"Moonbase Alpha status report, two weeks since the return of the Venus probe, Dr. Helena Russell-Koenig recording. Colonel Koenig is coping with the loss of those he had to leave behind and he has been cleared medically of any trace of what was caught by the other members of his crew. He is due back from Washington soon where Professor Bergman has gotten the IASA to finally sign off on the mission for a landing on the planet called Psychon."
"It is just the thing for him, Helena," Victor says having waited until she turned off the recorder, "It's what he needs."
"I know, to get back up onto the saddle and all, but I'm still worried about him Victor," Helena didn't even notice she had started to pace and Victor wasn't going to point it out to her.
"Well medically he's fine. He passed the psychological review and the SGC hearing concluded that it wasn't negligence, or some command error. He'll be fine Helena, especially if he doesn't have so much time to brood about it. A trip to another galaxy is just the thing for him." From the casual way Victor said it, Helena couldn't help but lightly laugh.
"To another galaxy. We make it sound like a trip out into the country."
"I suppose we might be getting a little blasé with using the Supergate, or even the Stargate for that matter. You add on going through quite a few Transversions and you either have to come to grips with the fact you have been to several galaxies, become jaded or live in denial. Me, I like to look at the wonder of it all. In four years we've gone from just barely into orbit, to other planets and now other galaxies. Its a tremendous triumph that I hope never grows old."
Helena finally stopped pacing, giving Victor a chance to walk up to her, laying a hand on her shoulder.
"Come on, let's head to the Ring room. John should be up soon."
Victor and Helena had to push through the crowds in the ring room, but no-one was going to bar their way to the front of the group. Helena took a look as they waited and saw a few scarves seemingly floating in place, telling her some of her husbands welcoming committee are Re'tu.
Nor where they the only non-humans in attendance. Tolok and his older sons were here, standing attention in all the Jaffa glory, one Mondoshawan, likely Ytisan if Helena had to guess which one, which she didn't have to do with Kosh. He's the only Vorlon to have come regularly to Moonbase Alpha, although a few SG teams have reported seeming others.
Helena didn't bother to hide her smile as the youngest Moonbase Alpha's residence clustered around Victor. She was typically brash and looked down her nose at the rest of humanity as savages, but Karyel looked up to Victor. He's one human that Tollan admired, just like the three Orbanians did, though they would never show it.
Not like they do when Alan is around. So far he's the only one to get them to smile. Helena wasn't looking forward to when they had to go back to their people.
Several glum thoughts vanished as the familiar sound of the rings interrupted her musings and the frown that was developing, turned up to a smile. "John," came the restrained greeting whose subtle tone practically shouted her love for the man resplendent in his dress blues.
However much Helena wanted to rush up to her husband, it was Paul who stepped up first and saluted. One John returned as he said, "I relieve you of command of Moonbase Alpha."
Group Captain Paul Marrow held that salute as he formally said, "I stand relieved."
Victor just walked forward and took John's hand after the salutes dropped and the applause began, "Welcome home John."
"That was quite a reception," John said hours later as he began removing his uniform while Helena sat and watched, "I hope -somebody- was manning Main Mission during that."
She could tell he wasn't serious, so she thought to get in a bit of teasing play out of this mood he was in, "I think we had Keeper running everything. She said she didn't mind at all, and perhaps for once Alpha would be run the way it is suppose to be."
John's jacket and tie had departed from him when he flopped down on the sofa in their quarters. Helena rose from her chair and joined him, sitting then snuggling up to him.
"You know everyone's glad you're back," she saw the look on his face, in his eyes and decided it was time to tackle it, "What's really bothering you? You're not still on the mission are you?" She knew he was, but this was something he shouldn't brush aside and they both knew it.
