Genre: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Action/Adventure
Pairings: Sam/Daniel UST/pre-ship
Spoilers: Everything up to and including Exodus, plus smallish references to Ascension, Summit, Chimera, and Citizen Joe.
Season: Four, starting just before Double Jeopardy and ending just after Exodus
Rating: T for violence and some language
Disclaimer: The only thing I own that's related to Stargate is my DVD collection. I'm not making any money off of Stargate. In fact, the reverse is true.
Summary: Sequel to Tortured Soul. Sam learns that someone else received the fate Cronus intended for her, and that's just the beginning of a very bad day. An AU of Double Jeopardy and Exodus.
Too lengthy author's note: This story does not stand alone. It continues the AU Tortured Soul creates and is the second instalment of what I intend to be a trilogy. I strongly recommend that you read Tortured Soul before you read this story.
Also, this story is told with the same style as Tortured Soul – alternating first-person points of view between Sam and Daniel. Odd-numbered chapters are from Sam's POV and even ones are from Daniel's.
Last but far from least come my thank yous. Thanks to Jess13, NyxRo, and Martin for giving me the encouragement I needed to get this story finished. Thanks to Terelou for similar encouragement and for helping me lure my beta out of hiding. And special thanks to Thraesja, my illustrious and sometimes elusive beta, whose comments and suggestions never cease to soar high above my expectations. Hmm. Maybe it's time I raised that bar...
-- Chapter 1 --
I woke with a start to the loud buzzing of my alarm clock. Blearily, I reached over to switch it off and turned my face into my pillow with a contented sigh. The entire night had passed without a single nightmare.
A faint, tinny groan brought my attention to the telephone receiver still clutched under my chin. I rolled onto my back, bringing the phone to my ear, and smiled.
For a few moments, I listened quietly through the phone as Daniel woke up. "Good morning," I said.
There was another groan, louder this time. "Mmffssam?"
I couldn't help but laugh. Daniel was fun to talk to before he got his morning coffee.
"Da-niel," I said in a sing-song voice.
I heard him chuckle softly. "M'rn'g." His voice was rough with sleep.
"Morning. Did you sleep well?"
I smiled. "Good. Me too."
Ever since the Colonel, Teal'c, and Daniel had rescued me from Cronus's base four months ago, I'd been having difficultly sleeping. Nightmares. They were part of the job description, really. I knew all of my teammates had them. Well, except for Teal'c, but that was just because he didn't sleep.
Since then, I'd been relying heavily on Daniel's strength to help me recover from that ordeal. For the first three months, I had found myself at his apartment nearly every night because I was unable to sleep in my empty house.
He was incredibly understanding and supportive. We'd order delivery and sit up watching television or movies, or just chat about anything and everything until we fell asleep on his sofa. I knew that wasn't something I should get used to. So, for the last month or so, I'd been weaning myself off it. Daniel had never complained, but it wasn't as if I could expect him to put his entire life on hold just because I'd had a bad experience off-world. It wasn't fair to him.
I'd started spending more and more nights on my own. In my own bed. In my own house. Alone.
The frequency of my nightmares had increased at first, but they were now subsiding again. Once in a while, I'd call Daniel after either a nightmare or several hours of tossing and turning. We'd talk on the phone until we both fell asleep. Then wake up just like this.
I really couldn't imagine having a better friend than Daniel.
Last night, he had been the one to call me. It'd happened a few times. As I said, nightmares were part of the job. And it seemed that his phone call had helped both of us last night.
Rolling my head on the pillow, I checked the time and groaned. "I gotta have a shower."
"Mmph. Shower." He was making vowel sounds now. That was good. Soon, he'd be awake enough for actual sentences.
"I'll see you at work, okay?"
"You remember. That place we go every day under that big mountain?"
That made him chuckle again. "Vaguely."
"Good. Up and at 'em. I'll see you there. Bye."
"Bye, Sam. Thanks."
