I own neither Stargate nor the X-COM franchise. No infringement is intended, no profit is to be made and I'm just not worth the hassle of suing anyway unless you want a share of the wages of an underpaid Civil Servant.

IMPORTANT NOTE - This story is a sequel to XSGCOM: Mirror Image, you are well advised to read that one first because you've got 52 chapters and a third of a million words worth of catching up to do! I would however advise all readers to read the version of both stories that appears on the fanfic site Twisting the Hellmouth rather than here. The formatting is superior and the Author's notes have handy hyperlinked references. There is a link on my profile here that'll steer you the right direction.

Cheyenne Mountain – Earth – May 2004

'Major Carter it's out of my hands' Elizabeth Weir told the officer who had intercepted her just outside her office attempting to gain a few minutes of her time before they were due to meet Major Davis in the briefing room. Weir had only just managed to get off the phone to the new X-COM administrative headquarters in Geneva and she wasn't happy about the outcome of the conversation. The Optricans were asking for more troops to assist in their pacification of Bedrosian territory and specifically that the new Langaran Psionic-Warfare-Specialists with Psi-Amps and Mind Probes be deployed to help crush the insurgents once and for all. X-COM was willing to support the proposal, and the Langaran nations considered aiding Optrica a debt of honour after Optrican soldiers fought to drive off Loki's invasion of Langara, but others including Weir were less than happy at the idea of forcibly screening every Bedrosian one after another in order to root out the religious extremists who were conducting a terrorist campaign in the name of their god Nefertum. It had an extremely oppressive and authoritarian air to it all even if it would be effective and likely save a lot of lives.

'Jack O'Neill literally saved this planet and they're going to let him stay in that box?' Carter continued in an exasperated tone.

Weir stopped walking. 'Samantha I agree with you' she said. 'We both know that Heimdall has already agreed to extract the information from Colonel O'Neill's mind, the problem is that almost everyone in authority including the IOA considers that knowledge far too valuable to be lost' she said. 'The Asgard would simply erase it like last time.'

'To save his life' Carter interrupted. 'There was an Asgard ship in orbit above Earth less than twenty-four hours after we defeated Anubis, the Colonel didn't need to spend so much as a day in that thing but instead as soon as they helpfully beamed away all the larger pieces of debris that might have posed a danger once their orbit decayed we told them thanks for your help, you can go home now, and by the way could you do us a favour and dump off all the pieces of Ha'tak at Cydonia on your way home so we can pick through the salvage' she seethed.

'According to every medical report on his condition the Colonel's life is not in any immediate danger' Weir reminded her patiently. 'He's in stasis, his condition is not deteriorating and he's not even aging ' she pointed out.

Carter frowned. 'Technically he is aging' she responded, 'just extremely slowly' she admitted.

'Major I've read your own analysis of the Ancient Stasis Chamber' Weir told her. 'A person could survive in one for thousands of years at least, perhaps tens of thousands' she said. 'It's not going to take us that long to figure out how to extract the Ancient knowledge from his head into some kind of computer.'

'It could be decades before we have the technology required' Carter exclaimed.

'And he'll have aged a few minutes at most' Weir replied before sighing, 'for what it's worth I have told the IOA in the strongest terms that I feel we should allow the Asgard to perform the procedure and bring the Colonel back to us right now' she said. 'I even tried to make the argument that we might need him to operate the Ancient Weapons Platform if another goa'uld tries to attack us' she continued, 'but the truth is other personnel likely have the same ability to interface with the Control Chair as the Colonel does and besides which we've already started to rebuild our other defences which did prove highly effective in themselves.'

'We lost the Enterprise, the Admiral Kuznetsov will need another two or three months worth of repairs, Atlas is out of commission getting her hyperdrive made operational and they had to use spares taken from her to keep Prometheus running in the meantime' Carter responded negatively. 'We're at least six weeks from getting any more ZapSat's put in orbit, twice that before we can put any more AG-3X satellites up there and you know as well as I do what percentage of our F-302's and Avengers were lost fighting Anubis' she pointed out.

'Fortunately the goa'uld don't know any of that' Weir replied evenly. 'We know from the Tok'ra that the System Lords are currently scared witless because of what happened to Anubis and his fleet' she said. 'They seem aware it was the Ancient Weapon that won the day but they also know that we had already taken out at least half his fleet beforehand and it's got them rattled' she continued. 'Anubis had the most powerful warships and most advanced fighters of any of the System Lords and we were taking them down regardless, add in the fact that our soldiers were defeating Kull Warriors when their Jaffa were being butchered by them and its highly unlikely anyone will want to risk a confrontation with us right now.'

'Isn't there anyone else we could talk to?' Carter almost pleaded. 'You've got a direct line to the President don't you?' she asked.

'Yes I do' Weir confirmed, the Oval Office was number one on her speed-dial. 'Unfortunately the Vice President has more sway than I do and he is one of the major advocates of keeping the Colonel on ice until we can extract the database from his mind' she told Carter before checking her watch. 'We need to get going' she said, starting off towards the briefing room again, Carter following once more.

'The Vice President just wants the Colonel out of the way' Carter opined.

'I'm well aware of their personal history and mutual dislike for one another Major' Weir replied.

'What does X-COM think?' Carter queried.

'Well Commander Sharp thinks we should immediately defrost Colonel O'Neill so he can sit in the Control Chair, guaranteeing the safety of Earth against counter-attack' Weir replied. 'Then he insists we should modify all our remaining Avengers with the hyperdrive upgrades the Colonel made to the Tel'tak you used to get to Proclarush Taonas' Weir told her.

'Why?' Carter asked.

'Because the Commander wants to load the Avengers with our stockpile of naquadria and naquadah-enhanced nuclear devices and then efficiently bomb the System Lords back to the Stone Age before they know what's happening' Weir explained. 'We've got such a potential speed advantage over goa'uld ships he thinks they'd be unable to respond effectively to an all-out strategic bombing campaign.'

'He could be right' Carter replied, 'in terms of being correct in his tactical assessment, I'm certainly not going to try and say the incineration of millions of Jaffa is remotely moral ' she said.

'The IOA politely turned down his suggestion when he presented it' Weir noted, 'he called them "a bunch of idealistic peaceniks" and went back to the Omega Site looking annoyed' she told the Major as they arrived at the briefing room.

