So sorry for the delay on this chapter. Well, sort of sorry for the delay. It's much better for the delay, I promise. Anyway, first thing's first: thank you once again to everyone who read, favourited or commented on the last chapter. Or on any part of this story, really.

Also, I'd like to send out a thousand thank yous to JonHarper, who helped me out with writing this chapter (there's parts of it that he just straight out wrote). Seriously, it looks as awesome as it does thanks to him. :)

Having said that, I seem to have managed to write a chapter mostly populated with OCs (there are a few names you might recognize here and there), but there just weren't characters in either series for it. Anyway, the SGC lets the airforce and marine corps shine, Marvel tends to portray the US Army as somewhat incompetent and boarderline evil, and I'm not even American, but here's to a competent, not-evil US army anyway!

Act VII, pt ii


Inside the Fourth Infantry Division Headquarters at Fort Carson, General Harper stood with his hands clasped behind his back and stared at the monitors inside the Situation Room, watching the satellite maps and video displays from his predator drones showing his troops' progress.

He'd had a bad feeling about being put on alert without explanation. None of his feelers had garnered any results either; the most he'd managed to figure out was that it all had to do with a classified air force project. Which rankled: an army base being put on alert by the air force? But orders were orders and so he'd had all personnel recalled back to base and his three remaining Brigades prepped for combat-readiness. Fourth Brigade would unfortunately have to sit this one out at NTC. And Second Brigade wasn't exactly in the best shape for immediate combat deployment, having just returned from Afghanistan a little more than two weeks ago. It took the entire week and a lot of angry grumbling just to get 2/4 ID up to passing fair for this little fiasco.

A week they'd waited with no word from anyone and no further orders other than 'remain ready for anything'. Then they'd lost contact with satellite surveillance and phones. Instinct had told him this was it; whatever happened next, their wait was over. So he'd mobilized the troops and waited for anything resembling information on the situation and how to proceed.

He hadn't realized 'ready for anything' included aliens.

The staff sergeant in charge of communications had alerted his aide to the NBC broadcast once the satellites had resumed feed. His technicians had then immediately found the bug in their own satellite feeds and neutralized it. Then two ships had gotten past Earth's defences and his phone rang.

It was General Landry from the USAF, specifically the commanding officer at Stargate Command, a classified project hidden in the bowels of Cheyenne Mountain with the cheery news that one of those two ships was going to head for them. A ship the size of a small city with plasma weapons and one-manned fighters and an on-board compliment of roughly twenty to thirty thousand soldiers with weapons that could likely rip through a tank. Although no one was entirely sure on that, given that they'd never been tested against one.

Immediately General Harper had summoned his brigade commanders and had a map of Colorado Springs and Cheyenne Mountain pulled up. He took a few moments to study the map, another to check the projected course and speed of the Alien ships, and then he sent out deployment orders to secure the City and establish a perimeter south and south-west as far as highway 115 to interstate 25. While keeping several armoured battalions supported by infantry held back in reserve to strike the enemy's landing zone…

That was assuming the enemy was going to land. Which General Landry seemed confident they would do.

"Then may God help us all," he'd said.

"Don't let their ships deceive you, General Harper," Landry had answered him. "The Ori might have superior numbers and they might have better weapons, but they do not have better soldiers. Besides of which, they're used to dealing with minimal resistance from folks who consider indoor plumbing advanced technology. They've encountered us before, sure, but all my combat units consist of three to five-manned teams. Even working together, they don't come close to replicating the sort of manpower and combat manoeuvres you and your troops can bring. Don't sell your people short, General."

And now he stood back and watched as the well-oiled machine he commanded rolled along towards their designated staging points. He was keeping one battalion in reserve to defend Fort Carson itself, while he sent a battalion from 2-8 Infantry to augment Cheyenne Mountain's already beefed up Security Forces garrison.

As they headed up the 115 and I-25 towards the city, he watched companies and platoons split off and begin securing key intersections all around the city. Two platoons of Headquarters Company 2-8 Infantry headed off to the west of the city to cover the civilian evacuation.

When the ship finally arrived on an arc from the south-east and began to cast its shadow over the city, he held his breath. He'd seen it during the space battle and was under no illusions of their ability to stop it from turning the city into a crater should it choose to. Soldiers – men and women with weapons – they could fight, but the ship itself? Not a chance. His people were good, but they weren't superhuman.

"Status of our Artillery?" General Harper asked while his eyes never left the multitude of digital displays showing feeds of the city from his predator drones or the electronic tactical map that highlighted his unit's positions and dispositions.

"Delayed sir. There was an accident involved on East Woodman road with one of our Paladins and a school bus full of kids. Medics from 3-16 Field artillery are on station rendering assistance. So far no new updates other than they've been delayed."

"Tell them to step on it. I need those artillery assets in place. If Cheyenne Mountain truly is their primary target then that means they'll need a good landing zone nearby to deploy their troops. Best terrain for that kind of large scale deployment close to the mountain would be Cheyenne Mountain state park. The moment we get confirmation of the enemy massing their troops I intend to drown them in a deluge of steel rain."

Slowly and steadily the ship passed over the city and he continued to will it onward, hoping and praying it gave his troops the time they needed to establish the little welcoming party they were planning, and didn't just vaporize the city.

Colonel Greyson, Brigade Commander of the First Striker Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division, wasn't too proud to admit that his first glimpse at the alien spaceship made his jaw drop. He was fairly certain his driver had sworn, but he didn't think to admonish him until several moments later at which point he may as well let the young man think he hadn't been heard. It wasn't like he didn't echo the sentiment, after all.

Goddamn, but it was huge. Here he was barrelling down the 115 with a brigade of armed soldiers – with two more proceeding up the I-25 – and enough firepower to turn a small city into rubble. The problem was that that spaceship looked large enough to house a much larger city. And it hadn't landed yet, which was good because urban warfare was ugly and the city had only begun its evacuating. Besides of which, he had a feeling emptying the entire Fort Carson ASP and AHA still wouldn't take that thing down.

Well at least his orders not to engage the ship itself made sense now.

As they got closer, he realized the behemoth wasn't quite as white and pristine as it'd looked from afar. There were signs of damage: scorch marks, dents and even small holes littered the ship's hull. Then he noticed the moving lights. They were twittering around the ship like angry fireflies. Greyson had never seen anything like them before, but they were clearly attacking the alien ship and slowing it down. His aide handed him a pair of binoculars so he could get a closer look. He still couldn't quite tell what they were, but he could now tell they weren't just twittering about randomly, but swarming in symphony as they battered against the ship's... energy shields? Really were those energy shields?

"Shit, I'm stuck on an episode of Star Trek," he muttered under his breath.

