Upon a Fiery Steed
A/N: Stargate belongs to Showtime, MGM, Gekko, and Double Secret; Mobile Suit Gundam Wing to various other personages including Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate. No infringement intended for any of these. SG-1 is set about mid-4th season and takes a sharp left out of canon after "Serpent's Venom"; GW is seriously AU and TWT (Timeline? What Timeline?), set about AC 198. Warning: Mild yaoi.
One shot causes great pain. Two may kill, Daniel Jackson reminded himself through a sickening haze. He blinked, trying to focus past the armor plate and silver-gray mesh that was all he could see, slung over his captor's shoulder like a sack of potatoes. His bound hands twitched convulsively against the Jaffa's polished armor, visible sign of the full-body trembling induced by two separate - but not separate enough - zat blasts. You're pushing it already. Don't make them try for three. Disintegration kind of ruins your whole day....
Great. His subconscious was channeling Jack.
I don't need a subconscious, Daniel thought dazedly, fighting not to throw up as the Jaffa lugged him around yet another corner, two scowling escorts with charged staff weapons right behind. I need a Jack. One armed, snarky, thoroughly ticked-off Black Ops Colonel. Was that too much to ask of the universe?
Focus, Danny. Where are you, and how can you get out?
Where he was... that was a little fuzzy. Last time the archaeologist had been sure of where he was, he was in the middle of invading dog-helmeted Jaffa, collapsing blue crystal tunnels, and a retreating swarm of Tok'ra spies.
"Safe" planet, Daniel thought grimly. "Safe" hideout. Yeah sure you betcha. So safe, some System Lord nobody even knew was in the Gault planetary system plunks a pyramid ship down almost on top of the base. So much for Tok'ra security....
Then again, there was such a thing as pure, dumb luck. Given that a System Lord had landed on Gault in the first place, they'd pick a spot near a Stargate if possible. Just like the Tok'ra did.
Two moralities, but just one species after all.
Goa'uld were arrogant, not dumb. Even before landing, whoever it was would have sent out search parties to secure the area. Apparently, one of those search parties had snagged some Tok'ra sentries. And apparently, said System Lord's Jaffa had just happened to do the smart thing and taken the sentries silently, so they could find the base and blast its rebel inhabitants into itty-bitty pieces.
Simple, straightforward, and fast. Like they knew the ceiling was about to come down on top of them.
Maybe they did. The Tok'ra had been a thorn in System Lord sides for over two thousand years; odds were they'd pulled the collapsing-base trick at least once before SG-1 had come along.
Wish they'd give us a floorplan of just how the collapse works, so we wouldn't end up in the middle of it...Daniel thought blearily, trying to add up corridors and half-remembered sensations to get a better sense of where he was now. Wish they'd leave the locals out of the mess when they set up a base. I know they need local human support to attack the Goa'uld - but do they have to drag the kids in?
At least he'd pulled the little Gaultish girl out of the tunnel before it caved in, shoving her toward her frantic villager-turned-rebel-abettor cousin before they all ran like hell.
And a zat had trilled, and the ground had smashed air from his lungs.
Cold... light...that was transport rings,Daniel calculated muzzily; somewhere in the middle of this mess he'd tried to make a break for it, and the resulting zat blast had left everything dark for a long, long time. Aching cold, the light of a thousand stars... oh gods, we must have gone through another 'Gate.
Which meant he wasn't just off the surface, he wasn't even on the same planet.
Jack's got to be tearing his hair out right now... stop thinking about it, Dr. Jackson. Jack's freaking out, but Colonel O'Neill's got to think about the whole planet. If he can't find you, he's going to assume the Goa'uld got you.And your GDO. Which means when you get out of here, you'd better pick a planet that doesn't have an iris, because Jack is going to lock your code out as soon as he hits the SGC-
"...Lady, you even give snakes a bad name!"
Daniel blinked, automatically pricking his ears at the sound of Goa'uld spoken with an accent. That's not a Tok'ra. And it definitely isn't anybody from Gault. The locals were of Mongol origin; their language didn't even have some of the Goa'uld consonants....
Fingers cracked against flesh as his captors tromped into the room; a tall Jaffa in First Prime armor snarled at a slim form bound into what looked like the System Lord version of a mad dentist's chair. "Be silent before your goddess!"
"Shyeah, right. As if." Strapped down too tight to even wriggle, a black-clad teenager puffed brown bangs out of his face. Large violet eyes fixed on the Prime with a mocking glint, ignoring the red fingerprints on one cheek and the thigh-length chestnut braid uncomfortably squashed by his neck. "Bet those doggie helmets rattle all the brains out of your head. That's why your death gliders can't come out of a Gundam fight in one piece unless they run like scalded puppies. Listen, dimwit, your lady snake over there doesn't even rate a two out of ten on the demon scale-"
The Prime was turning a rather alarming shade of crimson. Daniel half expected steam to shoot out of the beleaguered Jaffa's ears. Strapped down, disarmed, outnumbered ten to one - and this kid's about to make a Jaffa keel over in sheer frustration.
He couldn't help it. He snickered.
Oooh, bad move, guy, Duo Maxwell thought, hiding a wince as Dimme's enraged First Prime slammed the tall blond into matching restraints. Combat boots, dark green pants covered with pockets that had all been stripped open, a sweaty black t-shirt that could have come out of Heero's semi-formal closet... looked like he wasn't the only one who'd been caught raiding a Goa'uld cookie jar. Man, I was hoping you'd stay quiet until they threw us into a cell. System Lords take time to think up just what they want to do for torture, we'd have had a good window to get the hell out of here.
