Not the Last
General O'Neill looked around his Washington Apartment and dropped his duffel bag. The place seemed a little lonely, after being at Stargate Command most of the week; but, on the other hand, his knees were hurting, his shoulder was hurting, and he really, really, needed a beer. He laid his gun on the counter and moved across the kitchen. He leaned over into his refrigerator to see what he had, when he heard a transport behind him. He straightened swiftly, reached for his gun -
And almost doubled with the pain. "Damn!" he yelped.
The other man rushed over to him. "Are you all right, General?" Major Davis said.
"It's my damn trick back," O'Neil growled. He stretched, and could feel the muscles slip back in place.
Major Davis looked at him helplessly. "Is there anything…"
"Yeah," O'Neil said. "What are you doing here?" He looked around. "And why are you here? And why were you transported here?"
"General Landry sent me. The Tok'ra sent him a message."
"And this involves me - how?"
"Ba'al's asking for you."
O'Neil held up a finger. "I was at the extraction ceremony, remember? I saw Ba'al thrown on the floor and saw his snaky little butt die." He moved his hand. "Fell right over. Stopped moving."
Major Davis smiled. "I'm sorry. I was being imprecise for the sake of time. The man formerly known as Ba'al is asking for you. Says he has information that he'll tell only to you."
O'Neil closed his eyes. "For God's sake, he's over 2000 years old. I just got back to Washington. Can't it wait? Can't he wait? Have a steak or something? Take a nap?"
"The President wants you to hear what he has to say. Seems he's worried about what Ba'al had to say before he - it - died. About it not being the last system lord." He looked bland. "And Vala seemed worried. I don't think I need to tell you that when Vala seems worried, we should be alarmed."
O'Neil chewed on that a second. Vala had made a pass - or three - or ten - at him at various times. Only two or three things seemed to faze her, and one of them was being a Goa'uld host.
"Can I at least take a leak?" he said. He made a move towards the bathroom.
Major Davis seemed amused. "The President said to tell you that there was a bathroom aboard the ship."
O'Neil sighed and picked up his duffel bag. "Ok, but if I miss 'The Simpsons' again, I'm not going to be happy."
"I'll make sure it's recorded for you," Major Davis said. He grabbed O'Neil's arm, and they disappeared.
Even though he knew that the man before him was not Ba'al, his lip curled and he bit back a smart remark. Vala looked amused at him. "He's not going to bite, you know," she said.
"I came across country twice and I'm missing my show, just to meet him. What in the world does he have to tell me?" He sat down in the chair that the Tok'ra had provided and looked across the table.
The man looked down at the floor, then bowed his head. "I am sorry."
O'Neil raised his eyebrows. "You could've written me a letter for that. So?"
"Ba'al hated you so much, I felt you must be a very good man," he said, with a slight Italian =- or was it Roman? - accent. He looked up and looked O'Neil in the eye, but without the sneer that characterized Ba'al. "You were an honorable enemy. I believe you will make an honorable friend."
O'Neil stared at him. Friends? With that? "Ok. Still. I didn't come across the country and across the galaxy to make friends with the body of my former enemy. I still remember you…"
Vala came up into his face. "That was Ba'al, General."
"Ba'al, then," he glared at Vala. "Killing me over and over and over again for information I didn't have."
"Which your Tok'ra friend, Kanan, did have, and kept from you." He sat back in his chair. "I was not so fortunate. Ba'al was a cruel master. He told you that nothing remained of the host, but he knew that this was not true. He often let me see what… he was doing. His atrocities." The man stared at the table. "I have many sins of my own to atone for." He looked up. "Which is why I wanted to see you."
Something just occurred to O'Neil. "You understand English."
"When Ba'al learned, I learned." He looked at O'Neil. "Is that important right now?"
O'Neil sighed. "Right. You have some information?"
The man smiled. "Yes. First, he was lying when he said that he might not be the last Ba'al. He was the last Ba'al."
O'Neil felt some relief at that, but didn't let it show on his face. "So?"
