This story starts at the End of God's Eye chapter 18. It will NOT make sense if you have not read my other story, God's Eye, up till that point.
God help him, Jack had kind of liked the Warden and his retinue. Sure they were arrogant, sure they were planning to kill him or turn him into their personal finger-puppet, but they'd been kinda' nice to spend time with. He'd never consent to it without the protection of an Asgard warship behind him but the experience had not been entirely unpleasant. Without the anxiety of weapons or warfare, it felt a bit like dealing with the Russians back in the Cold War. Just a good old-fashioned stare down with a dangerous SOB who wanted you dead.
And like the Cold War, as much as he'd enjoyed it while it lasted, he was glad to have seen it end before it came to blows. He let out a breath that he didn't realize he'd been holding as the event horizon of the Stargate closed with a wirr-hoosh of de-energized plasma as the last of their unwelcome guests left the premises. Those servants and slaves who'd chosen to defect where shepherded into temporary accommodations by marines as the Asgard ally of Earth said his goodbyes.
"A third party?" Jack asked, inquiring into the what had inspired such fear Ammit. Goa'uld with Unas hosts weren't exactly the sort of thing one expected to run and hide. Skulk, prowl, charge – perhaps even stalk, but never flee, one never expected them to flee.
"Ammit's Ailurphobic nature is not without cause – though I doubt the Furling would be able to penetrate this base's defenses." Thor tilted his head. "Though for the Köttr such barriers may prove insufficient - he is quite determined to see the Soul Eater undone."
"You mean there are Furlings on Earth?" Daniel asked eagerly. "For how long? Where?"
"The Furlings are everywhere, provided that you know what to look for." Thor replied. "The wise do not look."
Daniel muttered to himself about possible explanations for supernatural phenomenon as Jack knelt down to get eye to eye with the little Norse god. "Ok buddy – you think it's a bad idea to look for them? Then it's a bad idea. I'll take your word for it."
"It is no accident that my people value your achievements." The tiny man smiled. "It was good to have been of service, friend O'Neill. It pleases me to have been able to serve the terms of our treaty, if only this once."
Thor's black eyes stared up at the Colonel, reflecting the dim florescent lights. Naked and frail, the man looked nothing like one would expect from the ruler who'd inspired the Norse pantheon. The man looked more likely to appear on a lunch pail from Roswell than on the carvings of a Norse warship.
"Yeah, about that." Jack scratched the back of his head. "I thought the whole 'protected planets' treaty was a bluff – something you can't actually enforce."
"It is – mostly." Thor admitted. "At least while the war in my home galaxy continues. Our resources continue to be necessary for preserving our own survival."
It was not the first time that Thor had referred to the domestic threat keeping him from helping Earth in their fight with the Goa'uld. The Asgard were fighting something scarier than the Goa'uld and, judging by Thor's reticence to talk about it, the war was not going in their favor. An enemy capable of going toe to toe with the Asgard - that was a thing of nightmares.
"Then what were you doing in our neck of the woods?" O'Neill queried, pointing at his chest. "Because as much as I love your visits, and I do, you only tend to pop by to tell us that something is – well – going to hell. And things going to hell just make me all ornery. And you know how much I hate getting all ornery."
"I was resolving… a family matter." The tiny grey man replied. "My father requested my presence."
"Your, father?" The Colonel replied, trying to imagine a younger Thor and failing miserably – though not nearly as much as he struggled to comprehend how one would actually produce an infant Asgard. The Norse gods worried little for their own modesty, and he could see no visible orifices or genitals that might result in baby Asgardians. He elected not to ask the questions burning in the forefront of his mind.
Thankfully Daniel had some more practical questions for the Norse deity. He was always good at asking questions. "In Norse lore Thor was the son of Odin the All-father of the Asgard," Daniel interjected. "He was the king of the Norse pantheon."
"In a matter of speaking." The grey man replied, choosing his words with even more care than usual. "The term father is applicable though we do not share genetic kinship. An explanation beyond that would prove… problematic. Certain details are not mine to share."
