Trinity 22: Blood Brothers
Part I of 2
Summary: Adriann and his kin visit the SGC; when disaster breaks out off-world, their help is needed.
Quote: Conqueror Worm
But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude !
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes ! – it writhes ! – with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the angels sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
“Guys, I’ll meet you up there,” Jason told them as he opened the door to his truck.
“Where’re you going?” Daniel asked.
“Haircut,” Jason replied. He ran his fingers through his hair for emphasis.
“What?” Jack grinned, “Not letting Wilkerson get a hold of your hair?”
“Not a hope in hell,” Jason said as he climbed in and shut the door.
“So agree with you there,” Daniel replied. He personally thought that the base barber could easily be confused with a Marine Drill Sergeant, especially after he’d gotten hold of his hair that one time. Never again.
“Tell Hammond I’ll be there as soon as.”
“Don’t take too long,” Jack called out.
Jason waved, driving off. Making his way to the shop he’d frequented before moving offworld, he thought about Jack’s tone. It still held a worried edge to it. He couldn’t blame the man for worrying, but he was only going to the salon, for chrissakes. He started to dwell on that for a moment but his thoughts were diverted elsewhere when he passed the road he used to take – to his old apartment.
He sighed wistfully. He hadn’t been back for more than two days and he missed his old place; or rather, just the fact of it, since it was no longer there for him. As much as he loved Daniel and Jack, he couldn’t bounce back and forth between them, or even move in with one of them. There was no question about the appearance of such a thing as their friendship was well-known – especially after his grief became a public spectacle. But he didn’t like the lack of security, and the freedom he’d been used to for nearly 23 years of living on his own.
He turned into the parking lot for the salon and parked his truck, and leaving his jacket inside, he made his way toward the shop entrance. As he passed a newspaper vending machine, he stopped, staring. “Time to start looking,” he told himself. He paid the appropriate amount, grabbed a copy and returned to his truck, tossing it on the bench seat. “Time to get back into it.” He turned back to the salon, and upon entering was greeted by a surprised smile.
“Well, long time no see, stranger,” Rosie said, waving her manicured hand, gesturing him to the back.
Jason gave her an engaging grin. “Hello, Rosie. I’m glad to see you’ve not gone anywhere.”
“Nah,” she said dismissively, staring at his hair as she guided him to the reclining chair. She turned on the water, looking down at him. “You sure you want that cut?” she asked.
“No, but I have to. If I had my way, though, it’d be down to my ass.”
She winked at him just as the warm water hit his hair. “And what an ass it is, too.”
“What?” he asked, though he’d heard her clearly.
“Nothin’, darlin’. Nothin’ at all.”
As her fingers massaged his scalp, Jason was suddenly aware of how much he’d missed her, as he had everything else. Yes, he told himself, definitely time to get back into it.
Daniel smirked at Jack as they made their way to the elevator from the locker room.
“Daniel, stop it.”
“What? I didn’t do anything.”
“No, but you’re thinking about it.”
Daniel started laughing. “So I can’t think now?”
Jack gave Daniel his ‘Commander’ face as he punched the button and the doors enclosed them in the elevator. Daniel looked around, then gave Jack a very specific look.
“Daniel,” Jack warned again.
“You know that Aerosmith song?” he asked mischievously.
“Love in an elevator…living it up while I’m going…down…”
At Jack’s growl, Daniel startled laughing softly. “You are so easy to wind up, O’Neill.”
Jack sighed. “When we’re on the mountain…yes.”
“Pffft! Since when has that ever stopped you?”
“Okay, but not around the General, n’est ce pas?”
“Ooooh, French…sort of.”
Jack stared hard at his lover – who’d apparently decided to take a happy pill when he wasn’t looking. “What is with you? We have a team missing and you’re happy?”
Daniel’s smile faded a bit as he leaned against the opposite side of the car and folded his arms. “Jack, I’m just glad that Jace is in a much better mood than he was. I can’t help but feel happy about that. I’m well aware that a missing team isn’t a good thing–“
“Daniel, I didn’t mean–“
“And I thought that maybe I’d try to make you smile. Just for a minute or two.”
Jack sighed and gave Daniel a loving, if impatient, look. Daniel’s ploy had worked and he felt a bit guilty for getting on him about it. He himself was happy about Jason’s mood that morning. But then, good sex will do that to a person. “Thanks.”
Daniel smiled gently. “Jace will be fine. You’ll see. Besides, he’s made of strong stuff and we both know that. This will just take a little longer to bounce back from.” His face suddenly became serious, abruptly changing the mood in the elevator car. “I don’t know what I’d have done in his place, Jack. I really don’t.”
Jack nodded silently. The doors opened at that moment and they walked out, heading for the conference and briefing room. As they neared it, they could hear Hammond and others talking. When they heard Sam’s voice, they exchanged frowns of concern. Wasn’t she supposed to be in San Diego?
“How’d she get here so fast?” Daniel wondered.
“I swear,” Jack growled, “if she passed up family for one of her reactors, I’m kicking her ass.”
“You’ll need backup.”
“Very funny, Daniel.”
They walked into the room and Jack scowled at Sam before looking to his left and nodding to the General. “General.”
“General,” Daniel greeted.
“Doctor. Have a seat.” Two seats were empty on the General’s right, so Jack took the second seat – next to Sam.
“Carter, weren’t you supposed to be in San Diego?”
Sam grimaced. “I didn’t check with Mark first. He’s in New Hampshire, visiting his wife’s family.”
Jack grimaced as well. “Ah. Guess that means Dad’s not here?”
“Couldn’t make it, either,” she said, the disappointment clear in her tone.
“Damn, that bites.”
Jack looked to Sam’s right and nodded at Teal’c…and Bra’tac. “How’s it goin’, T? Nice to see you, Master Bra’tac,” and he got up from his chair to clasp the Master Jaffa’s forearm.
“I am well, O’Neill. You seem to be fit, as always,” he said, a hint of mischief in his eyes.
“Well, I’d like to complain about the knees and the back but Thor kind of took care of that.”
“So you are now finding new and more inventive ways of injuring yourself then, eh?” Bra’tac asked.
“Exactly,” Jack grinned widely. He nodded to SG-2 (sans their leader), and SG-3 before sitting back down and glancing again at Teal’c and Hammond. “Not that I mind your presence, Bra’tac, but…does this mean Goa’uld are involved?”
“We don’t know yet, Colonel,” Hammond said.
“I felt it would be wise to avail ourselves of Master Bra’tac’s skills during this search and rescue operation,” Teal’c advised.
“And I agreed,” Hammond added.
Jack nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly. He loved having Bra’tac around, even if the old man undercut his authority periodically. But that was to be expected. He had a bit more experience.
“Colonel?” Hammond asked.
“Where’s Major Coburn?”
“He’s getting his hair cut, sir,” Daniel answered instead. Jack again nodded.
“I see,” Hammond said, picking up the remote next to him. “Well, let’s see what we can see.” He pressed a button and a large video screen slid down over the glass window that overlooked the gateroom. It was then that Jack and Daniel noticed the bright blue flickering off the glass and ceiling, indicating an open wormhole. Hammond then touched one of the buttons on a panel set into the table. “Sergeant, relay current information.”
“Transmitting, sir,” Sergeant Davis said through the small speaker in the table.
A moment later, the blank white of the screen flickered with static which quickly cleared to show an offworld image.
“This is the current video transmission from the MALP, sir.”
“Thank you, Sergeant,” Hammond said. The people at the table studied the images. Daniel was immediately reminded of the scrub brush and rough vegetation that had surrounded the gate on Vorash, the old Tok’ra base. Unfortunately, the area around the gate was deserted. He identified the typical circular platform the gate sat on, as well as the short set of stairs descending to another platform with the DHD centered ten yards away. The MALP’s camera panned the ground, zooming in along the grassy edge. There were no visible footprints, scuff marks, or debris. There was no sign that SG-12 had ever been there. But they had.
“Nothing,” Teal’c said and Bra’tac nodded.
“We will have to make a personal inspection of the site,” Bra’tac suggested.
“Is there anything else that could possibly give us a clue?” Jack asked Hammond.
Hammond nodded, “But I don’t know what good it will do us.” He pressed the button on the table again. “Sergeant, shut down the wormhole and replay the MALP transmission from SG-12’s first and last check in.”
The screen went dark and they waited.
“What were they on the planet for, sir?” Jack asked.
“MALP detected naquada beyond the gate, but in what form we couldn’t determine.”
Jack grimaced. “Still out of UAVs?”
Hammond nodded. “They’re building more as fast as they can, Colonel, but it takes a bit of time to make sure they’re field ready.”
The screen suddenly filled with the image of Major Leila Montgomery. Behind her and to her left, they could see her teammates, Doctor Trevor Porter, Lieutenant Devon Blackwell, and Lieutenant Michael Kellogg.
