"So, am I a better kisser than the alien?"
Jack watched as the shock on Daniel's face turned to anger, and his expression closed down into a cold mask.
"Daniel?" Jack murmured uncertainly.
Daniel pushed him roughly away, and hissed, "This is neither the time nor the place, Jack."
Then he stalked back towards the door to the conference room. Jack reached out to stop him but, at that moment, a shrill wailing noise pierced the air, stopping them both in their tracks. They may have been on an alien world, but Jack recognised the sound of an alarm when he heard it, and he was immediately on alert for possible danger.
The door opened before Daniel, and he was forced to step aside as all the Galians poured out into the hallway, Carter and Teal'c amongst them.
Jayven stopped by Jack and Daniel, and informed them, "That is the signal that someone is opening the Portal from the other side. Will you come to find out who it is?"
Like a mother duck with her brood, Jayven led SG-1 back the way they had come, in the wake of the other Galians.
They reached the Galian gate room, or Portal Chamber as Jack had heard them refer to it, and found a similar gathering to the one they had seen when they sent the MALP through earlier in the day.
Admiral Dant turned at their entrance and gestured for Jack to join him in front of the gate. As Jack came in view of the MALP, the voice of General Hammond sounded loudly in the room.
"Ah, Colonel O'Neill. I'm sorry to interrupt proceedings, but the Tok'ra have come back to us with some urgent information about the items you brought back from P5J-627. Your familiarity with the defences on the planet makes SG-1 the best team to act on the information. I also wondered if our new allies might be interested in hearing about the Tok'ra's findings, since they were involved in the initial mission as well."
Jack glanced over at Daniel, expecting him to jump in with a response to the General's suggestion, but the younger man was standing off to one side, his attention seemingly taken up by his boots.
"Okay, sir," Jack replied. "We'll talk it over with our hosts and head home in a few minutes."
It was actually half an hour before the Stargate activated and the technician at the controls announced SG-1's signal.
General Hammond watched as his premier team emerged from the open wormhole. Colonel O'Neill came through first, as usual, followed closely by Major Carter and Teal'c. Doctor Jackson was a second or two behind, and he was accompanied by a startling, silver-haired youth Hammond assumed must be the enigmatic Jayven. Two more figures emerged from the event horizon and then the wormhole disengaged with a whoosh.
The Galian team all wore matching uniforms of a deep blue with silver markings on the left breast and right hip. However, what struck General Hammond most about them was their apparent youth. He knew their leader had been killed on their first mission, but the remaining three looked so young that General Hammond felt a nostalgic ache when he looked at them. He remembered well enough what it had been like to set out on his own first mission, and he admired their obvious willingness to carry on despite the tragedy that had struck their first foray out into the galaxy.
Heading down the stairs, General Hammond walked briskly into the gate room to greet their guests.
"Welcome back, SG-1. I'm sorry to have to cut your trip short, but I thought you'd want to hear what the Tok'ra have to say."
"No problem, General," Colonel O'Neill replied with his customary grin, although Hammond noticed it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Our new friends here are just as intrigued as we are to find out more about what that snakehead is up to." He paused for a moment, as if waiting for something, then sighed quietly and ploughed on. "Speaking of whom, may I present Commander Mikar Ravell of the First Galian Exploration Unit, and his team, Office Katra Penthar, and Jayven Melawei."
As each of the Galians stepped forward and shook his hand, Hammond suddenly realised what had seemed odd about Colonel O'Neill's speech. It was the fact that Colonel O'Neill had made it, since introductions were usually Dr Jackson's remit. The General glanced round and spotted the archaeologist lurking on the ramp and was surprised to see his eyes downcast.
However, he had no time to investigate this uncharacteristic behaviour, since he had guests to cater for and a briefing to set up. He was just glad the Tok'ra representative who was waiting in the briefing room was Jacob Carter, who would be far more likely to endure the delay with equanimity than most of the other Tok'ra General Hammond had met.
He addressed Commander Ravell. "I apologise for the rush, but the information we've received is fairly time sensitive. Would you object to coming straight to the briefing to hear what the Tok'ra representative has to say?"
Ravell responded immediately with a smile. "Not at all, General. Jayven has explained to us the nature and origins of the Tok'ra and we would be honoured to meet their spokesperson."
