Landry frowned at the extended radio silence that had followed Vala's warning to Daniel. The General stood in the center of the Gate Control Room, staring through the large windows into the Gateroom with an intense frustration that continued eat at him the longer he did nothing. In spite of his age, he was a man of action. It tore to him to be unable to do anything to really help while he listened to his best people fight for their very lives, and likely for the lives of everyone in the base.
The old General couldn't remember the last time he felt this anxious. Several times since this whole ordeal had started, his heart had nearly stopped dead each time he had heard Vala's repeated warnings to the members of SG-1. The old war horse just wasn't used to listening to his people as they fought for their lives.
As he heard fragments of what was going on, Landry kept imagining in his mind's eye the dangers that his people were facing. He desperately wanted to jump in and help directly, but he knew there was nothing more he could do. Hammond had been made aware of the current situation and was moving in the troops in as fast as was humanly possible.
For now, all Landry could do was wait and listen. Talking to his people wasn't even an option. He knew he had to keep the airwaves clear for SG-1, in case they needed use of the radio.
He could do nothing. All he could do was wait - wait for word of the welfare of his people, wait for word from Hammond.
God, how he hated to wait.
The sound of Walter's voice broke Landry out of his reverie. He blinked for a moment as he regained his senses and glanced over at the Sergeant with a questioning brow, his expression somewhat distracted.
"General Hammond is on the line, sir."
Vala bit her lip anxiously as she watched the camera feeds from level 20 on her laptop. With terror-stricken eyes she had watched Artix repeatedly try to kill Daniel. Every time the mercenary had fired a rocket at the archaeologist, she had cried out in abject fear as she had watched on, completely helpless. Never since she had been freed from her imprisonment as a host had she felt as powerless as she did now, only able to look on as the man she cared for so much ran for his very life.
Her breath came just a little easier now that the archaeologist was, at least for the moment, safely hidden in the darkened room. However, the fact that Artix and his cronies were still waiting just on the other side of the door in the hallway outside kept her very much on edge.
On one of the cameras she could see the outline of Daniel and the two with him as they stood, waiting behind the door. Because the room was so large, it was difficult for her to make out their images.
"Daniel," she whispered into her headset in the most quiet voice she could manage, "be quiet, Artix is right outside your door."
She pursed her lips anxiously, both glad and worried that she didn't get a reply.
In silence, she continued to watch as the three mercenaries and the Goa'uld stood in a circle, talking. She studied them intently as they spoke in silence on her computer screen, watching their body language for some clue about what they might do next.
All she wanted right now was for her Daniel to make it out of this alive and in one piece.
Drawing in a deep breath, Vala tried to settle the tight sense of anxiety she felt churning in her stomach as she watched the camera feed with worried eyes.
"They're still here?" Delmas asked Artix incredulously. "How can you be so sure?"
The old warrior flicked the briefest of glances at the other, watching the man's obscured face in the shadowy half-light of the darkened hallway. He wasn't annoyed with Delmas' question, though if it had come from Brakxis, that might have been another story. No, Artix was still seething with white-hot anger at the murder of one of the only people in this galaxy that he could trust. Granted, such an end was a risk that came with their line of work. The old mercenary more than anyone understood that. Still, it shouldn't have happened. Not now. Not like that.
That was it, the elder realized as he glanced silently from one length of the hallway to the other. They had gotten careless, sloppy. In the back of his mind, Artix had known it was happening. Now Yarvin had paid for it. The old mercenary realized he was as angry with himself as he was with the bespeckled man.
As he drew in a deep breath and let it out with a heavy sigh, the old warrior found himself instinctively putting his anger aside, at least for now. They still had a job to do, and this little vendetta would only hamper their progress.
Artix answered, "They must be nearby. I arrived in the corridor too soon for them to have gotten to the other intersections." He glanced again at the many doors he had run past before the other mercenaries had caught up with him. "No, they are here, in one of these chambers."
"Well, this should be easy enough, then," Brakxis said, readying his weapon and walking up to one of the doors.
"Stop." Artix said plainly and firmly, his word halting the younger warrior. Brakxis looked back with an annoyed expression, his features barely discernible in the dark shadows of the hallway. "We have wasted too much time with these," the elder continued. "We still have a job to finish. It won't be long before their reinforcements arrive. We must hurry."
Without waiting to see if either of his fellow mercenaries agreed, Artix turned to look at the Goa'uld. "Have you reclaimed control of their computers?" The elder saw out of the corner of his eye that Brakxis was wandering back over. He noticed as Kethmal exchanged the briefest of glances with the brash youth.
The Goa'uld shook his head. "No," he answered sullenly. "It will not be possible for me to regain control with only this device," he added, gesturing to the small computer strapped to his arm.
Artix frowned, and Kethmal quickly added, "but I can find out who took control. If I can get to one of their computers, I can log in with my former host's credentials. After I have access to their native systems, I should be able to monitor their network to identify which computer is being used to access my program."
Artix thought about this for a moment, then nodded. "Very well," he said. "Go with Delmas and find a terminal on their network. Once you've identified the computer they're using, go seek it out and get back control. Use whatever means necessary." Kethmal nodded as Delmas walked two steps to stand by the Goa'uld.
"Kill the person responsible," Artix added, almost as an afterthought. The Goa'uld grinned at the words, although the elder warrior suspected he already planned to do so.
"What will you do?" Delmas asked, furrowing his brow.
Artix glanced at the other, then answered, "Brakxis and I will continue our descent down to level 28, and make our way to their self-destruct device. Once there, we will add the remainder of our explosive augmentations to it, as planned. The resulting explosion should still be large enough to take out a considerable chunk of this miserable little planet."
He paused, looking at the Goa'uld with a hard eye. When he spoke, his voice was belittling. "But we need your software controlling their computers in order to activate the self-destruct sequence. Their explosive device that we will use as a host must be detonated properly."
