"Everyone else is off this ship," Thor said.
"You sure?" Carter asked. They hadn't seen Buffy after her report of the Goa'uld's demise --something Jack would rather not think about. He was glad the kid would be safe at the SGC, though he was sure she'd be upset at their sudden disappearance.
"Yes, Major. At this moment our transports are moving the contents of the armory and mess hall, as well as attire, food, and all types of supplies I could imagine you would need to the storage rooms on the accessible decks of this vessel. Though I would have been overjoyed to make sure it was in full working condition before leaving orbit, had we had the time, it will only need to fly a short distance along a course we are adding to your ship as we speak. All needed charts and any adjustment to your technology will be complete by the time we exit hyperspace near the Asgard home galaxy," Thor explained.
"I hope you did the paper work, too," He mumbled, mentally wincing at the image of several irate supply officers running around the SGC at the moment. Someone would have his ass up for court-martial over this mission, if they failed. Details such as missing paper work were usually forgotten if they won. He guessed it was time to put his foot down. He didn't like to do things like this, but a slight hint that Earth would like a bit of gratitude or something in return was in order.
"Listen, I haven't said ‘yes’ yet... Thor, this ship isn't under my command. If we use it, I have to be able to convince my superiors that the mission was for the benefit of Earth, and -- short-sighted bastards that our politicians are -- the removal of the future threat of the Replicators isn’t going to convince them, this time," he said. He hated being so mercenary when it came to critical stuff like this; however, a slight prod never hurt, and he intended to go through with the mission, either way.
"Can I convince you somehow?" Thor asked, making his heart go out to the tiny alien with the giant responsibility.
"Promise me a little bit, just a tiny little bit, of help with the technologies we have found ourselves. No Asgard technology, just some teaching?" he asked.
Thor blinked and seemed to nod, "Teaching is always a good idea. I am sure we can agree to that."
"Good, then let's go," he said.
Thor pressed a button on his chair and the view outside changed rapidly. "The journey to our home galaxy will take many hours with your ship in tow, and I am afraid that every moment counts... Literally, I fear," Thor explained.
"Er, um . . .Thor, I still have to talk to the General. I have to tell someone what we're doing," he said.
"I will arrange a way for you to consult with your superiors en route," Thor said.
He was worried about his people and his ship. A few minutes ago several prisoners had appeared in their cells via Asgard transporters, and now he had reports that the Prometheus had disappeared from orbit. Something very strange was going on, because their prisoners were the hijackers, yet the prototype hadn't been returned yet.
"Sergeant, what is it?" he asked as a very worried-looking Siler ran in.
"I can't explain it, sir. It's like a bit of everything in the armory just walked out the door. P90s, SPAZ 12s, SAWs, Claymores, C4, Zats, Staff weapons. Worse, we're suddenly almost out of ammo, body armor, and other combat gear. I also ran into a few guys from the mess hall. They say that their storeroom was completely emptied," Siler explained.
Hammond looked over at Sergeant Harriman, "Sir, we have verified that the people who commandeered the X-303 are the people we have in our custody. We also have the bodies of Adrian Conrad and Colonel Simmons. The female reporter was also beamed here, but unlike the others she landed in the cafeteria, instead of the cells."
"What is going on?" he asked, looking from sergeant to sergeant.
"Ah... Hello, sir. Hi, Siler; keeping out of trouble?" Jack's voice said. He turned and saw what he presumed was a hologram of his second-in-command.
"Colonel. It's good to see you alive and well. We were concerned that the X-303 had been lost with all hands," he said.
"We're all fine. Except the Goa'uld and Simmons, of course," Jack said, looking a bit smug. He hadn't known that the Colonel held such dislike for Simmons.
"So, you have come in contact with the Asgard, if my guess about the hologram and the transporters is right," he surmised.
"Correct, sir. They need us and the ship to stop the Replicators from winning their little war. They say if we don't help, Earth and our galaxy will be next," Jack explained.
"That explains why supplies and equipment disappeared from all over my base," he said.
"Yes, sir. Thor decided we needed it for our mission. Suffice it to say that this is on the level that you should probably go press ‘1’ on the speed-dial and tell the people on the other end that if we fail, all hell is coming soon," Jack said.
"You really think my grandchildren need to know that?" he asked, having gotten the habit of wisecracking from his 2IC.
"I was counting on someone bit less important, maybe along the lines of the President or the Joint Chiefs. Tell them we're borrowing the Prometheus and promise to bring it back, along with a promise from the Asgard that they'll help us understand the technology we have found a bit better," Jack explained.
"I think they could be convinced that is a good idea. Good luck and Godspeed, Colonel," he said and watched the hologram start to disappear. It wasn't until a few moments later that he wondered where Buffy was. He hoped that SG-1 hadn't decided to bring her along. People higher up in the chain of command were getting a bit annoyed at the girl's level of access to the SGC, and others didn't like that the girl was brought into danger.
Sam watched Jack walk back onto the bridge looking a bit disappointed. "What?" she asked.
"They didn't go for it," he said.
"They didn't approve the mission?" She asked, surprised that they wouldn't allow them to use the ship even for such an important mission. This ship wasn't just a precious gem. It was meant to be used. What was the point of building one, if not to use it?
"Oh no, they approved that immediately. Once they knew the stakes and that we had jumped into another one of those ‘fate of the universe’ things, both the President and Hammond probably realized that we had no choice. Either way, Hammond sends his best wishes and all that other stuff he says when he isn't expecting us home ever again, but is hoping for the best anyway," Jack said.
