Trilogy 17: The New Pirate Code
Summary: A new mission statement for SG-1 and 2 is to hunt down a new enemy of the Goa’uld and make an alliance. Words: 52,596.
Quote: “Glory and Gore” by Lorde.
There’s a humming in the restless summer air
And we’re slipping off the course that we prepared
But in all chaos, there is calculation
Secretly you love this
Do you even wanna go free?
Step into the ring
I’ll show you what that big word means
Glory and gore go hand in hand
Death Comes in the Night
Within half an hour, and with deep fear and dreading, the citizens of a small town hid in their homes, with shuttered windows and locked doors. The Goa’uld had shown up. It had been centuries, but now they were back. The terror that gripped the town didn’t allow for reason and bravery, didn’t allow them to gather weapons and defend themselves. All they wanted was to be left alone, alive and well. No one who had lived back then was alive to see it happening again, but they’d left the stories behind; the guidelines.
Inside the homes along one particular road off the town square, the residents heard the sound of running bootsteps and labored breathing. One man, Caleb, peeked through a heavy curtain and froze. It was a Jaffa. But this Jaffa was scared! With wide eyes, Caleb pushed a button on a small device and whispered to his friend to look outside. In seconds, the same thing happened all the way down the street.
The Jaffa was afraid. He’d slowed down, but never enough to let the residents see whose master he belonged to. Part of the problem was nightfall, and the eerie shadows that covered this soldier’s face. He kept looking behind him, and some residents spoke back and forth along the long road, wondering who he was running from because Jaffa don’t run from their masters. They’re too well trained. This Jaffa was scared to death and running for his life.
From the far end of the street, a whistling sound came from someone’s lips; it was a summoning. The Jaffa made a strangled whining gasp; he’d just discovered that the street was a dead end, in more than one sense. A different set of bootsteps became audible and when their owner appeared, the residents could only see his shadow. Judging by his outline, he wore a dark, hooded duster, and a street lamp revealed the shining blade of a long sword.
“Now, now,” the hooded figure taunted as he slowed his steps. “Betin, First Prime of Heru’ur, come stand forth like the brave Jaffa you are supposed to be, and meet your justice.”
The residents watched, but what happened was in shadow. In case this stranger should turn his eye on them, they kept quiet.
When the dawn came, the residents cautiously came out of their homes. They found the Jaffa in the town square, tied to a spear, with a piece of parchment staked to his chest. It said:
Sentenced to Death
Mass Murder and Genocide.
Judged by The Pirate Code.
If you protect these criminals, beware.
If you suffer from these criminals
you will be saved.
‘Scythe’ Sutton Zain
Leader of Es Bai Ka’ren
General Hammond sat at the Briefing Room table with the members of SG-1, SG-2, and Bra’tac, who’d just arrived with an interesting photo. It showed a Jaffa First Prime tied to a spear plunged deep in the ground—through thick granite—with the message parchment staked to his heart.
“These Es Bai Ka’ren have to know about Earth, sir,” Jack said, referring to the message written in English, not just Goa’uld, Chulakian, and Asgardian. He passed the image back to Bra’tac, who sat across from him next to Teal’c at the table.
“So it would seem,” Hammond said soberly.
“He’s got the tattoo of Heru’ur on his forehead,” Daniel said, pointing with his pen. “Isn’t that Goa’uld dead?”
“He is,” Bra’tac said with a nod.
“This is the first time in two years since we’ve been hunting them down that they’ve left a written message like this,” Daniel went on, sitting back in his chair with his fingers laced over his stomach.
He sat next to Bra’tac, and next to him sat Sam. Across the table, next to Jack, was Jason, Connor, and the newest member of SG-2: First Lieutenant (formerly Sergeant First Class) Cari Carmichael, who’d taken Lieutenant Al Kaufman’s place after his request for a non-combat assignment.
“I’d say it was a message for us, specifically,” Daniel concluded.
“For what purpose?” Hammond asked.
“And how can you be sure?” Bra’tac asked on the heels of his question.
“English is only spoken or written by the Tau’ri, which means Earth and our outpost sites. English isn’t spoken in those worlds where the Asgard or Goa’uld had abducted humans from Earth and transplanted them. So to provide an English translation, what’s that tell you? That they intended to get us this message.”
“Why not just contact us, for cryin’ out loud?” Jack said, frowning and drumming his fingers on the table. “I hate it when these assholes play games. Just come knocking and state your intentions!”
Jason shrugged. “I don’t think it’s a game, Jack. I think this is a simple nod to us, letting us know they’re on our side.”
Jack sighed. “Two years, Jason. We’ve been tracking them for two years. You’d think they’d simply leave a note asking to meet face to face. To me that’s game-playing.”
Jason tipped his head to Jack. “Point. But intuition tells me they’re not a threat to us.”
Daniel put in, “There’s something else though.”
“What?” Jack asked.
“Well, look at that name. Sutton ‘Scythe’ Zain? That’s an eighteenth-century-style name, guys. From Earth, nowhere else. Whoever these … pirates … are, they’re using Tau’ri history, which means they’re very familiar with our planet.”
Jack grimaced. “I hadn’t even thought of that, and I should have.”
Daniel shrugged. “We don’t really pay attention to the fact that English is spoken, in various dialects, on other planets. We can only assume that the Asgard could be responsible for that. Although it doesn’t make sense. Why not Spanish or Italian or—”
“Daniel,” Jack admonished.
“You’re getting sidetracked. Back to the issue. And I believe I sensed a ‘but’ coming.”
Daniel smirked at him. “But.” He tapped the picture of the warning notice. “That English name no longer exists in our modern world and those pirates had to know that. Where’d they learn that particular English?”
“Daniel’s right. And I’d consider that a suspicious act,” Jack said to Hammond, who nodded agreement.
“I agree, sir,” Cari asked, jumping into the conversation. “In my opinion, an ally or possible ally wouldn’t go traipsing around our planet without notifying us.”
Jason nodded. “Agreed.”
Daniel shook his head. “No, I don’t think so,” he said, giving both Jason and Cari an apologetic look. “We spy on planets all the time before we make contact. It would be hypocritical to expect others to notify us every time they show up for a look.”
Jack growled, mostly to himself. “Daniel, those people we spy on have every right to consider us hostile and we have the right to do the same.” He tapped the table with a finger. “We use our gate. Most of those other planets didn’t and don’t. I’ll just bet that these pirates know that we use the gate.”
Jason made a similar growl. “I don’t like the idea of being spied on, regardless of whether or not we do it ourselves. Whoever these pirates are, they still need to be questioned on why they didn’t announce their presence.”
“I agree,” Hammond said. “So we’ll put that as the first order of business before any talk about an alliance.”
“We need to find them first,” Sam said. “We’ve spent two years doing this and have come up with bits of intelligence but nothing on their home base. So what’s our next step?”
Hammond nodded. “Suggestions?”
“We can place notices on these planets, asking for a meeting,” Daniel suggested.
“The Jaffa can also use those notices to spread to planets not yet hit by these pirates,” Bra’tac said. “Get to these people before they strike.”
“I agree,” Teal’c put in.
“Do it,” Jack said, after a nod from Hammond.
“I will need a notice,” Bra’tac said with a sarcastic smile. “Our people can create and copy them, providing we have Tau’ri words to go with the Goa’uld.”
Daniel clicked his pen. “What do we want it to say?”
After a few minutes, they decided on, “To the Pirate Code: Please contact the Tau’ri for possible alliance. Send reply via transmission to the Jaffa Nation using the 678.42 frequency.”
The next day, Daniel stood in the control room looking at a star chart with Sam when the gate activated. Incoming address read: NULL: interstellar space.
“What?” Sam frowned, sitting down at the console. “That’s not possible. Running background.” She set the computer to work to examine the incoming transmission.
Daniel chewed at his lip, thinking. “Maybe it’s coming from a ship with a gate, Sam.”
“That’s what I’m searching for.”
“Right,” he said, rolling his eyes at himself.
Sam ran through the incoming data and growled. “It’s not telling me that. In fact, it’s telling me nothing.”
“Weird. Is there a message?”
At that moment, telemetry indicated the message and the computer buffered the translator. On screen, it read:
“Tau’ri. This is the Black Wolf. A member of the Jaffa Nation will meet you on Abydos. Final destination will be revealed at that time. We are not transmitting our final coordinates over interstellar space. Please respond.”
“That makes no sense. Why not on Dakara?” Sam said. She turned and yelled over her shoulder, “Davis!”
“Getting him!” he called back from his office.
Several seconds passed and Hammond came hurrying into the control room. The General read the message on the screen.
“What do I tell them?” Sam asked.
“We’ll meet with them in twenty-four hours. This isn’t a time-sensitive mission.”
Sam nodded and typed the answer. A second later…
The gate deactivated.
“Short and to the point. I admire the brevity,” Hammond quipped. “Call the Colonel,” he told Sam. “Tomorrow, SG-1 and SG-2, plus SG-3 will accompany you for back-up.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, grabbing her cell.
Hammond frowned. “Why that phone?”
“Colonel O’Neill is with Teal’c and Bra’tac at the firing range, sir.”
Hammond raised a brow. “I thought he was planning to do that next week.”
“He …” Sam hesitated.
“He got bored, sir,” Daniel replied with half a smile. “And you know how Teal’c gets around Bra’tac.”
Hammond grunted. “In the meantime, I’ll call Maxwell and have her meet us in the Briefing Room for a run-down tomorrow morning at 0800.”
“I thought Dixon headed SG-3,” Daniel said.
“I transferred him to the Alpha site. Maxwell was next in line.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, watching Hammond exit before turning to Sam. “Her?” Sam was grinning ear to ear. “What?”
“Jennifer Maxwell. Or just Max. She’s in line to take command of the next battleship, but she asked Hammond for some field experience first.”
“And he gave her SG-3? What was wrong with Dixon?”
Sam made a face. “Dixon … well, let’s just say that he needed a kick in the ass about sexism.”
“Ohhh,” Daniel grimaced. “Well, he is a bit of a bastard.”
Sam tittered. “Max is much better suited. She won’t insult our allies, never mind the rest of the women on base.” She sighed and leaned back in her chair. “Honestly, Daniel. It’s well past time for the men on this base to get goddamn shit together.”
Daniel raised his hand. “Preaching to the choir.”
Jason came strolling into the control room at that moment, eyebrow cocked. “Heard a gate activation. Did we get a message back?”
“We’ll meet them on Abydos tomorrow morning,” Daniel said.
“Abydos?” Jason asked, frowning as he followed Sam and Daniel out of the control room. After Sam explained, he snorted. “As if they weren’t mysterious enough already.”
When they got to the team locker room to change clothes and go home, they found a note taped to the door. “Black tomorrow.” It was Jack’s writing.
“Oh good,” Sam said. “I’m getting tired of green.”
As they entered the locker room, Jason’s phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket. “Coburn.” There was a pause and he stopped a few steps past Daniel’s locker on the way to his own on the other side of the room. “How long? You okay?”
Daniel looked up, pausing in opening his locker.
“I’ll put in the paper in the morning,” Jason said. “Don’t worry about it, buddy. I’ll take care of it. Okay, happy trails.” He snapped his flip-phone shut and shook his head.
“What’s up?” Daniel asked.
“Alex,” Jason shouted as he went around the dividing wall that separated SG-1 and SG-2’s lockers, dressing rooms, and showers. “He needs another day.” Jason referred to his Second, Major Alex Wagner.
“What’s he doing?” Daniel called back.
“Moving! His apartment flooded, thanks to asshole neighbors!”
“Crap,” Daniel said, but a little lower in volume. They really didn’t need to shout, but before the renovations, it had been hard to hear, and it was a habit almost broken.
“Yeah,” Jason replied, voice-normal. “He was looking forward to going on this mission.”
“How’re he and Cari going to get along working together?” Daniel asked.
Cari said, “I don’t know, Daniel.”
Daniel winced. “Sorry!”
Jason snickered. “Busted, Daniel.”
Then Daniel heard him tell Cari, “We talk about you all the time, you know.”
“We do not,” Daniel protested, but in a much lower voice.
Having changed faster than Daniel, Jason rounded the wall and walked up to him, smirk on his face. His jeans hung just a little low and Daniel admired the way he could see more of Jason’s stomach that way. Even covered up, the muscles were apparent. Jason wore tight t-shirts and that was always inexplicable to him. Daniel liked room.
“She and Alex made a pact,” Jason said, talking normally and thus not making any effort to hide that he was talking about his newest teammate. “If they can’t handle working together while seeing each other, they’d come talk to me. I’m not about to let either of them quit or transfer.” Then raising his voice he said, “They’ll have to work it out or get my boot up their ass.”
“No disrespect, sir, but fuck off,” came Cari’s sing-song answer.
A Nightmare Out of the Blue
Jason tossed back his whiskey and soda and headed for the shower. Daniel frowned at his back, watching him disappear from the kitchen. “Where are you going?”
“Shower,” Jason called back. “Come join me.”
Daniel made a face as he placed the enchiladas in the oven. “I’m not in the mood, Jason.” He realized what he’d said, how he’d said it, and wondered at himself. Jason appeared shirtless in the hall doorway to the kitchen and stared at him.
“I beg your pardon?” he asked, astonished. “Since when?”
Daniel sighed. “Sorry. I meant that I didn’t want to shower together nor have sex in the shower. I’m rather sore and I’d just as soon be on a nice soft bed.”
Jason gave him a sympathetic look as he walked over and began to massage Daniel’s shoulders. “Too tense. Like always. When’s the last time you meditated with Teal’c?”
“Eons,” Daniel said. “He’s been pretty busy lately.”
“No wonder,” Jason said, and he took Daniel’s hand and led him out of the kitchen.
Daniel only mildly objected. “I’m still not showering together,” he said, even when Jason brought him in the bathroom.
“Yeah, yeah. What you need is a good massage under hot water.”
“Ah huh,” Daniel said, dubious. “And after that …”
Jason sighed, looking at him. “Fine,” he said, and shucked out of his jeans and underwear. “Will you accept one after your shower then?”
“After dinner,” Daniel said, admiring him.
Jason rolled his eyes and got into the shower, closing the glass door behind him. Daniel watched him a few seconds, then returned to the kitchen. He heard the front door close and Jack stomping his boots. The normally-tidy foyer was now a snow-melting area.
“Goddamn snow-blower,” Jack groused as he came in, heading for the fridge.
“What happened?” Daniel asked, sipping his own whiskey and soda while looking at the wetness of Jack’s jean-clad legs.
“I don’t know. I’ll check it when we get back. It’s clogged or something so only three quarters of the drive is free.”
“Right,” Daniel said, and to thwart one of Jack’s time-honored rants about snow-blowers, he said, “Jason’s in the shower. Wants company.”
“Then why aren’t you in there?” Jack asked after taking a long pull at a Heineken. He’d taken a long look at Daniel while he did it.
“Not in the mood for shower sex. My muscles are sore. I’d like a bed, thanks.”
Not answering, Jack walked over and gathered Daniel in an open hug. He didn’t scold or nag or give advice. Instead, he looked at Daniel’s appearance. Specifically, at his long hair. It was almost to his shoulders now and sort of a blondish-brown. It always did that when he let it grow. The bangs were long and always getting in eyes. Jack couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to cut it. He said as much.
“I don’t know,” Daniel replied, frowning in thought as he gently pulled back from Jack and ran a few fingers through his hair. “I feel younger. Seems to fit.”
“You are younger,” Jack said, referring to their strange little ceremony with the Fae Queen Morrighan two years before. They hadn’t really believed her when she said they’d gain improvements in health. “So’m I and so’s Jace.”
Suddenly, Daniel’s demeanor changed and Jack recognized a mood coming on. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Do you realize that the only reason I started cutting my hair was out of habit after that goddamn bitch Hathor cut it off?” He shuddered and shook his arms as if cold.
“I thought you did it because it was easier to maintain,” Jack said, frowning a little.
“Yeah, that’s also true,” Daniel said, then shrugged. He stared at the stove. “Whatever. I’m not hungry. You and Jason finish the leftovers. I put them in the oven.”
With that, Daniel remade his drink and headed in the direction of the bedroom. Jack stood there, staring and blinking. What in the hell had gotten into Daniel? He walked over and turned off the oven, then headed for the bathroom.
A grin spread over his face as he stripped out of his clothing and stepped into the large shower to join Jason. “Hey there,” he said.
“Hey yourself,” Jason said, spitting water as he rinsed his hair. Theirs was so old-hat, so routine, that it wasn’t an effort to get out of the way or be annoyed at the loss of water. They’d spared no expense when it came to the building of their bathroom. That shower was large, and it had three separate nozzle sprays so if you moved out of the way for each other, there was still water hitting their skin and keeping them warm. Plus, there were the horizontal bars installed at chest level and overhead, just in case one of them got creative.
Jack dipped under the spray and wallowed in the heat for a minute before beginning to wash. Jason leaned over and kissed him before the soap covered his face and Jack grinned, closed-mouthed. Rinsing his face next, he began to soap up elsewhere.
“What is wrong with Daniel?” he asked.
“You can’t help but notice. He’s broadcasting it all over the place.”
Jason sighed, already finished, but he grabbed a sponge and did Jack’s back for him. He grinned at Jack’s moan of pleasure. Sobering, however, he said, “Normally, I’d say he was in the mood for some pretty rough sex.”
Jack nodded. “Normally, yeah. Doesn’t quite feel like it though, does it?”
Jason frowned. “No.” He thought about it, using the Raven sense he’d learned to hone, after having the intuition tattoo on his chest sort of revitalized. Hell, it’d gone from black to gold, thanks to that Fae. He rubbed absently at it as he thought. Eventually, he had nothing. “Can’t get anywhere. You?”
Jack started to shake his head but his eyes were narrowed in thought. “It’s almost as if … this is gonna sound whacked, but it’s as if … he’s sensing something’s coming and doesn’t understand it.”
Jason’s brows rose. “I think it’s you who’s sensing something. Anything up, metaphorically speaking?”
Jack shook his head. “No,” he said, certain. “It feels more like Daniel’s edgy. Like he needs something rough but that’s not it.”
Jason’s eyes widened slightly as an idea came to him. “Maybe he’s in the mood for a bite.”
Jack glanced at Jason as he rinsed his back. “I don’t think so. He hasn’t thought of him in a long time.” Jack was referring to a certain acquaintance of theirs. One with fangs.
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Jason said, and waited until Jack was finished rinsing before he wrapped his arms around him from behind. “Maybe he needs smothering.” He nuzzled Jack’s neck. “There’s something to be said for that.”
Jack turned his head as he covered Jason’s arms with his own. “There is. We’ll figure it out when we get to bed.”
It was twenty minutes later when they’d snacked on dinner, then brushed up and headed for bed. The closer they got to the bedroom, the more ominous it felt because the lights were off. Daniel had a habit of reading in bed long after his husbands had gone to sleep, but not tonight. That in itself was a warning.
Warm and dry, they slipped into bed on either side of him and frowned when they found him asleep. Jason jerked his head and Jack eased out of bed and went around to join him. They cuddled together and kissed, at ease in an instant simply due to Daniel’s presence, asleep or not. To save on the mess, they reached for condoms and for a brief bit of foreplay, sucked each other before sliding the slick coats over their cocks.
Jason turned over and Jack kissed his neck while reaching for the lube from the headboard shelf. He prepped quickly and without further foreplay, slid inside of him. Jason closed his eyes and sighed, as if he’d been waiting to dive into a heated pool.
The practice was automatic, whether they were really in the mood or not. But Jack almost always had an erection the moment he got into bed and Jason matched him. Normally, Daniel would be included and there’d be a sharing of who was entered. Sometimes, there’d be a triple spooning and a slow ride until one of them got close. Then it would be frantic and frustrating, desire warring with lustful impatience.
This time, however, Jason kept his forearms in front of him, turning onto his belly as he watched Daniel sleep, wondering if he’d awaken and join them. Soon, Jack took care of his attention.
He moved slowly, easily, enjoying the heat around his cock, the velvet softness of Jason’s ass against his crotch coupled with the hardness of his body and the flexing muscles that moved with his rhythm. They rocked back and forth for a while until he felt clutch around him and lift himself for deeper penetration. It was a signal that his impatience had arrived. Jack, too, was on the same wave length and he began to thrust faster and harder. Their breathing became louder as they headed for completion and soon, Jason dropped his head down, fingers gripping the sheets.
Fire ran through Jack’s balls and down the back of his legs. He pulled back and dragged Jason with him as he knelt behind and re-entered, automatically returning to the fast, hard fuck. Jason groaned, happily sliding his cock against the sheet while he approached his orgasm and Jack loved the sight of his back muscles bunching up. The keen pitch of pleasure spiked through them and Jason came first, then Jack.
More cuddling came in the afterglow but it was marred with worry as they watched Daniel sleep.
The mouth around his cock was unwanted but Daniel slid back and forth anyway until he realized it wasn’t Jack or Jason. A strange figure in black reached for him …
Daniel launched up on his elbows, breathing hard. He swallowed as his heart raced. What in the hell was he dreaming that for? He sat up completely and stared at the clock. 2 a.m. Fuck. He looked to his right and found Jason next to him, on his stomach, with Jack’s arm draped over his waist. Unusual. They usually bracketed him. Then he winced. He’d gone to sleep before their nightly ritual threesome.
Threading his hair with his fingers, he got out of bed and padded to the bathroom. After relieving himself, he went to the kitchen and grabbed some ice water, drinking it down. Returning to bed, he slid down under the covers and laid there, looking at the purposely bare rafters that created a cathedral ceiling. It was all in shadow, making odd dark shapes and he shivered.
A hand touched his right arm, the fingers soft, and he looked over to see Jason’s sleepy eyes watching him. Daniel could feel the worry and he leaned over and kissed Jason’s forehead. “I’m going back to sleep,” he whispered, and he did.
Three and half hours later, Daniel awoke to the same uneasiness and he was bone tired. Even so, he awoke with an erection that had nothing to do with the usual morning wood. He groaned and found himself alone. As he attuned his ears, he heard the usual soft sounds of their morning routine. He sat up, wincing, and padded to the bathroom even while stepping out of his shorts. He relieved himself again and opened the shower to get the water warm. There was no need. In his sleepiness, he hadn’t noticed the shower was already wet until he stepped inside.
Clearing his throat, he turned on the water and groaned as the hot water soothed aching and tensed shoulders. Jason was going to massage them, he remembered. And then he’d fallen asleep. Damn. Still, it would have led to sex and for some reason he couldn’t define, he just hadn’t been in mood. Literally, he hadn’t.
He looked down and bemusedly shook his head. Now, in the morning, when there wasn’t any time, he was hard. Figured.
“There you are,” Jason said.
Daniel turned to look through the glass at him and his brows rose in surprise to find his black-haired husband still naked. “Taking your time?” he asked, and it came out mumbly as the water ran into his mouth. He spit. “Taking your time?”
“Not exactly,” Jason said and opened the door. “Jack,” he called out. “He’s awake.”
“Coming,” came a distant voice.
Jason chuckled. “Oh yeah.”
“What—” Daniel began, but Jason covered his mouth with his own and kissed him deeply. He slid his hand down and wrapped the fingers around Daniel’s cock.
The door opened and let in slightly cool air and Daniel half-opened his eyes to see Jack and the grin of intent on his face. “Oh boy,” he tried to say over Jason’s lips.
“Yes,” Jason said. It came out a hiss.
Jack threw down a wide shower pillow and dropped to his knees, and before Daniel could take a breath, it was sucked out of him as his cock was swallowed. After all these years, he could tell blindfolded whose mouth was around his dick. They each had their techniques and Daniel really couldn’t bring himself to choose whose was his favorite. This morning, however, it was Jack’s. Back and forth, tight and sucking, Daniel was sure this was going to be a long one. Until Jason moved behind him and slid his hard cock into him.
Double-teamed. He was being double-teamed. The tension flowed out of him, replaced with a lust version that would be released with a wonderful ending. Occasionally this happened and usually when he was in a snit of some sort. And the funny thing was, it always surprised him when it happened.
The double onslaught of Jack’s mouth and Jason’s cock was overwhelming and he just let go and let them do what they wanted.
“Use me,” he murmured, and he stretched out his hands and grabbed the bars on either side of the shower, spreading his legs wide apart. With moans of appreciation from his husbands, they—as Jason was fond of saying—went to town on him. Jack sucked him forcefully, willfully, pulling his balls down gently while Jason slapped against his ass with hard, quick strokes.
“Come for us, baby,” Jason growled, tightening his grip on Daniel’s hips.
Jack purposely growled around his cock, creating a buzzing that slammed into Daniel’s lust and he squeezed his eyes shut and thrust back into Jason and forward into Jack. Again and again, and again and again, out of control until he bucked and gasped and came hard.
“Jesus Christ,” Jason panted and before he could come, Jack was behind him, entering him to finish himself off. His cock was still inside Daniel and he held him tight as Jack brought them both to completion.
Daniel dropped his arms and leaned back, feeling Jason’s soft cock slip out of him and he didn’t care. He only wanted the water and the feel of his body against his back. Behind Jason, he knew Jack was there and he reached behind to find his hand.
Jack found it and entwined their fingers. “Feel better?” he asked.
Daniel couldn’t answer. All he did was nod.
Colonel Maxwell was a tall woman with short blond hair and blue eyes like Sam’s, but she was built a bit more robustly. To Daniel, she looked like a Norwegian with a Viking background. She rubbed her neck after exiting the Abydonian gate and Jack looked at her questioningly.
“I should have gone out more. Not used to gate travel.”
“It’s one giant thrill ride from minute to minute,” Jack quipped. Behind him, Jason walked over to the FRED to inspect its new camera compartments as Jack checked in with Hammond before shutting down the gate.
“Arrived safe and sound, General. Will be on our way to the next point.”
“Copy that, Colonel. Godspeed.”
As the gate shut down, Jack looked around and Daniel noticed his frown. “What?”
“Where’s Skaara and the others?”
Daniel pointed at the far end of the interior room and they could see small puffs of dirt between the cracks in the stone. The tell-tale sign of an Abydonian dust storm.
“Ah.” Better to ride it out back in the village than in the temple room. Also known as their gate room.
Brushing her fingers through her hair before returning her cap, Max looked over her team, making sure they had everything for this mission. She’d already done it, but with a new team, she’d double-check everything until they ran smoothly. They were seasoned professionals, sure, but they were new to her. Casting a thumb at Jason and Daniel, said, “How do you do it, Jack? Working with your husbands?”
“I know, I know,” she waved him off.
“I can’t answer that,” Jack shrugged. “It just works.”
“Lucky you. My husband and I can’t work together. He pisses me off. I piss him off.”
Jack grinned. “The price of both being on the job.”
“Not for you three,” she said, giving him a mock-scowl.
“I’m not on the job,” Daniel said as he helped Jason orient the FRED.
“That might be it,” she said absently, and it made no sense because she was looking at an approaching Jaffa she didn’t know. “There’s our go-between, I think.” Bra’tac and Teal’c headed for the man and gave their customary forearm greetings. Max took note of the grey robes and a golden disc necklace. “What’s that necklace he’s wearing?”
“Status as second in command, if memory serves,” Jack replied as they headed over, joined by Jason. “Normally Bra’tac is wearing the same thing, but on this mission, he’s in his version of combat gear.” His version involved his typical metal cap and cape, plus leathers and mail.
“Settled?” Jason asked her, nodding at her team.
“More or less,” she said, grinning at him. “Won’t be really until I’ve gotten a few missions under my belt.”
“It’ll be old hat before you know it,” Jack told her.
“Counting on it.”
“O’Neill,” Bra’tac said. “This is M’brak, my second in command at Dakara.”
“Honored,” Jack said, trading grips with tall man. He was fair with a short brown brush of hair, hazel eyes, and an unshaven face.
M’brak regarded him with approval. “As am I.” He dialed the gate, eyeing Daniel as the linguist memorized the address. “We’re going to a secondary stop. From there, we’ll transfer to the world where the Es Bai Ka’ren are waiting.”
“What’s the secondary stop?” Daniel asked.
“A small planet called Seconara. It’s an old Goa’uld outpost we liberated, unpopulated.”
Jack nodded. “And the name of the Es Bai Ka’ren’s planet?”
“Es Bai Ka’ren,” M’brak shrugged. “That’s all we’ve been told.”
“Alright, folks,” Jack said, looking around him. “Let’s head out.”
They arrived at night. The gate sat in a standard layout: centered on a circular stone pavement with the DHD a few yards straight ahead. Surrounding the gate area were twelve tall torches cemented into the ground, lighting the area. Daniel assumed the torches were there to greet them so they wouldn’t arrive in the dark. Still, something nagged at him.
No one said it, but everyone was hyper alert the moment they exited the gate. Max had her team fan out ahead, weapons-ready. “Stay inside the courtyard, gentlemen,” she told her teammates.
“Carter, fire up the sensor,” Jack said as he directed SG-1 to stay in the center while Jason’s team went up the middle. Bra’tac and M’brak stayed with Teal’c.
“Company,” both Jason and M’brak said, gesturing ahead.
They could barely discern a hill that sloped toward them and a stone path cut into it. Walking over it, a figure headed their way, carrying a torch.
“You know who that is?” Jack asked M’brak and Bra’tac. They shook their heads.
Sam squinted as the figure came closer. “Wait a second. That looks like Castra, a Tok’ra. Last time I saw him was on Bel’a’lat.”
“What in the hell are the Tok’ra doing here?” Max asked.
“We’re gonna find out,” Jack said. “Carter?” Sam had the seven-by-eight pad in her hand, thumbs swiping over the surface. “That new gadget working out?”
“Perfectly, sir, but it needs tweaking. Will get that done when we get back.”
“Structure up ahead at a higher elevation. No other structures detected. Outside of us, I can detect only Castra.”
“Copy,” Jack said, his eyes trying to adjust to the darkness, but the torches were preventing it. At first, it seemed like a welcoming gesture, but Jack now surmised it was done to blind them to whatever sat beyond the fires’ reach.
Jason reached that deduction as well as he waited for Jack to catch up. “Torches aren’t helpful,” he murmured.
Jack nodded seriously. “Noticed that.”
Castra’s features became clearer as he neared. He was tall with shoulder-length brown hair with a mustache that covered a rather handsome face. He wasn’t wearing the usual Tok’ra uniform. Instead, he wore what could be considered eighteenth-century gear: a blue doublet with elaborate embroidery, a billowy white shirt, dark trousers, and thigh-high dark leather boots that ended just over the knee. This latter bit of dress was of modern design; only the length was archaic: one-inch heels with square toes that looked steel-reinforced.
Across his body, he wore a wide belt, like a sash. It was intended to hold the weapon that was tucked against his back: a long cruciform sword whose pommel gleamed in the firelight. Saddled to his hip was what seemed to be a laser weapon of some sort. Jack recognized it from others the Tok’ra had shown them in the past. A standard gun shape but with a heavy stock and a double-wide barrel with a pointed nose.
Daniel chewed at his lip. “Well, if it isn’t a pirate.”
“So it is,” Jack said.
Castra stopped ten feet before the group and gave a slight bow. “Castra. Though under the Es Bai Ka’ren, my name is Jachan Bride.”
He had a deep voice that Sam liked. “Why the cover name?” she asked.
“Because it’s necessary not to implicate the Tok’ra in our advocacy.”
“Okay,” Jack said slowly, thinking that over. He gestured. “What’s with the get-up?”
“I’m sorry?” Castra said, nonplussed.
“The pirate gear.”
“Necessary. No one but the Tau’ri would recognize it.”
“Why are the Tok’ra here?” Jason asked.
“I’ll let our Captain explain,” he said, and gestured that they follow him.
“Sutton Zain?” Daniel asked.
“Where?” Jack asked, indicating that their group could follow.
“At the top of the hill,” Castra pointed. “We have a stronghold.”
“The structure you detected?” Jack asked Sam.
“We appropriated it from the Goa’uld.”
“That’s an interesting way to put it,” Jack replied. “Are all of you headquartered there?” Castra didn’t answer. “I asked you a question.”
Castra gave him a sidelong look. “Our Captain will explain.”
Jack grunted. “About your clothing style. You’ve been to Earth without notifying us, which we’re not going to take a simple ‘oops, we forgot’.”
“It’s what our Captain decided. Again, no one else in the galaxy has seen it and can therefore not identify us by it. Keeps them guessing.”
“Yet you use an Alteran name for Black Wolf,” Daniel said. “Why?”
“Altaren?” Castra asked.
“The Ancients. Es Bai Ka’ren is in the language of The Ancients.”
Castra made a face. “I keep forgetting. Our Captain chose the name.”
Daniel decided that answer was already getting stale. “Ah huh.”
Jason was admiring the sword, or what he could make of it. Its handle was wrapped in leather strips, the metal had a brownish tint, and the cross-brace’s ends were shaped like wolf heads. He wanted one. “Why a sword?”
“Our Captain decided,” finished Jack. “Jesus, broken record.”
“All of you have them?” Jason asked.
“Yes. And the sword isn’t just for show,” Castra volunteered, unruffled. “We actually use them.”
“So said the reports we have heard,” Teal’c said.
“Got any spares?” Jason asked.
Daniel snorted. “Jason.”
“I like it.”
