FOR EVERY ENDING…
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or situations, and I earn no profit by writing this.
Author’s note: Spoilers for the Angel series finale, and minor ones for another show. Like so many others, I’m sad to see Angel go. It was a good ending, and I was quite satisfied with it, but that won’t keep me from writing the beginning of what could be a continuation of their adventures. I’ve read several, but I haven’t seen it done this way before.
“Well this is a fine mess,” she fumed, watching the developing battle.
“One of their own making,” her companion replied, a hint of reproof in his tone as he noted her mood and guessed her intent.
“That’s beside the point,” she replied airily dismissing his unspoken objection. “Are we gonna let it stand like this?”
“It was their choice,” her companion tried again, knowing there would be serious consequences if she tried to intervene. “It is not our place to interfere, especially on such a scale.”
“You’re new around here aincha?”
He closed the file and smiled in satisfaction. “That’s the last of the paperwork cleared up. You’re officially on board, and I can tell you exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into.” The young woman across the desk smiled shyly. “You may not have finished your degree, but Dr. McClaren spoke very highly of you. Said you would be a real asset to us.”
She wasn’t sure how to respond to the first part of his statement. It would have been impossible to explain why she hadn’t finished her degree or the circumstances under which her last job had ended. So she ignored it and focused on the second half. “He told me that this place would never be boring, but wouldn’t say anything else about it.”
Her interviewer chuckled. “I trust you’ll understand why in a moment. As you’re about to see, Miss Burkle, there’s a good reason we keep this place secret.” With the touch of a button the shutter began to retract.
“So, where’s Jack?”
“He is conducting a briefing.”
“Ah yes, the new British team.”
Daniel frowned as he stepped aside to let group of SFs pass. “This place is getting a bit crowded don’t you think?”
“We are quickly approaching capacity,” his Jaffa friend agreed. “In addition to the British team, two new teams have been created. I find myself wondering if the general’s latest request to turn the Alpha Site into a more permanent installation has been granted.”
Daniel thought about that, but then shrugged. “I haven’t heard anything one way or the other.” It wasn’t productive, he knew, to speculate on the goings on at higher levels. Some of the so-called decision makers had thought processes that were far more alien to him than anything he’d found in his travels. He considered sharing the thought with his large friend, but wasn’t sure that explaining the joke would be worth the effort.
Airman West looked took his place near the elevator and settled himself for a long wait. That was mostly what guard duty at his current post would be. There were several layers of security between him and the main entrance of the place and little chance of anything from inside causing problems. He was babysitting a group of astronomers after all. Running a hand over his shaven head he glanced around the empty corridor and managed a rueful smile. “Join the Air Force, and see the world.”
Major Weatherly frowned thoughtfully at the sight before him. He wasn’t used to feeling intimidated or overawed, but the very idea of what he was now seeing dwarfed anything in his nearly twenty years of military experience. The three men behind him had given up the pretense of the famous British stiff upper lip and were openly gawking as a wormhole was established between the room they stood in and a world that was, according to Colonel O’Neill, more than 600 light years away.
“There’s somethin’ you don’t see everyday,” his sergeant commented, trying to sound unimpressed and failing. “Anyone fancy a swim?”
“An impressive achievement,” Weatherby commented, ignoring the attempt at humor. He glanced at colonel O’Neill. “How much is known about the builders?”
“Ah, I’m not the one to talk to about that. Daniel can tell you everything you want to know about ‘em. Probably more.”
“Dr. Daniel Jackson, yes? I’ve read many of his papers, a brilliant mind. I look forward to meeting him.” O’Neill only nodded, watching as SG6 returned through the gate, shedding their gear as they came.
“Colonel Samuels,” O’Neill greeted the other man with a grin. “Just in time to meet the Brits.” He nodded to Weatherby. Samuels stuck out his hand, gripping the major’s in a firm grasp.
“Welcome to the SGC major,” he smiled noting the rank insignia on Weatherby’s uniform. “Good to have you here.”
O’Neill glanced at Samuels’ second-in-command. “You’re brooding Captain Peters? Your first trip through the gate a disappointment?”
“A bit of a disappointment sir, no aliens.” O’Neill couldn’t tell if the man was serious or not, although the brow furrowed as he spoke. His brow seemed perpetually furrowed.
“No aliens, huh? Bummer.” He thought he saw a hint of a smile on Peters’ face.
“Just caves this time,” Samuels confirmed. “Endless caves.” He shrugged. “No apparent exit to the surface. After three days there, I’m looking forward to a little daylight.”
“I kind of liked them,” Peters offered.
“’Course you did captain,” the group’s archeologist grinned. “They were depressing. Just suited you.” The team moved off, continuing the good-natured chatter.
“I believe Major Carter is next?” Weatherby offered, in an effort to get the tour back on track.
“Ah yes,” he gestured for them to follow. “This way to technobabble 101.”
Carter smiled after the latest additions to the SGC. The major in charge seemed especially sharp. She normally wouldn’t expect a career military man to take such an interest in her explanation, abbreviated though it was, of wormhole physics. She certainly hadn’t expected the several astute questions he had asked. Although his understanding of the specifics was shaky, he had a good grasp of the theory.
The others had been less interested. She thought one of them, the white-blonde sergeant, had even dozed off at one point. It would have been more offensive if she hadn’t been used to Jack O’Neill’s response to all things technical. She took it in stride.
Once they were gone, she mentally checked her schedule and grinned in anticipation. A new scientist had been assigned, a reputed genius in quantum physics with some very intriguing theories. Her background was a little unusual, but having read a number of the young woman’s papers, she knew that Winifred Burkle was well qualified.
Moving quickly from the briefing room, she found an unaccustomed spring in her step as she made her way towards the lab where Felger would be helping her settle in. This was, despite O’Neill’s jokes, her idea of fun.
The door was open when she arrived, and she paused to take a good look at the mousy little Texan. Thin as a rail with brown hair hanging down her back in a ponytail, she looked incredibly young. The glasses on her face gave her the classic high school nerd look.
She was in the middle of an animated discussion with Felger over a piece of alien technology that SG4 had brought back a few days before. Suddenly, Burkle stopped talking, and whirled to face the door. The look on her face startled Sam in its intensity. She looked… not angry, but… Sam had seen that look before, somewhere, but it was gone before she could place it.
“Dr. Carter!” The wide, excited grin on the younger woman’s face made Sam forget her momentary surprise as Winifred Burkle came forward to meet her. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you forever! This is so incredible! I had no idea that any of the theories you put forward could find practical application. An artificial wormhole! Imagine the possibilities! Well I guess you’ve already done that, done more than imagine probably and I’m babbling aren’t I?”
Sam chuckled. “That’s okay. Believe me, I know how you feel. There are new discoveries here practically every week. It’s an exciting place.”
“A little too exciting sometimes,” Felger commented. Sam cast him an annoyed look. “Well it’s true.”
“You mean the Goa’uld?” Fred nodded, suddenly becoming serious. “I have questions about them too. Is it true they have genetic memory? Passing down all of their knowledge and experience to their young?”
“Yes,” Carter nodded. “It gives them a huge advantage. We don’t quite understand the mechanism, but we have geneticists working on it.”
“I wouldn’t mind seeing their research,” Burkle said thoughtfully. At her new colleagues’ curious expression she gave a self-depreciating smile and shrugged. “I dabble.”
“Well I’m sure that can be arranged. Where did you work before coming her Miss Burkle?”
“A law firm in Los Angeles, and please, call me Fred. Everyone does.”
Sam smiled. “Sam, then,” she offered, gesturing to herself. “A law firm? Isn’t that kind of a strange setting for a theoretical physicist?”
“I helped arrange for expert testimony and things like that, it gave me an exposure to a much broader range of sciences. I found out I have a knack for quite a few of them, even ones that don’t really interest me. I learned more than I ever
wanted to know about post-mortem pathology and things like,” she grimaced, “splatter analysis.”