I smiled as Daniel disconnected the call. With a stretch, I sat up and hung up the phone. I slid my feet into the slippers waiting for me on the floor beside my bed and shuffled my way to the bathroom to start getting ready for the day.
An hour later, I was in my office waiting impatiently for my coffeemaker to finish. As it started its final gurgle, I heard someone enter my office behind me.
"That sure smells good."
I smiled, pulling both my and Daniel's mugs off the shelf next to my coffee machine. "It should. It's yours."
Daniel leaned back against the shelf, his arms crossed over his chest, and looked at me with wide eyes. "You raided my secret coffee stash?"
"Well, you do keep it in my filing cabinet."
"Only because Jack won't look for it there. You know what happened last time he found my coffee."
I laughed as I poured two mugs of Daniel's special blend. "That was priceless."
"You only say that because it didn't happen to you," he grumbled, taking the mug I handed to him. "Thank you." His eyes closed blissfully as he took a sip.
"You're welcome," I said before taking a slow sip from my own mug.
Daniel smiled at me. "For everything," he said softly.
I returned his smile. "No problem."
Talking Daniel to sleep last night was the least I could do after all he had helped me through. I was happy to do it. And to be perfectly honest, it had helped me as well.
A voice came over the base's loudspeakers. "Unscheduled off-world activation!"
"I don't suppose there's a chance that won't be for us," I groaned.
Daniel shrugged. "It could happen."
The loudspeakers crackled to life again just seconds later, this time with General Hammond's voice. "SG-1, report to the briefing room."
"Just maybe not today."
I rolled my eyes at him. "Maybe not."
Daniel and I were the last to arrive in the briefing room, so we quickly took our seats. Colonel O'Neill smiled cheerfully at us from down the table, and Teal'c nodded his greeting. Two members of SG-8 were seated on the other side of the table. I was sure that they were supposed to be off-world right now. They must have been the unscheduled travellers.
"Alright, folks," said General Hammond. "On their mission yesterday, SG-8 discovered evidence of a long-dead society on PK4-808."
I smiled as Daniel leaned forward over the table, clearly interested in hearing more.
"That's right, sir," said Major Conrad Jankowicz, engineer of SG-8. "The village we found is just over half a click from the stargate. Doctor Bedard can explain what we found better than I can." He nodded to his team's linguist. "Julie?"
"As far as I've been able to determine," said Doctor Bedard, "the people on PK4-808 died out a long time ago. They suffered a series of natural disasters and finally succumbed to a disease that swept through the entire population. I believe that the few who survived longest created a monument detailing the events before their deaths." She glanced up at Daniel and then down at the table. "In addition to the monument, we found what we think might be a vault."
"Vault, eh?" Colonel O'Neill looked up with interest. "A weapons' vault?"
Jankowicz shook his head. "Sorry, sir. No sign of weapons of any kind."
Bedard slid several large pieces of parchment paper across the table toward Daniel. "I brought some rubbings of the writings we've found on the monument. The forms are very close to neo-Sumerian."
I studied Doctor Bedard. She was relatively new to the SGC, having arrived just over four months ago. I hadn't spoken with her yet, but I knew from her personnel file that she was a civilian linguist with an expertise in comparative philology.
"They got any fancy doohickeys that do cool stuff?"
Major Jankowicz shook his head at Colonel O'Neill. "We haven't seen any evidence of advanced technology at all, sir."
"I suspect the vault contains artefacts of historical significance. But..." Bedard looked across the table at Daniel with a smile. "We haven't been able to get inside."
The Colonel scratched his head, glancing at General Hammond. "Look, not that this isn't...absolutely fascinating, but if there are no people, no weapons, and no technology, why exactly do you need SG-1's help on this?"
Doctor Bedard shook her head, her red curls bouncing around her face. "Well, actually, sir, we don't. We just need Doctor Jackson's help."
"Ah." Colonel O'Neill leaned back in his chair, his arms crossed over his chest.