“We make our swords as needed,” Castra answered anyway, and looked over his shoulder at Jason. “Ask the Captain.”
“Everything go by him?” Jason asked.
“Unless delegated, yes.”
“Not much arguing then,” Cari joked as she winked at Connor. He nudged her back. They’d only just been arguing—quietly—about something stupid before leaving the ship.
Castra grinned. “We do that, but when it comes to orders, we follow the Captain without question.” He looked over his shoulder and looked around till he met Cari’s gaze. “We’re all on the same side, yes?”
“We are when it comes to the Goa’uld,” Jason said, and though he apparently surprised the Tok’ra, Castra said nothing.
The rest of the walk was quiet and when they neared the entrance, Jack snapped his fingers three times; time to pay particular attention, the gesture said. It was unnecessary, but Jack figured that reminding everyone was always a good idea. New surroundings, new threats.
“This structure is like the one in Chulak,” Teal’c said to Jack.
But apparently a different type of security had been installed. A green scanning beam over the doors slid over Castra first, then made a wide examination of the Tau’ri group. When Castra opened the right-hand door, Captain Maxwell spoke up.
“Jack, how about my team set up shop out here?”
Jack started to agree but Castra interrupted. “It’s not necessary, Colonel,” he said, particularly to Jack. “Our security system has been monitoring our movements. Nothing can approach without our knowing. You can see for yourself inside.”
Jack shrugged and gave the head of SG-3 a grin. “Looks like you get to see the show, Max.”
“I don’t like leaving the gate unmanned,” she said, dissatisfied.
The Tok’ra looked a bit annoyed. “Shall we go in?”
Jack made a sweeping gesture. “By all means.”
At that moment, a spherical green light zipped up to Castra, next to his ear, pausing to whisper to him. Castra murmured, “Tell him to settle down. We’re on our way.” The light bobbed and zipped away.
“What the hell…” Jack began.
“Didn’t you notice?” Daniel asked, brows raised. “It was a teeny person.”
Jack blinked. “No, I … didn’t.” He scowled. “How the hell did I miss that?”
“And me,” Jason said. The others echoed him.
“He probably did that on purpose,” Castra said and nodded to Daniel. “You’re an empath. You’re on the same wave length, so he knew you weren’t a threat and let you see him.”
“I didn’t get much of a look, frankly,” Daniel said when everyone looked at him as if he shouldn’t have seen anything. “That was a ‘he’?”
Castra nodded. “If there’s time, the Captain will likely introduce him to everyone. There are several of them on this planet, but they aren’t from here. They’ve kind of gotten lost, zipping through stargates. Curious little folk. We’ve been trying to figure out where they belong, but they haven’t been clear.”
“Maybe they’re protecting their home world,” Daniel offered.
“Maybe,” Castra said thoughtfully.
“I think they may be related to Morrighan,” Daniel went on.
“Who?” Castra asked.
“Daniel,” Jack said, and made a slicing motion across his neck. Daniel gave him a single nod and tilt of his head. They’d talk later about the little sprites.
Inside, the same light brown stone that made up the Chulakian fortress made up these walls, the same marble made up the floors. It was a spooky Déjà vu. Hallways led straight ahead and to the right, and Castra gestured to the latter. The interior was lit but the form of illumination had been changed: In Chulak, braziers had been spaced every fifty feet or so. Here, half-moon sconces of plasma light were in their place.
Jack and Daniel exchanged looks. “It seems that the castle has received an upgrade.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said directly behind him. “Castra, what else has changed?”
“There aren’t any Jaffa,” Castra said, his tone dry and Teal’c raised a brow. “Until now,” the Tok’ra amended.
They passed one set of doors on the left, another set on the right. The hall ended at a single-sided fork and following that, they passed other doors. The corridor curved right, then left, and emptied into a large chamber. Unlike the chamber they had been escorted to on their first visit to Chulak, there was no sunken floor, no Grecian-like pillars with over-flowing greenery baskets and no low-sitting dining tables.
Instead, six extremely long, finely-crafted wooden tables furnished the room and they were split evenly with three on the left, three on the right, and a wide walking space between sides. Hanging over each were several holographic view screens and the means by which they hung in mid-air wasn’t apparent. Most were inactive. Fruits, vegetables, and pastries were available in large bowls. As the teams walked down the middle, they noticed scattered writing instruments, various tech devices that resembled radios, and ‘paper’ sheets made of translucent material.
At the far end, standing at the end of the right-hand table closest to the middle were four men. They stood talking in front of an activated holoscreen. Three of them had their backs to Jack’s team and one of them stood across, pointing to something on the screen. They wore similar clothing to Castra, but two of them held their swords at their hips. They only differed from Castra in that each of them had much longer hair.
“Captain!” Castra called as the group stopped about fifteen feet away. “Here they are.” He stepped aside with a flourish and Daniel got the impression that it was purposely exaggerated, as if part of a fantastical joke. The men at the table turned around.
“What the goddamn hell …” Daniel said slowly, pausing between each word as he came closer. The Captain was handsome, with large eyes, an aquiline nose, white-white teeth, and dark brown eyes. Except those eyes were supposed to be light grey and his hair was supposed to be blond.
“Adriann,” Daniel said in a tone that promised punishment later.
The man in question wore a turquoise doublet, beige surcoat, off-white waistcoat, white tunic with ruffled collar, and black trousers and boots. Broach pins adorned his collar and doublet cuffs, which were five inches long and folded back, displaying the underlying tunic’s ruffled sleeves. The sword at his hip was shaped like a traditional cutlass saber, different from the one Castra wore, except it was made with the wavy lines that marked a typical Damascene blade. Cutlass swords didn’t have that. Weirder still, its wide knuckle guard was adorned with scrollwork that resembled the old Celts.
“I’ll take that, too,” Jason murmured.
“What the f—” Daniel began but Adriann cut him off with a broad smile, white as ever.
“Daniel! Long time no see.” He winked. “Took you guys long enough to search us out.”
“You’re Sutton Zain?” Jack asked.
“Nice, right?” Adriann said, immodestly.
Jack turned away, shaking his head, and his right hand. He was on the verge of punching the man when Daniel grabbed his wrist. “Later. Interrogation first.”
Beside Adriann stood Jalen and he was similarly dressed, though his doublet was mahogany brown and waistcoat was black. Jason stared at his brother, then walked up and punched him in the chest, hard. “Dipshit!” Just that. Nothing else needed to be said because all the questions were contained in that simple phrase.
“Ditto!” Daniel said, restraining the hypocritical urge to punch Adriann several times himself. “Why hide this from us? And what the fuck is up with the pirate clothing?”
Max came to Jack’s side. “You know these people, I take it?”
Jack looked at her, puzzled. “Damn. I forgot. You guys were on assignment when these people visited. Max, this is the leader of the Var’chol’si people, Adriann.” As an aside he added, “No last name.” Then he turned back to their mischievous alien friend. “Adriann, this is Colonel Jennifer Maxwell, head of SG-3. Don’t piss her off. She might be able to take you.”
Adriann stepped away from Daniel and flirtatiously took Max’s hand, intending to kiss it, but she took it back. That only made him smile. “A pleasure, Colonel.”
“Charmed,” she said dryly. “So you’re the real-life vampire,” she said. She wanted to say more, perhaps laden with a heavy dose of sarcasm, but thought better of it. “My team,” she gestured behind her. “Captain Carson Scott and Sergeants Dave Graham and Greg Jones.” They nodded to Adriann, unable to speak due to the shock of meeting the vampire. They’d been hearing the gossip for years, most of it probably not true. Probably.
“I take it you know this man,” Bra’tac said to Jack and Teal’c without taking his eyes off Adriann. He’d been extremely wary of everything around him, from that green light, to the Tok’ra, and now this alien and the others around him. And who in the world was this man who looked like Colonel Coburn? Why hadn’t he heard of these men before?
Jack made a face. “Sorry, Bra’tac. I forgot that you’ve never met these people.” He turned to Adriann and said, “Bra’tac, this is Adriann, from Var’chol’si. Adriann, this is Bra’tac, Teal’c’s teacher and leader of the Jaffa Nation.”
Adriann held out his hand and with reservation, Bra’tac shook it … and held it … as he studied Adriann’s eyes. “You apparently have the trust of the Tau’ri, but you have yet to earn mine. Tell me, Adriann. Should I trust you?”
Adriann smiled broadly and leaned in slightly. “Absolutely not.”
“Especially since you’re not seeing what he really looks like,” Daniel said as he took a step to stand beside the Jaffa leader. “He’s supposed to be blond with grey eyes.”
Bra’tac narrowed his own, studying Adriann longer than necessary. He finally grunted and withdrew his hand. “We shall see if your sarcasm is warranted.”
Jason snorted as he flicked his chin at Max and Bra’tac. “Colonel, Bra’tac, this is my brother, Jalen, who’s apparently become an alien pirate.” Jalen grinned and nodded at them.
Max nodded but Bra’tac narrowed his eyes. “How did he come to be out this far from home?” Bra’tac asked Jason.
“Because he’s from a parallel universe,” Jason said and it was clear this did not make Bra’tac’s unease lighten.
“A what?” Bra’tac asked.
“Do you remember me telling you about the duplicates in other universes?” Teal’c asked him.
Bra’tac grunted, then looked at Jason. “You are too easily replaced by this man, Colonel Coburn.”
“Visually, but Jalen can’t replace his brother so easily. Trust us,” Daniel said, looking around at everyone with him. “We’d know. And you can trust him.”
Bra’tac’s answer was a hard smile and he held his hand out to Jalen. “I will take your word for it, Daniel, but I reserve the right to hold the ultimate judgment.”
Jason met his grip. “You’ve no worries with me.”
Bra’tac grunted. “You even sound like him. This is most disconcerting.”
Adriann gestured to the person next to him. “Colonel, Bra’tac, this is my sister, Talen.” She bowed. What the two people didn’t know was that she too had changed her hair and eyes. What was once black was now blonde and her grey eyes were now a dark blue. Her clothes were like her brother’s, but without the doublet and there was a slightly different color shading in the clothing. Across the table was Kashan, another member of the Var’chol’si, who’d had a relationship with the SGC’s CMO, Colonel Janet Fraiser. And like Adriann and Talen, he too had changed the color of his hair and eyes; brown and brown. “And this is Kashan, my kin.” He too bowed at Bra’tac and Max.
“What’s with changing your appearance?” Daniel asked, reaching over to slide one of Adriann’s long locks through his hand.
“Anonymity is coveted,” Adriann said.
“Feels real,” Daniel commented about the hair.
“Because it is, Daniel. I’m not wearing a wig.”
“I didn’t … how the hell …” Daniel shook his head. “Never mind. Why the hell didn’t you let us in on this?”
“First, because we haven’t yet been able to encrypt our communications with reliable success. Second, because I didn’t want to argue with you about it.” Adriann gave Jack a knowing look. “Honestly, I knew how the conversation would go. You’d make all these demands and I wasn’t in the mood. Neither were the Tok’ra. We don’t need your permission or a lecture.” He gestured about them. “So here we are. Feel free to join us when you can, but we’re not compromising our mission. We have no interest in taking prisoners or handing any of the Goa’uld over to you. We’re killing them. If you don’t feel you can agree to that …” He waited, with a questioning lift to his brow.
The room went quiet while Jack and Adriann stared at each other. As Jack studied him, he came to a few realizations. One, Adriann was right on all counts. Two, they really could just turn around and leave. But then, Jack was never one to back down from a fight. That is, fighting the Goa’uld.
“You’re right,” he said finally. He looked at Daniel, daring him to contradict.
“I’m not saying a word, Jack,” Daniel said, holding up his hands. “If Adriann wants to do this, it’s up to him.”
Jack looked at Jason, who shrugged and said, “I’ll back my brother. Rat bastards need eliminating.”
“So if you’re Sutton Vain,” Daniel said, pointing to Adriann. “And you’re …” he pointed to Castra.
“Jachan Bride,” Castra supplied.
“Then you’re …” Daniel said, pointing to Jalen and Kashan.
“Thane Guile,” Jalen said.
“Merriweather Vale,” Kashan replied.
Daniel looked at Talen. “Valentina Zain,” she said, giving her brother a wink.
“We talk openly here so don’t bother using our aliases,” Adriann said, gesturing to mean the planet itself, “but when we leave, we adopt our roles, no matter the situation. It’s especially vital, since both the Tok’ra and my people are low in numbers. We can’t afford to be invaded and killed off.”
“Agreed,” Bra’tac said with a sharp nod.
“Sensible, apart from not telling us,” Jack said, not yet ready to let it go. He looked at the holo-screen. “You willing to take us on a mission?”
Adriann grinned. “Eager to dish out payback?”
Jack looked around at everyone, gauging their interest. Satisfied that no one looked hesitant or wary—and he didn’t expect to find it—he nodded back to Adriann. “Willing to cut us in on this mission?” Adriann nodded. “What’s the op?”
“Well,” Adriann said, rubbing at his chin. “Have you ever heard of a Goa’uld named Set?”
Teal’c and Bra’tac growled. Jack turned to them with an expectant brow. “He was a System Lord a thousand years ago,” Bra’tac answered. “He began to murder the other Lords and so he was ousted at the Sha’kai Tribunal.”
Jack blinked at him. “Like Anubis was?”
“Similar, O’Neill. Anubis is dead. Set is not. He is now the most powerful Goa’uld among the System Lords.”
“By the way, Sha’kai Tribunal?” Jack asked Teal’c.
“That is the name of the judging system of the System Lords, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.
“Why haven’t we heard that term before?” Jack asked, nonplussed. “Wasn’t that what Ba’al and those other snakeheads were doing on that space station several year ago?”
“No,” Teal’c corrected. “That was simply a gathering to decide what to do about Anubis.”
“And this tribunal? Is it unusual?”
“There have been only two convened that I am aware of,” Teal’c informed him. “The first was used to sentence Anubis. The second, to sentence Set.”
“There has never been another reason to convene it,” Bra’tac added.
“Okay,” Jack said, turning back to Adriann. “So, what’s this Set been doing?”
Adriann nodded. “He’s back to his old tricks.” He touched a point of the holo-screen. It changed to a stellar cartography map, drawn in white, with red dots indicating planets whose names were listed next to their address glyphs. “Here is the part of the galaxy that he’s most been active, killing off a slew of minor Goa’uld. So far, he hasn’t been able to knock off any major ones.”
“Pity,” Jack said.
“This is unusual,” Bra’tac said. “He has never before shown acknowledgement to these minor Goa’uld.”
“That’s changed,” Adriann said. “This is the planet, Miragen.” He pointed to the map in the center of the display screen, then touched a button to blow it up.
“It’s his base of operations,” he went on. “This is Lenar.” He touched a forefinger on a peninsula next to which was a drawing of a village. “He’s taken over this local village that’s set up along the water and it’s surrounded by walls and lookout towers.”
“They look Goa’uldish,” Daniel said, peering at the map.
“They are. The stronghold was erected using the villagers as slaves. Reason enough to kill him.”
“So all you’re interested in is getting in there to knock him off?” Jack said, skeptical. “I don’t know about you but that sounds like a waste of time if it’s that heavily guarded.”
Adriann chewed at his lip and nodded. “Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. Better to wait until he leaves, then attack his ship. But … he has a cloaking device that we’d like to liberate from him.”
Jack’s brows rose, along with everyone else’s. He was impressed. “You do much of that? Taking their tech?”
“All the time,” Adriann grinned. “We just don’t advertise. It’s done as if we’re simply looting. We don’t need to let witnesses think we have specific goals. Other than killing Goa’uld, that is. If we did that, the Goa’uld would start protecting their more valuable equipment. So we take things we don’t need to cover the fact that we’re after something far more specific.”
“Risky,” Jack said, studying the map.
“Naturally,” Adriann said with a smile, but his eyes were serious. “This … snake … has a lot of stolen tech himself and he’s been dominating free people with it. I mean to take it and kill him and any Jaffa who follow him.”
“You’re giving the Jaffa a chance to be free, right?” Daniel asked.
“Within a limited time frame,” Adriann said. “To be successful in our campaigns, we can’t afford to let them mull it over because it gives them time to either plot or find a way to contact other Goa’uld. They decide quickly or they die.”
Bra’tac, Teal’c, and M’brak didn’t like that idea.
“Adriann,” Daniel said before the three Jaffa could start issuing threats. “Many of them need a few hours to contemplate reversing hard indoctrinations they’ve adhered to for dozens of years. They can’t just simply change allegiances unless they’ve already been considering it. You need to give them time.”
“Only after the Goa’uld is dead, Daniel,” Castra said. “Show them the carcass, and that a Goa’uld can die, and we’re halfway there. But we lost many of our ships because they couldn’t decide quickly and acted out of fear instead. We can’t afford to wait for too long after their master is dead. Before he’s dead … well, those that desire freedom would take their chances before the battle is over.”
“To get to the heart of the matter,” Adriann said, “we give them a chance. Live or die with your snake. Many choose to die.”
“Do you inform them about Dakara?” Bra’tac asked.
“Of course, but most of them already know of it.”
“Add to that,” Castra said, an imploring look on his face. “Word has gotten out among the Jaffa, no matter whom they serve. They already know what to expect should they cross our path.”
“Pardon me but …” Connor began, looking at Adriann, then Teal’c and Bra’tac. “But why not wait until he’s killed off most of the other Goa’uld?”
“Because he assumes control of the Jaffa forces previously allied with whatever Goa’uld was killed,” Jason answered him.
“That is precisely correct,” Adriann said, nodding to Jason. “We can’t allow him to amass such armies.”
“Agreed,” Bra’tac said. “But I do not like that you give so little time to the Jaffa. I understand your reasoning but I like it not.”
“I agree with your dismay, Master Bra’tac,” Adriann said. “In the future, I will try to give them more time. I won’t hold out hope that things will change. So many of the remaining Goa’uld have them deeply brainwashed.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said unhappily.
“Is your intel reliable?” Jack asked, pointing at the map.
“Cost us one Tok’ra,” Castra said, hints of payback in his voice.
“That’s not an answer,” Jack said slowly, thinking that the answer was most likely, “As good as we can get it and it cost us a man.” He waited to see if he was right.
Castra sighed. “We have yet to infiltrate the target. Only one of us went in to scout the site and he was attacked.”
“By the Jaffa guarding the towers?” Jack surmised.
“By sheer bad luck,” Jalen said. “He was returning to the gate when Jaffa were coming through the gate. They rarely use it so it wasn’t something foreseeable. He was shot, and rather than get himself identified as a Tok’ra, he blew himself up.”
Jack made a face. He said to Adriann, “So what’s the plan?”
Adriann pointed to the map. “We infiltrate at the weakest spot, kill any Jaffa positioned at those towers without making noise. I’ve already made some notes here. The red is infiltration to the device. Green to locate Set. Then the pink marks are for our crossbow marks.”
“Crossbow?” Daniel asked.
“Good choice,” Jack replied. To Daniel, he added, “No sound.”
“Let me know what you think?” Adriann said as he waved at the map, then he stepped back to let everyone take a look. As they began talking with the other ‘pirates’, he gestured at Daniel to step aside for a talk.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch,” he said as they crossed the room, stopping at a long set of windows that overlooked a garden. There was little to see, thanks to the night.
Daniel shrugged. “We’ve each moved on with our lives, haven’t we? Focused more on our own ends.”
Adriann allowed that. “True. How’ve you been?”
“Well, things have gotten interesting. We’ve met the last race on that Heliopolis planet I told you about once, remember?”
Adriann shook his head. “Sorry.”
“The Heliopolis planet? The one where there were four languages indicating it was a meeting place for four advanced races who hated the Goa’uld. The races were the Nox, the Asgard, the Ancients—which we now know as the Alterans—and the Furlings. But the place was built by the Asgard and ‘Furling’ wasn’t accurate. Turns out they got the name backwards. Something to do with their alphabet and vowel usage. They mis-read two names or something. Any way, it should’ve been Lia Fail. They were known on Earth by another name. The Tuatha de Danann.”
Adriann sensed awe. “Formidable?”
“Very,” Daniel nodded. “Morrighan is their leader. She’s … a God.”
“You’re joking,” Adriann said, scanning Daniel for lies and finding none. “What does that mean exactly?”
“She snaps her fingers or waves a hand or maybe even just looks hard, and something happens. She destroyed four Goa’uld by herself, locked down their armies. And I do mean ‘by herself’. It’s scary how powerful she is and I am pretty damn sure she’s been holding back on us.”
“Why do you think she would?”
Daniel gave Adriann a hard look. “Well, duh. To not scare the crap out of us. I mean, c’mon. How would you like to meet a god?”
“I would, actually. Can you set up a meet?” Adriann asked.
Daniel gave him a surprised look. “You haven’t changed. And I can’t even imagine how she’d see you.” He paused, frowning. “None of your … self-assurance … would do you any favors, Adriann. I’m not kidding.”
Adriann grinned. “You mean ‘arrogance’, yes?” Daniel gave him a look. Adriann acquiesced, holding up his hands. “Noted. Consider me warned. I would still like to meet her.”
“We’re due to talk to her next month, I think.” Daniel’s eyes suddenly widened. “Hey, about those little … beings I saw with Castra. I’d like to talk to one. He mentioned they’re lost.”
“They don’t seem to be in any big hurry to go back to where they came from. The length of their attention span changes day to day, so their goals are simply to help us. They retain memory, of course, but it’s their interest that wanes. They’re called Pixies.”
“That sounds like the little fairies I’ve read about. Those legends come from the same place as the Lia Fail.” He looked around. “They might like to meet their Queen. Are any of them nearby?”
Adriann laughed. “They’re always around. You can’t get rid of them. Mischievous little things.”
“Castra said you’d introduce us,” Daniel prodded.
“Easily,” Adriann said with a dismissive hand. “Ghillie?” he called, but was careful not to yell. The tiny green ball of light zipped into view, seemingly from nowhere, and hovered a few feet from Adriann’s face. “Don’t raise your voice,” Adriann warned Daniel softly, raising a hand. “A being this size takes it as an attack.”
Daniel’s eyes widened with unabashed curiosity. “Hi,” he said to the miniature figure no taller than an inch. He looked like an athletic youth, dressed in a filmy green tunic belted at the waist with what looked like white shredded silk strands. The same could be said for his hair, which was white, silky, and fell to his hips. On his feet were what looked like slippers made out of the same material as the tunic. Daniel guessed silk. “He’s smaller than I thought.” He cleared his throat. “Hi there.”
“He’s greeting you,” Adriann told the little fairy. “Ghillie, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Ghillie.”
“Greetings,” said the little being in a burred yet high-pitched sound—like one would expect had he inhaled helium.
“Ghillie, I want to know if you have heard of Morrighan?”
Ghillie shrieked in surprise and it sounded like a startled squeak. He began zipping in circles and bouncing up and down. “Morrighan! Morrighan!” he said repeatedly until several dozen little folk joined him in a cloud. “Is she here?” Ghillie asked. All of his compatriots, of varying colors, stared like frozen beings.
“No, but we know where she is. Would you like to go there?”
He froze, then zipped into the little person cloud. It began to pulse with a white glow. Daniel looked at Adriann. “What happened?”
“They’re talking to each other. Telepathy, I think. At least, that’s what we figure. We don’t really know.”
“What’s—“ Jack called from across the room and Daniel shushed him and placed his finger over his lips.
Castra moved to Jack’s side. “Those are the little people I told you about. They don’t like loud noise.”
Jack jogged his brows. “I guess I can see why. What are they doing?”
“Communing, I think,” Castra said.
“We don’t know,” Adriann said, keeping his voice to a loudish whisper as he called back.
Suddenly the cloud disappeared and Ghillie flew in front of him, hovering a foot before Daniel’s face.
“We cannot go through the portal,” Ghillie said, a dejected look on his face. “We are too small.”
Daniel frowned, chewing at his lip, remembering the position of the gate as well as the quick look at its DHD. “You wouldn’t be able to go through this one anyway.”
“Why not?” Adriann asked.
“Morrighan and her people aren’t in this galaxy and this gate’s eighth and ninth chevrons are buried.”
Adriann blinked at him.
Daniel chided himself silently. “Remember? I’m sure Eros described it when we met him. Galaxy addresses require eight or nine chevrons to travel between them.” He gestured outside, toward the gate. “Technically we could do it here by digging it out of the ground, but the easiest way is to get in touch with Morrighan.”
A frown creased Adriann’s brow. “If I understand the gate system correctly, the glyphs are drawn symbols of constellations, right?” Daniel nodded. “But how does it work when those constellations are Earth-specific?”
“The Alterans, that’s the name of the gate builders, which we used to call The Ancients because that was their translated name from Heliopolis, were from Earth. At least, that’s my hypothesis. They used those symbols. It’s the address combinations along with point of origin that make up the system. The combinations available are in the millions. Sam?”
“Yeah,” she replied. “I think it would have taken the Alterans centuries just to build and plant them all, but who knows. Beings that advanced, it might’ve only taken a year.”
“Where are the Alterans now?” Adriann asked.
“You met one. Eros?”
Adriann cringed. “I forgot.”
“Anyway, they’re in another galaxy. Which one we don’t know. Yet. Eros doesn’t even know.” Daniel frowned, thinking. “Last message we got from him said he was heading out of the galaxy.”
Adriann nodded. “We sent you that message. We got it from a metallic tube that came through the gate on Bel’a’lat.”
“Right.” When Daniel looked to where Ghillie had been hovering, the Pixie was gone. “They do pop about, don’t they,” he said rhetorically.
Silence grew between them and Daniel was alarmed to realize that it was uncomfortable. That had never been a problem before. Well, it had in the beginning, but that had been quickly eliminated. Now it was back. He studied Adriann’s face, partially amused at the silent query of his brow. He then felt a new emotion from him and frowned in puzzlement. Daniel shifted his gaze to across the room where Jalen and Jason were talking, then back to Adriann.
“You’re in love?”
Adriann’s brows lifted in surprise. “Your power has become more refined. Well done.” He paused, then said with a shrewd look, “And I’m not getting any of the usual signals from you. Have things changed between us then?”
Daniel felt his crotch warm with sense memory and his cheeks burned slightly. “Nice dodge. Answer my question first.”
To his amusement, Adriann’s expression would have included a blush had he been human. The only time he did blush was right after feeding.
“Yes, I think so,” Adriann answered.
“You think?” Daniel asked, teasing. “Not that hard to figure out.”
Adriann sighed. “Have things changed between us on your end?”
Daniel hedged, shifting his feet. “I’m still attracted to you. It wouldn’t take much for you to …” Images swarmed his mind. The man’s arms around him. His fangs sinking into him. Daniel cleared his throat.
Adriann laughed softly and palmed Daniel’s cheek. “I’m not forbidden and neither are you. I think maybe we’re just choosing to …”
“Stay within our monogamy?” Daniel finished, and as a feeling of sudden loss filled him, he frowned with disturbance. “It sounds wrong, saying it out loud. Is that wrong in itself?”
Adriann shrugged and lifted both hands, palms up. “Jalen says, ‘It is what it is.’”
Daniel burst out laughing and nodded. “I guess it is at that.” He gestured back the way they’d come. “So, Sutton Zain, let’s go talk about ruining Set’s day, shall we?” As they walked back to Jack and the others, he mused, “You don’t look like a Sutton. You look more like a Bartholomew.”
“I’ll still bite you.”
Having achieved success, Daniel threw him a mischievous grin but it faltered slightly when Adriann’s returning smile grew wolfish. Literally. Just the sight of those fangs gave Daniel a second rush of sense memories. “Damn you,” he grumbled.
Adriann grinned and went to a large wooden crate. He lifted out a leather and bronze shield, with a familiar argyle grip and shaped like a heart with top inverted to a point. The classic shield shape. However, the shield’s surface had been hammered in order to depict a design like that a spiked flower radiating from the center. He returned to Daniel to show it to him.
“That’s a bit outdated, don’tcha think?” Jack asked as they approached.
Adriann grinned and nodded at one of pirates who had been observing them. “Tormun?”
The man, surprisingly, was a Jaffa. A tall, dark-skinned fellow with long black hair and a grizzled beard who wore the insignia of Ba’al on his forehead. He grabbed a Goa’uld staff weapon that had been leaning against the wall behind him and without warning, fired it at Adriann.
Daniel’s heart went into his throat as everyone else raised their weapons to fire on the pirate.
“No!” Adriann shouted and threw out his hand. Everyone’s weapon nose was abruptly tipped toward the ceiling. Meanwhile, his shield absorbed the Staff weapon’s blast. It sank into the leather and metal and spread outward until it dissipated. It took half a second.
“Whoa!” Jack asked, alternately frowning at his P90, Adriann, and his shield. “Okay,” he said, holding up a forefinger. “A, when did you develop that particular talent? And B, where on Earth did you get an absorption shield?”
“A, I’d always had it. It returned to me only after I’d reached full health. It didn’t seem important enough to share, all things considered. And B, it isn’t an absorption shield. It’s a regular shield that’s been spelled. Specifically, by Challie and the other Pixies.”
“Come again?” Jason asked. His twin had grabbed another shield from the crate.
Adriann gave his shield to Jack, who ran a hand over the surface, frowning. “Not real spells,” Jack said.
“Yes, real spells,” Jalen said.
“How?” Daniel asked.
Adriann gestured with a finger snap and Ghillie appeared. “Challie here. He said he can do it because he’s Seelie.”
“A what?” Jack asked.
“A type of fairy,” Daniel said. “The Seelie were known to be of the royal blood of fae. Related to Morrighan.” To Adriann, he asked, “So how did you get them to enchant the shields?”
Adriann shrugged. “We didn’t. They simply offered, once they realized we were here to war with the Goa’uld.”
Jack peered into the crate and found fifteen shields stacked on end. “Got any more?”
Adriann nodded. “We never face the Goa’uld without them and we’re especially going to need them against Set.”
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“Because Set uses more Goa’uld technology than others of his kind. Laser weaponry and some rather nasty chemicals.”
“Chemical warfare?” Jack sputtered. “Good god. That’s all we need. Got any masks?”
“Don’t need them. The shield protects the wearer entirely.”
“Good to know,” Jack said. “These all you have?”
“No. These are just the ones we brought. The rest are elsewhere.”
Jack turned to Bra’tac and M’brak. “Did you know all this shit about Set?”
Bra’tac looked just as gobsmacked as the others. “We did not. M’brak?”
“The other Jaffa aren’t great at sharing apparently,” Jack said, annoyed.
“Jack,” Daniel admonished.
Before Jack could protest, Bra’tac held up a hand. “We have no one in our ranks who have been up against Set. That Goa’uld does not lower himself to treat with other Goa’uld. It is said that he is planning something, but that has also been said of him for the last one hundred years. As for deploying spies to infiltrate Set’s base of operation, none have ever returned.”
“Damn,” Jack said, wincing. “Sorry, Bra’tac.”
“It is nothing,” Bra’tac said, accepting.
“When were you going to explain all this?” Jack asked Castra, his tone challenging. “Tok’ra not sharing these days, either?”
“Calm down, Jack,” Adriann said, rolling his eyes. “We’re not going anywhere until every bit of knowledge has been shared and our movements on the planet are perfectly timed and coordinated.”
“As for the Tok’ra, Selmak is probably informing your command,” Castra said.
Sam’s brows went up. “My dad’s on his way to the SGC?”
“I do not know, Colonel Carter. I only know that when there is important intelligence to share, Selmak is the liaison who passes Tok’ra knowledge to your leader.”
Jack nodded at the contents of the crate. “This the only defense you’re bringing?”
“We’re bringing,” Adriann corrected as he walked to an extremely wide hutch that sat behind the crate. Opening it, he waved a hand, making a display of the contents: the aforementioned crossbows. They were made from a dark brown wood with black metallic panels covering the body. The limbs were wide and recurved with dark strings. Adriann plucked one from a hook and held it so that Jack and the others could see clearly what he was doing.
With a thumb, he pushed a button above the trigger and it made a mechanical sound as a thin arrow, four inches in length with a simple head and very narrow fletching, rose from within and loaded into the flight groove. Adriann turned around and aimed at the wall behind them, roughly twenty yards away, and fired. After the tiny arrow hit, a green plasma explosion spread outward for twelve feet and dissipated. There was no apparent damage to the wall and the explosion made no sound.
“What’s that green fire do?” Daniel asked.
“Kills organic matter. Instantly,” Jalen said matter-of-factly. “No muss, no fuss. No pain, either.”
Jack blinked. “I’ll take two hundred and the tech for the darts.”
Adriann arched a brow. “And what do I get in return?”
“My eternal gratitude?”
“I’ll offer two harvests of kava root,” Bra’tac said.
“Done,” Adriann said, gripping Bra’tac’s forearm. “We’ll talk after the mission. We’ll get in touch through the usual route.”
“Kava root?” Max asked Daniel.
“Like potatoes and sweet potatoes all rolled into one.”
“We don’t have kava but I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Jack groused, pretending that he was insulted that Adriann had requested payment.
Adriann winked at Jack. “It’s trade, Jack. Time, materials. You no longer get something for nothing.”
“I thought your medicinal roots and flowers were enough?” Daniel asked.
“Not anymore, Daniel. Our yields aren’t keeping up with the demand of your scientists, so demand has dropped.”
“What?” Jack asked. “That’s the first I’ve heard.”