Sam suppressed a chuckle at the other woman’s vaguely nauseated expression. “Sounds… messy.”
Fred nodded, an excited smile quickly replacing the look of distaste. “A lot of it was interesting though, the chemistry and geology and genetics. I learned so many different things.”
“You were working there while finishing on your degree?”
“No. I… It’s complicated.” In truth, her memories of that time were a bit fuzzy, and it worried her. What she could remember clearly was something she really couldn’t discuss with someone who worked for the military. Fred knew of the Initiative, even though she hadn’t been involved in that business. It was best, she thought, just to stay silent on the matter and try to work it out on her own.
For some reason, the possibility of a military investigation worried her more than the disturbing inconsistencies in her own memory. There seemed to be patches that were fuzzy, and some that were missing outright, and she knew it should alarm her, but for some reason, it didn’t. It was hard to focus on what, for some reason, seemed to be minor problems when there were so many interesting things in the here and now.
Her worry over the bizarre mental lapse receded as Sam spoke to her, and she smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I kinda spaced there for a second. The firm and I didn’t part on terribly good terms. There was a big shakeup in management and a lot of faces changed overnight. I don’t like to think about it.”
“Okay,” Sam smiled. “I bet we can find more than enough around here to distract you.”
A few moments later, Fred had all but forgotten her worries over the state of her memories and was thoroughly caught up in her new colleague’s explanations of wormholes and gate technology.
His first shift hadn’t been nearly as dull as he had thought it would be. The comings and goings of the people and equipment gave him plenty to think about, or at least, to wonder about. Why would a deep space radar installation need artillery? The crates were unmarked, it was true, but he had been in the service long enough to know what weapons crates looked like, and the carefully obscured labels practically screamed black ops.
Some of the people coming and going didn’t make much sense either. Why was an archeologist assigned to the project? And what was the story with the big guy and his gold tattoo? That probably wasn’t regulation.
It wasn’t any of his business, and he knew his superiors would frown on his curiosity, but they didn’t have to know. West smiled slightly as he watched a pretty woman, a technician or maybe a scientist judging by the lab coat, get off the elevator. She didn’t seem to notice, but he wasn’t about to give up. Way to fine to leave it at that
, he thought, watching her walk away.
Peters stretched and lay down on the bunk. The infirmary was busy at the moment, SG3 had come in with two badly wounded men and the medical staff had postponed the standard medical review to deal with the emergency. He and the rest of SG6 were in isolation until someone could get to them. He couldn’t decide whether that was a good thing. While he chafed at the delay, he disliked doctors and being poked and prodded. Somehow the idea of getting in and getting it over with didn’t appeal to him, logical though it was.
Frowning, he wondered where his reluctance had come from. It was only common sense to be examined after an off-world trip. There was nothing in his past that would explain what was almost a compulsion to avoid doctors and their tools.
Peters shook his head. Regulations required it, and he would follow orders. That was what good soldiers did, and he was a good soldier. Wasn’t he?
“Remedy,” Weatherby corrected, “not cure.” He frowned as he reread the inscription on the tablet. The language was familiar to him. While it was true he had an interest in languages, he wasn’t sure when or where he had picked up Sanskrit.
Dr. Jackson blinked at him and turned back to the tablet. “You’re right. It’s a subtle distinction. How did you know?”
Weatherby shrugged. “I travel a great deal, and I’ve always had a talent for languages.”
“Interesting. Sanskrit isn’t something you’d pick up on the street, but…” He shrugged. “If you’re interested maybe you’d like to look at some of the other artifacts from P3X-454.”
“I’d like that,” Weatherby smiled. “Makes a change from our standard missions I’ve been led to expect.”
“I’ll talk to General Hammond, although I should point out that none of our missions are really what you’d call standard.”
There was really no such thing as a graveyard shift at the SGC. Although there were cases in which a team left in the morning, after a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, the local time of the planet a team might be visiting varied widely, and the scheduling of a visit was arranged to take advantage of local conditions on the destination world. Noon on one world might correspond to 0400 at Cheyenne Mountain. The length of the days also varied considerably.
This made scheduling awkward, even when visiting new worlds. For worlds with which diplomatic relations had been established, the SG teams often moved to a schedule that made sense nowhere on Earth.
A team that was expected at midmorning on Edora had to leave shortly before dawn. If the Free Jaffa wanted a meeting at the Alpha site at noon, SG1 needed to depart in the middle of the night, and of course the Goa’uld respected no one’s schedule.
There were no skeleton crews. The facility was fully staffed around the clock, but there were times when the place was quiet, almost boring. Almost.
Tech sergeant Harrison looked around the control room and checked his watch. It was nowhere near the end of his shift, and he knew that, but his watch wasn’t displaying the time. He blinked in confusion at the stopwatch display, counting down the last two minutes till… Till what?
He checked his system again. Everything seemed to be in order. All systems were optimal. The last scheduled check of the gate control system had shown no problems, and everything was in order for the arrival. Arrival? Whose arrival?
There was no one scheduled to come through the gate until the morning, and it was only a little after midnight.
When the stopwatch reached the minute mark, he entered a series of commands into his terminal that made no sense to him. Why would he disable the controls, effectively locking the iris open? Why was he disabling the alarms? He glanced around, hoping someone would help him, but his throat locked, and he couldn’t call out.
There were two other people in the control room at the moment. That would make matters simpler, although why that was so, or where that thought had even come from was a mystery to him. Harrison rose from his post and walked to the door that led down to the gate room. He locked it and moved to the door that led up to the general’s office and the conference room.
As soon as it was locked, he turned to see the other two taking notice of his actions. Dr. Willems, there running simulations on the new dialing protocols, looked mildly irritated, wondering if this was some new military foolishness, a drill of some sort. Airman Lansing knew better, realizing at once that something was wrong. Harrison shot him first.
Fred glanced up at the wall clock and gasped. “Look at the time!” Felger glanced up and blinked in astonishment. While it was true that he did not have a ‘nine-to-five’ job, he did keep fairly regular hours, and it was rare that he worked for so long without pause when there wasn’t a crisis of some sort. It was coming up on midnight, though, and he was still there, not even feeling tired. Must be the company
, he smiled to himself. Fred was brilliant, there was no denying. She was also beautiful and witty, and everything he could want in a woman. Even as he gave her an embarrassed smile, he imagined kissing her.
“Dr. Felger?” Fred eyed the man curiously.
“Hm? Oh! Yeah, it is late. Strange, I don’t feel the least bit tired.” He smiled. “Must be the company.” Good! Maybe you’ve got a shot; look at that smile
. He felt himself slipping back into his fantasy. Gotta watch that
, he reminded himself as he rose. “Its about time we called it a night. We’ve got a meeting at 8:00 tomorrow morning and dozing off won’t impress the general.” It was a weak joke, but it got another smile from her so he counted it as a success. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.”
Jaffa poured into the gate room as if the SGC had sprung a leak. Harrison almost laughed at the thought, but there was nothing even remotely funny about what he was seeing. The defense team hadn’t yet been able to enter the room to engage. The few airmen that had been on duty in the room itself were already down, felled by one of the Goa’ulds’ stun grenades.
The alarm had sounded only a moment ago, probably by one of the defense team when they realized something was wrong. He just hoped they weren’t too late and would be able to stop this invasion. Harrison himself was helpless. Having completed his work, he now stood immobile, waiting for a master that he hadn’t even known he had.
“Sam?” Samantha Carter looked up to see Fred standing in the door looking puzzled and, for some reason, relieved.
“Fred? What are you doing here so late?”
“I got caught up in everything and lost track of time. Good to see I’m not the only one that happens to.” Sam grinned.
“Nope. Happens to me too, but right now I know what time it is. I’m just defying a direct order.”
“Colonel O’Neill ordered her to get a life,” Felger supplied helpfully from behind Fred. Sam gave him a slightly irritated look. The irritation passed when Fred giggled and Sam realized that Felger had a new crush, someone to distract him from mooning over her. Silently wishing Fred luck, Sam stood, deciding that, perhaps, it was time to go. Before she could say as much though, the alarm sounded. “Get to the upper levels,” she ordered, slipping past them and headed for the nearest security station where she could get the details of the situation.