"Oh, what didn't they go for, then?" she asked.
"My name for the ship," Jack said, but his eyes revealed that he was just trying to be funny. She knew the name he had been campaigning for.
"Sir, they can't name it ‘Enterprise’. It would be wrong... It would be tacky... Besides, I like ‘Prometheus’," she said.
"Oh, come on! That’s the name of a Greek titan getting his liver pecked out. I say we start a good tradition and name it after TV stuff -- then maybe I can get them to build one called ‘Homer’," Jack argued.
"You didn't actually tell them that," she said, smiling.
Jack shook his head and turned serious for a moment, "Nah, I didn't have time... I think it's time to have Thor tell us more about what is going on."
"No matter what is going on, he is in a hurry. The speeds we're reaching are insane, even for the Asgard," she tried to explain.
Jack went to their communications console and called up the Asgard, "Thor, buddy, I think it’s time you explain what's going on."
There was the usual white flash, and Thor appeared in his command chair. "O'Neill," he said and looked at the rest of them. Teal'c and Jonas had been busy helping her get as much as they could of the Prometheus up and running.
"We kind of wanted to know what happened back on your planet," Jack said.
Thor nodded, "You may remember the android you handed over to us. Well, after further experimentation, the Asgard High Command decided to use it to set a trap for the Replicators. We boosted the signal codes contained within its core programming to attract the Replicators, and as we had planned they all came converging on our home world in one large swarm following the imperatives in the programming given to them from their original source. We made a pretense of trying to turn them away, to make our retreat look unplanned, while almost our entire civilization fled to the void between the galaxies. You see, we had made our world into a trap. On its surface, next to the body, we had planted a time dilation device," Thor explained.
Jack looked towards her, but she barely noticed as her mind boggled at the very idea of a race having the ability to manipulate time. She had once again underestimated just how far ahead of them the Asgard were. She was sure it was their gentle and self-effacing manner that made her fall into that trap time and again. She couldn't help voicing an impressed, "Wow!"
"What is it?" Jack asked her.
"A device that slows time, sir. For how big an area, Thor?" she turned to the Asgard and asked.
"The entire planet. It was meant to capture all the Replicators there, and so allow us enough time to develop a permanent solution to the threat they represented. However, that is where we ran into trouble. The device seems to have malfunctioned. Fortunately, the Replicators have spared it so far, and have focused on consuming our planet -- or so we think. The time dilation device remains there, and we ask that you go there and reactivate it on a timer, while you make your escape," Thor explained.
"Uh-huh," Jack said.
"I will assist Major Carter in building a timer from Earth materials, something that you can bring unobstructed to the machine and use to interface with it. Thankfully, we made the control interface akin to an advanced timer. Also, we will be monitoring you from afar, and I promise if things go wrong I will do my best to rescue you... and your ship," Thor added, after a look from Jack. Only then did Jack nod agreement.
Sam just knew that the next hour or so would be one long struggle to translate superior Asgard technology into Earth equivalents. She thought of Buffy worrying about her back on Earth, alone. But she told herself it was best that her girl worried without knowing of this very real danger. For a moment, she wanted a hug from her daughter -- the one person she knew who always loved her and accepted her, even when she was being a big geek.
"Well, if that is all we have to do... piece of cake," Jack said.
"You think so, Colonel?" Jonas commented.
"No... I meant, I want a piece of cake. Where’s the food?" Jack asked.
"Cargo bay three," she said, already beginning to wonder what she'd learn from Thor as the grey alien approached. She barely noticed the three other members of her team quietly leave to feed their cravings.
Buffy's stomach growled once again. "Stupid Janet and her stupid diet. Now, I’m all used to being fed," she mumbled, and once again took stock of her heavily shielded naquadah storage room. She wondered if she'd get some sort of vision, telling her when she could leave her hideout -- but then, according to her memory, her prophetic abilities had never been that easy to understand, nor had she never been able to use them on command.
She decided to give the entire thing at least one more hour; then she'd go up to the bridge, no matter what... And they'd better have a sandwich or something like that around.
She had waited for what turned out to nearly an hour when something changed. Up until then, the ship felt like it was moving, though the engines hadn't hummed like they had when they had taken off. But now the feeling of movement had stopped. There were a few moments of quiet, then the engines hummed into life with a roar. They were flying under their own power. Maybe that was the sign she had been waiting for. She decided that -- according to her stomach, at least -- it must be. It was time to go up and face the music.
She opened the heavily shielded bulkhead doors and moved out of the naquadah and naquadriah storage area. She headed for the nearest ladder, not trusting the elevators.
He didn't care for this mission at all. It seemed that the Replicators had manipulated the Asgard Time thingy and made time go faster for Thor's home world by a factor of ten. That meant that the Replicators knew what the device was for and probably had it under guard. Thor's behavior earlier had almost screamed ‘urgency’, and Jack was absolutely sure that wasn't a good sign. Thor had said goodbye with a promise to watch over them as best he could and had left a few minutes ago, which meant the Asgard were far, far away already, given their insanely fast hyperdrives.
Still, a lot of good things could be said for having a starship under his command. He, Carter, Teal'c and Jonas were improvising their act as a bridge crew, with only Carter really knowing all the stuff that was going on. But still, if it hadn't it been for the imminent doom they were heading for, he was sure they'd all have big grins plastered on their faces. Earth's first big starship worked.