"I know that," Kethmal seethed, his anger palpable. "It was my plan..." he began, only to be cut off.
"Then fix your mistake," Artix said simply. The two stared at each other tensely for a few minutes. Finally the Goa'uld nodded ever so slightly.
The old mercenary then added, "for now, take us to their emergency shafts. From there, we will find our way down, while you and Delmas go and regain control of their computers."
Without further comment, the four continued down the hallway, going in the same direction they had been in chasing their quarry.
"Just sit tight, Daniel. Artix and his cronies are moving on," the archaeologist heard Vala's relieved voice whisper in his ear.
Jackson pursed his lips at her news. All he had to do now was wait. Their foe would disappear around the next corner. He and his men would be safe, and Vala would be able to breathe easy again.
At least, until the mercenary and his men reached their ultimate goal. Daniel had some of the conversation outside. Not all of it, but enough to learn what they were after.
"Genera Landry, are you still listening?" he whispered into his headset. He knew the risks of talking right now, but this intelligence was far too valuable to not share.
After a moment, the General's voice came on the air. "I'm here, son. What is it?"
"I just heard what their plan is," the archaeologist said quickly. "They're trying to detonate the base's self-destruct, but only after they've augmented it. From how they were talking, it sounds like it'll be orders of magnitude bigger."
There was only silence. The archaeologist asked in a tense voice, "General Landry, did you copy?"
"I did, Dr. Jackson," he finally answered. "Copied and understood. I'm moving as many men into position to guard the self destruct weapon as I can. Please keep us apprised of anything else you learn."
"Understood," Daniel answered. He paused for a moment, then sighed and hung his head for a moment, gathering up his strength. He drew in a deep breath and resolved himself to what he knew he must do. Very quietly, he turned the doorknob and pulled the door open, pointing his P-90 through the crack and peaking out into the hallway.
He heard Vala whisper urgently in his ear. "Daniel, wait! I'll tell you when they're far enough away..."
Ignoring her words and the worry he heard in her voice, Daniel pulled the door open just enough to squeeze out into the alcove.
He looked back at his men, again signing that he was going to take a shot. They nodded, standing ready for the fallout that would doubtlessly follow.
Jackson peeked around the corner of the shallow alcove. The four intruders were walking down the considerable length of the hallway, apparently unaware of the activity behind them.
"Daniel, what are you doing??" Vala asked harshly in his ear. The archaeologist ducked back behind the corner as he heard her voice. "Just let them go, they almost killed you!" she continued in a panicky voice.
"Vala," Daniel whispered patiently into his headset, "you heard what they're here to do. We've gotta keep after these guys. The longer I can delay them, the more time Hammond has to bring his men here and help take these guys out."
Without another word he peeked around the corner again, raised his rifle and looked through the scope, trying to make a target through the shadowy-half light.
Artix's chin lifted slightly, almost imperceptibly as he heard what sounded like whispered voices back the way they came. A grin crossed his face as he hefted the nose of Yarvin's sizable rifle up to a level position.
Without another word he swung around, raised the rifle up to take aim and fired it, all in one smooth motion. Just as he squeezed the trigger, Artix watched in frustration as the bespeckled man disappeared back behind the corner. The hallway filled with the hissing sound of the rocket as it sprang forth from the long barrel of the silvery weapon. The weapon struck the wall and detonated, sending chunks of concrete flying and sending out a cloud of dust.
Even as the debris flew, the elder warrior knew he hadn't killed his prey yet. It was becoming readily apparent that this one was not going to let them go without a struggle. Vendetta or no, the bespeckled man needed to be removed.
"You three continue on as planned," Artix said quickly without looking back. "I will finish these."
Without another word, the mercenary started quickly and silently down the length of the hallway. He held the large rifle ready, it's long barrel trained on the doorway while he watched an unblinking eye, wary of any movement.
It was time to end this little sideshow, he decided.
Dranis Yaskin sat at a makeshift table, sitting just several hundred yards from the Stargate and the still smoldering wreckage of the small Tau'ri rover. The area around him was bustling with activity. Uniformed soldiers of the Hebridian Confederate went this way and that, some standing up tents while others readied temporary fortifications that faced the raised dais holding the great stone ring. Everyone moved about with a sense of quiet purpose. There was little talking beyond what was needed for the tasks at hand.
Between the large cluster of men and the Stargate, a total of five armored vehicles were parked. Though the fronts of the vehicles faced away from the dais, every one of them had their turrets turned completely around, the multiple barrels on each vehicle pointing directly at the stone ring.
The surface of the table where Dranis sat was covered with many pieces of paper arranged haphazardly, all held in place by impromptu paper weights such as canteens of water, ration packs, and compasses. Beneath the seemingly random array of paper was a large topological map that covered most of the surface before him. The middle-aged, balding man studied the papers intently, occasionally marking them with a pen he had, or writing in a small journal laid open on the table. As he worked, he muttered to himself quietly, sometimes running his fingers through his thinning hair.
"Fellow Yaskin," came a voice from the other side of the table.
The man did not move at first, but continued to scribble something in his journal. When he finished, he looked up through his glasses at he who addressed him. The youngish, uniformed man stood at attention, a greenish rifle slung over his shoulder. Behind him stood one of the Tau'ri they had captured.
"I have brought the prisoner as you requested," the young soldier said respectfully when he saw he had Dranis' attention.
The seated man flicked a gaze from the Hebridian soldier to the Tau'ri. In an instant he considered their captive and cast his gaze back down to the papers spread out before him. "Very good, Adjutant Tysus," Dranis answered in an indifferent, almost disinterested voice. As he spoke, he quickly scratched something in his journal, then looked at a different paper on the table before him.