Or maybe it was Star Wars... whatever, his wife had been the science fiction junkie. He felt a momentary pang of loss as he thought of her reaction to all of this. Well, it was five years too late for that. And he had a battle to win, people to protect.

Against aliens. Nope, he wasn't getting over that part anytime soon.

As though on cue, the fireflies suddenly all backed up away from the ship and into a single swarm. They looked tiny next to the ship, but a moment later, they proved that size really didn't matter as they moved in unison towards it, looking like a beam of light. They paused only for a moment when they hit the shields and then barrelled through the ship, coming out the other side.

The giant alien spaceship faltered in mid-air and the Colonel had a momentary, horrified vision of that gigantic ship crashing into the buildings below it and killing thousands of people. Thankfully it managed to right itself.

Then it launched fighters.

There were no wings, nothing to make them look even remotely anything but alien. And there was a giant swirling marble at the front of each oval-shaped craft, which he'd guess was an energy source of some sort.

He flicked his radio on. "Major Hanson, this is Colonel Greyson. Set up a perimeter of anti-aircraft batteries along the roads and have the new Cheetah anti-air vehicles stay mobile and engage at will; it looks like the enemy's got air support. Might want to set up that aide station a bit more to the west than we'd originally planned. Radio in once you've set up, but do not under any circumstances fire on the main ship until it's cleared the city."

"Understood, sir. Hanson out."

One of the alien fighters flew above their convoy and shot twin pulses of blue light in their direction. In the rearview mirror, Greyson watched as one of the houses on the right exploded in a rain of wood and glass. He saw the nearest LMT pull over to the side of the road and five soldiers jumped out, hurrying towards the demolished house. Good. Their orders were to give protecting and rescuing civilians priority; he was glad to see his officers and NCOs had been listening.

By the time they'd arrived at the evacuated school they'd designated as one of the aide stations the Colonel finally saw the first of Peterson's squadrons arrive. And did a double-take, grabbing the binoculars again to take a closer look at these newly-arrived fighters.

Those were not F-15s. Well, he'd heard rumours that Peterson had been working with experimental aircraft...

"They're F-302s."

Greyson lowered his binoculars and looked to the four individuals approaching him. They were dressed in full combat gear and carrying P-90s. Their uniforms bore air force insignia... and some sort of symbol he didn't recognize. When they came to a stop before him, three of the four saluted him. The fourth stood a step behind them, silently watching the skies, her hands ready on her P-90.

"Colonel Greyson, I'm Colonel Pallin reporting with teams SG2, 4, 5 and 11," said a tall, dark-skinned man with a serious expression. "Sir, SG4 has secured the aide station's perimeter, SG5 should be meeting up with your battalion commanders at their forward CP, and SG11 is setting up their equipment inisde the school gym. Field Medical is being established at St. Francis hospital, which is in the process of being evacuated as we speak, while Colorado State PD is proceeding with the city-wide evacuation. And, well, as you can see, sir, the squadrons from Peterson have arrived."

Colonel Greyson blinked. "Well, Colonel, then I'll be relieving you of your temporary command," he said a moment later. "At ease."

"Yes, sir."

"This is your team then, Colonel?"

"Yes, sir. We're SG2, sir."

"Hm... then tell, Colonel, is it typical for the air force to allow their airmen to ignore protocol?" His eyes slid towards the woman, who still hadn't acknowledged him.

"Er, no sir." The leader of SG2 looked confused.

"He means me," the woman spoke, looking over to them in amusement. "I'm not a soldier, Colonel. I'm a civilian liaison with the program."

"You take civilians into combat zones?" Colonel Greyson said, incredulously: that was just asking for trouble.

Oh he had seen civilians in combat zones before, but most of them had been former soldiers or private contractors who shipped in food, diesel generators, fuel and maintained the Forward Operating Bases. This little slip of a girl, however, just screamed non-combatant with her demeanour – though to her credit, she did seem to know what she was doing with that P-90. And she was quick to note the barely concealed horrified disbelief on the Colonels face. Her eyes narrowed at him.

"We're a first contact team, Colonel – and yes, that is exactly what it sounds like – and, believe it or not, not everyone in the galaxy speaks English. I'm an anthropologist and a linguist, and I'm weapons certified. And a member of SG2: I go where my team goes, Colonel." She shrugged. "Besides, you might need me in the city to help with herding civilians. I'm small and unassuming, which means I usually get a far more favourable reaction from civilians than big soldiers with their big guns. I may not be Doctor Jackson, but I still speak ten languages and this is far from my first rodeo. The location's a bit closer to home than I'm used to, but I've seen my fair share of combat. I'm an asset, not a hindrance, Colonel."

"You countin' all of them or just the Earth languages in that, Doc?" one of the other members suddenly asked.

She rolled her eyes. "Fine, I speak eight Earth languages that might come in handy while trying to move panicked civilians around." She paused and made a face. "Seven Earth languages that might come in handy. Admittedly, my Ancient Greek might not be entirely useful at the moment."

The Colonel nodded, not entirely convinced, but willing to concede that she had a point. Someone with her kind of experience and language skills could come in handy. Especially since his own public relations officer was laid up in Evans Army medical thanks to a drunk driver last weekend.

"Then you'll be most welcome..."

"Doctor Emma Grissom."

Suddenly, Colonel Pallin's hand flew to his ear. "Pallin here," he said. "What is it Boris?" His eyes widened and looked to the sky.

"Everyone get down: we have incoming!"

Like a well-oiled machine, every soldier in his vicinity threw themselves to the ground just as one of the Ori fighters flew past, shooting their energy, laser weapons at them. It was cut off by a blast from the side that didn't seem to cause any damage that he could see, but certainly threw it off course. It immediately began to climb up again, chased off by the F-302 that streaked in so close it nearly skimmed the ground before swirling upwards while shooting yellow tracers from its forward canons at the Ori fighter.

He was still staring after it as he staggered back to his feet. The fireflies were also chasing the fighters and having better luck against them than they'd had against the large ship. They were also easier to see now that the sky was beginning to cloud over.

"That isn't like any aircraft I've ever seen before," he declared.

"Well, it's not really an aircraft, per say," the civilian said with a shrug.

"What the hell do you mean by that?!" the Colonel snapped, suddenly irritated by the fact that this civilian knew more about a piece of military hardware – and, hell, probably the enemy – than he did.

"Er, well in the strictest sense of the word, sir, yes they fly therefore they could be considered fighters," one of the airmen answered him. Greyson turned to him, glancing at his uniform. "But while they are clearly capable of flying within a planet's atmosphere, they weren't really designed to be a terrestrial aircraft."

The Colonel blinked in astonishment as his mind processed what the Airman was saying. "Are you saying that thing is space capable?"

