A/N: FINALLY!! I'm really sorry for the wait, and while I doubt this will be worth it, at least its something.
Chapter 14 – Off World
Hammond, Jacob Carter and Jack O'Neill waited in front of the gate for the arrival of SGC's newest off world team. All three men were nervous about the upcoming mission, though for different reasons. While the first two were worried about the probable failure of the mission, Jack was afraid of its success.
Jack knew that even if the mission seemed impossible, Buffy would stop at nothing until they had succeeded – even if it meant the all of their deaths. He wasn't sure if it was being the Slayer or the First One that made her willing to give her life away for the mission.
But he knew that she had made a promise to all of the Pack the night they had all escaped, and Jack doubted that she was going to die until she had fulfilled that promise.
The men were broken from their thoughts by the loud laughter coming from outside the Gateroom. The members of the Eight and Buffy came walking into the room, acting as if they were going on a field trip. Jacob gave Hammond a disbelieving look and the General just sighed and looked helplessly as his friend.
Buffy walked up to the men and grinning, gave them a mock salute.
"Ready and able to go snake-ass kicking, sir!" she quipped with a grin and the other Pack members grinned wolfishly at her antics.
Jacob stared intently at the teenager and felt a strange chill go down his spine. For all her laughter and light heartedness, the girl's eyes were cold and calculating. He sensed that her entire attention wasn't on him, or even George or Jack, but on every person and square inch of the room. She reminded him of an attack dog a friend of his once owned, and for the first time Jacob wondered exactly what 'the Pack' stood for.
Jacob wasn't the only one confused – Selmak was also studying the girl intently through its host's eyes. The Tau'ri were a mystery to the Tok'ra (even with Jacob's perspective) most of the time, but there was something inherently different about these Tau'ri. Something about the way they moved that triggered every survival instinct the symbiote had. Unfortunately, there was too little time to wonder now.
"We should proceed with the mission," Selmak said, turning to the General. Hammond nodded and ordered the control room to proceed with Gate activation. The Pack watched fascinated as the large stone ring began to turn and one whistled as the chevrons began to lock. The final chevron encoded and the Stargate opened with a great flash of light that burst forward and then retracted – leaving the effect of blue pond rippling on the surface.
"Oooh, pretty colours," Buffy said with a smirk, having seen too many bizarre events in her young life to be awed into speechlessness by the alien device. The Pack laughed and Jack just shook his head and chuckled at the children's antics.
The Pack stared at Jacob, waiting for the Tok'ra to walk through the Stargate first. Despite every instinct telling Jacob not to turn his back on the Pack, he carefully made his way through the portal to the rendezvous site. Quickly, the Pack made their own way through the Gate – not hesitating like most first-timers. Buffy gave Jack a sloppy salute and moved forward, stopping at the event horizon. Pausing, she turned back and locked gazes with Jack.
"To the death," the First One said with conviction and disappeared through the Gate.
Hammond looked at his second-in-command curiously, but the other man simply shrugged innocently. But the innocent gesture didn't match the steely look in the Colonel's eyes and Hammond wondered at the significance of the statement.
But the Colonel couldn't explain to the General what it meant; after all, how to you tell someone you respected that it was code-phrase you created while torturing children into become killing machines…and suicide fighters.
The meaning of 'To the death' was simple – nothing is above the completion of the mission; not family, not friends, not even your own life.
Jacob Carter checked the controls once more, making sure they were on course. However, this was the third time he'd checked in the last two minutes. Before becoming a Tok'ra, Carter had been a general in the Air Force and he was no stranger to high-risk missions. So why was he so nervous about this particular mission? The answer to that was sleeping just a few meters behind him.
Immediately upon arriving at the ship, the Pack had curled up with each other and fallen asleep. The Tok'ra had been angry at the nonchalance of the teenagers and had even moved to wake them up – roughly.
But the moment he made a movement towards the huddle, Jacob suddenly found himself staring into two eyes.
The blonde haired girl had softly growled, keeping sharp eyes on the man. Jacob was uncomfortably reminded of Talmacs (predatory animals that had hunted him for weeks when he was stranded injured on a planet). The girl had the same eyes as the beasts; eyes that knew she was the predator and he was the prey – eyes that promised death. Jacob had backed away and gone to the controls, and after watching him for a moment, the girl had returned to sleep.
But Jacob wasn't fooled and even though several hours had passed since the incident, the Tok'ra could still feel those eyes trained on him.
The Tok'ra sighed heavily, and checked the settings once more.
Jacob flinched slightly at the unexpected voice; Selmak had been uncharacteristically silent ever since they left Earth and Jacob knew better than to try and get her to talk until she was ready.
Jacob, are these children really Tau'ri?
Blinking in surprise, Jacob answered, What do you mean?
Selmak was silent, and Jacob waited patiently for his friend.
As you yourself have realized, their behaviour is akin to predatory animals versus that of humans.
George assured me that they're human.
But the General couldn't tell us anymore than that, Selmak pointed out, referring to the conversation they had had with the General before the start of the mission.
Jacob had been furious that Hammond was planning on sending a group of teenagers into one of the most fortified Goa'uld stations in the universe to recover a device that could shift the balance of power. Despite saying that the Pack had come highly recommended by the President, George couldn't tell the Tok'ra much more. But Jacob could sense that George wasn't any more convinced than Jacob was over the assignment of the Pack. It was also just as clear that Hammond's mouth and hands were tied by classified 'red-tape'. Hammond hadn't come right out and said it, but Jacob got the message – the Pack is classified, and if Hammond didn't have security clearance, then it has a higher classification rating than the SGC.
And somehow Jack was involved.