The prisoner stood in silence for several minutes as the balding man continued with his paper work. He considered the seated man quietly, curious to find out why he had been summoned.
"Are our accommodations still to your liking now, Colonel Anderson?" Dranis asked in a pleasant voice, his eyes never leaving the spread of papers before him. The loose ends of the documents fluttered in the wind that continuously whipped across the flat expanse of land that held the small army, the ruins, and the Stargate.
"It's as well as can be expected, I guess" Anderson answered plainly. Yaskin glanced up at his words, raising an eyebrow. "I'd be happier, of course, if you'd just let us go." The seated man did not react at first, but only stared intently at the Tau'ri Colonel. Then a wry grin crossed his face.
"You know I can't do that," he answered, watching the Colonel with a piercing, hawk-like gaze. That, more than anything, amazed Anderson about this balding, middle-aged bureaucrat. He had a stare that would cut through a man, as if he could see inside one's very soul and unearth every secret buried within.
"Sure you can," the Colonel replied, his voice somewhere between jovial and serious. "Just pack up your things and take your men and equipment through the Stargate." The man seated at the table chuckled at the words. Lifting his head slightly, Anderson added, "I guarantee you, it'll give you and your government a much better chance to have good relations with Earth."
"Yes," Dranis said flatly, "your General Landry said much the same thing."
Nodding, Anderson answered, "It would be a good idea to listen to him. My people don't take kindly to hostility, and we're not about to just let you intimidate us through a show of force."
The balding man's lips curled into a thin smile. "What if I were to simply release the three of you?" He leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on the table. "How about I simply tell the guards to dial up a planet of your choosing and we could let the three of you walk out of here. I'll even send you on your way with everything that you had on your persons when we took you." The Colonel blinked in surprise at how earnest the other's words sounded. Dranis tilted his head, asking, "Would that be sufficient for your government?"
Anderson hesitated for a moment, stunned by what seemed like a straight offer. "I can't really say," he finally answered hesitantly. "You'd be best to ask one of our diplomats that question. I suspect that you'll be speaking to one soon enough, if you're serious about talking with our government."
"But why wouldn't it be enough?" Dranis asked with a curious, slightly surprised tone. He furrowed his brow, "If we provide the safe return of you and your two men, then what else could your government be upset about?"
The Colonel pursed his lips slightly, growing uncomfortable with the questions from this man. "Again, you'd need to speak to whomever my government sends to speak with you," he answered tightly. "I can't really speak to that, I just follow orders given by my government."
The man's gaze grew even more intense as he asked his next question, "and just what were your orders when you were sent here, Colonel?"
"Like I told you before," Anderson answered, "I can't say."
Dranis sat back in his chair as he continued to stare at the uniformed man standing before him, a grin upon his face that was not quite reflected in his eyes. "I understand," he said in a way that left the Colonel very unsettled. "Thank you for your time, Colonel Anderson."
With that, he nodded at the young officer standing off to the side, the same man that had brought Anderson over. The Hebridian soldier stepped forward to stand by the Colonel, waiting for him to start walking.
Anderson hesitated for a moment, staring back at Dranis silently. The two looked at each other wordlessly, the Colonel with a concerned expression while the man in the chair had an amused look on his face.
Then the Colonel turned and walked off, still looking troubled as the young officer escorted him back to the penned in area where the two other men from Earth were being held. The impromptu prison, constructed of a few rough-hewn tree trunks and some barbed wire strung around them, was the first construction by Dranis' men since the attack several hours ago.
Two guards stood at the impromptu gate. One opened the door at the approach of the other two. Anderson walked through without a word as his escort waited outside. The third young soldier left as soon as the two guards secured the entrance again.
"What'd they want, sir?" Lieutenant Burns asked as his superior officer walked over to join him and Captain Harris.
Glancing up from the ground, still wearing the same contemplative expression, Anderson hesitated before answering. "That Dranis character was fishing for information," he said with a thoughtful voice.
"What kind of information, sir?" Harris asked, the three huddled close together in the center of the pen. They all spoke in low voices, to try and keep from being heard by their captors. The fact that the cold wind continually whipped through the open space also encouraged them to stay close together.
"He wants to know why we were here," Anderson replied, cupping his hands together and blowing inside of them, trying to warm his hands.
"Well, of course you didn't tell him anything," the Lieutenant supplied, trying to sound cheerful.
"Not intentionally, no," the Colonel said, sighing a little. Burns furrowed his brow with a confused expression, but the Captain pursed his lips, a look of understanding in his eyes.
There was a pause in the conversation and the three stood in silence together. Anderson was looking out at the bustling crowd of Hebridian soldiers just outside the perimeter of their ad hoc prison. Dozens of men hurried this way and that as they continued their preparations.
"What's on your mind, sir?" Captain Harris asked, reading his commander's expression like a book. The two had served together for some time, in various roles before they had come to serve in the SGC.
Glancing back at Harris, the Colonel frowned slightly. "In a briefing, I remember hearing that the Hebridians were a mixed race. Their bloodlines were partly made up of Earth-descended humans from freed Goa'uld slaves, but they had also been cross-breeding for generations with the Serrakin, an alien humaniod race. The facial features of the Serrakin are very different from us and they have a sort of reddish-brown skin color." As he spoke, he looked back out at the crowds of men going this way and that.
"Yeah, I remember hearing the same thing in one of the training sessions from when I first joined the SGC," Harris answered. "What's your point?" he asked, joining Anderson in looking around at their captors. Lieutenant Burns did the same, though he looked thoroughly confused.
The Colonel hesitated, then answered, "Don't you think we should see some of that here?" He glanced back at his two men, who looked back at him. "Since we were captured, I haven't seen anyone that looks remotely like the pictures we saw of the Serrakin." The two men looked surprised at their commanders words, comprehension starting to dawn on their faces. They looked at one another, then back at their Colonel as he spoke again.