Major Paul Davis looked somewhat grave, then again he usually only ever came to the SGC to deliver bad news so for all most people there knew that was really just his natural expression. He did at least look a little less grave than usual so maybe the end of the world wasn't as near as it typically was when he visited.

Daniel Jackson and Colonels Ferretti and Reynolds, the commanders of SG-2 and SG-3 respectively, were already say waiting when Weir and Carter arrived. They took their own seats and Major Davis began his report.

'The cover story seems to be holding so far' Davis told them, 'in fact it's working better than expected' he continued, offering a smile. 'It looks like the media is falling for it so the contingency plan of disclosure has been shelved for now' he said.

'People actually bought the story that freak solar activity caused all that EMP the AG-3's and Mark VIII's really caused just when every army on Earth went on alert?' Ferretti responded doubtfully.

Davis shook his head. 'A few people probably did but we never expected that to stick so we planted a few other stories underneath to catch the press when they went digging for the truth' he said. 'It's taken them a few months but a couple of the more determined newspapers and at least one news channel are about to break what they think is the greatest story of government cover-up since Watergate' he said.

'But nothing to do with an alien invasion right?' Daniel asked.

'No' Davis confirmed, 'in fact they think that talk of alien spaceships is just another amateurish cover-story dreamed up by the same mooks that thought "Solar Flares" sounded plausible' he said.

Weir chuckled, she already knew quite a lot of this. 'It's just a question of giving the press a story they want to think is true and one that the government would want to keep quiet if it was' she said.

Major Davis nodded. 'Once journalists really started to pry, contacting sources high-up in several world governments they had used before they started to hear a few rumours about all the military mobilisations back in March' he said. 'One phrase kept cropping up that set their alarm bells ringing as soon as they got home a punched it into google' he continued, 'Able Archer 83 all over again.'

'Able Archer?' Daniel repeated, confused.

'Able Archer was a NATO mobilisation exercise in 1983 designed to test preparedness for a Soviet Invasion of Western Europe' Davis explained. 'It nearly ended very, very badly because the Russians got it into their heads that the exercise was really the prelude to a NATO pre-emptive strike against the Warsaw Pact.'

'Wow' Daniel responded, blinking.

'The Soviets went on alert and readied their Strategic Missiles for war' Davis continued, 'fortunately for all of us World War Three didn't break out because of a misunderstanding but it could have, in fact it was probably the closest we ever came to a nuclear exchange apart from the Cuban Missile Crisis' he said.

'And people think international affairs is a dry topic' Weir quipped.

Davis smiled at her joke such as it was. 'Now oddly enough just over a month before Able Archer there was another occasion that might have conceivably led to war when the Soviet Early Warning System reported an ICBM being launched by the United States' he told them. 'Fortunately the Russian Officer in command rightly decided it was just a computer glitch not a nuclear attack but consider what would have happened if the glitch had occurred during Able Archer when the Soviets were already poised to push the button' he suggested. 'What the press will discover, or at least think they've discovered when they go looking into the events of March 2004 is that someone badly misread a Chinese military exercise as a prelude to an invasion of Taiwan which the PRC expected would trigger a limited nuclear exchange with the United States' he said.

'It's so horrifying that they'll want to think its true' Weir commented.

'Bad news sells' Ferretti agreed.

Carter frowned. 'But how does this tie into the EMP, and all the debris people are actually seeing fall from the sky?' she asked. 'For that matter even with the government observatories keeping quiet there are plenty of civilians who witnessed those Drones being fired from Antarctica' she pointed out.

'That Major is because it became much worse than Able Archer ever did' Davis replied. 'You see the other story the press is going to learn about when they push hard enough is that for the last twenty years most of the major powers have been secretly launching armed satellites into orbit' he said. 'Those anti-missile and anti-satellite satellites with lasers, kinetic energy weapons and particle beams talked about in the 1980's they got built but not just by the US' he said.

'And some of them were presumably nuclear armed in direct contravention of the Outer Space Treaty' Weir observed.

'Of course' Davis replied. 'It was all an unfortunate chain of events' he said. 'China began a military exercise which was seen as a cover for an actual attack on Taiwan predicted by bad intelligence reports so the US went on high alert and mobilised' he said. 'With the United States going to DEFCON 2 China then mobilised for real and prepared its own nuclear deterrent, causing Russia, then India, to do so in response' he continued. 'Pakistan in turn mobilised and readied missiles because India had and then the rest of NATO, ANZUS and pretty soon the whole world did too thinking that the Third World War was about to break out because now suddenly everyone's weapon satellites were shooting at everyone else's too.'

Colonel Reynolds had been pouring himself a glass of water. 'Okay so what's the supposed story with the satellites about?' he asked.

'The planted story is that when the Russians went on full alert they activated their ABM and ASAT systems in space' Davis replied. 'Unfortunately a lot of their birds are old, cranky and should have been retired years ago and the moment they went live one of them started firing at an American platform' he said. 'Now we'd already activated our satellites and when they're turned on they're programmed to defend themselves automatically so...'

'So our satellites fired back at the Russian satellite' Daniel interrupted, 'which then presumably triggered all the other Russian satellites to start firing and pretty soon it cascaded into complete mayhem with any Chinese and European military satellites getting hit too' he worked it through.

'Right' Davis confirmed. 'Now some of the satellites, only a handful though, were armed with nuclear-pumped X-Ray Lasers and when they went off they caused all the EMP as a side-effect' he said. 'The journalists will read about X-Ray Lasers when they look into the Strategic Defence Initiative so that'll fit what happened' he continued. 'Now as Doctor Weir said earlier putting nuclear weapons in orbit is a violation of International Treaty so no government would confess to being responsible increasing the plausibility of it being covered-up as the result of "Solar Flares".'

'And Antartica?' Carter asked.

'Once the US, China and Russia managed to sort out what was happening, and they found they couldn't stop it, a new ground-based Anti-Satellite Weapon which had built secretly in Antarctica was fired as a last resort to destroy the remaining weapon satellites in Polar Orbit' Davis told them. 'Neat isn't it?' he asked rhetorically.

'Placing something like that on the continent would itself be a breach of the Antarctic Treaty which expressly prohibits weapons been based or tested there' Weir observed, 'yet another reason for a cover-up' she noted.

