22nd June 2001

Couple of pints of Fosters please?"

After paying I had to head for the men's room, so I got Steve to take care of the beers and find us somewhere to sit. We were in The Fishermen, a pub in Teddington on the outskirts of London where Steve and I had grown up. We had both finished our second years at university, me at South-Bank doing Computing,

Steve at Bolton, doing Journalism.

I had got myself a summer job at some company called Shu-tech they were in the technology development business with offices in the City, and the deal was I would work for them setting up a website, and they would pay me relatively small amounts per week plus a large lump sum after six weeks. Sounded like a good

deal.

Steve was working as an 'office junior' on some paper up north this summer, every now and again though he'd come down for the weekend and

we'd meet up and catch up on what had been going on.

Anyway, on my way to the men's room I heard some American accents chatting and saw four people out of the corner of my eye: three men, one

woman, one of the men had grey hair, another had glasses, the woman was blond. It was the fourth member of the group that was unusual. Black, bald, wearing a baseball

cap, showing the edge of a gold marking and he didn't speak with an American accent. African? Tribesman? What would three Americans and an African tribesman be doing in the UK? Fuck knows!

On my way back from the men's room I passed this same group, this time catching bits of the conversation. I caught both 'Shu-tech' and 'Shane

Hulett'. Now Shu-tech as I've mentioned is the company I am working for this summer and Shane Hulett is the head of Shu-tech, i.e. my boss! The company hadn't been making headlines recently (I'd never heard of them till I saw their ad) so the fact that foreigners were talking about it raised my curiosity

"Hi, were you talking about Shu-tech?" I asked.

"Depends who wants to know," replied the older man.

"Rick Francis, I'm a university student with a summer job there."

"And we're from the...ah... Global Competitions Commission, seems your boss is using illegal practises."

"And I've never heard of the...ah... Global Competitions Commission, seems that your bullshitting!"

"Whether we're bullshitting or not is none of your business!"

"I'm working for the company so that makes it my business."

The woman spoke up, "Sir, maybe he's got a point."

Sir? These guys were military?

"Could someone tell me why the fuck the US military would be interested in Shu tech?"

"Classified." The older man again

"Classified." I imitated using my fingers as speech marks. "Well, I got a feeling you'll need a man on the inside."

"Trust me, you'd be out of your depth."

"Try me," I continued. "Here's my number, if you want to lay your cards on the table, I'll do likewise."

"Rick, you do realise that you have the entire pub's attention at the moment!" That was Steve. I went to join him still trying to make sense of what

was going on.

24th June 2001

I went to work on the Monday still with a few questions on my mind if Shu- tech (or Shane in particular) was involved in anything that the US

military was interested in and seemingly nervous about I didn't want to be the last to know! However I was also reluctant to turn this into a sequel of my dealings with the AHA. I'd sworn to anyone who knew about that that I would never pull any similar stunts again I'd been lucky to get away clean that time round!

Anyway I entered my office and checked my voice mail and speak of the devil there was a message from Shane asking me to meet him in his office

which was unusual in itself. Meetings between Shane and his employees in his office were quite rare and I'd never been there myself.

Entering the office I stared in awe at decorations that looked like they had come straight out of the world of Aladdin. The business was still

developing so how had Shane afforded this stuff?

"Hey Shane, didn't know you were a fan of Eastern stuff," I started.

"It's irrelevant," he replied "Sit down. A little bird told me you got into a little argument with some Americans down the pub on the weekend," he

went on pleasantly."They were asking about this company?"

Yeah," I replied. This could be interesting.

Shane suddenly stood up. And his eyes seemed to flash.

"Do not tell them anything." His voice was deeper now. "Do not tell them anything about what you see here, do not tell them anything about what

you may see in the future."

His voice returned to normal. "That'll be all Rick, you can return to your office now."

Whatever was going on there was more to Shane than met the eye. I'd given the Americans my number but had no idea how to contact them.

Having met them in

Teddington suggested that they were staying in that area, and I remembered a small bed and breakfast I'd stayed at with my parents once when

the house was getting redecorated figuring it would make for good anonymity I found its number through directory enquiries and gave it a ring. I'd guessed right.

"It's Rick isn't it? Colonel Jack O'Neal, US Air Force I'm the old guy you argued with the other night. Why are you ringing us?"

"Do you have an idea who my boss is?"

"Yes but as I've said before that's classified"

"This time I need your cards on the table. Teddington Lock tomorrow evening at 8," I continued. "I need to know what you know and I might be

willing to help you out."

I hung up.

25th June 2001

The next evening I was back on what I considered home territory waiting at the Lock to see if the Colonel and his team would show up. Sure

enough I didn't have long to wait.

"You drive a hard bargain. Call me Jack by the way." I lead them onto a towpath used by cyclists. Apart from that it's pretty quiet.

"I don't think the rest of the team got introduced," Jack begins

"Major Sam Carter, USAF, Dr Daniel Jackson, civilian, language expert and archaeologist and Tealc, who's not from around here"

"None of you are from around here." I replied.