"Everyone here looks completely human."
After a few minutes of walking around the blast area, Mitchell had managed to verify that all of his men were, in fact, still alive. He breathed a sigh of relief as he walked away from the last few people that he'd spoken with. Reaching for his radio, he keyed up the device. "Vala, Daniel, this is Mitchell. We're okay down here. Everyone's kinda well-done, but we're all breathing."
He released the button on the unit and waited a few moments for a reply. "Daniel, Vala, please respond," he repeated. His brow furrowed in concern as again he was greeted with silence.
Suddenly he realized that he had heard no chatter at all during the time he'd been checking on his men.
"Teal'c, please respond," Mitchell asked into his radio again, growing increasingly worried at the silence. Once more, he received no answer to his hail.
"Maybe it's busted," he muttered to himself, reasoning that the intense heat may have damaged the device.
"Hey!" he called out, "does anyone have a working radio?" Around him came the sounds of a few people trying to send out a transmission. Nobody received an answer, however, and several men answered in the negative.
"Okay, I can't believe we all have broken radios," Cam said in an exasperated voice.
"It's probably the repeater in this section of the floor, sir," came the voice of a young Lieutenant who happened to be standing not too far away, helping to apply first aid to another. Mitchell turned to look at the young man, furrowing his brow.
"What's that?" he asked, looking confused.
"Our radios only work underground because the base has a large network of repeaters installed," the Lieutenant explained. "The one closest to where you're transmitting from receives your signal and retransmits it back out through the entire network, so that the signal can be received anywhere inside the base."
Mitchell nodded, "So you figure the blast took out the repeater nearest to us?" he asked simply.
"Yes sir," the young man answered.
"Do you think the Gate Control Room still has a working radio?" Cam asked.
"Yes sir," the other replied. "It's far enough away that it was probably unaffected by the blast."
Cam nodded at this. "Thanks a lot, Lieutenant." The young man nodded and went back to what he had been doing.
Mitchell looked down the hallway that lead back to the Gate Control Room. "Ah, I should probably go back and check on Landry, anyway," he muttered to himself.
"Major Sanders!" he called out to a man a few yards down the hall. The other stood up at The Colonel's words, looking over.
"Yes sir?" he answered.
"I'm heading back to the Gate Control Room, you're responsible here." The other man nodded wordlessly. "Stay sharp," Mitchell continued, "you're out of radio contact down here and we don't know if the bad guys are going to come down the chute and jump us." He watched to make sure the other man nodded again.
The Colonel then turned and took a few steps, but then stopped and turned back once more. "Actually, go ahead and re-establish the perimeter we were setting up..." at his words, he glanced over at the smoldering wreckage of the machine gun emplacements and barriers. "Well," he sighed, "Do the best you can..."
"Yes sir," Sanders answered with a slight grin. Mitchell smirked back, then turned and started to make his way back to the Control Room.
As Daniel peaked around the corner and lifted his rifle, his eyes flew wide in surprise as he saw Artix spin around, raising the missile-launching rifle at him.
Without a moment's hesitation, the archaeologist turned on his heel and scrambled to get away, pushing his way back through the door from which he came. Behind him he heard the whistling sound of the rocket as it shot out from the large weapon.
"Move!" he shouted as panic filled him.
The three charged back into the depths of the room, trying to put as much distance as they could between themselves and the doorway. They had barely managed to cover ten feet before a large explosion rocked the room, the blast blowing the two doors wide open as debris flew in. The three men were knocked over, thrown into the room like so many rag-dolls. As they landed, they were peppered with countless pieces of concrete, the chunks of rock striking them painfully.
For a moment after they all landed, no one moved. The last of the debris landed about them, the room then becoming as quiet as it had been a moment ago.
"Daniel," the archaeologist heard Vala say with a tense voice in his earpiece. The archaeologist moaned painfully, feeling like he had just been used for a punching bag. "They're splitting up!" she continued urgently, "Artix is coming after you and the other three are continuing on down the hallway. Get away from the door and find a place to hide!"
Jackson groaned as he forced himself to his feet, the feeling of pain quickly being overshadowed by the urgent fear of their foe's imminent approach. As he stood he glanced back and saw the doors blown well off their hinges. Daniel figured those doors were probably the only reason he and the other two were still alive, as beat up as they were.
Looking back he shared tense glances with the other two with him, who were also trying to find their feet. He was barely able to see them in the heavy shadows of the large room they were in. Clouds of dust made the sparse lighting all the less effective. "You heard the lady," he said in a tight whisper, "Move!"
The three quickly moved into the depths of the room, all of them limping slightly and moving with some difficulty. They watched the door warily as they went. "Split up!" Daniel whispered quietly, "keep your radios on!" The other two nodded at him and they all went in different directions, walking as swiftly and quietly as they could manage, weaving through the various large machines that were spread out across the expansive, open floor of the vast room.
Daniel quickly lost sight of the other two as he maneuvered his way between the various assortment of drill presses, saws, and lathes. He ran back to the far wall and quickly found a small spot to settle in between a large roller and a grinder. Crouching down between the two large machines, Daniel readied his weapon and waited.
As he sat in the tight space, waiting, time seemed to come to a stop. The room was deathly still. Daniel listened intently for some sign that Artix had arrived. He heard nothing but silence in the room and on the radio.
"Where is he, Vala?" he finally whispered with a tense voice into his headset, the calm making him more tense than any kind of noise would have.
As if in answer, Daniel suddenly heard the sounds of slow and cautious footsteps upon the fragments of concrete that now covered the entrance way to the room. Almost immediately after, he heard Vala's voice whisper in his ear, "He's entering the room now, Daniel. Just be patient, let him come to you." The archaeologist tightened his grip on his P-90, listening intently while he looked out into the darkness of the large room, waiting expectantly.
