MISSILE LAUNCH ROOM 1969
"You know, this looks suspiciously like the butt end of a Titan missile," said Jack, looking up.
"Standing by for test burn in T-minus 20 seconds," came an announcement over the intercom.
"Right, time to move people," said Jack, reaching for his armband. "Head for the surface. We'll meet behind the motor pool, or where the motor pool is under normal circumstances."
The moment they were out of phase, SG-1 disappeared into the wall of the silo, leaving the missile test to proceed unhindered behind them, along with some very confusing camera footage that would cause quite a stir in the US military for decades to come.
"So, anybody recall any sets of lotto numbers?" asked Jack, thumbing through a newspaper that proved they had travelled in time. "Or a winning racehorse's name?"
"I think that might be a bit unethical," said Daniel. "Not that I wouldn't do it..."
"We can't risk contaminating the time line," said Sam. "Well no more than we have to anyway."
"You're no fun sometimes, Captain," said Jack.
FUTURE GATE ROOM
"Mm-hmm. As much as I would love to spend more time with you, the timing must be precise. You have to go," said old Cassandra. "Here, this is knowledge vital to the survival of Earth."
She held out a crystal similar to the ones normally seen in Goa'uld ships to Jack, who automatically took it.
"But, you can't," protested Carter. "The paradox-"
"Won't happen because you have already done this," said Cassandra. "Just like Hammond giving you that note explaining what was to happen and the letter to post to himself."
"That makes no sense," said Daniel.
"It doesn't matter," said Cassandra, bringing up her hand to touch a large green stone mounted on the back. "Just tell Harry he isn't allowed to shoot you for not getting everything, or I will be very upset."
Suddenly the wormhole activated. This time there was no plume, and the chevrons didn't spin. The wormhole simply appeared, filling the center of the ring.
"You'll need to use your GDO," said Cassandra. "Now quickly, go, and take care my friends, your journey is just beginning."
CURRENT SGC BREIFING ROOM
"So, what do you think is on the crystal?" Jack asked as SG-1 exited their debriefing.
"Hopefully next week's lotto numbers," said Maybourne.
"I can't see how that would be vital to the survival of Earth," said Daniel.
"Me either, but a man can always hope," laughed Maybourne.
"That would be so unfair," said Jack.
ESKAL: FAKE SGC BASE CRYOGENICS ROOM
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Colonel. I'm Major General Trofsky, this is Doctor Raully", said one of the men leaning over Jack's tank.
"Maybe we can try to answer some of the questions that are probably weighing heavily on your mind," said Raully.
"First of all, I regret to inform you that everyone on your team…Dr Daniel Jackson, Captain Samantha Carter, and a Jaffa named Teal'c, are all deceased," said Major General Trofsky.
"As a matter of fact," added Raully, "I imagine everyone you ever knew is probably gone now."
"You see, Colonel, the year is now…2077," finished Trofsky.
Immediately, one crystal clear thought pierced the confusion surrounding Jack.
It was simply inconceivable, especially since many people he knew had use-by dates well beyond 2077. The medical breakthroughs the NID made from the alien technology gave him the impression that living for over a hundred years would not be that uncommon.
Although, they were at war with a vastly superior force, so it might just be true. People died in wars, lots of people.
Still, it didn't feel right, and Jack was very trusting of his feelings.
"Damn," he said.
Best to play along and see where this went. Without his armband or other equipment he was pretty stuck anyway.
ESKAL: FUTURE SGC CORRIDOR
"SG-14, debriefing in five minutes, level six," came the PA announcement.
O'Neil paused his walking in an apparent moment of weakness and looked around.
"Changed much?" asked Trofsky.
"There's no place like home, Sir. How many SG teams are there now, Sir?" asked O'Neill.
"28 here on Earth, another ten occupying off-world colonies," answered Trofsky proudly.
"So we finally did that, huh? Made bases on other planets and colonised worlds?" asked O'Neill. "It was still a long way away from happening in my time. Damn politics."
"Affirmative," answered Trofsky.
Jack was certain now. This was all fake. Not only were they already operating bases on other worlds in his own time, mostly due to Harry Maybourne, they had a small colony on the alpha site. Also, the base looked too much like the old SGC. A few weeks ago he found himself in a true future SGC, and it was significantly different looking.
Not to mention future Cassandra had displayed some very impressive technology that this supposed General did not appear to have.
This was a set up, and he was going to have to be very, very careful.
"I am in your debt Dr Fraiser. General Hammond, permit me to return to this planet to search out my friends. If their bodies were not found by my side then they are prisoners," said Teal'c.
"If they're prisoners, they're long gone from that planet. We sent out UAVs, balloons, our best rescue teams, they found nothing but scorched earth. There was no trace of them. They could be moved to any Goa'uld strong hold. You'd be searching for a needle in a very large haystack," said Hammond.
"Perhaps, but I must try," said Teal'c.
"Good," announced Maybourne, walking into the room and giving General Hammond a salute. "Permission to have Teal'c assigned to the team you are sending to search for SG-1."