"Whatever," Jack continued. "Anyway, I've had this meeting approved, but on one condition, I can guess why you're nervous, you saw your boss's

eyes glow, heard him speak with a strange voice...am I warm?"

"Very."

"Well, you said that we both had cards to lay on the table, here's the condition, you show us your cards and we'll tell you what we think you need

to know."

I could settle for that.

"OK...what do you know about European football, or soccer?"

"A Spice Girl is married to an English player," Major Carter came up with.

"Not a lot then. Does the Anti Hooligan Alliance - AHA for short - ring any bells? From last year specifically?"

"I do not know of this Anti Hooligan Alliance." Tealc this time "However I remember watching hooligans in action one year ago, and I think this

organisation should be commended!"

"We'll get back to that" I continued. "Officially the AHA was wound up last August due to evidence handed in on a floppy disc to police by an employee showing that the group had framed many people specifically English people - for hooliganism. The evidence was corroborated by the police gaining access to their

hard drive, and the confessions of several other employees. The group's major players are still in jail. It was pretty big news over here for a bit."

"Unofficially?" Dr Jackson spoke up.

"Unofficially I was the employee that handed over the floppy and I was working under an alias."

"So who are you?"

"Rick Francis, South Bank university student."

"Who last year thought he was James Bond! Why?" Jack spoke up.

"You remember my friend Steve, from the pub on Saturday? He was in Belgium for the European Football Championships last June. He was one of

the guys that got framed!"

"So you found info to suggest that this AHA was behind it. Why didn't you call the police?"

"Police didn't take me seriously, turned out the AHA head was a former inspector who still had friends in high places. Therefore they thought they

were bullet proof. Bottom line was they didn't count on someone like me. I claimed to be a football hater and got two weeks wages out of it. They guessed what was going on and claimed the turncoat was a mole in the employ of a hooligan gang but had no evidence. My parents and Steve are the only people that know what went on!"

"Keep calm, don't call us, we'll call you," Jack ended the conversation and the team left the clearing.

26th June 2001

At about 6am the phone rang a good way to piss me off. The reason that I was renting a flat in Hammersmith instead of staying in Teddington while working for Shutech (starting at 9am) was to avoid getting up so early.

"Hello"

"Rick, it's Jack, we've had a complication."

"Huh?"

"Some goddam politicians can't keep their noses out of our business."

"Unlucky, is that why you called me at 6am?"

"It's connected. Listen where do you live currently?"

"Hammersmith, you should find it on a decent London map."

"And it's got a...what d'ya call it...Subway station there, right?"

"We call it a Tube station. Yeah it's got one."

"That glowing eyes thing your boss does...do you think you could make him do it again, piss him off a little bit."

"Why? 'Classified' is not an acceptable answer."

"OK, how awake are you?"

"Not very, it's just gone six am!"

"I know but I got woken at five so you can't talk!"

"Whatever. Just answer the question."

"Your boss's real name is Shu, he's a parasitical alien who's taken a human host and his presence on Earth is not good news."

"Because?"

"Because his race don't like us a lot and he probably wants the entire planet to worship him as a god. Neat wake up call, huh?"

Too right

"So why do you need me. All you need to do is enter his offices all guns blazing."

"We were planning to do just that, however somehow knowledge of our interest in Shutech got leaked to one of your MPs."

"Probably Sha..Shu. He knows you're in town."

"Could be, but I've got my money on a certain US Senator, it doesn't matter though. Luckily this MP informed your Prime Minister instead of going to

the press."

"And?"

"The Prime Minister phoned up the President, who knows about Shu's race and got told what was going on, in return for the possibility of British

involvement in our project.

The PM wasn't fully convinced though. Apparently he's got a problem with the potential press fallout if he let this go ahead and the story gets

leaked."

"The British public are unlikely to believe that a British company is owned by an alien."

"That's what the PM's worried about. If he's given proof of Shu's true identity he'll let our raid go ahead. Otherwise he won't risk looking like a dumb

US puppet."

"That sounds like our PM at times. So you want me to get proof that we've got an alien in our midst? How?"

"A friend at the US Embassy gave me this miniature video camera. When do you start work?"

"Nine."

"Meet me at Hammersmith Tube station at 8. I'll fit you with it."

Jack hung up.

8am and I was hanging around Hammersmith Tube station waiting for Jack to show up. He didn't turn up till 8:15.

"I expected you to be on the platform," he grumbled

"I couldn't be bothered to go down to the platform."

"Look the camera goes on here," he said placing what looked like a moving surface badge I'd once bought. "And we've set it up so that the feed

goes to Carter's laptop. Get Shu pissed off so that his eyes glow or whatever and get out of the room. We'll email the feed back to the States and it'll get to your PM from

there. Got it?"

"Got it!"

At 9 o'clock I entered my office, typed out a resignation note and printed it off. At. 9:30 I entered my boss's office, only to find its owner absent.

Instead someone who looked like a bodyguard and wore a similar symbol to Tealc was in residence.