If his raised eyebrows were any indication, General Hammond was equally surprised. Bedard probably should have made that clear before she had him call us all into a meeting.
Bedard blushed and ducked her head. "I, uh, I thought that Doctor Jackson's significant skills and experience dealing with alien languages would be immensely helpful."
Major Jankowicz appeared to bite back a grin before taking a decided interest in the wood grain of the conference table. Daniel spared Bedard a glance and a modest smile as he squinted at the pages she'd given him.
"SG-1 doesn't have any scheduled missions for the next two days," said Hammond. "So, unless you have any objections, Colonel?"
Colonel O'Neill looked over at Daniel, who was still engrossed in the rubbings. I gave Daniel a little nudge with my elbow, and his head jerked up. He turned to the Colonel's expectant gaze and nodded.
Doctor Bedard's face broke out in a broad smile. Her eyes darted to Daniel, then to the table, and back again. I frowned at her.
The Colonel nodded to General Hammond. "Alright. They can borrow him." He wagged his finger at Major Jankowicz across the table. "But I want him returned in the same condition he's in now. No scrapes, bruises, cuts, bumps, burns, stab wounds, bullet holes, chemical imbalances, involuntary escapades, voluntary escapades—"
"Jack," Daniel groaned.
Teal'c clasped his hands on the table before him. "I believe you should include the avoidance of alien possession and brainwashing, O'Neill."
"Excellent point, T." The Colonel pointed at the Jaffa before continuing to count off on his fingers. "No possessions, brainwashing, memory loss, false memories, bad memories..."
Daniel's head dropped into his arms on the table with a muffled thump. "Thank you, Jack," he moaned. "That's enough, please."
"What? I'm listing my requirements for lending out a member of my team. A particularly accident-prone member with a proven inability to stay out of trouble." He turned back to Jankowicz. "And hang nails. No hang nails either. Got it, Jankowicz?"
The Major smirked. "Yes, sir!"
Daniel lifted his head and gave me a desperate look. I was afraid I might bite my tongue right off in my effort to keep from laughing.
"Alright then," said General Hammond. "Doctor Jackson, Major Jankowicz, Doctor Bedard, be ready to depart for PK4-808 in half an hour." He stood up and everyone at the table followed suit. "Dismissed."
As the General returned to his office, Doctor Bedard came around the table.
"Doctor Jackson," she said, taking Daniel's hand in hers and shaking it. "I'm so excited that we're finally going to be able to work on a project together."
Daniel cleared his throat as he pulled his hand away to straighten his glasses. "Uh, please, call me Daniel."
Bedard giggled. Actually giggled. "Only if you'll call me Julie."
I studied the young linguist critically. She seemed pleasant enough, but for no apparent reason, I didn't like her.
"I'd better go get my gear together for the mission," Daniel said, nodding to Bedard and Jankowicz.
"We'll see you in half an hour, Doctor Jackson." Jankowicz took Bedard's arm and began to steer her out of the room. "Come on, Julie. Plenty of time for you to talk to him on the mission."
As the two members of SG-8 left the briefing room, Colonel O'Neill clapped his hand on Daniel's shoulder. "You better not get into any trouble out there, Danny-boy."
"It's just a vault from a long-dead society, Jack. It's not like I haven't spent my life doing this kind of thing."
"I am certain you will quickly open the vault and discover the secrets within, Daniel Jackson.
"Thanks, Teal'c. But I won't be discovering anything unless I get my gear together."
"We'll see you when you get back, Daniel." I gave his arm a little squeeze. "Be careful."
He gave me a reassuring smile. "I will."
An hour after Daniel's team left, the Colonel, Teal'c and I were giving our regular project updates to General Hammond when the off-world activation claxon sounded again. I was in the middle of explaining why I wanted to run a high-level diagnostic on all secondary gate systems, so I was a little disappointed at the interruption. Colonel O'Neill seemed absolutely delighted.