"I keep wondering if there was something else I could have done. We didn't see the Goa'uld satellite until it was too late. Tessa had been hit with whatever it was and Samuel was infected by what it did to her," John had gotten up, Helena only following him with her eyes, " I had to leave them behind. Eject the module and fly back to Alpha. I kept reassuring them we'd find a cure. The SGC had faced plagues and odd illnesses plenty of times before."
He shook his head, and looked down, hands on his hips, "But it wasn't to be. Not this time. There wasn't anyone left to save by the time we were able to go back. Then I had to make the call for Alan to blow their remains to ashes. We couldn't risk bringing back whatever it was they had."
John felt his wife's arms around him, she had finally risen from the sofa and walked up behind him. Her head leaning against his back, "There wasn't anything you could do. General Hammond said it, you've told me Washington said it, as much as that must have galled Senator Kinsey, and most of all Victor said it."
She couldn't see the smile briefly etch its way across his lips, but she felt the shift in his body as some of the tension left him. "Well, since Victor said it ..." Helena heard him say in gentler tones.
"Come on, let's get to bed. I understand Victor's found out a bit more since you left for the hearing," Helena suggested as she let go of her husband just enough for him to turn around take her into his arms and kiss her.
"Nirrti?" John repeated as he closed the folder in front of him. It had been a good night with his wife. This morning's meeting felt right to have, yet starkly contrasted the mood of his evening.
"We've gone back over the Eagle's logs and Tolok identifies that symbol as belonging to the Goa'uld Nirrti," Tony confirmed. "Why that satellite was in orbit of Venus we don't know. What we conclude is it was for one of her experiments."
"If you'll recall SG-1's report, she was responsible for wiping out the population of Hanka as well as the first SG-7," Paul added to the discussion, "She is interested in engineering an advanced human host."
"A hok'taur," Victor interjected his fingers steppled in front of him as he sat back.
John stood and walked to a window overlooking the moonscape beyond it. No-one said anything, just waiting for him to speak, which he did a moment later when he turned to face them. "But Venus can't support life as we know it. The Goa'uld seemed obsessed with the human life form, so why station this in Venus' orbit."
"That John is for the second Venus probe to find out," Victor now sat up as he began to relay news he knew his friend didn't want to hear, yet hoped it would further lead to news he would.
"Well, to build a new fuselage will take a few weeks. I've talked to Bernard and he estimates two, but John, Commissioner Simmons isn't going to let you command that one," Victor wasn't alone seeing their commander tense up.
"Tonio will command it," Victor didn't want to leave it long at all to pass this news. Information Paul could have or General Hammond. The founder of Alpha felt he should be the one to bear this news, because he had something he hoped would off set it, "He'll have to as you get to command the mission to Psychon."
John looked blank at first as if he wasn't hearing his friend and mentor right. Then slowly a smile spread across his lips, letting smiles around the table do so as well.
Victor couldn't have said who started applauding, he stood up and walked over to his friend shaking his stunned hand, "Congratulations John."
"He'll know what to do and the danger is over," John conceded as he believed in his friend, Tonio Cellini, who actually is more experienced with the Astro class ships, though it wasn't something John was going to admit to the man.
"I'll be escorting him John, so don't you worry about that," Alan assured him with a big smile. People often wondered if the happy-go-lucky Australian ever had a small smile.
"So that means you won't be going," John began his smile slowly fading, Alan wasn't having any of that, he clapped his commander on the shoulder with one hand, shaking the other. John's smile returned, when Alan was in a good mood like this, it was rather infectious.
"Doesn't mean I'll leave you in lurch. Bill will be along as your pilot," Alan assured John.
"Moonbase Alpha status report, supplemental. Three hundred and forty two hours since the beginning preparations to land on Psychon, Dr. Helena Russell-Koenig recording. Concurrently station Apollo prepared to go back to Venus, Alpha prepares to launch the long awaited mission to the planet Psychon. Keeper had told us in the past it had a Stargate, but currently is not responding to any attempts to dial in. The Psychon probe had brought back plenty of data specialists are still going over, but nothing that suggest a landing is unwarranted. While some might see it as inappropriate for the Commander of Alpha to go on this mission, more than one back at the SGC believe it is important he does so after the events during the Venus mission. I go on record, realizing how bias this will likely be taken as in agreement that the best thing for Commander Koenig is another mission, one that will be successful."
