red stamp they use in the movies.” He smirked. “Ready or not, Colonel, your world's about to get a lot more interesting.”
Rhodes' eyes widened. He definitely hadn't signed up for this. Just as he was beginning to wonder what his chances were of making a clean break now, his mind paused and went back over the conversation he'd overheard earlier.
“Hang on,” he said with a frown. “You said our ETA was about three hours. Not even the fastest fighter jet could make it from Washington to Antarctica in four hours. Hell, the armour couldn't make it in seven. Sir, you're just pulling my leg.”
The General grinned. “This isn't a fighter jet, Colonel. And it can make it to Antarctica in three hours if it's got sub-light engines. The geeks would kill you for comparing this baby to an ordinary airplane.”
“Sub-light engines, sir? Wait... this is a spaceshuttle?!”
“Not quite, but close enough. The BC-305's designed as a transport ship. And no, we're not borrowing this from NASA; we're putting NASA out of business. Ever wonder why their funding keeps getting cut?”
“Not until now I hadn't.”
“Ah, well, it's a long story, Colonel, but we've got three hours to kill so why don't I fill you in.”
“Okay, this is way more boring than I would've expected it to be,” said Clint, leaning against a bridge console. “I mean, they make hyperspace sound so exciting on TV.”
Lorne snorted from the command chair. “Wouldn't make for good entertainment if they concentrated on the hours you spend in hyperspace twiddling your thumbs,” he said. “Outer space is a good name for it, 'cause there sure is a lot of it. You guys have those screens figured out yet?”
“It's a point and shoot game basically,” Clint answered with a gesture towards the weapon's console. “I mean, do I understand the words on the screen? Hell no. But do I know which buttons to press to make the other guys go boom? Yup, absolutely.”
“I, uh, think I've got it,” said Steve from where he was sitting at the main control console, looking much less certain. He really wished he could at least read what it was saying instead of just having to trust himself that in the heat of the moment he would remember which button did what and which reading could never, ever be allowed to go into the red.
Lieutenant Mizner, who'd been looking over his shoulder and teaching him how to read it smiled at him encouragingly. “You're doing just fine, sir. Really.”
“If you say so. I'll just be hoping the worst doesn't happen and that no one needs me to pinch-hit for them.” He looked over to the panel behind him, where Daniel was tapping away and reading the displays with undisguised curiosity. “Or they decide to just call Daniel instead.”
The Lieutenant chuckled. “Well, if half the stories about SG1 are true, then I this wouldn't be the first spaceship he's flown.”
Steve blinked. “Really?”
Apparently Daniel wasn't quite engrossed enough to fail to feel their gazes on him and he looked up. “Hm?” he asked, blinking in surprise. “Was there something you needed?”
“Lieutenant Mizner here says you've flown spaceships before,” said Steve slyly.
“Wait, seriously?” he heard Clint say in the background. “Why have we not heard this before now?”
“The name Hans Olo comes to mind, sir,” said Mizner with a twinkle in his eye, which prompted snickers from several people around the bridge. “Also the Great and Powerful Oz.”
Daniel made a face. “I wasn't actually flying in the second one, just working communications and providing distraction. Jacob Carter was doing the flying.” He grinned. “Threw the Tok'ra into a huge panic, apparently. By the time Jacob arrived at the meeting, they'd spent nearly two hours arguing over why no one knew anything about this new System Lord. He bust a gut laughing when he realized what they were arguing about.”
Evan burst out laughing. “Man, the look on their faces must've been something.”
“According to Jacob, it really was.”
The smile on Daniel's face turned sad for a moment and Steve wondered if this Jacob was yet another friend Daniel had lost. He was about to ask when the intercom came on.
“This is McKay. Rogers, Lorne, one of you meet me at the upper aft corridor... uh section 22F on the elevator wall panels. I think I found something really cool.”
“He sounded excited,” Natasha said after a slight pause.
Evan sighed. “Which means it's probably a useful something and we shouldn't just ignore him no matter how much we might want to just to annoy him.”
Steve smiled. “Ah, so it's not just me?”
