The unusual-looking space ship came out of
hyperdrive in the target star system and immediately went into stealth
mode. Thus, preventing any unwanted interference from the inhabitants
living there. Within moments, it had achieved orbit around the only
planet that supported life.
The vessel's commander communicated his
commands to his crew with an economy of movement. With a mere nod of his
head and a shifting of his cold dark eyes, the ship adjusted its orbit
and positioned itself over the northern continent. All was in readiness,
and his brothers moved like a well-oiled machine, anticipating his
commands almost before he needed to give them. The commander smiled, but
it was humorless, a mere stretching of lips that bared too-perfect teeth
in a jarringly boyish face.
The quarry had been located. It was time to
proceed with the beam-up sequence.
General Jack O'Neill felt like he was in
heaven as he stared up at the stars. No work to do, or at least none
that couldn't safely be put off until tomorrow, a two-day weekend ahead
of him, and a cloudless sky. He sighed in contentment as he scooted his
stool up closer to the telescope standing on its tripod in front of
He'd been looking forward to this all day, hell. . . all damned
week, for crying out loud!'
As soon as he'd been able to sneak away from
the efficient, but oh so annoying Walter, he'd made his escape from the
clutches of Cheyenne Mountain. Straight up to his rooftop observatory so
he could put in some quality stargazing time. Too many times lately,
he'd had to forgo this particular pleasure. Now, there was nothing
standing in his way.
Once he'd gotten
home, he'd shucked off his work clothes and gotten into some comfortable
leisure ones. Long-sleeved flannel shirt, a light jacket, baggy jeans
and boots made up his ensemble. Rubbing his hands together to warm them,
he sighed in pleasure. The crisp autumn air of Colorado was just cool
enough to get his blood pumping without the danger of frostbite while he
studied the stars all night. Though he would need to put his gloves on
soon. First, he had some adjustments to make, and they would be easier
to accomplish without the encumbering gloves.
forward, squinting as he adjusted the lens of the telescope. A sudden
noise, a crackling sound, made him jerk back in surprise. "What
He got no
further, as a bright light surrounded his body, bathing it in surreal
brilliance. When it blinked out, only the telescope was left, staring
blindly out at the black night.
Colonel Samantha Carter was enjoying her hot shower. It had been a
particularly grueling week, what with all the new experiments she'd been
running in the hopes of improving the efficiency of the Stargate dial-up
system at Stargate Command. She knew General O'Neill had already made
his escape, as she'd seen him sneaking onto the elevator over an hour
ago, and she was planning to do the same, just as soon as she finished
her shower. Sure, she could've waited until she went home to do it, but
the base showers never ran short of hot water. Unlike the one she had
back at home.
'Just a final rinse-off and then you're home
free, Samantha,' thought to herself as she ducked her head
under the water for one last time. Then, she reached out to shut it off,
shaking her hands and watching as the droplets went flying, spattering
against the tile. Her bare skin glistened as minute streams of water ran
down her back, merged at her buttocks, and then dripped onto the shower
She snagged her
towel and proceeded to dry off, wrapping another one around her wet
hair, turban-style. She wouldn't bother with the hair dryer this time,
knowing from experience that her short blonde hair would be dry by the
time she reached the cool air on the surface. 'Yet another reason
for keeping your hair short,' she mused.
padded on bare feet out of the shower room and headed toward her locker.
Dropping the wet towels in the dirty clothes hamper, she reached into
her open locker and grabbed her civvies. Tonight it would be a blue knit
top, blue jeans, and slip on shoes. Although like any female she loved
to play dress-up, she would choose comfortable clothes any day of the
week. Hands down.
crackling nose made her look around in confusion, clutching her clothing
to her bare breasts. The bright shaft of light caught her unaware. When
the light disappeared, Carter was gone.
Far above the
planet Earth, the spacecraft left orbit. Its mission accomplished, there
was no need to remain near this technologically inferior planet.
Although its position had been betrayed with the beam-up of the two
targets, it was impervious to further detection while in stealth mode.
