This is it...the stage has been set, the players are all in place...and Evil has selected a Champion...
Prufrock Nuclear Storage Facility,
It was all a sick joke to him, at least now it was. He been sent out here, with all the correct identification and authority to do what had to be done. But then the flu had come and everyone here had died but him. Which was to be expected. He'd been told to expect as much. And that was when he'd gotten to work, picking out a nuke, using the overhead crane system to load it onto a trailer, and then cracking open the casing to make his modifications. He'd had two pounds of the naquadah left over after the failed Pearl Harbor attack mission and he'd been ordered to spike the bombs with at least one-tenth of a pound each. That meant twenty bombs. Well, he might be able to stretch that to twenty three bombs but not any further. And then the TRUST's plan would come to fruition.
But it was all very clear to him now, especially at the hour of his death. He'd added the ‘salt', but had inadvertently exposed himself to the ‘meat', and now he was dying. An hour ago it had struck him as the right thing to do; to write ‘This is the way the world ends,' on the wall. He had wanted to write all five lines of the poem, but managed only one before his strength gave out. He hoped that if his superiors ever arrived to claim the modified bomb, that they'd find his body on the way there. He'd tried to walk out but only made it as far as the writing on the wall before he decided to just give it all up and die. Hopefully they'd see his journal, and the instructions therein for modifying the rest of the bombs. But they were probably already dead from the flu. One point six ounces of naquadah added to the sub kiloton nuke should make for one hell of a bang. He wished he'd be able to see it. Well, maybe from Hell. He was certain that's where he was headed. He wasn't a bad person. He wasn't a criminal. He was a patriot, and that alone would damn him.
Las Vegas, Nevada,
He walked into the hotel and casino with a pride born of years of service to his master. He did not wear the armor of a First Prime, but that was exactly what he was to his God, Lord Ba'al. That he had so few Jaffa warriors now, after this plague that had befallen the Tau'ri was of no consequence to him. His God would protect him as he would protect his God.
All these lights and so-called entertainments; the Tau'ri must have been easy to please. He walked in front of his God, staring others down with his fierce glare, and wishing he had his armor yet again. At the least, he carried a proper Staff weapon, and with it, he would kill anyone or anything that threatened his God. A man approached him and stopped in front of them.
"Who are you and what do you want?"
"You will tell your master that Lord Ba'al wishes an audience. We have much information to relay on these petty Tau'ri and their plans."
"Uhm yeah. Ok. You want to see the Boss, I'll call up to him."
"Flagg here, what can I do you for, Lloyd?"
"Uhm yeah. Boss, there are a couple of guys here, in suits no less. The first one said to ask ‘My Master' that Lord Ball wants an audience."
"Ba'al? Really? Send them up, would you Lloyd?"
The room was sparsely appointed. Certainly not what Ba'al had expected of someone whom he knew held the power of the Trials in his hand. He had come here to be the Chosen Champion, but he couldn't know what or whom to expect. He certainly didn't expect the cheerful and jovial looking man in front of him!
"Ba'al! Its been a long time! Centuries at least!"
"I do not know you."
"Ah, face change. You know how it goes, every once in a while, one has to change the face, just to keep things, interesting. But the last time I saw you, I think I was going by the name Ahriman."
"Then it is true. It has been millennia since last we spoke. The years have been kind to you."
"You're not so bad looking yourself, Ba'al old pal. What brings you here?"
"I know that the time of Trials is at hand. I wish to be your Champion for the Trials."
"Ok. But first I have a little test for you."
"There's a military air field near here. I have lots of planes, lots of bombs, but almost no pilots. Do you have any pilots?"
"I have pilots."
"Good! Get them out to the field, and get them briefed in on those planes out there. If they can fly them and drop their bombs and missiles accurately, you get the Role of Champion. Go on, let's see what you can do?"
Some days later,
"How bad is it Jack, I mean really?"
"It's bad George. We've got scattered groups of survivors in small enclaves all over the world. In the US they've either congregated in Boulder with Mother Abigail or with the other guy in Vegas. The folks in Boulder have elected a committee to run things. Good strong folks, the lot of them. It seems they want a return of civilization without a lot of the trappings of the old world. Can't say I blame them either. The only fuel left is what's in the tanks around the world. After that, unless we want to get a refinery going, it'll be the end of the engine age."
"And the other countries, Jack?"
"Probably just as bad off as the US is, Paul. Steven, I need you to get your engineers working on alternatives to gasoline and diesel powered engines. We use naquadah as a fuel source, right? And I seem to recall those Hebridians had some anti-grav cars and such. Something along those lines. And we need to provide clean power to the folks left behind. I sure as Hell don't want to charge them for that service."
"Look, I'm no economist. I can balance my checkbook, sure, but balance a budget? Especially one the size of what the US government's budget used to be? Hell no. Nor would I want to. We figured a one percent survival rate, right? Meaning something like sixty million left on the planet? Well, what we didn't figure on was the stupidity of man. There's no more hospitals, no more tetanus shot when you step on a nail, no one to set that broken leg, etc. Even being generous and calling it another ten percent lost to stupidity and accidents, there's enough people in left in the world where we don't have to use budgets or monetary systems ever again. We don't have to mine for metals and ores on Earth now that we can mine for those metals and ores in the Belt.
"We can provide cheap and efficient power through fusion or naquadah or zero point or whatever. As long as we can grow the food we need, the military for the moment can see to the distribution of it. But, and here's the kicker, we'd need to consolidate the survivors into as few areas as possible, just so we can make our jobs a little easier. I mean, if we have all the survivors in Europe gather together in the farming areas of Germany or France, it would be easier to pick up and distribute food to them, rather than having them scattered all over the continent, right?"
