by dinkydow

Chapter One

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 circumstances.

"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 gaze.

"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 god.

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 prospective victims.

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 selection.

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 incoherent whimper.

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 distracting noise.

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 chamber.

"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 confidence.

"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 ordered.

"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 breath away.

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 briefing."

"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 thought smugly.

"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 it.

"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 body.

"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 him."

"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 sigh.

"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 few minutes.

"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 General.

"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 down.

"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 it?"

"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 just blinked.

"I regret to report that Loki was assaulted by an unknown assailant while in our detention facility," the Asgard continued.

"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 explain further.

"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 second time."

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 sigh. 'Crap!'

"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 his 2IC.

"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 safety."

"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 chair.

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 again.

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 him.

"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 grumpily.

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 sip.

"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 him.

'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 god.'

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 torture chamber."


"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 sarcastically.

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 there.

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 SG-13."

"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 recognized.

"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 reply.

"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 issuing orders.

"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.

"Do it!"

"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 off-world.

"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 Teal'c.

"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 horizon.

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 transmission.

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 temporarily blinded.

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 to.

"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 looks.

"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 had vanished.

"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 though.

"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."