The vessel cruised past the outer planets until it made the jump to
regained consciousness, he couldn't figure out what had happened. In the
darkness, he could make out . . . nothing. Zip, nada. Rolling onto his
back, he carefully felt along his body to check for any damage that
might have occurred while he'd been out. Just because he didn't hurt
didn't necessarily mean that he hadn't been. All too often, a heavy dose
of adrenaline could hide a host of ills. He'd learned that one the hard
way. Never mind how.
An initial check
revealed no gaping wounds or missing limbs, which had to be a plus, he
supposed. The next step would be the kicker. He placed his arm under his
body in preparation for sitting up. 'So far, so
good.' He grunted as he pushed out with his arm, which left him
seated with his legs spread out before him.
Other than the
fact that he felt like his head was host to a rendition of the 1812
Overture, he felt fine. Of course, his stomach wanting to crawl out of
his mouth wasn't good, but, hey, he'd felt that way so many times before
that it'd begun to feel normal. In a sick sort of way.
through his most recent memories in an attempt to figure out what had
happened. The last thing he could remember was sitting in front of his
telescope. . .and he'd heard a weird noise. Then, nothing. Zip.
Based on all the evidence, and granted it wasn't a whole hell of a
lot, he could come to only one conclusion. 'Someone must've
kidnapped your ass...again, Jack. Crap. This kind of snatch-and-grab shit
was so not on your schedule. Good ole Radar O'Walter will have a
He slowed his
breathing, evening it out as he opened his mouth to keep the sandwich
he'd had for dinner from making a reappearance. A groan from the other
side of wherever the hell he was caught his attention and he turned his
head toward the sound.
He thought that groan sounded familiar. 'Nah, it couldn't be.
Could it?' He sniffed the air, experimentally. 'Just a hint of
vanilla mixed with that special something that couldn't be duplicated.
Yep, that's my Sam, all right.'
The sound repeated, only louder this time. "Carter!"
Another groan. He
scooted slowly over the floor on his butt, sliding his hands carefully
over the rough tiles on the floor, feeling his way through the darkness
as he went. "Talk to me, Carter!" No answer.
He rolled onto
his hands and knees and crawled the rest of the way until his hand
encountered skin. Soft warm skin. He moved his hand in exploration. Lots
of soft warm skin. 'Sam's soft warm skin.'
He rocked backward onto his butt in shock. "Crap!"
He crawled back to her side, very careful about where he put his
hands. Didn't want her to bite him, after all. Then again, all that
nice, soft skin. . . 'Keep your mind and your hands to yourself,
Jack. You just might live longer that way,' he chastised himself.
'She's spoken for, Jack. Remember?'
"What?" her voice sounded groggy.
He leaned toward
her. "Careful how you move, Carter. Whatever they used on us must've
been pretty strong. It gave me one hell of a headache."
"You can say that
again, Sir." The sound of smacking lips and movement made him grin.
"You okay?" He listened for her response.
"I think so, Sir. You're right about the headache, though."
He heard a startled gasp out of the darkness and then a very puzzled
feminine voice. "Sir? Where are my clothes?"
"You mean you're. . .?" 'Oh my!' "Don't look at me, Carter. I
didn't take 'em." 'Not that I haven't thought about it,' he
thought with dark humor.
"Listen, can I
help you find your stuff?" Then, realizing how that had sounded, he
tried again. "Your clothes, Carter. I meant your clothes." He could feel
his cheeks turning fire-engine red.
He wanted to help
out. Really he did, but there was the matter of not being able to see,
and her being naked. And his oh so vivid imagination. The possible
scenarios whipped through his brain, causing his blood pressure to
skyrocket. Among other things. Gulp. Talk about a pickle in his
Being in complete
darkness might not be such a bad thing after all. He might live longer
"No! Stay where
you are, Sir. Wait, I think I found something." Hands, not his, felt
along his leg and thigh.
"What you found was me, Carter. And, if you don't move your hand, my
side arm will most definitely go off." He removed the hand and set it
firmly back on the floor. Albeit, with a whole honkin' shitload of
regret. 'About a lot of things. Don't go there, Jack. She's made her
choice, and it wasn't you. Now is so not the time to get all teary
about what might have been.'