Jack smiled at the image. Leila still insisted on wearing her fatigue cap with the brim folded slightly off center. Jack was immediately reminded of their friendly verbal sparring over the proper way to fold, and curl, a fatigue cap’s brim. As she started to speak, he took in her appearance. There didn’t seem to be any coercion or hint that she wasn’t talking of her own accord. Her blue eyes didn’t show any fear or strain and her tucked and braided blonde hair didn’t seem to have one hair out of place.
Her voice, too, sounded normal, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about her transmission until…
“Doctor Porter feels that there may be a structure nearby that could be causing the readings for naquada. We’ll investigate and report back in twelve hours – or earlier, if the mission requires. SG-12 out.”
The screen became blank again and Hammond pressed the button for it to retract back into the ceiling.
“Trevor wouldn’t have made that comment to Leila if he didn’t think it worth mentioning, sir,” Daniel told Hammond. “He’s a very logical…efficient…scientist.”
“Doesn’t think outside the box?” Jack asked, only minutely familiar with the SG-12 civilian.
“Oh he does, Jack, or he wouldn’t be here,” Daniel told him wryly, and received a few short smiles, including one from General Hammond. “My point is, he doesn’t waste words…unlike me.”
Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head at him. He’d get on Daniel about that later.
“So what you’re saying, Doctor Jackson, is that if he thinks something is worth investigating, he speaks up?” Madison asked.
“Yes, Major,” Daniel nodded, then looked at Bra’tac. “So from the MALP’s transmission, you saw nothing at all that could be worth tracking?”
“I am sorry, but no. Not from the image available.”
The group was pensive for a moment, then Daniel brightened and looked at General Hammond. “Sir, Adriann and some of his family members could help. From what I’d seen and observed the last time we were there, they appeared to be good hunters. They may be good trackers as well.”
Jack nodded as he remembered watching Calane, from a distance, use his bow. One had to be knowledgeable about hunting in order to use a weapon as effortlessly as he had. “Daniel’s right, General. They could be of some use.”
“From what I saw of their skill with a bow, sir, I agree as well,” Sam put in.
“As do I,” Teal’c echoed.
Hammond looked over at the members of SG-2. “You concur, gentlemen?”
“Yes, sir,” Alex replied. Connor and Al simply nodded.
Hammond thought about it for a minute, then nodded. “We’ve already been discussing preparing a formal alliance with them anyway.”
“Really?” Daniel and Jack asked together.
Hammond grinned, more specifically in Daniel’s case because his voice had been the loudest in helping the Residents. “Yes, Doctor Jackson. It would also be to our advantage to see of what other benefit they may be to us.”
“Sir,” Daniel objected, but Hammond held up his hand.
“I know what you’re going to say, Doctor, and there’s no need. We are helping them in return. As a matter of fact, I believe they’re due for their next donation, but I’d have to check with Doctor Fraiser as she is in charge of that.”
Daniel let out a breath. “When was their last…donation…sir, and I didn’t know they’d been getting any.”
Hammond nodded. “Just after Major Coburn contacted the Residents for help in finding you, Doctor Fraiser came up with an idea to replace the transfusion. It’s not what the Residents would prefer, but it is what we can offer…next to the alternative.”
They were clueless as to what he meant so Hammond explained that every week, two two-gallon medical containers were sent, via escort, to the Residents’ planet. Each container was filled with ten pint bags of blood, usually the overstock of A+ or A- type.
“So Doc and her lab rats haven’t found out yet what’s wrong with Adriann and his people?” Jack asked.
Hammond shook his head, both in answer and at Jack’s usage of ‘lab rats’. He really wished his 2IC would refrain from nicknaming everything, but he simply didn’t have the heart to order him.
Jack’s face fell. “After our initial problems, those people turned out to be okay. A little weird, but okay.”
Major Madison snorted.
“Something funny, Major?” Hammond asked.
“No, sir. It’s just that I find the fact that there are real vampires…ironic…sir.”
Hammond snorted. “I’ll agree with you on that one, Major. Well, let’s not wait for Major Coburn, people. Let’s give the Residents a call.”
Adriann gritted his teeth and pulled, the heavy cast iron bar finally giving and bending back straight. Their last electrical storm had put a few holes in the fence, some of them rather large. This last one, by the main gate, was the toughest. He reached down to find the melting tool and paused as the radio Jack had given him fell from his belt. He stared at it for a moment, remembering Jack’s features, and their time together in the underground stable. Silently chastising himself, he replaced the radio, making sure the clip was secured properly. With a heavy sigh, he picked up the tool and turned it on. The blue flame ignited and he aimed it at the twisted ends of the iron bar, waiting for the material to heat.
Despite himself, his mind replayed the last events with SG-1, his last visit with Jason, and then the visits by other members of their SGC. None of the medical personnel had told him that SG-1 was dead, but he’d felt they were hiding something every time they came through the gate with the blood containers. It was time again for their weekly ‘donation’, and this time, Adriann would ask point blank. He was tired of waiting, and tired of not knowing. If they were dead, then so be it. And what of Jason? Why hadn’t he contacted him at least once since his last visit?
Adriann frowned as he remembered touching Jason’s mind. The chaos inside was startling and Adriann had wanted to ease his pain, but he’d known that there was nothing he could do.
That fact left him inconsolable. He hated feeling useless and that’s all he had been feeling for a very long time. Until SG-1 and SG-2 visited his world. His hope had returned, and the useless feeling had disappeared – for a short time. But, as with all things it seemed, it came back with a vengeance.
A noise startled him slightly, making his back stiffen. But he soon relaxed without turning round and grinned.
“You must stop sneaking up on me,” he said, watching as the metal ends of the rod began to glow.
“It is only that your mind is elsewhere,” Kashan told him softly. His gloved hands reached out and held the bars together, his fingers perilously close to getting burned, despite the thick leather protecting his skin.
Adriann shut off the tool. “Kashan…”
“You are not wearing your gloves. I do not want you to be burned.”
Adriann smiled sadly. “It is much too late for that,” he said, intending his words to mean more than what they said – a metaphor for the heart.
Kashan sighed but said nothing. He simply looked at the iron bars and waited. Eventually Adriann turned on the tool again. After several minutes, the broken ends glowed bright red and Adriann shut off the tool. He slipped on his gloves, then picked up the rounded metallic sleeve and a heavy crimping-type tool. The sleeve was wrapped around the glowing ends, then the tool crimped the metal. Kashan held them together as Adriann retrieved the melting torch and resumed heating. The sleeve didn’t take long to melt into the glowing iron, and Kashan pulled the crimping tool off and set it into the bucket of water nearby. The water hissed and spat as the tool’s heavier metal was forced to cool.
“That is it for the time being,” Adriann said wearily.
Kashan took off his gloves and reached out, cupping Adriann’s jaw. Again, he said nothing, letting his eyes speak for him. Adriann looked back, his eyes reflecting his heavy heart. He need neither their telepathy nor spoken words to understand Kashan’s worry; in return, Kashan needed no communication to tell him that Adriann was suffering. He brushed his thumb over Adriann’s smooth face, letting his gesture and his eyes tell Adriann that he wasn’t alone. None of them had as intense a connection with their human ‘benefactors’ as Adriann, but their sadness was no less hard to bear. They felt with him.
Just as Kashan was about to say something, they were both startled as they heard the unmistakable whooshing sound of the stargate. For a fraction of a second, hope soared in Adriann’s heart. Just as quickly, however, he forced the hope down. Kashan saw it and his face showed pain for his brother. Adriann shook his head.
“Do not. I cannot help it.”
“I know, Adriann, and I wish only–“
“Adriann, come in, please. This is General Hammond.”
All color drained from Adriann’s face. The time had come. He closed his eyes as he pulled the radio from his belt and keyed the mic.
“This is Adriann, General. You are well, I hope?”
“I am, sir. I have an unusual request of you.”
Adriann’s eyes opened, momentarily taken off guard. He and Kashan exchanged glances. “Whatever I can do, General. What is it?”
“I am in need of your help. Would it be possible for you and a few of your family members to visit the SGC immediately?”
Adriann’s eyes widened, as did Kashan’s. They were surprised – this was something the two of them had been wanting. “I should like to very much, General. How many of my siblings may I bring?”
“Two to start with, Adriann. If we need more, we may send for them.”
That did not sound good. Something was definitely wrong. “What is wrong?” he asked.
“We need help in locating a missing team. Doctor Jackson feels that your skills could be of use.”
Adriann froze and his throat locked up. ‘Doctor Jackson‘ echoed in his ears. His eyes met Kashan’s and Kashan nudged him firmly, reminding him to speak. “My apologies, sir, but did you say Doctor Jackson?”
“Yes, I did, Adriann.”
“Then may I assume that SG-1 is alive and well and back home?”
“You may, sir. As soon as the stargate shuts down, please dial up the coordinates to our stargate, then radio that you are entering the wormhole and we will allow you through. Time is of the essence, sir.”
“Yes, General, I understand,” Adriann said absently. The stargate shut down and Adriann stood there in shock.
“Come on, Adriann!” Kashan said as he pulled Adriann up to the house. “He said there is little time.”
Adriann nodded dumbly.