"I'm sorry, Supreme Commander, but I was under the impression that you lead the Asgard," Daniel queried.
"I do, as does he." Thor replied. "As I said, there are details that are not mine to share."
Translation: State secrets stupid – stop asking. Jack sighed as Daniel opened his mouth to ask the same question in a slightly different way. Danny boy was the nicest guy on the planet, but there were some things he just didn't get. Need to know information? Top of the list of things Daniel could never quite get his head around.
It was easy to keep your idealism in the Stargate program. Things were pretty black and white against the snakes. Kill the slithery goons so they don't make the planet go 'boom' or turn us all into slaves, it had a way of keeping soldiers on the side of the angels. Jack was happy to be living on the right side of black and white for SG-1 but his job hadn't always been so generous. One did not get to the rank of Colonel without being forced to wear a black hat in the name of his nation – one did not serve through a prolonged tour of Vietnam without making choices they would later come to regret.
Thor was a man who had clearly lived his entire life making 'least worst' choices and deserved to have his privacy respected, Daniel's curiosity about his family dynamics be damned.
"Keep it in the family, I guess." The Colonel spoke over his bespectacled companion. "Trust me, difficult families I get. I've got cousin that always causes hell at family gatherings and never pays for his share of the beer. We rag on him behind his back, but none of us would bring it up around someone who wasn't invited to the reunion."
Thor blinked twice.
"Sooo," Jack clapped his hands together, changing the subject. "What about our big, honkin' space-ship."
A space ship, earth finally had a space ship. Three years of going around the galaxy trying to secure weapons for the defense of the planet and it had finally resulted in something that even those infuriating bean counters back in D.C. were going to have to accept as a reasonable justification for the expense of the program. No more memos about 'considering more practical alternatives to extra planetary expenditures.' The look of frustration on Senator Kinsey's face would warm the cockles of his heart for years to come. Nothing was going to please him more than taking that smug, opportunistic slime-ball down a peg. Head of the appropriations committee – more like head up his ass.
The Warden's flagship… no they couldn't keep calling it that. The old girl deserved a new name for her new purpose. And Jack knew just the right one to call her.
Enterprise – come hell or high water he was going to re-name that ship the Enterprise. The higher ups had to know that he had the right to do that, didn't they? After all he had been the one to secure its surrender. It would be a sin not to name the ship after the Enterprise.
"The ship is in orbit behind your moon. I have teleported a cargo ship to the Earth's surface in the base above us so that you may use the ships rings to reach it." Thor rose a finger, waggling it in warning. "But know this O'Neill. The terms of the protected planets treaty do not allow me to search it for dangers beyond those that I've already disabled or remove that which I have not. Tread lightly, O'Neill - I do not trust the machinations of Dre'su'den."
"He's a snake." O'Neill chuffed in amusement. "What's to trust?"
"Indeed." Thor nodded. "I wish you luck, O'Neill. "
"See-ya," O'Neill waved at the disappearing form of the Asguardian his body was subsumed by a pillar of light. "Drop by any time."
He hated it when the Asgard left – having the little guy around was like a guarantee that Earth was safe. Every second the Norse nugget was around would be one more that Jack knew without a doubt in his mind that the world would keep on spinning without somebody coming by to blow it to hell.
A thought popped into the Colonel's head. "I'm not a GI."
"Huh?" Daniel looked over.
"GI's are in the Army." Colonel O'Neil said the thought that had been nagging at the back of his mind for the past three hours. "I'm Airforce."
"I do not understand. What is the point of that line of inquiry O'Neill?" Replied his ever-stoic Jaffa companion.
"The skull, it called me a geriatric GI Joe in fluent English. Hell, it told him that he should 'watch another movie' when we were back on the ship." The Colonel replied, looking to Daniel Jackson for confirmation. "The Warden kept cussing it out as though he'd understood that was being said. Hell, he wasn't even waiting for the skull to say things back to him in Snake when we spoke – he just replied as quick as if he'd been carrying on a conversation in his native tongue."