Mikar was impressed by what he had seen of the Tau'ri complex. Their defences and safeguards appeared very different to those on Galia, but no less stringent. He saw men armed with Tau'ri guns wherever he turned, but they did not appear threatening to those deemed guests on the planet. The Tau'ri commander, General Hammond, was polite and respectful, yet practical and expedient in his request of them. If first impressions were to be trusted, Mikar would be returning home with a very favourable report of their new allies. It was no less than he had expected, having met their premier team, SG-1.
The young Galian commander observed his newfound friends as he followed them out of the Tau'ri Portal Chamber and up some stairs. He noted that Daniel had been unusually silent since they had been called to Earth, and he seemed to be pointedly ignoring O'Neill, which the other man had apparently noticed as well. Daniel walked close to Jayven, and Mikar wondered if they were carrying on some private conversation through the extraordinary bond they had formed.
If Mikar had to guess, he would say the sudden lack of communication between Daniel and O'Neill had something to do with the stunt Jayven had pulled on Ephraz' planet. Mikar had thought at the time that Jayven's actions were fraught with the possibility of causing problems, and he fervently hoped whatever damage Jayven had done could be rectified before it adversely affected their contact with SG-1.
Further thought was interrupted by their arrival at their destination, a room overlooking the Tau'ri Portal, in which a man dressed in strange clothes awaited them.
The man rose at their entrance, and a wide smile graced his worn features as Major Carter stepped forward to greet him.
"Dad!" she exclaimed. "What a surprise! I wasn't expecting you to be the one to report the Tok'ra's findings."
"I requested the assignment," the man replied, his tone warm as he took Major Carter's hands in both of his own. "It's good to see you, Sam."
General Hammond broke in at that point, and made all the introductions, presenting the man as Jacob Carter, host to the Tok'ra Selmac. When he was finished, Jacob stepped forwards in front of Jayven. His head dropped downwards momentarily and, when he brought it back up, his whole demeanour had changed, becoming more formal and upright. When he spoke, the timbre of his voice was unnaturally deep, reminding Mikar of Ephraz and making him realise the symbiote was now in control.
"It is an honour to meet you all," Selmac said. "We of the Tok'ra have heard stories of the Galaya and their defeat of the Goa'uld, but we have never before made contact with Galia. I believe any alliance between our peoples would be beneficial to all concerned in our continuing conflict against the Goa'uld. I hope this joint venture will be the first step in a long and successful journey for all of us."
They all sat down; the Galians and Daniel on one side of the table, the rest of SG-1 and Jacob on the other, with General Hammond at the end. All faces turned to the Tok'ra, waiting for him to explain the information he had brought.
It was Jacob who spoke. "It turns out that Ephraz may be further along with his research than we thought. The data pad you brought back from his lab details a device he's developed that could prove extremely dangerous to the Tok'ra if it were to fall into the hands of the System Lords. It seems that Ephraz has been modifying existing Goa'uld technology and adapting it to new uses - the information says that he's found a way to turn an ashrak torture device into what is essentially a Tok'ra detector."
Mikar didn't know what an ashrak was but, from the look that passed over Major Carter's face at the word, he gathered it probably wasn't anything good.
Major Carter swallowed hard and asked, "What do you mean, Dad?"
"According to his notes, Ephraz has somehow identified a genetic marker, carried down from the first Tok'ra queen, which all Tok'ra carry," Jacob continued. "The ashrak device targets the symbiote within a host and the modification apparently allows the Goa'uld controlling it to ascertain whether the symbiote under scrutiny is Tok'ra or Goa'uld." He paused briefly and looked round the table. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you that if this technology becomes available to the System Lords, it would prove fatal to our undercover operatives and could potentially threaten our entire campaign against the Goa'uld." He paused again and looked at O'Neill, as if expecting the Colonel to say something, but O'Neill was looking across at Daniel, whose attention was fixed on his hands, clasped in front of him.
Once again, it was Major Carter who spoke up in response. "What do you want us to do?"
Jacob smiled at her in gratitude for her show of support. "Well, I realise you were somewhat under pressure on your last visit, and we're more than grateful for what you managed to take from the lab on your way out, but it doesn't exactly match up. We've got the data pad for this Tok'ra detector, but not the device itself, and we've got several devices and chemicals with nothing to tell us what they are. Ideally, we'd like you to go back to the planet, shut down Ephraz' operation for good, and collect as much of his research as you can in the process."