The lights chose
that moment to come on, shining a harsh glare over them. Jack winced,
and rubbed his eyes as they adjusted to the sudden brightness.
When he opened
them, he saw Carter. All of her. She was sitting not a foot from where
he was, looking back at him. 'So that's where
that mole is.'
Only one word
came to his mind. . .and out past his lips. "Wow!"
Blue eyes widened
as they locked with his. Then her delicate hands moved to cover
strategic areas. "Sir? You can close your mouth now."
Jack averted his
gaze in haste, peeled off his jacket and hoisted it blindly toward his
embarrassed friend. "Here, Carter. Put this on for now. At least until
we can find something more for you to wear."
He kept his head
turned, mentally whistling inside his head in a vain attempt to distract
him from the very tempting spectacle sitting not a foot away from him.
'So near, yet so far away. Crap.'
He stood, and
looked around, hoping to find some clues as to their captors or at the
very least some clothes for Carter. Plus, it just might distract him and
prevent a very painful demise at the hands of a certain outraged and
The sounds of
rustling fabric and a sliding zipper caught his attention. He began his
turn, and then stopped, uncertain. "Ya decent, Carter?"
"I think so,
Sir." A sudden gasp of surprise came from behind him. "I think I've
With great fortitude of spirit, he refused to allow himself to
speculate on just what it was that she'd found. "And?"
"My clothes, Sir. I found the rest of my clothes." He could hear her
shuffling her feet, as if she were nervous.
"Great, that's just great, Carter." No response came from the female
behind him. 'That couldn't be good. Could it?'
"No, it isn't, Sir. I mean. . .I'm glad I found my clothes, but
that's not all I discovered. Take a look around you and I think you'll
understand what I mean."
For the first
time since he'd awakened, Jack took the time to take a good look at his
surroundings. At first glance, the walls and floor appeared to be made
of some kind of metallic blocks. An ugly suspicion wormed itself into
his brain, and banished all previous thoughts of a naked Carter.
He knelt on the
floor and ran his hand along the rough blocks. "Well, ain't this just
peachy!" His hand jerked away from the blocks as if contaminated.
"The entire cell
is made of Replicator blocks, Sir. Just like when Fifth had us before.
And Thor used your weapon from the Ancients to destroy them. Remember?"
Hearing her move toward him, he automatically turned to face her.
"How could I
forget, Carter? Being captured by bug people isn't exactly something
that you can forget. At least I can't. So, I guess we can rule out Thor
and Ernie as being the ones responsible for our enforced holiday." He
into some blue jeans and a knit top that matched the color of her eyes.
He always did like blue, he decided. He couldn't help but wonder if she
had on any underwear. Judging from the way her top looked, she didn't
have a bra on. A part of his brain, the logical part, knew this line of
speculation was kind of ludicrous considering that they'd been kidnapped
by bug people and didn't know where the hell they were. It was a
certainty his hormones were going to get him killed some day,
distracting him like this.
Sam chuckled. "I
think that would be a safe bet." She cocked her head to one side in
question. "What do you remember about all this? The last thing I
remember is that I'd finished up my shower on base and had grabbed my
clothes out of my locker. Then. . .nothing. What about you, Sir?"
"Me? Oh, I was up
on my roof looking through my telescope at the most awesome sky. I
remember hearing a weird crackling noise, then bam. I woke up here, in
the dark." He shrugged.
"You can have
your jacket back, Sir," she added almost as an afterthought.
"Huh? Oh, yeah.
Sure, thanks. Although, I have the feeling I won't be needing it real
soon, looks like the weather doesn't change much in here." He accepted
his jacket from Sam's hands and jumped when an electric tingle signaled
that their hands had brushed against one another. Her blue eyes widened
as they met his, then looked away.
thought was postponed by an all-too-familiar rustling, chirping noise
from the wall behind Carter. "Shh," he cautioned, one finger to his
lips. Then without thought, he stepped in front of her.
heartbeats, nothing happened. Then the wall seemed to melt, and a
humanoid figure stepped through the wall. The blocks reconnected behind
him as he walked up to his two prisoners, a smile stretching his
offer to shake their hands. Not that Jack would've taken him up on it.