"Yes Sir." The Airman nodded. "It has technology built into that would allow it to pull high G manoeuvres in atmosphere that would snap an F-22 or any other terrestrial aircraft in half – the type that typically turn their pilots into red smears against their canopy. It also has stealth technology built into it, making it invisible to radar and more than few alien sensor technologies. It can dogfight in space and can be used to deliver heavy strike ordinance to enemy motherships."

"Lieutenant, are that those are the same fighters we were watching on the television fighting in space?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes, sir. There's an F-302 squadron stationed with every BC-304 class ship."

Colonel Greyson looked over SG2. They stared back calmly and he got the impression he was being assessed just as much as he was assessing them. He took a deep breath and took off his eyepro to see them better in the rapidly-diminishing light (he didn't think they'd been predicting a storm, but that might work in their favour given that they had home advantage).

"So, your other three teams, are they also first-contact teams?" he asked. Might as well figure out who was going to be at his back.

"Negative, sir," Pallin answered. "SG teams 4 and 5 and marine combat units, and SG11 is the SGC's mobile engineering detachment. They'll be staying here and fiddling with their equipment to try and figure out a way to take down the Ori ship." He shrugged. "We've found it useful to have the scientists out in the field where they can instantly react to things and make stuff work for us." He stuck a thumb in the direction of the Lieutenant who'd earlier explained the F-302s. "Like Miles here. He's our tech guy."

"Nuclear physicist," the Lieutenant said with an exasperated sigh. He instantly stiffened at the sound of explosions coming from the city.

Greyson nodded. This was no time for pleasantries. He motioned for them to follow him and began to head back to his command post. "Right. I'm assuming these Ori have actual foot soldiers inside that gigantic ship of theirs?"

"Yup, lots of them," Pallin cofirmed. "Luckily for us they don't have transporter tech, which means they'd have to land to let them off the old fashioned way."

Transporter tech? Was that a joke or an actual option? "Any chance we can prevent them from landing?"

Pallin shrugged. "Well the ultimate goal is to take them out, so eventually that ship'll have to come down whether on its own or by us."

"Preferably without blowing it up," Lieutenant Miles added as the sky above them began to rumble. "That power core blows and it'd take most of the state of Colorado with it."

"So nukes are out of the question, then."

"Wouldn't get through their shields anyway, sir. An orbital plasma strike would be out for the same reason: no matter how far off the ground they are, there's too much risk of massive collateral damage."

Greyson nodded, wondering whether it would be ridiculous of him to ask if those P-90s they were carrying were actually regular P-90s as opposed to, oh say laser guns made to look like P-90s. He didn't.

"Command seems confident that the enemy is going to land and that Cheyenne Mountain State Park is the likely place they'll land at, so that's when we hit them."

Grissom suddenly gasped. "Holy shit, is that..?"

Lightening lit up the sky as Greyson looked to the spaceship... and blinked. The little balls of light were still flying around the giant ship, but there was a larger, darker shape flying around there as well. A second streak of lightening came down from the sky and hit the figure, illuminating it momentarily, before it redirected towards the Ori ship. The energy spread out like glowing veins across the ship's shields.

"Hey cool," said Lieutenant Miles with a wide grin. "Looks like both Thors like us equally."

"Unfortunately, this one wears pants."

All four men turned to stare at the civilian woman, who felt their eyes on her and turned to blink back at them owlishly.

"What?!" she said. After a moment during which all four of them continued to stare at her – Greyson had a feeling he should be admonishing her for the statement, except that he had no idea where to start with it – she rolled her eyes and sighed. "God, I wish Vala was here. She'd understand."

"I'm sure she would," said Pallin with the straightest face Greyson had ever seen a man give anyone.

"I thought Vala was a Captain America fan," the fourth member of SG2 said with a frown.


"Right, sorry sir."

Greyson bit his tongue as he led them into the school, where he could see the other senior battalion leaders already gathering. And sending slightly confused and wary looks in the direction of the air force squad setting up in one corner: they'd already dragged in several large tables into the room and had an array of laptops and several very odd-looking devices set up.

Leaving them be for the moment, he scanned the rest of the gym. Satisfied the forward CP set-up was proceeding smoothly, he then found his second-in-command and left him in charge before leading SG2 into the first empty classroom.

"Alright, Colonel Pallin, what can we expect from this ship?" he asked once they were inside with the door shut behind them.

"First of all, I'm assuming you've seen the NBC footage, right?" Pallin asked.

Greyson nodded. "I saw some of it before we were ordered to mobilize," he answered. "I gather they have quite a bit of firepower."

"Right, which they're obviously not using at the moment. Plus, those ships go a hell of a lot faster than it's going now. We're pretty sure it's 'cause it's looking for the gate. The SGC's got their own sort of shields hiding them from sensors. The Ori ship can obviously see through them, but not enough to pinpoint the exact location, which is why they've been orbiting the town. And since they haven't just shot up the place, we're figuring they want to take the SGC and the gate to create themselves a beachhead, so they can bring in more troops through the gate. And keeping Colorado Springs more or less intact would go a long way to aid in that goal."

"That might've actually been something they decided on the fly once they got here," the civilian linguist added. "They've encountered us out there, but they don't really know the first thing about the planet and even among our allies only a few individuals have ever been past the mountain. From what we've seen, we are by far the most heavily-populated planet in this galaxy and, while there are certainly more industrially-advanced planets, we're pretty high up there too."

Pallin nodded. "Could be. And the Ori gain power by amassing followers, er believers, or something." He looked to Greyson and shrugged. "Don't ask me how, sir. Quite frankly, it sounds like magic to me. But, bottom line, it means they might've decided that taking the planet over in the name of the Ori might just be more beneficial. Six billion new worshippers would be a huge powerboost."

"Attempting to, anyway." Grissom looked at him grimly. "Colonel, don't make the mistake of thinking that makes the population safe. If the Ori can't convert the planet, they will destroy everyone on it. This isn't just a war; this is a crusade – a Jihad – they're on."

A Holy War: well wasn't that just lovely. God, he hated fighting religious zealots.

"Then we have no choice but to win," he said sternly.

SG2 grinned at his words and he felt as though he'd passed some sort of test. Which was ridiculous, because he was a decorated officer with four battalions under his command. He'd already passed all the tests.

"Alright, so first of all, the most important you've gotta remember is that these guys in that ship have never been up against a full force from Earth," Colonel Pallin began again. "We've got some manpower, but the SGC's mandate is largely exploration and tech-gathering. They might think they know what to expect from us, but they really don't. There are a lot of them, but they don't know the first thing about what we consider modern warfare."

Greyson nodded. General Harper had said as much, told him not to focus on the numbers so much as the tactics. "Throw everything we've got at them and don't give ground," he'd told him.