Daniel snorted as he rose from the control console, relinquishing it back to the Captain who was now back from his short break. “No, it's definitely not just you. Rodney has that effect on people.”
The Command Chair made a hissing noise as it pulled back into an upright position and Evan stood, wincing. He lifted his arms and stretched until his back popped.
“Okay, I'm actually glad for the excuse to go take a walk,” he said. “Captain, I've put her on autopilot. Let me know when we're ten minutes away from the rendezvous point.”
Steve gladly gave Lieutenant Mizner back his seat and followed Evan, Daniel and Clint into the elevator. It turned out they had to take two elevators separated by a long stretch of empty corridor to get to where McKay had told them to go. Around them the ship was quite, its endless metal corridors cold and lonely. Steve tried to imagine it crowded with personnel, as it was meant to be.
They reached the correct section and the door slid open to reveal a large, circular space with smooth black floors and concave black walls that created a solid dome above a wide round dais in the centre of the room.
“Woah, is that a secondary Command Chair?” Evan asked, sounding genuinely surprised.
“Not quite,” McKay answered him from behind a console to the far right of the chair. “It's completely cut off from the rest of the ship's operations. In fact, it's even running on its own ZPM. That's how I found it, actually: I was going over the ship's energy outputs when I realized the two readings I was looking at weren't for the two ZPMs in the engine room, but rather one of the readings was for both of those ZPMs – one being a back-up – and the second reading was for a third, separate ZPM. So I traced the source and found this.”
He stopped in his explanation to frown at something on the console in front of him.
“So, if it's not connected to the ship's system's, then what does it do?” Daniel asked after a few moments.
McKay looked up and blinked. “Oh, it's a weapon's platform. Or rather, the platform for a very specific weapon. Daniel, remember in the blueprints on the tablets there were those drones that didn't really seem like drones because their proportions were off and they seemed to have a magnetic frequency that made absolutely no sense?”
Steve looked to Daniel, who just looked confused. “Uh, sure,” he said.
“Anyway, it looks like this chair is directly responsible for them. And the reason for the magnetic readings we saw on the tablet, is because they're designed to spontaneously become high-powered supermagnets, but along a very specific oscillating electrical frequency so that they don't attract any other objects except for each other. In short, they're individually half the size of regular drones, but come together to work in tandem with each other and form larger objects. It allows the chair operator the flexibility of changing their shape based on the target and multiplies the strength of each individual drone.”
Steve shook his head. “So, if I understand it correctly, the drones aren't each a weapon, but they're building blocks which the person in the chair can use to create a weapon?”
McKay opened his mouth to say something – probably give a scathing dismissal – and then closed it again. He shrugged. “Huh, that's actually a good way of putting it. Although, it would be wrong to say that each smaller drone can't be used as a weapon; it just can't do as much damage as one of the regular drones.”
“Remote controlled replicators,” said Evan.
McKay glared at him. “That is a horrifically bad analogy.”
Evan shrugged, not looking at all disappointed. “So, why is this chair on its own grid?”
The scientist looked back to the control console in front of him. “Partly because making all the little drones become bigger weapons will require more concentration than firing the regular drones, but I think the main reason is power consumption. Creating the electromagnetic frequency required to run these things and then deploying them through the chair uses a lot more power than the regular chair and we need a ZPM to run that. I won't know for certain until we test this, but I have a feeling it actually has the potential to drain a ZPM over the course of several extended uses. Which would explain the ZPM cache in the facility.”
“But wouldn't it be dangerous to have the user be completely cut off from the rest of the ship?” Clint asked.
McKay pointed to the console in front of him. “That would be why this is here. I'm thinking the weapon is meant to be run with two people present: one to sit in the chair and actually control the drones and the other to monitor readings from the rest of the ship.”
“Is it ready to go?” Evan asked.
“I'll need to run a few diagnostics to make sure everything got connected and troubleshooted before it was abandoned. And I think we should obviously test it if we can once we arrive at the rendezvous co-ordinates so we know if there are any bugs before we get people shooting back at us, but otherwise we should be good.”
He nodded and looked to Daniel. “Jackson, this is your party. What do you think?”