Major Davis began playing with a pen. 'One of the biggest advantages of working through the X-COM structure is that every government, military and intelligence agency is already aboard on this' he said. 'Now we've made it very hard for the press to start to find out any of this but the sheer scale of it was apparently too much to hide in the end. Apparently the various governments were so nervous of this tale of woe, ineptitude and violations of international law leaking out they even tried to concoct some BS about aliens and ran with it for a while before somebody with more sense realised nobody was ever going to buy that crap' he joked.

'It might make the National Inquirer' Colonel Ferretti responded, chuckling. 'I'll look out for it on the news stand' he added.

'You do that but the orders from above are that if anyone ever asks you about weapon satellites you will immediately look shifty and try and change the subject' Davis told them.

'Do we really think this will work?' Carter wondered aloud.

'People believing that their government is comprised of morons, criminals, gung-ho generals, clueless intelligence agencies and people trying to cover their own ass?' Daniel responded, looking at her knowingly. 'Yeah I can see that sticking' he said sadly.

'Point taken' Carter conceded. 'I'm surprised that all those governments would go along with a cover-story that makes them look so bad though' she said.

Major Davis sighed. 'There was a price to pay, of sorts' he said. 'Doctor Weir may know more of the details through her IOA connections if she's free to divulge them' he told her.

'I might as well, you'll all become aware soon enough anyway' Weir responded. 'We are about to enter a golden age' she declared with a wry smile.

'We are?' Daniel asked, raising one eyebrow.

'Within a month President Hayes will announce that a massive breakthrough has been made in fusion reactor technology by the United States' Weir told them. 'The design for a fully functional commercial fusion powerplant will be offered to every country' she continued, 'unlimited cheap electricity for all' she continued. 'It'll be a couple of years before the first is completed and generating power but soon the things will be all over the place.'

'I just hope someone remembers to translate the manuals from Eurondan' Daniel chipped in. Well it would raise far few questions if fusion reactors appeared than naquadah generators even if they were still alien technology he thought.

'I'll make sure to mention that' Weir responded, 'oh but there's more' she said. 'A few weeks after that the Japanese will announce they have perfected a lightweight battery which can store more than a hundred times the charge of anything else on the market' she told them.

'So much for gasoline powered cars' Carter observed, wondering what the OPEC nations were getting for going along with this. 'That'll be the power-pack design my robot copy made on Altair I assume?' she queried.

'Certainly not officially by any means' Weir replied. 'Before the end of the year we'll also see new alloys plus breakthroughs in lasers and computing' she said.

'If we start buying and selling stocks in advance would we get into trouble for insider trading?' Ferretti wanted to know, greatly impressing Colonel Reynolds for thinking of it.

Weir ignored the commander of SG-2. 'Then from 2005 onwards new pharmaceuticals are going to revolutionise medicine' she said. 'One can take the place of a failed immune system, another drastically speeds up the healing of injuries and last, but not least, there's an injection that'll mean you never get cancer' she listed them.

'Tretonin, Beta-Cantin and the Aschen Cancer Vaccine' Carter responded. 'Probably best not to release any of the nanotech we have yet though' she suggested. 'Regarding other pharmaceuticals we've encountered over the years however the anaesthetic we obtained on P3X-593 was highly effective and I know there was also a team trying to modify the goa'uld drug Rashna into a less addictive compound' she said. 'It's an extremely powerful analgesic but other than being a narcotic it doesn't have a lot of the other bad side-effects associated with opiates like morphine.'

Daniel crossed his arms. 'So releasing all this technology is the pay-off to the worlds governments for remaining complicit with keeping the Stargate program and the existence of the alien threats to Earth then' he stated.

'The standard of living for people right across this planet will soar' Weir told him, 'with fusion power we'll be able to do things like desalinate seawater and green the deserts, we can end poverty, hunger and disease in a generation if we put some effort into it.'

'And win a lot of politicians a lot of votes in the process' Daniel added sardonically. 'They'll claim all the credit you know.'

'Let them' Weir replied. 'I know that the Vice President is already positioning himself to say publicly that the fusion reactor research was carried out by the US military and he helped spearhead the project and ensured it received the budget it needed.'

'An outright lie that'll benefit him hugely in the polls if he's planning to run for President after Henry Hayes and if the truth ever does come out it wasn't really a malicious lie, he was only doing his patriotic duty by assisting the cover story' Daniel remarked before humming a few bars from "Hail to the Chief".

'Won't people wonder about the timing of the announcement that the US has perfected fusion power... and we're giving it away?' Reynolds asked.

'The cynics will probably think that it's being done precisely to get all the stories about treaty violations and space weapons off the front pages, and that we're giving it to other countries in return for them keeping quiet about it all' Major Davis replied. 'It actually helps add credence to the story if anything' he continued. 'President Hayes still has another three years before the next election to get people talking about fusion reactors instead of fusion bombs in space so he seems happy enough with the scheme from what I've heard on the Pentagon grapevine.'

Daniel sighed and looked at Weir. 'I assume you've read Mein Kampf' he asked her, Weir nodding. 'For some reason I can't help but remember Hitler's idea that the big lie was often easier to sell to the population than a little one because the more epic the untruth the less likely the majority were to think anyone would possibly make it all up' he said.

'Maybe so, but personally I still don't think most people would ever believe the actual truth is aliens unless we crash-landed a Ha'tak in Central Park' Ferretti opined.

* * *

Omega Site – PX0-999 (Terra Nova) – June 2004

Russell Sharp looked at the new rifle the scientist was holding up to show him doubtfully. 'Why bother to bring out a new version of our Laser Rifle when we're starting to produce enough elerium to equip everyone with a P3-A1' he asked Doctor Bill Lee who had arrived from the SGC with the prototype and a spring in his step and was now standing in front of Sharp's desk bubbling with obvious enthusiasm.

'Because the differences aren't just cosmetic' Lee told him, the weapon was less blocky in appearance that the previous laser rifle and that was the first thing people tended to note of course, that and the fact it was slightly lighter.

'Improved powerpack?' Sharp suggested, 'more shots?'

Lee shook his head. 'Well actually although the powerpack has been upgraded the L2-A3 fires less individual shots from a full charge' he replied apologetically. 'Two-hundred and fifty-five discharges at standard wattage' he informed the commander.

'Less shots' Sharp responded negatively, narrowing his eyes.

