Thanks for all the reviews on the previous chapter! And to Jon Harper for reading over this one.
Act IX, pt ii
To his left, he heard a slight shuffle, a faint intake of breath and a rabbit-quick heartbeat, and caught a faint whiff of smoke, dried blood and stale sweat. Then he felt the barely-there breeze that came with a displacement of air caused by sudden movement.
Matt ducked and then spun around, kicking his leg out. There was a dull ring as it connected with metal and then a clang and a pained grunt as the Ori soldier hit the ground. Lightning-quick, Matt rushed to the soldier's right, where the sharper, clearer sound of metal had come from, and grabbed his stave weapon. For some reason, the Ori soldiers he'd been encountering didn't seem inclined to use them to shoot at him. He wasn't complaining; they sucked at hand-to-hand.
He pointed the weapon at the soldier and felt him go still.
"Okay, now I'm going to back away and you're going to slowly stand up," he said. He waited a moment and then took two steps backwards and then gestured with the end of the weapon. "Now get up."
Slowly, he heard the gentle scraping of armor on cement and felt the air shifting as the man slowly stood. He was shaking. The soldier took a step backwards and Matt frowned.
"Freeze!" he commanded. "Don't move another step."
The soldier froze, his breath coming in quick, frightened pants. And then there was a rapid displacement of air and the tinkling of metal as the Ori soldier turned on his heel and made a run for it.
"Shit," Matt said under his breath. He raced after him, leaping up to launch himself off the dumpster he'd heard the breeze brushing against with his right leg, using the momentum to reach the wall of the adjacent building with his other. The bricks made for good traction and so he ran several steps along the wall, before flipping himself away and to the ground, landing right in front of the soldier.
There was a clang of armor and a cry of surprise as the soldier skidded to a halt. Matt pointed the stave at the soldier again. From several feet behind him, he caught the smell of leather mixed with blood and sweat, tinged with a faint whiff of Chinese take-out and cheap whiskey. He tightened his grip on the stave. The soldier began to quickly back-pedal again.
"Don't shoot the weapon!" he heard a husky female voice call out from behind him.
Matt immediately shifted his grip on the stave and feigned movement to the right before stepping into the left and jabbing out with his left fist. He hit the armor, sending the soldier stumbling backwards. Then he swung the stave weapon, feeling it hit soft flesh and hearing metal jangle as the thin weapon brushed against the base of the soldier's helmet.
The soldier dropped to the ground and didn't move. Matt listened for a moment, relaxing when he heard a faint heartbeat. Then he turned towards the steady sound of approaching footsteps. The figure was light and the footfalls sounded heavy, but quiet. That meant large shoes, probably with rubber soles. Combat boots, military-issue, or – given the accompanying smells – possibly military-surplus.
"So why shouldn't I shoot the weapon?" he asked the mystery woman.
"Soldiers warned us not to," she answered. "Apparently the guys from the spaceship managed to rig something up that stops their weapons from being able to fire. Makes them explode instead."
Matt's eyebrows rose. "Well, thanks for the warning then."
Her leather jacket creaked softly as she shrugged. "I was in the neighbourhood."
Matt smiled. "Still I appreciate you not letting me blow up my own hands." He paused. "I'm Daredevil, by the way."
The woman snorted. "Yeah, I sort of figured that out by the costume." A long beat passed in silence. "Jessica Jones."
Matt cocked his head. "The private investigator?"
In the silence that followed, he imagined her frowning at him with narrowed eyes. "How do you know who I am?"
He continued to smile congenially, hoping to keep this woman friendly and on his side. "I got a call from a friend of mine sometime... yesterday, I think. He said you were helping to build barricades."
He felt her relax. "Yeah, lifting heavy objects is something I'm good at."
"So I heard."
Beside him, the Ori soldier groaned.
"Come on," said Jessica Jones. "I'll show you where they're collecting the Ori soldiers for transport."
Matt froze, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. "Do you know where they're taking them?"
"Herding them back to Central Park, apparently," she answered, sounding entirely unconcerned. "Except for the ones who need immediate medical attention. I'm not sure where they're taking those exactly, but based on the conversations I've overheard, I think it's some sort of hospital in Boston."
Matt let out the breath he'd been holding. So they weren't just killing them. Good. Although he wasn't quite sure what he would've done if they had been.
Reaching down, he hefted the mostly-unconscious soldier into a fireman's carry. "Well then, lead the way, Jessica Jones."