Then again, if the legends were right... this System Lord probably knew exactly what she wanted to do to Duo. Or anybody else from Sanq.
Almost against his will, he glanced toward the gold-eyed woman whose body housed a Goa'uld Queen. Tall and fair, midnight tresses draped in a crown of silver-laced braids that cascaded over her shoulders to mingle with her emerald robes, ribbon device glinting death from her right hand. Maybe I'll get lucky and she'll try an implantation. Shi no Yami versus snake - that'll be short.
At least, that's what the records said.
Then again, Dimme might have some of those records. In which case - whatever she had in mind might be worse than a larva.
One way or another, we're in a System Lord's lab. This is generally Not Good.
The Jaffa who'd been carrying the blond dropped to one knee. "The... human, my Lady Dimme."
Whoa, whoa. "Human"?Duo thought, studying his fellow prisoner out of the corner of his eye. Not Sanqian, or Hualiesh, or anything that sounded like a planetary name. Just human?
"Dimme," the blond muttered, wrinkling his nose to try and shove his glasses back into place. "Sumerian version of Lamashtu, daughter of Anu. The demoness who chose the darkness that she might kill through plagues...."
English?!Duo kept his mouth closed with an effort. Bless Heero's paranoid little mind for making every pilot in the Wing learn the language they'd snatched off Goa'uld databases. Too bad it's not him here. I get most of what he's saying, but if Blondie speeds up I'm going to be in trouble. He surreptitiously tugged at the straps, and rolled his eyes. Okay, more trouble.
English. Holy frickin' hell. Not human. Tau'ri.
"You will not sully my lost sister's name, mortal." Dimme flexed her ribbon-bearing hand, obviously tempted. Then lowered her hand, and smiled.
"Indeed," her glowing gaze flicked at two Jaffa, who hustled toward a sealed door toward the back of the lab, "You will serve it."
Staffs charged, the Jaffa prodded a lithe, mottled-gray and olive humanoid toward them. Its six-fingered hands bore inch-long talons, a pair of four-foot tentacles sprouted from either side of its bony spine, and it bent under Dimme's caress with an insect's quick grace.
Then it looked at him, one eye slit gold, one still human blue, and Duo felt his heart clench. No. Bones were reforming even as he watched, shifting farther and farther from anything familiar... but he knew that gaze. "Page," he whispered. "Ran Page. No...." I thought he went down in the ambush - oh angels, I was hoping he had! "You inbred parasitic excuse for a-"
Duo managed to roll with the punch, just enough that the Prime didn't break his jaw. He swallowed the coppery taste, unable to look away from this... this travesty of what had been a Preventer. Blue was gone now, swallowed up in gold, and there was nothing human left in that sinuous form rubbing against Dimme's knee. Beside him Duo could hear Blondie gagging. Guess he never met Lamashtu's work up close and personal before. Poor guy.
"I see you approve of my Reaver." Dimme's lips curled.
"I see you're just like your sister," Duo gritted out. "Mess with life-codes like they're your own personal toy boxes." Ran. I'm so sorry. Darkness rustled in the corners of his mind, Shinigami surfacing with his cold rage. "Let me clue you in, Dimme. Mother Nature bites back."
"Ah, yes. The Guardian charge." Dimme scraped her nails down Duo's cheek, along his neck, just short of breaking his skin. "Protectors of your pitiful planet. Warriors against the System Lords." A cruel, cruel smirk bent her lips, as she gestured the thing that had been Ran toward him. "Aberrations. Sports, to be rogued out of the gene pool of my sister's perfect pets."
Blondie swallowed. "And you think that creature's going to do it."
Guy speaks Goa'uld, Duo thought, Shinigami's dark wings beating in the back of his mind. Well, duh, 'course she does; she wouldn't have it here if she didn't. But keep her talking. He dipped into the shadows in his mind, reached out with that dark power to the physical shadows under his restraints. Odds in here were not good, but given the choice between taking on five Jaffa, a System Lord, and that thing, or waiting for Dimme to try her bio-engineering on him-
And her hand slammed down on his shoulder, paralyzing heat jabbing into his flesh.
Can't - breathe. Can't - move-
His hold on the shadows shattered. Fire blazed in his shoulder; acid, venomous fire, snaking along muscle and nerves to whisper submit, bow, yield to the mistress....
No. Way. In hell.
Shinigami snarled, bending mind and self to the fight. My body. My mind!
Block the blood vessels carrying the Reaver venom into his body. Loose Shi no Yami's modified antibodies about the site, biochemical shield and sword against the invader. Wrap his mind about the very smallest of shadows, use them to slash and burn and pry at the intruding cells....
Duo panted for breath, blinking sweat out of his eyes before he let them slide almost closed. Stopped it. I think. He felt the first shivers of fever, his body rousing more conventional defenses against the invader still writhing in his flesh. Play dead, kid. Shinigami's got it pinned, but if you're getting a fever, it's not down yet. If she zats you now, you are toast.
"It will take longer to transform a Guardian than a mere Preventer." Dimme stepped back, satisfied. "But you will bend, and warp, and break... and I will see it all." She giggled, an evil child plucking the wings off butterflies. "And the worst of it is, you will feel your mind bend to mine. You will know my will as your own, and you yourself will seek out my enemies in human guise." She licked her lips, eyes alit with hungry glee. "As will you, little Tau'ri. And I shall strike a blow at your rebellious planet such as no System Lord has ever dreamed!"