Adriann shrugged. “It happens. We decided that though we still have the medicines for trade, we had better branch out.”
Jack looked at Daniel. “We’ve infected them.”
“Hardly,” Adriann said, slapping him on the shoulder. “It’s the way of the universe, Jack. Trade. Keeps people from starting wars.” At Jack’s raised brow, Adriann amended, “Advanced people.”
“Oh, and crossbows?” Jack asked.
“You’ve already asked,” Adriann said.
“No, on our excursion into enemy territory.”
“Automatic arsenal on all missions,” Adriann said with nod.
“As for paying for these, Hammond’s gonna be surprised,” Daniel said with a snort.
“He is right, ya know,” Jack told him.
“Yeah, he is.”
“Zats?” Jack asked, referring to zat’nik’atels.
“Yes, but secondary,” Adriann replied. He looked down at Jack’s zat, tucked in its holster on his right thigh. “At least you don’t need one.” He tapped the pummel of his sword. “These are spelled, too, by the way.”
“To do what exactly?” Jason asked.
Jalen grinned. “To stay sharp.”
“Jalen,” Adriann chided.
Sighing, Jalen elaborated. “They’ll cut through anything and they stay sharp. Also, nothing sticks to them so we only need to give ‘em a flick.”
“Hell, any decent katana will do that,” Jason said, giving Daniel a wink.
Daniel grinned back, then looked around. He noticed Talen wasn’t with them. “Where’d Talen go?” he asked Adriann.
“She’s leader until I return. If I don’t, she takes over.”
Daniel frowned at Adriann, disliking this new part of him that sidestepped questions. “But where did she go?” he said slowly, emphasizing each word.
Adriann took a deep breath. “To butcher and eat people. Why the hell does it matter where she disappeared to?”
“Because that’s the third time you’ve been evasive about answering questions. Just answer the goddamn—”
Adriann held up a hand. “To tend to her child.”
The SGC representatives stared at him, astonished. “I thought she couldn’t have children,” Jack said.
Adriann closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “She can.” He paused. “If they’re mine.”
“Ew,” Jack said before he could stop himself.
“Now you see why we kept that information from you. You call it incest where you come from. For Var’chol’si, we call it survival. Her children will be able to breed with any member of our family. Unfortunately, if we wish to live, our race will have no other choice. We already have a hard time multiplying because we live so long. And so …” He held up his hands.
Daniel walked over to him and with a blush to his cheeks said, “I’m sorry.”
“You used to trust me,” Adriann said bluntly.
“And you used to trust me,” Daniel retorted. “We’re at an impasse.”
“No,” Adriann said with a shake of his head. “It’s merely been a long time since we’ve seen each other. I think we’re out of sync.”
Daniel nodded agreement. “Okay. We’ll put a pin in this until later, agreed?”
Jack sighed. “Now that that’s settled, where were we?”
“Talen takes over if I don’t return,” Adriann said.
“Right,” Jack said. “I’m having a problem with the whole ‘if I don’t’ thing. What do you mean? What about this mission of yours having a decent percentage of success?”
“Always have a Plan B.”
“And Plan C, D, E—” Daniel said and was rewarded with a backhanded slap across the chest from Jack.
“Jinxes? Remember them?”
“Oh c’mon, Jack,” Daniel said, pretending to be insulted. “With all the spells we have going?”
“You joke now,” Adriann said knowingly. Let’s move out.”
“Max,” Jack said, chewing at his lip. “Go dial up the SGC and get Hammond on the horn. He’ll have to authorize our inclusion on this jaunt.”
Stealth and Cover
Adriann led his new partners down three corridors behind the main hall and exited onto a large, circular courtyard framed by shrubs which in turn were interspersed with sculptures. Beyond the courtyard sat Adriann’s ship. It was immense. Perhaps the same size as the SGC’s Prometheus, but the craft was shaped like an abstract rendition of a wolf, with the fangs as landing struts and wide amber viewports for eyes.
“Holy shit,” Jack said, blinking as he came to a stop but within a nanosecond stepped aside so no one would run into him. “That’s impressive.”
“Thank you,” Adriann said.
“But why so large?”
“For refugees, captives, or both.”
“I hope the cells are well-made.”
Adriann grinned. “If they somehow managed to break out without having weapons of any sort, there’s gas to contain them.”
“And if you get the refugees with the gas?” Sam asked.
“Housed separately,” Adriann said. He arched a brow as he eyed Sam, Jack, and the others. Not Daniel. He was more interested in the hieroglyphics. “You’d think this was my first day out, my friends.”
“Right,” Jack said with a mild wince. “Habit.”
“No problem,” Adriann said. “Let’s get to it.”
As their provisions were loaded onto the ship by Castra’s and Adriann’s teammates, Jack’s mic crackled slightly as Max called in.
“Hammond’s on, Jack. There won’t be any need for radio protocol.”
“Thanks, Max,” Jack said, amused. She sounded disappointed. She was so by-the-book. “O’Neill here.”
“Colonel. Maxwell has brought me up to speed. I’m not going to authorize this mission of Adriann’s until I speak with him.”
Jack gestured and Adriann stepped up on his left to lean into the mic. “I’m here, General Hammond. Good to talk to you again.”
“Adriann. I’m going to put aside, for the time being, the fact that you’ve failed to inform us on your activities and get to the matter at hand.”
Adriann rolled his eyes and gave Jack an ‘I told you’ look. “By all means, General.”
“I’ve been briefed, if on a limited basis. What I need from you is reassurance that this mission has a high percentage of success. If you cannot give me that, I won’t allow my people to join you.”
Jack frowned. “Sir, we’ve gone on missions with less intel.”
“Agreed, but that isn’t the issue. I haven’t been fully briefed. I want to know how likely success will be. If Adriann can’t provide a reasonable certainty of success, then you’ll be ordered to return to base for a full briefing on this proposed mission.”
Again, Adriann rolled his eyes. “General, I’ve done things like this many times and succeeded with minimal casualties and those hurt weren’t hurt badly.”
“Against Set or other Goa’uld?”
Adriann looked annoyed. “Other Goa’uld. Set shouldn’t be any more difficult.”
“Sir,” Jack broke in. “If I may. Adriann has weapons and defensive tech that should make this mission successful.”
While Jack took a few minutes to explain, Adriann walked over to Daniel, who was crouching in front of one the granite blocks. “Something wrong?”
Daniel frowned and pointed at the statue in front of him. It was covered in sigils. “Adriann, these glyphs are in the Ancients’ language.”
“Are you sure, because I’ve gotten fairly familiar with it.” Daniel glanced up at him with an even look. “Right. Sorry. What’s your point?”
Daniel stood up. “Find anything of interest here?”
Adriann shook his head. “Not like on Bel’a’lat. That’s why I didn’t pay attention to these stones.”
“No ‘but’. There’s similar writing elsewhere and it’s all faded. I didn’t really pay attention because we were too busy setting up shop after we got rid of the Goa’uld auxiliary.”
Daniel gave him a worried frown as he stood. “Anyone hurt?”
Adriann shook his head and was about to speak when Jack called him back.
“He’s given the go-ahead but wants a word,” Jack told him.
“We’re ready to go,” Jalen said as he returned from the ship.
Adriann nodded at him as he spoke into Jack’s mic. “General?”
“Providing that your mission is a success, I would like it if you paid us a visit afterward.”
“It’ll be by ship, General. I no longer go anywhere without it.”
“That’ll be fine. Good luck. Colonel Maxwell, a word.”
“O’Neill, here, too, sir.”
“Maxwell, I’m leaving you in charge of the gate there. Under no circumstances will you go after SG-1 in the event of mission failure.”
Jack frowned, hating the idea of leaving people behind in the event they had trouble. However, he could understand the reasoning. Leave and come back later with a plan or a massive force or both.
“I want you there so that you can contact us. If you accompanied SG-1 and 2, and they were compromised, there would be no one from the SGC who could get word that they had failed to check in with you.”
“Understood, sir,” Maxwell said, clearly disappointed.
“O’Neill, make sure this is a successful mission.”
“Thank you, sir. SG-1 out.”
A second later, Maxwell radioed. “Do we stay here or at the complex, Colonel?”
“Rotate between them, Colonel.” He looked up at the lightening sky. “It also looks like it’s about to rain. You know the drill. If something goes wonky, we’ll need help. You have all the info, yes?”
“We do, sir. We’re on our way back to the stronghold. And Jack?”
Jack grinned. “Back in twenty-four, give or take an hour.”
“Backatcha. O’Neill out.”
After he walked up the loading ramp at the back of the ship, it closed behind him. Jason was waiting, his own teammates milling around behind him. “Let’s check out the ship,” Jason suggested.
Jack saw that Sam and Teal’c were also waiting but Daniel was nowhere to be found. “Where’d he go?” Jack asked in a resigned tone.
“Ahead. Followed Adriann. So did Bra’tac and M’brak.” Jason then pointed to a spot against the wall. A crossbow and shield lay there.
Jason nodded. “He said he didn’t think it was necessary to hold onto them while onboard.” He paused. “He’s got a point.”
Jack thought about it for a second, then nodded. “He does. But just in case,” Jack said and grabbed Daniel’s gear. “Let’s have it close at hand, shall we?”
The dark gray ramp opened to a desaturated blue-hued corridor lit overhead by a single, six-feet-long narrow blue-white light fixture that ran flush with the ceiling. Along the corridor, technical screens reflected their images at eye level every ten feet. They displayed the ship’s outline and supposedly, it’s status. They came to a Y-branch. In the center of the two separate corridors that greeted them were directions with arrows. To the left was a succession of words that read esto’gai, coroli, draqai, and riqui. To the right were the words dels’tari, dri’quo, and diar’chusai.
“What the …?” Jason asked.
“To the right, sir,” Sam told him. “The first word is bridge. The second is engine room. That last one is computer something,” Sam told them. When Jack looked at her, she shrugged. “I pay attention to detail, sir. You know that.”
“So, what’re the ones on the left?”
“Cargo, quarters, storage, and cells. Respectively.”
Jack gave her a surprised brow. “Well done, Daniel,” he teased. “Carter,” he amended at her flat look. “To the right then.” Everyone followed and after nearly a hundred feet, they entered the bridge.
The first change was the lighting. It was amber-colored and was concentrated around the two wide, curved viewscreens. To Jack, the viewscreens looked like eyes. Edging the bridge in a forward half-circle were consoles with accompanying chairs. The dark grey floor had a curious give to it, like a carpet, but it appeared to be made of a composite material, like acrylic resin. The rest of the ship’s coloring was black. No reflective surfaces, not even on the consoles. Even though they displayed data and images, one had to look straight down to read them.
In the center of the room was the captain’s chair bracketed by two more consoles with two more seats. About fifteen feet behind the captain’s chair was an immense translucent vertical screen with amber symbols and diagrams which descended from attachments within an opening in the ceiling. On either side of this were narrow corridors that curved out of sight. Jack presumed they led to the engine room. The entirety reminded him of an Asgard ship.
The front viewscreens suddenly closed and Jack waved a finger at them. “So you run like a submarine when they’re closed?”
Adriann frowned, then caught the image of what Jack meant from his mind. “Yes. It’s not ideal, but when you’re traveling through space and you approach another ship, if you haven’t been detected by their sensors, your interior lights will give you away. This ship is built to run dark. Not even the consoles will give away light.”
“What’re you talking about?” Daniel asked.
“Sonar, only in space,” Adriann answered.
Daniel was nodding as he was inspecting a front console. “That’s pretty damn smart. But it’s all moot if you’re detected by sensors.”
Adriann nodded and looked at Sam as he gestured at the holoscreen behind him. “Check out the readings. You’ll see we can block most sensors when necessary. The only time they can see us is when our viewscreen is activated and from the outside, all you see is eyes. You don’t see what’s on this bridge until a two-way transmission is activated. Unless we turn on the exterior lights, you can’t even see the shape, and even then, the lights are just enough to give a faint halo.”
“Who in the hell built this for you, Adriann?” Jason asked as he followed around the room.
“We did. My people and the Tok’ra.”
Daniel turned around and stared at him. “With a little help from the Alterans, I bet. Right?” Adriann grinned. “You’ve been holding out on us,” he said, and it was mildly accusing in its tone.
“No, we haven’t,” Adriann objected in as mild a tone. “Technologically, we’re back to where we were before the plague forced us into stagnation. Then you helped heal us and we’ve been slowly returning to our previous existence. And with an alliance with the Tok’ra, we’ve branched out, as we should have been had we not been ill.” He paused. “What you see now is who we really are.”
“With help,” Daniel said, but it was good-natured teasing. “Have your abilities increased as well?”
Adriann gave him, then Jack and Jason, a predatory smile. “They have.”
“He’s the sole reason we haven’t lost a single person on our missions,” Castra said as he sat at the right front console.
“How’s that?” Jack asked.
“Telekinesis and telepathy,” Daniel answered for Adriann. He could sense it in the man. Adriann nodded.
“Damn scary and hot,” Jalen said with a smirk as he sat to Adriann’s left. “Leaving the atmosphere. Time to destination, five hours.”
“Five hours?” Sam asked, startled.
Adriann pointed at the little corridor to her left. “Hyperdrive plasma. Efficient.”
“Plasma?” Sam asked, and she abruptly disappeared down the hall.
Jack snorted. “She’ll be awhile.”
“Feel free to find a chair or go check out the rest of the ship,” Adriann said as he sat down. “You’re not restricted.” He picked up a small touchscreen pad and began swiping. “Castra. What’s the fuel density of the reactor?”
“Reads a little slow to me.”
Castra turned and looked at him with a frown. “Nothing on my board. Let me see that.” He got up and Adriann handed him the pad. “Damn.” He handed it back and went in the direction Sam had gone.
“Problem?” Jack asked.
“No,” Adriann sighed. “I’m just extremely …” He searched for the word, but Daniel helped him out.
While the hours passed through hyperspace on their way to Miragen, weapons were checked, spot-cleaned, and all additional ammunition for the P90s was packed into the stomach pouches of their tack vests and the side pouches of their trousers. When they were ten minutes away from their target, Adriann touched the small console on his left armrest and the ship went full ‘dark’.
Sitting to his left, Jalen pulled up the live topography map on the front viewscreen—both sides.
“Nice,” Jack said, studying it.
“Castra,” Adriann said as he walked to the front and tapped on the screen. “Take us down to that area behind the water stream.” He pointed to the edge of a darkened patch of forest.
“Visibility?” Jack asked, not seeing it on the readout.
“Limited light. This side of the planet won’t moonlight from its single satellite, so our cover is amplified,” Adriann said as Castra approached the planet and headed toward the atmosphere. “We’ll set down half a klick north-east of the Lenar city wall.”
“Klick?” Jack asked, amused. He looked at Jalen. “Is that your doing?”
While he kept his eyes on the screen, looking for any abnormality, Adriann stood with his arms folded, humming under his breath.
Daniel caught some of it and an amused lopsided grin formed on his face. “Are you humming what I think you’re humming?” he asked softly.
Behind Daniel, still at the left console beside the captain’s chair, Jalen said, “If you think he’s humming the theme to the Pirates of the Caribbean, you’d be right.”
“Castra, current status,” Adriann said, his voice revealing excitement.
“No rain. Slightly humid. Very little interruptive biological presence. Terrain is slightly rough but no dense foliage. Should be effortless.”
“Interruptive biological presence?” Jack asked.
“No predators to jump out at us,” Jalen said.
“Ah. Why not just say that?”
“Tok’ra,” Jalen said, teasing Castra, and earned a swift glare from the man.
Adriann turned around and looked at his guests. “Bra’tac, M’brak. I would advise you to remain on the ship. Kashan, you’re in command until I get back. Castra, with me.”
“Why do we remain?” Bra’tac asked.
“Because I have never been on a mission with either of you and you’re an unknown. I allowed you to accompany us to act as a liaison for the Jaffa who serve Set. If you would prefer to join us, then you accept the risk.”
“I will take that chance,” Bra’tac said, but he held up a hand at M’brak. “I would prefer it if you stay here.”
M’brak ground his jaw but he gave Bra’tac a sharp nod.
“Very well,” Adriann said, and weaved through the company. “Let’s go.”
Exiting the craft, Adriann handed Jack and Jason a pad just like the one he held. “Give these out.”
Jack handed his to Sam. Jason handed his to Cari.
“Layout and readings,” Adriann said. “You’ll let us know if we have company or if a particular hill is a problem.”
“Got it,” both Sam and Cari said at the same time and with the same voice. They grinned at each other.
“When we get close to the town,” Adriann told them, “you’ll get a map on your screen that gives you the layout and the sensor readings, including moving warm bodies.”
“Excellent,” Sam said as she studied her pad.
“Follow and do exactly as I do. I won’t go as fast I usually do,” Adriann said.
“He’s a goddamn deer,” Jalen said to Jason.
“Okay, Adriann. Let’s go over the plan one more time,” Jack said.
They would approach from the northwest where the corner guard towers met a narrow river. Before crossing the bridge there, the two towers with guards would be taken out with crossbows. After entering through the double doors below the towers, they’d take out the guard in the third adjacent tower. From there, they’d skirt the courtyard and move north and south to take out nearby guards. After that was accomplished, they’d return to the courtyard and move between buildings to the one with the cloaking device. Once that was taken, they would make their way across town, avoiding the town square, and head toward the far side of town to take out the guards that manned Set’s Square and surrounding quarters. If all went well, they’d kill him. If it didn’t, they’d kill that part of the plan and head back to the ship as quickly and quietly as they could.
Adriann caught Jack’s gaze and beckoned him aside with a jerk of his chin.
“What?” Jack asked, lowering his voice.
“Bringing all of you along is highly risky. This is a job for a six-man team.”
Jack made a face. “I disagree. And we forgot a crucial element. Got the map?” Adriann pulled it up on his pad. Jack pointed to the far east of the perimeter, where an outcropping across the inlet showed a garrison stationed there with more guard towers. “We have to take these guys out at the same time as we take out the guards at the entrance to the town wall. There’s too great a chance of being seen and sending up the alarm. Then we’re fucked.” He shook his head. “I don’t know where the hell my mind is. I should have detected this detail back at your HQ.”
Jack looked at him in surprise. “Hasn’t Jalen told you the abbreviation for headquarters?”
“Oh,” Adriann said, shaking his head, as if it were filled with cobwebs. “I think he did but I wasn’t paying attention at the time.”
Jack’s scarred eyebrow rose. “Seriously?”
Adriann grinned knowingly. “We were intimately occupied at the time.”
Jack’s brows rose together. “And you were discussing the raid at the same time?”
“Well, I wasn’t. He’s a talker, that one.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Teach him to be a bit more in the moment and get his head on straight.”
“Oh, we were in the moment. That is, we had already been discussing the plan but then my mind got distracted by the sudden intense desire to …” Adriann lifted his upper lip slightly and extended his canine fangs.
Jack rolled his eyes. “Then you need to pay more attention. So, how do we revise the plan?”
Adriann made a growling noise. “Let’s all get back on the ship and discuss.”
The revised plan was comprised of two teams. Team 1: Adriann, Bra’tac, and SG-1. Team 2: Jalen, Castra, and SG-2. They would gather at a staging area five hundred yards upstream at a bridge crossing. It was wooded and provided excellent coverage. Team 1 would stalk around the perimeter to the north and west and take out the guard towers, then return to the staging area. Team 2 had the tougher task of taking out the garrison’s guards along the ramparts and as many others as could be arranged. If the terrain wouldn’t allow them access to the towers along the river inlet, they would return to the staging area. From there, they would enter as originally planned.
Before leaving the ship, Daniel circled an area with a blue pen. “What’s this?”
“A worship temple,” Adriann told him. Daniel made a notation, as he’d been doing during their discussion. “We need to see if this temple holds larvae.” He looked at Bra’tac. “Just in case.”
Bra’tac gave him a rueful look. “There is no need. I have all that I need.”
“Indeed?” Teal’c asked with that characteristic brow lift.
“Indeed,” Bra’tac said.
It took about two hours but both teams succeeded in their tasks and returned to the staging area. Jason and his team looked a bit more haggard as they returned half an hour later than Jack’s team had.
“What happened?” Jack asked as he noted the dirt and mud-smudged knees on Jason and Jalen’s utility trousers.
“We had to climb some boulders to get at the waterside towers,” Jason said as he eyed his brother. “And Jalen’s foot found some slime moss, slipped, and he took me with him.”
Jalen looked pained as he flexed his knee. “At least we didn’t go in the water. The noise that would’ve made would’ve been disastrous.”
“I can’t take you anywhere,” Jason grumped.
“How were the crossbows?” Adriann asked everyone, and while he’d been with Jack’s team, he hadn’t seen them take out guards since he had been busy with his own.
“Oh man,” Jack said with a grin as wide as a kid on Christmas morning. “I love this thing. Simple, quiet, and just like Jalen said. No muss, no fuss.”
“Ditto,” Sam said with a nod.
Bra’tac’s smile was as big as Jack’s. “I would like to barter with you on the plans for these so that our entire nation is well armed.”
Adriann’s brows rose. “That’s ambitious, but I’m sure it could be done. Castra?”
“We’ll talk it over when we get back to Black Wolf.”
“The ship or the planet?” Connor asked.
“The planet,” Adriann said with a nod. “You’ve been rather quiet.” He looked at Cari. “Both of you.”
“They’ve been like that for a while,” Jason said. “It’s their way and nothing to be concerned about.” While Jack was talking to Adriann, he murmured to his teammates, “You feeling a bit overwhelmed?”
“Just a tad,” Cari said. “I’ll adapt quickly. I prefer to watch and learn anyway, you know that.”
“I’m …” Connor began. “I miss Al.”
Jason nodded. “Me too. No offense, Cari.”
“Part of the job,” she said, “but I get it.” She gave Connor half a hug with one arm. “We’ll be okay, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Connor said, but he was still a bit more subdued than usual. Shaking himself, he said, “You’re up, sir.”
Jason looked over at Adriann. “Sorry. You were saying?”
“It was me, bonehead,” Jack answered. “Any other problems in your half of the mission worth noting?”
Jason nodded. “The guard towers along the wharves are tall, Jack. Easily three stories. And they have sentries on the first and second stories. They’re half-assed, since they didn’t notice the garrison’s towers being unmanned, but they’re an open stress point we need to watch for.”
Jack bit at his lip. “Noted. We’ll have to be a lot more vigilant as we get close to them from the inside.”
“Everyone ready for the interior job?” Adriann asked.
Jason nodded, and Jack said, “Let’s go.”
They carefully crossed the bridge and opened the double-doored gate at the northeastern entrance and entered its darkened courtyard. Through hand signals, the teams split again to weave through the buildings. Many of them appeared to be stone homes with darkened interiors. It was roughly the middle of the night, planet time, so people were sure to be sleeping.
Adriann scanned the exterior of the building where the cloaking device was supposed to be located and nodded to Jack. Jason’s team spread out down the southern street of the building while Jack’s went north. Adriann and Jalen entered the structure as silently as usual. The house was filled with boxes and crates. And it was unmanned.
“Fuck,” Jalen said, mouthing the word as he looked at Adriann and Castra. It’s not here! he mentally sent.
Adriann nodded and they left the house. To his right, he saw Daniel. To his left, Jason. He gestured that they return the way they came, but before they took another step, a loud, piercing tone shattered the peace and quiet and a translucent blue light surrounded all of them. Pain entered everyone’s mind except Adriann’s and Jalen’s, and SG-1 and 2 went down, unconscious.
But not Daniel. He’d covered his ears, but the sound hadn’t made him lose consciousness. The sound ceased as suddenly as it had appeared. He ran toward Adriann as the man tapped his wristband to contact Kashan. “Code one,” he said. And a tiny metal dart struck the side of his neck.
Daniel froze, eyes wide, and as Adriann yanked out the dart and threw it to the ground, another one hit Jalen. Jalen crumpled and Adriann bent to him as another dart struck Daniel in the back of his left bicep. As he too grabbed it and threw it down, he saw Adriann whirl in many directions, his right hand held out. Not in defense but offense. Approaching guards, all wearing the same dark tack gear the tower guards had worn—stuff that Daniel mentally compared to special ops teams on Earth—fell to the ground screaming, blood coming from their eyes, ears, and noses.
Movement caught his attention as Daniel fell to his knees. Guards were coming over the tops of the buildings, converging on Adriann. Daniel thought, So much for these goddamn shields.
Then all went black.
Jason came to in a cell filled with straw and the smell of an animal. Probably similar to a horse, but no horses were evident. Around him lay his teammates and friends. He sought out Jack and Daniel, ignoring the twinge of guilt in doing so, and spotted Jack at the far end. The cell was high, maybe fourteen feet. Were the horses that tall? It was a long, narrow rectangle, perhaps thirty-five by twelve, and made of wood, and open on only one long end. He walked to a support column and tapped, testing its solidity, and moved to the open side to test the crisscrossed four-by-fours that comprised their jail bars. Nearly impossible to break but not quite. It would just take a lot of force and he’d have to focus all of his chi into breaking one cross. He didn’t know how long it would take to break enough of them for a body to fit through. Across their prison cell was another, empty. Looking both ways, he saw solid doors at both ends.
He as he moved, he bent to check the pulse of every person. Stepping over Teal’c, he reached Jack and checked. Steady. Heart rate okay. An itch nagged his ear and he reached up to scratch, finding dried blood. Ah. So that’s what that was. A sonic. Maybe one of those Goa’uld devices except he could see upon waking. He had only a mild headache, which was odd, but he chalked that up to having the Diné magic in his blood. Or maybe it was thanks to Morrighan. It didn’t really matter at this point. Suddenly he straightened, looking around in a panic. Daniel, Adriann, and his brother were missing.
“Jack,” he said as he sat down next to him and brushed Jack’s hair from his forehead. “Jack.” After five minutes, no movement. He sighed and waited, closing his eyes and rubbing at his neck. An hour passed when Teal’c groaned and sat up. “Behind you, Teal’c,” Jason said softly, so as not the alarm the man.
Teal’c passed a hand over his face, then stood up. “Where are we?”
“Prison,” Jason said simply. “Above ground. That’s a plus.”
Teal’c grunted, then bent to check on Sam. “How long have you been awake?”
“An hour, I think.”
Teal’c’s characteristic brow rose. “Unusual. It is Jaffa who tend to heal faster.”
“That was a sonic we were hit with, so unless you’ve experienced one before, I’m not surprised you were out of it longer. While you don’t have junior anymore, you still have the genetic protection in there somewhere.”
“It was not a zat’nik’atels,” Teal’c said. “I can see.”
“I figured that out, too.”
“But it seems to be similar. A sonic device accompanied by a bright light. SG-1 has experienced this before, but we were blinded then.”
“When was that?”
“When we boarded Klorel’s ship nearly twenty years ago.”
“But why were you less affected?” Teal’c asked.
“I think it’s due to the Raven magic, from Grandfather. Maybe a bit of magic from Morrighan’s people.”
“It would seem there were unforeseen benefits.”
“Yep.” Jason looked down at Jack. “Jack,” he repeated, and caressed his forehead. “Jack.”
Bra’tac stirred and Teal’c went to him, stepping over Cari and Connor. He explained what caused their injury and Bra’tac cussed in Chulakian and spat at the bars.
“He’s still unconscious.” Jason paused. “Teal’c. Daniel, Adriann, and my brother are missing.”
Teal’c looked around him as if Jason was somehow wrong, then internally chided himself for doing so.
“This is bad,” Bra’tac said.
“Ya think?” Jack said, the word a mumble as he turned slightly. A groan escaped as he sat up slowly and he massaged the back of his neck. “That was unpleasant.”
“Ya think?” Jason copied. Jack grunted again. “Jack. Daniel’s missing. Along with Jalen and Adriann.”
“What?” Jack asked angrily as he copied Bra’tac and looked around.
“For fuck’s sake,” Jason grumbled to himself. He didn’t take it personally. It was just silly behavior people never thought to curb.
“Carter,” Jack said as he walked over and crouched down. “Carter.” He shook her gently. “Carter.”
She twitched, turned, then suddenly sat up, and as if on cue, the others began to stir. “Fucking hell, that hurt.” Like everyone else, she massaged her neck and checked her ears. “How long?”
Jack looked at Jason. “It’s late morning.” He tapped his watch. “We’ve been out seven and a half hours.”
“That goddamn sonic could’ve killed us,” Jack said.
“Which means the Goa’uld wants us alive,” Bra’tac surmised.
“I don’t want to find out why, but we will,” Jack said. He looked around and did the same thing Jason did: he tested the solidity of their prison.
“Nothing good, obviously,” Sam said. She knelt in front of Cari and Connor. “You guys okay?”
“Yeah. One hell of a headache thought,” Connor said. “Was that a—”
“Sonic,” Sam interrupted. “Yep.” She looked at Teal’c. “Different from a tak, right?”
“Correct. We can see upon waking.”
“Still nasty,” Cari said.
“Castra, how’re you doing?” Jason asked.
“My stomach’s upset,” he remarked. “Remiel isn’t handling that attack well.”
“Remiel?” Jack asked. “Funny.”
“Why?” Castra asked, annoyed. “It’s my symbiote’s name.”
“Sorry,” Jack said, holding a hand up in apology. “It just sounds like the name of a religious being I know about.”
“Coincidence, I assure you,” Castra said.
“Point,” said Jack, and he moved on. “Jason, how likely is it that you can do something about these beams?” He rapped a knuckle on the crossed ones next to him.
Jason made a face. “Depends. They look like they haven’t been treated but that’s not Earth wood. I’ll give it a shot but I need time to prepare.”
“Do it,” Jack said.
Jason nodded and sat down in front of the door, crossing his legs and placing his hands on his knees. He closed his eyes and began breathing slowly and deeply.
“What is he doing?” Bra’tac asked Teal’c in an undertone, and in Chulakian.
“You remember our meditation exercises prior to battle?” Teal’c asked in the same language.
Bra’tac raised his chin and nodded once. “I understand.”
Jack got their attention and jerked his chin in a beckoning gesture as he moved to the far end, as far away from Jason as was possible. When they were all gathered, Jack whispered, “I don’t want to distract him.”
“Relax, Jack,” Jason called. “You won’t bother me. If it was that easy, this wouldn’t be possible.”
“Stop paying attention to me,” Jack said. He noticed Sam looking through the wooden bars, biting her lip. “They’ll be okay, Carter. Believe that.”
“With all due respect, sir,” she said without taking her eyes off whatever she was looking at. “This situation qualifies as a FUBAR. There’s a high probability that they’re being tortured.”
Jack ground his teeth. “Ever hear about positive thinking, Carter?”
“In this situation? That’s not—”
“Carter,” Jack said crisply and she stopped speaking. “We can’t think on those terms. It’s destructive and leads to a state of hopelessness. I won’t have us going there.”
Sam took a deep breath and nodded. “Agreed, sir. I’m just scared for them.”
Jack knew that despite their liking Adriann and Jalen, she was most concerned for Daniel. Jack felt the same, only more so. There was a terror inside him that was being held in a box and he refused to let it out. He knew Daniel. How tough he was. But Goa’uld have nasty toys. Jack suddenly thought of reaching out, that Daniel might hear him. He had on other occasions so he closed his eyes.
“Are you trying to reach Adriann?” Sam asked, studying him.
“Try Adriann if that doesn’t work. His telepathy is what will work. Daniel’s only an empath.”
Jack opened his eyes and stared at her. “Except we can read each other, Carter.” Her eyes widened as he closed his, reaching out.
Daniel, can you hear me?
Daniel rose from unconsciousness, pulled from that state by words, at first faint, but growing in intensity, like a mosquito that does a fly-by past your ear. He thought it was Jack telling him to get up.
“Go away,” he mumbled. He felt sluggish, and the annoyance grew, and with it came a feeling of anxiousness. Then head pain.
“Wake up, special Tau’ri. Wake up.”
Daniel snapped up, still groggy, and angry that he couldn’t focus. Someone chuckled. He didn’t recognize the sound and he blinked and shook his head. Swimmy. Drug. Dart. Guards. Daniel’s eyes widened and he was now fully awake, even though the grogginess remained. He looked around but things were blurry and he blinked a bit to clear his sight. When he did, he also realized he’d been stripped of his gear and his fatigue shirt. He was on a cot and swung his feet over and started to get up but someone behind him put a hand on his shoulder.
“Please remained seated. You’re still quite weak.”
The speaker was a man sitting on a stool, five feet in front of him. He didn’t look like a Goa’uld. Black hair, eyes, strong face, rather handsome. Jack’s height or more. Mustache, beard, both clipped close and with a ruler’s edge. It reminded Daniel of the game maker in that Hunger Games movie, only less fancified. The man had silver studs in his ears. He wore an actual suit but unlike the fashion of Earth. Looked like silk. Open neck, no tie. The ‘lapels’ of the jacket were wide and asymmetrical, as if the two sides would overlap when closed, but unevenly. It was deep green over a medium grey shirt, also of silk. Deep green trousers. Black footwear. He couldn’t tell if they were ankle-top shoes or boots but they were made of leather. On his hands were silver full-finger rings connected by delicate chains. The design on the rings resembled the crisscrossing lines on the Stargate cartouche. Set sat relaxed, legs crossed, hands laying over each other on the top knee. No overt, gaudy adornments. No hand device. No elaborate crown on his head.
