The snake-like creature swam
sinuously through the water, endlessly circling the circumference of its
confines. Growing more agitated by the moment, he began thrashing about,
churning the water until the murky liquid threatened to splash over the
sides of the large aquarium. Clearly, he was unhappy with his present
"I grow tired of this watery prison and demand that a suitable host
be presented to me at once!" he screeched.
Unfortunately for him, he knew that
his demands would go unheeded because, without a body to inhabit, he was
unable to voice them. This realization only served to further infuriate
the creature as he thought back to his previous host. The impudent
Tau'ri had been extraordinary in that, with the assistance of the Asgard
vermin, he had evaded his god's rightful dominion. The Tau'ri would pay
for his insolence. He would bow before his god once more, of this much
he was certain. Through the haze of the water, he could discern the
presence of his High Priest, Tu'at, approaching his watery prison. He
swam more slowly toward the surface in order to view him more clearly.
"He knows his proper place before
his god," he thought in self-satisfied tones. "Ah...at last. My servant
has brought me a tender morsel to feast upon," he thought greedily. A
small splash heralded the arrival of his meal of young symbiote...served
live and wriggling. Closing in rapidly for the kill, he savored the
frightened squeaks of his prey as it was torn asunder by his
multi-pronged mouth. He allowed himself the satisfaction of imagining
this latest offering was the body of his most recent hostess its blood
stained the water around him.
All too soon, however, all traces
of his mangled victim were gone, vanished inside the grasping maw of the
mature Goa'uld. Left with nothing else to pass his time, he resumed his
restless exploration of the perimeter of the enclosure. However, unlike
all the times before, this activity was interrupted by the approach of
Tu'at once more. Rising yet again to the surface, he observed him bowing
reverently before speaking.
"My Lord, I have gathered several
specimens for your approval. I beg that this offering will be adequate
for your needs, Master," he intoned reverently.
"A host!" the Goa'uld thought
excitedly. "At last! Soon I will take my revenge upon the fools who
circumvented my rightful commands." He screeched with delight and waved
his neck and head impatiently at the High Priest.
He remained at the surface in order
to allow his High Priest to scoop him into a wide-mouthed, gold-plated
ceremonial vessel. Restlessly, he poked his head above the rim to better
view his potential hosts. Tu'at had done well. He could see that the six
men kneeling before him were mature and well developed. They were
similar in that all were olive-skinned with short black hair, dark eyes,
and were clothed in a scanty loincloth. Best of all, each one of them
seemed properly fearful and trembled before his imperious
"My Lord will make his choice,"
Tu'at intoned. He nodded towards the loyal Jaffa standing guard behind
the prisoners. With a prod of a staff weapon, each one of the prisoners
rose to their feet, looking apprehensively around them at the
underground chamber. With a Jaffa holding a staff weapon to each of
their backs, they seemed to have little choice but to obey the Priest's
commands. Clearly, there was no escape from the coming judgment of their
Slowly, the Priest walked along the
line of young men, allowing the symbiote to study each specimen. The
impatient Goa'uld made no sound as he passed in front of each man,
preferring to wait to make his choice. There was no need to rush the
choosing. The body of his next host would need to be strong to endure
the upcoming disputes. As Tu'at passed the end of the line, he turned in
the bowl to examine each one from all angles. He writhed in excitement
and screeched imperiously, tasting the fear emanating from his
Soon, soon, I will possess a body
that will obey my every command and whim," he thought impatiently. He
quieted himself in order to continue his examination of each potential
host. By the time Tu'at had completed his circuit, he had made his
It had been ridiculously easy. Of
all the specimens, only the second one met all his requirements. His
choice was tall, looked to be in his middle thirties, with short black
hair and flawless skin. The body was lean and looked to belong to an
athlete without being muscle-bound. Even in fear, the body moved with a
lithe unconscious grace as well-toned muscles rippled beneath the
olive-colored skin. The symbiote squealed his satisfaction and lunged
toward the man, who shrank back in fear. The staff weapon in his back
stopped him from retreating any further.
"My Lord has chosen. Prepare the
host and dispose of the others," Tu'at commanded. He waited with the
bowl containing his Master while the loyal Jaffa closed in on the
prisoners. While two grabbed his next host, the others marched those
remaining out of the subterranean chamber. Sensing danger, the chosen
one shouted and pleaded for mercy as he wrestled frantically with his
captors, but he was quickly subdued. Dragging him to a nearby altar,
they threw him facedown onto it, strapping shackles around both his
ankles and wrists. His frantic cries had died to nothing more that an
When all had been prepared
according to ritual, Tu'at approached the black altar and allowed the
Goa'uld to slide onto the bare skin of the captive's back. Taking his
time, the symbiote enjoyed how his victim's skin trembled at his touch
as he continued his inexorable progress towards the back of the neck.
Growing tired of the delay, he screeched, then struck swiftly, slashing
through the skin and quickly burrowing into the body of his host. From a
distance, he heard a scream, and he moved quickly to silence the
With the ease of long practice, he
expertly attached his maw to the underside of the brain, exerting
immediate control over all body functions. With this task completed, he
could concentrate on subduing any fight that might be left in his host's
mind. Effortlessly, he exiled his victim's gibbering consciousness into
a dark prison and continued to explore his new body.
As he became more conscious of his
surroundings, he realized he was now lying on his back and that his new
body had been draped with a shiny black cloth. He concentrated again and
healed the gash in the back of his neck, leaving only a jagged scar to
mark the point of his entry. Turning his attention to his other senses,
he realized he could hear his High Priest speaking to the protective
Jaffa surrounding him. He opened his eyes and felt a flush of unholy
triumph when he felt them flash white. Rising to a sitting position on
the altar, his booming voice echoed hollowly in the subterranean
"Kneel before your god, Ba'al," he
commanded. As once, his Jaffa and High Priest knelt obediently before
their Lord. As he scanned the contents of the subterranean chamber, he
began issuing his first orders.