Once we got down to the control room, his delight was quick to fade as we realised that Harlan was trying to contact us. Much to the Colonel's chagrin, General Hammond ordered the iris to be opened, and the android that had duplicated SG-1 three years ago came through the gate.
Harlan told us that our android doubles were going on missions through the stargate. General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill were not happy to hear that news.
"Colonel O'Neill," said the General. "It was my understanding that the robots agreed to bury their stargate and never leave their planet."
"Then it would seem your robot counterpart is equally good at following orders as you."
Across the table, Teal'c raised a silent eyebrow at me. I tried to swallow a smirk, but I had a feeling I wasn't entirely successful.
As it turned out, the androids were already sixteen hours overdue and only had eight hours of power left.
Colonel O'Neill turned to Hammond. "General, I really don't think we're responsible for retrieving these robots."
"But you must!" exclaimed Harlan. "They are you!"
"Not me they're not!"
"Where is Doctor Jackson? He will help."
I gave Harlan a sympathetic look. "He's on a mission at the moment."
"Ohh..." Harlan wrung his hands in obvious distress. "You do that so much!"
General Hammond didn't order us to take on the mission, so Colonel O'Neill turned it down. But after Harlan showed us the address the android versions of us had gated to, I recognised it as a planet we had already visited.
The people of Juna had agreed to bury their gate after we had liberated them from the forces of Heru'ur. But when we dialled the address, the stargate engaged. Their gate wasn't buried.
Teal'c suggested that another Goa'uld might have travelled to Juna by ship and restored the stargate, possibly to claim the planet for strategic military position. It was a problem. We had told those people that they'd be okay. General Hammond ordered a MALP be sent through to see what was going on.
The static on the computer monitors before me flickered into an image of Juna.
"Receiving MALP telemetry," I said, panning the camera left to get a better look at the area surrounding the stargate.
A tall Jaffa was standing behind a large stone, his staff weapon aimed at the MALP. Suddenly, a zat blast hit him, and he fell to the ground.
I turned the camera in the direction the blast had come from, looking for the shooter. Colonel O'Neill, or rather, the android version of Colonel O'Neill popped into view. He peered into the camera, looking tired and anguished.
"Whoa," said the Colonel from behind me. "I'll never get used to that."
The General activated the microphone near him. "This is General Hammond of the SGC."
"George!" The android Colonel's eyes closed briefly. "Good. Who else is there?"
"Teal'c, Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter—"
"Carter, you okay?"
"I'm fine, uh..." I briefly glanced at the Colonel O'Neill who was standing behind me before frowning at the one on the monitor. "Sir."
"Good, that's good." The android sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Congrats on the promotion."
"Harlan is here as well," finished General Hammond.
"Damn it, Harlan! I told you—" The android must have heard something, because he abruptly turned around, aiming his zat at the surrounding forest.
A man emerged from the silvery-leaved trees, one hand in the air. "Do not shoot! I wish to help you," he said.
"Yeah," said android-Colonel, not lowering his weapon. "Sure you do."
"It is the truth. I now believe what you have said about the gods. Please, I ask that you trust me as I am now trusting you."
On the monitor, Colonel O'Neill's stance became less tense.
"I am sorry about the one called Carter," said the man.
The android sighed and waved the man closer. "Get over here."
"To whom are you speaking?" he asked.
The man walked closer, and I could finally identify him. "That's Darien," I said. He was one of the people who had fought with us to drive Heru'ur's forces from Juna.
"Earth," answered the android Colonel. "George Hammond and the other SG-1."
"Hey!" Colonel O'Neill leaned over my shoulder, glaring at the monitor. "You're the 'other', pal."
"Do we really have time for semantics here?"
"What exactly is the situation?" asked General Hammond.
"Our Carter is dead."
"Oh my goodness, no," moaned Harlan.
I could hear the Colonel and Teal'c shift slightly behind me, but all I could do was blink at the monitor. Hearing a report that I was dead was just...weird.
"Cronus killed her. Really seemed to have a bone to pick."