"You make it sound as if I've lost my nerve Helena," John protested as he walked in. Helena saw the hurt look, but knew she could no more take back the words as she could erase what happened around Venus.
"John, that's unfair," she began and stopped. Now was not the time to have an argument about this, "I had to make that recording and you know it. Would you want me to further sound bias and say everything was sunshine and roses?"
He took a breath and for an irrational moment, she thought he might have, but then that wouldn't have been the man she married.
"No, I wouldn't. I guess I just wanted to sound good," now a smile did emerge, determined to change the subject, he shouldn't intrude on her duties. "So, I'm kind of feeling a bit abandoned that Victor isn't coming with us."
Helena recognized an out when she heard it, as this wasn't news to either of them, it hadn't been for weeks. "Well he should be overlooking the data from both the Venus and Psychon mission. Professor Quatermass is brilliant, but he'd do better with Victor here. Besides, Ray and Lew will do fine. Lew was on the probe that orbited Psychon a while back."
"Don't tell me our Irish cowboy isn't going?" John said moving further towards safer topics of discussion, he already knew the answer to this one too.
"I don't think we'd hear the end of it if Dave wasn't coming along, besides he made sure to there was a reason to go."
"Oh yes, Trinium. Washington was very interested to see his readings of Trinium on Psychon. To find it on a no longer inhabited planet was a boon since we can't mind it from PXY-887," John knew that was likely the real reason both IASA and the Powers-That-Be in Washington signed off on this mission.
"Yes, the Salish tribe there might not like it if we tried again after re-opening contact with them, much less the Chip-chap-tiqulk who look after them," Helena pointed out in a whimsical tone.
"Let's not keep them waiting," John offered his arm, "Shall we go Dr. Koenig?"
Helena took the offered arm, "Certainly, Commander Koenig."
Alan looked at his board that showed the five Eagles on the pad. Eagle two would lead and is their armed Eagle, not that anyone expected trouble, but it was best to be prepared. Humanity had found out the hard way that the universe is not a safe place to go exploring.
Oh the other Eagles were armed with railguns, but Alan didn't put much stock in them since he had flown an Eagle or two with that armament. A damaged Al'kesh laughed at such attacks and it was basically the Interceptors and Gxak that took that down.
Finally it was time and one-by-one Alan and the rest of Main Mission watched the Eagles launch and head for the Supergate in the asteroid belt. Even as they approached, Sandra was dialing up their destination, "... Chevron six encoded ... Chevron seven encoded ... Chevron eight, locked."
All eyes were on the viewscreen as so far it never ceased to amaze them.
"Good luck Psychon mission and Godspeed," Victor wished them as the Eagles flew into the event horizon and through to another galaxy.
For twenty minutes the views from the Eagles showed the approach to the planet named Psychon. Twenty uneventful minutes where eyes did wander from the screen to consoles and reports. While the flight didn't seem event filled, the astronomers were using the cameras onboard to take pictures of that solar system. Certainly the Psychon probe earlier had a lot, but one never could have enough data.
Sandra saw it first, "Paul..."
"Commander, There's a strange light coming off that planet," he informed the lead Eagle, "Like a big ball of light."
"Give me a position," Bill requested as he was flying Eagle two, John was the co-pilot.
"It is gaining speed, relaying coordinates to the Eagles now," Sandra said hands working over her keyboard quickly.
"Eagles break formation and evade," Tony shouted needlessly. It was precisely what John was ordering.
David had Selene run a composite from the different Eagle views to come up with a generated animation of what was going on real-time. Absently Lou thought again how their supercomputer had a future in computer animation if Alpha was ever closed down.
