Disclaimer: The Stargate universe and all the characters involved do not belong to me. I'm just borrowing them temporarily for a bit of fun :)
A/N: This is my first fic in the Stargate fandom. Be gentle with me :). Set in mid-Season 7.
The flashing red lights and claxon alarms were nothing new to the staff of Stargate command. Nor were the words "unscheduled off-world activation" sounding over the P.A. system all that unusual, but they still made Daniel's heart-rate kick up a few notches. He tore down the corridors, joining up with Carter and Teal'c as they came to a common junction and headed for the Control Room. The shimmering light of the wormhole reflected off the back wall of the enormous, three-story high Gate Room before them, the iris shielding the front of the device from possible incoming threats.
"Receiving a Tok'ra signal," said Sergeant Harriman, looking up at General Hammond for further instructions.
"Open the iris," said Hammond.
Daniel, Carter and Teal'c gathered behind Harriman to get a better view of their unexpected guest. In the gate room below, military personnel held their positions along the perimeter of the room and along the ramp leading up to the Stargate, weapons at the ready. The iris scissored open, revealing the serene blue puddle of light. A moment later, Jacob Carter stepped through the event horizon, leaving ripples in his wake.
"Stand down," Hammond ordered, and joined the members of SG-1 in going down to meet their old friend.
O'Neill burst into the Gate Room shortly after they got there, slightly out of breath and looking somewhat abashed. "Did I miss anything?" he asked.
Hammond pursed his lips at him. It was the third time this week Colonel O'Neill had been slow responding to an alarm.
"Oh, c'mon, sir! So I'm a minute late—it's not the end of the world."
"Actually…it might be," said Jacob as he walked down the ramp.
O'Neill cocked his head at the Tok'ra and frowned. "Now why do you guys always have to be so melodramatic about everything? We've done 'end of the world' stuff before, and here's a news flash for ya—the world hasn't ended. So why not lighten up a little? Take a minute to smell the roses…maybe say 'hello' first before jumping directly into the doom-saying."
"Hello," said Jacob, obligingly. "Hey, Sam," he added affectionately as Carter slipped around Teal'c to greet him.
"Hi, Dad," she said, giving him a quick hug.
He pulled back, and his expression grew grave. This was not a social call; no matter how much he wished it were. "George, I have an urgent matter to discuss with you."
"Of course," Hammond replied. "We'll adjourn to the Briefing Room." He led the way, with Jacob and the SG-1 team close behind. Jacob's obvious tension was rubbing off on all of them, and they wasted no further time with niceties.
Once the group was settled around the conference table, Jacob cut right to the chase. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news—again, that is—but the Tok'ra have received intelligence from an undercover operative in Anubis' ranks. It seems Anubis has developed a weapon that could effectively wipe out all of his enemies at once."
A heavy silence fell over the room.
"Well?" asked O'Neill at last. "I assume there's more. This is the part where you're supposed to be passing out the doom and gloom pamphlets."
Jacob's head lowered briefly, and when he looked up again, it was Selmak who spoke. "This is a serious matter Colonel O'Neill. A good man lost his life to pass on this information. Hundreds of planets are relying on us to come up with a way of defending ourselves against this weapon."
"Aha—so you do think we have a chance of destroying it," said O'Neill.
"The weapon is already being tested, and if it's successful, Anubis will use it against all of his enemies. The problem is, the weapon's power source has been moved to a new location—I have the gate address, but the probes we've sent through the wormhole were disabled immediately, once they reached the other side. We sent a volunteer, but he never returned and the weapon remains active. We are sending our nearest ship to the planet's coordinates, but it is located on the outermost reaches of the gate system. It will take a month at the very least to reach it, and by then it will be too late."
"So we send a probe of our own," Carter suggested. "No offence, Selmak, but it couldn't hurt to try one of ours—it's possible our technology might be able to penetrate their defences where yours couldn't. Sometimes low-tech can be better; we've seen it before."
Hammond nodded. "Send out a M.A.L.P. If that doesn't work, send out the U.A.V."
Carter was about to get up to follow his orders when Jacob held up his hand. "There's more," he said, Jacob's voice now issuing from his mouth. "When I said the weapon's being tested, maybe I should have clarified that it's being tested on the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri. Right now, as we speak, someone at Stargate Command is a walking, talking time bomb."
"Care to elaborate?" asked Daniel, in his best 'let's try to keep everyone calm' tone of voice.
"Basically, this weapon is made up of an amalgamation of technologies. Essentially, it's a Goa'uld implant bomb, much like the one used on your young friend Cassandra, but with some modifications that make it far more deadly."
"I do not see how such a thing could be possible," Teal'c said.
"Teal'c's right," said Carter. "Naquadria is the only known substance more powerful than naquadah, and if the bomb was made of naquadria we'd have discovered it by now. All the personnel on site go through extensive medical screening on a regular basis. Such a device would have been picked up on our scans."