Pallin took a deep breath. "The most important and most difficult target will be the Prior," he said. "He's their leader, both religious and military. The Ori somehow grant them magic powers or something, which gives them this annoying personal shield that none of our weapons work on. And we've tried everything from guns to grenades to missile launchers on them, so short of calling down one of our ships, we're just gonna go with 'nothing works'."

He reached into his pack and pulled out a round device just a big smaller than a dinner plate with a circle of lights around the edge. Greyson noticed there was at least one more in his pack.

"Except these puppies here. These neutralize the Prior's powers. The affects are temporary and only while the Prior's within their field radius, but a few moments should be all the time we need."

By Odin's beard, the ship was a monstrous beast. It moved slowly, but steadily ahead, its belly hanging from the clouds like that of a pregnant sow. And around it, swarmed a hundred small lights. Their numbers were much diminished, but Thor recognized them as the same lights which had attacked and destroyed several of the Ori ships. Even now, they still attacked, though clearly unable to bring the ship down on their own.

He tightened his grip on Mjolnir and felt the air around him darken and begin to spark with energy.

As he flew in closer, Thor realized the lights were mechanical yet organic, the light streaming around them like the tendrils of some undersea creature. They nearly looked alive, except for that missing spark that came with true life. For a moment, he marvelled at them, wishing he could show them to the lovely Jane, who would no doubt appreciate both their beauty as well as their mechanics.

He watched them burrow through the great ship's energy shield and into its hull.

With a mighty battle cry, Thor swung Mjolnir and charged at the energy shield, feeling the hairs on his arm rise as he approached it. When the air smelt of alien energy, he swung his hammer with all his might. It hit the shield and energy cracked at its touch, but the shield didn't give.

Thor allowed himself to be repelled and flew a short distance away from the ship. He raised an eyebrow at the mechanical creatures of light as they emerged out of the other side of the ship, impressed by their strength.

Well, it seemed this would be a battle to relate at many feasts to come. Thor's face split into a delighted – and more than a little blood-thirsty – grin.

He backed up even more and spun Mjolnir, feeling the air crackle with energy waiting to be released. Then he stopped the hammer's spin, it calling forth. The sky thundered and light streaked towards him, lifting his cloak as it surrounded him and invigorated him further. Then, with a warrior's cry, he pointed Mjolnir at the ship and channelled the energy towards his quarry.

Lightening flew towards the ship, and for a moment the pure white outline of its shield became visible to him as the lightening broke apart and skimmed across its edges in a web of jagged lines.

Thor frowned, waiting for the ship to strike back at him. When nothing happened, no retaliation came, Thor huffed in annoyance.

"Fiends, you think me but a minor nuisance?" he called out, though knowing those inside the great white beast were most likely not listening. "Then I shall show you the true might of the Prince of Asgard!"

Below him, he was aware of the city, sprawled and full of people still, despite the efforts he could see being made towards evacuation. Just outside the city to the west, he could also see Midgardian forces gathering for battle: not waiting to be saved, but waiting to fight.

Thor approved.

Still they could not fight this Ori beast from the ground. The beast's wings required clipping. This, Thor was more than happy to do.

Once more he spun Mjolnir, feeling energy gather until it sparked and crackled and the sky rumbled. He threw his hammer, and the sky lit up as a massive bolt of lightening chased the hammer from the clouds. Thunder roared. The hammer and lightening hit the ship's shield at the same time, illuminating the sky further with a brilliant explosion of light and turned the dark grey clouds now surrounding the ship a light grey.

The energy shield held, but the ship shook and wavered along its course.

A moment later, it responded with a streak of yellow-orange light. Thor deftly avoided it and caught his hammer as it returned to him.

And then he swung it again to deflect a shot from behind.

"Oh ho!" he exclaimed at the smaller one-manned ships that approached him. "You dare to challenge the might of Thor!"

They were no bigger than the flying hagsvelterings of Niffleheim – and certainly less odorous. Nor did they appear to spit acid.

Thor threw Mjolnir at the closest small ship. Either it did not recognize the hammer as a weapon, or else the pilot grossly underestimated its power. The hammer shattered its energy shield as though it were nothing more than a bubble made from soap and water. The front of the small ship dented from the hammer's blow and shattered the ball of swirling energy just behind the metal. It exploded at the impact and Thor shielded himself from the impact of debris with his cloak.

He was already heading towards the next small ship when Mjolnir returned to his grasp.

The other ships had clearly seen their brother fall and were much more wary of allowing Thor to approach, but the pilots had not the skill to follow his movements and keep him away. He easily avoided the bolts of energy sent towards him, deflecting the ones that came close. They were firing at him like panicked children, not warriors, he thought with disgust.

Eager to stop this farce, Thor suddenly flew above them and then swung his hammer, bringing it down with all his strength at the first small ship. Lightening crackled in the clouds above him as he shattered this one's energy shield with the blow. A split-second later, the energy poured down from the heavens and hit the ship, surrounding it with power not its own and robbing it of strength.

Thor did not stop to watch the ship plummet to the ground.

He downed the third ship with one mighty throw of Mjolnir aimed at its energy source and then turned to find yet more ships approaching. He gripped his weapon and prepared to engage them, his blood singing with the familiar thrill of battle.

And then another group of small ships descended upon them from the clouds. Dark grey with wide wings, they immediately set upon the oval-shaped Ori ships with a rain of yellow tracers from their twin railguns as well as missiles. It looked much like the battles he and friend Hawk had engaged in on the large screen in the Man of Iron's tower.

And then a figure detached from their midst and flew towards Thor and the Prince of Asgard grinned with delight.

"Man of Iron, have you mayhaps lost a bet?" he called to the figure who looked like his comrade except for the blue stripes and white stars painted on his armour. "If so, I look forward wholeheartedly to hearing the tale."

The figure came to a stop before Thor and cocked his head at him.

"Uh... oh, I see, you think I'm Tony," said a voice Thor did not recognize. "Sorry, I'm not him. I'm a friend of his: Colonel Rhodes of the United States Air Force. Also known as War Mach- goddammit, I mean Iron Patriot. No, you know what? If General O'Neill can call me War Machine, then I can call myself War Machine. So, nice to meet you, Thor, I'm War Machine."

Thor looked upon the man with amusement. "It is an honour to make your acquaintance, Machine of War. Are you perhaps aware of the location of the Man of Iron?"

"Tony's on his way to New York. We're pretty sure that's where the second ship's headed and its gonna need him more than Colorado Springs will." He looked towards the Midgardian forces setting up on the ground. "Fort Carson must've been on alert, 'cause there's no other way they could've mobilized anything close to this sort of force this quickly. But I doubt New York got this sort of warning."

Thor nodded gravely. "Indeed. Then we should end this quickly so that we may then proceed to aide the city my shieldmates call home."