Teal'c watched as another group of Ori soldiers were herded into the circle by Jaffa warriors. The Ori soldiers went slowly, their feet dragging with every step. He was convinced his warriors did not require their weapons at all anymore – not that he nor they were willing to take that chance – for the defeated soldiers seemed to barely notice them. They seemed beyond fear, so strung out that they looked almost like the walking dead. Like the zombies in the movies he had watched – marathoned, he believed had been the word the marines had used – with SG3 one Halloween several years ago.
Once the soldiers were settled inside the circle, the Jaffa stepped back behind the beacons erected along the perimeter. As they moved away, they activated the beacons. Eight lights began to flash. Less than a minute later, the circle was flooded with the white light of an Asgard transporter beam, taking the Ori soldiers with it.
Teal'c wasn't certain exactly where the soldiers were being transported to, however he'd heard it was a remote facility either in the prairies or the desert. Somewhere surrounded by a lot of flat land and not much else.
He felt someone approaching him from behind.
"Well, that is a rather convenient way to move the enemy away from the city," said Lady Sif of Asgard as she came to stand beside him. She sounded intrigued, and just a little awed.
"Indeed, it has many advantages," Teal'c replied. "It is technology given to the Tau'ri by the Asgard who had held them in great esteem."
"The Asgard?" she said, sounding surprised, before her face settled into a thoughtful frown. "But not Asgardians. I have noticed you and the soldiers of this Stargate Command making a distinction in your speech. I find myself all the more curious to hear your story, Commander Teal'c."
Teal'c looked over to her and nodded. "It is a long story, full of great deeds of valor and brave heroes overcoming impossible odds to defeat enemies with numbers and weapons far superior to their own."
Lady Sif grinned. "Ah, then a grand story indeed."
They both looked up as an F-302 squadron flew over their heads, the last one to head back to Peterson.
Colonel Carol Danvers didn't take any special notice of the Asgardian warrior and Jaffa commander as she led her Snake Skinner squadron away from the battlefield. They were exhausted all, with nothing more on their minds than getting back to base and collapsing into their bunks. Although Danvers was contemplating whether she wanted to delay the collapsing long enough to have a hot shower first.
"Snake Skinner three to Snake Skinner one, please reply, over."
She sighed and flipped the comm link open. "Snake Skinner one here. What is it, Lieutenant?"
"Sir, I've calculated our trajectory and we're flying right over a couple of Colorado Springs' designated evac sites. Any chance we can show off for the crowds? Over."
Colonel Danvers frowned. Reaching over, she brought their flight path up on the SatNav and then overlapped it with civilian evac information. She rolled her eyes as she opened her comm again.
"You mean we're flying right over the school board's designated evac sites, Snake Skinner three."
"Uh, yes ma'am. That's what I mean."
"Everyone else feel up to showing off for the kids?" she asked, knowing the rest of the squadron was no doubt monitoring the communications closely.
After an eager chorus of 'yes, ma'ams' and 'affirmatives', she ordered them to half-speed and switched channels.
"Snake Skinner One Alpha to Mountain Top. I repeat, this is Snake Skinner One Alpha to Mountain Top, please respond Mountain Top."
The response was almost immediate. "Snake Skinner One Alpha, this is Mountain Top. What's your status? Over."
"Status is five by five. We are on-route to Peterson base with a fly-over of evac sites eleven and twelve. Request permission to do a victory lap. Over."
There was a long silence and the Colonel was half-convinced the request was about to be denied. After all, even at half-speed they were about to reach the evac site in question.
"Snake Skinner Alpha One, this is General Landry. Are you sure your squadron is up to it?"
"Affirmative, General," she responded almost immediately. "They're ready and able."
"Then you have permission, Snake Skinner Alpha One. But nothing fancy, Colonel. Just keep it slow and simple, impress the kids and go home. Do you copy?"
She grinned. "Copy that, General. Slow and simple. We'll leave the fancy stuff for the Air Show. Snake Skinner Alpha One out." She switched frequencies again. "Snake Skinner One here. We've got permission from Mountain Top boys and girls. Snake Skinner Three, since this is your idea you get to fly in first. Go in low and slow, flash them that American flag, Lieutenant. The rest of you, on my tail."
She wished she could see the look on the childrens' faces as she led her squadron around a wide loop of the evac site while Snake Skinner Three flew in to do a leisurely circuit two feet above the tops of the school buses. Once her systems told her he'd flown over most of the site, she increased her speed and dove down, the rest of the squadron right behind her like a gaggle of ducklings. Really fast ducklings.