O'Neill finally spoke, revealing that he had been paying attention after all.
"Sounds like a plan to me. I don't mind telling you it left a sour taste in my mouth to let that snakehead carry on with whatever he was doing." He looked over at Mikar, the understanding of a fellow soldier in his eyes. "I bet you'd like a crack at taking him down, too, wouldn't you?"
Mikar nodded grimly, the memory of his leader and friend's death rising unbidden in his mind. He turned to General Hammond. "I would be honoured to offer the services of myself and my team on this mission, General. I ask that you consider it as a joint operation, cementing the alliance between Galia, the Tau'ri and the Tok'ra."
The General nodded his approval. "That sounds like an excellent idea, but I would have to put it to my superiors before I could authorise a mission on that scale." He turned to Jacob. "How urgent is it that we act on your information?"
Jacob appeared to think about this for a moment, then replied, "Well, it's only been a little over a day since the lab was hit." Mikar was stunned; had it really only been the previous day that Hiran was still alive, and he'd never even heard of the Tau'ri? "I don't think Ephraz will be able to regroup all that quickly - he doesn't have the resources. And it'll take a while for news of the attack to reach any of the System Lords. I can't see that another 24 hours will do any harm. Is that enough time to get authorisation from the higher-ups, George?"
General Hammond nodded. "Alright, people, it's been a long couple of days, so I suggest you all take the rest of the day off. Dr Jackson, if you could get our guests settled for the night?"
Daniel glanced up and ducked his head in a brief acknowledgement, but still said nothing.
The General continued. "I'll make the necessary calls, and we'll meet up again at 0900 tomorrow morning, hopefully for a pre-mission briefing." With that, he rose, signalling the end of the meeting.
Mikar caught Katra's eye, and saw excitement in her expression. She thrived on danger and was just as eager to get revenge on Ephraz as Mikar himself. He was glad of her passion, but knew he would have to keep a close eye on her if they did go on the mission, in order to ensure she didn't get carried away.
General Hammond disappeared off into a side room, and the three members of the Galian Exploration Unit followed Daniel out into the main part of the base, leaving the others behind.
"Looks like you've found yourselves some excellent new allies, there, Jack," Jacob said after the Galians had exited the room. "Even if only half the rumours I've heard about the Galaya are true, they're still a force to be reckoned with. I assume the stories about their psychic powers are somewhat exaggerated, though."
Jack grimaced slightly at these words, much to Jacob's surprise, then muttered darkly, "Whatever they can or can't do, they've certainly got a fan in Daniel."
Sam spoke up. "We don't know the extent of their powers yet, but yesterday Jayven utilised both touch telepathy and telekinesis by proxy during the mission."
Before Jacob could respond to this revelation, Jack told Sam and Teal'c, "Get some rest, kids. No matter what gets decided, we'll likely be making an assault on Ephraz' lab tomorrow. Good to see you, Jacob." Turning on his heel, Jack left the room.
Jacob grabbed the opportunity to ask a question that had been eating at him since the start of the meeting. "What's going on with Jack and Daniel?"
Sam looked confused. "What do you mean, Dad?" Jacob knew his astro-physicist daughter had never been overly observant when it came to people, but he couldn't believe she hadn't noticed.
"Well, for a start, Daniel didn't say a word for the entire meeting, which is strange enough on its own. But it looked like Jack was trying to get his attention, and Daniel was deliberately ignoring him. Have they had a fight or something?"
"Not as far as I know," Sam replied, her expression now troubled. "Daniel got injected with something on the planet yesterday, which knocked him out when we got back, and he's had a stressful day setting up the alliance with the Galians today, so he's probably exhausted. I don't think he and the Colonel have had any disagreements lately. Do you, Teal'c?"
"I do not know of any conflict between O'Neill and Daniel Jackson," the Jaffa intoned, "but I, too, have observed the current tension between them. I cannot explain it, but I do believe something has occurred to set them at odds with one another."
"I hope it doesn't cause problems on the mission," Jacob said, but Sam was quick to dismiss that idea.