'Yes and no' Lee replied cryptically before smiling. 'Before I explain that firstly I should probably tell you why it fires less shots from a powerpack that carries more charge' he said.

Sharp sighed. 'Go ahead, I've still got half an hour before I need to gear up for a mission' he said, leaning back in his chair.

'Okay' Lee began, placing the weapon gently down on Sharp's desk. 'As you know the Tollan have been experimenting with elerium for a while now, ever since we gave them some samples to see if they could synthesize it in fact' he continued. 'Well during all the myriad tests they performed they discovered that if a beam of coherent light focused through a properly cut elerium crystal, instead of the materials both they and ourselves were already using for the purpose, you could produce a greatly more powerful beam' he said.

Sharp looked at the rifle with more interest now. 'How much more powerful?' he asked.

'It proved possible to double beam intensity but limitations on other materials meant if you did that you had to sacrifice rate-of-fire because you could melt the weapon' Lee replied. 'As a compromise the L2-A3 has a fifty-percent increase over the L2-A2 for only a very small reduction in time between shots when placed in rapid-fire mode.'

'Fifty percent increase?' Sharp queried. 'That's still a lot less firepower than a Heavy Plasma Rifle' he noted.

'True but you've got a lot more ammunition to compensate as it were' Lee replied. 'Another advancement we've made with the L2-A3 is that you can quickly eject the depleted power-pack and insert a fresh one' he said. 'A fully charged rifle and one spare pack gives you the equivalent of over fourteen clips for a P3-A1 so it's ideal for extended fire-fights.'

'You're selling this very well' Sharp told the scientist honestly, X-COM squads and SG Teams often found themselves knee-deep in hordes of Jaffa. On several occasions he had resorted to using his sidearm by the end.

'You haven't heard the best part' Lee told him, 'the L2-A3 also automatically recharges itself in the field between firefights' he declared.

'It what ?' Sharp responded disbelievingly.

Bill Lee picked up the rifle again and began unscrewing the bottom of the hand grip. When it came free he put it down, reached inside the grip with one finger and hooked out a liquid-naquadah power-cell which he held up. 'This little widget not only powers the standard built-in zat'nik'tel it also trickle-charges the laser power-pack' he said. 'It takes about thirty seconds to charge the equivalent of one shot for the rifle however so a fully depleted pack takes about eight hours to be back up to maximum capacity' he continued, 'but it's good for at least a thousand shots worth of re-charging in the field before you need to replace the naquadah power-cell.'

'Congratulations Doctor Lee I am now officially impressed' Sharp told him. 'I'm on the verge of heaping gushing praise upon you in fact' he declared. This was indeed a sweet piece of hardware, teams armed with a mix of these and Heavy Plasma Rifles for dealing with Kull Warriors and Mini-Tanks would stomp goa'uld ass.

'If you'd care to add that to my annual performance evaluation and that of the other guys and gals that helped me we'd all be grateful for the endorsement' Lee replied.

'Consider it done' Sharp told him.

Doctor Lee smiled. 'Talking of endorsements the L2-A3 could represent a nice opportunity for us to open up a market lead in small arms' he said. 'I know the X-COM Finance Director was looking for something we could sell to the Optricans and other allies such as the Pangarans and Tagreans and I'll bet with the right marketing we could put them into mass-production reducing the unit cost and increasing profit margins' he suggested.

'Oh Dwoskin would love that' Sharp agreed. The funding nations had already been making noises that perhaps X-COM could try and use its R&D and manufacturing arms to help cover its own ever-climbing expenses. They probably wouldn't be happy with some of the more destructive hardware being offered for sale to other worlds but an infantry weapon being sold to trusted allies might be approved without too much trouble, especially when Earth soldiers still had more destructive personal weapons in their arsenal, the P3-A1 Heavy Plasma Rifle and the BL-1A Blaster-Bomb Launcher. Besides Earth only the Tollan had the ability to produce the elerium allotrope from regular naquadah as yet and they weren't telling anyone else, their laws prohibiting the export of advanced offensive military technology and power-sources actually working in favour of the Tau'ri for once.

'The prototype is ready for field testing if you want to try it out properly' Lee told Sharp. 'I've got two spare powerpacks with me if you want to assign someone the weapon' he said, putting the liquid-naquadah power-cell back and screwing the retaining piece back onto the rifle.

Sharp chuckled. 'Oh I'm going to try this thing out personally' he said. 'You're coming with me to Jebanna' he told the rifle. 'We're gonna bag us a few Jaffa and hopefully some goa'uld who are looking for new hosts' he added.

'Then good luck to you both' Bill said as Sharp stood up, picked up the rifle and shouldered it.

'Hey you added an ammo-counter' Sharp noticed, looking through the rifles built-in electronic gunsight where a number was being projected below the cross-hairs.

'Just a little Head-Up-Display' Lee replied, 'it uses the same technology as the goa'uld eyepiece our pilots have on their helmets. 'You can turn it off if it becomes distracting' he told him. 'You've also got auto-focus zoom and night-vision' he continued. 'I'd probably better give you the manual to be honest' he realised.

'I'll skim it later' Sharp replied, 'do yourself a favour and visit the canteen before heading back to the SGC, we've got steak today served with this hot-sauce they make in Orban and it's great' he told him. 'I need to go brief the troops and get kitted up' he said. 'See you later Doctor and thank you again for all your efforts' he said, putting the rifle down on his desk once more and reaching out his hand to shake the scientists. 'You invent the tools we need to win the war and put them in our hands' he said with gratitude, 'between us we'll ensure that Earth always remains free' he declared with conviction.

As he rolled out of the stargate and then jarringly down the stone steps on the planet Jebanna Sharp decided to request better springs for either the seat of the suspension of the new Dune Buggies they were starting to employ off-world. For that matter the engines didn't make a very satisfactory sound either, he thought. An electric motor powered by a naquadah generator might be environmentally sound, and it could run continually for months without needing refuelling, but the roar of an internal combustion engine would have been preferable to the quiet drone of the motor in terms of being a fun ride.

On the other hand when five of the two-man machines started tearing along the dirt track towards the largest settlement on the planet, kicking up plumes of dust as they went, it was still quite a rush, Sharp decided. Always one to promote the principle of leading from the front this gave him an excuse to be in the lead vehicle whilst the lower ranks behind ate dust and they quickly made up ground, heading towards what an earlier survey by an agent posing as a trader reported was the largest settlement on the planet.