"I think we get your points, Jack. What do you need from us?"
"Cargo vehicles. Farm equipment. Personnel transports. Things that don't use gasoline or diesel as their fuel source. We need to dispatch teams to all those remote areas, convince the folks to move to places where we can protect them, defend them. Then we get them to elect representatives for a world government. And finally, we finish the fight against the Ori, the Goa'uld, the Wraith, and whoever else wants to fuck with us at our lowest hour."
With most of the military gone, Harold resumed his planning. He'd obtained a book at the local library that dealt with science fair projects, and he gotten his hands on several sticks of old and sweaty dynamite and proceed to build a bomb, wired into a remote that would activate when he spoke into the radio it was attached to. Then he waited for the right opportunity. A meeting of the Committee? It was perfect timing as far as he was concerned.
Harold and Nadine sat on the steps at Boulder Park, overlooking the neighborhood where he knew the house to be. It was only a matter of waiting now. Waiting for the right moment. He looked at his watch and realized that moment was upon him. It was one of those decisions of fate. Take the left road or the right road at the fork in the road? He could have chosen not to push the button. He could have just as easily as he had snuck in before, sneak in again and remove the bomb. But he wanted his revenge. Against Redman for taking Frannie from him, even after he'd promised not to. Revenge on Frannie for not loving him instead of Redman. Revenge on Larry for that damned stupid song and for hurting Nadine. At least she'd claimed he'd hurt her. Revenge on the others that were a part of the Free Zone Committee, just because. Because they trusted that feeble minded Tom Cullen more than they did him. Because they trusted a deaf mute more than they did him. And for a thousand billion other reasons that he could eventually name.
More than reason enough to push the button, to speak into the walkie-talkie and trigger the device. And he could just as easily not push it. Because he did love Frannie and didn't want to see her hurt. Because Nadine liked Larry and wanted him. Because he could see a future where the others liked him and respected his wisdom and intellect. It was all flashing through his head at the speed of thought. Push or don't push. Talk or don't talk. What to do, what to do. And then he decided.
At the Redman residence, Frannie heard Mother's voice in her head, warning her of the danger. She knew she had to get the others out and now! She screamed, she shouted, and she started for the door. The others had heard Mother's warnings as well and were pushing for the door, trying to get outside for a reason they couldn't begin to fathom. Nick Andros, deaf-mute, heard the warning in his head and instead of diving for the door to the outside, he dove for the closet, screaming as he tore it apart, looking for the thing he knew would be there. And recognizing it when he found it. He had a split second to formulate a final thought before it exploded, and his world turned a brilliant white.
The others reaching for the door realized as Nick screamed that they'd run out of time. They heard the sound of Harold's voice behind them even as they felt the first tell-tales of the expanding wave of heat and energy as it washed out from the closet. Their world turned a brilliant white and they knew it was over.
At the park, Harold saw the explosion rise in the distance, and knew that he'd made the wrong decision. He turned to Nadine.
She knew it too, but she wanted to head west, towards the man she'd saved herself for. Harold and she rode out of town that very moment, out and away. By the time the others realized who was to blame, he'd be too far away to track down and bring to justice, or whatever passed for justice in this new era.
From across town, where they'd been patrolling the eastern approaches to the city, the MPs that O'Neill had left behind had heard and seen the explosion, knowing more than likely where it had come from. The easiest way to decapitate the new leadership committee would have been this very night, and they were fully cognizant of that little fact. As they drove up to the nightmarish scene, where the fire blazed fully out of control, they realized that no one had made it out of the house alive. There were no bodies on the ground.
Two of the MPs moved to the back of the HumVee they'd been driving and extracted a heavy duty hose; one went forward towards the fire, the other towards the hydrant a few yards away. Among the first things they'd done, was to restore water pressure in the hydrant system by providing electrical power. The other MPs moved to establish a perimeter. As soon as the immediate area in front of the HumVee was cleared, there was a flash of brilliant white light, and the Committee members re-appeared.
Project Arc Light had been Samantha Carter's brainchild. She'd conceived of it more than three years before the plague had struck, but it had taken at least a year to create the program that would run the Arc Light satellite system, then another year to obtain the funding, and finally a third year to put them into orbit. When it was all said and done, the Arc Light satellites formed a constellation in geo-synchronous orbit over the Earth. Thirty six satellites made up the constellation. It had been designed to move large quantities of cargo securely from point A to Point B with no time required. But when O'Neill had met with the Committee, he'd given them each a pendant to wear. His words had been cryptic; ‘If you get in trouble, press the button in the middle.'
Only Larry had remembered the pendant that hung around his neck. While the others had been scrambling to get out of the house, he'd pressed the button. Then he'd seen a brilliant flare of light and had believed it to be the explosion reaching out for him. The next thing he knew, he was falling to the ground in front of the house. He looked up and saw that it was fully on fire. He looked around him and saw all of his friends had made it out. The only problem was he couldn't remember running out of the house.
Sergeant Zimmer had seen the flare of white light and recognized it for what it was; the signature of an Asgard transporter beam. Then he saw the people sprawled on the ground and realized it must have been the Arc Light system that had saved their lives. Hopefully, with all the confusion and the adrenaline, they'd write it off to a lot of good luck on their parts that got them out of the fire. He directed two of his men to check on the recent survivors, then got on the radio to alert Odyssey to the goings on here, and to request help in fighting the fire before it spread to other houses nearby.