She kept the angle steep, bringing her nose up just in time to avoid hitting Snake Skinner Three as she breezed above him and then flew straight before banking up again and twisting her F-302 into a partial loop. She felt herself grinning like a maniac as she put the brakes on for long enough to twist again and then continue the steep ascent.
This. This was what was so amazing about flying an F-302 – and why they'd be peeling her out of the pilot's seat by force one day. She understood the appeal of flying a behemoth like the Daedalus, because it was partially about the awe of sitting at the navigation of something so amazing, but nothing maneuvered like an F-302. It was like finally being able to really defy gravity.
Glancing down, she saw thousands of jumping, waving children. The noise was probably deafening. Deciding she could stand to perform one, last trick, she looped around again and dove, pulling up just in time to come to an abrupt stop hovering just above the crowd.
She waited for them to straighten, to carefully remove the arms that had been shielding their eyes. Then she waved at them. The sudden terror turned very quickly to joy, excitement. She imagined that quite a few of the children present had parents in the air force, and even more had been taken to various air shows over the years. The ability to hover was unique to SGC aircraft.
"Alright Snake Skinner Alpha Squad," she finally said into her comm. "It's time to head on home."
Daniel barely had time to brace himself before he had Vala draped over his shoulder and her smartphone hovering inches from his face. He had no idea what sort of face he'd made, but it certainly wasn't a smile.
"Oh that's a horrible picture, Daniel," Vala complained. "Do it again!"
"And why am I doing this?" Daniel asked, even as he smiled at the cellphone camera – because, when it came to Vala, it was sometimes easier to just go along with things. He'd long ago learned to pick his battles.
The camera snapped again. "Ah, much better." Vala hopped off his back and began to tap at her phone furiously. "I'm going to tweet it."
Daniel blinked. "You're going to what?"
"That's that messaging thing where you write about what you're doing, right?"
Vala rolled her eyes. "Yes, Daniel. It's called Twitter. We've had this conversation before, remember?"
Then Vala held her phone up again. "Cameron, smile!"
Cameron, who'd been speaking on his radio behind them looked up from his conversation. "Huh?"
Vala snapped the picture. "Close enough," she said with a grin on her face, before tapping away again.
Before Daniel could stop her, Christine Everhart had slipped around him and was holding her hand out to Vala. "I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced yet," she said with a professional smile and an excited gleam in her eye. "I'm Christine Everhart of Vanity Fair."
Vala blinked once and then her grin widened. "Oh hello, I'm Vala Mal Doran," she said as she took the reporter's hand. "The sexy member of SG1."
Just then Cameron came to stand next to Daniel, a pinched look on his face as he regarded the reporter warily. "Uh, should we be putting a stop to this?" he asked Daniel in a low voice.
Daniel sighed. "Part of me wants to say 'no', because at least Vala will keep her occupied, but on the other hand, it's Vala who's keeping her occupied."
Cameron began to head in their direction when Iron Man swooped down from the sky and landed beside Vala and Christine Everhart. He pointed at Christine as his faceplate slid up.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded.
Christine smiled sweetly at him. "Why I'm a reporter and there's some very exciting things happening here, so where else would I be?" She lifted her camera slightly and snapped a picture of Iron Man. "Besides, I broke the alien invasion story, so it only makes sense for me to follow-up. I'll be the first one out with any sort of footage. Other than whoever's been posting from Stark Tower, that is. But that's only one part of the city."
Daniel's eyebrows rose. "JARVIS has been posting footage from Stark Tower?"
Tony looked in his direction and shrugged. "Yeah, since the battle made it to them, he's been writing regular status updates."
"Oooh, yes he has!" said Vala, her nose buried in her phone. "I'm following Stark Tower now..." She looked up to meet Daniel's eyes. "Cassie's wounded, by the way, but alive."
Daniel closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. "Good. That's... well, not entirely good, but not as bad as it could be. Thanks, Vala."
"You're welcome, Daniel."
Daniel turned to look at the Ori troops, where they were being watched by army re-enforcements who'd been beamed into the area. They looked exhausted and heavy-hearted, their energy from the battle long since depleted, leaving them looking like empty shells of the men they'd probably once been. Daniel hoped they'd find themselves again once they returned home – the part of him that wished for peace wanted them to find it as well. He knew it wouldn't be that easy and hated the Ori all the more for ripping that peace away from their followers – for taking so much more from them than they'd ever planned to give back.