“Well, that went well,” Jack said as he stood in the control room.
Daniel frowned and folded his arms. “What’d you expect? That he’d say no?”
“No. I guess I was looking for more of a reaction.”
“Over the radio?” Daniel asked, grinning.
“What matters is that they’re helping,” Jack replied, not bothering to respond to Daniel’s sarcastic question.
“Let’s hope they dial in quickly, Colonel,” Hammond told him. “I’ll give them sixty minutes, then you’ll have to leave without them.”
Hammond started for his office, then turned back. “Colonel, a word with you please.”
Daniel watched with concern as Jack walked into the General’s office and shut the door. “General?” Jack asked.
“Is Major Coburn ready for duty, Colonel?”
“Yes, sir, I think he is,” Jack said slowly, wondering if this chat had a purpose other than information. “Are you concerned he may not be, sir?” Suddenly Jack wondered if Jason’s fears were correct about being allowed to return to work.
“No, Jack, I’m not. But does he feel he’s ready?”
Jack took a slow breath. “He has reservations about being taken seriously as a leader again, sir, but other than that, nothing.” Jack wasn’t about to tell Hammond about Jason’s fears. No way. They were normal fears, but they were also fears you didn’t speak openly about. You simply faced them and proved yourself, which is exactly what Jack knew Jason could do.
“Well, he doesn’t have to worry about his leader status, Jack, but I’m concerned that he isn’t here already.”
Jack thought about it, then remembered uniforms. “His locker was cleaned out, yes?”
“To make room for Captain Matthews, that’s correct.”
“Then he probably had to stop off at his storage unit, sir.”
Hammond nodded with understanding. “Very well.”
“He’ll be here soon, sir.”
“I hope so, Colonel.”
Jack winced as he left Hammond’s office, wondering what could have held Jason up. He was certain that a morning haircut wouldn’t take that long and neither would getting his uniforms out of storage and stored back into his locker.
Jack returned to Daniel’s side in the control room, and found Daniel staring.
“That’s my question. What?”
“Oh, he’s just worried about Jason. Asked the usual questions.”
“Probably wondering where Jason is, too,” Daniel said. Jack confirmed that with a short nod just as Sam, Teal’c, and Bra’tac walked in from the conference room.
“I told Hammond that he’s probably getting his uniforms,” Jack went on.
“Who?” Sam asked.
“Jason,” Daniel told her.
“He hasn’t had time to…oh wait, he gave up his apartment, didn’t he?” she asked.
Daniel nodded. “So, everything’s still in storage. I keep telling him he can move into my place temporarily,” Daniel went on, but had to hastily add, “or even Jack’s place,” when Jack shot him a look, “but he’s not made up his mind to stay at either of our places for long.”
Sam made a face. “Living out of boxes. And storage. I hate that.”
“Oh, Janet put a lot of my stuff in storage, just in case my house was broken into, or to keep the more delicate stuff from getting dirty with dust.”
“You have delicate stuff?” Jack asked.
Daniel’s brows rose just as Sam gave Jack a dirty look.
Jack rolled his eyes. “I don’t mean that, Carter. Something worth stealing? Besides, last I checked, you didn’t live near a fraternity that conducted panty raids.”
As the General wasn’t in the room, Sam got away with backhanding her team leader across the stomach, hard. Jack grunted and rubbed his stomach, scowling at Daniel who had the nerve to smirk at him. Teal’c and Bra’tac exchanged amused glances, finding the interaction entertaining. Teal’c was used to it, but Bra’tac wasn’t. Subordinates, even as close friends, should not behave as casually as some members of the SGC acted toward each other and seeing it was unusually invigorating to Bra’tac. It was as if, by their brash behavior, they didn’t have a care in the world. Bra’tac knew otherwise, of course, but he wondered how they could interact in such a way and still maintain their high level of training and discipline. The Tau’ri were a strange lot. This knowledge also seemed to energize him. Just as he was about to mention this to Teal’c, the stargate began dialing in.
“Heads up, folks,” Jack said as Hammond entered the room.
Daniel stepped back out of the way, all the while watching Jack. He was amazed at Jack’s composure. He knew his lover was nervous, anxious, about seeing Adriann again. Jack and Adriann’s attraction to each other didn’t bother him, but Daniel found it…strange. Not strange that Adriann was attracted to Jack, Daniel could see that easily. What was strange was that Jack was normally so reserved, but he’d admitted to his attraction to Adriann. There was definitely something about the man…hell, there was something about all the Residents. A very strong, natural charisma was the only thing that Daniel could come up with, but with Adriann, it was more. Much more. He hadn’t been able to resist it and frankly, he hadn’t really tried. He still felt guilty about it, but with his lovers, including Jason, also attracted to the man…his guilt was mitigated slightly.
Daniel was also concerned about something else. How would Adriann act upon seeing Jack? Daniel was quite certain he’d be pleased and very relieved, but…Adriann was a man of intense passion and he had never had a reason to hide it. He was entering a world, however, that hid its passions often – and usually out of necessity. There was no such thing on Adriann’s world, nor had there ever been. Daniel felt quite a bit of envy for that, but his envy was not on his mind. Instead, he was worried, and hoped that Adriann would remember their discussions about Earth. Part of him wouldn’t mind seeing Jack embarrassed a little and seeing Jack blush was a secret perverse pleasure he’d developed. Unfortunately, he’s only seen Jack do that once. When Councilor Garshaw had kissed him on the cheek four years before – although that blush had been light and under a different sort of embarrassment, it was still a blush.
Daniel sighed. Under different circumstances – going to the Residents’ planet, for instance – Daniel wouldn’t mind seeing it, but right now…No, now was not a good time or place for Jack to be embarrassed. Not in front of the defense team and the SFs. It was bad enough to have SG-3 there. And Hammond. Daniel winced. Maybe a little preventative measure should be enacted…
“I think maybe all of us, except for yourself, of course, should wait in the conference room.”
“Why’s that, Doctor?”
“Daniel?” Jack asked just as the wormhole opened.
Daniel glanced at Jack, then looked fully upon his C.O., trying to communicate without having to say it. “Um, General, you read the reports we submitted…about how the Residents aren’t familiar with personal protocol.”
Hammond looked confused. “Spit it out, Doctor.”
“Sir, Adriann is very fond of…us. Given that he’d be glad to see us, alive and well, he may not remember our codes of personal conduct.”
Hammond smirked and nodded. He knew what Daniel was getting at, and had suspected that a few things were left out of the reports, and away from prying eyes. He nodded. “Very well, Doctor.”
Jack cleared his throat. “Yes, sir.” He then gave Daniel a wide-eyed, ‘what was that for?’ look.
Daniel’s eyes widened as well, trying to communicate the warning. Why the hell wasn’t Jack seeing this? Was he purposely being obtuse? “Until they come through, let’s uh, just go wait in here,” he said cautiously. He looked around him and the only other one who appeared not to know what he meant was SG-3 and Bra’tac, which was understandable.
Adriann’s voice suddenly came through the speaker. “It is Adriann, General. Should we step through now?”
“That’s affirmative, Adriann,” Hammond replied. “Open the iris,” he told Sergeant Davis.
General Hammond turned around and looked at the assembled. “Captain, you’re with me.”
Alex grinned a bit. “Yes, sir,” he said, following the General to the gateroom. Everyone else remained behind in the control room and Bra’tac gave Teal’c a puzzled look. Teal’c had explained to him who the Residents were but he still did not quite believe…nor did he know what to expect.
Jack looked over his shoulder when Daniel moved behind him. “Hey, why’d you ask us to stay here?”
“Adriann may not re–“
His words were cut off as all attention was focused on the three people who stepped through the event horizon. They were dressed in black suede and leather, similar to the riding gear they’d worn during SG-1 and 2’s last visit. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, Daniel thought. In fact, the defense team did their job as usual, showing no signs of wariness at the presence of the Residents. Daniel figured that they’d either forgotten the gossip about the Residents (which was highly unlikely) or they hadn’t yet realized who had just come through the gate. This unexpected visit was actually a godsend. It meant the NID or the Pentagon wouldn’t be notified in advance. Daniel couldn’t help but feel protective over them, especially Adriann.
As Adriann and his two siblings, Talen and Kashan, walked slowly down the ramp, their long hair seemed to flow silkily, as if a breeze blew across room. Their knee-length boots sounded somewhat muffled as they walked on the metal-grated ramp, and only their weight seemed to give them sound. As he watched them, Daniel wondered if it was because he was in the control room and listening through the speaker, though he also figured that they were wearing their soft-heeled boots. They hadn’t known what they’d be required to do. They’d only been asked to help find a team. That was smart thinking, Daniel thought. Hunters needed the quiet. Daniel then noticed that on their back were the thick, long, leather cylinders, like the one Calane had worn. Their long bows. The Residents’ weapon of choice.
The Residents took a look about the gateroom, quite obviously finding it foreign. Talen and Kashan sniffed, not liking the recycled air, but Adriann’s eyes were on the person at the foot of the ramp.
