Author's Note: Sorry for the long wait between chapters. I had a writer's block that has only recently been removed with a blunt ice pick and a power drill.
Chapter 4: Blinking is Dangerous
Remus felt the heat washing over him. The man he'd pulled through the door thrashed against his legs and he fell down. He rolled. His clothes were on fire. Suddenly the heat was gone. Remus sat up, wheezing. The air was rushing by again, rushing past them out into space. Remus leaned over the other man, patting out the flames eating away at his jump suit. Remus looked at his own hands for a moment, and saw that his gloves were blackened and cracking. Then he remembered he wasn't wearing gloves. Bits of ash fell from his fingers. The man on the floor was just as burned on his hands and the back of his head. Lucky for him he'd been face down on the floor. Remus struggled to breath. The air was getting thin.
"Help me. I want to live," said a familiar voice.
The other Remus was standing over him.
"I want us all to live," Remus said to the thing wearing his face.
It watched him, still bearing no expression. An orange glow came up behind his double and Remus realized it was another wave of fire. The walls were buckling outward around it.
"I want us all to live," the other said.
Lionel Pendergast was not prone to panic. He'd stood calmly on the bridge of his ship, the Prometheus, organizing the evacuation. He'd stalled the Rand government as long as he could, but they would not accept surrender. He stood calmly now as the Asgard platforms shut down and the ship shook itself apart. There was no way out now. He thought he should say something, but there was no one around to hear him.
He closed his eyes. When he opened them he was standing in a field. The air was warm. It smelled like cut grass and flowers. For a moment he thought Heaven. And then a voice called out to him.
"Sir, are you alright?"
He turned. Behind him forty something members of his crew were standing or sitting in the field, looking around with confused expressions.
"Lt. Walsh?" Pendergast asked, taking a moment to remember the man's name.
"Sir, how did we get here? The transporters…" Walsh asked.
"I don't know. Lets get a head count and check for casualties."
The collected accounts were strange to say the least. No one knew how they'd gotten off of the ship. Several people remembered being grievously injured, with burns and broken bones. Several people remembered being sucked out into space. Now they were fine.
Pendergast sighed. He didn't think he'd ever get used to this sort of thing, not that he was complaining.
All he had to do now was find the rest of his crew, get past two hostile governments and possibly the Priors, find the Stargate, and pray that someone had a G.D.O that functioned. But maybe that would be easier than he thought. A dot in the sky rushed in to become a X303, which passed low overhead and dipped its wings at them. Pendergast waved back.
The Caledonian command center was a hornet's nest. Every room was filled with nervous chatter as the soldiers and politicians discussed ways to avoid total annihilation at the hands of the Rand and their satellite. Mitchell wanted to be interested in their problems, he honestly did, but he was having trouble figuring out what was going on. The entire crew of the Prometheus had made it to Caledonia alive and unharmed, even those who had been harmed. Capitan Ross, who's X303 had been blown out of under her by a hunk of shrapnel from the destroyed Prometheus, had somehow made it to the surface safely.
A significant portion of the crew thought the Rand government had murdered Dr. Jackson, there by allowing him to Ascend and save them. But the Rand had called a few hours later, still threatening to execute him.
"Everyone made it off the ship?" Carter asked for the hundredth time.
Pendergast nodded. "The entire crew is accounted for."
Carter went over the checklist of crew. Every one was there. "There were no injuries reported by the people who got out after the platforms shut down," Carter said.
Mitchell noted that she still a bit singed. "So whoever brought them down patched them up as well?" he asked.
"Our uniforms aren't even dirty," Pendergast added with a shake of his head. "How is this possible? I keep expecting to wake up."
Mitchell took the list from Carter and started paging through it. All 115 crew members were accounted for. But their last minute passenger wasn't mentioned.
"Anybody seen Wolfy?" Mitchell asked.
They all paused. There was a rush and a shuffle of papers. Remus Lupin hadn't turned up anywhere in Caledonia.
Remus Lupin stood in a field, under a bright but sunless sky, staring at a man who looked just like him.
"You should have moved on," said a voice from right by his ear.
He turned. A woman in white was standing next to him. She was pretty but her face was indistinct, and he doubted he could accurately describe it if asked. He'd seen her before, before he woke up in the sarcophagus on the alien ship, alive and confused and not a Wizard anymore.
"It will not move on without you," she said. "We thought it would, but it has returned. You must move on now. You are disrupting the cycle."
What cycle? Remus thought.
"What you were. What your friends are but you are not. They must move in cycles, life and death. They must not return in this form. It is a cycle."
That doesn't clarify things at all, Remus thought.
"It was your will. It changed reality at your command. It wishes to be your will again, but you are divided. If you are willing to move on, it will move on as well. If not it will continue to disrupt the cycle. That cannot be allowed."
Are you saying that thing is my…magic? Remus thought.
"You are its human."
Would it kill you to be explicit?
"I would kill you if it would let me. But it must be your choice," she said.
I didn't want to die then. I don't want to die now. Remus sent at her, glaring. She didn't seem to care.
"You must!" she insisted.
Remus crossed his arms. The world was spinning so far out of control and comprehension that he wanted to scream, but from what the strange woman was saying, he wasn't dead yet. That was a reason to keep trying, though not much of one.
No. Clearly I still have choice in the matter or I wouldn't be here, and unless you give me a clear and obvious reason, I'm not going to give up my life.
He looked at his duplicate. Its face expressionless as it stared at him.
I want to get out of here, he thought at it. It made no move to obey.
The woman looked at him with an expression bordering on contempt. There was a flash of light and another figure appeared.