Jack and Sam backed away from the menace warily. He stopped when he
heard Sam's gasp. He spun around, and then stopped in amazement. He
blinked, not believing what his eyes told him, for he was face to face
with. . .himself. Another Jack O'Neill.
"For crying out loud!"
looked at her Commander, Jack O'Neill, and then back at his duplicate.
Her Jack's mouth hung open in amazement, and she marveled that it would
take something like this to render him speechless. Which was kind of
scary, when she thought about it.
After all, her
Jack, that's how she had come to think of him, wasn't afraid of
anything, being the very definition of the man with no fear. He'd
literally laughed at death when he'd mocked Ba'al; the Goa'uld who'd
tortured him to death and back again.
Standing up to
him, he'd thrown his disdain back in the System Lord's face. She'd heard
about it and wished that she'd been there to witness it. But she hadn't
been there, and he'd thought Ba'al had her, Daniel, and Teal'c. He'd
done it for them, and she knew it.
Did that make her
a helpless simpering female, clinging onto her manly hero? She didn't
think so. What it did make her was smart. Smart enough to recognize and
appreciate her commanding officer's strong points. In the time that it
took her to figure out that the situation was going to Netu in a hand
basket, her Jack had already figured out a solution to the whole mess.
She'd seen it happen time and time again.
And as for those
who made the mistake of thinking that she was nothing more than a
helpless female. . . The last Marine who'd made that mistake was still
undergoing reconstructive dental surgery, the last she heard. It wasn't
her fault that the moron had a glass jaw.
Now, Sam feared
her Jack had met his match. Vague thoughts of what this could mean to
her, to him, flitted through her mind, like sparks of energy in a
reactor, endlessly separating and then combining in infinite
combinations and permutations. After sifting through all the evidence,
she could only come to one conclusion. They were in deep
Her eyes widened
as the wall in front of her shifted, then melted as individual
Replicator blocks formed into chirping metallic insects. Through the
opening stepped an additional surprise. Once the figure had stepped
through, the wall reformed, leaving it flat and impenetrable.
It was Sam's turn
to gape as her twin walked toward her, and then stood stock-still. Sam
couldn't believe what she was seeing. The ramifications of what Fifth
had done was mind-boggling, and for a moment she studied her double in
Both were dressed
like Fifth, in steel-gray tops and pants, black domino-like blocks
scattered haphazardly over them. She couldn't help but wonder if their
clothes were made of miniature Replicators. Through narrowed eyes, she
scrutinized them, looking for flaws in their construction. She found
none. They were perfect copies, right down to the scar on Jack's
"Jack O'Neill, meet Jay," Fifth smiled as Jack turned his head to
look at him dubiously.
"Yeah, well, I'll pass on shaking hands, if you don't mind." O'Neill
locked eyes with his double as Jay smirked.
"Ah, where are my manners? Samantha Carter, may I introduce Ess,"
Fifth continued, acting the solicitous host.
"Holy, Hannah!" she blurted. Her double blinked back at her and
smiled with the same face she saw every time she looked in a mirror.
This was just too weird.
"Well, if it
isn't Bug Boy and his evil techno-twins." Jack crossed his arms,
standing shoulder to shoulder with Sam. "Looks like you've been
tinkering around with your toys again. But, hey, I gotta tell ya. The
evil twin gig is one of the oldest clichés in the book, and you know how
I hate clichés. So if you don't mind, I'll just call you Thing One, and
Thing Two." He gestured first to Jay, then to Ess.
He directed his
next words to Fifth. "By the way, I so hope that these two copies are
part of a limited edition boxed set, because I so prefer the
Sam smiled. Her
Jack was back, in spades, doing his best to distract the danger from
her. Just like he always did. At that moment, she knew that they'd get
out of this, somehow. She didn't know how yet, but they would. As her
Jack would say, those bugs were toast.
vanished from Fifth's boyish face, to be replaced by a thin-lipped
frown. He didn't look happy. Oh, well. Into everybody's life a little
rain must fall. And if her suspicions were correct, Jack was about to
dump a monsoon all over his parade.