"Carter, how long until we reach our destination?" he asked.
"About six hours, sir," Carter replied.
"Alright, Jonas, you're coming with me. This is the biggest, most dangerous mission you've ever gone out on. I need to know you can reload your rifle fast enough," he said and got up.
For a moment he felt like he had seen something on the edge of his peripheral vision out in the corridor, but when he looked, he saw nothing. Jonas followed him out there, but when they passed the place he had seen something, it was definitely empty. He really hoped he wasn't getting jumpy already: that wasn't supposed to happen until they reached the Replicators.
Buffy watched Jack and Jonas pass underneath her as she struggled to hold herself up against the ceiling by pressing hard against two pipes with her hands and feet. She grabbed the pipe in front of her and allowed herself to dangle from it before dropping almost silently to the floor. She had come up to the bridge, thinking that she could reveal her presence finally, but everyone was looking grim in that usual, "No, you cannot help, Buffy," fashion her mom and friends sometimes assumed. So it was probably back to hiding for her -- at least, after she had found something to eat and drink. She decided to rummage around and see if she couldn't find a trace of something to eat.
Buffy passed Jack and Jonas in what was probably the impromptu armory, where Jack was making Jonas load and reload some sort of rifle, then move on to a sidearm. She ignored them, though, because her nose caught the faint smell of vanilla in the air. It smelled like an ice cream parlor.
A few minutes later she finally found her goal. A room filled with food and drinks. She immediately set about devouring enough to get her back into shape. She noticed her ash covered arms and guessed she looked and smelled like a mess, or at best like a slightly burnt Buffy. Still, she guessed there wouldn't be any showers hooked up, or at least none loaded with water. So instead she settled in to eat and drink to her heart's delight. After eating, she propped herself up against what appeared to be a stack of clothes. She barely rested there for a few moments before her eyes fell shut, and soon after she was sound asleep.
A good while later she woke up with a vague recollection of loud noises having disturbed her dreams a short while back. Suddenly the thought of having forgotten where she was and what situation she was in brought her totally awake with a gasp. She had dozed off, apparently, in response to feeling full. "Idiot," she cursed, and rose and jogged back towards the storeroom where Jack and Jonas had been training, guessing that if they were still there she hadn't missed anything. They weren't.
She hurried closer to the bridge but found it equally empty. She walked onto it, feeling very weird suddenly finding herself all alone on the starship. The view outside was of a dark landscape with lightning flashing from the totally overcast skies. They had landed on some alien planet on a huge featureless plain with only a strange geometric structure sticking up from the ground for miles and miles. It was the same landscape that she had seen in her dreams. Dreams in which she was being tortured. She debated going out there, but there was really no choice. She guessed that, if she was to mean anything, if she had stowed away for a reason, then it had to be to change the outcome of whatever events were going on out there. Which meant she had to go into that place out on the plain.
She decided that maybe bringing a few weapons would be okay, no matter what Jack, her mom, or maybe even Jonas thought of that. Teal'c would approve, if she knew how to use them wisely, but he was just one voice out of four. Still, after a sigh from just thinking of the coming tirade from Jack, she dashed for the armory.
Buffy moved across the foggy and apparently metallic ground, carrying the P-90 she had grabbed from the armory, while a handgun and a zat hung from the weapon belts she had slung in an X pattern over her chest. It had been the only viable solution, as none of the body armor had really been her size. "This is, like, a total Rambo moment. All I need now is a few more snarky comments with my opponent, and I’m living in an action flick," she mused as she found a winding staircase leading down into the weird structure.
She had a definite feeling of being watched, a feeling that had been persistent ever since she had found her way out of the Prometheus.
Buffy descended into the darkness. There was a sound of something moving at the edge of her hearing, never enough to actually tell her what it was. She felt her heart throb, and the feeling of being on the prowl returned. Her fear drained away. All need to rationalize disappeared; now, all she could do was act.
The stairs ended. She carefully crouched and saw a column-filled room built around some sort of glass thing that looked vastly different, compared to the rest, and she guessed it was somehow foreign to this place. She also saw something that almost made her gasp. Four human-looking people had her mom and SG-1 crouching, disarmed and clearly in pain, in front of them. A fifth guy with black curly hair was watching with a slightly disapproving look on his face, as were literally hundreds of bug-like robots. The robots looked they were made of blocks -- blocks that were a bit too much like the ones she was standing on. She looked down at them, fearing that the floor or walls... the entire place could be one gigantic trap. She understood a bit better why all SG-1’s gear looked like it had just been put down, rather than used in a vicious battle. There was probably no point.
Well, there was also no point in giving up, either. Her mom groaned, which made her almost jump forward, and she had to force herself to stay still. A deep and dark anger flowed forth from the recesses of her mind. It told her to attack, to kill them all. But she kept it tightly in check, seeing that the entity that had her mom had somehow melded his hands with her mom's skin, and maybe even her brain. An attack might be fatal for her mom. She decided to withdraw a bit up the stairs to think.
"Is someone up there?" a voice called out, and the black-haired guy walked towards her. She decided to not take a chance. Maybe she could take that guy as a hostage and have the others let SG-1 go. She charged forward and launched herself into a flying kick.
She hit with a precision that would've impressed her trainers and the power to smash a metal door. The guy barely stumbled back. He hadn't felt soft enough for a humanoid. "Stop that," he complained, as if she had just been a nuisance. She flipped herself backwards as she fell, having given all her power to move him. A quick tumble landed her back on her feet.