"Tu'at, bring me Renek, my First
Prime," he commanded. When his High Priest did not immediately answer,
he became enraged. How dare these imbeciles disobey him!
"Jaffa, kree! Leave us," he ordered
angrily. When the Jaffa had obediently filed out of the chamber, he
turned to his High Priest.
"Tu'at, what of Renek?" he demanded. The kneeling man cautiously
raised his head to look upon his god.
"He is shol'va, my Lord Ba'al," he
answered bluntly. When his god did not immediately strike him down, he
let out a sigh of relief. "There is much to tell, my Master."
"Speak of this and the
other...changes," Ba'al commanded as he swung his legs over the side of
the altar and watched Tu'at's face through narrowed eyes.
"Very well, my Lord. After the
Asgard fools meddled and removed you from the Tau'ri, Renek and the
Asgard slave transported you to safety. The slave was commanded to
create copies of your super soldiers, as you had ordered, my Lord.
Following your wishes, the impudent Tau'ri was recaptured and was made
your host once again," he continued.
"Stop, imbecile!" Ba'al commanded
contemptuously. "You lie! These things did NOT happen as I do not
remember them!" At his words, Tu'at had shrunk back fearfully and abased
himself on the floor.
"Because you are my most revered
god, I commanded the Asgard slave to create a perfect clone of you,
prior to the second implantation, my Lord Ba'al. The Tau'ri was
implanted with your copy. With the aid of the Asgard vermin and the
shol'va Renek, the Tau'ri once more escaped from your stronghold and
destroyed the clone, my Lord." Fearing retribution for his audacious
deeds, the High Priest continued hurriedly.
"The clone was created solely as a
safety precaution, my Lord Ba'al. The Asgard scientist slave will never
reveal its existence, as he was threatened with a slow, lingering death
if he should reveal this secret."
"Where is the Tau'ri now, Tu'at?"
"Your spies report he has returned
to the Tau'ri home world and does not suspect your existence," replied
the High Priest. Now that his death did not seem imminent, he had raised
his forehead off the floor and was once again gazing upon his Master
from his kneeling position.
"And the Asgard slave? Why has he not been executed?"
"He was transported aboard the
Asgard ship along with the Tau'ri when the other System Lords made their
cowardly attack upon your forces. According to your spies, he is once
again imprisoned on Othalla, my Lord Ba'al," he responded with growing
"Do my spies have access to this vermin slave?"
"They do, my Lord,"
"Excellent. Have him killed as he
has outlived his usefulness. Hunt down the shol'va Renek and have him
brought to me. He must pay for his crimes against his god." the Goa'uld
"At once, my Lord," assured Tu'at.
However, he did not rise to his feet yet. He knew better than to attempt
to leave without his Master's permission.
"What news of my other possessions, Tu'at?"
"When the System Lords attacked
your stronghold, all was destroyed, my Lord Ba'al. This is all that
remains," answered the High Priest nervously.
"My fleet of Hatak's and super soldiers?
"All are gone, my Lord."
"Command my loyal Jaffa to gather,
Tu'at. I must make plans for my revenge and return to power. In the
meantime, direct my servants to attend me. I must be attired in clothing
suitable for a god," decreed Ba'al arrogantly.
"Yes, my Lord Ba'al." When he saw
that his High Priest had not moved from his position on his knees, he
chuckled low in his throat. Good, he thought. The fool has not forgotten
his place nor lost his fear of his rightful god.
"You may leave my presence, Tu'at. Go. Attend to your god's commands."
"Thank you, my Lord, Ba'al." With a
bow of his head, he rose shakily to his feet and backed away from the
altar before turning to scuttle quickly from the chamber.
His actions pleased the Goa'uld and
he chuckled with a deep throaty sound once again. Although he was quite
certain the weakling was lying, he would allow him to escape with his
life...for now. Later, however, he would delight in giving him the slow
lingering death he so richly deserved.
Based on centuries of experience,
Ba'al understood the need to move quickly in order to regain the power
and resources that had been lost due to the duplicity of his shol'va
First Prime and the Tau'ri. His inner introspection was interrupted by
the sound of his body slaves entering cautiously into the room. He
turned to view the four of them and was satisfied to see the dread so
visible on their faces. He snapped his fingers impatiently.
"Attend me, slaves! Kree!" They
responded immediately, bringing forth familiar items of clothing. He
allowed them to clothe him, all the while contemplating the strategy he
must map out to assure his rise to dominance once again.
Brigadier General Jonathan, 'Jack',
O'Neill sighed as he added yet another finished report to his outbox.
Unfortunately for him, the stack gracing his inbox was still much higher
than the outgoing one. 'Crap', he thought grumpily. He now had a whole
new appreciation for all the extra work it took to keep the lights on at
Stargate Command. How his predecessor, General George Hammond, had ever
done it was beyond him.
Deciding he needed a short break
from the tedium of paperwork, he leaned back in his chair for a moment
to stretch muscles that had seen too little action in the past month.
Certainly nothing like he was used to. And that was primarily because he
no longer had the privilege of walking through the Stargate with his
team, SG-1, at least once a week. Correction: his former team.
Since his promotion to Brigadier
General, he was in charge of the SGC. Now he had the unenviable task of
waiting for the return of the teams he sent through the gate. He'd never
realized just how hard it was to give them his blessing as they walked
through that shimmering blue puddle, all the while knowing that he was
sending them in harms way. Sure, they were all soldiers, even the
civilians. They knew the job was dangerous when they'd signed up for it.