And she would be
there right beside him, backing him up. Watching his delectable six. As
his teammate and trusted friend. Nothing more. If only. . . She'd moved
on though, gotten a life, just like he'd suggested. A life with someone
else. . .Pete. Not Jack. She ruthlessly throttled the little voice that
kept asking her why she was so glad that her Jack was here with her
right now instead of Pete, the man she was going to marry.
mind out of the morass of distracting what-ifs and might-have-beens, she
tuned back to the battle of wits going on around her. A rustling
whirring sound alerted her to the fact that they had company. She
watched in horror as the blocks in the ceiling of their cell combined
their separate parts until they clicked their way down the walls,
surrounding the standing figures in the cell; evidently Fifth had
communicated his displeasure to his fellow Replicators.
she edged closer to Jack until their shoulders touched. She exchanged a
quick glance with him and noted his barely perceptible nod. Then she
stared back at their common foe. They would fight and win this one.
to distract and confuse us, it's what he does whenever he's in a tight
spot. It's been a very effective tactic for him in the past. Gets his
enemies so worked up that they tell him too much, giving him the
tactical advantage. It won't work with us, though." Jay smiled coldly at
his human counterpart. "We know you too well, we're you. Both of you."
Jay smirked at Jack and Sam, never taking his cold dirt-brown eyes off
wasn't long in coming. "Well, I hate to disappoint you, Thing One, but
you and I both know that you don't know as much about me as you think
you know. Ya know what I mean?"
Ess laughed, and
its sound bounced eerily and grotesquely around the walls of the cell.
Sam couldn't help but flinch. The laugh was hers, yet, it wasn't.
Technically and mechanically perfect, but lacking in the life that made
it genuine. Just like their eyes, they were dead things, without luster
and shine. Truly windows to their dead souls, if they even had any.
again and beckoned to his protégés, Jay and Ess. They both stepped
forward until they were facing their human counterparts. Jay facing Sam,
Ess facing Jack.
"My brethren, it
is time for another learning experience." Fifth motioned with his hand,
indicating the two Replicator people standing in front of him. He smiled
as they stepped toward their quarry, hands reaching out to make contact
with human foreheads. The smaller brothers scattered before them,
climbing back up the walls to perch, like spectators at the Roman
Coliseum on 'Christians versus the Lions' Day.
Jack and Sam
screamed as they sank to their knees. Jay and Ess followed the human's
bodies as they collapsed to the cell floor, their faces contorted in
agony. Fifth made note that Jack and Sam's hands were joined, their
knuckles white with the strength of their grip. 'Another weakness to
forward and placed his hand on each of his student's shoulders. The
boundaries of his hands disappeared as they merged with that of his
protégés. They were doing well. The brethren would learn much.
Eir, or Ernie as
he preferred to be called, was the foremost expert on human physiology,
customs, and communications for the Asgard, and he was worried. Thor had
just contacted him, requesting an urgent meeting. The fact that Thor,
Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet had done this was highly unusual.
It had disrupted his intriguing study of human metaphors. Their use of
contractions was fascinating, he decided.
dramatically and activated the transporter at his console. Instantly, he
was beamed to the bridge of Thor's ship, The O'Neill II. Thor was
standing in front of him, impatience radiating from him in waves.
"You rang, Thor?" Ernie wisely kept his bounces to a minimum as he
met Thor's black-eyed glare of disapproval.
"I fear there may
be a problem, Eir. You are aware that the Asgard Fleet has been
monitoring all subspace radio transmissions in an attempt to locate the
remaining Replicators that escaped destruction."
"Yep, I know all
that. So, what's new?" Ernie decided that contractions were cool.
Thor sighed and
turned to the console on his chair. After manipulating several stones, a
graphic representation of their galaxy appeared on the view screen.
Ernie studied it for clues to whatever was concerning his Asgard friend.
He turned his head to look at Thor.