"Should that be a surprise?" Daniel Jackson asked. "We've run into Goa'uld who've learned English before. They have a talent for emulating our language."
"They do not, however, pretend to be unaware of the vernacular." Teal'c replied, raising his brow in consternation. "He appeared wholly unaware of the flaw in his pretense and equally capable of understanding the totality of the Colonel's intentional use of vernacular speech."
Hell, Teal'c regularly struggled with idiomatic turns of phrase and he'd been living with native speakers for more than two years. For some border world Goa'uld to have mastered the English language enough to understand English without difficulty stretched the boundaries of credibility. The other Gods in his retinue had been nothing but broken sentences and misspoken words.
"He's been here," O'Neill replied. "The arrogant son of a bitch has been on Earth – recently. 'Tell me about this pizza' - my butt."
"He never took off his mask, either." The doctor replied, agreeing with the colonel. "Even after he made such a big deal about sharing a meal with us. He wasn't hiding it from us, he was dangling in front of our faces to show off how much he knew."
"Do you think it was an intentional threat, O'Neill? An implicit show of how much he knew and how little his surrender matters to him in the long run?" The Jaffa considered the matter.
"One of the other SG teams? You think he took them as host?" O'Neill shuddered.
"Not unless you have a Hok'tar on your staff." The self-professed Tok'ra replied. "You'd remember him, he'd be the one who could breathe fire without the aid of technology."
"Yyyyeeeeessss – one would tend to remember that." O'Neill clicked his teeth on the "t"s of "that," popping air out of his mouth. None of the MIA SG operatives had that specific talent listed on their dossiers.
"I'm sorry, I don't think I caught your name." Dr. Jackson held out his hand. "Dr. Daniel Jackson."
The Tok'ra reached out and shook it. "Kanan – a pleasure to meet you all, though I wish it were under less complicated circumstances."
"Hok'tar…" Daniel repeated the word slowly. "I'm not familiar with that word. Advanced… human?"
"It is a word that has not been used in centuries." Teal'c replied. "The thing of Jaffa legends before the fall of the Great Nightmare. A human host capable of wielding great power – I had assumed them things of myth."
"I thought the same about Dragons, this morning." Jack replied.
"What?" Daniel blinked.
"Didn't I mention the Dragons?" The Colonel cleared his throat.
"No – I would have remembered that." The scholar replied in a voice of concern. "Why are we talking about Dragons?"
"There were like ten of them on the bridge – dead. I mean the ship was just lousy with dead Dragons." Jack shrugged.
"Dragons? Big, scaly, fire-breathing lizards?" Daniel replied.
"I don't know about breathing fire, but yeah to the rest." The Colonel said, realizing precisely how stupid it sounded as he turned to the Tok'ra. "Back me up here."
"We were forced to take a detour through the realm of the Great Dragon in order to escape Apophis. We were boarded in the escape." The Tok'ra shuddered in unpleasant memory. "It is not something I about which I prefer to think."
"Dragons?" The scholar repeated in continuing incredulity.
"They are a predatory species which live within the realm of the Furlings." The Tok'ra replied. "They do not commonly choose to leave their home dimension."
"So they're extra dimensional dragons." Daniel replied in a voice of confusion as he turned to Jack. "Is it bad that that sounds less crazy to me than about half the things we do in this job?"
"Considering that both of us have died before, I keep my skepticism to a minimum." Jack replied in a voice of biting sarcasm. "You know me, Mr. Open-minded."
"How does a Goa'uld ship end up in a dimension of Dragons?" Daniel looked to the Tok'ra.
"They do not." Replied the creature. "It's suicidal to even try to do so. The Furlings forbade us entry and they are the kindest kingdoms of those who dwell in the lands of Sun and Snow. No sane Goa'uld would even consider entering the beyond."
"Then how – " Daniel started.
"He's insane." The Tok'ra replied. "Dre'su'den – he's totally and completely insane. You see it in the oldest of the Goa'uld. There comes a point when even the healing effects of a sarcophagus cannot sufficiently undo the ravages of time – and Heka is older than any living Goa'uld other than perhaps Lord Yu. His mind is crumbling, he doesn't even remember how he's supposed to act and is clearly using host memories to supplant those which are missing."