"Uh, yeah sure." The Machine of War paused for a moment. "Okay, so just got a message from the ground." He turned and pointed towards a mountain in the west. "That there's Cheyenne Mountain, which is going to be the Ori army's ultimate goal. They're probably going to want to take the, uh, stargate."

"Stargate?" Thor asked, blinking at the unknown term.

"Yeah, no, don't ask me to explain that one. I only just learned about all this a couple hours ago and it still sounds like fiction to me: the sort I hate watching with Tony, 'cause he ruins it by yelling at all the impossible science. Anyway, they want me to ask you to please make sure you don't actually blow up this ship. That big round energy thing it's got there will apparently take a good chunk of the countryside with it if it blows and we'd all really rather avoid that."

Thor nodded. He understood the desire to reduce the damage to the city. "Very well. Then I shall endeavour to take the great white beast of metal down without destroying it completely."

"...That would be, uh, great, thanks." Suddenly, his head snapped towards said giant white beast. "Shit, that can't be good."

Thor turned his gaze towards the ship. His eyes widened as he saw that the mechanical lights that had felt so alive, had gone dark and were now falling towards the ground like hail.

"What is happening?" he asked.

"I have no idea, but I'm gonna assume the Ant-er the base controlling those things has been compromised... Okay, listen, there's nothing we can do about that for now. I've got my orders, so I'm gonna go help with the evacuation of the city and help the fight on the ground. Catch you later, Thor."

"May we meet again once victory has been secured, Machine of War!"

"Yeah, sure. I'm betting saving the world from an alien invasion deserves one hell of a party."

"Verily! Now we fight and later we shall feast!"

"I'm down with that s'long as you're not planning on adding the blood of our enemies in there."

The Machine of War flew off towards the city and Thor turned his sights once more towards the Ori ship. It was nearly past the city now, steadily flying towards the mountain. He wondered why it was moving so sluggishly towards its goal, but dismissed it. It mattered not, after all. All that mattered was that it not be allowed to arrive there.

He flew towards it once more. He saw it had gained more damage from the small creatures of light. Scorch marks and small holes in its hull had multiplied: enough to have weakened it, but not enough to have seriously harmed it. Considering carefully, Thor flew upwards, into the clouds and watched as the ship flew past the city. He was uncertain as to whether it did not see the Midgardian forces preparing for it, or simply did not care.

The men manning the great beast were underestimating the Midgardian forces. The Ori were clearly not particularly wise commanders, for underestimating one's foes was the height of folly.

Thor waiting patiently until the giant white beast had passed the city, silently gathering his strength all the while. It was something he had never seen his father do but heard much of from others, for Odin's battle prowess was legendary and spoken of often during feasts. Thor had grown up around the armouries and hung upon the words of older, wiser warriors. And Asgardian warriors enjoyed their tales as much as they enjoyed their drink – though neither as much as the fire that lit their veins during battle. Many times had he heard of the Allfather Odin fighting with endless energy against an army, or else watching from a distance as his men valiantly engaged the enemy, waiting until the perfect moment and then ending the battle with a single, decisive strike.

Thor felt the power of the storm gather around him, let it gather strength and speed, let the energy continue to mount until the air burned with it and he could feel it filling his lungs, and his veins where the blood simmered with it. Then, when his skin felt raw with it, his head hollowed out and buzzing, he finally saw the white beast float far enough away from the city, into a perfect position above a stretch of forested land.

He lifted Mjolnir and swung it around, whipping all the gathered energy and concentrating it around the hammer in his grip. His ears popped and his hair stood even further on end. Then, Thor, the God of Thunder, let out a mighty battle cry and released the energy, siphoning it through Mjolnir and sending it careening towards their opponent, directly into the weakened shields around the behemoth's rear thrusters.

The violent, uncontrollable force that blasted from the sky towards the Ori lit up the sky and was seen for miles.

Every soldier on the ground looked up, covering their eyes as they stared at the sight. At the St Francis Medical Centre, Doctor Lam looked away from the chart she'd been reading, trying to determine if she had something at her disposal that could make it possible to transfer the critically-injured patient elsewhere. Inside the SGC and Fort Carson's Fourth Infantry Division's Situation Room, technicians cried out in alarm as several important screens went momentarily fuzzy.

Up in her F-302, Snakeskinner squadron three leader Colonel Carol Danvers summed it up best: "Holy shit," she said quietly.

From the relative safety of several school buses heading out of the city, hundreds of little faces stared out at the light in awe. "Wow," they all somehow managed to say in unison before dissolving into an excited, chittering mass of excited voices.

Unaware of the attention, Thor looked down upon the Ori ship as it crashed to the ground, its shield shattered and one side blackened and twisted beyond recognition. But the power core had not exploded.

Feeling tired and drained in a way he could never remember having felt before, Thor nevertheless grinned proudly.

The crash had shaken the countryside, startling birds and violently rustling the vegetation. On the top of their hill, three soldiers and an airman had hastily pulled the green tarp over their heads to protect themselves against falling branches – and one squirrel that had immediately scrambled away screeching, its claws scratching frantically against the slippery tarp.

They waited for the explosion, which thankfully never came. A few moments of silence later, their radio crackled quietly to life.

"All teams, this is Mountain Top: report status. You guys alright? Please respond."

The Air Force JTAC picked up the radio and opened the channel.

"Bravo here, we're green to green."

They listened as the rest of the sniper nests radioed in, all but Delta unharmed. Delta had one man down with a broken leg from a fallen tree and another one with claw marks to the face from an unidentified furry and terrified mammal that had apparently mistaken his tarp for a burrowing hole. The Bravo team rolled their eyes in unison, because really how did Delta always manage it?

"Acknowledged. New orders: they're sending an SG team to attempt to negotiate a surrender. Not confident that they'll take it, but they're trying anyway. Hold your fire, until it's clear the offer of surrender has been rejected. Start getting ranges and factor in drift due to wind. All sniper teams will be providing cover should the negotiation team need to extract quickly."

The Bravo snipers exchanged a look as the JTAC responded before setting about their work.

"This is Bravo. Roger that Mountain Top."

"Guess they gotta try it," one sniper said with a shrug. "If only so they can say they did."

"Yeah," the JTAC on the radio responded as he took his hand off the radio and studied his blue-fore tracker then frowned. "Hey Guys, we got a bit of a problem. Blue-for tracker just updated where the downed Ori ship crashed and we're not in any position to render cover whatsoever. In fact we're going to need to move about 15 clicks north to get eyes on."

"Our orders are clear: we stay and protect the mountain and provide sniper over-watch and call in airstrikes on enemy troop concentrations," the lead sniper stated.