Though, at the moment, he mostly wanted them gone.
Daniel turned away from the enemy soldiers to look up to the Victory, the ship that was the final legacy of the Four Great Races. The ship that was built as the last hope for the Milky Way and Pegasus Galaxies. Commander Marvel had been right: she was magnificent. The morning sun reflecting off her hull made her shine, the darker metal sparkling as though several star systems had somehow been captured and frozen within.
"Thank you," Daniel whispered, not quite sure whom he was addressing, but hoping that maybe, somehow the sentiment managed to reach the Victory's builders. "I promise to do everything in my power to make sure she makes it to Atlantis."
A gentle breeze swept across Central Park and ruffled his hair. Daniel could've sworn he smelt jasmine.
A small smile on his face, he then turned back to his friends and fellow planetary defenders. Cameron had wandered off again and was talking on the radio to troops in the city, his eyes carefully following Vala, who was taking pictures of herself with a bemused Iron Man and Thor. Sam stood to the side, quietly watching over Steve and his friend. Steve looked like he was ready to vibrate right out of his skin as he held himself at a careful, respectful distance away from the man he was staring at with anxious excitement. The other man's expression was wary, but Daniel noticed that his body language was turned towards Steve and he thought he felt an air of careful hope just hovering in the background.
Rodney was nowhere to be seen. Daniel assumed he was already back on the Victory analyzing the data he'd collected from the communications beacon.
And then there was Christine Everhart quietly wandering around and snapping pictures. Daniel sighed. He would have to ask Jack what to do about her. It was strange, though, to think that it wasn't just his world, the way he viewed it that was about to change. The whole world was going to know what he knew – well, most of it anyway. He was excited to share his knowledge, to finally tell people about the amazing things he'd seen, tell them about the amazing people he'd met. But it was terrifying.
He was under no illusions that he would be able to sweep himself under the carpet, to go unnoticed. He was a member of SG1, one of the program's oldest members, and the Head of the Anthro-Archeaology department. Everything he'd ever done, every decision he'd ever made was about to become public record, and he was going to be judged for each and every one.
"Oh look, the President's commented on my twitter post!" Vala suddenly exclaimed. Daniel looked to where she was practically bouncing with excitement. "He says he's glad we made it through in one piece. And Teal'c posted from Manitou Springs. He says he's glad too. Oh, there's a picture of him and War Machine!"
"Teal'c has a twitter account?" Daniel asked, feeling more than a little out-of-the-loop.
Vala sent him a look. "Of course he does, it's how he keeps track of all the latest Star Wars chatter."
"I'm not quite sure what it says about us that it's the aliens on our team that are the social media gurus," Cameron commented.
"What, you guys aren't on twitter?" Tony asked them, looking up from Vala's phone. "What about facebook? Please tell me you're at least on facebook. It's what all the cool kids are doing nowadays."
Daniel raised an eyebrow at him. "I am not, and never have been, one of the so-called cool kids."
"Well, I'm making us a facebook account, so you'd better get used to it," said Vala, still tapping on her phone. "Before some fan group comes along and creates a fake SG1 page."
Daniel groaned. "I think I'm going to go hide in my office until everything goes away."
Next to him, Cameron chuckled. "Sorry, don't think anyone's going to give you that option."
He sighed. "I know, but I can still dream about it."
"Hey, on the bright side, your office is still there," Steve called to him, his voice full of laughter.
"Yeah, yeah it is."
Daniel looked up into the cloudy sky. The wind had dissipated enough of the dust from the battle that he could see blue again. No matter what came next, he supposed the good news was that they were there to face it.
They'd done the impossible. Again. They'd meet the Ori again, it was inevitable. But that future meeting was already looking much less daunting. For the first time since this whole nightmare had started, Daniel founding himself looking to the future with optimism.
They could do this. Probably not tomorrow. Tomorrow, they would morn. The day after that, they would begin to rebuild. Some day after that, though, they would finally win this war.
Wow, just wow. I can't believe we've finally reached the end of this journey. It's been a blast. Thank you very much to all of you who've come along for the ride, whether you've been here since the beginning or only just joined in. Yes, there will be a sequel of sorts, although don't expect it in the too-near future. I have a few other projects I'd like to get at least a chunk of done before I start on the sequel to this. The next big one will be a Harry Potter/Stargate crossover, so maybe I'll see some of you there.