I swallowed hard, fighting the sour taste of bile that was rising in the back of my throat. I was afraid to even think about what punishment he had dealt my android double, believing she was me.
"He's got a ship in orbit," continued the android Colonel. "His Jaffa are everywhere, and Daniel and Teal'c have been captured. So it's just Darien and me."
Darien looked directly into the camera. "Please, help us."
I glanced at Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c. They were both staring at me. A hand came to rest on my other shoulder, and I turned in that direction.
General Hammond was giving me a questioning look. "Major?"
I nodded to him, grateful for his concern. "I'm good to go, sir."
He looked over at Colonel O'Neill, who shrugged. "You have a go," the General said. Into the microphone, he continued, "SG-1 is on its way."
We discussed possible plans of attack while preparing for the mission. Just minutes later, we were stepping through the gate to be greeted by Darien on Juna. He took us to meet the android version of Colonel O'Neill.
The Colonels immediately started arguing with each other. It was fascinating, really. The android Colonel had exactly the same personality as the original Colonel, and the same memories up to the point he was created.
Watching them argue was putting all sorts of ideas in my head that I knew neither of them would appreciate. Ideas like locking them in separate rooms and doing behavioural experiments on them. I'd have to save that thought to give Janet a laugh later.
When the disagreement turned physical, I decided to step in. "Sirs."
They both looked up from the headlocks they had each other in.
"As much as I'd like to see how this plays out, don't we have something more important to do?"
A horn sounded from deeper in the forest. "It is not safe to stay here," said Darien. "The forests are heavily patrolled."
As we followed Darien through the woods, the android Colonel fell back to walk next to me.
"It's good to see you," he said quietly.
Morbid curiosity won out. I had to ask. "What did he do to her?"
He studied me for a moment before continuing to scan the surrounding trees. "Grabbed her by the throat, slamming her against the nearest wall. And he squeezed." The android grimaced. "I've seen the Gould do some unbelievable things. But this was..." He glanced at me again. "He ripped her head right off her body with his bare hands."
"What did you do to get him so grouchy, anyway?"
Deciding not to answer that, I shrugged. "Can she be repaired?"
"Don't know. She taught us all a thing or two about how we work, but it's still not really my department." He kicked at a stone in the path. "It probably doesn't matter anyway. Cronus had her body taken up to the ship. God knows what they've done with her now."
We walked the rest of the way in silence, keeping an eye out for any of Cronus's Jaffa.
"So," the android said as we ducked through the entrance to Darien's home. "What's this brilliant plan of yours?"
Colonel O'Neill scowled at him. "It's simple, really. We're going to kill Cronus and steal his ship."
"Oh!" The android rolled his eyes. "That simple, is it?
"You got a better idea?"
"Just how exactly do you suggest we get on board the ship?"
Darien sat next to me and Teal'c on a bench. "Cronus and his Jaffa trust me. He sent me and many others to search for him." He gestured to the android.
"See?" said the Colonel. "A plan. We bring something Cronus wants, and they just let us in."
The android sat down at the table, his back to us. "Well, isn't that just great."
"We could always commandeer a cargo ship and fly up to the Ha'tak," Colonel O'Neill said, picking up a pillow and poking at the beaded flowers on it.
The android sighed. "There aren't any on the surface."
"Well how do you suggest we get up there? Ask them politely?"
The android shook his head, not rising to the bait of another argument. "The only rings I've seen were in that pyramid."
"There is a way into the main chamber," said Teal'c.
"Yeah!" Android-Colonel turned around to look at us. "By putting the robot at risk."
"Not just you," I said.
Colonel O'Neill put down the pillow and looked at me, his eyebrows raised. "Carter?"
"It's too dangerous to send Darien in with a prisoner. If anything goes wrong..." I looked over at Darien and then at the vest and fur cloak that were draped over the chair next to the android. "I can go in disguise and present, um, you," I gestured to the android Colonel, "to Cronus's Jaffa."