O'Neill beamed down within minutes of Sgt. Zimmer's call, along with more MPs to assist those already on the ground. The HumVee held more than one hose, but with so much water pressure it took at least two men per hose. Sgt. Zimmer hadn't had that luxury until O'Neill had beamed down with his reinforcements. And that's when O'Neill learned that Mother Abigail had been missing for several days. She'd left a note behind, something about presuming to know the Mind of God, and that she had gone out into the wilderness to repent for her sins. O'Neill just shook his head and got to work, organizing what all needed to be organized. In the midst of the chaos and the fire, word came that Mother Abigail had been found, bruised, battered, and badly dehydrated. O'Neill wasted no time in calling Odyssey and getting a Doc beamed down. He was surprised, however to find that the Doc was Dr. Lam.
There had been no injuries or deaths the night before, and for that everyone was thankful. It had taken more than two hours to bring the fire under control, and in that time it had consumed houses on either side of it. It had made the Committee members realize that there was more to running a community than just electricity and appointing Stu Redman as the Town Sheriff. It had taken more than an hour for the Committee to realize that no one had told anyone that Harold had been responsible for the explosion, and by that time, Harold and Nadine were long gone.
A few of the MPs had been treated for smoke inhalation by a recently arrived doctor named George Richardson. He had decided that Dr. Lam could tend to Mother Abigail's needs much better than he could, particularly since Mother Abigail would feel better with a female doctor. Dr. Carolyn Lam had treated her patient for the bruises and scratches first, all the while re-hydrating her with intravenous fluids. But the old woman had lapsed into a coma for which there was no medical reason. Dr. Lam was at a loss for the coma, but she remained by Mother Abigail's bedside, tending to the cuts on the old woman, and making sure none of them became infected.
In the early morning hours of a day just three days later, Mother Abigail awoke from her coma. Dr. Lam examined her and declared her fit, but succumbing to the rigors of her advanced age. Mother Abigail wasted no time in making her demands heard. Within an hour or so, Stu Redman and Frannie Goldsmith, Larry and Lucy Underwood, Glenn Bateman, and Ralph Brentner crowded into her room, followed shortly by Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.
"You men folk there; East Texas, Ralph, Glenn, and Larry. You must go this day, taking nothing but the clothes on your backs. I'm in the way of knowing that one of you will fall by the way, but not which of you will. You must head west, across the mountains to Him, to the Dark Son of Satan. God has decreed this; you are to be His Champions. You must go and make your Stand."
"Jack. God has a task for you and all who follow you. Make this world into a paradise for His Children. You've already been discussing the right ideas. Now you have to make them work."
"Daniel, it is time. Time to Stand. Are you ready?"
"What must I do?"
"When the time comes, you will know. One will fall by the way, and two will become Angels. Only you can save the final one. Go on, all of you! Be true to yourselves. Be true. Stand."
Mother Abigail passed within seconds of her final message, and the town that had come together around her mourned her passing. But four of them had their marching orders. Well, technically six of them, but only four would make the journey. Larry, Glenn, Ralph, and Stu left that very afternoon, taking nothing with them. Glenn's dog followed them onto the road. As much as Glenn tried to make the dog go back, the dog wouldn't. Whether it was out of a sense of loyalty, or just an inane desire to help the two-legged critters, they'd never know. But they were grateful for the company.
Jack O'Neill took to his instructions like a duck to water. He knew what the long term goal was. It was just a matter of figuring out how to get there. The day after the four Champions left, O'Neill and company descended on Boulder like a swarm of locusts. The residents of Boulder watched as military engineering crews went up and down every street, and into every unoccupied home, turning off everything electrical, before a second crew went in to those homes. The second crew was charged with cleaning things out. Corpses and the contents of refrigerators and freezers, and not necessarily in that order. Organic materials went into what one of the crews called a compost heap. It was actually a very long bodied dump truck they'd found at the offices for the Colorado Highway Department. Other crews used human powered lawn mowers to mow lawns, while yet others collected those grass clippings and raked leaves and added those to the compost truck.
Things continued at their frenetic pace for about a week. Then as quickly as they had started, they stopped. The power came back on for good, along with the water and sewer services on the 14th of that month. His military crews had worked minor miracles in getting some of the systems operational once again. Finding the tank farm just outside of town had been a good thing. Finding those tanks empty had been even better. It meant they now how a place to store all the gasoline they were siphoning up from gas stations around the area.
Prufrock Nuclear Storage Facility #3...
Trashcan Man knew his days were numbered. He had offered his own life to the Dark Man and then he had failed him. Just five days earlier, he'd started to hear the voices again, taunting him about his pyro-maniacal tendencies. He showed them! He'd planted small bombs on the aircraft Flagg was having readied, on the fuel trucks, and on the bombs. The explosions as he left the field had lit up the sky behind him and he screamed out his apologies to any who could hear him. But this place he'd found, surely it would make up for his shortcomings. ‘Fire. The Big Fire. Bum de bum de bum!' The trailer had already been laden with it's deadly cargo, and little did he know the reasons why. Just like he couldn't have known that the plutonium core had been breached and that at that particular moment, he was being bombarded with lethal radiation.