With tense anticipation the archaeologist waited as he heard one slow footstep after the other. From his position, Daniel couldn't see Artix. It dawned on him that this would have been an ideal opportunity to ambush the mercenary, catching him as he entered the room.
Then again, the archaeologist reasoned, perhaps that was exactly what the man had been expecting.
Sighing quietly, Daniel suddenly felt overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on this adversary. Though he had been through a lot in the last ten years, he was still not as good of a fighter as Teal'c or Jack. His friends had spent their entire lifetimes training for and fighting in combat, as had this elderly mercenary, most likely.
What chance did a middle-aged archaeologist have, he wondered with a worried brow.
Sighing, he pursed his lips, trying to shake off his defeatist thoughts.
It was then Daniel realized with panic setting in that he could no longer hear Artix's footsteps.
"Daniel," Vala said quickly, with a tense voice, "they're splitting up! Artix is coming after you, and the other three are continuing on down the hallway. Get away from the door and find a place to hide!"
The raven-haired woman watched with a worried eye as Daniel and the two that were with him moved quickly back into the depths of the room. Panic filled her as she realized she'd now have to keep tabs on both Artix and his cronies. She hurriedly tapped on the keyboard, her tired fingers working to open up yet more windows on her already crowded computer display to show the needed sets of different cameras. The screen had quickly become a clutter of open console windows and video feeds. Keeping up with everything that was going on had become increasingly difficult for her as the situation dragged on and on.
The last half hour had taken its toll on Vala. She was starting to feel light-headed. Whether that was due to lack of food or the after-effects of the surgery, she wasn't sure. Pursing her lips, she steeled herself to continue. Not only was there no one else to take over her, but she wouldn't have time to make the transition, either. Things were happening too fast.
She hadn't even had time to investigate the Goa'uld software she had gained control over. For all she knew, it was doing something malicious, or counting down to some nasty surprise. That possibility worried her considerably but she had been so busy just trying to keep the boys one step ahead of the intruders that there had been no time to check.
As she considered that, she suddenly realized that she still had no idea what had happened to Mitchell. The man had not checked in since she had warned him of the bomb-like elevator sent by Artix, and since the blast had destroyed all of the cameras in the area, she couldn't check on him. With clenched teeth, she hoped he and the men with him were alright.
Vala pulled up all the video feeds she could for the dark room Daniel was now hiding in, but unfortunately there were only four cameras for what was obviously a very expansive space. It didn't help that the room was full of large machines that presented excellent hiding places for both friend and foe. Even as she glanced back at the other camera feeds she was watching to keep tabs on the other three intruders, Vala wondered if she'd be able to help Daniel much at all in his current predicament.
She watched quietly as the archaeologist and the two other men with him split up, moving to different parts of the room. Good move, she thought, use your numbers against him. Sighing, she settled in and tried to juggle the tasks she had at hand.
The two mercenaries and Kethmal watched for a moment as Artix moved quickly and quietly towards the door. Without another word, they turned and went the other way, soon reaching the end of the hallway. Kethmal led them down the adjoining corridor on the right, the three walking more swiftly than before, abandoning their prior caution. All of them felt the same urgency, all had the same sense that things were rapidly spinning out of control.
As the Goa'uld led them through the floor, he glanced back at the two mercenaries. He, more than anyone, had become skeptical that this could work anymore. If the two Tau'ri women had not discovered him when they did, if he'd been able to bring in the mercenaries where he was supposed to, perhaps. As it was, he counted himself exceedingly lucky that he had been able to secure another host so surreptitiously and make his escape from the Gateroom.
Worst yet, however, his preparations for this raid had not been completed when the two females had found him. With but another half hour he could have disabled more of the jamming transmitters the Tau'ri used to prevent the sensors required for use of the Asguard beaming technology. As it was, however, he had only been able to disable the ones to level sixteen, where the now-dead prisoner happened to be held anyway.
Kethmal frowned. He had tried to make the best of a bad situation, but even with these mercenaries working for he and his queen, the Tau'ri still were managing to regain control.
It was time to start thinking about cutting his losses, he decided.
The three met no opposition as they wound their way through the passages. Like the other floor they had ventured through, this one seemed deserted.
Finally, Kethmal stopped at an intersection and looked over at the two with him. "Continue down that way," he said, pointing down the hall to their left. "Take the first right, and then proceed until the end of the hall and turn left. There you'll find a hatch that gives access to a tunnel which runs through to the bottom of the facility."
The Brakxis nodded at the instructions and started down the hallway. Kethmal paused for a moment as he saw that Delmas was not following. "Wait," he said simply, his voice thick with the sound of the Goa'uld.
Brakxis paused, looking back with a furrowed brow. Delmas looked over at the Goa'uld suspiciously.
"You should go with Brakxis," Kethmal said, looking at Delmas as he spoke. "I can be more effective without your assistance."
The mercenary shook his head. "Artix told me to accompany you," he said flatly, looking decidedly unimpressed. The Goa'uld flicked a glance at Brakxis, then looked back at the other mercenary.
Brakxis caught the look and tilted his head slightly, a motion unseen by Delmas, who was looking intently at the Goa'uld.
"I can move through here unsuspected without an escort." Kethmal replied. As he spoke, he removed the computer device from his arm and stuck it back into the pocket on his thigh. He grinned, then smoothing the SF uniform his host wore. "If I go on my own, they will think I am one of them." He paused to let his words sink in, then added, "it will be trivial for me to find the human that has stolen our advantage. I will kill him, and regain control." The other two exchanged glances. "When it is time to depart, I will send you a signal."
As he spoke his last words, the Goa'uld made direct eye contact Brakxis, staring at him intently for an instant before looking back over at Delmas. "Given how desperate our situation has become," the Goa'uld added, "We will need every advantage we can get if we are to escape this with our lives.