Felger led the way toward the elevators at a fast trot. He’d had his share of adventures, but he knew better than to get in the way during an alert. An explosion sounded from somewhere down the corridor and the lights went out. Both of them stopped dead in their tracks.
“There goes the power,” Fred noted. “Means the elevators won’t work. Stairs?”
“They’ll be swarming with troops,” Felger pointed out. “We should probably find a place to hide and wait it out.”
“The lab.” Fred looked back the way they had come. “It’s pretty far from the gate room isn’t it?” Felger nodded. “Come on then.” She turned back the way they had come and broke into a run as the sounds of weapons fire reached them from the direction they had been traveling. They passed several heavily armed airmen on their way and barely avoided a collision in the dim emergency lighting that had come on a few seconds after the main power failed.
“Psst!” Fred came up short and Felger almost ran into her. “In here!” Both turned to see one of the base’s nurses and two maintenance workers motioning to them from an unmarked door. “Come on. This is a good hiding place, the nurse said. “I used it the last time this happened.”
“Does this happen often?” Fred asked as she closed the door behind herself and Felger.
“Not often,” one of the others answered, “but it pays to be prepared. This is just a storeroom. Not high priority for anyone attacking the base.” Fred looked around and noted that they were surrounded by shelves full of crates that, judging by the labels, were full of archeological finds.
“Not officially,” the nurse answered softly with a gesture indicating that Fred should keep her voice down, “but it might as well be.” She gestured to some large crates on the floor and took a seat, settling in for a long wait apparently.
Fred sighed softly and sat down beside her.
Jack O’Neill snorted and sat up as the phone rang for a second time. “What?” he demanded of the person on the other end as he glanced at the clock.
“Sir, we have a developing foothold situation at the base.”
“On my way,” O’Neill hung up even as he grabbed for his clothes.
It felt wrong, Peters reflected even as he pulled the trigger. Guns just weren’t his thing. They were effective though. The Jaffa he’d surprised went down readily enough, but he still felt he should be taking a more hands-on approach to the problem. It was an absurd thought, but it was there.
The other members of his team didn’t seem to have any reservations on that score. They were fighting their way towards the armory, and the Jaffa were trying to cut them off. So far it was a stand off, but Peters knew that wouldn’t last. Staff weapons didn’t need to be reloaded.
Samuels was about to order them to fall back, Peters could see it in the other man, but even as he opened his mouth to give the order, something changed. A burst of automatic fire and the blast of a staff weapon scattered the Jaffa they were engaging. Caught in the open the enemy was forced to retreat giving SG6 some much needed breathing room. Samuels heaved a quick sigh and went to meet the reinforcements.
Around the corner ahead of them came Teal’c and the British team. “Think you Yanks could use a hand?” the sergeant grinned.
“If you insist,” Samuels grinned back. “Come on. The armory is this way.” They didn’t have enough ammunition to pursue the Jaffa they’d just driven off, not and retake the armory as well. It would no doubt be a goal of the invaders.
Since Hathor’s visit to the SGC and subsequent capture of SG1, a number of things had changed. The armory had been relocated along with several other key facilities. Any Jaffa searching for the armory based on intelligence that she had gathered would find themselves in a spare parts storeroom.
Unfortunately, knowingly or not, the Jaffa had cut them off from their goal and to complicate matters they had done something to make the radios useless. An earlier attempt to call for backup that way had only yielded static.
Neither Samuels nor Weatherby wasted time lamenting the situation though. They briefly conferred, deciding on a two-pronged approach through parallel, but widely separated corridors. Hopefully no one would realize what they were doing as the power room was also in that direction, as was a secondary control room. Both were worthy goals, but without ammunition and additional weapons they couldn’t hold either let alone act to drive out the Jaffa.
“Teal’c, you stick with the British team. They don’t know the base well enough. Take corridor D8. Its roundabout, but I think you’ll have a better chance of getting through.” Teal’c nodded, saying nothing. The plan was sound, and he had nothing better to offer.
West didn’t know what was going on, but he willingly followed the squad of SFs and the officer in charge down into the lower levels. What sort of hostiles could there be down there? The officer, an Air Force captain, only said that they would know them when they saw them.
West knew the situation must be desperate if the man was taking them into a situation they weren’t cleared to know about. Even as they emerged from the stairs to the levels lighted only by dim emergency lighting the sound of nearby weapons’ fire drew their attention. He could hear automatic weapons, P90s he thought, and two other sounds he couldn’t identify.
“This way!” the captain gestured.
Samantha Carter ducked into the closet Daniel used as a storeroom, or she tried to anyway. The door was locked. It was never locked. Daniel was not the most security conscience of individuals, and General Hammond had given up trying to get him to follow protocol, reasoning that the things he kept in there were not something anyone would steal. Nevertheless, it was locked.
Swearing under her breath, she fired her ‘zat at the advancing squad of Jaffa, hitting one while ducking for the next cover. It was too far away.
“Once only!” Aracsa, the First Prime ordered. “Our lord wants her alive.” As they moved to collect the fallen human, he paused to glance at the door. There was someone inside.
There had been the distinctive sound of voices, too low to discern what was being said, but there was definitely someone in there. Sparing a glance for the Jaffa moving to collect their prize, he stepped back and leveled his staff at the door.
“We locked someone outside!” the nurse insisted. “We may have just gotten someone killed!”
“We can’t do anything about that,” Felger argued, “especially if we get killed ourselves.”
“Quiet, both of you,” Fred ordered and moved silently toward the door, trying to determine what was happening out in the corridor. Pressing her ear cautiously against the door, careful not to move it, thus giving their presence away. She could make out voices speaking in a foreign language she didn’t know and then a sound that she had heard for the first time earlier that day. The distinctive sound of a staff weapon preparing to fire.
She threw herself aside, just in time, as the door was blown off its hinges. One of the maintenance workers gave a small scream of fright and was shot dead for drawing attention to herself. Grinning wolfishly, the huge Jaffa leveled his weapon at the next available target, Jay Felger. Even as the scientist stared at the dead woman in shock, making a perfect target of himself, the First Prime was tackled from the side.
The impact didn’t even rock him, but it did throw his aim off.
Jay Felger cried out as he was struck a glancing blow and fell back screaming, his lab coat catching fire.
Annoyed more at his own carelessness than the attack itself, he shoved the small woman away and fired one handed, this time killing the scientist Fred had befriended. Then he turned to his attacker.
Fred stood her ground and glared at him, sparing a glance for the trio of Jaffa who entered the room behind their leader. One of them was dragging Samantha Carter. “Sam!” She took a step forward and stopped at the sight of the staff leveled at her. She glared at him, then cast a sorrowful look at the friends she had made and now lost in a single day. There was something familiar in this, the feeling was not as strong as it had been before. Before when,
she wondered as she turned her eyes back to the First Prime.
He was watching her with what could only be interpreted as amusement, laughing at her pain. That too was familiar somehow, though she couldn’t remember why. Winifred Burkle began to advance on the Jaffa warrior with nothing more than clenched fists.
Aracsa stopped smiling and stared as the human woman, less than half his size, advanced on him with no weapon. The warriors who had entered behind him were likewise surprised. Then one of them laughed.
“Very well, human,” Aracsa said, feeling benevolent after his successful capture of the major that his lord wanted so much to question. “I will give you a chance.” He raised his staff and set it aside, leaning it against the wall. “You can have your opportunity for vengeance.” He spread his arms, inviting the attack.
Behind Aracsa, his subordinates watched the confrontation curiously, and if any felt that such taunting should be beneath one who held the rank of First Prime, they stayed silent. Aracsa was known for his cruelty, that was in fact, one of the reasons he held his current post. Anubis approved of the trait and encouraged it as a way of discouraging revolt among his slaves or his vassal Goa’uld.