"There are other…" the man hesitated. "They are not system lords, but they are not Tok'ra, either. They are minor… Gods. To use the term that they use."
"Which would be the term that they use," Vala said. "I should know."
"I wish that every last one of them were eliminated. And I want to help."
O'Neil blinked. "You do? Why? Don't you want to go home?"
The man laughed ruefully. "My home doesn't exist anymore. I saw that when I was on Earth."
"You come from earth?"
"I… was a Roman. I was a Centurion."
"How did you get…?"
"You are not the first to discover the… you call it a Stargate?" He smiled. "The Roman Empire discovered it first. The control device was buried close to it."
O'Neil opened his eyes. "So you experimented."
"I was the head of the legion that discovered it. We took the cover off to see if a treasure was buried underneath, then we experimented with the control device." He looked steadily at O'Neil. "We made a connection, but thought it was a pond."
"And you tried to wade through it?"
"We were attacked by Egyptians." He laughed. "I was pushed over the edge into it. Fortunately, there was a world on the other side. Unfortunately, it was a world controlled by Ba'al, and when he saw me, he wanted… my body. I can only assume that that my Legion was killed, the Stargate was covered up again, and the control device destroyed."
"But," O'Neil, "it sounds like enough has happened to you. Why do you want to go after the others?"
"One," he said. "I was in Egypt because I needed to get away from Jerusalem. Something happened there, and I still need to atone for my own sins." He looked O'Neil in the eye. "I now believe in the God of the Jews. I have since that time."
"I… see," O'Neil said. "And the other?"
"Did you advertise through the Galaxy that the last Ba'al was captured?"
"I suppose that the Tok'ra might have said something."
"Which Ba'al, in his arrogance, dispguted."
"Your point is?"
"Who better to impersonate Ba'al?" He sat up straight, looked at O'Neil, and sneered.
"Oh." O'Neil's mouth closed, then opened.
He sat back. "Are you mad?"
The sneer dropped from the man's face. "Quite possibly. I saw much of what Ba'al did. You were not the first one he tortured... creatively."
"So what guarantee do we have that you are on our side?"
He leaned back. "None, whatsoever, but my word and my desire for revenge."
Jack stared at him a level moment. "The Tok'ra used to have a machine that could tell whether you're telling the truth."
"Ja- General!" Vala said. "How can you say that? You saw Ba'al extracted this afternoon!"
Jack had seen Vala many ways, but not red with anger. "Is this the woman who was going to bring a blunderbuss through the gate to the extraction ceremony?"
The man raised his brows. "Really. For me?" he said to Vala. "I'm honored."
Vala grinned at him. "You get a good look at your arms?"
He looked down. "Impressive. Ba'al's been working out." He grinned at Vala.
"Ok," O'Neil said. "Here's a thought. What if you get hurt? I don't think you'll heal like you did before."
"I'm not looking for a long life," he said seriously. "But I am looking for a purpose. Unless you have room on your Earth for ex-gods and ex-centurions."
He looked at the man for a long time. "I'll need to take it to my superiors, and they may need to talk to you."
"I'll wait." He stared at O'Neil. "If you're trying to unnerve me, remember, I was trained as a soldier, also."
"About that. What's your name?"
"Marcus Fabius Atella. I was a Roman centurion in Jerusalem. But you should probably not get used to that name. Call me Ba'al."
O'Neil snorted. "I'd rather call you Mark." He had a sudden thought. "Did you ever crucify anybody?"
For the first time, O'Neil saw the man pale. "Yes. You don't want to know about that."
"General," Vala said quietly. "I'm sure you've done some things in your past..."
O'Neil looked at the table. "None of us are clean here." He got up rapidly. "I'll take this to the President."
"Thank you," Ba'al said, almost humbly. Almost.
O'Neil stepped into the Gateroom. "Well?" Daniel said, greeting him
"I need to have a meeting with General Landry, now. And the rest of SG-1. Including Mitchell."
"I heard an interesting proposition, and I'm not sure I'm impartial enough to consider it."