Hammond appeared startled.
"Colonel, what are you talking about?" asked Hammond.
"General, using our knowledge of the DHD, we have reason to believe we might be able to get a list of gate addresses recently used," said Maybourne. "If SG-1 were taken through the gate, we might be able to follow. Teal'c's familiarity of Goa'uld procedures would be a valuable asset. We have limited ship tracking capabilities, but the NID have a ship ready to meet us there if the gate was not used to remove SG-1. We also may be able to activate SG-1's Tollan communicator and track it."
Hammond silently considered the request.
"I was ready to declare them a lost cause," admitted Hammond. "What does the NID hope to get out of this, Colonel?"
"SG-1 has had more success in recovering alien technology than all the other teams put together," said Maybourne. "Their capture constitutes an unacceptable loss to the NID and a massive potential security breach."
"The Golden Goose eh? Fair enough. In light of this new development I'll assign a team and Teal'c to accompany your men to attempt to locate SG-1," said Hammond. "If that is okay to you, Teal'c?"
"That will be acceptable," said Teal'c. "I look forward to again working with your men, ColonelMaybourne."
"Oh, you are just going to love some of the new toys we have, Teal'c."
SGC BRIEFING ROOM
"Colonel Maybourne, can you confirm the gate address and plans given to us by the Tok'ra are accurate?" asked General Hammond.
"Yes, sir," answered Maybourne. "Phased scouts infiltrated the base. SG-1 is being kept separated from each other and under heavy surveillance."
"It is indeed the Goa'uld Hathor who has them captive," said Teal'c. "She appears to be rebuilding her forces by recruiting Jaffa from other Goa'uld's remote bases. Her army is small, but nevertheless formidable."
"Could you extract them safely?"
"Using the phasing devices and a distraction, easily, but this represents a unique opportunity for Earth. If we can capture this base, we would acquire a significant amount of technology, and the base itself is in an excellent location, far from other Goa'uld and virtually unknown," said Maybourne.
"Are you suggesting we launch a full invasion?" asked Hammond.
"We don't know how much information they have managed to extract from SG-1, and they have their equipment. We might be able to sneak them out, but the strategic thing to do would be to remove this Goa'uld as a threat once and for all."
"I concur, GeneralHammond," said Teal'c. "Capturing Hathor and taking her resources away would be a significant blow to the Goa'uld."
"I agree," said Hammond. "Sergeant, get me the President on the phone, and have every available SG team ready to deploy in the Gate room within 2 hours. Colonel Maybourne, we'll need any troops the NID can spare and every piece of that new armour you have."
"Yes, Sir," said Maybourne standing up.
"Let's get this done," said Hammond.
ESKAL: FAKE FUTURE SGC
"It may take some time for the Goa'uld to take control. But we will greatly enjoy experiencing your eventual defeat," proclaimed Hathor, taking a Goa'uld symbiote from the Jaffa standing near her.
"Oh god, no," said Jack as she leaned over him with the symbiote in her hands.
"And when you awaken from the joining, you will kneel and pledge-"
The words died on her mouth as her chest suddenly exploded. The Jaffa in the room moved to attack the armoured black clad figures that suddenly appeared through the walls, but died before they had a chance to fire their weapons.
"Down," yelled one of the figures moving his gun to aim at Sam. "On the floor, all of you!"
Raleigh fell to the floor, along with the rest of SG-1 except Jack, who was still strapped down on a table.
"Get symbiote off O'Neill!" Raleigh yelled. "I am Tok'ra. Get O'Neill."
One of the figures bolted to O'Neill and reached in to grab at the Symbiote just as it began to burrow into the back of his neck.
O'Neill screamed in pain.
The soldier's hand went straight through, still out of phase, and the Symbiote disappeared.
"Did you get it?" called Raleigh.
The figure stood back and pressed button on his armband. The mask and helmet retreated, revealing Teal'c anguish filled face.
"I was not in time," he said.
"O'Neill, you must fight it!" said Raleigh, attempting to stand up but finding a suddenly in phase armoured boot slamming her back to the ground. "I am Tok'ra. The cryogenic process will prevent the melding, the Goa'uld within will die, but you must let me up, and O'Neill must fight it."
The complex shook and distant explosions thumped dully as the Earth forces swept in to destroy the assembled Jaffa, their powerful weapons, and advanced armour providing an overwhelming advantage.
"Listen to her," said Sam from her prone position. "The freezing process will at least render the colonel inactive, even if he is Goa'uld."
Jack gave another scream and writhed against his straps.
"Let her up," ordered Teal'c.
The boot came off and Raleigh rushed to close the cryogenic pod.
"If he dies, you die," threatened the soldier still covering her with a menacing looking gun that glowed ominously.
"There," said Raleigh as the pod containing Jack was lowered into the pit.
Teal'c's radio suddenly crackled to life.
"Teal'c, we are almost all secured out here, what's your situation? Over."
"Hathor is dead, but O'Neill has been taken as a host," he reported.
There was a moment of silence from the other end.
