It had been a relatively normal mission, without any really dramatic problems cropping up and Samantha Carter was glad for that fact. Too often lately, things had been going terribly wrong each time SG-1 set foot off world, and she was glad for a little bit of a break.
Most times, she would go off-world with a wary eye cast on her surroundings, watching and waiting for something to go majorly wrong. Preparing for the worst and all that. It wasn’t always a good idea to prepare for the worst of course, seeing as that was extremely negative, but, in her line of work, it was necessary.
She knew that going off-world without that cautious attitude could -in all likeliness- get her and the rest of the team killed.
This time, however, her worry had been for nothing. She was home. They were home, and she was damn-well looking forward to the shower she was going to have.
It was funny how the simple things in life tended to impress her these days. A warm shower, a change of clothes and not being imprisoned by some cliché bad guy tended to make her smile and sigh with relief.
“Uneventful.” Daniel said from beside her as he stepped off the ramp, his pause obvious as he glanced back towards the Stargate. He was probably thinking about what a relief that was too. How many times had they stepped back onto Earth exactly when they had been scheduled to do so?
Sam shot the man a smile, portraying that she knew exactly what he meant.
“I think you just broke the cycle.” The General said dryly from where he stood at the bottom of the ramp, waiting for them, his hands in his pockets, eyes alight with something that resembled fondness as he looked at her.
Sam grinned to herself and stepped off the ramp, just as the ‘gate began to spin and the siren’s began to wail. They all looked at the General with shocked eyes and he raised a brow.
“What? Hey, this is soooo not my fault.” He said as the soldiers began to filter into the room and the iris slammed shut.
“Unauthorised off-world activation.” Walter’s voice came over the intercom and they all went for cover at the sides of the gate ramp, waiting for the danger to cease.
“Jinx.” She muttered under her breathe, receiving a glare from the General.
“I thought you didn’t believe in that stuff.” He muttered irritably.
She didn’t get a chance to respond, as through the Stargate -and the Iris- stepped a man who seemed completely calm and reserved. Every gun in the room was trained on him, the clicking sounds all around the room alerting the guy of that fact.
A smile tipped up onto his lips, and he raised his hands, revealing that he himself was unarmed besides a small device that was clipped around his wrist.
“I mean you no harm.” He said in a resounding voice, and Jack sighed, muttering “to hell with this” before he stood and stepped back onto the ramp, motioning for Carter to give him her Zat.
“And you are?” he asked, his voice leaving no room for argument. The man targeted his attention on Jack, and Sam stood slowly, her brow furrowing as the man grinned once more as if he had found a new toy to play with. He had vibrant green eyes and pale blonde hair, giving him an almost boyish look, but it was clear that he was much older than first impressions indicated.
“My name is Ellian, and I am from the planet these just visited. I followed her.” He said, focusing his eyes on her.
“Well, I think that maybe you should…unfollow her.” Jack said, motioning to the now silent Stargate.
“I have come for a reason. I need your help.” He turned his attention to Sam and his eyes brightened.
“Samantha Carter. You have great compassion.” He said with that creepy smile again, as if asking her to talk to Jack to ease his suspicion.
“Then why didn’t you ask us for help while we were on your planet? A lot safer for you.” She said, rising to her feet cautiously, unnerved that the man knew her name.
“Maybe. But would it have been safer for you?” Jack opened his mouth to say something, but closed it once more, and Sam could tell that he was clearly growing more impatient with Mr. Mysterious.
“What do you need our help with?” Sam asked Ellian, and he once more turned his eerie green eyes onto her, looking serene.
“For many moons, we have been plagued with debilitating nightmares. To the point where our children are unable to sleep from them. They affect all who live on Dofran, and we have yet to find a cure for this ailment. Most believe that a demon from the stars is responsible. I am sure that is not the truth. I believe that there is some genetic disorder with which we all suffer, and the only way to relieve this problem is to…find new hosts for our conscious minds.”
“You’re kidding right? You want new bodies?” The General asked incredulously.
“Indeed we do. We are a dying race, most of our citizens resorting to self-murder in a bid to get away from the darkness that plagues our sleep. Others take the drug that I perfected which allows our bodies to remain awake without issue. This, however, cuts our lives down to a mere fraction of what is natural. I am expecting to succumb very soon, thus why I knew I had to act. No one else in my city has the skills nor the will to try to help. I am one among few. If I do not act now my people will become extinct and that is far more frightening to me that my own death.”
“Wait a second, you need our help? I mean, you obviously are a technologically advanced race. You just stepped through a Titanium made Iris that protects our Stargate.” Daniel said, stepping up onto the ramp, fascinated by the discussion.