It had taken Samantha Carter the better part of two weeks to figure out how to use the Asgard targeting sensors to look for the dead. Then she had programmed the Arc Light system to begin clearing the dead from their locations, saving the military crews at least one gruesome task. Still, there was the whole thing about burying the bodies. Crews dug massive slit trenches in the deserted spaces of the Mojave. Arc Light satellites beamed up the dead, and deposited them into more or less orderly stacks near those slit trenches. Then the tractors moved in and buried the dead. Using their newfound method for removing the dead had meant that towns could be cleaned up, at least of the dead, in relatively short order. And it meant that more towns could be made ready to receive new inhabitants in short order.
By the 20th of that month, they had started sending out contact teams in Jumpers. They had already mapped everything out from orbit, and the contact teams knew exactly where to go to find the survivors. New residents, survivors of the plague, began arriving in Boulder on the 21st. They were coming in from all over the United States, and they were all eager for a new start, a new lease on life. They were arriving in Boulder, as their unknown Champions were being taken into custody by Flagg's appointed men.
Larry, Glenn, and Ralph had been taken into custody and then placed into separate cells in what once had been the county jail in Las Vegas. True to Mother Abigail's prediction, one had fallen by the way. It had been Stu Redman that had fallen, literally, as he tried to climb up a steep embankment to get to the other side of a washed out road. He lost his footing near the top, and slid down, feet first, breaking his leg along the way. After much crying and wringing of hands, he'd convinced the others that this was God's plan, that they should continue on without him. They had done so, reluctantly. Kojak the dog, had remained with Stu, not leaving his side.
Glenn Bateman had been pondering the roach in his cell when Flagg approached him. But he was disappointed in what he saw. The people in Boulder had made such a big deal out of him, painting his as a homicidal maniac, and here he was, dressed in denim and speaking quietly and calmly. It made Glenn laugh. And it made Flagg angry. He ordered his loyal servant, Lloyd Henreid to kill the old man. Lloyd's first shot missed, but his next five or six didn't. Even as he lay dying, Glenn forgave Lloyd for acting under the orders of the Devil himself. It was just what Shifu and the others had been waiting for.
Shifu appeared in the cell in his angelic form. Flagg laughed at him.
"Take him. I've no further need for him. But I will win the trial, mark my words! Evil will reign for another ten thousand years!"
"He has earned this choice. Come with me, Glenn Bateman of the Tau'ri. You have earned your place among the Ascendants."
"Are you an angel?"
"I am Shifu. An Ascendant. Come with me. Let go of your mortal coil, and see the universe as it truly is."
"With an offer like that...let's go!"
As Henreid watched the strange byplay of an angelic being and Flagg, the body that had been Glenn Bateman faded from view, leaving only clothing behind. It made him start to wonder about whether he had made the right choices in his life. But no, he was too far gone. He'd thrown his lot in with the Devil himself, and there was no way out. He'd sold his soul for a key to get out of jail, and there was no going back now.
Things were coming to a head. There was this electrical tension in the air and even those aboard the Odyssey felt it. The entire fleet was in orbit; Daedalus, Odyssey, Korolev, Apollo, and Agamemnon, along with the two newest additions to the fleet, the Pepperbox-class Missile Cruisers Cluster and Shotgun. O'Neill and Jackson were ensconced in the conference room watching Las Vegas and looking for signs of the pending contest. It was strange to everyone that none of the four Champions had come from the SGC. They had figured that since they were on the front lines of the war with the Ori, that one of them would have been chosen. But no. The ones who were chosen were typical Americans. One had been a professor of Sociology at a small New England university. Another was a farmer from Oklahoma. A third man was a professional singer and guitar player. And the fourth one was the only one with any sort of military experience, and that had been as a rifleman in the first Gulf War.
Jackson and O'Neill had followed their progress on their trek across the mountains and into the prairies leading to Las Vegas. They'd seen Harold commit suicide. They'd seen Nadine Cross jump off the top floor of the hotel that Randall Flagg called home. They'd seen Stu take a fall and break his leg. But not one time did they interfere. This was a script that needed to play out. Besides, if he had been in real trouble, Stu would have activated his pendant, right? It's not like he would forget all about it, especially when he needed it most.
As the sun set over Las Vegas on the evening of the 30th, Flagg brought out the entertainment for the night. Flags with some symbol on them waved in the night breeze. An armored van with the same symbol painted on the side approached a stage. Many men with guns got out escorting two men in shackles. They pushed the two onto the stage and cuffed them to steel I-beams, crucifixion style. A close up of the two men showed them to be Larry Underwood and Ralph Brentner. O'Neill and Jackson looked at one another and wondered what had happened to Bateman, the old professor. Both men wished to be able to hear the goings-on down below, but they couldn't. They could only witness visually the events. They watched, disbelieving, as Ba'al and a score of Jaffa came out onto the stage. They watched as Flagg came out shortly after, was handed a long scroll, and proceeded to read from it. Flagg paused periodically during the reading, during which Jaffa on either side of Underwood and Brentner applied pain sticks to the men. The crowd seemed to delight in the torture they were being presented. O'Neill and Jackson cringed; both men knew the sheer pain those sticks brought...like cattle prods on some major steroids.
Then something happened, and neither man knew what, but the crowd seemed to part like the Red Sea in front of Moses. A man, whom scans showed to be suffering from severe radiation poisoning, a man on a four-wheeled ATV came into the picture, towing a very large bomb.
"Crap. It's one of those old Mk II's. I thought all of those things had been disposed of decades ago."
"What's a Mark 2?"
"Very old nuclear bomb, Danny. From the early days of the Cold War. Nominal yield was just under a kiloton. Damages should be limited to Las Vegas, and then maybe only the city center."