"Earth's under the Protected Planets Treaty!" Now Blondie was yanking against his restraints, muscles quivering as he realized the damn bonds were just too strong. "You can't bring ships into the system, Dimme; the Asgaard will slag you into space junk. And you'll never get one of those things through the 'Gate!"
Asgaard? Protected Planets Treaty?Duo fought down his curiosity. Play dead, play dead... man, I've got to sit this guy down and pester him until he talks. For about a week.
If he got out of here. If he could get out of here, before Dimme realized her shot wasn't working and hit him with another dose or three. Hit it hard enough and even a Shinigami's immune system could crash. He was still shaking from the fever, hot and cold and terrified....
Wait. Terror? Shinigami didn't feel fear. What-
Fear. Determination. Friendship. Fear.... Distinct pulses of emotion, familiar as his own skin. Shivering over him like a fall of snowflakes, pure and delicate and beautiful.
"Ah. But you won't look like that, my pet-to-be. Not when I will it." Dimme's tone sharpened. "Ran."
Mottled flesh squirmed, paled, collapsed-
And a naked man dropped to one knee, eyes blue and empty. "My Lady."
"Ran," Duo whispered, heart aching. "Angels, tell me you're still in there." Quatre. Look. See. He spared a shred of strength to embrace that familiar presence, hoping the empath's spaceheart would pick up enough image and feeling to warn the Wing. If he didn't make it out of here-
Exasperation. Friendship. Determination.
All right, all right, lil' Cat. I get the point,Duo thought, hiding a smile. The burning in his shoulder was starting to fade; Shinigami was winning. No dying while you're on the job.
"Duo." The teeth in Ran's grin were just a shade too sharp to be human. "You'll like living for the goddess."
I don't think so."You were a good friend, Ran," Duo said softly. "I swear I'll kill you."
"Duo?" Dimme's dark brows rose, intrigued. "Should I know that name, my pet?"
"Preventer Agent Duo Maxwell," the Reaver said, voice empty of emotion. "Pilot 02. Gundam Deathscythe-"
"A Gundam pilot?"
The pyramid ship rocked. Lights flickered. Alarms began a mournful wail.
"Goddess! We are under attack!"
And cue the confusion, Duo thought gleefully, watching Jaffa stampede their queen out of the lab as the shaking went on, the Prime breaking off from the main group to head up toward the main controls. That's right, get her out of here, forget about us measly tied-down humans....
Damn. One Jaffa planted his staff weapon against the floor, zat in his belt, standing staunch, helmeted guard in the corner.
And Ran was still staring at him. Smiling.
Last time I saw that many teeth, 'Fei was making crocodylian soup.Duo let out a soundless breath. Okay. Focus. One guard, one... thing, and- Eyes still mostly closed, he slid a stealthy glance Blondie's way.
Alert blue met his gaze. Flicked a glance toward his shoulder. Grimaced. Slid another glance toward the Jaffa. Blinked deliberately. Looked at the Reaver, and crooked a blond brow up.
Duo hid a grin. Thank you, thank you, I got a bright one. "Ran..." he groaned, eyelids fluttering almost in time with the flickering lights. "It hurts...."
Ran glided closer. "Give into the pain, Duo. It'll be over, so soon."
"So, does your queen engineer plagues often?" Blondie asked brightly, sitting up the fraction of an inch the straps allowed, fixing an innocent, inquisitive look on the startled Jaffa. "It would explain why the Akkadians and Sumerians had a couple hundred different charms against her. Although Dimme's not as well known as Lamashtu. Any idea why that would be? Or maybe it was just the local press. Hard to beat somebody like her sister for pure bad publicity. 'She is fury, she is rage, she is dreadful sorcery...'"
"It's like fire, Ran. Please." It was; though a dying fire, now, beaten back by the hope rising with every shake of the ship. Concentrate. Shift the shadows; there, there, and there. You're only going to get one chance at this.
"'She slays the old, the young, the baby in the womb....'"
"Let go, Duo. Stop fighting. You'll be one of us now." Ran's eyes were empty as a shark's as he sniffed near the wound. "I can smell-" Confusion clouded his gaze. "What is that smell?"
"What smell?" Come on, just one more second!
"'Her name is fever, fire, death-'"
Shinigami twisted out of shadow-severed straps, slipped hands into his boots as he rolled, came up with darkened steel. And threw.
The Reaver touched the slim blade embedded in what should have been his heart, ignoring the crimson trickle of blood. "You slew my kin!"
"Surprise," Duo gasped. Okay, heart-shot didn't work.... One hand had already dipped into his braid, pulling out the hilt of a thermal knife. He thumbed it on, its steady hum punctuated by surprised grunts from the Jaffa as Blondie kicked and sliced his way free with Duo's second throwing knife.
Shinigami ignored the Tau'ri's fight. Here was the enemy, writhing out of human guise. Here was the creature that had tried to take mind, heart, and soul.
Time to die.
Shadows stretched into black wings, lifted him in a swift leap above striking talons. He slashed deep into the Reaver's shoulder, used the blade's leverage to twist him past a slicing tentacle, and yanked green energy down toward the spine. The scent of seared flesh choked his nostrils, carrying a dark tang of swamp and illness.
A zat trilled. Once. Twice.
Olive-gray flesh collapsed as Shinigami pulled his blade free. "That's for Ran, hebi!"
"Um...." Blue eyes were wide as Blondie gestured toward dark wings, zatted Jaffa limp on the floor behind him.
"Neat trick, huh?" Duo let Shinigami's wings dissolve back into shadows, pushed his darker self back as he grinned at the Tau'ri. "Duo Maxwell. I run, I hide, but I never lie."