"They would never let any personal differences affect a mission." She was adamant. "If there is a problem, I'm sure they'll deal with it."
Jack walked into Daniel's office without knocking, striding straight over to the desk and leaning over the seated archaeologist.
"Why are you avoiding me, Daniel?" he demanded in a tone that was designed to brook no argument. Unfortunately, Daniel didn't seem to know that, since the sarcasm positively dripped from his quiet reply.
"I couldn't possibly imagine, Jack."
Despite the fact that Daniel hadn't even looked up from whatever he was working on, Jack refused to be discouraged.
"Well, the hiding is over - I've cornered you and we are going to talk about what happened on Galia."
Daniel closed his journal, rose smoothly from his chair and started to put on his jacket, still not even looking at Jack.
"I don't think we are," he countered calmly. "I'm very tired and I'm going home now."
Jack moved fast to cut him off and stood in the doorway, one arm stretched out to block Daniel's escape. He wasn't about to let this situation between them fester any longer, even if he didn't precisely know how he wanted to resolve it.
"Oh no you don't," Jack declared, and his voice sounded harsh in his own ears. "You'll damn well stop running away, and talk to me."
Now, Daniel suddenly looked up to meet his gaze, and Jack was shocked by the anger in his eyes.
"Oh, so that's the way it's going to be, is it? Now you've 'staked your claim', you get to order me around off duty as well as on? Well, think again, Colonel, because I'm not about to be anybody's beck and call boy, least of all yours."
With that, Daniel shoved Jack roughly out of the way and stalked off towards the elevators. Jack was too stunned by what had just happened to try and stop him.
Daniel punched the elevator call button with force and was relieved when the doors opened immediately. The last thing he wanted was to be stuck waiting, giving Jack enough time to follow him. He stepped into the elevator and pressed a floor button at random, at this point just wanting to get away. He really didn't feel like going home, but remaining on base wasn't very appealing either. As he contemplated a destination, he felt a gentle pressure in his mind and suddenly knew exactly where to go.
He had been rejecting all attempts by Jayven to communicate telepathically, ever since the incident with Jack in the hallway on Galia. Up until now, he hadn't wanted to discuss it with anyone, but now he felt the need for a friendly ear, and Jayven was the only one who knew about his feelings, not to mention being totally disassociated from the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy of the Air Force.
Deciding he'd rather speak face to face than mind to mind, Daniel pressed the appropriate button and waited for the elevator to deposit him on the floor where he had settled the Galians earlier. He reached Jayven's door but, before he couldknock, the now familiar voice sounded in his head.
:Come in, Daniel:
He obeyed and found Jayven sitting cross-legged in the centre of the bed with his eyes closed.
"I, uh, I'm not disturbing you, am I?" Daniel said uncertainly.
In response, Jayven opened his startling eyes, graced Daniel with a dazzling smile, and indicated the space next to him on the bed.
"Come, sit down," he invited, his physical voice washing over Daniel like a soothing balm and releasing a great part of his pent-up tension. Jayven waited until Daniel had settled himself wearily on the bed, then stated quietly, "You've been pushing me away."
Daniel didn't look at him, instead studying his hands. "I. I'm sorry. I needed some time to think."
"And now you need someone to talk to." There was no sense of recrimination in the words, only concern and caring, and then remorse. "But first I want to say how sorry I am."
That brought Daniel's head straight up to meet Jayven's gaze in confusion. "What do you have to be sorry about?"
The perception of Jayven's reply shouldn't have surprised Daniel, given his knowledge of the alien's abilities, but it did.
"It seems clear the consequences of my actions have been only to increase your unhappiness rather than removing it. I am sorry to have caused you further pain."
Daniel fell backwards to lie on the bed with a sigh. "It's not your fault, Jay. It's Jack. He - " Daniel paused, unsure of how to continue, before suddenly exploding, "He's such an ass!"
He caught a slight smile from Jayven, then the other man sobered and regarded him intently. "Will you tell me what happened? Perhaps I can help."
Daniel looked away, unable to stand the intensity of the silver gaze. "Well, he - uh, I - you see." He caught sight of Jayven holding up one hand out of the corner of his eye, and turned his head back to face his friend.