With both a gatling-staff and a laser cannon mounted on the roof, both powered by the same generator that turned the wheels, the lightweight buggies could put out plenty of firepower as well as being a faster way to get about than hiking to and from the stargate. You couldn't wear powered-armour and get into one unfortunately but generally unless they were expecting Kull trouble X-COM didn't usually wear the bulky and expensive suits. For one thing they tended to frighten the hell out of most human societies living throughout the galaxy who were medieval at best, the Tau'ri were trying to present themselves as the protectors and benefactors of the peoples who had been abducted from their world by the goa'uld millennia ago and looking like great metal monsters made it hard to get a fair hearing, or indeed anything more than running away and cowering.

Defeating Anubis had done wonders for the reputation of the warriors of the First World, and they were already legends on many worlds beforehand. As the tale spread of mere humans defeating the most powerful weapons of the most powerful and most evil of the gods in open combat, of great pyramid ships wrought asunder and the fearsome deathgliders humbled by the greater magics of the Tau'ri many planets were seeing the start of open rebellion, these in some cases supported by the surreptitious supply of crates of Staff-Rifles to the slaves and peasants that worked the mines and tilled the fields of goa'uld controlled planets throughout the galaxy. Smuggling contraband had been made easier because of efforts made by agents working for X-COM to cultivate ties with criminal elements such as the infamous and shadowy Lucians and weapons were often being shipped right under the noses of loyalist Jaffa.

According to a tip-off from the Tok'ra the people of Jebanna were preparing to send a few of their own people to a goa'uld world to be taken as hosts. They had been told that this act of loyalty and sacrifice would lead to there being no more people being taken for the next two seasons and the gods promised good weather and bountiful harvests in return also. The Tok'ra didn't know what world the "offerings" would be sent to but the people on Jebanna knew and that gave X-COM a mission, stop the people of Jebanna sending their sons and daughters to the goa'uld, find out where they were going to be sent, go there and in Sharp's words kick the shit out of whoever they find.

Jebanna was still in the Bronze Age, with the exception of a few planets where the people wore animal furs they made into clothing with stone knives it was about as technologically primitive a society as you can find in the galaxy. Needless to say when the strange machines arrived outside the village, metal carts that still moved though they had no horse or cow to pull them, the villagers panicked thinking it must be the gods come to claim more people than they had asked for.

A young girl, braver than most, watched out of the window of her home, half concealed by a curtain. A piece of woven cloth like one of the banners the goa'uld sometimes flew was fixed to a pole on one of the machines and as the wind took it she could make out the symbol depicted upon it. 'Tau'ri' she recognised it. 'Father it is the symbol of the Tau'ri of X-COM that the trader who visited two summers ago drew for us in the dirt' she announced, turning to her parents. 'Do you remember?' she asked. 'The man from Ferenginar that gave me my seashell necklace?' she added, fingering the pretty ribbon around her neck that the sea-shell hung from.

The girl watched a man wearing armour on his chest that was different from that worn by the Jaffa stride into the village square alone. 'Is there a village elder, a mayor or someone else I can talk too' he called out. He was wearing something that looked like two mirrors connected by wire over his eyes and he reached up to his face and took them off.

A few people began emerging nervously from their homes, one of them, the richest man in the village who owned the largest farms nearby approached the stranger, his eyes directed towards the ground submissively. 'What god do you serve?' he asked.

As the girl continued to watch wide-eyed through the window the stranger looked at the landowner askance. 'The only being in the galaxy I can ever be described as worshipping in any way, and currently tend to obey without question, is a hormonal pregnant woman and I only do what she says because it makes for a much less stressful life' the man in armour responded. 'Please look up, I don't trust people that don't look you square in the eyes' he requested.

'Who are you?' the landowner asked, other villagers starting to approach too now. Some holding makeshift weapons such as bronze farming implements and one carrying a wooden quarterstaff made to try and slightly resemble a Jaffa weapon.

'I am Commander Russell Sharp' the stranger announced loudly. 'I and my soldiers fight the false gods of the goa'uld and we've come here to free you from their oppression.'

'Sharp of Canada' the little girl exclaimed and before her father could stop her she dashed outside with him trailing in her wake.

Judging from their expressions they had heard of him Sharp decided. Several looked totally intimidated, others shocked he thought but one of them looked defiant. 'There is no need for you to send your people to the goa'uld' he told the villagers. 'Just tell me the symbols you were to press on the chappa'ai before sending them through and I'll go there instead and ensure no one from that world ever bothers you again' he vowed.

'We have heard the Tau'ri magics are strong' a woman replied. 'Stories are told that they are stronger than the magics of the gods' she said quietly, looking around scared as if she feared being struck down for heresy.

'We have no magic' Sharp replied, 'the goa'uld have no magic either' he continued, 'we simply have weapons that they cannot stand against' he declared, turning back towards the others who had come with him. 'Fire a few bursts from the gatling-staffs into the air' he yelled.

Things atop the five horseless metal carts started to spin and then angled up they launched a hail of lighting bolts like those of a Jaffa weapon skywards, though many, many more. When they stopped the Tau'ri visitor turned back to the awed villagers. 'We do not fear the goa'uld' he said. 'The goa'uld fear us ' he declared.

'Blasphemy' the villager with the wooden staff responded. 'I will strike you down in their name' he exclaimed, leaping to the attack.

Sharp dodged the first clumsy swing and deciding that blowing a hole in the idiot with his plasma-pistol would be an over-reaction he instead pulled his side-handled baton free and used it to help parry away the next blow. The villager was clearly not very good at this and Sharp waited until the local had unbalanced himself and then cracked him on the forearm hard with his baton, making the villager yelp and drop the staff. He then thumped him in the gut with the baton and when he bent double Sharp cracked him on the back of the head dropping him to the dirt.

'Oh stay down you idiot' Sharp muttered as the man shakily tried to rise again. 'Okay for the record this is not magic, this is just a device you can't make yet but one day we'll show you how' he said loudly, pressing a recessed switch on the baton that caused electrodes to pop out. He pressed the baton against the man and put fifty-thousand volts through him leaving the true believer twitching on the ground in pain wondering why the gods had forsaken him.