Fred knew none of this. She knew only that his invitation, his arrogance, was familiar, and it infuriated her further. It didn’t show. She hid her emotions behind a cold mask that felt both familiar and alien to her at the same time. Winifred Burkle was calm. Calmly she walked toward him. Calmly she met his arrogant, condescending gaze. Calmly she drew back a fist and drove it though armor, flesh, and bone.
Sam Carter awoke to pain, familiar, infuriating pain. Being shot with a zat never got any easier to take no matter how many times it happened. An involuntary groan escaped her lips even though she knew she should try to maintain the illusion of unconsciousness. It just hurt too much.
Since her captors no doubt knew she was awake, Sam dispensed with the pretense and opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was the Jaffa with the gold insignia marking him as First Prime. He looked… surprised.
It took her a second to realize that he was, for some reason, on the floor with her. It took her another few seconds to realize that there was something wrong with the face. Widening her focus a bit she gaped, realizing that he was quite dead.
As the pain faded, she became aware of other things, the first was a voice. Fred, she realized, but it couldn’t be. She had told Fred and Felger to get out, but it was Fred’s voice. Wasn’t it? The inflection had changed and the accent had vanished. Then there was what
she was saying.
“I remember this feeling. I have felt it before.” The voice that was and wasn’t Fred’s paused as if puzzled. “It was stronger then…. The feeling has a name… Grief. Yes, that is it. I could not control it then, and I killed. I kept killing even when my foes came at me as a river. They died by the hundreds. Then… Why can I not remember what happened next?” There was a new sound, a metallic rattle and clank that Sam identified as Jaffa armor.
Turning her head away from the grizzly remains of the First Prime, she looked up. Another Jaffa dangled from Fred Burkle’s outstretched arm. “Why do I not remember? What became of those who… There were others fighting with me. What became of them? Answer!”
“I-I do not know mistress! Please! I will help you to learn the truth.”
“Mistress?” She dropped the cowering warrior. “You would switch your allegiance so easily?”
“Who but a goddess could have done as you did?” the terrified Jaffa answered. There were two others, Sam remembered. Turning her head slightly, she saw them, battered but alive, in a corner.
“Who do you serve?” The question was directed toward the Jaffa not kneeling before her. “You wear the mark of different Goa’uld. Who do you serve?”
“I served Apophis,” one answered. “Now I serve a greater god. His name is not for the likes of you.”
“We will tell you nothing,” the other growled defiantly, casting a disgusted look at his kneeling comrade.
“Who do you serve?” Fred asked again, gripping the armor of one of the warriors and twisting it as Sam might have twisted the collar of a cloth shirt.
The Jaffa choked for a moment, before getting out a single word. “Y-you.”
With a casual tearing of metal, Fred released the pressure on the Jaffa’s throat. “Pathetic,” she scoffed, “but acceptable.” She contemplated the three Jaffa who now kneeled before her. “As before when I felt this… grief… I find I… I wish to do more violence. Who led this attack?”
“Lord Zapatna, mistress,” one of the Jaffa promptly answered. “He serves Anubis.”
“Anubis? The death god?” The news seemed to surprise her, and Sam watched in confusion as she cocked her head to one side, apparently considering this “I knew him once, a petty creature. It will be interesting to see how time has changed him. This Zapatna is unknown to me.” Her mind drifted for a moment and then snapped back to the here and now. “He will yield or die.”
“He will die then mistress,” one of the Jaffa spoke up. “He is loyal and his personal guard will fight to the end. They once served Heru’er.”
A curious look crossed the young woman’s face. Is she a young woman?
Sam wondered. How could she know Anubis?
“The Horse God? I wished for violence,” she said seeming to go off on a tangent. “And tonight it seems,” she smiled, an almost fond smile, although why, Sam couldn’t imagine, “wishes are horses.” The smile vanished and she turned toward the door. “Come.”
It was at this point that she noticed Sam. “Sam, you live.”
“Y-yeah. Um, one shot from a zat only stuns. It takes two to kill.” She got warily to her feet, still feeling the affects of the attack, but able to ignore it under the circumstances.
“I am pleased you still live. Do you wish retribution?”
“Um, I want to get Zapatna and his Jaffa out of here, but I’m not particular as to how.”
“Then take this,” Fred reached down and ripped the head from the First Prime’s body.
Sam gaped at the offering. “What am I supposed to do with that? And how did you do that?”
“The mere appearance of power is sometimes sufficient,” Fred said absently and turned away. “Come.” Without another word she walked out the door.
Sam turned at the voice and saw the room’s other occupants, two living and two dead. “What are you doing in here?”
“Hiding major,” the nurse answered. “We got cut off from the exit.” Sam thought quickly for a moment.
“Stay here. I’ll send someone when it’s safe.”
“Yes ma’am.” Both looked relieved and Sam, casting a sad glance at the two dead bodies, turned to follow Fred, or whoever she was.
Ignoring his gun, West body-checked the big alien, a Jaffa, Captain Airey had called it. “What are you doing?!” the captain shouted raising the barrel of his gun to avoid shooting the other man. West didn’t answer, but cracked the interloper across the jaw driving him back into the wall.
At this point, it was just him and the captain. The others who had come down with them were dead or had been wounded and fallen back, but the goal remained the same, regardless, re-enable the mountain’s self-destruct system, taken offline by someone inside the SGC. It could no longer be activated remotely, removing one option from their list of potential resolutions to the crisis.
The captain knew how to do it, West had been told, and his job was to see that the man got the chance. The sound of several of the strange weapons readying to fire brought him up short, even as his current sparring partner slid to the floor out of the fight.
He grinned at them, flushed from the victory. “You boys speak English?” he asked. “Parlez vous France?” No response. “How ‘bout, bawk bawk! Bawk bawk bawk bawk!” Casting his unused M-16 away, he gestured for the suddenly very angry looking armored warriors to come at him. “Know that one do ya? Chicken your native language?” There were three, and they now traded glances. The one on the right raised the point of his staff, and caused the head to close.
He shifted his grip on the weapon, preparing it for use in direct combat. “Guns are okay I guess,” West smiled as he scooped up his unconscious enemy’s staff, “but somehow, it just ain’t the same.”
Teal’c had to admit that the British team members were fine soldiers. They had managed to hold their own and make progress toward their goal despite the many Jaffa. The resistance lacked a central focus due to the power outage and the sabotage of internal communications, but many of the SGC personnel had the same idea and were moving toward similar goals, coordinating as they encountered each other. The power room had already been taken and repairs were underway. Teal’c and Weatherby were still headed for the armory, but it had been slow going.
At the moment, they were pinned down by a group of Jaffa who had erected a barricade across the corridor that led most directly to their goal. “Anybody got a grenade?” the sergeant asked. The answer was an unfortunate no from everyone.
Weatherby stuck the barrel of his P90 around the corner and fired a burst to let the Jaffa know they hadn’t been forgotten. “Didn’t we pass a supply room a while back?”
“Base maintenance,” Teal’c offered.
Teal’c nodded and then suddenly looked thoughtful. “Indeed.”
“Sergeant, go with him.” The two retraced their steps, wary that the territory behind them might no longer be secured. Despite their caution though, they were caught in the open when a lone Jaffa ran at full speed around a corner they had just passed.
As surprised as they were, he was nonetheless faster than Teal’c and raised his zat before the former First Prime could bring his staff to bear. Teal’c went down and the sergeant lost his weapon while dodging, having caught the edge of the discharge.
He swore colorfully as the enemy soldier advanced. The Jaffa seemed focused on Teal’c for some reason. What was he muttering about? Shova? Shove a? Shove a what?
He decided it didn’t matter. The P90 was out of reach, but the dropped staff was close by. Throwing himself into a roll, he grabbed the weapon and came up to one knee. To his surprise, not to mention the surprise of the two Jaffa, he didn’t try to fire it. Instead his arm came back and then snapped forward. The staff flew through the air. There was a very satisfying sound as the head of the staff met the head of the enemy and the man went down and stayed down.