"You do not have to tell me in words if it is too difficult," Jayven said. "If you will let me." He reached out one slender hand towards Daniel's face, and Daniel nodded his permission before closing his eyes. He felt Jayven's fingers come to rest, just touching his cheek and forehead, and then suddenly Jayven was in his mind, like in the cell when they had worked together to open the door.
Daniel led Jayven through all the events from the scene in the corridor on Galia to the argument in his office only a few minutes before. When it was over, Daniel kept his eyes closed, and felt a slight aching loss as Jayven's mental presence and physical touch were removed.
There was a moment of silence, and then Jayven said, "He is frightened. He does not understanding the feelings he is suddenly experiencing, and he is reacting to an uncertain situation by trying to dominate it."
Daniel's eyes snapped open and he pushed himself up onto his elbows.
"How do you know that?" he demanded. "You haven't - "
"No, Daniel," Jayven interrupted, and there was a slight edge to his tone. "I would never invade someone's privacy by reading his mind without his permission. Besides," he continued more lightheartedly, "your Jack has been extremely careful to avoid touching me, so I couldn't have read his thoughts, even if I wanted to!"
Daniel managed a small smile at that, then sighed again. "My Jack? I don't think he's that by any stretch of the imagination."
"Oh, but he is," Jayven replied in all seriousness. "He's just not ready to admit it to himself yet. Give him time - he's not as strong as you are, he needs time to adjust."
"So, I just have to suck it up and wait for him to figure out what's going on in that thick head of his, is that it?" The words sounded petulant even as he uttered them.
Jayven smiled down affectionately at Daniel. "Sometimes, it is necessary to be patient in order to obtain the things we desire."
"Maybe we both need some space," Daniel murmured, collapsing back to lie flat on the bed again.
"This problem won't be resolved tonight, my friend," Jayven told him, "and you need to rest if you are to be alert for the mission tomorrow. Why don't you stay here tonight?"
Daniel didn't answer. He was lost in thoughts of what Jayven had said about Jack, and whether it would be possible for them to get past their problems and sort things out. He barely felt it when Jayven laid a hand over his eyes, but the waves of peace that flowed through the alien's touch permeated Daniel's very being, and he drifted off into dreamless sleep within moments.
Jack drove up the side of Cheyenne Mountain, not thinking about Daniel. He had been not thinking about Daniel all night and, in fact, was working so hard at not thinking about Daniel, that he could think of little else. And there was Daniel's car, parked in the exact spot where it had been the evening before, when Jack had left the mountain and deliberately not noticed it on his way out. Jack couldn't help but think - if Daniel's car had not moved, that likely meant that Daniel had not, in fact, gone home himself.
As he passed the security checkpoint, Jack felt a strange compulsion to confirm what he had already guessed. He put what he hoped was a slightly nonchalant swagger in his step and said to the airman on duty, "Dr Jackson pulled another all-nighter, I take it?"
The young soldier looked surprised that he had spoken, and it took him a moment to register the question. "Uh, I'll just check that for you, sir." He looked through the previous night's log, while Jack loomed over him, entertaining a small hope that somehow he might be wrong. "Uh, yes sir," the airman said eventually. "I mean, Dr Jackson didn't sign out yesterday, so he was here all night."
Jack was already walking away, but the words followed him, echoing in his mind. He was here all night. He was here all night. He was here all night.
Jayven had been there all night, too. As the image of the alien kissing Daniel emblazoned itself across his mind, Jack felt a deep rage well up inside him, the strength of which actually frightened him; what was it about the idea of Daniel and Jayven together that made him so angry? He was worried about Daniel, certainly; the guy hadn't exactly had a lot of luck in his alien inter-relations up until now, and Jack was still slightly suspicious of how much influence Jayven could exert with his mind. But it was more than that - the thoughts and feelings that had made The Barrier prevent Jack's entry onto Galia had stemmed from more than just friendly concern.
More images flashed into Jack's mind - his desperate avoidance of touching any of the Galaya, his brief fantasy of throttling Jayven, his violent shoving of Daniel up against the wall, and then his yelling at him for no reason in his own office. He had been acting like a jealous lover. The thought stopped Jack in his tracks - a jealous lover? Suddenly everything made sense - he was in love with Daniel! And now he knew exactly what he had to do; he had to find Daniel and explain everything to him. Daniel was a man of words, not actions, and Jack knew his own recent behaviour was far from the best way to win the archaeologist over. But now he had a plan; Daniel knew that words weren't Jack's strong point, so a calm and heartfelt explanation of the situation would show him better than any sweeping gesture the sincerity of Jack's feelings.