"Daniel," the Tau'ri said after a moment. "Ah... you're not...?" He waved a finger toward the fallen creature.
"Nasty immune system," Duo shrugged, bouncing toward the wall. "Tends to eat things. Sally says she hasn't seen anything it can't munch, given a good shot. Speaking of which, Sally's going to want to see this one." He thumped on a few consoles, found the subtle pads to press. "They usually keep some medical supplies in the labs, in case they do something semi-fatal to a guy and don't want to stick him in the nasty little gold box. Gotcha!" He yanked out the Goa'uld equivalent of biohazard bags, snatching a few first-aid supplies he recognized for good measure.
"Gauze and tape are universal constants," Daniel muttered, steadying himself against the wall as the lights dimmed and rose. A trembling went through the hull, as if the ship itself shuddered in pain. "Friends of yours?"
"Oh yeah. Dimme's going to have a very bad day." Duo wiped oozing darkness out of his shoulder wound until blood trickled out clear and red, and dropped the stained pad into one bag. Never thought I'd be glad to be bleeding. Now to get his Reaver-stained throwing knife for a "clean" sample. Dr. Sally Po had all kinds of bad words for Shi no Yami-eaten bugs-
Duo's gut curdled. "Please tell me you did not say 'uh-oh'."
"Um." Daniel pointed past him. "Wasn't Ran right there?"
Bloodstained floor. Empty floor. Oh hell-
Hide-clad muscle throttled Duo's throat, lifting him into the air with a vicious hiss. Spine shot didn't work either. Son of a-
And the world was a blur of thermal blade, teeth, and talons. He caught a flash of Daniel hurled sideways, a shriek as green energy seared off a tentacle and clawed hand together, the wheeze of his own breath as one of the Reaver's remaining tentacles snagged his throat again.
Staff weapon, Duo realized as the Reaver slipped limply off him, a smoking hole centered in its torso. He tore the tentacle off his neck, stumbled toward Daniel. "'Scuse me." Making sure his hands were in plain view - the way Daniel gripped that staff weapon, he sure as hell knew how to use it - Duo plucked the zat from the Tau'ri's belt. Hell with samples.
Once. Twice. Three times.
"That's not supposed to happen." Chalk-pale, Daniel stared at the charred, smoking - but still present - body.
"You're telling me." Swallowing dryly, Duo fired a fourth time. Blue sparks flared over the corpse, and it vanished.
"Problem," Daniel said numbly.
"Oh yeah. Definite problem," Duo muttered. Us. Ran said us. Which means there's more than one of these things. Hell.
"Um... no. Problem," Daniel said tightly.
Duo glanced toward the shaking Tau'ri, ready to try and dispense some of Quatre's soothing words about life or death, had to do it, Ran would have wanted it this way-
And stared at the black stain of a talon-wound in Daniel's left forearm. The visibly spreading stain. The Reaver's infection, spreading through a body that didn't have even a Preventer's augmented immune system. "Te me...."
Hope this works. He's cute.
Dragging the stunned Tau'ri down blue eye to violet, Duo gave him a bloody, wet, thorough kiss.
Er - ah - um?
For a long, frozen moment Daniel forgot to breathe, locked into the gentle and demanding touch of lips and tongue. Duo was a soldier, and soldiers weren't supposed to - well, then again, that depended on the culture, and if Duo's was mixed up with Lamashtu, the Sumerians sometimes let that kind of thing slide. But damn it, this was a teenager! He had no right-
But the wiry teenager's fingers were locked in blond hair, the tip of his braid tickling past Daniel's neck as he tilted the archaeologist's head back to deepen the kiss, and he tasted like spice and blood and some odd, alien sweetness....
That one did damage, Daniel realized, listening to alarms change pitch and stridency. Goa'uld attack vessels have defense shields capable of taking megaton warheads. What the heck is out there?
"Damn, guys, just when it was getting good." Duo let go with a wry smile, grabbing Daniel's wounded arm. "You can kill me for this later." Spitting into one hand, he rubbed bloody saliva into the infected gash.
It stung, but Daniel held still. Oh. Oh. "You think that will...?"
"No clue," Duo said briskly. "Figure it's the best we can do 'til we get to Sally. Hand me that wrap."
Pressure bandage, Daniel realized as Duo cinched the wrap around his arm. Right. "Like a snakebite-" Wait. Get to Sally? "The Stargate's going to be in the most guarded part of the ship!"
"Who said we need a Stargate?" Duo checked the zat'nik'tel over with a professional's touch, tossed him the staff weapon. "Come on!"
So we're not going by 'Gate. Trying to ignore the crawling, fiery sensation under his bandage, Daniel followed in the braided teen's wake, picking off Jaffa farther back as Duo mowed through guard patrols like a vorpal bunny on speed. How are we getting off-
Oh, no. He knew what direction they were heading. "I can't fly!"
"Lucky you. I can!" Grinning like shadows and starlight, Duo yanked him to a halt by the launch bay doors, juggling shock grenades he'd taken from a knifed patrol leader. Counted off silently, hit the panel to open the door, and threw-
Forewarned, Daniel looked away from the flashes, trying not to hear screams. Unconscious, not dead, he repeated to himself, blinking away the fuzzy feeling in his head as they wove through fallen Jaffa. If we couldn't use shock grenades, we'd have to kill them... I don't want to kill anybody else today....
Though from the look of things, that - Preventer? Weird term, and definitely not Goa'uld - Ran, had already been as good as dead. Daniel shuddered. I don't want to go like that. Even a host would be better than that. You've got a chance at Thor's Hammer; I don't know if the Asgaard would know what to do with screwed up DNA... oh, damn. Sourness rose in his throat. The world tilted.