Nevertheless it was still a burden he didn't relish carrying.
With another sigh, he rose from his
chair trying to ignore the creaking of his knees and headed out of his
office in search of a fresh cup of coffee. If he were to make a decent
dent in his paperwork, he'd need plenty of caffeine to do it. As usual,
a pot was brewing in the Briefing Room. After topping off his cup, he
skirted the table to stand in front of the windows. Even after eight
years of seeing the alien artifact, its magnificence still took his
No teams were due back for several
hours yet, so it was relatively quiet in the Gate Room at this early
hour. Sgt. Siler could be seen bustling about with the tools of his
trade. The General knew the hard-working Air Force electrician was
carrying out standard tests of circuitry connecting the Gate to their
computer systems. Even though all seemed to be operating at peak
efficiency at present, there was no harm in double-checking everything.
After all, if those circuits failed at a critical moment, it could mean
the loss of lives and that was an unacceptable risk as far as the CO of
the SGC was concerned. His inner reverie was interrupted by the sound of
klaxons blaring from the loudspeaker.
"Unscheduled off-world activation."
His previous boredom forgotten, he placed his coffee cup carefully on
the table and headed down the stairs to the control room as quickly as
his creaking knees would take him. By the time he arrived, Lt. Graham
was announcing the incoming IDC. Through the window, he noted the
presence of several SF's whose weapons were already pointed in the
direction of the waiting Gate. Yep, they were on the ball. The extra
drills and training were doing the trick.
"Lieutenant, who's knocking on our
door this time?" he asked the gate technician. Without taking his eyes
away from his computer screen, he replied to his CO.
"Receiving IDC. It's the Tok'ra, Sir."
"Open the iris, son. We don't want our allies ending up splattering
themselves like bugs on a windshield. Do we?"
"Yes, Sir. I mean no, Sir. Opening
the iris, Sir," he stuttered. Damn, but that guy was still nervous
around him. 'You'd think that he would've gotten over that by now,'
thought Jack humorously. He watched as the trinium petals covering the
Gate opening rotated outwards, revealing the shimmering blue event
horizon of an active wormhole. Two Tok'ra representatives stepped
through the open Gate moments later and began walking down the ramp,
ignoring the weapons pointed in their direction.
"Stand down, people," Jack ordered
through the open microphone, noting with pride that the watchful stance
of his SF's did not waver until he gave the order. They'd been trained
well, and the ones who were still alive had learned through bitter
experience not to trust anyone or anything that might step through that
wormhole. Too much was at stake for that. Just one second of inattention
to their duty could result in numerous deaths and even the destruction
of their world. Nope, they knew full well that theirs was an important
job and could not be taken lightly. They would never take their duty
lightly if Jack has his way about it.
Jack turned away from the mike and
headed towards the Gate Room to greet his alien allies. He'd already
recognized one of the two visitors. The fact that they were appearing on
his doorstep without an invite could only mean trouble as the Tok'ra had
the unfortunate tendency to only contact the Tau'ri when they needed
someone to pull their asses out of the fire...again. By the time he'd
walked through the open blast doors, the two Tok'ra males were standing
at the foot of the ramp.
"Jacob!" greeted Jack warmly. "What brings you to our neck of the woods?"
The other alien was also known by
the General and brought back memories of being stranded on a moon for a
month with a very paranoid and homicidal Mayborne. The Tok'ra standing
by Jacob had rescued him off that hunk of rock and went by the name of
Jolan. By the grim look on their faces, the news wasn't good. 'Crap', he
thought. 'Just when my life was starting to get back to normal, up pop
the Tok'ra with some more wonderful news that will so not make my day.'
Jacob/Sel'mak bowed his head for a moment before speaking.
"General O'Neill," stated Sel'mak. "We have grave news for the Tau'ri."
"Somehow I knew you were going to
say that, Sel'mak. Shall we take it up to the Briefing Room?"
"I believe that would be best,
General. Jacob is quite upset about this and has asked that I relay the
news. He has also asked that SG-1 be present for the
"I'd love to oblige you on that
one, but SG-1 is off-world right now. It seems Daniel found some rocks
relating to the Ancients and is all hyper and babbling on ad nauseam
about how important they are. They aren't due back for twelve more
hours." They were making their way out of the Gate room by now and were
climbing the stairs. When they reached the control room, Jack paused
long enough to speak to Sgt. Davis.
"Get Colonel Ferretti on the phone
and tell him to meet me in the Briefing Room ASAP."
"Right away, Sir," replied the
graying Sergeant as he spoke rapidly into the phone. That done, Jack and
the two Tok'ra continued on up to the Briefing Room. As they were
seating themselves around the table, Lieutenant Colonel Louis Ferretti
appeared at the door. Upon seeing their guests, he raised his eyebrows
at his CO in an unspoken question before taking a seat next to him. Jack
answered him with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Gentlemen, I assume you all know
my second in command, Lt. Colonel Louis Ferretti?" asked Jack politely.
'Sure, I can do the diplomacy thing and play nice...when I want to,' he
"Yes, we have met on previous
occasions, General O'Neill," replied Sel'mak. The fact that Jacob's tame
snake was retaining control was giving Jack a very bad feeling. He was
not looking forward to this briefing
"Our undercover operatives have
brought us disturbing news, General. According to their reports, a
previously thought dead System Lord is making a reappearance on the
scene and is quietly rebuilding his power base.
"And this Snakehead's name would be...?"
"Ba'al," replied Sel'mak gravely.