"Hi, is Shane here, I've got a letter for him"

"Your god is absent! What do you wish to tell him?"

"I'm not looking for God, I'm looking for Shane! Where is he?"

Within seconds I was knocked out!

I came to...hell knows how many hours later. Anyway it looked like I was in a warehouse of some kind I could make out the Shutech logo on some of the crates so it was pretty obvious who owned this place. Feeling about my shirt I found the camera badge still there so that wasn't a problem if it was still working Jack's team might have an idea where I was.

Meanwhile someone had noticed that I had regained consciousness.

"My lord, the prisoner is ready!" It was the bodyguard from the office.

Shane...Shu...whoever he is entered.

"You did not heed my warnings, I am amused by your foolishness."

"Glowing eyes don't scare me, Shane, who do you think you are?"

The bodyguard answered, "He is your god Shu, human, why do you deny this fact!"

"I'm not religious. Anyway, Shane...Shu, whoever you are, if you're a god, show me some of your godly powers."

"Very well!" He raises his hand.

'YOOOOOUUUUCCCH! FUCK ME!'

'Wrong move Rick, definitely wrong move, you've pissed Shu off all right but you're going to get your brain fried in return!'

"Prepare to die!"

One year ago, I went inside the AHA and took it down single handedly avoiding jail in the process. I did it do get my best mate out of jail. I

promised both him and my parents that I wouldn't do anything similar again. So how come I've wound up breaking this promise, and as a result preparing to die?

*"Classified" I imitate using my fingers as speech marks "Well I got a feeling you'll need a man on the inside"

"Trust me, you'd be out of your depth"

*"Try me" I continued "Here's my number, if you want to lay your cards on the table, I'll do likewise"*

Yeah that's why. I got into an argument with a US military team because I wanted in on classified information. That bodyguard was probably in the

pub at the time so Shu put the frightners on me and sure enough as Jack warned ages ago so it seems I got out of my depth. Going up against the AHA just felt too good

at the time and I found myself needing another fix. Guess they're right about drug overdoses being lethal!

Hang on Rick, you're frying your own brain here. Think of something else!

"BOOM" Like what was that?

"FIZZ, FIZZ, FIZZ, FIZZ." Both Shu and the bodyguard hit the deck!

"Jack, you didn't tell me the fucker could fry my brain!" I groaned before passing out.

10th July 2001

"Well, Rick, welcome to the SGC," Jack announces as we get past the security guards.

I'm being taken on this tour for two reasons. One: as a thank you for risking my life.

Two: someone inside wants to have a chat with me. Don't know who and don't know why, but I'll be very surprised if a top-secret military base needs a website designer!

Anyway I got given a summary article of what the SGC is about on the flight and it definitely sounds interesting. It's one thing to defend the planet from aliens, definitely another to take the fight to the aliens themselves. And I'm looking forward to seeing this 'Stargate' in action as well.

After the tour I get shown into what looks like a conference room more likely a briefing room with two people seated a bald guy with a blue shirt,

who's probably a General or something. There's also another guy with grey hair who's wearing a brown...outfit is the best word for it.

"Sit down!" starts the bald man. "Major-General George Hammond, United States Air Force. I'm the commander of this base." I shake his hand. "And

this is Jacob Carter, a former General in the US Air Force and current Earth-Tokra liaison." I shake his hand.

"Out of interest are you any relation to...?"

"I'm Sam Carter's father," answers Jacob

He continues, "I believe you have been given a summary article on the SGC which included basic information on the Tok'ra!"

"Yeah"

"Good. I also understand that a year ago you partook in activities that might be considered vigilantism." Why did that have to come up?

"If the guys that I was going up against hadn't been so blindly prejudiced I wouldn't have done it."

"That doesn't matter. What does matter was that when the dust settled you were still standing. The Tokra do pretty much the same job. Playing a role, gathering information, setting the System Lords against each other sometimes. We're not as direct as the likes of SG1 but you don't appear to go in with the military way yourself,"

He continued. "What I'm asking you is could you do what you did last year on a regular basis and literally on a galactic scale. If the answer is 'yes'

then the Tokra need people like you."

"And if the answer is no?" There was no way I was getting press-ganged.

"Then both Jacob and I will understand," replied Hammond

"As will I," Jacob was now speaking in a deeper voice this must be his...symbiote, that was it. "Though the Tok'ra's numbers are depleting so we

need everyone that we can get".

Suddenly klaxons started sounding. "Incoming traveller," announced a speakerphone.

"You're in luck," stated General Hammond as he left the room after raising the shield to reveal a large stone circle with a metal centre. A couple of

minutes later, the centre

retracted and what looked like a circular wave of water rushed out at me before subsiding into a pool.

"Well, what do you think?" Jacob was still standing next to me, speaking in his own voice this time. "Will you join us?"

In my head two voices were arguing. One said I should get out of there and catch the next flight back to the UK. The other said I should jump at

this chance. I wasn't going

to make a decision yet.

"I'll think about it"

Next up...Conversations and Choices