“It is true we are advanced beyond that of your planet, but advancement in one manner does not mean advancement in others. Your people do not have nightmares like the ones we are the victims of. I have come to ask for some host…”
“Hell no.” The General interrupted. “What is it with Alien races wanting to take our bodies? I mean come on! The Goa’uld. The Tok’ra…”
“The Tok’ra don’t take Jack, they ask.” Daniel corrected.
“If not physical bodies, I must have more time to find a cure. Time which my body does not have.” Ellian continued, obviously smart enough to realise that he wasn’t going to get any bodies for his people. The very idea was just wrong to Sam. She couldn’t imagine swapping her body for another…like the Asgard.
Maybe they could help. Before Sam could suggest it, Ellian stepped back and stretched out his hand, showing hostile actions unexpectedly, pressing something on the wrist device that she had assumed was just something that activated the Stargate and allowed him to step unharmed through the Iris.
He had been underestimated.
Some sort of blast wave emanated outwards, throwing both Ellian and the General backwards. The gate room erupted into action and Sam went for Ellian, who was out cold on the floor of the ramp. Jack, however, began to moan and sat up slowly, rubbing his head.
“You okay Sir?” she asked, bending down over Ellian and checking his pulse. He was just unconscious. Maybe his technology wasn’t as advanced as they had thought. He’d practically just shot himself. Sam wasn’t sure that was what the desired outcome had been to Ellian’s little attack.
“Fine.” Jack responded gruffly, Daniel and Teal’c helping him to his feet.
“What the hell was that?” he asked, shaking the other men off and walking over to Ellian.
“It came from his wrist device.” Sam stated, unclipping the said device and lifting it to the light. Jack snagged it from her, then motioned to Daniel and Teal’c.
“Get him off the ramp.” They did as he asked as he assessed the device and then, he pressed a button on it that had Sam raising her brow.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Saving my people.” He said, before a blast similar to the one that had knocked him down hit her hard in the chest and she lost consciousness…
Sam awoke with a pounding headache. She lifted her head to find the wavering form of the General crouched over her, his eyes intense on her face, showing more than his features ever had before when it came to her.
She moaned softly, trying to latch onto the truth of what had happened. All her memories flooded back to her and she jumped, crawling backwards away from him, before getting to her feet.
“I am sorry I had to do that Samantha. It was necessary.”
She turned to her surroundings, keeping her eyes focused as “Jack” got back to his feet, carefully, his whole body strained with tension. They were in some kind of forest somewhere, the gate nowhere in sight.
He held both her Zat, which she remembered giving to the General in the gate room, and her 9mm, and was now wearing her own tactical vest over his BDU’s. She was completely unarmed and felt naked off-world without her equipment.
She could feel the heavy weight of her knife still strapped to her ankle however, and if this wasn’t essentially Jack, she would have been reaching for it by now.
“Necessary? Why?” She demanded sharply, latching onto his words.
“I asked for help, and it was denied." he said with a shrug, moving as if to reach for her.
“You may as well have not asked in the first place if you planned to take what you wanted anyway!” Sam said, shrugging off his almost touch. Jack’s touch. She never thought she would flinch from him.
“And what will happen to the General?” she asked, assuming already that the General’s consciousness was in Ellian’s weaker body.
He was going to be pissed.
“He is in my body Samantha. He will not be harmed.” He replied in Jack’s voice, his tone so proper that she would have laughed if not for the seriousness of this situation. It was so unlike Jack. There was no condescension or sarcasm present in his voice.
“You said your body didn’t have much time.” She said, latching onto her memory of the information he had given them before he had attacked them.
“Thus why we must hurry. I figured that you out of all the others would be able to assist me. Jack O’Neill would not have allowed you to come with me.”
“So you’re a mind reader as well?” She snapped fiercely. She totally agreed with the General. Surprises really did suck.
“I have studied the art of reading people, and because of our advancements, we are able to see the thoughts of others within actions. It is not hard to do. I could teach you if you wish it.”
“No. What I wish is for us to go back to the SGC so the General can have his body back.” She replied, already knowing she would be denied.
“I cannot do that, and as I am in the role of dominance at this moment, you have no leverage so your request is denied.” He said it so matter-of-factly that it only succeeded in pissing her off more.
“Don’t think I can’t take you.” She warned.
“In gaining this body, I have also gained all the skills and habitual movements of your General. Not all physical reactions are in the mind. Some come from the body learning to move and forming habits of its own. I believe that he is quite agile and adept at most physical activities.”
Sam gaped. If he wasn’t such a tool, she would have been happy to ask all sorts of questions about the knowledge of people he obviously had. But he was the enemy right now, so…
“We would have tried to help you, you know…now the General will just want to kill you.” She said as they continued to walk.