The news brought complete silence to the room. Jack felt his face drain
of all color and his breath catch in his throat. His heart was pounding
so hard and loud that he swore everyone in the room must be able to hear
"You've got to be kidding, Sel'mak.
And if this is your idea of a joke, well I've got to tell you that it
sucks. Big time," replied Jack with angry disbelief. In answer, the
Tok'ra allowed her human partner to speak.
"Sel'mak's not kidding, Jack. We
don't know how he did it, but he's back and doing a good job of
rebuilding his Jaffa army," assured Jacob. Jack was still in shock and
was having trouble thinking. Just the memory of what Ba'al had done to
him was enough to send chills rippling through his entire
"For crying out loud, Jacob.
There's no way this can be him. Thor assured me that the snaky bastard
had been disintegrated after they jerked his ass out of me the last
time. They even confirmed it was him with DNA tests before they zatted
"I wish I could say that it isn't
him, Jack. But, our operatives are pretty confident that it's Ba'al."
"Well, this is just peachy, Jacob. Do the Asgard know about this?"
"We were hoping you could tell us, Jack," replied the Tok'ra.
"Since they haven't contacted me,
then it's a sure bet that they don't know about this either. Ferretti,
send a message to Thor telling him we need to talk. I'd better recall
SG-1 too. They don't need to be off-world right now because it would
make Ba'al's day to get his snaky mitts on them," ordered Jack with a
"Sure thing, Sir," replied Louis as
he pushed himself back from the table and left the room. Given the
situation, the control room was about to become very busy in the next
"Any ideas about what that no-good
snaky-assed bastard is up to, Jacob?" asked Jack.
"Currently, we don't have a spy
among his Jaffa, so that information is sketchy. However, according to
the other System Lords, he's out to repossess leadership of their
alliance again. In addition, the reports state he looks much the same as
he did before, right down to his goatee," Jacob informed the
"Well, at least we know what he
looks like. Probably easier on the ole budget if he can keep the same
'bow before your god' commemorative plaques and statues, huh." Jack
muttered absently while scrubbing his face with both hands. Jolan gave
him a puzzled look, but Jacob just smiled knowingly as he was used to
Jack's unusual sense of humor.
"Uh, Jack? Word is that he's pretty
pissed off at a certain Tau'ri and wants revenge," commented Jacob,
keeping his attention riveted on the General's face.
"Well, he's not exactly on my
Christmas list either, Jacob. If you know what I mean. So...has the price
on my head gone up again?"
If Jacob hadn't known him better,
he would've been fooled into thinking that the CO of the SGC hadn't been
bothered by the news of Ba'al's continuing vendetta against him.
However, he hadn't missed his grimace of distaste and how dark Jack's
eyes had become when given the latest news.
"Not that we've heard, Jack. Why?
Are you planning on turning yourself in for the reward money and running
off to retire someplace quiet?" he asked with a knowing smile.
"Nah, I just want to make sure that
the price on my head is more than Daniel's. He gets pretty pissed off
about things like that. Plus, the base has a betting pool going about
how much each one of us is worth. So if you should hear any definite
numbers, be sure and shoot them my way. My truck could use a new
transmission." Jack replied with a smirk.
"As far as we know, Ba'al no longer
has access to any of the Asgard technology like the transporter device.
In addition, all his super weapons were annihilated when the System
Lords attacked his fleet. Luckily, all his super soldiers were destroyed
at the same time," commented Jolan.
"Well, that's good news," added Jack.
Whatever else he was about to say
was interrupted by a white flash of light at the opposite end of the
table. When everyone could see again, Thor was sitting in his Asgard
command chair blinking slowly at them. In the meantime, the klaxons were
blaring an intruder alert, and about ten SF's came bursting into the
Briefing Room with weapons drawn as they quickly eyeballed the room.
General O'Neill gave a sardonic smile at them and waved them
"Thor! Hi there, buddy," stated
Jack with a smile. Then he turned his attention to the SF's. "Stand
down, guys. Thor's just paying us a little visit." In the meantime,
Ferretti shoved his way through the tangle of SF's in the doorway and
made his way to his CO.
"I see we've got company, Sir," he
commented. "Want me to tell the SF's to take a hike?"
"We'll still need a few of them for
guard duty, Ferretti. Have one stationed inside the room and two more
outside the door. No one gets in here without my permission. Especially,
if they've just came back from being off-world. That includes SG-1. Got
"Will do, Sir," replied his 2IC as
he strode back toward the grouping. He issued his orders rapidly and
then returned to his seat at the table.
"Greetings, O'Neill. I have grave news for you," stated Thor solemnly.
"Of course you do, Thor. This is my
day for bad news. Didn't you know that?" asked Jack sarcastically. Thor
"I regret to report that Loki was
assaulted by an unknown assailant while in our detention facility," the
"So, somebody finally decided to
knock that sneaky, double-dealing little weasel off. Huh?" commented
O'Neill. "Did they get the job done or is he still kicking?"
"His injuries were not fatal,
O'Neill. However, Loki revealed alarming news to us. He reports that he
was coerced into producing several clones of a Goa'uld while in Ba'al's
custody. We have reason to believe that this was Ba'al himself and that
at least one of his clones still exists."
"Well, that fits with the Intel
from the Tok'ra," commented Jack. At Thor's puzzled look, he hastened to
"Jacob just finished telling me
that their undercover operatives report Ba'al is trying to make a
come-back and that he is not a happy camper."