Teal’c was hauling himself to his feet as the sergeant retrieved the staff. “Here ya go. Good weapon.”
“Why did you not fire?” Teal’c asked curiously.
“Don’t know how.”
“When we have finished with this, I will show you.”
“Now I got me somethin’ to look forward to,” he smirked, retrieving his P90. He took point to the next intersection and checked cautiously. It was a moment before Teal’c joined him. “Don’t worry, ‘e’s not getting’ up for a while. Come on, supply cupboards not far.”
”Indeed,” Teal’c rumbled practically in his ear, causing the sergeant to shoot him an annoyed look before moving on. Teal’c frowned after him. The Jaffa warrior was indeed not getting up soon, or ever again. The force behind the throw was impressive, beyond, he suspected, what an average human was capable of.
He had sensed no Goa’uld in the young man, but still he was suspicious. Perhaps there was a simple explanation as to how a human had been able to throw his staff hard enough to not only crack the Jaffa’s skull but break his neck as well. Teal’c resolved to watch the young man closely.
O’Neill heard the explosion upon emerging from the shaft to the surface, the same ‘back door’ Cater had used to escape the last time the base was compromised. He, Daniel, and the members of SG5 and SG9 who had been off base when the attack came, glanced at each other and decided that the source of the explosion was a good place to begin.
They encountered a small group of SFs on the way who were able to give them the basics. The tide was slowly turning and the latest report delivered by a breathless technician who arrived just ahead of a group of Jaffa that were quickly driven back by the unexpected reinforcements, indicated that power should soon be restored.
SG9 took extra ammunition and went to reinforce the group at the power room. The rest headed for the armory. Distant sounds of weapons fire drew them on, but the fire ended abruptly. O’Neill put on as much speed as he dared under the circumstances. The sounds changed though before they reached the intersection.
The firing had stopped, but there were now sounds of physical combat. On rounding the corner they found an astounded captain Airey, watching a young black airman taking down the last of three armored Jaffa. Airey greeted them with relief and turned back to see the man, whose uniform identified him as West, approaching with a broad grin.
“Lose something airman?” O’Neill offered him his M-16.
“No sir, it was just slowin’ me down.”
O’Neill glanced at the three unconscious Jaffa and shrugged. “Can’t argue with the results I suppose, but hang onto this.” He pushed the weapon into West’s hands, even as the sound of running feet caught their attention. By the sound, it was a small group of Jaffa, running flat out. None of them had time to wonder at the reason when two very frightened looking warriors came around the corner and skidded to a halt before them, raising their hands in surrender at the sight of the weapons leveled at them.
Sounds of staff weapon fire reached them from around the corner and one of them glanced back fearfully. “Please! She will kill us all!”
“Huh? Who?” O’Neill asked in confusion. He had never seen Jaffa acting this way before. Before either could answer a third armored form came out of the intersection even as the sounds of weapons-fire ceased. This one was airborne. There was a sickening sound as the body struck the wall near them. “Okaaaay. What the hell did that?”
When Sam had been seven, she and her brother had gotten into a face-making contest; sticking out their tongues and contorting their faces in the silliest manner they could manage. Their mother had caught them at it and told them that if they kept it up their faces would freeze like that. On one level she knew that was physically impossible, but the small scientist from Texas had thrown her so many shocks in the past half-hour that she was beginning to wonder if she would ever get the stunned look off her face.
The Jaffa escort now numbered eight. All had sworn obedience to Fred (and that just sounded weird) rather than share the gruesome fate of almost twenty of their comrades. Fred’s penchant and talent for violence shocked even the battle-hardened warriors. Sam had tried speaking to her during the brief respites, but the other woman’s answers had only confused her.
Fred, it seemed was very very old. She had slept for a long time and only recently awakened. The story sounded disturbingly like Hathor’s. When asked if she was Goa’uld, she had looked insulted; then had shrugged it off. “They are known to me. When I reigned, it often amused me to watch the younger races struggle. The Goa’uld were mere water-dwelling reptiles then, but they had the intriguing ability to remember the lives of those that came before. What they lacked was sentience.”
“Daniel’s research on their home world indicated that they were once predators rather than parasites,” Sam nodded, confirming a theory she had kept to herself for lack of evidence or a way to acquire any. “Maybe… maybe they didn’t achieve sentience until they reached that evolutionary stage and gained the ability to control other creatures, like the Unas. The Unas are sentient and…”
“They did not evolve,” Fred interrupted.
“No. They were a mildly interesting variety of animal, but they would still be confined to that world had they not received help.”
“Help? Someone… changed them?”
“Yes. Three of my kind, weak and barely worthy of notice, were of service to me. In exchange for their aid in a campaign against one of my brothers they asked a boon, something that was beyond them. They brought the reptiles you call Goa’uld to my attention and asked me to make a minor change.” She shook her head in annoyance. “They were always scheming, those three, but I searched the causality and saw no significance in the species’ future. They were merely an interesting diversion, and I dismissed the request as a frivolity on the part of the Wolf, Ram, and Hart.” Her expression hardened; a look of pure hatred settling on her features. “I did as they asked and altered the creatures’ biological makeup and imperatives, making them parasites.”
Sam gawked at her, and she could see the Jaffa, trailing behind her like obedient hounds, falter, similarly stunned at the revelation. Having no idea how to respond to that, she held her peace for a moment. Before she could ask any of the many questions that ricocheted around the inside of her head like bullets, an explosion from several corridors away caught their attention.
“That sounds promising,” Fred remarked in an almost cheerful tone, a hint of the Texas accent creeping back in. “Come on.”
“She truly is a goddess,” one of the Jaffa murmured, trailing in her wake. That, or a devil
, Sam thought falling in alongside them. They had shot her strange, unreadable looks from time to time, but as their new ‘goddess’ seemed to favor her, none had moved or spoken against her. It was a small mercy, Sam thought, but she wasn’t counting on it lasting. Whether the Jaffa switched sides again or the erratic… woman suddenly decided she didn’t like Sam, it would come to the same thing. Resolving to keep her eyes open, Sam checked her weapon and moved up alongside the diminutive figure in the lab coat.
The improvised bomb had worked beautifully. A mixture of flammable liquids in a glass bottle with a twisted bit of cleaning rag for a fuse was the best they could come up with, but it proved enough when Teal’c, with covering fire from the rest of the group, hurled it over the barrier that Anubis’ Jaffa had erected.
The fireball that sprang into existence behind the barrier, while not as large as Weatherby might have hoped; was, he decided, quite satisfactory. “Now!” Leading the way before the fireball had even begun to collapse, he began shooting through the blaze, his men beside him providing overlapping fields of fire as they sprayed the corridor ahead of them.
The surviving Jaffa fell back, returning fire only sporadically. Weatherby led the charge, advancing once the fire had gone out with a little help from the automatic sprinklers.
The sound of weapons fire and shouted orders immediately followed the explosion. Sam picked up her pace and ran into a brick wall. Fred had frozen in her tracks. “Fred?” The woman’s entire bearing had changed… again.
Cold and arrogant, a demeanor that Sam privately thought of as her ‘god’ persona, had given way to chipper, more ‘Fred like.’ The younger(?)… woman(?)… had suddenly stopped when she heard the voices. Cocking her head to one side, as if listening she seemed to shrink in on herself, glancing nervously at Sam as the astrophysicist moved to stand at her side. “They’re coming together,” she said uncertainly. “The others,” she offered at Sam’s blank look.
“More like you?” Sam wasn’t sure she could take that.
“No,” Fred shook her head. “M-my friends. They’re okay. I mean if I’m here then they had to be okay too, but… I just wasn’t expecting…” She glanced down at herself. “Wesley will be there, I don’t know what to say to him.” She glanced at Sam as if to ask advice, but the bewildered major had none to offer. She glanced down at herself again. “He won’t want this. I-it doesn’t feel like a lie, but he won’t even look at me if…” She mustered a self-conscious smile, all traces of the god persona gone. “I suppose I’m not making much sense?”