Jacob shook his head. "Not this bomb. Its core is naquadria, but the real genius of the bomb's design is that it utilises Tollan phase-shift technology and cloaking technology stolen from the Ancients. The phase-shifting allows the bomb to penetrate your Stargate's iris and lodge itself in the brain of anyone nearby. The cloak blocks the naquadria from any sensors that might be used to detect it, making it impossible to locate using conventional methods."
"But with less conventional methods…?" asked O'Neill, steepling his fingers in front of his lips, doing his best to keep up with the conversation.
Jacob tugged at the hem of his tunic, preparing to relay the part that they weren't going to like. "A week ago the Stargate at Tok'ra command was activated from off-world. We sent a team to investigate, but no one came through the gate. We thought little of it at the time, but we later discovered that that was when the bomb was delivered and became lodged in the brain of one of our soldiers. If we hadn't received intelligence from our undercover operative, we would never have found the device, and our high council would have been decimated."
"So…you found the bomb, then?" asked O'Neill, just to clarify.
Jacob nodded. "We used every scan we could think of, at first, but we had no luck. The person who carries the bomb has no idea it's in him, and there were no medical abnormalities evident in any of the Tok'ra who were exposed when the Stargate was activated. Only when one of the soldiers complained of having difficulties sleeping did we think to search the subconscious mind to find the bomb."
Carter smiled as she caught on: "Of course. Even though the device exists out of phase with our world, the human brain is incredibly complex, capable of functioning on many levels. It makes sense that, at least on a subconscious level, the carrier of this bomb would be aware of its presence."
"Exactly," Jacob said. "We used our memory devices to study the dreams of this soldier and found that he'd incorporated the bomb into his dreams. Everyone else was then tested, but he was the only one carrying a bomb. The operative in Anubis' camp said that two bombs were sent out. We found one…and we believe the other one is here."
Daniel shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "So…this bomb…how exactly did you disarm it?"
Jacob's mouth drew itself into a hard, thin line and he drummed his fingers on the table for a moment before addressing the question. "We can't."
"You can't?" said Jack in disbelief. "Don't you mean, you haven't figured out how, just yet?"
"No. I mean we can't. From what we've seen in the dreams, the bomb is set with an automatic destruct to prevent tampering. Even though we now know where it is and could theoretically phase it back into our world, doing so would set off the bomb. We also now know that it's on a timer. There's less than four days left before it detonates, and the only way to disarm it is to destroy its power source…"
"Which is currently one month away at top speed," Daniel concluded grimly.
The room fell silent for a moment as the full impact of the news hit home.
"So if we can't disarm the bomb or destroy the power source, what, exactly, are you proposing we do?" asked Hammond.
"The only thing you can do," Jacob replied. "Find out who's carrying the bomb and get him or her as far away from Earth as possible before it's too late."
Jell-o was never meant to be blue, Daniel thought morosely, making tracks in the colourful dessert with his spoon. Normally he didn't think much about it, but for some reason it was really bugging him today. It was unnatural. It wasn't right. Food should be green or orange, or brown. Blue made no sense. Although, he supposed, blueberries were an exception. His mind dwelled on blueberries for a while and it cheered him up a little. Blueberries were blue by nature. People liked blueberries—they were sweet and unassuming.
Hell—they were just blueberries, Daniel chastised himself, and he went back to digging trenches in his Jell-o.
"Is that a new shirt?"
Daniel looked up from his dessert to see Jack O'Neill standing opposite him with a tray full of food. He looked down at the shirt he was wearing—the same, boring black t-shirt he wore every day. The same standard-issue black t-shirt everyone wore. It was a silly question, and it made him smile.
"Mind if I join you?" asked Jack.
"Not at all," Daniel answered.
Jack set his tray down and released his silverware from its paper napkin incarceration. "Did the Jell-o do something to offend you?"
Daniel looked at him questioningly, and then looked at the massacred blue gelatine in his bowl. "I guess I wasn't hungry for dessert," he answered with a shy smile.
Jack ate in silence for a while, watching Daniel poke at his Jell-o half-heartedly. It was odd—usually having lunch with Daniel meant being subjected to a non-stop talk on whatever new piece of ancient stone he'd come across. His friend's subdued behaviour didn't sit right with him.
"You okay?" asked Jack.
Daniel looked up from his bowl distractedly, like he'd forgotten he wasn't alone. "Sorry?"
"You seem a little…distracted. Is there something wrong?"
"I'm sorry, Jack. I guess I'm not great company, am I? I've been burning the midnight oil a little too much lately—I think it's starting to catch up with me."
"I know what you mean," said Jack. "I think we're well overdue for a vacation, don't you? I say, once we've finished saving the world—again—we should hit Hammond up for a week's holiday. You could come fishing with me. What do you say?"
The thought of spending a week alone with Jack—in the middle of nowhere, no less—was enough to make Daniel squirm in his seat, and he was pretty sure some of his uneasiness showed on his face, because Jack immediately backed off.
"Never mind—I'll ask Carter. I figure if I keep pestering her she'll have no choice but to give in eventually."