Sharp pressed the switch again, the electrodes sliding back into the shaft of the baton and he was about to return it to the harness that held it when a little girl ran right up to him. The others looked scared but she was giddy with excitement and seemed to want to ask something. 'Hello' Sharp greeted her quizzically.

'Hello' the girl replied, starting to blush. 'If you're really Sharp of Canada that must be your Hockey Stick' she said, pointing at the side-handled baton. 'Can I have a look at it up close?' she asked hopefully.

* * *

Cheyenne Mountain – Earth – June 2004

Daniel read the text message which had been transmitted to the SGC via the stargate. As he read the Goa'uld script he frowned. 'It's from one of the System Lords' he told Weir who like himself had also dashed to the Control Room when the warning of an unauthorised incoming wormhole sounded. 'Camulus, Celtic God of War' he added.

'Didn't Colonel Rodrigues raid his capital world recently?' Weir asked.

'Camulodunon, yes' Daniel confirmed. 'Camulus was hit hard during the war with Apophis, a fleet led by Zipacna razed a few of his worlds and last we heard he was struggling to re-build his forces' he said.

'So we kicked him while he was down?' Weir replied, 'I guess that does make it easier.'

'X-COM don't tend to put much stock in fair play or chivalry for that matter even if they do wear armour' Daniel observed.

'So is Camulus sending us threats?' Weir theorised. 'Vows of revenge perhaps?'

Daniel kept reading, as he did so his eyes widened. 'Wow' he exclaimed.

'I guess you mean that in the normal sense and it's not the name of another goa'uld with an inadvertently amusing name like Yu?' Weir responded.

'Sorry' Daniel apologised, 'it says he wants to arrange a meeting for the purpose of negotiating a treaty' he announced.

Weir looked suitably surprised. 'A goa'uld wants to arrange a treaty with us?' she queried doubtfully.

'Not just one Goa'uld. All of them. The System Lords' Daniel told her. 'They want to send representatives here' he said.

'Is it too much to hope that they're surrendering?' Weir joked sardonically.

'The fact that they'd even condescend to meet with us on anything approaching equal terms is more of a breakthrough than I'd ever expected' Daniel replied. 'When the System Lords sent delegates here before it was to negotiate with the Asgard, the SGC was just neutral territory' he said. 'You know under the terms of the Protected Planets Treaty the human race is officially recognised as a source of slaves and hosts for the goa'uld, certainly not a species to be negotiated with.'

Weir looked at the text, I've got to learn goa'uld, she thought. 'Presumably our defeat of Anubis has changed a few opinions' she reasoned.

'The goa'uld only recognise or respect the threat of force' Daniel noted. 'The Asgard practised gunboat diplomacy for precisely that reason and it would seem that the System Lords have decided that Earth is now sufficiently capable of doing them serious harm to be taken seriously.'

'Sounds like just another day at the United Nations' Weir observed humorously. 'It's not exactly a coincidence that the five permanent members of the Security Council are the five countries with the most nuclear weapons' she commented. X-COM wasn't a country so it didn't count although it now had a stockpile of devices from sub-kiloton to multi-gigaton that dwarfed that of any Earth nation.

'You do realise that the goa'uld doing this might be seen in some circles as justifying the X-COM approach of putting the military option first and foremost' Daniel warned.

Weir sighed. 'I'm sure certain individuals will spin it that way' she said. 'If it wasn't for keeping good relations with our allies and forging peaceful links with other powers Earth wouldn't be near as strong as it is now however' she pointed out. 'A recourse to violence and the threat of force is not always the solution' she stated.

Daniel nodded. 'I agree, but you might want to expect several more voices contending that whilst it's not always the best way it works more often than some of us would like to think' he said regretfully. 'If you want to head to my office I've got some background reading you might want to go through on the System Lords since I assume the IOA and the US Government will be asking you to represent Earth' he said.

'I'd hope my track record puts me in that role' Weir replied, after all who else could boast so many successful treaty negotiations as her, both between Earth nations and between Earth and other worlds she considered as she followed Doctor Jackson towards his office. He had reclaimed it from Jonas Quinn after his return, reasonable since Jonas spent far more time back home on Langara these days than he did at the SGC, and it had only taken a few weeks before it once again resembled the workplace of someone slightly scatterbrained rather than a neat-freak.

'I'm afraid if the System Lords are coming here then I'll have to ask you to remain on Earth until after negotiations are concluded' Weir told him, as he opened his door.

'I wasn't quite as enthusiastic as Sam at going to watch the Asgard collapsing a star anyway' Daniel replied, stepping inside and switching on the lights. Where had he put those notes he had been gradually compiling comparing Tok'ra intelligence on the various goa'uld with the Earth legends concerning them he wondered?

Weir looked at him knowingly. 'I'm well aware that part of the reason Major Carter jumped at the invitation was that you all saw it as an opportunity to try and persuade Thor to champion the case for bringing Colonel O'Neill out of stasis to the IOA' she said.

Daniel smiled. 'That transparent huh?' he asked.

'I've never really thought of Teal'c and Sergeant Andianov as holding an interest in astrophysics' Weir told him, 'Samantha yes, and you out of scientific curiosity but not them' she said.

'Oddly enough though Jack would probably like to see it himself' Daniel told her, 'astronomy is the only academic field he's interested in as a rule' he said, opening a filing cabinet and starting to rummage through some papers.

'So when are we expecting the Asgard to turn up?' Weir asked.

'Any day now' Daniel replied, scanning one sheet of paper and then putting it back. 'They're sending a science vessel to collect Heimdall, her research and equipment and the rest of us were going to hitch a ride to Ida' he said. 'The Asgard are still a little embarrassed that they didn't send any ships to help defend Earth so the invitation might be an olive-branch of sorts, make sure we're still on good terms' he continued, 'plus it was us that helped trap the Replicators on Hala and that wasn't even the first time we helped Thor defeat the things.'

'It's probably a good thing that some of the goa'uld did try to attack other planets covered by the Protected Planets Treaty or there would have been a few less than politely worded comments directed at the Asgard High Council' Weir told him.

'Twenty-seven planets covered by the Treaty including ours and the Asgard couldn't possibly send ships to them all' Daniel replied. 'So many of the System Lords have Ha'tak motherships with at least some of the weapon and shield upgrades Anubis came up with now and only an O'Neill Class warship can be guaranteed to win a fight with two or three of those' he said, finally finding what he was looking for. He would give her a few brief pointers and then it was over to the President and the IOA to make the call what they were going to do, Daniel realised, it was certainly an exciting prospect to have a goa'uld delegation here but part of him was feeling guility that a thought had crossed his mind it was probably for the good that Jack wasn't around, his incessant goa'uld-baiting would have undoubtedly caused ructions.