Brakxis lifted his chin, grinning slightly at Kethmal's words and unspoken implications. Clearing his expression, he spoke. "Besides, I may need your help," he said as he took a step closer to Delmas. The other mercenary turned back from the Goa'uld to look at him. "Artix's orders were given before he left us to deal with the others. You can't honestly believe he expected I could finish the infiltration down to the self-destruct device on my own, without assistance?"
Delmas pursed his lips, looking indecisive now at the point the other mercenary made. Seeing his hesitation, Kethmal spoke up. "Your friend speaks wisely," he began, still speaking in the voice of the Goa'uld. , He paused as the other two paused to look at him, then continued, "and we have little time to continue debating the matter..."
The mercenary frowned, looking very uncomfortable at the situation. He paused in silence for a moment.
"Very well," he finally agreed. He took a few steps to rejoin Braxis. Turning back to the Goa'uld, he said, "Be sure to contact us when you've completed your task. We'll let you know when it's time to set the self-destruct sequence."
"Of course," Kethmal nodded, smiling in a way that made Delmas almost change his mind. He hesitated, however, and in the next moment the Goa'uld turned on his heel and disappeared down the next turn.
Delmas stared after him for a moment before he the other's footsteps.
"Come," Brakxis called back to his fellow, who lingered for a moment before turning and following after.
Artix crept down the hallway with measured steps, approaching the damaged doorway with caution. He knew that this was dangerous, but the bespeckled man had made it quite clear that he wouldn't just let them go. If there was any chance for success on this job, the old mercenary knew that this troublemaker would need to be eliminated.
After a few steps, the old mercenary heard his fellows leave as they had been instructed. He pursed his lips, suddenly worried that he had sent those three off alone. While he trusted Delmas, he wondered if the young mercenary could handle the other two on his own. Artix knew the combination of the Goa'uld and Brakxis was particularly dangerous, but at this point, they were so short handed and disadvantaged that he had little choice.
Not a sound came from the open doorway as he approached the portal with a stealthy motion. He gripped his weapon tightly as he paused at the corner, glad that it was almost as dark out in the hallway as it was inside. After pausing for a moment, he proceeded slowly. A scowl crossed his face as his feet crunched the small bits of rubble that covered the floor around the the entrance. He tensed as he waited for the assault, ready dive at the first sign of the enemy.
A grin crossed his face as he met with no resistance. The old mercenary paused for the briefest of moments as he cleared the rubble, then he proceeded slowly into the vast, dark room, his heavy weapon held ready.
Vala watched her laptop's display with an intensely worried gaze as she saw the gray-haired mercenary move slowly and cautiously towards the door to the room. At the same time, she also was watching the three other intruders as the moved much more quickly from one camera to another than they had before.
It was quite the effort for her to keep up with them, she constantly had to bring up one new camera view after another. Once she almost thought she'd lost them, but then she quickly managed to recover. They had stopped at an intersection and were talking. Drawing in a deep breath, she closed her eyes, allowing herself a moment to relax.
She didn't know how much longer she could keep doing this. A sharp headache was quickly developing just behind her eyes, and her mouth was getting dry. Still, she didn't dare stop for a moment.
Suddenly the still quiet of the infirmary was broken by the sound of a gurney being wheeled in. Vala flicked a brief glance over, quickly returning her attention back to the laptop. Almost immediately, she jerked her head back up to stare in disbelief.
"Sam!" the raven-haired woman said in a shocked voice, sitting up straight in her bed at the sight. Right behind her friend, she saw Jack walking in beside Dr. Lam, both just a few steps behind the two nurses that were wheeling the bed into the room. "Is she okay?" Vala asked urgently as the nurses moved forward, wheeling Sam past her to one of the few open spaces available in the crowded room.
Both Jack and the doctor looked over her question. "She's stable for now," Carolyn answered, the two pausing in front of her bed. "We've done the best we could. For right now we just have to wait and see what happens." Vala breathed a sigh of relief, smiling faintly.
Jack furrowed his brow as he looked more closely at the woman sitting in the bed before them. "Hey, isn't that Daniel's laptop?" he asked with a casually curious voice. The bitterly hostile look the raven-haired woman gave him in reply made the General blink in surprise, trading apprehensive looks with the doctor standing next to him. "I...could be mistaken," he muttered, looking suddenly uncomfortable.
Dr. Lam grinned and then asked, "Did you use a healing device on Colonel Carter, Vala?"
The raven-haired woman opened her mouth to answer, but then she heard Daniel's voice in her earbud. Her eyes flew wide open. She frowned and looked back at the laptop, guilt overwhelming her as she suddenly realizing that she'd completely neglected her part in the ongoing drama. Pursing her lips anxiously, she consulted the video feeds. She saw Artix just entering the doorway to the dark room where Daniel was hiding.
The other mercenaries were no where to be seen.
Dr. Lam and General O'Neill watched Vala's strange reaction with confused faces. Neither had heard Daniel's transmission, nor had either seen the earpiece she wore, as it was hidden by her hair. They exchanged glances, then looked back to the raven-haired woman who was now completely ignoring them.
"I'm going to go see to Colonel Carter, General," Dr. Lam told the man, touching his arm briefly just before she started to walk off. Jack nodded and glanced over, casting a gaze over to where Sam was being settled in by two nurses, the same way that Vala had been taken care of a few hours before.
The General turned to follow Carolyn when he suddenly heard Vala say in a soft voice, "He's entering the room now, Daniel. Just be patient, let him come to you."
The General froze in his tracks, his head whipping around to look at the woman with a steely gaze, his expression one of concern.
"Vala, what the hell is going on?" Jack asked in a tight voice, confused and deeply concerned by her words.