"Here!" Duo dragged a limp Jaffa out of an open death glider cockpit. "He already did most of the pre-flight - Daniel?"
"Ugh." There went lunch. And breakfast. And last night's dinner, from the feel of it.
"Oh, ouch." A cool hand patted his forehead, dropped to hold Daniel's shoulder as he heaved again. "Daijobu yo. Maa, maa... just hang in there. This is a good sign." The teen's voice dropped, almost lost in another distant explosion. "I think."
It's okay, easy there, the linguist's fevered brain translated. Ancient Japanese? Lamashtu wasn't Japanese....
"Come on, we're running out of time. I could use your help." Duo tugged at him.
Shaky, Daniel wobbled into the cockpit after him. "Ridden in these once. Never flown one."
"It's a start," Duo shrugged. "Here, look. We need to strip this panel, and twist this solenoid - careful, it'll stick...."
Feverish, chilled, and scared half to death, Daniel still found himself utterly fascinated. Duo's touch with equipment might have a little more of Jack's bang-it-'til-it-works style than Sam's delicate grace, but the teenager obviously knew his way around Goa'uld circuitry. We're hotwiring a death glider. This is way cool....
Zats trilled against the hull, the thunder of staff weapons opening up. "Guess they noticed," Duo muttered. And tensed. "Oh no. Quatre, tell me you guys aren't gonna-"
Yellow lightning tore through the pyramid ship's hull, opening the launch bay to star-studded blackness. A white ship marked with red and blue slashed past; about the size of death glider, but longer and slimmer, with wings even Daniel could see had variable angles built in. Atmosphere and space capable? Wow. Um, wait, air!
"Heero. Great guy. I love him. And when I get out of here, I'm going to kill him. Subtle, he's not." Duo slammed a connection home. The glider's engines shrilled to life; a falcon's scream, dimming to mere vibration as the cockpit closed out howling vacuum. "Take the weapons!"
"And do what?" Daniel managed.
"Shoot anybody but those guys!"
Their craft leapt up, dodging debris and sliding death gliders to arrow out into the black. And into chaos.
Coppery hulls were everywhere, a whole flight of death gliders weaving and soaring and firing at four lone, sleek ships.
"Hang on!" Duo snapped them over and down, twisting through a knot of gliders pestering a ship marked with red, blue and gold. "Hiya, Wufei!"
Red energy lanced through the darkness, smashing death gliders around them like cardboard.
Daniel blinked spots out of his eyes, finger just above what he'd finally figured out had to be the guns. "He shot at us!"
"Guy holds a grudge forever," Duo sighed. "Though most of the time he doesn't shoot that close... Damn! Knew I was forgetting something!" Snapping his fingers, he dove back under the console.
Nausea was swamped by sheer terror. "Duo!"
A hand popped into view, waved at him. "Just hold the stick! And point us toward that pretty blue planet to your left. I gotta hack the comm."
For a breathless second, Daniel could only stare. He - I - you've got to be kidding!
A slim fist shook at him, brandishing colored circuits. "The stick, Daniel!"
Why that little-Daniel grabbed the backseat control and tugged it left, using a few choice expletives he'd heard from Skaara and Kasuf when they'd found sandspitters - venomous leg-less lizards, Abydos' equivalent of spitting cobras - nesting in the village granary. Followed it up with some speculation on Dimme's parentage and likely bed preferences, a couple of fillips on Lamashtu and her eternal rival Pazuzu for good measure-
"Oooh, good one," Duo snickered, past the click and clatter of rerouted circuitry. "I gotta write that down for Howie."
Corrupting a minor. Great job, Dr. Jackson... wait a minute.Daniel slid them in a ragged turn around tumbling debris, risked a glance back toward the pyramid ship. How come nobody's firing at us?
Maybe because they were too busy trying to break through a defensive wall of white ships. "Duo! I think one of your people was hit."
"Say what!" The braided head popped up, bits of wire and crystal tangled in his hands.
"Wufei." Daniel craned his head back toward the battle, where three white ships were flying furious defense around a fourth. "He's just sitting there. If there's something we could do to help-"
"Chang doesn't need help." Violet eyes held a darkness deeper than space. "And Dimme's about to find out why nobody messes with Sanq."
Chang, Heero, Maxwell, Quatre, Daniel added up, watching the desperate defense drag on. The sleek ships were here, there, everywhere, peregrines to the Jaffa buzzards. Chinese, Japanese, Celt, and the way Duo pronounced that last one - Arabic? The Goa'uld don't usually mix that many ethnic groups on their slave planets. Which kind of implies Sanq never was a slave planet. So what was it? And what is it now? Outside of someplace that gives Goa'uld Queens fits-
The pyramid ship shuddered.
Shoving crystals back into the console, Duo lunged for the stick. "Cover your eyes!"
Daniel flung a hand up just as the cockpit went white.
"What-" the archaeologist cleared his throat as the light swelled and died behind them. Risked a glance back, to see white ships screaming away from the sphere of hurtling debris. Death gliders, not so fast to maneuver, were tumbling into fiery embers. "You blew the ship. How?"
"Can't tell you. Sorry." Duo shot him a wry smile. His fingers danced on the communications console, voices crackling to life in a weird blend of languages tinged with Goa'uld. "Maybe after Sally clears you."
Made sense. Besides, the way the stars were spinning, he probably wouldn't remember the explanation when he woke up....
"Hey. Hey! Dammit... Water, come in!"