"And what's the deal with Ba'al?"
"I have no idea. But I have a sudden urge for snake stew."
"Ick? You who use polysyllabic words when explaining things, did you just say ‘Ick'?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, snake stew? Uhm, ICK!"
"That you Lloyd? I can't see to good. My eyes, they're all funny."
"What you got there Trashy?"
"The big one. The big fire. The A-Bomb! I brought it for you! My life for you!"
Before anyone could say anything else, a great blob of energy appeared over the crowd and manifested itself as a hand. The Hand of God. It moved over to the bomb, and reach out for it. Everyone, everywhere on the planet and on all of the ships in orbit, and all of the far-flung Earth colonies heard Mother Abigail at that particular instant.
"The Promise has been kept and God has willed this. Amen."
The Hand of God grabbed the bomb and a slight crackle of electrical energy could be heard. In the instant before the bomb detonated, Mother Abigail spoke again.
"Come on home boys. You done good."
"Bridge! Lock-on to those two men there! NOW!"
"Too much interference sirs! We can only get one lock-on!"
"Do it! Beam them up now!"
A white light engulfed the stage just as the bomb released its fury on the citizens on Las Vegas. No one saw what happened to Flagg, but the look on Ba'al's face was priceless as the realization of what was about to happen filtered into his snake brain. Below them, Las Vegas and her residents became as one with the wind, as their body temperatures reached one million degrees Fahrenheit in less than a second. In the conference room, a very shaken Larry Underwood appeared on the floor. O'Neill judged the blast. The blast wave was reaching a lot further than a sub kiloton nuke should have been.
"Bridge? Tell me that wasn't a naquadah enhanced nuke?"
"Sorry sir. Getting trace readings of naquadah in the cloud. Blast reads as just under a megaton in power. Las Vegas is gone, sir. Vaporized."
"Roger that. Get a medic to the conference room."
Washed out Road,
Stu Redman hadn't know what to expect when Mother had told him he must bear witness, that he must be at the top in order to do so. But he'd made the climb, and just near the top a hand had reached down to help him up the last few feet. Tom Cullen. He'd claimed he'd been miles away when a voice had told him he was needed here. And so he had come. That had been that morning. Now they were seated before a fire, roasting a rabbit that Kojak the dog had brought for them. And looking in just the right direction to see the explosion and the mushroom cloud rising up in the distance.
"What's that Stu?"
"I think that was Las Vegas, Tommy. ‘I saw a pale horse, and a pale rider upon it. The name of the horse was Pestilence. The name of the rider was Death.'"
"What's that, Stu?"
"It's from the Bible, the Book of Revelations, Chapter 6, verse 8. It's the end of Las Vegas, Tommy. And the end of Randall Flagg... if God is good"
"Oh. No, I meant that on your necklace?"
"Necklace? God. I forgot all about that."
And he finally pressed the button at the center. And he, Tommy and Kojak the Dog disappeared in a brilliant white light and found themselves on the deck of a ship, with Larry, and Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.
"What in the Hell?"
"Easy there, Mr. Redman. We were wondering if you were ever going to use the pendant, or if you were going to be all macho and not use it."
"To be honest, I'd plumb forgotten all about it. What did it do, anyways?"
"It activated an emergency transceiver that was received on the Bridge. The personnel there looked at your position, and beamed you three up."
"Beamed? You mean like that old Star Trek TV show?"
"Something like that. Only our system is way better, and faster. Now, let's get you to the infirmary, where we can take care of your leg."
"And my flu."
"Flu? Shit. Ok."
Ten days Stu Redman had lain in bed under a doctor's care. Ten days that Larry and Tom had waited by his bedside. Ten days that Odyssey had been in orbit over the Earth. Now he and the other two were in the conference room, ready to discuss the fate of the world.
"The fate of the world? Are you serious?"
"More than serious, Mr. Underwood. Earth has been decimated, twice. First the flu hit, and took ninety-nine percent of the population. And then chance happened, and maybe another twenty percent went by the wayside. Call it a culling by Mother Nature, by God, by the Devil, or by whomever you want to call responsible. The fact is mankind is now on the endangered species list, and I vow to change that. I'm going to need your help to do that."
"What do you want from us?"
"And that's the right question to ask, Stu. We've located survivors all over the Western Hemisphere; North and South America. We've begun contacting them, trying to organize them in centralized locations. We have contacts teams in Europe, Asia, and Africa doing the same thing, bringing the survivors to centralized points. We want to see trade start up again between nations. Sure, we can't expect to re-create everything, but let's start with the basics, like grains, fruits, meats, and milk. The military will help by providing the latest in transportation vehicles. Vehicles, incidentally, that don't pollute.
"The military will protect the planet. We need you to get society moving again. We'll provide clean energy. You tell us where you want it to go. It's my understanding, Stu, that the Committee wanted you to be the Sheriff? That's good. We'll give you an initial cadre of twenty-four Military Police to help you out. Two of them will be instructors, for police and law enforcement matters, and two more to train up a fire department."
"What about you, Mr. President?"
"I can't stay here. There's a war coming, and I intend to be at the front, leading my people into battle. But you can always contact me through the SGC. I'll make sure you get the contact info before I leave."
Daniel was dreaming. He saw his wife as she was before she was captured by the Goa'uld. Then the dream changed and he saw Sarah, as she was before Osiris took her over. Both women were trying to tell him something, but he couldn't seem to understand their words. Then he found himself in an open meadow. And he remembered being here before.