"Repeat last. Over."
"ColonellO'Neill has been implanted, but is currently receiving treatment. We have the Tok'ra agent and the rest of SG-1 secure."
"Hold your position, we are on our way. There's an energy shield causing a bit of grief to some of our troops that we have to take down, then we will be right there."
Teal'c let the radio go and moved back to stand next to where Raleigh was monitoring Jack's vital signs.
Daniel and Sam stood nearby watching, the guns of the rest of Teal'c team still covering them, just in case they had been compromised too.
He had faith O'Neill would survive, but he still worried.
It was several tense minutes before another squad of Earth soldiers walked in, their new armour glimmering in the dull light of the room. One soldier tapped his arm and his helmet retracted.
"Oh, Jack," said Harry Maybourne, stepping up to stand next to Teal'c. "What have you gotten yourself into now?"
"The freezing process will prevent the melding and will destroy the Goa'uld," said Raleigh. "He will be okay."
"I hope so," said Harry. "But we've almost finished capturing Hathor's ship, so we will have another Sarcophagus handy, just in case we need to take more drastic actions."
He ignored the hostile looks Carter and Daniel gave him at his suggestion.
After all, they were still testing the semi-repaired Asgard device removed from Cimmeria, and the anti-Goa'uld prototype device inspired by the Reetou's ability to cause the symbiotes distress was nearing completion. If Jack was a host, Harry knew he would not object to being used as a test subject for the new weapons.
And bad luck if he did.
SGC BRIEFING ROOM
"So these are all Goa'uld detected on Earth by your new detectors?" asked Jack.
"Not all of them, no," answered Carter. "Some are devices, or ancient Goa'uld relics, others we have no idea. The detectors find Naquadah."
"So what are we doing then?"
"One of the locations turned out to be the compound of a cult," explained Hammond. "The leader's name rang somebody's bell and they sent the information to Doctor Jackson."
"He is called Sethesh," said Daniel. "Seth was supposedly killed in ancient Egypt along with all his minions, a similar god showed up in Greece called Typhon. Similar back stories and remains, another fictitious animal representation. In one of Typhon's last legends, he killed three hundred followers and then disappeared from Greece. Now at that point, he seemed to vanish from recorded history altogether. Until I found this. A new cult arose in England early 1800s, strangely enough near the location of Stonehenge. The cult had an enigmatic leader named Seth. They were constantly under attack by the Christians, then, and this is the important part, Seth's worshippers, all of them, were found dead, having slit their own throats. But Seth's body was never found."
"Nice guy," said Jack. "So what, he's at it again, this time just North of Seattle. Maybe he wants to be a rock star this time."
"The ATF are investigating him now because they've become so heavily armed and fortified. The report says he has about fifty followers, who are all apparently ready to die for him," added Harry. "Ex-members say he has magical powers and advanced weapons. They also say his eyes glow."
"So we are going to what, capture him?" asked Jack.
"And his equipment, of course," said Harry. "There is a good chance he has a sarcophagus stashed away somewhere that is what has kept him going this long-"
"Or he is changing hosts every few hundred years," said Daniel.
"And another report from an ex-member says he was brainwashed by a gas of some sort," finished Harry.
"So, something like Hathor used?"
"Probably," agreed Harry. "Whatever it is, we want it."
"Big surprise there," mumbled Daniel sarcastically.
"It is likely Nish'ta; a biological compound that, once inhaled, infects all tissue in your body, including your brain. It tends to make your mind extremely pliable," explained Teal'c. "I believe that is the substance Apophis used on Rya'c."
"So a Zat will free the followers?" asked Carter. "That's how you freed Rya'c, right?"
"Any electrical shock large enough to disrupt the organism should suffice," answered Teal'c.
"So, we break into the compound, using the phase armbands of course, take out Seth, then Zat all of his followers and steal his stuff without letting anybody blow the place up. Sounds simple enough," concluded Jack.
"You have your mission," said Hammond standing up. "Dismissed."
"Sir," said Jack, approaching Hammond once the others had left.
"What's on your mind, Colonel?"
"This isn't really the sort of mission we, I mean SG-1, normally get," said Jack.
"And you're wondering why?"
"Oh no, I get it. Goa'uld in the back of the neck, need to be sure, blah, blah - I get that, I'm just want you to know I appreciate having any missions at all."
"You're welcome," said Hammond. "But you'll need to thank Colonel Maybourne as well. It was his report on the tests they ran after your recovery that convinced the President to allow you back into the field."
Jack looked surprised, and then slightly disgusted.
"Don't worry Colonel," chuckled Hammond. "I believe the summary of his report contained the statements 'effectively useless for the NID's research into anti-Goa'uld possession since no possession has taken place', and 'ongoing tests would be a waste of valuable resources'."
Hammond was smiling as he left Jack standing in the room alone.
"Useless, wow," mumbled Jack. "I think I really hate that guy."
Jack watched the confused former members of Seth's cult leave the compound with satisfaction. The plan went almost perfectly, with the only problem being Daniel accidentally infecting himself with the Nish'ta gas.