Jacob knew there were a lot of black op missions in O'Neill's past – having called in a few favours to find out about the man when he had first learned that his daughter was working under O'Neill's command. But none of his high placed friends – with the highest levels of clearance – had even hinted at Jack's involvement with a training program. It was hard to imagine a man that loved children as much as O'Neill did would be involved in a project that trained children to kill.
In the end, he hadn't gotten his answers and despite his misgivings the Tok'ra had approved the plan – even if they were doubtful that a handful of children could succeed where their best operatives had failed.
We'll just have to trust that George and Jack know what they're doing, Jacob finally responded, trying to sound more convinced than he really was – despite the fact that Selmak could read his emotions better than he could himself.
Several hours later the ship entered the solar system and was approaching Aerodus when Jacob Carter turned to wake the troops. To his surprise, the teenagers were already rising and putting on their gear. Briefly, he wondered how they knew but a glare from Buffy caused Jacob to return to his controls.
"We've entered into the vector that will keep us in the blind spot in their sensors. As long as they haven't discovered it, we'll be landing about five clicks from the base."
They began their descent – everyone listening intently for any sign of detection. So they all sighed with relief when they touched down safely on the planet. Too bad getting on the planet was the easiest part of the plan. They exited the ship and the Pack finished their gear checks. In unison, they turned to Jacob who handed Buffy a transmitter.
"You have forty-eight hours – any longer and even with invisibility shielding we may be picked up on sensors. When you've completed the mission, send the signal and I'll have the ship ready to go."
Buffy nodded and within seconds the Pack ran and disappeared through the trees.
Jacob looked at the spot where the Pack had disappeared, and again wondered why they reminded him of animals.
Despite the severity of the situation, the Pack were grinning wildly as they ran through the forest. It had been so long since they had the freedom and space to just run and enjoy their movements. After training so long for special ops, they found it hard to move like normal humans again; trying to adopt the lanky gait that humans used instead of the graceful movements of the animals they were trying to emulate.
Suddenly, the First One stopped and Pack stilled and crouched. She listened intently, and quickly moved off in a new direction. Wordlessly, the Pack followed. Seconds later a Jaffa scout troop walked passed the spot where the Pack had been, unaware that their woods were occupied by anything but the usual predators. It was several hours later before the First One found a spot she deemed safe for the Pack to den.
She held out a hand to get the Pack to wait, and she cautiously scouted the area. The Jaffa scout troops moved past the hidden girl, unaware, and after an hour she was satisfied that the Jaffa wouldn't find their lair. The sun was just beginning to set when the First One made it back to the den, and was greeted warmly by her comrades. Making use of what was left of daylight, the Pack prepared for their night vigil.
Stashing their gear, the Pack silently moved out on reconnaissance and jogged the three clicks to the base. As they reached the edge of the forest by the base, they crouched down and for the first time saw their object. Eyes widened in awe at the huge structure before them.
It reminded the First One of the medieval castles that Sir had spoken of when he was training them in siege techniques. But instead of stone, the walls were made of metal and more than arrows guarded the walls. They frowned as they scouted around the structure – hoping to find another entrance. To their disappointment, there seemed to be only one entrance – so their options were to either go in the front gate or scale the walls.
They watched for a little while longer – registering patterns of behaviour of their prey almost subconsciously. Even while sitting still, their muscles twitched in anticipation of the hunt. The First One registered her companions' actions and motioned it was time for them to return to the den. A grin spread across her face, the only indication she gave that she shared her comrades' feelings. Tonight they would feed, play and relax.
Tomorrow night the hunt would be begin.
The Jaffa stood guard by the gate, their torches keeping the darkness at bay. But it was a double-edged sword as the light robbed them of their night vision. The Pack took advantage of this as they moved through the darkness that was their ally. Almost leaning against the walls, the Pack moved slowly towards the guards. The Jaffa never saw their attackers and the last thing they would remember in this lifetime would be the feel of the knife as it slid across their throat.
Knowing that it wouldn't be long before the guards were missed the Pack quickly moved inside. Even though the Tok'ra operative had failed to send reliable information on the device, he had managed to send fairly detailed schematics of the inside of the base. They moved slowly but steadily through the base. Stopping periodically to place explosive in different nooks. They didn't have the time to try and place them strategically, they only hoped it would do enough damage to take out as many of the enemy as possible.
As the first bomb was set, the Pack each double-checked their heart monitors. The bombs were connected to three different detonators – a timer, a remote detonator, and a remote connected to their heart monitors. If the bomb stopped receiving a signal from the entire Pack it would go off. The Pack were going to make sure that they would at least hinder the production of the weapon, even if they failed to destroy it.
Moving swiftly through the halls, the First One was surprised by the lack of guards inside the complex – especially given the massive troop movements outside. But instead of worrying about what she couldn't change or know, she kept the Pack moving. They reached the doors to the room where the Tok'ra were certain the device was being held without incident.
The First One carefully opened the door and tossed in a smoke grenade, using the few seconds before it detonated to note the position of all personnel within. Using hand gestures she quickly relayed the information to the rest of the team and within seconds they were in the room. The few scientists fell quickly under the assault of the Pack – their Goa'uld strength no match for the training and experience of their attackers. Having been warned by Sir, they took special precautions and made sure to injure the neck to prevent the symbiote from surviving and escaping. The guards took longer but the Pack specialized in close quarter combat and managed to take the Jaffa down.
Gasping, the Pack quickly secured the room. The smoke diminished and the Pack looked around for the device. Noting a doorway, the First One opened it and uttered a deep growl at what she saw. She turned to face the rest of the team and they recognized the look on her face. It was the face of a soldier who just realized they were given bad intel -- really bad fucking intel.
Because behind her was the shield penetrating weapon – standing the size of a nuclear missile.