"Deathscythe?"A woman's voice, quick and worried.
"I'm bringing you one hell of a biohazard, Water. I'm gonna brief Wing in a sec, but I need you to have your crew prepped and ready."
"We'll be there."
"Yeah, if I can make it there without a Reaver popping up in the back seat... sleeping beauty!" A flung braid thwacked his cheek. "Daniel! Stay with me, okay?"
"'Kay...." Whoa. Is that-? Daniel blinked, trying to focus through the fever. That blue and white sphere swelling in front of them shouted "livable planet". But around it... glittering white and mirrored structures, whirling between planet and rocky moon in an endless, invisible dance with gravity.
Oh. My. Gods."Space colonies," Daniel breathed, almost forgetting the sickening wriggle of alien flesh in his. "But... the Goa'uld would never let humans...."
"They built 'em," Duo said grimly, adjusting their course for that welcoming curve of atmosphere. "Though we rebuilt 'em, later... long story. Bet you want to hear all of it, right? History isn't exactly my thing, but let me fill Wing in, and I'll see if I can hit the high points."
The world slid into fire.
Diplomatic, Colonel Jack O'Neill, leader of SG-1 and 2IC of Stargate Command told himself, staring eye to eye with Jacob Carter across the polished briefing room table. You are going to be diplomatic. No matter how much you want to reach into Jacob's skull and rip Selmac out for a doggie chew-toy. "What do you mean, you've got more important things to do than help us find Daniel?"
The Tok'ra never flinched. "Until we know how our Gault base was compromised, the whole network could be at risk. Fortunately, we lost no operatives in the tunnel collapse; we can wipe the coordinates from our databases and set up a new base on another world with minimal loss of time-"
"Hold on. Back up," Jack bit out. "You're abandoning Gault?" He planted his hands on the table, leaned forward. "They put their necks on the line for you. They supplied you. They helped you get in and out of the transport ring system to Heru'ur's storehouses, so you can leave nasty surprises for our old buddy Apophis. And you're going to leave them twisting in the wind?"
"They knew the risks, Colonel." Jacob's gaze didn't give an inch. "The same risks any of us take to fight the System Lords."
"Oh, so you're going to evacuate them, too," Jack said with exaggerated politeness. "Move - what was it, Jacob, eight villages near the Gault base? - and their crops, and their horse herds, and their eagle nests?" He lifted a gray-peppered brow. "This I've got to see."
"Don't be ridiculous, Colonel." Selmac now, arms loosely folded as if the Tok'ra were patiently admonishing an erring child. "This is war. Losses happen."
"This loss doesn't have to happen!" Innocents. Civilians. Kids, like little Talira, who'd given them their first clue about where his archaeologist had vanished to in her tear-choked story of the sun-haired man who'd fought the hound-demons for her. And the Tok'ra were willing to throw them away like last week's newspaper.
Selmac frowned. "We have neither the time nor the resources to devote to slaves under Goa'uld control."
"Then I suggest you reexamine your schedule and your supply roster, Selmac," General Hammond said civilly. "And determine how we might continue to insert people and supplies to assist the free people of Gault without traversing the 'Gate now potentially under System Lord control." Hammond's gaze was calm, but about as yielding as the iris. "I don't think the loan of a tel'tac would be out of line, considering the circumstances."
"You'd risk us all for one world, General?" Selmac shook his head. "I understand your sentiment, but we cannot risk it. The Tok'ra have been fighting the System Lords for millennia-"
"Oh, and you think they're going to run away tomorrow?" Jack couldn't help but throw in. "Come on! You guys have got centuries to pull this off. Gault doesn't."
Selmac's gaze never faltered. "I understand your sentiment, Colonel. But it's only one planet."
"No, I don't think you do understand, Selmac," Hammond said bluntly, tone dragging the Tok'ra's attention back by main force. "Remind Jacob to tell you the story of the boy throwing starfish."
Throwing starfish?Jack thought. What the heck does that - oh. Yeah. Now he remembered; a story Daniel had told him, one gloomy night when they'd been mourning another SGC airman lost in action. "The storm has washed so many ashore, little boy; what difference can you make?"
Splash. "I sure made a difference tothat one."
Selmac looked down. Jacob looked back up, and sighed. "I'll present it to the Council, George. There is another Stargate within tel'tac range of Gault. There is a lot of space junk in the system. We could set up infiltration routes to the planet that should let us get on the surface without getting picked up on sensors. Maybe. But I can't promise anything."
"You're supposed to be the ambassador to Earth. Ambass," Jack shrugged. "Jacob, right now these people are our best shot at finding Danny. And one way or another, we've got to know where he is." And knowing that's the only thing keeping me from clearing this table in one bound and ripping out your obstructionist little-
"Colonel." Hammond's voice was level, but that slight arch of a faded red brow told him the general knew just where he wanted to wrap his fingers and squeeze. "Jacob and I can finish up here. I believe Major Carter wanted your input on her sample analysis." Hammond checked his watch. "She did say the preliminary work would be done by now, correct?"
"Yes, sir." If you say so, sir. But if the general wanted him out of here, Jack had no complaints. Strangling Jacob wouldn't win any points with the Council. Darn it. "We'll see what we can squeeze out of the junk." Saluting, Jack took his leave.
Hang on, Daniel. Wherever you are. We're coming.
Just as soon as we figure outwhere.
Corridors and elevators passed in a haze; he knocked on Sam's lab door - bad idea to startle the lady with high-explosive physics experiments - and sauntered in. "Carter. Teal'c. Any luck?"