"Jack, if it concerns Ba'al, then no, you're not impartial."
"Briefing room. Now."
"I'll get General Landry."
He headed up to the briefing room, his knees protesting more and more. What would it be like to live without pain? He popped a Tylenol. Unfortunately, the only way in this universe was to lie in a coffin that took away your soul, or pop a snake in your head, which was much the same thing. Jacob tried to explain it as having a lifetime friend, always keeping you company. O'Neil would never be ready to have a portable friend in his head, even if there were benefits.
He reached the briefing room and sat down with a sigh. General Landry came in first, sat down, and looked at O'Neil. "I take it it didn't go well?"
"As well as can be expected," O'Neil said. He glanced at the door as Teal'c, Daniel, Carter, and Mitchell came in."
"Make sure the door is closed," O'Neil said. Mitchell closed the door. He looked at each of them in turn. "The man formerly known as Ba'al has confirmed what Ba'al has said. There are more Goa'uld in the Galaxy. It seems that the Lucien alliance and the Wraith aren't enough to worry about."
"Nature abhors a vacuum," murmured Carter.
Daniel looked reflective. "There were hundreds of minor Gods in mythology. Some were Gods in their own right; others were just alternate names for the major gods." He looked at Jack. "Does he have any idea where they might be?"
Jack looked at the table. "I'm not entirely sure. But he came up with an idea, which I can't bring myself to think about. I hate the man's face."
"He's not Ba'al," Daniel said. "You saw."
"He wants revenge, and he thinks he can help by... impersonating Ba'al."
He looked around the table, noting the various reactions. He had startled them, and their reactions were typical. Daniel's eyebrows rose, then pulled together. Carter sat back, her eyes wide, and her mouth slightly open. Teal'c's eyebrows rose and stayed there. Landry looked thoughtful. Mitchell burst out - "You must be kidding."
"No." He looked around. "And Vala would like to help him." He looked at the table again. "When I asked him why he wasn't mad, he said the God of the Jews brought him through."
Mitchell looked at O'Neil, contemplative. "General, that's not a bad idea. If we could obtain an Al'kesh, get the support of a few Jaffa, place a few of our own men in there, we could flush out any remaining Goa'uld." He looked intently at O'Neil. "Did he look like he could pull it off?"
O'Neil tried to suppress an involuntary shiver. "Oh. Yes." He put the image of Ba'al out of his mind. "But he would also be the target of the Lucien Alliance and any of the people we want to be on our side. If all our allies know he's on the side of the angels, then he's useless as bait for the other Goa'uld. He's certainly not invincible any more, and would need protecting."
Mitchell looked O'Neil in the face. "And Ba'al didn't? I think, despite his bravado, he knew he was doomed without his bodyguards."
"We can't replicate the eye-glowy thingy."
"But we can do the voice thingy." Daniel said. "You know that."
"Sir," Carter said slowly. "Ba'al has a good idea. Are the Tok'ra quite sure that he's sane, thought?"
"I doubt that they would have let Vala call him if they weren't relatively sure," Daniel said.
"That's what I was thinking, too." O'Neil turned to Teal'c.
His face was contemplative. "Like you, O'Neil, I find it hard to release my anger at Ba'al. I know that the man is not Ba'al, yet he wears the face that I have hated for many years." He looked at O'Neil. "But since I know that the evil within him has been banished, I believe I can forgive the man."
"What of the Jaffa?"
"I believe I can get the support of the Jaffa."
"I don't have the history with the Goa'uld named Ba'al that you have, Jack - or anyone at this table. I believe you should bring this before the president, but let him know that this plan has -" he looked around the table and everyone nodded "- my support and the support of SG-1."
O'Neil nodded at Landry, then got up. "I guess I'll go to see the President."
"The 'George Hammond' is at your disposal," Landry said.
"Appreciate it, Hank." He left the briefing room.
"So," Mitchell said. "Did he actually decide?"
Sam smiled at Mitchell.
"So," said Vala. "What did the president decide?"
O'Neil frowned. "He thought it was a good idea. He even offered to pay Ba'al."