"Why aren't you launching?" Karyel demanded wondering what was taking these savages so long to see a clear and present danger. The young Tollan had in her mind that they should be ready to fight at the drop of a head, no the expression was hat. At the drop of any hat.
"Because by the time we get there it will be all over," one Major Louis Ferretti replied as he would love to do just what Karyel wanted for once. That was Alan's call as far as he was concerned, which meant it was Paul's.
"It will be alright, Karyel," Victor moved to the Tollan's side, "John knows what to do." Lou breathed out relieved, although seeing Bill's wife, Annette walk into Main Mission having heard something was wrong, he hoped the Professor might spare her a few words.
Bill's frantic call pulled Lou's attention back to the big screen, "Can't shake it, Alpha, it's locked on to us!"
They could see the other Eagles firing, likely on John's local command. Selene 'drew' in icons representing the projectiles as most of them were dead on target into the ball of light, yet it seemed not to notice as it also did not deviate from its pursuit of Eagle two.
"Come on Fraser, you've got to evade that Will-o'-the-wisp," Lou nearly did a double take as the unflappable, and seemingly unimaginative, Brit put a pretty accurate label on what that thing chasing Eagle two was like. In fact, David punched a few keys and Selene now labeled the ball of light, Wisp.
It was a dance and weave unlike anything among the experienced pilots from the various air forces around Earth. Eagles spun, shot up, seemed upside down in orientation with the others, Eagle two flying backwards as it brought its weapon to fire at the Wisp. Staff cannon bolts rippled into the light as it continue to advance upon that Eagle.
One would have thought Sandra read off the distances dispassionately as the Wisp closed distances, but by now everyone currently in Main Mission, even Karyel, could pick up on how worried Sandra sounded. "... Impact in five ... four ... three ... two ...one. Impact."
Everyone watched as the Wisp enveloped Eagle two and for a heartbeat everyone thought it was a weapon with all hands on the Eagle now lost.
Then they heard clearly, "Help us, Alpha, help us..." Over and over again as the Wisp now headed back to Psychon outdistancing the Eagles that tried to follow it.
Annette fainted. Sandra was quick to put the call to medical, "Medical crew to Main Mission." Victor, followed by Karyel, were the first there kneeling over Annette, the former checking her vital signs, the latter more shadowing the man who had become a father figure to her.
Paul looked over at Alan and nodded. He couldn't remember standing up, but clearly Alan had as he now found himself leaning over at his console to issue an order to his pilots in flight. "Kelly, you're in command. Get those Eagles back to Alpha."
"You can't leave them there!" Karyel spun and rose from Annette's prone figure. She looked with accusing eyes at Paul, then at all of Main Mission, before turning to the Clamshell suspended up in the corner where the computer wall met the front wall of Main Mission, "Keeper, can we Transverse there?"
The crustacean like head of the Keeper shimmered into view, "I'm afraid not Karyel. The moon of Psychon that Chandra had roots in had been destroyed and as you know the Stargate on Psychon has not allowed us to conn...wait a moment. Chandra feels a connection now. Shall I dial?"
Lou was already moving to the Gateroom, with Tony calling his squad to the chamber as well as a few backups, like Tolok's sons, a Re'tu or two and Parey's people. He wasn't sure he wanted Parey herself. She seemed to have been paying more attention to him than usual of late.
Not that now was the time to think about it and he really could use her people, and more importantly their Bedrosian weapons, backing up Louis in the Gateroom.
Paul nodded to Keepers image, who in turn announced, "Dialing now Group Captain Marrow."
"Unpacking AMEE and preparing for exploration," David Kano reported as keyed new commands.
"Rescue Eagle on the pad, prepping AWACS and Gunship Eagles for launch," Tony informed Paul working over Alan's shoulder. The Australian wasn't there for long as he got up to head to Eagle one.