“Huh,” Daniel grunted.
“What is that?” the man asked.
“You’re Set?” Daniel asked.
“I am.” He seemed amused.
“You’re not like what I would expect from a Goa’uld.”
“And you are not like any human I have met.” To the man behind him, he said, “Dracus, get the juice.”
The presence behind him retreated, the steps fading, and Daniel felt a relief he hadn’t realized he’d needed. Which meant that the presence was dangerous. Properly attuned, he’d be more mindful, and he adjusted his awareness. It was difficult. The damn drug from that dart. “Slave or First Prime?” he asked.
“You are unique. No one human has ever remained standing after that sonic barrage.”
Avoidance. Controlling the interview. Or interrogation. “Yeah, well, I’m just full of that sort of thing.”
“What thing is that?”
“That makes no sense.”
“I’m like that too.”
Set narrowed his eyes and studied him in silence for two long minutes. Daniel preferred to remain silent as well. It was best to piss off the interrogator. You got more information that way, especially emotional info. Of course, it could also cause you pain.
“What did you expect of me?” Set asked as the guard approached again and set a silver cup down on the frame of the cot. “Drink.”
“Thank you,” Daniel said, and picked up the cup. He sniffed and found it odorless. Water? He dipped a finger into it and looked at it. No color. Juice, the snake said. He set the cup down.
“Katya!” Set called.
A young girl, maybe thirteen or fourteen, came in through a far door across the room, situated to Set’s right. She wore what looked like black pajamas. No shoes. Her feet were clean, however. “Master?” she asked.
“Taste his juice and wait.”
She walked over and took a sip, set it down, then backed away to stand beside the Goa’uld, her hands folded in front of her and her gaze cast down. Her actions were perfunctory. The demeanor of long experience. That set Daniel’s teeth on edge. The one thing he hated about Goa’uld above all else was their use of slaves. Their hosts were the hardest form of slavery.
“I take it back. You’re just like the other Goa’uld,” Daniel said, meeting Set’s gaze and holding it.
“She is a servant and gets treated well,” Set said offhandedly as he bent over and picked up his own silver cup.
“Unless she wants to leave or until she does something you don’t like. For example, breathing.” He felt Dracus move behind him and expected a blow, but the look Set gave him was withering. Despite his shielding, Daniel detected seething anger from the Jaffa behind him. Assuming it was a Jaffa. Law of averages, given where he was. Another minute went by and Katya was still standing.
“Drink,” Set repeated.
“Thank you, I’ll pass.”
“Drink. Come now. Why encourage force?”
With a sigh, hating his own body’s requirement, as well as knowing that being stubborn was only placing himself at a disadvantage, Daniel picked up the cup and sipped. He wanted to drain the contents, but just in case this girl had built up an immunity to whatever drug laced the contents, he had to wait to see what the sip did.
“Now what?” he asked the Goa’uld.
“What are you?” Set’s brow furrowed and he tilted his head slightly, denoting confusion.
“But there is much more to you. You withstood my barrage, as did your friend.”
“Where is he, and the rest?”
“Detained and in no immediate danger.”
“That’ll change,” Daniel said dryly.
“Oh, most definitely.” A sinister smile spread across his face, turning the handsomeness ugly.
“Swell,” Daniel said and he turned to look behind him, to see the man who may be his torturer very soon. Dracus wasn’t wearing typical Goa’uld armor. He was also missing the mandatory gold tattoo on his forehead. Or any tattoo, for that matter. On his head, however, he wore skullcap, like most Jaffa without their headdress. But this cap was black and unadorned. He wore jackboots, black fatigues, a tack vest, and a crossbody strip of leather that held a row of darts. A gun, probably laser, was strapped to his hip. He looked like a mercenary. Daniel frowned and returned his attention to Set. “Weird.”
“You were expecting all that armor and some sort of decorative helmet.”
Set shook his head. “That is outdated nonsense.”
“Apart from your name,” Daniel pointed out.
Set smiled. Again, ugly. “It is a classic I intend to keep. There is too much work creating a new persona and rebuilding a reputation.” He changed the subject back to his earlier question. “If there is nothing special about you, then who are you people?” Set asked.
“Es Bai ka’ren,” Daniel replied.
Set abruptly got up and kicked Daniel in the chest enough to put him on his back, then placed his foot there and pressed down only enough to threaten, not hurt. Still, it took some wind from Daniel’s sails.
“No, you are not.”
“Okay,” Daniel grated, his breathing hampered.
“If you are, then where is Es Bai Ka’ren’s base?”
“On a planet.” Set studied him closely. It reminded Daniel of a bird of prey deciding which target to swoop down on.
“I have been informed of several deaths this Sutton Zain has been personally responsible for.” Set smiled. “I had no interest in interfering.” He stepped back and walked across the room to a small table that held glasses and a decanter of something translucent blue. “But now, he has found me so he has to die.”
Daniel rubbed at his chest as he sat up, catching sight of a few black pajama-clad slaves leaving the room. They had apparently brought the refreshment Set was now imbibing. A nasty vertebrae stinger nagged his back and Daniel folded his hands behind him and pressed in, trying to find the one that needed popping. Several subdued crackling sounds resulted and it was apparent that he’d needed a lot more than one disc. No wonder his back was sore.
Watching Set, Daniel knew that he had to keep him talking and in a friendly—for a Goa’uld—mood. A little truth is okay, and it appeases. And buys time. “I really don’t know how he’s been able to do all this. He has his ship, which wasn’t all that impressive. Frankly, the only remarkable thing about it is its shape.”
“Hmm,” Set said.
As Set seemed occupied, Daniel arranged his legs so that he’d be able to spring at him when the chance arrived. When the Goa’uld returned to Daniel, he eyed him while he drank. Daniel thought, “All I need to do is break that glass, grab the stem, and shove it into the snake’s eye. Hopefully, it would kill him.”
Set tilted his head. “You are plotting something.”
Damn. Daniel opened his empathic sense and the barrage of malevolence he received confirmed why he’d been blocking in the first place: this snake was highly disturbed. There was glee, self-satisfaction, sexual arousal, and the need to inflict pain. Great. Marquis de Sade 2.0.
“You may not be Ka’ren, but you are definitely Tau’ri. From what planet?”
Daniel blinked. Was this guy for real? Tau’ri was a name used only for the humans of Earth. “An Asgard-protected one,” he replied.
Set growled. “Those relics? They need to hurry up and die.”
Daniel snorted. “Ah, sorry. Won’t happen.”
Set raised a brow. “Oh? Have they beat that plague they stupidly released in the first place?”
The Goa’uld was clearly ill-informed or he didn’t really care to be accurately informed on the status of the galaxies around him. Daniel wasn’t inclined to correct him and remained silent.
“Answer me,” Set ordered.
“I thought your question was rhetorical. Where are my friends?”
“I have already answered that question. That tall one with the powers cost me more than twenty Jaffa. What is he? He is definitely not human.”
“What do you mean? He’s Tau’ri.”
“No, he is not. The Tau’ri do not have powers.” He paused and eyed Daniel. “Well, except for you.”
“I don’t have powers.”
“You withstood my tak’nik’atel. How?”
“I have no idea.” Set scowled at him. “No, really,” Daniel said, deciding on a bit of honesty. “I expected to wake up blind but didn’t, so …”
“That used to be its function but I altered it,” Set said.
Frowning, Daniel set the cup down and reached up to touch his ears. There was caked blood on the interior and in the crease between lobe and jaw. “Shit.” He looked at his finger, dusted with blood flakes. “That’s different.”
Set chuckled. “Indeed. I will ask once more. How did you evade that barrage?”
“Obviously I didn’t,” Daniel insisted, gesturing at his ears.
Set glowered at him. “You were not rendered unconscious until Dracus used the zat’nik’atel. What are you?”
“Hey, I’m telling you. I’m human.”
With a sigh, Set waved a few fingers of his hand. Something with two sharp points close together struck his back and an electric shock sent Daniel convulsing to the floor.
“Bastard!” Daniel said through clenched teeth as he waited for the spasms to abate. He’d rolled quite close to Set and the snake stood up and once more, placed a booted foot on his chest.
“Fuck you.” Daniel would have added, “Torturing me will yield you nothing,” but that would’ve been pointless.
Set took his foot off and stared at him. “Your name.” When Daniel refused to answer, Set placed his boot on his neck. “Your name.”
“Daniel Jackson,” Daniel gasped. What the hell. No reason to hide it.
“Ah. You are one of those SG-1 heroes I have heard about. Well, how heroic will you be when I am torturing someone you care about?”
Shit! He knew that was coming. It always had. And while he desperately didn’t want someone else tortured, he couldn’t answer the snake, either. This was going to be bad.
“Katya, you may leave. Dracus, bring me the iron.”
Iron? Oh shit.
Set grinned at the look on Daniel’s face and snapped his fingers at Dracus. The Jaffa stopped moving. “That hit a nerve,” he said, nearly laughing. “Any thoughts on skipping the torture and telling me what I want to know?”
Jack? Daniel thought, sending his will out searching. No answer. Daniel was reminded of a time ten years ago when Jack was being tortured with a cattle prod because he wouldn’t cooperate. Adriann? Are you there?
No answer. He was just about to say something to Set when a faint reply skittered across his mind.
I am here.
The words sounded funny. As if Adriann were making buzzing noises at the same time. What is wrong? Daniel asked.
I have something iron over my head. It’s somehow keeping me from using my powers.
Exactly, Adriann said. The buzzing continued.
Set’s going to torture someone in front of me because I won’t answer his questions.
Tell him what he wants to hear.
Delay. What’s pride and protocol going to do for you in this situation. Keep healthy, Daniel. All of you. You can’t escape if you’re not.
I knew you’d see reason.
It’s against all our rules.
You don’t have to tell him the truth, Daniel. Just close to it.
Daniel cleared his throat, opened his eyes, and realized Set had been watching him closely.
“Come to a conclusion?” the Goa’uld asked.
He thought Daniel had been thinking. Good. “I’m slightly empathic. Maybe that’s why the sonic didn’t affect me. My companion with the telekinetic power is the same, which is why he didn’t succumb, either.”
Set stared at him. “Explain again. You used phrases I am not familiar with.”
Daniel sighed. “Empathy is the reading of emotion. Telekinetic is affecting things with your mind.”
Set smiled enigmatically and the sight of it made Daniel’s flesh crawl. “You answered correctly.”
Daniel blinked, realizing a trap had been set to see if he would lie. “God, you’re an asshole.”
“Yes, I’m a god.”
“No, you’re not,” Daniel sneered. “You’re a parasitic species inhabiting a resistant host and masquerading as a deity, so don’t give me that bullshit.” He couldn’t help it. Even as he rapidly spewed the words, his brain was screaming at him to stop talking. He braced for the punishment to commence.
It didn’t come. Set only smiled. “Correct, but for one thing. My host was willing.”
“Was? Or is?”
“His opinion has not changed.”
Right. Like that was likely. Daniel dismissed the comment. “Point is, when I used the term, it was as an expletive, not an address.”
“Is it not lovely, this back and forth,” Set said, and once again, threw Daniel’s expectations off.
“You would prefer torture?” Set asked as he waved a hand at someone behind him.
“No, not into that either, but you apparently are,” Daniel replied, bracing for something else unpleasant. Instead, someone grabbed him under his left arm and hauled him to his feet.
“Katya!” he called again. The girl came out immediately. “Take him for a bath,” Set said.
“What?” Daniel asked, dumbfounded.
“You were expecting more torture, yes?”
Daniel sensed a keen interest in him and his stomach flipped. “Just get it over with already. I’m not in the mood to be courted.”
Set walked over and grabbed Daniel by the throat just under the jaw. “I do not care.” He let go and waved his hand negligently. The Jaffa mercenary began to escort Daniel toward the door that Katya had come from.
“Wait!” Set said.
Dracus halted and turned around, forcing Daniel to do so as well. “My lord?”
Set’s focus seemed to be inward. “Forget the bath. If dear Tau’ri Jackson wants to begin right away, I see no reason not to. But I think this will be something that deserves a slow build and for me to take my time.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Set walked over to Daniel and threaded his fingers through his hair. “So lovely. I may keep you. Not sure why, but I will think of something.”
“You need a new bed slave,” Dracus said.
“Yes, but I am not sure I want another man. Depends on what this one looks like naked. And screaming. If he screams prettily enough, then …” He let his words fade and the look of lust made Daniel’s stomach flip once more. “Come.”
Daniel would have told the snakehead that it would never happen. That he would die first. But if that didn’t happen, and he was stuck? Then he would pretend to submit, then he’d murder this bastard the first moment he had. Dying after that was not important. But hope was not lost. Yet.
Jalen woke on the dusty floor of a small barebones home. As he moved, focused his eyes, a pain shot through his temples and lodged in his neck. “Fuck.” He got to his wobbly feet and a hissing whisper stopped him.
Jalen froze. “Why?” he asked. There was a darker shadow among the rest, silhouetted in what appeared to be a door.
“It is not safe.”
Jalen snorted. “Of course, it isn’t. Thanks for not turning me in but I have to leave.”
“No!” The darker shape ran to him and Jalen realized it belonged to a young boy of maybe eight or nine. The child grabbed his sleeve. “You will die. Stay.”
Jalen’s sight soon adjusted to the dark and he found that the boy was dressed in nothing but rags. The blond hair was tangled and dirty and there were no shoes on his feet. “And if I stay? Then what?” That seemed to stump the boy.
“I do not know. But you will die if you leave. There are guards.”
“My weapons. Where are they?”
The boy pointed to another darker shadow on the floor. Jalen retrieved his gear and pre-loaded an arrow. “I have no choice. My friends are out there.”
“No, they are in the holding cell.”
Jalen considered him. The boy was a font of information. “Where are your mom and dad?”
“Mom and dad?”
“Those who sired you.”
“I live with the other rats.”
“Those like me who are homeless, who escape the slave collar.”
Jalen’s brow wrinkled with concern. “If we get out of this, do you want to stay here or go somewhere else?”
“Where would I go?”
“Some place where there aren’t Goa’uld.”
The boy’s dark blue eyes widened. “Is there a place like that?”
Jalen snorted. “They outnumber the places like this.”
“This is my home.”
“Then help me and I will kill as many of these assholes as I can and free you and your people.” What the hell. It might work.
“If you cannot, take me with you?”
“Deal,” Jalen said, and held out his hand. The boy looked confused. “Clasp my hand. It seals the deal.”
The boy shook his head. “Disease. Might infect me.”
Damn, what has this boy’s life been like? “Okay. What’s your name?”
“Jalen. Get me to the cell.”
Bo shook his head. “Guarded.”
“Not a problem.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Take me close and I’ll check it out.”
Bo seemed to think this over. “Come,” he said, and hurried across the room to open a back door.
“Let us gather in the square, shall we?” Set said as he left, and Daniel was escorted after him. Sunlight greeted him and he had to squint against the brightness, shading with his hand as harsher light reflected off the light beige block pavement in front of him.
Forced to stand still, as if waiting, he watched Set move to a structure across the oblong-shaped square. He stepped onto a dais and approached what looked like a throne. Another temple of sorts. Now this was what he expected of the Goa’uld. It was made from a white marble with streaks of silver running through it. The marble back fanned outward and over the seat, creating a hood or type of awning. Two dark basins with slender pedestals—reminding Daniel of birdbaths—framed the throne. The dais underneath was no more than ten feet in diameter.
Looking at their surroundings, and up at the building he’d just exited, Daniel found they were surrounded by six attractive two-story stone buildings. The architecture was modern. The windows were refined glass. The surface beneath his feet was composed of equally-attractive purple and grey mosaic squares.
It was odd. Daniel was used to finding an agrarian or backward culture unable to defend itself from the Goa’uld. This was another matter entirely. Unless this was this Set’s influence. If so, Daniel had to begrudge the snake some good taste.
Many people lined his side of the square, ten or twelve deep from what he could guess. This morning’s entertainment, or example-setting, was apparently mandatory. Or so Daniel hoped. If they were willing participants, then getting free would be damn near impossible.
Where was Adriann? Adriann?
I’m coming but I’m not able…
Unable to what? Daniel concentrated and realized it mean that Adriann was still under some sort of restraint.
Use your empathy.
Daniel frowned. I have been.
No, use it as a weapon.
Further concentration on Adriann’s meaning was halted when six men entered the square from his right. They wore the same mercenary uniform as Dracus. They were pulling something on wheels. It was big, made of wood and steel and was brought to the center of the square. The Jaffa removed bolts from the sides of the bottom framing and the odd structure gave a heavy thud as it dropped to the ground for stationary seating. The Jaffa departed with the wheeled apparatus.
Daniel couldn’t tell what he was looking at. It was almost like a slanted bed with a basic canopy frame overhead, from which chains and manacles descended instead of curtains. Two more men entered, dragging a large fishing net that … held Adriann. They weren’t taking any chances. The Jaffa hauled him up the wooden bed, then removed the net and left him there as they departed.
Further horrified, Daniel saw that Adriann wore a set of branks. The ones he was familiar with were medieval devices with an iron muzzle set within an iron framework that enclosed the head. If it was anything like the one created in the United Kingdom about four hundred years ago, there’d be a bit about two inches long and one-inch wide that would hold down Adriann’s tongue. The only difference between these branks and the ancient Earth version was that these were made of naquada. The tell-tale giveaway was the dark blue of the metal.
This was inexplicable. Adriann’s power wasn’t with his voice so the device had to be controlling him another way.
It’s magic, Daniel. Spellwork of some kind.
Again with the magic. When did the galaxy turn into a sword and sorcery movie?
When you started noticing.
Daniel swallowed. Just great. One more thing they had to prepare and find weapons against. He cringed as he looked at Adriann’s wrists. They were shackled with manacles that were spiked on the inside and were making him bleed. It was caked two inches around. He wasn’t struggling but Daniel could sense the concentration. He was attempting to free himself without the use of physical force. And it wasn’t working. The frustration seeped into Daniel’s mind. How in the hell was he supposed to use his empathy as a weapon? Force the emotion on Set? He didn’t understand how.
Before Daniel could think on it, Set redirected his attention as he stood back up and walked over to the bed device. He unbreeched his trousers and …
Daniel closed his eyes.
“Dracus!” Set said.
The Jaffa grabbed him by the back of his hair and hauled him up the ramp to stand beside Adriann’s prone body. Set held his cock in his hand, shook it, and returned it inside his trousers. There was a wet stain on the side of the device. Daniel inwardly sighed with relief. Thank the gods he hadn’t done what Daniel had feared he had. Although given Set’s love of pain, getting pissed on would be preferable to whatever he had planned next.
“On your knees, Jackson.”
Daniel looked down at him from over his left shoulder. “Which way?” he asked, hoping for a conversational delay.
Set sighed. “When you must do things yourself, it is always aggravating.” He climbed the side of the device and laid his hands on Daniel’s shoulders, pushing him to his knees. “You will be restrained.”
Like hell. But before Daniel could try to resist, to push Set off the device or jump down, the Goa’uld sensed the refusal and grabbed him by the back of the neck. The connected rings on his fingers sent hot pincers of pain down his spine. Daniel cried out involuntarily before he knew what was happening, then clamped down on it a second later. Set kept his hand there, inflicting pain in what seemed like minutes, while he gleefully laughed. Daniel felt his muscles collapse and all he could do was shake in place, arms and hands shaking uncontrollably. Set let go before his bladder did.
“If you try anything, I will be forced to rape you to make you submit. I would rather not use such personal tactics. It is so very … tasteless.”
Daniel fell forward, the strength in his body gone. If Set chose to rape him, there would be zero resistance. None. Nada. “Fucking hell,” he managed under his breath. He was suddenly grabbed by his hair and brought to a kneeling position. Set leaned down and whispered in his ear.
“Your mouth is lovely. I would hate to bloody it up while fucking it with a barbed metal cock. While I have no interest in performing sexual torture in public, I have found that it has the best record when it comes to subduing people. What do you think?”
Daniel swallowed. “I believe you.”
“Good. Behave. The next act of defiance will net you what I have just described.”
Set released him and to Daniel’s relief, the strength in his muscles returned. It didn’t matter, however. The description of oral rape sent a deep cold chill through his body. Before him, Adriann’s eyes, clearly seen through the branks, were murderously cold. Limply, Daniel allowed Set to manacle his wrists and when done, his arms were raised above his shoulders.
Two men appeared and hauled Adriann to his knees, facing Daniel. As they untied the ropes around his body, Set ran his fingers through Daniel’s hair while staring menacingly at Adriann.
“If you behave in any untoward fashion, you will watch him brutalized. After that, he will get anally raped by a wonderfully brutal animal named Nichtal. For hours. What would be left after that is something I guarantee you will not recognize. And it would be such a shame to waste such a pretty thing as he.”
Daniel’s eyes met Adriann’s as Set’s words sent bone-chilling fear through them both. He watched his friend meekly accept the manacles. To distract, he asked Set, “Why the branks?”
“They are magicked to prevent mental control of the host.”
Daniel ground his teeth. “So what now?”
“You will get implanted while I slide my dick into your ass.”
“No!” Daniel protested before he could stop himself and hot pincers greeted him once more while Set laughed.
“I was joking. No penetration will accompany the implantation.”
Implantation? Oh no. No, no, no. He had to find a way to delay it. “Since when does implantation require so elaborate a device?”
“Okay,” Set said, hugging himself to Daniel’s backside and rubbing against him. “I lied.” He then got up and hopped off the device.
About what? Daniel wondered. Which part? Man, this snake was one scary, manipulative bastard. Not even Ba’al played such games. He really didn’t. He liked drugs and false compliance.
“Hmmm,” Set murmured, stroking his chin. “How to proceed from here. So many choices.”
“Uh, how about we skip the snaking and go with torture and slavery instead?” Daniel asked.
Set laughed and returned to his throne. “I shall think on this. It has been ages since I had so many possible avenues for entertainment. Being rash would spoil it.”
Daniel took a deep breath and let it out. Reprieved for the moment. He looked across from him and met Adriann’s gaze. It had passed murderous and moved on to maniacal.
I can tear this contraption apart, he said. But what would that gain me? You would be killed before I could disable those who’d do it. I’m powerless. You have to use your empathic ability.
Daniel heard the frustration and rage at being in such a state of helplessness. It was especially troubling because Adriann was rarely on the wrong foot when it came to having the upper hand in most situations. Even when he was ill, he still had strength and telepathy.
I don’t know how. Whenever I’ve tried something new with this ability, it’s either taken a long time or it’s backfired.
Adriann relented. I know. I don’t mean to be so aggressive with you, but this situation sort of calls for it. We are, as Jack has put it on occasion, in deep shit. I can do nothing for the time being. It’s up to you. It’s up to the others, wherever they are.
Daniel made a mental sigh. What do I have to do? Guide me as best you can.
Adriann sent a few mental pictures as he spoke. Think of your emotion as a physical entity. For example, envision a line of light traveling from you to Set. That light is your emotion. You channel it.
Daniel gaped at him. I’ve never heard about this, Adriann.
We’ll talk later. You’re afraid. Use that to make him lose control.
Losing control may just get us killed, Adriann.
It was Adriann’s turn for a mental sigh. Listen to me. Distraction is the course of action here. They all need to be distracted so that when I pull this thing off my head, I won’t have to worry about the few seconds that are thus aimed at you.
We need to find out where Jack and the others are, Daniel said.
Adriann rolled his eyes. Push your mental ability to read their minds and find out. You can do it.
Daniel stared at him, mouth open. Only Jack and Jason, Adriann. I’ve never tried that with others.
Doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Daniel took a breath, closed his eyes, and imagined a door opening in his head. It was the opposite of how he’d learned to shut people out. Now he had to bring them in. He hoped there weren’t any strong emotions nearby. Thing was, this was emotion sensing, not thought sensing. Concentrating on Jack and Jason, he searched for their familiar touch, but what he got was silence. Emotional, mental. Silence. Apart from Adriann, of course.
What happened? Adriann asked.
Daniel opened his eyes. Nothing. I can’t get Jack or Jason.
Adriann stared at him. Not Jack or Jason. Feel the villagers.
Daniel tried again, bracing for a barrage. He found it and cringed. It’s bad.
Now, project that sense of horror onto Set.
Daniel didn’t get the chance to try. Jaffa marched into the square with the rest of his friends. Guns were pointed at their heads. If Daniel so much as scared a Jaffa into firing his weapon, someone would die.
Jalen took out Jaffa while Bo hid in doorways and under market tables. When the situation called for it, the zat came out to get rid of the body. Trouble was, zats made noise. The green gel didn’t. Jalen had to haul bodies out of sight whenever possible. To his relief, the townspeople silently helped. He could sense they were eager to hide them, pleased the Jaffa were dead. There would be no babysitting a problematic Jaffa.
The bad part was that Jalen knew they were also afraid of him, thanks to the Bor’cha DNA in his blood that changed his eyes from normal to golden cat’s eyes. It was thanks to the acts of stalking and killing. He was on the hunt. He didn’t blame the people for their reaction and to lessen it somewhat, he refused to meet anyone’s gaze.
“Time for you to hide, little one,” Jalen said as he closed in on the square, hiding within a granite building’s glass stairwell that allowed him to look down onto the square. He was partially hidden by the steps and had a chance of being spotted, but alternately, he could see any alerted Jaffa coming.
Suddenly Bo grabbed his arm and unbalanced him, making Jalen lie against the steps.
“What?” Jalen asked. Bo pointed upward and Jalen followed the direction. Tower guards would be able to see him. Jalen shook his head. “They aren’t there anymore.”
Bo shook his head. “There.”
Jalen made a face, disgusted, as he caught sight of a few Jaffa on the opposite building’s roof. “Goddammit. Now I have to spend more time avoiding than killing.”
“You are alive,” Bo said.
Out of the mouths of babes.
Jalen had known this would be dicey, to move around undetected while Jaffa patrolled the rooftops, but it turned out to be easier than he’d thought as he made his way from rooftop to rooftop, eliminating Jaffa. While the bodies weren’t dragged away, the fact that they were now prone took them out of line-of-sight from other Jaffa. The only problem that Jalen foresaw was if the lack of Jaffa sentries alerted the others.
Jalen crouched next to a narrow chimney spout and scanned. Not with his eyes, but his internal radar. The beast that had bitten him all those years ago had left more than the changing of his eyes. Other traits were increased speed, strength, and instincts. He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly as he focused his thoughts on the inner animal’s awareness.
“What are you doing?” Bo asked, watching him intently.
“Your eyes are closed.”
Without opening his eyes, Jalen tapped his temple. “I am watching from within. Now hush. I have to concentrate.” The senses told him no one was close. The closest Jaffa at rooftop level was unconscious. On the ground, however, there were eighteen of them, spread out along five narrow streets which opened onto the square. He opened his eyes. He would get the ones on this side, then skirt the square and get the others. He checked his quiver, strapped to his sword harness. Twenty darts and eight loaded in the crossbow. It would have to do.
“Down there.” He pointed at the buildings in front of him. “There and around the square.” Jalen had avoided looking down into the square, afraid that his animal side would take over in an effort to defend his mate and pack. But right now, he needed to know where everyone was. He looked. A growl began deep in his throat and he started to turn back the way he’d come.
“No!” Bo said, grabbing his arm. “You will be found and killed.”
“Thanks for caring, Bo, but this is something I am well-equipped to do.”
“What is that?”
“Protecting my people.”
“That is fine but if you go down now, you will be caught.”
Jalen cupped his cheek. “Would you stay if you had the ability to help?” Bo shook his head. “Let’s go.”
After the two teams were forced to their knees to the right side of the throne, Set behaved exactly like every Goa’uld they had come across. He gloated.
“So many sacrifices, so little time.” Snapping his fingers and pointing at Jack, Dracus and another Jaffa grabbed him under the arms and hauled him over to the bed device. He was forced to kneel at the foot of the ramp while Set whispered to Dracus. The latter left on whatever errand the snakehead had sent him on.
Jack looked around, then looked at Daniel and cursed the fact that he couldn’t talk to him like Adriann could.
“You talk to me, Jack. I can hear you.”
Jack was startled. “You heard me?”
“Loud and clear. You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good for now.”
“Jalen isn’t here,” Jack sent. “Do you know where he is?”
Daniel shook his head. “Think he’s dead?”
Jack shook his. “The snakehead might have shoved that in our faces by now. I think this means he was never captured.”
“If he’s smart,” Daniel said, “he’s gone back to the ship.”
Adriann shook his head. Jalen won’t leave us. He’ll be killing Jaffa. He’s very good at doing it.
Daniel wasn’t too sure Teal’c and Bra’tac would be happy about that. At Jack’s annoyed look, he gave him an apologetic look.
“Sorry, Jack. Did you hear him?”
Jack shook his head. “No.”
“Adriann said that Jalen won’t leave and that he’s probably out there evening the odds. He’s good at what he does.”
Jack watched as Adriann responded to Daniel, annoyed that he couldn’t hear. Mostly because it would save time.
These Jaffa are equipped like a standard military. Not the usual archaic nonsense the Goa’uld subject them to. That means they are very likely fanatics who can’t be turned. If you manage to get in one of their heads, Daniel, I think that theory will be confirmed. You must do something. I’m not able to.
Daniel relayed the message to Jack.
“I have to try to read these Jaffa, Jack. Find out if any of them are willing to turn on their master.”
Adriann’s shout made Daniel wince. No! Use your power to disable! Sort the rest out later!
I’m not killing Jaffa, Adriann.
I didn’t ask you to kill. I asked you to disable.
Daniel relayed this to Jack.
“He’s right, Daniel. And this is no damn time to stand on a moral high ground. If they die, they die. We’ll sort it out later. It’s time to go on offense!”
Daniel hated it, but they were both right. He closed his eyes and braced himself as he pictured the wall coming down, allowing the emotion surrounding him to come in. This time, he was startled by what he received: Not just emotions, but pictures and voices. He opened his eyes, wide, and as he looked around, he tried to sort them. Which way were they coming from. Jaffa or townsfolk?
… watch this again …
… no, no, that man took …
… is my brother …
… did these people do …
… from, they could not be …
Stray fragments, all from townsfolk. Then …
… have a Jaffa with them. Where did he come from? Could we get a message somehow …
Daniel looked at Adriann. I have their emotions. But it isn’t the type to disable. Besides, someone wants to know where Teal’c came from. I think it’s a Jaffa. He wants to talk to him.
Fine, Adriann said, disappointed. Be careful. Find out more.
Daniel concentrated on the direction the voice had come from.
… nasty piece of work …
Hang on. That was an Earth phrase. He looked over his shoulder, frowning. Who did that come from?
… just get to that roof there, I could get them, move to …
Daniel’s eyes widened.
I hear Jalen, he sent to Adriann.
Refocusing on the minds around him, he got a picture of blood, of fear, and a single word: Tok’ra. He looked over his right shoulder to catch a glimpse of Castra.
“Shit,” he whispered.
“What?” Jack asked.
Daniel didn’t want to say it out loud. He focused on Jack’s face and sent, “When Set finds out there’s a Tok’ra here, Castra’s a dead man.”
Dracus returned, and what he held in his hand sent chills down Daniel’s spine. It didn’t do much for Jack’s ease, either. Dracus carried a metallic whip. It wasn’t a long piece of metal but made from segmented rings, allowing it to coil. He handed it to Set, who lovingly passed his free hand over the length. He walked over to Jack and showed it to him.
“This is what I call the Serpent’s Sting. It is beautiful, is it not?”
Jack’s blood ran cold. A whip like that will open a man’s flesh to the bone and likely kill within ten strokes. Set’s smile was practically vulpine as he clearly enjoyed the non-response from Jack.
“You know what this whip is capable of, do you not?”
“I do,” Jack said, swallowing. “Why use it? I thought we were going to be tortured for information.”
“Oh, I will get around to that. First, terror must be instilled to better educate those who will refuse to talk.”
“Everyone who came with me knows what that whip will do. It’s only purpose is to kill. I would rather avoid that.”
“Let’s test that,” Set said, and snapped his fingers and pointed. Sam was hauled to her feet and brought over. Dracus was particularly rough with her, making her stumble before forcing her to her knees at a ninety-degree angle to Jack. He placed both hands around her throat.
“May I?” he asked Set in a greedy voice. It turned everyone’s stomach.
“You want to kill so soon?” Set asked.
“No, my lord. But to render unconscious several times.” He made a single thrusting movement with his hips.
“No,” Set drawled. “If there is a violation to be had, Dracus, it will be after I have tested it. If she is alive by the time I am finished playing with all of them, then you can do with her as you see fit.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Dracus was clearly disappointed.
Sam looked at Jack and the hate in her eyes made them a very dark blue-green. She was quite familiar with his expressions and the one he sent back told her: if you can, goad him into killing you quickly. She blinked back, telling him she understood.
Set bent to read her name tag. “Carter.” Sam nodded. “Do you not have another? Many have multiple names. Family ties.”
“Marie,” Sam told him.
“Marie,” Set said, savoring the sound. “I like it.” But with a sudden strike, he grabbed her by the neck and tortured her the same way he had Daniel. As Sam fell on her stomach, her body shaking violently, Set hissed at her, “Your name is Samantha Carter, little Tau’ri.” He shook her by the neck. “Repeat it!”
“Sam Carter!” she screamed, her voice quavering.