"And that's all well and good gunny, but the threat hasn't yet reached the mountain. Look here." He showed the Blue-For tracker on his tablet to the team as they gathered around him. "Thor brought the enemy ship down at Red Rock Canyon open spaces. To the north, south and west is nothing but rocky and mountainous terrain. They're virtual no-go zones for an army as large as the one speculated to be on that ship. If the enemy wants to get to Cheyenne Mountain and take the Stargate they'll have to strike out east along highway 24 and then south along 115 once they clear Bear creek Regional Park before they eventually come in range of the mountain."

Staff Sergeant Perez, who was in charge of Bravo Team, frowned as he considered this.

"I see what you're saying." He took a moment to study the terrain in the region on the tablet map before his eyes lit up. "Alright this is what we're going to do. Get on the horn with Mountain Top and tell them we are repositioning north at Bear Creek Nature Center to provide eyes on and cover for the SG team making contact. Tell Alpha to pack up and join us at... section 16 trailhead. Charlie, Delta and Fox teams are to remain in place while we reposition."

The four man team mounted up on their ATV and took off down the secret restrictive dirt paths known only to the air force. They drove from Cheyenne Mountain, past Mays peak until they passed into Bear Canyon and their final destination, Bear Creek Nature Center. It took almost twenty five minutes to reposition, five more than they would have liked, but the terrain along the mountains was treacherous and they couldn't afford to lose a man due to negligence.

They were disheartened by what they saw when they arrived. Already hundreds of enemy soldiers had established a perimeter around the crashed ship and more were constantly pouring out. And in the center of the troops stood a figure pale as death, holding a staff and a book, dressed in plain robes.

"Alpha reports they have set up at section 16 trailhead half a click to our rear and west of us. They have a perfect unobstructed view of the enemy landing zone."

"Understood," said Staff Sergeant Perez as he went prone and folded the bipod legs of his sniper rifle. "Maintain contact and coordinate with your fellow JTAC. Start designating targets immediately. Soon as this shit goes south I want to put them in a world of hurt."

"I have eyes on the Prior," the spotter commented after lazing the range with his laser range finder. "And he is one ugly son-of-a-bitch too. He's about a click out."

"Got him," the sniper acknowledged. He panned his scope across the field. "Holy shit, there are a lot of them."

He then resettled the scope onto the Prior and kept it there, just in time for the Prior to turn and look right at him. The hair on the back of Perez's neck stood on end. He didn't know how, but he was certain the Prior knew he was there.

"Anyone else get the feeling this guy knows we're here?"

"They're supposed to have psychic powers or something," the team medic piped up. "Supposedly they can feel your intent or something like that. It's almost Jedi like." The guy chuckled.

"Yeah you would think Jedi, wouldn't you Watson!" the team spotter snarked which elicited a chuckle from the rest of the team.

"No seriously, I think that fucker knows we're here!" Perez snapped.

"Doesn't matter; isn't anything he can really do about it at this distance," the spotter remarked and then paused. "At least I hope not..."

"I still don't like it." The sniper turned his attention to their JTAC. "Perry, what have we got coming in?"

"A squadron of F-15s and F-16s loaded for air to ground munitions. Also Peterson has advised us they're calling in all air assets from across the western United States. Skies are going to get mighty crowded in the next couple of hours – it's a good thing all air-traffic was grounded hours ago."

"Yeah, no kidding."

"Contact, six vehicle convoy; Strykers moving from east to west on Highway 24. They have a white flag hanging off the third vehicle."

"That would be the welcoming committee."

Perez noted how the Prior's attention moved away from them to the vehicles. The Ori soldiers leveled their weapons but on a signal from the Prior, lowered them again. The Prior moved forward, towards the road, apparently intent on meeting the disembarking SG team half way.

And all the while Perez was hoping the enemy really did want to talk and wasn't quite as insane as they'd been made out to be.

Corporal Wells stood beside his rocket launcher and waited for orders. Watchin' that ship come down had been nothing short of amazing, almost enough to make him want to take up a new religion. 'Cept his ma would whollop him but good if he brought home any such blaspheemous talk. She was pro'lly already kickin' up a storm at home at the thought of them aliens comin' from nowhere and wantin' ta turn good honest people's heads with talk of their supposed gods.

Them aliens didn't know what they was doin' here on Earth if they thought they could convince his ma to believe in some alien gods – didn't even have one god like proper people neither, they had a bunch o' 'em.

He and his battalion had scrambled ahead o' the rest of 'em, hurryin' all the way to Cheyenne Mountain. His pop'd be right tickled to hear 'bout him an' his battalion being sent to help defend an air force base; ne'er let the retired pilot down the road forget it. Still, what the aliens wanted was inside the Mountain, deep down below all them NORAD levels. He'd heard some people callin' it a 'stargate'. He wondered if that really meant a gate to the stars or if it were just a name for some fancy telescope.

Though they had spaceships, so maybe it wasn' just a telescope. Wasn' like they were gonna tell him anyway.

He checked over his weapon again, just to be sure. Could never be too thorough and this one was a real beauty – deserved to be treated right. He recounted his ammunition: twenty rounds. And he knew how to make every single one count. That's why they gave him the rocket launcher. Them aliens came anywhere near this mountain, they was gonna regret it.

He and his battalion weren't gonna let 'em through, that was for damn sure.

Colonel Greyson watched as SG2 walked past the line. No, they weren't just walking: they were strolling casually as though at a park on a Sunday afternoon instead in the middle of a potential battlefield with a gigantic alien spaceship in front of them and only six combat vehicles of questionable effectiveness at their back. Only his trained eye could see the tension that suffused their steps and advertised their readiness. Their hands were on their guns, but they were aimed at the ground.

SG4 was walking right behind them, weapons drawn and aimed at the ship. And didn't that just take all the cake – the ranking officers at Fort Carson weren't allowed to know about this SGC, but apparently the Russians were. Colonel Pallin had assured him they were just as interested in saving the world as the rest of them were. Which, Greyson acknowledged, was a fair point. Didn't mean he had to like it.

And the worst, the absolutely worst thing about the situation, was that he couldn't exactly disagree with it.

He'd survived enough combat to know that afterwards, their every move would be analyzed by both their superiors and the media. And this here? This would be doubly scrutinized. So, yes, they had to offer the Ori the chance to surrender. It was also the perfect opportunity for SG2 to get close enough to the ship to covertly plant the anti-Prior devices while stalling the Ori's assault just long enough to give the rest of the artillery to get into place.

He'd told them it was still crazy. They'd laughed.

"Our day job consists of travelling to other planets via wormhole," said Doctor Grissom with a twinkle in her eye. "You don't do that unless you're at least somewhat nuts."

"Too bad Doctor Jackson isn't here," Pallin had answered. "Then you'd see crazy. Hell, he'd probably insist on going alone and unarmed. We're at least not that crazy."