"You're telling me that one of the most dangerous powers of the galaxy is going senile?" Jack jibed. "So what – we just wait for him to keel over?"
"Goa'uld do not die of old age." Replied the Tok'ra. "It's not in their nature. A weak System Lord is quickly on the wrong side of a staff weapon."
"I'm not really seeing the down side of old age making the crazy coot put his life in danger." Jack shrugged. "What with the 'giving us a ship' and being downright decent about it."
"Do not mistake madness for kindness." The Tok'ra replied. "Heka was the keeper of forbidden knowledge for the Goa'uld, responsible for keeping track of that knowledge which the Supreme System Lord Ra decided was too dangerous to allow in lesser hands. All of it – and he has gone weak enough in the head that he's actually using it. I watched him violate every known strategic arms limitation treaty in the space of six hours, he's willing to invoke pacts with horrific consequences in a matter of moments just because he can."
"How much worse could he be than Sokar?" Jack snorted, thinking back to Netu.
"Much." The Tok'ra let loose a harsh laugh. "If you think the System Lords are bad now, wait till a substantial portion of the galaxy has been conquered by a man who carries on prolonged conversations with the voices in his head."
"You think that he is planning to become Supreme System Lord with the forbidden knowledge from before the Fall?" Teal'c replied in a voice trembling with dark implication.
"At this point I wouldn't put anything past that man." The Tok'ra shuddered. "Ancestors help us – he's insane. He doesn't plan anything he just sort of stumbles his way through fatal danger as though it was all some sort of amusing game. He takes gambles that make no sense. He fights when he should talk, runs when he should fight, and talks when any sane man would start shooting. It was like traveling with a point of quantum improbability. He is utterly and irredeemably mad."
"He's a snake." The Colonel replied. "They're all nuttier than a fruitcake."
"The System Lords are greedy, arrogant, bitter, and cruel – but practical. The Warden is none of these things, at least not visibly so. In passing he is actually quite pleasant, but do not mistake that for genuine kindness." The Tok'ra replied. "In the entire history of the Goa'uld Empire, I've never met someone more cunning or dangerous."
"Not a fan, I take it." Jack replied caustically.
"I think that it is in the collective interest of all sentient beings in the universe to see to it that the warden is killed before he can do any more damage than he already has." Kanan shuddered.
"You two seemed pretty 'buddy-buddy' when he was here." Jack replied.
"He decided that I was useful – freeing me from captivity on a whim to get that spirit access to Sokar's database. In the aftermath of Netu's destruction, he publically declared that I was his personal Tok'ra to his entire court." Kanan's face scrunched up in apparent confusion as he struggled to work through that memory. "Once his army surrounded me on all sides, it wasn't as though I could just kill him. I had to live long enough to get word back to the Tok'ra – appeasing the madman was simply the most practical means to that end."
"Well isn't that just special." The Colonel replied.
Kanan's next rant about the dangers of the Lord Warden was silenced by a loud yawn. "Pardon me, Colonel, but I haven't slept in far too long. There is only so long a man can live in a mix of panic and adrenaline before it becomes necessary to rest and recuperate. I believe there was talk of a cell somewhere with a bed and blankets?"
"Yes, by all means." Jack smiled back at the alien. "Please enjoy the hospitality of our brig. I'll bring the old man by to verify that you are whom you claim once he's done with the munchkins in that cut rate house of mouse."
"Big honking space guns, Danny boy." Jack said to his squad mate as marines led the alien away. "Big honking space guns. Today is going to be one heck of a day."
"Indeed," Echoed the Jaffa. "Major Carter will be most pleased by the arrival of so much Goa'uld technology."
Jack clapped his hands together, grinning ear to ear. "Well, come on boys – time to get permission from the General to pick up our prize."
Unbeknownst to Jack, a shadowy shape slinking through the bases' ventilation shafts grinned back - stalking it's long anticipated prey, smacking it's chops in the hunger of millennia.