“Welcome to Earth,” Hammond said to them.
Adriann held out his hand. “It is wonderful to finally make your acquaintance, General.”
Hammond reached out and Adriann took his forearm in greeting. “Likewise, Adriann. I wish that this could have been under better, less hurried circumstances, but it can’t be helped. Would you mind foregoing the formalities until after this crisis is over?”
“Not at all, General. But some formality must be observed,” Adriann replied, then gestured at his siblings. “General, this is Talen, and Kashan.”
“It is an honor, sir, ma’am,” Hammond nodded to them as he grasped their forearms in proper greeting.
“As it is an honor to us,” Talen said with Kashan nodding once in agreement.
“If you will follow me, we’ll discuss what has happened in our briefing room.”
“Of course, General,” Adriann replied, looking around at the defense team. “Were we considered a threat, General?” he asked as they left the gateroom.
“Precautionary measures, Adriann,” Hammond told him.
In the control room, Daniel backed up toward the briefing and conference room. “Let’s go back to the briefing room. Jack, I suggest you get rid of the SFs. I don’t think they’re needed anyway.”
“Why?” Jack asked as he and the others followed Daniel to the briefing room. “Have you lost your marbles?”
“Jack…” Daniel began as he turned to him, “think about who’s about to walk through that door.” Daniel took stepped closer to Jack until he was whispering. “How Adriann feels about you and how he’s going to react upon seeing you alive. Remember, Jack. He doesn’t have the same inhibitions. Remember?”
Jack blinked. Twice. He got it. He suddenly snapped his fingers. “Airmen? Please step outside.”
“Sir?” asked one of the three positioned in the room.
“Go on. If the General wants you back inside, then he’ll change the order.”
“Yes, sir,” said the airmen nearest. They left the room and entered the corridor just as Hammond, Alex, and the Residents walked up the stairs from the control room.
Hammond frowned. “Colonel?”
“I advised Jack to send the SFs out of the room, sir,” Daniel said immediately, partly to take the blame if Hammond became annoyed.
Hammond started to ask why but remembered what Daniel had said earlier. He turned to speak with Adriann but Adriann’s attention was no longer on him…or anything else.
Adriann stood just beyond the top landing at the stairs, staring into the room. Talen and Kashan moved next to him and their gaze was just as riveted. There stood Daniel, Teal’c, Sam and…Jack.
Jack. Adriann couldn’t take his eyes off him. “You are alive and well, I see,” he said softly.
“Um, yeah,” Jack said, recognizing the expression in Adriann’s face, too. It was the same that he’d seen just before he’d left the Residents’ planet. One of…love. Jack finally got what Daniel was warning him about but he couldn’t believe that Adriann wouldn’t…
“It is so good to see you, Jack,” Adriann said softly just before he engulfed Jack in a warm hug.
Jack was both startled and relieved. Daniel’s warning, now that he understood it, had him a little jumpy. He’d hoped that Adriann would just shake hands, but a hug was safe enough…wasn’t it? He started to step away but Adriann turned his head as if he would kiss him. Jack suddenly cleared his throat and looked around, pretending embarrassment, but mostly sending the signal to Adriann. Adriann looked at him, then smiled and nodded.
“Didn’t mean to embarrass you, Jack.”
Jack cleared his throat, then glared at Madison and the others when he saw the smiles. “Um, s’alright, Adriann. It’s just a bit different here, is all.” He stepped back and then took the man’s forearm, clasping it warmly as he patted his shoulder. “And it’s good to see you, too.” Adriann smiled at him, understanding things immediately. He didn’t need to read Jack’s mind, either. The emotion was clearly felt. He turned then, spying Daniel.
“Daniel,” he said as he pulled Daniel into his arms.
“Adriann,” Daniel replied, suddenly overcome with embarrassment. As the civilian, he’s the only one who shouldn’t be embarrassed, but he knew that, regrettably, the SGC’s rules and atmosphere had more of an effect on his outlook than he’d realized.
Jack grinned, secretly planning on giving Daniel a hard time for getting embarrassed after what he’d said. He turned to Talen and Kashan. “Hello, Talen,” he said, smiling as he grasped her forearm.
“Jack,” she replied, grinning at him, then released him to grasp Kashan’s arm.
“Kashan,” he greeted.
“Jack. It is very nice to see that you are alive,” he said with as he exchanged looks with Adriann.
Jack returned it with one of his sarcastic grins. “I’m glad to be alive, as are my teammates. I believe you know Daniel, Sam and Teal’c, but this…this is Teal’c’s old friend and mentor, Master Bra’tac.” Jack grinned at the older Jaffa. “I believe he has been looking forward to meeting you.”
Bra’tac sent him a challenging look, then smiled up at Talen, who practically towered over him with her 6’4″ frame. “It is good to meet those that have met with such respect,” he said, and offered his forearm. Talen grasped it, giving Bra’tac a brilliant smile.
“I am pleased to meet you, Master Bra’tac,” she said and Bra’tac’s smile widened.
“I feel the need to tell you that I have a strong attraction to tall women,” Bra’tac said, flirting with his engaging charm. The action made Teal’c grin.
Talen grinned in response and lowered her voice as she flirted back, drawing a finger over his bearded chin. “I am finding this facial hair very attractive. Perhaps we could find things to talk about when this search is over.”
Bra’tac winked. “Perhaps.”
“Seems Bra’tac is something of a charmer,” Jack whispered as leaned slightly in Daniel’s direction.
“Must’ve been taking lessons from someone,” he whispered back, then walked up to receive hugs from Talen and Kashan.
Other introductions were made and the assembled took their seats around the table. Faces suddenly changed from warm and welcoming to business-like and no-nonsense, something that General Hammond was most pleased about. It seemed that SG-1 and 2’s reports were correct about the Residents. When it came time for serious business, they didn’t waste time.
The video playback of the planet was shown again, but Adriann and his siblings didn’t recognize the surrounding terrain. It was quickly determined that an on-site evaluation was in order, for they couldn’t waste any further time speculating.
Just as they were standing from the table, Hammond sent Jack a concerned look. Where was the leader of SG-2?
As Jason rode nervously down to level 27, he found himself irritated by the fact that the song he’d last heard wouldn’t leave him alone. Wasn’t that always the thing? The last song on the radio was always the one that stuck with you, especially when you entered a place with no music. And then you were hardly aware of the song repeating itself in your head until you finally stopped thinking about sex and food and paperwork and sex and…
Jason sighed and gave in, deciding to hum the song to himself. The three airman in the car with him smiled, recognizing the song. The doors opened and Jason unnecessarily straightened his flight jumpsuit as he left. He grinned at them, then began singing the words, getting wider grins from the three airmen as the elevator doors closed on them.
Jason gave a few nods as he walked down the corridor, still singing softly to himself. Sergeant Siler joined him as he rounded an adjoining corridor and grinned widely.
“Nice to have you back, sir.”
“Thank you, Sergeant. How’re you doing?”
“Fine, sir. You must be in a good mood.”
“Why do you say that, Sergeant?”
“Ah yes,” Jason snorted, not having paid attention to the fact that he was still singing. Now, on a military base, the first thing one assumed when someone was singing (most especially when inside an enclosed concrete facility) was that somebody got laid. Yes, Jason had very definitely gotten laid. And yes, that was very likely the reason for his singing, but basically, he was in a good mood. His lovers were alive and he felt very good. What else was there?
“Yes, Sergeant. A good mood. Glad to have my friends home and alive.”
“Understood, sir,” Siler smiled as he moved off into a small lab.
Jason went back to his singing, letting his voice grow louder as he approached the conference room. A few SFs stared at him, trying not to smile at the words he sang.
Hammond started to ask Jack where Major Coburn was when everyone in the room heard a voice singing softly as it neared the room. Jack and Daniel grinned; they knew that voice.
When Jason entered the room, his singing faded. “Oops. Sorry, sir,” and he held out his hand to the General.
“Welcome back, son,” Hammond said warmly.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Ready to go back to work?”
“As I’ll ever be, sir,” Jason grinned.
“Then let’s get to it. I believe you know our guests?” he said and stood aside.
Jason saw Adriann and company and stopped, startled. He was quickly over it, however, and he went over to greet them and Bra’tac.
“Okay, let’s get on it, people,” Hammond said as he walked to the stairs. “Colonel, please bring the leader of SG-2 up to speed.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack replied as he pointed at Jason. “Where you been?”
“Um…I didn’t get my clothes out of…” Jason paused as Jack smirked. “You knew that, so why’d you ask?”
“Ah huh. Just tryin’ to wind me up then.”
“Naturally. He can’t help himself,” Daniel replied as he walked slowly past Jason, staring at his hair. “By the way, nice cut.”
Jack affected surprise. “Oh yeah, I thought you looked different.”
Jason threw the smirk back. “Very funny.”
Jack exaggerated a sniff. “Hmm.”
“I don’t smell anything.”
Across the room, Major Madison sniggered. Jason looked over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes. “Something, Maddy?”
“Nope, not touching it.”