The android wrinkled his nose at me. "What are you going to do? Waltz in there, wave your hand, and say 'These are not the droids you're looking for'?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and cocked his head at a curious angle.
"Altair is somewhat lacking in the entertainment department," the android explained with a shrug. "Our Teal'c decided it was necessary to re-enact the entire trilogy for us."
Despite the stress of the current situation, I chuckled softly and glanced at Colonel O'Neill. He was looking back and forth between the android and Teal'c with a confused expression on his face. Finally, he turned to me and shook his head. "I don't think I like this plan."
"It's fine, sir. Really."
He narrowed his eyes at me, and I could tell he thought I might be out for revenge or something. But that wasn't what this was.
I needed to be sure that I wouldn't freeze when faced with Cronus and Sindar. That despite everything they'd done to me, I was still in control of my life and my actions. Unlike when I was being put through the simulations on The Table.
No, this wasn't about revenge. It was about proving to myself that I was still me.
I wasn't sure the Colonel understood that, but he nodded.
"I am grateful for your concern over my safety," said Darien. "But I wish to help."
"You can come with me and Teal'c," answered Colonel O'Neill.
I got up and moved to the table. Picking up the vest and cloak, I looked at Darien. "Can I borrow these? And some clothes?"
"Of course, I will fetch something for you."
Nodding my thanks, I put the vest on. It had several places that would be perfect for concealing my weapons. The two Colonels, Teal'c and I continued discussing the plan while Darien and I assembled my disguise. He handed me a helmet, and I put it on. This was perfect. I could use the mud outside to conceal my facial features enough that I'd pass for a native.
Teal'c suspected that we could face as many as one thousand Jaffa on Cronus's ship. But he told us that a console on the pel'tak could isolate that level from the others and minimise the number of Jaffa we'd have to deal with.
Teal'c also brought up the problem that the rings would have to be activated from within the ship, but the android Colonel O'Neill was able to contact his teammates with an internal radio. The androids of Daniel and Teal'c would do what they could to help us.
I adjusted the clothing the Darien brought me. "What do we do with the other Jaffa once we've dealt with Cronus and taken over the ship?" I asked Teal'c.
"We offer them freedom."
The Colonels nodded, and we all went outside.
In my disguise and carrying Darien's crossbow, I took the android Colonel O'Neill to the pyramid. The Colonel, Teal'c, and Darien remained a safe distance behind as back-up.
"You have captured the intruder," said one of Cronus's Jaffa outside the pyramid. "You will present him to Lord Cronus."
I nodded and followed him into the main chamber of the pyramid, prodding the android to enter the room before me. He gave me a dirty look over his shoulder, but I knew he understood it was part of the role I was playing.
Sindar, Cronus's First Prime, was pacing on a raised platform near the back of the room. He turned as we entered, giving us the sickening smile I had seen too often. It was the same smile he had when he restrained me on The Table. Or when Cronus allowed him to be creative with the day's physical torture.
"Cronus will be pleased," he said.
I couldn't help but smirk as I stepped out from behind android-Colonel O'Neill. "Somehow, I don't think so."
I fired Darien's crossbow, hitting Sindar right between the eyes. His body crumpled to the ground. I dropped the crossbow, drawing my Berretta and one the Colonel had given me out of my vest. I tossed them to the android and pulled my P-90 from under my cloak.
The android-Colonel fired, killing two of the other Jaffa in the chamber. Several others came around a corner, and we took them out, but not before the android was hit in the shoulder.
Another staff blast fizzled past my head, and I heard the Colonel grunt behind me. I looked up to see another Jaffa standing in window overhead. He managed to send another blast down at us before I shot him. His body fell lifelessly to the stone floor below him.
The sound of automatic weapons fire from the corridor behind us signalled the arrival of the rest of my team. With Cronus's Jaffa neutralised for the moment, I turned back to the android. He was lying on the floor.
"Sir!" I knelt at his side and surveyed the damage. He had sustained at least two staff blasts to his torso. A white substance was seeping out of his injuries. "This is bad," I said softly.