"According to Loki, Ba'al's High
Priest, Tu'at, ordered the clones made without his Master's knowledge
prior to your second implantation, O'Neill. That would explain why Ba'al
did not leave that particular memory with you when he was extracted the
Jack began rubbing absently at the
scar on the back of his neck and grimaced again. Just the mention of
implantation made the back of his neck itch and he could feel one of his
really bad headaches coming on. 'Gee, wonder why?' He thought with a
"Hey, don't remind me, pal. Meeting
up with that snaky-assed bastard is so not on my list of fun things to
do anytime in the future."
"Sir, now that we've figured out
how Ba'al can keep coming back from the dead, what are we going to do
about it?" asked Ferretti.
"I'm going to put in a call to the
President as soon as I hear your report on the status of our teams that
are off-world, Ferretti," answered Jack.
"Sir, I was able to contact Major
Carter. She indicated that SG-1 were on their way back to the Gate and
should be there in about two hours. She said the so-called Ancient
artifacts were bogus. I told her to keep an eye out for the snakes,
Sir," reported Ferretti. "The other two SG teams are all on schedule and
were able to respond to our radio contact through the wormhole.
According to their reports, they haven't seen any snakes or bad guys so
far, but are keeping their eyes peeled."
"That's great, Ferretti. Now, if
you'll all excuse me for a moment, I need to make a phone call to my
boss." Before he even made it out of his chair, he was interrupted by
"Sir, before you go into your
office, I need to inform you of orders I was given that fit this sort of
situation," stated Ferretti with a frown.
"Well? I'm waiting..."
"Sir, the President himself gave me
these orders. He ordered me to have a body guard posted with you at all
times whenever there was a threat of any kind against your
"For crying out loud, Ferretti. I'm
just going into my office. You guys can all see me through the window,"
protested the General.
"That's not good enough, Sir. The
President was very specific about his orders. Someone has to be within
arms reach of you at all times," reiterated Ferretti firmly. "I know you
don't like this, Sir, but you're too valuable a resource to risk." As he
was finishing, he motioned to one of the SF's who immediately stepped
forward to stand next to the General. Jack gave him his frostiest glare,
but the soldier didn't back down.
"This is just peachy, guys. Now I
won't even be able to take a crap in private," he muttered as he arose
from his chair and made his way into his office. The SF dutifully
followed him and stood at parade rest behind the General's
The occupants of the room watched
through the window as Jack made his call on the red phone. From the
expression on his face and the loud words emanating from the room, he
wasn't happy with what he was hearing from his Commander In Chief. He
finally wound up the conversation and hung up the phone. Judging by the
look on his face, he obviously was not a happy camper. He gifted the SF
on guard with another withering scowl before rising and joining the
others back in the Briefing Room. The Supreme Commander of the Asgard
Fleet spoke first.
"Are you not happy with the
instructions given to you by your President Hayes, O'Neill?"
"Nope, I'm not, Thor," he said
shortly. "Ferretti? Let me know the second SG-1 steps back through that
Gate. Once Teal'c is medically cleared, he's been assigned guard duty
again. And send someone over to my place to clean out the refrigerator
and lock it up. The President doesn't want me leaving the mountain for
the time being. Oh, and better send somebody around to pick up Jack Jr.
The President says he needs to stay at the mountain for the foreseeable
future too. Seems misery really does love company." His 2IC headed for a
phone and began issuing orders.
"And Thor, before you even ask, no,
I do not want to beam back up to your ship with you. I am NOT going to
spend god knows how long riding around on your spaceship waiting for the
big bad snake to go away. Besides, since he doesn't have access to your
transporter technology anymore, no one can snatch me as long as I stay
at the SGC."
"Very well, O'Neill. I will abide
by your wishes. However, if I become aware of any other information
concerning this disturbing new development I will contact you," added
Thor. Then he touched a pad on the armrest of his chair and was gone in
the customary flash of light.
"If any of you have any ideas about
what to do next, I would love to hear them. Jacob? What about the
Tok'ra? What's their take on this?" asked Jack.
"When the Tok'ra Council heard
about Ba'al's reappearance, they were just as surprised and worried as
you are, Jack. That is one mean sadistic Goa'uld, even by the standards
of the System Lords. The idea of him grabbing control of the System
Lord's again would put a crimp in numerous long-term strategies we've
got going," answered Jacob.
"Yep, the idea of copies of that
scum-sucking snake running around is enough to give me the creeps,"
agreed Jack. "So, back to Ferretti's question. What are we going to do
about the fact that Ba'al is out there again and poses a threat to all
of us? I for one would rather take the fight to him than wait around for
him to come calling. For one thing, I don't relish the idea of spending
the foreseeable future cooped up inside Cheyenne Mountain. Does anyone
have any idea where this scumbag is holed up yet?"
"Right now no one seems to know
where his base of operations is. Why don't I see what kind of Intel our
operatives can dig up before we make any definite plans, Jack?" answered
Jacob. "Jolan, do you have any other ideas?" When his fellow Tok'ra
shook his head, he continued. "Jack, mind if we hang around so I can see
Sam before we go?"
"Sure, Jacob, you both can hang out
in the commissary until she's free to see you. I'll have you paged from
there," assured O'Neill. As they were rising from the table, the klaxons
began blaring once again. 'It's beginning to feel like Grand Central
Station here,' thought Jack cynically.
"Unscheduled off-world activation," came from the loudspeakers.
"Gentlemen, if you will wait here,"
requested Jack. Immediately, he headed out the door and down the stairs
to the control room. Jacob seemed disappointed, but nodded his
acquiescence and moved instead to the windows overlooking the Gate Room.
The SF guards followed closely behind their charge, never allowing him
to get farther than a foot from them, much to his chagrin. By the time
Jack and his entourage arrived, the gate tech was announcing that the
IDC code for SG-1 was being received.