Set didn’t let go. He straddled her and kept up the torture, laughing maniacally. “Look at you shake!” He abruptly stopped but didn’t get off her body. He sat on her buttocks and thrust his hips as he looked over his shoulder at Jack. “Want me to fuck her? It would be most entertaining.”
“No!” Jack growled.
Set laughed again and got up. “You Tau’ri are so predictable.” He waved a hand at Dracus. “Pick her up, but on her knees. Hold her. She won’t be able to do it on her own for several minutes.”
As Dracus complied, Jack and the others watched in horror as they saw her limp body manipulated like a ragdoll. Dracus held her neck with one hand while grabbing her breast with the other. He began copping a feel and Sam couldn’t resist. Her eyes were unable to focus.
“Stop it!” Jack shouted.
Set turned to look and scowling, snapped, “Dracus!”
The man pulled his hand away. “Forgiveness, Master,” he said, head bowed.
Set strode toward him, an angry curl to his lips, and it was Dracus’ turn to bear the ring device. Sam fell out of his hands and onto her back while her abuser shook to his knees. Set stopped and petted his hair.
“Yes, my lord. I am sorry, my lord.”
“Yes, you are,” Set seethed. “Do anything without my authorization again and you will die. Understand?”
“Yes, my lord. I humble myself, lord.” With shaking arms and hands, Dracus briskly opened his trousers and dropped them. When he bent over, propping himself up by his hands, Set walked over and without warning, mounted him. The intercourse was quick and Dracus grunted until he spilled his seed on the ground. Set didn’t climax. He covered up and stood.
“Who do you serve?” Set asked.
“You, my lord. With all of my soul.”
Set smiled and took Dracus’ arm and pulled him to his feet. “You are my faithful servant.”
“I am,” Dracus breathed.
“And now that you have expelled your need, you will behave.”
“I will behave.”
Set walked around Sam, who was now back on her knees, and caressed her with the whip, moving up her and across her back. “Not quite yet.” He turned and shouted across the square, “Ta’kel!”
A short man in the same black pajamas that Katya wore came running and dropped to a knee before Set. “My lord.”
“Take the woman to my quarters and lock her in.”
“Yes, my lord.”
When Sam resisted, Set said, “Dracus.”
The big Jaffa punched Sam in the ribs before hoisting her over his shoulder and followed Ta’kel out of the square. When Set looked at Jack’s face, then Daniel’s, then over to the rest of their teammates, he chuckled. “I see I made a good choice. To hear her scream will probably enrage you males. You are so predictable.” He snapped his fingers again. “Bring the other woman.”
A Jaffa standing behind the team grabbed Cari roughly and brought her to knee where Sam had been. “Well, O’Neill. What do you say about this one?”
“What I will say about all of them. Don’t.”
“Good,” Set said, smiling. He snapped his fingers again and gestured that the Jaffa return Cari to her teammates. When Dracus returned, he pointedly grabbed himself by the crotch and acted as if he needed to adjust himself. As if something had happened. It only made Jack angry and Set delighted.
“Grab the Tok’ra and the black hair.”
Jack’s head whipped up in alarm. His gaze met Jason’s.
“We can sense the traitors, O’Neill. Did you not know that?” When he saw where Jack’s gaze was set, however, the Goa’uld’s brows went up. “Oh, it is the dark-hair you are worried about, yes?”
Set snapped his fingers again and several Jaffa came from outside the square behind Jack, carrying a very heavy object. It was ten-foot high, perhaps two feet in diameter, and had five sides. On each side dangled chained manacles. And the thing had reddish-brown stains: blood. The Jaffa set it down and with tools that looked like jackhammers, bolted it to the ground between the bed device and their teammates. Jack was instantly reminded of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He knew exactly what was in store for Jason and Castra.
“No!” Daniel shouted before he could stop himself. Set had been lovingly caressing the torture obelisk and he spun at Daniel’s protest.
It was impossible for them to hide their feelings at the thought of Jason being tortured and killed. It was even more horrendous when Jason made it much more likely to happen. When a Jaffa moved to grab him, Jason spun, caught the man’s ankle, wrenched his weapon away, knocked him out with it, and shot two more Jaffa before Set caught him with the end of the whip. It wrapped around his ankle and the metal bit into the leather, slicing it cleanly, but not all the way though. Jason was dumped to the ground and when he tried to aim the weapon at Set, another Jaffa disabled him with a zat shot.
Set walked over, glaring down at him. “Another will kill and I would hate that. It is over too quickly. Do not move.” He stepped on Jason’s calf and studied the boot. “Hmm. Interesting construction. Your people have obviously been tooling leather for a very long time.” He shook his head as if it were filled cobwebs. “I really do not care.” He gestured to Dracus, who had a bullet graze his upper triceps. “Chain these two, then see to that wound.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Once it was done and Jason and Castra were chained facing the obelisk, Set walked over and ran the handle of the whip down Jason’s back and stopped at his buttocks. “I should give you to Dracus. He does prefer men.” He ran the whip handle behind Jason’s balls. “He can make it last hours.”
Dracus returned with a simple bandage over his upper arm. The look on his face was … Jack could only describe it as slathering. A wanton look of avarice meshed with sadism.
“Master?” Dracus asked Set hopefully.
“You want him?” Set asked.
Jack was instantly reminded of Renfield.
“But who would take your place at my side?” Set asked as he went to his Jaffa and stroked his cheek.
“Raknel is worthy, my lord.”
“Is he?” Set asked.
Jack suddenly got the idea that what was happening before him was a stage act. Was he supposed to beg for Jason’s escape from rape?
“Please, don’t,” Jack ventured. Set looked over his shoulder and smiled. It was one of the creepiest things Jack had ever seen. “Please,” he repeated.
“Jaffa!” Set called out as he kept his eyes on Jack. “Strip him!”
“Daniel! Help!” Jack sent, his tone desperate.
What? I don’t know what… Daniel stopped, his eyes landing on the bit of silver he could see around Jack’s neck. The necklace chain that held Jack’s amulet.
“Your amulet! Call Morrighan!”
Jack’s eyes widened and he looked down, even though he couldn’t see it. I can’t hold it!
Daniel said, “Get it in your mouth!”
Jack narrowed his eyes, doubtful he could even get at it, but there was nothing to lose. He dropped his chin to his chest and tried to work inside his shirt, but he had to do it so that Set wouldn’t notice. If Set took the amulet, all would be lost.
“Distract him, Daniel.”
“Set?” Daniel called. Set looked his way as he held up a hand to stall Jason’s removal of clothing. “Take me instead.”
“Ah, a sacrifice, lovely slave?”
“Yes,” Daniel hissed. “Please, not him.”
Set walked over to run the whip handle between Daniel’s legs. “By me or Dracus?” the Goa’uld tested.
“You,” Daniel said, closing his eyes.
“Mmm. Do I use you?” He stepped back and looked around, slapping the whip handle in his palm. “Or … eat you.” He enjoyed the resultant horror. “No, I cannot eat you. Torture sours the meat.”
Jason turned his head to stare at Daniel as if he’d lost his mind. But the discussion would slow things down enough for someone to get a chance at stopping this fucking fiasco. So how about a little family drama? “Daniel, shut up!”
“What?” Daniel asked. “I just …”
“Gave him ideas. Shut. Up.”
Set grinned. “This is wonderful. You turn on each other.” He slid the handle of the whip between Daniel’s legs again. “Here I thought you loved him.”
“I do. I was just … stalling. I don’t want you to rape him. Or whip him. I will do anything you want to keep you from doing that. Anything.”
“Daniel!” Jason snapped. “Dammit, stop it!”
“I’m trying to save your life. It’s you who needs to shut up!”
While they bantered, Jack was digging his chin beneath the amulet chain, trying to inch it upward. It was hard damn work, trying to do it while managing not to look like he was doing something other than meekly giving up. Just a little more and he would have it.
“What are you up to, O’Neill?” Set asked, walking over to him.
Jack had it between his teeth and in as soft a voice as he could manage, he concentrated as hard as he could on the image of the woman who’d given him the charm and whispered, “Morrighan.”
Set jerked Jack’s head back and spying the amulet, he yanked it from Jack’s mouth and ripped the chain off his neck. “What is this?” he seethed angrily, shaking Jack by his hair. When Jack refused to answer, he applied the same hot pincers to his neck and forced Jack to the ground, face down, while he, and Jack, screamed.
Goddess ex Machina
Morrighan finished the lacing on her bodice as she looked down at her paramour. “Tara, my love. What are you doing?”
“Watching you.” The honey-blonde woman stood up to her five-foot-eleven inches and she was still shorter than her Queen. She threaded fingers through Ghanni’s dark auburn hair and sighed. “Time to meet Thor, yes?”
“Yes,” Morrighan answered, “and remember not to call me Ghanni.”
“Stop reading my mind,” Tara mock-scowled.
“But then it would be a one-way conversation,” Morrighan teased. She placed the elaborately knotted silver circlet over her brow, fitting it under the hair to the back of her head. “Tiresome, this is.”
“But you wear it well.”
Morrighan rolled her eyes and left the room, sensing that the Asgardian was waiting in the central hall with impatience. She made an effort of will and appeared directly in front of him. “Greetings. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.”
“I was not waiting long,” Thor said, and he managed to sound amused.
“Have you found any more of the Fomor?” she asked him as she sat on the backless throne of her office.
“No. I believe this part of the galaxy is free, but we have heard disturbing rumors that they may be heading back to Earth.”
“Oh, no,” Morrighan scowled. “I will not allow them to trample over my—”
Her voice caught as a bone-deep vibration swept through her and a voice whispered in her head. Jack O’Neill’s voice. He was in dire trouble. She felt the terror, saw a picture. A Goa’uld was torturing him.
“Maisithe a bheith do chinniúint!” she spat.
Thor blinked. She had spat a curse in modern Earth Gaelic and Old Roman. Cursed be thy fate. Had she been to Earth recently? “What is it?” he asked.
“Jack O’Neill! He has used the amulet! He is being tortured with a tensoi!”
“Oh dear,” Thor said. Not many Goa’uld had them.
Irritated by his banality, Morrighan snapped, “Those miserable parasites!” She mentally sent Thor the coordinates before she disappeared and returned to Tara. “My descendant has used the amulet. I have to go.”
“No, Tara. I will be using my powers and you know you can’t be near me when I do.”
Morrighan spun in place as she clapped her hands over her head and transported herself to wherever the amulet resided. Tara pitied those who got in her Queen’s way.
Jack’s head was on fire. Or so it seemed to him. He’d stopped screaming but he lay face down, panting, his heart hammering a million miles a second. “Jesus Christ,” he mumbled in an undertone.
Set, meanwhile, snatched the amulet from the ground and was attempting to break the damn thing. He knew it was some sort of magic, but he’d never seen it before. “What were you doing?”
“Evoking a god,” Jack managed as he pushed to his knees. “Just calling out the name of my god.”
“There was magic in this thing!” Set yelled, shaking it at Jack. “I can feel it! You called to someone!”
“Yes,” Jack said. “To my god. Or goddess, technically.”
Set paused in his pacing and stared at him. “A deity?”
Jack smiled faintly. “Yes. A prayer, if you like.”
“But then why is this magicked?”
“As far as I know, it isn’t,” Jack replied. “I picked It up at a yard sale.”
Set stared at him, the intensity sick and dangerous. He pointed at Daniel while he looked at Jack. “Would you like me to have him raped and your black hair vivisected?”
“Is that a trick question?”
With a deep breath, controlling his rage, Set twirled the amulet in his fingers while he pointed behind him, at Jason. “Dracus. Whip him.”
“No!” Jack shouted. “It’s just an amulet to call to a god for prayers! That’s all it is!”
“Hold,” Set said.
Dracus stopped walking, pausing next to the whip that Set had dropped. “My lord.”
Set approached Jack, his head tilted as he considered him. “You are telling the truth.”
“Yes,” Jack said between clenched teeth. Just give him one chance and he’ll kill this bastard, even if it costs him his life. Privately, he wondered why the amulet hadn’t …
Set opened his mouth to speak but paused as the wind picked up, swirling fall leaves and dust around the courtyard. The Goa’uld frowned and looked around, searching for storm clouds and finding none. There wasn’t any sign on the horizon, either, so where the hell was the wind coming from?
Jack traded looks with Daniel and Jason while behind him, in the middle of the west side of the square, dirt and dust gathered in a small, narrow cyclone and within seconds, it filled with black smoke.
“I guess it worked,” Jack told them.
“What?!” Set said, spinning around to glare at him.
“Oh, thank you, goddess,” Daniel said, dropping his head down.
Set’s head snapped toward him. “What are you talking about?”
Adriann frowned at Daniel. What’s happening?
Daniel smiled and said aloud, “Deus Ex Machina.”
Jack burst out a single laugh.
“What is that? Jaffa!”
Several dozen of the guards surrounded the smoke and aimed their sidearms.
“The minute something materializes, kill it!”
Jason, meanwhile, was pulling at his bonds, testing the strength of the chains when a ground haze wavered beside him, giving off a tremor that made Jason’s skin buzz. Then, blink, there she was. No sound whatsoever. One moment, nothing; the next moment, her. She wore a skin-tight, long-sleeved black leotard made from some shiny material, but instead of having the bottom of a one-piece bathing suit, it spread down into shorts that ended mid-thigh. There was a brief look of skin, then thigh-high boots with two-inch heels and square toes. It made him think of Maleficent, except for the boots and this outfit had gold filigree accents over the breasts and waist. Her hair was free, unlike the last time where she’d worn a skullcap. The dark red tresses flew around her though there was no accompanying breeze.
When Jack spotted her, a deep relief mixed with satisfaction suffused him and he smirked at Daniel as he said, “You should have killed us the moment we were captured.”
“Indeed. But the Goa’uld are so narcissistic,” Morrighan said. Set whirled, eyes bigger than saucers. “You always think you have the upper hand.” In her hand, a translucent purple sphere of energy was forming.
Set bared his teeth at her, grabbed Dracus, hit the back of his right-handed Goa’uld device, and they both disappeared.
“Shit!” Jack spat.
Morrighan let out a sound of disgust. “Seems he’s heard of me. Or maybe he was smarter than he looked.” As she looked at the Jaffa’s uniforms, she sniffed. “Definitely a little smarter. Not by much.” The Jaffa were startled and they opened fire on her, but no bullets touched her. They hit some sort of force field and disintegrated. Sighing, Morrighan swept a hand in the air and the Jaffa weapons literally became to hot to handle and were dropped. The next moment, they dropped to their knees in supplication to the superior god before them. One of them muttered to another, “What Goa’uld is she?”
“I’m not a Goa’uld, you imbecile.” Narrowing her eyes at a few rebellious Jaffa, she took a few steps and added with emphasis, “You won’t like what follows. Drop your weapons.” They did.
She turned and went to Jack. “Jack,” she said, bringing him to his feet. “Be a dear and unlock your fellows while I see to these two.” She was referring to Daniel and Adriann.
Jack stared at her and without warning, gave her a huge hug that took her off her feet. “Thank you!”
On her feet again, she took his arms and held him away from her. Gazing at him, she shook her finger as if he was an errant child. “I didn’t believe you would have used the summons so quickly. Honestly, can you not stay out of trouble? Now, get to your fellows there.”
“I don’t have the keys to those manacles,” Jack said, gesturing at Castra and Jason.
“I do,” Jalen said as he walked into the square, dragging an unconscious Jaffa while twirling a set of keys. He dropped the soldier and tossed the keys to Jack. “If they don’t work, I’ll find the keys that will.”
“Nice,” Jack said, grinning, as he caught them. “When were you planning on making a move?”
“When he was far enough away,” Jalen said with a little heat, insulted, as he moved over to Teal’c and the others and freed them. Rubbing at his wrists, Bra’tac approached the unconscious Jaffa. “Is he dead?” he asked Jalen.
“No, but the others are.” At Bra’tac’s frown, he added, “Them or me. I chose myself.”
Morrighan walked up the bed device and her brows knit into a scowl as she knelt before the vampire. “What has he done to you? Or better yet, why? I haven’t seen one of these things for five hundred years, and never spell-wrought.” She placed her hands over the locks on the branks and closed her eyes. She hummed a few notes and the metal split under her fingers. She threw it aside and stared Adriann as she released Daniel. “Why did that evil creature have that on your head?”
Adriann stared at her in amazed shock and had no idea she’d said anything. She was close to his own height, curvaceous in a black suit that was molded to her, and her long dark tresses cascaded around her as if a living organism. She was a glorious creature.
“Are you mute, my boy?” she said.
“I think he’s in shock,” Daniel said, and grabbed her hand. “Thank you.”
She looked at him warmly, then eyed Adriann again, tilting her head. “You’re a strange one. Not human, though you look it.”
“No. I’m Var’chol’si. My name is Adriann.”
“Var’chol’si?” She frowned, searching her memory and came up empty. It didn’t bother her. On the contrary, she was delighted. “A species I have never heard of! How wonderful!”
“Jack—” Daniel began, but his husband and team leader was running off in the direction where Sam was taken. Daniel dashed after him. “Sam was taken,” he called behind him to explain.
Morrighan sighed. “You two, stop!” she called after them. Jack slid to a stop, turning to look at her as Daniel ran into him. With a gesture, Sam appeared in the square, her hands poised to grapple with something that was no longer there.
Sam blinked. “What the …” She looked at Daniel and Jack, then stooped to grab the knife hidden her boot until she spied Morrighan and sighed. “Oh, thank god.”
Daniel returned to her. “I forgot you could do that.”
“So it would seem,” she said in a mock-scold. “Now, what in the world were you doing here that had you captured by a Goa’uld?”
“Stealing,” Adriann said. “And kill the bastard, if possible.”
“Who was that?”
She raised her right brow. “That’s not possible. I killed him two centuries ago.” She looked skyward and narrowed her eyes. “There are ships in orbit. Two are leaving. Presumably, he’s in one of them.” She narrowed her eyes, as if seeing something. “If he is indeed Set, then I killed someone else. If he’s not Set, then why take his name?”
“I’ll ask him the next time we meet,” Adriann said as he tried to make himself look more presentable.
“The next time?” Morrighan asked.
“We, my people and the Tok’ra,” Adriann began, “hunt Goa’uld and take the tech they have. But this time, we had bad intel, which is why we were captured. This Goa’uld was different than all the others we’ve met.”
“If he’s not Set,” Daniel said. “Then he took the name for the reputation.”
Morrighan looked at the kneeling group of Jaffa, heads bowed. “Hmm.” She walked over to one and plucked him from the ground and set him on his feet as if he weighed no more than a doll. “Your name,” she said to him in Goa’uld.
“Are you going to kill us?” he asked.
“No, Pa’tra,” she said, letting him know she’d only used a courtesy when asking his name. It spooked him and his eyes went as round as Set’s had. Morrighan looked over at Bra’tac, who was eyeing her with blatant curiosity. “If they are amenable, you will take them to Dakara?”
Bra’tac blinked. “You know of it?”
She resisted rolling her eyes again. “Yes, of course.”
“We will give them a choice,” Teal’c told her. “Come with us to Dakara or be left here for the townsfolk to deal with.”
“Why not just kill them?” Morrighan asked.
“We do not kill unless under attack,” Bra’tac said, finding his voice.
She smiled at him knowingly. “Good answer.”
He frowned. “You test me?”
“I do,” she said. “Sometimes freed Jaffa turn to murder. They’re free but they don’t know what to do with that freedom. Sometimes they pledge loyalty to another Goa’uld. Sometimes they have so much rage inside them that they lash out at any convenient, and weak, target.” Pausing, she clapped her hands at the kneeling Jaffa. She spoke Chulakian as she delivered her warning. “Devoting your life to revenge is a poor way to repay the kindness showed to you today. Go with Master Bra’tac. He will not lead you astray.”
Jack automatically looked at Teal’c and Bra’tac and they translated. “Right.”
“Sometimes that need for revenge is overpowering, Morrighan,” Daniel said. “When you’ve suffered brutality all your life, it’s hard to let it go.”
“It’s as if they don’t know it’s brutality,” Jason put in. “They see it as normal.”
“They know the difference,” Bra’tac said and Teal’c nodded in agreement.
“Well then, remind them,” Jack said, annoyed. “I’m not babysitting hostile Jaffa.”
“We shall,” Bra’tac said.
Morrighan lifted her hands in a ‘there you are’ gesture. “Leave it to the experts, my boys.” She saw Castra and Adriann talking in hushed tones and turned away from them, shaking her head. “You should leave that device to the people of Miragen, gentlemen.”
Adriann and Castra looked up sharply. “How did you know we were talking about that?” Castra asked.
“She has better telepathy skills than Adriann,” Daniel replied.
“Why should we leave it to them?” Adriann asked, brow cocked. “We could use it in my ship.”
“As a thank you for saving Jalen’s life,” Morrighan answered impatiently.
Adriann looked at his friend and lover. “What is she talking about?”
“Bo!” Jalen called, and the boy came running from the darkened street that Jalen had left. He came to stand next to him and looked at Adriann doubtfully. “He saved my life.”
“Did you?” Adriann asked.
Startled, Jalen said, “Then who pulled me into that house?” Bo fidgeted, seemingly unwilling to answer. “Bo?”
“Let me,” Morrighan said and gestured in front of her sternum, her hands mimicking the opening of a flower. As she finished, her wardrobe changed and she now wore a floor-length white halter gown with gold trim and a wide belt shaped somewhat like a chevron, the point up. Her dark red hair cascaded down her back and over her shoulders and it was laced with tiny white flowers. On her brow was her knotted circlet but it was gold. She crouched in front of Bo. “Is this better?”
His eyes were wide and he asked her, “Are you Varakin?”
“No, my child. I am Varashia.” She held out her hand and in her palm was a round red fruit the size and shape of a pomegranate. She placed it in his hand. His eyes went wider still at the fruit that was too big for one hand and he cupped it with both. She spoke to him in his own language and he smiled and answered back. “Now, answer Jalen,” she said.
Bo looked up at him. “We pulled you in. The rats.”
“The other street children,” Morrighan interpreted as she rose and stepped back.
“Street children?” Jack asked as he held Sam with one arm.
“There are a lot,” Jalen said.
Morrighan moved to Sam and placed the palm of her hand on her forehead. A golden glow issued from her fingertips for a second, then was gone. She took her hand away and handed her to Jack. “You’ll be dizzy for a minute. Apologies.”
“Hi,” Daniel said to Bo and stepped forward to hold out a granola bar. Bo took it shyly.
“Thank you,” Jalen said to Bo. A woman called out his name and came running into the square. He ran to her. “Who’s this?” Jalen asked Bo.
“Maman,” Bo said.
“Grandmother,” Morrighan translated.
Adriann faced Morrighan. “I want that cloaking device. We’ll need it to get ahead of that damn snake.”
Morrighan sighed and looked around at the restless crowd. “They do not want it, but give them something in return. For example, help them get their village back to normal. Food, seed, and water are here, but …” She gestured at the stone wall that surrounded them. “This Goa’uld nonsense needs to be taken down and—”
From the tower to her right and two stories up, a plasma charge came at her head. She held out her hand, grabbed the destructive substance and absorbed it. With a dangerous glint in her eye, she snapped her fingers and every single Jaffa that had been in the tower as well as the garrison fort across the river channel were transported to the square. They totaled about seventy-five and to keep them in check, their arms were tied to their sides with thick rope.
“Oh wow,” Daniel said. He gave her an admiring look. “Just when we think we know how powerful you are, you remind us that we’re a bit off the mark.”
Morrighan winked at him, then turned to a stunned Bra’tac and Teal’c. “There you are. Question them. That one in the middle, up front, is the one who fired that paltry weapon at me. He may not want to join your free nation, but I’m sensing the others might, once you talk to them.” She pointed upward. “Set and his fellow parasites have brainwashed them quite well.” She paused, looking over at a few of the Jaffa. “A moment.”
She walked over to the large group and spoke Goa’uld. “Do you understand me?” Several nodded, including the leader. “Your families were not taken care of as Set promised,” she told the citizens. “They are dead. To whom do you show allegiance now?”
“You lie,” said someone in the middle.
“What proof would you require?” she asked, thinking she could show them a holographic video.
“There will be no proof,” Bra’tac said, stepping up next to her, Teal’c at his side. “Whatever you show them, they will believe it false.”
“Then I will leave it to you, Master Bra’tac,” she said gently, giving him a slight bow.
“Ow,” Jack said, and now it was Sam who held him up.
“Are you well?” Morrighan asked as she walked over to touch his forehead and Jack shied from her touch. At her surprise, he quickly said, “Sorry. Tender. And no. I have a Grand Canyon-sized headache.”
“Here,” she said, and repeated the healing she’d given to Sam.
Jack looked puzzled. “I thought you needed your brother to do that. Diane … something.”
“Diancecht,” she said, amused, and slowly pronounced it, “Dee-un Kext. I call him Dian. You shouldn’t.” She winked at him. “And no, he does not need to be here in order to heal head pain.”
“Well, thanks,” Jack said, feeling awkward at so small a word.
She shrugged. “You do not need to be effusive to thank me properly,” she said softly, and at the cock of his brow, she added, “Your expression gave you away. Right now, I am shielding. It’s getting noisy.”
“Teach me how to do that?” Daniel asked.
She grinned and placed her left palm on his forehead. “Close your eyes.” He did. “Imagine a wall.”
Daniel sighed but kept his eyes closed. “I know all that. Adriann taught me a few years ago, since he was the one who gave me the power.”
“Then think of a woodland stream.” She waited while he did. “Now, imagine it full of life. Birds, the sound of water, the wind. Then slowly, one by one, eliminated the sounds.” She pulled her hand away.
Daniel followed her advice and in two more seconds, he opened his eyes. He listened. There was nothing. “It worked,” he said, breathing with relief.
Morrighan looked askance, sensing distrust among the townsfolk. She sighed. “I think you’ll be fine on your own for now. My ship is in orbit.” She handed Daniel a hexagonal metal disc about three inches in diameter. It had a button in the center. “Call me when you’re ready.”
“For what?” he asked, nonplussed.
“To go home.” She looked over at Adriann, who had been watching her with blatant interest. “You will follow, yes?” He merely nodded. With that, she decided that disappearing without a warning would startle a few people, so she snapped her fingers.
“That was new,” Daniel said, but he somehow got why she did it. Maybe she’d inserted it into his mind?
Jack took Sam’s hand off his arm and nodded. “Okay?” she asked, and he nodded.
“Okay.” He still massaged his neck. “Damn she’s something.”
“Oh yeah,” Daniel agreed, though his tone was more wary than appreciative and he handed Jack the disc. “Here. You’re the one connected to her so you should have it. I think she gave it to me only because you were recovering.”
Jack only jogged his brows and stuffed the disc in his pocket. He gestured at Bo. The boy came forward, crumbs from the granola bar gathered in the corners of his mouth. Jack smirked. He pulled out an olive-drab cravat from a side pocket and handed it to the boy. “Wipe your mouth.” Amused, the boy did so. He didn’t return the cravat and Jack was equally amused. “We were here to steal a big machine that belong to that Goa’uld. It wasn’t where we thought it was. Do you know where it is?”
Bo shook his head.
“Who’s the leader of your people?”
Bo pointed at an old man. “Danar.”
Jack turned and found an old man perhaps in his eighties, leaning on a cane. He was twenty feet away, standing in front of a group of townsfolk with a young woman’s arm around his shoulder.
“C’mon,” Jack said, pulling at Daniel’s sleeve as he headed over to the man. To his surprise, every single person got down on one knee.
“Oh no, don’t do that,” Jack said, gesturing that they all stand up while he took Danar by the arm and gently encouraged him to stand. Once done, he asked, “Do you know where that device is that Set had in a building back there?” he asked, pointing high at the buildings behind him. The man didn’t seem to understand and Jack looked down at Bo, who’d joined his leader. “Does he understand?” Bo shook his head. “For cryin’ out loud,” Jack mumbled. “Daniel?”
“Yep.” He asked the same thing in Goa’uld. No answer. These people didn’t speak it. Adriann came up beside him and while he kept his eyes on the old man, he told Daniel, “They speak Miraga, which is the native language of the Miragen.”
“How’s this kid know English then?” Jack asked.
“Goa’uld slave, plus it’s a survival skill. Know what people are saying,” Adriann said. “I’ll talk to him.”
“How?” Jack frowned.
“The same way he knew our language when we first met, Jack,” Daniel said with a smirk. “Telepathically.” Jack rolled his eyes and gestured at Adriann to proceed.
Adriann spoke to Danar at length and suddenly began fielding questions from everyone else. The name Bo had called Morrighan, Varashia, was brought up in whispers several times and though he’d only met the woman, er, Goddess, he did his best to answer questions about her. After five minutes, the group melted away from the square to talk amongst themselves and some disappeared into the buildings. Only the young woman and Danar stayed where they were.
“The device isn’t here,” Adriann told Jack with disgust. “The Jaffa used them as forced labor to haul it off to a ship outside the village.”
“The ship still here?” Jack asked.
“Well that’s that, then,” Jack said. “Where are our weapons?” Adriann pointed to a small outbuilding that sat behind the throne beyond the square. Jack nodded in that direction. “Let’s go round them up, then somehow help these people get that damn wall down.”
“No need,” Adriann said, shaking his head. “They don’t want our help.”
Jack blinked. “Seriously?”
“Seriously,” Adriann said. “They think we did enough getting rid of the Goa’uld. If we would just get rid of the Jaffa, they would be beyond grateful.”
With a surprised expression, Jack nodded. “Did you tell them we would?”
Adriann’s grin was crooked. “I told them that I will transport them to the holding cells on the Black Wolf. That was part of the plan, and there aren’t that many. Set apparently travels light.”
“Come on,” Jack said.
As a group, they headed to the small building attachment and recovered their gear. Jack inspected his P90 and looked for his zat while everyone else did the same. Jack grabbed Teal’c’s and Bra’tac’s weapons as well. “Check your ammo, people,” Jack ordered. Once they were five by five, they returned to the square just as Teal’c was approaching them.
As Jack handed him his gear as well as Bra’tac’s, Teal’c said, “We are having difficulties with these Jaffa.”
“I knew this was too easy,” Jack said with a sigh. “What happened?”
Teal’c gestured at Bra’tac so he and Jack walked over while everyone else stood a discreet distance away.
“Problem?” Jack asked Bra’tac.
“Who the hell are you?” snapped a Jaffa, but in Goa’uld. Teal’c translated.
“He is their commander,” Bra’tac told Jack.
“I thought that Dracus was,” Jack said.
“No. Dracus is the Goa’uld’s personal servant. These Jaffa follow this man and none of them believe that Dakara exists.” At Jack’s frown, he nodded. “Set has kept them ignorant about what else has been happening in the galaxy.”
“Yet he has them modernized,” Jack said, gesturing at the combat gear the Jaffa wore.
Bra’tac gave the appearance of a shrug even though his shoulders didn’t lift and fall. Jack always admired that. “Advancement means nothing when you serve a Goa’uld. He or she controls the information you receive, and these Jaffa have never been on campaigns that fight other Goa’uld. Which means no contact with more informed Jaffa because there are no remaining armies to absorb.”
“What are you saying to that kal’ta?” the Jaffa Commander spat in Goa’uld.
“Mind your tongue or I’ll cut it out,” Adriann snapped as he approached, surprising Bra’tac because he hadn’t seen him get closer.
“You do not scare me,” the Commander sneered.
“Would you like me to try?” Adriann asked.
“What’s going on now?” Jack asked. Teal’c quickly translated and Jack snorted and held his hand out, palm up. “Oh. Don’t let me interrupt.”
Adriann looked at Bra’tac and Teal’c for permission. “Your people. If your words won’t sway them, or force them to behave, someone else must. Since Morrighan isn’t here to scare them…” Bra’tac and Teal’c shook their heads in unison.
“Now what?” Jack asked as he and Adriann returned to their group. Jason, meanwhile, was off to the side, talking intently with Jalen.
Adriann tapped his sword pommel. “I can persuade them to cooperate.”
“Screw that,” Daniel said as he covered the vampire’s sword hand with his own. “Teal’c and Bra’tac could be dead before you get whatever response you’re aiming for.”
Jack raised a brow. “Daniel, they’re tied up. They aren’t going to do a damn thing.”
After a few minutes of standing around, waiting for the cooperation that Teal’c and Bra’tac sought, Jack grew restless. He had always been someone who liked to get down to business, set ground rules, and move forward. The only instance where he took his time was when he was making love to Daniel or Jason or both. Though there was something to be said for that instant quickie.
“Jack,” Daniel said slowly, with the same half-smile Jack was wearing. He’d felt a very familiar emotion coming from him. “Your mind is wandering.”
“Can you blame me?” Jack said in an undertone. “How much convincing does it take to get them to go to Dakara?”
Daniel sighed and nodded. “I know,” he whispered. “But these Jaffa have been isolated and Teal’c and Bra’tac are starting fresh. It’s gonna take some time.”
“We don’t have that time,” Jack growled and rolled his eyes as he turned away. Looking up at the sky, and the incoming dark clouds, he grimaced. “Maybe Morrighan will show us around her ship?”
“We need to split in any case,” Jason said.
“There a reason? What’ve you been doing?” Daniel asked.
“Talking to my brother. He wants to go after the ship with the cloaking device.”