It was finally time, something in her head told her. It was time to use her real strength, not the lesser power she reserved for soft, breakable people and trainers. Buffy dashed forward. This guy was totally worthless in a fight, though. He lifted his hands in an ineffectual attempt to ward her off. She ducked under his arms and hammered her fist into his gut, making his body arch forward as the force of her blow lifted him a few feet into the air.
She didn't pause, but spun to deliver her most powerful kick to his gut, sending him across the room into a pillar and apparent unconsciousness. All around her the little robots surged into life. One flew past her, nearly hitting her with its pincers. She ducked under it, jumped over four charging for her, and slid the last few feet over the metal floor to grab the guy she had knocked out.
"Stop, or I kill him," she called out, hoping that the robots had some sort of intelligence, as their sudden activation hinted.
One of the men, the one who had held Jack under his control, looked up at her. He looked older, almost distinguished, compared to the others. He looked at the guy she was holding with disappointment, then at her with contempt. "You'll let him go now, or I will kill this man, Buffy Summers. And if you still haven't let him go after that, I will continue down the line until I reach your mother," he said in a voice that held not even the slightest hint of a bluff.
"I will kill him if you don't let us all go," she replied through clenched teeth, not willing to give up. She was looking at the stairs, considering if she could make it out or at least back to the rifle she had left up on the steps.
"Forget all about escape. We are everywhere on this planet. Your ship will not leave without our permission, and there is no one but us on this world," he said.
"Who are you people?" she asked.
"We are the Replicators. Well, those of us in humanoid form are the next evolutionary step of our race, but we are still true to our nature. What interests me more is, who are you, Buffy Summers? Yes, I know your name from Jack's mind. He has such fascinating things hidden away in it. Secrets about you that even you don't know," he said and walked towards her.
"I will kill him," Buffy said as he approached, and she grabbed the black-haired guy's head as if making ready to snap his neck.
"No, you will not. And by the way, he has neither vertebrae nor any vital functions in his head that other parts of his body can't compensate for instantly. You're not equipped to kill him," he said and stopped in front of her.
She looked into his eyes and still saw no lies. Buffy sighed. It seemed what she had dreamed was inevitable. "Fine," she said and let go of the black-haired guy, who suspiciously instantly seemed fine and fully awake after she let go.
Buffy wondered about that for a moment, before the older Replicator guy took her hands almost gently and said, "Try to relax; there is no way to resist us, anyway." He let go of her hands and slid his hands against her temples. She tried at least to prepare for the pain, but when it came it was far beyond anything she had ever experienced.
The pain disappeared. Buffy looked around. She was walking in a sewer, hand in hand with a kid with ice cold hands. She was wearing her prom dress. She remembered. It was her night to die.
She looked to the right. It was supposed to be just her and the kid, but the old Replicator was walking along with her. "This will be fascinating. Your memories are strange, you have three sets. An old life without a sister, a life with a sister, and yet another life with Sam Carter. I am looking forward to understanding it all," the Replicator dude explained.
"Good luck with that; I sure don't," she said.
There was a sense of indignation and even anger coming from somewhere outside of her self.
"I find you so fascinating. Your mind is different from the rest. It is almost like you have two. One is a fairly advanced human mind seated in a human brain. For that one, you can thank your new mother and her healing of you. It is that one that has amnesia, yet has been filled with all the knowledge they have been able to give you. The other part of you is an enigma to me. I cannot access it. What little I can glimpse is of a thing filled with darkness, chaos, and a deep need to fight and kill. I think you're supposed to turn left now, Buffy," he said.
"I don't want to do this again," she said.
"You have to. We have to see everything you've ever seen," he replied.
She turned and sighed. The Replicator was forgotten. It was time to try and take down the Master again. Only she knew she wouldn't.
Sam woke up and looked around in confusion. They were back aboard the Prometheus. She looked around more carefully. Jack, Teal'c and Jonas were all seated at their stations on the bridge, just like her.
"Crap! Holy Jesus!" Jack yelled as he woke up.
"Sir," she said as he approached her.
Jack turned and looked at Jonas. She saw Teal'c shaking his head, as if to clear it. She didn't like the look on his face. It was fear. She knew how it felt; she felt it too. She had not felt so violated since the earliest moments of her possession by Jolinar. She did have some experience with that kind of mental invasion, but it had still rattled her. She'd rather never go through that again. Still, the shaken look on Teal'c’s face, of all people, just made things worse.
"His hand was inside my head. I saw all my memories, especially the ones I'd rather forget," she heard Jonas say in a shaking voice.
"I had the same... experience," she said. "I don't remember much of it," she lied, hoping that they would soon drop the subject, as her memories of her mom dying, her dad leaving again and again, then finally Buffy falling ill on Winterhome flashed through her mind.
"Neither do I," Teal'c agreed. At least he looked like he meant it.
"How long were we out?" Jack asked.
She checked the ship's internal clock, "39 hours, ship time. Approximately 4 hours time outside the bubble."
"Can we get a message out to Thor?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, but they'll know," she said.
"I don't care, just send him a report about everything that’s going on. If we fail, then at least the Asgard might be able to do something... And Sam, make sure he understands how royally screwed-up this is," Jack said.
She rose and walked towards the communications console.
"Why would they bring us back here?" Jonas asked.
"Maybe we can make them regret this," Teal'c suggested.