"Open the iris, son," ordered Jack
as he noted with satisfaction that his commands were carried out post
haste. The grinding of the trinium petals allowed the viscous blue
liquid of the event horizon to become visible. Within seconds, the
slurping sound of the members of SG-1 exiting the wormhole signaled
their return. Daniel arrived first, followed closely by Carter and
Teal'c. Their gaze flicked first to the occupants of the Gate Room, and
then to the Briefing Room. Carter's face split into a welcoming grin
when she noted her Dad standing in the window.
"Welcome back, SG-1. Report to the
Infirmary for your post-mission physical. Your debriefing will be in
three hours at 1400 hours," advised General O'Neill.
He gave them all a welcoming grin
and motioned them to hurry out of the Gate Room. He would've loved to
join them down there, but knew that was impossible right now. For
safety's sake, he couldn't have any contact with someone who'd just been
off-world until they'd been cleared by the CMO of the Infirmary. He
hated to be held to those kinds of standards, but until the threat of
Ba'al was neutralized, he was a huge honkin' security risk. It hadn't
been that long ago that he'd been made host to that snaky-assed
parasite, no only once but twice, and he knew just what lengths the
Goa'uld would go to if he really wanted to get his hands on him
The fact that he was playing
security guard to the Library of the Ancients made him a valuable
commodity to many races, both on earth and off-world. There were both
positive and negative aspects to that fact. A major negative feature
originated with how some unsavory characters, both human and alien,
wanted to get and use that information. When it came to utilizing the
data to help save his world, or even improve overall conditions, he was
more than willing to give his all to help out. In fact, he had a
chest-full of medals and the nightmares to prove it. However, when it
came to bottom-feeding scumbags like Kinsey, certain factions of the
NID, and the Goa'uld, he wouldn't give them the time of day if his life
depended on it. Unfortunately, it often came to that. The number of
times he'd already been tortured to death and then revived again was so
numerous that he'd lost count a long time ago.
'Crap', he thought. 'The way things
are going; it looks like my life is going to get a bit bumpy again.
Sure, the adrenaline high is fun, but the pain that usually goes along
with it isn't. Face it, Jack. You're getting older, and your body just
doesn't bounce back like it used to. The knees are shot, the back isn't
doing real good, and your shoulder is a better forecaster for rain than
the Weather Channel.' Shaking his head, he turned absently to head back
up to the Briefing Room...and ran smack dab into the SF standing behind
"For crying out loud, Airman. Get
out of my fricking way," he muttered as he sidestepped the flustered man
and headed up the stairs. He tried to ignore the sound of the SF's
footsteps behind him, because they were a nagging reminder of the return
of his arch nemesis, Ba'al. To distract himself, he turned his mind to
the welfare of his clone, John. He needed to find out his status from
Ferretti. Explaining to his teenaged double why he needed to stay cooped
up at Cheyenne Mountain was not going to be a fun experience. No, John
O'Neill aka Jack Jr., would not be a happy camper. The teen would be
just as pissed off as he was. 'What a crappy mess,' he thought
When he walked into the Briefing
Room, he saw that the two Tok'ra representatives were standing at the
window overlooking the Gate Room. Remembering Jacob's love for caffeine,
he took the time to pour a cup for himself and his Tok'ra friend before
moving to stand alongside them. Jacob accepted his gift of coffee with a
smile and took a moment to inhale the odor before he cautiously took a
"You might want to go easy on that
stuff, Jacob. It's regulation Air Force coffee and guaranteed to eat
away your stomach lining," commented Jack with a smile.
"Are you kidding, Jack? I was
drinking this swill when you were still in diapers. Just haven't
convinced Sel'mak that this brew is essential for survival." They were
both interrupted by the arrival of Lt. Colonel Ferretti. Knowing the
brief moment of respite was over; they all automatically moved back to
sit around the Briefing Room table.
"Anything to report, Ferretti," asked General O'Neill.
"Yes, Sir. John O'Neill was picked
up from his high school a few minutes ago and is en route to Cheyenne
Mountain now. His ETA should be about thirty minutes. We're maintaining
constant radio contact with the transport vehicle."
"What was John's reaction to being picked up?"
"He didn't like it and his escort
report he pitched a royal hissy fit before agreeing to come with them.
He's been briefed on the situation and understands why he's being
brought here. He just doesn't like it."
"Well that makes two of us,
Ferretti. Let me know the minute he arrives. What about the status of
SG-1 and our other off-world teams? I'm getting a bad feeling about all
this crap and would prefer to get them all back here until we can better
assess the situation."
"As you know, SG-7 and SG-13 are
still off-world doing standard recons and mineral surveys, Sir. They
aren't due back for another ten hours, but I can tell them to cut it
short and head back home."
"Do it, Ferretti, and keep me posted."
"Right away, Sir," answered his 2IC
as he headed down the stairs to the control room once again. Jack
trusted Ferretti and knew he would be contacting the two teams that
still had to make it home.
As he mulled over the new
information and sorted through the relevant details in his head, he came
to an inescapable conclusion. Although he had no rational reason for the
growing feeling of dread in his gut, only the knowledge born of grim and
deadly experience, he knew he had to trust it. When he'd listened to
that gut feeling in the past, he and his teammates survived...relatively
intact. When he didn't...good people died.
Without knowing just how or why, he
knew something BIG was about to happen. He just didn't know what it
was...yet. Chances were real good that it would be connected with Mr.
Follow the Bouncing Ba'al. It went without saying that anything
connected with that sadistic rat bastard would be very, very bad. In
other words, the alligators were crawling out of the swamp and chewing
on his ass and he was in a 'deep state of oh shit', once again. 'Do you
see a theme here, Jack? You've just been paid a visit by the oh-shit
fairy!' He thought. 'Yep, my happy needle is absolutely pegged out and
everything is just peachy! Maybe I should've taken Thor up on his offer.