"The areas that
have already been searched and pronounced free of any Replicator
infestation are marked in blue. Those that have yet to be investigated
and cleared are shown in green. As you can see, the Fleet has been
making remarkable progress toward narrowing the possible hiding places
of the Replicators."
"And?" Ernie was
almost beside himself with frustration. He hated it when his fellows
beat around the bush like this.
Thor shot him a
reproving glare. "An hour ago unusual subspace communication was
detected in this area."
another stone and one small section of green changed to red. "The
frequency used is one that has been associated with the Replicators in
the past. An Asgard vessel has been dispatched to this area to
stand the suspense. "So, what does this have to do with me?"
solemnly. "Irregularities have also been detected with Jack O'Neill. A
short time ago, our monitors indicated that he left his home world and
entered hyperspace. According to our tracking device, the current
location of his life signs matches the area in question."
"You mean the
bugs have Jack O'Neill?" Ernie was bouncing; oblivious to the
remonstrating looks Thor directed his way.
"I believe you
are correct. However, I have set course for their home planet and
contacted the SGC in order to learn more about the whereabouts of Jack
O'Neill. We should be arriving there momentarily. I expect an answer at
any moment and knew you would wish to be in attendance due to your
friendship with him. Perhaps we will learn that our data is in
'Yeah, and pigs will fly,' thought Ernie. He
had a bad feeling about this, but decided to keep it to himself. His
human friend had spoken to him of a thing called 'a gut feeling' and
urged him to trust it. He had that gut feeling now, and wanted it to be
wrong. Though deep down, he knew it was not.
another stone and the holographic image of General Hammond, Head of Home
World Security on the planet Earth, appeared in front of them. From his
association with this human, Ernie could tell he was worried. The awful
gut feeling increased exponentially.
General Hammond of Earth." Thor nodded his head and blinked slowly.
"Hello, Thor. I'm glad you called. We have a bit of a mystery here
and were hoping you might have some answers."
"Perhaps. Tell me of your mystery."
"About two hours
ago, two of our personnel, Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter and
General Jack O'Neill were transported off our planet. At approximately
the same time, the Prometheus detected a spaceship in orbit around our
planet that appeared to be the source of the transporter device.
However, shortly afterwards we lost track of the vessel. Was it one of
widened in surprise and he noted that Thor's did too. Hammond had some
of the same qualities as his friend, Jack O'Neill, in that he did not
beat around the bush. Ernie decided then that he liked this human.
"It was not,
General Hammond. In fact, I contacted you due to certain anomalies we
have detected. I was concerned when our tracking devices showed that
Jack O'Neill was no longer on his home planet as I was aware that he had
been forbidden to leave due to security concerns."
"If you didn't
take our people, then who did? I wasn't aware that anyone else possessed
your transporter technology." Hammond rubbed the back of his neck.
From his study of
humans, Ernie knew this was a sign of stress. He didn't blame the
general, he felt stressed too.
"The Replicators also possess this technology, General Hammond."
"The bugs again?
I'd hoped we'd seen the last of those things!" The human's holographic
image shimmered, as he appeared to shuffle his feet. Another sign of
stress and worry, Ernie knew.
"The Asgard Fleet
has detected unusual subspace communication emanating from an area not
yet investigated for Replicator occupation and a ship has been
dispatched to investigate. When I noted that the location Jack O'Neill's
life signs matched the anomaly, I became suspicious and contacted
Hammond's lips thin-lined, then puffed out a sigh. "So you think the
Replicators have our people?"
"I do." Thor blinked again.
Hammond shook his head and grimaced. "We can't send the Prometheus.
It's needed here for defense."
"I intend to
investigate the matter myself, General Hammond. The Replicators cannot
be allowed to gain access to the knowledge of the Ancients that Jack
O'Neill possesses. The destruction of the Replicators and the rescue of
Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter have become priorities for the Asgard
Fleet." Thor paused.
