by Dinkydow

Screencap from Unending

Chapter One

Eir of the Asgard, or Ernie, the name he'd been given by his friend, the famous Jack O'Neill, sighed heavily - the sound seemed dredged from the tips of his toes and it's mournful sound only added to his misery. With an effort that further drained energy reserves that had previously bordered on the infinite, he forced himself to focus on the problem at hand.

The news was not good. In fact, to borrow an earth term, it sucked the big one. And his puny attempts to postpone the inevitable would not change what was to be. He might as well talk about it, especially since his friend, Heimdall looked to be carrying the weight of their world on his thin shoulders.

"You are certain of your findings?" Ernie already knew the answer, but had to ask anyway. His hand dropped in an imploring gesture, it met with something smooth and warm - something that was jarringly different that the powdery-soft skin he'd expected.

This thought snapped his focus forward, for it was a med-pack attached to his hip, larger than the small disk affixed to the Asgard before him. Whereas his monitored and controlled his erratic heartbeat, Heimdall's kept a vital artery in his neck from collapsing, just a stopgap method to postpone the inevitable. Just as his was a vivid reminder of his own medical diagnosis of impending major organ failure.

He, his friend, and increasing numbers of Asgard, were being kept alive only by means of their medical technology. He knew it was a symbol of his own, and by extension - that of his race's attempt to cheat death of its due. And that death would not be denied.

As a medical professional, he was not used to being on the receiving end of his own expertise, and as such had been informed by his colleagues that he was not exactly a model patient. He didn't mind though; who could argue with the truth?

"There is no doubt," Heimdall blinked, his obsidian eyes glistened with a suspicious overabundance of moisture, his left hand made an abortive move toward the medical monitor on his neck as if to check that it was real and not a figment of his guilt-ridden imagination. "I wish it were not so."

"You can say that again," Ernie shook his head and then waved away his fellow Asgard. "And no, you really don't have to do that..."

"I too am aware of the Tau'ri's use of colorful metaphors - that one in particular," Heimdall's words were spoken in an affronted tone, causing his monitor to glow slightly.

"I beg your pardon, my friend." Hesitant, his hand hovered in mid-air, uncertain of its reception.

Heimdall shrank from his offered touch, his eyes wide and full of self-recrimination. "You would still call me your friend? Even after this?" His widespread hands seemed to encompass more than just the two occupants of the room.

"It's not your fault," Ernie's sigh gusted into the air.

"I believe it is." Heimdall's words were uttered with reluctance as if he had to physically pry them from his tongue. And they were laden with an all-pervasive guilt, which permeated the air and made it hard to breathe.

Ernie blinked to distract himself from the miasma that threatened to drown him and his friend. 'Focus on something, positive, Ernie. Do what Jack would do. And for crying out loud, don't let Heimdall be alone. He might do something...' his thought slammed to a stop as he realized the irony. 'Do what? Kill himself? Do himself harm? That is the least of your problems, or of your friend's for that matter. What would it matter if he were to suicide a mere few minutes ahead of the rest of us?' He savored the thought, rolled it around his mind like he had seen Jack do with a piece of pie before he allowed it admittance to his stomach. 'It would matter to me, and to my friend,' he realized. 'He must not be alone, I will not allow it.'

"But why?" Ernie tipped his head to one side, mimicking another Tau'ri mannerism that reminded him of better times. Times when they all had a future and his race controlled the universe and its inhabitants.

Heimdall took his time to answer, and when he did, his tone was flat, as if he lectured a slow but well-meaning child. "The Asgard High Council entrusted me with the task to save our race, and instead my meddling has ensured the death of our kind. You yourself are only alive with the aid of our technology - as am I," he gestured to the small, once again glowing, med-chip that insured an unimpeded blood flow to his anguished brain.

"No, it's not your fault, and I won't let you go on believing that your actions have brought us to this." Ernie all but bounced in place in frustration.

"But, it is the truth." Somber black eyes gazed back at him and Ernie sobered, his last stymied bounce muted to a mere twitch of his shoulders. With it, the dancing light of his med-pack monitor slowed to an evenly spaced unwavering line interspersed with slight elevations to let the wearer know that all systems were normal - for now.

This time, Ernie did not resist his urge to offer comfort and placed one hand on his friend's shoulder, "No, not all of it. You know as I do, that decisions our race made, in the interest of extending our individual lives through cloning, brought us to this."

Heimdall echoed his earlier sigh but said nothing for a moment. What could be said? When he did speak, Ernie's heart lurched with disquiet.

"Will you stay with me... until the end?"

Ernie nodded and smiled toothily, his shiny gray skin pulled tight around his small bud of a mouth, "Of course, that's what friends are for."


Lost in thought, Thor hurried through the empty corridors of the Hall of Judgment, the center of the Asgard government. He rushed to a meeting that would only end one way, in the annihilation of his entire race.

Only a month ago, he would have been jostled from side to side by others bent on their daily tasks, as this was a main thoroughfare that led to the council chambers. The sound of his footsteps echoed eerily in the empty corridor, ghostly reverberations of times past. He reflected that it was odd how he had never previously had occasion to notice that particular architectural function of the curved walls that surrounded him. But then, there were a great many things that he had taken for granted - many things that he could no longer ignore.

His thoughts were grim as he reviewed the recent history of the Asgard, their search for an answer to the problem that cloning had caused. He found it ironic that they had been the author of their own destruction. The mighty Asgard - the race that had stood between the Goa'uld and their intent to dominate the galaxy - had been defeated by their own machinations. Their avoidance of the ultimate equalizer - death - had the result of gifting that foe with so many of his race at one time.