“I am aware that Jack O’Neill is not a man that forgives lightly. But he will. I truly wish to give his body back…I was never planning to keep him forever.” He responded amicably, trying to earn her forgiveness if not Jack’s. Earn her trust despite the deceptive actions he had taken to get his own way.
“And if your body dies?”
“Then I will be forced to keep him forever or find another host…in both cases, Jack O’Neill will be no more.”
“Ellian listen to me…you can’t just take someone’s body.” She said desperately, somehow knowing that he wasn’t going to undo what he had done now. He turned on her, stepping up to her, so close she could smell Jack’s distinct scent which always managed to derail her. This isn’t Jack.
“No, you listen, my people need me. They need someone to lead them from darkness. I have a son. He is plagued by nightmares and I cannot stand to watch him suffer one more night of restless sleep.” As soon as he said this, she felt chided. Jack would have helped him had he mentioned his son.
“He is tortured by them, awakens screaming out. He cannot eat from fear. He can barely stand it. I have tried to administer the drug to keep him awake, but it will not work on him. Stealing O’Neill’s body is a small crime compared to that of leaving my son tortured…” He shook his head regretfully, lips thinning.
“I am sorry, but my son comes before that of your General. I know this body can help us Samantha. I scanned this body. He has the key. There is something that makes him different from the others.”
Sam stared at him hard, wondering what exactly could be different about Jack. Then it hit her. The Ancient gene. It had to be. The Asgard had also been hopeful that he was advanced enough to help them with their genetic degradation, but he wasn’t evolved enough yet. Maybe it was the same thing that attracted Ellian to Jack over the rest of them.
“Then why take me as well?” she asked, put-out by the fact that he had kidnapped her. So much for her shower.
“You have knowledge that he does not. Not only about his differences, but about how certain technologies work.”
“If you are so advanced, my knowledge of technology would be useless.” She groused, following him grudgingly. What else could she do? Try to escape? She didn’t even know where she was! Aside from that, she couldn’t just allow this alien to walk off with Jack’s body to parts unknown. It would be as good as leaving the General behind, and she was hard-wired to never do that.
“There are certain technologies that even we have trouble with. A race of people called the Alterans have technologies that can only be activated by one of their own. O’Neill has that gene. Taking you was merely a way to assure you that I would give his body back.”
“How do you know all this? About the General’s gene?” She asked, frowning at him. That kind of knowledge could only be gained by knowing them, and he sure didn’t know them quite well enough for that.
“My scan assessed your team and found me the things I needed. I followed you for that knowledge, intent on only bringing you back to my people…but then…”
“You scanned the General.” She surmised, her mind working.
“Yes. I do not do this out of hostility, but merely to help my people survive.”
Sam grudgingly understood that, but she still couldn’t accept Ellian’s method for gaining their help. It wasn’t fair to take rather than accept denial. But Ellian was obviously desperate.
“We have allies that could have helped you…” she said, annoyed, once more thinking of the Asgard. They would have helped. She was sure of it. Ellian seemed advanced beyond Earth’s scientists. He actually reminded her of the Tollan’s, long gone now.
“I had already said I do not have much time left. I could not wait for you to contact these allies…”
They walked in silence for about an hour, and Sam began to feel impatient and annoyed. The temperature was relatively moderate, and she didn’t feel uncomfortable or anything, but this guy that had stolen Jack’s body barely was acknowledging that he had done something that was wrong and that fact pissed her off more than any other.
“How far away is your city?” she asked when it became clear that he wasn’t going to offer up any information without some prompting.
“Not far.” He said unhelpfully.
“We sent a UAV over this planet and found nothing but forest and ruins.” She said, wondering where his people lived. She doubted they were forest dwellers, from the clean, pale clothing he’d worn that reminded her of something people wore at a hospital facility.
“It’s an underground city –kept hidden from a long dead enemy. The entrance is cloaked.” He explained. Well that would explain why the UAV hadn’t picked up a damn thing in her first initial scan of the terrain. She swore she would develop some technology so the UAV could detect a cloaking frequency.
If it was even remotely possible.
‘I’ll make it possible,’ she thought determinedly.
It would be a better way to spend her down time than her current activity.
Although, seeing as the General was on vacation from his body, she didn’t feel so bad about letting her eyes stray over him for longer than appropriate. This way, she didn’t have to worry about him catching her in the act and facing the decidedly embarrassing moments that usually would follow such a blatant perusal.
She glanced around the surroundings as they walked, seeing that Ellian was starting to tire from the trek.
“The General has bad knees. Are they playing up?” she asked, glancing once more at his profile.
“I do not know what you mean Samantha. Jack O’Neill’s knees are not bad.” She narrowed her eyes on him, seeing the sincerity in his features.
So, Jack was lying. But why?
“He always says his knees are bad.” She murmured, half to herself.