Ba'al's eyebrows rose. "In what?"
"Which are only useful if I decide to emigrate to your planet and your country." He sat back in his chair and smiled. He was wearing a Tok'ra tunic, which, to O'Neil's mind, ill suited him.
On the other hand, considering the Tok'ra, maybe it suited him too much. Either way, he didn't look natural not being in some sort of leather.
"Yeah, well, I said you would work for free..." O'Neil muttered.
"General!" Vala said.
"Just kidding." He stared at Ba'al steadily.
Ba'al smiled and nodded. "I don't think so. That's fine." He turned to Vala. "Remember, I was a Roman Centurion."
Vala blinked. "So?"
"Means he was a leader of men."
"And I had my enemies, especially after I stopped doing crucifixions."
"Ah," Vala said. "I have heard about those. I saw a cross. Daniel took me to a Catholic church once, as long as I promised to be good."
O'Neil raised his eyebrows. "And were you?"
Ba'al grinned at her, then his grin faded as he glanced at O'Neil. "It was after I protested about an innocent man being executed that I was sent to Egypt."
O'Neil stared at him. "Did you cast lots for his clothing, and did you stick a spear in his side?"
Ba'al shrugged. "Yes, of course. We did that for all of the crucified." He looked into space. "But this one was different."
O'Neil closed his eyes. He was going to drop it.
But it would explain a lot.
"The President," he said. "Wants me to go with you on your first mission."
Ba'al blinked. "As what? Your face is... " He thought a minute. "Oh, yes. He killed most of them. And you are getting older. Shave your head and you might get away..."
"I am not shaving my head." Vala grinned; apparently she knew the story. "One of Teal'c's people will be your Prime. Your troops will be a mixture of ours and Teal'c's. I'll be watching from another room, with SG-1."
"Oh!" Vala said. "Can I be Qatesh again? At least for a little while?"
O'Neil raised his eyebrows. "Do you miss the life, Vala?"
"Well, not the killing and the torture and stuff," Vala said. "But the bowing and the fawning was pretty nice."
Ba'al smiled at her. "You remind me of my wife."
Vala grinned at him. "I was your wife."
Ba'al's smiled dimmed a little. "My first wife."
Vala's smiled faded. "Oh."
"I would be honored if you would be my – ersatz wife."
"I accept." Vala grinned. "Where's my ring?"
O'Neil bowed his head. "Oh, God."
"Yes?" Ba'al said, grinning.
"You know," O'Neil said to Daniel, as they sat in a back room, observing on a screen, "he does this part entirely too well."
"He was a centurion," Daniel said, "and he's had two thousand years of observing."
"Or so. He said he was unconscious a lot."
"I don't believe Sha're ever was," Daniel mused. "From what I got through that link." He looked sad for a second, then shook his head and stared back at the monitor.
"I wasn't," Sam mused, "but that was probably Jolinar's choice. She shook her head. "I shouted at her, but she wasn't listening. Of course, that was before we realized that there were Tok'ra."
"Vala told me," Daniel said. "That she was conscious through everything. Pissed, but conscious."
"I can see that," Jack said.
Teal'c was studying the monitor. "He plays Ba'al very well," he commented. "If I had not seen..."
"We are sure that all of the clones are gone?" Jack said plaintively.
"Yes, sir," Sam said.
"I almost feel guilty what we're doing," Jack said.
"You know," Sam said, "he's going to kill you later." She looked at the screen.
The man on the main room screen was talking with Ba'al. The background of the Hammond's control room was rigged up to look like the control room of an al'kesh. Vala was set to one side, ready to walk on as queen, and the captain of the Hammond was standing nervously to one side, ready to step in if necessary.
"How did you manage to escape?" Jonas said angrily from the screen. "General Landry told me that all of you were captured."
"Obviously," Ba'al said smoothly, in the double voice of the Goa'uld, "he didn't know as much as he thought he did. I am the original. I escaped from the Tok'ra." He sat back. "Many died." He grinned.