Jason snorted and turned back to Jack, his eyes still narrowing. “Okay, Colonel. Out with it. I can see you’re chomping at the bit.”
From the door, Daniel said, “I think he’s noticed that distinct lack of coconut. Rosie run out or something?”
Sam let out a loud pig-snort and Jason tried to level a glare at her, but he couldn’t help but smile. He turned his gaze on Daniel as he walked toward him. “As a matter of fact, she was out. Said she used the last big batch on you.”
As the three teams, Bra’tac, and the Residents exited the wormhole on P5C-332, Jack ordered a close perimeter sweep around the gate and its stone platform. Adriann, Talen, and Kashan withdrew their bows from the leather quivers and notched an arrow…just in case.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and that’s what spooked Jack. In fact, he was getting a spectacular case of the ‘willies’. Daniel noticed him shudder and walked up to his right, a frown wrinkling his brow.
“Jack?” he asked, his tone letting Jack know that he noticed something was bothering him.
Jack shook his head slightly as his face made a small grimace. “I don’t trust this.”
Daniel looked around. “It is kind of…”
“Right,” Jack said, shaking himself. “Carter, Bra’tac, Teal’c? You sensing anything wrong here?”
Sam nodded, as did Bra’tac and Teal’c.
“There is a strong naquada power source nearby,” Teal’c told him as he kept scanning their surroundings. “I cannot pinpoint it, O’Neill, but feel it strongly.”
“I agree,” Bra’tac said, his face firm, alert.
Jack acknowledged them with a nod, then turned to Sam. “Carter?”
Sam shrugged. “I don’t know if the feeling is naquada, but I sense…something. What is it you sense exactly?”
“As Captain Kirk would say, I’ve got this red alert right back here,” and Jack touched the nape of his neck. He stared at Adriann, Talen, and Kashan. They were staring at the ground as they moved. It looked peculiar, as if they were searching for something. No, that wasn’t right. They were staring at their footsteps…or the ground underneath. “Adriann? What is it?”
Adriann held up a hand as walked toward the DHD, his eyes scanning the ground just in front of his steps. “Something…one moment.” Talen and Kashan were copying his movements as they walked along the edge of the platform. All three of them felt what Jack described as a red alert and somewhere in the back of their memories, a long-forgotten experience was trying to relive itself. Problem was, they didn’t know what it was.
Adriann had an idea, however. He hoped he was wrong but his sense of danger was growing exponentially the closer he got to the DHD. All eyes were on him as he moved to the front of the DHD. Suddenly, he lifted his left foot and set it down; then again; and once more. Jack still thought the action looked peculiar, but more than that, it kept raising the ‘red alert’.
“Ka’nel’sha,” Adriann swore, freezing in place for a second before he whirled, eyes wide in alarm, scanning their perimeter. His siblings were already imitating his behavior and it caused everyone to go on alert.
“What, dammit?” Jack asked as he walked up next to him. He looked down at the ground at Adriann’s slightly raised foot, trying to see what it was that alarmed the man. “What?”
Adriann shook his head. “This is not good,” Adriann whispered as he brought his foot down.
“I don’t wanna hear that,” Jack said with exasperation just before he saw a glint, like one sees when catching the shine from a spider strand, stretching out from either side of Adriann’s foot. It seemed as if Adriann were stepping on a translucent string. “What the…what is that?” he asked, pointing the nose of his P-90. He suddenly dropped to one knee, extending his weapon to touch the strange filament.
“No!” Adriann said harshly, moving to action. He stepped away, pulling Jack to his feet.
“What?” Daniel and Sam asked, with others echoing their question. They hurried over to Jack and Adriann. “What?” Daniel repeated.
Adriann continued to circle, in place.
“Adriann?” Jack asked impatiently as he grabbed Adriann’s arm, speaking in that tone that said he wanted clarification, and fast.
Daniel pointed to the ground as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. “Uh…Jack…that looks like a spider strand…and a fucking huge one.” He turned to Adriann as his words left his mouth. His eyes widened considerably. “That’s not what it is, is it?” he asked, moving his questioning gaze to Kashan and Talen.
Jack looked at Adriann, his gaze intensifying. “Tell me it’s not what Daniel thinks it is.”
Adriann turned to his siblings as they walked over, their eyes as frightened as his own. “Ka’nel’sha?” he asked them.
Talen and Kashan nodded slowly.
“Okay, explain right now,” Jack growled, “and it had better not be spiders.”
Adriann gave Jack a look, one which said he couldn’t tell Jack what he wanted to hear. “I am sorry, Jack” he said, “but it is what you called them. Spiders. Only from the image I got from your mind – accidentally, by the way – they do not look like Earth spiders.”
Jack groaned. He knew his bad feeling was going to turn out…well, bad. He didn’t want to ask, but he had to. “In what way don’t they look like the ones on Earth?”
“They are much, much larger in size.”
Jack grimaced and turned away, holding up a gloved hand. “I did not want to hear that.”
“I sympathize, Jack,” Adriann said.
Jack stared, his eyes narrowing. “You’ve come into contact with these before?”
“We have,” Kashan answered. “A very long time ago and–“
Jack cut him off by wagging a finger at him and shaking his head slightly. “Can they be killed?”
“They can,” Adriann confirmed, his siblings nodding in agreement.
Jack abruptly dropped his pack and removed the spare ammo clips. “A’ right, everyone load up. We’re going hunting,” and at his words, everyone else dropped their packs and did the same. “Adriann, have you any idea how many of these there might be?” He prayed that Adriann would give him a small number, and not one in the hundreds.
“Depending on the size of the structure they’re using as a nest, they average from twenty to fifty.”
Jack cringed at the word nest. It always implied large numbers. With his luck, they’d find fifty of these buggers. “Major Montgomery mentioned a structure, so let’s go find them. Teal’c, Bra’tac, which direction do you feel that ‘something’, whatever it is?”
Bra’tac pointed southeast of the stargate. “There. It cannot be too far away.”
“Let’s move out then,” Jack ordered. The teams headed southeast, fanning outward. Each carried a P-90 in one hand and a zat in the other. Including Daniel, with his normally-issued sidearm still strapped to his leg.
As they ran over brush, short crops of bushes, and the periodic small tree, Jack’s intuition told him this would be nasty. “Exactly how big is big, Adriann?” he asked the man running next to him.
“Big enough to carry off a human of your size, Jack.”
Jack grimaced again. “Shit. I hate bugs. I mean, I really hate bugs.”
“‘Course, replicators only made that worse,” Daniel remarked through quickening breaths as they ran.
“Yeah, I’d prefer never to see them again, either,” Jason said as he passed them, veering slightly to the left and taking point.
The land rose slightly and ended and Jason made his way over. He crested the top and half a second later, dropped to his belly behind the ridge.
Jack immediately made a fist in the air and everyone dropped to one knee. He didn’t like the look in Jason’s face as his lover looked over his shoulder at him. There was horror in his eyes.
Jason closed his eyes for a second, trying to quickly come to grips with what he saw. The sight did indeed horrify him. He swallowed, then opened his eyes.
“What?” Jack mouthed.
“Big. Dog-sized,” Jason mouthed back.
Jack’s mouth dropped open. “Dog?”
Jason raised his P-90 above the ground as he low-crawled backward a few feet, then got to his knees. He turned back to look at Jack and whispered, “Wolf.”
Jack again grimaced. “Fuck,” he mouthed to himself. “Get back here,” he motioned and Jason ran, hunched over.
Daniel moved up alongside. “What did you see?” he asked Jason.
“It’ll give you nightmares, Daniel,” Jason shuddered. As if he hadn’t had enough of those.
Daniel moved forward to look.
“Daniel, get back here,” Jack hissed but it was only twenty feet up the slope and too late to prevent his forward advance. “Dammit, Daniel.”
Daniel looked over his shoulder, giving Jack an apologetic look, then turned back and pushed up from the ground to peek over the edge of the rise. It was fortuitous that he did it at that moment. What he saw – coming up the other side and directly at him – made him run backward, screaming in terror. He hadn’t done that since he was ten years old and Marge Tandleman had shoved a snake down the back of his pants.
“BACK!” he screamed, running backwards, grabbing at Jack’s vest, warning him with the wild look in his eyes.
It seemed as if things moved in slow-motion after that though in actuality, no more than five minutes had passed.
A large black spider, like a tarantula, but with enormous eyes, came scurrying over the rise, moving quickly toward Daniel. Everyone heard the clicking, chittering noise coming from the spider as it moved and chills were sent down every spine. A hissing sound followed as two others appeared, their paths heading for Jack and Jason.
Jack called out in warning, “Watch your targets!” before they were soon too busy saving each other’s lives. The spiders actually jumped, launching themselves at their prey and Daniel couldn’t help it. He screamed again as he fired. He was comforted by the barely-registered knowledge that he wasn’t the only screaming in horror and disgust.
Spiders came quickly over the entire width of the hill, scampering toward the teams, their fat, hairy legs seemingly running in a blur. All hell broke loose as bullets, zat and staff weapon charges, and arrows fired freely, crossing each other up sometimes.