He squeezed my hand and shook his head slightly. "It doesn't matter."
"Carter, you alright?" I looked up to see Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c, and Darien appear in the doorway, weapons at the ready.
"I'm fine too," said the android through gritted teeth. "Thanks for your concern."
The Colonel sighed. "Are you alright?"
"A little gas." The android let his head fall back to the ground. "Yeah. Got gas."
I shook my head at the questioning look the Colonel gave me. The damage was severe, and I didn't know how to repair it.
The android tapped his chest a few times. "Daniel's almost in position. Go."
Leaving Darien with the injured android, my team and I stepped onto the ring platform and waited for it to be activated.
Colonel O'Neill nudged my shoulder, thrusting his chin at Sindar's dead body. "Nice shot."
"Thank you, sir."
Moments later, we were transported to Cronus's Ha'tak. The android version of Daniel was there waiting for us. His face and arms were damaged. Several Jaffa lay on the floor.
"Teal'c needs help," Daniel said.
"Where?" asked Teal'c.
"He's with Cronus on the pel'tak."
Teal'c and I both headed for the door, but Colonel O'Neill stopped me.
"Carter, we need you to seal off this level." He gave me a pointed look. "There will be time for your revenge just as soon as we separate ourselves from the thousand or so Jaffa on this ship."
I sighed but didn't argue. He just didn't understand this wasn't about revenge.
"Cronus seemed to have a personal vendetta against you," said the android Daniel. "Even more so than against Teal'c, and that's really saying something. What the hell did you do to piss him off?"
"It's more the other way around, actually." The Colonel gestured at the android's injuries. "What happened to you?"
"Oh, I managed to trick the Goa'uld that Cronus assigned to torture us into activating the self-destruct in our Sam's body."
Colonel O'Neill raised his eyebrows. "How'd you know how to do that?"
Daniel shrugged. "Was just a little trick Sam taught me before she lost her head."
The casualness of his words stung, but I forced myself to shrug it off. There was work to do.
"The control centre should be this way," I said, leading everyone down the hallway. Rounding a corner, I could see the room I was looking for. I ran up and opened the panel. The Colonel and android-Daniel covered me from outside the room, shooting the approaching Jaffa.
I studied the control crystals before me. A vague memory, not my own, told me what I had to do. This should be easy enough. I reached out to pull the first green crystal out of the panel. Suddenly, I felt like something was peeling the skin off my hand. I shouted in pain, jerking away.
"The crystals are protected by a force shield!" There had to be a way to deactivate it. But how long would that take?
"I'll do it," said the android. "Just tell me how."
He came into the room, and I moved to take his place covering the corridor. "You need to pull out the green crystals. The doors should close and lock automatically."
More Jaffa rounded the corner. I fired at them from behind the wall I was using as cover. The first crystal clattered to the floor behind me, and I could hear a low rumble come from somewhere down the hallway. The doors were closing. This was going to work.
The android Daniel removed more of the control crystals from the panel as Colonel O'Neill and I held the approaching Jaffa at bay. Finally, the door before me scraped down from the ceiling. With my side clear, I turned to check on Colonel O'Neill and Daniel.
Energy crackled around the android's hands as he reached through the force shield. With a loud grunt, he threw the last green crystal to the floor and turned to stare at me.
"Yes!" shouted Colonel O'Neill. "You got it!"
Android-Daniel's fingers were dripping with that same white substance that had come from the android Colonel's injuries. He took a step forward, and then collapsed onto the floor. I fell to my knees next to him.
Then, before my eyes, Daniel died.
Colonel O'Neill placed a hand on my shoulder. "It's not our Daniel, Carter."
"I know." I couldn't seem to tear my eyes away from the body before me. "It's just..." I didn't know how to explain the conflicting thoughts running through my mind. I didn't fully understand them myself. It was horrifying to see Daniel die, but at the same time I was grateful that this wasn't our Daniel. Which really only increased my feelings of horror.