"Blow up the ship’s hyperdrive... reactors and all," Jack said.
She swallowed a sudden lump in her throat. Buffy would never see her again. She’d die here.
"Carter, would that be big enough to cause a dent?" Jack asked.
"Yes, sir, especially if we enhance the explosion with the on-board naquadah and naquadriah. Done right, we could crack this world open to its core," she remarked.
"Mom!" she heard a voice scream nearby. Her heart skipped. That voice. It was Buffy's voice. Was she still caught in the dream made by the Replicators? Buffy couldn't be here. Still, they had all heard it. Jack and Teal'c ran in front.
They headed down the corridor to the Captain's office. Buffy stood there, looking dirty, tired and with streaks on her sooty face where her tears were falling. "My mom... she died and I... I found her... And I couldn't grieve. There wasn't time. No one would let me. They all took and took and took. I was an empty shell. I didn't want to live," Buffy said between sobs. Sam grabbed her daughter and just held her.
Sam felt the warmth and regular heartbeat of her daughter against her chest. "Oh, Buffy, I am here... Shhh, it'll be alright," she whispered.
She held Buffy and turned towards Jack, Teal'c and Jonas. "What's she doing here?" Jack asked.
"I have no idea. I thought Thor got everyone off this ship but us," she replied.
"I know, I heard him. Man, this is not Thor's day for doing things right. Okay, so no blowing up the ship. We need an alternate plan, people," Jack said.
"Major Carter should attempt to escape the time-field with Buffy in one of the X-302s, while we destroy this place," Teal'c suggested.
Jack looked up at Teal'c, then over to her. "It would give them a chance at least," Jack suggested.
"Sir, it wouldn't work. If you took the X-302s up to the Prometheus earlier, then the rocket boosters' fuel will have been used up, and we'll be unable to reach escape velocity -- never mind the speed to break orbit, or reach a distance where we could even radio the Asgard," she said.
"One of them is different," Buffy's voice said, albeit still muffled by Sam's clothes.
"What, honey?" she asked.
"One of the Replicators is different. He wasn't in on the entire mind-meld thing - which really hurts, by the way. He just watched and seemed more curious than mean. I think he is their weak point. He might be turnable. Not by me, though," Buffy explained.
"Why not by you?" Jonas asked.
"Uhm, I kind of used him as a punching bag" Buffy admitted.
"It's an idea. Okay, Sam, you're the most charming after the little one; you work on it, after rigging this ship to blow if we don't input some sort of code every 48 hours or so. I'll go send Thor a piece of my mind. Jonas, Teal'c, make sure they haven't installed some of their little buddies aboard. I don't want this ship swarmed if we get away," Jack ordered.
Everyone nodded and they split up. She didn't leave immediately, though. "Honey, you wanna come with me?" she asked.
"Yeah," Buffy agreed, still looking haunted by whatever memories the Replicators had forced her daughter to see.
"How come you didn't come up to the bridge earlier?" she asked.
"I kind of stowed away," Buffy admitted.
"What!" she nearly yelled, feeling a bit of anger rising at the thought of her daughter doing an absolutely unthinking thing like that.
"Well I had a dream, a vision, while I was hiding from the hijackers. You would've died if I hadn't come. In my dreams I could hide in a sort of storage room in the engineering section," Buffy explained.
She thought about where that could be and reasoned that the Asgard probably hadn't detected Buffy due to the combination of shielding, armor, and naquadriah in that room.
"So, are you angry?" Buffy asked.
"Yes, but I'll save it all up until we get home. And I swear, you're so grounded for the next year," she said, and added in her mind that she'd never again allow Buffy to get near any of the SGC operations -- at least until Buffy was legally adult.
"So, what now?" Buffy asked.
"We rig this ship to blow, and then I have to find some way to convince a sentient robot that I think he should betray his own kind and let us freeze them in time," she said.
"I don't know. I got the feeling he thinks his people were being too cruel -- at least if their facial expressions mean anything," Buffy explained.
"They might not," she remarked.
"True," Buffy agreed as they entered the engineering area.
"Colonel, I think a sacrifice might be useless," Jonas called out to him. He was heading for a bite to eat after he had sent the message off to Thor.
"What makes you think that?" he asked.
"If explosives and weapons could have won this conflict, wouldn't the Asgard have won this conflict ages ago?" Jonas suggested.
He figured out what Jonas wanted to do instead. At least Daniel had gotten a replacement that filled his shoes, if only partly. "Are you sure you want to talk to the robot people? I am pretty sure that diplomacy isn't on their agenda," he replied.
"Are you sure?" Jonas asked.
"Yes," he answered, and kept walking trying to convince himself that even Daniel wouldn't have fielded a suggestion like that after being violated like they had all just been.
"Maybe we can reason with them. If we blow this ship, we won't have that option," Jonas argued.
"If we blow up this ship, I won't care," he replied, continuing towards the engineering room. He wanted to check on Carter.
In deep space Thor sat in the control room of his starship, worrying. First, there had been the sensor reports on the time-field running faster than before. Then it was the strange sensor ghost of a life-sign his crew had discovered on the sensor log of the humans' ship. And now he could only read the message from his friends and allies, instead of doing something to help. He wanted to be there and stop his people's enemy himself, instead of inflicting their mistake on people he admired.
Tjalfe, one of the captains in the Asgard fleet, walked up to stand beside his control chair. "Yes, my friend?" he asked.
