Xander crouched by the twisted wreckage. “This looks like a Tel’tak,” he reported.
“It’s the third we’ve seen and an Al’kesh too,” Riley looked around the largely aquatic world. “And this is the fifth such type of world our teams have found crashed Goa’uld ships on.” Riley looked towards Jonathan, their resident scientific genius thanks to his Halloween upgrade. “Could it be something in the atmosphere causing the crashes?”
Jonathan pointed his datapad at the sky and shook his head. “These ships would have to be fragile, and we’re talking Wright-era fragile to crash with as often as this just because of the atmospherics.”
“We’re finding them on these type of planets too regularly for it to be a coincidence,” Willow commented.
“Unless there’s a war being fought over swamp-land?” Xander shrugged. “Maybe this is Goa’uld prime real estate?”
“Maybe,” Riley pursed his lips. As arguments went, it wasn’t especially convincing. But he couldn’t think of anything better.
“Huh, that’s strange.”
“What’s strange?” Riley looked towards Jonathan.
“I’m getting some intermittent energy readings.” Realisation flooded over the scientific expert’s face. “Oh boy, it’s not energy readings, it’s a firefight!”
“A firefight?” Cordy commented. “Might be some answers there.”
“It’s the best option we have,” Riley rose from his crouch. “Jonathan, do we have a direction?”
Akki stumbled as the enemy fired on them, the enemy showing their cunning by attempting to cut them off from left, right, and the rear, forcing them ever on, herding them until inevitably they’d be trapped. “Keep the formation tight,” he forced a note of authority into his voice.
Just their luck, they’d been on a routine patrol outside their base and returned to find it over-run with Jaffa. If the Jaffa got away with their secrets, everything was lost. Akki winced as Moumis, his spawn-brother, dropped to the ground with a splash, smouldering hole in his thick, wide chest.
Riley peered down from the top of the slope, grimacing at what he saw. Several thick-set, amphibious-looking humanoids were being herded by Jaffa clearly intent on capturing them. “Those creatures don’t look particularly friendly,” commented Xander.
“No but they’re against the Jaffa, and the enemy of my friend, yada, yada,” Riley replied as he pulled the rifle off his back. “Jonathan and Willow, join me in putting down suppression fire over the heads of the strangers, and at the central group of Jaffa, Xander, you, Cordy, and Jenny come around the side and hit them from the left.”
“On it!” Xander agreed.
“I’ll put an invisibility shroud over us for while we’re sneaking up on them,” Jenny volunteered.
“That’ll help,” Xander commented, “seeing as there’s no cover.”
“Get on with it then,” Riley growled as he aimed through his scope.
Xander led his companions through the knee-high water filled with high rushes, eyes intent on the oblivious enemy attempting to encircle the mysterious aliens. The nearest Jaffa spun to face them as Xander burst through the undergrowth but was too slow to avoid him grabbing the shaft of his staff weapon and knock it down, ensuring that the Jaffa’s energy blast exploded uselessly into the ground while Xander’s haymaker crashed into his jaw, spinning the warrior around and dropping him to the ground.
Xander dropped into a baseball slide catching another Jaffa in the shins as he turned towards him, the Jaffa letting an unwarrior like shriek as the bones shattered and he fell to the ground. Water flew off Xander as he kipped up, a quick glance showing that the Jaffa were already in a disarrayed retreat, caught totally unawares by their two-pronged attack.
Xander blinked as he looked towards the three remaining aliens. They looked like a cross between roided-up bodybuilders with frogs’ heads on top. Which was quite a first impression.
Reminding himself that even a human as dashing as him might be considered a lot for these aliens to take in on first impression, Xander forced a smile that he hoped wouldn’t be misconstrued as threatening before glancing up towards the slope. “Jonathan, can we get the Universal Translator down here?”
Jonathan glanced at Riley. “Is it okay?”
“Sure,” Riley nodded. “The Jaffa appear to be in retreat. I’ll stay up here and keep watching for them.” Riley half-grinned. “Keep Xander and Cordy in line.”
“Why me,” Jonathan muttered as he rose and started down the slight incline. “Diplomat, scientist, negotiator, and baby-sitter in one short package.” Jonathan raised his voice as he spoke directly at the waiting quartet of aliens. “We are of the Tau’ri, enemy of all Goa’uld, and friend to all those who oppose them.”
The alien’s apparent leader stepped forward. “I am Akki, we are of the Oannes-.”
Jonathan blinked. The rebel Jaffa, Bra’tac, had mentioned them. They were supposedly a semi-aquatic race, which when he thought about it fitted with the planet, who had an enmity with the Goa’uld that went back centuries or even longer. Jonathan grinned. And they were one of the races that Giles had wanted their teams to make contact with. “Might we ask why the Jaffa are chasing you?”