Seth was unconscious and waiting for the NID to pick him up, along and the several truck-loads of gear they had captured.
"Ow," said Daniel, sitting up. "Did you Zat me?"
"Had to Danny-boy," replied O'Neill happily. "You were a bit high on Seth's gas."
"Oh," said Daniel, rubbing his head.
"Yeah, it was fun for a while, having you worship Carter and all, but eventually I had to get you out of it, or she would never have gotten anything done."
"What? Worship… You didn't," said Daniel.
"Couldn't help myself," admitted Jack, smiling. "It's Maybourne's fault. He put the idea in my head when he told us how much the NID wanted this gas."
"Yeah, about that. I'm not really comfortable with them getting a hold of it," said Daniel.
"Me either," said Jack.
They both knew the NID was not immune to corruption. An internal investigation started by Maybourne was turning up several issues that would make a conspiracy nut's head spin.
"He's on our side, right?" asked Daniel. "Maybourne that is."
"I hope so, Daniel. I hope so."
NID DETENTION FACILITY (UNKNOWN PLANET)
"Mr Seth," asked Harry coming to stand in front of the glass wall separating him from the prisoner. "My name is Colonel Harry Maybourne. How are you today?"
"I am your GOD. Let me out of here or I will torture your family for an eternity!" screamed the enraged Goa'uld, eyes glowing brightly.
"You can quit the act," said Harry. "I'm here to make a deal."
The apparently enraged Goa'uld suddenly relaxed and sat down on the edge of the uncomfortable bed that was one of his cell's few furnishings.
"Sorry," he said. "Old habits and all that. So how can I help you, Colonel? I am guessing you want the formula for the Nish'ta?"
"Amongst other things, including the Zat'nik'tels, yes," admitted Maybourne. "It's proven very useful when it comes to interrogating foreign spies."
"And turning them too," laughed Seth. "At least, that's been my experience. So what are you willing to pay? My freedom?"
"Of course not," said Harry. "Your list of crimes is far too long, unless you can make amends by giving us all the technology we need to defend ourselves from your brethren."
"My brethren," spat Seth, "they are no more my people than you humans. For a thousand years I have been stranded-"
"Don't bother trying with the 'my enemy's enemy' gambit," dismissed Maybourne.
A slight flicker of rage showed on Seth's face at the interruption, but he quickly recovered.
"In return for explaining how to manufacture the Nish'ta and your ongoing help with deciphering Goa'uld technology, we are prepared to keep you alive."
"This is not living," growled Seth, gesturing to his tiny cell with a free arm. "It is torture. I am going insane with boredom."
"You have a television," pointed out Maybourne.
"Showing thirty year old shows," said Seth. "While I do enjoy Lucy, I am seriously missing my daytime soap operas."
"I'm sure you can understand we don't want any of you gaining relevant information about Earth's current situation," said Harry, smiling.
"So, you have more of my kind imprisoned here then," said Seth smugly. "Goa'uld who are ignorant of Earth, unlike me. Very interesting."
Harry's smile disappeared and a frown creased his brow in annoyance at his slip.
"Yes, and we will be using them to check anything you tell us," he said. "Understand they will also be helping us, so anything you 'accidentally' get wrong or leave out will be found."
"I'm afraid I will be little help once you have the details of the gas," he said. "I have never really been that technically minded, otherwise I would have built a ship and left for an even more remote part of the Galaxy centuries ago."
"But you have the knowledge," stated Maybourne. "Your racial memory."
"Yes, but that does not mean I understand it," explained Seth. "It is like having a library where you can look up anything you want, but that doesn't mean you know what it means, or even where to find that knowledge to begin with. There is literally thousands of years of day to day living, like rows of pulp fictions and trashy romance novels filling up the space between the occasional decent book – if we take the library analogy further."
"I see," said Maybourne.
"So, if I tell you what you want to know about the Nish'ta, you will no longer need me," said Seth. "That does not encourage me to help you."
"Do you have a better option?" asked Maybourne. "You will not be set free, not on Earth or any other world."
"What matters it to you if I go to another planet?" asked Seth. "You will have your gas, and your world will be rid of me."
"We can be rid of you very easily," said Maybourne. "And our scientists would get a lot out of testing exactly how you are able to heal and control your host. Until you die, that is, and then we have your sarcophagus…"
Seth's eyes flashes briefly.
"What do you propose then, Colonel?" asked the former cult leader.
"You will help us produce the gas, and explain everything you know about it, then we will upgrade your accommodation. Occasionally we will ask you about technology or planets we encounter, you will tell us what you can. There is a lot of translating we need done too. So long as you continue to work for us, you will be treated well."
"And if I don't, I will die," stated Seth. "So I am a slave then."
"Yes," said Maybourne. "I think you'll find it is the most preferable option, since another choice we have is to sell you to a System Lord – I understand there is a decently sized price on your head."
With that, he turned and walked away, passing through several thick steel doors and checkpoints before reaching his next prisoner.
"Hello again, Klorel," he said.