They were half-way to the ship when the Prior stepped forward, moving away from his amassing troops with no close protection detail. Everyone stopped and waited. He carried a tall staff and even through the binoculars, he looked ill – no, not just ill, diseased. His face was grey and pock-marked and Greyson was glad he was too far away in his command vehicle to see his eyes.

SG2 kept their radios on as they spoke with them.

"Well, hello there, Prior," he heard Colonel Pallin call out. "Welcome to Earth. Now normally we'd be much more friendly and inviting, but, well, we're not all that keen on being nice to people who try to take over our planet. As you probably know, we've got a lot of soldiers at our backs and you might have a lot of soldiers of your own, but you've also probably got tons of injured inside that ship and no back-up coming. We're not afraid to fight you, but we'd rather avoid that fight if it's all the same to you."

Doctor Grissom took up the speech next: "We're giving you and your people the chance to stop this. Drop your weapons and surrender and we'll help with your wounded. Surrender and we promise that no further harm will come to any of you. There's still time to avoid bloodshed on both our sides."

Behind the Prior Ori soldiers continued to assemble in formation as they continued to pour out from the wounded ship. Greyson estimated around fifteen thousand at this point with no sight to an end of the never-ending stream. They were wearing armour and carrying sharp, pointed weapons with crystals on the end. It should've looked ridiculous, but SG2 had already warned him that those pointed weapons shot laser-like beams that packed quite the punch and that armour, while not entirely bullet-proof, certainly wasn't anything like the stuff you'd find in museums or medieval re-enactments.

The Prior, meanwhile, continued to silently look upon SG2 as something distasteful that had just crawled from the bottom of the ocean. Yeah, the Colonel was beginning to really like the plan that involved taking out the Prior first.

He saw movement on his right and then someone saluted. He looked away from his command vehicle's optics to another screen showing his Second in Command.

"Report, Major Schwarzentruber," he said, a part of him inordinately proud of himself every time he said the man's name without stumbling.

"Sir, two sniper teams in the area have reported in. Seems yet more Ori troops are disembarking from the rear of the ship. Estimated twenty thousand plus at this point and still rising.."

Colonel Greyson took a deep breath. That was only to be expected really; they'd be stupid not to.

"Thank you, Major," he said. "Tell Colonel Jensen to send 1-10 Cav north to the Garden of the Gods to cut them off so they can't circle around us." When the Major had hurried off to execute his orders, he spoke softly into his radio as he brought his binoculars back to his eyes. "You get that SG2? Apparently there are more troops coming out the back."

"Roger that, Colonel. This is about three seconds to FUBAR anyway. Only good news is that Miles says their hanger bay door's crushed, so even if they've got more flyers in there, they're not getting out."

Well that was something, he thought, the battle taking place in the air their heads suddenly sounding much more immediate. Then there was a crash of thunder, followed by flash of lightening, and moments later, a crash behind them and an explosion. He tore his eyes away from the monitor and stepped out of his command vehicle to look back towards the city. Black smoke billowed out from behind a row of townhouses. He hoped they'd all been evacuated.

And then finally a strong voice, full of conviction and betraying none of the frailty his body showed was heard over his radio, ringing out in a low voice so intense that it seemed to reverberate inside his head. In fact, he wouldn't be surprised if everyone in town could hear it in their heads.

"Death holds no fear to those who worship the Almighty Ori. Wounds received while in their service are not to be feared, but revered for they are proof of the strength of their beliefs and all will be healed when they join the Ori within everlasting enlightenment. Death and scorn befall the unbeliever as they wilfully turn their backs on the teachings in the Book of Origin. You have sealed your fate, but perhaps it is not yet too late for the rest of your people. We have been called to battle by the Ori and in that path there can be no faltering. Hallowed be the Ori!"

"And that's our cue to get outta Dogde," Pallin muttered just as the ground around them began to shake.

The SG team stumbled back a few steps. If he hadn't been looking for it, he might've missed the moment Lieutenant Miles took advantage of the shaking to deliberately over-balance and fall to the ground, his pack flying from his grasp. He left it laying where it had fallen as he scrambled to his feet and followed his team towards safety.

Meanwhile, the Ori soldiers echoed the Prior's battle cry. "Hallowed be the Ori!" was yelled in several hundred voices and echoed across the hills.

"Hold your fire!" Greyson commanded loudly and vaguely heard his order being passed down the line by his officers. He turned to Major Schwartzentruber on the monitor. "Have our mortar teams and artillery prepare to fire on my mark to cover the SG2 and SG4's retreat."

No sooner had he said this, the Prior lifted his staff and pointed it towards the SG teams. A large burst of flames shot out of its end and Greyson blinked in disbelief as it missed Pallin's head by inches.

"Oh come on, seriously?" he said quietly. "A magic staff?"

He heard breathy laughter interspersed between automatic rounds over the radio. "Careful there, Colonel, you're starting to sound like one of us," he heard Pallin say.

He snorted. The Ori soldiers were moving forward now – more hatches opened along the sides of the ship and troops spilled out in tight, but ordered lines. Like ants out of an anthill. He raised his arm.

"Convoy, covering fire!"

Moments later, 50 calibre machine guns, mark 19 grenade launchers and m429 machine guns opened up on advancing ranks of Ori soldiers dropping many of them like a scythe through a wheatfield. The rest dropped to the ground or fought to find cover as enemy weapons fire flew over them. More subtle were the two sniper teams as they, too, began picking off anyone who looked like they were in charge. It helped sow confusion into the Ori ranks

Bullets and grenades pelted at the Prior, but he didn't move and none of them hit their mark, exploding against his personal energy shield.

The two SG teams finally made it back into the Stryker vehicles and collapsed into their seats, panting as the rear door locked and secured behind them. Greyson nodded to them and then turned his eyes back to the advancing enemy line.

"Miles, how're we doing with that Prior?" he heard Pallin ask. "I don't see him slowing down any."

"Just a minute, sir," Lieutenant Miles answered as he shuffled around for something. There was a moment of silence and then the airman let out a string of glutteral words Greyson couldn't even begin to translate.

"Huh," he heard Grissom say. "You know, I don't actually speak Goa'uld, but I understood every word you just said. For the record, I don't think you can actually tear a man's spine out that way."

Greyson blinked, then decided he just wasn't going to ask.

"What's the problem, Lieutenant?" Pallin asked.

"I threw the pack too far away, sir," the Lieutenant answered, thankfully in English. "He's just out of range."

"How close is 'just out of range', Lieutenant?" Greyson asked, glancing at them SG team huddled around their 'tech guy' and his tablet.

"Like, he's gotta take two steps, close, sir!"

He nodded, considering this complication. "If we provide too much resistance, will the Prior move forward to clear the way for the soldiers?"

Pallin exchanged looks with his team. "He might... I mean, Priors aren't exactly warriors..."