“Does he know where it went?” Jack asked.
Jack held his hands up. “Then there’s nowhere to go.”
Jason lifted his chin. “That’s why he wants to interrogate the Jaffa. He thinks at least one of them will know.”
Jack chewed as his lip as he watched the Jaffa. “He has a point.”
“He’s not going to torture it out of them,” Daniel stated. “None of us would allow it.”
“I talked him out of that idea, anyway. I suggested that Adriann could just search their heads to find it. If it’s there.”
Jack held his hands up in a direct mimic of Morrighan. “There you are.”
“I can do that,” Adriann said, mulling it over. “This’ll take a few minutes.” He stroked his smooth chin and ran a surface scan over the amassed Jaffa.
As they waited, Jason stepped aside and called Connor and Cari over from the periphery.
“How’re you two doing?”
“Wishing Alex was here,” Connor said.
Jason frowned. “I miss him too but why do you say that?”
“Because he just graduated that Kinjitsu course or whatever the hell it was. I’d feel better having someone besides you and Teal’c able to take down multiple opponents.”
Jason nodded. “I getcha. Jalen has the skills, too. And the rest of us aren’t half bad.”
“Except we got caught,” Connor said with a scowl.
“That was different,” Cari told him.
“Yeah, but afterwards?” Connor argued.
Jason sighed, knowing what was really going on. “I’ll get you home as soon as possible, okay?” Connor stared at him. “What? I’m your C.O. You think I don’t know what’s going on with my people?” He gave Cari a wink and she back-handed his upper arm. “Take a deep breath, Connor.”
Connor knew this routine. He breathed in.
“Focus your mind,” Jason said, even though he knew he didn’t have to, but having Connor listen to his voice was important. “We’re okay now. The future will attend to itself.” More breathing and Connor relaxed. “Now, picture everyone here in a bunny suit.” Connor burst out laughing and Jason grinned, victorious. “If something else happens, we’ll deal with it just fine. You know why?”
“Because we’re seasoned professionals,” Connor said in a manner that suggested he’d repeated it a thousand times.
Jason nodded, then pointed at the sky. “And because we have mighty great-grandmother goddess up there watching out for us.” As he watched Connor and Cari relax, he turned toward movement and saw that Daniel had been talking to a few townsfolk, many of them young women. Jason smirked. “Were you investigating their architecture, Daniel, or…”
Daniel threw him a dirty look. “Oh shut—”
A beam of greenish-white light shot down from the sky and surrounded Daniel in a circular column. He threw his arms up instantly, warding off the blinding light and attempted to escape it but within the light was Set. He put his arm around Daniel’s neck, pointed a laser pistol at his temple, and the light transported the two of them away.
Jack had heard the beam and turned, and both he and Jason sprinted, one step, two, then Daniel was gone.
“Jack!” Jason screamed.
Jack retrieved the disc from his pocket and touched the center button.
“What is it, my kinsman?”
“Set just beamed Daniel off the planet!”
“Fu–,” Jack began but literally in a second, he found himself in an expanse of white. He shielded his eyes. “What the f—”
The brightness dimmed and Jack found himself, his team minus Daniel, Jason and his team, and Bra’tac aboard Morrighan’s ship. “Where’s—” he began.
“On board their own ship,” Morrighan said sharply. “We’ll get him back.”
“Because you’re going after them as we speak, right?” Jack asked.
“Yes, my kinsman.”
Jack took a shaky breath as he turned around, examining where they were. The ship wasn’t just big; it was massive. Morrighan sat in an ornate chair that appeared to grow out of the floor. It was composed of solid mother-of-pearl. Its back was shaped like a clamshell and melded into the wall support behind her. Jack and his party were standing in an empty space before her and the breadth of the bridge was no less than sixty feet in circumference. At the stern, a panoramic rounded rectangle viewport equally sixty feet wide allowed them to see the rapid travel of hyperspace.
Around the room were vertically oblong alcoves within which a Fae was sitting at some controls. Jack took a step and frowned as the floor felt weird. It was composed of some sort of smooth white substance. Not stone or a synthetic composite. Given who was Queen of this ship, the latter wasn’t likely. The Fae were all about what nature could do.
Morrighan waved a hand in front of her and a three-foot-square holo-image appeared before her. It depicted Adriann and his crew. “Follow us,” she told him.
“I intend to,” Adriann said, and Jason thought he looked a little green.
“I hope your ship has speed, Var’chol’si,” Morrighan stated.
“It does. If we fall behind, however, please make sure we can track you.”
She waved again and the screen dissolved. She touched a button with her left ring finger and a swing-arm emerged from the wall on her left and rotated forward, stopping in front of her. It was like an abstract version of a desk arm, only curvier, and made of the same pearl material. Jack was beginning to feel as if he were aboard an Asgard ship, except it was white. And too bright.
“Could you maybe paint this in dull eggshell?” Jack half-joked, twirling a finger.
She gestured with an open hand at his feet and a box materialized. It held visor-shaped sunglasses.
“Funny,” Jack said as he picked up the box and started handing them out. He waved the box at her but she was speaking softly into another holoscreen so he waved the box again, looking for some place to set it down. With a sigh, just tossed it on the floor beside him. The moment he let it go, however, it dissolved into the floor. Jack swallowed. He was way, way out of his league here. Not just out of his depth. Still, he put on an air of confidence he was sure Morrighan knew was a front.
“I know you won’t retire to quarters,” Morrighan told the group. “Therefore, I suggest you sit.” She touched a button on the angled desk arm and short square shapes rose from the floor as if being created by it. Jason and others had to hurriedly side-step a few. They formed two half-circle rows facing the viewport and resolved into rounded ottomans two feet high. “When you sit, the seats will adjust to your size and weight to make you comfortable.”
No one knew quite what to do. They were more inclined to be acting, not sitting. “Have you got a fix on Set?” Jack asked, not sitting.
“Yes. They’re a light year ahead.”
“That’ll take—” Sam began but Jack held up a hand. He turned in place, swinging his arm out. An unhappy gesture.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get him back,” Morrighan assured him.
“Yes, but in how many pieces?” Jack snapped.
“One,” Morrighan snapped back. “Now sit. Down.”
Jack resisted until she changed her appearance again. It just sort of flowed down from the top of her head. This time, her gown morphed into black and gold fitted armor, complete with greaves and gauntlets, for cryin’ out loud. The circlet on her brow twisted into a wide black V with gold trim. Okay, now she looked like a war goddess. He sat down, along with everyone else.
A Diabolical Marriage
The moves Teal’c had taught Daniel over the years came in handy at times like this. When he was flung from Set upon materialization, he rolled, controlled it, twisted toward Set and got to his feet, having pulled his combat knife. His knees were a little wobbly but they’d settle. He crouched, waiting. The icy stare told Set he meant business.
In a few flickers of his gaze, he determined that he was on a Goa’uld ship, but it was sort of a cross between a Tel’tak and an al’kesh. The cockpit was like a Tel’tak but the space behind it was a lot bigger. There was the usual throne, the podium control unit, but the width of the ship was twice as large.
Someone began clapping slowly and Daniel spotted a silhouetted figure leaning in the doorway to the right of the throne. He wore trousers but a long dress coat, split down the sides and back. It reminded him of …
In the buzzy, throaty Goa’uld voice, the darkened figure said, “Greetings, Daniel Jackson. I see your skills have improved. I look forward to … disabling … them.” He pushed off the jam and walked forward, still encased in shadow. Only when he drew near to the podium did the light reveal his face. Ba’al.
Not many things surprised Daniel these days. After you’ve had a health upgrade a la the Queen of Fae, everything else seemed sort of slow pitch. Only his right eye twitched an eyelash. Internally, it was another matter. He seemed to be channeling Jack because all he could do for three or four seconds was cuss up a storm.
“You could have gotten away clean,” he said to Set. “Why the fuck did you pull this stupid stunt?” He didn’t really care about the answer. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be good. He was just determined to stall whatever these two psychos had planned. The moment he thought ‘psychos’, however, his inner alarm hardened into terror. They really were psycho, so if he judged Ba’al on his past and judged Set on what he’d learned so far… he was in deep shit. If he wasn’t rescued soon, he would be dead because there was no way in hell he would let Ba’al do to him what he done several years before. Set seemed to like his victims alert. Ba’al liked them drugged. He would have to—
Ba’al fired a zat at him. Daniel fought for consciousness all the way to the floor, and once there, he hoped that when he woke up, he wasn’t in far worse shape.
“It is not working. Something is different about him.”
“Then use a stronger concoction.”
“Any stronger and it will kill him. I am warning you, Set. If this is a waste of time, I will find—”
“Do not threaten, Ba’al, unless you mean it.”
“I am quite serious, partner. If this present of yours fails me, I shall take it out on your little piece of—”
Daniel heard these voices but they seemed far away. Maybe in another room? Or maybe he was Tinkerbell and this was an elaborate—Wait, what? What the hell was he thinking that for? He did feel nice, but now that he could sense that, his stomach fluttered a bit.
Oh fuck. Ba’al had drugged him. Daniel refused to move. Refused to open his eyes. He did not want to awaken to the same bullshit as last time. Then it occurred to him that he had the presence of mind to think that.
Okay. Concentrate on what they had been talking about. Ba’al had been mad. The drug wasn’t working as it was supposed to. He could think. He could … not move.
He sensed he was lying on something very soft. Pillows maybe. Christ. Incense wafted to his nose and he held his breath, hoping to hell that wasn’t the source of the drug. When he had to breathe, he inhaled slowly. His brain didn’t fog. He opened his eyes and took a long, slow breath. And sore shoulder muscles greeted him. He was tied to a bed by his wrists. The angle of the wrist restraints was the cause of the soreness. It hadn’t been that long since he’d indulged Jason’s penchant for bondage, so how could his …
He shook his head to clear that type of thinking. The drug was making it hard for him to focus, but at least it hadn’t turned him into a wanton sex slave. His dick was nice and quiet, like it should be.
He looked down at himself. He was still in his black trousers but the boots were gone as well as his fatigue shirt. His grey t-shirt was slightly ripped up the middle. Horror filled him. Had he been raped already? He squirmed and felt no soreness down there. So no, he’d been spared that. So far.
He examined his restraints, looking for weaknesses. They were attached to two sets of gold chains that formed a V and bolted to the wall. He tried twisting, pushing with his feet, but they slipped against whatever he was lying on. It kind of felt like silk. How gross. And how typical. The Goa’uld always managed to turn something lovely into something grotesque.
He couldn’t see the buckles or ties to the cuffs and he couldn’t turn his wrists to find them. It was rather pointless since he wasn’t able to reach them with his teeth. He relaxed and let out a puff of frustrated air. He stared at the ceiling, wondering what to do. Gradually, as nothing came to him, he saw that the ceiling was the typical gold found inside of Goa’uld vessels.
His heart rate was climbing. Unless he was rescued soon, his future included rape. Daniel closed his eyes. He had a choice. Either resist violently enough to get killed, or do whatever he had to do to stay alive and get rescued. Except that meant that he had to submit. Just the thought made his stomach lurch again. His mouth filled with saliva and he forced his body to calm down. If he was going to throw up, he’d better do it on that son of a bitch.
A second later, the son of a bitch strode in the room, wearing silk pajama bottoms and a matching black robe with white trim. It was, of course, open, revealing the tanned, muscular torso that Daniel remembered. He was carrying something. A bottle with a wide body and thin neck. Was it a drug? Oil? Poison? He swallowed, and Ba’al smiled at him, pleased, as he approached the bed and sat down on Daniel’s left.
“How are you feeling?”
“I could be better,” Daniel said and yanked at his wrists.
Ba’al sighed. “Me, too. The drug I gave you is no longer working on you. How come?”
“Clean living?” Daniel asked and was rewarded with a backhand across the cheek.
“Behave, Daniel. I wouldn’t want you to die so soon.” He trailed a forefinger down Daniel’s belly and stopped at the belt buckle. “I think you know what I have in mind?”
“Couldn’t you just torture me like all other Goa’uld?”
Ba’al smiled. “That is what Set wants to do. He enjoys screaming. So do I, but I like to play with my food first.”
“I remember,” Daniel said between gritted teeth as Ba’al slid fingers over his crotch and rested there.
“Good,” he said, and his smile became vulpine. “If the drug won’t make you pliable, then rape will be violent.” He leaned over and kissed Daniel’s nipple through the t-shirt. He was rewarded with an attempt to jerk away so Ba’al bit down hard.
Daniel clamped his mouth shut, refusing to vocally respond to the pain. He opened his stinging eyes and stared at the ceiling. “Do your worst. I can take anything you dish out at me.”
“Promise?” Ba’al whispered into his ear before he pushed away and walked out of the room laughing.
Daniel rubbed his ear against his shoulder, trying to erase the feel of the psycho’s breath, then looked down at his throbbing nipple to find blood seeping through the t-shirt. “I’ll see you dead.”
Jack’s “chair” was actually comfortable, but he kept standing up, looking behind at Morrighan, then grumbling and returning to his seat. After the fifth time, Morrighan rose from her elaborate captain’s chair and walked over to him.
“We’re getting closer. We may not look like we are doing much, but trust me, we are closing in. I have a sense that Set has no interest in Daniel. It is the other one.”
Jason shot up and spun around, staring at Morrighan with saucer eyes. Sam and Teal’c did the same. Everyone else just turned in their seats.
“What other?” Jack asked, dreading the answer.
Morrighan tipped her head to the left as she closed her eyes. “A Goa’uld. Tall, well-built, handsome. Dark eyes, hair.”
“Fuck,” Jason said, meeting Jack’s unhappy gaze. “Ba’al.”
“How do you know this?” Teal’c asked as he and Sam walked over.
“It is my way,” Morrighan said, shrugging. “That is all you can understand.” She said it apologetically.
“My Queen!” Tara said as she ran into the bridge and handed her what looked like a foot-long wooden rod. It was covered in etched writing that seemed to change characters as Jack and the others stared at it.
Morrighan ‘read’ the rod and handed it back. “You know what to do.”
“At once.” Tara sprinted back the way she came.
Jack looked at the Queen of the Fae. “Good news I hope?”
“In an hour, we will have him back.” She returned to her chair and called up another holo-image, one with white characters that ran sped across it.
“An hour,” Jason said, his voice flat. “A lot can happen in a fucking hour.”
Jack only nodded as he turned and stared at the viewport.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and once again, he was hit with a pain device that resembled a cattle prod. But instead of electricity, it created burns while inflicting intense nerve pain. Set administered the punishment each time Daniel closed his eyes. He was required to keep them open. To watch the ‘marriage’ of Set and Ba’al.
A partnership of purpose, they had called it. What it meant was free fucks and all the territory they could exploit together. Ba’al had said their queens had fled, giving allegiance to some unnamed Goa’uld that they both apparently despised. Daniel had no idea who it was. At the moment, he concentrated on his memories to see if he could remember any mention of a new, or very old, Goa’uld.
Meanwhile, in front of him, literally over his legs, the two Goa’uld had sex. He kept closing his eyes, not because he hated what he saw. He could easy blur his vision and let his mind wander without giving himself away. It was simply that once they were through with each other, they would start on him. So, if he closed his eyes, he was zapped, and it interrupted their rhythm. Delay. Always find a delay. Failing that, stay alive. No matter what it cost him. He would resist just enough to tantalize, not get himself killed.
Again, he was stung and he clamped on another scream. Blurring his vision, and it wasn’t hard thanks to tears of pain escaping his eyes, he tried to concentrate on the names of the Goa’uld he knew were still alive. These two. Who else? Was Kali dead? What about that diseased bastard, what was his name? He took Sokar’s territory a long time ago. Since Ba’al had been on a campaign to take all the territory he could, the snakeheads that Daniel knew about were likely dead. Adriann was certainly cleaning house. How the hell he could do that … well, on second thought, it would be easy, given his abilities. What got him was a sonic attack. He would have to adjust tactics.
Daniel blinked. A woman’s voice in his head. Morrighan?
Daniel, we’re coming.
Relief started to sweep through him, but Set was watching him carefully. Well, they both were, given that they faced him, but Ba’al wasn’t as intent on watching him like Set was. Wait and pretend. That’s all he could do. Maybe appear defeated.
“Okay, my little captive,” Ba’al said as he oiled himself up again. “It is now your turn.” Set watched him while Ba’al retrieved a small brown bottle. He held it as if it was priceless while Set grabbed his belt and began opening his trousers.
“Like hell,” Daniel said, kicking him in the jaw as hard as he could. Set spun and fell off the bed. Ba’al only laughed like it was the funniest thing ever. Daniel noticed that he now wore the same ring device that Set had tortured Jack and Sam with. Slowly, Ba’al climbed the bed and held his hand above Daniel’s left thigh.
“Let us try that again,” he smiled.
Set got to his feet, rubbing his jaw. “You were right, my partner.”
“You see? It is all the more heightened when they fight. Lift his right leg. If he thinks to kick you again…” Ba’al made a hissing sound as he clamped down on Daniel’s thigh, even though there had been no resistant act to deserve it. Daniel bucked and screamed as Set tore off his clothes.
“Do you know the best way to break their spirit?” Ba’al asked as he knelt between Daniel’s legs.
“Severe burns?” Set asked, eyes bright.
“No,” Ba’al said, shaking his head. “It is forcing them to like what you do to them.”
Set frowned. “I do not see the point.”
“Because you lack lust,” Ba’al said, rolling his eyes. “Hold his mouth open.”
Set came over and pinched Daniel’s nose closed while forcing his mouth open. Ba’al poured a syrupy liquid into his mouth and Daniel began to gag. He was reminded of the Blood of Sokar, but it tasted differently.
“Now, we will make him scream for me,” Ba’al said, and with Set’s help, he pushed Daniel’s knees to his chest.
“No!” Daniel screamed, eyes wide. “No!” The liquid was filling his mind with fog and he began to tear up. “No. Please. I’ll …” He stopped talking. No, he wouldn’t do whatever they wanted. And he couldn’t stay alive no matter what. “Fuck you!” he screamed as tears escaped his eyes and ran down his cheeks. “Get off me!”
Ba’al swished his hips, rubbing Daniel’s ass with his cock without entering him, and began to laugh. “That’s it, Daniel Jackson! Resist!”
Daniel sagged, breathless, and stared up into that handsome and hated face. “Don’t.”
“You will soon be begging me.”
“No,” Daniel managed, and suddenly, up the liquid came. He turned his head to avoid choking, and Ba’al punch him three times in the exposed temple. He got off the bed with disgust.
“Get that bastard to clean him up. Tell him if he wants to rape him, it’s fine with me.” Ba’al left the room.
Set considered the Tau’ri with evil delight. “Tell me. Would you prefer it if I fucked your mouth or your ass?”
“I thought you didn’t like men,” Daniel said through a wall of head pain.
“Oh, I won’t sully my privates on you. I have toys for that. Remember?”
Flight of the Badb
Jack and Jason moved to stand side by side before the viewport, arms folded, anguish in heart and mind.
“I know what you’re gonna say,” Jason told him.
Jack could see the horror behind those dark eyes. It matched his own. “This is payback, pure and simple.”
They turned their attention to the whirling tunnel of hyperspace, watching the ribbons of color whizz by far beyond light speed.
“I …” Jack began, but stopped. Jason looked at him askance and Jack just shook his head.
Jason knew what wanted to say. It was also in his thoughts. What would they do if Daniel had been … He was about to divert attention to killing Set when silver flickers caught their attention. They were in front and below the ship.
“What the hell is that?” Jack asked, straining his sight to try and figure out what they were.
Jason tilted his head. “Birds,” he said, squinting.
“What?” Jack asked and try as he might, he couldn’t see what Jason saw. The birds drew closer as their level rose to fly evenly with Morrighan’s ship. Their shape was hard to distinguish but they did have wings that flapped, stopped, flapped, stopped. They were … soaring. Like hawks or eagles.
“Falcons,” Morrighan said from her captain’s chair.
Jason looked over his shoulder. “Ships?”
“In a manner of speaking. They’re the Badb.” She pronounced it ‘bead’.
Jack frowned as he recognized the word and he too looked over his shoulder, turning just slightly. “Hang on. On Earth, Badb was an Irish war goddess who took the shape of a crow.”
“Raven,” Morrighan nodded. “That is the story planted in the minds of your ancestors.”
Jason cocked an eyebrow. “And the reality?”
“They are …” She paused, thinking. “My air force.”
Jack snorted as he returned his attention to the birds. By then, everyone else had joined him and Jason for the bird watching.
“What in the …” Sam said. “Can you get them closer?” she asked the Queen.
“No, they are just about ready to …” She rolled a wrist. The Badb disappeared.
“They dropped out of hyperspace?” Sam asked, and found the Queen was approaching to join them.
Morrighan shook her head as she stopped next to Jack. “They did not. They have dematerialized. They will rematerialize over the head of that ship and scare them stupid. I’ll make the kill myself.”
Jack suddenly dropped his mouth open. “Hang on. Wasn’t Badb another aspect of you, as a triple goddess? Badb, and … wasn’t it Medb?” He pronounced it Mab. “Or Maeve?”
She shrugged. “Macha, according to your traditions. Medb is one my three names, maoineach.”
Jason blinked. “Maoineach?”
“Beloved,” Jack said, confused. “I thought you didn’t speak modern Irish?” he asked Morrighan.
“I know it only because it is in your mind.”
Jack shook his head, as if to clear it. “Never mind. So, your silver air force will get to Daniel, and?”
“Halt their flight. Keeping them in place until we get there.”
“Nice,” Jason said, smiling. It was, however, a tight, pained expression. Jack completely understood it. They both stared back at the travelling vortex of hyperspace. “Let’s hope it stops them from …”
To Daniel’s complete surprise and relief, he had manipulated the two Goa’uld into arguing. It was a ‘talent’ he’d discovered as a child. Say something to one person, then contradict it to the other. In this particular case, he’d maneuvered them into fighting over who would get to penetrate him first and with what. It had been Ba’al’s and Set’s intention from the start, but Daniel had had to put a crimp in that plan. And no matter what, he swallowed his revulsion and tears and horror and had pretended to give in to the syrupy concoction. His lack of an erection would soon prove him false, but for the time being …
Referring to Ba’al’s rape, he’d said, “Why just Ba’al?”
Set: “He is attracted to you. I am not.”
Daniel: “But, I thought you were all about breaking the will of your victim?”
Set: “As I demonstrated with the kal’vosh.”
Daniel: “But wouldn’t that breaking of will include rape?”
Set: “I prefer torture.”
Daniel: “But rape is torture, isn’t it?”
Set: “True enough, but I am not interested in your penetration.”
Daniel: “Aren’t you? Why separate me from the rest back on Miragen?”
Ba’al hadn’t known about that.
“What is he talking about?”
From then on, they had argued because Set had veered from their plan. Despite having armies and loads of narcissistic sociopathy, the Goa’uld were predictable to a T. It was going to be a delicate procedure, recreating this scene without looking like he was trying to manipulate them. If he had to endure that damn … what had Set called it? … Kal’vosh again, he might risk it. It was preferable to rape. All he had to do now was—
“… both of us,” Ba’al was saying.
It grabbed Daniel’s attention immediately. Were they deciding to anally rape him together? Oh, no, no, no, and hell fucking no.
“No, wait!” he spewed before he could catch himself. Judging by the looks on their faces, Daniel had made a critical error. He closed his eyes and a deep, painful dread filled his body, starting with his crotch. “I mean, I want the pleasure drawn out. I will do anything but—”
Ba’al belted out a genuinely amused laugh. “You idiot. You do not have a choice in the matter.”
“What are you so worried about?” Set asked as he slid a ringed hand up Daniel’s bare thigh. He bent down and licked the skin and straightened as he closed his eyes and savored the taste. “Delicious. I wonder …” He gave Ba’al a heated look. “What do you say about eating him?”
Ba’al blinked and made a face. “Are you insane? After what we plan to do to him, the meat would be tainted. If you wanted to eat a Tau’ri, you should have said. We could have grabbed another and rubbed her with spices.”
Her. Daniel swallowed hard.
Set smiled. “When we’re done with him, let us do just that.”
“Which woman?” Ba’al asked, but he looked bored. Daniel was amazed by it.
“Let us find that blonde woman with the Tau’ri.”
“There were two,” Ba’al reminded him. “But we cannot take either of them. They are now guarded by that … she-demon.”
“Not a demon,” Set told him, narrowing his eyes. “She is someone I thought was a myth. A story to scare young Primta after their host Jaffa has seen.”
“A myth? You jest, yes?”
Set shook his head, his expression deadly serious. “I am not playing with you, my partner. We need to stay well away from that one.”
Ba’al frowned and he and Set discussed the wise decision to avoid Morrighan. If her powers were as formidable as Daniel was only now beginning to realize, then it would not be long now before he was rescued. The only problem was that any more delay and he wouldn’t escape rape. If he was going to be violated, couldn’t he just control it somehow? Time to win that Oscar.
He scrunched his eyes and shook his head as if he was trying to ward off something. “No, no, not now!”
“What are you talking about?” Set asked, angry.
Ba’al smiled as Daniel stopped shaking his head. His body relaxed and he slightly slurred his words.
“What’s going on?”
“It is working!” Ba’al said in a soft but excited whisper.
“The drug?” Set asked.
Ba’al nodded. To test his assumption, he moved between Daniel’s legs and caressed his thighs with both hands. “Are you ready for me, my love?” he asked.
“What?” Daniel asked slowly, and dragged his gaze from the ceiling to Ba’al. He smiled. “Jack.” He spread his legs and raised his knees. “Why are you kneeling there like that?” He raised his ass slightly. “Fuck me.”
Set frowned and stared at Ba’al. “Is this what happened last time?”
Ba’al shook his head as a spark of gleefulness reflected in his eyes. “No, I used a different drug this time. Remember Sokar’s test? It makes the victim hallucinate.”
Daniel kept up the act but inside, he thanked his sheer magnificent luck that he’d reacted appropriately. “Who is that with …” He opened his eyes wide and then shook his head, trying to clear it. “No, no. Ba’al. You can’t. You—”
Ba’al reached down and slid a ringed finger over his ass.
“You … oh … you … oh yes, no … you can’t … oh god yes.” He arched his back and rubbed against Ba’al’s digit.
Good Christ, Daniel thought. Get started already. His lack of erection was going to give it away!
“Yes!” Ba’al shouted and took Daniel’s legs in his arms as he knelt between them and prepared to violate him.
“This does not excite me,” Set said, scowling at Ba’al.
Surprised, Ba’al stopped moving and turned his head to look at him. “I won’t ruin it. He will still be tight.”
“And not fighting,” Set said between clenched teeth. “You are not who I thought you were. You are nothing but a lovelorn haddick!”
Ba’al dropped Daniel’s legs and spun on his knees, slapping Set across the face, then followed it up with a few punches. Set returned the favor and they fell off the bed, grappling each other.
Daniel almost giggled as the biggest relief he’d ever felt swam through him like a drug. Before he thought twice, he opened his mouth to spew something sarcastic but wisdom grabbed him by the neck to strangle whatever he’d planned to say. What the fuck are you doing, Jackson? Keep your trap shut!
Several things happened all at once. A sudden jolt rocked the ship and with it was eerie keen that made the ship vibrate. What the hell was that? Morrighan? The wall holding his chains cracked behind the left-handed restraint and Set and Ba’al jumped to their feet and ran from the room.
Hope and panic swarmed Daniel’s mind and body and he began to yank at his left chain. It didn’t give but he heard a tiny crack. It was the sort you hear when drywall splits. He tried again and again and soon, he’d abraded the skin under the edge of the cuff where a rivet’s sharp edge cut him. Wincing, Daniel kept going, yanking hard until the wall gave. The force of his pull made him fall over, nearly off the edge of the bed, and his right arm twisted painfully.
His muscles screamed and he risked getting a cramp as he yanked at the right restraining chain. A second later, Set appeared, walking fast. In his right hand was a three-pronged dagger similar to the one that was made to murder Jaffa with as much pain as possible.
“You want to be fucked, little Tau’ri? I shall give it to you thrice promised.”
Daniel tightened and lifted a knee, prepared to kick. It wouldn’t stop him. “Did you think this would end well? I had you pegged for someone smart. Boy, was I way off the mark.”
“Keep talking,” Set said as he slowly walked around the bed. “It will not save you.”
“No, but this will,” said Ba’al, as he grabbed Set from behind. He slapped his left hand over his forehead to hold him, and with his right, plunged a long dagger into his neck and out his mouth. Set’s eyes flashed gold, then died as his body joined him. Ba’al ripped the dagger out as the body fell and wiped the gore on his sleeve. “Finally. Thought he’d never give me a small enough reason to kill him.”
“Why?” Daniel asked. To say he was shocked would’ve been the understatement of the year.
“I want his territory.” He kicked the body slightly. It wasn’t out of malice. It was only a punctuation. “And he can’t have you.”
“All for nothing,” Daniel seethed. “You’re a dead man.”
Ba’al shook his head, laughing. “Tsk, tsk, Daniel.” He suddenly jumped at Daniel and pinned him against the wall. “I will be back for you. Not tomorrow, or next month. But one day.” He licked Daniel’s entire cheek with his tongue, then stepped back and slapped a hand down on the device covering his left hand.
“Morrighan!” Daniel shouted at the ceiling. “Ba’al is getting away!” He began yanking at the right-hand bonds again and cast a look at the dead man on the floor. Ba’al had snuck up behind Set without Daniel seeing him and it made his blood run cold. The snakehead was getting smarter.
Fearing that Ba’al would come back, Daniel became frantic as he tried to free himself, but on the heels of that thought, Jack and Jason came running from the right corridor and stopped, shocked, then hurried forward.
“Did he …?” Jack asked as they set on the remaining chains.
“Close but no cigar,” Daniel said with a relieved breath. He began to shake. The result of the adrenalin having staged a party but no one showed up. “Pants please,” he said, nodding at the foot of the bed. While Jason worked at the chain, Jack retrieved the clothing. It was torn but serviceable and Daniel was quickly clothed before anyone else arrived. “Ba’al’s gotten away.”
Frowning, Jack spied the body of Set. “Ba’al do that?”
Daniel nodded. “Ba’al played Set until he could kill him and inherit his armies.”
“Armies?” Jack asked.
After a few kicks, the wall cracked and Daniel was free, but he still had the cuffs and chains. As Jack worked on freeing him from those, Jason filled him in on Morrighan’s ship and her interesting air force.
“That explains whatever it was that hit this ship,” Daniel said, now freed and rubbing his wrists—although the left one had open wounds so that was treated gingerly.
“Looks nasty,” Jack grimaced.
“We need to get a look at their computer core,” Daniel said, heading for the cockpit. “There might still be plans there.”
“In the meantime,” Jack said and touched a spot on a small hand device shaped like an elongated clamshell. “We have him but Ba’al’s escaped,” he said, speaking into it. “Set is dead, at least. Ba’al’s doing.”
“I know,” Morrighan replied.
Her voice buzzed and Jack shook his hand, dropping the device in the process. He retrieved it, scowling, and said, “You need to work on this com device. It’s got a creepy buzz.” Morrighan didn’t respond.
“You keep that up,” Jason said as they reached the cockpit, “and she’ll keep to her side of the universe.” Jack snorted.
There was quiet for a few heartbeats. Suddenly, Jason hit Daniel in the shoulder and drew him into a fierce hug and from behind, Jack did the same. They said nothing. Daniel said nothing. He felt as if he were being cocooned by a heavy blanket of love and anxiety. Eventually, they parted to examine the cockpit dash.
Daniel was unabashedly curious about Morrighan’s ship and as they departed the area of space and headed for the Black Wolf planet, he was filled with way too many emotions. Focusing on the ship was a great distraction.
On Morrighan’s holo, she and Adriann were talking about the reason for the stopover. Daniel lost what was said. As he talked to a Fae in one of the cubicles, or alcoves, Jack and Jason sat on the edge of their ottomans, elbows on knees, and looking at each other once in a while as they tracked Daniel like over-protective bloodhounds. Near at hand were their sidearms. It would take one and a half seconds to shower someone with their irrationality.
Daniel wandered over to the right side of the viewport, staring out at the ribbons of hyperspace travel, when his stomach flipped a bit. A warning. Taking slow, deep breaths, trying to hold off the excess saliva that was sure to come, he turned and headed toward Morrighan. One look from her and she got up and touched his shoulder. “I’ll show you.”
Jack and Jason got up to follow but she shook her head at them. Perplexed and a bit offended, they stood there for a few beats, then as if they were one unit, stuffed their hands in their pockets, looked at each other, and set off to follow anyway.
Sam and Teal’c watched with concern but remained seated. She sighed, exchanging a wan smile with Teal’c, and found herself bored to tears. At that moment, a male Fae walked up to her and held out his hand. The woman who came with him held hers out to Teal’c. Sam didn’t know what to make of it.
“I’m sorry?” she asked, trying to be polite, then silently berated herself. How would they know if she was being polite or stupid?
“Sleep?” the man asked. His companion nodded. “Sleep?” she asked Teal’c.
Sam would murder someone for a pillow and a little shut eye. “Sure. Teal’c?”
He considered, then stood. “I could meditate.”
Their guides escorted them from bridge and over the next few minutes, the same was done for Bra’tac, Connor, and Cari.