Daniel blinked. “Uh, no that sounds good. If this is a weapon no one else has ever seen, then it's the perfect thing to take to the Ori. They've seen everything we have to throw at them, except for maybe the Tollan ion cannon, but I don't think that'll make much of a difference...” He looked at Evan. “You seem to have the hang of the ship, so maybe have Steve take the chair?”
Evan smiled. “That would've been my suggestion.” He looked to Steve. “Whadda ya think, Cap?”
Steve looked over to the chair and grinned. “That sounds swell,” he said.
When they reached the rendezvous co-ordinates, they were greeted with empty space.
“So I guess our date isn't here yet?” Clint asked, leaning over one of the bridge consoles as though the extra two feet would give him a better view of the vast emptiness.
Natasha made a point of rolling her eyes at him. “That gives Steve a change to try out the new weapon,” she said.
“Major Lorne, long-range sensors are detecting a hyperspace signature coming towards us,” said Captain Bergman.
Natasha saw Major Lorne blink and then frown. “Hyperspace signature? We can detect those now?”
“Yes, sir. I can't tell how many ships there are, but if they continue along their current path, they'll reach our position in approximately one hour and forty-six minutes.”
“Hopefully, that's Cameron with backup,” said Daniel. He exchanged a glance with Lorne.
“Well, Strugacky, if you wanna come hold the fort for a bit, I'm going to go grab dinner while I have the chance,” said Lorne, easing the chair into its upright position and getting off. “I noticed the locals sent you off with fresh food supplies and I've been eating nothing but MREs for the past day and a half.”
Natasha's lips quirked.
“Try the meat buns,” Daniel suggested.
“I will.” Lorne tapped his comm. “McKay, this is Lorne. We've got about an hour and a half to sit tight at our present location. You and Steve can go a head and test the weapon.”
“McKay here. We were just getting ready to do that, Major. And I want to be here for the testing, but someone else will also need to learn these controls because I'll be in engineering during the battle.”
“Right.” He looked around the room. “Any volunteers?”
There turned out to be no shortage of those and the Major ended up choosing an air force Lieutenant who was fluent in Ancient. Natasha approved of the choice: the woman was a long-haired brunette with a no-nonsense attitude about her. And Natasha didn't fail to notice how her eyes gleamed with excitement at the thought of working with Captain America (or possibly the new weapon, it was difficult to tell). She would definitely spend some time around the two and maybe plant a few seeds, get the conversation going...
Maybe her problem before had been choosing women who were too close, too convenient. A little spontaneity might help: two people coming together in the heat of battle... it sounded like something out of those romance novels Clint read and then left scattered around her apartment to make it look like they actually belonged to her.
It wasn't difficult to claim curiosity to go see the new weapon in use. Like everyone else, she was surprised to walk into the room to find the dark, drab walls were gone and instead they were walking into the middle of outer space. Even the floor was black and covered in distant stars, making it seem as though they were suspended in the middle of space. Natasha squinted at a tiny planetary system to her far left.
“It's a holographic projection of the view from outside the ship,” McKay explained when he looked up, visibly pleased at their reactions. “As far as I can tell it'll instantly reflect changes visually. My guess is that it's to make it easier to shape the mini-drones. Or possibly someone just thought it would be really cool which, you know, it totally is.”
“It's a bit freaky too,” said Clint. “I feel like I'm going to start falling. Good thing I don't have vertigo.”
Natasha snorted. “You wouldn't be able to do your regular job if you had vertigo. And since when are you afraid of falling anyway?”
“Since I can't see the ground!”
“Don't be ridiculous,” McKay interjected. “There's no gravity in space. You wouldn't fall, you'd just float forever – actually your body would explode before then, so bits of you would float forever.”
“That's so reassuring. Thanks.”
Watching Steve trying to get the hang of the weapon started to get boring after a while. Eventually they all ended up using Major Lorne as an example and grabbing dinner while they could.
“Man, I'm going to miss that spiced meat,” said Clint as he looked down at his empty cloth napkin forlornly. “We need to figure out a good excuse to come back again.”