Jack glanced at his watch. 0800. He had plenty of time to find Daniel and talk to him before the briefing. But first, he needed some coffee to fortify him for what was sure to be a difficult conversation. He made his way to the commisary with new purpose in his stride, the uncertainty and negative feelings of the last 24 hours diminished now that he had finally figured out what he wanted.
Upon entering the commissary, Jack was immediately brought up short once again. In the wake of his revelation, he had forgotten one thing, something that was now forced upon him in no uncertain terms. At a small table at the edge of the room, Daniel sat having breakfast with Jayven. They were smiling and laughing in a way that, in Jack's mind, spoke of more than just friendship. He watched them for a moment, and was suddenly overcome by Jayven's beauty and charisma, things that hadn't really registered through his previous anger and confusion. How could he possibly compete for Daniel's affections, when his opponent was so compelling? Especially considering his own aggressive behaviour, which hadn't exactly laid the groundwork for developing a relationship with Daniel. His embryonic plan destroyed by doubt and despair, Jack turned and left.
General Hammond's announcement that the mission would go ahead came as no big surprise. The briefing went by in a blur, Mikar contacted Admiral Dant via the MALP on Galia to let him know what was going on, and they were all ready to set out in no time at all.
Jack regarded his expanded team as they waited on the ramp for the wormhole to P5J-627 to be established. He had cleared his mind of any thoughts or feelings about Daniel and Jayven and was now focused solely on the mission ahead. He took his responsibilities as the leader of the team extremely seriously, and refused to let his personal problems impact on the carrying out of his job.
Mikar had voiced no objections to Jack being in command and, in fact, had seemed relieved to be able to reclaim his position as junior officer. They had had a strategy session earlier in the day, and Jack felt confident that the young Galian would perform well on the mission. His admiration for Mikar's guts and determination was increasing the more time he spent with the young man, and Jack considered him to be a fine officer by the standards of any planet.
The familiar whoosh of wormhole forces brought Jack's attention back to the matter at hand, and he led his new team of seven up the ramp and through the event horizon.
The planet on the other side was much as he remembered it; trees, moorland, and not an enemy in sight. Jack was hoping they would encounter little resistance to their attack, but he had enough experience to know that assumptions like that would more often than not result in someone getting hurt, or even killed. He maintained the previously agreed silence and gestured for the others to follow him into the woods.
It didn't take them long to reach Ephraz' compound, which was situated in a small clearing in the heart of the forest, the trees protecting it from discovery by airborne reconnaissance. They halted just inside the treeline to plan their assault.
"I suggest we split up like we did before," Jack whispered to Mikar. "Carter, Daniel and I will go in the front, you take your guys and Teal'c and circle round to the back. We don't want to give snakeboy any chance of escaping - he might have a ship hidden around here somewhere for a quick getaway." He paused for a response, but Mikar's attention had shifted past him into the clearing.
Turning his head, Jack saw that the door to the building had opened, and there was a figure emerging from within. It was a middle-aged man with close-cropped greying hair, and he was wearing a Galian uniform.
An exclamation of "Hiran!" came from Mikar and, before Jack could do anything, the young Galian was on his feet and running out into the open. Katra made a move as if to follow him, but Jayven grabbed her arm and pulled her roughly back down onto the ground.
"Katra, no!" he hissed.
The dark-haired woman turned an incredulous gaze on her team-mate and protested, "But Jay - it's Krand!"
Jayven's expression was pained. "No, it's not. I don't know what it is, but that is not Hiran Krand."
"Does someone want to tell me what the hell is going on here?" Jack demanded, feeling his control of the situation slipping swiftly through his fingers.
Jayven's answer was confused and unhappy. "It looks like our former leader. But when I reach out with my mind, there's nothing there - no feelings, no aura, nothing." He looked back to Katra. "It's not Krand, Kat - it's not. anything."
By this time, Mikar had reached the figure, who stood regarding him with a blank expression.