Down another corridor, Jack and Jason followed Morrighan and Daniel at a not-so discreet distance and paused when she led him through a door. She waited outside and turned to look at his husbands. It felt strangely motherly, the way she looked at them.
Jack cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, uh, your majesty, but we’re not letting him out of our sight.”
Jason was content to say nothing. Jack had done it for him.
Morrighan nodded at them, then reached over and touched the wall. A vertical slit appeared and from it, she removed what looked like a long white garment bag. She approached them and handed it to Jack. “This will make him feel better. Have him wear these until his uniform is replaced.” She gestured at the door. “Go in. Hopefully, he found the receptacle in time.” She walked past them and was approached by another Fae who handed her a tech pad.
The two men hesitated, then hurried into the room and shut the odd door—it had rounded corners and made a whirring noise when opening and closing. Inside was a lot like the rest of the ship. White mother-of-pearl. There was a bed of sorts protruding from the wall. Maybe a tad larger than a Full. A chair sat at the foot. To the left was a wash basin and pedestal, and to their immediate left, a short corridor where they heard Daniel.
Making sure not to scare him, Jack called out, “We’re in the next room, Daniel.”
Daniel’s heart sank. “Okay,” he said, a little feebly. “Don’t come in here.” They knew better. After so many years together, it was old hat. He could sense their worry and appreciated it, but it was like a bludgeon right now. He couldn’t let them see him.
In the larger room, Jack laid the bag on the bed and looked for a zipper or other opening. He found it was simply a wide fold-over with a squared hanger holding the clothes. He frowned at them and looked at Jason.
“You think he’ll wear these?”
“I think he’ll wear a bathrobe right now, Jack.”
Jack winced. “Right.”
Water was turned on and it sounded like rain. Jason’s brows rose. “No,” Jack said crisply. “If we want to check it out, we’ll wait till he says. Otherwise, we’ll be in deep shit.” Jason agreed.
In the … bathroom, if that’s what this was called, Daniel told himself, there was what resembled a free-space shower area, bracketed by only two walls. He touched a mauve button on the wall and rain came down from the low ceiling in a three-foot square spray. He didn’t care if his clothes got wet. He had to get out of them.
Stepping into the water, he was relieved when the water adjusted perfectly. “It needs to be colder,” he said, and the temperature cooled. He smiled and stepped in. Hi-tech faeries. Daniel closed his eyes as the water cascaded over the crown of his scalp and soaked into the skin. It was always the best part. His stomach and throat hurt a bit, but that would fade eventually. Right now, just being clean was enough. Except. He brushed the water from his eyes and looked around. “Soap? Washcloth? Shampoo?”
Three ridges appeared in the wall beside the On button and they held colored reservoirs. A fourth ridge opened and it held a thin five by five square with the texture of a sea sponge. “Huh.” He dipped a finger into the amber dish and it felt like soap. Another, blue-green in color, was more like a gel. The third was white and opaque. It was like lotion but it had a sheen. Okay. Time to experiment.
Eventually, he was clean and smelled faintly of orange blossoms. The only part of him he couldn’t scrub to an inch of its life had been the inside of his left thigh. There were three finger marks. Red on the outline and purple in the center. He hoped to hell that would heal completely. He stepped out of the shower and a pale orange light appeared on the ceiling. Warmth spread over him just as if it were water. When it was gone, the bruise was still there but it seemed to hurt a little less.
“Thanks,” he said to the ceiling, feeling foolish.
Daniel turned to look for a towel and a small rectangular door hummed upward, revealing a shelf. There were two white towels. Daniel swallowed, feeling creeped out just a bit. Was he being watched? His mind read? Drying himself off as best he could, he wrapped one around his middle and was dismayed to see that it barely covered the bruise. He sighed deeply. Jack and Jason would have to see it eventually. With another swallow, he left the bathroom and entered the room. Jack was in a chair while Jason sat on the bed. Daniel would have known that with his eyes closed. Jack hated using a bed as a sofa. He’d told Daniel a long time ago that if it came to a sofa bed or the floor, it’d be the floor. With a lot of blankets put down.
“Hey,” he said, and unbelievably, he felt nervous. He really didn’t want a scene.
“Morrighan has given you some clothes,” Jack said, gesturing at the garments beside Jason.
“Yeah, she told me she would.”
“She did?” Jason asked.
“Oh. Well, uh …” Jack said. He cleared his throat and got up to give Daniel the clothes.
“Before I do that,” Daniel said slowly, “You may as well see this. And if you start yelling, Jack, you’re leaving this room.”
Jack stared at him warily. “Okay.”
Daniel removed the towel and displayed the bruise on his thigh.
Jason was on his knees before him, touching him, touching it. Daniel hissed and Jason sighed. “I’ll see that motherfucker dead.”
Daniel grinned wanly. “That’s what I said.”
“Have any idea where he went?” Jack asked as he crouched down to take a look. Two seconds after that, he stood. Jason came with him.
“No. I would’ve told Morrighan anyway.”
“Right,” Jack said.
Daniel looked at him with a bit of worry. “When we meet with him again, Jack, it’ll be for the last time, come hell or high water.”
They discussed where the ship was going as Daniel got dressed. He’d been given cream-colored slacks, a white tunic, and a light, flowy jacket over that. For his feet, there were sandals with wrap-around straps. Fully assembled, he looked down at himself. “I look like I’m ready for a Grecian play, but clothes are clothes. I’m not wearing that train wreck anymore so that’s something. Let’s get back to the bridge.”
He headed out first and behind him, Jack and Jason were just a bit disappointed that they hadn’t shared a kiss. It was silly, perhaps, but it was pretty much a given during bad times. It created reassurance and belonging and helped re-cement their bond. But given the circumstances, perhaps it wasn’t really the best time. Bearing the heartache a partner must shoulder when their loved one has been attacked, Jack and Jason followed Daniel back to the bridge.
. . .
Three hours later
“You’ll have to come down, too, Queen Morrighan,” Adriann told her from the confines of the holo.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because Daniel says you have kin here who need to go home.”
She frowned and looked over at him. “Who?”
“They call themselves the Seelie Pixies,” Daniel told her.
Her eyes widened and she got up from her captain’s chair. “The Seelie? They live?”
Confused, Daniel said, “Apparently.”
“Everyone ready?” She waited until they were and they transported down to the planet and into the main hall, where they had all been before the fiasco they encountered on Miragen.
Adriann was already there and he greeted Morrighan with a bow. “Welcome to Black Wolf Reach.”
“Reach?” Jack asked.
“I just thought of it. Sounds better than HQ.”
Jack couldn’t argue with that.
Before Morrighan opened her mouth to ask about the Seelie, hundreds of tiny lights flew into the hall and surrounded their missing Queen. She smiled at them adoringly and as all of them clung to her, she disappeared.
“Well that was sort of anti-climactic,” Daniel said. “Now what?”
“Weapons,” Jack said. “How do we get replacements for what the Seelie fixed for you?” he asked Adriann.
Adriann held up his hands and shrugged.
Morrighan reappeared and smiled in a breathless way. “That’s some homecoming they’re receiving. Thank you, Adriann, for taking care of them.”
“It took no effort,” Adriann replied with a tip of his head.
“Is there anything I can do in exchange?” she asked.
“If you can help me figure out how to create new shields, I’d consider it even.”
She frowned, puzzled. “What do you mean?”
Jalen held up his shield. “The pixie, Challie, spelled these to protect us from harm. Most of the time, that works when we’re getting fired at.” He turned rueful. “Didn’t work on Miragen because Set used a sonic on us.”
“Sonic?” Morrighan asked. “You mean sound waves?”
“Set called it a tak’nik’atel,” Daniel told them. “By the way, that ring device? A kal’vosh.”
Jack shivered. “That was nasty business. We have to figure out how to counter that one.”
Morrighan crossed her arms, frowning in thought. She peered at a deactivated holoscreen. She said, “You might seek out my brother. But he’s been a bastard for a few hundred years so I haven’t spoken to him.”
“Isn’t Diancecht your brother?” Daniel asked.
“Yes, but I have several. This one I mention is named Manannan Mac Lir. Mac, for short.”
“Oh wow,” Daniel said, both impressed and awed.
“He’s kind of the Irish version of Poseidon and Hades, all rolled up into one.”
Morrighan gave him an admonishing look. “Hardly an apt comparison. They were washed up gods by the time we came along.”
“They were real?” Jack asked, stunned.
“Not at all, but those cultures got their template from those who worshipped my brother. Like the Asgard did for the Vikings.”
“Greece and Rome were very differ—” Daniel began but Jack drew a finger across his neck and his husband subsided. Daniel also reminded himself that Morrighan would have known all that and to remind her would’ve been like talking down to a superior being. “Sorry,” he said to her.
She just looked amused. “We can table this discussion for another day. It will take me some time to find him and then get him to come home. I’m fairly certain he’s calmed down by now.”
“From what?” Adriann asked.
“Oh, I banished him to the far side of the galaxy.”
“Ohh-kay,” Jack said, widening his eyes briefly. “You take all the time you need.”
“Why did you banish him?” Daniel asked.
“Not our business, Daniel,” Jack said, staring a warning at him.
Morrighan smiled at Jack. “Such a dear child.”
“You know that’s getting old, right?” Jack asked, but she just laughed.
“You will have to wait, Adriann, for more weapons. You too, Jack. Mac was the maker of all things the Goa’uld use, apart from the Alteran gate system, so we’ll have to wait until I bring him home.”
“I thought all of that tech was Alteran,” Daniel said, shocked.
“Only the Stargates and a few abandoned planets where tech was left behind. But the other weaponry the Goa’uld use? Their ships, staff weapons, the healing device, other things. They stole all of it from my brother. And he went on what you amusingly call a tirade and started cleansing whole planets of the Goa’uld.” She eyed Jack and Adriann. “The problem was that there were human slaves and brainwashed worshippers on those planets.”
“Ah,” Jack said, grimacing. “Yeah. Take all the time you need.”
She clapped him on the shoulder. “Let’s depart for Earth, shall we?” She turned and looked at Daniel. “Are you feeling better?”
“A bit. Thanks for these,” and he looked down at himself. “Maybe next time, jeans.”
“There won’t be a next time, now will there?” Morrighan asked him. Daniel only cleared his throat. “Did you get anything from the Tel’tak that Set used?” she asked.
“No. Ba’al wiped the core.”
“A shame. But not a disaster. I will find him.”
Daniel blinked and froze in place. “You … will?”
Everyone else froze, too.
“Of course. Unless you would prefer to hunt him down yourselves?” She looked at Adriann. “Yes?”
“If you don’t mind.”
She gave him a wicked smile. “I understand. We leave in ten.” She and SG-1 and 2, with Bra’tac, disappeared.
On board her ship again, Bra’tac growled to Teal’c, “The next time, I will stay and wait.”
Teal’c grinned at him. “I think that was the last time, old friend.”
“Wait!” Jack said, holding up a hand. “Max and—” SG-3 appeared on the bridge, eyes wide and weapons up. “Hold on, Max. It’s us. Let me introduce you.”
Soothing the Wounded
General Hammond stood in the Control Room going over SG-11’s preliminary report when the intercom was activated, and Jack’s voice came over the speakers:
“General Hammond. Colonel O’Neill. Permission to beam down from a spaceship, sir. With company. Uh, you can answer. We’ll hear you.”
Hammond sighed with exasperation. “Permission granted,” he said to the air. He turned to Sergeant Davis. “If it isn’t one thing it’s…” Noise from above told him that SG-1, 2, and 3 had arrived in the briefing room. When he arrived, his assumption was confirmed, but he’d forgotten about Master Bra’tac.
“Glad you’re back,” he said, stopping at the table. “Mind telling me where you came from?”
Jack twirled a finger while looking up. “Morrighan. Adriann’s up there, too. They’re giving us time to debrief and get sorted before they request to come down.”
“Morrighan? How the hell—”
“It’s a long story, sir.”
“A bust, sir.”
Hammond sighed. “I had a feeling it was when only Colonel Maxwell checked in.”
Hammond sighed, gesturing at the table, and as he sat down, he finally realized that Daniel wasn’t wearing his combat gear. “Doctor Jackson. Where is your uniform?”
“We’ll get to that, sir,” Jack said.
“Very well. What in the hell happened out there?”
It took a while to explain and the part with Daniel’s kidnapping was rather delicately edited. He wasn’t inclined to share all the details.
Jack held up the shield he’d been given. “We have a few new toys. Unfortunately, they’re one-offs.”
“Thanks to those little creatures you told me about.”
“Any chance we can be taught how to duplicate the process?”
“Unlikely, if what Adriann said was true, sir. Only those little folks had the power to … arm them, so to speak.”
Again, Hammond sighed. “Alright. How do we contact the Fae Queen and Adriann?”
“With this, sir,” Jack said, holding up the elongated clamshell. “As for Adriann, he’s tuned into our radio frequency, so we can just use that.” He indicated the mic of the new RDC, which had replaced the old RDF. In Jack’s opinion, some goddamn contractor simply changed the name to jack up the price. Even new, it was now a little worse for wear.
Hammond nodded. “Report to Doctor Fraiser, then go home and get some rest. Report back at 0800 hours for a more thorough debriefing and to greet our guests.”
The moment the three of them got home, they undressed, took showers, and headed for bed. Daniel chose a t-shirt and boxers while his husbands climbed in naked, as was their usual way. Daniel sighed, wishing they’d dressed and cursed Ba’al and Set for making him feel that way. No thought of love making was on their minds, anyway. They were bone-damn tired. It was only 7 p.m., but they’d been up for nearly twenty-two hours, even with the short nap on board Morrighan’s ship. In ninety seconds, they were asleep.
Ba’al was in the shadows, laughing, watching. Daniel, cold, dirty, and naked, crouched behind an X-shaped cross. In the BDSM world, it was called a St. Andrew’s Cross. He thought he might dash to the right but when he moved in either direction, Ba’al was there.
“Let me go!” he shouted at the shadow.
A hot, wet hand grabbed his shoulder and Daniel spun around. He fell backward, but not on the cross. He landed on a bed and once again, he was tied up, but not with chains. Silk scarves wrapped around his wrists as if by themselves and Ba’al’s shadow swarmed over him, blocking his sight. He was suddenly between his legs, purring obscenities and promises of even more. He lined up and was about to push…
Daniel sat up, breathing heavily and harsh, heart pounding painfully. “Fuck,” he whispered, combing his bangs back with his fingers. “Fuck!”
He gently got out of bed without disturbing his sleeping husbands and padded to the kitchen. There was a bottle of Jack on the counter and he grabbed a glass and some ice and poured himself two fingers, then grabbed a can of club soda from the fridge and mixed that in.
He brought both to the living room and stood in front of the large floor-to-ceiling front window. It was black outside and only the amber security lights illuminated the curvy, pebbled driveway. He saw movement and nearly jumped out of his skin, but it was just a mama raccoon and her babies. He downed the contents of the tumbler and made another without setting either the can or the bottle down. This time, he moved to the wide French doors that opened out back and watched there. The amber lights in the back yard were more numerous and let him see a lot more. He wouldn’t be surprised here.
He hated how he felt. He was both hyper-alert and exhausted. He needed sleep. He needed to fuck his husbands. He need to step into a cold shower. He need to get so fucking drunk that it wouldn’t matter what he wanted to do. That nightmare needed to be obliterated but no matter where he sent his mind, he still found himself back behind that cross. It brought back memories of that drug-induced orgy and he shivered. It hadn’t been fair. He’d been with his husbands, then Ba’al. Good sex. Then rape. Good sex. Then rape. Over and over. It was rape, right? The nightmare would have ended with one, right? It was rape. So why was he hard? Maybe if Ba’al had been ugly …
“Fucking hell,” he whispered, and downed the glass. He returned to get another and was thankful that the booze hit him good. He swayed slightly. With his third refill, he grabbed a Ziplock baggie and filled it with ice. Plopping down on the plush sofa, he drank while he held the bag against his crotch. “You are seriously fucked up, Jackson.”
He heard the whisper of feet behind him and sighed. “How long’ve you been standing there?” Jack and Jason came around both ends of the sofa and bookended him. “Go back to bed.”
“You’re in pain,” Jason said.
“So, no,” Jack finished.
“Really?” Daniel asked, practically growling, and removed the ice pack to reveal a still-hard outline through his shorts. “Look at this! I had a fucking nightmare and THIS is the result!” Tears started to well up. “I’m so fucked up,” he said in a wavering voice, thick with saliva and the taste of whiskey.
“What do you want us to do?” Jason asked as he smoothed Daniel’s hair.
“Fuck me till I’m blind? Knock me out? Put me in a coma?” He let out a laugh that indicated how sick he was of himself.
Jack soothed his brow, stroking his hair. “C’mon. You aren’t alone in this. You think we can’t tell what’s wrong? You think we won’t do whatever it takes to help? We don’t judge.”
“We never have,” Jason continued. “You don’t judge us, either. We accept.”
Daniel laid his head back on the soft cushion of the sofa and closed his eyes. “I know you do. I’m sorry I yelled.” The tears retreated after hearing their words. What else would retreat? He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again, unsure of what he wanted to say.
“Tell us about the dream,” Jason asked, stroking Daniel’s cheek.
With a hard swallow followed by downing the contents of the glass, Daniel described every gritty, arousing, disgusting, hateful moment. By the time he was through, the whiskey had done its proper job and he was giddy. And still hard.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said, slurring a bit.
“Well,” Jack said, getting up. “You drink some water, take some aspirin, and then …” He looked at Jason to see if he concurred. He did, and nodded back. Jason sat there stroking his hair while Jack got the aspirin and the water. Daniel took them dutifully.
“Now what?” he asked.
“What do you want us to do?” Jack asked.
Daniel swallowed. “Jason, hold my wrists. Jack, fuck me.”
Jason got up and went around to the back of the couch. Jack took Daniel’s glass, bottle, and soda can and set them on the coffee table, which he then pushed out of the way. Jason bent down and grabbed Daniel’s wrists. He remembered how it was described and he held them up and far apart even while Jack knelt and pulled Daniel’s hips to hang just off the cushion.
“Lube?” Jack asked Daniel.
Daniel swallowed, not knowing which to choose.
“Hold him,” Jack said, and he retrieved the lube from the bedroom and knelt once more. With the slick substance squirted on his fingers, he slicked himself up and stroked for a minute to get himself hard. This wasn’t pure sex. It was therapy, of a sort. His cock wasn’t with the game plan until Jason stretched Daniel’s arms wider.
“Are you sure about this?” Jack asked, uncomfortable being in Ba’al’s place.
“You’re not in his place,” Daniel said, knowing that look in Jack’s eyes. “You’re obliterating it from my sense memory.”
Jack shoved his knees up to his chest and with practiced ease, even in this twisted scene, he slid into Daniel with one stroke and buried himself completely.
Daniel closed his eyes and half-gasped, half-sobbed with relief. “Yes, please.” With rough precision, Jack screwed Daniel into the couch cushions, twisting and gyrating his hips. He barely raised a quarter inch from Daniel and still managed to plow into him. It was hard and intoxicating and Daniel’s skin burned with the friction of the cushions against his skin.
“Jason,” Daniel asked, reaching up blindly.
Jason placed Daniel’s hand over his own as he began to jerk off in time to Jack’s thrusts. It wasn’t enough and Daniel pushed Jack away and stood up. His lovers waited, aching, and he loved them more than he’d ever had. Daniel knelt and turned his back to Jack. He gestured for Jason to sit on the couch and the moment he did, Daniel swallowed his cock.
“That’s it,” Jack said quietly, and he re-entered from behind. Intent on giving Daniel a thorough prostate massage, he ground into him with twisting movements of his hips, barely stroking. Daniel moaned around Jason’s cock.
“C’mon, baby,” Jason whispered. “Suck me.” He lifted Daniel’s head and slid the head of his cock into Daniel’s mouth. “Just the head. C’mon, baby.”
At the taste and smell, Daniel pushed up on his elbows and took the head into his mouth, tongue lapping around the spongy texture. He moaned when Jack quickened his pace and his husband smiled as he set out to make Daniel’s orgasm so good it would be painful.
Daniel pulled Jason’s cock from his mouth and urged him with clever hands to turn over. His lust increased and when Jason under him, Daniel sank into his body on one of Jack’s thrusts. Jason groaned in appreciation and they rode the train with hot, heavy churning. Slowly, the speed increased and Daniel was blinded by the double sensations of his husbands. His tormentors. His …
“Hard and fast!” He cried out, swinging his hips back and forth in a frenzy. “Wipe these images out of my fucking head!”
Jason white-knuckled the cushions as he thrust backward, hard and fast. Jack’s hands clamped down on Daniel’s shoulders as he too thrust hard and fast. It lasted an eon, and not long enough. Daniel headed for the cliff but Jack went off it before he did and it only made him crave more. He pounded into Jason like a man possessed and when the orgasm took him, he screamed “I love you!” over and over. Halfway through, tears of relief slid down his cheeks. He felt almost whole. The pleasure was keen, aching, and all he wanted was more. He was well on his way to annihilating the images and dreams until the only thing he could see were the faces of his lovers. His friends. His husbands. It was a few more hours before Jack and Jason could oblige and by 2 a.m., Daniel was sure he was going to limp to work. But with a satisfaction buried deeply into his soul.
Jack kneaded knuckles into his lower back as the three of them rode the elevator down to Level 27, the Briefing Room.
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said, but he wore a smile.
“You’re not,” Jack growled. “And I don’t care.” He leaned forward and kissed Daniel lightly on the lips. “You’re welcome.”
Daniel turned to Jason, who leaned against the back wall. “You?”
Jason smiled and straightened to kiss him. “I’ll be ready when we get home.”
Daniel raised his brows. “For what?”
The elevator doors open and Jason moved out before they did. “Round two,” he said over his shoulder. Daniel and Jack had to wipe the grins off their faces before they got to the Briefing Room.
Clearing his throat as he walked through the door, Jack half-saluted General Hammond. “Morning, sir.”
“Did you get some rest, Colonel?”
“I think my brain went on standby the moment my head hit the pillow.”
“Yeah, sounds about right,” Jason said.
Daniel made a face. “They’re half-right, General,” he told Hammond truthfully. “I couldn’t stay asleep and made them get up to keep me company.”
“What’s wrong?” Hammond asked.
Hammond gave him a sympathetic look. “I understand. Well, we should all get proper rest after today.”
“Sir?” Jack asked as Sam, Teal’c, Bra’tac, Connor, and Cari walked in.
“A week’s leave while the computers are upgraded. The Stargate will thus be unplugged. I, for one, could use the time off.”
“Huh,” Jack said, frowning.
“Take a trip to the cabin, Jack,” Hammond told him. “Or go anywhere, as long as it’s on this planet.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said, nonplussed, as he looked at Jason and Daniel. “I’m drawing a blank.”
Jason snorted. “It’ll pass.”
“Alright,” Hammond said, and his tone made it clear that it was time to get down to business.
Jack pulled out the clamshell and Jason keyed the mic on his uniform. A second later, they were joined by Adriann, Jalen, Talen, Castra, and Kashan. Morrighan did not make her appearance.
Adriann bowed to Hammond and gestured at Castra. “General, this is our Tok’ra partner, Castra. Leader of the Tok’ra squad on Black Wolf Reach.”
Hammond only nodded. “Are you aware of what you put the people of this facility through when you stupidly risked the lives of my two top teams in order to go on an intergalactic treasure hunt? Please explain yourself and the reasoning behind such a bungled affair.”
Hammond’s tone was angry and there was no way in hell Jack would interrupt or explain or try to excuse what had happened. When Daniel started to open his mouth, Jack shot him a look of warning that made him close it.
Adriann blinked. He hadn’t expected a reprimand, but he could certainly understand it. He cleared his throat. “I have no answer for you, General.”
“What happens when you go after a target? The first thing when your boots hit the ground.”
Adriann frowned. “I don’t … oh, I see. What happens is that I scan every mind within the vicinity of our target, and that includes Jaffa and the Goa’uld. I can tell where they are, what they are doing. Going by the intel by the Tok’ra,” he said, gesturing at Castra, “we know how many will be there, what there is to be taken, if anything, and where the Goa’uld is housed. On Miragen, we knew this and it proved to be true. I did not sense from any mind the presence of the advanced shock grenade they had developed.”
“The tak’nik’atel,” Daniel reminded Hammond helpfully.
“Similar to the one that hit us on Klorel’s ship, sir,” Jack said. “When we went through the gate against orders all those years ago. But this weapon was a lot nastier. No blindness, but our ears bled.”
“What’s Fraiser say about the damage?”
“We’re due for tests next week,” Jack told him.
“I see,” Hammond said, returning to address Adriann. “Don’t you think this is something you should have foreknowledge about? The enemies’ strengths are ascertained long before you attack. Don’t you know this?”
“I do,” Adriann said, sighing. “But … it was my arrogance that failed our mission,” he said, bowing his head once. “Our intelligence was limited but I had confidence we would succeed.”
“Based on what?” Hammond asked. “Every member of this facility operates under the knowledge that our lives can end on a moment’s notice. We take as much precaution as we can to increase the odds of that not happening. Since it is clear to me that you do not behave with the same care, then I’m afraid my people will never join you on another of your missions until you rectify the situation.”
Adriann opened his mouth, then shut it again. He looked at Jack, who shrugged.
You knew this was going to happen, Daniel sent. And don’t tell me you didn’t. Adriann only nodded. He returned his attention to Hammond.
“What now, General?”
“That depends on how you plan to make amends.”
Adriann stepped aside as Kashan and Talen came forward, carrying a crate. They set it down and removed the cover. “We brought toys, sir,” Adriann said. “Do with them as you see fit.”
Jack walked around and looked in the crate. Crossbows and shields. “Nice. I hope we didn’t put you out.”
Jack picked up a crossbow and removed an arrow. “Take this to R&D, sir. Have them examine and replicate it, if possible. It might be adapted to be shot from guns instead of arrows.”
“I had the same thought, Jack,” Hammond said.
Jack replaced the arrow and set the crossbow back in the crate. When he looked up, Jacob Carter was walking into the Briefing Room.
“Castra!” said Jacob’s Tok’ra symbiote, Selmak, with the familiar resonation.
Castra turned in surprise, staring at Jacob. “Councilor Selmak! I did not know—”
“Three years and no word. And this is what you have been doing?” Selmak asked him.
“Yes, but Roscha should have informed you, sir,” Castra said, uncomfortable.
Jacob frowned. “Roscha is dead, Castra. Has been for three months.”
Castra put a hand over his face and his symbiote began to swear in Goa’uld. He looked up. “I will make a full report and deliver that report in person. I should like to know how he died.”
“That is something we cannot ascertain. He came through the Stargate at one of our bases and collapsed, dead. No known cause.”
“That is not good.”
“No.” Selmak’s demeanor softened. “You are happy, serving with these Var’chol’si?”
Castra smiled. “We … as Jalen so colorfully puts it … kick ass.” He gestured at the man standing next to Adriann. Selmak frowned, then turned to look at Jason.
“My brother,” Jason said.
“Not a member of this command?”
Jacob’s Tok’ra growled for some reason, then shifted into Jacob. With a smile, he turned to give Sam a big hug.
“Dad,” Sam said with a big grin. “When’d you get here?”
“Two hours ago,” he said. “Selmak had business with Castra. After that, we’re on our way to San Diego.” He was referring to both himself and Selmak. “I’ll give you a call when I get there, assuming you’re planetside.”
“Okay. Say hi to everyone.”
“Jacob,” Hammond said, taking Jacob’s hand with both his own. “Always a pleasure. Stay longer next time.”
“Maybe when I return,” Jacob nodded and turned. “Gotta plane to catch!” He left as quickly as he’d arrived.
Sam grinned and sighed. “I may get to join him this time.”
“That you may,” Hammond told her.
Unbeknownst to everyone, Morrighan had appeared and was waiting patiently for the others to exchange greetings and discussion. She leaned against the window that overlooked the gateroom and petted a kitten she held in her arms. It was black with long, Persian-like hair and large gold eyes.
Daniel caught sight of the Fae queen first and tapped Jack’s arm with the back of his fingers. Her hair was different. She had dark violet flowers strewn throughout, totally at odds with the black and gold armor she still wore.
“It helps to be a mystery at all times,” she said in response to his observation.
Jack gave her a puzzled look, then looked over his shoulder at Daniel and shook his head. Regrouping, he asked, “Who’s your friend?” and reached out to scratch the kitten behind the ear. The little thing rubbed its cheek against his fingers. He drew his hand back, not wanting to offend Morrighan. He hadn’t even meant to pet the cat.
“This is Maeve. She’s Fae, and a shapeshifter. Among the witches of your world, she would be considered a familiar. She is two hundred years old, by Fae reckoning. In Human years, she would look about eleven.” She kissed the purring cat’s head. “Say goodbye, Maeve.” The kitten meowed, making a few people smile, and Morrighan called up a blue-white light and the kitten disappeared.
Jack said, “Witches. You mean the pagans we have on our world?”
“I mean the real thing,” Morrighan said with a dismissive wave of her hand and gave Daniel a long look. “Are you feeling better?”
“A bit,” he said, blanking his mind of any images from the night before so she wouldn’t get any notion in the reason for his feeling better. This mind-reading was fine and all, but privacy had to be respected. Even so, he knew she’d catch stray thoughts. Best to take precautions.
She smiled pleasantly as she gave Hammond her full attention. “Madam,” he said. “Thank you for rescuing our people. We owe you a great debt.”
She waved a few fingers. “Jack is my kinsman. I am therefore honor-bound to help him get out the rascally things he manages to get into. Honestly, it’s like watching a two-year old.”
Sam barked out a laugh and covered her mouth immediately.
Jack threw her a mock-glare. “Now, your majesty, don’t be like that,” he chided. “I think I’ve definitely graduated to teen level.” He handed her the clamshell with a sarcastic grin on his face.
“Hmmm,” she said, taking it and rewarding his sarcasm with a narrowed eye. She sighed, then returned her attention to Hammond. “I believe you wish to ask me something?”
“Please, sit down and join us,” Hammond asked, and she took the seat to his left. Jack sat on his right, then everyone else grabbed a chair.
“Would you care for refreshments?” Hammond asked.
“No, thank you,” Morrighan said pleasantly.
“Okay, down to brass tacks. I have been ordered by my superiors to ask if you have any technology we can use in our fight against the Goa’uld and other enemies.”
“Indeed. But weapons are not available for use on your world. It could be used as a weapon against your neighbors.”
“You remind me of the Tollan,” Hammond said.
“Except you’re alive,” Jack said, jogging his brows.
“And will be for some time.”
There was, as they say, a pregnant pause. Jack and Daniel exchanged looks. “Why come here then?” Jack asked her. “Meaning no offense.”
Before she could answer, Hammond interrupted. “Quite frankly, madam, we stepped in a hornets’ nest and now have no choice but to protect ourselves by almost any means necessary. Will you help us out with that?”
“Yes,” she said simply. Everyone was shocked. “But there is a catch.”
“Uh oh,” Jack said, shaking his head.
“It won’t be what you want. Only what you need.”
“Please explain,” Hammond asked.
Morrighan looked at Max’s team, then the SFs stationed at the door and in the hall and lifted a forefinger.
“We need absolute privacy, General. Your Special Forces police can be ordered by someone of higher rank and position to repeat what is discussed. I will not allow that.”
The SFs didn’t move or look around. They simply stared straight ahead, but there was a stillness to them that was unnatural. The same went for Max and her team.
“What have you done?” Hammond demanded.
“They are frozen in a loop of time. They won’t be harmed. But they cannot tell anyone about what I will give to SG-1 and 2.”
Hammond blinked. “To my two top teams? Specifically?”
“They have shown that they can be trusted.”
Hammond sighed. “Can I talk you out—”
“I’m afraid not, General.” She touched his forearm. “I apologize,” she said in a soft tone. “But you know that the NID and your superiors have bad faith agents snooping around, trying to steal technology that they can use for their own ends. Until your people can clean house and get rid of the corruption, the technology I share will be limited.”
Hammond looked at his folded hands for a few moments, thinking it over. “Very well. What is this tech you wish to give to us?”
She stood slowly. “Would you care to take a trip? No one will notice we’ve gone.”
Hammond rose and everyone else stood with him. “Where to?”
“A ship in orbit.”
His brows rose. “Very well.”
Before anyone could blink, she snapped her fingers and they reappeared on the bridge of a different ship. It narrowed to a point in front, with chairs that ringed the wide control panel. Behind them was a walled screen and four corridors—the inner two were directly behind the screen and the outer two probably connected to the rest of the ship. It looked like Morrighan’s ship but the white pearl was disrupted by a twelve-foot-wide hole in the ceiling. It was edged with a red light panel that pulsed softly. Like a beating heart.
“Welcome to the A’Chroi,” she said.
“Gesundheit,” Jack said, because Morrighan’s pronunciation of the K sound was guttural.
“Colonel,” Hammond chided.
“That’s Gaelic for the heart,” Daniel translated.
“It serves a purpose here,” Morrighan said. “This ship has hyperspace technology, just like your battle fleet does, but it can travel to other galaxies in far less time than it would take your ship, Prometheus. Additionally, this ship is equipped with its own Stargate. You will still need to orbit a planet, whether it has an active gate or not.”