"My father will burn your world and feast on the livers of your young," screamed Klorel.
"Your father is dead," said Harry. "He was tortured by Sokar and died after trying to claim Kal Mah."
"Lies," screamed the teenage boy.
Harry gestured to the television which suddenly switched to show the video of Apophis's demise.
"Nobody is coming for you," said Harry. "There is no escape. We have already kept you alive for far too long without any return. This is your last chance."
"You will not kill me," claimed Klorel. "Colonel O'Neill would not permit you to murder this host."
"You claim to have crushed Skaara anyway," said Harry. "And Colonel O'Neill doesn't get any say in this. He is just a Colonel, like me. That's a rank in our military, and not a very high one. Our bosses make the decisions and we follow orders. Now we have been very patient with you, but that patience has run out."
Klorel couldn't tear his eyes away from the looping video of Apophis's last moments.
"What's it going to be?"
"You wish me to take a new host, a murderer condemned to death, to uncover the secrets you have been unable to get with the Nish'ta?"
"And what do I get out of this, besides my continued existence?"
"The pleasure of taking a new host," said Maybourne. "I understand you Goa'uld like that sort of thing."
"That is insufficient," said Klorel, finally turning back to look at Maybourne.
"If you assist us with some translations and check some of our research, I will see about getting you better accommodation and food," offered Harry.
"I will consider it," said Klorel, after a moment, turning back to watch the television still showing repeats of Apophis's death.
Harry nodded and left.
He knew Klorel would eventually accept, but he also had no doubt the Goa'uld would do something to kill Skaara before he left to take the new host. Hopefully the Sarcophagus would be able to undo whatever the Goa'uld did.
For a moment he considered the fact he was selling another human being's soul, subjecting him to torture far worse than anything mere humans could do, but then he again hardened his resolve. The animal was going to be executed anyway. At least this way they might be able to save Skaara.
And Jack would owe him – big time.
Of course, he had no qualms about what was going to happen to Klorel once the transfer was complete. They had other Goa'uld, and the repaired Asgard device needed to be tested, as did the Reetou based anti-Goa'uld/Jaffa area denial system.
Better they lose one of the more recalcitrant ones like Klorel, rather than someone like Seth, who had basically existed in relatively peaceful coexistence on Earth for a thousand years and was much more likely to co-operate.
ASGARD CAPITAL SHIP
"I apologise for taking you by surprise, but I have come on a matter of great importance," explained Agard Supreme commander Thor.
"We're in orbit around Earth, right?" asked O'Neill.
"You know, we have satellites, telescopes. They can see things like spaceships," said O'Neill.
"Our ships have never been detected here before," said Thor.
"You haven't been around for a while, have you?" asked O'Neill.
Suddenly a red light began blinking furiously and Thor jumped, apparently shocked.
"It appears I have indeed been detected," said Thor, working the console in front of him. "There are numerous small ships on approach and two Goa'uld Ha'taks moving out from your moon. I am impressed."
"Yeah, you might want to let me talk to them, and pretty quickly, since there are likely a few guns warming up on the planet's surface around now too."
O'Neill wasn't sure, if he was reading the little grey alien's face correctly, but he appeared to be quite surprised.
"We are in no danger," assured Thor.
"Still, you don't really want them to get hostile, would you?"
The alien worked his console for a moment more.
"We are now in contact with the approaching vessels, and the facility where I found you," said Thor.
"-I repeat, Alien vessel, you are in Earth Space. Stand down your weapons and shields and move away from the planet or prepare to be attacked. This is your final warning," came the ominous threat from hidden speakers.
"Hey guys, Jack O'Neill here – from SG-1," said Jack. "It's er, all okay. The ship belongs to the Asgard – Thor. He is a friendly, and he is here to tell us about, er, what was it again - A matter of great importance."
It took several more minutes before everything was verified and the Earth defences stood down to a state of wary readiness. Thor had to move his ship to the far side of the moon and the two Ha'taks remained near.
Then the real scare came.
SGC BRIEFING ROOM
"Why would the Goa'uld agree to negotiate?" asked Hammond. "Surely they are so arrogant they cannot think of us a threat."
"Well we did kill Hathor and capture a lot of her assets," said Jack.
"The Goa'uld fear the Asgard," said Teal'c, "and respect their power greatly. If the Asgard have called for a negotiation, the system Lords will comply."
"They'll be after something for themselves," said Daniel. "That's the point of negotiations."
"So we are going to have the heads of the forces we are currently at war with within our grasps and we won't be allowed to touch them?" asked Carter.
"What about if the negotiations fail?" asked Hammond. "What sort of fallout are we expecting?"
"Total annihilation, according to Thor," said Jack. "The Goa'uld will send their whole fleet in."
"I do not believe they would do such a thing," said Teal'c. "To do so would leave their own planets unprotected and vulnerable to rival Goa'uld."
"But they could sent a lot more than we can handle," said Daniel.
"Thor doesn't believe we could stop a couple of dozen Ha'taks and a million Jaffa."