"Hiran?" Mikar uttered, his tone a mixture of apprehension and disbelief.
The not-Krand's features twisted suddenly into a hostile sneer. "You left me," it spat, and Jack could see Mikar recoil from the words.
"But. you were dead! We were under fire - I couldn't stop without endangering the rest of the team. I. I did what you taught me, I tried to get the others home!" The anguish in Mikar's voice tore at Jack's heart, but he stopped himself from rushing to the young man's aid. This was obviously some kind of trap, and he couldn't expose their position until he knew what they were up against.
"You left me!" the figure said again, this time screeching the words in an unearthly wail, before launching itself at Mikar in an all-out attack.
Jack raised his zat, but Mikar was in the line of fire, so he could only watch as the young Galian struggled with the replica of his dead friend. For a few moments, it looked like Mikar's shock at the situation was hindering him, as his opponent got in some early blows. Then Mikar snapped out of it and started fighting back. As they struggled, Mikar managed to unsheath a knife from his belt and slash it across his opponent's upper arm. Blood appeared instantly on its uniform sleeve but it took no notice of the wound. This seemed to galvanise Mikar, and he stabbed the figure repeatedly, opening several large gashes in its flesh. Jack was horrified when the creature still kept coming at the Galian officer, who redoubled his efforts and eventually sliced his knife directly across his opponent's throat. Blood spurted everywhere, and the creature finally halted its attack, standing still for a moment before toppling to the ground, where it lay, twitching horribly.
Mikar let out an anguished cry and fell to his knees, reaching out to take the bloody body in his arms, as the others still looked on from their cover in the trees. After a moment, more figures appeared in the doorway, all of them exact copies of the first. They marched out of the building and made for the oblivious young man.
"Mikar!" Jack called urgently, but there was no reponse from the Galian. Jack now had a clear shot, so he took it, firing his zat at the first of the clones. The energy beam hit it squarely in the chest, but it didn't even flinch. A second shot still had no effect, and the clones continued to pour out of the building.
Jack heard Teal'c priming his staff weapon and, a second later, the head of one of the enemy exploded, its body halting suddenly before slowly falling over backwards. Daniel pulled out his hand-gun and started going for head shots, too, and Jayven and Katra followed suit with their own weapons, but the presence of Mikar in the middle of the clearing made using P90s too risky. With a glance at Carter, Jack drew his knife and leapt into the fray. His 2IC didn't hesitate to follow him, and vicious hand-to-hand fighting ensued.
The clones had no weapons of their own, but they were stong and relentless, making them formidable opponents, and Jack was hard-pressed to keep the upper hand. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other members of his team leave the cover of the trees and join him, as the confusion in the clearing made it impossible for them to continue their long-distance shooting.
The battle raged for some time, with SG-1 and the Galians outnumbered three to one. Eventually, though, their superior weaponry prevailed and all the clones lay dead on the grass. Breathing heavily, Jack swept the clearing with his gaze, taking in each of his team in turn and was relieved to see them all still standing.
"Everyone okay?" he asked, briefly making eye contact with each of his three kids and receiving weary nods from them in response. Then he turned his attention to the other three.
Mikar had rejoined the fight part way through and accounted for several more of the bodies that lay around them, but now he was standing with Jayven and Katra, gazing down at his first opponent. Jack crossed over to them, and saw Jayven reach out to raise Mikar's head so that their eyes met. The alien placed his hand on his friend's cheek and said clearly, "It wasn't him, Mikar. None of them were. They were all just empty shells - none of them were really Hiran."
The young Galian Commander looked into Jayven's eyes for a long moment, his expression distraught, then finally he nodded slowly and dropped his gaze again. Katra took over from Jayven's mental support and pulled the young man into a brief but heartfelt hug.
Jack didn't want to intrude on them, but he was aware that the mission was far from over. Edging slightly closer to the Galians, he cleared his throat awkwardly and waited for them to acknowledge him. He was grateful when Mikar pulled away from Katra and turned to face him, his expression determined.
"Let's hunt some Goa'uld," Mikar stated.
Gesturing for the others to join them, Jack outlined his slightly altered plan. "Carter, you take Teal'c and Daniel and go round the back. Ephraz obviously knows we're here, so be careful. We don't know what other suprises he might have up his sleeve." Addressing the Galians, he continued, "You guys come with me in the front."