"Jack, Sam?" Jonas paled. "Daniel?"
"Of course," Ba'al said suavely. "I couldn't let them live."
"Damn," Jonas said, stricken.
"And," he said. "I have reclaimed my queen. A clone of my dear Qatesh." He held out his hand, and Vala calmed herself and walked on regally, her robes rustling. She held out her hand. Her ribbon device flashed dangerously and she turned to face Jonas.
Ba'al glanced casually to one side, then looked at Jonas. "Do we have a secure channel?"
"Yes, of course," Jonas said, deadpan.
"Jonas, you liar," Jack muttered.
Ba'al looked to one side. "You do not. I demand a secure channel."
Jonas started to say something, then he looked at Vala and looked startled.
"What the hell?" Jack said.
He looked to one side. "I don't care. Shut the microphone off and leave the room." He waited a second, then said. "Okay, what the hell is this really about?"
"I just wanted to talk to you alone," Ba'al said. "Can't a God talk to his subject alone?"
"She," Jonas said, "gave me a wink and a sign. I've never seen any Goa'uld do that."
Vala laughed out loud. "Jonas, you got us."
Jack walked out, the rest of the team following. "Smile," Jack said. "You're on Candid Camera."
Jonas' mouth fell open. "Huh?"
"Ok, America's Funniest Home Videos?"
"General?" Jonas still looked confused. "Is this a joke?"
"Hi, Jonas," Sam said. "Yes and no. You were our test subject. I'm sorry. It was the General's idea. You might want to let a trusted associate in, but we can't spread this secret around."
"Isn't that Ba'al?"
Ba'al took the voice distorter out of his pocket and turned it off. "The snake was removed by the Tok'ra," he said. "But I thought it convenient if everybody still called me 'Ba'al'."
"You're the host!" Jonas looked interested.
He smiled and inclined his head. "As Teal'c says, 'indeed.' It's nice to meet you, Jonas."
Vala turned to the Stargate personnel. "This was fun!"
"Until you tipped your hand," Daniel said. "Are you going to resist doing that in a real situation?"
"Poo," Vala said. "I couldn't torture Jonas long. He reminds me of you." She winked at Daniel.
Jonas still looked confused. "But what's the point?"
"Ba'al - or, how I prefer to think of him," O'Neil said, "Mark - thinks there's some more little Goa'uldlingss running around out there."
"I want revenge." Ba'al's eyes stared hard at the screen.
Jonas inclined his head.
"Sir!" one of the technicians said. "Unidentified vessel on Starboard bow!"
"Klingons?" O'Neil said.
"It's an al'kesh!"
"Are we still cloaked?"
The technician nodded.
"Gotta love that Star Trek technology." O'Neil said.
"They're powering weapons."
"None of that intermediate stuff. Like talking." O'Neil pointed towards Ba'al. "Are you ready to do your stuff?"
Ba'al blinked and nodded. "No Qatesh, I think," he said.
"Play it by ear."
"I'm ready." He turned on his voice distorter and nodded. The screen came on. A young lady, blonde, came on the screen. "I am Ba'al, God of this planet. You are in my territory. Be prepared to be boarded."
The woman's eyes flashed white. "I am Ammit."
"Eater of the Dead," Daniel murmured. "Associated with Osiris and Anubis. At least in mythology."
"Ammit, dammit," O'Neil whispered. Daniel looked like he was ignoring O'Neil. Sam grinned.
"It was my understanding that you were dead," Ammit continued.
"The stories of my death are much exaggerated," Ba'al said, leaning back. "I would suggest that you retreat or be destroyed." He looked at her closely. "This is a different face for you, Ammit. Weren't you male the last time we met?"
Ammit inclined her head. "Even if you were not killed," Ammit said, "I would doubt that your power is enough to defeat me."
Ba'al smiled. "You speak big for a small God," he said. "I don't remember you being a system Lord. In fact, I don't remember you being around since our brother Ra was slain. Which may explain why you are wearing a different face."
She nodded. "I had to rebuild my forces before I could come back and have my revenge."