His heartbeat pounded in his ears and caused his vision to gray around the edges; he paused, one palm anchored onto the rounded wall, and struggled to catch his breath. The cool firm surface steadied him - physically and mentally. He shook his head slowly as he fought his body's urge to slump to the floor, apparently his visit with the Tau'ri had taken its toll on his failing body.

His tiny mouth opened in the caricature of a grimace as if to deny the reality of his physical weakness. He had been warned that the consequences could be fatal if he chose to appear to the Tau'ri without the med-pack that monitored and regulated his failing cardiovascular system.

However, because of the adverse effects that his altered appearance would have had on his friends from Earth, he had elected to make the trip without it. He still firmly believed he had made the correct decision, even if he had shortened his own life by a few hours.

He forced an unsteady breath of cool and curiously stale air into his laboring lungs and, thus prepared, pushed himself off the wall and continued on his way at a slower pace, his rubbery legs keeping him mobile for the moment. This was one appointment he could not afford to miss.

'For centuries, I lived as if there were no end to my tomorrows. Now, I discover that I have extreme difficulty envisioning a universe where we are absent - a future where I do not exist.' His mind shied away from such depressing thoughts and sought recourse by reviewing his schedule for tomorrow. When it encountered a blank void prefaced by a deadly reminder, he was brought face to face with what he had tried so hard to avoid.

"Crap," the imprecation left his lips before he could stop it and his fingers fluttered in the air as if he could physically gather it up and stuff it back inside his mouth.

'For the first time in my life, there is no tomorrow - not for me - not for my people. How ironic that I - who held the post of Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet for more years than I can count - am absolutely powerless to stop the juggernaut of impending destruction that bears down upon us.'

He shook his head at his dark thoughts, as his mind searched in vain for a way out of the mess they had created. 'Perhaps Jack O'Neill could find a way to extricate us, or maybe Samantha Carter could envision an escape. In the past, she proved particularly adept at finding solutions that we had overlooked,' he stopped in place, his head tilted to one side as he considered it.

Then he resumed walking, as he shook his head in sorrow and rejected it - again. 'No, according to long range scans, The Odyssey is closely pursued by the Ori. The Asgard High Council decided that they would not ask the Tau'ri for assistance because they cannot risk that the Ori might confiscate our technology. That would be disastrous.'

His chore completed, he had only just beamed from the Odyssey. There had been barely enough time to finish the transfer of their entire database - let alone finagle a last minute reprieve for his race. 'We have run out of time, and even the redoubtable Samantha Carter could not save us from our own folly. As Jack O'Neill would say, our goose is well and truly cooked, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it.'

Jarred from his thoughts, he discovered that his feet had brought him to his destination while his thoughts wandered. Thor stood in the center of the arena and faced his colleagues who occupied the surrounding seats.

His eyes zeroed in on Freyr's impassive face and at that instant, he knew he had no choice but to deliver his news at once - succinctly and to the point.

"I have just returned from the Tau'ri vessel. They were very appreciative of the gift, but were quite... disturbed when I informed them of the reason for it."

"They must have known of our dilemma," Freyr stated solemnly, his obsidian eyes no longer held the luster of years past, as he leaned into the back of his command chair. His chin drooped lower until it rested against his thin chest. It was clear that he had little time left, regardless of their impending actions. Even their medical technology failed him . . . and others.

"They were aware of the effects of our practice of cloning, but I believe they hoped we could find a solution." Thor paused, "This willingness of theirs to seek out solutions in the face of certain failure has long fascinated me. It is my judgment that this makes them most suitable to assume the mantle of the Fifth Race."

"You spoke of this to O'Neill?" Thor had to strain to hear the words that were uttered, so frail Freyr had become in just the last few time-periods.

"No, he was not present, but I did inform one that will most certainly pass this information to him."

"Colonel Carter?"

Thor nodded in reply. "Yes, the very same."

"An excellent choice." He motioned weakly, then let his arm fall back to his lap where it laid there, a suddenly too heavy appendage.

Thor blinked and forced his eyes away from the show of weakness, back to his leader's face. "I believed it to be so."

"The Ori..." Freyr's whispered warning gusted through lips that barely moved; his eyes widened slightly as he struggled to focus on the console in front of him. His chest heaved once, twice, before his gasps returned to a shallow regularity that could barely be discerned.

For a startled moment, Thor feared his friend and leader would be unable to draw another breath, so he finished the sentence. "Have arrived?"

Freyr's nod seemed both a confirmation and thanks for saying what he had lacked the strength to utter. One raised finger granted him leave to continue. Thor could not help but compare the present with the past. Gone were the days when their greatest orator could expound for days on end about the destiny of their race.

"It is happening just as we feared," Thor gestured acceptance with one hand. "All is in place; we only await your word, Freyr."

Thor watched from his vantage point as Freyr paused, his ragged breaths filled the amphitheatre as dulled charcoal black eyes sought the face of each of his colleagues. In those that had the ability to return his gaze, he saw nothing but grim acceptance to carry out their decision. However, there were those in their circle who did not - could not - respond. For those, the battle had already been lost as their limp unmoving forms could attest.

"Let it be done, then. I wish... that those of our race not suffer... unduly because of the arrogance of our ancestors." Freyr's last oration ended with a settling of his chest and then his chin drooped, eyes half shuttered. The only evidence that life remained was in the slight movement of his hand as it came to rest on the console in a single final gesture of defiance. To the last, the Asgard would control how they lived... and died.

That was the signal for the home world of the Asgard to be obliterated by a blinding flash of light; seen only by the departing Tau'ri and Ori vessels.

If they had lingered, they might have noted several glowing orbs, whose pulsing tendrils writhed and intertwined in incredulous wonder as they rose from the drifting cinders - all that remained of the Asgard home world.