I could use a vacation right about now. Yeah right, Jack. You know you
couldn't just walk away from all this. If you can't take care of your
people, then who can? No one, that's who. So quit your bellyaching and
haul your team's asses back home, flyboy.'
"Jaffa! Dispose of this pile of
offal. Kree!" demanded Ba'al as he paced back and forth on the dais
holding his throne. He watched as the unfortunate wretch who'd had the
effrontery to bring him bad news was dragged quickly out of the room by
two of his Jaffa. By the downcast looks, they were terrified of
'Good,' he purred to himself. 'It
is fitting that my subjects fear their god. They tend to make fewer
mistakes that way, and I loathe mistakes.' When the now dead lackey had
informed him that the attempt to assassinate the Asgard vermin Loki had
failed, he had been quite justifiably enraged over this setback. He
settled back into his throne to better ponder his next move.
Revenge on his enemies was
paramount in his plans. However, as yet, he had been unable to build a
sufficient Jaffa Army to pose a serious threat to the remaining System
Lords. He had moved his base from the cramped underground quarters, and
now occupied the small fortress on the planet's surface. 'To think that
this was once one of my smaller outposts,' he thought angrily. 'It is
sorely lacking in the luxurious appointments that are my right as a
Not only that, his once mighty
armada of motherships and hatak's had been reduced to a single
mothership, three al'kesh bombers, and twenty death gliders. As for his
armies, his super soldiers were gone and his Jaffa numbered no more than
two hundred fifty.
On the positive side, the
far-reaching network of spies he had placed within the ranks of the
other System Lords and the Free Jaffa were still in place and had been
reporting back to him. In addition, his Jaffa army was growing larger.
Soon he would be strong enough to make his first move.
He'd already concluded that the
cause of his downfall could be placed at the feet of one man. The Tau'ri
O'Neill had influenced his former First Prime to become shol'va and had
been the instrument of his fleet's destruction by the jealous System
Lords. He knew he would have his revenge against the foolish Tau'ri, but
would have to build the snare for him carefully. Of course, the trap
would need bait that was irresistible to his prey.
Drawing upon the memories he still
retained from the Tau'ri, he sifted through mental images of people and
things important to the man. The Goa'uld finally settled upon the
continuing theme of the responsibility the Tau'ri felt for those he
commanded. The words, "We never leave anyone behind," echoed through his
mind repeatedly. Chuckling low in his throat, he smiled and stroked his
goatee. This was a weakness that could be exploited. Coming to a
decision, he stood and called out for his new First Prime.
"Jaffa, kree! Attend your god," he
commanded. His First Prime sprang into the room and knelt before him
awaiting his next order.
"Yes, my Lord Ba'al. What is your command?"
"I am in need of amusement. Send
word to my spies that I wish to capture the Tau'ri O'Neill. Failing
that, bring me any of his warriors you can find. Kree!"
"At once, my Lord Ba'al," the Jaffa
answered reverently, keeping his head bowed towards the floor.
"You are dismissed. Go," ordered
Ba'al. "And do not fail me or you shall provide amusement for me in my
"Unscheduled off-world activation," blared the loudspeakers once again.
General Jack O'Neill and Colonel
Ferretti exchanged glances and then pushed away from the table once
again. As they headed down the stairs, Major Carter, Daniel Jackson, and
Teal'c followed closely behind. Teal'c was taking his role as bodyguard
seriously and ensured he was directly behind Jack the entire way.
"Yep, What did I tell ya? It's been
a regular Grand Central Station here today," commented O'Neill
They'd been wrapping up their
debriefing when the blaring klaxons interrupted them. When the members
of SG-1 had been updated on Ba'al's reappearance, they'd all been quite
upset. Without comment, Teal'c had immediately changed his seat so that
he was in the chair closest to Jack. Carter and Daniel both exchanged
smiles when they noticed the scowl on their CO's face. SG-7 had made it
back home an hour ago. Now only one more team was still out
According to Ferretti, the
adolescent version of Jack was safely holed up in one of the VIP rooms
engrossed in a Play Station and interspersed complaints about the food
along with demands to see 'the big cheese in charge of this chicken
outfit'. In fact, he'd already tried to sneak past the SF's guarding his
door...twice. The combination of Jack's Special Ops training and a
teenaged body was a scary thing to contemplate.
'That leaves just SG-13 still out
there and unaccounted for. Not that I'm superstitious or anything. So
what if it's the same team that was ambushed while off-world last year?
The same world where Janet died. The same one where I almost bought the
farm too,' he mused. 'It wasn't SG-13's fault, though. They didn't call
up Anubis and set up the ambush. As for my mini-me, well, yeah, I admit
I've been avoiding talking with him. There are just too many things to
explain. Or are there? Since he's you, only younger, maybe you just
don't want to be forced into a confrontation with yourself,' he thought
darkly. 'Crap, the things I get myself into. Here I am having an
argument with myself about talking to myself.'
"Receiving IDC, Sir," advised Lt.
Graham as Jack and company arrived in the Control Room. "It's
"It's about time. Open the iris,"
ordered Jack yet again. The nagging feeling in his gut had just
quadrupled and his head was pounding in tune with his heartbeat. When
this was over, he would have to see the new Doc for something for his
damned headache, he resolved. With the iris open, the rippling surface
of the event horizon was revealed.