“Weapons? Beam tech?”
“The same as your carrier fleet, but it has a host of other defenses.”
Hammond grunted slightly. “I sense a catch.”
Morrighan gave him an apologetic half-smile. “It can’t be duplicated or taken apart.”
Hammond nodded in disappointment. “Is there anything I can assuage their greed with?”
She waved a hand and a black crate made of a composite resin appeared. It was three feet by six by two. “I will beam this down with you. Inside are a few diagrams for things your world can make use of.” She then handed him a satchel she snapped into existence. “Have your scientists go over it. Your use of solar and wind production will benefit.”
“So no weaponry?”
She shook her head. “But you have plans for a planet-wide defense shield.”
Hammond’s eyes grew round. “That will definitely be welcome, madam.” He looked around. “And this ship is to be kept secret?”
“Yes. If SG-1 and 2 wish to use the gate for their missions, that is up to them, but this ship is here for their use.” She paused and looked directly at Jack and Jason. “Professional use.” She grinned. “It will also help in defending the SGC. Not Earth. The SGC. Your gate needs protecting. The space fleet you have can defend the rest of your world just fine, with a new defense shield.”
“How big is this ship?” Jack asked.
“As big as an al’kesh,” Morrighan answered. “But without all the ugly design. Honestly, my brother lacked serious imagination.”
“I beg your pardon?” Hammond asked.
“I’ll tell you later, sir,” Jack told him.
“Very well. I would like to come up here and see more of this ship at a later time, but we must get back,” Hammond said.
Morrighan nodded once and a second later, they had all returned to the Briefing Room. Like Morrighan had promised, their absence had not been noticed, although Hammond’s office phone was ringing.
“Damn,” he said and went inside and shut the door.
Jack looked over at Max as she and her team reanimated. She frowned and looked at her watch. “If you’ll excuse us, Jack. We’re heading for badly needed showers.”
“Right. Check in with Hammond before you leave.”
She nodded and escorted her crew out of the room. Jack looked at everyone a little guiltily. “Does anyone think that was weir—”
The familiar claxon sound of the Stargate receiving an incoming activation spread throughout the base and interrupted Jack’s train of thought. Most everyone ignored it but Morrighan frowned and looked through the window, staring at the gate.
“Morrighan,” Jack said, grabbing her attention. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
She turned and grinned at him. She held up a key ring with a little stargate on it.
“Yes. It’s symbolic. This,” she said and raised her other hand, “is the key.” She held a silver cuff bracelet with oval stones.
Jack took it and frowned at it. “Looks Asgard.”
“A little. They helped me design the ship.”
Davis came up the back steps. “Colonel Carter?”
“Will people and things quit doing that?” Jack groused.
“What is it, Walter?” Sam asked, grinning.
“We’ve … got something weird going on. We had an incoming call through the gate but the computer chewed at it and said it came from Antarctica.”
“That’s not possible. That gate is here. The other one is packed up.”
“I know that.”
“Who’s on the phone, Walter?” Jack asked.
“No one now, but they were. They asked for Mr. Adriann and left a message.”
“What?” Adriann asked as he walked forward.
“What’s the message?” Jack asked.
“’May I come down?’”
Jack frowned. “Shouldn’t they be asking us?” Walter shrugged. “Okay, Walter, that’ll be all. Don’t worry about it.”
“Yes, sir.” He disappeared back to the Control Room.
“May I come down?” Adriann repeated. He looked upward and sarcastically said, “Yeah, sure, come on down, but wipe your feet! They just cleaned in here.”
Jalen began laughing. “I’ve infected him.”
“Hopefully, that’s all you infected him wi—” Jack started to say but a transportation beam appeared in the Briefing Room two feet from Morrighan. She didn’t move and looked amused.
“Grand Central,” Jack mumbled as he and the others gathered.
The person who appeared was a tall man bearing a striking resemblance to Adriann, only his hair was black and straight, his eyes a startling green, and he was dressed in brown leathers and equipped with a wide, two-sided axe and a sidearm that bore a resemblance to miniature Gatlin gun. The SFs were on instant alert and their weapons were aimed before Jack took two breaths.
“Whoa, whoa, no shooting in here, boys. Let’s see what this fella wants first.”
Talen gripped Adriann’s arm and Kashan swore something under his breath.
“Azadriel?” Adriann asked, stunned.
“Been trying to find you for a while now, brother.”
“Who the hell is this?” Hammond asked, walking out of his office with a purpose.
Adriann held up his hand. “I apologize for the intrusion, General. This man is my long-dead brother.”
“Looks alive to me,” Jack said.
“What is your business here?” Hammond asked.
“I …” Azadriel began, looking around at all people in the room. “Wow. I am sorry for disturbing you. But …” He looked back at Adriann and only then did he notice Talen and Kashan. “Sister, cousin.” They only nodded.
“Out with it,” Adriann demanded. “Then you can explain how you survived and where you’ve been.”
“It is a long story. The short answer is that I need your blood. Or Talen’s. Someone closely related.”
“Why?” Jack asked, eyes narrowed. Something about this guy set his teeth on edge. He couldn’t get over the feeling that he was standing next to a predator. Given how his instincts had been heightened over the last two years, ever since that orchid ceremony, he was not about to take the feelings for granted.
“I need … help.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t know if it will work. My blood has changed, brother. First, we were infected but didn’t die. We wasted away. These people helped us recover. The doctor here helped us with transfusions and a hybridization of our own plants. Why do you need our blood?”
Azadriel swallowed. “Because I … am no longer Var’chol’si.”
Adriann blinked. “What do you mean?”
Azadriel’s shape blurred and tremored, then he simply dissolved into an immense white wolf with bright green eyes.
“No!” Daniel said, placing himself between the SFs and Azadriel. “Don’t shoot!” He turned and looked at the animal and said in an awed voice, “He’s a direwolf.”
“A direwolf?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. They were around for about one-hundred-thousand years and went extinct about ten-thousand years ago. The last fossils recovered showed they were a lot smaller than this … than Azadriel. Probably due to evolutionary changes.” He heard a voice in his head and said, “You’re welcome,” to the wolf. Then he did a double take. He narrowed his eyes. “Did you just speak to me and did I just hear you?”
The wolf blinked at him. Yes. He abruptly changed back into human form. “I do apologize, but there was no way for you to truly understand, Adriann. I cannot remain like this.”
“And what are you?” Adriann asked.
Adriann frowned. “That’s not possible.”
“What did he say?” Jack asked.
“Well, in your language … werewolf.”
“Direwolves. Werewolves. Faeries,” Jack complained. “Next you’ll tell us dragons are real.”
“But dragons are real, my kinsman,” Morrighan told him.
Jack plunked down in Hammond’s Briefing Room chair. “I need a drink.”
“Adriann,” Hammond began, but the vampire held up a hand.
“I know, General. Not your business.” He pulled out a small device that reminded Daniel of the communication device they’d used on Naetu, Sokar’s planet.
“Why were we using our RDC when you had that?” Jack asked.
“I only have this one,” Adriann said. Then into the device, he said, “Transport our party except me. There’ll be one added.” A second later, he was the only ‘pirate’ left standing there. “Daniel, a word?”
They stepped out into the corridor. “What?” Daniel asked, and though he had a few ideas what this might be about, Adriann had fooled him before.
“Would you let me come visit you? It may be a while before we see each other again and I’d like to …”
His words failed him and Daniel could sense why. “You want to say goodbye,” he guessed, and like Adriann, there seemed to be no more words. Adriann nodded, Daniel nodded, then Adriann called his ship. A white light surrounded him and he was gone.
With an odd pit in his stomach, Daniel returned to the briefing room where it was Morrighan’s turn to say goodbye. “I will be returning to my world,” she told Hammond. She stepped forward and kissed Jack on the cheek. “Stay out of trouble.” With a snap of her fingers, she disappeared.
Hammond pondered pensively. “Sometimes she reminds me of Bewitched.”
“Except she really doesn’t need to snap her fingers,” Jack said. “It’s for our benefit.”
“I know a few people at the Pentagon who’ll want a word with her.”
Jack gave Hammond a cocky grin. “Mind if I sit in? I would love to watch them squirm in her presence. They have no idea who they’d be dealing with.”
Hammond shook his head. “It’s weird,” he said, looking a bit confused. “I really can’t wrap my head around the word ‘god’ when it comes to her.” He grunted. “Mind you, I’m coming from a Christian point of view. To us, there is only one god.”
“I get it,” Jack said. “Irish Catholic.” He then added, “Lapsed.”
“If it helps,” Daniel put in. “Think of her as an extremely powerful being.”
“Thank you, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said with a touch of a scold. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Daniel winced slightly, realizing what he’d said. He turned to Jack and Jason. “Will the two of you make yourselves useful and stop me before I say stuff like that?”
Hammond wasn’t going to wait around for an answer, touching off yet another mild quarrel between the three. “Okay, let’s finish this up.” The only non-SGC personnel remaining was Bra’tac. “Please report to Fraiser to find out when exactly your hearing tests will be scheduled. Afterwards …” He checked his watch and the calendar on the wall. “Report back on Friday next, 0800. Do not board that ship until we return, is that clear?”
“Yes, sir,” Jack and Jason said in stereo.
“I’m glad you’re back safe and sound.”
Jack began to correct him but Daniel tapped him with the toe of his boot and he redirected. “Thanks, General.” With that, it was time to visit Janet. One more time.
Mail in hand, Daniel started back up the darkened drive, wishing like hell that the Post Office didn’t require them to keep their box at the end of the drive where it met the street. Perhaps if they’d had more clout, been richer, the government would have bent the rules. It did for all those uber rich assholes. At least Jack had fixed the damn snowblower. It had taken ten minutes and clearer thinking: Jack had had all the time in the world this go-around.
The edginess that had left him now returned and he looked around him, spooked. With the snow everywhere, it didn’t matter too much that the sun had already set. The crystals within the powdered substance always illuminated itself in the dark. He trudged further up the shallowed hill that their drive had been carved into and he was unable to rid himself of something dangerous coming.
Daniel thought of Adriann and snorted. That must be it, he told himself. He was therefore not as surprised as he might have been when Adriann materialized at the top of the drive.
Daniel grinned with relief and called out, “Are you ever going to do something normal and just come to the front door and knock?” Adriann shook his head. When Daniel reached him, he was about to ask him how much time he was planning to make for their reunion when Adriann grabbed him and swept him into a passionate kiss.
Daniel returned the passion and down the line of their empathic communication, he sensed a sorrow that forced him to break off their embrace. “What’s wrong?”
“Would you mind if I whisked you to my bedroom, ripped all your clothes off, and then proceeded to wear you out with orgasm after orgasm?”
Daniel blinked as he stepped away and picked up the mail he’d dropped. “That’s some question.”
“I need to be with you.”
“Need or want?” Daniel asked as he started toward the house.
Adriann stayed where he was. “Need and want.”
Daniel frowned. The edginess of his nerves hadn’t abated and now plummeted into a warning of extreme danger. “Oh-kay, let’s just come inside and talk first.” He was almost to the door when Adriann ran at him like Daniel had never seen him do before. Alarmed, he opened the door and slammed it shut, locking it and moving to the front window to look outside. This won’t stop him! he warned himself.
But Adriann stood outside, beckoning him and pacing. His image seemed to shimmer, like heat from a road, then another Adriann appeared behind him and aimed a weapon at the first Adriann. Daniel knew then that the one with the gun was his Adriann. The other was an imposter. Adriann’s brother? As soon as he thought it, the imposter resolved into Azadriel. The two glared at each other and Azadriel started to raise his hand when Adriann shot him with something that resembled a zat. It released the same electrical attack.
Daniel’s stomach lurched at the thought of not being able to distinguish the two apart when it came to the embrace and kiss. “Jesus Christ,” he whispered as he opened the front door and walked out. Adriann approached and stood over his brother’s unconscious form. “What the fuck is going on?” Daniel asked.
Adriann shook his head. “I don’t know. He injured Castra in order to beam down here.”
“Is Castra alright?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah, just bruised.” He pointed at Azadriel with the gun. “It’s obvious that he can transform into people, too. And it’s obvious that he doesn’t give a damn about boundaries. For that reason, I’ll have to lock him up.” He bent over and grabbed one of Azadriel’s arms, then hoisted him over his shoulder in one go. Adriann gave Daniel a look of apology. “May I come back down?”
Daniel nodded automatically and without turning, knew that Jack and Jason were now behind him. After Adriann disappeared, he turned and explained what had happened to Jack and Jason.
“Shit!” Jack said angrily. “What the hell next?” He and Jason followed Daniel into the house, then they surrounded him in their arms.
“I think …” Daniel said, his voice somewhat muffled within their mutual embrace. “I have to ask Adriann if I’m getting precognizant.”
“If you were,” Jack said, “you’d have foreseen our fiasco on Miragen.”
“Maybe. But this was more like personal danger. First, there was Set and Ba’al. Now, there was Azadriel.”
Jason shook his head at Daniel as he inched away to give him much-needed breathing room. “It’s not all that reliable if it’s so goddamn vague.”
“Right?” Daniel asked rhetorically.
They stepped apart and headed into the kitchen, where Jack and Jason had already been preparing a simple, if expensive, meal of prime rib steak and baked potatoes. Daniel sank into a chair at the dining table and shaded his brows with a hand. “Someone get me a drink?” He didn’t take his hand away and a tumbler full of whiskey and soda appeared in front of his elbow. Someone kissed the top of his head and moved away.
“Thanks,” Daniel said and look a long drink. He started to say something, then took another drink. “I couldn’t tell the difference.”
“What’s that?” Jack asked.
“Azadriel. He felt like Adriann. That ability to pose as others goes all the way. I thought he was Adriann until his behavior changed.”
“Changed how?” Jason asked as he set foil-wrapped potatoes on the warmed dinner plates.
“When he began to behave suspiciously.”
“How?” Jack asked again.
“He didn’t move. He kept watching me. He just didn’t act naturally. It was like he was … a puppet.”
“A puppet?” Jason asked, confused.
“Well … I don’t know. It was just off.”
Jack moved the steaks from the grill onto the plates and Jason brought them over to the table.
“You make a good waiter,” Daniel teased as his plate was set in front of him.
“Want fries with that?” Jason smirked.
“Thanks, I’ll keep the baked one,” Daniel grinned back, though his smile was half-hearted. The uneasiness of his stomach wouldn’t go away. “Damn adrenalin,” he muttered, grabbing the salt shaker.
“Stomach?” Jack asked as he and Jason sat down.
Just as they were about to dig in, a knock came at the front door. Daniel began to get up but Jack waved him down.
“No, I’ll get it. Stay there.”
Jack grabbed his personal sidearm and flicked off the safety as he approached the door. The porch light hadn’t come on and he scowled as he flipped the switch by the door. “Damn porch light is acting up again,” he called back. Jason and Daniel sighed. It had been doing that for a while.
“Wiring,” Jason said, shaking his head as both he and Daniel waited.
Jack looked through the peep hole and found Adriann standing there. He moved to the window and looked out. Yes, Adriann. Hopefully. He opened the door, aiming the gun at Adriann’s head.
“What did you do the first time we met?”
Adriann gave Jack a sardonic grin. “Drugged you while I took advantage of Daniel. Would you like me to apologize for the seventh time?”
“No,” Jack said and waved him in with the gun hand. When Adriann stepped inside, Jack shoved him against the open door and pressed the gun to his cheek. “What happened with Jalen on his visit to your homeworld?”
The sound of the scuffle brought Daniel and Jason to the living room and they halted while Jack waited for an answer.
“Got bit by a Bor’cha,” Adriann sighed.
“How do I know it’s really you? For all we know, your fucked-up twin—”
“Jack,” Daniel said, finally realizing what he’d missed that Jack was now missing. Azadriel had appeared as Adriann but with blond hair. The Adriann under Jack’s gun had the black pirate hair.
“What?” Jack wasn’t letting Adriann go.
“Look at his hair.”
Jack blinked and focused. Black hair. He let Adriann go and stepped back, flipping the safety back on. “Just checking.”
“You’re overprotective,” Adriann said, “and I don’t blame you one bit.”
“C’mon,” Daniel said, waving Adriann into the dining room. “Have a seat. We didn’t make enough for four.”
“I’m not hungry, anyway, thanks.”
As they ate and talked, Daniel got very clear mental signals that Adriann intended to say goodbye for perhaps a very, very long time. Though the food was good and the conversation better, a melancholy began to seep into him. Jack and Jason chatted up a storm, as they always did at dinner, and with Adriann, they did it all the more. Daniel wondered that they hadn’t picked up on the subtext, but perhaps they were just hiding it exceedingly well.
An edginess different from before had Daniel’s nerves jangling and by the time dinner was over, the dishes cleaned, and the after-dinner relaxation settled into, Daniel found his cock stiffening. He was preparing himself for sex. Hopefully, there’d be sex. Adriann couldn’t say goodbye without it, could he? Just one more time?
In the living room, with the TV turned on to some football game, Jack and Jason stood by the sofa while Adriann approached the back of it. Daniel was just coming out of the kitchen and he turned to him, then back to Jack and Jason.
“Much as I love the two of you, I am really here to ask you if I might be with Daniel one more time. Perhaps the last time.”
Jack and Jason exchanged looks, then met Daniel’s eyes. “It’s not really up to us,” Jack said. “It’s entirely up to you.”
Daniel brushed his hands on his jeans. “Yeah, but I’m not going unless—”
“It’s fine,” Jason said and while Jack didn’t nod agreement, he blinked slowly. It was an old signal that Jason and Daniel used to use. It meant, I love you.
“Okay,” Daniel said quietly. “Do you want to …” He pointed to his left, toward the master bedroom.
“That’s the thing,” Adriann hedged. “I was hoping to bring you up to my bedroom.”
“On the ship?” Jack and Jason said in stereo.
“Where that creep brother of yours is?” Jack added.
“He’s locked up and going nowhere,” Adriann said. “If you would like to double-check—”
“No,” Jack said, hating himself. “If Daniel says it’s okay, than it’s okay.”
Daniel looked into Adriann’s eyes, and then past them, into his mind. “On one condition.”
Adriann sighed and nodded.
“What condition?” Jack asked Daniel.
“That he return his previous looks.”
“How’re you gonna do that?” Jason asked, curious.
“A special wash,” Adriann said. He eyed Daniel. “Hope you don’t mind if the length stays the same.”
“No,” Daniel said, raising his brows as he looked at Adriann’s back and the hair that cascaded halfway down. “It really is long.”
“I can cut it.”
“No, no,” Daniel said. “I’m asking a lot as it is, I think.”
“Not nearly so,” Adriann smiled.
“Okay, go already,” Jack said, waving at them both. “It’s getting awkward.”
Adriann held out his hand and Daniel took it. He met his husbands’ eyes as he disappeared.
Three seconds, six. Jason and Jack stood there, staring at the space where Daniel had been.
Jack finally sighed. “We should have said no.”
Jason gave him an even look. “And Daniel would have said…?”
“Yeah, I know.” He got them a couple of beers and they sat down on the sofa to watch Thursday Night Football.
“We’re going to reclaim him when he gets back,” Jason said.
“Don’t tell Daniel that,” Jack responded.
Aboard Adriann’s ship, Daniel found himself in a large, dimly lit set of rooms. A bedroom suite, not just a bedroom. Adriann looked at him and before he could ask, the vampire back-stepped, turned around, and headed for another room.
Daniel took that moment to look around. “What if I need to get back to the house in a hurry?”
“There’s a table to your right. I set the device there. Just push the white button and you’ll return.” A minute later, Adriann returned and his hair was honey blond once more. And shorter.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Daniel said, skipping the question as to how Adriann had done it. He really didn’t care. When Adriann got closer, he found the familiar grey eyes staring back at him. The heated desire followed.
“Come,” Adriann said, taking his hand. Barely taking his eyes off him, he walked backward to the bedroom.
“Where’s Jalen?” Daniel asked as he began to unbutton his jeans.
“On the bridge.” Adriann quickly stripped and helped Daniel out of his clothes. “He knows.”
Daniel was reminded then of Adriann’s odd cock. How it was able to lengthen, shorten, and widen according to his owner’s needs and the needs of his partner. “How’s Jalen like your …”
“Are we going to talk about Jalen?” Adriann asked as he pulled Daniel to the bed and downward, lying under him. He spread his legs and trapped Daniel between them.
Daniel shook his head and found himself wrapped in Adriann’s arms, his lips crushed and parted with a deep probing tongue. It was at that moment that he was fully committed. The kiss, his arm, the feel of his cock … it all came back to Daniel in a flood of sense memory and he turned them over so that he was underneath.
“How long?” he asked.
“Do we have?” Adriann asked, surprised.
Adriann slid down his body to take his cock in his mouth, ceasing further oral communication except that which was done by his tongue.
“Oh god,” Daniel moaned, and he laced his fingers through Adriann’s hair.
It was back and forth for a while, taking each other into their mouths before Adriann pulled Daniel’s knees up and bent over him. It was then that Adriann felt the pause, the hiccup, and saw the memory of Ba’al in Daniel’s mind.
“Stop,” he told Daniel, and kissed him briefly before opening his mouth to show him something to erase that memory. His canines sharpened to needle points and as he slid his cock into Daniel’s warm body, he took his hand and bit into his wrist. The pain wasn’t there, as it had been before, even if it had only been millisecond’s worth.
Daniel’s brows furrowed. “I need that pain.”
Adriann lifted his mouth from the bite, then further up, bit again. This time, the lance was keenly felt and Daniel sucked in a breath and tilted his head back, baring his throat. “Fuck me,” he breathed.
Adriann established a rhythm rather quickly and it wasn’t long before he maneuvered his cock over Daniel’s prostate. “I saw this … porn video,” Adriann told him.
“You did?” Daniel asked, breathless.
“It was called, ‘massaging the prostate’, only the man did it with his cock.”
“He did?” Daniel asked, even more breathless.
Adriann pressed Daniel’s knees harder against his chest and moved his hips exactly like he’d seen in the video. “Like this.”
“He did?” Daniel asked again, eyes widening as the alien cock rubbed the nub inside him and caused shocks of pleasure rippling through his muscles.
“Made him come five times,” Adriann said, rocking forward rapidly.
“He did?” Daniel’s breathing matched his lover’s strokes.
“So will I,” Adriann said.
And to Daniel’s astonishment, he did. And with each orgasm, Adriann sank his teeth into Daniel’s flesh and sucked the sweet blood his body and mind required. Through it all, Daniel savored each time.
Later, lying in Adriann’s arms, Daniel stretched a few muscles that demanded it.
“I will miss you,” Adriann told him.
“Me, too,” Daniel told him. “When we see each other again …”
“I know,” Adriann said, smiling against Daniel’s neck. “I will have to have this.” He bit, and Daniel groaned.
Daniel appeared, naked, in the bedroom he shared with his husbands, finding them asleep. With a sigh, he slid between them and prepared to go to sleep when hands covered him and mouths sought his for reunion kisses.
“Is he gone?” Jason asked.
“Yes,” Daniel said.
“Good,” Jack said.
“Good?” Daniel asked, surprised. “If you didn’t want—”
Jack held up his hand, palm outward. “I know, I know. I’m just sayin’.”
“How do you feel?” Jason asked.
“Good,” Daniel said, his eyes teasing. Except he meant it.
“Sore at all?” Jack asked.
“Well, I’m not in the mood, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Hmm,” Jack said.
But he said nothing more, to Daniel’s surprise.
Daniel felt the warmth of sunlight on his face and realized that at this time of year, it was late morning. He pushed up and found himself alone. “I’m getting sick of this,” he grumbled, and went to the bathroom before making his way to the kitchen, wearing only the briefs he’d gone to bed in. Jack was washing something at the sink while Jason sat at the table, reading something on his tablet computer.
“Thanks for letting me wake up alone,” Daniel scolded, heading for the coffee maker.
Jason and Jack exchanged glances. “We thought you needed the sleep,” Jack said apologetically, and put a plate in the drainer on his left. “Want to talk about what happened last night?”
“Which part,” Daniel said, taking a mug from the little wooden peg.
“The sex with Adriann part,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “We were there for the prequel.”
Daniel poured his coffee and before doctoring it, he leaned against the counter and just breathed it in. Always his favorite part about waking up. A cliché, yes, but true.
“Daniel?” Jack prodded.
“I’m busy waking up,” Daniel said, avoiding Jack’s question.
Jack narrowed his eyes. “Well, while you’re inhaling your coffee …” He assumed several expressions in a matter of four seconds, ones that Daniel knew all too well. Jack shook his head. “Never mind.”
Jason had been putting his plate in the sink when he turned, frowning. “What ‘never mind’?”
“Nothing,” Jack said.
Daniel grinned over the rim of his mug. Jack had been about to say something unkind and reversed himself. “I just escaped a tongue-lashing,” he informed Jason.
His dark-haired husband stared at Jack with the promise of further scold, but Jason too shook his head. “Right. Never mind.”
Daniel chuckled. “Boy, do I have you two trained.”
“Bite me,” they both said, making Daniel laugh more. When he caught sight of the payback expressions, he cleared his throat.
“So,” he said, walking over to the table and sitting down. “What are we doing today?”
“Talking about what happened on Adriann’s ship,” Jack said, sipping his own coffee.
Daniel rolled his eyes. “We fucked, we came. Well, he came once. I came five ti…” The last word faded as Jack and Jason spun toward him. It was almost synchronized. “Uh…”
“Five?” Jack asked.
“What he said,” Jason followed.
“How the hell did he manage that?” Jack asked, and it was clear to Daniel that he may have shared more than he should have. It honestly didn’t occur to him that his husbands would take that knowledge as a slight on their love-making, but judging from the emotions he was getting, they had taken it that way.
“Um, well, he said he saw a porn video about …” Daniel made air quotes. “’Massaging the prostate’.” Their stares were getting a little nervy. “So,” he said quickly, “I made him send me a copy on my phone.” He grabbed it off the bureau in the foyer. “Here,” he said. “Adriann sort of took it as a challenge…” The lasts syllable faded like his earlier speech.
Jason took the phone and after a few swipes and taps, called up the copy. He and Jack watched a homemade video of two men on a bed, with their backs to the camera. Or rather, the man on top had his back to the camera. His partner lay on his back, his knees pressed to his chest. Sometimes the Top held the back of his knees, but most of the time, he used his weight to keep the Bottom’s knees pushed upward. The Top’s hips thrust in an even rhythm with barely a pause and over fifteen minutes, the Top had made his partner come five times.
Jason handed the phone back to Daniel and swallowed as he exchanged an intense look with Jack. “We can duplicate that easily.”
Jack nodded. Both gave Daniel a purposeful eyeful and right there, began to undress.
“Wait,” Daniel said, only half concerned as he smiled. “Not right now?” he protested, backing up. The moment he saw bare skin, he half-laughed. “Seriously, guys. I don’t think I can do that again, not so soon.”
“Ah, a fresh challenge t’would seem,” Jason said to Jack.
“Indeed,” Jack agreed.
Daniel was mentally caught between panic and lust and it was exactly the mindset he’d been searching for during their ‘fix it’ sex two days ago. It was the perfect ‘pretend to be innocent’, ‘pretend to be scared’ situation that was both fantasy role play and actual fact. He swallowed, hard, and began backing up. He edged toward the living room but purposely made an error that allowed them both to corral him in the hall and force him to backpedal toward the bedroom.
His cock began to swell with desire and contradicted his partial play-acting. He really didn’t know if he could come that many times. With Adriann, the added tension of a possible final act had heightened his sexual arousal. How could he do that now? He was never all that good at role play. He tended to let his rational mind interfere.
They were naked now, clothes strewn in the hallway, as Daniel backed into the bedroom. “Um, guys, I—”
“Off with the briefs,” Jason said, stroking himself.
Daniel’s legs hit the bed and they loomed over him when he fell backward. Scooting on his elbows and heels, he half-laughed again. “Seriously, guys, I don’t think I can do it again.”
Jack grabbed the front part of the waistband of Daniel’s briefs and Jason clutched the back. With a hard ripping motion, they tore his briefs apart and the forceful action rubbed against his skin, twinging his balls. His cock was hard as hell now and lay upward on a curve.
“Look at that, Jace,” Jack said as he slid his hand over Daniel’s erection.
“Lovely,” Jason replied as he grabbed the lube from the headboard shelf. “Who goes first?”
“Hang on—” Daniel began, but interrupted himself with a gasp as Jack’s thumb rubbed firmly over the head of his cock.
“I’ll let you go first,” Jack said and moved up Daniel’s side to eventually sit behind him and cradle Daniel in his arms.
“Good call,” Jason said, slicking his cock. “Well, Daniel,” he said, grabbing him behind his knees and forcing them to his chest. “How about you just open up for me, baby.”
Daniel locked gazes with him and before he could take two breaths, Jason was on him, in him, with hips and legs churning forward in a rapid rhythm. He inhaled sharply and felt the stiffness of Jack’s cock behind his neck, upper body bracketed between Jack’s legs. He wasn’t going anywhere.
His eyes fluttered when Jason’s cock found his prostate and established that massage with effortless ease. His breathing hitched repeatedly and after an eternity that was more like ninety seconds, he was panting and sucking in breaths as the orgasm hit him.
In the video, the Top had paused to let his partner regroup, and Jack and Jason did the same, but only with the sole purpose of exchanging places. Now it was Jack’s turn and he churned and twisted, causing near agony when he forced the orgasm from his body.
“Jesus, okay,” Daniel said, trying to push up, to stall. “You made your—”
His words were cut off by Jack’s deep, passionate kiss and a return to thrusting without giving him time to breathe.
“No, Jack, I can’t,” Daniel said, and he meant it. But at the same time, he refused to tell him to stop. They traded places frequently and after the sixth climax, Daniel had very little semen left to ejaculate. Didn’t keep him from feeling the ecstasy, however, and after twenty-five minutes, he was exhausted. And neither Jack nor Jason had come. “What about you two?” he panted, heart hammering away in the extended afterglow.
They regarded each other and though it looked like they were trying to decide who would get his prostate massaged, there had only ever been one way for them. Jack was always the top with Jason. Always. It was now Daniel’s turned to cradle Jason between his legs and arms as Jack began his attack.
It was slower but no less intense. Jason was louder when it came to sex and a bit more animated. He’d once told Daniel it was because he was super-sensitive and even after more than tens years together, that had not changed. Jason tilted his head back and caught Daniel’s eyes.
“That’s it, baby,” Daniel purred to him. Without taking his gaze from Jason, he told Jack, “Make it good, Jack.”
“Only if you fuck me at the same time,” Jack replied.
Daniel blinked at him. His cock was almost hard, and it didn’t seem like he’d get it up again this day. “I don’t know if I can,” he said.
“Try,” Jack said, his voice almost imploring.
“Yes,” Jason said, lying back freely, placing his hands over his head. “Do it.” He locked his gaze on Jack’s. “Fuck him, Daniel.”
With the lube, Daniel prepared himself, and lined up behind Jack to slid his cock between his buttock cheeks. He went with intuition and lay over Jack’s back as he thrust just enough to slide between the soft yet firm flesh. Letting Jack do the moving, he went with him as he performed the massage on Jason. His black-haired lover was moaning loudly, neck arched backward, fingers clutching Jack’s as he pressed his hands to the mattress over his head.
It was numbing, the return of his arousal, and just the feel of Jack’s hole against his cock was plenty enough to force the slide inside. Jack groaned and gripped around his dick, nearly dislodging him as he thrust into Jason.
“Come on,” Daniel urged him. “Make him come.” He didn’t thrust into Jack. He just rode the wave of his muscles as he inevitably made Jason come three times in under two minutes. Then with a sudden forcefulness, he grabbed Jack and pulled him off Jason, turning him over as he, in turn, pushed Jack’s knees to his chest. He didn’t think he could come again, but he maintained an erection despite that. With the expert movement of a man who knew all of Jack’s secrets, he ground into him on each thrust while Jason moved behind and held Jack’s hands wide apart.
“Tell me you love it,” Daniel ordered softly as he drove Jack toward the cliff.
“I love it,” Jack managed, the strain of his breathing making his voice hoarse.
“Come for me,” Daniel demanded, and his own need to return the favor soon had Jack calling out and gasping. Daniel repeatedly slammed into Jack’s ass, quickly, wildly. After the fourth orgasm he’d wrung from Jack, he was completely spent. Unable to keep moving, he dropped between his husbands and listened to their equally-exhausted breathing throughout the nuclear afterglow.
Jack was out back, dumping black trash bags into their own dumpster. He wore a perpetual shit-eating grin. The only downside to that marathon love-making was that the three of them wouldn’t be in the mood for two days. At least. Morrighan may have healed their bodies and regressed their ages by ten or fifteen years, but Jack still felt like an old man when it came to sex. Not that it showed. It was all mental.
As he turned away from the bin, a movement caught his peripheral vision and when he snapped his head to the right to look, he found a large, white wolf coming toward him.
“Daniel! Jason!” he half sang, grabbing the doorknob of the second set of French doors that opened at the side of the house. As they burst through the door, the wolf began to pace back and forth, watching them carefully.
“Where the hell …” Daniel began.
“I thought that creature was locked up,” Jack growled.
“He is,” Daniel said, staring. “That’s not him.”
TBC in Trilogy 18