“6th chevron locked.”
Major General George Hammond stood in the gate room awaiting the wormhole connection to be made in order for their guests to return to their home world. The Sneila Driew were a gaunt pale people with long faces and protruding chins that SG-6 had encountered on a recent exploration mission. A pacifist and pastoral society, they had little to offer in the way of technology or resources, but they had been keen to make links with Earth, and talked enthusiastically about their culture and history. Too enthusiastically. For the most part, he’d left them with Doctor Jackson, but, as the senior official present, protocol required he bid them farewell in person.
“7th chevron locked.”
The rush of air as the vortex exploded from the centre of the gate still startled George even after two years at the base. Most of the time he wasn’t standing this close when the connection was made, but he’d been here often enough that it shouldn’t still affect him. Fortunately for his reputation, he showed no obvious signs of startlement. The Sneila Driew ambassador and his party approached from the opposite site of the ramp.
“Ambassador Tsedriew, we thank you for taking the time to visit us; we very much look forward to a prosperous relationship between our peoples.”
“And thank you, Major General George Hammond, for your hospitality and for that of your people. The Sneila Driew also hope our exchanges of goods and culture will bring benefit to both our peoples. We are most pleased that you offered us this invitation to visit your world and share with us your history and your learnings, and we have found it of great benefit to our understanding of your race. It is with much optimism that we look forward to agreeing a treaty to allow us to spend more time together—” keep a neutral expression, George thought to himself, they don’t mean with you personally “—and gain greater understanding of one another’s corpus of cultural collateral. May our next meeting be as prosperous and not distant from this day.”
With that they bowed then entered the gate. George felt like tap dancing, but he was well aware that there were security cameras monitoring the room.
“Thank God they’ve gone!” said the young lieutenant standing at his side after the wormhole had closed. He then remembered who he was talking to and started to panic until he saw the General’s smirk.
“I couldn’t have put it better myself, Lieutenant. To paraphrase a wise man: I could talk the hind legs off a donkey, but only they could persuade it to go for a walk afterwards.”
With his ceremonial duty complete, he was done for the day and was ready to leave the mountain. As he was about to exit the gate room, an aide approached. “General, there’s a call for you from the quartermaster’s office on line five.”
“Thank you, Mr Lillie.” While he walked over to the phone on the east wall of the gate room and took the call, the security detail in place whilst the wormhole to the Sneila Driew home world was active were relieved of their station and filed out to return to their quarters. The other members of the diplomatic party either did the same, or in the case of those not stationed on the base, made their way to the elevator that lead topside.
It was five minutes later, just as George was putting the phone down, that the portals appeared and the alien creatures began to emerge. The staff in the control room overlooking the gate had just enough time to sound a code three intruder alert before they were overrun.
As per the pre-arranged foothold situation procedures, civilian staff in the lower levels evacuated as marines moved in the opposite direction and the blast doors in the gate room were lowered.
The few armed guards still in the gate room put up a little resistance, but the thick scales on the hides of the invaders allowed them to withstand most hits and quickly close the distance between themselves and the shooter, resulting in a messy end for the solider in question. Whilst this was happening, the mage had emerged from the portal and immediately resumed casting. Up in the more confined space of the control room it was a massacre; of the five staff on duty, four lay dead on the floor and a traumatised Sergeant Harriman was being held in his seat by one of the invaders.
It handed him a paper on which six symbols were scrawled. “Dial.”
Walter hesitated and looked down into the gate room hoping to make eye contact with the General in order to get a steer on whether to comply or not. However, before he had to make a decision, the demon was distracted by a brunette emerging from the portal at high speed and aiming a flying kick at its head. There was a crunching snap of bone as its neck broke and the demon fell to the floor.
The journey through the portal wasn’t instantaneous; Faith had time to curse herself for her lack of spatial awareness and prepare herself to emerge amongst a crowd of demons armed only with a knife. She’d even had time to try her phone but it seemed no-one had thought to install a transmitter mast mid-portal. She left it redialling and put it back into her pocket. Hopefully, they would get a signal the other end and be able to trace which cell tower she was broadcasting from. She could see the other end of whatever it was you called the inside of portals approaching – she’d have to ask Red that one – and prepared herself to attack. Unfortunately for her, cell phones didn’t work 600 feet underground either.