Ernie had the
feeling that he wasn't going to like what was coming next.
after a long breath. "However, you must understand that the destruction
of the Replicators must take priority over the rescue of the humans."
sank at that pronouncement. His heritage and training of what it meant
to be an Asgard recognized the truth of Thor's statement. However, the
love he had for his human friend shouted that this could not be so. He
watched Thor's face. Someone not familiar with his race would not have
caught the look of sorrow that flitted across the Supreme Commander's
Hammond nodded and gave his answer. "I understand, Thor. Is there
anything we can do to help? We're willing to send a SG team and
weapons. As I recall, our projectile weapons have been effective
against those bugs in the past."
"We would welcome
any assistance that you might give us, General Hammond. I also intend to
utilize the special weapon that Jack O'Neill crafted and integrated into
my vessel's weapons systems. I am hopeful that this, combined with your
SG team, will be enough to eradicate this threat and rescue our friends.
Understand this, I have grown to respect both Samantha Carter and Jack
O'Neill. If their rescue is possible, I will attempt it."
"I know you'll do
your best, Thor. I'll have the team ready to board your vessel within
the hour. As may be expected, Teal'c and Daniel Jackson have been
chomping at the bit to launch a rescue as soon as we realized our people
Ernie felt a
surge of hope when he heard that Teal'c and Daniel Jackson would be
accompanying them. Their loyalty to their friends was legendary. The
combined knowledge of the archeologist and the cunning of the Jaffa
warrior might be enough to make the difference for his friends.
"I shall remain in orbit around your planet until your team is
aboard, General Hammond. I will contact you for further information in
thirty of your minutes."
"I can't thank you enough for helping us out, Thor," Hammond looked
grim. "I'll await your contact. Hammond out." The human general's
holographic image faded.
bursting with his words to the point that he thought that he would
explode. But Thor waved him to silence before he could speak. "You
object to the necessity of making the destruction of the Replicators the
number one priority?"
"Ya think?" Ernie
couldn't stay in one place, his energy causing him to bounce about the
room, not unlike a child on a pogo stick. "How can you say such a thing,
Thor? You're friends with both Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter. We owe
them. . .big time."
"You believe I do
not realize this? That I do not remember the sacrifices these two humans
have made for us? That the Asgard race still exists only because of
them?" Thor shook his head.
looking at the sorrow on Thor's face. His feet remained still as the
indignant anger drained away, leaving him feeling small and remorseful
for making the erroneous assumption that Thor did not care for their
friends. His tirade had laid more guilt upon thin shoulders that already
bore so much.
"I was wrong to
question you, Thor. You of all people know the value of our human
friends. I ask your forgiveness for my error in judgment." Ernie looked
into Thor's eyes, almost afraid of what he would see. The wrath of the
Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet was well known, and he had no wish
to experience it.
Thor blinked and
then reached out a hand to place it on Ernie's shoulder. "You are
forgiven, Eir. Your devotion to our human friends is understandable. It
is a feeling that we share."
Ernie felt a wave
of relief move through his small frame. Thor wasn't going to ream his
sorry ass out after all. "So, Thor. What's the plan? How are we going to
catch these bugs and kick their asses?"
Thor was all
business, revealing why he had been appointed as Supreme Commander and
kept the position over the years. "First, I will contact the vessel that
is presently investigating the anomaly. Then, I will transport the SG
team on board our vessel, in preparation for departure. I will meet with
them in our Conference Room and would like your presence there. Through
my experience with them, I have learned that much can be learned about
these humans by observing their behavior. Your knowledge of human
communication will be most advantageous for us."
yabetcha, I'll be there with bells on." Ernie was bouncing again in
excitement. He truly enjoyed being in the presence of these humans.
Plus, studying them would distract him from worrying about his friend,
While it was true
that the Asgard race was technologically superior to them, sometimes he
felt that he was the inferior race when viewing their tenacity and
accomplishments. Perhaps, by combining the best of both races, they
could prevail against their common enemy.
awoke in her lab at the SGC. She felt groggy and confused. Was she
supposed to be here? From appearances, she'd fallen asleep at her
computer, a common enough occurrence for her. She shook her head slowly
in an attempt to clear it. Something was wrong about this place, but she
couldn't put her finger on it. Yet.