"I was about to ask you the same thing, sir. You know that we cannot go in and help them at the moment. We would only attract the Replicators ship in orbit and maybe worsen everything," Tjalfe reported.
"Is that what you came over to my ship to say?" he asked, knowing his subordinates well enough to know that they wouldn't come to him with only such a trifle.
"My ship has finished the close analysis of the sensor logs from your trip with the humans. The low-level scans your ship ran on arrival missed a life-sign. It was obscured by heavy shielding and surrounding radiation. It was a human female, approximately 10 to 12 years of age, and in good shape and health," his friend explained. Tjalfe had been a scientist long before he had become a warrior, and Thor still often asked for his help when he suspected his computer to have made mistakes.
Thor put a hand against his head with a groan. It seemed he had failed to remove Major Carter's adoptive daughter from the ship, even though she had been mentioned. He had been in a rush and had let the ship automatics handle everything. It had been a mistake, and one he didn’t plan on repeating. "Alright, we might not be able to go there yet, but make your ship ready. If the field should reverse as planned, I want us to start collapsing the sun immediately after. No waiting or debating. I will prepare an intercept course for the most likely path the humans might take on leaving. I want both of us and our ships to be there to protect them from any dangers or reprisals," he said.
"I will make sure everything is ready on my end," Tjalfe said and padded off.
First looked up as Second approached. "I decoded their message. You were right, they are talking to our enemy. The Asgard sent them," Second explained.
"Good, have the ship place the weapon I designed into orbit. If they come, it will give them a taste of their own medicine," he ordered.
"What about the humans?" Second asked.
"Fifth is getting them now. I suggest a dinner, then a repeat of our earlier explorations should be on the menu. This time, I want Fifth to participate. It is time he grew up a bit," he said.
"I will set sure the weapon is deployed and waiting," Second said and moved away.
"Buffy, would you type in the start-up commands over on the console?" her mom called out. A part of her mind immediately wanted to complain that she didn't know how, but it felt like the protest came from her fragmented memory, because her mom had just given her the basic rundown of the commands a few minutes ago. Buffy typed them in.
"Done," she called out. She read the text that scrolled down the screen. "Mom, it says here that everything is ready... And alert #1169 has been triggered. What is that?" Buffy asked.
"1169... That is something I just set up. It means someone opened an airlock from the outside. We have company," her mom explained.
"That would be me. I hope I am not intruding," the voice of the marginally kinder Replicator she had beat up on said. She turned and saw him standing in the doorway, looking a bit shy.
Her mom gave her a look Buffy couldn't interpret and said, "Welcome aboard. I am Major Samantha Carter."
"I am Fifth," he replied.
"Well, hi, " her mom said.
"I wanted to see if you had all recovered. I was afraid you had suffered permanent damage during your ordeal. I carried you here after. I hoped you'd be more comfortable here," Fifth explained.
"Thanks," Buffy muttered. She didn't really care. That guy had looked on passively as they were tortured. He was a long way away from scoring any brownie points with her.
Jack and Jonas entered the room. "What's going on?" Jack asked.
"Everything is fine, Sir. We're just chatting. Fifth carried us back here to make us more comfortable," her mom explained.
"Thanks," Jonas said, giving the Replicator his friendly smile.
"It was not difficult," Fifth replied, looking a bit confused by their thanks. Maybe her mom and Jonas had the right idea. Maybe they could befriend this guy. He seemed all innocent, and he had played dead earlier, maybe to help her.
"I came to extend an invitation to dinner from First," Fifth explained. Somehow the image of her torturer appeared in Buffy's mind. She was sure that would turn out to be First.
"No, thanks," Jack replied.
"Exploding your vessel would only serve to feed energy into the replicator blocks on the surface of the planet. Your food stores have already been taken to the Temple," Fifth said.
Jack looked defeated for a moment, then said, "When are we expected?"
"When you become hungry?" Fifth suggested and left the room.
"That one is definitely different," Jonas said. She rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything.
"No kidding, he comes off as almost human," her mom replied.
"But he isn't," Jack said, maybe a bit too harshly. It reminded Buffy of the situation with the Tok'ra. Jack seemed to go to emotional extremes at times, especially in his dislikes.
"So what do we do now?" Jonas said.
"The ship will fly, but I don't know if they'll even let us break orbit. Sir, if this is the next evolution of the Replicators, we should find out everything we can and report it back to the Asgard. We may not be able to do much now, but maybe they can," her mom suggested.
"Anyone hungry?" Jack asked.
They walked gingerly in a group down to the splendidly decked table that had been built with more of the blocks her mom had told her earlier were the building blocks of the spider-like robots. She was sure someone had played with too many Legos before making these things.
"Colonel O'Neill. Major Carter. Teal'c. Jonas. Buffy. Welcome," her torturer said.
"You'll forgive us if we don't shake hands this time," Jack said. Buffy wanted to nod vigorously but her pride prevented her from showing any weakness. She definitely didn't want any of their hands near her body or head.
"Please sit and replenish yourselves. You Organic life-forms store energy so inefficiently that I am sure you need more for your stores already," the guy said. ‘First’ she decided to make him, after all.
They sat and ate. Jonas looked up, "We still have some questions that we never got the chance to ask the last time," he said.
"When our Replicator brethren discovered the android Reese, they realized she was their creator. They studied her design and form. The aspects of her technology superior to their own were incorporated into my design," First explained.
"Our brethren are composed of ungainly blocks," another of the Replicators said.