"He's right," answered Maybourne. "We only have two ion cannons. To get global coverage with overlapping fields of fire would take 38 of them, and even then it would be difficult. Our infantry weapons are superior, but the upgraded F18s are not a match for a Death glider, and we are still working out production issues for the newer planes."
"And the captured ones?"
"Still too many problems. We had one on a test flight and lost control of it. They apparently have some sort of boomerang security built into them and return home if an enemy tries to use them, but even if we had the planes, we just don't have enough pilots for an attack that size. Even with the Virtual Reality training the Game Keeper is giving the recruits we've collected from other worlds, there just aren't enough people, and our Artificial Intelligence isn't good enough yet."
"Ma'chello?" asked Hammond.
"Good for sabotage, not a stand up war, and don't even bother asking about the Reetou, they are just as likely to kill us as the Goa'uld."
"Well we did bomb a sizable portion of their population," said Daniel.
A flash of light swept the room and a small grey alien was suddenly seated at the table with them.
"Greetings," said Thor.
"Supreme Commander, thank you for coming," said Hammond. "We have just been discussing our options and it would seem like we have none."
"You are a very tenacious species," said Thor. "You progress has been nothing short of astounding. The High Command was most impressed with your ability to detect my ship, as was I."
"But it's not enough," said Hammond.
"No, you cannot hope to defend your planet from a combined attack," said Thor. "The System Lords have agreed to negotiate. They will arrive in four days via the Stargate."
"Here? As in Earth 'Here'?" asked Jack, surprised.
"It is customary for such negotiations to take place on the planet in question. Three representatives from the System Lords will arrive by Stargate. You must be prepared to speak on behalf of all the inhabitants of Earth," said Thor.
"Uh, well maybe not me personally…" said Jack.
"We have chosen you, O'Neill, to represent your planet at the proceedings."
"All right, now see, that could be a mistake. You see, Doctor Jackson here is an extremely educated and articulated man, very well versed in all the languages…"
"You have led your people into the galaxy through the Stargate. You are our choice, O'Neill. Further instructions to aid you in preparation will follow."
Then Thor was gone in another flash of light.
"Well there you go," said Jack. "We're screwed. Maybe Robot Jack could take my place. He owes me one for not spoiling the World Series for him."
"You know," said Maybourne. "I understand the System Lords agreeing to come to the table because the Asgard told them to, but we have to consider, why are the Asgard asking them, instead of just telling them the Earth is now protected?"
"Their ships are apparently tied up in their own galaxy," said Jack. "Something bigger and nastier than the Goa'uld, which is frankly, a terrifying thought."
"I read your report, but it doesn't fit. The Goa'uld are scared of the Asgard and barely test them every now and then, but why do the Asgard need to negotiate at all unless they are completely unable to respond if the Goa'uld get serious?"
"The Goa'uld would not allow another race to dictate to them unless they were certain they could not prevail," said Teal'c.
"So, it's a bluff?" asked Carter. "The Asgard can't enforce the Protected Planets treaty, but have the Goa'uld convinced they can?"
"Our analysts say they probably only have a few ships in this Galaxy. So long as the Goa'uld are mostly behaving themselves, no problem, but if anybody starts something serious, their deficiencies are going to be glaringly obvious," said Harry.
"So, what, they need us to go along with the show because if their buff is called we are all sunk," summed up Daniel. "What if they just don't really care that much? Or if they are motivated by some other concept we don't, or can't understand?"
"Then they wouldn't have bothered calling for these negotiations," said Harry. "They didn't include Earth before, so why start now? Because we have taken the fight to the Goa'uld instead of sitting on our hands like the Tollans? Or maybe they want to test us, see if we are worth being allies with."
"What do we do?" asked Daniel. "Attack the Goa'uld? Or see if the Asgard can negotiate something that doesn't end up in millions of deaths?"
"We negotiate," said Hammond. "That means you, Jack."
"Yah," said Jack unenthusiastically.
"We should have a backup plan," said Harry thoughtfully as he started digging through the files on his hand held computer. "Nothing personal, Jack."
"Run away?" asked Jack. "And none taken."
"Not quite, although I think it would be prudent to move a few more people and assets off world while we still can," said Harry, apparently finding what he was looking for. "Since the system Lords are coming here, we might have an opportunity to utilise one of Ma'Chello's inventions after all."
"We can't violate the Asgard's protection," said Daniel. "We would destroy any possibility of an alliance."
"It would not be honourable to do so," agreed Teal'c. "And will surely cement the Goa'uld's resolve to collectively attack us."
"We won't attack them while they are here," said Harry, handing over his tablet. "But we will never get an opportunity like this again."
"That line, you know, the one we aren't meant to cross, it's getting fainter and fainter all of the time," said Daniel passing the tablet to Jack.
"The worms? You have got to be kidding me," said Jack disgustedly.
"They aren't as indiscriminate anymore," said Harry.
"What exactly are you suggesting, Colonel?" asked Hammond.