The sound of
someone at the door caught her attention. "Who's there?"
wished she'd kept a weapon hidden away, like Jack had suggested. But
she'd refused, saying she felt safer in her lab than anywhere else. Was
she about to learn that she'd been wrong?
Carter?" The long lean frame was a nothing but a shadow in the doorway,
but the voice was well remembered.
farther into the room, and Sam gasped. It wasn't her Jack. It was Thing
One. Jack's name for them had been very appropriate. As usual.
"Don't call me
that," she instructed, her voice harsh with strain and. . .fear?
"What?" His, no,
'Its' eyebrow quirked upward, so familiar, and yet so bizarre.
"You aren't him,
so don't call me Carter," that said, she stood, facing it, eyes boring
into it. Whether this act of defiance was meant to convince herself or
that THING that she was strong enough to resist whatever they had
planned, she had no idea. Maybe it was best not to think about right
now. 'Yeah, follow Jack's advice, Samantha.
Don't think so much.'
It chuckled, a hollow sound that had no warmth or humor in it. "Ya
think? By the way, welcome to your brain. You like?"
"You mean. . . ?" She looked around wildly.
yabetcha. All this is taking place inside that cute little blonde head
of yours." It tapped the side of its head and smirked mockingly. "All
brought to you courtesy of your not-so-friendly neighborhood
techno-bug-man. So, are you a happy camper?"
This was too surreal for words. This MACHINE was making a mockery of the
man he bore the likeness of. Not to mention the fact that the thought of
IT messing around inside her head was seriously creeping her out.
"No! Of course I'm not, so just cut the crap, Thing One. I'm not in
the mood for it, and you know it. Why are we here?"
sauntered over to the counter, picked up a gadget, and began fiddling
with it. Sam resisted the urge to grab it out of its hand. Her rage was
giving her the energy to fight, and with it came hope.
It looked at her coldly, all pretense of friendliness gone. "Do you
mean you and me? Or you and him?"
"Jack and I," she responded.
belonging to Jack's double stilled and the gadget rested in one palm.
The long elegant fingers curled around it, until she heard the sounds of
distressed metal. She watched as the fingers released its crushing
grasp, allowing the broken pieces to fall to the floor. Mesmerized, she
followed their decent until they lay scattered on the floor of the lab.
Then, the individual pieces morphed into blocks that joined together,
and chittered and clicked away from her.
words took her by surprise and jerked her eyes back to the speaker.
you're here is revenge. Even though this is one of the oldest cliches in
the book, it's right on the money this time. We want revenge from you
and Jack. You both hurt us and now you're going to pay for it." The
words coming from its mouth were spoken so reasonably, like a lecture
given to a cadet who'd just screwed up.
"Oh." She didn't
know what else to say. 'I mean, what do you say
to a machine that's just told you that you've seriously pissed it
"You're speechless, Carter?"
"I told you not
to call me that," she snapped. "Besides, I thought your first imperative
was to replicate, to increase your numbers."
"That has not changed. However, revenge has been added where it was
absent before. The actions of Jack and yourself were the reason for
Sam shrugged. "So, you've got us. Now what?"
"We get what we came for." The words were simple, filled with
menace. It stepped toward her, and she automatically shrank backward.
The wall that sprang into being against her back stopped her.
"He blames you for it, you know." It stood within inches of her
face, all pretense of humor and humanity gone.
"For this," he answered. One long, elegant finger touched the center
of her forehead.
through her mind, lightning fast. Like a spectator at a movie, she
watched as she urged Jack to accept the Tok'ra symbiote. To live, for
her. The scene segued into Jack lying on a metallic spider web; tendrils
of smoke wafting upward from holes in his shirt, as drops of death sped
toward him. She heard him plead with Ba'al to end it.
begged. She saw the pain and felt it as if she were him.
"Don't," she echoed, eyes wide, unseeing, as she sank to the floor.
version of Jack O'Neill smiled. Their plan was working. The cliches were
true after all. Revenge was sweet, and a dish best served cold. It left
her lying there alone, curled into the fetal position; eyes squeezed
shut and tears steaming down her face. Fifth should be
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