Daniel Jackson was at a loss for words. One moment he was trapped in a cell in a bunker in the Rand protectorate. The next he was standing in an empty place, with an Ancient and two Remus Lupins, one burned almost beyond recognition, one wearing fatigues and a vacant expression.
The ancient turned towards him. "You must convince him to move on. He disrupts the cycle."
Excuse me? Daniel thought. He wanted to say it, but the Ancient seemed to be the only one capable of speech in this place.
"You must make him move on," the Ancient said. "He interferes with the cycle. He disrupts what has been established. The others may follow. We cannot allow that. You were like us once. You understand why we must keep order. They must not break the cycle."
I don't know what you're talking about. Daniel thought at her. You took my memories. Kind of ironic isn't it?
"They are not like us," The Ancient said. "They are not knowledge and thought. They have not ascended. They are only will. They alter what should be constant. They must not leave the cycle. It is the only control."
Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose. He looked over at the two Remuses. The burned one shrugged. The other stared blankly.
Any idea what's going on here? Daniel thought at the burned man.
Apparently she wants me to die, the burned Remus thought back. That one over there is my disembodied magic and he seems to be getting up to mischief. She thinks if I agree to die he'll go away. I don't think any of this is her business.
Daniel looked at the Ancient. This does appear to be some very large scale interference on your part.
"You must convince him to move on," she demanded.
How about you get rid of the Priors and the Ori, and I'll give it a shot, Daniel thought.
"That is not our concern," she said.
Then why is this? Remus thought.
"You interrupt the cycle," she repeated.
I don't care, Remus thought. He looked over at his blank faced duplicate. Do you care?
"I want us all to live," the other Remus finally answered.
The empty field grew blindingly bright and faded away, leaving Dr. Jackson and a very burned Remus Lupin standing in a Rand prison cell, surrounded by dumbfounded guards.
"I don't think I like ancients," Remus rasped in a barely audible voice.
"Me neither," mumbled Daniel as the guards rushed in and pushed both men up against the bars of the cell.
Carter and the Caledonian Minster of war, Gel Chaska were just coming up with a plan to knock out the Prior satellite and save the day when the call came in from their spies in the Rand bunker. Daniel Jackson had vanished from his cell for about five minutes, only to return with another man who, according to Rand doctors, was dead. He was still walking and talking, but he had no pulse or heart beat, and was burned to crisp. President Nadal, the leader of the Rand, was in a panic because a burned man was mentioned in the book of Origin the Priors had given him. Apparently he was some sort of harbinger of doom. Mitchell sighed.
"Do we think its Wolfy wandering around over there?" he asked.
"I don't know who else it could be," Carter said. "But even if it is, we still need to take out that satellite."
Chaska nodded. "When that is gone the Rand will have very little to bargain with and we will be able to get your friends back. I am rather curious about this entity called 'Wolfy' though. Is he one of the Ancients you mentioned?"
"No," Carter said. "He's something else. We aren't quite sure what at the moment."
"Oh," the Minister replied, frowning.
Remus sat in the cell next to Daniel. On Daniel's other side was a man named Jared Cain, who was a Rand official who had tried to stop the war. Remus didn't really feel like talking. He would nod or shrug when Daniel and the other man asked him questions about what he thought was going to happen, now that the Rand had evidence that the Ori were not the only supernatural power brokers in the galaxy. Remus wasn't really interested in the conversation. He was more interested in the complete absence of his heart beat. At first he thought the Rand doctors were simply incompetent, and couldn't find his pulse under his cracked and blistered skin. But as he sat with his hands against his chest and felt nothing, he realized they were right.
Did that ancient/ ascended / whatever kill me? He thought. He didn't feel dead. Or maybe he did. His burns looked disgusting, but they didn't hurt. Or maybe my blank faced doppelganger just screwed up. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with air. It didn't do anything for him. He felt no better and no worse. Maybe I'm a zombie. Magic can't really raise the dead, can it? Maybe this was the best it could do. He rubbed at his face and bits of ash flaked off. He tried focusing on getting out of the cell, but if the doppelganger was hanging around, it wasn't listening.
Carter looked over the trajectory one last time and pressed the button. If all went well an X303 guidance system strapped to a missile would explode over the Rand bunker, knock out power, and prevent the Ori satellite from being activated. It would be a sitting duck for another X303 to take out. Minister Chaska nodded as she listened to the phone.
"The missile has launched. It will reach the target in three minutes," Chaska said hanging up.
A worried aid brought another phone to the Minister, and she stalled the Rand president as they all watched the count down.
They were dragged up the steps into the command center. At least Daniel Jackson and Jared Cain were dragged. The guards seemed too afraid to touch Remus Lupin. Not that he minded.
"I demand to know who you are and how you got here!" President Nadal said.
Remus shrugged, shedding more ash onto the carpet. "I fell out of a higher plane of existence," he rasped.
"Lies! You crawled from the pit, as prophesized in the book of Origin!" Nadal said.
"As a general rule, I avoid pits," Remus said.
Daniel had told him to stall as long as possible. He seamed utterly convinced that SG1 would find a way to get them out of their current predicament. Daniel had spent the last half hour talking in circles with the Rand guards, who seemed convinced Remus was some kind of demon. Remus was starting to loose interest at that point.
"You lie!" the President shouted melodramatically. "You have used your foul influence and power to bring ruin upon our nation."
"If I had demon powers wouldn't I have done something to free myself?" Remus argued. "Couldn't I just snap my fingers and escape?"
He snapped his fingers.
The lights went out.
"We've lost satellite control!" a soldier yelled.
"Crap." Remus said.
"I agree," Daniel muttered.