Akki appeared to hesitate then opened his mouth to speak. “Akki, you cannot share our secrets with outsiders!”
“Maruna!” Akki’s head snapped towards the interrupting Oanne. “I love you as a brother, but this is MY command, and these Tau’ri have assisted us, and I think for us to finish our mission we will need still more assistance!” Akki’s tone seemed to soften as he turned back towards Jonathan. “Especially assistance as skilled as our new friends.”
“We’ll be glad to help,” Riley announced as he came down the hill, water sloshing beneath his feet. “But perhaps we should clear out and find a hiding place before the Jaffa return in greater numbers.”
“A wise plan,” Akki nodded, grateful that although they couldn’t read the newcomers’ faces he assumed it went both ways, “we are familiar with this planet, perhaps if you followed us?”
The group’s leader nodded. “Please, lead the way.”
The march to a near-by oasis, this one with plenty of surrounding bushes and trees to hide in, gave Akki plenty of time to consider their new allies. Like anybody with more than a passing familiarity of the Goa’uld he’d also heard of the nigh-mythical Tau’ri, and these newcomers were certainly formidable, more than a match for the Jaffa, at least on a one to one basis.
If they could be trusted, they would make a formidable ally.
Akki scowled. The ‘if’ was a big question mark; however without assistance they would never complete their mission, so risking trusting these Tau’ri was really the only avenue open to them.
“So what brings you and the Jaffa to this planet?”
Akki started at the question as they finished setting up the camp. Turning, he faced the group’s apparent leader. “My people have been fighting the Goa’uld for millennia. The Goa’uld have discovered and taken our underground base here. It is a base with encrypted records that would tell the Goa’uld about our bases on other planets, our planned missions, our hidden settlements. Everything they would need to wipe our people out. Our team attempted to re-take it, but were unable to do so.”
“How did you intend to take this base back?”
Akki hesitated. It hadn’t been the most intricate of plans. “A frontal assault at night.”
The human blinked; his expression Akki guessed was one of surprise. “Not exactly subtle?”
“Urgency required we take the base as soon as possible,” Akki defended.
“The base can’t exactly be impregnable though can it?” the red-headed female broke in. “I mean how did the Goa’uld take it in the first place?”
“Our people require a certain moisture in the air to survive, so we have filtration tubes leading to the surface to suck the moisture in,” Akki explained. “The Goa’uld dumped in a chemical that either knocked out or killed those inside, then forced the front door.”
“Wait,” the group’s leader let out an excited cry. “That’s how we get back in, through the tube!”
“No, we’re too large to fit in,” Mahalla objected.
“Yes,” Akki nodded slowly, excitement slowly growing. “But the humans, the smaller ones are small enough.”
“The Goa’uld are sure to have a guard on it,” Mallaha objected.
“Perhaps,” Akki smiled. “But I have seen the original blueprints of the base, and there was an unfinished filtration chute that wasn’t on the plans. We could use that.”
“What would be the mission objective?” the Tau’ri leader demanded. “Destroying the base, rescuing your people?”
“Just destroying our computer files before they’re hacked,” Akki replied. The base and its personnel were considered lost, but losing the computer files would be catastrophic for his people.
“Man that’s cold-.”
The man quietened at his leader’s raised hand. “Okay, how about this for a plan. You, together with Jonathan, Cordy, and Jenny go to the abandoned filtration chute. The rest of us will attempt egress at your base’s main entrance, distracting the enemy forces. And we won’t attack until nightfall. Is that agreeable for you?”
“It is indeed,” Akki concurred.
“Says the man who isn’t going down the chute,” grumbled the shortest of the Tau’ri humans. “How do we get out?”
“Climbing back out through the chute will be difficult,” Akki admitted, his spirits deflating.
“I can levitate out,” one of the dark-haired women commented, “and if you fix a grapple hook and drop a line, Jonathan and Cordelia should be able to climb out.”
“Should be,” the short man complained. “This keeps on getting better and better.”
“This is the chute,” Akki pointed and crouched by the covered opening.
“Can see that,” Jonathan pulled a blow-torch out of his belt as he crouched in the rushes beside the thick-set alien. “Are there any security measures I need to worry about?”
“There is a general alarm, but the alarm system is non-specific and will already be engaged by your people’s attack at the front gate,” Akki replied. “So the infiltration should not be noticed.”
Should not, Jonathan hid a grimace when he lit the pencil-torch, that sounded definite. Jonathan ignored his trepidation to begin cutting a hole in the cover. The alloy whatever it was wasn’t especially thick, but it still took him a fraught fifteen minutes to cut a circle out. He carefully lifted the still warm metal out and placed in the rushes before putting the torch back into his belt and pulled out a grappling hook. After fixing it to the side of the chute, Jonathan climbed into the hole.