When she emerged, the kick to the demon’s head was done on autopilot – her conscious mind was busy evaluating her surroundings. On the good side, this wasn’t the Hellmouth, or at least not one she knew about. On the bad side, it appeared to be a military base. Going back to the good side, it seemed the base occupants were fighting the demons rather than being in league with them. However, the bad side shot back decisively with fact that the demons were winning.
She’d lucked out in taking down the demon in front of her in one blow. She seemed to be in some sort of control room that had a glass wall which looked out into a larger room with a strange enormous metallic disc at one end. The spiral pattern of the central area suggested it opened, leading somewhere, but usually the military were a bit less extravagant in their doorway design, function being deemed more important that form. However, there was no time to ponder the architecture: there were a few soldiers attempting to fight off the demons out there, and they desperately needed help. There was another demon at the other end of the room she was in, but it was injured having taken fire from a P-90. She made quick work of dispatching it with a stab to the neck.
General Hammond was trying to analyse the tactical situation. The only technology they were aware of that could transport troops directly into the SGC was an Asgard transport beam, but this was clearly something else; the Asgard beams did not project glowing red portals into the room. He was not armed and could see that, in close quarters combat, his men were no match for the alien invaders. Therefore, he reasoned, his best chance lay in negotiating with the human who appeared to be leading the invasion – if he could attract his attention for long enough to speak without being gutted and assuming it was not a Goa’uld. So far the aliens had concentrated on those in the room that were armed and fighting back. He was about to attempt to speak out when a girl emerged from the control room.
Faith ran to the open doorway and, as she looked for the best target, she saw the mage with his back to her completing another spell of some sort. She closed the distance between them in a single leap and raised her knife to his throat.
“Okay, everyone stands down now or Gandalf here gets it.” It wasn’t going to feature on David Letterman’s ‘top ten threats to make in the middle of a fight’, but it had the desired effect. The demons stopped their fighting and turned to their master.
“You realise, if you kill me, they’ll tear you to pieces, Slayer.”
“Maybe, but somehow I think you value your life more than mine.”
“True, but the question is how much do you value *his* life.” He directed her attention to the side of the room where one of the demons had pulled an older man, whom she had not previously noticed, in front of it. From the looks of his uniform he was probably some high ranking officer.
“Well,” the mage continued, “it looks like we have a good old fashioned Mexican standoff.”
“What have the fucking Mexicans got do to with anything?” she asked.
“It’s just a saying.”
“Well, you may as well give it up. I’m sure these solider boys will have reinforcements crawling all over this place in a few minutes, and it doesn’t look like you’ll be leaving any time soon.” She indicated the heavy blast doors blocking any exit from the room.
“That is an excellent point – why is nobody dialling?”
Faith was momentarily confused as a demon rushed back into the room where she arrived and, barging the man she had saved earlier away from the control panel, started pressing buttons.
“Whatever he’s doing, tell him to stop right now.” Faith felt like she was rapidly losing what little control of the situation she ever had. Firstly the central portion of the big disc had opened to reveal, as she had suspected, a hollow ring. What she hadn’t anticipated was the outer part noisily rotating. Now she could see the concrete wall behind it, she could see it was not, as she had first assumed, some sort of high security doorway, but the fact they were standing on a ramp leading up to it suggested it led somewhere. It must be some sort of portal, but what were the military doing with it?
“If I may be so bold, I’d suggest you and I stand back a bit – you don’t want to be standing in this area when the connection is made.”
“He telling the truth?” she asked the man being held by the demon opposite her.
Like Faith, General Hammond was also trying to figure out how he’d lost control of his base so quickly. With no wormhole established, security in the gate room had not been at full strength. Their security was primarily aimed at preventing an attack arriving through the gate or an attack from the surface. Little planning had gone into what to do if aliens emerged from their own portals inside the mountain. With two portals in the gate room and one in the control room, they had quickly overcome those forces that were stationed inside the room, and he himself had been taken hostage. For all he knew, there could be more portals elsewhere in the SGC. Before he’d had any time to deal with the situation, the girl had arrived – from where he wasn’t sure; presumably she’d also come through their attackers’ portals, but so far she seemed to be human, unlike the man who seemed to be leading the alien forces. While he physically looked human, his mode of dress didn’t look standard Earth fare, and humans definitely didn’t throw fireballs from their fingertips. Normally George would be confident in the additional defences throughout the mountain preventing the invaders from proceeding further than the gate room, but, with their apparent ability to create their own portals, he wasn’t so sure. The question from the girl broke into his evaluation.