“I could use a little back story,” Sam admitted, deciding that this, whatever it was, was more important than any contribution she could offer to the firefight going on ahead of them. “Tell me about Wesley.” She glanced at the Jaffa who had stopped when she had and were looking increasingly confused.
“He loved her. Fred.” She glanced down. The god persona had returned, but not full force. Her voice was soft, and Fred’s accent colored her words. “I required a shell to contain my energies. Fred was there when the sarcophagus opened.” She fell silent, considering. “It was all for nothing.
“I have no place here now,” she confided to Sam. “The humans now rule this world and they are so alien. They no longer bow down to gods, true gods or pretenders like the Goa’uld.
‘Wesley tried to convince me to leave this shell, to go back to my sleep in the Deeper Well. He wanted Fred back. I would gladly do so now if I could.”
Sam’s mind whirled with new revelations and theories. Whatever this creature was, it had taken Winifred Burkle as a host just like a Goa’uld. Was it some form of energy creature like the one that had once hijacked her body? The sarcophagus was a Goa’uld invention based on Ancient technology. Could this be one of the Ancients? If so then they were very different creatures than she had previously believed. It seemed unlikely, but the possibility should not be dismissed. Clearly her input was expected. ‘Fred’ had fallen silent. “You stayed.”
“I cannot return to my slumber.” Her tone indicated bitter regret and Sam wondered at the cause. So far, the conversation was less than enlightening, and the way Fred’s accent faded in and out only added to the sense of unreality. “The world has changed beyond recognition, and I have no place in it,” the god persona clearly moving to the fore. Then it faded again just as quickly, and ‘Fred’ spoke. “I thought they’d accepted me when they realized how lost I was, and they sorta did.” She sighed. “But, not like this.” She straightened, the god persona coming back full force. “Winifred Burkle is dead.”
Before the startled eyes of Sam and the Jaffa, she changed. Her lab coat and the street clothes beneath shimmered and became form-fitting red, brown, and black leather armor. Eyes, brow, and hair all developed a blue tint. “I am all that remains.” With that she strode unhesitatingly into the battle ahead of them.
They all stood and stared after her for a moment before following. One of the Jaffa turned to Carter as if to ask a question. Sam raised her hand. “Don’t look at me. She’s your god.”
Sam watched the armor clad woman power through the group of Jaffa reinforcements they had found trying to sneak up on the SGC personnel. Two of them turned and fled before she reached them, not that Sam could blame them. Whatever else the creature that had once been Winifred Burkle was, she had proved herself immensely powerful. There was little for Sam or the Jaffa following her to do save step over the bodies.
A shout from the next cross-corridor, one removed from the source of the explosion, caught their attention.
A broad grin spread over the young airman’s features at O’Neill’s question. “I bet I know.” A woman with blue hair and what looked like leather armor strode purposefully into the corridor, in pursuit of the fleeing Jaffa. “I knew it!” West moved past the two terrified Jaffa.
“West! Stop!” The man ignored him.
“Hah! Hey bluebird, good to see ya. Mighta known. If the Powers were gonna haul my sorry ass out of the fire, they’d bring you too.”
“So it would seem,” the blue woman answered. “I am pleased to see they brought the rest of you as well.” This, delivered deadpan, left West nonplused for a moment, then he grinned.
“Come on. Lets find the others. He glanced at the Jaffa standing with Sam farther down the corridor. “They with you?”
“Yes. They have forsaken their false god and given their loyalty to me.” She turned to stare meaningfully at the two warriors that O’Neill and Airey were covering. Both promptly dropped to their knees. “If you think of betraying me you will envy your First Prime.” She gestured to the Jaffa Carter had passed the head to. Obediently, that worthy held it up for all to see.
Sam watched as both Jaffa nodded their understanding. Colonel O’Neill, she noted, looked vaguely impressed and Daniel, a late arrival, looked vaguely nauseated. She noticed her C.O. looking at her. “Ah, sir, this is… Fred.”
“A Goa’uld named Fred?” When he wanted to, Sam noted, he could do the eyebrow almost as well as Teal’c.
“No sir. She’s not Goa’uld. I-I’m not sure what she is, but she’s not Goa’uld.”
“You may address me as Illyria,” she told the humans as she turned away. “You,” she glanced at the Jaffa, “may not.”
“Yes mistress,” they responded in unison, rising at her gesture.
“Come. I would find the others and then deal with Zapatna.”
O’Neill glanced at Daniel, mouthing the name she had used. The fact that Daniel’s expression went from thoughtful to worried was, O’Neill knew, not a good thing. “Fill me in.”
Spike was a little unclear on why he was wearing an RAF uniform. His mind was something of a jumble at the moment as some memories did a fast fade while other, contradictory memories, surfaced. He remembered the battle in the alley, but not how it ended. He also remembered being at an English Air Base at roughly the same time. The latter memory was getting fuzzy. He glanced at Weatherby, no, Wesley, and saw the same puzzled look on his face that he was fairly certain graced his own.
“What the hell’s goin’ on Wes?”
“I have a notion,” the other replied, “but this is hardly the time to discuss it.” They crouched in doorways on either side of the corridor that led to the Jaffas’ fallback position providing suppressing fire while the rest of the team advanced.
A startled exclamation and scuffle behind them distracted them. Illyria, with 10 Jaffa in tow approached them. Behind them Wesley saw Colonel O’Neill, Dr. Jackson and Major Carter. Confused and wary, he had his squad level their weapons at the approaching soldiers. The Jaffa stopped when they saw weapons were aimed at them, and bowed slightly. Illyria ignored the guns and strode up to them. “Wesley.” She paused, suddenly uncertain. “I grieved for you. I felt pain,” she put her hand to her chest looking deeply troubled, but then her haughty demeanor returned and her eyes narrowed. “I did not like it.”
“I’ll try to avoid dying again,” Wesley promised dryly, although the sentiment, such as it was, touched him.
Illyria nodded, apparently satisfied that her will would be carried out, and turned to the blonde vampire. “Spike, it is good to see you as well. Is the other half-breed near?”
“Imagine so,” he shrugged. “Haven’t seen him though.”
“I believe he’s near,” Wesley cut in. “In fact, he should be-” Automatic fire from ahead of them scattered the enemy Jaffa and Colonel Samuels and his men came into view. There was a tense moment when they spotted the Jaffa, but Angel moved out in front of them.
“Illyria, I take it they’re with you? Hey Gunn.” The other man nodded and grinned, happy to see him.
“They have sworn themselves to me,” the former god-king confirmed. Colonel O’Neill stepped forward, pushing his way through the Jaffa to reassure Samuels.
“It’s okay. Its weird, but its okay.” He secretly doubted that any of this was ‘okay’ though, and had let Carter and Daniel know as much discretely. Having seen what the small blue woman could do though, he wasn’t anxious to take action against her and her friends if it wasn’t necessary. What her use of the name Illyria meant was anyone’s guess. It seemed unlikely she was the creator god of the Goa’uld. Why am I only hearing about this now? Who knew the Goa’uld had gods?
“It is good to see you alive Angel,” Illyria ignored the two colonels and the other members of SG6 who were all looking confused and wary at this point. “Are you ready to end the invasion of this place?”
“More than ready,” Angel agreed. “Lets go.”
Samuels looked at O’Neill. “Jack?” O’Neill only shrugged. The fact that Illyria had addressed three SGC personnel by names other than those on file hadn’t escaped his notice. Possibly they were nicknames. Spike, Gun, and Angel? That didn’t explain how any of them knew each other though
“One crisis at a time. I don’t get it either, but whoever they are, they seem to be on our side.” He gestured at the Jaffa. “They either worship her or are just… really really scared of her.” He shrugged. “Lets go see Zippy.”
Resistance met on the way to the gate room was minimal. Illyria picked up two new worshippers, who, like the others, weren’t required to actually do anything. She fought the Jaffa they encountered personally, leaving nothing for the others to do.