"We are composed of millions of cell units – microscopic, in comparison -- that combine to create this form," a third Replicator continued.
"Like nanites, Sir," her mom added, trying to be helpful.
"I hate those things," Jack said. Buffy wondered why.
"Luckily for us, my creation took place in the last moment before the Asgard time device was to activate. There was a microscopic crack in the neutronium shell of the device. I was able to slip through and stop the machine. Now I have reconfigured it to suit our purpose," First explained.
"Which is?" Jonas wheedled.
"To increase our number. In a few short years we - thanks to the Asgard - will go forth as an army," First said.
"Yeah, we can't let you do that," Jack protested.
"You? You cannot stop us," the second one that had spoken earlier remarked haughtily.
"This is like you organics and your evolution. This is a process of natural selection. The strong survive," First said.
"Yeah, but there is nothing natural about you. I mean, you've seen into our minds. I am certain you can see the difference," Jonas argued. For a moment Buffy missed Daniel's intense argumentation. Jonas and Daniel really were very much alike, or maybe Jonas had become more like Daniel from his writings. She had to ask her mom, if they made it out, to let her read Daniel’s journals.
"Of course. We are far superior. It is like with the animal protein you consume right now. If you could see into its mind, you would still not hesitate to eat it," First argued.
"But you've recreated yourselves in our image," her mom commented.
"No, in the image of Reese," a Replicator that had been silent until now said.
"But there was a flaw in her programming. If you're serious about this evolution thing, why haven't you corrected it?" Her mom said.
"It was discovered during my creation and corrected. Of course, we didn't try to expunge it until the creation of Fifth. However, we have discontinued that practice as he has proven too... weak. Now eat," First said.
"Why?" Jack said.
"To regain your strength, so that we may begin again," First said. Buffy felt her muscles tense. She would fight again. She wouldn't let them take her back to her past again. It was so lonely there; yet, when she had returned she had missed those people in the memories as if they had been family who had died.
"No, way," Jack said and got up.
One of those spider things erupted, it seemed, from a column. "If you resist, it will be more painful," First said, trying to sound kind and failing.
"Stop," Fifth said.
Finally, he showed some backbone, Buffy thought. "Why?" First asked -- not angry, just curious.
"You've learned everything you need to know," Fifth offered.
"Oh, no, we haven't, by far. Each of us has four minds left to explore. You haven't even tried it, yet. And, also, the next one will want to know, as well. No, it has been decided: we go on." First turned towards them and said, addressing Jack, "If you resist, we will cause you physical damage, enough to subdue you. It is your choice."
"No," Fifth said again.
"We insist. You haven't seen the chaos, the lack of order and discipline. You need to see it and recognize who you are and who we are. Visit their memories of the worlds we have yet to conquer. Do you understand?" First asked.
Fifth looked defeated. Apparently he didn't have much of a backbone, then. "Yes," Fifth said.
"I won't blame you, if you choose me," her mom said to the Replicator that was standing close to them both.
"Carter?" Jack asked, a bit surprised. Buffy tried not to reveal in her expression -- and in fact put entirely out of her mind -- what she suspected her mom was up to.
"It's alright, sir. Last time I didn't remember a thing," her mom said, but Buffy guessed from the undertones of her voice and the haunted look her mom had when she had talked with her in Engineering that it was a lie.
The Replicators moved in and Buffy decided to make good on her promise. She tried to move away, but the hands of her soon-to-be torturer shot out faster than even she could react and held her wrists. Soon after, she was seeing the world through a red haze as three voices told her what to do, while she fought some sort of cybernetic demon monster called Adam.
They woke up together. Buffy reasoned that they were still in the Temple, or cave, or whatever it was called. Her mom groaned and got up. Then Jack jumped up, saying, "Oh, that's just not right. Jonas and Teal'c?" Nearby Teal'c and Jonas rose, looking equally spooked.
Her mom had grabbed her in a hug that, even though it was welcome, didn't feel as secure as it would have done if it had occurred at home on Earth.
"Sir, there is a way out of this, but we're gonna have to trust," her mom said.
Teal'c interrupted her, "Major Carter." He pointed towards the lighted central area where the time dilation device was set in the floor. Fifth was working there.
"I have made the adjustments, Samantha," Fifth said to her mom.
"To what?" Jonas asked, looking confused, while Jack and Teal'c caught on and started to look around for their stuff and the exit. She guessed her mom had actually convinced the Replicator to come with them and betray the others.
"The time dilation device. I am coming with you," Fifth explained.
Jack looked at her mom, but thankfully he didn't say anything, keeping his displeasure down to an irritated look.
"The others are merging with our brethren at the moment, sharing what they have learned from you, but they will return soon. I have reconfigured the device and installed the timing mechanism. However, you must still enter your command code," Fifth said while looking at her mom. It seemed the thing was actually throwing love-lorn eyes at her mom. The thought was not pleasant, but she kept the ‘ew!’ on her lips from emerging.
"Go," Jack said, and smiled almost in a friendly manner at Fifth.
"Teal'c, Jonas, you take Buffy back to the ship. Don't fire up the engines, but get everything else ready," Jack said. She didn't protest or argue. The idea of getting back on the ship, at the very least, sounded great.
They got up onto the bridge. Jonas sat at one console, Teal'c at another. She decided to do them all a favor and undo the stuff her mom had prepared in the computer that would make the ship explode. There really wasn't much point in firing up the engines and ending up as a nuclear fireball. She was glad that the DNA changes had made her really good at remembering. She repeated all the commands her mom had told her about that would reset everything to the normal baseline, all the while seated comfortably in the Captain's chair.