They duly split into two teams, and the other three members of SG-1 set off to find the rear entrance to the building. Jack watched them go, then turned back to Mikar and laid a supportive hand on his shoulder. They shared a long look, with Jack trying to convey his understanding of what the battle had cost the younger man. Mikar's answering gaze was grateful but resolute, and Jack knew he was putting his personal feelings aside so that he could complete the mission, much like Jack had done himself earlier on.
Jack released his grip and said, "Right. Let's go."
They entered the building cautiously, but found no more clones and no Jaffa anywhere. After several minutes of careful exploration, they reached Ephraz' lab. With his P90 at the ready, Jack opened the door and peered inside. Ephraz was alone, frantically shoving weird devices and note tablets into a bag. At the sound of the door opening, he spun round in alarm and hastily backed himself into the far corner.
Unexpectedly, he raised his hands to reveal that he was not wearing a ribbon device and cowered away from the invaders, his expression one of abject terror.
"Please," he moaned in a tone Jack had never heard from a Goa'uld before. "Don't kill me. I'll tell you anything you want to know. I'll give you all my research and explain it all to you. Just don't kill me!"
Sickened by the display of cowardice, Jack kept his gun trained on the pathetic figure, unwilling to trust that he didn't have a weapon concealed somewhere. Once again, he had the Goa'uld at his mercy but, this time, he wasn't quite sure what to do with him. However, the decision did not remain his for long.
Mikar stepped up next to him, raised his weapon and, without a second's hesitation, fired five shots directly into the Goa'uld's chest. Ephraz looked stunned for a moment, then fell forwards to lie unmoving on the floor. Mikar walked calmly over to the body, aimed his gun and fired one final shot into the back of Ephraz' head. Then, he turned around and looked at Jack, as if daring him to comment on what had just happened.
In response, Jack drew his zat and fired it past Mikar to disintegrate the Goa'uld corpse. The younger man's face relaxed and he said quietly, "Thank you."
They regarded each other silently for a moment, before the sounds of other people entering the room caused Jack to spin round and bring his gun to bear again. He was relieved to see Carter, Daniel and Teal'c come in behind Jayven and Katra, who had witnessed Mikar's actions without a word.
"The building's clear, sir," Carter reported matter-of-factly. "We met no resistance."
"Where's Ephraz?" Daniel asked.
"Dead." This time, for once, Daniel accepted the finality of Jack's answer without argument and refrained from asking for any further explanation, for which Jack was extremely grateful.
Glancing back over at Mikar, Jack said simply, "Let's go home."
The clearing of Ephraz' lab was handed over to another SG team, and the combined forces of SG-1 and the First Galian Exploration Unit headed back to the SGC for their post-mission check-ups and debriefing. These were dispensed with as quickly as possible, and the weary Galians prepared to head back to Galia.
From the initial information gathered from the lab, it seemed Ephraz had not confined his modifications to the ashrak torture device mentioned by Jacob. Apparently, he had also been working to turn a sarcophagus into a cloning machine, using Hiran Krand's body to create an army of zombies to replace his dead Jaffa. The Galians could now take the body home and give Krand whatever ceremony was traditional to them, although Jack knew the effects of what had happened on the planet would stay with them for a long time.
With the departure of Jayven imminent, Jack decided it was time to bite the bullet and confront Daniel. He made his way once again to the archaeologist's office, this time determined not to let his emotions get the better of him. He would be calm, rational and sincere, and his open honesty would win Daniel over in no time - or so he hoped.
He was surprised to discover Daniel collecting research materials together and packing them carefully into his backpack. A cold feeling of dread crept over Jack at the sight, and he stumbled over his opening line, not sure he wanted to know the answer to the question he was asking.
"Wh-hat's all this?"
Daniel turned, startled at his entrance. He recovered quickly, though, and met Jack's confused gaze steadily. His reply settled like a lump of ice around Jack's heart.
"I've been given a temporary transfer to SG-11 for the duration of the negotiations. I'm going back to Galia with Jayven."
|Series:||The Galian Alliance|
|Summary:||There's unfinished business with Ephraz, and also between Jack and Daniel.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
This one's a bit violent in some places.