"Husband of my mother."
"Shifu. We won, didn't we?"
"Yes. For the next ten thousand years, Good will reign over Evil. I have come to give you a gift. Something you have been looking for. You must journey to Lantea, the home of the Ancients. You will find that the memory block is no longer effective, husband of my mother. Ex uno disce omnes."
"From one, all will learn?"
"That is correct. Ex fervidus aquas, abicierum armeria Sangraal."
"I see. I will know where, I suppose?"
"Verimas. Aveo amacuse."
Daniel ran to Jack's quarters but didn't find him there. He looked in his office, and still, no Jack. As he passed the conference room, he found him, paperwork surrounding him, fast asleep.
"Wake up Jack. I had another visit from Shifu."
"What did the little guy have to say?"
"Oh nothing important. Just the location of the Sangraal."
"That's good, Daniel. I got word about an hour ago. Dakara has fallen to the Ori. They destroyed the planet completely."
"Damn. I need to go to Atlantis, Jack."
"Damn straight you do. And you're taking a lot of support with you. I think for this, we can use the ZPM we recovered from Anubis, don't'cha think?"
"Yeah. That's would probably be good."
The ZPM had been plugged in. They were now ready to dial Atlantis. They even had a spare ZPM that a search and survey team had recovered from Anubis' fortress. Survey teams were still going over the miles and miles of warrens and tunnels that Anubis' fortress mountain held. With two ZPM units recovered at one location, they were hopeful they would find more. Daniel was surrounded by SG units Two and Three, and there were two companies of soldiers behind him, along with various supplies for the base.
"Chevron eight, locked. Wormhole established!"
"Atlantis Expedition, this is Sierra Golf Actual, how copy over?"
"Sierra Golf Actual. Alpha Echo reads loud and clear. Stand by for Dr. Weir."
"Dr. Weir. It is good to hear your voice again."
"Almost as good as it is to hear yours, sir. What about the plague?"
"Earth has been decimated. The death toll is in the billions. Approximately fifty million survivors, world wide."
"Open the door, Dr. Weir. We're sending a supply train through, along with additional personnel."
"Door's open, sir."
"Send us your reports. I'll check in again tomorrow, same time."
Ancient City of Atlantis,
"Lower the force field!"
"John. It's the SGC. They're sending supplies and more personnel through the Gate."
"Did I hear correctly? The SGC initiated contact?"
"They did Rodney. Why?"
"They must have found another Zed-PM."
"Maybe. John, General Landry said they invoked Plan Genesis."
"Oh God. How many dead?"
"About fifty million."
"That's not too bad."
"No, John. Fifty million survivors."
The three leaders of Atlantis looked toward the event horizon and saw it ripple and part as SG-2 stepped through, followed by Dr. Daniel Jackson, Teal'c and SG-3. Then pallets of equipment started to float through the open Gate. Float? Yes. It looked like anti-gravity sleds for the pallets. Dozens of pallets came through, all stacked high with boxes and equipment. Then came soldiers. Two companies worth. Atlantis would no longer be an under-strength outpost. The last pallet through the Gate was unmarked, but Dr. Jackson directed SG3 to open it up. Inside the topmost box was a fully charged ZPM. He handed it over to Dr. Rodney McKay, who immediately took it to the power generation room and plugged it alongside the only other one they had.
In the control room, systems that had been dormant because of the lack of power became active, and weapons stations atop the highest of the towers spun up to full power, then switched back to inactive status, waiting for their chance to defend the city. Dr. McKay was amazed at the systems that were suddenly on-line. He'd often wondered why the Ancients hadn't put defensive weapons on the city, and now he knew. There just hadn't been enough power to activate them. The Wraith would be in for a surprise the next time they came to call on Lantea.
Dr. Weir's Office,
Two hours later...
Colonel John Sheppard was still settling the new people into their quarters and seeing to the disbursement of supplies to their appropriate locations. That left Dr. McKay and Dr. Weir to meet with Dr. Jackson. Teal'c was going over the defensive capabilities of the city for his report to O'Neill.
"Daniel. How bad?"
"Very bad. Did you have the dreams, way out here?"
"We did. Did you meet Mother Abigail?"
"Oh yeah. A fine strong woman. She died not too long ago. She died after she chose God's Champions to do battle. Once in ten thousand years comes the Time of Trials, when the fate of the universe lies at stake. The last time, evil won, and the result was the rise of the Goa'uld. This time, Good won the battle. Two of the Champions died, two survived."
"God? Dr. Jackson?"
"I didn't think I believed before, but I certainly do now. There are things, even science can't begin to explain. The dreams are just the tip of the iceberg, Dr. McKay."
"Right. Well, down to the reason I'm here. After the battle, one of the Ascendants came to me. They told me the Sangraal was here."
"From boiling water, the sea will give up the ark of the Sangraal."
"Yeah. Ever spot anything like that on the sensors?"
"No. But I guess it wouldn't hurt to look."
Several hours later...
They'd never really completed any scans this detailed of the planet Atlantis was on, but they were running them now. And so far they'd only found one instance of boiling water. A natural hot spring on one of the small islands that dotted the ocean surface of the planet. Daniel Jackson was on a Jumper and en-route to the location almost as fast as they could put the mission together. The hot springs was buried in a dense jungle, and it took the SG members with Daniel the better part of three hours to clear a sizeable area around the spring.