Fortunately most of the goa'uld had decided to sit it out quietly, ignoring the prompting by Anubis to attack a few of the other Treaty worlds whilst he attacked Earth but Olokun had sent a decent force at a world called Galar and a minor goa'uld, Sargon, had tried to take K'tau. In both cases an Asgard vessel already on station had destroyed the attempted invasions although it had caused a great deal of strife on Galar.

Although the Galarans were slightly ahead of Earth overall technologically the world had only just managed to get their own stargate program operational. Galar had only been making tentative first steps into exploring the galaxy when several gigantic ships appeared above them and fought a battle and the government there deciding to go public in response was proving to be a major mistake so far. The people of Galar were panicking that they were defenceless themselves against these goa'uld and were therefore utterly reliant on the protection of an alien race. The press and certain political groups were also kicking up a storm about the previous suppression of knowledge of the existence of alien technology which was destabilising the government still further. After the Asgard apologetically told the government of Galar that they were still bound by the terms of the Protected Planets treaty, and that therefore the High Council couldn't provide them with a means for self-defence, the Galarans had begged them to reconsider. After some prevarication the Asgard again told them categorically no to a request for advanced shields and weapons but if while they were randomly dialling symbols on their stargate they were to put in this particular set and sent a radio transmission through saying hello they might be able to obtain what they were after from another advanced human world. Although they tried to abide by the letter of the law the Asgard were not above being slightly underhanded however, they had been basically bluffing the goa'uld for centuries after all.

After the usual debate and attempted political points scoring the IOA approved the negotiation with the System Lords and they were instructed to travel to a neutral planet where they would be met by SG-7 and an X-COM Squad before being escorted to Earth. It had been decided that a show of strength was warranted so the world chosen for the rendezvous was one close to Earth and when the delegation arrived to meet their Tau'ri escorts they found themselves beneath the shadow of USAF Prometheus hovering above. Once they had embarked on the next stage of their journey, stepping through the stargate to Earth, Prometheus would immediately head home too at full speed to retake its role as a guardship but it was felt that reminding the System Lords that the humans had hyperdrive capable capital ships and therefore offensive as well as defensive ability was important.

Colonel Rodrigues was commanding the X-COM squad that met the goa'uld under the shadow of the BC-303 and it was evident from the reaction of Camulus that he recognised the name although he didn't say so. Rodrigues, now referred to by the goa'uld as the First Prime of the Tau'ri Warlord Sharp of Canada, had bloodily defeated the garrison and blown up many buildings on Camulodunon earning the wrath of Camulus to add to everyone else he had already riled as he obeyed his bosses general orders to "Kill, maim, loot and pillage". The price on his head was already starting to catch up with that on the likes of Daniel Jackson, if not yet rivalling the huge sum in shesh'ta that would be paid out to whoever killed either the infamous O'Neill or the despised shol'va Teal'c and provided proof to the High Council of the System Lords.

Whilst Camulus was clearly becoming angry, and Lord Yu and his ever-present First-Prime Oshu seemed to be completely ignoring the Tau'ri as the chappa'ai was dialled for Earth, Morrigan the third of the goa'uld representing the System Lords couldn't help but be intrigued by the ship above their heads and also the human warriors, particularly those wearing the mechanical armour they occasionally wore into battle. The design aesthetic of the vessel they called Prometheus was horrible of course, and ranks of polished Jaffa might have made more of a show, but the Tau'ri were an intriguing society and it was hard not to have a grudging admiration for a skilled foe she thought. When they were finally crushed she would have to try and capture as many of them as she could and add them to her armies she decided, the Jaffa of Morrigan had always shown more loyalty than most and this was because she took pains to see to their well-being. It wasn't done out of compassion of course, it was simply born from a realisation that they would fight harder and be less likely to desert her if she didn't treat them as being quite so disposable.

To Weirs annoyance the IOA had insisted that although she would lead the negotiations Commander Sharp would be present also, if mainly in an effort to cash in on the propaganda campaign. He and General Hammond, another name well-known to the goa'uld as a senior Tau'ri soldier, would mostly be there as a reminder that Earth had a worrisome track record of beating the odds and defeating the goa'uld even before they enjoyed their apparent recent leap in military capability.

As Weir waited at the end of the ramp at the SGC stargate, Sharp and Hammond flanking her a step behind indicating she was in charge, Daniel was watching from the control room above. Sam along with Teal'c and Lyudmila were probably close to arriving in the Ida galaxy on the old Beliskner Class ship called the Sigrdrífa which had collected them by now. Apparently the Asgard used the few Beliskners they still had in service as bulk transport ships these days, and after dropping off Heimdall and her stuff on the new Asgard capital world of Orilla it would then ferry the SG-1 members on the remaining short hop to the Hala system where Thor and his temporary command the brand new science vessel Daniel Jackson (when he found out the ships name Daniel was grateful not to be going) were doing very unpleasant things to a sun.

The now very pregnant Doctor Frasier, she had steadfastly refused to get married until after the birth because she didn't want to have an album of wedding photographs where she was clearly knocked-up, was stood beside Daniel having declined the offer of a seat from Master Sergeant Harriman. As the gate activated with an incoming wormhole and the SG-7 IDC transmission was confirmed Daniel noted Frasier's expression. 'Going to miss all the excitement?' he asked.

'I'm going on maternity leave, I'm not quitting the program' Janet replied. 'I'll be back on active duty before you know it' she said. 'I already raised one child whilst working here, this one will just be smaller for a while' she told him.

'At least Cassie doesn't need so much looking after these days' Daniel noted with a smile.

'No I just stress about her more' Janet replied.

Daniel chuckled as the iris became to open. 'So what's it like having a certain Commander living under your roof when he's not at the Omega Site?' he asked her.

'It's not so bad, he veers between fussing and ignoring me completely if he's focused on something else though' Janet replied. 'I really need to get him to stop taking all those drugs' she opined. 'I didn't get so much as four words out of him last night, he was stuck on a computer most of the evening.'