“I believe that he uses the physical ailment to mask his true strength. Maybe to trick the enemy into believing him weak therefore underestimating him?” Ellian surmised.
“He was captured by a Goa’uld about a year ago and spent a lot of time in a Sarcophagus…” She said, thinking that maybe he didn’t want to admit that Ba’al had actually fixed something he had been forced to live with for years.
“What is a …Gold? I have never heard of such a beast. And a Sarcophagus?” Ellian furrowed Jack’s brow, the confusion there such a normal expression to be on his face that she was momentarily thrown.
Sam’s eyes widened and she stopped. Ellian only turned when he realised she was not beside him any longer, his eyes skimming back and catching on hers, something that Jack would rarely do. The brown of his eyes was like whiskey in the waning light of the sun overhead, the last of the rays highlighting everything around them in sharp, vibrant colour, dappled from the leaves high above them.
She had never realised how much his eyes could hold, his usual guardedness gone with Ellian’s internal presence.
“You know, I miss the days when I didn’t know what a Goa’uld was. But I don’t understand how you don’t know. They have forced almost every planet into servitude except a few races.” Maybe his people were formidable. Only advanced races seemed to exist below the Goa’uld’s radar.
“Including your world?” He asked, glancing at her once more.
“No. We have fought them. Our Stargate was buried for generations. It was discovered in an archaeological dig and made operational. We were unaware of the Gate system for a long time before that. But how have you managed to keep your people from them? You obviously have the technological advancement and knowledge of the Stargates.”
“My people do not use the Stargate. I only came to your world because it was necessary. My people are not easily traced. That is why you did not see us on your visit here, but we could see you. These Goa’uld you speak of have not bothered us.” Ellian seemed completely unaware how incredibly lucky his people were –well, besides this genetic nightmare problem.
“That’s amazing! I thought we were the only ones untouched by them.”
“Well you were wrong.” He replied with a superior lift of his chin. Sam wasn’t sure how to respond to that.
“We must move quickly. It is getting dark soon and I want to get back to my people. They need to see that I have not failed. Maybe then hope will be restored.”
Sam gratingly wanted to know more about this problem they had. Yes, Ellian had done the wrong thing, but, he was trying to protect and ensure the continuation of his people. Wouldn’t she do the same if it was necessary?
“How long have you been having these nightmares?” she asked before she allowed her annoyance to reengage in her mind.
“Five years ago, an illness swept through the city…spread through contact. It was something we had never experienced before. A scientist stumbled on a cure…or what he thought was a cure. He only admitted later that he had found it and instructions on how to use it in his laboratory. The drug was given to everyone. An inoculation against the mysterious illness. It cured the disease, but it left some unexpected markers on our DNA sequences. We aren’t even sure how it worked. I have been working to fix the issue ever since.”
Sam thought it sounded like something a Goa’uld would do. Specifically Nir’ti, or like something the Destroyer of Worlds would be responsible for. She wasn’t going to speculate, but, seeing as it had changed the DNA of Ellian’s people somehow, she had to guess that it was more Nir’ti’s ‘Modus Operandi’.
“Do you know who left the cure in the lab?” she asked, her mind racing with the possibility that they could have been exposed to a Goa’uld…they just didn’t know it.
“No, but we are aware that we had some outside breach…because no one in our community would know how to do what that drug so ruthlessly did. Everyone has the disorder. No one would consciously do this to themselves.”
Sam drifted into silence, knowing that maybe the Asgard could help them. If only they had never destroyed that DNA device that Nir’ti had been experimenting on people with two years ago…then they could probably have helped Ellian’s people.
Before she could think any more on a solution for the problem, she got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach that always came when she felt that a Goa’uld was nearby. From the deeply inset feeling she got, she could only guess that it was a patrol of Jaffa.
“Ellian…we need to find cover. Follow me.” She said softly, and he turned to her with uncomprehending eyes.
“Hide!” She reiterated as she moved towards the tree line, expecting him to follow. He didn’t though, and she cursed her bad luck as the Jaffa came onto the overgrown path as she went back to drag Ellian under cover.
It was too late.
“Cree!” The leader shouted, and Sam cursed out loud.
“Run…” She said fiercely, but Ellian gripped onto her arm.
“You aren’t going anywhere.” He said angrily, as if she was planning to skip out on him now and get away.
“Ellian…you don’t understand…”
But he ignored her, turning to the band of warriors. “My name is…”
They Zatted him abruptly and she fell backwards, looking from Jack to the approaching Jaffa, knowing she should run, but…she couldn’t. This was Jack. She couldn’t leave him behind. So she didn’t. She stood a little taller, putting her hands up to show she was unarmed, readying herself for the Zat blast that was sure to come.