"Mmph," Sam mumbled, stray blonde strands drifting into face and mouth as she bent over a charred, half-disassembled Jaffa helmet.
"We find ourselves in possession of information, O'Neill," Teal'c noted, standing near the lab table like an obsidian monolith. "Not luck."
"Lay it on me. Not-" Jack waved the Jaffa off as Teal'c arched a shaved brow and bent to pick up a piece of armor plate. "I like that right where it is, Teal'c, thanks. Back. Down." Damn Jaffa sense of humor. "So - why do we have the helmet in pieces, again?"
"Major Carter believed disassembling the armor might evoke a sense of familiarity."
Oh, she did, huh? He thought he'd recognized that pinched frown of concentration. Ah, Sam. Wish I knew how to make this easier. "Jolinar met these guys before?"
"I think so." Sam brushed hair out of her face, eyes unfocused. "But they're - I don't remember guys, sir. Just women. Two women." She frowned, hunting for the shards of a dead Tok'ra's memory. "One dark, like the folk of Assyria, her robes scarlet as plague blood, black as death. The other tall and fair, emerald-clad, her hair a crown of silver midnight. The lioness with wings, whose name is fever, fire, death; and the corpse-hound who is her Queen...." Sam rubbed her forehead.
"Don't push it, Carter. It'll come if it comes." Great. Another Queen might have Danny. This definitely fell in the bad things category. "Teal'c? Any of that sound familiar to you? Plague could be Nirrti-"
"Nirrti will not wear scarlet."
Jack blinked. A Goa'uld with color preferences? Outside of the gaudier the better? "You're sure?"
Teal'c nodded. "Nor has the goddess of darkness ever been associated with a lioness." He inclined his head. "Major Carter. I require the use of a computer capable of accessing SGC search programs."
Sam jerked a thumb toward a monitor across the lab, already back into depths of charred mechanisms.
"So what are we looking at?" Jack asked, leaning against the wall as Teal'c got the infernal device up and running. "Google for Goa'ulds?"
"Daniel Jackson has been attempting to compile a database of Earth legends, cross-referenced with current information on System Lords and their underlings, so that we might have greater success in identifying our opponents in other ways than direct conflict," Teal'c nodded. "Major Carter assisted the computer department in designing the search protocols."
Jack kept himself from gaping. Every time he thought he knew what Danny was up to, the man surprised him all over again. "You're kidding."
"I do not kid, O'Neill." Dark fingers moved carefully over the keys; Teal'c knew Goa'uld controls, but the keyboards here were pure American. "Daniel Jackson believed it would be advantageous to identify who might be responsible for a culture or artifact, so we might avoid... complications... such as Ma'chello's devices."
Yeah. The kind of complications that drove you crazy. Literally. "Good thought. Does it work?"
"We shall see." Teal'c typed in Assyria, lion.
A list scrolled down half the screen. "Gee, that helps," Jack muttered. "Lions must've been real common back in... where the heck was Assyria, anyway?"
"An ancient empire in the region of the Tigris River," Teal'c read off thoughtfully, pointing to the map the search had called up.
"Iraq. Lovely." Jack whistled. "They had lions there?"
"So it would seem." Teal'c considered the screen, typed in a few new terms.
Jack arched a brow. "Mesopotamia?"
"Assyrian dates appear to match the times the Tok'ra used Earth for refuge, but not the eras a System Lord would have been known on this planet," Teal'c explained. "Daniel Jackson once informed me that the area archaeologists term 'Mesopotamia' is more general, and older."
"Okay, that fits... so we're looking for the ladies with lions, and maybe one with a dog," Jack said thoughtfully. "Anybody named Fever, Fire or Death - son of a bitch!"
"Daughter," Teal'c said levelly.
Jack swallowed dryly, wishing Daniel hadn't let Tech Services set up his search program to drag up artistic representations as well as text. He'd seen a lot of weird things in Daniel's research notes, but this one took the cake. Lion's head, eagle talons instead of hands, a woman's shapely body encrusted with filth and blood. Blood poured past her clawed feet, and widespread wings dripped the poison that should have come from the serpent coiled about her thighs. Even stylized and animalistic, he could feel the fury breathing from that inhuman figure.
Great is the daughter of Heaven who tortures babies
Her hand is a net, her embrace is death....
"Lamashtu." Wide-eyed and pale, Sam peeked past his shoulder. "It's Lamashtu." She blinked, gaze vague. "Her touch destroys the old man, the youth, the unborn; her touch slays the boy, the girl, brings death and disease to all she sees...." His second in command shuddered. "It's her, sir."
"Jolinar met her." And not in a good way.
"Not - directly. But I can still smell the blood, the death...." Sam shivered. "The dog helmets, taking any who lived... those were Dimme's Jaffa, sir."
"Dimme and Lamashtu," Teal'c noted. "A formidable pair."
"Formidable?" Jack said warily. Not a word the former First Prime of Apophis tossed around lightly.
"It is said Nirrti once loosed a plague on one of Lamashtu's worlds that slew one in every three humans born there," Teal'c said levelly. "Lamashtu's retribution came in a fall of blood rain on the world known as Caol. All but one in twenty of the humans died, and no Jaffa without prim'ta survived."
"I - she was there, sir," Sam whispered. "Jolinar saw it all." Her arms moved convulsively, as if to cradle something small. "So many children. So many bodies...."
"Stop thinking about it, Major. That's an order." Jack's gaze met Teal'c's; look after her. He stalked to the phone, stabbed an in-house number.
"Fraiser," came the absent answer.