'Yes he said this morning he was doing in-depth research into how to handle negotiations' Daniel replied, as the three System Lords stepped out through the gate with Oshu following behind his master.

Janet laughed. 'He surfed the net for maybe three-quarters of an hour and spent the rest of the time playing some computer game' she told him.

Elizabeth Weir stepped forward smiling. 'Welcome to Earth' she began. 'Allow me to introduce...'

'We are not interested in your name' Camulus interrupted her curtly.

Weir maintain her poise. 'Really?' she responded unperturbed, 'I find it generally helps so much...'

'We prefer to present our offer, so we can spend as brief a time as possible on this planet' Morrigan cut her off this time.

Ever the professional diplomat the demeanour of the System Lords didn't faze Weir at all and she was about to simply direct them in the direction of the conference room when Commander Sharp took two steps forward bringing himself to her side, glaring at each of the Goa'uld in turn and his hand now placed on the holster of his pistol in an obvious threat. 'You might not want to know our names' he growled, 'but this is Doctor Elizabeth Weir head of this facility and our lead negotiator and I am Commander Russell Sharp of X-COM' he continued. 'While you are here I want you to always keep one thing at the forefront of your minds' he told them. 'OUR WORDS ARE BACKED BY NAQUADRIA WEAPONS' he thundered.

Whilst it was taking all of Weir's willpower not to sink her face into her hands Daniel turned to Janet in the control room overlooking the scene. 'I've been known to while away a few hours playing the Civilization games too' he admitted, 'never thought to apply anything taken from them in real life though' he added as the System Lords began to recover from their shock at being talked to that way.

Note from the Author:

It's mentioned in chapter 39 of XSGCOM: Mirror Image that there were foreign troops helping the Optricans pacify Bedrosia by this point. Langarans with Psi-Amps and Mind Probes would be a viable tactic in crushing the resistance to Optrican annexation of the territory. Colonel O'Neill is still inside the Ancient Stasis Pod in Antartica. We haven't reached the point where the Asgard find they need him urgently yet and the IOA and others are hoping they can extract all that knowledge from his mind so they won't let the Asgard get him out of there and mind-wipe all the information. Robert Kinsey remains the Vice President as Henry Hayes didn't ask for his resignation at the time Anubis attacked Earth as happened in canon. With ties to the IOA and US Senate, his position in the Executive Branch of the American government and his murky links with the NID he's more powerful and influential than ever. Able Archer 83 was a real event that could have accidentally triggered WWIII. Having a combination of something similar occuring again plus a major screw up with orbital weaponry developed by several nations after the Strategic Defence Initiative of the 1980's seemed a better cover-story than anything they tried in Stargate which never seemed to explain quite how they managed to get away with all the EMP caused by the Goa'uld Busters in episode 2:01 The Serpents Lair or indeed the loss of the Nimitz Battle Group to Anubis and all those huge alien ships being blown to hell in orbit in episode 7:22 Lost City. The Outer Space Treaty would prohibit nuclear weapons in space including bomb-pumped X-Ray Lasers and they actually used the Antarctic Treaty which says that bases there can only be for peaceful purposes as a plot point in Stargate on a couple of occasions. The Eurondan Fusion Reactor design was powered by Heavy Water, it was also them who developed the drug Beta-Cantin. The Eurondans were only about a century ahead of Earth so introducing that level of advancement is going to cause less waves than Optrican, Hebridan or Tollan tech for example. The Altairan power-pack which the android copies of SG-1 used contained a lot of charge for its size, fusion reactors plus those things would revolutionise things pretty fast! Tretonin had the nasty side effect of destroying your own immune system but imagine what you could do with it in treating leukemia, AIDS or numerous other diseases. The Ashen had a vaccine for cancer (it wouldn't be wise to introduce their vaccine for aging yet however) the anaesthetic salve which the Shavadai of Simarka traded to SG-1 in episode 1:04 Emancipation would likely be developed and Rashna was the drug that the goa'uld addicted Aris Boch's people to seen in episode 3:07 Deadman Switch ).

We last saw Jebanna in chapter 31 of XSGCOM: Mirror Image when Harry Maybourne was telling tall tales (humour set up a while ago you might say). The ability of an elerium crystal to focus a laser beam in that way comes from X-COM: Interceptor. One of the first upgrades you can research is a Heavy Laser Cannon for your fighters utilising that ability that has a lower rate-of-fire but a much more powerful beam. Using a liquid-naquadah power cell to trickle-charge the power-pack of the L2-A3 when not in use is just a cute idea I thought. Making laser weapons and selling them for a profit was the best way to keep yourself funded in X-COM: UFO Defense. Instead of just selling to governments on Earth here they'll be selling to other worlds too. As for tearing around in something much like a Desert Patrol Vehicle with a gatling-staff and an X-COM Laser Cannon mounted on top it's just supposed to be cool (and be better than walking).

In episode 8:01 New Order the High Council of the System Lords sent Lord Yu, Camulus and Amaterasu to Earth to negotiate an alliance against Baal who had stepped up to contest domination of the galaxy after Anubis was defeated along with his fleet at the end of Season 7. Since Amaterasu is an ally of Baal by this time in the XSGCOM universe I've had Morrigan take her place. The Protected Planets Treaty pledged the System Lords not to attack some 27 worlds under Asgard protection. One of these, K'tau, was seen in episode 5:05 Red Sky, and another Galar was featured in episode 9:12 Collateral Damage. Galar was likely just above Earth technologically had been starting to send exploration missions through the gate in early 2004. The last we saw of the Replicators they were trapped in a time-dilation bubble on the former Asgard world of Hala. The Asgard had decided to deal with the problem for good by artificially collapsing Hala's sun into a black hole therefore sucking Hala and the Replicators into oblivion. Here Thor has offered to let SG-1 witness the final defeat of their joint enemy as the process nears completion, SG-1 saved the Asgard from the things a few times after all and he would know the Tau'ri would have an acaedmic interest. In XSGCOM the Asgard geneticist Heimdall has been living at Area 51 for quite some time researching Loki's creations such as the Sectoids seeking a cure for the Asgard genetic problems. The Civilization games are the only ones I've spent more time playing than any of the X-COM ones, I couldn't resist having Sharp say that line, it's originally about Nuclear Weapons and is a dramatic warning used in diplomatic contacts when nations have developed to the atomic age!