"Come on." The Colonel squeezed my shoulder. "We gotta find Teal'c."
I got to my feet, and we left the dead android behind. I kept telling myself that our Daniel was safe and sound on another planet with SG-8, but it didn't really help. Colonel O'Neill seemed as shaken up about it as I was.
We made our way to the pel'tak without running into any more Jaffa. Both Teal'cs lay on the floor. I crouched next to the first one but quickly determined that he was the android. And dead. I looked up and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the Colonel helping our Teal'c sit up.
On the floor between us lay Cronus's still form. I stood and looked down at him. With a nudge from my foot, I rolled him onto his back. His eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling.
I could hear the Colonel asking Teal'c if he was alright, and I heard Teal'c respond that he would be fine.
I pointed my P-90 at Cronus.
And pulled the trigger fully back.
"Carter," came Colonel O'Neill's voice after my clip had emptied into the Goa'uld's corpse.
As I stared at Cronus's perforated body, I felt strangely ashamed and gratified at the same time.
Okay, maybe there was a bit of revenge in there somewhere.
"Carter," the Colonel said again. This time, I looked up at him. "If you're finished working out your issues, can we see about landing this ship?"
I reloaded and secured my weapon. "Yes, sir."
Together, Teal'c and I worked out how to land the ship on Juna's pyramid while Colonel O'Neill ringed back down to the surface.
"You okay?" I asked Teal'c once the ship landed. I wasn't sure what Cronus had done to him, but I knew it wasn't pleasant. Cronus never was.
"Both my symbiote and I will require time to heal. However, Cronus is dead, and I will speak to his Jaffa and offer them freedom from the slavery of the Goa'uld." He bowed his head solemnly at me. "I will be fine."
I nodded. "The Colonel and I will gate home. We'll ask General Hammond to send a couple of teams through to secure the ship."
"Very well. I will remain here."
I wished him luck with Cronus's Jaffa and then ringed off the ship to join Colonel O'Neill. The android version of the Colonel was also dead. We were, once again, the only SG-1 in existence.
I wondered how Harlan would take the news.
As we headed for the stargate, Colonel O'Neill talked excitedly about the Ha'tak that was now at our disposal.
"Neither Teal'c nor I are qualified to fly that thing," I told him. "We should see if the Tok'ra can give us some flying lessons."
"Oh, right." The Colonel rolled his eyes. "Because they were so quick to help the last time we needed them."
I just sighed. It was true that they hadn't responded when my teammates had requested assistance in tracking me down after I was abducted. But that didn't matter anymore. My ordeal with Cronus was definitely over now. With the help of my friends, I was home. And I was still me. And Cronus was dead.
"Then again," said Colonel O'Neill. "Now that we have something the Tok'ra will want, they might actually provide the requested support."
I dialled the gate and a few seconds later, we were home again. General Hammond was quite pleased that our mission had been such a success. He ordered SG-5 and SG-9 through the stargate to secure our new Ha'tak and agreed that requesting the Tok'ra's assistance would be a good idea.
I studied the General. He looked concerned.
"Is something wrong, sir?"
"We were about to dial PK4-808 to contact Doctor Jackson and SG-8 when you came through. They're late for their scheduled check-in."
I tried to tell myself that there were any number of reasons SG-8 might have been delayed. Daniel was known for losing track of time, after all. I wasn't much better. But after all the fuss Colonel O'Neill had made over lending out Daniel's services, I couldn't believe that Major Jankowicz would have forgotten to report in. The MALP was still there, and it showed nothing out of the ordinary. Yet the complete lack of human response to our radio transmission did nothing to ease my mind.
"Sir," said Colonel O'Neill. "Permission to go find out what's going on over there?"
Hammond nodded. "Granted. Take SG-3 with you."
Clearly, both the Colonel and the General thought that Daniel and his team were in trouble as well.
Although I knew it was irrational, I couldn't seem to get the image of android-Daniel dying out of my mind.
To be continued...
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