"What makes you primitives think than an Eagle is going to do anything to these things?" Karyel asked with less scorn than before, far more concern than she had shown in the months since being sent to Alpha.
She could see that those around her noticed that part too, "What? Can't I be concerned about what happens to you savages? Don't worry I'm not going native. I just..." she turned away to her station and promptly sat down without another word.
Karyel only looked up when Ben and a medical team arrived to check Annette and then load her onto the rolling gurney, speeding her off to the medical center.
"So Paul why are you letting us send more Eagles?" Tony asked quietly as Victor put his hands on the Tollan's shoulders trying to calm her down.
"I can't do nothing Tony, you know that," he replied and then raised his voice above the whisper he just shared with the third in command, "Professor I thought the original Psychon probe reported no inhabitants or evidence of any technology on Psychon."
"Its not a given that they were wrong, Paul. More likely another intelligence has arrived since the probe and has set up base."
"...Chevron eight locked," Sandra reported as Keeper went ahead to dial regardless of what was going on in Main Mission.
Louis was split. Part of him wanted to fly Eagle seven again, but right now he was in charge of Gateroom security. Technically under Tony as he is Security Chief, the US Government wanted a USAF officer involved with the security of the Stargate itself.
He watched as the form of AMEE unfolded and then prowled towards the event horizon of the active gate.
"Good girl, AMEE," he said as 'she' passed him and then the two rows of guards.
In Main Mission, David was putting the visual feed from the Autonomous Mapping Evaluation and Evasion scout up on the main viewscreen. They could see what appeared to be a chamber much like the Gateroom in Cheyenne Mountain at the SGC. More reds in the colors around with a rather large and one might say robust if not rotund bearded man in robes at one end. What could only be thought of as guards closer in who raised what had to be weapons. Which they proved themselves to be as they fired.
Since energy can travel both ways from an active wormhole, Louis and his people found themselves under indirect attack as the guards kept missing their target. "Take cover! You too, Xat and Xzuk!" Lou more guessed they were there than saw them through the visor he wasn't wearing at the moment.
Parey didn't have to tell her people to seek cover, they are professionals, especially as survivors from the Goa'uld attack on Bedrosia.
AMEE proved the E of evasion apt for her name, and while they didn't see more than blurs sometimes as she flipped and spun, they did see the occasional manipulator punch or kick at an incoming guard.
"Get her either out of there or send her deeper in Kano!" Paul ordered and while David was known for anthropomorphizing machines, he didn't pull AMEE back, but sent her deeper in on a search mission for the crew of Eagle two.
"We can take the room!" Ba'ta shouted, apparently David was sending the Horus headed guards a feed that let them see the chamber along with Main Mission.
"Do it! Xat back them up!" Paul made the call, and watched as the four sons of Tolok charged through the active gate, followed by a ripple without an apparent owner. One Re'tu following behind the Jaffa.
"Warren, and Casey, back them up!" Louis ordered the two men who had been with him since the first trip to Chulak under the then alive, Major Kawalsky of SG-2. They didn't hesitate other than to make sure a stray shot wasn't heading their way.
"They may see this as an invasion," Tony pointed out, "Especially if they are aware of the Goa'uld. I know it's a waste not to use the equipment, but we might be sending the wrong message."
"If they had nothing to do with the Wisp, I'll apologize, but otherwise the coincidence of an intelligence on Psychon when we didn't detect any before seems to me that it's connected to whoever sent the Wisp up. I don't believe for a moment that two separate intelligences arrived and planted a base there at the same time."
"It's not impossible, just unlikely," Tony was surprised he was playing Devil's Advocate, but someone had to. Absolutes got people killed more often than protected them.
"Getting feeds from Casey and Warren," Kano announced, putting up their helmet cam views as smaller windows up on the main viewer. They joined the four from the 'eyes' of the Horus helmets. David was rather surprised that such a system wasn't more widespread. It only took a little work to adapt them to Alpha.