It was standing there; an obelisk. Ex uno disce omnes, armeria Sangraal was written on the face of it. And there were two initials beneath it. It took only a few seconds for Daniel to puzzle them out, then he laughed, long and hard. ‘DJ'. He'd left the message for himself when he had been Ascended. As he touched the carved initials, the memories of his time as an Ascendant came rushing back into his head. He stumbled, then fainted, scaring the life out of the SG teams attending to him.
"Damn. O'Neill's gonna kill us!"
"Relax. Must be the heat or something. He just fainted is all."
Thirty minutes later, Daniel came too.
"Oh geez. Anyone get the name of that Ha'tak? The one that hit me?"
"You ok, Dr. J?"
"Yeah, Ferretti. Just a headache from Hell."
"What the Hell happened, Doc?"
"Everything. The missing year, everything. All the knowledge of the Ancients, and of the Goa'uld, now resides in my head. And let me tell you, that makes for one Hell of a headache."
Daniel walked over to the Obelisk, and pressed the keys in the correct order, causing the ground to shake and heave. When it stopped, a chest had appeared on the surface of the water. Daniel reached for it, opened it, and took the items within. Then he turned to Ferretti.
"Mission's done. Let's go home."
Seven vessels, the entirety of the Earth fleet, were racing to Hebridan, to join up with fleets from the Asgard, the Hebridians, the Serrakin, and even the Lucian Alliance. They'd chosen a spot in space to wage their battle. Just minutes before the Ori came into range, Daniel called out to Oma and she came.
"You have come far, Daniel."
"We've had to. You wouldn't help us, not even to clean up your own messes. Well, we're about to clean a major mess for you. Tell the others they have exactly five minutes to become corporeal again. Then I will unleash the Sangraal. Tell them. Five minutes."
The Ori fleet approached the line of ships. It was a motley collection of ships arrayed around the more powerful Asgard vessels. Clustered around the five Asgard ships of the O'Neill-class were the five Daedalus-class battlecruisers with the two Pepperbox ships behind them. Lucian Alliance Ha'taks held the left flank, and Hebridan and Serrakin ships on the right flank. Jackson waited the full five minutes while the Ori ships approached to within firing distance before releasing the power of the Sangraal. On the mortal plane, those on the bridge of the Agamemnon saw a few lights blink from red to orange to yellow, and finally to green.
But on the plane that had been the Ascendants playground a great wave of energy spilled out from the point in space occupied by the ship called Agamemnon. It spread out in an even sphere until the very universe itself was fully engulfed in its grip. Where ever it went, those on the Ascended plane of existence ceased to exist. They didn't die, they just ceased. Their energy became one with the wave of Sangraal energy, feeding it, and giving it strength to continue. When at last, the entirety of the universe had been saturated, the sphere collapsed in on itself, trapping the life force energy of thousands of Ascended beings within itself.
The Ascendants had become corporeal in the final seconds before Daniel Jackson had unleashed the Sangraal. Some had chosen to appear on the ships of the fleet, among either the Tau'ri or the Asgard, assisting them in their war. Some had appeared on uninhabited worlds, either alone or in small clusters; worlds that had once been Ancient Outposts. Though those Descendants wouldn't recall their knowledge for long, they recalled it long enough to reach their outposts and revive them. In time, the Tau'ri would visit them, bringing them into the fold of the fledgling Alliance they were forming.
But the Ori hadn't expected the wave of energy from the Sangraal. They had always believed the weapon a myth, told by the Alterrans as an empty threat and nothing more. As the wave of energy reached them, they realized their error, and faded from existence.
Deprived of their guiding Gods, the Ori ships almost seemed to fall out of formation for a few seconds. That was what the fleet had been waiting for. The ships with the longest range weapons fired first. Beams lanced out at the Ori ships and although not many beams struck their targets, the targeted ships were neatly bracketed by the dozen or so lances of energy. The Ori still did not fire back at the gathered vessels, and so the ships in question were able to get off a second round of fire. The second batch of fire came from the Allied ships, and this time it included the long range missiles launched in clusters from the two Pepperbox ships.
Chaos reigned on the Ori ships. Their leaders had fallen wherever they stood and the soldiers that manned the ships could not make them awake or give them instructions on the equipment, which they suddenly did not know how to use. The human soldier-followers of the Ori sat at their stations, not wanting to touch the panels of mysterious lights and buttons. Not because they didn't want to, but because they didn't know how to do so.
The second volley had gone unanswered, and now the Allied ships closed to minimum distance. They opened fire with every weapon in their arsenal, and every beam or missile hit its assigned target. The Ori ships exploded into nothingness. The fleet, reeling from their unexpected victory, raced to the location of the Ori Supergate, and destroyed it. It was surprisingly easy to destroy the gateway.
Larry and Stu, and Kojak were going home. They were in the lead HumVee of a long convoy of trucks, trailers, and HumVees led by snowplows. Winter had come early this year, and the first snowfall had closed the roads immediately. Both men were anxious to get home to the women they loved. They had both received a new lease on life, and neither one wanted to waste a single moment of that new life. The fleet might have been engaged in battle, but they had been engaged in trade and treaty negotiations. Communities had been formed around the globe, and no one in those communities wanted to return to the ways of the previous generation. Those ways had led to the deaths of untold billions. It was time for something new. The military would provide the technology, the people would provide the products. Once the people of Earth were self-sustaining again, then they would open trade to the universe.