Daniel felt a pang of guilt seeing the look of disappointment on Jack's face. "I would, Jack. Really, I would. But I've got so many projects on the go—artefacts don't translate themselves, you know. Besides, I've never caught a fish in my life. I'm pretty sure there's something about me that repels them."
"I've never caught anything, either," Jack argued. "That's not the point. Fishing doesn't require the actual catching of fish. It's just meant to be a couple of guys and the great outdoors. No phones, no distractions, and most of all, no Goa'uld. C'mon—would it kill ya to take a break from all this?"
Daniel deliberated for a moment and then nodded. "All right, I'll go," he said, and as Jack's face lit up like a kid with a pocketful of candy, Daniel knew he was getting in way over his head.
"Good," said Jack. "Great! I've got a brand new fire pit I've been itching to try out and a freezer full of nice, thick, filet steaks…"
Their conversation was interrupted when Teal'c arrived, looming above their table like a giant, affable monolith.
"Colonel O'Neill, Daniel Jackson," said Teal'c with a respectful nod. "Major Hammond wishes us to join him in the Briefing Room."
O'Neill eyed his barely touched plate of dinner wistfully. "You see? Now that's why we need to get away. Imagine eating an entire meal without getting called into a briefing."
"Did he say what it's about?" asked Daniel.
"He did not," Teal'c replied. "He merely stated that it was a matter of urgency."
"Then we'd better get down there," said O'Neill. He scraped his chair back from the table and got to his feet, laying his napkin over his unfinished meal as if declaring it dead.
As Jack walked ahead of them, Teal'c took advantage of their relative privacy to ask Daniel a question that had been on his mind since entering the cafeteria. "Am I right in understanding that you have agreed to go fishing with Colonel O'Neill?"
Daniel chewed his lower lip and raised his worried blue eyes to look up at Teal'c. "Uh…yeah," he admitted. "I guess I did."
Teal'c laid a large, sympathetic hand on his friend's shoulder and gave it a hearty pat. "You are a brave man, Daniel Jackson."
"Please, take a seat, gentlemen," said Hammond as O'Neill, Teal'c and Daniel entered the Briefing Room.
Daniel eyed the assembly warily. Sitting on the opposite side of the table were Jacob, Dr. Fraiser, and a Tok'ra woman he'd never met before. Carter and Hammond had already taken their usual seats and were waiting for them to join them so the meeting could get underway.
"As you all know," said Hammond once everyone was seated, "we have a bomb on this base, and we need to find out who's carrying it. This is Shaneeth," he said, gesturing towards their new Tok'ra guest, who gave them a brief nod in greeting, with not so much as a hint of a smile. "She's here to assist us with the screening process."
"How, exactly, does this screening process work?" asked Daniel, with burgeoning anxiety.
It was Shaneeth who answered. "We'll be using our memory devices to access your dreams, and our holographic projectors to display them."
Daniel's eyes darted from Jacob to Hammond uneasily. "Don't you think that's a little invasive?" he asked, licking his suddenly dry lips.
"We would normally just ask the person what he or she sees, but since it's dreams we're talking about, the projectors are the only viable solution," said Jacob.
Daniel's mouth opened like he couldn't think what to say to that, and he blinked mutely at General Hammond for a full three seconds before finding his voice. "You can't seriously be okay with this," he said. "I mean, we're talking a complete disregard for personal privacy."
Hammond's eyes narrowed at him, and when he spoke, he was all business. "I think it's a very small price to pay to ensure the safety of our planet and potentially billions of people across the galaxy. I'm ordering everyone who was on active duty when the Stargate was activated to undergo the screening process. Myself included."
Daniel's mouth had gone bone dry and he looked from one face to another around the table, hoping to find someone who agreed with him. But it seemed he was the only one who had a problem with it. And he had a big problem with it. "Maybe the screening won't be necessary," he said, hopefully. "Maybe the M.A.L.P. will give us something to work with."
"We sent the M.A.L.P. and the U.A.V.," said Carter. "Both were disabled shortly after they passed through the Stargate. We had telemetry from the M.A.L.P. for a split second before it was taken out, but the information we received was discouraging. The single, static image we were able to retrieve was highly distorted. We managed to clean it up enough to make out the body of the Tok'ra volunteer who went through the gate two days ago. We have no idea what killed him, or what's been disabling our probes."
General Hammond laid his hands flat on the table and surveyed the group gathered before him before settling his attention on Dr. Jackson, who blinked back at him apprehensively. "To expedite our search for the bomb, I've asked Dr. Fraiser to give me a list of anyone who's complained of sleep disturbances in the last week. Dr. Jackson, you were the only one on her list. I'd like to start the screenings with you."
"No," Daniel stated flatly, getting to his feet. Feeling the sting of betrayal, his eyes met Fraiser's across the table and she looked away from him guiltily. "Find some other way. I won't do it."
"Dr. Jackson, this is not a request," said General Hammond, but Daniel ignored him and walked out of the room, leaving the others to stare after him in disbelief.
"Okay," said O'Neill, raising his hand. "Hands up—who here didn't see that one coming?"
On his left, Teal'c hesitantly lifted his hand in the air.