“She is impressive,” Samuels allowed
“Indeed,” Teal’c responded, watching the one who called herself Illyria take the staff weapon from an enemy and crack his skull with it. He had heard only whispers of Illyria, the System Lords never openly acknowledging that there might be a power greater than their own. The idea that this was the creature that had created the Goa’uld was almost laughable, but there was no denying her power or her self-possession. With arrogance to rival any Goa’uld, Illyria strode through the base as if she owned it, destroying or forcing into submission all who stood in her way.
Yet, he sensed no symbiont in her. What was she? His ruminations were interrupted by their arrival at the gate room. To his surprise the Jaffa guarding the room retreated inside rather than put up a fight. He glanced at O’Neill with a raised eyebrow. His friend just shrugged.
“Maybe Zippy’s getting tired of watching her mop the floor with his troops.”
“If he wishes to confront me himself,” Illyria began, but O’Neill shook his head as he broke in.
“Goa’uld don’t go in for that sort of thing. He’ll have set a trap of some sort.”
“Goa’uld do not engage in single combat unless left with no option,” Teal’c agreed. “They have no honor.” The five friends traded looks and Peters or Angel, or whoever he was spoke up.
“Wes? Can you manage a shield? Give Illyria a little extra cover?”
“I believe so. It seems likely that you’ll be walking into a firing squad if you just barge in there.”
Illyria nodded. “Very well.” It was the only concession to vulnerability that she had made so far. Before, she had simply moved too fast, demonstrating a shocking savagery that often sent her opponents running for their lives without firing a shot.
The Jaffa were not cowards for the most part, but they had never seen anyone like Illyria. Spike was getting antsy as well. “How ‘bout savin’ some for the rest of us, eh? Feels like ages since I’ve had a decent brawl. Don’t even know how long its been since the alley.”
“Very well,” Illyria agreed. “We will fight together as we did then.”
“Better odds this time,” Angel noted. “Lets do it.”
As O’Neill had expected, when the doors to the gate room opened more than a dozen staff weapons discharged almost simultaneously. It would have been a devastating volley, perhaps enough to overwhelm even Illyria, but instead the energy dissipated harmlessly against an invisible barrier. A curt command stopped the attack.
“So,” a man in, Spike snickered, a skirt and silly looking hat, addressed them. “You are the one who dares challenge my right to this place. Who are you?”
“I am Illyria.” She gave the Jaffa and their master a measuring look. “I am offering you a chance to surrender and serve me.”
Zapatna snorted derisively. “You are bold to make such a claim. Calling yourself after the god-king is beyond blasphemy!”
“I call myself after no one. I am Illyria, awakened from my ages long sleep as was predestined. I am not as I was, but I am no less Illyria. Surrender. Or die.” Her Jaffa moved to stand, weapons ready, to either side of her.
“She’s tellin’ the truth,” Spike spoke up. “I was there when she woke up. She’s the real deal. Now can we skip the jabber and get to the part where I get to hit someone?”
“You use Goa’uld magic and carry yourself as a Goa’uld and you claim that you are not? That you are more?” Zapatna seemed more amused than angered. He raised his left hand on which a ribbon device was clearly visible and let loose a wave a concussive force. It dissipated harmlessly against the shield Wesley had conjured. This surprised the Goa’uld. There should have been some reaction.
“That’s not magic,” Wesley noted curiously. “The device on your wrist is clearly a machine of some sort.” He raised his own arm, displaying an empty hand. “This is magic.” A fireball appeared from thin air and flew straight to a Jaffa who had been trying to get a drop on them from the control room. The luckless soldier screamed and flew back out of sight.
Zapatna suddenly looked less sure of himself. He raised the ribbon device and tried again, the energy having no more affect on the shield than it had had the first time.
“You expect me to surrender?” he demanded, stalling, trying to think of a new trick or scheme to get him out of his current mess.
Angel stepped forward, and Illyria nodded graciously. Taking a staff weapon from one of her Jaffa, Angel addressed Zapatna. “Actually, she wasn’t talking to you.” His arm flashed forward and the staff was suddenly protruding from the Goa’uld’s chest.
Zapatna’s Jaffa backed away from their fallen leader in alarm. If a servant of this woman had such strength, how could she be anything but a god? Zapatna himself stared in disbelief at the staff, his symbiont sustaining him for a few seconds beyond what a human could have survived. Then his head fell back, sightless eyes staring upwards.
“Apparently,” Teal’c noted from his place at Spike’s side, “you are not the only one requiring tutelage in the proper use of a staff weapon.” Spike chose to ignore the remark, focused instead on the Jaffa who glanced at each other uncertainly for a moment. Illyria took the First Prime’s head from one of ‘her’ Jaffa and tossed it out onto the floor between the two nervous groups. This seemed to do the trick. Zapatna’s Jaffa abruptly capitulated, dropping to one knee before their new goddess.
“Now that’s just embarrassing,” Spike muttered, a disgusted sounding grunt from Teal’c was all the indication he got that the large Jaffa agreed. “What happened to goin’ out in a blaze o’ glory for your ‘beloved’ deity? Zealots just ain’t what they used to be.”
No one knew quite what to say to that, so the SGC personnel set about the business of securing the scene. Without their Goa’uld leader, the Jaffa were quite cooperative, but that didn’t mean that the ranking officer on the scene, O’Neill, had the slightest idea what to do with them or with the five strangers who were definitely not what they had first appeared to be. He wasn’t left to wonder for long though when an alarm sounded indicating an unauthorized offworld activation.
“Now what?!” the harried colonel demanded. He looked to one of the Jaffa. “Expecting reinforcements?” The man shook his head. “Whatever. Close the iris!”
“I can’t sir,” a tech sergeant called down through the broken window. “It’s not responding.”
“Defense teams,” O’Neill called, and several of the soldiers in the room switched from covering the Jaffa to covering the gate.
“Now is that any way to greet old friends?” a familiar voice called out.
Jack stared openly, not knowing what to make of their latest visitors. One of them was indeed known to them. Daniel stepped forward, focusing on the smaller of the two. “Shifu! Welcome back.” The boy inclined his head in greeting, ignoring the weapons pointed at him. The woman accompanying him was less reserved. A wide grin spread over her face as the one called Angel rushed forward.
“Cordy!” The other strangers, with the exception of Illyria, also greeted the woman warmly.
“Ah, Shifu, I’m happy to see you,” Daniel began eyeing the reunion with some confusion, “but why are you here? I take it this isn’t a social call.”
“No Daniel Jackson, it is not.” The boy seemed strangely agitated by the situation. “I am here as a… courtesy to the Ascended who claim this world as their own place.”
“That’d be me and mine,” the woman spoke up, pulling away from the friendly hugs she was getting. “I suppose an explanation is in order.”
“Good guess,” O’Neill answered sarcastically. “Not much gets by you higher beings does it?” The woman gave him a brief look of amused tolerance, and then nodded, becoming more serious.
“I’ll get straight to it then. Earth is a safer place today because of what these five people did a few days ago. Despite what you may have believed,” Cordelia looked at her friends proudly. “You did more than spit in the senior partners’ faces. You set an example. Thanks to Lorne, the other champions who so unfairly turned their backs on you now know what you did and why. The story will grow and continue to spread despite the partners’ wishes. You’re not just a champion anymore Angel. You and the others… You’re legends.”
“So what does that have to do with why they’re here?” O’Neill asked, choosing to ignore for the moment all of the other questions the woman had just raised.
“Well, we decided that we couldn’t let it end that way. Legends grow best if the ending is vague and there’s a chance for a sequel.” She frowned. “Am I mixing metaphors?”
“Ah…” Daniel and O’Neill traded confused looks.
“Never mind. You know what I mean. There is a problem though.” She grew solemn as she looked at her friends. “You can’t stay here guys. The partners’ primary interest is in Earth at the moment. If you stay here, they’ll come after you again, and next time I won’t be able to intervene. That’s why you’re here.”