Then…there came the frightening look of large black fangs, moving up and down as they neared a possible victim. Daniel could have sworn that the next spider that came at him was drooling…salivating. Clear fluid dripped from its fangs, but he knew that what he actually saw was venom.
A horrible hissing sound came from its body and a shower of white was suddenly coming at him. He dived, somersaulting out of the way as he fired. The spider’s ‘head’ was blown off, the dark red ichor spraying in all directions, some of it littering his clothes. He didn’t have time to get grossed out by it as other spiders came at him. A strange thought occurred to him for a second, as he realized he was becoming immune to blood spatter. Dismissing the thought quickly, he had barely enough time to look behind him before he had to roll again, realized that the white stuff that was showered at him was some sort of ‘capturing’ silk. A flash of another memory came to him, something from the Discovery Channel about a spider using its silken web as a net. That only made things worse in his mind as the image brought forth a word: lassoing. What were they to these spiders? Cattle?
Jack was too busy for random thought as another head was blown off and several spiders were hit with his zat. Jack felt the static charge building in the air from the multiple zat discharges around him and he realized that the hair on his eyebrows was rising. “Jack!” he heard as Jason called out in warning, and for a second, Jack panicked and allowed the random stray thought to invade his mind: Jason used his first name…in front of the other teams. Hoping the others were too busy to notice, he cast the thought aside as he took heed of the warning. He turned and fired, watching with grisly satisfaction as the bullets hit their target and ripped one of the spiders in two. The blood sprayed out at the same time that the creature let loose a shower of silk. Jack dived to his left, getting only his right foot and calf covered in both substances.
Not having the time to stop and wipe the stuff off, Jack pressed forward, moving to protect the Residents. He couldn’t trust an arrow over a bullet and was getting ready to toss Adriann his zat gun when Adriann shot three arrows in quick succession, killing the attackers efficiently. Two of them had been coming for Adriann; the third, for Jack. Jack watched as the skewered animal screeched as it was thrown back by the opposing force of the arrow. Jack cringed at the sound, but nodded a thank you at Adriann before they were soon firing at other targets. From that point on, he would never doubt Adriann’s ability to defend himself with a bow.
Jason rolled and fired, not ever having time to get to his feet completely before he had to duck and dive again and again. All the while, he kept thinking that these ‘spiders’ were worse than anything they had encountered so far. Even though they were animals, they held no fear of man. There was no need. Because of their size, they certainly saw the humans as viable prey, unlike their fearful, considerably smaller, counterparts on Earth. Even those huge ‘bird’ spiders in the Central American rain forest had nothing on these ‘cousins’.
Jason’s team and SG-3 attempted to flank the others while Sam, Teal’c, and Bra’tac wove in and out of the fire fight, taking care of their targets with consummate skill.
Talen and Kashan were almost out of arrows. They’d made sure they had at least twenty arrows in their quivers, but if they were running out, it meant that there was a considerably larger nest in the building beyond the ridge. Teal’c and Bra’tac, who seemed to know about their weapons’ loss, moved in to protect them, just as Jack had been doing. Being protected was something that both Talen and Kashan weren’t used to, but considering the creatures they were dealing with, they were very grateful for the back-up.
As the attacking spiders were eliminated, Jack ordered all of them forward, over the ridge and toward the structure sitting in the distance, perhaps a hundred yards away. He suddenly heard a shriek to his left and both he and Jason turned to see a spider lunging at Talen. A second later, an arrow whizzed by his left shoulder, striking the jumping spider mid-air, piercing its center and knocking it onto its back. Its legs wriggled spasmodically before it stilled and died. A shudder passed over Jack as he took a long second to examine the creature. He really hated bugs. Action to his right took his attention away and he fired, hitting a few of the surviving creatures.
Jack pressed on and when he was thirty yards from the building, he spied four violently writhing, white shapes lying against the northwest foundation of the building. It took Jack a moment to realize what they were and he ran as fast as he possibly could. “Eleven o’clock! Need help here!” he bellowed long before reaching his target. Everyone focused on what he was running toward and a collective gasp rippled through the company.
The white shapes were human figures. SG-12.
Jason, Daniel, and Sam were quickly at Jack’s heels.
When they reached them, Jack called out to the others. “Cover us!”
Teal’c and Bra’tac took up defensive positions, scanning the roof, while SG-2 and 3 scanned any possible exit from the building itself. Talen, Adriann, and Kashan moved around quickly, their eyes peeled on the perimeter, looking to make sure that no oncoming spiders had gotten away.
Jack, Daniel, Jason, and Sam tried pulling and tearing at the cocoon but the stuff was too strong and fibrous. As one, they got the same idea and their combat knives were in hand, slashing at the slightly sticky mesh. It was hard to pull the stuff away from their encased colleagues’ bodies, but they succeeded, ripping at the compound filaments.
Major Montgomery, her blonde hair askew and her eyes wild, seized the opportunity for escape through the six-inch tear Jason had just made and clawed her way through. The casing was ripped down the center and Jason tried to widen the opening further. His efforts were interrupted as she found her voice and began to scream, clawing and striking at him. Startled, Jason dropped his knife and grabbed her firmly by her biceps, shaking her.
“Leila! Leila! It’s Jason Coburn. They’re dead! You’re safe!”
“Yes!” he shouted emphatically, forcing her to look in his eyes. “They’re dead, you’re safe!”
“Dead?” she asked, twisting around, searching.
“Yes, Leila. Dead,” he repeated.
“Trevor, Devon, Michael?”
He glanced to his right and saw her teammates freed as well, though in pretty much the same emotional condition as their leader. “They’re alive, Leila,” and he pointed to her left. She turned, and after letting out a gusty sigh of relief, hugged Jason tightly.
“I so owe you one,” she suddenly said against his chest as her body shook.
“All part of the service, ma’am,” he quipped, pulling away.
“Even so, next time I see you at Rory’s, I’m buying.”
Jason smiled as he helped her out of the white prison. “Not necessary,” he said, then quickly moved on. “Leila, are you injured? Can you stand?”
Her hand quickly moved to her back and she flinched, hissing. “Stung by something.” She suddenly began to tremble violently, as if in convulsions and he wrapped his arms around her, covering her body with his own to prevent injury. “Colonel! We have to get them to the infirmary as fast as possible!” There was no telling what she and her teammates had been stunned with before being carried off.
Jack held onto a convulsing Trevor Porter. “Yeah, I’m getting the idea,” he replied loudly. He couldn’t get a good grip on the trembling man. “Shit,” Jack hissed. “We need help here!” he called out. McCaffrey and Kaufman moved over quickly, as did the other members of the rescue party, supporting the injured SG-12 to their feet and back to the gate.
On the way, Daniel finally realized what it was that was bothering him about the structure. As the gate connected and Jack talked to Hammond, Daniel turned, looking behind him. Jason looked at him, curious.
“What? You see more of them?”
“No,” Daniel replied. “I recognize that building.” He looked over at Sam and found her staring at him. “It’s familiar. Doesn’t it look familiar to you?” he asked.
Sam looked puzzled as she glanced over her shoulder at the building. It did not look familiar…but it did.
Teal’c suddenly said, “It is familiar to me, Daniel Jackson.”
“As it is to me,” Bra’tac added.
“What?” Sam asked, getting impatient.
“It’s one of those Goa’uld opium dens,” Daniel told her.
“A pleasure palace, like the one on P4X-347?” she asked, looking again in the direction of the structure, though the building was now out of sight.
“Palace?” Jack asked, showing disgust. “Ugh, this day keeps getting better and better. I hated that damned place.” Jack suddenly looked down at himself, then back over his shoulder. “Daniel, remind me when we get home to bomb my house.”
“Definitely making a trip to Home Depot,” Daniel nodded in full agreement.
Adriann blinked in confusion, along with his siblings and Bra’tac. “Bomb?” he asked.
“It’s a word we use, Adriann,” Jason told him, “for using a poisonous gas meant to kill insects and spiders. It emits a white smoke and after you set it off in your house, you have to leave for at least three hours or get poisoned yourself.”
“It kills you?” Bra’tac asked.
“No, but it’ll make you sick,” Jack said. “The important thing is that it kills bugs.” He shuddered. “Let’s get home, folks.”
“Jack, we should come back here,” Daniel suddenly said as he went for the event horizon.
“Why?” Jack asked.
Bra’tac nodded at Daniel. “Doctor Jackson’s suggestion is sound. There may yet be more of these creatures and you will have to eliminate them before you proceed.”
“Proceed with what?” Jack asked, but he quickly remembered the naquada hunch and grimaced. “Never mind.”
“As your General Hammond has pointed out, you are in constant search for means to fight the Goa’uld. You have yet to see what may be useful here, therefore a return trip is warranted.”
“Yes, I remember, Bra’tac. That naquada source. Any ideas where to look?” he asked reluctantly.
“If this is an older palace, and I think this is highly likely, then I would search underground,” Bra’tac said.