The raven-haired woman flicked him the briefest of glances, then looked back down at her laptop, not wanting to screw up again. She hadn't been able to find the other three intruders yet. Guilt was building up in her gut, and she was feeling more and more anxious as she watched Artix creep into the room. It was very difficult for her to try and flick through the various camera feeds to try and find the other mercenaries, while still watching the sketchy video feed from inside the room to keep tabs on Artix. The last thing she wanted to try and do right now was also try and explain to O'Neill what was going on.
She suddenly realized that she hadn't seen where Daniel had hidden in the room. She had no idea where he or his men were.
"Vala," Jack said firmly when she failed to answer, taking a step closer to her.
The woman looked up at him with daggers in her eyes. He stopped in surprise at her reaction, regarding her with confusion and apprehension. She pursed her lips in frustration, then looked back down at the display, continuing to tap on the keys to bring up new video feeds. After a moment, she said in a very distracted voice, "we have intruders in the base..." she paused as she squinted at the screen, then continued, "I've been trying to help, but we keep getting our asses handed to us." She sighed heavily, her fatigue and hunger catching up with her.
O'Neill studied her intently for a moment, pondering her terse answer. "What's with Daniel?" he asked tensely.
She flicked a brief glance up at him, then looked down at her display intently. The other mercenaries were eluding her, though admittedly she was spending more time trying to discern what was going on in the darkened room. Her tired eyes could barely make out the faint outline of Artix as he made his way through the vast space. To make matters worse, he kept disappearing as he walked past the various pieces of large equipment.
"He's up one floor," she answered. "One of the mercenaries has him trapped in a big, dark room. His name is Artix, and he's hunting Daniel right now..." the emotion in her voice told Jack all he needed to know.
The General suddenly surprised Vala by lifting his foot and placing his boot on the foot of her bed. She looked up and watched him with a perplexed expression, completely taken aback by the odd action. He lifted his pant leg to reveal a small pistol strapped to his ankle, which he immediately took out of its holster.
"Sounds like they're in the machine shop," Jack said as he withdrew his weapon and drew back the latch. "I'm going up there," he said, turning on his heel without hesitation.
"You can't take the elevator!" Vala said suddenly, "it was completely destroyed."
Jack turned back, walking backwards towards the door as he replied, "No problem, I'll just take the emergency access tube." He then turned back once more and continued on his way out.
"Jack," Vala called out, "If you can get your hands on a radio, we're on channel six!" The General didn't look back, but waved in acknowledgment. As he reached the door, he started to run.
Vala watched as he disappeared, pursing her lips. She then turned her attention back to the laptop and resumed her search for the other mercenaries, while still trying to watch Artix as he crept through the large, dark room.
Colonel Mitchell jogged through the corridors, quickly making his way back to the Gate Control Room. He hiked up the stairs to join General Landry and Sergeant Harriman, presently the only occupants in the room.
Landry turned at the sound of the footsteps on the stairs. "Mitchell! You look like hell, son! What happened? How are your men?" he asked his questions hurriedly, looking on with a worried brow. Walter also glanced over, furrowing his brow in surprise at the sight of the Colonel.
"Those mercenaries turned the elevator into a firebomb, sir," Cam answered as he walked over to where the General stood. "They must have loaded it up with some serious explosives, it blew out a considerable blast. I'm feeling a little roasted, but doing alright. My men are all about the same, there didn't seem to be anyone who was too badly hurt." Landry nodded, letting out a breath of relief.
"How are things?" Cam asked. The General furrowed his brow, looking surprised by the question. Mitchell quickly explained, "The explosion knocked out radio service over by the elevator, I've been in a black hole since Vala warned me about the elevator."
Landry nodded once in understanding. "Things don't sound very good right now," he began to answer with a heavy sigh. "Daniel gave us word about the intruders' intentions, apparently he managed to overhear them speaking." Cam's brows came together in surprise, his expression taking on one of eager curiosity.
"Apparently," the General continued, "they're here to wipe us off the map and do as much collateral damage as they can manage. They've brought some technology to make our self destruct device considerably more powerful." Cam's eyes grew wide as Landry related the news. "The Goa'uld software was going to allow them to activate our device, after they managed to arm it with their extra munitions."
"Pretty bold plan," Mitchell said quietly, his face solemn.
"It is," Landry answered simply. "I've ordered half of the Gateroom defense teams to guard the nuclear device, but we could probably use more defenders. I don't want to spare anymore from the Gateroom, in case we need them here."
"I can go round up my troops and put them there with those you just sent," Cam answered. "Do we know where the bad guys are now?" he asked with a concerned eye.
"I haven't gotten a good sit-rep from anyone," Landry answered, "but from listening to the radio chatter I think that's because they're both so busy with just trying to stay alive." Cam pursed his lips in concern as the General continued to speak. "As near as I can tell, Dr Jackson is penned in somewhere up on level 20. This Artix character is hunting him down, while the other three are off doing God knows what."
Cam frowned deeply at this. "So they're running without opposition again," he said with a heavy voice.
"I'm afraid so, but they can't be too far away from level 20. Vala reported them splitting up just a few minutes ago." the General answered, adding, "so we've got a little time." He paused for a moment, then sighed in frustration. "We're spread too thin for this kind of thing. Between the damned budget cuts and them hitting us after hours, we've got nobody but a skeleton crew!"
Landry shook his head, then said, "The good news, however, is that General Hammond has arrived topside with several units of marines and special forces." Cam nodded at this, looking a little relieved. "They're moving in right now, descending through the elevator shaft. I've directed them to start by penetrating level 20."
"Why not ask Vala where the other intruders have gone?" Mitchell asked
He considered this for a moment before answering, "Good idea. I've been reluctant to interrupt up until now. It's sounded like Vala's been helping Daniel keep one step ahead of Artix, but with Hammond's men onsite we have a real chance now to finish this." With that he turned to look at the Sergeant seated at the console. "Put me on the air, Walter."