"Receiving audio transmission only,
Sir," stated Graham as he adjusted the volume controls and piped the
sound to the speakers in the control room. The sound of static
immediately filled the room. Then they heard a voice they all
"This is sierra golf 13 calling
Stargate Command. Come in...over." The voice sounded stressed and he
recognized it as Colonel Dixon. Jack bent over to the microphone to
"Sierra golf 13, this is Stargate
Command one niner. What's your situation...over?"
"Stargate Command, this is Dixon.
We're pinned down about two klicks from the gate and taking fire from
some snakes...over," he shouted. In the background could be heard the
sounds of weapons fire and explosions.
"Roger that, sierra golf 13. For
crying out loud, Dixon, what happened? This world was supposed to be
uninhabited...over," asked Jack.
"A couple of al'kesh appeared out
of nowhere just before we got to the gate, Sir. I count about twenty
Jaffa, but more are on the way. We can't hold out much longer here, Sir.
I sent Bosworth and Balinsky on ahead to open up the gate but the Jaffa
have us cut off...over," explained Dixon. The sound of a firefight
continued to echo through the control room. The fact that neither
Balinsky nor Bosworth had appeared in the Gate Room did not bode well
for their welfare.
"Sierra golf 13, we haven't seen
your two men yet, they may be pinned down at the gate. Hold on tight,
we'll send reinforcements...over," promised Jack. The static continued to
be punctuated by the sound of weapons fire. Then they heard a whining
explosion and the transmission was cut off. Just as abruptly, the event
horizon dissolved with a snap.
"Transmission cut off at the
source, Sir," stated Graham solemnly. Jack exchanged worried glances
with his former team members. Then he turned to Ferretti and began
"Have teams SG-3 and 5 standing by
for rescue operation. Brief Colonel Reynolds, he'll head up this
mission," Jack commanded.
"Yes, Sir," replied Ferretti before heading for a phone.
"Carter, how soon can we get a MALP
set up to do a recon of that planet?"
"I can have one ready in ten minutes, Sir," she answered.
"Yes, Sir," she agreed and hurried
out down the steps to get the MALP set up. Already, the members of SG-3
and 5 were gathering in the Gate room. They all knew that seconds could
mean the difference between life and death for the team stranded
"O'Neill, I believe I recognized
that last sound. A Goa'uld shock grenade was most likely the cause for
the termination of their radio transmission," commented
"I was afraid of that, Teal'c.
Let's get a wormhole reestablished to that planet, Lieutenant. Times a
wasting," ordered Jack impatiently.
Forcing himself to stand still, he
released some of the tension he was feeling by drumming his fingers
restlessly against his thigh. He watched as each glyph was encoded into
the computer and the Stargate spun and locked six times. As the seventh
chevron was locked, the Stargate belched a horizontal bluish white
fountain and then settled down to the familiar shimmering event
Slowly, the MALP lumbered up the
ramp and then disappeared into the wormhole. Everyone in the control
room waited tensely until the MALP arrived on target. Seconds later,
Graham confirmed that they were receiving an audio and visual signal.
Everyone clustered around the computer screen to observe the MALP's
Static resolved itself into a scene
out of Jack's worst nightmares. The four members of SG-13 were on their
knees facing toward the Stargate. Completely encircling them was a whole
big honkin' herd of Jaffa complete with primed staff weapons. The team
members looked stunned and had obviously been roughed up, but otherwise
looked to be in relatively good shape. From the pained looks on their
faces, they still were feeling the effects of the shock grenade and were
An unknown body suddenly blocked
the SGC personnel's view of their men. By panning around and adjusting
the MALP camera, they could see a hulking Jaffa gesticulating before
them. Upon seeing the tattoo on his forehead, Jack felt his breath catch
in his throat as the blood drained from his face.
"Anyone you know, Jack?" asked
Daniel rhetorically. They all knew which Snake those Jaffa belonged
"Crap, of course I recognize that
tattoo, I've seen it in my nightmares often enough," he muttered to
himself. Carter and Daniel passed him sympathetic knowing
"To whom am I speaking?" demanded the Jaffa.
"Who wants to know?" responded Jack aggressively.
"I am the First Prime of Lord Ba'al," the Jaffa replied.
"Well goodie for you. Whatcha want? Speak up, we haven't got all day here."
"You are the Tau'ri O'Neill?"
"What's your point?"
"My Lord Ba'al requires your
presence, O'Neill. We have your men and will begin executing them if you
do not surrender yourself to us. You have until sunset!" The Jaffa
emphasized his statement by swinging his staff weapon against Colonel
Dixon's head. Because the man couldn't see it coming, it hit him hard,
and he was thrown to the ground by the force of the blow.
"Sir, don't..." yelled Lt. Wells.
Then, he too was dealt a silencing blow to his head. As the occupants of
the control room looked on in horror, the four members of SG-13 were
grabbed and wrestled into a tight grouping by several Jaffa. They
watched as rings enveloped them. When the rings had disappeared, SG-13
"Do not attempt to rescue your
warriors, O'Neill. They are well beyond your reach and any meddling will
only ensure their immediate execution. I will see you at sunset. If not,
I will present you with the head of one of your men as a punishment and
warning to those who would defy their god."
The First Prime touched the band on
his wrist and was swallowed up by the descending rings. All that was
left was an empty clearing with the lengthening shadow of the Stargate
telling everyone that time was running short.
Everyone's eyes were fixed on Jack
O'Neill. He shrugged and scrubbed his face vigorously with both hands,
hoping it would mitigate the pounding inside his head. It didn't work
"Well, ain't that a kick in the shorts," he commented in an offhand
manner. "I think now would be a good time to adjourn to the Briefing
Room. SG-1, follow me. We've got some planning to do, and not much time
to do it in."