“Swell. Can this day possibly get any better?” Jack asked, making sure by the look on his face that the question was rhetorical.
Cleaned up, in fresh uniforms, and rearmed, the three teams assembled in the gateroom once more. Their demeanor was antsy, almost spooked. From the control room, Hammond watched them worriedly. He didn’t want to send them back to the planet, but they had their standing orders and had to check out the possible naquada source. There could be something useful under the Goa’uld structure as Bra’tac had suggested, unlike the previous building they’d encountered, and Hammond hoped the man was right.
He watched Jack, sending back an encouraging smile whenever his 2IC looked up at him. Jack didn’t want to go but he knew the drill, just as Hammond did. As for the Residents…Hammond didn’t have any reason to include them, but Adriann had made a point of asking to rejoin the teams, telling the General that he’d sensed something else there that had nothing to do with the spiders.
“Could it be naquada, as Master Bra’tac and Teal’c suspect?” Hammond had asked.
“I cannot sense naquada, General, so no, it is not that.”
“Do you have any idea what it could be?”
“I am sorry,” Adriann had said, shaking his head. “I can only say that our help is required and whatever I sensed, I do not trust it.”
Talen and Kashan had backed him up. In the end, Hammond left it up to Jack as commander of the mission. Jack hadn’t seen any reason to include the Residents, but his intuition overrode his instincts, telling him that if there was something there that the Residents sensed – something they could not – combat tactics and common sense required their presence.
Adriann and his siblings entered the gateroom and Jack looked them over. Their clothing hadn’t changed and as there hadn’t been time to clean it, the dark leather was even darker in spots where the blood had been cleaned off.
Jack pointed at a spot on Adriann’s knee. “You sure you don’t want to go home and change?”
“And possibly ruin more clothing?” Adriann asked, giving Jack a soft smile. “No, Jack, we are fine.”
Jack gave the smile back, then turned to the others, eyeing all of them deliberately. “I know the point is moot, but is everyone okay about going back to the planet?”
“No,” came loudly from Sam. “Sir.”
The others’ expressions mirrored her words. “Understood,” Jack replied, then looked up into the control room just as the wormhole engaged and connected their gate to P5C-332.
“You have a go, Colonel,” Hammond told him. “I don’t think it’s necessary for me to recommend extreme caution.”
“I agree, sir,” Jack replied. “In fact, I recommend we stay home, kick back, and have a barbecue.” Murmurs around him echoed that suggestion.
Hammond smiled, snorting quietly. “That’ll be in six days, Colonel. Our annual barbecue.”
“Ah,” Jack said, his sarcastic smile fading slightly. “Think we could move that up?”
Hammond shook his head though he desperately wanted to say yes. “Good luck, Colonel. Report in one hour.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said, saluting, then turned back to face the gate. “Well, folks, let’s get this over with. Move out.”
As they approached the Goa’uld structure once again, the group was able to take their time and look around. Between the palace and the stargate, they now noticed the spider silk strands running over the ground in several crisscrossing directions, like some crazy embroidery pattern. It wasn’t the sticky stuff they’d identified with normal spider silk, either. This stuff also seemed to bounce, hovering just above the ground.
“It is what you would call a warning net,” Adriann told Jack.
That didn’t ease Jack’s mind any, nor anyone else’s. The closer they got to the palace, the thicker the sensor net became and in spots, it was indeed sticky. The filaments, now an obvious white in color, nearly created a carpet that covered the raw earth. It stopped the moment they stepped onto the marble stone of the front patio.
Jack finally let himself recognize the building, but this Goa’uld pleasure palace was in a state of extreme disrepair. The smell of it reeked with mold and fungus, and indeed, green growth dotted the exterior marble walls and flooring. The obvious coloring they’d seen in the previous palace was nowhere to be seen in this one. The colors had paled dramatically, as if hit by strong sunlight for far too long. Weeds, grasses, and strange vine plants grew up anywhere there was a crack between the marble. In some cases, the marble had been forcibly cracked and the plants had sprouted through.
“Jeez, what a dump,” Jack said absently, making Daniel snort. “Perimeter sweep around the building before we move in, then Madison? I want your team on guard outside,” Jack ordered.
Everyone complied without question, their nerves still on edge, still high on adrenaline. Outside, they searched south of the structure through the desert scrub grasses and trees. In the far distance loomed a mountain range, tall and capped with snow. They found nothing but the dead bodies of spiders.
“Nothing, sir,” Jason told him as he and his team returned from the back of the building. Jack checked with the others and they gave the same report.
“A’ right,” Jack replies. “Search inside by pairs or threes. Daniel, you’re with me.”
Within the large palatial structure, there was nothing SG-1 hadn’t seen before. The only thing missing were the light matrix and the endorphin machine. For that, Jack was grateful. He didn’t need another experience like that, thank you very much.
Jason, with Alex, found a door that branched to the right of the backdoor exit. The kitchen. Near one wall, they found a large rectangular opening in the floor. Within, a set of stairs leading downward. It was also littered with broken silk strands. Jason keyed the mic on his radio.
“O’Neill, this is Coburn.”
“Whaddya got?” Jack responded.
“A set of stairs in the kitchen, sir. They lead underground. The nest may be down there. There are silk strands at the entrance.”
“Stay put and don’t go down by yourself. We’re on our way.”
“Roger that,” Jason replied and waited about a minute before Jack and Daniel hurried into the room.
Jack scanned the stairs with the flashlight of his weapon, easily locating the white filaments. He then keyed his radio. “Everyone else stay alert.”
“Yes, sir,” Sam called back.
Jack proceeded to step down onto the first stair, but Jason held him up.
“I’ll take point, sir.”
Jack sighed, hating it when Jason reminded him that, as leader, he shouldn’t go first. He held out his hand, gesturing ‘be my guest’. Alex then moved behind Jason and Daniel automatically moved behind Jack. Jack looked over his shoulder, giving Daniel a surprised look. Daniel only raised his brows. What? he seemed to ask. Jack shook his head and faced front. With a sigh, he said, “Alright…move cautiously.”
They did…or rather, they had to. Only the lights from their P-90’s illuminated the darkness. The steps numbered eighteen and when Jason touched bottom, he moved to his left, allowing Alex to step up on his right. Their flashlights scanned the darkness, finding more silken webbing along the floor, but it seemed more like refuse than a deliberately placed trap. Jack and Daniel stepped in behind the two men, and as one, they moved forward, their eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. They found themselves in a seemingly empty room, the dimmed coloring of the painted stonework not as faded as it was above the main floor. In the shadows, out of the light, they couldn’t tell how large the room was, but the soft echo of their boots seemed to indicate that the room was immense. Jack motioned and Jason and Alex moved to the left; he and Daniel, to the right. Their lights arced, scanning floor to ceiling.
Seven paces in, Daniel froze, his left hand going up in a gesture he’d learned from Jack. Jack made no sound but he clicked the mic on his radio twice, signaling. Jason and Alex halted, turning to their right but keeping an eye on their immediate surroundings. Nerves were on edge now. Something had alarmed Daniel, causing him to stop.
Daniel slowly moved the light from his P-90 from left to right, holding his breath. He’d heard something, almost like a hissing rattle. It was soft, but he knew he hadn’t imagined it. His senses were heightened more than before and as the light travelled around, he found the room stretched further back from the right of the stairs. Then he saw it. Or thought he did. A large black shadow…or shape. Carefully, his light travelled but something told him not to shine the light at what appeared to be the farthest corner of the room. He paused, seeing something indefinable move. Taking a terrified step back, he shone the light of his P-90 into the corner just as Jack’s light joined his.
Their eyes widened. In the corner, sat a large spider. A huge spider.
Goddamn thing’s as big as my truck, Jack thought with revulsion. He was startled for a brief second as he felt Jason and Alex’s presence behind him, then heard Jason whisper just barely into his ear.
Jack grimaced. Why is there always a fucking queen? he asked himself.
A hissing sound broke the silence of the room and Daniel was hit with sticky silk strands, some of which hit Jack. He grabbed the back of Daniel’s collar just as his lover let loose a shout of disgust. Another sound, like that of rattling, suddenly filled the room and sharp scraping noises were heard. The huge spider was moving.
As the four began to back up, the lights from their P-90’s caught sight of the spider. It was almost upon them, only a few yards away!
“Shit!” Jack cried as he pulled Daniel out of the way and fired. An ear-piercing shriek emitted from the spider and blood and gore splattered everywhere – and especially on Jack. The others fired and the large spider was quickly torn apart. As pieces of it fell, the light from Daniel’s weapon hit upon something whitish. Thinking it was a sac for silk, Daniel stepped forward and nudged it with the toe of his boot. The sac moved.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Jack cried and he and Jason emptied their clips into the sac, making sure none of the ostrich-sized eggs within the sac remained intact. Nothing else came at them out of the dark, but they scanned it anyway, moving further in. Only the light from the entrance gave them the homing direction to leave.
Jack turned to Daniel and swallowed. “I’m buying a case of that bomb stuff.”