“Hang on a mo,’” Spike broke in. “What are you sayin’? We’re being kicked off the planet?”
“Basically, yeah,” Cordelia nodded apologetically. “It’s the only way.” She looked around at the stunned faces of her friends. Even Illyria looked disconcerted. Then she grew angry.
“I will not be chased from this world by three demons who once groveled at my feet!”
“Your choice, Fred, but it’ll end bad if you stay, no matter how powerful you are. Stay and you’ll find yourself up against another demon army without the Powers’ help.”
The former god-king raised her chin defiantly, but Wesley put a hand on her elbow. “Illyria, please. We need you with us.” Wesley didn’t know what was coming next, but he knew he wasn’t ready to lose his last link to Fred. Then something occurred to him. He looked at Cordelia. “You called her Fred.”
“Well yeah,” Cordelia answered as if it was obvious.
“Fred is gone,” Wesley shook his head. “Mind and soul consumed in the fires of resurrection.” Cordelia frowned at her friend and then turned to regard Illyria
“Well… Yes and no.” Wesley and Illyria looked up with strangely similar expressions, both wary and hopeful at the same time. “Illyria was never part of this world, not really. Now she’s even less a part of it. To exist on this plain, she needed more than a host body. She needed an anchor. That’s Fred.”
“The taller the tree, the deeper the roots,” Shifu offered.
“Confucius boy is right,” Cordelia nodded. “In a very real way, Fred is still with you. That’s why assuming her shape doesn’t feel like a lie.” This statement she made while meeting the former god-king’s gaze directly. “That doesn’t mean things can go back the way they were. What’s happened can’t be undone, but there are… possibilities.”
“’Scuse me,” Gunn cut in. “Could we get back to that gettin’ kicked off the planet thing? Cause, that ain’t right.”
“If you stay, the senior partners will try again, and again, and again, hurting a lot of innocent people along the way. Out there, you have a chance to continue the fight. There’s a war going on out there as important as anything going on here. They’ll be needing you,” he nodded to Shifu, “whether they want to admit it or not. Anubis is a threat to them as well.” The boy turned abruptly from his contemplation of the roomful of confused people. “Yeah, you. Seer, remember?” She tilted her head back and placed her fingers melodramatically on her temples. “You’ll find a use for them.”
Shifu looked dubious. “We do not intervene as the Ascended on Earth do. Your world’s unique nature encourages us to be tolerant, but-”
“What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander,” Cordelia offered in as solemn a tone as she could manage, startling a chuckle out of O’Neill and causing Daniel to hide his mouth behind his hand. “Ya never know till you try, do you?”
“What exactly are you asking them to try?” Daniel asked, stepping forward. “The Ascended don’t traditionally involve themselves in ah, mortal affairs.” He looked from Cordelia to his wife’s son and back, wondering at the disparity. “You indicated that Earth is unique in some way, and it’s evident that Ascended here act more openly, more directly. I-”
“Yeah,” Cordelia interrupted. “Well it’s like this. The ones you call Ancients evolved here, but they weren’t the first sentient species. There were others, lots of others that most people these days lump into one category. Demon. Some demons are very evil, but some,” she shrugged, “just want to get by, and aren’t particularly evil or good, kind of like humans.”
“Other… races?” Daniel wasn’t sure he could believe what he was hearing.
“Uh-huh. Now some of those demons, like Illyria, were very powerful, but humans were persistent and they kept growing in number despite the demons’ best efforts. The Ancients fought what you’d probably call a war of attrition while building their civilization. They had a lot to do with making this world a safe place for humans, killed or drove out a lot of powerful demons, but eventually moved on, some to other planets, and some to other planes of existence.”
“Right. Now the Ascended on Earth had the power to combat the demons in ways that they couldn’t before, but they soon learned that direct conflict had devastating consequences. The first human civilization on Earth was destroyed.
“The humans had to start over again, living in caves, doing the hunter-gatherer thing, the whole nine yards.”
“It was a lesson that the Ancients who had left Earth took to heart,” Shifu cut in. “They learned that such interference could do more harm than good.”
“Too true,” Cordelia nodded. “The Ascended on Earth learned too. So they never again tried to engage the demons directly.”
“I remember the beginning of this time,” Illyria nodded. “Glorious battles in which many of my brethren and your ‘Ascended’ were destroyed.”
“Yeah,” Cordelia grimaced. “Glorious.” She widened her focus to the entire audience again. “The demons continued to fight each other while this was going on. Illyria was killed by a group of her fellow demons who promptly turned on each other once she was gone.”
“So what does this mean for us today?” O’Neill wanted to know.
“Simple. The war is ongoing. Demons still exist, although the more powerful ones have been killed or driven into other dimensions. The lesser demons still remain though, and there are those among them who make regular attempts to bring back the old order or at least to kill as many humans as possible. That’s why the Ascended of Earth have a special status. We have to take more direct action to keep this planet from spinning down the drain. Champions like Angel here are a big part of that.”
“You’re telling us that demons exist?” O’Neill’s tone dripped sarcasm. “Vampires?” Cordelia nodded. “Werewolves?”
“Well no, those are a myth.”
“Given Earth’s history and special nature,” Shifu interrupted, “the Ascended do not intervene in the affairs of their fellows here, but those of us not of the Tauri homeworld follow a different path. Fire is a fine tool, but it easily consumes what it creates.”
“He means we screw up occasionally,” Cordy interpreted. “That doesn’t mean we give up though. They don’t have anyone out there who rivals their power. Here on Earth, we do. That’s why we take the risk,” she turned to regard Shifu, “and why you’re going to have to start taking some risks yourselves.”
“Oma agrees,” Shifu nodded reluctantly. “That is why I came. The seeds of change are to be sewn. We shall see what grows.” With that he began to change, reverting to the glowing energy creature that was his true form. “I shall make preparations.”
Cordelia watched him pass through the gate before turning back to her friends. “He’s a walkin’ talkin’ fortune cookie, but he’s okay when you get to know him. If I can, I’ll check in on you, but there’s a lot of meddling to be done here on terra firma. Shifu’s right. The Ascended out there don’t really like the way we do things, but they leave us to it. You’ll have to watch out for them out there. They really do need you.”
“To do what they can’t,” Daniel’s eyes widened in comprehension. “You want them to serve as intermediaries, agents of the Ascended.”
“Just like we’ve been for the Powers here on Earth,” Angel nodded, understanding.
Cordelia touched her nose and then pointed at them. “Got it in one. I think the idea will grow on them.” She moved to her friends again and gave them each a hug, this time including Illyria/Fred. “You guys take care. I really gotta run.”
“Cordy-” Angel began, but she cut him off.
“I’ve done and said more than I should. I can’t make the decision for you.” Stepping back, she began to dissolve, becoming, as Shifu had, a radiant being. “Love you guys. Bye.” Instead of passing through the gate, she rose through the ceiling of the gate room leaving a group of stunned people behind her.
Angel and the others looked at each other and then at the gate. Finally Spike shrugged and started up the ramp. “Well Peaches? Ready to go where no vampire has gone before?” He vanished through the event horizon. Gunn was next to start up the ramp.
“Come on guys, who could pass this up?”
“Illyria?” Wesley watched her keenly, looking for any sign of what he had lost. She risked giving him one of Fred’s small smiles.
“Remaining here would rob us of the opportunity to hurt the Wolf, Ram, and Hart in the future. I find I still wish to hurt them for what they did to us. Besides, it will be… fun. Come Wesley.”
Not quite sure what to make of that, he gave her an odd smile and nodded. They all went together, reaching the event horizon at the same moment, but Illyria paused and glanced back at the Jaffa, thinking for a moment before coming to a decision “Hear me Jaffa! I once ruled this world. When I awoke in this era, I fought to defend it. I charge you now to take up that task. Protect this world and its people. That is my will.” She turned and, side-by-side, the three of them walked through the gate and into the legends of a thousand worlds.