"If the negotiations break down, we send one of Ma'Chello's more insidious creations home with the System Lords. They are programmed to seek out and kill only Goa'uld, driving them mad in the process, and will activate only after a suitable amount of time has elapsed - a few days or even weeks maybe. We can make it random to reduce the chance they are linked back to us."
"It will take the Goa'uld many days to make arrangements for a combined attack," said Teal'c. "It may be months before their ships reach Earth."
"And how will you send these worms," asked Hammond, taking the tablet passed from Carter.
"Ma'chello is a genius at manufacturing fake Goa'uld devices. We could either plant a device on them, or swap something they bring with them with a fake containing worms. The Goa'uld will not become 'infected' until after they have left Earth. Hell, the damn things could probably crawl through the Stargate on their own, if needs be. Ma'Chello has them phasing to full invisibility now."
"Or maybe we could put some into the towels and hope they steal them," said Jack sarcastically.
"Actually, the temptation of taking something from the base may be too great for them," said Carter. "Maybe not towels, but a small hand held computer or something else they could easily remove."
"Oh come on, Carter," said Jack. "You aren't going along with this."
"What about the Tok'ara?" asked Daniel. "This weapon will target them too, won't it?"
"I'll clear it with the President, along with your appointment as ambassador, Colonel O'Neill.
"Major Carter, you are to work with Colonel Maybourne in coming up with a way to get these device back to the Goa'uld's bases. It must be undetectable and untraceable to us. You'll also need a way to warn the Tok'ra should we proceed.
"Teal'c and Daniel, we'll need you to help Colonel O'Neill prepare for this negotiation. That includes making sure the facilities are adequate. I'll assign a couple of teams to boost security and help you with your research.
"Colonel Maybourne, while I have grave misgivings, I think your plan has merit, but only, and I repeat only if the negotiations break down," said Hammond.
SGC CONFERENCE ROOM
"I thought we were all going to speak the same language here," said Jack to the two screaming Goa'uld.
Cronus angrily leapt to his feet.
"Gonach!" he yelled at O'Neill before storming out of the room, with Nirrti and Yu following close behind.
"Well that didn't take long," said Jack. "Is it over?"
"No," said Jack calmly.
He was surprised there wasn't an immediate uproar, since he was interrupting them, again.
"Do the System Lords accept the Asgard proposal?" asked Thor.
"I said no," repeated Jack. "Earth does not agree, and will not abide by the terms of your treaty."
He was pretty sure he could hear Simms banging his professional negotiator head against the wall of the next room, but Jack was adamant.
"We do not, and will never, agree that the human species exists for the purpose of serving the Goa'uld as hosts and slaves," he said, staring at the Goa'uld with seriousness none of them had seen from him before. "You can forget about any treaty that has that clause in it."
"You will be wiped from the face of the universe," growled Yu.
"So be it," said Jack standing up. "Better to die free than live as slaves."
"Colonel O'Neill, I may be able to convince the Goa'uld to return to the negotiating table," said Thor.
"Not going to happen while that slave thing is in there," said Jack. "Even the President agrees. Great guy, glad I voted for him."
"I urge you to reconsider," said Thor. "We will not protect you and risk the other planets in the Treaty."
"We get it," said Jack, standing up straighter. "But it doesn't matter. Let them come."
"Then it is good bye Jack O'Neill. I am saddened to have reached this point, but my orders from High Command are very clear. We will not engage any Goa'uld force attacking Earth."
"Thank you, Thor," said Jack sincerely. "Earth appreciates your efforts and your friendship. If we survive this, we would hope to remain friends, if not allies."
"Your race has great potential," said Thor. "I wish you luck in the upcoming battles."
Jack nodded and was encompassed in a flash of light before suddenly standing back in the SGC control room.
"Is it done?" he asked, watching the gate dial the first of the locations for the departing Goa'uld.
"Yes," said Daniel. "But I really feel conflicted about this."
"So do I, Danny-boy," said Jack.
"Well I don't," said Maybourne. "And for what it's worth, I completely agree with what you did, Jack."
"Yeah, well let's hope it doesn't mean we all die," said Jack.
The whoosh and light of the Stargate filled the room for a second. It had barely faded before Yu was marching up the ramp.
One by one, each of the system Lords left, Nirrti stopping to blow a kiss towards the control room where she could obviously see Jack standing.
As soon as the last Goa'uld left, the base burst into activity. The gate started redialling and teams towing large, floating platforms filled with equipment began pouring into the room ready to depart through the wormhole once it was established.
"Well I'm Ringing back up to Moon Base," said Maybourne. "We have the Goa'uld manufacturing equipment from the ships running at maximum capacity to get as many sets of the new armour made as we can, but it needs constant attention to keep the supply line going, and new updates are always in the wings."
"Korel's Stargate is operational?" asked Carter.
"Yes. We are receiving raw materials from our off world mining facilities directly now. Not having to ring or ship everything in has sped up production considerably. We have all three Ha'Taks fully operational and ready to engage any hostiles that get within range of Earth. Currently we are making spares to ship down to Earth for the last line defence, if it comes to that."