Daniel fervently agreed. That queen spider was more than enough to last him a lifetime, and looking at the destroyed eggs gave him a much stronger urge to wash than the one he already had.
As they ascended the stairs, they found Adriann, Talen, Kashan, Sam, Teal’c and Bra’tac surrounding them, worried looks on their faces.
“Sir?” Sam asked, not bothering to hide her sickened expression as she saw the gore on his uniform, neck, and right side of his jaw.
“We’re okay, Carter,” Jack said mildly. “Got it handled.”
“What happened?” Bra’tac asked.
“Just had to kill the queen,” Daniel replied just as mildly as he tried to remove the sticky strands from his collar and shoulders. He wasn’t having any success, especially as the blood that had spattered on him kept the stuff pretty well glued to his uniform.
“Queen?” Sam asked, sending a disgusted glance toward Teal’c.
“Yep,” Jack said wearily. “Now…what about the rest of the building?” he asked.
Before they could answer him, Madison radioed in.
“Colonel O’Neill, come in.”
“Go ahead, Madison,” Jack replied.
“We heard weapons fire, sir. Is everything okay?”
“We’re fine now, Major.”
“Good to hear, sir. Nothing to report on our end.”
“Also good to hear, Major. Stay alert.”
“And?” he asked again, looking at Teal’c, then Adriann.
“We could not find anything, O’Neill. No power sources of any kind.”
“We did not find anything, either,” Adriann added.
Jack looked at him with weariness. “And that feeling?”
“I still sense something, Jack, but I cannot, as you would put it, pin it down.”
“Swell,” Jack said. “Let’s go back to the gate and report…and I so need a shower.”
As they stepped outside, the silence enabled them to finally hear something else.
“Sounds like a water source, sir,” Sam said.
Jack continued toward the gate. “Check it out, Carter.”
She moved out with Teal’c and Bra’tac and discovered a small river. She clicked the mic on her radio. “There’s a river, sir.”
“Think that could lead to the power source you guys are sure is here?” Jack radioed back as he approached the gate.
“Possible, sir, if it’s underground.”
“Downstream or up?”
“Nothing in the immediate area, sir, so we could try upstream.”
“A ‘right. Scout around, Major. I’m calling in our report.”
Jack dialed home and communicated through the MALP that there was nothing left of the spiders and that they had yet to find the source of the naquada reading. Hammond then asked for Sam.
“Carter’s checking out the nearby river,” Jack informed him.
“Major Carter?” Hammond called, the signal reaching her radio as it did everyone’s.
“Anything to report?”
“Not right now, sir, I’m sorry. My scanner’s telling me there’s power but it won’t narrow down the location. I think it’s well underground. The modified UAV would probably be our best bet, sir.”
“I’ll give you two more hours, Major, then we’ll have to investigate this planet at another time as soon as resources become available.”
“Sir,” Jack replied, taking position before the camera.
“If we don’t hear back from you within two hours, we’ll make contact.”
“Good luck, Colonel. Hammond out.”
Jack took a deep breath and turned around. He caught the glances from everyone. “Well, you heard the boss. We have two hours. Let’s make the most of them. In the meantime, I’m going to wash some of this crap off.”
Dropping field packs in one spot, a makeshift camp, or gathering spot, was made between the old palace and the river. SG-2 automatically flanked Jack’s position while SG-3 maintained their guard in front of the palace. Jack and Daniel stripped off their jackets and field vests, stepped into a shallow section of the river, and attempted to clean the gore off their skin. When they returned only slightly cleaner, Jason smiled sympathetically at them.
“Not much of a help, huh?” he asked.
“No,” Daniel said with disgust, “but a little better anyway.” He grimaced, just as Jack did. They felt worse somehow, as if the rest of the blood on their clothes seemed somehow heavier.
Jack irritably keyed the mic on his radio. “Carter, you found anything yet?”
“Not yet, sir,” she replied with asperity.
They had another hour to go and Jack wanted to leave.
While they had been gone, Jason had been studying Adriann, who wouldn’t take his eyes off the palace. The man was becoming more and more on edge. Something was bothering him about the building. “Can you try to put it into words?” he asked him.
Adriann took his gaze off the building and focused on Jason. “Not yet…I am trying.”
A few more minutes passed and suddenly Adriann got to his feet, his head cocked to the side, listening.
“Adriann, what is it?” Daniel asked as he saw his frown of concentration. The man didn’t answer. “Adriann?…Adriann?” Daniel looked over at Talen and Kashan and they were in the same sort of ‘trance’.
Just as quickly as it started, it ended. Adriann looked around him, then at Jason, Daniel, and Jack.
“Jack, I picked up…something. I am going to check it out, if you do not mind, that is?”
“Whoa,” Jack replied, waving his finger at him. “Picked up what, Adriann? Give me details.” Adriann fidgeted and Jack saw something like fear behind his eyes. He frowned and stepped closer to him. “What…is…it?” he asked slowly.
Adriann shook his head. “I do not know. It was like I heard one of my people in there…or rather, felt one of them. But it did not make sense. Except for the three of us, all of our people are at home.”
“You’re sure?” Jason asked.
Adriann nodded. “I need to find out what it was that I heard. I know you are in charge of this mission, Jack, but I have to go check this out.”
Jack considered it for a second, eyeing him very carefully. “Okay, but any trouble, Adriann, and I mean any, no matter how insignificant, you call in, understood?”
Adriann smiled. “You worry too much,” he said as he turned and went toward the palace.
“With good reason,” Jack called after him.
From behind, Jason clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll go with him, Colonel.”
Jack sighed. “Don’t get into trouble, Coburn, or I’ll kick your ass.”
Jason smiled. “Piece of cake,” then lowered his voice and added, “besides, I have to conquer these fears of mine. Today’s been a good day for that.”
“Yeah, well, can we conquer them without the bugs please? No finding any more of them, hear me?”
Jason’s smile widened. “No sweat.” His eyes told Jack very clearly that he loved him for worrying but to please tone it down. Jack couldn’t help but grin back at him. Jason’s gaze went to Daniel next and he winked at his lover. Daniel sent it back, his eyes telling Jason to be careful. Jason nodded and trotted off to catch up with Adriann.
“What the Colonel said goes double for me, Major,” Alex called out. Jason waved at him without turning back.
Jason caught up with Adriann inside the structure and grabbed his left elbow. “Hold up, Adriann. I know you heard something this time. What was it?” he asked him. Adriann looked at him, studying him.
“Did you pick up feelings from me?”
Jason shook his head, then smiled. “No, but I’ve been watching you. I can tell. By the way, I told them last night…about my hearing you,” and he motioned outside.
Adriann nodded. “Good. It is no good having secrets from your lovers. Ones that should be told, anyway.”
Jason smiled. “I know. So what was that? I saw fear in your eyes.”
Adriann shook his head. “I think that maybe I am imagining things. I could have sworn I felt evil.”
Jason barked out a short laugh. “Evil? You’re kidding, right?”
Adriann shook his head. “I am very serious. A long time ago, we had such things. I thought that maybe they were legend, made up to scare people, but what I felt reminded me of the old tales.”
Jason’s brow went up and he couldn’t help but think of Daniel. “Should have told Daniel. He’d have been fascinated.”
“And you are not?” Adriann asked with a wry grin.
“Okay, yeah, I’m fascinated.”
They walked down a long semi-lit corridor and Adriann suddenly veered to his left, walking down a short, darkened one.
“Adriann?” Jason asked as he followed, turning on the flashlight to his P-90. “Why this way?”
“I do not know.”
Adriann turned, exasperated. “I am sorry, Jason. I do not know. Whatever this is, it is scaring me.”
Jason paused, staring at him, then nodded slowly. “Take a few deep breaths then. Clear your mind. That will help. Don’t concentrate so hard, either.”
Adriann took a deep breath and nodded. He took a few steps ahead, pausing after each one. He tilted his head suddenly, then the look in his eyes told Jason that his fear had increased.
“You don’t think you’ll actually come face to face with an old tale…do you?”
Adriann turned and regarded Jason in shock, his mouth open. “You know, I did not think that that was what I was doing…but…”
Suddenly, there was a whisper of movement from the shadows and Jason’s weapon was knocked to the floor before he could stop it. His hand went to his radio but strong arms surrounded his neck and chest, squeezing him. He panicked, gasping for breath.
“Adri–” he choked out, just before a piercing pain in his neck hit him and the blackness of unconsciousness took control.
“Jason…” Adriann cried out, but his overloaded senses made his voice fade. The minimal hairs on the back of his neck seemed to stick up, as if charged by static. It was there. The evil he’d spoken of. He heard bizarre, unnerving whispering in his mind – and it wasn’t coming from his siblings.
Talen, Kashan! he called out in fright. We’re in trou–
Adriann? Talen said, the sound in her voice colored with fear. Adriann!!
He couldn’t answer. An arm grabbed hold around his neck, pinning him painfully to his attacker. “It has been a very long time since I’ve had one of my own,” whispered a gravelly, nightmarish voice before long teeth sank into Adriann’s neck.