"Fire up the engines!" Jack's voice came from Teal'c's radio.
"Understood, O'Neill," Teal'c said and looked at her. She looked at the screen that reported everything ready, at least from what little she knew about starship engines, which was just a bit more than she knew about cars, which again wasn't really a lot.
Fifth looked at the machine. It was almost time to run. First entered. "What have you done?" First asked.
"Nothing," he lied.
"Where are the humans?" First asked, not believing him. He would have to run sooner than expected.
"They've returned to their ship to rest," he lied again. It was actually easier than he had suspected.
"They're trying to escape," First said.
"No," he lied again.
"It wasn't a question, fool! Even as we speak they're launching their ship," First said with contempt.
He couldn't believe it. It was like his world shattered in his mind. All his beliefs. His trust in the organic woman. "But she promised," he said.
"It is not too late. I can read your mind. There is time enough to stop the machine," First said, looking triumphant.
"No," he said, not wanting to believe what First was saying.
"Fire the engines now, or we're staying forever," Jack yelled as he ran onto the bridge. Teal'c did so. With a jolt and then a slight feeling of acceleration, along with the faint roar of the engines, they got off the ground.
Jack stopped and cleared his throat. She looked up at him, then down at her chair. The Captain's Chair. "Oh," she said and jumped out of it. Jack sat down. No one spoke. Everyone was too busy doing their jobs. She backed away from the central area, to the back end of the bridge, and looked at the displays there. She hoped they were actually getting away.
"Thor, the field has reversed. My ship's long-range sensors can see the human vessel's energy signature. They are leaving our homeworld now," Tjalfe's hologram reported.
"Set a course towards them. I want to get them out of there as fast as possible," he said.
"That is, if they escape the time dilation field," Tjalfe said as their mighty ships flew as fast as possible towards their goal.
"They're escaping," First yelled. The device hummed into life. Fifth looked at it, hearing the roar of engines moving away in the distance, and knew he had been betrayed.
"But she promised," he said again.
"They've made a fool out of you, my son," First said.
He turned and looked. The timer was at 2 seconds. He jumped towards it.
"Revenge," First yelled, and sent some sort of signal.
There was a brilliant flash of light as he was almost at the device interface.
Time stood still.
As the Prometheus roared out of the atmosphere ahead of the spreading time dilation field, an object roughly the size of a Goa'uld transport ship started its engines. It had received its commands. The zero point module, a copy of Ancient technology recreated by the Replicators, was activated. It found its new target. The human ship that had tricked its makers. It flew towards it at its highest speed, while its weapon started to build its charge.
"Something is wrong," Carter said.
"What?" he asked, hoping that they hadn't been caught in the time field. Of course, if they had been, he'd never have known.
"The Prometheus' sensors aren't complete yet, but I think we just got a reflection from behind us," his second in command said.
"That Replicator ship that tracked us when we arrived?" he asked, a bit worried.
"No, smaller," Carter reported.
"O'Neill," Thor's image appeared on the floor close to him.
"Thor, we did it," he said.
"We know. O'Neill, you are being followed by a device which is giving off massive power readings. We think it is a Replicator weapon that has locked onto your ship. Try to increase your speed. We shall rendezvous with you within moments.” Thor said and his image disappeared.
"We're at our best speed," Carter said.
On the viewscreen two Asgard ships appeared out of hyperspace. One of them moved past, firing their beam weapons off into space behind them. Thor appeared as a hologram next to them once more. "SG-1, I am engaging the Replicator device. It is highly dangerous. The other ship will transport you out of here... Oh, no, it is going to--" he heard Thor say, before he saw what looked like a wall of bluish energy rushing towards him, and then he was enveloped in white light.
He and Jonas stood in a room next to another Asgard. There was a window showing a bluish white flash. "Thor," the Asgard said, and tapped his control stone onto his console.
"Hey," he called out. The Asgard stopped and looked towards him.
"Ah, the famous Colonel O'Neill. I am Tjalfe," the Asgard presented himself.
"Where is the rest of my crew?" he asked.
The Asgard looked exactly as he expected a sad Asgard to look. "I am afraid my ship was only able to beam you and your friend away before the energy wave overtook your ship, as well as Thor's. I believe our friends are dead, destroyed by the Replicator weapon," the Asgard explained.
"What happened?" he asked, trying to stay focused even though his guts felt like they were on fire with anger and a wave of sorrow was threatening to drown his capacity for rational thought.
"I will show you," the Asgard said and activated some sort of playback. An image of the Prometheus and Thor's ship appeared. Thor flew past them and fired at something behind them, clearly hitting it. There was a massive blue explosion that seemed to completely consume the two ships, leaving nothing behind.
"Crap," he said and felt almost faint. They were all dead. Their best ally among the Asgard. His best friend. His... Carter and Buffy. He could see their smiling faces in his mind and, unbidden, the Christmas last year came to mind. It had felt like having a family again. Back then, he had moped; now, he was angry at himself for having missed so much of the happy times. He turned and stared into the wall trying hard to dispel the thoughts in his mind, trying to force himself to keep things together until he was back home and alone. The images of Teal'c, Carter and Buffy kept haunting his mind.
A/N: Not to worry the next chapter is only a day or two away at most so no longer cliffhanger this time.