"Doc, we have reason to believe whoever raided Gault likes bio-weapons. Lock us down now."
"On it." If there was fear in Janet's voice, it was covered by professionalism. "Any symptoms?"
"Like I'm the guy to ask?" Teal'c was immune to damn near everything, and as for himself and Sam - between Jolinar, Hathor's little buddy, and all the alien poisons, drugs, tortures, and just general weirdness, neither of them had baseline normal immune responses anymore. If Janet wanted a "normal" reaction to something from SG-1, she generally looked at Daniel.
Who wasn't here.
Who was probably suffering through whatever one plague-happy System Lord had come up with to torment Tau'ri, right now.
"Point." From Janet's sober tone, her thoughts matched his. "I'll check the refugees first."
"You do that." Pressing the receiver down, Jack dialed the 'Gateroom. "Davis. Is General Carter up there?"
"No sir, but we're expecting him momentarily," the technician reported.
"Okay. Don't let him leave. That's an order. We still don't know if Tok'ra can carry bugs, and I don't want to find out the hard way."
The containment alarm went off, echoing from both ends of the phone line. Thank you, Janet.
"This is insane!" Jacob sputtered, stalking the SGC infirmary. "Dimme's never used bio-weapons without Lamashtu's backing. And I'm a Tok'ra! There's no way any of us could be carriers-"
"Smallpox blankets," Janet said bluntly, hands still half in Sam's mouth. Jack was fidgeting - quietly, but fidgeting - against her favorite wall, and Teal'c was a silent, somber guard near the door. Hammond's face was calm and controlled as he stood by her examining table, but his primary doctor could see the frustration on her commanding officer's face. Scuttlebutt had it that the High Council had not been happy to hear that they were hanging onto Selmac a while longer. Thank god I'm not in the general's shoes.
"Nasty part of British and American history. Traders would bring clothes and blankets from smallpox victims to the Indians," Janet informed Jacob, checking for any suspicious lesions, marks, or other havoc in Sam's sensitive mucous membranes. No, no, and no, and her tonsils look fine. So far, so good. "No way of knowing if it ever worked, but the virus lasts a very long time in the scabs. And since I just had lunch half an hour ago, I'd rather not remember my rare and exotic disease history courses on just what the Nazis and Japanese tried in WWII." She stripped off her gloves, dropped them into the biohazard bin. "Until and unless we can give the SGC an all-clear, I have to consider you just as much an infection risk as the rest of us."
"And why do you think Dimwit did it without Lamaze backing her, anyway?" Jack leaned against a handy wall, flashing Sam an encouraging smile as his 2IC got off the table.
Jacob flung up his hands. "Because she's been dead for at least thirty years, that's why!"
"Indeed?" Teal'c looked intrigued.
"Dead?" Sam brushed down her arms, as if she were chilled without the uniform jacket over her shirt. "Are you sure?"
"We just confirmed it a few months ago," Jacob sighed. "Dimme's been doing a good job of covering it, but Lamashtu hasn't been seen alive for at least three decades. Maybe longer."
"A System Lord drops out of the loop, and no one notices?" Hammond frowned at his old friend.
"It's not the first time," Jacob shrugged. "They're a feudal group, George, you know that. I could name you half a dozen who've vanished over the past twenty years alone. Susanowo, Stheno Coatlicue, Badb, Nemain, Macha... weird as it sounds, every once in a while a Goa'uld does have a fatal accident."
"Six in twenty years." Jack arched a skeptical brow. Traded a significant glance with Sam and Teal'c.
Some accident, Janet nodded in silent agreement. They'd have to look into that later. No point in badgering the Tok'ra; if the Council had decided they were accidents, Selmac wasn't likely to look any deeper. Even if Daniel's finding Seth had proved that sometimes humans could spot patterns the Tok'ra couldn't....
Oh, Daniel. Janet swallowed a sudden lump in her throat. Please be okay. You're a survivor. You always have been. Survive this. Whatever it takes - just live, damn you! Live and come back to us.
I don't want to tell Cassie her Uncle Daniel isn't coming back....
Jacob's voice jarred on her ear. "...Lost two days already, now you're planning to make it four-"
"Oh, at least," Jack nodded, mischief in dark eyes despite the serious situation. "Relax, Jacob. Think of it as R&R. And practice in long-distance diplomacy. It's not like we won't dial up Vorash to talk."
"It's a waste of time! Trying to rely on Earth technology, when you know it won't even catch native diseases you've never seen before... why haven't you just had Sam check for infectious organisms?"
"Check?" Sam paused, halfway through buttoning her shirt. "Check how?"
"With the healing device." Jacob rolled his eyes. "That is one of its functions. Jolinar was pretty good at that, if I remember right. Especially after Caol."
"Oh." Sam swallowed. "I don't remember."
Jacob started to say something, stopped. "Oh."
"Okay, so we have a plan," Jack broke the awkward silence. "Carter, healing device. Carter," he nodded toward Jacob, "Refresher course. The rest of us will pull together everywhere bugs could've gotten to, right, Doc?"
Jacob glanced up at the ceiling, obviously picturing the vast, mountain-carved bulk of the SGC. "It'll still take a while. I keep forgetting how big this place is."
"We can't help that, Jacob," General Hammond said bluntly. "I want the SGC up and running as much as you do." If not more, his determined look spoke plainly. "But I cannot risk our planet, or others, by ignoring a potential threat of this magnitude."
Not even for Daniel, Janet finished silently.
He'd forgive them for that, of course. Earth meant more to Dr. Jackson than his own life.
She wondered if she could forgive herself.