"Good luck, Maybourne," said Jack holding out his hand
Despite his person dislike for some of the things Mayborne had done, he knew the NID commander would likely be amongst the first to engage any hostile fleet before it reached Earth.
"To you too, Jack, and the rest of SG-1," said Harry shaking each of their hands in turn. "If we survive this, it will be because of you and your team, but hey, let's hope Ma'Chello's worms cause enough confusion and chaos that the attack never happens."
"Yeah, there is always that."
Days of frantic activity turned to weeks of still tense but less panicked work. Production of weapons and vehicles increased so fast that raw materials were the limiting factor. Almost daily, new designs and improvements to weapon systems were rolled out, with the oldest versions getting recycled if the raw materials were not available.
Committees and high ranking government officials argued endlessly about disclosing the Stargate, but in the end the decision to avoid a panic until the last moment won out over preparing the world for an invasion. Without knowing when it was coming, there was very little to be gained aside from a great deal of internal strife that they did not need right now.
No sign of an imminent Goa'uld attack appeared. More weeks passed, and slowly information began filtering back to Earth and its allies.
The Goa'uld were fighting.
Huge battles, the likes of which the galaxy had never seen before, raged across the heavens. Fleets of ships fell upon each other, often for no discernible reason. Territories changed hands so fast that nobody could keep track, with new Goa'uld 'Gods' sweeping to power one day only to be wiped from existence the next. Betrayal and infighting was rampant.
It was chaos, and from Earth's point of view, glorious.
The ancient society fell into ruin as Ma'Chello's worms passed from Goa'uld to Goa'uld, sending each one destructively insane before their rivals would sweep in to claim all they could from their defeated enemy. With each victory, worms passed from the losers to the winners, starting the cycle again.
By the time all of the worms had succumbed to destruction, either by their hosts being vaporised in battle or by other misadventure, barely a handful of powerful Goa'uld remained.
The immediate threat to earth posed by the Goa'uld was over. Earth had won.
It was time for the Stargate to go public.
"So," said Jack, scoffing his blue jello. "Disclosure eh? How's that going?"
"Hmm," said Daniel, sipping at the cup of coffee he had been nursing for the last ten minutes.
"That good eh? What's the latest plan? An advert during the Superbowl?"
"I think I'd actually prefer that," said Daniel. "No, the latest plan, the one that appears to have the most support, is to slowly introduce the idea of the Stargate through a science fiction television series."
"You're kidding," said Jack.
"No, no I'm not," said Daniel glumly. "There was apparently already something similar under development, so it is going to be hijacked and used to get people used to the idea. After a few years, the truth will slowly be revealed, and everyone will know the stories and history of the SGC already."
"That's possibly the dumbest idea yet," said Jack. "I like it."
"What?" spluttered Daniel.
"It's just stupid enough to work," shrugged Jack. "More importantly, who do they have playing me?"
MOON BASE 1
Harry Maybourne was not a nice person.
In fact, many people would call him one ruthless, determined, and cunning son-of-a-bitch.
As he watched the newest Earth dreadnought lift from the ship yard of Moon Base 1, he felt pretty good about that.
In the aftermath of the Goa'uld Wars, Jaffa rallied to Bra'tac's call to freedom, seizing the ships and planets previously commanded by a stream of supposed Gods. Even the most ardent believers could not ignore so many 'Gods' dying, often after publically going mad. Their faith shaken, Bra'tac's words found new traction and gained wide support amongst the legions.
Some planets rose in rebellion, declaring themselves independent of any other. Others banded together so their captured Goa'uld ships and weapons could combine to create defence forces large enough to deter any other would-be rulers from attacking.
Few planets had the technology or resources to go head to head with Earth and its allies, and the stories of how the Goa'uld had fallen because they challenged the might of the Tau'ri kept many from even seriously thinking about it.
Earth built ships were getting to be amongst the most powerful in the Galaxy, their combination of technologies producing vessels far greater than the sum of their parts. With primary weapons based on Tollan Ion cannons, shields a hybrid of several types including the one captured on Hathor's base, secondary weapons that were basically scaled up Ha'tak canons, and incredibly advanced missiles of unimaginable speed and power, Earth's small fleet was to be respected.
From the smallest fighter drone, to the battleships now rivalling Ha'taks in size, every Tau'ri ship was a deadly, precision-built machine commanded by skilful professionals and cunning artificial intelligences.
Earth's infantry was admired by everyone, not just because of their advanced weapons and armour, or their superb training, but because the warriors themselves embodied a spirit rarely seen by generations of downtrodden humans.
And yet, despite their fearsome reputation, many planets found the Tau'ri easy to deal with. They traded fairly and helped for no reason other than they could. Their medicine and civil technology was as great as their military technology, and they were not shy about sharing it with others who were in need.
There were conquers, emperors, kings, and every form of government imaginable, all rising into the power vacuum left by the Goa'uld.
Earth was right there with them.
And Harry Maybourne, that son of a bitch, could rightly claim to be a big reason why.