"I'm surprised," he said lazily, "that you didn't join our brother Apophis."
"In fact, one would think that maybe you were hiding until the Tau'ri could do your job for you."
O'Neil could see the color rise on the Nordic face. "You dare..." she gestured.
And Jaffa started appearing on the Hammond's bridge. "What the hell?" O'Neil said, and stepped back. He hadn't thought to arm himself. Where was the Hammond's soldiers?
Vala raised her bracelet device. The Captain of the Hammond pushed the alarm, and soldiers ran in and started firing. "My Lord," one of the Jaffa said. "This is a Tau'ri vessel!"
Ammit stared at Ba'al. "You have conquered the Tau'ri?"
"Fat chance, bitch!" O'Neil elbowed the Jaffa behind him, then looked at Ba'al. "You going to help?"
Ba'al smiled viciously, and punched the nearest Jaffa. He fell down. Ba'al leaned down and tore open the tunic. "These aren't true Jaffa," he said. "No symbiot."
The figure on the screen turned around as a Hammond officer stuck a gun to her neck. "The Al'kesh is secured, General," the soldier said. O'Neil looked at the Captain. He shrugged. I thought it was a good idea…"
The Jaffa on the bridge froze as the woman turned slowly around. She dropped her head, and the soldier jerked her hands to her back and stripped her bracelet off at the same time. O'Neil smiled at the screen. Ba'al glanced at across the bridge -
- and jumped toward O'Neil. O'Neil raised his hands to deflect Ba'al -
- when a shot rang out and Ba'al went down, and O'Neil felt shoved back on one side. Another shot, and a Jaffa, across the bridge from O'Neil, collapsed.
"Shit!" O'Neil said. Suddenly, he felt a pain in his arm.
Carter lowered her pistol. "Sir. Ba'al just took a bullet..."
"Medic!" O'Neil yelled. "I know." He dropped to his knees, then winced.
Ba'al looked at him, then looked at the blood staining his side.
"You defended me," O'Neil said. He couldn't keep the amazement out of his voice.
"Of course," Ba'al said. "We're..." he winced.
Ba'al reached across and took opened his tunic. "O'Neil," he said. "I'll be fine. The Jaffa was a poor shot. My ribs deflected the bullet." He looked at O'Neil. "Looks like your arm got hit, though."
O'Neil looked down at his arm. Now that he wasn't concentrating on Ba'al, his arm hurt like hell. The doctor dropped down beside him, looked at the wound, and nodded at O'Neil. "Flesh wound."
"That hurts like hell." Ba'al said.
"Appreciate the gesture." O'Neil winced as the doctor cut his sleeve.
"Another flesh wound," the doctor said. "A little deeper."
"If you hadn't jumped and I hadn't ducked," O'Neil said. He dropped the comment and stared into Ba'al's dark eyes.
O'Neil's mouth twitched. He nodded back.
Then he turned his head to the doctor. "Ow!"
Suddenly, the screen came back on. "Damn, Jack," Jonas said. "When you put on a show, you put on a show."
"So," the president said. "You think we can trust him."
O'Neil looked across the Oval Office to a picture of Washington. "Sir, we didn't trust Teal'c at first, but now I would trust him with my life."
"That's not an answer, Jack," the president smiled.
"He did save my life at the potential risk of his own," O'Neil said. He looked steadily at the president. "That's hard to ignore. But – I still wouldn't send him out on his own. Not with Goa'uld still out there."
"Agreed." He looked over at General Landry. "Can you assemble a team to assist and watch him?"
"I have some ideas, Mr. President, of a few good people."
"And I'll assemble a few people to create a background for him, just in case he wants a break."
O'Neil looked at him. "Ba'al, a citizen?"
The President smiled. "You should look up some of my ancestors who came to this country." He grinned. "I'd like to meet him, too," the President said. "And I can't exactly go to Norad when I feel like it."
"I'll arrange it," Landry said.
"Good," said the president.
O'Neil just shook his head. Ba'al and the President? Really?
He shook his head again, then smiled.