"... but they have powers and think they're invincible," Grissom finished his sentence.

Pallin nodded in agreement. "Besides, it's not like a long, drawn-out battle is to their advantage either."

"Good." He turned looked towards the front of his Stryker. "It's going to get hot here very soon. What's our status?"

"All vics good to go, Colone," his driver and TC responded.

"Enemy troops moving: two hundred metres out and advancing, weapons raised!" came the second report seconds later.

"Gunners, focus fire on those lead elements, keep them pinned down! Get on the horn with our mortar teams. Tell 'em to start laying down ordinance to cover our withdraw. Driver, pop smoke and get us out of here!"

"Yes, sir."

When the Ori soldiers began firing back, it became immediately obvious their hand-held stave weapons had a longer range than had previously been estimated. One well-aimed energy bolt punched through the relatively thin armour of a Stryker like a knife through tissue paper, no doubt killing the three soldiers inside.

Well, no one said this was going to be easy, Greyson thought to himself. He took a deep breath and watched the soldiers advance closer to the defensive line, waiting for the moment they were close enough for him to commence the full attack. Didn't matter where these people came from or what sort of strange weaponry they were packing. Their job was to hold the line and protect the city – hell the world, and wasn't that just something he'd never thought he'd be able to say.

This was turning out to be a day of things he never thought he'd ever do.

"Colonel, Sir," Major Schwartzentruber said over the net. "Receiving new orders from General Harper. First and Third Brigades are to collapse from their positions along Interstate 24 and Highway 115 and establish a half-circle perimeter from Garden of the Gods north down to Cheyenne Mountain High School in the south. Second Brigade is to maintain their position in the city and act as reserve force should the Ori manage to break through our perimeter."

"Acknowledge the order and send it down to our Battalion commanders. Tell them to double-time it."

The plan made perfect sense. The Ori were pushing out eastward in a straight line toward the city. If First and Third brigade could cut them off they'd essentially be bottled up in and around Manitou Springs. Not ideal, but they could limit the damage from the attack. And since the Ori seemed intent on pushing outward, they'd walk into the mother of all crossfires from two heavy brigades.

Greyson looked over to where he could see the Air Force Colonel studying the tactical map displays and icons of US Army troops moving to establish their new perimeter. And in his eyes Greyson could see a flash of understanding. Good, the man understood what the Army was about to do.

"I really don't want to be those guys right now," Pallin stated with a grimace.

"No one is going to want to be in their shoes in a few minutes, Colonel. Hopefully it'll be enough to draw out that Prior."

The Prior watched, unconcerned as the Ori's soldiers moved forward towards the enemy. There was no doubt in his mind that the Ori's army would be victorious, for they walked the path of Origin, the path of the believers and of Truth. But as he watched, he frowned, realizing it was taking the soldiers too long to move forward. The unbelievers of this planet were persistent. Perhaps they thought they had seen the full power of the Ori.

Though his eyes were clouded over, the Prior saw more than any mere mortal man could ever hope to see, thanks to the blessing bestowed upon him by the Ori. He looked past the Ori forces, into the crowded ranks of the unbelievers. He saw them, saw the ignorant savages with their primitive weapons and concentrated on their hearts, on their minds.

He began chanting, feeling his staff glow with power. He felt as the power reached out towards them. Then he felt their pain. They writhed beneath his powers, and though he couldn't hear them, he imagined their cries for mercy. But it was too late, they had already chosen to oppose the Ori. Their lives were nothing; their pain inconsequential.

The noise from their weapons quieted. The Prior took a step forward. A shot rang out from the left and took down one of his commanders. He raised a hand and reached out towards the humans he could feel hiding in the trees like the cowards they were. The ground beneath them shook and their heartbeats quickened.

The Prior smiled grimly. He took another step forward.

And staggered another step forward as the world around him seemed to disappear. Where he'd felt so many, he now felt none. He reached for the blessing of the Ori and could not reach it.

The sound of a small explosion echoed out across the canyon, but the Prior never heard it.

"Hohoho… did you see that? I think someone just took his mojo," said the spotter for Bravo team with a grin.

Staff Sergeant Perez centred the crosshairs of his weapon over the face of the Prior. The expression of shock would be forever etched into his memory. "And now I'm about to take his life. Range?"

"Sixteen hundred fifty two meters. Very light wind from the west at two knots."


Perez exhaled and held his breath as he gently squeezed the trigger. The Barrett M82A1 50. calibre sniper rifle let loose a loud retort, but at nearly 3 times the speed of sound, the round impacted the Prior's face long before the sound of the shot echoed outward.

The soldiers of the Ori froze in horrified disbelief as the head of their Prior – and much of his upper body – exploded like a ripe melon smashed by an unseen hammer. Brain matter, bits of skull and blood coated the nearest warrior, who promptly bent over and emptied the contents of his stomach violently.

The Ori warriors that had been by the Prior stood in numb confusion, unable to understand what they had just seen as the body of the Prior toppled over and promptly caught fire. They were veterans of the Ori Crusade. They had faced the Jaffa and other unbelievers on over a dozen worlds and had always come away triumphant, their conquered enemies joining them as brothers in faith in their righteous crusade.

But now the Prior, the invincible voice of the Almighty Ori, was dead. That surely was an omen of doom, a sigh that they had been deemed unworthy of the protection of their gods. They had been abandoned to die on this accursed world.

One by one, they soldiers of the Ori turned back to face their enemies. Somehow, they had lost the favour of their gods, but they had not lost sight of their duty. Perhaps their deaths would be enough to regain the favour of the Ori.

As the spent shell casing hit the ground and bounced twice, Staff Sergeant Perez turned to the rest of his team with a satisfied smirk.

"And that boys and girls is how you shape the outcome of a battle with one well-placed shot."

"Hooorahhh!" three voices answered in unison.

"Whelp we definitely got their attention. They're no longer focusing on the Strykers. We now seem to have their undivided attention. And…yup, they're moving! Looks like two elements advancing on our position, battalion strength."

"Over a thousand guys for just little ole us?" Perez snickered. "I'm touched."

"Should we move?" his spotter asked.

"Nah, we've got good cover here and they're still too far away to engage us effectively. But keep an eye on them. Soon as they get to about five hundred meters we'll pull back to a more tenable position. Alpha can cover our retreat. Doc, stay alert and watch our six; last thing we need is some of them sneaking up on us."

"Got it," the team medic responded.

"Oh and Perry," he called out to their JTAC after firing off a round. "Anytime you wanna call that air support, it would be appreciated. And make sure to contact Mountain Top and inform them the Prior is dead."

"Already on it," the JTAC responded.

"Well boys it's about to get a bit lively. Let's see how much damage we can do."

Meanwhile, in New York City, the second Ori ship landed in Central Park.