The technician reached over and threw a switch, "You're on, sir."
"Vala, this is Landry," the General said, "good news, the cavalry's arrived. Where have the other three intruders have gone?"
There was an extended silence after Landry stopped speaking. He traded worried glances with Mitchell. Just as he opened his mouth to speak again, they heard Vala's voice filling the Control Room. "I don't know where they are right now," she said with a tense voice.
"Dammit," Landry said under his breath as he and Mitchell both frowned at the news. He then spoke more loudly so she could hear him. "Do you think you can find them again?" he asked simply.
There was another pause. "I'm trying," she answered, "but there's a lot of floor to search though and I'm trying to help Daniel at the same time." The more she spoke, the more Landry realized how tired she sounded.
"Hey, Vala," Mitchell chimed in, "why don't you just turn up the lights? Might make finding them a bit easier."
There was a brief pause, then Vala replied tensely with a distracted voice, "What?"
Cam answered, "You've got control of the Goa'uld software that's taken over our computers, right? I figure that's how those bastards knocked out our power...maybe you can undo it."
There was a brief pause before Vala's voice filled the control room again. "Cameron," she began with an exasperated voice, "I don't think it's quite that simple, I..." Her voice fell off then, and there was a brief pause. Suddenly everything in the Gate Control Room came back to life as the space filled with the whirring sound of the non-critical computers booting up. At the same time,the Gateroom light up, the florescent lighting spilling into the Control Room.
"You were saying, princess?" the Colonel asked with a slight grin, sharing a mischievous look with Landry. The simply General grinned in answer and shook his head. The two could well enough imagine the look on her face. Given other circumstances, it would have been quite amusing.
"Thanks," came her slightly bitter reply.
"Don't mention it," Mitchell replied more seriously, "I owe you at least that much and an apology, anyway..." he began to say, only for her to cut him off.
"That's very touching Colonel," she said with a tired voice, "but if you don't mind keeping the frequency clear now, I need to see to Daniel and finding the other mercenaries..."
"Vala," Landry said, stepping back into the conversation, "Let us help you with that. If you were able to bring back the base's power, I bet you can put the video feeds back to Base Security. They can do the searching for you." He paused, only to be greeted with silence.
A slight frown crossed his face as he shared a concerned glance with Mitchell. "Besides that, with Hammond's men onsite, they'll need the coordination from Security." He paused again, only to hear more silence. Sighing, he continued, "You've done an extraordinary in job helping us young lady, but there's no need for you to keep carrying so much of the burden by yourself..."
Suddenly there was a beeping on the console that Walter sat at. Landry paused as the Sergeant tapped on a few buttons and spoke into his headset, "Gate Control Room." Mitchell and Landry both looked over at the technician. "That's great news, hang on." He turned in his chair to look back at the two standing behind him. "It's Base Security on the line, sir. They're reporting they've got full access to all systems again."
Landry shared another smile with Mitchell, then looked back at Walter. "Tell them to start looking for multiple intruders and to coordinate with Hammond's CnC. Start their search on level twenty and working out from there."
"Yes sir," Walter answered simply, spinning in his chair. He immediately began speaking into his headset again, relaying the General's orders.
"Did you hear that, Vala?" Landry asked, waiting for an answer.
"I did," she answered with what sounded like a relieved voice. "Thank you," she said simply.
"Actually, I'm the one who should be thanking you," Landry replied with a very sincere voice. "Now, what's Dr Jackson's situation?"
There was another pause before she answered, "I can't tell where he and the two men that are with him are hiding, but I can see Artix making his way through the room, looking for them."
Landry listened intently, looking off into space as he heard the news. He paused, then nodded to himself. "I'm going to shake things up a bit," he said.
Stepping forward to the consoles at the front of the room, he looked down at the Sergeant. "Walter," he said, reaching out for a microphone, "put me on the intercom."
As Daniel listened to the exchange between Vala, Cam, and Landry, subtle hints of a smile played at the corners of his lips. Had he not been in a life and death situation, he would have smiled from ear to ear. Still, in spite of what was going on around him, he couldn't help but imagine the look on Vala's face as the conversation went on. He had breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the lights came up, then waited tensely as his friends finished their talk.
As the seconds ticked by after Vala's report to Landry, the archaeologist decided he couldn't just sit and wait for Artix to come to him. He'd have to make a move to try and get an edge over the mercenary. Just as he was about to start moving, Daniel suddenly heard Landry's voice booming over the speakers in the area.
"Attention intruders," he began, his voice authoritative and threatening, "this is General Landry of the SGC. You've played your little game well enough, but you've gone about as far as you're going to get."
As the General spoke, Daniel started to move from his hiding spot, keeping to the far wall. "Davis, Merril," he whispered into his radio's headset, hoping Landry's booming voice over the intercom would make it difficult or impossible for Artix to hear him. "I'm moving back towards the door to flank him. When I give the signal, start shooting."
Landry's voice continued over the speakers. "As you can see from the restored power, we've regained complete control over our facilities."
"Daniel," Vala then said into his earbud, "maybe you should wait, Jack's on his way to help."
The archaeologist stopped dead in his tracks, a deeply concerned expression on his face, "How's he coming coming up? The access tubes?"
Vala answered on the radio. "Of course, the elevator is out" she said.
Landry's voice continued on the intercom while the two talked. "We are currently watching you with the cameras placed throughout the base, and more of our forces are arriving. Even as I speak, there are now several hundred of our soldiers pouring in from the outside." Landry's booming voice took on a more ominous tone, "You are advised to lay down your weapons and surrender now." He paused, then added with finality, "If you do not surrender, then we will be forced to use lethal force to stop you."
"Vala," Daniel said urgently, "I booby trapped the access door to level twenty. Whoever opens it is going to set off a pound of C-4...!"