If Tolok was there instead on Eagle two, he would have taken the time to explain again that most Goa'uld had either forgotten the system was there or didn't know it.
When he was younger in the priesthood he thought the former or that the so-called gods didn't need it to see what they wanted to see, but as the years went on he was convinced it was the latter. Finding out they don't so much invent technologies as take it from others.
David spared a moment for a small smile as he recalled the words of the over century old man, who looked as if he could have been his uncle not several great grandfathers.
Looking up from his console, he, along with the rest of Main Mission, could see staff blast marks, and only downed alien guards, the bearded man was gone. It looked as if the room was theirs.
"Ten minutes until Eagle approach of the Supergate," Sandra updated everyone. Kelly had his orders, he was to return and that was that.
"Tell them to hold. I'll want to Transverse to that Chlorine atmospheric planet and base out of there," Paul began and was interrupted by the Keeper.
"I'm afraid opening the intergalactic wormhole has drained Chandra's strength so that isn't a possibility for now, Group Captain Marrow. However since it was only opening a gate and not a transverse, he should be able to recover his strength in only a matter of hours and not days."
"Have them proceed back to Alpha," Paul corrected and listened to Sandra as she passed on the order then coordinate with clearing the pads of the Eagles being prepared for launch to receive the ones eventually returning from the Supergate.
"Tony load up a FRED and get over there to lead that party because that gate will close eventually. I want you in charge over there," his orders were quiet and direct, it raised alarms in Tony he wanted to address now rather than later.
"Are you cutting the Yanks out of this?" Tony barely made it a whisper, they couldn't afford factionalism right now, at any time actually. Although Warren and Casey were more Louis men than Tony's. Made even clearer by the fact the Gateroom squad didn't wear the international styled uniforms of Alpha, but stuck with their USAF BDUs.
Nearly impreceivably, Paul shook his head, "No, nor do we have time for this. I need Ferretti here and a command level personnel there. You may have to make policy level decisions Tony."
"Can't leave that to the grunts now, can we?" the Italian said good-naturedly now that his fears had been addressed. He moved off to the Gateroom, while Sandra arranged for supplies to be loaded up on the Field Remote Expeditionary Device.
"Sahn, is Ytisan or any of the other Mondoshawan nearby? Call him to the Gateroom if he or any of the others are closer." Sandra nodded and began to look, at the rate Mondoshawan typically walk, if they were far away the gate would shut off by the time they might make it to the Gateroom. A race, a society, focused on engineering would be good to have over there.
"Paul you should let me go on this one," the calm and urbane voice of Victor drifted over to current moonbase commander.
"Professor..." Paul's tone sounded regretful which Victor was taking to mean he wouldn't relent.
"Incoming!" they heard from Casey's cam on the viewer then gun and staff fire as they could see a Wisp fly into view and then out of it as they could see it fly into the wormhole. With Tony and Parey diving out of the way as it entered the Gateroom and then up into Main Mission to envelope Victor just as the man turned around to look.
"To all teams, the Wisp has the Professor, do not fire! Repeat, do not fire at the Wisp!" Paul quickly snapped off the command over his comlock as the Wisp made its way back down to the Gateroom and through the Stargate.
"Paul!" it wasn't so much the fact his name was shouted by someone who hadn't earned that right, as it was who did the shouting that kept him from reprimanding said offender.
"You've got to let me go Paul!" Karyel pleased, Marrow's features appearing now carved in stone as she went on, "Or let me send my guards. Please Paul! It's the Professor they now have!"
Every so slowly, he nodded once. He didn't want her to think she could just shout her way around them, but the Tollans would be good to have over there. Quickly she turned away from Paul and actually used a comlock to contact her two guards, giving them their orders.
By the time they arrived, Sandra had informed Tony over his comlock.
FRED loaded, Ytisan arrived, the rest of the party made their way through the Stargate, which closed behind them minutes later.
To be continued...