“Lucky I’m not claustrophobic,” Jonathan grumbled as he climbed into the darkened shaft, the air smelt musty and there was only a couple of inches of space either side of his shoulders. Bracing his feet on the chute’s opposite side, Jonathan began crawling down the shaft, eyes narrowing as he watched his hands on the rope. Sweat dripped into his eyes and his limbs burnt with the effort, his breathing growing ragged. But no matter how exhausted he felt, Jonathan just kept going, ignoring the discomfort ravaging his body.
Finally he dropped out of the narrow tube and into a thankfully empty corridor. He waited several tense, heart-pounding minutes for first Cordy and finally Jenny to pop out of the chute. “Cordy, you stay on guard here,” Jenny instructed, “Jonathan, let’s find you a computer to hack.”
Jonathan led the gypsy computer teacher through the base’s corridor’s, stopping to hide either in the ceiling arches or to press into shadowy corridors or scurry back around corners as oblivious Jaffa marched past. Nervous tension burnt through Jonathan’s veins as they crept through the winding tunnels. “There must be a computer station somewhere.”
“They’re not noted on the plans,” Jenny whispered.
“Yeah, noticed that myself-.” Jonathan stopped, brow furrowing at a socket-looking hole in the wall at a T-junction. “Wait, I could Gerry-rig my code-breaker to get into this.” Jenny hurried past him to glance first left and right then give him a nod. Jonathan fumbled around with the socket then plugged his controller in and set to work, grinning slightly at the Babylonian-looking characters that sprang up on his read-out. “I’m in,” he triumphantly declared then leapt back when an energy blast hit the wall just above the socket. “What’s that?”
“We’ve got trouble.”
“Akki has confirmed your people are in position.”
Riley nodded at the Oannes’ report. “Okay,” he nodded towards Xander, “get their attention.”
M60 dangling from his hip, Xander rose out of the rushes and pulled on the trigger. Fire erupted from his muzzle as it spat across a kilometre and into the six guards stood there, shredding them into a bloody mist. The very second his machine gun clicked empty, Xander dived back into the rushes, water sloshing beneath him, just as another dozen Jaffa raced out of the base and began returning fire. “Mission accomplished?”
“I’d say so.” Riley nodded as laser fire blasted overhead, his face pressed firmly into the mud even as his assault rifle bucked in his hands, the Oannes adding to their barrage from their position just off to the left.
“Human!” the Oanne Akki had left in command of his people let out a bark. “The Jaffa have sent their Death Gliders!”
Jenny glided into action, her lightsabre hissing into brilliant, glowing life and her honed body working in perfect harmony as she turned to face the advancing Jaffa. She watched fearlessly as they drew their weapons, harnessing the force to know just who would fire and when before her enemy even did. Her lightsabre gliding left and right, blocking every blast that came her way, sending the enemy fire either retreating into the walls to leave smouldering scorch marks or to crash into the Jaffa facing her.
In seconds the last of the Jaffa crumpled to the ground, sightless eyes peering up at the ceiling. “Come on Jonathan,” Jenny’s voice was calm, untroubled, the Force pulsing inside of her, but still in control. “I’ve dealt with them, but reinforcements will be coming any time soon.”
“I’m in,” Jonathan reported. “Good news is the Goa’uld haven’t cracked the system yet. Planting virus, data should start wiping in-. Yeah, it’s working, we’re out of here.”
“That’s okay,” Riley forced down his concern at the on-rushing Death Gliders, a nigh on deafening screech filling the air, and threw a glance over his shoulder to the one person he’d held in reserve for this attack. “Willow, you’re up!”
“On it!” The pale–faced witch nodded, a concentrated look on her face. The Death Gliders spat fire as they swooped down at their position, getting closer and closer with every passing second. And then Willow threw her hands up, and a wave of energy rippled up to meet the on-coming fighters, a myriad of tiny little explosions on both ships as they spiralled out of control and into one another, causing a far louder and brighter explosions, the shattered fragments plummeting to the ground, black smoke billowing from them.
Riley gasped as he threw himself to the ground, a tidal wave flying up from the crash to soak them. It took his ears a few seconds to stop ringing enough for him to hear Cordy’s impatient tones over his radio. “Riley! Are you listening! Mission accomplished, we’re pulling out now!”
“Understood,” Riley nodded to himself. “We’ll meet you at the Stargate, open it for us.”
Giles forced himself to remain calm as he stepped through the Stargate to come out and be met by the Oanne delegation, the Oannes having agreed after the assistance given by Riley’s team to meet to discuss signing a mutual defence pact. And so today, they were taking a very important step in forming an alliance that would one day drive the Goa’uld from supremacy.