Natasha nodded solemnly in agreement. Although, she wasn't quite as concerned with the meat as being able to make this not-fruit, not-herbal juice-tea the people of Aeneid had sent several jugs of with them along with the buns and several jars of preserved fruit.
On the table beside her, Daniel chuckled. “Well, we still haven't even scratched the surface of everything that's in that temple, not to mention the actual Meeting Place in the tower. There will definitely be a solid argument for returning with a scientific and archaeological team.”
Clint nodded thoughtfully. “And their bodyguards, of course.”
“Oh of course.”
Just then, Sam raced into the room, wide-eyed and pale. “Have you guys looked out the window?” he demanded. “'Cause there are five honest-to-god fucking flying pyramids–“
“–Oh good, they're here!” said Daniel, jumping off his seat and dashing past Sam, Vala at his heels.
“–And apparently we're expecting them.” Sam finished, throwing his arms up in exasperation. “Of course we're expecting them.”
Natasha looked to Clint and smirked at his incredulous expression. “Seriously? Flying pyramids?”
“Go take a look,” said Sam, swiping several buns from the cloth-lined crate sitting in the centre of the table.
Daniel and Vala were already in the transporter when his comm activated.
“This is Major Lorne. Doctor Jackson, please come to the bridge.”
“Already on my way,” he replied. “Sam saw them through the window.”
He heard the man chuckle on the other end. “That must've made for an interesting reaction.”
Daniel exchanged an amused smile with Vala. “Uh, yeah, actually it did.”
Lorne turned the chair around to face him when he walked out onto the bridge.
“So apparently, these guys have decided to be difficult and hail us in Goa'uld, which none of my guys speak.”
Daniel grinned, bouncing on the balls of his feet with anticipation. It felt like a lifetime ago since he'd last gone into battle along side his Jaffa friend. “Can you play it for me please?”
And then the bridge was full of a familiar deep voice speaking in the language of his people: “We are the people of the Free Jaffa Nation. I am Teal'c of Chulak. Unknown vessel, identify yourself as friend or foe.”
Aah, so Teal'c was ready to help, but was being cautious – understandably so.
“Hail them back,” said Daniel and then at the officer's nod, spoke loudly to make sure his every word was clearly heard. “Dal shakka mel.” He paused, letting the symbolic greeting of the Jaffa Resistance hang in the air, before switching back to English. “I am Doctor Daniel Jackson of SG1 and the Ancient ship Victory. I greet you as friend and thank you for coming to our aid.”
“Sir, we have incoming visual,” said Lieutenant Kelley from the communications console.
“Let's have it.”
And then the small army of ha'taks was replaced with Teal'c dressed in battle mail in all his imposing glory. Cam grinned on his left and Master Bra'tac looked amused on his right. A few steps behind them, Daniel was surprised to recognize the Tok'ra leader, Delek.
“Daniel Jackson, my friend, it is good to see you once again,” said Teal'c.
“You as well, Teal'c,” said Daniel before nodding to the other two men. “It's been a while, Master Bra'tac, Delek. I trust you are both well.”
Delek inclined his head in greeting.
“I am very well, Doctor Jackson, thank you,” said Master Bra'tac with a smile. “Colonel Mitchell's arrival came at a very opportune time during a meeting of our allies. I believe I speak for all of us when I say that we are looking forward to – as you Tauri put it – kicking some ass.”
Daniel laughed. “Well, I think I speak for all of us when I say we're in complete agreement.”
“Oh hell yeah!” he heard Clint exclaim from somewhere behind him.
“I must say, I was expecting Teal'c and maybe one ship,” said Daniel after a moment. “So I am in awe of your five.”
Teal'c raised a single eyebrow. “In the months that the Tauri have spent laying about, I have been rather busy.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow of his own. “Uh, excuse me, I've been a bit busy myself.”
“Indeed,” Teal'c deadpanned, but Daniel could tell he was laughing inside.
“Yes. Indeed.” He took a deep breath. “Thank you, all of you, for coming to our aid.”
Teal'c smirked. “Undomesticated equines could not keep us away, Daniel Jackson.”