“He is speaking the truth, ma’am. In about twenty seconds, a large plume will explode from the centre of the gate killing anyone standing within the hatched area.”
Faith manoeuvred her captive to the end of the ramp, stopping just outside the marked area, and kept one eye on the gate and one eye on the other demons in the room. A few more had emerged from the doorway into the control room, having subdued the defenders in the neighbouring parts of the complex where the fourth portal had emerged, and returned to their leader.
“What’s it do, anyway?”
This was an interesting development. Clearly the invaders knew the purpose of the gate, but the girl didn’t. This combined with the fact they appeared to have attacked the SGC in order to access the gate suggested their portals originated from the Earth – likely in the USA given her accent.
“I’m afraid that’s classified, ma’am.”
“Classified,” laughed the mage, “I don’t think that really matters, General – it’s not as if she is going to live to tell anyone. The Chappa’ai is a doorway to other worlds, and it’s about to open.”
At that moment the final chevron locked into place and the wormhole established. Faith braced herself for the possibility of more incoming demons, but none emerged.
“Bragnot, take your squad.” The demon holding Hammond backed its way to the edge of the gate dragging its captive in front of it, and six others broke from the ranks gathered around the room and disappeared into the rippling barrier.”
Faith was trying to think of a tactical solution but her mind was drawing a blank. Maybe letting them leave for another world was the best thing to do – after all they wouldn’t be a danger to Earth if they weren’t on it. But that was what they wanted to do, so it probably wasn’t wise. Plus, she couldn’t let them take a hostage, even if he did work for the military.
“Well my dear, it’s been fun.” The mage suddenly disappeared from her grasp, and re-emerged alongside the General in front of the gate. “Kill her,” he ordered the remaining demons, as he and Bragnot jumped through the gate, taking their hostage with them.
Four demons immediately rounded on the slayer and the fight began. It didn’t take long for Faith to realise that this was a fight she wasn’t going to win. It seemed she’d been wrong about the Army reinforcements’ appearance being imminent. Weighing the number of demons remaining in the room against the number that had accompanied the mage to wherever the portal led, she decided her odds were probably better on the other side.
The demons had other ideas, and it was a badly beaten slayer that staggered through the event horizon a minute or so later. Had any of the demons followed her, she would have made for an easy kill as she collapsed unconscious to the ground, but their orders were to remain on Earth. The distraction of the fight over, one of them returned to the control room and pressed the disconnect button to shut down the gate.
Sergeant Harriman, the only human survivor, lay in the corner of the control room alongside the bodies of his co-workers and friends and hoped not to be noticed. Fortunately for him, the demon who had opened the wormhole was one of those slain by Faith before she made it to the gate, so none of them were aware he was still alive and none showed any interest in inspecting the bodies of those fallen.
It was an hour later when General Hammond regained consciousness, according to his watch. As soon as they were through the gate, the alien holding him had thrown him head-first against the stonework of the ramp, knocking him out. The cold was the first thing to grab his attention – it was probably only a degree or two below freezing and the area was free from snow, but he was only wearing a dress uniform and the jacket was more for show than for warmth. He looked around and saw the body of the girl lying in front of the gate. There was no sign of the aliens so he staggered to his feet, bracing himself against the stonework at the side of the pathway leading to the gate podium and loped over to her body.
As he knelt beside her, he could see she was still breathing but was unconscious. Her skin was covered in bruises, grazes and cuts, her black top making it hard to determine exactly how serious they were. In normal circumstances, he wouldn’t dare move her without a stretcher, but these weren’t normal circumstances. The world into which they had emerged was too cold to consider attempting to find a settlement to treat her injuries or, for that matter, his own. The gate was on a dry barren plain with dense forest on the horizon on all sides, and no obvious pathway led away from the gate. He could see the tracks of the alien party, but he had no desire to follow them, let alone the ability. He considered dialling the SGC, but had no GDO, and there was still a possibility the forces the invaders had left in the gate room still held it. The alpha site was also out – that too had been fitted with an iris for protection. The only other gate address he knew from memory was that of the Tok'ra world, Vorash, so he staggered over to the DHD and dialled the connection then returned to the girl and, struggling with the weight, carried her through the event horizon.