Mother Abigail was dead, but so was Flagg. The world looked and smelled new. And they wanted to keep it that way. The new vehicles the military was providing would go a long way towards keeping that promise. The people of Boulder came out in droves to see what the convoy was all about. Stu Redman stepped out of the HumVee and saw Frannie waiting for him. The two rushed into the arms of each other and hugged and kissed in front of everyone. It was a joyous reunion for them, and no one wanted to interfere with it. Lucy wanted to ask about Larry, but she waited for the right moment to do so. Then she turned and saw him, and ran to him. They held each other, not wanting to let the other one go. Larry had been rescued by Odyssey, at the instant before the blast wave hit him. He'd already made his peace with God, and with the world, but here he was, in the arms of the woman he loved. Life, was good.
New Year's Day...
It was a day for celebration. A New Year had dawned crisp and clear, and yet it was also a time to mourn. So many had been lost to the plague. Tomorrow, the Stargate would be moved into a new building, above ground. But today, the SGC and their families celebrated in the Mountain. They celebrated life. They celebrated love. And the celebrated peace. For once, the only threats on the board were the very minor Goa'uld trying to establish their kingdoms, and a few stirrings from the Aschen. Today also marked the signing of a new treaty that would create a new alliance of races. There were representatives from the Asgard, the Nox, the Hebridan, the Serrakin, and the Lucian Alliance, alongside the Tau'ri for this occasion. The Lucian's had not wanted to enter into any sort of formal treaty, but the Tau'ri had convinced them that there was strength in numbers. The two groups might not always agree on everything, but when it came to the banding together against an enemy that threatened the universe, in that aspect, they agreed. And thus, for the first time that anyone could remember, peace came to the universe. At least for the moment.
A new Capitol was under construction in the middle of the country. It made a lot more strategic sense that having it on a coastline. And the terrain was prettier, not that this was an important factor for the President. Las Vegas and its destruction was being described as a modern day Sodom, though there were no pillars of salt yet in the story, it wouldn't be long before someone embellished their version of it.
The engineers were busy over at Fort Carson, converting the vehicles there to run on something other than diesel. The former students of the various military academies were now all being housed over at the Air Force Academy. They would finish out their education, and then be shipped off to any one of several forward commands to serve under Generals Vidrine, Hammond, or Davis. It was interesting to see grizzled combat veterans like Bra'tac and McNulty teaching classes together, going over strategies and tactics together. O'Neill would never have imagined those two becoming such good friends.
One year. It was a full year since an Army private by the name of Campion had deserted his post and unleashed on the world the super flu. As Jack O'Neill gazed out of the window of his office and onto the fields of wheat waving in the breeze below him, he found it hard to believe that so much could change in a year. In another two years, technically, his term of office would be over. But there were already rumblings from the new People's Congress at Boulder towards having him serve at least another four years.
And there was still a world government to form, though there was a decent foundation already in place. Each continent was allowed to send two representatives, and so far that was working out just fine. With Stewart Redman and Nick Andros as the reps for North America, O'Neill felt they would go far.
Year 6, Post-Plague (6AP)...
Jack O'Neill had gone far. From 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of the Academy at the tail end of the Vietnam War, to service during Desert Storm, to saving the world time and again while at the SGC, to command of the SGC, to Secretary of Homeworld Security, to President of the United States, to his current position, President of a united Earth. He'd love to meet some political pundit, a century from now, trashing his political career, just to tell him, ‘you weren't there, you wouldn't understand!'.
With the Lucian Alliance providing some supply line services to the Midway Station, it had become a focal point in the support of Atlantis, and the ongoing war against the Wraith. Two full battle groups had been dispatched to Atlantis, one to stay with the city, the other to hunt the Wraith.
Among the military personnel that had been rescued at the onset of the plague, Admiral Robert Jackson now held the illustrious position of Admiral of a task force. Centered around the Country-class Carrier America, he had two City-class Escort Carriers, eight Daedalus-class Battlecruisers, and ten Pepperbox-class Missile Frigates. The other task force, led by an Admiral Bart Mancuso, was centered around the Country-class Carrier Russia, with an equal number of escort vessels. It was a large amount of manpower, and it represented a full two-thirds of the available military power of Earth. But while that much power was away, Earth had its allies to fall back on. Hebridan had sent a minor task force to help the Tau'ri, and the Asgard had sent two O'Neill-class ships to join in the effort. No one would attack Earth, under their watchful eyes.
Fifteen years. Fifteen long years since the plague devastated Earth and her children. Fifteen years it's taken Earth to bounce back, taken that long for her children to start spreading themselves all over the planet. The old cities had fallen into ruin. They've been left as monuments to the old ways. Ways of life that no one wants anymore. Great huge areas of the planet have been designated as natural preserves; the Sahara, the Amazonian basin, Antarctica, Alaska. Still other areas have been designated historical sites and it is forbidden to live within them; New York City, Los Angeles, London, Moscow, Beijing. The people live in enclaves now, at peace with their surroundings. Half the farms in the world grow food for domestic use, the rest for export through the Gate.
The Asgard have passed on. Their entire race was doomed once they began cloning themselves. They couldn't evolve to the next level, so they committed suicide and killed themselves. But they left their legacy of science and knowledge to the Tau'ri. It's in good hands.
The Lucian Alliance, once a loose federation of ex-Goa'uld First Primes matured into an actual space fairing power, and are now considered amongst the strongest of members in the Confederation of Worlds.
A new generation is coming of age, in this post-plague world. A generation that knows of the old ways, only by word of mouth. A generation that won't know hunger, or fear, or crime, or war. A generation that will honor their elders, until their elders are gone. Then they will carve for themselves, their own places in history.